The Infinite Zenith

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revisiting Kantai Collection: The Movie, Remarks On Duality and Accepting One’s Inner Darkness Through Introspection At The Quinquennial

“To become better, you have to admit your ignorance, at least to yourself.” –William A. Pasmore

On this day in 2017, Kantai Collection: The Movie finally became available to overseas viewers after a nine month long wait. While I had been enthusiastic to watch the film, upon finishing my experience, I found that the film had been technically excellent: the animation is superb, and the music was, in my own words, worthy of a feature film such as Letters From Iwo Jima or Isoroku Yamamoto. However, I had been left a shade disappointed with respect to the story, which appeared to leave aspects of Kantai Collection unanswered. As such, with Kantai Collection: The Movie approaching its five year anniversary and Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s release set for November 2022, I felt it was appropriate to give Kantai Collection: The Movie a revisit with a fresh set of eyes. Almost immediately, I found that the me of five years earlier had not been watching the film with both eyes open. Kantai Collection: The Movie makes a meaningful contribution to the franchise through its story, and this aspect is ultimately something that sets it apart from Azur Lane. Throughout Kantai Collection: The Movie, the Kan-musume face a new challenge in the form of an enigmatic voice emanating from Ironbottom Sound, which coincides with Kisaragi’s surprise return, seemingly from the dead. As the film progresses, Kaga reveals that Kan-musume and Abyssals share a close relationship; when one is sunk in combat, they are reborn in the other form, and are cursed to existing in an unending cycle of violence and struggle. While the Kan-musume reason that if they can survive while whittling down the Abyssal’s number, they can end the conflict, this approach actually implies the Kan-musume can only achieve their goal by extermination. In this way, the Kan-musume would become no better than their foe, resorting to force to achieve their aims. This is where Fubuki comes in: while she’s regarded as special in Kantai Collection, no evidence has ever been given of this. In Kantai Collection: The Movie, Fubuki’s single largest contribution is her climactic confrontation with her Abyssal self. Although her Abyssal self attempts to persuade Fubuki that in a world born of suffering, the only recourse is to inflict equivalent suffering unto others, Fubuki rejects this mode of thinking, but also acknowledges that while a changing world can be frightening, the endless cycle of violence can be broken if one accepts that existence is the sum of both joy and sorrow, tranquility and anger, and hope and despair. In short, Fubuki accepts something the other Kan-musume do not: one must accept, and embrace their inner darkness, in order to become whole. This is the acknowledgement that as an individual, one has both positive and negative traits, but rather than attempting to reject one’s negative traits, life is a matter of taking ownership of them and recognising how to manage and work with them. This willingness to understand her own dark side is what makes Fubuki special: she sees her Abyssal self as another part of her, not to be feared or shunned, but to be accepted. In this way, Kantai Collection: The Movie gives Kantai Collection new purpose: winning this war, and breaking the loop, entails giving the other Kan-musume the strength to do the same.

Kantai Collection thus becomes a story of overcoming internal strife through acceptance, and self-empowerment through introspection, which provides the series with a significant amount of depth, far beyond endlessly grinding maps and collecting ships for kicks. While Kantai Collection‘s television series had been an inconsistent amalgamation of comedy and drama, introspection and adventure, Kantai Collection: The Movie dramatically improved on its predecessor’s consistency and messaging. The largest indicator of this is through the film’s incidental music. In the television series, Kantai Collection‘s soundtrack had been an eclectic mix of whimsical slice-of-life pieces, grand combat accompaniments and emotional flourishes, mirroring the series’ portrayal of a wide range of moments in Fubuki and the other Kan-musume‘s lives. Conversely, here in Kantai Collection: The Movie, the entire soundtrack conveys a sense of melancholy and longing. In turn, the whole of the film is an emotional, moving experience, speaking to the isolation that Kisaragi feels after returning, the unsettling feelings associated with the mystery surrounding Ironbottom Sound, and Fubuki’s own journey in coming to terms with who she is. In fact, melancholy permeates the whole of Kantai Collection: The Movie: there is a sense of sadness surrounding what the Kan-musume and Abyssals do, and this aspect of the film speaks to the horrors and desolation that was the Pacific War. The Kan-musume and Abyssals are halves of a whole, of the spirit that went into every destroyer, battleship, aircraft carrier and frigate that was ever commissioned. From the engineers, to the pilots, command craft and crew, each vessel was a home away from home, a friend that looked after its crew in exchange for being cared for, and so, when a ship was sunk in battle, these feelings manifested in the form of a grudge, decrying the unfairness of this world and at how easily so much effort and respect could be undone. Kantai Collection: The Movie forces viewers to be made aware of this fact, and in conjunction with Fubuki’s special nature, the film suggests that it is possible to move on from these injustices by first forgiving oneself and accepting one’s own inner darkness as the starting point. Five years after Kantai Collection: The Movie‘s home release and my subsequent review of the film, it becomes clear that the movie is remarkably mature, and back then, I lacked the maturity and wisdom to pick these messages up.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My revisit of Kantai Collection: The Movie comes as a result of Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s imminent release, and this me to rewatch the film. This time around, I’m rolling the Director’s Cut, which features three more minutes of footage depicting the sprites assisting the Kan-musume. Right out of the gates, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia when starting the film, which opens with a night battle that sees the Kan-musume succeed over their adversaries, the Abyssals. The scene is set to Natsumi Kameoka’s compositions, which added considerable audio depth to the film and series as a whole.

  • I found Azur Lane‘s music to be of a comparable quality, and generally speaking, both Kantai Collection and Azur Lane are distinct in their own way. One aspect about Kantai Collection I did prefer over Azur Lane is the attention paid to detail in the Kan-musume: their loadouts and gear are more consistent and thoughtfully designed compared to their counterparts in Azur Lane. However, Azur Lane‘s charm is that ships from a larger range of navies are shown, and the resulting factions opens the floor to a different kind of story, whereas here in Kantai Collection, the conflict is strictly Kan-musume versus Abyssals.

  • On the weekend after Kantai Collection: The Movie was released five years earlier, I went to the local mall and drove out to the town over to take a stroll in their historical Ranche Park. I recall revisiting the park again a few months later; during this time, my first start-up was showing signs of failure, and I wanted to take a step back. As I sat on the hillside overlooking the park, I promised myself that I would return to this park in the future, under better circumstances. Over the past few years, between a busy schedule and the global health crisis, plans to revisit this park were put on hold.

  • However, with the vacation time I’ve had available to me this year, I was able to capitalise on an opportunity to return. After four years since I’d set foot at the historic Ranche Park, I thus returned, under tremendously sunny skies, to the viewpoint overlooking the town where I gazed across the valley as I had done four years earlier; the park has remained unchanged since I was here last, and a feeling of nostalgia washed over me. I allowed myself to live in the moment, in the realisation that I’d fulfilled a promise to better myself and revisit the park again. A week later, I would head over to the mall again. As I had done five years earlier, I enjoyed New York Fries’ Premium Chili-Cheese-and-Bacon Dog and Poutine Combo before heading off to pick up a foam pillow.

  • Upon revisiting the things I’d done five years earlier, under completely different circumstances, it dawned on me that with this additional life experience, rewatching Kantai Collection: The Movie again might’ve been a worthwhile endeavour because I would return with a fresh set of eyes. Since finishing the movie in 2017, I set down Kantai Collection and never returned to it. As such, all of my remarks surrounding the series in my later posts on Uma Musume Pretty Derby and Azur Lane were based on opinions that stem back from this time.

