The Infinite Zenith

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Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e – An Anime Film Review and Reflection

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” –Jawaharlal Nehru

When Koyomi’s father and mother divorce, Koyomi chooses to remain with his mother. The two move into his grandfather’s place, but one birthday, after Koyomi’s grandfather confiscates a pellet gun from him and subsequently passes away, Koyomi becomes filled with regret at not being able to properly apologise to him. Over the years, Koyomi takes an interest in parallel universes as a result of visits to his father’s institute, and becomes a model student. However, he also becomes increasingly lonely. One day, after classes end, Kazune confronts him and demands to know why he turned down the valedictorian role during their opening ceremony. She reveals that in another timeline, she and Koyomi are going out, and that it’s up to him to see if he can make an effort in his timeline. When Koyomi does strike up the courage to approach Kazune, Kazune reveals she’d been the original the whole time, and while she declines to go out with him, the pair begin studying together after Koyomi reveals the source of his book smarts. The pair’s study sessions expand when curious classmates join in, and they eventually egg Koyomi on. Despite failing to ask out Kazune every time, Koyomi is undeterred and enters post-secondary with the aim of joining his father’s institute. Kazune eventually comes around and asks Koyomi out; although their relationship is rocky, their feelings endure. The pair end up getting married and have a son. When an alternate Kazune appears following a stabbing that left her son dead, Koyomi reassures Kazune that her version of Koyomi will still be there to support her, and she agrees to be shifted back to her reality. Koyomi and Kazune’s son matures and starts his own family. As Koyomi’s life draws to a close, Kazune receives a letter from her alternate self – this alternate self explains that in one universe, Koyomi had fallen in love with Shiori and was devastated when she suffered a severe accident. Koyomi had devoted himself to sparing Shiori from this fate, and this Kazune had decided to support Koyomi in her own way. In the end, Koyomi had found his solution, and the alternate Kazune implores her current self to help fulfil Koyomi’s original wish by heading over to the intersection, per the alternate Koyomi’s promise. In the current universe, Koyomi heads out to the intersection and finds nothing unusual. He is gripped with the onset of pain when exhaustion sets in, but an elderly lady passing by manages to retrieve his medication. Although she declines to provide her name, her remarks, that she’s nobody special, jolts an old memory. Koyomi asks if this lady is happy, to which she replies that yes, things are well. Koyomi is filled with a sense of contentment and happiness and returns home to his family, feeling that he had lived a fulfilling life. This is Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, the other instalment to the pair of films based on Yomoji Otono’s novels that were originally published in 2016. With its premise rooted in romance and use of alternate realities as a catalyst, both Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e and its companion film, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, are complementary experiences that show the significance of certain decisions and how notions of free will and determinism can be reconciled, resulting in a remarkably touching tale of how, when things are meant to be, they will happen, and that no matter what one’s destiny might be, if one takes responsibility for their actions, they will find happiness no matter what path is taken to reach a given outcome.

In contrast with Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, whose focus was on Koyomi’s single-minded determination to give Shiori a normal life, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e‘s portrayal of Koyomi’s eventual courtship of Kazune results in a much happier and fulfilling tale. During Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e‘s run, Koyomi’s comments to Kazune are telling – he is confident that, no matter what reality he was in, he would’ve fallen in love with Kazune. Even in the reality where Koyomi had spent all of his efforts in towards saving Shiori, he crosses paths with Kazune, and while in this world, the pair never do get married, Kazune is still grateful she was able to spend time with Koyomi all the same. In the end, her own desire to help Koyomi reach his goals speaks to her devotion to him, even if no romantic relationship ever resulted. In this way, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e clarifies many of the lingering questions Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e had raised, and speaks to a more uplifting, optimistic side of the message that both films convey. In Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, all paths pointed to Shiori experiencing her accident. However, here in Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, all paths also point to Kazune meeting Koyomi in some way. While one timeline has the pair reuniting as two researchers who spurred one another on, in another timeline, the pair marry, start a family and grow old together into old age. During the course of their lives, near-misses with tragedy suggest how, irrespective of which reality Kazune and Koyomi were in, they still would end up crossing paths in a manner of choosing, and in this way, Koyomi would always have someone by his side as he worked hard to find happiness. Taken together, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e and Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e suggest that there is a potential answer to the age-old debate of whether or not one’s fortunes are guided by free will or determinism; this answer is formally known as compatibilism, where free will and determinism co-exist. Under the tenants of compatibilism, it is argued that while causality of long-term events are not free, entities within a system still have a degree of agency over their actions. In common terms, an outcome is preordained (or at the very least, more likely to occur in a specific way), but people have full power to influence how they reach that destination. In the case of Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e and Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, Koyomi and Kazune were always destined to meet one another. However, while Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e has the two meeting later as a result of Koyomi’s desire to save Shiori, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e has the pair falling in love with one another after Koyomi’s longstanding determination to ask her out. While the path taken differs substantially, the outcomes are still similar: Kazune comes to cherish Koyomi all the same. Through Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e and Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, then, the implications are that, regardless of whether or not something is set in stone, how one chooses to approach things matter. One has the agency to choose how things play out, and this sometimes can make all the difference in whether or not one’s life is well-lived. Putting this responsibility on the individual is therefore an encouraging thought because it suggests that, no matter one’s circumstances, there’s always things one can do, no matter how small, to better their situation in a perceptible manner.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Of the posts I have written for Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e and Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, I feel that the latter is stronger in every way. This is because with Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, I come in with full knowledge of what happens and how the different pieces fit together. For the Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e post, I felt like I was grasping at straws to connect some concepts, and further to this, I also incompletely judged Koyomi’s character. This was deliberate – by forcing myself to write out the thoughts I had, I could demonstrate what happens when one writes about something without having a complete picture.

  • This exercise was intended to show how an incomplete picture can shape one’s perception of a work, and so, by returning to look at things with Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e in the books, I was able to better appreciate the details behind Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, as well. By showing what my thoughts on Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e were without this additional information, I demonstrate that even the best of us can draw incomplete conclusions when writing about a work before seeing it wholly, and that it is when one has complete thoughts on a given work that the best possible interpretation can be made.

  • Going through Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e was able to fill in all of the blanks that Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e raised, and this proved immensely satisfying because seeing things from the other side of the fence gives a new perspective on what had happened. Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e and Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e take the same approach that Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima took, presenting two sides of the Battle of Iwo Jima (one from the perspective of American Marines, and the other from Imperial Japanese soldiers) to humanise the combatants and show a side of the events that are typically not explored.

  • I have seen one other anime that took this approach: Sora no Woto used the idea of two concurrent stories converging together in one of its episodes. Back in Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, the key difference with this side of the story lies in how Koyomi ended up going with his mother, rather than his father. In this film, Koyomi’s narration provides a much more complete explanation of the parallel universes, as well as his own understanding of the phenomenon and its intricacies. This allows Koyomi to act as a reliable narrator, laying down the details and smoothing out any points of ambiguity.

  • In this world, Koyomi never meets Shiori, and his time as a student becomes a bit more mundane as a result. By the time he reaches secondary school, Koyomi is determined to make friends with his classmates, and to this end, he decides to turn down an offer to speak at the opening ceremony. However, Koyomi finds that making friends isn’t as easy as it appears, and his days fall into a familiar pattern, at least until when Kazune confronts him. Kazune claims to come from a timeline eighty-five units away from Koyomi’s and is dating an alternate version of Koyomi; the film description suggests that this is a big deal, but in the end, which Kazune is interacting with the Koyomi we see is not important.

  • This initial interaction gets Koyomi thinking, and despite being slow to start, Koyomi does eventually try and take his chances. If it were the case that an alternate Kazune had instigated this, then the implications would be that regardless of which universe one were in, elements from the different timelines could still interact and eventually push things down towards a common outcome. Whether or not this is the case is ultimately irrelevant – like the 2019 film, Hello World, once things are set in motion, what happens next is more important than how it begins.

  • After watching Koyomi try to open things up with her, Kazune admits that there was no eighty-fifth version of herself, and it’s been her the whole time. As it turns out, Kazune had been salty that Koyomi had upstaged her in everything and, further to this, had turned down the valedictorian role, leaving her for the position by default. Since then, she’d wanted to get him back one, and this was how she does so. Watching Koyomi’s confusion is enough for Kazune, and after she’s satisfied herself with a good laugh, this is the moment that changes things for both Kazune and Koyomi.

  • Although Koyomi is keen to pull the trigger, Kazune shoots him down right away, but she does consent to be his study buddy. Here, scenes from Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e are given more context as a montage begins playing. Both Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e and Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e brought to mind the aesthetics from Makoto Shinkai’s newer films – a lively singer performing over a montage is something that Your Name had popularised, and this allows a film to convey the emotions that happen over a protracted timeframe in a more condensed manner.

  • These moments of Koyomi attempting to ask Kazune out were briefly glimpsed in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, but without any additional context behind them (and no additional narration), I got the distinct impression that in a universe where Koyomi had not met Shiori, he had managed to find his happiness anyways. Seeing more to the story underlies how important Shiori was to Koyomi – since Koyomi here lacked any friends, I imagine that being friends, and lovers, with Shiori would’ve provided the other Koyomi with the support and companionship he needed. This would in turn drive his decisions, since Shiori had been with him in what would’ve otherwise been a lonelier time of his life.

  • Per Koyomi’s narration, his relationship with Kazune at this point is purely that of two competing students who study together simply because Kazune wants to compete with him at his best. I get this competitiveness; back when I was a middle and secondary student, I had accrued a reputation since I continuously scored in the top ten of my year, and like Koyomi, I didn’t really think much of it, although the other students in the top ten did take a disliking to me since I was fond of helping the other students out. Ever since primary school, I found that my own learning was accelerated and reinforced if I could explain concepts to others, and my classmates eventually befriended me as a result of this.

  • As a result of his study sessions, Koyomi explains that his life became a little more colourful, and his class, previously filled with strangers who only socalised in smaller groups, now became more friendly and open as a result. This was quite reminiscent of how during my first year of undergraduate studies, what had been a distant cohort of classmates were unified by our mutual dislike of Christopher Boorse’s controversial 1977 paper, Health as a Theoretical Concept. We banded together to work on our papers and draft counterarguments against Boorse, and in the process, I became closer to all of my classmates as a result of this. I remark here that, although I no longer deal with health on a day-to-day, the same approach that let me score an A- in my takedown of Boorse is what helps me sort out issues in Swift and Java.

  • Unlike Koyomi, who is counted as lacking a heart by his classmates despite his helping them study, my classmates were more friendly: since I was helping them learn more effectively, they returned the favour by pushing back at the schoolyard bullies who’d been giving me trouble. On the other hand, Koyomi’s “friends” don’t appear too genuinely invested in his well-being, and when they spot that Koyomi’s developing feelings for Kazune, they spur him on with the aim of watching him fail, rather than out of any legitimate desire to see him succeed. In spite of this, Koyomi’s loneliness is lessened, and while the people in his corner might not always be true, given Koyomi’s tone, I believe that he was generally okay with his classmates.

  • Following graduation from secondary school, Koyomi and Kazune both attend the same post-secondary institute, which has a programme for what’s referred to as imaginary sciences. In reality, I imagine that students interested in quantum mechanics would begin their journey in a given Faculty of Science’s physics department and work their way up from there. Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e‘s portrayal of quantum mechanics suggests the field is deep enough to warrant its own department. This theoretical branch of physics forms a bulk of the mechanics in Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e and its companion film; the films can be quite dense in their use of terminology, but while one can enjoy the story even without any substantial background in quantum physics, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e and Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e wouldn’t work from a thematic perspective if the physics aspects were removed.

  • This is because the concept of a multiverse and parallel timelines is directly tied to how the characters interpret their world. In works that deal with dense topics, I always make an effort to see how it’s applied in the context of the story, and for some stories, their messages are such that the story can stand because it’s not premise dependent. On the other hand, some stories are dependent on their premise. Here, after an evening’s worth of research, Kazune asks, off-hand, if Koyomi would like to go out with her. Perhaps speaking to both his increasing maturity and how long he’s had feelings for Kazune, Koyomi doesn’t miss a beat, and the pair subsequently begin seeing one another.

  • Koyomi does mention that the relationship was fraught with fights and challenges since the pair had been quite different, and this stands in sharp contrast with Koyomi’s relationship with Shiori, which had felt more idealised. Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e appears to have presented a more ethereal, perfect interpretation of a relationship. By separating Koyomi and Shiori through an accident, the story likely sought to remind viewers that such relationships are fantasy. Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e‘s portrayal of Kazune and Koyomi’s relationship, on the other hand, is more realistic in the sense that the pair do have their disagreements and conflicts. It is because the two are able to overcome these differences and reconcile after each fight that their relationship endures.

  • The fact that Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e brought up this side of Koyomi and Kazune’s relationship was a subtle sign that theirs was one to last: conflicts are inevitable, and in fact, in a healthy relationship, communication and trust is shown when couples disagree, argue and hash things out to reach an understanding (give and take). Since Koyomi and Kazune do fight from time to time and find that their feelings are stronger than their disagreement, it becomes clear that the love between the two was genuine. This is something that a lot of romance anime do not deal with: so much time is spent affirming the relationship or building up to a point where a relationship is possible, that the parts involving the maintaining and cultivating of a healthy bond becomes shunted aside.

  • Since the Koyomi of Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e ends up free to pursue his future, he is able to contribute to amazing advancements in society through research into imaginary science. In particular, his team works on controlling the phenomenon of “optional shifting”, the deliberate shifting into a reality of one’s choosing. The smartwatches that Kazune had been wearing were initially primitive, but they become more fully-featured as Koyomi’s team works on the technology, and in narration, his team’s work ends up having a profound impact on their society. It is clear that, with Koyomi’s attention anywhere but Shiori, his considerable talents could be put to good use.

  • The implication that Koyomi’s innate brilliance and dedication, balanced by his devotion to Kazune, ultimately gives him the broad-mindedness needed to achieve great things, and in this way, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s Koyomi becomes more diminished by comparison. At the same time, one cannot really fault Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e’s Koyomi because the pain of loss can cause people to seek out solutions of any type to their problem, and I would expect that people have, on at least one occasion, wished for the means of achieving a miracle and bringing back what they lost even though their rational self understands that said miracle is unachievable by any craft that exists.

  • One consolation, however, is that Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e’s Koyomi does end up succeeding, and while this Koyomi’s relationship with Kazune is a little more muted, the film does show that Kazune and Koyomi appear to have slept together at least once. Given Kazune’s strict, severe disposition, this would have suggested to me that, somewhere down the line, the pair did end up opening up to one another, and in this way, the Kazune of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e was still able to show her love to Koyomi in her own way. Back in Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, while returning home from work, Kazune and Koyomi suddenly find themselves on the verge of a major discovery. Koyomi’s mother is surprised that the pair are more excited by their work, but even in this universe, it’s clear that Kazunme and Koyomi love one another.

