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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.

Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (In This Corner of The World): A Review and Full Recommendation

“Human beings are remarkably resilient. When you think about it, our species has been teetering upon the edge of the existential cliff since Hiroshima. In short, we endure.” —Rick Yancey

A young Japanese girl with a keen eye for sketching, Suzu, marries a man named Shūsaku after he arrives in Eba, Hiroshima, to propose to her. She moves to the town of Kure with him and begins living with his family as the Second World War rages on. When American bombers begin conducting bombing raids Japan, forcing the construction of air raid shelters and rationing, Suzu continues to live her life to the best of her ability, spending time with Keiko and her daughter, Harumi. She is visited by Tetsu Mizuhara, who had run into Suzu back when they were students. He had fallen in love with her, and later is assigned to serve on board the Aoba. As the air raids intensify, Suzu sees Harumi die in front of her when a delay-action bomb detonates. She survives but loses her right hand, grows depressed and longs to return to Hiroshima to be with her family. One day, while speaking to Keiko, she and Keiko notice a bright flash and a mushroom cloud coming from Hiroshima. She dissolves into tears upon learning of the Japanese surrender. In the aftermath, American soldiers arrive to assist the citizens, and Suzu visits Hiroshima, learning that her sister, Sumi, is suffering from radiation sickness: their mother and father perished in the atomic blast. She runs into Shūsaku while in Hiroshima and find a little girl orphaned by the atomic bomb; they agree to take her in, and Suzu slowly rediscovers her love for life, raising the little girl as her own. When the United States dropped Little Boy in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the world had been at war for nearly six years: the Axis powers had fallen, but Imperial Japan had continued to fight. Faced with the possibility of an extensive land invasion, the American leadership decided to put their faith in the atomic bomb, which had been successfully tested for the first time twenty-one days earlier. Three days later, the second atomic bomb, a plutonium implosion weapon code-named Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki, and Japan surrendered on August 15. The history books and documentaries I’m familiar with present the story from the Allied perspective, and the actions of the Imperial Japan’s military forces remain unjustifiable (especially considering their atrocities in Manchuria and Southeast Asia); it seems that the old phrase, that victory is written by the victors, very much hold true. Consequently, In This Corner of The World becomes a wonderfully moving film about the civilian perspective of the war and their struggles to survive as the war turned against Japan, presenting a perspective that is quite unique and illuminating.

Resilience and perserverence in maintaining a positive spirit underlies the messages of In This Corner of The World. In this film, the depiction of Suzu’s life before, during and after World War Two is broken up into snapshots into the more memorable moments of Suzu’s life. It is largely gentle, humourous and ordinary in nature, only shifting in tone as American bombers begin hammering Japan later into the war, and even then, Suzu’s efforts to maintain routine and find happiness in everyday things continue. Reduced rations lead her to cook more creatively to keep her new family in good spirits, and even when the air-raid siren sounds, she maintains a structured process to maintain her home’s safety before retreating to a shelter. Through it all, Suzu continues sketching and drawing, providing her a means of expression and escape even as American forces intensify their raids. Remarkably, these simple things in Suzu’s life confer upon her a considerable degree of stability and focus, allowing her to remain strong during difficult times. It is not until she loses her right hand in an explosion and watches Harumi die in front of her that her optimistic disposition is shaken, and at the movie’s climax, she bawls her eyes out after learning of the Allied victory. However, with unwavering support from Shūsaku and the fact that the occupying American forces prove quite friendly, she slowly regains her old outlooks, to the point where she takes in an orphan and raises her as family, suggesting that resilience is in part a result of having support from family on top of being individually-driven. With the support of those around her, Suzu comes to find happiness again in the days after the war has ended.

Aside from its concise thematic component, In This Corner of The World presents a distinct art style that brings to mind the approaches taken in The Tale of Princess Kaguya: gentle colours and clean character designs dominate In This Corner of The World, which has a very timeless feel to it. From the vividness of colours in the landscape to minor details inside the Hojo residence, In This Corner of The World illustrates the seeming normalcy and resilience in residents amidst the war. The entire film feels like a moving watercolour, allowing for boundaries between Suzu’s drawings and their reality to be blurred: the movie’s events are told with Suzu’s narration, and her imagination is woven seamlessly with her recollections of what’s happened. I’ve long held that a simpler art style with lower saturation really allows for the film’s visuals to focus on character motions and dialogue; this certainly holds true in In This Corner of The World. Aside from natural-sounding voice acting, one of the elements that In This Corner of The World captures in its characters are their facial expressions, which do much to convey how Suzu and the others are feeling even in the absence of words. I’m especially fond of how Suzu tilts her head whenever she’s embarrassed or hesitant, for instance. The combination of aural-visual elements in In This Corner of The World are of an exceptional standard and adds a sense of realism to the characters that serves to further draw in viewers into the story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before delving into this post further, I note that there will be forty screenshots rather than the usual thirty for In This Corner of The World owing to the amount of content that can be discussed, and further to this, I won’t be placing an emphasis on the Imperial Japanese Army or Navy hardware simply because, aside from a minor role, they do not figure too much compared to the human side of things. The film opens with Suzu riding a boat and recollecting her encounter with a monster of sorts to Sumi, her sister, and provides a vivid sketch of what she’s seen, including a boy close to her age when she falls into the monster’s basket by mistake.

