The Infinite Zenith

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

The Story of One Summer Night and a Confession: Amanchu! Advance First Episode Impressions and Review

“Fun is infinite!” –Futaba and Hikari

During a beautiful summer’s day, Futaba meets up with Hikari, Ai and Makoto. When they arrive at the beach house, they find Kino swamped from the lunch rush and decide to help her. In the quiet moments after, Hikari invites Futaba to scuba dive for the next day, but Futaba decides to help Kino out instead. She arrives to find the beach house empty, and wonders how Hikari would go about making the most of the moment. Meanwhile, after their scuba diving excursion, Hikari enters a hot springs, leaving her swim top in the open. Mortified, she calls her friends for assistance – Futaba arrives to provide a distraction, and Ai retrieves Hikari’s swim top before anything can happen. Hikari decides to have a summer barbecue for the evening, and afterwards, Futaba shares with Hikari her fears about what would happen if they were to separate. Hikari assures Futaba that fun is infinite, encouraging her to simply make the most of the moment and enjoy the present. With this first episode, Amanchu! Advance marks a triumphant return of Amanchu! – the first season was characterised by a superb exploration of the growing friendship between Futaba and Hikari, and how this introduced gradual but profound changes on each. At the opening of the second season, it becomes clear that Futaba’s come to treasure her friendship with Hikari, Ai and Makoto as dearly as she does with Akane and Chizuru, and Amanchu! Advance follow what occurs as Futaba continues to spend time with her friends, as well as what occurs when new individuals are introduced.

With its opening episode, Amanchu! Advance submits to audiences that Futaba is someone who treasures her memories very greatly; the first season illustrated that Futaba was troubled by the prospect of not being able to store all of her photos, and Futaba’s monologues show that she’s very nostalgic. Further to this, once Futaba settles into a new environment, she finds it difficult to entertain the notion of readjusting to a new one; the first season depicted Futaba slowly easing into her new life with Hikari and scuba diving. Having grown accustomed to the energy and adventure that Hikari brings into her life, Futaba becomes worried that these experiences will end should they two ever separate. In conjunction with the addition of new characters into Amanchu!, which will act as the catalyst for pushing Futaba to embrace living in the moment and finding joy in everyday things, I would therefore imagine that Amanchu! Advance‘s main goal will be to present the journey that Futaba and Hikari experience together; their opposite personalities will doubtlessly allow the two to continue learning from one another, especially considering the strength of camaraderie that Futaba and Hikari share (to the tune of both girls openly expressing their feelings as love). These learnings will be set against the backdrop of scuba diving, and consequently, I’m very much looking forwards to seeing what directions that Amanchu! Advance will cover.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This is why I watch anime – fluffy cumulus clouds rising high into the sky on a summer’s day evokes a sense of adventure, inviting hikes into far-flung forests or lying in an open field as a breeze introduces relief from a comfortably warm summer sun. Summer weather of this sort usually gives me a sense of melancholy; summer is when I would consider to be the most romantic season, and relationships that blossom during the summer in anime are characterised by equal measures of closeness and distance. Of course, being Amanchu!, the melancholy element is absent, leaving only the feeling of infinite possibility that accompanies summer days.

  • The weather of Amanchu! Advance‘s first episode is a world apart from the miserable, dreary and cold, grey weather my area’s experiencing. While it’s remained -10ºC and snowing, at least the weather in Amanchu! Advance is beautiful, and here, Hikari races Futaba to the viewpoint, remarking that she enjoys trying to find fun things to experience in common, everyday activities. It typifies Hikari’s character to live in the present. Here, at the beginning of my journey into Amanchu! Advance, I will note that this first episode post will feature the standard twenty images, and that I will likely continue to write about Amanchu! Advance as I did for Yuru Camp△.

  • Scuba diving is now second nature for Futaba, who spent a majority of Amanchu! easing into the activity and earning her certifications to be able to dive with Hikari and the others. The journey to the destination was meaningful, and the conclusion was a well-deserved one. In my review for the first season, I gave the series a recommendation – it’s an excellent anime and fell short of “strong recommend” only on the basis that Amanchu! moves very slowly, and the chibis might be a bit distracting at times. Anime I give “strong” recommendations to are the cream of the crop: these are the shows that even the most seasoned and perhaps, jaded viewer might enjoy.

  • After hearing some guests speaking about this being their last scuba diving trip for the present, Futaba begins wondering about what would happen once she and Hikari go their separate ways. She helps the guests take a group photograph, and subsequently, the crowds begin thinning. It’s not often that Kino’s beach house is this busy – it’s generally quite quiet in the anime, bringing to mind GochiUsa‘s Rabbit House, which was similarly quiet.

  • Once things settle down at the beach house, Hikari and the others settle down for lunch: Kino’s pork soup and ice cream. After Hikari mentioned making fun in every moment to Futaba, when Hikari invites her to go scuba diving with her and help with a programme she’s teaching, Futaba declines, trying to make her own path and feeling that helping Kino out would be a fun experience in its own right. Futaba’s decision leaves Hikari a touch disappointed.

  • I do not believe that I have any screenshots of Kino, Hikari’s grandmother, up until now: with a laid-back personality, she’s voiced by Kikuko Inoue (Ah! My Goddess!‘s Belldandy, Sanae Furukawa of CLANNAD and Megu’s mother in GochiUsa). I live in a land-locked place, and as such, views such as these are completely unattainable to me except during travels: Cancún was one such destination, and I still remember the mornings where I strolled along the beach and marvelled at the warm, turquoise waters.

  • The last time I wrote about Amanchu!, it was the OVA that I’d long waited to see. It accompanied one of the BD releases and released in March, although circumstances meant that I did not have a chance to watch it until August, after coming home from a hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse and Beehives in Lake Louise. The uncertainty of OVAs and movies means that I prefer second seasons to shows that I greatly enjoy: having a known schedule makes shows much easier to write for.

  • Hikari’s main shortcoming is that, in living in the moment, she occasionally fails to consider the consequences of her actions. After hopping into a hot bath, Hikari realises that she’d left her swim top slightly out of reach, but before she can retrieve it, some older gentlemen occupy another bath nearby, preventing her from getting out. She finds herself in a bit of a quandary, blushes in the style that is unique to Amanchu!, and then decides to call her friends for assistance. While they’re initially away from their phones, they end up receiving Hikari’s message and immediately move in to help

  • Futaba ends up giving the gentlemen some pork soup to focus their attention away from Hikari. Spending too much time in the hot springs causes blood vessels to dilate, lowering blood pressure and inducing feelings of nausea. By the time Ai and Futaba reach Hikari, reach her, she’s beginning to overheat, and Ai is so focused on getting Hikari out of the water that she forgets Hikari’s got no top, resulting in a hilarious funny face.

  • Hikari cools off with Ai and Futaba by her side, quickly returning to normal after a dangerous situation. Here, I remark that the translations I’ve seen use a colloquial phrase associated with wardrobe malfunctions: Hikari’s original dialogue on her phone reads “SOS ポロリ” (romaji “porori”). This phrase is slang for “slipping out” or “nip slip”, and consequently, the choice of translation ends up being spot on. I further remark that I certainly don’t write with this set of vocabulary because it’s not the sort of things this blog covers, so unless there is another need for it, you won’t be seeing this phrase elsewhere.

  • Evidently, recovery from overheating and the effects of a prolonged stay in warm water is much quicker in anime than it is in reality. After a few moments, the effects have worn off, and Hikari hops up with a new announcement. Prompted by Futaba’s coming to the rescue, Hikari decides to throw a barbecue by way of thanks. Folks wondering why I don’t ever refer to Futaba as “Teko” and Hikari as “Pikari” will be disappointed to learn that it’s because it’s for clarity. As a bit of digression, I note that Pikari (ぴかり) refers to something brilliant, shining, mirroring Hikari’s high-energy presence. Futaba’s nickname stems from Hikari finding her eyebrows to resemble the tenten strokes, so Teko is the combination of te– from the tenten and ko is “girl”.

  • As evening sets in, the girls and their homeroom instructor, Mato, have a fantastic barbecue by the seaside.  Besides the assortment of meats and corn on the cob from Hikari, Ai and Makoto bring shellfish (prawns and scallops). Mato’s brought snow crab, and Kino provides onigiri. Anime such as Amanchu! are why I would suggest to bloggers not to write on an empty stomach, and is actually one of the reasons why I’m so fond of sharing food pictures in some of my anime discussions.

  • Having good food is precisely what is necessary to ward of the miserable winter days, and so, yesterday, while the world remained a dreary grey, I sat down to a home-made fish burger with a side of two kinds of fries, which was delicious and also a sight more colourful than the landscape around town. The weather’s begun warming up slightly, and we’re expected to see more seasonal temperatures soon, but expedite warming from within, we had prime rib with a salt-and-pepper thyme rub, mushroom gravy, loaded mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Tender, tasty and warming, it’s the perfect thing for when the weather has remained quite miserable.

  • Futaba and Kino share a conversation: audiences have been aware of Futaba being uncertain of her directions in life until she met Hikari, but Kino reveals that Hikari had a tendency to lose track of things when living in the moment until she’d met Futaba. A strong indicator of the strength of their friendship, both Futaba and Hikari have helped one another grow. There’s a subtle detail in this conversation: Ohime blows through her food and manages to eat some of Aria’s too, but Aria isn’t too bothered by this, and later settles down with Ohime.

  • There’s one another anime that immediately comes to mind when the preparation of and enjoyment of food is depicted to this level of detail, and that’s Yuru Camp△. The sizzling of crab on a grill is a sound for the ears to enjoy, and one can imagine the aroma that the cooking process produces. The cooking process isn’t actually too difficult: the crab legs should be brushed with a thin layer of olive oil, and after the grill is heated, they can be placed around 12 to 15 centimeters from the coals. Crab legs will cook in around four to five minutes, and should be flipped once during cooking.

  • Having eaten their way through the grilled meat, corn, shellfish, crab, pork soup and onigiri, everyone’s feeling the effects of the food wall, although not yet reaching a point where they get the legendary meat sweats. Both are encountered by Adam Richman in Man v. Food: the former is simply a consequence of beginning to fatigue from eating too much, but the “meat sweats” specifically refers to the phenomenon where one begins sweating profusely after eating excessive meat. This arises because proteins take a considerable amount of energy to digest, and the increased energy corresponds with increased heat production, which in turn results in sweating.