  • While some of my thoughts and impressions haven’t changed (I still feel that there’s a mystique surrounding the southern Pacific Islands that Kantai Collection: The Movie captures perfectly), my appreciation of the film’s main themes and intentions have increased. This is because back in 2017, I hadn’t quite been watching the film with an effort of trying to understand what the creators were trying to say. As it was, while Kantai Collection: The Movie was superb from an audio and visual perspective, I felt disappointed because the film hadn’t appeared to answer the questions I sought about the series or show its contributions to the franchise.

  • As it turns out, had I made a more sincere attempt in understanding things, I would’ve found Kantai Collection: The Movie to act as a conclusive presentation of how Kantai Collection works. Granted, there are some abstract moments in the theme, but these weren’t intended to willingly obscure or obfuscate the film’s main themes. In the present day, I make an attempt to see what a film wants to say with its narrative, and if a work has a cohesive message that is relevant, I am satisfied. Some folks believe that works of fiction must necessarily do more than this to succeed, but for me, the starting point of enjoying any work is the presence of a clear theme.

  • Throughout Kantai Collection, Fubuki had been presented as being special, but the television series never quite explored what this was. From the television series alone, one might gain the impression that Fubuki was special because, as a seemingly-generic individual with no distinct identifying traits in her personality, she could adapt and grow into whatever role was asked of her. However, Kantai Collection: The Movie suggests that Fubuki’s personality makes her uniquely suited for facing the problem that Kan-musume and Abyssals face.

  • This is because, once every character’s endless cycle between Kan-musume and Abyssal state is known, the Kan-musume determine that they can win the war by eliminating the Abyssals at a much greater rate than they themselves are sunk. On this logic, if no new Abyssals are created, then only Kan-musume will remain, and peace is attained in this fashion. However, given Kan-musume and Abyssals exist as a result of the unanswered feelings from the original World War Two naval vessels, the Kan-musume‘s plan would be akin to completely dismissing and suppressing the negative emotions within oneself.

  • This is, of course, a very unhealthy way of life, and in the context of Kantai Collection, the Kan-musume would be waging a war of extermination against the Abyssals. The Abyssals, being born from feelings of regret, hatred and pain, seek to destroy the Kan-musume, but the Kan-musume are supposed to represent optimism, hope and compassion. As such, while the idea of fighting the Abyssals to extinction works from a functional perspective, it would actually contradict the values that the Kan-musume themselves embody – annihilating one’s foes outright, rather than accepting their existence and reaching a mutual co-existence, usually will not lead to the solution one desires.

  • This is the sort of thing that period discussions surrounding Kantai Collection: The Movie were generally missing – a quick Google search for reviews of this movie will actually find my review, along with several others, topping the results. All of these reviews, mine included, conclude the series is best suited for fans of the series and is beautifully animated, but the story was confusing. Similarly, folks at AnimeSuki weren’t convinced that the film’s narrative could stand of its own accord and concluded the film had no emotional weight because the film focused purely on Fubuki. Some forum members suggest that Fubuki’s role as being special was naught more than a convenient plot device, and that the film should’ve had everyone fight Kisaragi or similar in order to have any depth.

  • However, to fight Kisaragi would be to promote destruction over understanding, and as I’d noted earlier, this would stand against the thing that the Kan-musume are supposed to represent. Since AnimeSuki nowadays appears adverse to perspectives that are not their own, I imagine I’d probably incur a ban for suggesting that these interpretations of the film are incomplete, and that the version of the film their members preferred to see would only reinforce the message that one’s foes should be destroyed. This mindset is precisely why the world is so divided: thanks in no small part to polarising media and social media, the world has increasingly trended towards an “us versus them” mindset, as opposed to acknowledging that problems can (and should) be solved by accepting the fact that other sides will exist, and that a solution in the middle, more often than not, can be reached.

  • At Tango-Victor-Tango, the forum-goers similarly characterised this movie as being poorly explained and hollow. Prima facie, my original review agreed with these perspectives. However, these perspectives, mine included, fail to take into account all of the design choices within Kantai Collection: The Movieboth the melancholy tenour that permeates the film, and the lingering sense of mystery come together to act as an analogy for the inner conflict between one’s best and worst self. I concede that it takes reading between the lines to draw this conclusion, but when everything in Kantai Collection: The Movie is summed up, it looks like the film had strove to convey how a real-world challenge that people face can drive the mechanisms behind those of a fictional world, enough to provide a plausible explanation for how players can collect ships and why they must fight the Abyssals.

  • As it stands, Kantai Collection had begun life as a game, and the game’s goals had proven to be quite simple. Attempting to fit a story around everything demands uncommon creativity from the writers, doubly so because Kantai Collection had been designed around the moé aesthetic. Azur Lane, when it came out five years later, found itself succumbing to the same problems that affected Kantai Collection, but when it released a spin-off, Slow Ahead, the problems vanished. This is because the mood in Slow Ahead matched the general vibe from the game more closely than the original series had. Had Kantai Collection originally aired as a light-hearted slice-of-life akin to Slow Ahead, it may have been considerably more accessible and effective in introducing the characters.

  • I’ve been a longtime defender of Fubuki and Yoshika-like characters in military-moé series, and the reason why this is the case is simple – providing a common archetype, the tabula rosa, allows for a naïve character to become shaped by their experiences and develop their potential. Without any other identifying traits, such characters become worth rooting for because they have nothing more than their effort and grit to go on. Because every world has different attributes, the same archetypes end up completely different as a result of their journeys.

  • The last segments of Kantai Collection: The Movie is the most significant part of the film, and also the least discussed. It is here that what makes Fubuki unique is explored: she alone doesn’t carry lingering feelings of resentment and hatred against her other half, or her fate, as the other Kan-musume do, and so, she is able to sail Ironbottom Sound without suffering the damaging effects from the area’s unusual waters. The phenomenon might be see as the combined grudges of the ships sunk here manifesting in physical form, compelling Kan-musume to give in to their negative feelings, and the damage to their gear is a visual metaphor for how being surrounded by negativity can chip at one’s well-being and confidence.

  • Whereas I missed this previously, Kantai Collection: The Movie makes it clear that Fubuki and her Abyssal self are two sides of the same coin. During the catastrophes of the Pacific War, the spirits imbibed by each vessel, the sum of the sailors, officers and engineers that ran each ship, eventually split in two from the torment and injustice of defeat. The positive feelings would become the Kan-musume, and the negative feelings became the Abyssals. Since then, these two sides have been at odds with one another, seeking to extinguish the other. However, the reality is that light cannot exist without darkness.

  • It is similarly unrealistic to eliminate negative feelings in oneself; when people say to “embrace their darkness”, they are referring to having enough emotional maturity to acknowledge that there are things that make one insecure, weak, et cetera. However, rather than trying to evade it, one becomes empowered by facing them head on. For instance, I’m impatient and quick to anger, quick to deal out judgement. I manage this by turning my impatience into an exercise of patience, of willing myself to take a step back and come back to something later. If later, my feelings of negativity go away, then it becomes clear that whatever had been bothering me was of no consequence. Conversely, if the feelings persist, I turn that restlessness and channel it towards something positive.

  • In confronting her Abyssal self, Fubuki demonstrates a sort of maturity that the other Kan-musume have not. She believes that having hope for the future is what allows one to put their best foot forward, and unsurprisingly, Fubuki’s Abyssal self cannot see why this is. Negative emotions can be all-consuming, and it takes strength to manage them. An exercise folks suggest is to write out the things that bothers one, and see if they can’t find any instances where those negative emotions led one to do something positive: this is supposed to help one understand that negativity is not dominating, and that there is nothing wrong with being human.

