The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

86 EIGHTY-SIX: Review and Reflection, Plus A Brief Intermission After Twenty-One

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” –Albert Schweitzer

Giad’s command forecast a massive Legion counterattack and Leftenant-Colonel Wenzel manages to reassemble Shinei’s squadmates into Nordlich Squadron. Frederica reveals that she is the last surviving member of the Giad Empire’s royal family, and that a member of her guard, Kiriya (who shares ancestry with Shinei), eventually became assimilated by the Legion. The overwhelming Legion assault threatens to overwhelm Giad’s defenses, but Nordlich Squadron successfully repels the Legion. With Legion threatening San Magnolia’s borders, Vladilena prepares to rally the remaining Colorata under her command, although San Magnolia is overrun and defeated. It turns out that the Legion have been making use of a massive artillery gun named the Morpho, and moreover, this weapon is controlled by the remnants of Kiriya’s spirits. Giad decides to send Nordlich in to handle this, and although Leftenant-Colonel Wenzel is incensed that Shinei and his team are to be assigned on a suicide mission, Shinei and the others accept their task, feeling death in combat to be preferable to cowering while others fought for them, as the San Magnolians did. Giad ends up deploying a prototype vehicle to get Shinei and his team close to the Morpho, although they learn that the Legion had left behind a decommissioned Morpho as a trap. While they are able to escape, the Giad forces take heavy losses. Shinei receives permission to continue pursuing Kiriya’s Morpho and are shocked to learn Frederica had accompanied them into battle. Before their final attack on the Morpho, Raiden implores Shinei to look after himself, and later, Frederica remarks that she’d like to see the ocean with everyone once the fighting ends. Kiriya’s Morpho proves to be a fearsome opponent, and each of Raiden, Theoto, Kurena and Anju become damaged during the fighting, leaving Shinei to take on the Morpho on his own. His magazine sustains damage, leaving him with a single round, but thanks to support fire from an unknown source, and Frederica imploring Kiriya to stand down, Shinei manages to strike the weak spot on Kiriya’s Morpho, destroying it. The Morpho subsequently engages a self-destruct mechanism that engulfs both Shinei and Frederica in its blast radius.

Whereas 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s first half was divided between Vladilena’s command of the Undertaker unit, and Undertaker’s exploits in the war against the Legion, this second half is predominantly focused on Shinei’s remaining team and their return to the battlefield, as they fight alongside the Federacy of Giad to push back the Legion and put an end to the war. The shift in perspective is 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s advantage. The first half had the advantage of showing the war from the San Magnolian perspective, and the disconnect created gave the distinct impression that save Vladilena and a small number of her circle, San Magnolia appears to care little for the war effort otherwise. Conversely, Giad, as a part of the political reform, is willing to deploy their own professional soldiers to the frontline and fight alongside Shinei’s group. This eliminates the need for the Handler/Processor dynamic and creates the impression of a society that is seeking to right past wrongs. From a narrative standpoint, the fact that Giad soldiers are willing to deploy to the frontlines results in a story that’s much more cohesive and focused. The entire focus of the second half, after Shinei, Raiden, Theoto, Anju and Kurena join the Giad forces, is to take down the Morpho, a massive railway gun with a four hundred kilometre range. This weapon poses a massive threat to Giad and the surviving nations, to the point where the other nations agree to an alliance in a bid to stop this weapon. The effort taken to destroy this weapon gave 86 EIGHTY-SIX a chance to really focus on Shinei and his team, to an extent that hadn’t been possible in the first season because perspective had constantly flipped between the harsh realities that Undertaker faced, and the idealism that Vladilena sought to try and bring to the table. In this way, it becomes clear that even among his team, Shinei is more disconnected from humanity than Theoto, Raiden, Anju and Kurena: he lives purely for the thrill of combat and feels no other purpose in life. Having established the extent to which Shinei’s sense of humanity is blunted, viewers thus gain insight into why he’s so effective in combat, and so reserved off the battlefield.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I originally hadn’t intended to write about 86 EIGHTY-SIX at this stage in the game, having fallen behind on things, and instead, was waiting for the finale to air so I could do a single post on things. However, making my way through things right through to the assault on the Morpho, 86 EIGHTY-SIX clicked for me, and I found myself greatly enjoying how this second half was progressing. While I get why the first half was formatted the way it was, the story I’d come to enjoy the most was always to do with the Colorata, and Shinei’s team, in particular.

  • Although the textual discussion would suggest that 86 EIGHTY-SIX is all-business, one aspect about the series I found helpful was the fact that there is an effort to remind viewers that the characters are human; here, Frederica wanders around the base half-awake, prompting Shinei to hand her off over to Anju so she can get dressed. 86 EIGHTY-SIX is somewhat unusual in that visual elements more common to comedy are occasionally employed; this is the show’s way of reminding viewers of the fact that even in the grimmest moments, gentler or more amusing moments remain.

  • Frederica provides much of these throughout 86 EIGHTY-SIXs second half. Her background is a bit of a tragic one: her entire family was eventually executed, and it was only thanks to Ernest Zimmerman that she was spared. It turns out that Zimmerman himself was a former Imperial Guard who ended up renouncing his background and fought for a democratic Giad. His actions may come across as suspicious, but ultimately, Zimmerman wants to build a country unencumbered by the failures of Imperial Giad, and in his personal life, raise a family in stead of the one he’d lost.

  • Together with a Giad military that has been shown to drill its soldiers as contemporary professional armed forces would, and one that utilises equipment designed with the operator’s safety in mind, I was left with the impression that Giad is a legitimate power with a genuine concern for the world. It therefore became much easier to trust that Giad’s desire to eliminate the Legion as genuine; the whole of the first half had Shinei and the others fighting for a uncaring and slovenly nation, so it was natural that both Shinei and the viewers had little reason to trust Giad initially.

  • However, the combination of seeing Giad’s professional armed forces in action, coupled with the Reginleif’s armour and defensive features, I became convinced that Giad is trustworthy. Eliminating this doubt allowed the story to focus on the sort of challenges that Shinei and the others face now that they’re fighting under a different flag. One aspect that some viewers found surprising was the fact the Reginleif’s secondary armaments were designated as using 12.7×99mm NATO (i.e. .50 BMG) rounds, but in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, there shouldn’t be a NATO equivalent (and as such, no STANAG 4383 clause). This particularly irked one viewer, “Lambdalith”, who suggested that A-1 “copied all the ammo list provided by their military consultant without removing the NATO rounds designation [and therefore] can be interpreted as a blooper of sorts”.

  • Others promptly stepped up and noted that this was likely done as a convenience feature so viewers wouldn’t have to learn new calibres. In this case, while it might’ve been a little easier to just refer to the rounds as “.50 BMG”, which is not a STANAG 4383 compliant designation, I imagine that “12.7×99mm NATO” was chosen simply because it looks cooler to viewers. I’ve never really understood the demand that works of fiction be completely free of gaffes (I’d argue that “Lambdalith” is calling out something minor such as this, in an attempt to sound more knowledgeable); the type of secondary ammunition the Reginleifs use don’t impact 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s story in any way, so such comments add little to the discussion at hand. Here, Frederica peers into Shinei’s mind and learns he’s enjoying the chaos of battle the same way Kiriya once did.

  • Anime discussions have always varied in terms of quality, and generally speaking, the most meaningful discussions entail people who make an effort to listen to other sides of the coin, walking others through their thought process and where applicable, sharing their own related experience. Folks who focus on a dry, impersonal analysis as though they were writing an undergraduate term paper usually aren’t the most fun to converse with, which is why I do a combination of writing about pure outcomes in my paragraphs, before delving into assorted thoughts and commentary with the screenshots.

  • For 86 EIGHTY-SIX, I’ve (surprisingly) been able to keep clear of the overly-serious conversations out there, and this in turn has really allowed me to enjoy the series at my own pace: while I’d been skeptical of this series, being able to draw my own conclusions has led to a superb experience overall. As an example, the first half’s pacing was a little disjointed for me, but once I came to the conclusion it was meant precisely to show a disconnect, Vladilena’s presence became considerably more enjoyable. Cutting her from most of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half to focus on Shinei’s team gave the latter much more growth than was previously possible.

  • However, while Vladilena might’ve had a reduced presence, the destruction of San Magnolia in 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half, coupled with the fact that she’s clearly a central character, means that her role isn’t over yet, and I look forwards to seeing what role she will play in the future. This sort of conclusion isn’t something I’d be able to reach were my thoughts to encompass opinions from elsewhere, and in retrospect, this is an approach that I should apply to slice-of-life series, which are often critiqued to an even harsher extent for reasons that elude me.

  • Once 86 EIGHTY-SIX has Shinei and the others settle into their duties as a part of Nordlich squadron, the series turns its entire attention towards the matter of the Morpho. The Legion offer many resistances to known countermeasures: their ability to jam communications and EMR signals means there is no effective satellite reconnaissance it is not possible to simply pinpoint the Morpho’s location and overwhelm its defenses with hypersonic cruise missiles or ballistic missiles outfitted with conventional warheads. Similarly, the Legion likely possess hardened electronics resilient to EMP effects. This leaves armies to deal with them head-on using ground forces within visual range.

  • Even this is a challenge, and although Shinei had been asked to conceal his ability to detect the Legion telepathically, there comes a point where he’s forced to bring this power out to help Giad’s military out. The idea of Newtype-like powers exists in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, although like its Universal Century counterpart, the precise origins or nature of these powers are never well-characterised. Whether or not this becomes an issue is largely dependent on a story’s demands: if the powers impact the outcome of an event in a tangible manner, then at the very least, its scope and limitations should be explored.

  • In 86 EIGHTY-SIX, that Shinei and Frederica possess such powers suggest to me that it would be worth exploring them further in future instalments. Throughout 86 EIGHTY-SIX, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well Frederica fits in with the story: she’s highly perceptive and demonstrates agency far exceeding what is typical of someone of her age, and moreover, rather than being a burden on the story, Frederica is able to ask the right questions and proves instrumental in pulling Shinei away from the brink. It helps that she’s also got the most funny-face moments of anyone in 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half.

  • Giad’s assault on the Morpho is accompanied by support from neighbouring nations, who agree to cooperate on the grounds that the Morpho’s range is enough to pose a threat to any nation. This massive joint operations entails creating a massive distraction and making use of Nordlich team’s capabilities to close the distance. However, Giad is outwitted: the Morpho had previously been damaged in an earlier strike and was allowed to remain so it could act as a decoy for the real Morpho, which is illuminated by an ethereal blue light.

  • Kiriya’s spirit operates this Morpho, and while he answers to the entity known as “No Face”, Kiriya is brash and aggressive in his digitised form. It is clear that this Kiriya only retains the negative aspects of his old self. 86 EIGHTY-SIX choses to give Kiriya a face, both to indicate that Kiriya plainly remembers his old identity and to convey to viewers the sort of torture human minds experience as Legion; this aspect of 86 EIGHTY-SIX further emphasises that the Legion’s ability to use neural tissue as a CPU is not a pleasant experience for those who are captured, and the resulting Legion suffer continuously until they are destroyed. Once Nordlich figures out the presence of the real Morpho and prepare to attack it, No Face orders Kiriya to withdraw.

