The Infinite Zenith

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

Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai (I Want to Deliver Your Voice): A Review and Reflection

“Kind words are a creative force, a power that concurs in the building up of all that is good, and energy that showers blessings upon the world.” –Lawrence G. Lovasik

Nagisa Yukiai is a girl who has long believed that words hold spirits (kotodama) that impart on them a powerful impact. As she nears her final year of high school, she struggles to determine her future career path. While evading an unexpected rainfall one day, Nagisa takes shelter in a derelict shop called Aquamarine. She discovers a vast collection of records here and broadcasting equipment. Activating the station and playing radio host, Nagisa’s words reach Shion Yazawa, whose mother, Akane, fell into a coma after an accident twelve years previously. Shion asks that Nagisa not return to Aquamarine, but Nagisa’s curiosity soon gets the better of her, and she encounters Shion at the shop, using the radio equipment to send a message to her mother with the hope that she would one day wake up. Moved, Nagisa decides to help Shion broadcast these messages. They are joined by Nagisa’s friends, Kaede Tatsunokuchi and Shizuku Dobashi. The group’s activities soon draw Ayame Nakahara’s interest – an amateur radio enthusiast, Ayame lends her background towards helping Nagisa and her friends’ making a more legitimate radio program. She recruits Otoha Biwakouji to help compose music, and as the summer wears on, the girls’ broadcast reaches a growing audience in town. Through their broadcasts, the girls grow closer to one another and also learn to express themselves more directly. With no progress made towards getting their message to Akane, the girls face two challenges – Yuu’s grandfather has scheduled Aquamarine for redevelopment, and Akane is being transferred to a different hospital. On the day of the transfer, Nagisa and her friends set up a live broadcast at the local shrine. With the help of the townspeople, their song reaches Akane, who reawakens. Shion is reunited with her mother, and deeply moved by her experiences, Nagisa decides to become a radio show host.

Released last year in late August and only meandering into the home release realm last month, Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai (I Want to Deliver Your Voice, known in short Kimi Koe, or Your Voice) is a Madhouse production. In its ninety-minute runtime, Your Voice‘s focus is an ode to the radio. The film hammers home that our voice, carrying emotional tenour and intent, can have an impact on others, as well as ourselves. In a world where communications have become increasingly textual, we’ve forgotten how much power our voice can hold: subtle differences in tone, pronunciation and articulation convey different intent, from love, to disgust. Because of the intent behind our voice, the radio is thus presented as a powerful amplification of the emotions and feelings our voices carry. Nagisa, who had spent her life believing in kotodama and hesitates to speak ill of others, finds radio to be a platform where she can channel positive energy. It is the magic of this moment that leads her to continue broadcasting, and as she continues, her audience expands. Her words reach more people, and move more people: this is the magic of the radio. By pouring her sincerity and energy into a voice that others her, Nagisa draws in her friends, who in turn help her draw in an entire town’s interest, much as Akane had done years before. By Your Voice‘s end, having reached so many people, Nagisa is able to funnel the town’s support for Akane through their voices: the strength of everyone’s feelings allow Akane to wake up after twelve years. Having seen the impact of what voices can do, Nagisa subsequently finds her calling in life and becomes a radio show host. While highly fantastical in its depiction of feelings, and reiterating the spirits of a voice to the point of ad nauseam, Your Voice‘s message is a simple and direct one that is also quite moving in spite of its derivative outcome.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The cast of Your Voice is voiced by people who had successfully auditioned for roles in the film, rather than professional voice actors. Mina Katahira provides Nagisa’s voice, and the story begins following a lacrosse game that sees her team lose. Nagisa immediately recounts her story with the kotodama, which manifest as luminescent orbs. Ever since her grandmother related the story to her, Nagisa’s long held the belief that words carry very powerful impacts and negative effects can come back to bite one, so for her part, she refrains from speaking her mind except when visiting a local shrine, where she shouts her concerns underneath a bell. Here, she watches a rainfall stop after discovering the abandoned coffeehouse, Aquamarine.

  • I admit that, when I saw the first of the key art for Your Voice, I was initially dissuaded by the character designs, but seeing more finalised artwork and A Place Further Than The Universe assuaged these doubts. In appearances and manner, Nagisa takes characteristics from A Place Further Than The Universe‘s Mari and Yuzuki. Optimistic and a bit of a naïf, Nagisa is the quintessential protagonist for films of this sort. Descriptions for Your Voice put Nagisa as a bit impatient in finding her future, and so, the film can be seen as a coming-of-age story, providing a snapshot into the events that help Nagisa find herself, all the while helping others out.

  • Nagisa receives a message after her first-ever broadcast from a listener, and although it amounts to a cease-and-desist, Nagisa’s curiosity gets the better of her: she’s intrigued by Aquamarine, and learns that its owner was a well-known local radio show host, broadcasting out of her coffeehouse. However, after an accident that left her comatose twelve years previously, the shop was boarded up and left derelict. Nagisa learns the name of this individual is Akane Yazawa, and that she’s at a hospital nearby. While visiting, Nagisa hears on the radio an active broadcast in session: putting two and two together, she hastens back to Aquamarine.

  • Set in the Enoshima area, it was interesting to see Madhouse’s portrayal of the region, which had prominently featured in P.A. Works’ 2012 series, Tari Tari. The Madhouse version of Enoshima features fewer complex lighting effects (e.g. rain water on the ground does not create visible reflections as they do in Tari Tari) and warmer lighting, creating a sense of summer. The use of summer in anime is less of a thematic element by this point in time and more of a trope: long days and endless skies in anime convey possibility, and so, it is unsurprising that summers are portrayed as a time of discovery in anime. Your Voice is no different, as it’s ultimately a story about a journey.

  • While Shion’s mail to Nagisa might have been a little hostile, Nagisa seems to pay no mind and meets her face-to-face for the first time at Aquamarine. It is here that the two strike up a friendship, and while Shion is initially reluctant, Nagisa’s cheerful manner convinces Shion to give things a whirl for at least a little while. Nagisa is very tearful here, and while crying, she definitely resembles Mari of A Place Further Than The Universe. The same white outlines are present there as well as in Your Voice, although minor facial features in Your Voice are a little rougher than in the better-polished A Place Further Than The Universe. This should not be surprising, as the latter represents the result of applying the learnings from Your Voice.

  • Shion explains to Nagisa that she’s staying for the summer and in person, she’s much more soft-spoken than her initial message to Nagisa suggests. In spite of getting off on the wrong foot, Nagisa’s earnest personality and genuine concern for Shion eventually leads Shion to consent having Nagisa help her out. Nagisa’s persistent belief in the kotodama initially seems a little childish and misplaced, but their presence in the film strongly suggest that their role is not a trivial one.

  • Initially, Shion is hesitant to deliver a more spirited broadcast as Nagisa is wont to doing, and rushes off, embarrassed. It does take a certain degree of confidence to be able to honestly express oneself on the radio, and the power of a good radio program can be non-trivial. When I work, I listen to the local Cantonese radio programs; my favourite shows are Vancouver’s “摩登狄寶娜” (Modern Deborah, featuring Deborah Moore), which deals with various travel and lifestyle topics. 一家人 (One Family) is broadcast after, and similarly deals with the daily comings and goings closer to home. Although their hosts do not know it, their programs certainly do brighten up my day. Nagisa has a very extroverted personality, and upon hearing Shion’s wavering resolve, decides to become friends with her and spur her on.

  • Athletic, competitive and headstrong, Kaede is one of Nagisa’s friends and also works as a waitress at a local family restaurant. Her longstanding rivalry with Yuu comes from their past: envious of Yuu, she’s resolved to compete with her and prevail, although finds herself failing. When Yuu is made captain of a rival lacrosse team and also schools Kaede’s team at the film’s start, Kaede has naught but ill-will towards Yuu. Of the characters in Your Voice, Kaede is the only individual with the angular tsurime: everyone else sports tareme, and consequently, she does look a little out of place compared to the other characters.

  • The girls’ radio programme receives more feedback from another listener who challenges the show, stating that it’s unprofessional. Later in the day, Nagisa finds a pair of eyes on her, and after a few tense moments, comes face to face with one Ayume Nakahara, another student who feels that the girls are ineffective with their radio program. Similarly to Shion, Ayame’s messages come across as a bit confrontational, but in person, their tone changes quite a bit. When it comes to feedback around these parts, I will assume good faith, especially where alternative perspectives and corrections are made. However, as I’m always interested in hearing more from readers, I’ve also decided that it’s worth inviting the folks offering corrections to discuss things further. Being right means less to me than seeing what readers think of things.

  • From left to right, we’ve got Shizuku Dobashi (Momone Iwabuchi), Ayame Nakahara (Mitsuho Kambe), Kaede Tatsunokuchi (Yuki Tanaka), Shion Yazawa (Suzuko Mimori), and Otoha Biwakouji (Hitomi Suzuki). Kaede and Shizuki are friends with Nagisa, resolving to help Shion out with her desire to broadcast messages to her mother. Ayame and Otoha later join their rank: Ayame is proficient with broadcast-related details, such as delivery of effective programs and legality of broadcasting music, while Otoha is highly talented in composing music. When the girls learn that they can only use royalty-free music, Ayame brings Otoha in to create custom music they can freely use.

  •  Your Voice that more prominent reviewers have criticised is that there are more characters than is necessary, but I will stand up and challenge them right here: for films with a large number of characters, one must be willing to set aside individual growth and development in favour of focusing more on the collective goal. Rogue One had a large number of characters, each with limited development, but the film succeeded because each character was a part of a whole: the sum of their contributions allowed Jyn and her rag-tag band of misfits to secure the Death Star plans. Similarly, in Your Voice, while each character (save Shizuku) faces their own struggles, everyone also puts these aside to help Shion out. The real world is about how we interact with others, not about ourselves, so to dismiss shared goals in fiction in favour of individual growth is to be unfaithful to the fact that humans are a social animal.

  • Their radio program gains momentum over time, so the girls begin expanding their broadcast capabilities and advertise their show around town. Here, they enjoy katsu cutlets outside of a shop while on break from their activities. I do seem to have a particular talent for enjoying things that people are critical of: a case in point is my recent viewing of Solo: A Star Wars Movie. After sitting down to a hot and tasty chicken-fried steak with sautéed zucchini and hash browns for dinner (it’s been a while since I’ve had a good chicken fried steak, with the last time being when Battlefield 1‘s open beta was in full swing), I headed over to a nearby theatre and watched Solo with a longtime friend. We found the movie enjoyable, certainly not meritorious the vitriol that supposed “expert” critics have leveled against the film, and after Solo ended, I stepped back outside to see a double rainbow gracing the skies.

  • Granted, the film’s depiction of Corellia is inconsistent with that of the expanded universe, Darth Maul’s appearance was illogical, and I prefer the extended universe’s version of how Han met Chewbacca, but overall, the film was coherent in presenting Han’s origins. Thus, claims that “tropes and twists of shamelessly recycled clichés are presented throughout with an absurd earnestness” is a load of horse dung. Back in Your Voice, the broadcasts that the girls deliver become smoother and more varied over time. With Ayame’s expertise, Otoha’s music and the others’ spirit, the girls resurrect what was once an old classic in town.

  • At the end of the day, I fail to see how Your Voice is “torn between two different narrative goals and can’t quite manage to achieve either of them”, as our anime journalist voices. There is a single goal, which is Nagisa and her friends working with Shion to bring their voices and feelings to Akane, and as they continued, they developed a more sophisticated operation. In the process, Nagisa has a profound experience with voices and finds a career path she is passionate about. Occam’s Razor definitely applies to anime, and overthinking something simple is what creates befuddlement amongst critics, many of whom I feel should be more genuine in their approach rather than be critical for the sole purpose of being critical.

  • Then again, I personally feel that the role of a professional critic is (and should be) diminished now: larger sites like Anime News Network can have ineffectual, ill-argued reviews that do not properly represent films like Your Voice, and obscure blogs may have very thoughtful critiques and discussions that the giants have not even considered. This is the topic of no small discussion on Twitter, where many of my peers are struggling to find motivation to write when readership and traffic is not increasing with time and improved content. I understand this feeling: it is unlikely that I will be able to convince the folks out there that I cannot reach, that they should take even Anime News Network reviews with a grain of salt. Having said this, beating down folks with perspectives contrary to mine is not my goal: this blog exists because it’s fun to write.

  • Shizuku’s role in the radio program is quite limited, but with her talents for baking cookies and sweets for the others, Shizuku is raising morale at Aquamarine while the others help with the radio program directly. Shizuku is a static character in Your Voice, undergoing very little development as an individual, and is intended to provide a reference point for the changes that will impact Nagisa, and to a lesser extent, Kaede.

  • As each of Nagisa, Kaede, Shion, Shizuku, Ayame and Otoha become closer through their shared interest in radio and using this as a tool to reach Shion’s mother, they spend more time together outside of Aquamarine. Shion has longed to be with friends, having spent most of her life transferring schools before she could become close to anyone, and Nagisa’s actions allow Shion to experience friendship. Here, the girls visit a summer festival together: the festival features the bamboo lights seen in Tamayura‘s Path of Longing festival.

  • After Kaede learns that Yuu’s been stripped of her captaincy, she decides to broadcast onto the airwaves and invites Yuu to visit Aquamarine to hang with the others. Kaede remarks that Yuu is the sort of person she isn’t, someone who is simultarnously proper and also somewhat dependent on others. During the course of Your Voice‘s run, there are five inset songs performed by the voice actors from the movie. Their inclusion gives Your Voice a very sentimental feeling that is befitting of its themes about voices and their impacts.

  • When Kaede drops by and runs into long-time rival Yuu, they have a terse exchange before Nagisa arrives. The two have been rivals since childhood, with Kaede striving to outperform Yuu and failing at every turn. Her patience exhausted, Nagisa decks Kaede, and Yuu runs off. Reviews elsewhere found this rivalry unrealistic and unnecessary, but its presence in Your Voice is to remind audiences that in a narrative, while our focus largely remains on the protagonists, the other characters can also be complex in their own right, with unique stories and challenges that simply are not the focus of the story at hand.

