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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.

Blue Thermal: An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“Man must rise above the Earth – to the top of the atmosphere and beyond – for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.” –Socrates

When Tamaki Tsuru enters university, she determines that she wishes to pursue a færietale romance after being turned down in high school for her athleticism. On the first day of term at Aonagi University, Tamaki decides to check out the tennis club. However, an incident leads her to accidentally damage the Sports Association Aviation Club’s glider, totalling some two million yen worth of repairs. Determined to set things right, Tamaki joins the Aviation Club as an assistant, but she soon catches the eye of senior member and president Jun Kuramochi, who sees potential in her ability. Despite Daisuke Sorachi’s protests, Jun allows her to fly with him, and while Tamaki struggles to master the theory behind flight, her natural ability in a glider’s cockpit allows her to move up the ranks and even begin consider participating in competition, which Jun promises will yield enough funds to pay off the damages. Although it is revealed that the glider had been insured, Jun decides to keep this from Tamaki so she can continue to fly. During a training camp where Aonagi and Hannan’s teams train together. Here, Tamaki is surprised to run into her estranged older step-sister, Chizuru Yano, and Hannan’s hotshot pilot, Kaede Hatori. Although Kaede is disrespectful and rude to Tamaki, her bold and forward personality throws him off, and later, he is surprised to learn that Tamaki had actually beaten her in the trials. Seeing Tamaki getting along with even Kaede impresses Chizuru, who voices to Jun that she’d always been jealous of the freedom Tamaki had. Once training camp is over, Daisuke withdraws from club activities to pursue a career in aeronautical engineering, and Jun is pulled away when his sponsor, Yō Asahina, decides that Jun’s destined for more than flying against college-aged pilots. Jun ends up reluctantly accepting an offer to fly in Germany, while Tamaki and the others promise to win the national championships after Yō reveals his past involvement with the Aonagi Aviation Club; having purchased the very glider that Tamaki had damaged, Jun subsequently became beholden to him, and to this end, Tamaki resolves to fly and win for Jun’s sake. When the competition begins, Yō receives news that Jun was involved in a crash in Germany, and struggles to break this news to the Aviation Club. Although the club members are saddened by this news, they promise to keep flying, and on the day of the finals, Daisuke decides to hedge his bets on Tamaki by having her fly last. When her turn comes, Tamaki manages to capitalise on the thermals in the skies and manages to keep up with the other gliders despite having had a slower start. Her impressive performance gives Aonagi its best time, and they end up winning the national championship. Tamaki subsequently presses Yō to make good on his promise, and he takes her to Germany in search of Jun, as well as the blue skies he’d sought out. As it turns out, Jun had survived the crash and, after spotting Tamaki’s glider, rushes off to the airfield, confirming to a tearful Tamaki that he’s still alive. She responds by declaring her intention to keep flying together with Jun unto eternity, prompting Jun to wonder if this is a kokuhaku. This is Blue Thermal, a film that premièred in March of this year and, unusually, saw a home release a mere four months later. True to its title, Blue Thermal delivers on sending viewers into the vast blue skies above as Tamaki earns her wings and discovers a world exceeding any expectations she may have had prior to her first day.

Strictly speaking, Tamaki and Aonagi University operates sailplanes, unpowered aircraft with a slender fuselage and long, thin wings that can pick up currents and climb without an external power source. While lacking the same range and control as a powered aircraft, sailplanes can still travel impressive distances – an experienced pilot can use thermals, ridge lifts and other means to remain airborne for hours at a time and travel hundreds of kilometres. All of this is dependent on pilot skill and an ability to read the environment, and in this way, operating a glider thus serves as an inspired metaphor for life itself, one that suits Tamaki and her introduction into a sport that she’d never anticipated becoming involved with. Unlike powered aircraft, gliders lack the power to fly against heavy winds and cannot sustain a vertical climb. However, rather than using brute force to oppose the weather and gravity, gliders operate by utilising environment conditions to provide lift. This becomes appropriate for Tamaki; she’d gone through high school as a volleyball player and sported a boisterous, rambunctious disposition which dampened her love life. By university, Tamaki desires to play a lower-profile sport with the hope of turning things around. However, when she joins the Aonagi Aviation Club, she appears to set aside her wishes for romance and pursues flight whole-heartedly. Despite a rough start with the club, and clashing vocally with Daisuke, Tamaki rapidly acclimatises to flying. Much as how a glider pilot catches onto thermals and updrafts to stay aloft, Tamaki makes the most of every moment she’s in without forcing her original goal of romance. Her initial goal of paying off the damages to the glider she’d caused Daisuke to wreck eventually transforms into a desire to embrace the open skies and sees the world that Jun sees. Tamaki’s natural prowess with a glider draws parallels her Tamaki’s open-mindedness; while she struggles with the theory, Jun decides to hedge his bets on her after spotting Tamaki’s uncommon ability to fly. Her skills draw the ire of Hannan pilots, but with this same open mind, Tamaki is able to get them to come around – she gains a semi-friendly rivalry with hotshot Kaede, and even manages to reconcile with her half-sister. Through Tamaki and the use of gliders, Blue Thermal shows how freedom is found in possessing an open mind and by rolling with the punches. Much as how gliders can stay in the skies and reach new heights by working with, rather than against, nature, Tamaki finds herself enriched beyond expectations by taking challenges in stride and approaching problems with a plucky, determined attitude. In doing so, Tamaki comes to discover what she’d wanted when she’d entered university.

The transition from secondary to post-secondary is a tumultuous time, of growing accustomed to large lecture halls, challenging material and unyielding schedules, as well as the unparalleled freedom of being in post-secondary and pursuing activities geared towards one’s future. Post-secondary, even more so than high school, is the definitive time to discover oneself and understand one’s strengths. When Tamaki enters university, however, her major isn’t even stated, and Tamaki herself states as much: she’s here to reinvent herself and is most enthusiastic about having a colourful love life. However, when everything changes, Tamaki suddenly develops a keen love for the skies and the freedom it represents. In the skies, she finds the strength to be herself: despite having been rejected earlier for being too loud, Tamaki embraces who she is and never hesitates to speak her mind. When Kaede mocks her for being a novice, Tamaki stands her ground and ends up surprising him. The pair might not get along swimmingly as peas in a pod, but form a begrudging respect for one another. Similarly, Tamaki ends up being the one to ask the Glider Club’s advisors for permission to continue on in the national competition even after news of Jun’s accident reaches their ears. Although the advisors had been looking to withdraw since the news might create unsafe conditions, Tamaki feels that Jun would’ve wished for them to continue flying for their sake. While the others hesitate to express this, Tamaki becomes the first to voice her desires. Being with the Aviation Club and being exposed to the skies’ vastness, helps Tamaki to reaffirm that she didn’t need to change, and at the film’s climax, after she helps Aonagi to win the national championship, her first action is to implore Yō, Jun’s benefactor, to give her a chance to locate him in Germany. Blue Thermal shows how important it is that one is able to be true to themselves, and while Tamaki had originally wanted to become someone who could be more successful at love, joining the Aviation Club would provide her the space in where she could be herself, and in this way, she becomes better equipped to pursue goals on her own terms. Although Blue Thermal dispenses with the romance piece after Tamaki joins the Aviation Club, she comes to discover a new love for the open skies – had she followed through with her original goal, Tamaki might not have had such an opportunity to be true to herself.

Blue Thermal‘s outcomes are touching, and seeing Tamaki make considerable strides in the film was rewarding. However, despite its runtime, Blue Thermal has a lot of moving parts. Jun’s precise relationship with Yō is never explored in greater detail, and similarly, Tamaki ends up getting along with Daisuke despite a rough start. Chizuru manages to overcome her dislike for Tamaki on her own terms rather than through any actions from Tamaki’s part. With the large number of characters in Blue Thermal, many of the ancillary stories go unexplored, leaving the impression that a bit of magic was involved in helping the other characters to find resolution. Even Tamaki’s own ending is open: while she meets up with Jun in the end and shares a tearful moment together, the outcomes are not explored beyond this. The idea of an open ending is one of controversy – a closed ending offers a definitive and satisfying conclusion, decisively showing the reader or viewer that a resolution was reached. Conversely, open endings can be confusing, and the lack of closure may undermine a story’s themes. In the case of Blue Thermal, a coming-of-age drama, the open ending and focus on Tamaki at the expense of presenting a better-fleshed out path for the other characters is appropriate; the film is told from her perspective, drawing parallels with how in reality, one is limited to their own perspective. The folks around oneself often find their own meaningful solutions to problems and make their own decisions without involving others in their thought process. Individuals may catch glimpses into things and even contribute in some way, but ultimately, the process is nowhere nearly as detailed or vivid as one’s own experiences. The approach in Blue Thermal, then, is to parallel this – things that Tamaki experience are incredibly intricate, but the things that happen to those around her are less clear, even chaotic. Daisuke ends up quitting the Aviation Club to pursue his studies but decides to stay on to see the competition through, and Jun reluctantly accepts an offer to compete internationally, leaving his club members behind. The swiftly resolved side stories, and focus on Tamaki, reminds viewers that one cannot be omniscient and know of every detail surrounding every individual they encounter, but with the information that is available to them, one can still make decisions with the information available to them. This is what spurs Tamaki to ultimately decide to keep flying for both herself, and for Jun’s sake. In providing viewers with just enough information to see what motivates Tamaki, her growth remains plausible and natural – even if Blue Thermal does end on an open note, one can suppose that reuniting with Jun allows Tamaki to see what the open skies now mean to her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I still vividly remember my first day of university: my first-ever lecture was health inquiry, and the lecturers opened by stating that there was more to university than memorisation. After the class ended, the lecturers indicated that research was central to health sciences and told us to keep our eyes out for emails coming from the programme coordinator for a list of lab tours. It was through the lab tours that I would find the lab I’d apply to and subsequently become a member of. Unlike Tamaki, who joins the Aviation Club by wrecking one of their gliders, I ended up receiving a position by volunteering, since I’d come up short when applying for undergraduate summer studentships.

  • While I started out in the lab as a volunteer, two months in, my supervisor was impressed with how quickly I picked up the in-house game engine and built an agent-based model of blood oxygenation and deoxygenation, in which red cells could independently keep track of their oxygenation state. This project would not be used for anything, but piqued my curiosity in agent-based modelling, eventually resulting in my undergraduate thesis work. For the course of my research, while I never went to competitions, I did participate in numerous presentations, helped with lab tours, and even gave television interviews with other members of the lab.

  • Tamaki’s journey is no less impressive, and while she starts Blue Thermal a greenhorn that Daisuke is intent on keeping in a low-ranking position, Jun eventually takes a liking to her. Tamaki’s first day with the Aviation Club starts out roughly, and she initially joins on only so she can work off the damages caused to the glider. The Aviation Club’s activities are set in the plains of Japan just outside of Tokyo, a setting that isn’t often explored in anime – most of the series I watch are set in the heart of Tokyo, coastal areas or highly rural regions.

  • Tamaki is basically Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Hina Tsurugi and Yama no Susume‘s Aoi Yukimura– although sporting a friendly and cheerful demeanour, when provoked, she becomes pouty and foul-mouthed. This set of personality traits is unlike the archetype for most slice-of-life series, but it works well enough in series with a larger drama piece; while adorable and fluffy characters are enjoyable, their happy-go-lucky nature precludes any conflict which drives growth. Tamaki only minimally tolerates Daisuke and sets about doing what he asks, but her fortunes turn around when Jun invites her to fly with him.

  • After taking to the skies, Tamaki channels her inner Aoi and Hina – the choice to use chibi expressions in a series that otherwise felt serious initially felt dubious, but it actually serves an important purpose, lightening up a scene and allowing viewers to relax a little. This is the author’s way of reminding viewers that the work isn’t all-business, and seeing a more human side to the characters help viewers to connect with the characters better. Of course, more serious characters, like Jun, aren’t given the same treatment; this suggests to me that some characters are meant to be more adorable or comical than others.

  • The visuals in Blue Thermal are befitting of a movie, being above-average in terms of detail and fluidity – the film is produced by Telecom Animation Film, which had previously assisted Studio Ghibli to produce films including Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away and The Wind Rises. While the character designs of Blue Thermal are a cross between Makoto Shinkai (Jun resembles the some of Makoto Shinkai’s characters in appearance and presence) and lighter series, the background artwork and overall animation are detailed and smooth.

  • Use of spacing in a frame can help clarify the emotional tenour of a moment, although here in Blue Thermal, such techniques almost feel unnecessary, as the use of chibi expressions speak volumes to what’s on Tamaki’s mind – she’s clearly enjoyed the flight but is reluctant to pursue the club activities, since such a path conflicts with her own desires, but on the flipside, Tamaki also has a sense of integrity about her, and feeling poorly about wrecking the glider, Tamaki cannot help but feel responsible for winning a competition to pay off the damages.

  • Daisuke barely contains his jealousy that Tamaki got to fly with Jun despite being a newcomer. A part of Tamaki becomes motivated to continue flying now; one aspect about her personality that stood out is that she’s a little vindictive, and in conjunction with a willingness to speak her mind, Tamaki stands out as a protagonist in that her mannerisms seem to be at odds with her appearances. These traits ultimately drive what occurs in Blue Thermal, and Tamaki ends up staying with the Aviation Club.

