The Infinite Zenith

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

Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

Yūki Yūna is a Hero: The Great Mankai Chapter- Review and Impressions After Three

“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.” –Antonio Brown

After stopping the world from being consumed by shadow and flame, Yūna and her friends resume their lives with the Hero Club and participate in helping out around town with things ranging from playing in a band, to substituting for another team in an airsoft competition. While it appears as though peace has finally been attained, Mimori and Sonoko speak on how they’d forgotten about Gin despite their promise. Later, the Taisha reach out to Mimori with another request, leaving her shocked that there remains something to do: it turns out that a special task force, called the Sentinels, are in trouble: two years earlier, Mebuki Kusunoki and Yumiko Miroku were recruited for training, but ultimately, Karin was selected to be a Hero. The other candidates ended up being assigned to the Sentinels, whose assignment is to explore the world outside the barrier and participate in restoring the universe to its former state. During their first assignment, the task force comes under attack from the Stardust, and although they repel this, several Sentinels are overwhelmed and quit their posts, leaving the group short-handed. Mebuki ends up befriending a miko, Aya Kokudo, in the process, but is dismayed to learn that Aya is to be offered as a human sacrifice to appease the Shinju. Adding insult to injury, the sapling they’d planted to restore the world must now be retrieved, as the Shinju appears to be dying, leading Mebuki to conclude that the Sentinels were expendable. Here at the third season of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, three episodes show that an new storyline is being adapted into the animated form, dealing with the aftermath of Yūna’s deeds at the end of Hero Chapter: The Great Mankai Chapter indicates that although the threat to their world has abated for now, this world a shadow of its old form, and there is a desire to bring back what was, even if it means sacrificing the lives of youth to achieve this end.

Despite this being denoted as a Yūki Yūna is a Hero series, The Great Mankai Chapter‘s first three episodes have spent a considerably amount of time on Mebuki and the Sentinels so far, as they set about trying to lay down the groundwork for rebuilding their world. The shift in focus suggests that Yūna and her team will likely become a part of helping the Sentinels accomplish their assignment without any further casualties, and perhaps help Mebuki to understand that Hero or not, people can still make a difference regardless of their station. This has been something that was very prevalent in The Great Mankai Chapter; Mebuki is very stubborn and single-minded in her approach to things, and while she is a dedicated leader devoted to whatever task she’s assigned, she also holds both herself, and those around her, to almost unreasonable standards. These traits could be why she was never selected for a Hero, and much as how it took Karin some time to adjust to life with Yūna and the Hero Club, I imagine that a major part of The Great Mankai Chapter will deal with getting Mebuki to understand that teamwork is essential in any endeavour, especially one as complex and daunting as forging into unknown territories and attempting to revive the gods’ power so they can return their world to its original glory. At least, this is the direction that appears likely given what we’ve seen of The Great Mankai Chapter thus far: one of the aspects about Yūki Yūna is a Hero that I’ve always enjoyed is how the series pulls no punches and can always find ways to surprise viewers. While The Great Mankai Chapter is, strictly speaking, not a necessary continuation, I’m always game for more Yūki Yūna is a Hero because it could roll back the curtain on the the mysteries enveloping the world that Yūna and the others live in.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was for the spin-of, Churutto, an endearing and lighthearted jaunt about the desire to craft the perfect bowl of Hero Udon, but the last time anything to do with Yūki Yūna is a Hero proper would’ve been early 2018, when I finished writing about Hero Chapter. While answering some questions I had about Yūna’s situation and resolving the problems the Heroes had been afflicted with, the series also left much unexplored, especially with respect to world-building.

  • Generally speaking, Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s strong suit lies with its characters and their experiences, but where the series falls short is exposition and development of the world Yūna and her friends live in. What I do know of their world is derived from supplementary materials, which are similar what was seen in the J.R.R. Tolkien legendarium: after the world was created, there was a clash between two factions of deities, and the Shinju, the gods sympathetic to humanity, banded together and gave humans the means to resist the Vertex. It turns out that the Vertex were created by the faction hostile to humanity. At the end of Hero Chapter, the remaining gods granted Yūna the power destroy the flames threatening the human world and perished.

  • From this, it sounds like the world’s in an even worse state than it had been before, since the gods hostile to humanity still exist. However, out of the gates, The Great Mankai Chapter opens with the heroes partying it up and living life to the fullest; nothing seems amiss, and the Hero Club is back to doing what they do best. The events of The Great Mankai Chapter are set after the events of Hero Chapter, and while Fū’s presence threw more than a few viewers off, one can suppose that the events of The Great Mankai Chapter take place perhaps only a few weeks after Hero Chapter. Here, she tucks into a plate so vast, Karin remarks that it’s unbefitting of her.

  • The easy-go-lucky events of The Great Mankai Chapter are intended to re-establish the sort of things that the Hero Club would typically do. Here, the Hero Club participates in an airsoft match against another team after the original team they were slated to play was unable to make it. Although they are initially out-played, the moment that Yūna is “downed”, Mimori goes ballistic and single-handedly causes enough destruction to allow the Hero Club to scrape a win, all the while creating a few good laughs.

  • While on a camping trip together, Karin is shocked to see that Sonoko brought a self-erecting tent, while the others had brought traditional tents so they could experience camping properly. Of everyone, Karin seems to get the most blank white eyes in response to the antics the Hero Club pull; while she’s an all-serious Hero utterly devoted to her duty, and was initially reluctant to work as a team with the others, the events of the first season and Hero Chapter changed things. Karin might not enjoy the various misadventures as much as the others, but she’s happy to be present all the same.

  • The sum of the events in the first episode led some fans to create faux posters suggesting that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is K-On!Sabagebu! and Yuru Camp△ rolled into one. This was fairly amusing, and Here, Sonoko and Yūna become unexpectedly excited when Karin brings out meat to grill for their camping dinner. By this point in time, Sonoko has become an integral part of the Hero Club, and together, the group is enjoying what Sonoko

  • While the others prepare to turn in, Fū can be seen with her face in a mathematics textbook; while she’s very much fond of club activities, she’s also doing her best to prepare for the future. Hero Chapter indicated that Fū had intended Itsuki to succeed her as the club president to help her build confidence, although since graduation has yet to come, Fū is still running the Hero Club.

  • Signifying their friendship, the Hero Club takes a group photo together by sunset. It turns out that they also have a website of sorts, where they upload the club activities’ photographs and recollections. Yūki Yūna is a Hero has enough going for it so that the series could be carried by the Hero Club going around town and doing various good deeds for the community, but that wouldn’t be in the series’ spirit: the sharp contrast between the characters’ everyday lives and the horrors they face in combat exist to create a sense of how perilous their world’s situation is.

  • While Yūna is in fine spirits now, Mimori finds herself a little disheartened: as a part of the costs incurred for using the Mankai System, she’d lost her memories of Gin Minowa, the previous Hero she’d fought alongside. I’d been quite fond of Gin, since she was confident and capable. I am a little surprised that there is very little being said about The Great Mankai Chapter: for Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Hero Chapter, the series was discussed with great fervour amongst the anime community, and like Madoka Magica, was also the subject of quite a bit of speculation.

  • These days, it appears that interest in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is lessened, although I suppose I could count this a blessing that giants like Random Curiosity are not covering this series. Of late, it feels like their quality has declined (most evidently, with their coverage of The Aquatope on White Sand, which now consists of little more than lambasting Tetsuji Suwa). If that is what readers are getting, then it is better that The Great Mankai Chapter isn’t being subject to the same treatment: here, Mimori outright asks the Taisha why they’ve come to pull her back into service despite the sacrifices they’d made earlier, implying that the events of Hero Chapter had already occurred for her here.

  • The second episode introduces Mebuki Kusunoki, a Hero candidate who was fiercely devoted to the role: her father had stated that the biggest goal in life is to make something of oneself, and to never be complicit in being used as a stepping stone for others. To this end, Mebuki is cold, distant and sure of her own ability to a fault: she is unable to recognise that there could be anyone more worthy of the Hero position than herself, and during training sessions, shows her fellow candidates absolutely no mercy.

  • Here, Mebuki speaks to another trainee, Yumiko Miroku, who comes from a family that fell from grace. In spite of this, she acts in a haughty manner and attempts to maintain the façade befitting of an ojou-sama. After being handily defeated in a training exercise, Yumiko declares herself Mebuki’s rival, but also ends up hanging out with her more. For Mebuki, the only other person in their group of note is Karin: while Mebuki appears to have better performance overall, she lacks the sort of compassion that Karin exhibits.

  • During one exercise, Karin demonstrates that she’s still kind to her fellow trainees, and after besting one during a bout, offers to help her get back up. In the end, this is the gap between Mebuki and Karin: while Karin is very focused on her duties, she cares for those around her and indicates that when the moment comes down to it, she would likely choose to save a team member over completing the mission. Conversely, Mebuki initially appears to be the person who might sacrifice her team to complete the mission, even if she’s the only person standing.

  • Unsurprisingly, when Karin is chosen to be the next Hero, Mebuki goes ballistic and makes a bit of a scene during the announcement, leading her to be dragged away, showing that she lacks the tact to lose gracefully. In the aftermath, Karin resolves to do what she can to fulfil her duties, leading her to join the Hero Club, and the remainder of the candidates are reassigned as “Sentinels”. These Sentinels are completely unrelated to the autonomous Forerunner constructs of Halo, the warrior caste of DOOM‘s Argent D’Nur or the squid-like robots in The Matrix: instead, the Sentinels (防人, Hepburn sakamori) are individuals who are tasked with exploring the world outside the barrier.

  • Outside of the barrier, Sentinels are responsible for exploration and data collection: while the Heroes had eliminated the Vertex, the assignment remains a dangerous one, and the Taisha gather everyone at what is equivalent to Utazu’s Play Park Gold Tower, an observation tower that was built in 1988 that has a height of 158 metres. It is part of a play-park that features arcades and bowling for children. In The Great Mankai Chapter, Play Park Gold Tower is used as the Sentinel’s base of operations and act as a nexus point to the barrier.

  • Even with the risks of their assignments, The Great Mankai Chapter still finds time to portray Yumiko with an expression of shock after learning that Mebuki had forgotten about her in the time that’d passed. For better or worse, this happens to me more often than I’d like – I occasionally run into people I were classmates with or mentored as a TA, and while they immediately recall who I am, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to extend them that same courtesy. The moment causes Yumiko to lose all composure, creating a bit of humour among a group of characters that has, insofar, not given viewers much to smile about.

  • It turns out that the Sentinels are to perform something called the Kunizukuri (国譲り), named after the mythological event in Japanese pre-history in which the lands of Japan were passed from the Earthly Gods to the Heavenly Gods, and eventually, the Imperial House. In the original version of the story, the Heavenly Gods desired to take control of Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni (Japan) after deciding the land to have grown corrupted, and sent their sons to investigate. These missions were met with failure, until Ōkuninushi finally allowed two messengers to take control of the land. After Ōkuninushi retreats, the messengers smash all resistance on Earth and return to the heavens to report that their mission is completed.