  • While Koyomi still remains quite oblivious to some things that should be obvious, having Kazune guide things allows Koyomi to be a more complete individual, and one evening, Koyomi ends up taking Kazune to the same spot that Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s Koyomi brought Shiori to. Here, Koyomi proposes to Kazune, and she accepts. Looking more closely at Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s and Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e‘s respective versions of Kazune, the former’s hair is a more distinct shade of brown and longer, whereas the latter wears her hair shorter, and it’s a blue-black colour.

  • After marriage, Koyomi and Kazune’s lives hit a new status quo – the couple move into the family home and they have a son together, Ryou. The life that this Koyomi knows is a world apart from the melancholy experience that Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e had known, showing beyond any doubt that in a world where he’d never met Shiori, Koyomi could still find happiness. The use of parallel timelines in this manner speaks to how happiness can come through many paths. The idea of a soulmate or “the one” is perpetuated by popular culture, showing men and women desperately clinging onto their first love in the belief that perseverance and determination will win out over all other factors. In many works of fiction, true love supposedly wins out, and people overcome all odds to find happiness together.

  • However, reality is a matter of good decision-making. It is statistically impossible to meet someone who satisfies all of one’s criteria for perfection, and while one’s first love may feel like it’s the only one worth pursuing, in truth, people and their priorities change over time. Thus, even if one does not end up with “the one”, an open mind, loyalty, trust and good communication can allow one to create a relationship that is nonetheless fulfilling and whole. As such, I do not believe there is such a thing as “settling” in a relationship: people make decisions with the best available knowledge to them at that given moment, and those who find a happy relationship are those who recognised the moment and have the willingness to invest a sincere effort into making things ever better.

  • In other words, people who are holding out for the best possible partner (and turning down perfectly wonderful people in the process) cannot be said to truly be living: life is a game of doing the best with the hand one is dealt, not wishing one had a better hand. Koyomi of Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e has clearly found his path, and while this is one that is not without its own challenges, Koyomi manages. During an outing to an event, Koyomi, Kasune and Ryou find themselves amidst a terrifying moment when a maniac breaks out a knife and begins slashing attendees. Koyomi is unable to physically overpower the maniac, but manage to buy Ryou enough time to escape. However, in another universe, Ryou is killed.

  • I had known that Ryou would likely survive because in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, Ryou is seen with his wife at their wedding, with a happy Koyomi and Kazune looking on. In the aftermath of the attack, Koyomi and Kazune share a conversation: both are quite shaken from their experience, and Koyomi is still feeling the concern at the fact they very nearly lost Ryou, reliving the moment in a horrifying dream. For a few moments, viewers are left to wonder if this was really the case, and the emotional response (briefly) overtakes rationality as the mind wanders towards what might happen now.

  • Moments like these speak to how tragedy can strike in a split-second, and how fortune can run along a razor’s edge. Immediately after spotting that Ryou’s alright, I breathed easier knowing that no additional calamity would hit Koyomi and Kazune. Although Kazune seems to be handling things well enough, Koyomi notices that something feels a little off about Kazune. Ryou himself seems to be recovering very quickly and expresses that he’s more than ready to return to school, but Kazune is reluctant to let Ryou out of her sight.

  • Koyomi decides to give Kazune some space and heads off to work, but when he returns home, he finds the place deserted. Growing worried, he heads out and manages to find Kazune and Ryou. One subtle cue as to where the two had gone can be seen in this still – Kazune’s holding into a drawing that Ryou had made. Earlier, prior to their outing, Kazune and Kiyomi had promised that the moment they got home, Ryou would be allowed to finish his drawing, and Koyomi quickly puts two and two together. The Kazune here isn’t the Kazune from his reality, and instead, she had lost Ryou in the same incident. Grief-stricken, Kazune had used optional shifting to see Ryou again.

  • Koyomi is able to convince this Kazune that the Koyomi she knew will still want to support her and walk her through all of this. I imagine that for the Kazune Koyomi knows, the optional shifting meant that she’d see the alternate outcome and be similarly devastated at what could’ve been. Moments like these serve as a reminder of how important it is to take nothing for granted and cherish what one has. In the end, Kazune consents to come with him and return to her own timeline, where she will grieve and manage things with Koyomi by her side.

  • Before Kazune is sent off, Ryou gives her the completed drawing – despite being a child, Ryou appears to have inherited his parents’ intuition and quick-mindedness. He’s spotted that this Kazune is very likely missing her son and regrets not being able to see his last drawing completed, so he gives the alternate Kazune the finished drawing before sending her off. With her wish fulfilled, Kazune enters the IP chamber and prepares to be sent back. By this point in Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, the IP technology has reached a point where parallel universes can be visited at will, and policies have been established to ensure people do not parallel shift to carry out crimes or other misdeeds and escape to different realities.

  • The advancement in the technologies of Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e occurs quite separately of the discoveries Koyomi had made in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, but it’s clear that these advancements needed to coexist with Koyomi’s discovery that it is possible to use parallel shifting to alter the events of the past; without the advancements in this universe, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s Koyomi would not have been able to fulfil his final promise to Shiori before sending her back.

  • The conversation kiss that Koyomi and Kazune share on the drive home is the moment that gives Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e its title, and clarifies the films’ main themes. From here on out, the remainder of  Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e shows how the events of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e came to be. Overall, I found that, despite all of the quantum theory jargon and oftentimes abstract analogies, this pair of films remains relatively easy to follow because at its core, its messages about the strength of love are those that other works, like Your Name and Interstellar, have previously explored. What makes this pair of films unique is how it uses parallel realities and shifting between them to drive home a new set of perspectives, creating a novel experience.

  • My methods and approaches are motivated by a wish to understand the author’s intentions, so with every work I view, I do so by checking my assumptions at the door and allowing said work to tell its story. Once everything is said and done, I then decide whether or not the author was able to convey their message, as well as how closely the messages line up with what I’m familiar with. While a story that is consistent with what I know is likely one I’m going to enjoy, stories that challenge what I know allow me to reflect and determine whether or not there’s anything worth learning. What I do here isn’t a critical review per se, but rather, it’s my review of things, and as such, I hold that readers shouldn’t take my thoughts on a given work as a recommendation to watch (or skip) something.

  • Once Ryou marries and starts his own family, Koyomi and Kazune pass into old age. Their life has seen some challenges and bumps, but things have also been consistently happy. This Kazune has a more kindly demenour about her, a consequence of having spent much of her life with Koyomi, and similarly, Koyomi gives the impression of someone who’s at peace with the world. In most stories, things would wrap up here, but since Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e does have a companion, the time has come to explain how Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s Koyomi’s story ties in with this one.

  • As it turns out, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s Koyomi had worked out a way to save Shiori, but he will effectively die in the process. Before undergoing this, Kazune agrees to fulfil Koyomi’s last wish, to give Shiori one more chance to meet him before they lose all memory of one another. The fact that Kazune was willing to be with Koyomi through all this shows that, even though they never married in this reality, Kazune had still come to love Koyomi enough to help him find happiness. Seeing this, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e‘s Kazune agrees to help her alternate self by nudging Koyomi out the door for this meeting.

  • Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s ending had wrapped up on an ambiguous note, with Shiori and Koyomi reuniting before disappearing into nothingness as their existence was pushed back to an earlier point before either had met the other. However, here in Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, Koyomi arrives at the intersection per the appointment, and he sees nothing significant here. Wondering what the appointment was about, he lingers around before exhaustion overtakes him – he struggles to retrieve his medication and slumps over.

  • Because Shiori ultimately returns to a time prior to her meeting Koyomi, whether or not she and Koyomi could’ve found happiness is unknowable – Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e and Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, taken together, indicates that there’s little point in worrying about what isn’t, and instead, reminds viewers to focus on the here and now. However, leaving Shiori’s fate after this point unknown would result in the films becoming quite unsatisfactory, and when Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e wrapped up, I myself had wondered what would become of Shiori.

  • Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e answers this: by pure coincidence, an elderly lady ends up helping Koyomi to recover his meds and pushes his wheelchair into the shade of a tree so he can regroup. Although Koyomi doesn’t recognise her, the elderly lady’s comments about wanting to help someone are identical to what Shiroi had said to Koyomi previously, and it’s evident this is Shiori. That the two were able to meet again under different circumstances, and Shiori’s remarks that her life’s been a happy one, indicates that Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e’s Koyomi had succeeded beyond any doubts. This fully resolves Shiori’s fate and leaves the pair of films to close on a properly happy ending.

  • The exact story of Shiori’s life after being given this second chance is of no consequence: since viewers are able to see her here, it should be evident that Shiori had not squandered Koyomi’s efforts, and with Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e in the books, I was able to see Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s Koyomi in a much better light. These two films are a prime example of why it’s so important to see all perspectives: all too often, people believe that their perspective and opinions are the only valid ones because this approach is the most comfortable to consider. Conversely, by weighing all sides of things, one can then compare and contrast alternatives and decide for themselves where they stand.

  • The ability to feel happiness for someone else is a mark of emotional maturity and is the surest sign that someone is happy. There are a host of self-help articles out there that give people pointers on how to be genuinely happy for others even when one is feeling down or inadequate, and there is a recurring theme – if one can take a step back and count their own blessings, then the happiness of others becomes significantly easier to embrace. Happy people are those who desire the best for those around them and have a “win-win” mentality above them, and for me, when I see my friends or family celebrating a milestone at work or the arrival of a new child, I feel a warmth knowing that, since I’ve lived long enough to see and celebrate these moments, I too must be doing something right in my life.

  • I was originally planning to publish this post later this month and give myself a bit more time to write my thoughts out, but to my great surprise, I was able to write out over three quarters of this discussion yesterday, on top of tending to the housework, hitting the dōjō and enjoying a second Mother’s Day dinner with the extended family. On Saturday, I visited the nearby Chinese restaurant for Peking Duck, and then yesterday, my relatives invited us over for a home-cooked meal (bone-in beef with marrow, garlic prawns, string beans with bacon and creamy mashed potatoes). Despite the active weekend, I somehow managed to complete this post, and I figured it’d be a better idea to wrap things up so I can tend to other things.

  • Overall, I’m glad to have taken the time to watch both Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e and Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e. The film’s novel format and premise creates a unique experience that can be obfuscating at times, but ultimately, both movies touch upon messages that are universally relatable – the quantum physics and different timelines do nothing to diminish the story, and altogether, the resulting experience was remarkably enjoyable. From a technical standpoint, these films have strictly average animation and artwork, voice acting that’s a little wooden in places, and an especially standout soundtrack that added emotional weight to moments where appropriate, but on the whole, the story itself is the highlight of Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e and Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e.

The significance of Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e lies in this film’s providing answers to the questions that Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e raise: in the latter, Koyomi learns of the means to release Shiori from her curse and give her a chance at a happy life, and the journey to reach this point is portrayed vividly. In the end, Shiori and Koyomi reunite at a great cost to Koyomi, and while the pair symbolically are released from their fate, the precise outcome is unknown. On the other hand, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e plainly shows an elderly Koyomi meeting an elderly Shiori. While he’d gone out to the intersection out of curiosity, the events leading up to it had been the doing of the alternate Kazune, who felt that it was important for Koyomi to learn that his actions had some tangible impact. In the timeline where Koyomi and Kazune marry and start a family, the meeting at the intersection doesn’t appear to yield anything important, but the chance encounter with Shiori shows that in the end, the Koyomi of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e had ultimately done the right thing – all possible versions of Shiori are subsequently granted the freedom to live life out fully, and although this Koyomi has no idea why, he still vaguely feels a sense of contentment in hearing that Shiori’s been well, in turn furthering his gratitude for having lived his life with Kazune. By showing this detail, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s Koyomi is vindicated, and his selfishness turns to selflessness, something that this version of Kazune is able to reciprocate. The end result is an immensely satisfying ending to Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e. Having watched both films now, it turns out that one’s experience will vary slightly depending on which movie they choose to watch first. If one begins with Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, the mechanics behind parallel universes are better established through Koyomi’s monolog. Viewers will have a stronger understanding of what drives Koyomi’s actions in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, and Koyomi’s own approach will come across as being more selfless and admirable. On the other hand, if one starts with Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, then Shiori’s significance will become clearer, as is the extent of Kazune’s love for Koyomi. Koyomi will come across as being colder and more selfish in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, but as the truth dawns on viewers through the events of Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, the impact of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e becomes even more pronounced. In this way, I am glad to have watched Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e first – Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e fills in all of the holes that the former had left in its wake and ultimately, the two films tell a tale of how love is something that transcends timelines and existence, enduring even in different realities when it is true.

Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e – An Anime Film Review and Reflection

“There are two things you should remember when dealing with parallel universes. One, they’re not really parallel, and two, they’re not really universes.” –Douglas Adams

When he was seven, Koyomi Hidaka learned about the existence of parallel universes from his father, a physicist and researcher who’s in the middle of a divorce. After his grandfather’s dog, Yuno, dies, Koyomi is saddened and wonders if in a parallel universe, Yuno might still be alive. While waiting for his father’s workday to finish, Koyomi encounters Shiori, the daughter of the facility director. She helps him use a special device that allows people to explore other realities, and Koyomi is able to see Yuno again. However, in this world, Koyomi’s grandfather passes away from old age. The next day, Koyomi helps Shiori to find a world where her parents do not divorce, but Shiori’s mother finds them and prevents Shiori from travelling to another reality. Although the pair are discouraged from messing with other realities, they soon strike up a fast friendship, and upon reaching secondary school, Koyomi and Shiori have fallen in love with one another. To their great surprise, Koyomi’s father and Shiori’s mother have fallen in love with one another and are planning on getting married. Worried they’ll no longer be able to marry, Koyomi and Shiori try to escape to a parallel reality, but here, Shiori is hit by a vehicle and dies. In her original universe, Shiori enters a coma, and devastated, Koyomi blames himself for Shiori’s accident. He resolves to pursue quantum dynamics and research on parallel universes with the aim of saving Shiori. Upon graduating secondary school, Koyomi formally joins the research team and pushes himself to the limits, working tirelessly at the expense of his health. One evening, his parents approach him and implore him to clean up: an up-and-coming new researcher is set to join their institute, and to Koyomi’s surprise, it’s Kazune Takigawa. Unbeknownst to Koyomi, Kazune had spent the whole of her youth frustrated that Koyomi always pulled ahead of her, and Koyomi reveals his reasons for being so invested in his work. Upon learning this, Kazune decides to help him, with the declaration that it’ll be a race to see who reaches a solution first. Over the years, the government incorporates the institute into a part of their programs, and one evening, while sharing a drink with Kazune, Koyomi realises there is a way to save Shirori after all: if they can intervene and prevent Koyomi from having met Shiori, then Shiori will never suffer her accident and thus, be able to live a normal life. However, the trade off is that Koyomi and Shiori will lose all memory of one another. In this alternate timeline, Koyomi ends up falling in love with Kazune instead and lives a full life. One day, this Koyomi is surprised to have a reminder notification that he doesn’t remember creating. He travels out to the intersection where Shiori’s accident occurred, and as familiarity overtakes the two, they embrace. This is Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e (To Me, The One Who Loved You), one of the two science fiction romance stories penned by Yomoji Otono in 2016. In 2022 October, film adaptations of both this and the companion film, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e (To Every You I’ve Loved Before) were released. Thes two movies offer two different perspectives of a love story, utilising the notion of parallel universes and alternate realities to speak to how, even in the presence of extraordinary circumstances, the fickle realm of love remains one for which there is no easy solution beyond playing things by ear.

Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e conveys to viewers the idea of how important it is to live in the present. After losing Yuno, Koyomi becomes intrigued in a world where his grandfather’s dog lives and shifts into it, only to learn that here, his grandfather ends up dying early. Upon returning to his original universe, Koyomi is shocked, but his chance encounter with Shiori also changes his life as he begins spending more time with her. Over time, Koyomi accepts Yuno’s death and develops a deep friendship with Shiori. These feelings eventually blossom into love. However, when Koyomi’s father and Shiori’s father, both of which had divorced their original partners, end up falling in love and plan on getting married, Koyomi and Shiori feel that their own future will be threatened, leading to their decision to find a parallel reality they can find happiness in. However, this decision is what proves so disastrous for Shiori: she’s hit by a vehicle in another universe and dies, which in turn severs her consciousness from her body in her old universe. Devastated, Koyomi ends up dedicating the remainder of his future to exploring parallel universes with the aim of saving Shiori and merging her consciousness back with her body such that they can resume. Although it was admirable for Koyomi to commit his life for Shiori, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e also shows how the world advances ahead: Kazune has now become a renowned physicist and is determined to catch up to Koyomi. It is revealed that in another timeline, Kazune and Koyomi had fallen in love and found happiness as they worked towards a shared goal of understanding parallel realities, but without the weight of Shiori’s death on his mind, Koyomi was able to live a more fulfilling life. Through its portrayal of alternate realities, in seeing what was possible with Koyomi’s life, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e shows that all too often, people are so focused on what they believe they want, that they fail to appreciate what else is around them. Admittedly, this is not an easy ask, and it is only through the realm of fiction that these alternate outcomes can be seen – although the many-worlds interpretation is one of the interpretations in quantum mechanics that suggest every decision causes a branch, similarly to what was seen in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, no evidence of these parallel realities have ever been directly observed. By abstracting out the physics and allowing for the existence of observable alternate realities, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e suggests that, even though it is admirable for Koyomi to have continued his pursuits into his research with the aim of saving Shiori, ultimately, it was also possible for him to move on and find happiness anew.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s execution and premise brought to mind Hello World, which similarly featured a love story wrapped in a setting where science fiction elements were prominently used as the narrative’s driver. Before delving further into Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, I note that although a great deal of terminology is utilised here to explain how the parallel universes work, it’s not necessary to have any background in quantum mechanics to appreciate or understand what Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e is going for.

  • Out of the gates, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e makes use of a trauma to motivate Koyomi’s curiosity in the parallel universes; when his grandfather’s dog, Yuno, dies, Koyomi desires to see a reality where Yuno is still alive. However, in this parallel universe, Koyomi’s grandfather ends up passing away instead. The sense that I got was that certain wishes carry a cost, and while these costs are plainly presented to viewers, Koyomi is not able to see this himself. This is what drives the flow of events in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e.

  • Because of his initial grief regarding Yuno’s death, Koyomi doesn’t really think much of Shiori: beyond readily accepting her help in operating the Imaginary Parallel (IP) device, he doesn’t even take the effort to learn her name. The device is supposed to help people jump between realities, and earlier, Koyomi’s father suggests that people unconsciously do so, making an example of how when people misplace objects, only for them to turn up precisely where one had already searched. In reality, experts suggest that this is a consequence of lapses in our conscious memory, but some folks do believe that the existence of other realities (and a limited ability to shift through them) is a possible explanation for this phenomenon.

  • When Koyomi returns, Shiori next asks to enter another reality: her parents are amidst a divorce, and she wants to see what the world is like if things don’t proceed in this way. Before they can use the IP device, Shiori’s mother appears and warns them on the dangers of misusing experimental technology, before delving into a lecture about alternate realities. This shuts down any hopes that Shiori might’ve had for seeing a parallel universe, but the moment also does something more significant: it formally brings her and Koyomi together.

  • That Shiori’s preferred casual attire throughout Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e was always a bit of a haunting bit of imagery for me; symbolising purity and hope, the white sun dress is an iconic representation of the Japanese summer, but at the same time, the dress also is evocative of the white kimono that onryō (vengeful spirits) are portrayed as wearing. This comes from kabuki theatre, making it easy to identify who’s a ghost and who’s alive, but with the advent of Japanese horror cinema, the imagery invoked by a young woman with long, dark hair and a white dress immediately creates a sense of unease.

  • In fact, after what happens to Shiori in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, her preference for white clothing appears to become a bit of foreshadowing, signifying her ethereal, transient presence in Koyomi’s life. This makes her accident all the more poignant: after Koyomi and Shiori meet and decide to live their lives out rather than worry about alternate “what ifs”, Koyomi’s life becomes significantly more colourful as he spends the summer with Shiori. Here, the pair go hunting for cicadas and rest along the riverbank in a moment that many would think of when thinking of a Japanese summer.

  • What’s significant about Koyomi befriending Shiori is that it lets him to accept Yuno’s death. There is a degree of irony in that the younger Koyomi was able to move on: he hasn’t forgotten Yuno, and in one moment, is shown visiting his grandfather (and Yuno’s grave) with Shiori. I would imagine that one of the key differences here, however, was that because his connection to Shiori was stronger, cultivated over a much longer timeframe, meant that his memories and feelings were much more firmly entrenched and therefore, difficult to manage.

  • Koyomi and Shiori’s friendship endure over time, and by the time the pair are in secondary school, they’re as close as can be with one another. Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s choice of portraying Koyomi and Shiori as biking together under the summer skies reminds me of Tomosaki’s The Blue I Saw Back Then, a wonderful photobook she published back in 2022. In this photobook, Tomosaki highlights nostalgic photographs of the Japanese countryside and Kyoto by summer. The book is divided into chapters delineated by the time of day, and my favourite photographs in this volume portray students enjoying their youth under such weather.

  • If there is such a thing as rebirth, I do not mind admitting that my first choice would be to respawn as someone who could experience the sort of nostalgic, idyllic youth that the Japanese excel at conveying. Throughout the earlier segments of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, Koyomi and Shiori’s conversations do have a more stilted inflection about them: while it is evident the two are close, the voice acting conveys a feeling of distance that separate the two. In spite of this, as their latest summer wears on, the two do end up falling in love.

  • Thus, when Koyomi’s father and Shiori’s mother make the announcement that they’re going to marry, Koyomi and Shiori are shocked. The premise of step-siblings falling in love and learning they’re not related by blood is a plot device that many works of fiction have previously employed, and this element has always been bothersome for some viewers. Here in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, it is interesting to see a different portrayal of things, as both Koyomi and Shiori are not blood related, and their parents have fallen in love quite separately. When this news surfaces, Koyomi and Shiori decide to run away, at least for a while such that they can gather their thoughts.

  • Anime that deal with love among step-siblings (e.g. True Tears) typically do so as a means of creating conflict, and the resolution of this is usually one that requires a season to do so. Here in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, however, this is merely a catalyst for what comes next, and admittedly, Koyomi and Shiori’s initial response is rather more measured compared to other love stories. In the 2017 film, Fireworks, Norimichi and Nazuna run away with one another, and while the movie’s events leave things quite ambiguous, it is implied the pair did end up running away.

  • Both Koyomi and Shiori are portrayed as being more rational, but still immature – after a day spent together, the pair decide that they should consider another route, but this option entails using the IP device, shifting into another universe and living their lives out there. Evidently, Koyomi has forgotten about how here, parallel universes result as a branch of divergent decisions, and as a result, will have minute differences compared to the world one is familiar with. Having said this, if Koyomi had been thinking straight, the film’s events would not occur.

  • I’ve been around the block long enough to know how storytelling works, and as a result, do not begrudge authors for allowing their characters to make mistakes – erring, and then learning from their decisions is one of the elements I look for in a given story. As it was, the naïveté of youth is in full swing here, and had Koyomi and Shiori approached their parents to talk things out, a conversation would result, and then Koyomi and Shiori’s futures would be assured. Logical and rational, it would also make for quite an unremarkable story: people love seeing struggle and overcoming adversity, so this is an aspect of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e (and virtually every work of fiction in existence) that I readily accept.

  • Although Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e makes extensive use of the verbiage and jargon from quantum mechanics, any viewer who does have functional knowledge of this discipline is unlikely to find as being helpful towards the film’s main themes; had Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e made quantum mechanics a prerequisite for understanding, it would preclude any meaningful attempt to look at what happens to Koyomi and Shiori from the perspective of a fellow human being, rendering the film an impenetrable fog to everyone, save those who majored in physics. Instead, here in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, the parallel universes and quantum theory simply serves as a part of the setting, present to facilitate the story’s progression.

  • One recurring element in most works of fiction dealing with parallel universes or alternate realities is that, if one sustains injuries or dies in one universe, then they will suffer severe consequences in their original universe. The Matrix had explained this as how whatever the mind experiences makes something real, and the fact that this can happen here in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e hints at how the author believes that, irrespective of how many timelines there are, one’s consciousness is a singleton, unique and immutable; to this end, it is worth cherishing. This moment is the turning point in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, the rising action that precipitates the remainder of the film’s events.

  • In the aftermath, Shiori’s consciousnesses ends up in limbo, and in this world, her brain activity ceases even as her body continues to operate. The movie provides a scientific explanation for how this came to be, but the simplest analogy is that Shiori’s experienced what happens when one unplugs a storage device during the middle of a file transfer. This results in that part of the hard drive ending up with a corrupted file that cannot be opened. Shiori’s consciousness remains in the parallel universe intact, but since she has no body to return to, she can’t interact with the world, and in the old universe, her body has no consciousness and therefore, cannot operate.

  • The state of limbo that Shiori finds herself in results in a situation where she’s bound to the spot, visible to none other than Koyomi, and in this spectral state, only Koyomi can interact with her. I wonder if this is why there’s been an uptick of searches for Summer Ghost of late; while Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e does have moments set in the summer, and Shiori has become a ghost in a manner of speaking, the two films differ dramatically in terms of premise, themes and execution. For the present, being able to communicate with Shiori gives Koyomi a glimmer of hope.

  • Besides the more scientific side of things, a conversation with his father and Shiori’s mother gives Koyomi a startling revelation: since he and Shiori were never blood related to begin with, he would’ve been able to marry Shiori even if his father and Shiori’s mother married. It was here that Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e hints to viewers that decisions aren’t to be made lightly, and that a measure of patience can save a great deal of difficulty later down the line. Koyomi wonders why his father and Shiori’s mother aren’t more upset with what happened; they don’t hold Koyomi accountable for what happened owing to the unpredictable nature of the parallel universes, and in the end, allow Koyomi to pursue research into the parallel universes.

  • Outside of spiritual discussions, there are no known means of capturing and restoring a consciousness back to its body. Koyomi’s research would, in reality, be seen as folly, since the consciousness itself is not something that is well understood, even with all of the advances that have been made in neuroscience. Even in works that do try to add a scientific account of how things might work, the technology can only be described as soft science because there is no real-world basis for how they would operate. The closest work of fiction I can think of that allows a machine to capture and store consciousness are the psychoframes in Gundam‘s Universal Century, and even here, their operation has long been counted among viewers as being more magic than science.

  • In this timeline, Koyomi devotes himself into parallel universe research, and after completing secondary school, he immediately joins the institute his parents work for. Thanks to his innate familiarity with the principles, Koyomi is able to make headway despite lacking any post-secondary background in quantum mechanics. Quantum theory and associated disciplines are counted as being one of the most tricky fields to understand because there is no easy analogy for explaining their behaviours in an approachable fashion, and because the underlying mathematics are extremely demanding.

  • There are people with a talent for understanding and present this material in a tangible way: giants in the field, like Steven Hawking and Brian Greene, have published works on quantum mechanics and presented things in a way that makes concepts approachable even to laymen. Things like Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Greene’s contributions to NOVA’s The Elegant Universe have helped me to grasp the fundamentals of quantum theory at a very basic level, offering a very accessible and visual means of explaining concepts that otherwise would be quite incomprehensible. With this being said, while such works do make complex concepts easier to grasp, they are no substitute for decades of expertise in the field.

  • As Koyomi presses onward with his research, his colleagues worry about his health and well-being. The promise of bringing Shiori back is undoubtedly a powerful motivation, but at the same time, it also leaves him with tunnel vision. This is a recurring problem that people frequently face: when confronted with a challenging problem, one may lose sight of other things in their lives to their detriment as they divert all attention and focus towards solving this problem. As a software developer, this is something I strive to remain vigilant about – just because I’m dealing with what seems like an insurmountable problem does not mean I should allow this problem to interfere with my other work or daily life.

  • Managing one’s priorities and learning when it is okay to take a step back is a vital skill to have. Different people have different ways of managing this, and for me, I mitigate tunnel vision in two ways – depending on the circumstances, I set aside a particularly tough task and start working on something else, or otherwise, will go out and get some fresh air. There is no doubt that this is what Koyomi is missing in his initial research, and there comes a point where, when Koyomi relates things to Shiori, she tries to reassure him that the thought of him doing so much for her is already sufficient.

  • Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e disrupts things further when Koyomi’s father and now step-mother have an announcement for him: to help his work along, a new researcher will be joining the institute, and moreover, this new addition is said to be an award-winning PhD holder. While Koyomi is disinterested in having someone else on his team, primarily because his research objective is off-the-books, his parents convince him to at least meet her anyways. Over this time, Koyomi’s stopped taking care of himself, so his parents implore him to shower and shave properly.

  • As it turns out, this top-tier researcher is none other than Kazune. In this timeline, Koyomi was so fixated on his objectives that in secondary school, he’d left all of the other students behind and spent very little time socialising. Kazune had found Koyomi a curiosity, but he never bothered approaching anyone, and being a determined student herself, Kazune became frustrated at the fact that Koyomi would upstage her in every conceivable subject. Koyomi’s choice of a hangout spot, the local karaoke joint, is quite unsuited a place for first impressions, but at the same time, the privacy offered allows Kazune to be quite candid about how she felt about things.

