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Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai (I Want to Deliver Your Voice): A Review and Reflection

“Kind words are a creative force, a power that concurs in the building up of all that is good, and energy that showers blessings upon the world.” –Lawrence G. Lovasik

Nagisa Yukiai is a girl who has long believed that words hold spirits (kotodama) that impart on them a powerful impact. As she nears her final year of high school, she struggles to determine her future career path. While evading an unexpected rainfall one day, Nagisa takes shelter in a derelict shop called Aquamarine. She discovers a vast collection of records here and broadcasting equipment. Activating the station and playing radio host, Nagisa’s words reach Shion Yazawa, whose mother, Akane, fell into a coma after an accident twelve years previously. Shion asks that Nagisa not return to Aquamarine, but Nagisa’s curiosity soon gets the better of her, and she encounters Shion at the shop, using the radio equipment to send a message to her mother with the hope that she would one day wake up. Moved, Nagisa decides to help Shion broadcast these messages. They are joined by Nagisa’s friends, Kaede Tatsunokuchi and Shizuku Dobashi. The group’s activities soon draw Ayame Nakahara’s interest – an amateur radio enthusiast, Ayame lends her background towards helping Nagisa and her friends’ making a more legitimate radio program. She recruits Otoha Biwakouji to help compose music, and as the summer wears on, the girls’ broadcast reaches a growing audience in town. Through their broadcasts, the girls grow closer to one another and also learn to express themselves more directly. With no progress made towards getting their message to Akane, the girls face two challenges – Yuu’s grandfather has scheduled Aquamarine for redevelopment, and Akane is being transferred to a different hospital. On the day of the transfer, Nagisa and her friends set up a live broadcast at the local shrine. With the help of the townspeople, their song reaches Akane, who reawakens. Shion is reunited with her mother, and deeply moved by her experiences, Nagisa decides to become a radio show host.

Released last year in late August and only meandering into the home release realm last month, Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai (I Want to Deliver Your Voice, known in short Kimi Koe, or Your Voice) is a Madhouse production. In its ninety-minute runtime, Your Voice‘s focus is an ode to the radio. The film hammers home that our voice, carrying emotional tenour and intent, can have an impact on others, as well as ourselves. In a world where communications have become increasingly textual, we’ve forgotten how much power our voice can hold: subtle differences in tone, pronunciation and articulation convey different intent, from love, to disgust. Because of the intent behind our voice, the radio is thus presented as a powerful amplification of the emotions and feelings our voices carry. Nagisa, who had spent her life believing in kotodama and hesitates to speak ill of others, finds radio to be a platform where she can channel positive energy. It is the magic of this moment that leads her to continue broadcasting, and as she continues, her audience expands. Her words reach more people, and move more people: this is the magic of the radio. By pouring her sincerity and energy into a voice that others her, Nagisa draws in her friends, who in turn help her draw in an entire town’s interest, much as Akane had done years before. By Your Voice‘s end, having reached so many people, Nagisa is able to funnel the town’s support for Akane through their voices: the strength of everyone’s feelings allow Akane to wake up after twelve years. Having seen the impact of what voices can do, Nagisa subsequently finds her calling in life and becomes a radio show host. While highly fantastical in its depiction of feelings, and reiterating the spirits of a voice to the point of ad nauseam, Your Voice‘s message is a simple and direct one that is also quite moving in spite of its derivative outcome.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The cast of Your Voice is voiced by people who had successfully auditioned for roles in the film, rather than professional voice actors. Mina Katahira provides Nagisa’s voice, and the story begins following a lacrosse game that sees her team lose. Nagisa immediately recounts her story with the kotodama, which manifest as luminescent orbs. Ever since her grandmother related the story to her, Nagisa’s long held the belief that words carry very powerful impacts and negative effects can come back to bite one, so for her part, she refrains from speaking her mind except when visiting a local shrine, where she shouts her concerns underneath a bell. Here, she watches a rainfall stop after discovering the abandoned coffeehouse, Aquamarine.

  • I admit that, when I saw the first of the key art for Your Voice, I was initially dissuaded by the character designs, but seeing more finalised artwork and A Place Further Than The Universe assuaged these doubts. In appearances and manner, Nagisa takes characteristics from A Place Further Than The Universe‘s Mari and Yuzuki. Optimistic and a bit of a naïf, Nagisa is the quintessential protagonist for films of this sort. Descriptions for Your Voice put Nagisa as a bit impatient in finding her future, and so, the film can be seen as a coming-of-age story, providing a snapshot into the events that help Nagisa find herself, all the while helping others out.

  • Nagisa receives a message after her first-ever broadcast from a listener, and although it amounts to a cease-and-desist, Nagisa’s curiosity gets the better of her: she’s intrigued by Aquamarine, and learns that its owner was a well-known local radio show host, broadcasting out of her coffeehouse. However, after an accident that left her comatose twelve years previously, the shop was boarded up and left derelict. Nagisa learns the name of this individual is Akane Yazawa, and that she’s at a hospital nearby. While visiting, Nagisa hears on the radio an active broadcast in session: putting two and two together, she hastens back to Aquamarine.

  • Set in the Enoshima area, it was interesting to see Madhouse’s portrayal of the region, which had prominently featured in P.A. Works’ 2012 series, Tari Tari. The Madhouse version of Enoshima features fewer complex lighting effects (e.g. rain water on the ground does not create visible reflections as they do in Tari Tari) and warmer lighting, creating a sense of summer. The use of summer in anime is less of a thematic element by this point in time and more of a trope: long days and endless skies in anime convey possibility, and so, it is unsurprising that summers are portrayed as a time of discovery in anime. Your Voice is no different, as it’s ultimately a story about a journey.

  • While Shion’s mail to Nagisa might have been a little hostile, Nagisa seems to pay no mind and meets her face-to-face for the first time at Aquamarine. It is here that the two strike up a friendship, and while Shion is initially reluctant, Nagisa’s cheerful manner convinces Shion to give things a whirl for at least a little while. Nagisa is very tearful here, and while crying, she definitely resembles Mari of A Place Further Than The Universe. The same white outlines are present there as well as in Your Voice, although minor facial features in Your Voice are a little rougher than in the better-polished A Place Further Than The Universe. This should not be surprising, as the latter represents the result of applying the learnings from Your Voice.

  • Shion explains to Nagisa that she’s staying for the summer and in person, she’s much more soft-spoken than her initial message to Nagisa suggests. In spite of getting off on the wrong foot, Nagisa’s earnest personality and genuine concern for Shion eventually leads Shion to consent having Nagisa help her out. Nagisa’s persistent belief in the kotodama initially seems a little childish and misplaced, but their presence in the film strongly suggest that their role is not a trivial one.

  • Initially, Shion is hesitant to deliver a more spirited broadcast as Nagisa is wont to doing, and rushes off, embarrassed. It does take a certain degree of confidence to be able to honestly express oneself on the radio, and the power of a good radio program can be non-trivial. When I work, I listen to the local Cantonese radio programs; my favourite shows are Vancouver’s “摩登狄寶娜” (Modern Deborah, featuring Deborah Moore), which deals with various travel and lifestyle topics. 一家人 (One Family) is broadcast after, and similarly deals with the daily comings and goings closer to home. Although their hosts do not know it, their programs certainly do brighten up my day. Nagisa has a very extroverted personality, and upon hearing Shion’s wavering resolve, decides to become friends with her and spur her on.

  • Athletic, competitive and headstrong, Kaede is one of Nagisa’s friends and also works as a waitress at a local family restaurant. Her longstanding rivalry with Yuu comes from their past: envious of Yuu, she’s resolved to compete with her and prevail, although finds herself failing. When Yuu is made captain of a rival lacrosse team and also schools Kaede’s team at the film’s start, Kaede has naught but ill-will towards Yuu. Of the characters in Your Voice, Kaede is the only individual with the angular tsurime: everyone else sports tareme, and consequently, she does look a little out of place compared to the other characters.

  • The girls’ radio programme receives more feedback from another listener who challenges the show, stating that it’s unprofessional. Later in the day, Nagisa finds a pair of eyes on her, and after a few tense moments, comes face to face with one Ayume Nakahara, another student who feels that the girls are ineffective with their radio program. Similarly to Shion, Ayame’s messages come across as a bit confrontational, but in person, their tone changes quite a bit. When it comes to feedback around these parts, I will assume good faith, especially where alternative perspectives and corrections are made. However, as I’m always interested in hearing more from readers, I’ve also decided that it’s worth inviting the folks offering corrections to discuss things further. Being right means less to me than seeing what readers think of things.

  • From left to right, we’ve got Shizuku Dobashi (Momone Iwabuchi), Ayame Nakahara (Mitsuho Kambe), Kaede Tatsunokuchi (Yuki Tanaka), Shion Yazawa (Suzuko Mimori), and Otoha Biwakouji (Hitomi Suzuki). Kaede and Shizuki are friends with Nagisa, resolving to help Shion out with her desire to broadcast messages to her mother. Ayame and Otoha later join their rank: Ayame is proficient with broadcast-related details, such as delivery of effective programs and legality of broadcasting music, while Otoha is highly talented in composing music. When the girls learn that they can only use royalty-free music, Ayame brings Otoha in to create custom music they can freely use.

  •  Your Voice that more prominent reviewers have criticised is that there are more characters than is necessary, but I will stand up and challenge them right here: for films with a large number of characters, one must be willing to set aside individual growth and development in favour of focusing more on the collective goal. Rogue One had a large number of characters, each with limited development, but the film succeeded because each character was a part of a whole: the sum of their contributions allowed Jyn and her rag-tag band of misfits to secure the Death Star plans. Similarly, in Your Voice, while each character (save Shizuku) faces their own struggles, everyone also puts these aside to help Shion out. The real world is about how we interact with others, not about ourselves, so to dismiss shared goals in fiction in favour of individual growth is to be unfaithful to the fact that humans are a social animal.

  • Their radio program gains momentum over time, so the girls begin expanding their broadcast capabilities and advertise their show around town. Here, they enjoy katsu cutlets outside of a shop while on break from their activities. I do seem to have a particular talent for enjoying things that people are critical of: a case in point is my recent viewing of Solo: A Star Wars Movie. After sitting down to a hot and tasty chicken-fried steak with sautéed zucchini and hash browns for dinner (it’s been a while since I’ve had a good chicken fried steak, with the last time being when Battlefield 1‘s open beta was in full swing), I headed over to a nearby theatre and watched Solo with a longtime friend. We found the movie enjoyable, certainly not meritorious the vitriol that supposed “expert” critics have leveled against the film, and after Solo ended, I stepped back outside to see a double rainbow gracing the skies.

  • Granted, the film’s depiction of Corellia is inconsistent with that of the expanded universe, Darth Maul’s appearance was illogical, and I prefer the extended universe’s version of how Han met Chewbacca, but overall, the film was coherent in presenting Han’s origins. Thus, claims that “tropes and twists of shamelessly recycled clichés are presented throughout with an absurd earnestness” is a load of horse dung. Back in Your Voice, the broadcasts that the girls deliver become smoother and more varied over time. With Ayame’s expertise, Otoha’s music and the others’ spirit, the girls resurrect what was once an old classic in town.

  • At the end of the day, I fail to see how Your Voice is “torn between two different narrative goals and can’t quite manage to achieve either of them”, as our anime journalist voices. There is a single goal, which is Nagisa and her friends working with Shion to bring their voices and feelings to Akane, and as they continued, they developed a more sophisticated operation. In the process, Nagisa has a profound experience with voices and finds a career path she is passionate about. Occam’s Razor definitely applies to anime, and overthinking something simple is what creates befuddlement amongst critics, many of whom I feel should be more genuine in their approach rather than be critical for the sole purpose of being critical.

  • Then again, I personally feel that the role of a professional critic is (and should be) diminished now: larger sites like Anime News Network can have ineffectual, ill-argued reviews that do not properly represent films like Your Voice, and obscure blogs may have very thoughtful critiques and discussions that the giants have not even considered. This is the topic of no small discussion on Twitter, where many of my peers are struggling to find motivation to write when readership and traffic is not increasing with time and improved content. I understand this feeling: it is unlikely that I will be able to convince the folks out there that I cannot reach, that they should take even Anime News Network reviews with a grain of salt. Having said this, beating down folks with perspectives contrary to mine is not my goal: this blog exists because it’s fun to write.

  • Shizuku’s role in the radio program is quite limited, but with her talents for baking cookies and sweets for the others, Shizuku is raising morale at Aquamarine while the others help with the radio program directly. Shizuku is a static character in Your Voice, undergoing very little development as an individual, and is intended to provide a reference point for the changes that will impact Nagisa, and to a lesser extent, Kaede.

  • As each of Nagisa, Kaede, Shion, Shizuku, Ayame and Otoha become closer through their shared interest in radio and using this as a tool to reach Shion’s mother, they spend more time together outside of Aquamarine. Shion has longed to be with friends, having spent most of her life transferring schools before she could become close to anyone, and Nagisa’s actions allow Shion to experience friendship. Here, the girls visit a summer festival together: the festival features the bamboo lights seen in Tamayura‘s Path of Longing festival.