  • Similarly, the rivalry is in no way unrealistic: high school students can be very competitive with one another, and what is obvious to more mature individual may not be evident to high school students. This serves to increase Your Voice‘s credibility rather than detracting from it: stubborn characters caught up in the trivialities of the world may seem unreasonable to us viewers, who are seeing things from an external perspective. While we might be able to see the bigger picture, it is not so difficult to imagine ourselves as being entangled in the moment, during which solutions are not so straightforwards.

  • I therefore contend that a degree of empathy is required to enjoy media where drama is involved. It can be easy to dismiss the characters’ problems as trivial, but I imagine that many have been in difficult spots before, during which a solution seems out of reach. As a software developer, I am acutely aware that sometimes, it does take another person to help out: the bugs that I miss in my code, from having the wrong Boolean, to a flipped comparison operator, has sent me on bug hunts lasting hours, only to be solved when one of my coworkers steps through and points out the error. When Yuu runs off, it is Nagisa who goes after her. After listening to Yuu explain why her grandfather has such a role in her life, Nagisa contends that it is possible for her to make up with Kaede.

  • As evening sets in, Yuu and Nagisa begin yet another broadcast, with the aim of reaching Kaede. Nagisa points out on the show that everything Yuu’s done is a consequence of an honest effort, that Kaede’s enmity towards Yuu is unjustified. Yuu adds that she welcomes the challenge, and Kaede, listening in while at work, decides that the time has come to step her game up. This wraps the secondary narrative up, and with this, Your Voice enters its final act.

  • I’ve noticed that all discussions of Your Voice date back to shortly after the film’s première last August, and since then, discussions on Your Voice have otherwise been non-existent. With the film now out now, then, it is a bit surprising that Your Voice has not generated more conversations elsewhere, so it looks like for at least a while longer, this will remain the only passable collection of screenshots from Your Voice. In the time that has passed since last August, A Place Further Than The Universe aired. Inheriting many of the same features and development patterns, I feel that Your Voice can be seen as a warm up act for A Place Further Than The Universe.

  • Yuu eventually manages to convince her grandfather to leave Aquamarine until at least the end of summer vacation, but Shion reveals that the additional time won’t be of any use: their efforts insofar had not been of any consequence, and her mother is set for transfer to another health facility well. Perhaps also realising the weight of what’s been occurring, Nagisa runs out into the pouring rain and cries her eyes out. However, this is not the end: Nagisa’s the sort of person to get right back up after getting knocked down, after all.

  • The time between the première in August of last year and the home release is staggering: nine months, or 50 percent longer than the previous average of six months. It’s been a recent trend for anime films to release their BDs and DVDs much later than the première, and I’ve heard that it’s to do with sales figures; since home release sales are not as sure as they once were, companies simply keep their movies running in the theatres for longer. While I’m not adverse to waiting for anime films to come out, it does mean that if trends continue, the gap between première date and home release dates will continue to increase as time wears on.

  • While en route to the new health facility, Shion sees a kotodama floating outside. Realising that Nagisa’s claims were true after all, she feels that Nagisa might also be doing something with Aquamarine and asks her father to turn the radio on. The kotodama‘s existence in Your Voice are ambiguous until this moment, whereupon it becomes clear that they are more than something Nagisa believes. This is the single supernatural aspect of Your Voice, which is otherwise very grounded in reality, and was likely intended to drive home the message about the power of words, were it not already clear.

  • As it turns out, Nagisa and her fellow radio show hosts had relocated to the shrine, where a large group of listeners have aggregated to support Nagisa’, her team, Shion and her mother. Hearing Nagisa’s determination prompts Shion to ask their driver to return into the broadcast area when the signal cuts out, and the scene crescendos into the climax when the girls begin singing. Your Voice does a great deal over its 90-minute run, and there’s a great deal going on, mirroring the chaotic nature of life itself. However, everything converges on the singular goal of helping Akane reawaken, with the other positives that come of this endeavour serve to reiterate that when judiciously applied, voices can have a meaningful impact on listeners.

  • The sheer intensity of emotions in the moment create numerous kotodama that precipitates Akane’s reawakening. I absolutely loved the message of Your Voice: while I ardently believe that actions hold a much greater weight than words alone, it is true that the right words at the right time can make all the difference. The resultant ending to Your Voice is one that was unsurprising but well-deserved: while the plot’s progression holds no twists and ends in the manner that one might expect it to, the journey is nonetheless one that is heart-warming to watch. Heart is something that Your Voice has plenty of, and we can’t reasonably ask for more than a little heart in these troubled times.

  • In the epilogue, Shion spends time with her mother, and here, I would recommend this film. If and when I am asked about a more concrete score, I find that Your Voice earns an A- (3.7 on a four-point scale, or 8.5 of ten). More time would’ve been nice to deliver parts of the story, especially the Nagisa’s restoration of the radio program with her friends, and a greater resolution for Yuu and Kaede beyond what was seen in the film, but beyond this, Your Voice is very clear about what it aimed to leave audiences with after everything was said and done. I do note here that these are my opinions alone – I am a bit of a sucker for sentimental stories, and individuals different than myself may experience Your Voice in different manner. Further to this, I am similar to TheRadBrad in that I tend to focus on the positives rather than the negatives, which is why I usually enjoy most what I decide to write about.

  • The events of this fateful summer gives Nagisa a concrete path to follow, and she becomes a radio show host in Tokyo, showing that she has found her way. This brings my talk on Your Voice to a close, and with a fair review of the film in the books, I turn my eyes towards what’s next. We’ve passed the halfway point of June now, which means that Amanchu! AdvanceComic Girls and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online‘s finales are nearing. In addition, summer is only three days out, so I’ve got a pair of special topics posts lined up, as well. The Road to Battlefield V‘s final phase is beginning this week, and once over, I imagine the final patch for Battlefield 1 will be released. Finally, the Steam Summer Sale is also expected to begin this week.

While perhaps more rudimentary in its goals, and hampered by its shorter runtime, which precludes exploration of other narratives that ended up being solved quickly, Your Voice is nonetheless a solid film whose execution is of a high standard. Your Voice is set in Enoshima, a location previously seen in Tari Tari, and while perhaps not quite as vivid or faithful as Tari Tari‘s Enoshima, Your Voice nonetheless makes use of the area to create a compelling setting for notions of the self-discovery warranted by the nearly-endless summer days. Coupled with a musical score that outlines the gentle hope in Your Voice, the film itself is an enjoyable watch overall: I would recommend this film, especially for individuals looking for a film to ease into the upcoming summer with. Easy to follow and direct, Your Voice might not be a powerhouse blockbuster or revolutionise how I see the world, but it is effective as a feel-good movie. Your Voice has one additional contribution that cannot be ignored – it sets the precedence for the well-received and excellent A Place Further Than The Universe. With a similar atmosphere and art style, it is quite clear that A Place Further Than The Universe had taken the learnings from Your Voice to produce an anime that ended up positively impacting many viewers. With this in mind, it was instructive to see the progression of the rather unique art style that Madhouse utilised in Your Voice and how it became smoother by the time A Place Further Than The Universe was aired. I previously remarked that the rather unique art style of A Place Further Than The Universe was capitalised upon to create expressiveness in characters to augment the idea that voices can tell a surer story of than images alone, and the origins in Your Voice are quite apparent: Nagisa is as expressive as Shirase and Mari, giving her character life and giving audience cause to empathise with her as she discovers what her calling in life is.

Amanchu! Advance: Review and Reflection at the ¾ Mark, On Living In The Moment

“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.” –Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Preparations for the culture festival are in full swing. Futaba, Hikari, Ai and Makoto remain at school late into the night hours in order to finish their class exhibits. While Futaba and Hikari go around collecting juice boxes for use with their mural, Ai is creating tropical plants for her class. After Futaba and Hikari drop by with some gourd juice, Ai decides to buy another drink, and steps out to find a vending machine located at the top of a stairwell leading to the roof. She wistfully wishes that she could live in the moment forever, and encounters an enigmatic boy who goes by the name of Peter. He takes Ai on a dream-like journey through the school and mentions that she could stay in the moment forever should she chooses, but Mato intervenes, stating that Peter is a mischievous spirit. As the evening wears on, Ai becomes increasingly tired and dreams about Peter, where she runs into a much younger Mato and learns of Peter’s origins as an infant left behind at a shrine. Longing for companionship, Peter thus fabricated a dream-like world to be with others. Mato and Ai eventually board a large ship in the sky, and the younger Mato expresses a want to be with Peter forever before the dream ends. Shaken, Ai asks Futaba and Hikari to help her return into the dream, where she confronts Peter, declares that she’s in love with him, and subsequently helps him break free of his perceptual isolation in the dream world. Before the two part ways, Ai promises that she will remember Peter, and reawakens. She runs into Mato and explains that Peter’s spirit has left the school. They spot a cat that looks very similar to the cat seen in Ai’s dream, and following it to the local shrine, finds Mamoru Towano there. He explains that the infant was not left behind, and meeting Mato helped him to remember his dreams of old: Mamoru reveals that he is Peter, and it was thanks to Ai that he was able to recall everything. Ai leaves Mato and Mamoru to catch up, dissolving into tears. When she returns to the school with Makoto, she sees the mural that Futaba’s class had been working on, depicting Peter Pan and praises their work.

While the presence of the supernatural in Advance had remained quite ambiguous previously, by the Peter arc, it would seem that such elements have returned in full force: there is a limit to what neural science can account for in the turn of events that lead Ai to encounter the extraordinary. One could suppose that the drowsiness induced by working so late at school, coupled with the magical, uncommon atmosphere of being at school by night, and the amplification of the unknown results in unusual dreams: being in a school, one might say that Ai’s subconsciousness was able to piece together a story about Mato and Mamoru. However, this explanation fails to include how Mamoru knows about Peter and connects Ai’s involvement in his dreams through time and space, and similarly, does not include how Futaba and Hikari can appear with full control over their surroundings to assist Ai. The precise mechanism of how this works is not so easily fitted into accepted knowledge about memories and dreams, so one might simply be forced to accept that at least three of the Infinity Stones would be needed to make things possible and leave it at that. Instead, the focus of this arc, besides giving Ai a bit more time to shine in Advance, also deals predominantly with the dangers of living in the moment. In particular, after Ai wishes that the magical atmosphere of the night prior to the cultural festival would last forever, she is whisked away into a dream world where time has stood still, and one where feelings and emotions remain fixed in an unchanging status quo. The end result is an eternally wistful world where one can only wish for a future; Ai realises that the way to break this cycle is to accept that no moment can last forever, and that it is necessary to take the initiative of taking that step towards the future. In freeing Peter from his dream world, Ai also accepts that one must be mindful of the future. She is thus able to bring Mamoru and Mato together: throughout Advance, Mamoru’s growing feelings for Mato have subtly been hinted at, and it takes a push from Ai, although at her own expense, to advance things. Consequently, Ai’s arc marks the point in Advance where the narrative begins shifting towards moving forwards.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Culture festivals and staying overnight to prepare for them in the Japanese high school setting are a familiar aspect of anime: by nightfall, school grounds take on a completely different feel. Despite the lateness of the hour, everyone is hard at work, bringing life to a place that is otherwise quite deserted by the later hours of a day. In this Advance post, I’ve gone with the typical thirty images, although as a first for my Amanchu! posts, this post will not feature any screenshots that are underwater.

  • Futaba and Hikari have a reduced presence in the third quarter. Here, they are attempting to sell gourd juice; better known as lauki juice, this particular beverage has some health effects, but everyone in Amanchu! seems adverse to its taste. While said to be refreshing, bitter lauki juice has a high conceptration of cucurbitacin compounds. In moderation, these compounds can help with inflammation and cardiovascular problems, but in excess, can be result in gastrointestinal issues.

  • During my time as a middle school student, I helped with the computer science instructor’s school expos. There is indeed a bit of a magic to the school at night; a friend and I joked that we were demoing HyperCard projects, Flash Animations and HTML web pages…at night. I was very fond of helping explain to parents of newcoming students what the joys of the school’s computer courses were, and while I did not do anything of the sort for high school, in University, for my undergraduate and graduate programmes, I ended up helping my supervisor giving evening demonstrations of our lab’s work, and my last-ever full on evening presentation was a formal event celebrating my campus’ fiftieth anniversary.

  • I understand that operating at night can result in unusual phenomenon occurring. When we’re sleep deprived and exhausted, hallucinations can take place because the body begins reducing effort in processing information from external stimuli. Sensory deprivation then causes the mind to fill in the gaps with different images and sounds. Initially, when we entered this arc, I believed that science could be utilised to explain what Ai was experiencing. However, when it becomes clear that this is a shared experience (i.e. Mato is aware of what Ai sees), the scientific approach suddenly became ineffectual.

  • The manifestation known as “Peter” initially brings about questions of whether or not Ai is genuinely interested in remaining at this particular point in time forever. While we’ve seen Futaba and Hikari be challenged with a desire to let the good times roll for as long as possible, Ai had hitherto been given very little characterisation. In Amanchu!, Ai is depicted as hot-blooded, brash and occasionally violet, but also very caring and sensitive whenever romance is concerned. Through the Peter arc, one can then surmise that while Futaba and Hikari are focused on diving, Ai is dealing with her own challenges in romance.

  • Peter takes Ai on a very surreal trip through the school; jarring and quite surreal, the execution brings to mind the likes of the surreal spaces seen in ARIA. While one could enjoy Amanchu!‘s first season without having watched ARIA beforehand, Advance references numerous aspects of ARIA that make them difficult to discount. I would therefore contend that folks wondering about the supernatural, surrealist components of Advance would be well-served well to watch at least the first two seasons of ARIA and become familiarised with the lore here.

  • Mato counts Peter as a ghost, a malevolent force whose existence is to ensnare students. Peter’s supernatural nature becomes more apparent as time wears on: he seemingly phases through a wall at the top of the stairwell. The unusual composition and the merging of the supernatural with reality ties back in with Futaba’s belief that dreams and reality become more difficult to discern in youth; logical from a thematic perspective, I nonetheless found that conventional reasoning is inadequate to explain how things unfold for this story. This is nominally a deal-breaker for some viewers, but I’ve seen my share of stories requiring a willful suspension of disbelief.

