The Infinite Zenith

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Bofuri 2: Review and Reflection After Three

“The beast’s hide is too thick to be pierced from the outside. I must cut through it from the inside!” –Drax The Destroyer, Guardians of the Galaxy 2

With Christmas Break over, the Maple Tree guild work towards clearing the fourth world. Maple herself is out with a cold, so she ends up resting. After she recovers, she returns to New World Online (NWO) and solos the boss while helping Frederica’s party; while she’d previously ended up fighting another named elite, Maple ends up with yet another powerful skill. She later meets up with Yui and May and help them defeat a named elite gaining access to the sixth level. This horror-themed space overwhelms Sally, who’s too frightened to even set foot in the world, and Maple decides to accompany Sally when the latter expresses a want for some loot from a haunted house landmark. Although they end up failing, Maple will later return and solo the haunted house. While Sally explores other levels, Maple hangs out with Mii; after they defeat foes giving Mii some trouble, the pair hang out at a café, where Mii wishes she could be herself in-game. Later, the developers start another in-game event, and despite the challenge specifically surrounding the instance Maple and Sally are given, the pair manage to clear three floors within the tower despite initially struggling with foes that were custom-made to give Maple a tough time. This is where Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu‘s second season (Bofuri 2 from here on out for brevity) lands after three episodes. After doing a special pre-airing prior to Christmas, Bofuri is set to continue on in the same manner as its predecessor, following the RPG novice Kaede Honjō (Maple), and her best friend, Risa Shiromine (Sally) as they explore NWO and its unusual mechanics. Along the way, thanks to Maple’s near-total absence of knowledge surrounding gaming, and her propensity to go with what works, she ends up having a wonderful time in the game, frustrating the developers, who appear to be at their wits’ end when it comes to handling Maple and her now-infamous guild.

After the first season had ended, I concluded that Bofuri had been an excellent example of an unusual optimisation solution in some multi-agent systems: in the typical RPG, players pick from a wide range of statistics to build characters suited for their class and play-style. Because Maple had lacked any gaming knowledge, she maximises her defensive capabilities and instead, draws upon a very unusual set of skills to advance her experience, and in the process, she ends up having a fantastic time. The lessons seen in Bofuri (and doubtlessly, Bofuri 2) is a simple one: having a varied skill set and an open mind leads to a good experience. This particular theme is general enough such that it could apply to all walks of life, and mirrors the easygoing tone in Bofuri; NWO isn’t a death-game like Sword Art Online, the competition between the different guilds are friendly, and Maple has a tendency to befriend those she meets. In the absence of high stakes and interpersonal drama, Bofuri isn’t going to tell any inspirational stories, nor is it likely to change my worldviews on a given subject. However, the series is relaxing and fun: a part of the enjoyment stems purely from seeing what outrageous solutions Maple applies towards a given problem, and watching the developers squirm as they realise nothing they propose is working. Not every series needs to compel viewers to think, and Bofuri is an excellent example of how important it is to simply focus on having fun every so often: Maple herself isn’t worried about the in-game meta or about playing the game a certain way, and as a result, she is able to have extraordinary experiences. While this means I won’t be discussing the series’ themes and their implications as I am wont to doing, as a bit of a gamer myself, I do relate to the idea of purely having fun in a game without concern for playing something “the way it’s meant to be played”.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As it turns out, the Japan-themed world in NWO was only one step of the journey, and by the time Maple has a chance to play through things following Christmas, her friends have already cleared it and are exploring higher level spaces. One thing I’ve never understood about Japanese games is why open levels are referred to as “floors”: in older RPGs where the setting is a dungeon or large building, floors make sense, but when it comes to wide open spaces, the nomenclature is misleading. Calling them “worlds” or “levels” is more appropriate a descriptor.

  • All of the RPG games I play are completely open-world, being set in large maps subdivided into large biomes, and there’s no need to clear a boss fight in order to enter new biomes. In World of Warcraft, regions do have a level requirement to dissuade low-level players from rushing ahead, and Skyrim is completely open for players to explore, as enemy difficultly scales with the player level. Japanese games are built on different philosophies than Western games, and while elements from the former have strongly influenced the latter, cultural differences result in dramatically different experiences.

  • For me, both games have their merits (I’ve found things like Valkyria Chronicles and Street Fighter just as engaging as Sim City and Battlefield), but on the whole, I generally prefer games that don’t demand a large time investment in them. The idea of spending hours upon hours levelling up and picking up usable gear isn’t something that appeals to me, and so, when games take a fair approach towards things (anything worth earning should take some effort, but not demand more effort than work), I find myself more inclined to enjoy things.

  • From what I’ve seen of NWO throughout Bofuri, the game’s biggest draw seems to be a dynamic skill system that allows players to pick up any skill and use them in conjunction with one another. Maple uses them in unorthodox ways to trivially solve most of the challenges she encounters, and I am reminded of the classic game, Magicka, a satirical game that allows players to combine magic in different ways to solve puzzles. Most RPGs don’t allow players to combine skills in an unusual manner (for instance, a World of Warcraft mage can’t use spells to bring the dead back to life, and shamans can’t use powerful frost spells to control crowds) with the aim of preserving balance.

  • Maple’s first adventure after returning to NWO from a cold is to solo the boss in the Japanese level, and then she joins her friends in the subsequent world to mop the next boss. Her overwhelming power leads the others to wonder if there’s anything left to do, and I am left to feel that Maple is similar in Donnie Yen’s portrayal of Ip Man in Ip Man – Yen’s Ip Man always finds a way of winning the most important fights and tends to draw in fights of lesser significance. While an indestructible protagonist is generally counted as being dull to watch because there’s no struggle and payoff, stories can still make such characters work.

  • This happens when the protagonist is made to learn that power isn’t going to be the answer. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is a fine example of this – although Yuna is exceptionally powerful, she finds that jumping into the middle of a problem and solving it with her fists or magic won’t cut it all the time, and in doing so, she slowly learns to listen to the world’s inhabitants. Here in Bofuri, it appears that Maple’s state in the game is such that she’s able to purely focus on having fun, but I do find myself wondering if the story is set to go further than this.

  • Bofuri‘s ability to vividly render every region is impressive: Silver Link has spared no expense in making sure every world is vividly rendered and packed with detail. The animation and artwork in Bofuri is of an excellent standard, and this shouldn’t be too surprising – Silver Link has an impressive repertoire, ranging from Non Non Biyori and Brave Witches to Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow and Kokoro Connect, and most of their shows have been well-presented.

  • The sixth world, a horror-themed space, might hint at what’s upcoming in Bofuri 2 – although Sally is a remarkable player who built her character around agility and has a reputation similar to Maple’s, her fear of all things horror means that she’s left conflicted as to whether or not she wants to play on. On one hand, Sally doesn’t do well with ghost stories, but on the other hand, she’s tempted by some excellent gear that’s said to drop in this region.

  • Using game spaces to help characters grow as individuals wouldn’t be a bad idea, and having spent the whole of the first season showing how Maple’s able to visit all sorts of spaces without worrying about being defeated, it would be nice if Maple could spend more time with her friends and help them with various in-game objectives, in time, coming to learn more about their real-world traits and potentially using the game to help them overcome an individual shortcoming. In the present, Maple agrees to accompany Sally into a haunted house where some interesting gear is set to drop.

  • If I had to guess, once players acquire a skill in NWO, the skill’s performance probably scales as one levels up. This would allow Maple to continuously use her old skills in higher levels without worrying about them becoming obsolete. The Division and The Division 2 had a similar mechanic in play, allowing seeker mines, explosive drones and remote turrets to do more base damage as one levelled up, so that they would remain useful as one hit the endgame. By using her Machine God ability, Maple carries Sally through the haunted house, both literally and figuratively.

  • Maple’s firepower actually does tangible damage to whatever ghosts are in this world, and as such, it stands to reason that, had Sally simply stood her ground and fought back, she’d be able to hold her own. However, since her fear of ghosts and spirits surpasses her confidence in NWO, she ends up being ineffectual during the exploration. I recall a similar scene in Metro: Last Light, where during the mission to save Pavel, Artyom has a frightening vision where hands of the damned protruded from the walls while he follows the Dark One. Back then, I only had a GTX 660, but I was still able to run the game at high settings and maintain 60 FPS with the 1080p resolution.

  • When Sally gets separated from Maple, her ensuring reaction is adorable. This was a somewhat unexpected side to her character, and although I vaguely remember Sally being uncomfortable with ghost stories and the like, seeing moments like these really accentuate her dislikes. Admittedly, it was also quite amusing to see the otherwise cool-and-collected Sally reacting in such a manner. In the end, she does manage to link up with Maple, who uses her latest ability to give Sally a chance to regroup, and when some other adventurers enter the house, they draw the spirits off the pair, allowing Sally and Maple to escape.

  • Sally’s original quest of gaining some new items ends up unsuccessful, but for their troubles, she and Maple both gain access to a new skill. While I’ve never had an experience quite like Sally’s in a game before, I have had times where I entered a mission thinking I had what it took to complete it, only to get stomped. This most often happens in games like The Division – after I completed my six-piece Classified Striker’s set, I foolishly thought I was capable of handling Incursions solo and found myself hopelessly outmatched; this activity had been scaled for four players with good gear. Similarly, in The Division 2, I’d imagined that the Hunter’s Fury would be an asset when I tried to solo the raids, but during the airport level, I couldn’t even make it off the tarmac into the terminal.

  • As a predominantly solo player, I definitely wouldn’t make it very far in NWO unless I managed to make a Maple-like build. Back in Bofuri, after logging out, Sally is surprised to find her home empty; her parents are working late, and she’s still a little jittery following the excitement of having just escaped a haunted house. The real world is rarely shown in Bofuri, but I am fond of its portrayal, since it does remind viewers that this series isn’t an isekai, strictly speaking, and as a result, the stakes are much lower. A few months ago, I would’ve been a little envious of Sally’s home setup, but post move, I’ve put together a setup of my own that has suited my needs.

  • Luckily for Sally, Maple’s on hand to talk her through things. Moments like these speak to what’s really important in gaming, and while Bofuri doesn’t have the same high stakes as the typical isekai or something like Sword Art Online would, the change of pacing makes this a relaxing series to follow. Understanding this about Bofuri means managing my expectations accordingly: I’m not here looking for a world-class, life-changing tale, but instead, it’s sufficient to see characters learn and grow alongside one another in a world where the only aim is to have a good time, something that many streamers and gamers in the present seem to have forgotten.

  • In the end, Maple ends up soloing the haunted house and secures all of the stuff that Sally had been looking for. In the time that has passed between Bofuri and Bofuri 2, I’ve managed to finish The Division 2 fully – seeing the excitement in Bofuri 2 about loot brings back memories of when I’d spent my downtime after work running through Washington D.C. doing various things for exotics. In The Division, I ended up joining random groups in order to complete legendary missions, but with the presence of exotic crates in The Division 2, I was able to amass a reasonably extensive collection of exotics without needing to play the toughest content.

  • My old Hunter’s Fury gear set, paired with the Chatterbox and Ninja Bike kneepads, allow me to trivially beat missions in PvE – the fact I get health and armour back on each kill, coupled with the fact that every kill also returns a third of my ammunition, and the Chatterbox’s ability to increase its firing rate when near enemies, renders this the perfect setup for PvE. On the other hand, against individually strong opponents, the Hunter’s Fury loadout I have now is quite ineffective. My approach towards The Division 2 was partly inspired by Bofuri, and since I have no intention of playing PvP or the game’s tougher content, things work out well enough for me.

  • The main reason why I’ve not returned to The Division 2 since finishing the Faye Lau manhunt had been because for most of 2021 and 2022, the game went on a bit of a hiatus as no new content was added. Ubisoft had launched a roadmap indicating that new content would be added, along with a new free-to-play title, but having felt I’d gotten my money’s worth from The Division 2, I ended up moving on. Back in Bofuri, after receiving a request from Mii, Maple joins her and uses her newfound defensive buffs to give Mii a chance to use her powerful, but slow-to-deploy AoE skill. This particular spell brings to mind Megumin’s ex~PLOSION~!, which similarly was damaging but was stymied by a high magic requirement and long charge time.

  • On the topic of Megumin, it turns out that next season, Konosuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World is going to be released. This spinoff will deal with Megumin and show her life prior to meeting Kazuma, and I’m rather looking forwards to seeing how things turn out. During the start of the global health crisis back in early 2020, I found myself with an abundance of time at home, so I spent most of it powering through anime I hadn’t had time to watch. Konosuba was one of them, and in this series, I found comedy of a consistently good quality. Besides KonosubaKuma Kuma Kuma Bear is also going to get a second season.

  • While I don’t typically watch or write about isekai anime, there are a few series that do catch my interest from time to time – I prefer to watch the more relaxed and comical series over the serious ones. Back in Bofuri, Mii and Maple swing by an in-game café following their adventure, and the conversation switches over to something on Mii’s mind; she’s been wanting to be herself, but obligations to her guild means she must maintain a more serious persona. Hanging out with Maple allows her to relax and show her true self, and I am hoping that at some point, seeing Maple doing what she does best will also help Mii to relax around others.

