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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.

Shirobako: The Movie- An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“At Musashino Animation, where there’s one Aoi Miyamori and sixteen departments, there’s only enough time for Aoi Miyamori to make it to a department. She can’t be in two departments at once. This FEBruary, it’s time to AOI down your Miyamoris…in Shirobako: THE MOVIE.” –Unreleased Shirobako trailer

Four years after their successful delivery of The Third Girls Aerial Squad, Musashino Animation (MusAni from here on out for brevity) had fallen upon tough times after their latest project, Time Hippopotamus, was cancelled, and instead, are working on smaller projects to keep the lights on. Aoi Miyamori does her best as production manager, while her former colleagues have left MusAni for other companies. After meeting up with her friends one evening for drinks, Aoi wishes to one day work together with everyone again, feeling unhappy that while everyone’s moved on in their careers, their original dream appears to be more distant than ever. She later learns that line producer and current president Shun Watanabe has accepted a a new film project, Aerial Amphibious Assault Ship SIVA (SIVA for brevity), which was advertised to première in February 2020, but ran into production problems and was shelved. With only ten months left before the première date, the time-frames are tight, but Aoi accepts, knowing that it would be a project that could get MusaAni back on their feet. She later runs into former production assistants Tarō Takanashi and Daisuke Hiraoka while out running an errand, and when stopping at former president Masato Marukawa’s curry shop, is overwhelmed by emotion, recalling that Masato’s curry tastes exactly as it did when they’d worked together. While walking home, Aoi decides she’s going to do her absolute best with this movie project. She meets with producer Kōtarō Katsuragi, who had submitted SIVA to a production studio called GPU. However, as they’ve made no progress, Kōtarō’s decided to hedge his bets on MusAni. He introduces Aoi to Kaede Miyai, a producer from Western Entertainment: they’ve agreed to collaborate with MusaAni to complete work on SIVA. Reinvigorated, Aoi sets about gathering the old crew, some of which have similarly fallen on hard times, but all of which are more than willing to lend a hand to Aoi. She manages to persuade director Seiichi Kinoshita to snap out of his depression and return to produce something he’s proud of. Others, such as key animators Yumi Iguchi and Rinko Ogasawara, are happy to help out despite their own workloads. Even animation supervisor Ryōsuke Endō returns, optimistic that he can work on something to turn his life around. With the old team back together, SIVA begins taking shape. When Shizuka Sakaki auditions for a role in SIVA, encouraged by her supervisor, she manages to land a leading role. One day, Aoi runs into former senior key animator Shigeru Sugie, who asks Aoi and her friends to help with an animation class. While the children are unruly, the five manage to turn things around and excite the children, who greatly enjoy the class. The five recall their own love for animation and resolve to double their efforts in SIVA. As production draws to a close, a few impediments present themselves. Director Masashi Yamada is falsely accused of being involved in a scandal, but is able to clear this up. Meanwhile, GPU’s president threatens legal action against MusAni for having taken up the project in violation of their exclusivity contract, but together with Kaede, Aoi finds that GPU had actually breached their original contract by failing to deliver, forcing GPU to relinquish their rights to SIVA. With only a few weeks left before the première, director Seiichi finds the ending to be lacking in impact, but this time, commits to fixing things with the staff. SIVA releases to critical acclaim, and Aoi later briefs her team on The Third Girls Aerial Squad‘s third season.

During its original run, Shirobako covered various aspects of anime production, from the conceptualisation to storyboarding, asset creation, voice acting and editing, all the while striking a balance between bringing a creator’s vision to life and creating a story that could stand of its own merits. Shirobako: The Movie, on the other hand, deals in the notion of copyright and licensing, as well as the importance of getting all of the right contracts signed and notorised, as well as ensuring that one is cleared to begin work on a project. Time Hippopotamus had been an instance of MusAni being a ways into production when the plug got pulled. Because the license belonged to this company, it was impossible to continue production without the proper permissions, and the end result was that MusAni had done little more than burn precious resources on a project that it could not recover from financially. Similarly, the final major obstacle in the film deals with the transfer of rights to production from another studio to MusAni: the director of GPU had not explicitly authorised Kōtarō to find another studio who had the capacity to produce a movie. Intellectual property and its handling becomes a central piece of Shirobako: The Movie: because rights to works of fiction can be very lucrative if a given works is popular, there are provisions in place to ensure that these intellectual properties are respected. However, these same systems can also be shackles, threatening entire projects. When the original studio was not able to deliver their results, Kōtarō seeks out Aoi for help, creating a very sticky situation where things could’ve ended quite poorly for MusAni. It was only carelessness from GPU’s part, that a critical document had not been read in full, and with a bit of fortune on Aoi’s end, she’s able to prove that the exclusivity agreement was null and void precisely because the original contract required that deliverables be handed over in a timely fashion. With no deliverable to show, the contract is not binding. MusAni thus dodges a bullet here, although this element in Shirobako: The Movie was meant to show that navigating copyright and licensing laws can be a tricky field as well. In this way, Shirobako: The Movie covers new territory during its run, while simultaneously revisiting familiar aspects of anime production. This time around, the returning staff are at the top of their game, determined to produce a film of excellent standards.

While it’s been four years since the events of the original Shirobako in Shirobako: The Movie, for us viewers overseas, closer to six years have passed. Watching Shirobako: The Movie was therefore a trip down memory lane, bringing back recollections of the things that the original TV series had excelled in during its run. The film returns with messages of perseverance, teamwork and doing something properly: Aoi is determined to see SIVA to the end, and demonstrates her talents for management by connecting with old staff, as well as motivating everyone to do their best, as well. With the entire former team together again, their familiarity with one another and skill-set allows them to work on the SIVA project in earnest, at a much more efficient pace than they had previously. Aoi’s own experience also allows her to find a solution to the matter of copyright, as well as helping director Masashi to escape a nasty bit of accusations designed to bring his reputation down. Despite falling into a depression when MusAni lost most of its staff, Aoi remains committed to doing her best in every situation, stepping out of her comfort zone to see things through to the end. Similarly, when director Seiichi expresses discontent with SIVA‘s ending despite having kept quiet about it earlier, Aoi is able to demonstrate to him that the team cares as much as he does. Despite only a few days remaining to launch, MusAni thus buckles down and remakes the ending, producing something that Seiichi is confident the audience will enjoy. Of the characters in Shirobako, Aoi embodies the core tenants of success, striving to make her dreams possible even when it looks as though all hope is lost. The end result of her actions is a successful launch, and the ending to Shirobako: The Movie was as satisfying as it gets, with MusAni being given the responsibility of producing The Third Girls Aerial Squad, a successful series that demonstrates the world’s faith in MusAni. During its run, it was encouraging to see that notions of hard work, effort and persistence to the end is what brings about hope, and a better shot at pursuing one’s ambitions, even when one’s path forward isn’t clear.

I need a goddamned Aoi Miyamori!

From a narrative perspective, Shirobako: The Movie treads on familiar ground to indicate to viewers that themes don’t necessarily change with the passage of time, and that things like effort, responsibility and integrity are universal. This is how the movie is able to present a compelling story despite running through the same learnings that Aoi had made in the original Shirobako. While the story is an experience viewers won’t find surprising, what sets Shirobako: The Movie apart from its predecessor is the actual artistic merit and animation quality. Shirobako: The Movie possesses slightly improved backgrounds and artwork compared to Shirobako‘s TV series, but where it truly shines is the animation and variety of styles during its run; of note is the sequence where Aoi regains her motivation, and in her mind, performs a musical that sees her revisit Andes Chucky, Exodus and The Third Girls Aerial Squad, along a host of other series, including Jiggly Jiggly Heaven. Shirobako: The Movie seamlessly transitions between these moments, demonstrating a technical prowess that brings to life Aoi’s rich imagination. Similarly, when Aoi and her friends teach children animation, disinterest and apathy soon turns to genuine excitement as Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa and Midori bring their own skills to enchant their students, who are thrilled to have brought their own work to life. In the aftermath of this event, Ema is reminded that she took up key animation because she had a love for drawing and shakes off discouragement to ensure she’s able to perform. One of the joys about Shirobako had always been seeing how P.A. Works brought to life the anime that MusAni and Aoi work on: by Shirobako: The Movie, their craft has allowed them to create genuine interest in these fictional works. SIVA looks like a fantastic movie, and MusaAni’s efforts to set the climax right really shines through in the end. Switching between different styles creates a visually varied film that serves as a welcome addition to Shirobako and bringing to life MusAni’s works, creating a stronger connection between viewers and the projects Aoi contributes to, in turn strengthening the series’ themes.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • With this review on Shirobako: The Movie, I do believe I’ve broken into uncharted waters with the internet’s first full-scale review on the film, which released last year on February 29 and opens with a delightful skit summarising the events that had taken place in Shirobako. The film runs for a total of 120 minutes and was an absolute blast to watch the entire way, so I’ll open with my final verdict and score – for doing something that only the best works do, for engaging for the full duration and for bringing back everything that made the TV series so enjoyable, and then scaling this up for the silver screen, Shirobako: The Movie takes a well-deserved A+ (4.0 of 4.0, 10 of 10) and is something I have no qualms recommending to people.

  • The film proper opens with Aoi sleeping in the office, exhausted after a long day’s worth of work. How disheveled Aoi is speaks volumes about her commitment to her work, but at the same time, it also appears that Aoi is working for the sake of working now; she lacks the same enthusiasm and spirit that she’d demonstrated in leading the MusAni team during Shirobako‘s second half. Similarly, the office appears to be in a dishevelled state, although the place is also cloaked in darkness on account of the lateness of the hour. Visual cues suggest that MusAni of 2019 (when the movie is set) is a very different place than the one we remember from 2015.

  • Aoi initially hesitates to check out the release of MusAni’s latest episode for The Third Girls Aerial Squad‘s second season, and once the footage starts rolling, it appears to be for good reason. This anime appears to have fallen very far from the tree, resembling World Witches Take Off! more than a combination of Sky Girls, Strike Witches and Warlords of Sigrdrifa, which is what the original anime reminded me of. The skeleton staff at MusAni watching this episode’s airing was similarly disappointing in size, standing in contrast with how in the old day, the entire office would show up for these airings.

  • One aspect of Shirobako I don’t think I spoke too much about was the growing friendship between Ema and Ai. Four years after the events of Shirobako, the two are roommates now, and Ai’s able to speak more cohesively – I remember that she was unable to complete even individual words, but with Ema, she’s able to be quite articulate. Here, she worries about Ema not eating properly; the latter is so engrossed with her work that she forgot to eat her lunch earlier.

  • Further hinting at how Aoi feels, a glance at her apartment shows it to be quite messy and dishevelled inside. She becomes uncomfortable with mention of hanging out with her family, and it was about here that I began seeing a bit of Aoi in myself. It struck me that Aoi’s career is not going quite as well as she would’ve liked. However, for those closest to her, she puts on a brave face and does her best to smile. This is something that I completely get – I’ve been where Aoi is, and I understand what it feels like to live in a world where every day is uncertain.

  • Because Aoi dearly loves the work she does at MusAni, she struggles to face her friends on their outing at a local pub the group has become fond of, worried that she’s fallen the furthest behind in her career goals of everyone. Before entering, she forces her face into a smile. While it is disheartening to see Aoi like this, I also take heart knowing that Aoi’s still resolute in her dream – the disappointment and frustration she sees in her day-to-day work shows that she cares very much about doing a good job, and this is something to be commended. In a completely unrelated aside, Aoi is voiced by Juri Kimura, whom I know best as GochiUsa‘s Rin Mate, a pushy but kind-hearted editor not unlike Aoi.