  • After Kaede learns that Yuu’s been stripped of her captaincy, she decides to broadcast onto the airwaves and invites Yuu to visit Aquamarine to hang with the others. Kaede remarks that Yuu is the sort of person she isn’t, someone who is simultarnously proper and also somewhat dependent on others. During the course of Your Voice‘s run, there are five inset songs performed by the voice actors from the movie. Their inclusion gives Your Voice a very sentimental feeling that is befitting of its themes about voices and their impacts.

  • When Kaede drops by and runs into long-time rival Yuu, they have a terse exchange before Nagisa arrives. The two have been rivals since childhood, with Kaede striving to outperform Yuu and failing at every turn. Her patience exhausted, Nagisa decks Kaede, and Yuu runs off. Reviews elsewhere found this rivalry unrealistic and unnecessary, but its presence in Your Voice is to remind audiences that in a narrative, while our focus largely remains on the protagonists, the other characters can also be complex in their own right, with unique stories and challenges that simply are not the focus of the story at hand.

  • Similarly, the rivalry is in no way unrealistic: high school students can be very competitive with one another, and what is obvious to more mature individual may not be evident to high school students. This serves to increase Your Voice‘s credibility rather than detracting from it: stubborn characters caught up in the trivialities of the world may seem unreasonable to us viewers, who are seeing things from an external perspective. While we might be able to see the bigger picture, it is not so difficult to imagine ourselves as being entangled in the moment, during which solutions are not so straightforwards.

  • I therefore contend that a degree of empathy is required to enjoy media where drama is involved. It can be easy to dismiss the characters’ problems as trivial, but I imagine that many have been in difficult spots before, during which a solution seems out of reach. As a software developer, I am acutely aware that sometimes, it does take another person to help out: the bugs that I miss in my code, from having the wrong Boolean, to a flipped comparison operator, has sent me on bug hunts lasting hours, only to be solved when one of my coworkers steps through and points out the error. When Yuu runs off, it is Nagisa who goes after her. After listening to Yuu explain why her grandfather has such a role in her life, Nagisa contends that it is possible for her to make up with Kaede.

  • As evening sets in, Yuu and Nagisa begin yet another broadcast, with the aim of reaching Kaede. Nagisa points out on the show that everything Yuu’s done is a consequence of an honest effort, that Kaede’s enmity towards Yuu is unjustified. Yuu adds that she welcomes the challenge, and Kaede, listening in while at work, decides that the time has come to step her game up. This wraps the secondary narrative up, and with this, Your Voice enters its final act.

  • I’ve noticed that all discussions of Your Voice date back to shortly after the film’s première last August, and since then, discussions on Your Voice have otherwise been non-existent. With the film now out now, then, it is a bit surprising that Your Voice has not generated more conversations elsewhere, so it looks like for at least a while longer, this will remain the only passable collection of screenshots from Your Voice. In the time that has passed since last August, A Place Further Than The Universe aired. Inheriting many of the same features and development patterns, I feel that Your Voice can be seen as a warm up act for A Place Further Than The Universe.

  • Yuu eventually manages to convince her grandfather to leave Aquamarine until at least the end of summer vacation, but Shion reveals that the additional time won’t be of any use: their efforts insofar had not been of any consequence, and her mother is set for transfer to another health facility well. Perhaps also realising the weight of what’s been occurring, Nagisa runs out into the pouring rain and cries her eyes out. However, this is not the end: Nagisa’s the sort of person to get right back up after getting knocked down, after all.

  • The time between the première in August of last year and the home release is staggering: nine months, or 50 percent longer than the previous average of six months. It’s been a recent trend for anime films to release their BDs and DVDs much later than the première, and I’ve heard that it’s to do with sales figures; since home release sales are not as sure as they once were, companies simply keep their movies running in the theatres for longer. While I’m not adverse to waiting for anime films to come out, it does mean that if trends continue, the gap between première date and home release dates will continue to increase as time wears on.

  • While en route to the new health facility, Shion sees a kotodama floating outside. Realising that Nagisa’s claims were true after all, she feels that Nagisa might also be doing something with Aquamarine and asks her father to turn the radio on. The kotodama‘s existence in Your Voice are ambiguous until this moment, whereupon it becomes clear that they are more than something Nagisa believes. This is the single supernatural aspect of Your Voice, which is otherwise very grounded in reality, and was likely intended to drive home the message about the power of words, were it not already clear.

  • As it turns out, Nagisa and her fellow radio show hosts had relocated to the shrine, where a large group of listeners have aggregated to support Nagisa’, her team, Shion and her mother. Hearing Nagisa’s determination prompts Shion to ask their driver to return into the broadcast area when the signal cuts out, and the scene crescendos into the climax when the girls begin singing. Your Voice does a great deal over its 90-minute run, and there’s a great deal going on, mirroring the chaotic nature of life itself. However, everything converges on the singular goal of helping Akane reawaken, with the other positives that come of this endeavour serve to reiterate that when judiciously applied, voices can have a meaningful impact on listeners.

  • The sheer intensity of emotions in the moment create numerous kotodama that precipitates Akane’s reawakening. I absolutely loved the message of Your Voice: while I ardently believe that actions hold a much greater weight than words alone, it is true that the right words at the right time can make all the difference. The resultant ending to Your Voice is one that was unsurprising but well-deserved: while the plot’s progression holds no twists and ends in the manner that one might expect it to, the journey is nonetheless one that is heart-warming to watch. Heart is something that Your Voice has plenty of, and we can’t reasonably ask for more than a little heart in these troubled times.

  • In the epilogue, Shion spends time with her mother, and here, I would recommend this film. If and when I am asked about a more concrete score, I find that Your Voice earns an A- (3.7 on a four-point scale, or 8.5 of ten). More time would’ve been nice to deliver parts of the story, especially the Nagisa’s restoration of the radio program with her friends, and a greater resolution for Yuu and Kaede beyond what was seen in the film, but beyond this, Your Voice is very clear about what it aimed to leave audiences with after everything was said and done. I do note here that these are my opinions alone – I am a bit of a sucker for sentimental stories, and individuals different than myself may experience Your Voice in different manner. Further to this, I am similar to TheRadBrad in that I tend to focus on the positives rather than the negatives, which is why I usually enjoy most what I decide to write about.

  • The events of this fateful summer gives Nagisa a concrete path to follow, and she becomes a radio show host in Tokyo, showing that she has found her way. This brings my talk on Your Voice to a close, and with a fair review of the film in the books, I turn my eyes towards what’s next. We’ve passed the halfway point of June now, which means that Amanchu! AdvanceComic Girls and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online‘s finales are nearing. In addition, summer is only three days out, so I’ve got a pair of special topics posts lined up, as well. The Road to Battlefield V‘s final phase is beginning this week, and once over, I imagine the final patch for Battlefield 1 will be released. Finally, the Steam Summer Sale is also expected to begin this week.

While perhaps more rudimentary in its goals, and hampered by its shorter runtime, which precludes exploration of other narratives that ended up being solved quickly, Your Voice is nonetheless a solid film whose execution is of a high standard. Your Voice is set in Enoshima, a location previously seen in Tari Tari, and while perhaps not quite as vivid or faithful as Tari Tari‘s Enoshima, Your Voice nonetheless makes use of the area to create a compelling setting for notions of the self-discovery warranted by the nearly-endless summer days. Coupled with a musical score that outlines the gentle hope in Your Voice, the film itself is an enjoyable watch overall: I would recommend this film, especially for individuals looking for a film to ease into the upcoming summer with. Easy to follow and direct, Your Voice might not be a powerhouse blockbuster or revolutionise how I see the world, but it is effective as a feel-good movie. Your Voice has one additional contribution that cannot be ignored – it sets the precedence for the well-received and excellent A Place Further Than The Universe. With a similar atmosphere and art style, it is quite clear that A Place Further Than The Universe had taken the learnings from Your Voice to produce an anime that ended up positively impacting many viewers. With this in mind, it was instructive to see the progression of the rather unique art style that Madhouse utilised in Your Voice and how it became smoother by the time A Place Further Than The Universe was aired. I previously remarked that the rather unique art style of A Place Further Than The Universe was capitalised upon to create expressiveness in characters to augment the idea that voices can tell a surer story of than images alone, and the origins in Your Voice are quite apparent: Nagisa is as expressive as Shirase and Mari, giving her character life and giving audience cause to empathise with her as she discovers what her calling in life is.

Uchiage Hanabi, Shita Kara Miru ka? Yoko Kara Miru ka? (Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?): A Review and Reflection

“Even the wisest cannot tell. For the mirror shows many things: things that were, things that are and some thins that have not yet come to pass.” —Lady Galadriel, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring

On the day of Moshimo’s local fireworks festival, Norimichi Shimada and his friends make a bet as to whether or not fireworks are flat or round when viewed from another vantage point. On the way to school, Norimichi notices Nazuna standing by the seaside, who’s found a small glass ball. Nazuna later encounters Norimichi and Yūsuke at the pool, when the two are assigned to clean up the pool deck. She challenges them to a race and makes a request of the winner. When Yūsuke wins, she asks him to meet her later, but after she returns home and hears of her mother’s remarks, she decides to run away from home. She encounters Norimichi at a local clinic and mentions to him that she was hoping that he’d win. Norimichi later runs into Nazuna’s mother, who drags her back home and causes the contents in Nazuna’s suitcase to spill out. When Yūsuke and the others arrive, Norimichi realises that Yūsuke did not meet with Nazuna and throws the glass ball at him. Subsequently, Norimichi finds himself back at the school pool, wins the race and promises to meet up with Nazuna. He finds Yūsuke in his room and manages to shake him off, taking Nazuna to the train station. Before he can board the train, Nazuna’s mother and her boyfriend arrive, separating the two, leaving Norimichi to rejoin the others. At the lighthouse, the fireworks take on a flat shape, and Norimichi later fights with Yūsuke over Nazuna. Throwing the glass ball again, Norimichi sends himself back to the point before Nazuna’s mother arrives, and this time, fends off her boyfriend, buying the pair enough time to board the train. Nazuna and Norimichi then share their thoughts for the future, and Nazuna sings as the train passes through a tunnel. However, they are spotted by Yūsuke and the others, leading them on a wild chase that leads back to the light house. Up here, Nazuna and Norimichi view the fireworks, which morph into flowers: despite the surrealness of the moment, Nazuna asks Norimichi if it is satisfactory that they are together. Before Norimichi can answer, Yūsuke arrives and pushes him off the lighthouse, leading Nazuna to fall, as well. Norimichi returns to the train, and this time, pushes Nazuna out of sight when passing the train crossing. The train continues on a track over the ocean, and enters a surreal space, seemingly inside the lighthouse itself. Norimichi and Nazuna share their final moments together and kiss while the lighthouse enclosure around them crumbles, with shards hinting at their futures littering their surroundings. Nazuna expresses her desire to meet him again, wondering what awaits them, and swims off. The next day, Norimichi is absent from their class’ roll call. This anime adaptation of the 1993 film captures the youthful approach to budding romantic feelings amongst three classmates and was released in Japan in August 2017, making use of the supernatural to drive its narrative forwards over its ninety-minute runtime.

Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?, Fireworks from here on out for brevity, is a love story at its core; as an adaptation of the 1993 iteration, its central premise is set around the idea of being able to make use of do-overs. Norimichi and Yūsuke both have feelings for Nazuna, who returns Norimichi’s feelings. The friendship between Yūsuke and Norimichi becomes increasingly strained throughout the movie’s run, and this rift continues to challenge Norimichi’s pursuit of time with Nazuna. It is through the inclusion of a glass ball capable of turning back time, through a supernatural trinket, that Norimichi is able to explore what challenges might lie in a relationship with Nazuna, and also, what outcomes might ensue if he should persist. That Norimichi requires divine intervention in the form of time travel, and moreover, multiple do-overs, in order to reach a point where he and Nazuna share a kiss, illustrates the finicky, uncertain nature of love and relationships. There are numerous what-ifs, and Fireworks seems to suggest that the way to starting and maintaining a relationship lies in a razor’s edge. Each do-over that brings Norimichi closer to Nazuna, however, comes at a price. As he works out those impediments that stand between him and Nazuna, his world becomes increasingly surreal environment. From fireworks defying the laws of physics, to the Puella Magi Madoka Magica-like world that is presented, Fireworks makes extensive use of imagery to evoke the idea that starting a relationship is a very tumultuous, phantasmagorical experience. Whether or not the events depicted on the night of fireworks actually occurred remains ambiguous, emphasising to viewers that falling in love is dream-like in nature: you have absolutely no idea of what you are doing, but it is exciting and, one way or another, it is over way too fast. What actually happened between Norimichi and Nazuna remain unexplored, leaving audiences to fill in the gaps. Norimichi and by extension, the viwer, is thus left with many unanswered questions, and having experienced what falling in love is like, is not content to merely sit on his hands. His absence at the closing of Fireworks hints at his having cut class to be with Nazuna, who, despite Norimichi’s efforts, was forced to move anyways.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Summer is my favourite time of year: the days are long and warm, inviting to adventure. Explorations come in many varieties, and love is a possibility, as well. By contrast, I feel that winter is the least romantic time of year: the miserable weather and days of seemingly eternal darkness is a dampener on the mood. For this post on Fireworks, I will feature thirty screenshots and my customary quip that thirty screenshots does not fully cover everything in this film, but nonetheless should offer a reasonable breadth for some of my thoughts on this film, which I’ve been interested in seeing since it screened in Japanese cinemas last August.