  • When conversation turns to hanging out with folks one otherwise normally wouldn’t, I am reminded of how slice-of-life anime are able utilise their casts and have different characters interact with one another, in turn creating new experiences that may differ in tone and outcomes compared to what is seen with the lead characters. GochiUsa had done an especially good job with this: while Cocoa and Chino carry most of the show in earlier seasons, later on, episodes give the other characters a chance to shine. Episodes of Bofuri around other characters in the Maple Tree guild, or even the other guilds, could act as a fun way of showcasing more of NWO.

  • Bofuri is wasting no time on pushing ahead – by the game’s seventh major event, Maple and her friends are fully ready to take things on. This time around, rather than a large-scale event involving multiple guilds, small groups must take on instanced areas. The idea of an “instance” originates from World of Warcraft, where small groups were given their private copy of a dungeon to take on. The term itself comes from Object-Oriented Programming, where an instance of an object is a occurrence of an object that can be acted upon. The easiest way to describe this is with physical entities: supposing that Person is a class describing people, then Maple would be an instance of the Person class. The term stuck, and since then, private dungeons have been referred to as instances.

  • Maple and Sally end up taking on their instance together, but unbeknownst to them, the developers have altered theirs so the pair end up with far tougher foes than necessary. As Maple and Sally destroy their opponents, the developers watch in horror; nothing they have seem to work. However, their conversations also suggest that these foes were designed to be challenging, but not unbeatable. The problem NWO’s developers have stem from a fundamental design problem in their game: caps to skill power and statistics, coupled with limiting what combination of skills can be equipped and earned, would’ve eliminated most of their headaches.

  • Game balance is eschewed in Bofuri precisely to accommodate Maple’s outrageous adventures, and as such, the developers find themselves on the backfoot. Battlefield 2042 had suffered from this – originally, the class system was abolished, and this reduced the incentive for teamwork. The reintroduction of classes is intended to ensure that players are locked to a specific role, increasing the need to work as a team. Here, Maple equips her Wooly skill: this one is one of my favourites because Maple’s response to using it is always adorable. While outwardly envelopes Maple in wool, she is able to utilise it in a creative way.

  • Writing for Bofuri is admittedly a bit of a challenge: since the anime’s objective is simply present a fun experience, there isn’t much to do in the way of speculation, either. As such, Bofuri is one of those series where it’s easiest to kick back and watch things as they unfold. With this in mind, while I’m writing about both Bofuri and Mō Ippon! in the same manner, the latter does provide more opportunity for the sort of discussion I’m partial to; I’m not sure how many readers here follow my references to games, for instance.

  • Back in Bofuri, upon fighting their first foe, Maple and Sally initially have a tough time damaging its exterior. Once they spot that the monster’s mouth might be a weak spot, Maple decides to cut it up from within. This is the inspiration for the page quote, sourced from Guardians of the Galaxy 2, during the opening fight against a multi-dimensional monster known as the Abilisk. When Drax determines that the only way to deal damage to it is from the inside, both Gamora and Peter Quill are perplexed, since skin is supposedly the same thickness from the outside as it is from within. However, there is merit in Drax’s argument – the fleshy interior is probably not as tough as the exterior, so more damage can be done.

  • In this way, Maple and Sally conquer the first floor without too much trouble and move onto the second, where they fight a foe that takes the form of a large book and utilises Maple’s own skills against them, while at the same, preventing Maple from using any skills it’s taken. This enemy is actually pretty cleverly designed and brings to mind the likes of Aaron Keener, who had access to the same plethora of skills as the player’s Agent. Against Keener, I found the best way to handle him was to continuously push the offensive – staying behind cover isn’t too effective, and I found that it was by getting up close and personal that let me do effective damange.

  • The visual quality in the second floor’s fight is degraded somewhat, as the character models become more blocky in terms of appearance. The darkness in the room somewhat masks this, but it was still noticeable. Silver Link generally has a solid history of producing visually consistent works, but there have been cases where things have seen slippage (such as 2016’s Brave Witches). However, if their record is anything to go by, Bofuri 2 shouldn’t see any delays to its schedule: it is possible that some shortcuts were taken to ensure that episodes aired in a timely fashion.

  • The fight against the second floor’s boss ends with Sally using her speed to overcome it, and the two advance to the third floor, which is controlled by an elemental golem. Initially, the environment resembles World of Warcraft‘s Molten Core, but after Sally begins using cold spells against it, the golem switches over to cold-based attacks. Maple ends up using her Atrocity form and consumes the golem, defeating it instantly and giving the developers more headaches. At this point in time, it almost feels like Maple and Sally would be better served as play-testers brought on before a game ever hit alpha stage: their unconventional play-styles would expose problem areas of a game that can then be fixed.

  • Having said this, with the way Maple plays, one might be inclined to consider fool-proofing certain things, and this approach towards development does have its detriments. One longstanding axiom in software development is that users will always find ways of breaking something no matter how well-guarded something will be. For NWO’s developers, it may not be a meaningful exercise to keep up with Maple, so here in Bofuri 2, I am curious to see how they react as the story continues. Viewers will likely have an excellent ride ahead, and I look forwards to seeing what the second season will present. In the meantime, it’s time to call it an evening: I’ve returned from my first dinner out with the extended family to celebrate the Chinese New Year, and after an exquisite menu, which included a whole steamed fish and fresh lobster, I’m inclined to do as Maple does and enjoy some time in a game.

The ability to play a game in any manner of one’s choosing is a topic of debate amongst those who partake in video games. On one hand, game mechanics may lead to certain tactics being more effective than others, and in PvP environments, this can result in heated exchanges regarding whether or not said tactics are fair. For instance, the practise of camping in a first person shooter is regarded as dishonourable because it gives the camper an advantage over their foes. By staying in one spot and remaining hidden, one can defeat unsuspecting foes with ease. There is, however, one legitimate use of camping: if one has just exited a firefight and needs to regenerate their health, it is perfectly acceptable to hide behind cover or somewhere safe while awaiting recovery. If one is ambushed in the process, there’s nothing unethical about defending oneself. In PvE games, play-styles are irrelevant, and one can choose to have fun in any manner of their choosing. The whole point of gaming is to have a good time, and this is why for me, single-player experiences are my preference. I can do something in my own manner of choosing, in an environment where my mistakes won’t harm any teammates or allies. Similarly, when I play PvP experiences now, I enter a match without any expectations: the goal isn’t to help my team win or maintain a positive KDR, but rather, to have a blast, and I’ve found that when approaching games with this mindset, I tend to do better and have a better time of things along the way. Bofuri celebrates this approach towards gaming. With all of the streamers out there trying to engage their audiences by using meta loadouts and strategies exclusively, as well as viewers who try to emulate them, the spirit of video games is somewhat diminished, so Bofuri acts as an amusing counterargument for this in suggesting that even using the so-called “off meta” methods and equipment can still be viable so long as one has an open mind, and above all else, a willingness to have fun in the process.

Revisiting Vividred Operation A Decade Later: Reflections on the Intersection Between Friendship, Iron Man Suits and Magical Girls

“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” –Elbert Hubbard

Seven years after professor Kenjirō Isshiki contributed to the development of the Manifestation Engine, a system that harnesses Incarnate Energy as a means of generating nearly an unlimited supply of clean energy, his granddaughter, Akane end up being caught up in a plot by an alien entity, the Alone, to destroy the Manifestation Engine. Having foreseen their arrival, Kenjirō had devised the Palette Suits and Vivid System, specialised suits of armour that give humanity a fighting chance against the Alone. Joining Akane is her best friend Aoi, Wakaba, a kendo practioner and the prodigy Himawari. As the girls continue fighting the Alone, they learn that their classmate, Rei, is responsible for the Alone’s appearance, and moreover, had been given arrows to greatly empower the Alone that appear. She had lost her old world when Incarnate Energy destroyed it, and since then, had been serving a being that takes the form of a crow. Over time, Akane’s attempts to befriend her eventually lead Rei to rebel against the crow. When the crow seizes Rei’s arrows and manifests as a gargantuan form, combined efforts from Akane, Aoi, Wakaba, Himawari and Rei results in the crow’s complete destruction. In the aftermath, the entity above the crow appears and deems that humanity is worthy of wielding Incarnate Energy. For her contributions, the entity agrees to resurrect Rei’s world, and she parts ways with the others, promising to meet again one day. When it was announced, Vividred Operation drew only passing interest from anime fans: the anime had Kazuhiro Takamura, Strike Witches‘ character designer, on the team, and its premise was quickly dismissed as being likely reliant on egregious posterior angles over any meaningful storytelling. Indeed, when Vividred Operation finished airing, the anime did not seem especially memorable. Vividred Operation‘s message is not particularly novel, being about how friendship and trust is enough to overcome all obstacles, and how people can overcome challenges together whereas if they’d attempted something on their own, they’d fail. Vividred Operation is none too subtle about these themes, explicitly spelling them in each episode. Further to this, while the Manifestation Engine and Vivid System are integral parts of the show, their usage seems to break internal consistency and operate at the story’s whims, introducing plot holes.

At first glance, were it not for the crotch shots that Strike Witches had developed a reputation for, one might be inclined to regard Vividred Operation as little more than a Super Sentai/Magical Girl hybrid anime better suited for children’s programming. However, Vividred Operation ends up being more than the sum of its parts; beneath a seemingly simplistic story is a world that receives a considerable amount of development, and where the characters’ goals, beliefs and desires all speak to a multitude of topics beyond just friendship. After Akane and the others take down the crow, Kenjirō mentions how all of his research had been built on the assumption that a system operates in a vacuum, but when different systems interact, the resultant emergent behaviours are completely unexpected. Friendship is used as a catalyst for showing how complex the behaviours of multiple interacting components can be, and in this way, Vividred Operation speaks to the idea that even the most brilliant individuals cannot foresee all ends. Kenjirō had not anticipated that even his Vivid System was able to handle the threat that the crow presented, but because Akane and her friends end up using the system with a shared goal, they are able to accomplish things that would have been impossible for an individual. Similarly, after Akane makes a genuine effort to connect to Rei, Rei begins realising that there was nothing to be gained by remaining distant from the world around her. The crow had not foreseen this, and even after consuming enough arrows to become a being of great destructive power, it remains a single entity. Rei and Akane’s combined desire to save their universe and those around them, coming from two separate individuals, is enough to prevail. While friendship is an obvious theme, Vividred Operation ends up being able to utilise its unique premise and setting to tell another, more nuanced story that makes the sum of Akane, Aoi, Wakaba, Himawari and Rei’s journey worthwhile in spite of the gaffes within the anime. As a result, Vividred Operation becomes an excellent example of how an anime can remain enjoyable despite possessing numerous, visible shortcomings: not every work needs to be airtight or have a life-changing message, and sometimes, it is sufficient for a work to entertain viewers with a serviceable story, a vivid palette of colours (pun intended) and top-tier sound.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Vividred Operation aired on Saturday mornings over on this side of the world, and in the January of a decade earlier, I had just started the second term. Because it’d been thesis year, I ended up taking a step back from volunteering as a teaching assistant at the local Chinese academy so I could have Saturdays to focus on my coursework: my thesis work had been built on Mac OS X, and I had a Windows PC at home, so I spent every moment I could spare at the lab while I was on campus, and this left me weekends to tend to my other courses.

  • My fall term had been an easier one: I was enrolled in iOS programming, genomics, and science fiction literature: the former was built around a team project, while the latter two were courses that had a focus on papers. Because only science fiction literature had exams, I had enough time to make considerable headway in my undergraduate thesis project and maintain a decent showing in my other courses. This made my fall term one of the most relaxed I’d had since starting university, and I spent most of my time at the lab, experimenting with different ideas as I worked towards building a functional multi-scale model of renal behaviour.

  • My interest in the renal system was based on a summer project I’d worked on two summers prior, when I picked up a project to model fluid flow in convoluted vessels using ray-tracing. This eventually led me to investigate protein channel behaviours, and eventually, I decided that it’d be fun to take these ideas and show how the in-house game engine could allow for a (mostly) seamless transition between an agent-based visualisation of fluid flow and a macroscopic representation of renal health. Looking back, this project had been quite simple, but my project did show how use of game engines was feasible for showing physiological processes at different scales, while at the same time, maintaining visual consistency between the scales.

  • Having spent the fall term building most of the project out, by January, I had a functional model that showcased renal physiology at three different scales. At this point in time, my main priority was fine-tuning the model, adding components to make it more user-friendly, writing out the thesis paper itself, and preparing for various presentations that made up the thesis course. The bulk of the harder work had been completed already, and I am glad to have taken advantage of my schedule in the fall term to have done so.

  • During the winter term, I also had three courses, but this time around, I had statistics, databases and software engineering. These courses were significantly more involved than the courses from my previous term; all of them had midterms and finals, and on top of this, databases and software engineering had a large project component, too. While my home faculty had tried to balance things out by making the thesis course a 2 FCE (it took up two slots in any given term), having three other busy courses would’ve made it a bit tricky had I not made the progress I did in my fall term.

