The Infinite Zenith

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

Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! Review and Reflections At The Halfway Point

“Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things.” —Kenneth Branagh

Mayu and Shiho initially find it difficult to act in their assigned characters for the television drama “The Dreaming Duo”, where Mitsuki and Yoko are share dreams and come to realise their love for the same guy. However, with inspiration, Mayu begins to act more fluidly for Yoko’s role, inspiring Shiho to do the same as Mitsuki. While the two agree on their relationship being a strictly professional one, the distance between the two lessens as the two work on their drama, which finishes shooting on a high note. Later, Junko arranges for a Sendai tour with WUG to inspire local fans. A scheduling conflict prevents Minami from attending, and during a performance that evening, Nanami steps in to substitute for Minami. While she falls on stage, her actions earn her endearment from the audience. After WUG announces their plans to release a new album, Ayumi gets lost at the inn and comes across WUG’s zoo costumes. Mayu accidentally spills tomato juice on one and assumes it’s Yoshino inside, deciding that it’s best to visit the hot springs and wash it off before staining occurs. Ayumi manages to escape, but is inspired by Mayu’s words about idols and their duty to bring smiles to their audiences. The next morning, she tells Mayu of her intentions to become an idol and Mayu wishes her luck. This is where things stand at the halfway point in New Chapter!, a series that has managed to retain its charm owing to its sincere narrative and honest characters.

The past three episodes predominantly deal with Mayu; she’s the most experienced of WUG members and, despite being one of the more soft-spoken members, has numerous insights into what expectations are in entertainment. This sort of maturity and professionalism initially caused her to butt heads with the other WUG members during the first season of Wake Up, Girls!, but time has allowed even the taciturn Mayu to open up. By New Chapter!, Mayu is sharing how she feels about her schedule and is expressive about concerns she may have with her duties, in turn allowing the others to support her in their own way. Similarly, having recovered her sense of purpose as an idol, Mayu sees their duty as putting smiles on the faces of their audiences, and that the WUG’s presence can be projected by each and every member. Capable of reassuring others in WUG, Mayu’s definitely been a source of inspiration to those around her, and also outside of the group; Ayumi is star-struck whenever she meets Mayu in person, and a part of this is that Mayu is remarkably kind, humble and approachable. Having found her joy in being an idol once again because of her time in WUG, Mayu is able to put her heartfelt feelings into her performances that, together with the others in WUG, have allowed the group to retain a loyal following, and from an external perspective, these same aspects within the anime have allowed Wake Up, Girls! to similarly retain a loyal following in reality.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • For the record, if The Dreaming Duo were real, I would likely watch it. In this drama, the normally-quiet Mayu plays the spirited, energetic Yoko, who is on the basketball team, and Shiho, who usually is more forward with her opinions, is Mitsuki, a reserved student fond of the arts. The roles are opposite of their characters, and while they initially have difficulty adjusting, the directors notice the improvement once both begin empathising with their respective characters.

  • The dynamic between Mayu and Shiho is similar to that of Mythbusters‘ Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman: Shiho outright tells Mayu that their working together will not be a sign that their relationship has mended, to which Mayu accepts. I was reading an article about how Savage and Hyneman do not get along with one another outside of work hours, but nonetheless are successful in working together as professionals. Like Savage and Hyneman, Shiho and Mayu respect one another’s work ethic, follow similar processes in getting things done, and value getting the job done well over their own egos.

  • Mayu’s busy schedule means that she misses preparing for breakfast on at least one occasion, but here, her teammates step up to the plate and help her out. The dynamics amongst WUG are give-and-take, and in between her work on the set, Mayu also participates in the other activities that WUG typically engage in.

  • I’m not sure what I’m looking at here; one of the stills shows WUG recoiling from shock and horror after touching something unknown for a television programme. This sort of show is a bit less common on this side of the planet: when I was in Japan, a great number of their channels were running game and talk shows. Japanese shows tend to be a bit flashier and text heavy, giving a much more excited sense compared to similar  shows in North America, which by comparison feel a bit more austere.

  • Shiho is momentarily recalled to I-1 Club when Moka sustains an injury, but as it turns out, the injury was relatively minor, allowing her to return to her usual duties. As the two embrace their roles further, they begin gaining a feel for the characters and occasionally offer suggestions to the directors to create a more natural scene. While the directors are initially appalled, the scriptwriter approves of the changes.

  • When the principal photography is complete for The Dreaming Duo, Mayu has a chance to speak with one of the project’s managers, who admits that the decision to cast Mayu and Shiho were originally motivated by a want to draw in more viewers using well-known names, but they ended up getting more than expected through both girls’ dedication towards their roles.

  • Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome find themselves tiring out on a walk for their physical education class and begin losing resolve upon hearing the distance remaining in the walk, but when Ayumi learns of WUG’s plans to do a bus tour of Sendai, Ayumi immediately gains a second wind. Of the three, it seems that Ayumi is the most interested in WUG, and she runs into Mayu herself while playing an extra in The Dreaming Duo.

  • Minami is tied up with a food show and is absent from the proceedings for most of the WUG Sendai tour. Kouhei does his best to keep the show running, and the day begins smoothly. On board the bus, Ayumi and her friends encounter some high school students from Tokyo who’ve become fans of Minami, and they quickly hit it off with one another. The remainder of the folks on this tour are male fans of WUG, and I will note here that, while their antics are a riot, I usually do not feature the vociferous WUG fans from the family restaurant because there’s not much I have to comment about them.

  • The first event on the WUG Sendai tour is a SCAVENGER HUNT type event, where participants must find each of the girls, dressed up as an animal, and collect a stamp from them. Each of the girls end up encountering difficulties in striking a balance between being out in the open and being well-hidden enough so the event is fun for the participants. As an aside, Wake Up, Girls! Zoo! was a spin-off that I ended up watching a ways back. Light-hearted and fun, each episode was a riot, and I also greatly enjoyed the theme song, as well.

  • Ayumi grows weak-kneed when coming face-to-face with Mayu herself. Her tendency to be star-struck has hilarious consequences within New Chapter!. Today’s post marks a three-streak, one of the longest I’ve had this year; in spite of a weekend packed with activities, I somehow managed to get a post out each day. Of course, this pattern won’t be the norm: posts take at least two to three hours to write, and this is why I won’t be writing about Far Cry 4 as of yet, even though I finished the game just yesterday.

  • Today’s events included going out for dim sum and then taking a short walk under the warmer weather: things have warmed up a little over the past week. The last time I had dim sum at this particular restaurant was back in February, and while dim sum appears unassuming, it is quite substantial – we ordered the usual suspects today (炸蝦角, 蝦餃, 燒賣, 鳳爪, 叉燒包 and 腸粉), plus a sticky fried rice. I’m especially fond of 炸蝦角 (jyutping “zaa3 haa1 gok3”), a deep-fried shrimp that goes great with mayonnaise. Dim sum is, in the words of Adam Richman, a Hong Kong institution, and that one can get Dim Sum in Calgary rivalling the quality of Hong Kong Dim Sum is downright amazing.

  • I’ve seen this technique used before in the Hai-Furi OVAs, and of late, constraints in New Chapter!‘s animation budget have become quite apparent. There are photograph-like scenes such as this, re-use of footage seen earlier and numerous stills while the characters are engaged in conversation. In spite of obvious shortfalls in animation, New Chapter! more than delivers the spirit and fun; from a certain point of view, the choppy animation can be seen as a bit of a visual metaphor for the rough-around-the-edges-but-sincere nature of WUG.

  • WUG performs First Rate Smile, a song that Tasuka wrote for them as their debut piece. Upbeat and energetic, the song is later given to I-1 Club to perform, as WUG is tasked with an even tougher song (Seven Girls’ War, the opening song). For the longest time, First Rate Smile could only be heard in the I-1 Club incarnation, although with the Wake Up, Best! album that released in March 2015, a full year after the first season aired, audiences finally had a chance to listen to the WUG version of First Rate Smile.

  • Upon seeing the disappointment in the audience at Minami’s absence, WUG decide to ask Nanami to perform in lieu of Minami on account of her sharing a similar stature, but Nanami stumbles and reveals to the audience that she’s not Minami. Far from drawing the audience’s ire, this action results in the audience cheering for Nanami, as well. Soon after, the real McCoy arrives, with Junko having exhorted transportation crew to get them to the hotel ASAP.

  • At the time of writing, WUG’s real-world equivalent have released numerous albums for the music of Wake Up, Girls!, and performed at several venues where they became a sleeper hit: their real world performers seem to embrace adversity, and as one article on ANN succintly puts it, the group turns disaster into dreams. Born of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, the project was initially to help with rebuilding Sendai. It was on the verge of failure and turned to recruiting voice talent in the Sendai area. The experiences and tribulations that the production team saw fed into Wake Up, Girls!, and in retrospective, it would seem that the reason why Wake Up, Girls! is so authentic and genuine is because it is inspired by real events.

