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Masterpiece Anime Showcase: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, The Implications of Choice and Messages of Appreciation for the Decade’s Final Christmas

“Of course it was fun, and I loved every minute of it! Don’t go asking me stupid questions that are so obvious! You’d have to be crazy to think it wasn’t fun! Only the biggest idiot in the world would say it wasn’t fun if they were asked! They’d be thirty times more dense than Haruhi! Aliens, time travellers, and ESP? One’s enough, but I got to hang out with all three! Then there’s Haruhi, who’s got the craziest power of them all! And then there’s all these other mysterious powers sprinkled all over the place! How could I not find all this stuff fun? Ask me as many times as you want and my answer won’t change! Of course I do…I guess that’s it. The other way is definitely better. Having a world like this just doesn’t feel right.” –Kyon

In week leading up to Christmas, Haruhi plans a hot pot party for the SOS Brigade. However, when Kyon wakes up on December 18, he finds that his reality has been altered: besides Haruhi and Itsuki’s noticeable absence, Ryōko’s reappearance and Mikuru failing to recognise him, there is no SOS Brigade in this world. Yuki is an ordinary girl who is in the literature club, and besides Kyon, no one appears to know anything about the sudden, unexpected transition. While weighing his options in the former SOS Brigade club room and spending time with the alternate Yuki, Kyon finds a clue in the form of a bookmark, which informs him that he is to gather keys, critical personnel to unlock a special program. During this time, Kyon comes to know the alternate Yuki better; she’s rather happy Kyon’s joined the literature club. When Taniguchi informs Kyon that Haruhi attends the prestigious high school, Kyon sets off to find her. The alternate Haruhi is less-than-pleased to see him, but he reveals that he is “John Smith”. Haruhi’s anger and confusion turns to excitement, and Itsuki postulates that Kyon’s timeline must have diverged on December 18. Haruhi, now convinced by Kyon’s explanation, decides to gather up the former members of the SOS Bridage, and with everyone present, Kyon executes the program Yuki had left him. Upon running this program, Kyon returns to the Tanabata three years previously, where he meets the older Mikuru and past Yuki, who informs him that he must find the individual who triggered the change in the world and inject them with a special program. Returning to the present, Kyon realises that the culprit is none other than Yuki herself: having grown to love Kyon in her own way, she used Haruhi’s abilities to create an alternate reality and give Kyon a fair choice: an ordinary world where he would spend his future with her, or a disruptive but interesting world with Haruhi. Kyon chooses his original world, feeling that the adventure and excitement far outweighs his annoyance with Haruhi and her boundless energy. He prepares to hit Yuki with the program, but ends up stabbed by Ryōko. Kyon is ultimately rescued by his future self, Yuki and Mikuru: his world fades to black, and he awakens in a hospital. Itsuki is present and states that he’d fallen down the steps at school. Later that evening, he meets Yuki on the hospital’s veranda, and reassures her that if the Data Integration Thought Entity should seek to punish her, he can influence Haruhi to blink them out of existence. Kyon is discharged from hospital, and despite knowing he will now have to return back in time to save himself, he will first enjoy and make the most of Haruhi’s hot pot party with her and the others.

The theatrical adaptation of the fourth volume of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya light novels ended up being a veritable masterpiece, an order of magnitude more engaging and meaningful than was present within the first two seasons. The reason for this is because The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s main narrative, contrasting the experimental, unorthodox execution of the regular series that emphasised fun and adventure over a central theme, possessed a clear and unexpectedly moving challenge for Kyon. Throughout the TV series, Kyon is presented as being exasperated, impatient with Haruhi and her antics, wishing nothing more than to live an ordinary life. However, when his world is suddenly wrested from him, the colourlessness of this new world forces him to re-evaluate what Haruhi means to him. By seeing a world without Haruhi, Kyon now has seen both sides of the coin, and with it, is able to make a choice: he ultimately chooses the bookmark (representing his old world) over the club application form (representing a world where he’d never met Haruhi early on), and in doing so, shows to viewers that in spite of all his complaints and gripes about being roped into some random adventure or misadventure with Haruhi, he’s also come to enjoy the attendant experiences that he spends with everyone. The decision, as Kyon puts it, is obvious: a world with Haruhi and the SOS Brigade is much more exciting to live in, and while the downs hit harder, the ups are more exhilarating and more rewarding, as well. The film therefore suggest that one’s choices are their own, to be made only when one is sufficiently informed of the different outcomes of a given decision, and in having Kyon electing to continue his adventures with Haruhi and the SOS Brigade, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya subtly suggests that it is preferable to live a life of excitement and seek adventure even if suffering or pain may accompany it, since the resultant experience leaves one all the stronger for it.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya could have been set any time of the year, but instead, the week leading up to Christmas is selected for the story’s timeframe. Christmas is traditionally a time of celebration and togetherness: a time when people would put the brakes on their everyday routines and gear up to spend time with those important to them. In Japan, Christmas is also celebrated similarly to Valentine’s Day. By dropping Kyon into an alternate reality close to Christmas, Kyon is now doubly stressed from his experiences: in a time where people begin to wind down, Kyon frantically searches for a solution to his predicament. By prompting Kyon to figure out his situation prior to Christmas and Haruhi’s hot pot party increases the urgency in the film, captivating audiences to follow Kyon. Besides compelling viewers to keep up, setting the film close to Christmas also has one other critical effect on its message. Kyon’s search for the answers, even as he spends time in this parallel universe, leads him to appreciate his old life. The contrast between the new world where Haruhi’s presence is diminished, versus the world where Haruhi dominates, makes evident the idea that individuals may not always appreciate what they have until it is gone. This is the theme in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya; despite the simplicity of the message, the film elegantly captures it into a very vivid portrayal that transforms into a story of self-discovery and appreciation of what one has. The choice to set this during Christmas, then, drives the notion that Christmas is also a time of gratitude, and of counting one’s blessings. Although Kyon may be reluctant to openly admit it, he very much enjoys Haruhi and the SOS Brigade’s company in spite of the wild adventures they’ve pushed him through. There are subtle parallels between The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in that both Scrooge and Kyon, through a series of supernatural encounters, are given a new perspective on life and thus, come out more appreciative and grateful for what they have.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya released, I was just finishing up my second year of my undergraduate program and had gone through the likes of K-On! and Lucky Star, having had my curiosity piqued by Kyoto Animation’s work, I decided to give The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi a go despite my initial reservations: I normally don’t watch a series on the basis of community reception alone, but a classmate of mine had a keen interest in K-On!Lucky Star and The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, so I decided to check it out and see what all of the commotion was about.

  • The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya opens with Haruhi planning the SOS Brigade’s Christmas party, which immediately re-establishes the tone: while Kyon is typically exasperated by Haruhi’s grandiose (and often unfeasible) plans, he does his best to accommodate a scaled-down version that satisfies Haruhi’s wishes while at once being somewhat plausible to put together. This dynamic between Kyon and Haruhi was the driving force throughout much of the TV series, and seeing it return in the film’s opening serves to remind viewers of what Kyon thinks of Haruhi and her antics on a typical day.

  • Thus, having made my way through the TV series, I finally reached the movie. At this point in the summer, I was a few weeks into building an agent-based flow model with the in-house game engine and had settled into my work, so in the late afternoons, after my hours had ended, I would watch anime on an iPad before heading home. This was back when the second generation iPad had released, and while said iPad would become my workhorse throughout my undergraduate programme, it started its journey as a tablet for anime.

  • I admit that I was not a fan of Haruhi when the series came out. Over ten years after The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi was released to the world, the countless internet memes remain stale and jejune, but Haruhi’s high-energy and bossy personality has grown on me quite a bit – she brings joy into the mundane, and while she may not always be aware of it, is the cause of many of the TV series’ supernatural phenomenon.

  • When Kyon returns to school the next day, he finds his would completely changed: the shock of it causes Kyon to act irrationally, in a panic. His reaction is quite understandable considering how dramatic the changes are, and his reaction is actually far more reserved than would be expected of someone who was dropped into an alternate dimension. Although Kyon is initially disoriented, his rational mind soon kicks in, and he decides to see if there are any constants in this new world that carried over from his old world. This decision sets in motion the events of Kyon’s return to his old world.

  • The highlight in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is the human Yuki: unlike the incarnation of Yuki we’d seen so far, Yuki in the alternate world is simply a shy girl who loves books, and initially is rather overwhelmed by Kyon’s forcefulness. Once the initial shock of Kyon bursting into the club room wears off, she attempts to recruit him for the literature club. Kyon’s only intention is to search for any clues in the room about his current situation, and he eventually manages to find a bookmark that provides him with instructions on how to restore his old world.

  • The human Yuki ends up forming the basis for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, a spin-off manga that supposes that this world was the world than Kyon desired. While not well-received by numerous fans of the Haruhi franchise, I personally found great value and enjoyment in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, as it shows Kyon as he would have been prior to meeting Haruhi. This story similarly sees Yuki try to keep the literature club alive, and with the combined efforts from Kyon and Ryōko, the club does end up doing quite well.

  • I would imagine that a part of the cold reception towards The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan was a consequence of die-hard fans wanting a continuation of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and instead of the long-anticipated continuation, fans instead got a low-profile spin-off that did not add to the original series. Thus, these individuals were willing to overlook that Yuki and Kyon’s relationship developed in an entirely natural manner, and both individuals mature greatly as the manga progressed: the manga itself is excellent and is one of the few series I’ve bought in full. I normally don’t buy manga series unless they are exceptionally enjoyable, speaking to The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s high quality.

