The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions At The ¾ Mark

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle, as well as your own.” –Henry Ford

While veterinarian Takeshita visits Tingaara to check up on a penguin egg is about to hatch, Chiyu becomes preoccupied with her son and declines the overnight shift, prompting Kukuru to take over and reorganise things, even persuading Tetsuji to allow her to take on the night shift as an attendant. However, Chiyu is displeased about this and openly confronts Kukuru. Later, Fūka visits Chiyu and learns about her son, Shizuku; it turns out that after graduating high school, Chiyu married and took a job at a local aquarium, but when her son fell ill, she was unable to work and was laid off. She returned to Okinawa after a divorce and since then, had tried to keep her child a secret so she would be able to keep her job. Knowing this, Kukuru decides to walk a mile in Chiyu’s shoes and looks after Takeshita’s son, learning that looking after children is no walk in the park. Having now come to terms with Chiyu, Kukuru resolves to be more mindful of Chiyu, who in turn takes her son to the aquarium and arrive just in time to watch the new penguin hatch. Kukuru watches Shizuku and reminisces about when her parents took her to Gama Gama. Later, Kukuru and Fūka organise a get together with their coworkers in an effort to know them better. Kūya, Akari and Marina show up in the morning, while Kaoru and Chiyu show up later and receive massages from Kukuru. Kūya also reappears, having taken off to use the bathroom earlier but never returned until Kai and Eiji show up. They end up having a takoyaki party and light some fireworks before heading home. Kukuru and Fūka settle down with some mango puddings and note they had a fantastic time. When Akari’s suggestion to do a cosplay event to drive visitor counts up is approved, she declines Kukuru’s suggestion to lead the project, feeling that compared to someone like Kukuru, her enthusiasm isn’t quite there to make the event a success. While Kukuru sets about coordinating with the other departments on the event, Akari comes to realise what working an aquarium means to Kukuru when on the eve of the event, Kukuru realises she’d forgotten to place the order for the stickers. While Karin suggests using stamps, Kukuru insists that since they promised stickers, this is what they need to deliver. She decides to work overtime to make it happen, and the next day, the event ends up being a success. Akari herself becomes enamoured with Tingaara’s main exhibit, and Kukuru smiles at the realisation that Akari is one more person who’d fallen in love with aquariums. We’re now three quarters of the way through The Aquatope on White Sand, and in typical P.A. Works fashion, the anime has given viewers a chance to learn more about the characters.

After Kukuru had learnt that she shared more in common with Kaoru than she’d initially thought, it was a logical step to have Kukuru begin making amends with Chiyu; in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, Chiyu and Kukuru had gotten off to a rough start, and these hard feelings had persisted into their time as coworkers at Tingaara. However, this is not to show that Kukuru is mean-spirited or difficult in any way: to Chiyu, Kukuru is someone afforded the luxury of working in a job that she loves, without concern for practical elements like finances. To Chiyu, having a job is a mission-critical part of her life, as it allows her to support her son. Kukuru’s comparatively nonchalant outlook on work can seem inappropriate. The Aquatope on White Sand reveals that this is not the case, and the moment Kukuru learns of the truth, she turns around. While there might still be some lingering feelings of dislike between the two, the fact that Kukuru knows about Chiyu’s son and the circumstances she’s in helps her to be more accommodating and sympathetic. Moments like these are essential towards appreciating what P.A. Works is going for, and serve as a reminder that it is unfair, disingenuous to judge others without being fully aware of their situation. Kukuru’s decision to look after veterinarian Takeshita’s child to better understand Chiyu shows the extent to which she cares about those around her; having seen a hitherto unexpected side to Kaoru, Kukuru is able to grasp that those working at an aquarium are unified by their love of marine life, and that everyone should work together to accomplish a shared goal, rather than against one another. The growth seen in Kukuru indicates that she is learning and maturing as a result of her experience, and while she still longs to be an attendant, has become more capable in her marketting role. Besides learning how to do her assignments more effectively, Kukuru has smiled more in her duties, as well, showing how her passion for marine life is retained. This is in contrast with Akari, who is working at Tingaara as a part-timer to make ends meet for her post secondary; she initially sees her role as that of a job, and while still finishing her assignments, never goes the extra mile to make things succeed. However, it becomes clear that passion can be contagious: after Akari speaks with Tsukimi and learns about her love for cooking even when things get tough, and when Kukuru is willing to stay after hours to ensure the materials for the cosplay event succeeds, she comes to understand what having a great love for something means, as well. In this way, The Aquatope on White Sand has spent time in giving the Tingaara staff exposition; with their backgrounds out in the open, the series is prepped to enter its final quarter, ready for a big finish as Tingaara prepares to deal with something unprecedented.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s great to have veterinarian Takeshita back in the swing of things: since the events of The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, her son has grown and is now several months old. Here, the old Gama Gama team meet with Takeshita after having her over to check up on a penguin egg that’s about to hatch. Looking back, it’s been a little surprising to see how quickly time has passed; we’re now three-quarters of the way through The Aquatope on White Sand, and when the series began airing, the sun sets at 22:00. So much has happened in the past eighteen weeks, and besides the fact daylight savings ends tomorrow, my possession date is also coming up very quickly on my end. All of the i’s are dotted, and t’s are crossed, so I’m quite excited to be crossing another milestone in my journey.

  • The fact that Chiyu has a son came completely out of left field for viewers – it turns out that her hours are somewhat inflexible because he needs to pick him up after work and look after him, but because her previous workplace was completely unsympathetic to her situation, Chiyu ended up losing her marriage and her job. Since then, she’d been desperate to find work and ends up keeping her son a secret from the Tingaara staff so that she could keep her work without her situation becoming deemed a liability to Tingaara. I’ve long felt that workplaces are unfriendly towards mothers in general: companies are profit-driven and productivity-driven, so when people require maternity leave or have children to look after, they’re often forced to make that difficult choice.

  • My country has suggested a ten-dollar-a-day daycare plan, but overall, this approach is not sustainable in the long run. A long-term solution would be to accommodate parents in general and provide them with more flexible hours and work arrangements so they can still get enough work done while being able to look after their children, but this is no trivial task, requiring sweeping changes to the workplace in order to yield a healthy work environment. At this point in time, Kukuru is quite unaware of things and in her usual manner, suggests that she’d be able to pick up the slack in Chiyu’s place. Kukuru’s actions here are not spiteful in any way: having been an attendant previously, Kukuru wants the newborn penguin to arrive as smoothly as possible and imagines it’s better to have all hands on deck.

  • The arrangement she makes comes as a shock to Chiyu, resulting in a confrontation: Chiyu is so frustrated that she’s actually crying, and while Kukuru had always regarded Chiyu with hostility, it turns out there’d been a reason why Chiyu had been so unreceptive towards the Gama Gama team: for Chiyu, having a job in her area of expertise is the difference between being able to pay the bills and put food on the table for her son, but for Kukuru, working at an aquarium is a dream job that she’s passionate about, and one where Kukuru seemingly needn’t worry about financial matters.

  • Once the truth gets out, Kukuru is absolutely disheartened to learn that Chiyu had been going through such difficult times as a result of her having a child and feels downtrodden at having acted so tactlessly around her. While Kukuru might be stubborn and has difficulty empathising with others, it is the case that once she’s made aware of things, Kukuru is actually quite understanding and professional, as well. It typifies P.A. Works’ ability to write multi-faceted characters that require patience to get – in reality, one will not always have the luxury of getting to know people better and understand them when a large deadline approaches, but in the realm of fiction, I do make an effort to appreciate why characters are the way they are before passing any judgement.

  • In reality, I aim to strike a balance between getting things done and being accommodating. The same cannot be said for discussions elsewhere; the immaturity surrounding how people are interpreting Chiyu and Kukuru is disappointing and frankly, juvenile, showing no effort to understand why things are what they are. Here, Fūka decides to visit Chiyu and ends up easing the story from her: individuals with empathy will realise there is an acceptable reason Chiyu is as serious and difficult as she is, but at least one individual has tried to argue this isn’t sufficient justification.

  • In the end, after Kukuru agrees to babysit Takeshita’s son, she comes to understand precisely what challenges Chiyu faces. With his mother absent, the baby ends up crying the entire time Kukuru is present and only stops once Takeshita returns, rendering Kukuru exhausted. I’ve heard that infants are particularly sensitive to smell, so when they lose their mother or father’s scent, fear kicks in, leading them to cry and communicate this concern to those in their environment. Kukuru’s attempt to understand Chiyu better leads her to drop the hostility and be more accommodating, although their past history means things still remain a little cool after.

  • After Fūka hears her out, Chiyu decides to be honest with her situation and brings her son, Shizuku, to Tingaara. At Fūka’s suggestion, Shizuku is given a tour of the facilities and has a wonderful time: the director and other staff are more than accepting of things and resolve to do what they can so Chiyu remains a part of their team. While watching Shizuku, Kukuru cannot help but be reminded of her younger self, who had similarly been captivated by the sights of an aquarium.

  • One small qualm that crossed my mind is that Tingaara’s attendants don’t appear to have the requisite Bachelor’s degree in marine biology, zoology or equivalent; Chiyu’s said to have gotten married and started a family shortly after finishing high school, then worked for several years afterwards, so she’s in her early twenties in 2022, and Fūka comes to Tingaara as an attendant straight out of secondary school. While not realistic by any stretch (having the degree implies a satisfactory level of theoretical and practical knowledge of marine life and ecology), P.A. Works could simply be skipping these requirements to accommodate the story, and as such, this is something that I do not count against The Aquatope on White Sand.

  • In the end, the penguin hatchling arrives safely, and Tingaara’s staff are overjoyed. While this event isn’t going to be sufficient for Kukuru and Chiyu to reconcile, putting things into the open helps both Kukuru and viewers understand what’s been going on, acting as a reminder that jumping to conclusions is unproductive and giving the characters one more stepping stone towards being more united – the supernatural visions have all but gone silent in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half, and generally speaking, story elements are not introduced without reason, so I’d hazard a guess that they will be the final aspect to deal with in this series’ climax.