  • New Chapter! is no Murder on the Orient Express, a recent film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic – Miyu finds Mayu after she accidentally spills tomato juice on Yoshino’s polar bear costume, a consequence of Ayumi hiding inside it after getting lost, and the girls must promptly remove it before the stain becomes a permanent feature. The reason why tomato juice is so difficult to remove is because of the pigment lycopene, a long-chain non-polar hydrocarbon. These molecules are hydrophobic and will cling to other similar non-polar molecules, such as those making up plastic containers or the fibres in clothing.

  • The guide to removing tomato juice stains are numerous, and the precise method will depend on how old the stain is. In the case of a fresh stain, the combination of water and detergent will be sufficient. After Mayu takes Ayumi to the baths, her fear of getting discovered leads her to hide. By a stroke of luck, the other WUG members arrive, and in the chaos, Ayumi manages to escape, leaving Mayu to wonder what really happened, but before she gets clear, Ayumi overhears Mayu speaking to the others about what being an idol means.

  • Future assignments will leave the girls with less time spent performing together, leading Miyu to feel depressed, but when Mayu reminds everyone that they’re WUG regardless of where they are, spirits lift considerably. One of the things about being an idol, then is also being able to help one’s teammates and oneself smile: if the point of the business is to give a bit of happiness to viewers, then those doing so must first learn to find their own happiness. Mayu is able to appreciate this, and her presence in WUG is a reassuring one.

  • The next morning, WUG participate in signing autographs for their fans. The tour ends up being a successful one, and it seems that Mayu is quite unaware that Ayumi was responsible for the previous evening’s escapade. Seizing the moment, Ayumi declares that she wishes to be an idol – from our perspective, we roughly know what idols in Wake Up, Girls! must experience. I’ve heard that Ayumi and her friends will form their own group, “Run, Girls, Run!”: their presence in New Chapter! seem to be about the positive impacts that idols can have as role models.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this before, but ever since Wake Up, Girls! first season, Mayu’s been my favourite character. While still relatively off the beaten path, discussions about Wake Up, Girls! that I’ve seen have been quite positive. Time is moving at breakneck speed: we’re very nearly halfway through November now, and we’re rolling into December very soon. This anime season has passed by quickly, and I’ve found the other shows I’m watching to be enjoyable. With this post out the gates, I will be turning my attention towards Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter now – I’m curious to see both whether or not I can make an episodic review work, as well as what Hero Chapter entails.

With the next major goal being the production of a full WUG album, I’m looking forwards to seeing what directions New Chapter! will be taking. By this point in time, WUG has become accustomed to truths within the industry, but their cumulative experiences allow them to appropriately address whatever challenges come their way. The togetherness that is central to WUG’s strengths during performances have become somewhat of a crutch for WUG, and having foreseen this, Junko and Youhei have arranged for the girls to perform and work independently to increase their self-reliance. At the halfway point, this appears to be effective: the girls have definitely become much more resilient and adaptive. Mayu similarly reminds everyone that WUG will be WUG as long as everyone believes in one another, regardless of whether their working alone or performing together. While where all of these lessons and learnings will end up remains open for speculation, one thing is likely to be true: WUG will definitely find a way to overcome adversity that will invariably come their way as the series moves into its final episodes, and it will be enjoyable to watch how WUG goes about solving problems in with their own unique approaches.

Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari (Napping Princess: The Story of the Unknown Me): A Review and Reflection

“I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.” ―Elon Musk

The Kingdom of Heartland is entirely driven by vehicle manufacture, and the heiress, Ancien, is given a magical tablet that allows her to bestow life into mechanical creations. She encounters a pirate named Peach when a Colossus attacks, helping him drive off the Colossus when the nation’s war machines, the Engineheads, fail. It turns out that this is a dream that Kokone has – she is a high school student who lives with her father, Momotarō, a skilful but taciturn mechanic who draws the attention of agents from the corporation Shijima Motors, who accuse him of stealing company secrets. Watanabe, oneof Shijima’s advisors, arrives to retrieve the tablet, and when Momotarō refuses, he is taken in for questioning. Kokone manages to recover her father’s tablet with help from Morio, an old friend. After dozing off and dreaming that her motorcycle can fly, Kokone awakens to find herself in Osaka. She makes her way to Tokyo with the intent of meeting with Isshin Shijima, the chairman of Shijima Motors, and while sleeping along the way, Kokone realises that her father’s story about Heartland was inspired by her mother, Ikumi. Upon meeting Isshin, Kokone learns that her mother had developed self-driving software but was denied permission to continue with the project. In Heartland, the Colossus attacks again, but Ancien manages to upload a spell into the remaining Enginehead, which Bewan (the King’s advisor and the parallel to Watanabe) had planned to use to usurp the King. In a pitched fight, the Colossus is destroyed, but Bewan attempts to destroy Heartland. Peach flies the Enginehead into lower orbit to eliminate the remains of the Colossus, and back in reality, Kokone finds herself saved from certain death when her self-driving motor cycle arrives, fulfilling Ikumi’s promise to be there for her family. The company’s contribution to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics later progresses smoothly, and Isshin spends more time with Kokone and her father. Released in March 2017, Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari (Hirune Hime for brevity) is an unusual fantasy-adventure whose draw is its seamless transitions between Heartland and reality, resulting in a highly unique film that ended up being remarkably enjoyable to watch.

Beautifully rendered and presented, Heartland is a fantastical world of great scale that emphasises its fictional nature. Sequences set in Heartland were a thrill to watch, capturing a setting that is simultaneously familiar and different to reality. That Hirune Hime flits between the two suggest that for their initial differences, the Heartland that Momotarō created for Kokone and the real world are not so dissimilar. The blending of the two worlds means that, while there are some gaps within Hirune Hime, the overall thematic elements are never disrupted; Hirune Hime presents its themes when the narrative is set in the real world, and in the film, two messages stand out. The first is that familial love comes about in different ways, evident when Kokone realises that, contrary to her initial resentment towards her father for not reflecting on what Ikumi was like, he’d created an entire world to capture Ikumi’s character. This suggests that, while he is greatly impacted by Ikumi’s death, he nonetheless loves Kokone and thus, designs a story, a fairy tale of sorts to both give Kokone an idea of what kind of person her mother had been, without forcing himself to recount his painful experiences. The second aspect of Hirune Hime deals with the importance of accepting and valuing technological advancements – Ikumi had long foreseen a future with self-driving cars and wishes to pursue it, but when her father, Isshin, rejects her proposal, his company ultimately finds itself at the edge of a PR disaster years later, when Shijima Motors is tasked with showing the world how far Japan has come during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Because their own developments had not been fruitful, Watanabe resorts to unethical means of fulfilling his goal, with the aim of taking over the company. Technology is an ever-present part of Hirune Hime, as seen through Ancien’s (and Momotarō’s) tablet: that much of the film’s progression is driven by what has become a commonplace technology is a reminder of how much things have advanced, and illustrates that a refusal to accept and adopt new technology can have detrimental consequences in the long run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The soundtrack of Hirune Hime and the unusual combination of flatter character colouration creates a compelling opening; the music in Hirune Hime is composed by Yoko Shimomura, whom I know best for her video game soundtracks. The soundtrack in Hirune Hime features a predominantly classical component reminiscent of Beethoven and Chopin, which is par the course for her usual style, although Shimomura also utilises different styles in her game soundtracks for a diverse aural experience.

  • It’s been around seven years since tablets became popular: when Apple introduced the iPad back in 2010, the gadget was regraded as a curiosity, a bigger iPhone. However, seven years of progress has turned the tablet into a powerful productivity and entertainment platform. In Hirune Hime, Ancien receives a tablet that she uses to bring life to mechanised creations, although for her actions, she’s imprisoned in a glass tower.

  • While trying to retrieve her tablet, Ancien is spotted and is forced to navigate the exterior of the glass tower. It typifies the scale of construction in Heartland, and one can only imagine what it would have been like to experience this film in the theater: the movie originally released in Japan in March, and American theatres screened this during September this year. In spite of this, discussions on this film have been minimal, and I imagine that while I may view the film favourably, not everyone will feel the same way about it.

  • The film will switch between the real world and Heartland. Initially, these come across as being quite disjointed and seemingly unrelated, but as the film progresses, the events happening in one space begin correlating with the other in a clever manner. The connections are not explicit, forcing viewers to draw the connections themselves. Even early on in the film, similarities in things such as Joy (Kokone’s stuffed animal), the tablet and the motorcycle “Heart”, audiences are reminded that the worlds are more closely related than they appear.

  • Kokone is voiced by Mitsuki Takahata, an actress who primarily performs in live-action television dramas and has done some voice work in animated movies previously. She brings to the table a much more natural-sounding voice (as opposed to the likes of Ayane Sakura, Inori Minase and Mai Fuchigami); there’s a right time and place for different voices, and having the sort of voices from GochiUsa or Kiniro Mosiac in a film would be quite off-putting.

  • The Colossus and Engineheads bring to mind Pacific Rim: I saw the film only quite recently, and have heard that Pacific Rim: Uprising will be screened somewhere in 2018. There are a lot of elements that Hirune Hime cover, from the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and self-driving vehicles to consumer electronics. All of these aspects are touched on briefly, and some folks consider them to be shoehorned in; Hirune Hime covers quite a bit of turf, but I never found these to be too distracting from the film overall.