  • In this alternate world, the lighting is subdued, with a grey-scale palette dominating all of the scenes while Kyon is at school. Far more than any other studio, Kyoto Animation masterfully makes use of colours and lighting to paint an incredibly vivid and detailed view of the characters’ emotions in a scene. Their technical excellence cannot be understated, and in an industry that is so demanding that corners are sometimes cut, Kyoto Animation’s commitment to excellence makes them stand out as a superior studio. The arson incident at Kyoto Animation earlier this year was a devastating one, an unfortunate event resulting from an individual whose mind was filled with malice and hate when he perpetuated his actions.

  • It’s been five months since the fire at their studios, and the losses are still being felt at present. However, the studio’s president has also resolved on recovery. I naturally will continue to support their works. Back in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Mikuru does not recognise Kyon, and Tsuruya, ordinarily friendly to Kyon, is openly hostile to him. This drives home the fact that Kyon’s world has changed considerably, and with the days counting down, Kyon must work to figure out what the original Yuki’s puzzle meant.

  • While determining what the “keys” that Yuki refer to are (they have nothing to do with unique identifiers that are used to quickly and efficiently retrieve data from storage), Kyon spends more time with the new Yuki, quickly discovering that she has a keen interest in books and therefore had a legitimate reason for being in the literature club. The literature club room stands in the exact same spot as the SOS Brigade’s club room, and is conveniently equipped with a computer that, while old, is still operational.

  • Yuki is pitifully shy in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, although with Kyon’s appearance, she does begin taking the initiative and brings him over to her apartment. Kyon is initially reluctant to stay, and this reluctance turns into a desire to leave when Ryōko shows up. In The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Ryōko is Yuki’s best friend and very protective of her; these traits carry over into The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, where Ryōko acts as a guardian of sorts for Yuki. This spin-off manga definitely had its own merits and while starting its journey carrying the same sense of gentle longing that The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya had, the story ends up having Yuki become more confident and independent as she begins to get closer to and eventually, go out with Kyon.

  • Kyon makes to decline Ryōko’s invitation to dinner, but is surprised when Yuki pulls on his sleeve, signalling her want for him to stay over for dinner. I personally felt that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan adds more value to The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, as it gives insight into what sorts of things that Yuki herself would have wanted to experience with Kyon. By knowing the path that Yuki ended up taking, it makes the thought process that the Yuki seen here took towards creating a new world to give herself and Haruhi an even shot even more poignant, showing the extent of Yuki’s feelings for Kyon and the lengths she would go to seek an answer for herself.

  • While Nagato tugging on Kyon’s sleeve might’ve been the boldest she’s been all movie so far, viewers are further treated to a moment as rare as a blue moon: after dinner, Kyon asks Yuki to see if it’s alright for him to swing by the clubroom again the next day, and Yuki’s resulting smile is positively dazzling. This marks the first time that Yuki’s smiled at all anywhere in either The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya: I’m told that from fan reactions, this single moment alone made the movie worth watching. Such moments do not make or break movies for me, but I do admit that Yuki’s smile is pleasant and the movie’s setup allows us to see other sides of Yuki’s character.

  • When Kyon learns that Haruhi exists, he rushes off to the Kōyōen School, an elite academy that this Haruhi is attending. She is shocked and disgusted that Kyon appears to know so much about her and proceeds to give him a physical beating, but Kyon stops the melee by revealing his identity as the “John Smith” of several years previously. Haruhi is surprised that anyone could’ve known about the incident, and immediately faints.

  • In a world where Kyon and Haruhi had not met, Haruhi is a much more austere person, although her bold and forceful tendencies remain. The incidental piece that plays when Kyon rushes off to Kōyōen School, Suzumiya Haruhi no Tegakari (“A Sign of Haruhi Suzumiya”) begins playing. This piece remains one of my favourite songs on the soundtrack: with its use of woodwinds, the song greatly resembles Sim City 4‘s Wheels of Progress. The choice of instruments signifies that progress is happening, and for the first time in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon feels as though he’s got the faintest hint of what he needs to do. There are many incidental pieces in the film that would not sound out of place in Sim City 4: Kodoku Sekai no Hirogari (“Spread of a lonely world”) opens similarly with Sim City 4‘s Morning Commute.

  • When Haruhi comes to, she immediately takes interest in Kyon’s situation, listening attentively as Itsuki explains what may have happened with Kyon. Even in this alternative universe, where Itsuki has feelings for Haruhi, the fact that she’s immediately drawn into helping Kyon suggests to him that Haruhi has feelings for Kyon (regardless of how much the two try to deny it when asked). With the situation explained, Kyon begins to realise that his keys back to his old world were to gather the people who were in the SOS Brigade, and so, the group heads back to North High, so that Mikuru and Yuki can be assembled.

  • That Itsuki is quick to conclude that Haruhi loves Kyon shows that there doesn’t appear to be a timeline or reality that could keep them apart, further reinforcing the idea that Haruhi and Kyon complement one another extremely well. This was my favourite aspect about their dynamic: even though the two never enter a relationship in the animated adaptions, Haruhi’s boldness and energy pushes Kyon out of his comfort zone into experiences that he retrospectively enjoys, while Kyon’s down-to-earth, pragmatic approaches means that he’s always trying to reign back Haruhi’s outrageous plans, and in doing so, creates a slightly-scaled back but still-enjoyable experience for Haruhi.

  • After arriving at North High, Kyon lends Haruhi and Itsuki his gym clothes so the two blend in with the other North High students. Haruhi complies with Kyon’s request to wear a ponytail, and I admit that like Kyon, I’m fond of ponytails, as well. Haruhi’s aura changes noticeably, and she takes on many of the traits of her other self; within moments, she manages to find Mikuru and brings her to the literature club room.

  • Halo Reach released roughly seven months after The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya aired in theatres, and in a curious turn of fate, I experienced both the game and the film close to one another. There is definitely a nostalgia factor at play when I stop to contemplate things: on the day of the LAN party, after I’d arrived and wrapped up The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, one of my friends had arrived, and we now had enough people to play Halo Reach‘s co-op. Having spent most of the term attempting to survive organic chemistry and data structures, I didn’t pay attention to Halo Reach‘s campaign.

  • My friend, however, had known of the different missions and immediately requested that we play Long Night of Solace on co-op, which has Noble Team storm through Covenant forces attacking a Sabre facility and then help the UNSC fleet repel Covenant forces in orbit over Reach, before boarding a Covenant super-carrier. We made it on board the carrier before the remainder of my friends arrived, after which we threw burgers on a grill and then spent the rest of the evening blasting one another in MLG Team Slayer on Reflection. Halo Reach has now made it to PC, and my journey began on Chinese Winter Solstice.

  • Back in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, with all of the keys in one place, the old computer powers up, and the old Nagato Yuki’s program begins running, asking if Kyon is ready to go back. Without hesitation, Kyon hits enter to execute the program; he only stops briefly to apologise to this world’s Yuki for not being able to join the literature club with her. Nothing immediately happens, but in a few moments, Kyon’s world fades to black, and when he comes to, he finds himself in a hot, humid room.

  • It turns out that Kyon was sent back to the night of the Tanabata three years previously, which was in July. Unlike the washed-out, faded world without Haruhi, this hot summer night is portrayed using saturated shades of blue and other hues. This particular event is of great significance in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, and in Japan, the festival is characterised by the writing of wishes on small pieces of paper and affixing them to a bamboo tree. The festival was presumably chosen to frame a time period where people make wishes, and so, when Kyon helps a younger Haruhi with her wishes, he inadvertently creates a future where he would meet her, and fulfill her desire for excitement.

  • Shortly after his arrival, Kyon encounters the older Mikuru, who knows of Kyon’s actions and sends him to Yuki’s apartment. With Yuki’s program, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s story shares similarities with Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai, which similarly used time travel as a part of its core story: both films are highly enjoyable extensions of a light novel story that have a much greater emotional impact than even their anime, and both use a causal loop to prevent the development of any paradoxes. In addition, both films force their male lead to make a difficult decision.

  • As such, it is not entirely unfounded when I say that both movies feel quite similar in their atmosphere and execution – that both Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya manage to be so compelling is a testament to the strength in both movies’ narratives. Of course, both worlds also have their unique points: the former encapsulates the difficulties of youth with fanciful metaphors, while the latter is really about the joys of having fun and colourful people in one’s life.

  • Upon arriving in Nagato’s sparsely-furnished apartment, Kyon and the older Mikuru are given nanites to help them survive the next step of their operation. Yuki also provides Kyon with a dart gun that will immediately patch away the irregularities that will appear in her future self. These abnormalities, as Yuki considers them, are what would be known as emotions: these instinctive reactions to stimuli are a fundamental aspect of humanity, and while they can impediments, are also critically important towards the ability for people to work together

  • That Yuki’s begun developing this emergent property of having emotions, while humanising her character and making her more mature, also begins to affect her duties, hence her contingencies for this eventuality. When Kyon and the older Mikuru arrive in the world three years later, it is moments before Yuki changes the world. It’s a cold winter’s night, and Mikuru is completely unprepared for the brisk weather, so Kyon lends her his coat.

  • The sight of Yuki standing in the middle of the street on her own evokes a very melancholy, lonely feel that speaks volumes as to just how advanced her emotional intelligence had come since when Kyon first met her. Kyon readies his dart gun and chambers the round, but before he takes the shot, he considers the reasoning behind Yuki’s actions, as well as the justification for his own choices. Kyon quickly deduces that Yuki, having been exposed to the constantly exciting and fun environment that Haruhi and the SOS Brigade bring, as well as the changes that Kyon himself had wrought in Haruhi, began wondering what it would be like if she had gotten closer to him instead.

