The Infinite Zenith

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86 EIGHTY-SIX: Review and Reflection, Plus A Brief Intermission After Twenty-One

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” –Albert Schweitzer

Giad’s command forecast a massive Legion counterattack and Leftenant-Colonel Wenzel manages to reassemble Shinei’s squadmates into Nordlich Squadron. Frederica reveals that she is the last surviving member of the Giad Empire’s royal family, and that a member of her guard, Kiriya (who shares ancestry with Shinei), eventually became assimilated by the Legion. The overwhelming Legion assault threatens to overwhelm Giad’s defenses, but Nordlich Squadron successfully repels the Legion. With Legion threatening San Magnolia’s borders, Vladilena prepares to rally the remaining Colorata under her command, although San Magnolia is overrun and defeated. It turns out that the Legion have been making use of a massive artillery gun named the Morpho, and moreover, this weapon is controlled by the remnants of Kiriya’s spirits. Giad decides to send Nordlich in to handle this, and although Leftenant-Colonel Wenzel is incensed that Shinei and his team are to be assigned on a suicide mission, Shinei and the others accept their task, feeling death in combat to be preferable to cowering while others fought for them, as the San Magnolians did. Giad ends up deploying a prototype vehicle to get Shinei and his team close to the Morpho, although they learn that the Legion had left behind a decommissioned Morpho as a trap. While they are able to escape, the Giad forces take heavy losses. Shinei receives permission to continue pursuing Kiriya’s Morpho and are shocked to learn Frederica had accompanied them into battle. Before their final attack on the Morpho, Raiden implores Shinei to look after himself, and later, Frederica remarks that she’d like to see the ocean with everyone once the fighting ends. Kiriya’s Morpho proves to be a fearsome opponent, and each of Raiden, Theoto, Kurena and Anju become damaged during the fighting, leaving Shinei to take on the Morpho on his own. His magazine sustains damage, leaving him with a single round, but thanks to support fire from an unknown source, and Frederica imploring Kiriya to stand down, Shinei manages to strike the weak spot on Kiriya’s Morpho, destroying it. The Morpho subsequently engages a self-destruct mechanism that engulfs both Shinei and Frederica in its blast radius.

Whereas 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s first half was divided between Vladilena’s command of the Undertaker unit, and Undertaker’s exploits in the war against the Legion, this second half is predominantly focused on Shinei’s remaining team and their return to the battlefield, as they fight alongside the Federacy of Giad to push back the Legion and put an end to the war. The shift in perspective is 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s advantage. The first half had the advantage of showing the war from the San Magnolian perspective, and the disconnect created gave the distinct impression that save Vladilena and a small number of her circle, San Magnolia appears to care little for the war effort otherwise. Conversely, Giad, as a part of the political reform, is willing to deploy their own professional soldiers to the frontline and fight alongside Shinei’s group. This eliminates the need for the Handler/Processor dynamic and creates the impression of a society that is seeking to right past wrongs. From a narrative standpoint, the fact that Giad soldiers are willing to deploy to the frontlines results in a story that’s much more cohesive and focused. The entire focus of the second half, after Shinei, Raiden, Theoto, Anju and Kurena join the Giad forces, is to take down the Morpho, a massive railway gun with a four hundred kilometre range. This weapon poses a massive threat to Giad and the surviving nations, to the point where the other nations agree to an alliance in a bid to stop this weapon. The effort taken to destroy this weapon gave 86 EIGHTY-SIX a chance to really focus on Shinei and his team, to an extent that hadn’t been possible in the first season because perspective had constantly flipped between the harsh realities that Undertaker faced, and the idealism that Vladilena sought to try and bring to the table. In this way, it becomes clear that even among his team, Shinei is more disconnected from humanity than Theoto, Raiden, Anju and Kurena: he lives purely for the thrill of combat and feels no other purpose in life. Having established the extent to which Shinei’s sense of humanity is blunted, viewers thus gain insight into why he’s so effective in combat, and so reserved off the battlefield.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I originally hadn’t intended to write about 86 EIGHTY-SIX at this stage in the game, having fallen behind on things, and instead, was waiting for the finale to air so I could do a single post on things. However, making my way through things right through to the assault on the Morpho, 86 EIGHTY-SIX clicked for me, and I found myself greatly enjoying how this second half was progressing. While I get why the first half was formatted the way it was, the story I’d come to enjoy the most was always to do with the Colorata, and Shinei’s team, in particular.

  • Although the textual discussion would suggest that 86 EIGHTY-SIX is all-business, one aspect about the series I found helpful was the fact that there is an effort to remind viewers that the characters are human; here, Frederica wanders around the base half-awake, prompting Shinei to hand her off over to Anju so she can get dressed. 86 EIGHTY-SIX is somewhat unusual in that visual elements more common to comedy are occasionally employed; this is the show’s way of reminding viewers of the fact that even in the grimmest moments, gentler or more amusing moments remain.

  • Frederica provides much of these throughout 86 EIGHTY-SIXs second half. Her background is a bit of a tragic one: her entire family was eventually executed, and it was only thanks to Ernest Zimmerman that she was spared. It turns out that Zimmerman himself was a former Imperial Guard who ended up renouncing his background and fought for a democratic Giad. His actions may come across as suspicious, but ultimately, Zimmerman wants to build a country unencumbered by the failures of Imperial Giad, and in his personal life, raise a family in stead of the one he’d lost.

  • Together with a Giad military that has been shown to drill its soldiers as contemporary professional armed forces would, and one that utilises equipment designed with the operator’s safety in mind, I was left with the impression that Giad is a legitimate power with a genuine concern for the world. It therefore became much easier to trust that Giad’s desire to eliminate the Legion as genuine; the whole of the first half had Shinei and the others fighting for a uncaring and slovenly nation, so it was natural that both Shinei and the viewers had little reason to trust Giad initially.

  • However, the combination of seeing Giad’s professional armed forces in action, coupled with the Reginleif’s armour and defensive features, I became convinced that Giad is trustworthy. Eliminating this doubt allowed the story to focus on the sort of challenges that Shinei and the others face now that they’re fighting under a different flag. One aspect that some viewers found surprising was the fact the Reginleif’s secondary armaments were designated as using 12.7×99mm NATO (i.e. .50 BMG) rounds, but in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, there shouldn’t be a NATO equivalent (and as such, no STANAG 4383 clause). This particularly irked one viewer, “Lambdalith”, who suggested that A-1 “copied all the ammo list provided by their military consultant without removing the NATO rounds designation [and therefore] can be interpreted as a blooper of sorts”.

  • Others promptly stepped up and noted that this was likely done as a convenience feature so viewers wouldn’t have to learn new calibres. In this case, while it might’ve been a little easier to just refer to the rounds as “.50 BMG”, which is not a STANAG 4383 compliant designation, I imagine that “12.7×99mm NATO” was chosen simply because it looks cooler to viewers. I’ve never really understood the demand that works of fiction be completely free of gaffes (I’d argue that “Lambdalith” is calling out something minor such as this, in an attempt to sound more knowledgeable); the type of secondary ammunition the Reginleifs use don’t impact 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s story in any way, so such comments add little to the discussion at hand. Here, Frederica peers into Shinei’s mind and learns he’s enjoying the chaos of battle the same way Kiriya once did.

  • Anime discussions have always varied in terms of quality, and generally speaking, the most meaningful discussions entail people who make an effort to listen to other sides of the coin, walking others through their thought process and where applicable, sharing their own related experience. Folks who focus on a dry, impersonal analysis as though they were writing an undergraduate term paper usually aren’t the most fun to converse with, which is why I do a combination of writing about pure outcomes in my paragraphs, before delving into assorted thoughts and commentary with the screenshots.

  • For 86 EIGHTY-SIX, I’ve (surprisingly) been able to keep clear of the overly-serious conversations out there, and this in turn has really allowed me to enjoy the series at my own pace: while I’d been skeptical of this series, being able to draw my own conclusions has led to a superb experience overall. As an example, the first half’s pacing was a little disjointed for me, but once I came to the conclusion it was meant precisely to show a disconnect, Vladilena’s presence became considerably more enjoyable. Cutting her from most of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half to focus on Shinei’s team gave the latter much more growth than was previously possible.

  • However, while Vladilena might’ve had a reduced presence, the destruction of San Magnolia in 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half, coupled with the fact that she’s clearly a central character, means that her role isn’t over yet, and I look forwards to seeing what role she will play in the future. This sort of conclusion isn’t something I’d be able to reach were my thoughts to encompass opinions from elsewhere, and in retrospect, this is an approach that I should apply to slice-of-life series, which are often critiqued to an even harsher extent for reasons that elude me.

  • Once 86 EIGHTY-SIX has Shinei and the others settle into their duties as a part of Nordlich squadron, the series turns its entire attention towards the matter of the Morpho. The Legion offer many resistances to known countermeasures: their ability to jam communications and EMR signals means there is no effective satellite reconnaissance it is not possible to simply pinpoint the Morpho’s location and overwhelm its defenses with hypersonic cruise missiles or ballistic missiles outfitted with conventional warheads. Similarly, the Legion likely possess hardened electronics resilient to EMP effects. This leaves armies to deal with them head-on using ground forces within visual range.

  • Even this is a challenge, and although Shinei had been asked to conceal his ability to detect the Legion telepathically, there comes a point where he’s forced to bring this power out to help Giad’s military out. The idea of Newtype-like powers exists in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, although like its Universal Century counterpart, the precise origins or nature of these powers are never well-characterised. Whether or not this becomes an issue is largely dependent on a story’s demands: if the powers impact the outcome of an event in a tangible manner, then at the very least, its scope and limitations should be explored.

  • In 86 EIGHTY-SIX, that Shinei and Frederica possess such powers suggest to me that it would be worth exploring them further in future instalments. Throughout 86 EIGHTY-SIX, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well Frederica fits in with the story: she’s highly perceptive and demonstrates agency far exceeding what is typical of someone of her age, and moreover, rather than being a burden on the story, Frederica is able to ask the right questions and proves instrumental in pulling Shinei away from the brink. It helps that she’s also got the most funny-face moments of anyone in 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half.

  • Giad’s assault on the Morpho is accompanied by support from neighbouring nations, who agree to cooperate on the grounds that the Morpho’s range is enough to pose a threat to any nation. This massive joint operations entails creating a massive distraction and making use of Nordlich team’s capabilities to close the distance. However, Giad is outwitted: the Morpho had previously been damaged in an earlier strike and was allowed to remain so it could act as a decoy for the real Morpho, which is illuminated by an ethereal blue light.

  • Kiriya’s spirit operates this Morpho, and while he answers to the entity known as “No Face”, Kiriya is brash and aggressive in his digitised form. It is clear that this Kiriya only retains the negative aspects of his old self. 86 EIGHTY-SIX choses to give Kiriya a face, both to indicate that Kiriya plainly remembers his old identity and to convey to viewers the sort of torture human minds experience as Legion; this aspect of 86 EIGHTY-SIX further emphasises that the Legion’s ability to use neural tissue as a CPU is not a pleasant experience for those who are captured, and the resulting Legion suffer continuously until they are destroyed. Once Nordlich figures out the presence of the real Morpho and prepare to attack it, No Face orders Kiriya to withdraw.

  • From this vantage point, the destructive power of the Morpho’s main 800 mm cannon can be seen: it completely obliterates an area appearing about six blocks across, with an initial crater width of around 100 metres, and the damage appears to show that the impact energy was transferred wholly into the ground.  Official documentation gives the Morpho’s muzzle velocity as eight kilometres per second, and eyeballing this to correspond with a force of around 0.2 kiloton (836 GJ, all transferred into the ground): it’s possible to work out that the Morpho’s 800 mm projectile is likely a slug with a mass of 26.1 tonnes. Assuming a density of 22.59 g/cm³ (similar to osmium) and a roughly cylindrical shape tapering at the head to a point, the projectile itself would need to be 114.92 metres long in order to have such a mass. This is greater than the Morpho’s length of 40.2 metres. Because Asakura is steadfast on the muzzle velocity being 8 km/s, and the fact that the Morpho’s ammunition clearly isn’t three times the length of its chassis, the only remaining explanation available is that the Morpho’s main gun is using ammunition that is significantly denser than any known metal.

  • If Asakura was open to an much higher muzzle velocity (say, 49.2 km/s, only a little faster than Halo‘s Mark II Light Coil guns, which accelerate a 600 tonne projectile to 30 km/s for a yield of 64.5 kt), it’d be possible to impart a similar about of damage with a tungsten slug that is a more reasonable 2 metres long. Having said this, my calculations are just for fun: unlike Lambdalith and the folks unfamiliar with Newtonian kinetic energy, I’ve no qualms if the numbers don’t check out, since they don’t affect the story. The Morpho’s main weakness is that it is primarily dependent on railway lines to travel, and after the Legion lose their element of surprise, No Face orders Kiriya back to Legion-held territory. This buys the Giad forces a bit of breathing room, and Shinei decides to continue pursuit even as the Giad forces retreat, reasoning that there’s no opportunity quite like this to take out a major Legion asset. Major railway guns are particularly vulnerable to attack from the air. However, the Legion face no such threat: the absence of air power in 86 EIGHTY-SIX is quite noticeable, being the consequence of the Legion’s use of Eintagsfliege (small butterfly-like units that flood the skies, blocking out EMR and capable of causing jet engines to flame out), and the Legion themselves only manufacture ground units owing to their original programming.

  • Unlike High School Fleet, the justification for why aircraft are largely absent in 86 EIGHTY-SIX is a reasonable one. I have noted before that as long as authors take the time to provide a plausible account for why their world is what it is, then an element can be accepted; where enjoyment of fiction is concerned, I’m of the mind that J.R.R. Tolkien’s concept of internal consistency applies to a given work. That is, if something is consistent with what is defined as being possible in a fictional universe, then one needn’t fall upon a suspension of disbelief for something, because the author has clearly laid out limits and rules.

  • This is why I tend to be fairly open minded about things that are otherwise dismissed as “unrealistic”: for instance, in The Aquatope on White Sand, some critics argue that Kukuru’s treatment at Tingarla is unrealistic because she is given far more leeway than would be expected for someone in her position in an equivalent company. However, The Aquatope on White Sand maintains internal consistency by establishing that Tingarla’s director is fairly open-minded, and as such, may have been made aware of Kukuru’s unexpected absence. His decision would override Tetsuji’s, so she isn’t reprimanded upon her return. Similarly, in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, the lack of air power owing to the Eintagsfliege’s presence is not far-fetched and forces combat to remain ground-based.

  • After Frederica stows away in Fido, Shinei and the others are forced to accept that she’s around. Although they’d rather she stay away from the frontlines, her presence does end up being instrumental to Shinei’s eventual success in taking down the Morpho. However, Shinei’s friends do worry greatly for his mental well-being: Raiden confronts him and demands that he stop fighting so recklessly; so long as they’re still alive and have one another, they can continue to help one another out. Despite being a captivating and gripping story, 86 EIGHTY-SIX has the same degree of subtlety as something like Gundam with respect to its themes.

  • That is to say, Gundam is very clear about its intended messages and will flatly present its ideas to viewers without obfuscating them. Other works will jump through hoops and layer in themes that require a bit of thinking to get: there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to approach fiction, and having studied works for classes a decade earlier, as well as consuming fiction for personal enjoyment, I’ve found that there are merits to both approaches; so long as a work actually conveys its theme, it has succeeded. With this in mind, I prefer dealing with thematic elements once a series has fully aired: although 86 EIGHTY-SIX has been quite plain in its aims, I acknowledge there is always the possibility that what is shown in the existing episodes could feed into something else once everything is done.

  • While Raiden shares a conversation with Shinei voicing his concerns on behalf of the others, Frederica and the others eavesdrop. It turns out that even now, Kurena still has feelings for Shinei. However, indicators will show that Kurena’s going to be in an unfortunate situation, and here, Frederica is reduced to a blubbering pile after Anju overhears her making a blithe remark about how with Vladilena seemingly out of the picture, Kurena might have a shot at things. Moments like these became increasingly rare as 86 EIGHTY-SIX wore on, but remain welcome, and I will note that while I’d initially found Frederica a little grating, she’s become an integral part of the team.

  • Upon gazing out over the open hinterlands at sunset, Frederica mentions that she’d like to see the ocean one day. The ocean’s vastness has held people spellbound for as long as human civilisation has existed, as imaginations of what lies on the shores across the ocean drove people towards exploration – Frederica’s longing to see the ocean might be seen as a wish to see what’s on the other side of this conflict. As it turns out, the Giadian Empire’s royal family and leaders were responsible for the Legion’s reign of terror: revolutionary forces (which Zimmerman had been a part of) had cornered the crumbling Imperial leadership, and in a final act of defiance, the Imperials transferred their consciousness into the Legion before issuing them with one final order to continue fighting.

  • However, even the Giadian Empire had devised a failsafe – any member of the Giadian Royal Family could deactivate the Legion. I imagine that Zimmerman might have suspected that it would be helpful to not fully destroy all traces of the old Empire, and the very fact that Frederica holds the master override to end the war once and for all means that so long as she’s alive, there is hope for ending this war swiftly and giving everyone a chance to gaze upon the ocean with their own eyes. Having seen what the remains of Shinei’s team has gone through, one cannot help but wish for a speedy end to their war, although this does lead to the question of what everyone’s looking to do once peace is attained.

  • In particular, Shinei remarks that he feels his only purpose is to fight, and since Shōrei had tried to kill him, he’d lost any particular desire to the point of wondering if he’s alive at times. A longstanding notion in fiction is that people are inherently without purpose, and responsibility of seeking out purpose falls upon the individual: Frederica suggests that purpose or not, as long as one has people in their corner, they can keep on living and find whatever their future holds, no matter how uncertain it is. Whether or not Shinei takes this to heart, there is truth to this statement, and it’s always encouraging to see works of fiction remind viewers of this fact: life is what one makes of it.

  • When the final operation does start, Shinei ends up with everyone electing to keep the Legion off Shinei’s back while he presses forwards: although they’d planned on fighting the Morpho together, a Legion onslaught causes Anju’s unit to fall off a cliff, and although she’s fine, she’s no longer able to follow the others into battle. Speaking to the Reginleif’s improved survivability over the San Magnolian Juggernauts, Anju herself is okay, and her Reginleif is still somewhat able to fight: Anju swaps out her 88 mm cannon for rocket artillery, making her useful against massed Legion forces.

  • Similarly, because Kurena has specialised her Reginleif for long-range combat, she decides to hang back and do what she can. To assist in sharpshooting, Kurena uses a VR headset in combat, which is linked to a smart optic that allows her to hit targets at range. A similar feature was found in Gundam 00‘s Dynames and Cherudim Gundams, which had a dedicated controller unit wired to special optics. I have heard arguments that mecha do not necessarily need this gear, since they could simply use an AI or similar to place long-range shots. However, the counterargument for this is simple: a given mecha would not be in sniping configuration all the time, and engaging this equipment changes the handling characteristics, allowing it to focus on long-range fire at the expense of something like mobility.

  • Again, the concept of internal consistency applies here: I’ve noticed that a lot of fans out there are quick to call out things for falling on “rule of cool” (in common terms, where something awe-inspiring or novel is selected over something more practical to create an impact amongst viewers), but for me, as long as internal consistency is maintained, gripes like these are inconsequential. In the end, even Raiden gets taken out of the fight; he promises to keep Frederica safe while Shinei forges ahead.

  • The twenty-first episode has Shinei engaging Kiriya’s Morpho alone; the episode itself aired on Christmas day, but I’d spent most of the day preparing Christmas dinner and reading through new books, so I didn’t even consider that a new episode of 86 EIGHTY-SIX would be airing. At the time, I thought that I’d fallen so far behind that it would be easier to let all of the episodes air before continuing from where I’d left off. As it turned out, production challenges meant that episodes were airing at two-week intervals, and moreover, there’d been two recap episodes. I realised I wasn’t as far behind as I first imaged, and so, decided to push forwards, just in time to present my thoughts on where I feel 86 EIGHTY-SIX stands a full month after the latest episode aired.

  • The Morpho possesses a fearsome array of point defense weapons, and together with the “arms”, even Shinei has difficulty getting close enough to do damage. In the end, Frederica threatens to kill herself if Kiriya doesn’t stand down, and this buys Shinei enough time to close the distance enough to board the Morpho, locate the weak spot and blast it to kingdom come. Kiriya passes on into death, no longer bound to the Legion, and viewers were left with a lengthy wait: the next episode is scheduled to broadcast on March 13.

