The Infinite Zenith

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The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie: An Anime Movie Review and Reflection

I know you’re scared and your pain is imperfectBut don’t you give up on yourselfI’ve heard a story, a girl, she once told meThat I would be happy again

Hold My Hand, Lady Gaga

In their final year of secondary school, Futaro and the Nakano quintuplets prepare for their school festival. Amidst the preparations, Futaro expresses that he’s fallen in love with one of them and indicates that he’ll make it known as to which of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba or Itsuki’s his feelings are for. While the school festival ends up being quite a tumultuous affair (Nino had longed for their father to visit, while Ichika grapples with the fact a visiting lecturer, Mudō, is actually the Nakano quintuplet’s biological father, and Miku grows jealous Futaro’s hanging out with another girl), with Yotsuba collapsing from exhaustion as a result of having done too much. When the festival draws to a close, the Nakanos separate and head for five different places on school grounds, asking Futaro to meet up with the one he has fallen in love with. It turns out that Futaro’s fallen in love with Yotsuba, but she turns him down, feeling unworthy of being the only one of her sisters. She recalls how she’d first met Futaro and made a promise with him, but over time, lost confidence in her ability to keep it as her sisters began moving forward at their own pace. Futaro persuades her to be honest about her feelings, and Yotsuba tearfully admits that she’d been worried about the others in spite of the fact that she reciprocates Futaro’s feelings. After confirming to Nino and Ichika that his feelings are true, Yotsuba and Futaro begin dating, and at the playground they’d previously visited, Futaro proposes to Yotsuba. Five years later, Ichika’s become a full-fledged actress, while Itsuki’s become a teacher. The meet at the cafe that Miku and Nino have opened together, and here, they help pierce Yotsuba’s ears so she can wear the earrings their late mother had gifted to them. On the day of Yotsuba and Futaro’s wedding, the five quintuplets decide to play a game and see if Futaro can tell them apart. He has no trouble in doing so, and demonstrates how over time, he came to realise that there was more to life than just studying. He correctly identifies each of the five sisters and places a wedding ring on Yotsuba’s finger. Following the wedding, Ichika, Nino, Miku and Ichika help Yotsuba and Futaro pick a honeymoon destination, although much as they had with their graduation trip, they cannot all agree on a suitable place. Futaro smiles, recalling these old times with the sisters who’ve helped to change him, and with this, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is now in the books. The film acts as the conclusion to The Quintessential Quintuplets, and during its 136 minute runtime, crams a great deal of content into things to ensure the story is wrapped up in whole.

The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is a busier movie in that it also deals with how each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki come to terms with the fact that only one of them will be with Futaro, Miku’s becoming more open about how she feels towards others, Nino’s efforts to show their father that her dreams to be a pâtissier are viable, and the motivation behind Itsuki’s desire to become a teacher. The decision to include all of these secondary elements into the film in conjunction with the feature presentation, Yotsuba coming to terms with what accepting Futaro’s feelings would mean, create a movie that characterises just how many moving parts there are where relationships are concerned. At its core, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie finally puts Futaro’s feelings into the open, and shows why of each of the siblings, he’s chosen Yotsuba. As it turns out, both he and Yotsuba had promised one another that they would study hard and become successful so they could look out for the people most dear to them. This is ultimately what pushed Futaro to excel academically, and while over the years, he’d lost sight of his original promise, reuniting with the quintuplets, and Yotsuba, helped him to remember why he’d been so focused on doing well for himself. Understanding the change Yotsuba wrought in him is why after all this time, Futaro treasures her the most strongly of everyone. On the other hand, Yotsuba hadn’t been quite as successful, and in her bid to be special, eventually saw herself as falling behind while her sisters had raced ahead, each with a clear picture of their own futures. As a result of this, Yotsuba saw herself as being unworthy of Futaro, even though the reality had been that, while perhaps not being academically inclined, she still retains the same desire to do well by those around her, and it is ultimately thanks to her promise with Futaro that set him on his present course. It takes a bit of a push to get Yotsuba to take that step forward, and in this way, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows how falling in love is one of those instances in life where it’s okay to be selfish. The complex interplay of being selfish to be with Futaro, but also being selfless and being happy for the quintuplet who ends up with him forms the bulk of the tension in The Quintessential Quintuplets. Looking back, Yotsuba marrying Futaro follows well because of the five sisters, she’s the one that put up the strongest facade to cover for her own doubts. While the other sisters all eventually developed a stronger idea of what their futures entailed, Yotsuba had slowly fallen behind even though she’d been the one to spur everyone on. To give Yotsuba a reliable, ever-present source of support therefore would allow her to move ahead in her life, as well. The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is therefore able to provide a definitive conclusion to the series; despite being a story with multiple moving parts, some of which did not receive more exploration, the film does a satisfactory job of answering most of the lingering questions I had following The Quintessential Quintuplets∬.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As memory serves, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ finished airing in April 2021, and the film premièred in Japan back during May 2022, about a year later. I originally watched The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ first season back during August 2020, after I’d become curious to check the series out, and while things began on a reasonable solid note, by the time I finished the first season, I was convinced that this was an anime worth my while. By this point in time, I’m familiar with all of the lead characters, and continue to be impressed with the all-star cast’s voice acting.

  • The film opens a ways after the class trip seen in the second season, dropping viewers right into the midst of a culture festival. In Japanese secondary education, the culture festival is a culmination of one’s social experiences, combining camaraderie with one’s class and the total experience one accrued through their club activities to create one final memory of school before one sets their sights on the future. Many anime thus place a great deal of emphasis on culture festivals because they represent a time where students are allowed to channel their efforts towards something besides their academics.

  • The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is structured in a novel way: it is interspersed with flashbacks, and the culture festival is broken down into five distinct acts, one for each of the Nakano quintuplets. Each of these happen concurrently, giving each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki screen time as they navigate the culture festival and manage their feelings for Futaro. There are multiple overlapping stories that take place during the culture festival, and I recall writing previously that a third season of The Quintessential Quintuplets was probably necessary to adequately cover everything.

  • As it turns out, I get to stand by these old assertions – the culture festival sees Nino finally earning her father’s approval in her future plans, has Itsuki confronting doubts surrounding her reasons for becoming a teacher and sees Miku finally becoming more assertive. However, each of these stories are condensed into a vignette that shows different sides of the same three days, and as a result, there’s not a large amount of space to explore the significance of each of these stories. From what The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows, however, it is clear that Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki all have a very concrete plan for their respective futures.

  • I imagine that this is why the film was structured the way it was; each of these sub-stories are important and do help the characters to grow, but at the same time, it also hints at the fact that, despite how deeply Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki love Futaro, they also have something that they can devote every fibre of their being to. Losing Ichika isn’t enough to prevent these four from achieving their goals, so it was probably decided that these moments just needed to be shown and tied together so the film could focus on Futaro’s choice.

  • The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie has a runtime of 136 minutes, but a full one cour season would offer a minimum of 240 minutes. With double the space, there is no doubt that a third season could have given some of these side stories more emotional impact: one episode to set the stage, followed by a full episode for each of the quintuplets would’ve given sufficient time to cover the culture festival, and subsequently, the remaining six episodes could then deal with Futaro’s kokuhaku, Yotsuba’s struggle to accept it and how things get smoothed over.

