The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

Gundam SEED: Review and Reflection At The Halfway Point

“What the can you hope to protect when your feelings are the only weapons you’ve got?” –Kira Yamato

The creation of genetically enhanced humans, Coordinators, results in a rift that eventually erupts into open hostilities, prompting the Coordinators to settle in space in colonies called PLANTS. When an attack on the PLANT, Junius-7, is destroyed by nuclear weapons, the Earth Alliance and PLANTs go to war. With their superior technology, the PLANTS develop mobile suits, weapons that give them a massive advantage. To counteract this, the Earth Alliance strike an agreement with the neutral Orb Union to develop G-weapons at Heliopolis – when ZAFT catches wind of this programme, they mount an operation to steal these new mobile suits. Coordinator Kira Yamato ends up piloting the remaining G-weapon, the GAT-X105 Strike to fend off the mobile suits, and with his friends, boards the new model carrier, the Archangel, for a trip to the Earth Alliance’ base in Alaska. However, this journey is fraught with challenges – ZAFT’s Commander Rau Le Creuset is intent on destroying the Archangel, and Kira Yamato’s longtime friend, Athrun Zala, has become a ZAFT pilot. The Archangel manages to elude Creuset’s team on several occasions, and after an ill-fated stop at the Artemis station, stops to retrieve frozen water from the remains of Janius-7. Here, the Archangel captures Lacus Clyne, daughter of PLANT chairman Siegel Clyne. Resupplied, the Archangel manages to reach Earth’s defensive fleet. During the battle, Flay Allster’s father is killed by enemy fire, and Lacus manages to encourage him. In turn Kira chooses to return her to the ZAFT forces against orders. Kira’s friends end up enlisting to protect those around them, but after approaching Earth, Athrun and his team manage to destroy the entire fleet that had shown up. Kira and the Strike manage to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere with the Archangel, landing in Northern Africa. They meet a resistance force after fending off Earth-based ZAFT forces and their commander, Andrew Waltfeld. Kira also encounters Cagalli, who is with the resistance. Both are captured by Waltfeld, but Waltfeld chooses to spare them. Later, when members of the Creuset team join them, Waltfeld launches an attack on the Archangel, but is seemingly killed after Kira defeats his custom mobile armour. The Archangel subsequently heads for Orb Union, but in an engagement, Cagalli is shot down and encounters Athrun for the first time, but is later rescued. Upon arriving in Orb Union, Kira is asked to share his expertise on mobile suit operating systems to aid in their own programmes. With the Archangel’s arrival in Orb Union, I’ve reached the halfway point of Gundam SEED, a Gundam series dating back to 2002. With an intimidating fifty episodes, Gundam SEED had been a series I had difficulty approaching, but with encouragement from my friends, I’ve now opened my journey into one of the most recognisable and iconic Gundam series of the 2000s.

Out of the gates, Gundam SEED wastes no time in establishing its themes: with Kira and Athrun on opposite sides of the war, their simultaneous reluctance to fight one another and desire to do right by those around them creates an internal conflict that must be reconciled. For Kira, he fights to keep his friends safe, and constantly wonders what the point of war is. At the same time, as Kira becomes accustomed to the Strike’s capabilities, he also reluctantly accepts that there are things that only he can do, although in doing so, Kira also feels an increasing disconnect from his parents. At the opposite end is Athrun, a ZAFT pilot who seeks to end the war between the Coordinators and Naturals through force: after losing his mother in the Janius-7 incident, he resolves to beat down the Earth Alliance and help to bring about peace. Gundam SEED goes to great lengths to show the human side of warfare in its first half: behind every gun sight is a human being, and one’s enemies on the battlefield might get along fine as friends outside of war. Nowhere is this more apparent than Andrew Waltfeld, a devoted soldier but honourable man: while he and Kira might be on opposite sides of the conflict, Waltfeld is genuinely interested in Kira’s potential and greatly respects him. Similarly, having now spoken with Waltfeld, Kira hesitates to strike a killing blow in combat. As it stands, Gundam SEED suggests that in a given war, politicians and calculating officiers are the true enemy, seeking conflict as a means of achieving their own ends. Both the PLANT’s councillors and Earth Force brass seem quite unconcerned with the cost of war, and similarly, the calm, calculating but unstable Rau Le Creuset suggest that beyond Kira and Athrun’s genuine desire to protect those around them and end the war, more sinister forces are at work for both ZAFT and the Earth Alliance. These forces account for why the Orb Union has been developing their own mobile suits, as a means of defense against an increasingly unstable world.

No discussion about Gundam SEED would be complete without mention of the G-weapons, and in particular, the GAT-X015 Strike. Despite being a powerful prototype mobile suit equipped with a sophisticated OS and Phase Shift armour, which negates all physical attacks, the Strike (and its brethren, the Aegis, Duel, Blitz and Buster) is limited by its use of a battery. Owing to the constraints that Neutron Jammers introduce (it’s suggested they block neutron movement, suppressing fission reactions), mobile suits are forced to rely on batteries as their power supply, and as a result, despite offering firepower equivalent to that of a battle ship, mobile suits remain constrained by their operational time. This forces pilots to act in an efficient manner to achieve their goals, and initially, Kira pushes the Strike to its limits during combat, to the point where the Phase Shift armour powers down as a result. Limitations in the Strike’s capabilities forces Kira to grow as a pilot: from not being baited by enemy forces to placing his shots more carefully, Kira improves with each operation, assisted by his innate abilities as a Coordinator. While Kira’s prowess as a pilot has been the subject of no small discussion for the past two decades, Gundam SEED demonstrates that even Kira Yamato began as a novice, and it is over time that he ends up becoming the pilot that he is. Gundam SEED thus opens in a very strong manner, and being a re-telling of the Universal Century’s story, ends up with many parallels. In fact, having now seen Gundam Unicorn, it is fair to say that Gundam SEED‘s first half inspired Unicorn‘s progression: both Banagher and Kira are reluctant pilots who only get into the cockpit to protect those important to them, suffer a catastrophic loss while fighting an enemy combatant during re-entry, land in the desert and rediscover their will to fight in the process. However, unlike Gundam Unicorn, Gundam SEED takes its time in presenting its story, and in this area, Gundam SEED fully utilises its run time to flesh things out; in conjunction with a phenomenal soundtrack, Gundam SEED excels in conveying the emotions each of the characters feel as they navigate the horrors and desolation of warfare.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While character dynamics are just as integral to Gundam, the mobile suits are the centrepiece of any given Gundam series, so I’ll open the post with Kira destroying a GINN using the Strike’s anti-ship sword. Gundam SEED is no different: the first three episodes deal with ZAFT’s operation at Heliopolis and Kira boarding the Strike. I believe this marks the first time I’ve ever written about a 50-episode anime, which means that there’s enough going on such that I won’t be able to cover every conceivable detail, and even the collection of screenshots I’ve amassed only cover a very small faction of the series.

  • The Strike was very much an interesting lead machine for me: until now, every Gundam I’ve seen features a lead machine that was nigh-unstoppable, without limitations. The Exia had no equal in melee combat in Gundam 00, and its successors improved on the basic concepts further. while the Unicorn was leagues above its predecessors in performance. Amuro Ray’s RX-93 was similarly a highly powerful machine utilising unexplored technology. While these machines have their drawbacks, their base operations are solid compared to other mobile suits. Conversely, while the Strike is powerful, it is primarily limited by its battery’s operational time, forcing Kira and the Archangel to fight strategically with it.

  • Gundam SEED‘s Sai, Tolle, Miriallia and Flay are ordinary youth at the series’ beginning, thrust into extraordinary circumstances as a result of warfare. For a novice like myself, they’re equivalent to Gundam Unicorn‘s Micott and Takuya, Banagher’s friends from Industrial Seven who are brought on board the Nahel Argama. Unlike Sai, Tolle and Miraiallia, who become bridge crew, Takuya and Micott end up helping the engineers instead, and it is said that Takuya’s mechanical skill led to the conception of the Full Armour Unicorn. Similarly, Sai, Tolle and Miriallia end up contributing to the Archangel’s combat operations.

  • At the opposite end of the conflict are Zodiac Alliance of Freedom Treaty pilots, Dearka, Yzak and Nicol fight alongside Athrun and the enigmatic Rau Le Creuset. Their operations at Heliopolis begins this conflict, and while Yzak is utterly devoted to ZAFT, the other pilots in Athrun’s group are more sympathetic individuals. In particular, I’m rather fond of Nicol: his moderate characterisation and preference for music over warfare serves to remind viewers that while Athrun and Kira might be on opposite sides, both Athrun and Kira have things they want to protect.

  • In the Universal Century, I have an inclination to side with the EFSF, and in Anno Domini, the Earth Federation and their A-LAWS made them the antagonists. The Cosmic Era suggests that things are more complicated: the higher ups in ZAFT are split between annihilating the Naturals and stopping their war, and similarly, while the Earth Alliance clearly despise Coordinators, there are some among them with a more moderate and tolerant outlook. Upon arrival at the Artemis space station, the Earth Alliance’ treatment of the Archangel’s crew gave the impression that the Earth Alliance military are conceited, more interested in themselves than the bigger picture.

  • Yzak’s Duel is a general purpose mobile suit for a variety of combat situations, while the Dearka’s Buster is an artillery-oriented suit intended for bombardment. Nicol pilots the Blitz, which uses the Mirage Colloid active camouflage system for stealth operations. Meanwhile, Athrun’s Aegis is the most advanced of the group, being capable of transforming into a mobile armour during combat. The stolen mobile suits offer the ZAFT forces an overwhelming advantage in combat, and it is only owing to Kira’s growing skill with the Strike, as well as the sophistication of the Archangel, that allows Kira and the others to escape the Le Creuset team’s clutches.

  • Gundam SEED‘s politics are on par with the Universal Century and Anno Domini’s in terms of sophistication, but as with the other universes, Gundam SEED also takes the time to properly flesh things out and make it clear on where each character and faction stands. This becomes important: my introduction to the Cosmic Era had actually been through Gundam SEED Destiny, whose execution left me confused for the episodes that I did end up watching. Gundam SEED Destiny became a lesson in why one should always start at the beginning, and while I had some apprehension entering Gundam SEED, it turns out that Gundam SEED is very focused and clear, making it very easy to keep up with.

  • Lacus Clyne is a Gundam icon: she’s voiced by the legendary Rie Tanaka, a voice actress of great talent and fame (her roles include Azumanga Daioh‘s Koyomi Miuhara, Chobits‘ Chii, Minna Dietlinde-Wilcke from Strike Witches and Girls und Panzer‘s Maho Nishizumi). Initially, Lacus is Athrun’s fiancé, and is presented as being a very happy-go-lucky, air-headed princess with an unparalleled talent for singing. While on a memorial visit, she happens upon the Archangel and is brought on board. The idea of a lead ship capturing a princess is similarly a Gundam staple: Minerva Lao Zabi similarly boarded the Nahel Argama and was used as a bargaining chip by the Federation Forces.

  • One aspect of Gundam SEED that was noticeably strong was the soundtrack: Sahashi Toshihiko’s music for the series is excellent, both for combat sequences and for melancholy surrounding warfare. Because Gundam SEED proceeds more slowly than Gundam 00, the selection of incidental music is much wider, and the series also has a chance to really allow the characters time in between combat to reflect on what’s happening. The longer runtime of Gundam SEED speaks to a time when anime series had the timeframes and budget for longer stories, really allowing things to be fleshed out.

  • After leaving Heliopolis, Marrue Ramius, Mu La Flaga and Natarle Badgiruel are the highest-ranking officers on board the Archangel, and in each battle, do their best to ensure everyone’s survival. Marrue was the one responsible for pressing Kira and the others into service, and decides to look after everyone until they can reach Earth Alliance authorities in order to determine how to best handle everything. Having now seen Gundam SEED up to the halfway point, the similarities between Sumeragi and Marrue are apparent, as they are between Natarle and Kati Mannequin. Here, the Archangel’s highest ranked officers speak with Lacus about her origins and objectives, determining her to be of potential strategic value similarly to how the ECOAS team attempted to use Mineva as a bargaining chip against Full Frontal in Gundam Unicorn.

  • The topic of racism is implicitly covered with the gap between Coordinators and Naturals: the former look down on the latter for their lesser abilities, while the former resent the latter for possessing what they do not. In particular, Flay’s dislike of the Coordinators is apparent, and while Kira is the exception, she displays open hostility towards Lacus when they first meet. Flay’s friends wonders if she is sympathetic to the Blue Cosmos, an extremist group that is politically involved with the Earth Alliance. The Blue Cosmos do not figure heavily in Gundam SEED‘s first half, but I imagine they’ll have a much larger role to play at some point, if they’re being mentioned now.

  • Having Kira’s friends around as assistant staff on board the Archangel really helped to create the sense that Kira was never really alone in his struggles. Gundam pilots have always been conflicted about doing what they feel is right, and initially, Kira is forced to accept that it might be necessary to take lives in order to defend those around him. However, even if Sai, Tolle and Miriallia don’t fully understand Kira’s situation, their presence helps him to regroup.

  • While appearing to be purely for show, the different beam colours in Gundam SEED were chosen to make it easier to identify what was being fired: standard particle beams are green, while physical projectiles are orange. Rail gun rounds have a yellow discharge, and plasma rounds leave a distinct blue-red trail. The plasma rounds are unsurprisingly the most powerful, and weapons that fire them have the highest energy consumption. The differences bring to mind the Universal Century, where mega-beam launchers are used in a similar capacity.