  • In Heartland, Peach and Ancien meet for the first time when Ancien decides to assist. Peach is using what appears to be the M79 grenade launcher, and manages to blow off the Colossus’ limb, which it starts regenerating. While conceptually similar to a kaiju, the Colossus is perhaps more closely related to Peter Jackson’s interpretation of  J.R.R. Tolkein’s Balrogs, fire spirits that were corrupted Maiar: in The Fellowship of The Ring, the Balrog Durin’s Bane appeared as a gargantuan being composed of magma, roars like an erupting volcano and emitted molten rock when struck.

  • In the film’s synopsis, Kokone is described as someone who can “fall asleep at will”, but Hirune Hime suggests otherwise. After returning home to find it deserted, Kokone decides to kip for a bit, returning to Heartland in the process. When she reawakens, she recongises Watanabe and makes to hide after realising what he’s after. Interior details in Hirune Hime are of a generally high quality and convey that lived-in sense.

  • Back in Heartland, Ancien introduces Peace to Heart; given life long ago, Heart can transform into a humanoid vehicle on command, and here, the vivid blue of a summer day can be seen. I’ve long found myself being drawn to anime with vivid blue skies, and this is actually what prompted my decision to watch Strike Witches; similarly, the reason why Yuyushiki reminds me of summer lies in the fact that the anime effectively captures what summer feels like.

  • Bewan arrives to requisition Momotarō’s tablet, the source of the rising action within Hirune Hime. In Heartland, it’s the source of Ancien’s power that he seeks to control, whereas in the real world, Watanabe is seeking to take control of the software that Momotarō had helped complete. Either way, Peach/Momotarō are arrested and held for questioning. From his manner to his appearance, Watanabe and Bewan is designed to be unlikable.

  • Back in the real world, Kokone manages to make off with Watanabe’s bags before he can check into his flight, escaping into the night with Morio’s assistance. The airport sequence brings back memories of when I was at the Rennes International Airport, which was a smaller airport that only opens at five in the morning. We had arrived early that morning, and I had temporarily managed to fight off a stomach bug at the time. The flight back from Paris was a long one, and I subsequently fell ill again after returning home, but the conference itself was quite fun. As of now, I’m still getting paper invitations in my old university inbox.

  • Morio himself enters the dream and pilots Heart through the night sky. Fantastical and visually stunning, both Heartland and the real world are rendered in a spectacular manner. The suspension bridge seen near Kokone’s home becomes a vast structure rising above the clouds; their night flight brings to mind the most famous scene from the 1982 film ET: I’ve not seen this film despite its renown, but even I’m familiar with the oft-parodied scene where Elliot and the alien fly across the night sky.

  • Upon arriving in Heartland, the vast cityscape is visible below. In this fictional world, the entire economy is directed towards vehicle manufacture, and bumper-to-bumper traffic is an epidemic. Economies in reality exist because of the need for commodities and skills to be exchanged, so a world where all expertise is invested in vehicle manufacture for a local population is not one that is sustainable for the long term. With this being said, such issues can be ignored in the context of evidently fictional worlds.

  • The next morning, Kokone and Morio find themselves in Osaka; in the real world, Heart had engaged an autopilot and safely delivered the two to Osaka, but ran out of gas. While audiences initially are left wondering just how Heartland and the real world are connected, it turns out that the transitions between the two are really just narrative elements, and quite unrelated. Later, Kokone and Morio realise they’re short on cash, but seemingly through magic, the necessary resources are provided for her to travel back to Tokyo.

  • It turns out that some staff from Shijima Motors have been assisting Kokone, as they have access to the same message board that Kokone’s been typing into. Here is a close up of the bento that train staff provide for her and Morio. Even at lower resolutions, the Japanese aesthetic is visible here, including a piece of haran: these plastic strips of grass are seen in boxed lunches and while mistakenly assumed to be for decoration, the actual purpose is to prevent some foods from coming into contact to preserve their flavour and longevity.

  • Morio is seen operating a VR headset throughout Hirune Hime, and unlike the full-dive headsets of Sword Art OnlineHirune Hime more conservatively suggests that VR headsets will remain bulky and cumbersome, similar to products available on the market, albeit in a more sophisticated format (Morio’s fingers suggest a virtual keyboard). En route back to Tokyo, Kokone falls asleep: the ride on the shinkansen is two and a half hours, with tickets starting from 13620 Yen (roughly 150 CAD) for a one-way trip.

  • Ancien manages to infiltrate one of the Engineheads and uses her magic to automate it, allowing it to perform much more effectively than previously possible, although the operators soon catch on and order the engines to be shut down. Ancien’s tenacity comes through; she exits the vehicle and sets off to manually re-light the engines. While she’s successful, she falls off the Enginehead, and is caught at the last second by Momotarō.

  • Through this particular dream, Kokone learns that Ancien is actually based off her mother, rather than herself, and the story suggests that Momotarō had tried to save Ikumi but failed, damaging his tablet in the process. This realisation leads Kokone to appreciate her father’s efforts to take care of her, and with renewed resolve, she sets off for Shijima Motor’s headquarters in Tokyo.

  • Kokone’s attempts to speak with Isshin fail when secretaries do not believe her identity. I note that for this review, I’ve opted to stick with thirty screenshots for brevity’s sake – I have not covered every conceivable topic that can come of this film to keep the post manageable in size. One of the aspects of Hirune Hime that I found to be an indicator of the film having focus is the fact that familial love is one of the main themes within the movie, and Kokone’s friendship with Morio remain merely thus, leaving the film free to focus on its central messages without unnecessarily introducing complexity.

  • The locations of Hirune Hime are likely accurate to their real-world counterparts: Chairman Shijima looks out at the scenery surrounding Rainbow Bridge on Odaiba Island. Odaiba Park and the Sixth Daiba are visible here: the latter was the setting for Koji Suzuki’s Solitary Isle, a short story in his Dark Water anthology. I’ve found that horror stories in written form tend to be a lot easier to enjoy, if only for the fact that there are no visual or audio cues that impact my internal sense of unease or dread.

  • In spite of Kokone not having introduced herself properly, Isshin begins telling her the story of Ikumi and her role at Shijima Motors. His resemblance to Heartland’s King is no coincidence, and I imagine that he recognises the doll in Kokone’s hands immediately, hence being able to recognise her as his granddaughter.

  • Passionate, devoted and brilliant, Ikumi was the first to propose Shijima Motors in exploring self-driven vehicles, but when turned down, she left the company and later married Momotarō, helping him work on a perfected version of the software. This is what Watanabe has been coveting, since he intends to replace Isshin as the chairman of Shijima Motors, and his success with self-driving vehicles at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will pave the way for his succession.

  • The final incursion into Heartland is done without warning and the revelation that Bewan was planning to betray the King roughly correspond with events of the real world. The chaotic nature of things hints at the climax of Hirune Hime arriving, and with the Colossus arriving to wreck havoc, the King resolves to step out onto the battlefield. Bewan’s betrayal is dealt with, after he reveals his intention to replace the King by using a special Enginehead to defeat the Colossus. Here, Kokone appears as herself, no longer seeing herself as Ancien.

  • Peach pilots the Enginehead and destroys the Colossus once and for all in a titanic battle, but Bewan manages to run a curse that threatens to destroy Heartland. This final battle seemed quite disjointed from the remainder of the film: it’s the one place in Hirune Hime that does not seem to relate to events in the real world.

  • Ultimately, Peach realises that there is another direction he can take to defeat the Colossus’ remnants; the remaining Enginehead engages a flight system and launches into the atmosphere, taking the Colossus’ fragments with it. This section is likely imagery for Momotarō coming to an understanding with his internal struggles about whether or not he should give up the algorithms for the self-driving vehicles concept that he and Ikumi had previously developed.

  • The outcome of whether or not Kokone is able to rescue Peach is left ambiguous, and while the messages behind the imagery of the final scenes in Heartland elude me, I cannot deny that they are not visually impressive, especially with respect to the swarms of what remains of the Colossus.

  • Owing to how chaotic things are towards the ending of Hirune Hime, how Kokone got into this situation is likely an exercise left to the viewer’s imagination. The gravity of this situation brings to mind Rick and Morty‘s Concerto, where Rick and Morty find themselves tied to a massive piano and facing certain death. While no Jaguar comes to save Momotarō and Kokone, the autonomous bike, Heart, makes a timely arrival, sparing the two from death.

  • It is this moment that led me to pick a quote from Elon Musk: a well-known entrepreneur and engineer, Musk has been leading developments in sustainable electric vehicles and autonomous systems for his Tesla line of vehicles. A firm advocate of innovation, Musk’s quote definitely applies to Momotarō and his continued love for Ikumi leading him to both continue her vision and care for Kokone in her stead.

  • After the Olympics, Isshin spends more time with his granddaughter and son-in-law on a peaceful summer’s afternoon. Momotarō continues working in his shop, declining Isshin’s offer for a position with Shijima Motors, and with this, Hirune Hime comes to an end. This marks the end of yet another anime film I’ve written about this year, which has seen the likes of Kimi no Na WaKoe no KatachiKono Sekai no Katasumi ni and Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale. It’s been a fantastic year for anime movies, with each film delivering enjoyment in a unique manner.