  • Feeling somewhat like Typhoon Noruda‘s Noruda, Nazuna’s character has only a limited timespan to develop over Fireworks‘ runtime. From what audiences gather, she’s not particularly sociable and doesn’t get along with her mother, but beyond this, is also counted as being quite beautiful, enough to capture Norimichi and Yūsuke’s attention. At the movie’s start, she finds a glass ball that is beautifully rendered, and while it initially looks to be of limited significance, this little device is a Chekov’s Gun that plays a nontrivial role in the events of Fireworks.

  • Miura is Norimichi and Yūsuke’s instructor. Her figure and assets draw the interest of the male students in her class, especially those of Norimichi’s friends, who wonder what her measurements are. Miura only has a minor role in Fireworks, but she is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who most will better know for her role as Garden of Words and Your Name‘s Yukari Yukino. Aside from both being instructors, Yukari and Miura also share the (perhaps unfortunate) distinction that their respective looks seem to garner unwanted attention from students. Beyond this, the two instructors are quite different: Yukari is more slender and graceful, while Miura is more active in disciplining her students and has more of a no-nonsense personality.

  • While attempting to work out what Miura’s measurements are using the inefficient brute force approach (a fancy way of saying exhaustive guessing), one of Norimichi’s friends is hit in the face with a not-so-stray volleyball, resulting in a hilarious funny face moment. I note that it is possible to probably eyeball these numbers using a variety of tricks from something like the Handbook of Geometric Topology or else use sophisticated image recognition algorithms, but the better question is, why?

  • I would almost certainly balk at the prospect of another student walking on my desk in class. After boldly asking ifMiura has a boyfriend, one of Norimichi’s friends draws Miura’s ire: of the group, he’s quite attracted to her and messes with her frequently. His escapades eventually end up with him tripping near Norimichi’s desk and landing flat on his face. The school that Norimichi attends has a very distinct architecture, being composed of two circular buildings connected by a central area.

  • Fireworks places a great deal of focus on one of the spiral staircases within the school, and interiors are also rendered with a good amount of clutter. As a result of this design choice, and the fact that some of the female students seen earlier have a well-defined figure, one can reasonably surmise that this is probably a middle and secondary school rolled into one. If this is the case, then one can similarly suppose that this town is a smaller one. Here, Nazuna hands Miura a letter from her parents mentioning her transfer out of this school.

  • Weather of this sort graced my area on Saturday, during which it felt as though the world had decided it appropriate to skip spring and jump into summer. I capitalised on the fantastic weather for the second round of Poutine Week and visited Leopold’s Tavern for their Crispy Chicken Cheesy Buffalo Dill Poutine. This poutine is as delicious as its name is long – topped with crunchy, succulent chucks of fried chicken, deep fried battered cheese curds, a rich cheese sauce and Buffalo-dill sauce, this was a very hearty and tasty creation that reminds me of the over-the-top foods served in a fair’s midway. Because the weather was pleasant, and partially to burn off some of the food energy from this poutine, we took a walk around the downtown core under pleasant skies.

  • Nazuna is quite mysterious, and all the more compelling as a character for that. She’s resting by the poolside here and lazily shares a conversation with Norimichi, before challenging him and Yūsuke to a race, on the condition that she’ll pick the winner to listen to what she has to say. In the first iteration, Norimichi injures his foot and is impeded by pain, leaving Yūsuke to win. Nazuna explains that she wants to see the fireworks with him and asks him to meet her by five.

  • Back in the classroom, Norimichi’s friends argue over what shape fireworks are. In the original Fireworks movie, everyone was in the sixth grade and close to the age of eleven. Here, the anime adaptation presents them as being somewhat older – I would hazard a guess of grade nine based on the guys’ behaviours, which corresponds with an age around fourteen. The wager of what shape fireworks are feels a little out of place in their age group, especially considering that fourteen-year-olds would be more learned and make use of resources to answer their query. The limited presence of smartphones gives Fireworks a timeless quality: the original live action film was produced in 1993, before the advent of such technologies.

  • With this being said, the choice to bring the characters’ ages up for the animated movie is probably so the anime can facilitate humour and interactions of the sort that older characters can permit, as well as so love can be explored with a greater level of detail: I cannot say this with full certainty because I’ve not seen the original 1993 Fireworks movie. While we are on the topic of things unknown, the real-world basis for Moshimo is not certain; the town’s name approximates to “if only I had”, which is a recurring theme in Fireworks, but beyond being a generic, if beautifully-rendered, seaside town, little English-language materials exist pertaining to what real world places influenced Moshimo, if any.

  • When Norimichi arrives home, he finds Yūsuke already in his room. While mobile devices do not have a significant presence in Fireworks, the presence of flat-screen televisions and a game console suggest that this incarnation of Fireworks might happen in the early 2000s. Beyond this, I do not have the know-how to pin down when precisely Fireworks is set: modern consoles can play retro games, further confounding the year. I imagine that leaving the time period ambiguous in Fireworks is a deliberate choice, giving the anime a timeless feel that acts as a callback to the original 1993 live-action film.

  • Fireworks suggest that the outcome of an event can be changed by the most trivial of details: things derail rapidly because Norimichi lost the race. Most folks will know this as the butterfly effect, where small changes in a system can have a dramatic change on the outcome (e.g. manipulating parameters of a simulation, or values of an expression). While the butterfly effect largely applies to complex systems, such as weather and quantum mechanics, it’s a popular literary device in fiction because it is a more tangible description of how small events can have unexpected consequences.

  • Because Yūsuke ended up winning the race but winds up standing Nazuna up, Norimichi runs into her at a clinic while getting his wound treated, and he is powerless to stop Nazuna’s mother from forcibly taking Nazuna home. In reality, this is where most relationships end up. While we well know that the world is not this simple, the literary device does allow for a certain message to be conveyed: in Fireworks, the narrative uses the butterfly effect to suggest that Norimichi’s feelings for Nazuna can only be returned if a very specific set of events happen, and that in the absence of a priori knowledge, one cannot make the decisions that favour an outcome where Norimichi ends up with Nazuna. It therefore stands to reason that Fireworks is suggesting that in the absence of blind luck, a relationship can be quite difficult to get of the ground.

  • Throwing the glass ball results in time reverting back to a point specified. Without any science fiction style justifications of how this actually works, like the body-switching phenomenon in Your Name, time travel in Fireworks is left unexplained because it is present to facilitate the narrative. The how is not as important as the why, so audiences must suspend their disbelief and accept that Norimichi is now able to load from a save state, as it were, because this is what allows Fireworks to make its message clear to viewers.

  • After reloading, Norimichi manages to escape from Yūsuke and takes Nazuna to the station on his bike. Knowing the successive outcomes of events in Fireworks enables Norimichi to be increasingly bold in his interactions with Nazuna. However, foreknowledge has its limitations, and he’s forced to return to improvising as best as he can to spend time with Nazuna whenever things go south. This is what prompts the page quote, which is sourced from Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring: after arriving in Lothlórien, Frodo encounters Lady Galadriel, who shows him the Mirror of Galadriel and warns him that what is seen in the mirror are merely possibilities future.

  • At the train station, Nazuna explains to Norimichi her circumstances; because of difficulties at home, she’s running away, and having brought Norimichi along, counts it as eloping, feeling it to be more mature than merely running away. It turns out that her mother also eloped previously, and Nazuna wonders if it’s in her blood to handle challenges in this manner. When Norimichi wonders where they’ll go, Nazuna considers Tokyo. She imagines herself taking a job at a convenience store or in the more shady side of things to make ends meet.

  • To throw off any potential tails, Nazuna switches into a white dress. The colour is long associated with purity and a blank slate: Nazuna dons one, mirroring her longing for a new start. When Norimichi wonders how Nazuna will find work, given that she’s under the age requirements, Nazuna remarks that she could probably pass for sixteen. The ages of the characters in Fireworks have been ambiguous: on one hand, the characters are clearly not eleven as in the original Fireworks, but they don’t seem mature enough to be high school students, either. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that Norimichi and Nazuna are around fourteen.

  • Norimichi’s first attempt to board the train fails when Nazuna is taken away, and after he resets things again, he manages to fend off Nazuna’s mother’s boyfriend, buying the two enough time to board. Afforded some quiet, Norimichi and Nazuna share a conversation before the latter begins performing Ruriiro No Chikyu (瑠璃色の地球), one of Seiko Matsuda’s songs. Matsuda is a well-known pop singer in Japan and began her career in the 80s: this period has some of the greatest Cantonese pop artists of all time, and Matsuda’s songs sound like the best Canto-pop songs of the day. I know Matsuda best for her performance of Taisetsu na Anata (大切なあなた), which was covered by Vivian Lai in the song 陽光路上 (jyutping joeng4 gwong1 lou6 soeng5).

  • Because it is possible that none of the events past Norimichi throwing the glass ball actually occurred, Fireworks hints at the idea that in love and relationships, especially surrounding  a first love, is a world of “what-ifs”. When a relationship fails or never makes it past the first stage, minds often become consumed with these hypothetical “what-ifs”. Relationship advice usually entails “let go of the past, make the most of the present and pursue the future”; I usually find relationship advice to require a personalised approach, but here is some advice that I feel is effective. What was once lost usually cannot be regained, so the advice is really telling people that there usually are other opportunities out there, and if one’s eyes are facing the past, they cannot enjoy the present or see future opportunity.

  • If I were to do a review based purely on the scenes that are firmly set in reality, however, then this post would probably have been published a few days ago and have only ten screenshots. However, to ignore the other parts of the film would result in a disappointingly short discussion. In this particular iteration, Norimichi and Nazuna are spotted by both Nazuna’s mother and Norimichi’s friends, who give chase. The pair manage to evade their pursuers and reach the old lighthouse, where they stop to view the fireworks and catch their breath.

  • Despite the bet about what shape fireworks are figuring prominently in Fireworks‘ synopsis elsewhere, as well as forming the basis for the story’s title, actual fireworks do not figure very prominently in the film. The fireworks displays that are seen in Fireworks from the lighthouse take on very unusual properties, exploding in a disk or else dispersing pedal-like sparks. The final display is seen underwater. The disconnect in the title is intended to represent the split in interests: Norimichi can either spend time with his friends or Nazuna, but not both, and because it is with his friends that the fireworks become relevant, the relatively few moments with normal-looking fireworks is likely indicative of where Norimichi’s heart lies.

  • Norimichi is aware that what he’s seeing is not reality, evidenced through the unusual fireworks patterns, and Nazuna replies that reality or not, as long as she’s with him, it matters not. While a highly romantic thought, it’s also likely the result of Norimichi’s thoughts, rather than anything the real Nazuna might say. In our imaginations, people become what we imagine them to be, and it is only in the mind’s eye where the most romantic, or even forbidden, thoughts might manifest. Reality is harsher, and when the magic of a relationship’s start wears off, whether or not that relationship will endure is determined by a multitude of factors, including trust, commitment, faithfulness and loyalty. At the risk of stepping on many toes, I feel that the strongest relationships are not necessarily those with the most romantic moments, but the ones where two partners continue to find ways of working together to get through difficult times and enjoying the good times together.

  • When Norimichi is pushed off the lighthouse, he loads another save state (the fourth, I believe) and returns on board the train. This time, he pushes Nazuna out of sight, ending up on top of her and sparing them the trouble of being spotted. This sets in motion the final phase of the movie: it’s taken a fair number of attempts for Norimichi to really be alone with Nazuna. As the train they’re on continues travelling, it switches tracks and begins passing over the ocean itself as evening sets in, creating a beautiful and surreal setting.

  • As the train travels over the ocean under the violet hour, the scene evokes a very viseral representation of what love is like: ethereally blissful, but also uncertain in that no one really knows where the train will stop next.  When the train reaches its destination, Norimichi and Nazuna disembark to find themselves in a world covered by a vast dome, seemingly inside the lighthouse’s light fixture itself. Fireworks has done much to set up the events leading up to Norimichi and Nazuna finding themselves in a space where they are assured of some solitude, and if it was not visible earlier, then there is no doubt by now that the movie has stepped into the realm of the hypothetical.

  • While Nazuna might be fourteen, Fireworks renders her character in a manner such that she appears older than she is. After reaching the ocean’s edge and inviting Norimichi to join her, Nazuna begins stripping down into a lighter gown before entering the water. She looks several years older in this moment, smiling at Norimichi in an almost seductive manner. Norimichi eventually relents and joins here. Meanwhile, on the shore opposite, the fireworks technician manages to come across the glass ball, and while drunk, loads it into the fireworks apparatus and fires it off, shattering the done surrounding their world.