  • As such, I will chalk up the experiences in Advance here to be a product of the Living Force and be done with it (hence the page quote). Of course, some individuals have tried to mask their incomprehension of the events in Advance by resorting to pseudoacademic means. One Verso Sciolto believes that the whole point of Ai’s experiences is to put “spirituality in a different perspective”. I’ve had my disagreements with this individual before, and despite their choice of name (“Verso Sciolto” is Italian for “extremely civil and pleasant, unthreatening and welcoming”), I’ve found that this individual is none of these things, being confrontational, vague and aloof. I’m not the only one who believes this is the case: they’ve been banned from a community that I frequent for arguing semantics with others. Such folk are best ignored: very little is to be gained by sparring with folk that believe themselves college professors lecturing first-year students.

  • I was tempted to count exhaustion as being the primary reason for why she begins seeing physical manifestations of Peter on the school grounds by the bonfire pyre, but from a narrative perspective, this also foreshadows Peter’s identity: Mamoru was last seen by the pyre, ensuring it was ready for the events ahead. Here, I note that this is why I don’t always write about the shows I watch immediately after I watch them; being able to reflect on what I’ve seen allows me to notice things I might’ve missed going from first impressions alone.

  • Watching Futaba and Hikari trying to distribute the juice boxes to their classmates so they may use them for an art project reminds me of an episode of the PBS series Arthur, where Binky attempts to make a Popsicle stick bridge by eating Popsicle. He’s informed that the sticks can be brought en mass at crafts stores and wonders if he wasted his time eating all of the Popsicles. In Advance, I do not believe such a shortcut exists for juice boxes, but I do note that going around and giving out juices boxes is clever: students can be refreshed, provided they do not pick up the gourd juice, and then the boxes are repurposed later.

  • While running in the halls, Ai trips and falls: Mamoru makes to catch her but fails. While these mishaps will come to serve a more important purposes later, they also have a more comedic purpose, revealing that Ai and Mio Akiyama of K-On! are not so different. This is the second time that Ai falls, and in retrospect, foreshadows Peter’s identity. While Advance has been more forward with its fanservice, nothing’s actually seen from our perspective, and this is the way I prefer it: ARIA is not known for unnecessary exposure, and it would seem out of place in Amanchu!, as well.

  • Ai later falls asleep again and enters a world that’s very nearly identical to that of her own, with the exception that older buildings are still standing, and that there’s a clear half-foot of water everywhere. This surreal environment is most familiar to ARIA veterans as the acqua alta events that Akari occasionally encounters on Aqua. These are modelled after Venice’s acqua alta (lit. “high water”), caused by the combination of high tides and strong winds. The phenomenon is never explored in ARIA, and in Advance, this is even more unusual.

  • While wandering the deserted, flooded streets, Ai runs into a much younger Mato, who’s also carrying a cat resembling President Hime M. Granzchesta of Himeya Company. Mato provides a bit of background into the phenomenon that viewers and Ai are seeing, clearing up some of the questions that might arise from a story that has become increasingly surreal with time. Advance‘s references to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan have become very overt at this point in time: while it might have been ambiguous when Peter wondered if Ai was interested in living in the moment for all eternity, entering a dream world with Mato and encountering a vast ship in the sky removed any doubts about the allusion.

  • As a child, I was minimally familiar with the story of Peter Pan and Neverland, having read it as a part of my early primary school curriculum. However, it’s been quite some time since I’ve actually read them, and the Disney interpretation is missing thematic elements, so I did some reading to familiarise myself with the original, which is considered a very well-known and famous story in the West. Dealing primarily with themes of innocence and conflicting responsibility.

  • Peter Pan is, in a way, meant to be viewed as a tragedy: to be stuck as a child forever is a curse, as it deprives one of the responsibilities and privileges of growing up. These particular aspects go hand-in-hand: with adulthood comes the increasing duty of contributing to society and family, as well as the freedom to pursue the things one wishes for, as well. Children, while free from many responsibilities, also lack agency.

  • Ai is minimally familiar with Futaba’s profound ability to have lucid dreams. For my part, I have full agency when I dream, although perhaps attesting to my character, I don’t do anything in my dreams that I wouldn’t do in reality. Most of my dreams are set in a largely-believable world not dissimilar to reality, but with minor differences, although there have been cases where I’ve had some incredible experiences through my dreams. With this being said, I wake up, and push the dreams out of my head because I need my mind firmly focused on what’s upcoming. This is why I don’t share my dreams with the world.

  • After reaching the airborne pirate ship, Mato and Ai breach into the ship’s interior, a portal to a Shrine on a hill. A large statue of the Cait Sith can be seen holding a bassinet where an infant sleeps, with tears from his eyes. The water the pours from the ship into the world below is therefore from the infant, who is full of sorrow for having been left behind. In his melancholy, the infant create an entire dream world with the hope of meeting others and tempering the incredible loneliness that he experiences. The sum of these meetings manifests as the young man that we see as Peter.

  • Mato’s strong choice of words to Ai about Peter in the present contradicts her actions within her dreams, where she interacts with Peter as one might treat a lover. Seeing these interactions also leads Ai to understand her own feelings. Peter represents the yearning to live in the present, so Ai seems to be drawn to her world and its people.

  • Ai reacts strongly to being unceremoniously thrown out of her dream, feeling that Peter’s fate is too sad to be left alone. She’s become very invested in what happens with Peter and Mato, but at this point, is still unaware of what it entails. Once all of the pieces come together, this arc might be seen as a bit of a love story for Ai: we recall her propensity for embarrassment where romance is concerned and also note that this love story is about falling in love with the abstract, rather than an individual.

  • Unable to let things slide, Ai recruits Futaba’s help in helping her return. It is technically possible to return to a dream and actively shape its outcomes: it requires a very strong imagination and will to execute. Thus, with Makoto watching over everyone, Futaba and Hikari help Ai out. They fall asleep with her and enter her dream world, being acutely aware that they are in a dream space.

  • Spawning brooms back in, Futaba, Ai and Hikari fly up to the airborne ship, where they keep the doors open long enough for Ai to step through the portal back to the shrine once again. After this point, Futaba and Hikari depart from the dream, leaving Ai to face Peter on her own. Futaba and Hikari return to their classmates and are not seen again until the episode’s ending.

  • While it comes out of the blue, it is no surprise that Ai openly declares that she’s love in Peter. However, rather than promising to stay with him, Ai asks him to take a step forward, waking up and crying out. Breaking this cycle of eternal longing would bring Peter what he desires, Ai reasons; her thoughts here show that Ai, while enjoying the present, is also aware that very little is to be gained by being stuck in one time period. Wanting what she feels is best for Peter is what prompts her to give this suggestion.

  • I do not believe I’ve included a screenshot of the vast airborne ship in whole. This ship is gargantuan and features elements common to pirate ships seen in fiction. I’ve never really been a big fan of pirates of the skull-and-crossbones, peg-leg variety: stories about pirates that interest me are much more modern in nature. The film Captain Phillips is an excellent instance of what I prefer my pirate stories to be, rather than things like Pirates of the Caribbean.

  • Ai’s persistence pays off, and Peter agrees to wake up and see what his future entails. In their final moments together, Ai promises to never forget about Peter. The dream world dissolves, and unlike Mitsuha and Taki in Your Name, Ai’s immediately reminded of Peter by seeing visual cues in her environment. She finds Mato and informs her that Peter’s spirit is unlikely to walk the halls of the school again. While it felt very much a dream, Mato and Ai soon spot a cat looking very much like the cat seen in Ai’s dreams. They follow him to the local shrine.

  • When they reach the shrine, Mato and Ai are disappointed to find Mamoru there. However, he reveals that he is well aware of his experiences within the dreams, recalling vividly his conversations with Mato and Ai. For him, he immediately connects the dots about Ai thanks to a very clear visual cue, and in the process, confirms that he had known Mato through his dreams, as well. From a logical perspective, one might surmise that Ai has developed a crush on Mamoru and the stressors of working late, while forgetting that Futaba and the others were doing something related to Peter Pan, resulted in her dreams, but Mamoru’s recollections immediately causes this bit of speculation to be incorrect.

  • Mamoru fills in the remaining story for Ai and Mato: the baby was recovered, having only been left there for a moment, and subsequently, grew up as everyone else did. I conclude that the supernatural is at play here, taking the form of either an anomaly of the Force or some clever use of Infinity Stones, and leave it at that. A trace of Peter’s smile is visible in Mamoru: Ai is embarrassed beyond all measure that he’d seen her pantsu, but later relents and understanding what is about to happen, excuses herself, allowing Mato and Mamoru to catch up.

  • Mamoru himself had been uncertain that Mato was really the same Mato he’d seen while dreaming, and Mato had long wondered when she closed her mind to miracles and the extraordinary. Mamoru’s long held feelings for Mato, and I’m curious to see if anything will occur now that Mato knows about Mamoru being the same Peter she’d dreamed about. What goes on in the minds of infants is presently not well characterised: babies sleep a great deal to build neural connections and learn to adapt to the different sensory inputs they have while in the world, so Advance‘s take on this might be to say that this is one possibility as to what’s happening in the minds of infants who’ve not yet learnt to communicate through a spoken language yet.

  • Makoto comforts the embarrassed and heartbroken Ai, reminding her that the school festival is a time of happiness and smiles. Having been there previously, I know that heartbreak is no joke, although as Makoto says, Ai’s best bet is to for now, be in the moment and appreciate all of the effort that she and her classmates have put into making the school’s culture festival a success. Of course, this is merely my interpretation of things, and I could be completely off-base here. If there’s another account for Ai’s reactions, I would love to hear it, since quite honestly, I’m a little unsure as to what’s happening.

  • This is the first time I’ve written about Amanchu! where diving is not featured to any capacity. However, I feel that despite the absence of descending into the ocean with specialised gear, this arc represents diving into the mind and the feelings that normally don’t come into the foreground. With the themes in Advance, I would not be surprised if the series ended up hinting at the idea that diving into the ocean is no different than dreaming: immensely magical and sometimes perplexing.

  • Here is the culmination of Futaba, Hikari and the remainder of their class’ efforts: a spectacular Peter Pan mural marking the school’s sixty first culture festival. The next I return to write about Amanchu! Advance will be the season finale in roughly three weeks, unless something occurs in Advance that merits additional posts. Upcoming posts will deal with The Division‘s Urban MDR, The Road To Battlefield V and some special posts ahead of this year’s summer solstice, so until next time, have a good one, and take it easy!

Given what we’ve seen, it is then reasonable to say that the learnings Ai has accrued will apply to Futaba and Hikari. This will in turn form the basis for the main message of Amanchu! Advance; it is likely that as the sequel gears up towards its finale, we will have the introduction of Kotori, who still has yet to formally appear in Advance, as well as Futaba going for her advanced certification and diving with Hikari by night for the first time. The anime has been headed in this direction for quite some time, and in its latest episodes, suggests that there are some phenomenon in this world that cannot be so readily justified by science and logic. In choosing this approach, Amanchu! suggests that the vastness of the world means that some things will be those that we cannot understand. This ties back in with the constant allusions to the idea that it can become difficult to separate dreams and reality, and although this can seemingly immobilise an individual, compelling the to live in the present, advancing and moving ahead become essential so one may explore the unknown and realise possibilities that otherwise remain a dream. This is what Amanchu! Advance has conveyed nine episodes into its run, and with three episodes remaining, it would appear that Advance must return to a more grounded world in order to fully convey messages of moving forwards and embracing the future. It will be interesting to see just how Advance does this, although depending on the direction that Advance chooses, I can also imagine that some members among the audience may not find the journey or outcome agreeable; with this being said, I’m definitely excited to see where things go, and will return to write about whether or not the remaining quarter did a satisfactory job with its execution.

Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Dear My Sister~ OVA: A Review and Full Recommendation

“YES! That’s how it feels! I’m just a huge fan of the sport.” —Loki, Thor Ragnarok

Cocoa leaves town to visit her family for a week and worries about being separated from the others. She settles in back home readily, and back at Rabbit House, Chino finds it difficult to adjust to life in Cocoa’s absence, making a large number of iced cocoas. When Megu and Maya come to visit, Rize decides to put Chino, Maya and Megu to work cleaning Rabbit House up. Chino recalls how she first met Rize: although she was initially intimidated by Rize’s disciplined, serious demeanour, Chino eventually warmed up to Rize as a reliable employee and friend. Back in the present, the girls finish cleaning up Rabbit House, and Rize gives them schedules to keep busy. After shopping, Chiya and Sharo run into Rize, who is feeling a little down about being too hard on Maya and Megu. The next day, things become lively for Chino once again when Maya, Megu, Chiya and Sharo drop by to visit; when Chino tells the story of how Rize hand-made her stuffed rabbit, the others ask Rize for their own, and embarrassed, Rize expresses that she wants Cocoa back. Chino later asks the others if they’re interested in visiting the local summer festival to watch the fireworks with her, and gets an overwhelmingly positive response. Back home, Cocoa helps Mocha and their mother out with the day-to-day operations of a bakery. With things going smoothly, Mocha and Cocoa set off to make a delivery in town. Mocha reveals that she has a moped license, upstaging Cocoa, and the two head into town together. The two sisters take time to catch up with one another, and it turns out that Cocoa’s having difficulty picking a career out. After teasing Cocoa, Mocha finds Cocoa giving her the cold shoulder, but this does not last long: the breakfast rush has begun. When their mother takes off for a local clinic get her wrist checked out, Mocha and Cocoa manage to keep things in check. That evening, the family look over the photos that Cocoa’s sent. At Rabbit House, Chiya reveals that she’s brought yukata for everyone ahead of the summer festival, and it turns out that Rize ended up making stuffed rabbits for everyone. A week passes in no time at all, and on the day she’s set to head back, she nearly oversleeps. On her way back to the bus station, Cocoa declares her intention to work in a career that lets her bring happiness to others. Cocoa arrives back in town by evening, reading one of Aoyama’s books. Chino and the others change into their yukata and head to the festival, where they partake in the various games and food stalls. Maya wonders how they’ll see the fireworks, and Chiya remarks that she knows a place. Cocoa makes it just as the fireworks begin, surprising everyone, and the girls enjoy the performance together. Cocoa is glad that she was able to make it in time and after she takes a photograph of everyone, Chino welcomes Cocoa back. In the post-credits scene, Chino gives Cocoa her very own hand-made stuffed rabbit that Rize had made.

