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Terrible Anime Challenge: Kanojo, Okarishimasu Season Two, Or, I’m Going To Need a Beer To Put These Flames Out

“You told me not to think!” –Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, Top Gun: Maverick

After Chizuru is unsuccessful in an audition, Kazuya vows to do everything he can to support her dreams and promptly arranges for another rental date. He learns from Chizuru’s grandmother that beneath her tough exterior is someone who’s trying to do everything on her own and despite her appearances, needs someone to lean on. Ruka ends up swinging by and cooks for Kazuya, but when a typhoon sweeps into their region and shuts down all mass transit, Ruka happily stays the night. She tries to seduce Kazuya and fails, but despite this, cheerfully announces they’d spent the night together the next morning. While Chizuru seems unperturbed, but Kazuya remains bothered and decides to rent out Sumi to see if he can gain some insight into what might make a suitable birthday gift – he ends up gifting to her some pickled plums. When Kazuya and Chizuru inadvertently end up being invited to the same drinking party, he ends up overdoing things to help Chizuru out. She and Kazuya end up going on another rental date, where Chizuru reveals she’s auditioning for another role. When Kazuya’s grandmother learns Chizuru’s birthday party has already passed, she decides to host a combined party. Ruka ends up accompanying Kazuya, and while she does her best to make a positive impression, after Chizuru arrives, she’s frustrated at being bested so quickly. She ends up ambushing Kazuya and kisses him passionately, saying she doesn’t want to have any regrets. However, Chizuru’s grandmother’s condition worsens, cutting the party short, and Chizuru decides it’ll be easier to leave their false relationship where it is so her grandmother won’t die with the knowledge that Chizuru has no one in her life. Later, Sumi has a request for Kazuya; she’s been wanting to try taking the lead in a rental date so she can be more effective in her role and to this end, has planned out an itinerary for Kazuya. In the process, Kazuya becomes inspired as to what he should do for Chizuru. Chizuru learns that her latest audition was unsuccessful and recalls why she’d gone into acting: she wanted to fulfil her late grandfather’s dream after he died in a vehicular accident when she was still in high school. When it feels as though despair is total, Kazuya knocks on her door with an ambitious goal in mind – he wants to crowd fund an independent film she’ll star in and complete it for Chizuru’s grandmother. This is Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season, continuing on from the story the first season had begun. In its execution, Kanojo, Okarishimasu has become a very busy anime – it simultaneously seeks to be a drama and comedy, only revealing the background for Chizuru’s singular drive for success in the second season’s finale. However, once this reason becomes established, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s thematic elements become significantly clearer.

While Chizuru’s attitude towards Kazuya suggests otherwise, and Kazuya’s lingering weak sense of self-esteem continues to be a constraint, Chizuru’s flashback ends up providing answers to the questions surrounding Kanojo, Okarishimasu. Kazuya continues to lack any sort of confidence in his decisions and keeps second-guessing himself. He is indecisive, fickle and short-sighted. However, in being optimistic to a fault, Kazuya actually conveys the same sort of dogged persistence and support that Chizuru’s grandfather had when she announced her desire to be an actress. Chizuru’s grandfather had provided a constant source of encouragement and praise, expressing his desire to one day see her on the silver screen. There are numerous parallels with Kazuya’s single-minded wish to see Chizuru achieve her goals, and seeing this may yield a modicum of insight into why Chizuru is so distant with Kazuya, insisting that they remain at arm’s length – Chizuru has been stated to be quite observant and astute, so it follows that she sees a bit of her grandfather in Kazuya. Despite his clumsy attempts to help her, Kazuya’s motivations are sincere (even if he does display some lust where Chizuru is concerned), and after losing her grandfather, it is probably the case that Chizuru wanted to avoid a repeat of things. However, towards the end of Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Kazuya takes a hitherto unexpected step for Chizuru’s sake in suggesting a crowd-funded movie, and, moved to tears by the offer, decides to accept Kazuya’s help so that she can fulfil her dreams. In doing so, Chizuru has begun to do what her grandmother had wished for – having tried to do everything on her own until now, seeing Kazuya’s dogged persistence leads her to, however reluctantly, accept help from someone else. In this way, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season indicates that, despite all of the detours taken until now, Chizuru is the real star of the show. By opening up, acknowledging her vulnerability and realising that a little help from others can go a long way, Chizuru’s proven to be the most dynamic character of Kanojo, Okarishimasu. This aspect of Kanojo, Okarishimasu is the series’ strongest, and although it firmly establishes the series direction, my main gripe is that this thematic piece is sufficiently well-written such that the other aspects, such as the love tesseract Kazuya’s entangled in, feels quite unnecessary – from a thematic standpoint, because Kazuya’s desire to support Chizuru is, in effect, a continuation of what her grandfather had done, despite objections from Chizuru, it follows that Kazuya and Chizuru remain the best match in Kanojo, Okarishimasu.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • According to the site archives, the last time I wrote about Kanojo, Okarishimasu was back in May of last year because I had struggled to coherently discuss the series. Right after the first season had ended, the second season was announced, and here at the second season’s conclusion, a third season was immediately announced. Using the existing timeframe as precedence, I would estimate that season three will come out in July 2024. The first season began airing in July 2020, and there is a two-year gap between the two seasons, hence, two years from now appears to be a fair guess.

  • Typically, anime receive continuations based on sales, so Kanojo, Okarishimasu comes across as a bit of a surprise for me: while from a storytelling perspective, the anime is quite inconsistent and does some things better than others, I have heard that in Japan, this work is wildly popular, enough so that merchandise sales and other sources of revenue offset the poor BD sales. I am not one to deny that this series must be successful, since Kanojo, Okarishimasu ended up receiving a live-action drama adaptation, which is no mean feat, considering that Yuru Camp△ also received a live-action adaptation on account of how the overwhelmingly positive reaction for its anime counterpart.

  • The main reason why Kanojo, Okarishimasu was so tricky for me to write about is that the story is wildly inconsistent. One moment, viewers see Kazuya trying to persuade Chizuru to persist and fight on in a moment of emotional build-up, only for something to interrupt said moment. Kanojo, Okarishimasu swings constantly between comedy and drama, which takes away from both aspects; had the series been written to focus on either one, things would’ve ended up stronger for it. For instance, if Kanojo, Okarishimasu purely showed Kazuya’s ineptitude in romance through comedy, then the fun would come from seeing how misfortune slowly helps to improve his game.

  • Conversely, if Kanojo, Okarishimasu had been intended to be about a drama from the start, it would be able to accentuate Chizuru’s story and indicate how her perspectives of Kazuya change over time as she sees bits of her old family in him. This facet was easily the best part of the second season, and I felt that had the story been allowed to focus on this, it would be able to both show Chizuru’s growth as she learns that it’s okay to rely on others, as well as Kazuya’s growth by showing how relationships are more than just the physical piece, and the shared emotional journey with Chizuru would give him fulfilment in ways that his old relationship with Mami could not.

  • With this being said, it is not quite so easy to discard the other characters; Mami had set Kazuya on a course to meeting Chizuru by dumping him, and Ruka is able to help Kazuya see aspects of a relationship that are both good and bad. Sumi, on the other hand, is someone whose shyness requires Kazuya to take the lead. Everyone does help push Kazuya forward in their own way, although things happen at a glacial pace. Kanojo, Okarishimasu is a series that demands patience from the viewers to watch: the second season’s strongest moments and aims are only shown in the finale.

  • I imagine that this design choice was deliberate, meant to establish the dynamics amongst the characters and giving them a chance to bounce off one another before the series really hits its stride. However, this meant that many of the intermediate moments leading up to the finale lacked a good context and as a result, could be infuriating to watch. My favourite example of this in Kanojo, Okarishimasu is how Ruka’s role was portrayed. She’s head-over-heels for Kazuya and goes the extra mile to impress him, but these attempts are always doomed to failure because Kazuya has his heart set on being with Chizuru.

  • Without knowing Chizuru’s story and why she’s so cold towards Kazuya, the logical route would be to turn around and play things pragmatically: rather than pursue Chizuru, it would outwardly seem the better decision for Kazuya to focus on Ruka instead and allow things to progress. Romance and love can come unexpectedly, and while some stories give the impression that doggedly sticking to one’s guns is a measure of heroic resolve, in reality, things don’t always work out so neatly. Having said this, even in the knowledge of Chizuru’s story, I myself are more of a Ruka fan.

  • The reasoning behind why Ruka is my favourite among the main cast is because I empathise with her the most: because of how Kanojo, Okarishimasu is written, and what outcomes must occur in order to convey the story’s main themes, Ruka is predestined to lose Kazuya. Kanojo, Okarishimasu has already shown that she’s madly in love with him and was heartbroken during the first season after it was shown that Kazuya didn’t return her feelings. A sort of status quo is reached after Chizuru asks him to go out with Ruka, feeling that this experience may help him to get over Mami and also stop pining for Chizuru, as she doesn’t return his feelings.

  • While Ruka is my favourite character, in reality, I’m not sure how well I’d get along with someone like Ruka. On one hand, I’m fiercely loyal and commit to wholly to whatever I do, but Ruka also has a bit of a jealous streak about her, as well. Dealing with this might be tricky, but over time, a bit of communication and trust could sort that out, and from what’s shown in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Ruka’s someone I prefer: she’s quite forward about how she feels and despite being of a smaller stature, has a figure that rivals Chizuru’s. In any other story, anyone who decided to accept what’s in front of them and pick Ruka would not be “settling” by any stretch.

  • On the other hand, Sumi is a bundle of joy, and despite her shy disposition, has no qualms about Kazuya: Chizuru had introduced the two so Kazuya could act as a practise date for her of sorts. While Sumi is shy and struggles to speak at times, her intent with taking up a rental girlfriend position was to gain the confidence she needed to become an idol. At first glance, Sumi and Ruka are secondary to Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s main story, but looking more closely, their presence serves to drive Kazuya forward by giving him experiences in communicating with women.

  • One trap that Kanojo, Okarishimasu avoids is the indecisive protagonist: back when Infinite Stratos was running, viewers were livid about how Ichika always danced around the question of which of Houki, Cecilia, Charlotte, Lingyin, Laura or Tatenashi caught his fancy, and this created enough dissatisfaction amongst those who watched Infinite Stratos such that the series became quite reviled. Infinite Stratos is said to have become entangled in additional controversy after Izuru Yumizuru got into trouble with Media Factory, resulting in the light novels being expunged from all listings: if the rumours are to be believed, Yumizuru engaged in flame wars with Japanese readers on Twitter who’d been critiquing the series, and Media Factory decided to cut ties with him.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu doesn’t have quite as controversial of a story (at least, for the time being), and moreover, Kazuya has made it clear that he only has eyes for Chizuru, eliminating the problem of ambiguity. Kazuya’s tendency to second-guess himself is his largest shortcoming: although kind-hearted and acting in good faith, Kazuya always overthinks things. Being with Ruka and Sumi has dailed this back somewhat by Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season, and with the second season in the books, Kazuya’s single-minded determination in helping Chizuru to achieve her dreams leads Chiruzu to wonder why men are so fixated on doing what’s impossible.

  • Curiously enough, I do have an answer for this. There is an evolutionary piece at work here, to show a prospective partner of one’s qualities and traits, and this is why folks go to extraordinary lengths to impress the people they’re interested in. One of my favourite fictional examples is Top Gun‘s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who is a brilliant fighter pilot, but also cocky, immature and a non-team player. Mitchell outwardly is the opposite of Kazuya, being self-assured and smooth, but this actually is a façade: Mitchell flies as recklessly as he does because he lost his father in the Vietnam War, and when Mitchell’s wingman, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, is accidentally killed during a training exercise, Mitchell loses his confidence to fly for a stretch before regaining his game during a combat situation.

  • Despite their personalities being polar opposites, Kazuya and Mitchell both demonstrate what happens when one tries too hard to impress those around them, but both also have the requisite stubbornness and perseverance to do what they think is best to achieve their goals. Much as how Mitchell would demonstrate to his students in Top Gun: Maverick that it was possible to perform the mission within the tight parameters he’d specified, Kazuya’s grit opens Chizuru’s eyes to the fact that, even though her latest audition failed, and her grandmother’s time is short, they’re not out of options yet. Attitude issues notwithstanding, Mitchell and Kazuya both demonstrate that they are capable of showing, rather than being limited to telling.

  • Unbeknownst to Kazuya, this is why Ruka and Sumi both develop feelings for him. He might be clumsy and inept, but his actions show what’s in his heart. Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season ends up leaving Mami in the dust: a relic of a bygone era, Mami had dated Kazuya briefly before dumping him. The light novels indicate that Mami’s story is a bit of a tragic one, leading her to willfully manipulate those around her in a diabolical sort of game: she doesn’t get along with her family, who had arranged her marriage and forced her to break up with her first partner.

  • While Mami’s actions in Kanojo, Okarishimasu are unjustifiable, knowing her story helps one to understand why she’s keen on manipulating people and taking a wrecking ball to their relationships. These details aren’t shown in the anime, and instead, come later in the light novel. Because the light novel has a lot of moving parts in it, when adapted into the anime format, things do seem to drag on for viewers. I do find it amusing whenever Mami’s eyes dull and she takes on the traits of a yandere, although I also cannot help but wonder what sort of effort and process would be involved in helping people to heal from their past.

  • Between having the whole of Kanojo, Okarishimasu in the books and reading supplementary materials, I do feel as though I’ve got a better measure of what this series is trying to accomplish now. I had been quite ready to send this series an F grade and admit that those who hate Kanojo, Okarishimasu with every fibre of their being might have a point, but it is bad form to throw in the towel early and acquiesce to the opinions that more popular anime reviewers hold without making one’s own call on things. Had Kanojo, Okarishimasu actually failed in my books, I would not be writing about it.

  • I’ve been called out before for only writing positively of the things I experience, and there’s two simple reasons for this. Firstly, I’m not a professional anime critic and have no obligation to sit through series I dislike: if I drop something, I will do so without fanfare, and I won’t write about it. Secondly, at least according to readers, I’ve developed something of a reputation for finding positives even in series that ruffle my feathers. This is where the “Terrible Anime Challenge” series comes in, and in the case of Kanojo, Okarishimasu, while it was the case that I spent eleven episodes of the series in a state of either bemusement or annoyance, the finale suddenly led me to add two and two.

  • While the journey was a tumultuous one, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season did end in a manner I found satisfactory, and tied together all of the loose ends that had been bothering me. Scenes that prima facie appeared without purpose were now with meaning, and this meant that my irritation vanished on the spot. However, one aspect of Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season that didn’t sit so well with me was the prevalence of scenes like these, where a large amount of text is present on screen to denote asides the characters are having. I appreciate that these are here to give voice to the character’s thoughts, but they also create visual clutter and come across as being overly sarcastic. These were absent during the first season, which allowed the viewer’s attention to focus on the characters’ interactions and movements, but in the second season, they’re distractions.

  • Luckily, during the most pivotal moments of Kanojo, Okarishimasu, these asides are absent. For instance, there’s no text to distract from the scene where Ruka kisses Kazuya. The entire scene conveyed a sense of desperation and resignation in Ruka: she says so as much, and similarly to how Yui broke into tears during the events of Oregairu‘s third season, it is communicated to viewers here that Ruka doesn’t really stand any sort of chance. One must admire Ruka for how direct she is about how she feels about things, and this entire evening could not have been easy for her.

  • Kazuya’s grandmother is thoroughly convinced that she will be welcoming Chizuru into the family and gifts her a family heirloom as a result. Throughout Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Kazuya had entertained the idea of telling her grandmother and parents the truth about Chizuru, that they’re a phony couple, but over time, the lie endured because it became increasingly difficult to come forward, especially in the knowledge both Chizuru and Kazuya’s grandmothers were thrilled that their grandchildren would be family.

  • In the end, it’s Chizuru, who makes the call to perpetuate the lie for a little longer; her grandmother is dying, and she feels that it would be unfair to spring this news on her. At this point in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, glimpses of the series’ real story began appearing, and I found myself wishing that this is the direction the series had taken from the start. I understand the comedic detours are meant to humanise the characters, but because Kanojo, Okarishimasu is limited to twelve episodes per season, the series simply doesn’t have the luxury of slowly fleshing things out. Love stories take time to explore, and this is why more time is almost always needed to tell a compelling, convincing tale.

  • As Kazuya agonises over things during a make-up date with Ruka, Ruka takes a photograph of her gourmet pancake before digging in. Smartphone technology has come quite a long way: although Japan had been a front-runner in feature phones, the industry was disrupted in far-reaching ways when Apple introduced their iPhone back in 2007. Fifteen years after its introduction, the iPhone line has advanced into an industry-leading standard, and I am excited to receive my iPhone 14 Pro because it’s going to be a substantial upgrade over my current iPhone Xʀ. The iPhone Xʀ already takes excellent food photographs, so I’m curious to see how five years’ worth of advancement impacts my food photography, which has become something of a hobby for me.

  • After Kazuya’s birthday passes, Sumi decides to create a customised date based on his interests. Knowing that Kazuya is a big fan of marine life and aquariums, she takes him to the local marine park on an eventful and fun day. Sumi is outfitted in a school uniform, thinking that Kazuya was into that sort of thing after spotting him and Chizuru on a date in their school uniforms earlier. As the day draws to a close, Sumi brings Kazuya to a beautiful lookout providing a view of the city skyline, and to Kazuya’s surprise, happy couples can be seen everywhere.

  • Kazuya’s imagination goes into overdrive, and while it does appear as though Sumi is struggling with a kokuhaku, it turns out she’d been working up the courage to give Kazuya his birthday gift. Subsequently, Kazuya tries his hand at explaining his situation with Chizuru to her (in an indirect manner), and the pair share tears before Sumi does her best to reassure him. The pair part ways on a good note, and in this moment, Kazuya determines what his next move regarding Chizuru is.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season ends the way it began by covering Chizuru’s latest ambitions to a career as an actress, and she’s unsuccessful in her most recent audition. Flashing back to her time as a middle school student and her decision to become an actress after watching a film starring her grandmother, the specifics behind Chizuru are finally shown to viewers. These moments are the most critical parts of Kanojo, Okarishimasu because they give Chizuru proper exposition, and once her story is known, every part of her character, and her general attitudes towards Kazuya, become logical.

  • With this story in the open, I felt that the reason why Chizuru has been keeping Kazuya at a distance was simply because his determination and optimistic spirit has similarities with her grandfather’s: he was always one to believe that anything is possible, and that specifics can be worked out later. Since her grandfather’s death, Chizuru felt compelled to succeed on her own merits, without any assistance, which leads her to turn down Kazuya’s help. Ordinarily, dusting oneself off and trying again is what’s required, but Chizuru’s on one hell of a deadline because her grandmother’s health is rapidly declining, and she feels duty-bound to succeed to show her grandparents that their wishes for her were also fulfilled. Because of the timelines involved in auditions, Chizuru begins to feel that it might not be possible.

  • This is where Kazuya comes in: typically, his timing and lack of tact earns him admonishment from Chizuru, but because things had reached this point, Chizuru realises that it’s either she cling to her pride and attempt to do things the old-fashioned way, which would certainly mean her grandmother will never see her act, or she accept Kazuya’s help. Chizuru is initially surprised and wonders if it’s even possible for him to pull things off, but Kazuya reminds her that he’s in business administration, and therefore possesses the skills needed to run such a project. Kanojo, Okarishimasu may have presented Kazuya as a loser of sorts up until now, but the series has never once mentioned that his pursuit of Chizuru’s heart (and the collateral damage that tends to accumulate) ever had an impact on his studies.