  • Daisuke takes Tamaki to receive her medical check-up and helps her to pick up a learner’s permit. However, when Daisuke badmouths her, she immediately responds by trying to beat up Daisuke. The dynamic between the pair reminds me of Angel Beats!‘ Hideki Hinata and Yui – the pair initially clashed at every turn, but over the course of the show, Hideki and Yui ended up falling for one another. This unlikely pairing shows how love can manifest between even people who outwardly appear incompatible. Angel Beats! was especially moving in this regard, and seeing the conflict between Daisuke and Tamaki created a curious possibility in Blue Thermal.

  • However, Blue Thermal‘s romance piece appears secondary to Tamaki’s experiences in the Aviation Club – after Daisuke helps get Tamaki set up and even chases after her to ensure she’ll pay him back, not much more comes out of things. Instead, things fast forward to a critical point in the Aviation Club – promising new members will have the chance to now fly a glider for themselves because Aonagi’s Aviation Club is serious about competition. In Japan, opportunity is often awarded based on seniority rather than skill, so any time there’s mention that skill and merit come first, one knows that things are getting serious and will invariably give the newcomers there time to shine.

  • This is something that happened in Hibike! Euphonium, and this created all sorts of drama, leading to schisms and disagreements. This is fortunately not the case in Blue Thermal – all of the club members appreciate that their ability to fly is based on skill, and there seems to be no lingering hard feelings amongst the club members who aren’t selected. Depending on what a story intends to do, different things will set off drama, and there is no right or wrong way of doing things, so long as things remain consistent within the story itself.

  • Here, Yukari Muroi and Tamaki catch a breather before Ayako Maki, another club member, approaches Yukari and indicates that her custom overalls are a little too small. Yukari has an idol-like presence about her, and while she feels like an ojou-sama in appearance and through her choice of pink overalls, she gets along with the other club members very well. Characters whose actions are contrary to how their archetypes are portrayed in other series can make for an interesting work, reminding viewers that appearances can be deceiving, and it is hardly a good idea to pre-emptively judge characters early into the game.

  • Once her turn comes up, Tamaki is invited to take the controls of the glider under Jun’s supervision, and the experience proves to be a thrilling one for her – she’s clearly a fast learner and, despite having spent almost no time studying the theory and touching up on the basics, she appears to have a knack for picking things up in a practical sense. Once Jun transfers controls over to her, she intuitively takes over and begins taking her first steps towards becoming a capable glider pilot. Jun certainly seems to have high regard for Tamaki’s potential, and while one might wonder what the basis is for Jun’s assessment is because Blue Thermal doesn’t explicitly state this, it is possible to suppose that watching Tamaki handle things in the cockpit helps Jun to make his conclusion.

  • Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for Tamaki – although Jun certainly treats her kindly, she’s still a novice, and after she accidentally loses a screwdriver, she accompanies the mechanical team in searching for it. Tamaki is on the verge of tears at the thought of having let everyone down, and it is likely the case that after this incident, Tamaki becomes more mature and responsible as a result of her learnings. Many of the plot points in Blue Thermal are implicit; the film’s got a lot of elements, and only a limited runtime, so only the most important moments are shown. For viewers who dislike ambiguity, this film will not likely work for them.

  • The flight sequences in Blue Thermal are among my most favourite parts of the film – as Tamaki soars over the Japanese countryside, all of her worries appear to become left behind on the ground. Tamaki improves gradually to the point where she is able to fly solo, and on her first flight alone, she marvels at the sort of freedom being in the skies confers. For me, I admit that the lack of a pair of Pratt & Whitney engines providing thousands of pounds of thrust does feel limiting, but this is because I’m used to using engines to push through currents while pursuing bogies in air combat arcade games. However, in real gliding, experienced pilots work with, rather than against the currents, and this is what makes Blue Thermal so enjoyable.

  • Rather than resisting a force, or adversity, Blue Thermal‘s metaphor lies in embracing a force and going with the flow. At training camp, Tamaki becomes more familiar with the glider and its properties: one could say she’s rising to new heights with her experience, and here, one must surmise that she’s slowly picking up the theory, as well. While a lot of environments favour teaching theory to people first before any practical training takes place, I have found that there are cases where it’s useful to have people get hands-on learning, since this allows one to map something they can do to a theoretical concept.

  • As Tamaki becomes more confident in herself, she becomes as energetic and forward as she’d been previously. It is the case that over time, people begin showing their true selves to others as they open up. Sometimes, this is for the better, as seemingly shy and quiet people contribute more to the team, but at other times, this creates problems, as people begin to slack off. Seeing the real Tamaki at the Aonagi Aviation Club’s training camp elevates things, as she brings a newfound energy to things, and she ends up becoming much closer to Yukari and Ayako, along with Eita Narihara, a photographer.

  • With the first training club drawing to a close, one of the advisors indicates that the first year students have made excellent progress, and Aviation Club sits down to udon for dinner. Tamaki is shown enjoying her meal; while not much of Tamaki’s likes and dislikes are shown directly, simple moments like these speak volumes about characters. Tamaki clearly loves her food, and as such, it is possible to say that meals represents a time for her to unwind. I’m very similar in this regard, and one of my hobbies, albeit one I partake in with reduced frequency compared to watching anime and lifting weights, is going around and trying different foods out.

  • With two poutines in a week, I’m content to try other foods out when I go out next, and return discussions to Blue Thermal, where the club members review Jun’s impressive performance with the advisor. Here, Tamaki and Yukari learn of how many universities there are that actually participate in the competition: winning is a very tall order on account of the fact that there are many universities with excellent teams, but Tamaki remains as motivated as ever to make it into the championships and secure the title.

  • While a surprise call with Yō, Jun’s benefactor, leaves him deep in thought, he still has time for a conversation with Tamaki, who’s fired up and ready to do her best. One can reasonably gather that Jun is beholden to Yō on account of previous dealings, and here, it would appear that Jun’s main interest in Tamaki lies in the fact that she’s learnt so quickly. Since she possesses such potential, Jun feels that she might be a worthy successor to continue helping Aonagi’s Aviation Club out. Jun possesses similar traits to Children Who Chase Lost Voices‘s Ryūji Morisaki, who was similarly talented in his field and took to the female lead because she’d exhibited the potential to help him out, which left me with a bit of caution surrounding Jun and his intentions.

  • Like Girls und Panzer, clubs from different universities do arrange to train together, and as it turns out, Aonagi ends up practising against Hannan, a school with an impressive Aviation Club. Blue Thermal skips many of the intermediate moments in favour of presenting the most standout highlights of Tamaki’s time in Aonagi’s Aviation Club, and this casues the movie to have a very energetic, peak-to-valley feeling about it. Here, the advisor disappoints Aoyaki, Yukari and Tamaki when he indicates that this training camp comes with unlimited onsen access: the students had been looking forward to a more summer-y set of activities on top of their training.

  • When the two clubs meet for the first time, Hannan’s club leader, Chizuru Yano, immediately takes a disliking to Tamaki and indicates that so long as Tamaki is present, Hannan will sit things out. Tamaki later explains that Chizuru is her half-sister, but her parents divorced, and since then, she’d never gotten along with Chizuru. The distance between Tamaki and Chizuru is something that arose as a consequence, and here, I got Girls und Panzer vibes; Chizuru’s presence feels distinctly similar to Maho’s. However, unlike Maho, who’s simply quiet, Chizuru is openly hostile towards Tamaki.

  • Later, Jun explains the route that will be flown during this training exercise: the presence of mountains will make for a trickier traversal, but the numerous updrafts resulting from the terrain also can be capitalised upon. When Jun had taken Tamaki into the skies, he’d utilised a thermal to do so. This is done to maximise the amount of altitude a glider can obtain before setting off for a course, and brought to mind how the U-2 took off in a MythBusters episode, climbing in a spiral above the airfield after becoming airborne. The U-2’s design is actually inspired by a glider, allowing the aircraft to stay aloft for extremely long periods at a time. What gave the U-2 its incredible flight endurance also made the U-2 exceptionally difficult to fly.

  • Of all the characters in Blue Thermal, Tamaki tends to take on the rounded, chibi-fied traits the most, even when things appear serious. Jun infuriates Chizuru by suggesting that he’s willing to take Tamaki up in a two-seater when they’re going on a training run of the course: Blue Thermal explains, for the viewer’s benefit, that a two-seater has a lower glide ratio (how much altitude is lost per unit distance travelled) than a one-seater, and to Chiruzu, it would seem that Jun is intentionally showing her that the differences in their skill are non-trivial (it’s akin to taking a performance handicap in an FPS by foregoing primary weapons and sticking only to a knife).

  • While some of the other pilots have trouble flying, Hannan’s team successfully completes the gruelling course. When it’s time for Tamaki and Jun to fly, they end up deviating significantly from the designated route and return nearly two hours later than expected. The ground crews are overwhelmingly relieved to see the pair’s glider on approach for landing, and up here, Blue Thermal offers no insight as to what must’ve gone through Jun’s mind as he did this. A pilot of his skill level would not suffer this by accident, so it’s clear that something is bothering Jun.

  • The idea of going off a stipulated course brings to mind the likes of the 2001 film, Behind Enemy Lines, in which flight officer Chris Burnett and pilot Jeremy Stackhouse are sent out on a reconnaissance flight on Christmas Day, only to become shot down by rogue Serbian forces. It turns out that Burnett and Stackhouse had inadvertently stumbled upon mass graves, and this would be incredibly damning for the rogue Serbian forces involved. Blue Thermal has no such outcomes, leaving the precise nature of the flight that Jun and Tamaki takes ambiguous.

  • Tamaki collapses from exhaustion despite expressing joy at having remained in the skies for so long. I am reminded of a note I picked up when learning to drive for the first time; it is recommended that drivers take a quarter-hour breaks every two hours to avoid fatigue. Fully-qualified pilots in the air force similarly remain airborne for a maximum of two hours, although reconnaissance pilots, such as those operating the U-2, have flown eight hour missions in a cramped cockpit. To a novice like Tamaki, even a two hour flight would be extremely tiring.

  • In the aftermath, Daisuke looks after Tamaki and is clearly worried about her, even going so far as to almost physically reprimand Jun for having undertaken such actions. However, he contends himself with a dirty look and rushes out the door. In the time since Blue Thermal started, Daisuke’s come around regarding Tamaki and now sees her as a full-fledged member of the Aviation Club. Viewers are not given a blow-by-blow of the progress in Blue Thermal, but enough information is given so that one can fill in the blanks for themselves. A romance between Tamaki and Daisuke thus comes to mind for viewers.

  • When Tamaki awakens and leaves her room, she runs into Daisuke, who decides to accompany her, and he even lends her his coat. Upon spotting a sea of clouds over the mountains, Tamaki expresses her love of the skies fully to Daisuke, who has, by now, fully embraced Tamaki as a part of the club. An inset song plays here, suggesting that Daisuke and Tamaki have become closer as club members and even friends. Jun manages to catch a glimpse of Daisuke taking Tamaki back into the building. He smiles, suggesting a joy that Daisuke has come around, too.

  • The observant viewer will have noticed that by this point in time, Tamaki is spending a great deal of time with Yukari, Ayako and Eita. After a night’s rest, Tamaki’s in fine spirits, and she enjoys breakfast with enthusiasm. Although Tamaki is quick to recover and feels ready to fly again, Jun encourages her to continue resting. There is wisdom in doing so; even after recovering, it takes the body a bit of time to get back to the point where one can take on strenuous tasks again. The moment brings back a similar scenario in Yuru Camp△, where Sakura who forbids Nadeshiko from immediately joining Rin after her fever subsides.

  • While the training camp continues, Tamaki feels like she hadn’t contributed in any meaningful way because she’d been unable to fly for most of it. What she does with this time is not shown, but the opening would likely allow her to brush up on theory and potentially catch up on coursework; I remember how during my first year, I struggled to keep up with everything because every single course I took had weekly assignments, biweekly quizzes, two midterms and a final. The only exception to this rule was my medical inquiry course, which had papers in place of midterms and finals, but to a first-year unaccustomed to writing papers, this was tricky.

  • It wasn’t until my third year where I was able to occasionally cut lectures for attendance at symposiums and the like, and even then, this demanded a bit of planning from me in order to pull off. While I wasn’t part of any student society or clubs, I continued to remain a member of the lab I’d joined; this was impressed upon me at the end of my second summer, when I tried returning the lab keys, and my supervisor approached me and said that wouldn’t be necessary. The keys I picked up would therefore remain with me until I graduated from my Master’s programme some five years later. During those five years, I would help out on various presentations and events around campus, even representing the lab with another graduate student when our supervisor had a conflicting event.

  • After Tamaki reveals to her newfound friends her original intention for joining, they immediately rush off and clarify that there is no prize money for competition. Jun suggests he deliberately “forgot” to keep Tamaki on, and here, Daisuke’s interrupted mid-conversation; it turns out that he’s looking to step away from club activities owing to his own circumstances, but Jun convinces him to stick around until at least the rookie competition for Tamaki’s sake. The fact that Daisuke consents suggests that he’s also come around with respect to Tamaki, although it’s probably her plucky spirit, rather than her innate talent for flying, that catches Daisuke’s eye.

  • After a poor showing at the training camp, Tamaki begins to put in a larger effort to fly, and in the process, she becomes allowed to fly a glider on her own without a second pilot supervising her. This marks a turning point for her. The sort of joy Tamaki experiences here reminds me of when I drove without a fully-qualified operator for the first time; while it is a bit intimidating, once one recalls the basics and gets into the swing of things, it does feel as though anywhere in the city is within reach. Indeed, as one becomes more comfortable with driving, the open roads become inviting, and this Monday, my last Monday off for the foreseeable future, I decided to take a drive down to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in the southernmost reaches of the province. I ended up waking up at six in the morning, similarly to my workdays, so we could make the drive: one-way, it’s almost three-and-a-half hours, so altogether, driving there and back would entail seven hours of time spent on the open road.

