The Infinite Zenith

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Misaki no Mayoiga: An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” –Gandalf, Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

An elderly lady named Kiwa takes Yui and Hiyori to her home, located on the edge of a cliff facing the ocean. Both Hiyori and Yui were affected by the Tōhoku Earthquake, hence Kiwa’s offer to take both in. Upon arrival, Kiwa tasks the pair with cleaning up the place and making it more inviting, while she sets about preparing dinner. Yui is impressed with dinner but has her doubts about Kiwa, who shares with the pair a story about Mayoiga, a palatial home that appears to those in need, and how they’re currently living in a Mayoiga. The next morning, Yui asks for a glass of water with ice in it and is shocked the home is able to fulfil her request. She recalls a past fight with her father and grows uneasy, running out into the forest. Hiyori manages to convince Yui to stick around; Yui consents to accompany Kiwa and Hiyori on a shopping trip. The next day, Kiwa brings kappa as guests; it turns out that an ancient entity appears to have escaped. Meanwhile, Yui gives Hiyori a notepad so she can communicate with her classmates, and sets off for town, where she ends up taking up a job with the local convenience store. At school, Hiyori befriends some of her classmates and agrees the join the Fox Dance in the local festival, but becomes traumatised upon hearing the drumbeat. Yui later reassures her and learns of Hiyori’s background: Kiwa explains that Hiyori is mute from the trauma of having lost her parents in a car accident, and was subsequently devastated by the earthquake. Hearing this prompts Yui to keep a closer eye on Hiyori, especially since unusual snakes have been spotted in the area. Kiwa fills in some of the details for Hiyori and Yui. Long ago, a serpent named Agame had come to the area and drove the residents off by projecting horrific visions on those who met its gaze, but a hero took up an enchanted blade and cut Agame down. As Agame’s power grows, Yui herself spots her father in the area and panics. Meanwhile, more supernatural beings meet with Kiwa, promising to provide assistance when the time is right. Kiwa ends up taking Yui and Hiyori to a larger Mayoiga and met with a contingent of deities who are here to answer the threat of Agame. Kiwa sets off to fight Agame on her own, locking Yui and Hiyori in the Mayoiga, but Yui manages to convince Mayoiga to let her render whatever assistance she can. Although she faces down another vision of her father en route, Hiyori overcomes her mutism and shouts out to Yui, who forces away the vision. The pair join Kiwa on the beach, where she’s already duelling Agame, and while Hiyori plays the flute to distract the serpent, Yui uses a conjured arrow to strike down Agame for all time. In the aftermath, Yui promises to be Hiyori’s older sister, and Kiwa mentions that no one recalls the previous day’s events, allowing them to continue living out their days in peace while Yui works out what she’d like for her future.

In the aftermath of the Tōhoku Earthquake, hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced, and even in the present, the earthquake’s impacts are still felt. Misaki no Mayoiga (The House of the Lost on the Cape) speaks to the feelings of despair and uncertainty these people would have experienced; through Yui and Hiyori’s perspectives, the film voices something that everyone affected by the earthquake and tsunami would have likely asked themselves: “why me?”, “what did I do to deserve this?”. Hiyori lost her parents in an accident, and after she moved to live with other relatives, the earthquake struck. Yui ran away from an abusive home, and found herself in the Tōhoku region when the earthquake occurred. Misfortune has come to deeply impact their lives, but in response to the question they pose of the skies, the answer is “nothing”. Hardship and adversity can affect all individuals with equal probability, and while it can prove immensely challenging to extricate oneself and better their situation, Misaki no Mayoiga also suggests that community bonds and family provides the support one needs to begin taking those first steps forward. Hiyori, who’d become mute from the trauma following her parents’ deaths, finds it in her to speak again after forming a bond with Yui. Yui similarly overcomes her fears of her father and is able to find strength to protect Hiyori. All of this comes as a result of Yui and Hiyori spending time with Kiwa, a kindly, if mysterious, elderly lady with a profound knowledge of the local folklore and mythology. While Yui is initially mistrustful of Kiwa, seeing Kiwa’s generosity and patience, as well as a nascent connection with Hiyori leads her to slowly open up to the community, too. Similarly, Hiyori begins to integrate with the community; she’s a little quicker to trust Kiwa and accept things. The interplay between the central characters, when scaled up, shows how faith, trust and mutual respect for one another provides those critical first steps towards recovery. Much as how Hiyori and Yui both find a renewed reason to appreciate life and community thanks to Kiwa and their shared time together, Misaki no Mayoiga suggests that following the Tōhoku Earthquake, recovery efforts and the courage to move onwards stems from people’s shared wills to live, and a mutual desire to help one another out in a collective effort to get everyone back on their feet.

Misaki no Mayoiga introduces one additional element to accelerate Yui and Hiyori’s recovery through Mayoiga, mythological homes that provide for those in need. As Kiwa states, if one takes care of their home, their home will take care of them. Here in Misaki no Mayoiga, the home that Kiwa brings Hiyori and Yui to provides them with a dependable place to retreat to, and regroup. In Kiwa’s story, a woman finds the Mayoiga and, while intrigued by the luxary it provides, chooses to leave without taking anything. In return, the Mayoiga rewards her honesty. In Yui and Hiyori’s case, the Mayoiga provides them with a place to live and supports them in its own way. While a house that can provide meals on its own is something that remains relegated to the realm of fiction, homes do care for and support their inhabitants; in addition to keep out the elements, it also acts as a reliable, steadfast place one can return to at the end of the day. Having a home is what provides familiar comfort for Yui and Hiyori during the more turbulent moments of Misaki no Mayoiga, and when the family visit a larger, more stately Mayoiga later, Yui and Hiyori both agree that despite the large one’s grandeur, their smaller home feels more comforting. In this way, the sea serpent, Agame, becomes a metaphor for the uncertainty and fear resulting from not having a home to return to: in driving people out of its domain, Agame breeds enmity and discord by depriving people of their right to shelter. This aspect of Misaki no Mayoiga is addressed when Yui, Hiyori and Kiwa work together with the other deities to destroy Agame once and for all; the titanic clash becomes a visceral show of how important people’s homes are to them ― these are things that are worth standing up and fighting for. In the aftermath of this conflict, both Yui and Hiyori are grateful to have somewhere to return to at the end of each day. Kiwa promises that for as long as Yui needs to rediscover her own path, she is welcome to call Mayoiga home, and having this reassurance means that Yui is, at the film’s end, left in a position where she can move forward from the problems that had previously impacted her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I vividly remember the day the Tōhoku Earthquake occurred: I was reading about it right before my organic chemistry lecture began. Even though the news footage was showing the scope and scale of the destruction, I instinctively felt that the footage itself wouldn’t capture the tragedy. When Fukushima Daiichi began undergoing a meltdown and forced the creation of an exclusion zone, the threat of a nuclear disaster suddenly overtook the consequences of the earthquake and tsunami. It did feel as though other affected areas were suddenly forgotten.

  • As such, to see films like Misaki no Mayoiga being produced shows a respectful acknowledgement of those who were impacted by the disaster. Films that show the resilience of the human spirit is a reminder that, as devastating as things were in 2011, people have still found a way to recover. If memory serves, Misaki no Mayoiga was released last August in Japanese theatres, and the home release became available half a year later, in February of this year. I’d been looking forwards to watching this, but by February, it was all hands on deck as I geared up for a move of my own.

  • Yui and Hiyori are Misaki no Mayoiga‘s protagonists. In the beginning, viewers have almost no context as to what’s happening in the movie: Yui and Hiyori, for all intents and purposes, are accompanying someone who appears to their grandmother to her rural home on a remote cliff. Misaki no Mayoiga slowly rolls back its curtain to expose more of the story to viewers over time, and in using this approach, the film holds the viewer’s attention. Out of the gates, Yui reminds me of Her Blue Sky‘s Akane Aioi in manner and appearance. Both are sullen teenagers who appear reluctant to participate in what’s happening around them.

  • However, the similarities end here. Akane had opened up after learning of her older sister’s lingering feelings for Shinno, whereas here in Misaki no Mayoiga, Yui comes from a difficult background; her mother had left the family, and her father held her responsible. From what happened, I would hazard a guess that Yui’s father was abusive towards both herself and her mother, which left Yui with a deep-seated mistrust of others and an unwillingness to open up to those around her. Joining Kiwa and Hiyori to a quite house on the cape would be the starting point for a new chapter of her life.

  • Misaki no Mayoiga renders 迷い家 as マヨイガ, likely a deliberate way to indicate that in this case, Mayoiga is a proper noun referring to the mythical houses that provided for their occupants. Generally speaking, 迷い家 are well-kept and often, formerly-opulent homes that were abandoned in rural areas. In reality, abandoned houses aren’t always safe to inhabit or even explore: an unmaintained building exposed to the elements may not be structurally sound, and possess both pathogens, mould and pest infestations. In Jordy Meow’s Abandoned Japan, however, the abandoned homes Meow visits possess a melancholy about them, and when personal belongings are left behind, one cannot help but wonder what the inhabitant’s stories were.

  • Hiyori and Yui both feel uncomfortable in the beginning with their new surroundings, although Hiyori seems a little more receptive towards things. Upon entering the old house, the place immediately exudes a sense of warmth despite clearly having not been inhabited for some time. By the time the lights come on, it becomes clear that, save for a layer of dust covering things, the place is still in excellent condition, and moreover, the place is already furnished, possessing both couches, tables and chairs of a contemporary design, as well as a modern kitchen.

  • In a flashback, it turns out that Yui had been alone at one of the evacuation shelters, and met Hiyori while out and about. Hiyori had been trying to dislodge a branch that had fallen on the Komainu. She brings Hiyori back to the shelter and became enraged when another man knocks down Hiyori. Before things escalate, Kiwa shows up and covers for the two, saying that they’re her grandchildren. Although such a happenstance may come across as a bit suspect, and caution is a suitable response, for Misaki no Mayoiga, accepting the kindness of strangers is merely a part of the story.

  • It is instinctive to give a new home a good cleaning before moving in proper: from a hygienic point of view, this eliminates any dust and other things that may have accumulated while the building was vacant. After possession date, we made it a point to clean the place out, giving every square inch a thorough scrubbing and vacuuming. Of course, there are some Chinese traditions associated with moving in, and among these traditions, I’m familiar with carrying in a bag of rice over the threshold, opening all of the windows and putting on a kettle right away.

  • Having now moved in for almost a half year, I dust the place daily, vacuum and clean the bathrooms weekly, and mop the floors bi-weekly. The improved ventilation means it’s significantly less dusty than the old place, but a good amount of dust still accumulates. Back in Misaki no Mayogi, Yui’s reaction to a proper home-cooked meal hints at her own background: while surprised by Kiwa’s cooking, she finds dinner to be most enjoyable despite originally wondering why Kiwa was using what she’d considered to be weeds in her cooking. The Salisbury Steak turns her around, and as she sits down to eat, she finds everything delicious.

  • Normalcy is precisely how people can weather extraordinary circumstances, and Les Stroud has, in Survivorman, mentioned how important it is to keep doing what one can in their usual manner. For instance, when out in survival, being able to drink hot water can be enough to remind one of their humanity. Similarly, cooking the food he finds gives a sense of comfort. In the aftermath of the earthquake, Hiyori and Yui have not likely sat down to a proper meal for some time, so the opportunity to do so with Kiwa represents a welcome return of something familiar.

  • After dinner, Kiwa tells the tale of Mayoiga, and a farming lady who had stumbled upon an incredibly ornate home. Despite how opulent everything was, the lady simply decided to return home, and the Mayoiga would end up giving her an enchanted rice bowl that would keep her family well-fed for the remainder of their days. The moral of this story is that integrity will be rewarded, but the story also sets the groundwork for the mysteries surrounding Yui and Hiyori’s new home. The stories are animated in a completely different style than the main narrative in Misaki no Mayoiga and resemble a picture book brought to life.

  • The next morning, Yui wakes up and, when greeting Kiwa, remarks that ordinary water would be fine. A glass of water immediately appears, and out of curiosity, Yui comments that some ice would be nice. She hears the clink of ice, and Kiwa returns; she explains the house is doing this for Yui’s sake. This causes Yui to flash back to a fight she had with her father, and a fear overtakes her. While Misaki no Mayoiga doesn’t choose to go intro further details, one can immediately infer that aside from what was shown on screen, Yui’s father had been abusive and unkind to the point where Yui felt compelled to run away from home.

  • Fearing the same might happen here at Mayoiga, Yui runs off, but she eventually comes around thanks to Hiyori’s kindness. Although it is the case that Hiyori and Yui hadn’t met prior to the earthquake, the pair immediately develop a bond of sorts, and Hiyori’s actions show that she does care about Yui. After Yui gathers herself, she consents to go shopping with Kiwa and Hiyori: while Mayoiga is capable of answering things like water and patching itself up, there are some luxuries that even a mythical house cannot provide for its inhabitants.

  • In showing that the Mayoiga can only provide some things, Misaki no Mayoiga‘s interpretation of things is that that even small gestures matter. In exchange for being looked after and being lived in, the house gives Kiwa, Yui and Hiyori a few conveniences to show its appreciation of their presence. However, in limiting what it can do, Misaki no Mayoiga shows that for people, it ultimately is through their own initiative and resolve that their desires can be attained. The house is merely an aid in the process, but an important piece, giving people a place to regroup and rest up for their endeavours.

  • The shopping trip represents a chance for Hiyori and Yui to enjoy normalcy: they pick up clothing, household appliances and even swing by a bookstore. The day’s excursions would be counted as unremarkable under most circumstances, but both Yui and Hiyori have been through quite a bit, so going out to the local mall becomes a treat. While such a thought would seem quite difficult, the global health crisis and its impact on our everyday lives is nontrivial: at its height, shopping centres, theatres, restaurants and event venues emptied out as the pandemic ravaged the world.

  • As such, when I began returning to the mall and eating out again, things did feel a little unusual for the first little while and was worth writing about: I still vividly remember the first time I went back to a shopping mall before picking up burgers from A & W for our afternoon meal a year ago. While it was nice to begin returning to doing the things I’d been long accustomed to, the global health crisis was also a reminder for me to be more appreciative of the things I’d come to take for granted, too. Misaki no Mayoiga is conveying the same: going to the mall might feel ordinary, but under extraordinary circumstances, it’s a luxury people may not always have.

  • At the bookstore, Yui had also picked up a notebook for Hiyori: while Hiyori has become mute from her past experiences, she’s actively trying to speak and, even without words, she’s very expressive. A notebook allows Hiyori to communicate with everyone else, and en route to school, Hiyori befriends another classmate. That Yui had thought far enough ahead to get Hiyori a notebook shows how, despite her sullen appearance, she’s actually kind and compassionate. Kiwa had spotted this immediately in Yui, and while this isn’t initially apparent, gestures like these show that Kiwa’s observations are correct. Over time, Kiwa becomes a repository of wisdom and knowledge, someone viewers can trust to guide Yui and Hiyori as they navigate difficult times in their lives.

  • Meanwhile, Yui ends up picking up a moped and a part-time job at the local convenience store. While she’d dropped out of secondary school, the locals here are quite understanding, and in a fortuitous turn of events, it turns out Yui’s paperwork is accounted for, allowing her and Hiyori to both remain with Kiwa. Yui is reluctant to accept the moped and the job, but spotting that the townspeople are being genuinely thoughtful, she accepts things. This notion of community, and of the collective good, is something that Misaki no Mayoiga excels in conveying: here, collective good isn’t about sacrificing individual rights for the sake of others, but simply, being there for people in need.

  • One aspect of Misaki no Mayoiga I liked was watching Hiyori’s efforts to become a part of the community. Her classmate, Makio, manages to convince her to check out the Fox Dance they’re set to perform at a local festival – by actively participating in a community tradition, Hiyori is doing her best to make the most of things, and this also shows a willingness to learn the local traditions and customs. One of the adults running the show asks if Hiyori would like to play the flute for them, but upon hearing the flute and drums, Hoyori is gripped with an overwhelming sense of grief and loneliness as she recalls her parents’ funerals.

  • Hiyori subsequently runs off: she’s unable to express herself to the others at this point, and can only return home to Mayoiga. The idea that certain stimuli can evoke very specific memories has been one that’s challenged neuroscientists for some time: it is thought that stimuli like sounds or smells, which fired specific neurological pathways when a memory was made, would also fire those same pathways when experienced at a later date. This is why when I returned to campus and walked the ICT buildings, the smells there immediately reminded me of my graduate thesis. I imagine that for Hiyori, the instruments used for the Fox Dance might’ve been played at her parents’ funeral, and the rhythms would’ve led her to recall the loss that day.

  • When Hiyori isn’t able to elaborate on things initially, she does mention the Fox Dance, and Kiwa fills in the gaps. She explains that in the areas, foxes are sacred because fox spirits helped the locals in fending off Agame, a monstrous sea serpent that fed off despair and sought to claim human territory for its own. Per Kiwa’s story, foxes gave an elderly man the dagger Makiri to defeat Agame with, and since then, the Fox Dance was performed to honour this deed. With Kiwa’s story, Hiyori is able to share her past, and one of the townspeople subsequently arrive with a stray cat. Kiwa is okay with taking the cat in and naming him Kofuku. The presence of a cat lifts Hiyori’s spirits considerably, and as Kiwa notes, it’s the small blessings that make a difference.

  • The next day, Hiyori invites Makio over for a picnic overlooking the cape. While imagery of the Tōhoku Earthquake usually portrays Sendai and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, located on the coastal plains, the earthquake and tsunami also affected the mountainous areas east of Ishinomaki. Misaki no Mayoiga is set in the Tōhoku area, but the specific area is not shown to viewers to reinforce the idea that this is a film about Tōhoku in general, rather than any specific area. On their picnic, Makio enjoys Kiwa’s cooking and mentions how lucky Hiyori is to live with such a fantastic cook. Kiwa later shares a story about the underwater grottoes that were disrupted by the tsunami.

  • On the morning their special guests arrive, Hiyori meets kappa for the first time. Traditionally portrayed as being antagonistic towards people, kappa are also fiercely loyal, and when afforded with the proper respect, are helpful and friendly. The kappa that show up at Mayoiga know Kiwa as an old friend, and because kappa tend to stick with people they respect for a lifetime, it stands to reason that long ago, Kiwa must’ve done something to help them out before. The kappa are more than happy to help Kiwa check out the damaged grottoes and confirm that something is amiss.

  • As thanks to their guests, Kiwa’s prepared a feast of sorts for the kappa, including their favourite vegetable, cucumber. It turns out that, as a cook, Yui is no slouch, either – while her father never appreciated her cooking, it’s the case that while Yui might not have a head for numbers, she does seem to be deft hand in the culinary arts. The kappa have a great time at dinner, and one of the kappa even begins to sing a song. In this moment, although the kappa might be deities, they feel very human. Hiyori has no problems with them, and demonstrating the traits of an older sister, Yui accepts them quite readily, too, saying that Hiyori’s happiness is her own.

  • While delivering some sake to the locals, Yui’s route takes her right by the place where Hiyori’s been practising for the Fox Dance. Having encouragement means that Hiyori’s been able to pick herself up, and she’s now participating with her whole heart. Hiyori is all smiles, and one of the men decide to ask Yui to join the Fox Dance, as well. Although Yui is reluctant to participate, Hiyori persuades her to join in. In this way, an entire afternoon passes joyfully. However, as the afternoon grows late, clouds roll into the area.

  • Some of the townsfolk discuss unusual occurrences that have been observed around the area: dogs have been barking at an unseen entity, and some people have had terrifying visions, similar to what Kiwa had described in her story about Agame. This is tied to the mysterious snake-like creature with glowing red eyes that shows up. Kofuku attempts to chase it, and Yui wakes up, wondering if it was a snake. Although this is forgotten, it’s an ominous sign of what’s to come in Misaki no Mayoiga. The tenour here reminds me of a conversation in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, when Bree’s night watchman mentions that “there’s talk of strange folk abroad” to Frodo and his friends.

  • The townspeople suggest Yui and Hiyori head straight home, but in the wooded path leading back to Mayoiga, they come face to face with the snake-like beings. Before any harm can come to them, a pair of lion-dogs appear and drive them off. It is here that Kiwa explains the remainder of the story behind Agame, that Agame is responsible for creating feelings of unease and enmity, and Hiyori poses the question that motivates the page quote. There is no easy answer to this, but folks who’ve gone through a great deal and come out the other side often say that in the moment, they don’t care quite that they’re affected, but rather, care about finding the strength to reach the other side, to focus on putting one foot in front of the other and endure the moment in the hopes for a better tomorrow.

  • Kiwa reassures Hiyori that she’s not alone, that there’s also many others who wonder the same thing. Negativity in the community manifests as Agame, but the arrival of the Lion-Dogs and Jizo show that, while the spirits might be preparing to fend off calamity, the people living in the earthly realm have these unseen guardians looking over them. The next day, when Makio shares her concerns about how her best friend hasn’t once written since she’d moved, Hiyori takes some of the strength she’s learnt from Kiwa and does her best to reassure Makio, too.