This is the gist of what happens in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Dear My Sister~ (Dear My Sister for brevity from here on out), an OVA that screened in Japanese cinema a shade more than a half-year ago. A continuation of GochiUsa‘s second season, Dear My Sister adapts three chapters from the fifth volume into an hour-long movie that wastes absolutely no time at all in dropping audiences back into the party with Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Maya, Megu and Mocha. GochiUsa‘s first season eased viewers into the world that Cocoa moved into, being a gentle romp through life, and the second season showed that Cocoa had matured in the company of new friends and experiences. The events of Dear My Sister presents things from the flip-side – Cocoa’s also had a nontrivial impact on her friends, as well. With her happy-go-lucky, optimistic and open-minded personality, the joy and energy that Cocoa brings with her is infectious. Thus, when she leaves for a week to spend time with family, her absence is immediately noticeable. Chino reverts to making iced cocoas, and Chiya buys a large number of cocoa bars. The cast feel that their world has become quieter, having grown accustomed to Cocoa’s presence, and it falls upon Rize to try and liven things up in Cocoa’s steed. Applying her own approach to keeping the others busy, Rize learns that fulfilling the role that Cocoa had is no cake walk – it’s exhausting to constantly be on the lookout for fun things. Dear My Sister aims to and succeeds in conveying the idea that extroverted, high-energy folks who can get along with most anyone can have an immense positive impact on their surroundings and moreover, this particular skill is not something that everyone can cultivate. Cocoa herself seems aware of this and so, when Mocha inquires about her future career choice, Cocoa replies that while she’s unsure of the specifics, she’s interested in jobs that let her make others happy: despite her air-headed appearances, Cocoa can be focused and determined as the situation requires. She’s evidently matured, and is someone that can be depended upon, even if she outwardly looks to be the sort of individual one is compelled to look after.

Besides providing a welcoming story that articulates the thematic aspects of GochiUsa‘s predecessors, Dear My Sister also represents a audio-visual treat for audiences. The first season had been handled by White Fox, and the second season saw a collaboration between Kinema Citrus and White Fox. Dear My Sister is produced by production doA, a newcomer on the block whose only other title is the psychological horror Magical Girl Site (which, readers will have to convince me to watch if they desire me to write about it); despite their lack of a track record, production doA has done a phenomenal job with Dear My Sister. The characters retain their physical characteristics from White Fox and Kinema Citrus’ adaptation, being as expressive and fluidly animated as they were before. Sweeping shots of the landscapes in Dear My Sister give more insight into the world that Cocoa and the others live in: the setting had been the single best aspect about the anime adaptations of both Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? seasons, creating a compelling, immersive world that might be thought of as a separate character. In Dear My Sister, overhead shots of the town that Rabbit House is located in show that it is not too far removed from the coast. When Cocoa travels home, she disembarks from a bus stop on a hillside that offers a view of a sea in the distance. Despite Cocoa describing her home as being located deep in the mountains, it also seems that the Hot Bakery is close to a seaside town, as well. Cocoa and Mocha travel to this town to deliver bread, and, reflecting on the differences in climate, the close-ups of the town show that some parts have Germanic buildings, while districts closer to the coast have Mediterranean-Spanish influence in its architecture, different than the timber-framed buildings previously seen in GochiUsa. This is an incredibly nice touch that illustrates the series’ dedication to creating spaces that serve to accentuate the immersion in GochiUsa.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The first several minutes of Dear My Sister is watching Cocoa cry while the remainder of her friends and the train station’s patrons look on, so if you have no strength to stomach this, then you should leave…right now. Similarly, this is your last chance to duck out if you’re not a fan of the various Marvel Cinematic Universe callbacks I will be making this post. Cocoa receives some herbal cookies from Sharo; this simple gesture is a subtle hint that despite her typically regarding Cocoa as somewhat of a nuisance, Sharo’s come around by the time of Dear My Sister. The trains of GochiUsa are the LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard, a British steam train that holds the distinction of being the world’s fastest with its top speed of 203 km/h.

  • Before we delve any further into this post, I remark that GochiUsa is an anime I enjoyed immensely; there is quite a bit to talk about, and after going through this OVA, I ended up a total of a hundred and twenty-five images. I’ve pared this gargantuan collection of screenshots down to a more “manageable” sixty for this post. Because this OVA runs for sixty minutes, three times the size of a standard episode, I have three times as many screenshots. Unlike Girls und Panzer: Das Finale, I am going to treat Dear My Sister like a movie and correspondingly, each of the screenshots can be expanded and viewed in 1080p glory: I say with full confidence that I have the internet’s first comprehensive review and collection of screenshots for this long-awaited OVA, and I imagine that this review will hold that position for a long, long time.

  • As Cocoa’s train leaves the station, the camera pans upwards, revealing the outskirts of town and in the distance, a large body of water. While the town in GochiUsa might be modelled after Colmar, FranceDear My Sister suggests that the setting of GochiUsa might not be on the same world or timeline as our own (in turn making a crossover with Kiniro Mosaic implausible, if not outright unfeasible). As the beautiful summer’s day unfolds, “Happiness Encore”, a warm and welcoming song that acts as Dear My Sister‘s opening, begins playing. Dear My Sister was advertised to have a very substantial singing component when it was first announced, although it is apparent that this isn’t the case: there are certainly a large number of songs around Dear My Sister, but this OVA only presents the opening song and ending songs.

  • It took me a while to warm up to GochiUsa‘s second season opening, “No Poi”, and by now, I find the song as enjoyable as I did the opening for season one (“Daydream Café”). “Happiness Encore” is very well-written, and I’ve immediately taken a liking to it. The soundtrack in Dear My Sister recycles incidental music from the TV series, but there are also fourteen new pieces of background music on the bonus disk included with the BD, twelve of which are used in Dear My Sister. Two tracks are instrumental variations of the opening and ending songs.

  • On the train, Cocoa runs into Aoyama, who is going to great lengths to evade her editor. Despite her efforts, Aoyama is eventually caught and hauled away, all the while attempting to drown out here editor’s remarks about impending deadlines. This exact same stunt was pulled in GochiUsa‘s second season, but it is no less funny for it: the inclusion of jokes for veterans to enjoy brings to mind the Marvel Cinematic Universe approach to things, and is the reason why I’ve opted to go with a quote from Thor Ragnarok. After the Hulk gives Thor a beatdown of the same variety that he’d given Loki in The Avengers during a ring fight, Loki reacts in jubilance. Viewers who’ve seen The Avengers will recall Loki getting knocked down a few pegs after the Hulk smashes him about, explaining his reluctance to remain when seeing the Hulk again. In my case, I found the line suited for describing the sense of loneliness and the transition from such the girls experience after Cocoa takes off, as well as aptly describing how it feels to finally be able to watch Dear My Sister.

  • Aoyama’s evasion efforts are impressive, but her editor’s ability to hunt down Aoyama are doubly so: she’s about as determined as John Clark in finding her target, following Aoyama onto the train. Her name is Rin Mate (真手 凛), and she is voiced by Juri Kimura. Rin is completely dedicated to her job of making sure that Aoyama meets her deadlines. While strict and unyielding when there’s work to be done, Rin relaxes after deadlines have passed. She’s said to be named after Mandheling Coffee, which has a complex and rich taste.

  • Back at Rabbit House, Chino is quieter than usual, and this is not unnoticed. With its runtime of an hour, Dear My Sister handles very much like a movie despite being classified as an OVA. In spite of this, some folks deemed it prudent to fly to Japan with the singular purpose of watching the movie, and one individual even pre-ordered their tickets to ensure a seat. I never did understand the rationale behind these actions, as the endeavour essentially drives the price of the screening ticket up to the cost of flights, accommodations and other travel expenses, but with that being said, Dear My Sister is sufficiently well-done so that it would have been worthwhile to pre-order tickets.

  • I found myself beyond impressed with the visual fidelity of Dear My Sister: the area surrounding Cocoa’s hometown overlooking what I believe to be the Mediterranean Sea. At these resolutions, the houses below can be seen in great detail – the buildings have a stucco siding and lack the timber-framing that previously dominated the architecture in GochiUsa: they have a distinctly Germanic style to them as seen in the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

  • Dear My Sister excels in all areas from a visual standpoint; as Cocoa travels across a footbridge to reach her home, the crystal-clear water flowing below is so well-rendered that it is comparable to water effects in the Frostbite Engine or CryEngine. Volumetric lighting produces shafts of light through the forest, suggesting a shaded region with light rays passing through openings in the forest canopy. It is typical for anime to improve their visuals, and like Girls und Panzer: Das FinaleGochiUsa‘s solid artwork continued to improve over time. Subtle details like these, while often missed, help immerse viewers, and here, one gets the sense that Cocoa hails from somewhere very warm.

  • The warmth of a summer’s day can be felt even with a screen separating viewers from the events of Dear My Sister. I’ve noticed that there’s only one other review of the movie out there at present, although I happen to disagree with the claim that Dear My Sister is “nothing more but a bunch of only semi-related scenes that felt like one déjà vu after another”. The scenes are all related, transitioning from Cocoa’s return to life back home to Chino’s quiet days at Rabbit House. The OVA aimed to convey that Cocoa’s positive energy comes from her family, and that while she might not be as capable as Mocha, she has her own unique set of skills that brighten the others’ days.

  • Dear My Sister released on November 11 last year, during which I was still making my way through Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. By December, it had earned a total of 320 million Yen (3.8 million CAD) at the box office, with a box office total of 102 million Yen (1.2 million CAD) after its first weekend, considerably higher than Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days‘ 26 million Yen (around three hundred and eight thousand CAD) on its first weekend. The numbers suggest that GochiUsa is more favoured than Kiniro Moasic, and from a personal perspective, the setting is what gives GochiUsa a much more interesting feel compared to Kiniro Mosaic, which feels rather more conventional in its design.

  • When Cocoa gets home, she fancies herself surprising her mother and Mocha, but ends up being on the receiving end of a surprise, where Mocha and her mother dress up in Rabbit House-style uniforms and Tippy-shaped hats in an attempt to recreate the home that she’s grown accustomed to. It’s a tearful reunion, and without the burden of having to maintain an older-sister image, Cocoa immediately settles in and allows her mother and older sister to spoil her. It’s clear that mother and daughters are very much fond of surprising others, although because Cocoa is a rank novice by comparison, she usually finds herself being surprised.

  • The Hot Bakery is so remote that cellular service is nonexistent, and so, Mocha invites Cocoa to an old standby: the land line telephone. Because of our increasing movement towards mobile phones, I personally see very little incentive to buy a land line package, but there are some advantages that remain to the old ways. Land line phones have superior sound quality and because of their setup, allow emergency operators to immediately pinpoint one’s address should the need arise. However, as cellular connectivity services improve, I imagine it will only be a matter of time before the disparities in security and sound quality is closed.

  • Cocoa attempts to call Chino, but finds the line tied up. She’s using a cradle-style telephone here, whose design dates back to the 1890s. While the model in Dear My Sister is merely in the style of an older phone, the original cradle phones worked by means of connecting with an operator, who manipulated switches to connect calls together: phones with the ability to dial specific numbers did not come about until 1905. The combination of old-style designs with modern technology is very apparent in GochiUsa: things like feature phones exist alongside old-style homes and steam engines (most contemporary trains are electrically powered), creating a very unique world.

  • Chino begins absent-mindedly making a large number of iced cocoas, mirroring an incident during GochiUsa where Cocoa was out studying with Chiya and Sharo. Missing Cocoa causes Chino to make milk cocoas, and she relapses again. There are several modes of preparations for iced cocoas: the more common recipes recommend preparing a standard cocoa and then chilling the drink, adding ice cubes to create a cold drink. This ensures that the cocoa powder dissolves evenly. While this is going down, Megu and Maya speak of going on another Ciste Hunt, alluding to the one they did with Cocoa back in the second season.

  • To defeat the idleness and quiet that has gripped Rabbit House, Rize breaks out her inner drill sergeant and orders the girls to clean up Rabbit House. Rize’s militaristic spirits leads Chino to have a flashback about how she’d first met Rize: identical to Cocoa, who encounters Rize in naught but her underwear, Chino first encountered Rize while she was changing and found herself face-to-face with Rize’s model Glock. She recounts how Rize could be a bit intimidating, but was also quite friendly.

  • In most anime, when one walks in on a girl who’s changing, they can reasonably expect some furious blushing, shouts of 出て来 (romaji deteki, “get out!”) and possibly, the throwing of various objects to expedite said process. GochiUsa has Rize breaking the convention: she draws her model Glock 17 at all who see her while she’s changing. It’s a marked departure from other shows, but in its intended role of eliciting some laughs, Rize’s reactions work all the same.

  • The events of Dear My Sister show that despite her tough exterior, Rize is completely unequipped to deal with Megu and Maya. While this behaviour is not unexpected from Maya, who is the more energetic and mischievous of Chino’s friends, it was a bit surprising to see Megu participate, as well. This suggests that Megu’s become a little less shy, as well. It brings to mind the more rambunctious students that I’ve taught as an assistant teacher and while volunteering to teach children at my dōjō.

  • After spending a better part of two hours cleaning up Rabbit House, the café shows a newfound glitz and sparkle. Keeping busy has helped the girls take their mind off Cocoa’s absence. With their task finished, Rize has one more surprise for everyone; Maya and Megu are shocked that Rize’s gone to the lengths of creating schedules for them to follow. When Chino mentions that Rize has more stuffed rabbits similar to the one she gave Chino, Megu and Maya, also wanting one, ask Rize where it’s from.

  • As evening sets in, Rize wonders if she should’ve pushed Chino and the others so hard. While the most disciplined of the girls, Cocoa’s nonetheless had an impact on her: Rize is much more open about herself in Cocoa’s influence. With Cocoa gone, Rize returns to her old, tough-as-nails personality. I feel that Cocoa’s carefree nature and willingness to accept everyone encouraged Rize to be more true to herself in front of others; Rize’s love for the military and survival is very real, but she also uses it to hide the other side of her personality.