  • The only logical argument I can think of for a movie format is that it would provide a single cinematic experience for viewers, acting as a swan song to The Quintessential Quintuplets. The longer runtime and extended budgets that anime movies have often allow them to tell stories at a much larger scale. However, having seen the remaining story through The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, it does feel that the movie format may not have been strictly necessary, and a third season would’ve been able to yield an equivalent emotional impact.

  • For me, I prefer television seasons over movies even though the latter often have improved production values – anime movies do not follow a consistent release pattern because Japanese distributors aim to maximise domestic profits, and it is more profitable to charge viewers exorbitant amounts for a theatrical screening than it is to make a film available on a streaming service or releasing them to disks. The end result is that films now take an average of eight months to come out, and the better a film does at the box office, the longer it’s kept in theatres. From a business standpoint, this is perfectly logical, and overseas viewers like myself have grown accustomed to waiting long periods for films to come out.

  • However, some viewers feel compelled to fly over to Japan, or even more there, so that they can be the first to watch a film and have an opinion about it. One reviewer in particular had stated that they enjoy writing about anime movies because “a review on a popular website may be seen as an ‘encouragement’ to pirate”, and the relative inaccessibility of anime movies means “there’s no issue with…reviewing films, which don’t get a disc release until months later”. This particular reviewer comes across as disliking the presence of other reviews that may contradict their opinions and using piracy as a flimsy cover for justifying this belief. Opposition to this behaviour is why I prefer to wait for home releases before writing about something: I’d much rather hear from readers on their thoughts on things.

  • In the case of The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, I was able to avoid spoilers for the duration of the wait, and for this, I was met with a film which, while not strictly needing the silver screen format, was one that still proved to be a satisfying conclusion to the series. After the culture festival ends, the film finally enters its endgame. I’d long known that Yotsuba would end up with Futaro – when I watched the first season, I hadn’t been too concerned with spoilers and therefore, had no qualms reading ahead to see what would happen. Of course, knowing the outcomes don’t really bother me quite as much as knowing how a story reaches the point that it does.

  • Here in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, seeing how things came to be was the highlight, and while the series had done a fantastic job of leaving it ambiguous of who Futaro would choose right up until the end, as it turns out, the first season had not-so-subtly foreshadowed the outcomes. Of everyone, Ichika and Yotsuba had warmed up to Futaro the quickest, while Miku and Nino were cool towards him, and Itsuki was outright unresponsive. Looking further, The Quintessential Quintuplets had also shown Ichika as being more proactive than Yotsuba. Based on elimination, once Miku, Itsuki and Nino warmed up to Futaro, and since Ichika had always shown some interest, it follows that Yotsuba was unlike the others.

  • As it turns out, Yotsuba had been the quintuplet that had run into Futaro long ago, and it was with her that he’d made his promise. Putting two and two together allowed me to accept Yotsuba as the one for Futaro – although each of Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki are suitable candidates, they lack the same promise, and one of the smaller themes in The Quintessential Quintuplets is that it’s okay to lean on one another, so it followed that Futaro would begin falling in love with the quintuplet who’d motivated him to do his best for the future. However, if Yotsuba had immediately returned Futaro’s feelings, it would rather detract from the conflict that’d been building up until now.

  • A fair amount of the conflict in The Quintessential Quintuplets stems from problems in communication, and I realise that I’m fond of saying in my posts that good communication is usually essential to managing conflict. When it comes to most problem-solving, I prefer being direct and open, but now, I understand why this isn’t always a method people are willing to take. Yotsuba loves Futaro, but she also loves her sisters and believes she isn’t worthy of Futaro. It takes a bit of nudging to get things to a point where she is confident enough to put herself first.

  • Although Futaro’s been hanging out with the Nakano quintuplets for some time, there’s an aura of awkwardness surrounding their first few dates. This isn’t unexpected, as nerves will doubtlessly be present. The pair’s first date is to a family restaurant, which is admittedly different from the old standby, the local coffee shop, and then the local library. Along the way, the others end up following to make sure everything is going along smoothly. This is a classic gag, during which concerned parties tale the newly-minted couple to see what goes down, and while a long time ago, I would have said that I’d can spot a tail on a date, I’m not quite sure I’m confident I could say this claim holds true anymore.

  • The day eventually sees Futaro and Yotsuba return to the playground where they’d previously shared a pivotal conversation. The Quintessential Quintuplets has an all-star casting, and Yotsuba is voiced by Ayane Sakura. Because I know Sakura best as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto, it’s a little difficult to shake the feeling that Futaro’s given a kokuhaku to Cocoa, and this thought similarly reminds me that I’ve been around the block long enough to know some of the key voice actresses now. This is actually how I’ve been telling the different quintuplets apart when they dress up as one another – while they may appear similar physically, their voices still sound different enough.

  • When Yotsuba propel herself from the swing, Futaro promises that if he can reach a similar distance, he’ll pose a question for her. Although he fails, Futaro decides to press forward with proposing to Yotsuba anyways, surprising her. Yotsuba is right in that Futaro bypassed basically every step in the process and remarks that doing something this way would almost certainly send someone heading for the hills, were that person not her. With this in mind, this is the only other proposal I’ve seen in an anime besides CLANAND, where Tomoya proposed to Nagisa in a similarly sudden and unromantic moment. However, like CLANNAD, the strength of the feelings are such that this matters little, and with Futaro proposing to Yotsuba, things draw to a close as the quintuplets each prepare to pursue their futures.

  • The end of 2022, and the arrival of 2023 has seen a few relaxing days: I spent the whole of New Year’s Eve tending to housework and the like so I could have New Year’s Day easy. During the evening, we had a family dinner whose centrepiece was a prime rib roast with roast cauliflower and fully-loaded mashed potatoes. We subsequently stayed up to midnight for the New Year’s countdown, the first time I’d celebrated here at the new digs, and then yesterday, after sleeping in, the day was spent at home. Earlier today, the skies were gorgeous, so I ended up taking a walk out to my favourite viewpoint in town.

  • Work resumes tomorrow, and I’m admittedly quite excited to return to my usual routine: this winter break’s been fantastic, and I’m fired up, ready to do my best. The flow of time is relentless, and days disappear in the blink of an eye. In this way, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie puts the pedal to the metal as each of Itsuki, Ichika, Nino and Miku pursue their respective futures. One of the challenges the quintuplets had faced throughout The Quintessential Quintuplets was maintaining their promise to be with one another, and I’ve found that in many anime, this is a major problem characters encounter as they part ways and pursue their goals.

  • On my end, I’ve never actually worried about this because at the end of every journey, I always had the option of keeping in touch with people I’ve become friends with. While people naturally drift apart over time, the strongest friendships find ways of enduring, and moreover, even if people do fall out of touch, sometimes, they can return into one’s life as an unexpected, pleasant surprise. Knowing that the means of keeping in touch with friends and colleagues means that a parting of ways is rarely final, but in the context of anime, I’d imagine that stories are written to accentuate how strong the bonds are between people who share experiences over time.

  • The Nakano quintuplets realise this and pursue their futures wholeheartedly, knowing that they can always make the effort of remaining together even as their paths diverge. In this way, five years elapses in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, and the story subsequently resumes after everyone’s graduate from post-secondary. Assuming everyone was seventeen during the culture festival and following events, a five year time skip puts everyone at age twenty-two. For most people, twenty-two is when they’ve completed their post-secondary and are ready to become full-fledged members of society.