  • The seventeenth episode is a breather from the daily routine, representing a chance to take the pedal off the metal as the characters unwind and take some time to know one another better outside of work. While Fūka and Kukuru provide the day’s activities, Tsukimi provides the food. Contrary to discussions saying otherwise, such episodes are necessary in a series such as The Aquatope on White Sands the same way vacations are necessary. Earlier in August, I had written about how I was itching to go to a ryōkan in the near future, but it looks like my plans have now changed. Being a new homeowner means I will prioritise where my funds go, and travelling inevitably falls to the back of the queue; the mortgage, insurance, utilities, groceries and furniture come first, but after some preliminary calculations, I should still be good for a couple of dinners out here and there, and still have a good amount left over to save and invest.

  • With this being said, I still appreciate the importance of having vacation time: I only took a half-day for a home inspection visit, and still have almost a full three weeks available to me. As such, I intend to take at least a week off towards the end of the year so I can recharge and hit 2022 strong, but leave a few days to carry over so I can tend to things like moving day; my supervisor recommended I do a few Fridays off in December on top of this since I can only carry over five days at most. Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, after everyone settles down and gives Tsukimi some feedback on her cooking, they end up playing cards. Kukuru is thrashed, and because Miku Itō voices her, Kukuru sounds a great deal like Locodol‘s Nanako Usami whenever she’s frustrated or dejected as a result.

  • Fūka and Kukuru had the whole day off, but Akari and Marina do not. However, when they head off for their shifts, Kaori, Chiyu and Shizuku show up to keep the party going. Kūya had appeared earlier and reluctantly stayed after taking a few drinks, but left to hit the bathroom and never returned. Kai and Eiji show up and haul him back to the party, but now that guys are around, Kūya is able to relax.

  • While awaiting the others, Kukuru has arranged for an aromatherapy massage for both Chiyu and Kaoru. While Chiyu critiques Kukuru’s technique, Kukuru herself realises that she’d never been particularly good with giving massages after recalling her grandfather ends up picking up an electric massager. Still, the moment is important in allowing Kukuru and Chiyu a chance to speak with one another outside of work. On the other hand, once Chiyu’s session wraps up, Kaoru is next, and she vehemently objects to being subject to a massage.

  • Shizuku feels quite at home with Fūka, who reads him a story while the others are gearing up for dinner. The Aquatope on White Sand had made Fūka’s story a major part of the premise, but by this point in the series, Fūka’s settled into her new career more readily than even Kukuru. While the old dreams might be gone, Fūka has worked hard to find a new future for herself. At the same time, she’s also supporting Kukuru as well, having found new purpose ever since they’d met. Life has a habit of surprising us, and I’ve found that it’s a matter of rolling with things as they occur and making the most of things.

  • Once the takoyaki grill is hooked up, Eiji proposes a fun way of making dinner more interesting: they’ve got a few things to put into the takoyaki beyond octopus, and there’s a challenge to guess what the takoyaki contains based purely on texture and flavour alone. Eiji and Kūya immediately set about the challenge, indicating that Kūya is very much one for competitions, and since Eiji possesses a graduate degree, he competes because he feels his pride is on the line. In the end, Shizuku breaks the protocol, leading the others to drop the competition and enjoy dinner normally.

  • The use of a tabletop cooker brings back memories of raclette parties I used to attend: the last time I went was probably back in 2019, and since the global health crisis began, I’ve not been back since. I do miss evenings of being able to sit down with old friends and sharing conversation while waiting for various sausages, seafoods, mushrooms, peppers and cheese to grill properly. In fact, three years earlier, I remember heading out to a raclette at this time of year, where I met with friends even as I was going through a particularly rough spot with my first start-up. That evening did much to help me relax and regroup; my fortunes would turn around subsequently, and I accepted an offer to work with another company.

  • After dinner is done, Chiyu makes to go home, but Shizuku is excited and wishes to stay longer. Fūka suggests that after lighting some fireworks, it’ll really be time to head home, and Shizuku accepts; seeing Chiyu spend time with Shizuku allows The Aquatope on White Sand to show her best side. Hanasaku Iroha and Nagi no Asukara had done something very similar previously, where unlikeable characters had reasons for acting in the manner they chose to. Once their stories became known to the protagonist and viewers, audiences begin to empathise with the characters and root for the protagonist as they try to make things better for those around them.

  • Seeing the stoic Eiji so expressive this episode was also pleasant. Eiji typically isn’t fond of people because of how much drama can occur when things don’t line up, and this is something I relate to; whereas human interactions are tricky, computer programs either work or do not, making them far simpler to debug. When it comes to conflict, there isn’t a manual to follow, or a debugger where I can step through execution, line-by-line and print out values to a console. Instead, there is nuance and subtlety that must be observed. With this being said, having other people around is absolutely vital to a healthy mind, and being able to resolve conflicts and manage stress is an indispensable part of life. For Eiji, as he warms up to Kai and Kūya, I imagine that he too will come to respect people as much as he does marine life.

  • With the day’s events at a close, the others head home and prepare for the next workday, while Kukuru and Fūka unwind with a mango pudding that Tsukimi had made just for them, reflecting on how much fun the day had been, and how they got to see a side of their coworkers that were unexpected. This is the joy of team building events; ordinarily, we are accustomed to seeing coworkers, supervisors and subordinates in the workplace, focused on their duties, so to gain a measure of what everyone is like outside of office hours means understanding a little more about them.

  • When Akari’s proposal is accepted, Kukuru feels that Akari should take charge of the project to gain a sense of satisfaction from a job well done, but Akari declines, feeling that as a part-timer, she won’t be able to do quite as good of a job as Kukuru and the others. This leads Kukuru to puff up her cheeks, and marking the first time I’d seen someone do what I’d always wanted to do, Akari pokes Kukuru’s cheeks. It took me a little while to get used to Kukuru; while she’s similar to The World in Colours‘ Kohaku in some ways, it is clear that both Kukuru and Kohaku have notable differences that make them unique.

  • Similarly, Fūka is a ways more active and makes herself heard more readily than Hitomi does. After hours, Kukuru confides in Fūka that she still wants to be an attendant. Kukuru has definitely matured and is now comfortable with her role, enough to want to consistently do a good job of what is asked of her: even if she’s not in her ideal role, Kukuru now understands that there can be new learnings and discoveries. I’ve not shown any screenshots until now, but here, Tingaara is visible in the background. The landscapes and interiors in The Aquatope on White Sand are excellent and really serve to bring things to life.

  • The topic of being in a job one legitimately enjoys, versus being in a job to make ends meet or accrue experience, is the topic of the latest episode; Akari feels like, because she’s a temporary worker, her obligations end at doing a satisfactory job of her assignments: she doesn’t cut corners or slack off, but she doesn’t go the extra mile, either. This stands in contrast with Kukuru, who moves heaven and earth to ensure she accomplishes her goals to a satisfactory manner. The gap is cleverly illustrated when Kukuru and the marketting team speak with the attendants: while Kukuru, Karin and another full-time employee sits at the table to discuss ideas, Akari is off in the corner.

  • On my end, I count myself as incredibly lucky in that I’m working in a field that I am passionate about: I began my university career as a Health Sciences student and ended up in graduate school for computer science. It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but I hold that it isn’t too late, even in post-secondary, to do this. Akari has a little bit of trouble with this and is envious that Kukuru’s already found her calling in life, but even in university, one still has enough versatility to switch disciplines: a few of my old classmates in health sciences ended up in different fields after finishing, from geology to political sciences, and one of my seniors in bioinformatics even became a lawyer. Suddenly, my becoming a mobile developer doesn’t seem quite so unusual: Fūka becomes an aquarium attendant after her old dream of an idol faded away. Generally speaking, people can walk different paths in life, and so long as they find a calling they can perform in, that’s a win.

  • Conversely, other folks can often find their calling quite quickly; Kukuru has long possessed a love for marine life, and Tsukimi is similarly into cooking. Later Akari receives a call from Tsukimi and asks her about her passion: Tsukimi replies that while it looks like she’s got things in hand, there are days where she feels miserable, but knowing that all this effort leads somewhere meaningful makes everything worthwhile: experimenting with different sandwich designs was back-breaking, especially when iterations are rejected, but to see something she make get approved was superbly rewarding. As such, neither Karin nor Akari are particularly surprised by how tasty dinner is, and for Akari, a good meal does wonders in lifting her spirits – today, I ended up having an unexpected lunch of A & W’s grass-fed beef burgers, and the surprise ended up making my day a little more exciting, as well.

  • When Kukuru realises she left an order in her drafts, she suffers another Nanako Usami moment before determining that hell or high water, she will deliver the experience she promised, with Karin staying behind to help her. This isn’t the first time Kukuru has worked overtime; The Aquatope on White Sand has not established what Tingaara’s overtime policy is, but in general, overtime work varies depending on the company. In my province, regulations state that overtime pay is owed to all full-time workers who exceed eight hours a day, to the tune of 1.5 times the worker’s regular hourly rates. In lieu of this, companies may choose to give time off in place of overtime pay.

  • For me, I’m technically not supposed to work overtime without having declared it ahead of time, so when I do go over hours on a given day, I’m permitted to do less hours on another day so that the monthly total is not exceeded. This doesn’t stop me from occasionally thinking about work after hours, or if something is really bugging me, poking around on my own (although I rarely do this, since I tend to do better if I can step back from a problem and regroup, then come back to it). Akari had left for the day, but when her friend cancels their evening plans at the last minute, Akari decides to return and help out, feeling that if she’s got nothing better to do, she can lend a hand to Kukuru and Karin, who welcome the extra pair of hands. Akari might not feel fully connected to her work per se, but she does enjoy working with the people in her department.

  • In the end, with Akari on station, the stickers are completed in time ahead of the big event: Kukuru retrieves some assets they’d already had and print them to sticker paper.  In discussions, I am aware that where The Aquatope on White Sand is concerned, my tone is decidedly positive; this stands in stark contrast with the highly negative discussions elsewhere, which erroneously assert that hiring Kukuru and Fūka amounts to little more than nepotism, and that the series has invalidated the buildup from the first half. Neither hold true: regarding complaints about nepotism, the director picked up staff from Gama Gama because they had an established record of knowing their work, meaning they could get to things without requiring extensive training to catch up and be effective from the get-go, which would be important at a new institution like Tingaara.