  • Because there’d been so little discussion of Kantai Collection: The Movie, one talk that did bring up the symbolism and imagery within the film still stands out to me. While I recognise the effort made towards interpreting these elements, their conclusion only merits partial credit. I can’t quite remember where I read this, but it was suggested that, when Fubuki finally faces her Abyssal self mano-a-mano, the red Spider Lilies that bloom were meant to represent reincarnation. However, the scene in Kantai Collection: The Movie unfolds as follows: Fubuki approaches her other half, and crumbles away from the effort. However, her Abyssal self also crumbles. In spite of this, Fubuki persists and manages to limp to her other half, embracing her tearfully and reassuring her that no one is going to be forgotten, that in spite of what’s happened, people will still be there for them.

  • According to hanakotoba, red Spider Lilies represent a final farewell, and bloom when people part ways permanently. While their usage in funerals led to their being associated with death, originally, red Spider Lilies simply refer to a parting of ways. What’s happened here is something similar to what I’ve experienced. In Chinese culture, killing black moths that enter one’s home is verboten because it is believed these moths house the spirits of the deceased. When a black moth entered my home, my parents told me to leave it be, and I later asked for clarification. From my grasp of Cantonese, I gathered they housed spirits, but missed the specific detail that these spirits may belong to one’s ancestors.

  • If I were to explain this to someone else, I would’ve probably butchered the story and concluded that moths are cursed. It is not surprising, then, that meanings can be lost over time, and similarly, anime are fond of using red Spider Lilies to symbolise death, when in reality, they were used by farmers to keep vermin away before being used at funerals for their distinct appearance: the red Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata, is poisonous. Kantai Collection: The Movie chooses to utilise the red Spider Lily correctly, rendering a field of them blooming as Fubuki bids her Abyssal form farewell before preparing to merge with her.

  • I don’t consider this a rebirth because what happens here is ultimately the restoration of two halves back into its original form. Reincarnation is best described as the process by which an individual’s soul is transplanted to another physical body. While one might then make the case that Fubuki is reborn in a metaphoric sense, the reality is that Fubuki herself prior to this merger still believed in accepting her other half. There is no significant change to her personality, and she’s not imbibing a lesson or experience that leaves her in a different place. On the other hand, a final farewell is an appropriate descriptor because by accepting her Abyssal self, Fubuki becomes whole again with an entity that had, until now, been an independent being with her own agency.

  • This entire scene is set to the track “Hope” (希望, Hepburn kibо̄), the single most moving and touching song on the Kantai Collection: The Movie soundtrack. Whenever I hear this song, my mind immediately whisks me back to the Ranche Park, and in this song, every emotion from Kantai Collection: The Movie is captured in a single, succinct track lasting a minute and forty-five seconds. In this track, the use of piano, string and woodwind simultaneously creates a feeling of wistfulness and empathy, of longing for a better future.

  • Far more than the red Spider Lilies, the true significance of the flower field scene in Kantai Collection: The Movie actually occurs when Fubuki finally embraces her Abyssal self. This is a very literal form of embracing one’s dark side, and shows how there’s nothing to fear. In doing this, Fubuki demonstrates that she’s overcome what troubles the other ship girls, and this acceptance liberates Abyssal Fubuki from her torment; her Abyssal self had existed in loneliness, so being accepted by someone, least of all the person who matters most to her, would show Fubuki’s Abyssal self that there is indeed hope, and that it is time to let go. With the farewell over, the entire scene dissolves.

  • Without Abyssal Fubuki’s grudge driving the opposing forces, Abyssal forces begin to disappear, and the film hits its dénouement. In the aftermath, Kisaragi and Mutsuki share a tearful moment before parting ways. Although Kisaragi’s return is a large part of the story, it ultimately became secondary to Fubuki’s journey, but, despite lacking more detail, I saw it as a show of how Abyssal or not, Kisaragi’s choices is what makes her a Kan-musume. While the film saw her slowly consumed by Abyssal traits owing to her lingering feelings of regret, in her heart, she still wants to return to the others. Seeing this is a cathartic release following the film’s build-up, and with the Abyssal presence neutralised, the Abyssal Kisaragi vanishes.

  • This exercise, in revisiting Kantai Collection: The Movie, represented a chance for me to reflect on how I’ve changed as a blogger. While the film still remains unable to convince me to play the browser game, I now see the movie as a sincere effort to give more weight to the world that Fubuki and the Kan-musume inhabit. In this function, Kantai Collection: The Movie is successful. Looking back, going back and revisiting a work after some time has passed, especially a work one has already written about, is a fantastic exercise for bloggers. Doing this allows one to reflect on how their thoughts and opinions change over time, and how life experiences may shape their experiences of something, potentially helping one to be a more consistent and confident writer.

  • In this way, I’ve come to remind myself that opinions certainly aren’t immutable, and works that I’ve disagreed with previously do have more merit to them than I’d initially thought. Kantai Collection: The Movie is one such example, and it was quite instructive to go back and revisit the film: while my original review was still somewhat positive, I have noticed that of late, I’ve been increasingly unfair towards Kantai Collection in my other posts. Returning to watch the movie anew, with a fresh set of eyes, has helped me greatly in remembering what Kantai Collection had been going for by the time its movie was released.

  • Having revisited Kantai Collection: The Movie, it becomes clear that Fubuki’s story is over. Itsuka Ano Umi de is going to focus on Shigure, and all of the promotional materials have suggested that this second season of Kantai Collection is going to be more serious than its predecessor. Set for release in November, I’m currently still working out how I’d like to write about this one, since Itsuka Ano Umi de airs during the same season as Yama no Susume: Next Summit. While it’s great to be seeing more Kantai Collection after all this time, I admit that, like the wistfulness conveyed here in Kantai Collection: The Movie, there is a bit of melancholy surrounding Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s release: five years have passed since the film’s release, and a nontrivial number of this series’ fans likely would’ve already moved on.

  • While Kantai Collection: The Movie had been all-business, Mutsuki does get a happy ending: Kisaragi returns to her in full, appearing to be fully cured of her previous affliction. If I had to guess, assuming that Itsuka Ano Umi de is set after Kantai Collection: The Movie, it is possible that the story could focus on Shigure coming to terms with her own inner darkness. The original IJN Shigure’s story is a tragic one: originally dubbed “invincible”, the Shigure was sunk after being hit by a torpedo from the submarine, USS Blackfin, at Gulf of Siam in January 1945. As such, with my curiosity in this sequel piqued, I am interested to see what directions Kantai Collection will take next. In the meantime, we are on the doorsteps of September: this is going to be the last post for the month, and since I am hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase, I am presently working on making this showcase one worthy of the community.