  • In the film’s final moments, Nazuna and Norimichi see visions of the future in the glass shards that fall to the surface. These visions illustrate all that could’ve been: because the future is always in motion, it is very tricky to pin down what will occur. Yūsuke, for instance, sees that if he’d simply chosen to go with Nazuna, he would’ve had a memorable time with her and this could’ve led to something more. However, because he chose to remain with the status quo, nothing ever occurred. Similarly, Norimichi sees a vision of him and Nazuna kissing while overlooking Tokyo Bay.

  • One might even say that the complex system that is human society can result in any number of possibilities. Because human interactions are turbulent and chaotic, it can be nigh-impossible to predict the long-term outcomes merely from a snapshot in a moment. Fireworks acts as a bit of a snapshot; it presents parts of the story and leaves the others out to remind audiences of this reality. As Grand Admiral Thrawn might put it, Fireworks is very artistically done – it takes a bit of thinking to really figure out why the movie is presented in the manner that it is, but behind all of the visual metaphors, symbols and motifs, the message underlying everything is straightforwards.

  • At the film’s climax, Norimichi and Nazuna kiss while underwater, before Nazuna heads off, mirroring her departure. In reality, it is clear that Norimichi did not really have any ability to stop Nazuna from leaving, and that Nazuna’s desire to elope was more of a whim. While perhaps thought of as being quite romantic, kissing underwater is quite impractical: besides the small matter of breathing and the elevated heart rate when one is in such a moment, some people (like myself) also find it painful to open their eyes underwater, making aiming a rather challenging task.

  • I’ve not mentioned the incidental music in Fireworks thus far – the soundtrack to Fireworks is quite varied, from melodic and emotional pieces right down to the mood-setting pieces that play whenever Norimichi’s friends are around. It goes without saying that I prefer the string and piano pieces in the soundtrack. A quick glance at the box office numbers shows that Fireworks did modestly well at the box office, with a gross of 26 million internationally, and grossed 4.2 million within three days of its première, becoming the best-performing Shaft film thus far.

  • At the end of the day, I found this movie quite fun to watch, and I think of it similarly to what I thought of Hirune Hime. Today marks the final day of April, and so, this is going to be my last post for April, as well. We’re now moving into May, a time when spring really kicks into high gear. Looking ahead, I don’t have any posts in mind aside from the scheduled talks about Amanchu! Advance, so May and June will be a bit of a free-for-all with respect to what I write about. Having said this, however, Battlefield 1 and The Division both have some exciting things upcoming, so the reduced number of anime posts might not be such a bad thing.

In reality, fireworks are simply explosions and will always explode in a spherical pattern. Variations in air turbulence, density and pressure may affect the rate of an explosion’s movement in a direction, but the end shape is a sphere. To create shapes in fireworks, pyrotechnicians running the show will have previously packed the fireworks with pieces of cardboard having the desired shape, often in multiples, to ensure that the fireworks can explode with the required effect and give the same view from a range of angles. As a result, fireworks will be round from almost any perspective, certainly not flat as some of the boys in Fireworks suggest. Deviance from this outcome is indicative of a universe where the laws of physics no longer apply, and in Fireworks, the visuals are done with a very high quality, enough to convince audiences of an unreal reality. While inconsistent in some places, Fireworks is a very stunning anime. From the details of the mirror inside the lighthouse, to the play of light in the glass ball, and water effects in the pool, Fireworks captivates its viewers with its exceptional artwork and lighting. While not directly pertinent to the narrative, Fireworks‘ use of high-detail moments provide a pause in the story, encouraging viewers to consider what has already occurred, before things move on to the next scene. The sum of these elements come together to create a film that excels technically and also provides an engaging, if simple, story for viewers, making extensive use of visual elements to reiterate the notion that love is tumultuous and chaotic. Overall, I would give this movie a recommendation: while nothing world-changing and somewhat ambiguous, it’s nonetheless a fun interpretation of what young love must feel like, putting into not words, but pictures, the feelings associated with striking up the courage to be with someone special.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part One: Review and Reflection

“On ne passe pas.” –General Robert Nivelle

While using telemetry to search for additional tanks in the Ooarai, rumours that Momo might be held back circulate. It turns out that she was not accepted to an university; this coincides with a Winter Cup, which was re-instated in preparation for the upcoming World Cup. Aiming to leave her legacy for Miho and her juniors, Momo resolutely led the search for new tanks so Ooarai’s future was assured, and when it is mentioned that some universities accept students based on extracurricular merit, Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team decide to make Momo commander, banking on a win at the Winter Club to help her with post-secondary admissions. Miho and the others decide to descend into the bowels of Ooarai’s ship. Sodoko refers area to this as the “Johannesberg of Ooarai”, and after she’s abducted by a pair of students, Mako follows in pursuit, leading them to Bar Donozoko. Miho and her friends liberate Sodoko and explain that they’re searching for a tank, but the bar’s patrons challenge them to a series of contests. Miho’s crew come out triumphant, earning the respect of the group’s captain, Ogin. It turns out that Ogin and her friends were indebted to Momo, who saved from some expulsion some years ago, and after learning that their smoker is the tank that Miho was seeking, Bar Donozoko’s crew decide to man the tank, introducing themselves and swearing to help Momo. At the opening draw, Momo draws for the first match, which will be against BC Freedom Academy. Beyond the knowledge that BC Freedom is typically eliminated from round one, Miho remarks that nothing is known about them, prompting Yukari to perform her usual reconnaissance, learning there is a deep division that runs at BC Freedom. On the day of the match, Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team is introduced to their newest group, the Shark Team and their Mark IV. BC Freedom is late to the party, but once they arrive, the match begins. They split up, leading Momo to keep her main column together and determine where BC Freedom’s armour went. Deducing BC Freedom’s flag tank location, Ooarai advances to the suspected position to engage, but when when crossing a wooden bridge, they suddenly find themselves being shelled. Surprised at the exemplary coordination BC is exhibiting, Yukari apologises for having failed in her reconnaissance duties. With the bridge beginning to fail, Miho proposes using the Mark IV as a ramp, allowing all of Ooarai’s tanks to safely leave the bridge. BC Freedom orders a tactical retreat while Miho and her forces regroup.

The opening act of Das Finale is functionally equivalent to two standard episodes, so after forty minutes of play, Das Finale’s first instalment follows in the same manner as its predecessor; circumstance dictates the recovery of an additional tank, and a match begins to set the tone for the remainder of what is upcoming in Das Finale. Das Finale is motivated by rather different reasons than the TV series and Der Film, with more senior students considering what their futures entail. With Momo in a difficult spot, Ooarai’s students rally to help her out: all of this is only possible because of the strong bond that everyone shares. Momo has long been presented as a person who has a remarkably tender spirit despite her tough exterior, and so, Das Finale‘s choice to focus on her gives an opportunity to weave a different narrative than what viewers had seen previously from Girls und Panzer. While Das Finale also retains a familiar, tried-and-true story, there are enough novel elements to keep Das Finale fresh. The comedy of watching Ankou Team somehow manage to kick the asses of everyone at Bar Donozoko is amusing, as is Ooarai’s clever use of the Mark IV as a makeshift ramp to escape a collapsing bridge. In its execution, Das Finale‘s first act is conventional, setting the stage for what lies ahead for Ooarai and their Panzerfahren team: Girls und Panzer has traditionally excelled in depicting the journey, rather than its destination, and so, while the first part moves in a highly foreseeable manner, Das Finale introduces enough new elements while returning to the skill-based roots of the TV series to result in a highly entertaining start for Das Finale. While off to a solid start, one element to keep in mind for new-coming viewers is that Das Finale is set after Girls und Panzer and Der Film: mission-critical elements are explored in earlier instalments, so in order to fully appreciate where Das Finale is going, one should take the time to ensure they are familiar with events of both the 2012 anime and the 2015 movie. The plus side about this is that Girls und Panzer isn’t particularly long, and with the second act’s theatrical screening date unknown, there is plenty of time for interested viewers to do so.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because Das Finale is releasing six movies, it stands to reason that each movie is equivalent to two episodes. From this, I will be doing what is essentially an episodic review; each post for Das Finale will feature forty screenshots, and I will attempt to ensure a reasonable distribution of screenshots for all of the critical moments in each part, or act. We open up this discussion with Momo reacting to headlines in the school newspaper about her repeating a year while on the hunt for new tanks; of all the characters, Momo is the most prone to being depicted with what I call “funny faces”.

  • Understandably concerned for her, the entire Panzerfahren team shows up to learn the truth from Momo, who is shaken. While she and Anzu were among my least favourite of the characters when Girls und Panzer‘s first few episodes aired, they quickly earned my respect in their respect for Miho and dedication to Ooarai. A subtle sign of their commitment is that during their tank selection, they went with the Panzer 38(t), a light tank with thin armour and a weak primary armament. While they would upgrade later to the Hetzner, that the student council willingly took the weakest tank illustrates that they have faith in Miho and her abilities.

  • One of Girls und Panzer‘s great strengths was being able to adequately flesh out all of the secondary characters despite only having twelve episodes to work with. By Das Finale, Miho, Yukari, Saori, Hana and Mako’s personalities are well-established, and second to Ankou Team, Turtle Team’s members figure prominantly in Girls und Panzer. Anzu and Yuzu’s characters are relatively straightforward compared to Momo; both get into their preferred institutes and performed reasonably well in matches. As such, the choice to have Momo leading Ooarai for Das Finale is a chance for audiences to see her shine, having been given the short end of the stick in Girls und Panzer and Der Film.

  • More insight is provided on Ooarai’s school ship: during the third OVA (which I wrote about a shade more than five years ago), the school ships of the Girls und Panzer universe were presented as well-maintained, orderly facilities where girls learned practical skills. Besides the default general studies group, there are also students dedicated towards the maintaining of the ships’ basic functions. Most of these folks are well-kempt and disciplined, but Das Finale shows that the sheer size of these vessels gives rise to the slums phenomenon that plagues large urban areas, as a result of inadequate resources to maintain law enforcement in all areas.

  • The depths of the Ooarai school ship are known as “Johannesberg”, a city in South Africa affected by serious urban decay, but when I see this side of Ooarai’s school ship, it bring to mind the likes of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City and Útulek Complex in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The girls’ pensiveness is evident here, especially Miho, who’s contracted in fear. While a fearsome tank commander and strategist, on foot, Miho and her diminutive 5’2″ frame is not particularly intimidating. Miho reminds me a great deal of Slow Start‘s Hana Ichinose, whom I’ve long felt to me what Miho might be like in the absence of Panzerfahren, and seeing her body language in this side of Ooarai’s school ship definitely reinforces this.

  • After falling into a wine cellar while in pursuit of Sodoko, Miho and the others find themselves in Bar Donozoko. Unfamiliar with the setting, everyone orders something with milk in it, leading the patrons to mock them. While long seen as a drink for children, nutritional experts recommend that adults continue to drink milk because it’s got a variety of compounds that make it a healthy option, and bodybuilders consume it precisely for this reason. I admittedly prefer it over coffee, and where possible, I try to have two glasses every day.

  • Each of Yukari, Saori and Mako manage to hold their own against Bar Donozoko’s challenges: Yukari’s expertise in knots allow her to quickly unknot a rope presented to her, Saori has become very versed in communications and is able to work out the semaphore message given to her, while Mako bests Rum in a thumb war. Goaded beyond endurance, Murakami makes to kick Miho’s ass, but Miho demonstrates a hitherto unseen side to her: she dodges all of the strikes and bows in apology, lifting Murakami into he air and throwing her behind the bar. Hilarious and surprising, it seems Miho is much stronger than her slender frame suggests; besides being relevant in Panzerfahren, hip strength also has other uses.

  • Frustrated by Miho and her friends’ resilience, weapons are drawn as Bar Donozoko’s patrons prepare to escalate things. Yukari readies a M24 Stielhandgranate. While there’s no white marking or relief texture on the handle to indicate thus, I imagine it is a smoke grenade variant, since it would be outright obtuse to use an explosive grenade at this range: using it would almost certainly flatten Miho and her friends along with Bar Donozoko’s patrons. Ogin steps in and says that a drinking contest, rather than an all-out fight, seems more appropriate; she’s visibly impressed with what Miho and her friends can do.

  • Because the consumption of alcohol by minors isn’t exactly sanctioned, when the drinking contest comes, a non-alcoholic rum is used. The challenge comes from it being spicy, and I imagine that it’s likely using ghost chili extract, otherwise, the taste of rum would be defeated. Hana holds her own against Ogin, who is no novice, managing to put Ogin on the floor. While presented as a gentle and polite girl, there’s a sexy quality about Hana when she becomes more serious.

  • While bearing the characteristics of delinquents, once Ogin is aware that Miho and her friends are aiming to help Momo, Bar Donozoko’s patrons immediately become more friendly and more in line with how girls from all of the other teams are. They might be a tough-talking, rowdy bunch, but they also possess a sense of honour and respect. Ogin is voiced by Ayane Sakura, better known as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto, Akane Isshiki of VividRed Operation, Tsubaki Sawabe from Your Lie in April and Kantai Collection‘s Nagato. She reveals the location of the tank and recruits her friends to help Momo out.