  • Similarly, the elements from the first half, P.A. Works still has an entire quarter to explore these elements, which I imagine are an integral part of the themes and logically, would be left to the end. It is evident that discussions elsewhere surrounding The Aquatope on White Sand are making no sincere effort to understand what the anime is doing and, for the lack of a better phrase, complaining for the sake of complaining. These individuals wouldn’t last long in any competent workplace, so I’ll make no further mention of them as this post come to an end. Instead, I will comment on the fact that Chiyu, Fūka and Marina look quite dashing in their outfits, and Shizuku is adorable.

  • As a result of these extra efforts, the event is a big success: on the day of the cosplay event, the teams break off to carry out their intended roles, and things go very smoothly: Kukuru’s efforts means Shizuku has a solid experience, and even Tetsuji participates by donning a pirate costume, although he dares Fūka and Kukuru to criticise his get-up in response to their initial reaction of shock, creating a bit of humour. While Tetsuji continues to address Kukuru as “Plankton”, Kukuru seems less affected by this now and gets her work done. Moreover, her conflicts with Tetsuji appears to have lessened of late, so I do wonder if things might be addressed in as little as one episode before The Aquatope on White Sand enters its endgame.

The reason why I am confident that only a handful of conflicts remain to be resolved, before The Aquatope on White Sand gears up for the storyline that will likely give the anime its main theme, is because P.A. Works has not previously deviated from their modus operandi. While The Aquatope on White Sand has been full of surprises insofar, P.A. Works’ strongest anime have traditionally followed a very similar pattern. Once Ohana figures out life at Kissuisō in Hanasaku Iroha, Sui announces she’s closing it, leaving the staff determined to go out with a bang for one another’s sake. Sakura Quest sees Yoshino putting in everything she’s got in making the Mizuchi Festival a success as her year-long contract comes to an end. Hikari and his friends are determined to rescue Manaka from the wrath of the sea gods with another Ofunehiki festival after coming to terms with their own conflicts and unspoken feelings during Nagi no Asukara. We are now at a point in The Aquatope of White Sand where something similar is about to happen, and while I cannot speculate on any specifics, it is evident that this anime will present one final event that brings all of the characters, even Tetsuji, together as they work together in order to accomplish a goal, one that was chosen to convey the series’ main theme. The lingering question now is whether or not The Aquatope on White Sand will being back the kijimuna and visions spotted at Gama Gama: in this second half, the supernatural has all but taken a backseat as the series focused entirely on Kukuru and Fūka adjust to their new workplace and support one another, as well as those around them. As heartwarming and uplifting this may be, stories don’t typically introduce an element unless it has relevance to the narrative. Consequently, with two critical pieces still having to make an appearance yet, I am curious to see what sorts of challenges and surprises will unfold as The Aquatope on White Sand enters its final quarter. While it is possible these elements could be completely discarded, I would prefer to think that P.A. Works has learnt from the aberration that was Glasslip; The World in Colours has shown P.A. Works can incorporate magic and the supernatural in a seamless fashion into their worlds, so I am hoping that for The Aquatope on White Sand, elements that were briefly touched on in the series’ first half can be interwoven into the second half’s narrative in a complete, coherent fashion to really augment the messages this anime is striving to convey.

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: Review and Reflection At The Halfway Point

“Anyone who’s ever cried because they felt weak and powerless has thought, ‘if only I had the power’. But the moment you acquire the power you dreamt of having, you become the one who causes others to cry. Try not to forget that.” –Athrun Zala

Two years after the Battle of Jachin Due, the PLANTs and Earth Alliance have reached a truce. Cagalli visits the new chairman, Gilbert Durandal to express her concerns about ZAFT’s latest weapons programme, but during their meeting, a group called Phantom Pain commandeers three units. In the chaos, ZAFT pilots Shinn Asuka, Lunamaria Hawke and Rey Za Burrel manages to intervene, but Phantom Pain manages to escape. ZAFT’s latest battleship, the Minerva, is deployed to pursue the Phantom Pain pilots, but upon encountering the Girty Lue, Phantom Pain’s vessel, the battle turns. It is only with Athrun’s help that the Minerva manages to escape. While the Girty Lue has the initiative, an unexpected change in Junius Seven’s trajectory forces the Minerva to intervene, and although they are successful in breaking up the abandoned colony, the remnants impact the Earth’s surface and causes widespread damage, giving the Blue Cosmos justification in pushing the Earth Alliance to declare war against the PLANTs. While the Earth Alliance immediately uses nuclear weapons, ZAFT deploys a new weapon to neutralise the weapons. Meanwhile, the Minerva arrives in Orb Union, and Cagalli struggles to convince the other leaders that they shouldn’t be hasty in joining the Earth Alliance. Athrun briefly meets with Kira before taking off: almost immediately after the Minerva leaves Orb’s waters, they come under attack from the Earth Alliance forces. Shinn manages to fend off the fleet, and Athrun rejoins ZAFT, being assigned to the FAITH Special Forces unit after speaking with Durandal about his wishes to prevent a conflict of the sort Patrick Zala desired. While Kira extracts Cagalli from Orb after an attack on Lacus’ life forces the Archangel to reactivate, the Minerva undergoes repairs at Carpentaria and receives a request to destroy an Earth Alliance positron cannon keeping the area locked down. Despite his reluctance, Shinn accepts Athrun’s mission plan and succeeds in the operation. In the aftermath, FAITH member Heine Westenfluß is assigned to look after Athrun and the others, and Durandal invites Shinn, Athrun, Lunamaria and Rey to dinner, revealing that ZAFT is investigating Blue Cosmos and their manipulation of the Earth Alliance; it is suspected that Blue Cosmos, under the organisation LOGOS, is creating war to drive profits. Since Shinn and the others have some downtime, he heads off to the coast and saves a mysterious girl, Stella Loussier, from drowning. Shortly after, the Minerva is attacked by the joint Earth Alliance and Orb fleets before Kira intervenes in the Freedom. Cagalli attempts to get the Orb forces to stand down, but are unsuccessful, forcing Kira to engage both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT forces. Kira’s actions frustrate both sides and ends with Heine’s death. While Athrun heads off to speak to Kira about his actions, the Minerva make a disturbing discovery; the Earth Alliance has a secret facility where they produce the Extended, enhanced humans made purely for combat. This is about the gist of things at Gundam SEED Destiny‘s halfway point, the sequel to Gundam SEED that continues with the Cosmic Era from a more ZAFT-focused perspective.

At the heart of Gundam SEED Destiny‘s first half is the idea the world’s events are likely to be manipulated and influenced from the shadows. Blue Cosmos and Patrick Zala’s supporters had manipulated their respective sides into open warfare, and here in Gundam SEED Destiny, things are no different: this time around, the enigmatic Lord Djibril and LOGOs is the main foe, allowing extremists clinging to the Zala ideology to drop a colony on Earth for the sake of renewing a new war with the PLANTs and continuing on with Blue Cosmos’ stated goal of destroying the Coordinators. On the other side of the equation is PLANTs’ Gilbert Durandal, who on first glance, appears to have no appetite for war, and even after the Earth Alliance uses nuclear weapons against the PLANTs, attempts to negotiate; he reluctantly agree to defensive operations only once all other options are exhausted. With such a leader at the helms for the PLANTs, it does appear that the Earth Alliance, and their secretive benefactors are indeed the root cause of this latest conflict to strike the Cosmic Era. While Durandal reassures the PLANTs and orders his soldiers to be cautious, the Earth Alliance has no qualms about committing genocide or employing excessive force on suspected PLANT synthesisers. However, even this early on, it is clear that Durandal is not being entirely transparent. He may have a reassuring way with words, so that even Athrun is swayed into returning to ZAFT, but the appearance of a second Lacus (Meer Campbell) and Durandal’s explanation of the necessity of such an image stikes doubt into his objectives. In the case of Durandal, the mystery is what Durandal’s true intentions are. Gundam SEED Destiny suggests that despite the outward differences in appearance, ZAFT and the Earth Alliance are no better than one another once the chips are down and warfare begins. The clear delineation of sides in Gundam SEED Destiny is, in a way, strikingly similar to the geopolitical issues of the real world at the time of writing, and while the different sides may purport themselves to be economically, culturally and morally superior to their adversary, the reality is that both sides remain more alike than unlike, conflict will benefit neither party, and moreover, the sort of political posturing seen in reality now could prove disastrous, allowing even the smallest misunderstanding to ignite into open conflict.

Of note is Durandal’s mention of a Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) during a dinner with Athrun and the others. A MIC arises when a nation’s economy and public policy is tightly coupled to the military and defense industry. Gundam SEED Destiny‘s explanation of an MIC is admittedly an abstraction of the concept: Durandal notes that during wartime, industries involved with arms and equipment production see a boom in business. Weapons are fired, ammunition expended, parts wear out and machines need to be replaced, providing a vast stream of revenue for these companies. By comparison, during peacetime, weapons, ammunition, gear and vehicles sit in their hangars and silos. There is no question as to which of these two are better for business, but the tradeoff is that, in order to drive the most revenue, such companies would necessarily require there to be warfare. Durandal postulates that some individuals might even be willing to start a war to turn a profit. In reality, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against how the United States was headed down such a path and that a nation where the military was too tightly coupled with the economy would endanger liberty and democracy itself. While Eisenhower suggested that diplomacy and other peaceful methods were necessary to ensure American prosperity with the rest of the world, his warnings would go unheeded. The problems with this relationship began to materialise during the Vietnam War; historian George F. Kennan suggested that, if the Soviet Union were to collapse, America would need a new adversary in order to maintain their economy. Today, the MIC is a concept that has fallen out of favour, but one that remains relevant in works like Gundam SEED Destiny; Durandal’s theory behind why some wars never seem to end certainly does have a rational basis, and where money is involved, there are those who would gladly discard any principals and cast aside morality to assure themselves of a future even if it comes at someone else’s expense. This unusual symbiosis is one that benefits both LOGOS and Lord Djibril – Djibril leverages LOGOS in order to fuel his war of genocide, and by helping Djibril, LOGOS gains a tidy profit. The extent of these excesses are most apparent in the Extended facility that the Minerva’s crew finds, and any sympathy viewers might’ve had for the Earth Alliance will have evaporated by this point in time, leaving viewers to wonder how many more atrocities will unfold so long as Djibril lives.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Gundam SEED had been a solid experience, but I never expected that I’d be watching Gundam SEED Destiny, as well – the sequel is one of the most reviled works on this side of the planet, and per discussions with a friend, the series’ inconsistency was a result of troubles during production. However, said friend also remarked that with the Gundam SEED movie upcoming, it would be prudent to catch up with the series, especially now that the means were available to do so.