  • Not everyone’s path is quite so smooth: when I was twenty-two, I’d completed my honours degree in health science, but otherwise was uncertain of my future. I took a gap year to figure things out, ended up applying to graduate school and the rest is history. There is no single “right” way of living life or pursuing the future, and I believe that Tamayura best puts it, while everyone sets sail differently, the single most important thing is that eventually, everyone does set sail and make their own way. Seeing Itsuka, Ichika, Miku and Nino embracing their future was a reassuring sight, and one touch I liked was how Miku’s wearing her hair in a different style, suggesting that she’s become more confident.

  • One aspect of The Quintessential Quintuplets I found unexpectedly enjoyable was the soundtrack. As of The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, I began noticing the soundtrack; the music captures the sort of yearning and wistfulness surrounding the Nakano siblings and their feelings for Futaro. The film’s soundtrack was also phenomenal, swelling to an emotional crescendo whenever the moment called for it. There are more whimsical pieces of incidental music that capture comedy and light-hearted moments, but the best tracks are played in the film’s most touching scenes.

  • Five years is a nontrivial amount of time, and by the time Yotsuba and Futaro’s wedding arrives, the other quintuplets have made peace with things. They still like messing with Futaro, however, and on the day of his wedding, Futaro is met with Itsuki, Nino, Ichika, Miku and Yotsuba wearing identical hair styles and wedding dresses. They propose a challenge to him and say that he’s only of marrying Yotsuba if he can find Yotsuba amongst everyone else. Admittedly, if The Quintessential Quintuplets hadn’t introduced the visual characteristics that make each quintuplet distinct, then voices and mannerisms would be the only way to tell them apart

  • Earlier in the film, when Futaro is shown taking Miku to an aquarium and they spot a penguin show, the attendant is shown as explaining that the keepers tell penguins apart based on characteristics like their markings and mannerisms. Over time, Futaro has learnt to do the same, and this is what ultimately shows the Nakano quintuplets’ father that Futaro is worthy: Mudō had completely failed to tell Itsuki apart from Miku, and throughout The Quintessential Quintuplets, one of Futaro’s first tasks had actually been to tell everyone apart. As he became increasingly proficient in doing so, he earns the quintuplets’ begruding respect.

  • Futaro’s identifying each of the quintuplets and following up with a comment on everyone’s individual strengths and weaknesses shows just how well he knows them. In this moment, it was also a show of how, because he is able to connect at this level to each of the quintuplets, Futaro’s decision to marry Yotsuba was made based on assessing all of the facts and making the choice based on what his intentions and desires were. The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie might be rushed in some places, and some of the story elements may have been better presented in a third season rather than a film, but there is no denying that the story’s most powerful moments were still conveyed to viewers.

  • Overall, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie represents a satisfying and worthy conclusion to the series, which, when taken together, exceeded my expectations. The premise of quintuplets falling for the same person had initially been intriguing, and I had thought that little more than comedy would arise, but seeing The Quintessential Quintuplets explore each quintuplet’s motivations and backgrounds, plus their growth over time, made the story feel more life-like. This helped me to become invested in the characters, and I found myself curious to see how things would be resolved.

  • Having had a chance to listen to the film’s soundtrack, a handful of the songs ended up reminding me of Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand”, which was a single composed for Top Gun: Maverick. On The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie‘s soundtrack, “Fūtarō o shinjiru” reminded me of Maverick‘s “Talk to me, Goose” and “Penny Returns” because they share similar instruments and carry a similar tonal aesthetic. I found myself thinking more than once that “Hold My Hand” would actually be well-suited for some scenes in  The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie.

  • Seeing the entire journey in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows how even more outlandish situations can be resolved over time with communication, honesty and sincerity. Futaro’s character is essential in this: being studious and devoted, he’s also decisive and commits to his choices, which eliminates ambiguity. In any given love story with multiple prospective partners, this is essential. CLANNAD had done the same: early on, even before Tomoya formally asked Nagisa out, he’d (subconsciously) made it clear that he had eyes for no one other than Nagisa, and while this deeply hurt Kyou, Tomoyo and Kotomi, the directness of things also meant the others wouldn’t be led on and hurt further, in turn allowing them to step forward and recover

  • After the wedding’s done, Futaro and Yotsuba begin looking at honeymoon destinations, and to no one’s surprise, Itsuki, Ichika, Nino and Miku also help out. The fact that everyone picks different destinations is another show that despite their similarities, everyone’s their own person, with unique traits, and in doing so, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie reminds viewers, one final time, that everyone’s found their own path. However, because the moment is overlaid with a flashback to a similar moment in secondary school, it also shows that some things don’t change, and these things can certainly be cherished.

  • This post, my first of 2023, is now in the books, and while I am looking forwards to seeing what this year will bring, I have a few final comments. The first is that I’ve been following Bocchi The Rock! and Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out! ω during the last season. I’ve completed the former over the break, and only have one more episode for the latter. I intend on writing about both before the new season’s shows hit their stride: for the winter season, only Bofuri and Mō Ippon! have my eye, and I’ll likely write about them after three episodes have aired.

I had originally entered The Quintessential Quintuplets two years ago and, after the series had established its premise, became curious to see how things would unfold. Although the idea of multiple people falling in love with the same individual (and the resulting love tesseracts that arise) is nothing new, author Negi Haruba had drafted The Quintessential Quintuplets to explore what might happen when five sisters experienced this. Although the story had originally been rejected by Haruba’s editor, after Haruba was given a chance to do a standalone manga and found the story to be well-received, The Quintessential Quintuplets took off. It’s certainly one of the more unique portrayals of love in any work I’ve seen – the lack of a familial bond means that the different suitors can completely focus on themselves. Where family is involved, the Nakanos are forced to realise that if they move forward, someone’s going to get their feelings hurt, but at the same time, if they concede, they might one left with regrets. The push-pull between this drives much of the tensions in The Quintessential Quintuplets, and seeing how over time, the girls deal with their feelings and accept the outcomes, was what made this series increasingly worthwhile. While The Quintessential Quintuplets is a little rough around the edges, it is able to capture the raw emotions surrounding falling in love, along with the idea that at the end of the day, people are at their best when they’re motivated to do something for the sake of those around them. Futaro had begun his journey with a promise to Yotsuba, and years later, fate would bring him back into contact with the Nakanos. However, despite their cold reception towards him, his perseverance and insistence in reaching his goal of having the girls perform well enough academically to pass eventually wins them over, alongside their father. Along the way, Futaro also learns that there’s more to life than just hitting the books, and he comes to appreciate the Nakano quintuplets’ company, as well. The payoff at the end of this hectic journey is meaningful, and as such, I ended up having fun watching this series to completion.

Revisiting Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Rebellion Story, and Applying A New York Times Bestseller’s Simple Solution To A Complex Problem

“Alright, you put us here. How are you going to get yourself out?”
“You can bail out anytime.”
“How low you want to go, Rooster?”
“I can go as low as you, Sir, and that’s saying something!”