Revisiting Kantai Collection: The Movie thus becomes an important exercise for myself and this blog, because it shows how important it is to look inward and understand oneself, as well as accept how one’s life experiences can shift their opinions over time. In reflecting on these changes, one becomes more informed of their own values, and comes out a stronger individual as a result. I’ve never believed in clinging onto old opinions as absolute, and acknowledge that over time, things do change. In 2017, I was of the mind that Cocoapods was little more than bloatware that made it difficult to modify and update an iOS app. However, had I stuck with this belief, I would be a lesser developer for it. My experiences would subsequently show me that I was wrong, and I’ve never been too proud to own up to the fact I made a mistake. After taking the plunge and accepting Cocoapods, I became a better iOS developer, integrating new libraries into my project more elegantly and recognising that there are other excellent developers out there whose existing efforts can both inform me of how to improve myself, and save me time on a project. Similarly, with Kantai Collection: The Movie, I now see a series that strove to remind viewers that beyond the game’s mechanics, a very inspiring tale was told to give the characters’ experiences more weight and moreover, this tale holds applicability even now. Kantai Collection: The Movie has therefore aged very gracefully, presenting messages that remain relevant to this day. As such, I am not so proud that I won’t redact my earlier commentary about this series: Kantai Collection, through its movie, did say something meaningful, and despite over six years having elapsed since the film’s original screening in Japan, Itsuka Ano Umi de still remains relevant, as this second season may potentially expand upon the film’s themes and show the sort of change that Fubuki had laid down the groundwork for. Itsuka Ano Umi de will consist of eight episodes and begin airing in November, and while Kantai Collection may not be as popular as it had been back in 2017, the series still has life in it yet, with Itsuka Ano Umi de possessing the potential of reminding viewers why a six year wait for Kantai Collection‘s second season was completely worthwhile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Ghost: An Anime Movie Review and Reflection

“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.” –Alice Walker

During the summer, legends begin circulating about a ghost that is said to only appear to those who burn fireworks at an abandoned airfield. Curiosity surrounding these legends bring together Tomoya Sugisaki, Aoi Harukawa, and Ryō Kobayashi, who share an interest in seeing this ghost: Tomoya is academically brilliant but yearns to be an artist, while Aoi is bullied by classmates. Ryō suffers from a terminal illness and is forced to give up his passion, basketball. One evening, the three gather at the airfield’s runway and light some fireworks together, and although the summer ghost looks little more than a legend, she soon appears and reveals she can only be seen by those who are near death. They learn that her name is Ayane, and of everyone, Tomoya is the most affected by things, and he begins to visit her more often. Over time, Ayane reveals she died after she’d gotten into a disagreement with her mother, and after running out into a storm, was hit by a vehicle. While death might offer freedom from the world’s obligations, it is also an unimaginably lonely experience. The incident did not kill her, but in a panic, the driver shoved her body into a suitcase, buried said suitcase and left her for dead. Since then, Ayane’s spirit had been searching for her body so she could give her mother some closure. However, with summer rapidly ending, Tomoya’s mother insists that he spend more time on his studies to secure admissions at a top university, and Tomoya begins to wonder if death would offer him freedom from his mother’s expectations. Certain that helping Ayane find her body would also help him find an answer, he begins to accompany Ayane more often, even imploring Aoi and Ryō to help one evening. Ryō refuses, stating that Tomoya hasn’t an inkling of what he’s going through, but after Aoi comforts him, the pair decide to help Tomoya find Ayane’s body, which was buried in a landfill. With Ayane’s body found, they return her brooch to her mother and begin moving forwards with their own lives. Tomoya ends up being upfront with his mother about his interests in art, and Aoi becomes more confident in herself, telling the bullies off. Ryō, on the other hand, succumbs to his illness, but he is determined to see the spring one last time before he dies. A year later, Tomoya and Aoi meet at the same runway, where Ryō’s spirit tells them to live their best lives. This is Summer Ghost, a film that released back in November 2021 and whose home release became available in March this year; Summer Ghost is a ways removed from the shows I’m wont to writing about, but longtime readers will likely have spotted that summer is usually when I tend to write about films that deal in more abstract themes.

At the heart of Summer Ghost, lies the poignant question of what it means to live – at the film’s beginning, Tomoya, Aoi and Ryō are united by, in Ayane’s words, their closeness to death and a desire to understand it further. This is especially apparent with Tomoya, who’s fallen into a depression because of the disconnect between his dreams and his mother’s expectations for him. Feeling as though he is backed into a corner, Tomoya begins to wonder if death might be a means of gaining the freedom he yearns for. This drives his curiosity in the summer ghost, and while Tomoya himself believes that Ayane’s existence is one of unrestricted liberty, Ayane herself conveys that, despite whatever the afterlife may appear to be, it’s a lonely place. Ayane was untimely torn from the world of the living, and as such, never had the chance to experience romance or even travel. Conversely, she notes that, so long as Tomoya is alive, he will have a chance to turn things around in his life. This ultimately ends up being the main message in Summer Ghost: it’s a poignant reminder that while it may seem appropriate to take this way as a means of escape, the finality of death means one is permanently unable to affect any other decisions in their life. This is why Ayane is insistent on pushing Tomoya to live on and pursue his own goals, as opposed to helping her locate her body. Although Tomoya is not explicitly suicidal, one can spot that he’s feeling trapped, and in this moment, while he’s not seeking death per se, he’s certainly curious about it. Upon learning about Ayane’s story, however, his desire to help her overrides any wish to understand death. By treating Ayane’s spirit as he would anyone who’s flesh-and-blood, Tomoya begins to understand what standing firm for his own principles means; he feels strongly about becoming an artist, but previously lacks the courage to express his thoughts to his mother. Pursuing his heart and helping Ayane thus gives Tomoya a stronger sense of what being true to oneself means, and with his newfound friends’ help, Tomoya ends up locating Ayane’s body, allowing her spirit to move on, and giving her mother closure. As a result of these experiences, Tomoya is able to be truthful to his mother, and pursues a career path in the visual arts. Similarly, these experiences also give Aoi a newfound resilience: she stands up to her bullies by the film’s conclusion. Although the outcomes in Summer Ghost could have been accomplished through alternate means (akin to how a journey to Antarctica helped each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki of A Place Further Than The Universe to gain perspective and regain their footing in life), the choice to explore melancholy and a fascination with death in Summer Ghost helps the series to show viewers the merit of living on and doing one’s utmost to make the most of the hand they are dealt, even in the face of adversity.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Senkō hanabi (線香花火, literally “incense-stick fireworks”) are a traditional Japanese firework said to embody the idea of Mono no Aware, and fireworks here in Summer Ghost becomes a symbol for representing life as being a transient, but spirited existence akin to the fireworks itself – although short-lived, it is beautiful, varied and unique. Films like Summer Ghost are fun to write for because they challenge me to step outside my usual realm of discussions, and the outcome of writing about these films is that I get to appreciate their message a little more strongly than if I’d just watched the film.

  • Summer Ghost begins a year after the events of the film proper, with Ryō, Tomoya and Aoi assembling to enjoy fireworks as they had a year previously. In life, I’ve always found a sort of tranquility in returning to do something in the future, at a time when things are perhaps not as hectic as they had been when I had first partaken in something. Although I’m drawn to doing things in this way, a bit of introspection finds the reason why is because this allows me to see the same experience, but on a different day and from a different perspective; this in turn creates a deeper connection to and appreciation of said experience.

  • A year earlier, three students, Aoi, Tomoya and Ryō meet up for the first time to pursue a local legend, which tells that the ghost of a young woman who had apparently committed suicide will appear if one were to light fireworks at an abandoned airfield by a summer’s evening. Admittedly, I had no a priori knowledge of what this film would entail, and entered with a clean slate. As such, when the idea of a local legend was presented, I had no idea if the film was going to introduce the supernatural and make this a reality, or if this would be a catalyst for something else.

  • This is the joy about watching something completely in the absence of all external information, even something as simple as a synopsis. By having no expectations, I would not be able to look for anything specific ahead of time, and therefore, would be made to actively pay attention to the film and pull in everything I see, deciding if in the moment, my thoughts have any merit. However, I never record my thoughts in a moment – without full knowledge of what happens next, any assumptions I make in a given instant could easily be dispelled in a subsequent scene.

