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Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part Three OVA: Daikon War!

“What do I know of man’s destiny? I could tell you more about radishes” –Samuel Beckett

Miho, Saori, Hana, Mako and Yukari head off to Ooarai’s Agriculture Department to deliver some documents for their representative, Jane, although they struggle to acclimatise to their horses, which were provided so they don’t have to walk. It turns out that the agriculture representative has missed a series of meetings, and as a result, is short a bunch of printouts. As Saori and the others travel further, the rice fields give way to the foothills. Here, they speak with a farmer who indicates that Jane’s in pursuit of a ruffian, and they press further into the desert. Although the task is lengthy, the girls soon encounter Jane in an old western town after hearing a gunshot. Their conversation is interrupted when Belle shows up, and after Belle fires a round that ruins the churros, Mako is angered. She confronts Belle directly, leading the others to come out and surround Belle. Belle in turn demands a one-on-one duel with Jane. Unfortunately for Belle, Jane’s the faster draw in the west, and she finds herself splattered with paint. Belle decides to make a break for it, but having learnt how to ride Choco properly, Saori captures her. As it turns out, Belle was wanted for the theft of daikon radishes. Belle takes Jane and the others back to a smokehouse, where she’s making iburigakko (smoked and pickled daikon); it turns out Belle had wanted to share some recipes with the school at large, but no one was willing to give her recipes a go. With the misunderstanding cleared, Jane agrees to help Belle secure daikon so she won’t have to resort to stealing them. Later that evening, Miho and Jane share a conversation: Jane’s interested in having some extra hands to help out, but Miho remarks that everyone’s got their own activities, and wonders if Jane would like to join Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team. The pair agree to go their separate ways, and Jane promises to support Miho’s Panzerfahren team before riding off into the sunrise. Tus ends Daikon War, the OVA accompanying Das Finale‘s third act that continues in Girls und Panzer‘s tradition of demonstrating how having the patience to talk things out is how conflicts can be resolved: once Jane understands what Belle’s intentions are, things quickly turn around, and Jane goes from hunting down Belle to helping her secure daikon for her recipes.

Besides being a heartwarming tale of how Girls und Panzer would see disagreements and misunderstandings sorted out, Daikon War also gives viewers a bit more insight into the School Ships within the Girls und Panzer universe. These vessels are gargantuan in scale: despite a length of seven-point-six kilometres and a minimum width of nine hundred meters, Ooarai’s Zuikaku is actually on the smaller end of things, and even larger school ships exist. The amount of deck space available allows entire towns and biomes to be hosted, and this in turn creates a limitless potential for adventure. Daikon War is one such example, showcasing a side of Ooarai’s school ship that we’d not seen before: it was fun to see how Ooarai’s Agriculture programme is large enough to encompass several different kinds of farming, and how students can also be involved in keeping the peace in larger areas of the ship. The Girls und Panzer universe is immensely intricate, and exploring things outside of Panzerfahren shows what other nuances exist in their world. However, Daikon War also creates a new challenge for Girls und Panzer. Zuikaku’s layout has been shown as being very consistent throughout Girls und Panzer; most of the deck is covered by the town, and the school is situated at midship. There’s a couple of forested hills on the ship’s starboard side, and at the bow, some fields can be seen. However, in Daikon War, Saori and the others ride through rocky, mountainous terrain reminiscent of the landscapes in Arizona. These areas aren’t visible from the top of the vessel, creating a minor bit of discrepancies in how the Zuikaku is laid out. This is one of the hazards about longer-running series: inconsistencies like these can result if older materials and newer requirements are not reconciled. In this case, the Zuikaku is not expressly shown as having desert areas, so one does wonder whether or not the school ship has undergone terraforming updates or similar. Of course, such details are probably only on the minds of fans like myself, who’ve been around the block for a while: Daikon War itself is a fun OVA that gives viewers a chance to see Miho, Saori, Hana, Mako and Yukari outside of Panzerfahren, hanging out with their classmates in a world that is quite similar to, but also quite unlike our own, and a few discrepancies hasn’t stopped me from being all smiles while watching this latest Girls und Panzer OVA.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I went horseback riding was back during band camp when I was a middle school student, and while a walking horse was reasonably easy to ride, I had a bit more trouble when horses went into a trot. Experience horseback riders will have no trouble managing their horse even while it gallops, and here, Miho struggles to steer her horse. I found it interesting that Miho and the others remain in their school uniforms while riding: normally, long pants are preferred, and I imagine that riding a horse with bare thighs could become quite uncomfortable because it exposes one to various pinches, burns and scrapes.

  • Daikon War’s first moments show the girls passing through farmland similar to that of Japan’s inaka, and the Das Finale‘s visual quality is stunning: it genuinely does feel like the satoyama out here. As Miho’s group passes through then region, satoyama gives way to fields similar to those of Southern Alberta, British Columbia’s lower mainland, or Montana, I find myself feeling that this spot reminds me a great deal of home: in the southern reaches of my province, the foothills near the Rockies are dotted with farms, and during summers, it is incredibly relaxing to drive down here.

  • Amidst the ferocity of armoured warfare, there’s precious little time for characters to act as they normally would because they’re so focused on the task at hand. Conversely, moments like these allow viewers to see how Saori and the others are when they are outside of Panzerfahren. Saori ends up naming her horse Choco after its dark brown coat, speaking to her personality, although the horse doesn’t seem to take kindly to being named: it promptly bucks, causing Saori to fall off its back.

  • Hana ends up explaining what the purpose of this excursion is: the agriculture representative, Jane, has been absent at several student council meetings, and since Hana is now the new president, it’s her responsibility to get the documents delivered. That Miho, Mako and Yukari follow along for the adventure shows how close the five have become during their time as Panzerfahren teammates.

  • Being able to see parts of the Girls und Panzer world that would otherwise not be explored is one of the main reasons why Girls und Panzer OVAs are always fun to watch. Here, Hana speaks with a farm girl who helps to point them in the right direction: Ooarai’s school ship is home to around thirty thousand people, and seeing other people on board the school ship speaks volumes to why Miho’s efforts to win the Panzerfahren championship, and then a match against the University team, was so important. Had she failed, and Ooarai been closed, thirty thousand people would’ve had to have found new homes and schools.

  • Stakes like these is probably why Der Film was able to threaten Ooarai with a second closure: the sheer size and scale of a school ship means that it takes a very large amount of resources to keep them running, and while Ooarai may not offer any one specialty as the other schools might, thirty thousand people call the ship home, and it is clear that those who live here love their home very much, which created the weight behind Der Film. This is something that wasn’t shown in Der Film, so it is understandable that not everyone will agree with this sentiment. In fact, back in the day, some folks at AnimeSuki had been left so disappointed by the film that they ended up ditching the franchise outright. Given that Das Finale has placed an emphasis on teamplay and strategy, and has hinted at Ooarai squaring off against St. Gloriana in the final match, I imagine that Das Finale is the continuation that these individuals would’ve been looking to watch.

  • After encountering folks who are familiar with the area, Hana and the others travel deeper into the mountains. The verdant landscapes soon give way to arid desert, devoid of any vegetation. Throughout the day, Mako’s been becoming increasingly hungry, and a running joke here is that everyone the group runs into is enjoying food of some kind. Some individuals with Indigenous attire are chilling with popcorn, and a cowgirl is seen holding what appears to be a turkey leg. While Mako implies she’d very much like some, Saori presses the initiative, and the cowgirl soon points them to the last destination.

  • Upon arriving in town, which possesses Pueblo architecture, Miho and the others meet Jane, a blond-haired sheriff with a similar aura about her as Saunders’ Kay. Hana explains why they’re here, but Jane counters that she hasn’t time for things yet, since she’s busy chasing down an outlaw. Admittedly, seeing Spaghetti Western-styled OVA in something like Girls und Panzer was completely unexpected, but it also speaks to how versatile the world is, in being able to accommodate so many kinds of stories without once making the stories feel like they’re out of place.

  • Having grown up in what is considered to be Canada’s cowboy country, and living in a city with The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth means I’m no stranger to elements of the Old West: in both American and Canadian history, the west was long considered to be the Frontier, and both governments invested into expanding into this territory. In Canada, efforts to settle the prairies weren’t made until the 1840s, when Prime Minister John A. MacDonald pushed policy to encourage development of the west. With the Dominion Lands Act and founding of the RCMP, homesteaders moved into the prairies as farmers. Conversely, in the United States, settlers often conflicted with Indigenous peoples already living in the West, leading to violent clashes that saw most Indigenous people lose their land.

  • These struggles are glorified in Old West films, and the term Spaghetti Western comes from the fact that some of the most successful films had Italian producers. Here, after Mako mentions that she’s quite famished, Jane passes her a churros. This Spanish dessert is also popular in Mexico, consisting of fried dough lightly dusted in cinnamon sugar. I had my first churros in Cancún during a conference, and I find them quite delicious. It was quite endearing to see Mako with a smile here, and Yukari’s smiles are similarly heartwarming.

  • Jane and the others promptly come under gunfire from the outlaw that Jane had been chasing. When a stray round takes out Mako’s churros, Mako’s frustration brings her out into the open. She grabs Jane’s hat and confronts the outlaw, leading Miho and the others to back her up. The odds have suddenly turned against Belle, who’s cornered, and this gives Jane a chance to finish things off once and for all. During this engagement, Miho wonders if they’re using real guns: Jane and Belle are both using revolvers. I believe that Jane’s rocking a 1873 Single Action Army, but it’s a little hard to tell.

  • The 1873 Single Action Army is one of the most iconic weapons of the Old West, prized for its stopping power and reliability. Such weapons might’ve been a little less suited for duelling, since the longer barrel would increase draw time. In a one-on-one, a shorter barrel or snub nose might be more appropriate; at shorter ranges, lower muzzle energy isn’t quite as important as stability and weight. Jane ends up accepting Belle’s challenge for a duel, and the square off at sundown while Miho and the others look on, with no small degree of apprehension.

  • Before Belle can even react, Jane’s already drawn and pulls the trigger. Belle’s head disappears behind a cloud of red, but fortunately, this is just a paintball gun. This shouldn’t be too surprising: in Japan, firearms are tightly regulated. Shotguns and air rifles are legal to possess, so long as one consents to random police checks and an extensive screening process, while all other weapons are prohibited. Similarly, it is inappropriate for students to be carrying actual firearms, so paintball guns are more than suitable as a substitute. The end effect of the duel causes the tension to taper off, as comedy displaces the suspense: Belle is now covered in red paint.

  • After Jane wins the duel, Belle decides to beat a hasty exit, but thanks to Saori ranking up her riding skill, she’s able to nab the escaping Belle. Belle is subsequently tied to a post, and the others learn of what’s happening here: it turns out that Belle had been stealing daikons from nearby farmers, so Jane was sent out to investigate and figure out what was going on. Miho and the others are surprised by this outcome; they’d been expecting something a little more dramatic.

  • Daikon are a common food in Japanese cuisine; pickled daikon are used in a variety of dishes, but it can also be simmered in oden. In Chinese cuisine, daikon (known as 蘿蔔, jyutping lo4 baak6) are used to make turnip cake, a savoury and delicious dim sum made of shredded radish and flour, mixed with several ingredients like Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, Chinese sausage and shiitake, then served with soy sauce. Now that I think about it, turnip cakes feel like a Cantonese version of okonomiyaki.

  • Back at her smokehouse, Belle offers Jane and the others iburigakko (いぶりがっこ), smoked and pickled daikon originating from the Akita prefecture. The process involves smoking freshly-picked daikon for a minimum of two days using wood sourced from oak or cherry, and then pickled in a low temperature rice bran for forty days, creating a dish with a very distinct flavour profile. Belle offers Jane and the others here a sample of what’s possible with iburigakko, and I note that daikon is actually one of the components of our family’s Cantonese-style hot pot (打邊爐, jyutping daa2 bin1 lou4): one of my family traditions is to have a 打邊爐 this time of year, when the weather is chilly, and the nights are long.

  • Last evening, I sat down to a hot pot featuring lamb, beef, giant prawns, oyster, cuttlefish, four kinds of fish balls, lettuce and cabbage, as well as daikon two ways. Besides freshly-sliced daikon, I also added shredded daikon with a splash of lemon juice to my soy sauce dip, adding a kick to things. The thing I love most about these homestyle hot pots is that they’re cozy, and things were chased with the leftover champagne from our New Year’s Eve party. Here, Saori, Yukari, Miho, Mako and Hana try out some of Belle’s iburigakko creations, and immediately, they’re blown away by the rich flavour.

  • Once Jane comes to understand Belle’s story, which is a bit of a pitiful one (other students at Ooarai refuse to give her daikon because they see no merit in iburigakko), she ended up resorting to theft to make some. If Miho and the others’ reaction were anything to go by, it appears that once others have had a chance to try iburigakko, they’ll be much more receptive towards things, too. I imagine that Belle’s interest in iburigakko is a personal one that she’s turned into a school project of sorts, as well. Without further exploration, this won’t be known to viewers, but the implications are that school activities on a school ship are very engaging and essential part of education; I’ve long found that hands-on education is the most effective, and have always performed best when given a little background before being set loose with a project or a chance to learn on my own.

  • After things are resolved, Jane thanks Miho and her friends for stepping up to help, before the pair exchange the wish to join one another’s respective activities. I particularly liked this moment because it was a chance to see how Miho is outside of Panzerfahren: when she first met Hana and Saori, Miho had been quite shy and clumsy. The Miho we see today is more confident and spirited, and for me, this does help make the case that while Das Finale might be about Momo, there could yet be a chance for Miho to properly reconcile with Shiho. A more outgoing and assertive Miho would have an easier time with doing this. Daikon War ends with Jane riding off into the sunrise while a Western-style theme plays to close the episode out.

  • The soundtrack to Das Finale‘s first half released back in May of 2021, and while it doesn’t have this ending song (which I imagine will make it over into the soundtrack for Das Finale‘s second half), it does have both versions of La Chanson de l’oignon, a vocal version sung by BC Freedom’s students, and an instrumental version. The soundtrack is fun, and it’s great to be able to listen to the new incidental music heard in Das Finale. With this, I imagine this is the last I’ll be writing about Girls und Panzer for a while: on the estimate there’s a 664 day-long gap between now and the next act, I’ll be stopping by next in 2023 to write about Das Finale‘s fourth chapter and its associated OVA. In the meantime, we’re now two days in 2022, and all of the anime that’ve caught my eye so far are airing on January 7, so it’s time for me to ease up with the blogging and take it easy until Slow Loop begins later this week.

The immense successes that Girls und Panzer enjoyed over the past decade stems from a combination of a strong thematic piece, lovable characters and meticulously-researched armoured warfare details. However, through its OVAs, Girls und Panzer also shows that the potential for telling stories outside of Panzerfahren is unbound. OVAs such as these are prima facie frivolous and don’t add anything substantial to the series’ main themes, but their value is found in being able to give characters a chance to bounce off one another outside of Panzerfahren matches. One aspect of Girls und Panzer I’ve always enjoyed ware the slice-of-life moments; in Das Finale‘s third act, seeing the characters engaged in their usual duties, as well as taking it easy in between preparations for upcoming matches, provides unparalleled insight into the characters themselves. These moments hint at how different characters approach Panzerfahren, and suggest that how individuals’ dispositions are outside of their duties can greatly impact their actions when the chips are down. Seeing Mika build a snowman before a match both shows that she’s one to let her mind rest before a challenge, as well as how she believes that great ideas can come from anywhere, whether or not one is actively preparing or taking a rest to regroup. Similarly, watching Miho and the others venture into the heart of Ooarai’s farmlands shows that they’re a friendly and open-minded bunch. Saori has a talent for picking things up, and the normally laid-back Mako becomes all business if anyone messes with her food. Miho is also shown as being less shy than she’d been at the series’ beginning; she’s now able to carry a conversation and even consider inviting people to try Panzerfahren out. Altogether, these short OVAs are valuable to viewers for providing insights into characters and the Girls und Panzer universe in ways that Das Finale‘s main acts do not. The fact that Das Finale‘s second and third acts include an OVA serves to enhance the experience for those who choose to watch the series at home: these bonuses add to things in a way that just watching something at the theatrical première cannot confer.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part Three: Review and Reflection

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” –Charles Darwin

Ooarai pursues Chi-Ha Tan’s forces through the dense jungle, but poor visibility and Chi-Ha Tan’s unexpected plays complicate the engagement. In spite of the challenges posed, Momo promises to do her best so she can attend university with Anzu and Yuzu. During the chaos of battle, Ooarai manages to disable several of Chi-Ha Tan’s tanks, including the elusive Ka-Mi amphibious tanks, but in turn, loses several tanks of their own. With their numbers whittling down, Kinuyo orders her tanks to pursue Miho, reasoning that Miho’s ability to rally Ooarai means if she goes down, her teammates should fall apart. After reaching a rocky section of the river, Anko Team is surrounded and taken out of the fight. Surprised that their strategy succeeded in eliminating one of the toughest tanks around, Kinuyo and her teammates erupt into cheers. However, they’d completely forgotten about Ooarai’s flag tank, and as Chi-Ha Tan celebrates this milestone, Ooarai’s Hetzner arrives on scene, with Chi-Ha Tan’s flag tank dead in Anzu’s sights. She pulls the trigger and knocks Chi-Ha Tan’s flag tank out, giving Ooarai the win. In the aftermath, Haru Fukuda reflects on the match and her promise to play volleyball with Duck Team during spring break. Upon returning to Ooarai, Momo, Mako and Midoriko visit Bar Donzoko, while Saori and Hana assist Anzu and Yuzu with their student council duties. Miho and a handful of the teams have gone out to watch other matches in the Winter Tournament: Black Forest defeats Pravda when Erika decides to utilise a hitherto unexpected technique, while Anzio falls to St. Gloriana when Anchovy falls into Darjeeling’s trap. Meanwhile, Mika and Continuation Academy beat Saunders thanks to their sharpshooter, giving them a spot in a match against Ooarai. Mika and her teammates return to their school ship to celebrate Christmas before their next match is set to take place. During their match, Ooarai pursues several of Continuation’s lighter tanks into a village, where they are ambushed by tanks hidden in the snowmen dotting the village. Quick thinking allows Ooarai to extricate themselves, but Mako spots glint from a distant tank, and moments later, Anko is taken out by Continuation’s sharpshooter, leaving Duck Team on their own. So ends Girls und Panzer Das Finale‘s third act, which comes almost twenty-two full months after we left off with Miho pursuing Kinuyo’s forces into a dark forest. As its preceding two acts have done, Das Finale‘s third act sees the conclusion of one match, gives the characters a bit of breathing room and then creates anticipation for the next round. While Das Finale may have appeared to have entered routine in its execution, the unpredictability inherent in every match, coupled with the insight that interludes offer into the teams’ day-to-day lives provide, means that despite the lengthy gaps between instalments, Das Finale nonetheless continues to hold the viewer’s engagement: Girls und Panzer still has what it takes to create an enjoyable, compelling experience.