  • Different areas of town are shown in Dear My Sister. I bought the artbooks for both seasons (Memorial Blend and Miracle Blend) a few years ago; these provide unparalleled insights into how the world of GochiUsa was constructed, and at 2500 Yen apiece (nearly 30 CAD today, with the exchange rates), they’re not too unreasonable a purchase. I’ve amassed a small collection of artbooks to the shows that struck a chord with me, and having an official resource confers access to insights that one cannot get simply by watching a series.

  • While looking at her stuffed rabbit more closely, Chino notices that the stitching does not look machined, and there’s a lack of a manufacturer’s tag. In conjunction with Rize’s reaction when she’d given her the doll, and other subtle hints, Chino deduces that the rabbit was handmade. That Rize is learned in making stuffed animals by hand is yet another surprise that Dear My Sister introduces. This is the joy of slice-of-life anime: given enough time, the multi-dimensionality of the characters become apparent, making them more life-like.

  • Despite their innocence, Maya and Megu can be mischievous in their own manner: they frustrate Rize on occasion (to the maximum extent that such dynamics can occur in GochiUsa), and this is another noticeable difference between Rize and Cocoa. Rize is more strict, playing the bad cop to Cocoa’s good cop: Cocoa rolls with whatever Megu and Maya do. Rize consequently tires out more quickly when dealing with them because of a very similar principle to those seen in martial arts: rather than rigidity, martial arts emphasises fluidity.

  • After Chino reveals that her stuffed rabbit is handmade, Rize is completely shocked, and the revelation leads each of Maya, Megu, Sharo and Chiya to request their own. Embarrassed, and then flattered, we see a side of Rize that’s quite rare. The mixed emotions within her prove exhausting, and Rize soon longs for Cocoa to come back. Everyone expresses their missing Cocoa in different ways: Chiya buys a large number of Cocoa ingredients, Chino makes nothing but iced cocoas, and Rize seems to retreat back into her tough-as-nails shell. The differences that Cocoa introduce illustrates the impact she’s had on the others.

  • As the week progresses, the girls become increasingly lively and energetic; in a lull, Chino asks the others if they’re interested in attending a summer festival with her. She is met with enthusiastic affirmatives, setting in motion the events that Dear My Sister‘s trailers presented. Summer festivals are an international phenomenon, but vary greatly depending on the region. In North America, they take the form of music festivals, country fairs and fireworks performances: the long, warm days are very conducive towards outdoors activities. One of my favourite aspects about The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth™ is actually the variety of insanely delicious but unhealthy midway food, and while said Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth™ also has good fireworks, GlobalFest actually boasts the city’s best fireworks performance.

  • At home, Cocoa returns to her old life of baking bread for the family bakery. While Cocoa is noted for her baking skills (the others have remarked that it’s the one thing Cocoa can consistently and reliably do well), she’s still got a ways to go; Mocha’s bread is regarded as even better than Cocoa’s. The sisters help out the family bakery with great enthusiasm, and in a short period of time, bake enough bread to begin for the day’s customers. The Hot Bakery uses a brick oven, which allows for high temperatures to be reached because bricks can retain heat well. The end result is bread that bakes very quickly, which is perfect for a bakery with a high customer volume.

  • When a request for a delivery comes through, Cocoa and Mocha set out to fulfill it. Mocha surprises Cocoa with the revelation that she now has an operator’s license for a moped. Mopeds are surprisingly common in anime, and where I’m from, the basic learner’s license will allow one to operate them. While these vehicles are no doubt great during the summer as a convenient form of transportation, mopeds are rather limited and do nothing to keep one insulated from the elements, so they’re not too commonplace.

  • Mocha’s not particularly skilful with mechanical devices, but in time, she’s learned to master the art of riding a moped, even popping wheelies and totally shocking Cocoa, who comes away from her ride exhausted. I would like to think that my driving is not particularly deadly, although my home province is legendary in Canada for hosting the worst drivers. As far as road behaviours go, I’m a defensive driver, actively keeping an eye on my surroundings so I can anticipate the actions of other drivers. I don’t mind being cut off half as much I mind tailgaters, and I minimally tolerate tailgaters. My buttons are pressed when I encounter drivers who sound their horn because I’m waiting for a pedestrian to cross or vehicles with right of way to pass while making a right turn.

  • After Cocoa and Mocha deliver bread for a customer, they stop at a viewpoint overlooking the sea below, with a Spanish style building adjacent. Steam trains and cradle phones existing alongside cellular phones and modern rifles, small towns with old-style architecture and a world that’s quite pastoral, featuring many small towns, leads me to wonder if GochiUsa is the logical evolution of the world depicted in Sora no Woto. Takahiro and Rize’s father mention fighting together in a war of some sort: with the distinct mish-mash of Japanese and European cultures, anachronism in technology and a world with few major urban centres, there is merit to the idea that world of GochiUsa can be the result of social and technological advancement after the events of Sora no Woto, in which humanity manages to begin recovering again. This is a very optimistic outlook of things, and a view that not everyone may share – for one, such speculation would likely break down with some scrutiny.

  • Conversation between the sisters turn to catching up: Cocoa and Mocha’s father is a professor at a university, one of the brothers is a scientist of unknown discipline (likely in chemistry or biology), and the other is a lawyer. All three of them work in the city, which is why we’ve not seen them so far. Because of the diverse array of talents and interests in the family, Cocoa grew up seeing a plethora of options available. At her age, I was similar to Cocoa in this regard, being interested by a wide range of disciplines. As high school ended, I narrowed it down to health and computing, eventually being accepted by the university’s Bachelor of Health Sciences programme for an honours degree in bioinformatics.

  • Cocoa cannot settle on a career, feeling that she could be a barista, lawyer and novelist at the same time. Strictly speaking, this is not impossible – there are many incredibly talented people out there, so the probability of someone who’s done all three occupations, sometimes simultaneously, in their lives, is non-zero. Cocoa is also quite talented with numbers despite her appearances. While trying to work out a career, Cocoa remarks that she’s happy as long as she’s viewed as an older sister of sorts.

  • Watching Cocoa be taken in by Mocha’s prank was particularly adorable: Mocha recalls back when they were children, Cocoa had aspirations in becoming a master of the mystic arts magician, but after Mocha deceived Cocoa by pretending to have turned into a rabbit, Cocoa was shocked enough to drop these goals. Unlike the other flashbacks seen in Dear My Sister, this moment is rendered in a non-traditional perspective, implying that the memory itself is a bit fuzzier (other flashbacks are merely less saturated) as a result of its distance from the present.

  • It’s an embarrassing memory for Cocoa, who puffs up her cheeks and pouts after being reminded. With this being said, there are some traces of the supernatural in GochiUsa, and the first season suggests that Cocoa might have been involved in why Chino’s grandfather had his consciousness transferred into Tippy’s body. Barring the presence of a Reality Stone, the precise mechanism for how this happened remains unknown, and besides Chino and Takahiro, the other characters remain unaware that this has occurred.

  • Cocoa and Mocha’s mother is voiced by Yuko Minaguchi (Kōko Yoshino née Ibuki of CLANNAD, and Akiko Minase of Kanon). She made a brief appearance in the finale of GochiUsa‘s second season, having a more substantial role in Dear My Sister. After Cocoa and Mocha get home, Cocoa’s in a sour mood – it turns out that even Cocoa can have a few moments where her happy-go-lucky disposition disappears, and Mocha is one of the few people who can make this happen. This is hardly surprising, since siblings know one another best, and also serves to augment the authenticity of Cocoa’s character.

  • There’s hardly any time to sulk around, since the breakfast crowd soon shows up, filling the small bakery with patrons. With their mother out for the count, Mocha’s exceptional efficiency comes into play here – she single-handedly manages everything, moving at three times the speed of the others to serve customers, manage transactions and even has time to speak with a little girl. When the crowds thin, Cocoa feels as though she’d just done a month’s worth of work: Rabbit House seems to be quiet as a coffeehouse, and the fact that it’s still in business suggests that its bar is doing well enough to keep the balance book in the black.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that it’s been four years since GochiUsa‘s first season aired. When I picked up GochiUsa, I was right in the middle of working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain project for my supervisor and Jay Ingram: in 2014, my most predominantly used language was C# and I worked largely with the Unity 4 engine. By the time GochiUsa‘s second season rolled around, I transitioned over to the Unreal Engine and wrote most of my code in C++. Time makes fools of us all: I now largely work with Swift 4.1 and iOS frameworks, although I occasionally dabble in Python and Java, as well as some SQL. Of course, if I were to blog about optionals, delegates and completion handlers, I would not begrudge the reader to find another place to read about anime. If you’re looking to learn about Swift and get into iOS programming, while yes, I could be of some assistance, there are more useful resources out there, like Ray Wenderlich, that would be more useful.

  • I still vividly recall the warm summer afternoons spent watching GochiUsa while on lunch break, and the splendid Thanksgiving morning that I took to review the first episode of the second season, before spending more or less the entire day playing the Star Wars Battlefront open beta. When I wrapped up GochiUsa‘s second season, I had nothing but good things to say about it. The first season is a solid A, a 9.0 of 10, and the second season is a 9.5 of 10 for an A+. I subsequently did a second reflection on the first season, which in retrospect, contributed to how I built the Giant Walkthrough Brain and then in the preview post for Dear My Sister, joked that one would probably need an ARIA-level miracle, such as the Time Stone, to watch this any earlier than the BD release date.

  • Cocoa channels her inner Nanako Usami here, recoiling in surprise and then pouting again when her mother reveals her arm was fine, and she’d been merely making a reason to get the two sisters together. While it might’ve been two-and-a-half years ago, I still recall mentioning that GochiUsa was a series that some could find it difficult to write for – giants like Random Curiosity did not feel they could find something to talk about in each episode, and episodic posts that did exist were quite underwhelming, being limited to reactions to the events seen on screen. My unusual take on things, on the other hand, allowed me to find something to discuss in each episode, and so, for its second season, I managed to do episodic reviews of a satisfactory standard.

  • While Chiya prepares yukata for everyone to wear for the festival, Rize’s hard at work making stuffed rabbits for everyone. By this point in time, Rabbit House has become very lively and joyous even in Cocoa’s absence: in doing their best to keep busy while Cocoa’s away, the girls learn to find joy in the ordinary, something that Cocoa excels at. I should mention here that, if one were to describe what watching Dear My Sister is like, I would liken the experience to hugging a large stuffed animal for an hour straight.

  • While Dear My Sister focuses on all of GochiUsa‘s characters the same way Pretty Days focused on Kiniro Mosaic‘s cast, both OVAs put their resident twin-tailed tsundere at the forefront of things. Besides sharing similarities in their appearance, Rize and Aya’s voices are both provided by Risa Taneda. Much like how Pretty Days gave Aya a bit of a chance to shine, Dear My Sister also gives viewers new insights into Rize’s character.

  • Mahou Shoujo Chino is a concept born from an April Fool’s joke that was very well-received, and eventually, Inori Minase performed a song about Magical Girl Chino. Dear My Sister takes things one step further, actually incorporating Magical Girl Chino into a dream that Cocoa has while staying with her family. This was a pleasant Easter Egg that the most diehard GochiUsa fans will find enjoyable, bringing to life what was intended to be a simple joke, and more casual viewers unfamiliar with the April Fool’s joke will still find this an adorable sequence.

  • Ever the doting elder sibling, Mocha is concerned when Cocoa wakes up with her head still in the clouds. While I’d like to say that my internal clock is infallible, there was an instance in recent memory where I overslept by forty minutes on a workday. I somehow managed to get my rear in gear and did my usual morning routine, making it to the office just in time for work. Days like these are (and will hopefully remain) the exception: most days, I awaken around ten minutes before my alarm is set to go off.

  • After oversleeping, Cocoa manages to get ready, and Mocha drives her to the bus station. Cocoa reveals that while she’s still undecided on a career, she wants to do something that makes others smile. Cocoa subsequently heads back to Rabbit House by train, and on her journey back, she reads one of Aoyama’s novels. Titled “Bakery Queen- Beloved Sisters’ Moving Story”, one must wonder how Aoyama manages to get her story ideas. It’s shown that she’s a capable writer and has numerous talents despite her propensity to ignore deadlines, so one can imagine her pulling some John Clark-level stunts to gain inspiration for her stories. This book is her latest work, and at the end, Cocoa sees a request from her mother and Mocha – get the book autographed.

  • With the month of June now in full swing, some hiking trails in nearby Kananaskis Provincial park are now open, and after a week of cool, misty and grey weather, the skies gave way to a warm day of sunshine today. The combination of good weather and open trails meant that I could take some time to really unwind in the mountains: I ascended the West Wind Pass trail, easily one of the more difficult hikes I’ve done, if only for the fact that the trail is adjacent to a deep ravine and despite this, is quite poorly marked. The path takes hikers to points where they need to hug a cliff sheer to pass, and also branches off in different directions without indication of whether or not it was a part of the trail, but despite these challenges, it was very invigorating and fun to climb up. Reaching the West Wind Pass itself, I was greeted by a vast, wind-swept clearing and a stunning view of the Spray Lakes reservoir some 390 metres below. The view was beautiful, but up here, the cold meant that we couldn’t stay for long, only stopping long enough to take some photographs, before turning around.

  • There are some deviations in Dear My Sister from the original manga: aside from some obvious additions, such as the inclusion of Mahou Shoujo Chino and Chino working out the courage to invite everyone to the fireworks festivals, there have also been some omissions, as well. Cocoa does not return to Rabbit House ahead of the festival to finish her assignments, and Aoyama does not run into the misfortunate of wrecking her manuscript. These differences are relatively minor and did not break the flow of events in Dear My Sister in any way.