  • Real-time reactions are perhaps most appropriate if one is streaming an experience live to viewers, but in a blog setting, it is difficult to convey this in my style. As such, I choose to talk about things only once I’ve finished something wholly. This makes all of my reviews spoiler-laden by definition, but I find it significantly easier to do things this way because it eliminates the speculation and allows me to connect things from a work’s beginnings to what is seen in the climax and falling action. There is, of course, not a single right way to do things – other bloggers have found ways of making reaction-type posts and spoiler-free discussions with great success.

  • Summer Ghost is characterised by an extremely simplistic set of character designs, and the backgrounds initially seem quite flat compared to anime with more detailed visuals. While Summer Ghost might not have the most impressive visuals, the film does make use of excellent lighting to convey its messages. The decision to go with this style becomes apparent as the film continues.

  • The disparate group’s efforts seem to have been in vain – despite following the rumours’ instructions closely, the summer ghost does not appear. The practise the three engage in here is known in North America as “legend tripping”, visiting a site with alleged phenomenon as a means of testing one’s courage. For the most part, such practises allow youth to bond with one another, although when taken too far, accidents may occur, and charges might be laid. In Summer Ghost, Tomoya, Aoi and Ryō may be busted for trespassing on the airfield’s runway, but because this film doesn’t deal with those elements, it becomes a non-issue.

  • After Tomoya lights one final senkō hanabi, the three suddenly see the ghost of legend. Unlike the onryō that J-Horror cinema have popularised, the ghost is a stricking, well-kempt young woman. Her presence surprises everyone, who are shocked to learn that there was truth to the rumours after all. When the ghost speaks, she indicates that many have visited the site and attempted to draw her out, but there is a caveat: only those who are close to death in some way will be able to see her.

  • The use of fireworks to make her visible is perhaps indicative of the fact that senkō hanabi are similar to the traditional incense that the Chinese burn to show respect to their ancestors: burning senkō hanabi might be seen as closing the distance between the worlds of the living and dead, and those who have come to make an offering might be granted a chance to have their questions heard. The revelation that Ayane only shows up to those who are “near” death is a chilling one, and it suggests that each of Tomoya, Aoi and Ryō’s lives are filled with their share of troubles.

  • The choice of using an abandoned airfield creates a sense of isolation in Summer Ghost: the location is secluded and removed from populated areas. This further accentuates the fact that Aoi, Ryō and Tomoya are quite alone as members of society; had they been in a better situation, they would not likely have been drawn in by this particular rumour and instead, spoken with either friends or family about things. However, I do appreciate that this is much easier said than done, and folks who are in a difficult place might not be willing to open up about things, especially if they feel like they are alone in their troubles.

  • This is why it’s so important to at least have one person, like a best friend, that can be counted upon: although I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never felt close to death as Tomoya or Aoi do, I have previously experienced mild depression, and it is being able to talk things out that helped me to overcome this. Back in Summer Ghost, Rina Kawaei voices Ayane: I’m not familiar with her previous roles in animated works, but she is known for being a former AKB48 member who was involved in an attack during a handshake event back in 2014. On the other hand, Miyuri Shimabukuro voices Aoi, and I know her best as Harukana Receive‘s Narumi Tōi.

  • My depression had originated from briefly losing my direction after I finished my undergraduate degree nine summers earlier. This coincided with the Great Flood of 2013, which left me unable to do a kokuhaku. The story itself is old hat for longtime readers, but even in those days, what got me motivated enough to get out of bed every morning was the fact that I loved the work I was doing for the lab I was with. That particular summer, I’d been working on a distributed simulation of the renal and cardiovascular systems, and I was able to lose myself in this work. In the long term, discovering that I found enjoyment in software and figuring out a more concrete path for myself would lead me out of this depression.

  • Tomoya ends up feeling drawn to Ayane and begins seeking out her spirit more to speak with her further. In response, she takes him of a trip around the world she now knows, surprising him with an ability to fly freely in this space. This ability gives Tomoya a glimpse of what death must be like, and he begins seeing it as a release from his own problems. However, Ayane rightly notes that her experiences in this realm is a pale imitation of what she’d be able to do otherwise, and that Tomoya should cherish life more wholly. This idea is not new, and countless authors, writers and creators have spoken to how there is much to live for.

  • The summer season is, coincidentally, the best time of year to really live life – long days and beautiful weather gives one limitless opportunity to explore, both the world and themselves. Activities such as hiking, drinking lemonade and eating watermelon are long associated with the summer, and in particular, being outside is a way to both journey outward and inward. As it turns out, being in nature helps one feel more connected with the land, and this is why people generally report being at peace when enjoying the great outdoors.

  • As the morning transitioned into the afternoon, we decided to turn back, stopping along a waterfall in the trail before returning to Canmore. Here, we stopped for lunch at Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. Here, we ordered their Fig-Bison-n’-Brie Pizza and “The Meats” (Italian Sausage, Valbella All Beef Pepperoni, Smoked Bacon) flatbreads; besides the fact that their wood-fired flatbreads are especially delicious, the staff were also remarkably attentive and friendly. This marks the first time we’d been to Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.: previously, Canmore was a poutine location, but the pandemic forced them to close. I’m glad to have broadened my experiences, and perhaps on a return visit, I’ll give their West Coast smoked salmon flatbread a go.

  • We subsequently walked the Spur Line trail and stopped by Gap Lake before making the drive home ahead of a Southern Fried Chicken dinner with family. Back in Summer Ghost, Ayane explains that despite Tomoya’s curiosity about her world, she’d actually longed to live a fulfilling and complete love, experiencing things like travelling and falling in love. Instead, one evening, she’d gotten into a disagreement with her mother and stormed off into the night. Because a typhoon had been raging, she didn’t see an oncoming car and was knocked unconscious. The unknown driver, in a panic, had thought Ayane dead, and stuffed her body into a suitcase, before burying it at an unknown location. Ayane’s spirit, then, results from her undying wish to locate the body and at least give her mother some closure.

  • The day concluded with a walk around the Spur Line Trail, and we stopped by Gap Lake before returning home, where a Southern Fried Chicken dinner with family awaited. Back in Summer Ghosti, upon hearing Ayane’s story, Tomoya feels compelled to help her and begins spending more time in this ghostly world, even shirking his real-world obligations to do so. This decision baffles Ayane, who’s surprised anyone from the world of the living would care so much and go to such lengths to help her. For Tomoya, however, helping Ayane represents the first bit of agency he’s had in life for quite some time, and as seen through his academic performance, Tomoya seems to be the sort of person who gives everything his all, so it is unsurprising that Tomoya would be so unyielding.

  • Tomoya’s determination to help Ayane is great enough for him to request Aoi and Ryō’s help; Ryō suffers from a terminal illness and hasn’t long to live, so his frustrations boil over, and he refuses to help out. Since he and Aoi barely know Tomoya, there isn’t a chance to properly explain everything – this creates that bit of tension towards the end, but in a film as short as Summer Ghost, things get resolved fairly quickly after Aoi goes after Ryō and manages to help him regroup. Both subsequently rush off to pick up some fireworks with the intent of helping Tomoya.

  • Ryō and Aoi’s timing couldn’t be better; Tomoya’s just depleted his fireworks stockpile, but now, with two more people in his corner, there is the possibility of exploring a larger area. Tomoya gratefully accepts their help and immediately returns to the spirit realm. While the search space seems overwhelming, Ayane herself recalls a handful of clues that end up being helpful to the three. The topic of living and dying, at least in fiction, universally presents life as the path people should take, and works present suicide as being the route people should veer away from. Life is indeed of immeasurable value, and the topic of suicide is one that is brought up whenever mental health is a topic.