  • Now that we’ve got everyone in the frame in lighting conditions that throw each character into sharp relief, from left to right, we have Murakami, Cutlass, Ogin, Rum and Flint. They respectively become the gunners, commander, driver and radio operator for the Mark IV. Momo reacts in joy to seeing them here, pleased to see them again after all this time, and that Momo once saved them from expulsion provides further insight into her as a tough-but-fair individual who is actually quite driven by emotions: of everyone in Girls und Panzer, she cries the most.

  • Glimpses of other schools can be seen during the Winter Cup’s ceremonies, including the rather interesting team just ahead of Ooarai, whose dress style is evocative of the Spanish Legion. Girls und Panzer has hinted previously that there are a very large number of schools, and that Panzerfahren is an international sport. While I wager that the series was created as a one-off, the world-building has been handled well enough so that the series is very scalable: keeping things fresh is as simple as adding more schools and ensuring that they’re properly written. I’ve mentioned this somewhere at another point in time, but to re-iterate, I’d love to see a Canadian-style team featuring all of the Canadian stereotypes.

  • Should a Canadian team be featured, I expect to see stereotypes including: a love for the winter matching Pravda’s, non-stop chatter about ice hockey (so, the girls would argue about whether some goals should be waived off for being offside mid-match), adding Maple Syrup to bloody everything and apologising for every kill, even more than Miho. Such a team would also fight with the ferocity of a beaver: mirroring our actions at Vimy Ridge. Back in Das Finale, Momo’s draw sends Ooarai into a match with BC Continuation school. Looking back on Das Finale‘s first act, while Yukari will later believe that it’s an act, the animosity at BC Academy is quite real according to supplementary materials.

  • With their opponent known, Yukari sneaks off to BC Freedom Academy and learns that the school has two distinct factions as a result of a merger. This setup is based off the divide in France during the Second World War, with the BC faction being more relaxed and easygoing than the strict, disciplined Freedom faction. The division in ideology means that brawls are common on the BC Freedom Academy school ship, and during her excursion to BC Freedom, Yukari is caught in one such fight, learning very little about their opponent beyond a seeming lack of unity. The video she presents includes a knockoff of the LucasFilm™ logo; to quote Bubblegum Tate from Futuama, “Hello, lawsuit”.

  • Yukari is distinctly woebegone after returning from her reconnaissance mission, but is in fine spirits; a school such as BC Freedom would be at a disadvantage during Panzerfahren matches owing to their division, similar to Mao Zedong’s Communists and Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists, who nominally cooperated to repel Imperial Japanese forces, but otherwise, considered one another worse enemies than they did the Japanese. The implications of BC Freedom’s factions could lead to the impression that they are a pushover, but par the course for Girls und Panzer, it’s more likely that BC Freedom has a few tricks up their sleeves.

  • Many familiar faces make a return in Das Finale‘s first act; each of the schools previously seen discuss their future directions in Panzerfahren, and audiences learn that Darjeeling plans to study in the United Kingdom, while Maho’s gone to Germany for her post-secondary education. I’ve chosen not to feature all of those moments here, since doing so would drive the screenshot and figure caption count above what I’m willing to commit to writing this post, but on the topics of time and the future, it’s been five years since Girls und Panzer first aired. A lot can happen in five years; I finished my Bachelor and Masters’ degrees, began working and I’m a ni-dan now.

  • The higher-ranked delegates and officials prepare for the match’s opening. A St. Chamond tank is visible on the table: only four hundred were manufactured, and lacking a turret of modern tanks, it nonetheless is considered as a development in armoured warfare. With a 90 HP gasoline-electric hybrid engine, the St. Chamond could reach a maximum speed of 12 kilometers per hour despite its mass, and later models were armed with a 75mm cannon. Its design made it unwieldy and unsuited for crossing trenches, but its Battlefield 1 incarnation is surprisingly fun to operate: it’s my second-most used tank after the Mark V.

  • BC Freedom Academy’s late arrival to the match leads Saori and the others to wonder if they can win by default; while Ooarai remains hopeful for such an outcome, from a narrative perspective, this approach is impossible (I formally define impossible from a mathematical perspective as “this event is not in the set of events that can occur”), as it would cause the story to end too quickly and lead to a large number of disgruntled viewers. Indeed, BC Freedom Academy arrives fashionably late to foreshadow that they are not necessarily what they seem.

  • The patrons of Bar Donozoko are made operators of the Mark IV tank that Miho and the others found in the bowels of Ooarai, giving their tank a pirate theme. The predecessor to the Mark V, which is seen in Battlefield 1, the Mark IV is the most iconic tank of World War One, being the fourth model in a line of vehicles designed to smash through fortifications and break stalemates. Battlefield 1 presents the Mark V is a superb platform for offense, and while it’s the slowest tank in the game, it’s got the best offensive options for anti-armour engagements. By the time of World War Two, the Mark V and IV would have been woefully inadequate, with its low speed, outdated armament and armour making it vulnerable to period armour. In Girls und Panzer, it is appropriate that the pirate-themed crew helm the Mark IV, whose lineage is informally referred to as “Landships” in Battlefield 1.

  • Compared against the immaculately clean uniforms of Ooarai, Oshida (closest to the viewer, blonde hair) and Andou (between Marie and Oshida) are visibly beaten up, having been seen fighting with one another on the way in. Marie displays a degree of flippancy in refusing to bow (like Gōjū-ryū, we bow to our opponents before beginning a competition), and with the formalities out of the way, the teams are off. Unbefitting of this blog and its usual manner, I remark that Miho’s seen some “character growth” since the events of the first season and movie, being a subtle sign that time is passing.

  • The faded grey skies and yellow-green terrain is a reminder that this battle is set during the winter; while the match against BC Freedom is set in a temperate grassland with some woods as cover, one cannot help but wonder if we’ll see more winter combat in later instalments of Das Finale. The setting admittedly reminds me of Battlefield 1‘s Somme Map from the Apocalypse DLC; I’ve been playing Battlefield 1 only intermittently as of late thanks to The Division running a series of global events, but while working on some community missions, I’ve seen a dramatic improvement to my performance, and have really enjoyed the upgraded SMG 08/18, which is nigh-unstoppable.

  • Based on information from Duck and Leopon teams, Miho deduces that most of BC Freedom’s forces will have taken the high ground. Because the aim of a flag tank match is to kill the flag tank, the match can be concluded in a very decisive manner very quickly. Miho is seen drawing on a Magna Doodle-type device, which operates by using a magnet in the stylus to align magnetic particles. While unsophisticated compared to an iPad, Magna Doodles do not require dry-erase markers, ink or graphite, making them a powerful reusable tool that reduces the need to carry writing equipment into the field.  Miho’s choice of equipment underlie her personality: while she can seem quite childish, Miho is also remarkably practical, making use of the best tools for the task at hand.

  • Despite being quick to bark out orders under normal circumstances, Momo is unaccustomed to fulfilling the role of commander, and is seen constantly asking Miho for advice. Miho encourages Momo and provides feedback to ensure that Momo makes the calls for Ooarai that will lead to victory.

  • The artwork in Girls und Panzer‘s original run was of a high quality, but with the release of Der Film and Das Finale, the amount of detail that’s gone into landscapes and lighting effects have much improved. From crisp blades of grass on the ground to details in the trees and volumetric lighting effects, Das Finale looks and feels amazing. While the improvements are not as pronounced as the jump from Battlefield 3‘s Frostbite 2 Engine to Battlefield 4 and 1‘s Frostbite 3, subtle differences nonetheless indicate that that Actas is constantly improving the visuals to ensure they are eye-pleasing.

  • The number of World War One tanks in Das Finale‘s first chapter brings to mind DICE’s return to World War One for Battlefield 1; one of the most challenging aspects that Girls und Panzer faced following the TV series’ conclusion was designing an enemy more potent than Black Forest. Der Film was somewhat unsuccessful, falling upon an enemy that was superior in terms of equipment alone, and with Das Finale, the introduction of BC Freedom Academy has allowed the series to return to its roots in a skill-based battle over sheer spectacle alone.

  • The volleyball team move into a deserted urban area in pursuit of BC Freedom Academy’s tanks. The urban combat in Das Finale‘s first part is minimal, and they manage to locate a part of the BC Freedom armour before coming under fire. The small number of enemy armour encountered and light combat insofar serves to build the suspense. I experience the same in any shooter; when the map becomes too quiet and I’m given a great deal of resources, I prepare myself for a massive engagement.

  • While scouting ahead, Momo and Yukari locate BC Academy’s main force. Yukari is seen using the same Entfernungsmesser EM 1M R36 binoculars that she used in Der Film. They spot BC Freedom’s students playing games and relaxing on the hill. Some viewers will note that the images cannot be expanded to be viewed in greater detail: I’m treating Das Finale like an episodic review rather than a special movie review, and so, won’t give this series the silver screen review treatment.

  • While attempting to traverse a rickety wooden bridge, Miho’s forces find themselves under heavy fire from the BC Freedom Academy tanks. They begin targeting the unstable wooden support columns and manage to trap a majority of Ooarai’s armour on the bridge. A plunge in the river would spell certain doom for Ooarai here, and the situation looks quite dire for Ooarai, who have walked into a trap of sorts. It’s a bit of a callback to the second episode of the TV series, when Miho finds her tank caught on a bridge between their classmates’ tanks during training, and the first sign of trouble is optics glint that the Student Disciplinary Committee spot. This is why I do not run with high-powered optics in Battlefield 1 unless necessary: seeing scope glint prompts me to immediately take cover and find a different route, so as a sniper, I could stand to lose kills once the opposing team’s players are alerted to my presence.

  • The flag tank that BC Freedom Academy selects for the match is the Renault FT-17, a revolutionary light tank that formed as the predecessor to modern tanks. With its revolving turret, rear-mounted engine and front crew compartment, its design forms the basis for all tanks as we know them. The FT-17 was successfully deployed in 1918 against German forces, and continued to be used into World War Two, but they were completely outmatched by period armour. In Das Finale, it remains to be seen as to whether or not the FT-17 that Commander Marie is fielding is outperformed, or if it is as capable as the FT-17 seen during Battlefield 1‘s open beta, during which I managed a 20-streak with it. The FT-17 has since been re-balanced, with a lower ammunition capacity and longer self-repair time to counter the fact that it was nigh-unstoppable during the open beta.

  • Realising that this is probably the first time she’s let Miho down with her intelligence-gathering, Yukari is seen with tears in her eyes, and even with Miho’s reassurances, the fact remains that elimination could very well be imminent. BC Freedom Academy’s execution here is what motivates this page quote. French for “They shall not pass”, it’s an idiom for expressing determination, and the sustained shelling has a noticeable moral impact on Ooarai’s crews. Miho retains her calm and begins working out a solution, asking Momo to pass on the orders for the option that she’s devised.

  • When Marie realises what the Ooarai tanks are doing, she recoils in shock. Rarely seen without a cake in hand, Marie is a call-out to Marie Antoinette, a rather infamous figure who personified the ills of the old French monarchy. Marie’s cakes are likely a reference to the phrase Qu’ils mangent de la brioche, better known in English as “let them eat cake”. Commonly attributed to Antoinette, there is actually no record she said this; the misconception comes from a line in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s autobiography.

  • BC Freedom employs a hybrid style between Napoleon I’s manoeuvre warfare to disrupt the enemy, and a defensive approach inspired by the Maginot Line. While BC Freedom Academy had such a difficult time getting the different schools to cooperate, both approaches were formed into a “Marriage Approach”. It is this that Ooarai squares off against during its match, but even BC Freedom cannot anticipate the innovative methods Miho applies towards Panzerfahren.

  • In Das Finale‘s first act, BC Freedom is seen fielding the ARL 44 heavy tank, which was designed off older heavy tanks, such as the Char B1. They were intended to trade blows with the Tiger II, but saw no combat during World War Two, only making it into production in 1949. The model proved underwhelming, and only sixty were produced; their role would be fulfilled by the American M47 Patton. Besides the ARL 44, BC Freedom also uses the SOMUA S35, a cavalry tank that could fulfill both anti-personnel and anti-armour roles. Historically, the S35 proved effective in battle, but were also expensive to produce.

  • Working with Miho means an acceptance of the unorthodox; while each of the other schools (save the University team) retain a structured, well-known strategy based off their historical equivalents, Ooarai’s approach to Panzerfahren has become one of improvisation, actively attempting to understand the environment and determining how to best utilise it to gain an advantage. Through Miho’s examples, each of the tank teams have since adopted a penchant for improvisation, and it speaks volumes to Ooarai’s capacity for improvisation when using the Mark IV as a ramp to escape the stricken bridge does not qualify as one of the most outrageous things they’ve done.

  • A glance at the calendar shows that March is very nearly over, which is bewildering. This month has evaporated, and things at work are turning around as spring returns to the world. This post comes right as the winter anime season draws to a close, and after a lunch of garlic-herb breaded sole fillets with fries, I turned my attention towards getting this talk on Das Finale live: nowhere near as large as the post on Der Film, it’s nonetheless taken upwards of four hours to assemble.

