The Infinite Zenith

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

Portal 2: A Reflection and Recollections of the Perpetual Testing Initiative

“All right, I’ve been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am?! I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons!” –Cave Johnson

Chell finds herself pulled out of stasis by the AI Wheatley, who informs her that the Aperture Science facility has fallen into a critical state and that they need to escape. Leading Chell through old test chambers, Wheatley attempts to work out a plan while Chell locates a portal gun. However, they inadvertently reactivate GLaDOS, who separates the two and sends Chell into a series of test chambers to continue on with where they’d previously left off. When Wheatley figures he’s got a solution, he creates a distraction, allowing Chell to escape into the maintenance passages beyond the test chambers. Chell sabotages the turret production line and disables the neurotoxin generator before heading off to face GLaDOS, successfully inititing a core transfer. Wheatley takes over Aperture Science’s main system and places GLaDOS in a potato battery powered CPU. However, he reneges on his promise to send Chell to the surface, and when GLaDOS reveals Wheatley was designed to inhibit her, he throws the pair into a shaft leading into the bowels of Aperture Science. Making her way through the old Enrichment Spheres, Chell learns that Aperture Science was once a shower curtain manufacturer for the military and received an incredible amount of funding to test their products. Helmed by Cave Johnson, Aperture Science began exploring the realm of science with a reckless abandon, and over time, the company began failing even as Johnson started developing an illness from testing products on himself. His final act was to transfer control of the company to his assistant, Caroline. When Chell reunites with GLaDOS, the two set their differences aside to return to the upper levels and stop Wheatley from destroying the facility. GLaDOS reveals that she has Caroline’s memories and begins opening up to Chell. Upon their return, Chell makes her way through Wheatley’s test chambers to stall for time and manages to elude his crude traps, eventually returning to GLaDOS’ main body. She manages to change out the personality cores and places a portal on the moon, sending Wheatley into the depths of space. Back in control, GLaDOS stabilises the facility and decides to let Chell go, figuring that killing her is too much effort. Wheatley laments his decision to betray Chell and wishes things were different. This is the adventure that Chell goes through in Portal 2, the 2011 sequel to 2007’s acclaimed Portal, a highly innovative and remarkable puzzle game built in the Source Engine with Half-Life 2 assets.

In contrast to its predecessor, Portal 2 is much livelier, and although Chell is exploring an abandoned, derelict Aperture Sciences, Portal 2 never had the same sterile, cold feeling that Portal did. Portal 2 explores a greater range of Aperture’s constructions, and in doing so, also explores a greater range of emotions. Wheatley provides an endless supply of comic relief, driving players forward with an improvisational tone even when he does take over Aperture and develops GLaDOS’ old tendency to want to kill Chell. When she falls into the depths of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson’s old recordings give insight into a once-brilliant mind and his fall from grace. The ruins of the old facility are the only remainders of his legacy, giving the entire area an air of melancholy. GLaDOS is a more multi-dimensional character, carrying out her directive per her programming but also recalling that she was once human and coming to understand why Chell chose to act the way she did. The characterisation creates a much richer experience that ultimately tells a story of regret and longing, as well as coming to peace with what has come to pass, set in the cavernous interior of Aperture Sciences. Besides an enriched story, Portal 2 features all-new mechanics to properly differentiate itself from its predecessor and Half-Life 2. Aerial faith plates propel players to new heights from fixed points, thermal discouragement beams require careful placement to activate exits, hard light bridges to reach distant points, special gels encourage lateral thinking to help players pass otherwise impassible areas, and excursion funnels provide a thrilling way of transporting player and materials across chasms. Like its predecessor, players must use a combination of their knowledge of previous mechanics to devise solutions for clearing different areas, and as Chell edges closer to escaping Aperture Science, she learns more about its storied past. In this way, Portal 2 and Portal share the same relationship that Halo 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved shared; both sequels participate in extensive world-building that enriches the player’s experience of the world, at the expense of the suspense created through the minimalist story-telling of their predecessor. In addition, the sequel’s introduction of new mechanics also changes the strategy players take in completing the game – in the case of Portal 2, the new mechanics cement the notion that the game has evolved into a separate entity from Half-Life 2 with its own distinct elements, but it also creates the caveat that some areas must be cleared a certain way, which restricts players’ freedom to solve puzzles in their own way.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • An indeterminate amount of time has passed since Chell last ventured through Aperture’s test chambers, and in that time, the facility has become dilapidated, overgrown with vegetation and mould. It is through these test chambers that Chell makes her way through, and initially, she’ll find the single-portal gun and advance a short ways before locating the full portal gun. Like its predecessor, Portal 2 gradually introduces players to game elements, although players familiar with Portal will doubtlessly have itched to advance further more quickly.

  • It’s been eight years since I last wrote about Portal 2 – eight years earlier, I had been staring down the MCAT, and at this point during the summer, I had just begun my MCAT course; my physics course had finally ended, and I could turn my full attention towards what would certainly be a challenge. However, in between studying, I was able to unwind by going through a friend’s Steam library: in between study sessions, I was able try a few of his games out, among them Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Portal 2. I blazed my way through the former before beginning the latter.

  • Chell’s gear has changed somewhat since the original Portal: long fall boots take place of her original her knee replacements, and she dispenses with the top of her jumpsuit. I’ve seen a few Chell cosplayers at Otafest in past years: when I first attended, Portal 2 would’ve been two years old. The game’s requirements aren’t steep at all, and even in those days, my old desktop had no trouble running the game smoothly, although there was the minor annoyance that the light on top of the portal gun never lit up owing to a limitation in my old GPU. This particular matter is no longer an issue, and in my current screenshots, the light on the portal gun lights up as expected.

  • Death lasers (formally, “thermal discouragement beams”) replace the high-energy pellets of Portal, and require redirection towards a receptacle in order to activate doors and lifts. Like the high-energy pellets, lasers can kill Chell, but only after prolonged exposure, and they typically must be redirected using a combination of portals and redirection cubes. Portal 2 also introduces hard light bridges, which function similarly to those of Halo. The new mechanics of Portal 2 are fun additions to the game, adding further nuance to various puzzles. Not everyone shared this sentiment, and many regarded Portal‘s simplicity as being more conducive towards creative solutions for solving a particular test chamber, whereas the new mechanics made it clearer how one could solve the test chamber and restrict novel solutions.

  • The lift taking players to the next level have changed in appearance: originally, they were solid, and Portal loaded different segments similarly to Half-Life 2, but by Portal 2, they look sleeker, and the game loads new levels quite separately. The lifts are surrounded by screens that give a visual representation of how a new mechanic works, and one of my favourite animations was the one depicting the turrets in action, showing the automatic chambering and firing of rounds. In Portal, turrets could be disabled by knocking them over, and while this is still viable in Portal 2, there is a rather more entertaining way of dealing with turrets.

  • Using a redirection cube allows one to focus a laser on a turret, which heats up its inner structure and eventually causes it to explode: back in Portal, the high-energy pellets could only knock turrets over, which, while functionally equivalent, was nowhere nearly as satisfying. Because Chell is completing these test chambers to occupy GLaDOS while Wheatley works out an escape plan, there’s the sense that something big is in the making.

  • The new test chambers of Portal 2 have a different aesthetic than the test chambers of Portal, being composed of sliding panels rather than the metal cubes. The amount of portal-conducting surfaces are also reduced in many places. While this initially felt restricting, it’s also a bit of a clever way to subtly hint at where portals should be placed. Here, I grab ahold of a weighted cube and make my way across a hard-light bridge: it suddenly strikes me that, since the Perpetual Testing Initiative days, I’ve not actually gone back through Portal 2 until now.

  • Test Chamber 20 is the only test chamber that’s completed and ready to roll: it most resembles the test chambers of Portal and every surface is capable of conducting portals. While seemingly simple, it involves redirecting the lasers into the right receptacles using a combination of redirection cubes and portals. I’ve heard that it’s possible to finish this test chamber without placing any portals, but this requires precise use of the redirection cubes. Once this test chamber is cleared, Wheatley returns and prompts Chell to go into the maintenance access surrounding the test chamber.

  • Portal‘s maintenance areas had a more Half-Life feel to them, and Portal 2 modifies them to have a different aesthetic. I can’t help but wonder if the design was inspired by areas of Facebook headquarters. Once Chell’s escaped, Wheatley will have her help in sabotaging the turret manufacturing line and disabling the neurotoxin supply before taking her to face GLaDOS. Chell manages to perform the core transfer, placing Wheatley in charge of Aperture Sciences, but the additional processing power drives him insane, and he reneges on his promise to Chell. When GLaDOS insults Wheatley, he loses his cool and smashes the lift Chell is in, sending her and GLaDOS tumbling into the depths of Aperture Sciences.

  • After falling into the depths of Aperture Science, some four-and-a-half kilometres beneath the surface, Chell is briefly knocked out and comes to just as a bird carries GLaDOS away. This is the loneliest it gets in Portal 2, and Chell can only count on her wits to figure out how to return to the surface: there is no Wheatley to lighten the moment up, and no GLaDOS to make snide remarks. The sense of scale at Aperture Science becomes apparent here, giving an idea of just how extensive the facilities are. When I first came here in Portal 2 some eight years ago, I was thoroughly impressed with how the older facility was presented, and it was here that the melancholy in the game became visibly felt.

  • Wandering through the unused sections of Aperture Science, I would come upon the vault door that leads into the next section. Portal 2‘s designers stated they wanted to play with some visual humour, in which they would use an immensely large vault door to conceal an ordinary door. At this point during my first play-through, I was wrapping up a physics course and making more headway into the MCAT preparation course. The timing of this was excellent: I had been a little worried about a potential scheduling conflict, but with physic concluding, I was free to focus purely on the MCAT.

  • By the time I’d set foot in the catwalks leading into the first of the Enrichment Spheres, Portal 2 had been out for just over a year. One of my friends had already completed the game and began using the music to test to in accompanying his videos of his Otafest experiences. Portal 2‘s soundtrack was carefully composed to fit the atmosphere of different areas of the game. The music of the Enrichment Spheres, in particular, create a light-hearted sense of science fiction that suggests a combination of whimsy and cleverness that is needed to complete this section of the game.

  • I’m guessing, then, that for my friend, Otafest represents a similar challenge for visitors in that it requires an open mind and awareness of one’s surroundings to ensure one doesn’t miss anything. This turned out to be true: when I attended Otafest a year later, I planned to attend for one day and played things by ear. While it was a fun experience, I would subsequently learn that I’d missed a bunch of events and a chance to collect special pins. For future conventions, I planned ahead and would go on to have a more comprehensive experience. Here, I pass through one of the older offices, and a trophy case of Aperture’s best achievements of the day are visible.

  • Besides Otafest vlogs, my friend had also made extensive cross-overs of Portal and Team Fortress 2 with The Melancholy of Suzumiya HaruhiLucky☆Star and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand half of the intended themes in crossovers, and upon asking my best friend to take a look, and they were similarly uncertain as to what was going on. If I had to guess, they probably represent how he may felt about certain character interactions and themes in a show, brought into a context he was familiar with. Portal 2 captures the feeling of loneliness and the hubris of ambition in this section, so for me, these sections of the game were the most memorable.

  • Chell eventually makes her way into the control rooms that activate the different mobility gels: these modify the properties of a surface, allowing for movement in areas that would otherwise be impassible. While it’s a lonely journey through the bowels of Aperture Science, Chell is accompanied by Cave Johnson’s hilarious, but also increasingly erratic dialogue, which gives a rather detailed history of Aperture Science, which began as a highly successful company that Johnson ran into the ground with uncertain, experimental projects. While a man of science, Johnson evidently had a stubborn pride about him, as well.

  • After reaching a series of abandoned offices, Chell will find the potato that GLaDOS is stuck to; a bird had carried her away earlier, and GLaDOS becomes deathly afraid of birds for a period after she reunites with Chell. Having GLaDOS attached to Chell’s portal gun, Portal 2 suddenly feels a lot less lonely, and the two work out an alliance with the aim of getting back to the main facility so that GLaDOS can stop Wheatley from destroying everything in his incompetence.

  • Once GLaDOS is back, she’ll occasionally react to Cave Johnson’s recordings: it turns out that GLaDOS was built from Caroline, Johnson’s pretty-as-a-postcard assistant with a bright personality who was also evidently competent. Upon hearing one of Johnson’s recordings, GLaDOS responds with a heartfelt and genuine “Goodbye, Sir“, hinting at her origins. It turns out that Johnson had intended to have his mind transferred, but in the event that he died before the process could be carried out, Caroline would take his place. These exchanges match the melancholy, wistful feeling one gets when traversing these test chambers. The inquisitive player can locate a picture of Caroline and unlock an achievement for doing so in this test chamber.

  • I still have vivid memories of being stuck in this enrichment sphere after arriving for the first time: I had started playing Portal 2 as a bit of a study break, having hit a wall of sorts in revising the new MCAT materials, but wound up without a means of completing this test chamber. I ended up putting the breaks on Portal 2, returned to hit the books and ended up understanding the concept I was looking at. The early summer of 2012 was characterised by me being entirely focused on the physics and MCAT courses; most days entailed me going to campus to take the courses and then returning home in the afternoon to study.

  • By June, my physics course had nearly wrapped up, and all that was left was the MCAT course, which ran until the end of July. I spent many a beautiful day indoors doing review problems with friends who were also facing down the MCAT or had previously done so. I constantly swung between an impatience to take the exam and a gripping panic during this time, but with support from my friends, I weathered on. Most of my days were punctuated by a great deal of gaming, which helped me to unwind and focus in between studying sessions.

  • Finally, August came, and I sat the exam. When I had finished, it was as though a great weight was lifted off my shoulders. With the remaining twenty days of the summer, I spearheaded an effort that some of my colleagues had taken to submit a paper to an undergraduate journal earlier that year: we had become swamped with coursework and the paper was shelved. However, two of the remaining colleagues had expressed an interest in continuing, and since I was not officially doing summer research then, I had unlimited time on my hands.

  • After receiving everyone’s drafts, I ended up writing out the entire paper and then asked that my colleagues review it as they were able. As August drew to an end, and my final undergraduate year started, we had a fully finished draft. My supervisor was happy to review it, and we ended up submitting it to the journal. It was accepted some time later, and I was invited to participate in the undergraduate research symposium with my older project from a summer earlier. Seeing the extensibility of this project led me to build my undergraduate research project off it, and for my troubles, I ended up doing very well.

  • As I return further up the facility, I recall that because I had been in the midst of MCAT season and had wanted to finish Portal 2 as quickly as possible. I therefore skipped over the sections of Portal 2 where Chell and GLaDOS return to the more modern Aperture Science facilities, returning to the point after the pair reach the stairwell leading back into a more modern-looking test chamber, shaving about 15-30 minutes off my run. In retrospect, I needn’t have skipped this part, but what’s done is done.

  • According to the screenshots, I finished my first run of Portal 2 precisely eight years earlier and ended up writing about the new mechanics here. At that time, this blog was really more of a side resource where I could go to write shorter articles, supporting the content at my main Webs.com page. However, as the limitations of Webs.com became increasingly apparent, I transitioned all of my writing to this blog. Here, I make use of a portal conducting gel to coat the interior of this shaft, allowing me to freely place portals in critical areas to reach further up.

  • While I had finished Portal 2 and wrote about it eight years ago to this day, that same summer saw Valve introduce the addition of Perpetual Testing Initiative, adding co-op chambers for players to complete. Any owner of Portal 2 was automatically granted a special discount coupon for Portal 2 to gift to friends so that they could claim a copy of the game for 5 USD. My friend, having heard about my enjoyment of the game, sent me his coupon, and a few hours later, I was the proud owner of Portal 2. I started my journey late in August, and finished the campaign a second time just before term started.

  • On my second play-through, I went through every area of the game, including the shafts leading back to the more modern facility and the crawlspace just beneath the modern test chambers. As I passed through familiar test chambers and the bowels of the facility alike, I recalled with vivid clarity the old thrill of studying for the MCAT. Three days later, my MCAT results came back, and it was to my immense relief that I’d done rather well. I wouldn’t actually use the results in later years, having developed a keen interest in software development following my undergraduate thesis, but the lessons and experiences from taking the MCAT persisted: besides being a better tester, I also relaxed considerably regarding challenges.

  • I don’t believe I have any screenshots of Portal 2 left over from those days: all of the screenshots for this post were taken relatively recently. Upon returning back to the modern facilities, it’s evident that Wheatley has made a mess of things, creating illogical tests. Fortunately, there are solutions to Wheatley’s tests, and the introduction of the excursion funnels, which act similarly to the hard light bridges but also offer laminar flow, allowing players and objects to be pushed across an area.