  • As memory serves, I ended up working out a strategy to stay on top of things for that term. While I was on campus, I would work on tuning my renal model, and where I had extra time, I could work on my assignments for statistics and databases. Software engineering was a bit more involved, so I would do some revisions and start assignments on campus, but otherwise, I redirected my work to Saturdays, when I had the whole day to myself. Sundays, I spent chipping away at the non-technical aspects of my thesis course (namely, the papers and presentations).

  • On Saturdays, I always made room for Vividred Operation, watching it right before lunch. Back then, besides Vividred OperationBoku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXTTamako Market, and Yama no Susume were also airing. I ended up watching the first two and ended up skipping Yama no Susume somehow, but I do remember that Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT and Tamako Market were enjoyable series in their own right. Once I’d settled into a schedule, my winter term became more manageable, and I slowly pushed ahead to the finish line.

  • When Vividred Operation began airing, I had written about the first four episodes in an episodic fashion, but over time, this practise became too time-consuming, and I stopped as term became busier. After the first midterms occurred, I ditched the episodic reviews and eventually returned to write about the finale, stating Vividred Operation to be a fun series in spite of its overt shortcomings. In doing this, I bypassed all of the events that took place after Himawari joins Akane’s crew, and Akane’s persistence in getting to know Rei better.

  • Originally, my largest gripes about Vividred Operation was in how the Palette Suits operated. Akane, Aoi and Wakaba are new to the Vivid System, but they have no trouble activating and using it. The transformation sequences show everyone as expertly operating the Vivid System and, aside from a small hiccough when Aoi and Akane attempt to dock for the first time, Wakaba and Himawari both dock smoothly enough. The only exception was that Himawari, being a major fan of Kenjirō’s work, would’ve studied how his constructs operate and therefore knew about its capabilities ahead of time.

  • Similarly, when Kenjirō explains the docking mechanism needs two minds to be in sync, Aoi and Akane, being longtime friends, would have managed after some of their own challenges were sorted out. Wakaba and Himawari have only known Akane briefly, but they manage to use the system without any issues. These aspects were done to accelerate the story and ensure that Wakaba and Himawari could become full-fledged users of the Palette Suits, coming at the expense of consistency. However, if one were to assume that Kenjirō had simply designed the Vivid System with good UX practises, and the transformation sequences are merely cosmetic, then things fall into place more readily.

  • Moving past the internal consistency piece (which I now find satisfactory), revisiting Vividred Operation and all of the events that take place leading up to the finale was a reminder that this series has a bit more to it than meets the eye. Rei’s presence within Vividred Operation, her motivation for acting and the changes that she undergo means that technically, she’s the protagonist of the series. Although she starts out in opposition to the Manifestation Engine and assists the Alone as a deal with the crow in order to bring her world back, seeing Akane’s kindness eventually leads her to come around.

  • Akane, Aoi, Wakaba and Himawari are more static than Rei is: once their friendship is established, while a few moments may trouble them, overall, everyone gets along very well and are able to fight effectively against the Alone. On the other hand, Rei struggles with her interactions: on one hand, she desires nothing more than to bring back her family and home by fulfilling her end of the bargain, but her interactions with Akane and the others create a bit of attachment, too. She longs to reciprocate Akane’s friendship, but is forbidden from doing so.

  • I have received flak previously for writing about anime like Strike Witches and Kantai Collection: some readers believe that these anime glorify immoral behaviours and thoughts, and suppose that the mere act of watching them is enough to corrupt minds. The correlation between media consumption and one’s actions in reality is poorly-characterised, and I hold that any well-adjusted individual will have the requisite cognition to watch a variety of shows without trouble. This is analogous to the controversial claims that video games directly promote violent behaviours. I find that individuals who impose their own brand of morality upon others to be much less agreeable than those who are content to watch (and write about) whatever they enjoy.

  • Although this blog is frequented by open-minded and fair individuals for the most part, I do have the occasional reader who believes that it is their duty to steer me clear of the so-called immoral anime. There is a time and place for these discussions, and while I welcome conversation on the morality of actions the characters take, questioning the morality of certain anime genres is outside the scope of discussion: I will entertain these comments only if things remain respectful, but for the most part, if a commenter’s intentions are to lecture me on what shows I should and shouldn’t watch, they’re unlikely to be seeking a meaningful dialogue.

  • Vividred Operation follows very closely in Strike Witches traditions and isn’t something for everyone – the “monster of the week” approach and camera’s focus on the characters’ posteriors does not make for cultured entertainment, and the sixth episode of Vividred Operation was in keeping with how Strike Witches was presented: every season features one episode that is irreverent, completely unrelated to the story. In these episodes, a thinly-veiled excuse for having the characters running around in swimsuits is presented, and hilarity results as a series of misunderstandings escalate.

  • In the case of Vividred Operation, Kenjirō had arranged for the school summer trip to push Akane and her friends to bond through a series of “team building exercises”, but when Rei shows up, Kenjirō knocks her out with a stun dart: he hopes to use Rei as another instrument in testing Akane and company. Rei eventually reawakens and defeats the traps that Kenjirō had set up, inadvertently helping Wakaba, Himawari, Aoi and Akane to escape, and the four eventually destroy the automaton Kenjirō had set up, including one that resembles Mobile Suit Gundam‘s Acguy.

  • In the end, Akane and the others learn that their mishaps on the island was not the Alone, but rather, Kenjirō’s machinations. Up until this point, Vividred Operation had been very easygoing, and for me, this allowed the series to warm viewers up to the characters and their background. Once this was done, Vividred Operation stepped things up – the second half, while still light-hearted, is a ways more serious as Rei’s motivations are presented, and the Alone’s backgrounds are explored along with why Kenjirō refuses to patent his work despite his exceptional talents.

  • Rei keeps a small parakeet, Piisuke, around – it’s her only companion, and Rei’s treatment of animals offers insight into her true character. Although Rei is kind by nature, her losses and a desire to avoid repeating the pain of loss is why she’s so distant and aloof. However, despite her efforts to minimise forming any connections to those around her, Akane’s persistence eventually leads her to try and break the ice. At this point in time, Akane and Rei are quite unaware of the others’ role, so there was always the question of what would happen once the truth got out.

  • When I first watched Vividred Operation, I had no way of knowing that Ayane Sakura, Maaya Uchida and Rie Murakawa would go on to take on large roles in GochiUsa a year later. Prior to Vividred Operation, Sakura, Murakawa and Uchida had played secondary characters in a range of anime, but here, it marked one of their earliest roles as leads. As Vividred Operation‘s central characters, everyone does a fair job of things: Murakawa and Uchida play their roles as Aoi and Rei, respectively, well, and Sakura gives Akane a Cocoa-like vibe. In fact, the choice of casting means that Akane is basically an amalgamation of Strike Witches‘ Yoshika Miyafuji and Cocoa Hoto.

  • Rei’s Parakeet reminded me of Iron Man 2‘s Ivan Vanko, who was quite attached to his pet cockatiel. This comparison eventually led me to feel that the Palette Suits themselves are more or less a magical girl version of Tony Stark’s Iron Man suits in Iron Man and subsequent films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Palette Suits are able to store weapons in different dimensions and do not fully protect the users: while built for offense and mobility, their defensive capabilities are quite low – during their latest engagement with a dynamo-shaped Alone, Akane is shot down and seriously injured when a fragment of it survives.

  • While Akane recovers, Wakaba, Himawari and Aoi must figure out how to stop the Alone before it matures fully. A bold plan is hatched – since the others can’t dock without Akane, the idea is for Aoi to distract the Alone and draw its fire. Since the Alone must drop its barrier to use its beam attacks, timing would allow Himawari to use her shields to keep the barrier open, and Wakaba would then fly into the centre and drop off an SGE bomb. In Vividred Operation, the SGE bombs are equivalent to Neon Genesis Evanganlion‘s N² warheads, being a nuclear weapon in all but name.

  • Although things do not go quite as planned when Rei powers up the Alone with one of her arrows, Aoi is able to close the distance with a boost from Akane’s boomerang and push the SGE warhead further into the Alone, setting off the detonator and destroying it. The Alone are portrayed as being immune to conventional weaponry, but it turns out that the Alone simply have a powerful energy barrier that renders them impervious to all conventional weapons. I wonder if something like a CR-03 Series-8 Super MAC would do any damage to an Alone: the Vivid System’s weapons appear to be able to bypass the Alone’s barriers and directly impact their surface by an unknown means.

  • While Wakaba and Himawari go on a date of sorts, and then Wakaba later makes things up to Himawari after failing to listen to Himawari’s desire to tour a factory complex, I’ll comment on the Manifestation Engine and its ability to harness Incarnate Energy. The precise mechanism is not given, but because it’s been stated that use of Incarnate Energy is capable of destroying entire worlds, it is possible that Incarnate Energy is drawn from false vacuum decay, and the Manifestation Engine creates limited vacuum decay in order to harness the resulting energy. Assuming this to be the case, Incarnate Energy would be quite risky to use.

  • Based on what Vividred Operation portrays, it’s clear that once the Incarnate Energy is captured, it is then transmitted wirelessly to capture points that convert it into usable power. The Palette Suits use this power from the Incarnate Engine, and one imagines that they can channel a large amount of power into a very focused point, giving Akane and the others enough to deal damage to the Alone. Of course, being work of fiction, the precise mechanism isn’t important, and all that matters is that there’s a consistent means of giving the characters a tool they can use to stare down the Alone.

  • The possibilities of clean energy are limitless – it is doubtful that something like false vacuum decay should be utilised, but something like fusion would be of great value. With nearly unlimited power, humanity’s energy needs could be satisfied without more polluting sources, and allow for incredible feats to be accomplished. For instance, water desalination, carbon capture and emissions-free vehicles would be possible at scale. As the technology becomes miniturised, we’d also have a viable power source for exploring the solar system. While long held to be a difficult endeavour, fusion is looking more plausible: in 2022, an exciting development arising from the US National Ignition Facility has generated renewed excitement for fusion.

  • In December, the US National Ignition Facility announced they had conducted an experiment where they were able to get more energy out of a reaction than it took to start the reaction. Meanwhile, Chinese researchers at the Heifei-based Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak have sustained plasma containment for an unprecedented seventeen minutes. Containing the superheated plasma is a critical part of the fusion process, and the combined breakthroughs from both Chinese and American researchers increasingly show that fusion is an achievable process. In Vividred Operation, use of the Manifestation Engine does indeed create a world where the world’s energy requirements are met, ushering a new era that offers hope until the Alone appear and begin threatening the world’s power supply.

  • The implications of unlimited clean energy are only tangentially covered in Vividred Operation, and as a result, discussions a decade earlier skated over these aspects in favour of things that had a more tangible presence within the anime – the friendship aspect was at the forefront of all discussion, and as time wore on, Akane’s efforts to connect with Rei begin to show some progress. While Rei had maintained an aloof and taciturn manner, a part of her had also longed to be true to herself, and this manifests as acts of kindness to animals. While the crow had expressly forbidden Rei from interacting with people, Rei occasionally allows her old self to come through, such as when she saves a young boy from a falling I-beam.

  • Rei’s actions throughout Vividred Operation simply suggested that her desire, first and foremost, had simply been to be with the people she cared most about, and the crow had been exploiting this to drive Rei’s assignment. The crow’s rationale is simple enough: if Rei isn’t connected to Akane’s world in any way, she’ll have fewer qualms about seeing its destruction. The conflict between Rei’s own disposition and her desires drives the events of Vividred Operation, and in having Rei’s wish for friendship win out, Vividred Operation would ultimately suggest that benevolence and kindness allows for one to reach new heights and gain back things they thought impossible.

  • One unusual point of discussion during Vividred Operation‘s airing that hasn’t gained any amount of momentum was from one commenter at Random Curiosity, who made the assertion that Kenjirō had written the source code for the Vivid System in Ruby. Inspection of some of the source code in Kenjirō’s terminal windows finds that there are some function definitions that are Ruby-like, but beyond this, whether Kenjirō had used Ruby, Python, C# or Swift is ultimately irrelevant. Said commenter had noted that Ruby would be an unbelievable choice – I imagine this particular individual was a novice programmer who believed Ruby was not suited for anything more than web apps, whereas in reality, Ruby is quite powerful (in fact, the Cocoapods dependency manager is written in Ruby). Assuming that Kenjirō did in fact write the Vivid System in Ruby or a Ruby-like analogue, the language was chosen simply because it is 1) Japanese in origin and 2) was intended to be an easy-to-use language.

  • At any rate, the choice of programming language behind the Vivid System is irrelevant and doesn’t impact Vividred Operation‘s story in any way. When Himawari works out a means of tracking where Rei and her arrows are, during one engagement, Akane and the others move in to intercept after defeating an Alone. The subsequent revelation that Rei and Akane are at opposite ends of the conflict shakes everyone to their core. Far more than the fact that Rei is seemingly working for the Alone, Akane’s biggest concern was that Rei’s trust in her was completely shattered – the implications of this moment had been that more than the conflict between humanity and the Alone, Akane had come to care about Rei as a person, and earning her trust meant a great deal to her. Rei is subsequently kept at a detention facility in the same manner that MI6 had held Raoul Silva following his capture in Skyfall.

