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Spirit- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter Part Two Review and Reflection

“And then, there’s the last ten minutes of the movie. A display so powerful it merits the price of admission, and all future admission prices.” —Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One

Taking a leaf from the Auralnauts’ “Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One”, first off, obviously, this discussion will contain spoilers. If you do not already know that Gin dies in the end, then you should leave right now. Following another training session, Sumi, Sonoko and Gin are presented with unexpected news – they assigned some vacation time, during which they spend a day together at the pool and prepare an orientation for first-year elementary students. Although going overboard with their daily calisthenics routine and landing themselves in hot water, the girls have fun with their presentation, coming to deeply treasure their time spent together. Sumi and Sonoko also meet Gin’s parents for the first time during their break. When term resumes, the girls share a productive day at their school’s training camp, promising that there will be many more treasured memories in the days coming. When the camp concludes, a pair of Vertices appear. In the fierce fighting, Sumi and Sonoko are knocked out of combat. Gin promises to deal with the Vertices on her own, and, spurred on by her own determination to share a future with her friends, manages to defeat both. However, in the process, she sustains grievous wounds and succumbs to her injuries. Grief-stricken at their friend’s sudden departure, Sonoko and Sumi dissolve into tears. This is the short of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act, the turning point where Gin’s friendship with Sonoko and Sumi is cut short; to see the dramatic contrast in the second act’s first and second halves was quite jarring even though it was quite apparent as to what would be happening when the Vertex did finally appear.

The idea of presenting an episode of contrasts is not a novel one – in portraying the characters’ ordinary lives and everyday activities, audiences have a chance to see what extraordinary individuals might do outside of their duties. To see them in normalcy, going about their business and sharing precious memories together reinforces the notion that everyone is human, each with their own experiences that give them drive. Consequently, when audiences have seen for themselves how far each of Sumi, Sonoko and Gin come to know one another, as well as the strength of their friendship, the death of a character is intended to evoke some level of response in viewers: empathy, the ability to understand another being’s emotions, is a cognitive function that evolved in social animals. Writers utilise it to convey a particular mood strongly, and in the case of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act, to develop a friendship in such detail (Washio Sumi Chapter’s second acts open up in a light-hearted, even irreverent, tone), only for Gin to be killed during combat, is intended to convey to audiences the extent of the loss that Sonoko and Sumi feel. Friendship, something that takes a considerable amount of effort and time to cultivate, can be destroyed in an instant by external forces. Effective in emphasising this point as its main message, Act Two of Washio Sumi Chapter has raised the stakes for its final part; to be a hero previously meant accepting the risk of personal injury in the line of defending their world. In death, Gin shows the hazards of this duty, and if the documentation holds true, her death serves as the catalyst for changes the Taisha make to their Hero system. The final act of Washio Sumi Chapter will presumably deal with this, along with how Sumi and Sonoko take the loss of a dear friend.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post on Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second part will have thirty screenshots such that there is sufficient room to properly discuss things. Irreverent, whimsical and quite unlike anything Yūki Yūna is a Hero veterans expect, the first part of this movie was immensely cheerful, almost to a fault. When their instructors announce the girls are to have some downtime in preparation for their future operations, Sonoko comes to pick up Sumi, where they subsequently listen to music together, and even the normally collected Sumi begins singing along to the music in her own manner.

  • The sheer number of facets to Sumi’s personality drives the comedy in the movie’s first half: after donning some of the dresses in the style that Sumi is fond of, Gin finds herself being photographed mercilessly, leading her to pout. Sumi’s nose explodes with a shower of blood; this was a rather unexpected reaction. Apparently, the nosebleed is an indicator that the character suffering from one is visually stimulated in some manner. While our blood pressure does elevate in the presence of something that excites us, there is no scientific basis for such a reaction happening.

  • Conversely, Sumi becomes quite bashful when asked to wear a Western-style dress. The tables have turned, and Gin photographs herself with Sumi. The scene cuts away to Sumi purifying herself at home later in the evening, who remarks that she’s failed as a Yamato Nadeshiko; this phrase refers to an abstraction of what is considered to be the proper Japanese lady, both dignified, graceful and beautiful, but also resolved and responsible in disposition. The second chapter of Washio Sumi Chapter presents Sumi as a personification of almost all things Japanese.

  • It turns out that Sonoko is an author who spends her spare time working on novels, and longs to write one about her friends. Sonoko’s existing works are well-received, and when Sumi, motivated, tries to write her own history texts, finds herself assailed by online critics. Here, the girls share a moment after drawing on the whiteboard: Sumi’s rendition of the Zuikaku is visible on the blackboard in the background. Like the Nagato, the Zuikaku survived most of the Second World War and was only sunk at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1945.

  • When Sonoko receives a love letter, Gin and Sumi’s reactions simply must be watched to be believed. Fearing curses, Sumi procures a large number of shide (paper streamers) to purify and bless Sonoko, but as it turns out, the letter is actually from a female admirer. Sumi herself later receives a letter, asking her to “bring it down”. Angered by the letter, Sumi promptly burns it while chanting ominously.

  • While Sumi’s warm-up exercises may seem excessive to Gin and Sonoko, there is a good reason for stretching before swimming: the motions of swimming cause the muscles to contract in ways the body may not be accustomed to. Cramps result when the body attempts to rectify this, resulting in pain. Warming up increases circulation that allow the muscles to prepare for the motions ahead, and in other anime, such as Girls und Panzer during one of the OVAs, cramps do indeed occur when the first years hop into the water, forcing the student council to save them.

  • As a worthy precursor to Yūna’s Hero Club, Gin here puts on a show for the entering first year primary students in order to welcome them to their school. Anime have always skewed ages, and while only eleven, Gin, Sonoko and Sumi feel much older than their ages would otherwise suggest. As a part of their performance, the play gives way to a scripted event that Sonoko and Sumi present for the students. A highly patriotic song that screams nationalism, a part of me feels as though there is a bit of propaganda here, although chances are that it’s done primarily for comedic purposes.

  • While I have a moderate understanding of Japanese history, I am not intrinsically familiar with this particular dress style, which brings to mind the likes of Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi. If and when I’m asked about my own sense of national pride, I am Canadian, and the things that I like most about the True North is our multiculturalism, politeness, majestic wilderness, hockey and maple syrup. With that being said, I also greatly respect my heritage: of Cantonese descent, I carry with me a hybrid of Western and traditional values. Back in Washio Sumi Chapter, the performance that Sumi and Sonoko perform land them in hot water.

  • Scattered intermittently through Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second part’s first act are Sonoko’s dreams, which are surreal and somewhat uncanny to behold. Here, Sonoko comes to after dreaming that she’s now banned from eating Udon as punishment for having overdone their orientation presentation. Upon waking up, her friends reassure her, and audiences are left to wonder if they were really disciplined for their performance.

  • On a pleasant day, the girls get together to hang out: it is here that Sumi and Sonoko meet with Gin’s parents and family formally (the events in the previous movie do not count, as Sumi and Sonoko had followed Gin without permission). Gin has remarked that one of her own personal goals is to become a good bride, owing to her love of looking after others and ensuring their happiness. When she jokingly remarks that Sumi could be a bit of a difficult girl for whomever chooses to marry her, she also says that perhaps it would take someone like her to look after Sumi.

  • Having spent all night writing and binding their class activity guides, Sumi presents them to Sonoko and Gin, noting that she’s also given them an electronic version. The size of the volumes are unrealistic: the printing company at campus has a hard limit on the number of pages they bind into a volume, and something with this many pages (I estimate around 600 to 700 assuming the same thickness of paper as used in my thesis). With that being said, I’ve got no idea what the rock-like object Sumi holding is.

  • Events of the training camp proceed nominally as the girls complete their exercises. Gin and Sumi complete theirs with flair, and it is Sonoko who grows pensive. However, with some encouragement, she manages to finish the course and is petted by Gin. Feeling left out, Sumi endearingly forces her way between the two and is petted in return. I certainly was not expecting this from Sumi, but it demonstrates her desire to be a part of the friendship that all three of them share.

  • On a high from the day’s activities, Gin falls from a climbing apparatus when her grip falters. The events’ possible inclusion as a bit of foreshadowing notwithstanding, Gin promises to take it down a peg when Sonoko and Sumi express concern, but when the girls begin cooking lunch for the others, she quickly returns to her usual cheerful self. Grilling meats and vegetables on skewers is a longtime staple featured in anime, associated with summer: the searing of meat always seems to produce a distinct flavour that is remarkable. This flavour comes from concurrent Milliard reactions, which create aromatic rings in the constituent molecules that make up the meat.

  • Sumi and Sonoko take on simplified eyes when the former notices an Allomyrina dichotoma (common name Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle) on her shoulder. Distributed in Japan, Taiwan and Eastern China, these beetles are popular in Japan as pets. Sonoko seems unbothered, whereas Sumi is not particularly fond of insects, and sees Sonoko as being covered with the beetles. Pleasant is the weather in Washio Sumi Chapter a far cry from the skies around my city, where it seems spring has not fully ignited yet – trees are only beginning to bud, and a cold overcast sky dominates the area. While I lament the poor weather ahead in the forecast, the skies today became sunny and pleasant just in time for me to partake in this year’s Poutine Week challenge. A charity programme in which a participating restaurant will donate a meal to someone in need for every poutine sold, Poutine Week happens every April.

  • The girls’ instructor here struggles to eat a green pepper. I’m not a picky eater by any definition and love trying new dishes out. High on the list of things I like are exotic poutines: for Poutine Week this year, I visited the Midtown Café to enjoy the Philadelphia Cheese Steak poutine – a classy poutine decked out in roasted cuts of beef, beef demi-glace, sautéed onions and marinated chilies drizzled in a horseradish aioli, garnished with mustard microgreens, this is perhaps one of the most fancy poutines I’ve ever had. The heavier flavours of the demi-glace, fries, cheese kurds and beef were offset by the bite the chilies provided, and there was a bit of a kick coming from the aioli that gave the poutine a very complex flavour.

  • After lunch, we went back to the office space to host a small 007 GoldenEye Source LAN party. This was immensely entertaining, and after warming up with some TDM hosted locally, we hopped onto a public server whose main game mode was gun master. Aside from some colourful language from other players, we had a fantastic time. The clouds returned in force by the time I returned home, and the rain began falling as the evening set in. Back in Washio Sumi Chapter, the girls take a break atop the bell tower, having completed their assignment for the training camp. Up until this point, there are no Vertex, and Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act presents the precious moments that Sumi, Sonoko and Gin spend together.

  • When the Vertex do arrive, however, this instalment of Washio Sumi Chapter takes on a much grimmer tone. There is actually quite a bit to consider during the combat, which makes up the last ten minutes of the instalment and led indirectly to the page quote sourced from the Auralnauts video “Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One”. As will become apparent, the final ten minutes of this episode of Washio Sumi Chapter is a moving display. Viewers are treated once more to the full transformation sequence. While Sumi’s segment is most pleasing to the eye, Gin’s is pleasing to the ear: perhaps I might be one of the only viewers out there who enjoyed listening to Gin’s small grunts as she swings her blades around in preparation for combat.

  • As the fighting begins, the girls learn that they are taking on a pair of Vertices, but the situation worsens when a third appears. Taking their learnings, Sumi stays back to provide covering fire while Gin and Sonoko engage each Vertex at close quarters. Sumi’s aim is true; both Gin and Sonoko land hits against the Vertex, but they soon unleash a powerful counterattack. Sumi and Gin take cover under Sonoko’s umbrella to weather out the storm of missiles the Vertex launch, but are swatted by a scorpion-like tail.

  • The impact is so ferocious that Sonoko and Sumi suffer internal injuries, taking them out of the fight. The girls had previously left combat with minor scratches and bruises, and earlier in this act, Sumi experiences a furious nosebleed when seeing Gin in a dress, but the comedy and slapstick vanishes: the injuries and damage here are very real. A closer inspection of this post will find that almost half of the screenshots deal with their fight against the Vertex; the proportion of combat time to time spent depicting the girls’ everyday lives is a deliberate choice, setting the stage for the message that this second episode aims to convey, and goes to show that friendships, constructed lovingly over a period of time, can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

  • With the destruction of the Shinju an unacceptable alternative, Gin is forced to engage the Vertex on her own when she sees the state that Sonoko and Sumi are in. The Vertex seen in Washio Sumi Chapter do not appear to have a core as did the ones seen in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and fall after sustaining enough damage. Given this change, it stands to reason that the Vertex appear to be constructs that arise from aberrations in their world, which, in conjunction with how the second act’s opening is presented, gives credence to the notion that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is set in a simulated reality.