  • This sort of setup would, in any other story, lay down the groundwork for a familiar theme – Shiori is functionally gone, and Kazune is in the present, so if Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e had been set in one timeline, then it would be logical to show how even Koyomi would eventually come around and learn to appreciate what’s in front of him, rather than what is now a hypothetical. However, being a story with parallel universes, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e is able to do something different, and in this way, the film was able to keep things compelling.

  • Kazune learns that Koyomi’s been diverting some of his funds into driving his own project, and agrees not to report him on the condition that she be allowed to work with him, and further to this, they’re still on to see who makes the breakthrough first. Kazune’s determination to overtake Koyomi underlies a desire to become closer to him, and once Koyomi agrees to work with her, the two begin making strides. Even so, the complexity of their topic means that progress is slow, and a few more years pass. Over this time, Koyomi and Kazune’s relationship appears to have improved, and Koyomi’s objective goes from reuniting with Shiori to seeking out a way of making it so that she won’t ever experience the car accident and be granted a shot at a normal life, albeit one where she and Koyomi never meet.

  • One evening, Kazune convinces Koyomi to take a break from his research, and she brings in a fancier beer (a Guinness, if I’m not mistaken). Out of habit, Koyomi makes to drink the beer directly from the can, only for Kazune to stop him and invite him to drink out of a glass instead. Upon seeing the bubbles in the beer sink into the drink and hearing about the properties that make this possible, Koyomi suddenly finds himself face-to-face with the solution he’d been seeking. What Koyomi experiences here is something that occasionally crosses my path: inspiration can come from unlikely sources, and I’ve found that as far as problem-solving goes, I’ve drawn solutions from the most unusual of places.

  • With a solution laid out, all that Koyomi desires seems possible. He works out that it would be worth it if Shiori can live her life out in happiness even if the pair end up losing their memories of one another, and in order to accommodate this, Koyomi must reach the end of his life and nudge his original self away from meeting Shiori. If this can happen, the pair will have never fallen in love and thus, never feel the need to travel to another universe. Kazune disagrees with this plan and wonders if there is value in going to such lengths for one person even if it comes at a great cost to oneself, but ultimately relents and agrees to assist Koyomi if it means helping him make peace with his past. In this way, Kazune proves quite selfless, showing that despite Koyomi’s single-minded drive that ventures into selfishness, she’s willing to help him find his happiness.

  • In another set of realities, Koyomi sits down to dinner with his family and wonders about the existence of alternate universes and how different things might not always be as desirable as they appear. Moments of normalcy are something that I’ve come to appreciate in all of the series I watch, and over the past few years, I was reminded time and time again that they are not to be taken for granted. Over the past weekend, the WHO declared that the global health crisis is no longer an emergency, and this coincided with my celebrating a birthday in the family. For the first time in four years, I was able to sit down to dinner at a local The Keg, where I went with their prime rib with sautéed mushrooms and twice-baked potato. After the main courses were done, our server brought a complementary slice of ice cream cake that was large enough to share amongst four: I had indicated in the reservation that we were celebrating a birthday.

  • The complementary cake rounded off a pleasant evening, and being able to go to a steakhouse to celebrate in this manner again was wonderful; although some caution should still be observed in crowded spaces, it is remarkably liberating to see that normalcy has returned to the world. Back in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, viewers are subsequently shown what would’ve happened if Koyomi and Shiori never met, and for me, this part of the film was the most poignant. Despite being set to an upbeat vocal piece, there was a feeling of melancholy in the knowledge that, had things turned out slightly differently, Koyomi may have lived a more fulfilling life.

  • This aspect of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e was what stood out most for me: in another timeline, Koyomi was able to have a more fulfilling youth despite not being quite as impressive of a student. Such an outcome inevitably leads viewers to the question of how their lives may have ended up if circumstances had differed slightly. Earlier in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, Koyomi had found that regardless of the timeline, every outcome has its pluses and minuses. Here in this reality, as exchange for having never met Shiori, Koyomi manages to find happiness in another way. Exploring topics like these are confined to the realm of fiction: alternate paths and their outcomes within reality are unknowable simply because of how many moving parts there are in life.

  • Whether it be careers or relationships, I would find that it is none too helpful to dwell too deeply on what could have been. For instance, when I recount my old aspirations to become a medical doctor, my decision to accept an offer to graduate school when my applications to medical school failed might be seen as a fork in the road. However, the reason why my application was unsuccessful was because of insufficient community commitment and ethical know-how. As a result, the application’s outcomes are the result of earlier actions, and it is likely the case that, had I put in a more concerted effort to become a successful medical school applicant, I wouldn’t have enough experience or a deep enough skill set to have transitioned over into computer science. If something like this already looks complex, then one can only imagine how trying to work out the withertos and whyfores of relationships would become even more challenging.

  • As it was, when Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e shows Koyomi marrying Kazune, I regarded this with both a combination of warmth and melancholy. The film shows that yes, it was definitely possible that Koyomi and Kazune both would’ve found their happiness. However, the same time, knowing this means that the Kazune and Koyomi of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s central timeline had also spent most of their lives longing for something that they could never quite have, despite their remarkable achievements in the realm of physics.

  • In the original timeline, Kazune and Koyomi are close as friends, and while a scene suggests that the two might’ve had a physical relationship at some point, Koyomi’s devotion to Shiori would’ve made an emotional connection much more difficult to make. As Koyomi and Kazune reach old age, Koyomi prepares to make one final shift with the goal of keeping Shiori from being hit by a vehicle, liberating her from her fate. Kazune’s words to Koyomi suggest that she’d long accepted that this would be what Koyomi needed to do, and while she once had hoped to be closer to him, Kazune does end up succeeding where Koyomi failed: she’s able to let him go and understand that it is sufficient for him to be happy.

  • When the day finally arrives, Koyomi explains his plan to Shiori, who becomes overwhelmed at the thought of forgetting everything about him; for her, being bound to this spot, however unpleasant it was, a persistent reminder of the time she’d spent with him. In literature, the thought of wishing to have never met and fallen in love with someone who would, unintentionally or otherwise, end up getting their heart broken is commonplace. Alfred Tennyson’s enduring remark, that it is “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”, suggests how the experience of loss and heartbreak is an essential part of being human, and it is through this suffering that one comes out stronger for it.

  • For Koyomi, his guilt at having denied Shiori her life leads him to pursue the approach that he did, and even now, Koyomi believes that Shiori is owed a fulfilling life. However, being the forward thinker that he is, Koyomi offers Shiori a promise: he will meet her at this intersection a month into the future. By shifting into the reality where Shiori was able to live her life out, Koyomi briefly trades places with an alternate version of himself and makes one small adjustment, adding a reminder to this Koyomi’s  calendar.

  • In the end, Kazune’s devotion to Koyomi was unwavering, and reading between the lines, I got the sense that to some capacity, the pair do express their feelings for one another, in turn showing that Koyomi was able to move on from his attachment to Shiori. Under this interpretation, Koyomi’s desire to save Shiori is not motivated by romantic love alone, but rather, the desire to return what he felt he’d unfairly deprived her of. Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e is ambiguous in this regard, and one must draw their own conclusions about what the film’s primary aims were.

  • Ambiguity is something I generally dislike, but in storytelling, vagueness can actually be to a narrative’s advantage, allowing viewers to interpret things in their own manner of choosing and prompting them to draw their own conclusions. Generally speaking, when ambiguity is a part of a story, the expectation is that the characters’ growth as a response to whatever they experience is consistent: this provides grounding that gives viewers something to focus on.  Here, I remark that an ambiguous story is not the same as a confusing story: the latter results from inconsistency with the world-building or leaving elements unexplained.

  • With Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e now in the books, I set my sights on Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e. I’ve heard that some folks indicate that there is a recommended order in which to watch these pairs of movies in, but since I’ve only got one of two movies completed, I’ll decide whether or not this recommendation holds any merits once I’ve crossed the finish line for Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e. At that point, I’ll also deliver a verdict on what I made of these two films as a whole; it seems quite unfair to grade the movies separately when they were meant to be watched together.

The notion of alternate realities as having “absolute points”, events that cannot be altered regardless of the reality, is something that other works have explored. In What If‘s fourth episode, Doctor Strange ends up using the Eye of Agamotto in a bid to save Christine Palmer after a car crash, and with each iteration, Strange progressively loses his humanity. Ultimately, he is only able to briefly stop Christine’s death, and the universes subsequently collapse, leaving Strange to grieve his losses alone. The message in that episode of What If had been simple enough – some things in life just aren’t meant to be, and no amount of intervention will alter things. As powerless as humans are, the thought of having the means of altering the outcome of an event would be an immensely attractive one. However, in both Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e and What If, the takeaway message is that, when things happen in life, one is supposed to “improvise, adapt, and overcome”. When adversity appears, one must make do with the hand they’re dealt and make the best decisions possible in that given moment; it is likely the case that even with such power to alter reality, one may not always get their desired outcome, and so, rather than trying to resist, one can instead elect to make the most of what they have. In Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, for instance, the story of Pete Best was recounted. Best was a drummer for the up-and-coming band, the Beatles, but in 1962, he was fired owing his bandmates’ machinations. Six months later, the Beatles became the largest rock band in the world. Best fell into depression and began drinking, even caming close to suicide in 1968. Best never would form another band or gain worldwide recognition. However, by 1994, Best was interviewed, and in this interview, he stated that in retrospect, he was happiest as he was now because being fired from the Beatles led him to meet his wife, and when he started a family, his priorities changed. A life with the people he cared about most was more valuable than fame and wealth, and Best did still play the drums from time to time, allowing him to continue on with his passion for music. Manson tells Pete Best’s story to drive home a simple point: bad things happen, but these negative emotions are a part of life, and moreover, the discomfort they cause can force people to re-evaluate their priorities. In the case of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, viewers are given a saddening outcome: Koyomi evidently could have found happiness, but he remained trapped by the loss of Shiori. His steadfast desire to save her therefore becomes simultaneously commendable and despicable because, at once, he is sticking true to his goals and working towards achieving them, but at the same time, one could also that his desire to save Shiori is also hurting those who are living, as he worries both his parents and Kazune alike. Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e suggests that Koyomi ends up living a half life and eventually picks a costly solution to ensure Shiori can find her happiness. Mason’s suggestion to all this offers a resolution to the problem Koyomi faces: if people learn how to reprioritise and value better things, they can find healthier solutions to their problems without looking to parallel universes. At least, if Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e was all there was, this would be the conclusion I’d reach: there is a companion film, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, that shows another side of the coin, and I expect that I’ll have a complete measure of what both films sought to convey once I wrap the latter up.

Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita!: Precious Friends – An Anime Film Review and Reflection

“Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.” –Bill Watterson

After learning their class is going on a field trip together, Hinata, Hana and Noa decide to go on a min-trip of their own ahead as preparation, and decide to visit Hana’s grandmother after they learn about the origins of Hana’s hairpin. Hana’s grandmother, Sakura, lives in a mountainous area in Japan, and with permission from their parents, Hinata, Hana and Noa decide to invite Koyori and Kanon, as well. Although Miyako had been hesitant about going, she decides to accompany them, too. Hana is surprised when her grandmother offers them homemade sweets. On their first day, Miyako and the others go rafting and grape-picking. After a day of exploring the area, everyone returns home, where they meet Sakura’s best friend, Machi, and sit down to a wonderful dinner. When Hana asks if they can make deserts later, Sakura hesitates, but Miyako steps up. In the process, Hana learns her grandmother actually isn’t a good cook, and Sakura later confides to Miyako that she’d seen how close Hana had become to Miyako. Worried she might lose Hana, Sakura had tried to step her game up, and Miyako reassures Sakura that Hana won’t leave her. The next day, Miyako and the others visit a zoo before dropping by the summer festival. Throughout the trip, Noa had been trying to get closer to Hinata, and although Hinata’s been foiled so far by circumstance, she finds a chance when Hinata decides to share shaved ice with her. As the skies darken, Hana realises she’s lost her hairpin, and Miyako offers to search for it. Moved, Hana accompanies Miyako, who ends up finding her hairpin. The pair head back to Sakura’s place and light some fireworks, before walking over to a nearby stream to watch the fireflies. Here, Hana expresses her thanks to Miyako and recalls a conversation she had with her grandmother, realising that Miyako’s become an important part of her life. The next morning, Hana and the others promise to visit Sakura again before heading home. In a post-credits scene, Kōko gushes over a photo of Miyako that she somehow managed to take during the latter’s trip. This is Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita!: Precious Friends (Precious Friends for brevity from here on out), a film that premièred in October 2022 in Japan and saw a home release in March. As a sequel to 2019’s Wataten!, Precious Friends further expands the growing friendship between Miyako and Hana, a process that helps the withdrawn and shy Miyako to open up and grow.

Throughout Wataten!, Miyako had been depicted in a negative light: positively infatuated with Hana, but lacking any social skills and finesse, Miyako’s actions came across as being harmful and easily misunderstood. However, Wataten!‘s run showed how friendship would ultimately transform Miyako. As she learns how to navigate social protocol and manage her feelings regarding Hana, Miyako gradually allows her real self to show, and in the process, Hana would come to trust Miyako a little more. In Precious Friends, Miyako’s old tendencies are still present – she’s very much fond of pressing cosplay upon Hana, who only puts up with it because Miyako’s cooking is top-notch, and because she’s now familiar enough with Miyako to know that Miyako isn’t acting maliciously. However, small details are presented to show how Miyako’s also changed as a result of her friendship with Hana, Noa, Kanon and Koyori. When Sakura admits to Miyako that she actually can’t cook and was worried about Miyako replacing her, Miyako is able to reassure Sakura that Hana will always love her. That Miyako is able to have a meaningful conversation without blanking out is a sign of her growth. Similarly, when Hana loses her hairpin at Precious Friends‘ climax, it is Miyako who steps up and offers to find it. Although Miyako’s social anxiety means she previously had trouble even maintaining eye contact, at the summer festival, she approaches both vendors and other patrons to see if they might’ve spotted anything. The changes in Miyako come directly as a result of her getting to know Hana better, and as a result of her friendship with Hana, Miyako is willing to step out of her comfort zone if it means that Hana can be happy. This friendship has wrought a noticeable change in Miyako; she becomes more confident as a result. Miyako had long been presented as being remarkably skilful as a seamstress and excels in her post-secondary studies as a fashion designer, and her ability in cooking is impressive. However, without confidence, Miyako doesn’t have a chance to shine. Wataten! has given Miyako plenty of opportunity to show her strengths, and in doing so, Hana is able to gain a better measure of who Miyako really is, which in turn helps her to realise that despite her early impressions, Miyako is actually a good person who genuinely cares about her.