  • It therefore stands to reason that, where relationships and romance aren’t concerned, Kazuya can hold his own, but since Chizuru was so absorbed in her own world, she never saw this side of Kazuya. In fact, now that I’ve entertained the thought, it does feel as though Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s portrayal of Kazuya is entirely consistent with how Chizuru sees him, and in this way, it is fair to say that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is every bit as much Chizuru’s story, as it is Kazuya’s. For the first time, Chizuru is flustered, and one hopes that, as Kazuya puts his best forward for her, Chizuru’s opinion of Kazuya will improve, as well.

  • In the event I weren’t being clear, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season proved a pleasant surprise. I had remained unimpressed with the series during its run, and was quite ready to mark it as a write-off, a series not worth saying anything about, but the finale tied up enough of the loose ends so that all of the lead-up to the finale now had a reasonable context. With Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s directions now clear, I can say that this series is therefore better than I had anticipated. It does have its moments, and I am glad to have had the patience to sit things through to completion. To be sure, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is a B- (2.7 of 4.0): this series isn’t going to displace any of my favourites, and it doesn’t alter how I see the world, but things cannot be considered to be waste of time, either. While the anime still leaves much to be desired in pacing, the story does appear to be hitting its stride now, enough for me to retain a modicum of interest in where things land. This is a win in my books.

I had been an episode away from pulling the plug on Kanojo, Okarishimasu: until the finale, the series had meandered, unnecessarily creating conflict by returning Mami into the fray even as Ruka tried to pry Kazuya’s eyes from Chizuru. However, in the eleventh hour, Kanojo, Okarishimasu suddenly turned around – this anime adaptation exemplifies why I tend to stick around until the very end, because anything can happen. In the absence of Chizuru’s background, her motivations remain unknown, and Kazuya’s determination to help her appears little more than an unwarranted and unhealthy fixation. Similarly, without knowing why Chizuru wanted to become an actress, Kazuya has no reason in trying to court Chizuru beyond maintaining a promise with his grandmother, and Chizuru’s grandmother. With this additional revelation, additional weight is given to both Chizuru and Kazuya’s reasons for being. The second season had certainly taken its time to reach this point, but now that this is known, it becomes clear that Ruka has no chance at all. This aspect of Kanojo, Okarishimasu is written in stone, necessary for the story to progress, but one cannot help but feel poorly for her. Ruka’s feelings are legitimate, and while she’s clingy, her take-charge personality does seem to be a suitable fit, at least for the present, for Kazuya. His biggest weakness is indecision, and spending time with Ruka has also given Kazuya a glimpse as to what a relationship entails, both in good and bad. While seemingly relegated to heartbreak, Ruka’s role in Kanojo, Okarishimasu is an unfortunate, but necessary one – it provides Kazuya with the stepping stone he needs to press on ahead and show Chizuru that he’s committed to her. This appears to be something that could be covered in the upcoming third season as Kazuya strives to make the crowd-funding project a success for Chizuru. Overall, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season had not impressed during most of its run, seeing its conclusion provides a decisive answer as to why things are happening the way they did. This remains a difficult anime to recommend because seeing things unfold at such a pace is frustrating, but for folks with patience to weather this storm, the series does set the stage for what could be a touching story yet. Ultimately, I would probably suggest that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is still a series that should be watched once it’s hit completion – individually, episodes can be painfully slow and drag out longer than they should, but the overarching story winds up being touching enough in spite of the series’ shortcomings. Occurrences such as these are why I am reluctant to drop anime: much as how hockey teams can manage to tie a game after pulling the goaltender with only seconds left in third period and subsequently win in overtime, anime can sometimes find ways to surprise viewers. Similarly, I do hope readers have gone all the way through this post, rather than reading just the title and immediately drawing conclusions on what I made of things – for Kanojo, Okarishimasu, my beer can stay right where it belongs, since this series is not, in the terms  of internet reviewers more popular (but less eloquent and, if I may, more vulgar than myself), a “dumpster fire”.

Jon’s Creator Showcase: A Summer Extravaganza, Celebrating July 2022’s Finest Content From Around The Community

“A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.” –Yehuda Berg

Foreword

According to the archives, the last time I hosted Jon’s Creator Showcase was back in February 2021, where I had the honour of being the first to showcase the freshest posts from around the community. Eighteen months have elapsed since then, and significant changes in my life have been the reason behind why I’ve not hosted until now. However, having foreseen that things might slow down enough for me to participate again, it is my pleasure to host Jon’s Creator Showcase for the month of August 2022. Jon’s Creator Showcase is an initiative that has its origins in 2017, when Jon Spencer Reviews opened a programme to celebrate and share content from around the community. The rules are simple: the host invites content creators (ranging from bloggers and YouTube creators, to published authors, E-commerce store owners and everything in between) to share their content via Twitter, tag it with #TheJCS so hosts can find the content, and then invite more people to participate. Traditionally, Jon’s Creator Showcase posts have become gargantuan posts as I strive to really feature all of the submissions, so this time around, I’ve elected to go with something a little different. Before I turn the floor over to the real stars of the show, the forty-two content creators who’ve submitted something, I decided to indulge my curiosity and see if there were any interesting patterns and trends among the submissions received for this Jon’s Creator Showcase.

  • If memory serves, the last time I hosted Jon’s Creator Showcase would’ve been back in February 2021, over a year and a half ago. While I had expressed interest in hosting again, the main reason why I ended up choosing the August slot was because by November last year, I’d known that a move had been on my schedule, and therefore, to ensure I had ample time to ensure all my ducks were lined up, I decided to pick a time later in the year. August proved to be a good choice: while this month has been busy, I was able to both maintain my blog and complete Jon’s Creator Showcase.

Remarks on Community Trends

Firstly, I would like to thank all forty-two of the content creators for participating. The first metric worth mentioning is that this is the single largest Jon’s Creator showcase I’ve had the honour to host. Over these forty-two submissions, there were forty blog posts and two videos. Among the forty blog posts, 57632 words were written, which corresponds to an average of about 1441 words per post. I ended up looking at two other metrics for these posts, as well (Figure I). The first of these is the Flesch-Kincaid score, which is a measure of readability. A score approaching 100 means a passage is very easy to read and is readily understood, while a score approaching 0 is extremely difficult to read. The average Flesch-Kincaid score among the submissions is 62.2, which corresponds to text that is easily understood by middle to high school students. Writing in easy-to-understand terms is a sign of effective communication, and it is evident that this cohort of Jon’s Creative Showcase submissions are very well-written. The other metric I have looked at is sentiment analysis, which measures how positive, neutral or negative a given bit of text is. While I found the natural-language processing algorithm utilised to be somewhat inconsistent (there were cases where the algorithm assigned a post to be negative when it should have been marked positive), interesting results arose from carrying out sentiment analysis on the submissions. Overall, the sentiment averages out to neutral (-6.67). With three metrics, it became possible to determine if there were any patterns in the submissions. It turns out that there is a very weak correlation between post length and readability: posts become slightly less readable the longer they are. Conversely, there is no significant correlation between post length and sentiment. This should be unsurprising: when people wish to express their criticisms or praises of something, they will do so in a manner of their preference, and seeing no correlation here suggests that the submissions are indeed as diverse as the means of expression. This is a sign that the community is very healthy and supportive of diverse, varied styles and approaches.

  • Figure I: Summary of Jon’s Creator Showcase portraying the trends for submissions. This is the surprise I was referring to on Twitter, and was motivated by the fact that, for previous Jon’s Creator Showcases, my previous format was not sustainable if that month received a larger number of submissions. However, it also hit me that, with a larger number of submissions, it would be fun to see if there were any trends and patterns among the submissions. Although my original plan had been to do more metrics and write less, August had arrived so suddenly that I didn’t have time to plan out everything, and this Jon’s Creator Showcase thus ended up being a compromise, allowing me to write a little less than before, and at the same time, do something a little differently.

Just for kicks, I also decided to see what would happen if readability and sentiment scores were plotted against one another. Based purely on the submissions, it appears that the less readable a post is, the more it trends towards a slightly negative sentiment. Although more information would be needed to draw any concrete conclusions from this outcome, it is possible that people tend to be more direct when using neutral or negative language. Finally, I plotted out submission patterns to see if there were any noteworthy trends in when content creators replied to the Twitter thread and submitted their content. It is unsurprising that almost all of the submissions happen within the first week of the month, and initially, the topics submitted are most similar to the host’s content. Since I write largely about anime, most of the submissions in the beginning were anime related. What is interesting is the surge of gaming related posts from the sixth of August, which suggests that one of the participants nominated a blogger with a gaming focus, and this subset of the community became very enthusiastic about participating. A few posts did trickle in later in the month, rounding out the submissions, and over the course of August, I had a great deal of fun in assembling this post and seeing what sort of content is out there. Since submissions tend to cluster around the early parts of a month, a host can keep up with things by logging all submissions, and then slowly chip away at their post. I’ve found that doing this is the best way of keeping up and still have enough time left over if anything unforeseen should happen: I don’t mind admitting that because of how Twitter’s mention system worked, I actually missed all of the posts from August 6 until I went back and checked the #TheJCS tags. Luckily, I did have the presence of mind to check, so I hope I’ve not missed anyone. I have now hogged the spotlight for long enough, and without further delay, I present this post’s highlight: forty-two excellent submissions that showcase the insightfulness, diversity and energy within the community.

The August 2022 Showcase

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bladeworks (2014) Route 1 Alternative – Should You Start Here? (Jon Spencer, @JS_Reviews)

Jon Spencer Reviews opens up this showcase with a breakdown of where a novice should start with the Fate franchise. This article is perfect for a greenhorn such as myself: for long, I’ve put off with Fate because of how much content there is, and while fans of the series greatly enjoy discussing the series in all of its glory, from character dynamics and themes, to philosophical implications, it leaves first-timers out in the cold. Jon Spencer’s post, on the other hand, rectifies this: not only is an order supplied for beginners, but there is also a substantial explanation backing the order he recommends. Simply put, watching things in a certain order helps to extend the storytelling, and clarify things that may otherwise appear more challenging. This becomes especially helpful because now, I’ve got the foundations for making a decision: if I were to go down the route of watching only the newer adaptations, I would start at Fate/Zero. This is actually what I’d been planning to do, since I’ve heard that Zero is the starting point. A large part of why the blogging community is so valuable is because of posts such as these; armed with Jon Spencer Review’s suggested viewing order, it really does appear that I can no longer say that concern about where to begin watching Fate is an impediment. With this being said, the community does know me as a bit of a procrastinator, so I hope that Jon isn’t terribly surprised when I come back in a year or two and then say, I’ve got my own thoughts on Fate/Zero finally written out!

College Craze Review [Indie Spotlight] (Tequila, @CoreReviews)

It’s not often when one can find a game that fulfils all of the elements they’d sought out, but Tequila of Core Reviews has experienced such a title in College Craze, which is a dating simulator set in the post-secondary. The game allows one to simulate every aspect of their post-secondary, from academics to social life with an exceptional level of depth. In fact, according to the developers, a sophisticated decision engine allows for over a thousand possible outcomes based on one’s decisions, which Tequila praises for mimicking real life, and moreover, College Craze doesn’t shy away from dealing with more difficult topics like consent, abuse and the like. Overall, Tequila’s impressions of College Craze is positive, and brings to mind a similar set of criteria I have when hunting down new games. While I’m most unlike Tequila in that I play first-person shooters almost exclusively, I share the same appreciation for a game well done. Having said this, I’ve never quite found any one game that allows me to check off all of the things I’d like in a game (a semi-open world first person shooter set in Japan and China about biological warfare, with a deep weapons customisation system, and meaningful decisions that impact outcomes in a tangible fashion), but this too is a positive: it allows me to try out a variety of games. However, I will note that my preferences limits me to what action titles can yield, and so, it is always enjoyable to read what people play, as well as specific details behind what makes different games so engaging for different people.

Anime Review: Kaguya-sama: Love is war – Ultra Romantic (Odaisensei, @Odaisensei1)

In a glowing review of Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Odaisensei offers readers a strong recommendation for the series’ comedy and romantic aspects. Despite there being only thirteen episodes to work with, Kaguya-sama: Love is war – Ultra Romantic makes full use of every moment to develop the characters to an extent where they believably bounce off one another and grow. Beyond this, the sound and visual aspects are also praised. That Odaisensei suggests that Kaguya-sama: Love is war is something that folks would enjoy, even if it’s outside of their typical preferences, is telling: I’ve said this myself in previous reviews when a series is especially impressive, to the point where one needn’t have an extensive background in a given genre and its traits. While at first glance, a priori knowledge of a genre and its style might be helpful, it turns out that these smaller details only serve to enhance a story. A solidly-executed work succeeds on virtue of its characters, storyline and themes to capture the excitement of general views, and then smaller details will wow more dedicated viewers. Yuru Camp△ is one such example on my end: for folks who don’t watch slice-of-life, showing universally relatable themes (such as solo versus group activities and the merits of both) makes the series one that almost anyone can enjoy, while outdoorsmen and cooks will enjoy the attention paid to detail in things like how to light a fire, or preparing a delicious outdoors meal. It is plain that Odaisensei greatly enjoyed Ultra Romantic and has done an excellent, but also concise, job of selling this series. I’ve now developed a curiosity to see things for myself: longtime readers are familiar with my love for slice-of-life and military moé, but I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion on recommendations from viewers, and it looks to be the case that Ultra Romantic will probably not disappoint, either.

New Video Added! – How To Train Your Dinosaur (ManInBlack, @MibIH)

For Jon’s Creative Showcase, ManInBlack submits a completed video of RentaDinosaur – How To Train Your Dinosaur!. As a part of the creative work that ManInBlack does for the community, he edits videos for the RentaDinosaur team, a British company that brings excitement to events and parties. The resulting videos are used for marketting and promotional purposes, and in this post, the video ManInBlack shares is clear, funny and plainly sells what RentaDinosaur does. The video reminds me of the promotional videos that the founder for my previous company had made as a part of our social media marketting work, and having seen him at work, I appreciate the effort that goes into making these videos. ManInBlack has done a fantastic job of this video, and it is great to see the final product approved: I don’t have the video here, but readers should definitely swing by ManInBlack’s blog and check out the finished RentaDinosaur video for themselves!

EP 68: Kids of the Slope w/ Religiously Nerdy (FatherOfVash, @DadNeedsToTalk)

Podcasts have their origins with Apple’s iPods, when content creators of their time created audio shows that could easily be played on media players or portable devices. Although they are associated with the iPod, podcasting has since been an umbrella term that refer to all audio discussions. The biggest advantage about a podcast is that, as a pure-audio format, it leaves one to listen in the background, just like a radio programme. FatherOfVash’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase is the only podcast, and the topic is Kids on the Slope, an anime dating back a decade that follows Kaoru Nishimi after he moves to Sasebo, Nagasaki. Widely praised for its portrayal of friendship and male relationships, Kids on the Slope began as a manga series and was adapted into an anime for the spring season, running for a total of twelve episodes. FatherOfVash is joined by Ellie, Tobi and Toyin, who go over a plethora of topics that the anime brings up, and in this conversation, it felt as though I were attending a panel at an anime convention. The podcast and Zoom-style format creates a more dynamic discussion that’s a world apart from the blog posts I’m most accustomed to, and watching FatherOfVash’s podcast all the way through reminds me of how even talking with one other person about an anime can lead to interesting tangents, new perspectives and laughter as one shares their thoughts. FatherOfVash’s podcast runs for an hour and nineteen minutes, which is a shade longer than the length of an average panel at my local convention, but it does provide a broad set of thoughts on an anime that looks quite worthwhile for fans looking for a slice-of-life series that deals with a range of social and interpersonal topics.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Ultra Romantic: Breaking those Limits (Dewbond, @ShallowDivesAni)

“Damn well written” and “one of the best anime I’ve seen” is how Dewbond characterises Kaguya-sama: Love is war – Ultra Romantic. My curiosity to check this anime out now doubles as a consequence of reading Dewbond’s typical fashion for presenting compelling, persuasive arguments for why something is worthwhile. It is telling that Dewbond also counts this series’ comedy and heartfelt character interactions as a plus, with Ultra Romantic especially excelling by pushing the characters’ relationship forward where most series would maintain the status quo for fear of portraying things incorrectly. There is a reason why comedy is featured so prominently in romance series: falling in love is touching, but when it’s new love, even seasoned veterans approach it as a touch-and-go problem, treading as carefully as though one were navigating a minefield. When things invariably blow up or backfire even from good intentions, the awkwardness can elicit a few understanding smiles. However, this contributes to the pay-off as things become more serious. To my great surprise, Dewbond also indicates that there’s going to be a film and new season on top of things. With this, I’ve now got two ironclad reasons to give Ultra Romantic a go, with the same caveat as I do for all the recommendations that come across my path: I’ll actually have to find time to do so. There is one consolation: anime films and new seasons do take some time to appear, so at the very least, it would appear that so long as I start within the next twelve months, I could probably catch up: Dewbond has previously succeeded in convincing me to go through Gundam SEED, and from this momentum, I would finish Gundam SEED: Destiny before the movie came out, too.

Space Pirate Captain Harlock – The Power To Save Yourself (Scott, @MechAnimeReview)

In titling this post “The Power To Save Yourself”, Scott provides an insightful glimpse into Captain Harlock, protagonist of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, an older anime that was adapted from the manga in 1978 and follows Harlock as he participates in various operations against the alien Mazone in a world where humanity has become a space-faring civilisation. With an incredibly rich cast and deep world for Harlock to explore, facets of Harlock’s personality beome explored over time, bringing this intricate and complex character to life. While the characters are lifelike, and the stories are compelling, Scott notes that owing to the fact that Space Pirate Captain Harlock is an older anime, the visuals feel dated, and some of the values presented no longer hold true. In spite of these niggles, Scott greatly enjoyed Space Pirate Captain Harlock: he counts it as being among his top thirty, and with a thousand shows under his belt, this means that Space Pirate Captain Harlock would be in the 97th percentile, an impressive placement indeed. Going through Scott’s post on Space Pirate Captain Harlock leads me to the classic question of whether or not old anime should be brought into the modern era through things like movies or reboots, the same way Cucuruz Doan’s Island explores one of Amuro’s adventures in greater detail using contemporary visuals, or how Modern Warfare 2019 takes aspects from its 2007 incarnation and tells a story with increased relevance in today’s political landscape. On one hand, remasters and reboots could dramatically improve the visuals to immerse viewers in a hitherto unparalleled fashion, as well as shine more light on topics and values that are more dated, or perhaps skipped over in the original. However, reboots may also prove unfaithful to the originals. Regardless of which outcome applies for the classics, Scott’s final verdict is concrete: Space Pirate Captain Harlock is a series worth checking out.

25 Amazing Anime With Diverse Characters (YumDeku, @YumDeku)

Because I grew up in Canada, multiculturalism and diversity is a part of life: I think nothing of the fact that there’s a store selling Chinese medicine right beside an Indian Restaurant, and across the street is a Greek-style tavern. In YumDeku’s submission, we’ve gotten our first list for this Showcase: twenty-five culturally diverse anime. I won’t spoil any of the inclusions and encourage readers to check out this list: it suddenly hits me that I’ve not seen any of the shows presented. However, a glance at the series finds that all of the anime here are equally diverse in genre as they are with their characters, and moreover, many of these anime are older series. Japan is culturally homogenous, and this is most evident in slice-of-life genre, which focuses on self-discovery and other things surrounding the ordinary lives of Japanese folks. Outside of slice-of-life, the sheer creativity and imagination that goes into other genres means anime are afforded with an unparalleled chance to explore the world well beyond Japan, whether they be fantasy worlds, alternate histories, or dramatisations of the real world. Anime has been culturally diverse and multicultural for a non-trivial amount of time, and as a result, have had plenty of opportunity to celebrate this; having people of all backgrounds and ethnicities makes a series more lifelike, believable, adding to each of the anime on this list. In summarising an impressive number of series (there’s actually ten more honourable mentions), YumDeku presents readers with a fantastic launch point for getting started, and I remark here that such lists have previously helped me to become introduced to anime that I now count among my masterpieces.

Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? by Harold Schechter & Eric Powell: A Darkly Fascinating Biography of America’s Most Disturbing Serial Killer – Comic Review (BiblioNyan, @AdmiralNyan)

BiblioNyan’s submissions for this Jon’s Creator Showcase is a literature review of Harold Schechter and Eric Powell’s Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?, which is a graphic novel that portrays Edward Gein, who became known by the moniker Butcher of Plainfield after he became known for exhuming corpses and making keepsakes from the remains, as well as committing two murders. In this graphic novel, Gein’s life is described from childhood, profiling a troubled past where his mother was a dominant figure in his life, and compelling readers to continue turning the pages as crimes and disappearances plague the town of Plainfield, Wisconsin. BiblioNyan finds this graphic novel a highly captivating read, brilliantly presenting a horrific story in a shocking manner. In their review of Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?, BiblioNyan presents a powerful recommendation, and I am reminded of a book sitting on my shelf: Feng Chi-Shun’s Hong Kong Noir, which writes of a dark side of Hong Kong few people considered. One of the most vivid and gruesome stories in Hong Kong Noir is the Hello Kitty murder, whose details are sickening (which I won’t recount here) and speak to the fact that human depravity has no limits. Like BiblioNyan, I find such stories fascinating, although they also remind me of the horrors that people can commit. However, unlike BiblioNyan, I don’t have a stomach for visuals, and while I am drawn to murder mysteries of this sort, I’m most comfortable reading about them through words. Seeing the pictures is a bit much for me, so I do appreciate that BiblioNyan, in their post, clearly indicates that this graphic novel contains imagery of mutilation and cannibalism.

Lycoris Recoil Episode 4 Review – Best In Show (Terrance Crow, @CrowsAnimeWorld)

Lycoris Recoil is said to be this season’s counterpart to Luminous Witches, being a military moé series following a task force of high school aged operators who carry out wet operations against terrorists and criminals. However, unlike the military moé anime I typically watch, Lycoris Recoil is a ways more grim. However, even then, this anime still has its light-hearted moments: Crow walks readers through some of the most engaging moments of the fourth episode, which focus on the characters’ choice of undergarments and the comedy surrounding what is sure to be an awkward conversation. While this creates comedy, Crow also suggests that this comedy sets up for darker moments later in the series. The trends that Crow spots in Lycoris Recoil is one that is employed in a large number of anime, and is a recurring trend because it helps to humanise the characters. In recalling such moments in Lycoris Recoil, Crow reminds viewers that while Chisato and Takina might be wet operatives (wet in the sense of being assassins), there’s still a person behind the trigger. This is something that helps viewers to empathise with the characters and create a reason to follow their experiences. In celebrating this aspect of Lycoris Recoil, Crow’s submission reminds me that I should probably get a move on in this series: it’s been on my watchlist since several readers have indicated that the anime is up my alley, and I’ve always been fond of series that can expertly juxtapose moments of combat and trouble with calm, slice-of-life experiences and conversations. It is refreshing to see that I’m not the only person who appreciates such a contrast, and Crow’s presentation of the fourth episode to Lycoris Recoil is another reminder that my ever-growing backlog is perhaps out pacing my ability to enjoy things!

Anime Corner: Princess Connect! Re: Dive Season 2 Review (neverarguewithafish, @ChrisGJoynson)

neverarguewithafish delves into Princess Connect! Re: Dive‘s second season, and just a few sentences in, it is plain that I’m in for yet another wonderful recommendation; the second season to Princess Connect! takes the elements that were established in the first and expands them into full-fledged stories that leave viewers curious to learn more. Even though this continuation leaves some lingering questions, the character growth and animation is of a high standard, leaving to a conclusion that’s as plain as day: Princess Connect! Re: Dive‘s second season is worth checking out, and in neverarguewithafish’s words, I’m going to have to pick this one up, on top of all the other shows that have receieved recommendations: Princess Connect! is on my (procrastinating) radar. From neverarguewithafish’s review, two things immediately come to mind. The first is that Princess Connect! sounds a great deal like GochiUsa and Machikado Mazoku in that both anime, although they’re both slice-of-life, started out with a slower first season to establish the world and their characters before opening the throttle and diving into thematic elements that really help viewers to connect with everyone. The other point here that is worth raising is that neverarguewithafish has managed to sell me on Princess Connect! without spoiling any of the plot points at all. This is an impressive feat: I’ve never been able to do spoiler-free reviews because I’m entirely dependent on a story’s outcomes to draw out its messages and convey this to viewers, so it’s always fantastic to read writers with a skill for presenting an anime’s strengths and weaknesses without exposing mission-critical elements to folks who’ve not seen something for themselves.

Fav 4 Anime or Video Game Fighters (Matt-in-the-Hat, @MattXnVHat)

Blog tagging activities pre-date social media, and in fact, can be seen as a precursor of sorts to Jon’s Creative Showcase in that they operate on similar rules. For this submission, Matthew of Matt-in-the-Hat presents four of his favourite fighters from anime and video games, providing a summary of what makes each fighter so commendable: Son Gohan of Dragon Ball, Bleach‘s Yoruichi Shihōn, Sub-Zero from Mortal Combat and Street Fighter‘s very own Chun-Li make this list. What each of these fighters have in common is a sense of honour and integrity in conjunction with their physical prowess. For me, I’m most familiar with Chun-Li, since I’ve got a Street Fighter fan in the family. I still remember how when I was younger, Chun-Li was the only character I could use with any reliability thanks to her Hyakuretsukyaku, which can be executed simply by mashing the kick button. Of course, I don’t mind admitting that Chun-Li’s thighs are also appealing to me: I’ll leave readers to make of this what they will, and return focus to the post itself; Matthew tags four more bloggers to continue this party, and this represents a fantastic way to engage members of the community. I’ve participated in only a few of these tagging posts previously, but it’s always fun to know that people do remember my blog well enough to tag me, and it similarly represents a chance to spread the love to other blogs. Social media has simplified this somewhat, although it is good to see that these activities are still practised in the community, speaking the blogging community’s healthy respect for both old and new alike.

My Dress-Up Darling (Episodes 1-4) – Self-Confidence is Infectious! (Lynn, @TheOtakuAuthor)

An anime excels when its messages are so clear that viewers of all backgrounds end up drawing the same conclusion, and Lynn of Otaku Author’s breakdown of self-confidence in My Dress-Up Darling bring to mind the very things that captivated me about this anime. The first four episodes do a fantastic job of presenting several different themes. First and foremost, Marin’s popular and well-regarded not because of who she’s trying to be, but because of who she is, and this creates a powerful juxtaposition between herself and Wakana, who’s a bit more reserved about what he loves. Unlike Marin, who is unabashedly forward about what she likes, Wakana’s past experiences meant he’s worried about being judged for his hobbies. These elements play off Wakana, who slowly opens up and embraces the crafting of cosplay as a part of his journey. Along the way, Wakana also realises there’s a deeper reason behind putting in an effort to find success; he wants to see Marin smile. Lynn’s remarks about accepting oneself is especially moving: one is only as beautiful as how they see themselves, and this is where My Dress-Up Darling truly excels. Much as how Wakana is able to live life more fully and embrace his love for hina dolls, and how Marin is filled to the brim with excitement and life, I’ve found that the people in my life I most enjoy being with are those who are completely at peace with who they are, and pursue a life of maximising the things that make them happiest without worrying about being judged. These messages are especially relevant and important in an age where social media creates the impression that the grass is greener on the other side, and when presented with something like My Dress-Up Darling, which encourages people to accept their own inner beauty and wear this with confidence, one is reminded to count their blessings.

Lycoris Recoil – 03 (FlareKnight, @Flare0Knight)

FlareKnight of Anime Evo submits a review and discussion of Lycoris Recoil‘s third episode, praising the episode for focusing on two characters with different objectives and desires, but whose interactions help the pair to cooperate better despite these differences. The dynamics between the other characters are further explored as Flare Knight explains the significance behind what happens in this episode and how what’s seen here may potentially be relevant later down the line. The fun about posts like these (which are similar in style to what I do) is seeing how close we are as a series progresses. While sometimes, we’re spot on owing to being familiar with a genre, other times, series can find ways of surprising us, and this is what gives the exercise worth. Standing in contrast with the fourth episode, which Crow has presented, it appears this third episode has a much larger emphasis on the human side of the Lycoris operators. Finally, it’s always uplifting to see writers describe episodes as being fun; something one can smile about is sometimes precisely what’s needed. It is apparent that with FlareKnight’s post, which opens with the header “Grade: A”, readers would be given another, excellent reason for giving this series a go. Here, I will remark that I’m quite familiar with Anime Evo: I was introduced to the site through AnimeSuki’s former moderator and a peer, Flower, who had wondered if I would be curious to guest-blog about Brave Witches some six years earlier. Although this opportunity never came to pass, I always enjoyed the different perspectives that Anime Evo brought to the table through its small but devoted group of authors. Today, FlareKnight’s doing a solid job of keeping the blog going, and I find myself wishing him to be a closer part of the Jon Spencer community.

A Review of Made in Abyss (S1) (A K, @sonata_no1)

Although I’d said to A K that I’d give Made in Abyss a go as soon as time freed up in my bewilderingly busy schedule, the moment A K indicates there’s a horror piece to Made in Abyss, one which stands in stark contrast with the art style, his post had my full, undivided attention: the world the characters inhabit is a dangerous one, and there’s hazards at every turn, but ultimately, teamwork and cooperation is what helps the characters to get through what would otherwise be incredibly difficult ordeals, the most horrific of which is what happens to some of the characters experience when they meet a villain who experiments on children and creates Eldritch horrors. The scope of the story in Made in Abyss ends up being quite compelling despite some of the shortcomings, and A K concludes on the note that Made in Abyss is worthwhile for its world-building, characters and the driving story, which conveys both beauty and horror. Having read this post in full now, I’ve more information to make a call on whether or not this one joins my watchlist. On one hand, I’ve a weakness for body horror; while I have no qualms with watching a 50-cal go to town on people, body horror is something that unsettles me to an uncommon extent. However, seeing the juxtaposition between the grotesque and pleasing in a well-written world is also quite enticing. Coupled with the fact that A K mentions that there’s nothing like The Animatrix’s Second Renaissance, and since the violence was, admittedly, a factor in my original decision to pass over Made in Abyss five years earlier, it is reassuring to know that we won’t be seeing anything quite as graphic. This is the joy of having reviews of all sorts; on some occasions, they greatly clarify what one is getting into, and beyond answering the question of whether or not a work proved enjoyable for an individual, the discussion can also offer insight into other questions that readers may have.

The Observation Deck: Odd Taxi (Jack Scheibelein, @AniObservations)

For this Jon’s Creator Showcase, Jack Scheibelein submits a recommendation for Odd Taxi, a 2021 anime that received critical acclaim for its gripping mystery story surrounding a taxi driver who becomes entangled in things, but to keep viewers captivated, Odd Taxi rolls the curtain back smartly, revealing just enough to keep one captivated while at the same time, deliberately introducing complex dialogue to keep viewers guessing. In spite of this, Odd Taxi is never too complex, allowing viewers to work things out for themselves and enjoy the story for what it accomplishes. Moreover, by using highly stylised characters, Odd Taxi is able to convey a great deal about each individual and their dialogue. A quick look at the series would suggest that the deliberate choice of using animals for the characters allows for the series to eliminate biases that might accompany people, and this enables viewers to fully focus on the dialogue and mysteries that protagonist Hiroshi Odokawa encounters during his drives: in this way, the series is able to succeed with simpler visuals. Although Jack Scheibelein writes that hype can often dampen enthusiasm for a series, Odd Taxi appears to be one of those rare exceptions in that it lives up to expectations. Hype is indeed a challenge when it comes to picking and choosing anime; there are cases where people may not fully express their reasons for enjoying something, and this can create expectations that cannot be fulfilled. However, hype also becomes an interesting indicator of a work’s ability to capture the viewer’s interests, and if a work is almost universally acclaimed, it achieves this because it plainly struck the right chords with many viewers. I myself have not looked at Odd Taxi, but reading Jack Scheibelein’s review of it strips away some of the mystery behind the hype: with this post, I’ve seen one well-presented set of perspectives on the show, and this leaves me one step closer to deciding whether or not I should give this ago.

Edens Zero Chapter 200 Review – Alternative (Haru, @OtakuSpaceBlog)

Haru of Otaku Space drops readers into the heart of Edens Zero‘s two-hundredth manga chapter, and expresses enthusiasm that despite having run for a nontrivial amount of time, this manga still continues to surprise in a positive way; even though Eden’s Zero has had this much development, there’s always more to show, and the manga shows no sign of easing back on the throttle. Long-running manga often fall into a trap of becoming repetitive or stale, but Haru finds that this isn’t even a concern for Edens Zero, giving the latest chapters a perfect score and expressing complete enjoyment of things every step of the way. The feeling of total satisfaction in a work comes from a longtime investment into said work yielding an outcome that is well-deserved, an appropriate payout. While I’m not familiar with Edens Zero by any stretch, this is a feeling that I completely relate to; seeing the winding, bumpy path characters take to achieve their goals and overcome their problems makes successes more rewarding, and watching the process unfold is gripping. Haru’s review of Eden Zero’s two hundredth chapter also provides for readers an example of how to format a manga review: back in April, I concluded my read-through of Harukana Receive when the ninth and ten volumes became available at the local bookstore, but I had no way of actually reviewing it in my usual style because manga pages convey multiple events, and this leaves me in a bind, since I would subsequently need to talk about the whole panel. Haru’s post, on the other hand, takes panels from the manga to convey some of the strongest moments while at the same time, allowing the writing to convey what’d worked so well. If I am to write about manga in the future, I see Haru’s formatting one approach I could take: I might’ve been in the blogging game for over a decade now, but I’m always impressed by what other bloggers do, and have no objections to learning from what different folks in the community do to convey their enjoyment of a given work.

Ranking 12 Times Dvorak’s New World Symphony was Used in Anime (moyatori, @The_Moyatorium)

Classical music is a big deal in anime, and when blogging veterans like Moya of the Moyatorium presents a discussion of how classical music can create vivid memories of a certain scene when used in anime, readers are in for an excellent show. In this post, Moya covers use of Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony, which has been heard in no fewer than twelve anime. After presenting a brief history of the New World Symphony, Moya jumps right to rating how well each of the twelve anime utilise the piece in order of efficacy. Legend of the Galactic Heroes takes the top spot, utilsing the symphony at several iconic moments to convey the scope and scale of battle. Although Moya claims to be not knowledgeable in classical music, the opposite holds true: this post is a fantastic demonstration of how important music is to a work, and when anime utilise classical music in place of custom-made incidental music, there is a reason for doing so; it allows for directors to immediately create an emotional tenour viewers are immediately familiar with. This is an effective technique, and while I’ve seen use of New World Symphony’s second movement in Hibike! Euphonium, I’ve not seen any of the anime on this list (which speaks poorly about me as an anime fan). Having Moya’s list provides a broader perspective on how music can be used in different contexts to convey very different ideas. However, even to a music novice like myself, I definitely appreciate the use of classical music in different anime contexts. For instance, Schubert’s Ellens dritter Gesang (Ave Maria) was originally composed for The Lady of The Lake, a romance surrounding the legend of King Authur, and in anime with a predominantly female cast (Madoka Magica and Yuri Kuma Arashi), the song comes to signify the presence of romantic feelings, akin to what was seen in The Lady of the Lake. I’m not the first to comment on the creativity of posts like these, and I certainly won’t be the last, but creativity of this sort is precisely what makes reading the blogging community so enjoyable.

Anime Review: Violet Evergarden (TangAce, @misakalol)

TangAce finds 2018’s Violet Evergarden and all of its follow-ups to be a surprisingly refreshing anime whose sincerity and simplicity made it a masterpiece to watch, and even praises it as being the best anime produced in the past decade. With a captivating protagonist in Violet, whose journey is entracing, Kyoto Animation’s usual penchant for creating vivid worlds, and Evan Call’s musical genius, TangAce finds Violet Evergarden a series whose successes comes precisely from capturing how much emotional maturity Violet undergoes when she pushes herself to make coherent the plethora of emotions people have and convey it fully to every letter’s recipient. I share TangAce’s praises for Violet Evergarden: this series represents an incredibly meaningful and heartfelt journey about the seemingly-simple phrase “I love you”, a far cry from the original light novel, which had a larger action component. In stripping out these elements and focusing purely on the human piece, Kyoto Animation’s Violet Evergarden far exceeds expectations and creates a work that, as TangAce has indicated, is worth watching even for folks who may not readily watch coming-of-age series: I’ve successfully convinced folks in my own life to give Violet Evergarden a go and was universally met with praise. Beyond a review that succinctly captures what makes Violet Evergarden worthwhile, one aspect about TangAce’s blog is the ability to jump to a specific section using a contents bar. It is not lost on me that for longer posts, such a feature could make navigation considerably easier, and while bloggers may not often consider UX, it is a vital part of one’s longevity. For instance, folks have previously provided me with the feedback that my font was too small, and fixing that has made it easier for readers. TangAce has no such challenge; the blog layout is clean and easy to read, allowing me to focus on the post’s contents Violet Evergarden.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (TheAlmightyBacklog, @EuphoriaGremlin)

TheAlmightyBacklog submits a reflection on Ghost Trick, which was played as a part of a community initiative. In Ghost Trick, the central mechanic of creatively taking control of and manipulating objects in the environment, as well as viewing the last few moments to a given object (or being) for additional insights. Information from these interactions is used to work on solving a mystery, and although the core mechanisms are cleverly woven with the story, TheAlmightyBacklog finds that a part of the tension in the game is removed by the fact one can easily reset to a given checkpoint, which diminishes the significant of certain decisions (e.g. if an outcome proves unfavourable, one can always return to an earlier state without penalty). This becomes especially challenging when the game deprives players of this feature, which means less-than-optimal choices are amplified and force a poor outcome. Similarly, the game’s outcomes left TheAlmightyBacklog feeling unfulfilled, which was unfortunate considering how enjoyable the other aspects were. TheAlmightyBacklog’s honesty in writing about Ghost Trick is valuable; games are multi-faceted experiences, and depending on one’s preferences, a title might or might not be worth investing time and money into. Folks who prefer games with a decisive ending and tie in smaller elements throughout the game into its finale might not find Ghost Trick as satisfying in the end, but TheAlmightyBacklog also acknowledges that this is one perspective, and that other players may enjoy the game anyways, especially if one can pick up the title during a sale. Here, I remark that it is through sales that I am willing to accept a game’s limitations. For instance, I recently picked up Ghost Recon: Wildlands at nearly eighty percent off. When I tried the open beta in 2017, the game was janky in its movement system and driving controls, dissuading me from playing it. At ten dollars, I was convinced to give the game another go, and in my willingness to do so, I found a richly developed world. Similarly, TheAlmightyBacklog’s suggestion for folks to give Ghost Trick a go during a discount could potentially introduce new players to a novel experience.