  • As their dinner winds down, Futaba receives a message from Chizuru, who shares her evening’s events with Futaba. Having eaten enough to impress the likes of Adam Richman, Futaba squeals in response to Chizuru’s photo of meat on a grill. Chizuru and Akane later call Futaba: it was a pleasant surprise to see Akane and Chizuru again. They’re essentially ARIA‘s Akari and Aika in the real world, sharing their respective voice actresses, and in this moment, some call-outs to ARIA can be seen. The Orange Planet emblem is seen on a pillow, and Akane is holding a Maa doll.

  • Today’s page quote comes from this moment. When Futaba voices her worries to Hikari about the possibility of them parting ways, Hikari reassures Futaba that even if this was to happen, then the only thing to do is to live in the present and make the most of the now. Both Hikari and Futaba represent the extreme ends on a spectrum, and in reality, people will find that they fall on a continuum between the two. I personally am more similar to Futaba; it takes me a bit of a kick to get me out of my comfort zone.

  • Because I’m now familiar with Amanchu!, watching the characters revert to chibi form is no longer a bit of a surprise to me. Hikari and Futaba more or less do a mutual kokuhaku here, although given the nature of Amanchu!, I would tend to believe that these feelings are more strongly tied to mutual trust, respect and the understanding that the two friends complement one another is what draws the two to one another, rather than anything associated with romantic love.

  • With the first episode in the books, I say with confidence that Amanchu! Advance is going to be this season’s Yuru Camp△, fulfilling the role of an anime that puts a smile on my face, helps me relax and also prompts me to take a look back and appreciate the simpler things in life. This is the main reason why I continue to watch slice-of-life anime, and I imagine that others of Amanchu!‘s ilk continue to be produced in Japan primarily because there is a market for shows that help people kick back after a day of hard work.

Right out of the gates, Amanchu! Advance is a visual treat on top of introducing new narrative directions. As the first episode progresses, I was superbly impressed with just how vivid the colours are. The deeply azure skies and verdant landscapes create a contrast of colours that fully and completely capture what a summer properly feels like. Kino’s beach house and its surroundings are rendered immaculately. Lighting is expertly applied to breathe life into the world that Hikari and Futaba live in. All of this comes together to create an unparalleled sense of immersion: Amanchu! Advance is quick to remind audiences that a vast ocean awaiting exploring, the endless summer calm and heartwarming characters of Amanchu! have returned in full force for another season. However, this is a continuation that will explore new directions, and a subtle reminder of this is found in the rather unfortunate and embarrassing situation Hikari finds herself in; audiences are to infer that Amanchu! Advance will be more bold than its predecessor. Amidst the cathartic atmosphere and valuable life lessons depicted, Amanchu! Advance will very much be this season’s equivalent of Yuru Camp△Amanchu! might have a dramatically different setting, premise and art style, but like Yuru Camp△, Amanchu! masterfully utilises dissimilar personalities and the resulting interactions to create stories that calm, warm and induce a sense of ease amongst viewers that entice them to return each week to follow the adventures and learning that Futaba and Hikari partake in.

Wolfire Overgrowth: Review and Reflection

“At my last job, the tools had no Ctrl-Z, so I learned to be perfect on first try.” —Aubrey Serr, Wolfire Team

Set after the events of Lagaru, Overgrowth follows Turner after he defeated the alpha wolf and the corrupt monarch, Hickory, avenging the death of his family. Since then, he has wandered Lugaru seeking a new purpose. After bandits begin ravaging the island, Turner decides to investigate and help dispossessed find a new home in a mythical island in the sky. Turner reluctantly help those in need, finding himself entangled in a much deeper conflict involving slavery. Fighting his way through frigid glaciers and distant swamps, Turner is captured by the cats and proves his combat prowess in the arena, before killing off the leader of the cats. Turner eventually reaches the island and after ascending its sheer walls, reaches the top, where he kills its leaders. No longer denied homes, the rabbits aiding Turner find a new home, and Turner himself sets off, continuing to seek his purpose. This is Overgrowth‘s main campaign; clocking in at around four hours, it’s concise and accompanied by a remastered version of Lagaru, Overgrowth‘s predecessor. The game’s defining feature is that its development started around a decade ago, and in its finished form, the title very much feels like a demonstration of Wolfire’s Phoenix Engine, which is a technically impressive system; the main campaign showcases the different physics aspects available in Overgrowth, as well as a highly-evolved combat system. However, with only a pair of short campaigns and a few modes beyond this, Overgrowth comes across as being much more limited in content.

Overall, the combat and parkour system in Overgrowth are the game’s greatest strengths. The context-based fighting system is quick to learn but has a remarkably high skill ceiling: like Receiver, Overgrowth is very punishing. As Turner, players are able to hold their own on skill, but brute force will quickly result in death. Overgrowth‘s campaign rewards players who strategically make use of the environment to survive, as well as those who’ve taken the time to learn the fighting system. Consequently, every successful kill in the campaign is a satisfying one, and the game reinforces this by slowing things down on each kill. It is incredibly satisfying to survive a fight against large groups of opponents, whether they be other rabbits, rats, dogs, cats or the nigh-unstoppable wolves. Each of the different opponent types require a unique approach: Turner can stand toe-to-toe with other rabbits and rats, but cats, dogs and wolves involve strategy in order for Turner to survive. Turner can also make use of weapons to bolster his survivability in a fight, and against superior opponents, the terrain becomes an ally, as well – I’ve won most fights against wolves simply by kicking them off ledges. Similarly, Overgrowth has a particular emphasis on navigating vertical landscape features to reach a destination. While the controls are a bit challenging, once mastered, players can scale sheer walls and jump across vast distances. It is as satisfying to climb to the top of a structure as it is to survive a fight, and on both counts, Overgrowth‘s central features are well-implemented. With a narrative tying things together, it was superbly enjoyable to see the game exit the beta stage and become a full-fledged, if somewhat short, title that could form the basis for a much more content-rich game: it’s clear that the Phoenix Engine is quite powerful, and with the basics finished, I would like to see Wolfire use this engine to its full potential with a game that has a more detailed story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been just a little less than four years since I bought Overgrowth during a Steam Sale while the game was still in its alpha stages: I experimented with the game only briefly and did not have too much to say about it, but now that Overgrowth is technically finished, with two campaigns, the game’s worth returning to, and returning for the first time since 2014, I’m impressed with the lighting effects and visuals.

  • While Overgrowth‘s textures are a bit dated and the lower polygon count is visible, the lighting effects and sense of scale in the maps have seen considerable improvements since the early days of the alpha. Missions in Overgrowth‘s campaign are usually broken up into two types: ascension and combat. Ascension missions involve parkour to reach the top of a map, and combat missions entail fighting a large number of enemy combatants.

  • As a rabbit, Turner can jump great distances, an ability that is useful for both parkour and combat as a defensive tactic; being able to escape swarms of enemies is especially important, since Overgrowth lacks a HUD: Turner will go down every quickly to large numbers of enemies, and against certain kinds of enemies, will die in a single blow. Thus, a large part of the gameplay is picking one’s engagements wisely and making use of the environment to assist in combat.

  • In conjunction with punches, kicks and blocks, Turner can silently dispatch enemies by means of stealth take downs to avoid alerting nearby enemies. The AI in Overgrowth has been meticulously designed and will begin investigating if players are not careful in their approach: once combat breaks out, all stealth goes out the window, and fighting multiple opponents simultaneously is difficult, so like most stealth games, if one can commit to not being spotted, missions in Overgrowth become much more straightforwards to complete.

  • Weapons in Overgrowth come in two varieties: two handed weapons that deal massive damage at the expense of mobility, and one-handed weapons that can be employed very quickly. Weapons can be thrown, although the AI will pick up any missed weapons and use them against Turner, block them with weapons of their own or even throw them back. When used properly, weapons can one-shot most opponents.

  • A Chinese-style junk is visible at this port city: Turner visits a vast range of locations in his travels, and while Overgrowth‘s narrative is constrained by a lack of cohesiveness, it does allow players to see a variety of locations. Wolfire only has four employees, all of whom have backgrounds in programming, development and 3D modelling: Overgrowth is by far their largest title, and so, it is understandable that Overgrowth does not have a more powerful story or voice acting.

  • Water effects in Overgrowth are impressive, but there’s no opportunity to go swimming in Overgrowth: if Turner falls into deep water, he will die instantly. Overgrowth states that rabbits cannot swim to explain this mechanic: while rabbits can in fact swim to escape dangers, this is an action they are absolutely not fond of, since they become waterlogged very quickly. The resulting cold and panic can lead to drowning, and since rabbits can be literally scared to death by a shocking change in conditions (by the way, this is the correct way of using ‘literally’ in a sentence), rabbits avoid swimming where possible.

  • With a pair of swords in hand, I effortlessly decimate all of the crew on board the junk, including the boss that comes out. Blood effects and ragdolls in Overgrowth are fun, adding satisfaction to finishing each fight. Besides swords and knives, spears and staffs are also available. Weapons can be sheathed when not in use, and there are occasions where it’s better not to have weapons drawn, since they can be knocked from one’s hands during the heat of combat.

  • Besides other rabbits and mice, Turner will also encounter dogs, cats and wolves in Overgrowth. Having weapons allows Turner to even the odds out somewhat, but Wolves, being the most powerful animal in the game, can absolutely tear Turner apart. Getting up here from the ocean was no cakewalk, involving all of my resourcefulness to find spots on the shear walls to parkour up. I ended up beating the wolf by using the jump kick, an overpowered move that propels enemies back, and kicked it off a ledge.

  • The jump kick is a fantastic move for creating space and dealing massive damage to enemies, but because it propels Turner back a large distance, as well, there are risks to using it. Wolfire has since patched Overgrowth so that AI will respond more effectively towards jump kicks by evading: it proved incredibly effective against wolves, who could be insta-killed if they were kicked over ledges and fell great distances.

  • I spent a portion of Christmas Day and Boxing Day playing Overgrowth; the cold, snowy environments perfectly capture the feel of a frigid Canadian winter, and I recall the many attempts it took to sneak past the dogs and lure them into single combat. I eventually managed to best them, and savoured the victory: if there’s anything Overgrowth excels at, it’s creating a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment with each fight won.

  • Like ReceiverOvergrowth is very unforgiving with its gameplay, and this is compounded by the lack of a UI; to counteract this, Overgrowth allows for near-instant respawns that put players right back into the things. This feature allows one to experiment with different approaches towards a problem until a solution is found.

  • I recall a six-on-one fight in one of the glacier missions where the ability to instantly respawn proved to be superbly useful: guards travel in pairs in this mission, and taking one out while the other is not looking is not possible. I ended up using stealth to take one out before going loud with a weapon with the other. The combat system in Overgrowth is very complex, and while easy to learn, mastering the controls is another story.