  • Despite displaying fluid-like properties, the excursion funnels are not liquid in nature. Special switches allow their direction to be switched, and they become an invaluable mechanic for crossing over large chasms opening into the deepest reaches of the Aperture Science facility. Wheatley’s tests leave massive gaps in the floor, which expose infrastructure and also give an idea as to how vast Aperture Science really is. Chell can exit the funnel at any time by means of normal movement, but careless movement at the wrong time will lead to death.

  • Besides Chell herself and objects like weighted cubes, the excursion funnels can also be used to transport mobility gels great distances. Solving puzzles with a combination of the mobility gels and excursion funnels turned out quite fun: by this point in time, familiarity with all of the mechanics means that players will have no trouble figuring out what needs to be done. Of note was the part where one needed to use the repulsion gel on turrets to safely deactivate them: once coated, they begin bouncing around erratically and plummet to the depths of the Aperture Science facility.

  • A distant light can be seen as Chell heads towards Wheatley with every intention of stopping him and restoring GLaDOS’ access to control Aperture Science. Traveling through this excursion funnel, with a distant light illuminating the way, players cannot help but feel that they are almost at the light at the end of the tunnel. This screenshot here perfectly captures how it felt to watch the days between myself and the MCAT count down to the doom of my time.

  • The fight with Wheatley is hilarious: while he takes measures to prevent himself from being defeated the same way GLaDOS was defeated, conditions transpire against him, and Chell is given all of the tools needed to stop Wheatley, by corrupting his main core with alternate cores and prompting a core transfer. Once successful, Wheatley is sucked into space, and regrets betraying Chell, while GLaDOS stabilises the facility and allows Chell to walk free, since killing her was too much work. This brings my third play-though of Portal 2 to an end, and having gone through both Lucky☆Star and both Portal games, I turn my attention towards The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya next, which holds the answers to lingering questions I had surrounding Otafest.

Being more extensive than Portal in every way, Portal 2 ultimately is an immensely enjoyable and immersive experience overall. In particular, I was most fond of the game’s midsections, which sees Chell explore the abandoned ruins of the old Aperture Science. The sheer scope and scale of the old Enrichment Spheres are a monument to Aperture Science’s hubris: Portal 2 demonstrated that level design and voice acting alone can tell an incredibly compelling story: Cave Johnson himself never appears, having long died from being poisoned by the moon dust used in creating portal-conducting surfaces, but old heirlooms and artifacts do much in filling in the gaps. Together with the derelict state of the old facilities, one really gains a sense of the hopelessness and desperation Johnson had to bring back the glory days even as Aperture Science fell further into ruin. These missions are reminiscent of exploring haikyo: although the walls of abandoned buildings might not speak, an entire story lies beyond their silence, told in stone and mementos alike. Altogether, Portal 2 places a much greater emphasis on the human elements of the series compared to its predecessor, which, while succeeding on the merits of its simplicity, left many questions unanswered. Portal 2 answers some of these questions and suggests that behind the events of Portal, there was a human element to things, which help players to really understand the dangers of an unchecked desire for progress. Together with areas that capture the scope and scale of Aperture Science, moments that help characters grow, and a generally livelier atmosphere, Portal 2 represents a novel direction for Portal that adds nuance to the series, and while its story leaves players no closer to understanding the role Aperture Science and the Borealis plays in Half-Life 2, does offer closure for those who had lingering questions after completing Portal.

Battlefield V: A Swansong, The James Bond Loadout, Fields of Lavender and A Desert Encampment

“The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.” –George Orwell

The final content patch that Battlefield V received adds one new map, Al Marj Encampment, expands upon the existing Provence for full-on conquest, along with five new primary weapons and two new sidearms, four new gadgets, three new grenades, two new armoured vehicles and new aircraft. This content update stands as one of the biggest updates that Battlefield V received in its lifetime, and while perhaps not as large as any of the DLC packages in earlier Battlefield titles, this update is one of the best boosts Battlefield V has had. Both of the maps in this final update bear the hallmarks of what I’ve come to count as being a good map, featuring a design that allows any class to be successful. Al Marj Encampment is set in Libya and is infantry-only: from narrow canyons of the western end and a desert village at its centre, to the airfield on the east, Al Marj Encampment features narrow streets and tight quarters on the northern end that favours high RPM weapons, but a large road running east-west provides open space that allows snipers to keep an eye on enemy movement. Fast paced, chaotic and unpredictable, Al Marj Encampment plays similarly to Operation Underground in its layout, while possessing the aesthetic of Battlefield 1‘s Zeebrugge and Achi Baba maps. Provence was completely reworked, as well: for all intents and purposes, it is a new map now set under a swift sunset providing the last light for lavender fields and a small riverside town. With both confined streets of town and wide open lavender fields separating two villages in the map’s western end, Provence is a map accommodating vehicular play as well as frenzied infantry combat in town. Being set during a sunset means Provence’s colour palette has also changed considerably: with the golden sunbeams washing the map in the melancholy last light of day, Provence feels like a visceral visual of Battlefield V‘s sunset. The map itself is a triumph that mirrors the end of Battlefield V, with its sunset signifying the end of Battlefield V as players have come to know it.

As the last content update, all players gain immediate access to the new weapons, gadgets and grenades. The assault class receives M1941 Johnson, a semi-automatic rifle that lost out to the M1 Garand. With a slight recoil and lower firing rate, the M1941 is a reliable and accurate weapon for the assault players that offers a hard-hitting weapon. Medics gain the Welgun, a replacement for the Sten gun that fires slowly but has solid hip-fire accuracy and reach further than the other submachine guns. Support players get two new weapons: the Chauchat and Sjögren Inertial shotgun both make a return from Battlefield 1. The Chauchat light machine gun is perhaps the most hard-hitting weapon available in its category (at close range, it can down enemy players with three shots), and this comes at the cost of a high recoil. However, because it can be configured to fire in semi-automatic, the weapon can be made to perform like a semi-automatic rifle, making it a longer-range weapon that can compete with some of the longer-range weapons in the game. Finally, the recon class is given the M3 Infrared semi-automatic rifle and the K31/43. The former is a bulky, cumbersome weapon with an unusual set of optics: the infrared optics occupy the entire right-hand side of the screen and can reduce visibility, but the weapon itself is remarkably effective at shorter to medium ranges. The K31/43 is a similarly entertaining weapon, allowing players to freely switch between the side-mounted optics and iron sights. This helps players to remain stealthy by removing scope glint, and overall, the K31/43 is fairly consistent and effective. Finally, the game also adds the Walther PPK, a German semi-automatic pistol that was popularised by Ian Flemming’s James Bond, and the Welrod, a suppressed pistol that is immensely effective at close range. On top of new vehicles, Battlefield V‘s final update feels like a send-off for what was probable the most troubled Battlefield title in memory, although with the new content and retaining the game’s solid gameplay, this is a bit of a bittersweet conclusion to what could’ve been a journey with a much greater scope and immersion.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This is probably going to be the last Battlefield V post I write in a while, so I figured that I’d make it a bigger post: I will be showcasing forty of my favourite moments from the summer update. Per tradition, I open with my first kill on the map – after spawning at capture point echo in the M4 Sherman, I made my way over to the town and managed to get a kill. For the first few matches after the update was live, I lost consecutive matches. With my current record, however, this did little to affect my stats, and I took the time to get used to the map.

  • The addition of the Walther PPK to Battlefield V allows me to run an authentic James Bond loadout: Ian Fleming chose the PPK as Bond’s sidearm on advice from one of his readers, Geoffrey Boothroyd, made the suggestion that the PPK was well-suited for Bond given that it used the 7.65 mm cartridge, which both was relatively common and hit harder than the .25 ACP Beretta that Bond had previously carried.  A firearms expert, Boothroyd’s letters to Fleming would shape Bond forever: Fleming had greatly appreciated this and ended up naming Bond’s armourer after him. In Battlefield V, the PPK deals less damage than most pistols, but has a very high firing rate and short reload time.

  • The M3 Infrared is probably the most unusual gun in Battlefield V: the real-world incarnation was developed ahead of the invasion of Okinawa, and 105 units were built. Essentially an M2 carbine with modified optics, the M3 is one of the earliest weapon with a functional set of infrared optics, and despite its extremely limited range as a result of the sight’s shortcomings, it found applicability in picking off night patrols. The early technology meant that soldiers worked in groups of two or three in order to be effective, and the concept would be improved, extending the night vision scope’s effective range by the time of the Korean War.

  • The BAS Welgun is a submachine gun chambered for the 9 x 19mm Parabellum round and intended to replace the Sten. Originally designed for the Special Operations Executive, the weapon was incredibly compact and accurate, but other submachine guns were selected, with only a handful ever being made. The precise reason behind why the Welgun never was selected was lost to time, and while it’s a weapon with a cool bit of history, I honestly would’ve preferred to have the Sterling Submachine Gun, which was developed in 1944 as another Sten replacement. The Sterling was exceptionally successful, and after it was formally introduced in 1953, would become a mainstay in the British Army until 1994, after which the L86A1 was introduced. The Sterling would influence the design of the E-11 Blaster that Imperial Stormtroopers would use in Star Wars.

  • Admittedly, I miss the bright blue skies of the original Provence map. The original lighting on the map was that of either a late morning or early afternoon, and it gave the map a Sora no Woto-like feeling, bringing to mind the streets of Seize as Kanata browsed through the open market while on break one day. However, by setting Provence during the evening (evidenced by the fact that the sun is in the west rather than east), the golden light creates a much more varied palette for the map, as well as symbolising the end of Battlefield V.

  • There are a couple of drivable tractors on Provence, and while these are fun to operate (I ended up using them to travel quickly between a few capture points in my time), they are also incredibly fragile: a single rocket will destroy them. Here, I managed to get a kill on a player using a tractor with the Bazooka, and felt a twinge of remorse – players typically drive the tractor for fun, but they also represent a target that could potentially reach a capture point. My remorse quickly evaporated, since my team had been losing that match.

  • The assault class’ M1941 Johnson rifle is a short-recoil operated semi-automatic rifle that was a contender along with the M1 Garand as the main service rifle for the United States Army: its internal capacity was greater than that of the M1 Garand’s, and it could be topped off with 5-round stripper clips or individual rounds, whereas the M1 needed en bloc clips that required the entire clip be ejected before a new one could be replaced. However, the M1941 Johnson rifle’s recoil operated mechanism made it more susceptible to failure, and the weapon’s construction meant that it was shipped with small parts that were easily lost. The weapon was less reliable than the M1 Garand, but its designer, Melvin Johnson, would continue refining the weapon, and the M1941 Johnson’s bolt design would eventually be used in the AR-15.

  • The bridge at capture point charlie is typically the most contested area on Provence during conquest: players on foot will typically swarm around the bottom of the bridge by the river in the hopes of remaining unseen by enemy vehicles, while the top of the bridge usually sees vehicular traffic. The team that can control this point and hold it will gain the advantage during the match, as each team has two capture points that are relatively easy to take ahold of (one in the fields in the south, and one in the town in the north side of the map).

  • During one match, I ended up managing to grab a Sturmtiger that my squad leader had called in. Admittedly, I’ve not operated one since January of last year – for most situations, the 380 mm rocket the Sturmtiger fires is impractical, having a very low muzzle velocity and a 7.5 second reload time that limits its usage to close ranges. Moreover, the driver doesn’t have access to any coaxial weapons for mopping up infantry, being completely dependent on gunners to ensure no one can sneak up on the tank. However, the Sturmtiger is indeed a monster with its armour and primary weapon under some circumstances, such as in the narrow streets of Provence.

  • I thus find myself eating my words that the Sturmtiger is better suited for an anti-infantry role; I managed to go on a small rampage with the 380 mm rockets as the match drew to a close, demolishing several tanks with a single shot. As the match ended, I got a triple kill on another tank that had been attempting to take back capture point bravo. Overall, the Sturmtiger’s greatest strength appears to be its durability, which exceeds that of even the Tiger I: the American T34 Calliope has a much more versatile loadout and can similarly destroy vehicles with its rockets, but otherwise has the same durability as a standard M4.

  • Besides new weapons, the update to Battlefield V also adds a pair of new armoured vehicles for the German and American factions. The Germans get the Sd.Kfz. 234 Puma, a wheeled vehicle fulfilling the role of a light tank. Capable of moving swiftly across the map and capturing points, the Puma is lightly armoured, and in its base configuration, is equipped with a 20 mm autocannon that is better suited for dealing with infantry and light vehicles. I promptly swapped it out for the 50 mm cannon as soon as that became available, allowing me a fighting chance against more heavily armoured vehicles.

  • Of the two maps, I prefer Provence because of its setting: the sunset portrayed in the level is downright beautiful, and DICe did a fantastic job of extending the play area out into the lavender fields outside of town. It is not lost on me that under different circumstances, DICE could’ve likely done the same for the Lofoten Islands map: besides connecting all of the play areas together and adding boats, the Schwimmpanzer II and DD Valentine could’ve been included as amphibious vehicles. As it stands, Lofoten Islands will become a forgotten map that is only accessible through Team Death Match and Squad Conquest game modes, lacking support for the 64-player matches.

  • One loadout I experimented with was the Sniper Elite V2 endgame setup – towards the end of the game, OSS sniper Karl Fairburne acquires the Gewehr 43, which has the fastest firing rate and magazine capacity of any sniper rifle in the campaign. This comes at the expense of a lower muzzle velocity. For most missions, Fairburne is also equipped with the Welrod, which is suited for stealthily removing a lone guard from the equation. The Battlefield V Welrod is an exceptionally powerful pistol at close quarters, being able to take out opponents with a single headshot at ranges of 25 metres or less. This demands patience and a steady aim: missing with the Welrod is a death sentence if one is dealing with a player alerted to one’s presence.

  • Of the new gadgets, the most fun is probably the pistol flamethrower, which offers players with a pocket flamethrower. Most effective against infantry, the weapon is useless against vehicles, and for the most part, I prefer running dynamite to maximise my ability to deal with vehicles; here, I manage to get another triple kill with dynamite after blasting an unlucky jeep that had passed by me while trying to reach the capture point. Triple kills in Halo 2 are a big deal, but by this point in Battlefield V, I’ve seen my share of them more often: Battlefield V, with its superb weapons handling and large player counts, is naturally more conducive towards multi-kills compared to Halo, where 4v4 matches means that it would take a bit of luck in addition to skill to score an overkill (formerly killtacular).

  • While I’ve elected to run with the M1 Bazooka for its range, the proper Karl Fairburne loadout in Battlefield V is the Gewehr 43, Welrod pistol, Panzerfaust and Dynamite, plus an offensive grenade of some sort. If memory serves, my interest in Sniper Elite V2 was because it took players into the streets of Berlin during the latter days of World War Two and the fall of Germany, including the massive flak towers that Hitler had ordered built to defend the capital from Allied strategic bombing. Eight were built in Germany, with three in Berlin: these reinforced concrete structures had walls up to 3.5 metres in thickness and possessed a large number of FlaK 30 20mm cannons, as well as the 128 mm FlaK 40.

  • One of the potential maps set in the fall of Berlin, then, could have been at the Tiergarten Flak Tower, featuring the Soviets attacking against the defending Germans. In a potential breakthrough map, the Soviets would attempt to capture the flak tower. This could have come alongside a map to capture the Reichstag building. Of course, in present circumstances, such an experience is relegated to the realm of the imagination along with D-Day and Stalingrad, unless DICE decides to revisit World War Two properly in the future.

  • While I had been hit with a streak of losses early on whenever I made to play matches on Provence, my fortunes would eventually turn around, and during one particularly thrilling match, I ended up securing enough squad requisition points to call in a V-1 rocket that scored a triple kill. Players have gotten wise to the use of the squad reinforcements, and no longer crowd around on a capture point towards the end of a match – towards the end of a game, players tend to steer clear of capture points since most squad leaders will attempt to drop a V-1 or JB-2 in a bid to clear it out. Consequently, the massive multi-kills I got early in Battlefield V‘s lifecycle are no longer as frequent.

  • The American equivalent of the Puma is the M8 Greyhound, which replaces the LVT as the light vehicle. Compare to the basic Puma, it is slightly more compact, has inferior handling and stability, but slightly better firepower thanks to the 37 mm cannon. This can be further improved by adding armour-piercing shells, although in general, the Greyhound remains best suited for engaging light armour, transports and infantry while swiftly capturing points. Here, the lavender fields are just visible; the flowers are beautiful, and lavender itself is an immensely useful herb. Oil extracted from the plant is used in traditional medicine, being useful in maintaining skin health and stress reduction, amongst other benefits.

  • In the week after the update, finding matches on Al Marj Encampment was quite difficult, since there were only a few servers running the map at a time. I was lucky to find one, and promptly went about testing out the new Sjögren Inertial shotgun, which first made its appearance in Battlefield V. Like the other shotguns of Battlefield V, the Sjögren Inertial is a powerful close quarters weapon that can one-shot infantry but becomes increasingly inconsistent at longer ranges. The shotguns of Battlefield V see very limited utility for most engagements, but are sufficiently powerful so that I continue to see the occasional complaint about their usage as low-skill weapons in the text chat.

