The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

Sounds of the Skies: Beyond the Dream- Sora no Woto OVA 2 Review and Reflection, or, Existentialism is not the centrepiece in the execution of Sora no Woto

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” –Colin Powell

Kanata begins to wonder what her dreams are after Mishio poses the question and finds herself without a suitable answer. Klaus arrives with a letter intended for Rio, and Kanata sets off looking for her. As the Fire Maiden festival is upon Seize again, the town is packed with festivities. Kanata runs into Yumina and later, speaks with Naomi, who provides Kanata with some help in finding Rio. It turns out Rio had set off to find some peace and consider the alternative version of the Legend of the Fire Maidens, as well as the fact that there remains conflict within their world even as the amount of habitable land is diminished from desertification. Later that evening, Rio takes Kanata up on a reconstructed hot air balloon, stating that her goal is to reintroduce heavier-than-air-flight and build an airplane. Kanata is moved and resolves to be at Rio’s side in pursuit of her dreams, helping out in any way that she can. On the day of the festival, Kanata is made to play the role of the Fire Maiden, setting off with Nöel, Kureha, Rio and Filicia. Compared to the first of the OVAs, the second Sora no Woto OVA is more contemplative in nature, following Kanata as she strives to determine her own dreams following her own experiences in Seize with the Clocktower Maidens. A simple question prompts Kanata to consider her own future, and in the end, Kanata’s decision shows that her goals are supporting those around her. Evident in her role as a bugler, the path that Kanata chooses is consistent with her beliefs and actions in Sora no Woto. It’s a fitting conclusion to Sora no Woto, and during its runtime, the second of the Sora no Woto OVAs serves one additional purpose in extending the anime’s themes – far more than existentialism, Sora no Woto‘s second OVA deals with the realisation of a dream.

Because I came upon Sora no Woto a ways after its original run, I was spared the five-month wait separating the finale from the second OVA, which serves to provide closure for the anime. The OVA builds upon the ideas of existentialism that were raised in the seventh episode – Filicia, Kanata and the others are aware of meaning in their lives even in a world that hope has appeared to long forsaken by the seventh episode’s conclusion. By the time of the events here, Kanata has chosen to walk the same path with Rio, who has a concrete goal and outline for reaching said goal. The themes in the OVA deal predominantly with working towards one’s objectives with the intent of bettering the world and realising their dreams. In contrast with merely finding meaning, a very abstract and oftentimes, idle activity, the OVA illustrates that a dream only has value if it is actualised. This is depicted through Rio re-constructing a functional hot-air balloon, creating lighter-than-air flight and setting the stage for her goals of heavier-than-air, powered flight. The process is one that involves effort, commitment and sacrifice, and while it can be uncomfortable to make an honest attempt to realise one’s dreams, the payoffs for having the courage to take these steps are enormous. Sora no Woto illustrates how these first steps are taken towards making dreams become a reality, and ultimately, it is in this OVA, released six months after the finale, that completes exploration of themes that the seventh episode began developing, making it an essential and enjoyable addition to Sora no Woto.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As with my previous Sora no Woto post about the first OVA, I’ve taken the time to ensure that none of the screenshots have been duplicated with an earlier post that I wrote back in 2012. This post features thirty screenshots, and compared to the post from five-and-a-half years ago, I think that the differences in writing between the present and five years ago is apparent: since then, I’ve written two thesis papers and published four papers. I’m no longer involved in any academic writing, and this blog is the only place where I write with any frequency now.

  • Here, Nöel handles the hot air balloon’s burner unit. Typically, they burn propane, heating up the air within the balloon to lower its density, which in turn allows the balloon to rise. The earliest balloons are of a Chinese origin – these paper lanterns (天燈) were heated by a flame source that work on similar principals and were used for military signalling. The first manned balloon flight was in 1783, with Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier demonstrating successfully balloon flight, and until the Wright Brothers’ flight in 1903 that sustained heavier-than-air flight was first achieved.

  • The second OVA provides plenty of reasons to re-watch, and noticeably absent from reviews of this OVA are some of the spectacular scenery stills that are present. Here, the fields of flowers set under a calm morning sky creates a highly tranquil picture of the area around Seize. It was seeing landscapes such as these in the first episode of Sora no Woto that led me to pick the anime up. As to how I came across Sora no Woto, the story is simple enough to deduce: after I finished K-On!, I was looking for similar anime and saw a recommendation for Sora no Woto.

  • The premise was quite intriguing, and so, I decided to give the series a spin. Upon watching the first five minutes of Sora no Woto, I immediately knew I was watching something of an uncommonly high quality, and found myself immediately drawn in by Kanata performed back during the second episode of Sora no Woto. I do not believe I’ve shared the story of how I came to find this masterpiece of an anime until now. Back in the second OVA, Kanata’s skill with a trumpet has become apparent, and she’s now able to perform the morning call with unerring skill, rivalling Rio with respect to the quality of sound and precision of her notes.

  • Mishio asks Kanata what her dreams are here, and Kanata is unable to answer. Knowing what one’s goals in life are are not always so straightforwards, and one of the things characterising Millenials, myself included, are being uncertain of what one’s future might entail. I myself did not set my sights on iOS development and systems architecting until two years ago; since then, I’ve been striving to make good on these goals. It is this phenomenon that leads folks of my generation to take a bit more time in exploring their career options, or colloquially, “find themselves” – my seniors have long held that disciplined skill building and refining value is the priority for folks around my age, and while I subscribe strongly to this branch of thought, this is a view not everyone shares.

  • I hold that life’s priorities at my age involve developing one’s skillset and saving money for the future. While folks contend that travel is necessary to broaden one’s horizons, travel without a well-defined purpose does very little to build one’s value in the long run, boiling down to procrastination from doing what is necessary in life. Back in the calm of a spring morning, the girls get a haircut before washing up. While it’s best to wash one’s hair after a haircut, this may or may not always be practical, leaving one with a bit of an itch.

  • There’s not one way to live life correctly, and there will be plenty of time to travel later on in life, so for the present, while I remark that I’m ready for a discussion on priorities in life at any time, I will return discussion fully to Sora no Woto for the present. My assertion that it’s a spring morning is drawn from the presence of flowers in full bloom, as well as the slightly reduced saturation in the skies compared against the dark blues of the hottest of summer days: the air still has a cooler feel to it, while vegetation suggests a season for growth.

  • Klaus hands Kanata a letter intended for delivery to Rio. It is this letter that sparks off the rising action in the OVA, and one of the great strengths in Sora no Woto, as well as slice-of-life anime in general, is that seemingly mundane or trivial occurrences can serve as the prompt for an adventure. The characters thus create memories from enjoyment of the more subtle aspects of life, and this is one of the reasons I’m so fond of the genre; it’s not necessary to spend a great deal of money or journey very far all of the time in order to make treasured memories.

  • In my original talk on the second OVA, I had a very similar frame, although the corresponding figure caption did very little to explain what the context of the image was. My blog was written with a much looser style to it back then, reflecting on how it was really more of a secondary resource. Once I began utilising WordPress more frequently, it became abundantly clear that WordPress is the superior platform, and so, discussions have become longer on average: more posts now have thirty screenshots, against the twenty that was the standard a few years earlier.

  • When I first watched Sora no Woto, I had just finished my entry-level driving exam and was still uncomfortable with driving. I’ve been driving actively for around six years now, and I can say that I did not drive like Kanata at any point of my driving career ever since I got my GDL. It was a different story when I started out: I took my learner’s license exam after my first year of undergrad, but because it was later into the summer, I only took the first exam the next summer. I did not fare so well on parallel parking or right turns on green, but otherwise, passed. By my advanced exam, I nailed the exam and very nearly got a perfect score.

  • Kanata’s lack of skill is presented as comedy in Sora no Woto, but poor drivers are the bane of my existence in reality. One of the biggest grievances I have with other drivers include driving below the posted speed limits, unsafe lane changes and my personal favourite, tailgating. It always surprises me that folks who are evidently incapable of following rules somehow manage to get their operating licenses, but I suppose that there is only one effective countermeasure I can employ to stay safe: drive defensively and maintain situational awareness so I can avoid trouble.

  • Yumina is treated to a terrifying drive when the jeep Kanata’s operating goes down a staircase, but she promptly recovers after they reach the church and Kanata sees everyone’s ema. These shinto plaques are used for writing wishes upon, and their presence in Sora no Woto suggest that Shintoism has endured even after the great war that regressed humanity to World-War Two era technology. The exceptional blending of cultural elements in Sora no Woto proved to be one of its strongest assets, creating a richly detailed world that few anime have since matched.

  • Kanata’s reaction to Seiya’s ema is one of embarrassment and flattery: he wishes to marry her someday, perhaps attesting to the change in perspectives he’s had owing to Kanata’s actions and influences throughout Sora no Woto. Of course, as Seiya is still a child, his wishes could be counted as being precocious; children often express familial feelings as love out of naïveté, although it’s no less valid an indication that his thoughts of Kanata have definitely changed since their initial encounters.

  • Kanata’s quest to find Rio takes her to Naomi’s shop, where she runs into glassmaker Maria. The glass dolphin that Kanata longs to buy slowly drops from the narrative in Sora no Woto as the story progresses, although it’s through a conversation where it’s implied that the oceans are devoid of life. Subtle remarks made in the passing further enhanced the world-building aspects of Sora no Woto, and one of the biggest pastimes that Sora no Woto fans undertook was creating speculation charts. In a project I undertook some years ago, I went ahead and introduced new charts into the community to ensure folks who were curious would be able to read the charts more easily.

  • I used the old charts, created by anonymous members of various imageboards, as templates and distilled out all objective elements. For the second OVA, I opted to eliminate any interpretations of the anime from my chart. The original asserted that Sora no Woto was an exercise in existentialism, and that each of Kanata, Kureha, Rio, Filicia and Nöel are meant to represent standalone war stories despite their archetypes. However, I find that the characters are intended to illustrate the sort of impact that optimism and open-mindedness have on a group, as Kanata has done. Through her naïve world-view, Kanata introduces a sense of hope that drives each of the characters to change.

  • Consequently, Sora no Woto is not a collection of war stories as Battlefield 1 portrays it, but rather, it’s a narrative about the positive impact one individual can have if they are in the right place at the right time. The interpretations of Sora no Woto are incredibly varied, differing between individuals, so my main aim in remaking the final chart was to remove any personal opinions and allow readers to draw their own conclusions. Back in the final OVA, Naomi points Kanata in the direction, leading her to some ruins. The choice of colour makes this site a particularly memoriable one, with the verdant grasses and browns of ancient stone monuments being offset by the blues of the sky and purples of flowers.

  • The ruins create an immediate sense of loneliness and peacefulness. It is here that Kanata finds Rio and shares with her a conversation about what Rio’s dreams entail – their exchange drives much of the themes in the OVA, and is befitting of the episode’s title. Rio shows Kanata a map of the world, revealing to audiences that the events of Sora no Woto occurred in Japan. This would have been a shocking revelation to audiences, and some folks remain unable to accept this as plausible even to this day.

  • I originally supposed that massive damages to the surface led to large-scale population migrations, and that the architectural choices leading surviving humans to rebuild modern-day Seize is a consequence of the cultures of said populations, so I had no difficulty in being receptive towards this information. Whereas I had another perspective of Nöel suppressing Shuko with a pan in the first of the Sora no Woto OVA discussions, here, I feature one of Rio looking back at Kanata (in my original discussion for Sora no Woto‘s second OVA, the camera was placed behind Kanata). This moment reveals a bit of the farmland in the valley below.