  • Turner goes from fighting in the cold glaciers to fighting in a fetid swamp. While lacking the steep drops of the glacier missions, the swamp is a dreary place that is quite easy to get lost in, and the lack of a HUD forces players to keep an eye on visual cues in the environment in order to figure out where to go next. They can be subtle, especially under low light conditions, and so, players might be forced to backtrack and explore.

  • Fighting rats in the swamps turned out to be relatively straightforwards: rats aren’t particularly challenging as a foe. Looking back, Overgrowth‘s development timeline was probably the biggest impediment the game had during its developer cycle. People wondered if the game would ever exit the alpha stage, and while the developers were constantly pushing updates, the game remained in alpha and beta stages for a few years.

  • One aspect of Overgrowth that sees very little discussion elsewhere is the game’s soundtrack. Composed by Mikko Tarmia, the music of Overgrowth is majestic, brooding and fits the game’s setting of a post-apocalyptic world. I would absolutely love to see a soundtrack, which, unfortunately, is not available for purchase at the time of writing. I recall listening to the game’s main theme frequently while writing Objective-C code, and because of our lab’s yearly excursions to Canmore, the soundtrack also reminds me of the mountains and valleys on the way leading into Banff National Park.

  • It attests to how much time has passed, now that Objective-C is being phased out in favour of Swift; when I began my time as an undergraduate researcher seven summers ago, I was a volunteer. My initial applications for funding were unsuccessful, but I decided to stick it out, since my goal was to learn, and two months in, I managed to build a simple model of blood oxygenation and deoxygenation in the lab’s custom game engine. Impressed, my supervisor switched me over to a funded programme, and I began work on a fluid flow model using agent-based approaches.

  • The mission to climb to the top of a tree and reach that glowing bucket proved to be an exercise in patience, and like the ascent to the top of a snow-covered mountain, it was immensely rewarding to actually reach the top and finish the objective. This is probably the “sense of pride and accomplishment” that all game developers want their players to experience; while the way to the top is marked by bioluminescent fungus, Overgrowth offers few other cues and suggestions, leaving players to work out how to get to the top.

  • By my second year, I managed to win the OCSS, a small scholarship for students enrolled in the Health Sciences program to do summer research. That summer, I continued on with my flow model after implementing a selectively permeable membrane system. Work on the flow model proceeded into June, and after spending many summer days tuning it, I was surprised to see my entities moving in a convoluted vessel without being stuck in the walls. I subsequently tried the algorithm out on a nephron model that we had, and it proved successful, so I spent the remainder of the summer trying to mimic renal flow and reabsorption, making use of the selectively permeable membranes in the process.

  • The camp in the swamp is such a visually impressive level with its lighting effects, and while quite difficult to nagivate, it was worth exploring every corner of this map to find the exit after all enemies had been eliminated. During this level, the intense fighting meant that I lost my weapons, but Overgrowth‘s jump kicks are overpowered to the point where they can be used if one lacks weapons. On a map with no ledges, this tactic is not a particularly dangerous one.

  • During my third summer in my undergraduate program, I did not return to the lab until August, having been entangled with the MCAT, but once that finished, I helped get a paper submission off the ground. By my fourth year, my old work with the nephrons eventually led me to build a multi-scale renal model in our lab’s in-house game engine, and I returned to this project that summer with an NSERC USRP award, building a distributed model that allowed different computers to share information with one another. In this implementation, I had one computer handle the renal calculations and the other handle cardiac functions. As they shared data, their visualisations, run locally, would be updated.

  • As we reach the end of Overgrowth‘s campaign, the levels become much more ominous in nature, featuring lavafalls and hellish environments. I fight in an arena here against increasingly difficult opponents, until at last, wolves are introduced. Wolves are terrifyingly powerful – Turner is no match for one in a straight-up fight, so I utilised hit-and-fade techniques, making use of distance to my advantage and waiting for the right moment to jump-kick a wolf into the lava below, which is an instant death. There was an occasion where I mis-timed one of my jumps and took myself out, but in the end, I managed to secure the win.

  • Turner is tasked with retrieving something whose value I cannot quite remember, but what I do remember of this mission is that it involves ascending ever-higher. It was quite the achievement to reach the top of the map and make my way back down: the way down was actually quite tricky, and even with the bioluminiscent markers helping, there were a few occasions where I overestimated how much falling damage that Turner could take.

  • Turner is later pitted against opponents of varying difficulty in another arena, and it was here that limitations in the pathfinding for some of the AI became visible. I exploited these limitations to win all of my matches, and during one match, managed to wrench a weapon from an opponent and turned things around instantly. While the organisers of the match are impressed, Turner will have none of this and proceeds to masacre all within the arena, including the cats running the event.

  • After killing off everything in sight, Turner must escape the cat’s desert city. The streets are unusually quiet, and it’s a good idea to hold onto any weapons one may have for the upcoming fight ahead: a number of cats stand between Turner and freedom, but compared to the fight in the arena, this one is relatively straightforward in nature.

  • Unlike the Wolfire Team, who continued to develop their Phoenix Engine until its reached the level of sophistication that it’s at today, our lab slowly phased out the in-house game engine once Unity made their engine freely available. While our own engine was robust, powerful and extensible, its biggest constraint was that it was not optimised; even simple simulations only ran at around 30 FPS, and more complex simulations would drop down to 10 FPS. This coincided with the arrival of The Giant Walkthrough Brain, and when I managed to build a functional prototype within two weeks, Jay Ingram and my supervisor were impressed with the engine’s capabilities. Since then, my old lab has used both Unity and Unreal.

  • While I’ve remarked that Overgrowth reminds me of Canmore and its surroundings, one should not expect to find such a structure in Canmore. This is the legendary country in the sky that was being referred to throughout Overgrowth. This is the culmination of all of the parkour and ascension skills that players have accumulated over the course of Overgrowth, and even then, climbing up here is no walk in the park. There are long jumps and tricky catches to make: any mistake will send Turner falling many metres into the water below, resulting in an instant death.

  • With the Phoenix Engine in a good state, one wonders if the Wolfire team will hire script writers and voice actors for any titles they might choose to make in the future. Since Overgrowth, I’ve not heard any news that the Wolfire team will be moving onto new projects, and from the looks of things, they will continue improving Overgrowth. In the time since I completed this game, two patches have come out to improve the AI and game performance.

  • I stop for a few moments to admire the scenery up here before continuing on. Once reaching the top, a brief fight awaits Turner. Beating down the tower’s leaders will bring an end to Overgrowth, and while the campaign was very short lived, it was quite entertaining. The fights are easily the best aspect of Overgrowth, especially with respect to how things slow down when a zone is cleared.

  • Overall, while I cannot say I recommend Overgrowth as a game, I can say that the game is a very pleasant reminder of my days as a university student. I bought the game mainly as a token of thanks for the Wolfire team, whose efforts and updates motivated me to delve further into the world of biological visualisations. With this being said, if people do not mind the shorter campaign and somewhat unoptimised performance, and they have a greater interest in all of the map tools than I did, then Overgrowth is not a particularly bad purchase, especially if on a sale; there are a host of worse ways of spending 33 CAD.

Having been in development since 2008, Overgrowth definitely feels dated with respect to its visuals, but the Wolfire team’s efforts have resulted in a superbly mature game engine that handles Overgrowth‘s fighting and parkour system well. The campaign is quite short, and it appears that the flexibility of Overgrowth‘s game engine stems from a desire for the community to create their own content. Work on this engine is why Overgrowth‘s development has spanned the greater part of a decade: I learned of Overgrowth during my first summer as an undergraduate researcher – my old research lab had developed its own game engine in-house to provide a 3D space in which to model and visualise biological systems. The lead developer on this project drew inspiration from Overgrowth‘s map editor, especially the transformation, rotation and scaling tools, to make it easier for objects to be placed in 3D space. This in-house game engine powered my thesis, and while it’s been replaced by commercially-available game engines like Unity, it formed the basis for the work that I would end up doing for my Master’s Thesis. Consequently, while Overgrowth might not be an impressive title from an entertainment perspective, there are features in Overgrowth that directly inspired the work at our lab. Improvements to our in-house game engine’s ease-of-use and navigation eventually led me to build a visualisation of the renal system at different scales, complete with a mathematical model to depict responses of my virtual renal system to various stimuli, for my undergraduate thesis. I watched the map editor demonstration and its accompanying humour eight years ago and found it deeply inspiring for my work; I ended up buying Overgrowth in its early access stage to support the development as a bit of thanks in 2013, after I had successfully defended my undergraduate thesis.

Tom Clancy’s The Division: How Global Events and Yuru Camp△ Led to the All-Exotic Loadout

“I’d rather talk to people who do things than complain about other people who do things. I say they’re idiots.” —Tom Clancy

Since I last wrote about The Division, I’ve put in an additional forty hours into the end-game. The Division 2 was announced, and an unveiling will likely occur at this year’s E3; in the build-up to this, Ubisoft has held a month-long series of Global Events, which modify gameplay throughout The Division. There are four types of events: Outbreak, which focuses on headshots, the close-quarters Assault, the bombastic Strike, and Ambush, which favours tactical play. These events add a considerable amount of incentive to revisit The Division, and by my admission, I’ve spent the past month playing almost nothing but The Division: the modifiers introduced by Global Events have made it possible to pull off stunts that ordinarily would not be possible. I’ve managed to solo challenging missions on my own with these modifiers, and have even partied up with random players on legendary missions. These missions feature LMB forces that are far deadlier than standard enemies: for most players, solo play in legendary missions is not an option, and so, like Rin of Yuru Camp△, who learned the joys of camping with a group, I’ve come to experience a side of The Division that I might have otherwise skated over. The Global Events were a powerful motivator in leading me towards the Legendary missions; in these missions, I found a completely different side to The Division, facing enemies unlike anything I’d seen previously. Through basic teamwork, I managed to help out my groups in prevailing over foes of overwhelming calibre, earning new equipment and gear in the process to build an all-exotic loadout, something that I was looking to accomplish ever since reaching level thirty.

