The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: anime movie review

Broken Blade: A Review and Reflection

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • One unexpected piece about Broken Blade was the inclusion of moments that accentuate just how shapely Sigyn (and later, Cleo) is. The ending of the first film indicates that neither Hodr or Sigyn are truly in love with one another, which allows the story to explore Sigyn’s relationship with Rygart more openly without introducing unnecessary conflict. Indeed, the bulk of the conflict in Broken Blade, outside of clashing national interests, lies with Rygart and his reluctance to participate in warfare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative: Remarks On the Outcome of Possibility, A Review and Reflection

It has been found again.
What? – Eternity.
It is the sea fled away
With the sun.

–Eternity, Arthur Rimbaud

Jona Basta, Michele and Rita Bernal were friends who foresaw the devastating outcome of Operation British and became dubbed the “Miracle Children” for their part in helping reduce casualties with their prediction. They were subsequently sent to a Newtype research facility, where it became clear that Jona and Michele did not exhibit the traits of a true Newtype. Rita was ultimately sent off for further study, while Michele returned to Luio & Co, and Jona ended up joining the EFSF navy as a pilot. Some seventeen years later, in UC 0097, the enigmatic Phenex Gundam, brother unit to the Unicorn and Banshee, makes a return. A year earlier, the Laplace Conflict revealed that the original UN Charter had encompassed the existence and rights for Newtypes, but the world’s policy remained unchanged. The tremendous power that the Unicorn and Banshee demonstrated was seen as a threat, and the two Gundams were dismantled. However, the reappearance of the Phenex prompts the Federation’s Intelligence Bureau to capture it, secretly collaborating with the Sleeves remnants to capture the Phenex. two years previously, the Phenex was lost during a test when its psychoframe resonated and it destroyed the Shallot, an Irish-class battleship supervising the test. Because the Unicorn and Banshee were purportedly dismantled, the Phenex remains the only Gundam with a functional psychoframe that could be studied. Jona is sent to participate in the operation Phoenix Hunt with the Narrative Gundam, but lets the Phenex escape. Later, when following the Phenex’s psycommu signal into the Metis Colony, Jona encounters Zoltan Akkanen, a Sleeves remnants clone who, like Full Frontal, was created from Char’s memory. Zoltan’s instability leads him to engage Jona, and the Phenex intervenes. The Narrative begins resonating and makes to engage the Phenex, taking control of the II Neo Zeong Zoltan had called in, but the process is stopped when Rita’s spirit helps Jona come to his senses. Back on board the Damascus, Captain Averaev forces Michele explain the details of Operation Phoenix to the crew. It turns out that her interest in Newtypes stemmed from the promise of eternal life that it could bring. In order to draw the Phenex out, Michele provided the Sleeves remnants with the II Neo Zeong and hoped that the Narrative would resonate with it. However, the failure to recapture the Phenex casts doubt in the Phoenix Hunt programme, and the superiors order the operation stopped. Zoltan, learning that his usefulness has ended, seizes the II Neo Zeong and intends to destroy the colonies, feeling that people are incapable of change and will only cause further harm by exploiting Newtypes as a military asset. Jona sorties in the Narrative to engage Zoltan, but the II Neo Zeong overwhelms him. Michele, realising that she’d been indebted to Rita for giving her a chance to live, decides to sacrifice herself to save Jona, who escapes the destruction of the Narrative Gundam. Boarding the Phenex, he destroys the II Neo Zeong and stops Zoltan’s spirit from triggering a runaway fusion reaction in the Helium-3 storage facility. In the aftermath of the battle, Banagher Links appears to rescue him, and the two watch as the Phenex departs.

In its hundred-minute run, Gundam Narrative deals with the aftermath of the Laplace Conflict, which shows that humanity ultimately did not develop or progress considerably in the year since Laplace’s Box was opened. Instead, fear of the possibility that the Unicorn and Banshee represented led authorities to suspend all research into the psychoframe technology, which has come to represent forbidden knowledge in the Universal Century. The ability to cheat death and achieve eternal life, physically manipulate the world on a hitherto unprecedented scale and even turn back time itself is seen as transgressions that violate the very laws of nature. In the pursuit of knowledge, and by pushing technology and science further than it had ever been pushed, the unknowable can occur. Historically, humanity has always struggled with the duality of science and technology – improved knowledge has led to advances in quality of life and standards of living, but has also introduced new dæmons on the world. When fission was discovered, humanity could grasp a cleaner power source that produced negligible emissions, but the same technology has also birthed atomic weapons capable of horrifying destruction. Similarly, fears that highly sophisticated AI may destroy humanity exist and temper excitement in the great benefits their applications bring. This is a theme that Mary Shelley similarly covered in Frankenstein, whose titular character created a monster that haunts him, representing his guilt and horror at having succeeded. In Gundam Narrative, psychoframe technology is forbidden knowledge: while offering limitless possibility, the potential for destruction and chaos is equally great, and while characters can see the good that is possible with the technology, fears of it being applied for harm are equally present. This endless conflict is ultimately why despite the potential and possibility for change exists, there is always going to be concern for what might arise if knowledge is abused – this is why the world has not changed too dramatically since the Laplace Conflict in the Universal Century, and Gundam Narrative closes without a clear idea of which perspective it champions, leaving audiences to draw their own conclusions about the implications of ceaselessly advancing knowledge on human civilisation.

Besides dealing with one view on forbidden knowledge, Gundam Narrative also extends on the concept of a Newtype with the aim of speaking to human nature in a more visceral way – Zeon Deikun postulated that human evolution would accelerate to adapt to the voids of space. The Universal Century portrays Newtypes as having precognition skills and the ability to communicate telepathically with other Newtypes, making them exceptional pilots. With the introduction of psycommu technology, Newtypes could manipulate physical objects, as well. The introduction of this abstract series of capabilities into Gundam creates invariable comparisons between a Newtype and Force-users from Star Wars. While the capabilities of Force is similarly discussed, ultimately, the Force and being a Newtype are means to an end: Gundam Narrative builds upon but also deliberately leaves details vague. From a storytelling perspective, Newtypes and the Force are meant to be tangible representations of human intent. In particular, it’s what one chooses to do that ultimately matters. The Jedi use the Force for compassion, understanding and mediation, the Sith use it to increase their own power and control through fear. In Gundam Narrative, the power conferred by a psychoframe can be used to shorten a conflict and empathetically connect with others, or it can be used to inflict harm upon others by performing feats that are otherwise impossible. Gundam Narrative reminds viewers that one’s choices, rather than whatever power they may possess, is what is most relevant: in light of this, Gundam Narrative hints at the idea that forbidden knowledge, in the hands of those who would intend to do good and have selfless aspirations, can greatly advance humanity, and at the end of the day, the hope for a better world will always be something meaningful.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Gundam Narrative was announced back in April 2018, and released in theatres during November 2018. Ahead of the screenings, a 24-minute preview was uploaded to YouTube to drive excitement: the film opens with a flashback to the moments leading up to the colony drop event at the end of Operation British. For six months, this was the most of Gundam Narrative that I saw, and as a successor to Gundam Unicorn, my curiosity was piqued. While screenings were held in Singapore and Malaysia earlier this year, I’m actually surprised as to how limited the discussion to Gundam Narrative is, and even though it’s been three weeks since Gundam Narrative‘s home release, I am surprised that this post is probably the only proper full-length talk on the movie around with a respectable collection of screenshots.

  • In the present day, Michele Luio is a special advisor to Luio & Co., a large manufacturing company with its headquarters in Hong Kong. Luio & Co. were mentioned in Gundam Unicorn, providing fortune-telling services to politicians as a part of her roles in keeping the EFSF close at hand. The Hong Kong seen in Gundam Narrative is a far cry from the one seen in Char’s Counterattack, whereas the latter appeared run-down and destitute, New Hong Kong in Gundam Narrative is modern and clean. Despite lacking any of the landmarks of Hong Kong, such as the IFC and the Hong Kong Bank of China, the streets are shown to resemble those of Wan Chai.

  • Michele is presented as being driven by a near obsession with the power that the psychoframe possesses: her descriptions suggest that the psychowave the Unicorn emitted during the final moments of the Laplace Conflict are said to have dismantled the generator cores to the Federation mobile suits sent to disable Magallanica, rather than disabled them. The psychowaves appear to give the Unicorn series the ability to manipulate time itself, and this is why Michele desires to take possession of the Phenex.

  • As Operation Phoenix gears up, Jona is deployed as a part of the task force to intercept a convoy carrying Martha Vist Carbine, who was previously involved with the Laplace Conflict and still being held in EFSF custody. He operates a MSK-008 Dijeh for this assignment, a mobile suit designed for ground operations that was based off the Rick Dias, and possesses features that are common in Zeon mobile suits because Zeon engineers contributed to its design. Michele intends to capture Martha for the wealth of knowledge she still has on the Phenex: one can surmise that Martha answered Michele’s questions in a satisfactory manner.

  • A few weeks later, Federation forces are out pursuing the elusive Phenex. The Phenex was the third of the Unicorn-type Gundams, possessing the same technical specifications and combat performance. However, it is equipped with a pair of Armed Armour DE shields, and these offer the Phenex superior acceleration and mobility even compared to the Unicorn and Banshee: the Shezarr squadron are completely ineffective in hitting the Phenex, whose manoeuvrability is such that it moves like a dancer more than a mobile suit.

  • The Shezarr squadron is made up of six pilots, commanded by Iago Haakana, who leads his squadron into combat despite his own unease about Operation Phoenix. While they manage to corner the Phenex and deploy a net to ensnare it, the Phenex escapes, promoting the squadron to wonder how any pilot could survive those movements. During the course of Gundam Narrative, numerous characters are introduced, but the film’s run-time of f minutes means that beyond Jona, Michele, Rita and Zoltan, it’s difficult to recall the names of the other characters, even if their roles are non-trivial.

  • In Gundam Unicorn, the Jesta was a limited mass production suit with higher performance than a Jegan. Intended to be used as a support suit for the Unicorn, three Jestas were operated by the Londo Bell Tri-Star team. A year later, Jestas have become more common: the Shezarr pilots each operate Jestas of their own. These modified Jestas sport an upgraded backpack unit that resembles the Stark Jegan’s, and possesses additional hard points to mount booster packs.