  • As such, I will be returning in a few months to wrap up 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second part to deal with the messages I got out of 86 EIGHTY-SIX. While the series began on a rougher footing, once the characters and conflict was established, things have become much more engaging. I’d been sitting on the fence with 86 EIGHTY-SIX after its first part concluded, and had suggested that San Magnolia would face total annihilation if they didn’t get their game together. Having seen what’s happened now, it appears San Magnolia is no longer a concern (having been met with complete annihilation owing to their hedonistic and xenophobic ways), and this leaves the floor open for Asakura to focus purely on Shinei and whatever lies ahead between himself and Vladilena, which is admittedly something I am quite excited to see.

Having established the basis for Shienei’s character, 86 EIGHTY-SIX enters an intermission. Despite A-1 Pictures driving the series’ production, and the fact they’ve done a solid job of bringing 86 EIGHTY-SIX to life thus far, the Legion have presented the team with numerous challenges owing to their numbers and fluidity. Production issues in getting the Legion to appear as author had Toru Asakura envisioned them meant that the story will be delayed until March. However, at this point, the Morpho is defeated, removing one more threat to the allied forces, and this means there will be an opportunity yet to give Shinei and the others a denouement. Given where things end up, it is unlikely that 86 EIGHTY-SIX will end here: Vladilena’s story has not yet been resolved, and although San Magnolia now lies in ruin, the fact that she figures so prominently in the series means that she likely evacuated and survived the Legion’s assault. Vladilena and Shinei had first met in a very impersonal capacity but came to care for one another showed how Vladilena was able to bring out some of Shinei’s humanity, and how Shinei was a sign to Vladilena that her concerns were legitimate. As such, 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s premise is built on the fact that the pair was able to support one another emotionally, and while reality often sees circumstance keep people apart, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is a story, a work of fiction and consequently, should able to tilt the odds such that Vladilena and Shinei do, in fact, end up meeting, in order to advance the idea that human connections are what lets people rediscover their purpose anew. In this way, while 86 EIGHTY-SIX is framed around a war, it would appear that Asakura’s intentions through this story had been to present a moving tale of how important being connected to others is, especially in a world where interpersonal relationships are becoming more impersonal. At this point in time, I have no idea what lies ahead of the second part’s eleventh episode, but I do know that it will be interesting to see where things end up.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Tamayura ~More Aggressive~, A Thank You For the Past Year and Welcoming the Brand New Year

“A year full of new encounters and wonderful experiences has come to a close. In its place, a new one has begun. I’m sure more encounters and wonderful experiences await.” –Fū Sawatari

It’s been a year since Fū returned to Takehara, and while Fū reminisces about all of the wonderful things that had happened in the past year, she is encouraged to try something new after Chihiro sends her a message. Fū ends up creating a new Photography Club at her high school and meets Kanae Mitani, who had taken a picture of Fū which ended up being featured in a magazine. Although Kanae is nervous about the club, Fū welcomes her with open arms, and seeing the photos leads Kanae to join. The Photography Club thus go on a range of experiences together. Fū and Kanae strive to find photos for a festival presentation, participate in a cherry blossom photography contest and even participate in a photography exhibit featuring Riho’s works, all the while retreading the scenery Fū’s father had once known. Chihiro and Tomo later visit Takehara, and Fū encounters one of her father’s old friends, Nozomu Natsumu, during the Path of Longing Festival; despite his cold manner, Fū is grateful to have met him and hear him speak of their time together as high school students. Kanae has come to greatly treasure her time spent with Fū and her frineds in the Photography Club, and suggests a trip over to Mitarai, where Maon had been planning on going to attend a concert. With the end of year fast approaching, Kaoru decides to host another We Exhibition: this time, everything will be organised based on the seasons, and although the event is a complete success, Kanae is saddened at the thought of having to part ways with everyone. During a New Year’s sunrise viewing with Fū and the others, Kanae finally allows her emotions out into the open, admitting she didn’t wish to graduate because Fū had done so much for her. In the new year, Fū’s celebrates her father’s birthday and goes to get her camera repaired, but begins thinking about how she’ll have to part ways with Kanae, Norie, Maon and Kaoru someday. To take her mind off things, Fū’s mother takes Fū out to the spot where her father had proposed to her and reminds Fū of how far she’d come. On graduation day, Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon attend to congratulate Kanae, who’s been accepted into her first post-secondary institution of choice. Looking back on the past year, Fū is immensely grateful to her parents, who’ve made all of these experiences possible. Having spent ~Hitotose~ rediscovering her passions, Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ lives up to its title by having Fū take a bold step forwards and leading her school’s photography club. The phrase is derived from Chihiro’s encouragement for Fū: to be more confident, assertive and decisive. Although she’s quite pensive about things initially, being able to start the photography club and make new memories with Kanae helps Fū to become more confident with herself, and in the process, the pair create irreplaceable memories.

Owing to the plethora of pleasant memories that Fū and Kanae share together during their time in the Photography Club, Kanae comes to realise that thanks to Fū’s determination, she was able to do the sorts of things that she’d only once dreamt of doing. Prior to meeting Fū, Kanae had primarily focused in landscape photography, and since she uses a digital camera, she deletes images that don’t turn out well. Conversely, Fū is fond of photographing the people around her, and a film camera means the mistakes are retained alongside the successful shots. While Fū is Kanae’s junior, her approach to photography is inspiring enough to lead Kanae to try new forms of photography, and she ends up gaining new perspective as a photographer. At the same time, Kanae is also able to spend time with Fū and her friends: the excursions that Kaori, Norie and Maon bring Fū and Kanae on become worthwhile photography outings, as well as a chance to learn more about the girl whose silhouette changed her world. These idyllic and enjoyable days feel as though they’ve come out of someone’s dream, and having not really lived quite so fully previously, Kanae comes to wish that such moments could last forever. Tamayura similarly creates a sentimental nostalgia during its run, creating a warming sense of comfort that one can find difficult to turn away from. However, as important as having these memories are, ~More Aggressive~ aims to convey to viewers that it is necessary to also turn one’s eyes to the future. While Kanae would’ve been happy living in the present, Fū’s outlook suggests that the only reason why new memories and moments can be made is because one takes the initiative of creating them. It is with an eye turned towards the future that the present can be enjoyed and shape the memories that one looks fondly back on, so for Kanae, a part of her time spent with Fū also entails finding the strength to part ways and take ahold of the future. In the end, as Fū had managed to take her first steps forward, Kanae is able to do the same: she’s got support from Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon, and so, is able to graduate with a smile on her face, ready to embrace whatever lies ahead. ~More Aggressive~ indicates plainly that so long as one has an open mind, the future will always hold the possibility of creating new experiences that one can add to their memories. Moreover, while people might part ways, the memories will always be a part of people who share time together: farewells aren’t always final, but it does take a bit of courage to take this step forwards. Fortunately, with great company in one’s corner, anything is possible: Kanae and Fū are able to do precisely this, and while they only spent a year together, the learnings and memories help both to look towards the future with optimism.

Because ~More Aggressive~ has Fū seizing the initiative to be a leader, it becomes clear that since ~Hitotose~, Fū is no longer just a passenger in life; during ~Hitotose~, Fū had maintained an open mind and accepted opportunities to learn more about Takehara and her friends. However, these events are instigated by those around her. Conversely, the decision to start a photography club signifies how Fū has both made peace with the past and found new joy in her life, enough now to want to share her feelings and expressions with others through photography. Although Fū remains nervous, she also gradually becomes more confident in communicating her thoughts to others: at ~More Aggressive~‘s beginning, she is unable to articulate the Photography Club’s functions to others and botches her introduction at the club president meetings, but as she accepts opportunities to perform at festivals, participate in contests and even submit work for a professional exhibition, Fū finds her footing and is able to guide Kanae, too. Fū is no longer a mere passenger at the end of ~More Aggressive~, becoming a driver possessing a better sense of where she’s interested in going. It is though a combination of support from friends and family, as well as Fū’s own resilience and open-mindedness that allow her to reach this point: as Fū’s mother tearfully notes, Fū was able to do all of this of her own accord, welcoming people into her life and embracing all aspects of life, both the good and bad, as they come. This is consistent with how Fū approaches photography: she keeps all shots whether or not they turned out well, and this symbolises both the enjoyment of happier moments, as well as being mindful of learning moments. The sum of these learnings are valuable to Fū, but they also have a tangible impact for those around her: Kanae’s entry into the Photography Club is a turning point in her own life. While she’d been worried about having no drive or direction for the future, Fū and her friends, plus all of the people in their networks, help Kanae to spot something that hadn’t been obvious: people live life at their own pace, find inspiration at their own pace and cast off towards their future at their own pace. There isn’t any need to worry about what others are doing; so long as one can find their own footing, they’ll be fine. Meeting a more confident, capable and aggressive Fū ends up changing Kanae’s world for the better, as well, and in this way, ~More Aggressive~ absolutely does live up to its title, bringing into Tamayura a dash of confidence, knowledge transfer and exciting new opportunities that only result from a combination of friendship, family and an open mind.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Unlike ~Hitotose~, I actively wrote about ~More Aggressive~ after its airing concluded. As the story goes, after I graduated from the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, I became melancholy as all of my friends were going their separate ways, and a one-in-a-hundred year flood ravaged my province, in turn removing my chance to hang out with friends and do a kokuhaku. I did receive an NSERC USRA and ended up building a peer-to-peer simulation, which allows different computers to focus on computing results for one area of the body, and then transmit this data to a peer on the network so that each machine could also see results from the other groups. However, this was punctuated by melancholy that seemed quite far removed from the beautiful weather we had following the flood, and I lost motivation to watch anime.

  • For no good reason other than for my amusement, I’ll showcase a moment with Kaoru and her shapely legs while she’s chatting on the phone with Chihiro: Kaoru, Norie and Maon had all noticed that Fū seemed off her game, even more so than usual. Having known Fū for so long, Chihiro reassures Kaoru it’s fine, and that this tends to happen when Fū is making a big decision. It speaks volumes to the support that Fū’s had from her friends over the past year, and that Fū is contemplating something big shows that she’s come very far since returning to Takehara.

  • Because my post on ~Hitotose~ didn’t once have a screenshot of Momoneko-sama, I’ve decided to include one here to compensate for that oversight. Fū’s tendency to get lost in the moment whilst search of a good photo creates comedy, although on this morning, her friends aren’t convinced that Fū’s her usual self. After some coaxing, Fū finally makes it known that she wanted to start a photography club at her high school, even though the path to kicking off such a club would require a bit of work. This decision shows that Fū’s now wanting to share her joys with others, the same way her father’s photos touched the hearts of many. In retrospect, I might’ve benefited from watching ~More Aggressive~ while it was airing: I finally started in September, when my open studies term began.

  • While ~More Aggressive~ did help me to relax, the melancholy I found myself amidst meant that I ended up missing the series’ main themes. The approach of winter, and thoughts of a wasted summer left me in a depression, and I found myself longing to be somewhere like Takehara whilst lamenting the shortening days and cold weather. I’ve always wished to revisit ~More Aggressive~ under happier circumstances, and as such, after I watched ~Hitotose~, I figured that, rather than waiting for September 2023 to do a ten-year anniversary reflection, I figured now would be a good time to go back through ~More Aggressive~. This time around, I feel that I got more out of ~More Aggressive~ than I did eight years earlier.

  • For Kaoru, Norie and Maon, concern turns to excitement as they cheer on Fū’s efforts to run her new club after Kazutarō pulls some strings and manages to secure approval for the Photography Club. However, it’s not easy-street just yet: besides needing to attend club president meetings and give an introduction in front of the entire school to explain her club’s functions, Fū must also recruit for new members. Things become more complicated after Mutsuko Shimokamiyama, a new instructor whom Kazutarō has asked to advise for the Photography Club, becomes excited about photography competitions and shows a magazine sporting a photo that Kanae Mitani, one of the seniors, had taken.

  • While Kaoru, Norie and Maon become worried that Kanae might show up to challenge Fū’s Photography Club, they decide to help Fū out in whatever way they can: during one club meeting, Kanae does show up, but promptly leaves. As it turns out, Kanae is very similar to Fū in disposition, and she’d simply been too nervous to ask about joining that day. These sorts of misunderstandings create the impression that Kanae is disapproving of the Photography Club where in reality, nothing of the sort holds true. I imagine that seeing Fū’s friends also would’ve left a lasting impression on Kanae: while they’re somewhat clumsy, they’re also well-meaning and kind.

  • Kazutarō had only a limited presence in ~Hitotose~ outside of the classroom, but his puns are supposed to be legendary in terms of how bad they are. While a bit hot-blooded, he also cares greatly for his students, and goes out of his way to assist them however he can. ~Hitotose~ had suggested that Kazutarō has a crush on Chimo, and he goes out of his way to impress her however he can. As a teacher, Kazutarō is also highly competent in spite of his bad puns. He ends up suggesting that she participate in a local festival to improve her confidence, and Fū accepts, feeling that it’s a fine chance to also get word out about the Photography Club.

  • Without Norie, Kaoru and Maon around, Kanae is able to share a one-on-one conversation with Fū, clearing up the confusion that had arisen during their first meeting. Kanae is voiced by Ai Kayano, whose resume includes GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto and Saori Takebe from Girls und Panzer. It turns out that Kanae had long wanted to meet the wistful-looking girl from her photo; Kanae normally prefers shooting landscapes, but had always hesitated when it came to human subjects. Under the Path of Longing that night, Kanae was filled with a desire to take this moment, and this single photograph would set her on a course to meet Fū, showing how certain moments can bring people together in unforeseeable, but ultimately meaningful ways.

  • With Kanae now a member of the Photography Club, activities entail shooting photos around their school. Kanae is impressed that Fū is able to simply walk up to people and ask them for permission before taking a picture. Fū herself has never realised it, but when she’s in her element, she’s very composed and confident. Kanae herself begins ~More Aggressive~ more timid than Fū had been. Spending time with Fū helps her to mature and become, in the series’ words, “more aggressive”. This phrase sounds a little unusual in English, and I imagine that it’s a bit of wasei-eigo: in the context of Tamayura, it simply means “more confident and assertive”.

  • On the day of the festival, Kazutarō burns his hands while serving customers, leaving him unable to play the guitar. Chimo was originally set to sing for the presentation, but since she’s busy tending to Kazutarō, this leaves Fū and Kanae to go ahead with the show themselves. While they’re initially embarrassed to sing a modified version of MomonekoOndō, they soon find their rhythm and begin performing more earnestly, impressing the crowd with both the show and photo display. This moment shows that when it comes down to it, both Fū and Kanae can do what they set their hearts to. During this time, Fū also becomes curious about a photo of a blossoming cherry tree that her father had taken years ago.

  • Fū’s mother explained that their father had planted one for her, and one for Kō, when each had been born, then left the location a mystery so that he could one day take them to find them. While this would never happen, on the day of the performance, Kō and Komachi had ended up following Momoneko-sama to the trees. Overjoyed, Fū takes a photo of the moment, and finds the tamayura phenomenon in the resulting photo. That Fū and her friends end up finding these cherry trees on their own is a superb metaphor for Fū’s learning to support herself in the aftermath of her father’s passing, and this moment is a particularly momentous one, since the coveted tamayura make an appearance.

  • From a technical perspective, tamayura are better known as backscatter: this normally occurs when camera flash picks up airborne particles like dust or pollen, or matter on the camera lens, creating artefacts in the resulting image. While such artefacts are typically seen as undesirable, Tamayura changes this and supposes that what would normally be counted as a defect is in fact, a blessing in disguise. This particular interpretation of backscattering speaks strongly to the themes in Tamayura and reminds viewers that what’s unexpected, or even unwanted, can actually be beneficial, creating memories and experiences far exceeding one’s original expectations.

  • When Mutsuko asks if Fū and Kanae are interested in participating in a cherry blossom photography contest, both accept with enthusiasm, but are troubled by the fact that since it’s so late in the year, most of the cherry blossoms have fallen off the tree. Kanae is understandably disappointed, but Fū manages to turn the day into a chance for exploration. After the two swing by Café Tamayura, they run into Sayomi, who damaged her Mazda 5 and is working to earn enough to pay for the repairs. She agrees to take them to a special spot where the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

  • On the day of the excursion, while Sayomi’s banner causes Kaoru and Norie no small amount of embarrassment, the spot she brings everyone to is nothing short of breathtaking. Fū and Kanae take many wonderful photos here, and although Mutsuko is shocked to learn that the deadline for the competition had long passed, both Fū and Kanae ended up having a wonderful time anyways. A longstanding lesson from Tamayura that I still find myself in need of mastering is precisely this: things don’t always go according to plan, but sometimes, surprises end up creating something that far exceeds expectations.

  • During the summer vacation, Fū hits the beaches alongside Kanae, Kaoru, Norie and Maon. A quick look around finds that, while there aren’t any beaches within walking distance of Takehara, islands within the Seto Inland Sea host some pleasant beaches. During the summer, the Seto Inland Sea can become quite warm and reach temperatures of above 20°C, making it perfect for swimming. Fū is more interested in photographing the sights of the beach. If I had to guess, they’re at Ōkushi Beach on the western edge of Osaki-Kamizima Island owing to the presence of mountains.

  • Riho unexpectedly appears with one Harumi Kawai, who knows of Fū’s father through their work together. From what ~More Aggressive~ shows, Harumi was Fū’s father’s junior at work, and this reveals that Fū’s father was a travel agent. Much about Fū’s father remains unknown in Tamayura, and a part of the series’ joys was watching Fū slowly learn more about him through all of the people whose lives he’d touched in some way. It turns out that Harumi and Riho have a surprise planned out for Fū: back in Takehara, they invite her to join them on a trip to Onomichi, a town about 30 kilometres east of Takehara, where Harumi plans on looking around for spots that could be worth including on a tour of the area. While Harumi suggests that she wants Fū’s perspectives to help guide things, she and Riho actually do have another reason for suggesting this trip.

  • Par the course for any outing in Tamayura, ~More Aggressive~ shows how the smaller moments and the unexpected can prove more enjoyable than what was originally planned. Harumi conveys this to Fū: back when they’d worked together, Harumi had been quite the stickler for plans and during their first assignment together, Harumi had promptly shot down Fū’s father and his plans to wander off the beaten track. This part of Fū’s father is imparted in Fū: both share a love of wandering and exploring, and here, I note that I’m quite similar to Harumi in that I prefer following a plan, but if something crops up that causes me to go off-mission, I’m able to roll with it. This happens frequently when I go for strolls nearby, but I’ve also done something quite similar during a trip to Kelowna and Penticton with the family two years earlier.

  • We hadn’t planned on half of downtown Penticton being closed on the day we visited, and I only was able to find one restaurant that was open, Bellevue Café. We thus spent the morning exploring the SS Sicamous before enjoying a brunch here, where I ordered their huevos rancheros. On the same day, after I had planned out a trip to a honey farm in Kelowna, I was surprised to find the big farm had closed for the day. A bit of quick thinking allowed me to find another place to visit, and that particular vacation ended up being super relaxing. I still could improve on my adaptability to changing situations, but I do think that compared to the me of eight years earlier, I’m a ways better now. Tamayura is a love song to the Setouchi region and its immense beauty: the Seto Inland Sea’s regulating effect on temperatures means the whole area has a moderate climate and consistent temperatures year-round.

  • The climate of the area is, in short, perfectly suited for providing Fū with an unending stream of opportunities to discover and explore, although looking back, I would imagine that no matter where Fū had been in Japan, with the right people beside her, Tamayura would’ve conveyed its messages all the same. Between Harumi’s knowledge of destinations and Riho’s professional photography skills, the work gets finished on short order, and this in turn allows for Harumi to focus on what they’d come to Onomichi for beyond her work obligations. The day had been quite special, as Fū was able to learn a little more about the work her father had done, as well as check out some of Onomichi’s sights. However, there’s actually quite a pleasant surprise around the corner for Fū, as well.

  • Riho and Harumi bring Fū to a local bakery with some superbly fresh and delicious looking breads: while such breads are usually associated with breakfasts or lunch, I have picked up a few meat buns and pizza buns and calling it dinner during times where I couldn’t sit down to a standard dinner. In Tamayura, food plays a significant role – whether it be the okonomiyaki at Hoboro’s, or the sweets Norie creates, food adds another dimension to a memory; Fū will forever recall the bread she enjoys before heading over to their last destination for the day. For me, ~More Aggressive~ reminds me most of the poutines I had on campus while the food trucks were over during my time as a student. I still remember watching ~More Aggressive~‘s finale in 2013 with Waffle & Chix’s legendary Fried Chicken Poutine in hand, and since then, I’ve become somewhat of a poutine connoisseur.

