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Akebi’s Sailor Uniform: Whole-series Review and a Full Recommendation

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” –George Bernard Shaw

When Komichi Akebi enters middle school, she’s enthralled to don a sailor uniform, modelled on her favourite idol’s attire: she’s chosen Rōbai Academy because of their sailor uniforms. Moreover, Koichi is unaccustomed to life with other classmates and looks forward to getting to know everyone; as a primary student, Komichi had been the only student in her year. On her first day of classes, Komichi is shocked that everyone at her middle school wears more modern uniforms, but gains permission to continue wearing her home-made sailor uniform, as it was a valid uniform. While Komichi sticks out like a sore thumb, her classmates soon find that Komichi’s energy makes her immensely likeable. After she befriends Erika Kizaki, Komichi also gets to know Tomono Kojō and Tōko Usagihara during lunch break. While Komichi’s athletic skill catches the eyes of various clubs, Komichi ends up spending time with class representative Kei Tanigawa, who’s come to encourage Komichi to join a club: Komichi picks the drama club, but also finds time to spend with her newfound friends. She hangs out with Tōko, where Kei is surprised to learn there’s a bashful side to Komichi, and later, makes friends with Minoru Ohkuma. Later, Komichi struggles to decide how to invite Erika over to hang out, and upon spotting her with a book on fishing, suggests they fish in the pond near Komichi’s home. After another classmate, Oshizu Hebimori, promises to play the guitar for Komichi despite not knowing how, she puts in a serious effort to improve and impresses Komichi. Encouraged, Oshizu promises to continue practising and improving. After exams finish, Rōbai Academy prepares for their athletic festival. Komichi longs to try a variety of activities and ends up taking a bet with Riri Minikami to see who will start for their class. Although Komichi desires to win because the bet entails trading uniforms, after she loses, Riri explains she wanted to see Komichi at her best. To purchase supplies for the athletic festival, Komichi visits the local mall with Erika, Kei, Tomono and Tōko. Tomono loses her bookmark, but ends up recovering it with help from everyone. As Komichi and her friends practise a cheer routine, seeing Komichi’s determination helps Riona Shijō, a former tennis player, to regain her confidence. Since Komichi is still weaker in volleyball, Hitomi Washio agrees to help Komichi practise, and Komichi calls her old instructor to request permission to use her old school’s gym as a practise venue. Hitomi ends up rallying the entire class to show up, bringing tears to Komichi’s former teacher; she’s overjoyed that Komichi’s been able to make so many friends. Erika spends this time preparing for a special performance with Komichi On the day of the festival, after a successful showing in the day’s events, Komichi performs a dance for the school with Erika on piano and violin. Komichi awakens the next day, wondering if the sports festival had been a dream, but after getting dressed, looks forwards to a new day at Rōbai Academy.

At the heart of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is Komichi’s eponymous sailor uniform, a uniform harkening back to an older era. This uniform lies at the heart of Komichi’s desire to attend Rōbai Academy, and the staff’s decision to allow her to continue wearing this uniform suggests that Rōbai Academy is a school that respects tradition. At the same time, allowing Komichi to continue wearing her homemade uniform gives Akebi’s Sailor Uniform its unique charm: it allows Komichi to stand out from the others, and affords her the opportunity to really get to know those around her better. Unsurprisingly, throughout Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, it is not her sailor uniform, but her outgoing and kind personality, that allows Komichi to know her classmates better. The sailor uniform may make Komichi distinct from a crowd, but rather than allowing this to affect her, Komichi trundles on with a sincere honesty. The visual element in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform brings to mind a Canadian classic: Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater. This story is an iconic piece of Canadian literature, and follows a boy who idolised Maurice “The Rocket” Richard and the Montreal Canadiens. To this end, the boy and his friends play hockey with Canadiens uniforms. One day, the boy’s mother notices how worn his jersey is and orders a new one, but mistakenly receives a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. The boy’s mother refuses to send it back, and so, the boy reluctantly wears his new Maple Leafs jersey to the rink. The boy is benched and only gets on the ice in the third period, but is immediately penalised for “too many men on the ice”. Frustrated, the boy chucks his stick on the ice, prompting the referee to send him to the church to pray for forgiveness. Instead, the boy wishes a horde of moths would descend upon his jersey and eat it. Although The Hockey Sweater is seen as a portrayal of the Canadian love for the sport, it also portrays how strongly people are bound to their identities. The boy in the story, Carrier himself, is penalised simply because he wears the jersey from a bitter rival. Komichi initially fears this: her sailor uniform makes her stand out, and she worries about not fitting in with the other students, who sport a modern blazer as a part of their uniform. However, whereas The Hockey Sweater ends on a somewhat humourous note that echoes how dedicated Canadians are to their home team, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform suggests that, outward differences notwithstanding, it is what’s on the inside that counts most.

From photography, to books, music, athletics and academics, Akebi possesses the versatility to keep up with everyone around her. At the same time, she’s also defined by a love of acting, and of her favourite idol. These traits allow Komichi to be the star of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, but even in moments where Komichi herself is not the focus, it becomes apparent that Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is a tale of being true to oneself, and moreover, one’s identity is not something society can define (or should be permitted to define). Despite garnering stares for both her uniform and notable introduction, Komichi embraces the environment at Rōbai Academy, befriending her classmates and getting to know them better. Over time, Komichi’s classmates swiftly spot that, her quirks notwithstanding, Komichi is a genuinely kind and worthwhile person to be around. Despite standing out, Komichi remains true to herself: she’s a big fan of idols and never hesitates to express this, but at the same time, she’s also a fantastic listener, reading a moment and acts appropriately. Meeting Komichi encourages each of her classmates to pursue their own goals. Erika is inspired to play music again, while Kei becomes a photographer. Oshizu ends up developing a desire to play guitar after being spurred on by Komichi, Riri expresses joy that there’s someone whose swimming ability can push her further and after seeing Komichi give cheerleading her on, Riona finds it in her to take up tennis again. Even the stoic Hitomi comes to respect Komichi for her endless determination. Although all of Komichi’s classmates are working to find their place in the sun, seeing Komichi pursue her own goals so openly and sincerely leads those around her to do the same. Komichi would’ve likely been able to do this, sailor uniform or not; this speaks volumes to how one’s actions, rather than their appearances, define who they are as a person. In a society that is too hasty in slapping labels and categorising one another, people often fail to give others a chance and appreciate that the mark of another individual’s character isn’t their appearance or preferences, but rather, how they regard those around them, and how they act towards those around them.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Akebi’s Sailor Uniform had been on my watchlist during the winter season, but owing to how busy it’d been, I deemed it prudent to hold off until things had settled down somewhat: at the time, I was preparing for the move on weekends, and on weeknights, my routine had kept me occupied. Since the move’s been done for a month and a half now, readers would suggest that I’ve no longer a reason to put things off further: if I didn’t kick off Akebi’s Sailor Uniform now, it would join the list of backlogged series that I’d get to at some indeterminate point in the future.

  • To prevent Akebi’s Sailor Uniform from suffering such a fate, especially since I did watch the first episode shortly after its airing in January, I focused on getting through this series earlier this month. It is quite plain that the recommendations I’ve received from readers to give Akebi’s Sailor Uniform a go were well-justified: the series is indeed up my alley, and the first episode captivated me with its stunning landscapes, as well as the portrayal of Komichi as immensely energetic, likeable and friendly. Although she attended a local schoolhouse for primary, she’s always been outgoing and approachable.

  • Even a mistake in the uniform type isn’t enough to get her down: the gap is why I’ve likened Akebi’s Sailor Uniform to The Hockey Sweater: in both Komichi and Carrier’s case, a misunderstanding results in their having an outfit that sticks out. Whereas Carrier’s reminiscence has him penalised for this mistake, Komichi is able to embrace different (Rōbai Academy’s headmistress allows Komichi to continue wearing the sailor uniform) and soon finds that while her uniform may differ from that of her classmates, she’s standout not because of this factor.

  • Every journey begins with a single step, and Komichi’s starts when she befriends Erika Kizaki. Although their meeting is unusual enough (Komichi runs into Erika while the latter is clipping her toenails), this memorable start to a friendship allows Komichi to become closer to Erika, and in doing so, sets precedence for how Komichi ends up getting to know the remainder of her classmates, all sixteen of them. With this being said, Komichi overdoes her introduction on her first day, and leaves a very strong impression that leaves even their instructor speechless.

  • Komichi comes to know the quiet Tomono and the happy-go-lucky Tōko, over lunch break; Tōko brings to mind the likes of Azumanga Daioh‘s Tomo Takino, as well as K-On!‘s Ritsu Tainaka, while Tomono is a big fan of books and would much rather spend her time reading. The dramatic contrasts in personality do not preclude Tomono, Tōko and Erika from getting along with one another, although the resulting conversation is vociferous enough such that the remainder of their classmates overhear. Such moments bring back memories of what life had been like during my time as a student.

  • When class representative Kei attempts to persuade Komichi into joining a club before the deadline, Komichi’s remark, that Kei’s got nice legs, lingers in her mind. This ends with Kei stripping down and sending a risqué photo of herself to Komichi by accident. She’d considered deleting the image, but her mother’s sudden appearance causes Kei to press the wrong button. Such moments are counted as “problematic” by certain subsets of the community, although I see things in a different perspective. At this age, people experience puberty and the plethora of changes that occur in one’s body, but the curiosity that accompanies these changes is natural; education is key here.

  • I’ve never really understood why there is such a fear or sense of shame in one’s body and its functions; as far as I’m concerned, it’s the vessel that houses one’s mind, and much as how every mind is unique, so is every body. Akebi’s Sailor Uniform gives Kei a reprieve in that she only sends such an image to Komichi, who is astute enough to promise to not share it with anyone else. In reality, such mistakes can have serious consequences, and a part of the education here would entail teaching youth what to never share under any circumstances, especially since technology is so prevalent nowadays.

  • The outcome of this little incident in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is benign; Kei simply ends up taking photography after Komichi expresses that Kei might have a knack for taking interesting photos. Meanwhile, Tomono shares a conversation with Kei and decides to go around campus with Komichi such that the latter may find a suitable club. For Komichi, whose talent stack is quite large, every club has its own appeal and selling point. The other club’s members similarly are excited about the prospect of having Komichi on boards, since she’s proving to be quite capable in physical education.

  • Although Akebi’s Sailor Uniform may portray life at a private Japanese middle school, the experiences that Komichi has here are immediately relatable: this series is seen as being a trip down memory lane, when one was still a student and had a different set of concerns than they presently would. Whether it be visiting different clubs, or quieter moments spent together, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform portrays both the exciting and the mundane moments of everyday life to remind viewers that life is a series of peaks and valleys.

  • For folks wondering what my life was like in middle school, the answer will probably be none too exciting or remarkable. I was a 90s student with a penchant for math and science, but could hold my own well enough in the humanities, and for extracurricular activities, I was involved with the concert and jazz bands, playing clarinet and trumpet, respectively. I also was a part of the computer club, helping the computer instructor with various activities like setting the school’s then-cutting edge digital news bulletins and managing the audio-visual equipment during assemblies.

  • Although I entered my first year of middle school as an unpopular individual, my classmates came around once word had gotten out I was a good person to have on group projects and had a penchant for helping classmates with coursework. Some of my classmates also were amused by the fact that at the time, I was hooked on The Matrix and would do impressions like Neo’s iconic bullet dodging and wall-running on the lockers. Once the “mystery” evaporated, I found I was getting along with people just fine, from the popular people and the athletes, to my fellow band members and so forth.

  • Komichi’s choice to join the drama club is a suitable one; being an actor or actress means taking on whatever role is needed of her in the moment, and this signifies how Komichi can become anything she wishes to be. Drama, of course, is also related to a skill that her favourite idol would possess in abundance. Once clubs are chosen, in any typical slice-of-life series, the anime would shift focus to club activities. Akebi’s Sailor Uniform does not take this route, and while Komichi is shown doing club activities, more emphasis is shown on common, everyday moments.