  • Even with only the twenty-four minute preview, it became clear that the Phenex is a ghost machine, having no human pilot. The unnaturally long operational time of the Phenex and flashbacks foreshadow that the Phenex actually has no pilot, and the fact that it’s been loose for two years means that it ran out of fuel long ago. Close-ups show the psychoframe of the Phenex glowing even though the NT-D is disabled, giving credence to the idea that the Phenex is willing itself to move through the void of space.

  • At the age of twenty-five, Jona is now an ensign with the EFSF navy. He is given a special normal-suit embedded with psychoframe material to enhance his connection to the Narrative Gundam, and his appearance is a surprise to the Federation forces, who were unaware that they’d be getting a Gundam to help with their operation. The Narrative Gundam is one of the more unusually-named Gundams I can recall, and the name “narrative” is used to describe the Gundam’s role in a story about possibility, having nothing to do with its colloquial usage in social media or news.

  • When it first appears, the Narrative Gundam is in its A-packs configuration; besides boosters, the A-packs setup allows the Narrative to carry a variety of equipment parts to restrain and capture the Phenix. The RC-9 Narrative Gundam itself was originally designed and built by Anaheim Electronics, intended to be a testbed for the RX-93 ν Gundam, and as such, did not require the same external armour pieces of a standard Gundam. Throughout Gundam Narrative, Luio & Co. provide the Narrative with interchangeable parts.

  • The tails on the Armed Armour DE shields resemble General Borcuse’s Hykelion from Break Blade, which similarly had a secret weapon dubbed the “scorpion tail” concealed under the Hykelion’s cloak: these were used to stab through enemy golem units. Break Blade was made into a six-instalment OVA between 2010 and 2011: I picked up the anime during the summer of 2011, and felt that the format was somewhat similar to Gundam Unicorn. Like the Hykelion, the Phenex’s tails can be used as piercing weapons in addition to acting as stablisers.

  • Special equipment known as the psycho-capture system allows the Narrative to temporarily disable the Phenex, using technology similar to the jammers found on Angelo Sauper’s Rozen Zulu. However, when Jona hesitates, the Phenex escapes capture, disappearing into the depths of space and leaving Michele furious at having come so close to achieving their goal. The music of Gundam Narrative is composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, who provided the awe-inspiring incidental pieces for Gundam Unicorn, as well. Overall, I found Narrative‘s soundtrack to be a little weaker, recycling motifs from Unicorn and favouring an electronic element over orchestral ones.

  • Mineva Zabi makes a return in Gundam Narrative, retaining her regal composure and calmly speaks with a Zeon politician. It is not lost on me that five years have passed since Gundam Unicorn‘s finale aired, which means that five years have also passed since I worked on the Giant Walkthrough Brain. This is probably a mere coincidence, but I find it intriguing that five years since the Giant Walkthrough Brain, there have been a fair number of parallels between this year and the summer of five years previously.

  • Captain Averaev commands the Damascus, a Clop-class cruiser. His appearance suggests that he is an older officer who’d seen combat previously, and the Clop-class is an older design: these are essentially stripped-down versions of the Ra Cailum that Bright Noa commands, and in Gundam Unicorn, Full Frontal is mentioned to have single-handedly defeated two of these on his own, suggesting that the Clop-class have some degree of resilience in combat despite their limitations.

  • On board the Damascus, Michele chastises Jona for having let the Phenex get away. During the combat, Jona had heard Rita’s voice as clear as day and hesitated to engage, feeling that shooting to kill would’ve defeated the purpose of their mission. Throughout Gundam Narrative, Rita’s remarks on whether or not the soul could exist haunts Jona, who greatly regrets not being able to save her from being taken away years previously.

  • The depth of my knowledge in Gundam is nowhere near as sophisticated as those of dedicated fans, and admittedly, after watching Gundam Narrative, I did have a few lingering questions. I ended up speaking with a friend whose encyclopaedic knowledge of Gundam is unparalleled in order to clarify certain details for this post. Besides being able to identify almost every mobile suit and its variants, plus combat characteristics, said friend has an appreciation for the thematic aspects of Gundam that extend well beyond politics: he argues that meaning in a fictional work is better defined by the morals characters learn, rather than any allegories and analogues of real-world political systems.

  • Erika Yugo briefs Sleeves remnants soldiers on the Phenex, which disappeared and then resurfaced shortly after Mineva made the Laplace declaration. Feeling it’s impossible for the Phenex to be operating independently, she gives no indicator that Luio & Co. have been driving things from behind the scenes. However, believing that they have an edge with the psycho-monitor, a technology Full Frontal employed to track down the Unicorn previously, Zoltan is prepared to deal with a confrontation with the Federation, since it’s likely they’ll be fighting special units rather than the regular forces.

  • At the same time that Erika is briefing the Sleeves remnants, Michele explains to Captain Averaev their use of a psycho-monitor, before thanking him for the EFSF’s assistance. Both Narrative and Unicorn present civilian interference in military affairs as having detrimental consequences, speaking to the negative effects of the military-industrial complex. Both Luio & Co. and Anaheim Electronics have enough influence to impact policy, which creates the instability that civilians and soldiers alike must deal with.

  • During a training exercise, Jona tests the Narrative Gundam’s B-packs configuration, which replaces the bulky support unit for pair of wire-guided assault units. Jona’s experience as a pilot appears lacking: the Shezarr pilots quickly paint him in an exercise, and remark that his skills aren’t up to scratch for someone who is supposed to be enhanced. After leaving the Newtype research facility, Jona enlisted with the Federation forces and has a very unremarkable career, although he was chosen to specifically work with Luio & Co. on the Phoenix Hunt assignment. While Jona remains distant with Michele for having abandoned her, Michele still remembers and so, requested that he operate the Narrative.

  • The psycho-monitor soon detects a signal emanating from Metis Colony, a facility dedicated towards higher education. While Averaev protests that he does not have permission to deploy a mobile suit squadron into the colony’s interior, Michele pulls a few strings and grants them permission. Quite separately, the Sleeves forces have also deployed and entered the colony, which is comparatively quiet at present because term has ended and most of the students have gone on break.

  • Zoltan pilots the Sinanju Stein, a prototype mobile suit designed to test the psychoframe. Originally, this was the original form of the Sinanju before the Sleeves stole the unit and used it to create Full Frontal’s Sinanju, but Gundam Narrative revises this – there were actually two units, and the second unit was acquired by the Sleeves remnants. Compared to the Sinanju, which was modified for Full Frontal’s style of combat, the Sinanju Stein lacks the Sinanju’s high-performance thrusters and uses a bulkier rifle. While inside the colony, Zoltan decides to engage the Narrative against orders: this is a live colony and there are inhabitants still inside it, hence the restrictions weapon usage.

  • After a hole is punched in the colony thanks to Zoltan calling in the II Neo Zeong, the Phenex appears. The page quote is from Arthur Rimbaud’s “Eternity”, which speaks of the impermanence of life in an existence that is endless. This poem is referenced in the light novel, being a recurring theme about how human existence is finite and ultimately, inconsequential. While this sounds pessimistic, from another point of view, the finite nature of human existence is a blessing, as suffering is also finite. Further, this also gives weight to moments that we do experience: we treasure them precisely because they are ephemeral.

  • Rita’s question about whether or not heaven and the soul exists is echoed several times in Gundam Narrative. She decides that heaven might not be real, but is certain that the soul beyond the bioelectrical impulses in the brain must exist. The question, seemingly an open one, suggests that Rita had always been an inquisitive and carefree individual: this is reinforced by the fact that if given the choice, she would wish to be a bird, signifying her desire to be free.

  • While Rita longs to be free, Jona is tormented by the fact that Michele had lied to him and in the process, cost Rita her life. The researchers, unable to tell who the real Newtype was, decided to play a sort of Prisoner’s Dilemma game with Jona, Michele and Rita: they falsely claim that the real Newtype will be spared, while the other two will be executed. Michele ultimately was discharged, while Rita was hauled off to be dismantled.

  • Whether or not the soul exists is something that is the subject of no small debate amongst theologians and philosophers. Modern science describes our consciousness as the sum of billions of neurons interacting together to create a system of immeasurable complexity, but the notion that memories and the essence of a being can endure in the absence of an energy supply (cellular respiration producing the energy needed to drive neurological processes) is not supported by contemporary models. Having said this, there are some phenomenon that simply cannot be described by any craft that we possess, and while some postulate that quantum mechanics might be involved, research in this area is so limited that it’s difficult to say for sure what’s happening.

  • Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Narrative extend on the idea that the psychoframe; made up of billions of nano-scale processors that can capture human intent and translate that into movement, the pyschoframe’s architecture mirrors the brain and therefore, it is able to replicate the complexities of the human mind. Over time, psychoframe can even “store” the consciousness of its operators. The emergent properties from transplanting the human consciousnesses into a machine are completely unforeseen, and in Char’s Counterattack, this manifested in the form of a warm green light that emanated from the ν Gundam that projected enough force to push Axis back into space. Banagher uses the Unicorn’s power to absorb a colony laser in Gundam Unicorn.

  • Michele had always longed to come back for Jona and Rita, but circumstance drove them apart. Jona eventually joined the Federation forces, while Rita was made into an experimental subject and tested the experimental Phenex. The psychoframe resonance between the Phenex and Narrative brings back the pain of these memories in Jona and amplifies them: he takes control of the II Neo Zeong, whose systems begin to run wild and threaten to destroy the colony.

  • At the last moment, the Phenex approaches Jona and calms him. The friend whom I spoke with about Gundam Narrative speculates that the Neo Zeong’s systems were built in particular to amplify negative emotions, and while I initially thought that the psychoframe amplified what already was (per Marida Cruz’s assertions in Gundam Unicorn‘s finale), the fact is that the psychoframe from the II Neo Zeong emits a red hue, far removed from the green that is emitted whenever a positive phenomenon occurs. This dichotomy between understanding and hatred is apparent in the choice of colours, and brings to mind the colours of lightsabres in Star Wars. Originally, lightsaber colours were simply a consequence of the crystals used to focus the blade, and that the blood-red blades Sith Lords used simply came from them picking synthetic crystals because natural crystals were not available to them.