  • From this vantage point, the destructive power of the Morpho’s main 800 mm cannon can be seen: it completely obliterates an area appearing about six blocks across, with an initial crater width of around 100 metres, and the damage appears to show that the impact energy was transferred wholly into the ground.  Official documentation gives the Morpho’s muzzle velocity as eight kilometres per second, and eyeballing this to correspond with a force of around 0.2 kiloton (836 GJ, all transferred into the ground): it’s possible to work out that the Morpho’s 800 mm projectile is likely a slug with a mass of 26.1 tonnes. Assuming a density of 22.59 g/cm³ (similar to osmium) and a roughly cylindrical shape tapering at the head to a point, the projectile itself would need to be 114.92 metres long in order to have such a mass. This is greater than the Morpho’s length of 40.2 metres. Because Asakura is steadfast on the muzzle velocity being 8 km/s, and the fact that the Morpho’s ammunition clearly isn’t three times the length of its chassis, the only remaining explanation available is that the Morpho’s main gun is using ammunition that is significantly denser than any known metal.

  • If Asakura was open to an much higher muzzle velocity (say, 49.2 km/s, only a little faster than Halo‘s Mark II Light Coil guns, which accelerate a 600 tonne projectile to 30 km/s for a yield of 64.5 kt), it’d be possible to impart a similar about of damage with a tungsten slug that is a more reasonable 2 metres long. Having said this, my calculations are just for fun: unlike Lambdalith and the folks unfamiliar with Newtonian kinetic energy, I’ve no qualms if the numbers don’t check out, since they don’t affect the story. The Morpho’s main weakness is that it is primarily dependent on railway lines to travel, and after the Legion lose their element of surprise, No Face orders Kiriya back to Legion-held territory. This buys the Giad forces a bit of breathing room, and Shinei decides to continue pursuit even as the Giad forces retreat, reasoning that there’s no opportunity quite like this to take out a major Legion asset. Major railway guns are particularly vulnerable to attack from the air. However, the Legion face no such threat: the absence of air power in 86 EIGHTY-SIX is quite noticeable, being the consequence of the Legion’s use of Eintagsfliege (small butterfly-like units that flood the skies, blocking out EMR and capable of causing jet engines to flame out), and the Legion themselves only manufacture ground units owing to their original programming.

  • Unlike High School Fleet, the justification for why aircraft are largely absent in 86 EIGHTY-SIX is a reasonable one. I have noted before that as long as authors take the time to provide a plausible account for why their world is what it is, then an element can be accepted; where enjoyment of fiction is concerned, I’m of the mind that J.R.R. Tolkien’s concept of internal consistency applies to a given work. That is, if something is consistent with what is defined as being possible in a fictional universe, then one needn’t fall upon a suspension of disbelief for something, because the author has clearly laid out limits and rules.

  • This is why I tend to be fairly open minded about things that are otherwise dismissed as “unrealistic”: for instance, in The Aquatope on White Sand, some critics argue that Kukuru’s treatment at Tingarla is unrealistic because she is given far more leeway than would be expected for someone in her position in an equivalent company. However, The Aquatope on White Sand maintains internal consistency by establishing that Tingarla’s director is fairly open-minded, and as such, may have been made aware of Kukuru’s unexpected absence. His decision would override Tetsuji’s, so she isn’t reprimanded upon her return. Similarly, in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, the lack of air power owing to the Eintagsfliege’s presence is not far-fetched and forces combat to remain ground-based.

  • After Frederica stows away in Fido, Shinei and the others are forced to accept that she’s around. Although they’d rather she stay away from the frontlines, her presence does end up being instrumental to Shinei’s eventual success in taking down the Morpho. However, Shinei’s friends do worry greatly for his mental well-being: Raiden confronts him and demands that he stop fighting so recklessly; so long as they’re still alive and have one another, they can continue to help one another out. Despite being a captivating and gripping story, 86 EIGHTY-SIX has the same degree of subtlety as something like Gundam with respect to its themes.

  • That is to say, Gundam is very clear about its intended messages and will flatly present its ideas to viewers without obfuscating them. Other works will jump through hoops and layer in themes that require a bit of thinking to get: there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to approach fiction, and having studied works for classes a decade earlier, as well as consuming fiction for personal enjoyment, I’ve found that there are merits to both approaches; so long as a work actually conveys its theme, it has succeeded. With this in mind, I prefer dealing with thematic elements once a series has fully aired: although 86 EIGHTY-SIX has been quite plain in its aims, I acknowledge there is always the possibility that what is shown in the existing episodes could feed into something else once everything is done.

  • While Raiden shares a conversation with Shinei voicing his concerns on behalf of the others, Frederica and the others eavesdrop. It turns out that even now, Kurena still has feelings for Shinei. However, indicators will show that Kurena’s going to be in an unfortunate situation, and here, Frederica is reduced to a blubbering pile after Anju overhears her making a blithe remark about how with Vladilena seemingly out of the picture, Kurena might have a shot at things. Moments like these became increasingly rare as 86 EIGHTY-SIX wore on, but remain welcome, and I will note that while I’d initially found Frederica a little grating, she’s become an integral part of the team.

  • Upon gazing out over the open hinterlands at sunset, Frederica mentions that she’d like to see the ocean one day. The ocean’s vastness has held people spellbound for as long as human civilisation has existed, as imaginations of what lies on the shores across the ocean drove people towards exploration – Frederica’s longing to see the ocean might be seen as a wish to see what’s on the other side of this conflict. As it turns out, the Giadian Empire’s royal family and leaders were responsible for the Legion’s reign of terror: revolutionary forces (which Zimmerman had been a part of) had cornered the crumbling Imperial leadership, and in a final act of defiance, the Imperials transferred their consciousness into the Legion before issuing them with one final order to continue fighting.

  • However, even the Giadian Empire had devised a failsafe – any member of the Giadian Royal Family could deactivate the Legion. I imagine that Zimmerman might have suspected that it would be helpful to not fully destroy all traces of the old Empire, and the very fact that Frederica holds the master override to end the war once and for all means that so long as she’s alive, there is hope for ending this war swiftly and giving everyone a chance to gaze upon the ocean with their own eyes. Having seen what the remains of Shinei’s team has gone through, one cannot help but wish for a speedy end to their war, although this does lead to the question of what everyone’s looking to do once peace is attained.

  • In particular, Shinei remarks that he feels his only purpose is to fight, and since Shōrei had tried to kill him, he’d lost any particular desire to the point of wondering if he’s alive at times. A longstanding notion in fiction is that people are inherently without purpose, and responsibility of seeking out purpose falls upon the individual: Frederica suggests that purpose or not, as long as one has people in their corner, they can keep on living and find whatever their future holds, no matter how uncertain it is. Whether or not Shinei takes this to heart, there is truth to this statement, and it’s always encouraging to see works of fiction remind viewers of this fact: life is what one makes of it.

  • When the final operation does start, Shinei ends up with everyone electing to keep the Legion off Shinei’s back while he presses forwards: although they’d planned on fighting the Morpho together, a Legion onslaught causes Anju’s unit to fall off a cliff, and although she’s fine, she’s no longer able to follow the others into battle. Speaking to the Reginleif’s improved survivability over the San Magnolian Juggernauts, Anju herself is okay, and her Reginleif is still somewhat able to fight: Anju swaps out her 88 mm cannon for rocket artillery, making her useful against massed Legion forces.

  • Similarly, because Kurena has specialised her Reginleif for long-range combat, she decides to hang back and do what she can. To assist in sharpshooting, Kurena uses a VR headset in combat, which is linked to a smart optic that allows her to hit targets at range. A similar feature was found in Gundam 00‘s Dynames and Cherudim Gundams, which had a dedicated controller unit wired to special optics. I have heard arguments that mecha do not necessarily need this gear, since they could simply use an AI or similar to place long-range shots. However, the counterargument for this is simple: a given mecha would not be in sniping configuration all the time, and engaging this equipment changes the handling characteristics, allowing it to focus on long-range fire at the expense of something like mobility.

  • Again, the concept of internal consistency applies here: I’ve noticed that a lot of fans out there are quick to call out things for falling on “rule of cool” (in common terms, where something awe-inspiring or novel is selected over something more practical to create an impact amongst viewers), but for me, as long as internal consistency is maintained, gripes like these are inconsequential. In the end, even Raiden gets taken out of the fight; he promises to keep Frederica safe while Shinei forges ahead.

  • The twenty-first episode has Shinei engaging Kiriya’s Morpho alone; the episode itself aired on Christmas day, but I’d spent most of the day preparing Christmas dinner and reading through new books, so I didn’t even consider that a new episode of 86 EIGHTY-SIX would be airing. At the time, I thought that I’d fallen so far behind that it would be easier to let all of the episodes air before continuing from where I’d left off. As it turned out, production challenges meant that episodes were airing at two-week intervals, and moreover, there’d been two recap episodes. I realised I wasn’t as far behind as I first imaged, and so, decided to push forwards, just in time to present my thoughts on where I feel 86 EIGHTY-SIX stands a full month after the latest episode aired.

  • The Morpho possesses a fearsome array of point defense weapons, and together with the “arms”, even Shinei has difficulty getting close enough to do damage. In the end, Frederica threatens to kill herself if Kiriya doesn’t stand down, and this buys Shinei enough time to close the distance enough to board the Morpho, locate the weak spot and blast it to kingdom come. Kiriya passes on into death, no longer bound to the Legion, and viewers were left with a lengthy wait: the next episode is scheduled to broadcast on March 13.

  • As such, I will be returning in a few months to wrap up 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second part to deal with the messages I got out of 86 EIGHTY-SIX. While the series began on a rougher footing, once the characters and conflict was established, things have become much more engaging. I’d been sitting on the fence with 86 EIGHTY-SIX after its first part concluded, and had suggested that San Magnolia would face total annihilation if they didn’t get their game together. Having seen what’s happened now, it appears San Magnolia is no longer a concern (having been met with complete annihilation owing to their hedonistic and xenophobic ways), and this leaves the floor open for Asakura to focus purely on Shinei and whatever lies ahead between himself and Vladilena, which is admittedly something I am quite excited to see.

Having established the basis for Shienei’s character, 86 EIGHTY-SIX enters an intermission. Despite A-1 Pictures driving the series’ production, and the fact they’ve done a solid job of bringing 86 EIGHTY-SIX to life thus far, the Legion have presented the team with numerous challenges owing to their numbers and fluidity. Production issues in getting the Legion to appear as author had Toru Asakura envisioned them meant that the story will be delayed until March. However, at this point, the Morpho is defeated, removing one more threat to the allied forces, and this means there will be an opportunity yet to give Shinei and the others a denouement. Given where things end up, it is unlikely that 86 EIGHTY-SIX will end here: Vladilena’s story has not yet been resolved, and although San Magnolia now lies in ruin, the fact that she figures so prominently in the series means that she likely evacuated and survived the Legion’s assault. Vladilena and Shinei had first met in a very impersonal capacity but came to care for one another showed how Vladilena was able to bring out some of Shinei’s humanity, and how Shinei was a sign to Vladilena that her concerns were legitimate. As such, 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s premise is built on the fact that the pair was able to support one another emotionally, and while reality often sees circumstance keep people apart, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is a story, a work of fiction and consequently, should able to tilt the odds such that Vladilena and Shinei do, in fact, end up meeting, in order to advance the idea that human connections are what lets people rediscover their purpose anew. In this way, while 86 EIGHTY-SIX is framed around a war, it would appear that Asakura’s intentions through this story had been to present a moving tale of how important being connected to others is, especially in a world where interpersonal relationships are becoming more impersonal. At this point in time, I have no idea what lies ahead of the second part’s eleventh episode, but I do know that it will be interesting to see where things end up.