BABYLON’S FALL – What went wrong? (MagiWasTaken, @MagiWasTaken)

BABYLON’S FALL was released recently: a third-person hack-and-slash title coming from a storied pedigree, the game’s reception proved underwhelming after its launch, and MagiWasTaken explores some of the reasons behind why the player count dropped to zero on at least one occasion (which puts the game as being even deader than Battlefield 2042, which is currently entangled in its own troubles at the moment). In this post, MagiWasTaken pinpoints an uninspired and overly simplistic gameplay system, which limits players in their options. When limited options converge with limited variety, players lose incentive to play when the entire game loop becomes playing in the hopes of getting better gear. On top of this, a poor microtransaction and live service system stymies solo play, which becomes frustrating for players who wish to experience things on their own. The game demands multi-player co-op, which contradicts the developer’s claims the game could be soloed, and moreover, the content updates have been remarkably poor. MagiWasTaken concludes by suggesting that increasing exploration through open-world biomes and procedurally generated quests, as well as rebalancing the game to be more solo-friendly. In MagiWasTaken’s writing about BABYLON’S FALL, I am reminded of Battlefield 2042, which suffered from a similar set of issues. The live service has only delivered one new map and three new weapons despite nearly nine months elapsing after launch. Specialists and an emphasis on cosmetics completely defeat the purpose of having classes. Maps are poorly designed and favour vehicles over infantry. However, like MagiWasTaken, I still remain hopeful that DICE can turn things around, even though history suggests that Battlefield 2042 might be left to suffer. MagiWasTaken’s final section, then, is something more gamers should take a leaf from: while games can disappoint in a big way, offering constructive criticisms and suggestions for improvement shows an individual as understanding what their own preferred experiences are.

The Book of Gothel, by Mary McMyne (Jamedi, @jamediGwent)

Jamedi’s submission marks the first literature review for this Jon’s Creator Showcase, following the story of Haelewise, who lived under her mother’s protection until she died. Haelewise subsequently heads out into the world to search for a tower called Gothel and unravel its mysteries. The intriguing premise of portraying the tale of the witch that imprisons Rapunzel in her iconic tower immediately captured my attention in this post, and Jamedi praises The Book of Gothel for both its story, as well as its faithful reproduction of details to really immerse readers into its stories. While perhaps a bit of a stretch, Jamedi’s enjoyment of the attention paid to details in The Book of Gothel is reminiscent of the reason to why I enjoy Tom Clancy novels. Seeing all of the nuts and bolts, and the characters’ actions described in precise detail, adds weight to every scene. It was interesting to learn that Jamedi had actually attempted this draft three times prior to the post that wound up being published; it can be tricky to pin down what about a work makes it worthwhile, and this is something that all bloggers face. It does lead me to wonder how different bloggers handle this particular challenge.

In Favour of Old School Open World: My Own Brand of Hot Beverage (Hundstrasse, @Hundstrasse)

Open world games are among some of the most richly-developed and immersive experiences out there. My first open world game was 2011’s Skyrim, and while overwhelming at first, I chose to build a hybrid caster-archer on my way to defeating Alduin. Along the way, I became the Thane of Whiterun, got myself a house and explored the world on horseback. There wasn’t a specific need to defeat Alduin, but being the goal-oriented person I am, I elected to finish the campaign. Here in Hundstrasse’s post on open world game, the idea of what makes open world worth playing is explored. Knights of the Old Republic and Red Dead Redemption 2 are compared: Hundstrasse found the former significantly more enjoyable because of the fact that the activity density was greater, and the impact of one’s actions were more clearly felt. This forms Hundstrasse’s metric for what makes open world fun: the game can’t be set in a space that is large for the sake of being large, and accomplishments should be more tangible. For Hundstrasse, games like No Man’s Sky and Fallout 4 proved tedious because there wasn’t any nuance or variety to what one can do in these spaces; travelling from point A to point B to achieve a repetitive task is hardly the definition of fun, and older open world games, despite their technical limitations, still manage to create a superior experience by focusing on player choice and cutting down on travel times. Trends in the industry mean that open world games tend to create cautious optimism for me; Bethesda’s Starfield is one such example, and while it promises to be massive, contemporary open world games occasionally do fall into the trap of creating excessively large worlds without a suitable content density and variety to occupy players. On the other hand, some open world titles, like The Division, spaces strike a balance between large scale spaces and high engagement. Because open world games demand a high time investment, picking the right experience becomes essential: having well-defined metrics like Hundstrasse’s helps one to ensure their time is spent on the things that one enjoys most.

Aquamarine Review (Michelle, @AGeekGirlsGuide)

Jon’s Creator Showcase always represents an opportunity for receiving surprisingly enjoyable and unexpected topics. In Michelle’s review of Aquamarine, a print-and-play game is presented. This game simply requires one to print out a map, acquire some dice, and then explore the ocean within the constraints the game provides. While seemingly simple on paper, there is considerable depth and nuance, requiring players to act with an eye on strategy. Moreover, the game supports both solo and multiplayer modes, extending its versatility. Altogether, Michelle recommends this game and indicates the game is available on Kickstarter. In Michelle’s review, besides successfully selling readers on the game’s merits, a very clever solution for increasing the printouts’ longevity is shown: the game can be played by inserting the page into a page protector, and then markings are made using dry-erase pen. Print-and-play games are making a resurgence in part owing to the fact they can be played without an electronic device, internet connection or power supply; in a world where tablets and smartphones are only going to become more ubiquitous, physical games have an appeal to them, and print-and-play games represent highly accessible (and affordable) alternatives to board games for getting people together for wings, a couple of beers and a good night all around.

Dorfromantik Review – Zen/10 Experience (Frostilyte, @Frostilyte)

Although Zen games have recently seen a rise in popularity, Frostilyte finds that they can be quite stress-inducing if they require a substantial learning curve and entail keeping on top of tasks. Dorfromantik is none of these things, being a cathartic puzzle game built in the same lineage as Carcassonne; the goal is simply to build a town by connecting similar hexagonal tiles together and maximise one’s score. However, if players so choose, they can pursue side goals instead, and players looking for a purely relaxing experience can play a creative mode, allowing one to see where things go. Frostilyte’s recommendation represents a departure from the titles I write about: longtime readers will be familiar with the fact I prefer games with guns in them. However, I wholly relate to Frostilyte’s experiences, and sometimes, it’s good to play a game that isn’t about sneaking into a base, blowing stuff up and leaving, or fending off entire armies on my own. Earlier last month, I had the pleasure of playing through Among Trees, an outdoor survival simulator with the zen aesthetic, and although getting started was quite tricky, once the game settled down, I found that the game allowed my mind to wander as I began exploring further. There definitely are merits to this genre, and from Frostilyte’s review of Dorfromantik, it does feel like a version of Sim City 4 that isn’t a game of hardcore optimisation and planning. Such a game would represent a pleasant change of pace from something like Battlefield 2042, Ghost Recon: Wildlands or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and as such, I could see myself picking up Dorfromantik when it goes on sale.

Well Folks, I Fucked Up My First Three Hopes Playthrough (Robert Ian Shepard, @adventure_rules)

In Robert Ian Shepard’s submission, a reflection on Fire Emblem: Three Hopes. However, rather than delve into recollections of the best playthroughs, Robert Ian Shepard delves into the thought process behind his worst playthrough, shares the learnings from this and then explores how these were applied to subsequent playthroughs so that he could have a more complete experience. Three points stand out: on should play the game with an eye for the decisions that appear, make an effort to complete the side missions and utilising every mechanic available to give one the best fighting chance. Robert Ian Shepard’s points apply to Fire Emblem: Three Hopes, but they can universally be applied to almost every game available, and by extension, even has applicability in reality. While I’ve never played Fire Emblem previously, I immediately relate to how making mistakes is one of the most effective teachers; once Robert Ian Shepard finished his first playthrough and landed the bad ending, he applied all of these experiences and returned to the game with every intention of seeing what could be done better. I have had similar experiences before: in 2013’s Metro: Last Light, I occasionally used lethal force to swiftly achieve my objectives, and earned a bad ending as a result. By the time of Metro: Exodus in 2019, I played the game with significantly more patience, made a more significant effort to explore and support the characters, and the end result was similar to Robert Ian Shepard’s: I earned the good ending. Most games tend to operate in this fashion, rewarding players for taking the time to think out solutions and achieve their goals in ways they might approach their own lives. In this way, games act as a superb teacher; people who slow down and methodically work out solutions tend to fare better than those who rush headlong into a problem.

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 1 – Canyonlands (Part 2) (NekoJonez, @NekoJonez)

The idea of speedrunning represents a realm of extreme gaming that demands commitment, precision and utmost skill. For NekoJonez’s submission to Jon’s Creative Showcase, a detailed blow-by-blow breakdown of burning through Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine‘s first level is presented. Unlike the typical any% (basically, a speedrun that prioritises ending a level over completeness), NekoJonez presents a run that entails collecting all of the treasures, and moreover, NekoJonez holds the current record of four minutes and forty-one seconds. In a post that reminds me of strategy guides that I used to read to up my game, NekoJonez recounts every detail, every decision and every aspect of the thought process that went into making this record possible, before mentioning that along the way, some things could have been done better. It is fantastic to read bloggers who reflect on their choices and indicate the room for improvement; in the context of a blog post, it may apply to a game, but the same drive for self-betterment in a game extends to reality, and bloggers who partake in reflection often produce some excellent discussions. I certainly did enjoy reading through this exceptionally vivid post. I’m no speed runner, and while I have optimised a few runs in my time to farm points for games like Halo 2 and The Division, it takes a special kind of dedication to speed run games. Such runs are always enjoyable to watch and read about, and this marks the first time I’ve featured a speed run discussion here for Jon’s Creative Showcase.

Street Cat Photography (GhastlyMirror, @GhastlyMirror)

I share GhastlyMirror’s wish for having a pet, but unlike myself, GhastlyMirror is a talented photographer who’s able to capture wonderful pictures of the cats in his neighbourhood. This submission is unique is that it’s a photo post, so there’s a lot less reading, but the age-old maxim, that a picture is worth a thousand words, certainly holds true here. GhastlyMirror’s five photographs portray five different cats, each with their own story. While reading through this submission, I couldn’t help but notice that GhastlyMirror is a newer blogger, and this is one of this times where Jon’s Creative Showcase excels: it allows us readers to find and enjoy content from creators of all experience levels. With a solid start to blogging, I hope that GhastlyMirror will come to find fulfilment and enjoyment in this hobby, both through sharing excellent content and through interacting with an open, inviting and accepting community.

You Need to Play Stray (Kate, @bloggingdragons)

The joy of video games is that they allow players to experience worlds from all sorts of perspectives, from the day-to-day life of a train operator, to exploring a remote forest with nothing more than a radio and compass. For this Jon’s Creative Showcase, Kate presents Stray, a game that takes things to the next level by allowing players to wander an immensely mesmerising world from the viewpoint of a cat. In this dystopian world, players only encounter robots and terrifying life forms, and as a cat, Stray presents gameplay opportunities that are otherwise implausible when playing as a person. This encourages players to consider options and think creatively, and in conjunction with the game’s slowly unveiling things to player through exploration, rather than forcibly introducing story and gameplay mechanics, creates for a game that captivates. While Kate notes that some elements, like the user interface and lack of customisation were strikes against the game, Stray is, overall, a fantastic title: Kate finds it to be something to be suitable for both animal lovers and folks seeking a game with exceptional world-building, and more impressively, indicates the game is worth every dollar. Through Jon’s Creator Showcase, I always enjoy reading about the plethora of games out there beyond the usual genres that I myself enjoy and write about. Besides offering insight into the minds of the bloggers who play them, written posts about games provide a much more comprehensive and detailed explanation of what makes a game worth checking out: while I have nothing but respect for YouTubers like TheRadBrad, who’ve played Stray, it can be tricky to consider things like narrative and game design when title has completely engaged the player, and video game reviewers can be a little tricky to follow if they’re showcasing gameplay footage while discussing the game. For deep-dives into games, I find that blogging remains the best option for sharing nuance and analysis, and Kate’s review of Stray is an excellent instance of why blogging about games is still effective in a world where videos are now commonplace.

Even If Tempest | Game Review (Oona Tempest, @sweetnspicy_en)

Games that give players powers equivalent to the Time Stone are intriguing, and while at first glance, such powers would be overwhelmingly powerful, game designers often find ways of cleverly utilising this ability without breaking immersion. In Oona Tempest’s review of Even If Tempest, it is made plainly clear that this game is one that invites multiple play-throughs for one to appreciate the depth of this story. After picking the game up for the Nintendo Switch, Oona Tempest indicates that this is the sort of game that one should block out a decent amount of time for and get comfortable with, as the game’s developments really drive one to continue on. While the game is dark, the themes speak to hope and courage, encouraging players to persist and continue moving forwards. Events will occur that feel overwhelmingly depressing, but these serve to remind players that life is adversity, and that picking oneself up is the best way to continue onwards. Since Even If tempest is a visual novel style game with branching storylines, Oona Tempest’s post also provides a recommended play order and a succinct overview of game mechanics for folks looking to get into things for themselves, as well as a profile of the key actors. This detailed and comprehensive review wraps up with the note that while Oona Tempest greatly enjoyed Even If Tempest, there are some elements that make it less suitable for some players, before wrapping up by reiterate some of the game’s strongest points and indicating which sort of demographic would find Even If Tempest to be up their alley. While I’m probably not in the target demographic (as my extensive library of first person and third person shooters can attest), I always appreciate a lengthy review that covers all of an author’s bases, and in the case of games, it’s always valuable to get as complete of a picture as possible before one makes a decision of whether or not something enters their libraries. Reviews like Oona Tempest’s are especially valuable in this regard, and I have a feeling that somewhere out there, a fan of otome games who’s read this review will have gained enough information from Oona Tempest’s post to determine whether or not Even If Tempest will be entering their library.

Reading List | Sweet & Spicyyy — More Spicy, Sweet, Wholesome, and/or Fluffy Smut (Minty, @piecesofminty)

Minty’s submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase comes with a surprising title: this is going to be a list of spicy (am I using this euphemism correctly?) works that are also wholesome. At first glance, this is a juxtaposition of two, seemingly contradictory terms. However, as I continue to read through Minty’s list, it turns out that all of the works themselves involve romances that are more physical, but each of the works are defined by a very meaningful emotional piece to it. Of the works recommended, Isanghan Ahopsu and Dekiai Zentei, Keiyakukon. ~Iwashiro Bengoshi wa Ai ga Deka Sugiru!?~ appear to be especially strong: while it’s not fair to say that correlation implies causation, I have found that when people have more to say about a work they recommend, chances are, they had an especially good time with it. While Minty generally isn’t too big of a fan of steamier works of literature, works that possess a modicum of emotional maturity are worth reading. What Minty describes with this recommended reading list, an insightful and thoughtfully-articulated one, has parallels to reality; while relationships and romance will inevitably involve a degree of physicality, it is ultimately the emotional components of a relationship that makes it worthwhile. Books that capture both aspects are therefore those that are being the most faithful to portraying a wider variety of the aspects in a relationship, and when tastefully done, bringing the physical piece in can accentuate the strength of the feelings in a relationship. All of the titles on Minty’s list do this, and while I’m generally not a romance reader, I can probably say with confidence that these authors portray the physical side of a relationship much more effectively than Tom Clancy’s novels can. Sometimes, it’s better to leave some things to the imagination, rather than reading about everything with the same precision that Clancy describes military hardware in!

A locked room mystery. (Fred, @AuNaturelOne)

Fred is a Jon’s Creator Showcase veteran, and for this submission, we’ve got a review of The Perfect Insider, a proper mystery where the protagonist is pitted against a foe of even greater cunning. In this anime, Fred mentions the perfect storm of darkness in conjunction with philosophy, and this is impressive because it can be difficult to write about brilliantly gifted people when one doesn’t have first-hand experience of how they think. However, despite gaps in The Perfect Insider‘s writing and conclusion, Fred still finds the mystery to be the series biggest draw. It’s clear that Fred’s having a good time of watching older anime, and at the end of the day, this is exemplary of what it means to be an anime fan. All too often, people forget about the having fun and simply watching shows for kicks: while Fred may not have found every aspect of The Perfect Insider to be perfect, the anime succeeds in its intended role. I was especially intrigued by Fred’s remark about how difficult it is to write about characters with abilities exceeding the norm: having read about intelligence and the like, one thing that uncommonly gifted people share is that they intuitively reach solutions in ways that are illogical to ordinary people. However, intelligence at this end of the spectrum is unfortunate because it can be wasted, and so, one element that I’ve always been taught to value is to find a way of conveying complex ideas in a way that is easily understood. I would be curious to see if The Perfect Insider does this: a part of enjoying the actions that super-intelligent characters take is having them walk us through the process and feel the pieces fall into play, and I personally hold that, it’s perfectly okay if authors can’t get into the heads of such characters, so long as the process feels consistent with the sort of personality a character possesses. Fred’s sold me on The Perfect Insider‘s intrigue, but like all of the wonderful recommendations for this Jon’s Creator Showcase, I find myself wondering if I’ll have time to add this to my constantly expanding watchlist.

Three Episode Rule – Lycoris Recoil – Episode 3: More haste, less speed (Jusuchin, @RightWingOtaku)

This Jon’s Creator Showcase has three separate submissions on Lycoris Recoil from three separate writers, two of which deal with Lycoris Recoil‘s third episode. Jusuchin’s review of the third episode reinforces something that Crow and Flare Knight have already conveyed: that Lycoris Recoil is an excellent series. Jusuchin is a blogger I respect for having an eye for military detail that even I miss. In this review, he speaks to an organisation called the DA, which has exceptional gear and training, but whose operatives lack creativity and adaptivity in their tactics. In addition, Jusuchin also shares his thoughts on the complexity of organisations like these, and how dynamics create scapegoats that can be hard on those who are made to take the fall. In spite of this, Lycoris Recoil actively takes the effort to humanise its characters, both through the cafe the operators hang out at, and through moments the characters share together. With three submissions on Lycoris Recoil now, it seems that I hardly have any excuse for skipping this anime, and it appears that, as soon as things settle down and the finale airs, I’ll join the party for myself and see what this series does well. While this means that I won’t be hearing people talk about things as episodes air, nor will I be able to join in on the speculation parties surrounding seasonal anime, in the past, I have found that watching acclaimed anime at my own pace helps me to relax: series such as Lycoris Recoil have, in the past, seen particularly fierce discussions, and by my admission, I’m getting a little old to be arguing with people on whether or not a secondary school-aged character’s actions are professional or realistic. Jusuchin’s posts offer a superior discussion to what’s on social media and forums, possessing a detail that helps me to gain a better measure of this show, and so, in conjunction with the positive impressions that Crow and Flare Knight have presented, it looks like I’ll pick this one up as early as the gap between the summer and autumn anime seasons.

Streaming from the Nintendo 64 (Tipa, @tipadaknife)

In this step-by-step guide, Tipa walks readers through how to get the venerable Nintendo 64 set up for streaming, and more impressively, how it can all be done for under 50 USD: armed with the TENSUN HDMI video converter and a video capture card, it’s possible to grab the video from the Nintento 64 and get it into a format the OBS Studio can interpret. After some experimentation, Tipa has managed to get a working setup that can stream old classics from the Ninento 64. This post demonstrates how a little creativity can get people a long way: there is a dedicated solution for streaming from the Nintendo 64 at unparalleled resolution, but the tradeoff is that this costs six times as much. As a software developer, I’ve always been intrigued by inexpensive solutions that can get the job done for a lower cost than alternatives, and when things work out, there’s always a sense of relief. While Tipa expresses interest in buying a RetroTINK-5X Pro, the more expensive solution, I hope that at the very least, the solution discussed here provides a workable solution in the meantime.