  • The new canon foists upon us the idea that the red blades of the Sith come from the tainting of crystals through their corrupt use of the Force, and that lightsabers were specifically powered by Kyber Crystals. I cannot say that I am fond of the new writing, but to delve further into this is to deviate from Gundam Narrative. Back on board the Damascus, Michele sheds tears at having lost the Phenex yet again, and Captain Averaev requests that Michele fully disclose what her intentions are, as well as what the Phoenix Hunt was really about.

  • Michele reveals that Luio & Co. had deliberately provided the Sleeves remnants with the II Neo Zeong, which had been confiscated, to draw the Phenex out for her own ends, but this ended up backfiring, since the Neo Zeong had been built with knowledge that seemed beyond what exists in the world. Michele had been motivated by a desire to cheat death and achieve immortality because she had been tired of living in a world where people had to hurt one another to survive, but seeing the cost her dreams have accrued leads her to change her mind. This conversation here drives Michele and Jona’s growth: Michele comes to accept that the ends do not justify the means, and Jona realises that Michele had never given up on her promise.

  • With the secrecy of the operation of utmost importance, Luio & Co. close off the Phoenix Hunt and strikes a deal with the Republic of Zeon’s Monaghan Bakharov, a politician who intends to restore the Republic of Zeon’s glory. In exchange for keeping Zeon out of the operation, the Federation will be allowed to kill anyone attached to the project. Monaghan indicates that Erika is to be spared, but Zoltan overhears Erika’s conversation, summarily killing her and decides to take matters into his own hands. I initially felt that Zoltan’s role was ill-developed, but said friend suggested a different perspective: rather than treating Zoltan as presenting a character-versus-character conflict, regarding his contributions as being more of a character-versus-nature conflict was appropriate.

  • Finally taking control of the II Neo Zeong, Zoltan begins engaging the EFSF forces that have deployed from the Dogosse Giar-class General Revil to carry out the mop-up operation. He orders the Sleeves ship to hide behind the Helium-3 tanks, reasoning the Federation will not risk damage to their resources, before making to engage the Jegans that begin firing him. Using the II Neo Zeong’s wired funnel bits to effortlessly eliminate the Jegans, Zoltan’s combat approach is more brutal than Full Frontal’s – the differences between Full Frontal’s combat approach in Gundam Unicorn and Zoltan’s in Gundam Narrative bring to mind the differences between Thanos in Infinity War and Endgame.

  • Whereas Infinity War‘s Thanos is calm and introspective, only using as much force as necessary to subdue opponents because he genuinely wanted the snap to randomly decide who got willed away from existence, Endgame‘s Thanos lacks the Infinity Stones and resorts to a more combative approach to seize the Stones. As as result, Thanos in Endgame is shown as fighting with a much greater ferocity, fighting toe-to-toe with a Stormbreaker-equipped Thor, Iron Man’s Mark 85 suit and even overcoming Captain America, who is wielding Mjolnir. In particular, watching Thanos crack and destroy Captain ‘s shield with his sword was terrifying. The fight in Endgame was a sight to see, allowing audiences to truly appreciate just how dangerous of an opponent the Mad Titan was even without the Infinity Stones.

  • Zoltan is similar to Endgame‘s Thanos in this regard: unrestrained and lacking the same contemplative manner that made Full Frontal fight with efficiency, Zoltan runs wild on the battlefield, making full use of the II Neo Zeong’s weapons more liberally than Frontal ever did. The end result for viewers is a better idea of what the Neo Zeong was capable of – the scale of the destruction it can cause is immense, and Gundam Narrative shows that Full Frontal never really made full use of the Neo Zeong’s weapons against a fleet in his fight against the Banshee and Unicorn.

  • When the General Revil’s commander orders the vessel to target the Helium-3 tanks, the resulting explosion from the tanks destroys the Sleeves’ ship, killing those on board. Zoltan retaliates, using the II Neo Zeong’s psychoframe to accelerate and compress a single Helium-3 tank to the point where enough pressure allows the Helium-3 to spontaneously undergo a fusion reaction. The intensity of the reaction vapourises the General Revil instantly along witha large portion of the task force sent to destroy the Sleeves forces.

  • The friend who lent time towards helping realise this post remarked that the reason why people are so reluctant to cover the human aspects of Gundam and fixate on the politics or technologies themselves is because they fear looking into the mirror and relating how the lessons of Gundam apply to their own lives. In the end, politics and the mobile suits themselves are the catalysts that shape the world and its conditions to make the story worthwhile, rather than being the focal points, and so, I’ve found it rather more fruitful to focus on the aspects that Yoshiyuki Tomino aimed to portray with the Gundam series.

  • The fusion reaction that Zoltan triggers is nowhere near as impressive as Naga Sadow’s use of Sith techniques to tear the core out of a star and trigger a supernova to destroy the Galactic Republic’s fleet. Although Naga Sadow’s feat was augmented by Force crystals, its scale vastly exceeds what Zoltan can pull off. However, the threat posed by Zoltan is nontrivial. Forcing all of the stored Helium-3 to undergo fusion would create an explosion powerful enough to torch an entire Side and create a debris field that would make a colony drop look like picnic – in response to this, the Phenex reappears to engage Zoltan, who has seized a number of Jegans and are remotely controlling them in the same manner that Full Frontal had.

  • While the scale of Gundam Narrative (both the battles and the storyline itself) is much smaller than that of Gundam Unicorn, the combat sequences remain impressive. Here, the II Neo Zeong has engaged its psycho-shard system to fully allow Zoltan to manipulate his surroundings with his will alone. While I supposed that the psycho-shard system was designed to destroy enemy weapons in Gundam Unicorn, it turns out that the utility of this function is to greatly enhance an individual’s physical control over their surroundings. Full Frontal had merely used it to disable Banagher and Riddhe’s weapons systems during their final showdown.

  • While the Narrative Gundam had been packed away for transport, Michele convinces Jona to sortie to engage the II Neo Zeong. Here, the Narrative is equipped with its C-packs, which loads psychoframe directly onto the unit. Despite being an outdated suit, the Narrative remains effective because of the additional gear that Luio & Co. provide for it. Thus, despite lacking the same dedicated weapons as the Unicorn, the Narrative is able to hold out against the II Neo Zeong’s overwhelming firepower for a period and even does some damage of its own.

  • A review that was published to Anime News Network in December, shortly after the film’s release in November 2018, stated that Gundam Narrative attempted to do too much with its shorter runtime, and the dependency on prior knowledge from Gundam Unicorn would diminish the experience for those unfamiliar with the Laplace Conflict. These remarks are, incidentally, the same thoughts that I have about Infinity War and Endgame: these two movies are technically excellent movies that masterfully incorporate elements from previous films to drive its plot forwards, but for first-time viewers without an idea of the context regarding the Infinity Stones and Thanos, the films do come across as overwhelming.

  • Ultimately, the reviewer at Anime News Network finds that while Gundam Narrative might be a bit difficult to follow for those who did not watch Gundam Unicorn, they do recommend the film for folks who have seen Gundam Unicorn. This is a fair assessment of Gundam Narrative and is ultimately how many would likely feel after watching Gundam Narrative. Coming in with my background (and assistance from a friend), I’ve come to enjoy the contributions that Gundam Narrative adds to the discussion surrounding Newtypes and psychoframe technology, even if some of the aspects were unclear.

  • The reason why I’ve mentioned the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this talk in Gundam Narrative is because of the similarity the two radically different universes share – both had predecessors that began in a more realistic manner and shifted towards the fantastical at the end. Iron Man and Captain America: The Winter Soldier both remained quite grounded and were presented as events that could plausibly happen. Similarly, Gundam Unicorn‘s first few episodes featured more realistic mobile suit combat and placed a focus on the military details. However, introduction of the Infinity Stones had the same effect as the psychoframe did, and by their series’ respective ends, the feats and events that occur resemble magic rather than science. This does not diminish my experience of either Gundam or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although it is to my understanding that what is tantamount to magic did lessen the experience for some viewers.

  • Captain Suberoa Zinnerman makes an appearance in Gundam Narrative, operating another freighter and working with Banagher, who has remained with the Mineva faction, which exists in secret to act as a sort of check-and-balance against the more nationalistic Zeon proponents like Monaghan Bakharov. Zimmerman no longer bears the same grudge against the Federation that he once did, and works with Mineva to ensure that the old conflicts do not flare up again. Sensing that something is wrong after one of the Helium-3 tanks undergoes fusion, Banagher takes off to engage the threat.

  • Jona is pushed to his limits after Zoltan uses the remote bits to take control of the Federation Suits. Despite putting his own life in danger, Jona refuses to return fire even as the hijacked Jegans open fire on him. Discussions on Gundam can become as heated as the mobile suit battles themselves, and the last time I wrote about the events of Laplace’s Box five years previously, some folks sparked off a flame war when they shared my talk on Gundam Unicorn to Tango-Victor-Tango. I learned of this through my site metrics and followed the link that led to a vociferous discussion where during the course of this debate, one of the forum-goers began attacking this blog rather than the argument at hand.

  • Ultimately, Michele sacrifices her life for Jona, realising that what she had longed for all this time was to give something back to Rita after Rita had sacrificed herself. She pilots the transport directly between a beam meant for Jona. Her assistant, Brick, had revealed earlier that Michele had something she wanted to prove to Jona, as well: that if the psycho-frame and Newtype phenomenon had worked the way she postulated, then death would not be the end. She would therefore kill two birds with one stone, allowing Jona to live and continue fighting to end what the living had created, as well as reunite with Rita.

  • Devastated with Michele’s death, Jona loses the will to continue fighting, wondering what the point of anything is if suffering is what lies ahead, but Michele’s spirit spurs him on. The most vocal detractor purported that I believe that “‘effort’ (which seems to mean ‘word count of the post’) makes an argument more valid” and then went on to compare my style as being equivalent to “[spending] twelve pages explaining why 1 + 1 actually = 3, [I’m] still wrong even though [I] put more ‘effort’ into it” before immediately contradicting themselves by saying “this sort of criticism [isn’t] objective”, but nonetheless needing it to prove that my methods were invalid. I note that my posts are lengthy not because of this reason (which is, incidentally, a disingenuous claim), but because I find it enjoyable to cover a range of topics in movies.