  • With this post at an end, I leave readers with another beautiful screenshot of summer in Japan, and will conclude this post by looking into the future: Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter begins this week, and I will be doing an episodic review of this anime. Tomorrow is a bank holiday, so I’ll also be looking to catch up with Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! and present my thoughts at the halfway point. In addition, I’m moving quite swiftly through Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and I’m locking in plans to pick up The Division once the Steam Black Friday sale is live.

The sum of a curious story that combines a fantastical setting with the real world, current issues and ideas, solid animation and artwork, and a fantastic soundtrack results in Hirune Hime being an entertaining watch. While it’s definitely not perfect (especially closer to the ending, where some leaps exist in the story as things pick up), the film overall presents a well-crafted story and solid thematic elements that kept me wondering what is to happen next with both Ancien and Kokone. Altogether, Hirune Hime earns a recommendation; it is impressive of how Heartland was presented to correspond with both people and events in the real world. Only by watching both does one gain a sense of who Momotarō, Ikumi, Isshin and Watanabe are within the context of Hirune Hime, and it was immensely rewarding to put these pieces together as a consequences of the two narratives being woven together to augment the viewer’s understanding of what is going on, even fi there are some shortcomings with this approach towards the film’s end. In conjunction with the humour arising from Kokone’s transitions between Heartland and reality, as well as how her friend, Morio, comes into Heartland, Hirune Hime is quite simply, fun; I was immersed for the whole of its runtime, and such films exemplify that stories can definitely be enjoyable and thought-provoking even if their setting is that of a colourful, vividly-portrayed world.

Insights in Character Songs from Glasslip: A Refrain to Sachi Nagamiya (Kimi e to Refrain Lyrics)

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” —Confucius

Released late in October, the Glasslip character song album, Utagoe no Kakera (Fragments of Singing Voice) featured performances from each of the characters in Glasslip; while Glasslip itself proved to be a disappointment on multiple fronts, from an inconsistent narrative to misleading symbols and unclear character goals, the anime’s audio and visual aspects were particularly strong. Glasslip‘s musical score served to project a particular atmosphere and mood where character dialogue and actions were inadequate; the soundtrack’s combination of classical pieces with incidental tracks work in conjunction to convey a sense of wistfulness and confusion that invariably accompanies love. As a character song album, none of the vocal tracks in Fragments of Singing Voice would have made it into Glasslip proper, but each song serves to do what the anime could not: they provide more insight into each of the characters and their personalities, beliefs and desires. Of the tracks on Fragments of Singing Voice, the one that stood out most was Sachi Nagamiya’s Kimi e to Refrain (君へとRefrain, “A Refrain To You”), performed by Risa Taneda. In contrast with Sachi’s characterisation as a quiet individual fond of books, Taneda’s delivery of Kimi e to Refrain is spirited, upbeat and sexy, giving another perspective of one of Glasslip‘s least explored characters. It is easily my favourite song on the Fragments of Singing Voice album, and curiosity led me to translate the lyrics, which yield a considerable amount of insight into Sachi’s character well beyond what viewers saw in Glasslip.

Japanese Lyrics

  • Whenever Kimi e to Refrain plays, I think about long summer days, endless blue skies and a sort of excitement associated with the prospects of a full day to myself. The rhythm and composition of this song also brings to mind the atmosphere surrounding high school as the weather warms. Curiosity about what this song entailed led me to talk to some of my friends, and with their help, we transcribed the lyrics and worked out what the song was about. It turns out that this is indeed a song evocative of summer, a season I feel to be most appropriate for discovering new love. Here’s a copy of the song for all interested readers’ listening enjoyment.

Kanji

​紡がれた言葉に閉じ込めた気持ちを
読み取るように今日もまた

行く当ても分からず心は旅に出る
いつかはたどり着くのかな
決めるのはいつだって自分なんだって
眩しさに歪む明日へと迷わずに行きたくて

変わらない笑顔とやだしさに包まれ
何かが変わって行く子に季節を越えて
抱えきれない思いのかけらキラキラ君へとリフレイン

不確かでもいい素直なままで心逸らさないで先へ

線香花火から落ちた赤い雫
熱く儚く弾けた

どうしても見つからない場所があった
君の名を呼ぶその度に吹き抜ける風がいた

些細なざわめきに心は揺れ動き
もどかしさを抱え理由を探してた
忘れたくないこの瞬間がいつか答えになるんだと
今は先へと進んでみよう君の隣で笑ってたい

見上げれば幾千の星のストーリー
約束の場所から明日へと迷わずに行けるから

変わらない笑顔とやだしさに包まれ
何かが変わってく子に季節を越えて
抱えきれない想いのかけらキラキラ君へとリフレイン

不確かでもいい素直なままで心逸らさないで先

君の (君の) 側で (側で)

Romaji

​Tsumugareta kotoba ni tojikometa kimochi wo
Yomitoku you ni kyou mo mata

Yukuate mo wakarazu kokoro wa tabi ni deru
Itsuka wa tadoritsuku no kana
Kimeru no wa itsudatte jibun nan datte
Mabushisa ni yugamu asu e to mayowazu ni yukitakute

Kawaranai egao to yasashisa ni tsutsumare
Nanika ga kawatte iku kono kisetsu wo koete
Kakaekirenai omoi no kakera kirakira kimi e to refrain

Futashika demo ii sunao na mama de kokoro sorasanai de saki e

Senkouhanabi kara ochita akai shizuku
Atsuku hakanaku hajiketa

Doushitemo mitsukaranai basho ga atta
Kimi no na wo yobu sono tabi ni fukinukeru kaze ga ita

Sasaina zawameki ni kokoro wa yure ugoki
Modokashisa wo kakae riyuu wo sagashiteta
Wasuretakunai kono shunkan ga itsuka kotae ni narundato
Ima wa saki e to susunde miyou kimi no tonari de warattetai

Miagereba ikusen no hoshi no story
Yakusoku no basho kara asu e to mayowazu ni yukeru kara

Kawaranai egao to yasashisa ni tsutsumare
Nanika ga kawatteku kono kisetsu wo koete
Kakaekirenai omoi no kakera kirakira kimi e to refrain

Futashika demo ii sunao na mama de kokoro sorasanai de saki e

Kimi no (kimi no) soba de (soba de)

English Translation

  • During the translation process, I’ve done my best to choose words that are able to flow with the rhythm of Kimi e to Refrain, and as I’m no songwriter, what we’ve got here is an approximation at best. While I’ve modified some of the phrasings and word order to make the lyrics sound more natural in English, I think that the meaning from the original Japanese lyrics are largely retained despite these changes. Doing this post has also led me to learn that the reason why Cantonese songs can be readily covered from Japanese is because Cantonese is mono-syllabic. Consider just how well Seiko Matsuda’s 大切なあなた (Romaji “Taisetsu na Anata“, “Precious You”) is performed by Vivian Lai in the Cantonese equivalent, 陽光路上 (Jyutping “joeng4 gwong1 lou6 soeng5”, “Sunshine Road”).

​Feelings that were trapped in woven words
I’ll try to decipher them again today

My heart goes on a journey with no destination
I wonder if it’ll arrive someday
The one who decides that is always me
I want to enter without hesitation into a tomorrow distorted by the brilliance

Surrounded by an unchanging smile and kindness
Something starts to change beyond this season
An emotion I can’t contain, a sparkling refrain from you

Be straightforward, it’s fine if it’s uncertain, my heart won’t waver as it moves forward

Red sparks that fall from the sparkler
Burst with warmth fleetingly

A place I couldn’t find no matter what
There was a wind that blew whenever I called your name

A trivial rumour sways and moves my heart
Finding the reasons for my frustration and embracing it
I don’t want to forget, this moment will become the answer
I want to move forward, I want to laugh beside you

If we look up, there are thousands of stars with stories
We can move from the promised place to tomorrow without hesitation

Surrounded by an unchanging smile and kindness
Something starts to change beyond this season
An emotion I can’t contain, a sparkling refrain from you

Be straightforward, it’s fine if it’s uncertain, my heart won’t waver as it moves forward

By your (by your) side (side)

Kimi e to Refrain speaks of Sachi’s worldview: fond of reading and quiet environments, Sachi feels that she has troubles understanding how she feels about those around her. Tempted by her desire to move into the future but also being tempered by her doubts about the unknowns, Kimi e to Refrain juxtaposes these conflicting feelings, and the lyrics shows that Sachi is the sort of person who ultimately can move forwards as long as she is with someone to support her. In Glasslip, Sachi frequently leans on Tōko for emotional support until Tōko dissolved a promise where their group of friends would remain such. Subsequently, Hiro begins spending more time with Sachi, acting on his feelings. Kimi e to Refrain is seemingly ambiguous as to whether or not the person Sachi most wishes to spend her future with is Tōko or Hiro; the lyrics have a certain degree of romance to them. In the song, Sachi expresses that these feelings are as beautiful and transient as fireworks, and that as others have undoubtedly shared this experience previously, she’s willing to seize the moment and make the most of things. In describing the romantic and transient nature of her feelings, Sachi is likely referring to the moment in Glasslip‘s tenth episode when she expresses her feelings for Tōko and Hiro. Despite having long felt protective of Tōko and hating Kakeru for disrupting the status quo, Kakeru’s actions indirectly result in Hiro acting on his feelings for Sachi, beginning the start of a hitherto unexplored dynamic between the two.