  • The state of the world was only alluded to in Sora no Woto proper, but when Rio travels to the more remote reaches of the world, she sees a sight that would truly be sobering: desert as far as the eye can see, consuming all former traces of the civilisation that once ruled the world. While the formation of deserts is a natural process arising from shifts in climate and solar intensity, desertification refers to the formation of arid lands as a result of soil loss, usually from a human cause. In Sora no Woto, the loss of arable land to desert is a direct consequence of the war with “Them”.

  • Even though the world is slowly dying, there is nonetheless a sort of melancholy beauty in this OVA when the desert landscapes are depicted: here, the sands of the desert give way to open ocean. Far from leading Rio to despair, her knowledge inspires her to take action and explore the world to see if there are lands where human populations may continue to survive.

  • I’m actually not certain why discussions of Sora no Woto stop at existentialism, as opposed to accounting for the efforts required in realising one’s goals as a result of the motivation arising from finding meaning in life. A conversation with a friend left me with the answer that some people (especially in online communities) have an aversion to effort and failure. Consequently, it becomes uncomfortable to consider what action is necessary towards achieving any goals they might have, and such individuals tend to avoid deviating from the status quo for fear of this effort or failure, preferring to remain in their comfort zones of merely talking about things. I hold that failure is just another milestone towards learning something new, so from my perspective, actions always hold more value than idle talk.

  • Early the next morning, the Clocktower Maidens prepare to launch their hot-air balloon at the ruins. The site is modelled after Alarcón’s Torre de Armas o del Campo in Spain, located some eighty clicks from Cuenca: it’s a tower dating back to the medieval age, and the tower is the first thing visitors will see when entering Alarcón. This area has a population of 159 and dates back to the Roman period, although its recorded history begins with Arabic occupation, which is when the castle was built.

  • With Nöel handling the controls, Filicia calls her to release the ballast keeping the balloon in place. At 1080p, stars are visible in this pre-dawn moment: Sora no Woto is one of the few anime I have seen that is rendered at native 1080p, and on the iPad Air 2, remains of an exceptional quality. Of course, technology has marched on since 2010, and at present, 4K is becoming the new standard for high resolution, although anime has yet to enter this domain.

  • Kureha watches as the hot-air balloon takes off under the gradually-lightening sky. I remark that today is the autumnal equinox, a time of year when lengthening days marks the gradually dissipation of summer and the return of winter. Autumn is now upon us, and with an excellent (if hot and smokey) summer behind us, the weather has definitely taken on a much chillier character as of late. We’ve also gotten some much needed rains in the area, allowing crews to combat the wildfires in the province with greater efficacy. At the time of writing, Waterton National Park has reopened to the public, and officials are counting the fires as being under control.

  • While I’ve done my best to ensure that no screenshots are duplicated, there are exceptions: this brilliant moment of Rio and Kanata sharing their dreams with one another in the hot-air balloon is one of them is one of them, being set when the morning sun breaks over the horizon, flooding the land in a dazzling light. This is the culimination of the episode, where Kanata chooses her dream as following Rio pursue hers. It is always inspiring to have a senior who motivates one to follow a certain path, and during my course as a university student, one of the graduate students continued being a source of help and inspiration as I learned more about Objective-C and Xcode.

  • It was a bit of a surprise to learn that I would get to play on the flip-side some years later, and while I was only able to help mentor undergraduate summer students for one year, at least one of the students from that summer returned to the lab to continue with their project. A wider-angle view shows Shuko decorating the balloon; it’s a far cry from when Rio first proposes to eat the northern white-faced owl after they realise he’s responsible for the ghostly ruckus. For the average viewer, this is a satisfactory explanation, but closer inspection of the different frames in Sora no Woto and the presence of a drama CD reveal that the ghost was real.

  • The second OVA is set a year after Kanata’s arrived in Seize: viewers are treated to another festival, although by now, it’s definitely old hat. There’s only really one other review out there, besides my old one, that does the second OVA justice, and this review can be found at Random Curiosity. Their writers tend to focus on different things than I do, and consequently, is one of the reasons why I enjoy reading their content. It’s definitely much more approachable than mine, and their formatting also makes it easier to write posts at a greater rate.

  • I am naturally referring to the fact that coming up with the figure captions takes the greatest amount of time when setting up a post: if I were to use the Random Curiosity format, the time it takes to write a blog post and publish it would be cut down by a factor of four. Back in Sora no Woto, while Kanata is initially embarrassed to be chosen as the new Fire Maiden, her mortification is quickly forgotten when she asks the others what they’d written on their ema as wishes.

  • Nöel becomes bashful when Kureha and Kanata learn her aspiration is to become a “cute wife”, completely unexpected of her taciturn nature. It’s a rather nice touch that amidst their experiences, each of the Clocktower Fortress’ soldiers nonetheless long for a normal life free of conflict, with Rio and Kanata taking the initiative to determine if there are places left in the world worth finding.

  • With this final figure caption, my revisitation of the second Sora no Woto OVA comes to an end. Folks have long expressed a wish for a second season, but with the Anime no Chikara project closed now, any continuation is going to be unlikely. While the folks running Anime no Chikara mention that the exact nature of their learnings from the project are secret, the fact that lessons learned went into the development of Puella Magi Madoka Magica suggest that innocent characters being made to endure difficult trials and the resulting loss of innocence, interwoven with themes of hope and coupled with incredibly detailed world-building that make anime worth watching.

Sora no Woto‘s messages are strengthened through the second OVA: it is true that each of Kanata, Filicia, Rio, Kureha and Nöel find meaning in their world as they share time with one another, especially through Kanata’s positive influence, but in illustrating that there must be a plan to realise a dream, Sora no Woto reminds its audiences that it is not enough to merely be content with an idea. There must also be an execution stage where a dream is made reality. This is where the worth and meaningfulness of life lies, and in fact, the episode’s very title, “Beyond the Dream”, reinforces this notion. These ideas and concepts are explored in a fantastic manner: the Sora no Woto OVA is a thrill to watch from a visual perspective, with vivid colours and lighting being used to capture the optimistic, hopeful sense that the episode aims to convey. In addition, there’s a variation of Servant de Feu that is not included anywhere on the soundtrack to emphasise that the OVA is distinct. As a consequence of its themes, narrative and execution, Sora no Woto remains the cornerstone work in the Anime no Chikara project, and even seven years after it finished in whole, very few anime have come close to matching Sora no Woto with respect to world-building and strength of execution; Puella Magi Madoka Magica appears to have been designed from the outcomes of Sora no Woto, and at last, it appears that the connection between these two anime have been solved, with the latter inspiring elements in the former.

Sakura Quest: Review and Reflection at the Penultimate Episode

“Whether it’s from the biggest, most powerful city, or from the dinkiest little podunk town, there is a certain attachment and connection, and yes, pride about where you came from.” –Cheech Marin

Yoshino and the other ministers manage to locate the Hanging Drum hidden away in the derelict school, while Maki decides to try her hand at an audition. After learning she was unsuccessful, she returns to Manoyama, where Yoshino has planned out a formal closing ceremony for the school. Maki coordinates the play, which is well-received, and it is announced that the school is to be repurposed as a multi-use installation. Later, Erika runs away from home, fearing her destiny is a slow death in Manoyama. Maki and the others look after her, although the situation deteriorates when her younger brother runs off in search of the Golden Dragon after overhearing its power to grant wishes. He is found, and Erika decides to stay in Manoyama for his sake. The Golden Dragon is eventually recovered, but it turns out to be a toy. When the Belem Bakery proposes to open a branch in Manoyama, Yoshino’s team has difficulty finding a spot, later learning that one of the citizens had been burned in the past and is reluctant to assist. This leads to a change of heart amongst one of the Board of Merchant’s members, who agrees to rent his shop to Belem Bakery. Preparations for the Mizuchi festival continue in earnest, and even when Yoshino learns that Manoyama is to be merged with Tomikura, she nonetheless wishes to continue with the festival, feeling that having a distinct culture might be sufficient to raise a compelling argument against the incorporation. A TV company takes interest in the festival and proposes to broadcast it widely on the condition that they are allowed to replace Ririko in the play, but Ushimatsu refuses. Even in light of the ending of her contract, Yoshino continues to do her best, learning that Sandal’s parents met in Manoyama, and later, is given a surprise birthday party. On the day of the festival, Ushimatsu takes off in search of Mayor Naumann, who is visiting the area, with the proposal of twinning Manoyama with his city, which is also Sandal’s birthplace.

From the relentless advance of technology and social norms leaving small towns behind, to the pursuit of dreams and understanding circumstances behind why people make the decisions that they do, Sakura Quest has continued to maintain its exceptionally captivating narrative right up until the penultimate episode. There is a great deal going on in Sakura Quest, and all of this is handled remarkably well; the anime strikes a fine balance between depicting the smaller details and integrating the resulting themes into the overarching narrative, with the effect of giving the characters a sincere, authentic sense. In particular, Yoshino’s term ending has forced her to consider what she might be doing once the term ends, and her remarks, in saying that she now desires a career that is fulfilling, show just how far she’s come since the mistake that took her to Manoyama. A year’s worth of experiences has made Yoshino a problem solver, quick to identify the intricacies in a system and devise solutions that are acceptable to involved parties. Creative and mindful of traditions, Yoshino’s time in Manoyama confer upon her with a highly unique skillset, and a newfound perspective on what a career is. Millennials, such as myself value a sense of fulfilment and purpose in their occupations above all else; in accepting a position she was quite unprepared to work in, Yoshino has learned for herself what she desires from a job. She has come to understand that she desires a career where she is constantly being challenged, one defined by the unexpected and where things are never normal. Such a career, Yoshino, reasons, might or might not be in Tokyo, and in making this realisation, Yoshino concludes that she is okay with working in a small town as well as in a metropolis. From an external perspective, Yoshino’s experiences over a year have made her much more mature, introspective and aware of her surroundings. She’s more decisive and confident now compared to her self from Sakura Quest‘s inception. These are vital attributes, and the Yoshino who’s got a year’s worth of experiences in Manoyama is much better equipped to convey her ability to contribute to whatever occupation she seeks in the future. Yoshino’s growth lies at the core of Sakura Quest, and seeing these subtle differences over time is a major contributor to what makes Sakura Quest worth watching.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The nineteenth episode of Sakura Quest has the best funny faces from Yoshino yet, after the group hears Ririko’s ghost story about how the school is allegedly haunted by a Santa-suit wearing spectre. However, owing to Sakura Quest‘s down-to-earth delivery so far, audiences are well aware that there won’t be any ghosts in the story, so even when a shadowy figure appears, it is hardly any surprise that the “ghost” really is Maki’s father. A little bit of logistics before we continue: I will be featuring thirty screenshots for this discussion, as per usual.

  • Once Maki’s father puts the lights on, he speaks with Yoshino and company about the derelict school’s state, helping them locate the second of the three treasures. The hanging drum has been stored in a shed at the school for quite some time, and when found, it is in a deplorable state owing to age, exposure to elements and a lack of maintenance. The question of taking it in for repairs is raised, since this is to be a pricey process. Yoshino learns the school is scheduled for demolition, and attempts to work out a solution to preserve it in the meantime.