  • While Das Finale predominantly makes use of incidental pieces from Girls und Panzer‘s original run and Der Film, there are some new songs that accompany the BC Freedom Academy’s moments. No news of a soundtrack has yet reached my ears, so we return to the actual combat: on the topic of aural elements, Das Finale performs much better than Der Film did. The sounds from each tank firing their main armament sounds much beefier in the former, whereas in the latter, some of the cannons sounded like a marksman rifle from Battlefield 3.

  • Seeing that the hunter has become the hunted, Marie orders all of her tanks to make a withdrawal. Inspection of the exchange of shell fire finds that Ooarai’s gunners hit a few of their marks, but deal glancing damage. The fact that both teams still have their armour suggests that the narrative is going to go in a direction where it’ll be a showdown between Ooarai and BF Freedom’s flag tank, and I wager that Momo will finally land her first kill, having spent the whole of the TV series and movie missing even the most trivial of shots.

  • Having driven off BC Freedom Academy for the present, Miho apologises for having put everyone in such a situation. Thankful everyone’s alright, she rallies her forces and states that they will regroup. Ending the first act of Das Finale on a cliff-hanger and no known release date for part two means we’re likely in for a long wait before seeing how Ooarai manages to best BC Freedom Academy. Having said this, we know now that there will be a three-month gap between theatrical screenings of Das Finale and the subsequent home release, so once the opening date for act two is known, we can reasonably estimate when the attendant home releases (and subsequent opportunity to talk about the different acts) can occur.

  • Retreating to the plains, BC Freedom Academy’s students begin singing a variation of the French song, Chant de l’Oignon (Song of the Onion). A funny-sounding song, it’s thought that the song came from Napoléon, who saw some of his soldiers adding onions to their bread and remarking on its taste. Napoléon replied that this was the taste of victory, and so, the march was born. This brings my Das Finale post for the first part to an end, and with the learnings from this writing this post, I think it’s safe to say that I will try and have Das Finale talks out within two to three days of the home release. Posts coming in the near future include a talk for Slow Start‘s finale and A Place Further Than The Universe‘s finale, but for now, it’s time to take a bit of a breather.

Consequently, with the first act of Das Finale in the books, it would not be surprising to anticipate that the remaining instalments will likely play out in a similar fashion. However, as we are only the equivalent of two episodes in, it is not appropriate to consider thematic elements that apply in Das Finale just yet; the journey is just getting started. With this being said, I will take the time now to note that I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with Girls und Panzer; a technically superb series in characterisation, animation and sound engineering, Girls und Panzer is simultaneously stymied by a production challenges and a release pattern as uncertain as that of Half-Life 3. The long release time and decision to release Das Finale as six movies rather than a weekly programme makes it superbly difficult for the narrative to retain its momentum and draw anticipation in viewers. Similarly, one of Girls und Panzer‘s greatest strengths is the incredible attention paid to depicting the tanks and their engagements in a plausible manner, but the emphasis on detail also has created unrealistic expectations for what Girls und Panzer ought to be. For me, a credible advancement of the story and presentation of entertaining, logical stages in the narrative is more critical than whether or not the tanks and their operators behave precisely as they should in the real world. This particular perspective is not shared by everyone, and there have been some interesting situations where I’ve run into folks who believe that realism is paramount, to be favoured above all other elements in a show when determining its worth. Numerous disagreements about the characters’ behaviours and actions have surfaced over the years, and it’s a bit wearing to deal with individuals who are unwilling to look past this and consider Girls und Panzer as a whole. Summing this up, I love the series for what it is, but I’m not big on its release pattern and some members of the community. Overall, as Das Finale continues, a part of me would prefer that Girls und Panzer would have concluded with the film, sparing me both the long waits and the occasional lecture on why my beliefs make me unfit to count myself as human, but on the flipside, I am reasonably confident I’ll continue to enjoy Das Finale – the opening is off to a good start, and while the second act will release at an unknown date in the future, it will invariably deal with the outcome of the match between Ooarai and BC Freedom Academy.

Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari (Napping Princess: The Story of the Unknown Me): A Review and Reflection

“I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.” ―Elon Musk

The Kingdom of Heartland is entirely driven by vehicle manufacture, and the heiress, Ancien, is given a magical tablet that allows her to bestow life into mechanical creations. She encounters a pirate named Peach when a Colossus attacks, helping him drive off the Colossus when the nation’s war machines, the Engineheads, fail. It turns out that this is a dream that Kokone has – she is a high school student who lives with her father, Momotarō, a skilful but taciturn mechanic who draws the attention of agents from the corporation Shijima Motors, who accuse him of stealing company secrets. Watanabe, oneof Shijima’s advisors, arrives to retrieve the tablet, and when Momotarō refuses, he is taken in for questioning. Kokone manages to recover her father’s tablet with help from Morio, an old friend. After dozing off and dreaming that her motorcycle can fly, Kokone awakens to find herself in Osaka. She makes her way to Tokyo with the intent of meeting with Isshin Shijima, the chairman of Shijima Motors, and while sleeping along the way, Kokone realises that her father’s story about Heartland was inspired by her mother, Ikumi. Upon meeting Isshin, Kokone learns that her mother had developed self-driving software but was denied permission to continue with the project. In Heartland, the Colossus attacks again, but Ancien manages to upload a spell into the remaining Enginehead, which Bewan (the King’s advisor and the parallel to Watanabe) had planned to use to usurp the King. In a pitched fight, the Colossus is destroyed, but Bewan attempts to destroy Heartland. Peach flies the Enginehead into lower orbit to eliminate the remains of the Colossus, and back in reality, Kokone finds herself saved from certain death when her self-driving motor cycle arrives, fulfilling Ikumi’s promise to be there for her family. The company’s contribution to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics later progresses smoothly, and Isshin spends more time with Kokone and her father. Released in March 2017, Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari (Hirune Hime for brevity) is an unusual fantasy-adventure whose draw is its seamless transitions between Heartland and reality, resulting in a highly unique film that ended up being remarkably enjoyable to watch.

Beautifully rendered and presented, Heartland is a fantastical world of great scale that emphasises its fictional nature. Sequences set in Heartland were a thrill to watch, capturing a setting that is simultaneously familiar and different to reality. That Hirune Hime flits between the two suggest that for their initial differences, the Heartland that Momotarō created for Kokone and the real world are not so dissimilar. The blending of the two worlds means that, while there are some gaps within Hirune Hime, the overall thematic elements are never disrupted; Hirune Hime presents its themes when the narrative is set in the real world, and in the film, two messages stand out. The first is that familial love comes about in different ways, evident when Kokone realises that, contrary to her initial resentment towards her father for not reflecting on what Ikumi was like, he’d created an entire world to capture Ikumi’s character. This suggests that, while he is greatly impacted by Ikumi’s death, he nonetheless loves Kokone and thus, designs a story, a fairy tale of sorts to both give Kokone an idea of what kind of person her mother had been, without forcing himself to recount his painful experiences. The second aspect of Hirune Hime deals with the importance of accepting and valuing technological advancements – Ikumi had long foreseen a future with self-driving cars and wishes to pursue it, but when her father, Isshin, rejects her proposal, his company ultimately finds itself at the edge of a PR disaster years later, when Shijima Motors is tasked with showing the world how far Japan has come during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Because their own developments had not been fruitful, Watanabe resorts to unethical means of fulfilling his goal, with the aim of taking over the company. Technology is an ever-present part of Hirune Hime, as seen through Ancien’s (and Momotarō’s) tablet: that much of the film’s progression is driven by what has become a commonplace technology is a reminder of how much things have advanced, and illustrates that a refusal to accept and adopt new technology can have detrimental consequences in the long run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The soundtrack of Hirune Hime and the unusual combination of flatter character colouration creates a compelling opening; the music in Hirune Hime is composed by Yoko Shimomura, whom I know best for her video game soundtracks. The soundtrack in Hirune Hime features a predominantly classical component reminiscent of Beethoven and Chopin, which is par the course for her usual style, although Shimomura also utilises different styles in her game soundtracks for a diverse aural experience.

  • It’s been around seven years since tablets became popular: when Apple introduced the iPad back in 2010, the gadget was regraded as a curiosity, a bigger iPhone. However, seven years of progress has turned the tablet into a powerful productivity and entertainment platform. In Hirune Hime, Ancien receives a tablet that she uses to bring life to mechanised creations, although for her actions, she’s imprisoned in a glass tower.

  • While trying to retrieve her tablet, Ancien is spotted and is forced to navigate the exterior of the glass tower. It typifies the scale of construction in Heartland, and one can only imagine what it would have been like to experience this film in the theater: the movie originally released in Japan in March, and American theatres screened this during September this year. In spite of this, discussions on this film have been minimal, and I imagine that while I may view the film favourably, not everyone will feel the same way about it.

  • The film will switch between the real world and Heartland. Initially, these come across as being quite disjointed and seemingly unrelated, but as the film progresses, the events happening in one space begin correlating with the other in a clever manner. The connections are not explicit, forcing viewers to draw the connections themselves. Even early on in the film, similarities in things such as Joy (Kokone’s stuffed animal), the tablet and the motorcycle “Heart”, audiences are reminded that the worlds are more closely related than they appear.

  • Kokone is voiced by Mitsuki Takahata, an actress who primarily performs in live-action television dramas and has done some voice work in animated movies previously. She brings to the table a much more natural-sounding voice (as opposed to the likes of Ayane Sakura, Inori Minase and Mai Fuchigami); there’s a right time and place for different voices, and having the sort of voices from GochiUsa or Kiniro Mosiac in a film would be quite off-putting.

  • The Colossus and Engineheads bring to mind Pacific Rim: I saw the film only quite recently, and have heard that Pacific Rim: Uprising will be screened somewhere in 2018. There are a lot of elements that Hirune Hime cover, from the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and self-driving vehicles to consumer electronics. All of these aspects are touched on briefly, and some folks consider them to be shoehorned in; Hirune Hime covers quite a bit of turf, but I never found these to be too distracting from the film overall.

  • In Heartland, Peach and Ancien meet for the first time when Ancien decides to assist. Peach is using what appears to be the M79 grenade launcher, and manages to blow off the Colossus’ limb, which it starts regenerating. While conceptually similar to a kaiju, the Colossus is perhaps more closely related to Peter Jackson’s interpretation of  J.R.R. Tolkein’s Balrogs, fire spirits that were corrupted Maiar: in The Fellowship of The Ring, the Balrog Durin’s Bane appeared as a gargantuan being composed of magma, roars like an erupting volcano and emitted molten rock when struck.

  • In the film’s synopsis, Kokone is described as someone who can “fall asleep at will”, but Hirune Hime suggests otherwise. After returning home to find it deserted, Kokone decides to kip for a bit, returning to Heartland in the process. When she reawakens, she recongises Watanabe and makes to hide after realising what he’s after. Interior details in Hirune Hime are of a generally high quality and convey that lived-in sense.

  • Back in Heartland, Ancien introduces Peace to Heart; given life long ago, Heart can transform into a humanoid vehicle on command, and here, the vivid blue of a summer day can be seen. I’ve long found myself being drawn to anime with vivid blue skies, and this is actually what prompted my decision to watch Strike Witches; similarly, the reason why Yuyushiki reminds me of summer lies in the fact that the anime effectively captures what summer feels like.

  • Bewan arrives to requisition Momotarō’s tablet, the source of the rising action within Hirune Hime. In Heartland, it’s the source of Ancien’s power that he seeks to control, whereas in the real world, Watanabe is seeking to take control of the software that Momotarō had helped complete. Either way, Peach/Momotarō are arrested and held for questioning. From his manner to his appearance, Watanabe and Bewan is designed to be unlikable.

  • Back in the real world, Kokone manages to make off with Watanabe’s bags before he can check into his flight, escaping into the night with Morio’s assistance. The airport sequence brings back memories of when I was at the Rennes International Airport, which was a smaller airport that only opens at five in the morning. We had arrived early that morning, and I had temporarily managed to fight off a stomach bug at the time. The flight back from Paris was a long one, and I subsequently fell ill again after returning home, but the conference itself was quite fun. As of now, I’m still getting paper invitations in my old university inbox.

  • Morio himself enters the dream and pilots Heart through the night sky. Fantastical and visually stunning, both Heartland and the real world are rendered in a spectacular manner. The suspension bridge seen near Kokone’s home becomes a vast structure rising above the clouds; their night flight brings to mind the most famous scene from the 1982 film ET: I’ve not seen this film despite its renown, but even I’m familiar with the oft-parodied scene where Elliot and the alien fly across the night sky.

  • Upon arriving in Heartland, the vast cityscape is visible below. In this fictional world, the entire economy is directed towards vehicle manufacture, and bumper-to-bumper traffic is an epidemic. Economies in reality exist because of the need for commodities and skills to be exchanged, so a world where all expertise is invested in vehicle manufacture for a local population is not one that is sustainable for the long term. With this being said, such issues can be ignored in the context of evidently fictional worlds.