–Maverick versus Rooster, Top Gun: Maverick

On this snowy day nine years earlier, a chime on my iPad momentarily distracted me from my studies. My proteomics exam had been less than a day away, and I had spent the day at my desk. Feeling confident that I was as ready as was reasonable, I decided to call it a day and take a look at the notification. One of my friend’s classmates had Tweeted that he was about to head to the local screening of Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Rebellion Story (Rebellion from here on out for brevity). I felt a twinge of annoyance – I had heard about the local screenings, but after learning that the film was screening the day before my exam, I decided to sit it out. I shook this annoyance out of my mind and began clearing my desk of papers, notes and textbooks, giving the film no further thought until Rebellion‘s home release three months later. I was amidst a much more relaxed term, and this afforded me time to watch Rebellion. Two hours later, I found myself with a film that had been quite entertaining, and expressed an interest in seeing a continuation. However, weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. The absence of a continuation to Rebellion had spoken volumes to one obvious fact: while Rebellion had been a technically superior film, Homura’s decision to seize Madoka’s power and rewrite the universe in her own image undermined the themes the original Madoka Magica series had sought to convey. Madoka Magica had supposed that great change demands great sacrifice, and that one could only reach such a conclusion by being exposed to the facts. Having Homura suddenly channel her own feelings, which she characterises as obsessive love, into taking control of all creation rather than accepting Madoka’s decision and continuing to act in Madoka’s memory, felt as though it had undone an entire season’s worth of effort. Although this was to set the stage for a continuation, the fact that no sign of said continuation materialised until nearly eight years later left Rebellion feeling quite unnecessary. Moreover, because Rebellion suggested that Homura and Madoka would eventually clash owing to their radically different beliefs, Rebellion created the impression that the story had now dug itself into a hole, one that could not seemingly be resolved without resorting to storytelling sins like deus ex machina or chalking things up to a bad dream. While at first glance, Rebellion can appear to be extremely difficult to resolve in a satisfactory manner, it should come as no surprise that a simple solution exists for what otherwise would be a complex problem. In other words, there is a way for the upcoming Walpurgisnacht Rising film to resolve everything in a satisfactory fashion, without falling back on the so-called cop-outs that degrade a story’s consistency and impact.

In Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Manson proposes that life is a game of choosing what fucks one gives in response to their day-to-day lives. This book is broken up into nine chapters and suggests that happiness is largely illusionary because of how people approach it. Homura’s actions in Madoka Magica, and by extension, Rebellion, are wholly motivated by a desire for her own happiness vis-à-vis Madoka’s well-being. Because Homura’s definition of happiness is directly tied to Madoka, she goes to extraordinary lengths to try and achieve a world where they can be together, free of any struggle and suffering, even if it comes at a cost to Madoka herself. However, happiness cannot exist without dissatisfaction, and Manson argues that happiness comes from accepting dissatisfaction and knowing one can work towards lessening it. The remainder of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is given to exploring different mindsets one must be cognisant of in order to begin bettering their situations and finding happiness by solving problems, versus creating new problems for oneself in the pursuit of happiness. In the context of Rebellion, two points stand out: “You are not special” and “You are wrong about everything”. Homura, as a result of her rewinding time, gains a great deal of knowledge and insight into what happens. Over time, she believes that she alone can solve Madoka’s suffering, and that everyone else is merely an obstacle. Homura falls into the trap of seeing herself as special, and that she is right about being the only person who matters to Madoka. By Manson’s arguments, Homura believes that she alone has suffered more than the others, and as a result, everyone else around her is unremarkable and unworthy, rendering them expendable. Similarly, because Homura believes she’s right about everything, there is no reason for her to help Mami, Sayaka and Kyōko on the grounds that they’ll simply end up dying anyways. This is why in each and every timeline thus far, Homura is left without allies in her corner. Magia Record had already, and helpfully, established that individually weak Magical Girls can do so much more together. Applying this to Madoka Magica, the implications are simple: if Homura had help from a confident Mami, determined Sayaka and selfless Kyōko, then she and Madoka would stand a chance of taking down Walpurgisnacht directly. In order to reach a point where everyone’s alive to help her, Homura must realise that she’s not special, and moreover, she’s wrong. Once she spots this, it becomes possible for her to realise there is merit in opening up and trusting the other Magical Girls, be upfront about their circumstances and how in spite of this, there is value in fighting for what one can control.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I vividly recall watching Rebellion back in the March of 2013. By this point in time, I was already admitted to graduate school, so I wasn’t worried about the grades in my remaining courses, and I took some time to myself to relax. This included setting some time to go through Rebellion in full. Although I had greatly enjoyed the visual spectacle that was Rebellion, the film had left in its wake the expectation for a continuation: from a thematic standpoint, because Madoka had scarified her corporeal form and ascended to a different plane of existence to ensure the well-being of other Magical Girls, Homura’s decision to undo Madoka’s actions created a fundamental conflict within the narrative.

  • Homura herself stated as much: Madoka wouldn’t take these outcomes sitting down, and suggests that they would probably clash as enemies should Madoka learn of the truth. These comments appeared to back the franchise into a corner, since it didn’t seem conceivable that any sort of continuation could wrap things up in a satisfactory manner, short of using storytelling shortcuts, and until Magia Record, the Madoka Magica franchise only continued to be advanced through manga side-stories. I imagine that the lack of progress on a movie stemmed from the question of how to go about resolving things in a way that the writers could accept, and in a fashion that would leave viewers happy.

  • That Walpurgisnacht: Rising was announced after Magia Record hints to me that, while work on the latter was taking place, the writing team figured out how they could wrap things up without betraying the most essential aspects within Madoka Magica. This had, in turn, gotten me curious about seeing whether or not I’d be able to come up with a thematic approach for how Walpurgisnacht: Rising might be able to build upon Rebellion without resorting to storytelling sins, or more colloquially, “cop outs”. I’d been interested in such an exercise since Rebellion ended, but never could quite figure out how Madoka and Homura could set their differences aside.

  • The answer came to me after reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, a self-help book that graces the shelves of my local bookstore and caught my eye owing to its distinct title. While Mark Mason doesn’t say anything I don’t already practise, or otherwise have a modicum of understanding of, seeing everything coherently laid out was a reminder that my approach towards life was sustainable to some extent. That is to say, I don’t pursue happiness so I can gloat about having more or better than my neighbours, but instead, I try to focus on the things in my life I can address, and I believe that the best thing about being me is that I’m an unremarkable person.

  • I am aware that amongst the Madoka Magica fanbase, highly complex theories, arcane philosophical principals and obscure psychological concepts are preferred for discussing the anime and its outcomes. However, these methods have never worked for me: reading the ideas folks write on Fandom Wiki, Reddit and Tumblr, I’ve noticed that a number of them all share in common the use of eighteenth and nineteenth century models of philosophy and psychology as the basis for their discussion. While works of these philosophers and psychologists are important in the sense that they form the foundations for contemporary knowledge, I argue that using these works in their original form leads to conclusions that may not be necessarily correct.

  • An analog I draw here is how, in the eighteenth century, mental health issues were viewed as a dæmonic possession, and symptoms were managed by means of exorcism. Today, such views are not mainstream, and as awareness of mental health improves, there is a greater emphasis placed on social and emotional support, as well as professional assistance and use of medication where appropriate. Similarly, the psychologists and philosophers that Madoka Magica fans refer to wrote their theories in response to observations made based on their time, and in the centuries that have passed, society has changed unequivocally.

  • This means that, to discuss a work like Madoka Magica, which was written in the twenty-first century, it makes sense to apply twenty-first century solutions towards the problems that Homura and the others face. Although Manson does not write with the same eloquence as Friedrich Nietzsche or John Stuart Mill, he does speak to problems that are more relevant to people today. This is why, where models like Utilitarianism or Nihilism alone aren’t particularly useful in the context of Madoka Magica, the cruder-sounding idea of “giving fewer fucks” about the things one can’t control that Manson describes ends up being more valuable to figuring out one set of steps for breaking Homura out of her self-destructive habits.