  • Suzu’s family business is involved in the gathering and picking of nori (海苔), an edible seaweed of the genus Pyropia. The Japanese have a profound understanding of the cultivation and harvesting of nori, which is used widely in Japanese cuisine for wrapping sushi and onigiri, as well as garnishing soups. In her childhood, Suzu is close to her sister, Sumi, but neither of them are fond of their older brother, Yōichi, who constantly belittles Suzu. Yōichi is later killed in action and supposedly was so mangled, authorities send back a stone in place of his ashes, although Suzu and Sumi don’t appear to express much in response to news of his death.

  • By her own admission, Suzu is prone to daydreaming, but her tendency to daydream and vividly recall them probably led to the development of her art skills. Suzu’s enjoyment of sketching is a pivotal part of her character, and the extent of her skills are seen when Tetsu appears one evening to give Suzu a pencil, also asking her to help him with a class assignment. She creates a beautiful reproduction of the ocean, describing the froth of waves as rabbits. As it turns out, Tetsu is going through a difficult time upon learning that his older brother died in a ferry accident.

  • The Urano family hails from Hiroshima, specifically the Eba area. Located three kilometers from the epicenter of Little Boy’s airburst, Eba is a part of the Naka-ku (lit. “central ward”) district. Suzu is said to be extraordinarily ordinary, and is voiced by Rena Nōnen, an actress. One of the joys about films such as In This Corner of The World is the fact that female characters have realistic voices, standing in contrast with the squeaky voices seen in things like Girls und Panzer or GochiUsa.

  • Tetsu runs into Suzu one day, and in dialogue here, it appears that Tetsu has some feelings for Suzu, feeling irritated that Suzu is to marry someone she’d not met, and when Suzu remarks that Sumi will be more beautiful, Tetsu refutes this. He is assigned to the Aoba, a heavy cruiser that participated in combat at the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Savo Island. Heavily damaged by the submarine USS Bream, the Aoba would return to port and was sunk in Kure’s harbour in 1945.

  • It turns out that the boy in the monster’s basket was Shūsaku. His recollections of the day are different than Suzu, who has a tendency to daydream and so, remembers things differently. Suzu agrees to marry Shūsaku and finds in him an honest, stoic and devoted husband who’s always there to support her. Originally working in a civilian court, he is transferred into the military and later made to fight as the war intensifies.

  • In the eternal struggle between showers and baths, I’m still firmly on the side of #TeamShower, even after my experiences in a Japanese onsen a half-year ago. Granted, it is immensely comfortable to be completely immersed in hot water, which gives a sensation akin to having all of one’s stresses and worries evaporate, but ultimately, a shower conserves more water and is more effective at removing dirt and debris from one’s body. This is why onsen mandate that people wash up before entering the waters.

  • The unique art style in In This Corner of The World means that the characters look much younger than they are, and standing in sharp contrast with the art styles of anime I am wont to watching, have a much more classical, timeless feel that brings to mind the approach of The Tale of Princess Kaguya. While not a Studio Ghibli work, In This Corner of The World is nonetheless animated and presented with finesse: it is a film that will withstand the test of time.

  • Shūsaku’s family is generally accepting of Suzu: San is Shūsaku’s mother and bears a compassionate disposition, helping Suzu look after the hosue, while Entaro is Shūsaku’s father and is an engineer for Hiro Naval Arsenal. Shūsaku’s sister, Keiko, is initially quite hostile towards Suzu, regarding her in a negative light and clashes with her, but in spite of this, Suzu takes things in stride and does her best to get along with her.

  • Suzu carries a sketchbook with her and occasionally takes the time to sketch out the scenery around her. She runs into a woman named Rin Shiraki while walking through a part of Kure she’s unfamiliar with and strikes up a fast friendship with her, using her sketching skills to draw out a watermelon and some sweets. Because Suzu’s sketches closely match with the art style seen in In This Corner of The World, one can imagine that she is remarkably talented with her craft. The ages have changed substantially, and these days, one can create highly intricate drawings on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil.

  • There’s a certain charm in watching Suzu cook for her new family with the ingredients available to her. In her narration, she explains in detail the process behind her cooking methods, during which she takes whatever is accessible and does her best to create dishes that drive a sense of normalcy. Devising a routine and trying to do things as normally as possible is Les Stroud’s main suggestion for survival during difficult situations: in Survivorman, he explains that this is the reason why he takes the time to plan things out and attempt to do things as he would back home, and one of the first things he does is usually to create a fire from which he can warm himself and cook with.