  • Promising to fight in their steed and return to them, Gin sets off against overwhelming odds. It’s the last time audiences see Gin smile, and from here on out, it’s all business. Earlier, Gin had promised her brother that she would return to give him a souvenir from her trip, and this is the bit of foreshadowing that hints at her eventual fate. Still in reasonable shape, and with her blades doubling as shields, she takes off with the intent of taking out both Vertices and fulfilling her promise.

  • The differences in scale here simultaneously serve to suggest the odds that Gin is going up against, as well as her own persistence. Abstract entities that are dubbed “Ugly”, “Admiral Aimbot” and “Walrus Face”, the Vertex are described in the opening narration as being the “Pinnacles” of something, a rather ironic description considering the dangers they pose to the Shinju. A point worth bringing up here, is that Vertices in plural will invariably be brought up as Yūki Yūna is a Hero progresses: while Vertex in plural can be spelt as “vertexes”, “vertices” is the much more widely-used variation, hence my choosing to spell it in this manner. Having said this, “vertexes” might be more appropriate in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, considering their unusual nature.

  • Despite having closed the distance between herself and the Vertex in order to enter melee range, Gin is punctured by the energy-like projectiles that leave large holes in her body. The damage she sustains does little to stop her: she manages to shear off the tail from one of the Vertices and slashes a hole in another with her blades. However, the onslaught is simply too much for one individual to negotiate: projectiles punch through her foot and other parts of her body, knocking her down.

  • Absolutely refusing to give up, Gin feels that her spirit, love for her family and friends, and a determination to fulfil her promises to each, makes her stronger than her opponents. This is the basis for the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s name. However, unlike typical stories where willpower and love for those important to one triumph totally, Gin’s efforts end with her death, whose sacrifice is total as she fights to fulfil her duty to the Shunju and people in her life.

  • Gin’s defeat and passing is a plausible outcome for her situation, or, as some might say, “realistic”, similar to how it was implausible for the Calgary Flames to defeat the Anaheim Ducks during the playoffs. While I am a fan of plausible outcomes and to a lesser extent, realism, I feel that these elements should not impede the presentation of a narrative’s thematic elements. There are cases where realism is favoured over consistency, leading a work of fiction to feel jarring on the virtue that the events of a finale are not in keeping with the message the work aimed to make clear. In the case of Washio Sumi Chapter, Gin’s death is necessary to advance things, rather than being included for drama’s sake.

  • Here, Gin pushes one final charge that will deal a killing blow to the Vertex, at the expense of her own life. I contend that dark themes and events are similarly related to realism, that realism is not positively correlated with darkness, and it is folly to think that a darker story is automatically more thought provoking. The best stories accomplish several things: they lead us to challenge our own views of the world, vividly experience things that would otherwise be quite unlikely or dangerous, and/or inspire us in some way. Fiction need not be nihilistic and dark to accomplish this, and in the excess, can cause a work to come across as being quite superficial in quality. Madoka Magica and Yūki Yūna is a Hero feature such elements to varying extents, but their success in moving an audience comes because viewers care for the characters rather than because the characters are made to suffer for the sake of drama.

  • This is the sight that Sonoko and Sumi are presented with when they come to and reach Gin. Her weapons lying on the battlefield, and standing totally still, the two are initially relieved that Gin is still apparently in one piece. It was mentioned earlier that the girls’ hero outfits provide some degree of protection against the Vertex’s assault, and this does seem to hold true: no one’s had their internal organs blown out or their entire body bifrucated as in Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan as of yet despite the terrifying power the Vertex can wield.

  • In the eerie still, Sumi and Sonoko soon realise that Gin’s right arm is missing. Unlike Imran Zakhaev, who survived the loss of his arm despite the blood loss and resulting shock, the damage done to Gin is beyond survival. It is here that Sumi and Sonoko’s fears come to pass. The injuries shown openly on screen might be too much to show on television; if the televised broadcast of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is going to censor the blood and carnage, however, it might also lessen the impact of this moment.

  • Sonoko and Sumi let out wrenching sobs in light of the loss of their best friend that match the impact imparted by Hikari back during the days of Brave Witches and then some. The film draws to a close here, leaving audiences with a preview of what the final act of Washio Sumi Chapter entails. Moving into the finale, I am hoping for further details on the Vertex: it is difficult to consider Yūku Yūna is a Hero without them, and knowing about their beliefs, desires and intentions will add weight to the Heroes’ fight against the Vertex.

  • Before I wrap things up, for those wondering, I’ve been around the block long enough to be blunted towards tears: although quite moving, I did not shed any tears, much less several individual tears, at the episode’s conclusion. Thus ends another post on Washio Sumi Chapter. I will be returning to write about the final act in July, and for the present, note that discussion on the Washio Sumi Chapter has been surprisingly minimal. This will likely change in the near future once Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second season is aired, but for now, the quiet isn’t such a bad thing.

In spite of the opening narration redacting some elements about the Vertex and Taisha, the information that is provided seems to align with the idea that this Yūki Yūna is a Hero occurs within a simulated reality: the Vertex are suggested to be anomalies within the system, and the Heroes would therefore serve as a sort of anti-virus or anti-malware platform for defending the Shinju, the operating system, from threats arising within the programming. The spontaneous creation of Vertex as an antagonist hints at instability in the system, and there is a limit to what speculation can accomplish: there’s still quite a bit of background about Yūki Yūna is a Hero that audiences are not privy to. While not presenting the complete picture, having these dialogues and fragments of information is infinitely preferable to the absence of exposition. Until more documentation becomes available to support or refute my guesses, I will continue to go with the idea that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is the mahou shoujo take on The Matrix. With the second act of Washio Sumi Chapter in the books, the stage is now set for the final movie, which is set for release on July 8. I am very curious to see the intermediate story between Sumi’s transition to Mimori, as well as the difficult path that Sonoko chooses to defend her world. Yūki Yūna is a Hero might have been met with a lukewarm reception at best for dropping viewers into the middle of things, but the Washio Sumi Chapter films have been a modest attempt at addressing the background behind this world so far. If the third movie can explain more about the Taisha and Vertices’ respective natures, and the Hero Chapter of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second season can explore how Yūna’s team handles their knowledge following the events of the first season, the world presented in Yūki Yūna is a Hero will feel more complete, and the girls’ actions, more consistent.

Friends- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter Part One Review and Reflection

“Make ten men feel like a hundred.” —Cassian Andor, Rogue One

Before she met Yūna Yūki, Mimori Tōgō was known as Sumi Washio. She is assigned, with her classmates Sonoko Nogi and Gin Minowa, as heroes to defend the Shinju from the Vertex. Despite still lacking the requisite training to be effective in combat, they are pressed into an engagement with a Vertex that presents them with a considerable challenge. In the end, it is the combination of brute force and a team effort that allow them to claim their first kill. Following this battle, their instructor assigns Sonoko to be the team leader, while Sumi struggles to summon the courage to become friends with Sonoko and Gin, all the while lamenting how the other two do not seem very serious or dedicated about their roles. Successful, the group of friends take on their second vertex and only manage a narrow victory over it; their instructor decides to give the girls a training camp, where they hone their ability to coordinate as a team. While improving as heroes, Sumi notices that Gin is consistently late for school, and one day, after tailing her with Sonoko and learning that Gin seems to be drawn into helping others, the third vertex appears. Faltering when Sonoko and Gin engage it, it is with their encouragement that Sumi opens fire on the Vertex, creating an opening that allows Gin to neutralise it. Sumi realises that despite her own determination, she is likely to be holding the team back and dissolves in tears, resolving to strengthen herself. So ends the first part of the Washio Sumi Chapter, the prequel to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, which sets the stage for exploring Mimori’s background as a hero. Veterans have noted that Yūki Yūna is a Hero lacks a formal exposition, dropping viewers directly into the universe without much in the way of explanation. While Yūki Yūna is a Hero managed to present a coherent, well-defined theme, the anime’s original run in 2014 also left audiences with questions: unlike Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which thoroughly explained their universe’s mechanics, very little about the Taisha and Shinju are known even after twelve episodes.

In Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part, the focus is on Sumi’s growth as a character, learning that beliefs and attitudes are only half the battle: when the time comes, action becomes just as important, and discipline during peace time may not necessarily correspond to acting appropriately during an operation. Although Sumi tries to remind herself time and time again that her own self-reliance will mean that she’s looking after Sonoko and Gin, when taking on the Vertex in combat, Sumi freezes up and stops thinking when her mode of attack, taking the form of a magical bow, proves ineffectual. Her ranged weapons have a low travel speed and are easily disrupted by turbulence the Vertex can conjure; these limitations in combat compared to the seemingly more effectual weapons that Sonoko and Gin wield appear to weigh on her mind. Instead of seeing herself as being useful in providing long-range support for her close quarters oriented teammates, Sumi concludes that she must improve to support her friends in new ways, rather than making the most of the loadout she’s got to assist Sonoko and Gin. These elements sum up to present Sumi as being a very consistent but rigid-minded individual, constrained by her own analysis and understanding of a situation; ever interested in studying history and its lessons, Sumi’s love of knowledge is her greatest asset, but both in Washio Sumi Chapter and the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, it also becomes an impediment. Thus, right from the beginning, in establishing Mimori’s personality, audiences gain a better sense of what drives Mimori throughout much of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to the strength of Sumi’s belief in her own self-reliance, it is reasonable to suppose that the remaining parts of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s contents will deal with her gradually opening up, only to be sent back to square one as events unfold.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been around eight and a half months since I last wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and the anime itself aired between October and December in 2014. As memory serves, I was starting out on my journey as a graduate student back then; Sword Art OnlineSora no Method and Amagi Brilliant Park were the two anime I watched that season. In this post, I include thirty images of the Washio Sumi Chapter and open with the remark that Sumi Washio will be referred to as Sumi throughout this post even though she is re-christened Mimori Tōgō later on.

  • From left to right, Gin Minowa, Sumi Washio and Sonoko Nogi prepare for battle against their first Vertex. Mysterious beings whose origins are never explained and whose goals seem restricted to “destroy the Shinju”, they act as the antagonists that drive the protagonists together. One of the things that proved quite entertaining about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was that Hero duty is facilitated for by a suite of apps on the girls’ smartphones. Even in the short span since I watched Yūki Yūna is a Hero, smart phone technology has already increased in complexity: the new iPhone 7s do not have a physical home screen button and rely on Force Touch for interactions, and the iPhone 8 is expected to be even more sophisticated, leaving the iPhone 6 that I (and Taki of Your Name) wield in the dust.

  • As per tradition of any mahou shoujo anime, the girls undergo a lengthy transformation sequence when it is shown for the first time. Sumi’s sequence remains unchanged from its successor in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although when one factors into consideration that she’s only eleven here, the question of whether or not there’s any point at all in focussing the camera on her chest and posterior comes to mind. This might cross the line for some, and I’m not ready to consider the ramifications of Sumi’s transformation. However, I am quite ready to discuss her initial loadout as a hero: a magical bow that fires arrows dealing damage to the Vertex but is constrained by low projectile speed and as a result, suffers from serious projectile drop.

  • Gin is equipped with a pair of stylised blades with a rocket engine of sorts to boost her power. Confident, cheerful and easygoing, Gin prefers charging into combat with little semblence of a plan and is voiced by Yumiri Hanamori: a relative newcoming as a voice actor, I’m not familair with her other roles beyond those of Anne Hanakoizumi in Anne Happy, which I’ve yet to watch, and Remo of Garakowa: Restore the World.

  • Gentlest of the heroes but also a natural leader, Sonoko wields a trident that can transform into an umbrella-like shield during combat to cover her teammates. She is one of the longest serving heroes and loses much of her body in the fight against the Vertex as a result of activating her NT-D mankai in excess of twenty instances, later informing Yūki of the fate that awaits heroes. Sonoko is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, a veteran voice actor who’s also played Yukari Yukino of Garden of Words and Your Name.