  • While forecasts had predicted smoky skies, the Southern Alberta skies were surprisingly clear, and after a pit stop in Fort McLeod, we continued on with our drive, arriving at our destination close to eleven. The last time I was at Writing-on-Stone, I was still in secondary school, and I still vividly remember jokingly referring to the Sweetgrass Hills as the Iron Hills: they can be plainly seen from the park interpretive center and are igneous intrusions that formed forty-three million years ago. We subsequently explored the sandstone hoodoos in the park briefly: while we weren’t able to find actual writing (Indigenous rock art on the area’s distinctive formations gives the park its name), there was fun to be hand in trying to navigate the spaces between the hoodoos. Having arrived when we did, it was only 24°C, but after an hour’s of exploration, the thermometer had risen to 28°C. We thus decided to turn back, climbed back into the prairies and prepared to make the drive to Lethbridge.

  • While I’ve grown accustomed to driving the mountain highways of the Canadian Rockies and count prairie roads as boring, now that I’m the driver rather than passenger, there is admittedly a fun to driving the open roads under endless skies. Upon arriving in Lethbridge, we stopped at the Mocha Cabana Bistro, a delightful restaurant located in a historical building. After we were seated, I ordered the steak-and-eggs with their in-house hash browns and toast. I’d been longing for a good plate of scrambled eggs (having enjoyed sunny-side up eggs with a poutine earlier), and the Mocha Cabana didn’t disappoint. The steak itself was also quite delicious, seared to perfection. The in-house hash browns, surprisingly, were an unsung star: well-seasoned, tender and flavourful, it made for a fantastic conclusion to the meal.

  •  While service here was slower, it really allowed me to kick back and enjoy the afternoon in a cool retreat. Once lunch concluded, we drove down to check out Lethbridge’s High Level Bridge, which is the largest trestle bridge in the world. As the afternoon heat reached 31°C  Back in Blue Thermal, as Tamaki continues training, her skill and confidence both increase: as she falls further in love with the open skies, her performance continues to increase, and her readiness to compete grows, although she does express worry about the competition itself. Luckily for her, Jun and Daisuke both remind Tamaki to relax.

  • In terms of visuals, Blue Thermal certainly lives up to its name, as some of Tamaki’s most memorable flights take place under brilliantly blue skies. Clear weather such as this is an iconic part of summer, and looking back, this year, I’ve certainly been able to capitalise on the weather to a much greater extent than I had in the past two years: the global health crisis is looking to be better contained, and aside from a few additional precautions like wearing a mask in crowded spaces and sanitising my hands more frequently, I’ve been able to slowly acclimatise to going back out again.

  • During the rookie competition, Tamaki’s concerns about her sister leads her to forgo the practise run she’s permitted to. However, while Chizuru’s openly hostile to Tamaki, all the more so because Tamaki does seem to have a natural talent for flying, Jun completely embraces Tamaki and expresses his high expectations of her performance. Chizuru’s words are those of someone who feels threatened, feeling it unfair that Tamaki unexpectedly showed up and is trampling on a passion of hers. As an older sibling myself, I have weakly experienced this myself, but got past it by accepting that everyone’s got a different skill set, and that one can’t really be overshadowed as long as they put their all into something.

  • Although Tamaki forfeited her practise run and is slated to go up against Hannan’s hotshot pilot, Kaede Hatori, who also equipped with a thermal tracker, her natural intuition allows her to find a thermal and rapidly gain altitude, completely throwing Kaede off. While Tamaki’s performance might initially be chalked up to beginner’s luck, she does have a knack for feeling out her glider’s movements and then acting accordingly; even without technological assistance, she’s able to hold her own against Kaede. Les Stroud has spoken of not depending on technology, as it can become a crutch of sorts.

  • However, as the technology becomes more versatile and robust, it can become the standard. Until the past few years, soldiers trained extensively with iron sights; although red dot sights confer superior clarity, iron sights are more durable and immune to electronics jamming. However, their improvements over iron sights warrants allowing them to be used as a part of fundamentals training. From this angle, Kaede can be seen as not utilising his edge to the fullest of the extent possible, and as a result, Tamaki pushes Aonagi to an early lead after the first day.

  • While Kaede is humiliated to be beaten by a little girl, Tamaki’s plucky spirit endures; she’s not gloating or arrogant about winning, but instead, comes straight at Kaede and demands his best. This side of Tamaki is indeed her best self: while she might be shy in a new environment or when things become awkward, when she’s in her element, Tamaki tries to encourage those around her and doesn’t leave any lingering grudges behind. As a result of Tamaki’s forward and direct pep-talk, Kaede regains his confidence, accepts second place and proceeds to promise Tamaki a better showing that will leave her behind in the dust for tomorrow.

  • Immediately prior to setting off, Tamaki and Kaede exchange a little bit of pre-flight trash talk before she learns that Chizuru will be her in-flight judge. Both to help take her mind off things and decrease glare, Jun passes her a pair of sunglasses. I’ve made it a point to always wear my sunglasses when driving, as a good pair of polarised lenses with the right UV protection can prevent eyestrain and undue damage to the eyes. In the sky, UV radiation is even more intense, and unlike cars, which come with tinted windows that offer a modicum of UV protection, the glider canopies don’t appear to have the same feature.

  • Tamaki’s distant relationship with her sister notwithstanding, she decides to proceed as planned and fly her best. Seeing Tamaki’s progress in Blue Thermal reminds me of an old argument about how in anime, characters can be seen improving a little too rapidly without much apparent training. This was one of the biggest gripes about K-On!, where Yui’s growth as a guitarist felt “undeserved” on account of how much time the anime spent portraying her sipping tea and eating cake over pracisting. However, these criticisms appear to forget that Yui, when motivated, can pick things up very quickly and put in the effort to master them. However, portraying such moments isn’t the intent of K-On!, and therefore, they aren’t shown. Similarly, Blue Thermal has a limited runtime, and showing all of the training Tamaki participates in would take away from showing her in competitions.

  • It appears that on the control column in the gliders seen in Blue Thermal, the button is a push-to-talk switch. The idea behind this is that if every aircraft were always transmitting, radio controllers would be overwhelmed. While gliders are simple and only require one, commercial aircraft have up to nine switches. Early on in this competition, Kaede quickly gains the upper hand with his experience and equipment: he flies in a way to maximise lift and reduce turning angle, giving him a quick boost. Jun comments this is done to demoralise Tamaki.

  • As the competitors soar into the skies, the rivers and fields below are rendered in great detail. Most of the anime I’ve seen that are set in the inaka are usually presented as being satoyama (里山), which refers to where the plains meet the mountains, and these areas have been an integral part of Japanese society for centuries, as farmers learned to work their land harmoniously with nature. Satoyama have a high biodiversity, and traditional agricultural practises have proven sustainable. Although the river plains of Japan have seen extensive agriculture, the flat terrain here precludes scenery that would make for beautiful stills in anime. Blue Thermal, in taking viewers high into the skies, shows how even plains can be majestic in their own right.

  • Undeterred, Tamaki decides to follow Kaede’s manoeuvre, and although this appears dangerous, Tamaki’s banked on another thermal to provide lift. To her pleasure, things work out for her: their glider rapidly gains altitude, and for a moment, Tamaki forgets that she’s in a competition. She joyfully acknowledges Chizuru before remembering herself, and subsequently reports her position. Moments like these remind viewers that Tamaki (and by extension, all of the competitors and judges) are still amateur pilots; a professional pilot would be significantly more focused and not allow such moment to distract them.

  • Being a professional pilot is often viewed as a glamorous job with very unique perks, but after reading Patrick Smith’s Cockpit Confidential, I can conclude that being the pilot to a large commercial jetliner is about as exciting as being a software developer (another occupation that is often glamourised by the success stories coming out of Silicon Valley): for Smith, piloting consists of following routine and safety protocol, responding to trouble professionally and wishing airports had more WiFi. Speaking from experience, being an iOS developer means following schedules and best-practises, responding to bugs with a triaging mindset and wishing coffee shops had more WiFi, rather than stereotypes of going to networking events, giving presentations in front of investors and drinking beer at the office.

  • With this being said, much as how being a software developer has its moments, such as the thrill of successfully deploying a build, pilots also enjoy the satisfaction of a safe arrival. Back in Blue Thermal, rain forces the competition to be prematurely terminated, to Tamaki’s disappointment. Her resulting reaction brings to mind the sort of tantrums that Hina would throw in Houkago Teibou Nisshi: I’ve long grown accustomed to squeaky anime voices, so hearing a more realistic, deeper voice in Tamaki despite Tamaki’s similarities with Hina proved quite amusing. After a swift reprimand from Daisuke, Tamaki heads back and joins the others. In no time at all, she’s recounting to some other participants how much fun she’s having.

  • The next day, competitions continue, and the day concludes with a barbeque. Despite Kaede being strictly a competitor, Tamaki regards him as a friendly rival now, and surprises Chizuru, who implies Kaede is hard to get along with. When Jun speaks with her, she finally opens up and reveals that she’d long been jealous of how Tamaki could get along with everyone. As immature as it may seem, people do indeed get held back by old feelings, but per Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, problems are a part of life, and it stands to reason that slights one may have experienced in childhood have no bearing on who one is now, and hence, things like these aren’t worth worrying about. Talking to Jun and seeing how spirited helps Chizuru to realise this.

  • Therefore, it is not surprising that after this competition, Tamaki and Chizuru reconcile somewhat. Although Kaede ends up winning the tournament, Tamaki’s sportsmanship and new experiences mean after her initial disappointment, she ends up quite pleased with how the competition turned out. In particular, being able to meet new people was probably the biggest win for Tamaki, who ends up resolving one of her goals without realising it. While perhaps not leading to romance per se, Tamaki had been lambasted for being too noisy and direct in high school, so being able to participate in something where she can be herself and get along with people demonstrates how there hadn’t been a need for Tamaki to reinvent herself.

  • After competitions conclude, Tamaki returns to a more mundane life on campus and finds that she’s struggling somewhat with course materials, as well as feeling a hollowness from a now non-existent social life. One day, while sitting down to lunch, Yukari finds her and immediately hauls her off. It turns out that Yukari and the others have found Daisuke’s resignation letter, and he clarifies what had been discussed earlier: her had intended to leave after the training camp to focus on his studies and realise a career as a pilot.

  • Yukari becomes frustrated that Daisuke had left this under wraps, and feels that with how close Tamaki appears to Daisuke, he might’ve told her. Yukari’s remarks suggest at the presence of a very subtle love triangle in Blue Thermal, which would be consistent with the sort of thing that might arise had Tamaki been really playing for a more active love life, and while this is a fair conclusion to draw based on initial observations, Blue Thermal doesn’t exude these vibes. Yukari disagrees and hauls Tamaki off to talk love further. Meanwhile, it’s revealed that Jun’s looking after his mother, who’s been hospitalised, and pressured to help Tamaki out, he reluctantly agrees to Yō’s request of heading overseas to train and compete.

  • Yō presents another reason for going about things this way: he suggests that Aonagi’s Aviation Club had become dependent on Jun, preventing them from growing. By encouraging Jun to pursue his fullest potential, he aims to push Tamaki and the others even harder to create pilots worthy of a greater purpose. What this purpose is, unfortunately, is not explored in Blue Thermal, and here, I note that it would have been nice to see what Yō’s plans were. While I have no qualms about filling this in myself (companies occasionally approach universities to scout out potential hires from things like Capstone Project presentations), having a bit more of a concrete aim here would’ve given Tamaki’s fight more weight.

  • Whether or not Yō is truthful with his intentions is irrelevant; Blue Thermal is Tamaki’s story, after all. With this being said, what Yō has said is not incorrect; juniors often become dependent on seniors to learn the ropes, and whenever problems arise, may instinctively look to a senior for help rather than work through something for themselves. I’m guilty of this: as a summer student, I would ask the graduate students for help if my copy of the in-house game engine fell apart from a bad pull. However, as I entered my undergraduate thesis, the graduate students had finished their degrees. There was no one around to help anymore, but on the flipside, I became knowledgeable enough about the in-house game engine to troubleshoot it.

  • While it’s quite scary, people do acclimatise over time, and learning to have faith in one’s abilities is very much a part of life. For Takami, Yō’s answer isn’t sufficient, and she decides to call Jun for herself, although she ends up learning nothing. Because of how this conversation goes, coupled with the situation Jun’s in, I imagine that Yō knows of the fact that Jun’s mother is in hospital, and may have agreed to help cover the medical bills in exchange for him representing Yō and his organisation. There isn’t much coverage of these aspects in Blue Thermal: in no time at all, the national competition soon arrives.

  • While Daisuke had left the club to focus on his studies, his presence here and his reaction to Yukari’s comment indicates that, at the very least, Tamaki has become someone worth cheering for to him. Blue Thermal‘s focus is on competition and self-discovery over romance, but hints of romance occasionally linger, creating a very natural feeling. It is not cut out of things and is allowed to occasionally stray across the characters’ thoughts, but at the same time, romance is never allowed to detract from the film’s main focus. Here, Kaede arrives and sticks up for Aonagi, promising that the only place to settle things is in the skies. This moment was especially valuable, showing how Tamaki’s personality allows her to, in her own way, win hearts and minds.