  • After visiting Rei’s apartment, Akane and her friends discover a spartan quarters that has very little in the way of personal effects. Seeing this galvinises Akane, Aoi, Wakaba and Himawari into saving Rei – the minimally furnished apartment was a reminder that Rei had been completely on her own. After mulling it over, everyone decides that military protocol or not, and irrespective of whether or not Rei was a conduit for the Alone, it’s time to save her. The defense forces, on the other hand, have no qualms about executing Rei after learning she’s likely the reason why the Alone are attacking. In their eyes, the collective good matters more than one individual, and sacrificing one person for the sake of many justifies the means.

  • Although it’s easy enough to say one should sacrifice a small number for “the greater good”, when one is placed in the hot seat and asked to make a decision with material implications, even the same individuals who are convicted in their correctness in a debate will likely hesitate. Over the years, I’ve come to hold that matters of morality are not simple matters of black and white, and this is why I do not enjoy participating in online discussions about what one would do in a hypothetical situation because, no matter how tough-talking one is, when the time comes for action, multiple factors always come into play. As such, when looking at Akane’s actions, one cannot begrudge her for wanting the chance to save Rei.

  • Akane’s act of saving Rei and standing up to the crow shows Rei that in spite of her original intentions, Akane still sees her as a friend. This moment clarifies things between Rei and Akane, as well as frustrating the crow to no end – dramatically differing values and aims is why extraterrestrial life forms are portrayed as finding humans irrational, and fiction is fond of using these values to drive home the point that things like empathy and compassion are an important part of humanity.

  • Unable to understand why Rei is making the decision that she does, the crow ends up consuming Rei and seizing her remaining arrows by force. Now imbibed with five Alone’s worth of power, the crow grows to a gargantuan size and declares that it’s now got even more power than the entities it was originally speaking on behalf of. No longer needing to serve anyone, the crow decides it’s time to go to town on the Manifestation Engine. Here, even Kenjirō begins to feel that even the Palette Suits won’t be enough to stop this monstrosity.

  • However, in typical Super Sentai fashion, Himawari, Wakaba, Aoi and Akane believe that as long as they try something, they’ve got a chance. The four take off after the crow, and using their combined teamwork, manage to deal enough damage to the crow using all three forms of the Vivid avatars. In this post, I’ve not covered Vivid Blue, Vivid Green and Vivid Yellow – these avatars manifest when Akane “docks” with one of her friends, combining their cognitive and physical powers into a single entity that is capable of taking down even the powered-up Alone with a single stroke. Because the crow has consumed the equivalent of five arrows’ worth of energy, using a Vivid avatar once allows Akane and her friends to slowly wear it down.

  • Throughout Vividred Operation, the process of docking is shown in great detail, and on this return visit, I’ve elected not to spend any screenshots on things. However, the anime had not, until the finale, shown what happens when the characters undock from one another. By switching between all of the different Vivid avatars, Akane and her friends clear a path into the crow’s interior, finding a pocket dimension here where Rei is being held. The crow had originally intended to have Rei watched as it ravaged Earth, but instead, Rei is treated to the sight of her friends moving heaven and earth to reach her.

  • While Rei herself doesn’t have a Palette Suit or access to the Vivid System, she is able to dock with Akane, and the pair end up manifesting as Vivid Red. Throughout some points in Vividred Operation, whether it be the transformation sequences or common scenes, papilla mammaria are visible, and over the years, I’ve become increasingly blasé about using such screenshots in my posts because, at the end of the day, anatomy is anatomy – I worked extensively with 3D models of the body for my undergraduate and graduate projects because our lab specialised in 3D visualisation of the body, so such things don’t bother me.

  • After combining into Vivid Red, Akane and Rei prepare one final, devastating punch against the crow, destroying it outright. In the moments after, the entity only known as “Them” appear and judge that, owing to how they handled Rei and the crow, humanity has demonstrated a worthiness for possessing the Manifestation Engine. Further to this, seeing Rei’s change of heart makes her worthy of having a home to return to: in the end, Rei had decided that her world was not more valuable than Akane’s, and having spotted this, the entity determines that Rei has earned her happy ending, as well.

  • Overall, Vividred Operation proved to be an entertaining series despite its shortcomings, and I had a great time watching the series. I do remember that, after the finale aired in March, I found myself wondering when Strike Witches would continue – the movie had just become available, and I’d heard news that after this movie, more Strike Witches was in the works, contingent on the completion of Vividred Operation. A continuation of the series would ultimately be realised in 2015, when Operation Victory Arrow came out, and since then, fans of Strike Witches would receive Brave Witches, a third season of Strike Witches and Luminous Witches, in addition to a chibi spin-off.

  • On the other hand, Vividred Operation concluded on a very decisive note – there hadn’t been any plans to expand the story or continue it. A video game titled Vividred Operation: Hyper Intimate Power was released for the PlayStation 3, but beyond this, Vividred Operation itself has not continued. Instead, the anime’s legacy lies in the release of increasingly well-written, mature instalments of Strike Witches and laying down the groundwork for several voice actresses’ increasing presence in the industry. On these grounds, while Vividred Operation might not be a ground-breaking or world-changing experience, that it has a non-trivial impact on later anime and remains an enjoyable series meant it was worthwhile for me.

Perhaps as a result of its self-contained story and a distinct similarity to Strike Witches, Vividred Operation was quickly forgotten amongst the community after its airing. Despite possessing superb animation, voice acting and unexpectedly detailed world building, Vividred Operation had otherwise flowed in a very conventional manner. Akane, Aoi, Wakaba and Himawari defeat the crow, befriend the once-distant Rei, and in turn, Rei gets her world back. However, Vividred Operation did leave behind a considerable legacy. The anime proved that even with a different setup, the Strike Witches concept was still viable, and this allowed Strike Witches to continue. A movie and OVA series proved successful, allowing the franchise to mature and ultimately, tell more compelling stories. Brave Witches, Road to Berlin and Luminous Witches would expand the Strike Witches universe further in world-building and show how over time, a compelling story could be told even as the emphasis on posterior and crotch angles lessened. Vividred Operation also marks a turning point for voice actresses Ayane Sakura, Maaya Uchida and Rie Murakawa: prior to Vividred Operation, these three voice actresses had played secondary roles in anime. Vividred Operation put them in lead roles, and subsequently, each of Sakura, Uchida and Murakawa would become well-established in the industry as skillful voice actresses, working together in additional series. While the anime itself isn’t going to be for everyone (in fact, it’s quite difficult to recommend Vividred Operation to viewers, save those who are fans of Strike Witches or similar series), the series represents marking a turning point for anime of the 2010s. In the present, Vividred Operation has aged gracefully, being a series that remains as enjoyable now as it had been when I’d first finished with it ten years earlier. Back then, I’d been entering the second and final term of my undergraduate thesis, and vividly remember following Vividred Operation on a weekly basis as I inched closer and closer to the defense date: Vividred Operation might not be particularly innovative or memorable, but having something fun to look forward to each week helped me to stay focused, and this is why even a decade later, I still recall this series with clarity.

Bocchi The Rock! – Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.” –Ray Bradbury

After Ikuyo rejoins Kessoku, Hitori ends up taking on the task of writing the lyrics for their next performance, and while she struggles, after a day out with Nijika, Ryō and Ikuyo, she finds the inspiration she needs, and ends up writing lyrics the others like. However, Seika has decided to put on auditions for performers in STARRY’s upcoming show. In order to pass, Hitori and the others practise in earnest, making the cut. As it turns out, Seika had wanted to spur everyone on, and with a spot in STARRY’s next live house, the Kessoku head out to sell tickets. While the others have an easier time of selling tickets, Hitori finds this extremely difficult. While commiserating in the park, she runs into Kikuri Hiroi, an alcoholic performer with some knowledge in music. After a conversation, Kikuri convinces Hitori to put on an impromptu performance to promote Kessoku, and this ends up drawing the attention of two schoolgirls, who end up buying tickets from Hitori. Ahead of the performance, Nijika and Ikuyo visit Hitori’s home to prepare t-shirt designs, although Nijika and Ikuyo end up spending more time hanging out with Hotori’s family. On the day of the concert, a typhoon grazes Tokyo, and while the number of attendees is lessened, Kessoku proceeds with their performance. While the audience is initially unimpressed with Kessoku, as they begin making rookie mistakes, Hitori decides to improvise, pushing Nijika, Ryō and Ikuyo to play their best and turning things around for the audience, who find Kessoku’s performance enjoyable. At the after-party, Nijika explains she wanted to succeed to help Seika out, and had long known that Hitori was guitarhero. After seeing Hitori play, Nijika is confident she can realise her dream. With summer vacation drawing to a close, Hitori realises she never did any classic summer activities with Nijika and the others. While she lacks the courage to openly ask everyone, they quickly deduce as much and take her to Enoshima. Despite a rougher experience, Hitori has a great time and finds herself wishing summer could last longer. When the school year resumes, Hitori is torn about whether or not to submit a request to perform. Ikuyo submits this request but becomes guilt-ridden after seeing Hitori’s response. Kikuri later takes Hitori to a concert and explains that she’d also been similar to Hitori, joining a band to get over her social anxiety. Encouraged, Hitori decides to do her best and lets Ikuyo know she’s looking forward to the school festival. On the day of the festival, Hitori disappears into a remote part of the school after nerves overtake her, preventing her from helping her class out. Once Ikuyo and the others find her, they swing by Hitori’s class and lend a hand. As the culture festival’s second day arrives, Kessoku is slated to perform, and despite hiccoughs arising, the show is successful. When Ikuyo turns the floor over to Hitori, she ends up diving into the crowd. Some time after the concert, Hitori’s parents reveal they monitised her YouTube account and she’s made enough to buy a new guitar. Hitori ends up going out with Nijika, Ryō and Ikuyo to buy one, and despite being frightened by the staff’s enthusiasm, she manages to buy a new guitar of her own. Thus ends Bocchi The Rock!, one of last season’s more recognisable works that became acclaimed for its art style, music and portrayal of social anxiety.

What makes Bocchi The Rock!‘s story standout is that through the course the series, Hitori isn’t magically lifted out of her fear of social interactions and made as confident and outgoing as Ikuyo. Instead, her growth happens at an incremental rate; with support from Nijika, Ryō and Ikuyo, Hitori is able to slowly step outside her comfort zone and experience the world, and even if things do happen uncomfortably fast for Hitori, her new friends in Kessoku band look out for her, dialing things back so she isn’t overwhelmed. In this way, for every step back Hitori suffers, she’s taken two steps forward: by the end of Bocchi The Rock!, even though Hitori still finds it challenging to engage a shop keeper in conversation or even maintain eye contact with someone she’d just met, she was able to fulfil a dream she’d had since middle school, and while she may not believe it to be true, the skill she’d accrued while playing on her own means she’s certainly not a burden. Seeing Hitori perform skillfully even in difficult situations show that despite her lack of confidence, she’s got what it takes, and this is where Bocchi The Rock! shines: the anime ultimately shows how difficult it is to push people from their comfort zones, but in spite of this difficulty, with the right people in one’s corner, one can still take those difficult first steps forward. In this way, Hitori’s growth in Bocchi The Rock! never comes across as unrealistic, and while she’s still largely the same person she was when starting out, she is a little more confident and open to new experiences by the series’ end. Similarly, Bocchi The Rock! suggests that people are often more talented and skillful than they give themselves credit for, and it is only with encouragement from others that their potential is realised. While Hitori had previously performed online and accrued a reputation for being a skilled guitar player, being with Kessoku band has allowed her to see first-hand how far she’d come from those early days: on two separate occasions, she was able to save the show, and moments like these show how the soft-spoken folks can be unlikely heroes, acting as a reminder to viewers that excellence and talent can come from anywhere despite appearances, and that people who support and encourage one another will reap the rewards of these efforts when the going becomes challenging.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The praises out there for Bocchi The Rock! are quite varied, speaking yet again to how anime can find success with viewers when they excel in a range of areas: although Bocchi The Rock! is a Manga Time Kirara series, which are typically known for their emphasis on the ordinary and adorable, Bocchi The Rock! manages to give the characters additional personality through their unique traits. The characters in Bocchi The Rock! maintain a kawaii aesthetic about them, and this comes through in their actions, but they aren’t saccharine and over the top, either.

  • Longtime Manga Time Kirara fans will therefore be right at home with Bocchi The Rock!, but at the same time, by not relying on age-old gags and archetypes, Bocchi The Rock! is also able to appeal to viewers who would otherwise not watch a Manga Time Kirara series. Coupled with the fact that music isn’t a problem for the already-competent Hitori, and that her issues come from dealing with social situations that she’s otherwise unaccustomed to, Bocchi The Rock! is able to show viewers that Hitori’s guitar skill is present, and this leaves the series to focus on Kessoku’s journey, as well as how Hitori changes over time.