  • I therefore began watching Gundam SEED Destiny back in August, but ended up getting sidelined while trying to keep up with other things, and ended up delaying my journey until now. Gundam SEED Destiny begins similarly to SEED in that it starts with a special forces team taking possession of ZAFT’s Second Stage mobile suits on the same day Cagalli arrives to discuss disarmament with the PLANT’s leader, Gilbert Durandal. Inevitably, she and Athrun are caught up in things and end up boarding the Minerva in pursuit of the stolen mobile suits.

  • While ZAFT felt more to be the antagonists in SEEDSEED Destiny‘s foes are the Blue Cosmos and LOGOS – their portrayal as a shadowy organisation is both figurative and literal, as their discussions are often held in dimly-lit rooms. It turns out that Blue Cosmos and LOGOS acquiesces to Lord Djibril’s conflict of interest; he leads Blue Cosmos in place of Maruta and simultaneously runs LOGOS, keeping both the Blue Cosmos members happy by promising them a war, and then promising the stakeholders at LOGOS a tidy profit by fuelling said war. However, Djibril is also uncommonly arrogant and prideful, reacting childishly whenever his plans fail.

  • Early in Gundam SEED Destiny, Djibril watches the chaos unfold around the world from the safety of his base: to him, the deaths in the world are of little consequence because they occur behind his monitors. This is reminiscent of how people nowadays act wherever politics are concerned, and by dehumanising one’s opponents, arguments quickly become polarised. One could say that Gundam SEED Destiny, more so than its predecessor, represents what happens when short-sighted extremists are allowed to take charge – tragedy and chaos follows.

  • The Second Stage mobile suits are upgrades over the original G Project suits: while lacking the nuclear reactors seen on the Freedom, Justice and Providence, the Second Stage suits utilise a wireless energy transfer system for extended combat, and Variable Phase Shift Armour replaces the original Phase Shift Armour, allowing a mobile suit to dynamically adjust its defenses as required. Here, the Chaos and Abyss can be seen evading a shot from a ZAFT mobile suit: Chaos is intended for high-speed combat and possesses wire-guided weapons, while Abyss is an amphibious suit. All of the Second Stage units are able to transform into MA mode to enhance their mobility.

  • Besides the Gundams, ZAFT also fields the ZAKU (all-caps, to differentiate it from the Universal Century Zakus) – Gundam SEED Destiny‘s ZAKUs are an all-new mobile suit whose base performance exceeds those of the G Project suits, and unlike Universal Century Zakus, have an inner frame around which the armour is placed, rather than a heavily armoured outer shell. The average ZAKU thus has impressive performance all around and can be equipped with a wide range of weapons, making them formidable machines all around.

  • Here, Shinn’s Impulse and another ZAFT suit attempt to load a drill onto Junius Seven after it is found that the colony remains have unexpectedly accelerated towards Earth. The perpetrators are Patrick Zala loyalists, and their presence shakes the otherwise calm Athrun: Athrun’s greatest concern is that he will eventually follow the wrong path and bring others to ruin as his father did, as well as the fact that there are those who still believe extremism is the only way to correct past wrongs. In the end, while the Minerva is able to break up Junius Seven, the pieces still deal massive damage around the world.

  • The Vatican, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Monument National Park among the locations devastated: the entire scene is set to Rie Tanaka’s Fields of Hope, Lacus’ inset song for Gundam SEED Destiny. I’ve long been fond of Tanaka’s performances: Token of Water is the song that opened me to vocal music in general, and Fields of Hope is a similarly melancholy and wistful sounding song. I ended up using footage from Junius Seven’s earthfall and other parts of Gundam SEED Destiny as a part of an English project back in secondary school: because it’s been over a decade, I can’t remember what sort of project it was for, but I do remember that I excelled in English that year, enough to win the English award and surprise the folks who always figured the humanities wasn’t my jam.

  • The reality is that being effective in the humanities depends a similar skill-set one requires to succeed in the sciences: an analytical but open mind, logical thinking and a willingness to be wrong. However, I’ve found that a lot of people do not see things this way; these individuals believe that humanities require an appeal to emotion. This is the main reason why the thinking behind contemporary trends like activism and cancel culture is flawed: it is dependent on accepting a logical fallacy as a valid argument. Here, Talia and Murrue meet for the first time: Talia is unaware that Murrue is the Archangel’s former captain, creating a bit of dramatic irony.

  • The fact that the Earth Alliance strikes first, and with nuclear weapons, during their retaliatory strike on the PLANTs is actually not so unbelievable: in contemporary politics, I do not doubt that there are nations who have at least considered first-use in their efforts to get the upper hand over competition. In reality, there is no Neutron Stampeder to prematurely set off incoming nuclear weapons; ZAFT utilises such a device to render ineffectual the Earth Alliance strike, and this serious attempt at what amounts to genocide riles the PLANTs, enough for them to wish for a retaliatory strike.

  • Durandal, however, plays his new trump card to placate the citizens: he has his own Lacus Clyne double, Meer Campbell, and through her as a mouthpiece, Drandal defuses the situation enough to indicate that he is raising ZAFT’s alert level and preparing for defensive measures, but otherwise, will not authorise offensive operations. At this point in time, Athrun has also confided in Durandal and ultimately decides to accept Durandal’s offer of returning to ZAFT as a pilot, as well as becoming a member of FAITH, a special forces group with license to operate independently. Athrun believes that becoming the Saviour’s pilot will allow him to shape the course of events and stave off open warfare.

  • The phony Lacus, Meer, has fully embraced her duties as an idol and symbol of hope for the PLANTs. However, whereas the real Lacus was introspective and thoughtful, Meer is excitable and bubbly: she sings more energetic versions of Lacus’ iconic songs and wears more revealling outfits. Athrun is somewhat embarrassed by her manner: Meer tends to cling to Athrun, both because the original Lacus had been engaged to him before Patrick Zala called things off, and because Athrun himself exudes a very calm and composed demeanour.

  • Upon returning to the Orb Union, Cagalli has her hands full in trying to convince the cabinet of declining the Earth Alliance’s demands to join them. Since the events of Gundam SEED, Cagalli remains an idealist and is committed to the belief that Orb’s survival is contingent on being resolute in neutrality. However, the other members in the government feel that it is a necessary evil to join with and fight alongside the Earth Alliance owing to the fact that their nation technically owes no favours to the Coordinators. Cagalli’s wishes are ultimately brushed aside, and she’s forced to wed Yuna Roma Seiran.

  • While contemplating his next move, Athrun runs into two old colleagues, Dearka and Yzak. According to the materials, Dearka is reinstated into ZAFT, while Yzak now leads his own vessel and acts as a mentor for inexperienced pilots. While still somewhat impulsive, Yzak has matured. The group head out to visit Nicol’s grave: Nicol’s death had hit particularly hard, and Gundam SEED had done a fantastic job of showing how people on both sides of the conflict were human. This is something that I found to be absent in Gundam 00, where Celestial Being squared off mostly against nameless soldiers in the first season, and an openly evil organisation in the second.

  • After Coordinator special forces infiltrate the castle the Archangel’s crew are staying at, Kira sorties in the Freedom to take them out, stating that while he would prefer not to employ physical force where possible, there are things that must be defended through force. The Kira of Gundam SEED Destiny is more mature and resolute than the Kira of Gundam SEED, but for the first half of Gundam SEED Destiny, Kira’s role is minimal as the story focuses primarily on Athrun and who he’s become after the events at Jachin Due. The Freedom’s return, then, signifies how Kira is returning to play a larger role in the unfolding conflict.

  • The biggest action the reactivated Archangel crew take is kidnapping Cagalli from her wedding ceremony: while it saves Cagalli from an uncertain fate with the manipulative and controlling Yuna, Cagalli herself is unsure if this action would’ve been beneficial. One thing that is notable is how the Orb armed forces are actually reluctant to follow Yuna’s orders to recaptuire Cagalli, and several of the captains even salute the Freedom, placing their faith in Kira to do the right thing. This indicates that outside of Cagalli, Orb’s leadership has also grown corrupt and decadent, preferring band-aid solutions to options that would be more beneficial in the long term.

  • With Athrun’s decision to rejoin ZAFT, Durandal assigns him to the Minerva, which has already made a bit of a name for itself after eluding the Girty Lue and participating in breaking up Junius Seven. Here, Athrun makes to familiarise himself with the Saviour’s controls and finds himself face-to-face with a curious Lunamaria. She quickly became my favourite character of Gundam SEED Destiny: friendly, respectful, competent but also prone to jealousy, having her as a part of Minerva’s crew means that there’s reason to support the Minerva and hope they get out of difficult situations alright.

  • Whereas the old 4:3 aspect ratio of Gundam SEED Destiny meant there was a little screen space for things, 16:9 allows Lunamaria to put the ass back in the HD Remasster as she looks about the Saviour’s controls, giving me one more reason to be fond of her character. Compared to the Justice, the Saviour has superior technology, more efficient weapons and can hypothetically operate indefinitely so long as it was in range of a power transmitted, but lacks the Justice’s nuclear reactor, which enables the latter to definitively run on its own for extended periods of time. Overall, documentation suggests that the Second Stage Gundams surpass the Justice and Freedom in terms of pure combat capabilities and could theoretically overcome the older two suits if the circumstances are right.

  • Gundam SEED had Rau Le Creuset, and Gundam SEED Destiny brings on Neo Roanoke, a mysterious masked man who commands Phantom Pain, a black ops unit answering directly to Blue Cosmos. While Neo has a preference for mobile armours, he also pilots a highly customised Windam. The Windam is one of the Earth Alliance’s mainstay mobile suits, being developed from the Dagger (itself developed from the Strike Gundam): these mobile suits are comparable to the Strike in terms of mobility and firepower, and moreover, are highly flexible because they can equip Strike packs: Neo’s rocking such a pack here for improved atmospheric performance, and his own skill as a pilot means he can fight ZAFT forces to a standstill. Conversely, conventional Windams are shot down left and right: these excellent mass production units are given almost no chance to shine despite their technical strengths to show viewers how capable the Minerva’s crew are.