Slow Loop: Review and Impressions After Three

“We never lose our loved ones. They accompany us; they don’t disappear from our lives. We are merely in different rooms.” –Paulo Coelho

On the first day of school, Koharu is disappointed to learn that she and Hiyori are going to be in different classes, while Hiyori is relieved she’s in the same class as Koi, a friend she’d known since pre-school. After classes end, Hiyori takes Koharu to the fishing shop Koi’s family owns, and picks up an all-in-one fishing kit here. The two later visit a lighthouse that Hiyori’s father had once taken her to, and here, Hiyori gifts the all-in-one fishing kit to Koharu. To get Koharu up to speed with fly fishing, Hiyori arranges for a fishing trip with Koi and her father: the latter is very fond of fishing to the point of occasionally forgetting about his family, and while Koharu is unable to catch anything, she is able to speak to Koi and encourages her to look out for Hiyori in her own way. Later, Hiyori learns that Koharu had lost her mother and younger brother in an accident, and despite having lived with one another for a few weeks, Koharu is a little distant with Hiyori’s mother. To this end, Koharu suggest going on a camping trip together with Koi’s family, too. Here, Hiyori realises that fishing of late’s been considerably more enjoyable, but struggles to find the words to thank Koharu, while Koharu catches her first-ever fish and savours it, before helping out with dinner. During the meal preparations, Koharu finds that she’s able to speak with Hiyori’s mother quite naturally, and Hiyori makes an attempt to know Koharu’s father better, as well. As the evening comes to a close, Koharu and Hiyori stargaze together. When Hiyori wonders if her father would recognise her as she is know, Koharu replies that so long as she smiles, things will be fine. Koharu herself grows excited about the prospect of returning to their campsite in the autumn, when the foliage is painted in hues of oranges and yellows. Here at Slow Loop‘s third episode, it is apparent that family will form the focus of this latest Manga Time Kirara adaptation, with fishing being a secondary aspect that gives the characters common ground to build shared experiences and memories from.

Both the second and third episodes provide exposition into how each of Koharu and Hiyori handled loss; Hiyori sought to understand her father better by continuing to fish, while Koharu pushes herself to be more outgoing and bring joy into the lives of those around her to the best of her ability. When these opposites meet, the end result is a sort of synergy: Hiyori is able to appreciate her father’s hobby more fully, while Koharu ends up being able to share her energy with someone. Unlike Tamayura, which presented things in a much slower and measured manner, Slow Loop‘s portrayal is considerably more spirited in nature; different people respond to loss and grief differently, and Slow Loop sets itself apart by showing viewers both the fact that people are quite resilient, but it is together that one is able to really take those difficult steps forward. The fact that Hiyori and Koharu share quite a bit in common (regarding their backgrounds) means that both are well-placed to help one another out, and I imagine that it is possible that there will come a point in Slow Loop where Hiyori will need to step up and encourage Koharu, as well. The idea of being there for one another, in both good times and the bad, is what makes a family: Koi makes this abundantly clear by saying that what a family outwardly appears to be isn’t the whole picture, and while Slow Loop‘s been quite gentle insofar, Koi’s remarks means that there will be points where Koharu and Hiyori encounter challenges, or even clash. However, in typical Manga Time Kirara spirit, whether it be through introspection or support from others (usually, a combination of both), the relationship that Koharu and Hiyori will come out all the stronger. With these directions in mind, Slow Loop has proven to be unexpectedly mature in its portrayal, and at this point in time, it is evident the series has what it takes to differentiate itself from its precursors.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Although Koharu isn’t in Hiyori’s class, she manages to hit it off with her classmates almost immediately. Hiyori, on the other hand, is glad to have ended up in the same class as her friend, Koi. The dramatic contrast in Hiyori and Koharu’s personalities are mirrored in their classroom arrangements; Koharu has no trouble with new people and appears to fit right in, while Hiyori is given a quieter setting where she’s able to be reassured by the fact she’s with someone she knows. After their first day of class, Hiyori decides to take Koharu around to some of the places she frequents.

  • As the daughter of a fishing fanatic, Koi works at a fishing store and is familiar with all of the gear that Hiyori could require in-field. Koi’s known Hiyori since pre-school, and consequently, Koi understands her quite well. Koi is voiced by Tomomi Mineuchi (Eiko Tokura of Slow Start Ilulu from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid,  and GochiUsa‘s Kano), although in appearance and personality, she’s similar to Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s Remon Yamano or perhaps Please Teacher!‘s Ichigo Monino: all characters have a quiet but somewhat mischievous disposition.

  • Viewers are given an introduction to the different types of lures: Koi classifies them into four groups (dry, nymphs, wet and streamers) based on the type of organism they’re supposed to mimic and correspondingly, the type of fish they’re intended to catch. Most guides I’ve found on a cursory search give three distinct categories, omitting the wet lure. Wet lures are stated to be a hybrid between streamers and nymphs: they float in the water, whereas dry lures sit on top of the water.

  • Although Koi’s name is evocative of the koi, a kind of Amur Carp, she explains that the kanji for her name is actually written as love (恋): it turns out on the day of her birth, her father had rushed off to fish, leaving her mother to give birth. Koi’s father is portrayed as being obsessed with fishing, and he often leaves Koi to run the store while he runs off to fish after her classes end for the day. This sort of behaviour has given some viewers trouble by making the show “unrealistic”, but for me, exaggerated traits are a signature part of Manga Time Kirara series.

  • The goal of characters like Koi and her father are to remind viewers that this is a world where both Koharu and Hiyori have experienced people in their corner. Since we are early in the series, the worth of people like Koi’s father won’t be immediately apparent, but as Slow Loop wears on, the additional expertise will become valuable. It turns out that Hiyori had wanted to pick up a special all-in-one fly fishing lure kit. The close interactions between Koi and Hiyori is such that Koi has a special name for Hiyori: “Yamahi”. This came from the fact there were two Yamakawas back during pre-school.

  • This revelation imparts a bit of jealousy in Koharu, who becomes a bit pouty after learning of this fact. Koharu continues to give off Cocoa vibes in Slow Loop, and like Cocoa, Koharu’s mood is quick to change: all jealousy evaporates when Hiyori reveals that she’d had one more destination in mind for their time together: a spot that she and her father had once visited together. Along the way, Koharu remarks on how it’s so nice that the ocean is within a stone’s throw. Koharu’s love for the ocean brings to mind Aoi and Chiaki’s response to the fact that Rin was sending so many ocean photos back to everyone in Yuru Camp△ – the ocean is especially beautiful to those who live in landlocked areas.

  • Different anime utilise different approaches when it comes to how they portray characters relative to their environments. Anime with simple backgrounds and characters that stand out indicate to viewers that the characters are the focus, while anime where the backgrounds are richly detailed remind viewers that the setting is also important; in offering something unique for the characters (such as the ocean’s bounty, or untamed natural beauty) to the extent where it can be considered a character in its own right. This was the case in anime like Yuru Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi. Here in Slow Loop, the latter seems to hold true.

  • Because the background is portrayed as being quite vibrant, it is significant to the story. I had indicated a few weeks earlier that that Slow Loop was set in Kanagawa: upon spotting this lighthouse, I turned my location hunting skills to use and did a query for all of the lighthouses in Kanagawa. This quickly allowed me to narrow the setting to Yokosuka, as this particular lighthouse is Kannonzaki Lighthouse. While not quite rural (Yokosuka has a population of 409 hundred thousand as of 2017), there is a corner of the city near the lighthouse that is a little less built-up. Knowing that Hiyori and Koharu live within walking distance of Kannonzaki Lighthouse makes location-hunting a little easier, and I just might return to do such a post in the future if Slow Loop presents enough places of interest.

  • It turns out that the all-in-one lure kit Hiyori bought was for Koharu, as a way of really welcoming her into the family and further kindle her interest in fly fishing. With her excitement still in full swing, Koharu accepts a chance to go fly fishing with Hiyori, Koi and her father. Koi’s father is all too happy to accept the chance to go out and fish, although Koi herself is less enthused by the excursion.

  • On the day of the fishing trip, Koi comes with an umbrella and is content to sit things out while her father, Hiyori and Koharu fish. It suddenly strikes me that Koharu’s got a very adorable-looking hat: it’s reminiscent of a lop-eared bunny, and coupled with the chibi art style, really accentuates the fact that Slow Loop, no matter how serious conversations might get, at the end of the day, such series are about finding the joys in life and putting a smile on viewers’ face.

  • Chibi moments like these serve to give every character more personality, and Slow Loop has utilised the transition between its normal art and chibi art to really convey how someone feels in a moment. Koharu is raring to get the party started; although she’s quite motivated and determined, poor form as a result of her still being new to fly fishing means she gets nothing.

  • On the other hand, with her experience, Hiyori begins picking fish up almost immediately. When Koharu finds herself skunked by the fly fishing, she stops to take a break and starts up a conversation with Koi. As it turns out, Koi had been worried about Hiyori ever since Hiyori’s father had passed away, but never felt it was her place to support and encourage Hiyori. Seeing Koharu come in so casually and lifting Hiyori’s spirits makes Koi wish that she’d done more for Hiyori.

  • While Koi had been doing her best to be considerate, Koharu has no such context and is therefore able to act without treading around eggshells. Seeing the change in Hiyori once Koharu shows up is ultimately encouraging for Koi, who is able to take a step forwards, as well. To accentuate this, once Koi comes to realise that she can still be there for Hiyori in her own way, similarly to how Koharu’s brightened Hiyori’s world up, she puts her umbrella away and steps out of the shadows, into the light.

  • This sort of thing was common in Tamayura, where Fū’s friends worry about whether or not the smallest thing could cause Fū grief in the beginning. However, the combination of Fū’s own open-mindedness and her friends’ unwavering support means that Fū is able to not only stand of her own accord, but flourish, too. Slow Loop does seem to be going in this direction; because of the positive energy Koharu brings to the table, Hiyori’s become excited at having a fishing partner, someone to share in her (and by extension, her father’s) love of the ocean.

  • By having Koi come to see how Hiyori’s begun taking those same steps that Fū had, Slow Loop both sets in motion Hiyori’s growth, as well as removing one more obstacle that keeps Koi from being her true self. In a Manga Time Kirara series, this means that Koi will likely become more expressive, resulting in interactions between herself, Hiyori and Koharu that are more consistent with the gentle, fluffy and humourous tone that Manga Time Kirara works are best known for.