With its portrayal of the parallels between the friendship that Sakura and Machi share, and the nascent friendship between Hana and Miyako, Precious Friends strives to convey how friendship has no constraints and can form regardless of age, status and station. Much as how the older Machi befriended Sakura long ago, Miyako’s initial infatuation with Hana matures into friendship over time. In this way, Sakura and Machi’s friendship is meant to act as precedence for how Hana and Miyako’s friendship will progress, as well. Not much is shown of Sakura and Machi’s old friendship, but through flashbacks, Precious Friends portrays a sort of gentle hesitation and awkwardness that eventually develops into a lifelong bond between Sakura and Machi. Sakura ends up starting a family, but despite the time that’s passed, she and Machi are still evidently close, enough for Machi to hang out and even help her with the cooking when Hana and her friends stay over, and the pair’s traits to rub off on the other (Sakura’s penchant for bad puns being one of them). Through Precious Friends, Wataten! is able to clarify that friendships don’t always need to be seen as anything beyond lifelong camaraderie – Sakura and Machi’s progression thus acts as a bit of foreshadowing for how things between Hana and Miyako will turn out, and despite a shaky start, through moments of growth and learning, Miyako and Hana can share a equally meaningful and profound connection. Although critics regularly challenge Wataten! for its portrayal of a friendship with such a large age gap, the reality is that as people age, the perceived gap shrinks. A ten year difference separates Hana and Miyako, and from the looks of things, a similar gap separated Sakura and Machi. However, this difference is not pronounced in any way amongst the latter: the parallels seen in Precious Friends, then, are meant to reiterate how friendships can take all forms and should be celebrated. While Hana and Miyako grow closer together in Precious Friends, the strength of Kanon and Koyori’s friendship is also visible, and at this point in time, Noa also begins to yearn to be closer to Hinata, viewing the trip as a perfect chance to accelerate things a little further. It is quite touching to see how shared experiences drive people together, and with a trip as its premise, Precious Friends uses its runtime to portray how friendships progress over time, fully living up to its title.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Right out of the gates, it becomes apparent that Precious Friends is a cut above the televised version in terms of animation quality and visual detail. Doga Kobo produced both the TV series and the film, and this studio is best known for series like Yuru YuriNew Game!, Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru?Himouto! Umaru-chanKoisuru Asteroid, Anima Yell!, RPG Real Estate and Houkago Teibou Nisshi. With such a variety of titles in their resume, it should be no surprise that Wataten! is of a high standard, too. Films tend to have a larger budget, and here in Precious Friends, backgrounds are a little more detailed than they’d been in the TV series.

  • In classic Wataten! fashion, Precious Friends opens with Hinata greeting Miyako in her usual manner to establish that, although this may be a film, elements from the TV series will be making a return. The scene has been given an upgrade as the camera pans around to show this moment from a range of angles that were absent in the TV series. This change is typical of movies, which capitalise on their increased budget to do flashier things with animation and explore new directions – Hinata’s attachment to Miyako was a major part of Wataten!‘s original run, but within Precious Friends, it does feel as though Hinata is maturing and beginning to get on without the need to cling to Miyako every other second.

  • Before pushing further into the movie, it is worth reiterating here that, while Wataten!‘s premise is prima facie questionable, once viewers get past things, there’s actually a remarkably heartwarming story. First impressions don’t always tell the full story, but unfortunately, this is precisely how larger anime publications choose to approach Wataten!; they treat Wataten! as being an immoral work whose core messages are overshadowed by Miyako’s mannerisms. These publications erroneously assume that morals are black and white; since Miyako’s actions are immoral, the whole of Wataten! must therefore be unfit for consumption.

  • Moral absolutism is a very limited and narrow way of approaching things. By taking such a route, larger anime publications tend to completely miss the aims and messages of works precisely because they impose their own views onto things, versus trying to look at attributes of a work within a larger context: it is important to understand why a work takes the approach that it does in its execution. What appears questionable or wrong in a moment is present because it is intended to establish the state of things at a given point in time, which in turn provides a point of comparison for things later down the line.

  • Here in Wateten!, Miyako’s actions towards winning Hana over is almost certainly illegal, but when the series then shows how Miyako changes, then there’s a frame of reference from which to Miyako’s growth can be quantified. Of course, there is one more reason why such exaggerated mannerisms are present: Miyako’s actions are so outrageous that it drives some comedy in the series, creating a few laughs that are meant to draw the viewer in. However, as Miyako’s character becomes better established, these moments go away as the series focuses on new aspect of Miyako. Here, Hana and Noa’s parents share an afternoon with Chizuru.

  • When Hana is asked about her hairpin and she mentions its importance, the group proposes a trip to visit Hana’s grandmother. Hana, Noa and Hinata’s parents give approval for this trip, although when the girls indicate Miyako is going to be accompanying them, Chizuru determines it’s probably better if they at least look after them for the first steps of this journey. This is a jab at Miyako’s tendencies – by Precious Friends, Wataten! can afford to be more subtle with its humour, both because viewers are more familiar with the characters, and because the characters have now had a chance to grow.

  • The idea of a trial run prior to their class trip is a wonderful suggestion that provides an excuse which precipitates the film’s events; par the course for movie adaptations of slice-of-life works, Precious Friends feels like a scaled-up episode that uses the silver screen format to portray things in greater detail than is otherwise possible in a twenty-four minute space, but at the same time, people express that slice-of-life films can drag on because nothing happens or otherwise similarly employ travel, resulting in a familiar experience.

  • Although this is a valid criticism because everyone has different standards for what a film should entail, I personally enjoy slice-of-life films because they offer a chance to show said adventures in greater detail and really focus on an appreciation for these moments. Hana’s grandmother lives deep in the mountains somewhere in rural Japan, and it takes a bit of a train ride to get there. Ordinarily, I’d hop on a chance to do some location hunting, but in Wataten!, the location was never given. However, here in Precious Friends, there are a few clues that indicate that the film’s set in Nagatoro: the train station everyone disembarks at is Nagatoro Station.

  • Upon arrival, Kanon, Koyori, Noa and Hinata are impressed with the residence that Sakura, Hana’s grandmother, keeps in the countryside. It turns out that Sakura’s place was once an inn of sorts, and during the summer, it is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. The different setting creates an atmosphere that wasn’t previously conveyed in Wataten! – an urban environment typically conveys hustle and intensity, whereas rural spaces slow things down, giving characters a chance to reflect on their thoughts.

  • Beautiful azure skies and towering cumulonimbus clouds are a staple of the Japanese summer; known as nyūdō gumo (入道雲), these clouds are named after the nyūdō because their flat tops resemble these yokai‘s clean-shaven heads. They are a common sight in Japan owing to the nation’s proximity to the ocean and its moisture, and while they typically bring torrential rainfalls and fierce thundershowers with them, when viewed from a distance, there is a sort of nostalgia and beauty about these storms. In Alberta, cumulonimbus clouds typically form during afternoons and evenings, and while they are common part of the summers, since my move, they’ve been harder to spot owing to my position in the city.

  • Sweets are synonymous with children, and I vividly remember how as a child, things from Jolly Ranchers to Kinder Surprise were remarkable treats; my parents would allow me one a day, and I still recall looking forwards to that part of the day. As I grew older, sweets became less appealing, and dinner became my favourite meal of the day. To no one’s surprise, there is an evolutionary basis for this behaviour – children are more receptive to sweets because sugars represent easy to access nutrition to fuel growth, and as growth slows in adults, the body becomes less responsive to sweets. This is why for me, I enjoy multiple helpings of main course, but have no objection to skipping dessert.

  • Prior to the trip out to Sakura’s place, Koyori had planned out an extensive itinerary with Kanon. One of the smaller details in Wataten! had been how Koyori had longed to be seen as reliable, and while she’s got the confidence to convey this, in reality, she’d always been met with misfortune, requiring Kanon to bail her out. In Precious Friends, the series gives Koyori a chance to shine, too: things go smoothly, and while it’s clear that Kanon’s help made the process easier, Koyori’s willingness to put in the effort isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even though her objective is to be admired, the outcomes matter, and I’d expect that over time, Koyori will go the extra mile for the sake of going the extra mile.

  • After everyone gets soaked, it turns out that Miyako had brought a bunch of backup clothing for moments such as this. That Miyako’s brought homemade dresses, versus standard clothing, makes it difficult to say that she’s acting purely out of foresight – at first glance, these dresses line up with Miyako’s somewhat perverse desires to capture photos of everyone wearing them, and the fact that Miyako had brought them suggests that from the start, she wanted to use this trip as a chance for photo ops with Hana and her friends.

  • However, when one takes a moment to stop and consider things from another angle, it’s possible to spot that Miyako derives joy from seeing people wearing her creations. These traits, from a certain point of view, means that Miyako would be quite successful in her career as a fashion designer, since the whole of point of creating new outfits is to have people enjoy wearing them. The outfits that Miyako has Hana and the others wearing also reflect on Miyako’s actual intentions: the dresses are intricate and well-designed, being quite elegant without being unnecessarily revealing.

  • One thing that I hadn’t noticed before, was how Miyako’s fondness for cosplay photography means she’s got a decent camera. It’s hard to tell if Miyako is rocking a full-frame camera or an APS-C, and similarly, the model is never mentioned, but even if Miyako was running a more inexpensive camera, the fact is that she must have some familiarity with her camera in order to capture the best possible photos. It suddenly hits me that Miyako is someone with many talents – she’s evidently skilled in fashion design and has a passion for it, makes wonderful sweets and on top of this, Miyako appears to be a proficient photographer, too.

  • In other words, beyond her shyness and social anxiety, Miyako is surprisingly well-rounded as a character whose best side isn’t often seen, and it wasn’t until meeting Hana and Noa that things begin turning around for her. I have a fondness for stories like these because they remind viewers how everyone has their good sides; while it is easy to jump to conclusions and dismiss Miyako for her weaknesses, the reality is that it takes a bit of patience to see the best in her, and those who approach Wataten! with this in mind would have found the series all the more rewarding to watch.

  • With this being said, one could make the argument that, by being so dismissive of those who concluded that Wataten! was immoral, I’m not giving those who hold such opinions a fair chance or trying to see the best in them: if I was patient enough to see a better side of Miyako, then I should also extend this courtesy to those with whom I disagree with. My answer to this is yes and no: while I listen to all perspectives, whether or not they align with my own, I draw my conclusions after seeing how someone reached their answer. Someone who is honest about disliking something based on their own preferences or experiences is respectable, but on the flipside, someone trying to impose their views on others by using intimidating academic jargon isn’t likely to have anything legitimate to add to a conversation.

  • While Miyako is walking around town and shooting photos, Hinata and Noa notice a storefront with a Japanese-style dress that’s available for visitors to try out. When the shoe’s on the other foot, Miyako is just as shy and reluctant as Hana to try wearing new clothes, and it takes a bit of persuasion from the others for Miyako to give it a whirl. Of course, once Miyako gets over the initial embarrassment, she’s fine, and in this regard, she’s also similar to Hana.

  • If I had to guess, Miyako and the others end up at Kuriyaze Sightseeing Vineyard: located near Minano, this is less of a place for producing grapes for wine production, and more for letting people pick their own grapes: their Chichibu Yama Ruby grapes are unique to the area, for instance, and these grapes are different than the red grapes most folks are used to: grapes aren’t native to Japan on account of the high humidity, and wines made from Japanese grapes often have a gentler flavour profile compared to their European counterparts. In Japan, there are a handful of vineyards dedicated for wine production, and the best-known ones are in Yamanashi’s Koshu valley. This area’s history of wine production began in the nineteenth century when two former samurai studied wine-making in France and brought knowledge back into Japan, but it wasn’t until the 1964 Summer Games that wine production ramped up.

  • When the others indicate that Miyako should also have her photo taken, she ends up approaching one of the vineyard’s staff for a photograph. Back in Wataten!, Miyako had been so anxious about social contact that when an attendant for a clothing store greets her, she was reduced to a squeaky puddle and required Hinata’s help. By Precious Friends, this doesn’t seem to be a problem, so folks who remember Wataten! will have a clear measure of how far Miyako’s come. Wataten! originally aired back in 2019, and admittedly, the shaky start, in conjunction with the fact I’d just started a new position then, meant I wouldn’t actually get to watching this one until last year.

  • Once Miyako and the others return to Sakura’s place, they meet Machi, another elderly lady who’s best friends with Sakura and has known her for since they were children. Later flashbacks reveal that the age difference between Sakura and Machi is similar to the gap between Miyako and Hana, and it is here that I remark on how as people grow older, the difference becomes less pronounced. As a child, someone a year older than myself was already a great deal older, but nowadays, someone ten years my senior is someone I can regard as a peer. I’m sure there’s a psychological reason behind why this is the case, but I’d hazard a guess and suppose life experience means that as we grow older, we become more able to relate to people of different ages better, which is why gaps are no longer as pronounced.

  • Having spent most of the day trying to get closer to Hinata, Noa’s efforts end up unsuccessful, and I got the distinct impression that Hinata’s probably unaware of things at this point in time, leading me to feel a twinge of sympathy for Noa. Although one could make the case that she’s still quite clingy regarding Miyako, Precious Friends shows that this attachment seems to be lessening. Yuri is a topic I don’t often talk about unless it relates to a story’s themes, and here in Wataten!, that Noa has taken an interest in Hinata does show how friendships can change and strengthen over time. Wataten!‘s portrayal of things is done so in a balanced manner, and I respect the notion that things like yuri can develop naturally over time.

  • I don’t have any objection to relationships of any type, nature or origin. This is because, at least for me, any relationship where two individuals complement, respect and support one another is one worth pursuing. Although some vocal individuals insist on sticking labels to everything, the reality is that what they think is special or remarkable is actually commonplace: no two couples (or individuals) are alike, and therefore, everyone is special. However, a bit of reasoning finds, if everyone is special, then no one is actually special. Thus, labels are irrelevant and unnecessary – what matters most is doing one’s best and making things work for oneself. Anime like Wataten! show this: amongst the characters, Miyako does her best for Hana, while Noa’s now trying to get closer to Hinata, and it appears Koyori and Kanon are already close.

  • This is why I don’t gush about yuri relationships per se: the nature of a relationship is secondary to what’s happening within that relationship, and I enjoy focusing on the interpersonal interactions in order to gain a better measure of what a given relationship can say about the characters (and people in general). My approaches are, of course, my own, and different blogs can pursue discussions in their own manner of choosing, so long as they do not disparage other writers for their methods. Back in Precious Friends, a bit of uncertainty begins cropping up when Sakura begins to look a little jealous of how close Hana and Miyako appear.