  • The next morning, Kokone and Morio find themselves in Osaka; in the real world, Heart had engaged an autopilot and safely delivered the two to Osaka, but ran out of gas. While audiences initially are left wondering just how Heartland and the real world are connected, it turns out that the transitions between the two are really just narrative elements, and quite unrelated. Later, Kokone and Morio realise they’re short on cash, but seemingly through magic, the necessary resources are provided for her to travel back to Tokyo.

  • It turns out that some staff from Shijima Motors have been assisting Kokone, as they have access to the same message board that Kokone’s been typing into. Here is a close up of the bento that train staff provide for her and Morio. Even at lower resolutions, the Japanese aesthetic is visible here, including a piece of haran: these plastic strips of grass are seen in boxed lunches and while mistakenly assumed to be for decoration, the actual purpose is to prevent some foods from coming into contact to preserve their flavour and longevity.

  • Morio is seen operating a VR headset throughout Hirune Hime, and unlike the full-dive headsets of Sword Art OnlineHirune Hime more conservatively suggests that VR headsets will remain bulky and cumbersome, similar to products available on the market, albeit in a more sophisticated format (Morio’s fingers suggest a virtual keyboard). En route back to Tokyo, Kokone falls asleep: the ride on the shinkansen is two and a half hours, with tickets starting from 13620 Yen (roughly 150 CAD) for a one-way trip.

  • Ancien manages to infiltrate one of the Engineheads and uses her magic to automate it, allowing it to perform much more effectively than previously possible, although the operators soon catch on and order the engines to be shut down. Ancien’s tenacity comes through; she exits the vehicle and sets off to manually re-light the engines. While she’s successful, she falls off the Enginehead, and is caught at the last second by Momotarō.

  • Through this particular dream, Kokone learns that Ancien is actually based off her mother, rather than herself, and the story suggests that Momotarō had tried to save Ikumi but failed, damaging his tablet in the process. This realisation leads Kokone to appreciate her father’s efforts to take care of her, and with renewed resolve, she sets off for Shijima Motor’s headquarters in Tokyo.

  • Kokone’s attempts to speak with Isshin fail when secretaries do not believe her identity. I note that for this review, I’ve opted to stick with thirty screenshots for brevity’s sake – I have not covered every conceivable topic that can come of this film to keep the post manageable in size. One of the aspects of Hirune Hime that I found to be an indicator of the film having focus is the fact that familial love is one of the main themes within the movie, and Kokone’s friendship with Morio remain merely thus, leaving the film free to focus on its central messages without unnecessarily introducing complexity.

  • The locations of Hirune Hime are likely accurate to their real-world counterparts: Chairman Shijima looks out at the scenery surrounding Rainbow Bridge on Odaiba Island. Odaiba Park and the Sixth Daiba are visible here: the latter was the setting for Koji Suzuki’s Solitary Isle, a short story in his Dark Water anthology. I’ve found that horror stories in written form tend to be a lot easier to enjoy, if only for the fact that there are no visual or audio cues that impact my internal sense of unease or dread.

  • In spite of Kokone not having introduced herself properly, Isshin begins telling her the story of Ikumi and her role at Shijima Motors. His resemblance to Heartland’s King is no coincidence, and I imagine that he recognises the doll in Kokone’s hands immediately, hence being able to recognise her as his granddaughter.

  • Passionate, devoted and brilliant, Ikumi was the first to propose Shijima Motors in exploring self-driven vehicles, but when turned down, she left the company and later married Momotarō, helping him work on a perfected version of the software. This is what Watanabe has been coveting, since he intends to replace Isshin as the chairman of Shijima Motors, and his success with self-driving vehicles at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will pave the way for his succession.

  • The final incursion into Heartland is done without warning and the revelation that Bewan was planning to betray the King roughly correspond with events of the real world. The chaotic nature of things hints at the climax of Hirune Hime arriving, and with the Colossus arriving to wreck havoc, the King resolves to step out onto the battlefield. Bewan’s betrayal is dealt with, after he reveals his intention to replace the King by using a special Enginehead to defeat the Colossus. Here, Kokone appears as herself, no longer seeing herself as Ancien.

  • Peach pilots the Enginehead and destroys the Colossus once and for all in a titanic battle, but Bewan manages to run a curse that threatens to destroy Heartland. This final battle seemed quite disjointed from the remainder of the film: it’s the one place in Hirune Hime that does not seem to relate to events in the real world.

  • Ultimately, Peach realises that there is another direction he can take to defeat the Colossus’ remnants; the remaining Enginehead engages a flight system and launches into the atmosphere, taking the Colossus’ fragments with it. This section is likely imagery for Momotarō coming to an understanding with his internal struggles about whether or not he should give up the algorithms for the self-driving vehicles concept that he and Ikumi had previously developed.

  • The outcome of whether or not Kokone is able to rescue Peach is left ambiguous, and while the messages behind the imagery of the final scenes in Heartland elude me, I cannot deny that they are not visually impressive, especially with respect to the swarms of what remains of the Colossus.

  • Owing to how chaotic things are towards the ending of Hirune Hime, how Kokone got into this situation is likely an exercise left to the viewer’s imagination. The gravity of this situation brings to mind Rick and Morty‘s Concerto, where Rick and Morty find themselves tied to a massive piano and facing certain death. While no Jaguar comes to save Momotarō and Kokone, the autonomous bike, Heart, makes a timely arrival, sparing the two from death.

  • It is this moment that led me to pick a quote from Elon Musk: a well-known entrepreneur and engineer, Musk has been leading developments in sustainable electric vehicles and autonomous systems for his Tesla line of vehicles. A firm advocate of innovation, Musk’s quote definitely applies to Momotarō and his continued love for Ikumi leading him to both continue her vision and care for Kokone in her stead.

  • After the Olympics, Isshin spends more time with his granddaughter and son-in-law on a peaceful summer’s afternoon. Momotarō continues working in his shop, declining Isshin’s offer for a position with Shijima Motors, and with this, Hirune Hime comes to an end. This marks the end of yet another anime film I’ve written about this year, which has seen the likes of Kimi no Na WaKoe no KatachiKono Sekai no Katasumi ni and Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale. It’s been a fantastic year for anime movies, with each film delivering enjoyment in a unique manner.

  • With this post at an end, I leave readers with another beautiful screenshot of summer in Japan, and will conclude this post by looking into the future: Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter begins this week, and I will be doing an episodic review of this anime. Tomorrow is a bank holiday, so I’ll also be looking to catch up with Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! and present my thoughts at the halfway point. In addition, I’m moving quite swiftly through Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and I’m locking in plans to pick up The Division once the Steam Black Friday sale is live.

The sum of a curious story that combines a fantastical setting with the real world, current issues and ideas, solid animation and artwork, and a fantastic soundtrack results in Hirune Hime being an entertaining watch. While it’s definitely not perfect (especially closer to the ending, where some leaps exist in the story as things pick up), the film overall presents a well-crafted story and solid thematic elements that kept me wondering what is to happen next with both Ancien and Kokone. Altogether, Hirune Hime earns a recommendation; it is impressive of how Heartland was presented to correspond with both people and events in the real world. Only by watching both does one gain a sense of who Momotarō, Ikumi, Isshin and Watanabe are within the context of Hirune Hime, and it was immensely rewarding to put these pieces together as a consequences of the two narratives being woven together to augment the viewer’s understanding of what is going on, even fi there are some shortcomings with this approach towards the film’s end. In conjunction with the humour arising from Kokone’s transitions between Heartland and reality, as well as how her friend, Morio, comes into Heartland, Hirune Hime is quite simply, fun; I was immersed for the whole of its runtime, and such films exemplify that stories can definitely be enjoyable and thought-provoking even if their setting is that of a colourful, vividly-portrayed world.

Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale- On The Portrayal of Augmented Reality in Popular Fiction and a Movie Review

“A significant portion of the population… will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day.” –Tim Cook

The recent surge of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies has come about as a consequence of increasingly efficient graphics hardware and portable display devices; my graduate thesis demonstrated the flexibility of my eukaryotic cell simulations in being able to run on platforms as diverse as the Oculus Rift headset and Cave Augmented Virtual Environment (CAVE), both of which offered a unique environment in which to explore a virtual cell. My models were later adapted to run on Microsoft’s HoloLens, an augmented reality platform. Compared to virtual reality, which immerses users in a virtual space, augmented reality projects virtual elements into real space. In my thesis, I concluded that these visualisation technologies would be powerful tools for education, making what was once possibly only in science fiction one step closer to reality. With this being said, these developments remain very much in the experimental stage at present, but in the realm of fiction, technological advancement is much greater in order to facilitate the narrative. Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale is one such work of fiction – a film that premièred in February this year, it follows Kirito and Asuna as they investigate a mysterious phenomenon of memory loss amongst players when they begin encountering SAO bosses in Ordinal Scale, which has seen a rise in popularity after multiple incidents involving VR technologies. It turns out that Tetsuhiro Shigemura, the Augma’s developer, implemented the system in order to collect players for memories related to his late daughter, who lost her life in SAO years previously. Intending to make use of machine learning techniques, Shigemura aims to resurrect his daughter as an AI construct.

Like its predecessors before it, Ordinal Scale‘s strengths lie within its depiction of how a technology might be used within a society: depictions of how ordinary users are drawn to game events in Ordinal Scale mirror phenomenon seen with last year’s Pokémon Go fad, and subtle elements, such as playing AR games and collecting points that can be redeemed for real-world rewards lie within the realm of reality, showing the technology as being one that is quite familiar despite the novel modes of interaction and presentation. Ordinal Scale thus suggests that technologies capable of great popularity and amassing large numbers of users can potentially be harmful for these users if their developers have a malicious or misguided intent – Shigemura had meant for his technology to resurrect his daughter’s consciousness digitally by mining data from the userbase’s collective memories even if it meant killing the users. While not quite as dramatic in reality, programs with a large user count invariably will produce a great quantity of data relating to the user’s habits. The risk that this information can similarly be abused is non-trivial; it gives a great deal of insight as to our interests, intents and desires, and in the present age, it is not surprising that our data can be considered of greater importance than the hardware storing the data. As such, Ordinal Scale illustrates of the risks associated with an increasingly connected world and (albeit in a fanciful manner) what ends large organisations might have for data they collect from their users.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The storyline in Ordinal Scale ends up being something that I felt that I would enjoy more so than the light novel’s Alicization arc; whereas Alicization would have been more or less the same thing in Sword Art Online, really being just a high-stakes version where Kirito is poisoned, the Augma and AR in Ordinal Scale is novel, reflective of the public interest in AR to keep up with current trends. For this review, I will feature thirty screenshots.

  • One aspect about Ordinal Scale that I enjoyed was the fact that AR was so interwoven into social interactions; things such as customer loyalty programmes take advantage of the Ordinal Scale to encourage and reward interaction with their services. Kirito is less-than-enthusiastic about AR at the film’s beginning, feeling that immersion into a completely virtual space is more effective than enhancing real spaces digitally. For clarity’s sake, Ordinal Scale in italics refers to the film itself, while Ordinal Scale in standard formatting refers to the game.

  • Yuuna is presented as an AI construct in the Augma, arriving on battlefields to cheer on participants and perform. While seemingly sophisticated to the point where she is said to be able to pass the Turing Test, I remark that mimicking human behaviours is actually not too far off, especially with the pace that machine learning is advancing. Chat bots using machine learning can simulate surprisingly real conversations, and sentiment analysis algorithms can allow these bots to now respond appropriately based on what a human user is typing in. Coupled with advances in voice recognition and generation, personal digital assistants like Siri and Cortana could begin rivaling Yuuna in complexity within the next ten years.

  • One of the reasons why Kirito is not fond of AR is that for all of his capabilities in virtual spaces, his physicality in the real world is low, and in this battle, his performance is not quite what he is expecting owing to the fact that swinging a weapon around for long periods requires great stamina. While I lift weights, run and do martial arts, it seems that I’ve somewhat pigeon-holed myself for short bursts of power rather than longer endurance events, making me less effective in an AR combat game: bench pressing 120 percent body weight isn’t quite the same as what amounts to running around on a soccer field for half an hour.

  • During the first battle, a mysterious player ranked number two arrives and provides enough assistance to help Asuna eliminate the event boss. This player is Eiji, who works on behalf of Tetsuhiro, and as a SAO player, he regrets not being able to save Yuuna, hence his involvement with the project. His presence in the film is one of its weaker points, being spurred on only by his sense of regret and a personality that certainly won’t lead audiences to symapthise with his motivations. Formerly a member of Blood Oath, Eiji has also sought out other SAO players and enjoys harming them out of a desire to remind players that AR and VR are quite separate.

  • One aspect of Sword Art Online that the critics have frequently discussed is Kirito’s nigh-invulnerability in games and uncommonly quick learning in reality, which leads him to be an asset for government officials looking to investigate the different incidents surrounding AR and VR games. Kirito is a highly competent character with limited flaws; he is similar to Jack Ryan Senior in Tom Clancy’s novels. Tom Clancy further shares strong female partner for the protagonist with Sword Art Online (Cathy Ryan in Tom Clancy novels, and Asuna in Sword Art Online), and Tom Clancy avoids the trap of such hyper-competent protagonists by shifting focus in the narrative to other characters, such as John Clark.