  • Over in Germany, Jun receives a phone call about his mother, who’s passed away from her illness. Jun had been set to go on a training exercise prior to receiving this call, and there is no doubt that the news would’ve dealt the normally composed and stoic Jun a serious blow, distracting him from his exercise. The results are inevitable for a film like Blue Thermal: while professionals might be able to compartmentalise their emotions and stay focused, even Jun is not immune to feeling regret at not being able to remain with his mother. Yō subsequently receives a call with the news that Jun has gone missing after his glider went down.

  • Although he had wished to reserve the news until the competition was over, Ayako overhears and becomes disheartened, and the remainder of Aonagi’s team subsequently wonder what’s up. Rather than withholding things further, Yō decides to be up front with everyone. This change of fortunes is not unexpected; anime films are especially fond of introducing a significant confounding development as the story reaches in climax, and since Anthem of the Heart in 2016, coming-of-age stories almost always throw in an unpleasant challenge for characters.

  • Thus, while I’d known that such an event was likely for Blue Thermal, the part that remains worthwhile was seeing how exactly Tamaki and the others would handle things. While there’s a bit of denial that Jun could’ve gotten into an accident and perished, Tamaki decides that at least for now, she’ll continue to compete and respect Jun’s wish for her to fly with her best. Encouraged, Tamaki’s teammates echo her sentiment, and Aonagi Aviation Club’s directors allow everyone to proceed: although they’d deemed it unsafe given everyone’s mental state, it seems that Tamaki is still fit for competition given her composure.

  • Having said this, Tamaki is still human, and overnight, she cries her eyes out over what happened to Jun. The next morning, she awakens with red bangs under her eyes, and although she looks exhausted, she tries to convince the others that she’s still fit to fly. While this creates for some visual humour in the scene, there is justification for why Tamaki is actually still ready to fly despite her decidedly woebegone appearance.

  • This is because crying out one’s feelings is a form of catharsis: allowing one to be with their emotions in a moment releases oxytocin and endorphins, which help to relieve stress. By allowing herself to cry things out, the feelings of regret, it appears that Tamaki has accepted her feelings of guilt and concern over what happened to Jun, and at least for the present, is ready to do everything necessary to fulfil her promise to him. In this scenario, I would likely have Tamaki assessed before she flies into the skies. However, being a movie, one can assume that Tamaki’s determination is sufficient for her to do what she needs to do without posing a safety hazard for the narrative’s sake.

  • Speaking to how far Daisuke and Tamaki have come as fellow Aviation Club members, and the respect they’ve now got for one another, Daisuke requests to fly first with the hope that the weather might begin improving in the afternoon, and that this will give Tamaki a chance to be her best self. The weather on the day of the finals is a moody and grey overcast. Weather has always spoken to the emotional tenour of a given moment, and the cloudy skies here speaks to the ambiguity of how everyone’s feeling: clouds can either give rise to a downpour or clear up, and such skies therefore show that there is uncertainty in the moment.

  • While Tamaki had just cried her eyes out, her spirits and actions on the day of the finals is consistent with someone who’s got a clear resolve and goal in their mind. Daisuke’s run isn’t the best; the other schools are up front, and this leaves everything in Tamaki’s hands. However, Daisuke isn’t concerned: he simply wishes Tamaki the best and sends her into the air. Throughout Blue Thermal, Tamaki is referred to as Tsurutama, a nickname that comes from melding her given and surnames together in a manner reminiscent of how Yuru Camp△‘s Rin is occasionally referred to as Shimarin. This is a term of endearment, to be sure, and although I imagine it may have been done early on for the sake of convenience, there is no doubt by the competition, Tamaki’s found her place as a member of Aonagi’s Aviation Club.

  • As Tamaki takes to the skies, the music swells melodiously, filling the entire scene with warmth. Shōgo Kaida composed the incidental music for Blue Thermal, and while the music is excellent, ranging from common slice-of-life pieces to tracks that capture the majesty of the sky through the use of woodwinds, I’ve actually not found anything surrounding a release for the soundtrack itself. What’s happened here in Blue Thermal is similar to Maiko-san Chi no Makanai-san, which similarly had a wonderful soundtrack that never released. On the other hand, the inset and ending themes are performed by SHE’S and have been available since March.

  • Aside from a handful of reviews at MyAnimeList (which largely recommend this film) I do not believe there are any other discussions of Blue Thermal out there. The home release came out a mere four months after the theatrical screenings, and this is somewhat of a rarity, since anime movies now average an eight to nine month wait before the BDs hit the shelves. I note that films from well-known franchises and directors tend to have a longer delay, since there might be additional tie-in promotions. Makoto Shinkai’s films are especially notorious: since 2016’s Your Name, the average wait time for movies to become available on BD after a theatrical screening is eleven months. An eight month wait seems reasonable by comparison, and a four month gap, as we see with Blue Thermal, would be unheard of.

  • Despite the slower start, Tamaki’s performance is such that she is able to quickly close the distance, and as the three gliders from each of the top schools approach, the others on the ground realise that Tamaki’s done something that is rarely witnessed: she’s completed her course in record time and as such, has brought Aonagi the title. Tamaki’s victory comes right as shafts of light break through the clouds, signifying a release of pressure. Although this day had begun uncertain, Tamaki’s contributions to Aonagi’s win shows, beyond any doubt, that she had the willpower and resolve to do her best for everyone’s sakes.

  • The payoff in Blue Thermal is therefore a meaningful one, in showing how pressure can indeed push people to exceed their limits and discover something marvelous on the other side. While she may not have found the romance she’d sought out, it is fair to say that she found love in a new world that had previously been unknown to her. In a way, then, Blue Thermal was still a love story: I’ve said this before about Koisuru Asteroid, and while people there had all but demanded a love story, saying that its title created the expectation, I find that love isn’t always restricted to romance and relationships.

  • Instead, love is broad and can speak to many things. This is why it is such an effective metaphor: in Koisuru Asteroid, it is fair to say that Mira and Ao fell in love with the pursuit of the sciences, and so, the title, Asteroid in Love, makes sense. Blue Thermal establishes no such expectation in its title, but I can imagine that some viewers may have wondered where the romance piece would come in, given Tamaki had entered university seeking out love. The end result is quite different than what she would have foreseen, but it is no less remarkable, and here, Aonagi’s victory is framed as crepuscular rays begin filling the skies, with Tamaki’s teammates note she flies with the gracefulness of a bird now. She may not yet have a relationship to definitively speak of, but at this point in time, Tamaki’s love story is with the skies and its thermals.

  • Immediately after landing, a single thought persists in Tamaki’s mind: she’s less interested in the fact that Aonagi just took the championships and runs past her teammates, who have come to congratulate her. What’s notable is that Daisuke makes to hug her, but she sprints right past him and heads for Yō. This moment is subtle, but perhaps speaks strongly to where Tamaki’s heart lies now: Jun had been the one to show her the sky, and in falling in love with flying, it is logical to suppose that since Jun’s experience and talent as a glider pilot personifies the skies, it follows that Tamaki’s also developed feelings for him, even if it currently manifests as a desire to keep flying with him.

  • To this end, Tamaki implores Yō and asks him to take her to Germany, citing that he did promise Aonagi anything should they have actually won the championship. The rays of light slicing through the clouds and illuminating the ground below take on a new visual meaning, foreshadowing the outcome that awaits Tamaki in Germany: such phenomenon has long been associated with hope, and when Yō ends up remaining true to his word, it suggests to viewers that in Germany, there is a good chance that Tamaki would find what she seeks out.

  • Aonagi’s winning the championship thus becomes a bit of a bittersweet moment: the rag-tag Aviation Club that all of the other schools had dismissed have just taken the national title, against all odds. However, in placing the focus on Tamaki’s desire to find Jun, Blue Thermal completely skips over the awards ceremony to show viewers that the competition itself is secondary to Tamaki’s heart. The metaphors in Blue Thermal‘s ending have a certain romance to them, and in the film’s dénouement, Tamaki’s effort is met with reward.

  • On a beautiful morning with perfect skies, Tamaki prepares to launch. While a melancholy permeates Tamaki’s drive to the airfield, once she enters the cockpit itself, it certainly does feel as though in taking to the air, Tamaki is leaving behind all of her worldly problems on the ground. Once Tamaki got to Germany, it suddenly hit me that there was a very real possibility that her trip wasn’t so much to find Jun himself, but rather, experience the same skies that Jun had. There is a certain romance in doing so, as it shows Tamaki had been very much taken in with how Jun had done things. In longing to see what he saw, Tamaki yearns to be closer to him in her own way.

  • Back home, Tamaki had launched using assistance from a winch, which accelerated the glider until it gains enough lift to remain airborne. Here in Germany, an aerotow is used to launch Tamaki’s glider. Some gliders are self-powered and possess their own motors, allowing them to take off without any additional support. While excellent for extended flights and providing additional safety by allowing pilots to stay aloft for long enough to make a safe landing, powered gliders are much heavier than their unpowered counterparts and therefore require stronger thermals to maintain lift once their power is switched off. To keep things simple, Blue Thermal sticks purely to unpowered gliders, as they further symbolise working with, rather than against, forces that can be outside of one’s control.

  • Despite having come all this way to Germany to find Jun, the open skies here are identical to those over Japan, and in the moment, Tamaki allows herself to embrace the moment. Once she detaches from the aerotow, Tamaki begins to fly in her own way. The gravity of the moment melts away, and Tamaki smiles at the thought of being able to fly the open skies, wondering if Jun is enjoying the open skies, too. It would have been sufficiently touching that Tamaki is ultimately able to see the same blue skies and blue thermal that Jun had flown prior to crashing.

  • However, in movies, miracles do happen, and as Tamaki soars in the skies above, a familiar face spots the glider she’s flying. It’s Jun, and he’s plainly survived the crash. I’m not too sure how Jun ascertains that it was indeed Tamaki in this glider, but if I had to guess, Tamaki’s developed a very distinct flying style which combines his own approach with her own intuition and personality. Only Tamaki could go off-course and still maintain altitude, and it does feel as though she’s instinctively drawn over the town where Jun is presently located.

  • Realising the strength of Tamaki’s feelings, Jun immediately rushes off for the airfield after getting in touch with Yō, who’s shocked that Jun’s alive after all. I would suppose that in the aftermath of what had happened, Jun had felt overwhelmed and did a controlled landing before ditching his glider, hoping to break away from things and gain a fresh start. Seeing Tamaki again reminds him of what he’d left behind, and this is why he chooses to reveal himself. Upon reaching the airfield and taking the radio, Jun is able to get through to Tamaki, who implores him to return so they can continue flying together.

  • As Jun notes, Tamaki’s remarks are probably one of the most unusual, but still heartwarming, kokuhaku I’ve heard: flying together in the skies, learning from and teaching one another, and supporting one another as pilots is a wonderful metaphor for love, so by Blue Thermal‘s ending shows that Tamaki had found her love in a way she certainly hadn’t expected. With Jun’s promise to remain by her side, Tamaki turns her glider back to the airfield, and the end credits begin rolling. The stills shown show both Tamaki’s progress as a pilot and the aftermath of the national competition; it was a joy to see everyone’s smiling faces. Folks patient enough to wait the credits through to the end will be treated with a photograph of Tamaki bawling her eyes out after reuniting with Jun as he wonders how to best reassure her things will be fine.

  • With everything said and done, I have no qualms in issuing Blue Thermal an A grade: while the film does leave some lingering questions and resolves points very quickly so focus can remain on Tamaki, overall, I found that the inconsistent pacing and open-ended presentation does not detract from the overarching themes or the strength of the metaphors within this film. I thoroughly enjoyed Blue Thermal for what it succeeds in presenting to viewers. This brings my post on Blue Thermal to a close, and I can say with conviction that I’m glad to have watched this movie. With Blue Thermal in the books, I note that ARIA the Benedizione also released earlier today, and I am looking forwards to both watching, and writing about this one, as well.

While Blue Thermal‘s story has multiple facets to it, the film proves to be quite engaging and worthwhile for portraying a relatable story of how chance events and grit shape one’s post-secondary experiences. Blue Thermal itself is a wonderful film from a technical standpoint, with stunning visuals of the skies above and landscape below every time Tamaki boards a glider. Minute details are presented well and capture everything from the intricacies of a glider’s cockpit, to clutter in the Aonagi Aviation Club’s clubroom to show how rich Tamaki’s world is. The incidental music is well-chosen and conveys everything from the whimsy of Tamaki’s initial, rocky interactions with Daisuki, to the majesty of the skies and the weight of emotion on Aonagi’s entire team as they strive to win, both for themselves and for Jun. What especially stands out, however, is the choice of voice actress for Tamaki: actress and fashion model Mayu Hotta plays Tamaki, a spirited girl who resembles Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Hina Tsurugi. When Hotta delivers her first lines as Tamaki, I was surprised to find a deeper, more ordinary-sounding voice behind her: Kanon Takao’s portrayal of Hina was a vociferous and noisy high school girl. This choice bolsters the weight of the drama in Blue Thermal – squeaky anime voices convey cuteness, and Blue Thermal is a drama, so a natural voice is appropriate. However, while things might get serious in Blue Thermal, the film also reminds viewers that life has both its serious and light-hearted moments. Tamaki and the other characters are rendered with face faults during the more laid-back moments in the film, but emotionally-charged scenes are conveyed with carefully-chosen lighting and weather conditions. From a technical standpoint, Blue Thermal is solid, and when all of the elements come together, the end result is a film that portrays the possibility that comes with taking on new experiences from the perspective of a starry-eyed first year student. For folks who’ve completed post secondary or are on the precipice of a new milestone of their lives, Blue Thermal acts as a reminder of how wonderful new adventures can be had if one is willing to embrace the ethos of a glider and gracefully roll with what hand they are dealt: this film astutely uses the sky as an excellent metaphor for this possibility, bringing back memories of both when I began my journey in the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, as well as when I started work on the Giant Walkthrough Brain project. Like Tamaki, both milestones set me down a path that was both unexpected but rewarding. However, whereas my time as a university student has long drawn to a close, after several life-changing experiences, Tamaki’s journey is still just beginning, and she’s got the world ahead of her; there’s still room to improve as a pilot, and Tamaki’s resolve is strong, so I leave Blue Thermal confident she’ll probably be able to experience the færietale romance she’d originally desired, too.