  • When one of the snakes enters the shop Yui’s working in, it manifests as her worst fear, causing Yui to run out into the day and scream her lungs out in panic. Although viewers know it’s an illusion thanks to Kiwa’s story (and the unlikelihood of Yui’s father actually showing up in town), the moment speaks to how desperately Yui had wanted to escape her old life. Curiously, the music in Misaki no Mayoiga doesn’t really connect with the emotional tenour of some moments; when Yui panics, a gentle guitar piece is playing in the background. This disconnect means the scene won’t convey to viewers what Yui is feeling, and the impression I got from the moment was that it’s meant to show that the town is safe and peaceful, but the snakes that are appearing will disrupt this.

  • Yuri Miyauchi composes Misaki no  Mayoiga‘s incidental music, which has an aural tenour most similar to the soundtrack from Little Forest. Both Misaki no Mayoiga and Little Forest are set in the Tōhoku region of Japan and have an emphasis on a rural locale, and while the films are separated by their emphasis on the supernatural (Little Forest does not have any supernatural pieces to it at all), the similarities in the music indicate that the Tōhoku region is a peaceful setting. Taken together, I would imagine that the music in Misaki no Mayoiga is meant to show that the peaceful setting is enough to help Yui to regroup and return home.

  • On this evening, it is Yui who returns home disheartened and worried, and it is Hiyori’s turn to comfort her. Similarly to Hiyori, the fact that Yui has a home to return to is a vital part of getting her back on her feet. As families do, Hiyori and Yui support one another, and in an environment where there is no judgment, everyone is free to be open with how they feel about things. While this is a part of Mayoiga’s magic, in reality, having a home is a source of refuge from the troubles of the world. When Hiyori and Yui return to Mayoiga, Kiwa is always on hand to provide words of guidance and wisdom.

  • More so than the accommodations and food, this is probably what Yui was lacking most in her old life, so being able to love and be loved here at Mayoiga is a game-changer for Yui, allowing her to be her best self. Kiwa has an excursion planned out for them for the next day, but before this is shown, Misaki no Mayoiga cuts to scenes of the snakes consuming flowers around various townsfolk. The scenes are completely silent and lack any background music; although music is utilised to set a mood, the soundtrack in Misaki no Mayoiga has been peaceful so far, so the absence of music is equally effective in conveying unease.

  • It turns out that Kiwa’s excursion is to visit another, grander and older Mayoiga. The kappa are more than happy to help them move their boat along a narrow canyon, which is beautifully rendered and brings to mind the tributary leading out of Lothlórien into Anduin towards the end of The Fellowship of the Rings, and again when the Fellowship cross the Gate of Argonath into Nen Hithoel. The grandeur in Misaki no Mayoiga is plainly not to the same scale that is seen in Lord of the Rings, but there is a majesty about the landscapes that Yui, Hiyori and Kiwa pass through.

  • On the topic of Lord of the Rings, the page quote was selected from a remark Gandalf makes to Frodo: this bit of wisdom has become an iconic part of Lord of the Rings, and simply means that while one cannot choose their circumstances, they have the agency and power to make the decisions that’s best for them. Hiyori lost her parents, and Yui ran away from an abusive father. Both were affected by the earthquake, but in the present day, they are actively choosing to live their lives as best as they can by becoming part of their new community.

  • Stills like these are commonplace in Misaki no Mayoiga – the Japanese countryside is gorgeous, and I’ve long fantasised about spending a week living in the inaka. However, this isn’t to say the rural areas in my home province aren’t beautiful. During this past weekend, during the Mid-Autumn Festival, I went with family to a sunflower farm an hour north of town. My immediate impression was that this is an immensely peaceful place to be: while exploring the sunflower maze, I reached the edge and glanced westward. The plains beyond the fields reminded me of the Shire, and while the day had been extremely smoky, we were lucky to have sunlight by the time we arrived.

  • After a pleasant afternoon amongst the sunflowers and corn stalks, we turned around and made our way back home for dinner. Since it was the Mid-Autumn Festival, we celebrated with a 3-course Peking Duck special dinner (which comes with duck fried noodles and duck soup on top of the Peking Duck itself) with a beef and Chinese Broccoli stir-fry. The lateness of the evening meant that I ended up skipping the Moon Cake, and by that point, the smoke had returned, blocking out the moon. However, on Sunday, I was able to enjoy a slice of Moon Cake. While I’ve not previously been fond of the yolk, I’ve since come around and now enjoy Moon Cake fully.

  • The outing takes Kiwa, Yui and Hiyori to a torii leading up a hillside, and this path takes some time to climb: by the time everyone reaches their destination, the sun’s begun to set. As it turns out, Kiwa’s plan had been to temporarily relocate to a much older and grander Mayoiga ahead of the impending doom of their time. Along the way, Kiwa shares her story with Yui and Hiyori: as a child, Kiwa was fond of playing in the forests, and one day, she’d gotten lost. By sheer stroke of luck, she came upon a Mayoiga, and presumably, had become very familiar with the supernatural entities as a result.

  • Because of the scale of things, one can surmise this Mayoiga is likely the one in Kiwa’s story. The presence of multiple Mayoiga seem to suggest that these homes reveal themselves to those who need it, looking after those who find them. However, because stories like these always come with a tradeoff, I imagined that to encounter a Mayoiga also means accepting the service that is expected of those who find it. In reality, this is why I believe in honesty and integrity: folks who game a system so they can benefit at someone else’s expense will always be unpleasantly surprised when the consequences of their decisions catch up to them.

  • Both Hiyori and Yui are impressed with how ornate and luxurious everything is, but this Mayoiga lacks the same feeling of home that their original Mayoiga had. Unsurprisingly, a major part of a home is being a place where one can be true to themselves and retreat from the world. This is why when I travelled to an Airbnb in Canmore as a company retreat some years earlier, even though the place had been a resort condominium that was comfortably furnished, the place didn’t quite feel like home. When I completed my move half a year earlier, I had felt that the new place exuded a similar feeling, resembling an Airbnb rather than a home, but over time, that’s changed.

  • To Yui and Hiyori’s surprise, all manner of deities and spirits have gathered, promising to lend their powers in helping Kiwa to fend off the threat that Agame represents. Having already met the kappa, and listened to Kiwa’s stories, both Yui and Hiyori are accustomed to the existence of such beings. Kiwa thanks everyone for showing up, and following suit, Yui and Hiyori bow, as well. When they complete their bow, everyone’s already taken off, leaving Yui, Hiyori and Kiwa to enjoy dinner. I imagine that people with extensive background in Japanese mythology and folklore would be familiar with everyone assembled here, but I lack such a background. Consequently, I’m only familiar with a few, such as the yuki-onna, but everyone’s presence here suggests that contrary to our existing perception of these spirits, they’re actually benevolent.

  • Following dinner, Hiyori enjoys some fireworks with the Mayoiga’s Zashiki-warashi, a spirit that is said to bestow good fortune upon the homes they inhabit. Although this particular spirit is shy, she gets along fine with Hiyori. Yui and Kiwa share a conversation about Yui’s future – because her life had been so hectic, Yui hasn’t had a chance to really define her goals or aspirations. Kiwa’s completely okay with this and suggests that for Yui, she has time yet to figure something out. If I had to guess, Yui’s enjoyment of cooking would mean that she’d probably find a fulfilling career in a culinary arts programme.

  • Before turning in, Hiyori and Yui share a conversation about the Mayoiga. This one’s grander than theirs, and while there’s nothing wrong with it per se, the pair both agree that the smaller one they previously lived in felt more like a home. There is truth in this – while some people justify larger homes as having more space for storage and privacy, the realities are that larger homes come with more property tax and increased utility costs, on top of time needed to keep everything ship-shape. In 2017, Chris Foye published a paper to the Journal of Happiness Studies that found people actually up-size their homes not for practical reasons, but as a status symbol, so having a larger house didn’t correlate to increased happiness in the long term.

  • Home developers continue to insist that two thousand square foot single-family homes are sustainable even where there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that urban sprawl is unsustainable, whereas in reality, there is an upper bound for how much space people need to be at their happiest. Back in Misaki no Mayoiga, Kiwa receives an enchanted dagger from a pair of foxes. The inevitable reality becomes clear: Agame has become a sufficient threat such that intervention is now necessary, and Kiwa sets off to deal with Agame on her own.

  • The next morning, Yui and Hiyori are shocked to find that the Mayoiga has only laid out breakfast for two and swiftly realise that Kiwa’s gone to take on Agame on her own. They search the whole of the Mayoiga to find nothing and set off to find Kiwa, only to learn that the Mayoiga has sealed them in per Kiwa’s wishes. While Kiwa had done this to protect Yui and Hoyori, par the course for anime films, the story is always going to be written in such a way so that tensions are increased. Kiwa’s decision thus speaks firmly to the fact that she alone cannot handle Agame.

  • The Mayoiga relents and unlocks its front gates after Yui implores it to let them help Kiwa out, that this is what being a family means. Despite only spending a short amount of time together, Yui and Hiyori have come to view Kiwa as an indispensable part of their family, enough to take the initiative and act according to their own judgement. It is the case that the elders are often more protective of youth, whereas youth are always striving to prove their worth. In stories like Misaki no Mayoiga, the characters’ decisions and the corresponding outcomes tend towards showing adults should give youth a chance.

  • Giving Yui and Hiyori a chance to catch up to Kiwa means giving the producers a chance to showcase the town by morning: it’s a pleasant day with blue skies, and the morning calm shows how there’s still time for Yui and Hiyori. The visuals and animation in Misaki no Mayoiga are of a fine quality, and the film itself is produced by David Production, whose repertoire includes Planetarian, Strike Witches: Road to Berlin and Cells at Work. While varying greatly in style, and perhaps not quite as visually distinct as studios like P.A. Works and Kyoto Animation, David Production’s work is still solid.

  • Before we enter the film’s climax, I’ll go on a brief tangent and comment on the recent iPhone 14 Pro preorders, which opened last Friday at 0600 MDT. I placed my order shortly before my workday started, and Apple’s estimate now is that my order is likely to ship early October. While this delay is apparently newsworthy, as was Apple’s online store folding from the volume of orders, I’m not terribly worried; I’m in no rush for a new phone (the iPhone Xʀ I’m running is still in excellent shape). I will be giving my own impressions of the device once I receive mine – online technology sites suggest the device is overwhelmingly positive, and critics are suggesting the new features aren’t sufficiently innovative. I expect that the iPhone 14 Pro will be a serious upgrade over the Xʀ, and that my reaction will be somewhere between the news outlets and the critics’ opinions.

  • Back in Misaki no Mayoiga, Hiyori and Yui had correctly deduced that Kiwa had set off to take on Agame on her own, feeling it to be her responsibility to protect those around her. Contrasting the other scenes in the movie, the skies here are truly dark and grim, setting the stage for Misaki no Mayoiga‘s climax. Weather is an element that is utilised extensively in anime to convey a specific atmosphere or mood, and viewers with an eye for these details will quickly discern nuances in each moment: subtle differences in lighting and sky conditions can speak volumes to what a moment intends to convey.

  • Although the blade is imbibed with the power to cut down Agame, the engorged Agame has been bolstered by the negative energies surrounding the earthquake and tsunami survivors. Calling all of the smaller serpents in the area, it grows to a tremendous size, far greater than had been described in the tales and far exceeding what Kiwa can handle alone. For her efforts, Kiwa is unsuccessful, and the enchanted blade is shattered.

  • Yui and Hiyori are temporarily impeded when Yui’s father seemingly appears out of nowhere, intent on bringing her home. Defeated, Yui has no choice but to follow, and in this moment, recalling all of the memories they shared together, Hiyori regains use of her voice and calls out to Yui. Surprised that Hiyori’s come to care so deeply for her, Yui rejects her “father” and casts him aside, breaking the serpent’s illusion. Yui and Hiyori share a moment together; the two could not have grown to the extent they did without one another. Caring for one another has allowed Hiyori to speak again, and Yui manages to find enough strength to make peace with her past.

  • With Agame calling all serpents to it, a massive snake eye-like orb begins manifesting in the skies. The final act of Misaki no Mayoiga ventures into the realm of fantasy as the fight is finally taken to Agame, and here, I remark that anime films do have a tendency towards flooring the accelerator towards the end. Both A Whisker Away and Hello World had similar pacing, with the story beginning slowly, but steadily, only to wildly speed up towards the ending. This approach is not one that all viewers appreciate, as it conveys the sense that the film had miscalculated early on and must now accommodate for everything that was hitherto unresolved so that a resolution can be reached.

  • In Misaki no Mayoiga, the clash with Agame did seem surprising: Agame felt more like a metaphor for sadness and desolation, so giving it a physical presence and plunging the story into the realm of fantasy can seem jarring. At the same time, this route also means that Misaki no Mayoiga presents a very visceral portrayal of how people might overcome despair and melancholy. Alone, Kiwa had no chance of defeating this monstrosity, but having spotted that they’d become a family, Yui and Hiyori had reasoned that their best odds of besting Agame is also together.

  • The lion-dogs thus bring the pair to the seawall where Agame is manifesting, and the other supernatural entities that had shown up at the large Mayoiga have also arrived. Because of their cordial relationship with Kiwa, it stands to reason that similarly to the kappa, Kiwa must’ve also encountered them previously; preparations for this fight might’ve been a long time in the coming. While Agame hurls bolts of lightning in an attempt to set the nearby forests alight and keep the spirits busy, it is too distracted to notice two arrivals.

  • Drawing parallels with their roles in the Fox Dance, Hiyori begins playing the flute. The melodies diminish Agame’s power, and the skies begin clearing as a result. Kiwa’s original story had mentioned that Agame was weak against music, and as such, nothing that happens here in the climactic fight comes across as being contrived; no matter how small, all details that are mentioned are fair game when it comes to being utilised for helping to resolve a plot. Speaking to how much effort she’s put into practising, Hiyori’s flute skills are enough to tangible slow Agame down.

  • Meanwhile, Yui’s gained access to an enchanted bow. She’d reluctantly accepted the role of playing one of the dancers in the Fox Dance, and becomes well-suited for being the one to land the blow that will finish Agame off. Unlike the other sections of Misaki no Mayoiga, where there hadn’t been any incidental music during the tenser moments, the lead-up to the showdown against Agame has an intimidating choral piece. The final fight itself is set to the Fox Dance music, consisting of traditional flute and percussion mixed in with orchestral elements. This was deliberately selected to emphasise the scope and scale of the battle, and of the songs on the soundtrack, these ones stand out from the gentler slice-of-life pieces.

  • While the music may slow Agame down, it begins rising towards the vast orb in the skies. No explanation is directly provided as to what this orb is, but thanks to Kiwa’s stories and the emotional tenour surrounding the confrontation, it stands to reason that this orb would confer Agame with the power to spread discord and chaos to a much wider region that extends beyond Tōhoku. Before Agame can reach the orb, the skies suddenly clear out, and Yui readies an enchanted arrow, ready to shoot Agame in the eye and stripping it of its power.

  • Yui resolves to do what she can, signifying that she’s managed to let go of her past and live in the present. She subsequently fires an arrow that hits Agame squarely in the eye, and with its source of power gone, Agame explosively unravels. Agame resembles the Basilisk, a mythical reptile of European origin whose gaze was said to be lethal, and whose movements left a trail of deadly venom in its wake. Unlike Agame, and the Basilisk of Harry Potter, the original creature was no more than a foot long. Unlike the Basilisk, Agame’s gaze induces horrifying visions; Misaki no Mayoiga suggests the strange comings and goings were a result of Agame’s influence.

  • The next morning, Hiyori awakens to find Yui and Kiwa with her. Kiwa had caught Yui up to things and notes that the townspeople remember nothing. Hiyori has fully regained the use of her voice and implores that she be allowed to remain with Kiwa and Yui so that she can continue exploring the world of mythological beings. Kiwa finally reveals a bit more about her background: she too had lost her parents and wandered from place to place. In this moment, Yui realises that she and Kiwa are more similar than she’d thought, and expresses a desire to continue living at Mayoiga, which she now counts as a home.

  • Walking out into the garden, Kiwa points out a cherry tree sapling that has begun growing. The tree has put down its roots, and when it matures, it will provide Yui, Hiyori and Kiwa with sakura blossoms every spring. Putting down roots is not a small decision, and the presence of this tree shows that Yui, Hiyori and Kiwa are finally ready to settle down, having found a place to call home and the people to cherish life’s moments with. Overall, Misaki no Mayoiga was an enjoyable film, and while I’m out of my depth when it comes to Japanese mythology, the movie’s overall themes and progression were consistent and meaningful.

  • Coupled with good visuals and a wonderful soundtrack, Misaki no Mayoiga is a movie that has my recommendation: the movie earns an A grade (4.0 of 4.0, or 9 of 10) in my books. I am glad to have taken the time to watch this movie, and with this, my talk on Misaki no Mayoiga draws to a close. We’re now halfway through September, and this corresponds to the ending of the summer anime season. I’ve been following Luminous Witches and Kanojo Okarishimasu on a weekly basis, and will write about both once they wrap up. Lycoris Recoil and RWBY, I am planning to watch in once they conclude in full, and with the time I’ve got, I’ve been catching up on Spy × Family ahead of its second season, which is set to air come October.

Misaki no Mayoiga utilises both the mundane and the supernatural in order to convey its messages, resulting in a film that masterfully combines stunning portrayals of landscapes with vividly detailed renderings of supernatural beings that seamlessly blend together in a touching and meaningful story about recovery following the Tōhoku Earthquake. The topic remains a poignant one because, although more than a decade has elapsed since the earthquake, its impacts are still felt today. Works like Misaki no Mayoiga are an uplifting and encouraging tale for folks, reminding them that so long as they’ve got one another, they can rebuild their homes and communities, and so long as they’ve got their homes, they have a base from which to rebuild their lives and help others to do the same. While the supernatural elements in the film are quite bombastic and stand in stark contrast with the gentler slice-of-life aspects, they serve an important purpose in reminding viewers of how the past may yield some encouragement for people in the present day. Much as how Kiwa draws on mythology to provide Yui and Hiyori stories of strength, and how there is precedence for the problems they each face, Misaki no Mayoiga reminds viewers that lessons from the past remain relevant now. Being a tectonically active nation, earthquakes and volcanos have long impacted the nation, but its people have always been resilient, and will continue to find a way even during moments when it seems that all hope has faded. Overall, while the supernatural piece may come across as a bit jarring compared to the remainder of the aesthetic and tenour within the movie, it is there for a reason, and Misaki no Mayoiga ends up being a worthwhile film to watch; it speaks volumes to the idea of Japanese stoicism and resilience in the face of adversity is, in part, a consequence of community, and also gives viewers the sense that while the disaster may have impacted hundreds of thousands of people, even to this day, the spirit within Japan remains strong, and people have found their way in that time frame.

Revisiting Kantai Collection: The Movie, Remarks On Duality and Accepting One’s Inner Darkness Through Introspection At The Quinquennial

“To become better, you have to admit your ignorance, at least to yourself.” –William A. Pasmore

On this day in 2017, Kantai Collection: The Movie finally became available to overseas viewers after a nine month long wait. While I had been enthusiastic to watch the film, upon finishing my experience, I found that the film had been technically excellent: the animation is superb, and the music was, in my own words, worthy of a feature film such as Letters From Iwo Jima or Isoroku Yamamoto. However, I had been left a shade disappointed with respect to the story, which appeared to leave aspects of Kantai Collection unanswered. As such, with Kantai Collection: The Movie approaching its five year anniversary and Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s release set for November 2022, I felt it was appropriate to give Kantai Collection: The Movie a revisit with a fresh set of eyes. Almost immediately, I found that the me of five years earlier had not been watching the film with both eyes open. Kantai Collection: The Movie makes a meaningful contribution to the franchise through its story, and this aspect is ultimately something that sets it apart from Azur Lane. Throughout Kantai Collection: The Movie, the Kan-musume face a new challenge in the form of an enigmatic voice emanating from Ironbottom Sound, which coincides with Kisaragi’s surprise return, seemingly from the dead. As the film progresses, Kaga reveals that Kan-musume and Abyssals share a close relationship; when one is sunk in combat, they are reborn in the other form, and are cursed to existing in an unending cycle of violence and struggle. While the Kan-musume reason that if they can survive while whittling down the Abyssal’s number, they can end the conflict, this approach actually implies the Kan-musume can only achieve their goal by extermination. In this way, the Kan-musume would become no better than their foe, resorting to force to achieve their aims. This is where Fubuki comes in: while she’s regarded as special in Kantai Collection, no evidence has ever been given of this. In Kantai Collection: The Movie, Fubuki’s single largest contribution is her climactic confrontation with her Abyssal self. Although her Abyssal self attempts to persuade Fubuki that in a world born of suffering, the only recourse is to inflict equivalent suffering unto others, Fubuki rejects this mode of thinking, but also acknowledges that while a changing world can be frightening, the endless cycle of violence can be broken if one accepts that existence is the sum of both joy and sorrow, tranquility and anger, and hope and despair. In short, Fubuki accepts something the other Kan-musume do not: one must accept, and embrace their inner darkness, in order to become whole. This is the acknowledgement that as an individual, one has both positive and negative traits, but rather than attempting to reject one’s negative traits, life is a matter of taking ownership of them and recognising how to manage and work with them. This willingness to understand her own dark side is what makes Fubuki special: she sees her Abyssal self as another part of her, not to be feared or shunned, but to be accepted. In this way, Kantai Collection: The Movie gives Kantai Collection new purpose: winning this war, and breaking the loop, entails giving the other Kan-musume the strength to do the same.