9 Monkeys of Shaolin Indie Game Playthrough (Jordan GGG, @GameGushGamer)

The prevalence of indie games speaks to how powerful and versatile developer tools are, and whereas triple-A titles from big-name developers are often beholden to formulaic approaches, indie titles allow smaller shops to be creative. In this submission, Jordan writes about 9 Monkeys of Shaolin, a short but enjoyable title that sees players hone their arts in Shaolin as they fight through intense and well-designed levels, all the while ranking up their skill tree and unlocking powerful new abilities to employ in combat. One downside about 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is that the achievements appear to be buggy, and Jordan speaks of the frustration in putting in the effort to earn something, only for faulty code to stop this in its tracks. For this post, Jordan also provides a YouTube commentary-free playthrough of the game to provide readers with an idea of what the game looks like. I am especially fond of this element: having blogged about games for as long as I have anime, I utilise screenshots heavily, and while they give a fair idea of a given title’s aesthetics and UI/UX, screenshots offer no insight into the gameplay itself. By supplying a video, readers now have a good idea of how 9 Monkeys of Shaolin handles, and it does look like a fun game that is both nuanced and simple.

Another One Bites the Dust (Roger Edwards, @ModeratePeril)

Roger Edwards’ submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase is a more sobering one: this post is about longtime members of the blogging community who decide to call it quits because of circumstances in their lives. While blogging doubtlessly becomes a large part of these individuals’ lives, one cannot blog forever, and Roger Edwards speaks of Geek to Geek, two podcasters who delivered excellent, insightful and sincere content but ended up retiring. Their absence leaves behind a void, but Roger Edwards presents an optimistic outlook of things: people will continue to create cool stuff irrespective of the medium, and while Roger Edwards expresses sadness at the closing of these podcasters, over time, people will come to fill the vacuum. Roger Edwards’ post got me thinking: I’ve long wondered what the inevitable closure of my blog would look like, and while I’m confident that there will be no shortage of excellent writers (as this Jon’s Creator Showcase already shows) to take my place, I find it difficult to decide when to close things off, and how to most elegantly do so.

Search Engines Other Than Google (Tagn, @wilhelm2451)

After being delisted from Bing for potentially not meeting their standards, Tagn began exploring the other search engines out there, and writes of several notable search engines that might represent alternatives to Google. Tagn expresses surprise at how many there are beyond the juggernaut that is Google, and how using different search engines might be able to yield different results for what one is looking for. These other search engines have proven quite useful, as Tagn states; I do use Baidu to search for Chinese music. Similarly, Yandex has an interesting reverse image search tool that I’ve utilised when Google’s reverse image search came up short. With this being said, like Tagn, my blog isn’t indexed on Bing, and in fact, a search for me doesn’t yield any results at all. My guess is that my screenshot heavy format violates their copyright terms. However, I don’t miss Bing at all: almost all of my traffic comes from Google, and I have previously stated that I’m in the blogging game for myself. If I get readers from a search engine, that’s icing on the cake.

Steam Summer Sale 2022 – What I Bought (Emily, @MLsDiary)

Emily expresses a problem that affects every Steam user, myself included: whenever the Steam Summer Sale rolls around, one always feels compelled to pick up something. For this sale, Emily’s bought Stray (a fantastic game that was part of this submissions for this Jon’s Creator Showcase!), A Plague Tale: Innocence, a survival game set that is set during the Black Death period of time, and sees two siblings survive to try and make their way in a brutal, unyielding world. The last title Emily picked up is PC Building Simulator, which provides a bit of a sandbox for getting used to a new build. Emily’s haul, while comparatively modest this year, still represents a fun set of acquisitions, and with a Steam Deck on the way, it appears that Emily’s future is going to be an enjoyable one. Steam Sales are probably one of the best opportunities during the year to pick up games, and while it represents a fine chance to broaden one’s horizons, they also create backlogs of gargantuan proportions. Over the years, I’ve found that having a backlog isn’t a bad thing: at lease one will never have a dull moment, and I myself have whiled away otherwise dull afternoons exploring new worlds in the books and games I’ve picked up during the summer on winter days where it’s too cold and snowy to be out and about.

I Shouldn’t Be Running Sword Coast Adventures, However… (Jaedia Hannah, @jaedia)

Hannah reflects on how she came to begin being a GM for Sword Coast on top of her existing, already-busy schedule, citing a Dungeons and Dragons movie trailer, plus all of the incredible lore and possibility as starting this journey, and on top of this, still has a collection of books (such as the Drizzt Do’Urden trilogy) and older PC games, Hannah’s certainly booked solid. It’s always fun to see how the community fills its time, and while Hannah cites a busy schedule as reasoning for putting the breaks on Sword Coast, in the end, the draw of trying things out outweighed this. Curiosity is a powerful agent, and at its best, can lead individuals to have fantastic experiences; as long as one manages their time well, there is absolutely no problems with adding new things to one’s schedule, and Hannah demonstrates that at the end of the day, the biggest metric is having fun: so long as one is having fun, one’s time is well spent.

Game Over – Escape Academy (Krikket, @OhaiKrikket)

Krikket’s submission is a review on Escape Academy, a short game that, despite a steeper price point and deterministic gameplay elements, remains a modestly enjoyable title. While mostly fun, Krikket recommends waiting for a complete edition to be released before picking this game up. While I’ve no familiarity with puzzle games, I am familiar with the modern-day practises of publishers and their preference to release season passes and DLC. This stands in stark contrast with the early days of gaming, where players got the complete package upon a game’s launch after spending years in development; for their patience, players are rewarded with a whole and satisfying experience, one that could keep them occupied endlessly. Games have certainly changed since then, and having been around video games for the better part of my time, my strategy is similar to Krikket: I tend to wait a year or so before deciding on picking up a title, because by then, more content will become available, and the game is likely to have seen some discounts. Gaming is a hobby that requires a modicum of patience, and those who are willing to wait may find themselves with a better deal, one which may justify an experience that may otherwise feel a little pricey.

FFXIV: Journey Through the New ARR MSQ for a Hat (Aywren, @Aywren)

Rounding out Jon’s Creator Showcase is Aywren’s exploration of Final Fantasy 14‘s updated A Realm Reborn content, which began from a desire to pick up an item called Amon’s Hat. To unlock said hat, Aywren needed to reach level fifty and complete all of the A Realm Reborn‘s story missions to unlock the Syrcus Tower. Along the way, some of the updated changes became apparent to Aywren, who enjoyed the updated visuals and mechanics that have been tuned to improve a player’s experience. After going through all of the content in two weeks (an impressive feat), Aywren finally unlocked the raids, promptly got destroyed, and found the spirit to continue. Upon reaching Syrcus Tower, Aywren was fortunate enough to find the hat almost immediately, bringing this quest to an end. I absolutely love hearing gaming stories like these, as it makes me feel as though I were right there watching the experience for myself. Although Aywren’s post makes use of many acronyms that I am unfamiliar with (MSQ is Main Story Quest, referring to campaign missions that advances the game’s core narrative), Aywren provides an explanation of what these mean, and I am reminded of a practise I am occasionally guilty of: players unfamiliar with first person shooters would not immediately know what TTK or ADS mean, for instance. Beyond this, reading through Aywren’s post was a joy: it is clear a lot of effort went into the two-week run which yielded Amon’s Hat, and I remember having similar experiences in The Division and The Division 2, where I would go hunting for exotic gear (extremely rare items with special properties that are a cut above even the high-end stuff available to players at the endgame). It is immensely satisfying to finally have something drop, allowing me to complete my gear-set or try out a new exotic weapon: while I’ve never played any of the Final Fantasy games myself, I completely relate to Aywren’s story.

Tuesday Tea: Error143 & Na Daoine Maithe (Sailor Otome, @sailor_otome)

Sailor Otome’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase is a weekly update on the state of things, and in this post, the stars of the show are Error143 and Na Daoine Maithe. Error143 is a visual novel with a curious premise: the player takes on the role of a hacker whose OPSEC is a little less-than-stellar, and ends up being busted. Rather than any legal recourse, however, the person on the other end begins to create the beginnings of a curious relationship. Next up is Na Daoine Maithe (The Good People), which deals with færies, and a title that Sailor Otome is especially enthusiastic about for portraying magical creatures in a way that most stories do not bother depicting. Both titles show promise and has Sailor Otome excited to see what new developments arise. Gaming update posts are similarly a rarity in the blogging community I’m most closely connected to: most of the folks I follow write extensively about anime, and as a result, seeing posts like Sailor Otome’s is a bit of a rarity, which made this submission especially fun to peruse. Tuesday Tea reminds me of LevelCap’s This Week In Gaming, which has a similar premise but takes on the video format. LevelCap is a well-known YouTuber whose content is always helpful, so when I say that Sailor Otome’s Tuesday Tea posts have the same quality and engagement factor as LevelCap’s, it’s plain that I found Sailor Otome’s submission enjoyable to read, too: I’m not knowledgeable about otome games by any stretch, but it is reassuring to know that there are always wonderful folks within the community who have experience in this arena and moreover, are willing to share their thoughts to help readers out.

Closing Remarks

  • It was a pleasure to go through each and every one of the forty-two submissions to showcase the best of blogging for the month of August. Such showcases are quite time-consuming: it took about eight hours to read through each submission and summarise it, two hours to gather all of the metrics and prepare a visual, an hour to write the opening and closing text, and one more hour to format and proof this post, for a total of twelve hours. However, this is spaced out over the course of three weeks, and the prize for hosting is having the chance to read blogs I otherwise don’t normally get to read.

I’ve been a participant in hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase for three years now, having started the party back during July 2019, and since then, have hosted four times in total. Each and every time, I’m always impressed with the quality of the submissions, and the enthusiasm that is shown in the community. For me, this means that as Jon’s Creator Showcase grows, my old format was less likely to be sustainable, and this time around, I decided to mix things up a little by running a little data analysis on the submissions to see if anything interesting might show up. All of the quantitative aspects notwithstanding, what is very clear is that we have a wonderful group of writers out there. While some folks have suggested that blogging as a whole is on the decline because of shifting formats, like YouTube videos, TikTok shorts and Reddit threads, which allow content to be shown and conversations to move at a much greater pace than blogging, such is evidently not the case. Bloggers are still thriving, capitalising on the medium’s slower pacing to share their thoughts on things in a manner that invites readers to really understand the blogger’s thoughts. This in turn cultivates a sense of community, and it is for this reason blogs have continued to endure. Going through the superb blogs in Jon’s Creator Showcase continues to remind me of this fact, and it’s been remarkably fun to host this iteration of the showcase, as well as experiment with a slightly different avenue of presenting all of the submissions in a fresh way. With this Jon’s Creator Showcase in the books, I hope that all of the participants have as much fun reading through all of the submissions as I did. As we enter September, we presently have no host for the upcoming Jon’s Creator Showcase. Folks who are interested can get in touch with Jon Spencer to host (or drop me a comment expressing interest: I’d be happy to pass things along and get everyone connected), and in the meantime, I will note that whoever chooses to host won’t have to suffer through my talk on Blue Thermal; it wouldn’t be sportsmanlike conduct for me to submit a post with eleven thousand words, especially considering the average post length submitted to Jon’s Creator Showcase hovers around a much more manageable 1440 words!

Terrible Anime Challenge: Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! and Finding A Path Amidst Adversity Through Family

“Grit is that ‘extra something’ that separates the most successful people from the rest. It’s the passion, perseverance, and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become a reality.” –Travis Bradberry

After an air accident results in his sister and her husband’s deaths, university student Yūta Segawa decides to take in his sister’s children, Sora, Miu and Hina, and raise them himself to keep them from being separated. Although the journey is a desperately tricky one, thanks in no small part to Yūta’s small apartment and limited budget. Despite his struggles, Yūta is determined to keep Sora, Miu and Hina happy – he takes on several jobs to help make ends meet, allows the girls to modify the apartment so they can have a modicum of privacy, and accompanies the girls to pick up some of their belongings back home. Summer vacation soon draws to a close, and Yūta’s friends, the statuesque Raika Oda, smooth but caring Kōichi Nimura, and the uncouth Shuntarō Sato also begin helping out in their own way. Although Yūta’s relatives are disapproving of the arrangement, after Yūta manages to convince them of his commitment to Sora, Miu and Hina’s well-being, they approve of his decisions and, to help him along, transfer his sister and her husband’s old house to his name, allowing everyone to continue living together. This is 2012’s Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! (Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!, and from here on out, PapaKiki! for brevity), an anime that had caught my eye for its premise – despite its approach raising some eyebrows, I was met with an anime that proved unexpectedly heartwarming. However, for the past decade, I had trouble writing about this series; the themes here had been simple enough, and PapaKiki! had shown how raw determination in the face of adversity was sufficient to overcome all obstacles. This message is most evident in the sheer effort Yūta directs towards looking after each of Sora, Miu and Hina, but at the same time, it also speaks to the lingering feelings that Sora has for Yūta. Determination and grit alone do not cut it – where individual effort fails, the classic message of accepting help from others comes into play. Raika helps Sora on several occasions, teaching her how to cook and encouraging her to do her best, leading her to continue with her club activities, and Hina quickly captures the hearts of the community. Kōchi manages to help Miu rediscover her spirits after she becomes depressed when classmates begin pitying her situation. In spite of how clear the themes are, aspects of PapaKiki! lingered on my mind, and in conjunction with an impending MCAT, I ended up putting off a discussion of this series.

Upon revisiting PapaKiki!, it turns out that there had been a subtle, but constant sense of melancholy throughout the anime. Although Sora, Miu and Hina find joy in their everyday lives, and Yūta is happiest when everyone is living their lives fully, the question of handling Yuri and her husband’s death hangs over every moment. It isn’t until the series nears its conclusion that this point becomes addressed – Sora breaks the news to Hina, and while Hina is visibly saddened, she resolves to continue smiling for those around her. At her age, children like Hina do not have a full concept of what death is, and instead, may instead hold themselves accountable for things. To see Hina swiftly turn things around and promise to not cry, and instead, smile, was therefore heartwarming in that it shows just how important Yūta and her sisters are to her. Despite the loss of her parents, Yūta, Sora, Miu and the entire neighbourhood have her back, and Hina appears to be aware of the fact that being respectful to her parents simply means being kind to those around her and making sure everyone around her continues to smile. In this way, PapaKiki! becomes more than a mere story about Yūta’s efforts to look after a family despite being in a tough spot, his love for his sister’s children is strong enough to help them remain strong and in the end, accept that while their parents aren’t returning, they can still live their own lives fully and honour their parents’ wishes for them. Together with help from Raika and Kōchi, as well as voice actress and neighbour Kurumi Atarashi, and practically the whole neighbourhood, Hina thus is able to make a new family and shows to Yūta’s aunt and uncle that, beyond any doubt, everything he’s done for Sora, Miu and Hina has been genuine and effective. Looking past the superficial elements, such as the camera’s focus on Raika’s assets, Shuntarō’s perverse traits or the fact that Yūta has ill timing whenever Sora is concerned, PapaKiki! succeeds in dealing with a challenging topic in a mature and thoughtful way. This is where PapaKiki! excels, and in conjunction with a touching story about Yūta’s determination, as well as Sora’s efforts to get Yūta to notice her as more than just a child, PapaKiki! ends up being superbly enjoyable, covering a considerable amount of territory over a short run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • PapaKiki!‘s first two episodes betrayed nothing about what the remainder of the series would deal with, and this contributed to the surprise of what happens after Yuri and her husband take off for a longer trip. I still vividly recall starting my journey to PapaKiki! in the university’s library block on a quiet summer’s morning while awaiting the start of my MCAT course. Back then, I’d picked up an iPad, and was able to watch anime with a much greater freedom than before. During summers, campus is far quieter than it typically is, and I practically had the entire floor to myself.

  • That’s about the extent of what I remember; looking back, I have no idea how I was able to finish the whole of PapaKiki! while studying for the MCAT. However, I do remember thinking to myself that I would have liked to write about the whole series once I did wrap up. The journey in PapaKiki! was quite gripping; what had begun as a run-of-the-mill comedy suddenly took a turn for the serious after the aircraft Yuri and her husband on crash with no survivors. Yūta is suddenly thrown into the deep end, and while he’s able to get along with Sora, Miu and Hina well enough, what happens next does push things to the limit.

  • What made PapaKiki! difficult to write for was the fact that, a decade earlier, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why things felt a little “off”. In the present, I’ve experienced enough to conclude that this feeling is a consequence of the fact that Yūta, Sora and Miu are trying to put on a brave front for Hina. While it is clear everyone’s devastated by their loss, Hina’s innocence and happiness means that the others do their best for her. To the me of ten years ago, it did feel as though they were trying to push the issue under a rug, but now, it’s quite plain that this choice was meant to keep Hina happy: Yūta, Sora and Miu find it difficult to figure out how to best convey news of their parents’ death to Hina.

  • Yūta’s apartment is a far cry from the Takanashi residence, and while he’s done a good enough job of keeping the place clean, the close quarters means that Yūta runs into trouble with Sora and Miu’s requirements for space. However, problems invite solutions, and over time, Yūta works out how to go about his routine without accidentally walking in on Sora or Miu. Of the two, Sora is more bashful and quick to anger, while Miu is more patient and, while still exasperated by Yūta’s seeming lack of knowledge about young women, does her best to walk him through things.

  • While revisiting PapaKiki!, it suddenly dawned on me that the character designs felt familiar. Sora looks a great deal like Da Capo‘s Nemu Asakura, and Miu reminds me of Sakura Yoshino. As it turns out, Feel produced PapaKiki!, and some seven years earlier, they were responsible for Da Capo: Second Season. I watched Da Capo and Da Capo: Second Season in 2016 as I worked on my graduate thesis, and while the series had been quite enjoyable, I similarly encountered considerable difficulty in writing about it because it was, in effect, an anime adaptation of a visual novel that hadn’t offered me anything especially novel to discuss.

  • However, the visual similarities between Da Capo and PapaKiki! are superficial: both series are dramatically different in their premise and themes. One aspect that became increasingly visible as PapaKiki! went on was how, through Hina, Yūta, Sora and Miu also become more connected with their community. Although Hina is only three, she brings with her a seemingly indefatigable sense of joy and innocence that wins over the hearts of everyone around her. Here, after neighbour and voice actress Kurumi Atarashi learns of Yūta’s arrangements, she becomes quick friends with Hina, who’s a big fan of the show that Kurumi works in.

  • Throughout PapaKiki!, a recurring element was Sora’s unrequited feelings for Yūta. It turns out that, after Yūta had provided reassurance and comfort to Sora when they’d first met, she’s since seen him as a reliable and dependable fellow, even if he occasionally comes upon her while she’s changing. For Yūta, Sora goes the extra mile, hoping that he’ll come around and notice her feelings. When Yūta leaves his phone at home after taking off for work, she offers to bring the phone to him and dresses especially nicely for the run. Miu is fond of teasing Sora about things, and PapaKiki!‘s original run left things quite ambiguous.

  • As the deep summer sets in, Yūta takes Sora, Miu and Hina back to their old house, which has sat unused since the incident that claimed Yuri and her husband’s lives. It would appear that Yūta’s relatives must be looking after the property, since the utilities and insurance are still being paid for: when everyone arrives, the power is still on, and while the girls pick up their belongings, Yūta dozes before setting about cooking dinner. Being home creates a precipitous situation where Hina begins wondering about when her mother will come back, but tact from Yūta and the others’ part alleviates things for the time being.