  • After the first half of Gundam SEED, Rau Le Creuset remains an enigmatic individual: possessing Char Aznable’s penchent for wearing a mask at all times, an air of confidence and calm assuredness, Rau is also seen to be consuming pills and appears to be in great pain at times when off duty. This does lead to questions of what Rau Le Creuset is about, but owing to the pacing in Gundam SEED, it does mean that viewers will have to be patient. With this in mind, Gundam SEED never once gives the impression that things are dragging on.

  • Kira finds himself face-to-face with the Le Creuset team on several occasions, and while he initially only just escapes thanks to the Strike’s capabilities, with time, Kira’s improvement as a pilot allows him to fight on even footing with Yzak and the others. This eventually culminates in Athrun and Kira resolving to take the other down if necessary, a sign of their resolve. Here, Kira’s equipped the Strike’s Aile equipment, which enhances the Strike’s mobility. During combat, Kira’s latent potential awakens: dubbed SEED (Superior Evolutionary Element Destined-factor), it greatly enhances a Coordinator’s focus and reflexes, giving them superior control and awareness in combat.

  • SEED mode is what gives Gundam SEED its name, and upon entering it for the first time, Kira disables Yzak’s Duel. SEED mode is something that, in-universe, is not fully understood, but what is known is that particularly advanced Coordinators can enter it at will. Initially, however, SEED mode can only be entered when one develops a resolve to fulfill their objectives during a situation of high stress. There is an analogue in reality: flow, the state of being so immersed in something that one’s perceptions are altered. Like SEED mode, circumstances can push people into a state of flow, but especially disciplined people can enter this state at will. For me, it always takes me a bit of warm-up to get into this state, but I can consistently do so.

  • This is why when it comes to different tasks, I always start out weaker and only hit my stride after warming up. For instance, whenever I play online multiplayer, I fare poorly for the first five minutes or so, but subsequently, I perform significantly better. Despite a rocky start, Marrue comes to respect Kira for both his skill, commitment to his duties and his drive to do what’s right; she acts as a big sister figure for Kira, looking out for him and offers him advice where needed.

  • While rendezvousing with Earth Alliance forces, Flay’s father accompanies the escort team, but they’re shot down. In the aftermath, Flay falls into a depression and becomes consumed with thoughts of revenge. However, lacking the technical skills of the others, and the ability to pilot a mobile suit on her own, Flay can only push Kira to fight and leave none standing, counting on Kira’s own emotional weakness and sense of loneliness to further her own aims.

  • Voiced by Sōichirō Hoshi (Higurashi‘s very own Keiichi Maebara), Kira Yamato is intended to represent a Japanese perspective of warfare. Because Kira is peaceful and frequently doubts the use of force, director Mitsuo Fukuda suggests that conflict is something that finds resolution when people reluctantly take up a weapon to defend what’s around them, but never otherwise participate in warfare for the sake of aggression. Time and time again, Kira steps up to protect his friends, and comes to see the bigger picture around him, much as how Amuro Ray had done in Gundam, and how Banagher Links would in Gundam Unicorn.

  • Realising that Kira’s power is key to getting revenge against the other Coordinators, Flay begins a relationship with Kira and encourages him to fight with greater aggression. Flay is probably one of the most reviled characters in the whole of Gundam, although with the benefit of hindsight, I can clarify that anime fans of the early 00s were likely lacking in the big picture: Flay enters Gundam SEED as the daughter of an Earth Alliance politician who is accustomed to being the centre of attention, but was otherwise unfamiliar with warfare.

  • As such, I count the hate against Flay the consequence of incomplete knowledge: while what she does with Kira is morally dubious, her actions were the result of her coping with what was happening given her background. Fellow blogger and peer Dewbond has written extensively on the subject, and I imagine there will come a point in the near future where we will be doing a collaborative series on Gundam SEED. Dewbond’s insights into the characters stands in stark contrast with that of my best friend’s intrigue in the hardware and politics: when I speak with my best friend, our conversations are largely on how the machines and leadership (or lack thereof) impact the way wars are fought in Gundam.

  • By comparison, Dewbond’s focus on the characters and their response to extraordinary circumstances serve to paint a more compelling picture of why characters act the way they do. As such, I foresee that when it comes to discussion, my goal will be to reconcile the hardware with the characters, and individual motivations with the conflict at scale. Gundam has always excelled at covering things at both ends of the spectrum, and Gundam SEED is no exception, so a collaboration would offer a chance to see how all of the elements come together to create a Gundam series that’s definitely deserves the acclaim it has received over the years.

  • This single scene probably created more controversy for Gundam SEED than any other: the implications were that Flay slept with Kira, and the idea of underage activity can be a bit of a minefield to write about. In Japan, viewers wrote to television studios to complain, noting that Gundam SEED had been broadcast at a time when youth would be watching. For me, the viewers’ concerns were legitimate, but I also imagine that this was originally written to show how warfare impacts people’s judgments, especially when all norms are thrown out the window, and also serves to illustrate the lengths Flay would go to have her revenge on the Coordinators.

  • While Gundam SEED is technically lighter on fanservice than Gundam 00, the latter of which took the pains of showing how hot Sumeragi was on several occasions during the first season, Marrue oscillates more than strictly necessary whenever the Archangel takes any impact from enemy fire. Gundam 00, on the other hand, only had one such moment during the second season, when the Ptolemiaos II is impacted by torpedoes. I’ve typically never found such moments to add any notable value to Gundam, but they are infrequent enough as to not be distracting from what I showed up for.

  • After Kira fails to protect a shuttle carrying civilians during re-entry, he becomes despondent, and Flay further saw this as a chance to fuel his desire for striking down his enemies. Gundam Unicorn would later present a similar scene, where during re-entry, the protagonists bear witness to horrors unmatched as they are captured by the Earth’s gravity well. Re-entry is considered one of the trickiest parts of space travel, and its presentation in Gundam is to suggest a sense of helplessness. Much as how Banagher accidentally kills Gilboa with a shot meant for Full Frontal, Kira is powerless to stop Yzak from destroying a shuttle carrying civilians.

  • Upon landing on Earth, the Archangel finds themselves in the Sahara desert, far removed from their original landing point. Amidst the desert sands, the Archangel crew learn that the resistance group, Desert Dawn, are fighting a war against ZAFT’s Andrew Waltfeld with the goal of trying to take back their homeland. Kira also runs into Cagalli, who is a member of the resistance. While the Archangel’s crew find the Desert Dawn’s aims to feel somewhat futile, seeing the extent the desert’s inhabitants are willing to go to defend their home leads Marrue to help out.

  • On Earth, ZAFT’s mainstay mobile suits are the TMF/A-802 BuCUEs. These panther-like quadrupedal mobile suits are designed for ground combat: their lower centre of gravity makes them more stable and capable of navigating rough terrain. For armaments, BuCUEs come with a pair of rail guns and missile pods. Against the Desert Dawn, who are only armed with RPGs, the BuCUE is a formidable machine.

  • When Kira fights BuCUEs for the first time, he quickly finds that the Strike’s inertial compensators have not been set to deal with the soft desert sands. After readjusting the configurations, Kira fares much better and decimates the BuCUEs attacking the Archangel. Gundam SEED‘s dialogue and materials indicate that Kira is actively re-writing the Strike’s OS to accommodate to different situations, and being a developer, I appreciate that writing an OS is probably the single most challenging and tedious task available. Without any core libraries or SDKs, one must build their own kernel, and write two programs: a loader, written in assembly, and then the OS itself. The way Gundam SEED presents things, there are two alternatives: either Coordinators are so far above ordinary humans that modifying OSes on the fly is trivial for them, or the writers mixed up their terminology, and Kira is simply writing subroutines and configurations to make piloting the Strike easier.

  • I personally am inclined to think it’s the latter, given that once the operating system is defined, it’s the routines and software above that communicate with the hardware. As such, it is not inconceivable that Earth Alliance developers have already defined a decent set of services for allowing software to interact with the mobile suit itself, but the intermediate software (such as balance algorithms, routines for movement, etc.) simply aren’t of the same standard. Thus, when Kira’s typing away, he’s working on improving functions and reorganising the high-level software that maps controller inputs to movement. Back in Gundam SEED, the Archangel’s crew finds that their provisions are running out, and must secure some from local inhabitants, who are all too happy to inflate their costs. However, without any options, the higher costs must be paid out.

  • While visiting the town market with Cagalli, Kira meets Andrew Waltfeld for the first time. Despite being a dedicated and serious soldier, Waltfeld has a likeable personality and outside of combat, enjoys a good cup of coffee. He argues with Cagalli about whether donair kebab goes better with hot sauce or yogurt. A scuffle breaks out, and in the aftermath, Kira finds the combination to be delicious. This isn’t terribly surprising, since the heat is diminished by the yogurt, which adds a creamy taste that also lets the hot sauce’s flavours be felt. Midway through their meal, Blue Cosmos extremists appear, and Kira manages to fend them off, saving Waltfeld’s life in the process.

  • Waltfeld is not ungrateful about this turn of events, deciding to bring Kira and Cagalli back to speak with them. Had they met under any other circumstance, Waltfeld would’ve probably let them off the hook, but because it’s warfare, Waltfelt notes that he’s within his bounds to kill enemy combatants – the moment a soldier sees his opponents as human and hesitates is the moment they could themselves be killed, and this is one of the grim aspects of war that Gundam SEED aims to convey to viewers. In spite of this, Waltfeld’s friendly and amicable personality, coupled with a sense of honour that Rau Le Creuset lacks, gives him a different vibe than other ZAFT commanders and suggests to the viewer that irrespective of sides in a war, there are fair and foul folks alike.

  • An entire episode is devoted to Athrun and ZAFT – as the ZAFT higher-ups discuss the execution of Operation Spitbreak, Athrun and Nicol are given shore leave. Nicol returns home to visit his parents, while Athrun catches up with Lacus and discuss Kira. It’s a change in pace that gives viewers a chance to watch the characters regroup; ever since the Archangel landed on Earth, it’s been nonstop pursuit and combat as the Archangel attempts to aid the Desert Dawn in resisting Waltfeld’s forces.

  • Indeed, true to his word, Waltfeld and his co-pilot, Aisha, take to the battlefield in a custom BuCue known as the LaGOWE, an upgraded mobile suit equipped with beam cannons and a double-bladed beam sabre that was derived from the G-project’s data. Although Waltfeld puts up an impressive fight, in desperation, Kira impales the LaGOWE with his daggers, defeating Waltfeld and Aisha. True to Waltfeld’s words, humanising an opponent made it much difficult to fight them, and I am reminded of a similar scene in Gundam Unicorn when Marida berates Banagher for thinking of her as a fellow human being when she’s fighting the Unicorn.

  • Amphibious mobile suits figure more prominently in the Cosmic Era and Universal Century than they did in Anno Domini. Gundam 00 only had a handful of mobile armours, like the Trilobyte, for underwater combat, although the Gundams themselves could operate underwater without trouble. Here, Kira fights a UMF-4A GOOhN, which looks like it was modelled after the Universal Century’s MSM-07 Z’Gok. Despite fighting a foe optimised for underwater combat during their flight over the Red Sea, Kira does manage to defeat a number of ZAFT mobile suits, attesting to his increased combat performance.

  • When a support mission goes awry, Cagalli and Athrun encounter one another on a desert island. Cagalli attempts to fight Athrun and is bested, but the two do share a conversation about their thoughts on war. While Cagalli had seen conflict as a matter of sides, her conversation with Athrun, a ZAFT soldier, does open her eyes to the idea that the enemy might not be wholly evil, and that warfare isn’t as simple as a matter of black and white. The two subsequently are rescued and returned to their respective allies, although given the episode title, this meeting should be is a fateful one that affects both Cagalli and Athrun greatly.

  • Having seen the Strike in combat now, it’s become a mobile suit that I greatly respect, balancing new technologies and combat advantages with operational limits to create a platform that is powerful, but not overpowered. If and when I’m asked, the Master Grade Aile Strike Ver. RM would be something I would’ve considered buying had I watched Gundam SEED earlier run: the Gundam itself looks powerful and has design elements resembling the classic RX-78 II. Of course, the Perfect Strike would allow me to run with any Strike setup, but as a P-Bandai exclusive, it’s not available in my area.

  • Upon approaching the Orb Nation’s territorial waters, the ZAFT forces are forced to retreat. Cagalli reveals that she’s the daughter of Orb’s leader, and Colonel Ledonir Kisaka vouches for her identity. The Orb fleet consent to not shoot them down on the spot and take them in. Although Orb is a neutral nation, their technological sophistication is impressive: the use of geothermal energy and a lack of discrimination against Coordinators has allowed Orb to develop weapons that gives their small military comparable power to a larger force, and it appears that Orb was founded by Japanese immigrants.

  • With their quarry lost, Athrun supposes that an infiltration mission might be needed to ascertain as to whether or not the Archangel are still present at Orb. As the first half draws to a close, Athrun’s team can be seen inserting into Orb’s islands and pick up phony identifications intended to get them past some security checkpoints. I had been curious to see what kind of operation this entails

  • Once the situation is cleared up, Orb Union’s command decide that they’ll repair and resupply the Archangel, as well as the Strike, on the condition that Kira assists their engineers with configuring their mobile suits. Cagalli is shocked to learn that Orb is developing mobile suits of their own, the MBF-M1 M1 Astray, a mass production model intended for use in defending Orb from foreign powers. However, while impressive from a hardware standpoint, their configurations are incomplete, and the Astrays can barely move.