  • As December sets in, there’s a definite chill in the air as Yoshino takes Ushimatsu across Sakura Pond overlooking the Chupacabra Kingdom’s main building. While Shirobako‘s title was a bit more obscure in nature, referring to the white boxes used for ferrying master tapes around, Sakura Quest‘s title is a bit easier to work out, referring to the Quest around the Sakura Pond area. The water effects are beautifully rendered in this moment, comparable to water effects of a Makoto Shinkai film.

  • It turns out that Ririko’s been practising her performances of the Dragon Song, and she looks to Maki for some assistance, who provides Ririko with some suggestions. I remark here that quite a bit happens, and consequently, even with thirty images, it is not possible to capture all of the moments, including the disagreement that Maki has when visiting home, and her later unsuccessful audition. In spite of these failures and tribulations, Maki continues to push on; her father notes that he misses her old spirit back when Maki had her sights on a career in acting.

  • As an elementary and middle school students, we’ve never had curry days: in Canada, Pizza Days are the most common, and it was here that I learned that I was okay with pineapple on pizza. Yoshino’s first plan, to host a lunch event at there derelict school, is a total failure: no one else shows up, leaving them to eat lunch together. While this could have been a melancholy event, especially since Maki returns from a failed audition, the atmosphere is unexpectedly chipper as the girls decide to host another event once they realise Manoyama’s citizens probably do not know the school had ever been shut down. To this end, they begin organising a proper closing ceremony for the school.

  • For me, one of the greatest joys about watching Sakura Quest was that each week, there had been something to look forwards to, and for the twenty-something minutes that Sakura Quest ran, I was able to completely immerse myself in a different world quite different than my reality. I’ve come to enjoy the sorts of adventures that Yoshino and the others find themselves on in their quest to Make Manoyama Great Again™, and next week will mark the last episode of a fantastic series.

  • Maki’s father is quite enthusiastic about the idea of converting the school into a mixed used facility, after Yoshio draws inspiration from Sandal arriving in the art room to make use of the facilities. While he has very little screentime relative to the other characters, Sandal is a solid character who generally provides comic relief to make a situation less tense, but on some occasion, interacts with the characters that helps them determine a solution.

  • By December, a bit of snow has fallen in the Manoyama region, enough for the ladies to have a snowball fight. Manoyama is based off Nanto City in Toyama Prefecture, which means that my earlier prediction proved correct. Details around the city are replicated with exceptional precision. The real-world Nanto City has on average 10.6 snow days in January, 9.8 snow days in February and 4.8 snow days in December: these happen to be the wettest months in the area, as well. With a population of around 50000, comparable areas in Canada include North Bay, Ontario and Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, while the nearest city of this size is Airdre, Alberta.

  • Maki is at her happiest whenever she’s acting, contrary to her claims otherwise, and during the Christmas play for the school’s closing ceremony, she immerses herself fully within her role; the Christmas play was written to dispel rumours about the school’s being haunted by a bloody Santa, and it’s an incredible performance that audiences in-show, as well as in reality, are treated to.

  • At the play’s conclusion, Maki showcases a mural at the school that Yoshino and Shirori find while exploring the facilities. Alumni are impressed with the play and efforts; they fully back plans to convert the school into a mixed-use facility. The event is a successful one by all definitions, and plays a substantial role in staving off plans for the school’s demolition. Later, Maki’s father signs off a cheque that will cover the costs of repairing the Hanging Drum, after seeing Maki and her friends’ commitment towards a better Manoyama. Maki herself is inspired by this experience and decides to return to acting in her own way, by creating her own acting troupe.

  • While it’s something I’ve not mentioned until now, Sakura Quest‘s soundtrack, titled “Sakura Quest BEST”, is set to release on the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival on October 4. It retails for 4200 Yen (46.21 CAD at the time of writing), and will feature a total of four disks. The tracklist has not been released yet, but the sheer size of the album is a reminder of the diversity of music seen in Sakura Quest itself. The background music varies from providing a gentle ambiance to strongly accentuating the atmosphere of a scene, and as such, I look forwards to listening to the music.

  • An irate Erika runs away from home, but before she can hitchhike her way out of Manoyama, she’s picked up by Shiori. A minor character working at the local café, Erika is voiced by Tomoyo Kurosawa, who has played as Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Itsuki Inubozaki and Hibike! Euphonium‘s Kumiko Oumae. However, the aural characteristics of Erika’s voice bring to mind Kotori Koiwai (Renge of Non Non Biyori), and so, I was quite surprised to learn that Kotori was not playing Erika. After they give their word to Erika that she can stay with them, Maki and the others tend to Erika and inform her mother of their situation.

  • The shopping district has, similar to this blog, been ailing for quite some time with respect to business, perhaps a sign that I’m a bit out of touch with the times. Yoshino constantly wonders if there’s a way to preserve tradition while introducing innovation, and here, speaks with the owners of a local bookstore. I’m very fond of privately-owned bookstores in small towns, even if their selection is more limited compared to a large retailer such as Chapters Indigo.

  • Ushimatsu speaks with the craftsman handling the construction of the Shrine Float here as the Mizuchi festival draws nearer. The page quote for this discussion comes from the sense of spirit that people have for their home towns, and while Manoyama may not be Yoshino’s hometown, she’s come to love it as if it were her hometown, all the while coming to appreciate her own hometown more.

  • Under the cold of a winter’s night, Takamizawa and his friends locate their clues that point to the location of the Golden Dragon, the last of the Three Treasures required to re-introduce the Mizuchi Festival. Developments in Sakura Quest mean that the anime has not devolved into a treasure hunt as some have predicted; a handful of individuals have claimed that they are “not satisfied with the way the show is going”, “[betting that] the ending is going to be really disappointing” on the virtue that Manoyama will not be saved with the time remaining. It’s quite evident that these individuals are not aware of what the themes of Sakura Quest are – the anime has done a tremendous job of depicting the process involved, and while Yoshino often is faced with reality, she’s doing her best to set in motion events that will help the town from an external interest perspective.

  • Erika develops a toothache from a loose tooth, and lacking any painkillers, Yoshino and Shiori set out to purchase children’s medication. Questions have been raised as to why Yoshino does not split an adult painkiller in half, but the answer does not require a degree in medicine to reach – some pills should not be split because they are structured to work on a timed release. Splitting the pill could result in an overdose, which would be detrimental. Other pills have a hard coat to improve swallowing, and altering them could impact they way the active ingredients are delivered. Splitting an adult pill could make Erika very sick, and so, their choice was correct. While some purport that reopening the pharmacy was “unrealistic”, this perspective only comes about from a lack of understanding of the themes in Sakura Quest. Small stores are more flexible than larger ones, and so, are able to accommodate citizens much more quickly than supermarkets should the need arise.

  • Upon overhearing talk that the Golden Dragon can grant wishes, Anji runs into the winter night in search of the Golden Dragon. His disappearance sparks a search, but before anything happens, Sandal finds him and brings him to the police station, where he is reunited with his family. It turns out he longs for Erika to come home, hence his desire to make a wish. Later, Takamizawa and his friends find the Golden Dragon, but it turns out to be a plastic toy. While it would appear that the actual article has been lost to time, Yoshino later agrees to use it in the festival.

  • Taking inspiration from Warabiya, Shiori and the others prepare LED lanterns that gives the shopping district a warmer, more inviting feel by nightfall. While seemingly a small action, Yoshino’s influence and choices have definitely made Manoyama’s citizens more aware and appreciative of their town. Thus, when I’m met with the response that Sakura Quest is in need of “new settings, plot progression events, interesting new characters, etc. [where] the experiences would add up to a nice exciting finish”, I counter that Sakura Quest exceeds expectations precisely because it is grounded in realism. There is a limit to what Yoshino can credibly accomplish with the Tourism Board, but even the small accomplishments, such as introducing lanterns into the shopping district, are enormously satisfying to behold.

  • While subtle, one of the details I’m always fond of seeing in Sakura Quest are the discussions of future plans around mealtimes, and in Sakura Quest, one of the challenges Yoshino originally faced was figuring out a cuisine unique to Manoyama. In Calgary, Alberta Beef, pancakes and Ginger Beef are counted as regional specialties, although for folks like myself, a taste of home is never too far away. There are plenty of Hong Kong style establishments in Calgary, and tonight, I enjoyed the evening special (deep-fried pork chop and mango sauce on a bed of spaghetti) at a local restaurant.

  • One of my favourite aspects of Sakura Quest that I predicted would occur was the gradual warming up of Chitose to Yoshino; while staunchly opposed to the Tourism Board’s activities in the beginning, she’s come to accept Yoshino in both helping the town out, as well as for befriending her granddaughter, despite Yoshino being an outsider. It speaks volumes as to the sort of impact Yoshino has had since joining the Tourism Board, and here, Chitose makes to speak with a fellow by the name of Akiyama, hoping to convince him to rent his property to a well-known bakery.

  • Takamizawa and the others decide to open a café of sorts in the old school, and Sandal here assists with the refurbishing of the interior. The effects of a fresh coat of paint are already apparent in this image: the classroom has taken on a much warmer, inviting feeling than the classroom seen at the beginning of this post when Yoshino and the others were hunting for the Hanging Drum in the dark hallways.

  • Chitose calls a meeting to discuss a possible dissolution of the Board of Merchants, as their businesses no longer seem viable in light of being unable to secure a location for Belem to open. Where Chitose reveals that Akiyama had once opened his space to an outsider to rent, but the shop owner deserted, leaving Akiyama to pay the difference. Since then, he’s been unwilling to open his space. Yoshino decides not to force Akiyama into making a difficult decision, but this changes the perspective of another shop owner, who decides he will accept the smells associated with a bakery.

  • During her time in Manoyama, Yoshino has become a capable listener who makes decisions based on all perspectives. While Manoyama’s citizens have traditionally placed a degree of mistrust on outsiders, Yoshino is the first to demonstrate a genuine love for the town. She thus acts as the catalyst for change and finds herself successful precisely because she considers all pertinent arguments before devising a solution.

  • While they still refer to one another by their nicknames, it’s clear that Chitose and Ushimatsu have reached a point where they now (reluctantly) accept the other: Chitose gives the go-ahead here to continue with the Mizuchi Festival at full steam. I’ve been taking a look at opinions of Sakura Quest elsewhere, and for the most part, reception to this anime has been very warm: the folks at Random Curiosity are rooting for Yoshino and the others, while at AnimeSuki, viewers largely feel Sakura Quest could be one of the most solid slice-of-life anime of the year. In other words, expectations entering the finale are quite high, but I’m confident that whatever direction P.A. Works chooses to take with Sakura Quest, it will be a satisfying ending.

  • While it might be a plastic toy dragon, Yoshino nonetheless accepts it as a stand-in for the real deal. One wonders what happened to the real Golden Dragon, but a bit of logic would likely lead one to the conclusion that it’s embedded in the mud at the bottom of Sakura Pond ever since Ushimatsu tipped the Shrine Float over, and recovery would require a considerable amount of effort. Here’s a bit of trivia: apparently, there’s a manga incarnation of Sakura Quest that is serialised in Manga Time Kirara.

  • When Ushimatsu returns to Manoyama later, he bears bad news: the area is to be incorporated into another region. The merger or splitting of a municipality usually is done by consensus and was originally designed so that regions could increase usage of facilities without creating new ones, such as schools, as well as ease burdens on areas that are in debt. While sobering news, Yoshino remains optimistic and believes that a successful Mizuchi Festival could at the very least, further awareness of Manoyama’s unique culture. Because the merger is still quite some time away, Shiori and the others resolve to worry about the present and focus on putting on the Mizuchi Festival.