Having seen the various teams in their preferred roles throughout much of Girls und Panzer, Das Finale‘s began to mix things up with character combinations and strategies, with the end result being that that in matches, opponents are left astounded and surprised by what’s unfolding – previously, teams had trained with the expectation that their foes would conduct Panzerfahren a certain way, and as such, strategies could be devised to handle things accordingly. Chi-Ha Tan, for instance, was renowned for their tendency to charge head-first into an engagement without any concern for the consequences, and so, they could be goaded into an ambush. However, on suggestion from the Volleyball Club, Haru decides to try a new strategy during their engagement with Ooarai, with the end result being that Ooarai is initially caught off guard by Chi-Ha Tan’s solid use of hit-and-fade tactics under the cover of night. Ooarai’s forces have not previously fought in such a claustrophobic environment with low lighting (against Pravda, the open fields meant it was easier to determine where the enemy tanks were and plan with this in mind), and so, Chi-Ha Tan is able to surprise Miho with a strategy that is unlike anything they’d previously used, much as how BC Freedom deceived Yukari into thinking they were still a divided school. However, what makes Miho and Ooarai so potent is that, while they might be caught off guard by a school utilising unusual strategies, they are always able to adjust and adapt. In this case, Miho ends up deciding to have everyone on Anko Team switch positions in order to capitalise on the fact that Mako’s night vision is more acute, and then have her direct the tank. Further to this, Miho is a team player, willing to lay down on the wire and and give her tank up if it means protecting a teammate. This level of concern for those around her is Miho’s greatest asset, and when combined with her ability to lead, plus the fact that Ooarai’s tankers have resolved to give it their best, means that in the end, they stand triumphant over Chi-Ha Tan, who nonetheless put up an impressive showing. The idea of switching things up applies throughout this third act to remind viewers that Das Finale is going to continue doing its utmost to differentiate itself from its predecessors. During one match between Pravda and Black Forest, Katyusha orders her forces to dig in and hammer the advancing Black Forest force, counting on their position and use of the KV-2 to wear down them down. This is not without basis: Black Forest has historically valued advancing at a methodical pace under all circumstances. However, when commander Erika recalls Maho’s advice to her, to be herself, she does something completely unexpected – Erika exits her Tiger II and commandeers a lighter tank, using its mobility to get the edge over the dug-in Pravda forces and in the end, secures the win by utilising a method that is contrary to the Nishizumi Style. Girls und Panzer has sold creativity and adaptability as a part of its central themes in its original run, but it is only here in Das Finale where things are really emphasised. This is to Das Finale‘s advantage, keeping viewers on the edge of their seat; as the third act draws to a close, Miho and Anko Team are knocked out of the fight in moments against Continuation Academy. Without Miho coordinating their movements, Ooarai must now draw on their own experiences and expertise in order to find victory in a scenario quite unlike anything they’d previously dealt with.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This talk on Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s third act is my 1400th post, and at the time of writing, I believe this is the internet’s first and only full-sized discussion, complete with screenshots. When I wrote about Das Finale last, it was March 2020, and I still remember the evening I started my post: it had been a particularly cold night, and the local media was discussing the possibility of a lockdown and supply shortage as the global health crisis reached North America. Nearly twenty-two months later, I count myself incredibly fortunate to be here, a consequence of the support I’ve received both through readers like yourself, and people I know in person. Before I delve into this post, I would like to thank all readers, whether you be a long-time veteran or a newcomer, for accompanying my journey through things like Girls und Panzer.

  • Because such a large amount of time has passed since Das Finale‘s second act, I ended up going back to re-watch both the first and second acts so I could get a better sense of things. Last we left off with Das Finale, Ooarai had managed to put Chi-Ha Tan on the backfoot, and had pursued them deeper into the jungle with guns ablaze, but since Chi-Ha Tan had switched out their usual tactic of charging at an opponent, they’ve become much trickier to fight, since Miho had been planning for a team who favoured bum-rushes over hit-and-fade tactics.

  • I will stop briefly here to note that the gaps between the individual acts to Das Finale are something I’m completely cool with: these longer production timeframes means ACTAS is able to write out scenarios they are satisfied with and create stories that captivate viewers, while at the same time, being able to properly research all of the armour, equipment and tactics used to create an authentic, immersive experience for viewers. Finally, additional time means being able to really polish the animation; this shows in Das Finale, whose visuals surpass even those of Der Film. There is justification in spacing out the releases, since the quality is reflected in the end product. Conversely, I disagree most strongly with the fact that there is a considerable delay between the theatrical première and home release. While some defend the practise, there is little to suggest that an extensive delay between the theatrical premières and home release is meaningful.

  • Granted, films are expensive projects that must recoup production costs through box office sales, and even in Japan, anime movies have a niche audience, which leads to the approach of playing to the fans’ devotion to the series and encouraging them to watch a film more than once in the theatre would be the most suitable way of driving up ticket sales. However, this approach is antiquated and quite frankly, limiting – the average film makes around eighty percent of its box office sales within six weeks of release, and keeping a film in theatres for longer will not generate any meaningful return. By putting their film on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and other equivalents, or simply make the BD releases come earlier, studios can at least still make some revenue on films by reaching a much wider audience, well beyond the dedicated fans who have home field advantage.

  • If memory serves, Battlefield V was still going strong when Das Finale‘s second instalment had become available. At the time, the Pacific Theatre had fully released, and I was having a blast with all of the new weapons and vehicles. For gameplay reasons, the Type 97 Chi-Ha tank is balanced to go toe-to-toe with the M4 Sherman, whereas in reality, the M4’s AP rounds would fly right through a Type 97 without dealing much damage, prompting tankers to use HE rounds instead. Conversely, Battlefield V is set up such that a properly geared Type 97 could still be lethal against an M4. Besides the M4 and Type 97, Battlefield V also gave players the Type 2 Ka-Mi and an Allied equivalent, the LVT. These amphibious tanks were incredibly fun to play as, and like Kinuyo’s teammates find, their utility is being able to move about in water to launch surprise attacks.

  • The main disadvantage about the Ka-Mi is that they have comparatively less armour than a Type 97, and an in Battlefield V, I primarily used them as an anti-infantry platform. However, with the right upgrades, I do remember that they could also be used to make short work of LVTs and “encourage” M4 drivers to back up: one of the specialisations that the Ka-Mi could equip in Battlefield V was a 75 mm cannon, making it a match for the M4s. Girls und Panzer‘s Ka-Mis are limited to their real-world counterparts’ armaments – as far as I can tell, no Ka-Mi has ever been equipped with a 75 mm cannon (or a 120 mm howitzer as Battlefield V permits), but in functionality, they are more flexible: besides frustrating Ooarai’s tankers, they can also be utilised as makeshift bridges. Miho spots this and uses a Ka-Mi to quickly cross the river, taking off the Ka-Mi’s turrets in the process.

  • When several of Chi-Ha Tan’s Type 95s attempt to use the Ka-Mi tanks as a bridge to continue the pursuit, chaos causes them to fall into the river. Even this isn’t enough to knock them out of the fight; the Ka-Mi amphibious tanks prove troublesome for Ooarai in that they’re small enough to hang out in the water, below most of their tanks’ maximum angle of depression, and despite being pushed around, they prove surprisingly resilient. In reality, the Ka-Mi came into service much too late to have been used in their intended role, but their relatively thin armour (6-12 mm) means that, at least in theory, any sort of attack would knock one out if one were to land a good hit on them.

  • Conversely, the Ka-Mi’s 37 mm cannon had a maximum armour penetration of 25 mm at a range of up to one kilometre. While incapable of scratching medium tanks like the Panzer IV at range, in CQC, the damage these tanks can deal is non-negligible. These elements come together to make the Ka-Mi worthy foes for Ooarai, even more so than the Maus and Karl-Gerät – earlier installations of Girls und Panzer traded strategy for raw firepower to intimidate viewers, but for me, I’ll take clever use of hardware over brute strength any day of week. Here, after Chi-Ha regroups, the Ka-Mi operators hop onto land and pick up their turrets before manually replacing them. I’ve not read anything to see if this was indeed possible in reality, but if so, it would imply the armour on a Ka-Mi would be quite thin.

  • In the end, a clever bit of driving from Rabbit Team allows Ooarai to take out both Ka-Mis, although Rabbit Team trades with the remaining Ka-Mi ends up being dispatched. This moment does seem to suggest that amongst Ooarai, the first years have become quite proficient with strategy, and should Miho ever become taken out, Ooarai might yet have a fighting chance, with Rabbit team taking up the role of calling creative strategies. One of my readers had hoped that Haru’s team would square off against Duck Team during a discussion for Das Finale‘s second half: this wish is fulfilled in the chaos of jungle warfare, where, after Duck team receives permission from Miho to do so, they break off to engage Chi-Ha Tan’s forces. Haru and Duck team briefly face off against one another, and while duck team makes use of the infamous duck coverings seen in Der Film as attempt to deceive the Chi-Ha Tan forces, this attempt fails. Duck team are taken out shortly after, allowing Chi-Ha Tan to focus fire on Anko Team.

  • Upon realising their Panzer IV is headed straight for the river where the bridge had been taken out, Miho immediately orders Mako to stop the tank. Mako’s been nothing but on fire during this match: even more so than their match against Pravda, Mako is fully awake and is able to do her best. With her speedy reflexes, Mako is able to prevent the Panzer IV from taking a swim and prematurely exiting the match, but there’s no time to be relieved, since Kinuyo’s tanks are waiting for them on the riverbanks. Miho subsequently switches roles and sets Mako to be the commander, counting on her unmatched night vision to even out the odds.

  • Speaking to Miho’s ability to adapt and overcome, even more so than her opponents, Miho has Yukari take on the role of driver, and she substitutes in for Yukari as the loader. Saori remains on the radio, and Hana continues operating the guns. This is a bit of a callback to the original TV series, where Miho had been a loader, while Saori commanded, Hana drove, and Yukari operated the guns. While Anko team has come quite a ways since picking up Mako, this moment suggests that off-screen, tankers also train in other roles so they can keep essential functions running even in the case of an emergency. Here, Miho squints in an effort to spot nearby foes: Das Finale has Miho with a greater range of facial expressions than were seen during the TV series, further bringing her character to life.

  • Even though this method helps Anko to stay alive, Chi-Ha Tan’s spirits remain high, and they continue to press the initiative. Miho ends up being pushed to a rocky segment of the river, and here, Chi-Ha Tan surrounds Miho’s Panzer IV. One of the Type 97s takes Miho out of the fight with a shot so close, it’s almost a contact shot (pressing the muzzle against a target, which mainstream media refers to as a “point blank shot”). Fans of Girls und Panzer have long decried the series for making Miho invincible to all but St. Gloriana, so having Chi-Ha achieve what was thought to be impossible is meant to show that in Panzerfahren, anything goes: it is possible to take Miho out if one has the advantage of numbers or the element of surprise.

  • The reason why Girls und Panzer engagements happen at point-blank range (the distance one can reliably hit a target without needing to compensate for projectile drop is the correct definition) is because in such close quarters, guns have a higher probability of inflicting a mission kill on another tank. This is why Panzerfahren matches always ends up going to close quarters: if tanks in Girls und Panzer were to follow contemporary armoured warfare doctrine, battles would consist of the team with better tank guns and better gunners destroying a foe at range with no opportunity for retaliation. Such an approach is appropriate for keeping one’s tanks from being damaged or destroyed, but at the same time, it would also make for boring matches for viewers.

  • Here, Kinuyo joins her teammates in cheering on their triumph over Miho’s Panzer IV. However, Haru has yet to join the fight and she notices that Ooarai’s Hetzner is still up: the Hetzner’s been noticably absent from the proceedings. She attempts to convey this to Kinuyo, but the comms are alit with Chi-Ha Tan’s tank crews celebrating what was thought to be an unachievable feat. As far as details go, at such short ranges, the 57 mm gun’s performance is sufficient to get through the Panzer IV’s rear armour. At longer ranges, the 57 mm gun Type 97s equipped were woefully inadequate against period armour because it had been designed for infantry support rather than anti-armour roles: the Soviet BT tanks could shrug off rounds from the 57 mm, and later Type 97s were equipped with the Type 1 47 mm gun, which, despite having a smaller caliber, also possessed a higher muzzle velocity.

  • However, joy turns to abject terror when Kinuyo spots the Hetzner approaching her from the flanks. The Cantonese have a saying for the trap that Kinuyo has fallen into, 高興太早 (jyutping gou1 hing1 taai3 zou2, literally “happy too early”); save Haru and her crew, it seems the whole of Chi-Ha Tan have fallen into a trap over their accomplishment and have forgotten they’re still in the middle of a match. While this lapse in judgement will cost them the match, I’m still rather fond of Kinuyo; she’s boisterous and polite, as well as a stickler for formalities. However, despite being well-liked and competitive, Kinuyo is also honourable and open-minded: she allows for Haru to suggest new tactics beyond their usual propensity of charging head-first into a foe. However, in this moment, her confidence gets the better of her, yielding a fantastic funny-face moment.

  • I recall a quote from The Matrix: Reloaded, when the Oracle’s guardian, Seraph, fights Neo: he notes that one only gets to know the other when they fight, and while this can be interpreted in a metaphoric sense, it does hold true in that one gains a true measure of another individual or team when able to see how they react to adversity and challenge. Chi-Ha Tan has risen magnificently to the challenge here in Das Finale‘s third act, and while they do end up losing, Kinuyo’s willingness to try out Haru’s plans means that the team put up a superb showing. This could’ve been anyone’s match, and under different circumstances, Chi-Han Tan might’ve come out on top.

  • In the end, Ooarai squeaks by with another win, and the moment the day’s first bit of sunlight hits her skin, Mako reverts to her usual lethargic self. While Yukari, Saori and Hana are thrilled with the victory, Miho’s the first to notice. This subtle detail speaks volumes to Miho’s character; it might feel great to advance, but Miho’s concern is for the well-being of those around her, first and foremost. It’s small elements like these that made Girls und Panzer particularly standout, and even now, a full nine years after Girls und Panzer began airing, I’m hard-pressed to find another military-moé series with a similar level of characterisation.

  • Despite having taken a loss as a result of their overconfidence, Kinuyo remains in fine spirits, and here, they finalise their letter of thanks to Ooarai: sportsmanship has always been a major part of Girls und Panzer, and this idea carries forward into Das Finale. This is why I place such an emphasis on assuming good faith regarding the characters and their decisions: while it is the case that individuals or teams can make poor decisions or waltz into a fight with a cocky attitude, such actions are never done with malice. This held true with Marie of BC Freedom, it was similarly the case with Pravda, and even the seemingly aloof and haughty Black Forest demonstrate humility and sportsmanship as the other teams do.

  • After finishing her letter, Haru reflects on her own conversation with the Volleyball Club post-match and smiles, happy to have made new friends through Panzerfahren. These sorts of things are what make Girls und Panzer worth watching, and looking back, all of the heated discussions surrounding this series was completely unwarranted. In fact, I would argue that compared to messages of sportsmanship, cooperation and adapting to circumstance, the technical details in Girls und Panzer are actually secondary to things: their presence simply serves to greatly augment the experience, but even if the details were dialed back, strong themes in the series means Girls und Panzer would’ve still been quite successful.

  • In between battles, Das Finale gives characters a chance to unwind and take things easy. These have always been one of my favourite aspects of Girls und Panzer, showing how the characters are outside of combat. At this point in time, Mako and Midoriko are able to enter the Bar Donzoko without any trouble, and Mako’s become a regular: having spent time with the Panzerfahren team, Shark Team no longer seem quite so delinquent, and Momo ends up getting punk’d with a super-spicy rum. Ogin promptly apologises to Momo for having been knocked out of the fight so early and promises that they’ll be better prepared for the upcoming match.

  • While Momo is hanging out with the Bar Donzoko regulars, Saori, Hana, Yuzu and Anzu tend to student council duties. Saori and Hana were originally planning on joining different activities, but as they are advancing into their third year, they take the reigns from Anzu, Momo and Yuzu, speaking to their growth over time; although Saori and Hana had viewed the Student Council as overbearing when they’d first met, once Miho took up Panzerfahren, they’d gotten along without any problems. Initial impressions can be deceiving, which is why I tend to reserve judgement on characters until there’s been a chance to properly give them development. This certainly applies in Girls und Panzer, where every character winds up being cordial and respectable. This extends even to Shiho and Black Forest: with Maho graduated, Erika now leads their Panzerfahren team.

  • Das Finale‘s third act gives viewers a chance to see matches between other schools in more detail: Girls und Panzer had originally only shown the outcomes of these matches owing to a need to focus on Ooarai, but with Ooarai’s characters now firmly established, there is space to look at the other schools, too. Erika and Black Forest’s match against Pravda is shown: having long spent their time preparing against an equivalent foe, Katyusha anticipated their approach and had countered accordingly by digging in and hammering their foe, even taking out Black Forest’s Maus in the process using their KV-2. However, Erika recalls Maho’s suggestion to her, and switches over to a lighter Panzer III, directing it to close the distance and smash Pravda’s flag tank to earn them a win while the heavier tanks stay behind to cover. This sort of behaviour exemplifies how even the seemingly rigid Black Forest can adopt flexible tactics. Although short, this moment shows how has matured and become a Erika can be forward thinker, capable of adapting to a situation: after Maho had graduated, it would appear that Black Forest’s tactics can vary.

  • Maho had practised Panzerfahren according to the Nishizumi Style, but Erika doubtlessly would’ve formed her own approaches after seeing what worked, and what failed, wtih the Nishizumi Style. The results speak for themselves, and I was certainly glad to see this change, since it shows that adapting and changing is the only feasible means of moving forwards. Portraying even Black Forest as changing would probably ruffle a few feathers today: a handful of purists had insisted that the Nishizumi Style was infallible and that any interpretation contrary to theirs was to be “soft”. That Das Finale decisively demonstrates this train of thinking is false by showing how the Nishizumi Style was never meant to be the “correct” way of doing things; it is the case that in Girls und Panzer, messages of creativity and adapting to adversity is promoted.

  • Anzio is thrashed by St. Gloriana: while putting up a good showing, Duce walks right into a trap and is soundly defeated. Meanwhile, Continuation Academy and Saunders slugs it out on what appears to be a derelict airbase. While Continuation Academy’s armour is an amalgamation of Soviet medium tanks and the BT series of light tanks, they have a reputation for being tricky to beat owing to their emphasis on sharp-shooting. Saunders finds this out the hard way – despite gaining the upper hand after destroying the remainder of Continuation’s armour and cornering Mika’s flag tank, they is ultimately defeated when their flag tank is sniped from a distance. Flag tank matches are a matter of strategy, since they are not dependent on completely mission-killing every tank a foe has. Ooarai had capitalised on this to win their earlier matches against numerically superior foes.