  • The Astray series would end up getting their own spin-offs in Gundam SEED Astray, which follows the development of these mobile suits. With this halfway point post now finished, I’ll be pushing onwards with Gundam SEED, and given the average pacing, I’d estimate that it’ll be August by the time I wrap this series up. I am excited to keep going: with the characters, factions and objectives established, it’s clear that things will continue to intensify as the Archangel continues with its original mission. I will do my best to make this objective: at the time of writing, I’m actively following Yakunara Mug Cup MoSuper Cub, 86 EIGHTY-SIX, and Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. The first two, I intend to write about periodically, and the latter two is a bit of a wait-and-see type deal. Since I only need to catch up with Kamisama ni natta hi, I imagine that keeping up with Gundam SEED shouldn’t be too challenging.

Indeed, the long runtime of Gundam SEED was the main reason why I’d not gotten into the series until now. Having begun my journey, however, it turns out that Gundam SEED‘s pacing works to its ability: while perhaps slow by contemporary standards, Gundam SEED is able to fully portray emotions Kira and the others experience because of the extended time frame. From the transformation of doubt to conviction through Kira’s friends, or Flay Allster’s manipulative behaviours towards Kira, Gundam SEED is able to really show how different people are impacted by warfare. Some folks rise to the occasion to defend what matters to them, while for others, warfare exposes the worst traits in an individual. Here at Gundam SEED‘s halfway point, I am thoroughly impressed: the animation might not stand up to what was seen in Gundam 00 or later, but a captivating narrative, compelling cast of characters and solid music all come together to tell a strong story thus far. Moreover, Gundam SEED never overwhelms viewers: one long-standing concern I had with the Cosmic Era had been the idea that there were too many mobile suits and factions to keep track of, but because Gundam SEED is the Cosmic Era’s beginning, viewers are introduced to things at a proper pace. Kira only fights GINNs (ZAFT’s mainstay mobile suit, Cosmic Era’s equivalent of the Zaku II) in the beginning, and encounters BuCUEs in the desert. With its pacing, Gundam SEED never feels rushed, introducing new things to viewers at the appropriate time and allowing them to piece together what’s happening in a detailed world where resentment and past grievances between Coordinators and Naturals are every bit as strong as they are between the EFSF and Zeon. I’m definitely excited to continue on in my Gundam SEED journey, and given that I started watching back in January, I imagine that it’ll be closer to August by the time I wrap this one up. This suits me just fine: the slower pacing in Gundam SEED works to my advantage, and I look forwards to seeing what awaits Kira and the Archangel next.

Yuru Camp△ 2 Original Soundtrack Tracklist, Post-Release Review and Reflection

“In a cool solitude of trees, where leaves and birds a music spin, mind that was weary is at ease, new rhythms in the soul begin.” –William Kean Seymour

Typically, the tracklists for soundtracks come out a ways before the soundtrack itself is released, but with Yuru Camp△ 2‘s original soundtrack, things turned out quite differently: this is why I was not able to do my customary translation of the soundtrack’s tracklist back in March. On the flipside, having the soundtrack in hand means being able to actually speak about the music in Yuru Camp△ 2 with a hiterto unmatched level of clarity and explore what the music does so well. Before I delve into things, there are some housekeeping details to go over: the soundtrack is composed by Akiyuki Tateyama, consists of fifty-six tracks spanning two disks and retails for 3520 Yen (40.41 CAD at the time of writing). This time around, the publisher is MAGES. Inc. While Yuru Camp△ 2‘s soundtrack made extensive use of the Celtic instruments, Yuru Camp△ 2 features a significant South American complement, including the Quena (Andes flute), Zampoña (Andes panpipe), and Charango (Bolivian lute). These instruments create a wild sound that speaks more to the beauty of nature itself, evoking images of soaring mountains and wide open plains, whereas the warm, cheerful demeanour of Celtic instruments convey a blending of man and nature, of enjoying the great outdoors. The different instruments chosen for Yuru Camp△ 2 is a deliberate choice meant to accentuate the idea that the second season explores new themes and directions compared to those of its predecessor, and the end result is not too surprising: Yuru Camp△ 2 completely succeeds in conveying a different atmosphere and aesthetic through both its soundtrack and its choice of locations.

  • Contrasting the first season’s soundtrack cover, which had Rin and Nadeshiko looking onwards to signify the pair’s interest in exploring the future, Yuru Camp△ 2‘s cover art has Rin and Nadeshiko looking at one another: this is hardly surprising, since the second season is all about gratitude and saying “thank you”. This cover art is, incidentally, a walking spoiler, portraying the pair’s conversations together at the series’ end: Nadeshiko had grown worried about Rin not replying to her and asked Sakura to drive her out. It’s a very touching moment, and shows beyond any question that Rin and Nadeshiko, seemingly polar opposites at Yuru Camp△‘s beginning, have fully warmed up to one another now.

For the most part, translation of Yuru Camp△ 2‘s tracklist was a straightforward task. However, no tracklist translation post would be complete without at least a few songs that proved a little difficult to properly convey in English. This time around, two gave me a but more challenge than usual to properly translate. [1] Track eight on disk two, なでしこは電波通じないだけ, translates literally to “Nadeshiko just isn’t communicating via radio signal”, a consequence of 電波 (Hepburn denpa, “radio waves”) being used to indicate cell signal. This sounds awkward in English, so I’ve converted the meaning to “Nadeshiko has no cell signal”, which is what the phrase is intended to convey. [2] The other song is disk two’s sixteenth track: I’ve elected to translate 大ハシャギ ROUTE 136 as Joyful Route 136. ハシャギ is 燥ぎ (Hepburn hagashi) rendered as Katakana, and it’s a verb meaning to make merriment or be in high spirits. Because this song conveys the thrill of adventure and of getting there, I feel that “joyful” is probably how I’d characterise it. Finally, I’m purely going off inference here: ずいずいずいずいずい is rendered as Zui zui zui zui zui in Hepburn, which isn’t something I can easily look up. However, the use of instrumentation and the song’s context in Yuru Camp△ 2 suggests that it’s the motif for the Izu Peninsula, and since Rin repeats “Izu” in anticipation of her trip here, “Izu Izu Izu Izu” seems to make the most sense. Honourable mentions for tracks that gave me trouble include track nine on disk two, しょーもないおしゃべり, which I’ve decided to translate as “Silly Talk” (しょーもない, Hepburn shōmonai, is used to indicate something that’s a non-sequitur, nonsensical), and おしゃべり (Hepburn oshaberi) means “chatter”. The song’s whimsical presentation justifies my choice of words in translation.

Tracklist

Disk One

  1. ゆるキャン△ SEASON2のテーマ (Yuru Kyan△ Shīzun 2 no Tēma, Yuru Camp△ SEASON 2 Theme)
  2. オリジナルドラマ その1 (Orijinaru dorama sono 1, Original Drama Part 1)
  3. Seize The Day (TV SIZE)
  4. オリジナルドラマ その2 (Orijinaru dorama sono 2, Original Drama Part 2)
  5. 初めての本栖湖~はじまりはここから~ (Hajimete no motosuko ~Hajimari wa koko kara~, First time at Lake Motosu ~The Beginning Starts Here~)
  6. 初めての本栖湖~出来たかな?キャンプ飯~ (Hajimete no motosuko ~Dekita ka na? Kyanpu meshi~, First time at Lake Motosu ~Is it done? Camping rice~)
  7. 初めての本栖湖~夕暮れの富士山~ (Hajimete no motosuko ~Yūgure no Fujisan~, First time at Lake Motosu ~Mount Fuji by Twilight~)
  8. 次のキャンプはどうしよっか? (Tsugi no kyanpu wa dō shi yokka?, What about our next camping trip?)
  9. ソロキャンの嗜み (Sorokyan no tashinami, A Taste of Solo Camping)
  10. オリジナルドラマ その3 (Orijinaru dorama sono 3, Original Drama Part 3)
  11. それぞれの大晦日 (Sorezore no ōmisoka, Everyone’s New Year’s Eve)
  12. キャンプ講座の時間です (Kyanpu kōza no jikandesu, It’s time for a camping course)
  13. 浜名湖のテーマ~ゆりかもめに囲まれて~ (Hamanako no tēma ~Yuri kamome ni kakoma rete~, Lake Hamana Theme ~Surrounded by Pewter~)
  14. 浜名湖のテーマ~特上ウナギは誘惑する~ (Hamanako no tēma ~Tokujō unagi wa yūwaku suru~, Lake Hamana Theme ~Allure of top-grade eel~)
  15. 浜名湖のテーマ~古びた展望台~ (Hamanako no tēma ~Furubita tenbō-dai~, Lake Hamana Theme ~Ancient Observation Deck~)
  16. 浜名湖のテーマ~さみしいもたのしい~ (Hamanako no tēma ~Samishī mo tanoshī~, Lake Hamana Theme ~Lonely but fun~)
  17. なでしこ (Nadeshiko)
  18. お姉ちゃんいつもありがとう (Onēchan itsumo arigatō, Thank you for all that you do, big sister)
  19. のんびりキャンプ (Nonbirikyanpu, Relaxing Camp)
  20. オリジナルドラマ その4 (Orijinaru dorama sono 4, Original Drama Part 4)
  21. 山中湖のテーマ~バス旅も良いもんだろ?~ (Yamanakako no tēma ~Basu tabi mo yoi mondaro?~, Lake Yamanaka Theme ~A journey by bus is also good?~)
  22. 山中湖のテーマ~到着、クジラの湖~ (Yamanakako no tēma ~Tōchaku, kujira no mizūmi~, Lake Yamanaka Theme ~We’ve arrived at the whale-shaped lake~)
  23. 山中湖のテーマ~-2℃、ヤバいかも~ (Yamanakako no tēma ~-2℃, Yabaikamo~, Lake Yamanaka Theme ~-2℃ could be dangerous~)
  24. 山中湖のテーマ~薪ストーブを囲んで~ (Yamanakako no tēma ~Maki sutōbu o kakonde~, Lake Yamanaka Theme ~Sitting around the wood stove~)
  25. 山中湖のテーマ~湖畔の朝焼け~ (Yamanakako no tēma ~Kohan no asayake~, Lake Yamanaka Theme ~Lakeside Sunrise~)
  26. なでしこの思い (Nadeshiko no omoi, Nadeshiko’s thoughts)
  27. U・SO・YA・DE (It’s・A・Lie)
  28. 次回予告 (Jikai yokoku, Preview for next episode)

Disk Two

  1. この場所で。(Kono basho de., At This Place.)
  2. オリジナルドラマ その5 (Orijinaru dorama sono 5, Original Drama Part 5)
  3. やっぱグループキャンプ! (Yappa gurūpukyanpu!, It’s group camping after all!)
  4. 野田山公園のテーマ~初めてのソロキャン~ (Nodayama kōen no tēma ~Hajimete no sorokyan~, Nodayama Park Theme ~First time solo camping~)
  5. 野田山公園のテーマ~キャンプ料理は楽し~ (Nodayama kōen no tēma ~Kyanpu ryōri wa tanoshi~, Nodayama Park Theme ~Camping cooking is fun~)
  6. 野田山公園のテーマ~夜景に馳せた思い~ (Nodayama kōen no tēma ~Yakei ni haseta omoi~, Nodayama Park Theme ~Thoughts on the night scenery~)
  7. ふしぎの湖 (Fushigi no Mizūmi, Mysterious Lake)
  8. なでしこは電波通じないだけ (Nadeshiko wa denpa tsūjinai dake, Nadeshiko has no cell signal) [1]
  9. しょーもないおしゃべり (Shōmonai oshaberi, Silly Talk)
  10. オリジナルドラマ その6 (Orijinaru dorama sono 6, Original Drama Part 6)
  11. おじいちゃんはバイク乗り (Ojīchan wa baiku-nori, Grandpa rides a motorcycle)
  12. おじいちゃんとの団欒 (Ojīchan to no danran, Together with Grandpa)
  13. おじいちゃん、また走ろうね (Ojīchan, mata hashirou ne, Let’s ride together again, Grandpa)
  14. オリジナルドラマ その7 (Orijinaru dorama sono 7, Original Drama Part 7)
  15. ようこそジオパークへ (Yōkoso jiopāku e, Welcome to Geopark)
  16. 大ハシャギ ROUTE 136 (Dai hashagi ROUTE 136, Joyful Route 136) [2]
  17. 歴史ある半島 (Rekishi aru hantō, Historical Peninsula)
  18. 海! 山! 岬! 洞窟! (Umi! Yama! Misaki! Dōkutsu!, Sea! Mountain! Cape! Cave!)
  19. 半島の風に吹かれて (Hantō no kazenifukarete, Blown away by the peninsula’s wind gusts)
  20. 魅惑のペニンシュラ (Miwaku no peninshura, Enchanted Peninsula)
  21. 火山の作りし大地 (Kazan no tsukurishi daichi, Land created by the volcano)
  22. 温泉天国ジオパーク (Onsen tengoku jiopāku, Hot spring heaven Geopark)
  23. ずいずいずいずいずい (Izu Izu Izu Izu)
  24. 星空のチャランゴ (Hoshizora no charango, Starry Sky Charango)
  25. オリジナルドラマ その8 (Orijinaru dorama sono 8, Original Drama Part 8)
  26. また行こう、キャンプ! (Mata ikou, kyanpu!, Let’s go camping again!)
  27. はるのとなり (TV SIZE) (Haru no tonari, Next to Spring)
  28. しまリンだんごアイス (Shima rinda n go aisu, Shimarin Dango Ice Cream)

  • When I first did my soundtrack post for Yuru Camp△‘s soundtrack, it was just a shade over three years and a month ago. I like to think that since then, a combination of increasing familiarity and better tools means that translating soundtrack names has become easier than before. I’ve further noticed that the folks at Video Game Music Database (VGMdb) have used my translations for their Yuru Camp△ soundtrack entry: I know this because there are nuances and choices that I made for my translation that were taken verbatim from mine, and here, I note that I am completely okay with this. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if they were to use my translations for the second season’s soundtrack, as well: I don’t mind whether or not they cite me, but it is nice to know that my work helped to make someone’s day a little easier.