  • I have found that increasing awareness of mental health has meant that suicide prevention and maintaining balance in life has led to improved conversations and countermeasures for at-risk individuals. However, there remain subsets of the online community that appear to believe that it is somehow acceptable to tell someone to shuffle off this mortal coil, and previously, tragedies have occurred because of online remarks of this nature. Experts have previously written about how anonymity brings out the worst in people, and members of certain online communities, in their insecurity and lack of fulfilment in life, take to the internet to perpetuate anti-social behaviours. As such, I feel that mental health and wellness services should also necessarily include training and information pertaining to managing problems that come from the internet.

  • The symboism in Summer Ghost isn’t exactly subtle, and this helps viewers to quickly grasp what a given moment or scene is supposed to convey. For Tomoya, even after he and his friends help Ayane to locate her body, there’s still a barrier that prevents them from spending more time together. For Tomoya, this remains the last conflict that he faces, and in the moment, his conscious thoughts are focused purely on finding Ayane’s body and finishing off his promise to her, even though once this is done, Ayane’s spirit will be at peace and vanish.

  • When Tomoya first flew with Ayane, he’d been surprised by her ability to fly, but having now spent so much time in the spirit world, Tomoya is completely at home with things. Ryō and Aoi are immediately at home with flight, and with their help, Ayane is able to work out where her body had been. With her information, Tomoya and the others deduce that the culprit had buried Ayane’s body in the landfill after sealing it in a luggage case, and they set off for the local landfill.

  • Tomoya ends up locating the suitcase, and while he begins to dig for it, an unknown force suddenly seizes him – a part of Tomoya doesn’t wish to continue and would rather move on into the next world, but Tomoya is able to overcome this particular barrier and convince his other self that there is merit in living, after all. Although Ryō and Aoi cannot see what’s overtaken Tomoya, they are relieved when he is able to take control and finish his fight.

  • I’d been a little worried about what Tomoya would find: while there is nothing inherently frightening about a body, the implications of what happened to Ayane in the time since she’d gone missing and what we’d seen of her would be quite unsettling. Summer Ghost has the tact to leave this part unseen, and Tomoya’s reaction is one of relief rather than of horror. In the aftermath, Tomoya returns Ayane’s brooch to her mother and prepares to pursue his own path as an artist.

  • Summer Ghost shows that Tomoya is able to convince his mother to allow him to pursue his own career path, and in this way, his world suddenly opens up, no longer being as suffocating as he had once known it to be. The efficacy of this approach of parenting has long been debated – proponents suggest that children need discipline to be successful, but the reality is that people are at their best when allowed to follow their own dreams (within reason). It is unsurprising that moderation is the best approach, and I would imagine that, as a result of his experiences with Ayane, Tomoya is able to firmly draw the line in the sand and perhaps strike a compromise with his mother.

  • Meanwhile, Aoi has become more creative in overcoming her bullies. A great deal has occurred in the past year, but unfortunately, Ryō passes away from his illness. Although he’d held out long enough to watch the cherry blossoms bloom, he doesn’t make it. Thus, when Aoi and Tomoya visit a year later, they are visiting Ryō’s spirit, and he’s able to pass on in the knowledge that both Aoi and Tomoya have both found their way: before he departs, he wishes both will be able to live out their lives to the fullest extent possible.

  • There’s a melancholy seeing Tomoya and Aoi without Ryō, and the flatness of this terrain accentuates this. However, on the flipside, the colours here are more vivid than at any other point in Summer Ghost – because the colours do convey the tenour of a moment, one can conclude there’s a sort of catharsis here, as well. Both Tomoya and Aoi are plainly in a better place here than they’d been a year earlier. However, while their direction is a little more concrete, viewers hoping that Aoi and Tomoya may find solace in one another’s company may be a little disappointed.

  • Visual cues in the moment, such as the distance between Tomoya and Aoi, speak to this. On the other hand, those who do not approach Summer Ghost as a romance will find that its messages on life and death may hold some merit. This is a film that I found worthwhile to watch, and while it is a bit more open-ended than most of the films I’ve previously watched, the overarching themes are still plain.

  • Altogether, I found Summer Ghost to be an enjoyable and meaningful experience – the film’s short runtime precludes exploring things in more detail, but sometimes, less is more, and leaving some elements to the viewer’s interpretation means this film can impact a broad range of viewers in accordance to their own experiences and thoughts. With this, I have one final post left for July: the beginning of August is going to be very busy on the blogging front, as I finish off some posts marking the milestones to the events of a decade earlier.

From a thematic perspective, Summer Ghost tends towards the more abstract, but remains very accessible and clear. The messages in Summer Ghost are accentuated by the distinct visuals. Colours are liberally applied to convey a specific aesthetic – moments of melancholy are washed out and tend towards monochrome, while poignant moments are cast in a deep blue. To indicate the monotony of everyday life, sunlight is typically faded. On the other hand, the once Tomoya and Aoi have taken steps forwards, and gather to communicate with Ryō’s spirit, who is at peace, the sky is vividly coloured to remind viewers of how much possibility there is in the world. Simple details like these help viewers to connect with the emotional tenour in a moment; Summer Ghost might not be the most profound story or visual impressive work out there, but it succeeds in capturing the idea that the long days of summer are conducive towards exploration. Where other anime would stick with exploring one’s world, Summer Ghost takes a bold stab at showing what a journey inwards might look like. In this area, Summer Ghost is able to present an introspective journey: the idea of travelling into a world that spirits inhabit, a world that is devoid of energy and activity, is no different than self-reflection and overcoming the foes that threaten one from within, and in the end, Tomoya is able to find himself. In finding Ayane, the journey also helps Aoi and Ryō make peace with their own situations. Altogether, while Summer Ghost might not prima facie be a conventional summer anime, it definitely has the elements that make it a film worth watching during the summer, representing a different sort of journey that is, while a world apart from the typical fixtures of summer, like hikes, days at the beach and a watermelon in hand, still shows how the longest days of the year invite people to look within and better understand that, life is worth living because, so long as one is alive, there will always be the agency to seize the initiative and make the most of things.

Yuru Camp△ Virtual: Visiting A Thousand-Dollar View of Mount Fuji with Rin, Camping the Friendly Fields of Fumoto with Nadeshiko and Discussing Expectations on the Eve of The Yuru Camp△ Movie on Canada Day

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” –Alexander McCandless

Although Steam’s page indicates that one requires at least an i5-4590 and a GTX 1060 in conjunction with a HTC Vive or Valve Index to comfortably run Yuru Camp△ Virtual‘s two instalments, Lake Motosu and Fumoto Campsite, one can actually do so without a high-end desktop; despite the game being classified as a part of Oculus Labs, Yuru Camp△ Virtual runs flawlessly on the original Oculus Quest, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. Both titles together are quite pricy, costing a total of 50 CAD on Oculus Quest, but in exchange, one is able to fully immerse themselves in a virtual Yuru Camp△ environment. Gemdrops have fully recreated the first two campsites in Yuru Camp△ in this VR project: Lake Motosu has players see the experience from a more experienced Nadeshiko’s perspective, while Fumoto Campsite puts players in Rin’s shoes after she’s become more receptive towards group camping. Both experiences are quite short and possess the same technical sophistication as the UX in prototype for my Unity visualisation of microtubule dynamics (while the model itself was quite complex, being an agent-based simulation of tubule assembly and disassembly, one could only move around and interact with a limited set of items in a scripted manner). However, what Yuru Camp△ Virtual excels in is recreating the atmospherics of the anime: Nao Tōyama and Yumiri Hanamori return to voice Rin Shima and Nadeshiko Kagamihama, respectively. Moreover, in the SMS segments, Chiaki Ōgaki, Aoi Inuyama and Ena Saitō’s voice actresses all reprise their roles. Together with an art style that is consistent with the anime, and Akio Ōtsuka providing narration, Yuru Camp△ Virtual provides a chance for players to fully immerse themselves in now-iconic camping experiences with Rin at Lake Motosu, and Nadeshiko at Fumoto Campsite. Both experiences take place over the course of a day, and after sharing conversations (and occasionally, hot drinks), Nadeshiko will prepare a scrumptious dinner. Rin and Nadeshiko will continue enjoying the night together under the stars before retiring for the evening, and the next morning, prepare to head back home. Although lacking the interactivity of more sophisticated titles and possessing a very steep price point, Yuru Camp△ Virtual represents one more way for fans of the series to enjoy things. In fact, one could say it is the perfect way for us overseas fans to experience things before Yuru Camp△ Movie‘s theatrical première in Japan today – unlike the film, which will likely have a seven to eleven month delay before the home release becomes available, Yuru Camp△ Virtual is available for immediate purchase: Lake Motosu was published in March 2021, and Fumoto Campsite released a month later, in April 2021.