  • Lacking any sort of combat experience, the girls improvise a plan but find themselves overwhelmed by the Vertex’s water-element attacks. The homing water bubbles overwhelm Gin, who demonstrates resourcefulness by drinking down the entire thing and remarking that while it tasted quite poor, it was a necessary move. Gin’s description suggests that the Vertex is using pure, distilled water free of any minerals: our taste receptors can pick up ions in water, giving water a minor taste, and distilled water will be unusually flat. While some folks consider distilled water the best to drink for its lack of contaminants, the lack of minerals can be detrimental to the body.

  • Ultimately, Sumi is able to shoot off one of the Vertex’s weapons, and Gin capitalises on this opening to slice-and-dice the Vertex, causing it to disintegrate and creating a phenomenon that is visualised as a shower of flowers. Gin and Sonoko celebrate their first victory together, and the world is restored. The soundtrack in Washio Sumi Chapter seems unchanged since its presentation in Yūki Yūna is a Hero: composed by Keiichi Okabe (of Nier Automata and Wake Up, Girls!), there is an ethereal quality to his performances that rival those of Yuki Kajiura, who wrote the music for Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

  • The architecture in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is less visually distinct than those seen in Madoka Magica, speaking very little about the characters’ internal feelings. Structures featuring more conventional designs, and there are no major cities with skyscrapers, although some large structures, such as the suspension bridge, have unique features that make them unlike those of the real world: here, a large ring can be seen on one of the suspension bridge towers, and a close-up of the bridge reveals small charms attached to the bridge’s cables.

  • I’m gearing up to help judge at the Calgary Youth Science Fair this Friday, and will be in attendance of an orientation tomorrow evening. Despite being done school, things have remained quite busy, engaging. My reason for helping out with the science fairs is that I’m actually quite curious to see what young minds out there are doing these days. I still recall my participation in the science fair during my second and third year of middle school: on both occasions, I did a research project and won bronze in my category. Looking back, it definitely was a fun experience, and it will be quite exciting to see things from the other side of the fence.

  • Sumi turns luminescent when Sonoko asks her to share her gelato here, after they visit a local place to celebrate their first victory and also commemorate their friendship. It’s not quite as intense as Kon of Urara Meirocho, whose entire body turns pink out of embarrassment. I’ve noted before that Kon and Mimori/Sumi strongly resemble one another, similar to how Itsuki and Nono share some similarities in appearance and manner.

  • The second vertex Sumi and the others face project a powerful windstorm that makes movement nearly impossible. The abstract designs of the spaces the Vertex and Shinju occupy in Yūki Yūna is a Hero lack the same imagery of those seen in Madoka Magica, lacking distinct features of the Witches’ labyrinths. This is because the Witches’ labyrinths are spaces the Witches create to hide in and can provide an approximation of the Witches’ former character (for Oktavia von Seckendorff, her labyrinth is characterised by a fixation on Sayaka’s crush, Kyōsuke, and his musical talents), whereas in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the heroes fight in an alternate space to minimise damage to the real world.

  • While doubtlessly not short with respect to the cool factor, arrows are a very limited weapon against the Vertex, who can deflect them without much effort. Sumi’s weapons are further constrained by the need of a charge time to be effective: they appear to deal their maximum damage only after all of the pedals in the holographic flower are lit. Charged weapons are a feature of some first person shooters (Team Fortress 2‘s snipers, the Gauss rifle’s siege mode in DOOM and the plasma railgun in Titanfall come to mind): a charge mechanic allows support players to deal massive damage in the support role, requiring patience. A good sniper hangs out in the back and targets their opponents from a distance, and it appears that Sumi does not fully understand her role on the hero team.

  • Gin’s melee weapons are oriented entirely for offense, while Sonoko’s trident suggest an intermediary role, allowing her to provide offense and defense as required. While the girls have the basic ranges and roles covered, a part of their limitation owing to their limited experience means that no one really capitalises fully on their abilities even in their second battle: as their instructor remarks, Gin’s final destruction of the second Vertex is more brute force than finesse. A team in touch with one another would see Sumi sit back from direct combat and use her ranged capabilities to provide covering fire. Sonoko would get herself and Gin close to the vertex and engage with their respective offensive weapons.

  • Following their second battle, their instructor decides that Sonoko should be the team leader; Sumi is presented as being arrogant to an extent, supposing that Sonoko was selected on virtue of background rather than skill, but nonetheless resolves to work hard and support the team as best as she can. Like Gin, I’ve never been particularly good with leadership roles and prefer to be in the passenger seat, helping a driver make decisions and provide support, although as the need arises, I can and will lead a team. This trait carries over to Battlefield and other games, where I prefer being a gunner rather than a driver.

  • Transforming her trident into a beach umbrella as a shield, their instructor’s exercise is to storm a beach, working as a team to reach a capture point without getting hit. In the beginning, the exercise is unsuccessful as each of Sonoko, Gin and Sumi act independently. However, when they work as a team as stipulated earlier, with Sumi providing covering fire from the rear and Sonoko shielding Gin long enough for her to close the distance and enter melee range, they complete their task splendidly. Besides practical training, the girls also hone their minds, busying themselves with study and even meditating, although Gin cramps up and falls over during meditation. I’m stupidly inflexible, and it takes all of my willpower to prevent my leg from cramping while I meditate.

  • After Gin tries to mess with Sumi’s assets, their instructor comes in to bring an end to things and restore the peace, promptly blowing Sumi and Gin away when she proves to be bigger…for them, resulting in the reaction here. Although Yūki Yūna is a Hero does have its serious moments, it is not devoid of comedy. Exaggerated facial expressions and reactions are present in the anime, and while there are themes of betrayal, trust and doubt as a part of the story, the overall tone is rather more optimistic than those of Madoka Magica.

  • The events of Madoka Magica were unexpected, coming out of left field and blew away audiences. If word is to be believed, it was the very learnings from Sora no Woto of the Anime no Chikara Project that were utilised in Madoka Magica to create a work that was both entertaining and surprising. The Anime no Chikara project is erroneously assumed to have been discarded after failure, and I myself assumed this to be the case until my recent Sora no Woto posts: looking into things, I learned that the program was intended to only run for a year.

  • Generally reserved, Sumi becomes rather more animated whenever history is mentioned: she wastes no time in conveying her enthusiasm for Japanese history and mentions the battleship Nagato. Constructed in 1910, modernised during the mid-1930s and serving as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s flagship for a period, the Nagato survived WWII, having seen very little in the way of direct combat and survived several attacks compared to other vessels. However, despite their intimidating looks, I myself are a much bigger fan of aircraft carriers over battleships.

  • I’m what is considered a wet blanket, since when I’m out, I tend to try and maintain a sleep pattern as close to that of home as possible so I have enough energy to get through the day’s main events, rather than staying up into the late hours of the evening. I’ve never been a night person, and typically, I get most of my work done between nine and three: in the afternoon, I grow tired, and productivity declines. This stands in stark comparison with some of my friends and coworkers, who work their best as the evening turns to night, at the expense of not being morning people.

  • After returning from their training camp, Sumi grows frustrated that Gin is late yet again, and decides to get to the bottom of things. She uses a periscope here to peer over some cover, with Sonoko in tow, learning that Gin’s propensity to help others seems to be something that can’t be helped. Very much a Japanese concept, Shikata ga nai (仕方が無い) is supposed to be the Japanese spirit of endurance, maintaining face in light of challenges; this stands in contrast with views in the West, where prevailing thought is to figure out a solution to that problem sooner rather than later (“don’t get mad, get even”).

  • Gin quickly becomes my favourite character of the Washio Sumi Chapter: ever ready to help those around her and carrying an inextinguishable spirit as a result of having to look after her siblings, she tends to help everyone along her way to school, explaining why she’s always late for school. Like Madoka Magica‘s original TV run and home release, the backgrounds of  Yūki Yūna is a Hero are quite simple and clean, compared to the more intricate backgrounds of the Madoka Magica movies.

  • The unusual setup of the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero leads me to wonder if their world is not unlike of that of The Matrix, being a highly sophisticated simulated reality. In such a world, whoever is running this simulation would have their own reasons for keeping the characters occupied (perhaps similar to how Rick has an entire world inside his battery in the Rick and Morty episode “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”), and also would account for how things freeze as the girls take the Vertex on in combat. Of course, the presence of a microverse in something like Yūki Yūna is a Hero would be one of the biggest plot twists of the century.

  • Audiences should be safe, however: for the time being, there are few indicators beyond my own enjoyment of Rick and Morty that would lead to the potential conclusion that the Yūki Yūna is a Hero universe is set inside someone’s battery. Of course, that would also open up the possibility for someone to develop a miniverse and teenyverse battery, ad infinitum. For now, we return to Washio Sumi Chapter, where the third of the Vertexes appear.

  • In spite of Sumi’s belief in her own abilities, during the third engagement, she locks up after seeing the Vertex taking flight to evade her arrows and fears for Gin. Despite facing an adversary they seemingly cannot beat, Sonoko takes charge and creates a stairwell for Sumi; the elevation allows her projectile to hit, dealing some damage. Meanwhile, Sonoko draws its attention off Gin and is blown away.

  • With its attention divided, the stage is set for Gin to exit her defensive stance and go on the offense. With her rocket-propelled blades, she annihilates the Vertex. It’s a gruelling battle, and the girls sustain a nontrivial number of scratches during the course of this engagement. In keeping with mahou shoujo tradition, the transformation sequence for this battle is much shorter than the initial one: the thrill of the first launch or transformation is always at its maximum, and subsequently, they become a bit of a drag to sit through. In Gundam, for instance, launches shorten as the series progresses, but may become lengthier if the protagonists are about to set out on a pivotal battle, either for better or worse.

  • Rather than reacting to any dangers her team was in, Sumi here laments her combat inefficiency and that she was dependent on a teammate to help her out, rather than the other way around. The whole point of teamwork is that no single person carries an unreasonable burden, and it is with teamwork that great achievements are made. This forms the basis for my page quote: inspired by Rogue One, where the Rebels rally around Cassian’s clear instructions. The end result of a good team, with a good leader, has a synergy in which the team is able to achieve more than the sum of the outputs of the individuals together.

  • With the Vertex neutralised for the present, the girls find themselves back in their ordinary world. The large suspension bridge in the background, when viewed from a particular angle, also appears to have a cable-swayed component to it that brings to mind the Tsing ma-Ting Kau bridge in Hong Kong: their combined span is around 1.4 kilometers in length. At present, Tsing Ma bridge is the world’s eleventh longest single-span suspension bridge. It was finished in 1998 and connects Hong Kong International Airport to the Hong Kong.

  • The contrast of blues and greens in Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part offset the mood after Gin and Sonoko notice Sumi weeping. The colours suggest the late summer period, a time of calm and where things are unhurried. A glance at the calendar shows that it is now exam season: I’ve been out of school for around eight months now, having formally finished at the end of August last year. It still feels a little unusual to know that it is the midst of exam season, and yet, I’ve got no exams on my plate. On some occasions, I still dream about “forgetting” to do assignments or being late for class; there is no single interpretation of what this actually means, but I do know that I do not have any assignments left for the present.

  • On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy as always, writing and testing iOS apps in Swift 3. Outside of work, I’ve been gaming and generally taking it easy: I’ve suddenly realised that my last four posts have been about games, so it’s high time I broke that streak and posted something about anime. This is how the Washio Sumi Chapter post came to be, as I was planning on writing about it later, but since there’s an opening now, I’d figure I’d take it.

  • These are the faces of two excellent teammates, and straight away, I feel as though Sonoko and Gin are as valuable as Fū, Itsuki, Karin and Mimori were to Yūna despite their having known Sumi for a shorter period of time. The second part of the Washio Sumi Chapter was released just last weekend, on April 15, and I’ll be getting around to watching that quite soon. Before that, however, I will be looking at Sakura Quest after three episodes, as well as wrapping up my journey through Titanfall 2. In the meantime, it’s time for me to kick back and see if the Flames can stave off total defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. If we’re to lose, I hope that we at least put up a good showing and go out in style.