  • Like the original myth, the Kunizukuri in The Great Mankai Chapter is portrayed as a forceful transfer of power: the Sentinels are equipped with a combat suit that protects against the flames that linger outside the barrier, and the Sentinels themselves are armed. Sentinels with reduced combat ability are equipped with large shields to defend the ships and other Sentinels. Sentinels with modest combat abilities take on a long-range rifle that can double as a melee weapon, while the highest-ranking Sentinels lead the others and sport a distinct visor with wings on the side to denote their rank.

  • While the world outside the barrier is quiet, it is populated by the Stardust, the most basic form of the Vertex. These blob-like entities do not possess any cognitive functions, but they can combine to form more deadly Vertex: the Stardust can be thought of as the Flood’s infection form. Both are individually weak and use their numbers to overwhelm foes, but can combine. By the events of The Great Mankai Chapter, the Stardust do not combine on the first of the Sentinel’s expeditions, but speaking to the incredible power that Heroes possess, the Sentinels are only able to escape their first encounter.

  • Here, two other Sentinels can be seen alongside Yumiko (far right): to the left is Shizuku Yamabushi, who has a troubled background and developed two personalities as a coping mechanism (like Gundam 00‘s Hallelujah, she becomes violent and unpredictable when a fight begins, but otherwise, is quiet and reserved), and in the centre is Suzume Kagajō, a low-ranking Sentinel who fears combat and would rather be anywhere but the mission. The ferocity of combat reduces her to a squeaky puddle, and here, she’s reacting to having survived the group’s first fight.

  • By the third episode, the Mebuki’s group is established: from Mebuki (lower left) in a clockwise direction, we’ve got Aya, Yamabushi, Suzume, and Yumiko. While differing greatly in combat ability and disposition, this group begins to unify as a result of their duties together. I believe that The Great Mankai Chapter would be an adaptation of Kusunoki Mebuki is a Hero: this was a light novel that was released in 2017 and formed the basis for the claims that The Great Mankai Chapter is an interquel, since the story is set between the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Hero Chapter.

  • Assuming the animated adaptation is largely faithful to the original, then, what Mebuki and her team will experience here in The Great Mankai Chapter will likely lead everyone to a path where they fight alongside Yūna’s group at some point. Mebuki’s team knows of Yūna and the Hero Club: suspicious of things, Suzume ended up tailing the group on one of their outings to see what was going on, had her cover blown and ended up being invited over to tea. Since Mimori still has her wheelchair here, the events here are plainly set during Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season.

  • Because moments like these occurred with a nontrivial frequency, it is a little difficult to take the combat in Kusunoki Mebuki is a Hero seriously: subsequent excursions outside of the barrier and the encounters with the Stardust leaves Suzume in tears. Granted, the Stardust are an intimidating-looking foe whose teeth appear to be quite lethal, and moreover, they have the advantage in numbers. Against such foes, cluster munitions would be effective, but lore states that the Vertex are largely unaffected by human weapons. When they first appeared, the JMSDF were soundly defeated, with 127 mm rounds and even cruise missiles failing to turn the tide.

  • The second encounter ends up being a disaster for the team; they’d been sent out to plant a seedling for the Shinju, and this time around, are accompanied by miko Aya, whose role is to carry out the rituals needed to set in motion the world’s restoration. While the ritual appears to have gone well enough, the Sentinels come under attack, and in the aftermath, although there are no casualties thanks to Mebuki’s leadership, Sentinels begin quitting en masse after feeling that the task is overwhelming.

  • However, there was one positive to come out of this second excursion past the barrier – the remaining members on Mebuki’s team come to bond with one another more closely, and while Mebuki recuperates, the others end up creating a sort of charm that reminds her of how close everyone’s become. Difficult moments often bring people together, and it felt like at this point in The Great Mankai Chapter, Mebuki’s finally gotten her team together.

  • In particular, Aya ends up being the first to really break the ice and befriend Mebuki – when they’ve got some time off, Aya decides to hang out with her, and it is here that viewers get a glimpse of the sort of person that Mebuki really is, when the moment has no immediate obligations or duties to fulfill – it turns out that she’s actually quite like Mimori in personality, and never does anything halfway, whether it be the work or recreation.

  • Like Mimori, Mebuki has a particular fondness for all things Japan; when Aya asks where Mebuki would like to go first, they end up hitting a hobby shop. Mebuki is a big fan of Japanese castles and also enjoys building military models. After this stop, the pair head of a home hardware shop. Because The Great Mankai Chapter presented Mebuki as a bit of a hardass, seeing this side of her is important to remind viewers that like Karin and the other members of the Hero Club, at the end of the day, Heroes and Hero candidates are human.

  • Unfortunately for Mebuki and viewers, because of Aya’s duties as a miko, she’s later offered up as a human sacrifice with the hopes of slowing the flames while the Taisha and Sentinels retrieve the sapling they’d planted for the Shinju – the Shinju appears to be dying, and the Taisha are desperate to try any measures in order to stave off destruction. This mission angers Mebuki, who realises that contrary to her goals of becoming more than a mere footnote in history, the Taisha regard her team as expendable.

  • Rather than refuse the mission, this only serves to reinforce Mebuki’s determination to prove that she and her team are more than capable of fulfilling their assignment. Over the two episodes that Mebuki and her team have been shown, I’ve gained a better sense of who she is as an individual, and together with the task the Sentinels have in front of them, The Great Mankai Chapter is finally hitting its stride as Mebuki leads the remainder of her forces on their next assignment.

  • Thus, having passed through the first three episodes of The Great Mankai Chapter, I am rather looking forwards to seeing where this show is headed next. I imagine that with the next little while, we can expect Mebuki and her team to be at the forefront of things for the next few episodes, and then Yūna’s Hero Club will likely return to help the Kusunoki team out in their hour of need (hence the Taisha‘s imploring Mimori and the others to return to active service for one more assignment). It’s exciting times ahead that bring back memories of what had made the original Yūki Yūna is a Hero so compelling to watch.

When Hero Chapter concluded, it left numerous questions in its wake: granted, Yūna and her friends had successfully saved their world from destruction, but how the world came to reach its current state was never explored, and the nature of their world similarly remained a mystery. The Great Mankai Chapter appears to be following in its predecessor’s footsteps: there’s a new problem to sort out, and similarly to Hero Chapter, leaves many details unexplained. At present, viewers are shown that Sentinels are a group of prospective Heroes who didn’t make the cut, but still possessed enough attributes to be useful. The Taisha are attempting to begin taking back the universe from the ravages of war, but as this is a dangerous task, they have no qualms about sacrificing young women to achieve their aims. In general, Yūki Yūna is a Hero has traditionally found ways of making its primary themes clear, but on the flipside, never bothered with exposition to the extent where their world became convincing. The end result of this is that while the characters in Yūki Yūna is a Hero are always compelling, their world continues to operate on terms that viewers are not privy to: perspective is never shown from the Taisha’s perspective, and without any illustration on why they pick the course of actions that they do, the Taisha become very difficult to sympathise with. The end result of this is that viewers can immediately rally behind the main characters of a given series and root for their survival, or success, but at the end of the day, every victory is muddied by the fact that something unknown could always return and diminish the Heroes’ accomplishments. As it stands, I am interested to see if The Great Mankai Chapter addresses any of the questions left by Hero Chapter, and further to this, it appears that the possibility of Yūna’s team working with Mebuki and the Sentinels could be quite real: having long felt that Yūna’s team operated in isolation, it’ll be nice to see them fighting alongside others for a shared goal, as well.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions After Fifteen

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” –Steve Jobs

It turns out that Fūka and Kukuru are now neighbours, with Fūka having looked ahead to see where Kukuru had moved to before returning. On her first day, Fūka apologises to the director for arriving late, and is promptly assigned as an attendant, where she is to work alongside Chiyu in her duties. Meanwhile, spurred on by Fūka’s return and her determination to ace a test Chiyu tasks her with (memorise the name of all the African Penguins in their exhibit), Kukuru resolves to do her best to and set up the logistics for a behind-the-scenes tour. Despite running into some hiccoughs with the penguin exhibits (Chiyu doesn’t feel the penguins are ready to be shown, since they agitate easily and need time to adjust to their new homes). After Fūka aces the test and demonstrates to Chiyu that she’s serious about excelling in her role, she suggests that certain measures can be taken to keep the penguins happy and go ahead with this segment of the tour. On the day the behind-the-scenes tour opens, only a single family shows up. While Tetsuji is disappointed with the results, the tour had actually gone very well. Later, Tetsuji sets Kukuru up with the goal of quickly designing an exhibit, and to her surprise, approves of the proposal to exhibit sea slugs. While sea slugs are tricky to look after, Kukuru does her best in trying to put the exhibit on, driven by her own passion for aquatic life. One of the species proves especially tricky, and despite orders to go ahead despite not knowing what this species’ diet consists of, Kukuru decides to keep these sea slugs out back until they can figure things out. In the process, Kukuru clashes with Kaoru Shimabukuro, one of the more senior attendants, but once the two get their feelings into the open, it’s clear that the two have more in common than they first thought. Realising this, Kaoru invites Kukuru to check out a section of the shore in search of the food source for the remaining sea slugs, and Kukuru enthusiastically accepts. After I hastily rushed out a talk for The Aquatope on White Sand two weeks earlier, things have settled down a little now as Kukuru and Fūka begin really learning the ropes of their new positions at Tingaara, supporting one another as they had previously at Gama Gama.