Altogether, the Yuru Camp△ 2 is a marvel of musical composition and sound engineering: on a soundtrack packed with amazing pieces of incidental music, a few particularly stand out. 初めての本栖湖~夕暮れの富士山~ captures the magic moment that captivates Rin to solo camp: as she gazes upon Mount Fuji by evening for the first time that night, a familiar motif swells into the song to remind viewers that this is where everything began for Rin. Rin and Nadeshiko’s journey to Lake Hanama is accompanied by 浜名湖のテ一マ~ゆりかもめに囲まれて~, an adventurous piece signifying a new direction. ソ口キャンの嗜み brings a smile to my face every time when I hear it: its use of the lute parallels the solo camping style Rin is so fond of. The lute dominates the song, but the instrumental accompaniment shows that solo or not, Rin is never really alone in her travels. With a combination of accelerando and rallentando to respectively speed up and slow down the motifs, this one song also shows the different paces in solo camping, living up to its name and together with a gentle bit of jazz, adds a very relaxing backdrop to a song that acting as an aural representation of all sides of Rin’s solo experiences. The songs that are played at the Izu Peninsula, are the second disk’s highlights. 歴史ある半島 creates a very languid and gentle tone for the slowest and most laid-back of the experiences, while 大ハシャギROUTE136, 海!山!岬!洞窟!, 半島の風に吹かれて make full use of the Southern American instruments to capture the spirit and energy of the great outdoors. I believe that the choice to use instruments from the Andes was done to deliberately remind viewers that the aesthetics of Izu Peninsula differ dramatically from those of Yamanashi and Nagano. The song I lost composure and cried to during the eighth episode was the second half of 野田山公園のテ一マ~夜景に馳せた思い~, which plays when Sakura shares Nadeshiko’s latest message with Rin. Finally, the inset song that plays midway through the seventh episode is Eri Sasaki’s この場所で。: this song is included as the first track on disk two. It goes without saying that I enjoyed the Yuru Camp△ 2 soundtrack immensely: Akiyuki Tateyama has exceeded all expectations with this soundtrack, and I am now excited to hear what sort of instruments and styles that Yuru Camp△: The Movie will use for its soundtrack.

World Witches: Take Off!- Whole Series Review and Reflection

“We could all do with a few laughs. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to need them more than usual before long.” –Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Hikari reluctantly agrees to ice swimming with Nikka and the others, but subsequently develops a cold from the temperature extremities, becoming bed-ridden while she recovers. Hikari later accompanies Edytha on a trip to pick up supplies, but the group get arrested for attempted to purchase alcohol as minors, and Gundula’s efforts to get them out of trouble fail. Meanwhile, Gertrude’s efforts in filming appear to show some results: after Charlotte and Francesca tag along, the group also manages to convince Sanya to appear in the movie – they suggest that Sanya might be able to find her parents more readily if she appears in a film and spreads the word. Charlotte and Francesca’s antics do create a compelling movie, although Eila begins falling ill in Sanya’s absence. Eila arrives in St. Trond just as Minna manages to convince the higher-ups to re-establish the 501st. They celebrate their reunion with a party – fearing Minna’s deadly cooking, Charlotte, Erica and Francesca whip up a wonderful range of party foods for everyone. However, a Neuroi arrives, forcing the girls to drop everything and sortie. Back in St. Petersburg, the 502nd prepare for Takami’s arrival: after Yoshika gives her a clean bill of health, she flies back out, eager to reunite with Hikari. Naoe is unable to hide her excitement and embarasses herself in front of the other Witches. Hikari is overjoyed to see Takami again, and the two promise to take to the skies and defend what’s dear to them. This is World Witches: Take Off!, a continuation to 2019’s 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! series. Continuing on in its predecessor’s footsteps, World Witches: Take Off! retains a joyful spirit and provides plenty of laughs. However, unlike 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, World Witches: Take Off! is split down the middle and follows two separate, overarching stories – one of the 501st putting a movie together in a bid to reunite and reactivate their group, and the other of the 502nd’s time spent getting Hikari up to speed on everything. World Witches: Take Off! thus ends up being quite serviceable in terms of its story, standing in sharp contrast with 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, which had no story, and where episodes consisted of standalone gags. Despite having two separate stories running concurrently, however, World Witches: Take Off! nonetheless manages to retain its predecessor’s humour.

On paper, World Witches: Take Off! is a straight upgrade to the style seen in 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, but in practise, the series is stymied by the fact that despite being about the World Witches, there is no actual encounter between the 501st and 502nd. The disappointment here stems from the fact that the opening sequence shows all of the Witches together, and it does not take much imagination to suppose what would happen had both the 501st and 502nd met one another. Such a large group of varied Witches would create opportunity for new jokes and new experiences that have hitherto been unseen in the Strike Witches universe as the different characters bounce off one another: Charlotte could fall victim to Waltrude, while both Gertrude and Naoe might go after Erica for her sloppiness. Hikari and Yoshika would get along very well with one another, while Eila would continue to be troubled by Nikka. The skies here are the limit for what is possible, and Strike Witches had always shown the importance of the moments the Witches spend together off the battlefield, so it was certainly conceivable that World Witches: Take Off! could’ve dared to go big and show something that had never been seen before. This was the impression that World Witches: Take Off! seemed to give off with its opening sequence, so I had been anticipating a meet-up between the 501st and 502nd. This was never realised – the closest it gets is when Yoshika clears Takami to return to Europe. Otherwise, it’s two separate stories in which the characters never do meet one another, and this was a shame, because it would’ve marked the first time the Witches have a chance to meet. I appreciate that the writers might’ve deliberately avoided this route because to do so would also be to introduce chaos into the Strike Witches universe of a sort that we’ve not seen before, and moreover, the series proper seems to keep the different groups apart, so this decision might also be to respect the writers’ choices.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If memory serves, Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! aired during the spring 2019 season, and similarly to World Witches: Take Off!, was a series of 13-minute long episodes. Those episodes were quite unrelated, and it was very easy to watch an episode, have a few laughs and then continue. World Witches: Take Off!, however, does have an overarching story: the 501st are putting a movie together, while the 502nd do their best to welcome Hikari amidst the chaos of Takami’s actions. While alternating between the two groups made it a little tricky to follow what was happening at times, I remained happy with how both stories retain their humour.

  • Being able to see the 502nd again reminds me of how much fun I had watching Brave Witches – it is a little bewildering to note that Brave Witches aired four years ago. The Strike Witches works have spanned quite a long time: Strike Witches‘ first season aired in 2008, and after 2010’s Strike Witches 2, it was a relatively short two year wait to Strike Witches: The Movie in 2012. Subsequently, 2015 had Operation Victory Arrow, and Brave Witches aired a year later. It would then be a longer four year wait to Road to Berlin. The fact that the Strike Witches franchise has been going strong since 2008 speaks to its quality.

  • I found the characters and their experiences within a well-developed world to be the main appeal of Strike Witches as a whole, and it would’ve been about ten years ago that I first heard of Strike Witches. I can’t quite pin down how I came to learn about this series, except that it was through Tango-Victor-Tango. My classmates in data structures at the time, also anime fans, suggested that I skip over this series because it offered nothing substantial, but I ended up going against their recommendation and picked the series up. Since then, I’ve been a fan of the military moé genre: Strike Witches was the surest indicator to what can happen when one keeps an open mind, and indeed, I found the series to be much more than its premise initially suggested.

  • Winter swimming is indeed a thing in northern countries, and as its name describes, is the practise of swimming in water that is just above freezing (typically 5ºC) during the winter months. Nikka is fond of the practise and suggests doing this as a means of keeping warm during the coldest months in St. Petersburg. Nikka is from Suomous (Finland), and her approaches therefore are in keeping with Finnish traditions – she suggests that dipping in ice-cold water and then hopping into a sauna immediately after has health benefits.

  • The practise of dipping in cold water is said to have health benefits, helping to reduce stress and fatigue, as well as improving resilience against infectious diseases. This is something that Naoe and Hikari initially have a great deal of trouble believing: standing in the cold air, both are surprised that Nikka has no trouble with things. One particularly funny detail is the fact that Hikari’s ahoge changes shape to reflect her mood in World Witches: Take Off!, whereas in Brave Witches, it always retains a consistent shape. Further to this, on the matter of Hikari, I always thought that Hikari was a little less well-endowed: unless I’m mistaken, World Witches: Take Off! portrays her as being less flat than in Brave Witches.

  • As it turns out, the actual danger from dipping in cold water is not from hypothermia itself: it is estimated that the average person can survive in these water temperatures for around half an hour before the core temperature begins to lower. However, the danger lies from cold shock, which causes the individual to hyperventilate and potentially inhale water. Moreover, the cold will cause uncontrolled muscle contractions and eventually result in cardiac arrest. While individuals with heart conditions or respiratory problems shouldn’t participate in cold water swimming, the practise should be okay for healthy individuals. Waltrud demonstrates this, and spurred on, Naoe and HIkari join her shortly after.

  • The practise that Nikka suggests, dipping in cold water and hitting a sauna after, brings to mind the Nordic Cycle (which unsurprisingly, originates from Finland) that Ena suggested to Rin in Heya Camp△. Hikari is surprised that things no longer hurt quite as bad despite her initial expectations, and the Witches thus prepare to head into the sauna for the next step of their winter experience. The Nordic Cycle has numerous health benefits, although it goes without saying that proper safety measures should be used, and caution be observed if one has any underlying conditions.

  • Back with the 501st, the Witches have convinced Sanya to join them: the idea is that since Sanya’s still looking for her parents, perhaps appearing in a movie and speaking about her aspirations will get her message out to more viewers. Seeing the merits of this approach, Sanya agrees and flies out to St. Trond base, where Charlotte and Francesca are. World Witches: Take Off! found a clever way to bring back Charlotte and Francesca into the fold; during the events of Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, Charlotte and Erica were single-handedly responsible for more than half of the trouble that had happened, and consequently, most of the series’ humour came from them.

  • The old “ketchup as blood” routine definitely seems to be a recurring joke in World Witches: Take Off!, and here, Francesca uses it to create a scene where viewers are supposedly more likely to be moved by Sanya’s plight. The non sequitur train of thought in World Witches: Take Off! kept each episode unpredictable and hilarious in its own way, as the Witches seek to accomplish their aims through increasingly dubious means. After Francesca douses Sanya in ketchup, a Neuroi appears, and Sanya shoots it down.

  • While effective for the scene director Charlotte has envisioned, it also creates a misunderstanding amongst Gertrude and Yoshika, who feel that Sanya’s injured for real. Since we viewers know what’s happening, this creates the dramatic irony that makes the scene so hilarious; when comprehension dawns on Yoshika and Gertrude, they are mortified and immediately set about punishing Charlotte and Francesca for their stunt.

  • However, it turns out Sanya had actually agreed to the arrangements for the movie’s sake, so there was no harm done. Misunderstandings and their resulting chaos are a central part of World Witches: Take Off!, and while such things do happen in Strike Witches proper, the Take Off! series strips away the Neuroi threat so that episodes can focus entirely on the characters. It suddenly hits me that, as each Take Off! episode is half the length of a standard episode, one could say with conviction that in a standard Strike Witches episode, half the time is spent on slice-of-life elements around being a Witch, and the other is on proper combat, world-building and the like.

  • With Sanya’s inclusion in the movie, it would appear that there’s enough footage to work with, and the Witches subsequently wrap up the principle photography, moving onwards to editing and finalising the movie. Gertude consents to give Sanya a small tap on the head as a reprimand for having scared them, and both embrace Sanya, immensely happy that things are fine and that their movie’s on track to being finished.

  • Because Eila’s crush on Sanya is so pronounced, when her intuition tells her Sanya’s being taken from her, Eila immediately falls ill, prompting Mio to call Minna and explain what’s going on. While Eila’s feelings for Sanya are out in the open irrespective of whether it’s a TV anime or manga, spin-off works crank things up a further for the sake of comedy, with the inevitably result that I’ve begun feeling sorry for Eila whenever such things happen to her. Here, I note that ketchup works great in World Witches: Take Off! because without things like viscosity and transparency, it is very difficult to tell the two apart.

  • In Brave Witches proper, Edytha often punished Witches who broke the rules by having them wear a sign of shame. After Edytha accidentally reveals to Waltrud and Nikka that Hikari’s got a cold, Naoe makes her wear the sign and figures that they should check up on Hikari: now that they’re down a Witch, Gundulla and Alexsandra worries that headquarters will cut their funding on account of their reduced operational capacity.

  • It turns out that after the cold swim, Hikari fell ill, but things look relatively minor, and Hikari’s in good hands as Georgette is looking after her. Much as how the 501st side of the story focuses on Charlotte, Francesca, Gertrude, Erica, Sanya and Eila because their presence is rather more noticeable, the 502nd’s story has Naoe, Nikka, Waltrud and Edytha at the forefront of things: Sadako and Georgette don’t really have much shine time in World Witches: Take Off! because comparatively, they’re less rambuncious than the others.