There are three parts to Washio Sumi Chapter, and the upcoming second season of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is broken up into two parts; the first part will be a televised broadcast of the Washio Sumi Chapter, which is presently covered as theatrical releases. The second half, titled Hero Chapter, will be a proper continuation of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to this unconventional setup, it means that when the fall 2017 anime season rolls around, I will likely drop by and discuss Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter quite separately. For the time being, the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter released mid-April, and I’ve set my sights on watching this one. So far, Washio Sumi Chapter isturning out to be solid addition to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although one of the things high on my wishlist in the second season’s Hero Chapter is a bit more explanation into what the Taisha are and how the Shinju came into being, as well as what the origins of the Vertex are. Unlike Brave Witches, whose complex world-building and Witches are quite separate from the Neuroi, meaning the precise nature of their origins become a lesser concern, the Vertex and Taisha are the reason why there are heroes to begin with in Yūki Yūna is a Hero; to have the characters go through their experiences without properly equipping them with a reason to fight is to limit the series. In the meantime, I will look forwards to seeing what the remaining parts of the Washio Sumi Chapter have in store for audiences.

Gabriel Dropout: Whole Series Review and Reflection On Otafest The Anime

“Does evil exist, and if so, can one detect and measure it? Rhetorical question, Morty. The answer’s ‘yes, you just have to be a genius’.” —Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

It will probably come as a surprise to some that I’ve been watching Gabriel Dropout, an anime from the Winter season that I initially was not looking at, at least until I heard about the depiction of angels and dæmons within the anime. The story is quite simple: Gabriel White Tenma is the top student of her year, but despite being promising angel, she becomes a sloven recluse owing to a gaming addiction when transferred to Earth to study the human civilisation. Joining her in her everyday life (and whom she considers a nuisance for interrupting her gaming) are the dæmons Vignette and Satanichia, as well as fellow angel Raphiel. While there seems to be no central narrative in Gabriel Dropout, the anime is notable for depiction of its two angels, Gabriel and Raphael as embodying of hedonism and mischief. Similarly, the dæmons are presented in a contrary light: Vignette is responsible, focused and seldom involves herself in troublemaking, while Satanichia, for all of her bluster and short-sightedness in trying to cause chaos, is someone who comes to care for those around her. This unusual presentation is meant to illustrate that notions of traditional “good and evil” do not necessarily longer hold true – Gabriel Dropout suggests, through its satirical depiction of angels and dæmons, that good and evil cannot always be so easily separated. “Good” folks can commit evils, rather similar to how “evil” folks are capable of good. In the case of Gabriel Dropout, this contrast is purely meant to create a juxtaposition to serve as a vehicle for the anime’s humour, and amuse its viewers by means of vivid humour.

My interest in Gabriel Dropout was initially piqued by the mascots of Otafest: since 2014, the premiere anime convention of Calgary has been adding new angels to its lineup, and via Twitter, their mascot’s personalities are fleshed out. There’s June-sensei, a mature angel who served as the instructors to the others and is very fond of learning, the energetic and athletic Mio who finds herself caught between the other’s antics, the mysterious but friendly Vari, and Lorelei, who enjoys music as much as messing with Mio. The similarities that these angels have with the principle characters of Gabriel Dropout are surprising. Pre-corruption, Gabriel resembles Lorelei, and post-corruption, Gabriel’s ability to torment and mess with Satanichia is similar to the exchanges seen between Mio and Lorelei on Twitter. Similarly, Vari and Vignette are friendly but often bewildered by their friends’ frequent quarrels, while Raphiel resembles June only marginally in appearance. To watch Gabriel Dropout was really to watch a form of Otafest in anime form, with a significantly greater degree of mischief and chaos. In creating original mascots that work exceptionally well to give the Otafest convention a presence even when the event itself is not running, Otafest creates this sense of community that brings the anime convention to life, but to see the similarities in an anime really makes things more visceral. In particular, I find the commonalities between Otafest’s Mio and Satanichia to be exceptionally amusing, although folks unfamiliar with Otafest and its mascots will not find this particular passage to be too useful in determining whether or not Gabriel Dropout is something worth watching: this comes later.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • From a certain perspective, Gabriel Dropout might be considered a double case study on the detrimental effects of MMORPG-type games on one’s social circles and the importance of friends in helping one recover: at its inception, Gabriel is a highly-capable angel who arrives on Earth to further her knowledge of humanity. She’s seen helping out around the neighbourhood and even offers to give Vignette a tour of their school when learning they’ll be starting out in the new term together. Her initially kind disposition is what leads her into an MMORPG, as she longs to help people out in the video game to.

  • From left to right, we have Raphiel, Gabriel, Vignette and Satanichia. Ultimately, the humour in Gabriel Dropout does not stem from Gabriel’s general lack of respect for those around her as a result of having developed a gaming addiction, but rather, from the situations that arise when Vignette and the others have to deal with Gabriel, as well as one another. Raphiel is another angel from Heaven, whereas Vignette and Satanichia are dæmons of Hell. Their actions and beliefs often stand in stark contrast with traditional notions of good and evil: Vignette is responsible and caring all around, for instance, while Raphiel’s propensity for enjoying the suffering of others borders on the realm of unreasonable.

  • In order to continue financing her in-game purchases, Gabriel takes up a part-time position as a waitress at a neighbourhood coffee shop. The coffee shop’s master is exceptionally well-versed in all things coffee and is happiest when his house blend is praised. He finds himself bewildered at Gabriel’s seeming lack of work ethic and comprehension, but forgives her, believing her to be a foreigner. As Gabriel Dropout progresses, she continues to work there, as her want of finances beyond the stipend that Heaven provides exceeds her slothful ways.

  • The reason why Gabriel Dropout can maintain a comedic atmosphere is because there is a group of characters for Gabriel to interact with: alone, Gabriel’s situation can hardly be considered comedic, and in fact, could be indicative of a mental disorder. Such an anime would not be fun to watch by any means: it is Vignette, Satanichia and Raphiel’s dynamics both with Gabriel and amongst one another that drive the mood up, pushing Gabriel out for activities that she views as a waste of time. Her friends also give her an avenue for interaction; however parasitic this relationship might be, it causes Gabriel to seek out their companionship when it conveniences her, such as when she bothers Vignette after her air condition unit breaks down,

  • The self-proclaimed arch-devil, Satanichia often attempts stunts to humiliate Gabriel, only for them to backfire. Her evil schemes end up being a minor nuisance in general, and her happy-go-lucky attitude is quite charming to behold; here, Raphiel, Satanichia and Vignette prepare to make the most of a day at the beach. Episodes set on the beaches are a common occurrence in slice-of-life anime, often intended to provide a thinly-veiled justification for seeing characters don swimming attire. This concept, this trope, can also be seen outside of the slice-of-life genre – in military and drama settings, the beach might provide a backdrop to advance dynamics amongst the characters.

  • As per expectation, Gabriel immediately parks herself under a parasol and breaks out her laptop, completely disinterested in the amenities and activities a beach can offer. The others spend much of the episode trying to find ways to engage Gabriel, with mixed success, despite their own inexperiences. I am doubly unfamiliar with common beach activities beyond the usual hiking, frisbee, volleyball and swimming: where I’m from, the nearest beach is on the shores of an artificial lake in the southernmost reaches of my city and the nearest real beach has waters of around 22ºC. The temperatures of Cancún’s beaches can reach 29ºC in July and August, and the warm weather here brings to mind the conference of old. If memory serves, ALIFE XVI will be in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

  • After a long day’s of enjoyment, everyone is totally exhausted, leading to this tender moment here that belies very little about the contents of Gabriel Dropout. Summer activities for me tend to be predominantly biking and hiking: although quite lacking in water activities, there is much to do under the summer sun of the foothills. Besides one of the most extensive pathway systems around and presence of summer festivals, we’re only a short distance away from Banff National Park. This year, it’s Canada’s 150ᵗʰ Anniversary, and admissions to all national parks are complementary.

  • Another classic element about summer breaks as seen in anime is the ever-predictable tendency of characters to neglect their assignments until the last minute. Here, everyone’s gathered at Vignette’s place to finish their work: Raphiel and Vignette have finished, leaving Satanichia and Gabriel with work to complete. During their study session, Raphiel “accidentally” brings out a book that Angels use to exorcise Dæmons; its glow causes Satanichia to give off one of the most pitiful and adorable screams I’ve seen in any anime.

  • Tapris is a junior Angel set to begin her studies on Earth once her basic training finishes, and she grows disgusted after learning of Gabriel’s decay, accepting Satanichia’s claims as true when she boldly pronounces that she alone was responsible for destroying Gabriel. Tapris challenges Satanichia here to a game, with Raphiel enjoying things a little too much in the background. Voiced by Inori Minase, Tapris’ voice is immediately identifiable as having similar aural properties as that of Chino Kafuu’s; having familiar voice actors provide voices to new characters is always a blast to behold. Sometimes, their voices will be recognisable, while other times, the differences leave me impressed.

  • Tapris is surprised that Angels and Dæmons can be friends, learning here that Vignette is actually a Dæmon despite her kindness. Vignette’s voice actor, Saori Ōnishi, is someone I know for her performances as Saekano‘s Eriri Sawamura; she also has several minor roles in some other shows I’ve seen.

  • Satanichia is fond of purchasing items from the Hell Shopping Network, a place that allows Dæmons to acquire creepy specific old stuff that gives them powers but also fucks with them in unforeseeable ways. She’s got a revolver here that causes anyone hit with its round to laugh uncontrollably, and while she’s got every intent to use it on Gabriel, the stunt backfires: she’s hit with her own medicine and is punished by their instructor, an intimidating bald fellow who wears sunglasses wherever he goes. Visible in the background is Machiko, the class representative who finds Gabriel’s actions irrational.

  • For anyone who missed it, there was a Rick and Morty reference in the above figure caption. Season three’s finally off to a start now, and I’m only a few episodes out from wrapping up season two at this point in time. Returning to Gabriel Dropout, Machiko finds Satanichia’s art requests here unusual, but nonetheless tries her best to comply in order to keep Satanichia interested in the assignment. Machiko is voiced by Mai Fuchigami (Girls und Panzer‘s very own Miho “Miporin” Nishizumi), which was a pleasant surprise (read “it was nice to see Chino and Miho in the same show).

  • Vignette is very fond of Earth holidays and events: if her friends do anything that may disrupt these events, she will exude a threatening aura that keeps them in line very quickly. Here, the girls are partaking in Halloween, and although Satanichia does not understand how it works initially, they visit their instructor’s home during Trick or Treat, although they somehow manage to do so during the day than night, as is customary.

  • After trying to learn how to be more evil, Vignette finds herself under the weather and falls ill; Gabriel visits her  to provide her with the day’s assignments. The page quote comes from Rick and Morty, where Rick encounters the Devil selling strange antiques. He constructs a device to analyse these antiques to determine their effects on their users after concluding that evil is a metric with a quantity. In Gabriel Dropout, notions of good and evil among the Angels and Dæmons are blurred: Dæmons are capable of good acts and act mischievous, while Angels can conceal their own sinful natures behind a veneer of wholesomeness.

  • As with numerous anime before it have done, having the shapeliest figure amongst everyone means that Raphiel is subject to the most fanservice-type humour in Gabriel Dropout. Here, she spends the day in relative discomfort after realising that the day’s activities will involve a physical education exam. Raphiel is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who also plays Nagi no Asukara‘s Manaka Mukaido, Charlotte Dunois of Infinite Stratos and Yukari Yukino in Makoto Shinkai’s Garden of Words and Your Name.

  • While we are on the topic of Your Name, the movie released in North America on Friday to the general pleasure of the viewers here. However, this means little to me, as what I need is for the Blu-Rays to come out so I can acquire screenshots for my review. Back in Gabriel Dropout, Raphiel is forced to experience a failure of equipment when Satanichia begins dominating all of the athletic events, fearing that success here will get to Satanichia’s head. Satanichia’s mirror in Otafest Mio is similarly capable in all sports, only fearing academic subjects. In the meantime, Vignette attempts to motivate Gabriel by means of a bribe: if Gabriel participates in the day’s events, Vignette promises to treat her to a sukiyaki dinner.

  • There’s something immensely enjoyable about watching Satanichia’s antics unfold: she and Vignette do a mock interview with their instructor, and despite Vignette’s apprehension, she manages to perform quite well. On the other hand, Satanichia fails despite her confidence, having obtained faulty information from a book she’s purchased.