  • Hana had been quite excited by the prospect of a grape-based dessert and is game to make it, but Sakura lacks the initial ingredients to make tarts, so Miyako  falls back to making jelly after spotting some gelatin in the cupboard. In another subtle nod to Miyako’s growth, her ability to adapt based on the resources available is commendable: she’s reacting to make Hana happy, but along the way, also begins to cultivate essential skills in interpersonal relationships. Here, Sakura’s ineptitude with cooking begins to show, and while Miyako expertly begins preparations, Sakura begins falling behind.

  • After splattering the gelatin on her face, Hana tries in vain to lick it off, and Noa tells her this particular stunt isn’t possible. Observant readers will have noticed that Precious Friends is animated in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, rather than the traditional 16:9 that most of my screenshots take. Unlike live action films, where alternate aspect ratios are utilised to maximise the real estate on a theatre screen, anime movies have a bit of freedom in choosing their aspect ratios. Violet Evergarden: The Movie, for instance, chose to go with 2.35:1 to create a more cinematic experience, allowing for much wider panoramas of different scenes.

  • For Precious Friends, then, it’s relatively easy to work out that the choice of a wider aspect ratio is to help with cinematography, specifically, in giving more screen space to show all of the characters in the same frame and establish how each of Hana, Hinata, Noa, Kanon, Koyori and Miyako are connected. Here, once truth gets out that Sakura isn’t actually a capable cook, she voices that she’d been worried about losing Hana, and it takes a some of reassuring from Miyako and the others to help assuage Sakura’s concerns. Another interesting parallel can be seen here: much as how Miyako occasionally needs a nudge from Hinata and the others, the much older and more experienced Sakura finds herself accepting advice from Miyako.

  • In this way, Precious Friends suggests that age is no guarantee of wisdom, and there is merit in learning from youth, as well. Further to this, Precious Friends chooses its framing to remind viewers that there’s often only a small gap that separates adults from children, and the latter are more similar to the former than they’d care to admit. Here, Noa, Hana, Hinata and Miyako’s mothers enjoy the onsen together on their own private trip, commenting on how their friendship will endure just like their children’s. In many ways, children and adults aren’t actually too different; older generations will likely disagree with me, since in their time, being an adult meant having a career, home, family and the attendant responsibilities.

  • However, I’ve noticed that, both in myself and those around me, even though we technically satisfy these definitions, there are moments where we still feel like children at times. Yes, we now work nine-to-five to keep the lights on, and it is our responsibility to tend to things in life, whether it be families, housework, groceries or taxes, but at the same time, we don’t really feel too differently; everyone I know mentions how they feel like a child again whenever their parents come visit, and said parents immediately start cleaning or cooking.

  • If and when I’m asked, my personal criteria for what makes an adult is simple enough: anyone who’s a proper adult is someone who wholly tends to their responsibilities and obligations in a timely fashion and is respectful to others. I’ve noticed that in anime, the younger adults (usually instructors) tend to feel like older versions of the students with a bit more freedom, and now that I’ve reached that age group, I finally understand why – although we may be older and have more freedoms and responsibilities, our personalities still endure, and so, adults with a cheerful disposition and a penchant for fun will remain this way. Here, as the evening sets in, Miyako suggests it’s a good idea to hit the hay since they’ll be busy tomorrow, and since Hana’s already nodding off. A brief pillow fight ensues, and the lights go out shortly after.

  • On the second day, Miyako and the others prepare to head out to a park nearby, promising to return earlier since this is the day of the summer festival. The first stop of the day is the Hodo-san Ropeway, which leads up to the Hodo-san Zoo. With a maximum elevation of 497.1 metres, Hodo-san is located near Nagatoro, Saitama. It was ultimately this destination that helped me to locate the spots in Precious Friends: it’s been a while since I’ve done any sort of location hunting, and as memory serves, the last time was over a year ago, when I did locations for The World in Colours‘ Nagaski, and places in Okinawa that were used for The Aquatope on White Sand.

  • My location hunting skills have evidently not rusted out – location hunting in anime takes an eye for detail, and paying attention to details that may only be on screen for a few seconds. Paying attention to a single detail allows the rest of the pieces to fall into place, and this means that as of now, any curious parties looking to do a Wataten! movie visit can do so through a two-day excursion that isn’t too far from Tokyo. Here, after spotting a Higero cutout and matching clothes (presumably for visitors to pose with), she immediately allows Miayko to take her picture. It turns out whenever the moment aligns with her interests, Hana is very receptive, allowing Miyako to see a hitherto unseen side to her character.

  • According to the Hodo-san Ropeway visitor information, the round-trip fare for anyone twelve years of age or older is 830 yen, while tickets for children cost 420 Yen for a round-trip. Each gondola carries a maximum of 50 people at a time, and the service typically runs from 0940 to 1720 most days, with gondolas arriving once every half-hour on weekdays, and every fifteen minutes on weekends. Upon arriving at the summit, Hodo-san Zoo is about five minutes away on foot. Up here, there’s also a shrine, restaurant and plant nursery.

  • The Hodo-san Zoo was originally opened in 1960 as a wildlife refuge of sorts for the local monkeys, and today, it’s a small animal park that’s also host to deer. Admissions to the park is 500 Yen for adults, 250 Yen for children. Since Miyako is only bringing five children with her, she’s ineligible for the group rates, which knocks ten percent off the price. However, discount or not, the merits of exploring such a spot become apparent; the idea of appreciating local attractions is something that many anime present, standing in stark contrast with the belief that one can only find happiness if they spend a great deal of money on exotic locales as influencers on TikTok and Instagram are wont to suggesting.

  • The small animals section of the Hodo-san Zoo features guinea pigs, rabbits and tanuki. Here, I remark on Precious Friends‘ somewhat unusual release pattern: the film premièred in October 2022 in Japanese cinema, and saw a home release just five months later. This is shorter than the average of seven months, which is the norm for when BDs usually become available for overseas viewers to purchase. The reason why Precious Friends released earlier was likely a consequence of the film’s extremely niche audience: larger films tend to stay in theatres longer to maximise box office profits, and even in Japan, things like Wataten! are of interest to a very limited number of viewers.

  • That Precious Friends is relatively obscure means that there aren’t any other full-length discussions of the film out there, but of the opinions I was able to read regarding the Wataten! movie, all of them were surprisingly positive, and to no one’s surprise, some overseas fans of Wataten at MyAnimeList did indeed fly over to Japan with the express purpose of watching Precious Friends, speaking to their enjoyment of this series. In fact, I was a little surprised that for Precious Friends, critics of the series haven’t come out of the woodwork to tear down the film, but this is not a bad thing, allowing people to enjoy this movie in peace.

  • Having exhausted herself earlier, Miyako ends up taking five and catches a quick kip while Hana remains behind to look after her. Hana offers the explanation that she’d been here before, but it’s clear that she feels compelled to return Miyako’s kindness. Some series will openly lay things out on the table so there’s no ambiguity, and while I generally dislike ambiguity, in the realm of storytelling, measured ambiguity and use of subtlety helps to make a story fell more natural; reading between the lines may allow viewers to gain more from a story than was initially apparent, in turn enriching once’s experience.

  • Once the day’s visit to Hodo-san draws to a close, Miyako brings the others back to Sakura’s place so they can prepare for the summer festival. I’ve now seen enough anime to feel like a familiar visitor to these summer festivals, even though I myself have never attended one in person, and this is one of those joys about slice-of-life series: they portray things that locals experience and do so in a way as to immerse me in that same environment. At the same time, seeing things in Japan, through the eyes of an anime, also helps me to appreciate the things I’ve got locally.

  • These lessons are valuable because with the advent of social media, the lives of people often appear more glamourous and ‘grammable than they are in reality. When large numbers of social media personalities posts pictures of themselves sipping a margarita on their yacht in Ibiza, or volunteering in Thailand with the locals, it gives the impression that their lives are extraordinary and remarkable, in turn instilling in one a desire to emulate this lifestyle and lead people to unwise choices, such as spending beyond their means. Instead, I’ve long held that appreciating the ordinary is what creates happiness. In showcasing ordinary moments, slice-of-life anime remind people to cherish those otherwise unremarkable moments of serenity, because these are the real points in life that are worth celebrating.

  • One element of Precious Friends I especially liked was how the film gave Koyori a chance to shine. Throughout Wataten!, she became a punching bag of sorts when her attempts to appear knowledgeable and reliable would always backfire, prompting Kanon to back her up. However, Koyori’s strength is that these setbacks don’t seem to get her down, and she jumps right back into things with renewed confidence. This never-give-up attitude is to Koyori’s advantage, and by the time of Precious Friends, seeing her tangibly improve out of a desire to become helpful was therefore rewarding; at the summer festival, Koyori manages to land a shot at one of the games and wins a prize for Kanon.

  • The growing friendship between Kanon and Koyori is never openly mentioned, but small cues throughout the film gave the impression the two have become quite close; here, Koyori and Kanon exchange bites of shaved ice, a staple in Japan during the summers. Noa spots this, and with an inner monologue expressing this, she tries to do the same with Hinata. Having spent much of Precious Friends rooting for Noa, a bit of tension builds up in this moment as viewers are left to wonder if the film will favour character growth or comedy in this moment.

  • Initially, Precious Friends directs viewers into thinking nothing might happen when Hinata seemingly blows right past things. However, when the moment presents itself, Noa seizes it. A bit of an awkwardness lingers in the aftermath, and although it’s not portrayed, I imagine that a warmth has filled Noa. Shaved ice, kakigōri (かき氷), is a confectionary that dates back to the Heian periods and consists of ice shavings with syrup and condensed milk. Unlike Western snow-cones, which have coarse ice, Japanese shaved ice is finer and resembles snow.

  • Takuro Iga returns to score the music for Precious Friends, and the soundtrack released alongside the film back in October 2022. Composed of twenty-seven tracks, the soundtrack includes both the incidental music, the opening and endings, plus the inset songs for the movie. The soundtrack totals 62 minutes, matching the movie in length, and almost every scene in the film has incidental music to create additional ambience. Originally, I hadn’t found the incidental music in Wataten! too noticeable because the characters and their antics had carried the show, but here in Precious Friends, the rural setting and slower pacing allowed me to appreciate the music to a greater extent.

  • While watching the river boats, Noa and Hinata wonder if Kōko is somehow present, and Miyako comments on how unlikely this is, since Kōko never mentioned anything about coming. In Wataten!, Kōko had acted as a bit of a foil for Miyako: she shares Miyako’s tendencies and often frightens her, the same way Miyako frightens Hana. Like Miyako, Kōko is kind at heart, even if her approach for expressing approval and interest is a bit overbearing. However, her tendency to blend into a crowd is quite impressive, and a keen-eyed viewer will notice that one of the performers has Kōko’s hairstyle.

  • After the river boats pass by, Noa suggests grabbing some cotton candy, and Hana, ever open to enjoying sweets, agrees. Here, there’s a noticeable shift in things: Hinata and Noa seem closer than before, as they walk almost shoulder-to-shoulder. On cotton candy, I remark that I’ve never been terribly fond of it since it tends to get everywhere and creates a bit of a sticky mess. The precise origins of cotton candy are not known, but its predecessor, spun sugar, has been around since the nineteenth century. The difficulty in producing it made it a pricey confectionary, and it wasn’t until 1897, dentist William Morrison and confectioner John C. Wharton co-developed a machine that could spin sugar, that cotton candy became popular.

  • Because Miyako is so accustomed to spending time at home, the adventure she has with Hana and the others in Precious Friends is a bit of a first, and as the evening wears on, Hana begins noticing a change in Miyako’s gait as the latter’s feet become increasingly uncomfortable. Despite being a very short scene, having begun her journey unconcerned with Hana, moments like these show viewers how far things have come for the two; as she spent more time with Miyako, Hana’s come to regard her in a much better light.

  • The evening show reaches its climax when a fleet of paper lanterns are floated down the river, creating a dazzling sight that leaves everyone with a smile on their faces. There’s very little dialogue here, creating a rare moment of introspection amongst the characters; Wataten! is known for being a noisy and rambunctious series (courtesy of Hinata), so to see Precious Friends using silence to capture the emotions of a moment was a powerful way of showing appreciation. Sometimes, less is more, and Bill Watterson had certainly believed this – his later Calvin and Hobbes strips told entire stories without dialogue, allowing pictures to do the talking.

  • Because there is a bit of a story in Precious Friends, to create a bit of rising action leading into a climax, Hana ends up losing her hairpin. A gift from her grandmother, Hana treasures this hairpin greatly. Hana had this hairpin right up until nightfall, and in the darkness, Miyako decides to step up and look for the hairpin when the others have no luck finding it. Hinata grows worried, so Hana decides to accompany Miyako. The moment shows that Miyako is quite aware of what’s precious to Hana, and when reassuring Hinata, Hana’s smile suggests she now appreciates how much Miyako cares for her.

  • The inset song, Precious Feelings, was a wonderful piece that begins playing in this scene: sung by Reina Ueda and Maria Sasahide, it captures Hana and Miyako’s friendship in audio form. As the pair walk through the festival, scenes from Wataten! begin playing, and recalling that Miyako’s feet had been hurting, Hana holds Miyako’s hand as a bit of encouragement. What had impressed most was the fact that at a few points during the search, Miyako had approached several of the vendors to see if they spotted anything. It thus becomes clear that Hana’s driving Miyako’s growth – her desire to help Hana trumps her own insecurities.

  • Hana’s hairpin disappears in the moment, and for all but the most observant of viewers, it’s actually quite difficult to spot this. This mirrors the fact that things can happen in the blink of an eye, and because this is a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” type moment, viewers are placed in the same position as Miyako and the others, accentuating the emotional tenour and tension in the moment as viewers hold their breath, waiting for Miyako to succeed.

  • In the end, Miyako finds Hana’s hairpin, and right as the fireworks show begins, the other summer festival attendees begin applauding. Once the hairpin is found, Precious Friends hits its climax, and all of the tension that had built up in this moment is released. Hana and Miyako head back to Sakura’s place as the inset song draws to a close, where Hinata and the others are anxiously waiting for the pair’s return.

  • To the casual observer, one could be looking at a screenshot of a much older Hana and Miyako, but this is actually Sakura and Machi hanging out, swapping jokes and reminiscing for old times’ sake. Having now met Miyako, Sakura is confident that Hana’s found a lifelong friend – friendships can indeed endure the test of time, and I’ve found that those that last the longest come because best friends can see one another through the worst of times and the lowest of lows. My best friend is a communications major, and we’ve known one another since primary school; although on most days, we share incredibly bad jokes motivated from Pure Pwnage, Arby n’ The Chief or Freeman’s Mind, I trust him implicitly whenever it comes to difficult moments I may not be willing to share with others.