  • Edytha’s decision to keep quiet about Hikari’s cold stems from her worry that Nikka’s accident-prone nature, and the potential of Waltrud taking advantage of Hikari’s state, could make Hikari’s recovery a lengthy one. While nothing of the sort happens, Nikka and Waltrud do get into an accident after deciding to mix up a little something to help Hikari recover, but Nikka accidentally spills boiling water on herself and Waltrud in the process. Only the Witches’ accelerated healing factor allows such an incident to be funny: when scalded with boiling water, the usual response is to apply cool runner water to the afflicted areas for at least twenty minutes (but not nice or cold water)

  • Later, the 502nd learn that provisions are low, and while Alexsandra attempts to lighten the mood up with a joke about how they at least have unlimited supplies for making snow cones, the Witches soon fall into self-pity since the front lines are so quiet. It typifies World Witches: Take Off!‘s ability to turn even the most mundane of tasks into something enjoyable to watch. After Georgette actually begins eating the snow in desperation, it is decided that Hikari, Sadako, Edytha and Georgette will go on a shopping trip into town.

  • Picking up the common supplies proves easy enough, but when Edytha attempts to pick up some alcohol, the clerk ends up calling the authorities, causing the Witches to be detained. Using Japanese law, Edytha, being 19, is an adult, but the legal drinking age in Japan is 20, so technically, Edytha isn’t able to purchase alcohol anyways. Gundula soon receives a call from the local station asking for the girls’ parents to retrieve them, but at the same time, also gets a call from Takami. The ensuing chaos is a riot, and its resolution is never presented.

  • The last bit of the 501st’s story has everyone gathering for a party: with the film now complete, everyone’s invited to swing by St. Trond base.  Even now, Minna hadn’t been successful in convincing the brass to reform the 501st. When Yoshika decides to thank the other Witch squadrons for having caused them trouble, and reveals that she has a very specific list of people to thank based on certain attributes, Erica seizes the photos and decides that Yoshika should be able to express her gratitude via letters, prompting Yoshika to beg Erica for the letters back. Mio arrives shortly after: Minna’s somehow managed to get her back, too.

  • However, worried about what could happen if Minna were allowed to cook, Charlotte, Francesca and Erica had decided to take on the task themselves while Yoshika and Sanya head off to spread the word. Charlotte, Erica and Francesca’s plan to cook ahead of time proves vital, saving everyone from certain death. While the movie’s now done, there remains the matter of editing: Mio notes that Fuso has a branch in the military to handle this, causing the girls to go ballistic; they were hoping to have a more final say in what the film actually entails.

  • While the 501st is still not formally reactivated, the girls decide to party anyways, but as things get under way, the Neuroi suddenly appear. Charlotte and Francesca had joked that having the Neuroi show up would be the fastest way to convince the brass to reassemble the 501st for combat operations, but it seems the Neuroi had been waiting for the worst moment to make a return. This prompts Minna to order everyone to sortie for combat.

  • In this post, only a third of the screenshots are of the 501st: I deliberately skewed the screenshots to favour the 502nd because it’s their first time appearing in the parody format. At the end of their story, it turns out Takami had shown up herself to make sure Hikari was doing okay. It turns out that after arriving home, Takami became guilt-ridden about what happened and, side-tracked by seeing merchandise of herself, wants to make some of Hikari, too. The chibi forms of the characters are adorable, and one of the interesting things about the Take Off! series was the shifts in art styles.

  • Whether or not Yoshika is actually qualified to examine Takami is questionable: she expresses an interest in giving Takami her physical with indecent enthusiasm, and Takami misinterprets this as Yoshika being a noble physician. Unfortunately for Yoshika (and fortunately for Takami), the latter receives a phone call from St. Petersburg and learns Hikari’s in trouble. She thus sets off immediately, and Yoshika reluctantly stands down, salty that she’s not able to grope Takami.

  • It’s a tearful reunion in St. Petersberg, but as Gundula and Alexsandra can attest, since we viewers know precisely what led up to this point, this moment is less heartwarming than it is funny. The flow of events in World Witches: Take Off! loosely parallels those of Brave Witches, similarly to how Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! The Movie had been a re-telling of Strike Witches: The Movie‘s events in a parody format, and now, I’m interested to re-watch Brave Witches again. Having watched the televised run during the fall of 2016, I ended up with the broadcast version’s defects, which the home release subsequently rectified.

  • While Hikari anticipates fighting alongside Takami, and her ahoge takes on a heart-shape in response, it turns out that to facilitate this detour, Takami owes the military. Hikari decides to accompany her, just happy to be with her sister again, although the other Witches are inevitably disappointed. In particular, Nikka had become fond of Hikari, while Alexsandra laments the loss of their supplementary funding should the two actually leave. Upon further consideration, Hikari decides to stay, and Gundula manages to convince the brass to at least let Takami stay over the winter.

  • As far as I can tell, no one else is writing about World Witches: Take Off!, and it’s really hard to fault folks for not writing about this series of shorts. World Witches: Take Off! offers nothing substantial to talk about in the way of character growth or world building, instead, being just a hilarious collection of tales about the mishaps that accompany the Witches in a world where the most notable aspects of their personalities are allowed to clash. Of course, the humour might be a little off-putting for some folks: this isn’t to be too surprising, since World Witches: Take Off! isn’t exactly a conventional anime.

  • With this in mind, I’ve still managed to find things to talk about in this unconventional series, even where the series doesn’t offer much to work with. There’s a reason why my Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! reviews dominate search engines: I aim to share my experiences in a fair and comprehensive manner. Admittedly, shorts like these can be tricky to write for, and while I did have fun watching the Take Off! series, I’m not going to say that World Witches: Take Off! or Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! are masterpieces that change the anime landscape, but the series represent light-hearted fun that gives viewers something to check out while waiting for more Strike Witches.

  • Upon catching wind that Hikari and Takami are leaving, Naoe ties Alexsandra up with the aim of forcing a straight answer out of her as to what’s happening, only to learn that she’d been acting on outdated information. Alexsandra had never actually withheld any information from Naoe, and so, when the others find out about it, it’s the surprise of the century: Naoe acts and talks tough, but behind this façade is someone who genuinely cares about those around her.

  • In embarrassment, Naoe first tries to commit suicide, and then tries to kill Nikka (which fails because Nikka’s self-healing outpaces whatever damage Naoe can do). Before things go out of hand, Neuroi appear, and Hikari is excited to finally be able to fly alongside Takami. This brings World Witches: Take Off! to a close; the ending comes abruptly, and we never do see the 501st and 502nd meet, but altogether, World Witches: Take Off! remains an enjoyable romp for those looking to scratch the Strike Witches itch that Road to Berlin left behind.

  • With my talk on World Witches: Take Off! done, I’ve now wrapped up all of the anime I had been actively watching for the winter season. The spring season is upon us now: Yakunara Mug Cup MoSuper Cub, and Yūki Yūna is a Hero Churutto! have my attention. I am likely to write about these series in a regular fashion. In addition, I plan to give 86 EIGHTY-SIX, Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. and Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui a go for the new season. Finally, I’m going to resume my Kamisama ni Hatta hi and Gundam SEED adventures on short order here, having put the brakes on so I could tend to everything else that’s been going on.

Altogether, World Witches: Take Off! is a fun series – while it does not bring anything particularly new to the table, nor does it help build the Strike Witches world further, World Witches: Take Off! continues on as its predecessor did, introducing a considerable amount of humour into the Strike Witches universe and acting as a parody of what’s happened. With this in mind, I’ve recently heard folks complain that “fun” is not a valid metric for assessing one’s enjoyment of entertainment on the basis that it’s too subjective a measure. I find this a narrow-minded way of thinking: World Witches: Take Off!, for instance, creates humour in its story that accentuates the worst traits in each character, and in the knowledge of the contrast the Take Off! series’ characters have with their usual counterparts, the dichotomy creates irony that is hard to reconcile, and hence, funny. This is where the enjoyment comes from, and for the lack of a better word, World Witches: Take Off! is a fun series, even if it doesn’t do anything world-changing or novel. The format continues to work for this series of shorts, acting as a pleasant intermediary series between now and when Luminous Witches is set to air. Ever since it was known that Strike Witches would be returning after VividRed Operation, the series has indeed returned in a big way. This is not unwelcome, since I’ve come to greatly love the Strike Witches universe and its characters: the greatest joys have always been seeing what sorts of scenarios unfold with the characters, and Luminous Witches intends to take viewers to a different side of this world. I’m rather excited to see what’s coming, and while series like World Witches: Take Off! might not necessarily advance Strike Witches as a whole, the fact we’re getting anything at all is a great sign that there’s more to come.

The Quintessential Quintuplets∬: A Second Season Whole Series Review and Reflection

“Most of these love triangles are wrecktangles.” –Jacob Braude

After Futaro recovers from his cold, he sets about attempting to continue mentoring the Nakano quintuplets as best as he can. However, conflicting feelings among the quintuplets distract them from their studies, and Futaro spends as much time trying to get them to reconcile as he does trying to tutor them. Ultimately, unable to produce results and help the girls in passing their latest exams, he resigns from his post per the quintuplets’ father’s requirements. In protest, the quintuplets move out, intent on proving that they can pass their exams. Meanwhile, Futaro sets about trying to understand the quintuplets better: during a vacation to an onsen the quintuplets’ grandfather owns, Futaro asks their grandfather how to differentiate everyone apart. With everyone whole-heartedly accepting Futaro’s help, the Nakanos make it into their final year of high school. However, new challenges arise when each of the quintuplets begin acting on their feelings for Futaro: from failed kokuhaku to efforts to draw Futaro’s attention, conflicts arise between the sisters, who are now competing with one another in the hopes that Futaro may reciprocate their feelings. This culminates in the class trip to Kyoto, where the girls begin going to extraordinary means to spend time with Futaro while struggling with the knowledge that whoever wins may have a changed relationship with the other four. The climatic confrontation ends with Miku admitting that her family comes first and foremost, and in the aftermath of this school trip, the five sisters end up exhausted. This is The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, the continuation to 2019’s first season. The second season sees many changes compared to its predecessor: for one, Tezuka Productions has been replaced by newcomer Bibury Animation Studios, whose only other work is Azur Lane, and while folks have suggested that the character designs in The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ are more faithful to the original, things felt somewhat flatter, less life-like in the second season. Moreover, after the Nakanos pass their final exams and enter their third year of high school, the core of what made The Quintessential Quintuplets so enjoyable (Futaro’s struggles and ever-shifting ways to force the Nakanos to study) was displaced by drama, which in retrospect, appears inevitable.

The drama and studying are, fortunately, not the highlight of The Quintessential Quintuplets∬: instead, it is the changes that begin to manifest in Futaro that are the most noteworthy. Coming into The Quintessential Quintuplets, Futaro is single-minded and utterly devoted to studying, but being made to work with the Nakano quintuplets wrought a noticeable change in him. Futaro had always seen each of the Nakano sisters as a distinct individual with her own unique beliefs, intents and desires and strives to impress this upon them, whereas until he’d shown up in their lives, each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki viewed themselves as one-fifths of a whole, more alike than unique. While his initial intentions had simply been to learn enough about everyone to ensure he could capitalise on individual traits to best tutor them and earn his keep, he gradually comes to develop a genuine desire to see each and every one of them succeed. To this end, his attempt to learn from the Nakano’s grandfather signifies a turning point for Futaro: there isn’t any algorithm or procedure for identifying the quintuplets, and instead, it’s a matter of love. Specifically, it’s learning nuances about each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki, such as the way they speak, how they carry themselves and the like. The reason for why Futaro is going to such lengths is later explained: when Yusuke Takeda, son of the principal and a popular student, confronts Futaro about the latter’s dropping grades, Futaro remarks that it was precisely through meeting the Nakanos that made him realise how closed-minded he had been previously. While the Nakanos are an endless source of frustration, they also taught Futaro the importance of compassion, persistence and patience, things that Futaro had previously lacked. Indeed, Futaro’s concern for the Nakanos matches his own will to excel, and he has no trouble demonstrating to Yusuke that he can manage both, earning Yusuke’s respect. Through The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, it is shown that for Futaro, he’s living a much more meaningful life as a high school student beyond merely studying, and however much trouble the Nakanos create for him, he’s slowly beginning to take things in stride and becomes a more well-rounded individual as a result.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I originally watched The Quintessential Quintuplets back during the previous summer as a part of the Terrible Anime Challenge and found the series to be quite charming. The first season stands very well on its own, and of note was the fact that while an outcome of sorts is known to viewers, the joys came precisely from seeing the journey it took to reach this outcome. Before I delve any further into The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, I will note that the second season’s identifying mark is a double integral ∬, having taken a look at the ASCII encoding for it (222C).

  • Initially, when Rena appears, I was a little uncertain as to whether or not Futaro had been hallucinating, a consequence of being under the weather, but it turns out this actually happens. A bit of reading finds that this was Itsuki trying to convince Futaro to move ahead rather than make his decision based purely on what’d happened years earlier. This post comes a little later in the day – I was busy for much of the day (fixing a fence that’d blown over in the wind storms over the past few days, capitalising on the weather to take a walk, enjoying an Easter dinner of stuffed turkey, ham-and-pineapple, plus herbed cauliflower, and spending time with family). However, with this post, I’d get a seven-streak, and I had no intentions of losing this streak. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine if the quality of my prior six posts have suffered any for my hubris.

  • Returning to the matter of the double integral in the second season’s title, my calculus knowledge is elementary: I’ve never taken any more advanced calculus courses in university, and while an appreciation of the principles means I’m able to understand its applications and uses in other fields, in my day-to-day work, I haven’t worked too extensively with things like integrals. Having said this, I am at least aware of the theory behind a double integral: these are typically used to describe the volume under a surface, and have applicability in determining the centre of mass and moment of inertia, which are central engineering concepts.