  • It’s been quite some time since I’ve done anything related to Glasslip, and this post deals predominantly with Sachi. Folks continue to believe that Sachi and Tōko were more than friends, but after taking a look at Kimi e to Refrain, it becomes clear that while Sachi greatly treasures her friendship with Tōko, she is also willing to step into a world of uncertainties. Throughout Glasslip, Sachi’s propensity for few words means that her feelings aren’t always made known to viewers.

  • Quiet and studious, Sachi’s favourite pastime is reading – she spends her free time by the window with a book in hand. Her interests are the most similar to my own of anyone in the cast, and she’s my favourite of the characters in Glasslip. I recall a ways back, I did a thought experiment on what my ideal first date would look like – with Sachi, taking her to a bookstore would likely be a fantastic starting point. The larger bookstores from my part of the world usually are close to a coffee shop, and back during the summer, I fondly recall an afternoon where I spent an afternoon at the bookstore, browsing through their vast inventory, before sitting down for a caffè mocha.

  • I’ve not thought about it, but it looks like that doing this sort of thing constitutes as ‘taking myself on  a date’. Admittedly, it is fun to sip a caffè mocha and watch as the world proceeds with their business: when I think about it, a bookstore-coffee shop combination is actually not a bad place for a date. Of course, this is just me, and I imagine the odds of finding someone who shares this particular perspective will be a nontrivial task.

  • Sachi seems to be a bit more on the frail side: midway into Glasslip, she is admitted to hospital. Whatever other faults Glasslip may have had, the visuals within the anime were top-tier, matching those seen in Tari Tari. Whether it be the play of light in glass beads, warm colours of a summer afternoon or the details in the town, everything in Glasslip was stunning to behold; this is one of the reasons why I persisted through the anime.

  • I watched Glasslip the same summer that I watched GochiUsa, and speaking to her skill, it’s not immediately apparent that Rise Taneda voices Sachi, so different is her delivery of Sachi’s lines in Glasslip against her presentation of GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza. Most know Taneda best for her performance as Your Lie In April‘s Kaori Miyazono. However, in Kimi e to Refrain, Taneda’s singing voice is most similar to how she performs Rize’s character songs.

  • Over the course of Glasslip, Sachi and Hiro begin spending more time together, both during awkward moments where Hiro must escape before Tōko discovers what’s going on, and later, once things settle down, the two go on a few dates with one another. The pairing in Glasslip that left viewers with the strongest negative impression was Yanagi and Yukinari; Yukinari has feelings for Tōko, while Yanagi has feelings for Yukinari. She makes his feelings known to him, and while the two remain on cordial terms for the remainder of Glasslip after he turns her down, Yanagi takes up running herself and from my perspective, exudes a sense of melancholy despite doing her best to stay positive.

  • Glasslip wraps up at the end of summer vacation, with everyone returning to classes. Looking back, Glasslip is something that likely would have been more clear with its symbols and motifs had it a bit more time to flesh these elements out. Additional time would have also given opportunity to explore the growing closeness between Sachi and Hiro, while also showing how Yanagi and Yukinari move on in their own ways. However, given the overwhelmingly negative reception directed at Glasslip, reflected through the fact that Glasslip had the lowest BD sales of any PA Works anime, it is unlikely that Glasslip will receive any sort of continuation or expansion.

Because notions of journeys, heading into the future and moving forwards are so prominently mentioned in Sachi’s Kimi e to Refrain, the song strongly suggests that this person she wishes to rely on, to walk the future with, is Hiro. Things began changing under the fireworks for the pair, and rumours of a romance between Hiro and Sachi definitely circulate, which Kimi e to Refrain references; because Tōko’s friendship with Sachi is an older one, Kimi e to Refrain is not likely referring to her. Instead, it is these newfound feelings that prompts Sachi to want to seize the future with more confidence even as she hesitates, owing to her old friendship, and Kimi e to Refrain‘s final stanza suggest that the brilliance of these emotions that lead her to want to move on. Consequently, through Kimi e to Refrain, it becomes clear that Sachi is able to let go of her reliance on Tōko and wholeheartedly pursue her relationship with Hiro, whereas previously, she was struggling to understand how she felt about both Hiro and Tōko. This is evident in the progression of events in Glasslip, where Sachi begins spending more time with Hiro, pursing the future that she’s so uncertain about. While existing perspectives remain adamant that Sachi has feelings for Tōko, Kimi e to Refrain clears up one of the elements that Glasslip began exploring, and it is quite apparent that Glasslip could have succeeded in illustrating the turbulent nature of relationships as youth begin exploring them had the anime chosen to focus on these aspects sans any supernatural, Newtype-like phenomenon.

Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale- On The Portrayal of Augmented Reality in Popular Fiction and a Movie Review

“A significant portion of the population… will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day.” –Tim Cook

The recent surge of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies has come about as a consequence of increasingly efficient graphics hardware and portable display devices; my graduate thesis demonstrated the flexibility of my eukaryotic cell simulations in being able to run on platforms as diverse as the Oculus Rift headset and Cave Augmented Virtual Environment (CAVE), both of which offered a unique environment in which to explore a virtual cell. My models were later adapted to run on Microsoft’s HoloLens, an augmented reality platform. Compared to virtual reality, which immerses users in a virtual space, augmented reality projects virtual elements into real space. In my thesis, I concluded that these visualisation technologies would be powerful tools for education, making what was once possibly only in science fiction one step closer to reality. With this being said, these developments remain very much in the experimental stage at present, but in the realm of fiction, technological advancement is much greater in order to facilitate the narrative. Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale is one such work of fiction – a film that premièred in February this year, it follows Kirito and Asuna as they investigate a mysterious phenomenon of memory loss amongst players when they begin encountering SAO bosses in Ordinal Scale, which has seen a rise in popularity after multiple incidents involving VR technologies. It turns out that Tetsuhiro Shigemura, the Augma’s developer, implemented the system in order to collect players for memories related to his late daughter, who lost her life in SAO years previously. Intending to make use of machine learning techniques, Shigemura aims to resurrect his daughter as an AI construct.

Like its predecessors before it, Ordinal Scale‘s strengths lie within its depiction of how a technology might be used within a society: depictions of how ordinary users are drawn to game events in Ordinal Scale mirror phenomenon seen with last year’s Pokémon Go fad, and subtle elements, such as playing AR games and collecting points that can be redeemed for real-world rewards lie within the realm of reality, showing the technology as being one that is quite familiar despite the novel modes of interaction and presentation. Ordinal Scale thus suggests that technologies capable of great popularity and amassing large numbers of users can potentially be harmful for these users if their developers have a malicious or misguided intent – Shigemura had meant for his technology to resurrect his daughter’s consciousness digitally by mining data from the userbase’s collective memories even if it meant killing the users. While not quite as dramatic in reality, programs with a large user count invariably will produce a great quantity of data relating to the user’s habits. The risk that this information can similarly be abused is non-trivial; it gives a great deal of insight as to our interests, intents and desires, and in the present age, it is not surprising that our data can be considered of greater importance than the hardware storing the data. As such, Ordinal Scale illustrates of the risks associated with an increasingly connected world and (albeit in a fanciful manner) what ends large organisations might have for data they collect from their users.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The storyline in Ordinal Scale ends up being something that I felt that I would enjoy more so than the light novel’s Alicization arc; whereas Alicization would have been more or less the same thing in Sword Art Online, really being just a high-stakes version where Kirito is poisoned, the Augma and AR in Ordinal Scale is novel, reflective of the public interest in AR to keep up with current trends. For this review, I will feature thirty screenshots.

  • One aspect about Ordinal Scale that I enjoyed was the fact that AR was so interwoven into social interactions; things such as customer loyalty programmes take advantage of the Ordinal Scale to encourage and reward interaction with their services. Kirito is less-than-enthusiastic about AR at the film’s beginning, feeling that immersion into a completely virtual space is more effective than enhancing real spaces digitally. For clarity’s sake, Ordinal Scale in italics refers to the film itself, while Ordinal Scale in standard formatting refers to the game.

  • Yuuna is presented as an AI construct in the Augma, arriving on battlefields to cheer on participants and perform. While seemingly sophisticated to the point where she is said to be able to pass the Turing Test, I remark that mimicking human behaviours is actually not too far off, especially with the pace that machine learning is advancing. Chat bots using machine learning can simulate surprisingly real conversations, and sentiment analysis algorithms can allow these bots to now respond appropriately based on what a human user is typing in. Coupled with advances in voice recognition and generation, personal digital assistants like Siri and Cortana could begin rivaling Yuuna in complexity within the next ten years.