  • Al Marj Encampment is set under sunny skies and terrain reminiscent of the deserts surrounding Binoten in Broken Blade, as well as Sora no Woto‘s Seize. With a similar aesthetic as Achi Baba of Battlefield 1, and a layout reminiscent of a scaled down version of Sinai Desert, Al Marj was originally a map designed for the now-cancelled competitive 5 v 5 mode and was reworked to support 64 player game types. Historically, the battle here was fought earlier in World War 2, being a battle between the Australian and Italian armies on February 5, 1941. Battlefield V completely dispensed with historical accuracy, and while this is acceptable for gameplay, World War Two games typically carry the expectation that battles be depicted with some degree of realism. This is why there’s been a desire to see Battlefield return to the modern era, which would allow for more creative freedom.

  • On this match of breakthrough, my team had been doing a phenomenal job of pushing to capturing objectives, and shortly after I spawned in, I scored a kill with the suppressed PPK, James Bond style, before exiting the church. As my team pressed into the final sector, I was shocked when my power had gone out: lightning in the province over had knocked out transmission lines, leading to blackouts in my area. I gave up the win on this match, picked up a book and began reading, before taking a quick kip. The power outage lasted for a shade over an hour, after which power was restored and I continued on with my Battlefield V adventures.

  • One of my goals in Battlefield V will be to get all of my ground vehicles to a point where I’ve unlocked everything for them. The Puma and Greyhound are both strong vehicles for rapidly moving around a map, making them great for seizing the initiative in capturing points: this is my plan for levelling them up quickly, since there is a sizeable reward for neutralising and capturing in conquest. While the vehicles can hold their own against infantry, even a basic M4 or Panzer IV will turn the light vehicles into scrap metal.

  • For the past three weekends, thunderstorms have torn through the area, bringing with it a copious amount of rain and lightning – we’re about a week away from summer and have already seen at least four thunderstorms in the spring alone. The storms seen this year have all been direct hits, whereas most years, storms would pass by north of the city. With their potential for hail damage, thunderstorms are no joke, but they also bring about cool, refreshing air once they pass through the area.

  • One conspiracy theory I’ve seen making the rounds about in Battlefield V is that low level players are given a very minor damage and health buff to ensure that they are not blown away by veteran players who are much more familiar with game mechanics. Player speculate that this is the case, given that lower level players seem to absorb more damage and can score kills faster than what is normally possible compared to players of a higher level. Having seen what lower level players do for myself, I wouldn’t consider this implausible – players under level thirty always give me more trouble than experienced players.

  • Of course, this could just be that I remember being killed by a low level player better than the higher level players because of the innate assumption that a higher level player spent more time in Battlefield V and therefore is more familiar with the mechanics. Here, I play in probably the most one-sided match I’d ever played in Battlefield V: the opposing team was simultaneously disorganised and we ultimately smashed them. I ended up 10-0, since the match ended rather quickly, marking the first time I’d completed a game without dying once.

  • The Chauchat originally made an appearance in Battlefield V‘s Tirailleur campaign mission as the starting weapon for Deme Cisse. Similar to its Battlefield 1 incarnation, the Chauchat is a slow-firing, hard-hitting light machine gun best suited for medium range combat. The recoil on the weapon is very noticeable when firing on automatic, even more so when the 3x optics are equipped, but with the Nylar sights, the weapon jumps around less when fired in automatic.

  • Conversely, switching the Chauchat over to semi-automatic fire turns it into a makeshift marksman rifle for the support class. In this mode, players can reliably hit more distant targets without wasting ammunition. The Chauchat does fit in with recurring trend in the latest update, which brings numerous slow RPM weapons to the table that favour steady aim at moderate ranges. While the Chauchat is a fun LMG to use, the KE-7 and Bren remain my preferred weapons. I refuse to use the Lewis Gun on principle: with its large ammunition capacity and no overheat, the Lewis Gun is the weapon of choice for cheaters.

  • The last time I fired a suppressed PPK in a video game, it would’ve been 2003’s 007 Nightfire, which I count to be the best James Bond game in recent memory. Players eventually upgrade to the Walther P99 in Nightfire, which has a larger magazine capacity and better damage. From a gameplay perspective, I prefer the P99, but from an aesthetics perspective, the PPK is the better weapon for Bond, since it is much more compact. GoldenEye 64 popularised the PPK’s suppressed variant, and while Battlefield V has a more realistic firing sound for the suppressed variant, a part of me was hoping that the weapon would feel like its GoldenEye 64 counterpart.

  • Here, I score a kill with the suppressed PPK on “zlMAXIMOllz”, a rather vocal player who was insulting everyone on my team even as they were winning and topping their scoreboard. A quick look suggests that zlMAXIMOllz is someone who pads their stats the same way Eris pads her chest. I disagree with the suggestion that lower level players who perform well in Battlefield V are simply just “good” at the game – every Battlefield game has slightly different mechanics that take some getting used to, and Battlefield games differ greatly from those of something like Rainbow Six: Siege or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. To suggest one could be an instant expert within a half hour of picking up the game is ludicrous, since there are nuances one must pick up over time.

  • Originally, only Provence had a dedicated playlist, and I spent most of last week on Provence. This week, Al Marj Encampment got a dedicated playlist, so I’ve been able to play on servers running this map exclusively to get a feel for it. Being an infantry-only map, Al Marj Encampment possesses transports that, while fodder for any assault player with AT weapons, can nonetheless make quick work of infantry. Transports are especially valuable in the breakthrough mode, which offers as intense and chaotic an experience on this map as breakthrough on Operation Underground.

  • With its massive infrared flashlight and a dedicated 3x telescopic sight that picks up the thermal signatures of enemies, the M3 is a bit of an impractical weapon to use in practise. The optics and housing block out most of the screen, and the optics themselves barely pick out thermal signatures of enemies, who can defeat the weapon with smoke grenades. However, with a high rate of fire and a suppressor, the M3 Infrared can be used to tag enemies at medium range more effectively than the pistol carbines, and it can hold its own at close-medium range combat: in the right situations, the weapon is certainly very entertaining to wield.

  • While the K31/43 might not be the most impressive of the bolt-action rifles in Battlefield V, it certainly is one of the most entertaining weapons to use owing to its ability to switch between the side-mounted optics and iron sights. Resembling the rifles of Battlefield 1, the biggest advantage about the K31/43 is that while using iron sights, scope glint disappears, allowing one to be much stealthier. Switching between the two enables players to identify targets and pick them off with accuracy.

  • On this particular match of breakthrough, I was landing headshots with the K31/43 and keeping hidden, ending the match on a very strong note as my team successfully prevented the enemy advance. The specialisation tree for the K31/43 is an intriguing one: options for the weapon include a 6x scope to replace the default 3x optic, a bipod to eliminate weapon sway and a box magazine for faster reloads. While not the most damaging rifle in the game, the K31/43 does have some interesting options available to it that make it a unique weapon to use.

  • The Battlefield V incarnation of the Welgun puts it as a slower-firing, but hard-hitting weapon similar to the M3 Grease Gun. Performing best when hip-fired, the Welgun has better accuracy and range compared to most submachine guns, but for some reason, I initially had considerable difficulty in making the most of the weapon: its low rate of fire corresponds to a low DPS, and players equipped with faster firing weapons would melt me before I could get the killing shot off because I had engaged them at extreme close quarters rather than a more suitable distance.

  • Once I acclimatised to the Welgun’s handling and characteristics, I began to have more success with it; the weapon is great for combat out to around 40 metres, the range that the faster-firing submachine guns like the Type 2A and Thompson begin to lose their efficacy. Like the other submachine guns, the Welgun excels when it is specialised for hip-fire performance: as I rank the weapon up, I’ll look to put in points to maximise its hip-fire accuracy, which should help offset the lower rate of fire.

  • Sneaking around the southern edge of the map to get a flank for capture point C, I managed to get the jump on two players here and finished them off. With Al Marj Encampment’s terrain reminding me of Broken Blade, and following an enjoyable conversation with a buddy on the anime, I note here that I will have plans to write about Broken Blade in the very near future – the desert terrain and weather of Broken Blade remind me of Sora no Woto, and when I first watched both series, I was set to take my basic operator’s license.

  • I’ll save that story for the Broken Blade post proper, and return to Battlefield V: while my team ended up losing this game of conquest, and I found myself being smoked by a rather uncouth player calling himself “beserker1000”, who considered camping to be “skill”. Their foul attitude was only matched by their pusillanimity, and as I roamed the map, looking to help my team out as best as I could while rocking the Welgun, I didn’t encounter that particular player again. I ended up bringing my own KDR back to positive anyways and got a better measure of the Welgun from that experience.

  • Capture point echo, located close to the American deployment, is a spice market. Even during the frenzied combat, small details, such as the different boxes of spices, are present. Because the focus is on capturing points, dealing with enemies and helping teammates out, on most matches, I’m less attuned towards the attention paid towards making maps authentic. I can see myself returning to empty servers to go exploring at some point in the future to really appreciate the amount of work that goes into each map. Further to this, I believe that there is a dinosaur Easter Egg on this map, as well, that is closer to capture point Charlie.

  • I’ll close this post off with me scoring another kill with the M3 Infrared while overlooking the desert beyond town. Al Marj Encampment ended up being a fun map that feels like an infantry-focused variant of Sinai Desert. It is a bit sad to see the last of Battlefield V – in the future, I may return periodically to complete weekly assignments for the Battlefield Currency, which would allow me to unlock premium cosmetics, as well as finish ranking up the ground vehicles, but otherwise, I won’t be playing Battlefield V with too much frequency. Having said this, the game does end on a reasonable note, and one cannot help but wonder if, under different circumstances, DICE might’ve pulled off a comeback for Battlefield V the same way they had previously done for Battlefield 4.

Battlefield V ends on the best possible note with its final update, and overall, I’ve had an immensely enjoyable experience with the latest maps and weapons. On the whole, Battlefield V has tended towards being more enjoyable than frustrating for me: despite my encounters with cheaters and the lack of iconic maps, I’ve had fun going through Battlefield in the past year-and-a-half. With this being said, the biggest challenge I face in Battlefield games is the progression system: it takes a bit of time to unlock everything, and this is time that I may not always have available to me. In conjunction with a community that is becoming increasingly malignant and flippant, it becomes difficult to contemplate a return to Battlefield: when timed weekly challenges necessitate I continue returning to unlock things in servers filled with players who have no intention of playing objectives and spewing insults to those calling them out for not playing properly, a core part of the Battlefield experience becomes lost. My experiences with Battlefield V have shown that my time as a player of the Battlefield multiplayer is likely at an end: while I can still hold out against the meme-oriented players in terms of raw skill, I do not believe I will be able to commit so much time towards games with intricate progression systems in the future. With this in mind, I reiterate that I did have fun with Battlefield V, and I have no regrets whatsoever: while the game did not deliver an iconic World War Two experience, the gunplay is amongst the most satisfying I’ve ever experienced, and there was a joy to unlocking and using period weapons to mimic various loadouts I’ve seen in anime, from Girls und Panzer and Strike Witches to Sora no Woto and even Girls’ Last Tour. I play games to relax and do wild things, which Battlefield does offer, but I prefer to unlock things at my own pace: as it stands, I will not be picking up the next Battlefield game for this reason. Instead, the time has come for me to return to the realm of Halo, as well as get a start on the other titles in my library that I’ve accumulated over the years, but have not yet gotten around to looking at.

The Division 2: Reflections on The Last Castle, Incursions into the Pentagon

“What might sound like science fiction elsewhere in the world at DARPA was future science.” –Annie Jacobsen, The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency

When a SHD operator discovers that the Black Tusk have located a perfusion bioreactor in the depths of the Pentagon, the agent is sent to investigate. The Black Tusk have locked down the area, but the agent manages to reach the visitor’s centre and open the main gate to the Pentagon. Subsequently, the agent must enter the Pentagon’s offices and find any intel that might give some insight into where the bioreactor is located. The agent discovers that the Black Tusk are intending to drill their way into the Pentagon’s basement to extract the device and destroys the drilling apparatus, before moving on to locate a project list that contains the bioreactor’s location. After securing the server room, the agent must engage and destroy a massive XB-31 Marauder Drone. Once the data is secured, the Division finally determines the location of the bioreactor, located in the DARPA Research Labs, located deep underneath the Pentagon. With their drill destroyed, the agent navigates their way into Cold War era tunnels to retrieve the bioreactor. The bioreactor is recovered, and the Division notes that in conjunction with the broad spectrum anti-virals they’d secured earlier, the possibility of being able to mass-produce a vaccine and save lives becomes a reality; this is a major win for the Division. The Pentagon missions are a part of The Division 2‘s second major content update, which released in October 2019 and further added a new specialisation, exotics and PvP game modes. While not quite as large of an update as the first content update with respect to new missions, The Last Castle nonetheless made some considerable quality of life changes on top of providing a pair of new missions that allow players to explore The Pentagon, one of the most iconic locations in Washington D.C., located south-west of the National Mall.

The two new main missions set within The Pentagon offer a chance for players to visit the world’s largest office building. The first of the two main missions sends the agent through the more mundane side of the Pentagon: a offices, corridors and a cafeteria comprises the bulk of the mission area, indicating to players that most of the Pentagon is really just an office, albeit with a colourful history and whose unique design has come to represent the United States’ military. Fighting through the different areas of the Pentagon, things as mundane as photocopying machines and stacks of binders on a shelf are common. However, the Pentagon’s typical functions soon give way to more speculative designs as the agent reaches the server room and DARPA labs. The second of the missions takes players into the realm of fiction, supposing that deep underground, there exists an intricate network of subterranean tunnels and research facilities for America’s most secret projects. The side-by-side juxtaposition of the ordinary and extraordinary has always been one of The Division 2‘s greatest strengths, simultaneously weaving in the real-world settings with fictionalised inclusions to show a blurring of the two boundaries. The result is a highly compelling and thought-provoking game that underlines the possibility that underneath familiar systems, there may lie elements that are beyond comprehension. This is one of those themes that The Division 2 excels in conveying through its game-play and story experience, and in the second content expansion, players are left with mixed feelings; on one hand, those involved in the Green Poison and the effects of its aftermath are still at large and may potentially deal damage, but on the other, the Division has secured the perfusion bioreactor, which gives them a massive advantage in being able to synthesise the anti-viral drugs that may finally bring the Green Poison’s outbreak under control.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Construction on the Pentagon began in September 1941 to replace the Main Navy and Munitions Buildings, which had been constructed as a temporary site for the US Military headquarters in 1918. The Main Navy and Munitions Buildings had occupied the National Mall, and raised criticisms that the unsightly structures, which were well-constructed, would continue to occupy the open space of the National Mall.

  • In the end, once the Pentagon had finished construction, the Main Navy and Munitions Buildings would be turned over to the Navy, and continued to be used until the 1960s, during which it was found that the buildings begun developing structural issues. They were subsequently demolished, and the space was converted into the Constitution Gardens. The Division 2 has players start by exploring a side mission at the Pentagon, which becomes available at World Tier 5, but this side mission turns out to set the stage for two full-fledged missions.

  • The Pentagon’s primary enemies are the Black Tusk; with its close quarters environments, such as one of the cafeterias, my preferred loadout this mission was a LMG paired with the MP-X. The rationale for my choice is simple: a submachine gun excels in short range combat against small groups, dealing consistent damage without strong recoil, while the light machine gun and its high ammunition capacity makes it well-suited for handling the heavy soldiers and various automaton that the Black Tusk deploy.

  • The interior of the Pentagon is quite dark, and I found myself wishing that I’d equipped a flashlight on my sidearm for some of the darker areas. The Division 2‘s lighting means that the contrast between light and dark is more pronounced, and in conjunction with the fact that I no longer equip the pulse skill to locate hidden enemies, firefights tend to be a bit more thrilling as I strive to keep alive and work out where enemies are coming from. I do prefer The Division‘s lighting for providing a more consistent experience (and also because it makes for clearer screenshots), but from a gameplay perspective, the different lighting in The Division 2 makes for more gripping combat.

  • In the Pentagon’s courtyard, the Black Tusk have set up a massive drilling apparatus, which the agent must destroy. For the wide-open spaces, I’ll switch over to a semi-automatic or marksman rifle depending on what my requirements are. Running with the sharpshooter specialisation affords me access to a powerful long-range option at all times, but .50-calibre ammunition remains scarce even with the right perks, so it’s sometimes prudent to switch over to a long-range rifle with a larger ammunition pool to work with. Once this area is cleared out, and the drilling rig is dealt with, players return back into the depths of the Pentagon.

  • The next stage of the mission is to locate a project list, which should contain the location of the perfusion bioreactor that the Black Tusk and Division alike seek. The pursuit to reach it first creates a sense of urgency in the mission, although this is purely from a narrative perspective; players can and should take all the time they need to ensure every area is properly cleared out, especially for solo players lacking teammates to provide cover and if needed, revives.