  • Rather than looking at my content and then figuring out counterexamples to illustrate that I was off or that there’s more to consider, by adopting a pseudo-academic stance and using such a poor analogy, the individual in question implies that my opinions are objectively wrong because they did not align with theirs. Naturally, I could say the same, but this isn’t too productive, since all opinions are subjective. Instead, I would suggest that the individual first begin by figuring out what I was saying: “the lies and cover-ups that brought about Laplace’s Box created a problem that became increasingly difficult to address as time wore on, and Gundam Unicorn uses supernatural phenomenon, in the shape of the psychofield, in order to get over this particular barrier to show what lay ahead”.

  • Knowing what I intended with the post, it then becomes a simple matter of finding another solution to show how and why the Newtype phenomenon was not necessary in conveying the themes of Gundam Unicorn – this is what proper discussion looks like, and there’s certainly no need to regress to petty arguments, which to me, shows that the detractors of my article actually had nothing meaningful to say. Back in Gundam Narrative, the Narrative Gundam is destroyed, and Jona makes use of a core fighter to reach the Phenex. When he enters the cockpit, he finds it empty, confirming suspicions that Rita had long been deceased and has become a spirit with the power to control the Phenex. His combined acting as a conduit for the Phenex’s NT-D and Rita’s presence allows the Phenex to activate its Destroy Mode for the first time since the incident two years previously.

  • With the NT-D active, the II Neo Zeong proves to be no match for the Phenex, which subsequently destroys the II Neo Zeong’s psycho-shard system and disables its remaining weaponry. The speed of these actions were great enough so that I wasn’t able to acquire screenshots with good composition, and this is something curious parties will simply have to watch. The final fight between the Phenex and the II Neo Zeong is rather one-sided: while capable of great destruction, the II Neo Zeong is unlikely to be able to track the movements of the Phenex, which can allegedly accelerate to speeds approaching that of light despite the clear impossibility of such a feat.

  • Jona’s emotional baggage and the Narrative’s configuration are closely related: as Gundam Narrative progresses, the transition from the A-packs to B-packs and then C-packs shows a decrease in hardware. The A-packs is essentially a mobile armour, while the C-packs simply has additional psychoframe. Over the course of Gundam Narrative, as Jona comes to terms with Michele’s actions and his own past, his internal burdens lighten, as well. Jona also sheds the heavy psychosuit before entering the Phenex’s cockpit, leaving the last vestiges of his doubts and concerns behind. The Narrative is ultimately destroyed, marking one of the few cases where a lead Gundam was defeated totally, and Jona escapes in a core fighter. Zoltan makes to destroy the core fighter, but a familiar weapon makes a return: Banagher manages to destroy the wire bit with a well-placed shot, giving Jona time to board the Phenex.

  • While the II Neo Zeong was destroyed, Zoltan is not finished yet, and makes to engage the Phenex with beam axes. The performance gap between the Sinanju Stein and Phenex are obvious: there is no fight as the Phenex impales and destroys Zoltan outright: Jona is assisted by the spirits of Michele and Rita, who briefly appear. After his death, Zoltan’s spirit performs one final act of defiance, insistent that people cannot change and cannot accept possibility: he triggers fusion of the remaining Helium-3 tanks. However, before the reaction can go critical, the Phenex engages its own psychofield and calms the reactions, suppressing them and preventing catastrophe.

  • Ultimately, this act would be counted as deus ex machina in any other realm, and the only reason why it would even be passable is precisely because Gundam Unicorn had already previously established the mysteries of Newtypes and the psychofield’s unknown properties. Viewers are made to accept that Newtypes are similar to Force users, and in conjunction with a technology that is essentially the equivalent of the Infinity Stones, Newtypes are capable of feats otherwise known to be impossible. The psychoframe does have parallels with the Infinity Stones: besides similarly being referred to as singularities, their feats are similar, affording Gundams the ability to turn will into physical energy (Power stone), traverse incredible distances quickly (Space stone) and even store the consciousness and will of beings (Mind and Soul stones). The more outrageous feats the psychoframe have been seen to pull off include creating compelling illusions (Reality stone) and even undo events locally (Time stone).

  • I admit that for this month, my posting frequency has been very limited, and preparing this post was one of the reasons why: it took a bit of effort to get the party started, but once I developed momentum in writing about Gundam Narrative, the writing process became much easier. Between this lengthy post and taking the time to review this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase submissions, plus keeping up with Battlefield V‘s Tides of War, time for writing about other things has been reduced. This has been exacerbated by the fact that I’ve been having a little too much fun with the complementary Oculus Quest I received from attending F8.

  • In particular, SUPERHOT VR has been a blast, and the wireless experience that the Quest confers takes this game to a whole new level, offering a truly immersive experience that is unparalleled. While I’m having a ball of a time with SUPERHOT VR, I’ve also finished Valkyria Chronicles 4 and can finally begin making my way into Metro: Exodus. It has not escaped me that today also happens to mark the première of both Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s second instalment, as well as the Aobuta movie, Seishun Buta Yarou wa Yumemiru Shoujo no Yume wo Minai (Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl). My grievances with anime movies and their release patterns are well-known at this point: the reality is that, as I am unwilling to drop several thousand dollars to fly over to Japan for the sake of two movies, I won’t be writing about these for quite some time.

  • Thus, for the time being, I will enjoy Metro: Exodus and the Oculus Quest: I will discuss the films once they available and focus my attention on things available in the present, since there’s naught I can do about the films and their availability. Back in Gundam Narrative, the ending to the film greatly resembles Gundam Unicorn with the emphasis on psychofields and the positive energy they can confer. I’ve become rather fond of Michele’s character for her progression: she begins the film as being thoroughly unlikable, but dealing with the psychoframe and being forced to confront her past changes her outlook on things. In death, she finds peace and is reunited with Rita.

  • Tielle’s “Cage” begins playing as the Phenex stills the Helium-3 reaction. Cage is a brilliant song that was originally written as the theme song for the life-sized RX-0 Unicorn Gundam model in Japan, and its composition has made it one of my most favourite songs of late, speaking of whether or not the world is worth saving from itself. Callbacks to Gundam Unicorn are frequent in Gundam Narrative: once the Phenex has halted the criticality event, Banagher retrieves Jona. In the psychofield, the original RX-0 Unicorn can be seen, as well.

  • Ever since the Unicorn was decommissioned, Banagher has since been piloting the ARX-014S Silver Bullet Suppressor, a variation of the Silver Bullet: this series of mobile suits were intended to test quasi-psycommu systems and have solid performance. However, because Banagher continues to use the Unicorn’s beam magnum, the Silver Bullet Suppressor has been outfitted with a unique rack that allows the mobile suit to rapidly change out the unit’s arms, which become damaged from the beam magnum’s sheer recoil. While questions have been cast about the Silver Bullet Suppressor’s design, the beam magnum remains a choice weapon for Banagher, allowing him to target distant objects with precision and firepower: despite their power, even beam mega-launchers lack the range to hit distant targets with any reliability, and the beam magnum happened to be the weapon that suited Banagher’s objectives.

  • Looking at the Phenex in Destroy Mode here, I’m reminded of an alternate ending to Gundam Unicorn that I’ve only heard about, where Banagher sortied in the Full Armour Unicorn Plan B, where the Unicorn was equipped with parts from the Banshee and Phenex and engaged in a different fight with Full Frontal’s Neo Zeong. This post has been a ways in the coming: I’ve been chipping at it since early June, and tonight, after picking up a new Magic Trackpad at a store near the edge of town (to replace a Magic Mouse that unexpectedly stopped working), I spent time with the family at a Chinese restaurant where the evening’s centerpiece was a seafood yi mein that had fish, calamari and shrimp.

  • Jona and Banagher watches as the Phenex soars off into the cosmos: Banagher remarks that it’s impossible to catch up with it now, and this marks the ending of Gundam Narrative, with the Phenex’s ultimate fate left ambiguous. Having Banagher make a return was a very nice touch – it turns out that following the events of Unicorn, Banagher did end up returning to the world of the living, giving some closure to his fate. However, his role in events after UC 0097 are less clear, and Gundam Narrative can only offer some insight as to what his fates are after UC 0100. Hathaway’s Flash appears to be the next Gundam series on the horizon, and there are unconfirmed statements saying that Unicorn itself might be getting a continuation in an unknown form.

  • With this, I’m very nearly done writing about Gundam Narrative, although unlike Gundam Unicorn five years previously, I am a little more reluctant to give this one a recommendation: on one hand, it is a fun watch that anyone who appreciated Gundam Unicorn will enjoy, but at the same time, the narrative is a bit more confusing. With this being said, I enjoyed it, and found that it was worth the wait – after seeing the preview in November, I’d longed to see the story in full. Overall, it appears that impressions of Gundam Narrative elsewhere are fairly consistent with my thoughts on it, and with the general absence of discussions out there, I’m guessing that Gundam Narrative has not generated the same level of engagement as Gundam Unicorn. With this one in the books, upcoming posts, besides this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, will be talks on K-On! and Yama no Susume: Omoide no Present.

Gundam Narrative is very much dependent on a familiarity with Gundam Unicorn for its themes to be clear: while both Jona and Michele mature over the course of Gundam Narrative (Jona accepts that Michele had cared about him after all this time, and Michele comes to understand that Rita’s sacrifice gave her a chance to live life in place of being dismantled in the name of science), numerous other characters’ backgrounds are minimal, whereas Gundam Unicorn takes the time to better explore secondary characters like Marida Cruz and Suberoa Zinnerman. Zoltan was not explored to the same extent as Full Frontal did, and unless one accepts him as more of an abstract representation of hatred and resentment (rather like a force of nature), his place in Gundam Narrative can seem unnecessary. Despite lacking the time to create the same compelling characters as Gundam Unicorn did, Gundam Narrative ended up validating the themes initially presented in Gundam Unicorn, that possibility will always exist alongside the capacity for great good. The messages remain cautiously optimistic, dealing more with human nature than with politics through the Newtype phenomenon: weaker characters do not result in diminished thematic elements. Likewise, while Gundam Narrative does not have the same fluidity and detail in the animation as did Gundam Unicorn, the overall quality of the artwork and animation, especially during combat sequences, remains of a high standard – Gundam Narrative was a visual treat to watch. Despite its limitations in characters and dependence on Gundam Unicorn to provide context, Gundam Narrative is a welcome addition to the Universal Century for covering themes of forbidden knowledge and presenting a plausible portrayal of the world after Laplace’s Box was opened.

Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Dear My Sister~ OVA: A Review and Full Recommendation

“YES! That’s how it feels! I’m just a huge fan of the sport.” —Loki, Thor Ragnarok

Cocoa leaves town to visit her family for a week and worries about being separated from the others. She settles in back home readily, and back at Rabbit House, Chino finds it difficult to adjust to life in Cocoa’s absence, making a large number of iced cocoas. When Megu and Maya come to visit, Rize decides to put Chino, Maya and Megu to work cleaning Rabbit House up. Chino recalls how she first met Rize: although she was initially intimidated by Rize’s disciplined, serious demeanour, Chino eventually warmed up to Rize as a reliable employee and friend. Back in the present, the girls finish cleaning up Rabbit House, and Rize gives them schedules to keep busy. After shopping, Chiya and Sharo run into Rize, who is feeling a little down about being too hard on Maya and Megu. The next day, things become lively for Chino once again when Maya, Megu, Chiya and Sharo drop by to visit; when Chino tells the story of how Rize hand-made her stuffed rabbit, the others ask Rize for their own, and embarrassed, Rize expresses that she wants Cocoa back. Chino later asks the others if they’re interested in visiting the local summer festival to watch the fireworks with her, and gets an overwhelmingly positive response. Back home, Cocoa helps Mocha and their mother out with the day-to-day operations of a bakery. With things going smoothly, Mocha and Cocoa set off to make a delivery in town. Mocha reveals that she has a moped license, upstaging Cocoa, and the two head into town together. The two sisters take time to catch up with one another, and it turns out that Cocoa’s having difficulty picking a career out. After teasing Cocoa, Mocha finds Cocoa giving her the cold shoulder, but this does not last long: the breakfast rush has begun. When their mother takes off for a local clinic get her wrist checked out, Mocha and Cocoa manage to keep things in check. That evening, the family look over the photos that Cocoa’s sent. At Rabbit House, Chiya reveals that she’s brought yukata for everyone ahead of the summer festival, and it turns out that Rize ended up making stuffed rabbits for everyone. A week passes in no time at all, and on the day she’s set to head back, she nearly oversleeps. On her way back to the bus station, Cocoa declares her intention to work in a career that lets her bring happiness to others. Cocoa arrives back in town by evening, reading one of Aoyama’s books. Chino and the others change into their yukata and head to the festival, where they partake in the various games and food stalls. Maya wonders how they’ll see the fireworks, and Chiya remarks that she knows a place. Cocoa makes it just as the fireworks begin, surprising everyone, and the girls enjoy the performance together. Cocoa is glad that she was able to make it in time and after she takes a photograph of everyone, Chino welcomes Cocoa back. In the post-credits scene, Chino gives Cocoa her very own hand-made stuffed rabbit that Rize had made.

This is the gist of what happens in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Dear My Sister~ (Dear My Sister for brevity from here on out), an OVA that screened in Japanese cinema a shade more than a half-year ago. A continuation of GochiUsa‘s second season, Dear My Sister adapts three chapters from the fifth volume into an hour-long movie that wastes absolutely no time at all in dropping audiences back into the party with Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Maya, Megu and Mocha. GochiUsa‘s first season eased viewers into the world that Cocoa moved into, being a gentle romp through life, and the second season showed that Cocoa had matured in the company of new friends and experiences. The events of Dear My Sister presents things from the flip-side – Cocoa’s also had a nontrivial impact on her friends, as well. With her happy-go-lucky, optimistic and open-minded personality, the joy and energy that Cocoa brings with her is infectious. Thus, when she leaves for a week to spend time with family, her absence is immediately noticeable. Chino reverts to making iced cocoas, and Chiya buys a large number of cocoa bars. The cast feel that their world has become quieter, having grown accustomed to Cocoa’s presence, and it falls upon Rize to try and liven things up in Cocoa’s steed. Applying her own approach to keeping the others busy, Rize learns that fulfilling the role that Cocoa had is no cake walk – it’s exhausting to constantly be on the lookout for fun things. Dear My Sister aims to and succeeds in conveying the idea that extroverted, high-energy folks who can get along with most anyone can have an immense positive impact on their surroundings and moreover, this particular skill is not something that everyone can cultivate. Cocoa herself seems aware of this and so, when Mocha inquires about her future career choice, Cocoa replies that while she’s unsure of the specifics, she’s interested in jobs that let her make others happy: despite her air-headed appearances, Cocoa can be focused and determined as the situation requires. She’s evidently matured, and is someone that can be depended upon, even if she outwardly looks to be the sort of individual one is compelled to look after.

Besides providing a welcoming story that articulates the thematic aspects of GochiUsa‘s predecessors, Dear My Sister also represents a audio-visual treat for audiences. The first season had been handled by White Fox, and the second season saw a collaboration between Kinema Citrus and White Fox. Dear My Sister is produced by production doA, a newcomer on the block whose only other title is the psychological horror Magical Girl Site (which, readers will have to convince me to watch if they desire me to write about it); despite their lack of a track record, production doA has done a phenomenal job with Dear My Sister. The characters retain their physical characteristics from White Fox and Kinema Citrus’ adaptation, being as expressive and fluidly animated as they were before. Sweeping shots of the landscapes in Dear My Sister give more insight into the world that Cocoa and the others live in: the setting had been the single best aspect about the anime adaptations of both Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? seasons, creating a compelling, immersive world that might be thought of as a separate character. In Dear My Sister, overhead shots of the town that Rabbit House is located in show that it is not too far removed from the coast. When Cocoa travels home, she disembarks from a bus stop on a hillside that offers a view of a sea in the distance. Despite Cocoa describing her home as being located deep in the mountains, it also seems that the Hot Bakery is close to a seaside town, as well. Cocoa and Mocha travel to this town to deliver bread, and, reflecting on the differences in climate, the close-ups of the town show that some parts have Germanic buildings, while districts closer to the coast have Mediterranean-Spanish influence in its architecture, different than the timber-framed buildings previously seen in GochiUsa. This is an incredibly nice touch that illustrates the series’ dedication to creating spaces that serve to accentuate the immersion in GochiUsa.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The first several minutes of Dear My Sister is watching Cocoa cry while the remainder of her friends and the train station’s patrons look on, so if you have no strength to stomach this, then you should leave…right now. Similarly, this is your last chance to duck out if you’re not a fan of the various Marvel Cinematic Universe callbacks I will be making this post. Cocoa receives some herbal cookies from Sharo; this simple gesture is a subtle hint that despite her typically regarding Cocoa as somewhat of a nuisance, Sharo’s come around by the time of Dear My Sister. The trains of GochiUsa are the LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard, a British steam train that holds the distinction of being the world’s fastest with its top speed of 203 km/h.

  • Before we delve any further into this post, I remark that GochiUsa is an anime I enjoyed immensely; there is quite a bit to talk about, and after going through this OVA, I ended up a total of a hundred and twenty-five images. I’ve pared this gargantuan collection of screenshots down to a more “manageable” sixty for this post. Because this OVA runs for sixty minutes, three times the size of a standard episode, I have three times as many screenshots. Unlike Girls und Panzer: Das Finale, I am going to treat Dear My Sister like a movie and correspondingly, each of the screenshots can be expanded and viewed in 1080p glory: I say with full confidence that I have the internet’s first comprehensive review and collection of screenshots for this long-awaited OVA, and I imagine that this review will hold that position for a long, long time.

  • As Cocoa’s train leaves the station, the camera pans upwards, revealing the outskirts of town and in the distance, a large body of water. While the town in GochiUsa might be modelled after Colmar, FranceDear My Sister suggests that the setting of GochiUsa might not be on the same world or timeline as our own (in turn making a crossover with Kiniro Mosaic implausible, if not outright unfeasible). As the beautiful summer’s day unfolds, “Happiness Encore”, a warm and welcoming song that acts as Dear My Sister‘s opening, begins playing. Dear My Sister was advertised to have a very substantial singing component when it was first announced, although it is apparent that this isn’t the case: there are certainly a large number of songs around Dear My Sister, but this OVA only presents the opening song and ending songs.

  • It took me a while to warm up to GochiUsa‘s second season opening, “No Poi”, and by now, I find the song as enjoyable as I did the opening for season one (“Daydream Café”). “Happiness Encore” is very well-written, and I’ve immediately taken a liking to it. The soundtrack in Dear My Sister recycles incidental music from the TV series, but there are also fourteen new pieces of background music on the bonus disk included with the BD, twelve of which are used in Dear My Sister. Two tracks are instrumental variations of the opening and ending songs.

  • On the train, Cocoa runs into Aoyama, who is going to great lengths to evade her editor. Despite her efforts, Aoyama is eventually caught and hauled away, all the while attempting to drown out here editor’s remarks about impending deadlines. This exact same stunt was pulled in GochiUsa‘s second season, but it is no less funny for it: the inclusion of jokes for veterans to enjoy brings to mind the Marvel Cinematic Universe approach to things, and is the reason why I’ve opted to go with a quote from Thor Ragnarok. After the Hulk gives Thor a beatdown of the same variety that he’d given Loki in The Avengers during a ring fight, Loki reacts in jubilance. Viewers who’ve seen The Avengers will recall Loki getting knocked down a few pegs after the Hulk smashes him about, explaining his reluctance to remain when seeing the Hulk again. In my case, I found the line suited for describing the sense of loneliness and the transition from such the girls experience after Cocoa takes off, as well as aptly describing how it feels to finally be able to watch Dear My Sister.

  • Aoyama’s evasion efforts are impressive, but her editor’s ability to hunt down Aoyama are doubly so: she’s about as determined as John Clark in finding her target, following Aoyama onto the train. Her name is Rin Mate (真手 凛), and she is voiced by Juri Kimura. Rin is completely dedicated to her job of making sure that Aoyama meets her deadlines. While strict and unyielding when there’s work to be done, Rin relaxes after deadlines have passed. She’s said to be named after Mandheling Coffee, which has a complex and rich taste.