  • It feels a little unusual to watch a Gundam-type sortie alongside Zakus: of the pilots on board the Minerva, Shinn pilots the Impulse, which was itself a derivate of ZAFT’s ZAKU Splendor, a prototype ZAKU with a nuclear reactor. The Impulse’s main feature is that it can be assembled and disassembled on the fly, allowing it to be highly versatile in combat by switching out its loadout to suit whatever the situation demands. However, this does require that the Minerva be nearby. Save the nuclear reactor-powered Gundams, Cosmic Era mobile suits have always been particularly well-balanced and are employed in a strategic manner during battle. Moreover, their limitations continue forcing pilots to improve themselves, and here, Shinn fights Stella’s Gaia, a mobile suit that can transform into a quadrupedal form resembling the BuCUE.

  • While the PLANTs’ citizens readily accept Meer as Lacus, there are several indicators to allow viewers to swiftly tell the two apart: Meer sports a star hair ornament, while the real Lacus has a more subtle hairclip, and whereas Meer dresses more provocatively, the real Lacus prefers elegant but practical clothing. To emphasise the idea that the two are similar, however, Rie Tanaka voices both Meer and Lacus, although even then, one can hear nuances in how Tanaka delivers the real Lacus’ and Meer’s lines differently.

  • When the Minerva leaves a base on Carpentaria after undergoing repairs following a bout with the Earth Alliance forces, which saw Shinn enter SEED mode for the first time and single-handedly demolish several Earth Alliance ships, they come under attack again, and during the combat, Shinn disobeys orders and attacks the base. This earns him a reprimand from Athrun. Athrun later speaks to Shinn privately and notes that being a pilot comes with responsibilities (hence the page quote): this was something that Gundam SEED had spoken to well, by having Kira and Athrun pilot the more limited GAT-series Gundams before coming to an epiphany and gaining access to the nuclear powered ZGMF-series’ nigh-unlimited power.

  • Athrun’s treatment of Shinn is tough but fair, and ultimately, Athrun is able to convince Shinn to use his prodigious skill on the battlefield without overstepping his duties. During an operation to take out a positron cannon, Shinn accepts the assignment after Athrun reminds him that he would not have been placed on the assignment, if Athrun hadn’t been confident that Shinn would be able to complete the mission. In the aftermath, the townspeople living near this cannon are overjoyed to see the Earth Alliance on the backfoot, although in response to the Earth Alliance’s brutal treatment of the locals, the remaining Earth Alliance soldiers are spared no quarter and summarily executed. Once the area is secure, Meer shows up to put on a performance for the ZAFT soldiers.

  • In recognition of their accomplishments, Athrun, Shinn, Rey and Lunamaria are invited to dinner with Durandal and Talia, where they discuss the possibility of conflict being fought for profits. I was particularly impressed with how Gundam SEED Destiny brought this topic into the open: Gundam Unicorn only touched lightly on the EFSF government’s unusually close relationship to Anaheim Electronics, and similarly, while Gundam 00 presented the PMC Trust and mercenaries as a factor in warfare, the military-industrial complex was never explicitly mentioned. The idea of wars being fought solely to enrich corporate pocketbooks is nothing new, and in retrospect, is one of the reasons why wars continue to persist in the post-Cold War era: for some companies, wars are good for business, and this demands that there be an enemy to fight (in the absence of a foe, these companies would report quarterly losses).

  • In private conversation, I’ve also noted that Gundam SEED Destiny captures real-world geopolitics surprisingly well, with there being analogues of both the Earth Alliance and PLANTs alike. The Earth Alliance is well-established and possesses vast resources, but is influenced by a shadowy group from behind the scenes, while the PLANTs are technologically advanced but led by a single entity, the PLANT Supreme Council. Misunderstandings between the two grow into open hostilities as a result of media rhetoric, and this is used as flimsy justification for increasingly extreme policies on both ends. Gundam SEED Destiny further suggests that whereas the Earth Alliance is openly corrupt, Durandal appears to be hiding something, as well; despite being the more sympathetic of the two sides, viewers should not be so hasty as to trust Durandal at this point in time despite his reassuring words and measured reasoning.

  • While Gundam SEED Destiny is primarily about the causes and consequences of warfare, more so than its predecessor, there are more lighthearted moments, especially where Meer and Lunamaria are concerned. Their antics are often accompanied by the whimsical-sounding piece of incidental music, Kaze no Kodou. On their break from the front lines, the most outrageous moment occurs when Athrun wakes up to find a half-naked Meer sleeping beside him, and things are cranked up after Lunamaria barges in and immediately jumps to conclusions.

  • Lunamaria spends the remainder of the episode in a huff over things: she’s not exactly good at concealing her jealousy, and this is another part of her character that I am fond of: while she’s a soldier and a pilot, she and her younger sister, Meyrin have common interests and worry about the sorts of things appropriate to girls of their age, on top of their usual duties. One thing I found especially noticeable in Gundam SEED Destiny is the fact that Meyrin will always append どうぞ to her ATC instructions to pilots (e.g. 発信どうぞ, hasshin douzo, literally “please launch”). This is something that carries over from Gundam SEED when Miriallia was running the Archangel’s comms, and because the Impulse has a lot of parts, this meant we got to hear Meyrin issue more instructions. I suspect that this is a way to indicate their youthfulness, standing in place of the usual “cleared for launch”.

  • One of the pivotal moments in Gundam SEED Destiny occurs when Shinn meets Stella for the first time, unaware that she’s an Earth Alliance pilot with Phantom Pain. Shinn’s story is a familiar one: he loses his family during ZAFT’s attack on Orb. While the battle is under way, civilians begin evacuating, but crossfire from Earth Alliance pilots kill off his family. Since then, Shinn had desired to fight for a world without conflict, and being a Coordinator himself, ends up joining ZAFT. As a result of his losses, Shinn is very impulsive and arrogant, even challenging superior officers, but his skill as a pilot is also evident, and when the moment calls for it, he is understanding and caring.

  • Being with Stella gives viewers a better idea of what sort of person Shinn is in the absence of conflict, and while Shinn is counted as an unnecessary addition to the Cosmic Era by some viewers, his brash attitude stands in stark contrast with Athrun and Kira, who both once stood in his place and ended up maturing as a result of their experiences. By the events of Gundam SEED Destiny, Athrun has matured considerably, and so, when FAITH sends Heine Westenfluß to take command, Athrun has no qualms deferring to him, and the pair even share a conversation about the nature of warfare that leads Athrun to reconsider what he’s fighting for.

  • This is why in the Saviour, Athrun’s combat is much more restrained than he had been in a ZAKU: his doubts are weighing him down and causing him to be more mindful of his actions. To the external observer, Athrun is pulling his punches. Conversely, Shinn has no qualms about beating the living daylights out of his opponents, and so, when the Minerva is faced with the combined Earth Alliance and Orb fleets, he sorties in the Impulse and sets about attacking Orb’s Astrays and new-fangled Murasames. The latter is a transformable mobile suit with strong all-around performance and a good mixture of both beam and physical weapons. The Murasame remains my best friend’s favourite mass production unit because of its characteristics; these suits have versatility, and the only reason they fall in large numbers is because they’re going against named characters.

  • During this particular fight, the Archangel moves in to intervene, preventing the Minerva from firing its main armament, the Tannhäuser positron cannon, at the Orb fleet. With the distraction Kira provides, Cagalli gets onto the communications channels and orders the Orb forces to stand down, but an inconsolable Yuna orders the Orb forces to attack anyways: he is deluded into thinking that this isn’t the real Cagalli, and this ultimately forces Kira to attack the Earth Alliance, Orb and ZAFT forces alike. While the Freedom is two years old at this point and lacks the features contemporary mobile suits have, its nuclear reactor and corresponding limitless power means it remains a powerful presence on the battlefield.

  • My friend and I have a fondness for drawing analogues between computer hardware and mobile suits in our discussions, and when it comes to computers, high on our list of priorities is designing a machine that gives good performance for value. There are some folks out there who enjoy building systems with the best parts money can buy, but because computer hardware always advances, one’s parts are obsolete before they even are launched. For instance, Intel just released their Alder Lake line of CPUs today, and while they look very promising, the reality is that Intel’s already got their eye on the thirteenth generation line, while AMD is going to be keeping a close eye on things as they develop even better CPUs of their own. As such, it is more prudent to build for a computer that does just a little more than what one needs for the present, and then upgrade parts if needed.

  • This is more cost-effective than trying to future proof a computer, and at the end of the day, things like a ten to fifteen percent improvement in performance does not always justify the thirty percent increase in cost. A well-built computer needn’t break the bank but can still last a very long time. In Gundam SEED Destiny, while the Impulse makes use of newer technology compared to the Freedom, overall, I would count it as an inferior suit purely on the basis that its operational time is limited, whereas the Freedom can operate indefinitely. In spite of this, it is still a superior suit to anything from the original G Weapons programme, taking flexibility and versatility to the next level.

  • Overall, I’d consider Shinn the inferior pilot compared to Kira: Kira’s strengths come from being able to fight with such a level of precision that he can disable enemy suits without much trouble, whereas Shinn typically goes for kills and struggles against foes in machines of equivalent power. While Shinn can only fight the Gaia to a standstill, Kira is able to lop off a limb without much trouble, showing that despite the Second Stage Gundams’ upgrades, the combination of Kira’s own prowess as a pilot and the Freedom’s still-impressive specs allow the Freedom to remain relevant by the events of Gundam SEED Destiny.

  • Heine’s death hit me particularly hard – I took a liking to him because, despite being more senior than Athrun, he has an easygoing personality and contemplates what war is for, as well as whether or not there are “preferred” foes to fight during war. While engaging the Freedom, his GOUF is destroyed by Stella, who had also been trying to attack the Freedom from behind. In the chaos, Heine’s GOUF is bisected, killing him instantly. The pain of his death was amplified by the fact that unlike Nicol or Tolle, few seem affected in the aftermath. This speaks to the callous nature of warfare, and while Heine had his own story to tell, things were cut short as a result of bad luck on his end.

  • After the events involving the Archangel, Athrun is determined to contact Kira and have him explain himself before miscommunication and assumptions lead to another tragedy between the two. To this end, Athrun speaks with Miriallia in an attempt to get in touch with Kira after the Archangel’s intervention, and is surprised that she’s got ways to contact Kira after all this time. It turns out Miriallia is now a freelance journalist, and she was present at the battle between ZAFT, the Earth Alliance and Orb forces, and the Archangel.