  • Suzu’s setup here, with the dandelions, violets and sardines further brings to mind Les Stroud’s survival experiences in the Colorado Rockies, where he managed to catch some fish and coupled it with greens to make a survival meal, cooking it to mirror how one normally eats while at home. While Les Stroud is out in the wilderness, simulating survival situations in Survivorman, Suzu is living in wartime Japan. Despite the differences in their scenarios, very similar mindsets are utilised to maintain morale: Suzu’s cooking does much to keep the Hojo family happy even as resources begin dwindling.

  • The Hojo family settles down to dinner here, and despite the moody lighting, the atmosphere is a peaceable one. Things change shortly after Keiko’s arrival. Numerous scenes of the family during dinner are shown throughout In This Corner of The World, emphasising that meal times form stability amidst trying times. While In This Corner of The World released in theatres around a year ago and only became available back in September, I finished this movie just this week with what is known as the “Notorious PIG” poutine, which is an offering from the Big Cheese Poutinerie. Described as a concoction of pulled pork with BBQ sauce, maple-smoked bacon and Italian sausage, the poutine I bought was not merely topped with the meats, but packed with an inch-thick layer that proved both delicious and enduring: it took nearly ten minutes of eating my way through the wall of meats before I reached the poutine underneath.

  • Keiko’s daughter, Harumi, is only six, but remarkably well-versed on Japanese naval vessels. She greatly enjoys spending time with Suzu, who introduces to her the cumulonimbus clouds form of atmospheric instability and bring about thunderstorms. I’ve heard that when I was much younger, I could memorise the phone numbers of various companies and services that I’d seen on TVB commercials, so this must be a part of the developmental process when children take on a keen interest in a particular topic. I’m now characterised by an inability to memorise something as simple as a 4-digit code and have taken to writing down whatever I need to recall.

  • After Suzu is caught sketching naval vessels and accused of being a spy by the kenpeitai, a secret police akin to the Nazi’s SS, she is let off with a warning. When the kanpeitai leave, the whole of the Hojo family burst into laughter at the ludicrous situation; Suzu’s nature is unbefitting of that of a spy, and how seriously the kanpeitai presented themselves was also mocked. In particular, Keiko spent most of the afternoon fighting off a fit of laughter while the secret police had been present, only erupting in hysterics after they depart.

  • The landscape around Kure is beautifully departed, and the harbour, with its warships, is just visible in this still. The verdant blues and greens are a world apart now from local scenery: I took advantage of the fading-but-still-pleasant weather yesterday to hike the Ink Pots in Banff National Park. The trail through Johnston Canyon was covered in a thin layer of snow, and despite the ergonomics provided by new hiking shoes, the path was quite slippery. In the mountains during this time of year, snowfalls are not uncommon, but fortunately, the weather warmed up as the day progressed. The ink pots are reached by a 5.9 kilometre hike with an elevation gain of 335 metres and takes around two hours to complete one-way.

  • One afternoon, Suzu decides to visit Shūsaku, but before heading off, is treated to a hilarious lecture from Keiko that is sped up for great comedic effect: Keiko finds it appalling that Suzu is considering going into town as unkempt as she is and forces her to clean herself up. The increased pitch comes from the fact that the sound waves making up the audio track are shortened into a higher frequency ƒ, defined in Hz, is described by the relationship ƒ = 1/T, where T is the period in seconds. We are shortening the period T, so frequency increases, resulting in a higher-pitched sound. In In This Corner of The World, one imagines that Suzu regards Keiko’s manner in a light-hearted manner, and this is reinforced by the expression on Suzu’s face.

  • Described as a moderately difficult, the hike up to the Ink Pots was a bit tricky since the snow and ice made the inclines slippery. However, when we arrived in the meadows where the Ink Pots are, we were treated to a beautiful sight: there are five mineral water pools here, each coloured slightly differently because of their sediment content, and while a few had frozen over, one remained unfrozen, with its blue-green waters brilliant under a clearing sky. Another pool with darker waters also had yet to freeze, underneath a mountain in the distance whose upper slopes were covered in snow. Back in In This Corner of The World, Suzu meets up with Shūsaku at his workplace and the two set off after a friendly exchange when Shūsaku asks about Suzu’s health; owing to the makeup she’s donned, she has a distinctly pale appearance.

  • Suzu and Shūnsaku reminisce about how they’d met in Hiroshima years previously. It is a stroke of fate that Shūnsaku remembers their original meeting here, which Suzu only recounts in a dramatised account. After exploring the meadows around the Ink Pots, we turned around and returned back down the trail. Snow-covered during the chillier morning, warming temperatures cleared the trails, making the journey back down much easier than the ascent. We returned home late mid-afternoon and stepped out for dinner at a local Cantonese restaurant, which encompassed 沙拉骨 and 金沙蝦, along with a stir-fry known as 小炒王, which includes beef, chicken, scallops, shrimp, celery, beans, peppers and thinly-sliced Lotus rhizomes (蓮藕, Cantonese lein ngau), as well as crispy chicken – perfect after a long day’s hike.