  • By providing viewers with a confirmation of their thoughts (or helping them to realign with what’s happening), Kyon’s monologues in the movie are immensely helpful. Whereas The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya had Kyon’s narration fill viewers in on what’s happening (similar to the TV series), Seishun Buta Yarō would delegate this particular task to Rio Futaba. In both cases, the narration starts out unreliable, but soon becomes more important as their respective stories advance. The attendant imagery in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya speaks volumes to just how extensive and intense Yuki’s emotions had become.

  • The golden glow flooding the empty clubroom creates a sense of wistfulness: a similar light illuminated the world the day that I had arrived at my friend’s place for the LAN party and busied myself with finishing The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya after being informed that the others were a good half-hour away. For better or worse, the last light to afternoon of a late spring day is now something that irrevocably brings to mind the sort of loneliness and yearning that Yuki had: having been on her own this whole time, it was only natural that she began to entertain thoughts of getting closer to Kyon, who had been kind and understanding towards her despite discovering that she’d been of extraterrestrial origin.

  • For Kyon, the choice between his old world (the bookmark) and the alternative world (the club application) becomes tangibly represented towards the end of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. While the movie represents it as being a tough choice, Kyon’s actions throughout the film, and the fact that he immediately executes Yuki’s program without hesitation already foreshadows the choice that he would take.

  • The use of turnstiles in a train station shows that once Kyon’s made his decision, whatever that might be, his decision is to be final, and that Yuki would accept his choice (along with the ensuing consequences). Besides the use of colour and lighting, Kyoto Animation also excelled with strong use of symbolism within their anime films. Hibike! Euphonium similarly made extensive use of symbols, as do CLANNADKanon and other of their works. However, while some might take symbolism to mean that a film (or series) is necessarily intellectual, Kyoto Animation’s actual intent with symbols is to make tangible an idea that had only previously implied: in a Kyoto Animation work, once a symbol appears, an idea becomes explicitly clear.

  • The final hurdle Kyon faces internally lies within his own doubts: as much as he disliked Haruhi for forcing him into things he did not wish to participate in earlier on, her actions have also allowed him to make friends of everyone at the SOS Brigade. Thus, while he does indeed still think a peaceful life is something to enjoy, the more exciting world with Haruhi in it is the one he prefers, having seen what is possible when she’s around. The answer, then, is evident for Kyon, and he moves forwards without any hesitation. He readies his tool and remarks that he preferred Yuki without glasses, clearly indicating beyond any doubt that the other reality had no chance.

  • While the original world may have been a lot more exciting, one cannot help but feel bad for Yuki, whose feelings will be irrevocably denied. Nowhere in the soundtrack is this more evident than the piece Nagato Yuki no Kokoro ni Aru mono (“What’s In Yuki Nagato’s Heart”), an incredibly touching song whose use of strings captures the sense of yearning Yuki had for another life despite understanding that this was a path she could never take. If there was one song that could capture the entire essence of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya from Yuki’s perspective, this would be it.

  • Before Kyon can fire on Yuki, a serrated blade cuts into his side: the original Ryōko had been a rogue agent who was not above cutting the Gordian Knot to get results faster. The Ryōko in the alternate reality (and in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan) only retains the original’s ability to be intimidating, but otherwise lacks the same disregard for life: in the manga, Ryōko is seen to intimidate with a glance, and primarily does this to keep Yuki in line, but otherwise never even considers violence as an option.

  • Even as Kyon begins to bleed out, familiar figures appear and manage to complete his original objective of neutralising Yuki and preventing the world from being changed. From here, the timeline converges: Haruhi, Itsuki and the others saw Kyon to have fallen from a flight of steps after being pushed by an unknown entity. That everyone else believes Kyon to have fallen into a coma from falling from a stairwell makes The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya feel similar to Futurama‘s “The Sting”, where Leela fell into a coma after being stung by a space bee and believed Fry to be dead. While this same setup might have been a plausible explanation for things, the conversation that Kyon shares with Yuki indicates this is quite untrue.

  • Itsuki remarks that Haruhi never left his side, similar to how Fry remained by Leela until she’d reawakened. It’s a touching moment that further cements that Haruhi has feelings for Kyon in spite of herself, and Itsuki describes his thoughts on this devotion as being akin to jealousy. When Haruhi wakes up from her sleep, she immediately berates Kyon for having lost three days, although this is really just her way of expressing relief that Kyon is alright.

  • Ultimately, from Yuki’s perspective, the events of The Disappearance of Haruhi is a story of unrequited love: while Yuki may characterise it differently, her actions throughout the movie have been prompted by the most powerful and poorly-characterised human emotion of all. I have a separate post on the matter, but the presence of a meaningful secondary theme meant that this film had several layers of complexity which underlie just how well-crafted the characters and the story is.

  • The colour has returned to Kyon’s world, and he anticipates enjoying Haruhi’s cooking at the film’s end. I will note that it is an incredibly impressive feat for The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, that even after eight years of additional life experience, my conclusions about the movie and its theme have remained largely unchanged. The film’s messages remain as solid and meaningful as they were when I first watched it, speaking to the narrative’s excellence, and even now, the film is something I can easily recommend. With this, I’d like to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas: now that this post is in the books, it’s time for me to head off and take a quiet day off to go through my games backlog, read and perhaps take a walk under the winter sun.

Between its moving plot and technical excellence (typical of Kyoto Animation’s best works), The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is an excellent movie that masterfully brought the original light novel’s narrative to life. Through a combination of stunning visuals and a soundtrack composed of orchestral pieces that create an elegant feeling, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a film without peer. However, what elevates The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya to masterpiece status lies how the film’s message found relevance when I’d watched it: the film’s home release was a mere five months earlier, and upon hearing about the overwhelmingly positive reception, my curiosity was piqued. After hammering my way through the first two seasons, I ended up watching the film during the summer, spending those long summer afternoons, after research had ended, watching the movie. I finished the same day the local anime convention started, having chosen not to attend on account of a LAN party, and while the film was something I enjoyed deeply, thoughts of Yuki and the emergence of emotions in her character fell to the back of my mind. When one of my classmates posted a video of his convention experiences and made mention of Yuki, likening her sense of longing to his own post-convention blues, I’d realised that The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s message was much more profound than I’d initially thought; having spent the movie focused on Kyon, I never really considered Yuki’s perspectives: as she spent more time with Kyon and the SOS Brigade, she begins to imbibe on decidedly human characteristics and wonders what it would be like if she could get closer to him. This silent sense of longing held a beautiful sort of melancholy, and also helped me to understand my classmate’s thoughts on anime conventions a little better, as well as make tangible my own understanding of what unrequited love entailed. While I would stare down and write the MCAT a year later, the year after, I had the time to attend the local anime convention for myself, and at last, I fully comprehended what my classmate meant when detailing the aftermath of an anime convention. For having eventually motivated me to visit and support the local anime convention, as well as providing a vivid and poignant story of what unrequited love can do, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya had a non-trivial impact on my life, which is why it is designated as a masterpiece. Personal reasons aside, the film is of a remarkable quality, and par the course for Kyoto Animation’s productions, has aged very gracefully. I have no qualms recommending this movie (and note that the TV series is essential to the experience), but because I imagine most would have seen The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya already, I imagine that suggesting folks to re-watch it is also appropriate.

Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai: Movie Review and Reflection

“Time doesn’t work that way. Changing the past doesn’t change the future: if you travel to the past, that past becomes your future, and your former present becomes the past, which can’t now be changed by your new future.”
“So, Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl is a bunch of bullshit?”

– Bruce Banner and Scott Lang, The Avengers: Endgame

The winter break draws near for Sakuta Azusagawa, whose life has settled into a familiar and uneventful pattern in the aftermath Kaede recovering her old personality. However, when Sakuta’s first love, Shōko Makinohara, unexpectedly reappears and begins lodging with the Azusagawas, much to Mai’s displeasure. It turns out that the real Shōko is a middle school student who was afflicted with a heart condition, and her chief desire was to experience falling in love. This desire was so strong that it resulted in two manifestations of Shōko existing concurrently: in her older form, Shōko desires to get closer to Sakuta and make the most of what limited time that she has. Sakuta and Mai decide to help Shōko, but Mai’s schedule precludes her from visiting, and Rio’s explanation of this phenomenon proves quite ineffectual to Sakuta, who nonetheless decides to help Shōko in his own way, taking her on a date and even fulfils her wish to experience the atmosphere surrounding a wedding. He eventually comes to realise that his own wounds stem from Shōko’s existence. In order for the older Shōko to exist, her middle school aged self needed a heart transplant. Shōko’s older incarnation reveals that Sakuta was the one who saved her; after he succumbed to injuries resulting in a car crash, his heart was donated to Shōko. Shōko thus longed to properly express her gratitude to him, and therefore manifested at critical junctures in his life to give him guidance. Her appearance now has permanently disrupted causality: with Mai learning of Shōko’s origins, she ends up being hit by the vehicle that was supposed to have killed Sakuta, leaving Sakuta inconsolable. Shōko appears to him again, telling him that there is a way to save Mai, but at the cost of her own existence. Torn between choosing a future with Mai and a future where Shōko lives, Sakuta ultimately decides to save Mai. He is returned to the day of the accident, and allows his current self to die in the vehicle accident, saving his past self along with Mai. Sakuta and Mai later visit Shōko, who reveals that she has a vague member of everything that Sakuta had done for her, including their mock wedding. While saving Mai would mean that Shōko never lived and therefore never would have intervened to bring Sakuta closer to Mai, Rio and his other friends, Mai reassures Sakuta that regardless of what happens, they would have found one another and fallen in love anyways. Shōko accepts this fate, and in the present day, Mai and Sakuta visit a shrine to pray for good fortune in the new year. They later stop by the beach and encounter the younger Shōko, who warmly remembers Mai and Sakuta.