  • Admittedly, this particular outing brought to mind the time I attended a raclette party shortly before I accepted a job offer for my previous company – while I’d initially been hesitant to share that I was with a failing start-up, hearing my friends’ stories led me to open up a little, and they assured me that while they had struggles of their own, that evening was purely to unwind and swap bad stories. I thus ate and laughed with everyone, my worries forgotten that cold November evening. I’ve since gone through that cycle a second time, and while it has been rough, the silver lining is that I’ve accrued more iOS experience over the past two years. I am therefore very grateful to have worked for my previous post because of the learnings I got out of it; during my time here, I learnt to build my own UIs, and at present, I am able to build pixel-perfect UIs from mockups designers hand me, as well as put together UIs of my own when no designs are available.

  • Upon spotting Shizuka, the pub’s owners switch the channel to a programme where Shizuka is seen speaking with a young voice actress. While Shizuka is not an iconic voice actress and works on live-action programmes, she’s not lost sight of her goals and believes that expanding her repertoire would be valuable. Prior to entering my last role, I’d been more of a mid-end developer, building out data models and business layers in an app, but as Shizuka found, taking on new roles has been very helpful: at present, I’m completely at home with RESTful APIs, JSON serialisation and CocoaPods, amongst others. My experiences, within the context of Shirobako, suggest that Shizuka will do fine and reach her dreams as long as she’s willing to learn and be open to new experiences, which she’s clearly willing to do.

  • As the evening draws to a close, a sickly version of the Seven Lucky Gods passes by, visually denoting that the five friends’ dream appear as distant as it’s ever been. While returning home by train, Aoi and Ema share a conversation: Aoi mentions that MusAni has been quiet for some time, suggesting that the workload and the corresponding revenue has been reduced. In light of this, she notes that it was better that Ema ended up becoming a freelance keyframe animator like Misato Segawa. Leaving one company for another is always tricky, especially when one loves what they do, but Ema appears to have landed on her feet, and indicates that she’d be happy to work with MusAni again should the opportunity present itself.

  • When Aoi arrives at work the next morning for their team meeting, the interior of MusAni’s office is thrown into sharp relief: the scuffled wallpaper, accumulation of boxes and generally beat-up quality of the surroundings is a far cry from the offices I remember back when Aoi first started. It was here, beyond any doubt, that MusAni was in dire straights: the smaller staff count and an office that has clearly seen better days leaves no doubt in the viewer’s mind where MusAni is now. Aoi’s reservation and poor spirits earlier are mirrored in her surroundings now; the movie had done a solid job of slowly building viewers up with what had happened so it doesn’t come as a shock.

  • On this rainy day, Shun brings Aoi out for a private conversation; the grim weather accentuates MusAni’s current state. Like other works I’ve greatly enjoyed, Shirobako: The Movie makes use of weather and visual metaphors to tell stories in ways that dialogue and body language cannot. I often rely on weather and lighting to help me with identifying what the significance of different scenes are because writers utilise weather to create a very specific mood, and generally speaking, weather is chosen to line up with how the characters are feeling. Consequently, when the weather is contrary to expectations, I pay even closer attention to understand what the intentions are. The choice of weather in Shirobako: The Movie reminded me a great deal of Les Stroud’s Baffin Island episode in Survivorman: during his fourth day in the arctic tundra, difficult conditions created a sort of darkness that made it seem especially melancholy, and his remarks here capture perfectly what a lack of hope looks like.

  • I couldn’t help but smile upon seeing Yutaka Honda running his own cake shop. Formerly a production manager like Aoi, he eventually left to pursue his dreams after Exodus was completed, but periodically returned to drop off sweets and encourage the team. Yutaka represents someone who ends up finding his own path and pursuing it in earnest; as a pastry chef, he is a happy and energetic individual: by the events of the movie, he’s regained his former weight as a result of trying every new creation to ensure its taste is satisfactory. After placing their orders, Shun and Aoi sit down to discuss MusAni’s future, and Shun opens with the question that people would dread hearing: has Aoi considered quitting MusAni in light of their current situation? This conversation confirms all of the visual signs that had been presented earlier, as Aoi affirms that MusAni is in a difficult spot.

  • As luck would have it, Stroud would turn his situation around when a Narwal forced Arctic Char close to his camp, allowing him to capture four fish and secure a sizeable supply of food for the remainder of his episode. Survivorman has shown how situations can turn around in a heartbeat, and while skill and preparation are essential, sometimes, a little luck can help. In Shirobako: The Movie, the turning point is when Shun reveals that MusAni has the opportunity to produce a movie. Suddenly, the grey skies and rain give way to a warm sunlight that illuminates the shop’s interior. Aoi doesn’t react to the offer on-screen, but the shift in weather speaks volumes about how Aoi feels: she’s seen wearing a look of utmost determination in the next scenes, which flash briefly over to what Ema, Midori, Shizuka and Misa are working as a bit of foreshadowing. It becomes clear that this film project is what MusAni needs, even if the deadline is a tricky one.

  • The next day, Aoi runs into Tarō while fuelling up the company car, which has become quite ragged and beaten-up over the past four years. It turns out he’s looking for a ride and while some time has passed, Tarō retains all of his energy and enthusiasm. Along the way, Tarō spots Daisuke and has Aoi drive him, as well. While I remember Daisuke for being quite confrontational and getting on poorly with Tarō, in the past four years, the two have developed a bit of an interesting friendship, and Daisuke feels a lot more relaxed now than he did four years earlier. It turns out the two are on their way to pitching ideas, and they thank Aoi for the ride before heading off.

  • Before Daisuke leaves, he provides some words of encouragement to Aoi, encouraging her to fight for her dreams in a world where things only come to those who prove they want it more. In Shirobako: The Movie, the famous “Miyamori Faces”, as I called them back in the day, don’t really make a comeback: during Shirobako‘s original run, Aoi was seen with a range of hilarious facial expressions resulting from shock, frustration and overwork. I imagine that these stopped being a part of the show because Aoi’s matured since then, and the things that would terrify her back then are now merely another problem to deal with.

  • Hearing Daisuke offer words of support for MusAni, however, does prompt Aoi to think back to that day when it was announced that they’d be halting all work on Time Hippopotamus. It turned out that because the company who’d contracted MusAni to produce Time Hippopotamus was undergoing restructuring, and as a result, the new company president determined that the Time Hippopotamus series wasn’t likely to justify the cost of producing it. Because this company held the rights to the characters and concept, it was impossible to finish the project and have a different company air the product.

  • While making a delivery to Masato’s curry shop, Aoi decides to have some curry, as well; the familiar taste brings tears to her eyes, as she remembers all of the times the MusAni team had spent together, hashing out projects and enjoying the curry Masato had made. Olfactory memory is something I’ve made mention of in previous posts, with tastes and smells being able to evoke very strong memories in our mind. For Masato, the flavour his curry had was also deeply engraved in his mind, associated with the times he’d spent with MusAni: after he resigned and opened his curry shop, he tried everything he could to create a new flavour, one that wouldn’t remind him of these memories. That Aoi feels it still tastes as it once did now suggests that Masato has found his way and accepted what’s happened, acknowledging that there were good memories alongside the bad.

  • Because Masato had been president of MusAni at the time, he felt that the responsibility was his to bear and resigned: MusAni had accepted the contract and diverted all of their resources into production before anything was even signed. As a result, MusAni had begun work before even receiving payment, and so, when the project was cancelled, the resources that were spent could not be so easily recouped. This is why work never begins on something until a written contract can be produced and signed. With this being said, I do occasionally spend some free time conceptualising on projects so if they are to go ahead, I can hit the ground running. While getting some air, Aoi runs into Seiichi, who attempts to stoically take the blow, but was impacted by the news as everyone else had.

  • While Time Hippopotamus proved to be MusAni’s breaking point and sent the company in a downward spiral, Aoi also felt that for that project, everyone had been at the top of their game, finishing episodes three months ahead of their scheduled deadline. In spite of what happened, the team at MusAni had demonstrated they were capable of moving heaven and earth to accomplish their goals, and while circumstances been against them that day, Aoi promises to right the ship and turn things around. Promise of working on SIVA has her pumped up and ready to go, and Masato’s words encourage her: he reminds Aoi that her motivation for making anime, to reach the hearts and minds of those who watch it, will doubtlessly inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

  • Thus, as Aoi heads home for the night, she begins singing a song to lift her spirits and encourage herself. In her mind’s eye, Mimuji and Roro join her, along with characters from Andes Chucky, Exodus, The Third Girls Aerial Squadron and Jiggly Jiggly Heaven soon join her, putting on a performance worthy of any musical. It was here that Shirobako: The Movie really proved itself as being worthy of a movie: the challenge that all anime movies based on a TV series face is scaling things up for the silver screen experience. At the heart of Shirobako: The Movie is the fact that this is a movie about making a movie, but to really make the experience unique, Shirobako: The Movie has gone the extra mile to produce a musical number that really speaks to Aoi’s optimism.

  • The actual musical presentation was impressive because it combined different art styles together and seamlessly brought them to life. Aoi’s song, beginning as a minimal set of lyrics, eventually develops into a full-fledged musical number, mirroring how life is often a game of momentum. When things don’t swing in one’s favour, finding the motivation and courage to get started can be tricky, but with a bit of momentum, the impossible suddenly appears possible. With SIVA now a reality for MusAni, Aoi promises to do her best, taking a meeting with Western Entertainment’s Kōtarō Katsuragi, a producer who had worked extensively with MusAni in the past.

  • It turns out that Kōtarō had been working on SIVA, but after another production studio, GPU, absolutely failed to deliver even after two years, GPU’s president had decided to leave Kōtarō to deal with the mess, suggesting that they might be able to work faster if Kōtarō could convince his higher-ups to send them a little more money. Kōtarō attributes his passion for the project to Aoi, and expresses his hope that MusAni will be able to pull things off. To this end, Kōtarō leaves the competent Kaede Miyai with Aoi. Kōtarō and Shun send Aoi and Kaede on their way so they can iron out remaining details to the arrangements.

  • While the odds are stacked against Aoi and MusAni right from the start (MusAni is short on staff and only has ten months to complete a movie that would normally take two years), it appears that Western Entertainment is quite ready to foot the bill. Kaede notes that Aoi basically has free reign in picking her staff, leaving Aoi free to choose a crew she’s comfortable working with. Since Kaede was brought in to sort out the problems the previous production assistant had left behind, and the project is finally moving forwards, it stands to reason that Kaede is competent in her work. To get to know one another better, Aoi accepts a dinner invitation from Kaede, and the two promptly get smashed at what appears to be half the pubs around town.

  • Aoi and Kaede immediately bond over shared work experiences and grievances – with the alcohol talking, both complain vociferously about various aspects of their jobs and industries. I’m impressed with how Aoi manages to keep up with Kaede throughout the evening and still manages to sleep it off for the next morning. This is a feat I can’t pull off; after one drink, I’m struggling to stay awake, and two is enough to give me the emperor of all headaches. For this reason, I don’t really drink, especially not to drown my sorrows. The problem for me is that my sorrows have learnt to swim, and alcohol simply leaves me feeling worse later down the line. Conversely, I have no qualms about a small glass of champagne during celebrations.