  • It turns out that the big surprise that Harumi and Riho had planned for Fū was to take her to a Bed and Breakfast run by an older couple who’d known Fū’s father. Long ago, the couple’s children had moved out, and they’d wanted to start a Bed and Breakfast, but things had seemed quite difficult. While Fū’s father and Harumi were in Onomichi, they ended up visiting, and during a conversation, Fū’s father made was once a seemingly outlandish idea feel more and more like a reality. This moment is particularly touching, in showing the positive impact Fū’s father had on those around him – for Fū, it’s the surest sign that even though her father is gone from this world, the wonderful things he contributed to endure.

  • More so than even ~Hitotose~~More Aggressive~ is a celebration of Fū’s father’s life, and bringing Fū to this particular Bed and Breakfast was meant to show the owners Fū is doing well. It’s a bit of an emotional moment, and for Fū, the day ends up being memorable both because it shows how things like a positive spirit and photography can bring dreams to life in unforeseeable ways, as well as how kindness connects people together. Through Harumi, Fū also learns about what her father had done for a living, and in retrospect, being a travel agent is something that someone with a keen eye for creating memories would be suited for. In turn, Fū provides feedback to Harumi and suggests that the best tour experiences seem to come from allowing people to connect with one another through open-ended events: this outcome helps Harumi structure a more enjoyable tour, and ~More Aggressive~ indicates that one act of kindness always deserves another.

  • Once Fū’s back in Takehara, their next major adventure comes when Sayomi offers to drive Fū and her friends all the way over to Shioiri so that they can meet up with Chihiro and Tomo. This drive is not a joke: a quick glance finds that the fastest possible route has a road distance of 775 kilometres and requires around ten hours and eighteen minutes to complete. To put things in perspective, this would be equivalent of driving from my hometown to Regina, Saskatchewan, one province over. The main difference is that our highways have a much higher speed limit, and a distance that would take over ten hours in Japan is something we can cover in three quarters of the time.

  • This speaks to Sayomi’s incredible endurance, although folks wondering about whether or not her Mazda 5 can handle this shouldn’t worry: the Mazda 5 is a brilliant vehicle. Conversely, when Sayomi does arrive in Shioiri near Chihiro’s place, inattentiveness causes her to nearly hit a brick wall, and she manages to stop only just in time. Having driven now for over a decade, I appreciate that ~More Aggressive~ is exaggerating Sayomi’s poor driving habits for comedy’s sake, but this is the sort of thing I complain about vociferously whenever I encounter it. Fortunately for her, Kaoru and the others are on hand to, similarly vociferously, make it clear that they’re not happy about Sayomi’s driving. These funny faces are particularly funny, and Maon’s expression here actually brings to mind the likes of ARIA‘s Akari Mizunashi.

  • For Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon, it’s great to see Chihiro again. This time around, Chihiro brings Tomo, and while Tomo had been similarly shy, once she opened up to Chihiro, she chatted away like a tree full of birds. Like Norie, Tomo has a very boisterous personality, although both express themselves differently: Norie tends to squeal in joy, while Tomo asks a seemingly endless stream of questions. Although Tomo seems conscious of this, everyone around her is quite understanding of this and do their best to answer her questions where they can. It becomes clear that everyone gets along as well as peas in a pod might, and once the introductions are done, Tomo and Chihiro take everyone on a tour of Shioiri’s best spots that only locals might know about, including a burger joint that serves burgers worthy of Big Jud’s in Boise, Idaho.

  • That Fū is able to share her thoughts so candidly is another not-so-subtle sign that she’s recovered much of her original spirits. When Tomo asks Fū, Fū is able to be truthful about things, and in this way, Fū is able to help Tomo connect better to her, as well. This sort of sincerity is one of the details that made ~More Aggressive~ so enjoyable to watch. During my first experience of the series some eight years earlier, I commented on how I found the atmospherics to be highly relaxing, but otherwise, didn’t really touch on the themes and small details that really added to Tamayura. I’ll take a bit of time to reflect on my younger self and note that this was because back then, I was a ways more immature and less attuned for these details.

  • According to those older posts, I was in the middle of applying for medical school at the time (I didn’t outright say so, but back then, I held aspirations for a career in medicine). In these posts, my younger self gives every impression that having Tamayura around was simultaneously helpful in allowing me to unwind and, for the duration of an episode, not worry about what the applications’ outcomes would be, but at the same time, it also reminded me of how much I had missed out on during the summer after I graduated. I write at length lamenting how I wasn’t able to travel. Looking back, I was being very ungrateful. That summer, I did end up heading out over to Jasper and Edmonton during late August for a short, but still relaxing and enjoyable trip, during which I picked up the fourth volume of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan while waiting for a table to open up at The Keg.

  • The me of today knows better, and this is one of the reasons why during the past two years, the inability to go places hasn’t really affected me anywhere as strongly: rather than lament what I can’t do, I’ve focused all of my efforts towards bettering my own situation. This time around, I’m happy to say that my efforts are purely for myself, and in this way, I feel that I was able to apply the lessons from Tamayura to my life more wholly than I had eight years earlier. As it was, being able to go back and rewatch ~Hitotose~~More Aggressive~ has given me the chance to enjoy both series anew: especially in the case of ~More Aggressive~, I feel that I’ve gotten a great deal more out of Tamayura this time around. Going through ~More Aggressive~ again also means that at present, I feel like I’m really able to say I made peace with some of the things I regretted in the past.

  • I suppose this is appropriate: this is, after all, a New Year’s post, and entering 2022, there is much to be grateful for, and much to look forwards to. Back in ~More Aggressive~, during a sparkler competition during the summer festival, Fū is able to experience anew the feelings she had when her father had photographed her during said competition. This side of Fū was one I never expected to see, and as such, knowing that Fū also has a talent for remaining so perfectly still that her movement is imperceptible, adds new dimensionality to her character. In the end, Fū only reaches the quarter finals, but she still has a wonderful time and shows her friends that past memories are a source of inspiration for her now, rather than a cause for grief.

  • Chihiro accompanies Fū back home to Takehara, where she meets Kanae and Mitsuko for the first time. The fireworks photos that Fū had taken turned out quite blurry, and while both Kanae and Fū are discouraged, Fū ultimately picks up a few tips from Riho (use a low ISO, a small to mid-range focal length and turn the flash off), and Riho invites Fū to participate in a photography exhibit she’s presenting in. Fū feels that she has to earn her place at something of this calibre and promises that, if she can shoot good fireworks photos, then she would submit something for the exhibit.

  • When she and Chihiro recall a promise they’d made as children, where they’d try to find a secret spot Fū’s father once brought them to, they express an interest in taking another stab at finding it. However, Kanae had accepted one of Sayomi’s invitations for a random adventure, and Sayomi ends up pulling everyone aside to a spot far from the festival, from which to watch the fireworks. Despite the show being much smaller, Chihiro feels that this is the spot Fū’s father had been thinking of. The two shed tears at the thought of having been fortunate enough to fulfil a long-standing promise, and ultimately, both Fū and Kanae end up with good fireworks photos.

  • Ever since Fū started the Photography Club, her second year back in Takehara has progressed at a breakneck pace, and even in a series as laid-back as Tamayura, time is flying. Autumn soon arrives, bringing with it the Path of Longing festival, and as yet another reminder of how Fū is more proactive now, she and her friends are active participants now, helping to set the event up so that others may enjoy it. Here, Fū and Kanae make one of the bamboo shoots festival ready by drilling their patterns into it, and the choice of art they provide mirror on their being thankful about all of the people in their lives.

  • At Hinomaru’s shop, Fū gets her latest batch of developed photos back. The focus on showing how Fū and her friends spend appreciating ordinary moments like these exemplify how Tamayura places a great deal of worth on everyday occurrences that we take for granted, acting as a reminder to treasure them because nothing can last forever. Even the act of going to a shop in order to get film developed is now something from a bygone era: I vividly remember that in the early 2000s, digital cameras were just coming onto the scene, and in their excitement, my parents bought one, but never bought a proper memory card for it, so said digital camera could only hold around 32 photos in its internal memory. The image quality was also eclipsed by regular film, so the digital camera became more of a novelty. A few years later, digital cameras with an acceptable 4 MP resolution began appearing, and that was when we finally switched over.

  • Nowadays, the average smartphone sports a 12-16 MP back camera, and using onboard algorithms, can take stunning photos. The world has changed dramatically, and the act of sharing photos has now gone from going to a print shop and ordering prints to mail to friends, to throwing them up onto WhatsApp or FaceTime. In this way, the world shown in Tamayura is also a bit of a love letter to an older time, when things were slower and people could really enjoy being in the moment. Upon returning to Café Tamayura, Fū and her friends run into Nozomu Natsume, a severe-looking man who was friends with Fū’s father and Hinomaru back when they were high school students. He’d come to Tamayura to meet Fū, but his blunt manner swiftly angers Kanae: when he critiques the composition of Fū’s photos, Kanae can no longer hold back and counters that there’s a joy in Fū’s photos.

  • However, Fū’s mother points out (likely for out benefit) that Nozomu’s always found it tricky to properly express how he feels about things. To take their mind off things, Fū and Kanae spend the day photographing the Path of Longing, and here, they run into Riho, who’s attempting to capture an image of Momoneko-sama. However, even with her professional experience, a DSLR camera and remote shutter release, Momoneko-sama eludes her best efforts at a photograph. It’s something that further ties Fū together with Riho, being a reminder that there are some subjects that can elude one’s desire to capture, regardless of their skill level, and but this isn’t something to lament.

  • Fū and Kanae head back over to Hoboro with Riho, where they run into Nozomu. When Chimo overhears Nozomu commenting he’ll probably go somewhere else for dinner because the taste of the okonomiyaki he once knew might have changed, she storms out and dares him to at least try the classic okonomiyaki before commenting. In the end, Nozomu finds himself eating his words; Chimo’s creation perfectly matches the okonomiyaki he once remembered. With dinner over, Nozomu offers to cover everyone’s bills, before everyone heads out to take in the gently-lit streets of Takehara’s old town during the Path of Longing festival.

  • As it turns out, Nozomu still fondly recalls his time as a student, indicating that back in those days, he, Hinomaru and Fū’s father had done some pretty bone-headed things together. He apologises to Fū for not being able to offer anything more substantial, but for her, being able to hear about how her father had always been free-spirited and lived his love to the fullest extent possible. It turns out that Nozomu had been glad to finally meet Fū in person, and he asks that she keep on photographing the way she does now. Although people count me as being quite personable, I sometimes do find it hard to express myself, as Nozomu does, and while this does appear to be a shortcoming, Fū’s mother comments on how the harsher Nozomu sounds, the more he’s struggling to put his feelings into words.

  • From what we’ve seen, then, it’s easy to spot that Nozomu greatly misses Fū’s father, and likely refers to him in a distant manner to avoid recalling the grief from his passing, as well. Seeing that his spirit lives on in Fū gives Nozomu something to smile about. Nozomu is yet another example of how patience is vital towards understanding someone: whereas Kanae and Norie struggle owing to outward appearances, Fū’s gentle and patient disposition means that she is able to speak openly with Nozomu, allowing him to open up, as well. Admittedly, this is a skill that I am always in the middle of learning; it’s all too easy to make assumptions about others without making an effort to understand their own circumstance and thoughts, but as I am shown, both in reality and through works like Tamayura, there is always a story behind people worth listening to, and that, upon listening, one may find that people can be more similar, than different, to oneself.

  • When Kanae realises that there is a finite amount of time between the present and her graduation, she is seized with a desire to do a photography trip. Towards ~More Aggressive~‘s final acts, the focus shifts over to Kanae, who has come to cherish the time she’d spent with Fū and the others. Having seen the level of passion and sincerity that each of Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon pursue their interests, Kanae begins to feel a little left behind, as well. The photography trip ultimately becomes a larger experience when Kaoru determines they’ll be hosting another We Exhibition, and Maon’s parents invite everyone to Mitarai for a concert.

  • Kanae’s feelings are something that I’m sure everyone has experienced at some point in their lives; there are days where it can seem like everyone around one has a concrete, well-defined game plan for their future, where as one does not, and for Kanae, she’s also envious of the fact that everyone had a pivotal moment that encouraged them to start on things. However, ~Hitotose~ did indicate that while people pursue their own goals, they may also lose sight of the progress they’ve made, especially if they’ve not reached that goal yet. A major part of things as the New Year approaches is Kanae coming to terms with the fact that graduation is inevitable.

  • I certainly felt as lost as Kanae did eight years earlier; being in open studies was my gap year, and in the moment, it did feel as though I was spinning my tires. In retrospect, that particular gap year ended up setting the stage for my graduate studies work. During the winter term, I enrolled in an iOS class after speaking to my supervisor about my unsuccessful medical school applications, and in that class, I worked on creating a navigation system for a mobile version of the lab’s game engine. This project was quite unrelated to what I would work on in graduate school, but my supervisor ended up using it as a demo for Jay Ingram to show how we could do 3D fly-throughs of anatomical structures. Jay subsequently asked, could the same be done for the brain using a newer, more efficient game engine?

  • I was tasked with finding the answer using Unity, and within a week, I had not only found the answer was “yes”, but I’d also put a prototype together. This laid the groundwork for the Giant Walkthrough Brain, which itself would form the basis for my thesis work. From a career standpoint, this was the turning point, the milestone that Kanae had been seeking out. She ends up speaking with Kaoru and Norie, as well as Maon’s parents, and from the latter, she gets an answer chock-full of wisdom: people hit their milestones when they hit them, and there’s no need to rush things, because everyone’s different. Maon’s father compares it to waiting for the tides; everyone will set sail eventually, but different people set sail at different times. Kanae is encouraged, and comes to realise her magic moment was when she decided to take the plunge and join Fū’s Photography Club.

  • While out and about with Fū earlier, Kanae had encountered a beautiful girl with raven hair singing a song. When this girl spots Kanae, she greets her with a smile before continuing on with her song. Later at the concert, Kanae is surprised to learn that the girl she encountered is actually the performer. As far as I can tell, she’s never named in Tamayura, but the credits lists her as being voiced as Micco, a member of the two-person band Marble. Micco provides the vocals, and on stage, Tatsuya Kikuchi provides the acoustic guitar. I would imagine that the singer’s likeness is to Micco.

  • Maon is overcome with emotion: it turns out this singer is who had inspired her to one day perform at Otome-za, and it can only be described as fate that she’s able to see this singer perform again. To be able to see such a show in the presence of those most important to her is greatly inspiring for Maon, and in this moment, I couldn’t help but feel the warmth, too, attesting to how well Tamayura is able to convey emotions to viewers. Curiously enough, the song she sings here, 希望のカタチ (Hepburn Kibō no katachi, literally “The Shape of Hope”), is Kaoru’s image song. The Tamayura OST is filled to the brim with warm, sentimental and nostalgic songs that have brightened up my day.

  • Having taken several photographs they’re both proud of, Fū and Kanae end up submitting several to Riho’s exhibition. It is clear that Fū and Kanae’s craft have both improved enough so that they feel confident enough to accept an invitation to showcase their work alongside that of a professional. Towards the end of ~More Aggressive~, the pacing accelerates greatly, and afterwards, the We Exhibition is hosted. Something I failed to notice previously was the fact that Kaoru had done a theming this time around: the showcases are all designed around the seasons of Takehara, with sights, scents and tastes surrounding each of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Kaoru has evidently upped her game with this second We Exhibition; it’s more organised and bolder than the first.

  • This time around, Kanae and Komachi are both present to help out, and even Chihiro sends over a special tapestry that she’d made with Tomo, depicting each of Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon in their element. Reflecting the girls’ confidence, this second We Exhibition sees a full house from the very moment it opens, and ~More Aggressive~ spends less time on things, showing how once everyone’s gotten things down, the event proceeds very smoothly. Fū and Kanae are both able to speak of their photographs, Kaoru feels more at home in talking about her potpourri techniques, Norie’s more confident in showcasing her sweets, and Maon’s story is something attendees look forward to.

  • The second We Exhibition feels almost like a side note, secondary to the growth each of Fū, Kanae, Kaoru, Norie and Maon have had: whereas the path to the first We Exhibition had its share of challenges, this time around, things proceed more smoothly, and Fū is able to even include Komachi and Kō’s participation right from the start to create a more cohesive experience for attendees. The second We Exhibition thus feels bigger, more polished and reflect a year’s worth of progress, but at the same time, viewers see a little less of things, too, to show that at this point in time, everyone’s grown enough so putting on an event like this is straightforward.

  • For me, the We Exhibitions have always represented the act of seizing the initiative to do something memorable, and in doing so, came to serve as the culmination of a year’s worth of experiences for Fū and her friends. However, by definition, the nature of the We Exhibition means that Fū has not only made these personal discoveries, but on top of this, is sharing her experiences with the community. By giving back to Takehara, the We Exhibition is the ultimate way of saying thank you to Takehara and its residents for having been an essential part of their journey.

  • This year, Kanae joins Fū and her friends on their New Year’s Eve Shrine visit while Fū’s mother and grandmother speak with Maon’s parents about how far everyone’s come, and how in supporting one another, everyone’s been able to elevate one another to new heights. After praying for another wonderful new year, the girls return to Café Tamayura for some rest. Fū and Kanae spend some time reflecting on the past year, bringing tears to Kaoru, Norie and Maon’s eyes: that Fū was able to shape someone else’s life so profoundly was the surest sign that she’s able to fully stand on her own, and her friends are filled with indescribable joy at this. However, the moment’s calm is shattered when Sayomi shows up with another adventure in mind.

  • Unlike the previous year, where her lethal driving sent her Mazda 5 over a ditch, this time around, Sayomi’s decided to go for an ocean sunrise instead. Compared to the screenshot I had in my original discussion for ~More Aggressive~, this sunrise is far sharper, far richer in colour. My old screenshots look positively drab and faded by comparison. This comes as a result of my using the BDs as a source for my images, but the improved image quality can also be a metaphor for the fact that I return to ~More Aggressive~ with a much different outlook on life, and for this, my resulting experience was far more colourful.

  • The prospect of a new year fills everyone with joy, but it is here that Kanae realises that now that the We Exhibition is in the books, she must turn her eyes towards her own future. Not wanting the year to arrive, Kanae bursts into tears and admits that she’d wanted these joy-filled days with Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon to last forever. Tamayura had held the viewers’ hands throughout its run and made it feel as though we were there alongside everyone, every step of the way. The tears Kanae shed here feel correspondingly tangible, and I was gripped with a wish that Tamayura wouldn’t end, either. Such a moment is befitting of a finale, but ~More Aggressive~ chose to show this as yet another moment to remember: the finale is set during the spring, around Kanae’s graduation.

  • Three months later, Fū and her friends celebrate Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Day), a religious festival in which ornate dolls are laid out to celebrate marriage and family. Fū’s camera has malfunctioned, and she’s taken it in for repairs, so on this Hinamatsuri, there’s no chance to capture photos. This leaves Fū to enjoy the day through her own eyes, a befitting message for ~More Aggressive~‘s finale. Here, Kō and Komachi show up, much to Norie’s chagrin. Kanae appears shortly after with her trademark Pentax Q, intent on photographing everything in sight.

  • As it turns out, Kanae’s made it into her first choice of post secondary and is now awaiting graduation. She’s all smiles now, and the others are happy to hear that Kanae is doing well. The girls subsequently swing by Hoboro, where they learn that Chimo and Riho are going on an all-Japan tour to find the best okonomiyaki places around and gain the inspiration to help Chimo up her okonomiyaki game. This does sound like a wonderful idea, and looking back, okonomiyaki does feel like poutine in the sense that once the basics are present (a wheat-flour pancake with a special sauce and mayonnaise for okonomiyaki, and fries, gravey and cheese curds for poutine), the sky’s the limit. It might be fair to say that besides lighting my desire to visit Japan and eat okonomiyakiTamayura ~More Aggressive~ also made me into a poutine connoisseur.

  • It therefore should not be too surprising that when I hear ~More Aggressive~‘s opening song, Maaya Sakamoto’s Hajimari no Umi, my mind immediately goes to thoughts of enjoying a good poutine and watching a lone motorbike travel along a highway along the Seto Inland Sea. The imagery from the latter comes from Fū’s mother taking her on a short day trip as a means of giving Fū some time to enjoy the world even without camera in hand. They end up visiting Ōkunoshima (more commonly, Bunny Island), a place that was once a chemical weapons development site, but in the present day, it’s become a tourist attraction, famous for its large rabbit population. Even without her camera, Fū greatly enjoys the moment, and it suddenly strikes me that I’d completely forgotten that Fū and her mother visited Ōkunoshima together.