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.

Kiniro Mosaic: Thank You!!- An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“There will be times when your best isn’t good enough. There can be many reasons for this, but as long as you give your best, you’ll be okay.” –Robert De Niro

Third year is now in full swing: Karen’s ended up in Sakura’s class, while Alice, Shinobu, Yōko and Aya are now in Akari’s class. For their class trip to Kyoto, the girls start in Nara, where they check out Nara Deer Park and the Nara Daibutsu, a as well as Kofuku-Ji. Alice impresses Shinobu and the others with her knowledge of the destinations. The next day, after arriving in Kyoto, Honoka struggles to get a photo of her with Karen, and although Kana tries to help, various misunderstandings prevent Honoka from succeeding. After visiting both the Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji, Honoka manages to work up the courage and asks Karen for a photo, being overjoyed she’s succeeded. That evening, after sharing a bath together, the girls attempt to start a pillow fight, only for Aya to display an unexpected ferocity: she’s longed to swap love stories with everyone else. On their final day in Kyoto, Shinobu and Alice share a conversation about their future plans while at Kyoto Tower, although Aya reminds everyone that entrance exams await them once they return home. Back home, Yōko decides to practise for entrance interviews, and Aya decides to join, feeling it to be a chance to learn whether or not Yōko returns her feelings. While Alice is writing a letter back home, she begins to worry about Shinobu’s future. A squeal from downstairs rouses her from her thoughts, and it turns out Shinobu’s mother is going through old photos: Shinobu’s mother had studied in England during her time as a post-secondary student and met Alice’s mother here, which is why when Shinobu later wanted to do a homestay in a foreign country, she would meet Alice. For old time’s sake, Shinobu’s mother decides to hop on a FaceTime call with Alice’s mother after they return home from shopping. Back at school, Alice is struggling to explain to Shinobu that she wants to return home for her post-secondary studies, and upon hearing this, Aya becomes caught in the moment, thinking the time has come for Shinobu to do a kokuhaku with Alice. Once this misunderstanding is cleared up, Shinobu explains that she’s got the gist of what’s happening, having looked up Alice’s English earlier. Upon hearing this, Shinobu decides her future is settled: she’d very much like to go to England with Alice. However, the afternoon’s felt quiet: Karen’s missing, and it turns out she’s also struggling to choose her way forward. With their plans now established, everyone begins to study in earnest. While Aya, Yōko and Karen prepare to stare down entrance exams, Shinobu spends her nights preparing for the overseas exams. Izumi reflects on how once Shinobu is committed to something, she’ll give it her all, and decides to make her some fish and chips as encouragement. When the new year arrives, Akari and Sakura swing by the local shrine to pray for their student’s success. After running into Karen and learning that Yōko’s drawn bad luck, Akari decides to do a good luck dance, to the embarrassment of those around them. Entrance exams soon arrive, and the pressure from the exams is immense: Yōko, Aya and Karen are stressed beyond words. However, exams go well for all three: despite a terrifying few moments, the three have made it into their institute of choice. Graduation arrives shortly after, and while Shinobu, Karen and Yōko sit through the ceremony with a smile, Aya and Alice end up bawling their eyes out. Even Akari has trouble saying goodbye to her first group of students. After the ceremony ends, the friends prepare to part ways. Some time later, after Alice and Shinobu have settled into life in England, Karen, Aya and Yōko arrive to visit.

With Kiniro Mosaic now at a definitive end, Kiniro Mosaic: Thank You!! (Thank You!! from here on out for brevity) portrays each of Shinobu, Alice, Aya, Yōko and Karen gearing up to pursue their own futures while at the same time, remaining true to their promise of being together with one another. With their time as high school students winding down, everyone worries about whether or not they’ll be able to continue spending time together as friends, and this in turn prompts the characters to push themselves further for one another’s sake. Shinobu has her heart set on studying English abroad despite her still-weak command of the language, and ends up gaining admittance overseas to an English institute. Aya, Yōko and Karen end up at the same post-secondary, as well: Yōko and Karen move heaven and earth to succeed on their entrance exams for the sake of being together. While a few moments leave them feeling completely defeated, and even their instructors worry for them, all of this effort is met with a reward after the three gain admittance to their school of choice. In this way, Aya, Yōko and Karen get to remain together, mcuh as how Alice and Shinobu can continue to spend their futures together, as well. In this way, Thank You!! speaks to how people are willing to put in their best effort and go the extra mile for those around them, and moreover, when such raw determination and resolve manifests, miracles result. This is a heart-warming, and positive theme that is befitting of the gentle and cheerful world within Kiniro Mosaic. The film’s ending is particularly telling: although Alice and Shinobu move to England to pursue their futures, while Aya, Yōko and Karen study at a Japanese post-secondary institute, they’ll always be able to meet up again even if they are separated for the present. This leaves everyone free to cherish their old friendships while at the same time, remain open to new experiences. This aspect of high school is one that countless anime have covered, albeit in different fashions: Azumanga Daioh had left the post-secondary period ambiguous, while K-On! portrays Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi as being able to stay together when they are admitted to the same institute. Thank You!! marks the middle of the road between these two extremes, showing how secondary is definitely not the end, and people will always have the opportunity of getting back together even if their paths diverge for the present. Consequently, Thank You!! represents an immensely satisfying conclusion to Kiniro Mosaic; after three years’ worth of discoveries, the characters are left in a better position to pursue their futures while at the same time, continue to enjoy time they’d spent together as friends.

Thank You!! enters the field populated by giants: 2011’s K-On! The Movie remains the definitive yardstick for what makes for a successful silver screen experience, and in an interview, director Naoko Yamada expressed that the biggest challenge was scaling the aesthetic and messages from the TV series into a much larger, moving experience. To this end, Yamada ended up zeroing in on how Tenshi no Fureta Yo! came about, transforming the film into an expression of gratitude through an all-new story. By comparison, Thank You!! directly adapts segments of the Kiniro Mosaic manga and ties them into a cohesive narrative, showing how everyone prepares for the future ahead of graduation. However, despite not utilising an original story as K-On! The Movie had, Thank You!! still succeeds in stepping into the realm of the silver screen. This is accomplished by opening the film with Shinobu and Alice’s class trip to Kyoto – although Kiniro Mosaic briefly portrays Alice and Karen’s homes in England, the series is predominantly set in Tokyo. Changing the pacing up by sending the cast over to Kyoto creates a feeling of adventure, and in this way, even though Thank You!! returns home for the girls’ entrance exams and graduation, the energy from the class trip carries on over to the girls’ everyday experiences, creating excitement and anticipation in viewers as Yōko, Karen and Aya strive to get into their post-secondary institute of choice. By re-tooling the manga’s story to fit the movie format, Thank You!! is able to strike a balance between the scale of a movie, and the cozier, more intimate feeling of a TV series: familiar moments, like Yōko’s straight-man quips in response to outrageous moments, or Isami’s blunt, no-nonsense attitude about Shinobu’s idea of a souvenir, are presented right alongside events with a much larger novelty or weight. Things like the class trip to Kyoto, and the graduation ceremony itself are pivotal moments for the characters, and to emphasise this, inset music is used to accentuate the emotional tenour of such scenes. Altogether, Thank You!! shows that, even if an anime film feels more like an extended episode thanks to frequent inclusion of elements that had been common to the TV series, use of devices can nonetheless create the sort of scale that gives the story a larger, more encompassing feeling as befitting of a film: Thank You!!‘s runtime and choice of moments to adapt from the manga creates a logical flow of events, showing how the girls prepare for their futures and say goodbye to the plethora of memories they created as students in such a way as to decisively, and definitively, conclude Kiniro Mosaic.

Besides acting as an enjoyable close to Kiniro Mosaic, Thank You!! also sets the precedence for what lies ahead for its sister series, GochiUsa. Similarly to Kiniro Mosaic, GochiUsa had portrayed life in an idyllic world, showing how friendships facilitate self-discovery. Both series show characters grow and mature, treasuring the time they share together as they hurtle towards the inevitable milestone that is graduation. Both series also use travel as a metaphor for stepping into the future. After graduation, Alice and Shinobu move to England, where Karen, Aya and Yōko visit. When Rize’s admittance into university is given, Chino expresses a desire to travel and gain a broader perspective of the world after realising she’d spent her life living in the wood-framed town. A glance into GochiUsa‘s manga shows that such a journey does end up happening, as Chino accompanies Maya, Megu, Cocoa, Chiya, Sharo and Rize in exploring a larger city. Visiting the city would represent a considerable departure from the everyday comings and goings at Rabbit House, or the classroom; it follows that Chino’s graduation trip would represent a major milestone in her life, sufficiently significant as to warrant a movie. Such a film would easily be able to scale up the GochiUsa experience for the silver screen, and perhaps even mark a stopping point for GochiUsa‘s animated form. While the manga is still ongoing, showing Chino’s experiences in high school, long-running series often experience the challenge of continually finding something meaningful to say. Running for extended periods may result in a work becoming stale – this is something that Bill Watterson had expressed as being his primary reason for ending Calvin and Hobbes where it did. Considering how touching GochiUsa has been in its run, this outcome would not be a had idea: allowing Chino’s journey to end at graduation, leaving her a clean slate to go exploring with, is equivalent to the blank slate that Shinobu and Alice have at the end of Thank You!!. Having taken that first step forward, viewers do have the reassurance that everyone will be able to succeed so long as they put their minds to it. This is where Thank You!! succeeds, and in doing so, also sets the bar for how GochiUsa might be able to end its story gracefully.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • According to the blog archives, it would’ve been roughly five years since I last wrote about Kiniro Mosaic‘s last instalment, Pretty Days. This would’ve been a few months before I left for Japan, and even back in 2017, it would’ve been a full two years since Hello! Kiniro Mosaic finished airing. I came upon this series after finishing GochiUsa: I’d been looking for a similar series, and Kiniro Mosaic appeared to fit the bill quite nicely. I still remember watching the first episode at the lab on campus a few days before I was set to fly out over to Taiwan, and I ended up finishing the first season just in time for the second season’s arrival in the winter of 2015.

  • While I originally felt that Kiniro Mosaic was eclipsed by GochiUsa owing to the latter’s distinct setting, in time, I would come to appreciate how Kiniro Mosaic was distinct from GochiUsa. This is one of the main joys about Manga Time Kirara series: although they may prima facie appear to be identical to one another, a closer look will find distinct flavours in each work. Thank You!! opens with a class trip to Nara and Kyoto, and perhaps speaking to Shinobu’s weaker knowledge, she imagines that Nara Park and its famous deer are in Kyoto. After Alice explains the significance of the deer as being the gods’ messenger, Karen hands her a biscuit, causing the deer to overtake her.

  • Later, Karen decides to give her own spin on the Nara Daibutsu’s story and, in a manner reminiscent to Yuru Camp△‘s Aoi Inuyama, openly lies about things, causing her classmates, Akari and Alice to step in. On paper, it sounds like it should be relatively easy to spot tall tales in such stories, but the joke here is that while foreigners might not be fully versed in specific, small details in the history of some of the sights, there are details that even locals may not be aware of. On the flipside, Alice’s knowledge of Japan is encyclopaedic, rivalling the level of detail that Go! Go! Nippon!‘s Makoto and Akira Misaki present things to players.

  • Here, Alice explains the stories behind Nigatsudo (a water drawing ceremony site) and Kasuga Shrone (shown here, home of Nara’s guardian deities). Although Thank You!! has Shinobu and Aya visiting them sequentially, there is actually quite a bit of distance between them: Nigatsudo and Kasuga Shrine are 1.2 kilometres apart as the mole digs. At a casual pace, it’d take about 10 minutes to walk on over. Shinobu and Aya express interest in these sites, but when Alice reaches Meoto Daikokusha, a shrine for couples, Aya becomes especially enamoured with it. Unlike Nigatsudo, Meoto Daikokusha is only about two hundred metres from Kasuga Shrine, making it a much easier walk.

  • I will remark that I’ve opted to romanise Kiniro Mosaic without the extra dash: some sites choose to romanise things as Kin-iro rather than Kiniro, and I imagine this is because きんいろ is rendered as kin’iro in Hepburn. The apostrophe is meant to eliminate ambiguity; it is used to separate homophones that might be easily confused. In the case of Kiniro, if the apostrophe isn’t present, then one might accidentally transcribe きんいろ as きにろ. The dash is technically incorrect (the Third Edition of Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary specifies it’s a dash), having its origins from Victor-Tango-Victor and limitations in how their old custom PMWiki implementation could not handle some Unicode characters, but it’s persisted to this day, even being counted as the “correct” transcription of the title at Wikipedia. Conversely, the official English manga simply renders the title as Kiniro Mosaic, with neither dash nor apostrophe, so for ease of typing, this is what I’ve gone with.