  • The race to reach a high-value asset first is not a foreign concept to me, and the most recent example I’ve got would be Weathering with You: with the release of the BDs, I was finally able to write a review for it, and I’d made the audacious claim to have the first proper review with screenshots out. As it turned out, Random Curiosity, had a review out for Weathering with You predating mine by three weeks. I was shocked, and wondered how it was possible to obtain screenshots for Weathering with You without the BD release: did they have access to resources that were unavailable to those outside of Japan?

  • As it turns out, nothing quite so dramatic had occurred: upon a bit of investigation, Random Curiosity had simply used a modified version of Weathering with You, itself an OBS screen recording of a hard-subbed stream from the Dutch service Pathé Thuis dating back to late April. Some folks had edited out the Dutch subtitles with a filter in video editing software and overlaid English subtitles on top of it to create a watchable experience for those who weren’t willing to wait for the BD. Random Curiosity’s screenshots of Weathering with You were clearly obtained from this video, and the subtitles were subsequently cropped out of the image for their screenshots. While their review is fine, the screenshots are of a poor quality that do not indicate the visual fidelity of Makoto Shinkai’s latest film: they do not have the same colour balance as screenshots from the BD and possess noticeable artifacts.

  • The motivation behind why Random Curiosity pushed a review out with low-quality, modified screenshots is their own; my interest in the topic was primarily motivated by how they’d accomplished this, and I am reasonably happy at having worked out the answer. I’d known about the Dutch Weathering with You stream and the efforts to remove the forced-in subtitles since April, but elected not to write about the film until the BDs were available so I could ensure that I was using the highest possible quality of screenshots for readers. The price of ensuring a good reader experience can mean giving up first to write something, but as it stands, I feel I can still lay claim to having the first and only collection of screenshots on Weathering with You on the internet.

  • Back in The Division 2, I rather enjoyed fighting through the sun-lit offices en route to the server rooms, and close inspection of the office space will find the presence of many details like knick-knacks belonging to the individual who worked at a given desk. Exploring abandoned buildings always evokes a sense of melancholy in me, since seeing all of the items left behind in a haikyo raises the question of who once worked or lived somewhere, what factors prompted them to leave, and whether or not they’d intended to come back. During Christmas, I gifted to myself Jordy Meow’s Abandoned Japan, and most melancholy of all are the abandoned homes.

  • Access into the more interesting areas of the Pentagon is gained by passing through these massive blast doors. The Pentagon, being home of the Department of Defense, has undergone renovations to as a part of the Pentagon Renovation Program, which aimed to replace structural elements of the building that were not reparable. In addition, the renovations also aimed to remove asbestos. In addition, construction reinforced the Pentagon’s interior with a steel frame and incorporation new two-inch thick blast resistant windows. The project began in the 1990s and finished in 2011.

  • Typically, where data needs to be pulled from a server or data stream, all players will need to do is interact with a terminal somewhere, and then ISAC will take care of the rest. This leaves the player to focus on threats: as a gameplay element, every time the agent begins downloading data from a secure server or by intercepting signals, bad guys will always be made aware of this and attempt to neutralise the player. For these sorts of fights, having the assault turret is vital, as it allows me to lock down choke-points and control the firefight.

  • If the bulk of the first mission in the Last Castle update had been a little dull, I can say with confidence that things are about to become considerably more entertaining: once the server room is secure, the agent is sent to the Pentagon’s rooftops to stay within range of a transmitter. Up here, agents must deal with a horde of Black Tusk units, along with the XB-31 Marauder, a gargantuan drone equipped with rockets and a powerful chain gun that can shred the player’s armour in seconds.

  • The XB-31 Marauder can be encountered randomly in the open world, but the Last Castle iteration has been modified to be tougher. My strategy when engaging this leviathan was to stay in cover and pick off all of the Black Tusk on the rooftops first, before focusing my fire on the drone’s propeller housing and other weak points. The drone’s health pool is enormous, but it’s not invincible, and in conjunction with help from the assault turret to keep Black Tusk off my back, I ended up destroying the drone without much difficulty.

  • Here, the importance of having a good LMG cannot be understated: a large ammunition capacity and decently accurate fire, plus good damage makes these weapons indispensable for dealing with the heaviest of all threats. It was later that I found out that the drone proved to be difficult for a fair number of players, and what was interesting was that in discussions, people offered unique ways of beating the drone, from using a flame turret and stinger hive to keep the Black Tusk away, to simply using the health chemical launcher and revive hive to increase one’s healing factor as they take on the drone.

  • The second of the Pentagon missions is set deep underground, in the DARPA facilities. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is responsible for research and development of the technologies that the US Military use, and was originally founded as the Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1958 by Dwight Eisenhower to drive American advancement following the USSR’s successful launch of Sputnik. Since then, DARPA has been involved with projects that have had a considerable impact on all of society, especially the microprocessor, which fundamentally changed the way communications work.

  • Their actual headquarters is located in Arlington about four kilometres away from the Pentagon, but The Division 2 supposes that DARPA has a secret subterranean installation deep beneath the lowest floor of the Pentagon. It is here that the agent must fight through en route to the perfusion bioreactor: it’s a labyrinth of cutting-edge bio-research labs and testing grounds for machinery. The agent’s presence down here is a cause of concern for the Black Tusk, who mobilise their forces in an attempt to stop the agent.

  • In the labyrinthine tunnels of DARPA, a veritable army of Black Tusk stand between the agent and the bioreactor. This complex-sounding device sounds like a piece of science fiction, but breaking the term down into its components yields some insight into what the functionality is. A bioreactor is a device that contains a biologically active environment (i.e. the conditions needed for biological reactions to occur), and perfusion is a process where the cells are retained in an environment while media is cycled through to remove waste and introduce fresh media.

  • A perfusion bioreactor, then, is a device that constantly refreshes the media while it synthesises a biological compound. Such a device would be suited for manufacturing a vaccine to the Green Poison: vaccines are really just isolated samples of a viral agent, either an antigen, receptor or even a killed version of virus itself embedded in a media. By providing a patient with an agent that the body recognises as a foreign entity and will mount an immune response to it, such that if a live version of that agent (i.e. a virus or bacteria) is encountered, the body can immediately mount a secondary immune response, bypassing the primary inflammatory response (which accounts for symptoms like sore throats and fever and swiftly dealing with the invading pathogens before they can deal serious damage.

  • Ultimately, vaccinations are a critical component in modern medicine, and the WHO counts vaccine hesitation as one of the greatest threats to global health, creating outbreaks and even fatalities from otherwise manageable diseases. Taken together, the goal of the Pentagon missions are to locate a perfusion bioreactor and using it to mass-produce a vaccine against the Green Poison: the samples of the broad-spectrum anti-virals had been secured, so the challenge the Division now face is making enough for distribution, hence their interest in the perfusion bioreactor.

  • One of the most curious places to fight in the DARPA lab is a testing ground for the automaton that the Black Tusk employ. By this point in time, the Warhounds and Mini-tanks are trivially straightforwards to engage, and after a firefight to clear the room, a named elite will appear. I ended up using the TAC-50 to blast the named elite in two shots. I’ve yet to unlock any of the new specialisations at the time of writing, so one of the things that I can do once all of the content episodes are completed is to work towards unlocking them. The Last Castle gave players access to the Technician, whose signature weapon is the P-017 Missile Launcher, a lock-on weapon that can target up to six entities at once.

  • There are currently a total of three new specialisations on top of the ones that accompanied the base game: the Gunner specialisation gives players a portable M134 Minigun and defensive perks, while the Firewall specialisation gives players a flamethrower that is devastating up close. At the time of writing, I’ve finished the first of five assignment tiers for the Firewall: of the new specialisations, it looks the most fun to use, being the most suitable for close quarters engagements. Players who purchased the Year One Pass would have had immediate access to these new specialisations right away and could still complete the assignments for in-game rewards.

  • As I draw nearer to the end of the Year One content for The Division 2, in the knowledge that farming for gear as I did with The Division isn’t exactly the best of ideas. Instead, I’m likely to concentrate most of my effort towards unlocking the different specialisations and hunting down exotic blueprints: there are still some activities that are worth taking a look at without the Warlords of New York expansion, and eventually, I would like to attempt the Ronald Reagan National Airport mission on my own just to see how far I get. I did something similar with the incursions in The Division, where I thought I could get through them solo, and found myself outgunned at all turns, but it was fun to at least try.

  • In The Division, while I had been rather proud of being able to acquire every exotic weapon and gear piece in the game, along with the full classified Striker’s Battle Gear and Fire Crest gear sets on my own, the truth is that this process was greatly accelerated by joining random parties and fighting legendary missions in groups: completing these missions guaranteed an exotic cache, and my journey towards finding an MDR meant that I would accumulate almost everything else en route. By comparison, The Division 2‘s legendary missions only offer apparel pieces and 2:25 odds of getting an exotic.

  • In conjunction with the limitations of being at level 30, I’m not sure it would be worth my while to attempt any legendary missions just yet. On the other hand, while I’ve not yet got a full gear set or any of the more exciting exotics, I am now sufficiently well-equipped as to solo the most areas of the game without much concern on standard difficulty: shortly before beginning the second Pentagon mission, I picked up an armour piece that conferred bonus armour for every kill I got. This effect stacked up to a certain point so as long as I was in combat. As such, by chaining multiple kills together, I can effectively double my armour for short periods of time and absorb insane amounts of damage in a firefight.

  • Such talents means I could actually stop running with the repair drone, which I’ve been using since I started my journey in The Division 2. I’ve still yet to actually test some of the game’s more powerful talents: the Holster talent “Fill ‘er up” allows all weapons to be refilled from empty when one weapon is reloaded. It’s been reduced from its original incarnation: originally, players had unlimited ammunition thanks to the fact that it reloaded a weapon without dipping into the player’s reserves, but it still remains quite viable for ensuring one is never caught empty in a fire fight.

  • After clearing out most of the room, my effective armour had doubled: the bonus armour is seen in blue, and I can see how with the right build and specialisation, I could take on traits from Bofuri‘s Maple to absorb obscene amounts of damage. The gunner specialisation and riot shield skill would helped to increase armour further: such a setup would be valuable in team play, since one would act as a damage sponge while teammates could engage enemies. As a solo player, this build is less viable.

  • After clearing out the tunnels, the agent finally arrives at the perfusion bioreactor. It’s a large apparatus that requires extraction, and after taking an elevator back to the surface, the agent calls in for an extraction. The remaining Black Tusk are desperate to stop the Division at this point, and it’s a titanic fight here up on the surface: the sheer amount of firepower the Black Tusk send is astounding and indicates just how determined they are to have the reactor. In my case, it’d be doubly embarrassing for the Black Tusk, since my lonesome just squared off against and wasted their entire force.

  • The final named elite to deal with is Petrus Brenner, who is a ruthless and dedicated soldier utterly beholden to the Black Tusk. He’s able to regenerate his armour during the fight, so it’s imperative to deal as much damage in the shortest amount of time possible to beat him. In this situation, the TAC-50 is actually less useful, since Brenner will duck for cover and regenerate after being hit. Instead, a close-quarters approach is viable: getting close enough and then deploying an assault turret or drone, plus use of an LMG and SMG will do the trick nicely.

  • Once the extraction zone is secure, the Division will bring a helicopter close and lift the bioreactor to safety. It’s a major win for the good guys, and with this content in the books, I only have one final set of missions to wrap up before finishing off the story component to The Division 2. This brings my talk to an end, and I will be returning at some point to wrap up Coney Island, after which I will make a call as to what route I take with respect to Warlords of New York.

With The Last Castle now in the books, I only really have the third episode to wrap up, which sends players to Coney Island in New York and sets the stage for the Warlords of New York expansion. When my journey through The Division ended, I recall spending a considerable amount of time revisiting old missions and completing various events, which would help me to find every exotic weapon and gear piece, as well as complete my Classified Striker’s Battlegear set. While the occasional return to The Division 2 to hunt down gear set pieces and exotics would be the next logical move once I finish off the third content update, The Division 2‘s major expansion, Warlords of New York, rendered virtually everything at level thirty useless. Everything I find or craft would be trivially displaced by level 31 items as I progress, so there’s no real incentive to start hunting for exotics and gear set pieces. As it stands, to have the most complete experience, I would need upgrade. At present, I am leaning towards joining this fight once the time is appropriate; there’s a decent amount of story content, and New York itself looks to be an intriguing mission, but I do wish to get the most bang for my buck, so I’m likely to be waiting for a discount on the DLC before I pull the trigger. In the meantime, I would need to actually go through and finish Coney Island: my current loadout and equipment in The Division 2 is satisfactory for getting the job done, so I don’t have any concerns about being able to wrap up these last remaining missions solo. I will likely be more focused about gear sets after I make the plunge into Warlords of New York, and for the present, my focus in The Division 2 will be to unlock the remaining specialisations. Further to this, I can attempt to hunt down the blueprints for some of the earlier exotics, which I can craft and re-craft later to ensure they scale with my level.

Do You Love Your Mom on the Shore?: Okaa-san Online OVA Review and Reflection

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.” –Unknown

Shirase invites Masato and his party to a private resort on the beach to relax. Here, Mamako attempts to spend more time with Masato, but he declines, feeling it to be embarrassing. Shirase suggests the classic sport of watermelon spitting with a wooden sword, but when Mamako inadvertently causes him to walk into her, he chucks the sword into the ocean in frustration. An unknown entity throws the sword back, knocking him out. The impact induces retrograde amnesia: Masato fails to recognise his party and Mamako, but he vaguely recalls Mamako as being important to him. Mamako decides to spend this time with Masato, who seems more receptive to her. As the evening sets in, Masato wonders if the unusual feeling he has towards Mamako might be love and attempts a kokuhaku, but before they can kiss, a kraken appears and hauls Masato into the sea. This spontaneously causes Masato’s memories to return, and Mamako defeats it. In the aftermath, Masato and the party decide to grill the remains of the kraken for dinner, only for one of the tentacles to combust, hit each of Wise, Medhi, Porta and Mamako on the head and leave them with retrograde amnesia. This is the OVA to Okaa-san Online, an unaired episode that accompanied the BD release back in March.

If memory serves, Okaa-san Online was a series that I found to be rather enjoyable despite its unusual premise. Okaa-san Online is technically an isekai anime, built around the premise of a VR game designed to help parents and their children bond. During its run, Okaa-san Online explored different facets of the parent-child dynamic, concluding in a titanic battle against a powerful but incompetent foe that helps Masato to appreciate everything that Mamako does for him, even if it does border on the embarrassing at times. In the OVA, however, it’s an off-the-books side adventure that provides an opportunity for the characters to bounce off one another. As Shirase is kind enough to inform Masato of, this day at the beach seemingly serves no purpose than to showcase the entire cast in swimsuits, doing the sorts of things most commonly associated with a Japanese style summer break. However, when Masato takes a knock to his cranium and develops amnesia, his dynamic with Mamako shows that even when his memories are lost (temporarily), the strength of the mother-child bond is sufficient so that he vaguely remembers Mamako, giving Mamako a rare chance to dote on Masato in ways that he normally would flat out refuse. In short, the OVA is a fun addition to Okaa-san Online, featuring a space to let the characters interact more freely without the constraints of a longer-term goal that the regular episodes have.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It feels a little strange to be back, writing shorter posts again; the last five posts I wrote total some thirty-four thousand words, and admittedly, were quite exhausting. I figured that, to ease myself back into things, it would be appropriate to do a shorter post on Okaa-san Online, whose OVA was released back in March along with the BDs. It’s been around nine months since I last wrote for Okaa-san Online, and I figured that since there was an uptick of searches for this series, people might’ve been looking for the OVA.

  • Within its runtime, Okaa-san Online‘s OVA brings back all of the small details that made the TV series so enjoyable to watch, but without a primary objective to work towards, the entire OVA ends up being a chance to have everyone play off one another for comedy’s sake. Last I wrote about Okaa-san Online, one of the points that came up was Porta’s origins: her mother’s never shown on screen, and of everyone, she seems the most untroubled. As it turns out, she’s a special kind of beta tester, although her background remains quite unknown.

  • After Masato offers to help Porta inflate her inner tube, Wise grows jealous and uses a spell that blows Misato’s swimsuit away. To spare him the indigity of wandering around without clothes, Mamako covers him, but creates additional embarrassment. This leads to the question of how this particular VRMMORPG even works, if it’s able to infer one’s physical characteristics: most games simply don’t bother rendering more than they have to in order to reduce the amount of resources loaded into memory.

  • Mamako’s character is very similar to that of Ah! My Goddess‘ Belldandy, and in retrospect, Ai Kayano (Utaha Kasumigaoka of Saekano, Saori Takebe from Girls und Panzer and GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hotо̄) does have similar talents as Kikuko Inoue for voicing matronly characters, alongside a very varied and impressive range of characters. Here, after Masato brushes her off and returns to shore, Mamako wonders about Masato’s sense of embarrassment.