In the process, it would seem that I’ve more or less experienced the thematic elements of Yuru Camp△ from Rin’s perspective as a consequence of the Global Events. Although it’s take little persuasion beyond the possibility of exotic caches, playing with a group of randoms in The Division aligns very closely with Rin’s learnings in Yuru Camp△: much as how I went through a majority of The Division as a solo player, completing missions and counting on my own wits and resourcefulness to get by, Rin enjoys the solitude of camping on her own, calling on her experience to plan out a time that she enjoys. However, when she begins travelling further on her own, the unknown surprises her and leaves her uncertain of what to do next. Reaching higher world tiers in The Division was a similar experience: there comes a point when solo play in The Division breaks down: without that perfectly rolled gear set and weapon talents, in conjunction with the right skills and perks, players can be eliminated very easily, much as how Rin would require more experience before camping further on her own. However, with a party to work with, teamwork allows individuals to achieve together what would be very difficult to accomplish independently. Rin discovers this when camping with Nadeshiko, and I found this out in The Division during the Global Events, when I accidentally used matchmaking and joined a group of players doing a mission I could have soloed. The advantages of a team led me to wonder what legendary missions were like, and I decided to try the Time Square Relay mission; Rin similarly consents to camping with Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena when remembering Chiaki’s assistance and the companionship that Nadeshiko provided when they camped at Lake Shibare. For her open-mindedness, Rin is rewarded with an unparalleled camping experience, and for my troubles in trying out group play in The Division, I now have an all-exotic loadout.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • One of the challenges in the Dark Zone at world tier five is that unlike the other world tiers, which were largely empty, there are plenty of people in the tier five Dark Zone. Extracting gear solo is nigh-impossible not because of enemy NPCs, but other players looking to prey on solo players. As a result, I’ve largely stopped using the Dark Zone to get good gear, but the Dark Zone remains fine for just entering and testing one’s loadouts against the tougher enemies in here.

  • I would suppose that it could be fun to collect gear for a good PvP build, then call in extractions and attach onto the chopper a single item of no value, then attack the players who’ve turned rogue for fun. A simpler method that wouldn’t involve any new gear on my part is to simply run around to every extraction site and request an extraction: besides saturating would-be-rogues with enough bogus extractions so they wouldn’t know where to run, calling in extractions would also spawn enemy NPCs that can be killed for Dark Zone experience. My journey to leveling up in the Dark Zone has slowed to a crawl ever since the Global Events went live, as I’ve been quite interested in seeing how the different modifiers impact gameplay.

  • Today’s page quote is another Tom Clancy quote; as a bit of a stab against armchair experts and those believe virtue signalling has value, I similarly believe that the only people whose opinions are worth respecting are those who do something: it’s far easier to talk to someone who’s actually gone and done something, as opposed to people who while away their days on the internet and never end up putting in an effort to create or do something meaningful. A Place Further Than The Universe deals with taking this first step: like Yuru Camp△, the anime reminds viewers that these first steps can be easier with friends and well worth it. So for all the folks out there who count themselves as inadequate, I would argue that it’s never too late to start out on this journey and become people who do and make, rather than people who can only complain.

  • Different players have different strategies for dealing with rogue agents; after being killed by a rogue on one occasion, I coordinated with another solo player to get some revenge. For my troubles, I got some Dark Zone funds and recovered all of my gear for extraction. On another occasion, I was killed by a group of rogues, tried coming back for revenge and got their leader down to around half health before he opened up his comms and apologised. I get that people are playing in the Dark Zone for fun, and I’ve accepted the risk of dying to rogues, so when rogue players happen, my inclination is to simply respond in kind for fun, so if a player no longer wishes to play the rogue game, I’ll leave them in peace.

  • I’ve had a non-trivial number of exotics drop from Light Zone bosses: my first-ever drop was the Caduceus assault rifle, which was one of the two exotics featured during the open beta: the Cassidy was the other weapon. At the time, I did not have enough Dark Zone funds or rank to buy one, so one of my goals upon reaching thirty was to acquire some of these named weapons. Before one of the earlier patches, exotic weapons appeared as named high-end weapons, but named weapons eventually became exotics, with their own colour scheme. Light Zone bosses only dropped the Caduceus, Tenebrae and Skulls MC Gloves, but a patch will allow all exotics to drop from anywhere in The Division.

  • The biggest advantage about being in a team is that I can run with skills that I might not otherwise use. For challenging missions, I’ve felt that the most useful skills are the life support variant of the support station and then a combination of tactical pulse and flame turrets (which set enemies ablaze and deal damage while preventing them from firing). Seeker mines are also useful for flushing opponents out, and the ballistic shield in conjunction with a four-piece D3-FNC set could also be useful in drawing fire away from teammates.

  • For my part, I’ve been running with a 4-piece Striker set, with an extra piece from the D3-FNC and Lone Star set so I could gain an advantage while using automatic weapons. In conjunction with the Ninjabike backpack, I gain the D3-FNC’s 15% protection from elites and doubled ammo capacity from the Lone Star set. This is my preferred PvE build, allowing me to solo reasonably well. I’ve heard stories where players were kicked from groups for having low gear scores: gear scores are only a rough indicator of one’s actual performance, and one of the reasons why I remained at gear score 278 for the longest time was because the gear I was running with actually worked.

  • I explore the northeastern side of Manhattan, just north of the General Assembly. By night, the area is quite beautiful, with all the blue Christmas lights aglow, and it is here that the more impressive-looking buildings are found. Of course, the area is populated by roaming LMB, so exploring is no walk in the park, but now that I’m properly outfitted, the NPCs roaming the Light Zone are no problem at all to deal with.

  • The northern ends of the Dark Zone, from sectors seven onward, are supposed to be home to some of the Dark Zone’s toughest NPCs, and the mission to reach the sector nine safe house was a harrowing one. I found that running in the Dark Zone and killing groups of NPCs is a lot less stressful than attempting to extract gear from it: in my experience, would-be rogues tend to leave one alone if they do not have any gear.

  • During the assault global event, I decided to give the legendary missions a whirl and spawned in with a group of well-equipped and coordinated players in the Times Square Relay mission. I typically run with survivor link for this mission so I can increase my resistance to damage and speed while carrying the fuse parts. This legendary mission is probably the most straightforward to complete; players fight against waves of LMB soldiers, but there’s enough cover and open spaces so that one can simply put down a support station and then slowly pick away at the enemies incoming.

  • The items awarded for completing a legendary mission aren’t always impressive, but what does make legendary missions worth attempting is the fact that they award exotic caches, which contain a guaranteed exotic item and provide some Division Tech, as well. I’ve found that besides their illustrious nature, their performance in combat actually varies. There are some occasions where an exotic weapon or gear piece is useful – the first Caduceus I got wasn’t too bad spec-wise, and I ran with it in conjunction with the M700 Tactical.

  • With my older loadout, I predominantly kept my distance and sniped enemies: the M700 was powerful enough to deal serious damage to enemies in Legendary missions, and I switched over to the Caduceus to finish off enemies at closer ranges. Here, I am partying with another group in the Warrengate Power Plant mission. We started off with a team of three, and another player joined the group later. Despite its close quarters environment, I was able to make use of my marksman rifle, picking off opponents from a distance while teammates did the remainder of the work.

  • The main reason why running with a team in legendary missions works is primarily because a diverse array of skills increases survivability and damage output. As well, save for explosives and offensive skills, enemies can only focus on a single target at a time, so having teammates allows one player to run distraction while others finish an opponent off. After a harrowing twenty minutes, our team managed to complete the mission, earning me yet another exotic cache that put me one step closer to an all-exotic loadout. During this mission, I died and was revived by a support station more times than I cared to count.

  • The Napalm Production Site mission on legendary really depends on the team one is running with: a coordinated team with properly configured weapons and skills can do quite well. On my first run, I succeeded in clearing the map to collect the mission rewards, but during one memorable attempt, our team continued to get wiped, and since it was getting late, I ended up leaving the group so I could catch some sleep.

  • This was no fault of the group’s, but rather, the lateness of the hour: we had gotten to the very end and were wiped twice by the agents we were up against, but I had an early start the next day. One of the reasons why this mission had been more difficult was because of the Strike event, which sees enemies exploding when killed. While they deal minor damage to those around them, the effects overall are not particularly impactful, so players cannot count too much on them to help them. Assault was a fun global event: at close ranges, players deal increased damage.

  • On missions where there is a need to slowly carry a heavy object to a target point for insertion, I always run survivor link. Almost all of the teammates I’ve matched with run recovery link: I cannot begin to state how useful this is, since I’ve been saved by a teammate’s recovery link more times than I’ve cared to count.  When used in the right situation, a player can revive his entire group to keep their run going. Slow and steady wins the race in legendary missions, so I’m tempted to say that a team of four, running three recovery links and one survivor link is probably the way to go – tactical link boosts damage, but the number of enemies encountered means that the decreased time to kill ends up being less important than being able to keep teammates alive.

  • I’ve heard statements dating back a year that state The Division was on its last legs, and this seems to vary at present: there are some instances where matchmaking is as simple as hitting the button and then joining another party, but I’ve also had situations where matchmaking was unsuccessful. Overall, I think that matchmaking is only really necessary once one gets close to the gear score limit; below that, acquiring new gear is reasonably quick.

  • The ambush global event is by far my favourite: standing still, one can do considerably more damage against opponents. The effects were profound enough so that I could solo the Lexington Event Centre mission on challenging mode with my standard overheal and tactical pulse skills. The roof and basement segments of the mission are the most challenging, but with the ambush effects active, I was consistently hitting for 1.2 million points of damage with my SRS A1 rifle on critical headshots. Since finding one, I’ve made extensive use of it to great effect – in the absence of the global events, it hits for around three hundred thousand points of damage when landing a headshot, and can take out most Light Zone bosses in two shots.

  • The M4 rifle was a weapon I did not use with any frequency while going levelling up in The Division – the damage was not quite there despite its accuracy. However, once I picked up the LVOA-C variant, the LVOA-C became my go-to assault rifle: I’ve recalibrated it so it has the destructive talent, which bolsters damage to enemy armour. In conjunction with the armour damage bonus that assault rifles have and its high rate of fire, I’ve found the LVOA-C to be the perfect weapon for solo missions against armoured opponents: I can melt through them without too much difficulty.

  • My curiosity was piqued, and I decided to give the Rooftop Comm Relay mission another whirl: with my current setup, I walked through the mission and melted all in my path. Defending the engineer at the end, during which I had to fight Glass and one of his cronies, had been a considerable challenge when I first went through the mission, but having geared up, it turns out that Glass was no challenge. I’ve tried to focus on armour damage, and some of my gear pieces have bonus elite damage, so unlike my first run, this one ended very quickly.