  • SIVA admittedly feels like Space Battleship Yamato in concept, with a Phantom Thief Lapin twist to it and a name that simultaneously reminds me of both the SHIVA-class nuclear missiles from Halo, as well as Skyfall‘s very own Raoul Silva. I’d been watching this with a friend, and he’d remarked that the choice of name for a space-faring vessel is deliberate: vessels of special significance are often given cool names: USS Enterprise from Star TrekBattlestar GalacticaStar Wars‘ Millennium Falcon, the Endurance from Interstellar and Halo 4‘s UNSC Infinity come to mind. This makes sense; I highly doubt that something like “UNSC Miporin” would strike a sense of awe into viewers.

  • The aspect of Aoi’s character that I liked most is how pushy she can be without overstepping: when she attempts to recruit Seiichi back to MusAni, Seiichi is reluctant, fearing yet another failure. In the four years since, he appears to be inactive, and it takes some pressuring to get him to accept his old position as a director. Aoi ends up chasing him out the front door, and he collides with Yutaka, after which Aoi notes that she’s inspired by Masato’s words. Seiichi eventually relents, promising to pick up his work again on the condition that Aoi persuades screenwriter Shimeji Maitake to also join the project.

  • It turns out that asking Shimeji to come on board took no effort: like Aoi and the others, he hadn’t been happy with how everyone’s efforts with Time Hippopotamus were so callously discarded, and sees this as a chance to both redeem himself, as well as MusAni’s reputation. With Shimeji on board, Seiichi is happy to report for duty. However, his old tendencies soon begin manifesting, and there are points where he is confined to a caged room in order to force him to focus on storyboarding. Old habits die hard, and there are several points where Seiichi attempts to escape, just like in the days of old.

  • Aoi finds Yumi at an art gallery, and while she’s up to her eyeballs in work with her current company, she’s more than happy to lend Aoi a hand; after the Time Hippopotamus failure, she ended up leaving MusAni to pursue other opportunities, but it is clear that she and many of the staff only left for practical reasons. That Aoi is able to gather everyone up with little resistance speaks to their respect for her and the company – while poor working relationships are a common reason in why people move between jobs, that so many of MusAni’s former staff still have fond memories of working here continue to suggest that the Time Hippopotamus incident was a one-off, but catastrophic enough as to put the company on the verge of collapse. That Aoi’s helped to keep things alive after all this time is a reminder of her own skill as a production manager.

  • During the events of Shirobako, Rinko had always stood out from the other characters for her distinct preference for Gothic Lolita fashion; it turns out she adopted this style because it reminded her of a character she was inspired by. When Aoi encounters her on a run, Rinko is embarrassed and asks for a moment to change into her usual outfit before speaking with her. Like Yumi, Rinko has no qualms about lending her skills and time towards MusAni’s project. One of the biggest challenges about watching Shirobako was the fact that the series had such a large cast: beyond Aoi and her friends, there are forty characters at MusAni alone.

  • Shirobako: The Movie, on the other hand, only has a handful of central characters, although even then, there are enough people such that the film continues on in the style of its predecessor and names the characters, along with their roles, for the viewers’ benefit. I certainly found this useful, and it helps that some of the characters have uniquely identify traits that make them much easier to remember. Seiichi, Kōtarō, Erika, Tarō and Ryōsuke are some of the easiest characters to remember for their distinct personalities, for instance. With the old MusAni team starting to take shape again, work can finally begin on SIVA itself.

  • When Shizuka learns that Aoi and MusAni are producing SIVA, she decides to audition for a role in the movie, and here, speaks with her friend and mentor, Mari Tateo, a veteran voice actress who is in the same company as Shizuka. With Mari’s encouragement, Shizuka decides to at least give things a shot and attempt to land a secondary role in SIVA. However, when the directors are interested to have her voice a central character, they find themselves impressed with Shizuka’s range and decide to cast her in the larger role. For Shizuka, the wait is a bit of an excruciating one, since she long desires to do the things that she sets her sights on.

  • On Aoi’s request, Misato heads off to try and get Ryōsuke on board – the directors and staff have decided that his exceptional ability to design ships would be valuable for SIVA. Misato finds Ryōsuke at an arcade and delivers a verbal beatdown, wondering what he’s done with his life since he left MusAni. Things escalate into an argument, and Misato is ultimately unsuccessful in convincing him to return. The two are technically rivals, striving to improve their own craft as to keep up with the other, and while Misato’s continued to work as a freelance key animator, it appears that Ryōsuke’s been unable to pick himself up after the Time Hippopotamus incident. That he retains his passion and energy, however, suggests that he’s willing to do what it takes to right himself.

  • While Misato was unsuccessful, a conversation with 3D director Yuichiro Shimoyanagi causes Ryōsuke to pause and reconsider – despite the two working in different fields, and Ryōsuke’s distaste for CG, the pair get along very well. Yuichiro is able to convince Ryōsuke to consider returning to his old post at MusAni: realising that there’s a chance to pull himself out of a slump, Ryōsuke ends up accepting. The two visit an aquarium, where Yuichiro is watching how aquatic life moves in water to gain a better sense of how to capture their movements in an animated fashion.

  • Ryōsuke’s wife, Mayumi, unconditionally supports him, and even after he quits his job with MusAni, she takes on a cashier job at the local supermarket to help make ends meet, believing in Ryōsuke’s potential and that he will return to his old self. As such, when he brings news of his return to MusAni to her, she decides that a celebration is in order – while rough around the edges, Ryōsuke demonstrates that the love the two share are mutual. He passes her his freshly-opened beer after she chips her nail opening hers. People like Mayumi, who are totally supportive of their partner’s dreams, must be rare, and it shows that the two’s feelings are genuine, since Mayumi has been willing to endure the bad along with celebrating the good.

  • One aspect about Shirobako: The Movie that has not been discussed is the soundtrack, which is composed by Shirō Hamaguchi, best known for his work on the Girls und Panzer and Ah! My Goddess soundtracks. Influence from the former is immediately noticeable in Hamaguchi’s music for Shirobako, which has the same spirited marches as Girls und Panzer does, and therefore, is well-suited for the energy that Shirobako strives to convey. While Hamaguchi excels with creating marches, his incidental music for more contemplative or calm moments are just as enjoyable as the more energetic pieces. On the topic of Girls und Panzer, it is not lost on me that Das Finale‘s third installment had released two days earlier. The gap between the second part’s première was eight months and twelve days, and the first part required a much more reasonable three months and sixteen day wait.

  • Assuming we use an average to estimate six months and four days, it means that part three will be available to overseas viewers in late September or early October. My original estimates put the theatrical screening of Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s third part in December 2020 and using the three month gap between the first part’s première and home release, the BD was supposed to come out this month. While the ongoing global health crisis might’ve pushed production back, one hopes that they take a route that sees the BDs available as soon as possible; readers have my word that I will be covering Das Finale to completion, whatever it takes. Back in Shirobako: The Movie, Shigeru makes an appearance. An animator of legendary skill, he continues to assist MusAni even now, and also runs workshops on the side to pass knowledge on to the community. He invites Aoi and her friends to help out with a class he’s running for children.

  • With the whole team back in play, Shirobako: The Movie returns to the style and pacing the TV series presented as MusAni works towards producing an entire movie. The usual impediments show up, with Shimeji struggling to best determine how to bring everything together in SIVA‘s conclusion. Rather than let the problem manifest, Seiichi suggests that a late meeting could still prove valuable, and Aoi sets up a meeting, bringing everyone in to help out. Although the meeting isn’t particularly fruitful, Shimeji will come to work out something for SIVA with help from Midori, whose words help him determine how to best handle SIVA‘s conclusion as the two throw a baseball around and catch some fresh air. The point of this scene was really to give a glimpse into MusAni’s process and show while that the road to SIVA isn’t a smooth one, the combined efforts from the team will allow them to find success, and that sometimes, taking a step back is what one needs.

  • Things quickly escalate when director Masashi is accused of being involved in a scandal. MusAni’s team is shocked: having worked with him for years and knowing the sort of person he is, they suspect that something is off. In the immediate aftermath, Aoi remarks that if Masashi is unable to do a live-streaming event, then he might be able to use this time and help the SIVA project out. MusAni is understandably nervous, since in this day and age, such accusations can have devastating consequences on one’s career regardless of whether or not said accusations had any basis in truth. This is one of the worst excesses of social media, and I’ve long held that while people must be held accountable for their decisions, the court of public opinion should have absolutely no say in the matter whatsoever: the public, by and large, are uninformed and lack the qualifications needed to make fair and accurate assessments that should be left to professionals in a court of law.

  • Despite improving in the four years since Shirobako‘s original run, Ema’s key frames end up feeling too stiff; despite capturing the artistic style of the originals, they lack fluidity. Ema begins to question her abilities again. I understand that setbacks are very much a part of life, and have been guilty of this mode of thinking myself: there are days where I wonder if I’m even a passable iOS developer who could code a path out of a paper bag. The key here is to focus on the task at hand and not let the setbacks get the better of one. Besides to Aoi, I’ve always had a soft spot for Ema’s character because she illustrates the doubt that exists in all of us, and in spite of this, finds the courage to continue anyways. That she worries about the trade-offs between quality and speed even now shows she remains passionate and willing to improve.

  • When Masashi shows up at MusAni’s office one day, it turns out he’s come to seek help from the team, claiming that the scandal he was involved in was a setup. Within a few moments, the truth is out: during a celebration with another company he’s working with, Masashi had his photo taken, but this photo was later altered to remove any context. On Tsubaki and Sara’s suggestion, Masashi releases an official statement to his website surrounding the event, explaining what really happened, and when his website times out, it suggests that people are at least reading things. This bit of drama passes shortly after, allowing Masashi to focus on SIVA: Aoi manages to get in touch with Tarō and Daisuke to help with production.

  • Assertive, confident but also kind, Erika Yano played a major role in Shirobako, mentoring Aoi wherever she could. She left MusAni to look after her father, and by Shirobako: The Movie, it appears that her father’s health has stablised, allowing Erika to return full time. Despite the time that’s passed, she’s clearly lost none of her edge: with four months left to launch, she returns to MusAni and her first act is to set Seiichi straight when he experiences a writer’s block. Erika’s unique way of dealing with Seiichi pays off, and his storyboards are finished with time to spare, allowing the team to push on ahead. Erika notes that they need one more unit director, and heads off to speak with Hiroshi Iketani, who does decent work, but more often than not, attempts to shirk his duties.

  • The day that Aoi and her friends are to help at an animation workshop arrives, and while their students, young children, initially prove to be quite a handful, even hostile, towards the idea that animation could be fun, things turn around with Misa’s help: she quickly realises that Aoi’s introduction to animation is a little too dry, and with children, a more hands-on approach is what’s needed. She’s able to motivate the children by challenging them to out-do one another in making something cool, and soon has enough frames to make something. Two young girls take an interest in Misa’s scanning of the frames and decide to help out despite being disinterested in things earlier.

  • Boredom soon turns to excitement when the children’s drawings are brought to life. With Shizuka’s voice acting skills, the children finally feel connected to their creation, and break out into song, another musical that adds a great deal of life to their experience. The complete turnaround here acts as a visceral indicator of how things can change in a heartbeat so as long as one has the skill and passion for what they do, being a scaled-down reminder for Aoi and her friends as to what can await individuals who make an honest effort to do their best. The engagement level in this class shows that the event was a complete success, and in the aftermath, Shigeru has some words of wisdom for Aoi and her friends.