  • Hitori’s outbursts and imagination are quite dramatic; CloverWorks takes moments of awkwardness and elevates them in a way that isn’t present in the original manga. Besides allowing CloverWorks’ animation team to show off the skill, Bocchi The Rock! is able to really convey how some things are for folks who do not have a natural disposition or training in conversations with others. By comparison, the manga is actually more conventional in aesthetics: the characters in Bocchi The Rock‘s manga resemble the characters from GochiUsa.

  • The departure from the manga’s aesthetic in favour of one that’s a bit more wild means CloverWorks is free to adapt things in their own style, and this is what makes Bocchi The Rock! so visually distinct. Over the years, I’ve heard arguments both for and against the idea of maintaining complete faithfulness to the source material during an adaptation. On one hand, a work that’s faithful wholly brings the original to life through motion and sound, but there are also some design choices in the source material that may not adapt as elegantly. Similarly, deviating from the source material may cause some things to become lost, but it also allows a studio to potentially do something that wasn’t possible in the source.

  • Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer: whether or not an adaptation is faithful to the source is secondary to the outcomes, and in the case of Bocchi The Rock!, the final product ends up standing of its own accord. After three episodes, I had commented on how the series’ wilder moments might become a distraction, but as time wore on, it became clear that as Hitori becomes more comfortable being around Nijika, Ikuyo and Ryō, she begins to show her true self more often, and as her anxiety wears away, more of her competence is shown to viewers.

  • While CloverWorks is no Kyoto Animation, all performances within Bocchi The Rock! remain of a fair standard and are quite fun to watch. The music that Kessoku performs has a youthful vibe about it that gives it the same aural aesthetic as do the ending songs to K-On!. Whereas Houkago Teatime’s music was quite fluffy, and Aki Toyosaki’s delivery of K-On!‘s opening themes gave a kawaii feeling, Yōko Hikasa’s performance of the ending songs always conveyed a more mature, yet rebellious and carefree feeling compared to the other songs in the series.

  • After managing to pass the audition, the next step for Kessoku’s first real performance is to sell tickets. For Ikuyo, Nijika and Ryō, this presumably isn’t too difficult. For Hitori, it’s a tall order, and while she’s too prideful to sell to family, she becomes intimidated at the thought of approaching strangers to close a sale. It takes a chance meeting with Kikuri, an experienced bassist, to turn things around, and while Kikuri is smashed when she meets Hitori, she’s still alert enough to see herself in Hitori, which is why she takes an interest in the latter. With some nudging from Kikuri, Hitori is able to put on an impromtu performance that convinces a pair of passing girls to buy tickets and check out Kessoku band out.

  • Because Hitori finds herself incapacitated by her own thoughts at times, and speaking with others is a great difficulty for her, every win she earns in the series feels meaningful. With this in mind, I’ve seen some viewers praising Bocchi The Rock! because they related strongly to Hitori and her social anxiety, saying the anime captures how they feel perfectly. While this does speak to the series’ strengths, I do not believe that Bocchi The Rock! is validating this sort of thing. Instead, Bocchi The Rock! speaks to how important it is to step out of one’s comfort zone and embrace the process of being open to new experiences (along with handling failure).

  • Curiously enough, while Hitori tends to over-emphasise the drawbacks associated with failure, when she does actually fail, she is able to pick herself back up. Meeting Kikuri is one such moment, as she’s able to move her tickets so effectively that the others immediately conclude Hitori must’ve been lying. This is a character trait that makes Hitori relatable for me: while she does fear to try new things and worries about failing, she’s actually more capable than she believes herself to be. After Kessoku’s concert is scheduled, Nijika and Ikuyo end up swinging by Hitori’s place on a hot summer’s day, and scenes like these show CloverWorks’ typical style for making backgrounds feel lifelike.

  • The object of the visit had originally been to come up with a t-shirt design, but in typical anime fashion, everyone goes off mission, and the t-shirts aren’t designed. Instead, Nijika and Ikuyo end up spending time with members of Hitori’s family, to her chagrin when it’s clear her family get along with Ikuyo and Nijika better than she does. I would imagine that, while the Gotōs support Hitori to the best of their ability, it is probably a little difficult for them since she’s so reclusive, and this is why they just assume that she’s got no friends.

  • As a secondary student, I never had friends over, but I did visit friends, mostly to play games: one of my buddies had set up his own Ragnarok: Online servers, and he would host War of Emperium events over at his place. It always took a long time to get set up, and the matches where total chaos, but they remained immensely enjoyable nonetheless. While I did briefly have my own private Ragnarok: Online and World of Warcraft servers a year ago, ever since my move, I’ve been using an ISP that blocks ports, which prevents port forwarding. This, in turn, prevents me from opening the ports needed to get my private servers running, even locally.

  • After managing to persuade Hitori into trying some new outfits out beyond her usual tracksuit, Nijika is pleased with herself for having an eye for fashion, while Ikuyo finds herself thoroughly impressed. She breaks out her iPhone for some photos, and Hitori is rendered speechless, eventually disappearing into ashes similarly to what happened when Thanos dusted half the universe in Infinity War. In the aftermath, the t-shirts somehow get designed, and Kessoku is ready for their big day. However, a typhoon grazes Tokyo, and the ensuing rainfall dissuades a number of guests from attending.

  • Because of this and the initially cool reception, Kessoku starts out poorly, fumbling their performance and leading some members of the audience to dismiss them as novices. Spotting the decrease in engagement, Hitori steps up her game, and jazzes up her solo in a way that fires the crowd up. Seeing the crowd in better spirits leads Nijika and Ikuyo to begin playing with a renewed enthusiasm, and by the end of their performance, the crowd is reasonably pleased. The two girls Hitori ended up selling tickets to are thrilled with Kessoku’s performance.

  • Following the performance, Kessoku have a party with Kikuri, Seika and STARRY’s systems engineer, an unnamed lady who dropped out of high school and assists Seika in keeping STARRY operational. During their celebration, Ikuyo explains to Seika that she enjoys doing publicity work for Kessoku because it’s more fun to do thing with others, and Ikuyo’s energy overwhelms even Seika. Throughout Bocchi The Rock, whenever Ikuyo’s positivity manifests, it’s accompanied by a キターン (Kitaan), which is translated as “Kit-aura”. The original kitaan is probably derived from the cutesy way of saying “Kita-tan”, but there’s no equivalent in English, so I imagine that translations choose to render things as “Kita’s (positive) aura”.

  • For me, watching Ikuyo’s rant about how her name is a bad pun (きた, 行くよ!, Hepburn kita, iku yo!, or “I’m here, let’s go!”) was one of Bocchi the Rock!‘s most adorable moments and shows how even the outgoing, extroverted Ikuyo has things she’s insecure about. Moments like these, although short, do add to the characters, and Ryō’s smile was similarly fun to behold. Although Ryō resembles The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Yuki Nagato and every other stoic character of that manner, she also has her moments.

  • In a moment that makes it clear to viewers (but ironically, not Hitori herself) that Hitori’s become an integral member of Kessoku, Nijika and Hitori exchange a conversation that details Nijika’s past. It turns out that she’d lost her parents at a young age, but Seika managed to stay in her life, and since then, Nijika feels that her dream is to help Seika succeed in her goals. Despite her past, Nijika remains the most level-headed and friendly of Kessoku, helping Hitori to navigate the world of interpersonal relationships and keeping Kessoku together as a cohesive unit.

  • Of everyone in Kessoku, it does feel that Nijika is always on top of figuring out how to manage Hitori whenever the latter becomes consumed by her thoughts. While the band’s had a good summer and managed a successful debut performance, the break has evaporated, and Hitori finds herself wanting to do more traditional summer activities. Hitori’s feeling, that something like this cannot be accommodated, is a mindset that is seen amongst folks with less confidence in themselves. For people with an open mind, adventure and novelty can be found in almost any way, and here in Bocchi The Rock!, Nijika and Ikuyo bring this to the table to try and raise Hitori’s spirits.

  • In this way, Hitori and her friends end up visiting Enoshima. Although their impromptu day doesn’t go quite as smoothly as they’d like, the trip still represents a fantastic time for Hitori, who has a great day in spite of herself. Anime are very fond of sending their characters on wonderful day trips, and this is accommodated by Japan’s extensive rail network, which allows people to reach destinations in Japan quite readily even without a personal vehicle. On the flipside, over here in Canada, if one has a vehicle and an inquisitive mind, one can partake in similarly relaxing excursions.

  • During the course of the day, it becomes clear that of everyone, Ikuyo is the most adventurous and would rather do things that are less touristy in nature. She’s the one who suggests ascending the stairs leading to Enoshima shrine, and upon reaching the top, has energy to spare. Bocchi The Rock! is another anime about light music, but unlike its predecessor, K-On!, more attention is paid towards the world of independent music and live performances. K-On! had been set purely in a school setting, and Houkago Tea Time only ever performed for their classmates, or at community events. Instead, the anime struck a balance between everyday life in a club and Yui’s journey towards becoming a competent guitarist.

  • By comparison, Bocchi The Rock! eliminated the need for Hitori to become skilled with a guitar by introducing her as being competent already, and this let the series focus on a more social experience. Both anime excel in their respective stories, but the overwhelmingly positive reception in the contemporary community regarding Bocchi The Rock! suggests that people do desire something that’s a little more focused on music, and characters that are a bit more nuanced. K-On!, with its emphasis on enjoying tea and cakes in the clubroom, is not quite as adventurous as Bocchi The Rock!, which has Hitori taking up a part time position at STARRY, actively write lyrics and participate in an audition, personally help out in selling tickets and even performing at a live house.

  • I therefore wonder about how, were Bocchi The Rock! to be released back in 2009 instead of K-On!, would the community of the time have received it a little more warmly, or if Bocchi The Rock! would have been as polarising as K-On! was. I have found that, perhaps surprisingly, that slice-of-life anime often generate more controversy and vitriol than even the series with topics that are more polarising or difficult; while shows that deal with more involved topics naturally invite such discussion, even now, I fail to understand why anime about everyday life, of finding the extraordinary in the mundane, self-discovery and common experiences are regarded with such severity.

  • Although Kikuri was introduced as a bit of a trouble-maker with experience in music, being part of the band SICK HACK, a conversation Hitori shares with her later reveals that Kikuri had also been shy and withdrawn, and after discovering music, utilised alcohol to calm her nerves before a performance. Over time, she would become more confident and outgoing. Of course, drinking so often has meant that Kikuri’s become something of an alcoholic and is hammered in almost all of her appearances. However, in spite of this, she does offer Hitori some good advice, and suggests that it’s actually quite noteworthy that Hitori is able to get on stage without any alcohol. In this way, Bocchi The Rock! hints at how spending time with Kessoku will likely be what eventually leads her to become more comfortable in social interactions.

  • In my discussion of Bocchi The Rock!, I’ve not mentioned Ryō to any extent, and found her role in the anime was actually quite limited. However, despite her limited screentime, her reason for being a member of Kessoku stems from a disagreement she had with her previous band, and in a conversation with Hitori, she encourages Hitori to write lyrics in her own style rather than sell out and produce what she thinks people will want. Despite her stoic and cool manner, Ryō has a few eccentricities, such as spending all of her money on instruments and leaving her to consume wild edibles. As a result, while she does help Hitori in her own way, Ryō also exploits Hitori’s friendship by asking her to pay for her food and transportation, creating a bit of a running joke where Ryō’s monetary debt to Hitori continues to grow.

  • In this post, I’ve elected to skip over the culture festival – while culture festivals are an essential part of the Japanese secondary experience (and where some pivotal things happen, such as with The Quintessential Quintuplets), Hitori’s struggles with her class’ maid café don’t really impact the series’ pièce de résistance moment, which is Kessoku’s live performance in front of Hitori and Ikuyo’s classmates. Such a moment allows Hitori to fulfil her old dream of performing in front of classmates, and this acts as a suitable way to wrap up Bocchi The Rock!‘s run.

  • The last time I watched an anime with a live rock performance was K-On!, where Houkago Tea Time had put on several memorable performances. Their concerts were quite lengthy, and I remember how their final performance spanned a full episode, featuring multiple songs and Yui’s emceeing. By comparison, Bocchi The Rock!‘s culture festival performance is more concise. However, it is no less fun to watch, and Kessoku’s performance remained a wonderful way to round out the series. I found the vocal performances in Bocchi The Rock! to be an integral piece of the anime: like K-On!, the animated format allows for additional dimensionality that wouldn’t be possible in the manga.

  • The rock music of Bocchi The Rock! has a very energetic, youthful vibe to it. Over the years, I’ve come to really enjoy music of this style, and if I had to guess, it’s because this music reminds me of my time as a secondary and post-secondary student – there’s a carefree tenour and feeling of wistfulness in these songs. Bands like Stereopony and H△G capture this aesthetic best, and I now understand why older people are so fond of music from the 80s and 70s. For me, I actually grew up with things like the Bee Gees, Beatles, Carpenters and the like, so I’ve always connected with the music of my parents’ age more, but since I became an anime fan and found Stereopony through their performance of Gundam 00‘s second season’s second opening.