Premièring half a year ago, Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai (Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl) continues off from where Seishun Buta Yarō‘s first season left off: Shōko had flitted in and out of the first season as being an instigator to the events of the series, but otherwise having a enigmatic presence owing to the fact that her age seemed quite inconsistent with the passage of time. This left viewers to wonder how Shōko came into Sakuta’s life, and at least a handful of viewers speculated that time travel was a core component of Shōko’s seemingly contradictory existence. Time travel does indeed become an integral part of Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai, being used in the same way that Iroduku: The World in Colours used. Sakuta does not return back in time to save the younger Shōko, and instead, his actions in the present give Shōko a future in one timeline. This allows the older Shōko to return to the past to help Sakuta, in turn setting in motion the events that lead him to meet Mai and meet her younger self. Thanks to the supernatural ability for memories to endure and persist across different timelines, Sakuta and Shōko’s actions do not create a paradox, and the time travel of Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai winds up being a basic causal loop despite being presented as a highly complex flow. Allowing memories of characters to be preserved means that even if they die in one timeline, the knowledge that one incarnation of a character gains becomes imparted on other incarnations, in turn allowing them to act in a way that creates a stable flow of events without destablising the main timeline. This particular mechanism is a valid one to utilise: Seishun Buta Yarō had already established, as one of its themes, that human emotion is capable of creating supernatural phenomenon owing to the strength of said feelings, and as such, it is not inconceivable that feelings can transcend the physical laws of space and time.

Time travel mechanics aside, Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai is ultimately about the sense of longing that individuals affected with chronic conditions have: Shōko herself puts it bluntly, desiring nothing more than a normal life where she is able to enjoy her classes, spend time with classmates and do all of the things that healthy individuals often take for granted in their lives. This desire for normalcy is precisely why Shōko simply wants someone to reassure her that it’s alright, that she’s done her best: even though she’s fighting for her health with every fibre of her being, illness can be an overwhelming force. With Sakuta (and Mai) in her corner, giving her support, the younger Shōko begins feeling hope that there could be a future, but this also creates in her a desire to experience said future. The strength of this desire manifests as the older Shōko, who appears to Sakuta and provides encouragement for him so he has the will to solve his own problems and in time, helps her to experience the things that she’d yearned to experience. Shōko’s story involves elements from each of Seishun Buta Yarō‘s previous arcs (Mai being only visible to select people, Koga becoming trapped in a time loop, Rio’s personality splitting into two physical forms) to show the intensity and severity of Shōko’s desires, which simultaneously leaves her selfish and selfless. Creating such an intricate narrative in Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai serves to show that life is often a matter of contradictions, and of difficult choices: while external observers may feel that some choices are obvious, failing to empathise with those amidst a difficult period means failing to understand that individauls can feel overwhelmed, immobilised by their problems, and that it often takes positive, external intervention to help individuals both come to terms with their situation, as well as determine what the best course of action is for making most of the time they are given. While Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai follows its predecessor in wrapping its narrative in a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma, like its predecessor, the central theme is a simple one that is rooted in human emotion, empathy and compassion. As such, despite the rather convoluted flow in Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai, a clear and present theme means that the film is able to keep the viewer’s attention throughout its run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While prima facie requiring a post-graduate knowledge of quantum mechanics, Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai is actually surprisingly straightforwards in its messages and execution. The principles of quantum mechanics in Seishun Buta Yarō as a whole are considered to be a red herring, and any discussion that counts them seriously as a credible representation of either the characters’ experiences or a correct explanation of the phenomenon has veered off-mission into the realm of the fanciful: before we delve further, I’ll open by stressing that Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai does not need any functional knowledge of quantum mechanics to any extent.

  • Because I still have yet to hear a compelling argument that shows the proponents of Rio’s theories understand quantum mechanics to a satisfactory extent, I remain quite unconvinced that things like m-dimensional space and branes have anything to do with Sakuta’s experiences. This is the case likely because Hajime Kamoshida did not intend to see these concepts as being seriously taken to account for what Sakuta goes through, and as such, enjoyment of Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai must come from elsewhere, namely, through the characters’ growth and interaction.

  • At the film’s start, Sakuta is exhausted from having to deal with Shōko staying at his house and Mai’s not-so-subtle jealousy. The film’s conflict comes from Shōko, who had hitherto been an enigmatic character who appeared at critical points to help Sakuta, but otherwise, had an origin and objective that was never explored. Speculation correctly guessed that inconsistencies in Shōko’s age would play a major role in the story, although the film took things in a different direction and cleverly weaved time travel into its story to defy, and exceed, expectations.

  • The conflict within Shōko is a simple one: her future aspirations assignment tangibly captures her desire to live into the future and experience life fully, and her ever-shifting list mirrors the uncertainty she has about what she wants from her future. The younger Shōko starts out with an optimistic outlook on things, and when Shōko visits her, he does his best to reassure her of things on each visit.

  • Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai is set around Christmas, rather similar to how The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi was set around Christmas. The choice of framing the narrative around this time of year is deliberate: while Christmas in Japan is unlike Christmas in North America, with our ornate dinners, family gatherings and celebration of Jesus the Christ’s birth, the Japanese interpretation of Christmas is more akin to that of Valentines’ Day. As such, films set around Christmas often involve using the time to create an especially compelling romantic narrative, or else give characters a time to become especially close with one another.

  • The older Shōko desires to experience the feeling of a wedding, so she takes Sakuta to a chapel on an unofficial date of sorts. This date is not so dissimilar to when Tomoe and Sakuta entered a faux relationship to help Tomoe out, but despite Shōko’s general sense of cheerfulness, the entire date is permeated by a sense of melancholy. The minimal dialogue and incidental music helps convey this sense to hint at Shōko’s true nature.

  • While Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai incorporates every element from the TV series because Shōko’s role in Sakuta’s life is nontrivial, it is erronous to consider Shōko to be a “final boss” whose presence is “obvious” and whose story was inevitable. Her existence is intended to establish that the circumstances behind Sakuta’s encounter and falling in love with Mai are convoluted, rather similar to how relationships in reality form from fateful encounters one cannot easily predict. Seishun Buta Yarō generally has no problems with making use out complex, outrageous situations to express things that people often do not think much about in reality to show that for some things like interpersonal relationships, there are aspects that cannot easily be explained by logic and reason.

  • As such, I see no reason to be dismissive of Shōko’s character – if she’s present and seen only briefly, but implied to hold some sort of relevance, then it follows her role should be nontrivial and meritorious of further exploration, rather than merely be considered as a common catalyst. I always enter a work with the intent of understanding what the author intends the audience to take away from it, rather than impose my own world-views on it, and so,

  • Despite being only a faux wedding for Shōko to explore the emotions surrounding the union of two people, Shōko is definitely happy about being able to spend this time with Sakuta. For me, this was the point in the movie where the story grabbed my attention and held it – with a runtime of ninety minutes, this film runs for approximately four and a half episodes worth of material, capitalising on its uninterrupted flow to create a far more compelling story than four distinct episodes would.

  • The end result is that Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai ends up being a very emotionally-moving story, showing the incalculable powers inherent in certain acts of kindness. Something like granting Shōko her wish of experiencing a wedding for herself allows her older self to come to terms with her fate, and Sakuta’s kindness is what helps Shōko realise that there is worth in fighting as hard as she does against her illness.

  • After its release in Japan, Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai was next screened at Anime Expo, and I’ve seen some folks fly over to Japan solely to watch this film in theatres. In Japan, SNS platforms were flooded with overwhelmingly positive reception, although those who frequent these social media platforms noted that while praises were being made, there was very little in the way of discussion surrounding the story and its mechanics, specifically pertaining to the ending and themes. Having long seen the way anime movie discussions on SNS works, I can say with confidence that in the days after a film’s release in Japan, perusing social media discussions on a film will likely not yield anything useful.

  • Instead, it is patience for the home release and experiencing a film for oneself that will confer the best experience. For this reason, I’ve been avoiding all spoilers of Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai, and I think I was successful here. Back in the film itself, Sakuta discusses his experiences with Rio, who hypothesises that Shōko is conflicted. This particular conversation shows how characters like Rio can add to the discussion: after giving viewers a chance to form their own conclusions, a character then provides an explanation of what’s going on. This helps viewers reaffirm or realign with what the story is going for before continuing, keeping everyone informed of things.

  • After one visit to Shōko, Sakuta learns that her condition is worsening. Sakuta’s time spent with Shōko sees him reassure her with “you did your best”, which becomes the very same words she’ll return to him in her older incarnation that result in Sakuta picking himself up. The combined stresses of interacting with both forms of Shōko place a great deal of strain on him: his wounds reopen as he leaves the hospital, and he collapses in the hallway.

  • When he comes to, he finds himself face-to-face with Shōko, who explains that her existence resulted from Sakuta donating his heart to her following his death in a vehicular accident. Suddenly, viewers find themselves staring down the same scenario that was seen in Angel Beats!, except this time, the cause for these events stem from those whose progression is not exactly clear to the user. It becomes apparent that some form of time travel must be involved in the story, although given the lack Pym Particles in Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai, utilisation of the quantum realm was never to be the solution employed.

  • Through his troubles, Mai acts as a constant source of support. While Sakuta wants nothing more than to make Mai happy, he also begins to forget that in a relationship, this support is mutual: Mai’s been there for Sakuta all this time even as he finds himself entangled in in Shōko’s problems. One of the biggest joys of Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai is the natural progression between Sakuta and Mai’s relationship – she initially sees him as a nuisance, and he sees her as a curiosity, but as they know the other better, what was once tolerance becomes acceptance, and then love.