  • At the heart of all artwork is conveying joy, and being able to work with children is a constant reminder of this. Each of Aoi, Ema, Midori, Shizuka and Misa gain something from the experience, and in particular, Ema is able to find her footing again. Their conversation is set under a warm sunset, with red and orange hues giving the scene a very welcoming feel. Prevously, I’d felt that Shirobako‘s background artwork felt a little flat and uninspired, especially when compared to what was shown in Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari, which looked on par with anything from KyoAni or Makoto Shinkai in quality. Looking back, I believe the background art is deliberately simplified in Shirobako, since the emphasis is on the characters and their work, but for Shirobako: The Movie, P.A. Works has gone the extra mile in creating rich, vivid backgrounds. The film looks amazing in this regard, and this is one of the things that Shirobako: The Movie does to scale the series up for the silver screen.

  • Shigeru’s words to the girls bring to mind my own reasons for volunteering as a science fair judge, during which I get to assess what youth are doing these days for science. Earlier this month, I did virtual judging for both a prestigious private academy and the city-wide science fair. Projects were largely impressive, and with the former, I had a chance to speak with students in a Google Hangouts call to gauge their understanding of their work. Seeing brilliant, young minds with a passion for science is always uplifting, and I am always pleasantly surprised with what youth are capable of with the right encouragement. This is uplifting and reminds me to also continue with my own work with the same level of vigour. For Aoi, Midori, Misa, Shizuka and especially Ema, they are motivated to put in that final effort to make SIVA a success.

  • With time passing in the blink of an eye, the whole of MusAni’s staff begin seeing the finish line and express joy that things have come together smoothly. When the last recording session is over, however, Kōtarō receives a message that threatens to send the entire project the way of Time Hippopotamus again. He decides not to share this with everyone for now and deals with it himself, speaking with GPU’s president. When the president reveals that GPU technically owns the rights to Silva, Kōtarō blows at least three fuses. He makes such a commotion that he is escorted off GPU premises and prohibited from returning.

  • Once he’s had a chance to cool down, Kōtarō acknowledges that what GPU is claiming is true. Shun notes that this is a delicate situation and that acting rashly will only reflect poorly on MusAni, as well as resulting in legal trouble. Kōtarō says that he has people working on things to see what can be done. Copyright can be a nasty process when not handled properly, preventing intellectual property from being utilised when abused or creating trouble for those whose aims are fair use. The existence of copyright laws, however, is necessary, as it protects those who create, and one of the challenges in this area is ensuring that copyright laws succeed in protecting creators, while at the same time, not being abused to punish people arbitrarily.

  • For Aoi, this news is probably the lowest point for her in the whole of Shirobako: The Movie: as snow begins falling under a grey sky, she collapses in the middle of the crosswalk, utterly defeated. In this moment, even more so than when Aoi had began tearing up at Masato’s curry shop, I really felt the feelings that were being conveyed to viewers: a chill stole through me, and I found myself wondering if Aoi needed a hug here to regroup. While cheerful and optimistic for the most part, a series of setbacks had left Aoi vulnerable to her circumstances. However, the night is always darkest before the dawn, and while the SIVA project appears to be in jeopardy, the fact is that Kōtarō’s company does have a legal team with which to look over things.

  • Aoi looks a bit like Miho here, again bringing to mind the Girls und Panzer connection that Shirobako has. In the darkest of moments, Mimuji and Roro appear to lift Aoi’s spirits, asking her why she’s a producer at all. Aoi answers that beyond the technical elements, it’s about delivering a finished product. The rationale is that as long as Aoi fulfils her duties completely, she can look back without regrets.  She subsequently returns to the office and runs into Yuka, who has a special assignment for her. Since Kōtarō isn’t allowed to return to GPU, Yuka sends Aoi. It turns out that the legal team at Western Entertainment did find something, and Aoi is briefed on this. She meets up with Kaede, who is here to support Western Entertainment on Kōtarō’s behalf.

  • Shirobako: The Movie excels in its over-the-top portrayals of what certain actions feels like, and while Kaede and Aoi are simply walking through the front doors of GPU’s offices, it does feel like they’re squaring off against an entire army, ninjutsu-style. The two don kimono and set off with fire in their hearts, determined to sort things out with GPU. While the president of GPU is uncooperative and cites the contract as being absolute, Aoi and Kaede have identified a clause that forces GPU to relinquish their rights to the project owing to the fact their other studio completely failed to deliver anything as agreed upon.

  • This was a bold moment, even for Aoi: I imagine that the Aoi of four years earlier would’ve been willing to go to such lengths for her work, and while perhaps a little dramatic, her undressing to reveal a tattoo (likely a temporary one) of a SIVA character serves to indicate the lengths Aoi will go to ensure that her projects are finished to a satisfactory extent, whatever it takes. It typifies Shirobako‘s ability for conveying the gravity of a situation through theatrics, and Shirobako: The Movie follows in its predecessor’s footsteps. Thanks to the clause within the original document, and in conjunction with the fact that GPU’s president never signed the contract, there is enough here now for Western Entertainment and MusAni to take GPU to court. I imagine that GPU’s president subsequently stands down, lest he face a costly legal battle that he is likely to lose.

  • With the dubbing now complete, SIVA appears ready for release. Some of the staff head back to the MusAni offices to celebrate, or otherwise begin making their way home. Having been so enraptured by the work, everyone’s ignored the catered lunch that was provided, and Seiichi remarks that the meal was a bit of a special one, consisting of grilled eel on rice. Eel is a Hamamatsu specialty, and as seen in Yuru Camp△, can be quite pricey. In the aftermath of the first screening, a melancholy sets in: while the team had doubtlessly achieved an impressive feat, picking up and finishing a movie in ten months where it normally takes two years, even sorting out a copyright claim issue, things don’t quite feel as exciting they when MusAni conquered their deadlines in the TV series: something still feels like it’s missing.

  • After Aoi learns that Seiichi was feeling unhappy about the abruptness of SIVA‘s ending, she pressures him into following his heart so he has no regrets. When she brings up the matter with the other staff on the project, they agree about how SIVA‘s ending feels rushed, and moreover, consent to change it. The end result is a film that Seiichi is proud of, and this brings Shirobako: The Movie to a close, with Aoi and her friends preparing to experience SIVA anew in the theatre. The payoff in Shirobako: The Movie is immense, and Aoi has certainly earned her ending, which came about as a consequence of hard work and perseverance. However, not everyone thinks this way: an old nemesis from Anime News Network asserted that “realism that this series had when depicting the grueling workflow of anime production gets thrown out the window in favor of pursuing a fairy tale ending” on the grounds that “it’s [not] satisfying for the characters to achieve their goals so easily”.

  • This is a disingenuous argument, to say the least: Anime News Network’s reviewer evidently missed the fact that Shirobako: The Movie is set four years after the original series, and in this four years, the characters have only had time to hone their craft further. Aoi is more than capable of running the show now than she was in Shirobako, and those who gather to work on SIVA, were already skilled in their areas. Coupled with the fact that everyone has an idea of how their teammates work, they’re able to work more efficiently together, as they had during Time Hippopotamus‘ production. Moreover, assets left over from Time Hippopotamus were reused, further cutting down production time. From a logical standpoint, there is nothing remotely “fairy tale” about the ending: the sum of hard work and skill is what allows MusAni to make its deadline. It is a recurring trend that Anime News Network’s writers struggle with understanding narrative choices in anime, especially where hard work and the corresponding payoffs are concerned: while this may seem like a novel concept for Anime News Network, the reality is that hardworking, skilled and competent people have pulled off what appears to be miracles before. The Mars rover Perseverance is one example of such a feat.

  • To suggest the happy ending was undeserved would be akin to saying that Frodo should have failed in his quest at Mount Doom, and that forces should not have resulted in Gollum plummeting into the lava below. Had this happened, J.R.R. Tolkien would’ve undermined the themes he’d striven to convey in The Lord of The Rings. Tolkien later stated that Ilúvatar himself intervened, causing Gollum to trip: Frodo had exceeded all expectations and took the Ring thus far. After such a journey, Frodo was completely spent, so another power took over to finish things. Frodo had certainly deserved all of the honour because he’d completely given himself to the task, and to deprive him now would simply be unfair. Similarly, in Shirobako: The Movie, foisting a “realistic” ending on viewers would undermine the film’s themes entirely and absolutely defeat the purpose of having a film: in both The Lord of The Rings and Shirobako: The Movie, the individual characters took things as far as they could together and overcome numerous obstacles, which made the ending satisfying.

  • To put things in perspective, four years ago, I struggled to get push notifications working, put a working credit card checkout system together using the Stripe SDK and hadn’t any idea how Autolayout worked. Four years is a lot of time to improve, and at present, I’m quite comfortable with putting an entire iOS app together: push notifications, checkout and autolayout are old friends now. This is why I not only accept, but expect, MusAni to succeed in their endeavours. We are dealing with professionals with both drive and pride, so it only makes sense for them to come together and work hard for their success. Aoi, Ema, Midori, Misa and Shizuka have certainly earned their chance to enjoy SIVA with their signature doughnuts in hand.

  • Aoi, Ema, Midori, Shizuka and Misa close the film a lot happier than they did entering, and I was all smiles throughout this entire movie. It speaks volumes to how well emotions are conveyed: when Aoi began tearing up in frustration or smiling in success, I felt those emotions as clear as day. Any movie that can hit those notes right and keep me engaged to this level has definitely done a good job. This is why I have no qualms giving Shirobako: The Movie an A+ and counting it a masterpiece: the movie has taken everything from the TV series and scaled it up successfully for the film, with the end result being something that Shirobako fans will definitely enjoy, and something that folks who’ve never seen before will still find entertaining. With this in mind, I do not recommend this film to the latter: having that additional context and background will greatly augment one’s experience of Shirobako: The Movie.

  • To visually indicate Aoi’s mindset at the film’s end, when she steps out into the night this time around, the Seven Lucky Gods‘ pirate ship soar into the skies, signifying that Aoi’s lifted herself out of her slump and is ready to take on new challenges. When it comes to anime movies, my primary expectation going in is to see if the film is able to scale up the things that the series did well and apply it to the silver screen: I cut slack for anime movies of a TV series because they already have an established premise and setting, so for things like K-On! The MovieGirls und Panzer: Der Film and High School Fleet: The Movie, I enter knowing that aspects of the TV series will be revisited, and this never impacts my assessment of a work.

  • Shirobako: The Movie has a somewhat open ending: in the aftermath of their success, Aoi prepares to lead her team on The Third Girls’ Aerial Squad‘s third season, suggesting that success from SIVA had allowed MusAni to retain some staff and take on larger projects again. No one knows how the future will turn out for Aoi and MusAni, but the accumulated experience means that Aoi is better prepared to deal with the future. If Shirobako ends here, it will have been a very decisive and satisfying conclusion to the series. However, the ending doesn’t shut out the possibility of Shirobako getting another continuation; in the event of such a continuation, I’d be more than happy to give that a go.