While Fūka’s rapidly adjusting to the pace at Tingaara, Kukuru has had a tougher time so far – despite her undeniable passion, drive and devotion, she continues to clash with Tetsuji and other members of the staff as she struggles to delineate her personal and professional worlds. For Kukuru, marine life and aquariums are a part of her as much as it is a job, and consequently, in her eyes, every fight is her fight. However, the exchange she has with Kaoru marks a turning point of sorts in The Aquatope on White Sand; while Kaoru is able to clearly articulate her respect for the ocean and commitment to Tingaara’s success through conservation and education, at her core, she believes in the same things that Kukuru believes in. The only difference is that Kukuru is a bit more raw about how she feels, and is a ways more impulsive: aside from the disparity in how she expresses herself, Kukuru and Kaoru are more similar than unlike, and for Kukuru, spotting this means better being able to empathise with the attendants while at the same time, balancing her duties for the marketting team. Up until now, Fūka and Kai had been Kukuru’s main source of emotional support, and both have already gone above and beyond in reassuring Kukuru, looking after her and giving her a chance to regroup. To see Kukuru slowly realise that there are other people like her, working towards the same long-term goal, then, is to suggest that over time, Kukuru will be able to confidently stand of her own accord. The past two episodes have also shown that Kukuru and Tetsuji most certainly do not get along – Tetsuji is purely concerned with growth and customer retention, values that impress a board during quarterly meetings, while Kukuru is very hands-on and wants to give customers the best possible experience so they’re inclined to return and learn more about aquatic life. While the way Kukuru and Tetsuji express things is drastically different, at their core, Kukuru and Tetsuji actually do have the same objective: bring people to Tingaara so they can learn more about marine biology, and become longtime customers to keep Tingaara’s doors open. Having found common ground with Kaoru, The Aquatope on White Sand suggests that with people she can lean on, learn from and be encouraged by, Kukuru will find ways to strike a balance between reducing customer turnover and doing the hands-on work she’d loved about Gama Gama: knowing P.A. Works, Tetsuji and Kukuru will certainly come to understand one another better, in keeping with what The Aquatope on White Sand has strived to convey thus far.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Having impulsively pushed out a post a few weeks earlier, I return to the usual schedule with this week’s talk on The Aquatope on White Sand, which sees Kukuru pleasantly surprised that Fūka is her neighbour. Of everyone, Kukuru is the most honest with Fūka and confides with her that she was having second thoughts about how things turned out. However, now that Fūka’s back, Kukuru is encouraged and resolves to rise up to the challenge. When the second half of The Aquatope of White Sand was about to air, people speculated that the series was going to purely focus on Kukuru, and some even suggested they’d quit watching, here and now, if Fūka weren’t present.

  • While it is true that Fūka is integral to The Aquatope on White Sand, such a statement is indicative of people who are predisposed towards jumping to conclusions. Admittedly, this is why episodic write-ups are always a challenge: since one doesn’t have the full picture in mind, certain things within the moment may not make sense until more context is provided. Here, Akari speaks to Kukuru about Fūka and is surprised the two know one another. While Tetsuji might be about as friendly as a winter storm, The Aquatope on White Sand shows that both Akari and Karin get along with Kukuru well enough.

  • I’ve been where Kukuru was: working with the American computational oncology company put me in contact with a backend team based out of Winnipeg, and said backend team were among the most unfriendly group I’d worked with. In spite of this, I overcame my hurdles precisely by focusing on my tasks and delivering what was asked. As such, The Aquatope on White Sand‘s portrayal of how Kukuru handles Tetsuji is mostly accurate: while she may be dismayed at his unreasonable expectations and lack of empathy, she’s learning how to focus on her duties and deliver what’s asked of her.

  • Meanwhile, since Fūka has been assigned to be an attendant, Chiyu decides to test her ability to pick up new information. A part of me wondered if this was Chiyu attempting to haze Fūka, but this is likewise an unfair assessment to make: generally speaking, the attendant position is more formally an aquarist, and for the most part, people in this field must possess at least an undergraduate degree in zoology or marine biology on top of having field experience with animals and communication skills. For safety reasons, aquarists must also have certification in CPR and scuba diving. The position is a demanding one, and the average pay hovers around 30500 CAD per year in Canada.

  • The behind-the-scenes tours might’ve been delayed, but now that the other departments have had a chance to catch up, Tetsuji determines that the time has come to give guests these tours; Kukuru is given the task of organising the tour and coordinating with the different departments to ensure the tours go smoothly. Fortunately, she also has Karin in her corner, although things mean that Kukuru can come across as a bit immature at times. This is, of course, a part of her growth, and folks like Karin understand what Kukuru is going through; Karin had previous work experience, and the things that cause Kukuru to melt down are going to be just another problem with a solution for her.

  • With Fūka back, the Gama Gama crew can really get together and celebrate now. Kukuru’s foul mood persists into the evening until Karin reminds her that tonight is about welcoming Fūka for the next stage of her journey. The Aquatope on White Sand makes it clear that Fūka is a tonic of sorts for Kukuru: seeing Fūka buckle down and give her best inspires her to do the same. The synergy about the two can only be thought of as how very close friends and close siblings can encourage one another. Tsukimi ends up serving this party, and the group are thoroughly impressed with the food at Ohana.

  • Fūka initially struggles to memorise all of the penguin’s names based purely on their tags and any distinct identifying traits. This brings to mind the sort of work I did for my courses during university: I recall memorising the Hiragana and Katakana for Japanese, as well as all twenty of the amino acids (along with their structures). Back then, absorbing information by brute force was my preferred way of doing things; I’ve never really been good with memory tricks or mnemonics. In industry, experience replaces memorisation: I know some systems sufficiently well to apply shared principals for novel problems.

  • Despite her initial struggles, Kukuru’s managed to get the behind-the-scenes tour organised, save for penguins. While Tetsuji is okay with skipping over the penguins for now, and Chiyu has justification for why, Kukuru believes that there is merit to adding this to the tour. Tetsuji reluctantly allows Kukuru to try, and while Chiyu still holds objections, her coworker, Maya, is more receptive to the idea. With everything that’s been shown so far, it really looks like that Tetsuji and Chiyu will be the people that Kukuru must figure out: Maya is friendly, accommodating and more than happy to help make the penguin exhibit a successful part of the behind-the-scenes tour.

  • With her exam upcoming, Fūka still has a few birds left to memorise, and it is with Kukuru’s help that she’s able to get the last few nailed down: Kukuru suggests that in order to really memorise something, Fūka must learn to stop relying on her notes and only count on them to check an answer. Being able to see the penguins for herself also helps Kukuru to understand why Chiyu had been so adamant about not running the tour with penguins: they’re still adjusting to their new home, and visitors would likely only disturb them more.

  • Seeing how Kukuru treats her friends and adversaries alike gives insight into her character as it is now. Since treating people professionally and equally is a part of maturing, this is something that Kukuru will (hopefully) have a chance to work towards. Fūka has undoubtedly been a major asset for Kukuru, helping to keep her spirits up, but their friendship is one of give-and-take: for everything Fūka has done, Kukuru is more than happy to help her out where she needs it. This dynamic is why Kukuru and Fūka had gotten along particularly well during The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, so seeing this return for the second half means this particular theme is particularly important to the series.

  • On the day of Fūka’s exam, she aces things. It is here that Kukuru makes one final bid to have Chiyu approve of showing the penguins to visitors as a part of the behind-the-scenes tour, and after some concessions are made, Chiyu finally accepts so long as Kukuru is true to her word. When the tour does begin, Kukuru and Akari are surprised to learn that there’s only one family: Kukuru had been so busy preparing that she’s had precious little time to advertise the event. Since she is on a team, one would imagine that Tetsuji would’ve had the foresight to assign someone else to spread the word and build some excitement.

  • Despite his 牙刷刷 manner, Tetsuji is not infallible. In spite of this oversight, Tetsuji holds Kukuru accountable when it was his failure to assign someone to the task of advertising that resulted in the low turnout. As I saw it, the behind-the-scenes tour was an unqualified success, and the family that does show up come away impressed with both Tingaara’s facility and staff. While Kukuru is still learning the basics surrounding big picture decisions, when it’s time to put boots on the ground, she excels with detail-oriented tasks.

  • I don’t think I’ve mentioned this until now, but The Aquatope on White Sand had mentioned that these are African Penguins. These flightless birds are found in South Africa and primarily feed on fish found in the pelagic zone. Moreover, Fūka did mention that there was a happily-married couple: it is definitely true that African Penguins are monogamous. The choice to have African Penguins at Gama Gama and Tingaara is a logical one: unlike penguins found in Antarctica, African Penguins do inhabit cold regions and therefore, can adapt to warmer conditions quite readily compared to their Antarctica counterparts. Although it is never mentioned in The Aquatope on White Sand, African Penguins are colloquially referred to as “Jackass Penguins”, too.

  • While I count Tetsuji as 牙刷刷 (jyutping ngaa4 caat3 caat3, an obscure Cantonese slang that cannot be literally translated and whose meaning is “arrogant”), I am not going to say that I dislike his character: P.A. Works introduces difficult characters for a reason, and it would be most immature to simply develop hatred of a fictional character when said fictional character clearly has a role to play in advancing the story to some capacity. Had Tetsuji been an accommodating and understanding leader, there’d be no conflict: this might be appropriate for something like Koisuru Asteroid or Houkago Teibou Nisshi, but since interpersonal relationships, specifically, dealing with adversity and conflict management, are central to The Aquatope on White Sand, it makes no sense to put Kukuru on easy street.

  • Moreover, the lack of conflict amongst characters would mean that there’d be no chance to showcase Kukuru’s funny faces. In response to whatever Tetsuji asks of her, Kukuru can be seen rocking P.A. Works’ best funny faces since the Shirobako days, and admittedly, I miss them quite a bit; making the characters expressive allows a given series to tell viewers the emotional tenour of a moment without utilising dialogue or other audio-visual cues. Kukuru opens the fifteenth episode dissatisfied with the fact that she has to produce written reports. While they can be tedious, having a paper trail has been shown to save a lot of trouble in the long run.

  • During lunch hour, Kukuru and Fūka enjoy what appears to be shrimp tacos and fries from a local food truck. While Kukuru is so distracted she’s not enjoying her meal, a few words from Fūka gives Kukuru the spirit to slow down for the moment and tackle her latest problem from a new angle. It’s been two years since I’ve been to a food truck, and I fondly remember the days when food trucks would show up on campus with things that couldn’t be had anywhere else: from the legendary “smoked meat hash”, to fried chicken poutine and pulled pork poutine, the food trucks in my city largely contributed to my becoming a poutine connoisseur.

  • As soon as the current fourth wave dies down, I am almost certainly going to go out for poutine with my friends again. Until then, I’ll sit tight and return to The Aquatope on White Sand, where Kukuru is now spurred on to really get creative in finding ways of creating an all-new project that is intended to bring more people to Tingaara. While the assignment had initially stumped her, once she gets into the swing of things, Kukuru is unstoppable, and even works extra hours to create an array of proposals for Tetsuji to review.

  • Tetsuji is the sort of individual who perpetually seems dissatisfied, although in the end, he concedes that Kukuru’s proposal for sea slugs might have merits and approves it. There’s a host of reasons why people are like this, ranging from communication faults to insecurity. I personally give credit where it is due, and even where something might have obvious flaws, I also comment on what was done correctly, as well as what else could be done to improve things, on top of noting the reality of the situation. This approach allows me to cultivate a reputation of fairness, and then when it is necessary, I can be frank with my criticisms without people misinterpreting my intentions.

  • Karin, Akari and other staff in marketting are impressed that Kukuru managed to get something passed. Their pufferfish hats here stand in stark contrast to Tetsuji’s severe manner, and one would suppose that, under a more light-hearted leader, the marketting department at Tingaara would be a pleasant place to work. Kukuru is beginning to hit her stride and approach problems as I do: no matter how unpleasant a leader might be, I’ve found that sticking to one’s assignment and doing a well enough job so that there is no room for large criticisms is fulfilling one’s responsibilities in a satisfactory manner.