  • Tetsu comes to visit one day, drawing Suzu’s irritation. Despite his brusque manner drawing Suzu’s annoyance mid-dinner, Shūnsaku allows him to stay in a storehouse on the family property and encourages Suzu to spend time with him, understanding that Tetsu’s time is likely short on account of his transfer to the Aoba. He admits to falling in love with Suzu and the two reminisce briefly before he departs.

  • One of the scenes I’ve not mentioned yet is when Harumi and Suzu notice a column of ants getting into their sugar jar; sugar became a highly valued ingredient, and to keep insects from it, they decide to place it in a bowl floating in a bucket of water. However, an accident results in the sugar being knocked into the water, leading to a dejected Suzu and Harumi. It is possible to recover the sugar using crystallisation, but considering the amount of water it was dissolved into, such an endeavour would have been tricky. One day, while sharing a conversation about Harumi’s everyday experiences at school, American planes appear. Their attacks were intended to damage military installations here, and in In This Corner of The World, F4U Corsairs are depicted firing rockets at ground targets. These are likely the HVAR “Holy Moses”, capable of punching through 1.22 metres of concrete and saw extensive use in the Pacific Theatre against transports, pillboxes and other stationary ground targets.

  • Suzu visits Entaro, who was injured and went missing after an American bombing raid on the Hiro Naval Arsenal, but is shown to be treated for his injuries at a hospital. Suzu brings Harumi along for the visit, and Harumi immediately wanders off, speaking with other sailors. After the visit ends, American raids begin yet again. At this point in the war, America had begun targeting Kure, as remaining IJN vessels were still harboured here, and owing to the harbour’s depth precluding the use of torpedoes, variable time-fused bombs were used, instead. During the raids, the Aoba is hit by four bombs and, with almost every ship in the IJN disabled save the Nagato, the Japanese naval presence was almost completely eliminated by this point.

  • Suzu hears warnings from firefighters nearby about the possibility of unexploded munitions making the area unsafe. At least one of the special bombs dropped by B-29s land in a seaside path, and detonates right beside Harumi, killing her instantly. In the aftermath, Suzu is critically injured and loses her right hand. During the course of In This Corner of The World, American fighters are shown strafing civilians, including a near-miss that very nearly kills Suzu. I did not find any records that indicate deliberate strafing of civilians during my brief search, but numerous accounts of US aircraft strafing airfields are found.

  • In the aftermath of Harumi’s death, Suzu reels from both the loss of Keiko’s child, whom she had grown very close with, and her right hand, which had allowed her the one escape and release from the difficulties she and her family faced during war. Keiko feels Suzu to be responsible for Harumi’s death, and wrought with guilt, Suzu falls into depression. She slowly recovers from injury, but the effects on her mental health are much more deep-seated.

  • Suzu’s depression is occasionally offset with a sense of anger and helplessness: when another firebombing leads to a bomblet landing in her house, Suzu attempts to put the fire out in a fit of desparation. To see an ever-optimistic character succumb to despair is always painful to watch, even in the context of fiction. One of the aspects in In This Corner of The World was seeing how the characters respond to the constant threat of air-raids, and one of the worst aspects about air raids are psychological: not knowing when the bombers will appear would have been emotionally taxing, and while the Hojo family develop a procedure to safeguard themselves, the US air attacks were somewhat unpredictable. By comparison, The Blitz in London failed to have any psychological effects on Londoners, who had grown accustomed to bombs falling as though it were rain and reacted accordingly.

  • In the account of P-51 pilot Captain Jerry Yellin, he mentions that his and his fellow pilots’ primary concern was carrying out their directives during the war. From the skies above, he never gave much thought to the people below, at the receiving end of the weapons, or their suffering. However, when he visited Japan some years later, he was astonished with their culture and feels that it is possible for formerly bitter enemies to become friends. Propaganda on all sides of World War II’s participants presented their enemies as monsters and animals to motivate the fighting spirit – allowing empathy and compassion would have eliminated this willingness to commit to the war effort, attesting to the unpleasant tendency in war to dehumanise one’s opponents.

  • Suzu and Sumi share a laugh when Suzu prods into the latter’s love life, when Sumi mentions that she’s eying an officier in the armed forces. Suzu has long felt Sumi to be more beautiful – this is not immediately apparent in the art style of In This Corner of The World, and indeed, Sumi bears great resemblance to Suzu, especially when embarrassed or flustered, barring the fact that Suzu has become more pale since she lost her right hand. Even so, Suzu occasionally finds joy in the small things in life and attempts to live to her fullest anyways.

  • On the morning of August 6, Suzu and Keiko are sharing a conversation, where Keiko apologises for having blamed Suzu for Harumi’s death, when a bright flash fills their room, followed by a shockwave. Kure and Hiroshima are separated by a distance of 18 kilometres as the mole digs; when the shockwave reaches the Hojo residence, the entire family steps outside to find a vast mushroom cloud filling the sky where Hiroshima is. When Little Boy was deployed at Hiroshima, Japan’s leadership were befuddled at what could have happened; as the atomic bomb’s presence was secret at the time, no one was sure as to what weapon this was. In This Corner of The World chooses to not depict the horrific effects of the blast, only showing its aftermath.