P.A. Works is not known for doing sequels, so to have them revisit and continue Shirobako was a bit of a surprise. The finished product is as much of a film version of the TV series as it is a chance for P.A. Works to strut their stuff; the highlights in this movie are in the technical elements, allowing P.A. works to really bring thoughts and emotions to life through animation. If Shirobako: The Movie had been intended to bring some of that joy to us viewers, the film has definitely succeeded in this area. Altogether, Shirobako: The Movie was a superbly enjoyable watch from both a story and technical piece, making use of sight and sound to really immerse viewers in this movie about creating a movie. The messages of effort and persistence in the pursuit of one’s dreams remain as relevant now as they did six years earlier, and seeing this aspect of Shirobako: The Movie was a reminder of my own career choice: the reason why I’m in iOS is simply because I believe that whatever skills I possess should be put to use in a way to benefit people, and since apps are ubiquitous, it means that I can lend my skill set towards making someone’s day a little easier, helping them to get what they came for with a given app. When Shirobako ran in 2014 and 2015, I’d not yet decided on my career choice. By now, having had almost five full years of iOS Development in Swift and CocoaTouch under my belt, returning to see where Aoi, Ema, Midori, Shizuka and Misa are now, and their remarks about their own career advancement, allowed me to appreciate Shirobako from a new perspective. The questions that they each face in their careers, namely, what they enjoy about it and why they each wish to continue, is a question I find that viewers with careers will find particularly worthwhile to consider. Shirobako shows that Aoi enjoys her line of work because producing anime and delivering a high-quality products to thousands of viewers, and being able to bring the pictures in someone’s mind’s eye to life is immensely rewarding. Shirobako provides a rock-solid reason for why Aoi is able to put on a smile every morning and go to work, and it does much to keep her taking the next step forwards even when that next step isn’t clear. Exiting Shirobako: The Movie, the future of MusAni is uncertain, but with a new project to take on, one hopes that hard work here could help the company to build its reputation back up and allow Aoi to continue pursuing her dream of one day bringing anime to life together with her best friends.

Broken Blade: A Review and Reflection

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! Legend of Crimson Movie Review and Reflection

“You never know; you hope for the best and make do with what you get.” –Nick Fury, The Avengers: Age of Ultron

After botching a quest thanks to Megumin’s explosive magic, Kazuma and the others return to town to commiserate. Yunyun arrives and begs Kazuma to bear her children, having received a letter from the other Crimson Dæmons, but it turns out that this was a story written by one of their former classmates. She prepares to head off, and the next day, after negotiating with Vanir on how he’d like to sell his patents, is teleported to the Crimson Dæmon’s village to visit. Yunyun saves the group from being accosted by some female orcs, and after arriving at Megumin’s house, Kazuma meets her parents. They immediately take a liking to him after learning of his financial situation, and Megumin’s mother, Yuiyui, locks Kazuma and Megumin together in the same room with the hopes of making something happen, although the two only reflect on their appreciation for what they’ve done for one another. In the morning, Megumin takes Aqua and Kazuma into town, where she shows them around and picks up new robes. Darkness, meanwhile, has headed off to explore on her own, and when they find her, she’s locked in combat with monsters under Sylvia, who is one of the Dæmon King’s generals. Kazuma manages to persuade her to flee, but she returns later in the night, seduces Kazuma, and gains access to the Mage Killer, an ancient weapon the Crimson Dæmons had sealed away generations earlier. While the Crimson Dæmons attempt to fight back, Sylvia, now fused with the Mage Killer, strips them of their magic. Kazuma retrieves a particle rifle from town, which had been used as a clothesline, and manages to defeat Sylvia, but she resurrects herself, hauling Beldia and Hans back from the dead to fight with her. Wiz and Vanir arrive in town with the hopes of finding a craftsman for Kazuma’s products, but find Sylvia rampaging. Desperate to stop Sylvia, Kazuma decides to accept her feelings, buying Wiz enough time to transfer magical power from the Crimson Dæmons to Megumin and Yunyun. They use this power to target Sylvia, who realises at the last moment that Kazuma deceived her before being destroyed. In the aftermath, Kazuma is revived and heads back to Axel with his party. On a quiet day, the party goes for a picnic in the fields surrounding Axel. Megumin wonders if she should invest her skill points in other forms of magic, but Kazuma decides against this and has her cast an explosion, which appears far more powerful than before and forms a heart-shaped cloud that Kazuma is pleased with.

KonoSuba‘s movie, Legend of Crimson, originally premièred in August of 2019, adapting the fifth volume of the light novel series and acting as a sequel to the second season. Like its predecessors, Legend of Crimson strikes a balance between comedy and world-building, focusing here on the Crimson Dæmons, their origins and animosity with the Dæmon King’s forces. In typical KonoSuba manner, a miscommunication prompts Kazuma and his party to visit the home of Megumin and her people. In the process, Kazuma and Megumin become closer as a result of their actions: despite her revulsion towards Kazuma’s antics, she also respects his more admirable traits in accepting people for who they are and creative means of getting something done. As a film, Legend of Crimson further fleshes out the world Kazuma is in, reminding viewers of both how far Kazuma has come in adjusting to life here, and also begins to suggest that the dynamic between Kazuma and his party is shifting somewhat, especially with respect to Megumin. However, Legend of Crimsont also shows how much more Kazuma’s party has discover and master before they can consider defeating the Dæmon King once and for all. While comedy and world-building continues to keep KonoSuba engaging in Legend of Crimson, the inevitable question of whether or not KonoSuba will be afflicted by franchise fatigue must also be considered: Legend of Crimson covers no new direction with its themes, and follows a conventional approach in its narrative. Because it is an adaptation of the light novel’s fifth volume, and the fact there are seventeen volumes altogether, there is a risk that Kazuma’s misadventures may grow derivative by the time he and his party actually reach the Dæmon King.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I believe on this day three years ago, I had spent the day walking Magome-juku and Nagoya’s Atsuta Shrine, before having ramen at a place in Gifu: the staff were a little surprised to hear a Cantonese-speaker ordering in Japanese, and as I remember, their pork ramen was excellent. Before starting Legend of Crimson, I asked readers as to whether they wished for me to do a longer or shorter post. The results of this question were definitive, and as a result, this post will have thirty screenshots per the results of that poll. I am not displeased with this outcome: from a thematic standpoint, Legend of Crimson did not have much I could remark on, and the film can be seen as taking the events of a standard season and fitting them into the movie format. This isn’t to say Legend of Crimson is bad in any way, but rather, there’s less to discuss.

  • After Megumin destroys the fish the party was supposed to be catching and a part of the quest area along with it, Kazuma’s party ends up with nothing to show for their efforts, and moreover, the townspeople begin talking behind his back. For someone who has led a party into taking down three of the Dæmon King’s commanders so far, Kazuma’s not particularly well-regarded because his actions when off-duty are dubious at best. While Kazuma and the others wonder what their next move is, Yunyun appears, and this time, she has a strange request.

  • When Megumin and Darkness express opposition to Yunyun’s wish, Kazuma immediately concludes that Megumin and Darkness must have some feelings for him. This statement is not without basis, however, and foreshadows the events of the light novels. For the present, though, it turns out Yunyun had read a letter, assumed it to be the reality and then figured she needed a solution to save her people, but the letter was in fact, a work of fiction. Receiving this letter sets Kazuma and his party on a journey to the Crimson Dæmon’s village.

  • In order to reach their destination more swiftly, Kazuma asks Wiz to help teleport everyone to the village. Before then, Kazuma also lets Vanir know he’s reached a decision about which offer to accept, and after damaging some merchandise, Aqua and Vanir spar. While Vanir cannot peer into the minds of beings more powerful than himself, he actually is able to hold his own against Aqua in a verbal match simply on the basis that Aqua lacks a sharp tongue, and consequently, watching the two have a go at one another is always hilarious.

  • After Wiz teleports them into an open field near the Crimson Dæmon’s village, Kazuma immediately runs into trouble with some female orcs, and the moment is something that a screenshot cannot describe, so readers will simply have to watch that moment for themselves to see the sort of suffering that Kazuma experiences at their hands, and it isn’t until Yunyun shows up with the other villagers that Kazuma is spared from a terrifying fate.

  • Moments like these prompt me to wish that KonoSuba would take Kazuma and his party to more of the world: the Crimson Dæmon’s village is beautifully rendered, and outwardly, has a very peaceful appearance. The artwork and animation quality in Legend of Crimson varies – in moments that demand it, this degrades to the point of hilarity, but otherwise, the visuals in Legend of Crimson are roughly of a similar level to those of KonoSuba‘s second season.

  • The Crimson Dæmons themselves are an amicable people: beyond their grandiose introductions and pride, they’re not bad at all. Kazuma impresses them with an introduction worthy of a Crimson Dæmon, and they are taken into town to meet the leader, Yunyun’s father: he’s a free-spirited individual and explains that his letter to Yunyun was done purely for dramatic effect. However, it is the case that there is a Dæmon King commander around the area, explaining the incursions from hostile forces, and halfway through their meeting, some goblins appear.

  • As it turns out, Crimson Dæmons aren’t just above-average magic-wielders, they’re terrifyingly competent casters who make the spells of Harry Potter look drab by comparison, and appear more akin to Maiar in their abilities. It turns out that the Crimson Dæmons are also a result of the researcher who had once conceived the Destroyer: he had wanted to create a group of people with enhanced magical ability, but ended up selecting for volunteers who had the traits that would come to shape the Crimson Dæmons. In this way, the researcher ends up being similar to the Celestials of Star Wars and the Forerunners of Halo, leaving behind legacies well beyond his time.

  • Upon arriving at Megumin’s house, Kazuma meets her parents, Hyoizaburoo and Yuiyui, and Komekko, who regard him coldly until learning Kazuma is actually well-off, and then immediately begin making it clear that having Megumin marry him might not be such a bad idea. Yuiyui knocks out Darkness with a spell and then creates a situation that forces Kazuma into a situation with Megumin: owing to Darkness’ vehement opposition, this foreshadows her own thoughts towards Kazuma.

  • Despite his attitude, Kazuma is someone who will not end up doing something dishonourable when the chips are down. Even when locked in a room with Megumin, Kazuma ends up furiously debating what to do before his chance passes, and in a later volume, Kazuma does his best to fend off a crazed Darkness, having decided that his heart lies with Megumin. Events of the future KonoSuba volumes have me curious to see if a third season could become a reality, although I cannot comment on what the future of KonoSuba brings: OreGairu is only getting a third season now, and even the runaway hit, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, only ended up adapting four of its eleven volumes.

  • If I had to guess, I’d say that anime adaptations are likely considered more as a means of promoting a light novel series: the third season of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi sits up there with Half-Life 3 as one of the most anticipated and unknown continuations of all time, but since The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi had far surpassed expectations, it was likely decided that continuing it as an anime was unnecessary, and that fans would give the light novels a look were they interested in continuing. As such, it is possible that KonoSuba might be headed down this route, as well. Back in Legend of Crimson, Kazuma and Megumin visit a clothing shop that makes robes in the style Megumin prefers. Kazuma sees a rifle barrel being used as a clothesline here.

  • Megumin and Yunyun both decide to return to their old school in their old uniforms. After visiting the mage’s academy, Megumin and Yunyun’s alma mater, Kazuma swings by a building housing something that is supposed to hold an artifact of terrifying power. While looking back through the events of KonoSuba, it appears that Kazuma and his party’s approach to anything is to wing it: to do as Nick Fury suggests, working towards the best outcome with what’s available at a given moment.

  • It turns out that, being frustrated with a lack of male orcs that could bring the pain, Darkness had set off in search of trouble and found herself face-to-face with Sylvia, plus an army of her underlings. It speaks to Darkness’ durability that she’s able to hold out for this long without trouble, although her inability to deal damage means that acting as a wall is about all she can do. When Kazuma arrives with Crimson Dæmon mages in tow, he gloats to Sylvia that she might as well sod off for the fact that he’s been responsible for disposing of three of the Dæmon King’s generals previously.