  • Rio started her journey in Seishun Buta Yarō quite unlikeable, coldly and impersonally distilling Sakuta’s experiences into scientific constructs bearing no relevance to what he was going through, but when Rio began to suffer from her own troubles, a deeper side to her character was seen. Despite giving the impression she cares little for Sakuta, Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai reveals that this isn’t the case – Rio’s experiences in the TV series help her to appreciate what Sakuta is going through to a greater extent, and in doing so, viewers come to sympathise with her.

  • When Kaede finds herself in need of a haircut prior to the holidays, Mai recommends her to the same one that she frequents. Nodoka is present, and after Kaede’s haircut is done, Sakuta remarks that her new look is fine, pointing at Nodoka as an example of someone who is try-harding. The Kaede of the present is how Sakuta would have known her prior to the incident from a few years ago, retaining a cordial relationship with him. Earlier, Sakuta shares a conversation with Nodoka, who remarks on his blessings in being able to spend his holidays with Mai.

  • Slower moments like these therefore make it clear that normalcy is something to be cherished and valued: not everyone is so fortunate as to have someone special to spend their Christmas with, Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai is saying, and this creates a bit of foreshadowing as to what happens as the film progresses. Mai asks Nodoka to take Kaede home, so she and Sakuta can deal with something. Subtle use of facial expressions and timing hint at what this “something” is going to be.

  • As much as it has been weighing on Sakuta’s mind, Mai’s also been quite concerned – she wants to take Sakuta as far away as possible to stave off any possibility of him dying. It’s an emotional moment that makes it clear Mai has eyes for no one but Sakuta, even as he struggles to determine on the best course of action in the face of his inevitable death. Sakuta’s selflessness actually comes to the detriment of his relationship with Mai – as he is always looking out for others, this has a cost.

  • Upon realising that he had originally made arrangements to meet Shōko and see the Shonan no Hoseki Winter Illumination at the Enoshima Sea Candle, and Shōko had guessed that he would spend Christmas Eve with Mai instead, Sakuta rushes off to meet her one last time before her older self vanished. Completely consumed by his thoughts, Sakuta ends up in the path of a vehicle that has lost control and is on a path to hit him. However, because Mai now knows about Shōko, per Tony Stark from Endgame, when one messes with time, it tends to mess back.

  • The unthinkable happens, and Mai pushes Sakuta out of the way, dying in the crash that was originally to kill him. In this timeline, Mai’s heart becomes Shōko’s transplant. Seeing Mai die was something I did not see coming, and it is for this reason I am glad to have evaded all spoilers – the shock was considerable, and while the logical part of me knew there would be a resolution, for a moment, like Sakuta, I saw no out; seeing Mai’s shattered phone on the pavement was the surest sign that Mai was dead beyond any doubt.

  • Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai thus takes on a faded, darker colour palette for this act, mirroring Sakuta’s inconsolable despondence. The story could not end here, and immediately, my thoughts wandered to the outcome of Infinity War, which similarly saw the protagonists lose on a great scale. Experience and logic dictated that neither Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai or the MCU could simply end on such a note, so it had to be the case that something would happen that could set things right. In both cases, careful application of time travel mechanics would provide the solution.

  • However, even with the solution being quite obvious (having seen Endgame‘s handling of how the Avengers would undo Thanos’ snap), it was heart-rending to see Mai’s parents and Nodoka react to her death. Listening to their tears was difficult, speaking to the incredible voice acting talents that went into the film. The application of time travel in Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai is ultimately why I chose an Endgame quote: the way Endgame dealt with time travel was that they could use the Quantum Realm to access one particular timeline, “borrow” the Infinity Stones to build another gauntlet and then harness the power of the stones to put everyone back, then return the stones so the other timelines remain unaffected.

  • This was a clever and creative way to prevent time paradoxes from arising, and with Endgame in the books, the MCU can now proceed. Back in Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai, Sakuta is left to despair, rather like how the Avengers were left dejected in the aftermath of their initial failure to stop Thanos. Rio and Yūma appear to give him a hand: Rio has Sakuta stay at her place until things settle down; since he was dating Mai, it was possible the media would want to interview him.

  • Sakuta’s misery reaches an apex when he stumbles towards the same beach where he’d first met Shōko. By sheer coincidence, Shōko reappears to him and informs Sakuta that there is a way to set things right. Like Endgame, time travel is prescribed as the only course of action. While coming across as “hackneyed” for some viewers, I strongly disagree: Seishun Buta Yarō had already established that incredibly and inexplicable phenomenon are possible, so it is not outlandish for time travel to be employed as a solution. Of course, those who still feel this way after a justification for why this might hold would do well to craft their own ending, and then I will look through it to see if it presents a feasible progression that preserves the theme of the story. Only then will I allow critics to make such concise (and often disingenuous) claims about stories relying on deus ex machina or similar.

  • Shōko explains that strong emotions are what creates the phenomenon, and so, in this moment, the strength of Sakuta’s feelings, coupled with her presence, would allow him to return to just before the accident that kills Mai and turn things around. The last I saw use of sleep to induce time travel was in The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi some eight years previously: both movies share similarities in their contributions towards their respective stories, employ parallel timelines and time travel as core elements underlining emotional challenges, and force their respective protagonists to make a difficult choice that reaffirms who they are and what they stand for.

  • Shōko’s plan works, and Sakuta is whisked backwards four days. With only her vague suggestion of finding someone important to him, Sakuta finds he is unable to interact with most people in this timeline. The sense of urgency in the film’s final act ramps up – while some critics feel it rushed, a consequence of the film dawdling in its earlier segments, I disagree with this assessment. The earlier portions of the film are slow to establish a gentler environment for Sakuta to gradually work out the mystery of Shōko, which serves to build up the emotional payoff once Sakuta does work out what’s happening and what his next steps must be.

  • Sakuta eventually dons a rabbit costume, runs into Tomoe, who can see him, along with Nodoka and Mai herself. He confesses that with the knowledge of the future, his love for Mai won’t change and struggles to see how to ensure a future where he can be with Mai while saving Shōko. This is the emotional payoff I refer to earlier: in order to appreciate what Sakuta is thinking, viewers must first see the buildup. Suggesting otherwise is to indicate a lack of appreciation for the bigger picture, and the events towards Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai‘s endgame are paced quickly to similarly convey to audiences the turmoil that Sakuta experiences.

  • After meeting the older Shōko in “the past” for their date, Sakuta decides to do what he must: he ends up stepping into the path of the oncoming car that would’ve killed either him or Mai. With a version of him killed in the accident, the irregularities to the timeline are resolved, allowing the “past” Mai and Sakuta to live. The reason why no paradoxes are introduced, then, is because of the permeance of memories and emotions; these act almost as singletons of sorts in Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai, maintaining a global state even amongst different instances of the characters in what are presumed to be different timelines.

  • In software development, singletons are universally reviled – in general, it is a bad idea to store global variables and states that persist throughout the lifespan of an application because it makes testing so much harder. I avoid them where possible: in Swift, using delegates and notifications to pass around updates to objects in response to state changes decouples things better. However, delegates and notifications would make Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai incomprehensible, and since audiences are not expected to unit test this movie, there is no harm in supposing that memories and emotion transcend space time, applying to every instance of a character to shape who they are.

  • From Endgame‘s perspective, Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai‘s use of time travel could be seen as bullshit, akin to Hot Tub Time Machine and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. However, because Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai employs it only to advance the theme and does so in a way that is consistent with their universes’ rules, I ultimately found it to be a plausible and acceptable way of bringing the message to life.

  • With imminent threat to Sakuta and Mai past, the couple spends time together and with their siblings come Christmas. We’re now ten days to Christmas, and tonight, I attended an early Christmas party with relatives. Conversation was had, and jokes were shared over short rib,  beef-and-sausage jambalaya, garlic shrimps, crab cakes, root vegetable medley and corn bread. An apple pie and lemon crisp followed, accompanied with tea. With this family Christmas dinner, my winter festivities have officially kicked off, and it’s really beginning to feel like the holidays now. On Christmas Day proper, it’ll be a nice, quiet day spent with my immediate family, and I’ll probably capitalise on my break to sleep in, as well.

  • Besides spending time with family and attending an office Christmas event, I actually had a bunch of vacation days accumulated, and so, I am planning on taking the final days of 2019 off so I can just relax and take it easy, having more or less been going full-throttle since the year began. I’m not too sure what I’ll do with that vacation time for now, so I’ll probably just play it by ear. In future years, I will probably leave around five days of vacation time for the end of the year and then use most of the days to unwind and travel a little (all within moderation, of course). With this in mind, there’s only ten more days until Christmas, and when I was younger, this would seem like an eternity. Now, ten days passes in the blink of an eye.

  • In the present, Sakuta visits Shōko, who reveals that she has vague collections of a future where she’d spent time with Sakuta. She apologises for her selfishness and affirms that they were very much real. Understanding what Sakuta went through, Shōko decides that the best course of action is to build a timeline where Sakuta and Mai can be happy, but in exchange, will not have any memories of her.

  • Both Mai and Sakuta realise that, given Shōko had already been aware of her future, she’d also have known about Sakuta’s efforts to save her. In the end, Shōko can be seen as being quite stubborn, and will go through with her aim to create a better future. Before their memories of her fade, they decide to grade her assignment for her, sharing one final, tender moment together with Shōko’s memories.

  • When Sakuta wakes up the next morning, he realises it’s a new year. Flashing back through a year’s worth of experiences, the scene fades out, implying that Sakuta and Mai’s memories of Shōko have vanished. This moment feels a great deal like the final moment of Fuuko’s arc in CLANNAD: Tomoya and Nagisa spend one final night with Fuuko before she vanishes, and are left together the next morning with no recollection of why they had decided to spend the night at school. According to calendars throughout Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai, the events of the movie happened during December 2014.