  • I’m not engineer, so this is where the limits of my knowledge lie. Fortunately, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ doesn’t require an extensive knowledge of mathematics, and I’m glad that discussions have chosen not to try and determine if a double integral symbolised anything significant in this second season (spoiler: as far as I can tell, it doesn’t). I’d been watching The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ on a weekly basis, same as I had for Higurashi Gou, but because I’d been focused on Yuru Camp△ 2 and Non Non Biyori Nonstop, I didn’t have plans to write about this The Quintessential Quintuplets. Returning now to talk about the whole season means that some details, I’ll inevitably forget, but on the whole, the events are memorable enough for me to recall them.

  • For most viewers, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬  would mean continuing on with a story that had began two years earlier; the first season had concluded with Futaro recovering from a fever after his school trip saw an unusual series of events that began showing how each of the girls begin seeing him. The romantic aspect in The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ lies at the heart of the series, and it speaks volumes to how each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki feel about Futaro when they’re willing to move out so they can continue learning under him, against their father’s wishes.

  • I believe I’ve mentioned this before in my last post, but it’s worth reiterating that The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ has an all-star cast, which made the show particularly fun to watch. Kana Hanazawa is Ichika (Shirase Kobuchisawa from A Place Further Than The Universe and Garden of Words‘ Yukari Yukino), Ayana Taketatsu is Nino (K-On!‘s Azusa “Azu-nyan” Nakano), Miku Itō voices Miku (Nanako Usami from Locodol), Ayane Sakura is Yotsuba (GochiUsa‘s very own Cocoa Hoto), and Inori Minase is Itsuki (GochiUsa‘s very own Chino Kafuu). I admit that a part of the joy in watching Quintessential Quintuplets∬ had been in part because I was suffering from GochiUsa withdrawal once BLOOM had ended, and having Sakura voice Yotsuba meant that I could hear Cocoa’s voice in a different context.

  • While Quintessential Quintuplets had initially made it feel like Futaro would never see any success in convincing the quintuplets to pick up a book and properly study, Futaro’s persistence would convince everyone to come around for themselves. In doing so, everyone’s confidence slowly begins returning, and appreciating what Futaro had done, each of the quintuplets begin falling in love with him in their own way. Of everyone, I felt the most empathy for Ichika: in the first season, I’d like Miku’s character the most, but with the second season, Ichika’s become an interesting character in her own right.

  • On one hand, Ichika wants to support her sisters, but she also begins feeling a pull towards Futaro. The biggest surprise of The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, however, was Nino: of everyone, she regards Futaro with the most hostility and has gone to lengths to get rid of him, even spiking his drink with a tranquilising agent. However, once Nino learns that Kintaro is actually Futaro (Futaro once bleached his hair blonde and had a prickly attitude, and in the present day, he replicated this for a school event as a part of festivities), her conflicting feelings lead her to conclude that she’s been in love with Futaro this entire time.

  • Yotsuba appears to be the exception to the rule: Ichika, Nino and Miku have made it clear they intend to win Futaro’s heart, while Itsuki is busy pursuing a different dream, and this leaves Yotsuba. Like Cocoa, Yotsuba is always cheerful and completely selfless, worrying about her sisters’ happiness above her own. It turns out that long ago, her actions had led to everyone getting expelled from their school, and since then, Yotsuba feels that she has a debt to repay. She never pursues Futaro actively, and is content to support the others despite her own feelings for this very reason.

  • The central conflict amongst each of the siblings is that each wants to pursue Futaro, but also wishes to minimise disrupting their status quo. To this end, Ichika, Miku and Nino each resolve to do their best and deal with the consequences after, but for Ichika, her conflict is worsened by the fact that she also believes she has a responsibility to look after everyone. For the time being, however, this competition for Futaro’s heart must wait: final exams are coming up, and everyone must pass in order to advance to the next grade. With motivation to be with Futaro filling their hearts, everyone puts in their best effort.

  • The problem of maintaining academic standing ceases to be a problem halfway through The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, and once everyone passes their finals with flying colours, they go out to celebrate. From here on out, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ takes a turning point and drops the studying piece outright. Futaro himself worries less about the Nakano’s academics, and his priority goes towards learning more about everyone: he believes that for better or worse, since he’s now so entrenched in their lives, it’s his responsibility to know them better and give them due respect.

  • Nino winds up taking a job at the same bakery that Futaro works at, beating out Miku in the process. Ever since the revelation that Kintaro was basically Futaro, Nino’s been unable to take her mind off Futaro, and plans on using this opportunity to get closer to him. Her initial attempts at a kokuhaku fail in a hilarious, but humiliating manner. However, this doesn’t dissuade Nino in any way; she plans on making it so that Futaro will have eyes for none other than her. While Nino constantly bemoans Futaro’s seeming obliviousness to her feelings, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ suggests that Futaro is somewhat aware of things and does his best to remain neutral for the Nakanos’ sake.

  • Miku’s attempts at catching Futaro’s attention are more subtle compared to Ichika and Nino, who are much more brazen in expressing themselves. Midway through the season, Miku suggests that they hit an onsen together, but as circumstance would have it, Futaro ends up accompanying his family, and the quintuplets accompany their father. The quintuplets’ father, Maruo, is the director for a hospital, and while he loves his step-daughters in his own way, he is completely results driven. Ever since Futaro stood up to him, Maruo regards Futaro with hostility, although in spite of himself, is impressed with Futaro’s perseverance in all of his endeavours.

  • I imagine that Maruo probably sees a bit of Futaro in himself, hence his reaction and stance on Futaro. During the onsen arc, Futaro’s hands are tied: the quintuplets are proving to be a handful and create quite a bit of confusion after Futaro confronts “Itsuki” about something that had been on her mind. During this visit, Futaro attempts to work out who the phony Itsuki is, and was initially unsuccessful until he implores the quintuplets’ grandfather to share the secret in how to tell everyone apart.

  • While viewers have a very easy time telling Itsuki, Yotsuba, Miku, Nino and Ichika apart thanks to obvious visual cues and distinctions in the voice actresses portraying everyone, it is suggested that these differences were done purely for the viewers’ benefit. For Futaro, he encounters a much greater hurdle in telling everyone apart. The quintuplets’ grandfather suggest that love is the answer, specifically, having the heart to take the time and learn nuances about each of the quintuplets.

  • I imagine that to properly convey the challenge that Futaro faces to the viewer, everyone would need to look the same, as they do here, and also share the same voice actress; I’ve now been around the block long enough to pick out traits from different voice actresses to the point where I’d recognise Ayane Sakura and Risa Taneda’s voices from anywhere, much as how Aki Toyosaki and Yōko Hikasa have very distinct voices that make them easy to tell apart. The fact that everyone’s masquerading as Itsuki suggests that something is up, and what was originally supposed to be a relaxing vacation turns into a bit of a gong-show for Futaro.

  • By evening, Yotsuba encourages Ichika to pursue her desires with her fullest efforts – because their father is so disapproving of Futaro, the two decide to confer on the inn’s rooftops away from prying eyes. Through everything, Yotsuba’s remained the most reserved: she was the first of the Nakano quintuplets to accept Futaro, and this alone suggested to me that she the one who’d encountered Futaro while they were younger. As The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ progresses, it becomes clear that the others also know this to be true. In retrospect, because of what Yotsuba had desired, and given her current situation, being forward with Futaro about this and setting in motion the events that would lead to the chapel would be sufficiently large as to warrant several episodes, so it makes sense that there’d be a third season of The Quintessential Quintuplets.

  • Having said this, even when continuations are announced shortly after a series’ finale, it does not guarantee a timely arrival. Magia Record had made it known that it would be getting a second season after its finale aired, but here we are, a full year later, and there’s still no sign of when the second season will wrap up Iroha’s story. Similarly, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ could very well have a bit of a wait, and assuming that the third season follows the second in timelines, it will be 2023 when we see what happens next. This is a long ways off, so I’ll return to the present, where, before they’re set to leave, Futaro confronts one of the fake Itsukis and confirms that it’s Miku – overjoyed that Futaro is able to recognise her, she throws herself at him.

  • When third year begins, the Nakano quintuplets are surrounded by curious classmates. However, Futaro is also in the same class, and in his typical manner, treats them as he would any of his other classmates, with a distance about them. However, recalling the girls’ grandfather’s remarks, when some classmates begin misidentifying the quintuplets and mistake one another, Futaro intervenes, correcting his classmates. This sort of action shows the classmates that Futaro does care about the Nakano quintuplets, who make a more honest effort to ensure they get everyone’s names correct.

  • When Yusuke challenges Futaro, whom he views as a worthy rival, Futaro replies that he doesn’t even know who Yusuke is. While Yusuke is an excellent student himself, but also charismatic and cordial, Futaro’s never really had time for rivalries. However, Yusuke’s remarks, that the Nakanos are holding him back from his full potential, sparks in Futaro a drive to demonstrate the opposite is true. This one single moment spoke volumes about how far Futaro has come since The Quintessential Quintuplets: he openly declares that his old self was, for all his book smarts, lacking in emotional intelligence, and it was through working with the Nakanos that he came to realise there was more to the world than just pwning exams. He thus accepts Yusuke’s challenge, stating that he’ll continue to help Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki study for their mock exams while at the same time, placing within the top ten.

  • This was the magic moment for me in The Quintessential Quintuplets∬: as a high school student, I was quite similar to Futaro in manner and belief. For me, I worked hard solely for the pursuit of high scores in classes, and while I was mostly successful in my endeavours, my instructors did suggest to me that life was more than scoring high. It wasn’t until university that I really began to see what they meant, and in a bit of irony, I actually began doing significantly better after I dispensed with the mindset of getting grades for the sake of getting grades. Like Futaro, it was hanging with friends and seeing more of the world that led me down this path; studying for the MCAT was a life-changing experience, and I soon realised that the process of getting there, plus keeping a cool mind, was the way to handle challenges. I imagine that as The Quintessential Quintuplets continues, it will continue to portray Futaro growing in this exact direction.

  • Of course, Futaro’s story is considerably different than mine, being written to handle the author’s scenario of what might happen if quintuplets all fell for the same fellow. The final story in The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ follows yet another class trip, but this class trip is fraught with tension – Ichika, Yotsuba, Nino, Itsuki and Miku each want to be with Futaro, but owing to the way groups work, students can only form teams of five. The Nakano’s classmates immediately suggest the five of them just group up, and Futaro decides he’s going to group up with Yusuke and Maeda. I’ve become quite fond of both characters: while both are initially hostile towards Futaro, once things are ironed out, they get along fine and demonstrate that Futaro has definitely improved since his journey began.

  • One of the elements that came into play towards The Quintessential Quintuplets∬‘s final act was that pursuit of one’s dreams can inevitably lead to toes being stepped on, and that if one is to go ahead with this, one must be willing to accept that the status quo will be broken. The question of whether or not one should go ahead, then, is determined by whether or not the new future’s advantages outweigh the drawbacks such a future entails. This is something that Ichika and Miku most struggle with – of the sisters, Nino has the fewest objections about forcing her way to the finish line, whatever it takes, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, Yotusuba seems content to sit things out, feeling unworthy of joining this race.

  • Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari-taisha is well-known for its row of torii gates leading to the shrine itself, and as such, is an iconic tourist attraction that features in many anime. I’ve noticed that a great many anime fans see this as a must-visit for anyone going to Japan; various “travel Japan” panels at Otafest have emphasised the worth of travelling here, and Otafest staff and volunteers all have posted to social media images of their visiting this spot. When I was in Japan four years earlier, Fushimi Inari-taisha was not on the list of locations we were set to visit, nor was Lake Hanama’s floating torii. However, my trip was not diminished in any way by this, and while I might visit in the future, the truth is that for me, there are many other spots in Japan that are higher on my list of places to check out first.

  • The central conflict of the final act really brought to bear what Futaro meant to everyone, and right out of the gates, I found myself rooting for Miku: while she’s the most reserved and shy of everyone, it takes courage to confront one’s feelings and do something special to make things known. Her cooking is initially terrible, but throughout The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, Miku makes a concerted effort in improving such that she is able to make something for Futaro: her cooking goes from being inedible to passable over a short time, speaking to her commitment. With the most sincere effort, it becomes difficult not to root for Miku, but The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ also suggests that effort alone may not win the day, speaking to the complexities of courtship.

  • While Ichika’s methods are underhanded, I understand where she’s coming from – constantly fighting between choosing Futaro or her sisters’ happiness, Ichika’s choices stem from selfishness. She wants Futaro and her sisters, but Futaro eventually confronts her, and she quickly realises that such a relationship, built on lies, would never be sustainable. In this way, Ichika’s decision quickly shifts from selfish to selfless, and for this, I’ve grown very fond of Ichika, respecting the path she subsequently takes. Had she taken a more direct and honest approach, I would’ve wholeheartedly supported her pursuit; her choice here shows that Ichika is responsible and able to own up to the consequences of her actions. Of the Nakano quintuplets, Ichika is the second to warm up to Futaro, having played cards with him and being the second of the sisters to meet him.

  • One thing I didn’t mention in my original The Quintessential Quintuplets post was the soundtrack – the first season’s incidental music is unremarkable, and while not bad per se, didn’t really do much for the series. On the other hand, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ had exceptional music, with pieces that really capture the sense of longing, wistfulness, melancholy and excitement associate with falling in love. The second season’s soundtrack is worthy of Downton Abbey, which is saying something, considering that Downton Abbey‘s main theme is something that is immediately recognisable and acts as an aural representation of the energy and emotion in receiving news. Every song in the second season’s soundtrack serves a purpose, and through the music, one can experience what each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki are feeling.

  • While everyone is still competing for Futaro’s heart, after Miku withdraws, it takes a pep talk from Nino to get Miku back on her feet – it’s better to fight honourably and lose without regret, knowing one tried their best, versus backing away and leaving lingering feelings of regret (or cheating). Miku eventually understands that since everyone else is going for it, with nothing to lose, she might as well try as well.