  • This decision allows Akebi’s Sailor Uniform to portray characters in a way that showcases more of their character. When Komichi learns that her socks have holes in them, she’s mortified that the others have found out. Kei had spent the entire episode wondering about other sides to Komichi’s character, and although Komichi has an idol-like charm about her, Kei wonders if there’s a facet to Komichi she hasn’t seen before. In this same episode, viewers learn that Tōko is an excellent cook, having picked up the practise in her spare time.

  • Minoru had run into Akebi during an orientation event prior to the start of term, and she prefers observing the world around her. When Komichi does strike up a conversation with Minoru, it is to Minoru’s surprise that Komichi also is fond of being attuned to those around her; both Komichi and Minoru take detailed notes of their observations. I found Minoru to resemble Girls und Panzer‘s Yukari: although quiet and reserved for the most part, when their respective interests are brought up, both become significantly livelier.

  • Minoru and Komichi thus spend a day observing those around them, although Komichi’s extroverting nature means she’s prone to wanting to help out or join the party. Komichi would probably not make for a good tail, but following Minoru’s preferred activity does allow Komichi to learn even more about her classmates. Komichi’s tendencies come from a desire to really make friends: even more so than Asahigaoka Branch Elementary, Komichi’s primary school only had her as a student, and at present, Komichi’s younger sister is the only student. Being on her own has never dampened her spirits, but being with others brings out the best in Komichi.

  • Ayumi had been curious about Komichi since she’d started; on the day of the exams, Komichi had assisted Ayumi with her medications, but they parted ways before Ayumi could return her handkerchief. Since then, Ayumi had wanted to properly thank Komichi and return said handkerchief. Ayumi reminds me of Yama no Susume‘s Hinata Kuraue and Bakuon!!‘s Chisame Nakano in appearance: one aspect of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform that took me some getting used to was the fact that several of the characters resemble Komichi in appearance, with long black hair, and it hit me that, although allowing Komichi to keep her sailor uniform makes it immediately apparent as to who’s who, one could tell Komichi apart from the others simply on virtue that Komichi’s eyes are a striking shade of blue.

  • For Komichi, middle school is a time of firsts, and when she wishes to invite Erika over to her place, she initially struggles (in no small part, thanks to the fact that her home’s roof leaks). After a day of trying to figure something out, Komichi spots Erika with a book on fishing, deduces Erika might enjoy being outside. This allows Komichi to suggest going fishing, allowing her to have Erika over. Although Erika and Komichi have a completely different idea of what fishing entails, both manage to see merits in the other way, having a great deal of fun in the process: Erika even manages to catch a trout with Komichi.

  • When I was in middle school and primary school, I went over to friends’ places more often than I had people over. This was in part a consequence of me having more books than toys and video games. However, I have had people over for school projects, and the environment was suitable for people to get stuff done: I still remember one time, I worked on a Rube Goldberg machine at a friend’s place, and the entire team got distracted because said friend had Half-Life 2 and a PC powerful enough to run it. I managed to push us across the finish line, and we were able to spend more time with Half-Life 2 after that.

  • The visuals of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform are gorgeous: Cloverworks has spared no expense in ensuring that all backgrounds are vividly rendered, and in fact, Komichi’s world feels as detailed as anything from Kyoto Animation or P.A. Works. Having said this, I have heard that some folks found the character designs to be a little off-putting. The exaggerated facial expressions in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform are quite pronounced, but for me, they serve to speak volumes about how a character is feeling in a given moment. Visual cues like these are a central part of anime, so it’s important to consider their usage before drawing any conclusions or dismiss their usage as a distraction.

  • Longtime readers will know that I get along with small children well, and I’m fond of working with them. Although Komichi and her classmates are amusing, Komichi’s younger sister, Kao, is downright adorable. She does her best to encourage Komichi and sees her as a role model of sorts. Here, after their day of fishing draws to a close, Komichi and Erika run into Kao, who’s carrying a large fuki leaf. There’s something immensely adorable about children using giant leaf as an umbrella, and for me, the most memorable usage was back in Sora no Method. Here, I supposed that Noel and Carol were using Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant Taro) leaves because of their shape. The leaf that Kao is carrying appears a little different, and for our benefit, Komichi’s mother identifies it as a Petasites japonicus leaf.

  • After meeting Erika for the first time, Komichi’s mother is pleased that Komichi’s getting along with her classmates at Rōbai Academy. She addresses Erika by her given name, causing Komichi to become jealous. Although this phenomenon may seem a little strange to English-speakers, it is a common enough occurrence in anime such that viewers are familiar with things; calling people by their given name is something that is reserved for situations where there is closeness. This is why Komichi refers to all of her classmates by their family name, and it is only out of envy that Komichi ends up overcoming her reservations: from here on out, Komichi and Erika refer to one another by their given names.

  • Small details like these are done to emphasise closeness, and it follows that Erika’s the first person that Komichi becomes on a first-name basis with. Having gone through primary and secondary school addressing my instructors by their family names, university created a bit of confusion in me: some professors preferred to be addressed by their title, while my supervisor wished to be addressed by first name. In the workplace, I’ve slowly grown accustomed to addressing coworkers and leadership by first name. Kao’s happy to see that Komichi’s brought a friend over from school and immediately goes about sharing stories with Erika.

  • Oshizu is a sullen-looking classmate with a profound love for music despite lacking any technical familiarity with it. When Komichi approaches her one day, excited to hear her play, Oshizu decides to bite the bullet and learn how to read music. While the journey is a difficult one, one where Oshizu considers quitting, her roommate encourages her to continue, stating that anything will be difficult initially. Lessons like these are interspersed throughout Akebi’s Sailor Uniform: they are by no means subtle and are easily picked up, but I’m always surprised that folks tend to skate over these things in discussions.

  • Although Oshizu is discouraged by Erika’s talent, Komichi convinces her to perform anyways, and seeing Komichi’s enjoyment of this experience leads Oshizu to stick with the guitar. Events like these typify the beginnings of new experiences, and it’s not difficult to see Oshizu eventually join a club or continue guitar as a hobby later down the line. Oshizu resembles Her Blue Sky‘s Aoi Aioi in manner, and it suddenly hits me that both Her Blue Sky and Akebi’s Sailor Uniform are both produced by CloverWorks. This studio cut their teeth on 2018’s Slow Start after A-1 Pictures rebranded their Kōenji Studio, and since then, have gone on to work on shows like Seishun Buta YarōSaeKano: Fine and even My Dress-Up Darling.

  • As such, the animation traits here shouldn’t be too surprising: it would appear that the character designers who’d previously worked on Her Blue Sky have returned to Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, whose characters are illustrated by Hiro in the manga. Hiro had previously designed Super Cub‘s characters; while the facial expressions and character movements differ dramatically, some similarities can be spotted between Komichi and Koguma. On the topic of Super Cub, I find myself surprised at how quickly a year’s passed since Super Cub was airing; Super Cub is just as laid-back as Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, so it came as a shock to me that there was such a negative, adverse reaction during the former’s airing a year ago.

  • Conversely, conversations about Akebi’s Sailor Uniform have been more limited in scope, and correspondingly more peaceable as a result: in fact, at the series’ conclusion, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform was described as “incredible”, “amazingly put together” and generally a “fun show”. This is high praise coming from folks who are quick to melt other slice-of-life series with criticisms (Super Cub did not escape and was branded as unwatchable by the same folks). I’ve found that people seem to have very inconsistent metrics for what makes a slice-of-life work, and there’s no methodology behind things.

  • For me, whether or not a slice-of-life series is enjoyable is dependent on how well the characters’ experiences relate to the story’s overarching goal. For instance, in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, there isn’t a specific goal per se, but as Komichi works together with her classmates towards a successful athletics festival, it gives her a chance to focus all of that energy and talent towards something tangible, showing to the remainder of her classmates what she’s made of. This is in keeping with the growth Komichi’s had up until now and shows beyond any doubt that she’s been able to find her way.

  • When Komichi, Tomono, Erika and Tōko head to the mall to pick up materials for the athletics festival, it gives everyone a chance to hang out together outside of school and show a side of their characters that were hitherto unseen. Here, how Tomono’s love of books came to be is shown, and Erika’s upbringing is hinted at. Simple things like a conversation about Tomono’s treasured bookmark, or Erika’s enjoyment of a fast food burger, speaks volumes about the characters that wouldn’t otherwise be shown in the classroom. The outing is full of ups and some downs: Tomono’s missing bookmark ends up bringing this group of friends even closer, as Komichi works out a solution to help Tomono retrieve it.

  • For the athletics festival, on top of participating in class events like volleyball, Komichi’s also volunteered to be a part of the cheerleading team. With her extroverted manner and a love for idols, Komichi is a natural fit for the position, performing her move set with boldness. This stands in contrast with Riona, who’s uncomfortable with her figure and admits that these changes have led to her decreasing interest in tennis, even though previously, she’d greatly enjoyed the sport. Although she’s initially envious of Komichi’s build, seeing the effort Komichi is willing to go spurs her onwards, as well.

  • In the end, Riona decides to take a leaf from Komichi’s book and do her best, no matter how embarrassing it may be, and even regains her interest in tennis anew. Komichi’s presence in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform shows how she’s had a positive impact on all those around her. In this way, she’s Akebi’s Sailor Uniform‘s equivalent of Cocoa, who had similarly brightened everyone’s day up to the point where, when she’d gone home for a visit, each of Chino, Chiya, Rize, Sharo, Maya and Megu begin feeling a little down. Such individuals, who bring the sunshine with them, are indispensable for morale: during tough times, having people who can smile anyways and bring everyone up with them can make even overwhelming problems appear manageable.

  • I’ve seen a very large number of anime over the past decade, and one recurring element that I’m always fond of is when characters puff up their cheeks. I’ve never seen this as an actual facial expression anywhere in reality, and I’ve always wondered where the origin of this expression is. Here, Kao expresses a want to join Komichi after she manages to secure her old school’s gym for volleyball practise. Komichi ends up relenting; it’s hard to say no to someone like Kao, who’s essentially Komichi in miniature, the same way Yuru Camp△‘s Akari Inuyama is basically a small version of Aoi.

  • Although Komichi is shown as being competent in a range of activities, her talents are shown as having limits. She’s not the strongest or fastest student in her class, nor is she the most brilliant. This aspect makes Komichi’s character plausible and easier to cheer for; she’s always willing to put in an effort, which is why she’s got a good talent stack with her, and this effort continuously shows, time and time again. For this training session, Hitomi also shows up: while my impression of her was that she’s very dedicated towards volleyball, she also seemed to be a bit cool towards Komichi for the latter’s carefree and cheerful mindset.

  • This outlook changes after seeing the sheer determination to which Komichi demonstrates during training; to ensure their success, Hitomi ends up gathering all of their classmates to make use of this facility for practise. Komichi’s old instructor is overjoyed to see Komichi’s connection to her classmates, and ultimately, on the day of the athletics festival, Komichi’s class dominates their competition, spurred on and inspired by the spirit Komichi had brought to the table. Erika is noticeably absent from the proceedings; Komichi’s senior in the drama club had a surprise for her, and to prepare for this, Erika’s spent the day practising for this event.

  • The partnership between Komichi and Erika brought to mind the likes of Your Lie In April: in her mind’s eye, Erika imagines playing her accompaniment for Komichi, and the entire moment is infused with magic about it. Although Komichi gets along with everyone in her class, she and Erika share a particularly special bond, the mark of best friends. Much of the final performance is animated using stills, and while this did leave some viewers disappointed, I imagine that the choice was deliberate: previously, stills were used during moments where it wasn’t feasible to bring every movement to life.

  • However, I would imagine that here in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, the use of stills is to allow the viewer’s mind to fill the gaps in themselves and make of Komichi’s performance with Erika what they will. This performance showcases the music in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform: the soundtrack is rich and warm, befitting of the friendly atmosphere within the anime. Unfortunately, the soundtrack doesn’t have a conventional album release, and instead, will be released as a part of the Blu Rays disks. The incidental music is set to release somewhere in July, but it is worth a listen.