  • The final stop for the day is a gorgeous viewpoint overlooking the Seto Inland Sea: Fū’s mother explains this is where her father had proposed to her, and remarks that Fū had done something momentous, of not only being able to pick her self up after his passing, but also move forward. and seize the future. ~More Aggressive~ ultimately presents the idea that recovery is an ongoing process, and in some cases, being given the right encouragement will allow people to pick themselves back up. Going through Tamayura again has renewed my interests in visiting Japan, and now, on top of an onsen trip, I’d be interested in planning a trip to Takehara and its surroundings, too.

  • This is something I’ll look at in the future; for the present, all eyes are on getting my new place up and running. Back in ~More Aggressive~, Fū’s camera is brought back to an operational state just in time for Kanae’s graduation, and Kanae is now in fine spirits; no matter what happens, they’ll always have their memories of one another. Kanae will always think of Fū as President Potte, and several classmates, upon overhearing this, applaud appreciatively. Fū later returns to the Photography Club’s room and promises that she’ll do her best for the club in the new year, before expressing thanks to everyone who’d made the past year such a memorable one.

  • With this, my time in ~More Aggressive~ draws to a close. I will note that I have previously written about all four parts of ~Graduation Photo~, and reading through my old posts for each of Signs, Echoes, Longing and Tomorrow, I am happy to say that in graduate school, I found my path anew, and moreover, it was through ~Graduation Photo~ that I determined on the career that I would work towards. Altogether, Tamayura is a series that accompanied me through some tougher, uncertain times, and for having been a constant source of encouragement, positivity and inspiration, I count Tamayura a masterpiece for having tangibly improved my life and shaping my world views.

  • With 2021 in the rear-view mirror, I can say that the past year had been unexpected, full of surprises. There were some low points, but there were also highs, as well. I believe that I have succeeded in meeting the resolutions that I had set for myself, and exiting 2021, I take with me several new memories and experiences I am immensely grateful for. The only reason that I was able to accomplish my goals was because of consistent support from family and friends, as well as my peers in the anime community. For this, I’d like to thank my readers for accompanying me through the previous year.

  • To all of my readers, old and new, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year! 2022 is a brand-new slate, just waiting to be explored, and while there are circumstances now that can make some things challenging, readers should be familiar with the fact that I am an optimist and a pragmatist through and through. Irrespective of what challenges lie ahead, it is my responsibility to handle things in a professional and measured manner. As such, I welcome 2022 warmly: no one will know what 2022 will entail, but the constant is that I whatever I get out of this new year is going to be determined how much I put in, and I look forwards to yet another year with both the people around me, and you, the reader.

Here I now stand, at the beginning of a new year. When I began 2021, I made the resolution to be “open to whatever opportunities arise that require my skills” from a professional growth standpoint, while my personal goal had been “maintain strong relationships with those who matter to me, such as keeping in touch with old friends”. I believe I’ve succeeded on both counts: I’ve become somewhat familiar with Java server and Android development as a result of having taken up a new developer position back in April, and spent some time catching up with friends as able while forging new connections. 2021 was also surprising in that I became a homeowner; between a new job and a new home, the past year has definitely been full of surprises, surprises that I certainly hadn’t foreseen coming into 2021. It is hard to say for sure what the future entails, but as Tamayura suggests, the future is friendly to those with the resolve to take those first steps forward, and a willingness to let others into their lives. As such, my 2022 resolutions are simply to be my best self. That is to say, I will strive to work hard and do right by those around me to build the best possible future, all the while enjoying the most of the present. The themes and learnings from Tamayura have had a nontrivial impact on my life, having found relevance from the time I was a student, right through to the present. ~More Aggressive~ had helped me to take a step back and count my blessings at a time when my future seemed uncertain. At the time, I had graduated from the Health Sciences programme with an Honours Degree, but at the time, I was not sure whether or not I’d be pursuing a career in medicine or software development. Between this, all of my friends parting ways and a failed kokuhaku resulting from a flood that ravaged the province, I’d been feeling very down to the point of sitting out all anime that summer. I ended up learning about ~More Aggressive~ once my gap year started (during which I was taking courses to satisfy medical school requirements and for an eventual entry into computer science), and while watching the anime, I found myself appreciating the sort of experience that Fū went through whilst leading the Photography Club. The cathartic, gentle atmosphere helped to take my mind off the fact that I’d just lost an entire summer, and although things wouldn’t truly recover until the next spring, when I was offered admissions to graduate school and accepted an invitation to work on the Giant Walkthrough Brain, the relaxing and moving story within ~More Aggressive~ did help to get me through a difficult winter. Having the chance to rewatch ~More Aggressive~ under dramatically different circumstances has only resulted in increasing my appreciation of this second season, and this time around, I was able to pick up on nuances that I missed out on eight years earlier: while things were quite tough back then, accepting an opportunity to better my situation via graduate studies set me on a course to where I presently am, similarly to how Fū was able to create new joys and memories with Kanae as a result of her decision to start up a Photography Club.

Yakunara Mug Cup Mo Niban Kama: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” –Oscar Wilde

With the culture festival in full swing, Himeno and the others immerse themselves into their class activities, while Toko presents a bowl of her own style for the Pottery Club and impresses her rival. During the culture festival, Toko’s grandfather also shows up, but asks that his visit be a secret from Toko. Later, Himeno’s father visits, as well, and he finds a failed piece from Himena: she’d kept it to reminder herself of the importance of being humble. Later, Himeno becomes preoccupied when her father sets aside a spot for one of her creations, and she looks after Arai Kentarō, a well-known actor who’s also friends with Toko’s grandfather. Himeno takes Arai over to Toko’s place so he can visit Toko’s grandfather, and later, Toko learns that her grandfather had actually been worried about Toko not finding her own way in pottery. When he’d seen her brilliant red bowl, he was deeply moved. Toko later recounts this to Himeno after overhearing that Himeno’s become preoccupied with putting a masterpiece that she feels would be worthy of her parents. Toko’s story encourages Himeno to be herself, and after visiting Ximena, who’s created sunshine-filled dinner bowls, Himeno is inspired to try something exciting. At Naoko’s suggestion, Himeno decides to create mugs for those around her, and experiments with a wide range of shapes and sizes. Himeno’s single-minded focus on her project causes her father to worry, but in the end, the mugs come out remarkably well. During a Christmas Eve party, Himeno decides that Ximena’s bowls will occupy the spot her father had set out, because she intends for her mugs to be used; each mug was shaped based on its user’s traits, and Himeno herself created a mug with a kohiki finish. After the party ends, Himeno puts her mug to the test and enjoys a hot beverage with her family, bringing Niban Kama to a finish. This second season of Yakunara Mug Cup Mo continues on in its predecessor’s footsteps, and despite being a thinly-veiled promotion for Tajimi, Niban Kama continues to capture the importance of being able to impart one’s own style on their pursuits.

The notion of being able to find one’s own approach towards something is a common theme in fiction; pressure to meet expectations and the resulting stifling of creativity and enjoyment isn’t a particularly novel concept, but differing contexts and characters mean that every variation of this theme is worth watching. In Niban Kama, while Himeno has become better versed with pottery-making, hearing the stories about her mother’s legendary craft is enough to dissuade her. She wonders if she’ll ever reach a point where she might be able to differentiate herself from her mother, and these doubts cause Himeno to struggle with pottery. However, Niban Kama emphasises that what Himeno is going through is not something she needs to deal with on her own. Toko has a similar challenge, and despite possessing a refined skillset where pottery is concerned, she’s long been concerned with making works that her grandfather would approve of. However, it turns out Toko’s grandfather had simply been critical of her work so she would get the basics down, allowing her to create anything of her choosing: to Toko’s grandfather, the red bowl was symbolic of the fact that Toko could follow her own style and be successful. Having found her own path, Toko shares this with Himeno, knowing that the latter is similarly struggling, and in conjunction with seeing Ximena’s own spirited creations, Himeno finally finds her groove. Unconstrained by what to make, Himeno decides to follow her heart, and in the process, she is able to discover what pottery means, both to her mother and herself; it is about the pursuit of creating something wonderful, of being immersed in the process and seeing the smiles of those who view the final product. In this way, Himeno is able to overcome this particular barrier by the end of Niban Kama: the mugs she creates have her own distinct touch to them, and rather than worry about expectations, Himeno is able to appreciate that what her mother had seen in pottery was the ability to let loose and make things to one’s content.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been about a month and a half since I last wrote about Niban Kama: unlike conventional series, where I write about my impressions after three and explain my rationale behind continuing, Niban Kama and Yakunara Mug Cup Mo are both half-length series, so there was more content to write about after the halfway point. Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is a bit more of an obscure series, and there’s been next to no discussion of the series anywhere else concerning the series’ themes, motifs and elements that make it standout. I don’t count “reactions” as legitimate discussion because it doesn’t leave readers with any insight into what an individual actually made of something.

  • While Toko is distracted by her grandfather’s apparent distance, she nonetheless does her best to ensure that the culture festival events are successful. Toko’s grandfather had actually stopped by earlier to check things out but hadn’t been too keen on letting Toko know, and as a result, Toko continues to believe that her work is becoming unsatisfactory. The reason why Niban Kama spent a considerable amount of time on Toko is because despite the clear parallels between her situation and Himeno’s, Toko is a significantly more experienced potter.

  • As such, Niban Kama spends a bit more time on Toko because it allows the series to show how even people who are quite skilled can run into roadblocks. This idea is further reinforced by the fact that during the culture festival, Himeno’s father shows up and shows one of Himena’s old creations – a failed bowl. It turns out that one day, she’d gotten careless and as a reminder to herself, decided to apply a heat treat anyways so that the lesson would become permanent.

  • While Himeno spent much of Niban Kama learning about her mother’s works and doing her best to help Toko out, her own journey begins after her father deliberately sets aside an opening on the shelf, for the day when Himeno makes something she feels is worthy of being placed there alongside Himena’s creations.. This initially does place a great deal of pressure on Himeno, who experiences considerable difficulty in trying to come up with a piece worthy of the position, but rather than allow Himeno to dwell on things for too long, Niban Kama almost immediately has Himeno experience things that help her to regroup.

  • The first is meeting Arai Kentarō, an actor who had once trained under Toko’s grandfather for a film where he was starring as a potter. Arai’s quite well known in the entertainment world, and Himeno’s grandmother is a big fan. As it turns out he’d come by to visit Toko’s grandfather, and the two go back quite a ways, so when they reunite, they speak of the older days quite fondly. Thanks to Himeno’s efforts, Arai is able to locate the Aoki residence, and he later gives Himeno the autograph her grandmother was looking for.

  • While observing Toko in her craft, Arai comments that Toko’s grandfather must be a little too strict in his approach, but Toko swiftly mentions that this is correct. The moment speaks to both the fact that Toko’s grandfather is highly experienced, as well as the fact that while Toko deeply respects him, she’s also become a little nervous about how he receives her work. However, this turns out to be a miscommunication on both their parts; Toko’s grandfather had wanted Toko to begin developing her own style, while Toko herself believed her craft was slipping.

  • After Arai heads off, immensely grateful to have had the chance to talk to Toko’s grandfather again, Toko and her grandfather share a quiet moment together under the autumn leaves. It is here that Toko learns her grandfather had been overjoyed to see her orange bowl at the culture festival – the bold colours represent a dramatic departure from Toko’s usual choice of blues, and as it turns out, Toko had been a little worried about her grandfather’s expectations since the first season, when she’d mentioned that she was a little uncomfortable in meeting up with him prior to the competition, since he was a judge.

  • Toko’s grandfather brings her to Eihō-ji, a temple just north of central Tajimi, within walking distance of the places Himeno and her friends hang out in. This temple was founded in 1313 and is renowned for its gardens: by autumn, it is especially beautiful. Niban Kama‘s timeframe allows Yakunara Mug Cup Mo to showcase a side of Tajimi that was not seen during the spring and summer, and the colours here are symbolic of Toko’s transition to finding her own style.

  • When Toko learns from Naoko that Himeno is having a bit of a tough go at things, she decides to take her out for some air and brings her to a few places, including a local café called hinatabocco, which has fabulous-looking crepes as a part of a promotion. Here, amidst the ambience, Toko shows Himeno her latest purchase and recounts her conversation with her grandfather. They enjoy the food before setting off for the café Himeno’s father runs, and here, I will remark that because of Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s tie-in to Tajimi’s promotional board, real-world locations are rendered precisely as they are. In shows like Yuru Camp△, facsimiles of the places are used instead to avoid copyright issues.

  • As Niban Kama continues, the progression of the seasons become more apparent: the brilliant leaves give way to more muted colours as the weather continues to cool. Some of the anime I’d previously seen had utilised the seasons as a character in its own right, creating a setting that changes dramatically enough as to feel like a completely different place, but in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, the seasons act as a subtle metaphor for the passage of time, and noticing how the weather’s transitioning over from autumn to winter gives a sense of how long it can take for one to regroup and find their pacing anew.

  • Upon hearing Toko’s story in full, Himeno is deeply moved, enough to start crying. After Niban Kama is in the books, it is clear while Yakunara Mug Cup Mo isn’t a Tamayura equivalent quite to the same extent as I had initially thought, there are plenty of similarities between the two works. Both series do deal with loss of a loved one and picking up a skill their loved one had once excelled in, to the point of being able to learn more about their loved ones through making the same discoveries, encountering the same failures and basking in the same triumphs as their loved ones did. Similarly, it is through support from friends and family that Himeno and Fū are able to find their footing anew, and both series has plenty of humour to accompany the more introspective, emotional moments.

  • Overall, both series have their own unique merits, as well, and this is what make both worth watching. One of the strong points I quite like about Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is Naoko’s role in things – while she’s not a member of the Pottery Club, she shows up to accompany Himeno during club activities, and observant viewers will find that Naoko is seen doing activities of her own in the process. Naoko’s known Himeno for a long time and deeply cares for her, so when Toko phones her later during the evening to provide her an update on how Himeno’s spirits seem to be lifting, Naoko is overjoyed.

  • Himeno ends up deciding to make some mugs as her next big project, and while the prospect of making something of a high enough quality to stand alongside the mugs her mother made make this a bit of a daunting task, Himeno does end up doing things in her own way – during club activities, she splits her time between honing her technique and spending time with the others. It is not lost on me that in Niban Kama, Mika’s had a more reduced presence despite being the most boisterous and outgoing of the characters. I imagine that this is because Niban Kama is a little more introspective, and Mika’s personality means that she’s less likely to be discouraged by things like expectations; she’s shown to be superbly creative and has no qualms building whatever comes to mind.

  • The Himeno of Niban Kama is a ways more experienced with clay and pottery than she’d been during her first attempt, enough to give viewers the assurance that technical skill isn’t going to be as much of a concern now as it had been during Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s first season. A longstanding complaint that is often levelled at slice-of-life series is how characters can seemingly improve out of left field without having demonstrated any time commitment on-screen, but I’ve found these to be invalid on the virtue that anime don’t typically show all moments all the time. In the case of slice-of-life name, moments pivotal to character growth are shown over things like practise; this is why K-On! chose to focus more on the misadventures Yui and the others have, over them actually practising their instruments.

  • Similarly, while Himeno’s definitely put in the effort to improve her pottery craft, moments like her stopping by with Toko, Mika and Naoko to check out Ximena’s work are more important to her growth. In Tajimi, Ximena’s begun working on some dinner bowls with a very warm, colourful flair about them – they’re very colourful, and Ximena merges Mexican artistic styles together with Japanese customs to create a miniature version of the set after learning about the Japanese custom of leaving offerings for the deceased. The sort of creativity seen in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo celebrates being innovative and bold to accentuate the fact that in pottery, there aren’t limits on what one can create.

  • Himeno’s father worries that Himeno is more concerned about those around her than herself and worries that he hadn’t done enough to encourage her, but the reality is that ever since taking her first steps into pottery, Himeno has begun to find her own path. Having supportive friends in her corner helps, and it is Naoko’s suggestion, for Himeno to make a cup, that sets in motion Niban Kama‘s final storyline. Naoko’s reasoning is that Himeno’s now tried her hand at all manner of pottery save cups, and Himeno had been avoiding them becuse she’s worried about having to make something that could meet the expectations of those around her.

  • In this post for Niban Kama, I suddenly realise I’ve not featured many “funny face” moments. They are considerably rarer because the second half of Niban Kama is more focused on how Himeno begins to find herself after spending time thinking about things on her own, and spending time with those around her. However, after Himeno heads home for the evening, she finds everyone’s gathered, sharing old memories of their time as students, and instructor Mami becomes embarrassed when one of her old poems are mentioned. Seeing the spirits here is the catalyst that gives Himeno the inspiration she needs to get started.

  • Thus, Himeno begins to really immerse herself into her project: we’ve not seen her this excited about pottery since the competition, and this change is quite noticeable. One small detail I’ve always enjoyed about Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is the fact that Naoko can always be seen doing something that isn’t pottery while visiting the Pottery Club: earlier, she’s reading a book, and here, she appears to be working on a model of some sort. The others are impressed with how far Himeno has come, and while figuring out the shape for one of her cups, Himeno suddenly squashes it.

  • Toko remarks that being able to know when to restart is a mark of maturity in pottery, and Himeno is surprised that everyone’s watching her so intently. That Himeno is so concentrated on her task even makes Mika a little jealous, and as Himeno stays to continue on with her project, Mika conveys this as much to Toko. While it’s only touched on for the briefest of moments, Mika’s remarks to Toko make it quite concrete that making these cups for act as a bit of a turning point for Himeno: previously, she only had a mild interest in pottery, even though she’d felt it had connected her to her mother.

  • However, now that she’s doing pottery for the sake of doing pottery on top of pursuing it as a means of understanding Himena better, Himeno’s enthusiasm soars. Mami shows up to have a chat with Himeno, but it takes Himeno a full five minutes to realise anyone’s there. She asks Mami for a bit of permission to stick around a little longer, and there’s a spirited piece of incidental music that accompanies the scene to emthasise how engaged Himeno is. It looks like Niban Kama‘s soundtrack will release with the BD on January 26, 2022, the same day that The Aquatope on White Sand‘s soundtrack is releasing.

  • I look forwards to both, and here, I will remark that I’m glad that Niban Kama remained one of the hidden gems this season: it is always pleasant when the folks with a propensity for criticising every pixel of every anime each season overlook something, leaving others to enjoy things in peace. Niban Kama is definitely one of those series which, despite being otherwise unremarkable, remains a satisfying series to watch. For me, seeing Himeno find her own rhythm was the series’ highlight, and the payoff, in seeing her marvel at how well her cups turned out, was well worth the journey.

  • The Himeno at the end of Niban Kama has evidently come a very long way since she began her journey at Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s start: in the first season, her creation had been an effort to see if she could create something that could resonate with those who gazed upon it, and while she was successful, Himeno also continued to feel like she was in her mother’s shadows. By this point in time, this doubt is gone: Himeno’s cups show that she is able to be herself when making anything, and after the heat treat has been applied, the entire Pottery Club is happy things turned out as well as they did.

  • Because this is a momentous occasion, and because enough time has now passed for December to have arrived, Himeno decides to host a Christmas Eve party at the family café, during which she will unveil what is to go into that particular spot on the shelf. Everyone’s present, and prior to the unveiling, everyone is able to settle down and enjoy some of the cupcakes that Himeno’s father had made. Niban Kama‘s timing couldn’t be better; the fact that Himeno’s doing this so close to Christmas coincides with Christmas in reality, and I’ve always found that Christmas episodes releasing close to Christmas really accentuate the season’s spirits.

  • I cannot help but wonder if Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s release schedule was deliberately structured so that the two seasons were more seasonal, time appropriate: the first season definitely conveyed a sense of spring and summer when it had aired during the spring of 2021, and Niban Kama similarly follows the seasons. This approach would be quite clever in allowing the series to promote Tajimi throughout the seasons, and back in Niban Kama proper, the moment of truth is finally nigh: everyone’s anticipation is tangible in the moments leading up to the reveal.

  • Himeno’s big reveal ends up being surprising in many ways: she chooses Ximena’s sun-themed dining set for the spot, since the vivid colours convey a sense of warmth that make them standout. By going against expectations, Himeno shows that she’s got a creative mind, as well, and where allowed to flourish, Himeno can be very creative. I imagine that the small set Ximena had designed really captured Himeno’s heart and led her to believe that having something so different than her mother’s style could also be a source of inspiration.