  • Progress for the Mizuchi Festival is underway, and the Shrine Float here reaches completion. However, when the TV crew from earlier return and request that an idol be inserted into the Dragon Song play in place of Ririko in exchange for an extended broadcast, Ushimatsu puts his foot down, saying that the Mizuchi Festival is by the people, for the people. His commitment to integrity is his way of atoning for shutting down the festival fifty years previously, reflecting on his desire to follow through with the hard work that everyone’s put in without compromising the locals’ efforts.

  • While cleaning up the Shrine where the Shrine Float’s route concludes, Doku finds a stone engraved with a commemorative message. It turns out that Sandal’s ancestors engineered Sakura Pond, and that this is where they’d met. Sandal’s connection to a distant city later inspires Ushimatsu to try and get Manoyama twinned, and he sets off abruptly to meet with the mayor of said city right as the festival begins to raise this proposal. While Chitose fears he will interfere with the festival again, Yoshino and the others have faith in his decision, knowing he’s working to Make Manoyama Great Again™ in his own fashion.

  • Preparations for the festival leave Yoshino so busy she’s very nearly forgotten her birthday, but Maki and the others have not. Maki asks Yoshino to inspect a prop, closing her inside before preparing the birthday surprise. It’s a rather warming moment, and as a gift of sorts, everyone’s sporting the same happi coats. Yoshino had earlier remarked that it’d be nice if everyone could have the coats, but understanding that they have budgetary constraints, she was okay with not providing happi coats for everyone.

  • With this post now over, I’m greatly looking forwards to seeing how Sakura Quest ends. It’s been five months since the anime began airing: I still recall watching the first few episodes on a quiet Sunday morning after playing my first few matches of Battlefield 1‘s They Shall Not Pass expansion, and it seems that these past few months have passed by in the blink of an eye. While I initially found it a fun anime, Sakura Quest eventually became an immensely immersive, entertaining and instructive anime that augmented my world views. It’s a little early in the game to be saying so, but if the finale succeeds in bringing the messages together, I would count Sakura Quest amongst the few anime I’ve seen to score a perfect ten, a veritable masterpiece. This verdict, I will decide upon once the finale has concluded.

The question that is worthy of speculation, thus, is what path Yoshino will take once the finale is reached and the time comes to make a decision. Yoshino herself states that she might be willing to move back home and make opportunity there, and folks with familiarity in narratives such as these will often predict that Yoshino will stay in Manoyama, having grown attached to the town, its people and attractions. Another reasonably likely outcome is that she does leave, but manages to find a position elsewhere as a result of her accumulated experiences. With due respect, both outcomes are equally likely – regardless of what direction Yoshino chooses, she now has the skill and experience, plus understanding of her own aspirations, to find success in whichever path she follows. While I’ve decided to focus on Yoshino for the post prior to the finale, the closing stages of Sakura Quest deal with a variety of issues, from Maki’s conflicting desires to act, to the Board of Merchants’ struggles to keep the shopping district relevant in an age where modern supermarkets defeat their purpose, or Erika’s refusal to stay somewhere with no prospects (mirroring the real-world phenomenon of youth leaving their homes in the countryside to seek opportunities in urban areas). There is considerable depth in Sakura Quest, and all of these elements come together to create P.A. Works’ strongest presentation since Shirobako: I’ve come to care for each of Yoshino, Shiori, Sanae, Maki and Ririko, plus Manoyama’s citizens, who each have their own stories and goals. In short, they are fantastically written, as human as you and I, and each week since April, it’s been an absolute blast to immerse myself in Yoshino’s world. This is a series that I will miss considerably once it concludes, but for the present, there remains the finale that will be airing come Wednesday; I look forwards to seeing where one chapter of Yoshino’s story concludes and what her future entails.

New Game!!- Review and Reflection at the ¾ Mark

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” ―Leo Tolstoy

Aoba and Umiko interview Nene for an interim programming position, while Christina tries to warm up to the character team after fearing that they must hate her for her decision with the key visual, but it turns out they’re not bothered. Two new interns, Momiji Mochizuki and Tsubame Narumi, join Eagle Jump: Momiji is a graphics artist and begins work with Aoba, while Tsubame is a programmer. The others decide to host a welcoming party for the newcomers, with the aim of helping Momiji becoming more familiar with the character team. Later, while talking to Nene about how she came to be a programmer, Tsubame’s opinion of Nene and Umiko is diminished when Nene reveals she picked up programming as a hobby out of curiosity, feeling that Nene’s a part of Eagle Jump only for her connections. Determined to earn her place at Eagle Jump, Nene resolves to improve her programming skills. Meanwhile, Hajime grows worried about her high school friends, Akki, learning of her interests in anime and games while on an outing with Yun and her siblings. After a heart-to-heart talk with Yun, where they share images of their high school selves to one another, Hajime decides to reveal the truth to her friend, only to find that her friend’s long known and is accepting of Hajime’s hobby, to her surprise. As we enter the final quarter of New Game!!, the second season certainly has taken steps away from the happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the first season, introducing new interpersonal dynamics amongst both old and new characters to liven things up around Eagle Jump. The latest additions to the staff include the competitive Momiji, who views Aoba as a rival after learning of her involvement in creating the designs for the company’s latest project, and the programmer Tsubame, whose remarks against Nene and Umiko have made some viewers very salty — individuals have felt Momiji and Tsubame to be quite unwelcome in New Game!!, although this is an position that I find ludicrous.

While dislike of these characters is perhaps only a natural reaction to two of the more hostile additions to New Game!!, I find that Momoji and Tsubame’s addition to the cast is a powerful one, serving to introduce conflict of a sort that previously has not been seen in New Game!! — early conflicts were resolved quite quickly because the old gaurd at Eagle Jump (including Aoba) have had a year to grow accustomed to one another and so, have learned how they best deal with challenges. However, Momoji and Tsubame are newcomers without any experience in company culture, hence their clashes with Aoba and the others. The rather heated discussion between Nene and Tsubame serves as a bit of a catalyst for hatred amongst viewers; most folks express disgust and disappointment with how Tsubame is quick to tear down Nene and Umiko after Nene casually remarks on her ties with Umiko and Aoba led her to Eagle Jump, and how she has no prior programming experience. However, I contend that Tsubame’s reaction, however inappropriate they were, is a natural one: people have a sense of pride when they’ve spent a considerable amount of time cultivating a skill. As such, when Tsubame learns that others can master those skills at a much quicker pace, it becomes a source of insecurity for her. In the absence of any knowledge about the actual journey Nene’s taken, Tsubame does jump the gun. However, this is surprisingly common; I have a friend who is a fantastic programmer, and folks (oftentimes, more senior developers or programmers) occasionally undermine him simply because they’re not appreciative of the fact that he’s very fact-driven and goes with better solutions based on hard numbers, rather than what experienced people have grown partial to, in order to build a system. One of the elements that New Game!! has not shown until now is that there are numerous unfavourable individuals in the real world. They can’t be ignored, removed or otherwise altered, so it is logical to work with (or around) them in the best capacity possible. Consequently, from a personal perspective, the inclusion of Tsubame and her remarks against Nene serve to strengthen New Game!!, showing that their universe is not merely a highly idealised depiction of reality, and that even in an all-girls environment, there can be conflicts. The true strength of New Game!! therefore comes from how the narrative presents Aoba, Nene and the others in helping their new hires develop the interpersonal skills to work in industry, as well as helping them adjust to life in the office.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve given a few interviews previously for new hires and as I am relatively new in industry, I completely emphasise with Aoba, who remarks that she knows very little programming. However, this interview is more of a test to determine if Nene is a good fit at Eagle Jump. This post comes somewhat out of the blue; I was not expecting Tsubame’s conversation with Nene to ignite discussions of that scale, so I figured that I should step in and offer another perspective. As with all of my previous New Game!! posts, this one will feature twenty images and their accompanying figure captions.

  • Before we dive any further into this post, I’ll explaining this post’s page quote: it’s sourced from Leo Tolstoy, a famous Russian author counted as one of the greatest writers of all time and refers to prevailing attitudes about New Game!!; while a large number of individuals seem to have it in their mind that Tsubame is in the wrong, it’s equally important to see things from another perspective. This is why I am not so hasty in dealing out judgement about her, nor will I dismiss all of the things in New Game!! that make it enjoyable simply because of one moment that seems inconsistent with the general tone seen previously in the anime.

  • While seemingly cold and strict at work, it turns out that Christina’s actually quite sensitive and shy, admitting to Shizuku that she was not comfortable at all with the decision she’d previously made to put Kō as the credited artist on the concept artwork.

  • While Shizuku might be a bit of a trickster who enjoys pranking her staff, she also has their best interests at heart, and so, arranges for Christina to meet up with the others, rigging her cat, Mozuku, to assist. The end result is that the character department and Christina become on more cordial terms with one another: Aoba isn’t particularly disappointed or resentful of their decisions, and her willingness to continue moving forward is perhaps one of the strongest aspects about her character.

  • The introduction of Tsubame and Momoji form the next disruption at Eagle Jump that alters the status quo. All stories worth partaking in involve a disruption to the status quo, which sets in motion the rising action. While New Game!! might be classified as a “cute girls doing cute things” anime, its biggest and best surprise is exploring territory that remains somewhat untried, especially with respect to drama, while simultaneously retaining comedic elements. The sum of this is that New Game!! is able to stand out from its predecessor.

  • Momoji and Tsubame share the same dynamics as Aoba and Nene: the former in both cases are artists, while the latter are programmers. The freshman, however, seem more serious about their chosen professions and have some experience with graphics work and programming, respectively, while Aoba and Nene are individuals who, while still finding their feet in the industry, genuinely love what they do and are shown to be ready to learn with the aim of improving. The differences between the two sets up the potential for conflict, and Momoji immediately opens by counting Aoba a rival.

  • Shizuku decides to simulate a Maid Café with Aoba, Yun and Hajime here to their surprise. I’m not sure how it is elsewhere, but I’m almost always eyeballs-deep in code at work, so I’m not particularly big on distractions that do not deal with work (meetings are fine, provided they are about requirements and deliverables). I’ve been counting Nene and Tsubame “programmers” throughout this post, rather than “developer”; while the terms are often used interchangeably, a “programmer” is someone who specialises in writing good code and have a thorough understanding of how to build a solution. Conversely, a “developer” is someone who devises solutions, puts the components of a system together, gathers requirements and when needed, writes code. For a developer, communication becomes much more important.

  • Developers are true generalists, and unlike programmers or computer scientists, don’t always live and breathe code. I count myself a developer because of these reasons: I’m not a particularly skilful programmer by any stretch, and enjoy designing systems the most. As evidenced by this blog, I don’t always write code in my spare time. Of course, at work, I’ve no qualms about diving into APIs, documentation, or even Stack Overflow, to learn more about what I might need to do about a task at hand. Back in New Game!!, Shizuku has a bit too much fun in photographing Aoba, Yun and Hajime in maid outfits, much to their collective embarrassment.

  • When Shizuku approves of Hajime’s maid “skills” ahead of Yun and Aoba, Yun grows irate, while Aoba is merely confused, speaking to Aoba’s innocence. Hajime’s smirk is actually quite entertaining. I’ve seen the question being posed of whether or not anyone’s worked with superiors who are like Shizuku, and I am immensely grateful that my answer is no. This element is strictly relegated to the realm of fiction: in reality, people are rather more on-topic and focussed when work is concerned.