  • Curiosity led me to attempt the General Assembly mission on my own: for the most part, I was aware of the fact that at hard difficulty, the missions do not pose a significant challenge for me, so entering the mission, my main interest was to see how capable I was of dispatching Colonel Bliss’ helicopter without resorting to the automated turrets that I made use of when beating the game for the first time.

  • As it turns out, eliminating Bliss’ helicopter turned out to be an exercise in patience. I would’ve liked to see more vehicular bosses in The Division, along with more anti-vehicular options in the game, as well. This is something that could be done for The Division 2: one of the things I mentioned back during the days of the beta was that travelling from point A to point B was quite slow, but this was before fast travel was unlocked. While going on foot has since proven to be okay in The Division, and vehicular combat is not strictly necessary, it would still add a bit more variety to engage enemies in vehicles.

  • The main question now is whether or not I would pony up for The Division‘s DLC, once I’ve done everything in the endgame (I still need to give Resistance and Incursions a whirl, plus the HVT missions). The answer is going to be a no: while I greatly enjoy The Division, the fact is that The Division is a game that’s reaching the end of its life cycle, and there are other titles that I’ve neglected as a result. I still need to complete the “Behind Her Blue Flame” missions in Valkyria Chronicles, play more Skullgirls to gain a better idea of how I feel about the game, and go through Ori and the Blind Forest.

  • With the Ambush event over and things returning to Strike for an encore, I decided to give Lexington Event Centre another whirl on challenging, but got my face kicked in at the roof. I predominantly snipe in The Division and only fall back on automatic fire when enemies begin closing the gap: by sniping, I pick enemies off at a more methodical pace, allowing me to control the engagement. As a result, when enemies get closer to me, I am no longer in control: this particular play-style means that I run with a Striker set, which confers damage bonuses for landing consecutive shots with automatic weapons.

  • I enjoy being a marksman, and while one might say that having a Sentry’s Call or Hunter’s Faith set would let me capitalise on this, my reasoning for running a four-piece Striker set is so I increase my damage at closer ranges. I snipe to whittle numbers down, and then using the Striker set, in conjunction with a good assault rifle, I can tear through enemies quickly. Classified gear is hard to come by, so I decided to diversify, slotting in a single piece from the D3-FNC set to gain protection from elites, and a single Lone Star piece so I can increase my ammunition capacity.

  • All of this is facilitated by the NinjaBike backpack, which acts as a wildcard for gear sets: rather than specialising in any one style, the NinjaBike backpack allows me to enjoy benefits from a variety of gear sets and I’ve attributed having this to helping improve my survivability in various situations. Apparently, the NinjaBike backpack was less valuable in earlier builds, helping players dampen their losses in the Dark Zone when they were killed.

  • During one legendary mission at Times Square Power Rely over the past weekend, I joined a match where I was made leader. I switched over to a pulse turret and the recovery station: by now, I’d become reasonably familiar with the way enemies spawned, and so, did my best to keep the group alive. I must’ve done alright, if no one in the group quit out at any point, and while one guy disconnected, we were joined by another fellow who definitely carried their weight. I noticed that no one was running the recovery station, so I used it to help keep teammates alive at choke points, and the pulse turret helped me keep Sargent Wilbur busy: he’s immune to all damage except that dealt to a small plate on his backpack, but pulse turrets work on him. While my turret chipped at his health, a teammate snuck behind him and finished him off. With the other threats dealt with, our mission ended successfully.

  • While we might be into April, I’m a bit surprised that winter has not left us yet: forecasts predict cooler weather for at least another week in my parts, and I’ll be looking forwards to when spring really returns to the world. In The Division, the perpetual winter weather is perfect for atmospherics, in-game, but in reality, winter weather is known to have a profoundly negative impact on one’s well-being. With this in mind, one of the things I’ve longed to do since buying The Division is to play this game, after work or on a lazy Sunday, during the hottest day of the year.

  • Before I wrap up this post, I will show readers what my preferred PvE loadout looks like. The NinjaBike backpack acts as a wildcard, allowing me to run a four-piece striker set and gain two-piece bonuses from the Lone Star and D3-FNC set. I will mix things up depending on what I’m doing, but this loadout’s really worked well for me. As my primary weapon, I run the LVOA-C with the destructive perk, which allows me to rip through enemies with relative ease, and the SRS A1 acts as my secondary. I have deadly and destructive on it, which makes it great for longer range engagements. I admit that my setup was inspired by TheRadBrad’s, although he runs with a six-piece Classified Nomad set for survivability in the Dark Zone. Since I don’t PvP, I’ve opted to go with a damage-oriented build: if I could customise the naming for my loadouts, this one could probably be called “The Shimarin”.

  • Here’s a setup I’d never thought I’d ever be able to collect: the all-exotic loadout. This loadout is made up of Barret’s bulletproof vest (increases damage while skills are on cooldown), Ferro’s oxygen mask (continue shooting even while on fire), Shortbow Championship pads (grenades explode slightly faster), Skull MC gloves (damage increase if one has no gear set bonuses active) and Colonel Bliss’s holster (sidearms hit harder the more consecutive shots one lands) in addition to the NinjaBike backpack. I’m running the Liberator and the Centurion. As well, I also happen to have The House SMG, which I got during a very lucky drop. It’d be awesome to have an Urban MDR and Bullfrog, but until the RNG favours me with these weapons, I’ll continue to run with what I’ve got.

Admittedly, I’ve perhaps played a little too much of The Division over the past month; the climb through the world tiers and corresponding increases in gear score have been a remarkably fun journey. The uncertain thrill of being in the Dark Zone at tier five means that I’ve largely kept to running around landmarks and supply drop events: extracting gear that I’ve found has typically resulted in my being attacked by groups of rogue agents. Since I’m geared for PvE rather than PvP play, such encounters usually end with my death, but a sign of The Division‘s maturity is that I don’t necessarily need to go into the Dark Zone to get Phoenix Credits and gear. Rogue players don’t tend to attack people without the contaminated loot bag, so I’ve had no difficulty in running around the Dark Zone, clearing out landmarks and occasionally going for supply drops. The short of it is that The Division‘s been great fun, and with the announcement for The Division 2 a reality, one can only wonder what the sequel will deal with: the first game left quite a bit of the narrative open, and with Aaron Keener still on the loose with the chemical makeup of the dollar flu, there’s plenty left to explore from a storytelling perspective. I’m personally hoping that The Division 2 will be set in Asia: Hong Kong or Tokyo would represent fantastic places to set The Division‘s gameplay, and beyond my own speculations, it’ll be very exciting to see just what lies in store for The Division. For now, however, purely for bragging rights, I can say two things: first, I’ve got an all-exotic loadout (practicality notwithstanding) and second, I’ve surpassed MeoTwister5 in terms of gear score.

Yuru Camp△ Episode Zero: OVA Review and Reflection

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” –Plato

Aoi and Chiaki are surprised to learn that they’ve received a narrow storage space as their clubroom. Before they begin cleaning, Aoi brings out a camping magazine from the school library, and she looks through it with Chiaki, learning that camping is an expensive hobby. When Chiaki grows discouraged and shares with Aoi her wishing of going camping together with her, Aoi is moved. She crafts a makeshift cooking tripod from some of the materials in the storage room. Chiaki considers creating their own camping gear with what’s available in the room, but physical constraints make this an impractical route. She later manages to find an inexpensive tent online and makes a reservation for it when they see that it’s sold out, feeling that with a tent, their adventures can really begin. With a runtime of five minutes and seventeen seconds, the Yuru Camp△ OVA brings to mind the likes of Girls und Panzer‘s OVAs – set before Nadeshiko arrives, the OVA details the Outdoors Activity Club’s first steps from humble beginnings, giving audiences a chance to see Aoi and Chiaki’s friendship prior to the addition of the remainder of Yuru Camp△‘s cast. The OVA also illustrates that Chiaki enjoyed camping with her family as a child, and although her family was not shown during Yuru Camp△, the OVA depicts her memories of camping with her parents as a positive influence; this is what prompts Chiaki’s desire to start a club for doing outdoors activities without the rigour and intensity of another existing club.

  • I realise that today is April Fools’ Day, but this post is no April Fools’ joke, and its contents are authentic. With this cleared up, we enter Yuru Camp△ discussion, where I’ve previously referred to the Outdoors Activity Club’s clubroom as the Industrial Hallway. Named after the location in The Matrix, which is characterised by an infinitely long hallway with doors in it, the Industrial Hallway itself a reference to the Long Hall in Alice in Wonderland. Unlike the Long Hall or the Industrial Hallway, the Outdoors Activity Club’s clubroom is finite, with a window looking out into the skies and no other doors, albeit a really narrow one that makes it feel like a hallway.

  • Shimarin and her Dango-style hair are visible as Aoi browses through the school library, finding a camping magazine in the process. Rin has no speaking roles in the OVA and only makes a cameo appearance to reinforce the fact that this is before Rin becomes acquainted with Aoi and the others. This discussion has fifteen screenshots, since there is quite a bit to cover despite the OVA’s short length – basic computation finds that there’s a screenshot taken every 21 seconds on average, which, while high, does not beat the record set by my Warm, Winter Canada post.

  • While browsing through a camping magazine, Chiaki and Aoi learn that camping gear can be very expensive, especially the high-end equipment designed for more extreme outdoors conditions. Aoi imagines Rin running faster with a knife, after they come across some pricey survival knives and wonder if there’s any difference between these knives and kitchen knives. A survival knife is built for outdoor applications (e.g. preparing traps, skinning animals and cutting through branches) and can be folded so they can be transported easily, while kitchen knives are strictly for preparing food and specialised for the task. They are not so easily transported in a backpack compared to survival knives.

  • Chiaki consider several makeshift, if somewhat creative, solutions to address the fact that gear is so expensive, but she ends up feeling that they might not be feasible. She recounts to Aoi that her interest in camping was sparked by the excitement she experienced while camping with her parents during kindergarten. From enjoying food cooked outdoors to the warmth of a campfire and the expanse of dark skies, it was a memorable experience that Chiaki has longed to recreate and share with Aoi. It stands to reason that Chiaki and Aoi are very close friends.

  • Aoi is moved by Chiaki’s sincerity and from her expression, is on board to help Chiaki on her quest to share the magic of camping. She bumps into some metal tubing below. While Yuru Camp△ has given Aoi and Chiaki limited characterisation, glimpses into both girls’ characters were seen: Chiaki is very enthusiastic about camping, while Aoi is more laid-back and practically-minded. Aoi is seen reigning back Chiaki’s excitement at times, a consequence of having a younger sister, and so, when dealing with her friends, has a quiet maturity about her.