  • Similarly, my best friend knows that whenever he’s in a pinch, I can be called upon to help out. This dynamic, coupled with the fact that he’s a great conversationalist when it comes to Gundam, food, politics and technology, means we’ve been through both the lows and the highs. Sakura and Machi have doubtlessly been through the same, and I imagine that Machi has no qualms about helping Sakura cook to impress Hana and the others. Because Sakura has a nice garden at her place, it’s easy to see that Sakura has her own talents and helps Machi in her own way. While the two talk, the children are seen playing with fireworks, and each pair of friends use the same fireworks that parallel their friendship’s tenour.

  • Hana and Miyako and up sharing a bit more of a private conversation when Hana decides to show Miyako a pond where the fireflies hang out, and while she’s still having a bit of trouble being open regarding how she feels, Hana has definitely warmed up to Miyako. In this way, Precious Friends ends up being a logical progression to Wataten! – once the series has had a chance to introduce the characters and accentuate their original traits, their growth becomes more pronounced. As the characters mature, the original traits begin fading away. However, this means that for viewers, it takes a bit of time to reach this point, and for some folks, Miyako’s traits meant Wataten! was unbearable to watch, preventing them from reaching this stage.

  • Like everything else in life, a measure of patience is required in order to get the most out of slice-of-life series. While I do not begrudge people for disliking slice-of-life anime, I will note that it’s important to carefully assess critical and negative opinions of a work before making decisions: it’s very easy to be dismissive of the effort that goes into writing such stories, and Wataten! is an excellent example of how carrying biases into a work precludes any sincere effort to see what the story ends up conveying – the series shows how social connections helps Miyako to slowly step past her worst traits, rather than acting as an endorsement of these traits, as some believe. Back in Precious Friends, Noa, Hinata, Kanon and Koyori join Miyako and Hana just in time for the fireflies to show up, rounding the trip off on a high note and leaving the children excited for their class trip.

  • Overall, I found Precious Friends to be quite enjoyable: it scores an A grade (4.0 of 4.0 or for those who prefer the ten-point scale, 9 of 10) because it capitalises on the movie format and the premise of a trip to show how far Miyako has come since meeting Hana. At the same time, Miyako’s growth is not implausibly quick (she still retains some of her old habits, but they are no longer as debilitating or pronounced), and Hana similarly opens up, as well. Coupled with improved visuals and a fitting portrayal of how this trip ends up pushing everyone forward, Precious Friends was a meaningful watch.

  • It wouldn’t be a complete discussion without showing at least one flashback of how Sakura and Machi had become friends, and with this, my talk on Precious Friends draws to a close. This is a longer post: I finished Precious Friends a few weeks ago (while enjoying sushi from the local restaurant) and have been slowly chipping away at this post since. While some folks might be wondering why there’s so much to say regarding a slice-of-life yuri series, I answer that series like these always offers much to discuss when one approaches them with the aim of picking out the messages that such works strive to convey. Further to this, anime set in the real world offers a chance to do some location hunting, and it’s always fun to consider the choice of destinations and how they may impact the story.

  • Originally, I had been planning to write about Precious Friends a few weeks later, but owing to production delays with Bofuri‘s second season and Itsuka Ano Umi de, things got shifted around a little. I plan blog posts months in advance, but this is dependent on series coming out as scheduled. When schedules inevitably shift, I move blog posts around. Precious Friends, being a larger post, would’ve taken some time to write for, and with Bofuri‘s finale now set to air on the nineteenth of April, I decided to capitalise on the Easter long weekend to get some writing done. With Precious Friends in the books, the remainder of April will be the after-three impressions for Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear Punch! and Konosuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World!, plus my final thoughts on Bofuri‘s second season.

  • I’ll close off the screenshots with a still of Miyako, Hana, Noa, Hinata, Koyori and Kanon catching some sleep on the train en route back home while their mothers capture the moment on their smartphones. Precious Friends ultimately ends up being an indispensable experience for all fans of Wataten!, and here, I will note that the film is intended for Wataten! fans. People who disliked the original series (or have not yet seen the series) won’t get much out of this film, as Precious Friends is dependent on a priori knowledge behind how Hana and Miyako met, and how the following events shape both: this film is a fantastic experience for folks who did enjoy Wataten!.

Because of its premise, Wataten! is a series that has been unfairly regarded, especially by writers at better-known anime publications. Similarly, as a result of the memes that arise from incomplete impressions of Wataten!, people tend to regard the series as promoting unethical and immoral behaviours. This in turn results in a certain reluctance amongst viewers to watch Wataten!. However, while the initial setup can come across as being dubious, once the series hits its stride, and its themes become better characterised, it becomes clear that Nanatsu Mukunoki had sought to write about the more intricate aspects of friendships beyond the humour that accompanies misunderstandings, whether they are in platonic or romantic friendships. Understanding this is essential towards approaching Wataten! with a fair eye – the series is significantly more than what anime publications and larger blogs give it credit for, and there is a legitimate message that Mukunoki strives to convey through Wataten!: friendships can take all forms, and individuals often undervalue themselves until the right people come into their lives. The film, while perhaps not doing anything especially innovative or novel with its runtime, nonetheless acts as a satisfying and heartwarming extension to the series, giving the characters a chance to bounce off one another and become closer as a result. Befitting of a film, Precious Friends is able to tell a larger story during its runtime, and also features improved visuals over its anime run. Taken together, Precious Friends becomes an excellent addition to Wataten!, expanding on everyone’s journeys as they travel out into rural Japan for a summer trip that proves to be quite memorable. Here at the end of Precious Friends, as Miyako heads back home with Hana and the others, it is plain that besides Hana and Miyako becoming closer, Noa’s also found a little bit of progress in getting to know Hinata better, and the party has begun for Koyori and Kanon, with the former doing her best to try and impress the latter as thanks for having gotten her through so much. At present, the manga is still ongoing, and there’s always the possibility for a continuation if Wataten! performs well financially, but in the absence of a second season, Precious Friends does act as a satisfying and definitive conclusion for Wataten!‘s animated adaptation.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack – A Retrospective on Gundam’s Greatest Rivalry At The Thirty-Fifth Anniversary and Memories of that Fog-Shrouded Day

“I’m not as impatient as you are; I’m willing to wait for humanity to learn and grow.” –Amuro Ray

By UC 0093, following his experiences with Earthnoids, Char Aznable has become disillusioned with humanity and is convinced the only way to accelerate progress is by rendering the Earth uninhabitable through repeated asteroid strikes. His early efforts are successful, and the Neo Zeon forces manage to drop the Fifth Luna colony onto Lhasa, Tibet. The EFSF and Londo Bell, including veteran pilot Amuro Ray and Captain Bright Noa, fail to prevent the catastrophe: Amuro duels Char during this battle and finds his Re-GZ outmatched by Char’s Sazabi. This latest incident prompts the Federation to arrange a secret treaty with Char, and to this end, Prime Minister Adenaur Paraya and his daughter, Quess, board the Ra Cailum, which is bound for Londenion. Hathaway, Bright’s son, had managed to secure a shuttle into space, and following Char’s attack, also boards the Ra Cailum, where he meets and falls in love with Quess. Meanwhile, Amuro heads off to collect his new mobile suit, the RX-93 ν Gundam. It turns out Char intends to purchase the asteroid Axis in exchange for fleet disarmament, and while Cameron Bloom relays his doubts to Bright, Char and Amuro wind up confronting one another. In the aftermath, Char takes Quess back with her, intrigued by her potential as a Newtype and pilot. When Neo Zeon forces ambush the Londo Bell fleet overseeing the disarmament at Luna II, a major battle erupts: Char’s intentions had been to seize the nuclear stockpile stored here and installing them at Axis before preparing the asteroid for collision with Earth. Londo Bell is unable to stop Axis, and give pursuit. Amidst the renewed battle, Quess, now piloting the Alpha Azieru mobile armour, ends up dying after Chan fires on her while trying to protect Hathaway, who had seized a mobile suit and flew out to Quess with the hope of recovering her. Distraught, Hathaway destroys Chan’s Re-GZ. Meanwhile, Amuro and Char duel in their mobile suits, and after Amuro gains the upper hand over the Sazabi, he tries to single-handedly push back Axis with the ν Gundam. Amplified by the intense emotions, the ν Gundam’s psychoframe resonates, causing Amuro, Char and the ν Gundam to vanish in a massive flash of light that repels Axis. This is Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack (Char’s Counterattack from here on out for brevity), the first-ever Gundam theatrical film that premièred in March 1988 and has since been recognised as a cornerstone in the Gundam franchise, representing the culmination of the longstanding rivalry between Amuro Ray and Char Aznable; in particular, this rivalry had gone from professional respect to personal hatred, a consequence of the pair’s losses and experiences throughout the One Year War and subsequent battles between the Earth Federation and Zeon remnants.

Long counted as one of the greatest rivalries in Gundam, Char and Amuro’s conflicting beliefs are fuelled by dramatically different interpretation of their experiences throughout the One Year War and Gryps War, as well as the personal losses both have sustained in their bid to uphold their goals and protect what’s dear to them: Lalah’s death proved to be too large of a wound to overcome for both. However, different perspectives mean that Amuro and Char both handle things differently. For Amuro, Lalah’s death initially drove him into a deep guilt, but after he overcomes this, he vows to fight with the aim of protecting what he can. This is why Amuro is willing to give humanity the chance to learn their own strengths as he as. Conversely, Char’s beliefs about humanity are galvinised in the aftermath of Lalah’s death, and disillusioned with how people could not seize opportunity even when it was presented to them, Char resolved to destroy the Earth and force a migration into space. The clashing ideals are best described as “when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”: this old paradox fully captures the extent of Char and Amuro’s rivalry by the time of Char’s Counterattack, and so determined are the two to overcome the other’s beliefs, that the pair immediately engage in a fist fight when they first meet again. Through this rivalry, Char’s Counterattack speaks to the inherent dangers of ideals progressing too far; there’s no more room for negotiation or reconciliation, and when polar opposites come into contact, conflict is the result. The dangers of polarisation is quite visible in contemporary politics, as people increasingly adopt an “us versus them” mentality and refuse to acknowledge that those holding contrary opinions, more often than not, still want the same outcomes, even if the means are different. In Char’s Counterattack, both Char and Amuro desire for an end to the conflict and the opportunity to simply be with people important to them, but because of opposite ideals, there is no chance for reconciliation. In the paradox with an unmovable object and unstoppable force, philosophers often posit that the premise is flawed because it assumes both can simultaneously exist. Char’s Counterattack resolves this paradox with the opposite conclusion and indicates that after a certain point, neither can coexist – regardless of one’s original intentions, when beliefs become too far removed from their initial state, they effectively cease to be. In this way, Char’s Counterattack can be seen as a tragedy, a portrayal of what allowing oneself to become consumed by an idea may look like, and one which cautions viewers to re-examine their own beliefs, as well as the impact said beliefs may have on those around oneself. However, speaking to the strength of writing in Gundam, Amuro and Char’s fate can also be a blessing; by vanishing and moving on to the next plane of existence, the pair are liberated from their duties in this world and finally allowed to rest, placing their aspirations and ideals in the next generation.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Char’s Counterattack is set in UC 0093, some fourteen years after the original Mobile Suit Gundam and six years after Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. Since the One Year War, Zeon’s dissolved into remnants, and the EFSF had established the Titans to stamp out said remnants. Their methods, however, prove to be questionable, and Char ends up joining forces with Kamille Bidan and the AEUG to stop the Titans. In this time, Amuro’s grown from being a naïveté into someone with a strong set of convictions and skill as a pilot. Char, on the other hand, became increasingly disillusioned after seeing humanity continue to throw away potential, and coupled with his losses, he becomes convinced that humanity must be forced into space.

  • Thus, Char’s Counterattack opens with Char and Neo Zeon forces fending off Londo Bell in order to defend Luna 5 while it plummets to the surface. Char’s Counterattack, being the culmination of Amuro and Char’s stories, acted as a capstone of sorts for the Universal Century. The film, released in 1988, requires some familiarity and background with the precursor events, such as Lalah Sune’s death and Char’s temporary alliance with moderate Federation forces – they motivate the events of the film.

  • Char’s Counterattack turns 35 this year, and to commemorate this occasion, a special vinyl album was released. Retailing for 4840 Yen, this album features all of tracks from the soundtrack, which was composed by Shigeaki Saegusa and had been an integral part of Char’s Counterattack – contrasting the campy music of the original Mobile Suit GundamChar’s Counterattack‘s incidental music is melancholy, conveying an air of finality about it. When I first watched Char’s Counterattack a decade earlier, I found myself thoroughly impressed with the music.

  • I’d originally picked up Char’s Counterattack out of curiosity: back then, Gundam Unicorn‘s penultimate episode had just aired, and in this episode, a glimpse of the Axis Shock event was shown, piquing my curiosity. A few months earlier, I purchased the MG RX-93 ν Gundam Ver Ka., which released at the end of 2012 and featured the “Invoke Mode” gimmick, which exposed the ν Gundam’s psychoframe: the build had intrigued me, and after successfully completing the MG 00 Raiser Seven Sword/G, I became curious to try my hand at what would become my third MG.

  • The MG ν Gundam would represent a challenge: the perfect-grade style hands and ABS frame made the kit feel a little flimsy, but once assembled, it became an impressive-looking model. The funnels don’t stay on all that well, so I’ve opted to display this model without them, but even then, the kit towers over its 00 counterparts, and the exposed psychoframe gives the model an impressive presence on the shelf, being a more subtle version of the Unicorn’s transformation mechanism. Here, Amuro and Chan speak with an engineer about the psychoframe: as a new technology, the psychoframe was intended to improve mobile suit performance, although its emergent properties make it a difficult technology to control.

  • Char’s Counterattack also introduces Hathaway Noa, Bright Noa’s son, as well as Quess Paraya, a young girl with strong Newtype powers. The love dodecahedron in Char’s Counterattack has been a point of discussion for many a viewer, but in this discussion, I’ve chosen to primarily focus on the Char and Amuro rivalry, the mobile suits and ideologies, as well as reminisce on the world a decade earlier. Back then, Char’s Counterattack had just turned a quarter-century old, and I was gearing up for my undergraduate thesis defense.

  • After I had submitted my written thesis, I turned my attention towards preparations for the oral exam, and as memory serves, things had been going very smoothly. As means of a break, I watched Char’s Counterattack to see the original film that my then-new MG had made an appearance in. At around this time, I’d also gotten into DOOM: back then, a combination of curiosity through Pure Pwnage, Accursed Farms releasing “DOOM Guy’s Mind” as an April Fool’s joke, and the fact that my Dell XPS 420 couldn’t run other games, I decided to give DOOM a whirl, playing the game in between reviewing for the thesis defense and my remaining exams.