  • Sword Art Online is at its strongest when focus switches between Kirito and the other characters, especially Asuna, whose role and experiences are worth depicting. In a series where the focus is on contemporary technology and their impact on society, I’m actually a little surprised that the only discussions out there about the movie are on this particular frame, specifically how the BD edition has certain advantages over the theatrical releases in that they show Asuna’s Papilla mammaria.

  • Kirito runs into a Yuuna look-alike here, who points him in a direction of interest. With the previous screenshot in mind, I admittedly would prefer folks discuss those elements than attempt their hand at talking about neural networks, a topic that is sufficiently complex that in order for me to adequately write about it, I would likely need to return to university and do a PhD on the topic. One element about some parts of the anime community I’ve never been too fond of is that some discussions fixate on technical details, and the lack of talk on artificial neural networks in discussions surrounding Ordinal Scale suggests that folks who affectedly display their technical knowledge have limits.

  • I bet that an anime fan admitting that they don’t know something at Tango-victor-tango would be a foreign concept. With this in mind, I have sat through some lectures on artificial neural networks (ANN), and while I have no background with the implementation, I can say that ANN are made up of what are conceptually called layers. Information from the input are passed to these layers, and if a particular score is reached, the information is passed to the next layer, similar to how stimuli propagate in biological neurons. Information that reaches the end is subsequently classified. Back in Ordinal Scale, Yuuna and Eiji share a moment in a virtual version of what one of our readers has identified to be the Fairmont Hot Springs in British Columbia.

  • ANN are highly useful for classification functions, and with Tetsuhiro’s goal being the acquisition of memories pertaining to Yuuna from a vast data set, it is appropriate to use ANN for finding these memories and using them to re-create Yuuna’s personality digitally. Ordinal Scale only refers to this as deep learning, of which ANN are one particular approach; the movie wisely chooses to be very general with its descriptions, so it doesn’t misrepresent machine learning as a whole. While waiting for an event to start, Silica grows irritated with Lizbeth and elbows her, causing a minor loss of health.

  • The visual effects in Ordinal Scale are absolutely stunning: like the preceding installments of Sword Art Online, the film is produced by A-1 pictures and is afforded exceptional quality in both artwork and animation. While real-world locations and AR UI elements are fantastic, the film really shines whenever Augma events begin. The reappearance of SAO bosses is described as significant, and during this battle, Asuna is defeated in combat and loses her memories of SAO in the process.

  • Ordinal Scale‘s soundtrack is composed by Yuki Kajiura; I know her best for composing Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s soundtrack, and a closer listen of her compositions find that they share motifs and aural elements. In her best pieces, Kajiuramakes extensive use of choral elements in her songs to create a cold, distant sound that conveys a sense of mystique about a setting or disconnect that characters experience from those around them. Yuuna’s songs are particularly well-written, sounding like vocal versions of Kajiura’s instrumental pieces.

  • The realm of neurological sciences is well outside my discipline, although I can say with reasonable confidence that the technology to artificially manipulate or alter our memories is not an impossibility. Recent studies have found that external information can affect neuron connections and modify how we recall an event, while straight-up suppression or erasing of memories has been somewhat successful in highly controlled experimental settings. We are nowhere near having the medical knowledge or technological implements to selectively remove all memories related to one particular element, however.

  • Kirito is devasatated when Asuna loses her SAO memories, and after deducing that SAO events are somehow related to Asuna’s memory loss, he posts warnings onto forums, asking other players to stay away from SAO bosses. His findings are met with skepticism, and Kirito turns to his old standby of levelling up far enough to investigate what’s going on. He runs into Sinon, who agrees to help him out. Sinon had one of the best stories in Sword Art Online and is also quick to accept Kirito’s relationship with Asuna.

  • The ghostly form of Yuuna appears once again, prompting Kirito to chase down this apparition and ask for answers – the apparition clarifies the location that Kirito is to visit. One of the remarks I have about this review is that I was not inclined to include too many moments with Eiji. He befriended Yuuna in SAO and regrets not being strong enough to save her from death; his motivations have the same depth as that of a puddle formed from a light rainfall, and his enjoyment of causing physical harm to other participants in is petty revenge for having felt so powerless in SAO.

  • When Kirito asks Yui to map out the location the ghostly Yuuna presents, he brings up a map worthy of Tom Clancy’s The Division, a game whose UI is highly unique, being modelled after AR elements. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed the beta to the extent that I did, and after the beta, I decided that the game would be worth playing if there was enough to do from a single-player perspective, without the need to party up with other players. After the game’s release, the amount of content for solo players, coupled with the price tag, dissuaded me from buying it. However, it’s seen a ten dollar drop in price now, and records indicate that it will go for 28 CAD during a Steam Sale.

  • Kirito’s meeting with Tetsuhiro proves unfruitful; Tetsuhiro refuses to answer any questions about the Augma, and only allows Kirito to know that his daughter died in SAO. Kirito later visits Asuna and promises to retrieve her memories. Ever since the second season, Sword Art Online made it clear that Kirito and Asuna are meant to be, and the other girls amongst Kirito’s group of friends have accepted this. Once this particular aspect was established, Sword Art Online was free to pursue more worthwhile stories, and Ordinal Scale is illustrating just how much there is that can be explored once Sword Art Online dispensed with the whole love tesseract concept.

  • Yuuna is voiced by Sayaka Kanda, an actress and singer whose roles in live action films far outnumber her appearances in animated film. Eiji is voiced by Yoshio Inoue. There is a pronounced difference in the Yuuna that performs during events and the one that Eiji speaks with, compared to the Yuuna that appears in front of Kirito when he’s investigating the mystery behind Ordinal Scale. In a one-on-one duel against Eiji later on, Kirito learns the truth behind Eiji’s role in things and Tetsuhiro’s intents. While initially outmatched by Eiji’s superior physicality, Kirito notices a power supply on Eiji’s collar. He disables it and manages to overpower Eiji, suggesting that Eiji’s martial arts capability was only possible because he was hooked up to a powered exoskeleton.

  • I found that the idea of the drones generating enough energy to fry the human brain and kill individuals being scanned was tacked on to the film in an attempt to elevate the stakes for Kirito to overcome – having spent most of the film reinforcing the notion that the Augma was orders of magnitude safer than any VR hardware, this revelation comes out of the blue. While perhaps necessary to convey a sense of urgency, it would have been more effective to suggest that the scanning technology involved energy levels sufficient to damage the brain much earlier on, such as when Asuna lost her memories of SAO. Knowledge of this threat would therefore lead audiences to appreciate what Kirito stands to lose if he should fail in advance of his fight with Eiji.

  • With Eiji neutralised, Kirito rejoins the others as they engage hordes of SAO monsters. In order to stop the data transfer, Kirito is returned into the virtual reality environment and with his friends, prepare to do battle with SAO’s ultimate boss, which never made it into the original game. Despite being outmatched initially, Yui accesses Kirito and company’s old save files, allowing them to fight on even footing with the boss.

  • Ordinal Scale could not count itself as an instalment in Sword Art Online without the main cast returning to their SAO gear for at least one battle in Aincrad. One of my friends wondered, in his words, “how a franchise about internet fighting can go on so long”; Sword Art Online‘s popularity is often attributed to likeable characters and emotional impact, but I personally found these aspects to be passable. For me, technical excellence and social relevance ends up being the reasons why I continue to watch this anime: while the characters are not particularly noteworthy, the world they inhabit and the aural-visual strengths make this a series that I enjoy.

  • While all of the battles in Ordinal Scale were exceptionally well-choreographed and written, the final battle exceeds even those. Unrestricted by the physical laws of the real world, each of the characters have their moment in the limelight as they help defeat the new devilry that is the boss to the 100th floor. One would imagine that by the events of Sword Art Online, each of SAO, ALO and GGO use the same game engine, backend and share assets if players can freely import their profiles from one game into another.

  • In the years since Sword Art Online became popular, technologies such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have arrived on the market, bringing us one step closer to the immersion seen in Sword Art Online; during my attendance of the 2016 Laval Virtual Conference last year, attendees mentioned this fact, although we agreed that the biggest factor that presently precludes widespread adoption of VR headsets is the fact that they still remain quite cumbersome to set up and wield: when I tried the HTC Vive, it took another individual to help me gear up.

  • There’s also a cost factor – the HTC Vive costs 600 USD, but having a PC powerful enough to provide a satisfactory experience is also necessary. By comparison, conventional gaming is much more affordable and convenient: playing Battlefield 1 and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus entails turning on a computer and double-clicking on the play button. Sword Art Online is able to have widespread VR adoption precisely because the headsets are more convenient to use.

  • While I’m not one to play that particular game, if and when I’m asked, Suguha/Leafa is my favourite character of the Sword Art Online franchise; she’s strong-willed and driven despite her internal challenges, and moreover, is able to eventually accept Kirito and Asuna’s relationship. While her story in Sword Art Online‘s ALO narrative is counted as the weakest, there’s an appeal about Suguha’s character that sets her apart from the other characters, and her design ultimately is why I managed to finish the ALO arc.

  • While a solid film, Ordinal Scale is not for all viewers: folks will need to have seen the first and second seasons in order to understand all of the mechanics and characters: Yuuki makes a short return during the final boss fight to boost Asuna’s attack power. A member of the Sleeping Knights, Yuuki was a bed-ridden patient with HIV; she befriended Asuna in Mother’s Rosario, one of Sword Art Online‘s best arcs, and passed away peacefully.

  • Apparently, Kirito’s fondness for swords is a callback to author Reki Kawahara’s own fondness for Halo‘s energy sword; he cites it as being the best weapon in Halo, but I disagree – the M6D pistol, BR-55 Battle Rifle and M329 DMR are the best weapons on account of their versatility. While the energy sword is exceptionally powerful, it is useless at longer ranges. Conversely, the weapons I prefer, the MLG weapons, are useful at all ranges. One of the aspects I’ve not included in this Sword Art Online talk, or any previous talks, are frames where Kirito’s facial features distort as he moves in for a killing blow. I’ve never been too fond of these moments where Kirito appears inhuman.

  • Kirito et al. ultimately succeed in defeating the floor boss and share a conversation with Yuuna, who cancels execution of Tetsuhiro’s program and restores the attendees’ lost SAO memories, including those of Asuna’s. Tetsuhiro is taken in for questioning, and is later recruited by government officials to work on another programme, which will likely form the basis for Alicization. Given the success of Sword Art Online, I imagine that this arc will see an animated form at some point in the future, and with the series continuing, there is certainly not a shortage of materials to adapt.

  • I’m unlikely to ever pick up the Sword Art Online light novels: the writing style in most light novels has never been to my liking because of the limitations of a first person narrative, which precludes insights into other characters’ minds and perspectives. As readers are limited to what the protagonist can see, and their own thoughts, authors must rely on what the protagonist perceives in order to depict the world around them. In the case of light novels, constraints with translating metaphors and other narrative devices into English mean that characters like The Melancholy of Suzumiya‘s Kyon come across as being unnecessarily pendantic, or else, like Kirito, describe things in very a roundabout fashion.

  • I admit that I’ve been spoiled by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and Tom Clancy as far as fiction goes, so while I won’t enjoy light novels, I won’t hold it against folks who do enjoy them. Asuna and Kirito share in a meteor shower as per Kirito’s promise in the film’s final moments. This also brings my take on Ordinal Scale to an end, and overall, I must admit that my initial expectations for the film were not particularly great, but after seeing the film in full, I did enjoy it. With this post over, I’m not too sure what November’s schedule looks like, save the fact that I will definitely be writing about Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter once that lands on November 17.

From a narrative perspective, Ordinal Scale inherits all of the strengths and weaknesses of Sword Art Online; Kirito’s improbable ability to uncover what investigative groups could not and his uncommon talent for overcoming almost any challenge by means of brute force come into play within Ordinal Scale. There’s no point in the film where he is presented as vulnerable, giving audiences no suspense in wondering if Kirito will figure out a clever solution to his situation and no sense of elation when such a moment does occur. Similarly, villains with exceptionally thin motivations also dominate the film – while one sympathises with Shigemura’s situation, it is dubious that the Augma could have been approved for sales without the input of regulatory bodies. Eiji’s reason for working with Shigemura is similarly shallow, reducing his role to that of a mere puppet despite the threat that the movie attempts to portray him as presenting to the protagonists. While characterisation in Sword Art Online has always been lacking, Ordinal Scale does address some of the weaknesses its predecessors possessed. Kirito’s interactions with the others in the film, especially Asuna, were executed to a satisfactory extent. Further to this, the audio-visual aspects of Ordinal Scale are of a superb quality. The sound effects for combat, especially the sword-play, are as visceral as Star Wars’ seismic charges (which is high praise), and Yuki Kajiura’s soundtrack is phenomenal. Overall, Ordinal Scale earns a weak recommendation: it’s certainly not a bad film and will be enjoyable for fans of Sword Art Online, but audiences will have to accept that while it does exceptionally well what it does well, Ordinal Scale continues to share the same shortcomings as earlier instalments.