  • In a few moments, Aoi creates a cooking tripod, used for suspending a pot above a campfire. One of the joys about Aoi’s character is that she’s essentially K-On!‘s Yui, Mio and Mugi rolled into one: hearing Aoi talk is always so enjoyable because her lines are delivered by Aki Toyosaki, who imparts into Aoi’s voice a soft, relaxing quality. Some viewers have found it unusual that she speaks with a Kansai dialect, arguing that her speaking the Kansai dialect in Yamanashi is equivalent to hearing someone from Alberta talk with a Brooklyn accent. It’s quite amusing that these folks do not think outside the box – using the old noodle, it’s possible that the Inuyamas might have originally lived in the Kansai area before moving to Yamanashi.

  • While I’m a fan of Aoi for her voice, browsing around on the interwebs, it seems that her voice and eyebrows are, curiously, not her defining characteristic. The manga depicts her as being well-endowed relative to Chiaki and Nadeshiko, but the anime kicks things up to twelfth gear. My intuition tells me that the author created Aoi to be a bit visually distinct from the others, and the anime decided to make things more visible, although speaking to the strengths of Yuru Camp△, excessive mammaries and yuri are largely absent, so Aoi’s large bust never distracts from the story beyond providing a few moments conducive of some interesting screenshots.

  • Seeing that it is possible to improvise, Chiaki proposes making use of the various objects in the storeroom to help create camping gear, cleaning out the storeroom in the process. Throughout Yuru Camp△‘s first half, Chiaki continues to devise solutions that, while somewhat effective, are also impractical. This is best evidenced by the use of various insulators to keep warm in place of a properly-outfitted sleeping bag; while Chiaki notes that it works, it would also be quite difficult to use the bathroom had they actually used such a solution whilst camping.

  • While Chiaki and Aoi are clearly unfamiliar with camping this early in the game, their spirit is admirable, and I mention that outdoorsmen like Les Stroud improvise frequently, making use of conventional objects in unconventional manners in order to survive. Some notable examples include him using car insulation and seats to fashion a rudimentary pair of snowshoes in Norway and making a desalination apparatus from parts he finds on the beach on Tiburon Island. While Stroud is usually disappointed with the appearance of junk everywhere he goes, no matter how remote, he also makes considerable use of it to help in his survival, reasoning that he should always be bettering his situation, and that making things also helps keep boredom away (which could be lethal in a survival situation).

  • Now is the winter of Chiaki and Aoi’s disco tent: in their imagination, a gust of wind eliminates their hardwork, snuffing out their campfire and blowing away the table into Chiaki’s face. Aoi is knocked over like a statue and begins crying. It’s a heart-wrenchingly adorable moment: bonus points are awarded to this scene for depicting Aoi as a rigid-body object. It’s a very clever play on the phrase “now is the winter of our discontent”, which is from Shakespeare’s Richard III, describing Richard as a man who abhors himself and the world he’s in. Phonetically similar to “disco tent”, the phrase has been parodied, and Yuru Camp△ has taken it one step further, having Chiaki and Aoi suffer when they create a disco tent.

  • Chiaki falls to her knees after accepting that improvisation has its limits. Later, Aoi and Chiaki will take on part-time jobs to provide funds for the Outdoor Activities Club’s excursions, making it possible to acquire some entry-level gear for camping that the girls put to good use. However, I find that their improvisation early on helps them in developing a survival mindset; while not in the same survival situations as Les Stroud, being open-minded allows Chiaki and Aoi to roll with a situation as things happen. They impart the benefits of this approach to Rin later on in Yuru Camp△.

  • While browsing on her phone, Chiaki finds an incredibly inexpensive tent: retailing for a mere 980 Yen (11.90 CAD), it turns out I was wrong about the tent being on a sale. With this being said, I have seen some tents sell for as little as 21.99 CAD (ODOLAND 2-person tent), and at the time of writing, there’s a tent, the Gigatent Cooper, which is going for 18.99 CAD. Some of the seemingly-unrealistic things in Yuru Camp△ are in fact possible, evidence that the author has taken the effort of doing the research before putting things into the manga.

  • At the end of the day, Chiaki and Aoi have cleared out the former storeroom, putting themselves one step closer to consolidating it as their clubroom. By the time Nadeshiko arrives, the room is filled with texts and magazines on camping, along with some basic camping implements. There’s also a blackboard with a drawing of what I can consider to be Adventure Time‘s Jake the Dog. Voiced by John DiMaggio, Jake sounds identical to Futurama‘s Bender, and his best moments are downright hilarious.

  • While reserving the tent for the present, Chiaki will eventually buy the tent. With one thing down, she takes a breather with Aoi in the OVA’s final moments, feeling that they’re one step closer to camping, but one thing leads to another, and soon, autumn descends upon them. Writing for the Yuru Camp△ OVA also reminded me of some of the challenges I faced while writing the Girls und Panzer OVAs years back: as short OVAs with many interesting moments, it was difficult to find something meaningful to talk about for each of the moments in my figure captions.

  • We’re now into April, and after a dinner at a Chinese restaurant, the evening is setting in. With this post in the books, I think I’ve covered off everything that can be reasonably discussed for the whole of Yuru Camp△. March has been a bit mad for posts, and moving ahead into the spring season, I have plans to watch Amanchu! Advance, as well as Comic GirlsSword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online and Gundam Build Divers – of these shows, I will watch a few episodes before deciding how often I’d like to write about them.

To see the Outdoors Activity Club come so far in the space of a few months is most uplifting – when Chiaki and Aoi first started the club, all they had was a storeroom, some magazines and a reservation for a basic 980-yen tent. All beginnings are difficult; for Chiaki and Aoi, besides initially lacking the resources to carry out a camping trip, the club is also short on members and an advisor. It is only with Nadeshiko’s arrival and eventual roping in of Ena and Rin into their adventures that Chiaki and Aoi’s visions of the Outdoors Activity Club were realised. By showing things at the very beginning, audiences thus appreciate Nadeshiko, Rin and Ena’s friendship with Chiaki and Aoi further, elevating the sense of warmth that this group of friends have developed in their time spent camping together. Its short runtime notwithstanding, the Yuru Camp△ OVA is a pleasant addition to Yuru Camp△ for accentuating the adventures and experiences that Chiaki and Aoi will later have with Nadeshiko, Rin and Ena.

Four Worlds, Four Tomorrows: A Place Further Than The Universe Review and Whole-Series Recommendation

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Upon their arrival in Fremantle, Australia, Mari and the others assist with preparations and provision acquisition. They learn that the expedition is understaffed and lacking in funds, only proceeding forwards because of Gin’s motivation to return to Antarctica. Their journey takes them on rough waters towards Antarctica: as Mari and the others help out on board their ship, they quickly learn that it’s going to be no cruise. Besides lacking the physicality of the other crew, high waves render Shirase, Hinata, Yuzuki and Mari seasick. However, their spirits and resolve are restored with time, and the ship reaches the ice sheets surrounding Antarctica. Gin worries that Shirase might hate her since Takako’s disappearance, and she shares a conversation with Shirase, learning that Shirase is still a bit conflicted as to how she should feel. When they touch down on the Antarctic ice sheet, Shirase yells out jubilantly: against all the odds, she’s done what her peers thought impossible. The crew head towards Showa Station and begin bringing the facility to life. Yuzuki is offered a role in a television drama and worries that she might have to leave Mari and the others behind. With their reassurance that their friendship is very much real when they celebrate her birthday, Yuzuki decides to accept this role. Later, Shirase spots in irate Hinata, who reluctantly reveals that she left high school from an incident with the track team. While on an assignment, Shirase encourages Hinata and delivers a tongue-lashing at those responsible during a live broadcast. As the expedition continues, Shirase wonders if she’ll lose a sense of purpose once she learns the fate of Takako. During a snowcat ride to an observatory station, Shirase and Gin recall Takako’s final words and spirit. When they arrive, Mari and the others find a laptop belonging to Takako. Shirase realises that her words to her mother will never reach her and dissolves in tears. When the time comes for the girls to leave, Shirase promises that they will return again someday. She leaves Takako’s laptop with Gin, who sends her one final email from Takako’s drafts, and while riding back, Mari and the others see the aurora australis. Upon their return to Japan, the girls go their separate ways and resolve to cross paths again. Mari learns that, spurred on by her, Megumi has joined an expedition to the Arctic.

The size of the summary, ladies and gentlemen, is why I likely should have broken up the talk on A Place Further Than The Universe, which proved to be a superbly enjoyable anime. However, things are what they are, so focus will return to the thematic elements in A Place Further Than The Universe and how they contribute to the anime’s high enjoyment factor. The key reason why A Place Further Than The Universe stands out is because of its four characters, all of whom have a different story and reason for being. Mari signs up because she’s tired of backing down from adventure and longs to do something meaningful before her time as a high school student expires. She represents the average viewer, acting as the eyepiece from which the Antarctica expedition is presented from. Innocent, energetic and cheerful, Mari stands in for the audience and provides grounding for the adventures she and her friends embark on. Her simple determination and optimism is sufficent to inspire Megumi to do the same, speaking to the influence friends have on one another. Shirase’s story is one of closure and search for a purpose in its aftermath: having long endured ridicule and logistical challenges, Shirase’s dreams of going to Antarctica remained a fool’s dream until she met Mari and Hinata. When the combined efforts of her friends allow her dream to be realised, she is able to defy expectation – her first words upon hitting the surface of Antarctica is to taunt those who doubted her. However, with this purpose now fulfilled, Shirase begins wondering about her mother and whether or not she will find closure. Ultimately, it is in the company of her friends and their warm encouragement that Shirase comes to terms with Takako’s death, accepting that she’s now got her own memories of Antarctica and goals of her own. With one journey over, Shirase prepares to set out on another one.