  • Sylvia later returns that evening, and seduces Kazuma. Feeling under-appreciated, Kazuma decides to accompany her, at least until Sylvia reveals that she’s in fact, male. She takes Kazuma to the building housing the ancient artefact and asks Kazuma to unlock it. Kazuma’s understanding of Japanese means he has no trouble figuring out the vault can be unlocked with the Konami Code and inadvertently voices this – most of the misadventures Kazuma finds himself entangled in are a result of his own carelessness. His heroics, then, stem from a result of him trying to pick up after himself.

  • While Kazuma lacks heroic traits in general, that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and clean up his own messes properly illustrates his real character. Thanks to Kazuma sealing Sylvia into the same vault as the artefact, the Mage Killer, Sylvia merges with it and takes on the properties of a Fire Drake. She immediately takes a leaf from Smaug’s playbook and torches the Crimson Dæmon’s town the same way Smaug blasted Laketown into a tinder. Most of the townspeople are able to escape and prepare to launch a counterattack, but Sylvia uses the Mage Killer’s power to immediately drain out their mana pools, rendering them ineffectual.

  • Until now, the Dæmon King’s generals typically fought alone: Beldia, Hans and Vanir had no armies, but Sylvia is shown as commanding goblins that are fiercely loyal to her. Unlike most antagonists, Sylvia is shown to treat her subordinates fairly, praising them for their actions and doing her best to look after them. The world of KonoSuba is one that continues to defy expectations, which is why the series has been so enjoyable to watch. Rather than being grim-dark or employing deconstruction, many excellent series excel precisely because they are continually unexpected.

  • Without the Crimson Dæmon’s magic, Kazuma and Megumin head off to find an alternative solution: a particle beam cannon that the head researcher had built along with the Mage Killer. The extent of the head researcher’s impact on this world is something that seems to be a rabbit hole: KonoSuba has only touched upon a few of his actions, and the more it feels like this head researcher, with his power to create anything, feels like a Celestial or Forerunner, leaving behind artefacts of vast power that continue to trouble the world after his passing. After recovering this rifle, Kazuma prepares to use it on Sylvia, but when he pulls the trigger, the weapon does nothing.

  • Megumin decides to fall back on her explosive magic, since the other Crimson Dæmons are unable to fight, but the weapon suddenly absorbs her spell, and becomes fully charged in the process. Kazuma decides to give a monologue to Sylvia before firing, with the result that Komekko manages to kill-steal from Kazuma. I’m not sure how the rules in KonoSuba works, but since it was Kazuma’s hand on the trigger, I feel that he should have gotten the credit for the kill. The resulting blast puts a hole in Sylvia, but this is not enough to stop her. This is one of the deviations in Legend of Crimson and the light novels: the original text has the particle beam weapon as what permanently defeats Sylvia.

  • However, in Legend of Crimson, Sylvia refuses to die and manages to resurrect Hans and Beldia with her, creating a monstrosity of poison wreathed in armour. With Beldia’s durability and Hans’ toxicity, Sylvia prepares to take revenge on Kazuma and his party for having caused her so much trouble. Between Hans’s resilience to magic and Beldia’s defense against physical attacks, Kazuma’s group has absolutely nothing effective against this new leviathan; Sylvia spews a torrent of poison at Kazuma’s party, who can do little more than run away.

  • KonoSuba‘s funny faces appear at several points in Legend of Crimson, and I could hypothetically have an entire post with nothing but exaggerated facial expressions. In the interest of not dragging things out, I’ve opted to feature only one such element for this talk on Legend of Crimson, as Kazuma and the others attempt to escape certain death. Wiz’s timely arrival and use of a freezing spell manages to spare Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin and Darkness from complete annihilation.

  • I’ve become very fond of Vanir’s character: after his defeat and transfer to Wiz’s shop, he’s added yet another level of humour into KonoSuba. In Legend of Crimson, he and Wiz appear at the Crimson Dæmon’s village to speak with a crafter, but find them amidst a battle. The two immediately recognise Sylvia and attempt to strike up a conversation for old times’ sake, but Sylvia counts the two as traitors and begins engaging them in combat.

  • Vanir merges with Darkness to create enough space for Kazuma to work out something, a callback to the second season that I welcomed. Ultimately, Kazuma realises that there is one way to buy enough time to stop Sylvia: he decides to accept her feelings as a diversion, allowing Wiz to collect all of the Crimson Dæmon’s magical power and transfer it into Megumin and Yunyun. As it turns out, Sylvia had been longing for something more than just conquest and destruction: she sought to experience love, as well.

  • While Megumin and Yunyun are ostensibly rivals, the reality is that Yunyun had wanted nothing more than someone to hang out with, and so, it is unsurprising that Yunyun and Megumin can definitely work together as the moment calls for it. It turns out that when they were students, Yunyun had used her skill points to learn advanced magic and save Komekko from a pinch, allowing Megumin to devote herself wholly to explosive magic. Megumin is grateful for this, even if she does not always express it, and here, the two show that their rivalry is really just for show.

  • Taking upon the combined magic of the villagers, Megumin readies her explosion magic, while Yunyun casts light of sabre. Legend of Crimson‘s approach to the ending creates a more impressive, bombastic visual spectacle compared to the light novel, and this is one of those cases where deviating from the source material results in a product more suitable for the silver screen. The final, combined magic is finally what kills Sylvia: Kazuma reveals that he’d been messing with Sylvia, and her barriers, which had provided some resistance even against the combined might of the girls’ spells, drop on this revelation.

  • Kazuma ultimately takes the full brunt of the spell and is vapourised along with Sylvia, but before her defeat, Sylvia remarks that the feelings she experienced, even from this sham, was something worthwhile. Legend of Crimson has Kazuma experiencing the full force of the combined spell’s effects, and it turns out that those who die fully recall the extent of the pain, similarly to Angel Beats!. However, thanks to Aqua using her blessing spells to boost his luck, Kazuma’s spirit endures, and he is able to be resurrected once more. Legend of Crimson marks the first time where Aqua does not see unnecessary misfortune, and despite this (or perhaps because of it), the movie shows that humour in KonoSuba can be carried even if Aqua is not made to suffer.

  • When Kazuma is sent to Eris to respawn, whatever is left of him is not shown to the viewer, and Eris, who does see the remains, vomits. Other than Aqua’s remarks that Eris pads her chest, I’ve found Eris to be a more suitable individual for helping those transition between worlds: kind and gentle, she’s been able to offer Kazuma advice and guidance to a much greater than extent than Aqua did whenever he’s been killed off, and Kazuma has considered taking up her offers of respawning him back in his original universe.

  • In the aftermath of Legend of Crimson‘s whacky adventure, Kazuma and his party now have a total of four confirmed kills under their belt. After the events of the Crimson Dæmon village, Megumin considers using some of her points towards other kinds of magic, and I had personally hoped she would have at least dumped some points towards regeneration, which would let her cast explosive spells more frequently. At least, this would be normally expected in a series that adheres to standard notions of character growth, and ultimately, Kazuma decides that Megumin is fine the way she is.

  • With the movie, and its corresponding post, now in the books, it is not lost on me that discussions elsewhere on Legend of Crimson is quite limited, as well – this movie is one of those times where something can be enjoyable, but not offer much in the way of conversation. Overall, the movie earns an A- grade (3.7 of 4.0, or 8.5 of ten) for me: while the novelty has certainly not endured, the film shows that Kazuma’s current world is still full of surprises that can manifest in interesting ways.

  • Megumin’s last explosion of KonoSuba (for the foreseeable future) hints that she does care for Kazuma and is beginning to see him as more than just a party member who can reliably get her out of trouble. It’s a fitting ending to the film, and now that I’m fully caught up with KonoSuba, there is the question of where I will go next with the isekai genre. There is no definitive answer, since for my part, I only really watch series based on how much I think I’ll enjoy them; with this being said, if there are recommendations, I’ll be happy to give them some thought. In the meantime, I’ll be looking to wrap up Bofuri before dropping into Halo 2 now that we’re a mere two days away from its release for Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

The light novels mitigated fatigue by continuing to introduce new characters and build out the world for Kazuma, as well as adding new depth to existing characters and introducing disruptions to the status quo that allow for new relationships to be explored. Legend of Crimson hints at this with Megumin’s last explosion creating a heart-shaped cloud that Kazuma praises, and while a continuation of KonoSuba‘s animated adaptations could result in some of the Kazuma’s more exciting stories being given new life, there is always the risk that further seasons of KonoSuba could come across as being repetitive in nature if not properly structured (i.e. after some wild adventure that involves a massive fight against a seemingly intimidating and unbeatable foe, Kazuma is victorious, becomes closer to his party and learns something new about them). This is a challenge that the studio will need to address – while KonoSuba is undoubtedly successful in its adaptation of the light novels so far, that we’ve not even reached adapting half of them indicates that there’s still a ways to go, and with this distance, plenty of opportunity for fatigue to be introduced. With this in mind, considering how well the Marvel Cinematic Universe similarly struck a balance between comedy, world-building, and character growth over a massive franchise spanning more than a decade, the fact that we’ve barely scratched the surface in the animated adaptation of KonoSuba means that the series could also do an exceptional job similar to the MCU by making the most of the still-unexplored facets of Kazuma’s world as the light novels have done. In this scenario, KonoSuba could stand to excite viewers should continuations of the series become a reality: knowing the writing that went into KonoSuba‘s existing adaptations, any continuations would likely find novel ways to keeping things fresh for viewers while at once, keeping the series faithful to what made it enjoyable to begin with.

Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Sing For You~ OVA: A Review and Full Recommendation, Plus a Preview of Season Three

“Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.” –Stevie Wonder

Cocoa and Rize’s quiet day at Rabbit House is interrupted when Maya and Megu carry a catatonic Chino in. As it turns out, Chino had been selected to perform the solo for her school’s choral concert. While Rize and Cocoa worry, Chino decides to go ahead with the performance and asks Rize to help her prepare for the part. Rize thus has Chino run through various exercises to boost her stamina, before giving her drills on voice training. It turns out that Chino’s inclination to perform the solo, despite her weakness in public speaking, was partly motivated by a desire to help Rabbit House become more popular. Later, Chiya hosts a karaoke night at Ama Usa An, and when Chino blanks out from nerves, Cocoa decides to encourage Sharo to perform. Under the influence of caffeine, Sharo delivers a spirited and energetic performance befitting of an idol. Chiya, on the other hand, performs an enka. The girls get fired up and sing for most of the evening, before having a short-lived fight as to which group Chino should sing for. Back at Rabbit House, Takahiro encourages Chino to simply perform her best and sing for those important to her. Chino looks at old photographs of her mother, who was once a Jazz singer in the same band that Takahiro and Rize’s father were in. Cocoa later sneaks off to prepare cheer implements for Chino with Chiya and Sharo. On the morning of the performance, Megu and Maya do their best to encourage a nervous Chino, whose spirits lift when she spots Cocoa and the others in the audience. She proceeds to deliver a performance that brings tears to Cocoa, Rize, Chiya and Sharo’s eyes. After the concert, she rushes off to Rabbit House to meet the others, only to find that the decorations Cocoa and the others had put up to root for her have only become gaudier and more outrageous. Later, Chino shares a moment with Tippy and expresses her happiness that things are so lively now, saying she enjoyed the concert. Announced a year ago, Sing For You is the second of the GochiUsa OVAs that saw a home release in late September and faithfully adapts the chapter eight of the fifth volume, bringing to life an arc that show’s Chino’s progression throughout GochiUsa. Sing For You runs for the length of a standard episode, but nonetheless has heart, successfully bringing the arc to life.

