The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

Nekopara Extra OVA Review and Reflection

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” ―Friedrich Nietzsche

Set a half-year prior to the events of Nekopara‘s first OVA, Nekopara Extra depicts Chocola and Vanilla’s introduction to the Minaduki household and how, despite the other Nekos’ warm reception, struggle to fit in until Kashou reassures them one evening. Later, Kashou, Shigure and the Nekos celebrate Christmas, during which Kashou makes a delicious dinner for everyone to share and also plays the role of Santa. With the Nekos enjoying the evening immensely, Kashou agrees to make their Christmas parties a yearly tradition. This second Nekopara OVA was released to Steam in July this year and, like its predecessor before it, is an animated adaptation of the Nekopara visual novels, which follows Chocola and Vanilla’s life as kittens as they adjust to life with the Minadukis. The Nekopara Extra OVA is simple, succinct and represents twenty minutes of amusement.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It has been quite some time since I’ve written a post this short: with only ten images and three hundred something words, this Nekopara post was written so I could say I’ve covered the second of the Nekopara OVAs, and because I’ve got a special milestone coming out in very short order that involves reaching a certain number of posts; the nature of this post will make itself apparent soon enough.

  • The first half of the Nekopara Extra OVA can be summed up to “Chocola and Vanilla struggle to get used to their new life”. Right from the start, it’s clear that the other Nekos are friendly and amicable, getting along with the new kittens straight away. I’ve mentioned previously that it’s a bad idea to give cats milk since they’re lactose intolerant, but because Chocola and Vanilla are cat-like, we will suppose that their digestive systems are also more human-like.

  • Kashou’s kindness towards Chocola and Vanilla are the reason why they cling to him by the events of Nekopara. Last I wrote about Nekopara, I made no mention of the title and realised that I did not really have an explanation for the etymology, but it turns out that Nekopara is really just a portmanteau of neko and “paradise”. Given the light, fluffy nature of the OVAs, this seems a fitting title.

  • I’m not sure how many of my readers are big on visual novels, and of those who are, I’m certain that the number of folks who’ve played Nekopara would be even fewer in number. On the off-chance that I do have some Nekopara fans in the wings, I’m curious to know what the game’s draw is and which aspects (the physics slider does not count) makes the game worth buying.

  • For me, the Nekopara OVAs represent simple escapism: there’s nothing terribly thought-provoking about the anime, but there’s nothing wrong with this. The strength of the OVAs lie in their ability to create a very gentle atmosphere, and I am glad that the Nekopara Extra OVA does away with anything risqué. I’ve heard that the games go the whole nine yards with this content, although I’ve long felt the aesthetics and atmosphere in Nekopara to be less suited for this sort of thing.

  • High on the list of things I enjoy about Christmas Day is simply being able to relax and not do anything. Of late, being able to relax in this fashion has been incredibly rare, and over the past weekend, I took a much-needed breather out to the salmon runs a province over. Being able to go on a road trip and relax was most welcoming, especially with how pleasant the weather was. After crossing over the Alberta-BC border, the moody grey skies gave way to blue, and the temperatures warmed. By the time we reached the Adams River Sockeye Run, it was later in the afternoon, but salmon were moving upriver at a steady pace. There was a bit of glare, so I don’t have good photographs to show, but the spectacle was one to behold.

  • The day ended in Vernon, and next morning, we stopped by D Dutchman Dairy near Sicamous, where I enjoyed a maple ice cream (no photographs, as it was so good, I finished it before remembering to photograph it) in an open field beside the dairy shop before taking off for Revelstoke, a quiet town in the middle of the mountains where we stopped for lunch. The final destination was Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park: I’ve never actually been there before until now, having skipped it the last time I was in Yoho because crowd sizes made it impossible to find parking. This time, however, Emerald Lake was deserted, and the lake itself was mirror-smooth.

  • Being offline and away from a computer proved to be exactly what I needed, and at present, it’s back to the grind. The current project is almost over now, and once finished, I’m considering a change of scenery. There are a lot of unknowns here, so I won’t go into too much details, but I think it will be a good chance for professional development. This may have an impact on my blogging, but I think that once things settle down there, blogging will resume in some capacity.

  • The events of the Nekopara Extra OVA culminate with the result that the Minadukis develop a new Christmas tradition of spending time together with the family Nekos. It’s a touching end to an OVA that largely has no conflicts, and the OVA itself is well-suited for a quieter day.

  • In retrospect, I likely should have watched this during Christmas, the Nekopara Extra OVA was light enough so that a shorter post was sufficient, and truthfully, there isn’t too much to talk here. So, I suppose that for the Christmas season, I will likely take a look at something else. In the meantime, I am going to be writing about Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara, and ahead of a certain milestone, I am going to do another post on The Division: after the past few Global Events, where I’ve completed my six piece Classified Striker’s Battlegear set and got a Bullfrog with solid talents.

Described as a heartfelt comedy, reception to Nekopara‘s OVAs is quite varied; folks who’ve played the game will either enjoy the Nekopara OVAs for bringing the game to life, or else count it as being an inadequate adaptation. On my end, having never played the games myself, the Nekopara OVAs are not something that particularly inspire me to pick the games up: we recall that my interest in games are driven by immersion and strength of gameplay, and while Nekopara‘s supposed to have a physics setting, this alone is hardly an adequate reason to try the game out. With this being said, the OVAs nonetheless remain a moderately amusing way to spend twenty minutes: for a pair of OVAs inspired by games and made possible with kick-starter funds, the animation and voice acting in the Nekopara OVAs is of a solid quality: Nekopara Extra OVA might be shorter than the first, but the quality remains generally high and provides a bit of additional narrative for folks wondering about the Nekopara universe.

Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“What I love most about this crazy life is the adventure of it.” —Juliette Binoche

Aki Shiina is often mistaken as a girl for his looks, so he decides to move to Tokyo and enrol in a school here so he can learn to be more manly. When he lodges at the Sunohara Dormitory, he meets its caretaker, Ayaka Sunohara, and the other residents, including Yuzu Yukimoto, Sumire Yamanashi and Yuri Kazami, who are on the student council, and Nana, Ayaka’s younger sister. Aki begins acclimatising to life at the Sunohara Dormitory, but his efforts to become more manly are often met with gentle failure, and all the while dealing with the eccentricities of the Sunohara Dormitory’s other residents. In spite of this, Aki grows accustomed to life at Sunohara Dormitory, and over time, develops a bit of a crush on Ayaka. The original manga has been running since 2014, and Silver Link’s adaptation brings Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō to life. While its setup presents numerous opportunities for awkward moments, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō‘s presentation is also surprisingly relaxing and heart-warming, focusing on the ordinary events of everyday life that many take for granted, well beyond the fanservice the series outwardly seems to focus on.