  • Poor sportsmanship in Girls und Panzer is primarily employed for comedy, and here, Alisa devolves into a rant about a failed kokuhaku after being sniped, resulting in their loss to Continuation. To this day, I find it hilarious that Alisa is voiced by Aya Hirano, whom people know best as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Haruhi Suzumiya. In Das Finale, Alisa’s still easily flustered by enemy fire, and although she might be a vice-commander, were I in Kay’s position, I would sub her out as the Flag Tank, since Alisa tends to collapse totally when under pressure. One must feel bad for Alisa’s crewmate, whose expression suggests that she’s completely used to these outbursts.

  • With the matches’ outcomes now clear, Ooarai is set to fight Continuation in their next round. A quick glance at things shows that in Das Finale, we’ve seen two familiar schools returning from Der Film: both Chi-Ha Tan and Continuation answered the call to help save Ooarai during the movie, and since they were fighting alongside Miho and the others, one only got a limited glimpse of how they operated. Conversely, in a more conventional setting, having the schools fight Ooarai means being able to see first-hand how everyone rolled when in their element, and it becomes clear that for schools running tanks with lighter armour and weaker guns, they’re not at a disadvantage for this, provided they utilise their tanks creatively. However, because of how things are likely to roll, St. Gloriana will likely beat Black Forest, leaving them to fight Ooarai in the final: the choice to take Saunders out was done so viewers can see Ooarai take on different schools, so it follows that Ooarai won’t fight Black Forest again.

  • Das Finale‘s third act shows a glimpse of Continuation’s school ship, which is based off the USS Federal (ID-3657), a freighter that served the United States during World War One, was sold to the United Kingdom in 1937 and then subsequently captured by the Japanese in 1941. If the assumptions I made nine years earlier about the school ships’ dimensions hold true, I imagine that Continuation’s school ship would be around 3.7 kilometres in length, which is on the small side (Ooarai’s school ship is around 7.6 kilometres long, but the larger school ships, like St. Gloriana and Pravda, have lengths of up to 13 kilometres). Despite its smaller size, the Continuation school ship has one distinct feature: a massive tree fashioned from the central mast.

  • On board Continuation’s school ship, Christmas festivities are in full swing, with vendors selling everything from apple cider to Advent Calendars. I’ve long wished to visit a Christmas Market, and while there are local markets that aim to reproduce the atmosphere, there’s nothing quite like checking out the real deal: high on my list of places to travel to will be Germany or Austria during the winter season so that I can take things in.  However, this isn’t to say that Christmas festivities back home aren’t enjoyable: for me, Christmases are a time of rest and relaxation, of sleeping in and enjoying great food.

  • Yesterday’s weather was similarly surprising: the skies completely cleared out by noon, allowing me to go for a pleasant, if frigid walk, over to the hills nearby under -20ºC conditions. In previous years, Christmas Eves were a half-day for me, and I would go to work in the mornings before returning home to unwind. This year, since I’ve got vacation time, I ended up taking the last two weeks of the year off. I was contemplating building the MG Kyrios this week, but I had a gut feeling that with all of the furniture deliveries, I might not have had time to do the build, so I ended up finishing the Kyrios two weeks earlier. I’m glad to have made this decision: it left me a lot less busy this Christmas Eve, and I was able to spend the day enjoying the unexpectedly clear skies, before helping out with preparing and enjoying Christmas Eve dinner (roast lamb on the bone with sautéed onion, garlic and carrots, potato dollars, pan-seared asparagus and prawns with a white sauce yi mien). Back in Das Finale, Aki wonders if now is the time to take it easy by building a snowman, and Mika replies that these moments let people find their own truths. Although seemingly deep and mysterious, all Mika is saying is that relaxing is key to regrouping and being their best.

  • For this match against Continuation, Miho’s decided to keep Momo on as the commander, in keeping with the idea that having Momo lead Ooarai on will give her the credits she will need to get accepted into her post-secondary of choice. We recall that this is what motivates Ooarai to participate in the winter tournament, an approach that was definitely more plausible than Der Film‘s attempt to close Ooarai a second time. I find that Der Film could have still had Ooarai square off against the university team as an exercise to secure bursaries or similar, and the story still would have progressed as it did. Das Finale irons out these holes and gives viewers a more satisfying reason for Panzerfahren.

  • When the camera pulls out to reveal the extent of the cold, wintery landscape, it’s reminiscent of the weather we’re in the middle of here on the prairies: thanks to a Siberian air mass hanging out over the country, today’s high is projected to be -27ºC, and with wind-chill, this equates to a bone-chilling -35ºC. Winter weather in the prairies is an iconic part of life here, and authors write fondly of how the frigid, endless grey skies are as integral to prairie life as fields of wheat and canola under blue skies. Girls und Panzer excels in its landscapes, which have a personality of their own.

  • As with BC Freedom and Chi-Ha Tan in earlier instalments of Das Finale, the terrain matches Continuation Academy’s traits. The French had their bocage, the Japanese are at home in the jungles, and the Finns are associated snowy, mountainous terrain. This leads me to wonder how the locations are picked in Girls und Panzer: the TV series had largely been set in generic locations, save the fight against Pravda, which was set in an area reminiscent of the Volga basin. Conversely, Das Finale seems to have picked locations that seem to mirror the style and aesthetic consistent with Ooarai’s opponent’s home environment, and this does seem to favour Continuation, who are most comfortable with snowy terrain.

  • Until Das Finale, we’d only ever seen Mika’s BT-42 in combat, so the match between Continuation and Ooarai (as well as Continuation’s match against Saunders earlier) represents a fine chance to get a good look at the tanks they field. Here, a pair of T-26s exchange fire with Ooarai’s forces from a distance in a bid to lure them in. These tanks were originally of Soviet design and equipped a six-pounder; the T-26 was quite effective during the 1930s, but advances in anti-tank weaponry reduced their survivability. Continuation Academy has a track record of stealing armour from other schools under pretense of borrowing them, a parallel to Finland’s use of captured armour during the Second World War.

  • On paper, Ooarai’s forces should be evenly matched with Continuation’s – the latter’s arsenal consists primarily of faster tanks and the venerable T-34, so with tanks of this style, I imagine that Continuation’s preference is to utilise the lighter units to close the gap and sow confusion, allowing for their medium tanks to hang back and pick off high value targets while their foes engage the light tanks amidst the chaos. Mika had been seen doing this during the match against Saunders, during which she discards her BT-42’s tracks and distracts Saunders’ main force, allowing their sniper to pick off Saunders’ flag tank. Miho attempts to probe Continuation by entering a small village nearby to gauge their reaction, but immediately come under fire: Mika had foreshadowed use of snowmen as a part of their strategy, and while this method would fail today thanks to things like FLIR optics, the lack of such gear in WWII-era tanks makes this a particularly clever approach.

  • In reality, the Finns were better known for their infantry’s anti-tank tactics: against the technically and numerically superior Soviet forces, Finnish fighters became famous for adopting the use of the Molotov Cocktail to defeat Soviet tanks. Unlike the crude kerosene bombs favoured by rioters, Finnish Molotov Cocktails utilise a combination of alcohol, kerosene, tar, and potassium chlorate, which would stick to a surface more readily, and rather than a simple rag, utilised a storm match (a special kind of match that can maintain a flame even when wet or when windy). Using these Molotov Cocktails, Finnish soldiers would allow Soviet tanks to close the distance, and then swarm them once they got close.

  • Anteater Team is made the flag tank this match, in keeping with Das Finale‘s third act’s portrayal of mixing things up. Anteater team has come quite a long ways from their first match: I still vividly recall when they were knocked out by a round meant for Miho during the round against Black Forest, but here, they’ve evidently improved as tankers, enough to make a meaningful contribution to Ooarai. While Anteater Team brings to the table strategies and methods they derived from playing an in-universe version of World of Tanks, they’re now best known for lifting weights and being the strongest members on Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team.

  • This change is, in retrospect, a fantastic choice: World of Tanks is nowhere nearly as popular as it was eight years ago, during Girls und Panzer‘s heyday. I myself never got into World of Tanks because the mechanics were far different than what I had patience for, and today, the major Girls und Panzer clans for World of Tanks have largely disbanded. This isn’t going to stop me from using Battlefield Portal‘s match creators to create a convincing simulation of what would happen if I were to square off against AnimeSuki’s Mädchen und Panzer, a haughty bunch that actively practised the Nishizumi Style in their gameplay. Back in Das Finale, the decision to have Anteater Team be the flag tank ends up being a wise one: while Miho is able to organise a tactical retreat and exit the closed-in village, a round suddenly slams into the side of her Panzer IV.

  • This round comes from none other than Jouko, a gunner whose accuracy has earned her the name of “The White Witch”. The moment I heard this, I immediately thought of Simo Häyhä, a Finnish sniper whose remarkable kill count came from his unerring skill with the Finnish-made M/28-30 and a preference for iron sights so scope glint wouldn’t give him away. Häyhä estimated that he’d made around 500 kills in his career, and he became a source of terror for Soviet soldiers, who named him “The White Death”. This reference swiftly establishes that Jouko is Continuation’s sniper, and as such, an instrumental part of their strategy. While sources indicate that Jouko operates a tank of unknown type, I imagine that given Continuation’s lineup, it’s a either the T34/85 with the DT-5 85mm gun, or a Sturmi, the Finnish StuG III Ausf.G, which sports a 7.5 cm KwK 40. While incapable of trading blows with a Tiger or Panther, the T34/85 tanks were more than capable of knocking out Panzer IVs, and the StuG III is a purpose-built tank destroyer, so both would be suitable as candidates for Jouko’s choice of armour.

  • Against a team known for highly-accurate distance shooting, there are several approaches that can be utilised. Smoke would be the best bet, obfuscating the sharpshooters view, and since World War Two-era tanks lack any sort of thermal optics, use of smoke in conjunction with methods to close the distance and engage, or else create enough of a distraction to prevent the sniper from landing hits before closing the distance and handling them. Without Miho and Anko in play, the remainder of Ooarai must now find another way of keeping Anteater alive while dealing with their flag tank; perhaps Rabbit team and their tendency to use inspiration from old war films will step up to the plate. This is something that we viewers will likely have to wait a ways to see, but for the time being, I’m glad that Das Finale‘s third act is out in the open: it’s the perfect Christmas gift, a fantastic way to spend the day, and on this note, I’d like to wish all readers a Merry Christmas! I’ll be returning in the New Year to write about the accompanying OVA, Daikon War, and in the meantime, a few more posts will round out this year.

The potential for variety in Girls und Panzer is staggering, and while the entire series’ outcome is preordained, how a conclusion is reached remains the most thrilling aspect of Das Finale – there is not doubt that Ooarai will prevail over Continuation Academy, but this is secondary to how the outcome is attained. This aspect is what creates excitement in Girls und Panzer, compelling viewers to retain their anticipation for upcoming instalments. However, while the armoured warfare piece of Girls und Panzer is doubtlessly why the series has seen such success (technical excellence and unparalleled choreography makes every second gripping), Girls und Panzer‘s charm comes from being able to weave gripping combat sequences with meaningful life lessons. Throughout the whole of Girls und Panzer, messages of patience, open-mindedness, creativity and humility dominate the series. As characters board their tanks and engage one another, they learn more about things like teamwork, collaboration and sportsmanship. Through Panzerfahren, characters discover more about themselves, as well. Hana becomes more confident, and this shows in her flower arrangements, in turn leading her mother to respect her decision to take up Panzerfahren. Yukari is overjoyed to have new friends to share her passion with, putting her parents at ease that now, she’s no longer alone. Mako takes solace in the fact that her grandmother is now rooting for her success. Similarly, through Miho’s uncanny ability to pull victories off where it should have been impossible, she’s managed to regain her mother’s respect, as well. However, until now, Miho remains a little too apprehensive to have an open discussion with her mother, and similarly, while Shiho seems to want nothing more than to reconcile with Miho and acknowledge her skill, the opportunity never seems to present itself, either. Because Girls und Panzer had previously shown how confidence helps characters to face down some of the challenges they internally face, it is logical for Das Finale to carry this message forward and have Shiho and Miho reconcile in full: Panzerfahren has, after all, been shown to bring people together and even bring out the best in individuals. Such an outcome would consolidate the fact that series like Girls und Panzer can retain the slice-of-life aesthetic while employing creative activities for characters to conduct, although for the time being, whether or not my hopes will be realised is something that viewers will need an abundance of patience for. Das Finale‘s first chapter became available to the world in mid-March of 2018, and the second chapter followed suit in late February of 2020. Das Finale‘s arrival in late December 2021 means that on average, the wait from one episode to the next is twenty-two-and-a-half months. On these estimates, the BD for the fourth chapter to Das Finale will release in mid-October of 2024. There is little doubt that Das Finale‘s strengths means that the next instalments are worth waiting for, and I’m rather excited to see how the battle against Continuation Academy will unfold, especially now that Miho’s been taken out of the fight. As such, even if we suppose that the fourth installment of Das Finale reaches me in 2024, I will be more than happy to write about it for readers.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: K-On! The Movie (Eiga Keion!), A Review, Recommendation and Remarks On Serendipity At The Film’s Ten Year Anniversary

We’re buddies from here on out!
Pictures of us together,
Our matching keychains
Will shine on forever
And always, we thank you for your smile

—Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!

With its theatrical première ten years previously to this day, K-On! The Movie has aged very gracefully from both a thematic and technical standpoint. The film follows Houkago Tea Time shortly following their acceptance to university. With their time in high school drawing to a close, the girls attempt to come up with a suitable farewell gift for Azusa, who had been a vital member of their light music club. Feeling it best to be a surprise, they try to keep this from Azusa. When word nearly gets out, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi wind up fabricating that their “secret” is a graduation trip. The girls decide on London; after arranging for their flight and accommodations, the girls arrive in London and sightsee, before performing at a Japanese pop culture fair. Upon their return home, the girls perform for their classmates and finalise their song for Asuza. Simple, sincere and honest, K-On! The Movie represented a swan song for the K-On! franchise’s animated adaptation, making the extent of Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi’s gratitude towards Azusa tangible: K-On! The Movie is a journey to say “Thank You”, and as Yui and the others discover, while their moments spent together might be finite, the treasured memories resulting from these everyday moments are infinitely valuable. Ultimately, representing the sum of these feelings is done by means of a song; music is universally regarded as being able to convey emotions, thoughts and ideas across linguistic and cultural barriers, and so, it is only appropriate that the girls decide to make a song for Azusa. However, Yui and the others initially struggle to find the right words for their song. It is serendipitous that a fib, done to keep Azusa from knowing about her graduation gift, sends the girls to London. During this trip, Azusa undertakes the role of a planner. She handles the logistics to ensure that everyone can visit their destinations of choice and on top of this, fit their travels so that they can honour a commitment to perform at a festival. At the top of her game in both keeping things organised, and looking out for Yui, Azusa is exhausted at the end of their travels. Once they agree to writing a song, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi set about composing the lyrics for it. When they begin to draft the lyrics, they come to realise how integral Azusa has been to Houkago Tea Time, a veritable angel for the club. This is the birth of Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! (Touched by an Angel), an earnest song whose direct lyrics convey how everyone feels about Azusa. Because everyone’s spent so much time together, Azusa’s presence in Houkago Tea Time is very nearly taken for granted. It takes a trip to London for Yui and the others to discover anew what Azusa has done for everyone: from planning out the trip and fitting their itinerary to everyone’s satisfaction, to keeping an eye on the scatter-minded Yui, Azusa’s actions during the London trip act as the catalyst that reminds everyone of how her presence in the Light Music Club has helped everyone grow.

Azusa is also evidently selfless, worrying about others ahead of herself: when the others notice her slowing down in the Underground, Azusa mentions that her new shoes are somewhat uncomfortable. She insists it’s fine, but Yui figures they can buy new shoes for her. Because of Houkago Tea Time’s easygoing approach to things, this detour into an adventure of sorts at Camden. However, K-On! The Movie is not an anime about travel; sightseeing is condensed into a montage, and greater emphasis is placed on the girls’ everyday moments together. Subtle, seemingly trivial moments are given more screen time than visiting the London Eye, or David Bowie’s House, reminding viewers that Houkago Tea Time is about its members, not where they go. While it is likely that any destination would have accomplished the same, visiting London, the birthplace of many famous musicians whose style have influenced the Light Music Club’s music, proved to be an appropriate choice that also sets the stage for the girls to compose their song for Azusa, showing that London had a role in inspiring Yui and the others. With crisp animation, attention paid to details, a solid aural component and a gentle soundtrack, K-On! The Movie is executed masterfully to bring this story of gratitude to life for viewers. Its staying power and timeless quality comes from a story that is immediately relatable: many viewers have doubtlessly wondered how to best express thanks for those who have helped them through so much, and more often than not, found that simple gestures of appreciation can often be the most meaningful. Naoko Yamada mentioned in an interview that one of the challenges about K-On! The Movie was trying to scale it up to fit the silver screen. This challenge is mirrored in the film, where Yui wonders how to create a gift of appropriate scale to show everyone’s appreciation for Azusa; in the end, just as how the girls decide on a gift that is appropriately scaled, Yamada’s film ends up covering a very focused portrayal of Houkago Tea Time that works well with the silver screen: less is more, and by focusing on a single thing, the movie ends up being very clear and concise in conveying its theme. A major part of K-On!‘s original strength was instilling a sense of appreciation for the everyday, mundane things in life; the film’s success in scaling things up is from its ability to take something as simple as finding a gift to express thanks and then meticulously detailing how this gift matured over time into the final product viewers know as Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!. However, while director Naoko Yamada fills K-On! The Movie with the series’ previous sense of joy and energy, the overall aesthetic of K-On! The Movie is unlike that of its predecessors. For the past ten years, I’ve wondered why the film felt different – the film is still K-On! at heart, but there was a feeling of melancholy and sadness about the film that was absent in the TV series. For the past decade, I’ve lacked the words to express this, but here at K-On! The Movie‘s ten year anniversary, it is worthwhile to look at why the film continues to endure – since the film became available, I’ve watched K-On! The Movie once a year, every year.