  • The biggest surprise in Slow Loop so far was learning that Koharu’s background is at least as tragic as that of Hiyori’s, but in spite of this, she’s able to put on a smile and brighten up Hiyori’s day anyways. I expect that this will be something left for future episodes: for now, Hiyori’s the person who’s growing, and as Hiyori becomes increasingly able to stand of her own accord, she’d be able to support Koharu on the days where she’s not at the top of her game. For now, however, Koharu is all smiles, and she’s able to reminisce about her family without becoming saddened.

  • Koharu understands that the process isn’t going to take place overnight, but because there’s a distance between herself and Hiyori’s mother, she longs to close that distance over time. Like Sayomi and Nadeshiko, Koharu believes that adventure is the key to this, and ends up booking a fishing/camping trip. Koi and her family are also invited, but Koi’s a little befuddled as to why they’re to partake even when they’re not family. However, Koi’s father immediately jumps on the chance, seeing it as another chance to go fishing.

  • Slow Loop‘s use of familiar elements initially can come across as being derivative, but the activity isn’t the star of the show here; even assuming this was to be the case, my discussions would veer towards the differences in how Slow Loop and Houkago Teibou Nisshi portray fishing; one key difference is that Houkago Teibou Nisshi purely has the girls fishing from the breakwater (shore fishing), and Slow Loop portrays boat fishing. For now, however, Hiyori must first get the boat into the water, and while she’s done it before, it was adorable to see her struggle with Koharu in the boat.

  • In the end, the pair end up over the lake despite Koharu’s inexperience with rowing. Boat fishing offers numerous advantages over fishing from land: for one, range is improved, and one can hit spots that are otherwise inaccessible on land. However, fishing from the shore has less setup and teardown. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina and the Breakwater Club fish from the shore exclusively because their home, Sashiki, is a fishing town: there’d be a lot of commercial boats on the water, making it difficult for the Breakwater Club to head out into open water. Conversely, Slow Loop has Hiyori and Koharu do a combination of both kinds of fishing, acting as a metaphor for how different approaches and tools both have their pluses and minuses.

  • While Hiyori and Koharu enjoy lunch, Hiyori (somewhat insensitively) brings up fishing superstitions that leave Koharu disappointed. Here, I will note that insofar, discussions on Slow Loop have been fairly limited: the larger blogs I visit don’t appear to be writing about this series. While I normally welcome discussions, especially for the hotter series, slice-of-life anime are something I’d prefer to watch in a vacuum: I’ve never received a satisfactory answer as to why people take these anime so seriously, and discussions inevitably devolve into attempts to psychoanalyse even the most minor of actions the characters take.

  • Far from reading between the lines, such discussions invariably miss the big-picture message the work was originally intended to go for. Attempts to bring topics like philosophy and psychology into Manga Time Kirara works is therefore of limited value at best, and I’ve found that characters’ interactions and intentions in these series should be taken at face value. Here, a sudden rainfall forces Koharu and Hiyori to take cover under some branches by the shore. Hiyori thinks to herself that of late, thanks to Koharu’s presence, fishing has become much more enjoyable: it’d taken Rin two full seasons of Yuru Camp△ to appreciate this, so to see Slow Loop not-so-slowly convey this to viewers is a clear indicator of where this series intends to go.

  • Although Hiyori isn’t quite able to openly thank Koharu yet, the weather unexpectedly becomes pleasant again, and while Hiyori suggests returning to shore, she spots a few fish underneath the water. She seizes the moment and asks Koharu to ready her line while she prepares a lure. Earlier, Koi had set the condition that in order to partake in dinner with the others, each of Hiyori and Koharu needed to catch something. For Hiyori, this isn’t a problem, but Koharu is still a novice who has yet to catch anything. Feeling like she should return the favour to Koharu, Hiyori swiftly gears up.

  • In the end, Koharu is able to catch her first fish, following suggestions from Hiyori. This is a milestone moment for Koharu, who can now be said to be hooked on fly fishing. Unlike Hina, who’d outright fainted at the prospect of having to gut and clean a fresh catch, Koharu is much more accepting of the process, and again, this is an aspect to Slow Loop that differentiates it from other series of its lineage. It takes no small measure of subtlety to really appreciate slice-of-life series; for those unfamiliar with the genre, all slice-of-life series feel similar and are about “nothing”.

  • This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it does take a bit of open-mindedness to be open to what slice-of-life series are intended to convey. This is the reason why I am such a staunch defender of slice-of-life anime: these aren’t series that can be graded on conventional metrics, and their worth comes from whether or not they are able to present a meaningful message about life itself. Back in Slow Loop,. Koharu wonders if this fish’s experience is akin to being burnt at the stake. For a fluffy and cheerful individual, Koharu certainly has no qualms about speaking her mind, and this has led some to wonder if she’s quick to antagonise those around her for this.

  • I’d counter that in Manga Time Kirara series, character traits are exaggerated for comedy’s sake. If it is indeed necessary to explore this side of Koharu’s character later, then I will consider Koharu’s loose lips later on. Like the Breakwater Club’s doctrine in Houkago Teibou Nisshi (“eat what you catch”), Hiyori observes the idea that one should eat their catch to appreciate what goes into it. There’s a barbeque facility at the camp site, making it easy for Koharu to prepare her fish and eat it, as she says, as one would in a manga. The technique of eating fish this way is known as shioyaki, a practise that has been along for a very long time.

  • By evening, the families prepare to set up a hearty dinner. Thanks to Koharu, an acqua pazza soon takes shape. With the rainbow trout salted and grilled shioyaki-style, Koharu adds Manila clams and cherry tomatoes. Once the flavours get to know one another, the dish is done. The fact that Koharu is so knowledgable about cooking impresses Hiyori’s mother, who comments that Hiyori’s father had always been the cook, and after his passing, they’d gotten by on convenience store meals. In no time at all, cooking allows Hiyori’s mother and Koharu to bond.

  • The portrayal of camping in Slow Loop brings back memories of last year’s Yuru Camp△ 2: at this time last year, the third episode had just aired. Rin spent the day with Nadeshiko in Hamamatsu and explained her reasons for enjoying solo camping – Yuru Camp△ is one of those series where every episode offered something distinct to talk about, and I did episodic discussions for the second season during its airing. For Slow Loop, I’ve elected to write about it with my usual frequency (every three episodes). While World’s End Harem has proven interesting, the setup means that I might write a single post about it once it’s over – there’s a lot of moving parts right now with this one. On the other hand, Girls’ Frontline has been a bit of a disappointment insofar; the series has not established its characters well yet, and I’m not sure where this series intends to go.

  • Back in Slow Loop, seeing Koharu taking the initiative spurs Hiyori to do the same, and here, she offers a bowl of acqua pazza to Koharu’s father. After dinner’s done, Hiyori and Koharu decide to go star-gazing, where, away from the city lights, they’re able to spot Ursa Major in all of its glory, plus the Milky Way itself. While a stunning sight to behold, one reminiscent of how Ao and Mira had met in Koisuru Asteroid, a quick look around light pollution charts around Japan suggests that such gorgeous skies would be outside the realm of possibility nearest the larger cities.

  • It is under the vast night sky where Koharu explains how she’s able to put one foot in front of the other despite what’d happened in her past: keep smiling, because even though those around her might be gone, they’ll still be able to remember her smile from the other side. What Koharu means that her mother, and Hiyori’s father, would’ve wanted them to keep on moving forwards in their lives, to keep finding things to smiling about (i.e. make new memories). This is the sort of thing that Tamayura had particularly excelled at, and with Koi joining the group, I’m rather curious to see when Ichika, Futaba, Aiko, Niji and Tora enter the picture. In the meantime, speaking of enjoying family time, we’ve just picked up some Southern Fried Chicken and fries, and I’ve not sat down to a dinner of this sort since the New Year began, so it’s time to go ahead and enjoy this to the fullest extent possible on this unexpectedly warm but blustery winter’s night.

With this being said, Slow Loop‘s incorporation of elements from other slice-of-life series, like Houkago Teibou Nishi, Yuru Camp△, Tamayura and Koisuru Asteroid means presenting to viewers a familiar experience. Whether or not this is a bad thing will depend on the individual: amongst the community, some folks contend that if something is “generic”, it counts as a strike against a given work. For me, this isn’t ever a problem: treading on previously explored territory allows an anime to quickly establish its premise, and this in turn provides more time to focus on what the work intended to convey. In other words, whether or not a work contains derivative elements is irrelevant to me: what matters is how well said work can deliver a relevant, meaningful message. Here in Slow Loop, Hiyori and Koharu’s dynamic had previously been seen in Yuru Camp△‘s Rin and Nadeshiko, while the events forming the backdrop for Slow Loop‘s story is similar to Tamayura‘s. Hence, viewers can reasonably expect that Slow Loop would be a story of opposite personalities coming together to drive individual growth. However, because the setup is quite distinct from those of Yuru Camp△ and Tamayura, Slow Loop provides an opportunity to show something neither of these works focused on: how the combination of Koharu’s cheerful, happy-go-lucky personality and Hiyori’s introspective, quiet traits complement the other in a way as to allow both characters to come to terms with their losses, support one another and ultimately, step forward together. I’ll admit that this was something I wasn’t expecting from Slow Loop based on its synopsis alone, but now that we’ve seen three episodes, I am looking forwards to seeing how this anime explores more challenging topics about handling loss and grief while at the same time, continuing to remind viewers to be appreciative of the smaller things in life, like sharing a meal with loved ones.

Elf Yamada’s Love Song and Sagiri Izumi’s First Kiss: Eromanga Sensei OVA Review and Reflection

“I saw that you were perfect, and so I loved you. Then I saw that you were not perfect and I loved you even more.” –Angelita Lim

Masamune, Hana and Kunimitsu attend a celebratory event for Emily to thank those who’d supported her: Emily’s work was adapted into an anime. After Emily persuades Masamune to help her change into a new dress during the event, Emily’s brother and mother both show up. Emily’s mother disapproves of Masamune on the basis that he appears to be corrupting her, even though the reality was that Emily was the one who had made it look as though she were dating Masamune. Upon learning her mother is here to bring her home, the pair clash, and Emily storms off in anger. However, with a suggestion from Masamune, she ends up performing a musical during her speech at the event, convincing her mother to let her live on her own terms, and after the celebration wraps up, Emily and Masamune share a moment together after Emily makes her feelings known to him. Later, Masamune catches a cold after visiting Emily, and is unable to submit his manuscript ahead of a deadline. Sagiri decides to look after him. To this end, she sets foot outside of her room to fetch medicine for Masamune, do some housework and even manages to answer the door when Megumi and Tomoe show up. However, when Hana shows up and tries to break in, Sagiri confiscates the poster Hana had wished to give him. Sagiri ends up falling asleep and dreams about the past, but upon waking up, she gives Masamune a quick kiss before making him dinner. Masamune thanks Sagiri, noting her cooking is quite good, but Sagiri ends up catching Masamune’s cold. Masamune helps her out so she can rest and indicates he’s looking forwards to her recovery so that they can continue working together. The two Eromanga Sensei OVAs came out two years after the original series had aired, releasing on January 16, 2019, and while they do not advance the story in a significant way, nonetheless provides an opportunity for characters to break the status quo in ways that they were not seen doing in Eromanga Sensei proper.