  • The use of violets and pinks in the town by evening casts its buildings in hues that were previously unseen, creating a festive and ethereal, timeless sense quite similar to the choice of colours seen in Fireworks: Should We See Them From The Side or Bottom?. While poet T.S. Elliot uses the phrase “violet hour” in his famous poem, “The Waste Land”, repetition of this phrase is meant to suggest the melancholy of the end of a day and sunset. However, sunrise always follows, and so, Elliot is lamenting that relationships cycle endlessly between a joyful start and a sadness-filled closing. This is relevant to Fireworks, where Norimichi’s final attempt to be with Nazuna saw him share a conversation while the skies took on a pink-purple hue. In the case of Dear My Sister, the lighting is probably meant to indicate a sort of melancholy that Cocoa is not around.

  • Despite the violet hour’s implications, Dear My Sister presents the summer festival as a happy moment. While walking about, the girls take in the sights, sounds and smells, and Sharo demonstrates another aspect of her character. Spending time with the others have improved her confidence: when Rize asks if there’s anything she’d like as a prize after being drawn by a shooting game, Sharo recalls her own talents with blowdarts and so, challenges Rize to a showdown that the latter accepts.

  • At the festival, Megu demonstrates a hitherto unknown talent for winning at ring toss. These games, like casinos, are slightly rigged so that they favour the vendor’s gain, but for folks familiar with how they work, they are certainly winnable. Megu consistently wins in a ring toss game and earns a small collection of prizes here that she feels is a good set of souvenirs for Cocoa: we recall that Megu’s got a talent for spinning (which, by the way, is a good trick), and giving the rings a slight, level spin can help boost their accuracy: she applies the technique here to land consistent hits on the prizes.

  • A quick glance at the various folk in the background show that only Chiya, Megu, Chino, Maya, Sharo and Rize are wearing yukata, with everyone else wearing more conventional clothing. It stands to reason that elements of Japanese culture are uncommon where GochiUsa is set. The girls thus stand out quite a bit, about as much as one would stand out while wearing cowboy hat and boots to a Japanese festival, but the colours of the yukata and festival work very nicely together to create a scene that has not been seen in GochiUsa until now. Despite the predominantly French-German cultural aspects in GochiUsa, the inclusion of Japanese elements into a festival for Dear My Sister is integrated very smoothly without breaking immersion.

  • Sharo becomes the life of the party after eating coffee-flavoured shaved ice, speaking in a joyful and somewhat slurred manner while waving a small firework. It’s actually quite fun to see Sharo in this manner, and I do not believe I’ve mentioned this thus far: Sharo is voiced by Maaya Uchida, whom I know as Yuru Yuri‘s Mari, Rei Kuroki of Vividred Operation and Slow Start‘s very own Hiroe Hannen. Hard-working, frugal and practical, she’s also a character who deserves a bit more screen-time in GochiUsa.

  • The five kilometre hike to and from West Wind Pass took around two-and-three-quarters of an hour in total. Once the hike concluded, we returned to 514 Poutine, Canmore’s premiere poutine spot (previously known as La Belle Patate). Here, I ordered their deluxe poutine: it’s a blend of succulent chunks of Montréal Smoked Meat, bacon, sauteéd onions and mushrooms on top of their poutine. Every time I’ve visited, I am impressed with how flavourful and generous the helpings of the Montréal smoked meat is. Coupled with the smokiness of bacon, the sweetness of the onion and the plain fact that I love mushrooms, it’s the perfect poutine that quickly restored my energy. Their Spruce Beer Soda is also a fantastic accompaniment for lunch: with a distinct pine and slightly sweet flavour, it is superbly refreshing and perfect for after savouring a hearty poutine.

  • It was a bit of a later lunch: we finished at two-thirty, and with more than half the day passed, we decided to do a simpler walk around the Quarry Lake area of Canmore. With negligible elevation gain, this walk was very relaxing and also allowed us to loosen off from the morning hike: Quarry Lake itself is only five minutes from the parking lot, and surrounding the area are a series of well-marked trails that line the grass fields beneath the mountains. Back in Dear My Sister, as the evening grows later, the girls begin making their way up to a secret spot for viewing the fireworks that Aoyama’s informed them of. An overhead view of the town by night can be seen from here, and while the town is quite large, it’s definitely not Colmar, France: inspection of maps show that no river runs through the actual city, whereas a river dividing the town in two is clearly seen here.

  • Despite being noticeably absent from the proceedings, Cocoa manages to meet up with Chino and the others right as the first firework flies into the night sky. While the others initially look to be reacting to the fireworks, prompting Cocoa to wonder if they’ve even noticed her, it soon becomes clear that everyone is in fact aware of Cocoa’s arrival, and warmly greet her. Rize and the others are somewhat surprised that Cocoa managed to find them, but it would seem that Cocoa returned to Rabbit House, spoke with Aoyama and then changed into her yukata before heading off to reunite with the others.

  • Many moons ago, when Mocha was shown downing milk in a beer mug, one individual wondered why GochiUsa would “censor” alcoholic beverages, but never received a satisfactory answer. While the fireworks progress, Aoyama and her editor share some beers, decisively showing that GochiUsa has no aversions to showing alcoholic drinks on screen. The alcoholic offerings from Takahiro’s bar is also quite visible, and he is shown preparing alcoholic drinks, as well. Quite simply, there is no censorship. I’ve previously remarked that Mocha took milk as a comfort drink for her personality and preferences – just because someone can legally drink does not mean that they will.

  • After Sharo sets off the lone firework, Cocoa determines that with the obscure location, that’s where everyone else must’ve been. There’s been a surprisingly limited amount of buzz out there for an OVA that’s been so long overdue: the original release was supposed to be May of last year, and this got pushed back to November. Normally, there’s a six-month gap between the theatrical opening date and BD releases, but the BDs were released eight months later this time around. It is a bit disappointing to see that so few are aware of this OVA, and while it is a bit of an achievement to hold what is the internet’s only Dear My Sister review, having this title also means that very few GochiUsa fans have had the chance to enjoy the OVA.

  • Dear My Sister marks the third series that I’ve written about of late that features fireworks: Fireworks and Amanchu! Advance also featured some stellar fireworks shows. Once reunited with the others, Megu gives Cocoa a rabbit mask that eerily resembles the rabbit mask seen in GochiUsa‘s second season, and subsequently spars with Rize about older sisters in a friendly manner. With the fireworks in full swing, the girls watch the fireworks performance. Throughout the scene, the fireworks are actually out of focus or otherwise not the subject of focus, reminding audiences that for Cocoa and the others, their friendships and bonds come first.

  • After struggling to express herself, Chino manages to overcome this and welcomes Cocoa back, as well. The ending song, “The World Has Become a Café”, is a fantastic ending song performed by all eight of the characters: both Petit Rabbits’ and Chimame-tai come together to form the unit Petit Rabbits’ With Beans, and the lyrics are joyful, spirited and upbeat, signalling the joy of having everyone together once again. It’s a happy ending to Dear My Sister, and at this point, one cannot begrudge me for including one more MCU-style reference to the table – there’s a post-credits sequence that, like those of MCU films, serve an important purpose.

  • We’re very nearly at the end of this post, and as this talk on Dear My Sister is likely to be my largest single post of the year, I figure it could be a fun way to wrap things up with some statistics about this post. With a total word count of some 8300 words, it’s definitely no slouch, but writing for the OVA was very enjoyable, as well. It turns out that Rize had also made a stuffed rabbit for Cocoa, as well. This brings my long-awaited, long-overdue talk on Dear My Sister to a conclusion, and for my final score, Dear My Sister has earned a 9.5 of 10, an A+; highly entertaining, Dear My Sister brings back everything that made the earlier seasons so enjoyable and introduces new character dynamics among a familiar group, while at once providing spectacular artwork, animation and music.

  • In short, I enjoyed Dear My Sister the same way I enjoyed Infinity War. With Dear My Sister decisively in the books, the immediate other post on the horizon will be for Amanchu! Advance now that we’ve hit the three-quarters mark. We’ve also entered the month of June now, so the spring anime series will be concluding quite soon. I will be writing for Amanchu! AdvanceComic Girls and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online as their respective series close off. Finally, Battlefield 1 is running a “Road To Battlefield V” event, and I’ve yet to tell the story about how I got an Urban MDR in The Division – I will naturally be writing about both.

The long-awaited OVA to GochiUsa is finally in the books, and my final verdict is a strong recommendation. Dear My Sister brings back all of the aspects that made the originals so enjoyable to watch, capitalises on the summer weather to introduce a distinctly Japanese style of festival that suggests a highly multicultural area that Cocoa and her friends live in, explored another dimension of friendship that shows how interpersonal interactions go both ways, and upped the quality of artwork and animation in a series that already was technically superb. The masterful combination of all aspects result in an OVA that was worth the wait, and so, Dear My Sister is something that anyone who enjoyed GochiUsa will not want to miss. For folks who’ve yet to watch GochiUsa, I would count Dear My Sister as being similar to Avengers: Infinity War. Much like how various jokes and event references in Infinity War require some familiarity of previous movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (e.g. Loki echoing that they have a Hulk and Captain America’s “I am Steve Rogers” to Groot’s “I am Groot”, to name a few), Dear My Sister adapts chapters from volume five of the manga, and there are events and specific jokes that occurred in the seasons that require a bit more context to have the maximum impact (such as Aoyama being hauled off by her editor, or Chino’s unconscious making of iced cocoas). Both share the commonality of being quite enjoyable standalone, but are also clearly intended for audiences who’ve seen earlier instalments. With all this being said, Dear My Sister is an excellent adaptation of the chapters following the Ciste Hunt, and as the manga is ongoing, another season could be on the horizon. Having tested their mettle with Dear My Sister, I feel that if production doA were to be given the responsibility of creating a third season of GochiUsa, they would do a spectacular job. There certainly is enough material, and the series has had a strong reception. As such, I would imagine that a third season is a matter of when, rather than if, and this is an encouraging thought.

Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online: Review and Reflections at the Halfway Point

“What do you say we tell these Squad Jam people to fuck themselves, then we can go home, find a couch and a TV, then sit back and watch Pitohui burn to the goddamned ground?” –Domingo Chavez, Tom Clancy’s Locked On

Karen Kohiruimaki is a Hokkaido native who moves to Tokyo in pursuit of her post secondary studies. Because of her height, she is insecure and finds herself wishing that she were shorter. Her best friend, Miyu Shinohara, suggests that Karen take up a VR game, where she may customise an avatar to her heart’s content, and after iterating through multiple games, Karen encounters Gun Gale Online (GGO for brevity), which provides her with a diminutive character that she takes an immediate liking to. She takes on the screen name Llenn, and after exploring the game world with her new avatar, Karen begins playing the PvE components and earns enough currency to upgrade her weapons and gear. One day, while breaking from her travels, she is ambushed by other players and manages to take them out. Rumours begin speaking about the “Pink Devil”, and this attracts the attention of a fellow player, Pitohui. She introduces Karen to the “Squad Jam” battle royale competition and asks her to compete alongside fellow player “M”. M covers a range of techniques and gear for the battle royale mode, bringing Karen up to speed, and after out-manoeuvring a team of military-trained players, Karen’s confidence increases. She and M manage to fight off an assault from another team that had commandeered airboats, but when moving to engage the final remaining team, M breaks down, fearing for his life should he lose. He admits to Karen that Pitohui would kill him in reality should they lose, and befuddled, Karen decides to leave him behind and engage the final team on her own. She is overwhelmed, but M reappears to provide sniper fire, allowing Karen to finish off the remaining team’s leader.

Emboldened by her experiences, Karen cuts her hair short to signify a new beginning, and runs into the team’s real-world players: rhythm athletics club members who are in high school. Spending time with her new friends, Karen also runs into Gōshi Asōgi, who plays M in GGO. Gōshi reveals that he knows and is in love with Pitohui, but fears Pitohui will commit suicide should she lose in GGO. Perplexed, Karen decides to help him out nonetheless and asks Miyu to join up wiht them. This is where we are in Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online (Alternative from here on out, as spelling the entire thing out is too lengthy): immediately, my impressions of this Sword Art Online spin-off is that it is very enjoyable. Kirito’s absence is a significant one, and I contend that the series proceeds smoothly without his presence. I’ve long found his character to be implausible, and his attitude insufferable. By comparison, Karen is a very plausible character who finds escape in video games, and while she may enjoy unnatural performance in GGO, her real-world struggles and desire to escape to a fictional space are something that gamers can strongly relate to. I personally play shooters because it’s fun to both explore new worlds and test the limit of my skills in a space where performance is not relevant: reality requires that put in an honest effort into what I do, so I escape this in video games and play where how I do is unimportant. Karen’s newfound sense of confidence from playing GGO is also refreshing to watch. At the halfway point, however, Alternative also reintroduces the old death-related themes that characterised Sword Art Online. Here, it is not a forced component, and Alternative explores a darker side of gaming, as well. While perhaps overtly dramatic, I am curious to see how Karen will play a role in helping Gōshi with Pitohui.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • By Alternative‘s halfway point, audiences know that Llenn is Karen and M is Gōshi, so I’m going to refer to them by their real-world names rather than their in-game names. While engaging, half of Alternative is set in a desert akin to Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds‘s Miramar map. Here, the two are playing sniper-spotter, where Gōshi decides against engaging another group of enemies. The first episode drops viewers straight into things and ends with Karen beating up a group made up of either Special Units (Japan’s equivalent of SWAT) or JDSF’s Special Forces members.

  • Karen Kohiruimaki stands at 183 centimeters and is voiced by Tomori Kusunoki (who’d played minor roles in Eromanga SenseiGirls’ Last Tour and Slow Start, but also has recently played more major roles in Märchen Mädchen). Uncomfortable with her height, Karen is disinterested in fashion, prefers reading and is quite introverted. By the time of Alternative, Karen is a second-year university student in an undisclosed major and does not appear to have a part-time job, so going on a limb and recalling my own experiences, I would also conclude that Karen’s a reasonably capable student if she can find the time to game and keep up with her studies.

  • I say this because in my second year, I nearly fell below the 3.3 GPA required to stay in my honours program because I was ineffective in managing my time. After my third year, however, things turned around. Here, Karen is talking with Miyu, her best friend and a gamer who puts me to shame in terms of hours spent gaming. There are really all sorts of people out there – while I count myself a gamer of moderate skill, there are some people who spend more time playing games than I spent working. I am always baffled by some folks who have a hundred service stars for their gas grenades in Battlefield 1, for instance.