  • As a result of Shuntarō’s demands, Yūta ends up having Kōichi and Raika over for dinner. Times are good, although I’ve long felt that Shuntarō is a character PapaKiki! could’ve done without. It’s not often that I say that an anime can do without a character, but his exaggerated traits and mannerisms contribute nothing to the series; in the occasional moment where he pulls through and helps out, the same could be done by Kōichi. The odd laugh may result from Raika striking him with a paper fan when his behaviour crosses the line, but beyond this, Shuntarō does not play a meaningful role in the series.

  • Conversely, Raika’s affection for Hina, Miu and Sora comes across as being motherly; Raika might be blunt and stoic, but her actions speak far more loudly than her words do. She agrees to teach Yūta how to improve his cooking, and after meeting Hina, Miu and Sora, is more than happy to spend time with Yūta because it also means being able to see the three. Raika is voiced by Yui Horie, a famous voice actress with iconic roles like Love Hina!‘s Naru Narusegawa, Kanon‘s Ayu Tsukimiya, KonoSuba‘s Wiz and Kotori Shirakawa of Da Capo.

  • The moé aesthetic has changed considerably over the years: PapaKiki! inherits elements from the Da Capo era, as characters have sharper facial features and more angular eyes. Nowadays, characters are rendered with softer lines and rounder facial traits, and at least for me, the Da Capo era designs create a sense of melancholy that is indescribable. This is compounded by the fact that musicians like CooRie create music that, while sounding happy overall, is also permeated by a sense of longing. In the present, music to moé is far more energetic and spirited, lacking the same yearning older songs convey.

  • When Yūta’s work schedule means he’s unable to stick around, Sora decides to pick up the slack and learns to cook in his stead. Although Sora starts out a terrible cook and burns most everything, over time, she becomes increasingly competent with cooking. This ends up being a wonderful metaphor for Sora: she lacks confidence in herself, and initially views Raika as a rival that she stands no chance against. However, as Raika rightly states, no one gets it right in the beginning, and that it is with practise that one becomes a deft hand in their craft. For viewers, this can be interpreted as being a metaphor for how Sora is still young, and therefore, has time to cultivate her skills, as well as do what she can to convince Yūta to see her in a different light.

  • I had originally picked up PapaKiki! because I had been curious to see more of Raika and how things between her and Yūta would unfold. At the beginning, when Sora, Miu and Hina still have their parents, PapaKiki! felt like the conventional romance-comedy, but once the plane crash occurs, things turned around completely. With the benefit of hindsight, while Yūta has a bit of a crush on Raika, and the pair do get along quite well, there doesn’t appear to be any romantic tension. Yūta occasionally becomes flustered by Raika’s blaise attitude about things, but in more ordinary moments, the two regard one another more as friends. As it was, once PapaKiki! hit its stride, the series became worth watching for seeing how Yūta handles the surprises that he encounters as a result of his choices.

  • While PapaKiki! strives to convey positivity, numerous hurdles continue to throw Yūta in for a ride. His landlady, sore about Yūta violating the terms of his lease, decides to evict him, and this sends Yūta into a desperate search for a new place. Although his friends pull through and manage to find several candidate properties to rent based on Yūta’s requirements for price and space, they all come with their own caveats, from being located inconveniently for Hina, Sora and Miu, to one property that is allegedly cursed.

  • In the end, it turns out the landlady is the older lady Hina runs into, and the younger woman, Sawako, is the landlady’s daughter. Talking things through, Sawako decides to allow Yūta to keep living here on the condition that he update his lease agreement, and also that he allow Hina to visit her from time to time. Anime may seem overly idealistic about how opening up and listening is the key to resolving difficult problems, but I have found that all too often, people jump to conclusions and assume the worst of others, creating conflict unnecessarily. Although people will criticise my approach as being unfeasible for larger scale differences such as those that entail foreign affairs, I maintain that at an interpersonal level, these things matter.

  • Sora and Miu’s respective resemblances to Da Capo‘s Nemu and Sakura is especially pronounced here, as the pair rush off for their respective schools. PapaKiki! had begun during the summer, when Yūta had all the time he needed to work part time jobs and earn enough to keep up with living expenses now that he’s got three more people with him. This was already quite taxing, so when term begins again, Yūta would presumably run into more trouble as he attempts to keep up with his studies on top of making enough money to keep everyone together. This stress, while Yūta had never meant for it to do so otherwise, would transfer over to Sora and Miu – both are old enough to be aware of what Yūta is going through and do their best to help.

  • Despite Mui retaining a cheerful demeanour around her classmates, said classmates take pity on Miu. This bothers her greatly – she’s used to being kind around everyone, and this change is quite jarring. Fortunately, Kōichi is around to help out, and he offers to take her on a date of sorts. Although Kōichi is a womaniser who’s fond of dating women for kicks, he is legitimately kind, doing everything he can to help those around him. After spending a day with Miu, Kōichi takes her to a shop to get her shoe repaired, and the day ends at an observation deck. Here, Miu is able to realise that she should continue to be herself, and she’s glad that Yūta allowed her to take some down time.

  • PapaKiki! shows the importance of being able to gain some perspective on things, and once classes resume, the series begins to place a greater emphasis on problems the girls are facing now that they’re back in school – during the summer, they spent their days at home and around the neighbourhood, being able to look after Hina and tend to housework with increasing efficiency. Although a work of fiction, PapaKiki! absolutely gets right just how busy life is once housework becomes a part of one’s routine, and how demanding a student’s schedule is.

  • When Sora’s singing takes a hit, she decides to resign from the choral club so she can devote her time to helping Yūta keep up with everything, even though she’d loved to sing. While feeling this was for the best, Sora herself is guilt-ridden at the decision, and moreover, both she and Miu’s grades have suffered as a result of how busy they are. One’s studies and extracurricular activities are indeed full-time activities, and looking back, I am immensely appreciative of the fact that my parents allowed me to pour all of my effort into my schooling and related activities when I was a student. During the route to the MCAT, I was able to study without worrying about housework, although I still helped out around the house as a means of taking it easy.

  • In the present day, doing the housework becomes my means of unwinding after a solid eight hours of software development, and looking back, I feel that life as a full-fledged member of society is, in some ways, more straightforward than it had been as a student. This is because I have full agency to make my own decisions (and with it, the requirement that I own any mistakes I make), whereas as a student, decisions were often made for me and I would be held accountable for the consequences. This is why, while Kurumi is going through difficulties of her own, I felt that she would be able to find her way again – her old contract had expired, and she’s having trouble finding work. However, once she has a chance to think about things, and with a swift kick to the rear from Sora, Kurumi is able to find her footing anew.

  • Sora herself needs a kick in the rear, but unlike her blunt approach to Kurumi, support from Raika and Yūa is more reassuring – like Yūta, Sora feels that their problems are theirs to bear alone. However, over the course of PapaKikI!, Yūta experiences how assistance from Raika, Kōichi and even Shuntarō has taken some of the pressure off him. In this way, Yūta is able to impart the same wisdom on Sora, and after giving things some thought, Sora decides she’s not quite ready to call it quits just yet. Like numerous other series I’ve watched, PapaKiki! makes extensive use of lighting to capture the emotional tenour of a moment. Harsher colour contrasts mirror stress, and gentler gradients convey comfort. The series has long summer days to communicate the feeling of a tranquil life together, and storms to similarly remind viewer of challenges the characters must overcome.

  • In the end, Sora needn’t have worried – the choral club’s president had faith in her, and hung onto Sora’s resignation letter, but never actioned it. It typifies PapaKiki!‘s ability to present challenges that characters face, and while the problems Miu and Sora encounter are dealt with promptly, one can imagine how being in their situation, things would still be quite difficult. Sora may have resolved one issue with the choral club, but her grades continue to suffer, and there’s no real way to fix this unless she were afforded the time to study.

  • As luck would have it, Kurumi manages to land another voice acting role, and Sora is overjoyed to hear this. However, the lingering problem of trying to keep up with her schoolwork and extracurricular activities, while at the same time, helping Yūta out, has proven quite taxing. Yūta’s relatives do eventually step in and offer a recourse – his uncle is looking at taking Sora, Miu and Hina in so the three can remain together, looking after the sisters in Yuri and her husband’s stead. This would allow the three to live a more structured and organised life, while at the same time, giving Yūta a chance to finish his studies.

  • In any other setting, this should have been the first course of action that was taken, and there would have no discussion as to whether or not Yūta would be able to take Sora, Miu and Hina in. However, this would completely wipe the story out, and PapaKiki!‘s purpose is to show what might unfold if things had been allowed to progress the way they did. This is the whole point of fiction, and if one can accept that standing beside a first-aid kit can heal bullet wounds, then allowing for a universe where Yūta is given a chance isn’t that much of a stretch.

  • Entering PapaKiki!‘s final act, both Sora and Miu’s problems are sufficiently resolved so that things can turn towards Yūta’s relatives finally stepping forward and asking him to consider allowing Sora, Miu and Hina to live with them, promising that they’ll keep the three together. From a practical sense, this was the most feasible route to take, and external observers (i.e. the viewers) would likely conclude that were they in Yūta’s position, this would be the best possible option. From a storytelling standpoint, however, what makes Yūta admirable is his refusal to give up. This helps to drive PapaKiki!‘s themes, even though in reality, such a course of action would be deleterious in the long term. Reconciling this gap and acknowledging that some things need to be fudged is one of the reasons behind how I enjoy anime whose premises are engaging, even if they aren’t the most sound.

  • The lingering question of when Hina would find out about her parents is finally answered when Sora breaks the news to her. This happens right on the edge of Hina’s preschool putting on a singing performance, and I was a little surprised to see how quickly Hina recovers from things. Dramatic revelations are a common storytelling element, utilised to increase tension and accelerate a given story towards the climax, and initially, it appears that Hina loses her usual vigour and spirits. However, she recovers very quickly: Miu overhears Hina talking to her stuffed rabbit, promising to smile and do her best no matter where her parents are. This speaks to Hina’s uncommon maturity; despite only being three, I imagine her experiences have led her to grow more quickly and become mindful of those around her.

  • While paying resects for Yuri and her husband, Yūta and Sora run into Yūta’s aunt and uncle, who admit that their initial reluctance to take in Sora, Miu and Hina was the consequence of their regret at having not done more when Yūta and Yuri had lost their parents. This led Yuri to do precisely what Yūta has done in PapaKiki!: she was successful in looking after Yūta despite the odds being stacked against her, and now, Yūta intends to do the same because he is motivated by his own experiences. Putting two and two together, it becomes clear as to why Yūta is pressing on with his goal of taking care of Sora, Miu and Hina: he wants to return the favour to Yuri as an expression of gratitude. As such, even when presented with an option that would help his own situation, Yūta declines.

  • The preschool play has Yūta attending alongside Raika, Kōichi, Sora, Miu and practically the whole neighbourhood. Throughout PapaKiki!, Hina’s adorable manner has won over everyone around her, and this is one of the reasons why Hina is able to recover so quickly; although saddened by her parents’ passing, Hina also knows that she can make people smile, and in this way, gains a much larger family by becoming a vital part of the community. This was the missing piece of PapaKiki! that made it a little trickier to write for, but at present, with a little more life experience, I was able to coherently write out what made this anime work for me.

  • I originally concluded that PapaKiki! is an excellent series, one that lives up to expectations and would earn a recommendation from me. In Terrible Anime Challenge terms, “PapaKiki! is as good as the community had made it out to be. Having gone through with a revisit, I’ve found that my thoughts about PapaKiki! have not changed dramatically, and so, a full decade after I wrote about the first episode, I return to offer a more detailed set of thoughts surrounding what I felt this series to excel in doing. However, this time around, there is no MCAT on the horizon to deal with.

  • As such, ten years after I first picked up PapaKiki!, my verdict has not changed, and I still would recommend this series on its merits. Since PapaKiki! is done in full, and since I’ve watched the series front-to-back, including the OVAs, at present, I do not believe I’ll be returning to write about this again, unless there is visible interest in my thoughts on the OVAs. With this post in the books, I’ll be returning soon to write another revisit about one of K-On!!‘s lesser-known, but nonetheless important surprises, as well as my thoughts on Luminous Witches once we pass the third episode.

When I had finished PapaKiki! for the first time, I had wondered if the story would have succeeded in conveying its messages had Yūta been a salaryman rather than a university student. Finances and housing were two of the biggest problems he had to deal with; buying enough food and essentials for four, on top of making a small apartment work, cannot have been easy on his part time jobs, forcing him to take on more work to ensure there was enough money to keep the lights on. This results in Yūta spending less time with Sora, Miu and Hina, to the point where his relatives do begin worrying about whether or not he can maintain his studies on top of his duties as a guardian. Towards the end of PapaKiki!, Yūta’s aunt and uncle arrange for him to take possession of his sister and her husband’s old home – while Yūta would still need to deal with property tax, utilities and insurance, having a place to decisively call his own would doubtlessly be a game-changer. Sora, Miu and Hina return to a familiar home, and Yūta no longer needs to worry about rent or a mortgage, freeing up his finances for other things. In PapaKiki!, Yūta’s struggles with funds contribute to a part of the story; taking this problem away would likely have diminished the story, and so, in retrospect, it was appropriate to have Yūta be a university student. A series where Yūta was already a salaryman with some financial stability would take away from the effort, and while there’d still be the matter of handling his sister’s death and communicating this to Hina, much of the conflicts in the series would be lessened. Yūta’s uncle and aunt would be less hesitant to let him keep acting as Sora, Miu and Hina’s guardians, and Yūta himself would actually spend more time with everyone, avoiding some of the misadventures that arose in PapaKiki!. Altogether, while the setup in PapaKikI! cannot be said to be realistic, the story was set in such a way so that the deck is stacked against Yūta, giving viewers more reason to root for him, and the series’ outcomes become more satisfying as a result. In this way, PapaKiki! shows how works of fiction may need to use contrived and unrealistic scenarios to convey their message – series that are more realistic may come at the expense of impact, and for this reason, I hold that realism isn’t always an important metric on which works of fiction should be judged against.

Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” –Og Mandino

While pursuing leads to find more dæmons who know of Sakura, Yūko finds Café Asura, a restaurant run by a tapir, Shirosawa, and his cook, Lico. Yūko ends up working for them and comes under the effects of Lico’s cooking, but learns from Shirosawa that he had known of Sakura, having last seen her a decade earlier. Together with the fact that Shirosawa’s mascot is a familiar-looking cat, Ryōko deduces that the cat might be a vessel for holding Sakura’s core. Yūko delves into her dreams and manages to meet Sakura, who reveals she transferred her core into Yūko so the latter could live. Momo enters Yūko’s dreams to retrieve her, having done a deal with the devil for this power, and realising that Sakura is now a part of her, Yūko promises to do what she can to make Momo happy. With the end of summer vacation fast approaching, Anri suggests that Yūko take things easy for a day, but when Yūko visits the summer festival, she’s filled with loneliness until Momo and Mikan join her. Upon hearing that Momo’s looking forwards to a trip to the zoo with her, Yūko asks Lico to teach her how to make a suitable lunch for Momo. On the day of the trip, Momo becomes displeased that Lico and Shirosawa has joined them. With her mood fouling, Momo begins succumbing to the dark side. Sion believes that Momo’s been weakened since she accepted the dark side to save Momo, but when Yūko makes her a handmade lunch, Momo begins to recover. The pair travel to a special place Sakura had known of to restore her magic, and it is here that Yūko defeats her first foe in combat. On a quiet day, Yūko helps Momo deal with cockroaches, and trains to see what she can make with Láthspell, her transforming weapon. Mikan decides to transfer to Yūko and Momo’s school and finds herself befriending the Sports Day Committee members. After an accident causes her curse to activate, Mikan begins to become distant. Yūko and Momo do not accept this and agree that they must sort out the cause of Mikan’s curse, a spirit named Ugallu. With Yūko’s help in forcing Ugallu to manifest, Momo manages to negotiate with Ugallu, and Mikan herself states that, despite the trouble Ugallu’s caused, her intentions were honest, and she’d like nothing more than for Ugallu to enter the real world. Thanks to a summoning ritual all of Yūko’s friends carry out, Ugallu takes a physical form and becomes a part of Mikan’s family. In the aftermath, Momo mentions that Yūko’s more powerful than she realises, in being able to accomplish things in unusual ways that have stumped her predecessors, but Yūko still feels that Momo is teasing her.

Machikado Mazoku has long excelled in portraying how friendship and companionship is the key towards solving problems in ways that force cannot: this was evident during the first season, when Yūko managed to (inadvertently) remove the curse on her family while looking after Momo. Par the course for a Manga Time Kirara manga, Machikado Mazoku had shown the importance and effectiveness of soft power in situations where people had previously failed because they depended purely on hard power. Having firmly established this, 2-Chōme is able to subtly remind viewers of this while at the same time, give the characters a chance to explore their world in greater detail. In doing so, the mystery behind Sakura and Mikan’s curse are both unravelled in a manner that is typically Yūko: through support from those around her, whether they be her family, friends or so-called foes (who are still her friends). The choice of imagery for both Sakura and Ugallu as being entities that reside inside a host body acts a metaphor for how both strength and weakness can come from within. 2-Chōme presents the juxtaposition between these two extremes: on one end, Yūko ad not known that it was Sakura’s spirit residing within her that would give her a chance to live life more fully. Her determination to find Sakura makes this known, and it gives her the resolve to continue doing her best, both for herself, and those around her. At the opposite end of the spectrum, when Mikan explains the origin of her curse, she also feels that being alone is the best way to contain it. However, Momo and Yūko feel differently and believe that they need to address Mikan’s problem at the source. The solution they reach is one that benefits both Mikan and Ugallu. While the scenarios are quite different, both share in common the idea that without people around Yūko, she would have never known Sakura’s core was within her and giving her strength. Similarly, had Mikan not voiced her worries to Yūko and Momo, her curse would’ve remained with her for a much longer time frame. In both cases, the things that are within our minds are not always known to us until we voice them out to family and friends: the different perspectives they have on things means that one might be pushed out of their comfort zone, but when the intentions are sincere, having friends and family in one’s corner also means one can appreciate what they have, as well as address any internal conflicts more effectively than bearing the burden on one’s own.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because of its timing, Machikado Mazoku is plainly a summer anime in the sense that its events are set around the summer. Last we left off, Lilith and Momo had a chance to bond, and Yūko had set her heart on trying to do things that would make Momo smile. However, when it becomes clear that finding Sakura, Momo’s older sister, would yield answers to some of the questions everyone’s had, Yūko decides to go swing by Café Asura for a quick look. Sakura had been a mystery since the first season, so for me, it was uplifting to see the series begin tackling elements that Machikado Mazoku had opened.

  • In classic Machikado Mazoku fashion, Yūko ends up taking a job at Asura rather than finding any information of value, having been coerced into such a position by the owner, Shirosawa. Although this seems far removed from Yūko’s initial objective, it is yet another example of how detours actually allow one to reach their goals. Accepting the job at Asura seems to be out of Yūko’s control, but after gaining Shirosawa’s confidence, he will begin speaking to Yūko more about some of his experiences. These elements are contrasted with visual humour: Shirosawa is bipedal tapir with a propensity for injury, to the point where the simple act of tripping will put him in a cast.

  • As a perk of the job, Yūko is allowed to take home leftover food on top of her paycheque. Machikado Mazoku had resolved the Yoshida family’s curse, of being unable to make or spend more than forty-thousand Yen a month, and by the events of 2-Chōme, Ryōko and Seiko are no longer constrained by this curse. While they continue to live frugally, both are noticeably happier now that they are able to afford the occasional luxury every so often, although they are still overwhelmed by the fact that food as fancy as Lico’s can exist.