  • With an estimated blast yield of 15 kilotons, Little Boy flattened everything within 1.6 kilometres of the point of detonation, and started a firestorm 3.2 kilometres across. The airburst detonation reduced the radioactive fallout on the ground, but the gamma radiation emitted led to radiation sickness in exposed individuals in a 1.3 kilometre radius around the blast. People would have been vapourised by the intense heat, leaving nothing but shadows baked into the ground, and survivors further away would have suffered horrific burns and injuries, as well as the effects of acute radiation poisoning. Later, a black rain fell in Hiroshima, but this would have offered limited relief in halting the firestorms.

  • After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, American propaganda aimed to minimise reports of the atomic bombs’ effects on civilians, instead, showing only the mushroom clouds and the possibility of deploying additional atomic weapons to bring the war to an end. At this point in time, American sentiments leaned towards the total elimination of the Japanese, and a film such as In This Corner of The World would be unthinkable. At present, our society has been more open about the horrors of warfare, and seeing the lives of fellow human beings subject to these horrors have inspired folks to promote peace. While the events of In This Corner of The World are fictional, the film strives to maintain realism in depicting the lives of the Japanese during the war.

  • At noon on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito released a recording announcing Japan’s intention to open dialogues with the Allied powers and accept the Potsdam Declaration. Delivered in Classical Japanese, most listeners were not certain of whether or not Japan was intending to surrender. In In This Corner of The World, the Hojo family meets the news with resignation and sorrow, wondering what Japan under American occupation would be like, and Suzu is driven over the edge, demanding that the country can continue fighting on much as she did. It’s the strongest expression of emotion from Suzu in the whole of In This Corner of The World.

  • Suzu’s anger gives in to sorrow; at the film’s climax, she cries her eyes out for everything that has happened since the war begin, from the death of Harumi and the loss of her right hand (by extension, her hobby), to all of the destruction and losses she’s seen around her. The end of an era, however, marks the beginning of another: in the aftermath of Japan’s surrender, Americans quickly arrive to help the citizens, and began driving the country towards political and economic reform. When the American occupation ended in 1952 with the San Francisco Treaty, control of Japan was fully returned, and the nation would become a major economic power in the world, characterised by their exceptional economic growth and high technology.

  • I’ve seen remarks that In This Corner of The World is a love story, although I hold that it is not a love story in the traditional sense – In This Corner of the World deals with love for a family and love for life itself rather than romantic love, and the conflict in the film stems from Suzu doing her utmost to retain a love for life during the most trying of times. The romantic elements in this movie are secondary, and as such, I’ve chosen not to delve into this particular topic at all; it is simply eclipsed by other elements within the movie.

  • In This Corner of The World made extensive use of photographs and accounts from the period to accurately reproduce damage locales seen in the film. Incendiary bombs were particularly effective in Japan owing to the wooden construction of buildings, and some of the worst casualties came from firestorms that arose when fires merged into conflagrations of gargantuan proportion. While wooden buildings were popular in North America, great fires in major cities prompted officials to rebuild with sandstone.

  • Suzu offers Keiko some food given by American soldiers and are surprised at how flavourful it is, compared to their seemingly-tasteless cooking. Later, Suzu will extract salt from seawater and use it to season their food, bringing back some life to her cooking; this simple act signifies the gradual return to normalcy following the war. By this point in time, Keiko is no longer resentful towards Suzu.

  • Save Suzu and Sumi, the whole of the Urano family perishes from the atomic bomb and its effects. Here, Suzu visits Sumi, who is afflicted with acute radiation poisoning. My first exposure to Hiroshima and the atom bomb was when I was in my second year of primary school: in Canada, reading Eleanor Coerr’s “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” is a mandatory part of our education, being a fictionalised account of Sadako Sasaki, who survived the detonation at Hiroshima. She later developed leukemia (a cancer of the bone marrow) and was brought in for treatment, encountering a roommate who encouraged her to fold a thousand paper cranes for a miracle, but succumbed to her cancer and died at the age of twelve.

  • Today, the Peace Dome in Hiroshima remains a reminder of the risks and dangers associated with nuclear weapons. In this post, I continued to refer to the bomb as an “atomic” device rather than a nuclear device: the reason for this is that a nuclear bomb can either be atomic or hydrogen. Atomic bombs operate purely by fission, where the nuclei of a large, unstable atom (usually Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239) are split, creating a chain reaction. Hydrogen bombs generate their destructive power through fusion: a fission device is used to generate high temperatures that allow hydrogen fusion to occur, and while hydrogen fusion itself is clean, these bombs generate fallout because of their initial fission components.