  • Karen initially struggles to find a game with a proper avatar for her, and this is something I cannot relate to. For games where I can customise how I look, I usually choose something that isn’t too ugly and then pop straight into the game. This moment also highlights an interesting safety feature of the new VR headsets in Alternative: if the user’s vitals reach unsafe points, the system will automatically disengage. I certainly would not mind seeing more fanservice moments of Karen in Alternative, but for the present, this has been very limited.

  • Karen eventually lands on a tiny female avatar that is the epitome of Japanese standards for kawaii: a petite frame, round face, large eyes and a squeaky voice. Kusunoki does a solid job with voices in Alternative, presenting Llenn’s voice as squeaky as one is wont to hearing in shows like Kiniro Mosaic or Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?, switching over to a deeper, quieter and more mature voice when playing Karen. This avatar is precisely what Karen’s been looking for, and she prances about in celebration. Soon after creating her avatar and enjoying it, Karen decides to actually go into the world of GGO and see what it’s about.

  • Initially participating in PvE against monsters to collect the resources needed to buy better gear, Karen’s experience in GGO is not too dissimilar to that of games like Destiny or The Division. In fact, The Division encourages players to reach level thirty, wherein the entire array of skills, talents and perks unlock. In MMO terms, The Division allows one to unlock all branches of a skill tree at the level cap, and then forces players to pick the combination of skills, talents and perks that best suit their play-style. It is at level thirty when things get real interesting in The Division.

  • Unlike Karen and GGO, I’m completely optimised for PvE combat in The Division, and I get my ass kicked if I should run into any rogue agents. After some time in GGO, Karen has earned enough currency to customise her looks somewhat, and while she enjoys a beverage here, her choice of pink gear allows her to blend in to the fiery desert sunset. This is where she has her first PvP encounter: while some folks find Llenn’s design to be overpowered, her high speed and puny hitbox is offset by a low durability. While the size of female hitboxes are apparently the subject of no small debate, the best games out there with variably-sized hitboxes will always balance things out so that characters that are harder to hit are also more fragile.

  • Karen eventually meets one Pitohui in GGO: a highly skilled player, Pitohui teams up with Karen on PvE missions. Pitohui’s identity is no mystery to me, and she’s voiced by Yōko Hikasa (Mio Akiyama of K-On!, Houki Shinonono from Infinite Stratos and New Game‘s Kō Yagami). I’ve long enjoyed Hikasa’s performances: she’s able to project a sense of maturity and sexiness in her characters, and her singing voice is also quite good. The music of K-On! with Mio on leading vocals, and Mio’s character songs are the best place to hear Hikasa’s performances.

  • Pitohui plays GGO the same way I play many shooters: with different guns on almost every mission. It’s always fun to experience shooters with a diverse range of weapons, and things get old real fast if I were to run through every mission or match with the “best” or “easy” guns. This is why I will occasionally mix it up in things like battlefield, where I run with weapons I am unfamiliar with for the thrill of the challenge. Of course, if I get salty, I will switch back over to the “tryhard” guns. Karen, on the other hand, prefers to run with her FN P90, a space age-looking personal defense weapon with a 50-round capacity, fires at 900 RPM and shoots 5.7×28mm ammunition. Its design makes it highly manoeuvrable, and in Battlefield 3, I found the P90 a fine gun when outfitted with a laser sight, suppressor and Kobra RDS.

  • In Battlefield 4, I’ve unlocked the P90 but have yet to use it extensively for my engineer: the UMP-45 is my most used PDW. Battlefield 1 has changed the way gunplay works, and I’ve not touched earlier Battlefield titles for some time, but I am tempted to come back and try Karen’s loadout, which is a stock P90-only setup I would call “hipfire scrub”. Like all gamers who want to get the most bang for their buck, Karen occasionally consults online guides to better improve her strategy, although there are occasions when she gets in touch with Miyu, as well.

  • With all of the formalities out of the way now, the Squad Jam event begins. My main reason for not playing current battle royale titles like Fortnite or PUBG is that I am an impatient gamer. I am at my best running around, killing people and then dying, respawning and doing the same. As a result of my styles, I have a very high number of deaths in Battlefield games, but I also contribute greatly to my team’s performances. In other games, where staying alive is important, I tend to play more cautiously. Here, Karen is seen with Gōshi: as M, Gōshi rolls with the M14 EBR and the HK45. In order to approximate his loadout, I would run with support class with the M39 EMR and the Compact 45.

  • I’ve opted to leave out most of the combat scenes in Alternative because they’re meant to be watched in motion, not as individual stills. After taking down a team of players with real-world training and a team with airboats, Gōshi and Karen evade a third team. Gōshi reveals a plot to kill Karen so he can stand down without dying, leading to the most hilarious moment of Alternative that leaves Karen’s Llenn with what I’ve come to call funny faces. The presence of these funny faces show that Alternative is not taking itself as seriously as its predecessors, which I greatly welcome.

  • Against a team of deadly-looking female players, Karen finds herself outgunned, but clever use of plasma grenades that look a great deal like the seeker mines of The Division and support from Gōshi, who’s regained his composure, allows Karen to escape defeat and fight another day. As Llenn, Karen’s playstyle is absolutely brutal and sexy: she makes use of Llenn’s small size, speed, game mechanics and her environment to devastate her enemies in ways that I’ve not seen from the YouTubers that I follow, even sacrificing her P90 to stop the enemy’s bullets for the sake of victory.

  • In a one-on-one, Karen manages to best the remaining group’s leader with a knife, bringing an end to her first-ever Squad Jam competition. Despite the first five episodes being focused around Squad Jam, Alternative never becomes boring at all, and I am very fond of Karen/Llenn’s characterisation. Lacking the things that made Kirito a dull protagonist at best (and an insufferable one at worse), I feel that Sword Art Online would have done better to have Kirito encounter a larger number of male players, doing away with the group of female admirers he accumulated in favour of people who are there to share his experiences and challenges. Back in Alternative, Karen’s win brings to mind how Jeremy defeats DeathStriker6666 in Pure Pwnage by means of a knife in the “Lanageddon” episode.

  • In the real world, Karen meets up with the high school students whom she’d played against in the Squad Jam tournament and finds in them a new group of friends who are impressed with her play-style. Having long envied them for their short stature, Karen had no idea they were equally envious of her figure, and it is with the confidence of victory from GGO that Karen finally is able to break the ice with this group of high school students. She’s cut her hair short to signify the turning over of a new leaf.

  • I’ve been called a scrub before for using PDWs like the P90 in Battlefield 3, and in Battlefield 1, players who use the Automatico M1918 Trench are similarly disparaged. High RPM weapons, or “spray-and-pray” weapons require very little skill to use in single combat: because they fire quickly, they have a higher DPS as well. In this sense, Karen is a scrub for favouring PDWs and speed: her approach is one of my favourite ways to roll, although since Battlefield 1 introduced the sweet spot mechanic and increased muzzle velocity to make sniping easier, I’ve taken to using bolt action rifles more frequently. At present, I can make use of any rifle outside of their sweet spot and be modestly effective with them.

  • Introducing everyone on the rhythm athletics club members will be an exercise for another day, but their story is another example of how video games can be helpful. Initially, this group of girls lacked team spirit, so their coach encouraged them to work on this in a virtual space, where faces and names do not matter. After becoming hooked on GGO, the girls have seen an improved performance in their club activities and also have another hobby from which to bond over. They seek Karen’s counsel in trying to improve, since the thrill of Squad Jam has left a considerable impression on them.

  • Karen travels home while on break, and upon returning to Tokyo, finds herself face to face with Gōshi. She’s visibly shocked at meeting Gōshi in person, sufficiently so that she has another funny face moment. I note here that if my readers are interested in meeting me in person, there’d better be a bloody good reason for it.

  • Gōshi explains a bit of his story with Pitohui to Karen and details Pitohui’s obsession with death in a story that is chilling as befitting of Sword Art Online. Thrill-seekers such as these are rare in reality, and Gōshi’s devotion to Pitohui foreshadows at what is to happen next. The second half of Alternative will follow another Squad Jam battle where the stakes are much higher, and if executed well, this will certainly be a blast to watch.

  • I will conclude this Alternative post with a fanservice image of Miyu for your amusement, and explain the page quote: it’s sourced from Tom Clancy’s Locked On, and is a reasonable approximation of how Karen might feel about things concerning Gōshi and Pitohui. Instead of backing down, however, she recruits game expert Miyu to help out, and I’m curious to see what Miyu brings to the table. Since we’re dealing with games, The Division‘s Onslaught global event begins tomorrow, and Wednesday will see the reveal trailer to Battlefield V.

It is therefore appropriate to say that, despite its simpler showing insofar, Alternative has nonetheless done a fantastic job of conveying what a VR battle royale shooter looks like, and for illustrating the postive impact that video games may have on folk like Karen. Sword Art Online had always excelled in having strong background and world-building, as well as for inclusion of game mechanics in its narrative. I understand that presently, battle royale games are all the rage, especially with the likes of Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, so Alternative is also relevant to the period. While I’m adamantly against playing battle royale games because they involve more running than shooting, I also accept that the unpredictability and the attendant thrill adds to the genre’s appeal. Seeing terminology and mechanics from first person shooters make their way into GGO, with a game type that has surged in popularity was therefore highly entertaining. GGO is especially attractive for me because I’ve played enough shooters to know how they work from a technical level (I presently don’t play MMOs). By comparison, Sword Art Online‘s thematic elements and characterisation have traditionally been weaker. While themes of death slowly begin to return with a host of individuals with uncommon backgrounds, Alternative has remained reasonably grounded and relatable. One would therefore hope that this trend continues; at the risk of treading on toes, Kirito’s absence and all of the romance-related turmoil makes Alternative all the stronger, and one would hope that Karen’s story in GGO is unfettered by unnecessary romance, allowing Alternative to focus purely on video games and their potential positive impact on one’s mental health.

Amanchu! Advance: Review and Reflection At The Halfway Point, and Remarks on Miracles

“I never bullshit, Pickle Man. This can only end with one of us dead, and I have never died.”
“That will be your downfall, Jaguar: not being open to new experiences.”

—Jaguar and Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

On an autumn day, Hikari runs into Kokoro, who is buying Marron Pie for her parents. She subsequently spends the afternoon with him, and they walk under the brilliant autumn foliage of a nearby park together. Meanwhile, Futaba is enjoying a cool afternoon at a café with a book, but falls asleep and has a lucid dream where she’s a witch. She takes another one of the café’s patrons into the skies with a broom and soars over town, before flying to a park, where sakura blossoms are blooming. When Futaba reawakens, she recounts her experiences with Hikari. Later during a dive using drysuits, Hikari notices that Futaba is highly motivated. Futaba panics when she finds herself unable to descend with the others, and is saved by Hikari and Mato; Mato lectures Futaba on the dangers of a rapid ascend. During lunch, the diving club meet Hikari’s younger sister, Kodama, and with encouragement from her friends, Futaba’s motivation is restored. While diving, Mato finds herself in imminent danger of injury, but is saved by the “Black Mermaid”, a gargantuan diver. He signals for them to accompany him; Mato, Hikari and Futaba accepts, so he brings them to a beautiful reef under the ocean. It turns out that the Black Mermaid is Hikari’s grandfather, who is an experienced diver. During Halloween, Futaba and Kokoro compete to earn the prize from a scavenger hunt: a kiss from Prince Hikari. Determined to win, Futaba overcomes her fears of talking to a stranger with a costume beard and pushes for the finish line, tying with Kokoro, who had his sights set on winning the giant octopus stuffed toy. Hikari and Futaba relax an exclusive spa with Mato and Ai, and later, Mato wonders when she lost sight of the magic in the world. Thus, we are at the halfway point of Amanchu! Advance, and by my admission, Amanchu! Advance is a step away from the grounded, ordinary setting of its predecessor. Fantastical escapes are explored, blurring the line between reality and fantasy: Futaba frequently alludes to this message, which is a recurring theme that we’ve seen so far.

One of the greatest joys about sequels are that they offer an opportunity for writers to present different aspects to characters that audiences have already become familiar with. In Amanchu! Advance, Hikari’s character is seen as being more prone to embarrassment: her carpe diem outlook on life has its limits, and she sometimes feels this when things cross the line. However, Futaba has received a more interesting bit of growth in Amanchu! Advance: having long regarded Hikari as a dear friend, her desire to be with Hikari has also manifested a hitherto unexpected side of her character. She’s expressing jealousy now at the prospect of someone else vying for Hikari’s attention, and similarly, has become more protective of Hikari, as well. Futaba’s drive in the scavenger hunt indicates this very strongly, as do her dreams of being the prince to Hikari’s princess. On the topic of dreams, Amanchu! Advance has also given audiences exposure to Futaba’s desires and thoughts through her dreams. While relaxing at a café, the atmosphere leads her to fall asleep. She’s well aware of being in a dream and all the more assertive for it; conjuring a broom and soaring through the skies, Futaba encourages another patron to partake, as well, expressing a confidence and assuredness that we’d previously not seen in her. In conjunction with Futaba’s allusions to the merging of boundaries between the tangible and dreams, I get the sense that Amanchu! Advance intends to convey to its audiences that magical moments are so moving they often feel unreal, and that these magic moments have profound changes, both good and bad, on individuals that experience them; it is clear that Futaba, for whatever other doubts she may possessed, has matured since meeting Hikari.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I continue to find interesting things to talk about in Amanchu! Advance, so this post will have thirty screenshots. We open with Hikari running into Kokoro. Both have their sights set on Marron Pie: having nothing to do with Hai-Furi‘s Maron, Marrons are another name for chestnuts, and in Japan, these chestnut pies are made by wrapping a light, flaky pastry around candied chestnuts. Japanese pastry shops mark this as an autumn specialty, the same way that pumpkin spice has more or less worked its way into everything when autumn rolls around in North America. While some folks find it overrated, the sweet and subtle kick of pumpkin does have a distinctly autumn taste to it.