  • The dinner that Alice and the others sit down to at their ryokan is a kaiseki-style dinner with wagyu beef as its centerpiece, reminiscent of the dinner I had at the Heritage Resort in Saitama. At its finest, Japanese cuisine is sublime to behold, resembling works of art rather than dinner; the sushi I enjoyed last week is an example of how is intricately and artfully prepared even seemingly-simple Japanese dishes are. This isn’t to say that other foods around the world can’t look as good as it tastes. Recent trends meant that even something like a breakfast poutine can look wonderful from a visual standpoint. Use of different colours and textures brings out the aesthetic in food, and one of my favourite examples is a local breakfast joint called OEB’s.

  • Earlier today, I’d been out and about on a walk around the city centre to capitalise on the fact that the weather in the morning was beautiful. I’ve not been downtown for quite some time, since my office is located in a quiet corporate campus in a quiet neighbourhood, and since I primarily work from home now. On my morning walk, I passed by the Telus Convention Centre (where the local anime convention is hosted) and Steven Avenue mall, which are within walking distance of my old building. I ended up heading up towards the river, where a park is located. They’re currently undergoing some upgrades, so I couldn’t quite walk the whole thing, but here, one is afforded a pleasant view of the downtown’s buildings. Since it’s now late May, the cherry blossoms were also in bloomHanami happens in March in Japan, but owing to climate differences, these trees bloom in mid to late May. The morning concluded with a breakfast poutine at OEB’s, located underneath this cluster of office towers.

  • The next day, the girls head on over to Kyoto. Lovingly referred to as “Anagram Lover’s Tokyo” in Futurama, Kyoto in reality is the former capital of Japan, and is one of the few Japanese cities to be spared Allied bombing during the Second World War. As a result, many of Kyoto’s buildings are older and therefore, gives the city a more historical feel about it compared to other Japanese cities, which were levelled and extensively rebuilt. The historical elements are far from everyone’s mind, as everyone is more inclined to take things easy.

  • In particular, Honoka’s taken a keen interest in having her photo taken with Karen: since the events of Hello! Kiniro Mosaic, Honoka’s developed a crush of sorts on Karen, and towards the end of the season, the two began to spend more time together. This aspect of Kiniro Mosaic was done to show how Karen was slowly beginning to fit in with her classmates: previously, Alice and Karen had known one another since childhood, and as a result, she ended up following Alice to Japan. In time, Karen would slowly come to find her own place in the sun, setting down the groundwork for her own way forward.

  • In Kyoto, Yōko, Aya, Alice, Shinobu and Karen swing by Kiyomiz-dera, a Buddhist temple known for its legendary 13-metre balcony: founded in 778, the structures seen today were constructed in 1663. Legend has it that anyone who survives the drop would have their wishes granted, although for safety reasons, jumping became prohibited in 1872. Today, it’s a popular destination, and the site could be of interest to Aya, as it’s also home to a pair of stones which, if one could walk in a straight line between them blindfolded, their romantic ambitions may come true. However, the sights up here end up being more inspirational to Shinobu, who spontaneously composes a haikyu up here.

  • For Honoka, nerves prevent her from asking Karen openly for a photo, and she ends up spending her wish at a shrine to get said photo with Karen. Karen, on the other hand, has no qualms about such a photo and is quite open to such a request. However, the moment never seems quite right for Honoka, and she even contemplates using a selfie-stick to insert herself into a photo. I’ve not seen selfie-sticks for quite some time now: they were all the rage in the mid 2010s, and while I had been in Taiwan and Hong Kong, one could hardly take a step without spotting a tourists rocking these sticks. The more advanced ones even have a BlueTooth transmitter that allows one to take the photo remotely.

  • En route to their next destination, Shinobu reveals that all of her photos are of Karen and Alice – she feels that their blonde hair makes them particularly standout at Japanese destinations. This comes at the expense of the photos they were supposed to take as a part of their day’s assignment, prompting Yōko and Aya to try and take over as photographers. The last destination of the day is Kinkakuji, and at this point in time, I can say that I’ve seen this iconic landmark with my own eyes. It’d been a grey, rainy sort of day, but even under overcast skies, the Kinkakuji’s distinct gold siding shone with a regal brilliance.

  • In the end, Honoka manages to get her photo at the Kinkakuji, and this leads everyone to want photos with both Alice and Karen. It typifies Kiniro Mosaic‘s ability to find heartwarming resolutions to the problems that characters face, and here, Aya is able to get in on things, as well. For this post, I’ve opted to go with eighty screenshots. The rationale was that Thank You!! has a runtime of 80 minutes, which corresponds to about four episodes’ worth of content. I imagine that at the time of writing, I’ve got what is the internet’s only full discussion of Thank You!!, complete with screenshots.

  • With the second day drawing to a close, Alice, Shinobu, Yōko and Aya retire to their lodgings, where a beautiful dinner has already been prepared for them, allowing for a quieter meal that stands in contrast with the more energetic, communal meal from the previous evening. Alice is impressed with the distinctly Japanese aesthetic of the room and states it stands in stark contrast with Shinobu’s bedroom; the latter is furnished in a Western style and is something I’d be more familiar with. Japanese-style rooms have minimalist design about them that emphasises simplicity, whereas in the West, rooms are designed to be cozy.

  • I imagine that the girls’ accommodations are at a ryokan: these Japanese-style inns are a ways more pricey than conventional hotels, but offer a distinctly Japanese experience. Many ryokan provide intricate kaiseki meals and have their own onsen on-site, which the girls here enjoy after dinner. I admit that my interest in relaxing at a ryokan does stem from seeing their portrayal in anime such as Kiniro Mosaic, and a few summers ago, I ended up picking up a coffee table book showcasing some of Japan’s most famous ryokan, ranging from ultra-modern establishments that blend tradition with cotemporary comforts, to classical establishments that give guests an entire wing of a building to themselves.

  • Whereas Aya had wanted to talk about romance the previous evening, everyone had been exhausted by the day’s events. When presented with a second chance, Aya immediately seizes it: this second night, everyone’s wide awake and is prepared for a pillow fight of epic proportions (in a Ōsama dare da style game). Determine to have her love talk, Aya swiftly steals all of the pillows and pummels her opponents into the ground to win. Although the pillow fight is not shown, the end results bring to mind the likes of what happened after Ip Man fought ten black belts. Aya is typically presented as being physically weak, but when romance is concerned, she acquires supernatural strength that matches the likes of Rize, her counterpart in GochiUsa.

  • While Shinobu’s already dozed off, Aya decides to ask Karen what her story is, and Karen’s reply is that her first love was Alice. As far as relevance towards Kiniro Mosaic‘s themes go, yuri manifests as desire to remain with those one loves. This is the driver behind some of the characters’ actions, spurring everyone to be their best selves, and in the process, creates a large part of the comedy here, as well. Conversely, because the relationships in Kiniro Mosaic are very clear-cut, there are no love tesseracts, and as such, what is colloquially referred to as “shipping wars” is practically nil.

  • As it turns out, when people say they’re doing “analysis” on yuri, they’re largely referring to “shipping wars”, in which they assessing whether or not the characters are a good fit for one another. My own approach towards yuri, then, would be considered sacrilegious: I care very little for these so-called “shipping wars”, since I am of the mind that the author’s intentions, through the characters they pair together, speak volumes about the larger message. Disregarding this and going off on exercises in the hypothetical leaves me no closer to appreciating what a work is about. At Kyoto Tower, Alice wonders if something’s bothering Shinobu: it turns out Shinobu’s a little antsy about missing a travel programme she’s recorded, but beyond this, would be happy to go anywhere in the world, so long as Alice and her friends are with her. It is here that plans for a trip to England are laid down, but before any of these plans can be considered, exams now loom on the horizon.

  • Upon returning home, Isami greets them, only to be disappointed by the lack of souvenirs: it turns out she’d given Shinobu a large list of things to pick up. I’ve always had a fondness for Isami: as it turns out, unlike Shinobu, who’d been head-over-heels with foreign cultures, Isami saw herself as being content to make Shinobu happy. Since then, she’s gone on to pursue post-secondary studies and models on the side. Like Mocha, Isami is portrayed as the reliable older sibling who dotes on her younger sibling, although unlike Mocha, Isami can be a bit blunt about what she wants.

  • Shinobu appears to have crossed a line of sorts after she pulls a stunt similar to Pretty Days, where she brings back “love” as a gift of sorts for Alice and Karen after a cake run: she remarks that this time around, she’s returned an armful of memories to cherish. However, what follows is even more hilarious: Shinobu apparently also captured some sacred air from Kiyomizu-dera in a bag. This moment reminds me of a souvenir one of my relatives had: a bottle with a cork stopped labelled “Fresh Air from Ottawa”. As the story goes, after I began learning how to walk, I somehow found the bottle and uncorked it, resulting in much laughter from said relatives.

  • Moments like these are why I’m so fond of Kiniro Mosaic: in disgust, Isami punches out the bag to show Shinobu her dissatisfaction. With air from any location, I imagine that short of vacuum-sealing something, the molecules will eventually diffuse over time, so even if a container were to remain sealed, it would mix in with local air whether I’d opened the cork or not. Consequently, such souvenirs are usually meant as a joke, and one’s only really paying for the price of the container and any branding it has, rather than for the air itself. Conversely, I do have a few bottles of fresh sand from my Cancún trip for an academic conference some six years earlier.

  • With the Kyoto and Nara trip now over, Shinobu, Alice and Aya return to class. For their third year, Akari’s their homeroom instructor, while Sakura, who’d previously been their homeroom instructor, is now Karen’s homeroom instructor. Thank You!! drops viewers into the middle of their third year, and in adapting content from volumes seven through eleven of the manga, skips over many of the secondary moments (such as another class play, and a Christmas party). In spite of this, Thank You!! fully captures the most emotional of the moments to create a worthy finale to Kiniro Mosaic.

  • After classes end, when the topic of entrance exams and admittance interviews come up, Aya pulls Yōko aside to practise, even though their schools of choice won’t have an interview: Aya is hoping to gauge whether or not Yōko returns her feelings, and although the conversations proceed in typical Kiniro Mosaic fashion, Aya soon finds her answer. Yōko sees Aya as irreplaceable, a comforting constant in her life. It is not lost upon Yōko that Aya’s been putting in additional effort to maintain their friendship, and this is what motivates her to do her best, as well. A look at the calendar finds that Thank You!! premièred in Japanese cinema last year, on August 19. According to the blog archives, I was playing through DOOM Eternal and watching Magia Record‘s second season at this point in time.

  • I’ve long been interested in watching Thank You!! once I found out about the existence of a film – the project was announced back in March 2020, and by January 2021, the theatrical première date was known. However, discussions on the series has been limited every step of the way, and aside from folks excited to see Nao Tōyama back as Karen, there hadn’t been much buzz about Thank You!!. Ordinarily, such films would lead folks to speculate on whether or not the film would adapt manga chapters or feature all-new content, among other topics, but owing to the gaps between releases, I imagine that excitement for Thank You!! was limited to the most die-hard of Kiniro Mosaic fans (which is natural, considering the second season of Kiniro Mosaic finished airing seven years earlier).

  • Shinobu’s room is a very clean space, free of clutter. The only hint of any personalisation from this angle comes from Alice: a glass case containing a pair of Japanese dolls, and a Kakemono can be seen, but beyond this, the room feels more like something out of a realty listing. It’s always interesting to see how anime portray interior spaces; most series have minimalist environments so that focus is kept on the characters, and as such, personal spaces are kept in excellent order. By comparison, Makoto Shinkai and Studio Ghibli fill their spaces with clutter to create a more lived-in environment.

  • While Shinobu’s mother is looking through an old album, Shinobu’s practically beside herself with excitement and is reduced to a squeaky mess; it turns out that Shinobu’s mother had met Alice’s mother back when she’d been studying abroad, but after the former had finished her programme and returned back to Japan, they began drifting apart. Noticing Shinobu’s interest in foreign nations, Shinobu’s mother would later send her overseas after getting in touch with Alice’s mother. This bit of a story shows how some things can seem like they happened by fate, and it adds additional depth to the friendship that Shinobu and Alice share.

  • After Shinobu’s mother shares this bit of history, she and Shinobu head off to pick up some groceries. While Shinobu feels like she’s got a full heart, her mother begins sulking a little and considers skipping dinner for one evening. After the jokes pass, Shinobu finds herself with a newfound determination to see her dream of studying English overseas fulfilled; her mother’s confident that Shinobu can achieve whatever goals she sets her mind to. When Alice witnesses this, she becomes filled with a desire to have a conversation with her mother, too, and thank to the powers of FaceTime, are afforded such a conversation.

  • Back in class, Shinobu notices that Alice seems a little down: and it turns out that Alice has plans to return back home to pursue her post-secondary. However, she’s worried about how Shinobu will take the news, and in attempting to explain her future to Shinobu, Alice ends up reverting back to English. I’ve heard that multi-lingual people tend to revert to their native tongue whenever they’re stressed: Tom Clancy slides in such a detail in the novel Locked On, and I read a paper titled “Why do bilingual code-switch when emotional?” that explains this phenomenon in more detail.

  • It turns out emotional intensity decreases cognitive control and spontaneously causes code-switching. In my case, I tend to think and curse in English, primarily because it’s the language I’m most comfortable with, and because I don’t know any Cantonese expletives. Conversely, when things get exciting, I do occasionally transition into Cantonese. Alice’s voice actress, Manami Tanaka, speaks English in an accented, but perfectly understandable fashion, and I have no trouble understanding what Alice is saying. After hearing this, Shinobu voices her concerns with Aya, Yōko and Karen.