  • I managed to last most of In This Corner of The World with only the ol’e sand in my eyes, but the film’s final moments proved to be sufficient to change that. A woman and her daughter are seen wandering the ruined cityscape of Hiroshima. The former has sustained severe injuries, with her arm blown off and has large glass shards embedded in her right leg. She later succumbs to her injuries, and her daughter clings to her, even desperately fighting off the flies and maggots resulting from decomposition. There is something about the implications of this scene that hit me in ways that even the climax of the film did not. This sort of footage of atomic bomb victims was outright banned, and the American public was thus unaware of the extent of what atomic weapons were capable of: most Americans felt that it would be acceptable to continue using atomic bombs against Japan.

  • The world has changed dramatically now, and I’m thankful that for the most part, the world is aware of the importance of nuclear disarmament. While visiting Sumi in Hiroshima, Suzu runs into Shūsaku, and they encounter the orphan, who’s looking worse for wear. They decide to take her in, and after giving her a good bath, the credits show her as growing up in the Hojo household, while Suzu herself has found another reason for happiness.

  • This review finally reaches an end, and I would count In This Corner of The World a masterpiece, a 10 of 10. Even among the giants released in 2016, including Kimi no na wa and Koe no Katachi, I feel that Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni stands ahead for its overall execution and delivery: while perhaps not quite as impressive from a visual perspective, the narrative and messages are of a very high quality. This post was completed quite quickly by my usual standards for its size, taking a total of five hours to complete from first draft to hitting the publish button. With this post finished, October is very nearly over, and there are only a handful more posts on the horizon for this month, including a talk for Girls’ Last TourWake Up, Girls! New Chapter! after three, and a talk about Battlefield 1 a year after I bought it.

My verdict for In This Corner of The World is simple: it’s a strong recommendation to anyone interested in seeing World War Two from a different perspective, one without any propaganda or political undertones. The story is entirely focused on Suzu and her everyday life prior to, during and after the war, and although simple from a thematic perspective, nonetheless presents an incredibly moving story that is as powerful as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Whereas Dunkirk conveyed an overwhelming sense of unease and suspense as Allied soldiers prepared to evacuate ahead of advancing German forces, In This Corner of The World presents the Suzu and the Hojo family as ordinary people. As viewers see more of their daily lives, they come to empathise with them; by the film’s end, I dissolved in tears. Ultimately, while I’ve always been a staunch proponents of the Allied Forces, I find that in modern warfare, the efficiency that humans can cause harm to one another means that there is not always a victor, and moreover, war is certain to lead to suffering. As In This Corner of The World demonstrates, civilians are unfortunately made targets of undue suffering, brought on by their leaders’ decisions. In spite of the horrors of warfare, In This Corner of The World demonstrates the nature of human resilience, and ultimately, our desire to survive and endure also brings about acts of great good in helping one another out during difficult times. I am immensely grateful to have watched In This Corner of The World: the film originally released in October of last year, only coming to home release back in September, but the wait was well worth it, and I would think that folks will find this film enjoyable the same way Dunkirk is enjoyable, regardless of one’s familiarity with anime.

A Photogrammetry Exercise in Kimi no Na wa (Your Name): Determining the location of Taki’s Apartment and a fly-through from Tokyo to Hida

“Where is Taki’s apartment located?”

This question was posed by one of our readers shortly after Your Name began screening in Japan, and at the time, information about the film, especially amongst the English language anime community, was limited. Consequently, when I received the question, I wondered if it were even possible to answer it accurately. For one, metro Tokyo is the world’s largest city, and even Tokyo Proper has a surface area of 2187.66 km² and a population of 13 617 445 as of 2016. By comparison, Calgary has a tenth of the population, and it’s already tricky enough to find things here — it took me ages to realise that Pure Pwnage‘s Lannagedon event was hosted at the Bowness Community Centre, for instance. However, the challenge was an intriguing one, and I began wondering how to go about solving it. When I recalled an episode of The Raccoons back in July, I felt that I had my answer: in the episode “Search and Rescue”, Bert Raccoon and Cedric Sneer go looking for a meteorite that lands on Jack Pine Island in the Evergreen Forest. Assuming that recovering the meteorite is a day trip, the two do not leave any information behind as to where they went, and when their raft floats off from the island, the two find themselves stranded. Despite the effort of their friends, who search the Evergreen Forest through the night for them, the two are not found until the next morning. After Lady Baden-Baden reveals that she saw the meteorite, Professor Smedley-Smythe is able to use triangulation to work out where the impactor landed, leading to Bert and Cedric’s rescue. The concept of triangulation is a reasonably simple one: if there are at least two known points, then the location of an unknown point can be determined by forming a triangle by means of the existing points. The version in The Raccoons is the simplest one: the baseline distance and angles are not used, as a map is available. However, slightly more involved forms allow for a distance to the unknown point to be determined provided that one knows the baseline distance between two observes and the relative angle of this baseline to their line of sight. In this exercise, I apply a variation of the technique, plus several landmarks in the Tokyo, to form the starting point for answering this question.