At present, only a handful of details have been published regarding the Yuru Camp△ Movie: some time has passed since everyone had met in high school. Rin works at a publishing company as an editor, and one day, she’s surprised to receive a message from Chiaki, who ended up joining Yamanashi’s tourism board. Chiaki is in charge of a new project to reopen a site that had closed some years previously, and Rin’s mind immediately flits towards camping. At this time, Nadeshiko’s taken up a job with a camping goods store in Tokyo, while Aoi’s become an elementary school instructor, and Ena is a pet groomer who works out of Yokohama. When they receive news of Chiaki’s project, together with Rin, they embark on an ambitious project to see Yamanashi’s latest project succeed. From organising meetings and planning out the logistics, to getting their hands dirty and working on preparing the site, the girls are reminded of their camping experiences together back when they were high school students. From this premise, the Yuru Camp△ Movie gives every indicator that it is going to be a moving, and touching story of both progress and reminiscence; the decision to do a large-scale project that allows everyone to bring their own unique skills, and their shared enthusiasm to the table in a way that had hitherto been unseen, represents a very large step forwards for Yuru Camp△. Until now, the story had focused purely on seeing the girls plan out and enjoy their travels, all the way adapting to things and making most of whatever unexpected event occurs on their trips. However, to now see everyone reunite, and moreover, apply their skill set towards a task that will help their home out in a meaningful way allows Yuru Camp△ to tread new grounds. Naoko Yamada had previously spoken about the challenges associated with bringing anime series to the silver screen – through Yui, Yamada felt that what a movie must accomplish is using its runtime to convey a greater sense of scale. K-On! The Movie had succeeded by framing the London trip as a chance to make everyone’s appreciation for everything Azusa had done for the light music club tangible. The Yuru Camp△ Movie appears to suggest that no matter what adversity one might face, facing it together, through a combination of passion and of experience, is what allows one to rise above their problems, and in doing so, one will gain both new memories worth treasuring, as well as further experience for whatever may lie ahead.

Additional Remarks and Commentary

  • I still vividly recall writing about anticipation for the Yuru Camp△ Movie a year ago: back then, we’d only known that there would be a movie, but beyond this, details were scarce. In the time that has passed, we now know that the Yuru Camp△ Movie is going to have a two hour runtime, and that it is set after high school. Given that Rin and the others are working now, it’s fair to say that everyone’s probably graduated from post-secondary, as well. The change of timeframe means that the Yuru Camp△ Movie opens things up to hitherto unexplored territory.

  • The decision to set the movie a few years after the original manga gives the story nearly unlimited potential, and this is what makes the Yuru Camp△ Movie so exciting: the film could take any number of ways to show viewers how Chiaki will, together with Nadeshiko, Rin, Aoi and Ena, solve the problem of repurposing previously unused land into a campsite for Yamanashi. Because of Yuru Camp△‘s commitment to reality, one cannot help but wonder if there was a real-world inspiration for this story; it is possible that a real-world location might have precisely undergone this route, although such an undertaking would likely involve a committee, on top of city planners, engineers and other members of the community.

  • For me, the biggest piece I look forwards to seeing in the Yuru Camp△ Movie is seeing how everyone’s skills come together in order to get things done. From the premise alone, it is plain that we have a multidisciplinary bunch, and one thing that anime is fond of showing is how it takes a combination of skills to overcome great challenges. Series like Koisuru Asteroid, ShirobakoSakura Quest and The Aquatope on White Sand all had characters with different backgrounds collaborating to achieve goals that were seemingly unattainable. Some fans are not fond of these approaches and are quick to deride the series, but like my undergraduate faculty, writers have spotted the importance of having diversity in skills.

  • This is something that I am constantly reminded of; when I began my current position a year ago, I entered with the expectation that there’d be a chance to learn different technologies, and in the present, the one skill I am glad to have begun cultivating is Android development. While I’m, in the words of the internet, an Apple fanboi through and through, working with Android has given me an appreciation of how Google’s paradigms towards mobile developers result in some choices that are more intuitive. Of course, there are many areas where Apple excels, and while Android development is far tougher than any equivalent in iOS, working with Android gives me a better understanding of how apps are built, and more confidence in dealing with things like fragments and activities.

  • I jokingly remark that working with Android also gives me legitimacy when I say iOS development is superior in every way. However, the reality is that having familiarity with Android means that I’m better equipped to work on existing apps, whether it’s sorting out bugs or developing new features, allowing my mobile skillset to reach out beyond just iOS. In the Yuru Camp△ Movie, seeing all of the characters as adults means being able to see this sort of growth – I’m not expecting Nadeshiko to be a competent mobile developer at the film’s end, but one of the aspects in the film worth keeping an eye on is seeing how everyone begins to take learnings from their experiences and bring it back into their own careers.

  • With this being said, what Yuru Camp△ excels in most is its ability to combine an educational component alongside character growth: the TV series had felt like a hybrid between Les Stroud’s SurvivormanMan v. FoodRick Steves’ Europe and even Jamie Oliver’s cooking shows, teaching both bushcraft and cooking alongside showcasing some of Japan’s most scenic campsites and attractions. As such, the Yuru Camp△ Movie is also likely to deliver some of this. Because the premise has everyone working on a larger project together, one possibility is that we could see some flashbacks as the characters reminisce on past experiences and draw upon learnings that are applicable to the present.

  • Alternatively, in order to draw inspiration for a particularly tough challenge, Rin may have a chance to go camping alongside Nadeshiko, Chikai, Aoi and Ena again – I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn and get out of a rut is to experience something from the end user’s perspective. Seeing things from end-to-end give insight into the bigger picture, and this will, in turn, guide one’s decisions in how they want to fit one piece of a solution into the entire process. As I continue to work in software, I continue to see parallels between my work, and the sorts of methods for troubleshooting in other occupations.

  • While the media may present technology and software occupations, especially mobile development, data processing and AI, as a Silicon Valley-like occupation, the reality is that the soft skills in these disciplines are actually not too different than those of finance, engineering, trades and the like; at the end of the day, working is about generating value by solving problems. I’m therefore curious to see Yuru Camp△‘s portrayal of this; the TV series had shown how a bit of creative thinking and willingness to reach out to others for help is the key to averting crisis, so seeing an extension of this in the Yuru Camp△ Movie feels logical.