  • However, before Himeno’s father can be too disappointed, Himeno also unveils the cups she’s made for everyone. It turns out she’d glazed them in accordance to their personalities, and having been inspired by Ximena, even created a small cup for her mother. The making of these cups sees Himeno at her absolute happiest all season, and the enjoyment she had in the process shows in the final products, which impresses even Toko. While Niban Kama might not have had a competition to round things out, Himeno’s own journey proved to be a very rewarding and heartwarming one to follow.

  • As it turns out, Himeno’s own cup uses a kohiki style: Toko remarks it’s an advanced technique where an iron-rich clay is covered with a white slip and then a translucent glaze. The style was inspired by Korean techniques, and besides signifying that Himeno’s craft has improved, the fact that Himeno chose a white colour symbolises how she’s a blank sheet of paper right now: over time, the kohiki finish will imbibe the colours of whatever Himeno’s favourite drinks are, and so, this choice mirrors how Himeno’s starting fresh, with the potential to go anywhere she desires.

  • Himeno and the others enjoy their Christmas Eve party, before Himeno and her family share some coffee together. Here, I’ll stop briefly to remark that I’m now almost a third of the way into this vacation time. Since I’ve been working from home, the main difference now is that I get to sleep in a little more, and I have an opportunity to spend time with my books, as well as lounge around a little more on the days I’m home. While I normally don’t idle, being able to loaf around from time to time isn’t so bad because it represents a nice change of pace. I did spend the whole of yesterday out and about: waiting for furniture company to deliver the other bed and setting up a new Asus Zen Aio for my parents took the balance of the day, but today was a ways quieter, making it perfect for wrapping up another post, and browsing the Steam Store now that the Winter Sale is here.

  • I also wound up picking up a new Logitech G203 to complement the EVGA mechanical keyboard I have: the mouse was on sale for half off), and although my local branch was out of stock, I’ve since placed an order for it. Two games have caught my eye: ШХД: ЗИМА/It’s Winter and theHunter: Call of the Wild. Both are atmospheric games that appear in line with what I’m expecting out of a good solo experience, and their price histories suggest I should be able to get a good deal on the latter. The former doesn’t look like it’s going to get a discount based on price histories, but considering the developer’s other title, Routine Feat, is free, I have no qualms paying full price for It’s Winter to support the developer. I’ll likely pick up both tomorrow, ahead of Christmas Eve: most of the day is booked, since we’re getting our beds assembled, but I will have some time in the evening to myself.

  • As warmth returns to Tajimi, Himeno, Toko and Mika prepare to return to the Pottery Club’s building and make new stuff, while Naoko accompanies them. With this, Niban Kama draws to a close, and overall, I’m very happy with how this series turned out: altogether, this series earns its A- (3.7 of 4, or 8.5 of 10) for its sincere portrayal of discovery, inclusion of technical elements to introduce complete novices like myself to pottery, and highlight some of the features of Tajimi. Here, I remark that I’ve yet to actually watch any of the live action segments, and since I did mention earlier that I’ve got a bit of extra time in the present, it would be nice to go through those for the most complete Yakunara Mug Cup Mo experience.

Altogether, Niban Kama proves an excellent follow-up to Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s first season by consolidates the series’ messages and providing Himeno an opportunity to grow. In the first season, Himeno just began the hobby and only recently discovered the joys of being able to see something from start to finish, but her centrepiece then had been influenced by Himena’s style. Niban Kama is all about Himeno finding her own way through the creation of new mugs; these mugs give the series its namesake, and now that Himeno has made something from the bottom of her heart, viewers are assured that she’s in a place to continue pursuing pottery without being weighted down by expectations and pressure. This in turn would really open the floor up for Himeno to create works that make those around her happy, but at the same time, the outcome of Niban Kama also means that from a growth perspective, Himeno’s also hit a milestone of sorts: she’s found her own way to pottery, and while there is plenty of opportunity for her to grow and improve, through making things for those around her and for competitions, as well as through learning more about the pottery her mother had created (and the stories between them), I would feel that Yakunara Mug Cup Mo has done its part as an anime. Himeno’s come quite a ways in her enjoyment for pottery and what it means, both for herself and those around her, and similarly, the series’ accompanying live-action segment was done to both promote the voice actresses, as well as acting as an incentive for viewers to visit Tajimi. As enjoyable as Niban Kama (and Yakunara Mug Cup Mo) have been, I do not feel that it is likely that will be a continuation to this series, but folks curious to see where the stories go would probably find their answers within the manga, which began running in 2012 and continues to this day: there’s a total of thirty-three volumes at the time of writing. When Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s first season finished airing, the city of Tajimi made the first seven volumes of the manga freely available on their website, and moreover, these are the English-translated versions. Owing to my schedule, which has been quite busy, I regret to say that I’m only about halfway through the first volume. On the flip-side, today is Christmas Eve, and that means I’m only about halfway through my winter vacation, leaving me a reasonable amount of time to make some headway in the manga.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Tamayura ~Hitotose~, On Rediscovering Newfound Happiness in the Ordinary and A Ten Year Anniversary Reflection

“As you pursue your dreams, your worries and cares may prevent you from realising it, but others can see how brilliantly you are shining.” –Sayomi Hanawa

Towards the end of her time in middle school, Fū is surprised when her younger brother finds old albums of their late father. Seeing the joy in these old photographs prompts Fū to take up photography again, and she ends up sending photographs to the professional photographer, Riho. Riho’s reply eventually prompts Fū, her brother and mother to move back to Takehara, her father’s hometown. Here, Fū is reunited with her childhood friend, Kaoru Hanawa, and during their peaceful days together with Norie and Maon, Fū comes to rediscover the beauty in the town that her father grew up in, reconnecting with him and rediscovering the joys that photography had brought them, from visiting Maon’s family over in Mitarai, to watching Norie have a cook-off with Komachi, and going along with Sayomi’s adventures. Kaoru also manages to fulfil Fū’s wish of attending the Path of Longing festival together, and as the year draws to a close, she also organises the We Exhibition to celebrate everyone’s own unique talents before celebrating the arrival of a new year together with everyone. Tamayura ~Hitotose~ (~Hitotose~ from here on out for brevity) is the first full-length Tamayura presentation that aired a year after the OVAs were released, detailing Fū’s return to Takehara and the wonderful adventures she has here while retreading the paths her father once did, and in doing so, Fū is able to connect with her father through photography, a hobby that he’d been fond of precisely because every photograph provides a permanent and visceral means of recalling of emotions and feelings in a given moment. During its run, ~Hitotose~ conveyed the idea that even in death, people are not truly gone from one’s life; by taking up photography again, Fū demonstrates the sort of courage needed to take that difficult step forwards with her life. In doing so, Fū finds that embracing her father’s old hobby means a part of him will live in on her, and at the same time, Fū is also able to create new memories that her father would’ve been proud of – as she explores Takehara and its surroundings, Fū is able to take the sort of photos that bring people together, much as her father had with his photographs, and moreover, for this particular adventure, Fū isn’t alone; she’s surrounded by people who love her dearly and are always happy to share time with her.

Taking that first step forwards to bring oneself, and others joy, is a recurring theme in ~Hitotose~; each of Fū, Kaoru, Norie, Maon and Chihiro undergo this process during the series run. For Fū, it’s photographing memorable moments. Norie takes up baking sweets because she’d seen how it can brighten up someone’s day, and ends up befriending Maon after the latter hears her out about sweets after Norie had suffered a rejection from someone she had a crush on. Maon herself is very fond of starting new hobbies, but is also an introvert who finds it tricky to express herself until meeting Norie. Chihiro had befriended Fū back when they were classmates, but like Fū, she struggles to make friends. After Fū leaves, Chihiro resolves to be more forward, and ends up coming to know another classmate, Tomo, better. Kaoru has a fondness for scents and enjoys experimenting with potpourri, but otherwise wonders what her future will entail. In the end, her desire to do something special for those around her leads to the creation of the We Exhibition, a culmination of the journey in ~Hitotose~: by taking the time to explore their interests, at their own pace, each of Fū, Norie and Maon further their craft to the point where they are confident in presenting at the We Exhibition. For Kaoru, the We Exhibition is also a glimpse into her own future. While she greatly enjoys making pleasant-smelling scents, Kaoru wonders if her interests could yield a career, and seeing how devoted each of Norie, Fū and Maon are initially leaves Kaoru feeling left behind. These feelings actually form the basis for Kaoru’s own career progression, and so, in planning out the We Exhibition, from securing the venue, to determining how the space should be used and scheduling things out, hints of Kaoru’s future career are shown here: much as how preparing potpourri requires precision and an eye for detail, organising events requires a similar level of finesse. Thus, while Kaoru herself might feel down that she has no passion equivalent to Maon’s interest in the fine arts Fū’s photography or Norie’s love for making sweets, the skills and mindset she has cultivated from making scents, as well as a lifetime of being subject to Sayomi’s out-of-the-blue adventures leave her with a distinct skillset of her own, and although she has yet to be aware of this, Kaoru’s decision to put the We Exhibition together is a showcase of where her talents lie: making the arrangements for the sort of events that help others to celebrate their own successes.

As one progresses, the progress they’re making might not be immediately visible to oneself. Kaoru’s planning of the We Exhibition was a success, although she counts it a success in that it was a fantastic way to showcase Fū’s photographs, Norie’s sweets, Maon’s recital and her own potpourri, rather than her ability to organise and set up events of this scale. For Fū, her photographs in the moment are things she’s doing to capture joy in a moment for the sake of being in that moment. Norie’s only concern is making the best possible sweets so she can see the smiles on the faces of those who enjoy them. However, from another perspective, by pursuing their goals so earnestly, and with such passion, each of Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon grow from their experiences. No one else puts this better than Sayomi: Kaoru’s older sister might be viewed as a disturber-of-the-peace with her frequent unexpected adventures that somehow always are more strenuous than they should be, but being older than the others, Sayomi also has more life experience, and correspondingly, wisdom. After her attempts at taking everyone to see New Year’s sunrise from the mountaintop fails when she backs her vehicle into a ditch, Sayomi mentions that down here in the valley, the mountains must remain unaware of how majestic it is when those first rays of light illuminate it. In a similar way, while Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon have grown over the year since Fū returns, they are so focused on their goals and one another that they don’t spot how far they’ve come, as well. This is a beautiful thing in and of itself, but Sayomi’s observation is also is contingent on one important thing – being together with people one cares most about. The mountain cannot see its own majesty, but observers in the valley below can, and in this way, ~Hitotose~ suggests that it is ultimately companionship that allows people to put their best foot forward: having others around to celebrate successes together, offer feedback when one is stuck, or provide support to get past more difficult times is what allows individuals to ultimately grow. While Fū’s journey was always going to be a challenging one, being together with Kaoru, Norie and Maon allows everyone to share in their adventures: each individual offers a unique perspective on things that end up helping to encourage then others on their own journeys.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Back in August, I wrote about the Tamayura OVAs after realising that despite greatly enjoying ~Hitotose~ and all of the subsequent works, I’d never actually gotten around to actually viewing the original OVAs, where everything began. In retrospect, the OVAs were surprisingly well-written, featuring many of the details that would become central plot elements to the remainder of Tamayura. With this in mind, Tamayura is slowly-paced enough such that folks who didn’t watch the OVAs will still have a good idea of what’s going on in ~Hitotose~: in 2011, I started ~Hitotose~ without having first watched the OVAs, and I had no trouble following along.

  • The first episode opens back in Shioiri, Fū’s old town, when she was still a middle school student. Back then, Fū wore her hair a bit longer, but after Kō manages to find their father’s old Rollei 35S, Fū suddenly takes up photography anew, feeling that her father would’ve wanted her to continue to find new happiness in life. Here, Fū hangs out with her best friend, Chihiro – while resembling The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Tsuruya, Chihiro is actually quite sensitive and is quick to tears. It is Chihiro who comes up with Fū’s motto, to be more “aggressive”, and before Fū is set to return to Takehara, Chihiro gifts Fū a special hand-made holder for the ticket with no destination that Riho had given her.

  • Thus begins Fū’s journey to Takehara from Shioiri: to symbolise a new chapter in her life, Fū cuts her hair short, and prepares to set off. This scene of Fū was prominently featured as key art prior to ~Hitotose~‘s release, and the moment is meant to accentuate that while her journey may be a bit of a lonely one, the destination will be anything but lonely. Before we delve further into ~Hitotose~, it is worth mentioning the meaning of hitotose (ひととせ): for the longest time, I’d never given any thought as to what it meant. However, in this context, hitotose simply means “a year” (一年); there’s nothing particularly deep or meaningful about the title, which simply refers to the fact that this is Fū’s first year back in Takehara.

  • Once Fū returns to Takehara, Kaoru greets her, starting the year off. The events of the Tamayura OVAs are set after Fū’s return, and presumably, before the first episode; by ~Hitotose~‘s first episode, Kaoru, Norie and Maon are all familiar with Fū. here, the girls greet Fū on their way to classes; the warehouse district can plainly be seen, and this historic section of town is prominently featured throughout Tamayaura in general, being the home of Café Tamayura, Hoboro and Maestro’s Sunrise Photography store. Amidst these gentle streets, Fū gradually comes to rediscover the joys of this town, and because every day brings something new to the table, Fū rarely is seen without her father’s Rollei 35S.

  • Maestro is an old friend of the Sawataris, having known Fū’s father since their time as high school students. While he’s a bit of a womaniser, Maestro is also an expert with cameras and is the first person Fū counts on to get it repaired. On more ordinary days, Fū takes her film here to be developed. One of the big joys about Tamayura was an appreciation of the mundane; even something as simple as receiving prints for the photos one has developed can become exciting, since with a film camera, one can never be too sure how a picture turned out until it is developed. For Fū and her friends, this anticipation becomes something to look forwards to: successful photos bring joy, and even the botched photos can create memories.

  • When I first watched ~Hitotose~, I remembered Norie best for being rambunctious and noisy to an excessive degree, while Maon was always quiet and preferred to communicate through whistling. All of the characters in Tamayura are adorable and admirable in their own way; while Norie might be overly energetic, she’s got a talent for making sweets and is always enthusiastic about learning from those more experienced than herself. On the other hand, while Maon might be taciturn and shy, she does open up around her friends and demonstrates a plethora of interests. Here, the girls are trying Fū’s grandmother’s latest creation at the Café Tamayura; after moving back to Takehara, Fū’s mother began working at the family’s café, citing it to be a lifelong dream.

  • In the warehouse district, Chimo “Hoboro” Yakusa’s okonomiyaki shop is the definitive pig-out spot: Chimo serves the best okonomiyaki anywhere in Takehara, and the girls often swing by for a bite if they’re looking for something hearty: Chimo is always experimenting with new recipes, and one of the most enticing okonomiyaki on the menu features prawns. Moreover, the portions here are enormous, worthy of Adam Richman’s Man v. Food. It suddenly hits me that when I watched ~Hitotose~ ten years earlier, I’d not even seen Man v. Food yet; I’m not able to remember how the show caught my attention, but I would come to enjoy it greatly, since the food challenges always acted as a hilarious metaphors for what I was going through at the time, from assignments and projects, right up to the MCAT. I still remember thinking to myself when watching ~Hitotose~ back then, that I’d like to try out okonomiyaki; that particular dream was realised a few summers ago while I’d been in Osaka.

  • When I was watching ~Hitotose~ ten years ago, I would’ve been enrolled in Data Structures III, Japanese, scientific inquiry, a special topics course for research and for kicks, a course on primates. Back then, my days consisted of going through my classes, keeping up with assignments, and in any extra time I had, working on the agent-based model of a sodium-potassium pump using game engines. Life was pretty routine, and the main thing I looked forwards to each month was grabbing lunch at a Korean BBQ joint on campus. Armed with the life experience I had up to that point, I concluded that ~Hitotose~ was about pursuit of one’s dreams even if the future was not fully certain. The me of a decade earlier would earn partial credit for this, and I remark that the only thing that’s really changed is that I articulate my thoughts a little differently now than I did ten years earlier.

  • That Tamayura‘s themes have remained consistent over time speaks to the series’ strengths in being able to clearly convey its intended messages. One evening, the girls end up doing a sleepover, and Sayomi,  Kaoru’s older sister, drops in unannounced to disturb the peace. With her gentle aura, love for adventure and doting personality, I have previously stated that Sayomi greatly resembles GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto. Kaoru is utterly embarrassed by Sayomi’s antics, and everyone generally fears her adventures, which can be quite lengthy and exhausting because Sayomi has a tendency to underestimate how long they’d take. There’s something a bit old-fashioned about Sayomi that I’m particularly fond of: she reminds me of the girls that old, nostalgic love songs often mention for reasons that, despite my otherwise firm command of language would suggest, I cannot find the words to describe.

  • However, for the trouble Sayomi causes, she’s also quite wise and offers Fū advice, as well as encourages her. Here, Fū decides to snap a moment of her friends during their sleepover together. For Fū, no moment is too trivial to photograph – photographs in Tamayura represent a physical, tangible memory perfectly preserved on something permanent, and moreover, Fū’s use of a film camera means that moments can be captured precisely as they were. If Fū messes up a photo, the results remain with her, but these photos end up being cherished just as much as the ones that turn out well; each of Fū’s photos evoke the feelings that were in that moment when they were taken.

  • Throughout ~Hitotose~, Fū offers monologues that describe how she’s feeling in a given moment, and more importantly, what she got out of an experience. ~Hitotose~ shows how the unexpected should be taken in stride and embraced. Here, Norie, Maon and Kaoru swing by Café Tamayura for lunch. When Fū’s younger brother, Kō, shows up, Norie loses her shit and immediately begins fawning over him, while Fū begins to wonder how to best capture the taste of the food. While Fū struggles to find an angle that lets her to take a picture that describes how the food taste to a viewer, the animators clearly do not have any trouble. For me, a good photo of a given dish should capture the textures and colours. A good macro lens makes a massive difference, but lighting is also important.

  • Earlier on Friday, I swung by a newly-opened OEB Breakfast near home to enjoy their A-Lott A-Laks breakfast poutine, and a combination of good lighting, coupled with a good camera in the iPhone Xʀ, allowed me to take photos of this dish that will remind me of how tasty it was well into the future. Photos offer different challenges compared to anime scenes, but I find that, despite being flatter than reality, anime can nonetheless do an excellent job of conveying tastiness to viewers. This still captures the level of detail paid to closeups of the food in Tamayura: it’s a lunch set with fried fish, soup and rice, plus a light dessert perfect for a hot summer’s day. During such moments, ~Hitotose~ is fond of using chibi versions of the characters to express their emotions while admiring the food, and this was something that I ended up doing when writing about my trip to Japan back in 2017. I used this approach so I could watermark the images that I’d uploaded, and use of chibi characters allowed me to still leave enough of the food visible for readers to check out.

  • The Tamayura OVAs were produced by HAL Productions, but from ~Hitotose~ onward, TYO Animations would handle production: Yumeta absorbed HAL Productions in 2009 to become TYO Animation, but in 2017, Memory Tech Holdings acquired TYO Animation and renamed them back to Yumeta. Aside from Tamayura, the only other production I’m familiar with is YuruYuri: San Hai!. With this being said, if Tamayura is any indicator, Yumeta’s work should be of a solid quality: while Tamayura‘s visuals are comparatively simple, they are still rich with details that bring Fū’s world to life. The garden at Café Tamayura is one such example, and just from looking at this screenshot, one could almost feel the warmth of a summer’s day.

  • After lunch, Norie and Maon prepare to do some shopping, but along the way, they run into Komachi, a young girl who’s the same age as Kō and vyes for his attention. This frustrates Norie to no end, and it is actually quite hilarious to see Norie on the losing end of things in a battle of wits with someone much younger than herself (I’m also guilty of these tendencies from time to time). When I first watched ~Hitotose~, the Oculus Rift was still about a year from being introduced, and Google Street View wasn’t quite as sophisticated as it is today, precluding me from easily finding all of the locations seen in the series. Ten years later, things have changed considerably, so I am now able to trivially identify spots using the Oculus Quest, such as Tobacho street, which Norie and Maon walk along en route to the Café Tamayura.

  • When Norie brings ingredients to Café Tamayura with the hopes of learning a new peach recipe from Fū’s grandmother, Komachi also shows up. Tensions between Norie and Komachi over who’s more worthy of Kō’s heart is employed as a comedic device, and here, the two decide to duel over whose cooking is better. While Norie may be immature, her philosophy on cooking is inspiring, and she puts in every effort to ensure that her sweets taste good, so that the joy she derives from making sweets is shared by the recipient who is enjoying what she’s made. Komachi initially has no grasp of this, and burns her pancakes, but once Fū’s grandmother asks Komachi to slow down the process and be mindful of why she wants to make something, Komachi’s technique improves.