By making outrageous situations out of common activities, audiences are able to see the sort of turbulence in Aki’s life at Sunohara dorm. His attempts at normalcy typically end up unsuccessful, although even with the sort of disruptions that Ayaka, Yuzu, Sumire, Yuri and Nana bring to the table, Aki handles the chaos as well as can be expected of anyone in his position. Over time, however, Aki begins to adjust, and, appreciative of the help that Ayaka has given him, seeks ways of expressing his gratitude, whether it be offering to help Ayaka with household activities or else looking after her when she catches a cold. While initially irritated from being treated as a girl at the hands of Sunohara Dormitory’s residents, Aki begins to regard everyone as friends; a year after his arrival at Sunohara Dormitory, Aki expresses that the past year was not so bad, being quite livelier than before. The appreciation for the energetic is a common theme in many series: The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi’s Kyon ultimately prefers a world where things are lively when confronted with a choice, despite vocally voicing a want for an ordinary life, for instance, and in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, it would appear that, in spite of his reluctance to say so, the rowdy life at Sunohara Dormitory is something that Aki would now see as being something to enjoy.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While substance and a strong narrative is what compels people to watch fiction, there remains a large amount of fiction where the focus is not in a particularly cohesive or well-defined journey. Various slice-of-life and comedies do just this, preferring to subject characters to various misadventures; despite their being counted as unnecessary by some, I’ve long felt that such stories can be relaxing in their own right.

  • Ayaka is the star of Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, and is voiced by Rina Satō (Gundula Rall of Brave Witches and Kaede Kagayama of Non Non Biyori). With her maternal mannerisms, Ayaka is likely simply acting in the interests of those living at the Sunohara Dormitory, although how aware Ayaka is of the feelings (and embarrassment) of those around her remains open to speculation.

  • Small in stature, assertive and loud, Yuzu is the student council president who wears a small chicklet hairband with the aim of boosting her height. Despite her professed disapproval of Aki, she occasionally will try to get closer to Aki in a manner of speaking.

  • Besides Yuzu, Sumire and Yuri (left and right, respectively) also reside at the Sunohara Dormitory. Sumire is tall, aloof and has feelings for Yuzu, while Yuri enjoys various questionable activities. Their presence in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō do much to liven the show up, and while the dynamic between Aki and Ayaka acts as the basis for the show, the addition of three characters provides additional insights into Ayaka’s character, namely, that she treats everyone similarly.

  • While Aki is initially unsuccessful with helping Ayaka run Sunohara Dormitory, his efforts are not for naught; as time wears on, he is able to contribute here and there. On one occasion, Aki attempts to help Ayaka cook. While there is a common stereotype that men are ill-suited for cooking, the reality is that this is largely used for comedy: I’ve seen men and women cook equally well, the same way that men and women can write software equally well.

  • While Aki’s first and foremost desire is to be recognised as a man, he is definitely lacking in confidence and a take-charge mindset: situations tend to sweep Aki off his feet early on, and he finds himself at the mercy of everyone at Sunohara Dormitory. One of the joys of Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, then, is watching Aki slowly find his own approach as he becomes accustomed to life here with Ayaka and the others.

  • After a minor accident with a ladder strands Ayaka and Aki on the roof while they are trying to patch it, the situation is compounded with a sudden downpour. While Aki occasionally entertains the notion of marrying Ayaka one day, he also feels conflicted about these feelings and becomes quite embarrassed whenever Ayaka seizes the moment. However, Aki also comes to treasure these moments: when not embarrassed, he feels warm and at ease with Ayaka, allowing him to live in the moment.

  • While in Japan last year, I was visiting during May, the time of year when temperatures are very pleasant. I’ve heard that during the summer, the heat can be quite intense. I’ve experienced the full force of summer in Hong Kong, during which it feels like standing in a furnace whenever one is directly outside, and because of the intense air conditioning Hong Kong uses, the temperature contrast between the outdoors and indoors is even more pronounced. Having experienced the heat and humidity of Hong Kong, I thus wonder whether the apparent temperature in Japan’s summers are more strongly-felt than even those of Hong Kong’s.

  • Watermelon is a fruit to be enjoyed during the summer: while I bemoaned the lack of summer this year on account of the forest fire smoke blanketing this side of the world in a thick haze and for being out of town for a better part of it, I did enjoy watermelon on many a summer evening, on those days where the refreshing cool of a watermelon was precisely what was needed to beat back the heat lingering from the day.

  • I was quite surprised to learn that Ayane Sakura, of GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto fame, would be playing as Nana, Ayaka’s younger sister. Despite her outward appearance as a gyaru (Japanese slang referring to a fashion-conscious girl), Nana is perceptive and is well-rounded, being sociable, capable with her schoolwork and also has a diverse array of interests, including old-school video games. From Nana’s remarks, Ayaka is not approving of video games and attempts to enforce a time limit for Nana.

  • After an evening spent watching horror movies, unsettling sounds keep Aki and Yuzu up. When they make to investigate, it turns out that Nana is using an empty storeroom as a personal gym of sorts. Her choice of equipment suggests exercises to slim down and tone up – she remarks it’s necessary to maintain her figure. Outside of shonen anime, it’s rare to see characters exercise regularly, and as someone who hits the gym with some frequency, a question on my mind is how many of my readers also are lifters or otherwise do regular exercise.

  • Channelling Cocoa’s spirit of competition, Nana’s first course of action whenever a conflict arises is to compete with the other party. She typically tramples Yuzu in a competition of smarts and physicality, but Yuzu later turns the table with a test of endurance. I vividly recall that when I was in my final year of primary school, I could still hang from monkey bars and swing around like nobody’s business; during a party with friends in the time since, where we visited a playground for fun, my shoulders ached after swinging across once.

  • After looking for ways to thank Ayaka for her efforts at the Sunohara Dormitory, Aki wonders if a massage might be the way to go: Yuri forces Sumire to be a test subject of sorts and asks Aki to use her for practise. Taken out of context, the various moments in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō might raise a few eyebrows, but on the whole, once folks get into the show, it becomes clear that much of the humour comes from Aki’s innocence.

  • Ear-cleaning is featured in anime as a means for expressing closeness between two people: anime typically presupposes that everyone has the dry earwax that does not form easy-to-remove globs. Left to accumulate, it can impact hearing, and North American remedies are not so effective, leaving manual extraction as one way of removing it. While the reality is that my ear canals are rather sensitive, and it does hurt a little for me, anime portrays this as a very quiet experience to signify familial-like bonds between those involved.

  • A recurring joke in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō is that despite his constant efforts to be more manly, Aki ends up being treated akin to a cat or dog, instead: he often finds the older ladies familiar with him to treat him like a plaything and becomes frustrated. During a summer festival, he runs off and becomes lost, but is eventually found.

  • Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō covers the flow of events over the course of a year, so things like Halloween and Christmas are invariably covered. Unlike anime such as Non Non Biyori or GochiUsa, where the flow of seasons is very distinct, the weather patterns in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō are much less varied. Instead, viewers are given a sense of what time of year it is based on the presence of certain events. Such series show they are very strongly character-centric, counting on characters and their experiences to drive the flow of events, while series that feature the natural environment more strongly aim to show the unique impact a setting can have on the flow of events.

  • Aki’s older sister, Matsuri, appears late in the season and comes across as an aloof, but loving older sister who wishes nothing more than to keep Aki sheltered. Intent on taking Aki back home, she challenges Ayaka to a series of tests to assess her capability in looking after Aki – despite Matsuri’s intent to fail Ayaka, Ayaka manages to exceed all of her expectations and she relents, allowing Aki to stay.

  • Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō ultimately ends up being a fun ride: while thematic elements and conflicts are not at the forefront of the series, what Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō does excel at doing is managing to create amusing situations that utilise ecchi elements without crossing over the line. I was quite surprised the series was as disciplined as it was, and in the end, the cast of characters and their mannerisms is what convinced me to finish this series.

  • One aspect of Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō that I paid little mind to was the soundtrack: above average in its execution and application as incidental music, the music serves to accentuate the mood of a moment in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō despite being nothing remarkable. The ending song, Sonna no Boku ja nai, is an upbeat song that starts off with a somewhat melancholy opening, befitting of Aki’s improving experience as the series progresses.

  • In the end, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō earns a B- (7.5 on the 10 point scale, or 3.0 of 4 on a 4-point scale). While nothing particularly groundbreaking, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō never tries to be something it’s not, and ends up being entertaining by sticking to its guns. If there were a continuation, I would count it as a series worth watching, although I confess that it would be quite difficult to write about.

While Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō is unlikely to be counted as a highly moving or thought-provoking series, it does offer consistent comedy throughout its run. The situations that Aki finds himself in are amusing, as are his reactions to some of the more embarrassing moments. With its cast of familiar, yet dynamic characters, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō manages to avoid the trap of falling upon tired and family-unfriendly elements, instead, presenting a story of a young boy who would like nothing more than to be regarded as a man: confident, reliable and dependable. As he continues to live at Sunohara Dormitory, his actions demonstrate a commitment to this, and he gradually begins to be counted upon more. However, there are moments where Ayaka and the other residents will continue to dote on or tease him, reminding audiences that appearances can be a little hard to overcome, even if the spirit is present. With this being said, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō ends up being a modestly fun watch that surprises with its disciplined fanservice and interesting portrayal of Aki’s time in a dormitory where normalcy is very quickly disrupted.

Underworld- Sword Art Online: Alicization First Episode Review, Future Directions, and Brief Parallels Between Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya and John Patrick “Jack” Ryan

“Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?” —Morpheus, The Matrix

Kirito is recruited to test the development of a new technology known as the Soul Translator (STR) system, an interface that directly interacts with the neurological impulses within the brain to create a dream-like sequence. In his time using the device, Kirito befriends Alice in a fantasy world, but after venturing out of bounds after their search for ice takes them into a deep cave, Alice is taken away for execution. Meanwhile, Sinon asks Kirito to help her with another Bullet of Bullets Tournament in Gun Gale Online, after they confront a team whose modus operandi is killing other players. While he listens to Sinon’s request, Kirito reveals to Asuna he’s been working on an experimental new full-dive system several orders of magnitude more sophisticated than any previous technology. He later expresses to Asuna a desire to go overseas to study North American technologies, and encounters Jonny Black, the remaining Death Gun member who was never apprehended. Despite his attempts to fend off Black, Kirito is stabbed with an injector containing succinylcholine. Thus, Sword Art Online‘s third season, Alicization for brevity, has begun: unusual in its opening, and unusual for having four cours’ worth of episodes, Alicization is the next great journey for the Sword Art Online franchise. Out of the gates, Alicization wastes no time in setting up the new environment and new stakes. I’ve long regarded Sword Art Online with a mixture of engagement and disappointment: on one hand, the character development is lacking and outrageous, but on the other hand, world-building and storytelling are solid. Having followed Sword Art Online since its first season, some interesting patterns are also beginning to emerge from this series, especially with respect to Kirito, a bit of a controversial character at the centre of virtually all discussions on Sword Art Online.

Originally a Sword Art Online beta participant, Kirito became known for his past experience after the SAO incident began, and sought constantly to prove himself. Kirito’s singular determination and persistence, in conjunction with a deep-seated desire to help those around him and prevent deaths where he could help it, eventually led him to defeat Sword Art Online’s lead developer and creator. With his involvement, the Japanese government begin involving him in solving a variety of crimes surrounding the VR technology. Through Kirito’s adventures, his uncanny ability to amass female companions and develop limit-breaking skills from raw emotions have made him somewhat of a dull character; many count Kirito to be a clueless young man who stumbled into incredible fortune, as Tom Clancy might put it. Infallible, firmly determined to do what is right and look out for those around him, Kirito does indeed resemble Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the central character to Clancy’s early novels. Born in Baltimore, Ryan majored in economics and minored in history before joining the Marines, where he was injured in a helicopter crash. Leaving the Marines, Ryan becomes a stockbroker and makes several million on Wall Street before enrolling in a PhD. While in England, Ryan saves the Royal Family from a terrorist attack and is knighted. His abilities lead him to become a consultant for the CIA, and Admiral James Greer, noticing Ryan’s accomplishments, offer him a position at the CIA. Ryan is promoted and later, Ryan reluctantly accepts the post of Vice-President. When a plane crash caused by a Japanese airline pilot kills most of the administration, Ryan is made the President of the United States. Clancy originally created Ryan as an every-man, and from an external perspective, it is true that Ryan stumbles into incredible fortune. Like Reki Kawahara’s Kirito, Ryan is competent, but is otherwise an ordinary man dedicated to doing what’s right. Circumstances come, time and time again, that force both Kirito and Ryan to step their game up. Rising to the occasion each time, both become well-known in their own worlds, with Ryan taking on the presidency twice, and Kirito becoming regarded as an asset in the controversies surrounding VR technology. Clancy uses Ryan to voice his own opinions on the political landscape, creating a character whose position of power allows Clancy to, in effect, write out his thoughts on what a government should do. Kawahara likely wrote Kirito with a similar idea in mind, that as Kirito continued progressing, his experiences would similarly make him suitable for providing a means for Kawahara to express his thoughts on where VR technologies are moving, and their subsequent impact on society.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Sword Art Online was wreathed in controversy from the day it began, and was polarising the day it began. At the start of Alicization (IPA aˈliˈzāSH(ə)n rather than aˈliˈkāSH(ə)n as I originally imagined), however, Kirito’s traits are nowhere to be seen. Curious and and somewhat chivalrous, Kirito appears to behave as any child would, working on his assignments, messing around with Eugeo and enjoying Alice’s baking.

  • While trying to seek out ice to keep their food from spoiling, the turn of events change their world forever. The great advantage of Sword Art Online is that there is opportunity to depict a variety of settings, and with A-1 Pictures driving the show, audiences are treated to visually pleasing environments and animation. Compared to 3Hz’s presentation of Alternative, A-1’s world is brighter, more crisply animated and more immersive.

  • If and when I am asked about Sword Art Online, I’ll say that if Sword Art Online aside from Kirito’s unparalleled tendency to become involved in outrageous situations and implausible backstories for characters, then the series otherwise did a reasonable job of create a compelling environment to explore the prevalence of virtual technologies and the impact on social sub-systems in a society.

  • Now that I understand why Kirito is written in this manner, and see his similarities to Jack Ryan, my antipathy for Kirito diminishes slightly. At the end of the day, I think maturity is the deciding factor here: Kirito was originally immature and prone to moping around, while Jack Ryan’s sense of duty means that he will enter situations that he may not agree with and still do what is right. Consequently, if I were to offer a suggestion into Sword Art Online, it would have been to make Kirito a ways older, as a university student, and then have him meet male and female gamers along the way. Similarly, I could come around if Kirito’s decisions in Alicization are consistently more rational and mature, more befitting those of a man than a boy.