  • When Komichi and Erika’s performance wraps up, it is so moving that the students are on their feet for a standing ovation. The finale doesn’t quite beat out the emotional intensity seen in Your Lie In April, but the fact that it comes close speaks to how well-done Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is. Despite there being no stakes, there was something remarkable about seeing just how colourful everyday life as a student can be. While the portrayal of student life here in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is perhaps a bit more idealised, I found it to be a fair presentation of how things felt.

  • The day after, Komichi wonders if the events of the previous day had been a dream: to be able to celebrate with classmates after a successful athletics festival seemed quite surreal, but Kao pushes her awake. Realising the lateness of the hour, Komichi rushes awake, ready to head to school. The faded, purple colouration accentuates the fact that things seem a little surreal, reminiscent of how things felt the day after a band concert. Of course, there’s no time to put the brakes on, and Komichi prepares for another day. The idea that there is no stopping point is one aspect I’ve always enjoyed about slice-of-life series.

  • Speaking subtly to Kao’s growth, she’s able to spot a misalignment in Komichi’s uniform and helps her to fix it before Komichi sets off for school. In this way, Komichi prepares for yet another wonderful day with her friends and classmates at Rōbai Academy, bringing Akebi’s Sailor Uniform to a close. While the series’ premise had betrayed very little about what Akebi’s Sailor Uniform would entail, the anime ended up exceeding my expectations for its nostalgic depiction of life as a student. This is an A series (4.0 of 4.0), being an addition to the list of anime that I have no qualms recommending to viewers.

  • I’ll close up with a still of Komichi running off to classes in the idyllic countryside of Japan. The setting plays a major role here in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, and I’ve long felt that anime set in the inaka are able to really emphasise characters, because the setting is so laid-back and languid. Without the hustle and bustle of a large city, rural settings allow the focus to remain purely on the characters and their experiences. Now that Akebi’s Sailot Uniform is finished, I am going to switch my attention over to My Dress-Up Darling, which has also been on my watchlist for some time, and is also produced by CloverWorks. I have heard this series has been the subject of no small discussion, so the only way to see whether or not this anime lives up to its reputation would be to enter the fray for myself and see what it’s about.

Outside of speaking vividly to what the world looks like from a student’s perspective, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is a technically solid anime. The animation is fluid, and the artwork is gorgeous. Backgrounds are richly rendered, and lighting brings Komichi’s world to life. From the Akebi residence’s rustic designs, to the crisp rural air and the tenour of Rōbai Academy’s facilities, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform spares no expense to detail, creating a captivating world that is every bit as immersive as reality to really draw in viewers and evoke a sense of nostalgia, giving the sense that viewers were there alongside Komichi and her classmates as they make the most of their youth. Similarly, with a warm and full sound, the incidental music creates a feeling of nostalgia; for Komichi and her friends, living so wholly in the present creates unparalleled memories, and for viewers, seeing this group of youth seizing the moment brings back memories of one’s own time as a student. Altogether, the aural and visual components in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform are every bit as strong as its thematic piece. The world of youth is one of curiosity, exploration and discovery; giving Komichi every opportunity to learn her strengths, cultivate her friendships and develop an identity is facilitated by the wonderfully detailed and inviting world this group of students find themselves in. With Akebi’s Sailor Uniform now in the books, it is plain as to why this series one folks have recommended to me: the messages and setting might be familiar, but the combination of the two sets Akebi’s Sailor Uniform apart from its predecessors. Ultimately, I found this anime to be a worthwhile one for bringing back memories of my youth, as well as for celebrating the notion that there is no better time than youth to discover one’s place in the world: appearances notwithstanding, people are defined by what they do, and promoting this early on instills in people the confidence they need to find success as the grow older.

RPG Real Estate: Review and Reflection After Three

“A realtor is not a salesperson; they’re a matchmaker. They introduce people to homes, until they fall in love with one. Then, they’re a wedding planner.” –Lydia

After completing her studies and becoming a mage, Kotone Kazairo travels to the capital city of Dali to meet her employers. On her first day in town, she chances upon a realty company, RPG Real Estate, and unaware that this is the company she’s to work for, she asks them for assistance in finding a suitable place to rent out while she’s in Dali. Here, she meets Fa, Rufuria and Rakira, RPG Real Estate’s three staff. They attempt to find a suitable home for her but come up short, until Fa suggests that Kotone lodges with her. Although Fa’s place of residence is intended for non-humans, Fa is especially skilled in communicating with other species, and realising this, Kotone agrees to live here. When a well-known sage, Luna Didrane, calls to make an inquiry, Rufuria is overjoyed, hoping that taking on a larger client will help her to move up in the ranks. Although Rufuria struggles with selling Luna on a property, after spotting Luna’s interest in a flower, Kotone suggests a quite rural property surrounded by flower fields. Luna is overjoyed and explains she’d been looking for a quiet place to settle down after a lifetime of adventure, and luxurious accommodations felt a bit much. As Kotone settles into her work, RPG Real Estate receives several listings that look difficult to sell, including a large cave near the former Dark Lord’s lair and a mansion belonging to an elderly lady who feels lonely but doesn’t otherwise wish to part ways with her home yet. While thinking about what a suitable course of action is, Kotone overhears Fa speaking with a family of mouse-like beings and immediately feels that they might be able to move to the cave. Kotone is subsequently able to find new residents for the remaining caves, all of whom are immensely satisfied with their new homes. To celebrate Kotone’s joining RPG Real Estate, Rufuria, Rakira and Fa put on a party for her. While recalling a conversation between Rufuria and Rakira, Kotone has a stroke of inspiration, and she suggests to the elderly lady that her mansion can be turned into a rental complex, which turns out to be successful. While news of a rampaging dragon reaches the capital city, Kotone struggles with a client who’s been finding a large number of properties unsuitable, and focuses on RPG Real Estate’s next assignment: a haunted house. Despite being frightened out of their wits, it turns out that a particularly challenging client has taken a keen interest in the site: she’s a necromancer and finds the haunted house’s resident spirits to be quite friendly. When Dali begins to construct a warp gate, the citizens are asked provide taxes to support its construction. The government apparently miscalculates the number of people needed by two orders of magnitude, but Fa is able to single-handedly make up for the shortfall. The staff overseeing the project are grateful and gift to Fa some sweets in return. Besides Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme, viewers this season are fortunate to have not one, but two wonderful series from Manga Time Kirara.

RPG Real Estate (RPG Fudōsan) marks the first time I’ve watched a moé series dealing with realty, and while it is early in the season, each of the episodes have placed an emphasis on a recurring theme: every time RPG Real Estate is presented with a property that seems undesirable, one that prima facie appears difficult to rent out or sell, Kotone manages to come up with a solution based on what she sees in her everyday life. Kotone is remarkably astute in this regard. She’s the first to notice that Luna has a love of flowers and wonders if a country cottage surrounded by flowers might be to her liking, recalls that rodents might be at home in a large cave and feels that a fire spirit would enjoy a reasonably fire-proof stone room. On all counts, Kotone is able to help RPG Real Estate match clients to a suitable property, and the reason why she is successful is because she listens. Being a good listener, being attuned to a customer’s needs and objectives, and empathising with a customer is an essential skill in almost all occupations: in this regard, being a successful software developer is not too dissimilar from being a realtor in that in both cases, one must listen to a client’s requirements and then deliver something up to expectations. A good realtor must therefore be able to determine the sort of individual a client is and suggest properties that a client is happy purchasing. This brings to mind my own home-purchasing experience. When my house-hunt had begun, I was looking on a casual basis, and I had booked an appointment for a property that appeared interesting. As fate would have it, the realtor who took on my inquiry happened to be the same one who had sold my parents their downsized home. We walked through the property, which had been on the market for almost a full year, and had sustained water damage. I wasn’t terribly sold on this listing; there hadn’t been much space for a home office (one of my requirements), and the fact that a leak from upstairs dealt the water damage had dampened my interest. Far from being discouraged, the realtor had asked us to be patient, and he’d been working on a new listing that would likely perk my interest. Three weeks later, I received an invitation to tour this property, and was immediately impressed. In my mind’s eye, I immediately had an inkling of where I’d stick the dining table, couches, television and home office. After careful consideration, it was determined this was the place to buy, and the process really began. RPG Real Estate abstracts out things like the property inspection, finding a broker to handle the mortgage application process and securing a lawyer to handle the transactions, but it does deal with that critical first step of matching clients up with a property that suits their requirements. Three episodes in, it is clear to viewers that with Kotone on board, RPG Real Estate will experience many adventures as Kotone contributes to helping the company out, and their successes may even help Rufuria to become one step closer to her own dreams.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Out of the gates, RPG Real Estate evokes memories of when I’d started GochiUsa: Dali might be the capital of a nation in a fantasy world, but from an architectural perspective, resembles the half-framed timber town Cocoa moves to at GochiUsa‘s beginning. Kotone fulfil’s Cocoa’s role. While looks more like a cross between New Game!‘s Aoba Suzukaze and Chiya Ujimatsu, in terms of personality, Kotone is friendly and easy-going, but also somewhat sensitive and prone to tears. She’s a good singer, as well. Unlike Cocoa, she isn’t prone to getting lost.

  • Upon arriving at RPG Real Estate (Rent, Plan, Guide Real Estate; in my discussions, I’ll italicise the text when referring to the series, and leave the company name un-italicised), Kotone finds a lively scene unfolding in front of her: it turns out that Fa, a half-human, is not fond of clothing since they catch her tail, and Rufuria is trying to get her dressed for the day’s work. The scuffle creates a sufficiently loud commotion such that Kotone initially wonders if RPG Real Estate is even a viable business, if that’s the sort of negotiations they must have with their customers, but fortunately, no such thing is occurring. When Kotone arrives in Dali, her first thought is to try and find accommodations: unlike Cocoa, whose lodgings at Rabbit House were already arranged, Kotone’s moving to Dali full time so she can begin her career.

  • Rufuria immediately sets about trying to find something fitting Kotone’s requirements, and with Fa, they tour a few candidate properties. Kotone’s ideal property is located somewhere close to the heart of town, but with a quieter ambience, and above all, has a rent not exceeding three hundred gold. For the viewer’s benefit, RPG Real Estate indicates that one gold is 120 Yen, so Kotone is looking for a place with a maximum rent of 36000 Yen (about 356 CAD) per month. This is, strictly speaking, unrealistic: rent usually starts at 800 CAD in my neck of the woods, so these parameters already give Rufuria a tougher time.

  • Although nothing seems like it’d be suitable for Kotone, in the end, after visiting the apartment that Fa lives at, and in the knowledge that Fa is able to communicate with the other residents, Kotone decides that she’s found her home. With this sorted out, Kotone surprises the others by explaining she was the new member of their staff. It is typical that anime employ this as a comedic device; when Kotone first shows up, Rufuria and Fa are engaged in a tussle of sorts, leading them to forget that RPG Real Estate was to be picking up a new team member.

  • As it turns out, Rakira is a fantastic cook, and one of the changes she’s made to RPG Real Estate was the addition of a brick oven right by the front desk. The result of this is that Kotone, Fa and Rufuria get to enjoy things like freshly-baked apple pie to start their day off. Rakira resembles GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza in manner and appearance; she’s a warrior and, befitting of her class, possesses above average strength along with a love of weaponry. On top of this, Rakira also wishes to be seen as being more feminine and has a penchant for adorable things, much as Rize does.

  • The dynamic between Rufuria and Rakira is similar to New Game!‘s Kō Yagami and Rin Tōyama, two senior staff on Eagle Jump. Here, Kō is the more easygoing of the two, while Rin is more organised and focused, but occasionally prone to her own flights of fancy. Like Rin, Rufuria has the appearance of someone well-put-together; she’s the de facto leader at RPG Real Estate and leads sales, as well as walkthroughs. However, her original wish had been to become an advisor with the king, and sees her work as a stepping stone for more ambitious goals.