  • One thing I never mentioned about Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai is its soundtrack: the incidental music in the movie is subtle, poignant and well-chosen for each of the scenes they accompany, adding a gentle melancholy that serve to accentuate the mood in each scene. The soundtrack itself released on November 27 as a part of the home release: the music collection has twenty eight tracks and provides a drama scenario, as well.

  • As 2015 rolls in, Sakuta and Mai visit a shrine and pray for a happy and successful new year. It is not lost on me that we are now entering the final half of the last month in the current decade: in a few weeks, 2020 will be upon us. In retrospect, I’ve done quite a bit in the past ten years, although in some areas, my knowledge remains quite lacking. Entering the new decade, my resolution will simply be to give my career everything I’ve got, continue to look after my physical and mental well-being, and maintain positivity, all the while, doing nothing that takes away from this positivity – these are the things that matter, and in the long run, keeping myself in good shape allows me to pursue that which makes me happiest: leaving a positive mark on the world.

  • An unknown, compelling force prompted Mai to take a leading role in a movie whose plot was quite similar to that of Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai‘s. This element hints at the strength of memories, and ultimately, when Mai and Sakuta encounter a now-healthy Shōko on the beach with her parents, they recall her as easily as she remembers them. As far as I am concerned, there are no “hackneyed” elements in Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai – the use of memories as a structural element to unify the different timelines was a clever one that adds to, rather than detracts from the film’s message. I was not left with those lingering questions after finishing the film, and since I continue to reiterate the film is not terribly complex or challenging, those who have unanswered questions might be overanalysing things.

  • When everything is said and done, Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai earns a solid A+ in my books (9.5 of 10, or 4.0) for being a satisfying, worthwhile and rewarding close towards Sakuta’s journey in Seishun Buta Yarō for the present. With this movie in the books, the next big ones I will be writing about will be the SaeKano movie (which certain parties already have watched and presented an incomplete, uninformative review of), as well as Hello World. 2020 will see the release of Hibike! Euphonium‘s movie, and in January, HaiFuri‘s film will hit Japanese cinema. Undoubtedly, those with the advantage will likely be pushing their narrative for those films, but I still have every intention to write about these films to provide a fairer, more instructive and considerably more useful review for readers.

With a shade under six months separating Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai‘s theatrical première and its home release, the reasonable gap meant that my excitement for this film never particularly waned. The wait for Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai was well worth it, answering lingering questions about Shōko and giving her story weight that serves to also reinforce Mai and Sakuta’s relationship. The two have come a very long way from their chance meeting in the series’ beginnings, and seeing how far they’ve come is heartwarming, showing that despite their outward impressions, their love is very much real. Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai continues on in its predecessor’s manner by choosing to focus on the human aspects of its story; matters of quantum theory and related disciplines are present in the film only as a callback to Rio’s enjoyment of the topic and the idea that logic is inadequate for describing the tumultuous and chaotic nature of emotions. Overall, Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai lived up to the expectations set by the TV series, being a highly engaging and satisfactory story that neatly deals with Shōko’s story and how she came to set up the events of the entire series. Consistently good in every regard, it is easy to see why Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai received universally positive reception: the original light novel is said to have had a similarly convoluted flow, with author Hajime Kamoshida hand-waving things to reach a suitable resolution. The movie does not give this impression. I can say with confidence that complex theories and ideas aren’t strictly necessary for enjoyment of Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai, whose themes ultimately deal with the sort of emotions that those afflicted with chronic conditions must go through and how the right people can be of immeasurable value to these individuals. I therefore have no trouble recommending this film to viewers: those who are familiar with Seishun Buta Yarō will find closure in the movie, and those who’ve not seen the TV series will stand to gain much enjoyment from going through both the TV series and the film.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part Two: A Nine Minute Preview and Remarks on Release Patterns

“Delay always breeds danger; and to protract a great design is often to ruin it.” –Miguel de Cervantes

After Miho’s armoured column evacuates from the wooden bridge, they set up an ambush for BC Freedom’s tanks and push them towards a garden. Here, Mallard team causes chaos amongst BC Freedom’s tanks: after Saori had noticed that their Char B1 bis possessed the same turret as the Souma S35, Miho decides to give their tank a custom paint job and has Mallard sneak behind enemy lines to create instances of friendly fire. While BC Freedom can fight in a united manner under Marie’s command, Oshida and Andou’s animosity for one another ends up being exploited: the two wonder if there’s a traitor amongst them and disregard Ooarai, firing on one another instead. This is the short preview that has been presented for Girls und Panzer Das Finale‘s second act, which premièred in Japanese cinema back on June 15. Possessing a total runtime of 54 minutes, the second act will see the conclusion of Ooarai’s match with BC Freedom, whose outcome is foregone but where the journey to reach said outcome will still remain worthy of watching. With BC Freedom in the books, trailers show that part two will allow Miho a small break before their next match with Kinue Nishi and Chi-Ha Tan, where she spends some time at a Boko-themed amusement park with Alice. For folks, such as myself, who do not have the luxary of going to Japan to watch Das Finale‘s second act, this is about the most that is known for the present: a re-screening of both parts is scheduled for the Thanksgiving Long Weekend, and unlike Part One, whose home release date was announced a month after its première, no information has been provided as to when the home release for Part Two will be.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I will come back and do a proper talk on Das Finale Part Two once it’s actually available; for now, we’ll have a chance to look at the nine or so minutes of footage that mark the opening sixth of the second act. It seems logical to start by talking about Marie. From what little has been seen of her so far, Marie has a haughty personalty and places great store in her skill as a commander. While capable of convincing Andou and Oshida to cooperate, Marie seems to care little for tactics, leaving her subordinates to fight while she eats cake even in the midst of a battle.

  • Conversely, Miho is always shown to be fighting alongside her comrades, directing them from the frontlines and encouraging them to do their best irrespective of the outcome. The gap in leadership and camaraderie amongst Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team is one of the reasons why they’ve always found ways to win over their enemies: other commanders tend to be confident and distant from other members of their team, Miho’s taken the effort to learn about everyone that participates alongside herself.

  • As a result of Girls und Panzer‘s previous performances, it is reasonable to suppose that Ooarai will win this match against BC Freedom, as well. The excitement comes from watching the process that leads to Ooarai’s victory, and I am now confident that it will be Momo who scores the winning kill: from a technical perspective, the FT-17 is a World War One era tank that was revolutionary for its time, but its maximum armour thickness of 22 mm would have offered no protection against the Jagdpanzer 38’s 7.5 cm Pak 39 (L/48), which could punch through 106 mm of armour at ranges of under 100 m.

  • Even at two kilometres, the Pak 39 is rated as being able to defeat 64 mm of armour if the round had hit its mark: the FT-17 would be useless, and Marie’s choice of tank is both to reflect on her preference to let her teammates do the fighting in their World War II-era, more capable tanks, as well as give Momo a fighting chance. I would further suppose that Miho’s determination to see Momo successful would mean that she’d sacrifice herself to make this happen, and so, I see her giving the order that causes her own Panzer IV to be disabled, which clears a way for Momo to take (and make) the winning shot.

  • Having done all of the housework and whatnot, today’s actually been a rather quiet day. Lazy weekends are the perfect time to spend making ludicrous foods: I had some grass-fed beef patties from earlier this month, and the time had finally come to break them out and use them to make burgers. Per request, these burgers feel like they come straight out of Man v. Food: besides a double patty, the burger I made was topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed onions and a fried egg. A side of fries and a tall glass of soda rounded things out. It was incredibly fun to put together and even more enjoyable to eat: grass-fed beef has an earthier, lamb-like taste, and the meat itself is leaner.

  • It is not lost on me that almost seven years have now passed since Girls und Panzer first began airing. Its success was unprecedented, and no one initially expected the franchise to do as well as it did. The reason for Girls und Panzer‘s unique success lies in the series emphasis on sportsmanship, finds ways of making each of the characters likeable, and for the incredible attention paid to detail. Appealing to military buffs and moé fans alike, there’s something in Girls und Panzer for everyone.

  • Capitalising on BC Freedom’s internal instability and the fact that Mallard Team’s Char B1 bis has the same turret as the Souma S35, Miho cleverly exploits their opponent’s weaknesses to create in-fighting during the match. Where Yukari had been dismayed to learn that the internal conflict at BC Freedom might have been a ruse, it turns out she was actually on the money: it is through Marie’s mediation that Oshida and Andou are able to nominally cooperate, but this cooperation is a fragile one.

  • While Der Film counted on spectacle and a scaled-up experience from the first season, Das Finale places much more emphasis on the skill-based elements of Panzerfahren. We can therefore expect creative tactics and problem solving approaches in upcoming movies, one of the few things along with the enjoyment factor, that is a constant with Das Finale. As frustrating as it is to be unable to do little more than wait, I fail to see the logic in going to Japan to see a movie that I won’t be able to write about in my usual format.

  • When Das Finale‘s second act finally comes out for home release and my copy arrives, I will be doing a much more in-depth talk about things. I expect that once BC Freedom begins tearing itself apart, it’ll be a short ways to the end of the match, and then the remainder of the episode will deal with Miho’s date with Alice to the Boko amusement park, as well as Ooarai squaring off against Chi-Ha Tan for the first time as opponents. With this preview in the books, I’ll be writing about Dumbbell wa Nan Kilo Moteru? next.