Kantai Collection thus becomes a story of overcoming internal strife through acceptance, and self-empowerment through introspection, which provides the series with a significant amount of depth, far beyond endlessly grinding maps and collecting ships for kicks. While Kantai Collection‘s television series had been an inconsistent amalgamation of comedy and drama, introspection and adventure, Kantai Collection: The Movie dramatically improved on its predecessor’s consistency and messaging. The largest indicator of this is through the film’s incidental music. In the television series, Kantai Collection‘s soundtrack had been an eclectic mix of whimsical slice-of-life pieces, grand combat accompaniments and emotional flourishes, mirroring the series’ portrayal of a wide range of moments in Fubuki and the other Kan-musume‘s lives. Conversely, here in Kantai Collection: The Movie, the entire soundtrack conveys a sense of melancholy and longing. In turn, the whole of the film is an emotional, moving experience, speaking to the isolation that Kisaragi feels after returning, the unsettling feelings associated with the mystery surrounding Ironbottom Sound, and Fubuki’s own journey in coming to terms with who she is. In fact, melancholy permeates the whole of Kantai Collection: The Movie: there is a sense of sadness surrounding what the Kan-musume and Abyssals do, and this aspect of the film speaks to the horrors and desolation that was the Pacific War. The Kan-musume and Abyssals are halves of a whole, of the spirit that went into every destroyer, battleship, aircraft carrier and frigate that was ever commissioned. From the engineers, to the pilots, command craft and crew, each vessel was a home away from home, a friend that looked after its crew in exchange for being cared for, and so, when a ship was sunk in battle, these feelings manifested in the form of a grudge, decrying the unfairness of this world and at how easily so much effort and respect could be undone. Kantai Collection: The Movie forces viewers to be made aware of this fact, and in conjunction with Fubuki’s special nature, the film suggests that it is possible to move on from these injustices by first forgiving oneself and accepting one’s own inner darkness as the starting point. Five years after Kantai Collection: The Movie‘s home release and my subsequent review of the film, it becomes clear that the movie is remarkably mature, and back then, I lacked the maturity and wisdom to pick these messages up.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My revisit of Kantai Collection: The Movie comes as a result of Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s imminent release, and this me to rewatch the film. This time around, I’m rolling the Director’s Cut, which features three more minutes of footage depicting the sprites assisting the Kan-musume. Right out of the gates, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia when starting the film, which opens with a night battle that sees the Kan-musume succeed over their adversaries, the Abyssals. The scene is set to Natsumi Kameoka’s compositions, which added considerable audio depth to the film and series as a whole.

  • I found Azur Lane‘s music to be of a comparable quality, and generally speaking, both Kantai Collection and Azur Lane are distinct in their own way. One aspect about Kantai Collection I did prefer over Azur Lane is the attention paid to detail in the Kan-musume: their loadouts and gear are more consistent and thoughtfully designed compared to their counterparts in Azur Lane. However, Azur Lane‘s charm is that ships from a larger range of navies are shown, and the resulting factions opens the floor to a different kind of story, whereas here in Kantai Collection, the conflict is strictly Kan-musume versus Abyssals.

  • On the weekend after Kantai Collection: The Movie was released five years earlier, I went to the local mall and drove out to the town over to take a stroll in their historical Ranche Park. I recall revisiting the park again a few months later; during this time, my first start-up was showing signs of failure, and I wanted to take a step back. As I sat on the hillside overlooking the park, I promised myself that I would return to this park in the future, under better circumstances. Over the past few years, between a busy schedule and the global health crisis, plans to revisit this park were put on hold.

  • However, with the vacation time I’ve had available to me this year, I was able to capitalise on an opportunity to return. After four years since I’d set foot at the historic Ranche Park, I thus returned, under tremendously sunny skies, to the viewpoint overlooking the town where I gazed across the valley as I had done four years earlier; the park has remained unchanged since I was here last, and a feeling of nostalgia washed over me. I allowed myself to live in the moment, in the realisation that I’d fulfilled a promise to better myself and revisit the park again. A week later, I would head over to the mall again. As I had done five years earlier, I enjoyed New York Fries’ Premium Chili-Cheese-and-Bacon Dog and Poutine Combo before heading off to pick up a foam pillow.

  • Upon revisiting the things I’d done five years earlier, under completely different circumstances, it dawned on me that with this additional life experience, rewatching Kantai Collection: The Movie again might’ve been a worthwhile endeavour because I would return with a fresh set of eyes. Since finishing the movie in 2017, I set down Kantai Collection and never returned to it. As such, all of my remarks surrounding the series in my later posts on Uma Musume Pretty Derby and Azur Lane were based on opinions that stem back from this time.

  • While some of my thoughts and impressions haven’t changed (I still feel that there’s a mystique surrounding the southern Pacific Islands that Kantai Collection: The Movie captures perfectly), my appreciation of the film’s main themes and intentions have increased. This is because back in 2017, I hadn’t quite been watching the film with an effort of trying to understand what the creators were trying to say. As it was, while Kantai Collection: The Movie was superb from an audio and visual perspective, I felt disappointed because the film hadn’t appeared to answer the questions I sought about the series or show its contributions to the franchise.

  • As it turns out, had I made a more sincere attempt in understanding things, I would’ve found Kantai Collection: The Movie to act as a conclusive presentation of how Kantai Collection works. Granted, there are some abstract moments in the theme, but these weren’t intended to willingly obscure or obfuscate the film’s main themes. In the present day, I make an attempt to see what a film wants to say with its narrative, and if a work has a cohesive message that is relevant, I am satisfied. Some folks believe that works of fiction must necessarily do more than this to succeed, but for me, the starting point of enjoying any work is the presence of a clear theme.

  • Throughout Kantai Collection, Fubuki had been presented as being special, but the television series never quite explored what this was. From the television series alone, one might gain the impression that Fubuki was special because, as a seemingly-generic individual with no distinct identifying traits in her personality, she could adapt and grow into whatever role was asked of her. However, Kantai Collection: The Movie suggests that Fubuki’s personality makes her uniquely suited for facing the problem that Kan-musume and Abyssals face.

  • This is because, once every character’s endless cycle between Kan-musume and Abyssal state is known, the Kan-musume determine that they can win the war by eliminating the Abyssals at a much greater rate than they themselves are sunk. On this logic, if no new Abyssals are created, then only Kan-musume will remain, and peace is attained in this fashion. However, given Kan-musume and Abyssals exist as a result of the unanswered feelings from the original World War Two naval vessels, the Kan-musume‘s plan would be akin to completely dismissing and suppressing the negative emotions within oneself.

  • This is, of course, a very unhealthy way of life, and in the context of Kantai Collection, the Kan-musume would be waging a war of extermination against the Abyssals. The Abyssals, being born from feelings of regret, hatred and pain, seek to destroy the Kan-musume, but the Kan-musume are supposed to represent optimism, hope and compassion. As such, while the idea of fighting the Abyssals to extinction works from a functional perspective, it would actually contradict the values that the Kan-musume themselves embody – annihilating one’s foes outright, rather than accepting their existence and reaching a mutual co-existence, usually will not lead to the solution one desires.

  • This is the sort of thing that period discussions surrounding Kantai Collection: The Movie were generally missing – a quick Google search for reviews of this movie will actually find my review, along with several others, topping the results. All of these reviews, mine included, conclude the series is best suited for fans of the series and is beautifully animated, but the story was confusing. Similarly, folks at AnimeSuki weren’t convinced that the film’s narrative could stand of its own accord and concluded the film had no emotional weight because the film focused purely on Fubuki. Some forum members suggest that Fubuki’s role as being special was naught more than a convenient plot device, and that the film should’ve had everyone fight Kisaragi or similar in order to have any depth.

  • However, to fight Kisaragi would be to promote destruction over understanding, and as I’d noted earlier, this would stand against the thing that the Kan-musume are supposed to represent. Since AnimeSuki nowadays appears adverse to perspectives that are not their own, I imagine I’d probably incur a ban for suggesting that these interpretations of the film are incomplete, and that the version of the film their members preferred to see would only reinforce the message that one’s foes should be destroyed. This mindset is precisely why the world is so divided: thanks in no small part to polarising media and social media, the world has increasingly trended towards an “us versus them” mindset, as opposed to acknowledging that problems can (and should) be solved by accepting the fact that other sides will exist, and that a solution in the middle, more often than not, can be reached.

  • At Tango-Victor-Tango, the forum-goers similarly characterised this movie as being poorly explained and hollow. Prima facie, my original review agreed with these perspectives. However, these perspectives, mine included, fail to take into account all of the design choices within Kantai Collection: The Movieboth the melancholy tenour that permeates the film, and the lingering sense of mystery come together to act as an analogy for the inner conflict between one’s best and worst self. I concede that it takes reading between the lines to draw this conclusion, but when everything in Kantai Collection: The Movie is summed up, it looks like the film had strove to convey how a real-world challenge that people face can drive the mechanisms behind those of a fictional world, enough to provide a plausible explanation for how players can collect ships and why they must fight the Abyssals.

  • As it stands, Kantai Collection had begun life as a game, and the game’s goals had proven to be quite simple. Attempting to fit a story around everything demands uncommon creativity from the writers, doubly so because Kantai Collection had been designed around the moé aesthetic. Azur Lane, when it came out five years later, found itself succumbing to the same problems that affected Kantai Collection, but when it released a spin-off, Slow Ahead, the problems vanished. This is because the mood in Slow Ahead matched the general vibe from the game more closely than the original series had. Had Kantai Collection originally aired as a light-hearted slice-of-life akin to Slow Ahead, it may have been considerably more accessible and effective in introducing the characters.

  • I’ve been a longtime defender of Fubuki and Yoshika-like characters in military-moé series, and the reason why this is the case is simple – providing a common archetype, the tabula rosa, allows for a naïve character to become shaped by their experiences and develop their potential. Without any other identifying traits, such characters become worth rooting for because they have nothing more than their effort and grit to go on. Because every world has different attributes, the same archetypes end up completely different as a result of their journeys.

  • The last segments of Kantai Collection: The Movie is the most significant part of the film, and also the least discussed. It is here that what makes Fubuki unique is explored: she alone doesn’t carry lingering feelings of resentment and hatred against her other half, or her fate, as the other Kan-musume do, and so, she is able to sail Ironbottom Sound without suffering the damaging effects from the area’s unusual waters. The phenomenon might be see as the combined grudges of the ships sunk here manifesting in physical form, compelling Kan-musume to give in to their negative feelings, and the damage to their gear is a visual metaphor for how being surrounded by negativity can chip at one’s well-being and confidence.

  • Whereas I missed this previously, Kantai Collection: The Movie makes it clear that Fubuki and her Abyssal self are two sides of the same coin. During the catastrophes of the Pacific War, the spirits imbibed by each vessel, the sum of the sailors, officers and engineers that ran each ship, eventually split in two from the torment and injustice of defeat. The positive feelings would become the Kan-musume, and the negative feelings became the Abyssals. Since then, these two sides have been at odds with one another, seeking to extinguish the other. However, the reality is that light cannot exist without darkness.

  • It is similarly unrealistic to eliminate negative feelings in oneself; when people say to “embrace their darkness”, they are referring to having enough emotional maturity to acknowledge that there are things that make one insecure, weak, et cetera. However, rather than trying to evade it, one becomes empowered by facing them head on. For instance, I’m impatient and quick to anger, quick to deal out judgement. I manage this by turning my impatience into an exercise of patience, of willing myself to take a step back and come back to something later. If later, my feelings of negativity go away, then it becomes clear that whatever had been bothering me was of no consequence. Conversely, if the feelings persist, I turn that restlessness and channel it towards something positive.

  • In confronting her Abyssal self, Fubuki demonstrates a sort of maturity that the other Kan-musume have not. She believes that having hope for the future is what allows one to put their best foot forward, and unsurprisingly, Fubuki’s Abyssal self cannot see why this is. Negative emotions can be all-consuming, and it takes strength to manage them. An exercise folks suggest is to write out the things that bothers one, and see if they can’t find any instances where those negative emotions led one to do something positive: this is supposed to help one understand that negativity is not dominating, and that there is nothing wrong with being human.

  • Because there’d been so little discussion of Kantai Collection: The Movie, one talk that did bring up the symbolism and imagery within the film still stands out to me. While I recognise the effort made towards interpreting these elements, their conclusion only merits partial credit. I can’t quite remember where I read this, but it was suggested that, when Fubuki finally faces her Abyssal self mano-a-mano, the red Spider Lilies that bloom were meant to represent reincarnation. However, the scene in Kantai Collection: The Movie unfolds as follows: Fubuki approaches her other half, and crumbles away from the effort. However, her Abyssal self also crumbles. In spite of this, Fubuki persists and manages to limp to her other half, embracing her tearfully and reassuring her that no one is going to be forgotten, that in spite of what’s happened, people will still be there for them.

  • According to hanakotoba, red Spider Lilies represent a final farewell, and bloom when people part ways permanently. While their usage in funerals led to their being associated with death, originally, red Spider Lilies simply refer to a parting of ways. What’s happened here is something similar to what I’ve experienced. In Chinese culture, killing black moths that enter one’s home is verboten because it is believed these moths house the spirits of the deceased. When a black moth entered my home, my parents told me to leave it be, and I later asked for clarification. From my grasp of Cantonese, I gathered they housed spirits, but missed the specific detail that these spirits may belong to one’s ancestors.

  • If I were to explain this to someone else, I would’ve probably butchered the story and concluded that moths are cursed. It is not surprising, then, that meanings can be lost over time, and similarly, anime are fond of using red Spider Lilies to symbolise death, when in reality, they were used by farmers to keep vermin away before being used at funerals for their distinct appearance: the red Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata, is poisonous. Kantai Collection: The Movie chooses to utilise the red Spider Lily correctly, rendering a field of them blooming as Fubuki bids her Abyssal form farewell before preparing to merge with her.

  • I don’t consider this a rebirth because what happens here is ultimately the restoration of two halves back into its original form. Reincarnation is best described as the process by which an individual’s soul is transplanted to another physical body. While one might then make the case that Fubuki is reborn in a metaphoric sense, the reality is that Fubuki herself prior to this merger still believed in accepting her other half. There is no significant change to her personality, and she’s not imbibing a lesson or experience that leaves her in a different place. On the other hand, a final farewell is an appropriate descriptor because by accepting her Abyssal self, Fubuki becomes whole again with an entity that had, until now, been an independent being with her own agency.

  • This entire scene is set to the track “Hope” (希望, Hepburn kibо̄), the single most moving and touching song on the Kantai Collection: The Movie soundtrack. Whenever I hear this song, my mind immediately whisks me back to the Ranche Park, and in this song, every emotion from Kantai Collection: The Movie is captured in a single, succinct track lasting a minute and forty-five seconds. In this track, the use of piano, string and woodwind simultaneously creates a feeling of wistfulness and empathy, of longing for a better future.

  • Far more than the red Spider Lilies, the true significance of the flower field scene in Kantai Collection: The Movie actually occurs when Fubuki finally embraces her Abyssal self. This is a very literal form of embracing one’s dark side, and shows how there’s nothing to fear. In doing this, Fubuki demonstrates that she’s overcome what troubles the other ship girls, and this acceptance liberates Abyssal Fubuki from her torment; her Abyssal self had existed in loneliness, so being accepted by someone, least of all the person who matters most to her, would show Fubuki’s Abyssal self that there is indeed hope, and that it is time to let go. With the farewell over, the entire scene dissolves.

  • Without Abyssal Fubuki’s grudge driving the opposing forces, Abyssal forces begin to disappear, and the film hits its dénouement. In the aftermath, Kisaragi and Mutsuki share a tearful moment before parting ways. Although Kisaragi’s return is a large part of the story, it ultimately became secondary to Fubuki’s journey, but, despite lacking more detail, I saw it as a show of how Abyssal or not, Kisaragi’s choices is what makes her a Kan-musume. While the film saw her slowly consumed by Abyssal traits owing to her lingering feelings of regret, in her heart, she still wants to return to the others. Seeing this is a cathartic release following the film’s build-up, and with the Abyssal presence neutralised, the Abyssal Kisaragi vanishes.

  • This exercise, in revisiting Kantai Collection: The Movie, represented a chance for me to reflect on how I’ve changed as a blogger. While the film still remains unable to convince me to play the browser game, I now see the movie as a sincere effort to give more weight to the world that Fubuki and the Kan-musume inhabit. In this function, Kantai Collection: The Movie is successful. Looking back, going back and revisiting a work after some time has passed, especially a work one has already written about, is a fantastic exercise for bloggers. Doing this allows one to reflect on how their thoughts and opinions change over time, and how life experiences may shape their experiences of something, potentially helping one to be a more consistent and confident writer.

  • In this way, I’ve come to remind myself that opinions certainly aren’t immutable, and works that I’ve disagreed with previously do have more merit to them than I’d initially thought. Kantai Collection: The Movie is one such example, and it was quite instructive to go back and revisit the film: while my original review was still somewhat positive, I have noticed that of late, I’ve been increasingly unfair towards Kantai Collection in my other posts. Returning to watch the movie anew, with a fresh set of eyes, has helped me greatly in remembering what Kantai Collection had been going for by the time its movie was released.

  • Having revisited Kantai Collection: The Movie, it becomes clear that Fubuki’s story is over. Itsuka Ano Umi de is going to focus on Shigure, and all of the promotional materials have suggested that this second season of Kantai Collection is going to be more serious than its predecessor. Set for release in November, I’m currently still working out how I’d like to write about this one, since Itsuka Ano Umi de airs during the same season as Yama no Susume: Next Summit. While it’s great to be seeing more Kantai Collection after all this time, I admit that, like the wistfulness conveyed here in Kantai Collection: The Movie, there is a bit of melancholy surrounding Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s release: five years have passed since the film’s release, and a nontrivial number of this series’ fans likely would’ve already moved on.

  • While Kantai Collection: The Movie had been all-business, Mutsuki does get a happy ending: Kisaragi returns to her in full, appearing to be fully cured of her previous affliction. If I had to guess, assuming that Itsuka Ano Umi de is set after Kantai Collection: The Movie, it is possible that the story could focus on Shigure coming to terms with her own inner darkness. The original IJN Shigure’s story is a tragic one: originally dubbed “invincible”, the Shigure was sunk after being hit by a torpedo from the submarine, USS Blackfin, at Gulf of Siam in January 1945. As such, with my curiosity in this sequel piqued, I am interested to see what directions Kantai Collection will take next. In the meantime, we are on the doorsteps of September: this is going to be the last post for the month, and since I am hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase, I am presently working on making this showcase one worthy of the community.