  • While Kira is more of an idealist, Athrun is more pragmatic – the two part ways on rocky terms and neither can really reconcile with what the other’s decisions are. Kira and Athrun have clashed previously, with devastating results (Nicol and Tolle both die from crossfire when they get between Kira and Athrun); the two are more mature now, but still find themselves at odds because, despite sharing the same desires, Kira and Athrun do not agree on how the same outcome should be reached. The two part ways, resolute on sorting things out in their own way.

  • For me, the Extended facility was probably the most difficult part about Gundam SEED Destiny to watch, and solidified the fact that the Earth Alliance and LOGOS were meant to be detestable: the extent they were willing to go in order to defeat the Coordinators is appalling, and Shinn rightly asks why the Naturals would stoop to such lows when they considered tampering with the human genome immoral. The site is traumatic to Rey, who collapses after entering, and if memory serves, for several episodes after, the horrors the Minvera’s crew witnesses inside the facility return to them in flashbacks.

  • The revelation that the Extended facility has been infiltrated sends Auel into shock, and Stella sorties to protect him. While they are still unpredictable and dangerous, the Extended are much more stable than the Biological CPUs of Gundam SEED, and considerably more human; this aspect does look like it will continue to create tensions in Gundam SEED Destiny‘s second half, as Shinn has come to regard Stella as a bit of a younger sister figure in his life.

  • One of the other challenges about writing for something like Gundam SEED Destiny is whittling down the screenshot collection into a manageable count for this post. I’ve opted to end with a shot of the Impulse cutting open Stella’s Gaia, surprising Shinn. With this, I am now ready to enter Gundam SEED Destiny‘s second half; I believe that things are slated to become more inconsistent and crazy in the second half, but this time around, since I do have some context as to what’s going on, it will be time to determine for myself as to whether or not the existing reception online to Gundam SEED Destiny holds any merit. With this post in the books, I will aim to finish Gundam SEED Destiny before 2021 draws to a close, and in the meantime, because it is Thursday, I now need to catch up on The Aquatope on White Sand.

Halfway into Gundam SEED Destiny, I am not experiencing the same level of confusion and lack of understanding that I imagined would be the case; Gundam SEED Destiny has a reputation in the West for being unpolished and inconsistent which, in conjunction with recycled animation and an overwhelming number of mobile suits, sets the stage for a series that could prove difficult to follow. However, at this point in time, I have had no trouble in keeping up with things. This was my main concern entering the series; I’d seen glimpses of Gundam SEED Destiny when it had been airing on television some fourteen years earlier, and further to this, had only seen clips of the more iconic moments on YouTube. Beyond this, I had no personal experience with the series beyond the decidedly negative reception surrounding it. Back then, the technology available meant that watching the series in full was only possible if one caught episodes on Friday nights, and during this time, I had Chinese school on Saturdays, so I always needed to sleep right as episodes were starting. The only way to have watched Gundam SEED Destiny would have been to rely on the torrents of that era, but between the fact that I had dial-up internet and the fact that the torrents themselves would’ve likely had malware, downloading them was off the table. Fast forward to the present, and things have changed completely: Bandai’s official Gundam channel, GundamInfo, is host to the whole of Gundam SEED Destiny on YouTube, and broadband internet makes it trivially easy to legally stream the series and watch it at my own pace. Technological advances have allowed me to experience Gundam SEED Destiny for myself, and now that I’m here, I’ve gotten some of the answers to the questions that had arisen when I watched snippets of the show fourteen years earlier. I now know the context behind the Extended, the destruction of Junius Seven and where Shinkai no Kodoku fits into Gundam SEED Destiny. While the series hasn’t aged quite as gracefully as Gundam 00, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s first half has proven satisfactorily engaging: for one, watching this series in a relative vacuum has proven to be a remarkably enjoying experience, and the absence of know-it-alls picking apart every second of the series in internet forums means that I am able to properly watch things at my own pace.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S: Whole Series Review and Reflections

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” –Walter Anderson

Tohru decides to work at a maid café and encounters another dragon, Ilulu. After Tohru fights her, Ilulu decides to remain behind and ends up befriending Kobayashi. Ilulu eventually picks up a job at a local candy store and helps return a doll to its owner, while Kanna and Riko spend more time together, and during the summer, Kanna makes a new friend in New York. Shōta learns that Lucoa enjoys his company, although her openness still bothers him. Elma begins settling to her job at the same company Kobayashi works at, but is horrified when she learns that their hours might interfere with her ability to buy time-limited sweets. Over time, Kobayashi learns that Elma and Tohru had known one another for quite some time, as well as the fact that what Tohru had desired most was to live out life on her own terms. At the summer festival, Tohru spends time with Kobayashi and openly admits that she has romantic feelings for Kobayashi. Lucoa later invites the entire crew to a hanami, and Tohru seizes the chance to try and get married with Kobayashi. This is Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, Kyoto Animation’s triumphant return to the television format after the devastating fire at their main studio back in July 2019. Continuing on with the story that the first season had presented four years earlier, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S capitalises on its established cast to push the story in a new direction, all the while retaining all of the stylistic elements that had made the first season so enjoyable. During its run, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S impresses because it is able to cover a wide range of topics, from what constitutes a hobby, to the appreciation of nuances about interpersonal relationships and the importance of having a place to return to. Although Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S never explicitly defines an Aesop regarding these topics, the conversations that spring up are detailed enough to invite viewers to reflect on these questions for themselves; as varied as these topics might be, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S suggests that, through things like Kobayashi coming to realise how much Tohru’s done for her, to Tohru and Elma coming to terms with how they’d supported one another despite always being at odds owing to their factions, there are many things in one’s everyday life that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Despite the plethora of smaller motifs that crop up in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, the core element within this story is that one benefits most by being true to oneself, irrespective of whatever labels one involuntarily inherits as a result of their birth or on virtue of their station. Tohru might have been born into the Chaos faction, which had sought to annihilate humanity and the gods, but her experiences had led her to wish for a peaceful life, going against her faction’s goals, and pursue life on her own terms. This is what ended up leading her to Kobayashi, and while perhaps a bit bold as a visual metaphor, generally speaking, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S suggests that, in life, people are often pushed in a direction that may not align entirely with their desires. The end result is that one winds up living with regrets that can accumulate over time and fester as feelings of doubt, or even resentment. For Tohru, after seeing the kindness that Kobayashi demonstrates towards her, she begins to accept that humanity as a whole has its merits, and in particularly, has no qualms about following her heart where Kobayashi is concerned. For viewers, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S can be seen as a series encouraging people to do the same, and be truthful to themselves, whether it be one’s life choices or identity. To live life being constrained by labels or assigning labels arbitrarily to others is to deliberately hinder one from being their best. Kobayashi discovered this in her youth; after desiring to wear a maid’s outfit once, she was surprised to learn that no one figured she’d look good in one, and was dissuaded from trying again. However, Tohru indicates that it matters little what others think; if Kobayashi likes wearing maid outfits, then she should do so regardless of what others make of it. Of course, there is a limit, too: Fafnir’s ill-fated attempt at creating a dōjin is hilarious, and here, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S indicates to viewers that while one should be true to oneself, there are occasions where some lines shouldn’t be crossed, either: the key to things is moderation. Although Tohru’s way of living sometimes gets on Kobayashi’s nerves, more often than not, seeing the remarkable ease at which Tohru gets along with other people, and even those of an opposite faction, is comforting to Kobayashi, who slowly opens up and comes to realise that she returns Tohru’s feelings.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was three years ago: back then, I’d taken this anime up for the Terrible Anime Challenge and found that the first season had definitely earned its reception. Here in the second season, things begin with Ilulu’s introduction, and like Tohru, who initially had a tough time adjusting to life with Kobayashi, Ilulu has trouble understanding why Tohru chooses to hang around with Kobayashi. She wonders if Kobayashi’s managed to seduce Tohru and attempts to mess with Kobayashi by changing her biological sex.

  • However, Kobayashi manages to fight off the problems posed by  this new body, and after sitting Ilulu down to chat with her, succeeds in convincing Ilulu to stick around. It turns out that Ilulu had long been curious about humanity but was discouraged by other Dragons. In the present, Ilulu becomes a regular member of the cast, and in her human form, appears as a petite but stacked girl. However, despite being the same age as Tohru, she ends up finding more joy with the younger members of the cast.

  • As a result, Ilulu ends up spending time playing Monopoly with Kanna, Shōta and Riko, learning that despite her appearances, Kanna is diabolical, and Riko’s so infatuated with Kanna that she’s willing to sacrifice herself to let Kanna win. The character dynamics in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S are as solid as ever, and it was great to see everyone bounce off one another. However, while the youth have fun, Kobayashi learns from Tohru and the others that doing something isn’t about what others think, but rather, what one thinks. This is a recurring theme in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, to the point where I’m confident in saying that the series is letting viewers know that one should always be true to themselves, and relationships are no different, even if things are unconventional.

  • Beyond its core messages, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid excels with presenting a variety of topics, such as what makes a hobby fun. Tohru initially struggles with the concept before coming to realise that it’s an activity to be pursued for one’s enjoyment – not everything necessarily needs to have merit to society, and so long as one strikes a balance between their responsibilities and interests, having a hobby is fine. Of course, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid indicates that there is a little something called moderation, and hilariously shows what happens the moment Tohru finds something that amuses her.

  • While Elma had joined the company that Kobayashi and Makoto work at to earn the funds needed to buy the sweets she’s become fond of, she ends up being an integral part of the team, as well: Dragons have the ability to trivially master tasks that take humans years to cultivate, but in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, the Dragons’ prodigious skill always end up being used in a hilarious fashion, and the Dragons themselves are more human than they realise. This combination creates much of the comedy throughout the series: Kyoto Animation’s best works have always struck a balance between more moving moments and humourous moments by timing the latter in a way as to release tensions after the former.

  • The end result is that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is able to cover more impactful topics, but then create catharsis by dropping a punchline once the lesson from the topic is conveyed. In other cases, the Dragon’s outrageous abilities are applied to trivially solve mundane problems. For instance, when Tohru helps one of the women from the neighbourhood watch on her rounds, she ends up frightening the living daylights out of some local thugs, and the thugs later regard her as someone respectful, surprising Kobayashi.