Hinata participates in the Antarctica expedition to escape from her troubles and similar to Mari, do something remarkable: after leaving high school and forging her own path independently, Hinata admits that she was envious of the focus that Shirase and Mari had. When she learns to rely on others once again and opens up, however reluctantly, to Shirase, she finds that companionship is being able to trust and be trusted. Letting her friends know the reason as to why she left high school, and seeing the dedication her friends have for her allows Hinata to see friendship from a new light. Finally, Yuzuki learns that friendships are very fluid and open-ended in nature. Far from being a formalised construct, it’s a relationship with its highs and lows, bound together by a sense of camaraderie that survives challenging times. Being with Mari and the others allows Yuzuki to experience the things that she’d long to do, and she comes out with a much stronger sense of what friendship is, which may impart a newfound perspective that changes her acting. Overall, each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki are fundamentally changed with their time in Antarctica, having come out of their journey with a profoundly different view of the world. However, each girl experiences their journey differently and leaves with an unique life lesson learned. There are, in effect, four separate themes in A Place Further Than The Universe, one for each of the characters, and while they share the commonality of friendship and overcoming challenges together, the differences that make Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki unique also means that they get correspondingly unlike experiences despite sharing them together. Through its short run, A Place Further Than The Universe manages to weave each of these four stories tightly together to form a cohesive and moving narrative that was entertaining, moving and refreshing.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because I’ve been away from the proceedings of A Place Further Than The Universe for quite some time, I pay the price by having a lot more ground to cover: this post will have forty images. We open with Hinata filming an interview for their project, which entails presenting their travels in Antarctica as a part of Yuzuki’s promotional work. While Hinata and Mari are comfortable on screen in general, and Yuzuki is experienced with such things, Shirase becomes embarrassed very quickly, and here, can be seen blushing furiously even from this distance. Prior to continuing into this post further, I mention that I’m aware that A Place Further Than The Universe is referred to as Yorimoi for brevity, but it’s only got a Hamming Distance of five from the Moyamoya disease. Characterised by clots in the blood vessels of the brain, Moyamoya is so-named because on X-rays, these clots resembles puffs of smoke (moyamoya is onomatopoeia for puffs of smoke in Japanese). This didn’t really sit well with me, so I’ve opted to refer to the show by its English title in full.

  • Mari and Hinata marvel at the view from on board the ship while they tour it in advance of departure. Of the characters, Mari and Hinata are more spirited and cheerful, while Shirase and Yuzuki are more reserved. With their distinct personalities, I’ve long felt that A Place Further Than The Universe is really four stories wrapped up in one, unified by a shared goal, and as such, this is what lends itself to the post’s title. It’s inspired by Gundam Unicorn‘s sixth episode, titled “Two Worlds, Two Tomorrows” in English. Being four characters, each with their own insights and perspectives, there are correspondingly four separate worlds and four futures, one for each of Mari, Hinata, Shirase and Yuzuki.

  • During a departure party, Shirase and Gin share a conversation about their mutual interest in returning to Antarctica while Mari, Yuzuki and Hinata have a fine time on board. Although Gin is ever-stoic as the captain of the expedition, she opens up to Shirase about her motivations for returning and later admits that seeing Shirase’s youthful passion was what led her to accept and push the operation forwards even in light of limited resources.

  • During the talk I did for A Place Further Than The Universe‘s first half, most of the screenshots were set in Japan or Singapore. For this talk on A Place Further Than The Universe, this has changed, with all of the screenshots being either in Antarctica or on board the ship. Admittedly, the ship-borne episodes brought to mind Mighty Ships, another Discovery Channel programme that I frequently watched during the year that I did my MCAT.

  • Here, Shirase tries to interview one of the ship’s crew on their functions and roles. A central part of the Mighty Ships program focuses on the vessels and their crew; from operations to technical capacities, unique points about each ship are shown in great detail, with the show interviewing crew to gain insights into their duties and associated challenges. A Place Further Than The Universe is not a documentary, however, and consequently is not expected to detail life on board the ice breaker to the same level of detail – if I were seeking that, I would watch the episode on the CCGS Henry Larsen, a Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker that’s been in service since 1988.

  • As the ship moves through the waters of the Southern Ocean, the girls notice increasing amounts of rocking. The adults are used to it and roll with things; here’ Mari and the others are peeling potatoes under Yumiko’s eye. The ship’s designated cook, Yumiko brings the girls under her wing and teach them the ins and outs of cooking when she observes that some of their number are unfamiliar with cooking.

  • I could not help but laugh at the fact that each of Yuzuki, Shirase and Mari are so out of shape that curling five pounds and doing sit ups puts them on the floor. I’ve frequently alluded to the fact that I lift and do Gōjū-ryū; having trained for around eight and seventeen years, respectively, I consider myself in slightly above average shape. That Hinata is able to keep up without too much trouble foreshadows at her background, and she keeps an eye on the others while they train. Fortunately, necessity soon pushes Mari and the others; as Place Further Than The Universe progresses, their low physicality no longer seems to be an issue, suggesting they’ve improved.

  • Crew remark in Mighty Ships that a ship’s galley is the heart of a ship; keeping the crew well-fed and watered is essential to morale on board, and some large commercial ships have top-tier galleys that serve up gourmet or homemade meals that ends up being something crew members look forwards to after a tough shift. Being immensely complex machines, Mighty Ships shows just how involved running a large ship is, from ensuring the engines are running to keeping track of cargo and equipment on board. What impressed me most is the professionalism all of the crews display under very stressful conditions.

  • Seasickness is no joke, and I’ve only ever encountered the Strait of Georgia’s waves twice: once during a cruise fifteen years ago and another during a school trip twelve years ago. I managed to stave off seasickness while my classmates were put out of commission by sitting out on deck and looking into the distance, but the Strait of Georgia is relatively calm compared to the likes of the waves in the Southern Ocean, so more involved measures are required to keep one’s dinner. Unaccustomed to things, audiences are treated to funny faces from Shirase and Mari as they struggle to endure the rough seas.

  • While in the throes of another tempest, Mari, Hinata, Shirase and Yuzuki break out onto deck, where they take in the waves for the first time. Resolving to endure it as best as they can, their spirits allow them to recover and acclimatise to life at sea. This moment here, captured right as they exit the ship’s interior, provides yet another example of the funny faces seen in A Place Further Than The Universe – I’ve become quite fond of Madhouse’s style, and their upcoming movie (by home release standards), Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai, is set to feature a very similar art style.

  • As their ship moves closer to Antarctica, Hinata and the others decide to interview Gin when they learn that Toshio’s developed feelings for her. Naturally, Shirase wants no part in things and resorts to her signature move: clinging to a bunch of stuff. It typifies A Place Further Than The Universe‘s approach in being able to employ both comedy and drama to equal extents within the anime; fiction that strike this balance tend to yield characters that audiences can empathise with, by illustrating that they are human and subject to the same emotions as the rest of us.

  • In its light-hearted moments, A Place Further Than The Universe delivers moments that make audiences smile. The only other anime of the season with such welcoming smiles is Yuru Camp; that A Place Further Than The Universe is a close second speaks volumes to how effective its art style is at conveying emotions. I’m especially fond of Yuzuki’s smile in this moment as the girls prepare to interview a reluctant Gin, and note that upon seeing trailers for Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai, I had some reservations on watching it owing to the art style. Having seen A Place Further Than The Universe and coming to embrace the way characters look, I’m now fully looking forwards to Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai, which will release on May 25.

  • During Toshio’s pursuit of Gin’s heart, he’s constantly rebuked by Yumiko. Watching the interactions between the two was at once amusing and also a bit disheartening. One might be forgiven for thinking that Yumiko is interested in being with him; as this is not the focus of A Place Further Than The Universe, the anime has Toshio stand down and that’s about as far as things go.

  • Gin’s concerns are far removed from the comings and goings of her crew and their love lives: she’s spent most of the journey worried about Shirase’s well-being. Flashbacks show that she was the last person to be in touch with Takako prior to her disappearance during a blizzard, and since then, while doubtful that Takako is still alive, nonetheless resolves to Antarctica in order to continue with her work and also for Takako’s sake. Here, Shirase and Gin simultaneously react to the sight of penguins on the ice packs as they near Antarctica.

  • Vast white landscapes evocative of Hoth and endless blue skies are the imagery that characterise A Place Further Than The Universe, and so, it wouldn’t be a satisfactory talk on Place Further Than The Universe without at least a handful of images that illustrate the scale of things down in the Antarctic.

  • The culmination of Shirase’s efforts with her friends lead her to this point: encouraged by the others, Shirase prepares to take the first step onto Antarctica’s ice pack, and in doing so, she starts on a new adventure with her friends. It was only together that the girls have made it this far: the sum of Yuzuki’s connections with promotional work and Shirase’s ties with Gin, paired with unending support from Hinata and Mari is what allowed them to reach Antarctica. None of the girls could have done this alone, so seeing them stand at the edge of a staircase with all smiles was an immensely rewarding scene.

  • Standing on the ice cap at Antarctica, Shirase shouts out that she’s done it, against all of her detractors’ claims that such an undertaking would be impossible. When the girls step off the boat, they are immediately hit with the cold: the average temperature at Showa Station during the summer is around 0ºC, with a low of -4ºC. During the winter months, temperatures range between -14ºC and -20ºC. These temperatures are well within the realm of what I count as ‘comfortable’ – I’ve mentioned previously that any real Canadian would count temperatures above -15ºC as warm. However, being in the most extreme places in the world, the Antarctic cold is no joke.

  • With the initial rush of arriving in Antarctica past, the crew prepare to ship their supplies out to Showa Station. Established in 1957, it is Japan’s permanent research facility in Antarctica and is located at 69º00’16”S 39º34’54”E. This is probably one of the most remote locations that have been shown in any anime, and while it is unlikely that civilians will be able to tread the same walks that Mari and her friends do, travelling to Antarctica is not outside the realm of possibility. Organised tours and cruises down to Antarctica, complete with shore excursions, start at around ten thousand CAD per person, which, incidentally, corresponds with the million yen that Shirase had.

  • With the hard numbers in mind, travelling to Antarctica is a matter of money: the price range is definitely outside my reach for now (it does not include the air fare), but it might be worth considering. If I do decide to make such a trip, if I still write for this blog in the future, I’ll be sure to write about the experience and attribute it to having watched A Place Further Than The Universe. For now, I’ll return to A Place Further Than The Universe, where Kanae introduces Mari and the others to their quarters at the Showa base.

  • After arrival, the expedition crews work tirelessly to activate station functions. They stop to celebrate Christmas here: most of the heavy lifting (i.e. research, operation of heavy machinery) is left to the adults in the team. Mari and the others take on everyday tasks, such as cooking and cleaning, as well as distribution of foodstuffs to other crew. While their roles might be seen as minor, they nonetheless are incredibly important in keeping morale and spirits up amongst the station’s crew.

  • When Yuzuki tries to get Mari and the others to sign a contract reminiscent of Sheldon’s “Friendship Agreement” from The Big Bang Theory, Mari and the others try to convince her that friendship isn’t something that can be codified. They manage to impart on her that friendship is a matter of trust and togetherness, and when they throw her a birthday party, she’s moved to tears. Having spent most of an episode troubled by whether or not she should accept a new assignment that might separate her from Mari and the others, she eventually realises that friendship can be a powerful force and so, accepts her assignment in a new drama.