  • After the struggle to find a suitable restaurant to welcome Momiji, the character team settles down for lunch at a conventional restaurant. One of the greatest questions I’ve got about New Game!! is why audiences are taking it so seriously, lumping real world experiences and even credentials into things when the anime (and its source manga) are meant to present a fictionalised story at a game company. Wind of folks arguing about differences between a college and vocational institute have not escaped my ears; this is trite and quite unrelated to New Game!! on the whole. To haul terms into Canadian terminology, a college is an institute that does not confer degrees, offering certificates or diplomas upon successful completion of a programme (technical schools are a subset of a college, usually offering job-specific training programmes). The rest of the world considers this a vocational school. In Canada, universities are accredited to give degrees at the Bachelor, Master’s and PhD levels – in the United States, colleges refer to institutes that can only confer Bachelor degrees, while a university is an institute that also offers post-graduate degrees. So, by Canadian definitions, the people on messages-boards can go take a hike: a college and vocational school are interchangeable north of the 49th parallel.

  • Momiji is seen with uncommonly large portion sizes, and here, holds an onigiri that she’s brought for lunch. Aoba and the others attempt to help her feel more at home by inviting her out to lunch, although they relent when they see Momiji with her own lunch. There is a reason why I bring my own lunch as opposed to eating out: my office is located in the middle of nowhere as far as being close to food options go, and a quick lunch means getting back to work faster.

  • Tsubame is a capable cook, and usually whips up dishes that Momiji enjoys even in the absence of a substantial protein source. The two are roommates, a common arrangement amongst post-secondary students who live a considerable distance from their institution. The academic term is starting again for students; while I’m no longer a student, the effects of back-to-school are not lost upon me: traffic has increased slightly, with more pedestrians out and about now.

  • At one point, Momiji addresses Aoba as “Suzumiya” rather than Suzukaze when making her rivalry known. Struggling between being impressed by Aoba’s work and longing to surpass Aoba, the source of Momiji’s competitiveness towards Aoba remains relatively unexplored. Going from what has been presented, I would hazard a guess that Momiji is not happy about Aoba’s style having an impact on Kō’s style.

  • While attending an event, Hajime decides to catch up with one of her high school friends, but is to embarrassed to mention that she works in the games development industry. It’s revealed that Hajime had long hair in the past, and in response to the query of which incarnation of Hajime I prefer, I’d have to say that shorter hair seems to be more fitting for her current character, even if she is more appealing with longer hair.

  • While promising not to laugh, Hajime nonetheless finds herself facing Yun’s exasperation after seeing a photograph of her during her time as a high school student. Back then, Yun had coke-bottle glasses and was quite shy. When she graduated, she sought to reinvent herself, explaining her present tastes in clothing and distinct style. I am immensely glad that optics technology have largely eliminated the need for such glasses, otherwise, things could be quite uncomfortable on my end.

  • We’ve gotten to the moment at last in this talk: while I’ve spent the paragraphs explaining why I won’t vilify Tsubame, this post only features a total of two screenshots from that scene, which goes to show just how little the moment figures in the grand scheme of things: the whole scene lasts about two and a half minutes, which constitutes 0.95 percent of the entire anime’s length). I wonder what reasoning folks have for how one percent of the runtime in an anime such as New Game!! can render the whole of it (and the episodes upcoming) a failure, especially when considering how no plot holes are introduced, no unnecessary plot twists occur and there’s not deus ex machina, either.

  • It just wouldn’t be a proper post without an angry face from Tsubame. I’ve never particularly felt threatened by people whose talents in programming far surpass my own, although amongst my friends, I’m probably the most similar to Nene: I started out with a Bachelor’s in Health Science because I was indecisive about my career path, and while I could keep up with computer science students with vastly more experience and skill than myself, I continued wondering if software would be my calling. It wasn’t until the Giant Walkthrough Brain where I realised software development was my cup of tea. Unlike Nene, however, I’m always aware that I’m usually lucky with respect to solving problems, and the more I learn, the more I realise just how little I know.

  • In the time since I started this post, at least one other individual out there is in the same page as myself, suggesting that I’m not alone in thinking that Tsubame’s reaction hardly merits her becoming the “worst girl” or rendering the whole of New Game!! unwatchable. In order to ease out of that discussion, I’ll return to a moment of Hifumi handing Momiji new character designs to work on. While steadily improving, she still becomes flustered whilst dealing with people, and Hifumi has become one of my favourite characters of New Game!!.

  • The ninth episode’s namesake comes from this particular moment, where Momiji walks around in naught but her pantsu following a shower, to Tsubame’s disapproval. It’s been quite hot around my parts this summer, but not quite hot enough for me to do the same (if only for the fact that I don’t like walking around sans clothing). Given the stance I’ve taken on what ground New Game!! has covered and where these developments could lead things, I would not be surprised if this post becomes quite controversial and earns me several slaps on the proverbial wrist.

  • Having said this,  it would be interesting to see further rationale behind people’s perspectives: I already know of their stance about Tsubame and the execution of that particular scene, but the question I bring to the table is “what experiences in your life drive your outlook?”. Such a discussion could be very illuminating and offer insight as to how different people approach interpersonal conflict, but in the meantime, Battlefield 1‘s In The Name of the Tsar is out, and it’s time to explore those snowy Eastern Front maps, if only to get away from the heat that lingers over my area.

With these elements in mind, New Game!! has continued to impress in its presentation of the ins-and-outs of game development; the additional conflicts (and the prospect of solving them in the remaining episodes) means that New Game!! has done a considerable bit more to discern and differentiate itself from the first season. From the audience’s perspective, this is welcome, giving the second season a considerably more meaningful message than if the writers had chosen retain the languid pacing of the first season. I definitely do not hate Tsubame, and my expectations entering the final episodes are precisely to see what path Aoba and the others take towards addressing this particular conflict. It is understandable that people make mistakes and speak their minds without understanding the big picture, but if this were the basis for people to escalate their conflicts or simply run away from their problems, there would be no progress at all to speak of. Within the context of New Game!! and the thematic elements of learning, cooperation and appreciation of one another that are presented, it is likely (and expected) that the final episodes will deal with making the new hires a part of Eagle Jump. Overcoming their challenges and resolving their conflict is consistent with the message that New Game!! strives to present, and to leave these elements unattended is in contradiction of the ideas New Game!! has provided audiences up until now. If and when I’m asked, I’m on Tsubame’s team because she’s a part of Eagle Jump (albeit a temporary part for the time being): a team is only as good as its weakest member, and if Tsubame is allowed to learn and grow to succeed, the team’s success together follows.

Kantai Collection: The Movie- Review and Reflection

 “Where the hell have you been?”
“Enjoying death. 007 reporting for duty.”

—M and James Bond, Skyfall

While the Kan-musume celebrate their recent victory at Ironbottom Sound, Fubuki notices a strange voice emanating from the ocean. This observation is mirrored by other Kan-musume, although Secretary Nagato has another matter on her hands; Kisaragi has seemingly returned back from the dead. It is revealed that Kan-musume and the Abyssals share an unusual relationship – Kan-musume become Abyssals when sunk, while destroyed Abyssals are reborn as Kan-musume. Kaga herself retains her memories as an Abyssal, remarking on the intense obsessions Abyssals experience, but notes that the cycle can be broken if Abyssals are eliminated, forcing them to be reborn as Kan-musume. Mutsuki is saddened to learn of this truth and resolves to remain by Kisaragi’s side even as Kisaragi undergoes a slow transformation into an Abyssal vessel. The area surrounding Ironbottom sound has also taken on an unusual character; the ocean waters have become crimson and slowly degrades the Kan-musume‘s equipment. As this region is expanding, Nagato organises an offensive to stop the phenomenon. As Fubuki is seemingly immune to this degrading, she’s assigned to punch through the frontlines and reach the portal at the centre of Ironbottom Sound. The intense combat forces most of the Kan-musume to retreat, leaving Yamato, Mutsuki and Fubuki to press forwards. When Yamato and Mutsuki sustain heavy damage, Kisaragi arrives to save them. This provides Fubuki the opening she needs to enter the portal; she reaches the other side and comes face-to-face with her Abyssal form, learning that Kan-musume and Abyssals formed from the spirits of sunken World War Two vessels. The optimistic, hopeful elements and feelings of hatred and regret split into separate beings: the original Fubuki had sunk here during the Battle of Cape Esperance in October 1942. Since then, the separation has resulted in the cycle of fighting between the Kan-musume and Abyssals. The Abyssal form of Fubuki compels Fubuki to give in to her darkness, but Fubuki refuses, being driven on by her determination to push forward as a symbol of hope. The strength of these feelings destroys the remaining Abyssals in the area, including the Abyssal Kisaragi. Fubuki reunites with her friends, launching with new Kan-musume on a training exercise, while Mutsuki meets up with Kisaagi, who has returned as a Kan-musume in full.

Unlike its predecessor, Kantai Collection: The Movie focuses on the origin of the Abyssals and explores what drives the war between them and the Kan-musume. With this particular aspect now in the open, it should dispel any misconceptions that Kantai Collection is an exercise in propaganda: simply put, the vessels of the IJN and the USN were both constructed with a particular goal in mind, and sinking is the ultimate form of death for a ship. Sinking in battle, then, is to die with strong lingering emotions, which subsequently separate into their negative (the Abyssals) and positive incarnations (the Kan-musume). These elements, while not particularly novel or impressive (the concept of cycles is rather similar to the Witches and Magical Girls of Puella Magi Madoka Magica), provide a reasonable explanation for what drives the conflict in Kantai Collection: some rationale is preferable to no rationale, and the movie’s done a passable job of doing so. Like its predecessor, however, Kantai Collection: The Movie falls into the trap of introducing an attempt at philosophical elements late in its presentation. In Kantai Collection: The Movie, there is an effort to present anti-Nihilism messages. The negative feelings that Abyssals embody attempt to overpower Fubuki and suggest that effort is meaningless in death, but when Fubuki learns of her original vessel’s own role in the IJN, she decides to choose a path that entails making something meaningful even if there is no meaning. While optimistic and certainly not the worst conceivable ending for Kantai Collection: The Movie, the messages also were added much later in the movie, precluding exploration of the thematic elements in adequate detail as to explain what makes it worthwhile for the Kan-musume to keep fighting (conversely, the Abyssal’s motivations are simple enough; they fight for revenge, aiming to bring suffering to a world that had constructed their suffering).

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I originally had eighty five screenshots ready for this post, but in the name of conciseness, I pared the number down to thirty. As such, while I may have the internet’s first collection of high quality screenshots, it is inevitable that a more comprehensive set of screenshots will become available in the upcoming days. My choice to reduce the number of screenshots means that moments such as the Mikawa Fleet battle are not featured in this discussion, which opens with Mutsuki anxious to see Kisaragi now that she’s returned to the Kan-musume.

  • Immediately apparent in Kantai Collection: The Movie is the visual fidelity and the incredible use of colours and lighting in its environments. Kisaragi and Mutsuki embrace after their separation, and after looking around, it seems that if one loses a ship in combat, it is possible to re-roll that ship and start again. Kisaragi’s return prompts the page quote, although beyond seemingly coming back from the dead, there’s very little in Kantai Collection: The Movie that is similar to 2012’s Skyfall.