Revisiting Kantai Collection: The Movie thus becomes an important exercise for myself and this blog, because it shows how important it is to look inward and understand oneself, as well as accept how one’s life experiences can shift their opinions over time. In reflecting on these changes, one becomes more informed of their own values, and comes out a stronger individual as a result. I’ve never believed in clinging onto old opinions as absolute, and acknowledge that over time, things do change. In 2017, I was of the mind that Cocoapods was little more than bloatware that made it difficult to modify and update an iOS app. However, had I stuck with this belief, I would be a lesser developer for it. My experiences would subsequently show me that I was wrong, and I’ve never been too proud to own up to the fact I made a mistake. After taking the plunge and accepting Cocoapods, I became a better iOS developer, integrating new libraries into my project more elegantly and recognising that there are other excellent developers out there whose existing efforts can both inform me of how to improve myself, and save me time on a project. Similarly, with Kantai Collection: The Movie, I now see a series that strove to remind viewers that beyond the game’s mechanics, a very inspiring tale was told to give the characters’ experiences more weight and moreover, this tale holds applicability even now. Kantai Collection: The Movie has therefore aged very gracefully, presenting messages that remain relevant to this day. As such, I am not so proud that I won’t redact my earlier commentary about this series: Kantai Collection, through its movie, did say something meaningful, and despite over six years having elapsed since the film’s original screening in Japan, Itsuka Ano Umi de still remains relevant, as this second season may potentially expand upon the film’s themes and show the sort of change that Fubuki had laid down the groundwork for. Itsuka Ano Umi de will consist of eight episodes and begin airing in November, and while Kantai Collection may not be as popular as it had been back in 2017, the series still has life in it yet, with Itsuka Ano Umi de possessing the potential of reminding viewers why a six year wait for Kantai Collection‘s second season was completely worthwhile.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island, A Review and Reflection and Remarks on Human Faces Amidst Warfare

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” –G.K. Chesterton

Following the battle at Jaburo, the Federation prepare to capture Odessa, a Zeon stronghold. After arriving in Belfast, Amuro and White Base resupply before receiving unexpected orders to eliminate Zeon forces stationed at Alegranza, a remote island, after Federation forces sent there were wiped out. When Amuro arrives with Kai Shinden and Hayato Kobayashi, they are shocked to learn that there are children on the island, and moreover, rather than Zeon forces, Amuro encounters a lone Zaku that overcomes him in combat. After coming to, Amuro meets the Zaku’s pilot, a man named Cucuruz Doan, and sets off in search of the Gundam, which he’d lost during the encounter. Although he is unable to find the Gundam, Amuro finds that the islanders, many of them children, live a life of moral simplicity, working with one another to maintain the island’s infrastructure and their very means of survival. Meanwhile, after an overwhelming performance at Casablanca, Zeon’s Southern Cross team is assigned to assist with an operation – Zeon General M’Quve begins negotiations with the Federation’s General Gopp as a ruse for his plan to decimate critical Federation cities using a hidden MIRV. As it turns out, Zeon had placed a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile there as an ace-in-the-hole, but find themselves unable to utilise it because of communications jamming. Thus, the Southern Cross are assigned to investigate Alegranza and determine if there’s a saboteur there. As Amuro’s gone missing, Bright Noa quietly orders a search team sent out to search for Amuro even as the Federation begin preparing for their attack on Gibraltar, delaying their launch to give his team a chance to find Amuro. Amuro himself comes to understand Cucuruz and impresses him when he is able to help fix a broken water main. While searching for his Gundam, Amuro learns that Marco, one of the oldest boys on the island, also wants to help Cucuruz fight. Surprised that Amuro made it to Cucuruz’s workspace, Marco and Amuro briefly engage in fisticuffs. Cucuruz sends both back, forbidding them from going further. It turns out that Cucuruz had once been a formidable pilot, but deserted Zeon after being ordered to fire upon children during a battle. When another storm hits Alegranza, Amuro repairs power to the generator, giving the children light for the first time in a while. He also reactivates the lighthouse, impressing Marco. The power confirms to White Base’s search party that the island is inhabited, but it also eliminates any doubt in the Southern Cross’ mind that Cucuruz is on the island. They begin their operation to launch the ballistic missile; Danan, Selma and Egba engage Cucuruz with their custom Zakus, while Wald and Sanho infiltrate Cucuruz’s silo and manually prepare the missile for launch. While they are successful, Amuro manages to retrieve his Gundam with help from Marco. He eliminates both Wald and Sanho before stepping in to fight Egba, who’d disarmed Cucuruz. Recalling how Cucuruz had defeated him, Amuro uses island’s geography to surprise Egba before finishing him off. In the aftermath, the missile launches, but its payload detonates harmlessly in the atmosphere – Cucuruz had been successful in sabotaging the missiles. M’Quve laughs off their failure to destroy key Federation cities, and Amuro reunites with Fraw Bow, as well as the others on White Base. He realises that so long as Cucuruz keeps the Zaku, trouble will continue to find him, and offers to discard the Zaku. Cucuruz consents, and the two group part ways on amicable terms, with the islanders hope that they can preserve peace in their home the same way Amuro and Cucuruz do.

Cucuruz Doan’s Island is the latest Gundam instalment, returning to the Universal Century’s One Year War and Amuro’s journey in fighting for what he believes is right. However, at this point in his career, Amuro is still very much a novice pilot unfamiliar with the horrors and demands of warfare; he only pilots the Gundam reluctantly, and Bright Noa expresses as much, stating that he’s only as strict as he is with Amuro in order to remind him of the importance of doing his duty to protect those around him. When Amuro is defeated and meets Cucuruz, Cucuruz’s words to Amuro are simple: he fights to protect those on his island as a means of atoning for the sins he committed on the battlefield. By having Amuro meet someone whose actions are motivated by nothing more than a desire to defend life, Amuro comes to realise that Cucuruz wasn’t so much fighting to kill those who were on the other side, as much as he was trying to keep the islanders safe from whatever conflicts the outside world might bring with them. The reason why Cucuruz spared Amuro was because he recognised the machine that, even at this point in the war, developed a fearsome reputation for mangling Zeon forces despite its pilot’s inexperience. Meeting Amuro and hearing him out allows Cucuruz to similarly realise that warfare only results in bloodshed. While Gundam series are best known for their mobile suit combat scenes, exploring the human stories for both Federation and Zeon characters alike is meaningful because it shows how wasteful warfare is, and how where given the choice, rational individuals would very much prefer to live their lives peacefully, free of armed conflict. In every Gundam series, conflicts are motivated by a combination of ideology, greed and a lust for destruction perpetrated by those who are in power and have every reason to cling onto this power. Through their perverse desire, corrupt politicians and military leaders manipulate soldiers into dying, often needlessly; when soldiers are freed from their obligations and given a chance to see their opponents’ faces, to talk things out, they often find that they are more alike than different. This is precisely what happens in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, and although it represents only one detour in Amuro’s journey, understanding Cururuz helps Amuro to become a more resolute pilot. While he still values human life and only reluctantly pulls the trigger, Amuro understands that there are circumstances that demand he act decisively. These learnings allow Amuro to help stop the Southern Cross from escaping and potentially giving his allies further trouble, and ultimately would impact how he fights his counterpart and arch-rival, Char Aznable, as the One Year War rages on.

Cucuruz Doan’s Island is a fantastic addition to the Universal Century for showing one step in Amuro’s growth. In addition to this, it also brings to light a side of Gundam that is rarely seen – even somewhere as grim as the Universal Century, there can be humour, as well. Bright Noa arranges for a series of phoney delays to give White Base the justification they need to stick around and look for Amuro while Mirai suppresses her laughter. When Sleggar Law attempts to convince Sayla to operate the Core Booster, he words things in such a way as to earn himself a slap to the face. Upon arriving on Alegranza, Kai and Hayato manage to escape their damaged Guncannons, and for their troubles, are rammed by a rampaging goat. The presence of children do much to to lighten the mood in Cucuruz Doan’s Island: a war might be raging, but the combatants and civilians alike are still human, able to experience both sorrow and joy. Seeing the characters smile and laugh gives additional weight to Amuro’s fight. Amuro is defending the children’s smiles the same way Cucuruz was defending Alegranza’s residents. Humour is a fantastic element to employ because it humanises the characters and gives weight to their goals. Jun Maeda is no stranger to this approach, and although people attribute his stories’ emotional impact to over-written scenarios, the reality is that Maeda gives characters a chance to see what individuals are like before tragedy strikes. Here in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, the approach taken is unlikely to satisfy individuals who believe that grim, dark tones equate to realism, and that tragedy corresponds to maturity. However, to suppose that only suffering can create meaningful context for growth would be to eliminate an entire aspect of one’s being. Here in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, Amuro’s growth is precisely driven by the fact that viewers have a chance to see what peace brings to people, and why it’s worth defending. By giving viewers a chance to laugh at Kai’s antics, or the daily lives of the children on Alegranza, a juxtaposition is created between the atrocities both the Earth Federation and Zeon governments are willing to commit in order to achieve their supremacy, and the everyday lives of both Earth Federation and Zeon citizens would rather live.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll open this post with the combat between Cucuruz and an unnamed Federation pilot running a GM. The RGM-79 GM is the earliest mass production Federation model, being a cut-down RX-78 II with superior acceleration and the ability to equip various weapons – its design and role would later inspire Gundam SEED‘s GAT-01 Strike Dagger, which was similarly a cut-down Strike Gundam designed for mass production. Although the GM is made cannon fodder in Gundam and slaughtered en mass by named pilots, the design paradigms follow closely how real-life prototypes enter mass production. In Cucuruz Doan’s Island, the film opens with a group of GMs attempting to fend off Cucuruz’s Zaku. Before delving further into this discussion, I note that Cucuruz Doan’s Island premièred on June 2 in Japanese theatres, but the BDs became available shortly after for overseas viewers to check out. Unlike other publishers, Sunrise understands that a short release delay is the best way to maintain interest in a series and drive sales. Other studios (especially CoMix Wave and Showgate) could take a leaf from Sunrise’s book – rather than waiting eleven months to release BDs, strive to release them within a few weeks of the theatrical opening date.

  • Although the original Zaku is technically inferior to a GM in terms of durability and firepower (a single shot from the beam spray gun would be enough to neutralise the Zaku), Cururuz is an uncommonly talented pilot, and despite lacking any ranged weapons, makes use of his heat hawk to completely destroy the GM team, as well as their landing craft. The loss of forces that stumble upon Alegranza is what prompts the events of Cucuruz Doan’s Island: Federation forces become convinced that Zeon remnant forces occupy the otherwise uninhabited island and therefore, may pose a threat to their operation.

  • At this point in his career, Bright Noa is a junior lieutenant, although after an attack on White Base kills much of the original crew, Bright becomes the de facto captain of the ship. Bright would subsequently go on to bring the White Base to Luna II while evading Zeon forces, before crash-landing on Earth and attempting to reach allied territory. The elements of the original Mobile Suit Gundam eventually make their way over to Gundam SEED, with the Archangel, Murrue Ramius and Kira Yamato replacing White Base, Bright Noa and Amuro Ray, respectively.

  • Bright presents himself as a strict leader who does his utmost to rally those around him, and believes in discipline. This is how he’s able to maintain order and a command hierarchy amongst the civilians that have boarded White Base; besides Amuro, Fraw Bow, Kai Shinden and Hayato Kobayashi also join White Base’s crew. In The Origin, Kai Shinden and his friends are portrayed as minor delinquents who get into hot water with authority figures owing to their curiosity and disregard for rules, but when the events at Side Seven force them into combat, Amuro and his friends, however reluctantly, do become an integral part of the Federation effort to repel the Zeon forces.

  • Mirai Yashima was previously seen as a helmsman of sorts in Gundam Origin and becomes White Base’s helmsman, as well – she offers advice to Bright where appropriate and is seen guiding him whenever he doubts his own leadership; being astute and driven to improve, Bright often reflects on the way he does things. Here, he wonders if he’s being too strict on Amuro and the others. From an external point of view, Bright is doing precisely the right thing. I recall a similar conversation in Tom Clancy’s Locked On, where John Clark reminds Jack Ryan Jr. that chains of command exist so soldiers act cohesively under stress, but he understands how can be difficult for civilians to get used to this fact.

  • Bright’s orders are simple enough: his higher-ups order him to send out a reconnaissance team to investigate Alegranza, and to this end, the Gundam, plus two Guncannons, are sent out. The island appears uninhabited, until children suddenly appear and begin throwing rocks at Kai’s Guncannon. The presence of children on Alegranza foreshadow what Cucuruz Doan’s Island deals with, and meanwhile, Amuro himself wonders at what awaits them on an island that’s a little too quiet. The designs of the cockpits in Cucuruz Doan’s Island and The Origin speak volumes to how quickly mobile suits advance. Here in UC 0079, cockpits use flat-panel monitors and analogue controls, but by the events of UC 0093, cockpits are immensely sophisticated and provide a full 360° panorama.

  • When The Origin concluded back in July 2018, I was a little disappointed that the series hadn’t given viewers a cameo appearance of the RX-78 II, which had been shown to be in development as being the answer for Zeon’s Zaku mobile suits. The Origin did give viewers a glimpse of Bright Noa and White Base as they set off on their first assignment to retrieve the RX-78 II, and overall, when I finished The Origin, I was immensely satisfied. The Origin began back when I was in graduate school, and originally, I’d figured that it would finish similarly by the time I was graduating; the third episode aired a month before my defense, and the fourth episode was scheduled close to my convocation.

  • However, the producers determined that more episodes were needed to adequately present the story. Two new episodes were added to the line-up, greatly expanding things and also giving The Origin a chance to showcase the large-scale battles between Zeon and the Federation. Here in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, viewers get their first look at the completed RX-78 II, a revolutionary mobile suit that uses mega-particles to drive its weapons system, giving it exceptional firepower. Amuro is prevented from using his beam rifle at close quarters, which is capable of destroying any mobile suit of its time with a single shot, and when facing off against Cururuz’s Zaku, he is forced to switch over to his beam sabres.

  • Pushed against the cliff, Amuro attempts to attack, only for the ground to give way. He tumbles into the ocean and is knocked unconscious, but later reawakens in a small hut and is surprised to learn that the door isn’t locked. The islanders look at him with hostility – it turns out that the children on the island were orphaned by the One Year War and dislike soldiers for failing to protect the people. Cururuz does nothing to stop Amuro from leaving, knowing the island’s harsh conditions will soon result in Amuro returning to them.

  • Since he’d had a rough idea of where the Gundam had fallen, Amuro attempts to trek across the five kilometre wide island on his own. He ends up at a massive crater in the island and is forced to turn back as both night and exhaustion sets in. Early on, it was clear that Amuro would not find the Gundam this quickly: had he simply located it, he likely would’ve left and rejoined White Base as they prepared for the operation at Odessa. This wouldn’t allow Amuro to see the One Year War from a different perspective, which is the crux of Cucuruz Doan’s Island‘s story.

  • Knowing that Amuro would be struggling in the island’s desolate landscape, Cururuz sends Cara out to look for him, and she is shocked to learn that Amuro had made it all the way to the crater. He gratefully accepts the water she’s brought, along with her invitation to dinner. In his position, Amuro quickly realises that he must make his way back to White Base, without the Gundam, things will become trickier. His heart never strays from locating his machine, but for now, Amuro also spots that he’s probably going to be here for a while.

  • The children on the island initially do not take kindly to Amuro’s presence. As an outsider and a soldier, Amuro is seen as being a threat and unaccustomed to the way Cururuz does things. However, Amuro appears to show no objection to Cururuz’s suggestion that he’ll need to earn his keep on the island, much as the others do. While the island life would deviate from what Amuro is used to, spending time in the armed forces, under Bright’s eye slowly begins imparting a shift in him, too; Amuro becomes acclimatised to doing what he’s told and living a spartan life.

  • I would imagine that landing on the island and doing what he can to survive reinforces what Bright had been trying to show Amuro; although Bright had been vehemently opposed to Amuro piloting the Gundam early on, he quickly spots that Amuro has a natural affinity for the machine and is the only one capable of using it to keep the Zeon forces off their back. Thus, when Amuro refuses to pilot the Gundam and evade his responsibility in Mobile Suit Gundam, Bright motivates him in one of Gundam‘s most iconic moments with the now-legendary Bright Slap.

  • That Cururuz Doan’s Island brings this moment back (in flashback) with modernised visuals would represent a welcoming call-back to the original series. The moment is referenced in numerous other series – Amuro’s “not even my own father hit me” is as well recognised as the Bright Slap itself, and as a curious bit of trivia, Amuro’s voice actor, Tōru Furuya, similarly was struck by author Yoshiyuki Tomino after Tomino became displeased with the recording sessions’ progress. Tomino then told Furuya that all of the shock and indignation he’d felt there was how Amuro would be feeling, which in turn became Furuya’s now-famous delivery of those lines in Mobile Suit Gundam.

  • Upon learning that Amuro might’ve been shot down, Bright struggles to do what he believes is right (delaying departure and rescuing Amuro), and following orders from the top. Bright is in an unenviable position; although there is a war to fight, the Gundam has become a significant asset in their arsenal and, together with White Base’s cutting edge equipment, has been the reason why a novice crew has been able to give Zeon forces so much trouble. As Bright contemplates following orders, Fraw Bow loses composure and breaks out in tears at the though of losing Amuro.

  • Meanwhile, M’Quve and Gopp enter negotiations about Gibraltar: M’Quve wishes for the Federation to hold off on their operation and indicates they have an ace-in-the-hole in event of the Federation’s refusal to comply. Gopp appears unconcerned with M’Quve’s threats, but M’Quve is confident in his ability to make good on his promises should the invasion proceed. At this point in time, the Antarctic Treaty prevents both Zeon and Federation forces from resorting to weapons of mass destruction, but M’Quve indicates that Zeon isn’t particularly respectful of their terms. Although prima facie giving Zeon a massive advantage, Zeon actually had limited resources to wage war long-term, and this would buy enough time for the Federation to rebuild their forces, including the development of their own mobile suits.

  • M’Quve’s plan is contingent on something stored on Alegranza, and whatever this is is important enough to warrant withdrawing the elite Southern Cross team. With their high mobility Zakus (which would inspire the high mobility Tieren in Gundam 00), the Southern Cross are able to turn the entire tide of a battle on their own. At Casablanca, they rescue a detachment of Zeon forces that were slowly being overrun by Federation forces: high mobility Zakus are equipped with thrusters on their legs that allow them to hover and move with a far greater speed than standard Zakus.

  • Each of the Southern Cross’ Zakus utilise a loadout suited to the pilot’s preferences, and here, one of the members fires an anti-materiel rifle against a Federation GM, blowing its head unit apart with a single well-placed shot. The team’s members only nominally get along with one another, but in the battlefield, their coordination and teamwork are sufficient to overwhelm the comparatively disorganised Federation GMs. GMs have the unfortunate distinction of being easily destroyed, and in the original Mobile Suit Gundam, their simplistic design belie the fact that they’re still sophisticated machines meant to act as the Federation’s answer for the Zaku.

  • The disparity in machines appears to be the fact that, while Zakus are technically inferior to GMs, Zeon possesses better pilots – The Origin shows that Zeon’s mobile suit program has existed for longer than the Federations, giving them additional time to train pilots. While the Federation’s Gundam and the GM derivatives are excellent machines, their pilots are significantly less familiar with them, nullifying any technical advantage the GMs possess. Mobile suit combat in Cucuruz Doan’s Island might not be as frequent as one might expect, but this is in keeping with the film’s themes, and moreover, what combat sequences that are shown are wonderfully animated, really showing the weight and scale of each engagement between individual pilots.

  • The lack of mobile suit combat in Cucuruz Doan’s Island was a point of contention for Anime News Network, who suggested that the Southern Cross are “shallow filler” and the film as a whole was “[lacking] of variety in the action”. As previously noted, the emphasis on the human side of things in Cucuruz Doan’s Island means that more time is spent on Amuro interacting with Cucuruz and the islanders. The Southern Cross are therefore less of a foe than Amuro’s own doubts; while he was knocked out, Amuro dreams uneasily of his own mother rejecting his decision to take up arms, and Amuro himself is torn between using force to defend those important to him.

  • As such, it is plain that Anime News Network’s expectations of Gundam clearly differ than my own, and I’ll remark that folks looking for intense mobile suit combat set in the Universal Century won’t be disappointed by works like Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt. Back in Cururuz Doan’s Island, Cururuz is seen working on the schematics to what appears to be an MIRV, but there is never any doubt in the viewers’ minds that he’s no sleeper operative; in a flashback, Cururuz refuses to fire on civilians, and this is what led him to desert. When Amuro sets off to try and find his Gundam, Cururuz lends him his hat and canteen – he knows that Amuro can’t stay on the island forever.

  • Back on White Base, the children have barricaded themselves in the bathroom and refuse to come out until the crew promise to rescue Amuro. Although there is little Bright can openly do about things, he clandestinely authorises a search and rescue mission. Sleggar Law, an ace pilot, decides to help out, and after managing to convince the children to come back out, organises the search team. Sleggar forms the basis for Gundam SEED‘s Mu La Flaga: both are amicable and exceptionally skilled pilots, but also have a tendency to flirt with the ladies. When Sleggar explains his plan to Sayla here, he earns himself admonishment to the face.

  • In the end, Sleggar is able to convince Sayla to operate the Core Booster, although Kai and Hayato are exasperated that Sleggar used such a means to accomplish his goal. Moments like these quickly indicated to me that Cucuruz Doan’s Island was going to incorporate humour together with the more serious moments, and while this seems out of place in Gundam, it is effective because it reminds viewers that behind every machine is a human being. Later Gundam series are all-business; there are some moments that may elicit a chuckle here and there, but on the whole, comedy is not something Gundam is known for. Thus, in an episode about the human aspects of warfare, it is appropriate to give the viewers a few more laughs.

  • Amuro reaches the end of the island, and upon finding the spot where there are mobile suit footprints, he realises that his Gundam must’ve fallen into the ocean. He turns back, defeated, and soon, finds that the islanders have encountered a new problem: despite a massive rainfall, they’re out of fresh water. Cucuruz and Marco are heading off to fix things, and without anything else to do, Amuro decides to accompany them. This decision turns out to be a good one; Cucuruz quickly identifies that while their water supply is fine, the line itself has broken.