  • In the end, Kō judges both Komachi and Norie’s food to be the winner: indeed, everyone here is a winner for being able to savour something tasty, and Norie reveals her love of sweets comes from her brother trying to make her feel better after she’d missed a family trip when she’d fallen ill. Since then, Norie’s wanted to capture happiness through sweets, and in the moment, Fū determines that capturing the joy of someone enjoying the food seems to be the best way for her to convey taste. On my end, I’ve been photographing food at a very rudimentary level for the past seven years: my intention is to produce images that remind me of how tasty something was that day, and while I certainly don’t put in the same thought to my photos as Fū would, the photos I take do jog my memories well enough.

  • During a break, Fū, Kō, Kaoru and Norie swing by Mitarai, a nearby island where Maon’s family runs a ryōkan. After greeting their guests, Maon takes her friends on a tour of the island and plan to meet up with Fū and Kō’s grandfather. The group stop briefly at the Otome-za, a local theatre that Maon’s longed to perform in; she explains that after seeing a concert here long ago, she became inspired to take up the performing arts. ~Hitotose~ has the performers singing Enveloped by Tenderness (やさしさに包まれたなら, Hepburn Yasashisa ni Tsutsumareta): I’d originally thought the song was performed for Kiki’s Delivery Service, but this song actually dates back to Yumi Arai’s 1974 single – it is through her performance in Kiki’s Delivery that the song became well known, and Maaya Sakamoto’s cover is downright beautiful, easily my favourite version of this timeless classic.

  • ~Hitotose~ makes a compelling case for why when visiting Japan, one should consider destinations beyond iconic locations like Tokyo’s Shinjuku or Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine: some of the most beautiful locations are found well off the beaten track. Takehara and its surroundings alone are gorgeous; even more so than the Tamayura OVAs, ~Hitotose~ really showcases what’s available in Takehara and its surroundings. For instance, Mitarai Island is home to a small village and possesses a collection of well-preserved historical buildings called shotoen (松濤園).

  • Maon ends up leaving the others so she can help guide some visitors around, but the group reunite during the evening. After a scrumptious meal featuring fresh, local seafood, Fū and the others learn from Maon’s parents that she’s got a myriad of interests: besides the performing arts, Maon’s also expressed an interest in being a manga artist. Maon is utterly embarrassed by this revelation, and her expression is adorable. I will note that a part of the challenged I faced at their age was precisely this: many things were interesting to me, and I had trouble picking just one. Over time, however, I ended up narrowing down a path I would be happy walking, and this is something that Tamayura ~Gradutation Photo~ would show. For ~Hitotose~, Maon remains open to pursing whatever interests her.

  • A ways into ~Hitotose~, Chihiro shows up for a visit to check up on Fū, but a misstep causes Chihiro to get off one stop early. With the train schedules being quite sporadic, Fū’s mother borrows a friend’s motorcycle and heads off to pick Chihiro up herself. Until now, this particular aspect of Fū’s mother was not known; the moment is meant to highlight that everyone’s got their own stories, and admittedly, while I’d forgotten about it, this is actually similar to Rin’s mother in Yuru Camp△, who had been an avid biker in her youth. While Rin’s mother is a bit embarrassed by this, Fū’s mother is still quite fond of her old memories and has no trouble sharing these recollections with the others. Here, Chihiro sits down to dinner and greatly enjoys the moment, before sleeping over with Fū.

  • Fū introduces Chihiro to Kaoru, Norie and Maon, and they take Chihiro on a tour of Takehara’s best spots. ~Hitotose~ might be an anime about healing, self-discovery, picking one self up and finding the courage to walk a path to the future, but the faithfulness that the series demonstrates in its portrayal of Takehara means that the series is only a few steps from being a full-fledged travel show: besides bringing Chihiro over to the old town for okonomiyaki at Hoboro’s, they also stop by Saihoji Fumeikaku Temple, with its distinct red-framed construction and an unparalleled view of the Takehara skyline.

  • While Tamayura already excels at capturing emotions, facial expressions are used in order to really accentuate what individuals are feeling in the moment. Moments such as Chihiro being overjoyed by Takehara’s skyline do much to emphasise that there is never such a thing as a moment that is too mundane or unremarkable. This is something that I’ve come to look for in most everything I do; a lot of folks out there value spontaneity and living in the moment, but they choose to go about this by expending prodigious sums of money for travel or nights out. I argue that living in the moment isn’t about creating grandiose memories that are ‘grammable, but rather, about learning how to appreciate common, everyday miracles. For me, something as simple as a beautiful blue sky and calm days are as every bit as memorable as a full-scale trip to Japan.

  • Having said this, Tamayura is special to me because it is the anime that really initiated my desire to visit Japan; when I watched ~Hitotose~ ten years earlier, I was still a relative novice to anime. Series like Gundam 00 or Sora no Woto don’t exactly inspire a trip to Japan, but Tamayura and its highly faithful reproduction of Takehara and its surroundings changed that. While Fū stretches out on a path overlooking the Seto Inland Sea here, I’ll remark that my dream vacation in Takehara would consist of spending a week exploring the town and its surroundings. I’d probably visit in October and stay at the Nipponia Hotel, which is situated at the heart of Takehara’s old town. After spending the mornings and early afternoons visiting the spots Sayomi suggests to Fū and her friends, I’d spend the late afternoons and evenings exploring the old town itself.

  • Such a trip remains a hypothetical for the present, but I would definitely like to realise this trip someday and fulfil something I’ve always wanted to do since I first watched ~Hitotose~. While Chihiro had only befriended Fū because both had been introverted and shy, ever since Fū returned to Takehara and found friends in Kaoru, Norie and Maon, she’s become more outgoing and spirited. Unsurprisingly, Chihiro also gets along well with Fū’s friends in Takehara, even if she has a bit of trouble understanding what Maon is saying through her whistling.

  • In the end, Maon, Kaoru and Norie gratefully accept the phone charms Chihiro had made for them, and they agree that anyone who’s friends with Fū can easily be friends with them, too. These sorts of things are always so heartwarming to behold, and while Chihiro does have to head home, she now returns knowing that Fū’s doing very well, that she’s got people supporting her in Takehara, and that there’s now three more people she can chat with should the need arise. Indeed, Kaoru and the others do call upon Chihiro when something is bothering Fū during the second season, but I’ll cover that in full once I get to writing about ~More Aggressive~.

  • While I’m writing about ~Hitotose~ in full knowledge of what happens next in ~More Aggressive~ and ~Graduation Photo~, the fact is that I’ve not watched ~Hitotose~ for ten years. Similarly, it’s been seven years since ~More Aggressive~, and five years since ~Graduation Photo~. With this much time having passed since then and now, revisiting ~Hitotose~ means it does feel like I’m watching Tamayura fresh, and I’m finding myself falling in love with the series, its characters and events all over again.

  • ~Hitotose~ presents Takehara’s Shokei-no-michi Festival in vivid detail; this festival occurs in October, and for two nights, the streets of Takehara’s old town are alit with bamboo candles between 1700 and 2100. The event is free to attend, sets the old town under a magical, gentle light and Tamayura suggests that it’s a festival to guide people’s wishes to the deities in the skies above. On her last visit, Fū and her father had missed the festival, called the Path of Longing, and since then, Kaoru had longed to show Fū the festival’s beauty. However, this year, a rainfall has enveloped Takehara, frustrating Kaoru, who had really been looking forwards to having Fū see the Path of Longing.

  • The rain shows no sign of abating, but the girls do meet one of Kaoru’s old friends, Shōko Hirono, during the festival. She’d moved from Takehara long ago and swings by to greet the others before taking off. Here, Fū, Norie, Maon and Kaoru speak to Riho; it turns out that after learning about Fū’s return, she became interested in moving to Takehara, as well. Being a mentor figure for Fū, Riho’s always willing to share wisdom about photography with Fū, and surprises Fū with the suggestion that Fū’s approach to photography had inspired her own. After writing their wishes down, Fū and the others return to Café Tamayura, where she falls asleep.

  • In the end, the rain finally stops, and the Path of Longing kicks off, illuminating the streets of Takehara’s old town in the soft glow of candlelight. A year ago, I’d remarked that GochiUsa BLOOM‘s Halloween Episode employed very similar lighting on an evening that had been filled with reminiscence. It was there I realised that GochiUsa BLOOM had ventured into a topic that had prima facie seemed out of scope for a series of its genre, and not only this, but had done so exceedingly well. Like Tamayura‘s Path of Longing, which sees Fū fulfil a promise to her late father and connect closer with him, GochiUsa BLOOM saw Chino become closer to Cocoa as a result of the evening’s magic.

  • The Path of Longing is absolutely beautiful, and Fū is able to take some stunning pictures here. During the course of this evening, another girl manages to take a picture of Fū and submits it to a photography competition. This girl becomes important in ~More Aggressive~, but for now, I’ll keep the focus on ~Hitotose~: while the evening of the festival is filled with happy memories as people take in the sights, for some, it is also one of sadness. Shōko is seen openly crying her eyes out among the gentle glow of candles, and a lady named Shimako is seen giving a kokuhaku to a fellow she’s long had feelings for.

  • Halfway through ~Hitotose~, Riho surprises Fū with the announcement that she’s moved to Takehara full-time and moreover, has taken up lodgings with Chimo. This allows Riho to really mentor Fū and spend more time with her, and consequently, Riho becomes a regular as ~Hitotose~ continues. Having older characters meant Tamayura was really able to give Fū a full spectrum of people to interact with. Her friends help her live in the moment, but the adults in her life provide wisdom and gentle guidance that lets Fū to also begin considering the future, as well.

  • It turns out that Riho and Chimo hit it off when they’d met, so Chimo decided to let Riho live at her place. News of Riho’s move to Takehara surprises Fū’s friends, and during a quiet afternoon, the group spends some time discussing this turn of events. Maon’s mind begins to wander, and she starts speculating on what could’ve happened. This is, of course, untrue, and the reality is that Fū’s now got someone to talk to frequently. Thus, when Fū learns that Riho had stopped photographing the sky, she grows worried about Riho: sky photography had been her specialty.

  • After seeing the sort of impact Fū’s photographs have, Komachi begins to develop an interest in photography herself, and like Fū, regularly visits Hinomaru to get her photos developed. Upon meeting, Komachi and Norie clash almost immediately, and it is hilarious how Norie always allows Komachi to get the better of her. This conflict is all in good fun, and now that I think about it, Komachi resembles Arthur‘s D.W.: mischievous but also well-intentioned. That Fū’s love for photography has inspired someone else speaks to the power that a sincere interest in something can have on others, and now, Komachi is able to begin thinking about how to capture feelings, too.

  • After swinging by Hoboro, Riho and Chimo invite Fū to come with them to Kure so they can visit Chimo’s old senior, Misano Fuji. They learn that she’s now running a café of sorts; both she and Chimo been illustrators and excelled in their craft, but set it down to enter the restaurant business after desiring to lay down roots and enjoy the changing scenery in their towns. One of Misano’s regulars had inspired her; he’s more than happy to try her experimental menu out, and is mentioned as being fond of taking photos of the same spot to show how differently one place can look. This is something that I often do; while hiking the same trails and passing by familiar places, I always take a photo, as well. I’d completely forgotten about this moment in ~Hitotose~, but seeing the moment again reminded me of why I’m fond of doing this.

  • Speaking to how close Fū and Riho have become, they reach for their cameras to capture a moment of Chimo and Misano together. Upon returning to Takehara, Riho explains that she’d been concerned about Fū, but while some things may change, others will remain constant; it turns out Riho had simply wanted to explore different forms of photography. In a monologue, Fū feels that there is great beauty in being able to choose one’s path even when other things are held constant in life, because even then, the possibilities that await are endless.

  • When I’d watched the story of Shimako Tobita ten years earlier, I found her situation hilarious and quite difficult to relate to. In the present day, I completely empathise with her: one evening, she arrived at Hoboro and starts an eating contest with Kazutarō, the girls’ homeroom teacher. The next day, Shimako continues on with her eating spree at Café Tamayura until her best friend, Manami Hoshi, shows up. It turns out that Shimako’s kokuhaku at the Path of Longing festival had failed. While Maon speculates something wild’s happening, Sayomi shows up and decides to take Shimako for a ride. The drive up to a peaceful viewpoint is violent, but up here, Shimako is able to be truthful about how she feels.

  • In the end, with support from Minami, Shimako is able to cry her heart out over this unsuccessful kokuhaku and is able to take a step forward, too. The reason why I say I empathise with Shimako is because I’ve now been where she’s been, although I’ve never cried out my feelings before. Instead, I ended up channeling all of that anger and negativity towards The Giant Walkthrough Brain project; the reason why I reminisce so often and speak so fondly of this project is because my determination to plow forwards, away from heartbreak, led me to build something wonderful. However, in retrospect, my approach didn’t allow me to fully heal, either, and since then, I’ve busied myself with my work and hobbies to avoid the issue.

  • With this in mind, this isn’t exactly the smartest thing in the world to do, so one of my goals in the upcoming year will be to stop thinking so poorly of relationships in my context. I’m not going to say with confidence that additional years of life experience will help me in this area, but a part of me is now curious to know whether or not I am better equipped to deal with what follows now, versus the me of a decade earlier. Here, Fū, Norie and Maon wonder if something’s off about Kaoru; it turns out that Kaoru’s been wondering about her own future and feels a little left behind upon hearing about everyone’s plans for the weekend; of everyone, she feels like her future is the least certain, and is envious that everyone else can follow their pursuits with such passion.

  • Everyone in Tamayura is immensely likeable in their own regard, but for me, my favourite of the characters is Kaoru; sensible and caring, but also the most serious of everyone, Kaoru bears a great deal of similarity to myself in that both of us had been uncertain about our futures, and similarly attempt to tend to our problems independently rather than confide in those around us. Kaoru’s got a mildly tsundere personality in that she’s not always truthful about how she feels, and therefore bounces off Norie the most; Norie is fond of calling Kaoru Kao-tan, an adorable-sounding nickname that Kaoru isn’t too fond of, and as Norie note, the fastest way to see if Kaoru is alright or not, is to try calling her Kao-tan and seeing if she reacts in her usual manner.

  • Kaoru is generally pretty cold about Sayomi’s constant want for adventures, while Norie and Maon are outright terrified of them. However, I’ve found that despite their reputation and the impending dread that comes prior to Sayomi’s adventures, everyone’s always had a memorable time nonetheless, fitting right in with Fū’s mindset of enjoying things as they happen. This is something that I’ve come to accept about life: I’m very fond of peace and quiet, and while a part of me always dreads events, whether they be parties or panels, I typically come in with the intention to make the most of things and in the end, always find them much more enjoyable than expected. The me of a decade earlier probably would’ve missed this part of Tamayura. Here, Kaoru insists that things are fine and pushes Sayomi out of her room.

  • Things finally reach a limit of sorts when Kaoru lies to Norie and the others about having agreed to come with Sayomi on an adventure, only for Norie to have actually asked ahead of time and learning that Kaoru had actually declined. In the end, Norie decides to create a bit of a pick-me-up for Kaoru at Café Tamayura and asks Sayomi to take Kaoru there. Because Kaoru can be quite stubborn, Sayomi ends up filling a water pistol full of bamboo vinegar and threatens to drench Kaoru should she resist. Because the bamboo vinegar contains some 200 different organic compounds, many of which are volatile, it has a very distinct smell, hence Kaoru’s compliance. In more mundane applications, bamboo vinegar is primarily used in gardening and agriculture, where it is used to discourage insect infestations. It also has applications in footcare and odor removal.

  • In the end, after Norie takes Kaoru to the woodshed, Kaoru explains that she’d been feeling left behind after seeing how earnestly everyone had been pursuing their interests. However, she also was moved by the fact everyone had sent her messages wishing she could be there, and seeing how varied, but capable her friends are, Kaoru suddenly has a stroke of inspiration – she decides to organise an exhibition showcasing everyone’s talents before the year is out. While Kaoru’s interests lies in scents, she’s never really considered this to be a long-term career, and as such, wonders about what her future will entail.

  • After outlining the logistics for this event, which becomes known as the We Exhibition, Kaoru speaks to her father and manages to secure a location to host the We Exhibition: the former Kasai House (旧笠井邸, Hepburn Kyū Kasai-tei). Built in 1872 as a home, the former Kasai House has a distinct tiled roof and as ~Hitotose~ portrays, the second floor is beautiful and open. The building is indeed used as an event venue in reality, making it particularly suited for the We Exhibition: Norie immediately begins to imagine what the different areas can be used for, and excitement for the We Exhibition begins mounting as each of the girls have something tangible to strive for to cap off Fū’s first year back in Takehara.

  • The We Exhibition is a fantastic example of how people can seize the initiative to do something meaningful for others; for me, my equivalent would have been participating in the various research symposiums and hosting lab tours for the media, as well as when I organised a group of my fellow undergraduate researchers into finishing a publication for the province’s undergraduate journal during the summer after we’d started back during January but forgot about the project. Shows like Tamayura encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone at my own pace, and in ~Hitotose~, after Maon reveals she’s looking to do a live play recital for the We Exhibition, the others support her fully: she wants to put on a trial run at her family’s ryōkan.

  • For Maon, the biggest challenge is actually coming up with a story, and with anticipation mounting, it turns out that the Sakurada ryōkan won’t actually have enough space: Maon’s parents have rented out the Otome-za, the theatre that Maon had always dreamt of performing at. Pressure suddenly mounts, and Maon is unable to write her story out – this aspect of being a creative is probably the most challenging, and those involved will find that, on a good day, inspiration allows one to seemingly churn out masterpieces, but on bad days, no idea ever sticks. Even at the casual level, this holds true: as a blogger, there are some times where I’ll struggle to write even a few sentences for a post, and at other times, I have to willfully reign myself back lest a post become too lengthy.

  • In this post, I’m actually tending towards the latter because there are actually quite a few memories I have associated with ~Hitotose~, and re-watching the series was a nostalgic experience. The feeling of nostalgia is greatly augmented by the incidental music in the series, which has a gentle and warming feel to them. Tamaura‘s composition is such that the series is timeless despite being firmly set in the early 2010s: Fū and her friends still use feature phones to communicate, social media is absent, and the world’s pacing is much slower than what most viewers would be used to. In the decade that passed since ~Hitotose~ aired, technology and society has changed considerably, so seeing the laid-back pacing in Tamayura did indeed feel nostalgic.

  • As the day of the recital draws nearer, Maon’s nerves grow because she’s still unable to come up with an ending to her story. In the end, Maon does not actually complete the story in time for her stage play, but decides that she’d like to go ahead and continue with the performance anyways, especially after seeing how engaged everyone is. For Fū, Norie and Kaoru, they’re about as nervous as she is, but once Maon settles into her groove, things actually end up progressing quite smoothly; it turns out Maon’s story was based off her own experiences, and consequently, said story conveys sincerity with every word she reads out.

  • Maon’s story speaks of a bird who leaves her home island and explores the nearby islands, finding them to be inhabited by friendly neighbours, and in the end, she befriends them after recalling the courage her parents had imparted on her, mirroring how Maon had met Fū and the others. The recital is a success by all counts and shows that Maon does indeed have a range of talents, as well as how inspiration can come from the bottom of the heart at the most unexpected moments. In this way, Maon is able to put on a memorable performance at Otome-za and fulfil a longstanding childhood dream of hers.

  • In the aftermath, Maon, Norie, Kaoru and Fū visit a viewpoint to celebrate a successful showing. Years earlier, all four had met here as children; Fū had gone exploring and found Maon reading to herself, while Norie and Kaoru wound up in a minor fight of sorts and end up in tears. While Maon had become too embarrassed to continue when Fū showed up, she ends up taking inspiration from the book she’d been reading and whistles out a song, impressing Norie and Kaoru long enough for the pair to pull together and apologise to one another. That this happened at all is Tamayura‘s way of showing how some friendships were simply meant to be.

  • On the day of the We Exhibition, all of the displays are fully ready, and while everyone is excited to get started, there’s also a bit of nervousness surrounding everyone. Komachi soon arrives and wonders if it’s too late to participate, but Fū and the others welcome her, helping to get her set up besides Kō’s displays. While early on, the streets of Takehara are quiet, Momoneko-sama pops in, admires some of Kō’s drawings and then takes off, satisfied. In this recollection, I’ve not mentioned Momoneko-sama at all: he’s a fluffy pink cat who wanders Takehara as a guardian of sorts, and while he’s well-known around town, Momoneko-sama resists all of Fū’s attempts to photograph him. His actions suggest a level of sentience similar to the cats seen in ARIA.