  • Her thoughts are interrupted when Wise, Medhi and Porta splash her, leading them to frolic in the warm waters. Such waters remind me of those of Cancún, whose waters are similarly pleasant to wade into, and possess a beautiful shade of turquoise. Deep blue skies, such as those seen here, are among my chiefest reasons for watching anime: they evoke a sense of contentment that I cannot readily describe, and I have been swayed into picking what anime I check out for a season based on blue skies alone.

  • Suikawari is a longstanding tradition in Japan, resembling the Western version of piñata smashing. The game is, coincidentally, similar to the VR game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes in that it requires someone to talk to the individual smashing the watermelon in the right direction (in the game, someone looking at a separate screen walks the player using the VR headset through defusing the explosives). Masato gets talked into accepting the suikawari challenge with Mamako as the giver of instructions, and ultimately, he walks into her, failing the challenge.

  • Where Masato is unsuccessful, Shirase uses a knife to cut the watermelon into cleaner slices. One of the things about suikawari is that it tends to leave a bit of a mess, and a cloth is usually laid out so the remains of the watermelon can be eaten. Curiously enough, suika (kanji 西瓜) is rendered as sai1 gwaa1 in jyutping, but broken up into its components, 西’s Hepburn is nishi, and 瓜 is uri. Different contexts change the use of kana and pronunciation of certain kanji, and here is an interesting example of how Cantonese and Japanese share some similarities.

  • When the wooden sword Masato chucks into the sea is returned to him, striking him in the head, Masato is knocked out and awakens with no memory of himself. This is a common enough storytelling element in comedy; having a character forget their sense of self is no joke in reality, but in fiction, can be used to create unusual moments. Okaa-san Online, however, is a VRMMORPG, and as such, such a mechanic doesn’t seem to make much sense, since the characters can sustain harm in-game without physical injury to their bodies in the real world.

  • While the game world of Okaa-san Online is one that leaves many questions, some of the phenomenon can be rationalised as a consequence of the game being in beta form. Here, it is conceivable that taking a hit to the head can shock the brain in the real world into an amnesia-like state. Having said this, I’m typically not a stickler for things like plot holes and the like, and I enjoy filling plot-holes when watching a given work that may feature unexplored events.

  • In the absence of his old memories, Masato consents to participate in several games that Mamako proposes, including Twister. The original game was intended as a game of physical skill and conceived as a party game in 1966 by Reyn Guyer and Charles Foley. The game became a smash hit, but also drew controversy for potentially putting the players in compromising positions; this criticism has been used as a comedic device in anime. Okaa-san Online presents a milder version of this, and nothing particularly questionable happens beyond providing the viewer with a rather scenic view of Mamako.

  • A draw game results from Masato and Mamako playing Twister, after which Mamako decides to go crab hunting next. What happens next is worthy of Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!?, and here, I remark that while the series ran last year during the spring season, I didn’t get around to actually watching it until this March. Having gone through Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!? in full now, I can say that the series provides some laughs, although it offers nothing substantial by way of themes and isn’t exactly a series that one could recommend.

  • Consequently, I don’t think I’ll be writing about Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!? unless there is a particularly strong wish to see what I could do for that series: ordinarily, I am able to include the odd screenshot or two in a post for those moments because it offers a nice change of pacing, but in a series that is built entirely around improbable moments, writing for that could get tiresome very quickly. The equivalent moment in Okaa-san Online occurs when a crab destroys Mamako’s swimsuit, prompting Masato to cover her.

  • Fearing that Masato’s improving relationship with Mamako may threaten their adventures, Wise and Medhi devise a plan to swiftly restore Masato’s memories. However, Masato appears to see right through their ploy, and delivers two devastating blows that leaves Medhi kicking a palm tree in anger, while Wise is left commiserating after his remarks. Having now seen KonoSuba, it’s not lost on me that Okaa-san Online and KonoSuba share similarities in that for both series, male lead winds up with an all-female party.

  • The OVA actually opened here, dropping viewers right into things without creating the proper context and therefore, captures their interest. Masato’s kokuhaku comes as a bit of a surprise, and given his usual personality, invites viewers to delve into the OVA to see what precisely led to such a moment. In the absence of any context, the moment alone seems suited as being a proper kokuhaku, being set under a beautiful sunset on the beach.

  • While Okaa-san Online is no Makoto Shinkai film, its visuals are of a generally high quality, and there are moments, like this sunset, which look stunning. This isn’t too surprising: Okaa-san Online is helmed by J.C. Staff, a studio which has the likes of KonoSuba, Ano Natsu de Matteru, Amanchu!, Flying Witch, Machikado Mazoku and DanMachi in their repertoire, all of which are impressive-looking series.

  • Once the kraken appears and hauls Masato into the water, Shirase reveals that it was her doing: a tentacled monster for a beach episode is apparently an essential. Kraken originate from Nordic folklore, speaking of squid of gargantuan proportion: the legend likely came from sightings of the giant squid (Architeuthis dux), whose preference for deep ocean waters meant that they were rarely sighted. Medhi and Wise are unimpressed with Shirase’s blunt attempt at introducing fanservice in a context where it’s already quite unnecessary to push things further. It becomes apparent here that it was likely the kraken that returned Masato’s wooden sword, irate that Masato had hit it.

  • Initially, the kraken goes after Mamako, but takes Masato instead. In a panic, he calls out to Mamako, and his memories are restored. Mamako subsequently retrieves her swords and defeats the kraken: with the help of Mamako’s top-tier swordsmanship, the kraken is defeated. The kraken of Okaa-san Online is not as tough as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Watcher in the Water; this monster, of unknown origin, was able to keep attacking even when several of its tentacles were severed and ultimately forced the Fellowship of the Ring to take the Mines of Moria.

  • While the OVA might be fun and games, it also sheds a bit more light into Masato’s past: as a child, Masato had been knocked over by a wave, and Mamako had pulled him from the water. In the present, Mamako uses a spell to part the waters and reach Masato in a moment that will immediately bring to mind the Biblical story Exodus, where Moses parts the Red Sea in order to lead the Israelites to safety from pursuing forces.

  • Masato and the others enjoy a grilled squid dinner with the Kraken’s remains. Grilled squid is a common dish in both Taiwan and Japan. In Taiwan, grilled squid is found at night markets, where vendors grill it with light soy sauce and chilies. The Japanese version of the dish, ikayaki, follows a similar recipe with slightly different ingredients, and both are delicious. Admittedly, it is a little surprising the Kraken is edible: if we assume that the Kraken is physiologically similar to a giant squid, the high levels of ammonia in its flesh would render it quite unsafe to eat.

  • To provide some final laughs before the OVA ends, the Kraken tentacle Masato and the others are happily grilling begins to heat up unevenly, and ruptures, propelling it into the air. It outright kills Shirase and knocks out Mamako, Wise, Medhi and Porta. When they come to, each has amnesia, leaving Masato in a bit of a bind. Writing for the Okaa-san Online OVA was fun, being a return to the shorter format, and I will be doing the same for Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ OVA in the near future.

The OVA thus represents a short but enjoyable return to Okaa-san Online, whose story stood out for making an honest effort to use a VRMMORPG in order to convey a specific story about the mother-child dynamics amongst people. As an isekai series, Okaa-san Online is typically light-hearted and easygoing, preferring to use comedy, made possible by being set in a game world, to drive most moments forward. This is something I’ve noticed a trend: my enjoyment of isekai series stems largely from how well the series is able to utilise its setting to communicate a particular message and furthermore, where there is a good reason to have a characters enter an alternate world, in a setting where the real world definitively exists (as opposed to being set in a completely different world outright with no connection to the real world as we know it). In the case of Okaa-san Online, the VRMMORPG world is used to eliminate the space separating Masato and Mamako. While this is typically done for comedy, it also has the tangible effect of helping Masato to appreciate Mamako more, as the two spend time on adventures together with Porta, Wise and Medhi. When I last wrote about Okaa-san Online, the light novels had been ongoing: since then, two more volumes were released, and the series concluded in April. Given that the entire light novel series is done, one wonders if there will be a second season to Okaa-san Online: at the time of writing, I’ve not heard anything that indicates that Masato and Mamako’s adventures will continue in the anime format, but it would be interesting to see where this series would go in a second season if one were to be made.

Tenki no Ko (Weathering With You): A Review and Reflection on Makoto Shinkai’s 2019 Film

“I always say: in survival, I’m either dealing with bad weather, or preparing for it.” –Les Stroud, Suvivorman

Tenki no Ko (天気の子, literally “Children of the Weather” and English name Weathering With You) is Makoto Shinkai’s sixth feature-length film that premièred in Japan on July 19, 2019. Shinkai is described to have seen a towering cumulonimbus cloud over Tokyo in late August, shortly after Your Name‘s screenings began in 2016, and began wondering to himself, “what if the cloud tops were an island?”. This materialised into the inspiration for Weathering With You, a film that ultimately grossed 226.16 million CAD internationally and won several awards, including Anime of the Year at the 43rd Japan Academy Film Prize, as well as being nominated for several other awards. At its core, Weathering With You follows Hodaka Morishima, a high school student who runs away from home and finds himself in Tokyo. During a freak down-burst on a ferry that threatens to wash him overboard, he is saved by Keisuke Suga, who gives him a business card. After arriving in Tokyo, Hodaka struggles to find work and support himself. Amidst the seedier parts of Tokyo, he finds a discarded Makarov PM pistol, and one day, encounters Hina Amano at a McDonald’s, who pities him and gives him a meal on the house. With his funds dwindling, he decides to take up Keisuke’s offer and arrives at the address on the business card. After meeting Natsumi, Keisuke’s niece, he is offered a job and explores urban legends as a part of his job to write magazines articles. One excursion has Natsumi and Hodaka learn of the weather maiden, an individual blessed with the power to manipulate the skies. Settling into life as an assistant, Hodaka encounters Hina in the company and attempts to rescue her, eventually discharging the side-arm he found to scare them off. He and Hina escape, and here, Hina reveals an unusual ability to clear the skies of rain that came after she crossed a torii on the rooftop of an abandoned high-rise. Realising that Tokyo’s been raining non-stop, he proposes starting a business to utilise Hina’s powers to help those around them, and they become an overnight success, participating in events from weddings and sports meets to creating a miracle for Tokyo’s Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival.

However, after spotting footage of Hodaka on a pole-mounted CCTV, the Tokyo police become interested in the pistol that Hodaka found and begin searching for him. Keisuke distances himself from Hodaka and fires him, but not without telling him to look after himself. After evading beat cops, Hodaka, Hina and her younger brother, Nagi, overnight in a hotel, where Hina reveals use of her power comes at a cost, and that she must sacrifice herself entirely to restore balance to Tokyo’s unusual weather. Despite Hodaka’s promise to protect her, Hina disappears the next morning, and Hodaka is arrested. He manages to escape custody, and with Natsumi’s help, arrives at the derelict building and attempts to reach the torii, but runs into Keisuke. While he had intended to talk sense into Hodaka, he realises the strength of Hodaka’s feelings for Hina and helps him to escape the police. Upon reaching the torii, he is whisked into the skies and manages to save Hina, convincing her to live for her own happiness. In the aftermath, he is arrested and sent back home. Over Tokyo, the skies continue to rain, flooding the city and forcing its inhabitants to move. Three years later, Hodaka returns to Tokyo after graduating and his probation ends. He meets with Keisuke, who is now running a more reputable publishing firm and encourages him to follow his heart. On a bridge overlooking the submerged Tokyo, Hodaka reunites with Hina and promises that things will be okay from here on out. With a run-time of one hour and fifty-two minutes (six minutes more than Your Name), Weathering With You had found itself in the shadows of its predecessor and ultimately, continues in dealing with Shinkai’s themes of love, separation and reunion, as well as the forces of nature that bring people together and drive them apart. Whereas Your Name utilised catastrophe as its motivator, Weathering With You, true to its title, employs the phenomenon of weather to present new themes alongside familiar ones.

Major Themes in the movie

While Weathering with You has a distinct weather motif, the notion of taking responsibility for one’s actions lies at the heart of the film; in the beginning, overwhelmed by his circumstances, Hodaka decides to run away from home and is bound for Tokyo. In his situation, he feels unable to take control and therefore, responds in the only way he can. Upon arriving in Tokyo, Hodaka initially expresses an unwillingness to take responsibility for anything because he seems to be on the back-foot all of the time. When his funds run out and it seems as though there’s no other way, however, after Hodaka meets Hina for the first time, her warmth and kindness instigates a change in him. He begins to take the initiative, and seeks out Keisuke to better his situation. In shouldering more responsibility, Hodaka begins to mature, although he remains brash, impulsive and hot-headed: this is how he formally meets Hina. The journey that Hodaka and Hina take together is one of ups and downs, giving the two great happiness as well as challenges. Over time, Hodaka’s feelings towards Hina manifests as love, and from here, Hodaka’s actions begin shifting; he starts acting in her interests, and while he might initially be seen as shirking responsibility for his actions, such as when he runs away from the police station after his capture, he is actually acting for another reason. Once he recovers Hina from the heavens, Hodaka stops running away: he is ultimately arrested, tried and returned home, but promises to uphold his promise to Hina. After his graduation, he ends up keeping true to his word, and taking responsibility for the consequences of his action, returns to Tokyo to find Hina and fulfil his promise of being with her. Weathering with You presents a tale of responsibility and how one may uphold their word, as well as what sacrifices are necessary; in this film, Makoto Shinkai suggests that if one’s word is worth keeping, then one should keep it even if there is another cost incurred. Hodaka’s time in Tokyo pushes him to learn the meaning of responsibility, and it turns out that love is a powerful instructor; in order for Hodaka to have found happiness with Hina, he would’ve necessarily needed to stop running from his problems and face them. In returning to Tokyo, speaking with Keisuke and finding Hina, audiences are assured that Hodaka has evidently matured, understands what it means to own his actions, and ultimately, is better prepared to support and love Hina than he was when they had first met, no matter what the weather might be.

Les Stroud describes the weather as being the single most dangerous factor in survival, with extremities negatively affecting one’s survival and drastically introducing challenges. In Weathering With You, Makoto Shinkai presents the weather as a natural phenomenon whose impact is less tangible; rainy skies are associated with separation, melancholy and lethargy, seen when Keisuke laments being unable to see his daughter owing to rainy weather, as well as causing the interruption or fouling of events as varied as weddings, sports meets and fireworks events. By comparison, clear weather is a time of happiness, togetherness and adventure. Under good weather, people spend more time together and create more memories together. Hina’s power, then, is a symbol of hope for Tokyo’s residents, who are inundated with rainy weather, wherein the dampness appears to seep into one’s very bones and saps people of their happiness. However, Hina’s power comes with a terrible cost, consuming her own life energy and rendering her increasingly transparent. As she strives for the happiness of others, this comes at great expense to herself. This is the primary conflict in Weathering With You that Hina must deal with; having lived a life without clear purpose or direction, when she is given a chance to impact the lives of others in a meaningful way at a personal cost, which decision she should take becomes muddled. On one hand, meeting Hodaka and spreading happiness through her power has made her happy, but on the other hand, having begun to fall in love with him, Hina appreciates that being with him means not interfering with the weather further. In creating this conundrum for Hina, Shinkai suggests in natural systems like the weather, interference usually carries a cost. Shinkai indicates that things like the weather are immensely complex, in comparing the weather patterns to the work of deities, and for humans to impose their will on these systems only ever yields a short term result. The sunshine that Hina brings is not long-lived, and the rain inevitably returns, stronger than before. The devastation wrought on Tokyo, then, as a result of Hina’s actions, shows that even if it were possible to intervene in natural phenomenon, to do so extracts a toll on those who do not fully understand the nuances of the system they intend to alter.

However, while Shinkai indicates that the weather is phenomenon that humanity must learn to live with, he also suggests that as a species, we are remarkably resilient, constantly striving to better a situation. This is what Hodaka represents in Weathering With You; the deck is constantly stacked against him, but he survives and always seeks a way to better his circumstances. After arriving in Tokyo, he transitions from one spot to another in search of opportunity, bringing him to his fateful meeting with Hina. When he accepts a job with Keisuke’s publishing company, his situation improve enough to where he is able to meet Hina again. Captivated by Hina, Hodaka ends up moving heaven and earth to be with her: his devotion borders on foolishness, and so strong are his feelings that he is willing to run afoul of the law and systems far beyond his comprehension to be with her, whether they be natural or man-made. Driven by his unwavering desire to be with Hina, Hodaka’s determination and persistence is a representation of how powerful love is: he comes to personify the human spirit and how far people are willing to go for one another and their own survival. The film scales this up towards its ending; even as Tokyo begins flooding from ceaseless rain, the citizens’ own resilience leads them to continue living even as a familiar livelihood is disrupted and submerged by unfeeling flood waters. Although people may go through trials and tribulation, their innate desires to survive win out: necessity has driven some of humanity’s greatest innovation and stories of courage, resilience. Altogether, through Weathering with You, Shinkai suggests to the viewer that even when confronted with the unknown, the bonds that connect people are stronger still, and in the end, people will find a way to make it, whatever it takes. As Weathering with You draws to a close, Hodaka and Hina’s reunion marks the beginnings of a new path, one where each will have the other to support and be supported by as the walk their future together.