While K-On! The Movie opens with Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi playing one of Death Devil’s songs to see what things would be like if their band had a different aesthetic, and then segues to the cheerful, Christmas-like Ichiban Ippai!, Yui and the others head off to discard some rubbish from the club room. As they walk through a sun-filled corridor leading into the courtyard, a contemplative piano begins playing in the background. Yui gazes out into the courtyard. The entire scene is faded out, featuring very little colour compared to when they’d been in the clubroom, and Yui opens by saying that she’s feeling that they should do something befitting of a senior. The moment’s composition was quite unlike anything else seen in K-On!; even though colour and joy do return to K-On! The Movie moments later, one cannot help but feel a lingering sense of sadness in knowing that, this is the end for K-On!. Much as how Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi know their time with Azusa is drawing to a close, viewers know that for every smile and laugh the girls share throughout this film, there is a point where things will inevitably come to an end. Moments like these return after the girls come back home from London. Whereas their travels had been filled with colour, upon returning home, the world becomes faded out and desaturated again. The music becomes slower, gentler and carry with it a sort of finality. Those feelings had been set aside among the excitement in London, but back in Japan, they return in full force. This melancholy, however, is not overwhelming at all. Instead, it adds to K-On! The Movie, emphasising the beauty of the girls’ previous experiences together, and that despite its impermanence, the friendship between Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa is very real. While they might part ways for the present, that it existed at all counts for something. This respect for that which is transient and fleeting creates a very unusual feeling which the Japanese describe as Mono no Aware (物の哀れ, “the pathos of things”): something is beautiful because it isn’t going to last forever. This juxtaposition and seemingly contradictory set of feelings results in a bittersweetness surrounding a given moment, and much as how viewers are aware that after the movie, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi will part ways with Azusa, the fact is that they will hold onto and cherish the countless memories they have of one another, too. It is because of these memories that everyone is able to accept that they are moving onwards into the future. Yamada’s masterful inclusion of gently wistful musical pieces and choice of colour in K-On! The Movie speak to notions of Mono no Aware, and in this way, weaves a central piece of Japanese aesthetic into the film: nothing, not even friendships, last, but this is just a part of life. Seeing K-On! The Movie capture Mono no Aware speaks to the depth of in this film, and while K-On! might ostensibly be about a group of girls who would rather enjoy sweets and tea over practising, the series also indicates that like all things, friendships do not last forever. In spite of this, and perhaps because of this, such bonds are all the more meaningful.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post came about because I did wish to share something at the film’s ten year anniversary, and the observant reader will note that this year is the tenth anniversary to many things, coinciding with when I started this blog and really began writing in earnest. The film opens with Yui and the others acting like Death Devil for kicks (at least, Yui, Ritsu and Tsumugi are in on it, while Mio’s just playing as herself). Once the ruse is up, the opening song, Ichiban Ippai (“Full of Number Ones”), begins playing. This song has a very Christmas-like feel to it, appropriate for the season.

  • Because this revisitation similarly comes a full ten years after K-On! The Movie first premièred, now that ten years’ worth of accumulated experience is in the books, I was hoping to share a renewed set of thoughts about this movie. I’ve previously written about K-On! The Movie on several occasions and explored some of the aspects that made it worthwhile to watch, but reading through these older posts, it feels like back then, I’d only really scratched the surface for what I wished to discuss.

  • When Yui and the others leave the club room, the lighting is diffuse, and colours are faded. In conjunction with the music, this scene spoke volumes to me about what K-On! The Movie had been attempting to accomplish. Whereas Hajime Hyakkoku, the composer for the series’ background music, had previously written joyful, bubbly pieces, the second track on the soundtrack has a more contemplative, thoughtful tone to it as Yui considers doing something worthy of being a senior.

  • It was here that I began to realise that throughout the entirety of K-On! The Movie, a feeling of gentle sadness permeated everything that is shown, even when the characters are caught up in their own antics and creating adorable moments for viewers to laugh at. While Mono no Aware is a part of K-On! The Movie, however, it never overshadows the general aesthetic and mood; there are still plenty of jokes throughout the film, such as when Yui attempts to make a break for it after cheating in the lottery to determine where their graduation trip should end up.

  • On writing about K-On! The Movie in full for the first time in a few years, I’ve come to pick up a few things that I missed earlier, and in conjunction with a keener eye for subtleties, this post is the result; my conclusion about the film’s central theme is a little more specific now, with a focus on Yui and the others crafting a memorable farewell gift for Azusa in gratitude for her participation in Houkago Tea Time. My earlier reviews focused on friendship at a much higher level, and looking back, I think that this review captures the reason for why I enjoyed the movie a shade more effectively than the earlier reviews.

  • Gratitude is the first and foremost theme in K-On! The Movie, with everything else being an ancillary aspect that augments the film’s strengths. The movie, then, succeeds in conveying the sort of scale that Naoko Yamada desired for viewers, showing the extent of everyone’s appreciation towards Azusa. This underlines Azusa’s impact on Houkago Tea Time, and so, when one returns to the televised series, all of those subtle moments suddenly become more meaningful, and more valuable.

  • Mio gives in to her happiness and makes no attempt to hide it when it turns out London is their chosen destination. The movie’s original première on December 3, 2011 is now a distant memory. I vaguely recall concluding my introductory Japanese class and finalising my term paper on the role of a protein in iron transport for bacteria. At the time, I was focused on simply surviving that semester and save my GPA, which had taken a dive after my second year, and for most of the winter term, I was similarly focused on maintaining passable grades in biochemistry and and cell and molecular biology. I exited that term on a stronger note, and with my final exams in the books, I learned that the movie would release on July 18.

  • I still remember when this film became available to watch: it had been a gorgeous July day, and the high reached 26°C. At this point in my summer, I’d spent almost two and a half months studying for the MCAT. The course was under my belt, and I’d been going through practise exam after practise exam. When I did my first exam, I scored a 22 (equivalent to today’s 496). However, a summer of giving up research and hanging out had an appreciable impact on my performance, and by the time K-On! The Movie came out, I was consistently scoring 30s (510 in today’s scoring system).

  • For reference, a good MCAT score is 508 (29 in 2012). I had been worried if watching and reviewing K-On! The Movie would’ve had an impact on my MCAT scores, but in the end, the movie presented no trouble in that area, and I ended up watching the film after a day spent going through a practise exam. Back then, this blog was still relatively new, and I never wrote extensive articles here. Instead, I published my first review to my old site: over the course of two days, I wrote out a review that was comparable to the average post here. This never did interfere with the MCAT, and indeed, having the chance to watch K-On! The Movie contributed to helping me relax.

  • I had decided to take the MCAT earlier that year, and this represented a major commitment from my part. From the film’s home release announcement to the day of release, time passed in the blink of an eye. The movie’s first forty minutes are still in Japan, and it provided plenty of time to establish the witherto’s and whyfor’s of how Houkago Tea Time end up travelling to London; here, Ui helps Yui to pack, and their mother can be seen in the background. Until now, Mister and Missus Hirasawa have never been shown on screen in the animated adaptation.

  • The manga would end up doing so in its fourth volume, but since K-On!! had no such equivalent (the events of the anime diverge somewhat from the events in the manga towards the end), Yamada decided to slot Yui and Ui’s parents in as Yui heads off to the airport. The manga suggests that the Hirawasas are a happy family, although the parents are very fond of travelling, accounting for why they were never seen in the TV series.

  • With its slow pacing, K-On! The Movie is very relaxing: as it turns out, Houkago Tea Time ends up overhearing classmates discuss a graduation trip and then, while focused on their own goal of gifting something special for Azusa, hide their plans by saying they’re also doing a graduation trip. This turn of events is precisely the way things Houkago Tea Time rolls, although it is notable that even while planning for the trip takes precedence, Yui’s mind never strays far from their original goal of figuring out how they can give Azusa a memorable gift.

  • In an interview with Yamada, she explains that the biggest challenge the movie format posed by K-On! The Movie was how to scale the series up to fit the silver screen. This challenge ended up being mentioned in film itself, when Yui wonders how they’d make a suitable gift for Azusa that captures all of their gratitude. In the end, much as how Yamada succeeds with K-On! The Movie by being true to the original series’ style, Yui and the others found that a gift for Azusa would mean the most so long as it had heart. The journey to London thus becomes a bit of a sideshow, demonstrating how regardless of where in the world Houkago Tea Time go, they’re still themselves.

  • K-On! The Movie is at its most energetic while the girls are on their travels. The London segment of K-On! The Movie only occupies a third of the movie, but it is here that some of the franchise’s most unique moments are shown. It is the first time anyone is seen heading to the airport and travelling on an aircraft –until now, K-On! had been set entirely in Japan, so having Houkago Tea Time set foot on a plane and becoming, as Yui puts it, a part of the international community, was a monumental occasion for K-On! in showing that the series had taken one giant leap forwards.

  • For the most part, K-On! The Movie was very well-received, with praises being given towards the direction, sincerity and ability of the film to remain true to the atmosphere in the TV series, while at the same time, capitalising on the movie format to do something that could not have been done in a TV series. Criticisms of the film are very rare – I can count the number of the film’s detractors on one hand, and most of the gripes centred on the film’s relatively limited focus on travel, portrayal of London citizens and gripes that the film was protracted in presenting its story. It is with satisfaction that I note the most vocal of these critics, Reckoner and Sorrow-kun of the elitist Nihon Review and Behind The Nihon Review blogs, are no longer around because both blogs’ domains have expired. Reckoner had been a particularly fierce critic of K-On!, but his assertions were unfounded and poorly argued, while Sorrow-kun had written numerous articles claiming K-On! was “objectively” a poor series.

  • As of now, both Nihon Review and Behind The Nihon Review have gone offline: after their owner finally stopped paying the hosting fees, their hosts suspended both sites, resulting in all of Sorrow-kun’s posts becoming removed. In particular, Sorrow-kun had believed Behind The Nihon Review’s goals were to “enlighten” fans on why anime was only worthwhile if it contained philosophical or academic merit, so seeing some of the internet’s most invalid opinions of K-On! become lost forever is something worth smiling about. The comparatively short amount of time spent in London is not a detriment to the film – K-On! The Movie is not a travel show, and London was only an aside, a consequence of a fib to keep Azusa’s gift hidden. With this in mind, it wasn’t particularly surprising that London would be secondary to figuring out what kind of song they should write for Azusa. Throughout the film, Yui’s determination to figure out something and efforts to maintain secrecy lead Azusa to wonder if something is amiss. If she did suspect something, things are quickly shunted aside when the girls’ plan to visit London become realised.

  • Upon arriving in London, the girls enjoy the sights over Hounslow, a district in West London immediately east of Heathrow Airport. It’s been a while since I’ve boarded a plane: the last time I flew was back in 2019, when I attended F8 2019. The last time I was on a plane for leisure would’ve been back in 2017 on a particularly memorable trip to Japan. No matter where I go in the world, there is always a joy about flying over a city and wondering to myself, what are the folks down below doing in their day-to-day lives? Of course, when I’m on the ground and looking up at an aircraft, I find myself thinking of where people might be headed.

  • The flight leaves Yui excited to finally become part of the international community, and she begins bouncing while riding the moving walkway. In this frame, the girls’ hands look quite small; in a cast interview, Yamada mentioned that she wanted K-On! The Movie to appeal to as many people as possible, and to this end, modified the characters’ appearances slightly from the style seen in K-On!!. The end result leaves the characters more expressive than they’d been in K-On! and K-On!! – simple things like facial expressions are able to speak volumes here in the film, whereas in the TV series, such nuances were not conveyed through such a subtle manner. After exiting the plane and entering the terminal, Azusa remarks that they’re going to have to clear customs.

  • Yui and the others are able to get through without any issue, although Yui’s weaker English leads her to mispronounce “sight-seeing” as “side business”, leading to some confusion from the customs official: I’m not sure what the laws in the United Kingdom are, but here in Canada, doing something business-related requires a visa. Fortunately, this mispronunciation doesn’t result in any complications, and all five clear customs without any trouble. The joys and drawbacks of travelling are presented in K-On! The Movie to the girls: while K-On! has long favoured gentle escapism, the movie adds an additional dimension of realism to its story through linguistic differences and challenges associated with travelling, such as the girls trying to figure out which Hotel Ibis their booking was for, or when Mio’s luggage is seemingly misplaced.

  • In the end, Mio’s luggage was placed off to the side, and she tearfully reunites with it, while developing a mistrust for revolving things in the process. Once outside in the brisk London air, the girls set off to find a taxi that will take them to their accommodations. Excitement sets in, and Mio begins taking photographs of everything Yui points at, including this Airline lounge sign for Air Canada patrons. I am Canadian, so seeing mention of Canada in the film put a smile on my face: Air Canada is the largest airline company in Canada and runs numerous flights to London. Even from my home town, there are five direct flight to Londons every week, and the average duration is around nine hours.

  • I am interested in checking out London for myself at some point in the future – aside from minor linguistic differences between Canadian and British English, I could readily do a free-for-all visit without a tour group and navigate on my own well enough. Aside from iconic spots like the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, I would like to walk the River Thames and visit the same spots in Earl’s Court as the girls of K-On! do. Such a vacation could be done for within four thousand dollars, and in the past, I have considered the logistics of such a trip.

  • After spotting a taxi, the girls board with enthusiasm – the driver asks if they’re going to London City, to which Ritsu answers with a yes. While Azusa has done her reading to ensure the trip was a success, not everything can be planned for ahead of time, and for the girls, the fact that London is broken up into smaller districts is not something that crosses their mind. This bit of miscommunication leads to the girls ending up at the wrong Hotel Ibis, and here, even Tsumugi is unable to keep up with the English.

  • For the most part, my travels have never put me at a linguistic disadvantage because I can get by well enough with English, Cantonese and Mandarin in the places I visit. When I visited Laval in France for the first time for a conference, I had trouble getting around because I could not speak a word of French. Seeing Mugi and Azusa struggle with English might’ve been amusing when I first watched this, but after the humbling experience in France, I took on a newfound appreciation for all of the languages around the world. When the girls reach London City’s Hotel Ibis, it is thanks to Mio who is able to interpret things and set the girls on track for their hotel in Earls Court.

  • Skyfall was screened in November 2012, a few months after K-On! The Movie’s home release and nearly a year after its original screening in Japan. The only commonalities the two films share are that they have scenes set in London, including the Underground. While Yui and the others use the Underground to reach Earls Court, Skyfall saw James Bond pursue Raoul Silva through the Underground after he escapes MI6 custody.

  • On their first day in London, Yui and the others have a busy one as they try to make their way to their hotel. It’s misadventure after misadventure, but in spite of these inconveniences, everyone takes things in stride, going to Camden to buy Azusa new shoes, casually enjoying the Underground and, when trying to grab dinner, end up playing an impromptu performance on account of being mistaken for a band.

  • In spite of their surprise at being asked to perform, Houkago Tea Time’s showing is impressive. While it seems a little strange the girls travel with their instruments, the last several times I boarded a plane, it was with a laptop or iPad in tow, as I was either set to give a conference presentation or be involved in work. Carrying additional gear while travelling is a pain when one is alone, but with others, it’s much easier – one can simply ask their companions to look after their belongings.

  • K-On! The Movie has several moments where Kyoto Animation was able to showcase their craft at the movie level, and clever use of camera angles really brought the performances to life. Aside from the opening, inset and ending songs, there are no new Houkago Tea Time songs in the film: all of the performances in the movie are done with existing songs, and at the sushi restaurant, the girls perform Curry Nochi Rice after Yui spots an East Indian man in the crowd. Back in 2011, I wasn’t too big of a fan of raw fish, but I imagine that my openness to try it began after watching Survivorman‘s Arctic Tundra episode. A few weeks ago, when my office did a sushi lunch, I decided to participate and greatly enjoyed the nigiri: there’s a special flavour about raw fish that makes it delicious, and it goes especially well with a dash of soy sauce.

  • Movies typically are scaled-up TV episodes, with superior visuals and music accompanying it; K-On! The Movie is no different, feeling distinctly like an extended episode. I particularly loved the soundtrack, which features both the motifs of the TV series and new incidental pieces that gave a bit of atmosphere to where Houkago Tea Time was while at the same time, reminding viewers that it’s still K-On!. Here, Ritsu runs into Love Crisis, another Japanese band that was supposed to be performing at the sushi restaurant.

  • K-On! The Movie depicts London with incredible faithfulness, and perusing the official movie artbook, the precise locations of where the girls visit are given. Abbey Crossing, David Bowie’s House, West Brompton, and many other areas are on the list of places that Yui and the others visit. Their travels are set to the upbeat, energetic Unmei wa Endless! (Fate is Endless!) in a montage that highlights the girls enjoying themselves in London in their own unique manner. Throughout the trip, Azusa takes on the role of a tour guide, planning and coordinating itineraries for the others, who end up having a wonderful time.

  • The montage in K-On! The Movie is ideal for showing that while in London, Yui and the others have an amazing time sightseeing: the tempo would suggest that the girls’ experience is very dream like, hectic and dynamic, reminder viewers that when they are having fun, time flies. Vacations often seem to go by in a blur, and so, a montage is a very visceral way to capture this feeling. In condensing out the travel and sightseeing, the montage creates the impression that K-On! The Movie is not about London, but at the same time, it also allows the focus to remain on the girls’ aim of working out their gift for Azusa.

  • London, Japan and Hong Kong share the commonality in that they have left-hand traffic, an artefact dating back to the Roman Empire; right-hand traffic is the result of French standardisation, while Americans used right-hand traffic out of convenience for wagon operators. For Yui and the others, traffic in London would be identical to that of Japan’s, but when they encounter a “Look Right” labels on the road, they conform. These labels are also found in Hong Kong, as well: for folks like myself, they are very useful, since I instinctively look left before crossing most streets.

  • I’ve long held that the best way to truly experience a culture is to experience their food, and so, when I was in Japan, having the chance to enjoy snow crab, Kobe beef, okonomiyakiomurice and ramen was high on the highlights of my trip. In K-On! The Movie, the girls end up stopping at The Troubadour on 263–267 Old Brompton Road in Earls Court. Opened in 1954, The Troubador was a coffeehouse that has since become a café, bar and restaurant. Catching Yui’s eye early in their tour of London, the girls have breakfast here. Their Eggs Benedict is shown: it costs £9.95 (roughly 16.88 CAD with exchange rates).

  • Earlier this year, I did a special tour of London using the Oculus Quest to show how faithful the film had been to details; the real-world locations are portrayed faithfully in K-On! The Movie, although here, I will remark again that London’s skyline has changed quite a bit in the past decade. K-On! The Movie shows The Shard as being under construction, and it was opened in 2013. Some of the areas still remain as they once were. Earl’s Court, for instance, still looks much as it did in 2011, while downtown London is quite different; folks looking to visit K-On! locations in central London now will be hard-pressed to find some locations since they’ve changed so much – the Harper’s Coffee has since been replaced by a Costa Coffee, for instance.

  • After Yui gets her hand stuck in a receptacle for dog waste, the girls set off to find a bathroom and wind up at the British Museum. Here, they take the London Underground’s Central line from the Kensington Gardens: during the day, the Underground is nowhere near as busy as it was when Yui and the others first arrived, and certainly not as crowded as it had been in Skyfall, when 007 pursued Silva through the London Underground after the latter managed to escape MI6 custody.

  • While they’d intended to only stop by for a quick bathroom break, Mio, Tsumugi, Yui, Ritsu and Azusa end up checking out the British Museum’s exhibits, including the original Rosetta Stone. The girls recognise this as the replacement tombstone they’d borrowed from the Occult Club back during the events of K-On!!, when they found Juliet’s headstone was misplaced. The Rosetta Stone replica ended up being a suitable replacement, and the class play of Romeo and Juliet went off without a hitch. To see the Rosetta Stone again shows the kind of care that Yamada put into the film, giving Yui and the others a chance to see the world beyond Japan.