  • On the topic of awesome food, I had a day off today and stepped out to visit the Palomino Smokehouse, a barbeque restaurant downtown that’s right on the C-Train line. I’ve passed by this restaurant everyday when I was working downtown and had always wanted to visit. However, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when I was watching Man v. Food‘s Kansas City episode, that I suddenly developed a yearning for barbeque. Palomino Smokehouse has a selection of smoked meat sandwiches, including their legendary Pitboss, which features all of their signature meats (Applewood smoked pulled pork, Alberta beef brisket and smoked sausage) piled onto a bun with ‘slaw and pickles. I enjoyed my sandwich with garlic fries and bacon-wrapped corn-on-the-cob. This was an immensely satisfying meal and a fantastic way to kick off the Canada Day long weekend.

  • After lunch concluded, I swung by the Central Library: I’ve not been back since December 2018, when it first opened, and the place looks immaculate, as new and fresh as it did back then. I’m used to spending that time with my nose in an IDE, so it was a relaxing change of pace to take the day off. Back in 2-Chōme, as Yūko becomes increasingly forgetful and lethargic, Momo and Mikan do their best to figure out what’s happening. As it turns out, Lico’s wonderful cooking has a very unusual side effect in creating withdrawal symptoms in those who consume it; she’s infused the food with a bit of her magic to ensure the café’s success.

  • Once Momo and Mikan figure things out, they manage to talk Lico and Shirosawa into letting Yūko rest back up. Although it appears Yūko has failed in her original objective entirely, she does express a desire to continue working for this magical café. This decision is what leads Yūko into finding enough pieces of information surrounding what had happened to Sakura: there’s only hints to go on, but for Yūko, having so many people in her corner now means that even with only bits of intel floating around, there’s enough for everyone to slowly work things out.

  • Of course, it wouldn’t be Machikado Mazoku without comedy, and in this arena, 2-Chōme continues to deliver. The combination of manzai-style routines, where characters retort to outrageous actions or statement, coupled with visual humour and hyperbole, means that in every episode of 2-Chōme, there’s something to smile about. I’ve long found that the best humour counts on timing and expectations to create absurdity, and have never understood why “intelligent” forms of comedy, like self-referential humour, is held in high regard: the best jokes transcend linguistic, cultural and social backgrounds.

  • Once all of the information is in place, Ryōko works out that the cat that Shirosawa is speaking of must be related to Yūko in some way, and that Yūko’s mind must hold the secrets behind Sakura’s disappearance. Being a succubus, Yūko is able to venture into dreams freely, and this ability has proven to be essential in setting motion the series’ events. Nothing in Machikado Mazoku is ever convoluted or contrived: when an element is introduced, it is done so in a way so that it only adds to the series.

  • Once inside her memories, Yūko initially struggles to fend off animated needles and hospital machinery. The psychology behind their existence is conveniently provided by Lilith: in 2-Chōme, Lilith plays a larger role and appears to suffer with reduced frequency, such that Yūko never shouts out her name. While Lilith is still confined to her statue, Momo will occasionally transplant her spirit into a doll so she has mobility, Lilith’s pompous manner typically causes Momo to regret her decision. However, when she’s on mission, Lilith is knowledgeable and helpful. Yūko does end up finding Sakura, or more correctly, her recollections of Sakura.

  • After a reunion, Sakura explains that she transferred her core into Yūko to bolster her strength and give her a chance to live a normal life. Sakura’s disappearance is subsequently solved – it turns out she’d been nearby all this time, and this revelation causes Yūko to realise that while one day, she’ll have to find the strength to live without Sakura’s core (removing her core now would cause Yūko to revert to her frail, bed-ridden self), for the time being, what she can do while possessing some of Sakura’s power is to do everything she can for Momo’s sake. This proved a pivotal moment in 2-Chōme, to the point where some viewers felt this was worthy as a series finale.

  • However, I disagree with this sentiment – having Yūko sort this out at 2-Chōme‘s halfway point is symbolic, showing that Yūko’s won half the battle. The effort to find Sakura was successful, but Yūko ends up trapped in her dreamscape, causing Momo to quickly accept a deal with the devil; she surrenders her Light Clan allegiance, giving her the power to interact with Yūko. That Momo was willing to do this despite her background shows that she’s come to care greatly for Yūko, again showing how Yūko’s way of doing things has been especially successful compared to more direct methods.

  • The melancholy that permeates 2-Chōme comes as a consequence of Yūko being uncertain of how to best proceed with Momo – Sakura feels that Yūko should do what she feels to be appropriate, having seen her approach towards things, but Yūko seems oblivious of the fact that, while Momo may not always show it, she’s actually quite content with just being with Yūko. This desire becomes increasingly obvious as the summer wears on.

  • I particularly related to the emptiness Yūko feels when she’s visiting a summer festival on her own – in most anime, summer festivals are events to be enjoyed in groups, and without others to share in her experiences, Yūko is feeling like something is missing. The whole point of events like these is to hang out with others, after all, and while there are things one can comfortably do on their own, such as hiking or camping, attending large events alone feels a little strange.

  • Once Mikan and Momo show up, Yūko’s spirits lift considerably. 2-Chōme excels in reminding viewers of how important it is to have people in one’s life; as they say, no man is an island. Having people in her life is a two-way street – much as how Mikan and Momo bring Yūko happiness, Yūko has also had a nontrivial impact on Mikan and Momo’s life. This is the single strongest piece about Machikado Mazoku, and acts as the basis from which all of my thoughts are formed. I’ve never seen fit to analyse the series from a fantasy perspective because the magic and world-building aspects of Machikado Mazoku is secondary to themes of friendship.

  • Knowing how the Light and Dark clans work, the scope and limitations of their magic, and how this impacts their presence has no bearing on how the characters interact – magic supplements the story, rather than being a dependency. If the magic was to be removed, Machikado Mazoku‘s messages would still be conveyed, but with the caveat that the series would feel a little duller. Classic elements of an anime summer break also return as Yūko tries to get Momo through her coursework. Because 2-Chōme is set during the summer, it is quite easy to forget that both Momo and Yūko have the responsibilities of a student on top of their goals to sort out the mysteries in their life.

  • Seeing Momo’s determination to finish her work leads Yūko to fulfil her promise of cooking her a homemade lunch. Yūko’s cooking is weaker, so she asks Lico to help her out, and in time, is able to make a lunch she’s excited to have Momo eat. Momo had also been interested in checking out the tigers at the local zoo, so Yūko had planned to make a date of things. Such a gesture is touching: this is exactly how Yūko operates, and despite her doubts about how she can support Momo, it turns out that these simple, everyday activities with Momo are precisely what she’s looking forwards towards.

  • As such, when Lico and Shirosawa crashes Yūko and Momo’s “date”, Momo’s day rapidly goes down the drain – she had been looking towards some alone time with Yūko. Things further decay when the misunderstanding causes Momo to miss the day’s key attraction: the chance to pet some baby tigers. While Lico’s tail is sufficiently soft, it’s no replacement for the real deal, and in the aftermath, Momo’s sour mood causes her to succumb to the dark side again – besides causing her powers to run wild, it also renders her exhausted. In the end, Yūko ends up making Momo another lunch, and the pair travel to a private springs Sakura’s family owned.

  • Along the way, Yūko ends up destroying one of the traps Sakura had devised to keep trespassers out, and this marks the first time Yūko’s won in combat. In the process, Yūko also collects a gem and some dirt from the site to commemorate the moment, while Momo locates the springs and restores her magic. For Sion’s sake, they also gather some samples for her study. It suddenly hits me that while Sion is remarkably knowledgeable about the Light and Dark clans, and has made considerable strides in understanding them, her work is still informal and lacks the same rigour as a research lab might.

  • On this reasoning, it is possible to say that, were a well-funded research group to be tasked with studying this power, it would yield results quite quickly, and Magical Girls may even be weaponised as instruments of war. This is why in the Harry Potter universe, a Statute of Secrecy exists to prevent such an outcome, as well as to prevent the magical community from being annihilated. In Machikado Mazoku, Magical Girls and Dæmons don’t have the same constraints, and this allows the story to purely focus on world-building at a more personal scale. Sion’s interest in things is such that she eventually moves her lab into the rafters of Momo, Mikan and Yūko’s building.

  • Despite being a slice-of-life magical girl fantasy series with a relaxed pacing, 2-Chōme‘s episodes are actually quite busy. Even conversations yield a large amount of detail, and this helps to keep interest in the anime. As such, when brakes are put on the exposition, and characters are allowed to relax, things slow down considerably: before 2-Chōme‘s climax, Mikan is frightened by a cockroach that shows up in her unit, and when she enlists Yūko to help her, they end up giving her apartment a thorough cleaning. Momo later shows up and suggests a magical solution to things, but the barrier Yūko creates fails shortly after.

  • On a gorgeous day prior to everyone’s return to class, Yūko helps with the laundry before attempting to gain an increased mastery over Láthspell. While Yūko refers to it as the “Whatchamacallit Rod”, I find that this is too many characters for me to spell. Láthspell, on the other hand, is quite easy to type out, and its function is well described by this name – I’ve previously mentioned that Láthspell is derived off Old English for “ill-news”, and chose it because this weapon is able to take on any form. When Yūko is able to wield it properly, it spells bad news for whoever is on the receiving end. Yūko has put it to use for more mundane purposes, such as acting as a laundry bar, but with a bit of training, she becomes more confident in wielding it.

  • When it turns out Mikan transfers to the same school as Momo and Yūko, she’s initially thrilled to help out with setting up the sports festival, as this gives her a chance to be with other people. An accident causes her curse to manifest, and Mikan ends up reverting to her old manner – while she’s happy to be around people, she worries her curse could cause someone to get hurt. This leads Momo and Yūko to talk Mikan out of leaving; both want to fix the root cause of the issue rather than leave Mikan with a bandaid solution.

  • This mindset is commendable and shows how far Momo has come since Machikado Mazoku‘s beginning – Momo is willing to go the extra mile for Mikan and Yūko to the point where she’s willing to embrace the Dark Side again: she chokes down the special elixir Sion’s prepared for her here ahead of their incursion into Mikan’s mind. I’ve always held this mindset as a software developer; although it is tempting to simply paper over a bug with a short term fix, longer term solutions are always more attractive when they actually address the cause of a problem. I’ve had situations where a bug was thought to be a UI issue, but then the issue actually resulted from how the app was parsing data. Fixing the root cause means there would exist no situations where the app would now display the incorrect information to users.

  • It suddenly hits me that what Yūko and Momo are doing here is not too different than dream-walking, although given that Machikado Mazoku lacks the concept of a multiverse, we can suppose that the events in the dream space are completely aligned with what is happening in their primary reality. On the topic of dream-walking, I’ve finally had the chance to watch Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness, and while the film leaves a few plot holes with America Chavez’s character, as well as making previous works like WandaVision and What If? mandatory, the film was fun overall and became an unexpected horror experience – as the Scarlet Witch, Wanda’s actions evoke memories of The Ring and Steven King’s Carrie in places.

  • Fortunately, 2-Chōme is clearly not such a series; once Yūko and Momo enter Mikan’s mind, they find an amorphous darkness surrounding Mikan’s consciousness. Yūko’s initial attempts to communicate with this entity fails, but with help from Lilith, Yūko summons an ancient weapon for distilling the darkness into a discernible form. While her mind is able to transform Láthspell into a tool capable of the job, its physical manifestation is that of an oversized wired whisk. It typifies Machikado Mazoku‘s propensity to portray cuteness even in moments of great need – Yūko is adorable, and the weapons she summons tend to match her aesthetic, even if they are powerful in their function.

  • Yūko exhausts herself in using her whisk to draw out Ugallu’s true form, and when Momo makes to draw out a fight plan, Yūko forbids her from using violence. In the end, after softening up Ugallu with sweets, Momo is able to reach an understanding of sorts with Ugallu – she was summoned to protect Mikan from trouble, but misinterpreting her duties owing to how poorly she’d been summoned, she indiscriminately acted whenever feeling Mikan was in distress. The revelation this went against her duty causes Ugallu to consider disappearing, and although this would, technically, be a solution that eliminates the curse, Yūko’s kind heart wishes that Ugallu would be given a chance for a do-over.

  • With help from everyone, this is something that ends up happening; even Mikan ultimately came to empathise with the spirit residing in her, and since she is technically Ugallu’s “owner”, she issues an order – Ugallu is not to disappear until she’s found a purpose. To this end, Yūko and all of her friends have gathered to perform a proper summoning ritual in order to allow Ugallu to physically manifest in the real world. Although Sion is able to walk everyone through the process, she realises the list of ingredients for such would be immense, not possible to gather in one evening.

  • Yūko reveals that over the summer, she’s done a variety of activities that does leave her with the right materials, and with everything prepared, she sets off to ask Lico to prepare some karaage worthy of the dæmons. Meanwhile, Momo’s managed to finish the summoning circle with help from the Sports Committee members. Yūko is asked to imbibe the circle with her magic, since she wields the correct magic needed for such a function, and when she summons Láthspell, the weight overtakes her, until Momo grasps the weapon with Yūko. This moment was especially significant, showing how for better or worse, Yūko’s kindness means that Momo is now by her side, ready to see things through with her to the end.

  • This little detail is monumental in 2-Chōme and reiterates the fact that, while Yūko may not be more powerful than a magical girl, she has an uncommon talent to sway those to her side through not deceit and lies, but kindness and empathy. These traits are very unusual for a dæmon, but they’re right at home in a Manga Time Kirara work, which emphasises that the world exists in shades of grey, and moreover, labels don’t hold much value despite how much weight some folks put on them. While Yūko may be a dæmon, she certainly doesn’t act in a way befitting of one, and this is what allows her to find success in overcoming the challenges that she faces.

  • Altogether, Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme earns an A grade (4.0 of 4.0, or 9 of 10): it is sincere, honest and above all, fun to watch. The emotional payoff in this series is immense, and while Yūko may have entered 2-Chōme with apprehension, once she realises that she can have a tangible impact on helping Momo and Mikan to find happiness, she is able to overcome the feeling of melancholy that had been present in 2-Chōme‘s first three episodes. In this way, Yūko was able to help Momo be more truthful with herself, and this would in turn lead both Yūko and Momo to liberate Mikan from her curse, which brings one more ally to the table in the form of Ugallu. Since the story in Machikado Mazoku is still open, and because the series has seen moderate success, I join other viewers in expressing my wish for a third season.

I had entered Machikado Mazoku‘s first season skeptical of the series, exited with satisfaction at having found something that was meaningful, and began 2-Chōme with an open mind. With 2-Chōme in the books, it was uplifting to see the series show the importance of human connections in a very creative and colourful manner. While the themes in Machikado Mazoku are nothing novel (in effect, the entire series is a visual representation of the English proverb “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”), what sets the series apart is how comedy and pathos is seamlessly woven into everything. Viewers will laugh with the characters when something amusing happens, pity them when their efforts fall short and over time, come to root for everything that Yūko and her friends their hearts on doing. On top of lovable characters, Machikado Mazoku also demonstrates how to build a complex world without overwhelming viewers. While the rules of magical girls and dæmons, as well as the longstanding conflict between the Light and Dark clans are numerous and complex, Machikado Mazoku only will present as much as is necessary to the viewers so they know what’s going on. This makes the world more compelling, since it pushes viewers to wonder what other rules and constraints there might be, but otherwise, viewers are not overwhelmed with every fact and figure. This results in a world that feels credible and lifelike, and not excessively convoluted. A subtle, but pleasant touch within Machikado Mazoku is the fact that Yūko’s classmates never seem concerned with Yūko, Momo and Mikan’s unusual powers: they take everything in stride, and remember the three for their kindness, first and foremost. When the moment calls for it, they happily show up to help out, culminating in everyone being able to help Ugallu take a physical form and find purpose anew, while at the same time, liberating Mikan from her curse. As Momo puts it, the way Yūko does things has merit and shows her power, albeit in a different way. In a world where the bigger stick seems to remain the choice for negotiations, seeing an anime that reminds viewers of how important it is to exercise more diplomatic means of problem-solving is uplifting. In this area, 2-Chōme succeeds to the same extent as its predecessor while capitalising on the fact that everything’s established to further flesh out Yūko’s world and how her friendships are slowly allowing her to affect positive change in a way her predecessors could not.

RPG Real Estate: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” –Bryant H. McGill

Kotone settles into her work as a real estate agent and helps Rufuria, Rakira and Fa to close deals: between Fa’s ability to communicate with all beings, and Kotone’s willingness to listen to clients, RPG Real Estate continues to find success in matching clients with suitable properties, from Toto and her Pegasus, to a bard with a lethal singing voice. All the while, news of a dragon terrifying nearby villages continues to raise tensions in Dali, forcing Satona and the armed forces to investigate. Through the course of their time together, Kotone becomes especially close to Fa and begins to worry when Fa seems to appear and disappear in a manner coinciding with the dragon attacks. Kotone’s fears come to pass when Fa vanishes, and even when RPG Real Estate closes enough deals to reach their quota, Fa’s the only thing on her mind. Despite her efforts to push doubts out of her mind, the armed forces take Fa in after one of their clients, an elf with a desire to purchase a long-lasting home, puts two and two together. While it turns out Fa isn’t the dragon that’d been attacking nearby villages, she’s revealed to be the Dark Lord’s daughter: Satona had taken her in with the hope of raising Fa to be a gentle and kind individual. However, although Fa attempts to stop the dragon with Kotone’s help, a mysterious individual chants an incantation that allows her to take control of the dragons. In this state, Fa kills Kotone, but upon seeing this, immediately reverts to her usual form. In the aftermath, Fa, Rufuria and Rakira are hailed as heroes for stopping a dragon attack, but Kotone’s seemingly passed on. On the eve of a celebration in their honour, the necromancer appears and reveals Kotone’s spirit had endured. She restores Kotone’s spirit back to her body, and the four are given a new assignment – keeping an eye on the dragon on a remote tropical island. Kotone is especially thrilled, since this assignment allows everyone to be together, per a wish she’d made. With this, RPG Real Estate draws to a close, bringing the first of this season’s Manga Time Kirara series to a close (Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme‘s finale was originally scheduled to air this week, but production delays meant the finale will air next week instead); RPG Real Estate is a bit of a surprise, departing from the Manga Time Kirara tradition of joyful, saccharine worlds to explore new directions, but at the same time, without deviating too greatly from the approach that has come to characterise Manga Time Kirara series.