  • After Kotone receives a phone call from a well-known sage, Luna, Rufuria is all smiles and believes that, if she can succeed here, word will get out and potentially accelerate her career. As such, when she meets Luna in person, Rufuria does her utmost to sell the most impressive-looking properties possible. At this point in time, discussions surrounding RPG Real Estate are limited, being constrained to simple reactions in response to what’s happening in the show. A quick gander at the conversation at AnimeSuki finds that most community members are focused on individual moments: the closest it got was one individual has compared the housing market of RPG Real Estate to Final Fantasy‘s in-game economy. Having said this, the Final Fantasy economy doesn’t even come close to reality, so I don’t count it as being a suitable analog (it’s the equivalent of saying one plays ice hockey when their experience is purely limited to NHL 2007).

  • That conversations have not ventured towards discussing personal experiences with realtors and house-hunting speaks volumes about those who spend an inordinate amount of time on forums or social media. For me, when an anime deals with a topic people have personal experience with, it drives all sorts of anecdotes and creates conversation where one has the chance to compare an experience with how an anime had portrayed it. In my case, I can recount how my realtor ended up having a much easier time of selling me on my current place of residence compared to what Rufuria is going through. I’d actually been familiar with the building the first unit was in, and while it was mostly up to specifications, the main challenge was that there was very little space for a proper home office setup.

  • On the second property, it did feel as though all of the stars had lined up: the place was spacious and exceedingly well-lit (to the point where I actually don’t need to turn any lights on during the day), and having now moved in, there’s still enough space left over for me to play with my Oculus Quest. The decision to purchase was made within twenty minutes of conversation, speaking to how quickly one’s mind can be made up after seeing the right place. When Kotone notices that Luna’s particularly keen on a flower she’d put in a vase, she goes on a limb and wonders if one of their listings might fit the bill.

  • It turns out that this tranquil cottage, set in a field of flowers, is precisely what Luna was looking for. This is Kotone’s first win with RPG Real Estate, and with this, the series found itself on a strong footing. While realty seems far removed from my usual scope of interests, my recent experiences meant that I was curious to check out this series and see how it portrayed that first step towards buying a house. The lack of stories out there suggests to me that RPG Real Estate is not a series viewers can easily relate to. Indeed, I’ve heard from readers that at Tango-Victor-Tango, well-known names have decried the series for being unremarkable: claims abound about how the character designs are “unlikeable”, the series is “painfully generic” and that the world-building is “underbaked”, ad nauseum.

  • Whereas most people would be content to quietly stop watching RPG Real Estate and move onto other works, such an adverse reaction is indicative of the fact that the topic matter of home ownership can be a sensitive one for the folks at Tango-Victor-Tango. Granted, the housing market out there is presently unfavourable: incomes haven’t kept up with increases in housing prices in the past decade, making it difficult to get one’s foot in the door (in Canada, it takes an 14 years to save enough for a 20 percent down payment). Housing and real estate are not topics to be discussed lightly, and articles out there about dropping the daily Starbucks or avocado toast are unlikely to be helpful because the process varies person to person. Having said this, one isn’t likely to become any closer to home ownership if they’ve spent their past decade on Tango-Victor-Tango’s forums, acting as though being critical about every slice-of-life anime is a skill, and announcing the shows they’re dropping with pride, either. It is clear that a subset of Tango-Victor-Tango’s forum members are those who’ve plainly have not seen the world beyond the walls of their basements.

  • It is unfair to dismiss an anime on flimsy grounds: a couple of short sentences devoid of explanation should not be treated as being authoritative. I would ask these individuals how precisely are the character designs unlikeable, and what makes RPG Real Estate “generic”, when in reality, other anime have not yet explored the implications of running a realty in a fantasy world. RPG Real Estate has shown the occupation as being a colourful one, a chance to meet people and gain a glimpse of what housing in fantasy worlds are like. This is hardly generic, and in fact, RPG Real Estate is stepping into a realm few series have explored. If anything, the world-building here is more than adequate, and problems unique to a fantasy universe are presented alongside more conventional issues (such has handling dissatisfied clients), which leaves Rakira exhausted despite her efforts.

  • As it is, I am finding RPG Real Estate to be an anime that portrays the ins and outs of realty, albeit in a very simplified and gentle manner, and as such, whenever things look tricky, a solution arises from Kotone’s creative thinking. When a family of rodent-like people speak to Fa, Kotone puts two and two together: two of the children are reprimanded for digging, and Kotone recalls that they’d just looked over a property that would allow for the children to be themselves. These rodent-like people were absolutely adorable, and in a manner reminiscent to The Hunt for Red OctoberRPG Real Estate seamlessly translates their language into Japanese for the viewer’s benefit.

  • In this way, Kotone is able to also sort out several rooms that didn’t initially appear to be likely to draw any interest. A semi-aquatic individaul loves the well in one of the rooms, and a spirit of fire relishes a space where they can flame out without worrying about burning down the surroundings. RPG Real Estate shows that the key to doing a good job is to listen and be open-minded, a recurring theme in Manga Time Kirara series. While these elements may prima facie appear to be common knowledge, it is actually surprising as to how often people forget to take a step back and listen.

  • This appears to be Rufuria’s problem: although she’s running a large part of the show at RPG Real Estate, she tends to pick properties for clients based on her impressions of what they’d like. This stands in contrast with Kotone, who has a knack for picking up subtle cues from clients and doing things accordingly. Given that RPG Real Estate is a Manga Time Kirara series, it is likely that Kotone’s presence at this realty will help Rufuria to improve, and perhaps leave the latter one step closer to the posting of her choice. For now, Rufuria must contend with Fa’s antics, and while Fa can be a bit of a loose cannon at times, it appears that Fa’s nice enough: here, an elderly lady stops by with a posting and enjoys Fa’s company.

  • With work having picked up, Rufuria, Fa and Rakira have forgotten to formally welcome Kotone to RPG Real Estate. They decide to host a small dinner party at Rufuria and Rakira’s place: it’s a small, but cozy and well-appointed space. Ever since I’ve moved, I’ve begun to appreciate good use of spaces. This is why I’ve never been a fan of the so-called otaku room, with their shelves upon shelves of manga, games and anime merchandise. Excessive clutter makes a space hard to live in, and can turn even the chicest of digs into an overwhelming assault on the senses.

  • While Fa is resistant to clothing in general, Kotone does appear to be able to persuade her where Rufuria fails. By this point in time in RPG Real Estate, it is clear that the similarities to GochiUsa are superficial. For one, the premise differs dramatically, and the voice actresses are completely different. Honoka Inoue voices Kotone, and I know Inoue as Slow Loop‘s Aiko Ninomiya. Hina Kino plays Fa, and while she’s had central roles in a few series, they’re not series I’ve seen. Rufuria is voiced by Natsumi Kawaida, whom I know best as Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Natsumi Hodaka, and finally, Manaka Iwami is Rakira. Iwami has previously voiced Maquia of Maquia, New Game!‘s Hotaru Hoshikawa, Ryōko Mochizuki of Rifle is Beautiful and Magia Record‘s very own Ui Tamaki.

  • Prior to the party, Rufuria invites Kotone to change into something more suited for the party, which gives her some trouble. The fact that Kotone’s got a large bust has been the topic of no small discussion: in Manga Time Kirara works, lead characters usually have a more modest figure, and people are wondering if this is going to negatively impact RPG Real Estate. While perhaps used for some familiar jokes here, Manga Time Kirara series have never crossed the line previously. GochiUsa, surprisingly, had done this in its first season during a pair of pool episodes, but as the series wore on, such elements disappeared in favour of more meaningful, heartfelt moments.

  • As the evening wears on, everyone enjoys Rakira’s wonderful cooking. I’ve always been fond of the portrayal of meals and mealtimes in anime; food is lovingly rendered, and even mundane moments can be transformed through food. While there’s a certain joy about enjoying home cooking, I’ve found that the occasional treat doesn’t hurt, either: because I’d had a bit of a busier day yesterday, I went out to pick up a simple lunch: chicken tenders and potato wedges. It suddenly hits me that I’ve not had potato wedges in years, and in fact, the last time I picked up a ready-to-eat meal from the local supermarket, I was actually back in secondary school.

  • In the RPG Real Estate universe, it appears that the age of majority is sixteen, allowing Kotone to participate in some alcohol along with Rufuria and Rakira. Although Rufuria gets smashed, Rakira is a little more resilient to alcohol and ends up feigning drunkenness in an attempt to be cute. RPG Real Estate reiterates that Rufuria and Rakira are close. From a narrative standpoint, this simply means the pair can support one another and do their best to help their juniors out. I’ve long felt that people tend overread these sorts of things; while it is appropriate to look at yuri more closely in series where this is a part of the theme (e.g. in Wataten!), such discussions also have a tendency to devolve into what are colloquially referred to as “shipping wars”, which are counterproductive.

  • After Kotone’s welcoming party ends, and Fa suggests that it might be nice of all of them could share a space, Kotone realises that the elderly lady might be able to convert her mansion into a shared home. By renting out rooms to tenants, she’d be able to make the place livelier without having to move away from a home that she’s clearly grown attached to. Being set in a fantasy setting, RPG Real Estate has an edge when it comes to solving problems; in many ways, it appears to be an idealised portrayal of the realty industry as a whole. There are doubtlessly laws and regulations even in Dali, but because those aren’t explictly defined, it gives the writers flexibility to tell their stories without being limited by real-world constraints.

  • A future where Kotone, Fa, Rakira and Rufuria would be able to share a home together seems to be quite far off, but with Kotone settling into her position, this leaves RPG Real Estate to really begin exploring the world. So far, Dali is shown to be a town resembling Colmar, France, with a central difference being that there’s no Rabbit House, Fleur Lapin or Ama Usa An around. A few locations around town have already been shown, and because housing is a necessity, one can imagine that throughout the course of this series, more places will be shown as Kotone and the others bring their clients to properties of interest.

  • Fantasy anime (and isekai series) usually are set during a great war of sorts: the protagonists are usually cast into the hero’s position and must overcome a dark lord of sorts, and the threat of both warfare and subjugation means there’s no shortage of adventure. RPG Real Estate differentiates itself from others within this genre by having Kotone come of age in a world where peace has already been reached. This alone makes RPG Real Estate unique in that it’s the first time slice-of-life aspects are combined into fantasy, showing a side of the genre that is otherwise overlooked. Here, Kotone walks RPG Real Estate’s latest client through some properties. This client is a necromancer who finds conventional properties to be missing something, so Kotone agrees to keep working on something for her.

  • Elsewhere, a landlord is having trouble moving his very haunted mansion. Haunted houses have long been a challenge for realtors, and different cultures handle things differently. Here in Canada, realtors have no obligation to disclose whether or not a property is stigmatised (e.g. if a death or murder happened there), although a seller may choose to include this information if they wish. By comparison, in Hong Kong, if anything particularly negative happened in a property, listings are legally required to make this clear. This has created a curious phenomenon where some properties can go for up to a third less than similar units. Although pragmatic individuals not impacted by flights of fancy may jump at these deals, folk beliefs remain strong in Hong Kong, and such units can remain on the market for long periods as a result.

  • After being scared off by the ghosts, upon learning that the client they’ve got is a necromancer, RPG Real Estate bring her in to check the haunted mansion out, and within seconds, she finds it perfect. There’s a steady population of spirits here that she can use to channel her experiments, and the spirits themselves seem to get along with her fine: they go from being a nuisance to being a benevolent and comforting presence. This sort of thing is par the course for Manga Time Kirara series, and I hold that what is shown in most Manga Time Kirara series is a very optimistic and warm way of looking at the world.

  • This sort of optimism is precisely why I’m a fan of Manga Time Kirara series: reality is a place littered with failure and disappointment, and I’ve long found that having anime that is suited for unwinding to helps me to regroup, allowing me to approach the problems I face with a fresh set of eyes and newfound determination. When I was a second-year university student, I had been on the verge of failing out of the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, and it was my happenstance coming upon K-On! that saw me gain that second wind, enough to stay in satisfactory standing (because I’d been in an Honours programme, I needed to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.3 to stay in good standing).