  • I’ve not seen Kukuru this happy since the earliest days of The Aquatope on White Sand: with sea slugs being the theme now, Kukuru is allowed to go out and gather species for the exhibit. It was here that The Aquatope on White Sand really begins to solidify what is possible given Kukuru’s skills. Unlike Karin or Akari, Kukuru’s knowledge of marine biology is extensive, and she is therefore able to bring ideas to the table, having an awareness of what would be required to get something implemented. For Kukuru, these sorts of assignments also put her back in her element.

  • Earlier, Eiji had spotted Kai speaking with Kukuru and conjectures that Kai’s got feelings for Kukuru. Drawing analogies to other marine organisms, who signal their desire for a mate in obvious ways, Eiji suggests that Kai be direct with Kukuru, as well. While Eiji is a stoic individual who finds marine biology more relatable than people, he’s actually turning out to be very personable, and his graduate degree allows him to put his knowledge to good use in ways not directly related to his duties. The Aquatope on White Sand has a varied cast, and like Angel Beats!Hanasaku IrohaTari Tari and countless of P.A. Works’ previous shows, this series similarly aims to slowly unveil the characters, who become more likeable as more of their story and nature is revealed to viewers.

  • A few days ago, I spotted a promotion on Twitter from the The Aquatope on White Sand‘s feed, which showed Fūka and Kukuru together with Hitomi, Kohaku, Manaka and Miuna. It turns out this is a special collaborative art exhibition to be held in Tokyo and Osaka in November 2021 and January 2022, respectively. The theme that these three anime share in common is their portrayal of the ocean: this is easy enough to spot for The Aquatope on White Sand and Nagi no Asukara, but for The World in Colours, I imagine that the “ocean” acts as a metaphor for the world within our minds.

  • With this in mind, it would appear that The Aquatope on White Sand is a project that brings the workplace piece from Hanasaku IrohaSakura Quest and Shirobako together with the ocean themes of Nagi no Asukara, and the idea that magic comes from within, which was a big part of The World in Colours: thanks to its 2-cour runtime, The Aquatope on White Sand has had plenty of time to explore a wide range of themes. Here, both Fūka and Kukuru are disappointed that the last remaining sea slugs have not been eating at all. The Aquatope on White Sand has evidently done their homework: sea slugs is a broad group of gastropods informally referred to as opisthobranchia: this is not a monophylic classification, a result of the fact that sea slugs are extremely diverse.

  • When Kukuru’s concern for these sea slugs causes her to be late for a behind-the-scenes tour, she and Chiyu almost get into another fight. Fortunately, Fūka is on hand to prevent escalation, and before the tour continues, Kukuru is content to give Chiyu a dirty look, adding another funny face to my growing collection of Kukuru moments. It typifies Fūka’s ability to resolve conflicts that nothing more happens, and I imagine that Fūka will play a role yet where Chiyu and Kukuru are concerned.

  • A close look at Kukuru’s screen finds that she’s rocking Windows 10, but the machine is evidently that of a 2017 21.5-inch iMac: this is made possible by Bootcamp, which is a software that comes with MacOS and allows one to easily partition their hard drive and dual-boot between Windows and MacOS. Back during graduate school, I ended up using Boot Camp for my thesis work: Unreal Engine and Unity ran much more smoothly with Windows than Mac, making it easier to build and run more complex 3D visualisations. I imagine that for P.A. Works, having Tingaara run MacOS Monterey would’ve run afoul of Apple, so they elected to display a genericised version of Windows instead, and here, Kukuru reacts in response to an email from the latest version of Microsoft Outlook.

  • When Kai takes a brief break from his shift, he’s surprised to see Kukuru still going at things, and brings her some salted coffee, a beverage with origins in the US Navy. It’s said that the salt came from the fact that desalination units on WWII-era ships weren’t a hundred percent effective, and some salt remained anyways. Coupled with the fact that salt takes the bitterness from a cup of joe, the tradition stuck. Kai isn’t able to express how he feels about Kukuru to her here, but he does manage to give her some stress relief, allowing her to continue on with her work.

  • Whereas Kukuru is adamant that the remaining sea slugs be properly fed, Kaoru notes that Kukuru’s idealism is interfering with their actual work and in the long term, would be more harmful to the organisms and their ecosystems; by taking organisms from their natural habitats, the aquarium has already subjected the animals to confinement, and the hope is that a few organisms will take one so the knowledge gained can be used to better preserve species in their habitats. This flies over Kukuru’s head, but realising that Kaoru respects nature as much as she does causes a change of heart. Similarly, while Kukuru might not have a post-secondary background in zoology or marine biology, Kaoru comes to see that Kukuru is no different than she is. This argument brings both Kukuru and Kaoru’s feelings out into the open, resolving one conflict.

  • In the end, Kukuru and the attendants determine that they can run the exhibit while the remaining sea slugs are held in storage until their food source can be determined. For visitors, this proves satisfactory, but Tetsuji takes Kukuru to the woodshed for this decision. As the viewers, however, we are deliberately shown that the visitors are satisfied with the exhibit, and even experience the same feelings Kukuru does about the sea slugs, finding them more adorable and interesting than repulsive and dull. I contend that for someone like Tetsuji, it would be important for him to put boots on the ground and see what the customers are saying before jumping to conclusions: understanding the customers’ feelings and desires is how an organisation improves over time.

  • One wonders how I’d deal with someone like Tetsuji, and the answer should not be too surprising. I believe that the work comes first, and as I did with the Winnipeg team, I never complained in front of them. Instead, I did precisely what was asked of me and documented everything extensively, making sure all of my bases were covered. Now that I think about it, three years earlier, we’d be getting very close to the day where I was given approval to submit the completed app to the App Store and Google Play for review. Both ended were accepted, and that brought one chapter of my life to a close. At that point, The World in Colours was also under way, and I found myself really falling in love with the world that was presented.

  • The Aquatope on White Sand has succeeded in capturing my attention for different reasons than The World in Colours, and here at the end of fifteen episode, Kukuru is all smiles after Kaoru invites her to check out a cool place on the shores of Okinawa: the bags under her eyes evaporate immediately, signifying the return of her old energy. Life at Tingaara for Kukuru is full of ups and downs, and right now, Chiyu and Tetsuji are the biggest challenges she faces. Given the themes of previous P.A. Works series, I imagine that Kukuru is no different than Ohana, Aoi or Koharu: while yes, challenges set her back and yes, there are things she doesn’t agree with, her own tenacity and enthusiasm will help her to learn the ropes and work well with the team, as well as bring her own unique set of skills to the table in a manner beneficial to Tingaara. The Aquatope on White Sand continues to impress, and I imagine that in the last quarter of the series, Tingaara will face down the sort of adversity that will force the team to unify; things like these have occurred in P.A. Works’ previous series, and it was really here that a given series’ main themes are presented.

So far, where given the opportunity, Kukuru has begun to meld what she’s learning about large-scale operations together with her own experiences in running things at a more personal level. The idea for a sea slug exhibit demonstrates how Kukuru is very driven, determined to make things work, and Tingaara’s director evidently spotted this in Kukuru – while she had longed to be an attendant, placing her in marketting allows Tingaara to have someone who knows their stuff to guide the others in creating compelling exhibits, special events and promotions to drive interest. Because Kukuru has satisfactory knowledge about marine biology, she is able to come up with exhibits that are feasible, and at the same time, really showcase what about a species or phenomenon is worth studying. Once Kukuru is allowed to do this, her old energy truly begins returning to her – it is fair to say that one can take Kukuru out of Gama Gama, but it is hardly possible to take the Gama Gama out of Kukuru. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and having now seen Kukuru acclimatise to the requirements of her position on top of bringing in her previous experience to make things work as best as she can, it is clear that The Aquatope on White Sand intends to present how people adjust to their work, make the most of things and in time, come to take on a newfound appreciation for what they’re doing. While Kukuru’s got her own challenges, the former Gama Gama staff appear to be doing their best to adjust to life at a larger aquarium. In particular, Kai appears to get along quite well with Eiji, who encourages him to be upfront with his feelings for Kukuru. Similarly, Marina and Fūka are also on friendly terms. The beginnings of new friendships (or at least, improved relationships among coworkers) is beginning to manifest – early on, Karin hears faint rumours that Gama Gama’s former staff are very tight-knit and uptight, but after fifteen episodes, this clearly isn’t the case. As Gama Gama’s old staff adjust to working with the remainder of Tingaara’s staff, new relationships are formed, as is an increased understanding and appreciation of what everyone contributes. The resulting empathy sets the stage for improving communications, and this is where The Aquatope on White Sand could become superbly exciting.

Tawawa on Monday 2: Review and Reflections After Three

“Impressive! You’ve upgraded your armour! I’VE MADE SOME UPGRADES OF MY OWN!”
“Sir, it appears that his suit can fly.”
“Duly noted.”
–Obadiah Stane, JARVIS and Tony Stark, Iron Man

On the commute to work, Ai explains to the salaryman that she’s got two buttons to give him this Monday because she and her sister had been imitating a scene out of Laputa: Castle in The Sky and totalled their shirts, before mentioning that her younger sister is beginning high school, too. Later, while the salaryman leaves home, he’s envious of a neighbour who has a loving wife; it turns out that he’s a teacher, and when one of his students fell in love with him, did what he could to conceal the fact that he returned her feelings. After she graduates, the pair are no longer teacher and student, and the teacher finally agrees to go out with her. During a business trip, the well-endowed junior employee makes no end of trouble for the senior employee, but the two manage to succeed in their trip’s aims and end up buying some sake to celebrate on return, although returning through the airport, the junior’s forgetfullness means that she leaves some keys in her pocket, setting off the metal detector and embarrassing her senior. This is Tawawa on Monday 2, a continuation of the 2016 ONA that adapted Kiseki Himura’s distinct blue-monochrome illustrations, which Himura stated as being done to encourage people in the workforce and students alike at the beginning of every week. The first season had been done by Pine Jam, but Yokohama Animation Laboratory is producing this second season, which opens off in a manner that immediately brings to mind the first: the shorts are snapshots into Ai et al.’s everyday experiences. Through these gentle interactions, the unusual combination of humour and mild embarrassment creates a sense of catharsis that clears the mind and ostensibly adds a spring to one’s step, letting them face a new week with vigour. I can speak to the efficacy of what Himura proposes from personal experience, and it is clear, from both the fact that Himura has continued drawing Tawawa on Monday to the present, as well as the fact that there is a second animated series, others also concur with this sentiment.