  • With this in mind, it felt nice to give Miku a chance at the spotlight after she’d suffered so many setbacks. The traditional Japanese village and a chance to wear traditional clothing is right up Miku’s alley: we recall she’s very fond of Japanese history. While the other sisters do their best keep up, they come to understand that happiness must be earned, and Miku eventually overhears the others, coming to state that she loves her family, first and foremost while leaving her kokuhaku ambiguous. This confuses the living daylights out of Futaro, leaving the stage open to a continuation.

  • Altogether, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬  is a B grade (3.0 of 4.0, or 7.5 on the ten-point scale). I generally had fun watching this second season, which was able to strike a balance between what had made its predecessor enjoyable and continue on with the logical progression of what would happen as the quintuplets came to know Futaro better. With this being said, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ is also a very busy series, and without space to properly flesh out everyone’s motivations, some of the can come across as impulsive, ill-conceived. With due respect, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬  would’ve worked better as a two-cour second season rather than a third season, and now, with The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ properly finished, it looks like there’ll be a bit of a wait to see what happens next. Manga readers and those who are attuned to the foreshadowing present already know how things turn out, but even then, those of us who are anime-only, like myself, will definitely find another season to be illuminating as to how things turned out the way they do.

While The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ has a discernible theme that makes it worthwhile to watch, the directions that this second season is taking suggests that what had made the original season so enjoyable will be set aside in favour of drama: after the Nakanos passed their finals and advance into third year, studying goes completely out the door as each of the siblings vie for Futaro’s time. Ichika is willing to do whatever it takes for the upper hand, impersonating her sisters and lying about her feelings. Nino’s had a complete change of heart and is head-over-heels for Futaro, choosing to take a direct route. Miko studies to improve her cooking and get to Futaro’s heart through his stomach. Yotsuba, on the other hand, recalls that she’s the girl Futaro met in Kyoto long ago, but actively chooses not to act on her feelings, believing that she’s the weakest of the quintuplets. Itsuki begins developing feelings for Futaro as well but wants him to pursue a future based on the present rather than their old promise. With this much in the air, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ demonstrates that the sheer amount of ensuing drama cannot fit elegantly into this season: a third season has been announced, continuing on with portraying what happens that will eventually lead Futaro to choose his partner and wed her. On this, I have conflicting feelings: on one hand, it will be nice to see how things are resolved, and what each of the characters learn in the process, but on the other hand, the original premise of getting the Nakanos to study could very well be set aside entirely in favour of interpersonal drama. The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ has shown that while the series can continue to hold interest with the ensuing conflict, compacting so much into such a short time scale means that there’s hardly a moment to breathe, what with everything that’s going on. There is always the possibility that this is deliberate, to convey to viewers what falling in love feels like, of course, and having said this, with The Quintessential Quintuplets receiving a third season at some point in the future (possibly The Quintessential Quintuplets ∭, with a triple integral ∭), I wouldn’t object to continuing on with Futaro and the Nakano quintuplets’ journey.

I’m Home: Yuru Camp△ 2 Finale Impressions, Whole-Series Review and Recommendation

“Home is where one starts from.” –T.S. Eliot

While descending from Mount Daruma’s summit, Rin thanks the Outdoor Activities Club for making their excursion so enjoyable. However, Chiaki and Aoi note that the day’s activities are just getting started. The group thus sets off for the Iida’s liquor store, where Minami, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena thank the Iidas for having helped them at Lake Yamanaka. Aoi, Ena and Chiaki are overjoyed to see Choko again, and the Iidas accompany everyone to Mount Omuro. Because the Yamayaki Festival had already occurred back in February, the entire volcano is a shade of dark brown. They ride a cable car to the summit and admire the scenery: up here, Mount Fuji can be seen. The next stop is Izu Shaboten Zoo, home of the onsen-enjoying capybaras. Akari’s been waiting all trip for this moment. After checking out the capybaras in the hot springs and melting at the sight of them, Minami suggests that Akari go check out the area where capybaras can be petted. This visit concludes with a visit to the gift shop, where Akari is entranced by the selection of capybaras products. Here, the Outdoor Activities Club and Iidas part ways, with Minami promising to make use of the Iida’s mail order service for their products. As the day draws to a close, the Outdoor Activities Club and Rin part ways. The Outdoor Activities Club return home shortly after, and they message one another to communicate this. However, Rin’s left no messages, and Nadeshiko grows worried. As Rin enters the Minobu area, Nadeshiko persuades Sakura to drive her out to check on Rin. It turns out Rin’s fine, and had disabled her phone’s notifications. Rin feels this might’ve been unnecessary, but thinking back to how she and Sakura had similarly checked up on Nadeshiko earlier, understands how Nadeshiko felt. The two share a conversation about their experiences, and promise to go camping together again. It suddenly strikes Nadeshiko that she’d never camped on the shores of Lake Motosu before, and she also wonders what Rin’s first camping trip was like. This finale brings Yuru Camp△ 2 to a close: the ending of the largest experience in Yuru Camp△ wraps up in a peaceful manner, with Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club safely returning home.

With the advantage of having established its premise and characters, Yuru Camp△ 2 is able to jump straight into the meat-and-potatoes of its presentation: this second season continues to cover the different aspects of camping, from purchasing additional gear and safety, to the idea that even simple recipes can be used to greatly enhance one’s experiences, and how both solo and grouping has merits. However, while camping remains in the spotlight in Yuru Camp△ 2, this second season also delves into messages of gratitude. The entire second season is about saying “thank you”, indicating that this simple gesture of making it known that one’s actions are appreciated goes a very long way in building trust and togetherness. Nadeshiko’s father makes it a point to thank Rin for having looked out for her since she’d arrived in Yamanashi by asking Nadeshiko to treat her to Hamamatsu’s best eel. Chiaki, Ena and Aoi thank Rin for looking out after them on the shores of Lake Yamanaka, and the group later also thank the Iidas for having kept them warm. Rin in turn thanks Nadeshiko and the Outdoor Activities Club for having invited her on their tour of Izu, as well as for checking up on her upon her return to Minobu. Knowing that one’s actions are meaningful, and repaying kindness with kindness perpetuates an important cycle: that we care for those around us, and saying “thank you”, taking many forms, remains the single most important way of letting one another know that their backs are covered. In this way, the Outdoor Activities Club are as close as friends can be, demonstrating how the sum of kindness results in experiences that are immeasurably memorable. In fact, after the Izu trip, Rin’s begin to wonder if solo camping can be lonely, and expresses an interest in joining everyone again for future adventures: this simple remark isn’t about solo or group camping, but rather, Rin’s way of saying that the joys of being together means being able to show her appreciation for the others.

Yuru Camp△ has insofar focused purely on autumn and winter camping, and over the course of Yuru Camp△ 2, both Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club have learned a great deal about camping, whether it be safety techniques, being open-minded and flexible in the face of unexpected surprises, and the rationale behind one’s preferences for solo or group camping. All of these discoveries culminate in the trip to Izu Peninsula, where Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club really get to experience the best of Izu together. With a list of destinations worthy of Rin’s solo excursions, and a menu that can only be had when Nadeshiko’s around, the Outdoor Activities Club gets best of both worlds. Thus, Izu represents the summation of how much everyone’s grown and learnt since Yuru Camp△ began. However, there is no upper limit on learning and discoveries: throughout their travels, Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club both encounter things they were not anticipating, but together, handle it very smoothly. They also see how other campers go about their experiences, from the simple camping that the family at Nodayama Health Green Space Park partake in, to the Iida’s sophisticated set-up, complete with wood stove. As such, news of a movie is most welcome: while Yuru Camp△ 2 ends on a very positive and decisive note, the announcement that there’s going to be a film will provide Yuru Camp△ a chance explore one more new direction, and with the scale that the silver screen confers, it will be exciting to see what adventures await Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club, a group of reasonably seasoned travellers with their own unique and memorable way of doing things. It will be sad to see Yuru Camp△ 2 go, but having a movie to look forwards to means that this series will be able to continue portraying camping as being a highly enjoyable, educational and cathartic activity.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Breaking from tradition, this finale post for Yuru Camp△ 2 comes out a full day later than I had for previous episodes. This is because yesterday was my orientation and onboarding, which made yesterday very busy (in a good way). Unfortunately, a massive windstorm swept into my area and gave me a massive headache: winds gusted up to 90 km/h, and I had only enough energy to just watch Yuru Camp△ 2‘s finale. With this being said, Yuru Camp△ 2 is so relaxing that during the finale’s run, I forgot about my headache and spent the whole of the episode with a smile on my face, although I’ve chosen to write about the finale today, without a headache to trouble me. On an unrelated note, a few days ago, I decided to order the Slow Start Official TV Animation Guidebook and Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Complete Analysis book.

  • Both items arrived earlier today, which is awesome. I ended up paying and arm and a leg for shipping, since my preferred SAL option was unavailable on account of the ongoing global health crisis, but the flipside is that my stuff arrived within a week. Back in Yuru Camp△ 2, nothing warms my heart more than seeing Rin smile. This simple gesture spoke volumes about Rin’s changing perspectives on camping, and much as how Nadeshiko appreciates solo camping now, Rin appreciates group camping. Yuru Camp△ 2 isn’t about the merits of one over the other, but rather, how shared experiences allow individuals to see the merits of different approaches to an activity.

  • Minami’s van can seat seven, although everyone just manages to fit on account of all the gear they’re carrying. To make things easier for Rin, Minami offers to drive her around for the day, knowing that Rin has a very long drive ahead of her on the way back to Yamanashi. Because Rin had been riding solo, only seating six meant there was more space for cargo: when vehicles seat their stated capacity, it does become quite crowded. For instance, the Mazda 5 normally seats four, but can be configured to seat six. At capacity, there’s not much room for cargo, and things do feel a little cramped.

  • Yuru Camp△ never needlessly introduces characters: any character that shows up and interacts with Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club returns in some way. From a production perspective, this ensures that assets can be reused, and voice actors can return to reprise their roles. However, from a narrative perspective, this works exceptionally well because it suggests that it’s a small world: the people we meet can often return to our lives in unexpected ways in the future, and so, it is simpler to be polite, courteous and cordial to all whom we encounter.

  • Nadeshiko and Rin immediately get shafted upon meeting Choko, who makes a beeline straight for Chiaki, Aoi and Ena. It is certainly the case that dogs love the company of those who they know, while being more reluctant to hang out with unfamiliar people. Here, Rin begins petting Choko and mistakenly addresses him as Chikuwa, which the other girls take as Ena going into withdrawal from having not hung out with Chikuwa on their camping trip. The founder of the company I’d previously worked at has a long-haired Chihuahua, the same as Chikuwa, and like Chikuwa, she was fond of burying herself in blankets, as well as flipping herself over for belly-rubs.

  • While Minami is doubtlessly inclined to visit the Iidas to check out their selection of liquors, her motivations also come from wanting to properly thank them for having helped out at Lake Yamanaka. Indeed, this is the first thing that Ena, Chiaki and Aoi do upon setting their foot in the Iida’s liquor store. Yuru Camp△ 2 places an emphasis on saying thank you, as well as keeping one’s word. I’ve always believed that one should be faithful to their word, so to have Minami and the others keep their word to the Iidas in Yuru Camp△ 2 was a very positive and rewarding thing to see.

  • While Rin and Nadeshiko are initially presented as being polar opposites at the very beginning of Yuru Camp△, six months of friendship later, it turns out that Rin and Nadeshiko are actually more similar than different. One of my readers mentioned that this was foreshadowed early on, where it was only Rin and Nadeshiko that could hear the talking pinecones. There is actually one more detail that Yuru Camp△ employs to hint at the pair’s similarities: both Rin and Nadeshiko have the same eyebrows.

  • Yuru Camp△ 2‘s finale has Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club stopping at a few destinations in their final day in the Izu Peninsula, and at some point in the near future, I’ll wrap up the location hunt for the second season, dealing with these last sets of locations in Izu and a few places in Yamanashi that I did not cover earlier. These location posts have been immensely fun to write for, allowing me to really get some mileage out of the Oculus Quest. Until I had the idea of using my Oculus Quest to fuel location hunts, this VR headset sat unused for the most part.

  • Yuru Camp△ 2 returns to Mount Omuro, which is where the Izu Shaboten Zoo (Itō Cactus Park in-show) is located. The last time an anime was at Mount Omuro, it would’ve been 2018’s Amanchu Advance, which saw Hikari and Futaba attend the Yamayaki Festival, which has had seven centuries of history and was done to clear old grass off the dormant volcano so new grass could grow. The festival and its events in Amanchu Advance was the subject of controversy, but here in Yuru Camp△ 2, all is quiet: by March, the festival’s done, so Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club simply ascend the volcano to check out the scenery above. Here at the base of the mountain, Rin and Nadeshiko have some ice cream prior to the ascent, fulfilling Nadeshiko’s wish to get some Izu ice cream during the trip after she slept through the stop for wasabi ice cream.

  • On the way up the mountain, Rin and Nadeshiko are both surprised by a hidden camera used for souvenir photos. Their resulting look of shock are identical, further accentuating the idea that Rin and Nadeshiko are more alike than different, and as such, their growing friendship was only natural. These photos are indeed a part of some locations I’ve visited: mine have turned out from being similar to what happened in Yuru Camp△ 2 to being more ordinary. Once the initial embarrassment wears off, Nadeshiko finds the photo hilarious and makes to buy one, prompting Rin to do the same.