In Eromanga Sensei, the death of Sagiri’s mother caused her to become withdrawn, but as Masamune becomes closer with Emily and Hana, rival authors and rivals for his affection, Sagiri also began stepping out of her shell. Similarly, Masamune himself had suffered the loss of a parent, as well, and turned to writing as a way of finding happiness anew. The journey seen throughout Eromanga Sensei had been about finding new happiness together through a shared pursuit, although the anime also ended up being a very gentle, cozy portrayal of this. At the end of Eromanga Sensei, beyond Masamune and Sagiri’s worlds becoming a ways more colourful, and rowdier, things nonetheless were preserved in a sort of status quo: Masamune is uncertain of the feelings he has for Sagiri, and while Sagiri has certainly accepted him and his friends, she still rarely ventured out of her room – instead, she usually accepts visitors instead and only attends events if Masamune streams it to her via Skype. This is where the Eromanga Sensei‘s OVAs excel. Masamune is given a chance to explore his feeling a little more freely after seeing Emily’s best side, and Sagiri’s concern for Masamune is sufficient for her to venture out of her room, culminating in her gaining the resolve to cook for him after he falls ill. These episodes do much to show that the events of Eromanga Sensei did much to nudge both characters forward and adds a minor degree of closure to a series that, while amusing, didn’t otherwise do much to move the needle during its original run. In this way, the OVAs are welcome additions to Eromanga Sensei: unlike most OVAs, which capitalise on looser restrictions to go all-out on titillation, the Eromanga Sensei OVAs instead opts to present more tender moments between the characters.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • According to the blog’s archives, the last time I wrote about Eromanga Sensei was back in April 2018. Back then, I approached this anime from the mental health perspective; the anime did give every impression that it would be ecchi oriented, and while a few episodes did indeed present viewers with this in abundance, I never felt it to be so blatant that it detracted from the anime. With this in mind, Eromanaga Sensei stands in the shadow of its predecessor; compared to OreImoEromanga Sensei felt a lot more muted and subdued.

  • Because it’s been almost four years since I last watched Eromanga Sensei, I’ve largely forgotten most of the events, and needed to do a quick refresher on things to get re-acquainted with the story. I had originally intended to watch and write about the OVAs when they’d come out in January three years earlier. At the time, there would’ve only been an eight-month gap between my finishing Eromanga Sensei and the OVAs, so I would’ve probably gotten back into the swing of things more quickly. I believe the reason why I ended up failing to do so was because after watching First Man, my interest in anime suddenly waned.

  • In fact, looking back at the archives, the only anime I wrote around during that timeframe was CLANNAD and Endro. Most of my extra time was spent in The Division, Battlefield V and Ace Combat 7. Once I’d settled into my games, and the afterglow from First Man wore off, I eased my way back into anime; I ended up watching Domestic Kanojo in April, and together with 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, I found myself returning to my usual patterns. By then, however, thoughts of Eromanga Sensei had left my mind, and it wasn’t until recently, when I was going through my unwatched anime, that I found this Eromanga Sensei with two episodes left incomplete.

  • Entering the first of the Eromanga Sensei OVAs, I had no idea what to expect, but after seeing Emily persuade Masamune into helping her change dresses, and watching Emily attempt to evade her mother’s questions about what she’d been sending back home, memories did return to me: both Hana and Emily had been into Masamune, but Masamune had promptly shot down Hana. This left the floor open to Emily, who’d been very forward about how she feels about him: over the course of Eromanga Sensei, she spent a great deal of time with Masamune and fell in love with him more as a result.

  • These feelings lead to a disagreement between Emily and her mother, who feels that Masamune might not be the right person for her. Recalling how devoted her mother had been to her father, Emily storms off. One visual aspect that stands out is the fact that everyone in the Granger family appears to have an exaggerated form of Stahl’s Ear, a condition where there’s an additional cartilage layer that pushes the ear out and gives it a pointed shape. This appearance is what leads Emily to take the pseudonyms “Elf”, and Emily’s older brother brings to mind the likes of Thranduil from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

  • Because Masamune is kind by nature, he hears out Emily and suggest that she simply be forward with things. Unlike OreImo‘s Kyōsuke, who was persuaded to be more mundane by childhood friend Minami, Masamune is a ways more motivated, having turned to writing to get past feelings of grief and loss when his mother had passed away. The gaps in Kyōsuke and Masamune’s personalities mean that Eromanga Sensei and Oreimo  have a dramatically different atmosphere about them – on one hand, the characters in Eromanga Sensei are more likeable, but this also means that there’s less drama, and correspondingly, less of a chance to watch the characters manage their feelings.

  • When the time for Emily’s speech arrives, she saunters onto the stage and discards the speech she’d written for the event, choosing to improvise instead. It turns out she’s decided to use the moment to properly convey how she feels to her mother, and after thanking everyone for supporting her all this way, she breaks out into song. Both of the Eromanga Sensei OVAs involve a musical performance from the female lead, livening them up considerably and giving both Akane Fujita (Sagiri) and Minami Takahashi (Emily) a chance to shine. I’m familiar with Minami’s roles as Kanna of Harukana Receive, El Condor Pasa from Uma Musume Pretty Derby, Lucoa from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and Machikado Mazoku‘s Lilith

  • I was all smiles during this musical performance, which sees even the security detail joining in with Emily as she sings her heart out. In the end, Emily’s mother is convinced that she’s being sincere about how she feels regarding Masamune, and consents to let her stay in Japan. Being an OVA, Emily’s story here is a satisfying and self-contained event which gives her an outcome that she’d long been hoping for – after the event concludes, she and Masamune share a private moment together, where Emily openly admits her feelings for Masamune. The question of who should initiate the kokuhaku is a topic of no small debate, and this is one of those scenarios where I’ll not that there isn’t a right answer.

  • There’s actually a lot of conflicting advice out there for how to kick things up a notch: some say to pull the trigger ASAP, while other people say to let things occur naturally. I myself have familiarity with five ways of how not to do it – if I were to liken things to a sniper, then on two cases, I waited too long, while the other three times, I pulled the trigger a little too early but missed. Dating is like a bolt-action rifle: there’s a finesse about it that takes time to learn, and every shot counts. Unlike a semi-automatic marksman rifle, there’s a delay between shots, since it takes time to chamber a new round into the barrel. One of these days, I’ll get it right, and I take consolation in people who a lot wiser than myself – dating and relationships is supposed to be like a parking lot. The parking lot will often be near full half the time, and it’s going to be a pain in the ass to find a space, but all one needs is one space.

  • With this in mind, I felt a great deal of warmth at watching this kokuhaku between Emily and Masamune: anime are often namby-pamby about who the male lead ends up with when there are multiple women in his life, and this leaves viewers with a feeling of hollowness. Overall, while I was a fan of Hana and felt Sagiri to work less well for Masamune, I do agree with the sentiment that Emily is probably the best person for Masamune. As such, this Eromanga Sensei OVA ended up delivering a conclusion that wound up being quite satisfying for me.

  • Whereas the first of the OVAs saw a fancy event, the second is a ways more mundane and has Sagiri looking after Masamune when he falls ill following a visit to Emily’s place. However, in this second OVA, the extent of Sagiri’s growth is shown; whereas she was shy, withdrawn and quite unable to do even the basics without Masamune’s help, here, Sagiri does her best to look after Masamune. There was always a lingering tension, since we’d not seen Sagiri do anything resembling housework until now.

  • However, there are many things that occur off-screen, and it is reasonable to suppose that Sagiri’s opening up to people around her also gives her more confidence to act. This is something that I am accepting of in anime: it is impractical to show every moment where characters are going about their business. However, not everyone follows this approach, and in shows where characters are able to perform far better than is expected given what is shown, some viewers count it as undeserving or implausible. K-On! was subject to this back in the day: Yui and the others are seen drinking tea and eating cake more often than they practise, but still manage to put on professional-grade performances at school concerts.

  • Much as how not every detail behind how Houkago Teatime operate is shown, not every last moment in Sagiri’s life is shown; instead, viewers must infer that it is with the presence of others that she slowly becomes able to find the strength to do things she wasn’t able to do before. Sagiri’s disposition means that she reminds me somewhat of GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, and here, she wonders why Masamune doesn’t have any instant food on hand after deciding she’s not skilled enough to cook for him, and that ordering delivery would mean needing to handle the delivery person.

  • When Megumi and Tomoe come to visit, Sagiri is adamant about not letting anyone in. However, she does consent to hear them out upon learning that Tomoe’s swung by to deliver some assignments and a new book that Masamune had ordered. Of everyone, Tomoe is probably my favourite character; she has a good eye for books and is able to spot what might interest Masamune immediately. On the other hand, Megumi shows up for kicks, and the only reason why Sagiri doesn’t turf her is because Tomoe is around.

  • In any other post, I probably wouldn’t have consumed a dedicated screenshot for this moment: it turns out that Tomoe also has dropped off the latest volume of 86 EIGHTY-SIX for Masamune, and moreover, Sagiri’s taken an interest in this series. Back in 2019, five volumes of 86 EIGHTY-SIX had been released, and the fact that Eromanga Sensei was able to freely show it in such vivid detail, in retrospect, foreshadowed A-1 Pictures’ eventual adaptation of the series: both Eromanga Sensei and 86 EIGHTY-SIX are published by Dengeki Bunko, so there was no issue in referencing another work.

  • On the topic of 86 EIGHTY-SIX, I have plans to write about it once I’ve finished catching up to the twenty-first episode so I can cover off how I’ve felt about this second season. The final episodes will release in March, and I’ll write about themes then, but for now, it’s a good opportunity to write about some smaller aspects that have worked well for me so far. Back in Eromanga Sensei, whereas Sagiri had been thrilled about 86 EIGHTY-SIX, she’s less-than-impressed when Hana shows up and tries to break in, then attempts to give something to Masamune in an attempt to cheer him up. Earlier, Hana and Ayame share a conversation with Masamune after he calls in sick; Ayame is okay with moving his deadline up, while Hana immediately demands to know that he’s alright.

  • After dreaming about the past, Sagiri steals a kiss from Masamune, who’s still sleeping. This moment lends itself to the second OVA’s title, conveying a moment of tenderness. Throughout Eromanga Sensei, it is suggested that Sagiri is frustrated that Masamune does not return her feelings – for Masamune, he’s come to see Sagiri as a sister, and his only link to family. The setup in Eromanga Sensei had long been conducive for discussion of the importance of human connection, and in practise, the series is never a melancholy one – Masamune has plenty of people in his corner to support him, and in this way, he is able to support Sagiri, too.

  • To see Sagiri break out of her comfort zone and cook something for Masamune was a turning point in Sagiri’s character development: while she had doubtlessly grown throughout the course of Eromanga Sensei, this moment makes it clear that she’s beginning to see a world beyond the one she’d confined herself to since her mother had passed away. While Sagiri struggles with some of the cooking (she makes a small mess of things in a few places and here, leaves the water running), she perseveres, and for her troubles, she ends up successfully making an omurice for Masamune.