More optimistic estimates for Das Finale‘s second part to have a home release will put the date as being in December 2019, supposing that the re-screenings also double as an announcement for the next release. Previously, I had made the assumption that there would be a three month gap between the theatrical screenings and the home release for Das Finale, with an average of eighteen months between the different acts. By these estimates, this month was when Part Two was supposed to be released in full. Since these were off, the future release pattern for Das Finale becomes much more challenging to forecast. While I appreciate the effort going into the production of Girls und Panzer Das Finale to ensure that each instalment is of a high standard, Actas is proving to be about as reliable as 343 Industries when it comes to release dates. Following Das Finale is a bit of a painful endeavour on account of these wait times, and I do apologise to my readers for the considerable delays encountered in writing about Das Finale. My ability to write about this six-part film series is entirely dependent on the home releases, as I aim to provide detailed discussions, with high-quality screenshots. While I could be financially irresponsible and fly myself out to Japan for the singular purpose of watching the film to provide a pure-text summary, I would be compromising the quality of my content by taking this route. This is the cost of quality, and I will resolve to get a proper talk on Das Finale‘s second act as soon as the home release is available, a talk that I hope readers will find satisfactory.

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

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

–Eternity, Arthur Rimbaud

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penguin Highway: A Review and Reflection

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” –Albert Einstein

Aoyama is a fourth-grader with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and spends his days making detailed observations of the world around him. With a strong sense of confidence, Aoyama encounters a lady working at the dental clinic, whom he takes a liking to. His effort to impress her lands him a conversation, and she consents to instruct him in chess. When penguins begin appearing in his town, the lady tasks him with solving the mystery of the penguins’ origins, and Aoyama sets about applying his own brand of logic and reason towards seeking a scientific solution to this fantastical phenomenon. With his best friend Uchida and the equally-inquisitive transfer student Hanamoto, Aoyama continues to work out how the lady and penguins are connected, discovering a mysterious orb that he dubs the “ocean”. From observations made while he hangs out with the lady, and also his own experiments, Aoyama finds that while he can identify patterns (such as how the lady can only conjure penguins under clear skies and that her well-being diminishes the further away from town she is), he is no closer to solving the mystery: the enigma surrounding this orb deepens when the Lego probe with instruments that Aoyama, Hanamoto and Uchida sends into it vanishes. After a typhoon rolls over the area, and the orb expands, Aoyama and the lady enter the orb to rescue researchers from the university, including Hanamoto’s father, who became trapped in the orb while investigating it. Upon finding the researchers, the lady destroys the orb and bids Aoyama farewell, but not before he confesses that he’s fallen in love with her. After she disappears, Aoyama’s life returns to normal. One day, while relaxing at the local cafe, he sees a penguin, runs off outside and finds that while it has disappeared, the Lego probe he’d sent into the orb previously has returned. This is Penguin Highway in a nutshell, a 2018 film about the boundless curiosity and impermanence of youth, and whose home release only became available in 2019.

While Penguin Highway has Aoyama attempting to ground his observations in the realm of science, it soon becomes clear that the whole of the film takes place in a world where the laws of Newtonian and quantum physics simply do not apply. Matter is freely transformed without adhering to the Laws of Thermodynamics, and the lady herself appears to be an embodiment of the world’s mysteries given human form. With a whimsical, fantastical setting, Penguin Highway speaks to how children perceive the world; while adults have a very procedural, structured way of approaching problem, children often have alternative insights precisely because they are not bound by the same methodologies that adults have. Aoyama, while longing to be an adult and exhibiting the logical and deductive skills of someone much older, shows audiences how there are some phenomenon, miracles, in the world that can defy explanation by conventional means. Even he is baffled and impressed with the sights that he witnesses: unable to formulate a hypothesis on why, Aoyama is taken on a ride with the lady, and comes to discover a new feeling – one of love, as he becomes drawn to the mystery that the lady represents. Penguin Highway suggests that, while adults often dismiss children as thinking in simple terms, their unique outlooks on the world are as complex as an adult’s, even if they cannot structure or organise their thoughts to the same extent. Consequently, the thoughts of children can be quite wondrous when one takes the time to consider them, and this is what Penguin Highway aims to convey. While the structuring of Penguin Highway is turbulent, it captures the raw curiosity of children as they attempt to work out the things they experience in the world.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • To give an idea of how busy things have been in the past while, I watched Penguin Highway halfway through back in late February, on a Sunday afternoon where my ISP went down. I had some work-related matters to deal with that day and left for the office so I could attend to those items. I finished the film post-F8 – after the conference ended, I had a chance have a coffee at the heart of San Francisco, drove the Golden Gate Bridge, and even had lunch (fried chicken and barbecue brisket) at the Facebook Campus in Menlo Park. On my last day, I had some of the best (and biggest) ribs I’ve ever had for lunch under a beautiful afternoon sun after visiting the Armstrong Redwoods State Park. Penguin Highway opens with a monologue from Aoyama, who wastes no time in establishing his superior intellect (“I’m smart, and I know I’m destined for greatness”). At his age, I was knee-deep into the natural sciences and history, reading every book I could get my hands on, and drawing out everything I learnt.

  • Aoyama is very bright, and able to deal with Suzuki (the class bully, Penguin Highway‘s equivalent of Calvin and Hobbes‘ Moe) with a dose of wit; at the dentist, he convinces Suzuki that the latter has an unknown, lethal disease, frightening the living daylights out of him. However, Aoyama’s thoughts also wander towards how attractive the woman working at the dental office is; the lady catches him checking her out when they first meet, and he blushes in embarrassment. Aoyama’s matter-of-act temperament draws her interest and she begins spending more time with him, instructing him in how to play chess.

  • Penguins begin appearing in Aoyama’s town: the name broadly refers to aquatic flightless birds of the family Spheniscidae, and the ones seen in Penguin Highway appear to be Pygoscelis adeliae, the most widespread of the penguin species. The penguins’ sizes in Penguin Highway are consistent with those of P. adeliae, although their bills are different. With their habitat being coastal Antarctica, P. adeliae possess adaptations to deal with the frigid conditions and lack of fresh water: it is unsurprising that their appearance in Japan would be quite surprising.

  • In revenge for Aoyama’s stunt at the dental clinic, Suzuki manages to catch Aoyama, whose attempts to escape fall short: he is tied to a vending machine, and the lady appears. After she frees him, she helps him pull his loose tooth, during which she creates a penguin. Such a phenomenon easily catches Aoyama’s eye, and the lady declares that her existence is a bit of a mystery, leaving him to try and solve it.

  • Using the scientific method, Aoyama manages to work out that the lady can only create penguins under clear skies, with bats being spawned in darkness and nothing happening during overcast days. The same techniques are applied (albeit with modifications to suit their needs) in various disciplines; when I debug software, I aim to only manipulate one variable at a time to ensure that an outcome is not caused by another factor. In Penguin Highway, however, the world hardly appears to conform with the laws of thermodynamics, and so, while Aoyama might be able to draw a correlation, causation cannot be so readily concluded.

  • The artwork in Penguin Highway is of an incredible quality, bringing life to Aoyama’s world. From details in the lighting to the choice of palette for a given scene, Penguin Highway‘s visual components add a considerable amount of immersion to the story. The cool of a rainy day, or the rush of wind can be felt as vividly as though one were present in the scene in person – on a rainy day, Aoyama visits the lady’s apartment, and the grey-blues of the day give a sense of gentle gloom.

  • Aoyama’s feelings for the lady begin from physical attraction: he outright admits to staring at her chest more often than he’d like and despite his stoic nature, never objects to spending time with her. Feelings of love in children are as authentic as those adults feel, and I imagine that this is common. For me, I had a bit of a crush on my art instructor/yearbook club advisor in high school, as well as my science instructor during my first year of high school. I expect that these feelings manifest from a combination of the physiological changes that adolescents go through, as well as taking interest in mature individuals that act as role models.

  • Aoyama’s father gives him an alternate perspective on things: he uses a small bag to motivate the notion that by inverting the bag, he is in effect, holding the whole universe in the bag, since relative to the bag’s exterior, the universe surrounds the interior. It’s a clever metaphor, akin to Stephen Hawking’s analogies and explanations for how multi-dimensional spaces might work. This explanation foreshadows the phenomenon seen later in Penguin Highway.

  • Hanamoto is on par with Aoyama in terms of intellectual curiosity and is skillful in chess. She invites Aoyama and Uchida to check out a mysterious phenomenon that has appeared in a clearing in the woods. While Suzuki has taken a liking to Hanamoto, she is more interested in Aoyama for being her peer in an intellectual capacity and is keen in having him help out in trying to work out the recent string of events.

  • It turns out this phenomenon is a wormhole that resembles a suspended sphere of liquid water – Aoyama and the others are quick to christen this sphere as the “ocean”. Its physical properties are completely unknown, beyond the fact that its surface reflects light from its surroundings. Over time, Hanamoto, Aoyama and Uchida collect various observations from it, learning that its size changes over time. While Penguin Highway makes extensive use of the scientific method, it is erroneously considered to be a science fiction story: the definition of science fiction is loose, but in general, it refers to stories that deal how human society reacts to advances in science and technology.

  • Since Penguin Highway does not have a societal component, the presence of the scientific method alone is not sufficient for the film to be considered as science fiction. Penguin Highway is better classified as a fantasy-adventure, following Aoyama’s journey and expressing the components of childhood curiosity in a visual manner for audiences. Aoyama is seen here running to a meeting with his friends, and the normalcy of the neighbourhood is apparent; it’s a beautiful summer’s day, and the blue skies invite exploration.

  • Summer is long associated with endless opportunity to explore, or else simply relax. Besides their research activities, Aoyama, Uchida and Hanamoto also partake in summer activities, such as sharing ice pops and visiting summer festivals. We’re now pushing towards the halfway point of May and are nearly halfway through spring – the days are lengthening, and I am now head home after a day’s work under sunshine. The weather, which has been persistently clinging to winter, has been remarkably nice of late, and I am hoping that the summer this year will be marked by beautiful days punctuated with a good rainfall at regular intervals.