  • Manson doesn’t write about any –isms, and instead, uses plain prose to convey his ideas in a clear, concise manner. I appreciate this, since he ends up abstracting out complex ideas into terms people can relate to, and this is how Manson is successful in selling a particular idea. It is therefore with some irony that, by choosing to give fewer fucks about the philosophy and psychology models that other discussions emphasise, I was able to conclude that, unlike what the me of nine years earlier had thought, there had been indeed a way for Urobuchi and his team to neatly wrap things up.

  • In this case, I actively chose to approach things in the way that I was most comfortable with and ended up working out one possible path that Walpurgisnacht: Rising could take in order to produce a outcome that is respectful of Madoka Magica‘s themes while at the same time, solving the unanswered problem that is Homura. Homura’s actions are motivated entirely by selfishness, and one of the side-effects of this is that her decisions become increasingly self-destructive over time, to the point where she’s seen as passing over some sort of event horizon of sorts and therefore, cannot better her situation.

  • Manson would disagree; even if one can’t choose their circumstances, one can choose how they react to it. Homura chooses to let her attachment to Madoka dictate her actions, and while it is true that Homura can’t control how the Magical Girls around her act, or the overarching plot from the Incubators are, these factors alone are not responsible for how Homura feels about her situation. Instead, this falls squarely on her shoulders. This inevitably leads to the question of how Homura can better her situation, and the answer is perhaps as unintuitive as it is effective: Homura needs to realise that her approach is wrong.

  • This is apparent to viewers, who’ve seen her go through several timelines trying to set things right, and failing each time. However, what most viewers have not yet brought up is how Homura reacts to things. In a game where my objective is to defend an objective, and I’ve got AI companions helping me, if I choose to neglect the companions, and end up failing, on my next attempt, I would consider making a more conscious choice to keep my AI companions alive so they can assist me in defending said objective. Homura goes in the opposite direction, believing she alone can protect Madoka.

  • Manson’s approach explains why Homura continues to choose the path of isolation even though at the start of every timeline, she has the choice of saving the others with her knowledge and making an attempt to fight as a team: it is easier to go with a familiar path that requires no second thought, no second-guessing and allows her to dismiss everyone as being wrong. To accept that she needs the others would break down her identity and put her in an uncomfortable state, but this is actually less uncomfortable than messing up and resulting in the deaths of everyone around her.

  • Being wrong is simply a part of life, and while people have an aversion with being wrong because it challenges their sense of identity, the reality is that life isn’t a game of being right all the time. Instead, it’s a matter of being less wrong, more often, as one accrues more experience. In conjunction with being mindful of the fact that one must necessarily take responsibility for their decisions, one can begin reflecting on things and take a more active role in bettering a situation. With this being said, the sorts of decisions Homura take in Rebellion leave her further away from the outcome she desires, and I reflect on my own story with decision-making brought about by Rebellion‘s local screenings.

  • Owing to the timing of things, I had been unable to make it to the Scotiabank Theatre Chinook, which was the only theatre in town that was screening Rebellion. Ticket sales had begun shortly after my alma mater had released its exam schedules, and to my great disappointment, both slots conflicted with my prior commitments; the morning after the December 9 screening, I was set to write one of my exams, and on December 15, I was set to help with a kata tournament at my dōjō. As much as it pained me to do so, I sat out both Rebellion screenings. In the short term, I regretted my decision almost immediately: anime movies in my side of the world are exceedingly rare, and Rebellion had marked the first time that an anime film was shown in local theatres, and to commemorate this, attendees were given a mini autograph board.

  • In the months after, I fell into a bit of a depression, frustrated that I continued to miss out on things. However, in the long term, my decisions meant I would have the last laugh – I was offered admissions to graduate school, and this set me down my career path. This is where the importance of taking ownership of one’s decisions comes in. I chose to sacrifice short-term happiness for an uncertain future, and while I did miss out on both a once-in-a-lifetime moviegoing experience (and the limited edition mini autograph boards that were handed out to attendees), I gained something much more valuable.

  • If any anime movies do screen in the present, I have no qualms about skipping them if there are other obligations to attend to: one way or another, if I wish to watch a given film, I will end up watching that film. Back in Rebellion, one aspect of Rebellion that I found especially touching was its portrayal of Madoka Kaname. Soft-spoken, kind-hearted and gentle, Madoka felt like an innocent presence throughout Madoka Magica, but here in Rebellion, Madoka’s actions, and the imagery surrounding her character, is indicative of someone who can be a bit more playful when the moment allows it.

  • Madoka is the only person who is able to bring out Homura’s true self: around others, she maintains a facade of aloofness and detachment, but of all the characters, she’s the most fragile and in need of support. The following conversation between Madoka and Homura suggests that even if Madoka herself doesn’t fully understand what Homura’s going through, she’ll still do her best to help out anyways. What follows is one of Rebellion‘s most-scrutinised moments, with viewers taking to Fandom Wiki, Tumblr and Reddit to analyse the scene down to the last quark. However, the flower field scene is not as complex as people made it out to be, and as it turns out, people are focused on the significant of Madoka and Homura’s words, rather than what Homura is going though (and more importantly still, how Homura can unfuck her situation).

  • Homura’s remarks here about feeling completely alone, as though no one understands her, show that she’s her own worst enemy. This a consequence of having attempted everything possible to create a world where she and Madoka could be happy. We turn again to Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, whose first chapter openly, and boldly says, “don’t try”. Manson isn’t suggesting that one simply gives up and resign themselves to death. Instead, Mason is inviting readers to consider the idea of not pursuing positivity, but instead, accept negativity and using this dissatisfaction to overcome adversity.

  • In the context of Rebellion, it simply means, the more worried that Homura is about Madoka, the more she becomes anxious about succeeding, and the worse she off she becomes because instead of her game plan, she’s now thinking about what would happen if she fails again. Manson calls this the Feedback Loop from Hell. Logically, when one chooses to stop worrying (“don’t think, just do”), they relax a little, and then instead of being anxious, one can act with conviction. In conjunction with accepting she was wrong to push everyone away and acknowledge that she’s not more special than the people who are willing to help her, Homura does indeed have a credible way of fixing things.

  • I have noticed that almost all of the conversation out there tends to focus on the significance of the flower field scene, but these conversations invariably focus on the problems that Homura faces, rather than attempting to work out any solutions. I’ve found that the best anime discussions will attempt to draw out ways that characters can improve their situation because, by considering solutions, people are also compelled to consider their own problem-solving strategies and assess whether or not they’d work in different scenarios. Reflection is a valuable exercise and is a part of self-improvement, but admittedly, it’s also a highly personal exercise that may need some finesse to incorporate into an online discussion.

  • Reflecting on a given topic has allowed me to reason out why certain things are the way they are, and returning the problem of accessibility, I think I’ve got an explanation for why Rebellion was only given two screenings here at home. Anime movies are, by definition, for a niche audience, and the need to book out a screen means that, for a theatre, that’s one screen they’re not showing something more suited for local audiences. A theatre will therefore take a loss if they can’t bring in enough viewers for that screening. Moreover, Rebellion was released just before The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and a month earlier, Thor: Dark World had premièred.

  • Between competing local films, and the fact that theatres tend to become busiest during the last week of the year, Cineplex doubtlessly decided to schedule Rebellion in December, right before The Desolation of Smaug released. The timing (Monday evening, and Sunday morning) was chosen  because these are the times when things are less busy. Taken together, the inconvenient timing of Rebellion was made so the Scotiabank Theatre at Chinook could minimise disruption to their most popular screenings, and at times where fewer people were likely to be available to watch said screenings.