  • After a full day’s rest, Masamune’s fever has gone down, and he finds Sagiri’s cooking to be quite good. In a bit of irony, since she’d spent the full day with Masamune, Sagiri’s picked up the bug from him. However, Masamune is well enough now to look after her, and Sagiri bashfully thanks him for all he does; while she’s not too good with expressing her feelings throughout Eromanga Sensei, this moment indicates to viewers that the Sagiri here has come a very long way from when Masamune was trying to coax her out of her room, and steps like these will eventually quicken, allowing her to return to classes. For Masamune, he looks forward to working with Sagiri on whatever projects they have next, bringing the OVA to a close.

  • The Eromanga Sensei OVAs were a fun addition to the series, and according to my old post, I’d given the series a C+ after finishing: while it was satisfactory to watch, it wasn’t particularly novel, nor did it compel me to anticipate each upcoming episode with bated breath. Having said this, I am glad to have finally wrapped up the OVAs, which added a bit to both Emily and Sagiri’s characters in a positive manner, although with these OVAs in the books, I do not imagine that we will be getting any sort of continuation of this series in the future; it has been five years since the original series aired, and three years since the OVAs. Fortunately, things wraps up on a sufficiently conclusive manner so that a continuation is not strictly necessary.

The fact that I’m writing about the Eromanga Sensei OVAs a full three years after their release shows the extent to which I procrastinate when it comes to anime. To put things in perspective, I first wrote about Eromanga Sensei back in 2018 for a Terrible Anime Challenge post, and the anime itself had actually began airing during the spring of 2017; I was gearing up for my Japan trip back then, and had been avidly following P.A. Works’ Sakura Quest. When I finished my journey through Eromanga Sensei, it was about a year after the series had finished airing. I’d heard about the OVAs, and had been curious to see what they entailed, but circumstance led me to put them off. With both OVAs in the books, I can finally say, after some four years, that I’ve finished Eromanga Sensei to the maximum extent possible – while this was never a series that would change my world view or move me as other anime had, there’d been a gentle and easygoing aesthetic about Eromanga Sensei that made it stand apart from author Tsukasa Fushimi’s previous work, OreImo. Unlike the bolder and more well-known OreImo, Eromanga Sensei is a little more subdued and muted in comparison, lacking its predecessor’s notoriety and a story that pushed the boundaries for its portrayal of social norms. Instead, I ended up finding Eromanga Sensei to be an interesting portrayal of how creative focus is a viable, and healthy outlet for managing mental health issues like depression: both Sagiri and Masamune turn to creative work in order to channel their feelings, and in doing so, their worlds become more colourful for it. By sheer coincidence, their approaches bring them closer together in a way that they couldn’t have foreseen, accelerating their ability to rediscover happiness. While certainly not revolutionary by any means, Eromanga Sensei still ended up being a satisfactory experience, and watching the OVAs reminded me of the fact that each of the characters did have their unique charms which, together, made them a fun group to be around.

A Very Unique Girl: Slow Loop First Episode Impressions

“The great charm of fly-fishing is that we are always learning.” –Theodore Gordon

After her father had passed away from an illness three years earlier, Hiyori Yamakawa is a little worried about her stepfather and stepsister after learning her mother is going to remarry. To assuage her worries, Hiyori decides to take her mind off things by returning to the breakwater overlooking the ocean and do some fly fishing, which her father had taught her. She ends up running into Koharu Minagi at the breakwater: it’s Koharu’s first time seeing the ocean, and she’s even come in her swimsuit, intent on going for a swim. However, in March, the waters are still too frigid, and Hiyori ends up hooking Koharu to prevent her from taking a plunge. After introductions, Hiyori invites Koharu help her catch some fish and try some sashimi; the two quickly bond despite Hiyori not being good with meeting new people. To both Hiyori and Koharu’s surprise, it turns out that they’re now step-siblings. When Hiyori becomes a little uncomfortable with things back home and heads off to the breakwater, Koharu follows her, and Hiyori ends up providing instruction on how to fly fish. In return, Koharu whips up a zukedon for Hiyori using some older fish. The night before the new school year starts, Hiyori reassures Koharu it’s completely fine for her to be sleeping in Hiyori’s father’s old room, and she also promises properly teach Koharu on how to fish. On the first day of classes, Hiyori and Koharu head for school together to kick off their new year. With the arrival of the new anime season, Slow Loop is off to a flying start; this first episode wastes no time in introducing the characters, their backgrounds and setting up the fated encounter that brings Koharu and Hiyori together as family, all the while setting the stage that comes from enjoying the ocean’s bounty in a respectful and sustainable manner, much as Houkago Teibou Nisshi did before it a few years earlier.

Slow Loop differentiates itself from Houkago Teibou Nisshi in that this time around, Hiyori is still coming to terms with her father’s passing three years ago. Fishing becomes the activity that reassures her and connects her to her father. However, until Koharu arrives in her life, fly fishing is also a pursuit that Hiyori explores alone, and she’s initially limited only to one style of fishing. With Koharu’s genuine interest in learning more, bit by bit, Hiyori is pushed out of her comfort zone, and is prompted to explore new directions, as well. The setup in Slow Loop is reminiscent of Tamayura, where Fū Sawatari moved to Takehara to better learn the town her father had grown up in, and in doing so, Fū came to connect her father more closely. Here in Slow Loop, Hiyori is taciturn and reserved, fishes with only one technique and generally has trouble interacting with others. However, Koharu’s arrival acts as a catalyst to push her forwards, too: similarly to Fū, Hiyori is someone who can take initiative on her own, but when spurred on by friends, finds that her path to recovery and discovery is greatly accelerated by the new experiences that are only possible when one opens up their hearts to those around them. In this way, Slow Loop appears to be a Manga Time Kirara-style representation of Tamayura, being a bit more colourful and spirited (in contrast with the more measured and contemplative mood of Tamayura) portrayal of how fateful encounters can set people in new directions. After one episode, Slow Loop demonstrates that it has the makings of a consistent, if familiar series, and my interest in Slow Loop will be what unique messages are presented in its blend of elements from Houkago Teibou Nisshi and Tamayura, with character traits from other Manga Time Kirara series like Koisuru Asteroid.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll kick things off with Hiyori fishing on her own at the pier; Hiyori is voiced by Rin Kusumi, a relatively new voice actress whose role in Slow Loop represents her first lead role. While it’s March when Slow Loop begins, the weather still feels considerably warmer than it is here in the Great White North thanks to the blues in both ocean and sky. Since 2022 started, the daily high hasn’t exceeded -20°C (although with wind chill, it’s closer to -40°C). Before getting too much further into this post, one of the things I’ll have to steel myself to do is not mistype Slow Loop and spell it as Slow Start, another Manga Time Kirara series I’d previously watched, enjoyed and written about. Manga Time Kirara is very much characterised by doing things slowly, methodically, a mindset that has numerous merits but, all too often, is forgotten in today’s world.

  • 2020’s Houkago Teibou Nisshi proved to be superbly enjoyable, providing a combination of fishing information and slice-of-life antics in conjunction with messages of being respectful to marine ecology by not overfishing and not leaving any garbage after one’s finished. When Slow Loop was announced, I was admittedly curious: this one appeared to be more character driven than experience driven (such as Houkago Teibou Nisshi) owing to its premise, and as such, entering the first episode, I had no idea what to expect.

  • After Koharu chucks her clothes and prepares to dive into the ocean, Hiyori uses her line to catch Koharu’s attention. The latter ends up falling on her back and comes face-to-face with Hiyori, who blushes furiously. Koharu’s energy and enthusiasm brings to mind the likeness of Cocoa, Mira and Nadeshiko, all of whom have cheerful, extroverted and easy-go-lucky personalities. In appearance, Koharu is reminiscent of Blend S‘ Kaho, who was quite well-endowed and often wore her hair in twintails as a part of her work outfit. Koharu is voiced by Natsumi Hioka, whom I know best as Mitsuboshi Colours‘ Kotoha and Shii Eniwa from Super Cub.

  • The initial meeting between Koharu and Hiyori feels somewhat like the meeting between Nadeshiko and Rin during Yuru Camp△‘s first season: a happenstance occurrence that sets in motion the events for the remainder of the series. Such fateful encounters are a common literary device in Manga Time Kirara series, showing how friendships can come from the most unlikely of moments. Because of how Manga Time Kirara series are structured, they share many elements in common: folks looking for an all-new experience won’t find them with adaptations from Manga Time Kirara.

  • Instead, the joy in these series stems from their portrayal of how every journey is different, and therefore, worthwhile. After Hiyori shares some tea with Koharu, she invites Koharu to help her fish: while she casts her line, Koharu is to take the net and scoop the fish up. Even this early on, there’s a bit of chemistry between the two: like Nadeshiko and Rin, Mira and Ao, and Cocoa and Chino, the sharp contrast between Hiyori and Koharu’s personalities inevitably mean that the two will complement one another very well.

  • Right out of the gates, Slow Loop has Hiyori fishing for rockfish (Hepburn mebaru), which are of the genus Sebastes. There are 109 recognised species in this genre, and like Houkago Teibou Nisshi, the rockfish is portrayed as possessing poisonous spines that must be removed prior to consumption. This is done to show that Hiyori is no novice when it comes to fishing, but also shows how centuries of aquatic expertise means that humanity has learnt to make the most of what nature provides. Houkago Teibou Nisshi did the same, but in later episodes, once Hina had become more accustomed to fishing.

  • Looking back on the past few years, one of the most noticeable changes to my dietary preferences are that I now am a ways more comfortable eating raw fish than I’d been previously. I attribute this change to both Survivorman, as well as anime like Yuru Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which led me to become more open-minded about trying things. There’s a flavour and texture about sashimi and nigiri that is particularly appealing. Having said this, I still prefer my fish cooked thoroughly as a result of my background: 魚生 (jyutping yu4 saang1, literally “raw fish”) isn’t a popular part of Cantonese cuisine, and my favourite fish dishes usually see the fish steamed, then seasoned with a dash of soy sauce, ginger and scallion.

  • In moderation, though, raw fish is delicious, and after Hiyori prepares the fish, Koharu is immediately blown away by how fresh everything tastes. I believe that saltwater fish are slightly safer for raw consumption compared to freshwater fish, although in general, fish intended for use in sushi (nigiri) or sashimi is generally frozen first to kill any parasites: freezing causes ice crystals to form in the parasites’ cells, eventually rupturing them. It is not lost on me that the character designs in Slow Loop have a very GochiUsa-like feel to them.

  • As the sun begins setting, Hoyori remarks that she’s got to take off soon, since her mother’s getting remarried and they’re going to meet her future step-father, as well as his child. The moment Hoyori says this, it becomes clear that Koharu would say the same: that her father is getting remarried to someone who’s got a child, as well. This sort of thing might be seen as highly unrealistic, especially from a probability perspective, but such happenstance events are deliberate in stories to really drive home the idea that things like fateful encounters can exist and have a nontrivial impact on one’s life.