  • With her natural affinity for people, Ikuyo does the emceeing for the culture festival performance. After introducing Ryō and and Nijika, Ikuyo turns to Hitori, who’s seized with a panic at the thought of having to say something memorable. As far as I can remember, I’ve never really had a fear of public speaking per se – early on, I would simply prepare for a presentation or oration weeks in advance. Since graduate school, I’ve become better at improvisation, and these days, I can gear up for a presentation in as little as a day if needed. Being put on the spot is not a problem, although I will comment that coming up with something amusing to say can be challenging still.

  • Hitori ends up diving off the stage into the crowd, and gets knocked out for her trouble. Hitori does end up leaving quite an impression, and this moment similarly speaks to how when the moment calls for it, Hitori can uncharacteristically bold when spurred on. Her classmates are left with a memorable show, but for Hitori herself, it’s a bit of an anticlimactic outcome to a moment she’d been dreaming about since she picked up the guitar. Some time after the culture festival, Hitori learns that her parents had secretly monitised her YouTube channel, and with the ad revenue, she’s able to buy her own guitar. Until now, Hitori had played her father’s guitar, and this moment shows yet another instance of how Hitori’s been able to do things at her own pace.

  • After an eventful afternoon, Hitori ends up with a guitar of her own, ready to continue her journey with Kessoku band, and with this, Bocchi The Rock! draws to a close. Overall, this series was remarkably entertaining, and for me, it was a clear-cut A (4 of 4, or 9 points of 10). With lovable characters, a natural story and innovative use of visuals, Bocchi The Rock! does indeed deserve the praise that it’s garnered – there’s a little something in Bocchi The Rock! for everyone. Manga Time Kirara fans will feel right at home with things, and people who don’t usually watch Manga Time Kirara adaptations won’t find themselves overwhelmed with gags or idiosyncrasies that make Manga Time Kirara anime appeal to fans of moé.

  • I’m not sure of whether or not Bocchi The Rock! was well received in Japan, but if it was, and given that there is more source material to adapt, then one could reasonably expect this series to continue. I’ve been keeping an eye on Bocchi The Rock! since seeing advertisements about it on Twitter a year ago and becoming curious about the premise. A year later, I’m glad to have gone through this journey at my own pace and decide for myself what makes Bocchi The Rock! standout. Here, I remark that normally, hype among the community has no bearing on what I choose to watch, but in CloverWorks’ case, their top productions of 2022 have all been home runs.

The story and characters in Bocchi The Rock! were already of a solid standard, providing a clear-cut journey for Hitori as she joined Kessoku and began playing in a band with others. However, with CloverWorks at the helm, Bocchi The Rock! also appeals to animation enthusiasts. The anime utilises a variety of art styles to convey Hitori’s social anxiety and visualise it to viewers; at minimum, such moments create comedy, but in some contexts, it really captures the short of psychological conga that takes place inside one’s mind if they’re thinking themselves into a frenzy or locking up. From rendering Hitori with her iconic facial expression, transforming into an amorphous blob and becoming dusted the same way people become dusted after The Snap, to more subtle cues like seeing her hair ornaments melt like ice cubes, Bocchi The Rock! has no shortage of creative means of showing what social anxiety may look like to those who experience it, and by incorporating a range of art styles into the anime, CloverWorks simultaneously gives viewers a visercal show of what anxiety looks like, as well as showing off the talents at their studio. At the same time, concerts are animated well, and backgrounds are detailed. The world of Bocchi The Rock! is vivid and conveys a lived-in sense. All of these elements come together ith the music, narrative and characters to create a memorable experience, serving as a fantastic way for CloverWorks to round out what was probably one of their best years in recent memory: 2022 has seen this studio produce smash-hits like Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, My Dress-Up Darling and Spy × Family in addition to Bocchi The Rock!. Bocchi The Rock! is, in short, a worthwhile experience: it’s got all of the elements from a classic Manga Time Kirara adaptation (adorable characters and an emphasis on finding the extraordinary in the everyday), but at the same time, pushes the envelope with its animation, using the medium to convey emotions and feelings in novel, engaging ways. Even for folks who do not watch Manga Time Kirara series, there’s enough happening in Bocchi The Rock! to make it fun. The story in Bocchi The Rock! is still ongoing: there’s a total of five manga volumes, and the anime has reached the latter chapters of the second volume, so depending on sales, there is a possibility that a continuation could be made. Additions to the story would be welcome, showing how Hitori matures over time as she continues to play music and learn more about a world she’d, up until meeting Nijika and the others, had remained largely separated herself from.

The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie: An Anime Movie Review and Reflection

I know you’re scared and your pain is imperfectBut don’t you give up on yourselfI’ve heard a story, a girl, she once told meThat I would be happy again

Hold My Hand, Lady Gaga

In their final year of secondary school, Futaro and the Nakano quintuplets prepare for their school festival. Amidst the preparations, Futaro expresses that he’s fallen in love with one of them and indicates that he’ll make it known as to which of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba or Itsuki’s his feelings are for. While the school festival ends up being quite a tumultuous affair (Nino had longed for their father to visit, while Ichika grapples with the fact a visiting lecturer, Mudō, is actually the Nakano quintuplet’s biological father, and Miku grows jealous Futaro’s hanging out with another girl), with Yotsuba collapsing from exhaustion as a result of having done too much. When the festival draws to a close, the Nakanos separate and head for five different places on school grounds, asking Futaro to meet up with the one he has fallen in love with. It turns out that Futaro’s fallen in love with Yotsuba, but she turns him down, feeling unworthy of being the only one of her sisters. She recalls how she’d first met Futaro and made a promise with him, but over time, lost confidence in her ability to keep it as her sisters began moving forward at their own pace. Futaro persuades her to be honest about her feelings, and Yotsuba tearfully admits that she’d been worried about the others in spite of the fact that she reciprocates Futaro’s feelings. After confirming to Nino and Ichika that his feelings are true, Yotsuba and Futaro begin dating, and at the playground they’d previously visited, Futaro proposes to Yotsuba. Five years later, Ichika’s become a full-fledged actress, while Itsuki’s become a teacher. The meet at the cafe that Miku and Nino have opened together, and here, they help pierce Yotsuba’s ears so she can wear the earrings their late mother had gifted to them. On the day of Yotsuba and Futaro’s wedding, the five quintuplets decide to play a game and see if Futaro can tell them apart. He has no trouble in doing so, and demonstrates how over time, he came to realise that there was more to life than just studying. He correctly identifies each of the five sisters and places a wedding ring on Yotsuba’s finger. Following the wedding, Ichika, Nino, Miku and Ichika help Yotsuba and Futaro pick a honeymoon destination, although much as they had with their graduation trip, they cannot all agree on a suitable place. Futaro smiles, recalling these old times with the sisters who’ve helped to change him, and with this, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is now in the books. The film acts as the conclusion to The Quintessential Quintuplets, and during its 136 minute runtime, crams a great deal of content into things to ensure the story is wrapped up in whole.

The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is a busier movie in that it also deals with how each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki come to terms with the fact that only one of them will be with Futaro, Miku’s becoming more open about how she feels towards others, Nino’s efforts to show their father that her dreams to be a pâtissier are viable, and the motivation behind Itsuki’s desire to become a teacher. The decision to include all of these secondary elements into the film in conjunction with the feature presentation, Yotsuba coming to terms with what accepting Futaro’s feelings would mean, create a movie that characterises just how many moving parts there are where relationships are concerned. At its core, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie finally puts Futaro’s feelings into the open, and shows why of each of the siblings, he’s chosen Yotsuba. As it turns out, both he and Yotsuba had promised one another that they would study hard and become successful so they could look out for the people most dear to them. This is ultimately what pushed Futaro to excel academically, and while over the years, he’d lost sight of his original promise, reuniting with the quintuplets, and Yotsuba, helped him to remember why he’d been so focused on doing well for himself. Understanding the change Yotsuba wrought in him is why after all this time, Futaro treasures her the most strongly of everyone. On the other hand, Yotsuba hadn’t been quite as successful, and in her bid to be special, eventually saw herself as falling behind while her sisters had raced ahead, each with a clear picture of their own futures. As a result of this, Yotsuba saw herself as being unworthy of Futaro, even though the reality had been that, while perhaps not being academically inclined, she still retains the same desire to do well by those around her, and it is ultimately thanks to her promise with Futaro that set him on his present course. It takes a bit of a push to get Yotsuba to take that step forward, and in this way, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows how falling in love is one of those instances in life where it’s okay to be selfish. The complex interplay of being selfish to be with Futaro, but also being selfless and being happy for the quintuplet who ends up with him forms the bulk of the tension in The Quintessential Quintuplets. Looking back, Yotsuba marrying Futaro follows well because of the five sisters, she’s the one that put up the strongest facade to cover for her own doubts. While the other sisters all eventually developed a stronger idea of what their futures entailed, Yotsuba had slowly fallen behind even though she’d been the one to spur everyone on. To give Yotsuba a reliable, ever-present source of support therefore would allow her to move ahead in her life, as well. The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is therefore able to provide a definitive conclusion to the series; despite being a story with multiple moving parts, some of which did not receive more exploration, the film does a satisfactory job of answering most of the lingering questions I had following The Quintessential Quintuplets∬.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As memory serves, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ finished airing in April 2021, and the film premièred in Japan back during May 2022, about a year later. I originally watched The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ first season back during August 2020, after I’d become curious to check the series out, and while things began on a reasonable solid note, by the time I finished the first season, I was convinced that this was an anime worth my while. By this point in time, I’m familiar with all of the lead characters, and continue to be impressed with the all-star cast’s voice acting.

  • The film opens a ways after the class trip seen in the second season, dropping viewers right into the midst of a culture festival. In Japanese secondary education, the culture festival is a culmination of one’s social experiences, combining camaraderie with one’s class and the total experience one accrued through their club activities to create one final memory of school before one sets their sights on the future. Many anime thus place a great deal of emphasis on culture festivals because they represent a time where students are allowed to channel their efforts towards something besides their academics.

  • The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is structured in a novel way: it is interspersed with flashbacks, and the culture festival is broken down into five distinct acts, one for each of the Nakano quintuplets. Each of these happen concurrently, giving each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki screen time as they navigate the culture festival and manage their feelings for Futaro. There are multiple overlapping stories that take place during the culture festival, and I recall writing previously that a third season of The Quintessential Quintuplets was probably necessary to adequately cover everything.

  • As it turns out, I get to stand by these old assertions – the culture festival sees Nino finally earning her father’s approval in her future plans, has Itsuki confronting doubts surrounding her reasons for becoming a teacher and sees Miku finally becoming more assertive. However, each of these stories are condensed into a vignette that shows different sides of the same three days, and as a result, there’s not a large amount of space to explore the significance of each of these stories. From what The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows, however, it is clear that Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki all have a very concrete plan for their respective futures.

  • I imagine that this is why the film was structured the way it was; each of these sub-stories are important and do help the characters to grow, but at the same time, it also hints at the fact that, despite how deeply Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki love Futaro, they also have something that they can devote every fibre of their being to. Losing Ichika isn’t enough to prevent these four from achieving their goals, so it was probably decided that these moments just needed to be shown and tied together so the film could focus on Futaro’s choice.

  • The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie has a runtime of 136 minutes, but a full one cour season would offer a minimum of 240 minutes. With double the space, there is no doubt that a third season could have given some of these side stories more emotional impact: one episode to set the stage, followed by a full episode for each of the quintuplets would’ve given sufficient time to cover the culture festival, and subsequently, the remaining six episodes could then deal with Futaro’s kokuhaku, Yotsuba’s struggle to accept it and how things get smoothed over.

  • The only logical argument I can think of for a movie format is that it would provide a single cinematic experience for viewers, acting as a swan song to The Quintessential Quintuplets. The longer runtime and extended budgets that anime movies have often allow them to tell stories at a much larger scale. However, having seen the remaining story through The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, it does feel that the movie format may not have been strictly necessary, and a third season would’ve been able to yield an equivalent emotional impact.

  • For me, I prefer television seasons over movies even though the latter often have improved production values – anime movies do not follow a consistent release pattern because Japanese distributors aim to maximise domestic profits, and it is more profitable to charge viewers exorbitant amounts for a theatrical screening than it is to make a film available on a streaming service or releasing them to disks. The end result is that films now take an average of eight months to come out, and the better a film does at the box office, the longer it’s kept in theatres. From a business standpoint, this is perfectly logical, and overseas viewers like myself have grown accustomed to waiting long periods for films to come out.

  • However, some viewers feel compelled to fly over to Japan, or even more there, so that they can be the first to watch a film, have an opinion on said film, or even spread spoilers online for e-cred. I’ve never understood this sort of behaviour: spending thousands of dollars to watch an anime film solely for the purpose of making a few Wikipedia edits, forum posts or Tweets spoiling experiences for others appears irrational. Individuals like these degrade the anime movie experience, and one of the challenges that I face is avoiding spoilers shortly after a film is released in Japan.