Personal thoughts on the movie

With its conclusive ending, Weathering with You is a satisfying film to watch, featuring a combination of heartfelt moments, portrayals of everyday life and enthralling action sequences that come together for a big finish. However, it becomes clear that Weathering with You has also inherited much from its predecessor; a star-crossed love story backed by supernatural phenomenon also was at the core of 2016’s Your Name, and both movies utilise the extraordinary to demonstrate the strength of love. Your Name was a powerhouse performance because every action Taki and Mitsuha took in the film served to help them come together during the climax. By comparison, Weathering with You is missing that same coherence in a few areas: the movie is very busy in places as Hodaka struggles to make ends meet, winds up in the seedier parts of Tokyo and comes across a Makarov pistol. This pistol ends up setting in motion events that, while conferring an opportunity for Shinkai to incorporate a vehicle chase, also added nothing substantial to the film’s central message. The presence of social workers and police officers seeking a runaway after Hodaka’s parents reported their child missing would have provided enough of a motivator for Hodaka’s actions towards Weathering with You‘s climax; giving Hodaka a pistol did very little to make his feelings more apparent than it had already been. Similarly, folklore in Your Name ended up giving viewers a unifying element towards understanding how Mitsuha and Taki could transcend the laws of space and time to meet, but in Weathering with You, the inclusion of folklore merely creates a rudimentary mechanism to bolster Hodaka’s urgency in finding Hina after she vanishes. The sum of Weathering with You‘s plot appears to have been Makoto Shinkai’s effort to create a new story without venturing outside of the design choices that had made Your Name immensely successful, treading on very familiar territory. These are ultimately trifling complaints: while perhaps not the powerhouse experience that Your name might be, Weathering with You remains a highly enjoyable movie, standing of its own merits for the strength of its execution.

In every successive film, Makoto Shinkai manages to raise the bar higher for what sort of visuals are seen, and with weather at its core, Weathering with You is a visual spectacle surpassing any of his earlier films. Rain is rendered even more vividly than in Garden of Words, with the motion of individual raindrops being animated. Interiors are intricately depicted, cluttered with everyday items that convey a lived-in sense. Landscape shots and camera effects are more ambitious than before, making use of 3D rendering to present Tokyo in ways the previous films had not: the fireworks festival brought Weathering with You‘s Tokyo to life in a way that earlier films did not, even featuring real-time reflections of the fireworks on the skyscraper windows, and the dynamics of the vehicular chase similarly shows refinement in Shinkai’s craft. In short, Weathering with You represents a progression of the animation and artwork seen in Your Name, and Shinkai’s new story allows the film to portray a side of Tokyo that is lesser seen: the seedy and derelict side of Tokyo is shown, mirroring on how in Japan’s rapid growth and development, some areas were left behind, to be washed away by rain waters. There is a melancholy in seeing the abandoned building that houses the torii Hina found, and throughout Weathering with You, the use of moody, grey lighting suggests that Tokyo is not the destination that it appears to be on an ordinary day. However, when light breaks through the clouds and illuminates the world’s largest city in a wash of warm, golden light, the magic of Tokyo becomes more apparent. The shifting portrayal of Tokyo in Makoto Shinkai’s films show the city as a monolith of activity, a place of great contrasts, of excesses and decay, as well as of beauty and meaning, all of which lie in its people, rather than its buildings: having honed his craft in his previous films, Weathering with You represents further into insight into how Shinkai feels about Tokyo. When Tokyo is flooded by ceaseless rain, its citizens endure, and continue finding ways of making things work; Shinkai therefore indicates, through Weathering with You, that buildings can be rebuilt, and livelihoods restored so as long as people are together.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Weathering with You opens with Hina finding the mysterious torii gate after noticing a beam of sun illuminating it while with her mother at the hospital. When she walks through the gate, she finds herself whisked into the skies above. Unlike my post for Your Name, I’ve decided to host my images in a typical fashion owing to storage constraints. However, the screenshots should still be quite sharp and capture all of the details in the movie nicely: this time around, I’ve got eighty screenshots (down from Your Name‘s one hundred even), curated from a total of three hundred and sixty, making this first and only proper collection of screenshots around on the internet.

  • Weathering with You begins formally with Hodaka on board a ferry bound for Tokyo. The film does not disclose much about his background, beyond the fact that he was dissatisfied with his old life to the point where he felt running away from home was his best bet. The bandages on his face, in conjunction with his unhappiness about his home, suggest that he suffered from physical abuse. However, Hodaka cannot help but marvel at the gathering storm while riding the ferry: a massive rainfall suddenly inundates him, and an unexpected downburst threatens to wash him overboard.

  • The storm disappears as quickly as it appeared, and Hodaka finds himself being saved by one Keisuke Suga. In gratitude, Hodaka treats Keisuke to lunch, and is coerced into buying Keisuke a beer, as well. Keisuke appears to be a bit of a shady character – his eyes lack the detail and dimensions that are typical to trustworthy characters, and so, viewers cannot help but be a little mistrusting of him when he is first introduced. Before we delve further into Weathering with You, it’s appropriate to explain the page quote: I normally reserve Survivorman quotes for Yuru Camp△, but owing to how Les Stroud describes the weather, I figured his remarks on weather are well-suited for opening a talk about a movie with a substantial weather motif.

  • After the ferry pulls into Tokyo harbour and docks, Keisuke and Hodaka part ways, but not before Keisuke leaves him with a business card. In this post, I’ve avoided recycling images that I used for my post about my plans to write aboutWeathering with You, drafted shortly after the film’s announcement: my expectations back then were to see how well the film utilised Hina’s powers and tie that in with an overarching theme. Beyond that, I had no other knowledge of the film, and when it released to Japanese theatres on July 19, 2019, I hadn’t even made any remarks about missing out on things.

  • Because Hodaka was able to survive for a short while before his funds dwindled, it stands to reason that he comes from a moderately wealthy background, enough for him to have withdrawn enough of his personal funds to buy time and attempt to find a job. Hodaka’s journey takes him to a seedier side of Tokyo that Shinkai had hitherto not explored in his movies, and in this side of Tokyo, questionable nightclubs and gambling parlours are portrayed. It reminds me of the side of Tokyo that Natasha Romanoff found Clint Barton in during the events of The Avengers: Endgame, although unlike Barton, Hodaka is no fighter, and can only escape from confrontations.

  • After taking refuge from the rain in front of one such night club, the establishment’s owner notices Hodaka and roughs him up. While beautifully rendered from a distance, close-up, Shinkai also chooses to portray a grittier, rougher side of Tokyo in Weathering with You to show the idea of resilience, a recurring theme in this movie. Hodaka ends up being knocked onto the streets along side a recycling container, and in it, he finds a Makarov PM. Feeling it to be a toy, he takes it with him and winds up at a McDonald’s, but having run his funds dry, can only order a drink.

  • At the McDonald’s, one of the staff takes pity on Hodaka and makes him a Big Mac on the house. Hodaka describes it as the best dinner he had since arriving in Tokyo, and while the moment conveys a combination of despair and hopelessness, it also foreshadows subsequent events: the staff is none other than Hina Amano, and upon their fateful meeting, he feels the warmth in her actions, which extends into the burger itself. In Five Centimetres per Second, Makoto Shinkai had used a stand-in for McDonald’s, but of late, having seen international recognition, Shinkai’s been able to use some real world brands openly in Weathering with You. Details paid to the Big Mac and its box are remarkable, and the box looks identical to the ones at the local McDonald’s.

  • I’m certain that, with a bit of patience and generous use of Wander in the Oculus Quest, I’d be able to find all of the locations shown in Weathering with You – for Your Name, I ended up using a bit of photogrammetry techniques to locate Taki’s apartment in an exercise that proved immensely enjoyable. The locations of Weathering with You are a bit more inconspicuous, and on first glance, would be trickier to find. However, knowing that Shinkai incorporates great amounts of details into his film, using the address on Keisuke’s business card and the Google Maps app on Hodaka’s phone means that one could find Keisuke’s home/office reasonably effortlessly.

  • Of course, doing so is not advised, as it is impolite to hassle a private residence. Regaining his energy and spirits from the Big Mac and Hina’s kindness, Hodaka decides to follow his lead and visit Keisuke. Ever since he arrived in Tokyo, it’s been raining nonstop: much as how previous films used weather as a metaphor for feelings within the protagonists’ hearts, Weathering with You‘s use of rain shows that at this point, Hodaka is very much in a melancholy and despairing. However, a simple gesture from Hina is enough to send Hodaka down a different path, and he decides to take a look at Keisuke’s offer.

  • Upon arriving at the address on Keisuke’s business card and entering, he finds himself face to face to a sleeping woman in her twenties. Being a teen, Hodaka cannot help but stare at her chest as she sleeps, and when she awakens to find him there, the woman’s first act is to tease Hodaka about it. It’s curious to see Shinkai incorporate more of these aspects into his movies (Your Name had Taki feeling up Mitsuha when he’d inhabited her body). Shinkai’s earliest films had female protagonists as pure as driven snow, perfect abstractions of what romance and love entailed, but over the years, females in his works became more human, with their own flaws and unique features.

  • It turns out that the sleeping woman is Natsumi, and while she’s not the female lead of Weathering with You, she’s certainly not one-dimensional, as this screenshot can attest. After Natsumi introduces herself, Keisuke finally arrives and lays out the terms of the job he has in mind for Hodaka. While Hodaka is initially reluctant, Keisuke notes that Hodaka’s job will also cover lodging and meals, prompting him to reconsider. As it turns out, the job Keisuke has in mind is akin to that of an intern: his job description entails organising meetings, proofreading, writing and helping out with housework.

  • Interior clutter has always been a major feature in Makoto Shinkai’s movies, giving a very lived-in sense: in Weathering with You, details in Keisuke’s home/office, from scattered papers and unwashed cups, give insight to Keisuke’s life. Looking at the placement and organisation of everyday objects in a scene brings interiors to life, and in most anime, this detail is eschewed for ease of animation: looking after that many assets would be immensely difficult, and it speaks the technical skill of Comix Wave Films that they are able to render this. The only other studios that place such effort into interiors are Studio Ghibli, Kyoto Animation and P.A. Works.

  • Hodaka’s first test is to accompany Natsumi to speak with a fortune teller, who presents the story of so-called “Sunshine Girls”, alongside “Rain Girls” whose presence can impact the weather, and this early into Weathering with You, the fortune teller already gives viewers one of the film’s main themes: if you mess with nature, it tends to mess back. My main goal in consuming any work of fiction is to see what I can learn from it (and by extension, the author’s intentions), so if I walk away from something with a quantum of an idea of what the author wanted to convey, I end up satisfied.

  • Once Hodaka begins settling into his new routine, Radwimps’ Kaze-tachi no Koe (“Voices of the Wind”) begins playing. Repraising their role from Your Name as Weathering with You‘s composers, Radwimps delivers an aural experience that elicits memories of Your Name. Voices of the Wind is an upbeat piece whose rhythm mirrors the newfound routine in Hodaka’s life, and their remaining vocal pieces are well-adjusted. The instrumental pieces of Weathering with You create a sense of melancholy and longing that fits well with Shinkai’s themes of separation and distance, as well as the supernatural feeling that arises at critical moments in the story.

  • Besides McDonald’s, Tenki no Ko also showcases Apple products in prominence: Hodaka is seen using an iPhone 8 and a 2017 MacBook Pro, and Natsumi runs an iPad. That Weathering with You is able to use real-world products is a sign of how far Makoto Shinkai has come in terms of recognition, for large companies like Yahoo!, Apple and McDonald’s to allow their products to be rendered in such detail. Since Your Name, Apple has reached iOS 13 from iOS 10, and their Flat UI has been around since 2013’s iOS 7. Since then, iOS has not changed too much in appearance, and I remark that I’m very fond of the Flat UI, which replaces the Skeuomorphism aesthetic that iOS 6 and earlier used.

  • Weathering with You‘s use of supernatural differs from that of Your Name‘s in that whereas the latter employed it purely as a study of regional folklore, Weathering with You mixes it with urban legends that high school girls are familiar with. Old and new collide in Weathering with You in a way that Shinkai’s previous films do not depict, and this hints at Shinkai’s thoughts on advancing technologies and beliefs: the interweaving of old and new suggest in Weathering with You indicates that while Shinkai respects the old ways and uses them when appropriate, he also believes that if the new offers a tangible benefit to something, then it should be tested and utilised, as well.

  • Aside from high school students attuned to rumours and urban legends, as well as practitioners of the occult, Natsumi and Hodaka also speak with meteorologists and experts. While some turn them away, seeing the supernatural as a waste of time, others eagerly speak with them, as they’ve also spotted the unusual phenomenon manifesting in Weathering with You: raindrops occasionally flop about and swim as fish do, and there have been several instances of large bodies of water taking the form of whales. Unfortunately, my understanding of the symbolism here is not terribly extensive, and I can’t offer more on what the cloud fish and whales mean beyond the suggestion that the clouds are supposed to represent a world that has not been extensively studied.

  • One subtle detail that I really enjoyed was watching Hodaka slowly become better as an article writer: Keisuke had been satisfied with his initial writing but counts him as a slow writer, and while he reviewers Hodaka’s work here, he critiques one of Hodaka’s passages before noting that Hodaka’s done well in another section. While seemingly minor, this moment shows that despite his gruff appearance and the occult focus of his publishing business, Keisuke is someone that Hodaka can look to as a mentor figure. For the audiences, this is reassuring, reminding viewers that Keisuke can be trusted.

  • While out one day, Hodaka runs into Hina again, who is trying to discuss terms of some job with two shady-looking characters. Without really thinking things through, he pulls Hina away and they run off, but the two catch up to Hodaka and begin kicking his face in. Hodaka ends up drawing the Makarov and fires it, scaring the two off, but also earning himself admonishment from Hina. The Makarov pistol is named after designer Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, who designed it to be a compact pistol with low recoil without compromising stopping power. It entered service in 1951, and anime fans will know it for being the gun that Shino “Sinon” Asada fears during Sword Art Online‘s Phantom Bullet arc. Owing to its Soviet origins and use by the Eastern Bloc, the weapon does seem to exude an aura of menace and well-chosen to be the antagonist’s firearm in anime.

  • Hodaka discards the gun and ends up having a proper conversation with Hina to know her better, after both have a chance to clear their heads. They head to the roof where the torii is, and Hina demonstrates her power to clear the skies. It turns out that this power is strictly for clearing the skies, and unlike The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s “Clear Skies” shout, cannot make aurora borealis manifest. In Weathering with You, the first bit of sun is a magic moment for Hodaka. Most promotional images for the film feature the clearing skies by the torii on the rooftop and the cloud-top islands, and while Weathering with You does not have an iconic element as did Your Name in terms of imagery, the imagery associated with Weathering with You remains distinct.

  • While the phenomenon of a Sunshine Girl had been relegated to the realm of myth and rumour, Hodaka’s encounter with Hina changes his world permanently. Here on the rooftops, Hina and Hodaka are removed from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, as well as the world’s worries. The tranquility and peace that Hodaka shares with Hina here marks a turning point in Weathering with You, being the first time that sunshine is properly seen in the movie, and with it, the first time that Hodaka sees a reason for being here in Tokyo.

  • Reports of animals manifesting in the water begin making their way across social media platforms like Instagram, and Hodaka’s mind is on capitalising the excitement to publish a few more articles that could draw in readers, and with them, the coin. Natsumi’s exact relationship to Keisuke is never explored early on, and this leaves a bit of a mystery to her from Hodaka’s perspective; he is shocked to learn that she’s more of a part-timer with Keisuke’s company, and prior to heading out for a day’s worth of interviews, she looks through some of the phenomenon with Hodaka, but ends up disappointed that Hodaka’s thinking more about the increased profits from increased readership.

  • Keisuke, meanwhile, has other troubles of his own; after his wife died, their daughter went to live with her grandparents, and Keisuke finds it difficult to spend time with her daughter. At Minori Cafe in Ginza’s Mitsukoshi Department Store, he meets with his mother-in-law, who is adamant about keeping Keisuke from seeing his daughter owing to the fact that he smokes and the poor weather makes it difficult to be outside, which would alleviate her asthma. Keisuke’s mother-in-law recalls a time when the weather was more agreeable and laments that contemporary children are less inclined to explore the outdoors owing to extremities of weather, although the reality is that kids of this age are glued to their tablets and phones.