  • However, if Fū and her friends were worried about a low turnout, things quickly turn around: it feels like the entire town has shown up, and every visitor is engaged by what they see. Some of Kaoru’s classmates find it adorable to see Kaoru presenting her work with such confidence, and here, both Sayomi and her father show up to check things out. It is with the We Exhibition that I found ~Hitotose~‘s themes to really come together: as a result of everyone’s learnings throughout ~Hitotose~, they are able to convey the joys they’ve experienced to others in a tangible way.

  • Much as how Kaoru’s potpourri presentation has drawn quite a crowd, Norie’s sweets corner acts as an oasis of refreshment for those looking to unwind in between checking out the different exhibits. Because Norie’s not served such a large number of people before, she sets up her sweets and then offers visitors a chance to tailor the experience just the way they’d like. Despite being infatuated with Kō to an unhealthy extent, sporting a very boisterous and energetic presence and talking more than she should, Norie is also quite mature when the moment calls for it.

  • To punctuate the day and give others a chance to rest up in between their presentations, the We Exhibition is structured so that Maon is able to perform her play in chapters. By now, Maon’s upped her game, and her latest story is highly captivating, leaving viewers to yearn to hear more. Subtle details in the We Exhibition show just how committed the girls are to doing a good job, and more so than I did ten years earlier, the We Exhibition is a particularly impressive show of what youth are capable of when given the right encouragement and opportunities.

  • This is why I’m so fond of volunteering with the local science fairs; seeing what young minds are up to out there is always so inspiring, reminding me that there are people out there with a genuine interest and passion for the sciences, and the drive to learn enough so they can apply that knowledge and make a tangible, positive contribution to the world. I imagine that Riho is at least as happy when she sees Fū presenting her photos to others with confidence; this shows her that someone new has taken an interest in photography and has something she can pursue whole-heartedly. For Riho and those around her, that Fū’s become so passionate about photography also means that she’s slowly beginning to embrace what her father had taught her, moving on from the pain of loss into recovering and making the most of things.

  • As the evening sun sets, the We Exhibition draws to a close, and the girls review feedback they’d gotten. While some of it is of questionable value (one fellow remarks he’d like to see more hot peppers all around), much of the feedback is encouraging and useful. The We Exhibition clearly touched the hearts of those who visited, and while its success is the result of each of Fū, Norie, Maon and Kaoru’s efforts, I feel that Kaoru’s decision to plan and organise such an event also speaks to the merit of her character. While Kaoru may not feel it, that she was able to manage the We Exhibition shows that she’s also grown greatly. The We Exhibition was set on the 31st of December, and after they clean up the venue, it’s time to go and welcome the new year.

  • Whereas hatsuhinode (viewing the first sunrise of the year) is a commonplace tradition and the one that is typically portrayed in anime, ~Hitotose~ chooses to have Fū and her friends attend a countdown at the local shrine. Everyone makes a wish prior to ringing a bell, and moments later, the new year is upon them. How each of Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon ring the bell speaks volumes to their own personalities, and once the new year arrives, everyone returns to Café Tamayura to catch some shut-eye. Looking back, 2011 was a bit of an interesting year for me: it saw some of my lowest of lows, but I also managed to recover and get my game back together.

  • As 2011 drew to a close for me, I steeled myself for the new year: I had wrapped up that term on a much better note, but the elephant in the room was the fact that I was set to write the MCAT in 2012. This loomed over my head, but entering the new year, I resolved to simply take things one step at a time. For Fū and her friends, their sleep is broken up when Sayomi shows up with plans to take everyone out to check out the first sunrise of the year, and here, she invites everyone to board her Mazda 5. The Mazda 5 model I drove dated back to 2006, and it appears Sayomi is rocking the 2008 model, characterised by the shift from circular brake lights to a vertical strip of brake lights.

  • While Sayomi’s driving sends them off-course and very nearly into a ditch, Fū and the others end up embracing this change of plans: instead of viewing the sunrise from a mountain top, they end up viewing it from the valley floor. It is here that Sayomi demonstrates her wisdom, by remarking that each and every one of Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon have grown up without even realising it, much as how the mountain can never really be aware of how majestic it looks. This moment particularly stood out to me, hence my choice for the page quote. Thoughts like these are what make Tamayura particularly special, and while the sorts of life lessons in Tamayura may appear to be common sense, it is actually surprising as to how quickly they are forgotten amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

  • From ~Hitotose~ onwards, the idea of seeming inconveniences and unforeseen change of plans are presented as something to enjoy, and that they also bring something new to the table if one’s mind is open to it. Fū’s father was of the mindset that what happens, happens, and this is something that Fū herself discovers throughout the course of ~Hitotose~ as she spends more time in Takehara, treading the paths and photographing the things that her father had known so well. In this way, a full year passes in Takehara, and Fū exits the first season with a newfound perspective on life.

  • ~Hitotose~ ends with half the neighbourhood gathering to hang out while Sayomi and the others await the towing company to show up and extricate her Mazda 5, creating yet another warm memory as Fū gets to converse with the locals. The whole of Tamayura is a masterpiece: Graduation Photo was the series that set me on the path to becoming an iOS developer (and we recall that series I consider to be masterpieces must have impacted my life in a tangible, positive manner), but ~Hitotose~ welcomed me to the series and acted as a reminder to always keep an open mind about me. At present, I will note that I will be returning shortly to write about the second season, ~More Aggressive~: the announcement of a second season some three months after ~Hitotose~ ended came as a pleasant surprise for many, although ~More Aggressive~ itself would not broadcast until the summer of 2013.

At its heart, Tamayura ~Hitotose~ is a story of rediscovery at one’s own pace, of taking steps forwards in the presence of people precious to one, and of making the most of the present. It is meant to be a gentle, cathartic portrayal of how people come to understand themselves, make peace with the past and push themselves into the future. In keeping with the aesthetic such themes require, ~Hitotose~ possesses soothing visuals and music. The artwork and animation in ~Hitotose~ possesses the same gentle style seen in the Tamayura OVAs, using soft colours and lower saturation in conjunction with high visual detail in order to simultaneously bring Fū’s world to life without overwhelming viewers. Through the visual style, ~Hitotose~ shows Fū’s world as being a vivid one, filled with possibility and the potential for adventure around every corner. However, it never strives to displace the characters as the main star of the show, either. Similarly, Nobuyuki Nakajima and Yumi Matsutoya lend a nostalgic, wistful and occasionally, whimsical tone to ~Hitotose~‘s incidental music. The songs are slow, creating a feeling of warmth that surrounds Fū and her friends as they explore Takehara together. There are a few songs here and there that are used to set up more comedic moments or create tension, but even these remain faithful to the aesthetic in ~Hitotose~. In conjunction with one another, the visuals and music of ~Hitotose~ complement one another flawlessly such that, along with the characters and their experiences, ~Hitotose~ acts as a proper first season to Tamayura that greatly extends the messages the OVAs originally began exploring. By the end of Tamayura ~Hitotose~, viewers are left with the distinct impression that Fū’s father is no longer something that saddens her, but instead, acts as a source of inspiration for her, and moreover, by pursing photography, she’s experiencing the same joys that he once did (alongside making new memories of her own). Together with Kaoru, Norie and Maon, it is clear that Fū is no longer weighted down by her past, and instead, has found new joys in the present to look forward to. In a world where time passes by in the blink of an eye, and where there hardly seems to be a moment to take a step back to live in the moment, Tamayura ~Hitotose~ encourages viewers to be mindful of the smaller things in life, and that joys can come from most anywhere so long as one takes the time to savour them.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Whole-Series Review and Recommendation After The Finale

“Do what’s right, and everything will work out.”

The day before Tingarla’s new exhibit is to open, a wedding will be held here. Fūka and Kukuru head off to work in order to prepare for this unveiling, helping to bring in the new marine life, and Kukuru subsequently heads off to manage the wedding preparations. On the day of the wedding, guests are awe-struck at the venue’s scale, and Miura is pleased that everything’s gone without a hitch. The new wing subsequently opens to the public, and visitors are similarly awe-struck. Kai’s brought Tsukimi and Maho to check things out, while the boys who’d been fond of chilling at Gama Gama also show up. Even Kukuru’s grandparents swing by to visit, and Kukuru seeks out some advice from her grandfather; she admits that a part of what made Gama Gama so appealing was the fact it was fun the whole way, but with her current work, things are different. To this, Kukuru’s grandfather replies that living life means to make the most of the hand one is dealt and doing one’s best to turn the results of one’s decision into a path that works. Kukuru and Fūka share a conversation, confiding in one another that when they’d met, it did seem like the world had ended, but meeting one another allowed both Fūka and Kukuru to find their footing anew. Under the magical setting in Tingarla’s new area, Kukuru enters a vision: her parents and unborn sister are both present, both immeasurably proud of everything Kukuru’s become. Later, Fūka prepares to leave Okinawa for Hawaii with Kaoru, and Kukuru bids her farewell. While Fūka studies alongside some of the world’s best, Kukuru continues with her work, earning Tetsuji’s respect. Two years later, Fūka returns to Okinawa, and the first person she wishes to see is Kukuru; at a quiet spot, the pair greet one another warmly. Kukuru comments that Fūka’s name is perfectly suited for Okinawa and prepare to reunite with the others, while the kijimuna chills in a tree nearby, content to enjoy yet another beautiful summer’s day. So ends The Aquatope on White Sand, P.A. Works’ latest title dealing with coming-of-age amidst the workplace setting. Over this anime’s twenty-four episode run, the focus shifted from how fateful meetings can pick one another up, to how growing up means being able to change one’s perspectives and appreciate that the way to one’s future is oftentimes mutable, ever-changing and uncertain. However, a combination of support from those important to one, and an internal willingness to overcome whatever challenge lies ahead allows individuals to right their course and make the transition from being a starry-eyed idealist, to a professional with a proven record for getting things done while remaining true to one’s principals.

Altogether, The Aquatope on White Sand strives to, and succeeds in conveying the idea that there isn’t any one way towards finding fulfilment in one’s life through their careers. This journey entails hard work, perseverance, setbacks, and even pivots. The path is a crooked, winding one filled with unknowns; one’s career can begin in any number of ways, and it can progress in any way, dependent on what one chooses to make of things. Fūka started her journey as a former idol who felt that particular industry was no longer one she was suited with, but after meeting Kukuru and becoming inspired by the passion Kukuru had brought forth, she became completely committed to becoming an aquarist. Kukuru starts out The Aquatope on White Sand devoted to Gama Gama and marine life, but she wavers when she finds that her work in marketting conflicts with her own goals. However, thanks to a combination of support from her family, Fūka and the others, as well as her own innate desire to succeed and resourcefulness, Kukuru determines that the path she’s chosen to follow is one she can make work, as well. In this way, The Aquatope on White Sand presents one possible portrayal of how careers begin and progress: things began, as the series’ tagline states, in the ruins of a dream, but like a phoenix, something new and marvelous rises from the ashes of these ruins. Fūka and Kukuru both come out of The Aquatope on White Sand more experienced, knowledgeable and resilient. The Aquatope on White Sand does not hesitate to indicate that the real world is unforgiving, and unyielding. No amount of idealism can change this, but instead, one can nonetheless learn how to adapt to this system and impart on the world one’s own unique flaire and style. Both Fūka and Kukuru end up doing precisely this. When being an idol overwhelms Fūka, she finds a new career and passion to pursue. Kukuru is initially demoralised to be assigned to marketting, but as a result of her work, she becomes more personable and begins relating to people with the same respect and enthusiasm that she does for marine life; the Kukuru at the beginning of The Aquatope on White Sand had virtually no people skills to speak of, but by the series’ end, she’s become an integral member of the marketting team and does enough, well enough for even someone like Tetsuji to acknowledge her improvement. None of this, however, would’ve been possible without that fateful day when a wandering Fūka found herself at Gama Gama. The message in The Aquatope on White Sand is strikingly consistent with stories I’ve heard from graduates of my old Bachelor of Health Sciences programme. Similarly, one of the associate professors who taught my medical inquiry courses was once a high school instructor turned molecular virologist, and last month, I gave a panel alongside two graduates who once held medical aspirations. One of these individuals went on become a molecular biologist and works in culturing lung cells, while the other is a community health specialist. I myself began on a similar path, and after a decade, ended up back in the realm of software development. Careers are multi-faceted, complex and ever-changing: no one can know for sure what their future entails, and The Aquatope on White Sand captures these nuances in full, far exceeding my expectations.

Beyond themes of careers and growing up, one aspect in The Aquatope on White Sand that deserves additional mention is the presence of the supernatural. The first half had Fūka and Kukuru experiencing visions whilst at Gama Gama, and Fūka herself was pranked by a kijimuna. The kijimuna periodically shows up, as do the visions, but over time, these aspects of The Aquatope on White Sand fall away as Kukuru and Fūka both concentrate wholly on their work. While the choice to include such elements in The Aquatope on White Sand sounds dubious at first glance, their presence actually does much to present the idea that as one grows up, where the magic in one’s world comes from changes. At Gama Gama, the visions occur to Kukuru and Fūka because they are still young and naive: the world gives both a bit of magic to nudge them forward. Conversely, at Tingarla, as adults with responsibilities, Fūka and Kukuru deliver magic to others. This is why throughout The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half, the kijimuna and visions take a back seat: when one is entirely focused on their work, the rest of the world becomes muted. However, in those rare, but rewarding moments where one has hit their objectives, the magic comes back into the world. This time, the feelings of joy stem from reveling in the fact one has given their best effort. At the end of The Aquatope on White Sand, Kukuru and Fūka both experience such a vision because both have worked very hard to reach where they stood: Fūka had earned her place on a research programme in Hawaii, and Kukuru had just contributed to Tingarla’s first-ever wedding. Seeing the vision of Kukuru’s sister and parents, proud of who Kukuru and Fūka have become, accentuates to viewers that when doing their best to make magic for others, one might also receive a little magic on their own in return. In this way, The Aquatope on White Sand utilises the supernatural not as a catalyst to accelerate the plot, nor is it an element intended to impact the characters in any way. Instead, it is a vivid bit of imagery meant to augment what The Aquatope on White Sand aims to convey to viewers. Reaching such a conclusion solidifies the idea that in life, no higher power will step in and grant one’s wishes, but instead, when people put in their best effort to do right by others, reward is met. The phrase that Fūka and Kukuru repeat prior to stepping into work each day is a constant reminder of this: that one must work for their own futures is an encouraging thought, and in retrospect, it makes sense that the magic here in The Aquatope on White Sand is a secondary element, meant to serve as a metaphor rather than as an actor within the story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before I delve into the finale for The Aquatope on White Sand, I would first like to thank readers here – it’s been a twenty four week-long journey from start to finish, and a quick look finds that a handful of people have been consistently present for excellent discussions over this half-year period. That’s no mean feat, and through these conversations, I learnt quite a bit, too. This is what makes blogging so meaningful: being able to talk to others and learn of their story allows me to understand them, and their perspectives, better. The comments here are high among some of the best I’ve had in a while, and folks raised the bar very high for what anime conversations can be.

  • For as long as The Aquatope on White Sand has been running, Kukuru and Fūka have been leaving out offerings for the local deities and making a simple prayer: “do what’s right, and everything will work out”. While Kukuru may not have fully appreciated what this meant at the journey’s beginning, it is clear that both she and Fūka do know what this entails at present. Having been absent since the second half started, the kijimuna returns during this finale, and with this, it became clear that the magic in The Aquatope on White Sand is merely a metaphor rather than an active force in the story.

  • Looking back, this approach makes sense: The World in Colours featured magic, but it was a force that Kohaku and Hitomi could control and master. Magic in The World in Colours was presented as a skill, and no supernatural external force was employed push Hitomi to find herself. Instead, Hitomi comes to appreciate magic and its applications as a result of her own experiences. Similarly, in The Aquatope on White Sand, the kijimuna and visions that intermittently show up are imagery. They are not used to alter Kukuru or Fūka’s path in any way, but instead, parallel the girls’ mindset. When they are particularly in need of some magic, the aquarium will offer it to them, but ultimately, they must also learn to make their own magic, in a manner of speaking.

  • Elusive visions and fleeting appearances from a local spirit therefore become less of a magic than being part of a team effort to keep Tingarla running. Ahead of the new area’s opening, the entire attendant staff, along with Kukuru, stop to help out: Tingarla’s taken delivery of a very large collection of marine wildlife to populate the new display, and transferring all of them safely to their new home is a bit of a process. No amount of færie dust will allow this job to do itself, and instead, it is teamwork that carries the day.

  • Once the transfer is complete, smiles dominate the scene. Tingarla’s staff initially were a little cool to one another, both within and between departments, but having worked together for over a year now, it’s clear that everyone’s become closer to one another as a result. A handful of readers will likely have been wondering, “why am I always focused on the good in a given work?”. My answer to this question is simple enough: I tend to pick shows I’m confident I’ll enjoy, and positivity requires a much lower expenditure of effort compared to negativity. This is because I hold the belief that, if I am going to critique something, then I must always be prepared to offer a potential solution. If I am to be crticial, then I also aim to find something that I can be positive about.

  • The reason for this particular mindset is because on a day-to-day basis, people will approach me with problems, and I earn my keep by solving problems. Making new problems or making problems worse is not in my job description, and as such, this mindset carries through into how I approach entertainment. If something is lacking, I find that it is not sufficient to say that and expect people to freely agree with me. Instead, I must also explain what I was looking for, what might’ve worked better for me and finally, acknowledge that different people will approach something differently than I did. This is what proper criticism looks like, and it should be evident that more effort is indeed required to cover all of one’s bases; anything short of this counts as a poor effort not meritorious of consideration.

  • Some readers may wonder about my adverse negative reaction to Glasslip, which similarly had a supernatural piece that is said to have been a metaphor rather than an active actor in the anime. On this reasoning, they would suggest that if I enjoyed The Aquatope on White Sand, I should have no grounds for disliking Glasslip. However, one of the problems with this assertion was that Glasslip ended up venturing into the realm of the abstract: the symbolism of multiple Kakerus and the fragments of the future are disconnected from the idea that relationships can complicate or even strain long-standing friendships. Despite my great dissatisfaction with Glasslip, I can still say that the series could’ve been helped by omitting the magic and any reference to Albert Camus, and that the visuals were gorgeous (thus satisfying the criteria I require for offering a meaningful critical perspective). Conversely, here in The Aquatope on White Sand, the magic piece is plainly used as imagery and never interferes with the story directly, and what’s more, strengthens the themes, so I have no problems with its presence at all.

  • Once the fish are moved into the main tank, Kukuru helps out with preparations for Tingarla’s first-ever wedding. I had wondered if a wedding would make its way into The Aquatope on White Sand; as it turns out, we do get to see one as the show’s way of emphasising how much joy there is when one is able to tangibly see the results of their efforts coming together. Kukuru had sunk in an incredible amount of effort into making things work for the proposal, and now that Miura is satisfied Tingarla is a suitable venue, the true battle begins. Kukuru rises to the occasion magnificently and uses all of her knowhow to craft a one-of-a-kind experience.

  • The guests are surprised at how unusual the wedding’s format is – normally, people attend ceremonies wearing high heels or dress shoes, and all-formal wear. The unique flooring at Tingarla’s new exhibit requires that visitors enter barefoot. Moreover, some guests wonder about what all the different animals are. Kukuru is right in her element when she explains that the bride and groom had given them a list of traits and stories about their guests, and then she’d customised elements of the wedding experience for them, such as picking the animals she thought most resembled the individual. This is a nice touch that shows Kukuru’s attention to detail, and once the surprise wears off, the guests become very impressed.

  • As Kukuru envisioned, an underwater wedding proves to be quite magical, and certainly acts as a memorable venue; while The Aquatope on White Sand had given us an idea of what this would look like, there is no substitute for seeing the place fully prepared and ready to go. Tingarla had some pretty impressive exhibits right from day one, but this expansion really takes the cake by completely immersing visitors underneath the waters. Visuals have always been strong in The Aquatope on White Sand, but the finale manages to take things one step further to show how the aquarium is a place of magic.