  • I personally found that the best moments in Gabriel Dropout come from Raphiel’s sadistic nature making it difficult for Satanichia to know when to trust her: here, Raphiel decides to share an umbrella with her, but Satanichia fears being betrayed at any given point, having been mistreated by Raphiel so extensively. It is sufficient to imagine that Raphiel experiences an intense surge of dopamine when she’s messing with Satanichia, but in this instance, tables are turned when the rain stops and Satanichia finds a frog – it turns out that Raphiel has ranidaphobia.

  • Vignette and Raphiel do their utmost to host a Christmas party without Satanichia realising that the entire concept of Christmas is built around the birth of Jesus Christ (the knowledge of thus would lead Satanichia to defile the holiday). After several near-misses, the party proceeds without a hitch. An observant reader will note that although this anime is called Gabriel Dropout, Gabriel herself only appears in 53.33̅ percent of the screenshots here.

  • This is actually a consequence of Gabriel Dropout being quite entertaining independently of Gabriel’s tendencies: she’s actually got a minimal presence, and humour surrounding her alone is not particularly noteworthy. Instead, it is Satanichia and Raphiel who make the show stand out with their antics, while Vignette acts as the voice of reason who tries to keep everything in check. I’ve now lost count of how many instances I’ve watched a Christmas episode of anime away from Christmas: it is not jarring to watch Christmas episodes away from Christmas, but every time I see an episode, my mind will wander and note the days to Christmas. In the case of Gabriel Dropout, when I reached this episode, there was nine months and nineteen days to Christmas.

  • Christmas is not on my mind at present, being eight months and sixteen days away: summer needs to arrive, and with it, a host of activities, especially considering the complementary National Parks Pass on account of it being Canada’s 150ᵗʰ Anniversary. Returning to Gabriel Dropout, the girls visit a local shrine to welcome the New Year; after Gabriel gets hammered by amazake, she takes flight and surprises the shrine’s patrons. The girls later return to Heaven and Hell to report on their progress, with Gabriel trying to smuggle her electronic entertainment devices past Heaven’s security.

  • While Raphiel greatly enjoys harassing Satanichia, she’s also quite wise to any sort of harassment from her own butler, whose efforts to see Raphiel naked are brazen and end in failure. Owing to space constraints in this post, I’ve not shown Satanichia spending time with her family, who is as unique as she in terms of personality (save her brother), and similarly, Vignette’s misadventures with her pet are not present here.

  • For their progress report, Gabriel manages to pass off her gaming adventures as achievements. Such a list should clearly be implausible; it brings to mind the antics of a rather infamous personality online. A former major player in influencing the Japanese line of tanks in World of Tanks and also responsible for starting a major flame war at AnimeSuki, this individual was purportedly a graduate from both Tokyo and Yonsei university, worked in a senior position at a major company owned by their relatives, was sufficiently financially independent as to be able invest ten million without batting an eyelash and a distant relative of current Japanese emperor.

  • The probability of someone satisfying all of these criteria is very unlikely; their ban from AnimeSuki and the general decline in the community’s interest in World of Tanks suggests that far from being the oujo-sama they purported to be, they’ve been found out. The moral of this is that lies don’t last under scrutiny. Gabriel will discover this in a very painful fashion at the end of Gabriel Dropout, but we return to the point in time where Satanichia takes in the very same dog who’s been persistently stealing her coveted melon bread in almost every episode after she learns it’s a stray whose fate will be to spend eternity in a city pound.

  • Satanichia’s determination in finding lodgings that will accept pets sends her on a difficult, heartwarming but also extraneous journey across Japan: it is only Raphiel’s sick mind that allows Vignette and the others to locate Satanichia – Raphiel had installed a real-time GPS app onto Satanichia’s phone. In the end, Gabriel convinces the apartment’s owner, the owner of the coffee shop that she works at, to make an exception for Satanichia. Such an action would have been unsurprising for the old Gabriel, but it is quite welcoming to see Gabriel perform acts of kindness.

  • Determined to save Gabriel, Tapris yearns to learn more about computers in order to figure out what she can do with Gabriel to lessen the latter’s time spent on them. Being an Angel, Tapris is unfamiliar with computers, but ultimately, picks up C, Java and PHP. These are wonderful skills: familiarity in with an object-oriented programming language some form of scripting are skills almost universally required for developers, although for Tapris, they will prove next to useless in helping her bring Gabriel away from her MMO addiction.

  • Tapris is invited to a takoyaki party with Vignette and the others: while the others botch their cooking process and produce terrible takoyaki, Vignette fares better, producing quality takoyaki that is delicious. By the time Satanichia arrives, the first batch is done and over with. While Gabriel Dropout could direct humour in a more painful fashion and have Satanichia suffer by arriving much too late to the party, instead, the anime has Vignette asking Satanichia to be patient as they make more. Comedy that depends on excessive suffering to carry a joke (SpongeBob SquarePants and Family Guy are two instances where a character’s suffering fails to be amusing because it is inordinate) does not fly well with me; one of Gabriel Dropout‘s strengths is that it knows where to draw the line.

  • The lessons about lies and delusions that I feel the individual above could deal with are illustrated in the finale: Gabriel’s older sister, Zelel, appears. One of the most accomplished and powerful angels around, Gabriel fears that Zelel will eliminate the Earth as the Death Star did to Alderaan, and so, puts on an act. Zelel sees through this and subjects Gabriel to punishment so intense, it cannot be shown on screen. The resultant Gabriel seemingly returns to her former state, but her friends find the fallen Gabriel more comforting. In a barrier isolating them from space-time, Gabriel informs her friends of the truth: she’s been faking her restoration to get Zelel off her back.

  • This ruse fails, but Gabriel’s lies about friendship prompt Zelel to give Gabriel a second chance on Earth, on the condition that she personally supervises Gabriel. However, Satanichia’s dog frightens her off, and Gabriel can continue her hedonistic life in peace. The lies that Gabriel are forced to come up with do not withstand scrutiny, and a part of the humour of Gabriel Dropout is watching her try to conceal all of this from her family and Heaven. While presented in a comedic, light-hearted manner in Gabriel Dropout, another lesson the anime conveys is that lies are inherently unsustainable, and it is for this reason that folks aggrandising their reality often find themselves dismissed as others catch on.

  • This rather unconventional post is finally done, and with it, I’ve concluded writing about all of the winter 2016 anime that I watched weekly. Admittedly, this post was somewhat difficult to write for, but it’s finished now. On the whole, Gabriel Dropout would probably score a B- (seven points of ten): fun in its own right and using its characters as effectively given their station, the anime can evoke some laughs, although beyond this, Gabriel Dropout does nothing particularly standout in its execution (e.g. narrative, emotional impact, visuals or audio). With this being said, I primarily watched this to see if it really could be counted as “Otafest The Anime”, and with the anime under my belt, I can say that it does capture that spirit reasonably well. Coming up in the very near-future: more Titanfall 2, now that I’m halfway through the campaign.

Overall, I’m largely neutral about Gabriel Dropout: it was modestly entertaining to watch mainly because of how closely the characters’ personalities are to their Otafest incarnations, but beyond this, the setting and basis of Gabriel Dropout is nothing novel, making use of a well-tread approach as the grounds to create a space for conflicting personalities to interact and drive the anime’s humour. The anime is best suited for folks seeking humour amongst a disparate group of friends and the ensuing pandemonium that can result when angels and dæmons bounce off one another, Similarly, for the folks who do know Otafest and its mascots, it will be very entertaining to watch how similar their animated incarnations are relative to the sort of things seen in social media. The character dynamics in Gabriel Dropout largely drive the anime’s entertainment factor – individually, each character is unremarkable, but the sum of their interactions creates a sort of synergy that gives the show a distinct brand of humour even if its other components are derivative. Of course, the real question that arises is: what do the writers of Otafest lore and organisers of Otafest have to make of all this?

Kouko Nosa in a Pinch!: High School Fleet (Hai-Furi) OVA Part One Review and Reflection

“Uncertainty is a permanent part of the leadership landscape. It never goes away.” —Andy Stanley

It’s been a year since Hai-Furi finished its original run, and it was only of late that a concrete day for the OVA’s release, long-known to be from Kouko’s perspective, was made known. In the first part of two OVAs, Kouko learns from Wilhelmina that the Harekaze’s crew might be disbanded following the incidents that had unfolded earlier: with no vessel to train from, the school is considering measures to ensure that their students can continue training, potentially resulting in their class’ reorganisation. Despite Wilhelima’s reassurances, Kouko remains doubtful of their futures. Meanwhile, Akeno grows frustrated with her assignment of writing a detailed report of the preceding events, but with Moeka’s encouragement, manages to continue. She assigns Kouko the task of delivering messages from their principal, which contain time-delayed information. With her classmates hanging out around their campus, Kouko receives help from some classmates and visits the different students, finding them engaged in a variety of activities (ranging from playing Mahjong and generally relaxing to working at a café and honing their craft). She succeeds in her task, but Kouko’s doubts materialise when the other students mention plans to transfer the students. She meets with Wilhelmina as per their original plans to hang out and watch movies, dissolving in tears at the prospect of being transferred and losing ties with the people who have grown dear to her. At a loss for words, and unsure on how true these rumours are, Wilhelmina offers her another choice should Kouko’s fears come to pass: to join her school.

Surprisingly focused in its story, the Hai-Furi OVA deals in the aftermath of the Harekaze’s one-month long sojourn that resulted in the discovery of a virus and its accompanying vector as the agent responsible for disrupting the girls’ curriculum. The contents of the letters, being confidential, drive the episode’s narrative: while the closing seems to all but suggest that a restructuring is on order, leaving Kouko despondent, it does not seem particularly likely that this will be the case. For one, the Harekaze sustained damage of the sort that allowed it to continue sailing into port. It only sunk in its final moments, and the structure still seems largely intact. Further to this, Akeno and Mashiro do not seem particularly worried about things: as the captain and second-in-command on board the Harekaze, it is likely that they would be briefed on the future of their crews. With this in mind, Hai-Furi‘s original run has been known to throw surprises at its viewers for better or worse, so the actual outcomes will be left to the events of the second OVA. While it would be tempting to say that a more story-driven OVA could entail a continuation for Hai-Furi, one challenge is in the fact that the OVA was broadcast, rather than screened at a theatre, suggesting that its sales might not be as strong as those anime that can command a theatrical presentation.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I believe that the last time I wrote about Hai-Furi, it was three days to my defense, and I remarked that I had nothing more to do except wait for the day of the defense itself. One of the biggest challenge I experienced with Hai-Furi was handling the speculation that was plainly in violation of how science works, dealing with the politics surrounding internet discussions while at the same time, working on my thesis paper and defense. Ultimately, I’d say that the Master’s Thesis proved far easier to defend compared to trying to discuss anime.

  • I am very early to the Hai-Furi OVA party; Google-fu suggests that there are no other discussions out there about this OVA, but I imagine that this will change very soon. Hopefully, there will be discussions considering what will happen in part two, but for now, we begin with a screenshot of Kouko and Wilhelmina enjoying a lighthearted moment together before the latter breaks out the bad news: that the Harekaze’s crew might be transferred to different vessels in light of them losing the Harekaze to damage sustained during combat.

  • Wilhelmina attempts to reassure Kouko and notes that these are all rumours at this point in time, but the possibility of being transferred away from her friends leaves Kouko pensive through the remainder of the OVA. For this talk, I bring to the table thirty screenshots; despite the OVA having a conventional runtime of twenty-four minutes, there is quite a bit to go through and look at, so having a bit more room to discuss things is pleasant, allowing me to flesh things out in greater detail.

  • This moment might just become my new Steam profile picture. It is quite clear that Akeno is not cut out for desk work that higher-ranking officers deal with; she pitches a small fit while working with Mashiro and Moeka. One of the elements that I enjoyed in Hai-Furi was the depiction of combat sequences: even if they are not entirely realistic or representative of how navies would employ their resources, it was always fun to see how the characters reasoned their way through a problem, devise a solution and then execute their solution.

  • One of the biggest gripes Mashiro had in Hai-Furi‘s earlier stages about Akeno was her propensity to step into the field and personally involve herself in an operation; some viewers shared this sentiment, arguing that a captain should retain a leadership position. This is true: the risk of losing a senior officer to enemy action or circumstance could throw the chain of command into disarray for a sufficient time period that allows for an enemy force to capitalise, but in fiction, an officer accompanying soldiers onto the battlefield is typically portrayed as being someone who cares for their subordinates.