  • Since then, easygoing series have been my go-to anime of choice, and similarly, I’m fond of writing about such series here with the goal of sharing what about these seemingly unremarkable and mundane stories can tell viewers. Although I am aware this may not be a fair assumption, I have noticed that the folks who dislike slice-of-life series generally are not the most pleasant people to converse with. It is above my pay grade to speculate on why this is the case, but my experiences have found that those who are more open-mined about slice-of-life series tend to be more polite and respectful in discussions.

  • With the latest of their listings sold to a happy necromancer, Kotone and the others prepare to pay a magical power tax to help with a city project to build a warp gate of sorts. Two of the government officials discuss a gaffe that’s occurred: the number of people required to provide enough magic was miscalculated, and the “two digits” error equates to being off by two orders of magnitude. One of the officials panic, fearing it’s her head on the line, and the other tries to assuage her fears. Missing something by two entire orders of magnitude (a 100x difference) is nontrivial, and typically, errors of this sort are easily caught before they make it to production, so one wonders what kinds of processes exist (or don’t exist) here in RPG Real Estate.

  • When Kotone and company head off to drop off their magic, Rakira ends up registering zero, while Fa is able to single-handedly make up for the deficiet and somehow has magic left to spare. This moment may seem trivial, but it does hint at her origins; together with mention that the dragons might be returning, it is reasonable to conjecture that Fa might have a bit of dragon in her. Time will tell whether or not this holds true, and in the meantime, I will note that the return of dragons might signify the end of a peaceful era; in The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo mentions that dragons have not been spotted in the Shire for over a millennia, and dragons were more common in the First and Second age.

  • As such, RPG Real Estate leaves open the possibility that the peace might not last. Whether or not this is the case, however, doesn’t seem to be too large of a concern; if their world stays tranquil, then Kotone and the others can simply continue matching clients with properties. If war breaks out, Kotone and her friends may be pressed into service, but bring their unique skills to help others both on and off the battlefield. Despite the opening sequence suggesting otherwise, the latter is actually quite unlikely, since Manga Time Kirara series are characterised by their cheerful and adorable aesthetic. Consequently, expectations are that this series stays light and fluffy; I’m quite curious to see how this one turns out. It’s a wonderful complement to Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme and showcases a side of isekai-style anime that are typically unexplored.

Speaking to the sheer variety of topics anime can cover, I’d never expected to be watching an anime that deals with realty, much less in a fantasy world. However, shows like RPG Real Estate demonstrate how almost any topic can be covered in an amusing and enjoyable way. I’m certain that realtors would look at RPG Real Estate and indicate that the anime is merely a simplification of the process, much as how I found the software development workflow in New Game! to be a very stripped out representation of what actually happens. For one, there’s no peer review or QA: in reality, Tsubame’s changes wouldn’t have even made it onto the development branch, much less be put on the branch to production. However, as a work of fiction, RPG Real Estate has proven successful so far: this is an anime meant to highlight how a successful realtor must, among other things, be creative, use lateral thinking and make an honest effort to understand their client’s needs. Doing so in a real-world setting could become unimaginably dull, so applying things to a fantasy world also provides the author with a space where different aspects of the career can be explored without the constraints of reality, as well as the creative freedom to accentuate specific messages that would otherwise be tricky to convey in the real world. Altogether, it does appear that Kotone is settling into her work with RPG Real Estate, and while her days will be filled with matching clients with properties, it is plain that the fantasy world also provides a considerable opportunity for exploration. Traditionally, fantasy setting such as these are set during the course of a great war, with the protagonist being a hero destined to strike down a dark lord of sorts. However, since RPG Real Estate is set a decade and a half after the war ends, in a peaceful era, this series is therefore able to depict how life in such worlds might work, compare and contrast fantasy worlds to our own, and potentially, even show how during times of peace, unexpected events may nonetheless occur and propel ordinary folks into having extraordinary experiences.

Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme: Review and Reflections After Three

“No individual is alone responsible for a single stepping stone along the path of progress, and where the path is smooth progress is most rapid.” –Ernest Lawrence

When summer vacation arrives, Yūko attempts to challenge Momo to a showdown, only for Momo to see this as a want to spend time together. During their time spent hanging out, Yūko realises that there’s still much about Momo that she doesn’t know, and slowly develops a desire to see Momo smile again. Later, Mikan moves into the same apartment block that Yūko lives in. Feeling left out, Momo does the same, and to celebrate, everyone enjoys a sukiyaki party together with the fancy meat Momo’s brought. During the party, Mikan spots that the box housing Yūko’s father’s spirit is similar to the one her family utilised or transporting fruits, and they decide to visit the warehouse Mikan had once lodged in: this was where Momo’s sister, Sakura, was last seen. While waiting for Momo to join them, Mikan shares a story with Yūko: Mikan’s family had made a deal with the devil to keep her safe, resulting in the curse where misfortune befalls those who would attempt to cause Mikan trouble, and this led her to isolate herself. However, upon meeting Momo, Mikan became friends after learning Momo wasn’t too concerned about the curse. In the present day, Mikan, Momo and Yūko swing by the warehouse, which has been levelled. They comb through the remains in search of clues and located a weapon belonging to Yūko’s father. This weapon manifests as a fork, but it can take on any form the wielder can think of. Yūko attempts to master its powers and initially, comes up with mundane uses for it, such as transforming it into a pen when she needs to write down something. After Momo sets up an internet connection at the apartment complex so Ryōko can finish her schoolwork, Yūko decides to stalk Momo’s Twitter page to learn more about her. Mikan follows the pair, and annoys Momo when they begin talking about a movie, causing her to shut down the wireless connection for an evening. When Lilith expresses a desire to go out to the health spa, Yūko allows Lilith to borrow her body on the condition that Momo accompany her. Despite annoying Momo with her haughty attitude, Lilith is surprised to learn that Momo looks after everyone equally, impressing her. Lilith ends up having a good time, but during a blackout, Momo learns that Lilith secretly fears the dark and threatens to reveal this if she should step out of line. After returning home, Seiko discovers that Lilith has run up a large credit card bill after purchasing clothes online and forces an apology out of her. With this, Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme (The Demon Girl Next Door District 2, and 2-Chōme for brevity) has begun, picking up right where the first season had left off. The first season of Machikado Mazoku had proven to be a heartwarming tale of how friendship offers an unorthodox and viable solution for longstanding problems where conventional means proved ineffectual.

Second seasons traditionally have the advantage in that, with the characters now firmly established, the story is free to really begin delving into details. We recall that in Machikado Mazoku‘s first season, Yūko had overcome the 40000 Yen after befriending Momo, and learnt from Momo that her family’s situation stemmed from her father being involved in a deal of sorts with Momo’s sister, Sakura, to exchange his physical presence in the world for the sake of Yūko’s health. Sakura had subsequently disappeared, and since then, Momo had been seeking her out. Machikado Mazoku very quickly advanced from being a run-of-the-mill comedy to utilising its comedy to handle things like the decisions parents make on their children’s behalf, and how certain choices may look appropriate in the moment, but otherwise, may have far-reaching consequences. However, twelve episodes proved to be hardly any time to really begin exploring these more meaningful elements; the first season ended on a strong note, and since then, viewers had been left hoping to continue on the excellent adventure Machikado Mazoku had presented. With 2-Chōme, this wish is fulfilled: the second season opens up precisely where the first had concluded, gives viewers a quick refresher on what the daily lives of Yūko, Momo and Mikan are like, and swiftly sets the stage for the second season’s aims. This allows the second season to hit the ground running. While the overarching objectives are now more prominent, 2-Chōme remains faithful to Machikado Mazoku‘s roots; comedy continues to be expertly employed to keep viewers smiling. From Yūko wielding what is effectively a super-weapon in a hilariously mundane manner and her inexperience with social media, to Momo threatening Lilith with blackmail after Lilith had spent nearly a full day mistreating her (and experiencing her comeuppance when Seiko finds out Lilith had misused the family credit card for her own ends), Machikado Mazoku provides plenty of laughs on top of what is looking to be a much more engaging and thoughtful story. This is only possible because of the ground-work Machikado Mazoku‘s first season has laid down, and with this in mind, 2-Chōme is looking to be an excellent series.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about Machikado Mazoku, it would’ve been a shade more than two years ago. At that time, the global health crisis was really beginning to grip the world, and I found myself working from home with an unprecedented frequency as offices closed their doors. I suddenly found myself with a lot more time on my hands, and initially, that time was filled watching anime. Machikado Mazoku had been a series on my radar since it aired back in 2019, but I never did manage to get into it during its original run. Once the global health crisis altered my schedule, I decided to give this series another go, and found it to be quite enjoyable.

  • Two years later, the world’s a very different place than it had been two years earlier. While I count myself as being fairly adaptable and receptive towards change, I also take solace in the fact that some things have remained constant, providing a source of reassurance. Machikado Mazoku is one of those things; shortly after I finished the first season, a second season was announced. Despite the fact that Machikado Mazoku had been well-received, excitement on the series had been very limited. I myself had not known there’d be a second season until recently, and although I’d forgotten much of season one, watching the first episode to 2-Chōme proved sufficient to bring me back up to speed.

  • Transitions between seasons can sometimes be unwieldy, but Manga Time Kirara series tend to have smoother transitions. As it turns out, after Yūko had managed to write a letter of challenge to Momo, Momo saw it as a chance to spend a day with Yūko. The pair end up hanging out, and despite the initial confusion, both Yūko and Momo have a reasonable time together. The awkwardness here is a clever callback to how it can feel a little strange to get back in the swing of things after a few years have passed. With this being said, Machikado Mazoku doesn’t miss a beat; after Yūko and Momo’s date, Mikan arrives at the same apartment block that Yūko lives in.

  • It turns out she’s moving in after her previous home at an old factory belonging to her family was levelled. Without another place to stay, Mikan’s determined that being closer to Yūko might not be such a bad idea. When Momo learns of this, she hastens to move in, as well: Momo had previously lived in a detached home a ways more comfortable than Yūko’s home, but it is clear she’d also been very lonely. While tasked with defending the town as a Magical Girl, Momo had been on her own ever since her sister disappeared. Things only changed when Yūko entered her life, and although they’d started out as foes, circumstances have led Yūko and Momo to become friends in all but name.

  • To celebrate the housewarming, Momo and Mikan bring enough food for a sukiyaki party. Seiko (Yūko and Ryōko’s mother) begins preparing some green onions on the box housing her husband’s spirit, and while Momo looks on with concern, Seiko isn’t particularly worried: this box is supposed to have uncommon durability. Although Momo had brought some highly expensive beef to the party, she begins to feel guilty about not helping out and lapses into her old ways of using magic to assist with the cooking. It is clear that magic in Machikado Mazoku is not quite as versatile as it is in worlds like World of Warcraft or Harry Potter, where spells can be used to conjure or transform food.

  • Befitting of her citrus-like disposition and family background, Mikan is very fond of adding citrus fruits like lemons and oranges into things that don’t need them, creating a bit of a disaster for those involved. To stave off trouble, Momo has Ryōko accompany Mikan on a shopping trip while the others prepare dinner. Mikan’s love for citrus fruits comes from the fact her family has involvement in farming, and she’s named after Citrus unshiu, which is commonly known as a tangerine. In Chinese, I know them as 蜜柑 (jyutping mat6 gam1, literally “honey citrus”, which is rendered mikan in Hepburn): as a part of a healthy diet, I have one per day, every day, on workdays.

  • Watching 2-Chōme brought back memories of what had made Machikado Mazoku so enjoyable: it took me four episodes to really warm up to the show and its antics. However, once Machikado Mazoku hit its stride, I found myself fully enjoying this anime: the contrast between Yūko and Momo forms the bulk of the humour here. Momo is very literal, and Yūko is quite naïve. As such, when the two come together, misunderstandings abound, usually coming at Yūko’s expense. However, in spite of this bad luck, Yūko’s biggest strength is that she continues to pick herself up, and in conjunction with her sense of empathy, Yūko usually ends up looking for ways to do right by those around her, rather than screw them over, as her dæmon heritage might suggest.