  • Back at Rabbit House, Chino is quieter than usual, and this is not unnoticed. With its runtime of an hour, Dear My Sister handles very much like a movie despite being classified as an OVA. In spite of this, some folks deemed it prudent to fly to Japan with the singular purpose of watching the movie, and one individual even pre-ordered their tickets to ensure a seat. I never did understand the rationale behind these actions, as the endeavour essentially drives the price of the screening ticket up to the cost of flights, accommodations and other travel expenses, but with that being said, Dear My Sister is sufficiently well-done so that it would have been worthwhile to pre-order tickets.

  • I found myself beyond impressed with the visual fidelity of Dear My Sister: the area surrounding Cocoa’s hometown is inspired by Èze in the Alpes-Maritimes area of France, some 12.5 kilometres south of Nice. On this assumption, the bus stop Cocoa gets off at would then overlook GochiUsa‘s equivalent of Mediterranean Sea. At these resolutions, the houses below can be seen in great detail – the buildings have a stucco siding and lack the timber-framing that previously dominated the architecture in GochiUsa: they have a distinctly Germanic style to them as seen in the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

  • Dear My Sister excels in all areas from a visual standpoint; as Cocoa travels across a footbridge to reach her home, the crystal-clear water flowing below is so well-rendered that it is comparable to water effects in the Frostbite Engine or CryEngine. Volumetric lighting produces shafts of light through the forest, suggesting a shaded region with light rays passing through openings in the forest canopy. It is typical for anime to improve their visuals, and like Girls und Panzer: Das FinaleGochiUsa‘s solid artwork continued to improve over time. Subtle details like these, while often missed, help immerse viewers, and here, one gets the sense that Cocoa hails from somewhere very warm.

  • The warmth of a summer’s day can be felt even with a screen separating viewers from the events of Dear My Sister. I’ve noticed that there’s only one other review of the movie out there at present, although I happen to disagree with the claim that Dear My Sister is “nothing more but a bunch of only semi-related scenes that felt like one déjà vu after another”. The scenes are all related, transitioning from Cocoa’s return to life back home to Chino’s quiet days at Rabbit House. The OVA aimed to convey that Cocoa’s positive energy comes from her family, and that while she might not be as capable as Mocha, she has her own unique set of skills that brighten the others’ days.

  • Dear My Sister released on November 11 last year, during which I was still making my way through Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. By December, it had earned a total of 320 million Yen (3.8 million CAD) at the box office, with a box office total of 102 million Yen (1.2 million CAD) after its first weekend, considerably higher than Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days‘ 26 million Yen (around three hundred and eight thousand CAD) on its first weekend. The numbers suggest that GochiUsa is more favoured than Kiniro Moasic, and from a personal perspective, the setting is what gives GochiUsa a much more interesting feel compared to Kiniro Mosaic, which feels rather more conventional in its design.

  • When Cocoa gets home, she fancies herself surprising her mother and Mocha, but ends up being on the receiving end of a surprise, where Mocha and her mother dress up in Rabbit House-style uniforms and Tippy-shaped hats in an attempt to recreate the home that she’s grown accustomed to. It’s a tearful reunion, and without the burden of having to maintain an older-sister image, Cocoa immediately settles in and allows her mother and older sister to spoil her. It’s clear that mother and daughters are very much fond of surprising others, although because Cocoa is a rank novice by comparison, she usually finds herself being surprised.

  • The Hot Bakery is so remote that cellular service is nonexistent, and so, Mocha invites Cocoa to an old standby: the land line telephone. Because of our increasing movement towards mobile phones, I personally see very little incentive to buy a land line package, but there are some advantages that remain to the old ways. Land line phones have superior sound quality and because of their setup, allow emergency operators to immediately pinpoint one’s address should the need arise. However, as cellular connectivity services improve, I imagine it will only be a matter of time before the disparities in security and sound quality is closed.

  • Cocoa attempts to call Chino, but finds the line tied up. She’s using a cradle-style telephone here, whose design dates back to the 1890s. While the model in Dear My Sister is merely in the style of an older phone, the original cradle phones worked by means of connecting with an operator, who manipulated switches to connect calls together: phones with the ability to dial specific numbers did not come about until 1905. The combination of old-style designs with modern technology is very apparent in GochiUsa: things like feature phones exist alongside old-style homes and steam engines (most contemporary trains are electrically powered), creating a very unique world.

  • Chino begins absent-mindedly making a large number of iced cocoas, mirroring an incident during GochiUsa where Cocoa was out studying with Chiya and Sharo. Missing Cocoa causes Chino to make milk cocoas, and she relapses again. There are several modes of preparations for iced cocoas: the more common recipes recommend preparing a standard cocoa and then chilling the drink, adding ice cubes to create a cold drink. This ensures that the cocoa powder dissolves evenly. While this is going down, Megu and Maya speak of going on another Ciste Hunt, alluding to the one they did with Cocoa back in the second season.

  • To defeat the idleness and quiet that has gripped Rabbit House, Rize breaks out her inner drill sergeant and orders the girls to clean up Rabbit House. Rize’s militaristic spirits leads Chino to have a flashback about how she’d first met Rize: identical to Cocoa, who encounters Rize in naught but her underwear, Chino first encountered Rize while she was changing and found herself face-to-face with Rize’s model Glock. She recounts how Rize could be a bit intimidating, but was also quite friendly.

  • In most anime, when one walks in on a girl who’s changing, they can reasonably expect some furious blushing, shouts of 出て来 (romaji deteki, “get out!”) and possibly, the throwing of various objects to expedite said process. GochiUsa has Rize breaking the convention: she draws her model Glock 17 at all who see her while she’s changing. It’s a marked departure from other shows, but in its intended role of eliciting some laughs, Rize’s reactions work all the same.

  • The events of Dear My Sister show that despite her tough exterior, Rize is completely unequipped to deal with Megu and Maya. While this behaviour is not unexpected from Maya, who is the more energetic and mischievous of Chino’s friends, it was a bit surprising to see Megu participate, as well. This suggests that Megu’s become a little less shy, as well. It brings to mind the more rambunctious students that I’ve taught as an assistant teacher and while volunteering to teach children at my dōjō.

  • After spending a better part of two hours cleaning up Rabbit House, the café shows a newfound glitz and sparkle. Keeping busy has helped the girls take their mind off Cocoa’s absence. With their task finished, Rize has one more surprise for everyone; Maya and Megu are shocked that Rize’s gone to the lengths of creating schedules for them to follow. When Chino mentions that Rize has more stuffed rabbits similar to the one she gave Chino, Megu and Maya, also wanting one, ask Rize where it’s from.

  • As evening sets in, Rize wonders if she should’ve pushed Chino and the others so hard. While the most disciplined of the girls, Cocoa’s nonetheless had an impact on her: Rize is much more open about herself in Cocoa’s influence. With Cocoa gone, Rize returns to her old, tough-as-nails personality. I feel that Cocoa’s carefree nature and willingness to accept everyone encouraged Rize to be more true to herself in front of others; Rize’s love for the military and survival is very real, but she also uses it to hide the other side of her personality.

  • Different areas of town are shown in Dear My Sister. I bought the artbooks for both seasons (Memorial Blend and Miracle Blend) a few years ago; these provide unparalleled insights into how the world of GochiUsa was constructed, and at 2500 Yen apiece (nearly 30 CAD today, with the exchange rates), they’re not too unreasonable a purchase. I’ve amassed a small collection of artbooks to the shows that struck a chord with me, and having an official resource confers access to insights that one cannot get simply by watching a series.

  • While looking at her stuffed rabbit more closely, Chino notices that the stitching does not look machined, and there’s a lack of a manufacturer’s tag. In conjunction with Rize’s reaction when she’d given her the doll, and other subtle hints, Chino deduces that the rabbit was handmade. That Rize is learned in making stuffed animals by hand is yet another surprise that Dear My Sister introduces. This is the joy of slice-of-life anime: given enough time, the multi-dimensionality of the characters become apparent, making them more life-like.

  • Despite their innocence, Maya and Megu can be mischievous in their own manner: they frustrate Rize on occasion (to the maximum extent that such dynamics can occur in GochiUsa), and this is another noticeable difference between Rize and Cocoa. Rize is more strict, playing the bad cop to Cocoa’s good cop: Cocoa rolls with whatever Megu and Maya do. Rize consequently tires out more quickly when dealing with them because of a very similar principle to those seen in martial arts: rather than rigidity, martial arts emphasises fluidity.

  • After Chino reveals that her stuffed rabbit is handmade, Rize is completely shocked, and the revelation leads each of Maya, Megu, Sharo and Chiya to request their own. Embarrassed, and then flattered, we see a side of Rize that’s quite rare. The mixed emotions within her prove exhausting, and Rize soon longs for Cocoa to come back. Everyone expresses their missing Cocoa in different ways: Chiya buys a large number of Cocoa ingredients, Chino makes nothing but iced cocoas, and Rize seems to retreat back into her tough-as-nails shell. The differences that Cocoa introduce illustrates the impact she’s had on the others.

  • As the week progresses, the girls become increasingly lively and energetic; in a lull, Chino asks the others if they’re interested in attending a summer festival with her. She is met with enthusiastic affirmatives, setting in motion the events that Dear My Sister‘s trailers presented. Summer festivals are an international phenomenon, but vary greatly depending on the region. In North America, they take the form of music festivals, country fairs and fireworks performances: the long, warm days are very conducive towards outdoors activities. One of my favourite aspects about The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth™ is actually the variety of insanely delicious but unhealthy midway food, and while said Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth™ also has good fireworks, GlobalFest actually boasts the city’s best fireworks performance.

  • At home, Cocoa returns to her old life of baking bread for the family bakery. While Cocoa is noted for her baking skills (the others have remarked that it’s the one thing Cocoa can consistently and reliably do well), she’s still got a ways to go; Mocha’s bread is regarded as even better than Cocoa’s. The sisters help out the family bakery with great enthusiasm, and in a short period of time, bake enough bread to begin for the day’s customers. The Hot Bakery uses a brick oven, which allows for high temperatures to be reached because bricks can retain heat well. The end result is bread that bakes very quickly, which is perfect for a bakery with a high customer volume.