  • The world inside the STR is said to be many orders of magnitude more sophisticated than anything seen previously, and a bit of digging around finds that this system directly interfaces with the neurons of the brain to create dream-like experiences. Reading the summaries in writing makes it difficult to appreciate what is going on, and whatever other faults there might be in Sword Art Online, A-1’s execution means that these stories become much more approachable.

  • Alicization has number of references to Lewis Carrol’s “Alice in Wonderland”. Written in 1865, the story’s nonsensical premise and use of logic makes it a popular work to allude to in both software and science fiction. Originally intended to be a parody of Victorian culture, the story has since been used to represent flights of fancy. I’ve never read the story in full for myself, and so, will not likely fully appreciate all of the references made to it, but some are common enough so that it’s clear when something is being said in allusion to “Alice in Wonderland”.

  • When Alice’s accidental contact with the Dark World is discovered, she is arrested and set to be executed. Lacking any of his abilities elsewhere, Kirito is powerless to stop the knight from taking off. Like any nightmare, Kirito soon wakes up shortly after, only with tears in his eyes and very little memory of what’s happened. Sword Art Online is set in 2022, and by the events of Alicization, it is 2027; originally airing in 2012, I wondered if the resurgence in consumer-grade VR technologies would begin with the Oculus Rift.

  • While we’ve made considerable strides in GPUs and power supplies, technical limitations still limit VR from being as robust as they are in Sword Art Online. Convenience is still the main issue, given that the need to set up motion sensors, connective cables and necessity of having a powerful desktop to render the images in 3D make VR setups one that require considerable expense and space. It is unlikely that real-world VR will reach the same prevalence as seen in Sword Art Online by 2022, but I hesitate to say “never reach that point” because technology is always marching ahead, and some things once thought to be impossible, such as virtual assistants, are now becoming increasingly commonplace.

  • Folks complaining about customisation in things like Battlefield V should probably hold their tongues: the customisation seen in GGO is far beyond anything DICE is likely to implement into Battlefield games, and in such games, it is most fair to implement a system where armour and protection in gear be inversely proportional with movement speed and agility. Simply put, players wearing Sinon’s loadout would be quite fast, but at the expense of durability.

  • Liz’s in-game appearance resembles that of Sakura Quest‘s Yoshino Koharu, but beyond their outward characteristics, are completely different. Liz is voiced by Ayahi Takagaki, whereas Yoshino is voiced by Ayaka Nanase. She uses a Mossberg shotgun here against their unknown assailants, and admittedly, her choice of customisations is rather more appropriate than that of Sinon’s.

  • Silica mans the mounted machine gun here and lays down suppressive fire. It’s been a while since the likes of GGO has graced this blog, and unlike Alternative‘s Squad Jam, Bullet of Bullets (itself named after “King of Kings”) has a different rule set. Battle royale was the focus of Sword Art Online II‘s first half, and in reality, the basis for the battle royale shooter was inspired by the DayZ mod for Arma II. In 2013, Brendan Greene subsequently took this concept and further modified it in his own DayZ mod, drawing inspiration from Battle Royale, a Japanese film.

  • Since then, the concept had widely taken off: proponents cite the excitement and unknown as the biggest thrill of this genre, while folks like me, lacking patience, would prefer more traditional shooters. With battle royale games becoming increasingly commonplace, giants like Activision and DICE have taken notice: Black Ops IV and Battlefield V have their own battle royale modes.

  • To make it clear, I’m not in the camp that hates the mere concept of Sword Art Online, nor am I in the camp that believes Sword Art Online to be flawless and incomparable. Instead, I see the series as a reasonably entertaining one, with its strengths and weaknesses. Of late, word has reached my ear that folks are taking Alicization as a chance to drive up their own visibility: apparently, hating on this series is what’s trendy right now. Both aware of the flaws in this series and of what it does well, my assessment of Alicization will be determined by the enjoyability factor. I can enjoy and recommend this series even if there are things I did not like, for instance.

  • Sinon attempts to recruit Kirito to help her in the next Bullet of Bullets, which he accepts. One aspect of Sword Art Online that I found completely unnecessary were the implausible stories some characters had. Sinon is an example of this: having picked up a pistol and killed a bank robber as a child, she developed a fear for handguns. When GGO was introduced, she played the game with the aim of overcoming her fear. Having Sinon play the hero was strictly unnecessary: had she witnessed a firearm go off in her childhood, the effects would have been similar to drive the story forwards without need for this additional drama.

  • If Kirito is Jack Ryan, then it makes sense to see Asuna as Caroline “Cathy” Muller-Ryan, Ryan’s wife. Both Cathy and Asuna are sensible, smart and concerned whenever their respective partner puts himself in the path of danger while on duty. Asuna worries about Kirito’s health, and Cathy grows suspicious, before concerned, after Ryan reveals that he’s doing fieldwork for the CIA. I’m certain that had the technology existed in reality, Cathy would likely track Ryan’s health the same way Asuna does for Kirito.

  • Kirito explains the concept behind the STR system to Asuna and Sinon here, stating that photons inside the microtubules of the body carry the soul. This is a reference to the orchestrated objective reduction theory, which supposes that the quantum vibrations in microtubules are somehow responsible for consciousness. While I appreciate that Alicization is science fiction, this is wrong: microtubules are part of the cytoskeleton, participating in maintaining cell shape and transportation by providing a pathway for motor proteins traverse. Thanks to dynamic instability, the tubulin monomers that make up microtubules can assemble and disassemble rapidly in response to conditions within the cell: dynamic instability and other cellular conditions would make microtubules ill-suited for storing information; by Kirito’s account, if we held this to be true, every time the microtubule disassembled, the photons would escape, causing information loss.

  • We’re at the end of the Thanksgiving Long Weekend, a time to mostly relax and capitalise on the pleasant weather. After a month of non-stop cloud cover, things have finally cleared up, giving rise to the beautiful autumn skies I know the area for. The trees did not yellow quite as nicely this year on account of the unpleasant weather: most of the leaves are still green or else went straight to brown, but otherwise, it was very pleasant. Weather or no, however, Thanksgiving dinner was as pleasant as always: after an afternoon of cooking, things were ready to be enjoyedBesides turkey, we also had ham, cheese prawns and mashed potatoes of a home-made recipe. As well, the turkey turned out well: by cooking the it with brine and adding carrots, onions and parsley to the interior, the cooking forces moisture into the turkey.

  • Kirito expresses a desire to study VR over in the United States: the US is indeed the forefront of VR technology at present, and is also home to some of the world’s most advanced software and hardware groups. Asuna supports his decision and resolves to be by his side: at this point in Sword Art Online, I’m glad that it is established that Kirito and Asuna are meant to be together, and once the love tesseract plaguing Sword Art Online was solved, the series could finally explore more interesting ground. Of everyone, Asuna is the most similar to Cathy Ryan, so I figure that she’s the most suitable to be with Kirito.

  • Kirito and Asuna run into Johnny Black, a member of Laughing Coffin who would later develop an addiction to murder and participated in the Death Gun incident. When Kirito confronts him, Black stabs Kirito with succinylcholine: in Tom Clancy’s The Teeth of the Tiger and Dead or Alive, the Campus employs it as an agent to dispose of enemies. Clancy and other fiction writers characterise it as the ideal murder weapon: it acts quickly, relaxing muscles to the point of shutting down the heart and starving the brain of oxygen. Furthermore, succinylcholine metabolises into succinic acid, amongst other things, which is not something routinely looked for unless one was suspecting a murder with this compound.