  • Here, Ritsu, Mio, Yui, Tsumugi and Azusa run down the stairs on the Westminster Bridge’s south banks: the location was not hard to find, since the girls end up at the London Eye moments later. There’s a doorway underneath the South Bank Lion sculpture on the left of this image, and this was used as a secret entrance to MI6’s new digs in Skyfall after Silva bombed the SIS Building. One of the joys about K-On! The Movie was that so many locations seen in this movie were also featured in Skyfall, and I myself wondered if the SIS Building would make an appearance. While this never occurred, it was a contrast to see Yui and the others have fun in the same places where Bond was on duty.

  • Mio’s fear of rotating things kicks in when the others suggest boarding the London Eye to gain a better vantage point over central London; she decides to stay on the ground and let the others have a good time. To this, Yui and Ritsu decide to haul Mio off anyways. A longstanding joke in K-On! stems from Mio’s various phobias, although it is typically the case that once Mio is pushed out of her comfort zone, she is able to live in the moment with the others.

  • As such, despite her initial reservations about all things with angular velocity, Mio is convinced to go on the London Eye. With a height of 135 metres, it is more than double the size of Hong Kong’s Observation Wheel and during K-On! The Movie, was the highest public viewing point in London. Since the movie’s release in 2011 (and the home release in 2012), The Shard opened and now offers London’s highest observation deck.

  • The girls rest here near The Royal Menagerie on the west end of the Tower of London, a major landmark that has variously been used as a mint, armoury and presently, the home of the Crown Jewels. Adjacent to the Tower of London is a modern office block and fish and chips shops. While it would be a tight schedule, the girls’ tour is possible to carry out within the course of a day. To really take in the sights and sounds, however, I would allocate at least seven days for the entire trip London, which leaves five full days to explore.

  • One aspect in K-On! The Movie that I enjoyed was that smaller details about travel were presented; most travel shows only highlight attractions and the best eats of a given trip. Conversely, K-On! The Movie portrays the smaller, more awkward moments that result when people are far from home. After their day’s worth of adventure, the group return to Ibis Earl’s Court, and almost immediately, Yui and Azusa end up missing one another often enough to the point where they wonder where the other’s gone. Yui’s just scatter-brained, but Azusa is genuinely tired from having spent the day putting an itinerary together that allows everyone to see as much as they could.

  • In the end, the pair end up running into one another in Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi’s room. Such moments typify the sort of humour present in K-On! as a whole; it’s not over-the-top, and instead, acts to create gentler moments that elicit a smile. Some folks consider K-On! to be a comedy, but this is, strictly speaking, incorrect: K-On! might’ve had origins as a 4-koma manga driven by punchlines, but Yamada’s interpretation of the series allows for more meaningful learnings to be presented; themes like appreciation and mindfulness are more important in K-On! than making viewers laugh.

  • With this being said, comedy does crop up from time to time as a result of everyday occurrences; here, Yui slips after rushing to meet Azusa after wandering off to the Brompton Cemetery whilst considering what the song for Azusa should entail. One small visual aspect in K-On! The Movie that did stand out was the fact that all of the folks in London are uncommonly tall relative to Azusa and the others. While Azusa is stated as being only 4’11”, a quick glance at this image finds that the average Londoner would be around eight feet in height. I imagine this was a deliberate choice to show how small everyone is compared to the world.

  • After Ritsu and the others run into Love Crisis following their performance at the sushi restaurant, they are invited to perform at a Japanese Culture Fair. The girls agree to the performance even though the timing will be a bit tight, and when Azusa hesitates, the others reassure her that it’ll be fine. Because they are to be performing in front of an English audience, Yui and the others feel it might be useful to translate some of their songs to English. Strictly speaking, preserving the meaning is of a lesser challenge than finding the words with the correct syllables to match the melody.

  • The Ibis at Earl’s Court, while being a bit more dated, has attentive staff and is situated in a good location, being close to public transit. By comparison, the Ibis London City is located a stone’s throw to the London city centre and the Tower of London. The choice to have the girls book lodgings at Earl’s Court, in a comparatively quieter part of London, allows the film to also show Yui and the others spending downtime together while not sightseeing. Here, they begin working on translating their songs for their performance at the Japanese culture fair.

  • The performance itself is set at the Jubilee Gardens adjacent to the River Thames and London Eye. The introduction into the culture festival features a sweeping panorama over the area, taking viewers through the spokes on the London Eye. It’s one of the more impressive visuals in K-On! The Movie and really shows that this is no mere extended episode: I’m particularly fond of movies because they provide the opportunity to use visuals not seen in TV series. Here, the girls react in surprise that Sawako has shown up.

  • During their performance, Yui is spurred on by a baby in the crowd and plays with more energy as the concert progresses, even improvising lyrics into Gohan wa Okazu. Whether or not Houkago Teatime plays for the people they know or not, this has very little bearing on the enthusiasm and energy the girls put into their song. Personal or not, each performance is spirited conveys that Houkago Tea Time’s music is universally moving, whether they are playing for a crowd of folks in London, or for Azusa as a thank you gift.

  • It turns out that as a place to have a graduation trip, there is no better option than London, England: Houkago Tea Time’s style draws inspiration from British artists, and the songs produced for K-On! have a mass appeal for their simplicity, earnest and charm found from the saccharine nature of the lyrics. Even now, whenever I see images and footage of London, K-On! The Movie is the first thing that comes to mind; the film had done a phenomenal job of bringing the city to life, and while melancholy gently permeates the whole of the film, the thirty minutes spent in London are K-On! The Movie‘s most cheerful, energetic moments.

  • After the concert draws to a close, the girls depart for Japan; owing to their timing, things are really close by the time Yui and the others have to return to the airport and board their flight back home. In general, it is recommended that one arrives at least three hours before their scheduled departure when flying internationally. This is so one can make it through customs and security checks, which can take a while, and because some airlines require one to check in an hour before their flight. Accepting a concert on the same day they were heading back would be cutting it close, especially in a city as large as London.

  • Fortunately, some elements can be abstracted away, and the girls’ ride over to Heathrow is uneventful, with Azusa falling asleep immediately from exhaustion. A snowfall begins in London, bringing the girls’ trip to a peaceful close, and here, the soundtrack takes on a much slower, gentler tenour. The track that accompanies this scene has a very wistful, reflective mood about it and is appropriately titled “Winter night in a warm room”.

  • Back in Japan, Ritsu and the others attempt to convince Sawako to give them permission to host a farewell concert for their classmates. To her colleagues and other students, Sawako presents herself as professional and caring, attempting to distance herself from her Death Devil days, but in front of Houkago Tea Time, she’s less motivated and occasionally partakes in actions that are of dubious legality. At the end of the day, however, Sawako does care deeply for her students, and so, decides to allow the concert.

  • One of the other teachers is opposed to the idea of a concert and on the morning things kick off, Sawako does her utmost to keep him from finding out. While unsuccessful, this instructor does not seem to mind Houkago Tea Time quite as much, suggesting that Sawako’s Death Devil band were rowdier back in the day to the point of being a nuisance. During this in-school concert, the song Sumidare Love is performed: the song had been on the vocal collections, but until now, had not been played in the series proper.

  • Compared to the more colourful segments in K-On! The Movie, the final segments depicting the girls drafting out their song for Azusa are much more faded, almost melancholy, in nature, hinting that all things must come to an end. Kyoto Animation has long utilised colour to make the emotional tenour of a scene clear in their drama series; from CLANNAD to Violet Evergarden, time of day, saturation and the choice of palette are all used to great effect. Traditionally, comedies have seen a lesser dependence on colour and lighting, so for these effects to appear in K-On! show that the series has matured.

  • Despite having drawn blanks while in London, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi manage to begin their song once they’re back home; it was Azusa’s actions throughout the trip that really led everyone to see anew how much they’d come to rely on their junior. While this should be a joyous moment, K-On! The Movie reminds viewers that this moment is also steeped in a sort of finality: once they finish their song and deliver it, they will have to part ways with Azusa.

  • The K-On! The Movie‘s home release was only twenty four days from the day of my MCAT, and one of the dangers about this was that reviewing the movie so close to the MCAT might’ve taken my focus from the exam. In the end, watching the movie and writing about it was very cathartic, and I found myself lost in each moment: seeing Mio and the others sprint across the school rooftop with a carefree spirit was a light moment that really captured what K-On! was about. The movie helped me relax, and in conjunction with support from friends, some time management skills and the usual efforts of studying, I ended up finishing the exam strong.

  • Audiences thus come to learn how Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! came about: K-On! had preferred to focus on the girls’ experience together, and things like songwriting were often set aside in favour of having everyone enjoy tea together. This did lead to the impression that Houkago Tea Time were unqualified. However, K-On! did show that Mio spent some of her free time writing lyrics to songs, and to reinforce the idea that Houkago Tea Time’s success is well-deserved, K-On! The Movie opts to show the song-writing process behind Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!.

  • This song had appeared to come out of the blue in K-On!!, but the film shows the process behind how the song the lyrics and heart that went into the song came from seeing how much of an impact Azusa had on the light music club. However, Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! was not written overnight, and because of the timeframes, I would estimate that the film is set over the course of three weeks – the first third of the movie would’ve taken place over the course of a few days as the girls figure out they’d like to do a song for Azusa, and then book a last-minute trip over to London as a graduation trip. The London trip itself is explicitly mentioned as taking five days, and then after returning, some time would’ve been needed to put the song together.

  • While this seems excessive, we recall that in K-On!!, there had been quite a gap between exams and graduation – when Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi head off to write their entrance exams for the women’s college, it would’ve been shortly after Valentines’ day, and graduation itself was in March. This in-between period was never covered in K-On!!, and Yamada expertly used this time as when Yui and the othes came to write out Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! ahead of graduation for Azusa. Through K-On! The Movie, it is shown that the in-betweens in an anime can also have a story to tell. Non Non Biyori Repeat adapted this concept for the entire second season, showing that anime only shows the best moments that impact the narrative.

  • Consequently, while Yui and the others might appear to be pulling songs out of nowhere, and performing like experts without much apparent practise, the reality is that the anime and manga tend to show us viewers moments when Houkago Tea Time are slacking off, but once the chips are down, and the girls get their motivation, they’re quite determined and capable. As such, this is the one criticism of K-On! I can dismiss immediately – folks who hold this against the series have fundamentally misunderstood that anime only show milestone moments, and more mundane details are deliberately omitted for a reason.

  • Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! is the song that got me into K-On!, and after I became curious to know how the series reached its culmination, I stepped back and watched everything from episode one.  With this modernised talk on K-On! The Movie very nearly finished, I note that it was very enjoyable to go back and re-watch this film under different circumstances, then write about it with a new perspective and style. Even a full decade later, the song remains every bit as enjoyable as it had been when I first went through K-On!.

  • Like a good wine, K-On! The Movie improved with age. My original score for the movie was a nine of ten, an A grade. However, revisiting the movie and seeing all of the subtleties in the film, coupled with recalling watching the film to unwind from studying for the MCAT, led me to realise that this film had a very tangible positive impact on me. Consequently, I am going to return now and give the film a perfect ten of ten, a masterpiece: for a story of pure joy that was successful in helping me regroup, and for being every bit as enjoyable as it was ten years ago, K-On! The Movie had a tangible, positive impact on me.

K-On! The Movie remains as relevant today as it did when it first premièred a decade earlier; even for those who have never seen K-On!‘s televised series, the movie is self-contained and the themes stand independently of a priori knowledge. After all this time, I have no difficulty in recommending K-On! The Movie to interested viewers; the film is every bit as enjoyable and meaningful as it was ten years previously. Because of how Yamada conveys Mono no Aware, as it relates to friendship, it becomes clear that K-On! The Movie was intended to be the final act for Kyoto Animation’s adaptation – author Kakifly had written two sequels, K-On! College and K-On! High School, which respectively cover Yui’s life at university and Azusa’s efforts to keep the light music club going. K-On! College was published in September 2012, and a month later, K-On! High School became available. Precedence would have suggested that adapting both of these volumes into an anime could’ve produced a two-cour season with twenty-four full episodes, but this would stand contrary to the aesthetic in K-On! The Movie. At the time, K-On!‘s anime adaptation had exceeded expectations in promoting the manga – the anime had been intended to promote the manga, and in this role, it has certainly succeeded. The manga itself concludes in a fashion that is consistent with the Mono no Aware aesthetic. K-On! College has Yui settling in to life at university and even makes rivals out of Akira, a serious musician whose skill is enough to get her noticed by professional producers, while K-On! High School has Azusa wondering what fun things the future will bring. However, this diverges from the feeling that K-On! The Movie originally concluded with; to bring K-On! back in the present would undermine what the film had accomplished ten years earlier. Six years earlier, I did walk through whether or not a continuation was possible, and back then, I had concluded that such a project would have been welcomed. After all, there had been enough materials to do so, and K-On! would’ve still been relatively fresh in the viewers’ minds. This answer has changed since then – a full decade later, it is safe to say that it is unlikely that Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa’s stories will be expanded upon. While Kakifly’s spin-off series, K-On! Shuffle, is set in the same universe and built around a similar premise (protagonist Yukari Sakuma is inspired to take up drumming after watching Ritsu perform), K-On!‘s success had largely come from the fact that it had been so groundbreaking at the time. The concept is no longer novel, and as such, adapting K-On! Shuffle is similarly unlikely in the foreseeable future. With this in mind, I imagine that this is the last time I will be writing about K-On! The Movie – as enjoyable as the series is, I do feel that I’ve said everything that needs to be said for a film that has aged very gracefully and certainly stands of its own merits, during the past decade that I’ve been active as an anime blogger.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below: A Review and Full Recommendation on Makoto Shinkai’s 2011 Film At the Ten Year Anniversary

“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” –Haruki Murakami

Ever since her father passed away, Asuna Watase spends her free time looking after the house while her mother works, and listening to music emanating from a mysterious radio that once belonged to her father with her cat, Mimi. One day, she encounters a boy named Shun after running into a Quetzalcoatl, a beast from the ancient world. After tending to Shun’s wounds, Asuna befriends him, but he falls to his death from the cliff ledge. The next day, Asuna is surprised that their new substitute instructor, Ryūji Morisaki, gives a lesson on the legend of Agartha, a world inhabited by the dead, and ends up speaking to him to learn more. Upon returning to her secret spot, Asuna is surprised to find another boy, Shin, there. It turns out he’s here to recover the Clavis fragment Shun had dropped, but the pair are cornered by Archangel, a paramilitary group searching for Agartha. Shin and Asuna manage to escape underground, with Archangel in pursuit. It turns out that Ryūji is leading the operation, and after a confrontation, Ryūji secures Asuna’s Clavis, giving him access to Agartha: Ryūji had been longing to resurrect his deceased wife. Upon arriving in Agartha, Ryūji and Asuna set off for the Gate of Life and Death, while Shin returns to the village and learns that his assignment had been unsuccessful, since Asuna possessed a Clavis fragment of her own. When Asuna is captured by the Izoku, monsters that fear the light, she encounters a little girl named Manna. Shin rescues them, but after Ryūji locates the two, Asuna persuades Ryūji to allow Shin to accompany them. In the village, the elder reluctantly allows Asuna and Ryūji to stay the night as repayment for having saved Manna, but warns that outsiders have always been an ill-omen in Agartha. The next morning, Asuna and Ryūji continue with their journey, while Mimi stays behind and passes away peacefully. After Manna offers Mimi’s corpse to a Quetzalcoatl, Shin notices the village’s soldiers riding out to intercept Asuna and Ryūji. He sets off after them with the aim of saving Asuna, but is promptly defeated in combat. The commander notes he’s betrayed Agartha and leave him to die, while Asuna and Ryūji arrive at the Gate of Life and Death. Unable to carry on, Asuna sets off and makes her way back to the surface, leaving Ryūji to climb to the bottom of the pit alone. As night falls, Asuna is tailed by a horde of Izoku, and laments having accepted this journey because she’d been feeling abandoned. Before the Izoku can kill her, Shin arrives and save her. They grieve Shun’s loss together and return to the Gate of Life at Death. Here, they encounter the Quetzalcoatl who’d accepted Mimi’s corpse, and learn it too is dying. Before it dies, it sings a song and offers to carry the pair down to the Gate of Life and Death. Upon crossing the barrier, they find Ryūji preparing to make his wish of bringing his wife back. However, the cost of resurrecting those from the dead is immense, and Ryūji loses his right eye, while Asuna is sacrificed to act as a vessel for his wife’s soul. Shin manages to destroy the Clavis and stop the process, saving Asuna but leaving Ryūji inconsolable. However, Shin notes that all living things come to an end and implores Ryūji to continue living for his wife’s sake. The pair accompany Asuna back to the portal leading to the surface and bid her farewell: Ryūji’s decided to remain behind in Agartha. Later, Asuna glances at the cliff where she first met Shin and Shun, before heading off to school with a smile on her face. This is Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below (Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo, literally “Children Who Chase Stars”, and from here on out, Children Who Chase Lost Voices for brevity), Makoto Shinkai’s 2011 film that remains his longest work and treads on territory that is is explored nowhere else amongst his repertoire.

At its core, Children Who Chase Lost Voices represents a bold new direction for Makoto Shinkai: although distance and separation still figures in the film’s central themes, as it had in his previous works, Children Who Chase Lost Voices deals predominantly in death and moving on. The film opens with Asuna, whose days are peaceful but lonely. When she encounters Shun one day, only for their time together to be cut short after Shun dies, she finds herself longing for a world where she could be together with those important to her again. That Ryūji appears as a substitute instructor shortly after is no coincidence, and more so than Asuna, Ryūji is seeking out what appears to be impossible, in locating a way to Agartha, the underworld, and its supposed means of bringing the dead back to life. This meeting sends Asuna on a journey into the fantastical realm that had hitherto been the stuff of legends, and through this adventure, Asuna comes to terms with her own desires. Meeting Shun had temporarily stemmed her feelings of loneliness, a consequence of living lengthy days without her father, who passed away when she’d been younger, and her mother, who works long days at a local clinic as a nurse, so it was natural that Asuna had desired more concrete relationships with people. Travelling through Agartha, and speaking to the underworld’s inhabitants, helps Asuna to accept that death and departure is a natural part of life, not to be lamented or feared, but accepted. Indeed, when Asuna leaves Mimi behind, she shows that she is able to let go of attachments in life. Conversely, Ryūji is unable to achieve the same, and his single-minded determination to reach Agartha and resurrect his deceased wife is a tale of tragedy. While he is knowledgeable and measured, he is also obsessed, and this obsession binds him to what should be obvious: that wishes contradicting the natural order will exact a heavy toll. He alone is able to reach the Gate of Life and Death to issue his wish, but the process leaves him disfigured and very nearly costs Asuna her life. Because Asuna is able to do what Ryūji could not, Children Who Chase Lost Voices indicates that our impressions of life and death are shaped early on, and while children may not be fully aware of the ramifications surrounding things like loss, they are also more open-minded and are more perceptive than adults believe. As such, when children ask about things like death, it is important to answer difficult questions truthfully and to the best of one’s knowledge, while at the same time, allowing children to also draw their own conclusions.