  • When a request for a delivery comes through, Cocoa and Mocha set out to fulfill it. Mocha surprises Cocoa with the revelation that she now has an operator’s license for a moped. Mopeds are surprisingly common in anime, and where I’m from, the basic learner’s license will allow one to operate them. While these vehicles are no doubt great during the summer as a convenient form of transportation, mopeds are rather limited and do nothing to keep one insulated from the elements, so they’re not too commonplace.

  • Mocha’s not particularly skilful with mechanical devices, but in time, she’s learned to master the art of riding a moped, even popping wheelies and totally shocking Cocoa, who comes away from her ride exhausted. I would like to think that my driving is not particularly deadly, although my home province is legendary in Canada for hosting the worst drivers. As far as road behaviours go, I’m a defensive driver, actively keeping an eye on my surroundings so I can anticipate the actions of other drivers. I don’t mind being cut off half as much I mind tailgaters, and I minimally tolerate tailgaters. My buttons are pressed when I encounter drivers who sound their horn because I’m waiting for a pedestrian to cross or vehicles with right of way to pass while making a right turn.

  • After Cocoa and Mocha deliver bread for a customer, they stop at a viewpoint overlooking the sea below, with a Mediterranean-style building adjacent. Steam trains and cradle phones existing alongside cellular phones and modern rifles, small towns with old-style architecture and a world that’s quite pastoral, featuring many small towns, leads me to wonder if GochiUsa is the logical evolution of the world depicted in Sora no Woto. Takahiro and Rize’s father mention fighting together in a war of some sort: with the distinct mish-mash of Japanese and European cultures, anachronism in technology and a world with few major urban centres, there is merit to the idea that world of GochiUsa can be the result of social and technological advancement after the events of Sora no Woto, in which humanity manages to begin recovering again. This is a very optimistic outlook of things, and a view that not everyone may share – for one, such speculation would likely break down with some scrutiny.

  • Conversation between the sisters turn to catching up: Cocoa and Mocha’s father is a professor at a university, one of the brothers is a scientist of unknown discipline (likely in chemistry or biology), and the other is a lawyer. All three of them work in the city, which is why we’ve not seen them so far. Because of the diverse array of talents and interests in the family, Cocoa grew up seeing a plethora of options available. At her age, I was similar to Cocoa in this regard, being interested by a wide range of disciplines. As high school ended, I narrowed it down to health and computing, eventually being accepted by the university’s Bachelor of Health Sciences programme for an honours degree in bioinformatics.

  • Cocoa cannot settle on a career, feeling that she could be a barista, lawyer and novelist at the same time. Strictly speaking, this is not impossible – there are many incredibly talented people out there, so the probability of someone who’s done all three occupations, sometimes simultaneously, in their lives, is non-zero. Cocoa is also quite talented with numbers despite her appearances. While trying to work out a career, Cocoa remarks that she’s happy as long as she’s viewed as an older sister of sorts.

  • Watching Cocoa be taken in by Mocha’s prank was particularly adorable: Mocha recalls back when they were children, Cocoa had aspirations in becoming a master of the mystic arts magician, but after Mocha deceived Cocoa by pretending to have turned into a rabbit, Cocoa was shocked enough to drop these goals. Unlike the other flashbacks seen in Dear My Sister, this moment is rendered in a non-traditional perspective, implying that the memory itself is a bit fuzzier (other flashbacks are merely less saturated) as a result of its distance from the present.

  • It’s an embarrassing memory for Cocoa, who puffs up her cheeks and pouts after being reminded. With this being said, there are some traces of the supernatural in GochiUsa, and the first season suggests that Cocoa might have been involved in why Chino’s grandfather had his consciousness transferred into Tippy’s body. Barring the presence of a Reality Stone, the precise mechanism for how this happened remains unknown, and besides Chino and Takahiro, the other characters remain unaware that this has occurred.

  • Cocoa and Mocha’s mother is voiced by Yuko Minaguchi (Kōko Yoshino née Ibuki of CLANNAD, and Akiko Minase of Kanon). She made a brief appearance in the finale of GochiUsa‘s second season, having a more substantial role in Dear My Sister. After Cocoa and Mocha get home, Cocoa’s in a sour mood – it turns out that even Cocoa can have a few moments where her happy-go-lucky disposition disappears, and Mocha is one of the few people who can make this happen. This is hardly surprising, since siblings know one another best, and also serves to augment the authenticity of Cocoa’s character.

  • There’s hardly any time to sulk around, since the breakfast crowd soon shows up, filling the small bakery with patrons. With their mother out for the count, Mocha’s exceptional efficiency comes into play here – she single-handedly manages everything, moving at three times the speed of the others to serve customers, manage transactions and even has time to speak with a little girl. When the crowds thin, Cocoa feels as though she’d just done a month’s worth of work: Rabbit House seems to be quiet as a coffeehouse, and the fact that it’s still in business suggests that its bar is doing well enough to keep the balance book in the black.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that it’s been four years since GochiUsa‘s first season aired. When I picked up GochiUsa, I was right in the middle of working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain project for my supervisor and Jay Ingram: in 2014, my most predominantly used language was C# and I worked largely with the Unity 4 engine. By the time GochiUsa‘s second season rolled around, I transitioned over to the Unreal Engine and wrote most of my code in C++. Time makes fools of us all: I now largely work with Swift 4.1 and iOS frameworks, although I occasionally dabble in Python and Java, as well as some SQL. Of course, if I were to blog about optionals, delegates and completion handlers, I would not begrudge the reader to find another place to read about anime. If you’re looking to learn about Swift and get into iOS programming, while yes, I could be of some assistance, there are more useful resources out there, like Ray Wenderlich, that would be more useful.

  • I still vividly recall the warm summer afternoons spent watching GochiUsa while on lunch break, and the splendid Thanksgiving morning that I took to review the first episode of the second season, before spending more or less the entire day playing the Star Wars Battlefront open beta. When I wrapped up GochiUsa‘s second season, I had nothing but good things to say about it. The first season is a solid A, a 9.0 of 10, and the second season is a 9.5 of 10 for an A+. I subsequently did a second reflection on the first season, which in retrospect, contributed to how I built the Giant Walkthrough Brain and then in the preview post for Dear My Sister, joked that one would probably need an ARIA-level miracle, such as the Time Stone, to watch this any earlier than the BD release date.

  • Cocoa channels her inner Nanako Usami here, recoiling in surprise and then pouting again when her mother reveals her arm was fine, and she’d been merely making a reason to get the two sisters together. While it might’ve been two-and-a-half years ago, I still recall mentioning that GochiUsa was a series that some could find it difficult to write for – giants like Random Curiosity did not feel they could find something to talk about in each episode, and episodic posts that did exist were quite underwhelming, being limited to reactions to the events seen on screen. My unusual take on things, on the other hand, allowed me to find something to discuss in each episode, and so, for its second season, I managed to do episodic reviews of a satisfactory standard.

  • While Chiya prepares yukata for everyone to wear for the festival, Rize’s hard at work making stuffed rabbits for everyone. By this point in time, Rabbit House has become very lively and joyous even in Cocoa’s absence: in doing their best to keep busy while Cocoa’s away, the girls learn to find joy in the ordinary, something that Cocoa excels at. I should mention here that, if one were to describe what watching Dear My Sister is like, I would liken the experience to hugging a large stuffed animal for an hour straight.

  • While Dear My Sister focuses on all of GochiUsa‘s characters the same way Pretty Days focused on Kiniro Mosaic‘s cast, both OVAs put their resident twin-tailed tsundere at the forefront of things. Besides sharing similarities in their appearance, Rize and Aya’s voices are both provided by Risa Taneda. Much like how Pretty Days gave Aya a bit of a chance to shine, Dear My Sister also gives viewers new insights into Rize’s character.

  • Mahou Shoujo Chino is a concept born from an April Fool’s joke that was very well-received, and eventually, Inori Minase performed a song about Magical Girl Chino. Dear My Sister takes things one step further, actually incorporating Magical Girl Chino into a dream that Cocoa has while staying with her family. This was a pleasant Easter Egg that the most diehard GochiUsa fans will find enjoyable, bringing to life what was intended to be a simple joke, and more casual viewers unfamiliar with the April Fool’s joke will still find this an adorable sequence.

  • Ever the doting elder sibling, Mocha is concerned when Cocoa wakes up with her head still in the clouds. While I’d like to say that my internal clock is infallible, there was an instance in recent memory where I overslept by forty minutes on a workday. I somehow managed to get my rear in gear and did my usual morning routine, making it to the office just in time for work. Days like these are (and will hopefully remain) the exception: most days, I awaken around ten minutes before my alarm is set to go off.

  • After oversleeping, Cocoa manages to get ready, and Mocha drives her to the bus station. Cocoa reveals that while she’s still undecided on a career, she wants to do something that makes others smile. Cocoa subsequently heads back to Rabbit House by train, and on her journey back, she reads one of Aoyama’s novels. Titled “Bakery Queen- Beloved Sisters’ Moving Story”, one must wonder how Aoyama manages to get her story ideas. It’s shown that she’s a capable writer and has numerous talents despite her propensity to ignore deadlines, so one can imagine her pulling some John Clark-level stunts to gain inspiration for her stories. This book is her latest work, and at the end, Cocoa sees a request from her mother and Mocha – get the book autographed.

  • With the month of June now in full swing, some hiking trails in nearby Kananaskis Provincial park are now open, and after a week of cool, misty and grey weather, the skies gave way to a warm day of sunshine today. The combination of good weather and open trails meant that I could take some time to really unwind in the mountains: I ascended the West Wind Pass trail, easily one of the more difficult hikes I’ve done, if only for the fact that the trail is adjacent to a deep ravine and despite this, is quite poorly marked. The path takes hikers to points where they need to hug a cliff sheer to pass, and also branches off in different directions without indication of whether or not it was a part of the trail, but despite these challenges, it was very invigorating and fun to climb up. Reaching the West Wind Pass itself, I was greeted by a vast, wind-swept clearing and a stunning view of the Spray Lakes reservoir some 390 metres below. The view was beautiful, but up here, the cold meant that we couldn’t stay for long, only stopping long enough to take some photographs, before turning around.