  • Cucuruz is too broad to fit through the opening in the cave, and Marco hesitates upon seeing how tricky the walls are. Conversely, Amuro volunteers to go and does his task admirably; after reaching the break, he seals it and repairs the line, allowing water to return to the islanders. Marco ends up growing resentful of Amuro, feeling that his thunder was stolen, while Amuro’s stock among the islanders improve. Between his prior experiences on White Base, and his own skill with mechanical systems, Amuro is well-equipped to deal with some of the islanders’ problems.

  • It turns out that Cucuruz’s main work on the island is devoted towards altering a launch system belonging to Zeon. Through his work, Cucuruz is able to jam any external communications to the weapons, preventing Zeon forces from remotely firing the ballistic missile. This control room notably has what appears to be a .30 calibre machine gun port, allowing the launch controls to be defended in case of an attack, but the flipside is that such a system could also be used by unauthorised forces to fend off anyone trying to stop a launch; it shows Zeon’s faith in their own soldiers’ loyalty.

  • The Southern Cross’ Egba Atler is their current leader. A hot-blooded and brash pilot dead-set on proving that he’s a superior leader to Cucuruz, he becomes violent when Danan Rashica expresses interest in their latest assignment. Danan seems to be star-struck at the prospect of meeting Cucuruz, a consequence of hearing about the latter’s legendary exploits when he’d been a pilot, but all Egba sees is a traitor who discarded his duty. For Egba, nothing would give him greater satisfaction than squaring off against their former leader to settle who’s the more suitable pilot once and for all. To save their teammate from a physical beating, Danan’s teammates restrain Egba and buy him enough time to escape.

  • Pilot Selma Livens, on the other hand, had similarly respected Cucuruz, but is more reserved about things. In combat, she’s confident and capable, but she feels that Egba is not as effective as Cucuruz had been. Egba resembles both Dozle Zabi and the Black Tri-Stars in temperament. While Anime News Network’s reviewer found the Zeon pilots to be “filler”, I disagree with this sentiment on the grounds that the Southern Cross are simply a team of pilots who were sent in to advance M’Quve’s plans as a part of a larger political game. The choice to pick the Southern Cross rather than a generic outfit is deliberate; a special forces team would create additional tension in a way that unnamed soldiers would not.

  • Generally speaking, I don’t place much stock in Anime News Network and their movie reviews. Given what I’ve seen there for film reviews, it appears that criticisms are doled out for criticisms’ sake, rather than as a result of any legitimate shortcomings in a given movie. In a review, the negatives end up being only touched upon, as though all reviews are subject to a quota of criticism in order for Anime News Network to appear informed and relevant. This was most apparent with their reviews for Non Non Biyori Vacation and Violet Evergarden: The Movie: both film’s successes are callously brushed off in a few sentences, and no additional justification (or evidence) for the remarks were given.

  • I’ve long found that criticisms in a vacuum are meaningless; if one is to criticise, then one must also either offer suggestions for improvement, or acknowledge the reasons behind why a given work may have turned out the way it did. For me, I only will make remarks on improvements if a limitation particularly noticeable, and the Southern Cross don’t come across as such. Back in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, Sayla and Sleggar prepare to launch. The search and rescue mission is something Bright has approved of – he was originally shocked to learn that the operation at Alegranza was called off after Gibraltar became a larger priority and struggled to make the call. In the end, Bright places his faith in Amuro and the Gundam.

  • To this end, Bright stages a scenario where White Base is still attempting to prepare for take-off: with just about every part of the ship seemingly seeing delays or problems, Bright gives the impression to Federation command that they’ll need a little more time before they can go anywhere. This charade buys White Base enough time to recover Amuro from Alegranza: Salya, Sleggar, Hayato and Kai have all taken off for the island with the goal of bringing Amuro back, and this time, Fraw Bow and the children accompany them, as well.

  • Mirai’s suppressed laughter speaks volumes to the light-hearted nature of their ruse, and reinforces the fact that outside of Zeon and Federation atrocities, the soldiers are ultimately human. Bright’s decision here also speaks more loudly about what’s in his heart: while he voices doubt about pushing Amuro too hard or even treating him harshly, choosing to delay departure, against orders, shows that Bright places great stock in Amuro and the Gundam. This is something that will later impact how Bright operates; in Gundam Unicorn, Bright’s been around the block long enough to know that any worthy Gundam pilot can achieve whatever they set their mind to and as such, places his faith in their ability and resolve. This is what motivates his speech to Banagher shortly before the Garuda transfer, and there, Banagher would prove that Bright’s intuition is on the money, a result of years of working with Gundam pilots.

  • When a massive storm slams into Alegranza, Amuro decides to look around and see if he can get the power up and running: while life on Alegranza is relatively cozy, the residents don’t have access to power. Some of the children are deathly afraid of the dark, and when the storm appears, they become inconsolable. With a deft hand for repairs, Amuro ends up not only restoring power to the cottage, but also fixes the lighthouse. Marco and the others are overjoyed with this; the residents have long discussed fixing the lighthouse but lacked the knowhow to do so.

  • With the lights back on, the children are much happier, and Marco admits he’s happy to have Amuro around. The two reconcile here, but when Cururuz arrives, he states that Amuro’s actions were a mistake – he deliberately kept the lighthouse and electrical power offline to avoid drawing any attention to the island. The addition of power would broadcast to the world that the island was inhabited and worth looking at. Shortly after, both Amuro’s allies and the Southern Cross spot the lighthouse, removing any doubt in their mind that Cucuruz must be there.

  • Kai and the others’ original plan had been to land on the island and quickly retrieve Amuro, along with his Gundam. However, the mission suddenly becomes considerably more dangerous when they spot the Zeon forces approaching the island. In previous Gundam, mass production units have been presented as a bit of a joke: unnamed pilots are typically slaughtered whole-sale, and often presented as standing still when under fire. I appreciate that this is done to illustrate a disparity in power, similarly to how in Hollywood films, exotic machines and monsters can make short work of F-22s and M1A2s, which are, in reality, impressive machines.

  • However, seeing Zakus in The Origin was a reminder that even the mass production machines can be formidable. I would’ve liked to have seen more battles between basic Zakus and GMs, but here in Cururuz Doan’s Island, the final battle feels tense even with only a squad of machines; having spent the whole film seeing the children in Cara and Cucuruz’s care, it always felt that Cururuz would have his hands full in trying to keep the battle away from the other islanders. I imagine that for the Southern Cross, they’ve got no information about the islanders and are here purely to neutralise Cururuz and get the launch mechanism working again.

  • When Sayla and Sleggar arrive, an iconic Mobile Suit Gundam theme begins playing. It’s titled “Fear of Battle”, and here in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, the song has been modernised while at the same time, retaining the aesthetic of the original, which had been composed with a disco-opera tone, blending the grandeur of space opera music similar to John William’s Star Wars with 1970s disco elements. The modernised version has a slightly heavier tenour and a richer sound, but beyond this, is immediately recognisable. Overall, the music in Cucuruz Doan’s Island is of an excellent quality – Takayuki Hattori repraises his role from The Origin as composer.

  • Unfortunately for Kai and Hayato, Sayla and Sleggar’s arrival do little for them: the Core Booster’s taken damage and Sayla is forced to make a crash landing, dislodging Sleggar’s GM and causing its head to pop off. Sleggar is thus unable to contribute in a meaningful way to the combat after shooting down the aircraft carrying the Zakus, and while this puts the Guncannons in a difficult position, this moment also creates comedy reminiscent of what is seen in a 1970s anime. Both Hayato and Kai manage to escape their machines’ destruction, and before the Southern Cross finish them off, Cururuz finally arrives.

  • One of the joys about writing Gundam posts is that there’s almost never a shortage of screenshots to draw from, and correspondingly, no shortage of things to talk about. For this post, I started with a screenshot collection totalling 258 images, and had to cut it down to a more manageable sixty. While I could, in theory, find enough content to discuss regarding the mobile suits themselves, this would result in exceedingly long posts that I’m certain readers would have no interest in reading (and writing extremely long posts takes an inordinate amount of time, as well).

  • Wald disembarks his Zaku and enters the control room, where he finds Cucuruz’s handiwork. He quickly overrides the changes Curucuz had made and re-arms the ballistic missile, which begins counting down for a launch. Confident he’s done his duty, he prepares to his Zaku. Meanwhile, Marco and Amuro have managed to sneak into the hangar; Amuro is unaccustomed to swimming the underwater passage and ends up swallowing water. Marco revives him, and the pair manage to reach the Gundam. They are noticed by Yun, who sets off to investigate.

  • Yun ends up following Amuro and Marco into the hangar, where he finds a curtain covering a mobile suit cage. Upon pulling the curtain back, Yun is horrified to find himself face-to-face with the White Devil. Amuro swiftly activates the Gundam’s beam sabre and burns a hole in Yun’s Zaku, killing him instantly. At this point in time, the Gundam’s already developed a fearsome reputation amongst Zeon’s pilots. It is here that Marco realises that Amuro is similar to Cucuruz – he’d developed a respect for Amuro after the latter had repaired the island’s power supply, but to see Amuro willfully use a mobile suit and deal lethal damage shows Marco the sort of resolve Amuro must have.

  • For Amuro, operating a mobile suit is a morally tricky duty because it entails taking lives during the line of duty. During a flashback, Amuro recalls his mother’s shock that he would pick up a weapon and pull the trigger. However, the flipside of this is, if Amuro lets an opponent live, they might return and kill others important to oneself. Thus, when Amuro spots Wald trying to reach his Zaku, he decides to trample him with the Gundam. This kill mirrors how in war, difficult decisions must be made, and also shows how Amuro is prepared to take a life if it means saving other lives, although he retains enough of his humanity to feel remorse for what he must do.

  • Back on the surface, Cucuruz decimates the Southern Cross. Danan is positively honoured to die at the legendary Cucuruz Doan’s hands, while Selma wonders why things had to turn out this way when Cucuruz smashes her Zaku. While Federation GMs use beam sabres as their melee weapon, early Zakus are armed with heat hawks: these hand-axes have a super-heated blade that utilises thermal energy transferred from the Zaku’s main reactor, and generate enough energy to both cut through armour and resist a beam sabre, although its small size means it’s a weapon that takes skill to wield effectively.

  • Soon, only Egba remains: he’s a cut above even the other Southern Cross pilots, and is intent on taking Cucuruz down himself. His Zaku is equipped with a heat sabre, a blade composed of a shape memory polymer that allows the sabre’s blade to be stored while not in use. Heat sabres work on the same principle as a heat hawk, with the polymer conducting heat from the Zaku’s reactor to augment its cutting ability. For their efficacy, superheating the polymer would cause it to degrade rapidly, meaning that heat sabres ultimately have a limited lifespan and are thus discarded after use.

  • While Egba is focused on fighting Cucuruz, Kai and his team encounter Cara and the children, who are chasing after the island’s one goat. Cucuruz Doan’s Island had hints of humour interspersed throughout its run, but it is here that Kai and Hayato’s misfortunes are made light of – the goat lifts them into the air and the moment is frozen in stills for posterity. Gundam employing humour to this extent is uncommon (Gundam SEED and Gundam 00 were, for the most part, deadly serious), but the presence of children creates the opportunity for creating lighthearted moments that act as a break in tensions.

  • However, even with the bit of comedy offered by a goat and White Base’s more hapless crew, Egba’s determination to finish off Cucuruz is real; he hammers into Cucuruz’s Zaku, and while Cucuruz is able to hold his own, Egba ends up disarming Cucuruz. Cucuruz refuses to give up, but a hail of 60 mm rounds suddenly distract Egba. With Cucuruz disarmed and nearly beaten, Egba turns his attention towards the Gundam, confident that he can beat it.

  • The moment had felt grim when Cucuruz had fallen, but with the Gundam’s arrival, the mood tangibly shifts. Fraw Bow is overjoyed to see the Gundam arrive, and the heroic incidental music speaks to the fact that this is Amuro’s time to shine. Use of music is a classic storytelling element, and longtime viewers can often guess at what will happen next based purely on what themes play. Of course, in shows where the hero’s theme plays, the outcome of a battle will almost feel preordained; in Gundam Unicorn, for instance, whenever the Unicorn motif is heard, Banagher is certain to do some damage.

  • For this fight, Amuro has access to only the Gundam’s beam sabres, having discarded his beam rifle earlier whilst fighting Cucuruz. The Gundam’s beam rifle was a first for mobile suits. Up until this point, mobile suits had carried kinetic weapons. Zeon’s Zakus carried machine guns that were powerful enough to puncture the hulls of Federation ships and shred their fighters, but against the Gundam’s armour, these weapons proved ineffectual. Conversely, the Gundam’s beam rifle fired rounds as powerful as those of a battleship’s main gun, allowing it to destroy mobile suits trivially.

  • Without the beam rifle, Amuro is pressed into close quarters combat, and while Egba is a powerful foe, Amuro holds his own, counting on the Gundam’s superior technology. However, after landing on a ledge, Amuro quickly spots that he’s in the same scenario he was in when he first fought Cucuruz – the perilous cliff edge overlooking the ocean had been his downfall earlier, and now, Amuro realises he can use the terrain to his advantage. This is significant because it would show Amuro learning to think tactically and utilise every element available in a fight, rather than purely depending on the Gundam’s power.

  • To this end, Amuro utilises the Gundam’s vulcans to force Egba off-balance, creating an opening in which to strike him down with. Vulcans in Gundam are typically 60 mm, and fire at very high rates. However, in Gundam, rounds appear to deal much less damage than their calibres suggest: 60 mm rounds are considered to be only really useful for soft targets and point defense against missiles. Similarly, Zakus fire 100 mm rounds that do negligible damage to the Gundam’s armour. However, in reality, even 30 mm rounds have anti-armour capabilites, and 100 mm rounds are approaching the size of the shells used in tank guns. This likely speaks to the necessity of using beam rifles and beam sabres, given the defensive capabilities that mobile suits possess with respect to their armour.

  • The advent of beam weapons lead to a paradigm shift in mobile suit design: less emphasis is placed on armour, and newer designs will favour speed. Although cutting-edge mobile suits like the RX-93 ν Gundam and RX-0 Unicorn possess an I-field, capable of deflecting beams, even these have limitations. As such, for newer mobile suits, firepower is life, and speed is life insurance. Of course, in 0079, mobile suits are still a nascent technology, and so, Amuro has the advantage where weapons are concerned. While successful in defeating Egba, Amuro is unable to prevent the ballistic missile from launching. In the heat of battle to protect the islanders, the ballistic missile and its MIRV payload is forgotten.

  • For M’Quve, the Southern Cross appear to have succeeded in their efforts to reactivate the ballistic missile on Alegranza. In this moment of triumph, he watches the missile launch, while the horrified Federation Navy hastily launch cruise missiles in a bid to intercept the ballistic missile. Ballistic missile interception during the boost phase is desperately tricky – while the missile is vulnerable during this time owing to its fuel stores, it is rapidly accelerating, limiting the intercept window. Unsurprisingly, the missiles the Federation send out cannot reach their mark, and the ICBM manages to disperse its nuclear warheads.

  • To everyone’s surprise, the warheads suddenly detonate shortly after they enter the mid-course phase. Gopp is relieved; although M’Quve called his bluff, Cucuruz’s intervention single-handedly saves tens of millions of lives, and with Zeon’s bargaining chip gone, the Federation is able to push forwards with their assault on Gibraltar ahead of their plans to capture Odessa. In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Amuro’s visiting of Alegranza was plagued with production issues, and while it aired in Japan, never was shown in English releases. The story, while seemingly a detour, contributes greatly to Amuro’s growth and also shows some of the behind-the-scenes of how the Federation’s counteroffensive against Zeon begins.

  • For Cucuruz, although he was beaten in mobile suit combat, he was successful in preventing unimaginable casualties. The fact that Zeon was willing to resort to such means speaks both to their disregard for life and perception of the Federation’s people as being little more than obstacles; The Origin had shown the Zabi family as being quite divided on how they wanted to handle the war. Degwin had been hoping for a quick war and negotiations until the “Zeon is Exhausted” speech spurs him to keep fighting, while both Gihren and Kycilia had more militaristic ambitions. On the other hand, Dozle is a loyal soldier who genuinely fights for his people’s survival. Cucuruz is relieved to have survived, and that his actions have prevented the war from escalating.

  • The dynamic between Fraw Bow and Amuro is probably one of the more subtle but relatable aspects of Mobile Suit Gundam: early in their journey, she sticks with him, but as Amuro begins developing feelings for the other women that come into his life, and Fraw Bow begins seeing Amuro’s best friend, Hayato, instead. This is a natural progression in life, and both friendships and crushes do not endure forever. For now, however, the two are still relatively close – Fraw Bow tearfully embraces Amuro after he defeats Egba, relieved he’s alright. In the aftermath, the White Base crew part ways with Cucuruz and the islanders after Amuro chucks Cucuruz’s Zaku into the ocean, feeling that the only way to really be free of the fight is to live a peaceful life on the island without any weapons.

  • With this excursion over, the children on board White Base bid farewell to the islanders on Alegranza, and White Base itself prepares to head on over to Gibraltar for the next step of its operation. Cucuruz Doan’s Island ends up being a meaningful, self-contained story that helps viewers to see one set of events that would come to shape how he fights as a pilot, and for this reason, Curucuz Doan’s Island can be seen as a necessary stop rather than a detour. Seeing the growth and evolution of Gundam pilots is something that always captivated me: from watching Setsuna F. Seiei become more mindful and attuned to those around him, Kira Yamato become increasingly willing to fight once he realises he can do so without unnecessarily taking life, or Banagher realising that he has a responsibility to see something through, Gundam series have typically done a fine job of showing how people can rise to the occassion.

  • As such, when it comes to the autumn’s Witch of Mercury, my expectations remain consistent with what they’ve been for every other Gundam work I’ve seen previously. To be an enjoyable series, Witch of Mercury must deliver on three fronts. Firstly, the protagonists must mature in a meaningful way to mirror the interplay between responsibility and capability (as a pilot experiences things, they become more suited for using their power to defend what is dear to them). Second, I do not wish for unnecessary drama at the interpersonal level, since Gundam has always been about individual response (and eventually, rising up) to challenges at scale. Finally, combat choreography must be of a high calibre, at least as smooth and visually fluid as Gundam 00Gundam 00 is now more than a decade old, but it set the bar for what’s possible with Gundam, and therefore, is the yardstick I gauge other Gundam fights against. In the Universal Century, mobile suits are heavier, but the fights are still well-choreographed.

  • Cucuruz looks on as White Base departs from Alegranza; his encounter with Amuro leaves him a changed man, as well, and without the burden of a Zaku to maintain, as well as a Zeon silo to sabotage, a great weight is lifted from his chest, allowing him to fully devote himself to a peaceful life on Alegranza without worrying that Zeon or the Federation will show up again. It is here that I will note that Cucuruz’s name sounds quite similar to that of Kukuru Misakino from The Aquatope on White Sand – the two are prima facie about as different as night and day, but on closer inspection, both Cucuruz and Kukuru care very much about the things around them.

  • A look at the blog’s archive finds that mid-June does seem to be the month when I write about Gundam films: in 2019, it was Gundam Narrative, and then last year, I had the chance to watch Hathaway’s Flash. This year, the streak continues with Cucuruz Doan’s Island, and I finish this discussion just in time to celebrate Father’s Day with the family; my parents were treated to a Korean fried chicken dinner from a nearby joint. We ended up going for chicken three ways (crispy, garlic-soy and Gang-Jeong style) with a side of fries; Korean fried chicken is a bit pricier than our go-to Southern fried chicken, but the cost is reflected in the fact that the chicken is fried to crispy perfection while remaining tender and juicy.

  • Cucuruz Doan’s Island concludes with Cucuruz fulfilling a promise of properly celebrating a young boy’s birthday, complete with a cake. It’s a fitting close to the film and shows that Cucuruz is determined to preserving the peace on his island. Even without a Zaku, Cucuruz can still do this by looking after the island’s children with Cara. Altogether, Cucuruz Doan’s Island is a superb and insightful addition to the Universal Century timeline, and I would count this film an A (4.0 of 4.0, or for folks more familiar with the ten point scale, 9.0 of ten): this movie is a chance to see the RX-78 II remastered, something I’d wanted to see since The Origin ended, and on top of this, tells a meaningful story. While yes, it would’ve been nice to see more mobile suit combat, I appreciate that this isn’t the story’s primary objective, and what combat we did get was still of a superb quality.