  • In this way, the time between submitting my paper and the exam passed in the blink of an eye. I vividly recall the Saturday leading up to the defense itself: that Friday, half of my classmates (mostly in the Biomedical Sciences stream) had defended. The folks in the Bioinformatics stream (myself included) had an extra week to prepare, but I had joked to my friends and classmates that with how we were as students, the week felt more like torment than additional preparation time. One of my bioinformatics friends had a brilliant idea to hang out in an evening dubbed “spaghetti and scrubs”.

  • With nothing better to do besides playing DOOM, I accepted this invite and spent a merry evening with friends making sausage spaghetti, eating said spaghetti and watching Scrubs. From the floor her unit was on, one can normally see the city centre, but on that evening, fog had enveloped the area wholly, obscuring everything and giving the area a distinctly Phobos-like vibe. Back then, one of my best friends, a computer science major, had been going through some tricky times, and a few weeks earlier, I had invited him to hang out with some of my health science peers so he could unwind and regroup.

  • To my pleasant surprise, my friend from computer science and friend from health science immediately hit it off; in fact, they began seeing one another shortly after and eventual became married after graduation. A chance encounter at my suggestion had resulted in this happy outcome, and because of the timing of things, I cannot help but recall those days when listening to the Char’s Counterattack soundtrack. In a cruel bit of irony, precisely a year after the Spaghetti and Scrubs party, the young woman I’d met in Japanese class (whom I developed a crush on, and ironically, whom my friend in health science had thought I’d been seeing) made her relationship with someone she’d met on her exchange programme “Facebook official”.

  • I was devastated from this news, and my friend from computer science had been there to walk me through those tricky moments in the days following. That summer, I ended up directing all of my energies towards working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain to make my mind off things, and the rest is something I’ll recount in greater detail another time. I understand that this particular set of anecdotes is not remotely related to Char’s Counterattack, but this is one of the occasional hazards of reading this blog: I am free to write in my own style and are not bound by any set of constraints.

  • For me, being able to reflect on old experiences (and perhaps provide some comparisons with a given anime) is a helpful exercise; I am able to apply my current experiences and mindset to look back on the things I previously did and decide if there was anything I can stand to learn from the past. As it turns out, writing out my thoughts serves to help me organise them better, and this is why I tend to reminisce here. The equivalent moment in Char’s Counterattack comes when Amuro and Char confront one another for the first time in years at Londenion.

  • The comment about love and hatred being two sides of the same coin definitely holds true, as they both involve intense emotions and consume one’s thoughts in the same way. Unsurprisingly, these emotions both impact the same regions of the brain, and so, when Char and Amuro fight, they are motivated by the same feelings of anger and resentment following Lalah’s death. Once the treaty at Londenion is signed, the stage is set for Char’s Counterattack‘s main act, and Char ends up whisking Quess away, having felt her latent ability as a Newtype.

  • After Char persuades Quess into helping the Neo Zeon cause, he assigns Gyunei Guss to look after her and get her familiar with mobile suits. Gyunei is a Cyber Newtype, an artificially enhanced individual with exceptional combat prowess. However, Gyunei suffers from an inferiority complex and constantly strives to prove himself, worrying people only respect him for his capabilities. When he meets Quess, Gyunei becomes infatuated with her. The secondary characters in Char’s Counterattack only appear in the film and have limited exposition, but their presence in the story doesn’t particularly complicate things.

  • In fact, I feel that one of Char’s Counterattack‘s strengths is the fact that even if one didn’t have sufficient familiarity with the Universal Century, it is still possible to follow the story and understand why the characters act in the manner that they do, thanks to flashbacks and exposition provided in the film itself. By UC 0093, Char’s become the de facto leader of the Neo Zeon forces, and although he keeps up the appearance of a politician, he’s primarily interested in his own machinations to realise his vision of the world’s destruction. While claiming to care about humanity’s future, Char’s motivations are actually quite shallow and petty: ever since Lalah’s death, Char’s sought vengeance on Amuro, who had unintentionally dealt her the killing blow.

  • The death of Lalah permanently impacted both Char and Amuro, and while viewers might find it petty that neither Char nor Amuro have gotten over Lalah’s death, I remark on how after the events of nine years earlier, my own outcomes wherever relationships are concerned haven’t ever recovered. It is the case that getting past losses like these can be difficult, and in Char’s Counterattack, both Char and Amuro, despite having new people in their lives (Nanai and Chan, respectively), are still guilt-stricken about Lalah’s death, preventing them from fully living in the present. I am not going to begrudge either, having found no solution in the past decade as to how to best go about handling this, and will only remark that when dealing with losses surrounding matters of the heart, people should take as much time as they need to make peace with their pasts.

  • The swan thus becomes a haunting symbol in Char’s Counterattack, representing the ethereal Lalah and the commonality in both Amuro and Char’s difficulty in letting go of the past to the point where they become mortal foes. Here, after Quess clashes with Nanai and Gyunei, she seeks solace in Char’s company, who sees an opportunity to get her accustomed to the feelings that permeate a battlefield. The fear and aggression on the battlefield terrifies Quess, who becomes convinced that she needs to eliminates these things.

  • During a combat encounter, Gyunei ends up destroying the ReGZ and kills Kayra Su. The ReGZ (Refined Gundam Zeta) was supposed to be a cut-down version of the Zeta Gundam meant for mass production, possessing a simpler transformation system and a backpack system that increased its versatility. Its performance surpasses most machines, but lacking a psycommu of its own, the ReGZ was not equipped to deal with more advanced Zeon machines. Amuro had found the ReGZ outmatched by Char’s Sazabi earlier, and here against Gyunei, Kayra is overwhelmed. Although Amuro tries to defuse the situation, the ν Gundam’s fin funnels kick in and escalates things.

  • Despite only making an appearance here in Char’s Counterattack, Chan Agi was one of my favourite characters for her attitudes surrounding the hitherto-untested psychoframe, specifically worrying about its viability in combat, and to this end, she carries a T-shaped sample of it with her. Her relationship with Amuro was an interesting one, and while the pair reciprocate their feelings, it’s clear that Amuro’s still stuck in the past. Char was similarly stuck in the past, as well – although he’s in a relationship with Nanai, he hasn’t gotten over Lalah, either. The fact that Char and Amuro were more similar than they’d cared to admit is one of the reasons why their rivalry becomes so heated.

  • Thanks to Cameron Bloom’s confiding in Captain Bright, Londo Bell is able to anticipate that Char is up to something. They realise that Char’s purchase of Axis was for another colony drop, and rush off to stop this from happening, resulting in a titanic battle as the Federation Forces try to prevent an impact event. Here, I will remark that in this discussion of Char’s Counterattack, I’ve omitted a lot of details surrounding more subtle elements in the film – Char’s Counterattack is a very busy movie, and there’s a lot going on, so I’ve elected to only cover a few moments. Critics are right in that the additional details can make the film somewhat difficult to follow, even for Universal Century fans. However, on the flipside, all of these elements make the ending all the more poignant.

  • At the time of its deployment, the RX-93 ν Gundam was the single most advanced mobile suit available to the Federation: designed by Amuro himself, the ν Gundam is the culmination of his learnings and incorporates highly sophisticated features that render it highly versatile in combat. Its default load-out includes head-mounted Vulcans for point defense, a beam rifle, two beam sabres and a hyper-bazooka. The ν Gundam also equips six Fin Funnels that each possess their own generators, allowing them a superior operational time compared to classic funnels and giving Amuro the means of engaging multiple targets simultaneously, overwhelming individual targets and providing a measure of defense. During the final battle, Amuro is able to single-handedly engage the Neo Zeon forces and effortlessly fends off even Quess’ α Azieru with relative ease.

  • Amidst the chaos of combat, Hathaway manages to commandeer a Jegan and pilots it out to Quess with the intention of bringing her back. Char’s Counterattack establishes one of Hathaway’s biggest weakness: he tends to think with his heart rather and as a result of this, begins to see the Federation as an impediment to progress. After the events of Char’s Counterattack, Hathaway ends up joining the Federation forces and completes training with them, before moving on to studying botany and eventually founding the terror organisation Mafty. Although convinced he could save Quess, Hathaway is ultimately denied when Chan arrives and fires on the α Azieru, killing Quess.

  • In return, Hathaway opens fire on the already-damaged ReGZ. Chan’s spirit is released, and in death, her consciousness ascends to a different plane as her mobile suit becomes enveloped by a bright light. Char’s Counterattack introduced some of the Universal Century’s most outrageous and wild phenomenon through the psychoframe, and I always got the impression that by unveiling this technology in a film meant to act as the Universal century’s capstone, Char’s Counterattack was signalling that this was the end of one age, leaving things open to future authors to explore further.

  • Some fans have not taken too kindly to the use of psychoframe and its associated supernatural attributes because it ultimately represents deus ex machina – unknown properties means that psychoframe could potentially be abused to effortlessly resolve plot points simply because there was no clearly-defined limit to how human will could be converted to physical energy. Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Narrative both attempt to reconcile use of the psychoframe and explain what eventually became of this overwhelming, otherworldly technology.

  • The highlight of Char’s Counterattack is when Amuro and Char, equipped with their cutting-edge mobile suits, clash for the final time. The Sazabi is the Neo Zeon counterpart of the ν Gundam, being equipped with a psychoframe and funnels that make it superior to every Federation suit of its time. Despite its large size, use of a lightweight armour and the inclusion of multiple thrusters gives the suit incredible mobility. It is curious to note that here, Char and Amuro duel one another with mobile suits that are supposed to represent the culmination of their knowledge and skill, and yet, in Char’s case, his motivations and goals become increasingly small-minded even as Amuro tries to make an effort to move on and fight for the future.

  • In the end, Amuro and the ν Gundam win out – Amuro casts the Sazabi’s wreckage onto the surface of Axis and captures Char’s cockpit. While Char and Amuro fight, Captain Bright and the Ra Cailum have managed to infiltrate Axis and installed explosives, allowing them to blow the asteroid apart. Despite their efforts, the rear end of Axis is still on a collision course with Earth. Determined to save the lives of those on Earth and prove Char wrong, Amuro decides to use the ν Gundam in an attempt to push Axis back. During this time, Char’s attempts to justify his actions become increasingly immature, revealing someone who has completely lost his way ever since he’d lost Lalah and completed his initial goal of taking revenge on the Zabi family.

  • On the other hand, Amuro may have been impacted by his losses, including Lalah, but he channels all of this sorrow and despondence into trying to build a world where warfare isn’t a problem, so future generations won’t have to experience what he did. The clash in ideology is a reminder that benevolence wins out over revenge: Amuro had joined the One Year War out of a desire to protect those around him, standing in complete contrast with Char. In this way, Amuro is able to maintain the moral high ground throughout Char’s Counterattack.

  • As Axis continues plummeting, the Sazabi and ν Gundam’s psychoframes begin resonating with one another. Both Federation and Zeon pilots perceptibly feel a sudden desire to protect the planet and appear to help Amuro out. A green light begins filling the battlefield, and viewers, alongside the characters, begin to wonder what on earth is happening here. The scene is dominated by silence, with no incidental music to hint to viewers how they should be feeling as the psychoframes start behaving erratically as a result of the human wills concentrated in such a small area.

  • One subtle, but significant, moment is when the extreme heat begins causing Federation and Zeon suits to malfunction. Symbolising how some things transcends ideology, when one Geara Doga begins to be pushed back, a Jegan pilot grabs him: both pilots are on opposite sides of the war, but ultimately share in common the same desire to protect their home world. The moment becomes increasingly desperate until a vast green light engulfs the space and begins pushing Axis back. At this moment, Aurora begins to play and the melancholy of the moment really kicks in: although tragedy was averted, both Amuro and Char would ultimately give their lives for what they believed in. When Char’s Counterattack concluded, I finally understood the grudges and feelings of regret that would be left behind, providing a stronger context for the events of Gundam Unicorn.

  • Char’s Counterattack, despite its multiple unresolved points, had left a tangible and indelible feeling in me. The song Aurora would also come to represent the feelings I felt at the end of my undergraduate programme: at this point ten years ago, there’d been less than a week to my defense exam, and I joked to my best friend, a Gundam fan and the only person to have understood the reference, that stress from anticipating the exam might’ve caused an Axis Shock. When the exam itself arrived, I walked in with a cold determination, resolving to just get things done. In the present, hearing Aurora still reminds me of the melancholy and beauty in finishing my honours degree in health science: it had been a major milestone in my life, and achieving a degree paved the way for everything that followed, but at the same time, I would be parting way with all of my classmates. In revisiting Char’s Counterattack a decade later, it is striking that all of these memories come back to me in such a vivid fashion, mirroring how strongly one’s experiences can shape who they become.

Although intended to round out the Char and Amuro era of the Universal Century, Char’s Counterattack would introduce new concepts that would subsequently be explored in Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Narrative. The idea of forbidden technology, taking the form of the psychoframe, is a centrepiece in Char’s Counterattack. Described as a special microprocessor that can convert human thoughts into physical power, the psychoframe is already characterised as having unknown characteristics and opens the Universal Century to the idea of Newtype ghosts and other remarkable, otherworldly phenomenon. This in turn allowed the Universal Century to branch out beyond the horrors and desolation of warfare, the impact on conflict on people and the advancement of technology in relation to the demands of conflict: introducing the psychoframe symbolises the danger of placing faith in technology that isn’t fully tested, and the consequence of this becomes clear at the end of Char’s Counterattack as both disappear from existence. The potential and possibility behind psychoframe becomes something that provides further avenue of exploration, as the technology is supposed to be both a tool that might bring people one step closer towards the longstanding dream of space colonisation, but at the same time, because so much is unknown, the destructive potential is also massive: in Gundam Narrative, Zoltan Akkanen uses the II Neo Zeong’s psycho-shard system to trigger a spontaneous fusion event with the aim of creating enough debris and subsequent impact events to permanently scar the Earth, an unexpected use-case when considering it was originally meant to enhance a pilot’s reaction time and mobile suit performance. This particular topic is one of the long-lasting legacies of Char’s Counterattack, and owing to the fact that Char and Amuro both piloted the original psychoframe mobile suits, no discussion of their application in the Universal Century is complete without an understanding of where the technology was initially used, as well as how further developments have essentially resulted in the opening of a Pandora’s Box with regard to psychoframes. Char’s Counterattack, then, can be seen as a passing of the torch: Amuro and Char’s stories, vis-a-vis directly impacting the conflict between the Earth Sphere Federation and Zeon, are over, but their legacies mean that the Universal Century’s fate is left to future generations (and writers). In the present, it does appear that the tricky nature surrounding psychoframe means that any desire to use the technology is blunted, suggesting that humanity still has a ways to go before they realise its dream. In the meantime, the open-ended nature of Char’s Counterattack means that, even thirty-five years on, there remains plenty of opportunity to explore the Universal Century and bring its stories to new viewers.

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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