  • Mount Omuro ascends 500 metres into the sky, being a cinder cone composed of pyroclastic fragments: these fragments accumulate as a cone-shaped mountain with relatively sleep slopes. Whenever I think of cinder cones, I think of Parícutin, a volcano in Mexico that formed overnight in a farmer’s field in 1943. After fissures opened in the ground, a 50-metre tall cone had formed an hour later, and at the end of the day, the cone had reached a height of 150 metres. While reaching a maximum of 424 metres in height, Parícutin today has a prominence of 208 metres, being dormant, is a tourist attraction.

  • Yuru Camp△ 2‘s finale doesn’t really have much of an emphasis on food, but the series overall has been a love letter to the wonderful foods of Shizuoka and Yamanashi. On the topic of food, on account of it being Good Friday today, we had several meals planned out for the day. Lunch consisted of a homemade cheeseburger and pub fries. It suddenly strikes me that reduced salt and fat, coupled with fresher ingredients means that homemade burgers are much lighter than typical fast food burgers, possessing all of the flavour but causing none of the crash that accompanies eating fast food burgers; when I went out for burgers a few weeks ago to try the local joint’s grass-fed beef burgers, it was delicious, but my mouth became dry for a while afterwards.

  • Today, a sirloin steak and garlic-seared prawns with fully-loaded potatoes is also on the evening menu. While long weekends have been a time to hit the mountains or local shopping centres previously, of late, they’ve been times to get fancy with cooking. Here, Iida’s daughter comments that praising Mount Fuji while on the summit of Mount Omuro can bring about a curse, frightening Nadeshiko. The scenery up here, however, is undeniably spectacular.

  • Adding Akari to the Izu trip really breathed new life into the group dynamics: the youngest of everyone, Akari brings with her an unbridled sense of joy and energy that rivals Nadeshiko’s. It would seem that she’s only really bothersome towards Chiaki, but otherwise, gets along with everyone just fine. It turns out that Akari’s love of capybaras likely comes from Kapibara-san, a children’s anime about the capybaras. Upon arriving at Izu Shaboten Zoo, Rin and Nadeshiko notice peacocks wandering the grounds, and Minami asks the clerk if they’re free range. It turns out these peacocks have actually escaped, prompting another member of the staff to round them up, which is a good idea. At my local zoo, we do have peacocks wandering the grounds, and in a hilarious (yet macabre) turn of events back in 2017, one of the peacocks decided it’d be a good idea to fly into the lion enclosure, whereupon it was promptly eaten by a lion.

  • This is the moment that Akari’s waited all trip to see: capybaras totally chilling in onsen with yuzu fruits. The sight is so cathartic that those who see things are rendered speechless; it’s a sight for sore eyes, and for a moment, it would appear as though one were inside the onsen with these cavy rodents, which are native to South America. The largest rodents in the world, capybaras can reach up to 134 centimetres in length and 66 kilograms in weight. With lifespans of 12 years in captivity, capybaras are quite friendly towards humans and allow themselves to be petted. Akari immediately sets off to pet them.

  • A year and a half ago, there had been pandas at our local zoo, and consequently, every gift shop was selling panda plushies. It was particularly adorable to see children clinging to stuffed pandas their parents had bought them. I myself have a stuffed panda of the same sort, albeit sporting a graduation hat, which I got for conquering my undergraduate honours degree years ago: plushies are always so soft and fuzzy, so I definitely understand why children are so fond of them. When visiting the gift shop, Akari is immobilised by the sheer selection of capybara products, from plushies to snacks.

  • The Iidas prepare to head back home after visiting Mount Omoru and the Izu Shaboten Zoo with the Outdoor Activities Club. Altogether, Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club visited a total of twelve geospots, but there are a total of over a hundred. It does not take much math to conclude that the concentration of attractions in the Izu Peninsula is such that one could have a few seasons of travel shows purely set here. Prior to heading back, Minami decides to drop by a roadside station, which is where everyone will have a light lunch and prepare for the journey home.

  • Before preparing for her own drive back to Minobu, Minami checks up on Rin to ensure that she’ll be alright. Rin and her moped will be more than okay: the upgrades she’s given the moped have left her better prepared for long range trips. I think that this is probably the first time seeing what fans call a “mid-season upgrade” in a slice-of-life anime: the new additions have made Rin’s trip a lot easier, although practically speaking, a moped isn’t quite as suited for distance driving as a car. A glance at Rin’s moped finds that its speedometer is capped at 60 km/h, and in reality, the Vino 125 has a maximum speed of 89 km/h. While many cars have a speedometer that reaches up to 240 km/h, the reason for this is that speedometer manufacturers make them to fit a range of vehicles.

  • As such, while the Mazda 5 claims it can hit speeds of 210 km/h on the speedometer, the 175 HP engine and vehicle mass means that it would be quite unsafe to push the vehicle that hard. With this being said, cars and their larger engines can hit higher speeds than mopeds, so Minami and the Outdoor Activities Club return home to Yamanashi sooner than Rin. While everyone’s completely burnt out from the trip, Nadeshiko is now fully charged and promises to stay awake with Minami. The drive is about an hour and a half, spanning some 95 kilometres: for me, these distances are trivial because of how flat and open our freeways back home are, but the narrow, winding roads of Japan make this a demanding drive.

  • By the time Rin reaches Fujinomiya, she’s stuck in rush hour traffic. Rin is shown riding on the shoulder of the road adjacent to the other cars here, but mere moments earlier, had been riding normally. This is probably the only animation SNAFU in the whole of Yuru Camp△ 2, so I’m willing to overlook this mistake. In reality, I’ve always expressed irritation at motorcycles and mopeds that ride on the shoulders of the road: as a vehicle driver, I expect motorcycles and mopeds to ride in the centre of their lane as any other vehicle would, and I give them the same space as I would any vehicle. There are dangers to zipping along the shoulder, especially if there’s a possibility that other vehicles are changing lanes, and I imagine that Rin is sufficiently aware of the rules of the road so she wouldn’t do this, leaving me to conclude that this moment was probably an animation bug more than anything else.

  • Once Rin clears Fujinomiya and returns to the rural roads, the drive is quiet again. Rin’s thoughts here perfectly mirror those of mine after I leave a group event; there’s a certain melancholy that comes with being alone, and this creates a bit of an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, I’m completely at home with solitude, but on the other, there’s a sort of positive energy about crowds that does result in loneliness in the immediate aftermath. As Rin reminisces about all the stuff she’d done with Nadeshiko and the others, she doesn’t mind admitting that she’s lonely, but this also contrasts with the infinitely peaceful feeling of being alone. As people, we can certainly have both and feel things from across the spectrum: in this case, the loneliness is simultaneously sad and comforting.

  • I believe that the contradiction Rin is experiencing is an instance of mono no aware, which is a Japanese principle that speaks to impermanence: my interpretation of this is that because feelings are fleeting, it makes sense that things can be contradictory. Back home, after Nadeshiko arrives and unpacks, she shows her parents the food and souvenirs that she’s picked up. Her father is especially thrilled: Nadeshiko’s picked up a bunch of dried fish, and as he sets about preparing dinner, Nadeshiko’s mother wonders how much spending money he’d given Nadeshiko.

  • While everyone’s settling down back home, Nadeshiko begins to worry that Rin’s not messaged the group chat yet. Because the girls find that the Izu trip’s still on until everyone’s made it home safely, Nadeshiko manages to convince Sakura to give her a ride out to the mountain road leading back home, hoping she’ll run into Rin along the way. Sakura, likely recalling Rin had done the same for Nadeshiko, consents to this. At a turn in the road leading into Minobu, Nadeshiko spots Rin, who’s doing well and is admittedly surprised to see Nadeshiko out here. Recalling she’d done the same for Nadeshiko, however, Rin completely understands her concern.

  • From finding Nadeshiko noisy and troublesome on their first meeting, to seeing her as a close friend, the changes that Rin undergoes during the course of Yuru Camp△ has been very pronounced: she begins to open up to others. All of this happens over the course of six months, and Yuru Camp△ thus suggests that introverted, stoic folks can indeed open up to people after spending time with them. In this way, Yuru Camp△ is an excellent portrayal of the process that people such as myself undergo around folks that we come to see as friends: rather than anything misunderstood, we simply just prefer quiet environments to relax in, but otherwise, also enjoy energetic group events and get along with rowdy, spirited people, even if we don’t always the words for it.

  • Chiaki smiles as she airs out her sleeping bag back home. Here, I will mention the Yuru Camp△ 2 soundtrack, which released on March 31, a day before the finale aired. As I expected, the soundtrack is chock-full of wonderful songs that really bring out the wonder of nature. This time around rather than the Irish Fiddle, use of woodwinds creates a really connection to nature and appreciation of the great outdoors. My favourite tracks include ゆるキャン△SEASON2のテ-マ (Yuru Camp△ Season Two Theme), which brings back the motif from the first season, ソ口キャンの嗜み (Soro-kyan no tashinami, literally “Taste of Solo Camping”) and 歴史ある半島 (Rekishi aru hantō, “Historical Peninsula”).

  • There are a lot of wonderful pieces of incidental music in Yuru Camp△ 2‘s soundtrack, which consists of fifty-six tracks over two disks. Of these tracks, eight of these are original dramas, and the inset song that played in the seventh episode, この場所で (Kono basho de, “In this place”), is included with the second disk. The soundtrack is an indispensable accompaniment to Yuru Camp△ 2. Here, Aoi and Akari spend some time with their grandmother, showing her the photos they’d taken during the course of the trip. It turns out that Akari was able to buy a capybara plushie on top of some snacks. On an unrelated note, I have a bear with the exact same pose as the plushie Akari ended up getting.

  • Ena is thrilled to be with Chikuwa again. I’ve always been fond of long-haired Chihuahuas: despite being tiny, they have a bold personality. However, despite their coats, they’re not exactly fond of the cold, which is why Ena isn’t really able to travel with Chikuwa. With this being said, Yuru Camp△ doesn’t seem like a series to leave viewers hanging, and there could be a future where Chikuwa joins Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club in their adventures.

  • As thanks for gotten her the windshield and circuit relay, Rin gifts her grandfather some Izu Miso-pickled meat, suggesting it’d be a great camping meal. Meanwhile, Minami gives some of the Iida’s liquor to Ryōko. In these gestures of appreciation, Yuru Camp△ 2 has definitely gone above and beyond to emphasise the importance of expressing gratitude: while the camping aspects are doubtlessly the heart and soul of Yuru Camp△, I’ve found that the second season did particularly well with its presentation of a life lesson even the best of us could be reminded of: there are a lot of things that people take for granted, and being aware of one’s blessings is a vital part of having the resilience to make it through challenges.

  • As another school day begins, Nadeshiko hastens to meet Aoi, Chiaki, Rin and Ena: while Yuru Camp△ 2 doesn’t explicitly say so, it is clear that after the Izu trip, everyone’s now closer than ever, to the point where Rin, who’d previously only spent time with Ena while at school, is willing to hang out with Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi. The best stories occasionally leave some things unsaid, and use visuals to speak volumes about things: Yuru Camp△ 2 has certainly done a wonderful job here, and as the episode draws to a close, the time has come to give a final verdict on the series. Unsurprisingly, we have another A+ (4.0 of 4.0, or 10 of 10): I know I’ve been handing out A+ grades like candy this season, but each of the series I’ve watched have earned this score several times over. In the case of Yuru Camp△ 2, for consistently creating a sense of warm fuzzy joy each episode, for making me laugh and cry alongside the characters, for its wonderful themes and unparalleled portrayal of the travellers’ experiences, Yuru Camp△ 2 is a winner in all regards.

  • The presence of an ending card with this finale suggests that Yuru Camp△ 2 is going to be the last time there’s a Yuru Camp△ TV anime, the knowledge that there’s a movie makes this departure considerably less bittersweet. The only thing I know about the movie is that it’s coming out in 2022 and that it’ll be called Yuru Camp△ The Movie, but despite the unknowns, I will make an effort to watch and write about Yuru Camp△ The Movie once it becomes available. At the time of writing, I have no information as to whether or not there could be any additional OVAs, but should any come out, I’ll also check them out. With this in mind, Yuru Camp△ is far from over: the live-action drama has also begun airing, and as I’m able, I’ll make an effort to watch those. The live action especially excels with the portrayal of food and places, making it an immensely fun adaptation to check out.

Yuru Camp△ 2 is a series that does everything right: with an insightful portrayal of camping and its nuances, a meaningful theme, wonderful visuals and an exceptional soundtrack, there are no strikes that can be levelled against Yuru Camp△ 2. As such, I have no qualms making a strong recommendation to all viewers about this series. There’s no barrier of entry, the characters are immensely likeable, and the idea of fully enjoying one’s experiences, of living in the moment, are universally understood. It speaks volumes to what Yuru Camp△ 2 does well, that even those who ordinarily critical of slice-of-life anime find Yuru Camp△ 2 to be enjoyable. As noted earlier, however, this is not the end: with Yuru Camp△ The Movie coming in 2022, Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club will be able to continue on their excellent adventures together, and I imagine that many viewers will similarly appreciate seeing where things go. It is possible that Yuru Camp△‘s film could deal with spring or summer camping; until now, Rin’s chosen to camp in the fall and winter because of how quiet things were, while Chiaki and Aoi only began camping in the fall because they needed to save the funds for camping gear. With gear and experience no longer a problem, and Rin leaving Yuru Camp△ 2 more open-minded than before, more conducive for group activities, the floor completely opens to adventures that we’ve not seen previously in Yuru Camp△. Camping trips set amongst the verdant vegetation and deep blue skies of a Japanese summer appears to be a logical direction for the series to go in, although there is one certainty: no matter where Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club go for their next great journey, viewers are sure to have a great time.