  • One of the reasons why Kirito is not fond of AR is that for all of his capabilities in virtual spaces, his physicality in the real world is low, and in this battle, his performance is not quite what he is expecting owing to the fact that swinging a weapon around for long periods requires great stamina. While I lift weights, run and do martial arts, it seems that I’ve somewhat pigeon-holed myself for short bursts of power rather than longer endurance events, making me less effective in an AR combat game: bench pressing 120 percent body weight isn’t quite the same as what amounts to running around on a soccer field for half an hour.

  • During the first battle, a mysterious player ranked number two arrives and provides enough assistance to help Asuna eliminate the event boss. This player is Eiji, who works on behalf of Tetsuhiro, and as a SAO player, he regrets not being able to save Yuuna, hence his involvement with the project. His presence in the film is one of its weaker points, being spurred on only by his sense of regret and a personality that certainly won’t lead audiences to symapthise with his motivations. Formerly a member of Blood Oath, Eiji has also sought out other SAO players and enjoys harming them out of a desire to remind players that AR and VR are quite separate.

  • One aspect of Sword Art Online that the critics have frequently discussed is Kirito’s nigh-invulnerability in games and uncommonly quick learning in reality, which leads him to be an asset for government officials looking to investigate the different incidents surrounding AR and VR games. Kirito is a highly competent character with limited flaws; he is similar to Jack Ryan Senior in Tom Clancy’s novels. Tom Clancy further shares strong female partner for the protagonist with Sword Art Online (Cathy Ryan in Tom Clancy novels, and Asuna in Sword Art Online), and Tom Clancy avoids the trap of such hyper-competent protagonists by shifting focus in the narrative to other characters, such as John Clark.

  • Sword Art Online is at its strongest when focus switches between Kirito and the other characters, especially Asuna, whose role and experiences are worth depicting. In a series where the focus is on contemporary technology and their impact on society, I’m actually a little surprised that the only discussions out there about the movie are on this particular frame, specifically how the BD edition has certain advantages over the theatrical releases in that they show Asuna’s Papilla mammaria.

  • Kirito runs into a Yuuna look-alike here, who points him in a direction of interest. With the previous screenshot in mind, I admittedly would prefer folks discuss those elements than attempt their hand at talking about neural networks, a topic that is sufficiently complex that in order for me to adequately write about it, I would likely need to return to university and do a PhD on the topic. One element about some parts of the anime community I’ve never been too fond of is that some discussions fixate on technical details, and the lack of talk on artificial neural networks in discussions surrounding Ordinal Scale suggests that folks who affectedly display their technical knowledge have limits.

  • I bet that an anime fan admitting that they don’t know something at Tango-victor-tango would be a foreign concept. With this in mind, I have sat through some lectures on artificial neural networks (ANN), and while I have no background with the implementation, I can say that ANN are made up of what are conceptually called layers. Information from the input are passed to these layers, and if a particular score is reached, the information is passed to the next layer, similar to how stimuli propagate in biological neurons. Information that reaches the end is subsequently classified. Back in Ordinal Scale, Yuuna and Eiji share a moment in a virtual version of what one of our readers has identified to be the Fairmont Hot Springs in British Columbia.

  • ANN are highly useful for classification functions, and with Tetsuhiro’s goal being the acquisition of memories pertaining to Yuuna from a vast data set, it is appropriate to use ANN for finding these memories and using them to re-create Yuuna’s personality digitally. Ordinal Scale only refers to this as deep learning, of which ANN are one particular approach; the movie wisely chooses to be very general with its descriptions, so it doesn’t misrepresent machine learning as a whole. While waiting for an event to start, Silica grows irritated with Lizbeth and elbows her, causing a minor loss of health.

  • The visual effects in Ordinal Scale are absolutely stunning: like the preceding installments of Sword Art Online, the film is produced by A-1 pictures and is afforded exceptional quality in both artwork and animation. While real-world locations and AR UI elements are fantastic, the film really shines whenever Augma events begin. The reappearance of SAO bosses is described as significant, and during this battle, Asuna is defeated in combat and loses her memories of SAO in the process.

  • Ordinal Scale‘s soundtrack is composed by Yuki Kajiura; I know her best for composing Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s soundtrack, and a closer listen of her compositions find that they share motifs and aural elements. In her best pieces, Kajiuramakes extensive use of choral elements in her songs to create a cold, distant sound that conveys a sense of mystique about a setting or disconnect that characters experience from those around them. Yuuna’s songs are particularly well-written, sounding like vocal versions of Kajiura’s instrumental pieces.

  • The realm of neurological sciences is well outside my discipline, although I can say with reasonable confidence that the technology to artificially manipulate or alter our memories is not an impossibility. Recent studies have found that external information can affect neuron connections and modify how we recall an event, while straight-up suppression or erasing of memories has been somewhat successful in highly controlled experimental settings. We are nowhere near having the medical knowledge or technological implements to selectively remove all memories related to one particular element, however.

  • Kirito is devasatated when Asuna loses her SAO memories, and after deducing that SAO events are somehow related to Asuna’s memory loss, he posts warnings onto forums, asking other players to stay away from SAO bosses. His findings are met with skepticism, and Kirito turns to his old standby of levelling up far enough to investigate what’s going on. He runs into Sinon, who agrees to help him out. Sinon had one of the best stories in Sword Art Online and is also quick to accept Kirito’s relationship with Asuna.

  • The ghostly form of Yuuna appears once again, prompting Kirito to chase down this apparition and ask for answers – the apparition clarifies the location that Kirito is to visit. One of the remarks I have about this review is that I was not inclined to include too many moments with Eiji. He befriended Yuuna in SAO and regrets not being strong enough to save her from death; his motivations have the same depth as that of a puddle formed from a light rainfall, and his enjoyment of causing physical harm to other participants in is petty revenge for having felt so powerless in SAO.

  • When Kirito asks Yui to map out the location the ghostly Yuuna presents, he brings up a map worthy of Tom Clancy’s The Division, a game whose UI is highly unique, being modelled after AR elements. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed the beta to the extent that I did, and after the beta, I decided that the game would be worth playing if there was enough to do from a single-player perspective, without the need to party up with other players. After the game’s release, the amount of content for solo players, coupled with the price tag, dissuaded me from buying it. However, it’s seen a ten dollar drop in price now, and records indicate that it will go for 28 CAD during a Steam Sale.

  • Kirito’s meeting with Tetsuhiro proves unfruitful; Tetsuhiro refuses to answer any questions about the Augma, and only allows Kirito to know that his daughter died in SAO. Kirito later visits Asuna and promises to retrieve her memories. Ever since the second season, Sword Art Online made it clear that Kirito and Asuna are meant to be, and the other girls amongst Kirito’s group of friends have accepted this. Once this particular aspect was established, Sword Art Online was free to pursue more worthwhile stories, and Ordinal Scale is illustrating just how much there is that can be explored once Sword Art Online dispensed with the whole love tesseract concept.

  • Yuuna is voiced by Sayaka Kanda, an actress and singer whose roles in live action films far outnumber her appearances in animated film. Eiji is voiced by Yoshio Inoue. There is a pronounced difference in the Yuuna that performs during events and the one that Eiji speaks with, compared to the Yuuna that appears in front of Kirito when he’s investigating the mystery behind Ordinal Scale. In a one-on-one duel against Eiji later on, Kirito learns the truth behind Eiji’s role in things and Tetsuhiro’s intents. While initially outmatched by Eiji’s superior physicality, Kirito notices a power supply on Eiji’s collar. He disables it and manages to overpower Eiji, suggesting that Eiji’s martial arts capability was only possible because he was hooked up to a powered exoskeleton.

  • I found that the idea of the drones generating enough energy to fry the human brain and kill individuals being scanned was tacked on to the film in an attempt to elevate the stakes for Kirito to overcome – having spent most of the film reinforcing the notion that the Augma was orders of magnitude safer than any VR hardware, this revelation comes out of the blue. While perhaps necessary to convey a sense of urgency, it would have been more effective to suggest that the scanning technology involved energy levels sufficient to damage the brain much earlier on, such as when Asuna lost her memories of SAO. Knowledge of this threat would therefore lead audiences to appreciate what Kirito stands to lose if he should fail in advance of his fight with Eiji.

  • With Eiji neutralised, Kirito rejoins the others as they engage hordes of SAO monsters. In order to stop the data transfer, Kirito is returned into the virtual reality environment and with his friends, prepare to do battle with SAO’s ultimate boss, which never made it into the original game. Despite being outmatched initially, Yui accesses Kirito and company’s old save files, allowing them to fight on even footing with the boss.

  • Ordinal Scale could not count itself as an instalment in Sword Art Online without the main cast returning to their SAO gear for at least one battle in Aincrad. One of my friends wondered, in his words, “how a franchise about internet fighting can go on so long”; Sword Art Online‘s popularity is often attributed to likeable characters and emotional impact, but I personally found these aspects to be passable. For me, technical excellence and social relevance ends up being the reasons why I continue to watch this anime: while the characters are not particularly noteworthy, the world they inhabit and the aural-visual strengths make this a series that I enjoy.