Character growth is the central strength in GochiUsa – the series made an impact with its unique setting, but over time, the characters became the centrepiece of the series. As Chino spends more time with Cocoa and her friends, she finds herself wishing she could one day smile and get along with others as well as Cocoa does. Gradually, Chino does become more outgoing, and while she may still find herself reluctant to partake in anything approaching that of a leading role in the performing arts, another part of her wants to take on the challenge and face them with a smile, the same way that Cocoa might. Sing For You thus comes to illustrate the extent of her growth: Chino takes the initiative to prepare for her solo in the concert, asking for Rize’s help and then coming to see that performing isn’t as difficult as she imagined. Further motivated by Takahiro’s words and her friends’ energy, Chino ultimately gives a highly moving song. Public performances and speaking is a skill that must be cultivated; only a quarter of people are naturally comfortable with public speaking, and Chino, who has been presented as taciturn and shy, does seem ill-prepared for the part. It is with stamina training, practising in a more familiar environment and encouragement from family and friends that allows her to overcome her initial fears – the sum of Chino’s training and support from those around her pay off in a big way in the end. Chino’s fears in Sing For You might be exaggerated for the sake of comedy, but her concerns are very much real, as are the methods that she uses to address her worries. For instance, I count myself as a weaker orator, which forms a part of the reason why I have remained in the realm of blogging as to reviewing anime in video format. However, while I may prefer writing to speaking, as a speaker, I have some experience, having given talks at conferences and defended a pair of thesis oral exams. My typical approach is unorthodox: my slideshows actually have no bullet-point text for me to read, and I write a script beforehand that I loosely follow when it comes time to give the presentation itself. The end result is that my presentations end up being more like improv conversations, and I am able to give a more fluid talk. This is helped by confidence in knowing my material, which allows me to recall both the contents of my talk and have faith in addressing any queries that follow. Like Chino discovers, there’s a method towards overcoming fear of public performance, and the results of taking this plunge can be quite rewarding.

When news of a GochiUsa OVA was announced, speculation suggested that music would be very much a major part of things. However, Dear My Sister did not have a substantial musical component, instead focusing on how Chino managed to summon the courage to invite everyone out to a summer festival and Cocoa’s return home for a visit with Mocha and her mother. Conversely, music is very prominent in Sing For You; despite its runtime being only a third of that of Dear My Sister, Sing For You features no fewer than five inset songs. Besides the choral piece Chino performs with her classmates, Sharo, Chiya, Cocoa and Rize sing a variety of songs in a karaoke party intended to help Chino practise, and the songs that Chino’s mother, Saki, performs, are also featured. From the elegant Jazz that Saki performs and Sharo’s delivery of an idol song, to Chiya’s enka, and even Cocoa’s nonsensical song about the joys of Rabbit House, music appears in many forms during the course of Sing For You, culminating in a gentle choral piece that showcases the cast’s versatility and talents for musical performance. Sing For You exemplifies the additional dimensionality that an animated adaptation can bring to a manga: whereas a manga leaves readers to imagine the songs being performed, anime can really bring different moments to life with movement and sound. The songs of GochiUsa are always lively, conveying a sense of joy and happiness that static images alone cannot convey. The end result is a large number of vocal pieces packed into a relatively short duration; while Sing For You might not have had the same opportunity for presenting visually impressive moments to viewers the same way Dear My Sister did with Cocoa’s hometown and the wood-framed town during a summer festival, it utilises aural elements in an incredibly effective manner that results in Sing For You being every bit as enjoyable as Dear My Sister. Coupled with the solid presentation of a relevant life lesson, Sing For You represents a triumphant inclusion in GochiUsa that I have no trouble recommending for anyone who enjoyed the first two seasons and the Dear My Sister OVA.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s a peaceful day at Rabbit House for Rize and Cocoa, who are sufficiently bored so that they are swaying their heads in unison to ward off the dullness. One of the more subtle themes of GochiUsa is that while tranquility is good, liveliness is better. However, if things remained this peaceful for the duration of Sing For You, then there wouldn’t be much for me to write about. This is definitely not the case, and with the events resulting, I have forty screenshots in this post, which remains the first and only proper English-language talk on Sing For You out on the internet. The lack of discussion on Sing For You is surprising considering the warm reception GochiUsa was met with, although I imagine it’s only a matter of time before more people check out this OVA.

  • When Maya and Megu carry Chino into Rabbit House, Rize immediately supposes things resulted from enemy action, while Cocoa immediately fetches some coffee to revive Chino. Sing For You actually opens with a flashback to Chino’s childhood, when her mother, Saki, was still around: the manga drops readers straight to Rabbit House, while the OVA takes advantage of its run-time to create a more fleshed out and emotionally-powerful story.

  • As it turns out, Chino was merely shocked from having earned the part of soloist in her school’s choral performance, and accepted the role.  While she and the others consider turning it down, Chino decides to go through with it. Chino has long been presented as being uncomfortable with crowds and speaks in a gentle, quiet voice, so her decision to take on the solo role shows that a part of her does want to grow. It’s a subtle development that long-time viewers of GochiUsa will enjoy.

  • In order to prepare for the performance, Chino asks Rize to help train her. I’m not a voice actor or singer by trade, but I am roughly aware that being able to project one’s voice does take training well beyond vocal practise and breathing. Rize’s exercises, while seemingly extraneous, are intended to develop stamina and endurance. The bunny-hopping that she has Chino do, for instance, is actually an exercise my dōjō uses to train lower body strength, and while it wipes out the younger students, I’ve been doing them long enough to make them look easy for the white and green belts.

  • Whereas the manga only shows Chino as going through a few exercises, the OVA has Rize put Chino through exercises that would defeat almost the entire population save for professional athletes or individuals with extensive strength training. It is therefore unsurprising that Chino can’t actually complete the exercises, although I imagine that Rize is employing these means to push Chino further. The exaggerations also create a bit of visual humour.

  • Those favoured with a keen memory will recall that the riverside park where Rize drills Chino is where the girls had gone to practise for various sports competitions and the like previously. In anime set in the high school setting, sports and culture festivals are often featured, but aside from brief mentions, GochiUsa has not done any sports festivals the same way Azumanga Daioh and K-On! have as of yet. Looking ahead, it looks like that both a sports event and culture festival will be shown: I forecast that the culture festival will make into season three.

  • Rize compliments Chino on having a marked improvement in projecting her voice. This is a combination of the exercises that Chino’s done, and also from her overall improvement from the time that she’d first met Rize. In Dear My Sister, a flashback shows that Rize had previously worked with Chino to improve her voice using the same caffè latte caffè mocha cappuccino routine, and Dear My Sister transformed this into a spell when Cocoa dreamt about meeting Mahou Shoujo Chino. The shift in lighting here shows that Chino’s been training all day, attesting to both her determination and Rize’s grueling routines.

  • After a day’s training, Chino and Rize return to Rabbit House, only to find a sign up front with a hand-drawn Chino that advertises her role in the upcoming choral performance. Chino immediately concludes that this was Cocoa’s doing, and upon entering Rabbit House itself, she finds the interior of Rabbit House decked out in decorations to celebrate Chino’s solo role. It turns out that even Takahiro is in on things, having given Cocoa and the others permission to spruce things up a little.

  • This screenshot really shows the scope of the decorations, a consequence of Chino leaving Cocoa in charge wiht help from Megu and Maya. An exasperated Chino breaks out shouting, surprising everyone with the amplitude of her voice. Even when irate, Inori Minase’s delivery of Chino’s voice comes across as being incredibly adorable, and there have been multiple roles now where I hear Minase play a character and are immediately reminded of Chino.

  • Rize’s training improves Chino’s form, but her nerves remain weak, as she is easily embarrassed. Feeling that Chino’s technique is solid, Rize suggests singing in front of others. At Ama Usa An, Chiya hosts a kareoke party, and everyone’s invited. Chino is initially asked to take the stage, but even in front of her friends, she’s unable to summon up the courage to put an introduction together. While this is doubtlessly adorable, stage fright is a very real phenomenon. K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama is similarly affected, overcoming it over the course of the series with support from her friends.

  • While Ritsu suggested to Mio that she should imagine the audience as potatoes or similar, Cocoa suggests that Chino imagine her audience as bunnies to take her mind off things, but Chino feels this to be even more distracting. Aoyama inexplicably shows up, as well, although her editor, Rin, is noticeably absent from the proceedings. I’ve long felt that the characters of GochiUsa resemble rabbits in nature and mannerisms – this is a sentiment that others of the community also appear to share, and I think that with this in mind, it could be quite entertaining to write a mini-guide on rabbit temperaments as GochiUsa‘s third season draws nearer.

  • Because Chino is unable to perform, Cocoa decides to take her off the stage and provide an example of how one might perform. She gives Sharo a coffee and then sends her to the front lines, where Sharo takes on the demeanour and energy of an idol. Sharo’s been said to be affected differently depending on the blend of coffee that she drinks, with some blends making her as carefree as Cocoa, while other blends bring her to tears. Insofar, no correlation has been provided as to what coffees have what effect on Sharo.

  • For her song, Sharo performs Hi Hi High☆, a lively and upbeat song: Sing For You lives up to its name in that there is plenty of singing, and this is probably why the decision was made to adapt it as an OVA rather than a part of season three. GochiUsa typically has one inset song during its regular season, and while plenty of supplementary albums have been released over the past few years, dedicated songs for the anime is not something we’ve seen. The increased production time afforded by the OVA format means that more effort was directed towards the music, and the quality of the end product is quite apparent.

  • After Sharo’s performance ends, Chiya takes centre stage and performs an enka. Being a Japanese ballad, enka is the fusion of traditional Japanese music with modern elements, and while their popularity declined in the early nineties as J-pop began gaining traction, the style continues to endure. Musical styles tend to cycle in popularity, although I note that contemporary pop music is pedestrian, unoriginal and jejune to the point of being unlistenable – all modern pop artists sound the same and favour repetitive elements to maximise catchiness at the expense of telling a good story or creating a particular atmosphere.

  • The sort of music that I listen to is varied in nature, from the fluffy and adorable songs of GochiUsa and K-On! to DragonForce and Lord of the Rings soundtracks. All of them share the commonality of telling a story or evoking in my mind’s eye specific imagery. As such, I have no problem with the music that Petit Rabbits’ performs: it far outstrips the indie pop that is so widespread here, sounding a lot more genuine and having a great deal more heart than the manufactured drivel that dominates the music scene.

  • Rize, Sharo, Cocoa and Chiya end up stealing the show when their enthusiasm for singing takes over, and the girls end up fighting over which group Chino should sing for.  The original objective of helping Chino overcome her stage fright is quickly forgotten, showing just how quickly things can shift in GochiUsa. The changes never come across as being unexpected, but rather, happen quite naturally as a result of the girls’ propensity to live in the moment.

  • Takahiro imparts some wisdom to Chino: her mother was once also nervous prior to any performance, but Saki would always remind herself that her singing would bring joy to those who were in the audience. Sometimes, it is these moments from family, even more so than friends, that can profoundly shift one’s perspective. With the promise of performing for him, Chino resolves to simply go into the performance and give it her best.