  • In his fight with Black, Kirito is hit with a lethal dose: unless he is put on a respirator, the next few minutes for him will be living hell, as the Emir in Dead or Alive discovers. Eventually, the Campus uses other methods beyond what they colloquially refer to as poison pens: by the events of Locked On, the drug is not utilised, and Clark only uses it for a hit on a Libyan terrorist cell in Threat Vector. This is a potent way to begin Alicization, and from what little I know of this arc, Kirito will be sent back into the STR system, where he will continue to unravel the mystery of Alice and her fate. A year’s worth of Alicization is on the table, and with so many unknowns on the table, I think the best course of action will be to sit down and simply enjoy the ride.

With this in mind, Kirito’s portrayal, as a character who stumbles into incredible fortune, has a justification from a narrative perspective; Kirito’s role in the anime becomes more relevant, providing viewers an idea of what Kawahara thinks of VR. One episode into Alicization, and the traits that define Kirito of older episodes is absent: he is more weary, more reserved and contemplative, even if he does still allow his emotions to get the better of him. His characterisation in the anime has improved over time, signifying a gradual maturity. Of course, at this point, it is still early into Alicization, so it remains to be seen as to whether or not some of the weaker aspects of Kirito’s character make a return, or if his experiences continue to shape his decisions in a rational manner. Over the next year, I imagine there will be plenty to cover and discuss. Because of the scale Alicization, however, I will not be blogging about this series with my usual frequency: Sword Art Online‘s strength is exploring details, and the big-picture materials I tend to cover usually require several episodes before there is something significant to say. Further to this, blogging with a high frequency about any series is a bit of a challenge on my end, so I would prefer not to burn out writing about Sword Art Online. Having said this, I will be watching the series and will return to offer feedback after certain milestones in this series. It would make sense, for example, to write about Alicization once the halfway point is reached, and once the finale has aired. With a year ahead, this is looking to be an interesting series, and while I might not be writing about it half as much as half of my readers might like, folks looking to pick my mind about Alicization are always free to do so here, or on Twitter, should they so choose.

The Goodbye at the End of Summer: Another Beginning For CLANNAD ~After Story~ at the Ten Year Anniversary

“Being unable to trust anything is the same as being unable to sense other people’s love.” —Yoshino Yuusuke

Summer draws swiftly to an end, and on a weekend prior to the continuing of term, Tomoya dreams about his past while watching a baseball game with Nagisa, Sanae and Akio. Akio later asks Tomoya to help him assemble a baseball team ahead of a match with a neighbouring shopping district, and while Tomoya does his best, speaking with a variety of people (including Yuusuke and Misae) with the aims of getting them to join, his mind also drifts towards the future and what it might entail. On the day of the game, Mei shows up as well to meet Yuusuke and watch the baseball game. The game is characterised by the unique brand of encouragement and antics unique to Tomoya and his friends. Despite this, Tomoya’s team takes the lead early into the game. After Nagisa is asked to step up to bat when Akio is injured by a stray bat, this lead is closed. Tomoya manages to score a game-winning run batted in (a play where a batter for making the play that allows a losing team to win) and in the aftermath, celebrates with the Furukawas. While perhaps not starting quite as profoundly as CLANNAD did in its opening, CLANNAD ~After Story~ (~After Story~ from here on out for brevity) opens to a strong start that gives viewers a chance to see the new status quo that has developed since Tomoya asked Nagisa to be his girlfriend. However, despite this change, things in ~After Story~ remain much as they have previously. Tomoya shares a warm friendship with those around him, and where the moment calls for it, can step up to the occasion for those around him. Through moments of hilarity, excitement and energy, ~After Story~ swiftly reintroduces viewers to CLANNAD and the world following the first season: characters are established, and baseball is again used as a metaphor for life events, foreshadowing that nothing is ever certain or final. Although Tomoya and his team may have given up a lead, things are never truly over until they are over. This message, so subtly touched on in the first episode, will return later, and for the present, ~After Story~ brings audiences back to those relaxing days Tomoya enjoys as a new term begins.

While relationships are commonly seen as major life events, ~After Story~ shows that for everything that’s happened, things largely remain as they did before. Tomoya might be a little closer to Nagisa than before, but the excitement and energy he feels from spending time with his friends endures, as do the moments of hilarity. Things feel very much as they did before Tomoya began realising his feelings for Nagisa, and whether it be through his exchanges with Kyou, or wisecracks whenever Tomoyo tramples Youhei, ~After Story~ makes it clear that Tomoya is still the same kind-hearted individual with a penchant for pranks as he was previously. The point that ~After Story~ makes with this portrayal is that on most days, being in a relationship is not so different than being single. There are some days where being in a relationship is count oneself as among the happiest in the world, and yet other days where a relationship feels like a shackle one is doomed to bear. This incredible range of contrast is something that ~After Story~ will explore, and consequently, it makes sense to begin in the realm of the ordinary, giving audiences a chance to gain a sense of what life is typically like for Tomoya. In contrast with the first season, however, this ordinary life is a world apart from the existence that Tomoya knew at the beginning of CLANNAD; living in the moment and looking out for those around him is the new norm, and reflecting this new Tomoya, ~After Story~‘s first episode is a vividly colourful one, filled with warm hues and inviting light. However, such things are also transient: a cooler colour fills the classroom when Tomoya wonders about his future, signalling to viewers that such moments do not last forever. The ending of youth, the ending of those summer days, comes to a close, setting the stage for what is to come in ~After Story~.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time a CLANNAD post graced this blog, it was late March, a day before the Vernal Equinox. The Nagisa arc was my favourite act of CLANNAD, and Nagisa is my favourite character of the series, as well. I’m invariably drawn to the main characters of a given series, an indicator of my own personality in that when I set out to do something, I will focus on that something with my all. The end result of this is that I tend to present satisfactory results on the central task at the expense of missing anything that was not explicitly defined in my assignment.

  • The consequence of this in something like an anime review is that I will tend to connect with and, correspondingly, write more about the central characters than I will anyone else. It leaves my particular brand of reviewing inadequate in some areas. However, in series that are sufficiently well-explored, the opportunity to look at what each character brings to the table is present, and for this, it is fun to go back through an older series and see what things can be picked up by rewatching things. In this re-entry into CLANNAD ~After Story~, I will be keeping to my usual patterns: arc discussions will have thirty, single-episode reviews like today’s will have twenty, and if the need arises, I will have larger posts for particularly special episodes.

  • Time genuinely does make fools of us all: ten years previously, I was in my final year of secondary school. My decision to take an honours program in what was essentially a double major in biological and computer sciences stemmed from the fact that I was indecisive at the time, and today, I find that my technical knowledge is nowhere as strong as it can be had I focused on a single field. On the other hand, I am afforded with a unique perspective towards problem solving – a degree leading to a side-grade isn’t so bad, and in a world where being multi-disciplinary is of increasing value, I do not feel that my undergraduate degree was a waste of time.