  • Aya immediately jumps to the conclusion that Alice must be lovesick: in Thank You!!, Aya’s fixation on romance becomes increasingly visible. However, far from taking away from her character, this makes her more endearing. Kiniro Mosaic had shown Aya as being studious and perceptive, possessing a serious streak that occasionally gives way to embarrassment whenever Yōko was concerned. By the events of Thank You!!, Aya’s become a little more open and assertive, even if she does still struggle with her feelings from time to time.

  • Worried about Alice, Shinobu decides to hit the library and makes an attempt to look up what Alice has said so she can find a way of reassuring Alice and respond properly. I imagine that despite her weaker command of English, Shinobu would still be able to match enough patterns to get the gist of what’s being said, although a large part of competency in a language is vocabulary. This is something I’ve noticed, even when I watch Cantonese films – I’ve got a solid idea of what’s going on, but I’m missing a few words here and there, and when I get those clarified, my understanding of a given scene improves considerably.

  • While Shinobu attempts to do things the old-fashioned way, appropriate given her aspirations, Aya and Yōko decide to do things in a manner more befitting of Kiniro Mosaic: they imagine that what Alice needs is the reassurance that Shinobu still loves her, and to this end, have kitted Shinobu out with a kimono, as well as a kokuhaku script. Such moments are typical fare for Kiniro Mosaic: the series is driven by the classic manzai routine, in which humour is created between a joker and stooge. Their interactions create misunderstandings that lead to comedy. For the most part, Yōko provides the tsukkomi lines.

  • Excitement leads Aya, Karen and Yōko to watch from the bushes: initially, everything appears to proceed to plan as Shinobu reads from the script. However, the tranquility in the moment soon leads Alice to be more truthful about how she feels, and she’s finally able to voice her concerns to Shinobu. Once the truth is out, Shinobu replies that she’d actually been thinking the same thing: after giving her future some thought, she feels it best to travel and study abroad for her post-secondary. When things start going off-script, Karen, Aya and Yōko break cover.

  • Although Aya and Yōko are relieved that Alice is her usual self again, Karen becomes disheartened; whilst heading home from school, she suddenly disappears. The manga has this happen a few pages later, occurring under a completely different context. Thank You!! manages to weave these moments together seamlessly and create a smooth transition, allowing for the manga’s most poignant moments to come together for the film. Within the manga, things are split up, and this breaks up the flow of things in a different way. Whereas the film places an emphasis on how diverging paths can be difficult to accept when one initially hears about them, the manga utilises the same moments to create gentle humour.

  • The group splits up to search for Karen, who’s hiding in a cardboard box that Alice readily spots. It turns out that Karen’s feeling a little left out after learning of Alice’s plans. The two had been together for as long as Karen can remember, and while ordinarily, Karen would simply have done as Alice has done, she’s now come to greatly treasure her time here in Japan, as well. She’s torn between staying in Japan with her friends, and returning home with Alice. Alice feels as though she’s directly in competition with an entire nation, but once she hears Karen out, she’s able to offer her own suggestions.

  • Alice believes that separation isn’t going to be a problem because they’ll always be together in their hearts, and moreover, the fact is that everyone is closer than they think because of the internet. In this moment, Thank You!! makes clever use of lighting to show how Karen and Alice are feeling. Since Karen is down, she’s shrouded by shadow, whereas Alice is in the light. When Karen is able to see the point Alice is making, the shadows suddenly clear, and Karen’s old spirits return to her. Visual effects in Kiniro Mosaic are nowhere nearly as vivid as those of a Kyoto Animation work, and even GochiUsa is more detailed. However, the subtler use of visual effects here in Kiniro Mosaic are to the series’ advantage, allowing one’s eye to remain on the characters while the background gives a hint of they’re feeling in the moment without overwhelming the viewer.

  • With Karen back to her cheerful self, she announces that she intends to stay in Japan, plans on visiting England as often as she can, and moreover, has been eying the same university that Yōko and Aya had been planning to apply for. Given that Karen’s able to outline her future so clearly, it is likely the case that she’d already given her future some thought, but had simply been doubting whether or not she wanted to follow her heart and stay in Japan, or do as she’d previously done. Thank You!! overcomes this particular barrier in a manner befitting of Kiniro Mosaic: talking it out with people close to oneself.

  • During Hello! Kiniro Mosaic, in response to the antics Alice and her group were engaged in, Akari had remarked that this particular group of students were just like primary school students, and the conversation subsequently went towards how pets show a truer side of one’s personality. Manga Time Kirara series have long placed emphasis on adorable characters that exude the same aura as that of a small animal, creating a sense of catharsis amongst some viewers, including myself. This approach does not work for everyone, and some folks steer clear of Manga Time Kirara series because the characters can come across as unrealistic.

  • In a few heart-to-heart conversations, each of Aya, Alice, Karen, Yōko and Shinobu’s respective futures suddenly take on a newfound clarity. This gives everyone a clear target to focus all of their energies towards: Shinobu is especially motivated, and even Karen is psyched about working towards a future where she can be with everyone. However, Yōko’s long been weaker in her studies, and while she’s determined all the same, she ends up becoming exhausted much more quickly than the others even as they study together.

  • In particular, seeing Shinobu study with such concentration is a sign of the times: Kiniro Mosaic had presented Shinobu as scatter-brained, with an eye for making extremely intricate and well-crafted outfits, and not much of a mind for studying. However, with a promise to Alice to fulfill, Shinobu has all of the motivation she needs to prepare ahead of admissions to a post-secondary in England. Seeing this, Isami recalls how she’d been quite worried about Shinob Hu when the latter decided to do a homestay in England. After Shinobu returned home, Isami was impressed with how she’d always given her passions her all, no matter what they were. To support Shinobu, Isami’s whipped up some homemade fish-and-chips for her with help from their mother to show her support. Fish-and-chips would be a bit heavy to eat at night, but the gesture shows Isami’s kindness all the same.

  • Although Shinobu is surprised, she finds the fish and chips delicious and is thankful Isami is looking out for her. This dish is an iconic English food: originally, fried fish was inspired by immigrants who prepared fish by coating it in flour before frying it in oil. By the mid-1800s, fish and chip shops became widespread in England, and gained widespread popularity because it was an inexpensive by hearty meal the working class loved. I’ve not had fish and chips for some years now, but luckily, a good plate can be had at virtually any pub in the city.

  • The seasons begin passing in the blink of an eye, and soon, the new year is upon everyone. With exams on the horizon, even Akari and Sakura are a little nervous about their charges: for their New Year’s Shrine visit, Sakura and Akari show up to pray for everyone’s successes. Akari is especially stressed and is prepared to offer ten thousand Yen per student in her class. This corresponds to a hundred Canadian dollars per student at the current exchange rates. Of late, high interest rates in American banks has resulted in a weaker Yen, whereas the previous exchange rates had been closer to 120 Yen per Canadian dollar.

  • The weaker Yen makes it especially attractive to pick up merchandise from Japan now, and recently, I placed an order for both Violet Evergarden: The Movie and Hello! Kiniro Mosaic‘s TV animation guidebooks to capitalise on the weaker Yen, as well as to see how shipping works after I’d moved. Both books were sold out and could only be resolved via proxy shipping at CD Japan, but the weaker Yen is softening up the costs (otherwise, I’d be paying about 20 percent more). Back in Thank You!!, after making their offerings, Sakura shares with Akari the trick she used for passing exams: a dance of sorts.

  • While such a dance might seem hokey, there is actually merit in dancing: it increases circulation, and physical activity also generates endorphins, which in turn helps with concentration and focus. Slice-of-life anime often employ unusual behaviours to drive comedy, but some actions do have a scientific basis. However, dancing out in public could seem unusual: Yōko’s siblings, and Kana’s younger sister, immediately spot Akari and Sakura and feel it’s best not to look. They then begin discussing their own new year wishes. Both Kōta and Mitsuki pray for Yōko’s success.

  • Shortly after writing down their wishes (Akari wishes for her students to be constantly smiling, or, as I know it, 笑口常開), Akari and Sakura run into Yōko and Karen having a snowball fight. Here, Shinobu can be seen with an adorable hood with flaps that make her resemble a lop-eared bunny. The dance had been showcased on Kiniro Mosaic‘s official Twitter channel last year, and while this can be counted as a spoiler, it turns out this moment happens mid-movie. One of the biggest challenges associated with watching trailers is that folks who are movie-savvy can inevitably put two and two together from moments in a trailer.

  • I feel that a good trailer, and good promotional materials shouldn’t show content from the final third of a given film. Fearing that Karen could catch a cold, Akari immediately shuts down the snowball fight and gives Karen additional layers when the latter sneezes. It goes without saying that Thank You!! is basically 80 minutes of non-stop warmth, and moment such as these serve to accentuate that no matter what happens in these anime, everything is going to turn out okay.

  • This is why, even when Yōko picks up a fortune marked “terrible”, viewers don’t really need to worry too much about her exam performance: such stories are always written in a way as to ensure a happy outcome for all characters. Some folks contend that this is “predictable”, but I counter that slice-of-life series tend to worry more about the journey than the destination, and as such, “predictable” is an invalid criticism because such anime are, by definition, written around showing how a good outcome is reached. As an aside, drawing misfortune is a common enough joke for New Year’s shrine visits in anime, but as Akari states, fortunes are secondary to one’s own determination and skill.

  • Since Alice and Shinobu are studying abroad, they’re not taking the same exams that Yōko, Aya and Karen are. However, Alice is plenty worried about them and prays that they’ll be successful. The moment brings to mind the feeling my classmates and I had after we’d finished exams: amongst the health science students, we had the post-exam ritual of “press F5 in the student centre every five minutes” as we waited for the results to come out. This speaks to how strong the bonds are amongst this group of friends.

  • To lighten the moment up, Shibobu appears with a video camera belonging to Isami – she’s filming Alice for kicks and had imagined that Alice was trying not to hit the bathroom. For the class trip to Nara and Kyoto, Shinobu had borrowed Isami’s camera, and it suddenly hits me that Isami has a lot of recording devices. This brings back memories of YuruYuri‘s Akane Akaza, whose love for Akari is next-level. While Isami dotes on Shinobu, she’s also a bit strict and will not hesitate to nudge Shinobu back on course, but inwardly, she loves Shinobu very much.

  • The girls’ first exam leaves everyone defeated: the first test is always the toughest, and I recall my first-ever MCAT experience. During mid-June, I had my first-ever simulated full-length exam, a four hour experience that took an entire morning. I scored a 14 on it and, while I was rendered exhausted after the fact, I was immensely grateful that a part of MCAT preparations includes the test itself. Taking simulated exams allowed me to prepare myself mentally for the exam format and structure: as the MCAT preparation course wore on, I took several more simulated exams, scoring 22, 27 and 33 on the subsequent exams.

  • After their first exam, Yōko appears as though her very spirit is being drawn from her, much as how I’d felt after my first full-length practise exam (I would’ve been in the seventh percentile). Karen finds this hilarious, to Yōko’s displeasure: outwardly, Karen seems quite unfazed by the exams. However, on closer inspection, her bun’s on the right side (where it’s normally to her left), and her socks are mismatched. This can actually be seen as the three walk out of the exam venue; for me, one of the joys in watching anime come from catching these small details, which serve to tie different scenes together.

  • To help Karen settle her nerves, Alice lends her a pencil and promises that when it’s time to return said pencil, Karen will have passed already. Karen immediately considers using it as a die of sorts. Yōko gets in on the good luck charms: she’s still got the hairpins Aya had lent her from middle school. When Aya begins feeling a little left out, Shinobu gives her a homemade kokeshi hairpin. Although the hairpin was made in goodwill, Aya gets bad vibes out of it, as though it were a Sith artefact. Kokeshi dolls are given to children as a good luck charm, and in Kiniro Mosaic, Shinobu’s resemblance to a kokeshi doll is mentioned on several occasions. Because they’re iconic, I decided to buy a keychain-sized kokeshi while in Japan five years earlier.

  • After hearing Kana’s been accepted into her school of choice, Sakura is overjoyed. Akari is worried for her students, feeling that some of their aspirations might not have a happy ending. In fact, Akari has been so concerned that she’d forgotten that this is the same day Karen’s set to take her exam, and to take her mind off things, she’s made a bunch of plushies of her students, including Karen, Aya, Yōko and Honoka. While Akari initially appears to be a strict, no-nonsense instructor, it turns out that she is just as caring and considerate as Sakura was, but simply had a tough time showing her students her true self.

  • If memory serves, Akari had actually been Sakura’s junior when they’d been students, and while she had intended to be a proper teacher for her students, Sakura’s example leads Akari to try and strike a balance between strictness and kindness. Out of stress, Akari even begins talking to the Karen doll. In reality, something like this would be indicative that one would need to unwind and decompress. In anime, however, such actions convey an adorable sense of helplessness, akin to watching ducklings attempt to clear a flight of steps.

  • On the morning of their next exam, the tension is palatable in the air: everyone’s done everything they can to achieve their aspirations, and after a group hug, it’s off to the examination centre. Since I’m a Canadian student, I’ve never had to take entrance exams – instead, when secondary school wraps up, my province administers standardised exams for us to take, which impact whether or not we’re admitted into the institute and faculty of our choosing. I’d actually been quite nervous about my English exam: the Faculty of Health Sciences requires a minimum grade of 80 percent to gain admittance, and I was barely holding onto an 80 average in that class.