  • An aquarium wedding would truly be a one-of-a-kind experience, and curiosity led me to see what such an event would cost. The closest aquarium to me is a province over, about six hundred and fifty kilometres away: this is the Vancouver Aquarium, and a quick glance at their events page shows that at the low end, booking an event for around thirty guests would cost 7500 CAD. The venue does accommodate up to 2000 guests, and at that scale, one could book out the entire aquarium for 54500 CAD. Booking out an area the size of the space seen in The Aquatope on White Sand would probably cost 10000 CAD or so, but since this is the inaugural event, I could see Tingarla offering a discount of sorts for the bride and groom.

  • It turns out the bride and groom already have a child of their own, and it was her interest in the aquarium that prompted the two to have a wedding in such a venue. Ahead of time, Tingarla had a specially-made penguin costume prepared for her, and the end result of this is nothing short of adorable: she ends up being the flower girl and ring bearer for the ceremony, carrying the rings up to the bride and groom in a small basket because the penguin costume’s got no fingers. This penguin costume again speaks volumes to Tingarla’s attention to detail: Cape Penguins are a known attraction here, and the penguins are similarly adorable (even if they do get into bloody fights from time to time).

  • Because The Aquatope on White Sand animates schools of fish in such detail, I cannot help but wonder what tools were used in the process. In the realm of computer graphics, Blender or After Effects’ Swarms plugin would be utilised: these tools are immensely powerful and quite suited for animation. Tools for animation have previously been used for anime, and in recent years, CG effects have improved dramatically. However, I do remember a time when anime would do things the old-fashioned way, and such scenes were always impressive because of how detailed they’d been despite being hand-drawn.

  • Thanks to Tingarla’s staff putting forth their best, the wedding is an absolute success, and here, the photographer makes to capture an image of this momentous occasion, of a new happy family ready to make their start. At this point in time, it’s clear that Kukuru and the wedding planner have made the proper arrangements for photography to be done here; recalling that flash photography can indeed be harmful to the fish when employed at higher intensities, photographers typically use a combination of reduced flash intensity and shot placement to ensure that they can take stunning photos where both the human subjects and marine life are visible.

  • Even more so than Tetsuji praising Kukuru for a job well done, the magic moment for Kukuru is seeing what her work has the potential to do. We recall that Kai and Tsukimi and both remarked that Kukuru seemed more at home with fish than she did people at the series’ beginning, and while this was forgotten after Fūka arrived, it is plain enough that over time, Kukuru has come to care about people, as well. The wedding planner is seen shedding a few tears here, overjoyed at the union of man and woman. In every P.A. Works anime that I’ve seen, one of the recurring motifs is the fact that unlikeable characters become more sympathetic over time: Miura had seemed quite unreasonable earlier, but once there was a chance to sit down with her properly and give her a better proposal, compromises were reached, and she began seeing eye-to-eye with Kukuru.

  • This particular detail is meant to remind viewers that until one fully understands another person, they are in no position to judge them. I’ve heard that people judge others (more formally, make assumptions about their personalities or other traits) as a mechanism to fill in the void where a perceived slight occurs in the absence of additional context. For instance, if one were expecting a call from a friend at a time and said friend did not fulfil that commitment, their mind might be inclined to assume the friend was busy or unavailable. Conversely, if the call was expected from someone one was not close to, they might assume that individual had no respect for obligations and the like. Such behaviours in real life can be problematic, but to do this to anime characters is to be outright imprudent and unnecessary.

  • This is because characters are written in a way as to advance the story. In Tetsuji’s case, I have seen nothing but negativity surrounding him despite The Aquatope on White Sand making a good case for why he is as serious and no-nonsense as he is. However, even Tetsuji appreciates hard work and results: seeing the happiness in the bride and groom brings a smile to his face, as well. Not knowing anything about Tetsuji is, if anything, more realistic – it takes time to get to know people really well, and there are cases where even though one might know someone for years, one still could be surprised by their actions (in both good and bad ways). This speaks to the complexity in people, and The Aquatope on White Sand‘s decision not to show everything is a deliberate, astute decision meant to highlight the series’ most pivotal moments.

  • I have heard (unsubstantiated) claims that Japanese anime fans have taken to voicing their disapproval on social media and refusing to buy BDs solely because of Tetsuji’s portrayal, leading to weak sales for The Aquatope on White Sand. However, I’ve read some studies that have found that there is a correlation between anime fans in Japan (i.e. otaku) and the freeters: the latter is a portmanteau of free and arbeiter, being a word that refers to people who lack full-time employment or are underemployed. Assuming these studies and the aforementioned claims about the reception holding true, it would mean that those criticising The Aquatope on White Sand are also likely those who have not worked in a full-time position previously and therefore, have not dealt with things like professional development, conflict resolution, task management and other things associated with being a white-collar worker. A lack of familiarity with such an environment means that they would likely see Tingarla as a workplace unsuited for them.

  • I am making several massive subjective leaps in judgement when I say this, but the basis for my statement comes from the fact that The Aquatope on White Sand‘s presentation of Kukuru and Fūka transitioning to a full-on career in an aquarium, from a more start-up like environment at Gama Gama, is a very specific experience (certainly not like the anime-focused Shirobako or the more open-ended Sakura Quest). Those whose experiences do not have parallels with what’s shown in The Aquatope on White Sand are less likely to be able to empathise with the characters, hence their reaction. While I understand where the series’ detractors are coming from, I’m not going to say they have a point, either: at the end of the day, it’s up to the individual to make their own call on what shows work for them, but on that token, just because one didn’t enjoy a show does not give them free license to insult those who do enjoy something.

  • Once the wedding’s done, and the venue is returned to its normal state, Tingarla prepares to open the new area to the public. Among the visitors are Tsukimi, whose training at Ohana is drawing to a close, and Kai, whose father is doing better than expected, allowing him to return to work early. Vociferous complaints have been levelled against The Aquatope on White Sand for not pursuing a possible relationship between Kukuru and Kai, or Kukuru and Fūka, more openly, but I counter-argue that as an anime about finding one’s place in the sun, any time spent on romance would be utterly wasted and detract from the series’ ability to tell a compelling story about workplaces. The claims that The Aquatope on White Sand would benefit from yuri are especially egregious – such a relationship adds precisely nothing to the story’s themes, and as it was, The Aquatope on White Sand delivered precisely what it had set out to do.

  • While Kukuru outwardly chooses her path with confidence, a part of her wonders if she’ll have any lingering regrets. During a conversation with her grandfather, Kukuru relays these doubts to him, and he reassures Kukuru that no matter what Kukuru chooses to do, she’ll be fine so long as she does her job with an honest effort, and so long as she does right by those around her. This conversation confirms what I’d been thinking to be The Aquatope on White Sand‘s main theme: during the course of one’s career, dreams and goals change, but those who can reconcile the differences will find themselves successful.

  • This is the nature of reality, and as much as I don’t usually like to say it, those who disagree with this message are unlikely to see any meaningful professional or personal growth: successful individuals are those who know how to embrace change, exude positivity and compliment, while unsuccessful people criticise, want others to fail and focus on negativity. In The Aquatope on White Sand, it is clear that while there are demoralising moments, these moments act as stepping stones to something larger. Kukuru’s grandfather has experience in this arena, and his reputation as a legendary aquarium keeper is meant to remind viewers that any advice he offers Kukuru is grounded in decades of having worked in the field: Kukuru can be successful so long as she adapts, opens up to people around her and focuses on the positive.

  • After their conversation, Kukuru makes peace with the fact that no matter what she chooses to do, her future remains firmly in her hands. It is in her power (and her responsibility) to make of her life what she chooses, and this is an encouraging thought. Underneath the newly-opened dome, Fūka and Kukuru take in the sights here, made possible by the fact that Tingarla’s been doing well enough to accommodate an expansion to its facilities. It really does feel as though one were submerged in the oceans here, and what happened next brings The Aquatope on White Sand back to its roots.

  • As Fūka and Kukuru look on, the world suddenly becomes muted, and this time, three apparitions appear: Kukuru’s twin sister, their mother and father. The return of these visions here in the finale clarified what their purpose was in The Aquatope on White Sand for me. While I had entertained the idea that supernatural forces might gently guide Kukuru and Fūka as they work hard to pick up the pieces of their old dreams and pursue something new, the reality was that the phenomenon we observe are simply metaphors: the visions don’t impact the characters in any way beyond acting as a manifestation of how they are feeling. When the visions appear, we can be reasonably confident that this is a moment where emotions are particularly strong.

  • As such, rather than being a reflection of the characters innermost desires, the phenomenon is simply a visual means of expressing what the aquarium means to an individual: while at an aquarium, the unique atmosphere and lighting would evoke memories for an individual. In this way, the visions simply speak to viewers what an aquarium means to each of the characters. For Kukuru, her attachment to Gama Gama and aquarium work comes from the fact that her parents had frequented Gama Gama when she was younger. Being in an aquarium brings back such memories, so for Kukuru, an aquarium is akin to a family, a home. For Fūka, it represents an unknown world that is terrifying but also full of possibility. Similarly, the elderly man is reminded of his brother from the World War Two days, veterinarian Takeshita sees an Aquarium as a place of new life, and Kai is reminded of how he did his best to cheer Kukuru up after her parents passed away.

  • As such, when Kukuru’s vision appears here at Tingarla, the implications are that the phenomenon was not external, and instead, are the memories and thoughts Kukuru carries within her heart. Seeing her sister, mother and father with proud smiles on their faces shows that for whatever challenges Kukuru have previously faced, she’s overcome them by now. The Aquatope on White Sand makes it clear that the phenomenon is indeed real, and while Kukuru is content to enjoy the moment with Fūka, who also appears to be able to see the vision, the kijimuna gleefully does cartwheels in the background.

  • Watching The Aquatope on White Sand helped me to appreciate The World in Colours even more than I had previously: since The Aquatope on White Sand showed how magic is a matter of perspective and mindset, the actual magic in The World in Colours that mages like Kohaku and Hitomi control are no different than skills. There, the true magic was how being able to be given a different perspective helps one to discover themselves, and it suddenly hits me that both The Aquatope on White Sand and The World in Colour do share commonalities in their themes. It would appear that P.A. Works actually got more from Glasslip than I had anticipated: rather than attempting to use magic to drive situations that otherwise simply won’t happen, magic simply becomes imagery to enhance the storytelling, and assuming this holds true, it is unlikely that P.A. Works will produce anything like Glasslip anytime soon.

  • As it was, I was extremely pleased to see the kijimuna and phenomenon return in the finale; that it’d been lying in reserve until the right moment affirms the idea that while children have more magical worlds because they receive magic, adults are often so focused on delivering magic that they forget about the magic in their own world. However, where the opportunity presents itself, one can also find that the magic they’d become too busy to be mindful of has never left their world. This moment, of Kukuru and Fūka enjoying the moment in a place that means the world to them, was a well-deserved one.

  • In the end, Fūka accepts the offer to study in Hawaii; her apartment is cleared out, and she prepares to set off on another journey in life, one that she certainly could not have foreseen on that fateful day she impulsively decided to fly to Okinawa. Readers favoured with a keen memory will notice that Fūka is wearing the same outfit that she did on that day, as well. While she’d lost her original hat, she’s since picked up a new one: this new hat has a blue ribbon rather than a white ribbon. This minor difference is meant to show how this time around, Fūka’s in a completely difference place; she’s still Fūka, but this time, she’s travelling with confidence to a destination of her choosing to seize her future.

  • While both Fūka and Kukuru had been quite tearful the last time they parted ways, their friendship has strengthened to the point where both are able to see one another off with a smile on their faces. This sort of character growth is something that P.A. Works nails in The Aquatope on White Sand, and while some viewers elsewhere are crying foul about the lack of romance, I contend that these individuals completely miss the point of The Aquatope on White Sand. The aim was never to suggest how adversity creates romantic relationships between people, and in fact, having romance here would detract significantly from time spent on the learnings both Fūka and Kukuru go through in their time together.

  • Even though people insist on claims that yuri would’ve helped the story in The Aquatope on White Sand along, when queried, no satisfactory answers are given. The closest was the supposition that “it makes a tremendous amount of sense. They were pretty much living together before Fuuka left, and Fuuka supported Kukuru every step of the way”. I counter that people can, and do live in a shared space without thoughts of romance crossing their mind: Fūka and Kaoru would likely be roommates in Hawaii and spend plenty of time studying together, but this wouldn’t necessarily mean things will venture into the realm of romance. Folks looking for yuri would do better to watch another series, and I further remark that “it makes a tremendous amount of sense” isn’t a satisfactory argument.

  • Over in Hawaii, glimpses of Fūka and Kaoru’s experiences are shown: Fūka dives with sea turtles in the warm Hawaiian waters, and studies alongside Kaoru. This practical field experience will benefit both immensely, and leave the pair more prepared than before to excel in their chosen roles. I was happy to see that Kaoru was also selected for the research programme: like Fūka, she’s determined and motivated, but she also has a far deeper technical background. Akira’s decision to go with both means that when the programme is finished, Tingarla will have gained two capable new staff: Kaoru will have gained deeper research and inquiry skills to communicate with academics and other experts, while Fūka will excel further in scientific communication to a general audience.

  • However, despite the programme putting an ocean between Kukuru and Fūka, it is clear that the two are never separated. Besides the eventual promise to reunite once the program is over, both have matured enough so that they can pursue their futures without needing the other present as a crutch. Both Fūka and Kukuru had come to depend on one another for emotional support throughout The Aquatope on White Sand, but had the two allowed their feelings to get the better of them, it would’ve precluded the possibility of exploring new horizons. As Fūka adjusts to life in Hawaii, Kukuru returns to her work. At this point in time, she’s now fully invested, and her enthusiasm is impacting the remainder of the marketting team.

  • Akari joins full time after graduating from post-secondary, and veterinarian Takeshita prepares to go on a maternity leave, with her second child on the way. The biggest moment of all was Tetsuji, who now refers to Kukuru as Nekton. Eiji explains this for the benefit of those who aren’t in marine biology; Nekton is derived from the Greek νηκτόν (“to swim”) and refers to any actively swimming aquatic organism. The term was originally suggested by German biologist Ernst Haeckel as a means of separating organisms that swam actively and those who were carried around by currents (“plankton”). Today, it’s largely fallen out of use, but its symbolism is clear enough: Kukuru began her journey as someone who allowed circumstances to get the better of her, so by referring to Kukuru as Nekton, Tetsuji is saying that Kukuru is now someone who can swim, who can go where she sets her heart to be.

  • Karin does make the transition over into being an attendant, and is surprised that Kūya is now a chief attendant, whose old fears have evaporated as a result of his work. Meanwhile, Kai is shocked to learn that Choko is now quite friendly with Shiratama. Chiyu’s explanation of African Penguins being polygamous actually somewhat true: while penguins tend to be monogamous, research suggests that circumstances can lead penguins to break this (e.g. if one partner is bringing back less food than desired), and in extreme cases, penguins of the same sex do hang out for extended periods of time. Unlike humans, penguins don’t have the same social systems or labels as we might, so what might be surprising to us is quite natural for other species. This remark has led some to claim that The Aquatope on White Sand does indeed have a romance piece, but this is, again, a misinterpretation of things: Chiyu’s comments simply mean that penguins are a social species and desire companionship, much as how people do their best when they’re together.

  • Tsukimi ends up joining Tingarla as a fully-realised chef and joyfully shares a conversation with Umi-yan: she’s excited by Fūka and Kaoru’s return and promises to whip up a menu to remember. Since two years have passed since Fūka and Kaoru left, Tsukimi enrolled in a culinary arts programme. A look around my local technical institute finds that the culinary arts diploma programme, counted as one of the best in Canada, is a two-year program that exposes students to foundational cooking techniques, garde manger, introduction to global cuisines, patisserie and culinary management. Since then, Tsukimi’s technique has probably improved dramatically, much as how Kukuru is now fully at home in marketting, and how Fūka has the fundamentals to really be an effective attendant. Overall, the epilogue was just right: I’ve never been one to believe that every character must always get full closure, and like real life, one won’t always know how everyone is doing at every moment.

  • A fantastic poutine and watching Kukuru reunite with Fūka proved to be the perfect countermeasure against the frigid air; this past December had been positively mild, but now that the Arctic air is here, meteorologists are suggesting that the remainder of December will be below seasonal (i.e. quite cold). My area is forecast to be a very likely candidate for a white Christmas, which is exciting, and now that I’m on (paid) vacation, I get to sleep in and relish in the fact that I don’t have too many places to be. I look forwards to wrapping up the remainder of the posts for this year and making some headway into Halo: Infinite in the downtime I’ve got from overseeing furniture delivery. Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, Fūka and Kukuru joyously embrace upon seeing one another for the first time in two years near the spot where they make offerings to the local deities.

  • Fūka and Kukuru share a conversation in the post-credits scene (since I missed something critical back during the three-quarters mark, I’ve been making sure to watch episodes of The Aquatope on White Sand to the end to ensure nothing of that sort occurred again), and because this conversation speaks to how Fūka’s become a part of Okinawa and its spirit, it does speak to the idea that for the present, The Aquatope on White Sand is drawing to a close. As the two head back to Tingarla, where a reunion party is planned, the scene cuts over to an older-looking kijimuna, who is enjoying the macadamia nuts Fūka had brought and nonchalantly throws a paper airplane into the skies, bringing back yet another memory of The World in Colour, where Hitomi practising her magic on a paper airplane leads her to Yuito. I imagine this symbolises that the kijimuna is pleased with where things end up with Fūka and Kukuru and is now setting sights on another adventure.

  • With the whole of The Aquatope on White Sand in the books, I have no qualms issuing this series a strong recommendation and a perfect score of ten out of ten (A+, or 4.0 on a four-point scale). While I didn’t cry during the finale, or at any point in The Aquatope on White Sand, the lessons portrayed here parallels the stories and experiences that my colleagues and peers described as alumni of the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme. We encourage people to try things out, keep an open mind and be aware that while the journey may be crooked, perseverance and effort yields meaningful results. For capturing what I learnt in the health sciences programme in an engaging and highly visual manner, The Aquatope on White Sand is a masterpiece that embodies the path that my peers and I have taken. Watching this anime would be equivalent to watching how some of our careers unfolded, and for me, this anime holds a special place in my heart for one more reason – it accompanied me as I navigated the path to become a homeowner. Now that The Aquatope on White Sand has reached its conclusion, I am going to be sad to see this one go.

Because The Aquatope on White Sand speaks so vividly about the values I hold, and parallel some of my own experiences, there should be no surprises that I enjoyed P.A. Works’ latest title immensely. However, outside of a compelling story that portrays the importance of hard work, determination, open-mindedness and having the right support as one begins their career, The Aquatope on White Sand also provides viewers with a treat from an aural and visual perspective. The artwork is especially solid: contemporary animation techniques and tools allow for entire aquarium tanks to be rendered in unmatched fidelity, bringing the interiors of both Gama Gama and Tingarla to life and give viewers a taste of the natural splendor that Fūka and Kukuru experience at their work. Every animal’s movement, from the floating jellyfish and waddling penguins, to the streamlined fish and plucky sea turtles, is similarly faithful to their real-world equivalents. The attention paid to detail extends to virtually every part of the anime, from the cityscapes to quiet bays located far from urban centres: such a vibrant setting enhances the feeling that the events that happened in The Aquatope on White Sand could plausibly happen in reality. In conjunction with the sound engineering to make everything from city streets and coastal beaches, the the heart of every aquarium, The Aquatope on White Sand masterfully blends sight and sound together in order to create a world that is as every bit as magical and alive as our own. It is therefore unsurprising that The Aquatope on White Sand scores perfectly in the technical department, as well. With everything said, I count The Aquatope on White Sand a masterpiece for its optimistic and thoughtful presentation about the realities of following one’s dream and pursuing one’s career path: it’s not an easy road, and failure is a natural part of this process, something to prepare for and learn from, rather than avoid. Those who have the resilience and determination to make things work out will also experience the results of this effort, and The Aquatope on White Sand posits that knowing one’s done their job well is its own reward. With The Aquatope on White Sand‘s finale, the question of whether or not a continuation will occur is likely the first thought on reader’s minds. P.A. Works does not have a history of making continuations, with movies for Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako being the exception rather than the rule; it is therefore unlikely that we will see more of The Aquatope on White Sand as an anime. Having said this, stories from P.A. Works’ anime have previously received novel adaptations, or even a manga, so it is possible that folks looking to learn more might have the opportunity to do so in the future. I will be sad to see this series go: for the past twenty-four weeks, it’s been a comfort to know that each and every Thursday evening, Kukuru and Fūka’s story would advance a little bit towards something bigger and inspiring me to put my best foot forwards when I get up in the mornings.