  • Some folks enjoy being in the middle of things, while others enjoy managing the bigger picture; it seems that Akeno is unaccustomed to paperwork, and if Hai-Furi were to be more realistic, Akeno should, in fact, be getting a bit more paperwork to deal with than is seen in the anime. My own preference, in keeping with my background and interests, seems to be somewhere in the middle. I place a great deal of emphasis on the big picture to know where the objectives as a whole are, but I’m also comfortable with diving down deeper into the details and working out the parts that fit together to form the objective.

  • Nervous about whatever news Akeno has for her, Kouko drops by to find that she’s being given an assignment: to delivered sealed documents to each and every one of her classmates. The ominous note on the letters, that they cannot be opened until June 13 at 0900, further giving Kouko the sense that something big might be happening. The task seems a Herculean one, since their classmates are scattered around town nearby.

  • After stepping out into the sun, Kouko attempts the old “holding the letter up to a light source” trick to see what’s inside, but as expected, all she gets is an opaque sheet that discloses nothing about the letter’s contents. Her imagination begins running wild, and Kouko begins imagining that their academy’s been infiltrated by an outsider. The voices she manages to make is impressive both in-universe and in reality: Kouko is voiced by Yūko Kurose, a relative newcomer in voice acting with only three titles in her portfolio thus far. I’m hoping to see more roles from Yūko, as her talents definitely show in Hai-Furi.

  • While enacting this scene out loud, Tsugumi Yagi and Megumi Uda arrive. These two work the sonar, fulfilling a similar role as The Hunt For Red October‘s Petty Officer Jones, an expert sonar technician whose skill and expertise get Commander Mancuso and the USS Dallas out of pinches on numerous occasions, as well as closing the gap between them and the Red October. A brilliant student, he was expelled but takes up a military position, becoming a commissioned officer over the course of the Jack Ryan novels.

  • While perhaps not quite as talented or skillful as Jones, Megumi and Tsumugi are still very sharp: they suggest messaging everyone in class to determine their locations before deciding how to best visit everyone in order to deliver their letters. Although unmentioned, this is a fine example of the travelling salesman, a classic algorithm problem that aims to identify the shortest total path in a graph where each vertex is visited once and the individual must end up where they began. It’s a difficult problem to solve: the best solution in terms of finding an answer is a brute force approach, whereas solutions with a better run-time yield approximations that may not be the best answer.

  • Their strategy works and the first group they visit are the engineers, who are playing Mahjong. In my opinion, compared to Mahjong, Poker is by far easier to play: I never have bothered to learn how it works, and find myself impressed that there are folks out there who have learned Mahjong just so they can analyse all of the hands and details in the anime Saki and its derivatives. I note that Saki‘s last animated incarnation finished airing some three years ago, and there’s been no news of when Zenkoku-hen will continue: we last left with Yuki stepping onto the playing field.

  • Fortunately, Mahjong is not the focus of Hai-Furi‘s OVA: while some people may be Mahjong experts, I certainly am no expert and therefore, would not be able to discuss things quite to the same extent as for other disciplines. Maron and Kuro are noticeably absent from the proceedings, being away on training, and when Luna very nearly opens her letter, Kouko manages to stop her, mentioning that to do so ahead of the designated time will be a direct violation of their school’s code and will result in a suspension.

  • Next on the list of people to visit are the logistics crew; handling the cooking back on board the Harekaze, they are working at a sweet shop of sorts here. After they receive their letters, the logistics crew offer Kouko and the others some eclairs, although they seem a bit sweet. In mammals, detection of sweetness is handled by the T1R3 and T1R2 proteins. These complex to form a G-protein coupled receptor that processes sweetness, although different mammals have vastly different perceptions of what is actually sweet. Some substances are far more potent than table sugar: thaumatin and lugduname are two examples, and I wonder what the actual result is when one’s sweetness receptors are overwhelmed.

  • By Kouko’s intuition alone, the navigation team is found in the park, with Machiko Noma climbing to the top of a cell phone tower and enjoying the view from above. Although Hai-Furi might be about the navy, the OVA has remained predominantly on land. During my episodic blogging, each episode’s screenshot collection featured at least one image of the Harekaze’s bridge, and the ocean would be visible in multiple images. In this post, however, I’ve actually got no screenshots of the ocean, which is only visible for short periods of the OVA.

  • Outside of their duties as lookouts and navigation, the girls in this department seem to have a varied set of interests. The mood is initially warm, but things becoming quieter when the girls wonder what will become of the Harekaze. Machiko soon spots a large vessel approaching the Harekaze from her viewpoint as the OVA reaches its halfway point and her reaction suggests that the Harekaze is destined for the scrap heap.

  • Without further information from the staff detailing the extent of the damage, audiences will have to suppose that the Harekaze is not salvageable despite appearing intact externally. When Kouko and the others make towards the port to see what’s going on, they find Kaede Marikouji there with a butler. Kaede remarks that her father is requesting her to return home, and this seems to further suggest to Kouko that the Harekaze’s crew are likely to be separated. The scene cuts to Mei and Shima playing shogi: far removed from the concerns of their peers, it’s a few moments of watching Mei decimating Shima.

  • By noon, Kouko, Tsumugi and Megumi stop for lunch outside of a burger joint. A week ago, while the weather was pleasant and spring was present, I spent an evening at the local Irish Pub with friends who had just arrived from Edmonton. We were meeting to discuss one of his personal software projects, and I ordered the legendary “Stuffed Bacon Cheddar” burger, which features mango avocado salsa, back bacon, a patty infused with more bacon and melted cheddar, and even a fried egg. On Sundays, their burgers go for twelve dollars, so I upgraded my side to a poutine to capitalise on the savings. The evening was originally intended for talking about what classes and methods we’d need to implement, but unexpected circumstances resulted in little actual work getting done. The burger itself, and accompanying poutine, was delicious.

  • Near the end of their lunch, Kouko and the others learn that the artillery unit is at a bowling alley, where Ritsuko Matsunaga scores a strike. Kayoko Himeji manages a spare on two pins located at opposite sides of the pin deck. I’ve only been bowling on a few occasions with friends and as such, won’t usually perform too well. Their day sees many precision-related events: while Kayoko and Ritsuko bowl, the others are playing darts.

  • While they are ostensiby relaxing, the sinking of the Harekaze has also weighed deeply on the minds of the artillery crew, alongside the others. A recurring element is that the Harekaze’s crew are concerned for both their ship as well as their fates: despite being a Karegō-class that felt quite under-armoured and out-gunned in many of the situations it itself operating independently, the vessel has been the girls’ friend through many dangers. Lost in their thoughts, they do not notice Kouko’s arrival.

  • Before distributing the letters to everyone present, Kouko notes that it would be wonderful to get together with everyone again, lapses into one of her spiels and inadvertently lets slip her worries about the class’ potential dispersion now that the Harekaze’s sunk. Despite these doubts, she tries her best to reassure the others that nothing is written yet. Seeing this side of Kouko in the OVA brings a new dimension to her character that was absent during the anime – besides occasional outbursts of her re-enacting what is in her mind a reasonable possibility and supporting the bridge crew, Kouko is presented as an easygoing character who’s very cheerful and will do her best to get along with everyone.

  • Interrupting their discussion is a message from Shima and Mei. Kouko and the others set out to find them such that they can deliver the remainder of the letters. The engineering team soon arrives, and learn that there is a non-zero possibility that everyone will be separated in their upcoming year owing to their lack of a ship. This strikes them as a particularly difficult bit of news, especially as how the entire vessel had begun fighting as one as a result of their combined adventures. While Shima continues to get decimated by Mei in Shogi, it turns out that the special training Maron and Kuro have embarked on is a team-building exercise; the two are repairing a small ship’s engine together. They are approached by the captain to another ship to discuss matters surrounding the rumours circulating.

  • I’ve heard comparisons between Hai-Furi‘s OVA and Girls und Panzer owing to the prospect of the Harekaze’s class being split, but this does not hold true: after watching the events of the OVA, it’s clear that Wilhelmina and Kouko only seem to have cursory information, and because of Kouko’s unintentionally passing of this partial information, the ship’s crew, as well as crew of other ships, have caught wind of the news. This creates a bit of a feedback that seemingly confirms Kouko’s suspicions.

  • Known formally as confirmation bias, Kouko is unaware that her duty in passing these letters around, coupled with her occasional mention of a possible dissolution of her class, is allowing incomplete information to be propagated amongst the students. The accumulation of confusion results in a telephone game-like scenario, further creating an environment where it genuinely feels like the class running the Harekaze will be separated, and when news of this reaches Kouko, it seemingly confirms that her worst fears are true. This is merely my take on things: given that Hai-Furi previously presented a situation as being more dire than it was, I am inclined to believe that an actual separation is unlikely to be the ending.

  • While walking to her destination, Kouko runs into Minami, who is using a hover-board to get around and remarks that she’s been working almost non-stop, not even having the time to sleep or observe proper hygienic practises. While a cool-looking mode of transportation, I’ve heard that some hover-board models have a tendency to catch fire and explode. Moreover, their naming is a bit of a misnomer: they’re technically self-balancing scooters that can be an interesting form of exercise as one engages their core muscles and work on balance, but because they lack an anti-gravity propulsion system, I feel that they should not be called hover-boards.

  • As evening sets in, the mood in and around Hai-Furi has definitely become more grave. Unlike the remarks out there comparing Hai-Furi to Girls und Panzer, I tend to concur with the idea that the OVA’s storyline is quite strong, especially considering the fact that OVAs typically take a more frivolous route; they choose to depict the characters under more relaxed conditions, as opposed to one where the gravity is much greater. The transition from afternoon to evening, and the corresponding decrease in light, seems to visually represent the prevailing atmosphere in the Hai-Furi OVA as the day wears on.

  • Herself unsure about whether or not things are true, Kouko tries to reassure the others, who’ve become convinced that their separation is real. It is quite paining to see everyone with their fears, but one thing that’s stopping this from really hitting home is the fact that the girls’ voices begin approaching the frequency of ultra-sound. This is one of the reasons that moé anime often has a difficult time conveying the severity of a moment in anime with a decidedly more serious narrative to tell: the character’s voices seem to lessen gravity.

  • Totally dejected by the time the sun has set, Kouko believes that she’s holding transfer orders. I have another guess: they’re special orders to brief the Harekaze’s crew on their new assignment, having handled the situation as effectively as they did. The OVA’s second part will then deal with the girls as they receive these instructions, get together as Kouko suggested, and then work together to repair the Harekaze. Because Hai-Furi‘s original theme was about teamwork, friendship and trust, it would be quite contrary to suddenly pull everyone apart after all they’ve been through: even if this is jejune and predictable, I would rather the anime stay consistent than try and write the story in a drama-oriented direction for surprise or even shock value.

  • The events of the day mean that Kouko is utterly spent and late for her evening with Wilhelmina; overcome with emotion, Kouko finally bawls in Wilhelmina’s arms. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see Kouko in this state, having tried so hard to stay composed all day and complete her assignment. While Wilhelmina might not know of a solution, or even the reality of the situation, she is evidently a good friend, reassuring Kouko all the same. This brings the OVA to an end: with no preview and only a release date, I’m definitely interested in seeing what the second half will entail.

Altogether, it was most welcome to revisit Hai-Furi again following the anime’s original run and see all of the characters again: this OVA ends up being driven by characters, rather than the naval implements as the anime series was wont to focus on. With its chaotic story and unexpected turns of events every few episodes, Hai-Furi generated mixed reception upon conclusion. From a personal perspective, I found Hai-Furi to be modestly entertaining, certainly for its ability to keep audiences guessing every week as to what would happen in the episodes, even if it became clear that the anime would be following a very well-known pattern: in Hai-Furi‘s case, the journey, rather than the destination, made it worth watching from a personal standpoint, and the unique combination of trying to keep up with speculation while simultaneously working on my Master’s Thesis certainly was a fun (if wearing) exercise. The second half to the Hai-Furi OVA is set to air on May 24, which is a ways off. I imagine that it will be primarily focused on the letter’s contents, addressing any concerns Kouko may have (either by assuaging them or having her fears come to pass) and perhaps, even feature some naval combat. The OVA definitely has enough to keep the audiences guessing, and with my own limited speculations at a close, I open the floor for readers to join the discussion: what do you think is likely to happen in the OVA’s second half?