  • Hiei, Kongo, Nagato, Mutsu, Akagi and Kaga see Kisaragi off after she debriefs with them. They note the gravity of the situation and after discussion, consider Kisaragi’s return as classified. It’s quite some time since the likes of Kantai Collection‘s characters graced this blog with their presence: the movie was released in November 2016 and only became available on home release since August 30.

  • Here, Yuudachi enjoys a gelato amidst the celebrations; she’s best known for appending ~poi to almost all of her dialogue. Approximating to “maybe” or “perhaps”, its use in Japanese is to denote a certain degree of uncertainty, and for English-speakers, is most similar to the interjection “like”, which, while originating with the Valley Girl stereotype of the 1980s, has permeated spoken English to a considerable extent. Developers have noted Yuudachi’s speech patterns is meant to mirror the fact that the original Yuudachi’s role in Battle of Guadalcanal remains unclear, as the ship’s credited kills were never clearly recorded amidst the chaos of battle.

  • During the celebrations, Yamato is seen manning the carving station and is exasperated when the other Kan-musume calls her the Hotel Yamato. A useless bit of trivial that has nothing to do with Kantai Collection – I’m big on carving stations at buffets and will always drop by for prime rib au jus. In Kantai Collection‘s game incarnation, the Yamato is immensely resource intensive but has enough firepower to lessen the odds of failure. Players consider this a reasonable trade-off and will field the Yamato-class when engaged in difficult battles.

  • Fun and games are short-lived in Kantai Collection: The Movie once Fubuki begins discussing the unusual voices she’s been hearing with her friends. A quick glance at the history books finds that Ironbottom Sound, the Allied name for Savo Sound, is a stretch of ocean where dozens of Allied and Japanese vessels were sunk during the Second World War. Sailors will observe silence as they sail through these waters, and the real Yuudachi, Fubuki and Hiei met there ends here. As a major ship graveyard, it forms the perfect focal point for the source of disruption in Kantai Collection: The Movie.

  • The South Pacific seems the perfect place for narratives, even of the sort seen in Kantai Collection. A great many texts I read for literature class during my secondary education are set in tropical islands, as well, including Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game (1924) and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954). The differences in time periods between the two serve to underline the prevailing attitudes in society of the period; The Most Dangerous Game speaks of the justifiably of murder for survival, a question born from the First World War, while in Lord of the Flies, one of the great ironies is that the sailor who ends up landing on the island is disgusted that a group of British boys have devolved from civilised thought, while himself is part of a greater war that speaks of the gradually increasing tensions in the world following the end of the Second World War.

  • The next morning, aberrations begin appearing in Kisaragi. She blanks out and opens fire on base facilities. The oddities in Kisaragi’s return, coupled with the appearance of a scale-like buildup on her arms and the fact that she can only remember Mutsuki shows that Kisaragi has not returned in full. These observations perplex Fubuki and the others, while the higher-ups, including Nagato and Kaga, appear to know something about this phenomenon.

  • In the game, Kisaragi sports a very vain personality, whereas in the anime, she’s more mature, fulfilling an elder sister role for Mutsuki. After sinking in the third episode, the anime suggested that she was reborn as an Abyssal, with the film clearing things up considerably. She’s much more withdrawn and sad in Kantai Collection: The Movie; retaining her old memories, she feels that things are different and is fearful that she might attack the others.

  • After receiving clearance, Kaga explains that she was once an Abyssal vessel, consumed with longing and hatred. She retains vivid memories of these experiences, and her story finally clarifies what the Abyssals’ origins are. It’s actually surprisingly similar to the dynamics of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, although there are distinctions: Kantai Collection presents the transition between Abyssals and Kan-musume as being a natural cycle, while in Madoka Magica, the transformation is seemingly one-way prior to Madoka’s intervention. Mutsuki resolves to protect and look after Kisaragi, and Kaga notes that the cycle can be broken if they eliminate the Abyssals, offering a glimmer of hope.

  • While Nagato, Yamato and the others consider their next actions in light of an expanding area, Fanservice in Kantai Collection: The Movie is very limited, and beyond a moment of one of the Kan-musume trying to strip Fubuki here with the goal of getting her to relax, Kantai Collection is remarkably disciplined where fanservice goes. This moment also underlines by lack of familiarity with Kantai Collection‘s full lineup: I can’t recognise the two Kan-musume with Fubuki here. In the game, there are at least 150 ships, and unlike Battlefield, where it is possible to unlock everything with enough patience and determination, Kantai Collection players only have enough free slots to store up to 100 vessels.

  • Akagi and Kaga decide to have a word with Fubuki after learning that Fubuki is immune to the damaging effects encountered in the section of ocean near Ironbottom sound. Players of the game expressed their disappointment that Fubuki was given such a substantial role in the anime and movie, when she is otherwise quite unremarkable in the game. The first season hinted at her role in future events when the other Kan-musume were surprised at the brass’ decision to transfer Fubuki to the front line despite her lack of experience, so the movie is merely following up on this.

  • Kisaragi suffers a minor breakdown upon seeing the extent that she’s transforming into an Abyssal. She begins wearing a hoodie to cover her horns, and in a manner reminiscent of Lady MacBeth’s slipping sanity in Shakespeare’s MacBeth, where she scrubs at non-existent bloodstains in guilt at having driven her husband to murder King Duncan. In spite of everything that has happened, Mutsuki stays by her side and does her utmost to assuage Kisaragi’s fears.

  • Yamato and Fubuki share a conversation in the deep breath before the plunge: Nagato has authorised a mission to investigate the waters of Ironbottom Sound. While an unlikely friendship (the Yamato and Fubuki never fought together in World War II), it’s a dynamic I’ve grown rather fond of. In the months after Kantai Collection‘s anime began airing, numerous blog posts appeared claiming that Kantai Collection had “unfortunate implications”. While I’ve never been a fan of Imperial Japan’s actions in history, the Kantai Collection franchise as a whole is not intended to garner sympathy or support for the IJN: the addition of the Iowa and Bismark show that Kantai Collection is about personifying ships in general for entertainment purposes.

  • Inclusion of USN vessels, and with the film offering an account of what the Abyssals are mean that there is now sufficient evidence to suggest that folks who believe Kantai Collection to be IJN propaganda are overthinking things. Back in Kantai Collection: The Movie, Nagato briefs the participating Kan-musume on their upcoming assignment.

  • Zuikaku apologises to Kaga for her earlier remarks, and in a rare moment where the two are not at the others’ throat, Kaga reassures Zuikaku, as they both have a duty to perform. The operation begins in earnest soon after, and similar to Girls und Panzer: Der Film, a large section of Kantai Collection: The Movie is dedicated to the final battle. However, for the visual quality of the combat shown on screen, I did not find the fighting in Kantai Collection: The Movie to be quite as intense or exhilarating to watch as I did for Girls und Panzer: Der Film or Captain America: Civil War.

  • I’ve now been around the block to have my own favourite Kan-musume; Kongou definitely counts as my favourite for more or less channeling Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō. Their personalities are very similar, mirroring their shared connections to England. I’ve finally decided to take a look at why Kongou calls Fubuki “Bucky”: it’s actually not an English name, but rather, similar to how shortening of names is a common practise in English. So, Fubuki simply becomes -buki, which phonetically similar to “Bucky”. This means Fubuki has nothing to do with James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes.

  • By any standard, I am a scrub as far as Kantai Collection goes, and some folks, including one Myssa Rei, would probably consider it sacrilegious that someone who’s never played the game before has their nose into the Kantai Collection universe. On my end, I’m impressed that people can put in that sort of dedication into playing Kantai Collection, spending time outside of games building spreadsheets to optimise play, and discussing endless stats on forums. Kantai Collection is also very much driven by chance; there’s always a possibility for frustration, so I hold Kantai Collection‘s player-base in a begrudging admiration for being able to play something that I wouldn’t have the patience for.

  • Having said this, I’m not sure if it would be wise to delay one’s degree or deprioritise one’s relationships for a browser-based flash game to the same extent as Myssa Rei has. There’s a ways more to life than playing flash games and as such, I don’t think becoming one of the ‘net’s most respected Kantai Collection authorities would be worth the costs – it seems to me that enjoying the pleasant summer weather in a park, such as the short walk I took yesterday in the nearby Ranche Park, is a superior use of time. Back in Kantai Collection: The Movie, Fubuki joins in the firefight against the Abyssals, firing her main weapon. This particular frame exemplifies the sort of visual effects present in the movie, and overall, I’ve got no complaints about the artwork or animation.

  • Mutsuki folds under the heavy fire, and is nearly dealt a killing blow when at the last moment, she is saved by the Abyssal form of Kisaragi. When I learned of the film’s home release date back in early July, my expectations were not particularly high. One of my friends were taken aback to learn that there was a movie at all: he’d just finished the first season at the time, and immediately asked me to send a link to a webpage with screening dates. The answer is that there are no screening dates for Kantai Collection: The Movie in our area, even in our city’s largest theatre that had previously done anime screenings – interest in the military-moé genre on this side of the world is very limited, and as far as authoritative voices on things like Girls und Panzer and Kantai Collection go in the prairie provinces of Canada go, I’m it.

  • While ostensibly an Abyssal, Kisaragi fights on the Kan-musume‘s side, returning fire and keeping the others safe long enough for Fubuki to complete her goal. Not quite as feral looking as a full Abyssal, Kisaragi retains her uniform and naval weapons, in contrast to the more organic-looking weapons of the Abyssals.

  • According to folks who’ve played the game, the portal seen in Kantai Collection: The Movie is a copy of the designs from the final map in Kantai Collection‘s PlayStation Vita game. Now that Fubuki is here for herself, staring down the opening to another world, I’m forcibly reminded of Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer, where there is a similar struggle to reach a target point through heavy fighting.

  • Mutsuki is given a chance to fight alongside Kisaragi again during the darkest hours of their operation: the Abyssal counterattack has been fierce enough to heavily damage the other Kan-musume, leaving just Mutsuki, Yamato and Fubuki. Despite being surrounded, Mutsuki and Kisaragi do their utmost to fight and give Fubuki a clear shot at entering the portal. Some Abyssals can be seen here: their equipment is organic in nature, and they seem to shun ornate clothing. In spite of the film’s revelations invalidating existing fan theories about the Abyssals, I’m a little surprised that there’s not more discussions surrounding the film.

  • To give an idea of just how intense the combat was, even Yamato sustains heavy damage, losing most of her weapons in the process while trying her hardest to keep Fubuki’s path to the portal open. She makes a final stand, engaging enemies with what remains of her vast arsenal, but even Yamato folds against numbers, reminiscent of how the real Yamato was defeated not by a single equal, but rather, large numbers of dive bombers and torpedo bombers. Historians generally find that had the Yamato and Iowa engaged one another in single combat, without their escorts and air support, the resulting battle would have favoured the Iowa slightly. Despite having less armour overall and a smaller broadside output, the Iowa had a formidable fire control system, better projectile engineering, superior speed and superior damage control. In actual combat, the Iowa’s crew would have kept moving while hammering the Yamato to damage it, evading the Yamato’s shells, although any hits from the Yamato would have been devastating to the Iowa.