While Tawawa on Monday primarily deals with those inevitable moments of embarrassment that are simultaneously tender and heartwarming, there are some stories that are particularly well done (especially considering the short length of each episode). In Tawawa on Monday 2, the second episode serves as this example: a student’s feelings for her teacher lingered for the full three years she was in high school, and this teacher managed to maintain his sense of professionalism about him, doing his best to keep that distance and stopping his own feelings from getting the better of him despite how forward this student is. In the end, once the two are no longer teacher and student, the teacher is able to be truthful about how he feels, and indeed, the two end up getting married. There has always been something about this kind of love that I’ve always found immeasurably touching; while people might know one another for long periods of time, they may not always interact with and learn more about one another, or are otherwise constrained by circumstance. Tawawa on Monday had a similar story, where a salary man encounters a girl from his old high school years later; she now works at the local convenience store, and while she had a crush on him back then, he never really noticed. The feelings of yearning for what could have been permeate these stories, and really creates this feeling of emptiness about the characters who never noticed those around them. I particularly relate to this; hindsight is flawless, after all, and looking back, I may (or may not) have left a small pile of broken hearts in my wake as I strove to pursue my career and professional development without stopping to consider the feelings of those around me. If and when I’m asked about what I’d do provided a second chance, I would not be so foolish and take things up this time around; my circumstances now are rather different, and I now have the time (and resources) to do the sorts of things I couldn’t previously.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Since I opened with Ai’s smile when I first wrote about Tawawa on Monday, I’ll do the same for this introductory post to Tawawa on Monday 2. I remember that when I first heard of Kiseki Himura’s illustrations, I struggled to understand what たわわ meant. It turns out this is a bit of slang for someone who’s got a lot out front. I’ll also get this off my chest before delving further into discussions of  Tawawa on Monday 2Tawawa reminds me a great deal of Wawanesa Insurance, a Winnipeg-based mutual insurance firm named after an unincorporated community in Manitoba with a population of 594 as if 2016.

  • Because of how I process information, I sometimes mistakenly refer to Wawanesa Insurance as Tawawa Insurance. After meeting with the salaryman on the train, Ai recounts how on the weekend, she got into a bit of a flexing contest with her younger sister, who, while pretty stacked, loses out to Ai. I’d never thought I’d see the ripped-shirt contest from Laputa: Castle in The Sky in something like Tawawa on Monday, and especially not in this format. For this post, I had originally decided to go with a quote from Steven Chow’s Forbidden City Cop, but my written Cantonese isn’t of a level where I could quote Chow’s character for the relevant scene, so I’ve fallen back on an old classic from the MCU, referring to how Ai’s bustier than she had previously been.

  • Ai’s mother subsequently remarks that it’s on her to mend her own shirts after this performance. This post admittedly comes out of the blue: I hadn’t been intending to write anything today, since yesterday, I spent a nontrivial amount of time on the Battlefield 2042 open beta discussion. I slept in a little today, spent the morning reading through manga, and then sat down to a delicious homemade burger. As the afternoon progressed, however, I did notice that my old Tawawa on Monday post was rapidly climbing in views.

  • I thus decided to shoot through the first three episodes to gain a measure of what they were about and write about the series; it is clear that there is interest in Tawawa on Monday 2, and I’d figured that this was likely what people are popping in to read about: for the most part, I write according to my own schedule, but if the metrics suggest a demand for something, I have no problems obliging and providing readers with what they seek. Formerly a first year, Ai is now a second year, and is seen looking over the classroom assignments before her friend shows up and cops a feel, causing all of the people in the surroundings to blush and stare.

  • The character designs are noticeably different now that Yokohama Animation Laboratory has taken over from Pine Lab: while the contents and atmosphere remain the same, it does feel like that Yokohama Animation Laboratory is still finding their feet with respect to how the characters look. At the time of writing, I prefer the designs from the first season more, but I imagine that as this series continues, I’ll acclimatise all the same.

  • The precise relationship between the salaryman and Ai is never explicitly defined, and in fact, the salaryman’s eyes are never shown, either. This was a deliberate choice, so viewers could imagine themselves in the salaryman’s place, and is a decision that brings to mind the reason why most first-person shooter protagonists (e.g. Half-Life 2Halo and DOOM) are unspeaking: it’s so the player can better immerse themselves in the world. In Tawawa on Monday, the salaryman is a stand-in for us viewers whenever it’s Ai’s turn for a story, but there are other stories featuring different characters.

  • The second episode is such a story, following a high school girl’s determined  one-sided crush on a male teacher. This sort of thing is more common than I imagined, and I certainly wasn’t immune to this, either, having developed a bit of a crush on my first-year science instructor and yearbook club advisor. Before readers go off and imagine anything, nothing happened. I did go out of my way to put in extra effort and do well in those classes, but that’s about it. While the ceaseless flow of events in life meant I probably would’ve forgotten these things, I still have the awards for that science class and yearbook hanging around to remind me.

  • The time for dealing out or receiving a kokuhaku in a classroom as the sunset is long past now, and I suppose the only way to have such an experience will be in my dreams or respawns. With this being said, realising one were in love with someone else all along isn’t bad, either. I’ve not experienced love in the sense that poets, writers and singers have expressed, but compared to the me who wrote about Tawawa on Monday five years earlier, I think I’ve got a better measure of what I’d like out of a relationship. Besides the trust, faithfulness, openness and cooperation, one thing I greatly value is someone who can be full of pleasant surprises.

  • One of my favourite songs, Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes, speaks precisely to the sort of love I seek. In this song, Holmes speaks of a man who’d grown to find his lady unremarkable and dull, so he ends up writing an ad in the paper’s classified section describing what he’s looking for next. To his surprise, the man ends up getting a hit, and with a twinge of guilt, goes off to meet the woman who answered his ad. When he gets to the café, he is blown away by the fact that the lady meeting him happens to be his current partner.

  • Although the song sounds like it could be encouraging infidelity, the actual point of the song is to show that the people we fall in love with can find a way to surprise us even years later. The man and woman in the song have their love rekindled, surprised that there had been a side of their partner they never knew about. Whenever this song comes on the radio, I always have a smile on my face, and as a bonus, this song featured in The Guardians of the Galaxy. Having done what I’ve done, and seen what I’ve seen, nothing brings me more joy than falling in love with something all over again, and it is such an encouraging thought that all it takes is a change of perspective to experience this anew.

  • Robert F. Young’s short story, The Dandelion Girl, is another example of such love. With a bit of help from time travel, the married protagonist falls in love with a younger girl who turns out to be his current wife. Discovering new things about the familiar is something I am very much fond of: whether it be finding a new footpath in a park I’ve visited since childhood, or learning that an old game of mine has AI bots, thus allowing it to be played now even though the servers are offline, it’s always a thrill to rediscover things as though it were my first time. This part of me has carried over to what I look for in a relationship, although it’s not a must-have.

  • For the high school girl, there is a melancholy as the episode indicates how her feelings for her teacher never waver throughout all of high school: she had promised to conquer his heart before graduating, and despite her efforts, which range from trying to seduce him the same way Sayu had tried in Higehiro, to suggesting that she wants to go out with someone else in order to elicit a reaction, nothing seems to be effective. Even after the graduation ceremony, the teacher appears to have steeled his heart and walk a future without her, despite signs that he has come to reciprocate her feelings.

  • It’s a bit of a tearful moment for both the teacher and former student after the latter learns that he had indeed reciprocated her feelings, but otherwise never exhibited any sign of interest out of professionalism. Fiction oftentimes speaks to the idea that miracles can happen, even against established rules, so it is refreshing whenever something like Tawawa on Monday shows how happy endings can be found without violating any laws (although I imagine folks who are sticklers about things adhering to reality are left disappointed because this deprives them of something they can complain about).

  • For comedy’s sake, it turns out the former student also recorded the teacher returning her feelings as a bit of a momento. Anime often poses the question of whether or not someone is worth dating even if they’ve got a few eccentricities about them, and my personal answer to this question is an old standby: “it depends”, and then, within moderation. Hensuki is such an anime, and overall, I’m a Sayuri fan first and foremost, with Mizuha taking second place. Of everyone, Sayuri and Mizuha’s respective things are not troublesome at all (especially compared to Yuika). Of course, answering the question at all gives insight into the sort of person I am, and I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader, as to whether or not one’s opinion of me changed.

  • The third episode focuses on a senior salaryman and his energetic, but sometimes careless junior as they go on a business trip to pitch something for their company. I’ve not been to an airport for two-and-a-half years now; the last time would’ve been when I went to F8 2019, and passing through US Customs is probably the trickiest part of my travels. Watching people going about their business normally in things like anime is admittedly a little weird, and unfortunately, it looks like for the present, normalcy is still a ways away in reality.

  • In any series where ecchi elements are present, I’d have to resort to using animated GIFs to fully portray what’s happening on screen. This is something I’ve never considered doing over the course of my blog’s run, since animated GIFs are bandwidth intensive, distracting, and quite frankly, annoying – repetition has never been witty for me. As they say, a joke is never as funny the second time one hears it, and the reason for this is because an effective joke depends on timing and context. This is why I despise memes and never use GIFs as a response to something someone might say: it’s a sign of respect to reply properly.

  • After boarding their flight, a flight attendant asks if the senior and junior need any help stowing their luggage, but struggles with the latch. The ensuing hassle eventually leads the senior to step in and secure things himself. A part of the humour here comes from watching the senior worker’s expressions while things are going down: even though the men in Tawawa on Monday are presented without any eyes, they are still quite expressive, at least, enough for us viewers to pickup on what’s going on.

  • Tawawa on Monday 2 appears to have improved the background art compared to its predecessor, and after a successful presentation, both junior and senior alike decide it’s time to go ahead and celebrate with a drink or two. In the event such occasions come up, I typically order whatever non-alcoholic options are available. While fiction would suggest that I’m a wet blanket, it turns out that the variety of non-alcoholic options out there is mind-boggling. There are non-alcoholic beers and wines, on top of soft drinks, juices and the like, to the point where I could grab a ginger beer and still partake without getting hammered. My personal disinclination to drink isn’t on any moral grounds: I light up like a Christmas tree and then fall asleep if I’ve had one too many.

  • Unfortunately for the junior office lady, after she comes out of the shower with naught but a towel wrapped around her, the senior worker suddenly loses all inclination to go out, and the next day, he ends up buying a bottle of alcohol for her in place of things. The topic of office romances is one that poses challenges for companies, since it creates tension among coworkers, lowers productivity and in the worst case, create nightmares for human resource. In the realm of fiction, office romances are employed almost entirely for comedy. Tawawa on Monday, being fiction, falls squarely into the realm of comedy.

  • Upon returning through a security checkpoint, the junior’s forgotten about her keys again, and here, I’ll pointlessly reminisce about the fact that, for the past year, I’d been wondering what one of the keys on my key ring were for. As it turns out, this “mystery” key is for my dōjō. With this post in the books, I think that folks coming here for Tawawa on Monday 2-related discussions will have finally have something to read, and now that this unexpected post is in the books, I’ll return next time with a scheduled post for The Aquatope on White Sand.