Reflections on the Ah! My Goddess: The Movie- An introspection into my ten years of anime at the 800th post milestone

“Even if the whole universe comes between us, even if you lost every single memory, I’ll still find you and we’ll start again and again.” -Keiichi Morisato

With this special feature on Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, this blog passes the eight hundred post milestone. It’s a nontrivial marker, coming as a consequence of nearly five-and-a-half years of writing about anime, games and other things. That I’m still here after all this time is a consequence of having a fantastic group of readers who’ve been kind enough to provide discussions and feedback, motivating me to continue writing despite the other things that occur in the real world. After looking through the post count and the timing, I decided that reviewing Ah! My Goddess: The Movie would be appropriate for this eight hundredth post, given that it’s been ten years since I developed an interest in anime, and that Ah! My Goddess: The Movie was the work that precipitated this interest. The story, recounted in brief elsewhere on this blog and only in a fragmented manner, is as follows: some of my friends during my secondary school days decided that I should join them for lunch hours at the school’s anime club. After managing to evade and decline for several weeks, I finally caved and attended a meeting. They were screening Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, and while I was disinterested initially, by the time the movie finished, I was moved. That evening, I began hunting for the movie’s soundtrack, found the soundtracks for Ah! My Goddess‘ 2005 anime, and decided to give that a whirl. While I never did finish, the episodes I did watch of Ah! My Goddess were modestly enjoyable, so when another friend wished for me to watch Gundam 00, I yielded and began watching the anime. In Gundam 00, I found something to look forwards to weekly, and while my interest in anime waned briefly during my first year of university, it returned in full force after I picked up Five Centimeters per Second. This brought my interests in anime back to life, leading me to watch Sora no Woto, and from there, my interests in anime are rather easier to follow, having been thoroughly chronicled here at this blog. Thus, for the remainder of this post, I turn my eyes towards looking at the movie that started it all.

Three years after her arrival on Earth, Belldandy and Keiichi Morisato begin their new term; recruiting for the different clubs is well under way, and the Motor Club, hopeful of gaining new members, showcase their vehicles. However, Toraichi Tamiya and Otaki Aoyama’s actions frighten off most prospective members, including the stern-looking Morgan. Later that evening, amidst the Motor Club’s celebrations, Belldandy encounters her old mentor, Celestin. Unbeknownst to her, Celestin had broken out of the lunar prison, and seeks to meet her. She collapses after Celestin kisses her, reawakening the next morning with no recollection of Keiichi. Meanwhile, Heaven’s supercomputer, Yggdrasil, has been compromised by a powerful virus: Peorth and her assistants are working around the clock to contain it, but in the meantime, much of their infrastructure is crippled. Skuld’s efforts to restore her memories are unsuccessful, and Keiichi agrees to make the most of things. He breaks news of her situation to the Motor Club; the members are disheartened, as there is an upcoming race. Morgan arrives and agrees – the trial’s results are solid, and watching the pair race leads Belldandy to recall some of her past memories with Keiichi. The next day, Belldandy comes across some old photographs of her and Keiichi: she decides to participate in the race in spite of her amnesia. Later, Belldandy overhears a conversation between Urd and Keiichi, revealing that Celestin was responsible. It turns out that he had rebelled against the Gods, destroyed the Gate of Judgement, and intends to continue his machinations to destroy the current world and create a new one, free of all suffering. Feeling she’s brought only suffering to Keiichi, Belldandy accepts a dangerous procedure that will eliminate the virus but also clear her memories. In order to deliver this program, Heaven directly links with Belldandy, allowing the virus to override Yggdrasil’s core functions, exposing the tree itself and a leviathan that attacks the trunks. Out of options, Peorth authorises a direct strike using Gungnir; refusing to allow Keiichi to die in the strike, Keiichi and Belldandy move to block the attack after they convince Celestin to assist. Transported to the Gate of Judgement in the aftermath, Belldandy and Keiichi pass Heaven’s test. Belldandy returns to Earth, and with both Urd and Skuld’s help, they restore Yggdrasil with their song and eliminate the virus. With the damage to Heaven records, Belldandy offers Keiichi a new wish, and Keiichi uses it to reignite their love for one another.

An off-shoot of the Ah! My Goddess series, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie adapts none of the elements from its source manga, and instead, focuses on the nature of love. This particular theme has been explored extensively in the 2005 TV series, whereas the prior OVAs’ short runtimes meant that the comedic situations and situations that Keiichi and Belldandy find themselves in dominated any sort of overarching theme. With this in mind, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie presents a much more tangible idea, in that the time Keiichi and Belldandy have spent together is precious, creating feelings that can survive even the most ardent tests that fate and the heavens have set against them. Despite losing her memories and subsequently made to stand before the Gate of Judgement, it turns out that (unsurprisingly) the love Keiichi and Belldandy have is genuine. While Morgan has seen loss before the Gate of Judgement and consequently despises the heavens for marking clearly what constitutes a relationship of value, she later learns that there can be love in the world, making it worth protecting. That love is very much a reality thus forms the main message for Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, and the movie’s climax, featuring Belldandy, Urd and Skuld wielding their feelings to run a system restore on Yggdrasil, serves to emphasise this point further. Although this theme is an immensely familiar one by this point in time, it was my first exposure to such a portrayal (and anime in general), and in the movie, I found an exceptionally moving story.

Screenshot and Commentary

  • Being a combination movie discussion and serving as a bit of a milestone for this blog, I’m classifying this post both as a general discussion post (for the milestone) and as an anime reflections post (for the fact I’ll be running through Ah! My Goddess: The Movie). The occasion also means that I will be running with forty screenshots in this Ah! My Goddess: The Movie post. The movie was released in 2000 and runs for 100 minutes, making it perfect to be watched over the course of several lunch breaks, each lasting some forty minutes.

  • One of the initial limitations about the movie is that it is not particularly friendly for first-timers, who won’t know how Keiichi and Belldandy first met. Prior to 2000, it would have been necessary to either have some background with the manga or the OVAs, which show Keiichi making a phone call, only to connect to Belldandy, who arrives to grant any one wish of his. Certain it’s deception from his seniors, he decides to test things and asks her to stay with him. Here, it’s spring, a new semester, and the Motor Club is recruiting new members; Keiichi initially joined owing to his interests in mechanical engineering. He himself is capable as a mechanic and highly skilled as a racer, demonstrating a new vehicle here in the film’s opening.

  • The unusual dynamics between Belldandy and Keiichi drive the romance-comedy aspect of Ah! My Goddess, but these elements tend to be present in the manga and TV series – overall, the movie comes across as being more of a romance-drama, having a much greater focus on what love means to both Belldandy and Keiichi. The two share a moment under the cherry blossoms here, after a misunderstanding causes Belldandy to take off.

  • Celestin is Belldandy’s former mentor, and after a short introduction, incapacitates Belldandy. Bearing the appearance of ancient deities from Chinese folklore, his actions come from well-intentions, but his “means justify the end” outlook paints him as the films main antagonist. Only seen in the movie, Celestin does not return in the 2005 series, which is a re-telling of the entire story and places a much greater emphasis on comedy than drama.

  • When they return home that evening, mysterious crystals have formed on Holy Bell, Belldandy’s resident angel. The dynamic between Heaven and Earth is portrayed as one powerful computer system that manages reality; the system would suggest that all of existence is a simulation (akin to but rather more being than the one seen in The Matrix), and Heaven’s entities are caretakers to the system. With this in mind, I arrived on Ah! My Goddess much too late (2007-2008) to see much discussion on it, and so, any speculation on how their world actually works is likely to be lost to time.

  • When Celestin kissed Belldandy, he copies a virus into her that impacts her memories, completely eliminating her memories of Keiichi. The anomolies are noticed in heaven, where Yggdrasil’s technicians notice a virus moving through their systems. Fictional computer viruses are always portrayed as something that can be traced, moving through a system and methodically targeting systems, leaving a clear signature behind. Real-world viruses are rather more dull, with most writing themselves onto regions of a hard drive and duplicate themselves before executing their functions: doubtlessly, this is very difficult to visualise, hence the stylistic choices movies take.

  • Peorth stands before the highest members of Heaven’s leadership to report on the situation. The Peorth seen in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie is serious, dedicated and focused on her duties, standing in stark contrast with her depiction in the other works – she is rather more flirtatious (thank goodness for spell-checking, I believe this is only the second time I’ve had to use this term) and does her utmost to win Keiichi over from Belldandy initially as revenge, only to do so for real when she realises that she harbours feelings for Keiichi, as well.

  • In the morning, Skuld exhausts her memory-enhancing devices that were intended to help her remember Keiichi; the most effective device only allows her to recall that she’d forgotten to give Keiichi her business cards (remark: that Goddesses have business cards is an interesting one). In the face of adversity, Keiichi and Urd settle on that it is probably best to try and live as normally as possible, a method that is often suggested by experts in order to survive challenging times.

  • A færie of sorts, Morgan was the one who had freed Celestin from his imprisonment on the lunar surface at the movie’s beginning with the goal of assisting him. With her hime-cut and narrow eyes, she possesses the characteristics of the stern ojou-sama archetype while in human form, and is seen communicating with Celestin while he is in a more mobile form.

  • The Motor Club grows disheartened to learn that Belldandy has become amnesiac, made especially difficult by the fact that they have an upcoming race. When I first watched the movie, I wondered if the race itself would be seen in-movie, but this turned out not to be the case, being a secondary element to the machinations that Celestin is planning. Morgan steps up and offers to race in Belldandy’s place.

  • The two seem to perform quite well, triggering some memories for Belldandy. This moment suggests that, however sophisticated the algorithm that Celestin used, some of her memories endure. This moment also begins to showcase the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra’s exceptional performance with the film’s soundtrack: the song playing as Keiichi and Morgan fly across the track is titled “Kizuna Motomete” (“Searching for a connection”) is a majestic piece with horns, strings and woodwinds that captures the rush of speed on a racetrack in a highly elegant manner. The entire soundtrack is an amazing listen that really brings out the emotional tenour of each moment in the film.

  • The different tracks convey different feelings, ranging from longing and hopefulness, to doubt and confusion in the film’s darker moments, masterfully using specific instruments to create a very unique sound that evokes a very particular feeling in every scene of the movie. It is the first anime soundtrack I’ve listened to, and stands even against the likes of Howard Shore or Hans Zimmer with respect to quality.

  • Despite lacking her memories of Keiichi, Belldandy nonetheless strives to fulfill her directive in the knowledge that her original goal was to help Keiichi find happiness, and here, prepares a fantastic evening meal for him. Back in high school, for my art class, one of the works I made for an art class was a playing card, the Queen of Spades, featuring Belldandy. It was here that I realised that Kōsuke Fujishima renders ears in a very distinct manner, with concentric rings visible in place of the structures of the Auricle.

  • Later, she finds a photo album detailing the time they’ve spent together. Realising the depth of their relationship, Belldandy resolves to restart anew and learn more about Keiichi. While Ah! My Goddess: The Movie is an older film, the artwork remains of a superb quality and can stand against modern titles with respect to detail and smoothness. However, the character designs in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie clearly are from an older age: the 2005 incarnation of Ah! My Goddess features a Belldandy and Keiichi with larger eyes.

  • My last lecture was eleven months ago, but I still recall the days when I attended classes in large lecture halls. While some of the newer lecture halls have spacious desks, other, older facilities were remarkably cramped: I did not field a laptop at all throughout my undergraduate, and even though I had access to MacBook Pro laptops during graduate school, I continued to take notes by hand, since material proved easier to recall if I had handwritten it. Keiichi is shown to study German, and here, is hauled out of lecture by Morgan. Ah! My Goddess is one of the anime I’m familiar with to feature university-level characters, compared to almost everything else I’ve got, which is set during the high school range.

  • Despite having no memories of Keiichi, Belldandy recovers more of her memories when she agrees to a challenge that Morgan presents: in a mock race, Keiichi and Belldandy handily best Morgan and her partner, Megumi (Keiichi’s younger sister). Unlike the song played during Keiichi and Morgan’s first run, the competition has a much more urgent sense to it. While most of the songs in the soundtrack are orchestral, there are a few songs that make use of electronic and synthesiser elements, giving them an other-worldly vibe.