  • In the case of The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, I was able to avoid spoilers for the duration of the wait, and for this, I was met with a film which, while not strictly needing the silver screen format, was one that still proved to be a satisfying conclusion to the series. After the culture festival ends, the film finally enters its endgame. I’d long known that Yotsuba would end up with Futaro – when I watched the first season, I hadn’t been too concerned with spoilers and therefore, had no qualms reading ahead to see what would happen. Of course, knowing the outcomes don’t really bother me quite as much as knowing how a story reaches the point that it does.

  • Here in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, seeing how things came to be was the highlight, and while the series had done a fantastic job of leaving it ambiguous of who Futaro would choose right up until the end, as it turns out, the first season had not-so-subtly foreshadowed the outcomes. Of everyone, Ichika and Yotsuba had warmed up to Futaro the quickest, while Miku and Nino were cool towards him, and Itsuki was outright unresponsive. Looking further, The Quintessential Quintuplets had also shown Ichika as being more proactive than Yotsuba. Based on elimination, once Miku, Itsuki and Nino warmed up to Futaro, and since Ichika had always shown some interest, it follows that Yotsuba was unlike the others.

  • As it turns out, Yotsuba had been the quintuplet that had run into Futaro long ago, and it was with her that he’d made his promise. Putting two and two together allowed me to accept Yotsuba as the one for Futaro – although each of Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki are suitable candidates, they lack the same promise, and one of the smaller themes in The Quintessential Quintuplets is that it’s okay to lean on one another, so it followed that Futaro would begin falling in love with the quintuplet who’d motivated him to do his best for the future. However, if Yotsuba had immediately returned Futaro’s feelings, it would rather detract from the conflict that’d been building up until now.

  • A fair amount of the conflict in The Quintessential Quintuplets stems from problems in communication, and I realise that I’m fond of saying in my posts that good communication is usually essential to managing conflict. When it comes to most problem-solving, I prefer being direct and open, but now, I understand why this isn’t always a method people are willing to take. Yotsuba loves Futaro, but she also loves her sisters and believes she isn’t worthy of Futaro. It takes a bit of nudging to get things to a point where she is confident enough to put herself first.

  • Although Futaro’s been hanging out with the Nakano quintuplets for some time, there’s an aura of awkwardness surrounding their first few dates. This isn’t unexpected, as nerves will doubtlessly be present. The pair’s first date is to a family restaurant, which is admittedly different from the old standby, the local coffee shop, and then the local library. Along the way, the others end up following to make sure everything is going along smoothly. This is a classic gag, during which concerned parties tale the newly-minted couple to see what goes down, and while a long time ago, I would have said that I’d can spot a tail on a date, I’m not quite sure I’m confident I could say this claim holds true anymore.

  • The day eventually sees Futaro and Yotsuba return to the playground where they’d previously shared a pivotal conversation. The Quintessential Quintuplets has an all-star casting, and Yotsuba is voiced by Ayane Sakura. Because I know Sakura best as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto, it’s a little difficult to shake the feeling that Futaro’s given a kokuhaku to Cocoa, and this thought similarly reminds me that I’ve been around the block long enough to know some of the key voice actresses now. This is actually how I’ve been telling the different quintuplets apart when they dress up as one another – while they may appear similar physically, their voices still sound different enough.

  • When Yotsuba propel herself from the swing, Futaro promises that if he can reach a similar distance, he’ll pose a question for her. Although he fails, Futaro decides to press forward with proposing to Yotsuba anyways, surprising her. Yotsuba is right in that Futaro bypassed basically every step in the process and remarks that doing something this way would almost certainly send someone heading for the hills, were that person not her. With this in mind, this is the only other proposal I’ve seen in an anime besides CLANAND, where Tomoya proposed to Nagisa in a similarly sudden and unromantic moment. However, like CLANNAD, the strength of the feelings are such that this matters little, and with Futaro proposing to Yotsuba, things draw to a close as the quintuplets each prepare to pursue their futures.

  • The end of 2022, and the arrival of 2023 has seen a few relaxing days: I spent the whole of New Year’s Eve tending to housework and the like so I could have New Year’s Day easy. During the evening, we had a family dinner whose centrepiece was a prime rib roast with roast cauliflower and fully-loaded mashed potatoes. We subsequently stayed up to midnight for the New Year’s countdown, the first time I’d celebrated here at the new digs, and then yesterday, after sleeping in, the day was spent at home. Earlier today, the skies were gorgeous, so I ended up taking a walk out to my favourite viewpoint in town.

  • Work resumes tomorrow, and I’m admittedly quite excited to return to my usual routine: this winter break’s been fantastic, and I’m fired up, ready to do my best. The flow of time is relentless, and days disappear in the blink of an eye. In this way, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie puts the pedal to the metal as each of Itsuki, Ichika, Nino and Miku pursue their respective futures. One of the challenges the quintuplets had faced throughout The Quintessential Quintuplets was maintaining their promise to be with one another, and I’ve found that in many anime, this is a major problem characters encounter as they part ways and pursue their goals.

  • On my end, I’ve never actually worried about this because at the end of every journey, I always had the option of keeping in touch with people I’ve become friends with. While people naturally drift apart over time, the strongest friendships find ways of enduring, and moreover, even if people do fall out of touch, sometimes, they can return into one’s life as an unexpected, pleasant surprise. Knowing that the means of keeping in touch with friends and colleagues means that a parting of ways is rarely final, but in the context of anime, I’d imagine that stories are written to accentuate how strong the bonds are between people who share experiences over time.

  • The Nakano quintuplets realise this and pursue their futures wholeheartedly, knowing that they can always make the effort of remaining together even as their paths diverge. In this way, five years elapses in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, and the story subsequently resumes after everyone’s graduate from post-secondary. Assuming everyone was seventeen during the culture festival and following events, a five year time skip puts everyone at age twenty-two. For most people, twenty-two is when they’ve completed their post-secondary and are ready to become full-fledged members of society.

  • Not everyone’s path is quite so smooth: when I was twenty-two, I’d completed my honours degree in health science, but otherwise was uncertain of my future. I took a gap year to figure things out, ended up applying to graduate school and the rest is history. There is no single “right” way of living life or pursuing the future, and I believe that Tamayura best puts it, while everyone sets sail differently, the single most important thing is that eventually, everyone does set sail and make their own way. Seeing Itsuka, Ichika, Miku and Nino embracing their future was a reassuring sight, and one touch I liked was how Miku’s wearing her hair in a different style, suggesting that she’s become more confident.

  • One aspect of The Quintessential Quintuplets I found unexpectedly enjoyable was the soundtrack. As of The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, I began noticing the soundtrack; the music captures the sort of yearning and wistfulness surrounding the Nakano siblings and their feelings for Futaro. The film’s soundtrack was also phenomenal, swelling to an emotional crescendo whenever the moment called for it. There are more whimsical pieces of incidental music that capture comedy and light-hearted moments, but the best tracks are played in the film’s most touching scenes.

  • Five years is a nontrivial amount of time, and by the time Yotsuba and Futaro’s wedding arrives, the other quintuplets have made peace with things. They still like messing with Futaro, however, and on the day of his wedding, Futaro is met with Itsuki, Nino, Ichika, Miku and Yotsuba wearing identical hair styles and wedding dresses. They propose a challenge to him and say that he’s only of marrying Yotsuba if he can find Yotsuba amongst everyone else. Admittedly, if The Quintessential Quintuplets hadn’t introduced the visual characteristics that make each quintuplet distinct, then voices and mannerisms would be the only way to tell them apart

  • Earlier in the film, when Futaro is shown taking Miku to an aquarium and they spot a penguin show, the attendant is shown as explaining that the keepers tell penguins apart based on characteristics like their markings and mannerisms. Over time, Futaro has learnt to do the same, and this is what ultimately shows the Nakano quintuplets’ father that Futaro is worthy: Mudō had completely failed to tell Itsuki apart from Miku, and throughout The Quintessential Quintuplets, one of Futaro’s first tasks had actually been to tell everyone apart. As he became increasingly proficient in doing so, he earns the quintuplets’ begruding respect.

  • Futaro’s identifying each of the quintuplets and following up with a comment on everyone’s individual strengths and weaknesses shows just how well he knows them. In this moment, it was also a show of how, because he is able to connect at this level to each of the quintuplets, Futaro’s decision to marry Yotsuba was made based on assessing all of the facts and making the choice based on what his intentions and desires were. The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie might be rushed in some places, and some of the story elements may have been better presented in a third season rather than a film, but there is no denying that the story’s most powerful moments were still conveyed to viewers.

  • Overall, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie represents a satisfying and worthy conclusion to the series, which, when taken together, exceeded my expectations. The premise of quintuplets falling for the same person had initially been intriguing, and I had thought that little more than comedy would arise, but seeing The Quintessential Quintuplets explore each quintuplet’s motivations and backgrounds, plus their growth over time, made the story feel more life-like. This helped me to become invested in the characters, and I found myself curious to see how things would be resolved.

  • Having had a chance to listen to the film’s soundtrack, a handful of the songs ended up reminding me of Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand”, which was a single composed for Top Gun: Maverick. On The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie‘s soundtrack, “Fūtarō o shinjiru” reminded me of Maverick‘s “Talk to me, Goose” and “Penny Returns” because they share similar instruments and carry a similar tonal aesthetic. I found myself thinking more than once that “Hold My Hand” would actually be well-suited for some scenes in  The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie.

  • Seeing the entire journey in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows how even more outlandish situations can be resolved over time with communication, honesty and sincerity. Futaro’s character is essential in this: being studious and devoted, he’s also decisive and commits to his choices, which eliminates ambiguity. In any given love story with multiple prospective partners, this is essential. CLANNAD had done the same: early on, even before Tomoya formally asked Nagisa out, he’d (subconsciously) made it clear that he had eyes for no one other than Nagisa, and while this deeply hurt Kyou, Tomoyo and Kotomi, the directness of things also meant the others wouldn’t be led on and hurt further, in turn allowing them to step forward and recover

  • After the wedding’s done, Futaro and Yotsuba begin looking at honeymoon destinations, and to no one’s surprise, Itsuki, Ichika, Nino and Miku also help out. The fact that everyone picks different destinations is another show that despite their similarities, everyone’s their own person, with unique traits, and in doing so, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie reminds viewers, one final time, that everyone’s found their own path. However, because the moment is overlaid with a flashback to a similar moment in secondary school, it also shows that some things don’t change, and these things can certainly be cherished.

  • This post, my first of 2023, is now in the books, and while I am looking forwards to seeing what this year will bring, I have a few final comments. The first is that I’ve been following Bocchi The Rock! and Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out! ω during the last season. I’ve completed the former over the break, and only have one more episode for the latter. I intend on writing about both before the new season’s shows hit their stride: for the winter season, only Bofuri and Mō Ippon! have my eye, and I’ll likely write about them after three episodes have aired.

I had originally entered The Quintessential Quintuplets two years ago and, after the series had established its premise, became curious to see how things would unfold. Although the idea of multiple people falling in love with the same individual (and the resulting love tesseracts that arise) is nothing new, author Negi Haruba had drafted The Quintessential Quintuplets to explore what might happen when five sisters experienced this. Although the story had originally been rejected by Haruba’s editor, after Haruba was given a chance to do a standalone manga and found the story to be well-received, The Quintessential Quintuplets took off. It’s certainly one of the more unique portrayals of love in any work I’ve seen – the lack of a familial bond means that the different suitors can completely focus on themselves. Where family is involved, the Nakanos are forced to realise that if they move forward, someone’s going to get their feelings hurt, but at the same time, if they concede, they might one left with regrets. The push-pull between this drives much of the tensions in The Quintessential Quintuplets, and seeing how over time, the girls deal with their feelings and accept the outcomes, was what made this series increasingly worthwhile. While The Quintessential Quintuplets is a little rough around the edges, it is able to capture the raw emotions surrounding falling in love, along with the idea that at the end of the day, people are at their best when they’re motivated to do something for the sake of those around them. Futaro had begun his journey with a promise to Yotsuba, and years later, fate would bring him back into contact with the Nakanos. However, despite their cold reception towards him, his perseverance and insistence in reaching his goal of having the girls perform well enough academically to pass eventually wins them over, alongside their father. Along the way, Futaro also learns that there’s more to life than just hitting the books, and he comes to appreciate the Nakano quintuplets’ company, as well. The payoff at the end of this hectic journey is meaningful, and as such, I ended up having fun watching this series to completion.