  • While I’ve given my thoughts on what I’m hoping the Yuru Camp△ Movie will deal with, the reality is that I’ve got naught more than the premise and a trailer to go off of. Having said this, the Wikipedia article is surprisingly detailed, and the only editor of the article apparently already translated the entire soundtrack’s tracklist into English. I’d ordinarily doubt the authenticity of this, but my own experiences have found that someone with a basic knowledge of Japanese and access to Google Translate can now produce reasonably accurate translations without too much effort.

  • The Yuru Camp△ Movie soundtrack released on June 29, along with the opening and ending songs, and this dulls the pain surrounding the wait for this movie somewhat. Having said this, knowing Yuru Camp△‘s thematic elements, I can rest assured knowing that no problem will be insurmountable, and that throughout the film, viewers will be treated to Nadeshiko’s warm smiles. The eagle-eyed reader will have doubtlessly noticed that everyone’s rocking shorter hair now: shorter hair is easier to care for and dries much more quickly, being an essential when one’s life is so busy.

  • Now, I change the programme out and switch over to screenshots from Yuru Camp△ Virtual – I picked this up last year to experience Yuru Camp△ on my Oculus Quest headset, and while the interactivity is about as limited as what I’d implemented into my agent-based model of microtubule assembly and disassembly (the model itself had been a term project I finished two weeks into the semester), the game itself fully captures the atmosphere of camping with Rin and Nadeshiko. Gameplay is comprised of looking around at things in the environment, which trigger a dialogue that offers insight into the characters.

  • The Oculus Quest captures images in 1440 by 1440, so screenshots are square. However, the sharpness leaves much to be desired, and the built-in mechanism by which screenshots are captured is cumbersome. In something like SUPERHOT VR, it means I’ve found it quite difficult to take good pictures – there’s a bit of a delay, so I can’t just capture a moment. On the other hand, in Yuru Camp△ Virtual, the laid-back pacing means I’m free to push the screenshot button and casually wait for an image to be taken.

  • Some events will change out the context and character models: it is possible to make a hot drink for Rin on the shores of Lake Motosu and obtain new dialogue, for instance. Once one has exhausted all of the interactive event in their environment, the next chapter can be reached simply by looking at an object that brings up a clock icon. Yuru Camp△ Virtual will ask players if they want to move ahead. This is about it for the gameplay, but my favourite feature of Yuru Camp△ Virtual is the ability to disable all of the event prompts, which allows one to chill.

  • Both Lake Motosu and Fumoto Campsite feature a cooking segment: narrated by Akio Ōtsuka, they give insight as to how that particular evening’s dinner is prepared. With Rin, Nadeshiko whips up a delicious curry that looks absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, the world’s most sophisticated virtual reality technology has not yet figured out the art of simulating taste – there is no way to taste what Rin’s eating. On the flipside, since Yuru Camp△ Virtual does provide one with the recipe, an inquisitive player could simply copy down the recipe and try things out for themselves.

  • In the morning, Rin thanks Nadeshiko for having joined her on this camping trip. The events of Yuru Camp△ Virtual are set after the second season’s events; by this point in time, the characters’ interactions convey a sense of closeness, and while everyone’s still rocking winter clothing, there’s a hint that winter is drawing to a close in the environments. I’d be interested in seeing whether or not Yuru Camp△ ventures into the summer for camping – this would represent a dramatic departure from what the series is known for, but the summer also has its advantages. For one, one would get to see Yamanashi and its surroundings with verdant vegetation and deep blue skies.

  • Fumoto Campsite is Yuru Camp△ Virtual from Rin’s perspective, and plays identically to Lake Motosu. The scenery here is similar to that of Morley Flats, about 20 minutes east of Canmore. On Canada Day most years, the family tradition has been to go over to Banff and enjoy a day in the mountains, since National Park fees are waived on Canada Day. However, this also results in congestion of a level that one doesn’t see, so this year, the plan is to head over to Drumheller and do a walking tour of the Atlas Coal Mine.

  • The weather today looks solid, so I’m hoping that things hold out for the remainder of the day. However, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”; last year, temperatures on Canada Day topped out at 36ºC, and having taken my second dose, I was feeling a little under the weather, so I spent the whole of the day resting in the cool of home. At the time, I thought that my lethargy was caused by the high temperatures, but back in February, after picking up the third vaccine and becoming so bushed I slept a full half-day, I conclude that the exhaustion I experienced last year was probably a consequence of the vaccine.

  • We’re actually set to start the drive in an hour, so my goal now is to finish off this post and then hit the open road. Back in Yuru Camp△ Virtual, Nadeshiko enjoys cabbage rolls with Rin – like Lake MotosuFumoto Campsite has Nadeshiko cooking for Rin, and the resulting dinner is so delicious that Rin makes room for seconds, as well as promising to one day make something for Nadeshiko as thanks. Once dinner is done, Nadeshiko and Rin enjoy the beautiful evening weather before turning in.

  • Motosu Campsite is set in a more traditional camping location, and I found myself getting immersed with watching the night skies. By morning, it’s time to take off, and for both instalments, Rin and Nadeshiko are standing up. I played through Yuru Camp△ Virtual sitting down, so to keep consistent with things, I stood up for both games’ final act. It was a little surprising to see how small the character models for Rin and Nadeshiko are – I’m of average height, but I tower over Rin and Nadeshiko anyways.

  • In this post, I’ve briefly discussed my expectations for the Yuru Camp△ Movie and finally share some screenshots from Yuru Camp△ Virtual. I do hope to have the chance to write about the former at some point in the future once it comes out, and in the meantime, it’s time for me to enjoy the fantastic summer weather on this Canada Day, as well. I’ll return tomorrow to write about Tari Tari and my thoughts of the first episode since it aired ten years ago, as well as share some photos of my travels; regular programming resumes on Monday as I delve into the first of the summer anime. Luminous Witches has my eye at present, and I am rather looking forwards to writing about this one.

In this way, the Yuru Camp△ Movie may represent unexplored ground for the series, but the series’ impressive execution (a consequence of being able to successfully present meaningful lessons, accentuate the beauty in the outdoors, showcase Japan’s travel spots and generally create a sense of catharsis) has resulted in Yuru Camp△ being immensely successful, both in Japan and internationally. Very few slice-of-life series gain such universal acclaim, and as a TV series, it did feel as though Yuru Camp△ had already succeeded so wholly that there isn’t much in the way of new direction to explore. However, the second season of Yuru Camp△ ends with volume nine, and the manga is still ongoing. At first glance, it would be logical for a movie to continue covering the manga’s events, which follows Rin and the others on new camping adventures as winter turns to spring. A summer camping trip with everyone, including Ayano, would have been the logical, showing how Rin’s experiences with everyone opens her to experience camping during a time she previously avoided. However, such a story is more befitting of a third season. In choosing to go with all-new material, the Yuru Camp△ Movie is truly stepping up its game to, in Naoko Yamada’s words, fill the scale and expectation that accompanies the silver screen. Yuru Camp△‘s reputation means that expectations for this film are going to be high, but with two seasons of anime, a short anime series, two seasons worth of live-action dramas, a visual novel and a pair of virtual reality games setting the precedence for what’s possible, it is reasonable to suppose that viewers’ expectations for the Yuru Camp△ Movie will be exceeded: it goes without saying that viewers in Japan and abroad alike will greatly be looking forwards to this film, although for those of us internationally, the wait to see the Yuru Camp△ Movie will likely correspond with when the BDs become released. To ease the agony of this wait, I’ll likely spend more time admiring the sunset on the shores of Lake Motosu, or sharing another conversation with Nadeshiko in the middle of Fumoto’s seemingly-endless grass plains.