  • It suddenly strikes me that none of the bloggers whom I’m in regular correspondence with, are writing about Amanchu! Advance. I’d love to hear other perspectives on this show, even if Amanchu! Advance might not be the most conducive towards discussions. While Futaba and another patron enjoy their books, hot beverage and sweets, I look back a few evenings, when I finally tried out the Louisanna-style fried chicken from a new place in the area. Their chicken is very crunchy and flavourful, fried differently from the place I normally go, and the cajun fries have a bit of a kick to them. The best surprise were their biscuits, which are moist and buttery.

  • The page quote for Amanchu! Advance thus comes from the notion of being open to new experiences, albeit one made in jest. In general, being open-minded leads to unexpected surprises, and here, Futaba encourages the other patron to fly with her. Futaba is enjoying tea at the Izukogen Rose Terrace café. With its unusual architecture, this cafe is well-regarded in both its atmosphere and menu: locals recommend it as a place to drop by if one is in search of a short breather while exploring the numerous museums in the area.

  • The events of Amanchu! Advance and Amanchu are set in the coastal town of Itō. With a population of sixty-nine thousand, most of the locations of Amanchu! are set in and around Itō, although unsurprisingly, some creative liberties have been taken to ensure that the locations of Amanchu! work with the story. Having said this, this aerial depiction of Itō is largely faithful to the real-world incarnation; Nagisa Park is visible in the image.

  • In her dreams, Futaba has the same grace and charm as Flying Witch‘s Makoto Kowata: she smoothly mounts her broom and takes flight using the same approach as seen in Flying Witch where she channels her magic into the broom. I invite readers to check out my old talk on Flying Witch; aired some two years ago, I greatly enjoyed Flying Witch, and readers will have noticed that I have a particular fondness for slice-of-life anime defined by a highly cathartic atmosphere. I’ve stated this previously: my enjoyment in these shows come from simply being able to watch them in the moment, and I note that I am never on the lookout for themes or analysis while watching a show.

  • While my posts on these anime predominantly feature thematic elements and the like, I only consider these elements once I’ve decided to sit down and write these posts. Back in Amanchu! Advance, Hikari and Kokoro stroll through an area with red leaves. Kokoro, being only eleven, is a ways younger than the other characters, and his dynamics with Hikari are endearing. He swings between wanting to hang with Hikari and wanting to avoid her at the same time for the latter’s indefatigable spirit.

  • The young patron that Futaba befriends is Kotori Misaki, who is Kokoro’s sister. She has yet to be formally introduced to the cast, and is voiced by none other than Ai Kakuma (Brave Witches‘ Hikari Karibuchi): characters in anime are not introduced on a whim, and so, I expect that Kotori will meet up with the main cast in due course.

  • A brilliant sunset marks the end of the day: in Japan, sunsets and sunrises come very early. While in Japan last year, the sun began setting as early as 16:00 JST, and it would already be fully up, equivalent to around 08:00 MDT when I woke up at 06:00 JST. I’m a morning person through and through, but waking up to see the sunrise, which is at a reasonable time back home, would be unfeasible for even me. When the sun sets at home, I usually am not treated to such a vivid experience as seen in Amanchu! Advance, either: the most beautiful of sunsets usually occur in late October and early November, when chinook clouds are illuminated by the last light of day.

  • The legend of the Jet-Black Mermaid is a story that Mato tells her students: this story is local to Amanchu! Advance and won’t be found anywhere else. Mato describes a beautiful and mysterious entity that roams the oceans, helping divers in need out, moving at quick speeds and also is willing to take them to Ryūgū-jō, a mystical underwater palace that is home to the Dragon God, Ryūjin. While an interesting story, Mato remarks that it is little more than a mere myth, and the diving club thus begins their day’s activities.

  • While underwater, Futaba experiences a curious phenomenon when Hikari, Makoto and Ai blow rings of air. I am reminded of folks who can make smoke rings. This is a technique that requires practise, and experienced individuals can create faster or slower moving rings, as well. Having said this, because I am a non-smoker, this is not something I will practise or take up any time soon. The most impressive smoke rings I’ve seen in any context goes to The Lord of The Rings‘ Gandalf The Grey, who created an entire smoke galleon in The Fellowship of The Ring.

  • After failing to modify her buoyancy before descending, Futaba finds herself being pulled upwards and risks decompression sickness, informally known as the bends. This is caused by a reduced pressure causing dissolved gases to come out of solution, creating bubbles in the bloodstream. Because these bubbles can form in any part of the body, the effects can be lethal. This is why Mato gives Futaba a stern lecture: the effects of the bends are not trivial.

  • While Futaba is a bit disheartened that she got a bit cocky, conversation with her friends allows her to regroup. Futaba is presented as being someone who’s quite hard on herself and doubtful, and while she still occasionally succumbs, it is clear that her friendships have given her a newfound confidence. Mindful of her errors, Futaba learns from her mistakes more rapidly now and seems less bothered by the weight of her errors.

  • While manga readers will be familiar with Kodama, Hikari’s younger sister, it came as a surprise to me that Kodama was introduced this late in the game. She’s the opposite of Hikari, being reserved and feeling that Hikari’s boundless enthusiasm is a liability. Despite her not being an active diver, she’s familiar with the basics. The two are as different as night and day, and Kodama thanks the others for looking after Hikari.

  • Hikari and Futaba prepare to enter the water. When Futaba expresses doubt at performing a back roll entry, Hikari suggests the giant stride. One of my impediments is that I cannot tumble at all, so when I was younger, the rolling entry into water was something I never could execute for swimming classes. The stride dive is usually employed when one is on a larger vessel, while the back roll is used if one is on a small boat or RHIB.

  • Yesterday, I went ahead and watched Avengers: Infinity War at a local cinema before returning home to a dinner of roast beef and peppercorn gravy and cheesy mashed potatoes with bacon and sour cream. This particular theatre has fancy, comfortable reclining chairs, and the film itself was superb. Like Girls und Panzer Der Film and Strike Witches The Movie, this is an experience that requires some knowledge of the previous entries in the film. It was a thrill to see all of the MCU characters bounce off one another, and despite being darker than some of the other MCU films, Infinity War does have its humourous moments, such as when Stark and Strange clash. References to earlier films are also made, and it is this a priori knowledge that makes some of the moments more enjoyable. The film is the first part of two, and the latter releases next May.

  • This is about as far as I’ll go in talking about Infinity War: my readers, who may or may not be fans of the MCU, are likely hear about my thoughts on anime, so I’ll return the discussion to Amanchu! Advance, where Mato’s just been rescued from a nasty bump to her dome by a gargantuan diver whose proportions defy normalcy. After this mysterious diver saves Mato, he invites Mato, Hikari and Futaba. With Mato’s story about the Jet-Black Mermaid still fresh on their minds, the girls accept the new diver’s invitation.

  • Swimming at a speed much faster than previously thought possible, the massive diver takes Mato, Futaba and Hikari into a beautiful coral reef under the ocean. While not Ryūgū-jō, this area is beautiful, being populated by colourful corals and schools of fish. With its vivid colours and volumetric lighting, Amanchu! Advnace has gone the full ten yards in creating a scene that captures the majesty and wonder of the oceans.

  • The result is a truly magical moment that stands amongst the miracles that Akari, Aika and Alice encounter on Aqua: Amanchu! Advance manages to accomplish this without any supernatural or otherworldly forces. Initially, the mysterious black-clad diver’s identity is not known, but his benevolent actions and calming presence is reminiscent of ARIA‘s Cait Sith, who appears to Akari occasionally and is considered to act as a spiritual guardian of sorts for Aqua. However, in the absence of supernatural, it is not particularly rational to consider this diver as Amanchu! Advance‘s equivalent of the Cait Sith. Instead, subtle bits of foreshadowing hint at who this diver is.

  • As it turns out, the diver is Hikari’s grandfather; he’s a big guy for you. The clue I refer to is the vast towel that Kodama brings to Kino, which the others immediately find curious for its dimensions. Despite his build, Hikari’s grandfather is evidently a skilful diver.

  • During a Halloween festival of sorts, Futaba dresses up in a vivid red dress and finds the scene surrounding her so unreal that she has to convince herself that it is not a dream. She and Hikari enjoy the festival, later running into Kokoro. When Hikari heads off to buy some drinks, an uncomfortable silence arises between the two, but the pair nonetheless draw a crowd.

  • While walking around the Halloween festival, Hikari and the others run into Ai and Makoto, who are handling a scavenger hunt. No one’s shown up, and Ai wonders if they’ll need to up the ante for prizes. The group brainstorm some prizes, landing on “a kiss from the prince (Hikari)”: this draws the interest of a little girl, and word spreads, hauling in a large group of participants. Feeling that Hikari is threatened, Futaba decides to join the scavenger hunt and win it to protect her. Kokoro can be seen here in a lilac cat costume, and he joins because the original prize caught his eye.

  • The scavenger hunt’s participants quickly hit impediments that slow them down for good. Kokoro’s assignment is to find a handkerchief, which he considers straightforwards, but he’s scared off by the principal and decides to ask a lady instead. His plan backfires when the woman asks him what kind of trick he might play on her should she decline his request, but the outcome later suggests that he managed to overcome his fear.

  • Futaba initially has trouble finding the courage asking a man dressed as a kangaroo for his beard, but like Kokoro, succeeds. It was unexpectedly adorable to watch Futaba squeal in panic when her prize was so near and simultaneously so far: we recall that she’s voiced by Ai Kayano (Chisaki Hiradaira in Nagi no AsakuraGirls und Panzer‘s Saori Takabe and Mocha Hoto in GochiUsa), who excels at gentle voices.

  • The conclusion of the scavenger hunt is a thrilling one, and it ends up a draw between Futaba and Kokoro, when Kokoro trips and ends up in Futaba’s arms. This outcome was not particularly unexpected, and from a narrative perspective, is done to indicate that both Futaba and Kokoro were motivated by their own, non-intersecting reasons for winning.

  • Futaba began Amanchu! with a graceful but distant expression that gradually shifted to one of wonder, warmth and happiness when she met Hikari. I believe this is my first time seeing Futaba wear such an expression on her face, when she remarks to Kokoro that she’s not about to let anyone steal Hikari from her. The afternoon soon gives way to evening, and after receiving a kiss from Hikari, Futaba declares that she’d like to be Hikari’s prince.

  • I’ve been enjoying Amanchu! Advanced considerably thus far, but even in a series as cathartic and laid-back as Amanchu!, it seems the deep places of the internet can still find criticisms to level against this series. In this case, accusations of discrimination against Amanchu!‘s author, Kozue Amano have been made because some entitled, ill-read individuals on Reddit cannot differentiate between different kinds of friendships. I’m normally accepting of Reddit discussions since they tend to be useful, but some parts of their anime community are about as credible and useful as that of /a/, which is to say, their discussions are a load of bollocks. Having said this, if there are people reading this who think that Redditors and /a/ have value, however negligible, then by all means, make it known to me. I welcome it.

  • I’ve also heard that one chapter of Amanchu! is controversial, and having taken a look, I can say with total confidence that this is a gross overreaction. The chapter in question might be adapted into Amanchu! Advance, and while I think nothing of it, the lesser parts of the internet apparently find it to be srs bsns. Quite personally, I hope they adapt this chapter into Amanchu! Advance so viewers can make of things for themselves, rather than leaving it to the sensitive and narrow-minded folk out there to shape perceptions on things. Here in Amanchu! Advance, Hikari and Futaba share a dance in one of Futaba’s dreams.

  • Enjoying their fancy spa experience, Futaba and Hikari share another moment of joy following Futaba’s recounting of her dream to Hikari. Lucid dreams were mentioned in this post, but I’ve not mentioned them in too much detail until now: these dreams are defined as when the individual is aware of their being in a dream and may be able to exert varying degrees of control over how things unfold. A few people I know, both in real life and among my fellow bloggers have such dreams – I am a bit envious, since the most amount of control I can exert in my dreams is to exfiltrate when I feel a situation is unfair or dangerous. Beyond this, my dreams are very mundane and ordinary for the most part; I’ve flown on a couch over my home town and duelled a Balrog of Morgoth once, but more common are dreams where I’m involved in my daily routine or treading familiar ground.

  • Outside, Mato walks about. Hearing the conversation that Futaba and Hikari share leads her to wonder when she stopped looking around the world for the magical and began viewing it in more practical, mundane terms. The presence of a routine tends to do that: adults tend to be a lot more boring in this regard.

  • With this final screenshot of Mato looking over a cluster of Jack’o-Lanterns, my talk for Amanchu! Advance after the halfway point draws to a close. We’re nearing the halfway point of May, and having another Amanchu! post in the books, the third and final part of my Yuru Camp△ Armchair Journey series will be completed in the near future. We’re also closing on the release dates for Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai and Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?: Dear My Sister – I intend to write about Dear My Sister as soon as it becomes available, and will be saving Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai for June. Finally, Gundam: The Origin‘s sixth and final instalment still needs to be watched and written about, so there is that to look forwards to, as well.

The past three episodes of Amanchu! Advance leading us to the halfway point have moved the series in a direction where it feels more like ARIA; magical moments are more common and suggest that miracles can be found in life’s smallest details. This is a welcome step for Amanchu! Advance, giving the show the chance to portray characters outside of their activities as divers. In doing so, Amanchu! Advance reiterates to viewers that while diving might be what brought people together, people (and not diving) are ultimately at the forefront of everything in Amanchu! Advance. Slow and calming in its pacing, Amanchu! Advance has shown that in spite of its presentation, there are definitely things worth considering. The anime continues to impress with its visual quality, and the music has also taken a step forwards, playing a more visible role in setting the emotional tenor for a moment. The sum of these elements come together to create an atmosphere not unlike that of ARIA, and even though Amanchu! is set in the real world, with a different premise and aims, the similarities between the two series in terms of atmosphere are evident. As we move into Amanchu! Advance‘s second half, I expect that audiences will continue to see different aspects for the characters that give them a more credible feel and make the show increasingly enjoyable. I further speculate that Amanchu! Advance will advance in a direction that sees Futaba working hard for, and earning her advanced diver certification. The rationale for this is that Amanchu! Advance‘s tile, in incorporating the word “Advance” to signify both the act of moving forwards and a higher level of knowledge, is leading Futaba down a path where she is able to do both and mature further as a person.