  • For me, predictability has never been an issue in anime for the same reason it’s never been an issue for whenever I watch Western films or television shows. This is because stories are intended to serve a specific function, whether it be to inform, persuade or entertain. As such, my goals when consuming a work is to determine what message the author has for me, and then, how well the journey towards those messages were portrayed. In Slow Loop, for instance, Maiko Uchino aims to present the idea of how being open-minded creates new experiences that help individuals to accept past losses, so now that Koharu and Hiyori are, in effect, sisters, what I am looking for most is to see how fishing and cooking will come together for the two, and what experiences they have together as a result.

  • With this being said, it is very reductionist to suppose that Slow Loop is purely about “found family in a group of misfits”, as one of Random Curiosity’s writers puts it: there’s more of a Tamayura-like vibe in Slow Loop in that both series presents the idea of becoming passionate and skilled about something as a means of better learning about loved ones who are no longer present. I will remark that it does take a certain mindset to write about slice-of-life series in a manner that’s interesting and meaningful for readers; reacting to things that occur isn’t something I find particularly valuable. Here, Hiyori recalls how her father’s old office is now Koharu’s room, and although Koharu’s father spots that this is bothering Hiyori somewhat, Hiyori herself is more conflicted than disapproving.

  • This is because the room would’ve represented her existing memories of her father; having Koharu move in would mean displacing those memories. On the flipside, however, having Koharu move in also means that while the present is displacing the past, the memories still remain. In this way, it’s a bit of a visual metaphor for having Hiyori take a step forward. After noticing Hiyori’s gone out, Koharu follows suit, and decides that now would be a great time to learn how to fly fish. Hiyori is a little befuddled by Koharu’s actions, wondering if she’s doing this to take her mind off things, or if she’s just curious. Past experience says that it’s likely a combination of both: characters like Koharu, Cocoa and Mira seem attuned to how those around them feel, and intuitively act in a way as to help them out.

  • While Hiyori notes that this day is windier than when they’d met, Koharu indicates that she’s like to at least try her hand at casting. Moments like these bring out Hiyori’s true self, and she immediately delves into the technical aspects of how to properly cast a fly fishing rod. The terminology overwhelms Koharu, but when Hiyori switches over to layman’s terms, Koharu comes around and begins to understand what Hiyori is getting at. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina suffers from a similar problem. As a beginner, she asks Makoto to help her out, but Makoto’s experience means she uses terms Hina is unfamiliar with. Conversely, Yūki’s explanations are far simpler, and in no time at all, Hina’s up and running. Being able to convey complex ideas to a novice is a mark of skill, and here in Slow Loop, having Hiyori being comfortable with both simplifies things somewhat for Koharu.

  • While Hiyori begins to wonder if Koharu’s wanting to learn fly fishing solely to take her mind off things back home, it turns out that Koharu had really just been about the fly fishing. However, this does give Hiyori a chance to clear her head, and seeing Koharu’s energy leads her to open up a little more – as they head home, Hiyori becomes comfortable calling Koharu by name, and learns that Koharu is two months older than she is.

  • For the time being, Slow Loop has made only the briefest of mentions regarding where its events take place: based on the name of the high school that Hiyori and Koharu attend, it’s somewhere in a hillier, coastal region of Kanagawa. This is speculative, of course, and I do wonder if a bit more information will be given with respect to where Slow Loop occurs come later episodes; I’d previously done a location hunt for Houkago Teibou Nisshi that wound up being very enjoyable, and it’d be phenomenal to bring the Oculus Quest back out of storage for another location hunt.

  • Although they didn’t catch anything, Koharu admits that she’d wanted to get at some fresh fish so she can cook: it turns out that Koharu is a skilled cook, and when Hiyori admits they have more fish than they know what to do with, including fish that’s no longer quite as optimal for sashimi, Koharu indicate she’s got a recipe up her sleeve that’s worth trying out. The difference in skills that each of Koharu and Hiyori possess creates a scenario where Hiyori will teach Koharu fishing, and over time, Koharu will impart her cooking knowledge on Hiyori, as well. The interplay between two different, but complementary skills will similarly help both to grow: as it turns out, Koharu’s not much of an outdoors person since she was afflicted with asthma when she was younger.

  • The recipe that Koharu has in mind isn’t particularly challenging: it’s a zukedon (marinated tuna bowl) that is prepared by adding equal measures of soy sauce, dashi and mirin to the fish, then throwing in some ground sesame seeds, adding this onto the rice and then topping with scallions to finish things off. Donburi is similar to the Cantonese 碟頭飯 (jyutping dip6 tau4 faan6, “topping on rice”), a simple dish with meat served on rice, and while there are countless varieties, my favourite is chicken curry or char sui with choy sum. Rice is incredibly versatile, and for dinner yesterday evening, I ended up having Hamamatsu-style unagi on rice. This eel was incredibly rich in flavour, being both savoury and piscine, and I now appreciate why Rin was overjoyed to try eel while with Nadeshiko during their time in Hamamatsu.

  • In the end, the resulting zukedon is delicious – Hiyori notes that it’s a little different than the ones her father used to make, and the ensuing conversation has Koharu shocked to learn that some fishes are actually at their best a few days after they’re caught. I have noticed that discussions elsewhere are very focused on Hiyori accepting her family name being changed from Yamakawa to Minagi, but this aspect is ultimately inconsequential – Hiyori herself is the sort of person who rolls with the punches and does her best to be accommodating; while Koharu and her father moving in is a big change, she’s not too bothered and even remarks shikata ga nai (仕方がない), a saying associated with accepting adversity in a dignified manner. Incidentally, the Chinese have a similar saying, 冇辦法 (jyutping mou5 baan6 faat3, literally “no other way”).

  • The reason why I’m less concerned about Hiyori accepting the family name change, despite its ties to her father, is because accepting this change equates to accepting the future, which in turn opens the anime to explore what lies ahead. Hiyori’s father remains important to her, but Koharu is the present and the future; I do not doubt that Hiyori’s father would’ve wanted her to find her own happiness anew, much as how Fū did indeed find her own way in Tamayura. As it was, Hiyori’s already looking forwards to figuring out some new fishing techniques that might be helpful for Koharu, whose enthusiasm to learn evokes a very Shimarin-like response from Hiyori, and this signifies that focusing on the minutiae is not too beneficial in a series like Slow Loop.

  • On the first day of term, Koharu gently pulls Hiyori forwards and hopes they’ll be in the same class together. Thus begins Slow Loop, and with the first of the anime now off to a fine start, I’ll remark here that I have plans to return and write about Slow Loop on a quarterly basis: discussion on shows like these are uncommon, and on some occasion, folks deem it necessary to bring in various aspects of psychology or sociology into such series where it is not needed. Manga Time Kirara series are, by definition, easygoing and approachable, so that a wide range of people can enjoy them: I hope to be able to convey this enjoyment as I journey through this one. Besides Slow Loop, I am also watching Girls’ Frontline and Shuumatsu no Harem this season. Once I have a measure of how these two shows are doing, I’ll make a more concrete decision as to whether or not I will be writing about them.

Before we delve too deeply into Slow Loop as more episodes air, it is logical to briefly mention the etymology behind this series’ title. Slow Loop‘s title is derived from a step during casting, during which one casts backwards, causing the line to form a loop. As Hiyori explains, casting forward and backward without dropping the fly into the water is called false casting. During this time, a loop is retained in the line: this process is done in preparation for the act of casting a line fully, and so, a “slow” loop therefore refers to the idea of taking as much time as needed to become ready for the next step forward. Slow Loop is appropriately named, and speaks to how for Hiyori, the path to acceptance and of thriving is one that she should take at her own pace. This is reminiscent of the advice that Maon’s father had given to Kanae in Tamayura ~More Aggressive~, when he’d suggested that everyone eventually casts off from the harbour, even though everyone does so only when they’re ready. As such, moving into Slow Loop‘s main story, it is evident that this is an anime that will combine the topic of fishing with self-discovery and acceptance while adding the Manga Time Kirara traits of adorable characters, bad jokes and warmth. On paper, this is a solid combination, so it goes without saying that Slow Loop is a series I am going to enjoy watching this season. Given the remarkably enjoyable experience Houkago Teibou Nisshi had imparted, and the unparalleled lessons seen in Tamayura, I am not holding Slow Loop to those same expectations – instead, the value in Slow Loop will come from how the story differentiates itself from those of its precursors.

Sorairo Utility OVA Review and Reflection

“The difference between a good golf shot and a bad one is the same as the difference between a beautiful and a plain woman – a matter of millimetres.” –Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

After Minami spotted a lady at the local driving range, she became inspired to take up golfing in high school. On a warm summer’s day, she joins her friends, Ayaka and Haruka for a game, hoping to make par on at least one of the holes. However, while Ayaka and Haruka are a ways more proficient, Minami struggles to line up a drive down the fairway. Although she’s dejected by noon, after lunch, she decides to simple focus on playing an enjoyable game, and on the last hole, she manages to line up a shot that lands on the putting green, leaving her within one stroke of making par. However, nerves causes her to miss, but in the end, she still has fun anyways. This is Sorairo Utility (空色ユーティリティ, “Sky Blue Utility”), an anime short that is produced by Yostar Pictures promoting golf. During its fourteen minute long run, Sorairo Utility renders moments from a day spent on the golf course as Minami tries to achieve a personal goal, and despite encountering disappointment, once she finds her magic moment, is able to find new life in a game she’d taken up. This OVA was released on December 31 and was originally announced back in October, and despite its short length, still ends up being quite enjoyable to watch: for one, it’s deep blue skies and verdant grass as far as the eye can see. This stands in stark contrast with the weather we’ve got right now; back home, there’s a fresh snowfall, and Environment Canada is forecasting that the temperatures are going to dip right back into the minus twenties over the next few days.

Despite its short runtime, Sorairo Utility‘s manages to weave in a tale of finding one’s own inspiration and approach to things. Minami opens the day lacking confidence in her game. Her technique is rigid, and her posture is stiff. Every mistake seems to be a game-ender. However, after taking a funny photo with her friends, Minami decides to just wing it during the afternoon, and while having more fun, she ends up taking a suggestion from Haruka: to visualise the ball going where she wants, and imagine herself doing the technique that she wishes to do. Minami recalls a summer memory, where she’d spotted a lady doing a drive at the range. It turns out that watching the ball soar into the sky had led her to appreciate how blue it was, and this was her motivation for taking up golfing. Minami subsequently makes a fantastic drive, putting her ball right on the putting green; it’s the combination of both her own inspiration, in conjunction with suggestions from a better player, that helps Minami to make this shot. Sorairo Utility thus indicates that improving in anything is to accept assistance from the outside, and possessing the drive to get better from within. This is a relatively simple message that gives a bit more weight to Sorairo Utility, which is otherwise a basic, but still enjoyable portrayal of golf, a sport that I’m not terribly familiar with.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Sorairo Utility opens with an attractive lady practising her drives at a local range, and this sight is what leads Minami to take up golfing. With strong form, the woman drives a ball high into the blue sky, as straight as an arrow, and this is what inspires Minami to also give golfing a go. The scene is faded out, indicative of a flashback – in the present, the colouring is very vibrant, and the warmth can practically be felt through the screen. However, Minami’s game isn’t quite where she’d like it to be, and she wonders if buying better golf balls will help her.