  • After classes, Tomoya decides to speak with electrician Yuusuke Yoshino with the aim of trying to get him on board for baseball, a man whose background remains quite unexplored at this point in CLANNAD: the only hint of his past is that he knows Kouko and has a tendency to be dramatic, making various quotes and poses. Initially reluctant to join Tomoya and his crew, Yuusuke relents after Tomoya explains that Youhei looks up to him.

  • Tomoya is a skillful liar who can turn any situation in his favour with a few tall tales; this part of his personality adds to his ability to create humour even during high-tension moments. Further accentuating the humour are the others’ reactions to his lies: Youhei evidently regards Tomoya highly, and, befitting of his slower wit, buys Tomoya’s lies easily. On the other hand, Nagisa’s naïveté and innocence she genuinely believes Tomoya.

  • Misae Sagara runs the dormitory that Youhei stays at, and insofar, she is presented as the sometimes-kindly-sometimes-violent dormitory manager. While support characters normally serve secondary roles, helping protagonists along, CLANNAD‘s length allows all characters to be explored. Besides giving their experiences more weight, this exposition also provides further insight into the world that is CLANNAD – this series’ detractors assert an undue amount of deus ex machina in its progression, but I counter that the detractors have not been paying attention. Small, subtle details (and other, not-so-subtle elements) indicate that as normal as the world of CLANNAD is, there is a substantial supernatural component, as well.

  • If I had to guess, the reason that Jun Maeda utilises the supernatural in his visual novels and stories would be because the journey that is life is a winding one with no clear future, and that the way things sometimes play out can seemingly have little explanation beyond what might be considered magic. The supernatural also allows Maeda’s characters to explore themes and experience situations that are more melancholy than what is possible in the real world, although with the success of his works, Maeda’s stories, referred to as nakige (泣きゲー, literally “crying game”), also tend to follow a very formulaic approach, opening with comedy, building up the rising action through romance, reaching a climax with tragedy and then closing with a reunion.

  • It’s been a year and a half since I purchased CLANNAD‘s visual novel on Steam, and I’ve yet to actually even open the game. My challenge with visual novels are that because they are a cross between a picture book and a novel, I cannot read as quickly as I’d like or completely utilise my mind’s eye to imagine a scene. Further to this, I’m used to reading for long periods with physical books, and staring at a screen for the equivalent amount of time is very exhausting, so as far as going through a visual novel goes, I’m going to likely need a different approach.

  • Kyoto Animation’s craft in CLANNAD yields a world that is simultaneously detailed and clean. This art style is refined by the time of Sound Euphonium and Violet Evergarden, both of which have an incredibly detailed art style rivalling those of Makoto Shinkai’s. While Kyoto Animation is known for their animation quality and artwork, not every series in their repertoire has this level of detail: shows like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Lucky Star and Nichijou utilise a much simpler art style.

  • On the day of the baseball game, the skies are of a deep blue, giving the sense of a hot summer’s day. With Mizuho having an average high of 31ºC in August and 28ºC in September, the vivid colours of CLANNAD do much to capture the temperatures within the series. Anime typically use colour and sound to indicate heat: deep colours and the sound of cicadas indicate hot days almost universally. In western animation, heat is indicated through use of distortion effects, a faint “sizzling” sound and emphasis on the sun. Depending on the series, visual humour is also employed.

  • As it turns out, Mei is indeed a big fan of Yuusuke’s and is amazed that she is able to meet him in person; as Youhei says, such is her excitement that she immediately sets off for Mizhuho to see him in person for the baseball game. While the youth are engrossed in their own conversation, the adults share a moment together, as well: Yuusuke, Kyouko and Misae all know one another from an older age.

  • The precise stakes of this match are about the same as those of Futurama when the Globe Trotters challenge Earth to a basketball game: their leader, Bubblegum Tate, states that with no stakes or threat, the only thing on the table really is the shame of defeat. Akio believes the same: while ostensibly a friendly match between two teams, he threatens that if they should lose, Sanae’s bread will await them. While both CLANNAD and the MCU make reference to earlier instalments in their respective universes, ~After Story~ requires complete knowledge of the first season in order to be at its most effective.

  • I am not familiar with baseball in any capacity, save the fact that it is an American institution that was introduced to Japan in 1872 by professor Horace Wilson, and after a thrilling match, Japanese interest in baseball soared. Today, it is the most widely played sport in Japan, to the extent that Japanese people are surprised that baseball is just as big in the United States. While I can’t really watch baseball (the sport itself is unexciting for me), I am much more familiar with the realm of ice hockey. The 2018-2019 season starts today, and after an amusing pre-season that saw the Calgary Flames square off against the Boston Bruins in Shenzhen and Beijing, we’re going up against the Vancouver Canucks.

  • I understand that I’ve got a number of Canadian readers, and a larger number from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, at that, but unfortunately, being a Calgary native means I’m a Flames fan through and through: I look forwards to seeing if the Flames can trample the Canucks in the season opener tonight. Back in ~After Story~, Youhei butchers a play and when Kyou calls him a blight, he retorts that he’s up against a pro: Youhei is referring to Koshien Stadium, where high school players compete at the national level. When Youhei challenges Kyou to do better, she does.

  • That this game is meant to be friendly is reinforced by the fact that after Akio is injured, the other team offers to provide a replacement. Akio refuses and sends Nagisa onto the field. Her low athleticism is offset by the fact that she’s playing alongside skilled teammates, who help her out. However, their lead begins shrinking as the match progresses: Tomoya’s shoulder prevents him from hitting effectively, and when it’s Kotomi’s turn, she spends more time trying to figure out what the best play is rather than reacting on instinct and skill. She marginally hits the ball and reaches first base.

  • Several more interesting plays occur after Nagisa strikes out: Tomoyo declares she wants to hit like a girl, and Tomoya decides to try something new, keeping in mind his shoulder. However, while Nagisa might not be an athlete, she does have her moments, and later in the game, will manage to hit the ball. The baseball game retains its momentum pushing ahead, and while a real baseball game would never see the antics of ~After Story~, their presence here does much to liven a sport up that I normally would not otherwise watch.

  • The most over-the-top events belong to Yuusuke: one of his monologues befuddles the other team and also costs him a run, when he is tapped out after walking dramatically between the bases.

  • Despite his limitations, Tomoya’s strength is his resolve. The game’s become such that Tomoya must score a run batted in to win, and despite his shoulder, he is spurred on by the others. The lengthening shadows signify the day’s end, and simultaneously mirror the closing of a window. The opposing players become faceless, little more than obstructions, and driven by those he cares about, Tomoya puts his all into his final play.

  • In the aftermath, everyone celebrates. This scene stood out to me for its use of incidental music: the track “Town, Flow of Time, People” plays. Normally used during more melancholy moments, it imparts a heavier atmosphere that does not line up with the jovial, energetic mood at the Furukawa residence following the game. While subtle, it again foreshadows what is upcoming in ~After Story~, suggesting that the proverb “Sing before breakfast, cry before night” very much holds true here. It ultimately boils down to not celebrating before something is over, and while things look normal, happy now, ~After Story~ does have one helluva ride for its audience.