  • Exposure to UV radiation while wearing goggles leaves Mari with a goggle-shaped tan that persists for the remainder of one of the episodes, leaving Shirase, Yuzuki and Hinata attempting to conceal peals of laughter, much to Mari’s embarrassment. The solution would’ve been to wear a full face covering: as none of the girls have eyewear, fogging up shouldn’t be a problem. On an unrelated note, I attempted to recreate the sort of clothing that the expedition team might wear in The Division after seeing the masks and goggles. I ended up quite close with my reproduction, although since I don’t have any hard hats or white jackets with orange highlights, this is as close as I got.

  • Once in Antarctica proper, Yuzuki, Hinata and Shirase get their own episodes in which their own personal challenges form the underlying story. After live streaming to viewers back home, Hinata runs into folks she once knew. Despite maintaining a cheerful façade, she hulks out – Shirase bears witness to this and spends the remainder of the episode trying to get Hinata to be truthful about how she feels.

  • It’s a clever touch that Mari’s tan remains visible throughout an entire episode and fades away by the next. Aside from cooking and cleaning duties, Mari and the others also help out with setup of research facility equipment. In between all this, they recount their experiences as per their original agreement. Here, Shirase measures the depth of a hole in the ice, bringing to mind a remark that Les Stroud had while traversing a glacier in one of his earlier episodes. While taking a shortcut over a glacier to reach a meadow, he encounters numerous crevices in the ice. Formed by the movement of ice, which opens up cracks, he says that some of them are deep enough so that if he’d fallen in, he’d never be found.

  • Is it possible to drink meltwater from ponds on the surface in Antarctica in real life? With its cold conditions suppressing bacterial growth and almost nonexistent exposure to pollutants, save for traces from the atmosphere, this water is quite clean and would be something that Les Stroud would recommend making use of in a survival situations. Mari and the others find it very refreshing to try. Here, Hinata reminds the others that whatever troubles she’s experiencing should not have any bearing on the others, befitting of her usual manner; while admirable, her friends genuinely worry about her.

  • While helping out with the deployment of solar panels and placement of satellite markers, Shirase manages to get Hinata to open up about how she genuinely felt over what’d happened in high school: she explained earlier to Mari and the others that she was an exceptional track student who incurred the jealousy of senior students, who retaliated by spreading rumours that lead her to leave high school. While she maintained a cheerful outlook on life after, she has trouble deciding whether or not she can forgive those who simply stood by and watched, and it takes developing trust with her friends, especially Shirase, before Hinata is able to openly confront how she feels about things.

  • Shirase doesn’t forgive easily and during their next live broadcast, delivers a tongue-lashing towards Hinata’s former teammates, calling them out for their actions and stating that Hinata’s moved on. Hinata is moved to tears by the spectacle of how deeply her friends care for her. I personally do not forgive easily – while some contend that only the strong can forgive, I maintain that forgiveness is something that must be earned. I do not give out free passes, seeing it as a key indicator of weakness when forgiveness is handed out too easily. Conversely, when an individual demonstrates they have earned forgiveness, I will regard them as I would anyone else who has earned their respect.

  • Shirase and Gin share another conversation about Takako. Shirase’s internal conflict about Takako is brought to bear in the penultimate episode – her entire reason for coming was to learn of her mother’s fate since her disappearance three years previously, and she feels that once this is done, her entire raison d’être will evaporate. Fearing this loss of purpose, she hesitates to go on an excursion to the site where Takako was last seen. With much support from Mari and the others, Shirase decides to go.

  • The girls help Kanae set up the snowcat convoy by lashing the vehicles together and attaching the required provisions. Once they set off, a ferocious blizzard strikes: Antarctica may be classified as a desert, but blizzards are not uncommon, and once they set in, visibility drops down to zero.

  • Ice crystals in the air create a spectacular phenomenon for Mari and the others to behold: known as a sun pillar, this results when hexagonal ice crystals align in the air to create a large mirror of sorts that reflects the light. While the sun is the most common light source for sun pillars, the moon and even street lamps can create light pillars. They can be observed with a nontrivial frequency where I am: owing to the climate, airborne ice crystals create all manners of observable optical phenomenon. Besides sun pillars, sun dogs and halos are also commonly seen during the winter.

  • In general, reception to A Place Further Than The Universe is very positive, with some people counting it as the strongest anime of the season. Discussions have gone in interesting directions elsewhere, from Shirase’s conflicted feelings about being up close and personal with penguins (the real deal, not the Pittsburgh Penguins) to whether or not the anime could’ve been better with more episodes. Aside from some incoherent ramblings from one “Verso Sciolto” (who’s plagued talks of Kimi no Na wa previously with pseudo-intellectual banter of no substance), talks have been reasoned, well-thought out and generally show that behind the enjoyment factor, is a show that’s clearly taken the time to ensure it strikes a balance between realism and narrative advancement.

  • Takako vanished during a blizzard, and while nodding off to Gin recounting Takako’s final words, Shirase sees her mother’s Force Ghost. Mari thanks Shirase for having allowed everyone to have come so far. When the girls enter the observatory, Mari tearfully sets off, feeling that Shirase’s trip would have fulfilled its purpose only if they can find any hint that Takako was once there. They scatter into the facility and locate a laptop that Takako used.

  • There’s a bit of waterworks in A Place Further Than The Universe, some of which is warranted and some of which might feel a little excessive. When Shirase opens Takako’s laptop and it hits her that her mother never received and never will read any of the messages, the finality of her death hits her in full. The tears come out, while outside of the room, Mari, Hinata and Yuzuki silently cry for Shirase, and audiences also feel the impact of what’s going down. This is one moment where the tears are appropriate.

  • As their time in Antarctica comes to an end, Mari enjoys a shaved ice made from glacial ice: the dissolved air bubbles in the ice date back several millennia, and while not tasting any difference than standard ice, when one considers that they are ingesting something that’s been untouched for such a period time, it is interesting compared against the “ordinary” water and air we drink and breathe. Once each of the characters have overcome their own individual barriers, the finale is much more light-hearted in nature, and back at base, the adults unveil a banner thanking Mari and the others for having helped out.

  • Shirase cuts her hair short, signifying a renewed outlook on the world and a fresh start. A major change in hairstyle has long associated with a change in relationship status, but the practise is actually a global one – longer hair might represent the past, and to cut it indicates a willingness to let go and move on. While Shirase’s not suffered any heartbreak, she’s nonetheless feeling like a new person with the sum of her experiences in Antarctica.

  • The time has thus come for Shirase, Yuzuki, Mari and Hinata to leave Antarctica, bringing their trip to an end, and it is here I explain the page quote. A long time ago, some of my readers felt that the quotes I picked had hardly any relationship to the post in question; while I can see the connection immediately, I understand that my non sequitur thinking means that parallels that I intuitively draw are not apparent, hence this practise. Today’s quote comes from J.R.R. Tolkein – he refers to Bilbo’s adventures and involvements with the Quest for Erebor, stating that it is challenge and adversity that is worth recounting. From struggling to begin their adventure to fighting amongst one another, from seasickness to the challenges of Antarctica itself, Mari and the others have experienced their share of adversity on the journey to Antarctica.

  • Had Mari chosen to remain idle and live in the status quo, it is likely that none of the events in A Place Further Than The Universe will have occurred. Audiences are therefore happy that Mari took the initiative to step out of her comfort zone: while she had no real learnings in Antarctica, her internal conflicts were presented early into the season and as a character, she reaches her resolution once the trip becomes realised and she parts ways with Megumi.

  • Having eaten shaved ice made with All-Genuine Antarctica glacier ice and walked amongst the penguins, the only thing that Shirase and the others have not done is experienced the aurora australis, the southern equivalent of the aurora borealis. As they rest on the deck of the icebreaker, a stunning display begins, filling the skies with curtains of shimmering light. Coincidentally, Gin sends Shirase the final email that Takako had intended to send Shirase before she passed on; it was that the southern lights are much more beautiful in person.

  • Mari’s journey in A Place Further Than The Universe ends where it began, and she returns home. She sends a message to Megumi, who replies that she’s in the Arctic. Unlike Frodo, who’s tribulations in Middle Earth and exposure to the One Ring’s evil has a permanent effect on him, Mari will have no trouble resuming her old life. The epilogue shows each of Hinata, Yuzuki and Shirase going their separate ways, having come back from Antarctica with a profoundly changed world-view and presumably, a newfound appreciation for what they do have. When their journey began, each of Mari, Yuzuki, Hinata and Shirase were longing for something more: A Place Further Than The Universe shows how their travels help each of the girls fill the gaps.

  • I’ll close off with a screenshot of Megumi in the arctic, mention that this post has 5426 words, and as is customary, give A Place Further Than The Universe a numerical score. With a score of A+ (9.5 of 10), A Place Further Than The Universe ties with Yuru Camp△, but the distinction here is that the presence of a more cohesive narrative and clear objective means that I could recommend A Place Further Than The Universe to anyone. With the last of my March posts in the books, I look ahead to the shows of the Spring season, mention that I’ll be writing about Violet Evergarden once the firefights on that settles, and return to Battlefield 1, where a new patch fixes mid-round balancing, changes visibility when looking outside from inside a building and also makes the PTFO skins legendary rarity along with other UI improvements.

As per my original expectation, Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki’s friendships are tested and through trial by fire, the girls come out stronger than they entered. While I previously was unsure whether or not A Place Further Than The Universe would take a more plausible or fairy-tale like approach in dealing with Takako, the later aspects of the series also answered that question, choosing to go with a realistic approach that simultaneously serves as the catalyst for Shirase’s maturation. Overall, A Place Further Than The Universe has many positives going for it, being a show that I looked forwards to each and every week once I got into it. In conjunction with its riveting story, highly engaging and likeable characters and technical excellence, the only thing that one can really hold against A Place Further Than The Universe is the fact that the waterworks come out a bit too frequently than one might reasonably expect of high school girls. While the dramatic might be occasionally placed into situations more often than necessary, it does not serve to detract from A Place Further Than The Universe‘s story. Consequently, I am confident in giving A Place Further Than The Universe a strong recommendation: the biggest draw is simply watching Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki grow as they spend more time together, work together to overcome challenges and ultimately, gain a broader view of the world together. With A Place Further Than The Universe now over on such a decisive note, I do not expect there to be a direct sequel, although the possibility of a spin-off dealing with Megumi and her path to the Arctic following Mari’s departure would be a story well worth telling.