  • Chino recalls memories of her mother when going through a photo album with her mother, who was a jazz performer with Takahiro and Rize’s father. GochiUsa presents the Kafuus and Tedezas as being quite close to one another: in the second season, a conversation between Takahiro and Rize’s father imply that they’d also been brothers-in-arms. This background has resulted in all sorts of fanciful speculation on the nature of GochiUsa‘s world, but upon scrutiny, these speculations only remain thus.

  • Chino remarks that Saki was actually a lot more flamboyant in mannerism, being rather similar to Cocoa at times. Cocoa also reveals to Cocoa that she had wanted to turn down the part, but hearing Takahiro’s words and remembering her mother’s singing inspires her to at least give it a whirl to make him happy. From a technical perspective, Inori Minase is an excellent singer, being able to bring a variety of songs to life, but GochiUsa‘s setup means that she and the other voice actresses only really get to show off their singing in the opening and ending sequences, as well as supplementary albums.

  • Cocoa can be heard singing a song of her own composition while she cleans, and later sings the song for Chino while they bathe, leading Chino to comment on the song’s odd lyrics. This song is titled “ラビットハウスへ行こうよ♪” のうた (The “Let’s Go To Rabbit House♪” Song) and is delivered with Ayane Sakura’s typical bubbly and joyful manner. While Chino may not particularly like it, Takahiro certainly does, singing it to his father’s annoyance.

  • Once Chino falls asleep to rest up for the big performance, Cocoa sneaks off into the night and heads for Sharo’s place. The backyard behind Rabbit House is rarely shown, being last shown in the second season’s seventh episode, where the girls manually wash the sheets and laundry after Rabbit House’s washing machine malfunctions. One of the biggest joys about GochiUsa is simply seeing the different locations in the series brought to life, and while much of the wood-framed town is based off Colmar, France, the anime also makes use of other locations in Europe (the pool, for instance, was based off the Széchenyi thermal bath in Hungary), as well as seamlessly weaving in original locations where needed.

  • An old aspect of GochiUsa returns as the girls prepare props to help cheer Chino on. Sharo fears that they won’t be able to finish everything in time for the morning, and finds herself exasperated when Cocoa and Chiya begin deviating from their tasks and consider increasingly irrelevant things that they could make for Chino. Around Cocoa and Chiya, Sharo shows more of her true personality, being very goal-oriented and proper, always looking to do things correctly and efficiently.

  • Thanksgiving long weekend last year saw me travel out to Salmon Arm to see the salmon run. This two-day trip gave me a much-needed respite: after reaching the Adams River and watching salmon swimming about in droves, we arrived in Vernon. The second day was a journey back home, and we stopped at D. Dutchman Dairy just outside of Sicamous for ice cream. The ice cream was good enough for us to return just this summer, and overall, this was a much-needed break from the chaos of work, which was so hectic that I was contacted while in Vernon with the expectation that I resolve a newly posted work item immediately.

  • It turns out the “bug” in question stemmed from the testers being on an outdated version of the project, and the latest version, a release candidate, had satisfactorily solved the issue. On the project in question, I wrapped up my tasks and did a submission to the App Store a week later. We’re actually nearing the one-year mark of that upload, and I am planning on writing about HBO’s Chernobyl, whose unnerving atmosphere, and themes about the cost of lies and complacency made the series a highly riveting one. Chernobyl seems far removed from the gentle atmosphere of GochiUsa, so for the present, I won’t go too much further into the details of this upcoming Chernobyl post.

  • The schools in GochiUsa have ornate European architectural designs and look like private academies. This is the middle school that Chino, Megu and Maya attend: while the location’s been visited on a handful of occasions, starting with the day that Cocoa and Chiya met, there’s been precious few opportunities to actually check out the interior. Like Dear My SisterSing For You is produced by Production doA; they’ve done a phenomenal job with the artwork and animation, to the point where the two OVAs since the second season actually look and feel far better than the TV series.

  • This has me excited to see what the third season will look like: at present, the only thing that is known of the third season is that it will come out somewhere in 2020. Back in Sing For You, I’ve opted to feature additional screenshots showcasing Chino’s school. It would appear that the performance is being held at a concert hall adjacent to the main campus: the students’ parents have already begun gathering.

  • The performance venue itself is a surprisingly impressive one, resembling a professional concert hall. My old elementary, middle and high schools certainly never had a stage as ornate and elegant as the one found at Chino’s school – it was only the facilities at the university that approached this in scale and grandeur. I’ve attended a handful of performances and events at the Faculty of Art’s halls.

  • While Chino’s quite nervous on the day of the event, Maya and Megu feel more relaxed and do their best to encourage Chino. They decide to hug Chino and imbibe her nerves before reassuring her that things will be fine, cracking a lighthearted joke in the process. Some of the girls’ classmates can be seen in the background: compared to Megu, Maya and Chino, they look rather more ordinary in design, giving the sense that Chino, Maya and Megu were intended to stand out from other students.

  • Upon seeing the crowd, Chino begins to freeze, but in the corner of her eye, she spots Cocoa, Rize, Chiya and Sharo, decked out in rather flashy garb. Seeing their ludicrous appearance but equally ardent desire to support her, Chino realises that delivering her best now would make them happy. In effect, Chino now sees the performance as a chance to do her best for Cocoa and Takahiro. The latter is also in the audience with Rize’s father, but despite wearing the same jackets as Cocoa and the others, they are a lot more subtle in appearance and don’t stand out as much.

  • Ultimately, Chino puts on a strong performance, singing with sincerity and joy. The song they perform is called 木もれび青春譜 (Hepburn kimore bi seishun fu, “Sun-dappled Youth”), a calming and poetic song about youth using nature as the metaphor. It’s quite unlike any of the spirited, upbeat songs that Petit Rabbit’s and Chimame-Tai sing. Sing For You definitely lives up to its title, which is well-chosen, being about Chino singing for those important to her. Dear My Sister was similarly named, referring to the letter that Mocha wrote to Cocoa.  GochiUsa cycles between its different characters to liven the series up, which contributes to the series incredible success.

  • Sing For You (and GochiUsa as a whole) is meant to be a gentle slice-of-life whose core message is showing how people gradually mature and develop from their time spent together through Cocoa, Chino, Chiya, Rize and Sharo. There is a misconception that shows like GochiUsa have a single lead character: some folks have erroneously assumed that Chino is GochiUsa‘s main protagonist whom people gravitate around, but the reality is that none of the characters can exist in a vacuum. Slice-of-life series depend on the sum of character interactions to make their message clear. Back in Sing For You, Chino’s singing is so moving that Tippy dissolves in tears.

  • Being set entirely in the wood-framed town, Sing For You might not have the same sweeping panoramas and Southern France architecture of Cocoa’s hometown, but it does take the time to showcase the town in great detail, indicating that irrespective of the location, DoA is committed to maintaining a very high visual quality. This is especially encouraging, considering that there is going to be a third season: Chino and the others’ adventures will continue to be rendered in a consistently beautiful world.

  • With the concert over, Chino rushes on home for Rabbit House, wondering what the others thought of her singing. The high saturation and depth of field’s focus on Chino is meant to show the elation of having finished something difficult, as well as finding enjoyment in the moment.  Chino now understands why Saki was so immersed in singing, realising that it’s the ability to deliver emotions with the power of voices; music is one of those things that transcends linguistic barriers, and for my part, even though my Japanese is rudimentary, the emotions and feelings that Japanese songs convey are as clear to me as any Cantonese or English song, even if I do not understand the lyrics.

  • In the aftermath of the performance, Chino is surprised that everyone’s gone ahead and begun planning on making Chino a star of sorts, having recorded her performance for posterity’s sake. Even Sharo gets into things, and seeing this drives Chino to yet another outburst, her third of the episode. This recurring joke shows viewers that despite her usual quiet nature, Chino can be quite noisy when provoked, which is another reminder that the characters of GochiUsa are much more than their base archetypes suggest.

  • While Chino and the others are sharing a noisy, rambunctious moment together, Takahiro relaxes in the quiet of his quarters, listening to a record of Saki’s singing. The jazzy, bossa-nova music that she performs is very similar to the coffeehouse music that I listen to whenever I work. Saki’s voice is provided by Nana Mizuki, a veteran voice actress with roles in a vast range of anime, films and games.

  • Saki’s ultimate fate in GochiUsa has not yet been explored within the anime: while her absence is especially noticeable now that we’ve seen the anime bring her to life, one must also commend Takahiro’s efforts in raising Chino despite the emotional challenges he faced. With Cocoa and the others present now, Takahiro must also be relieved that Chino’s found friends to share her youth with.

  • On a sunny day some time after the concert, Chino speaks with her grandfather, reflecting on how her friends and father helped her to really seize the role. Chino’s grandfather remarks that he rather enjoys things this way, and asks Chino to pass this along to Cocoa and the others. The ending of Sing For You has Chino be the happiest I’ve seen her in the whole of GochiUsa, and she’s in a blue dress and sitting near some yellow flowers similar to the one seen in the OVA’s opening.

  • Chino does look somewhat similar to CLANNAD‘s Kotomi Ichinose here, and she tells her mother that she’s got some wonderful friends before a gust of wind brings the OVA to a gentle close. This is Sing For You, which earns an A+ (9.5 of 10, or 4.0): like Dear My SisterSing For You is remarkably enjoyable and a welcome addition to GochiUsa. Besides a fun story about Chino overcoming her fear of performing in front of the crowd, Sing For You also bridges the gap between Dear My Sister and season three, giving fans something to watch and lessening the wait.

With Sing For You now in the books, I turn my attention towards the third season, which is scheduled for airing somewhere in 2020. The second season ended with volume four, and Dear My Sister covered the fifth volume’s second to fifth chapters. Recalling that Sing For You adapts the fifth volume’s seventh chapter, a third season will likely begin with the summer arc in volume five, which deals with the girls looking for ways to deal with the summer heat that ends in a test of courage, and everyone’s interest in Lapin, a popular character from a children’s show, after Sharo plays the character at Fleur de Lupin. The fifth volume also sees Chiya train with Rize so she can keep up for track and field day. After Chino’s concert, the girls visit a flea market in town and pick up magic tricks. Megu and Maya do orientations of the two high schools in town, with Maya struggling to decide where to go, and when Cocoa’s high school hosts their culture festival, Chiya is made the class president. Despite her worries, she successfully hosts a beer hall. Previously, one season encompassed two volumes of material, so season three will also adapt volume six’s materials. After Cocoa learns to play the accordion, Rize announces her intention to become an elementary school teacher, being inspired by Maya and Megu. The girls later must chase Aoyama through town as she attempts to elude her editor, Rin, and a deadline, before celebrating Halloween. As the colder weather sets in, the girls help Maya and Megu study, while Cocoa and Chiya deal with their roles with the student council. Volume six ends with the end of another year. Season three is therefore looking particularly lively, and while it is a bit early to be making a decision, I am considering doing an episodic discussion of the third season. While GochiUsa may prima facie appear to be an ordinary slice-of-life series, the unique combination of its setting and visceral animated adaptation means that the series has definitely provided plenty of topics worth considering and writing about. With this in mind, I am greatly looking forwards to season three and the chance to delve deeper into a world that has accompanied me for the past five years, providing consistently good laughs and a cathartic atmosphere that proved an effective tonic against the stresses of life.