  • When I was in Japan three years earlier, I passed by the famous Wako Department Store in Ginza: I best remember its distinct Seiko Watch Face from the movie King Kong vs. Godzilla. After spending the morning at the Imperial gardens and a shrine, I’d arrived in Ginza for a delicious beef nabe lunch at a restaurant whose location I can’t remember, and subsequently browsed around the shops in the area before heading off for the banks of the Sumida River to check out the Tokyo Skytree and Sugamo Jizodori Shopping Street a ways over. The day ended at Heritage Resort in Saitama, where I sat down to a magnificent dinner of Kobe beef and sashimi before soaking at the hotel’s onsen.

  • There is a lot of exploration in Tokyo, and while I’d only spent a day there during my trip, I appreciate that one could spend a few months there and still not see everything worth seeing (although I note I’ve been in Calgary since time immemorial and there are things back home I don’t know about). Back in Weathering with You, upon seeing Hina’s power to clear the skies with his own eyes, Hodaka begins to develop an idea – aside from a few minutes of good weather, Weathering with You has been very rainy insofar, and Hodaka begins to feel that the mood of people is invariably tied to the weather, with rain signifying depression, melancholy and lack of energy. Sunshine occupies the opposite end of the spectrum, filling people with motivation, determination and joy. He contemplates the idea of using Hina’s powers to deliver hope for cash, and decides to float the idea to Hina.

  • Hina invites Hodaka over, who suddenly realises that this is the first time he’s ever been over to a girl’s house on his own. Hodaka hesitates briefly, but Hina has no qualms about having him over. As it turns out, Hina’s been living with her younger brother, Nagi. Ever since their mother passed away about a year ago, Hina’s been working to support the two, and this was roughly when Hina discovered the torii on top of the abandoned building. Hina’s situation is a tragic one, and despite the challenges she’s faced, she does her best to be optimistic about things, even going to extraordinary lengths like working at a night club despite being under-aged in order to make ends meet.

  • Because of her situation, Hina’s developed a rather unusual sense of cooking, incorporating instant ramen and potato chips into her recipe for fried rice. I am strongly reminded of a similar moment in The Garden of Words when Yukari cooks for Takai after the two retreat to her apartment during a sudden downpour. Both The Garden of Words and Weathering with You feature rain at its centrepiece, and while Hodoka and Takai have different thoughts on the rain, in both movies, the rain plays an instrumental role in bringing people together. When I first watched The Garden of Words, a major flood shut down my area, and now, watching a similar scene in Weathering with You, I am reminded of working from home some seven years ago in a similar fashion.

  • While Hina and Hodaka share a lunch of fried rice and a fried chicken salad, I look back on some meals that’ve put a smile on my face. With restaurants slowly beginning to re-open, I’ve been able to enjoy a combination of restaurant food and home cooking: over the past weekend, I’ve had herb-and-spice fried chicken and fries with southern-style gravy and a delicious sirloin burger topped with onion crisps with a side of crinkle-cut fries. Looking forwards to a good meal is a massive morale booster, and unlike seven years ago, where the Great Flood caused me to fall into a melancholy, I’ve been more proactive in keeping my spirits up. Being able to enjoy a meal is high on my list of things to do during times like these, and the warmth and normalcy of such moments in Makoto Shinkai’s films suggests that he believe something similar.

  • After a day’s effort, Hodaka and Hina spin up a website that allows visitors to make requests for good weather. When Nagi arrives home, he’s unimpressed with Hodaka’s presence, and Hodaka recognises Nagi as the elementary school student who seemed to be rather popular with the ladies. I’m guessing that Hodaka and Hina are using a cloud service to run their website and are rocking a noSQL database to hold their requests, which would be simple entities containing a date, requestor name, email and description of the task, easily retrieved by date of request. Then it’s up to Hodaka and Hina to travel to the customer and fulfil their request for good weather. Nagi is initially skeptical, and even more so when he’s made to wear a teru teru bozū costume.

  • Hina, Hodaka and Nagi’s first assignment comes at a flea market, whose organisers worry that attendance and business will be poor on account of the rain dissuading customers from visiting. Initially, the organisers are skeptical that anything could happen: being able to control the weather is something that only exists in the realm of fiction, involving powerful technologies like those the Forerunners employed on Halo, or through extraordinary means like the Infinity Stones. However, when Hina wishes for it, a break appears in the clouds, bathing the land with sunlight. The flee market’s organisers are absolutely thrilled, and Nagi realises that Hodaka and Hina are onto something, no longer reluctant to head out as a teru teru bozū.

  • As the clouds give way to blue sky, the music swells to a crescendo of joy and optimism. While I had been a little skeptical of Radwimps upon hearing their role as the composers for Your Name‘s soundtrack, I ate my words after seeing the movie, and by Weathering with You, I was thoroughly impressed with their musical performance. The music of Weathering with You is memorable in its own right, creating a different aural aesthetic than that of Your Name‘s; Your Name‘s music was deliberately hesitant in places to mirror the confusion in Mitsuha and Taki surrounding both their scenario and their feelings for one another, but in Weathering with You, the sound is bolder and more purposeful, showing Hodaka and Hina both as being strong-willed.

  • After their success at the flea market, word begins to spread: Hina and Hodaka find themselves busy, fulfilling requests from those who’ve placed them on their website. Tōko Miura’s “Festival” accompanies the montage depicting the various venues Hina and Hodaka are asked to bring sunshine to: this highly upbeat, energetic song offers a break from Radwimps’ own performances, creating a refreshing break in the movie that creates an aural representation of what sunshine sounds like. The spirit and pacing in “Festival” sounds like a song that speaks to the halcyon days of high school, a time for youth to partake in exploration and discovery without the obligations of adulthood.

  • In Weathering with You, Hodaka provides a narration over the montage: as he, Hina and Nagi brighten up weddings, Comiket, and school activities with Hina’s power, he contemplates how happy the sun makes people, washing the land in light and warmth that signifies hope and possibility. Hodaka is at his happiest up to this point in the film: having a purpose to work for and being with Hina, who can be seen as a personification of sunlight, Hodaka believes that sunny weather even helps people to fall in love with those around them more quickly, foreshadowing his own feelings for Hina.

  • Hodaka’s monologue captures the general feeling people have regarding good weather: love for good weather is universal, and there’s a scientific reason as to why this is the case. It turns out that exposure to sunshine triggers the production of serotonin in the brain, as well as catalysing the production of vitamin D. Serotonin is a chemical that is involved in a range of processes and contributes to regulation of sleep, digestion and mood, while Vitamin D is involved in calcium absorption, cell proliferation and regulating the immune response. In helping the body to produce these chemicals, sunlight is a critical part of well-being – there is a physiological piece in why sunshine and well-being are correlated.

  • For me, my mood fouls the quickest at the sight of an overcast sky or snowfall, but rainfall doesn’t bother me at all. There’s a scientific reason for this, as well: the sound of rainfall is a consistent sound that helps the mind to relax, stimulating enough of the auditory cortex to promote some activity without excessive stimulation that we perceive as noise. While research has found that extensive periods of bad or good weather cannot be positively correlated with changes in mood, the fact is that weather patterns do have a tangible impact on people; these might be subtle on their own, but can add up to create a noticeable impact on one’s health and well-being.

  • Eventually, Hina and Hodaka become renowned enough to be called in for their biggest assignment yet: ceaseless rainfall threatens the Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival, one of the biggest fireworks events in central Tokyo. Centred around the Yoyogi area, the festival has its origins in the 1980s, and each year in August, up to twelve thousand individual fireworks are used during the event. Most shows begin at 7:30 PM: unlike somewhere like Calgary, where the high latitude means that the skies don’t darken until 11:00 PM local time, Tokyo’s got a much more consistent day/night cycle, allowing for earlier performances.

  • Hodaka appears as a VIP, alongside the event’s organisers: they briefly catch a glimpse of Hina looking rather sharp in a yukata before heading off to the rooftops of the Roppongi Hills tower, a mixed-use high-rise with a maximum height of 238 metres that was built in 2003. It’s a tense moment, as the event’s organisers wait in anticipation of Hina using her magic to clear the skies. Hina begins her prayer, and moments later, the clouds dissipate, bathing the land in an orange glow from the day’s last light.

  • This moment was a truly magical one, and the music swells into a chorus as the details of Tokyo are thrown into sharp relief. From the northwest corner of Roppongi Hills, the skyscrapers of Shinjuku, some 4.5 kilometres away, can be seen, and the Meiji Jingu Gaien park where the fireworks event is hosted, is somewhere below on the right hand side of the image. Makoto Shinkai’s portrayals of Tokyo have always been spectacular, but the sunset in Weathering with You really hits home as to just how far the techniques have improved.

  • I had originally been planning on doing my first hike of the year this past weekend. This excursion would’ve likely entailed of a simpler trail that cuts through a beautiful canyon, followed by lunch at my favourite poutine restaurant on this side of the world. With the current world health crisis contained for now, it would have been tempting to go do a day trip to the mountains, but in the interest of safety, I’ve elected to shelve such an excursion until a later date, and instead, with the recent bit of spring weather we’ve finally had, I decided to walk the local parks instead. While it may not be a mountain trail, the parks in my area are beautiful and most certainly enjoyable to walk in: I was lucky enough to see cherry trees in full blossom.

  • Short of visiting Japan and watching the Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival in person, it is no joke when I say that watching Weathering with You‘s presentation of it is the next best thing. The movie makes use of CGI to present a flyover of the area while the fireworks show is on, sending viewers through the fireworks itself, and it is here that the observant viewer will notice real-time reflections of the fireworks appearing on the windows of the buildings below. The entire scene, from the buildings to the fireworks, is rendered in 3D, and this is probably the most impressive application of CG in any anime movie to date.

  • The festival’s attendees are thrilled to be enjoying the fireworks on a clear night, with spectators watching at the Meiji-Jingu park, and Nagi hanging out with one of his lady friends at a festival. Up on Roppongi’s rooftops, Hina and Hodaka share a private moment together, marveling the fireworks together. Hina finally feels that she’s found a purpose to life beyond just surviving, and it is here that Hodaka begins to realise he’s falling in love with Hina, driven both by the magical atmosphere conferred by the fireworks and Hina’s dazzling personality.

  • The Obon Festival brings Hina and Hodaka to the Tachibana family, who’s made a request: Fumi Tachibana, figures that sunnier weather will help her husband’s spirit to navigate back properly. Obon has been a Japanese custom for at least half a millennium, and is a means of honouring the spirits of the deceased: offerings are laid out for them, as they are said to return during the time of the festival. Taki makes a cameo appearance here, watching as Hina and Hodaka help with rites. Cameos only began with Your Name, which featured the return of Yukari Yukino from The Garden of Words, and it stands to reason that Makoto Shinkai’s next film will likely feature Hina and Hodaka in some way.

  • Whereas folklore and regional beliefs feel more tangential to Weathering with You, they were a central part of Your Name: Shinkai crafted an entire set of local rituals and myths for the film based on Japanese folklore to bring Mitsuha’s world to life and create credibility for the extraordinary experiences she shared with Taki. This ended up being a point of contention when one “Verso Sciolto” argued that one needed at least his level of understanding to properly enjoy every detail in Your Name. Verso Sciolto’s presence reached Anime News Network, MyAnimeList and even AnimeSuki, where he wrote pedantic, purple-prose filled paragraphs explaining why his interpretations of Your NameLiz and the Blue Bird and Chihayafuru were the only ones worth considering even though his interpretations all missed their mark entirely.

  • Verso Sciolto fancied himself a lecturer, but eventually ended up being banned from each and every anime forum of note, for being uncommonly persistent in pushing views of anime that were egregiously wrong. This is by no means a loss, and I admit that it is nice to be able to discuss Weathering with You without being told that my lack of background in Japanese literature and folklore leaves me ill-equipped to talk about the film. Back in Weathering with You, Keisuke and Natsumi visit an elderly man familiar with the myth of the Sunshine Maidens. He explains that their power comes at a cost, and that eventually, must be sacrificed to the gods to maintain the natural order of things.

  • It turns out that the police are interested in Hodaka’s whereabouts after he illegally discharged the Makarov, and two officers end up catching up to the fellow that had come into contact with Hodaka. He initially attempts to escape, under the impression they’re here to bust him for attempting to hire Hina, but it turns out they’re looking for information. Firearms in Japan are tightly regulated: aside from air rifles and shotguns, firearms are strictly prohibited in Japan. A law passed in 1958 simply states that no citizen may possess firearms or swords, and individuals who decide to have a shotgun or air rifle consent to random police checks, as well as undergo a series of stringent exams and inspections. As such, Hodaka’s possession of a Makarov is a crime, and it is unsurprising that the police are so intent on finding him before anything serious happens.

  • With Hina’s birthday coming up, Hodaka decides to get her something, but struggles to find a proper answer. Hodaka is frequently seen posting to Yahoo! Answers for suggestions, and while other services have largely displaced Yahoo!, in Japan, they still remain quite popular. Eventually, he decides to ask Nagi, who replies that, since Hina’s been doing her best to look after him, he’d be happy to have Hina live more like an ordinary teenage girl would; a ring seems suitable for this, Nagi concludes, having deduced that Hodaka’s in love with Hina. Despite his age, Nagi is very well-versed in what the ladies like, prompting Hodaka to refer to him as senpai.

  • Hodaka ends up checking out a Lumine Store and picks up a ring for Hina from MocA. These department stores are located near major train stations in Japan, capitalising on the large crowd volumes of these transport hubs to provide commuters and visitors with shopping and dining options. The ring costs 3400 Yen, about 43 CAD at the time of writing, and Hodaka wonders if it will be something Hina likes: the clerk replies that his feelings will reach her, as it is evident in how dedicated he is. Here, Miki Okudera, Taki’s senior from his old part-time job, can be seen in the background.

  • Weathering with You is filled with cameo appearances, and the clerk is none other than Your Name‘s very own Mitsuha Miyamizu. It is great to see Mitsuha doing well: she’s now working in Tokyo and, assuming that she’s the same Mitsuha of Your Name, finally able to live somewhere brimming with activity and excitement as she’d yearned for as a teen. Wearing a warm smile, she reassures that Hodaka’s feelings will reach his recipients, and she suggests that she would be very happy if someone had spent that effort for her. Besides Taki, Mitsuha and Miki, Tesshi and Sayaka also make an appearance in Weathering with You, along with an older Yotsuha and some of her classmates.

  • Hina and Hodaka have one final assignment: Keisuke’s requested their services to create a beautiful day during which he can spend time with his daughter: Keisuke’s mother-in-law would only permit him to spend time with his daughter if it’s outdoors, but owing to the frequent rain, this has not been possible until now. Even though it’s only for an afternoon, this means the world to Keisuke. Nagi gets along with Keisuke’s daughter well, and Keisuke is content in watching this peaceful scene unfold at Shiba Park: Zojoji Temple is visible here a ways past the field where Nagi and Keisuke’s daughter are hanging out.

  • Both Hina and Natsumi wear identical looks of disgust on their faces when word gets out that Hodaka had assumed Keisuke and Natsumi were a couple, when they are in fact, uncle and niece. This scene of normalcy underlies what each of Keisuke, Hina and Hodaka have been longing for – spending time with people they care about. While Makoto Shinkai has explored themes of romantic love in his movies, Weathering with You also begins to touch upon family, as well, showing how the connection between families pushes people towards actions, both great and dubious, to preserve and defend what is important to them.

  • I’ve chosen to render Tenki no Ko with its official title, Weathering with You, simply for the ease of searching. The English translation of Tenki no Ko is often given as “Child of the weather”, which I would only give partial credit for: while it is true that Japanese does not always give an indicator of singular or plural, and the child in Weathering with You is Hina owing to her connection with the skies, I argue that “Children of the Weather” is more appropriate for the film since it’s about children in plural (Hodaka, as well as Hina). The English title is not a 1:1 translation, but is a very clever play on words, addressing both the film’s weather motif and the idea that “weathering” can be interpreted as “making it together with” that speaks to the movie’s themes of resilience.

  • Hodaka decides to accompany Hina back, feeling that the time has come for him to give her the ring ahead of her birthday. Both she and Hodaka have feelings they wish to convey, but before they can speak, Hina seemingly vanishes after a gust of wind whips through the area; she’s light enough to be carried into the air now, and while she’s unharmed, it turns out that as a result of wielding her power, Hina’s given up much of her life force and begins losing her physical form.

  • In a flashback, Hina reveals that she developed the power to clear the skies with a prayer about a year ago. How this came to be is never specified, and viewers are meant to take this as a part of the supernatural piece of Weathering with You: in Makoto Shinkai’s movies involving the supernatural, the reason behind why something happens is always secondary to the consequences of a phenomenon to remind viewers that sometimes, how people handle adversity and the unknown matters more than what caused it to begin with.