While Tawawa on Monday has never been the most world-changing or insightful series about relationships, life lessons or the human condition, their ability to endure is a consequence of speaking to people’s desires to love and be loved, to experience warmth and a sense of belonging. Tawawa on Monday‘s first season had aired in late 2016, and I wrote about the series briefly in early 2017; the fact that a second season is running now, five full years after the first, speaks to the fact that this out-of-the-way series is doing well enough to warrant a continuation. I rather enjoyed the first season, and Tawawa on Monday 2 is off to a solid start. The characters here look a little different than their 2016 counterparts, a consequence of Yokohama Animation Laboratory taking over for Pine Jam, but other than that, it does feel as though I never left: Tawawa on Monday 2 is looking quite enjoyable, and I am curious to see what sorts of experiences that the salaryman, senior employee and others will have throughout this series run. It should be clear that nothing crazy happens in Tawawa on Monday, and a part of the magic in this series is precisely because it teases what could happen, rather than outright depicting it. I will note here that I’d originally been planning to write about Tawawa on Monday 2 after the whole series had finished airing later this year, but I do pay attention to my site metrics, and it appears that there’s been a considerable uptick in interest for my old Tawawa on Monday posts. Thus, for the readers’ sake, I’ve opted to write about this series earlier than scheduled so folks have a chance to hear about what my thoughts on this continuation are.

Let’s Take a Coffee Break: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka, Thanksgiving and Thoughts on Continuations Through Life

“What I love about Thanksgiving is that it’s purely about getting together with friends or family and enjoying food. It’s really for everybody, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from.” –Daniel Humm

It’s a gorgeous autumn afternoon outside right now: the golden foliage clings to a handful of trees, and the sky is of a deep shade of blue. This time of year is characterised by still-warm days, pumpkin pie and previously, the arrival of a new GochiUsa season. In 2015, GochiUsa‘s second season began airing, and just last year, BLOOM began on the Saturday of the Thanksgiving Long Weekend, giving me one more thing to be thankful for. This year, while no new GochiUsa is available, the current season does have a very large number of sequels – Yakunara Mug Cup Mo: Niban Kama, 86 EIGHTY-SIX and Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Great Mankai Chapter are all running. Each series takes its own approach towards continuing with their respective universe’s story: Niban Kama has Himeno learn more about her mother’s love for pottery, 86 EIGHTY-SIX drops viewers into things some time after the first season had ended, with Vladilena now leading a new squadron, and Shinei being found by the Federacy of Giad, and Great Mankai Chapter gives the Hero Club some much-needed downtime as they go around town and have fun, before Mimori unexpectedly gets a request that will see her group pressed back into service against an unknown foe. If one’s memory is a little rusty as to what happened earlier in each of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo and 86 EIGHTY-SIX, these first episodes will probably jolt the viewer’s memories somewhat, reminding one of what had previously happened and then beaconing viewers to continue on with the journey. Story-driven anime like Yūki Yūna is a Hero and 86 EIGHTY-SIX will have little trouble picking things up. However, with slower-paced, slice-of-life anime, it can often feel that a bit more effort is needed to resume where things had left off. However, this is something that GochiUsa has never struggled with; the series expertly picks things up, and despite the oftentimes long duration between seasons, when a continuation does air, it feels as though there had never been a gap between seasons at all.

The reason why GochiUsa is especially apt at this is because while there is an overarching story throughout the series, episodes are largely self-contained, dealing with an experience or journey that is resolved within the course of that episode. Characters also possess very distinct identifying traits, and as such, seeing everyone together again immediately reminds viewers of what the previous season had done, before setting viewers about with the promise of all-new adventures. In GochiUsa, the first season had ended on a cold winter’s day, with Cocoa and Chino falling ill and subsequently looking after one another. The second season begins as spring begins returning, and Cocoa is seized with a desire to take photographs of her friends to send back home, but struggles to photograph a smiling Chino. The second season ended with a ciste hunt during the late spring, during which Maya, Megu and Chino decide to put on a hunt for Cocoa, too. By BLOOM, summer has arrived, and it’d become a little too hot to work at Rabbit House, prompting Cocoa, Chino and Rize to create new uniforms, before selling off some unused items at a local flea market. These events are completely unrelated, but share the commonality of showcasing each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo at their best. Moreover, while the characters do mature of the course of GochiUsa, they remain true to themselves, as well. This unifying element means that regardless of how much time has passed since the last season, starting a new season means viewers immediately feel at home, creating a sense of warmth and comforting familiarity.

Additional Thoughts and Commentary

  • It’s now been six years since GochiUsa‘s second season began airing: I was starting my final year of graduate school back then, and the Star Wars Battlefront beta was going. I’d deliberately taken a half-day off so I could get some screenshots for discussions on Friday: back then, I was making enough progress with my thesis work so that my supervisor had no objections to this whatsoever. I thus spent the morning organising the citations I needed, evaluated the submissions for the iOS class I was TA’ing, and by the afternoon, I delved into the beta.

  • On Saturday morning, GochiUsa‘s second season began airing. Like BLOOM, episodes came out at 0830 MDT (or 0730 MST), so I was able to watch the episode almost immediately after waking up and starting my day. That had been a particularly peaceful morning, with blue skies and brisk autumn air. However, whereas we were just coming out of the summer and entering autumn, GochiUsa‘s second season was exiting winter and headed into the summer.

  • By 2015, I’d more or less found the style that I write with for this blog: on average, an episodic post takes around two hours to write if I’m coming fresh from the episode. I believe that GochiUsa‘s second season would’ve been the first time that I did a full episodic review. Originally, I’d been intending on writing the series after three episodes, and then again once the whole season had concluded. However, as I continued watching, it became clear that there was plenty of material to consider. Because the episodes are largely self-contained, they each cover a distinct topic.

  • All of these topics are then related to the overall message the entire season is going for. Along the way, GochiUsa does a fantastic job of ensuring that the world Cocoa, Chino and the others reside in is a world that is plausible. There is an incredible amount of attention paid to details, whether it be the apparatus that Chino uses to grind coffee beans and brew coffee, the fung-shui charts Cocoa and Chiya’s class use to optimise their layout for the culture festival, or the fact that the animators have even hidden in neat Easter eggs into things like license plates and QR codes.

  • Because of these factors, GochiUsa is an exceptional series that draws in viewers; the world feels real, the learnings are relevant, and the characters are loveable. Even tougher anime critics note that GochiUsa has only improved since it began airing: the first season had been a little lighter on themes because it was focused on introducing the characters and their setting, but once everything was established, GochiUsa could really begin exploring things that were more thoughtful and mature. This aspect really allowed GochiUsa to excel: the gentle slice-of-life atmosphere could soften up difficult topics like being separated from friends as everyone pursues a different future, or dealing with death and honouring those who are no longer among the living.

  • Here, Aoyama Blue Mountain holds up a copy of the magazine that she writes for, and looking more closely, one can spot Rize modelling for the magazine known in-universe as Walker. After GochiUsa finished airing, I purchased a copy of the second season’s artbook, Miracle Blend: it proved to be an incredible resource that includes behind-the-scenes interviews, concept and setting art, and high-resolution artwork. In this artbook, every page from Walker is shown in high resolution, and using image recognition technology, I’ve been able to translate the magazine’s contents.

  • In the end, I also picked up the artbook Memorial Blend for GochiUsa‘s first season, which similarly provided a wealth of information about the series, right down to what phones each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo were using, spots in Colmar that formed inspiration for the town, and my personal favourite, sketches of Rabbit House’s floor plans to ensure that the interior remained consistent throughout all three seasons. I had plans to pick up the artbook for BLOOM, but at the time of writing, I’ve not heard any indicators that such an artbook will be released.

  • Such an artbook would doubtlessly be an asset to have, especially if it also covers off Dear My Sister and Sing For You: Yuru Camp△‘s second artbook was a bit heftier than the first because it also shows the events of Heya Camp△. There is a lot of content inside these artbooks, and I do draw upon them from time to time if revisiting a series. However, I’ve never really had the chance to sit down, sift through everything, translate everything to English and share this with readers.

  • Such an exercise is something that the most die-hard GochiUsa fans might consider, but for me, while I am a pretty devoted fan of this series, I’m also a bit of a generalist in that with the time I have, I would prefer to experience a wider variety of stuff. There are some folks who end up specialising in one series and can offer some solid insights or tidbits of trivia I miss, but for me, the tradeoff about becoming specialised is that I might end up missing out on other stuff. I’m similar in this regard with respect to games; rather than become insanely good at any one game (e.g. Halo), I’m happier trying out a variety of games and becoming just good enough in each to hold my own.

  • Once GochiUsa‘s second season picked up, I found myself returning weekly, every Saturday afternoon, to write about the series. In this way, my autumn academic term disappeared in the blink of an eye, and every week, I looked forwards to seeing what each episode would bring to the table. Here, in one of Chino’s flashbacks, Saki can plainly be seen: even as early as the second season, it was hinted that GochiUsa was headed towards a more introspective direction by implying that Cocoa’s actions reminded Chino of her late mother.

  • BLOOM began airing a full five years after GochiUsa‘s second season, but the in-betweens were punctuated by Dear My Sister (2018) and Sing For You (2019), so the wait didn’t feel too terribly long. At this point last year, BLOOM was kicking off, and unlike the second season, I knew from the start that I was going to do episodic reviews for it, making the first time that I did a pair of episodic reviews simultaneously in a season.

  • GochiUsa has changed studios three times during its run, but thanks to consistent character designers and voice actresses, one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference for the most part, and in fact, the only noticeable changes is that the artwork and animation have improved with time. The wood-framed town does not change much in terms of aesthetics, but subtle things like lighting and water effects make the world come alive.

  • A quick glance at the official GochiUsa website finds that they’re celebrating ten years of success: the comics originally began serialisation in Manga Time Kirara back in March 2011, and there have been a bunch of events commemorating this milestone. With this going on, one wonders if there will be announcement of any continuations: it has been, after all, a year since BLOOM finished airing, and at the time of writing, there are a total of nine manga volumes. The series’ positive reception (and corresponding sales figures) means that a continuation is going to be a matter of when, rather than if.

  • Like season two’s first episode, BLOOM opens at Rabbit House on a hot summer’s day, and eases viewers back into the swing of things. Five years had passed, and in that time, I’ve transitioned fully over into industry from academia (during season two, I was about ten months from finishing graduate school): looking back, it’s been quite a bumpy journey, what with the turbulent nature of start-ups. However, the experience imparted here was invaluable, and allowed me a chance to really learn all of the technical and problem-solving skills needed to be effective in my role.