Altogether, Alegranza Cucuruz Doan’s Island represents a remarkable show of how the original Mobile Suit Gundam was set in a universe that could tell a compelling story, and how with a fresh coat of paint, the classic story of the One Year War and the first Gundam could reach new audiences: Mobile Suit Gundam introduced elements that are now iconic in the Gundam franchise, but it has not aged particularly well. Inconsistencies in animation resulted in some segments of the story being removed, and Cucuruz Doan’s Island is one of them. However, seeing Cucuruz Doan’s Island brought into the present, while at the same time, remaining respectful of Mobile Suit Gundam‘s original aesthetic, sets one exciting precedence for what could be possible. A fully remastered portrayal of White Base and Amuro’s exploits during the One Year War would not only introduce new fans to where the story began, but for existing fans, it would be a phenomenal experience that breathes new life into memorable scenes. Such a project would be fraught with challenges: for one, some die-hard fans would be unwilling to accept any remaster that isn’t completely faithful to the original. Similarly to how Halo: Anniversary was criticised for altering the aesthetic in some missions, reducing the suspense the level designs conveyed, there is always a possibility that a remaster may make changes that could disappoint some. On the other hand, when a remaster is respectful of the original while modernising the visuals, it can be successful. Halo 2 Anniversary is one such experience, being a direct upgrade to its predecessor without dramatically changing the aesthetic that was present in the original. A Mobile Suit Gundam remaster that is done similarly to how Halo 2 Anniversary was done would be a welcome experience, and I’d certianly watch it in a heartbeat. In the meantime, Cucuruz Doan’s Island has been a superb experience, one that places a greater emphasis on the human sides of warfare and at the same time, portraying mobile suit battles as being a very intense and personal experience in ways that are possible now thanks to significant advances in animation methods and technology. Cucuruz Doan’s Island becomes an essential experience for Universal Century fans, updating all of the visuals in the Universal Century to modern standards and presenting excellent insight into Amuro’s character through a detour that would ultimately contribute to how he fights his battles, giving him the resolve and strength needed to stand toe-to-toe with Zeon’s legendary Red Comet.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash, A Review and Reflection on the First Act, Messages of Regression in Society

“Did you ever consider that I wanted both sides to lose? Bullets change governments far surer than votes.” –Simeon Weisz, Lord of War

Twelve years after Amuro Ray and Char Aznable confronted one another before disappearing in the event later known as the Axis Shock, the Federation began tightening its policies and deporting more people, dubbed Illegals, into space. Meanwhile, Hathaway Noa, Bright Noa’s son, has become an anti-government terrorist known only as Mafty Navue Erin. Striking at high-ranking Federation politicians and officials with the hope of breaking nepotism and weakening the government into a position where they can forcibly create a policy advancing human migration into space to save the planet, Hathaway and Mafty participate in strikes against the government using mobile suits, and although their actions do not have the same indiscriminate madness of traditional terrorists, nonetheless cause civilian casualties. On a flight from the moon to Hong Kong, Hathaway manages to secure a seat with Federation politicians and thwarts a terrorist attack from a group claiming to be Mafty, impressing Federation captain Kenneth Sleg. Their flight is diverted to Davao, a city in the Philippines, and here, Hathaway encounters the enigmatic Gigi Andalucia again. She arranges for Hathaway to lodge with her and is surprised that Gigi has deduced his identity as Mafty. Hoping to evade the Federation, Hathaway arranges for a diversionary strike against Davao, hoping to take out several key politicians and escape during the chaos. However, when the attack begins, Hathaway feels compelled to save Gigi, which in turns delays his extraction and return to a nearby Mafty base. Swift response from the Federation’s new model Gundam, the Penelope, further complicates things. Hathaway’s involvement and Gigi’s remarks lead Sleg to suspect that Hathaway might be involved with Mafty despite his outward appearances. Hathaway does end up returning to a Mafty base and retrieves the Ξ Gundam, fending off the Federation forces and their pilot, Lane Aim in order to cover their evacuation. He decides to set his sights on Oenbelli next and intends lend a hand to the anti-Federation forces here. Thus begins Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash, a film trilogy that explores the sequel to what Yoshiyuki Tomino’s original story for Char’s Counterattack entailed. Titled Beltorchika’s Children, this original version had Hathaway accidentally killing Quess, and consumed with guilt, Hathaway would eventually join the terrorist group, Mafty, after seeing the excesses of the Federation. The trilogy was announced after Gundam Narrative broadcast, and originally set to release in July 2020, the first part ultimately released in Japan on June 11, after being delayed eleven months by the ongoing global health crisis.

Resembling Gundam Narrative in its aesthetic and atmospherics, a sense of melancholy permeates Hathaway’s Flash. This is because this film series conveys a sense of tragedy; it is no secret that Hathaway is Mafty, and the captain Kenneth Sleg seems aware of the fact that Hathaway isn’t what he outwardly presents to be. Mafty’s reputation precedes the whole of the series; because it is implied that Hathaway is involved in a variety of plots to assassinate key Federation officials with the goal of weakening the government and forcing humanity, it is clear that for Hathaway and Mafty, there will be no negotiations or discussions. However, despite his outward confidence and stoic manner, Hathaway is still haunted by his inability to save Quess during the events of Char’s Counterattack; to this day, enigmatic women seem to hold sway over Hathaway’s heart, and despite his efforts to brush off Gigi Andalucia’s flirtations, finds himself inexplicably drawn to her in spite of himself. This unusual combination of pursuing a path of destruction in a misguided aim of bettering the world and lingering doubts sets the table for tragedy. Hathaway’s conviction in his own cause is shown as wavering several times throughout the course of Hathaway’s Flash; when his allies begin attacking Davao to create a diversion for his escape, Hathaway ends up trying to protect Gigi instead and results in Mafty pilot Gahman Nobil being captured by the Federation. Upon boarding the Ξ Gundam for the first time, he silently curses his fate at having met Gigi, whose mysterious presence made his heart flutter despite himself. Where ambition and longing collide, Hathaway’s path forwards seems predestined to failure. This is a recurring theme in Gundam, and Martha Vist Carbine had, in fact, mentioned this during the events of Gundam Unicorn; women are be instruments of both great change and great catastrophe during troubled times, creating possibility in the hearts of strong men and consuming weaker men, driving them towards acts of destruction. Hathaway appears to be trending towards the latter, and while he is shown to be a capable, competent leader capable of motivating those around him and inspiring countless more, the unusual dynamics he has with Gigi could prove to his downfall.

Hathaway’s Flash also foreshadows Hathaway’s tragedy through how the film has introduced the eponymous lead machine – traditionally, Gundams are mobile suits associated with justice, possibility and responsibility. Their pilots possess a strong sense of morality, determined to do what they believe is right, respecting the power that they wield and using their machines to affect positive change. However, when a Gundam pilot is made to fight another Gundam, the symbolism shifts: a Gundam in the hands of an enemy thus signifies that the foe’s conviction is no less than that of the pilot’s, and that they see themselves as the hero, designated to carry humanity forwards with their vision. Clashes between Gundams thus become a metaphor for two unyielding forces coming to a head, and the pilot with the stronger conviction triumphs to parallel how certain ways of thinking are more resilient. Kira Yamato fought Rau le Creuset and his Providence in the Freedom, defeating him and showing that nihilism was ultimately doomed to fail against those who resolved to make the most of what they had. Setsuna F. Seiei draws Ribbons Almark despite the Reborns’ superior firepower and ultimately defeats Ribbons with his Exia, reminding viewers that people are meant to choose their own futures rather than blindly follow others. However, in Hathaway’s Flash, the Gundams themselves fight one another immediately, spend most of their time shrouded in darkness, and moreover, are bulky, cumbersome units loaded with weapons. These machines are clearly made for destruction, lacking the sleek and elegant design of earlier Gundams. In this way, Hathaway’s Flash means to shows that with the passage of time, the concept of Gundam itself has become corrupted. The Federation uses Gundams to forcibly crush opposition, while those who stand up to the government have appropriated its power for themselves and aim to cause destruction in equal measure. Where Penelope and Ξ fight, Hathaway’s Flash suggests that the gradual perversion of an idea breeds only destruction, suffering and loss. Twelve years after Char’s Counterattack, both the Federation and their opponents have lost sight of what they stand for, and where two violently opposing forces fight without any idea of what their end goal is, the inevitable result is tragedy.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Universal Century – the last time was with Gundam Narrative, which released in 2018 in Japan and became available overseas in June 2019. Hathaway’s Flash opens on board a special chartered flight to Hong Kong. Hathaway’s Flash‘s principal actors are introduced in the opening: besides Hathaway himself, Gigi and Kenneth Sleg are also present. Their conversation foreshadows the instability of this world, which is placed in sharp contrast with the various amenities of commercial space travel: small details in the flight show that despite the political turmoil in the Universal Century, technology has advanced steadily.

  • In a moment reminiscent of Dark Knight, masked intruders board the flight and immediately demand the passenger manifest. They claim to be a part of Mafty, a name that refers to both the terror organisation and its enigmatic leader, who fancies themselves to be the next coming of Char Aznable and acts with the aim of forcing space migration. However, unlike Char’s impassioned madness and grand scheme of dropping Axis on Earth to force said migration, Mafty instead takes a different route: assassinating the political cabal composing the Federation’s leadership and using these deaths as a bargaining chip for their ends. While the passengers are immediately frightened by their arrival, Gigi seems unusually calm in the situation.

  • The terrorists show they mean business by executing one of the ministers on board, but Hathaway ends up creating an opening, allowing him and Kenneth to eliminate the terrorists. Kenneth is impressed with Hathaway’s combat training – according to the documents, after Char’s Counterattack, Hathaway briefly entered military service and subsequently took a post-secondary degree in plant science, working with Amada Mansun with the aim of eventually becoming a botanical and agricultural inspector. Seeing this progression in his career provides key answers for why Hathaway joins Mafty: pursuit of the sciences opens one’s eyes to reality and strips away idealism. In secondary school, for example, I wondered why a cancer cure was not already possible, but after taking medical science courses, it became clear that owing to cancer’s nature, eliminating it is a desperately tricky proposition, since the very act of breathing could technically cause cancer (free oxygen radicals from respiration can damage DNA, resulting in uncontrolled cell growth).

  • It is therefore the case that the tragedies Hathaway experienced during the Second Neo Zeon War, coupled with his education and background, would lead him to see the Federation as irredeemably corrupt, a system that could not be fixed with diplomacy or discussion. Whatever his beliefs might be, Hathaway has a helluva poker face: here, he plays the part of the reluctant hero who happened to be in the right place at the right time and speaks with high ranking Federation officials, even though viewers know that Hathaway would have no qualms orchestrating an operation to kill them later on.

  • While Hathaway’s fieldcraft is stellar, Gigi seemingly sees right through him and concludes that he must be Mafty himself. Hathaway betrays nothing to her, but internally, he is shocked that the conclusion could come so easily to her. There certainly is an allure about Gigi, and her piercing blue eyes give the impression that she’s able to see right through deception. Because this is mentioned often enough in Hathaway’s Flash, it would be reasonable to say that Gigi might be a nascent Newtype, evolved humans with increased mental awareness.

  • After Gigi leaves, Hathaway is left to deal with his conflicting thoughts about her. Members of the military have a few questions for Hathaway surrounding the incident, and then subsequently arrange for his accommodations in Davao until he can be on his way. The Federation’s treatment of Hathaway here is important, as it shows the difference between how the elite live, and how ordinary people live: the elites have access to unimaginable luxury and bottomless wallets, all covered by the taxpayers. Their facilities are well-appointed and clean, with mirror-smooth reflective surfaces to denote how clean they are.

  • Given her interactions towards Hathaway, and with the possibility that she’s a Newtype, I would suppose that Gigi is genuinely interested in Hathaway and his role as Mafty. She certainly does seem to enjoy getting very close to him despite his cold manner towards her advances, and expresses curiosity about Mafty’s methods and intentions. Her character description shows that she’s connected to some immensely powerful individuals, and moreover, doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind. This creates simultaneous discomfort and allure for the folks around her, and Kenneth certainly has taken a liking to her.

  • For Gigi, her frustration is the fact that Hathaway seems so disinterested in her: it seems that Gigi is used to using her charms regularly to sway those around her and isn’t accustomed to failing. Hathaway regards her bluntly, and in fact, I see a bit of myself in Hathaway where this is concerned: Hathaway’s actions stem from Quess’ death years earlier, and I imagine that he deliberately distances himself from people who might cause him heartbreak.

  • Hathaway’s Flash spends a great deal of time on its principal and supporting cast, marking the first time I’ve seen the characters spend so much time in a civilian setting: other Gundam series focus almost entirely on the Gundams themselves and the conflicts surrounding them, so to see something like Hathaway and Gigi at odds with their accommodation arrangements was a breath of fresh air. The visuals in Hathaway’s Flash are similarly impressive, and the view of Davao outside of the window looks absolutely stunning here.

  • The classic anime staple of “walking in on someone who’s changing” even makes an appearance in Hathaway’s Flash: hoping to make use of the private pool that her suite provides, Gigi’s given no thought to the implications staying with someone else and swiftly changes into her swimsuit while Hathaway decides to step out for a walk. The nature of Gundam characters means that unlike the average romance comedy or slice of life, one can never be too certain if Hathaway had been on the money about Gigi trying to elicit a reaction from Hathaway or if she’d been genuinely careless.

  • Gundam‘s always been a series where fanservice consists of variants of timeless mobile suits and cameos, so to have Hathway’s Flash portray such a moment was not done to amuse viewers; instead, it’s to show how ordinary things that are a big deal in other genres don’t bother Hathaway at all. In the aftermath, perhaps irate that Hathaway doesn’t see her that way, Gigi disappears back into her room and irately tells him to knock himself out with his walk. Hathaway does seem to lack tact in this area: he remarks that they’re no couple, and I imagine Gigi is more annoyed than embarrassed.

  • Hathaway arranges to meet other members of Mafty in town in a clandestine fashion, asking them to relay back to the team that he’ll need a diversion in order to escape. The two who meet him are young and certainly don’t have the grizzled look of a resistance fighter: Mafty’s ideals appear to appeal to a wide range of people from all walks of life, and truth be told, the young man and woman that Hathaway speaks with feel more like his colleagues at university rather than fellow Mafty associates. A large number of viewers from Southeast Asia, specifically from Indonesia and the Philippines, were pleased that Hathaway’s Flash featured their parts of the world in such detail.

  • Because Gundam is predominantly set in space and the Sides, there is hardly a chance to see how Earth is. Previous works suggested that the world is wreathed in pollution and is on the verge of an ecological disaster – Char’s Counterattack and Mobile Suit Gundam did indeed present the world as being a grim place to live, with yellow-grey skies and a film of haze covering everywhere, but as of Unicorn, the world doesn’t seem all that bad in some places: the world still has blue skies. Here, Hathaway discusses his plans with Mihesssia Hence and field agent Kenji Mitsuda, fellow Mafty members.

  • However, it is clear that the Federation’s use of force is unwarranted – by UC 105, the Federation has set up an organisation to deport individuals vocal about the government into space, even implementing a special task force to periodically root out dissidents. My thoughts on expression of dissent has always been moderation: in any democratic system, using appropriate channels to offer reasonable arguments and using one’s ability to vote is the appropriate measure (as opposed to violence). Gundam does away with the idea of nations so things like foreign interference are abstracted away – in reality, governments routinely interfere with other nations in the name of democracy for their own gain, and introducing this into Gundam would add complexity that may take away from Tomino’s primary aims.

  • With his arrangements made, Hathaway returns to his suite and dines alone (presumably to avoid Federation surveillance), at least until Gigi and Kenneth show up. Despite Gigi’s attempts to make Hathaway jealous, he betrays nothing, and turns down an invitation to go dancing at the hotel’s club. Before leaving with Gigi, Kenneth sits down and shares a brief conversation with Hathaway. The Universal Century is fond of featuring mysterious women that, as Kenneth suggests, have the power to reign back powerful men. From Lalah and Quess, to Rita and Mineva, their roles indicate in a war, perhaps the hearts of men, and their resolve, matter more than the weapons they wield. Thinking back to Rita and Gundam Narrative from two years earlier means recalling that at this point two years earlier, I’d just picked up a new Magic Trackpad to replace a failed Magic Mouse.

  • Hathaway has dozed off, but his plan comes to life when pilot Gahman Nobil deploys to carry out the diversion: he capitalises on the fact that so many Federation big shots are present and shoots out the hotel where they’re staying before preparing to engage the Federation mobile suits that have taken off to deal with him. The fact that Mafty has access to mobile suits holds two implications: that they have enough support to garner the resources needed to acquire such equipment, and that there exists a manufacturer willing to sell to terrorists.

  • The report of nearby explosions awaken Hathaway, who realises he’s behind schedule and needs to hightail it to the extraction point: knowing that the Federation politicians are here means that the hotels will be a target, and while he’d asked his pilots to be mindful of which floor he’s staying on, the power of a mobile suit’s primary armament means that collateral damage is inevitable. That Mafty uses these approaches indicates the organisation, despite their conviction in their ideals, are still relatively untrained and lack the resources or know-how for more precise methods that nation states have access to.

  • A more sophisticated organisation would go with a combination of active measures and wet teams to strike at critical events without harming bystanders: while Mafty might allege to be acting in the planet’s interests and have gained approval from those dissatisfied with the Federation’s policies, their open approach only fuels the Federation’s determination to defeat them. J.K. Rowling briefly mentioned this in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Voldemort’s rise to power is one shrouded in shadow, and while he hasn’t openly overthrown the Ministry of Magic, the uncertain possibility of him being in control means people can’t be sure who to trust. Had Voldemort openly seized power, enough people would’ve resisted and destroyed his forces before he could achieve anything notable.

  • Politics is a game of deception and manipulation rather than force, which is something that Gigi understands as being Mafty’s weakness: for every successful assassination and operation, those who oppose Mafty gain the justification to ramp up military spending and the erosion of liberties. Terror groups invariably fail for this reason: even if their aims are commendable, their methods will only cause governments to tighten their grip. For the purposes of my posts, the terrorist group Hathaway leads will be referred to as Mafty, and I will refer to Hathaway by his original name rather than his pseudonym.

  • In the elevator, Hathaway encounters two other guests: a man and a woman who appear quite close, leading Gigi to get close and question Hathaway about their earlier conversation. Hathaway’s body language suggest he’s uncomfortable with what Gigi is doing, and cues in the scene suggest that, contrary to his cold reception towards Gigi, he is enamoured. Meanwhile, Gigi feels that her intuition is on the money: while Gahman circles outside and prepares to fire on the hotel in an example of danger close, Gigi deduces that Hathaway is the sort of person who is willing to take great risks for his cause.

  • One of my favourite things to do in any given Gundam post is discussing the mobile suits and their traits. Mafty has access to the Me02R-F02 Messer, which is derived off Zeon’s Geara Doga and the Sazabi. Manufactured by Anaheim Electronics, the Messer is a heavily armoured mobile suit that nonetheless sports high mobility and is able to equip a variety of armaments, making it suited for Mafty’s operations. While Gahman is fighting the Federation forces, he deliberately turns his back on the ground, reasoning the Federation pilots wouldn’t risk hitting the populated area below.

  • However, the Federation pilots continue firing, surprising Gahman and showing viewers how little human life matters to the Federation. On the ground, Hathaway decides to stay with Gigi rather than make his exfil, surprising Emerelda Zubin, the Mafty operative who’s supposed to help with his exfil. With a bold and decisive personality, Emerelda is a skilled pilot in her own right, but off the battlefield, treats her allies as her own siblings. She is shocked that Hathaway has been sidetracked; one would’ve expected him to compartmentalise his emotions and focus on the mission given his background and mindset, but Gigi appears to have created an exception to this rule.

  • Mobile suit combat in Hathaway’s Flash is limited, reminiscent of those early episodes of Gundam: The Origin that portrayed the young Casval Rem Deikun’s transformation into Char Aznable. However, what is shown in Hathaway’s Flash is, as one of my friends puts it, a kaiju battle, featuring slow, lumbering motions and an emphasis on destruction in their surroundings as these mobile suits duke it out on the ground. From a symbolic standpoint, this shows the disconnect between the combatants inside their mobile suits and bystanders on the ground: so focused are the pilots on their fight that they  have no time to consider how much collateral damage is being caused, mirroring how militaries and terrorists alike never stop to consider what side-effects their actions have, so long as they win.

  • Details like plasma rounds melting stanchions on the ground and buildings crumbling as mobile suits land on them accentuate the size and mass of these weapons. The Universal Century has always excelled in showing the sheer mass and size of mobile suits; Gundam Unicorn had done a particularly fine job during the first fight between Marida Cruz’s Kshatriya and a Federation Stark Jegan. The weight of every swing, and the momentum that needs to be bled off prior to each turn conveyed the idea that mobile suits are heavy, sturdy machines. The bulky Messer, and its Federation counterpart, the FD-03 Gustav Karl (named after the M2 recoilless rifle) are both cumbersome looking machines designed for survivability and mobility.

  • Gigi becomes overwhelmed by the battle around her, prompting Hathaway to hold her close. In the end, despite Gahman’s best efforts, he is shot down and taken as a prisoner of war. Meanwhile, Kenneth has arrived on the scene to sort things out, and Gigi runs off into his arms, prompting Hathaway to flashback to a moment twelve years earlier. The fistfight between Char and Amuro here is about as personal as it gets, and really demonstrated how divergent the pair’s thinking is: whereas Amuro embodies hope for a better future, Char became a symbol of despair.