  • When I first heard about it, I imagined that Sorairo Utility would be a twelve episode series about golf. Had this been the case, I would’ve wondered if it would be a series I would be able to consistently watch and write about: golf isn’t something I’m terribly interested in, but on the flipside, neither is fishing, and I thoroughly enjoyed Houkago Teibou Nisshi during its run. A few minutes into Sorairo Utility, and it became clear that the three characters, Minami, Ayaka and Haruka, are sufficiently colourful as to drive things.

  • Both Haruka and Ayaka are a ways more experienced than Minami; Haruka feels a great deal like Yama no Susume‘s Kaede and Super Cub‘s Reiko, while Ayaka reminds me of K-On!‘s Tsumugi. Minami, then, is the quintessential slice-of-life character; she’s energetic and outgoing, but also quick to become discouraged. These character archetypes are familiar, but also tried-and-true, forming the basics for what could be a full-fledged anime that I’d be interested in watching.

  • Were Sorairo Utility a full-sized anime, I imagine that it’d follow a very familiar pattern: Minami picks up golfing and is introduced to Haruka and Ayaka, participates in a tournament where she gets wiped out, then rediscovers why she’d picked things up in the beginning, and consents to join another tournament for the finale. Depending on the intended themes, anime such as this could have Minami losing again but having fun anyways, or otherwise perform better (e.g. placing in the top ten or third). Either way, she’d then look forwards to improving and continuing on.

  • For me, the outcomes of a given anime are secondary to the route it takes to get there. When one is familiar with the thematic elements inherent to a genre, things can become predictable very quickly, and while some folks count this as a strike against the genre, I find that the journey matters more than the destination. In something like Sorairo Utility, what Minami gets out of things is more important than what happens in the end.

  • Here, Minami attempts to putt the ball into the hole. Angles are properly used in Sorairo Utility to convey the different phases of golf, with sweeping shots shown for long drives, and close-ups for putts. Minami’s switched over to a putter her to make the close-range shots; golfers require several different kinds of clubs depending on where they are. The woods are the largest and meant to drive long-range shots. Irons are used for slightly shorter shots, or tee shots on short holes. Some golfers may prefer hybrids over long irons. Wedges, on the other hand, are used for approach shots, or for extrication from sand traps. Finally, the putter is a specialised club for knocking the ball into the hole itself.

  • For Minami, her problem seems to be that she’s too worried, and correspondingly stiff, to make fluid motions that would allow her drives to be straight. In spite of this, it doesn’t stop Haruka, Ayaka and Minami from having a bit of fun together – even though Minami is discouraged by her game, Haruka and Ayaka serve to brighten her day up considerably. Here, I remark that a lot of works feature golf; the sport’s popularity in North America comes from the fact that it is accessible (one can rent clubs, and on average, an 18-hole round costs around 45 CAD), as well as the fact that it is in a beautiful setting, is slow-paced, and provides good exercise, too.

  • The fact that golf is slow-paced makes it highly social event: in between holes, players can chat and hang out. Taken together, golf figures in everything from something like Ian Flemming’s Goldfinger, to Kevin Gillis’ The Raccoons. The former has James Bond facing Auric Goldfinger in a crooked golf game, and for film critics, this was one of the best golf scenes in any movie, as well as being a great opportunity to showcase the fact that Sean Connery himself was an avid golfer. Goldfinger has Bond outfoxing Goldfinger at the last hole when he catches the latter cheating, creating for one of cinema’s most iconic moments.

  • I’m guessing readers are less likely to be familiar with the golf segment of “Join The Club” in The Raccoons, during which industrialist Cyril Sneer attempts to gain admittance into a country club so he can level the playing field against business rival Mr. Knox, whose membership allows him to win over clients more easily. While Cyril ends up winning the golf game, he learns that some clubs aren’t worth belonging to and passes this along to Lisa Raccoon, who’s taken up smoking in a bid to fit in. The Raccoons was a surprisingly mature and well-written series despite being a children’s’ show, and while word is that there’s a remake in the works, I’ve not heard when it will begin airing just yet.

  • In Sorairo Utility, there’s no Nazi Gold at stake, and the players aren’t trying to win a golf tournament so they can be admitted to an exclusive country club – it’s just three friends, blue skies and open fairway. Here, Minami decides to keep a funny-looking self-portrait after Ayaka and Haruka laugh themselves silly, feeling that it might be good keepsake of the day.

  • Whereas Haruka and Ayaka might find Minami’s featureless expression hilarious, I personally enjoy moments such as these, when Minami sends yet another ball flying off-course, to a greater extent. There are no shortage of funny faces in Sorairo Utility, and about halfway into the episode, I became convinced that were this to be a full series, it would’ve likely have made the list of things I’d actively follow in a given season.

  • Over lunch, Minami orders a katsu bowl, leading the others to wonder if she’s having a bad day. This simple remark speaks volumes about the characters – to the very least, both Haruka and Ayaka know Minami well enough to guess how she’s feeling based purely on what she orders. However, a delicious meal does put the spirits back in Minami, and after lunch, Haruka notices that Minami’s more energetic than she had been during the morning. A good, hot meal can do wonders, and today was the sort of day where a hot meal is most welcome: I ended up using the leftover hot pot ingredients to make a simple but tasty ramen.

  • Par the course for an anime about golf, but featuring young women, Sorairo Utility also features some off-course antics, such as Minami messing with what appears to be a Cape Penguin. Sorairo Utility is probably one of the best-kept secrets of this current season, and despite not offering the same level of character development or presentation of golf as a full-scale series might, nonetheless manages to capture the spirit of golf and condense it down to a short. Some folks have wondered if Sorairo Utility was originally a 1-cour series that “went wrong in production”, resulting in this short film, but looking around, I’ve not found anything decisive to say this is the case.

  • What I did learn was that Sorairo Utility‘s director, Kengo Saitō, simply wanted to do something with golf: this project simply been the result of Saitō longing to animate golf, and looking around, he’s got a lot of golf-related sketches. Thus, rather than production problems, Sorairo Utility resulted from Saitō’s wishes being granted. The end result isn’t bad at all: everything is smoothly animated, and both character design and background artwork is solid. Saitō had previously been the animation director for Little Witch Academia and SSSS.Dynazenon, both of which proved successful, so I imagine that this OVA came about as a result of Yostar Pictures giving one of their directors a chance to fulfil a longstanding dream in recognition of his contributions.

  • To motivate Minami on the last hole, Haruka and Ayaka decide to show her the funny photo once more. Each of Minami, Haruka and Ayaka are voiced by relatively new voice actresses, although they are voice actresses who’ve got a few shows in their resume that I’m familiar with. Minami is voiced by Miyu Takagi (Miyu Okamoto of Wake Up, Girls!), Yurina Amami plays Haruka (Kayoko Hayakawa in Koisuru Asteroid), and Ayasa Goto voices Ayaka (Sachie Kaibara from PuraOre!). After the laughter subsides, Minami clears her mind and thinks back to the day that inspired her to take up golf.

  • With her ideal shot in mind, Minami swings, connects with the ball and sends it into the air, straight as an arrow. At 1080p, the ball is plainly seen, but even at this lower resolution, one can still roughly make the ball out; it’s a single speck on a backdrop of deep blue, evocative of a hot summer’s day. This is the perfect shot for Minami, one that lands her onto the putting green, and after the initial shock of making such a drive wears off, Minami is all smiles.

  • As Minami ultimately finds, being relaxed is what helps her to make this drive. That she’s working to improve her golf game brings back a classic moment from Rick and Morty‘s first season, where Jerry asks of a Meeseeks to help him take two strokes off his golf game. The Meeseeks suggest keeping his shoulders square, keep his head down and relax, but this is to no avail. Ordinarily, when given the right instruction, once one gets a feel for things, they’ll be able to replicate it more consistently until it becomes a part of their technique. The tricks that the Meeseeks suggested to Jerry are likely correct; when Haruka suggests that Minami relax, the results are immediately noticeable.

  • That Jerry is outplayed by an anime girl in golf proved most hilarious, and viewers can feel the same joy that Minami feels after she makes this shot. Even though Sorairo Utility is only an OVA, it’s clear that the production staff still treated the series with the appropriate respect and effort; the end result is enjoyable to watch because there is still a journey where one ends up rooting for Minami. In excitement, Minami decides to run off over to the putting green in lieu of taking the golf cart.

  • I certainly wasn’t expecting to write about a short this early into 2022, but I’m glad to have sat down and given Sorairo Utility a go. With this one in the books, I’ll be writing about Slow Loop next. I’ve decided that I’ll also be writing about Girls’ Frontline at this time, and once I’ve had a chance to watch Shuumatsu no Harem, I’ll have a more concrete decision as to whether or not I’ll be talking about that one. Tabi wa ni appears to be delayed; it was scheduled to begin running in December, but I’ve not heard any news about it at all. In between the seasonal anime, I’ve also begun watching Ishuzoku Reviewers and Maiko-san Chi no Makanai-san. Once I’ve taken a chance to get my blogging schedule sorted out for the start of this year, I anticipate that I’ll be writing about both come February.

  • To round things out, Ayaka, Minami and Haruka unwind in the onsen after their game, acting as a satisfying conclusion to this short. The theme song for Sorairo Utility is performed by HAM (Haruka, Ayaka and Minami): it’s a sunny-sounding piece called Love Theory, and the joyful aesthetics reminds me of the summer. While the summer itself is a full half year away, and despite the fact that this winter’s been forecast to be both colder and snowier than seasonal, experience shows that even the longest winter will give way to summer again. With this post in the books, it’s time to take the remainder of today easy before I return to work tomorrow; today is also Koisuru Asteroid day, the second anniversary to when Koisuru Asteroid began airing, and that means while it snows outside, I get to go back and begin rewatching this celebration of the sciences again in what has become a new tradition for me.

Sorairo Utility is yet another example of how anime can be a phenomenal medium for presenting topics that otherwise might not elicit much interest in viewers. While I’ve briefly golfed before, I’ve never found it to be a particularly exciting sport to watch (having been spoiled by things like the NHL). Similarly, I’ve gone fishing as a part of a class trip out to the west coast years earlier, but it wasn’t such a life-changing experience that I took it up as a hobby later. Neither golf or fishing, pastimes here in Canada, are things that I would have counted to be interesting. However, being able to watch its portrayal in anime has always been an enjoyable experience; while anime won’t always nail down every last detail as a technical manual or professional instruction might, its portrayal of the finer details and the fun characters have can make a given hobby feel considerably more enticing. Houkago Teibou Nisshi had done this in 2020 with its depiction of fishing, and here in Sorairo Utility, although we viewers only get a glimpse into things, the OVA has convinced me that there is nuance in golf that makes it worthwhile. This is why I’m so fond of anime that portrays real-world activities: even something like pottery, which is far removed from the set of what I’d normally partake in, can be made exciting through anime. This speaks both to the fact that every activity has subtleties that make them worthwhile for different people, as well as the fact that anime excel at bringing out the best parts of each activity.