  • Watching the everyone go shopping for materials to create summer uniforms typified the experience that GochiUsa‘s successfully conveyed in its anime adaptation; compared to the manga, where there is a greater emphasis on humour (typical of the 4-koma format), the anime is able to begin exploring topics that are only touched upon in the manga. K-On! was very similar in this regard: while both anime and manga alike were about Azusa coming to cherish her time with Houkago Tea Time despite lamenting how lax Yui is towards music, the anime made this point especially clear (whereas in the manga, this was covered over the space of a few pages).

  • The success GochiUsa‘s animated adaptation experienced is a parallel to K-On!: in both cases, the anime took events occurring over the space of two or three pages and spaced them out over a longer time period, giving viewers time to consider things beyond the punchline. Furthermore, the addition of motion, colour and audio means that a given moment in the anime can evoke emotions that are otherwise more implicit in the manga. For instance, after Cocoa reunites with the others during the Halloween festival, a moment that spans eight panels in the manga was brought to live with dialogue and music that further accentuated what it meant to Chino, now that Cocoa could pull off her magic trick.

  • In this way, I’ve found that GochiUsa is providing viewers with an alternate experience of the series compared to the manga to present a different perspective on things. With this being said, the manga remains the source for the anime, and it is not unreasonable to read ahead in the manga to gain insight as to what might be upcoming. Unfortunately, at least at the time of writing, GochiUsa remains unlicensed over in North America, and without a publisher like Yen Press or Seven Seas, it means that for the time being, I won’t be able to hop on over to my favourite bookstore and pick up a copy of the manga, as I have for something like Harukana Receive or The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan.

  • GochiUsa is definitely a series I would have no qualms picking up the manga for, and given that two compilation volumes have been released, I would hope that, if an English-language version of GochiUsa ever becomes available, they’d be in the omnibus format, as well. With this in mind, it’s almost time to wrap this post up. The morning had been overcast and gusty, but the clouds gave way to sunshine and unexpectedly warm weather, so I took the afternoon to walk around outside while it’s still nice; I ended up walking over to a viewpoint overlooking the west end of town, where the mountains are visible. While the trees are starting to lose their colour now, the park nearby remained radiant; their leaves are still brilliantly yellow. Our Thanksgiving dinner is set for tomorrow evening, and this year, we’re opting to keep things simple on account of how busy it’s been.

  • This is because my house hunting endeavours turned into a process of buying the house, and throughout September, I was busy with getting all my documentation prepared, and all of my forms signed ahead of possession date. Thus, it seemed appropriate to make a smaller, simpler Thanksgiving dinner: this year, there is much to be thankful for. I give thanks for the support I’ve had, especially in these times, and also for the opportunity that I’ve been given to pick myself up and continue moving forwards. I am especially thankful about my family, friends, and also you, the readers; this blog has allowed me to write out my challenges and experiences, and being able to share thoughts with readers has also been a mode of support for me.

  • With this post reminiscing about GochiUsa in the books, I’ll wrap up with a moment of Chino smiling, remark that Cocoa would have an easier time of photographing a smiling Chino by the events of BLOOM than she did in the second season, and wrap things up. The Battlefield 2042 open beta has been live for a day now for me (I’m not in the EA Access group, and I didn’t preorder), and while I’ve had the chance to put in three hours so far, the beta ends later this evening, so I’d like to get as much out of things as I can.

Because of the atmosphere and aesthetics in GochiUsa, whenever a fourth season begins airing, viewers can be reasonably confident that it will be as though they’d never left. GochiUsa has proven to be unexpectedly popular amongst viewers; while prima facie appearing to be little more than a fluffy slice-of-life about appreciating the more down-to-earth and subtle aspects of everyday life, the series captivated viewers with its detailed and unexpectedly immersive world. As the series wore on, GochiUsa began to explore more personal and challenging topics, of accepting death and finding happiness with those around one self: by BLOOM, thoughts of graduation and choosing one’s future with conviction becomes the main theme, and Chino closes the third season by remarking that she’s now curious to see what’s out there, signifying her own desire to grow and become aware of how vast the world really is. When the day the fourth season airs, I imagine that GochiUsa will have no trouble welcoming its fans back to what has been an uncommonly engaging and immersive series. I’ve heard that the manga is still ongoing, and BLOOM ended with volume seven. Because the anime adaptation does things quite differently compared to the manga, the anime actually ended up with a more cohesive and focused story. Since BLOOM ended with the desire to travel, it is possible that we could get a full-fledged movie of the group travelling together over to the city that combines landmarks from Prague, Milan, Paris, Brussels, Helsinki and Stockholm, before returning back to town for the new school year. What lies ahead is exciting beyond words, and it should be no surprise that GochiUsa is a special to me – I picked the anime up before graduate school began, saw the second season as graduate school drew to a close, became a competent iOS developer by the time of BLOOM, and this year, I’m now getting ready to sign off on the mortgage for the new place I’d bought. I’m not sure where in my life I’ll be by the time GochiUsa‘s next work, whether it be a new season or a film, comes out, but I am very confident that I will enjoy whatever lies ahead at least as much as I’ve enjoyed the existing three seasons and two OVAs (if not even more so).

Higurashi SOTSU: Whole-Series Review and Reflection, Remarks on the Curtainfall

“This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” –The Joker, Dark Night

After gaining unearthly powers from Eua, Satoko’s humanity begins eroding as she enters countless loops in a bid to persuade Rika to back down from her dreams: the dæmonic energy eventually expels Satoko’s original spirit and takes over, leading Satoko to commit atrocities beyond description. However, Rika soon works out that Satoko is the one behind her return to suffering, and the two break out in open hostilities. Meanwhile, Hanyū is forced to watch Rika’s suffering, but in spite of what happens, declares that miracles will come to those who make it happen. When Satoko and Rika’s fight causes them to relinquish the Onigari-no-ryūou, an ancient blade forged to kill dæmons, the sword passes over to Hanyū, who uses it to defeat Eua. In the real world, Satoko and Rika continue their fist-fight until they are exhausted, upon which they return to their older selves. Keiichi, Rena and Mion find the pair in the river and drive them back, remarking that friends aren’t constrained by the idea of being together, that a part of friendship is the ability to let go and know that they can still get in touch with and count on the support from the other when needed. In 1987, Rika prepares to attend St. Lucia while Satoko chooses to remain behind in Hinamizawa, and growing weary of the peaceful life in Hinamizawa that Satoko had yearned for, the dæmonic form returns Satoko’s spirit to her body and departs, while Hanyū watches happily in the knowledge that a new peace is reached. This is Higurashi SOTSU, sequel to GOU and a series that has inevitably created among viewers an overwhelmingly negative impression: after all, KAI had ended on a very definitive and solid note, with Rika breaking free of her curse and finding happiness after overcoming all odds. Thus, when GOU finished, expectations were that SOTSU would properly explain what had happened in GOU. While SOTSU does roll back the curtain on why the events of GOU happened, the underlying conflict SOTSU presented was contrary to expectations, the result of Satoko’s inability to face the future and accepting a curse that sapped her of her humanity. In this way, SOTSU indicates that the events in GOU were the consequence of humans being made mere playthings for deities; although having the deities play a larger role (in particular, Hanyū is able to finally have a tangible impact on things, whereas before, she was a passive observer), this undermines what the original Higurashi and KAI had sought to convey.

While SOTSU and GOU lack their predecessor’s impact, these continuations did nonetheless manage to convey the idea that human desires, augmented by otherworldly powers, are a recipe for suffering; Satoko was simply never meant to possess the same power as Rika, and even though Rika is able to live endlessly by virtue of her bloodline, she certainly experiences no joy in reliving the same few weeks endlessly. Regardless of what Satoko’s objectives might’ve been, accepting Eua’s power ended up turning GOU and SOTSU into a crude approximation of the unstoppable force paradox, which asks the outcome of an unmovable object meeting an unstoppable force. From a physics standpoint, the paradox results because an unstoppable force has infinite energy and cannot be dispersed by any means, whereas the unmovable object has infinite inertia and cannot be displaced by any means. Physicists have found an answer for this by suggesting that the result is dependent on one’s frame of reference, while other philosophers have cleverly suggested that the object and the force are one and the same. Assuming this to hold true in SOTSU, the conflicting goals between Rika and Satoko (moving away from Hinamizawa to experience the world, and staying behind to appreciate things forever) is resolved by means of a compromise. Instead of allowing the forces to meet and clash, Satoko and Rika’s problems are addressed by approaching it from a different perspective; namely, friendship isn’t about being together forever, but about being together despite being apart. This is what SOTSU and GOU were likely to have been going for. However, rather like how the solution to the unstoppable force paradox requires an unconventional solution that does not yield a satisfying answer, SOTSU and GOU together do not yield a story that is fully rewarding. This leads to the inevitable question of whether or not SOTSU and GOU are worthwhile for fans. For my answer, I fall back on an old classic from my health science days: “it depends”.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The elevator version of this post is simple: “while I wouldn’t recommend SOTSU or sing praises for it, there’s still a theme and the music was pretty good, so I don’t hate it as much as I would something like Glasslip“. I particularly care about incidental music because it can be used to tell a story where visuals and dialogue fail. In stronger anime, the music is typically a part of the background, accentuating the tenour of a given moment, but if absent, the moment can retain all of its impact. Conversely, when a scene is poorly executed, but the series has a strong soundtrack, the music can actually carry the scene and do what the dialogue and visuals cannot.

  • The original Higurashi and KAI had suggested to me that individuals could take control of their destiny: both the original first and second seasons did a wonderful job of portraying how horror and fear come from a lack of control, and the second season had shown that by taking the initiative to regain that control, one could make miracles happen. However, GOU and SOTSU‘s portrayal of Eua and Hanyū was an example of supernatural beings clashing, and given what these entities were capable of, even the best firearms and training would prove useless against the gods themselves.

  • As such, it did feel as though GOU and SOTSU was saying that, in a duel between the gods themselves, we humans were only capable of being taken along for the ride and otherwise, lack the agency to master our own destinies. This implication didn’t particularly sit well with me, since Higurashi was previously about the exact opposite of this. Eua remarks that Rika and Satoko are destined to continue fighting one another until the end of their days, since neither are resolute enough to kill the other, but simultaneously refuse to back down and compromise.

  • For me, watching Satoko killing Rika in ways that would probably impress the Doom Slayer in a repeated manner eventually became tiresome, and so, when Rika finally comes to realise what’s happened and fights back, I’ll admit that there was a satisfaction in this. Their fight takes them through various timelines, and for the other shortcomings in SOTSU, this was a bit of a visual treat that took me back to iconic locations and moments, including the first season’s confrontation at the top of Hinamizawa School. However, whereas the originals made these an emotionally-charged moment, I didn’t feel the same investment into the fight’s outcome upon returning here.