  • Being young and impressionable, Quess took an immediate liking to Char’s ideas after observing their fistfight and subsequently defected to Neo Zeon as a pilot. Char’s interest in Quess was purely for her combat potential as a Newtype. Quess’ defection left a hole in Hathaway’s heart, and in Tomino’s novel, is the leading reason behind his guilt and desire to build the world that Quess had yearned for. In Hathaway’s Flash, whether it’s a continuation from Char’s Counterattack or Beltorchika’s Children is left ambiguous, but what is clear is that, even now, he hasn’t healed from Quess’ death twelve years earlier; the flashback to Char’s Counterattack is a sign that Hathaway sees Gigi as similar to Quess.

  • Assuming this to hold true, it means that in spite of himself, Hathaway is falling for Gigi. These are merely my thoughts, of course, and while I am fond of writing about Gundam series, I am aware that the Gundam universe is very extensive: because there is so much going on, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to learn that I’ve gotten my facts incorrect, or unintentionally make a massive subjective leap in my assessment somewhere. With this in mind, one of my best friends, whom I’ve known for over twenty-five years, is my go-to resource for all things Gundam: his knowledge on the mobile suits for every universe is encyclopaedic, and his insights are unparalleled when it comes to what every Gundam series is going for.

  • As such, when I write about Gundam, I often bounce ideas off him, and some of the insights here are credited to him. It is superbly enjoyable to be able to speak with folks who really know their Gundam, and in the process, I learn a few things, as well. Of course, said friend is most interested in the political and mechanical aspects of Gundam: for things like character dynamics, outside of the motivation that drives the different pilots, our discussion is more limited. Things like Gigi being cool with sharing her coffee directly with Hathaway, in what’s referred to as an indirect kiss, is something that we wouldn’t normally cover, and in general, I don’t mind hearing from viewers what they made of things, so long as discussion remains civilised.

  • The next day, Kenneth takes both Hathaway and Gigi to the nearby Federation base where he is stationed. Before breakfast, Gigi kits herself in clothes from the base’s store. Hathaway only notes that “it ain’t bad, given what you had to work with”, prompting her to remark he’s difficult. Hathaway does have the slightest bit of tsundere in him, and I don’t really blame him: I similarly have never been good with complimenting people for their appearances, and usually, when I offer my praise, it’s in response to what people have accomplished. This is fine for professional settings, but is disadvantageous for things like relationships.

  • Kenneth’s clearly taken a liking to Gigi, reminding Hathaway of how Char and his charisma was able to charm Quess twelve years earlier. He wonders if she’d like to stick around and act as a Goddess of Safety for them, noting that soldiers tend to be quite superstitious. Unsurprisingly, the navy is almost always the most superstitions: the beliefs that seafarers have had stem from centuries of braving the unpredictable open ocean, and even now, some superstitions persist. However, from the superstitions I’ve read about, women at sea were once counted as bad luck, so the ghost of a woman clad in white seen on the high seas would be especially terrifying. Gigi’s presence resembles the yuki-onna, a yokai who led travellers astray in snowstorms with her great beauty.

  • Assuming that this analogy holds true in Hathaway’s Flash, Hathaway’s fate is sealed, and Hathaway himself conjectures that he will be sacrificed in some way. For now, however, Hathaway remains in charge. After the Federation interviews him about what’d happened on the flight to Hong Kong, they let Hathaway go, feeling confident that Mafty will lose public favour over time if their actions continue to result in the loss of life. While the Federation may have become quite corrupt and unyielding, there is truth in the statement: regardless of how noble a cause is, the moment its proponents see fit to disrupt society, destroy property and take lives, their very own supporters have invalidated it.

  • After the interview concludes, Hathaway signs the discharge papers and learns from Kenneth that had he been a soldier, Kenneth would’ve had no qualms asking Hathaway to be the Penelope’s pilot. Hathaway himself publicly considers the events of the Second Neo Zeon War a fluke, downplaying his skills as a pilot. When Kenneth asks about Gigi, Hathaway mentions that it’s better to leave without seeing her again. For me, this removed any doubts about the fact that Gigi is interesting to him, enough to distract him from his original goals.

  • Hathaway heads to the local ferry terminal and drops off his luggage for someone from Mafty to pick up. To the Federation, who are monitoring transportation into and out of Davao, it would appear as though Hathaway had arrived, purchased his ticket and then left the island. Hathaway’s fieldcraft isn’t half bad, but unlike The Campus’ most experience operators, Hathaway isn’t able to compartmentalise his mission, which has threatened things on a few occasions in this film alone.

  • While at the ferry terminal, a Mafty broadcast overwrites the previous programs being shown. Mysterious broadcasts have long been a headache for television companies: poorly-secured signals can be defeated by setting up a transmitter near the original broadcast point or a headend and impersonating the signal by reading out uplink parameters. Today, signals are more difficult to hijack because they also carry a sort of key to ensure that the recipient only receives what was intended. As such, it stands to reason that Mafty’s also got a few electrical engineers and signals communications people on their payroll.

  • After leaving the terminal, Hathaway arrives on a lonely beach a ways away and sits down. It’s a gorgeous looking day, and again, the superb visuals are apparent in Hathaway’s Flash. I’ve found that of late, many productions are beginning to approach Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai’s films in terms of quality; with artwork and animation becoming increasingly consistent in their quality, anime films are likely to be immersive if they can get their story and characters right. As Hathaway settles into thought, a small sailboat soon pulls up and its operator asks Hathaway to board.

  • Hathaway thus links up with Emerelda and sets off for the next leg of his journey, while Kenji takes his place to ensure that his original travel plans are seemingly fulfilled. While riding the boat to Mafty’s Pacific base. Here, Hathaway feels much more in his element, dealing with a group of dedicated (if misguided) band of individuals who are confident that they are working the world to make the world a better place. While I’d come into Hathaway’s Flash knowing that Mafty boils down to a terror group, seeing the people within the organisation humanises them somewhat, and I became intrigued to see what their goals were.

  • Gigi outlines her accommodations to Kenneth, who is disappointed that she’s planning on leaving so soon. At this point in time, Gigi’s given up none of her secrets, save the fact that she’s very well connected and has an intuition that can seemingly foretell the future. However, Kenneth isn’t so sure, and suspects that something is off about Hathaway. Hathaway had suspected that even if she hadn’t said anything, Gigi might give away Hathaway’s identity inadvertently. Since Kenneth had stated he would capture Mafty himself, this sets the stage for the conflict in Hathaway’s Flash, which is a battle of the minds as much as it is a conflict between Gundams.

  • Upon arriving at the hidden Mafty base, concealed in the ruins of Side 2, Hathaway is brief on their latest operation: to retrieve a container from space containing supplies and a high value asset. This operation is risky, entailing the use of a rocket to get Hathaway up into the container so he can secure the asset, while in midair, to ensure that prowling Federation forces don’t get to the supply drop first: ever since the attack at Davao, the Federation’s been on high alert, and Kenneth’s been itching to have a go at Mafty with Lane Aim and their latest toy, the Penelope Gundam.

  • Mihesssia reminds me a great deal of Iroduku: The World in Colours‘ Kurumi Kawai. Seeing the people behind Mafty makes it clear that while they are terrorists, they are people nonetheless – reading about Mafty and coming at them from a purely abstract concept, it was easy to count them as faceless terrorists disrupting the peace, and I came into Hathaway’s Flash expecting the story to be about wiping Mafty from the face of the solar system. However, because Hathaway’s Flash takes the pains of humanising Mafty’s members (Mihesssia wouldn’t look out of place in a slice-of-life anime), viewers suddenly gain the sense that every death will be strongly felt.

  • At the Federation command centre, officers monitor the developing situation and notice irregularities, prompting them to send Lane and the Penelope out. At this point, Kenneth has made it very clear that he intends to beat Mafty himself – besides his charisma, Kenneth is a former mobile suit pilot and therefore, well aware of the tactics needed to meet them in combat. His prowess throws off Mafty’s members, who are surprised at how the change in command has made their operations all the more difficult. My friend had suggested a disinterest in Hathaway’s Flash, in part because the film adaptation changed things like character appearance, and having seen the first movie, as well as the original artwork, I get where he’s coming from.

  • It appears that Bright Noa had let Banagher off the hook fairly easily when he’d spoken to him about the Unicorn’s key; Kenneth is nowhere nearly as patient as Bright was, and after Gahman refuses to speak during an interrogation, Kenneth knocks him out and has him act as a hostage on their operation, accompanying Lane into battle. Despite Lane’s natural talent, which resulted in his being assigned to the Penelope, Lane has little combat experience and tends to let the moment get the better of him.

  • Emerelda is nervous about the operation, but there isn’t a moment to lose: kicking off their operation is a rocket launch: Mafty’s engineers have mounted a Galcezon to a rocket propulsion system and two solid-fuel boosters, which provides them the power needed to rendezvous with the cargo container in orbit. This scene speaks to how far animation has come: the launch itself surpasses the details seen Makoto Shinkai’s presentation of a rocket launch at Tanegashima Space Center in Five Centimetres per Second, a film dating back to 2007. Both the smoke and exhaust from Hathaway’s Flash are an order of magnitude more impressive in this scene, really capturing the scale and energy of Mafty’s operations. I remark here that a cursory Google search for Five Centimetres per Second continues to return results for the misconception that the film was about loneliness when in fact, it was about how our lives can feel as though we don’t have control over where we end up, similarly to the fluttering of cherry blossoms.

  • Folks who have read the novel One More Side or A Sky Longing for Memories artbook will find that the whole of the internet is mistaken about things. However, this isn’t a talk about Five Centimetres per Second, and back in Hathaway’s Flash, the emotional tenour during launch is quite tangible: the worry and doubt that Mafty’s members express, especially Emerelda, express, indicates that a fair portion of their number are playing things by ear and not always trained for the tasks they undertake, nor do they always take the optimal approach for sorting out their problems. However, what Mafty’s members do have is camaraderie: their words to one another prior to a mission does much to help everyone keep focused.

  • The act of aligning her Messer to match the container’s velocity is taxing on Emerelda, but after some effort, she is able to make the contact, allowing Hathaway to enter and take control of the prize: the Ξ Gundam. Manufactured by Anaheim Electronics, the Ξ Gundam was derived off the Zeta Project and built in conjunction with the Penelope: both mobile suits are massive, upwards of thirty-two percent larger than the RX-0 Unicorn, but despite their impressive silhouette, both mobile suits are highly manoeuvrable and capable of sustained flight thanks to their Minovsky Flight systems.

  • Upon spotting the Ξ Gundam for the first time, his immediate remark is that it’s a knockoff inferior to his Penelope. However, the Ξ Gundam quickly proves that there’s a reason its designation is higher; being a newer design, the Ξ Gundam sports an integrated flight system, lowering the suit’s mass (compared to the Penelope, which requires additional gear). While the Federation is better equipped with respect to having trained, skilled staff for operations, Lane is similarly inexperienced as a pilot; against someone like Hathaway, he is unable to keep up and utilise the Penelope’s powers fully.

  • Because the Ξ Gundam (read “Xi” and pronounced ksi) and Penelope are both descendants of the Zeta project, they resemble heavily armed air-superiority units rather than conventional mobile suits. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere, gravity and physical constraints the environment poses means that any lengthy battles here would feel more like a dogfight between two pilots, as opposed to the high-speed sword-play that is seen in the vacuum of space. Gravity is why the Universal Century deploys Base Jabbers, thermonuclear flight platforms that offer mobile suits limited flight in an atmosphere. Early Base Jabbers are cumbersome, but by Unicorn, they’ve become more versatile.

  • Gundam 00 got around this limitation by starting the AEU and Union with transformable mobile suits as their mainstay, allowing them to operate in an atmosphere for extended periods of time, and the GN Drive’s unusual properties eliminate the need to worry about gravity. One of the joys about Gundam is watching how the different universes address common problems, and newer series like 00 and SEED have both impressed from this standpoint. Back in Hathaway’s Flash, use of Minovsky Particles to assist flight is reminiscent of how GN particles were used for flight, although it’s clear that the technology is a work in progress, on account of how bulky both the Penelope and Ξ Gundam are.

  • The Penelope and Ξ Gundam are similar in their armaments; both Gundams carry mega beam cannons, a beam rifle, beam sabres and a novel weapon referred as Funnel missiles. These missiles use a psycommu to guide them, and when fired in bursts, can quickly overwhelm enemy mobile suits in spite of their low yield. During the course of battle, Hathaway also swats a few Gustav Karls out of the air before he realises that Gahman is inside the Penelope, as well.

  • By UC 105, the meaning of Gundam has clearly eroded from the earlier days. Bright had stated to Banagher that every Gundam pilot had been a worthy individual chosen by their machines to make a difference before Banagher participated in the Garuda transfer to retrieve Mineva from the Vist Foundation’s hands. Pilots like Amuro Ray and Kamille Bidan have shaped history with a combination of their skill and resolve to do what’s right, regardless of whether or not they’d wanted the responsibility.

  • Banagher was quite reluctant to take on this role, but as he began understanding the sorts of things that Mineva and Daguza were speaking off, he would accept that it would be necessary to get into the cockpit and do what he could, eventually becoming a legend in his own right by stopping Gryps II from obliterating Industrial Seven. By comparison, Lane pilots the Penelope simply because in test flights, he is the most promising, and Hathaway himself simply bought the Ξ Gundam from Anaheim Electronics, who had been all too willing for his business. We’ve not seen Captain Noa yet, but I imagine he’d be disappointed to see what Gundams had become by UC 105.

  • The fact that two Gundams are fighting one another further speaks to the immorality present in the Universal Century: Anaheim Electronics evidently has no qualms about building Gundam-type machines and selling them to opposite sides of the war. In one corner, we have a corrupt and decadent government with a bloated military, and in the other is a terror organisation. On paper, neither faction have the moral right to possess what the Gundam represents: the very fact that this is precisely the case speaks to the despair that Tomino aimed to convey through Hathaway’s Flash. Anaheim’s decision is not as sophisticated as Lord of War‘s Simeon Weisz: while Weisz had been playing politics through arms dealing, Anaheim Electronics simply wants to maximise their quarterly earnings.

  • It does feel like that Hathaway is a poor judge of character: he goads Lane and wonders if the latter is such a poor pilot that he will only sortie with a hostage in tow, only to retract his statements when Lane allows Gahman to walk. However, Lane was not doing this out of honour: Hathaway had pressed the right buttons, and Lane’s pride as a Gundam pilot is bent quickly when Hathaway suggests he lacks the integrity to fight like a man. With Gahman back with Hathaway, both pilots prepare to have a proper throw-down with nothing held back.

  • Lane thus finds himself eating crow when Hathaway begins fighting him in earnest: between his own inexperience and the fact that the Ξ Gundam has slight edge in performance in the atmosphere, he is unable to deal any damage to the Ξ Gundam, and Hathaway manages to dodge his shots. I’m not sure if the two Gundams would be more evenly matched in space, but given the extensive presence of mobile suits and equipment built for atmospheric operation in Hathaway’s Flash, I cannot help but feel that between this and the main machine’s lineage, Hathaway’s Flash will largely be set on Earth, which is a bit of a departure from the space environments that Gundam series tends to make full use of.

  • Hiroyuki Sawano returns to score Hathaway’s Flash‘s soundtrack. I was introduced to his music through Gundam Unicorn and found the soundtrack to be absolutely brilliant. Sawano, like Kenji Kawai (Gundam 00Ip ManHigurashiMaquia and Dark Water), has a very distinct sound: his compositions make extensive use of percussion and string to convey a sense of scale, but outside of Gundam Unicorn, his signature style can be easily spotted. Hathaway’s Flash, while possessing a generally enjoyable set of background songs, lacks the same iconic motifs as the Unicorn Gundam that made Gundam Unicorn‘s soundtrack so iconic.

  • In the end, Lane is shot down after he takes a shot at the Ξ Gundam, sees a massive explosion and assumes he’s won the dogfight. He is left open and unprepared for Hathaway’s counterattack; when multiple missiles impact the Penelope, Lane is knocked into the ocean. Hathaway spares him and proceeds to the next step of their operation, and by the time Lane comes to, Hathaway and Mafty are long gone.

  • Lane is unable to believe that he lost this engagement, and after exiting the Penelope, he looks around, desperate for any sign that he’d successfully shot down Hathaway and the Ξ Gundam. I imagine this will be a turning point in Lane’s career as a pilot, and what happens next will likely be a part of the second film, whose release date remains unknown. One thing I particularly liked was the fact that Hathaway’s Flash will be available on Netflix, making it highly accessible for everyone who wishes to check it out. This is an excellent decision, since it maximises the films reach, and selling a license to streaming services also provides a boost in return (versus not doing so at all).

  • The approach is one I’d wish ACTAS would take for Girls und Panzer: delays on Das Finale‘s third act are unbelievable. I have a hard time believing the argument that the long gaps between theatrical screenings and home release stem from a want of maximising profits from the die-hard fans, who are willing to watch the movie several times. I have yet to see any evidence suggesting that the Girls und Panzer model, with location and timed exclusives to said die-hard fans, brings in the majority of their revenue. A Netflix release, on the other hand, would benefit Girls und Panzer greatly. Back at base, Hathaway is given a hero’s welcome after successfully completing his assignment: while some of their supplies were lost, they were able to retrieve most of things, and the Ξ Gundam is now secured.

  • If I had to guess, this is Kelia Dace, Hathaway’s girlfriend who greatly admires him: the two seem close, and moreover, Hathaway seems much more comfortable around her than someone like Gigi. With this post very nearly in the books, I remark that writing something like this on short notice was a bit of an exhausting process, and with the spring season wrapping up, there’s going to be a busy few weeks ahead as I get Super CubYakunara Mug Cup Mo86 EIGHTY SIX and Higehiro sorted out. Gundam SEED‘s second half is also on my horizon – I finished Gundam SEED on Thursday and wrapped up Hathaway’s Flash on Friday, but I figured I’d get the latter written about first while thoughts of the film are still fresh in my head.

  • Overall, I enjoyed Hathaway’s Flash for its introduction into the latest animated adaptation of one of Tomino’s novels. The fact that this is a three-part film means that there will be sufficient space to explore everything that needs to be explored; while my friend did express concern that three parts means that the story might become bloated as did happen with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit, which added new elements which were never in J.R.R. Tolkien’s original novel, The Hobbit‘s movies averaged two hours and thirty eight minutes each, while Hathaway’s Flash‘s first part is an hour and thirty five minutes. I imagine that the decision to have three parts for Hathaway’s Flash was precisely so mobile suit combat could be shown in greater detail; assuming this to be the case for the second and third films, I wouldn’t have any objections to things.

Tomino has stated that Hathaway’s Flash is especially relevant today: Hathaway presents himself as a charismatic leader with a clear idea of what his objectives are, but at heart, is perhaps no more mature than he had been when he’d first met Quess. The world seen in Hathaway’s Flash has evidently learned nothing after the Axis Shock event, or from producing the monsters in the Unicorn, Banshee and Phenex. There are parallels in reality; society today is in many ways, taking steps backwards as the lessons of the past are forgotten. People insist on deleting figures from history for their past deplorable actions rather than using them as an example of how not to act. Emotions and social standing matter more than evidence and truth. This sets the world on a perilous precipice – as people increasingly refuse to listen to facts and lose their history, they become prone to making the same mistakes, potentially creating tragedies and atrocities even worse than those of their predecessors. Much as how the real world is losing perspective by backing things like cancel culture and Twitter politics “experts” who have more followers than common sense, Hathaway’s Flash is showing that both Mafty and the Federation are sowing the seeds for more suffering and chaos as a result of having lost the lessons from Char’s Counterattack and Gundam Unicorn that should have never been forgetting. As a consequence, Hathaway’s Flash has gotten off to a fine start – the first film focuses on the more human aspects of Hathaway, his connection with Mafty and how Gigi has begun sowing seeds of doubt in his heart. The human side of Gundam has always been enjoyable: humanising Hathaway and helping viewers to become familiar with who he has become since Char’s Counterattack, means that his hubris and ruin will be all the more poignant or cathartic, depending on one’s perspectives. This in turn creates a sense of anticipation for what Hathaway’s Flash will present to viewers next in its two remaining films. The first part had been worth the wait, and while uncharacteristic of a Gundam film in that mobile suit combat is quite limited, the preamble sets the stage for what follows; I’m rather looking forwards to seeing what happens next, and one cannot fault me if I say that I am also looking forwards most to seeing Ξ and the Penelope fight again.