  • From a business standpoint, Cineplex’s decision makes sense. However, the end result was that the two screenings of Rebellion coincided with exam season, and this made it extremely difficult for me to fit things into my schedule. Other Madoka fans had expressed similar annoyance at the fact that Rebellion screenings were out of the way, and even if they were in a larger population centre, screenings were placed at odd times of day or otherwise conflicted with their exams. In the end, luck would also play a part in determining who would attend the screenings: some folks bought tickets even before their institute’s exam schedules were posted, and then, if luck had not favoured them, they simply sold the tickets off to other fans.

  • If I didn’t have an exam the next morning, I would’ve ordered my tickets without a second thought: hindsight is 20/20, and while Rebellion is a great film, it’s not so revolutionary or groundbreaking that I’d risk my degree for it. Having said this, I have heard rumours that one member of Tango-Victor-Tango actually did end up skipping one of their scheduled exams so they could go watch Rebellion, and for their troubles, wound up failing that course, a programme requirement. As a result, this individual was required to withdraw from their computer science major despite being four years into their studies.

  • Assuming there is truth in these rumours, we have a story here of someone who was so devoted to Madoka Magica that they more or less gave up their career and aspirations for the sake of an anime movie. I am reminded of the first chapter in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, where Manson describes how the constant search for happiness leads people to choose what feels good and is easy, over doing more meaningful things that can make one feel bad and almost certainly is not easy. For this individual, it was easier to go skip a difficult exam and go watch Rebellion. While the movie was running, life was good, but things turned out less desirable in the long term.

  • Unsurprisingly, the key to living a fulfilling life is to choose one’s struggles and then embrace the fact that it’s going to take some effort to reach one’s goals. For instance, as a software developer, I face problems I’ve never seen before, in parts of a system I’ve never seen before, on a daily basis. I’m not a passable developer because I fix bugs or deliver features, but because for me, there’s a sort of joy in tracing through a system, learning how it works and then trying to piece everything together like a puzzle. When I do figure something out, the accompanying sense of accomplishment makes the struggle worth it.

  • The same sort of mindset can similarly be applied to Madoka Magica: Homura is constantly seeking out an ideal solution for herself and Madoka, but along the way, she’s lost sight of what made it worthwhile and has truly become lost. By assuming the devil’s form at the end of Rebellion, it felt as though this film had undermined everything the series before had stood for, and this made the film a little difficult to accept for some. In the end, it is going to take a number of the points Manson raises in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck to fix things, and my hope is that Walpurgisnacht: Rising will accomplish this.

  • I have spent the whole of this post singing praises for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck while at the same time, applying it to the context of Madoka Magica. It should be unsurprising that this is a book I would recommend to readers; it succinctly explains how a change in perspective won’t help one become a happier or more successful person, but it can lead one to make peace with their lives and value healthier things. In the case of Rebellion, I’ve picked out some points that could be utilised to pull the story out of its hole: this is what motivates the choice of page quote.

  • While Homura is happy with the world she’s created, one which sidesteps the Incubator’s system and allows Madoka to have a corporeal existence again, the possibility of conflict remains quite real. Despite Homura’s confidence that she can handle things when the time comes, I imagine that a different approach was needed to properly wrap things out: this peace is built on a lie, and as is usually the case, such times do not last. With this post in the books, I remark that I’m now fully refreshed on Madoka Magica and quite ready to take on Walpurgisnacht: Rising.

  • At the time of writing, there’s still no news of when Walpurisnacht: Rising will come out, but once it does, I’m looking forward to seeing if my thoughts hold any water. With this in mind, whether or not Walpurgisnacht: Rising will actually screen on this side of the world remains to be seen. If there are screenings, and said screenings line up with my schedule, it may be worthwhile to go and watch the film. There’s always the possibility the movie will conflict with my schedule, but this time around, I have one of two options available: I could either skip the film again and wait for the BDs, as I usually do, or if there is a fair incentive to do so (e.g. new mini autograph boards are handed out), I could always request a vacation day if my workload isn’t too heavy.

On paper, this is quite easy to say, and although the specifics behind how this comes about will be Gen Urobuchi and his creative team’s responsibility to sort out for Walpurgisnacht: Rising, there is one final detail that makes Manson’s approach viable. Madoka Magica has established that Homura has a soft spot for Madoka, and where Madoka is concerned, Homura tends to show her true self. If Madoka and Homura were to conflict, the former would have the edge here. There isn’t a need to resort to more forceful measures because Madoka can utilise this aspect of Homura, guiding her down a path where she can begin to see the other Magical Girls as valuable friends. In this way, Homura would realise that she isn’t special: each of Mami, Sayaka and Kyōko have each suffered in their own right, but they would be committed to helping break this cycle together with Homura and Madoka. Similarly, Homura would also realise that she was wrong about needing to do everything alone, and that Madoka is the only person worth saving. As such, Walpurgisnacht: Rising could be thought of as being broken up into three acts to deliver such a story. After Homura takes another loss (perhaps depriving her of her godly powers) and encounters an incarnation of Madoka who is aware of what has happened, Madoka and Homura can work through things together and rebuild the Holy Quintet, coming to finally learn what trust looks like. With the team able to work as a cohesive unit, they can then square off against, and defeat Walpurgisnacht together, without falling on Madoka’s sacrifice or any other means that give the Incubators leverage over the outcomes. Having seen Madoka Magica and Rebellion anew, it is quite easy to spot that Homura’s worst enemy in Madoka Magica isn’t Walpurgisnacht, or even the Incubators. Instead, it is herself; if she can overcome this particular adversary, Walpurgisnacht: Rising will offer viewers a satisfying and decisive conclusion, one that longtime fans deserve and need. With all this in mind, I have presented merely one approach for how Walpurgisnacht: Rising can apply Manson’s lessons and apply it to solve a problem that has lingered in the Madoka community for the past nine years. I have no qualms with acknowledging that these are merely my thoughts on it, and if Urobuchi is able to sort things out in another way that proves just as satisfying, I would be quite happy to accept the outcomes. With this being said, Madoka Magica‘s themes are is contingent on what happens in Walpurgisnacht: Rising – there is always the possibility that this continuation could dig things into a deeper hole, and it will be interesting to see whether Urobuchi sees Walpurgisnacht: Rising as a conclusion or escalation. If it happens to be the latter, viewers are in for a helluva long wait; although Walpurgisnacht: Rising was announced back in 2021, the whole of this year has passed without news, and the reality is that the release itself is likely still a long ways off. However, there should be a modicum of solace now in knowing that at the very least, there is at least one way the story could be resolved in a consistent and satisfactory manner, without breaking what had been previously established – all Homura has to do is give a few more fucks precisely about the things she can control (with a gentle dose of guidance from Madoka), and this will allow her to overcome the cycle of failure she had seen until now.