  • By the events of 2-Chōme, all of the central characters are now under one roof, close enough to be in constant contact with one another. This proximity means that Mikan will become a more regular part of the series, and having more characters around corresponds to a livelier atmosphere. This has long been one of my favourite aspects about a given Manga Time Kirara series: as time wears on, more people are added to the story, giving the world a richer feeling. In Machikado Mazoku, Mikan had been a secondary character during the first season, so to see her play a more substantial role meant that Yūko now has one more person she can share her thoughts and feelings with.

  • While Yūko prima facie supposes that living so closely with two magical girls will put her plans for world domination on hold, since their powers directly clash with hers, Machikado Mazoku had previously shown that whatever Yūko’s plans are, she isn’t going to be winning through brute force or strength of arms alone. Instead, Yūko’s kindness is ultimately her largest asset: this is what allows her to overcome setbacks. 2-Chōme thus has the narrator return to encourage Yūko: ganbare, Shimiko has become an iconic part of Machikado Mazoku, and it was therefore quite welcoming to hear the return of these lines anew.

  • After Seiko gets hammered during their dinner party, she decides to make a game of “find the spirit box amongst the real boxes” using the boxes Mikan had brought, leading Momo to object vehemently to the suggestion. However, Seiko’s idea does lead to the observation that the box housing her husband’s spirit is virtually identical to the boxes Mikan had brought over to hold her stuff. This in turn leads to the conclusion that Sakura would’ve known about the Hinatsuki family’s business, providing a lead (however small) for Yūko, Momo and Mikan to pursue.

  • Seeing this aspect of Machikado Mazoku became the refresher I needed to recall what the first season had set up: it turns out that both the Yoshida and Hinatsuki families were impacted by something Momo’s sister had previously done. Sakura may have been an especially powerful magical girl, but since her disappearance, she’s left behind a host of problems that seem quite tricky to resolve in her absence. It is thought that, if Sakura can be found, then some of the problems manifesting now might be fixed. Whether or not this holds true will likely be a topic to be explored later.

  • Whenever the topic of Yūko’s father, Momo’s sister and Mikan’s family are brought up, Machikado Mazoku takes on a more melancholy tone. These elements initially seem out of place, as Machikado Mazoku is predominantly a comedy. However, upon closer consideration, changing out the emotional tenour is logical because the heartwarming and humourous moments in the anime occur when the characters are together with family and friends. That each of Yūko, Momo and Mikan have absent family members means everyone is missing someone important in their lives. On the flipside, considering how important connections are, I would hazard a guess that 2-Chōme is about how these problems can be addressed by trusting the people one does have in their lives.

  • As a part of this trust, Mikan shares with Yūko the story of how she came to know Momo: as it turns out, the curse on Mikan had even driven her family away. Isolated from the world, it wasn’t until Mikan met Momo that things began changing; as a magical girl, Momo was more resilient to the effects of Mikan’s curse, and by staying with Mikan, Mom was able to help her slowly recover, too. To punctuate what would otherwise be a very touching story, Mikan begins to tell Yūko about how Momo used to be fond of posing and exclaiming catch-phrases during her transformation sequences, but is stopped cold in her tracks when Momo finally joins the two.

  • Once they arrive at the Hinatsuki factory, Mikan is devastated to find it completely blown away; she had only imagined that it would’ve crumbled somewhat but otherwise still have a sizeable part of its structure present. Upon closer inspection, they find Sakura petal-shaped blast marks. I note that the blast marks are quite clean, and there’s no sign of charring or searing on the concrete, hinting at how magical energy is quite unlike anything we would be familiar with in reality. Here, Mikan points out that the Momo she once knew was considerably more cheerful, and this remark sets in motion a thought that will continue to bug Yūko.

  • While searching the ruins for any sign that Sakura had been there, Yūko comes upon a magic wand. Convinced she’s onto something big, she shows said wand to Momo and Mikan, only for it to transform into a fork. The resulting comedy distracts viewers from the melancholy that had permeated the scene before, acting as a bit of an emotional break of sorts. The combination of happier moments with more poignant moments is a longstanding storytelling device, meant to emphasise the fact that comedy isn’t being just done for comedy’s sake, and to create a spectrum of moments to remind viewers that the characters are human. This is something that Jun Maeda had particularly excelled with through works like CLANNAD and Angel Beats.

  • Yūko’s tantrums are always heart-meltingly adorable to watch; moments like these remind viewers that Machikado Mazoku isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, and are balanced by more contemplative moments that indicate the series is more than a comedy. Having said this, some folks have taken the conflict between dæmons and magical girls too seriously: trying to figure out what precisely had happened in the past and how it is impacting Yūko isn’t likely to be too helpful, and similarly, the path that Machikado Mazoku is projected to head down has nothing to do with magical power.

  • This is why Yūko is granted access to a weapon that would, in the hands of someone with less compassion, would be a world-ending tool. Power in the wrong hands is a quick recipe for trouble, but Yūko’s desire isn’t conquest or destruction, despite some of her rants. Having said this, the perspective I hold is presently an unpopular one: AnimeSuki’s discussions have fixated on the suggestion that, because Yūko has done things her ancestors could not, it must be logical that she’s the most powerful dæmon to have roamed for some time. This completely ignores the fact that Machikado Mazoku is about approaching the dæmon-versus-magical girl conflict from another perspective, one that involves friendship rather than force. Here, Yūko attempts to transform the weapon into a form befitting of her stature.

  • The resulting weapon manifests as a larger fork that proves too heavy for Yūko to handle, and she collapses from its heft. Yūko’s facial expression is hilarious: while she’s doubtlessly improved in terms of physicality since Machikado Mazoku began, Yūko’s physical condition is still such that she struggles with some things. Granted, a metal fork of that size would probably have a mass of at least 20 kilograms, and even at my fittest, I was only able just do dumbbell shoulder presses with 20 kilograms per arm. Since the global health crisis began, and I found myself unable to hit the gym, my dumbbell shoulder presses have dropped down to 12 kilograms. I am slowly returning to my old weights, but it’s important not to push myself too hard, too quickly.

  • Back in Machikado Mazoku, Yūko transforms her weapon into something more mundane: an ordinary pen topped off with ink. Because this weapon can take on almost any form, one could imagine Yūko transforming it into something as legendary as the Ashbringer, or perhaps Andúril. With a more modern mindset, something like the Golden Gun or BFG 9000 would be possible. This is actually hinted at in Machikado Mazoku, when Ryōko and Momo consider bringing it to Yūko’s attention, but it would be unlikely because such an outcome stands contrary to what the series seeks to do. At present, I don’t believe the weapon even has a name, so I’ll call it Láthspell for kicks: in Old English, láð spell means “ill news”, and Yūko’s finding Láthspell could be seen as being bad news bears for Sakura.

  • I found it particularly amusing that 2-Chōme elected to satirise the internet: when Momo connects the Yoshida’s laptop to her network, she’s using the router settings and correctly identifying her actions as configuring the router. The terms router and modem are easily mixed up: the modem is a piece of hardware that links one’s network to the internet, whereas the router creates a local network that allows connected devices to communicate. As such, if the WiFi fails, but one’s TV is still working, it’s fair to say the router is acting up, while complete loss of connectivity signifies how one’s modem might be the fault.

  • When Yūko expresses a desire to learn the ways of the internet, hilarity results: her goals are simply to use it as a tool for getting to know Momo better, but lacking the know-how means Momo becomes concerned. She decides to give Yūko a crash-course on internet safety, teaching her how to spot scams and malware intrusion. Internet safety boils down to installing a good ad blocker to prevent malicious ads from loading, avoiding clicking on the URLs in suspicious emails and only providing sensitive information to websites with a valid security certificate, after verifying the website is in fact valid. Other tricks include removing EXIF data from the photos one takes (and to frustrate the living daylights out of would-be doxxers, taking photos in a way to conceal landmarks and other hints about one’s whereabouts), and not sharing personal information like one’s name or date of birth freely.

  • What Momo’s lesson doesn’t reach, because Yūko rage-quits shortly after, is how to properly handle people who are less-than-friendly in online communities. However, since Yūko’s only interested in keeping in touch with Momo via Twitter, and is unlikely to utilise the service for the more sinister purpose of disseminating misinformation for clout, I imagine that this won’t be a problem. Instead, Yūko’s challenge is actually convincing Momo to connect with her online. It takes some coercing, but in the end, Yūko is able to follow Momo. Momo immediately regrets this, since Yūko’s also following Mikan, and their conversation floods Momo’s phone with notifications, causing her to shut the network down. This is a hilarious outcome, and I’m no stranger to this: whenever #TheJCS happens, or whenever I participate in #AniTwitWatches, the speed of conversations causes my phone to chime non-stop.

  • Some time later, Lilith makes a request of Yūko and Momo: she’s been yearning to get out more, and because Yūko’s gaining access to more of her powers, Lilith’s old strength is beginning to return to her. Previously, Lilith could only borrow Yūko’s body under specific weather conditions, but she’s slowly able to increase the scope of her influence. Upon hearing Lilith out, Momo agrees to her request, feeling bad that she continues chucking Lilith great distances out of indignation in response to something Lilith had said.

  • On the day of their outing, Lilith kits Yūko in gothic-style clothing, having ordered it online after convincing Yūko that it’s as good as free. In reality, nothing online comes for free: while some places may do a ten percent discount or a double points bonus for first-time customers, ordering online always requires a working credit card. For now, the credit card bill is deferred to be a problem for later, and unlike Yūko, who is kind-hearted and low-profile, Lilith acts as the stereotypical anime dæmon girl, speaking in a pompous manner befitting of a chūnibyō.

  • It is plainly taking all of Momo’s self-restraint to keep herself from beating up Lilith, but she realises that anything she does to Lilith now is something Yūko will pay for later. This is a subtle but clear indicator that her stoic mannerisms notwithstanding, Momo does indeed care greatly for Yūko and regards her as a friend rather than a rival. While she’d been interested in Yūko’s well-being initially out of guilt over what Sakura had done, over time, Momo does come to see Yūko as someone she genuinely would want to be with and open up to.

  • For me, the human aspects of Machikado Mazoku are the strongest: if we were to distill out the dæmons versus magical girls bit and applied the same lessons towards rivals in more mundane areas (e.g. sports), the messages would still work. The conflict surrounding the forces of light and dark in Machikado Mazoku are simply an element that adds additional variety and depth to the series, allowing it to viscerally convey its themes to viewers that more ordinary settings might not. This is why I prefer looking at Manga Time Kirara series from the interpersonal perspective and then seeing how the premise is used to tell the story, as opposed to attempting to speculate on how the magic affects the characters.

  • After subjecting Lilith to a workout in order to have her pay off the admissions for the health spa, Momo and Lilith prepare to make use of the facilities itself, but the power unexpectedly goes out. Here, Lilith reveals she has nyctophobia, a consequence of being sealed in a pitch black environment for millennia. This initially appears unexpected, but a fear of the dark is really fear of the unexpected and unknown. Humans are visual beings and count on sight to make decisions, so if this sense is stymied, fear of attack and danger kicks in. For Lilith, her fear of the darkness would signify how after she was sealed away, unable to perceive the world around her, she began to worry about her fate.

  • Despite a rough start to their outing, Lilith and Momo do end up bonding with one another, with Lilith respecting Momo’s desire to not discuss her scars further. In the end, Lilith returns to the statue, and Yūko is restored to her body. She overhears Momo and Lilith chatting and assumes they’re now at least on somewhat better terms. Although this is true, Momo has also learnt something unexpected and fully intends to use this information to keep Lilith in line. It is hilarious, and I’m curious to see where in 2-Chōme this will come in.

  • Although I’d started Machikado Mazoku‘s first season a little more reluctant, as I got further into the series, it became clear that this was one with a strong story to tell, and therefore, was a series worth watching. Manga Time Kirara works, more often than not, sit well with me because they say something meaningful through the characters’ growth as a result of their experiences (either reinforcing a value I hold true, or reminding me of something I should be more mindful of in my everyday life). As it stands, after watching that Machikado Mazoku‘s first season, I enter 2-Chōme with a much more positive outlook: the comedy and story are engaging enough such that I’m excited to see how far 2-Chōme gets in unveiling the mystery behind Momo’s sister, and how these learnings would impact Yūko, Momo and Mikan.