  • While all of the battles in Ordinal Scale were exceptionally well-choreographed and written, the final battle exceeds even those. Unrestricted by the physical laws of the real world, each of the characters have their moment in the limelight as they help defeat the new devilry that is the boss to the 100th floor. One would imagine that by the events of Sword Art Online, each of SAO, ALO and GGO use the same game engine, backend and share assets if players can freely import their profiles from one game into another.

  • In the years since Sword Art Online became popular, technologies such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have arrived on the market, bringing us one step closer to the immersion seen in Sword Art Online; during my attendance of the 2016 Laval Virtual Conference last year, attendees mentioned this fact, although we agreed that the biggest factor that presently precludes widespread adoption of VR headsets is the fact that they still remain quite cumbersome to set up and wield: when I tried the HTC Vive, it took another individual to help me gear up.

  • There’s also a cost factor – the HTC Vive costs 600 USD, but having a PC powerful enough to provide a satisfactory experience is also necessary. By comparison, conventional gaming is much more affordable and convenient: playing Battlefield 1 and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus entails turning on a computer and double-clicking on the play button. Sword Art Online is able to have widespread VR adoption precisely because the headsets are more convenient to use.

  • While I’m not one to play that particular game, if and when I’m asked, Suguha/Leafa is my favourite character of the Sword Art Online franchise; she’s strong-willed and driven despite her internal challenges, and moreover, is able to eventually accept Kirito and Asuna’s relationship. While her story in Sword Art Online‘s ALO narrative is counted as the weakest, there’s an appeal about Suguha’s character that sets her apart from the other characters, and her design ultimately is why I managed to finish the ALO arc.

  • While a solid film, Ordinal Scale is not for all viewers: folks will need to have seen the first and second seasons in order to understand all of the mechanics and characters: Yuuki makes a short return during the final boss fight to boost Asuna’s attack power. A member of the Sleeping Knights, Yuuki was a bed-ridden patient with HIV; she befriended Asuna in Mother’s Rosario, one of Sword Art Online‘s best arcs, and passed away peacefully.

  • Apparently, Kirito’s fondness for swords is a callback to author Reki Kawahara’s own fondness for Halo‘s energy sword; he cites it as being the best weapon in Halo, but I disagree – the M6D pistol, BR-55 Battle Rifle and M329 DMR are the best weapons on account of their versatility. While the energy sword is exceptionally powerful, it is useless at longer ranges. Conversely, the weapons I prefer, the MLG weapons, are useful at all ranges. One of the aspects I’ve not included in this Sword Art Online talk, or any previous talks, are frames where Kirito’s facial features distort as he moves in for a killing blow. I’ve never been too fond of these moments where Kirito appears inhuman.

  • Kirito et al. ultimately succeed in defeating the floor boss and share a conversation with Yuuna, who cancels execution of Tetsuhiro’s program and restores the attendees’ lost SAO memories, including those of Asuna’s. Tetsuhiro is taken in for questioning, and is later recruited by government officials to work on another programme, which will likely form the basis for Alicization. Given the success of Sword Art Online, I imagine that this arc will see an animated form at some point in the future, and with the series continuing, there is certainly not a shortage of materials to adapt.

  • I’m unlikely to ever pick up the Sword Art Online light novels: the writing style in most light novels has never been to my liking because of the limitations of a first person narrative, which precludes insights into other characters’ minds and perspectives. As readers are limited to what the protagonist can see, and their own thoughts, authors must rely on what the protagonist perceives in order to depict the world around them. In the case of light novels, constraints with translating metaphors and other narrative devices into English mean that characters like The Melancholy of Suzumiya‘s Kyon come across as being unnecessarily pendantic, or else, like Kirito, describe things in very a roundabout fashion.

  • I admit that I’ve been spoiled by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and Tom Clancy as far as fiction goes, so while I won’t enjoy light novels, I won’t hold it against folks who do enjoy them. Asuna and Kirito share in a meteor shower as per Kirito’s promise in the film’s final moments. This also brings my take on Ordinal Scale to an end, and overall, I must admit that my initial expectations for the film were not particularly great, but after seeing the film in full, I did enjoy it. With this post over, I’m not too sure what November’s schedule looks like, save the fact that I will definitely be writing about Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter once that lands on November 17.

From a narrative perspective, Ordinal Scale inherits all of the strengths and weaknesses of Sword Art Online; Kirito’s improbable ability to uncover what investigative groups could not and his uncommon talent for overcoming almost any challenge by means of brute force come into play within Ordinal Scale. There’s no point in the film where he is presented as vulnerable, giving audiences no suspense in wondering if Kirito will figure out a clever solution to his situation and no sense of elation when such a moment does occur. Similarly, villains with exceptionally thin motivations also dominate the film – while one sympathises with Shigemura’s situation, it is dubious that the Augma could have been approved for sales without the input of regulatory bodies. Eiji’s reason for working with Shigemura is similarly shallow, reducing his role to that of a mere puppet despite the threat that the movie attempts to portray him as presenting to the protagonists. While characterisation in Sword Art Online has always been lacking, Ordinal Scale does address some of the weaknesses its predecessors possessed. Kirito’s interactions with the others in the film, especially Asuna, were executed to a satisfactory extent. Further to this, the audio-visual aspects of Ordinal Scale are of a superb quality. The sound effects for combat, especially the sword-play, are as visceral as Star Wars’ seismic charges (which is high praise), and Yuki Kajiura’s soundtrack is phenomenal. Overall, Ordinal Scale earns a weak recommendation: it’s certainly not a bad film and will be enjoyable for fans of Sword Art Online, but audiences will have to accept that while it does exceptionally well what it does well, Ordinal Scale continues to share the same shortcomings as earlier instalments.

Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! Review and Reflections After Three

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” —Arnold Schwarzenegger

To encourage that the girls spend more time together and better learn about one another even as they take on different jobs individually or in teams, Junko arranges for the girls to live with one another in a rental home. Minami and Kaya are assigned to a talk show where they must describe the various dishes presented to them, and while Minami struggles to be more imaginative with her description of the food items, Kaya begins worrying about her weight. She begins jogging and avoiding meals, leading Minami to wonder if Kaya’s come to dislike her, and one evening, Mayu and the others decide to tag along. They learn of Kaya’s situation and come together to support her, encouraging Kaya to eat regularly and be open with her problems. Later, Nanami and Miyu make an appearance on a comedy show, but lack the wit to deliver humour. Yoshino is assigned to a modelling job but is described as lacking the aura of a model, and Airi comes across as being too mechanical in her news show. Despite their difficulties, everyone manages to make the most of their assignments when they learn that Kaya’s taken up blogging to write about her worries. Inspired, Miyu hosts her own web show, and the girls realise they can play to their strengths. Minami begins describing her food in song, and Airi applies her own brand of comedy towards delivering her news segment. Yoshino accepts a photo-shoot assignment and presents the best side of her character, as well. With things looking up for the others, Mayu is offered a role in a television drama with Shiho Iwasaki of I-1 Club.

Despite having had at least two years of experience as idols, New Chapter! presents WUG as still being relatively inexperienced as entertainers. These challenges arise from the group as having come to depend on one another during their performances – until now, everyone’s largely worked together as a cohesive unit and are at their best when they can perform as one. However, they had been somewhat idle in between major performances, as depicted in Shadow of Youth and Beyond the Bottom. Junko’s assignments thus provide the girls a chance to interact with one another at a much more personal level, as well as to take on individual assignments that drive them towards improving their ability as idols. In spite of their inexperience initially getting the better of them, the girls’ resourcefulness allow them to acclimatise and use their strong points to assist their performances. The willingness to introspect and look inwards is a reminder of how far each member of WUG has come, and are willing to go in order to improve: by the end of New Chapter!‘s third episode, most of the team has settled into their positions and have worked out the rhythm that works best for them. Similarly, in Kaya’s case, she is reminded that the team is there to help her, and she can rely on them to support her. The increased cohesion in WUG after three episodes illustrates that New Chapter! is continuing on a good pace, and while the destination might not be clear this season, what is apparent is that the journey in New Chapter! is likely to be a meaningful one to follow.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • WUG is back in full swing this season, and while it might be a bit quieter, I will continue with my plans to write about New Chapter! after every three episodes. Having said this, I don’t have any background in the entertainment industry and won’t be able to offer any unique insights as to what WUG experience; posts on New Chapter! will likely remain in the smaller format of twenty screenshots.

  • The girls quickly settle in to their new accommodations, with Nanami managing to convince her parents to allow her to live with these arrangements. One of the things about New Chapterthat I will need to look at more closely is just how much time has elapsed since the girls joined WUG; the anime first aired in 2014’s winter season, and it’s presently autumn of 2017, suggesting a gap of roughly three-and-a-half years, but calendars in-show mean that it’s likely closer to two years. So, even Nanami, who was thirteen when Wake Up, Girls! started, would be fifteen now.