Beyond exploring a new theme in a novel setting, Children Who Chase Lost Voices also acted as a trailblazer for Shinkai; in his older works, The Place Promised in Our Early Days and Five Centimetres Per Second, the female leads were ethereal and delicate. Sayuri and Akari wound up being abstractions rather than full-fledged characters in order to facilitate Hiroki and Takaki’s growth. Conversely, Asuna has a much larger role in Children Who Chase Lost Voices compared to her predecessors; although she’s accompanying Ryūji, Asuna is shown as being very energetic and cheerful, even taking the initiative to do what she feels is right in a given moment. When they first arrive, Asuna heads off and finds sweet potatoes for herself and Ryūji. Later, she tries to rescue Manna when the Izoku begin appearing, and she is the first to accept that saying “goodbye” is a part of life, when she parts ways with Mimi. This is significant, marking a return to female characters with strength and agency. Asuna isn’t swept away by her circumstances, but instead, takes charge in making her own decisions, and for this reason, is able to find the answers she’d sought by visiting Agartha. This is in complete contrast with Sayuri, who falls into a coma and serves as Hiroki’s reason to fly up to the tower, or Akari, whose feelings for Takaki remain unanswered when she and her parents end up moving. Giving Asuna agency changes how Children Who Chase Lost Voices feels compared to its predecessors, and indeed, Shinkai would apply these lessons into the future: The Garden of Words‘ Yukari, Your Name‘s Mitsuha and Weathering With You‘s Hina each demonstrate the same autonomy and seize on a chance to change their situation, and even though circumstance steers them towards trouble, everyone winds up finding their own path anew. This creates more variety in Shinkai’s films, and indeed, having a female lead capable of making her own decisions and judgement would leave Shinkai’s works stronger than before. They’re no longer about separation and distance, but instead, depict the incredible lengths people go to make the most of things. While Children Who Chase Lost Voices might be among Shinkai’s lesser known works, especially when it stands in the shadows of The Garden of Words, Your Name and Weathering With You, this film remains highly significant and opened Shinkai up for more uplifting, optimistic stories about how people can take charge even when a situation appears to prohibit any sort of agency.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Today marks the ten year anniversary to when Children Who Chase Lost Voices released to BD: back then, I was an undergraduate student, and I remember that term particularly well. After a brutal semester the year before, I came into the new year filled with resolve. Children Who Chase Lost Voices would’ve come late in the semester, just a few weeks before exams were set to begin, and I still remember writing about it at my old site, as well as sharing a handful of screenshots showcasing the incredible landscapes in what was then Makoto Shinkai’s latest movie.

  • Whereas most of Shinkai’s works are set in an urban area, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is completely rural; the movie opens with a day in Asuna Watase’s life, and although her days are quite lonely, she definitely has her game together, looking after the housework while her mother is at work. Par the course for a Shinkai movie, the visuals in this film are stunning, and ten years later, the artwork hasn’t aged a day. There’s a sense of coziness in the Watase residence as Asuna collects the laundry by evening; I’ve always had a fondness for this aesthetic, and there’s a certain romance about sleeping with an open window.

  • My area only allows for this about three months of the year, although when it does get that nice, it is downright pleasant. It’s now been ten days since I took possession of my new home, and during the past weekend, I spent both afternoons cleaning out every square inch of the place. It’ll be a while yet before we can move in, since there’s the matter of buying the furniture; it’s been remarkably fun to browse through catalogues and see what’s available. After the move, one thing I am looking forwards to will be spending more time honing my craft in cooking: I can cook well enough to get by, but it will be exciting to try out recipes I see in anime and films (the pan-fried fish and Japanese rolled omelettes Asuna is enjoying here look quite good, for instance).

  • Having tried out some outrageous recipes on occasion (my favourite being a double burger topped with caramelised onions, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg), I am getting old enough to feel that an afternoon doing housework or spent making something tasty is much more relaxing than trying to unlock weapons and attachments in hacker-filled multiplayer servers. A decade earlier, I had the reflexes to keep up with gamers, but nowadays, single player games are the only games I’ll seriously consider; they allow me to play at my own pace, and I can put the brakes on at any time to go anything else, whether it’s housework or go get some exercise.

  • Asuna’s days of solitude come to a quick end when she encounters a beast on the bridge leading to her hideout. Fortunately, a young man, Shun, shows up and saves her. Although Shun has no intention of harming this beast, it turns out that said beast is in pain, so Shun shifts gears and decides to put it out of its misery. In the aftermath, Shun and Asuna become fast friends, with Shun being especially interested in the radio that Asuna is rocking. It turns out that, since Asuna’s radio uses a special crystal, it picks up broadcasts from another world, one that Shun is familiar with.

  • Being able to appreciate the music means that a connection forms between Asuna and Shun. The events of Children Who Chase Lost Voices, in a bit of irony, mirror that year: I met the person I’d come to fall in love with in Japanese class, and things began in a similarly unexpected manner, when I showed up in Japanese class wearing a full suit after giving a presentation at the university’s undergraduate symposium. We subsequently paired up on a project, and while rehearsing for the presentation, some of my classmates from health science wondered if I’d met someone special because they’d spotted us on break, and watching this movie together on my iPad.

  • At the time, I replied ‘no’ to my health science classmates; we’d been a great team and did well enough on the project, but we were merely classmates in Japanese at the time. Thus, we parted ways after term ended. However, as fate would have it, after the year ended, and I began studying for the MCAT, that this individual came back to my life – she’d started several summer courses, and I was wrapped up in studying for an exam far tougher than any I’d previously faced, so we supported one another through those busy times, getting to know one another better in the process. In Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Asuna’s time with Shun ends up being even shorter; he came up to the surface to seek out something, but falls off the cliff edge and dies in the process.

  • The encounter with Shun might’ve been short, but the ‘blessing’ he provides for Asuna causes her heart to flutter. Timing is irrelevant in a romance, and people can indeed fall in love very quickly. At the opposite end of the spectrum, falling in love can sometimes occur only after a lengthy period of rediscovery and patience. Naturally, there’s no right or wrong approach; here, Asuna’s mother has returned home from her shift and is curious to know why Asuna appears to be preparing two servings of lunch. Asuna’s conversation with her mother suggests that despite spending little time together, the two remain quite close.

  • Because she’s unaware of Shun’s death, Asuna ends up waiting for him, to no avail. Mirroring Asuna’s uncertainty, it is raining quite hard; from The Place Promised In Our Early Days onwards, Shinkai begins making extensive use of lighting and weather to convey a certain atmosphere and aesthetic. This is most apparent in Five Centimetres per Second, where snowfall comes to denote longing and separation. By The Garden of Words, however, Shinkai suggests that there is a romance surrounding light rain; it is only on rainy days where Takao meets Yukari at Shunjuku Koen. Being set before The Garden of Words, the rainfall in Children Who Chase Lost Voices is used in a more conventional manner.

  • I remember seeing this scene in an early trailer for the film in late 2010, and altogether, the trailer had been remarkably captivating. Back then, Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer had just become available, and I was still a complete novice to anime movies. Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer had actually been the exception to the rule in that, while the anime movie had premièred in Japan in September, the home release became available just three months later, in December. Children Who Chase Lost Voices followed a much more conventional pattern: the film was premièred in May 2011 and hit the shelves a mere six months later.

  • The length between a theatrical première and home release has steadily increased over the past decade, going from an average of six months to eight months. More popular movies, such as Shinkai’s more recent movies, Violet Evergarden, Girls und Panzer: Das FinaleHai-Furi and SaeKano: Fine, had waits exceeding eleven months. Beyond being a bit of an annoyance, and something I’m fond of vociferously griping about, the gap actually has no bearing on my excitement about a given film; I’ve found that being able to watch a film at my own pace is really all that matters.

  • As it turns out, Asuna’s father had died when she’d been young. Back then, she hadn’t quite been able to grasp the enormity of such an event, beyond the fact that her father wasn’t going to return. Shinkai chooses to set things during the winter, both to provide a vivid contrast to the warm weather of the present, as well as to show the extent of despair and sorrow in the moment. When Asuna’s mother explains that Shun had died, denial immediately sets in; Asuna’s certain that Shun is fine even though there’d been reports of a corpse found earlier.

  • With Asuna’s original instructor preparing to head off on maternity leave, her class receives a substitute teacher in the form of Ryūji Morisaki, who provides a lesson about the world of the dead in Japanese folklore. Folklore and literature becomes an integral part of each of Shinkai’s subsequent works: after Children Who Chase Lost VoicesThe Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You each incorporate elements of classical Japanese mythology into details of his own creation. This creates a much more intricate, immersive world, and suggests that for Shinkai, his belief is that while things are always advancing, there are some traditions and values that shouldn’t be forgotten, either.

  • The topic of an underworld from which the dead can be revived intrigues Asuna, who begins to believe there might be a way to see Shun again. She heads over to the library in pursuit of more knowledge, and although today, the consensus is that the planet’s interior is solid, composed of a rocky mantle and metallic core rather than being hollow, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a story; fiction represents a space to explore what could happen if our wishes were realised, and more often than not, it turns out that having the power to do things like returning the dead to the world of the living often exacts a terrible cost.

  • After classes end, Ryūji speaks with Asuna’s instructor and learns that Asuna is a focused, well-behaved student. Meanwhile, Asuna’s classmate suggests that Ryūji’s wife had died long ago when Asuna remarks that she has a few questions for Ryūji surrounding the day’s lessons. Although the conversation is incomplete to viewers, it solidifies the idea that Asuna’s life is a lonely one; Children Who Chase Lost Voices is an excellent example of a film where things are slowly laid out for viewers to follow, providing enough depth to be compelling, but at the same time, does not demand that the viewer have a solid background in Japanese folklore and beliefs.

  • The precedence that Children Who Chase Lost Voices set carry forwards into Shinkai’s later works – Ryūji has been chasing the myth of Agartha since his wife had died. Delving through countless scrolls, tomes and commonplace books, he learnt that there were patterns throughout history to suggest Agartha was indeed real – originally, ancient beings known as Quetzalcoatl guided humanity, but humanity eventually reached a point where it could fend for itself, so the remaining Quetzalcoatl retreated underground and a few humans accompanied them.

  • Ryūji deduces that Asuna had been the one who encountered Shun, and believes that Asuna’s interest in Agartha similarly stems from a desire to bring someone back from the dead. The visual clutter in Ryūji’s apartment shows the extent of his interest in the underworld; the interior is filled with books, maps and charts. Of note is a confidential report whose contents are rendered entirely in English. After his radio lights up, Ryūji sends Asuna home and asks her to not take any detours, but on her way back, Mimi appears, and Asuna heads off in pursuit. She spots a glint from her hideout and rushes up here, where she encounters a young man no older than herself.

  • As it turns out, this is Shin, Shun’s younger brother. Their encounter is interrupted when an AH-1 Cobra shows up. The extent of Ryūji’s obsession with Agartha is such that he leads a paramilitary outfit known as Archangel to search for its entrance, and the fact that they possess a Cobra speaks to the extent of their resources – one could suppose that Archangel has investors who are curious about the wealth that Agartha possesses. When I first watched Children Who Chase Lost Voices, I initially thought that this was an AH-64 Apache, but the Cobra lacks the Apache’s distinct T700 turboshaft engines and single-barrel M230 30mm chain gun. Instead, one can spot the AH-1’s chin-mounted M197 20mm electric cannon.

  • Members of Archangel corner Asuna and Shin at the cliff’s edge: two soldiers accompanying Ryūji are armed with the Uzi. Even now, I can’t readily identify the sidearm that Ryūji himself is carrying, but I remain impressed with the acrobatics Shin is capable of: surprising the soldiers, he carries Asuna and leaps down into the forests below in an attempt to shake Archangel and return to Agartha’s entrance. However, his actions also lead Archangel straight to said entrance: the AH-1 Cobra follows in pursuit and quickly determines where the pair ended up.

  • The Clavis allows Agartha’s residents to carry out feats of superhuman strength and agility; with its magical properties, Shin moves a massive boulder to block off the entrance, before squaring off against a Quetzalcoatl he refers to as the Gatekeeper. This Quetzalcoatl was originally a guardian meant to keep outsiders from entering Agartha, but the Gatekeeper’s age means its senses are no longer as acute as they once were – it attacks Shin, forcing Shin to defend himself. However, using the Cobra’s 20 mm rounds, Archangel destroys the boulder with ease and enter the cave. Ryūji’s two soldiers then execute the Gatekeeper, and Ryūji identifies himself for Shin and Asuna’s benefit.

  • While Shin had been intending to fight Ryūji and his soldiers, once Ryūji explains that he’s here to seek out the Gate of Life and Death to resurrect his wife, Shin relents and lets Ryūji and Asuna be – outsiders had previously came to Agartha to plunder its treasures, but Ryūji’s wish is something for Agartha’s gods to pass judgement on. Moreover, Shin’s original assignment had simply been to retrieve Shun’s Clavis fragment. After Shin leaves, Ryūji gives Asuna the choice to turn back or accompany him. Having come this far, Asuna makes the choice to follow Ryūji, yearning to bring Shun back to life and see what lies beyond.

  • Ryūji leads Asuna onwards into the barrier separating the surface from Agartha: the Interstitial Sea. According to the legends, Agartha lies beneath this sea, which is composed of a fluid called aquavita, which is curious because aquavitae is the name for distilled spirits in reality. In Children Who Chase Lost Voices, this fluid possesses properties that allow for liquid breathing, and once Asuna adjusts to the unusual sensation, she and Ryūji follow a path that leads deep into the planet. The sheer scale of the constructs underground far surpass anything that modern humans have the capacity to construct, suggesting that ancient humans and the Quetzalcoatl would’ve worked together to make their underground realm.

  • Asuna reawakens and is surprised that Mimi had accompanied them through the Interstitial Sea to Agartha. They find a Quetzalcoatl guarding the front entrance into Agartha, and Ryūji prepares to shoot it, but Mimi manages to convince the Quetzalcoatl that they’re visitors. As Ryūji and Asuna gaze upon Agartha’s landscape, the music crescendos majestically. The incidental music in Children Who Chase Lost Voices is composed by Atsushi Shirakawa (better known as Tenmon), who had previously worked with Shinkai on all of his films. Children Who Chase Lost Voices marks the last time Tenmon scores the music to Shinkai’s films, and to match the scope and scale of this film, the music has a much richer sound.

  • Although Agartha is doubtlessly wonderous, the choice to have the entrance set in the open plains also serves to emphasise how vast and empty the underworld is. This disconnect creates a sense of melancholy: while Asuna and Ryūji might’ve arrived in Agartha, this land might not hold the answers to the questions they possess. In the skies above, the Shakuna Vimana passes by. These vessels originate from Hindu texts, and as Ryūji notes, they’re the chariot of the Gods. The fact that Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below draws from so much mythology would suggest that the world’s myths, at least in this universe, have a common origin in Agartha.

  • While Shinkai’s previous films had been gorgeously animated, and his latest films surpass all expectations when it comes to visual detail, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is unique because it marks the first film set in a completely different world. This allows Shinkai and his animators to really explore landscapes and scenery from a fantastical world. In this regard, I do wish that Shinkai and his team would take a chance on settings beyond Tokyo: The Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You feature Tokyo as its main setting, and as intricate as Tokyo appears, it would be interesting to see how Shinkai and his team’s advancing craft might portray other parts of the world, or other worlds.

  • After reaching some stone ruins, Ryūji sets down and consults his notes to determine their next destination, while Asuna ends up going exploring and finds Agarthan potatoes that end up being surprisingly tasty; it turns out that Asuna was able to find some salt in the stone ruins. Surprised with Asuna’s high spirits, Ryūji asks about how she’s feeling, and she replies that she’d been feeling amped since their arrival because there’s something she’s seeking out. Viewers can conclude that a part of Asuna still yearns to reunite with Shun, and the excitement she’s feeling comes from this possibility.

  • Back in a temple, Shin is debriefed by the elders; his original assignment had been to retrieve the Clavis that Shun had brought to the surface with him, and although he’d been successful here, the fact that is that Asuna and Ryūji have entered their world with another Clavis fragment in hand is worrying, suggesting that outsiders may yet interfere with things in Agartha and bring more troubles with them. To this end, the elders set Shin with recovering the Clavis fragment that Ryūji and Asuna possess. It turns out that Shun always been the preferred sibling for his powers, but possessed a desire to see the surface, which is what led him to Asuna. While Shin lacks the same power, he attempts to carry out his duties as best as he can.

  • While Shin had been set the goal of recovering the Clavis in Ryūji and Asuna’s possession by any means necessary, and remarks to another girl in the village, Seri, that if required, he’d consider lethal force, the reality is that Shin is torn between doing his duties, and doing what’s right. Their conversation supposes that exposure to the surface accelerates any illnesses one may have, and that both Shun and Shin are orphans who were raised by the village. His loyalty to them is a result of wishing to pay back the village’s kindness, although these loyalties do begin shifting.

  • Meanwhile, Ryūji and Asuna have taken refuge underneath a boulder to escape a rainfall. When Asuna makes an offhand comment about how Ryūji has come to be a father figure, Ryūji later dreams about the events that led them to Agartha. It turns out that his wife had died before he returned from his tour of duty during a war, and despite his efforts otherwise, Ryūji never moved on from his loss. The exact war is not known: while it would appear that Ryūji is fighting in the European Theatre during World War Two, he’s armed with an M4 Carbine with a Close Quarter Barrel Receiver. The M4 entered service in 1994, which complicates identifying which war Ryūji would’ve fought in, although since this is a dream, the smaller details would be secondary to the idea that Ryūji greatly misses his late wife.

  • When Asuna falls asleep, she ends up being taken by the Izoku, enigmatic monsters who can only travel through solid surfaces in the shadows while there is light (but when it is dark, they can roam freely). These beings are a part of the natural order in Agartha, although for the purposes of Children Who Chase Lost Voices, they exist to act as a reminder that life in Agartha has its own challenges. When Asuna comes to in the stone ruins, she finds another girl, Manna, here. The pair attempt to escape, but to no avail; the area is sealed off, and the nearest exit is too high to reach.

  • Fortunately, Shin arrives at the last possible second to save both Asuna and Manna. They manage to escape the ruins, but with the Izoku closing rapidly, Shin orders Asuna to jump into the river below; the Izoku have an aversion to water and will not traverse where water flows. The determined and plucky traits seen in Asuna bring to mind the likes of female leads from Studio Ghibli’s movies, marking a welcome new direction for Shinkai’s movies. Until now, I’d found that in his earlier films, the female leads were more passive, and lacked agency.