  • Fubuki faces a dimension similar to that of Interstellar when crossing through. The voices she’s long heard become more persuasive and persistent, until at long last, she reaches a reconstruction of a classroom hallway and meets her Abyssal counterpart. Here, Fubuki learns that, in a manner similar to how Rick and Morty’s toxic selves are excised from their body during the third season’s sixth episode, the Kan-musume and Abyssals split off from their ships after sinking. The ships’ desires to defend and hopes for a better future manifest as the Kan-musume, while their anger and resentment became the Abyssals.

  • The space that Fubuki finds herself in resembles the Witches’ Labyrinths of Madoka Magic to some extent, with sinking ship motifs in the background and a sinister colouration to further enhance the audience’s sense of unease in this area. Fubuki’s beliefs are challenged when her Abyssal counterpart asks of her as to what the point is when all they’ve known is suffering, and she faces certain death in the depths of this portal when the Abyssal Fubuki ensnares her, but her recollections give her a second wind, allowing her to break free of her chains.

  • Fubuki decides that there is a point to living even in a world where the deck is stacked against them, that there are meaningful things worth fighting for, and embraces her Abyssal self. The final fight of the movie is decided through a peaceful resolution rather than a violent confrontation, and having come to terms with her Abyssal self, the other Abyssals in the area begin disappearing. In game, Abyssals disappear after what are known as “event maps” are cleared, but here, I imagine it’s more similar to what was seen in The Avengers after the Chitauri’s flagship was hit by a nuclear warhead.

  • The fighting comes to an end – before disappearing as an Abyssal, Kisaragi shares one final moment with Mutsuki, and with this, my thoughts on the movie also reach their terminus. Overall, the movie represents an hour and a half of fun. The efforts to add in something thought-provoking fall short, but recalling my own low expectations entering the movie, I wasn’t too bothered by this particular aspect.

  • Following the events of Ironbottom Sound, the atmosphere in Kantai Collection: The Movie becomes noticeably less tense. Fubuki is gearing up to train the new arrivals, while Yuudachi is lounging around. The Kantai Collection: The Movie review was admittedly a bit trickier to write for, since I cannot draw on anything beyond my experiences with the film itself; with this in mind, one could suppose that this discussion is useful for folks who only have knowledge of Kantai Collection‘s anime form.

  • It turns out that the onigiri that Mutsuki were preparing were for Kisaragi, who has fully returned as a Kan-musume at the film’s ending.With Kantai Collection: The Movie in the books, the next major film I’ll be writing about is Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (In A Corner of This World), which is slated for home release on September 15. Dealing with life in Hiroshima and Kure in the decade leading to the dropping of the atom bomb, and the events ten in the following decade, I’ve heard the film is of an exceptional standard and greatly look forwards to writing about it. Besides In a Corner of this World, the other major posts for this month will include those for Battlefield 1, which may get more than one post owing to just how extensive the upcoming DLC are, New Game!!Sakura Quest and Gundam: The Origin‘s fifth OVA.

It’s been two years since I watched Kantai Collection – when I finished the original anime, I felt that the anime had not succeeded in inspiring me to pick up the game. The movie is much stronger than the anime with respect to world-building and in presentation of its narrative (the final battle is the result of a clearly-defined purpose, for one), but similar to the anime, hardly provides any inspiration for me to begin playing Kantai Collection. This reaction comes as a consequence of the immensely challenging set up process (I believe that setting up a game should be as simple as buying it, installing it and if needed, create a new account, before dropping into the game world), as well as for the fact that I’ve got a vast collection of games that keep me occupied. With this being said, like the anime, Kantai Collection: The Movie is a technically excellent film, featuring high quality animation and a soundtrack that is worthy of being used in a feature film such as Letters from Iwo Jima or the 2011 film, Isoroku Yamamoto. It certainly was a fun watch even if the narrative elements are not at their strongest. While I find that Kantai Collection could conclude at Kantai Collection: The Movie without any further continuation, I imagine that a second season could remain within the realm of possibility as Fubuki and the others now have a known raison d’être for fighting. For the present, we return discussion to whether or not this movie is worthwhile as a watch; my personal assessment is that Kantai Collection: The Movie is primarily for the Kantai Collection fans who enjoyed the original anime to some extent. In spite of a top-tier soundtrack and solid visuals, Kantai Collection: The Movie is not the introduction to Kantai Collection‘s world that inspires folks to give the game a shot, nor is it able to capture all of the elements that Kantai Collection‘s players have come to enjoy about the online game. With this being said, I still found the movie modestly enjoyable, although not everyone will share this particular opinion.

The Great Petersburg Strategy: Brave Witches OVA Review and Reflections

“I’m an unlucky charm…don’t go anywhere with me.” –Sophie Turner

After their arrival at the Petersburg base, Eila and Sanya find themselves kicked out of bed by Georgette, whose heart is intent on doing winter cleaning. Longing to visit the deserted streets of Petersburg with Sanya, Eila’s plans are dashed when Sanya is requested to discuss intelligence on the fronts. The next day, Eila runs into Waltrud and upon learning that Waltrud has set out to win Sanya’s heart, tries to stop her, only to burst into Sanya’s room while she’s changing. Alexsandra appears and defuses the situation, hauling Waltrud and Eila off so the latter can provide instruction for the other 502nd Witches. Sanya and Eila encounter Sadako on the third day while sneaking about base, trying to sneak out undetected to have a date together; Sadako acts in a manner contrary to her usual self and cuddles with Sanya while Eila tries in vain to stop her. As New Year’s Eve approaches, the girls begin preparing a special Russian dinner to celebrate. Learning that watching fireworks with someone special will bring them closer together, Eila decides to add fireworks to their celebration with the hope of becoming closer to Sanya, but Gundula denies Eila’s request for fireworks. Mid-dinner, a Neuroi attack prompts a section of the 502nd to sortie. Eila helps Hikari stabilise in flight before she, Sanya, Edytha engage the Neuroi in combat. They learn quickly that this Neuroi has tougher armour than bog-standard Neuroi, and despite their efforts the Neuroi breaks through their ranks. Owing to Eila’s precognition magic, she is able to foresee this and breaks off to intercept the Neuroi, destroying it. The resulting ceramic shards from the Neuroi give the impression of fireworks, allowing Eila to share a tender moment with Sanya. This is the gist of the Brave Witches OVA’s events, whose focus is predominantly on Sanya and Eila.

After the end of Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow, audiences were disappointed that Sanya and Eila were not given their own OVA – Operation Victory Arrow‘s final instalment dealt with Lynette and Perrine. While enjoyable, viewers were hoping to see more of the dynamics between Eila and Sanya, whose relationship has been of great interest to fans of Strike Witches. With this in mind, the Brave Witches OVA delivers this in spades: the OVA’s emphasis is on humour, providing a highly entertaining story about Eila’s efforts to spend time with Sanya, and despite her frequent failures, it is after the battle that Eila’s wish to watch fireworks with Sanya comes true, in manner of speaking. One of the great ironies of Strike Witches is that despite Eila’s powers for precognition, she’s unable to really find the opportunity to get closer to Sanya, being bested time and time again by the machinations of bad luck. However, like Strike Witches: The Sky That Connects Us, Eila is able to be there with Sanya in the most tender of moments, offsetting her usual bad luck and the comical situations she finds herself in while in pursuit of Sanya’s heart. The combination of hilarity and heart-warming moments in Eila’s efforts to court Sanya is what that makes their moments so enjoyable to watch: between Eila’s exasperation at how many of the 502nd is seemingly vying with her for Sanya’s attention and the lengths she is willing to go in order to do the same, the Brave Witches OVA ultimately ends up being the Eila and Sanya OVA that Strike Witches fans were looking for, being well worth the wait.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My considerable prowess for Google-fu has not yielded any results, so I am very confident in saying that this is the internet’s first and only review of the Brave Witches OVA. As is the typical modus operandi, this post will feature thirty screenshots and a bit of a surprise that leads me to note that, if you’re at a workplace or place of learning, please do not scroll any further. I will open the post with Georgette brusquely awakening Eila and Sanya, declaring her intention to clean their room. Her enthusiasm brings to mind Yūna’s energy from Yūki Yūna is a Hero: she’s a far cry from her quiet, shy self seen in Brave Witches proper.

  • This is not particularly surprising a comparison; both Yūna and Georgette are voiced by Haruka Terui. The Brave Witches OVA is set in between the seventh and eighth episode, following the Christmas party that Nikka tries to prepare for Hikari, and before Eila and Sanya depart early during the eighth episode. For folks familiar with Strike Witches: The Sky That Connects us, the OVA is very similar to Eila and Sanya’s chapter in terms of composition.

  • Unlike the installations that Yoshika and the 501st reside in during Strike Witches and its second season, the Petersburg base is a little older and less well-maintained. Cracks are visible in the walls, and there’s a distinctly minimal personal effects or clutter in the girls’ rooms. Here, the play of light suggests an early morning, and Eila’s plans to bring Sanya out on a walk of the nearby city are promptly done away with when Edytha and Gundula ask Sanya to debrief them on the situation in other regions.

  • While the OVA’s only been available since August 25, there were theatrical screenings that preceded the release of the BD volumes containing the OVA back in May. I’ve seen at least one individual fly to Japan for the singular goal of watching the OVA. For me, that is an unreasonable use of money, since the cost of a flight would set me back by an average of 1300 CAD (and cheaper flights start at around 800 CAD). Even for folks situated in other parts of the world more conducive for travelling to Japan on short notice (e.g. from Manila, a flight starts at 400 CAD on average), it’s more economical to simply import the BDs even if the wait is longer.

  • While this OVA might deal predominantly with Sanya and Eila, there are other moments worth mentioning, including Georgette’s unexpected decision to use force in vacating Naoe from her spot to continue with her cleaning. Even if the feat itself is not particularly impressive considering what Witches can do when drawing upon their powers fully, when Georgette Hulks out and tosses Naoe from her spot, bed and all, the moment leads to all sorts of comedy.

  • While the original televised run of Brave Witches was marred by obvious CG elements, the BDs represent a considerable leap in visual quality. The OVA continues on with the quality present in the BDs, and here, a small book unearthed when Georgette moves Naoe’s bed is visible. It turns out to be titled “The Little Princess”, and Georgette remarks it’s a cute book uncharacteristic of the fare that Naoe is typically seen reading. I have a very diverse interest in books, ranging from the political thrillers of Tom Clancy to Steven Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”.

  • Naoe’s ensuing reaction was a bloody riot, and second only to Eila, Naoe’s funny face moments in the OVA alone make it worth watching. Here, I will admit that the Brave Witches OVA arrived much sooner than expected, just in time for the long weekend. I also learned that Battlefield 1‘s In The Name of the Tsar DLC will become available to premium players on the fifth of September, which coincides with the conclusion of the Labor Day Long Weekend and when I did a talk for the Battlefield 1 beta last year.

  • The latest DLC is Russian-themed, and so, is a perfect opportunity to experience Brave Witches in the Frostbite Engine. I’ll be doing a few talks as I experience the DLC, but for the present, we return to Brave Witches, which pits Waltrud and Eila in a one-on-one. Both are formidable Witches when in the air, but on the ground away from their duties, their actions belie their prowess in the skies. After Eila runs into Waltrud, she quickly takes off to protect Sanya from Waltrud’s plans.

  • Eila and Waltrud burst into Sanya’s room, only to be surprised at the sight awaiting them. One must wonder where Waltrud got the bouquet of flowers from; such commodities cannot be inexpensive, and it is unlikely that the 502nd have a flower garden at their base. Even if this were the case, the Russian winter would preclude anything from growing. Having said this, the presence of fresh flowers is not a big deal, providing a bit of visual humour.