Suzume no Tojimari: A Reflection on the Preview and Remarks on Expectation Management

“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.” –Kim Collins

Suzume Iwato is a high school girl who lives in a small town in Kyūshū. After a harrowing dream one morning, she sets off for school, only to encounter a young man along the way. He explains that he’s looking for ruins, and Suzume points him towards an abandoned hot springs town located over the next valley. Intrigued by the man’s presence, Suzume decides to cut class and explore the ruins. Here, she finds a mysterious door that seemingly leads to a vast field under a star-filled sky. After opening it and becoming frustrated by her inability to pass through, Suzume encounters a stone cat that unexpectedly comes to life, and decides that this is enough adventure for one day. She returns to class just in time for lunch, but after a minor earthquake hits, Suzume is shocked to see what appears to be smoke from a fire. Perturbed that none of her classmates seem to be able to see the smoke, she decides to head back to the ruins. Here, she finds the man attempting to close the door: a malevolent energy is pouring through it, resisting his attempts to shut it. Suzume lends the man her strength, and this gives him enough time to summon a key that locks the door. This is about the gist of what happens in the first twelve minutes of Makoto Shinkai’s latest movie, which follows Suzume and the traveller, Sōta Munakata, as they travel across Japan to seal off the doors that appear across the nation, setting off a string of disasters. Along the way, Suzume’s experiences drive her own growth, giving her the strength for her to be herself. Suzume no Tojimari‘s themes appear to lie in managing the aftermath of calamity and how a human connection is instrumental in this process, similarly to how Your Name and Weathering With You had both incorporated a natural disaster piece into its story. However, standing in stark contrast with its predecessors, which were set in Tokyo, Suzume no Tojimari‘s setting is in southern Japan.

The change in location represents a shift in atmosphere, and in conjunction with the character design and a more visceral portrayal of the supernatural, Suzume no Tojimari appears to lean more towards the aesthetic that Children Who Chase Lost Voices took; Shinkai’s 2011 film had portrayed Asuna’s journey to Agartha, where she had learnt more about accepting death in a fantastical world that, while majestic, was also quite empty and devoid of life. In this way, Children Who Chase Lost Voices spoke to the price that defying the natural order commanded in a ambitious and visually stunning tale. Subsequently, Shinkai returned his stories into the real world, and while supernatural elements are present to subtly move the needle, his films following Children Who Chase Lost Voices have been decidedly more grounded in reality, establishing this by using a familiar environment in Tokyo to convey that the characters’ experiences came first and foremost. While this was especially effective in The Garden of Words and Your Name, by Weathering With You, the approach felt comparatively derivative. The choice to set Suzume no Tojimari in a rural setting thus creates the exciting possibility that Shinkai is once again testing new waters in his latest film; Suzume no Tojimari is stated to portray a journey around Japan, and in this way, this allows the art team to really showcase a variety of places and utilise them to convey emotions and thoughts in ways that Tokyo alone cannot. Consequently, there is much excitement in Suzume no Tojimari: incorporating learnings and successful approaches (i.e. a fantastical setting) from Children Who Chase Lost Voices into a story that has aspects from Your Name (older characters with more agency and a wider range of settings, with a moving story of separation and reunion) could produce a film that stands out from its predecessors.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Suzume no Tojimari began production in early 2020, and while production remained relatively in impacted by the global health crisis, the pandemic’s effect on society was integrated into the movie, which begins with Suzume experiencing a very visceral nightmare. From what the opening shows, Suzume lost her mother and is living with her aunt. The sharp contrast between the dream world and Suzume’s everyday life is pronounced, bringing to mind the opening scenes of Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness. With Multiverse of Madness as precedence, it becomes clear that the post-apocalyptic world Suzume dreams about will feature prominently.

  • For the time being, this preview portrays the normalcy in Suzume’s world: it is remarkably difficult to gauge a character from just a few minutes on screen, but she feels like a more confident version of Mitsuha whose life is unremarkable. On this morning, she rides her bike down to school with a smile on her face, and the road leading down this path offers a stunning view of the ocean. Her usual routine is interrupted when she spots a fellow on the road, and when she stops to speak to him, he explains that he’s looking for some ruins. The preview never names him, but he’s Sōta Munakata and bears a resemblance to Children Who Chase Lost Voices‘ Shun.

  • I’ve always felt that, of Shinkai’s movies, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is one of his most underappreciated films. While this movie represents a major departure from his usual style, it was able to convey its messages in an effective manner. Two common misconceptions surrounding Shinkai’s movies are that they’re at their best when endings are ambiguous and open, and that his films all suggest that loneliness is an inevitable part of life, and one can, at most, only hope to cope with it. These misconceptions stems from Anime News Network declaring that Five Centimetres per Second was about unrequited love and loneliness being “realistically” portrayed, since it had coincidentally lined up with their own writers’ belief that no amount of effort led to happiness.

  • Misconceptions like these are why I continue to say that people shouldn’t place so much stock in Anime News Network’s opinions of things; Shinkai’s stories, while scaled up to be more fantastical and dramatic, ultimately speak to lessons applicable in everyday life, and for better or worse, Anime News Network’s writers don’t exactly have the best track record of picking up on these elements. Thus, when Anime News Network publishes their Suzume no Tojimari review in the next few days, it goes without saying that it should most definitely be not taken at face value because the reviewer is unlikely to be actively looking out for Shinkai’s intentions.

  • I concede that any work of fiction is open to interpretation, but at least for me, it’s always important to understand the author’s intentions behind their work. When a reviewer decides their interpretation of a work supersedes even that of the author’s, and they’re writing to a publication that’s considered as reputable, this can have the potential to negatively impact a work for a long time after its screening. Returning to the example with Five Centimetres per Second, Anime News Network’s interpretations were copy-pasted to Wikipedia, claiming the film was about how people are powerless to shape their circumstances and must endure loneliness and separation as a result. Since Wikipedia is widely read, this became the de facto interpretation people accept of the film.

  • The companion novel and side stories both clarify that the problem Takaki faced was because he felt like everything was always outside his control, from him being forced to separate with Akari, to how his first job had punishing deadlines and occasionally, how management made his tasks more difficult. After he quits his first software job and goes freelance, he’s at peace: he’s most certainly not pining for Akari, but rather, was frustrated by a lack of agency. So, when he does the walk and thinks he encounters Akari again, he’s happy because he was able to fulfil his old promise and he knows it’s his call to now turn around and keep moving on in his life.

  • Because Shinkai clarifies his position through the companion novel and side stories, one can easily work out that Five Centimetres per Second does have a happy ending; it’s not a “happily ever after”, but for viewers, knowing that Takaki has found the agency in his life to take charge is an encouraging thought. Shinkai’s later movies follow a similar pattern; his characters might experience loneliness, but the idea that Shinkai wants to say that loneliness is all-consuming and final is untrue. Indeed, Your Name and Weathering With You both have happy endings, and assuming this trend holds true, Suzume no Tojimari will likely end on a similarly positive note.

  • Intrigued by the young man she’s met, Suzume ends up heading back up the hill for an abandoned onsen village. She runs into one of the buildings, and ends up calling out for the young man, only to wonder what on earth she’s doing. I don’t think Mitsuha ever wore such an expression on her face in Your Name; when Taki was inhabiting her body, Mitsuha became more expressive and bold, but as herself, Mitsuha was a bit more reserved. Strong, confident characters are a recent element in Shinkai’s movies, and I’ve found his works to be all the more enjoyable for it; his earliest works rendered female characters as sublime, abstract beings.

  • Until recently, the mysterious door in a derelict building was the only bit of imagery viewers had surrounding Suzume no Tojimari. Doors have been used extensively in literature to represent a transition, or a passage from one world to the next. More optimistic works have doors symbolising choice, while in a more restrictive scenario, doors also denote exclusion or boundaries. It’s still a little early to do an in-depth look at things, but the supernatural nature of these doors, coupled with the fact that they’re gateways to other worlds, and the fact that a malevolent energy originates from these worlds, I would hazard a guess that Shinkai is using doors to visually denote boundaries.