  • Conversely, in Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Asuna is driven and takes the initiative to make her own decisions. These traits carry over to The Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You; a part of why these films are so successful is because female leads are impacting the story to a greater extent. Here, Asuna attempts to prevent Shin from being swept away in the river’s fierce currents, but Shin ends up taking an Izoku’s claw to the back and is swept off. Asuna leaps off after them in an attempt to rescue the pair, but the currents end up overcoming her, too.

  • The currents end up washing everyone downstream, where Ryūji finds them. Ryūji is relieved that Asuna is okay, but when Shin comes to and confronts Ryūji for the Clavis, he gets pistol-whipped. Disappointed with how Ryūji treats Shin, Asuna declares that they’ll bring Shin with them. Ryūji does not object, and upon arrival, their presence is almost immediately noted. The presence of outsiders prompt the local armed forces to appear; Agartha’s residents are deeply mistrustful of people from the surface, and here, a little more information is also provided regarding Manna: she’s mute as a result of having witnessed her mother’s death.

  • The commanding soldier initially turns Ryūji and Asuna back; the outsiders are treated as an ill omen in Agartha, and despite Asuna’s requests to get Shin looked at, the soldiers stand firm. Ryūji has no quarrel with the people of Agartha and makes to comply, but the village’s master, who also happens to be Manna’s grandfather, requests that the group be allowed to rest for one evening as recompense for having saved his granddaughter. The soldiers leave, and the elderly man bring them back to his home, where Shin is looked over and allowed to rest. As it turns out, Manna’s mother was from Agartha, and her father was from the surface; this is why the soldiers refer to Manna as “defiled”.

  • Speaking with the village’s master provides vital exposition that fills in remaining gaps about Agartha, and he explains that the antipathy for outsiders stems from a history where outsiders had arrived in Agartha to pillage and burn. Amongst historical figures who have done this include Julius Caeser, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin; it is implied that it was through the wealth of treasure and knowledge from Agartha that they were able to amass the resources to rule the world, but their expeditions also caused a great deal of harm and suffering to Agartha’s people. To prevent outsiders from returning, Agartha’s remaining residents sealed the gates that were once opened.

  • The fact that people from the surface brought death and destruction with them, enough to annihilate Agartha’s once-great civilisation, explains why there is so much hostility towards outsiders, and why ruins litter Agartha. With their birthrate declining, Agartha’s once-mighty people are now scattered in a vast, empty land. The village Master is surprised that Mimi (technically a Yadoriko rather than a cat), is so friendly with Asuna. These beings are said to accompany humans while they live, and then return to the Quetzalcoatl in death. This revelation does seem to reinforce the idea that Asuna’s father had a connection with Agartha. Here, Asuna is surprised to be offered a bath, and the sharp-eyed viewer will have noted that Asuna’s not really had the comforts of home since arriving in Agartha.

  • Being able to immerse herself in warm water and rest would seem like an unbelievable luxury after the trek she’d been on. Floral baths aren’t unique to Agartha, nor are the flowers present just for show. It turns out that taking a floral bath has some health benefits, and depending on the flowers used, different effects can be enjoyed, from improving circulation and skin hydration. Such a setup does look remarkably comfortable, although I’ve always been more of a shower person owing to the fact that a quick shower conserves water. After finishing up, Asuna gets dressed in an Agarthan-style outfit, and runs into Ryūji, who says the clothes don’t suit her, causing Asuna to pout.

  • Agartha’s cuisine appears to have an East Asian influence: Asuna had been seen peeling a daikon earlier, and they use chopsticks. Dinner proves delicious, and Asuna spends it savouring every bite. Over their meal, Ryūji asks the Master about his desire to resurrect the dead; he reasons that while this act is verboten in Agartha, that it is prohibited must imply there is a way to do so. The Master’s attempts to turn Ryūji from his desires to no avail, and is unable to convince Ryūji that life and death are a part of the natural world. I imagine that Ryūji does end up getting some answers, but this is not shown: the Master asks Asuna to look after Shin, who’s awake now and becomes worked up after Asuna mentions Shun.

  • The Master rightly notes that people who come to Agartha do so because of a great loss, and that a great many misunderstandings could have been avoided if said people had someone to talk to. This is true of Ryūji, and certainly true of Asuna. Through Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Shinkai aims to show how “adventure” is really just another way to say that after sustaining a loss, people wander. Without guidance and support, people can become lost in their own thoughts and venture down a path they might come to regret. As such, it becomes important to be compassionate and empathetic towards those who do suffer loss in their lives, while at the same time, giving them the space they need to recover.

  • The next morning, Ryūji and Asuna prepare to head off by boat, but to Asuna’s surprise, Mimi stays behind. This is shocking because Mimi had remained faithfully by Asuna’s side all this time, and as such, the unexpected change in behaviour is a result of Mimi preparing for death. For Asuna, being able to say goodbye to Mimi and part ways is a turning point in her character; she’s able to make peace with the fact that she won’t be with Mimi forever, and this sets the precedence for letting go of Shun, as well. Ryūji and Asuna travel under a gorgeous sunrise, and this moment captures the peaceful atmosphere within Agartha, as well as the fact that it is a world in decline: a massive ruin can be seen in this distance.

  • Mimi passes away, and after the Master reassures Manna it’ll be okay, the Master takes Manna out to a vast field, where Mimi’s remains are offered to a Quetzalcoatl. The one that arrives is an ancient one; one of its arms are blown off, although it accepts the offering and consumes Mimi. The Master notes that this is how Mimi returns to the world, and given the way things work in Agartha, one can suppose that here, the secret to immortality is simple enough: life is still finite, but what lingers after death, is what confers immortality.

  • The vastness of the field where Manna returns Mimi to the world is a visual metaphor for life and death itself; Shinkai indicates that the openness of such a space allows one to see great distances, and in this way, being out here corresponds to one accepting that what lies beyond life is not something to be feared. While Manna cries for the loss of Mimi’s life, Shin speaks with the Master and wonders if Asuna is able to accept life and death as two halves of a whole. The idea that death is not something to be tampered with is a theme that has long permeated fiction, and authors generally agree that those who attempt to raise new life from the dead or cheat death itself will face inevitable punishment.

  • The stakes increase when the village soldiers set off at full tilt for the same destination that Ryūji and Asuna are headed towards. The Master feels that their intention is to stop Ryūji and Asuna from reaching the Gate of Life and Death at all costs, even if it means killing them: Shin has spotted that the soldiers are carrying firearms, a sign that they mean business. When Ryūji spots them, he opens fire with his Uzi, but Shin uses his own dagger to knock the submachine gun from Ryūji’s hands before he can land any shots.

  • Noting that he’s acting to save Ryūji and Asuna, freeing himself from the debt he’d owed them, Shun now faces off against the soldiers in combat. Going from the single-shot weapons the soldiers are carrying, they would be easily bested by anyone carrying repeating firearms; repeaters first appeared in 1630 with the development of the Kalthoff repeater, and by the 1800s, revolvers and lever-action rifles had become commonplace. Since reloading presumably takes a while, the soldiers switch over to their swords and duel Shin one-to-one. Shin’s prowess impresses the commander, but he is ultimately beaten back.

  • The opening Shin creates allows Ryūji and Asuna to reach Finis Terra, a massive pit housing the Gate of Life and Death at its bottom. When Asuna glances over the ledge, the pit’s depth is such that the bottom cannot even be seen. This location likely was what inspired Your Name‘s scenery, when Taki and Mitsuha were finally able to meet one another during evening. However, Finis Terra (literally “end of the land”) possesses none of the warmth: it is raining here, and the skies are rapidly darkening as the sun sets. Tenmon uses an unearthly choir to convey the otherworldly feeling at this spot, which is easily the most unsettling place in the whole of Agartha.

  • As Asuna attempts to climb down what is a vertical cliff shear, a current rushes upwards and threatens to dislodge her; the effort proves too much, and Asuna decides to turn around and return to the village at Ryūji’s suggestion. The moment had been quite unnerving, and viewers get the sense that whatever lies at the bottom of the cliff does not want any surface-dwellers present. Even ten years later, this part of Children Who Chase Lost Voices remains quite tense, speaking to the incredible effort that went into the aesthetics for this film. While many things in my world have changed in the past decade, that anime films can still elicit the same response speaks to their staying power.

  • The extent of the changes to my world became clear earlier today, when I participated in a virtual panel to discuss career paths for alumni of my major. Joining me were my old program head, programme coordinator and two other panelists. While answering questions the students posed, I was sent down memory lane, recalling iconic health science moments, such as joining the lab that ended up being the basis for my graduate work, the various research symposiums I attended (and their free pizza), and the exams I studied for with my classmates. I was surprised to learn that there had been a question directed at me specifically, inquiring how I ended up as a mobile developer despite having started in health science.

  • The answer I gave was simple enough: while health sciences is about medical science and health policy, the inquiry and analytical skills students cultivate are versatile enough to be utilised in other disciplines, and health science has always encouraged the multidisciplinary approach towards problem solving. Coupled with the fact that I already had basic understanding of programming and software development, the transition wasn’t as abrupt as one might imagine. It did come as a bit of a surprise to me that the other panelists had a similar career progression, but as the department head stated, it’s okay not to know of one’s destination early in the game.

  • For Asuna, she set out for Agartha with a similar lack of destination in mind, and only vaguely knew that she wanted to speak with Shun once more. However, when the final leg of her journey becomes too much, she isn’t able to continue and turns back around. While this decision nearly costs Asuna her life, it also shows that Asuna is able to spot when things aren’t working. This is something that, during the panel, I mentioned as being an important thing to know – forcing ahead with something, as Ryūji does, can prove to be detrimental. However, Asuna’s journey is not meaningless, and her time in Agartha does prove instrumental in shaping her thoughts on life and death. Similarly, it is the case that one’s experiences, both good and bad, shape one’s current self, so if and when I’m asked, I do not regret taking a more crooked, uncertain path to the present, either.

  • Unfortunately for Asuna, the creek she’s traversing runs dry, and this allows the Izoku to finally capture her. In desperation, Asuna trains the sidearm Ryūji had given her, but unaccustomed to its recoil, she misses her shot. The aurora borealis here are especially visible: the night skies in Agartha are aglow with the ghostly dance of the northern lights. In reality, aurora result from the interaction of solar wind with oxygen and nitrogen atoms (which cause electrons to jump orbitals and release photons when they return to their ground state). Under ground, one would suppose that, since the skies of Agartha are blocked off by Earth’s crust, solar wind would never interact with the oxygen and nitrogen atoms down here. However, since the sun is visible down here, one must suppose that there are other forces at work, too.

  • I’m not here to break down the series for its faithfulness to reality because it is a meaningless exercise: just when Asuna is about to succumb to the Izoku’s grip, Shin shows up and kills the Izoku attacking her. The sun rises shortly after, forcing the remaining Izoku to retreat. With the morning here, both Shin and Asuna do feel as though there is new hope, now that the sun has risen. While the Izoku are a terrifying foe, Shin is able to kill one with a knife, leaving me to wonder if firearms would’ve been useful against them. The Izuko only show up in certain areas after night has fallen, and since the villages are safe, one must imagine that Agartha’s inhabitants have simply adjusted to their presence and placed their settlements away from the Izoku’s turf, rather than wage a campaign of extermination as contemporary humans are wont to doing.

  • After Shin and Asuna share their memories of Shun, they allow one another the time to cry themselves out. Asuna had been holding back her feelings, but here, she finally lets her emotions out. While society has reservations about tears, crying is an effective means of flushing out sorrow and grief: the process releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, which are hormones that create a feeling of calm. In the aftermath, both Shin and Asuna determine that they need to get Ryūji back – while he’s kept calm by his single-minded focus, this stubbornness has left him blind to the costs of resurrecting the dead.

  • After finally reaching the bottom of Finis Terra, Ryūji locates the Gate of Life and Death and ventures inside. The Shakuna Vimana feels the presence of a Clavis crystal and makes its way over to hear whatever wish Ryūji has in mind. Thanks to numerous warnings, both from the village Master, and common knowledge about the costs of raising the dead back into the world of the living, viewers will immediately gain a sense of unease at what Ryūji is trying to accomplish. What follows is then simple enough; Shin and Asuna must get back down and reach the Gate of Life and Death to stop Ryūji.

  • The same Quetzalcoatl that had accepted Mimi’s corpse has come here to Finis Terra to pass on, as well. Spotting Asuna and Shin, it offers them a ride down to the bottom, allowing the pair to bypass the treacherous descent that Ryūji would’ve had to had made. Coupled with Shin’s Clavis, the pair float down safely after the Quetzalcoatl vanishes from this world. I would imagine that the gap between Ryūji’s enormously difficult descent and the comparatively straightforward one Asuna takes is meant to be a metaphor for how sometimes, the things that are meant to be present much less resistance compared to the things we were not meant to have.

  • Once inside the portal, Shin and Asuna spot a faint glow coming from Ryūji: he’s managed to contact the gods’ vessel, which transforms into a monstrous, multi-eyed being. After regarding Ryūji, it prepares to grant his wish. However, recalling someone from death is not an easy feat, and the gods must first use a vessel in order to carry out the process. Asuna is immediately seized, and she slowly begins taking on the appearance of Ryūji’s late wife. Even Asuna’s sacrifice isn’t enough: the energy involved draws out Ryūji’s life force, and he becomes scarred in the process.

  • It is here that Shin chooses to act; to Ryūji, Asuna was expendable, and to grant Ryūji’s wish, Asuna would have to give up her life in order to allow Ryūji’s wife to come back. The question of sacrificing the young for the old is a very difficult topic, one that I’m certainly not qualified to discuss, but in Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Shinkai suggests that this isn’t up for debate: the outcomes of this film indicates that Shinkai hedges his bets on youth and giving them a shot at the future. To this end, Shin attempts to shatter the Clavis and stop the process, but Ryūji overpowers him, allowing the process to reach completion.

  • Ryūji thus reunites with Lisa, and Asuna’s spirit is sent onwards, although Lisa appears to retain Asuna’s memories: she feels Shin to be familiar. Asuna’s spirit ends up meeting both Mimi and Shun; having found the strength to do so, Asuna manages to properly bid Shun farewell, and in this moment, Shin also shatters the Clavis. In her remaining moments, Lisa apologises for having lacked the strength to protect Ryūji and prepares to depart once more, leaving Ryūji to suffer the loss of death anew. By toying with forces beyond human comprehension, Ryūji ends up losing Lisa twice – this time would’ve hit even harder because Ryūji had, until now, been working towards this one moment, so to see everything taken away again would’ve been particularly devastating.

  • Although Ryūji desires death to escape the pain of loss and asks Shin to kill him here nad now, Shin implores Ryūji to live on instead. Asuna soon comes to, and unlike Ryūji, who’d come to Agartha with a very clear goal in mind and was unwilling to listen to those who tried to turn him away from his path, Asuna’s lack of preconceptions and singular objective in Agartha means that she was able to venture into this realm and gain something invaluable: knowledge and wisdom. Having now had the chance to properly say goodbye to Shun and Mimi, Asuna is finally ready to take a step forward and leave the deceased to rest.

  • The three prepare to make their way back to Agartha’s gateway: Ryūji elects to stay behind and learn from the Agarthans in order to find peace and come to terms with his wife’s death. Here, they make use of a ramp that leads back to Agartha’s surface – it is not lost on me that, had Ryūji been more patient and bothered to research this detail, his descent would’ve been less difficult, but then again, had Ryūji appreciated something like this, he might have never made the journey to Agartha at all. As Children Who Chase Lost Voices draws to a close, Anri Kumaki’s Hello, Goodbye and Hello begins to play. This song brought a solitary tear to my eye when I first watched this movie, being both upbeat and melancholy at the same time.

  • Some time later, Asuna returns to her old life on the surface, and having fully accepted that death is a natural part of life, is able to move on – she smiles before heading out the door for school, bringing the film to a close. While the themes in Children Who Chase Lost Voices are easily discerned, the me of ten years ago struggled to write about this film. I still had considerable difficulty with this post a decade later, but looking back, I would contend that, having ten more years of life experience and knowledge of Shinkai’s latest works together, is what allowed me to better convey how I feel about what is one of Makoto Shinkai’s lesser-known films. Children Who Chase Lost Voices is completely overshadowed by Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You, but relative to its successors, is no less enjoyable and compelling, being an indispensable Makoto Shinkai experience. With this ten-year anniversary post in the books, I’ll return to wrap the month up with a talk on The Aquatope on White Sand after twenty-one, and remark that the MG Kyrios I ordered arrived today. I am looking forwards to building it once I confirm the status of the vacation time I’d requested a few weeks earlier.

Altogether, Children Who Chase Lost Voices represents Makoto Shinkai’s boldest, most daring film to date. New themes and new character traits come together in a fantastical story portraying a setting none of his works have ever portrayed. Whereas Shinkai focuses on Tokyo in his films, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is set in rural Japan and the legendary world of Agartha, a place of rolling hills, ancient ruins, endless plains and a treacherous crater housing the Gate of Life and Death. Each setting is rendered in stunning detail, whether it be the interior of Asuna’s house and classroom, to the village and landscapes of Agartha. The end result of this level of detail is that Agartha is brought to life, becoming as convincing as any real-world location Shinkai traditionally sets his stories in. Bringing out the best in Agartha makes it clear to viewers that this world is as real as the one we’re familiar with, and consequently, the learnings that Asuna picks up here are certainly applicable in the real world, as well. In an interview, Shinkai states that he wanted to create a more optimistic messages about parting ways, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a film that completely succeeds in this regard. It is unsurprising that after its release, the film was universally acclaimed; in fact, some people even began comparing Shinkai to the works of Hayato Miyazaki (although Shinkai himself dislikes this comparison, feeling it to be an overestimation of his own abilities). While Children Who Chase Lost Voices is overshadowed by its successors’ success, as well as the fact that in 2019, Sentai Filmworks lost the license to the film, the film remains a worthwhile watch owing to its trailblazing elements that would become commonplace in his newer films, as well as for its wonderful depiction of Agartha and a moving story that shows how, distance or not, people can persevere, overcome and learn. This film might no longer be as accessible as it was a few years earlier, but its contributions are nontrivial, and as such, fans of Makoto Shinkai’s works will greatly enjoy this journey to Agartha, one journey that should not be forgotten.