  • Earlier, I remarked that this post has images that are ill-suited for viewing at a workplace. This particular screenshot is not the pair I’m referring to; after initial surprise at having unexpected guests, Sanya’s reaction turns to one of embarrassment. I don’t think I’ve seen Sanya sport such an expression previously, and therein lies one of the joys of OVAs, allowing characters to demonstrate a side of their characters that would otherwise not be seen or feel out of place in the narrative proper.

  • When Alexsandra passes by, she manages to separate Eila and Waltrud, before turning to Sanya and noting that Sanya’s got a very pleasant presence that Alexsandra can relate to. This is hardly surprising, considering that both are from Orussia. After a short conversation, Alexsandra’s come to borrow Eila to help provide instruction for the 502nd’s other Witches, and knowing that Waltrud is likely to capitalise in Eila’s absence, hauls her away, as well.

  • Despite her precognition magic giving her a unique edge in battle by offering her a glimpse into the immediate future, not unlike that of a Newtype, Eila’s technical ability of a Witch is lacking: she’s very dependent on her ability to keep ahead of enemies in battle and therefore has had little incentive to develop teamwork and her mastery of shield projection. Consequently, she finds it very difficult to explain her tactics during combat: it somewhat brings to mind Randall Munroe’s “Thing Explainer”, a very clever book that explains how things work using the thousand most common English words – one of my favourites includes “tall road” for “bridge” and “up goer 5” for “Saturn V Rocket”.

  • Eila’s explanations leave the others befuddled; Hikari seems to derive the idea that combat is explosive and high paced, while Naoe is frustrated. Meanwhile, Waltrud does not even seem to care, enamoured by Eila herself. Alexsandra is disappointed at this turn of events, exasperated that Eila’s not of more help. I’ve not been a TA for quite some time now, but I imagine that I used to be reasonably clear as a TA. Beyond being known helping students, both in and outside of my own section on short notice, one of my favourite remarks from students is “speaks fluent English”.

  • Georgette, meanwhile, continues on her cleaning spree. It is largely through her efforts that the Petersburg base remain quite clean and inviting even in spite of its aging facilities. It’s actually a very nice touch to see chipped paint in walls exposing the brick underneath, giving the base a much older, worn feeling to it. However, older and having seen better days does not correspond with being a dank, unfriendly place to be: good lighting and cleanliness does wonders for making older buildings a cozy place to be.

  • Eila’s quest to take Sanya on a date in Petersburg fails completely even when she employs her magic to evade other members of the 502nd. In Brave Witches proper, Sadako is quite reserved – it’s an unexpected aspect of her character that audiences see in the OVA, as she hugs Sanya tightly, to Eila’s great displeasure. Her efforts to extricate Sanya from Sadako end in failure. It is here that some of Eila’s best “funny face” moments come to be.

  • Naoe and Edytha watch on as Sadako continues cuddling with Sanya in the presence of a highly riled-up Eila, implying in their conversation that Sadako’s done that to everyone else in the 502nd. As nearly eleven months have passed since I watched Brave Witches, I cannot quite remember of Sadako does something similar to Hikari: in the anime proper, I remember her as a capable cook who doubted her abilities as a Witch.

  • Not even the 502nd’s captains are safe from Georgette’s Need to Clean. After Georgette evicts them from Gundula’s office, Alexsandra and Gundula are left to enjoy their tea in peace, but in the cool of the hallway. While I wouldn’t quite go so far as to say I’d welcome a Russian winter right now, the temperature where I am hit a maximum of 32ºC. It’s quite the contrast from last year, where the weather was grey and overcast when I visited Drumheller.

  • Georgette expresses her gratitude to Sanya for having helped her catch a mouse that was getting into their provisions, leading a jealous Sadako to remark that it’s taking her full self-restraint to not hug Sanya again. While Sanya might be a character in Strike Witches, for folks in China, Sanya (三亚) is the name of Heinan’s southernmost city. With a population of 685000, the city is known as China’s Florida, being a popular destination for its warm weather and pleasant beaches.

  • Sadako praises Sanya for her knowledge of Orussian cuisines; for their New Year’s Eve party, borscht (борщ-суп, a sour soup made from beets), pirozhki (пирожки, a fried bread with beef and vegetable filling), Olivier salad (Russian salad with potatoes, a variety of vegetables, apples and chicken), pelmeni (пельме́ни, dumplings with a meat or fish filling) and a dish known colloquially as “Herring under a fur coat” (Селёдка под шубой, or “dressed herring”) are on the menu. Dressed herring is very popular as a New Year’s Eve dish in Russia, being made of pickled herring topped with layers of layers of grated boiled vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beet roots), chopped onions, and mayonnaise. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever had Russian cuisine before.

  • When Edytha gives Sanya permission to use her caviar collection to make something for the New Year’s Eve party, Waltrud appears out of the blue and wantonly wastes it, this time by eating it directly, earning herself yet another beating from Edytha. This is a returning joke from Brave Witches, where Waltrud had previously destroyed Edytha’s caviar stock when supplies were running low amidst a fierce snowstorm. Enraged by the other’s efforts in stealing Sanya from her, Eila suddenly loses steam and decides to go with Nikka to the sauna on base.

  • In The Sky That Connects Us, Eila, Sanya and Nikka relax in a sauna, but they’re wearing towels: the OVA has them without any sort of clothing, and the last post I have an open screenshot of papilla mammaria was for Yosuha no Sora, which was not too long ago. After groping everyone, including Nikka, and remarking that she’s bored, Eila resigns herself to the fact that she might not get to spend any time with Sanya while they’re in Petersburg. However, Nikka notes that watching fireworks in the company of a special someone might push things along, re-energising Eila.

  • Steam certainly does not work this way in reality: Eila stands up and hops off, with the steam following her as she moves. However, if Brave Witches had dared to go the whole nine yards in this moment, I would have not featured the screenshot at all. While Nikka and Naoe watch Eila leave to make the proposal of including fireworks in the evening celebrations to Gundula, Hikari basks in a memory of her watching fireworks with Takami.

  • While a day trip out of town would be nice, the hotter temperatures today meant such a trip would be somewhat uncomfortable. In lieu of this, I figured it would be appropriate to visit the area mall instead: I’ve been looking to buy new running shoes to replace a pair from two years ago, as well as a new bag (my old backpack has been around since I was an undergraduate). This particular mall is a relatively new one and quite popular; it’s very busy during the Labour Day long weekend, and after enjoying New York Fries’ Premium Dog (which I added relish, onions, mustard, ketchup and hot sauce to) and their latest Beef Lovers’ poutine, I picked up the items I was looking to buy. After a day’s shopping, we then went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant, which featured a chicken stir-fry, sa lai gwut (which I finally figured out the hanji for, being “沙拉骨”), crispy shrimps and vegetables.

  • It’s now evening, and although the weather is cooling down, a thick smoke is covering the area again. Back in Brave Witches, the 502nd settle down to dinner after Gundula gives a short New Year’s toast, resolving to work towards ending the Human-Neuroi War. The foods mentioned earlier are present, but as the girls begin to enjoy things, an alarm signals the arrival of a Neuroi. This turn of events is hardly unexpected: every Strike Witches episode and OVA previous feature Neuroi combat. Thus, it’s time to take off into the night and deal with the enemy.

  • Sanya’s magic allows her to project radio waves and act as a human AWACS, detecting hostile elements in the air even under the cover of darkness. With Hikari in tow, Sanya is reminded of Yoshika and their first night battle together, suggesting that they hold hands to avoid getting separated. Carrying the Fliegerhammer MRL into combat, Sanya provides heavy firepower useful for punching through the ceramic exterior of a Neuroi. This weapon is likely the logical development for the Fliegerfaust (“pilot fist”), a prototype German multi-barrel rocket launcher that was intended to act as a MANPAD, and shares similarity in appearance to the American M202 FLASH, a multiple-tube rocket launcher for firing incendiary projectiles.

  • The low light conditions of night combat causes Hikari to lose orientation and enter a spin, but Eila, who’d been surprisingly incapable of providing useful advice earlier, helps Hikari return to a stable flight pattern here. When the Witches begin engaging the Neuroi, they find its armour uncommonly tough, requiring multiple direct hits from Edytha and Sanya to begin even cracking the armour. Even after they expose the core, the Neuroi’s quick regeneration and subsequent boost of speed surprises the Witches – it punches through their lines on a beeline to their base.

  • However, this turns out to have been the distraction Eila needed: she was able to foresee this and already positioned herself to destroy the Neuroi. With several well-placed shots from her MG-42, the Neuroi disappears into a shower of luminescent crystals, filling the sky with a calm glow evocative of a single, impressive firework.

  • While Eila is disappointed that her wish of spending some time with Sanya while in Petersburg was seemingly not realised (she never does have the chance to explore the deserted city adjacent to their base during the time the two spend in Petersburg), and that there were no fireworks to speak of, Sanya notes that the Neuroi shards resemble fireworks, which suggests to Eila that she did get her wish after all. The two usher in a New Year hand-in-hand subsequently.

  • With the Neuroi threat eliminated, the OVA draws to a close and reminds audiences that the narrative resumes in episode eight. This also coincides to the near-end of this post: I was not expecting to finish the Brave Witches OVA this quickly, but all the same, it’s nice to get this talk out of the gates. I am, however, surprised at the lack of discussion (or even reaction) from the folks who’ve been long waiting for a Sanya and Eila OVA since Operation Victory Arrow ended with Arnhem Bridge two years ago  – that we did end up getting a Sanya and Eila OVA through Brave Witches is most certainly welcome.

  • I’ll close this post off with a screenshot of Sanya smiling, and looking into the future, the next post on the horizon will deal with Kantai Collection: The Movie. With Battlefield 1‘s In The Name of The Tsar not releasing until after the long weekend is over, I will take advantage of this time to watch the movie and write about it. The alternative is forgetting about this film after the DLC releases, and quite truthfully, that would result in certain death for any Kantai Collection: The Movie discussion that I would have otherwise have planned; DICE was not joking around when they said the In The Name of The Tsar DLC would be the biggest Battlefield update of all time. Besides the new maps, weapons and game modes, DICE has also made sweeping changes to the way LMGs, SMGs and self-loading rifles handle, as well as to conquest ticket bleed. The end results, which can be experienced in CTE, make Battlefield 1 feel a lot more similar to Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 3 in handling.

Overall, the Brave Witches OVA ended up being a romp through the chaos at the 502nd headquarters that emphasised humour, bringing to mind the setup for Strike Witches‘ second season. Brave Witches ended up being a more focused, narrative-driven presentation of the Strike Witches universe that demonstrated the franchise could cover ground beyond gratuitous pantsu moments: the narrative was squarely centred around Hikari’s journey towards becoming a full-fledged member of the 502nd, showcasing Neuroi that were legitimate threats in their operation and firepower. The TV series proper succeeded in doing so, spinning a much more focused story that allowed the characters to grow and shine. Consequently, the decision to return back to the comedy and lighter-hearted tones in an OVA was a well-made one, allowing the characters to be seen behaving in entertaining ways without compromising the emotional tenour of the TV series proper. I’ve not seen or heard any news about a continuation of Brave Witches, or if there will be focus on a new group of Witches in any sequels. Even with three seasons in total in addition to a film, the world of Strike Witches remains one that is rife with opportunity for exploration, and as such, any continued exploration of this world would be most welcome in my books.