Despite the emphasis on dragons and lingering grudges from the Dark Lord’s faction that result in conflicts not seen in RPG Real Estate since their war ended a decade-and-a-half earlier, RPG Real Estate manages to stay true to its central message: that listening is the first step towards addressing conflict. This becomes especially apparent with Fa’s ability to understand all languages, an asset that comes in handy whenever Kotone, Rufuria and Rakira find themselves dealing with non-human clients. During an evacuation, a reptilian and a man get into a disagreement, but Fa is able to interpret what’s going on and helps the two to strike up a friendship. When visiting a hot springs, Fa similarly is able to give Kotone enough information to help their owners, bipedal cats, to rebrand and rethink their concept, turning it into a success. Fa’s unusual background notwithstanding, her ability to bridge the communications gap between species, coupled with Kotone’s talent for hearing people out, brings success to RPG Real Estate, and it is this belief in Fa that ultimately leads Kotone to support Fa as she attempts to reason things out with the dragon. Even this ends up being a misunderstanding, as the dragon had been merely seeking out a place to settle down and give birth to her child. Much as how Kotone and the others listen to their clients, once Fa hears out the dragon, she does her utmost to sort things out peacefully. Such a message, while seemingly rudimentary, remains one that is necessary; although listening to others and empathising with people appears to be common sense, it is shocking as to how often this is forgotten as people talk past one another and flat-out refuse to hear others out if others possess a perspective differing from one’s own. It is this sort of enmity and stubbornness that gives rise to conflict, conflict that could’ve very well been avoided had one simply taken a step back and listened. Manga Time Kirara series excel in presenting and reminding viewers of things that are seemingly obvious but often forgotten in practise; sometimes, it does take such a direct and blunt portrayal to indicate to viewers that common sense isn’t always so common, and even the best of us need the occasional nudge to recall these lessons.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • A perk of a job that entails visiting properties in all sorts of places, and in RPG Real Estate, this means that Kotone and the others enjoy a day at the beach whilst hunting down a property. RPG Real Estate‘s biggest charm is the fact that viewers do get to go check out a plethora of fantasy homes, and the premise of trying to match clients with properties in a game-like world, at least on paper, meant that RPG Real Estate was venturing into turf that the average fantasy (or isekai) series does not cover; conventional series tend to drop the protagonist amidst a major conflict.

  • The reason for doing this is quite plain; it creates the most exciting storytelling and forces protagonists to mature in ways that peacetime cannot. However, when a majority of series does this, things can become quite derivative quite quickly. As such, series like RPG Real Estate take things in a different direction – the setting remains that of a class-based high-fantasy role-playing game, but because the great war is past, the world’s inhabitants are given a chance to live ordinary lives. Without the threat of war present, this allows for authors to write out what nuances such worlds may possess. In this way, I contend that RPG Real Estate is nowhere near “generic” as some detractors might suggest, and if anything, the twist that begins developing actually ends up being more conventional than the idea of selling or renting properties to a fantasy clientele.

  • With this in mind, were someone to suggest that RPG Real Estate was “generic”, I could be persuaded to listen provided that things were sufficiently presented. For instance, if one says that 1) RPG Real Estate is generic 2) because it is similar to other shows that they’ve seen, as 3) said series have previously attempted to mix-and-match grim elements in with the slice-of-life, then this is an argument worth considering. Saying 1) alone is a statement without evidence. Adding 2) gives the argument a bit more weight, and in turn, I gain a modicum of insight into the opinion holder (e.g. what sort of shows they’ve seen and perhaps prefer).

  • With 3), any doubt is removed because hard evidence is provided, and the opinion now satisfactorily explains why a show didn’t work. While I may not necessarily agree, I have learnt something about that individual; one’s opinions do speak about their background and experiences, and learning of these helps with things like compassion and empathy, two virtues that are invaluable as a part of conflict resolution. Unfortunately, people will, more often than not, simply present 1) and then expect that is sufficient in lieu of 2) and 3). This is why I do not pay attention to Twitter-length statements dismissing an anime. Clarity matters more than conciseness, and generally speaking, 240 characters is a unique aspect to Twitter. When other avenues of communication offer one with significantly more than 240 characters, there is space to properly express oneself – listening only works if there is something to listen to.

  • As such, my stance regarding some of the criticisms levelled against RPG Real Estate has not changed since I last wrote about it on the grounds that they make no attempt to elaborate; I’ve not seen satisfactory reasoning to convince me that the concept of real estate in a fantasy world is “generic”. At Tango-Victor-Tango, one “WarriorsGate” has argued that I’m supposedly “divorced from reality”. Such an insubstantial argument has no value; if WarriorsGate had wanted to disprove me, sharing their own journey to buying a home and outlining how RPG Real Estate failed to portray the process would have sufficed. The absence of effort is why arguments here are generally not worth considering, and this is why I would say to RedSavant that I have no intention of registering for an account at Tango-Victor-Tango.

  • RedSavant suggests we’ve previously clashed on Sora no Woto, but I have no recollection of this (my disagreements are with a blogger who argued that Sora no Woto‘s central theme is existentialism when it is not). If either RedSavant or WarriorsGate would like to have a legitimate discussion, I welcome them to do so here, note that if WarriorsGate chooses not to say anything here in my comments section, it would show me they’re the ones with no meaningful argument, and return the conversation to RPG Real Estate: while Kotone looks over some floor plans for houses, I’ll note that she’s seen a fair number of successes since joining the company because she’s observant and willing to listen. This stands in stark contrast with Rufuria, who had simply tried to offload properties onto clients to fill a quota and earn a promotion. This aspect of RPG Real Estate is its strong suit and the main reason behind why I returned to watch the series weekly.

  • Besides food and clothing, shelter is counted as a basic necessity, and throughout the world, one can gain insight into a culture and its people based on how these needs are met. A series about housing set in a fictional world, then, provides an opportunity to world-build in ways that series with a larger story cannot; here Rufuria, Fa, Rakira and Kotone check out a large house whose previous tenants were thieves and therefore modified the building so that they could confound pursuers while at the same time, allowing them to beat a hasty exit. Curiously enough, all of the doors in this house do actually lead somewhere, standing in stark contrast with Rick and Morty‘s Real Fake Doors™, which don’t go anywhere.

  • Although Kotone is quite devoted to her job and becomes visibly saddened when struggling to find a client for a home, or a home for a client, she’s not above having fun on the job, either. A mix between GochiUsa‘s Cocoa and Chiya, Kotone typically has a cheerful disposition, but can become depressed and scatter-minded when something weighs on her mind. As RPG Real Estate progresses, news of dragon attacks begin ravaging the area, and when Kotone notices Fa disappearing or acting unusual on several occasions, she wonders if Fa could be the dragon. Early on, it is easy to ignore these misgivings – whereas RPG Real Estate‘s dragons are powerful beings capable of great destruction, Fa is gentle and kind.

  • It is Kotone’s friendship with Fa that allows Fa’s talents to be utilised. Rufuria had typically been short with Fa, seeing her as a liability more than an asset. Kotone, on the other hand, finds Fa adorable and is more patient with her. When she spots how Fa can effortlessly communicate with all beings, including the family gryphon here, Kotone realises that Fa is an indispensable part of the team, and is able to therefore use Fa’s translations to help broker a deal. Things at RPG Real Estate thus proceed smoothly, allowing Kotone to return home for a vacation. She ends up bringing Fa with her.

  • On the topic of vacations, we’re now three days into the summer, and I’ve got one vacation day next week, set just ahead of Canada Day. I’ve still got all of my vacation days, plus a handful carrying over from last year. I’m still debating what to do with that time (a trip to Japan is still off the table for the present), but I do know that taking a longer long weekend would be great for checking out restaurants around town. I’ve long been a fan of trying out different foods, and earlier this week, to mark the start of the summer, I ended up spending a lunch break with the team at a food truck. This time around, I tried a Taco Platter from the Happy Fish. Consisting of their signature fish taco, a shredded-beef Bulgogi taco and tempura prawn taco, every individual taco brought with it a different flavour profile. The fish taco was especially tasty, with the rich beer batter and flaky fish complementing the tangy mango salsa and coleslaw quite nicely.

  • Kotone’s younger sisters initially take a disliking to Fa, feeling she’s taking Kotone away from them, and shortly after, tasks Fa with finding a moonlight flower to win them over. While Fa is a naïveté and sets off to actually find the flower, the pair grow guilty and take off after her. Fa ends up finding the flower and even helps to create an understanding between the two sisters and a minotaur, which had otherwise been creating conflict with the human residents nearby. Unsurprisingly, the minotaurs do wish to get along with people, and once the misunderstanding is cleared, the adventurers stop hunting them, creating peace amongst the species.

  • Rejuvenated from her time off, Kotone returns to work fully-charged and ready to roll. As RPG Real Estate nears their target of deals closed, Rufuria becomes increasingly flustered and does her best to quickly move properties. However, this proves trickier than expected; one client is looking for a very isolated home, and it turns out she’s a well-known idol who yearns for some peace and quiet away from her adoring fans. Having not disclosed this earlier, Kotone and the others do have a trickier time, but once they learn of her fame and wealth, they find the perfect property for her.

  • Another interesting client that appears is a fortune teller whose craft appears legitimate; after giving everyone their fortunes, she requests a very run down place because she’d foreseen that good things may happen there. She ends up meeting the love of her life and later returns to RPG Real Estate to inform the staff of their marriage. While this is par the course for a Manga Time Kirara series, but when she also gives Kotone a good luck charm and says she’ll need it later, the sense of unease Kotone experiences returns. Some folks were very quick to speculate that Fa is the dragon, but I’ve never given speculation of this sort too much weight.

  • The reason for this is becuase Manga Time Kirara series tend to present events that are consistent with the messages. Here in RPG Real Estate, the themes speak to the importance of listening, and as such, were Fa to be the dragon, it would render the main messages null and void by suggesting that despite her gentle disposition, Fa would be violent at heart or similar. As it was, this certainly isn’t the case, and while there is considerable foreshadowing to show that Fa isn’t merely a adorable, small character for Kotone to look after, said foreshadowing does not indicate that Fa was anything resembling a destructive being.

  • During one festival, where wishes are sent into the skies, Kotone and the others encounter a lost little girl. Despite having some troubles initially, the four manage to reunite the little girl with her mother, only to learn that the gods do exist, and moreover, as thanks for having found her daughter, the four are granted all of their wishes, leading Rufuria to regret not wishing for something bigger. The question of wishes is something that authors enjoy writing about, since there’s a great deal of room for discussing how one’s wishes mirror their character, and Bill Watterson was especially fond of this, having Hobbes wishing for simple things that were attainable to show how happiness is a matter of perspective, and of counting one’s blessings.

  • As the signs of Fa being connected to the dragon attacks in some way become increasingly visible, RPG Real Estate begins shifting from its initial premise of fantasy realty to a story that is more conventional in nature. Strictly speaking, this wasn’t entirely necessary; even in Dali, there’d been plenty of properties that could be presented without the need to introduce an additional element into the story’s progression. Having said this, the rationale for why RPG Real Estate might’ve gone this route was to emphasise the idea that listening is the first step towards defusing a problem.

  • While Kotone is adamant that Fa isn’t the dragon Satona and the army are trying to hunt down, Rufuria is becoming worried about how Fa’s unusual behaviours might suggest her role in things. A conflict of sorts does end up brewing between the two: whereas Kotone shares Rufuria’s concerns, she’s banking on Fa’s personality as being the main reason why Fa can’t have been behind the attacks, but she’s unable to convince Rufuria otherwise. This ends up making their landmark deal a bit more muted, everyone had been looking forwards to this, but Fa’s apparent connection with the dragon attacks dampens the mood.

  • Had RPG Real Estate dispensed with this outright, the series would still be able to convey its themes. The dragon element thus ends up being a bit of a detour towards the series’ end – it leaves more elements that must be resolved, and the resulting conflict does stand in contrast to the aesthetic that Manga Time Kirara series are known for. Here, the elf that Kotone and the others had found a home for ends up working out that Fa’s characteristics means she’s a person of interest, and she consents to be taken into custody if it would mean preventing additional devastation from occurring. The confrontation also shows the gap between the magical abilities of government officials and ordinary citizens, showing viewers that one must have uncommon talent and skill if they are to land a high-ranking position, and that Rufuria is probably still a ways out yet.

  • While Fa is being transported, the real dragon appears and disrupts the transfer. Fa’s talents have come in handy up to this point, and she tries to talk the dragon out of things. These initial efforts are successful; the dragon explains to Fa that she’d been looking for a home to give birth and had travelled extensively for this reason. Fa’s ability to communicate with even the dragon would accentuate the fact that if certain barriers were bypassed, then there wouldn’t be a need for conflict. Generally speaking, conflict occur whenever there is a difference in individual aims or values, and at the heart of all conflict resolution is communication.

  • For the dragon, being attacked simply because she was trying to find a home would certainly come across as unreasonable, whereas for the people, the presence of a dragon and their association with the past Dark Lord is worrisome because it is connected to strife and warfare. However, the dragon isn’t interested in causing destruction for kicks, and Satona’s forces definitely don’t having a particular appetite for warfare, either. Instead, RPG Real Estate shows that the dragon appears to be under some sort of spell from an individual who appears to be associated with a faction that intends on bringing the Dark Lord’s ways back into the world.

  • This aspect of RPG Real Estate is the weakest link in a series that was otherwise solid in its portrayal of communications: had RPG Real Estate done away with this faction and had the confrontation with the dragon at its climax, to be resolved by Fa and Kotone attempting their preferred manner of conflict resolution, the anime would have remained very successful in its delivery. Instead, introducing another character with a chip on her shoulder and yet-to-be-defined motives adds unneeded obfuscation to the story. This is in violation of Chekov’s Gun; since we have a character introduced, it stands to reason that said character must play a nontrivial role of some sort.

  • Because of how RPG Real Estate had proceeded up until now, I was half-expecting Kotone to notice this individual and try and talk her down from using dragons as weapons of mass destruction. Instead, this unknown individual proceeds to utilise the same spell against Fa, causing her to go rogue, as well. In the end, there is no opportunity for Kotone and Fa to utilise the sum of their shared experiences in addressing a problem unlike anything they’d faced earlier. The outcome in RPG Real Estate ends up being quite unconventional for a Manga Time Kirara series.

  • It turns out that Fa is named after Fafnir, the Norse dwarf with a great love for treasure. This love of treasure corrupted him and, coupled with a curse, would transform him into a dragon. Fafnir is what inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s Smaug, as well as Thorin’s madness, in The Hobbit. In RPG Real Estate, however, Fa does not possess any of the attributes of her namesake, and even in dragon form, retains clarity: before she comes under the spell’s influence, she tries to talk the other dragon out of its rampage, using just enough force to keep the other dragon’s attacks from hitting the massed soldiers below.

  • While Fa shows that the dragons can indeed be reasoned with, the unknown faction has perfected spells that reduce dragons, which otherwise would be clever and wise entities, into rampaging monsters. This aspect of RPG Real Estate absolutely demands exploration, and the fact that it was introduced so late into the series leaves a gaping hole in things: even though the outcomes are uplifting, one cannot help but feel that after fifteen years of peace, conflict may be brewing again. This could be resolved by giving RPG Real Estate another season, allowing the story to explore these elements in greater detail, but the problem here would be that a second season would depend almost entirely on how well RPG Real Estate performs in terms of sales.

  • There is no guarantee that this is going to happen, and so, RPG Real Estate would leave viewers with more questions than answers in some regards. After taking a claw to the face, Kotone dies, leaving Rufuria, Rakira and Fa devastated. Fa’s emotional response is strong enough for her to overcome the unknown spellcaster’s incantation, and she departs. This marks the first time I’ve seen blood in a Manga Time Kirara series, and while some folks have informed me that not all Manga Time Kirara series are going to be happy-go-lucky, easygoing series, I hold that what makes Manga Time Kirara series distinct from others is the fact that the themes will always be more optimistic than pessimistic.

  • I’ve been watching Manga Time Kirara works for upwards of a decade, and having seen a nontrivial number of their works, I have enough of a precedence to say that leaving Kotone dead would undermine the sorts of themes in what RPG Real Estate was attempting to go for. As Fa, Rufuria and Rakira attend Kotone’s funeral, a small, adorable doll suddenly bursts into the room and frantically gestures at Kotone’s body. It turns out that Lily had encountered a spirit hovering in front of RPG Real Estate’s main office and imagined it to be Kotone’s. After encasing it in a doll, she’s brought the spirit here and in mere moments, manages to restore Kotone’s spirit to her body.

  • In almost any other anime, viewers would probably cry foul over how Kotone was resurrected, but because RPG Real Estate introduced Lily early on, this isn’t a problem – in fantasy worlds, resurrection spells are not uncommon, and this mechanic is ultimately utilised to ensure RPG Real Estate does not subvert its message. Kotone remarks that this is the first time she’s been brought back to life, and this leads to the question of whether or not some souls are irrecoverable if they are separated from the individual’s body. Regardless of how precisely things in RPG Real Estate work, what matters is that Kotone returns to Fa and the others.

  • In recognition of their actions in stopping the dragon from decimating the area, the king himself thanks Kotone, Fa, Rufuria and Rakira for their actions. After consulting with Satona, he decides the best course of action is to have the four accompany the dragon to her new home, allowing everyone to stay together. Rufuria is devastated, since this puts her career plans on hold, but Satona reassures her that once they have sort out what happens with Fa, everyone will be allowed to return. It turns out that Fa is the Dark Lord’s daughter, and Satona had found her after the hero had defeated the Dark Lord. Raised under a loving environment, Fa became gentle and kind. After a large celebration that evening, Kotone, Fa, Rufuria and Rakira prepare to set off for their next destination.

  • RPG Real Estate will be immediately relatable to anyone who’s moved house recently, capturing the entire spectrum of emotions, from excitement, to not wanting to go, in a succinct manner. Shortly after arrival, the dragon thanks everyone for having helped her, and everyone heads off for their new home. Here, Kotone remarks that her wish of living together with everyone has been realised: it is spacious and beautifully appointed, even possessing its own office space to allow everyone to continue their work. It is a satisfactory ending to a series that had, save the mysterious individual, been very consistent in its messaging. Before I wrap this post up, I will remark that RPG Real Estate Services is an actual company in Toronto that deals with realty services in the Greater Toronto Area, and I feel the slightest bit of pathos for them, since anyone looking for their services will now come across content related to RPG Real Estate the anime.

  • Overall, RPG Real Estate earns a B grade: it represents a fun romp into the world of realty without overburdening viewers with specifics like home inspection, mortgages and insurance policies while at the same time, presenting a chance to see how vivid fantasy worlds can be. While the warring factions and their ability to control dragons was completely unaddressed, knowing the themes in RPG Real Estate means that there definitely is a possibility that even this can be solved peacefully in the future. With the first of this season’s Manga Time Kirara work in the books, I have a handful of posts planned out for this month, including a talk in Battlefield 2042‘s Zero Hour Update and a discussion of Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme‘s finale once it becomes available.

While RPG Real Estate is largely a self-contained exploration of realty in a fantasy, of matching clients to properties in a world where the possibilities are more varied and colourful than they are in reality, the anime also hints at the fact that discord is always just around the corner. This aspect stands in juxtaposition to the cheerful, happy-go-lucky tone that otherwise dominates RPG Real Estate, and leaving the unknown individual who’d attempted to enchant dragons to carry her bidding leaves the floor open to additional conflict in the future. It is plain that while the Dark Lord’s faction was defeated fifteen years earlier, danger still lurks in this world. Prima facie, this seems out of place: it seems unusual to create suspense and terror in what is otherwise a gentle slice-of-life series, and doubly so when the source of the conflict is introduced so late into the game. This unresolved aspect in RPG Real Estate leaves open the possibility that additional strife could appear in the future, and that the otherwise peaceful world that Kotone, Fa, Rufuria and Rakira know is always under threat of disruption. However, upon closer inspection, RPG Real Estate provides all of the information viewers need to draw a conclusion. While a confrontation with this mysterious sorcerer is likely inevitable, given that Kotona and the others have always drawn upon their ability to listen and talk things out to resolve conflicts, it is likely the case that the learnings Kotone, Fa, Rufuria and Rakira draw from their experiences will be an asset. As such, while RPG Real Estate concludes a little too abruptly and introduced elements that are definitely unrelated to real estate, the anime appears to convey the idea that listening is a vital skill, and that one’s learnings can find applicability in situations outside of their occupation. The manner in how RPG Real Estate concludes is a definitive one, although it is quite clear that, assuming sales for this series turn out to be reasonable, any sort of continuation would have a wealth of directions to potentially explore.