While the first season had been characterised by adorable antics and the prevalence of heartwarming humour, 2-Chōme begins taking Machikado Mazoku in a different direction. Comedy and warmth still dominate the second season, but underneath the laughs surrounding the characters’ adventures lies a hint of melancholy and longing. The mystery that Machikado Mazoku had introduced in its first season is beginning to gain more exposition, giving 2-Chōme a much stronger sense of purpose: this is possible because all of the principal characters have now been introduced, and this provides 2-Chōme with an opportunity to show where things can go now that Yūko, Momo and Mikan know one another better. With this being said, there is still a distance amongst the characters. Yūko’s quest to release her father from Sakura’s curse leaves her more contemplative, wondering about what exactly had transpired to create the current status quo, and having spent some time with Momo, as well as hearing stories about both Momo and Mikan, Yūko is filled with a desire to see Momo smile, too. Although she’s certainly trying her best to act as a Shadow Mistress and live up to her family name, Yūko’s kindness and empathy outweighs her desire to dominate and control. However, neither Momo nor the past will give up its secrets so readily. 2-Chōme‘s use of incidental music and pacing serve to remind viewers that while Machikado Mazoku excels with lightening up scenarios, there is a lingering feeling of yearning, as well. As such, it is reasonable to surmise that Yūko’s becoming closer with Momo and Mikan will inevitably be linked to her becoming one step closer to finding Sakura and releasing her father from the spell Sakura had placed upon him years earlier, and in the long term, finding Sakura would likely also help Momo to smile again. It’s an encouraging thought for a series that has already put in a considerable effort in making the characters’ journey compelling, and as such, I look forwards to seeing where 2-Chōme is headed.

86 EIGHTY-SIX: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.” –Henry David Thoreau

After the Morpho’s self-destruction hurls Shinei’s Reginleif clear of the blast, a lone Legion unit approaches, intent on harvesting his brain. Shinei experiences a gripping vision, where he struggles to accept that he’s no longer got a purpose now that everyone dear to him is gone. However, support fire from allied forces save him, and it turns out Vladilena has arrived. Although she has no idea she’s talking to Shinei, the pair exchange their thoughts behind what makes something worth fighting for. Shinei learns that his friends have survived, and with Giad reinforcements arriving, Vladilena prepares to return to San Magnolia; Ernest has arranged for Giad forces to help survivors in San Magnolia out. Federica believes that meeting Vladilena again has given Shinei new purpose in life: spurred on by the fact that she hasn’t given up, Shinei and his friends promise to do what they can, too, and shortly after Night of the Holy Birth, they return to Giad’s military. Shinei visits Eugene’s grave and apologises for failing to protect him. Here, he runs into Marcel and Nina, reconciling with both and promising to continue on with protecting what Eugene had sought to defend. Shinei later leaves the old dog tags at the memorial, having made peace with the past, but he, Raiden, Anju, Theoto and Kurena are all surprised to learn that Vladilena is their new commander. It’s a tearful meeting as Vladilena finally is able to put faces to names, and most of all, meet the people that she’d once tried so hard to make a connection with. Having finally met at last, Vladilena and Shinei resolve to continue puShineig forwards into the future and fight the Legion to protect that which they hold dear. This is the ending of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s animated adaptation for the present, and with it, a nearly year-long journey draws to a close. Through its run, 86 EIGHTY-SIX covered an impressive breadth of topics, from how ethnocentrism can lead to complacency and calamity, to the idea that being alive allows one the opportunity to regain their purpose where death would only deprive one of all hope, and that people are capable of change as a result of their experiences no matter how firmly entrenched they are in their own beliefs. While this series has framed these learnings around a brutal war with an unfeeling, mechanical foe and portrayed the horrors of warfare in its own right, 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s strongest point lies in its characters.

While Shinei had begun 86 EIGHTY-SIX a lone wolf, moving from squadron to squadron after surviving endless battles, his time with Raiden, Theoto, Kurena and Anju under Vladilena’s command begins to change him: his squad-mates are no longer people who come and go, but rather, people who promise to stick it out with him. Indeed, by accompanying Shinei when he takes out Shōrei, and in continuing to remain by his side when he reaches the Federacy of Giad, Theoto, Raiden, Anju and Kurena demonstrate to Shinei the strength of certain bonds amongst people who’ve endured countless trials together: to Shinei, there is no greater show of trust and resolve, since his friends have, seemingly against all odds, continued to survive with him through many dangers. When Vladilena returns into his life, being constantly shown how people can live on and find new purpose catalyses the final change of heart that leads Shinei to finally realise that there is more to life than dying, and that there is more to living than merely welcoming and embracing death itself. In those moments when Shinei is faced with death at the hands of a Legion, an indescribable terror seizes him; he’s not worried for himself, but rather, than he will face and end without having the chance to have seen Vladilena, Theoto, Raiden, Kurena and Anju off. Although Shinei had not realised it at the time, interacting with them, and then seeing Vladilena on the battlefield again, made coherent something Shinei had been worried about; all he had known was death and destruction, and so, he’d sought out death as being the purpose in life, to put others out of their misery and meet a better end than those who’d fallen to the Legion. However, when this ended, and Shinei was stripped of his purpose, he wandered through life without any aim until the battlefield found him again, and this time, it took a near-death experience to show Shinei what would be more visible to people blessed with a more ordinary life: that purpose is unfixed, mutating, and as one chapter on one’s life closes, another will begin. The key here is being able to spot these opportunities and capitalise on them to take a step forwards, no matter how uncertain the future may be. This is, of course, contingent on one’s being alive to do so.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about 86 EIGHTY-SIX, it would’ve been late January, a full month after the twenty-first episode had concluded. I’d fallen quite far behind on things, and therefore did not have the time to watch 86 EIGHTY-SIX in December, so I spent a few days in January catching up on things. Like Girls und Panzer, three months separated 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s final two episodes from the remainder of the series, and similarly to how I remembered things, the period between the series respective finales were characterised as being busy.

  • Over the past season, I’ve been keeping up with only two active series: Slow Start‘s in the books now, and I was also following World’s End Harem, a series that managed to create a curious thriller despite its raunchy premise. The former proved fun and accompanied me through the move, while the latter was interesting, and while I don’t have much to say about it as of yet, I was moderately impressed with how the latter was able to weave a sci-fi story into things. There may be a discussion on this in the future, but for the present, my focus is on 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s finale.

  • Rather than being an action-packed finale, as one might expect of the typical science fiction, 86 EIGHTY-SIX uses its final two episodes to act as a lengthy (and satisfying) dénouement to Shinei’s journey to meet Vladilena. Because of how 86 EIGHTY-SIX closed things off, I was left with the distinct feeling that the war against the Legion was ultimately secondary to Shinei’s internal conflict: had this series been about warfare itself, human nature and the belief that people should be free to choose their futures without another force controlling said futures, it would’ve unfolded more like a Gundam series.

  • That two entire episodes are devoted to having Shinei express pure relief at his friends’ safety shows this series is more concerned with the human nature of things, than it is about the Juggernauts and other hardware that the human forces, and the Legion, possess. While the eponymous Gundams in the Gundam universe play a central role to things, being symbols of hope and power, and mobile suit development is often tied with character growth, the mecha in 86 EIGHTY-SIX are simply a means to an end. This is the primary reason why I’m not terribly worried about the ramifications of the mecha design in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, or the series’ general lack of exploration regarding alternate weapons and strategies that might be employed against a hypothetical grey-goo scenario.

  • As the Legion are self-replicating automata, they can be treated as a much larger (and therefore, more manageable) form of grey-goo: it is thought that use of software viruses to interfere with their capabilities or communications, depriving them of their power supply and use of directed energy weapons would be sufficient to handle the Legion. However, such countermeasures would’ve rendered the Colorata, and by extension, Shinei’s entire story, unnecessary. Logic would dictate that, were efficient solutions been in place, then there would have been no need to create the Juggernauts, and therefore, no story.

  • As it is, the seeming lapses in judgement are necessary to create the story at hand and write something that can present the themes that Toru Asakura had intended to tell, and one of the things in 86 EIGHTY-SIX that has endured throughout the series’ entire run is the juxtaposition between the serious and the comical moments. While Shinei is dealing with complicated matters, he and the people around him are human. As such, after Frederica spots Shinei speaking with Vladilena and peers into his mind, she’s able to confirm something that viewers had been thinking since 86 EIGHTY-SIX started: that Vladilena is that “special person” to Shinei. Her eyes sparkle in excitement, and this is something that Shinei’s Reginleif is apparently able to capture with its external cameras.

  • The exchange between Vladilena and Shinei is not the first conversation they share, but it is the first time both are unknowingly close to one another; Shinei decides not to reveal himself to her just yet, feeling that if they are to meet, then at the very least, they should meet when he’s in a more dignified position. This frustrates Frederica, who feels that Shinei could’ve fulfilled a longstanding promise of sorts, but I’d tend to agree with Shinei’s decision here from a narrative standpoint; choosing to wait shows that Shinei has enough faith in himself that he will be able to meet with Vladilena again in the future. It turns out the entire conversation between Shinei and Vladilena was recorded, and everyone wastes no time in poking fun at Shinei after he returns from the infirmary with his post-mission report.

  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX had always been particularly open about Shinei and Vladelina, using more subtle gestures during its run to hint at where things were headed. However, befitting of the fact that Shinei and his friends are still youth (and Lieutenant Colonel Wenzel isn’t too old, either), they gently nudge him about things. The fact that Raiden, Theoto, Anju and Kurena have survived alongside Shinei show both their own determination and resilience, as well as the fact that while Shinei regards himself as cursed to live until his time is up, those around him regard him warmly. It is not lost on me that Shinei resembles Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Claudia, who had similarly survived battle after battle while her allies fell, leaving her withdrawn and grim. When placed with a squad that was plucky and spirited, Claudia had begun to change, and in doing so, found the strength to fight for those around her.

  • The human sides of 86 EIGHTY-SIX is something that one “Lambdalith” appears to be unable to grasp: during the height of 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s run, this individual claimed that the series made numerous gaffes about the technical elements, and professed to possess a profound understand of the series few others would have. Such individuals are always a disruption in discussions: they’re so insistent on their own correctness that they fail to see perspectives beyond their own. “Lambdalith” became known to me after making the claim that this blog was “spam” when a commenter at Random Curiosity linked back here, and struggled with the idea that there could be other writers out there, besides Random Curiosity’s, that could offer meaningful conversation on things like Super Cub. I would tend to argue that focusing on philosophy in a slice-of-life anime like Super Cub is to be pedantic: the goal of such anime is to make a statement about life in general, rather than a company’s mission, but that a conversation for another time.

  • As such, I am glad that “Lamdalith” has not returned to comment on 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s finale episodes: doubtlessly, one would be treated to irrelevant complaints on technical shortcomings in the series that add no value to the discussion, or baseless accusations that other commenters with opinions differing their own were spammers. Back in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, Shinei had been as stoic and taciturn as Gundam 00‘s Setsuna F. Seiei throughout much of 86 EIGHTY-SIX, but like Claudia, who underwent considerable growth as a result of the people around her, Shinei has undergone the same process. Both Warlords of Sigrdrifa and 86 EIGHTY-SIX share this in common, although the latter holds the clear edge in world-building and framing the story for their respective protagonist’s experiences. As it stands, seeing Shinei smile was the surest sign that he’s happy to be here, besides those who matter most to him.

  • Since 86 EIGHTY-SIX entered its dénouement, humourous moments become common again. Unlike series that are all-business, the presence of funny faces and exaggerated facial expressions indicate that despite a heavier premise, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is about the human side of things, first and foremost. Frederica provides most of these moments in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, but the fact she’s experienced so much, in conjunction with her powers, allows her to present both sides of the coin. After everything wraps up, it turns out that Frederica had fallen behind on her studies, and Zimerman forces her to catch up before the Night of the Holy Birth arrives.