  • The Dragons might possess power surpassing humanity’s, but what really keeps things going is their interest in human constructs. Kobayashi takes everyone to an amusement park, and Ilulu is able to spend a fun-filled day with Kanna and Riko. As with the first season, Riko continues to positively melt in pleasure every time she’s with Kanna, and in return, Kanna does seem quite fond of Riko, as well. The pair end up going on several more adventures throughout Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, and Ilulu herself begins stepping out into the world after Tohru presses her to get a job.

  • The conflict between Elma and Tohru is a longstanding one: neither understood the other when they’d met during medieval times, and while the two have attempted to fight one another to the death on several occasions, their dislike for one another usually manifests in a more human fashion, such as clashing every time they meet. The depth of topics that could be covered regarding Elma and Tohru’s stance on humanity is actually a worthwhile one that could comfortably occupy its own post, speaking to the strength of the writing in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. With this being said, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S is a series that could’ve been written about in an episodic fashion because it touches on such a diverse array of topics. The story that Tohru tells of how she and Elma met, for instance, might be seen as a lesson in theology and humanity’s relationship with religion. Folks who’ve studied this sort of thing in post secondary would find Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid actually has something interesting to say about worship in human civilisation.

  • Similarly, the anime deals with aspects of sociology and pyschology: while touching upon them in the dialogue, the characters’ actions end up saying much about these topics. However, I’m not covering these topics because they weren’t my area of expertise. Instead, while Elma enjoys her sandwich with “indecent enthusiasm”, I can speak to the commonalities between the programming language that Kobayashi’s company utilises: she notices that then language is similar to the spells that Mages in their world uses. While seemingly a minor detail, it suggests that magic in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is Turing Complete (i.e. it can be used to describe a solution for any problem), in turn implying that magic is much deeper than the anime lets on.

  • The more serious or intensive topics in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid are balanced by the fact that fanservice is casually incorporated into the story. Here, Ilulu (unintentionally) embarrasses and flusters Taketo after taking up a job at his grandmother’s candy store by changing out in the open. Watching the characters bounce around in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid stands in stark contrast with these more interesting conversations and creates the sense that while there are serious moments, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid isn’t all serious, either.

  • When the children ask why she’s so stacked, Ilulu indicates that her chest is actually the storage for the organs that generate her fire. The children think nothing more of things, and as it turns out, Ilulu excels at her job, bringing joy to everyone who visits the old candy store. By this point in time, Ilulu’s integrated very well with humanity, and her destructive inclinations are cast aside. Ilulu had always felt a pull towards humanity, and when she’s able to be herself, with people who are rooting for her, she’s at her very best.

  • No individual is an island, and people are shaped by the company they keep: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid indicates that people in good company have the potential to become their best selves, and this is a very encouraging thought. Over time, Taketo comes to understand Ilulu a little better, and even comes to appreciate her helping around the candy shop. Here, Taketo offers to teach Ilulu a trick so she can impress the customers the next time they visit by evening: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has solid artwork and animation befitting of Kyoto Animation, and while their different series have different art styles, one thing that stays consistent in all of their works is the attention paid to detail, as well as the depth of colours in a given scene.

  • One day, Shōta tires of being treated like a plaything and seeks out Lucoa’s weaknesses in the hopes he can hold them as a trump card against her. When Lucoa learns of this, she explains to Shōta that her biggest fear is losing her home, and while she is more than capable of coming and going as she pleases, she stays by Shōta because of his spirit and kindness. The dynamic between Shōta and Lucoa reminds me of what was seen in both Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory and Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō; both of these series purely utilised the humour of the ensuing chaos, but in Miss Kobayashi‘s Dragon Maid, there is a balance between crude laughs and meaningful moments that allows the anime to be more than merely an ecchi comedy.

  • From rivals to best friends, Kanna and Riko are a fan-favourite. Voiced by Maria Naganawa, who’d also voiced Slow Start‘s Kamuri Sengoku and Laffey of Azur Lane, Kanna is an adorable Dragon whose love for practical jokes led to her exile. In human society, Kanna gets along well with those around her, occasionally uses her abilities to gain an upper hand in an unfavourable situation but otherwise finds that despite being a Dragon, she can learn much from the people around her. Befriending Riko facilitates this, and Kanna comes to appreciate the value of friendship.

  • The pair’s journey to the confluence point between the Motoara and Naka Rivers allow Riko and Kanna to share time together. The anime is set in and around Koshigaya in Saitama Prefecture, and Kobayashi works at the heart of Tokyo. Moreover, Fafnir and Makoto submit works for the Comiket event. The gentle, nostalgic presentation of landscapes and cityscapes alike in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid have a Lucky☆Star and K-On!-like feel to them, creating a sense of nostalgia. Compared to the first season, the improvements in visual are subtle, but still noticeable in that the second season has better reflection and lighting effects, which can be seen on the rivers here.

  • In order to create his dōjin, Fafnir enlists Lucoa’s help by using her as a model of sorts for his sketches. Despite his aloof mannerisms and initial dislike for humans, Fafnir lodges with Makoto and continues on his treasure hunt with Japanese pop culture (i.e. manga and games). For his Comiket submission, Fafnir decides to do a dramatisation of the dynamic between Lucoa and Shōta, but on the day of the event, his work fails to sell, while Makoto and Lucoa both enjoy greater success, speaking to the idea that there’s a gap between what one considers to be treasure, and making something worthwhile for others.

  • The setup in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is such that more introspective stories are given more time, and then a funnier segment is shown right after. In this way, viewers are assured that after the anime says something meaningful, the moment is gently diffused using humour to remind folks that life is a balance of taking things seriously and finding things to smile about. Here, Shōta reacts to finding Lucoa’s submission to Comiket. I do not doubt that viewers would be curious to see this for themselves, but for Shōta, seeing Lucoa in less-than-flattering poses and outfits proves a little too much for him.

  • If and when I’m asked, I’ve always had a fondness for Lucoa: unlike the other Dragons, she’s strictly neutral but gets along with both the Chaos and Harmony factions alike. Further to this, despite her preference for tight-fitting clothing and provocative manner, Lucoa is wise and kind to those around her. Lucoa had previously given some wisdom to Tohru, hence their friendship, and even herea on Earth, she continues to offer Tohru advice, such as how to best look after Kobayashi when she falls ill. While Lucoa might be a little dicey at times, her heart is in the right place, and with this, Tohru is able to help get Kobayashi back to health.

  • While Kobayashi is out with the common cold, Tohru fears the worst and sets off in search of a panacea capable of neutralising all disease while Kobayashi rests. When she returns to Kobayashi, she’s distinctly woebegone after her journey. While Kobayashi has since recovered, she accepts this anyways, realising the extent that Tohru cares for her. It’s a touching moment, at least until it turns out this panacea also transformed Kobayashi into a cat. Each segment of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is broken up by cards that display five symbols, some of which are pertinent to the segment’s messages, and some of which are random.

  • Some folks have felt that these symbols might conceal a hidden meaning behind everything in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, but for the most part, viewers aren’t concerned about any additional messages that the anime might be trying to convey. Here, after Ilulu grows worried when a doll is abandoned at the candy shop, she sets off in search of the owner. With Kobayashi’s help, the owner is found, and she reveals that she’d long to keep the doll but worried about peer pressure, thinking that abandoning it would be the most painless way. It turns out Ilulu has her own story about having done something similar, only to regret it since, hence her determination to get the doll returned.

  • The biggest moments in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid are all related to being honest with oneself, and what one truly wants, rather than giving in to peer pressure. Whether it be something like wearing the clothes one wishes to, holding onto things of great importance to oneself, or pursuing the relationships of one’s choosing, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid encourages viewers to follow their hearts. Consequently, I find that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a fantastic vessel for communicating things like yuri, even more effectively than dedicated yuri series: this is a story that presents a world accepting of things that might be unusual or uncommon, and this acceptance is what leads people to find their happiness.

  • This lesson is certainly applicable to reality; different people will have different preferences, and it is not society’s business to judge others for this. I’ve long held that, so long as people are not actively causing harm to others as a result of their choices or imposing their choices onto others, they can do as they wish, and I’ll accept them all the same. Conceptually, this shouldn’t be difficult to do, so it is a little baffling as to why there is so much of a fuss where others are concerned. All of the Twitter and Reddit wars on these topics are therefore impertinent, and not worth paying any mind to. Back in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, on a summer’s day, Kanna, Riko and Shōta decide to ask Elma to take them on a picnic after Tohru suddenly was called in to work.

  • It is notable that by this point in time, Shōta’s become friends with Kanna and Riko, enough to hang out and converse with them. After cooking up fish and whipping up some curry, Elma gets distracted by how refreshing the creek water is and fails to notice that Shōta’s headed off to search for some magical sources, with Kanna and Riko tagging along. Elma ends up tearing half the forest apart, all the while worrying that Tohru will think of her poorly. When she does catch up to the three, she’s relieved they’re fine, and Tohru is none the wiser. Elma’s overreaction to what she thinks Tohru thinks of her is not dissimilar to how Yama no Susume‘s Aoi tends to imagine Hinata mocking her where in reality, Hinata is unlikely to do so.

  • Tensions eventually reach an all time high between Elma and Tohru; the matter of Tohru leaving unexpectedly has been a bit of a sore spot for Elma, and the pair decide to have an old-fashioned no-holds barred throw-down. Fights between Dragons rival the fight on Titan, when Thanos uses the Power Stone to rip the crust off a nearby moon and throw the pieces onto Titan’s surface to overwhelm Tony Stark, but the fight in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S also allows Elma and Tohru to talk things out. The fight is resolved, the pair leave with a better understanding of one another and accept a dinner invite from Kobayashi. Later, the two look like they’re back at it again, only for it to be a test of resistance to see who could last the longest without laughing after being tickled.

  • When Kanna gets into a disagreement with Kobayashi over something unseen, she decides to get some space and flies off into the night, eventually ending up in Manhattan. This story was particularly charming, and in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, a series already brimming with heartwarming and enjoyable moments, Kanna’s New York trip was particularly fun to watch. After arrival, Kanna realises that she’s unfamiliar with English and falls back on her magic to quickly pick things up. The remainder of the segment is rendered in Japanese, and Kanna is able to learn from a hot dog vendor that he doesn’t accept Japanese Yen. The sharp-eyed viewer will notice Tohru chilling in the stands here, beside a couple taking a photo together, attesting to Kyoto Animation’s incredible attention to detail.