Defence Specialisation and Christmas – A Bofuri Christmas and Celebrating Yuletide Joy At The New Digs

“Christmas is like candy; it slowly melts in your mouth sweetening every taste bud, making you wish it could last forever.” –Richelle E. Goodrich

On Christmas Eve, New World Online releases an update that adds a new area into the game. Maple and her guild are excited to check things out; they sign in and find themselves in a Japanese-inspired area. Everyone separates and goes exploring. Maple encounters Mii enjoying the New World Online equivalent of a cat café and joins her, while Sally runs into Frederica, and the pair enjoy a duel against one another to test their skills. Meanwhile, Kasumi falls in love with new weapons and armour that accompany the update and immediately sets about trying to unlock a new sword. Later, Maple runs into Payne, and the pair agree to go farming mobs together during an in-game event. As the event draws to a close, the New World Online administrators grant everyone a gift, and Maple invites both the Order of the Holy Sword and Flame Empire’s members to join them for a Christmas party. When they unbox their gifts, everyone gets Christmas-themed outfits and gear, which, to their surprise, provide unexpectedly good stat bonuses. Maple, on the other hand, ends up with a reindeer outfit. In spite of this, she enjoys the evening with the others. Meanwhile, New World Online’s administrators wonder what they’ll need to do in order to balance the game out ever since Maple ended up breaking the meta. Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu (Bofuri for brevity from here on out) first began airing three years ago, following Maple’s outrageous adventures in a virtual reality MMORPG – despite her near-total lack of gaming knowledge, her intuition and uncommon luck allowed her to create a character that was so overpowered that she’s been able to experience the game in a way even the developers did not find possible. Bofuri‘s charm thus lay in seeing what outlandish tricks Maple would have up her sleeve with every passing day, and along the way, other players begin to both respect Maple, as well as look at playing New World Online in their own manner of choosing.

Bofuri was built on the premise of the idea that unusual consequences can arise in a system, and utilised said consequences to simultaneously drive Maple’s adventures, as well as provide humour. In its first season, Bofuri was able to succeed because there was no reliable way of telling how Maple and later, her guild, would handle increasingly challenging events with the resources and know-how available. Although Maple’s overwhelming power meant that she was predestined to win, the joy was seeing how Maple’s guild-mates and friends would support her. Here in Bofuri‘s second season, it appears that besides exploring a Japan-inspired setting, Maple and her friends now have one additional challenge from the game’s developers – having now realised Maple’s single-handedly breaking game flow and balance, they’re struggling to determine how to best handle her without detrimentally impacting the other players’ experience. In games where player progression is tied to statistics, developers typically introduce caps to prevent individuals from trivially completing in-game objectives or gaining an unfair advantage over others in PvP. Similarly, certain game modes will introduce objectives that demand coordination or otherwise normalise a player’s performance. The Division 2, for instance, alters player specs when they enter the Dark Zone and limit certain gear set bonuses, preventing any one set from giving one overwhelming power. Similarly, raids make enemies significantly tougher to the point where even individually competent players are prevented from utilising their capabilities fully. This forces a player to alter their mindset and play-style, as well as lean more heavily on teammates, to complete their goals. This approach represents one way that Bofuri could proceed; while Maple could still retain her incredible power, increasingly creative situations can be utilised in the second season, giving viewers with new adventures that are fresh and exciting to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Bofuri was originally a recommendation from a reader, and while I’d been busy with other series, the start of the global health crisis back in 2020 left me with a great deal of open time. I thus made my way through the series and found myself impressed with things. Bofuri had been a fantastic example of one of the approaches that Agent-Based Systems took towards solving a problem – by maximising one attribute, agents in a system could yield some unorthodox behaviours as they worked towards a solution.

  • I wonder if Yūmikan, Bofuri‘s author, has read any papers or texts on these concepts – multi-agent systems and agent-based modelling approaches formed the bulk of my graduate research back in the day, and one of the things that fascinated me most was the idea of emergent behaviours, which arise as a result of interactions between the agents and their environment. Although the individual agents might be given simple rules, the resulting behaviours can be surprisingly complex; Craig Reynolds’s BOIDS and Conway’s Game of Life represent such instances of emergent behaviours in an agent-based system.

  • Of course, multi-agent systems are probably far from the viewer’s minds, and for most anime fans, Bofuri remains a strictly average anime for the fact it is a low-stakes series that doesn’t aim to do more than providing an amusing set of adventures on a weekly basis. Such anime are difficult to write for, and in the case of Bofuri, Maple’s constantly shifting powers mean that it’s nearly impossible to try and forecast what happens based purely on what’s already known.

  • While the true nature of New World Online is such that the game’s limits aren’t clearly defined (unlike The Division 2, where there is a cap on what one can do, even with optimisations), what is known is that the anime has wonderful settings. Assuming that the remainder of Bofuri‘s second season is set in a Japan-inspired world, there is much potential for showcasing a portrayal of Japan that is similar to Azur Lane‘s Sakura Empire. This idyllic depiction of Japan is something I’ve seen largely in wallpapers, featuring fantastical architecture and eternal spring weather with cherry blossoms.

  • Because of her interest in all things Japan, Kasumi finds herself immediately at home in this latest world. Katana and other swords worthy of samurai are sold, along with their armour. Japanese swords are often held as being uncommonly sharp and superior to any European sword, but this is a fictional portrayal of the samurai and their combat prowess – a well-crafted European sword can perform on par with a well-crafted kanata, and at the end of the day, a good sword’s performance depends on how well it was forged, rather than the manner in which it was forged in.

  • Now that I think about it, Maple resembles Girls und Panzer‘s Miho in some manners – both are exceptionally powerful in their respective settings, are easygoing and quick to befriend those around them, and since Miho and Maple are normally seen wearing a smile on their face, it can be surprising to see them with other expressions. After suggesting everyone explore the new world independently, Maple spots an unusual sight: Guild-master Mii has changed her appearance and heads into what appears to be a shady establishment.

  • Given the nature of Bofuri, nothing of the sort has taken place – it turns out that, to get away from her duties (and the difficulties of maintaining a stoic personality befitting of a guild leader), Mii partakes in visiting the New World Online equivalent of a cat café. Maple decides to relax a little here, learning that the real Mii is very friendly and bubbly, but puts on a more serious façade while role-playing her character. Worried about others finding out, Mii asks Maple to keep this side of her under wraps. Maple has no trouble keeping this promise.

  • Elsewhere, Sally and Frederica explore the new skills added to New World Online and duel. The pair had developed a friendly rivalry since the events of the first season, and while Frederica is a skilled player in her own right, it does appear that overconfidence is her weakness. Sally is able to prevail in this duel, and it does feel as though Sally fulfils the same role in Bofuri that Miyu did in Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online, being the more experienced best friend to guide Maple and Karen through their games, respectively.

  • Looking back, Sword Art Online Alternative had come out right as Battle Royale games were becoming popular. In 2018, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had gained momentum, and the genre had begun taking off. By 2020, Warzone and Apex Legends had joined Fortnite as being the biggest battle royale games around. I’ve never been a fan of these games, but I have heard that modern games trend in this direction because players want to feel special, whereas earlier games emphasised teamwork in a larger context, but did not do enough to differentiate victory from a loss.

  • Back in Bofuri, while testing out her new weapon, Kasumi is surprised to find that using this weapon has an unusual side-effect – it reverts her to a younger age. From a gameplay perspective, this wouldn’t normally be a problem so long as one’s attributes weren’t impacted, and in fact, most games will try to balance out items by giving them positive and negative traits, rather than altering the player’s in-game model. That New World Online chooses to change player appearance is more of a comedic element, but one wonders if this will come up again as an element affecting the story later down the line.

  • With the initial exploration phase over, New World Online’s administrators create a special in-game event that will allow players to unlock exclusive items. In-game events are a common part of contemporary gaming, and add to the seasonal cheer – Team Fortress 2 was my first-ever holiday event, and back in those days, a buddy and I bought keys so we could unlock festive weapons. The Division 2 was also quite big on events, offering holiday-themed game cosmetics, as well as a modified Thompson submachine gun that shot snowballs.

  • This still here captures the scope and scale of the new space present in New World Online. A lot of fantasy worlds seen in anime, especially in the isekai genre, set set in a high fantasy variant of Europe. Because so many series utilise this setting, this creates a situation where many isekai become difficult to distinguish from one another. The Japanese region in New World Online allows Bofuri to differentiate itself, and one thing I’ve always liked about Bofuri is that it’s plain everything is set in a sophisticated VR title, rather than an entirely separate world.

  • Maple’s “Machine God” loadout is one of my favourites – it gives Maple access to mechanised equipment that lets her engage multiple foes simultaneously, as well as independent flight. The sheer bulk of this gear brings to mind the likes of the RX-88GP03 Dendrobium’s Orchis armed base. Beyond the Gundam-like design and its utility, the Machine God also leaves Maple’s admittedly sexy navel in the open. While farming mobs, Maple ends up transforming into her Hydra form and runs into Payne. While their last meeting had been as competitors, the pair decide to cooperate for a while; Payne sees this as a chance to learn a little more about what Maple’s able to pull off.

  • If I had to guess, skills in New World Online appear to be dynamically generated and adapt to the player’s style, similarly to real life. The second season will probably explore this in greater detail, and I am curious to see how Yūmikan will continue to portray this world. Games typically do not use such a route because a system cannot be reasonably balanced this way, but for storytelling purposes in Bofuri, a dynamic skill system works well enough in driving the story, allowing for there to be no shortage of misadventure resulting from Maple’s unorthodox gameplay style.

  • In recent years, we’ve been using a turkey recipe that’s turned one of the trickiest meals of the year into a straightforward endeavour: per this recipe, the turkey is first stuffed with celery, carrots, onion, rosemary and thyme. It is then cooked upside-down, first at 400°F for twenty minutes, and then 325°F for two hours. From there, the oven temperature is reduced. The vegetables inside the turkey emit moisture, which the turkey re-absorbs. The end result is a moist, tender and juicy turkey: even the turkey breast is succulent and flavourful, and best of all, there’s no guesswork as to how long it takes to cook the whole turkey. Dinner concluded with Crème brûlée and a Yule Log.

  • My family’s Christmas traditions have been simple: we observe a more secular Christmas, and the most prominent events of a given day are the gift exchange and the dinner. While I’ve read stories about how some folks dislike Christmas because of an increasingly commercialised component (some stores begin promoting Christmas as early as November), for me, Christmas is a time of togetherness and of warming up the coldest, darkest days of the year. Seeing a majority of people fired up for the festivities makes me happy, too. It is possible to not be sucked in by the commercialism and at the same time, partake in the festivities.

  • Outside of the gift exchange and Christmas dinner, Christmas Day for me is extremely relaxing. As a child, I spent my Christmas Days building Legos, and then during the family Christmas dinner, I’d play Agent Under Fire with my cousins. Nowadays, it’s a peaceful day spent reading, watching movies and playing games: after our gift exchange today, for instance, I ended up playing Modern Warfare II‘s invasion mode. For this year’s Steam Sale, I ended up picking up the “Vault Edition” upgrade, giving me access to the Battle Pass and the Vault weapons pack.

  • The extra weapons add more variety to the gameplay in Modern Warfare II, and like Maple, I’m finding that I am able to play to my own style and have fun anyways. At this point in time, I’ve reached level fifty, and are maintaining a better KDR than I am in Battlefield 2042. While SBMM means that any time I do a little too well in one match, I’ll be placed into a sweat lobby in the next and find my face pasted into the ground harder than Maple can steamroll her adversaries. In spite of this, consistently levelling up weapons and unlocking attachments makes the process fun for the most part. I’ll return to write about these experiences in full at a later date.

  • With this post in the books, I would again like to wish readers a Merry Christmas! This episode was a pre-airing ahead of Christmas, and the second season will formally kick off on January 11. At present, I have no plans to actively write about Bofuri, at least, not in the same manner that I did for Yama no Susume – while Bofuri is an excellent series, it’s not an anime that invites discussions about equivalent experiences or other topics. With this being said, I am looking forward to Bofuri‘s second season once it starts in full. It’ll be nice to see Maple’s new adventures with familiar crews, as well as how the administrators’ attempts to balance things work out. For now, however, it is time for me to wrap this post up and get some rest: Boxing Day tomorrow means joining the crowds for some excellent discounts and waking up earlier to secure a parking spot.

Although during most in-game events, Maple and her guild are a formidable foe to face down, during an event like Christmas, all of the guilds set aside their typical sense of competition to celebrate, reminding viewers that peace and goodwill towards man is still very much alive. Christmas is a time of togetherness, and while Maple enjoys an extravagant party with fellow players and friends alike, this time of year is characterised by spending time with the people that most matter to oneself. For me, this Christmas represents a new milestone – it was my first Christmas at the new place. Although the scenery is different, traditions still remain. I still spent the morning opening gifts with immediate family, and then took the remainder of the day to help in the preparation of the Christmas turkey, the first time we’ve used this particular oven for such a meal. While it is inevitable that things in life are constantly shifting, there is also comfort in the fact that long-standing traditions endure – despite the long dark of winter, Christmas remains one of my favourite times of the year precisely because it is a time of togetherness, of spending time with the people closest to us. Bofuri manages to capture this feeling in its Christmas episode, and while Maple is celebrating with the folks she’s met in New World Online, the festive spirit is fully conveyed during this episode’s runtime. I imagine that many surprises will await viewers once Bofuri‘s second season launches in the New Year. In the meantime, it’s time to take it easy on this Christmas night: following a turkey dinner, there’s nothing left to do but unwind, appreciate the winter scenery from the warmth of home, and bring out the ol’ GameCube to play Agent Under Fire‘s multiplayer on the Town map, with the AI bots cranked up to maximum difficulty and aggression, just like old times.