Tamayura OVA: Review and Reflections on Beginnings of a Journey

“Appreciate everything, even the ordinary…especially the ordinary.” –Pema Chodron

Fū Sawatari heads over to the local camera shop to retrieve her camera with her friend, Kaori Hanawa, a Rollei 35S that had belonged to her late father. Here, she meets Norie Okazaki and Maon Sakurada. The four immediately become friends and visit a local Okonomiyaki shop, before returning to Tamayura Café, where Fū receives a letter from professional photographer, Riho Shihomi; inspired by Fū’s photos, Riho had found a newfound love for photography and sent Fū an unusual train ticket lacking a destination. It turns out Riho is hosting a photography exhibit and is keen to have Fū visit; on the day of the exhibition, Fū is nervous but overjoyed to finally meet Riho in person. Later, Fū begins to wonder about the photo she’d taken of her father, and her little brother’s drawings only gives her a rough idea of where the photo might’ve been. When she asks Kaori, Norie and Maon, Kaori’s older sister, Sayomi, overhears their conversation and offers to help them track the place down. Although Sayomi’s lacklustre navigation skills send the girls on a wild journey, and the destination winds up being quite unlike the spot that Fū had visited, Fū nonetheless has a wonderful time, seeing it as another precious memory. Riho visits Tamayura Café and speaks to Fū about how photography had become an integral part of her life. On their walk, Fū helps two friends take a photograph. Sayomi determines that she might’ve located the spot Fū was seeking and suggests they go on another trip. After a harrowing drive, the girls make it. While Fū sprains her ankle, she fortuitously runs into Hinomaru, who helps carry her; from this vantage point, Fū realises this is where her father had taken them years earlier. Tamayura begins in four OVAs that were aired during the autumn of 2010: produced by Hal Film Maker, they mark the first instalments to the Tamayura story, which follows Fū and her life in Takehara after her father’s passing. Although an air of wistfulness lingers throughout Tamayura, Fū does her best to find joy in her life, taking after her father in photography and striving to capture happiness as her father once did with her new friends.

The Tamayura OVAs introduce the two most important symbols within the series. Fū’s Rollei is a physical piece of her past, of the joy and memory she shared with her father. By continuing to take photographs with it, Fū simultaneously pays respects to her father while at the same time, indicates that she’s also pursuing a new path. This camera therefore comes to mirror the contradiction within life – in order to move ahead, Fū continues to honour what is important to her, and similarly, in order to be respectful of the past, Fū must be mindful of her future. This camera serves Fū faithfully throughout Tamayura, much as it had for her father, and in making new memories with her friends and this camera, Fū keeps the memories of her father alive. The other symbol is the oft-mentioned “ticket with no destination”, which Riho had given to Fū after their initial correspondence. Riho indicates that it represents how the lack of a destination means that Fū can go anywhere and become anything. Rather than setting her mind on a tangible, but rigidly-defined goal, Riho wishes for Fū to explore with complete freedom. Fū thus carries this ticket around to remind her of the fact that her path forwards has no exact set of steps, and a destination will present itself in due course, so at the present, she can (and should) live in the moment. By establishing these two elements, Tamayura states to viewers that Fū’s way will be full of new discoveries and an appreciation of the old: rather than being bound by grief and sorrow, Tamayura gives Fū a peaceful and serene environment in which to pick herself back up and rediscover the highlights in life anew. The energy present in the OVAs fully captures this, and while Tamayura is contemplative and introspective, things are also very lively, offering plenty of moment to smile about.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Readers who’ve been with me since 2013 will have read my Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ posts, and when I watched Tamayura ~Hitotose~, this blog was more of a secondary resource that I didn’t make extensive use of. After realising that I’d not fully watched the Tamayura OVAs, I hastened to rectify that, and in the process, I learnt that this year will also mark the ten year anniversary to ~Hitotose~‘s airing. As such, I think the time is appropriate for me to revisit the whole of Tamayura, starting with the OVAs, which open with Fū wandering around town and imagining all of the awesome photos she’ll take once her camera’s repaired.

  • Fū and her longtime friend, Kaori, swing by the local photography store: it’s known as Hinomaru Photo Studio in real life and was originally built in 1945, after which it was designated as a building of historical and cultural significance. In a clever callout, the shop’s owner in Tamayura is named Hinomaru, after the shop, and for his skills, he’s affectionately known as Maestro. Because Fū’s camera is so old, she often takes it in for repairs, and seeing this in Tamayura‘s opening means that by the events of Graduation Photo, there is additional significance in Fū’s camera finally breaking down.

  • Shy and somewhat scatter-brained, Fū has trouble speaking with new people. The two ladies here are regulars at Hinomaru, and it suddenly strikes me that they’ll return in ~Hitotose~ after the lady in the red shirt suffers a catastrophic heartbreak. Tamayura is a series that covers a broad spectrum of emotions in a mature and relatable fashion, but it is also prone to flights of fancy; this combination brings to mind the likes of ARIA, which was revolutionary for being able to create excitement in the ordinary and similarly hinted at the presence of a benevolent supernatural force.

  • By the time of ~Hitotose~, Fū was already friends with Norie and Maon: they befriend Fū during the events of the OVA after walking by Hinomaru and take an interest in her photos. This meeting happened purely by chance, but it speaks to the power of how photography can bring people together. From here on out, besides Kaori, Fū also has Norie and Maon in her corner, setting the stage for their later adventures.

  • Tamayura is the anime that instilled in me a desire to eat okonomiyaki, and when I attended a local festival several years back, I would have a chance to try a smaller version of it. However, it wasn’t until my travels in Japan where I had authentic okonomiyaki: I was waiting for my flight from Kansai International Airport to Hong Kong from Osaka, and there’d been enough time to sit down for a proper lunch. I opted for okonomiyaki and was blown away by the flavours. This place is called Boteju-Yatai, if memory serves, and aside from okonomiyaki, they also serve a range of noodles.

  • It turns out that Hoboro’s is based on Horikawa: if I ever decide to visit Takehara, I am going to definitely swing by: locals indicate that their okonomiyaki is varied, and there’s even an English-language menu. Fū’s very quickly made friends with Norie and Maon: Norie has a love for all confectionaries and aspires to be a pâtisserie chef, while Maon doesn’t have any concrete goals as of yet. Similarly, while Kaori loves making creative potpourri, she hasn’t given much thought to her career as of yet.

  • Fū’s predisposition for capturing that special shot means that she puts herself in some dangerous positions throughout Tamayura: with her friends helping her, Fū is able to avoid disaster on many occasions, and such instances are always meant to be comedic. Here, Fū leans off a railing while trying to get a photo of her friends at Saihoji Temple: this was a commonly-visited spot throughout Tamayura, whose faithful reproduction of Takehara turns it into part cathartic anime, part travel show.

  • Over a decade ago, I was a part of my secondary school’s yearbook team, and early in the year, I attended a special workshop for making a yearbook successful: one of the sessions was about photography, and the staff running the session indicated that capturing dynamic shots would make for the best memories. I ended up becoming a part of the layout team, where my responsibilities had been to take photos from the photography team and then determine the best way to design a page such that everything was presented in an organised fashion. As a result, I never ended up needing to go out and fetch images for myself.

  • Upon meeting Fū’s younger brother for the first time, Norie is infatuated. In the Tamayura OVA, I found that all of the characters’ traits were exaggerated compared to how they were presented later on: this is probably a consequence the OVAs trying to define everyone’s personalities and give them a unique role, whereas in the television series, there would be more time to develop everyone out further. Thus, Norie is even more rambunctious, and Maon whistles more in response to things. Similarly, Fū is far more absent-minded about her surroundings while in pursuit of that perfect shot.

  • To her friends, Fū is affectionately known as Potte, a bit of onomatopoeia resulting from the noise Fū makes while nervously walking. This helps viewers separate out the different social circles that Fū is a part of. I refer to Fū as such rather than Potte simply because it’s a matter of consistency: I generally prefer to name characters by their original name rather than their nicknames. Here, Fū melts after becoming excited about meeting her role model, Riho, for the first time.

  • I’d long known that Riho’s a mentor of sorts for Fū, having heard the conversations within Tamayura, but it turns out the OVAs explore how this had come about. Even then, the full story is not shown to viewers; all that is shown is that Fū had sent some photos to Riho, and received the iconic train ticket with no destination in return. I imagine that for Fū, the simplicity in her photographs present a sort of sincerity about them that captures moments in ways that professionals do not consider as being important.

  • Tamayura is suggesting that Fū’s inexperience with professional techniques create images that convey a sense of rawness here that professionals might not consider for their work, and seeing Fū’s photos is actually what led Riho to continue working in photography despite it being a tough time for her. The exhibition is a success, and Fū also learns that her long-time role model is not to dissimilar to herself. From here on out, the two develop a deep friendship; Riho’s presence gives viewers the peace of mind that besides her friends, Fū also has someone to walk her through the more technical pieces of photography so she may hone her craft.

  • Having now seen ~Hitotose~,  ~More Aggressive~ and Graduation Photo, it is clear that the artwork, animation and character designs have subtly evolved over time, improving with every iteration. Environments are more detailed, the characters begin to look more life-like, and the beauty surrounding Fū’s everyday life becomes more apparent. However, here in the OVA, the spirit of Takehara is captured in full, and it becomes clear that subsequent works took the aesthetic the OVA established, and then expanded on it, exploring more of Takehara and its surroundings.

  • One detail that blew me out of the water in the Tamayura OVAs was the fact that the opening song is Maaya Sakamoto’s cover of Yumi Arai’s timeless hit from Kiki’s Delivery Service, Yasashisa ni Tsutsumareta nara (Embraced in Tenderness). When the OVA began playing, I immediately found the song to be warm and comforting, but couldn’t put my finger on why I’d sounded so familiar. As it turns out, I’ve been listening to piano covers of Yasashisa ni Tsutsumareta nara while working. I still need to watch Kiki’s Delivery Service: Miyazaki films are always a joy to watch.

  • The music in the Tamayura OVA are familiar: the same background pieces were used in the television series and for Graduation Photo, creating a sense of nostalgia and sense of comfort. Earlier this year, a complete soundtrack was released, featuring every vocal piece and instrumental track used in Tamayura. The vocal pieces all have a gentle and soft tone about them, making them superbly relaxing to listen to. In the end, Fū wraps up by taking a photo of Riho. Earlier, Fū had brought a gift of sorts for Riho, but in her excitement, left it on the train. One of the train station staff pick it up and returns it to Fū; presumably, Fū will be able to gift this to Riho at a later date.

  • Café Tamayura is one of my favourite places in Tamayura: it is home for Fū, and here, the girls experience a few menu item. From their reactions, this is something that will be available to customers. Revisiting Tamayura has led me to see that the use of fuzzy eyes to denote happiness is not new: Tamayura and K-On! have been doing this a decade earlier, although it was only really with Yuru Camp△ that I began noticing this trait.

  • Kaori’s sister, Sayomi, makes an appearance: she’s fond of adventure, and now that I think about it, she fulfils the same role as GochiUsa‘s Mocha. While ordinarily, the idea of adventure would be an enticing one, Sayomi’s sense of direction is questionable. Kaori thus dreads it whenever Sayomi shows up with an itch fore adventure, since it entails everyone getting lost for what seems like an inordinate amount of time.

  • What makes things about Sayomi’s adventures worthwhile is that, while everyone is lost, they still nonetheless have a good time. This is one of the recurring lessons that arise from Sayomi’s adventures with Fū and her friends: although the path to the destination is bumpy and crooked, the memories created are well worth it. The fact that Sayomi loves exploring obscure, local destinations was also inspiring to me. When my undergraduate degree ended, I was feeling a little left behind by the fact that I’d not travelled that summer. After watching ~More Aggressive~, I was reminded of the fact that there’s actually quite a bit of my home town I’d yet to explore.

  • This way of thinking impacted how I spent my days during the world health crisis: with the mountains trickier to access, and international travel off the table, I ended up taking long and pleasant walks in the parks and neighbourhoods nearby, and in doing so, discovered things that I would’ve missed otherwise. For Fū and her friends, after two hours of being lost, they decide to set down and have lunch in a quieter spot. Earlier today, I went out for a walk downtown (my first time returning in over a year), then spent the afternoon touring a condo unit of interest: at this point in time, I figured that it’d be nice to go and see what’s available on the market.

  • The evening concluded with a dinner from one of our favourite Cantonese joints in the city; besides the longtime favourite of sweet-and-sour pork, Chinese broccoli with stir-fry beef and seafood and fried tofu cooked in a clay pot (一品窩), we also mixed things up by ordering fried oysters with mushrooms. Food is definitely one of the things I remember best about a given day, so I make it a point to write about things where appropriate. Anime like Tamayura similarly feature mealtimes to accentuate that moments like these are an integral part of memorable moments; while Kaori and the others are doubtlessly exasperated by Sayomi’s inability to navigate, sharing a good meal with one another helps to lift the spirits and give everyone energy to finish their tour.

  • After one more hour, the group finally arrives at the location Sayomi had been thinking of. While this isn’t the same spot that Fū remembers, there is a sort of nostalgia around this spot, even though it’s likely everyone’s first time here. Tamayura‘s OVAs thus speak to the idea that there are many hidden treasures around one’s own home, and that time spent exploring the places one knows well can always yield unexpected surprises even if one’s been there before.

  • Tamayura suggests that getting lost and not finding what one was expecting is also a part of the adventure, a part of the process that timeless memories are created, and moreover, with the right mindset, all of this can happen right in one’s own backyard. This isn’t to say that travel isn’t important, but in the event where travel isn’t viable, one can nonetheless have a good time with a bit of open-mindedness. Unlike the people in my generation, I do not view travel as a large priority in my life; my priorities are to advance my career and build up my assets.

  • For me, if I don’t take any vacation time in a given year to go abroad, that’s completely fine, as I’m happy to spend a long weekend in the mountains or driving the freeway under an open prairie sky. This way of thinking comes from how my parents do things: they found that doing something simple like a walk by the river downtown could be very joyful, and Tamayura certainly seems to suggest this to viewers. Fū and her friends have remarkable adventures all around town, exploring places that possess a hidden beauty to them.

  • When Riho decides to visit Fū in person, the two end up taking some private time together to share their thoughts. The streets of Takehara’s warehouse district have a beautiful, watercolour-like feel to them, and for the longest time, I’ve wondered what it would be like to run a gentle café here. It suddenly hits me that I’ve not written anything about Momoneko-sama, a fluffy, pink cat that roams Takehara. Despite Fū’s best efforts to photograph him, he always manages to escape before she can press the button, leaving behind a blurry mess.

  • Fortunately for Fū, when two students ask her to take their photo, they stay still and allow for Fū to get an excellent picture. Fū is seen using their digital camera here: by 2010, digital cameras were commonplace, and smartphones hadn’t quite displaced them. Compared to a film camera, digital cameras are more forgiving when it comes to mistakes, so by having Fū run with the S35, Tamayura speaks to the idea that a film photograph is a permanent record of a given memory, for better or worse.

  • The next weekend, Sayomi follows through on her promise to find the spot from Fū’s photograph: Kaori had been dreading this moment, especially since Sayomi has offered to drive everyone to this destination. Her driving rivals Azumanga Daioh‘s Yukari Tanizaki in terms of aggression and recklessness: Kaori, Fū, Norie and Maon are left in terror as Sayomi speeds along the narrow mountain switchbacks in her Mazda 5: having now rocked a Mazda 5 for about a decade, I recognise the vehicle’s design from anywhere, and I can say with confidence that it is actually possible to drive like this with the Mazda 5.

  • Once Sayomi’s harrowing ride comes to an end, Fū and the others take a moment to catch their breath before taking in the sights from Asahiyama Park, located high above Takehara. This is one of Takehara’s power spots, places in Japan of spiritual significance, and while Fū doesn’t initially believe this was where her photo was taken, she ends up spraining her ankle, and just in time, Maestro appears to give her a hand. Fū suddenly realises that her younger brother’s drawing portrayed his getting a pigg-back ride while up here, and so, this is precisely where Fū had gone.

  • With Tamayura‘s OVAs definitively in the books, I am going to return and write about ~Hitotose~ once I’ve had a chance to watch all of the episodes anew: the last time I did so would’ve been a decade earlier, and I confess that I’ve pretty much forgotten everything about this series; the anime had aired during the autumn of 2011, a time when I’d just finished a full summer of undergraduate research and was reinvigorated, ready to stare down another year of university. This term was quite eventful: although I stumbled yet again in the third and final data structures course, I maintained a satisfactory GPA that term, giving me the confidence to finish my degree strong.

  • On the topic of ten year anniversaries, September 2011 also marked the conclusion of Hanasaku Iroha; this would’ve been P.A. Works’ first major production since 2010’s Angel Beats!, and the elements of Hanasaku Iroha would go on to shape the sort of anime P.A. Works later produced. I’ve recently begun a rewatch, and I am impressed at the level of quality in the story, animation and direction in this series. Finally, I am a boss fight away from beating DOOM Eternal, and my copy of ARIA The Crepuscolo has arrived: I will be looking to finish and write about both during the September long weekend.

  • This is the iconic photo that Fū had taken: there is a sense of nostalgia and familiarity about it that impresses those who gaze upon it, and the eponymous Tamayura can be seen: it refers to small specks of light that appear in photos, and is said to manifest in photos portraying happiness. One of Fū’s objectives is to see if she can reproduce the phenomenon with consistency, and since the mechanism behind their appearance is unexplained, they simply become a metaphor for Fū pursuing new experiences and making new memories with those who are in her life.

In the space of four episodes, Tamayura‘s OVAs succinctly summarises the magic in this tale of self-discovery, acceptance and embracing the future after a loss. At this point in Tamayura, Fū is back in Takehara, a peaceful town of around twenty-six thousand in Hiroshima, known for its old warehouse district: she’s completely engrossed in photography, and while a sense of longing is never really too far away, it becomes clear that she’s in good company. Kaori is always there to support Fū, and similarly, having Norie and Maon around means there’s never a dull moment. Between the inspiration from Riho, and the adventures that Sayomi hauls Fū and her friends on, Fū’s life in Takehara is simultaneously tranquil and eventful. By keeping busy with her photography hobby and sharing experiences with her friends that transform into lifelong memories, Fū is able to, bit by bit, move forwards and embrace her future, one that would eventually see her start a photography club and even mentor juniors, before walking the stage during graduation and setting her sights for the next milestone in her life. However, every journey has a beginning, and it is here in quiet Takehara that Fū’s story begins: things continue in ~Hitotose~ (2011) and ~More Aggressive~ (2013), before wrapping up with Graduation Photo (2016). I had followed Tamayura from the very beginning, and we are now nearing the ten-year anniversary to when ~Hitotose~ aired: this is a series that provided an exceptionally cathartic experience for me, one that walked me through some difficult times in university and would ultimately give me the push I needed to transition away from academia into industry. However, in my haste to start ~Hitotose~, I skipped over the OVAs in the process; while Tamayura is written in such a way so viewers are always reminded of what’s important, and I therefore had no trouble with following ~Hitotose~‘s direction, I did feel that the time had come to wrap things up properly and finish the series’ very beginning, which sets the tone for the remainder of the series: from 2011 to 2016, Tamayura would accompany me along my journey through university. The time is appropriate to return and revisit one of the most iconic healing anime of all time now, and now that I’ve wrapped up Tamayura‘s OVAs, I’m quite ready to see how my thoughts of Tamayura have changed in the ten years since I first watched things.