  • One thing that 86 EIGHTY-SIX had particularly exceled in was how it portrayed the passage of time: when scenes transition, they are accompanied by a calendar date. Gaps in the dates are meant to show how certain experiences require a bit of time to process, and that things don’t happen overnight. On Night of the Holy Birth (a thinly veiled version of Christmas with the same customs we’re familiar with), Zimerman gifts to Shinei and his friends things that are related to their hobbies, and everyone is surprised that they’re able to celebrate something like this even in spite of the fact that the war against the Legion is ongoing, and the losses they’ve sustained earlier.

  • Despite their surprise, everyone settles into their hobbies quite nicely: Anju impresses her classmates at cooking school, while Kurena finally decides to buy the jacket she’d been eying and turns a few heads when she steps out of the store with a spring in her step. Meanwhile, Theoto is enjoying the intermittent peace to sketch, and Raiden’s working on a mechanical project of sorts. Shinei decides to make desserts with Frederica, who’s evidently finished her studies. The resulting product is so good, even Anju is impressed, showing how even Shinei can find something new to immersive himself in outside of battle.

  • However, as soldiers, Shinei and the others soon find themselves being recalled back to the battlefield. Zimerman notes that their next unit commander is a bit of a controversial figure that he’d personally approved of, and while he’d worried about Shinei’s team would not agree with the arrangement, it turns out they wholeheartedly welcome their new commander. Storytelling has people returning into one another’s lives in interesting ways in fiction, although in reality, fate can also work in curious ways.

  • One of the more touching moments was watching Shinei reconcile with both Marcel and Nina; while visiting Eugene’s grave, Shinei runs into both here. Unlike his past self, Shinei expresses his remorse to Marcel, showing him that he’d accepted responsibility for what happened to him. However, as it turns out, Marcel had also felt guilty about not doing more to keep Eugene alive, and had pinned the blame on Shinei to assuage his own lingering regrets. Being able to talk to Shinei allows Marcel to get his feelings out, and help him to find the strength needed to move forwards to protect what Eugene had sought to when he joined the forces.

  • Similarly, while Eugene’s younger sister, Nina, had loathed Shinei for letting her brother die despite his world, she’s since been able to reconcile with the fact he’d been fighting to protect her, and moreover, in his stead, others are now doing the same. Nina is able to properly express her thanks to Shinei, and as a mark of his own growth, Shinei acknowledges this. Death is always a tricky topic, and while I dislike sharing my own thoughts on things, I am of the mind that the best way to honour the deceased is to live life with integrity and do one’s best: this is something 86 EIGHTY-SIX is conveying in its finale.

  • Winter soon gives way to spring, and Shinei’s team returns to the frontlines with new Reginleifs. While painting their custom emblems on, Theoto wonders why Shinei is sticking to his old emblem of a headless reaper, feeling it to be bad luck. However, Shinei’s reply speaks volumes to how far he has come: he sees surviving six years with this logo makes it lucky. Conversation soon turns to their new commander, and in subsequent moments, the perspective switches back over to Fido, who records footage ahead of everyone’s thoughts.

  • Fido had much more of a minimal presence during 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half, but seeing its recordings of Shinei’s teams prior to Vladilena’s arrival reminds viewers that Fido is solidly, dependably present, through both the tough times and easier moments. While the whole team is excited to finally meet their “Handler One”, the most standout moment for me was Theoto presenting his drawings. Initially, Theoto and the others had thought very poorly of Vladilena, expecting her to resign her post as their previous handlers had, but after she stuck it out with them, earned their respect. This is reflected in Theoto’s drawings, who present her as becoming more heroic, and in his last frame, he suggests that Vladilena and Shinei stand a chance with one another, leading an irate Kurena to chase him around and declare that Vladilena and Shinei have no chance on the virtue that she’d known him longer.

  • What happened to San Magnolia and Vladilena is also shown in the finale: as it turns out, the Legion overran San Magnolia, but Vladilena and members of her faction were determined to fight to the bitter end. While San Magnolia and their capital is ravaged, people survive, and the Federacy of Giad step in on a humanitarian mission to save and support all survivors. While some of the Alba remain committed to their backwards thinking, many experience a shift in thinking and welcome help from Giad: this may mark an end to the Alba’s belief in their own racial superiority as they observe for themselves how other nations, and their people, conduct themselves.

  • When the Giad forces arrive and link up with what’s left of the San Magnolia’s armed forces, Vladilena consents to join so she can continue to defend that which is dear to her. Vladilena may not have had much screen time during 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s second half, but her experiences during the Legion invasion only serve to reinforce her own beliefs and leave her more determined to do what’s right. In this way, the Vladilena at the end of 86 EIGHTY-SIX is not merely an idealistic naïveté, but rather, someone who now has seen firsthand what the Colorata had been dying for and therefore, has her own measure of what Shinei and former Undertaker squad, have experienced.

  • When Henrietta and Vladilena have a chance to meet up and unwind after being extricated from harm’s way, Henrietta opts to join the Giad forces, too: she was greatly surprised to learn that the para-RAID system Giad had been using is more or less derived off the same system as the San Magnolian designs. This is what leads Vladilena to conclude that Shinei and his team survived: the only way for the para-RAID system to have been so similar would have been if the technology had been reverse engineered, whole-sale, from a functional San Magnolian unit.

  • This fuels Vladilena’s intense desire to link up with the group she’d once commanded from afar, and this time around, Henrietta consents to also join the Giad forces, feeling that this is the best course of action that would allow her to continue her research. Henrietta and Vladilena may have had their differences earlier on, but when everything is said and done, the two do care greatly for one another. The terminal on Henrietta’s monitor suggests she’s trying to decrypt files, likely related to para-RAID research: because the text is different enough from the console logs I normally get while trying to debug, I rest easier knowing that no one can call out Asakura for not being accurate to reality.

  • It should become plain that Asakura is no Tom Clancy: while 86 EIGHTY-SIX features a strong military component, the focus of the story is on the human aspects of things, and Asakura clearly doesn’t have the same background as Clancy and his contemporaries. Fortunately, viewers primarily have focused on the story rather than the technical details, and speaking to the clarity of writing within this work, viewers and readers alike both walked away with a satisfying and enjoyable experience. Of course, there are exceptions: one closed-minded individual who claimed that 86 EIGHTY-SIX needed to “be at least a bit more subtle in what they were trying to tell”. Naturally, I disagree: if a work was so subtle that only viewers with a keen eye for nuance, or a background in literature, could approach it, then it has failed.

  • As it stands, there will always be individuals who believe themselves to be indisputable experts on most everything during internet discussions, and in the absence of evidence to suggest said individuals are acting in good faith, I find it easies to pay them no mind. Sardonic and patronising commentary insulting a given work (or its fans) is the height of irrelevance; per Les Stroud, if having a conversation with someone who is dismissive and disrespectful, there is no more discussion to be had precisely because in their closed-mindedness, they’ve shut the door to hearing others out. Regardless of whether it is face-to-face or online, I contend that there is no room for sarcasm anywhere: shooting straight and being honest avoids miscommunication, and it makes one’s opinions more respectable.

  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX succeeds in telling the story it intended to tell, and the finale was a satisfying, conclusive one. After Shinei and Vladilena had come so close to meeting during the penultimate episode, all signs pointed to an eventual in-person meeting between the two. 86 EIGHTY-SIX does not disappoint in this regard: the final moment is prolonged, deliberately drawn out to show the enormity of Vladilena, Shinei, Raiden, Theoto, Anju and Kurena finally meeting one another face-to-face. This particular scenario was reminiscent of my own experiences; the ongoing health crisis had meant I largely worked from home, and save my supervisor, I’d never actually met anyone on my team in person until the company Christmas party.

  • From a narrative standpoint, 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s anime adaptation could end here, and still remain a satisfactory conclusion to things; Shinei has now appreciated that there is worth to staying alive and fighting for what matters to him, spurred on by the fact that Vladilena had done the same, and now, their paths have converged. This was the journey the anime had sought to present, and while I’ve heard that we’ve only covered the first three volumes of the light novels, and there are a total of eleven volumes at the time of writing. There is, in other words, plenty of material to continue adapting if 86 EIGHTY-SIX has strong sales.

  • The brilliant blue skies and verdant fields of 86 EIGHTY-SIX have long stood out to me, creating a sense of contrast between how beautiful their world is during times of peace, and how grim things can get in war. When 86 EIGHTY-SIX first began airing, the juxtaposition had led me to wonder if this anime would convey a similar aesthetic as did 2010’s Sora no Woto. The themes in both series ended up being dramatically different, as did the respective worlds each was set in; Sora no Woto had particularly stood out to me because it created a cozier world, whereas here in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, the world is a bit larger.

  • Since Frederica is around, the mood is light as she suggests taking a photograph of everyone together. Frederica had proven to be an integral part of 86 EIGHTY-SIX; despite her young age and occasionally bratty tendencies, when the moment calls for it, she’s able to ask the piercing questions that forces Shinei to re-evaluate his strategies. When times are less tense, she provides much of the humour, reminding viewers that for all of the danger that the Legion pose to their world, there are still things that are worth smiling about from time to time.

  • With 86 EIGHTY-SIX at an end for the present, I have no qualms issuing this series an A- (3.7 of 4.0, or for those who prefer ten-point scales, 8.5 of 10): despite the opening feeling a little disconnected as the series established its characters (and this disjointedness works to the series’ favour, conveying the vast gap between the Alba and Colorata), once the series picks up momentum in its second half, the story becomes considerably more cohesive and gripping. Minor details, particularly with military technology and world-building, do seem a little overdone, designed to accommodate the story, but when everything is in place, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is able to tell a tale of finding purpose anew amidst the horrors and desolation of battle.

  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX concludes with Shinei and Vladilena reaching for one another’s hands as they vow do everything in their power to protect humanity and defeat the Legion. The assured expression on Shinei’s face, and Vladilena’s look of confidence, speaks volumes to the fact that these two, and their allies, are ready to answer the threat that is the Legion, leaving no doubt in viewers’ minds that the world is ready to defeat their foe together. With this, I’ve finally crossed the finish line for 86 EIGHTY-SIX, and with it, I’m presently caught up on everything. Entering April, I have a small number of posts scheduled: I’m still getting used to life following the move, and like good software practises, I’m finding myself preferring to work out a routine that is elegant and maintainable now, then optimise it later. Having said this, there remain a few slots to blog, and I imagine that once I acclimatise to things, I’ll be able to write posts with some regularity.

Overall, while 86 EIGHTY-SIX excels with its presentation of this world’s military hardware, and while A-1 Pictures has likely passed through numerous challenges in bringing Toru Asakura’s sophisticated vision to life through animation, 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s core strengths lie in its characters. The series had started out a little more disjointed as both Shinei and Vladilena’s stories were given exposition: there are a large number of supporting characters early on in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, but as the series continued, and war claimed its victims, 86 EIGHTY-SIX began to narrow its focus. A smaller number of characters spoke to the horrors and desolation of warfare, but it also conveys the idea that as things are taken away from people, they are forced to appreciate what remains in their lives. As 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s cast size shrunk, its story became increasingly clear: this was a tale of finding new purpose in life, of appreciating that one always has more worth in life than in death, and how living allows one to realise opportunities that they’d never thought possible. In this way, 86 EIGHTY-SIX suggests that regardless of one’s background and experiences, there is always a chance to learn about those critical human traits, of resilience, and of always seeking out a new raison d’être as one’s circumstances shift in response to an endlessly changing world. Ignoring the fact that NATO ammunition exists in this world, or the fact that weaponry are wildly inconsistent, 86 EIGHTY-SIX excels in its portrayal of a distinctly human story whose strengths exist outside of the series’ factual accuracy. At the end of the day, a meaningful narrative and theme matter considerably more than smaller details: the Legion and the war are ultimately means to an end, of being used as a very visceral means of suggesting how human connections work in strange, but powerful ways, propelling people forwards even when all hope appears lost.