  • Junko proves to be incredibly well-connected, helping the girls get positions that will bolster their experience as performers, and I can attest to the importance of having people who have exceptional marketing skills and connections. Being able to sell and generate excitement for an idea is essential: having the best product in the world is of limited use if the market is not aware of them. Going through Wake Up, Girls! now, I realise that my perspectives on the world has changed considerably since the days when I began watching this anime.

  • After Mayu butchers the cutting of potatoes whilst cooking, the others step in to help out. The dynamics of New Chapter! show WUG as having a very close-knit, supportive dynamic. With their interpersonal challenges largely resolved, one of the questions that remains for New Chapter! will be what new conflicts or challenges await the group. Because Wake Up, Girls! began as an anime, there is no source manga or novel to compare it against, which makes the plot progression a bit more exciting owing to the unknown.

  • While many things have changed, one thing in Wake Up, Girls! that has remained quite unchanged is Minami’s enthusiasm for food. One might consider her to be the female equivalent of Man v. Food‘s Adam Richman, although she initially lacks Richman’s talents for describing food. I’ve been a great fan of the show Man v. Food, and at present, Richman’s stopped his eating challenges, citing depression and health risks as the reason for his departure. Since then, he’s lost sixty pounds and have done food shows in other formats. While Minami’s thoroughly enjoying the program, Kaya finds it a little more difficult – although her outburst elevates ratings, the food she eats contributes to weight gain.

  • As a result, Kaya takes to jogging by night and avoids meals with her friends. While it’s not quite at the level of a eating disorder, Kaya’s predicament is nonetheless one that she finds difficult to handle on her own. One evening, the others decide to accompany her on a “visit to the convenience store” and learn the truth when they find Kaya with some beef jerky, as she’s succumbed to hunger.

  • The second episode thus acts as a reminder to viewers that, in the time that the girls have spent together and performed together, they have come to be supportive of one another and only offer constructive criticisms. Kaya makes a speedy recovery: within the space of a half-episode, her issues have been swiftly resolved.

  • Things begin picking up for the girls: Nanami and Miyu are tasked with appearing on a show called “Iwashi Palace”, while Yoshino is assigned to the “Fanfan” photoshoot. Kouhei’s also managed to find a news segment type show for Airi. Each position will test the girls’ resolve in unique ways, motivating the page quote: one of the weaknesses about my generation, the Millenials, is a seemingly-lessened ability to withstand and face adversity. When I asked members of the older generation what resilience is, they simply responded that it’s not giving up when things get tough and continuing to put in an effort with the aim of bettering a situation.

  • By my admission, I’ve never really been good as a public speaker until around post-secondary: the necessity of doing presentations for undergraduate coursework in my health sciences degree forced me to learn my own methods for delivering talks. However, it was not until I worked in my supervisor’s lab where I really began developing a signature style. Inspired by his highly visual slides and concise delivery, I gave highly distinct presentations during the final year of my undergraduate program, and that particular approach was refined as I entered graduate school.

  • Presently, I am able to give short speeches and talks on-the-fly, with zero preparation time if needed; my usual style is to open up with a comparatively light and fluffy introduction, possibly with a joke or similar, before delving into the material. When practising for both conference presentations and my thesis, I would write a set of notes and then follow those notes, improvising as I went. This approach is inspired by how Jay Ingram gives talks, a consequence of having worked with him on the Giant Walkthrough Brain project. Back in New Chapter!, Nanami and Miyu find their time on Iwashi palace off to a rocky start.

  • Itsuka, Otome and Ayumi initially find it difficult to promote WUG at their middle school: female students find WUG to be somewhat uninspired, while male students are more interested in virtual idols, likely a parody of Miku Hatsume, an extremely famous personification of the Vocaloid software. Curiously enough, the software was originally intended for professional use, but the visualisation caught on in the anime community, leading to widespread popularity.

  • On a note completely unrelated to Wake Up, Girls!, time seems to be making fools of us once again: October is very nearly at an end, and with it comes the arrival of Halloween. This year, Halloween lands on a Tuesday, one day after my own Battlefield 1 One Year Anniversary; as per tradition, I will spend Halloween handing out candy, gaming and watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It’s an old classic, and despite technical limitations being apparent in its animation, this holiday special is as timeless as A Charlie Brown Christmas. This year, I will be embarking on my journey through Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus: I caved and purchased it on release day.

  • After an unsuccessful photoshoot with Funfun, Yoshino considers throwing in the towel and prepares to decline a second job, but when Junko mentions that Yoshino is to be replaced with a member of I-1 Club, Yoshino reconsiders immediately, feeling honoured that the company handling the photo shoot considered her as a first choice and will only defer to an 1-1 Club member as a backup, as well as the fact that turning down the offer might be to give I-1 Club more exposure over WUG.

  • In Wake Up, Girls!, I find the anime to be surprisingly disciplined with its fanservice moments. The only other moment that comes to mind comes from the first season’s second episode, when the girls are contracted to work in a sleazy locale. Junko is on station to pull them out trouble, and later, she continues doing her bit in keeping an eye on jobs to ensure that WUG do not find themselves in similarly compromising situations.

  • Inspired by Kaya’s blog and Miyu’s web show, each of the characters will figure out how to play to their strengths. Yoshino’s photoshoot is off to a shaky start when she trips, but the photographers here are more supportive, encouraging her to simply be herself during the photoshoot. Yoshino takes this to heart, and the results show in the photographs resulting, with one particular moment standing out above the rest that captures her enjoyment of the moment.

  • While initially presenting her dialogue with a stiff approach, Airi eventually loosens up and delivers her segments with a style she’s more comfortable with. While viewers consider it rough around the edges, they also find it more enjoyable for its uniqueness, leading Ayumi’s classmates to comment on WUG in a positive light. Despite being the most plain and unextraordinary of the WUG, she’s also the most hard-working, understanding the hurdles she must overcome owing to her lack of prior experience, and by the events of New Chapter!, she fits right in with the group, keeping up with even the more challenging performances WUG participate in.

  • A part of making an enjoyable food programme is to make a spectacle of the food. The other two fellows seem to have a bit of a stale routine when compared to the likes of Adam Richman, who presents himself in a manner befitting of the food challenge’s theme and otherwise finding unusual metaphors for describing particularly enjoyable foods. Varying between the stylised and direct, Richman’s strength is being able to consistently make his shows interesting. Manami finds her own approach: an enka performer, she’s also got some talent in singing and later turns this to her advantage, impressing the food show’s hosts.

  • Things are advancing fairly rapidly in Wake Up, Girls!, with the girls settling into their new routines and accommodations. While Junko mentioned setting up a national tour of sorts for WUG back during the first episode, that’s not materialised as of yet. With upcoming events, one would image that it is probably something that will come to be a bit later in New Chapter!.

  • While it’s impossible to speak for other Wake Up, Girls! viewers, I’m feeling that Mayu has been somewhat shafted with respect to screen time, but at the end of the third episode, it looks like that this is about to change on very short order: Mayu is to perform in a drama with none other than Shiho, the I-1 centre who replaced Mayu and was herself replaced by Moka Suzuki. Shiho would be reassigned to the idol group NEXT STORM, vowing to bring the group to prominence to prove her own worth as an idol. Mayu regards her cordially, suggesting that she has no hard feelings towards Shiho, and it will be interesting to see how the two work together in their upcoming assignments.

  • With this after three post now at an end, we’re very nearly at the end of October, as well. There is only one more post coming out this month, dealing with Battlefield 1 (mentioned earlier). Looking ahead into November, I’m going to continue writing about Wake Up, Girls!, and in addition, be dividing my time between Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus as well as Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter, which I have plans to review episodically. Folks interested in hearing my thoughts on Washio Sumi Chapter can do so here. For now, it’s time to sign off and turn my attention towards making my way through The New Colossus, which I’ve heard numerous good things about – if this game is half as good as people make it out to be, it will have been well worth the price of admissions, which I hope will go towards the development of solid single-player titles in a market oversaturated with multiplayer games.

It is likely that I am one of the few viewers out there, both in the English-speaking community and amongst the entire pool of people who watch Wake Up, Girls! that view this anime in a favourable manner. I will continue to say that, while the anime is a little rough around the edges in terms of animation, and that New Chapter!‘s artwork will still take some getting used to, the strength of the underlying messages and journey that each member of WUG undertakes makes the anime one that I find to be worth enjoying. Ever since I began watching Wake Up, Girls!, I’ve taken a gander at other anime dealing with idols. While well-regarded by viewers, giants such as Love Live! and Idolm@ster simply don’t work for me owing to the size of their franchises – the large number episodes is not feasible for me to catch up with, and a large number of characters in conjunction with relatively limited time they are around makes it difficult for me to empathise with anyone, especially where emphasis is placed on music rather than personal growth. Conversely, the more intimate, smaller-scale setting of something like Wake Up, Girls! and Locodol proved to be enjoyable, and at the end of the day, I place a much smaller importance on the idols themselves and their music. Instead, I value character development and enjoy watching maturing responses to challenges as a result of their experiences to a much greater extent. Thus, while I’m unlikely to delve into the idol genre, Wake Up, Girls! (and Locodol) remain exceptions because of their focus on the characters’ path in rising above their problems.