  • Bothered by her memories, and the realisation that Celestin was responsible for her memory loss, Belldandy is drawn by a moving light crystal and follows it to a coastal installation, where Celestin reveals himself and tells her the story of why he’s returned. Unwilling to accept Heaven’s mandate, he sought to destroy the Gate of Judgement (showing Morgan and her lover crossing it, only to be separated forever). His actions also led to the destruction of other entities, causing Heaven to issue an arrest warrant for him.

  • When Heaven sends out beings to arrest Celestin, Belldandy slaughters them. She is taken in, and in the aftermath of the incident, is deemed too valuable an asset to lose. Hence, Heaven suppresses her memories of the incident and allows her to continue as a Goddess, while Celestin is tried and imprisoned on the lunar surface for all time. Had SATO explored the moon, however, they would be unlikely to locate Celestin’s prison: the film’s opening shows Morgan as passing through a portal to reach him.

  • One of the best-known anime review sites out there notes that there’s a “scene in which Urd kisses Belldandy might startle Westerners…unaccustomed to that”, but she’s actually transferring a special potion to Belldandy via mouth-to-mouth. Upon seeing that for the first time, I assumed that Urd was taking the potion for herself, so trying was their situation, but it seems to make little sense on closer inspection, hence the newer conclusion. The same site gives this movie a perfect rating, counting it as a masterpiece

  • Urd and Skuld arrive on station, but Belldandy, still under Celestin’s influence, begins to engage Urd in a direct confrontation. Urd is plainly holding back, aware that Belldandy is not fully in control of her powers. In the aftermath, Skuld lashes out at Celestin, releasing a large amount of water. Keiichi manages to protect Belldandy from this torrent but is knocked unconscious, later reawakening back home.

  • Back in high school, this scene did not particularly make much sense, but it appears to be a visual representation of the present Belldandy accepting the past Belldandy’s mistakes, reassuring her past-self that things are going to be alright. The rationale for “past and present self” is based on visual elements within this moment that should become apparent merely by staring at this screenshot. This scene is accompanied by a synthesiser-like instrument that brings to mind the instrumentals from Miyazaki’s Totoro, giving it a very surreal, yet comforting feeling, and coming to an acceptance about herself, Belldandy manages to prevent her powers from running amok.

  • While Belldandy’s character remains largely unchanged in Ah! My Goddess‘ 2005 incarnation, Urd, Skuld and Peorth are markedly different with respect to their personalities. One of the biggest strengths in the movie that is lacking in the TV series are the implications of higher-order beings interacting within a world of mortals: comedy reigns supreme in the 2005 television series, with the antagonists motivated by weaker elements than Celestin, who shows that there can be dissent amongst the Gods with respect to how Heaven runs. Consequently, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie ends up having a very well-defined narrative compared to the looser feel that Ah! My Goddess‘ 2005 series (and its second season) conveys

  • Belldandy’s jealousy is an aspect of her character that has been exploited on numerous occasions in the TV series, and is never too far from the forefront of discussion in the movie – subtly hinted at when she inadvertently causes glass bottles to shatter during the Motor Club’s party earlier in the movie as a result of seeing Sora and Megumi clinging to Keiichi. Celestin exploits this, and here, Morgan forces a kiss unto Keiichi that Belldandy witnesses. She takes off, her feelings tumultuous as she struggles to comprehend what she saw.

  • Keiichi and Belldandy share a moment together after Belldandy decides to accept a dangerous procedure that might wipe her memories entirely. Keiichi resolves that, whether or not Belldandy’s memories are restored, they can start again as many times as they need. This lends itself to the page quote, a rarity in that it was taken directly from the movie rather than being a generic quote or a mutated one. Throughout these moments, the song “Hoping For Happiness” can be heard playing in the background. A truly wistful song, the single element that stands out is a flute that materialises when Belldandy walks into the temple hall; the short motif captures Belldandy’s gentle yet determined spirits.

  • I listened to the whole of Ah! My Goddess: The Movie‘s soundtrack during the summer of 2007, having only previously heard individual songs. I subsequently loaded up the tunes onto my iPod and took the album, amongst others, with me during my vacation in Yellowstone National Park. The hills in the backdrop here bring to mind the hills of Yellowstone’s western end, which has gentler slopes than the eastern end. At this point in the film, it’s the deep breath before the plunge. Progressing at a steady rate up until now, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie‘s pacing quickens as the movie enters its final stage.

  • The delivery of a “Vaccine”, really the execution of an anti-virus program, serves to only exacerbate the situation further by offering a direct connection between Belldandy and Yggdrasil’s mainframe systems. As it turns out, anti-virus programs are becoming increasingly ineffective in the face of new techniques of introducing viruses and malware into a system: while the programs themselves can remain effective, it is social engineering employed by criminals that allow these programs to enter and compromise a system. Like how Belldandy’s memories of Celestin allow him to damage Yggdrasil, most viruses out there arise as a consequence of inadequate caution.

  • Belldandy comes to recall Celestin more fully in a flashback; he resurrects a dead bird and takes her under his wing, eventually raising a capable goddess who graduates with top honours but is also a little naïve about the nature of reality. This moment here brings to mind the dynamics between children and adults: the problems that children face, from their perspective, are world-breakers, but having been around for a considerably longer time, adults can quickly locate solutions. It’s similar to how children would approach me with broken crafts during my time as a TA for children, and I would fix said craft, restoring their cheerfulness in the process.

  • Celestin presumably has root access into Yggdrasil (technical jargon referring to the ability to completely modify and access all parts of an operating system, including critical system files), allowing him to summon a physical manifestation of the World Tree, along with a vast being that begins hacking at the tree (likely deleting data that runs the universe and allowing Celestin to rewrite the world in his image). Belldandy’s initial efforts to stop them are futile: Morgan uses Force lightning to slow her down before taking off.

  • Transforming into their combat attire, Skuld and Urd attempt to stop the being from dealing any more damage to the system. Despite summoning an exceptionally powerful blast of lightning, the being is protected by an energy shield that repels all attack. Morgan subsequently engages in battle with Urd to buy Celestin more time to complete is machinations.

  • Possessing Keiichi’s body, Celestin explains to Belldandy the rationale for his plans. I’ve typically found that misguided idealists often make the most intriguing villians, since their cause and initial reasoning for executing a particular plan is prompted by a desire to do what they feel is correct. However, their methods wind up being inappropriate, either causing unnecessary death or destruction. Such villains are not above seeing the error of their ways, either accepting the protagonists’ perspectives or else gracefully yielding when bested (Gundam Unicorn‘s Full Frontal and Raʾs al-Ġūl of Batman Begins come to mind).

  • Belldandy’s facial design in the movie allows her to properly be depicted with a serious expression as she counters Celestin, explaining that happiness and sorrow can only exist in the other’s presence. She arms herself and prepares to stop Celestin, donning a combat suit of her own. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen Ah! My Goddess, and I think that last I checked, there were some OVAs bundled with home releases back in 2011.

  • Higher up in the branches, Skuld drops a pair of explosives resembling the Model 24 Stielhandgranate. Essentially a cluster of grenades taped together to yield a larger explosion, they could deal damage to armour of the WWI era and are equipped by Battlefield 1‘s assault class for anti-armour combat. However effective they might have been historically against armour, the modernised versions Skuld uses deals no damage against the leviathan hacking away at Yggdrasil.

  • It stands to reason that this behemoth of an entity is a program tailored by Celestin to destroy Yggdrasil. Since I no real remarks about this entity, except maybe to re-dub it “Walrus Face”, I will take a look at the inconsistencies between Ah! My Goddess and Oh! My Goddess. In Japanese, ああっ女神さまっ is romanised as “Aa! Megami-sama“, so phonetically, “Ah!” makes sense, but the authors meant for it to convey a similar meaning as “Oh my God”, hence, Oh! My Goddess is technically correct. However, I’ve typed it out as Ah! My Goddess for the past ten years, and all sources seem to give the title as “Ah!”, as well, so this is what I will stick with.

  • In response to their desperate situation, Heaven authorises the use of Gungnir, which manifests in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie as an energy sphere whose effects on organics are unknown as Belldandy moves to stop the sphere from impacting Celestin. Realising her devotion to Keiichi, Celestin concedes and helps her stop the weapon. Like almost everything else in Ah! My Goddess, Gungnir is inspired by Odin’s spear of Norse mythology, being so well-crafted that it could strike any target with perfect accuracy.

  • There should be no doubt as to Keiichi and Belldandy make it through the Gate of Judgement. The song that plays, “Testimony Between Us”, when they pass through together, is a triumphant song brimming with optimism and faith.

  • Their faith stands against the Gods’ exams – Belldandy and Keiichi find themselves staring at a verdant alpine forest that would not look too out of place in either the Canadian Rockies or parts of Yellowstone National Park. Realising that the system is not rigged to pull people apart, Morgan resolves to stay behind and pass on the two’s story. Their love for one another reaffirmed, Belldandy finds a renewed spirit in her to set things right: she and Keiichi return back to Earth.

  • While the damage done is immense, Belldandy is confident that by putting their true feelings into song, they can yet save Yggdrasil. Together with Urd and Skuld, Belldandy reverts her gear back into her default Goddess state, and they begin singing Coro Di Dea, a song written in Latin that, despite its sort length, brought a single tear to my eye, followed by several more individual tears. It’s the first time I cried when watching an anime, so moving was the song – this is the magic moment, that turning point that triggered my interest in anime.

  • Coro Di Dea is probably the equivalent of a combination of a powerful virus quarentine and Windows’ System Restore tool; the latter allows users to restore their operating system back to a functional state without altering the file, but is ill-advised for removing viruses, which can hide themselves in temporary files. The Goddess’ song prompts Peorth and the others to begin singing, as well, rapidly repairing Yggdrasil. With the crisis over, some of the other Goddesses remark that they’d love to take a break, but Peorth orders them back to work to ensure the system is stable.

  • Dawn settles over the world; with the restore and all that has happened to Yggdrasil over the past several days, Belldandy notes that all records have been removed of past wishes, leaving Keiichi free to make his wish to be with Belldandy forever once more. Skuld and Urd share a humorous exchange in the film’s final moments. The question then becomes: what is my verdict for this movie? With its standalone and cohesive narrative, fantastic artwork and top-tier soundtrack, it’s easy to give this movie a strong recommendation to existing anime fans. New viewers might not find this an appropriate gateway into anime, but will nonetheless enjoy the film.

  • Quantitatively, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie earns an A+, a 10 of 10 – clear and precise in its message, and delivering a song that can make someone as stoic as myself to shed several tears, this here’s a fantastic film that left a very profound impact on me. So ends Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, and with it, my first-ever proper Ah! My Goddess discussion here, along with the 800th post. Regular discussion resumes with the upcoming posts, where I will be taking a look at Gabriel Dropout and Titanfall 2, alongside my thoughts of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare at the halfway point.

Because Ah! My Goddess: The Movie was my first-ever anime, there existed almost no baselines for which to compare it against at the time. However, the artwork, narrative, character dynamics and world-building that I did see in the movie came together to create a standalone story that was well-worth watching. I thoroughly enjoyed Ah! My Goddess: The Movie following watching it ten years ago, and even now, the movie remains reasonably enjoyable on its merits. This movie set in motion my interests in anime, and by the time Gundam 00 had begun airing, anime-watching became one of my hobbies. While seemingly a frivolous one, watching anime and discussing it with friends motivated me to start a website to write about my thoughts. The practise of writing bolstered my writing skills: prior to anime, my written English was of a low standard, leading one of my high school instructors to wonder if English was a second language for me (for the record, it is: Cantonese Chinese is my first language). By the time I was through Gundam 00, writing to clearly express an idea became second nature for me, and in my final year of high school, the same English instructor had wondered what precipitated such a profound change in my writing. My enjoyment of anime and the attendant enjoyment of writing would carry over to university; I was more fond of writing papers than my peers. Maintaining my website and writing in university created a sort of positive feedback loop, and eventually resulted in the creation of this blog, as well as affording me the practise to write a graduate thesis paper. It’s surprising as to how much of an impact a single anime movie had, and ultimately, the learnings from having watched (and reflected upon) Ah! My Goddess: The Movie is that an open mind can create paths that are unexpected, but also highly fulfilling. This is certainly not a bad legacy for a movie that’s now seventeen years old, to say the least.