  • There is an equivalent phrase in Chinese, 高興太早 (jyutping gou1 hing1 taai3 zou2), which literally translates to “happy too early”. As the first episode to ~After Story~ ends, a cut of the robot in the Imaginary World and the light orbs are seen. Little more than a curiosity in the first season that formed the basis for Nagisa’s play, the Imaginary World and its inhabitants play a much more substantial role in this second season, and I will spend a bit more time detailing their relevance to the main story as ~After Story~ continues. In addition, I will need to figure out what the best way to break up the ~After Story~ posts is, and with our entry into the fall season, two shows have appeared on my radar as being worth writing about: P.A. Works’ Iroduku Sekai no Ashita kara, which is of a genre and setup that catches my interest, and the slice-of-life Anima Yell!.

As I have done for the first season’s tenth anniversary, I will be revisiting CLANNAD ~After Story~ in a similar manner as I did for CLANNAD. There are a total of twenty-two episodes in ~After Story~, and as readers have doubtlessly discovered, having me come by, week after week, to do episodic reviews is a bit of a pain in the rear – things get stale quickly, and I find it difficult to write about things on a weekly basis. So, I will be writing about ~After Story~ in arcs. However, ~After Story~ is not quite as well delineated as its predecessor; some stories are shorter than others, others are longer, and others yet serve to set the stage for ~After Story~‘s final act. I am still determining what the best way to break down ~After Story~ is for the present, but I will note that writing for this will be an interesting exercise in introspection: even more so than CLANNAD, ~After Story~ led me to re-evaluate who I was and what I was doing with my life, as well as help me understand what it was I wanted from life. It’s been over six years since I went through CLANNAD and CLANNAD ~After Story~, but the messages and ideas this particular story imparted on me have endured, attesting to the timeless character of the writing in this series. Six years is a considerable amount of time, and so, while I’ve largely forgotten what specifics about ~After Story~ that made it such a life changing experience, the opportunity to write about this series in full at the ten year anniversary means that I’ll certainly rediscover the magic that is CLANNAD ~After Story~ anew, and this time, armed with six more years of life experience, I think I can offer thoughts on things that were not possible the first time I watched CLANNAD.

Valentines and Hot Springs!: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid OVA Review and Reflection

“When you have seen as much of life as I have, you will not underestimate the power of obsessive love.” –Horace Slughorn, Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince

On Valentines’ Day, Tohru is unsuccessful in giving Kobayashi chocolates spiked with a love potion. Kanna receives chocolates from her classmates and Kobayashi shares chocolates at work. Later, Kobayashi accidentally consumes the spiked chocolates from Tohru and becomes drunk. Makoto invites everyone to a hot springs; after a busy day spent relaxing and doing the sorts of things one might do at a hot springs, Tohru gives Kobayashi regular chocolates. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a unique entry among my “Terrible Anime Challenge” series in many ways – besides being an absolutely engaging and enjoyable series, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid also has an OVA that accompanied the seventh BD volume. Par the course for an OVA, it’s an opportunity to have the characters play off one another in romance, and further becomes a thinly-veiled justification to put the characters in a hot springs; traditionally, episodes such as these contribute very little to the narrative. However, this is not to say that OVAs are devoid of value, and my enjoyment of OVAs typically come from presenting characters in a much more relaxed, or even whimsical moment that shows different aspects to their personalities. In Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Fafnir is given more exposition: despite his disdain for humanity, that he goes along with customs such as Valentines’ Day and hot springs trips in reasonable accordance with Makoto indicates a degree of begrudging respect for the things that humanity does.

A mile wide and a mile deep, is how I described Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid in my original review: there was enough by way of themes in the thirteen episodes dealing with acceptance of new culture, the importance of family, shifts in perspective through immersion, not taking things for granted, et cetera, such that audiences could relate to various aspects of the show in their own manner of choosing. Without deliberately and forcibly pressing its messages, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid presents ideas through everyday events, having the characters learn and discover things naturally. All of this is encapsulated in comedy, making the characters more relatable. The OVA does the same in its shorter runtime – it is a miniaturised Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, condensing the style and sense of the entire series into a single episode and providing the unique brand of humour the series is known for. In particular, Tohru’s attempts to seduce Kobayashi using a love potion, and Kobayashi catching on was quite amusing. It should be no surprise that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid utilises its world well to set up humour, and the jokes seen in the OVA have lost none of their potency.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Twenty screenshots for a single OVA is usually the norm for a full-fledged series that I’m writing for, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is no exception. Had I done a more conventional review for this series, I would’ve likely given things a thirty-screenshot talk. Even now, I’m impressed that what looked to be a frivolous series could cover so many interesting topics adequately over so short a run.

  • It’s no surprise that at this point in time, Kobayashi has known Tohru long enough so that she immediately suspects that there’s something funny in the Valentine’s chocolates. While Tohru might be a dragon more powerful and terrible than even J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ancalagon the Black, Kobayashi always manages to rein in Tohru with naught more than a glance. During the screen capture session, I managed to obtain a hilarious frame of Tohru pulling the chocolates away from Kobayashi, declaring it to be a defective batch, after Kobayashi warns her about spiking the chocolate.

  • Misunderstandings involving Kanna are always defused quickly in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and after Riko wonders why everyone is so quick to give Kanna chocolates, Kanna asks for Riko’s chocolates, as well. Despite not receiving any chocolates in return, Kanna’s chosen approach, to eat the chocolate straight out of Riko’s hands, sends her into a bliss.

  • Back home, Kanna’s want for chocolate leads her to find the chocolate that Tohru’s hidden away. This is the chocolate spiked with love potion: chemicals that alter one’s brain chemistry to induce sexual desire certainly exist (aphrodisiacs), the love potions of fiction are liquid medicines that can induce feelings of love. J.K. Rowling writes that no artificial substance could recreate something as complex as love: her love potions only induce infatuation over short periods of time. Given Tohru’s reactions while adding love potion to the chocolate, one would suppose that she’s aware of this.

  • According to Pottermore, the countermeasure for a love potion involves, Wiggentree twigs and Gurdyroot mixed with castor oil. I’m willing to bet that magical substances in the twigs and Gurdyroot must interact in some way with the triester of glycerol and ricinoleic acid in castor oil to neutralise whatever agents are in the love potion. The love potions of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid work differently, and although some claim that the ethanol “cancelled out” the love potion, from a chemistry perspective, this is incorrect. The ethanol present would have been altered in some way (decomposition, or replacement) so that distinct ethanol properties (e.g. inducing drunkenness) would no longer be present. Instead, I’m guessing that the ethanol acted as a catalyst for another reaction with one of the ingredients Tohru added, or else was a non-player in the reaction that neutralised the love potion. Either way, it results in some comedy of the likes not previously seen in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.

  • The OVA consists of two distinct acts, with the second being set around the group’s hot springs trip. They reach the onsen by means of the shinkansen. It typifies anime for depicting various aspects of everyday life in Japan with high faithfulness, and one of the stories I frequently hear is that people often will visit Japan with the aim of recreating their anime experiences, right down to riding trains and the like. For me, riding the trains of Japan were no different than the MTR of Hong Kong, or the LRT back home.

  • When I was in Japan last year, one of my favourite experiences was indeed the onsen. While I live fairly close to the Rocky Mountains and the hot springs of Banff, the geothermal waters of our national parks are actually quite mild in temperature. By comparison, the waters of an onsen were perfect, and I melted in the warm waters of the pool. I had the place to myself that evening, and one thing I noticed was that the (female) cleaning staff seem to have no aversions to continuing their work while I changed.