Locating Taki’s Apartment

  • Figure I: Taki viewing Tiamat’s fragment splitting up in the eastward direction. The Yoyogi Tower and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building are highlighted in this image for clarity. All of the images in this post can be expanded for viewing at full resolution.

  • Figure II: A section of the Tokyo skyline seen in Your Name. Here, I’ve highlighted some of the buildings visible in the image. Landmarks with a red label were used in my preliminary estimates to narrow down which area Taki’s apartment is located in.

  • Figure III: Approximation of where the skyline in Figure II might be viewed from. Using the four landmarks and roughly their angles, the area one can begin looking for Taki’s apartment is highlighted in blue, enclosed by the sightlines. All of the map data in this discussion are sourced from Google Maps and have been modified to improve clarity.

From footage in Your Name, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and the nearby Yoyogi Building is visible from Taki’s apartment (Fig I). In the image, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is right of the Yoyogi building. Inspection of a map allows us to work out that Taki’s apartment must be east of these buildings. The second set of points we can use can be derived from the fact that Taki is seen leaving home with Tokyo’s skyline visible on the horizon (Fig II, Fig IV, Fig V, Fig VI, Fig VII). Visible in the frame’s left-hand-side is Akasaka Palace, accommodations for visiting state dignitaries. Tokyo Tower is also visible, along with the Embassy of Canada as the frame pans right. Thus, we can use Tokyo Tower and the Embassy of Canada as the first of the known points for our calculations: in the images, the Tokyo Tower is left of the Embassy of Canada, so we can reason out that the scene is taken from a point north of these buildings. The estimated sight lines allow us to constrain Taki’s apartment to an area in Shinanomachi, Wakaba, Yotsuyasakamachi (Fig III). These are densely-built up neighbourhoods, and while we’ve worked out roughly where Taki’s apartment could be, exploring the area bit-by-bit would still take a while. Fortunately, we have two more points that makes the calculations easier to approximate: Akasaka State Property is visible in the frame shown when Taki (Mitsuha) is looking over Tokyo. We use this to further constrain the possible region to an area west of the Akasaka State Property (Fig II). The second point is rather more subtle – there’s a small apartment complex called the Meiji Park Heights, and it is visible in the image’s lower right hand corner (Fig VII, VIII). This apartment is located southwest of Taki, so using the same technique and tracing backwards, we find a line that passes over a community centre north of the Chou Main Line (Fig IX).

  • Figure IV: Identifying buildings visible from the perspective seen in Your Name. When we zoom in to the area highlighted in Figure III and rotate the camera, we find a distinct set of landmarks not dissimilar to the buildings seen in Figure II. I use some of the more distinct skyscrapers in the image as comparisons.

  • Figure V: The equivalent spot from Figure IV in Your Name. Amongst the buildings I’ve looked at include the 43-story Park Court Akasaka: The Tower, a residential complex that was completed in 2009, the Sogetsu Concert Hall and the Embassy of Canada. The Embassy of Canada was chosen as a point primarily because of its distinct roof. This building was completed in 1991.

  • Figure VI: Panning east from the perspective in Figure IV. When the camera pans right, other buildings become visible, including Tokyo Midtown, a mixed-use building that is, with its height of 248 meters (814 feet), the second-tallest in Tokyo. By comparison, Brookfield Place East of Calgary will have a completed height of 247 meters (810 feet). Other buildings highlighted for their visibility include the International Medical Welfare University Graduate School, Honda Welcome Plaza Aoyama and the TK Minami-Aoyama Building.

  • Figure VII: The equivalent spot from Figure IV in Your Name. With the number of familiar landmarks visible in Your Name, we can say that Taki’s apartment must be located close to the Akasaka Imperial Property. There is one final structure that is present when the camera pans, and this is the Meiji Park Heights, with its distinct roof and windows.

  • Figure VIII: A closer view of Meiji Park Heights. Despite its unassuming appearance from 3D imagery, the building houses spacious, luxury apartment units and is conveniently located to two train stations, as well as the Akasaka grounds. With two-bedroom units that have a total area of close to 1125 square feet (110.41 square meters), rentals start at 350000 Yen per month (3900 CAD), more than double that of an equivalent in Calgary (1500 CAD per month).

  • Figure IX: Using the Akasaka State Property and Meiji Park Heights to constrain the possible region of Taki’s apartment further. The Akasaka State Property was visible in Figure II, and together with the Meiji Park Heights, allow us to say that Taki’s apartment must be in a narrow area where both structures are visible. Using the sightlines running east-west, the possible location of Taki’s apartment can be searched for in the highlighted area.