  • The fight gets kicked upstairs when Rika reveals she’s still got a Shard of Narsil Onigari-no-ryūou, the weapon that could be used to kill dæmons. Her initial stroke looks like it would’ve dealt some damage, but what follows next ends up being something I did not expect: Satoko has more or less the full swords and subsequently engages Rika in a battle that was reminiscent of Setsuna squaring off against Ali Al-Saachez’s Enact Custom during the Middle Eastern intervention in Gundam 00‘s first season. That fight was a pivotal one in Gundam 00, marking the first time anyone had engaged the Exia with such ferocity (Union ace Graham Aker was a bit of reserved when dealing with Setsuna and only really went all-out after piloting a GN Flag into battle).

  • Such a fight did indeed come unexpectedly, although I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call this moment a meme. The reaction I have to SOTSU is rather different than that of the community at large: when I watch something I didn’t find satisfactory, I am content to let it go and at most, remark it wasn’t suited for me. The only exception to this rule is when I’m actively being told that a work is a philosophical masterpiece demanding that I go back to university and take a few courses on Albert Camus’ literary works (e.g. The Myth of Sisyphus).

  • While there are legitimate use-cases where philosophy can be used to discuss anime, it is not adequate to simply say that a given anime is an allegory for something that people wouldn’t ordinarily study as a counterargument for the fact that a given anime failed to deliver a discernible theme. Glasslip‘s messages were obscured, and the messages in The Myth of Sisyphus do nothing to clarify what Kakeru and Touko were about. Conversely, SOTSU and its viewers has not made this particular ask of me: however quickly thrown in the theme was, at least it was present to some capacity.

  • Given the fact that Satoko had essentially sent viewers on a wild goose chase for a year, I was personally hoping that Rika would finish the fight here: a part of breaking curses can mean making difficult decisions, but at the same time, executing Satoko would also go against the themes that the original Higurashi had presented. Originally, no matter how irredeemable and reviled someone was, there existed a set of conditions where even these individuals could be saved. KAI had shown that even Miyo could find happiness, and in GOU, it was shown that Teppei could indeed turn over a new leaf where given the chance. Against all odds, I actually did feel sympathy for Teppei in several of the timelines where he had genuinely tried to make amends with Satoko.

  • In keeping with the older themes, Rika spares Satoko from death and contends herself with beating her up instead. Onigari-no-ryūou is discarded and falls into the river. Hanyū recovers it, and now armed, is able to fight Eua on even terms. Here was another aspect that SOTSU ended up doing differently than its predecessors; Hanyū had previously been little more than a passive observer, resigned to Rika’s fate in the timelines where things failed, but having seen this many iterations, Hanyū begins to take a more active role in shaping Rika’s future.

  • The end result is that Hanyū defeats Eua, stripping her of her powers. Hanyū might’ve been all talk about miracles and taking the initiative to shape one’s future, but given her constant efforts to overcome Eua, the sword levels the playing field. It was satisfying to see Eua get her comeuppance; it felt like all of the events in GOU and SOTSU simply emerged from a bored deity looking for some amusement. Having seen what the consequences were, Eua thus became a grating character to watch. Some folks have speculated that Eua is a powered-down version of Dawn of the Golden Witch‘s Featherine Augustus Aurora, a similar deity with the power to rewrite reality at will, holds a high opinion of herself and whose ultimate foe is boredom.

  • Of course, being immortals, the gods themselves don’t look like they can be killed: Eua somehow just reverts to a child-like form, not unlike Hanyū, and disappears to fulfil her end of the bargain. With interference from the heavens gone, everything that occurs now is left for those in the mortal realm to sort out. While deities and spirits did play a role in the original Higurashi, they were secondary to all that was going on; the first season gripped viewers with its horror-mystery piece, and KAI was right up my alley, being a science-fiction thriller with a government conspiracy piece.

  • The execution seen in the originals, coupled with how decisive and conclusive ending, meant that strictly speaking, Higurashi and KAI are the definitive experience: the story was intriguing, engaging and satisfying. GOU and SOTSU adds nothing to the themes the originals had sought to convey in this regard: I felt that these continuations ended up being an alternate “what if” scenario, if Satoko were to be given the powers Rika possessed and allowed to go to town on Hinamizawa. The end result started out shocking, but this gradually wore thin when it became clear the sorts of atrocities we witnessed were for what more or less amounts to childish whims.

  • Childish whims result in immature antics, which manifests as a fistfight between Satoko and Rika that certainly did not merit the emotional tenour of Kenji Kawai’s music: my ears told me I was watching Donnie Yen vs Mike Tyson, but my eyes saw otherwise. The music in GOU and SOTSU was being the piece that I came to enjoy most; I first came upon Kenji Kawai’s music through 2007’s Gundam 00, and subsequently came to associate his style with Ip Man. Characterised by a heavy use use of strings and choir, Kawai’s style is very distinct: while Kawai’s motifs are iconic, the more emotional pieces Kawai composes all possess a similar style.

  • Hearing the same elements in SOTSU and GOU as those in Ip Man 3 and Ip Man 4 meant that for me, the same feelings of melancholy and struggle Ip Man faced in handling Wing-sing’s cancer, or when Ip Man discovers that he himself has cancer. Thus, while it was quite difficult to empathise with Satoko and Rika’s situation in and of itself, having Kawai’s music present meant I had something familiar to ground myself to. This is why music is such an integral part of anything I watch, whether it be anime or a film: the music can tell stories that the writing alone might not, and here in SOTSU, Kawai’s music carries some of the moments.

  • With Kawai’s music, the same conflict, longing and desire for reconciliation in spite of their differences could be heard. This is unfortunate; since not everyone is going to be looking at the soundtrack and utilising that: a story should stand of its own accord and give viewers precisely what the authors intended. It also goes without saying that Satoko and Rika’s fistfight is several orders of magnitude removed from the most iconic fights in Ip Man, lacking the same emotional intensity and desperation that was conveyed when Ip Man squared off against General Miura, Taylor “The Twister” Miller, Cheung Tin-chi and Barton Geddes.

  • Besides the music, one aspect about GOU and SOTSU that also helped me to find some positives were the backgrounds and scenery artwork: Passione did an excellent job here, bringing Hinamizawa and its surroundings to life. Passione had previously worked in Rail WarsHinako Note and Ishuzoku Reviewers, works with above-average visuals. I am aware that the character designs in GOU and SOTSU are not well-received by everyone (facial expressions appear pinched and constrained compared to their original incarnations, for instance), but they’re serviceable, and Passione does successfully capture Rena’s kyute moments.

  • Towards the end of SOTSU, it appears that all of the timelines have converged back to one point: Rika is bound for St. Lucia as she’d dreamed, and prepares to part ways with the others for the present. Mion, Rena and Keiichi are present to see her off, but Satoko is noticeably absent. However, she does show up fashionably late, and in a manner reminiscent of Homura’s words to Madoka at the end of Rebellion, suggests that while they’re going to be parting ways for now, their destinies would be bound together. To me, this signifies the possibility that there could be a continuation is non-zero: I’d thought Rebellion marked the end of Madoka Magica, but recently, it was revealed that a fourth movie would be released at some point in the future.

  • I’m not sure where Higurashi intends to go from here on out, but SOTSU and GOU had already stretched things by reviving a story that had already been neatly wrapped up. Folks wondering why all of my screenshots are concentrated towards the final few episodes will find the answer to be unremarkable: the whole of SOTSU presents the events of GOU from a different angle to show how Satoko had manipulated things in each timeline, but from a discussions perspective, this didn’t offer me much to consider, so I’ve opted to skip to the end, where there was new content.

  • Overall, Higurashi GOU and SOTSU are experiences that will depend on the viewer. The completionist fans of the series who want to see every corner of Higurashi through to the end will probably find time for GOU and SOTSU, but for most fans, it’s going to be up to the individual. to determine whether or not GOU and SOTSU is worthwhile. For me, I managed to get a message out of it, and the music helped in some places: SOTSU and GOU don’t have the magic that Higurashi and KAI did, and I didn’t get anything new from the experience. However, I’m also not going to be a piece of shit about it and say that I laughed sarcastically at what I saw: it’s okay if works don’t hit home runs a hundred percent of the time.

  • The ending of SOTSU appears to be indicative of a new status quo (Satoko is restored to her old self, and even Teppei seems cool now), but I’m also going to be more cautious, since GOU and SOTSU shows how writers can find ways of resurrecting series that ended on a high note, even when it’s not necessary to continue. With this post in the books, I will note that I’ve probably only scratched the surface for the discussions, and I intend on inviting Dewbond over for a collaborative post such that we might look at SOTSU in a more comprehensive (but still fair) manner. Finally, with SOTSU‘s soundtrack coming on November 26, I am rather looking forwards to hearing how much Ip Man made it into the music for this season.

My enjoyment of a given anime and the subsequent verdict is not dependent on a predetermined rubric composed of a checklist; typically, my experience is based on whether or not I got anything meaningful out of something, and since I tend to be looking for this actively, most of the time, I do end up with some sort of discernible theme. In this area, SOTSU has not failed for me, and at the very minimum, even though the anime goes about doing so in a lengthy and roundabout manner, SOTSU still has a message to leave with viewers. The other aspect of SOTSU (and GOU) I found enjoyable were the pieces of incidental music that Kenji Kawai composed: Kawai has been with Higurashi since the beginning, and the stylistic elements he uses here is consistent with how he had scored the Ip Man soundtrack. While Higurashi and Ip Man have drastically different motifs, Kawai’s use of strings and percussion are virtually identical in their respective series’ most emotional songs. Eua’s inclusion into GOU and SOTSU had made the anime very inconsistent in terms of emotional impact; on their own, Eua’s over-the-top mannerisms and irreverent attitude had diminished what was going on for Satoko and Rika. She laughs at the tragedy, and invites the viewer to do the same even as Hanyū represents the opposite end of the spectrum, desperately trying to stave off another calamity. Viewers are pulled in two directions, but familiar music helped to ground a given moment and remind me that there was a point being made. In this area, having Kawai’s signature style was an asset: listening to the music in each moment clarified what it was intended to do, and this in turn helped me to understand why something was happening. When everything is said and done, SOTSU made a brave stab at bringing an old classic into the present, and covers a side of Higurashi I certainly thought to be impossible; it’s not easy to make a recommendation for SOTSU, especially for fans of the original Higurashi and KAI, but on the flipside, I do not feel the same level of vitriol towards SOTSU as others out there have: the story wasn’t something that impresses, but at the very least, there’s still a discernible theme, and the music is pretty good. On these grounds, Higurashi SOTSU does not dethrone Glasslip as my least favourite anime of all time: Glasslip‘s lack of a theme means that at least, for the time being, it continues to sit in the unenviable position of being the worst anime I’ve watched to completion.