  • At Hina’s place, the police come calling and ask if she’s come into contact with Hodaka. She denies knowing anything and the police leave; Hodaka prepares to head back over to Keisuke’s place, but it turns out the police have also spoken to him. Keisuke reveals that he intends to file for full custody of his daughter: like Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, family causes Keisuke to realise what’s important to him, and unfortunately for Hodaka, it means that Keisuke will distance himself from him now that it’s known Hodaka is wanted for unlawful possession of a firearm. In Endgame, family is what initially dissuades Stark from seriously investigating Scott Lang’s plan for a time heist.

  • With Keisuke firing him, Hodaka returns to Hina, who intends on running away and disappearing: she’s learnt that social services will be taking custody of Nagi, and unwilling to entertain the notion of being separated from her only family, the three decide to head off. This isn’t an easy task: the weather’s taken a turn for the worse, and the typhoon that’s passed into the area has now chilled the area sufficiently for it to start snowing, an unprecedented occurrence. From orbit, the size of the typhoon is apparent: it rivals 1979’s super-typhoon Tip, which is known for being the largest typhoon recorded (2220 kilomatres across) and having the lowest recorded pressure on Earth (87.0 kPA, against an average pressure of 101.3 kPA).

  • With police on the streets to keep order as the incoming typhoon prompts an evacuation order, Hodaka, Hina and Nagi run into trouble when officers suspect them of being runaways, and attempt to ask for their identification. One aspect of Hodaka’s character that I found curious was his tendency to try an escape every unfavourable situation he’s in: it speaks volumes about his own background and how his story in Weathering with You started with him running away from home.

  • When it looks like Hodaka’s options run out, Hina uses Force lightning a prayer to summon lightning that destroys a nearby truck, starting a fire that prompts the police to look after. In the chaos, Hodaka and the others escape. Lacking any identification, most hotels turn the trio away even though Hodaka has the cash to pay for the night: most hotels require that individuals provide proof of identification (e.g. a passport or operator’s license) before accepting a transaction. However, Hodaka eventually does manage to find a hotel that will allow them to stay for the night.

  • Concern gives way to relief, and after taking a bath, everyone sets about preparing a meal with the food from the in-room bar. After dinner, Hodaka and Nagi partake in some karaoke. With the bliss the three share together, Hodaka feels that as long as they have one another, they’ll somehow find a way to make things work. There’s a desperation in his inner monologue, praying with all of his resolve that things can work out; in his heart, Hodaka probably knows that things won’t last forever.

  • Once Nagi is asleep, the time has finally come for Hodaka to give Hina her birthday gift. By this point in Weathering with You, Hina’s become increasingly incorporeal, but her sense of humour remains: she gently teases Hodaka for staring at her, even as he dissolves into tears, worried that their time together will be cut short. Makoto Shinkai’s older films were well-known for presenting separation without resolution, mirroring how people part ways and never reunite owing to circumstances in their lives under ordinary conditions, creating a highly poignant outcome that left viewers wondering if his characters would find happiness.

  • The ring that Hodaka gifts to Hina can be seen as a promise ring, signifying his intent to commit and also to keep his word about keeping everyone together. However, the next morning, Hina has vanished, and moreover, the police have arrived to take custody of Nagi, as well as arrest Hodaka for possession of a weapon and illegally discharging a firearm. The storm has ceased entirely, and the entire landscape is covered in a washed-out light that seems unnatural.

  • Lighting plays a major role in Makoto Shinkai’s films, playing on universal emotions and feelings to convey a particular idea. The bright light washes out detail in the cityscape to create the sense that with Hina’s disappearance, Hodaka is stupefied and unable to think of anything else; his surroundings lose their colour in the process, and his world takes a further blow when he overhears that Hina had lied about her age, being in fact, younger than he is. After arriving at the police station, Hodaka manages to escape again before he can be interrogated. Unlawful as Hodaka’s actions are, one cannot help but admire his tenacity.

  • Natsumi comes soaring to the rescue on her moped, whisking Hodaka away before the police can catch up to him. The world takes on a renewed colour as Hodaka regains his determination to seek out Hina, and he believes that torii on the abandoned building must be a gateway into the heavens where Hina is held. Natsumi demonstrates an uncommon degree of skill in outmanoeuvring her pursuers, weaving between traffic and narrow spaces to throw off police cruisers.

  • Natsumi is plainly enjoying the thrill of the chase: she even remarks that she might be born to ride. In escaping the police station, Hodaka might be seen as running away again, but it is at this point in Weathering with You that things begin flipping around: while Hodaka is escaping the police, he’s also simultaneously trying to reach Hina and fulfil his word, a form of taking responsibility. The blurring of boundaries at the film’s climax shows that the gap between right and wrong is not always apparent, and it is the case that the world is not as black-and-white as we’d like it to be.

  • Natsumi’s ride comes to an end when she drives her moped into waist-deep water. Her Honda Cub ceases to work, with its main engine filled with water: it’s up to Hodaka to get to Hina. His heart tells him that she’s somewhere in the skies, and recalling her story about the torii being a portal of sorts, deduces that this is his destination. Shinkai’s especially fond of portraying the Honda Cub line of mopeds in his films owing to their reliability and track record: Takaki and Kanae both rode these mopeds in Five Centimeters per Second, and similarly, Katsuhiko Teshigawara uses one in Your Name. Unlike Yamaha’s Tricity, the Honda Cub is a venerable bike with a long history dating back to 1958, when it was first produced.

  • As Hodaka runs off towards the derelict building and its gateway to another world across the unused rail tracks, he draws the attention of both the crews working to bring Tokyo’s trains back online, as well as bemused spectators on the streets below. Trains figure prominently as symbols in Makoto Shinkai’s movies, being used as the means of connecting distant people together. Having Hodaka run on the inactive rail lines, then, is to signify that the limitations of a system notwithstanding, he intends to reach Hina at all costs.

  • A cumulonimbus is visible over the abandoned building: we’re now on the first day of June, and summer is a mere twenty-one days away, but during the weekend a few nights earlier, we had our first thunderstorm of the year: an smaller but still severe storm had passed just north of the city, and I watched as cloud-to-cloud lightning silently lit up the evening sky. Unbeknownst to me, some three hundred kilometres to the west was a band of thunderstorms that were moving eastward. By 3 AM, these storms reached my city and began pounding us with lightning and thunder. I was awakened by the thunder, glanced outside and decided to fall back asleep, recalling a time when I’d been younger and said thunderstorms would keep me up all night in excitement.

  • Upon arriving at the derelict building, Hodaka finds many of its floors have collapsed from the storm; reaching the torii is going to be a challenge, further complicated by Keisuke’s arrival. Keisuke implores Hodaka to take responsibility for his actions and turn himself in, failing to realise the reason why Hodaka is so determined to keep going is for Hina. Hodaka recovers the Makarov and points it at Keisuke: he discharges it into the air, and the police finally close in on the building, surrounding Hodaka. The Tokyo police are seen using the New Nambu M60, a revolver chambered for the .380 round that’s been in production since 1961 by Shin-Chuō Industries. When Keisuke realises that Hodaka’s love for Hina parallels that of his for his wife, Asuka Mamiya, he tackles the nearest officer, creating enough space for Hodaka to escape.

  • Hodaka reaches the rooftop torii and finds himself whisked to the upper edge of the troposphere: the average cumulonimbus reaches twelve kilometres up, flattening out at their upper extremities thanks to wind shear. The turbulent winds create a separation of charge, resulting in an electric field that is favourable for cloud-to-cloud lightning. Owing to the instability that creates them, thunderstorms typically result from these clouds, although in Weathering with You, the flattened cumulonimbus top resembles an island in the sky. Besides the rooftop torii, this unusual sight forms the bulk of the marketing materials for Weathering with You.

  • It is in the grassy tops of the cumulonimbus that Hodaka manages to find the sleeping Hina. He calls out to Hina, who awakens: as the currents up here increase, it becomes trickier to reach her. At the last second, Hina leaps into the air and takes a hold of Hodaka’s hand. The two are plunged into the interior of the cumulonimbus cloud, where the turbulence separates the two briefly. Here, Hodaka declares that he doesn’t care if the weather’s foul; a world without Hina is meaningless to him. It’s a touching gesture, and when the two fall from the lower reaches of the cumulonimbus cloud, Hodaka manages to grab onto Hina once more.

  • Shortly after the BD for Weathering with You released, Makoto Shinkai posted a Tweet comparing the theatrical version to the BD version, and it turns out there’s an error in the former: the low-level clouds and their shadows are completely absent. Shinkai remarked that this would make the theatrical cut more “valuable”, unique: the difference doesn’t negatively affect those who saw the theatre version in any way, and reminds me of a similar situation where the home release of Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer made some changes to the scenes, most noticeably, how the 00 Raiser launches en route towards intercepting a supposedly destroyed object that’s reappeared.

  • Hodaka wishes that Hina will now begin to live for herself; having spent so much of her life living for others’ happiness, Hina’s neglected to consider what she wants for herself. Hodaka acts as the agent of change here, prompting Hina to stay. The two plummet to the surface together, hand-in-hand, and moments later, find themselves lying at the foot of the torii still holding hands. The sunny weather has disappeared, replaced by a torrential rain.

  • It suddenly strikes me that Makoto Shinkai’s novelisation of Weathering with You is probably a valuable companion to the film, as it would be able to explore the inner thoughts that the characters have to a greater extent than in the movie itself. I found this to be true for Five Centimetres per Second, where the companion side-stories offered a considerable amount of insight into what Takaki had been feeling, and provided a decisive answer for the decade-old question of whether or not Takaki found happiness (he does). Similarly, Your Name‘s side story provides great detail into explaining the body-switching phenomenon from Taki’s perspective and also helps to flesh out the Miyamizu family’s history, making Toshiki a more sympathetic character than he had appeared in the film. I’ve not read Weathering with You‘s novelisation yet, but I imagine that it would help to clear out the handful of questions that I have exiting Weathering with You.

  • After his arrest, Hodaka is put on probation and sent back home to Kozushima, a small island some 172 kilometres from Tokyo. Here, he graduates from high school. Two of his classmates are curious to know what happened, and Hodaka initially misinterprets this as a kokuhaku. In the aftermath, Hodaka ends up returning to Tokyo, finding the city flooded from three straight years of non-stop rain. Its impacts on Tokyo are dramatic, and writers with a far broader audience than myself have asserted that Weathering with You‘s central theme lies in the topic of climate change, how the film is a call to action and a grim warning to what awaits humanity if we should continue down our current path. However, in Fujinkōron’s interview with Makoto Shinkai, Shinkai states that:

People say that humans are destroying nature for the sake of their own conveniences, and I agree with that. And yet, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t hesitate to turn on the air conditioning in my room when it’s hot. Climate change is a large-scale phenomenon with an unimaginable scope, but there’s not much a person can do about it on an individual level. Even so, my actions as a single person have a definite effect on the environment. It may feel like something that’s out of your realm of responsibility, but it absolutely isn’t. I made the film while thinking about how to deal with that problem through the framework of entertainment.

  • While weather patterns to the tune of what’s seen in Weathering with You seem a little outlandish, the fact is that the world has been trending towards greater extremities of late, and given the delicate balance of many ecosystems, shifting climate patterns will have massive knock-on effects around the globe. With this in mind, it is erroneous to declare that Weathering with You is an Aesop on climate change, or was intended to be a political statement. The persistent belief that all art is intrinsically political is a flawed belief; in the case of Weathering with You, imposing this viewpoints onto the movie is to be disingenuous towards Shinkai’s intentions for the film to speak of more human themes; even against adversity, people are resilient and will find ways to adapt and improve their situation. Just as Hina and Hodaka had done against the unforgiving backdrop of Tokyo, Tokyo’s citizens find ways to survive even as rain hammers the flood-beleaguered city.

  • Writing the post for Weathering with You was not an easy task: besides coming late to a field saturated with reviews having a distinct political slant, there were also the assertions, at the usual places, that the film’s direction and execution should be considered a “let down” when compared to Your Name. I counter-argue that Weathering with You has its own merits in creating a compelling story of responsibility and resilience, two themes that I’ve noticed are absent from all discussion. The themes in Weathering with You are rooted in optimism, that the belief humanity can adapt, improve and thrive, and speak positively of Shinkai’s world-view – he indicates through the film that people can learn to take responsibility for their actions at the individual level, and at a society level, people will find ways to survive.

  • I’ve long felt the contemporary attitudes towards climate change to be misguided, being motivated by politics and appearances rather than legitimate improvement for all of humanity: society’s propensity to divert funding and media coverage to activists, from researchers and experts who are developing greener technologies and systems, speaks volumes to the current society’s lack of sensibility and adversity towards hard work. It takes genuine effort and passion to learn about how complex systems function and then cultivate the expertise needed for synthesising novel solutions, but it takes no skill to make angry speeches and rally people to support extreme, but ineffectual actions with potentially devastating consequences.

  • While politicians waste taxpayer money towards propping up activist figures over supporting legitimate experts and professionals, I’ll continue to pay no mind to the activists and do my own part in keeping the planet healthier. Doing things like walking and using mass transit, recycling and composting, buying less stuff, turning the lights off in unoccupied rooms and other actions that might be small, but within my ability to carry out – these small actions are how I commit to ecological responsibility, and I count them as being considerably more valuable than telling others how they ought to live their lives.

  • In having Hodaka return to Tokyo and doing his best to make things right, Weathering with You demonstrates that the older Hodaka has come to understand what taking responsibility for his actions means. This is an overarching theme in Weathering with You that, while only visible once Hodaka speaks with Keisuke, is one that nonetheless is an important message to walk away with. These messages are conveniently skated over by those who purport to support ecological responsibility, but whose words are ultimately empty, and whose actions more detrimental to the world than those they seek to lecture.

  • When Hodaka encounters Hina, she’s seen making a prayer for fair weather. Hodaka calls out to her, and the sun appears. Thrilled, Hina warmly embraces Hodaka, and he promises that from now on, things are going to be okay. Indeed, Hodaka ends up entering post-secondary and subsequently takes a new job at Keisuke’s company. With the maturity and stability of someone who’s clearly learned from his experiences, audiences can conclude that Hodaka is able to keep his word to Hina, and that their happy ending is a deserved one. This post and its twelve thousand two hundred and fifty-four words is now very nearly in the books, kicking June off in style, but I admit that this much writing in the past while has been a bit wearing. I would like to take the first bit of June to unwind and take it easy.

  • Overall, Weathering with You succeeds in capturing the magic that is Makoto Shinkai, presenting a captivating story of resilience and determination that concludes decisively. While Weathering with You can come across as a bit busy in some areas, the movie ultimately succeeds in telling a cohesive and compelling coming-of-age story, accelerated by the presence of the supernatural. As such, Weathering with You earns an A (4.0 of 4.0, or 9 of 10): whatever flaws there are in the film are overshadowed by characters with an engaging story and Makoto Shinkai’s continued commitment to technical excellence within the film’s visuals and aural components. Like Your NameWeathering with You is a film I hope that all of my readers will have the chance to check out for themselves.

Whole-movie reflection and closing remarks

On the whole, Weathering with You is a solid film, a fine addition to Makoto Shinkai’s filmography that combines his unique sense of aesthetics with a warm (if somewhat busy) story. While Weathering with You will continue to exist in the shadows of its predecessor, the film also has enough unique elements to indicate that Shinkai’s continuing to push the boundaries for excellence in animation. Viewers will find the film will to be tread upon well-worn paths that Your Name had trail-blazed, from the journey Hodaka and Hina take, to design choices like placement of music, but in spite of this, Weathering with You still hits all of its high points to create an immersive, engaging experience during its run. With this in mind, there is a limit to how well a reiteration of familiar plot points and story mechanics will be received, and so, in the future, Makoto Shinkai will need to focus on his own visions for his work: Weathering with You is a technically superb film that managed to keep things engaging, but revisiting the same themes in a future film could prove wearing on viewers. Besides exploring different themes, one other aspect that would yield a memorable movie is to keep the narrative consistently focused on one main goal; Your Name and The Garden of Words both excelled in this area, making use of a very straightforward story to drive a considerable amount of character development. By comparison, Weathering with You was busier, and left a few plot points unresolved; these elements were actually not strictly necessary to the story and could’ve been removed without negatively impacting the themes or progression in the movie. A back-to-the-basics approach in Shinkai’s next film would therefore be especially welcome: Shinkai has always shown that he is able to do a great deal using very little as the starting point, and this is where the magic of his movies lie. For the time being, however, Weathering with You remains a film worth watching for its unparalleled visuals, another perspective on the sense that human emotions are comparable to supernatural forces for the miracles and tragedies they create, and features excellent music from Radwimps: while perhaps not appealing to as broad of a viewer-base as Your Name, folks looking for a proper Makoto Shinkai experience in Weathering with You will not be left disappointed.