  • Watching Elma enjoying her food in bliss is most relatable: according to meterologists, we’re significantly colder than seasonal, and the past three weeks that I’ve been back home were characterised by non-stop overcast misery, gloom, and snowfall. Coupled with the chilly weather, I succumbed to a cold and spent several hours of each day in the past week sleeping. Despite this, I’m still getting my work done, and I’m on the mend now. Yesterday, I stepped out for dinner under moody skies: having recovered a fair bit, I decided it was prudent to enjoy myself but not eat too much, so I had a chicken steak sizzling plate with mushroom and red-wine sauce, corn, egg-fried-rice and fries at the local bistro. Dark chicken meat is my go-to meat of choice when I’m not at my best – highly nutritious, it’s also tender and tasty.

  • I often feel that, if I had a sauna at hand, I could spend a quarter hour in there upon feeling the onset of a cold. One of the classic methods to lessen the severity of a cold that my parents employ, is to drink 盒仔茶 (jyutping hap6 zai2 caa4, known more commonly as Kam Wo Tea), a bitter herbal tea with centuries of history. I’m personally on the rocks about its efficacy in stopping a cold, since I always end up requiring a day to rest regardless of whether or not I take it, but as far as relieving a sore throat goes, Kam Wo Tea does eliminate it within a day if taken right when one feels a cold incoming.

  • One way or another, with this cold largely behind me, I’m going to return to my routine very soon. I’ve noticed that blogging output for this past month has dropped by half: things have been remarkably busy of late. With this being said, as we move into October, and the fall anime season, posts will come out at a slow and steady rate. A few shows have caught my eye and together with the continuation of my CLANNAD review at the ten year anniversary, I think that this blog will continue to endure for a little while longer.

  • All of the dragons have a noticeable bust, and because my previous Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid post did not do so, I’ll capitalise on this post to feature one of Elma. Her constant bickering with Tohru, weakness in foods and interactions with Kobayashi are fun to watch. Earlier, a short skit in the OVA shows Elma trying to make chocolates of her own, but fails to create anything to give away, as she ends up eating all of the ingredients. Far from Tolkien’s clever and cunning fire-breathers, or Rowling’s untamed beasts, the dragons of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid are much more human in nature despite their origins being both fallible and adorable.

  • Kobayashi’s decision to chill with Kanna draws ire from both Riko and Tohru, after Kobayashi wonders why all dragons manifest as attractive humans. When asked about what she looks like, the images of Kobayashi in dragon form are not particularly illuminating. It is common practise to drink cold milk after a soak in the hot springs, but during my trip to Japan, I did not bring any change with me for the vending machines, only having small bills the machines did not accept. However, I did have a bottle of cold water, and downed this in the blink of an eye, so I can attest to the refreshing properties of a cold beverage after exiting the onsen.

  • Because I was on a schedule, my next move was to hit the hay so as to be rested for the next day’s itinerary. The cast of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid have home field advantage: their vacation is the onsen, so they make use of the inn’s amenities, and play ping pong here. After a spirited match between Tohru and Elma, Riko and Kanna play a much slower match that Kobayashi enjoys watching.

  • Shouta immediately hits the hay after growing flustered upon seeing Quetzalcoatl and Elma. The same age as Riko and Kanna, Shouta is portrayed as being typical of boys his age – he is not so good with teasing, and earlier, storms off after Quetzalcoatl asks if he’s interested in a souvenir. Makoto has the sense to understand that Shouta was interested in the sword keychain and buys one for him.

  • While Riko and Kanna are fast asleep, Tohru and Kobayashi share another moment together. Compared to Kyoto Animation’s other works, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is comparatively simpler in terms of artwork; the impressive lighting and visual effects of things like Hibike! Euphonium or Violet Evergarden are absent, and the anime is more in line with the likes of Tamako Market in its design. However, the animation itself remains of a solid quality, and I imagine that Kyoto Animation carefully picks the appropriate level of detail for each anime that it does.

  • This is not to say that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has poor artwork: a look at the town by night shows that even while working in a simpler environment, Kyoto Animation nonetheless presents it in a rich, appropriate manner to best capture the emotions of a particular moment. The warm lights of the town here stand in contrast with the cool of the night, and sets the mood for a romantic exchange between Tohru and Kobayashi.

  • It turns out that Tohru had made chocolates properly for Kobayashi, and this time, Koyabashi decides that Tohru is being honest with her feelings in this exchange. Audiences will have also picked up on the differences – the Tohru trying to give the spiked chocolates away was more sly and mischievous, whereas here, Tohru exhibits the same nerves that might be seen when giving chocolates to one’s love interest.

  • Kobayashi accepts the gift and munches on the chocolates, before holding her hand out to Tohru and offering to walk back together to the inn. I realise that I am not particularly well-received in some places for my so-called refusal to address yuri in my discussion, and I’ve explained this previously – social and cultural ramifications are not quite as important for me when it comes to addressing this topic, and I only handle it if it is immediately relevant to a show. In shows where romance is present as a central part of or as a natural development in the plot, I will discuss it. However, where it is strictly used as humour (e.g. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and Harukana Receive, for instance), I will typically not go into further details.

  • It was a riot when Tohru asks Kobayashi whether or not this is the part where they breed. It’s the most open attempt from Tohru yet, and while Kobayashi is quick to shut things down, there is no exasperation or frustration. It is doubtful that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid would ever reach that level, keeping things PG and only hinting at Tohru’s want to take things up a notch for humour, but this is quite okay.

  • On the way, back, Kobayashi speaks with Makoto, thanking him for having organised the tour and feeling that with everyone together as often as they are now, they’ve become friends. It is true that since Tohru’s arrival, Kobayashi’s life has become rather more colourful and exciting: for the challenges dragons bring, they also introduce company and joy that has a nontrivial impact on Kobayashi. With this post as my last for the month, I note here that I’m now six posts away from reaching my next major milestone of one thousand posts, and that I’m opening October with a return to CLANNAD, kicking the party off with ~After Story~. Following my conclusion of the first season, I remarked that I would continue to write about CLANNAD if even one reader expressed interest.

One aspect of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid that I did not cover in great depth was the overt attraction Tohru has for Kobayashi: I do not give romantic love between female characters much consideration unless it is present in a way that affects the narrative. In the case of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, the absence of this romance would mean that notions of family and discovery would not be as straightforward. Often, the strong feelings in romance drive profound changes in individuals, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is convincing in using this as a reason for why Tohru and Kobayashi change over the course of the anime. Further to this, a lack of romance would deprive the series of its ability to convey humour: in its absence, many moments would feel much drier. With this being said, it is quite unnecessary to read too deeply into this; past discussions on romance from an academic perspective have proven to be, quite frankly, a waste of time that yielded little more than hurt feelings. I’m in the business of watching and enjoying anime, not persuading closed-minded people to stop attempting to treat every series as a work demanding literary analysis and comparison with classical Japanese, after all. We step away from this matter and note that the OVA for Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was released a shade more than a year ago, and with this OVA in the books, I imagine that this is the last time I will be writing about Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid in the foreseeable future.