  • Kanna eventually runs into a girl similar to her in age and saves her from some kidnappers. The girl introduces herself as Chloe and buys Kanna lunch in thanks, before the pair take a tour of New York together. As it turns out, Chloe had also run away from home after some trouble occurred, and after Kanna heads off, the kidnappers manage to catch up to Chloe. Before anything can happen to her, Kanna arrives in time to fend everyone off, before offering to take Chloe home with the aim of having her talk things out with her parents.

  • In doing so, Kanna realises that she should also return home and properly apologise to Kobayashi. Besides giving viewers a chance to check out New York, this episode of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S also indicates that one of the best way to determine on a course of action can be found in helping others out. By speaking with Chloe and offering one course of action, Kanna comes to understand that there are parallels in her situation and Chloe’s. Kanna ends up flying Chloe home before heading back to Japan, but not before inviting Chloe to come visit whenever she has a chance to do so.

  • It typifies Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid ability to make all of their characters so enjoyable to watch: there is no particular group of characters I favour over the others, and everything in this series is entertaining to watch. One element in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid I’ve completely skated over is the music: the opening and ending songs are fun, and while the incidental music is quite ordinary, there are some moments where it shines, as well. The song that plays while Kanna flies Chloe back home, while speaking of how family are the people who will always be there for one, no matter what happens, is a heartwarming one that reminds me of the songs used in a Studio Ghibli work: it’s the first track on the soundtrack and is titled 希望の歩み (“Steps of Hope”).

  • After Kanna returns home, it’s back to the languid and laid-back summer of Japan. On a particularly hot summer’s day, Kobayashi’s got the day off, and she decides to take it easy on this day. With life as busy as it is, I’ve now begun to really appreciate those days where there are no major tasks to finish (ranging from life-related matters like bills and bank appointments, to blogging) , and I am afforded the time to do exactly nothing. Unlike Kobayashi, I tend to spend this idle time with my nose in a good book: over the past few years, I’ve been slowly working on building up my personal library because the public library’s offerings have been on the decline. In fact, it is now easier to buy back the books I read back when I was a student, and the advantage is that I would no longer need to make a drive to the local library for books.

  • In a heart-melting moment, Kanna accidentally spills her barley tea onto her homework and attempts to dry it using a hair-drier. A subtle touch I found particularly nice was the fact that she’s using her tail as the electrical outlet. Kanna possesses an affinity to electricity, and while she can’t regenerate her magic owing to the lack of mana in the air, electrical power replenishes her stores. It is clear that this electric energy can go both ways, and she generates enough power to run a hair-drier. In the end, Kobayashi spots her and helps her clean up.

  • If memory serves, it’s actually quite rare for Kobayashi and Kanna to spend time together, so seeing the two spending a day together was quite refreshing. Quieter moments like these are actually becoming increasingly uncommon in reality, and a ways back, I read about how the ongoing health crisis had one unexpectedly positive effect on some folks: it forced them away from their more hectic and busy lives. Prior to the lockdowns and whatnot, families were focused on juggling multiple extracurricular activities and schoolwork with athletics and community service. As it turns out, parents hold the belief that being busy is a status symbol: it feels good to be getting things done all the time and having things to tell one’s colleagues and friends.

  • When the health crisis shut down these activities, at least 40 percent of Canadian families reported they were spending more time with family in a positive way, and 37 percent of people found the reduced commutes meant they had more time to pursue things they otherwise didn’t have the time to do so. While things are slowly inching towards what they had been prior to the health crisis, more people are considering adopting a more balanced lifestyle, versus trying to pursue full schedules and social status. In retrospect, I led a moderately busy life prior to the health crisis (workweeks were packed, I went to the gym four days of the week and did martial arts on the side, and had enough time left over to blog), but I still found things manageable.

  • As such, once things do pass, I see myself returning to my old routine without too much concern, although I will likely be blogging less in favour of spending time on other pursuits. Back in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Kobayashi enjoys a massage from Tohru after the latter learning about her stiff back from work. The penultimate episode focuses on Kobayashi wondering if she’s worthy of Tohru’s attention, and one day, after Kobayashi is called in to meet her company’s CEO (Shōta’s father and a mage himself), she also ends up speaking with the Emperor of Demise, who explains that he wanted Tohru to find her own way after a lifetime of conflict. In the end, Tohru opens up to Kobayashi and reveals that, fed up with the conflict between the Chaos and Harmony faction, went to fight the gods on her own, but was impaled and ended up back on Earth.

  • Having found her happiness with Kobayashi, Tohru no longer feels compelled to be someone she’s not: throughout Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, Tohru is much more receptive of humans and makes a more sincere effort to understand them. In the process, she also develops more human-like traits. When Kobayashi teases her by using a counting-out rhyme to pick a kimono for Tohru, Tohru responds by picking the opposite one Kobayashi landed on. The finale is a fitting one for the series, seeing the characters visit a summer festival before partaking in a very special hanami session.

  • On the night of the summer festival, after learning there’s a line for omurice at Tohru’s stall, she panics and laments missing out on the host of other summer festival foods. Elma’s penchant for foods is unmatched, and while she has a serious disposition, her weaknesses with food means that others can buy her out easily by promising to treat her to something. Having grown familiar with Elma’s traits, Tohru promises to save her some omurice, and here, I will remark that today is Halloween. It’s also grown cold, befitting of the weather this time of year; on Friday, we had our first snowfall of the year, and yesterday, I decided to go for a stroll in the snow-covered woods nearby, headed in to get my MacBook Pro recycled and wrapped the day up with a delicious dinner of our usual favourites (sweet and sour pork, fried tofu, seafood and chicken, seafood and Chinese broccoli, and a beef and daikon dish).

  • We’re not expecting anyone for Halloween tonight on account of the neighbourhood being an older one, but I am looking forwards to my customary Halloween KitKat and sitting down to my two favourite Halloween specials, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, later this evening. Back in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, Riko and Kanna head off, as do Ilulu and Taketo, and Shōta and Lucoa, leaving Kobayashi and Tohru alone to take in the summer festival’s sights together. When the fireworks begins, Tohru attempts another kokuhaku with Kobayashi, but Kobayashi laughts things off, shocking Tohru. During the summer festival, each of the pairs speak about matters dear to them: Kanna and Riko wish to spend more time with one another, Taketo and Ilulu comment on how it’s okay to be childish every so often, and Shōta and Lucoa speak on their world’s differences.

  • Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S ends with a beautiful hanami party set in a special place known only to Dragons: the event was hosted on Lucoa’s suggestion, and Tohru’s got a few special events planned out for the day. This represented a superb way to bring the second season to a close by allowing everyone to unwind and bounce off one another away from their day-to-day lives; for Tohru, it’s also a chance to soften Kobayashi up to see if her feelings are returned. By the end of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, Kobayashi has certainly opened up, although it looks like it’ll take more than a peaceful atmosphere and with a few drinks in her to get Kobayashi to be entirely honest about how she feels regarding Tohru.

  • There is no denying that after Tohru arrived in Kobayashi’s life, things have certainly been more colourful and eventful; Kobayashi certainly never expected to have such experiences, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S is yet another example of how chance encounters can completely alter the course of one’s life in unforeseen, rowdy and more often than not, positive ways. This speaks to how things like romance and friendship can suddenly come out of the blue, and it is evident that despite her words indicating otherwise, Kobayashi does return Tohru’s feelings (although at this point, not quite to the point where she’s willing to partake in a wedding).

  • Overall, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S is a solid A (4.0 of 4.0, or 9.0 of 10 for the folks familiar with the 10-point scale): it’s a triumphant return to form for Kyoto Animation, being a strong all-around performance that shows the studio has not only endured, but found a way to carry on in spite of tragedy. While Kyoto Animation’s future remains somewhat uncertain, I do hope that they will continue producing anime with the level of quality and integrity that they do: Kyoto Animation stands apart from other studios for treating staff well, which in turn is reflected in the fact that their works are consistently excellent.

  • The ending to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S is well-chosen, showing that heading into the future, while Kobayashi’s likely to find herself subject to more of Tohru, Kanna, Elma, Lucoa and Fafnir’s misadventures, she’s come to enjoy them as well; while initially exasperated at Tohru’s attempt to marry her, while escaping from the proceedings, she also smiles, indicating that she has accepted and embraced the fun that comes with the craziness of having Dragons around. However, just because this marks the end of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S proper does not mean things are at an end just yet; in the new year, an OVA accompanying the home release will become available, and I rather look forwards to seeing that, too.

Sporting the iconic Kyoto Animation style, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S is simultaneously a continuation to their successful run of 2017’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and a respectful tribute to the 36 lives that were lost in the terror attack back in 2019. The quality of the artwork and animation in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S are of the standards Kyoto Animation is known for: backgrounds are detailed, water and lighting effects look photorealistic, and the animation is smooth, making use of creative camera angles and perspectives to capture everything from the intimate moments Tohru and Kobayashi share, to the scope and scale of destruction whenever dragons clash. In spite of the tragedy, Kyoto Animation’s staff evidently put their hearts and souls into making Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S a successful anime: I noted this in an earlier discussion for Violet Evergarden: The Movie, but it is worth reiterating that actions like these are the best form of revenge. The terrorist responsible for such heinous actions had sought to inflict death unto Kyoto Animation for a perceived slight, with the aim of gaining notoriety, and so, by rising above and beyond this unfortunate incident, their staff have demonstrated commendable resilience. Violet Evergarden: The Movie and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S show that their current staff continue to honour the fallen by doing their best work. The sum of the themes in these two works after the fire implore viewers to keep moving forwards and be true to oneself; together, both works remind people of the importance to continue pushing forwards no matter how difficult it gets. In particular, because Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S was written as a comedy, Kyoto Animation is also indicating to viewers that despite what happens, making the most of the present and seizing the future gives people something to look forward to, and smile about.

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 – she gets on very well with the others and matches Yūna’s vibes quite closely at times.

  • 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 for her, things that cause Kukuru to melt down are just another problem that can be dealt with.

  • 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. However, in spite of this oversight, Tetsuji holds Kukuru accountable even where 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 a variety of 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 contents herself with giving 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.