  • Owing to how they’re presented in Suzume no Tojimari, doors probably would suggest that Shinkai sees disaster as something that seems like it “only happens to someone else”, but once the boundaries are broken, and one finds themselves on the doorstep of calamity (pun intended), it can become remarkably difficult to prevent a bad situation from worsening. The first twelve minutes of Suzume no Tojimari speak to this process. When Suzume opens the door for the first time, she’s curious about the world the doorway seemingly leads to, for it is the same place she’d dreamt of earlier that day.

  • However, the door doesn’t allow her to pass through it, regardless of her efforts. When people read about disasters, it is similarly difficult to appreciate just how devastating and far-reaching the consequences are. Because these impacts can seem quite far removed from one’s everyday life, it’s easy to forget about them and go on with one’s life. Suzume ends up leaving the door open when she leaves the spot, confused both by the unusual phenomenon and a stone cat that unexpectedly appears and transmogrifies into a living form when Suzume picks it up.

  • As an experienced writer and producer, Shinkai doesn’t introduce elements unless they’re going to serve a purpose later down the line. After Suzume notices the stone statue at her feet and picks it up, she finds that it’s extremely cold to the touch, but it thaws in her hands shortly after and even comes to life. Cats and beings similar to cats are a common aspect of Shinkai’s works. Shinkai uses cats to act as guardians of sorts: She and Her Cat‘s Chobi falls in love with his owner and does his utmost to look after her, while in Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Mimi guides Asuna through Agartha until his life expires.

  • It therefore stands to reason that the cat-like being Suzume finds here in Suzume no Tojimari will serve a similar role, although on their first meeting, Suzume is completely shocked and chucks it away in terror. As Shinkai’s films evolved, I’ve found that his female leads have become much more expressive and multi-dimensional. Mitsuha wore a far greater range of facial expressions and had more emotions than Five Centimetres per Second‘s Akari, and these characters become much more human as a result, making it easier to connect to their experiences.

  • When the scene pulls back to a wider shot of the door, the real-time lighting effects can be seen, and I find myself wondering if Shinkai’s team is using real-time ray-tracing in their animation to pull off some tricks, or if everything is done either by hand, or older rendering techniques; using ray-tracing would help in cutting down some work for 3D scenes, since things like shadows and light interactions with different surfaces would be handled by the computer in real time. For viewers, since everything ends up being a video, it is fortunate that all one needs is a decent video decoder to play back the result: I can only imagine the sort of discontent in the anime community if the requirements for watching a home release copy of Suzume no Tojimari was an RTX 3060 or 6600XT.

  • After an eventful morning, Suzume finally shows up at school. Seeing her interact with her friends shows that, like Taki and Mitsuha, Suzume has people in her corner, standing in contrast with Hodaka, who was a runaway and arrived in Tokyo alone. However, when Suzume spots something unusual outside, and her friends fail to see anything out of the ordinary, her friends begin to wonder if she’s alright. I imagine that interacting with the phenomenon may have made her aware of the impending disaster, and with the phenomenon becoming more prominent by the minute, Suzume runs off.

  • Suzume no Tojimari‘s soundtrack is jointly composed by RADWIMPS and Kazuma Jinnouchi: the latter had previously worked on the music in Ghost in the ShellRWBY and Star Wars: Visions. RADWIMPS’ compositions resemble the music they’d previously provided for Your Name and Weathering With You, whereas Jinnouchi’s pieces sound like they’d belong in a historical drama and at times, have aural elements that evoke memories of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. The contrast between the two styles creates a much richer collection of incidental music, capturing a wide range of emotions and feelings accompanying each scene.

  • The effects here in Suzume no Tojimari remind me a great deal of Agame from Misaki no Mayoiga; in that film there’d been a mythological component that was built out into the story, but it always did feel like a tangential piece until near the film’s climax. Here in Suzume no Tojimari, the idea of a supernatural force triggering calamities is introduced right out of the gates to emphasise that it has a much larger role here. However, without a bit more context, I would prefer to see how Suzume no Tojimari unfolds, rather than speculate on things made on assumptions drawn from this preview.

  • Upon returning to the abandoned structure at the heart of the old onsen village, Suzume finds Sōta there, doing his utmost to close the door that had opened. The moment is a perilous one and speaks to the stakes within this film; Your Name and Weathering With You had progressed more slowly, but Children Who Chase Lost Voices had Asuna experience danger early on in the film after she meets Shin and ends up coming face to face with a paramilitary force tasked with finding the entrance to Agartha. Because of how things have unfolded in Suzume no Tojimari‘s first twelve minutes, I am going to guess that Suzume no Tojimari will resemble Children Who Chase Lost Voices in some way.

  • Because I only have twelve minutes of insight, it’s hard to say whether or not Suzume no Tojimari will make extensive use of Japanese mythology. I’ve long felt that such aspects should only be present to enhance the viewer’s experience, and for folks who don’t have familiarity with these areas, a given work shouldn’t punish them. Not everyone agrees with this: AnimeSuki’s Verso Sciolto, for instance, believed that a deep knowledge of Japanese mythology, folklore and culture were needed to enjoy Shinkai’s movies, but ended up being wrong on all counts.

  • Owing to Shinkai’s past successes, I would imagine that publishers will want to keep Suzume no Tojimari in theatres for as long as possible. Both Your Name and Weathering With You saw their respective home releases come out a full eleven months after their theatrical première, so the next time I write about this film will be in October of next year. The twelve minute preview represents about ten percent of Suzume no Tojimari‘s full runtime, and while it, fortuitously, does not spoil any events late into the movie, acts as a fantastic way to give prospective viewers a glimpse of what’s upcoming and establish what’s about to go down. Readers have my word that I will, to the best of my ability, return to right about this movie once the home release becomes available.

While the strength of Suzume no Tojimari‘s thematic elements and character growth remains to be seen (a twelve minute trailer isn’t enough to gain a measure of how well-written and cohesive the narrative is), the preview also shows that Shinkai’s craft remains impressive. Water remains a central motif in Shinkai’s films, and right out of the gates, is used to create a sense of surrealism, as well as showcase the improvements in real-time reflections. Ruins and abandonments provide a chance to illustrate overgrowth and decay of human constructs in vivid detail, in addition to demonstrating illumination effects like volumetric lighting and dynamic shadows. Shinkai’s films have developed a reputation for being visual spectacles that stand among some of the finest in the industry, and as the technology improves with his studio’s craft, Shinkai will be able to do more. The visual fidelity in his films is one of the main reasons why I’m so keen on Shinkai exploring a greater range of settings: having already established that Tokyo looks amazing with The Garden of Words, Your Name and Weathering With You, I’ve long been curious to see how other regions of Japan (and potentially, the world) would look if given the Makoto Shinkai treatment. The ceiling remains limitless, and on this note, it would be fantastic for Shinkai to return to the science fiction and thriller genres in a future work, as well. In the meantime, with Suzume no Tojimari‘s theatrical première in Japan, I expect that the film will see an international release in the new year. I do not anticipate watching it in local theatres owing to the fact that nine out of ten times, the screenings will be scheduled in way that’s inconvenient for myself, but once the home releases become available, I will definitely make an effort to watch the film and share my thoughts on it. This is estimated to be eleven months away, so in the meantime, I will be turning my attention to another anime film that recently released.

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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