Broken Blade: A Review and Reflection

“The enemy? His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he comes from, and if he really was evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home, or he would not rather have stayed there…in peace? War will make corpses of us all.” –Faramir, Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers

In a world where humans are born with the innate ability to manipulate quartz, Rygart Arrow is an un-sorcerer incapable of this power. He works on the family farm until the threat of warfare prompts King Hodr and Sigyn to invite Rygart to Binoten, Krishna’s capital. Here, Rygart learns that the neighbouring Kingdom of Athens intends to invade Krishna for their quartz reserves and intend to execute the royal family, including Sigyn. Their former friend, Zess, is part of an advance force to scout of Binoten’s defenses. Hodr also shows Rygart a mysterious Golem from an ancient era, and when Rygart demonstrates the ability to operate it, he becomes the Golem’s acting pilot. The horrors of warfare prompt him to leave, but General Baldr convinces Rygart to take responsibility for his actions. Rygart decides to stay, and continues piloting the Delphine into combat despite his lack of experience. The Delphine’s performance prompts Athens to send General Borcuse out: Borcuse is a talented strategist known for his brutality, and despite being under house arrest, Athens believes his methods will the most suitable for swiftly ending the war. As the outlook worsens for Krishna, they assign Girge (Baldr’s son) to Rygart’s squad, and Rygart continues training to familiarise himself with the Delphine. Meanwhile, General Borcuse has reached the Krishna border and single-handedly destroys much of the Krishna forces there, including General True. Baldr manages to rally his forces, and with Rygart’s help, forces Borcuse to retreat. Rygart later returns to his village against orders and finds that General Borcuse had slaughtered the inhabitants slaughtered. He engages Borcuse and is defeated: Borcuse believes that the Delphine’s exceptional engineering is behind its combat record, and orders it taken back to Athens, but is forced to retreat again when Krishna’s forces arrive. Borcuse’s subordinates, Io and Nike decide to strike, but Girge intervenes. He manages to defeat Bike, and sacrifices himself to save Rygart. His pride wounded, Borcuse decides to press an attack on Binoten, and although his forces manage to overwhelm the capital’s defenses, Borcuse himself is killed in a final confrontation with Rygart, whose Delphine is equipped with a crude but effective weapon. In the aftermath, Athens begins to withdraw, and Rygart learns that his younger brother is alive. Originally a manga that began running in 2006, Broken Blade was adapted into a six-part film in 2010-2011: the movies are is considered to be a faithful adaptation of the manga with the exception of the finale, which was re-written in a way as to offer more closure, whereas the manga is ongoing.

Broken Blade resembles Gundam Unicorn greatly: both series feature a reluctant pilot who gradually comes to take responsibility for entering the cockpit of an uncommonly powerful mecha. In Break Blade, Rygart finds himself pushed into war when Krishna, outmatched by the Golems Athens fields, is forced to fight for its survival. With its superior engineering and unique OS, the Delphine is a piece of hardware from an earlier time that far surpasses contemporary mecha, only responding to Rygart because he is an un-sorcerer. Because of this, Rygart’s inability to manipulate quartz suddenly renders him in a position to make a meaningful contribution towards saving Krishna and Sigyn. In spite of the horrors of war, such as witnessing an enemy pilot commit suicide rather than be captured and learning that General Baldr’s own son cracked under train and killed blue forces during an exercise, Rygart’s conviction is shaken. However, seeing first-hand the lives that stand to be saved and hearing Baldr’s wisdom ultimately convinces Rygart to rise to the occasion, and while Rygart never improves substantially as a pilot, his unorthodox methods result in the death of Borcuse, a key player in Athens’ military. The anime movies show that by choosing the more difficult route, which entails personal sacrifice, witnessing atrocity and and the loss of innocence, Rygart was able to spare Krishna of a bloodier war and the death of the royal family. Broken Blade thus shows that sacrifices made in the present are not always in vain; when Rygart accepts responsibility for his role in the conflict and steps into battle, he sees first-hand the horror and desolation of war, driving him to act in a way so as to reduce future bloodshed. Further to this, Rygart lacks any real understandings surrounding the complexities of warfare; his motivations for fighting stem from simply protecting his friends from the conflict. As such, while Rygart comes across as immature and inexperienced, his insights demonstrates how a naïve mind can underline the futility and pointlessness behind why wars are fought. Gundam Unicorn‘s themes, while considerably more broad and expansive, covered similar territory: Banagher similarly chooses to act as the Unicorn’s pilot and play his part in stopping Full Frontal from potentially creating a worse status quo for the Universal Century even if it means getting blood on his hands from the conflict.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While Broken Blade is also known as Break Blade, I think that going with the official title would be more appropriate. I open this post with Rygart Arrow (Sōichirō Hoshi, from Gundam SEED‘s Kira Yamato and Higurashi‘s Keiichi Maebara) getting his first look at Binoten, capital of Krishna. The composition of this moment set the precedence for the sort of aesthetics that would define Broken Blade: the arid deserts, deep blue sky and vastness of constructs all serve to indicate to viewers that Broken Blade would be going big in its artistic style. The first movie caught my attention the same way Sora no Woto did with its landscapes – the two things that both series share in common are their incredibly detailed settings.

  • Upon reuniting, Sigyn, the current queen of Krisha and wife of King Hodr, holds Rygart at gunpoint. This is, of course, just Sigyn’s way of expressing herself. Sigyn, Holdr, Rygart and Zess had once been classmates, but went their separate ways after. Sigyn had feelings for Rygart, who reciprocated but felt that he would never be able to accommodate for Sigyn’s love of mechanical engineering and books with his background. Broken Blade‘s story deals both with the Athens invasion, Rygart’s attempts to stop the war and save Zess, and also deal with his own feelings pertaining Sigyn (Chiawa Saitō, Gundam 00‘s Louise Halevy and Francesca Luccini of Strike Witches).

  • Because this post is more of a reminiscence post, as opposed to a standard discussion, I’ll be using some of the figure captions to reflect on corresponding moments from when I’d first watched Broken Blade: the anime began its life as a movie adaptation of the manga that ran from 2010 to 2011. I’m actually not too sure how I came across the series: the first installment released in May 2010, a time when I was taking theory-based lessons for my operator’s license. Having spent most of the summer on a theory-driven course and practical lessons, I ended up delaying until the next year to take the road test itself.

  • I ended up practising most of May, and then in June, I took the road test. Aside from messing up parallel parking once and making a poor judgement call at a yield sign, the exam was very smooth. Watching Rygart learn the ropes behind the Delphine’s operation brought to mind my initial days with operating a vehicle: while I became sufficiently skilled just in time for the exam, I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving until a year later, when I’d driven out to the mountains for a much-needed vacation after the MCAT ended.

  • While viewers are natually inclined to root for Rygart because the story is seen from his viewpoint, it turns out the commander of the Artemis Squadron is Zess (Hiroshi Kamiya, Gundam 00‘s Tieria Erde); Zess had been friends with Rygart since his time at the academy, meeting after driving off some bullies. A top student, Zess also became acquainted with Hodr and Sigyn. In the present, he commands the Artemis squadron and desires to bring the two countries back from the brink of war swiftly to spare his old friends from the brunt of the fighting.

  • Despite being a decade old, Broken Blade looks amazing: the artwork and animation both impress. Landscapes look photorealistic at times, and capturing the aridity of the region surrounding Krishna to really immerse viewers in this distinct fantasy universe. The Golems themselves were animated to a very high standard: from scratches and chips on armour, to cracking and shattering of quartz components, every fight is visceral and brutal.

  • One unexpected piece about Broken Blade was the inclusion of moments that accentuate just how shapely Sigyn (and later, Cleo) is. The ending of the first film indicates that while Hodr loves Sigyn, she doesn’t reciprocate and holds feelings for Rygart. This allows the story to explore Sigyn’s relationship with Rygart more openly without introducing unnecessary conflict. Indeed, the bulk of the conflict in Broken Blade, outside of clashing national interests, lies with Rygart and his reluctance to participate in warfare.

  • Because neither Zess or Rygart desire war, Zess’ initial inclination is to try and talk it out with Rygart: neither are fully aware of the situation that politicians have created. However, when the brash General True arrives and begins firing on Zess, Zess immediately retreats, and Rygart duels with Lee instead. In the chaos, Lee’s Golem is damaged, but while Rygart attempts to talk the pilot from killing Lee outright, Lee instead kills the pilot. Rygart subsequently disables her Golem, but she commits suicide, fearing that the Krishna will subject her to torture.

  • Rygart starts his journey as a highly unskilled pilot whose exploits are only made possible by his incredibly advanced Golem. Broken Blade‘s animation was sufficiently impressive such that one of my friends, a Gundam fan whose knowledge of the franchise is only rivaled by fans from Japan and the writers themselves, commented that Broken Blade was comparable to Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans in premise and technology, but ultimately, has better fight choreography and less teen drama.

  • For both my friend and myself, the Golem combat was probably the most enjoyable aspect of Broken Blade, since it represented such a departure from the high-speed combat of Gundam. Instead, strictly ground-based combat results in battles that, per my friend’s wording, resemble medieval sieges, with robots in place of armoured knights. My friend was particularly impressed with how detailed the Golems themselves were, and enjoyed watching the engagements, feeling the pressure guns to resemble crossbows and the way swords are mounted on each Golem.

  • Being a veteran of many wars, General Baldr imparts his wisdom upon Rygart: after witnessing the horrors of warfare for the first time, first-hand, Rygart decides to stand down, feeling it too much to handle. Earlier, Baldr warns Rygart that taking an opponent alive is far more difficult than striking them down, and here, he implores Rygart to stay and take responsibility for what he’s started. Rygart initially refuses, but upon seeing Hodr resigned to his fate and accepting Rygart’s decision anyways, Rygart decides to stick around and formally becomes the pilot of the Delphine.

  • While Rygart trains to become familiar with the Delphine’s unusual systems, I am reminded of first learning to drive. As every pilot experiences, no amount of theory and simulation can quite match the exhilaration and fear of getting behind the wheel for the first time: even at 40 kilometres per hour, the world moves by very quickly, and one feels like they aren’t always in control of their vehicle. Experience and learning the techniques will soon curb this uncertainty: for me, I drilled endlessly in an open parking lot to get the hang of a vehicle’s acceleration and braking, as well as its turn radius.

  • The trickiest thing about driving initially is being confident that the vehicle will stop and go precisely at one’s command. The general rule is to always look in the direction one intends to head towards, and in situations of doubt, cover the brake. Stopping safely is achieved by slowly and steadily applying force to the brakes. Once a good grasp of the vehicle mechanics is learnt, I would suggest learning the basics of parking: angle parking, hill parking and parallel parking all demand a strong understanding of where one’s vehicle is and its intended direction. Here, Rygart leaps into the air after disengaging the heavy armour Sigyn had equipped the Delphine with: Broken Blade is so-named after the fact that the Delphine has a single horn similar to that of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, albeit a broken one.

  • The Delphine’s abilities allow Rygart to kill one of the Artemis-class Golems and disable Zess swiftly. However, against Cleo, whose heart is filled with determination to defeat the Delphine, Rygart is outmatched. She knocks him down and squres off against Baldr’s Golems, defeating a handful before Baldr fights Cleo to a draw, prompting her squad-mates to order her retreat. Narvi manages to snipe her mid-retreat, blowing off a leg and leading to Cleo’s capture. The page quote was sourced from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – the first three movies had a much more complex nuance about warfare, but once Borcuse is introduced, right and wrong become much more black and white in nature.

  • Necessity forces Athens to redact its charges against the brutal General Borcuse, whose war crimes in a previous war led to his arrest. With its world-building, characters and inclusion of a powerful mecha surpassing its peers, Broken Blade resembles Gundam Unicorn in many areas. At the time I watched Broken Blade, only three of the Gundam Unicorn movies had been released, whereas all of the Broken Blade films were available. If memory serves, I finished the series off in May 2011, a time when I had been starting summer research. At that point, I’d fallen out of practise with hill parking and parallel parking, so I ended up taking some supplementary lessons prior to taking the road test.

  • My first road test would have been ten years ago, and I remember being quite nervous despite having spent the morning going through the exam route. In the end, I lost points for taking an extra attempt at parallel parking and for waiting too long at a yield sign, but other than that, I ended up doing okay. I thus surrendered my old Class VII, received an interim license and was told I’d get my physical license two weeks later. Broken Blade reminds me of this experience, since Rygart’s initial ineptitude with the Delphine paralleled my own difficulty in getting a vehicle to go precisely where I wanted it to go.

  • Sigyn believes that Cleo would be more open about the Artemis’ mechanics if she were treated as a guest rather than a prisoner of war: rather than send her to the brig, Sigyn arranges for Cleo to lodge with her, but this initially turns out to be a bad decision. Cleo overpowers Sigyn and takes her sidearm, with the aim of shooting Rygart in the head and escaping, but when it turns out Sigyn, like Captain Keyes, doesn’t keep it loaded, Cleo is swiftly recaptured and returned to Sigyn’s quarters without incident.

  • The pistols in Broken Blade are scaled-down versions of the pressure guns that Golems use in combat: they use a quartz-powered mechanism to accelerate projectiles at a great velocity, and different types of pressure guns are shown to exist. Rygart’s inability to manipulate quartz means that he is unable to fire a pressure gun of any calibre, and while operating the Delphine, his primary loadout will consist of standard melee weapons, as well as heavier gear that Sigyn custom-designs for the Delphine. My friend remarks that the Delphine’s advanced technology is such that a Gundam-like beam rifle would not seem out of place, although I note that giving the Delphine something like a beam rifle would shift the balance so dramatically that Rygart could’ve engaged and defeated the entire Athens army on his own.

  • Baldr’s son, Girge is introduced as the situation in Krishna deteriorates: while a brilliant Golem pilot, Girge is considered unstable after an incident where he unexpectedly killed a friendly pilot and then proceeded to disable every Golem in the exercise without harming their pilots. Girge was subsequently incarcerated, but is brought back out to help Krishna out. His unusual personality stems from a lifetime of attempting to meet the expectations of those around him, and in practise, he’s very reserved, although he speaks poorly of those he deems weaker than himself.

  • When Borcuse’s unit is introduced, they decimate General True (who dies at Nike’s hands when she crushes his Golem, splitting it in two). Later, Baldr encounters Borcuse’s forces and approves for a strike force to engage Borcuse’s units, but when they are slaughtered, Baldr is forced to reconsider. He manages to rally his men’s spirits from fear to anger: Borcuse notes that Baldr is very by-the-book, and as a pilot, Baldr is highly skilled: despite piloting a Golem inferior in performance to anything Athens possesses, he manages to hold his own against the speedier Artemis, as seen when he engages Cleo in a one-on-one.

  • It becomes apparent that Krishna’s Fefnir-class Golem, itself being the latest model, is completely outmatched by Athens’ top Golems. Against the Artemis-class and their superior firepower, most Fefnirs can be destroyed in two shots: the Artemis lacks armour, but can move fast enough to avoid being hit. Borcuse’s elite Golem squad can similarly demolish Fefnir-class Golems trivially, although against standard Athens units, the Fefnir fares a little better. However, when operated by skilled pilots, the lumbering Fefnir are able to keep up even against superior opponents.

  • Narvi is one of the best pilots available in the Krishna forces: besides sporting a great deal of respect for General True and being a brash pilot, she’s also confident and bold on the battlefield, preferring to be in the middle of the combat as a result of her desire to prove her mettle. Marina Inoue voices Narvi: after Broken Blade, Inoue would also voice Infinite Stratos‘ Laura Bodewig and Sakura Kagamihara of Yuru Camp△.

  • Over time, Cleo begins to realise that Krishna’s people are no different than those of Athens’, and develops a friendship with Sigyn. One of the themes in Broken Blade is that warfare amongst humanity often results in combatants forgetting their opponent is human, and as a result, creates atrocities of unimaginable scale. This is a recurring element in Gundam, especially in the Universal Century and Cosmic Era: the cycle of revenge and hatred requires an extraordinary occurrence to break, and even then, lingering feelings of resentment often trigger new conflict.

  • Borcuse’s Hykelion is one of the most powerful Golems in the whole of Broken Blade: this highly customised unit’s greatest weapon are a pair of scorpion tail-like jointed weapons that can be used as arms to seize weapons or pierce an enemy’s armour. Borcuse conceals his Golem in a vast cloak and prefers luring his enemies into closing the distance before unleashing the scorpion tails to devastate them. Against Rygart, Borcuse is more curious than antagonistic, intending to test out the Delphine’s and Rygart’s capabilities.

  • Having slaughtered an entire village just to goad Rygart into attacking (and therefore showing off what the Delphine’s capabilities are), Borcuse fights Rygart under a blood-red sunset. It soon becomes clear to Borcuse that the Delphine’s performance was a result of its exceptional hardware: Rygart is still inexperienced and brash, charging towards his opponents and counting on the Delphine’s durability to carry the day. Broken Blade excels at showing that a superior machine has its limits when going up against a superior pilot; bored of Rygart’s lack of skill, Borcuse disables the Delphine and orders it returned to Athens.

  • Some four years after I received by probationary operator’s license, I would go and obtain my full operator’s license: this license is required for obtaining commercial licenses and also lifts restrictions imposed on the probationary license. Most of my friends were not particularly keen on the full license because it involved parallel parking: during the early summer, I took the vehicle out to the same open lots in a nearby industrial park to practise parallel parking, and a few weeks later, I took the exam. This time around, I was completely at ease with operating a range of vehicles and completed every section of the driving test without difficulty: the examiner remarked it was a perfect exam.

  • Before Borcuse’s men can cut the cockpit hatch away, Rygart manages to regain consciousness and escapes with cover fire from allied forces. However, Borcuse’s squad gives chase and takes them out of the fight. Girge arrives and briefly duels Rygart, but switches his attention to Borcuse’s squad: he destroys Nike’s Golem and kicks Rygart away into a canyon, saving him at the last second from the advancing Athens forces at the cost of his own life. Owing to the pacing in Broken Blade, Girge remained one of those characters who would’ve benefited greatly from additional screen time to build his background and motivation out further.

  • Surprised at having been outwitted, Borcuse ignores orders from Athens to await the remainder of the invasion force and heads straight for Binoten with the aim of capturing it single-handedly. In the aftermath of the battle, Rygart comes to terms with Girge’s death, and having seen so much death at Borcuse’s hands, the final battle becomes personal for Rygart. When he returns to Binoten, he arrives just ahead of Borcuse, whose forces begin an onslaught on the capital. Even without the main force, Borcuse begins overwhelming the city’s defenses. Sigyn and Cleo say goodbye here.

  • In their final showdown, Rygart is driven purely by hatred and anger: as the two exchange blows, Borcuse finds himself completely perplexed at Rygart’s choice of actions during the fighting and deduces that he’s one of the un-sorcerers. Having never trained for such an eventuality, Rygart’s lack of experience in conventional warfare is what allows him to surprise Borcuse and deal damage to the Hykelion where no other pilot had previously succeeded. When Sigyn arrives with a massive shuriken, Borcuse laughs it off as a barbaric weapon and manages to evade most of the attacks, but ends up sustaining a hit that disables the shuriken. Rygart ultimately kills Borcuse, and with his death, the remaining Athens forces begin to withdraw.

  • Rygart, meanwhile, reunites with his younger brother, bringing the anime movie to an end. The manga is still ongoing, and the anime needed to fudge a few things in order to wrap things up neatly. With this being said, I still find the ending quite satisfactory, and overall, Broken Blade is a series I can recommend to people, earning an A- (3.7 of 4, or 8.5 of 10) in my books. With a compelling story and animation that stands up even a decade later, plus strong world building, Broken Blade is a fun series to watch. In ten years, the series has aged very gracefully, and my praises for Broken Blade do not appear to have been impacted by nostalgia: this is a solid option for fans of mecha series looking for something a little different, and the only knock I have against the series is that it could’ve done with one more episode, the same way Gundam Unicorn did, to flesh out character development further.

While thematically similar to Gundam Unicorn, Broken Blade differentiates itself in its unique setting. The world-building in Broken Blade is excellent, from the application of quartz in everyday life to military application, and its significance as an industrial resource to the point where nations are willing to spill blood to secure it. Quartz is so integrated into life that from things as simple as a coffee machine, right up to military hardware, all utilise quartz in some way. The Golems themselves are thoughtfully presented in Broken Blade: owing to their engineering and construction, they are incapable of sustained flight, and this prompts Golem combat to play out in a completely different manner than in something like Gundam Unicorn. The quartz-based technology leads to chaotic and bloody combat sequences between Golems, where engagements are fought with pressure guns at range and melee combat at close quarters. The physical nature of each engagement sees bullets chip away armour, blades cracking from use and entire Golems crumbling into scraps when defeated. Coupled with the stand-out portrayal of the rocky, arid terrain surrounding Binoten and vivid skies, the world that Rygart lives in is a tough one, but also one where the inhabitants have found a way to survive. Broken Blade excels in presenting these smaller details along with Rygart’s journey as a pilot and his determination in saving Sigyn, Hodr and Zess from a complex war that none want to be a part of. Altogether, Despite its age, Broken Blade is something that I can recommend to viewers who are fans of mecha series with a fantasy piece to it: Broken Blade represents an engaging journey that I certainly enjoyed, being a series with engaging world-building and characters, exceptional visuals and riveting combat sequences.