  • During the summer festival, Hanamoto’s father shows up. He’s a researcher working with the local university and has taken an interest in the phenomenon that Hanamoto is studying, as well. During the summer festival, Aoyama and Uchida run into Suzuki and his cronies; Suzuki is interested in what’s going down between Aoyama and Hanamoto, and Aoyama quickly deduces that Suzuki is developing a bit of a crush on Hanamoto.

  • I admit that Penguin Highway was a bit more difficult to write for – I normally write about an anime series or film based on what messages a particular work aims to convey using the experiences the characters go through. By experiencing a disruption, characters mature and respond in a particular way, speaking to a life lesson that can then be discerned as a theme. Penguin Highway does not follow this particular approach and therefore, needed to be viewed with a different mindset in order for its theme to be identified. One review stands out as claiming that there is a substantial philosophical component in Penguin Highway, but fails to identify what this is.

  • The reason why this reviewer cannot identify what philosophy is being presented is simple: there is no overarching philosophical element in Penguin Highway to identify. It comes across as being disingenuous to readers when reviewers for larger sites make factitious claims that an anime is “smarter” than it is, and I make it a point to never do this with my own discussions. Penguin Highway is not a film intended to make audiences feel smarter, but strives to present a very specific picture about children and their curiosity. As their understanding of the orb’s properties increases, Aoyama, Hanamoto and Uchida decide to send a Lego probe into the orb. It is promptly absorbed into the orb and becomes unretrievable.

  • After Suzuki and his gang appear, Aoyama boldly claims that Suzuki must have feelings for Hanamoto and earns a beat down for his cheek. The lady appears and uses her penguins to scare off Suzuki and his gang. When the penguins try to interact with the orb, the orb reacts adversely and begins shooting out water that damage the surroundings. Hanamoto is shocked to learn that Aoyama had not shared this with her: Aoyama claims to have done so to keep the lady safe, and this moment is a subtle reminder of how dissemination of information in academy goes, with secrecy being a part of things as academics work to be the first to present their findings.

  • Aoyama is very blunt in his manner, and when he asks to suspend all investigation into the sphere after spotting a Jabberwock (inspired by Lewis Caroll’s Jabberwocky, a poem about the killing of a creature), Hanamoto loses her cool, accusing Aoyama of doing this because he’s got a crush on the lady and her physique. Aoyama is unfazed by this and openly admits this. As a bit of trivia, there are articles written from two years back that assert that staring at someone’s mammaries increases longevity. The precise mechanism behind this is not well-understood, but some hypotheses suggest that it increases positive thinking.

  • During a bright summer’s day, the lady decides to take Aoyama to the coastal town in her memories despite Aoyama being no closer to solving the question of who she is. However, as the lady travels further from their original town, she becomes weaker, eventually collapsing on the train station. Mysterious entities begin spawning into the platform, but these dissipate over time, and the pair agree to return home. Wondering if diet could be anything, Aoyama feverishly decides to stop eating to see if the results can be replicated, but falls ill in the process.

  • While trying to sleep off his cold, Aoyama’s dreams are turbulent and confusing. Because the mechanisms behind dreams are not understood, the reason why we have repetitive dreams while ill is similarly poorly understood: some speculate that the sheer amount of energy the body has diverted towards fighting illness leaves the brain in a state of producing stranger, more limited dreams. When Aoyama wakes up, he finds the lady by his side. Frustrated by his lack of progress and the events around him, Aoyama allows himself tears.

  • Aoyama recovers the next morning, and learns that the orb has grown to a gargantuan size. Earlier, Suzuki and his gang were interviewed by scientists to learn more about the phenomenon around town, but these scientists have disappeared. He, Hanamoto and Uchida plan on sneaking out after an evacuation order is issued, and are confronted by Suzuki’s gang: they decide to help out, as Suzuki wants to get back into Hanamoto’s good books. Never one to hold grudges, Aoyama readily agrees, and the gang come in handy for helping Aoyama and the others eluding patrols around the school.

  • After Aoyama appears to have escaped from the pursuing law enforcement officers, he runs into the lady but come face-to-face with more patrols. When it looks like they are cornered, the lady summons a veritable army of penguins to get them back into the forest, towards the orb. The spectacle is nothing short of impressive, and there are hundreds of penguins on the screen at once: the sight is comparable to the scale of the final fight in Avengers: Endgame, which I just had the pleasure of watching mere hours ago. This is not a talk about Endgame, so readers should not expect any spoilers here.

  • As the penguins carry Aoyama and the lady through the city streets, the world becomes increasingly surreal, foreshadowing the film’s complete departure from anything resembling reality. While Penguin Highway retained a largely realistic world throughout its run, as the climax approaches, this is discarded. I’ve heard comparisons for this scene to a similar moment in Hinata no Aoshigure and Fumiko no Kokuhaku, which featured a likewise chaotic scramble towards their ends: I have seen the latter, but not the former.

  • After a wild ride into the forest and upon entering the orb itself, Aoyama and the lady find themselves resting on a raft of penguins, watching the sunset in a strange world. The sort of events in Penguin Highway can only  be explained with magic approaching those conferred by entities like the Infinity Stones, and for me, I feel that approaching Penguin with the expectation for adventure, rather than instruction, is the most appropriate way to get the most from things. If and when I am asked, Penguin Highway makes extensive use of the Space and Reality stones to drive its events.

  • After entering a town where buildings float and defy physics, in a world that appears as though it were the sandbox environment for a game developer, Aoyama and the lady find the missing researchers. They decide to close off this world, even if it comes at a great cost to the lady. The setting feels infinitely peaceful, with its vividly blue skies and vast ocean. I’ve been referring to the lady only as such because she has no given name, and is referred to as onee-san throughout the movie, accentuating her enigmatic presence.

  • It’s been a week since I returned from F8, and it’s been remarkably busy, hence my low number of posts. On Tuesday, I spent the evening catching up with an old friend: we swapped stories over ramen at a local restaurant (their daily special was a pork ramen so hot that I felt the effects for the whole of the next day), and then I stepped out for lunch on Friday at a restaurant that I was sure was a furniture store, and where every item on the menu, including their Swiss-mushroom burger, was six dollars. In the aftermath of F8, there’s a great deal of work to do, and while travelling has been fun, I have enjoyed settling back into my daily routine.

  • The page quote comes from Albert Einstein, who is best known for his work in relativity and contributions to quantum mechanics. The events of Penguin Highway tend towards the creativity that Einstein described as being essential for tackling new problems – approaching problems from the realm of what could be possible, rather than what already is, allows minds to envision new solutions and approaches in ways that purely using existing knowledge cannot.

  • By the film’s end, it becomes very clear that Penguin Highway is more about imagination than about knowledge – existing reviews out there similarly identify imagination as being one of the biggest strengths in the film. Back in the real world, the orb collapses, releasing a torrent of pure water that flows through the city streets. Penguins that the lady have conjured run about, popping the water spheres in the streets, and bemused, Hanamoto’s father can only stare at what occurs. In the aftermath, Suzuki and his gang return to the school, while a tearful Hanamoto embraces Aoyama upon finding out that he’s alright.

  • Aoyama’s farewell to the lady is an emotionally-charged one: with the source of her power gone, she prepares to head off. Aoyama’s forward manner allows him to openly declare that he’s in love with the lady, and she embraces him warmly before stepping out into the evening sun. After she leaves, a new status quo is reached. Aoyama is still more or less who he was before, firmly believing he is a genius destined for greatness, but subtle changes are seen: Hanamoto teaches Suzuki to play chess, and the hostility between Aoyama and Suzuki’s group seems lessened.

  • After thirty screenshots, I feel like I’ve given a modestly succinct collection of my thoughts for Penguin Highway. Overall, I enjoyed it for its portrayal of what youth feels like – the adventure that Aoyama goes on during the film’s run is a reminder of what my days in primary school were like. I used to spend a great deal of time drawing, reading and making sense of the world. While I’m nowhere as brilliant or verbose as Aoyama, I think that even now, a bit of that childish desire to know and understand everything endures in me.

  • We thus come to the end of this talk for Penguin Highway, which I think has the internet’s first proper collection of screenshots. With this one in the books, along with Avengers: Endgame, I look ahead into May. I have finished Yama no Susume‘s second season and have passed the halfway point of Valkyria Chronicles 4, which I’ve enjoyed so much that I’m considering purchasing the DLC for it. On DLC, I am also looking to buy the season pass for Ace Combat 7. In addition, Gundam Narrative will release on May 24, giving me a chance to watch the continuation for the events of Gundam Unicorn, and I will naturally be writing about this. Finally, I will need to get my Nagi no Asukara review off the ground at some point: I understand that there is interest in this series from readers.

The art and animation of Penguin Highway are a major contributor to its thematic component; while the theme initially appears to be about the limits of intellectual curiosity (seen in Aoyama’s persistence in attempting to apply logic in piecing together cause and effect), the visually stunning transitions between the real and fantastical appear to emphasise childhood wonder and excitement about the world as a whole. As a result, Penguin Highway is unique in that the deliberate choice of artwork and animation forms a part of the message the film aims to convey, and that in its absence, the theme would have found itself much more difficult to discern. This is likely why there are so few discussions on the thematic elements in the film: most existing reviews are from newspapers, which tend to focus on the enjoyment factor instead, and I’ve not seen any other reviews on the movie. The theme in Penguin Highway encompasses more than the outcome of its narrative and character growth: sight and sound come into play, as well. Penguin Highway therefore comes across as being less of a story and more of an immersive experience whose engaging presentation outweighs the story’s weaker cohesion and direction. Although I do not believe that Penguin Highway is suited for anyone looking for a good mystery or will be useful for those seeking to understand the philosophical ramifications of how children think, the film earns a recommendation for viewers who are open-minded towards a highly visceral and visual romp through the mind of a child – I hope that more people would give Penguin Highway a watch, and look forwards to seeing what others make of the film.