  • There are some deviations in Dear My Sister from the original manga: aside from some obvious additions, such as the inclusion of Mahou Shoujo Chino and Chino working out the courage to invite everyone to the fireworks festivals, there have also been some omissions, as well. Cocoa does not return to Rabbit House ahead of the festival to finish her assignments, and Aoyama does not run into the misfortunate of wrecking her manuscript. These differences are relatively minor and did not break the flow of events in Dear My Sister in any way.

  • The use of violets and pinks in the town by evening casts its buildings in hues that were previously unseen, creating a festive and ethereal, timeless sense quite similar to the choice of colours seen in Fireworks: Should We See Them From The Side or Bottom?. While poet T.S. Elliot uses the phrase “violet hour” in his famous poem, “The Waste Land”, repetition of this phrase is meant to suggest the melancholy of the end of a day and sunset. However, sunrise always follows, and so, Elliot is lamenting that relationships cycle endlessly between a joyful start and a sadness-filled closing. This is relevant to Fireworks, where Norimichi’s final attempt to be with Nazuna saw him share a conversation while the skies took on a pink-purple hue. In the case of Dear My Sister, the lighting is probably meant to indicate a sort of melancholy that Cocoa is not around.

  • Despite the violet hour’s implications, Dear My Sister presents the summer festival as a happy moment. While walking about, the girls take in the sights, sounds and smells, and Sharo demonstrates another aspect of her character. Spending time with the others have improved her confidence: when Rize asks if there’s anything she’d like as a prize after being drawn by a shooting game, Sharo recalls her own talents with blowdarts and so, challenges Rize to a showdown that the latter accepts.

  • At the festival, Megu demonstrates a hitherto unknown talent for winning at ring toss. These games, like casinos, are slightly rigged so that they favour the vendor’s gain, but for folks familiar with how they work, they are certainly winnable. Megu consistently wins in a ring toss game and earns a small collection of prizes here that she feels is a good set of souvenirs for Cocoa: we recall that Megu’s got a talent for spinning (which, by the way, is a good trick), and giving the rings a slight, level spin can help boost their accuracy: she applies the technique here to land consistent hits on the prizes.

  • A quick glance at the various folk in the background show that only Chiya, Megu, Chino, Maya, Sharo and Rize are wearing yukata, with everyone else wearing more conventional clothing. It stands to reason that elements of Japanese culture are uncommon where GochiUsa is set. The girls thus stand out quite a bit, about as much as one would stand out while wearing cowboy hat and boots to a Japanese festival, but the colours of the yukata and festival work very nicely together to create a scene that has not been seen in GochiUsa until now. Despite the predominantly French-German cultural aspects in GochiUsa, the inclusion of Japanese elements into a festival for Dear My Sister is integrated very smoothly without breaking immersion.

  • Sharo becomes the life of the party after eating coffee-flavoured shaved ice, speaking in a joyful and somewhat slurred manner while waving a small firework. It’s actually quite fun to see Sharo in this manner, and I do not believe I’ve mentioned this thus far: Sharo is voiced by Maaya Uchida, whom I know as Yuru Yuri‘s Mari, Rei Kuroki of Vividred Operation and Slow Start‘s very own Hiroe Hannen. Hard-working, frugal and practical, she’s also a character who deserves a bit more screen-time in GochiUsa.

  • The five kilometre hike to and from West Wind Pass took around two-and-three-quarters of an hour in total. Once the hike concluded, we returned to 514 Poutine, Canmore’s premiere poutine spot (previously known as La Belle Patate). Here, I ordered their deluxe poutine: it’s a blend of succulent chunks of Montréal Smoked Meat, bacon, sauteéd onions and mushrooms on top of their poutine. Every time I’ve visited, I am impressed with how flavourful and generous the helpings of the Montréal smoked meat is. Coupled with the smokiness of bacon, the sweetness of the onion and the plain fact that I love mushrooms, it’s the perfect poutine that quickly restored my energy. Their Spruce Beer Soda is also a fantastic accompaniment for lunch: with a distinct pine and slightly sweet flavour, it is superbly refreshing and perfect for after savouring a hearty poutine.

  • It was a bit of a later lunch: we finished at two-thirty, and with more than half the day passed, we decided to do a simpler walk around the Quarry Lake area of Canmore. With negligible elevation gain, this walk was very relaxing and also allowed us to loosen off from the morning hike: Quarry Lake itself is only five minutes from the parking lot, and surrounding the area are a series of well-marked trails that line the grass fields beneath the mountains. Back in Dear My Sister, as the evening grows later, the girls begin making their way up to a secret spot for viewing the fireworks that Aoyama’s informed them of. An overhead view of the town by night can be seen from here, and while the town is quite large, it’s definitely not Colmar, France: inspection of maps show that no river runs through the actual city, whereas a river dividing the town in two is clearly seen here.

  • Despite being noticeably absent from the proceedings, Cocoa manages to meet up with Chino and the others right as the first firework flies into the night sky. While the others initially look to be reacting to the fireworks, prompting Cocoa to wonder if they’ve even noticed her, it soon becomes clear that everyone is in fact aware of Cocoa’s arrival, and warmly greet her. Rize and the others are somewhat surprised that Cocoa managed to find them, but it would seem that Cocoa returned to Rabbit House, spoke with Aoyama and then changed into her yukata before heading off to reunite with the others.

  • Many moons ago, when Mocha was shown downing milk in a beer mug, one individual wondered why GochiUsa would “censor” alcoholic beverages, but never received a satisfactory answer. While the fireworks progress, Aoyama and her editor share some beers, decisively showing that GochiUsa has no aversions to showing alcoholic drinks on screen. The alcoholic offerings from Takahiro’s bar is also quite visible, and he is shown preparing alcoholic drinks, as well. Quite simply, there is no censorship. I’ve previously remarked that Mocha took milk as a comfort drink for her personality and preferences – just because someone can legally drink does not mean that they will.

  • After Sharo sets off the lone firework, Cocoa determines that with the obscure location, that’s where everyone else must’ve been. There’s been a surprisingly limited amount of buzz out there for an OVA that’s been so long overdue: the original release was supposed to be May of last year, and this got pushed back to November. Normally, there’s a six-month gap between the theatrical opening date and BD releases, but the BDs were released eight months later this time around. It is a bit disappointing to see that so few are aware of this OVA, and while it is a bit of an achievement to hold what is the internet’s only Dear My Sister review, having this title also means that very few GochiUsa fans have had the chance to enjoy the OVA.

  • Dear My Sister marks the third series that I’ve written about of late that features fireworks: Fireworks and Amanchu! Advance also featured some stellar fireworks shows. Once reunited with the others, Megu gives Cocoa a rabbit mask that eerily resembles the rabbit mask seen in GochiUsa‘s second season, and subsequently spars with Rize about older sisters in a friendly manner. With the fireworks in full swing, the girls watch the fireworks performance. Throughout the scene, the fireworks are actually out of focus or otherwise not the subject of focus, reminding audiences that for Cocoa and the others, their friendships and bonds come first.

  • After struggling to express herself, Chino manages to overcome this and welcomes Cocoa back, as well. The ending song, “The World Has Become a Café”, is a fantastic ending song performed by all eight of the characters: both Petit Rabbits’ and Chimame-tai come together to form the unit Petit Rabbits’ With Beans, and the lyrics are joyful, spirited and upbeat, signalling the joy of having everyone together once again. It’s a happy ending to Dear My Sister, and at this point, one cannot begrudge me for including one more MCU-style reference to the table – there’s a post-credits sequence that, like those of MCU films, serve an important purpose.

  • We’re very nearly at the end of this post, and as this talk on Dear My Sister is likely to be my largest single post of the year, I figure it could be a fun way to wrap things up with some statistics about this post. With a total word count of some 8300 words, it’s definitely no slouch, but writing for the OVA was very enjoyable, as well. It turns out that Rize had also made a stuffed rabbit for Cocoa, as well. This brings my long-awaited, long-overdue talk on Dear My Sister to a conclusion, and for my final score, Dear My Sister has earned a 9.5 of 10, an A+; highly entertaining, Dear My Sister brings back everything that made the earlier seasons so enjoyable and introduces new character dynamics among a familiar group, while at once providing spectacular artwork, animation and music.

  • In short, I enjoyed Dear My Sister the same way I enjoyed Infinity War. With Dear My Sister decisively in the books, the immediate other post on the horizon will be for Amanchu! Advance now that we’ve hit the three-quarters mark. We’ve also entered the month of June now, so the spring anime series will be concluding quite soon. I will be writing for Amanchu! AdvanceComic Girls and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online as their respective series close off. Finally, Battlefield 1 is running a “Road To Battlefield V” event, and I’ve yet to tell the story about how I got an Urban MDR in The Division – I will naturally be writing about both.

The long-awaited OVA to GochiUsa is finally in the books, and my final verdict is a strong recommendation. Dear My Sister brings back all of the aspects that made the originals so enjoyable to watch, capitalises on the summer weather to introduce a distinctly Japanese style of festival that suggests a highly multicultural area that Cocoa and her friends live in, explored another dimension of friendship that shows how interpersonal interactions go both ways, and upped the quality of artwork and animation in a series that already was technically superb. The masterful combination of all aspects result in an OVA that was worth the wait, and so, Dear My Sister is something that anyone who enjoyed GochiUsa will not want to miss. For folks who’ve yet to watch GochiUsa, I would count Dear My Sister as being similar to Avengers: Infinity War. Much like how various jokes and event references in Infinity War require some familiarity of previous movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (e.g. Loki echoing that they have a Hulk and Captain America’s “I am Steve Rogers” to Groot’s “I am Groot”, to name a few), Dear My Sister adapts chapters from volume five of the manga, and there are events and specific jokes that occurred in the seasons that require a bit more context to have the maximum impact (such as Aoyama being hauled off by her editor, or Chino’s unconscious making of iced cocoas). Both share the commonality of being quite enjoyable standalone, but are also clearly intended for audiences who’ve seen earlier instalments. With all this being said, Dear My Sister is an excellent adaptation of the chapters following the Ciste Hunt, and as the manga is ongoing, another season could be on the horizon. Having tested their mettle with Dear My Sister, I feel that if production doA were to be given the responsibility of creating a third season of GochiUsa, they would do a spectacular job. There certainly is enough material, and the series has had a strong reception. As such, I would imagine that a third season is a matter of when, rather than if, and this is an encouraging thought.