  • In the end, effort would carry the day, and the next truly terrifying exam I stared down would be the MCAT. This exam was a foe of a proportion I’d not seen previously, and while preparations for said exam would be gruelling, it left me better equipped to deal with all exams in the future. I’ve never had a head for memorisation, so I approached the exam from a first principles standpoint: know enough of the basics to quickly re-derive whatever I needed to solve a problem. Memorisation is not a sign of intelligence, and while I imagine a few classmates from my secondary school’s IB program would disagree, I can say this with authority because nothing I do in my day-to-day involves memorisation.

  • Yōko, Aya, Karen and Honoka thus sit down to take on the exam that determines whether or not their aspirations for the future will be realised. Thank You!! shows glimpses of the exam questions themselves, including geometry, Japanese literature, English and chemistry. The me of twelve years earlier would have been able to trivially solve everything without trouble, although since then, my knowledge has become highly specialised towards software development. Although I retain a fundamental level of knowledge in biology and chemistry, I am no longer able to delve into stoichiometry and predicting organic reactions as I could during the MCAT: it is fair to say that, while I am a moderately competent software developer, I’m no longer smarter than a fifth grader.

  • Upon returning home that evening, Yōko, Karen, Honoka and even Aya look completely defeated; Aya had been looking forwards to post-secondary life with her friends, and she states that if anyone should fail, she’ll fail alongside them so they can be together. This remark is made in jest, but interpreted from a certain point of view, one might see Thank You!! as suggesting friends are more important than one’s future. I’d strongly disagree with this sentiment: to draw a parallel, I’ve known folks who’ve gone to university so they could continue hanging out with their friends, but this four years would not be productive: rather than pursue the education that aligns with their career interests, these individuals were motivated simply by old friendships, and the cost can be high, as one ends up with a skill-set that may not be consistent with their passions.

  • However, I am aware that this is not what Thank You!! is going for, and just because there comes a point where Aya might be considering such a route does not mean Kiniro Mosaic is intending this to be a part of its themes. This is a critical part of being a fair viewer: unfairly dismissing a work because one was jumping to conclusions is to be insincere. Back in Thank You!!, exam results become available: Aya, Yōko and even Karen are anxious about the results. To this end, they’ve brought Alice along as moral support, and Shionbu’s kitted her out with an adorable færie costume.

  • The large crowds mean Alice initially has trouble getting to the board where successful applicants were posted, but she ends up reaching them in the end. Here, she spots Karen’s number and hastens to report back to her friends, who immediately dissolve in tears of joy. However, Alice has only found Karen’s number, and it takes Yōko and Aya some courage to look for themselves. To their immense relief, they’ve also passed, and in her exuberance, Aya decks Yōko.

  • Once the tension gives way to relief, Aya, Karen and Yōko can relax a little, with Karen joking that Aya has staved off being turned to the Dark Side of the Force. More so than passing and getting into the school of their choice, the joy in this moment comes from the fact that, for the next four years, everyone will get to be together with one another. This is quite touching, and a well-deserved outcome for each of Karen, Yōko and Aya. While everyone’s majors are never stated, it is sufficient to go to the same university because in between classes, one can still hang out with their friends during breaks and in various events.

  • Of all the people in my graduating class, I was the only one to have entered the Health Sciences programme: none of my classmates joined me, and I ended up making all-new friends as a result. However, enough of my old friends had also gained admittance to the university, so we always had a chance to hang out during lunch breaks, and on some occasions, we even ended up on the same classes. To Yōko, Aya and Karen’s surprise, Honoka and Kana are also around; Honoka had arrived earlier to check for her number, and she’d made it in, as well.

  • As the moment sinks in, large cherry blossoms suddenly begin flying through the air. This seems fitting for the moment, being a bit of pleasant symbolism to show that something new is beginning, at least until one realises that everyone’s still wearing their winter coats, and that it’s a bit early for hanami: Aya is the first to notice these “blossoms”, and it turns out they’re coming from Alice’s dress. It turns out that, perhaps when Shinobu had been sewing the outfit together, she might’ve not made it up to her usual standards because she’s distracted both by her friends’ successes, and her own studies.

  • However, one other possibility is because Alice had made her way through such a tight crowd, the movements may have loosened the threading. In the ensuing chaos, Aya implores the others to quickly retrieve the bits of Alice’s skirt that’s fallen off. While this is happening, Karen and Honoka are too busy enjoying the moment to help, and the scene switches over to Akari and Sakura, who’ve shown up to see how their students are doing, as well. Both are reduced to tears of happiness at the sight before their eyes.

  • The page quote was chosen because effort is ultimately what underlies everything in Kiniro Mosaic: whether it be Aya and Yōko putting in their best effort for a school play, Karen and Shinobu hitting the books to stay afloat, and Alice learning to express herself more openly, everything that’s happened in Kiniro Mosaic happens because everyone makes the effort to realise their goals. While efforts may sometimes fall short, there is no penalty for trying, and seeing what happens when one applies oneself is always rewarding. As a result, even if one’s best “isn’t good enough”, one at least knows where their limits lie and can look back on things without regret.

  • A few weeks have passed, and spring approaches, bringing with it cherry blossoms, and graduation. On the day of their ceremony, Alice and Shinobu are very nearly late because the latter is having trouble waking up, but with some help from Alice, the pair get out the door just in time. Thank You!! supposes that this is Shinobu being her usual self, but in the manga, everyone had taken a graduation trip over to England to visit Alice’s family and check out London’s sights. Thank You!! skips over this entirely because the film had been focused on Shinobu, Alice, Karen, Aya and Yōko finding their way: going to London, as fun as it would be, wouldn’t directly contribute to this particular story.

  • I would imagine that bringing the graduation trip segment of the manga to life would’ve entailed doing some location scouting to ensure that the animated adaptation of London was true-to-life, and recalling that Thank You!! was produced during the global health crisis, travel might’ve been trickier, hence the decision to keep the story in Japan. There is a sufficient amount of material that could result in another OVA later down the line if Studio Gokumi and AXsiZ do end up picking up Kiniro Mosaic again, but for the present, the girls’ graduation marks the end of the series.

  • En route to their graduation ceremony, Alice, Shinobu, Alice, Karen, Aya and Yōko run into Honoka and Kana: in a bit of a clever callback to the second season, Honoka’s doing her balancing act to relieve her nerves, causing the others to comment that this scene is probably going to be burnt into their minds forever. Curiously enough, I only have the vaguest memories of the days I attended my graduation ceremony, and assuming this to hold true for the characters of Kiniro Mosaic, I imagine that Honoka’s balancing act will not endure.

  • Anime typically present graduation as an emotional event: it marks the end of one era and time spent with people one would’ve become very close with. However, my own experiences with graduation were dramatically different: there were no tears to the best of my recollection, only excitement. Having said this, the portrayal of graduation in anime feels a lot more tearful than their counterparts over here in Canada – classmates appeared more interested in partying it up after the ceremony, and so, there never felt like there was much weight behind walking across the stage and shaking faculty hands.

  • The gap in reactions is symbolic, as Shinobu is quick to point out: those who smile at graduation are happy with the memories they picked up, whereas those who cry enjoyed themselves and wish they could live in the moment for longer. One touch I particularly liked was how Karen hands Aya a full roll of toilet paper, almost as though she’d foreseen that Aya would cry during the principal’s speech. Sure enough, when even a handkerchief fails to cut it, Aya falls back on the toilet paper.

  • For me, graduation never represented the end of something, but rather, a new beginning. Separation from friends never was much of a bother because even during my time as a secondary student, electronic communications like instant messaging had already been quite mature, and social media was slowly taking shape, allowing me to keep in touch with people more readily. Kiniro Mosaic‘s manga began running in 2010, a time when these technologies were present, so I imagine that the reactions harken to a more romantic era when communications were slower.

  • For Alice, her yearning to spend more time with everyone outweighs her desire to push forwards into the future, and when Shinobu replies how she’s smiling for all the good times they had, Alice is torn between smiling and crying at the same time. The last time I saw an anime graduation this emotional was Azumanga Daioh, which saw Chiyo dissolve into tears during the singing of Aogeba Tōtoshi. Conversely, in K-On!, Yui and her friends crossed the stage, all the while worrying about whether or not Sawako would find out about the farewell surprise they had planned for her; it wasn’t until Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi perform for Azusa where the waterworks begin.

  • The sharp-eyed viewer will probably find everyone wearing their uniforms in the default setup to be unusual: two seasons and an OVA, over nine years, has seen to it that viewers have acclimatised to Yōko’s messy style, Karen’s Union Jack coat and Alice’s pink cardigan. For viewers who’d been around when Kiniro Mosaic‘s first season aired, all the way back in 2013, their journey would have been even longer. When an anime runs over such a long period of time, it can feel as though the series has accompanied them through their own experiences, too.

  • For me, the anime that accompanied me through university was Gundam Unicorn: I didn’t come upon Kiniro Mosaic until late 2014, and in retrospect, it would’ve been nice to have watched this series while it had been airing during the summer of 2013. Back then, a historic flood had ravaged my province, and I was left in a depression after my summer plans dissolved. Watching the gentle comedy of Kiniro Mosaic might’ve proven to be the panacea I needed to get back on my feet a little more quickly: I had finished my Health Sciences degree that year and was still deciding on what my own future would be at the time.

  • After the graduation ceremony, the students return to their classroom to receive their diplomas, and Akari is so overcome with emotion that she’s struggling to remain coherent. Karen’s sudden appearance surprises her, and it turns out Karen’s here to receive her diploma from her a second time, feeling it appropriate considering how much she’d been bothersome to Akari. Thank You!! does a wonderful job of showing what it must feel like from the instructor’s perspective, to watch students start in their class and then go through all of the trials and tribulations that lead to graduation.

  • It speaks volumes to how effective Kiniro Mosaic is, that even a full five years after Pretty Days, it feels like only yesterday that I finished writing about Aya and Yōko preparing for their culture festival. Despite a half-decade passing, all of the characters still feel as familiar as they did when I first watched the series, and in a manner of speaking, Akari and Sakura’s tears mirror the viewers’ own feelings at the fact that Kiniro Mosaic has drawn to a close. The manga itself ended back in 2020, and while the title had been given to Yui Hara by an editor, over time, Hara came to try and shape her stories to fit with this title.

  • In the manga’s afterword, Hara hopes that she’s managed to convey what a “Golden Mosaic” is. I would contend the manga and anime have both succeeded in this. The colour gold is associated with prosperity and success, but also could refer to the blonde-haired girls in the story (Alice and Karen). In coming to Japan and brightening up everyone’s lives, Kiniro Mosaic can be seen as a mosaic, or collection, of these moments. As the graduation ceremony rolled, moments from both seasons, and the Pretty Days OVA, are shown, each of them being positively radiant and providing a golden mosaic for viewers.

  • Thank You!! ends with Karen, Aya and Yōko meeting up with Alice and Shinobu in a gentle field somewhere in England. This spot feels like the verdant fields and rolling hills in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Shire, and in this moment, it is clear that even though everyone’s graduated and is pursuing their own futures, they still have the means and opportunity to hang out together again. We’re getting close to the end of this post now, and here, I will note that this is probably the largest post I’ve written this year: at 11151 words, this reflection took over ten hours to write, and once I’m done, I plan on taking a short break before continuing on with regularly scheduled programming come June.

  • Because Thank You!! offers such a satisfying and conclusive ending to Kiniro Mosaic, issuing this series a final grade of A+ (4.0 of 4.0, or 9.5 of 10) was a straightforward decision: this film acts as a final send-off to the series, bringing back everything that originally made Kiniro Mosaic so enjoyable while at the same time, indicating to viewers that everyone’s on a good course for the future. I hope that all fans of Kiniro Mosaic will have a chance to watch this movie when they get the chance: it is the capstone entry in a series that has been around for twelve years, and represents a swan song that brings things to a definitive close.

Overall, Thank You!! acts as the fitting swan-song for Kiniro Mosaic, bringing back all of the things that had made Kiniro Mosaic so enjoyable. While Thank You!! does not up its visuals (background artwork remains simplistic, much as it had in the TV series), where the film excels is the character animation, voice acting and use of inset music to really accentuate the emotional tenour of a given moment. Rather than attempting to go big with its visuals, Thank You!! places its emphasis on the characters, counting on their motions and dialogue to deliver how everyone is feeling as they push towards graduation. From stress and joy, to sorrow and defeat, every aspect of Thank You!! goes towards showing viewers how the characters are feeling, to the extent that by the time Shinobu and her friends pick up their diplomas, viewers are likely to be crying alongside Alice, Aya and Akari. The use of inset music to serves to further augment the emotional punch of these moments; the songs’ lyrics speak This particular aspect has always been a strength in Kiniro Mosaic: in the TV series, the hilarious moments everyone shares together, and Shinobu’s often non-sequitur train of thought, all come together to create humour and punctuate quieter scenes with laughter, bringing Shinobu and Alice’s world to life. In bringing these aspects into Thank You!!, the film becomes a love letter to fans of the series – it is aptly named, thanking viewers for having accompanied them after all this time and giving them one final set of memories to smile about before Kiniro Mosaic concludes. For folks who’ve not seen Kiniro Mosaic, on the other hand, Thank You!! would become a little more difficult to follow, and its emotional payout is diminished: Thank You!! is dependent on a priori knowledge of the series and its nuances, being meant for existing viewers who’ve been following Kiniro Mosaic since its initial airing nearly nine years earlier. With Thank You!! in the books, Kiniro Mosaic reaches its ending, wrapping a heart-warming and emotional journey up in a conclusive manner, leaving no doubt in the viewers’ minds that Shinobu, Alice, Aya, Yōko and Karen are ready to embrace what lies ahead in their respective futures.

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.