We now have an area small enough so that we can start looking around manually, and immediately north of the community centre are some apartment complexes. We are left with several options: Taki lives in an apartment with an outdoor hallway, which allows us to eliminate a larger apartment nearby with windows facing south, as well as a green-roofed apartment (Fig X, XI). Adjacent to the green-roofed apartment is a slightly taller apartment, and while it has south-facing balconies, this is our candidate, located at the address 〒160-0011 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Wakaba, 1 Chome-22-15. The building itself is called 離宮ハイム (Rikyū haimu), and from details in the film, Taki lives on the sixth floor. Despite the descrepancies in design, especially with respect to the placement of balconies and the angle of sunlight seen in the film, when we descend down for a closer look along a road, it becomes apparent that we’ve located Taki’s apartment. Details in the road he’s seen running along, both to school and to meet up with Miki for his date, line up with what is visible from the site’s real world location (Fig XII, XIII, XIV, XV). Without the use of too much trigonometry, we’ve found Taki’s apartment with some reasoning, a bit more guesswork and liberal use of Google Maps. I remark that a more precise and sophisticated technique can be applied here: because we have the heights of the Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, clever use of a clinometer and the screenshots can also allow one to approximate the distance to the buildings and determine where the screenshots are roughly located.

  • Figure X: Highlighting Taki’s apartment and the route he’s seen taking to school and on his date with Miki. Taki’s apartment is highlighted in blue, while the route we see him take is given in red. From exploring the area given in Figure IX, Taki’s apartment was located in the space of around two minutes.

  • Figure XI: Corridor outside of Taki’s aparment. Close inspection of the unit numbers find that Taki lives on the sixth floor, although his apartment has a covered corridor compared to the unit located in the real-world location. However, as the structure needs to be suited for plot-related elements, the discrepancies are readily accepted without much concern.

  • Figure XII: Street-level view looking south from the road leading from Taki’s apartment. Quite ordinary and unremarkable by any definition, it is possible to use Google Street View to approximate a small section of Taki’s route, and I imagine that folks in Tokyo familiar with the region can trace his path to school and the route he takes when meeting Miki for a date with total accuracy.

  • Figure XIII: The equivalent spot from Figure XII in Your Name. The extent to which details are reproduced are incredible: whether it be the placement of mirrors, the potted plants beside the apartment on the right, the vending machine or the skyline, we have a near-perfect reproduction within Your Name of the location.

  • Figure XIV: The road going down the hillside leading from Taki’s apartment. The real-world location is filled with shrubbery, with the skyline barely visible, whereas in Your Name, there is less vegetation that allows the skyline to be more clearly seen.

  • Figure XV: The equivalent spot from Figure XIV in Your Name. While I never visited this spot during my time in Tokyo back in May, the closest I got from Taki’s apartment and the Suga Shrine would have been around 2.6 klicks, when I visited the Meiji Jingu Garden. This was the first destination that was on my itinerary in Tokyo.

The Giant Flythough Kimi no Na Wa

During the opening credits to Your Name, there’s also a brief moment where the camera flies from Taki’s apartment in Tokyo, through the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, out to rural Japan and eventually, Itomori (Fig XVI). This is undoubtedly an impressive feat of animation and a visual treat to behold on its own, but there is a pleasant surprise to this, as well – if one were to project a line from Taki’s apartment in the heading as depicted in the film, they would end up in Hida, Gifu, passing over Lake Suwa along the way (Fig XVII, XVIII). In total, roughly 237 kilometers of distance separates the location of Taki’s apartment in Tokyo from Hida in the Gifu prefecture. While some might consider this a mere coincidence, the level of detail Makoto Shinkai and his team put into their art is nothing short of exceptional, so I imagine that this was a deliberate design in keeping with the thematic elements within the movie. Whereas Shinkai’s earlier themes were more about distance, Your Name deals predominantly with connections and how distances can be closed: the Chinese term “緣份” (pinyin: yuán fèn, “fate”) describes the movie neatly, as it appears that supernatural forces compel Taki and Mitsuha to meet. That their homes lie along the same line is a clever element added to the film, and while subtle, serves to reinforce notions that Taki and Mitsuha must meet in order to convey the thematic elements in the movie. With this in mind, it is likely that Shinkai and his team worked backwards, choosing the rural location and then corresponding it with a location in Tokyo; it is considerably more difficult to pick a rural location suitable for Mitsuha, whereas in Tokyo, the dense urban build-up means that Taki could have been placed anywhere in central Tokyo without any substantial impact to the narrative.

  • Figure XVI: Stills from the opening scene in Your Name depicting a fly-over from Taki’s apartment in Tokyo to Mitsuha’s house in Itomori. Starting from the roof of Taki’s apartment (1) and flying east over the Tokyo cityscape (2) towards the Tokyo Metropolitian Government Building (3), the camera moves through the gap between the two towers (4) out into rural Japan after a transition (5), eventually landing in Itomori (6).

  • Figure XVII: Approximation of the route covered by the route seen in the opening in the real world. The red path highlighted shows this: in the upper left, the route covered between Figure XVI’s (1), (2) and (3) are shown. The opening shortens things after (4) is reached. Curiously enough, the line intersects Suwa Lake before landing in the small town of Hida in Gifu. During my visit to Japan, we passed by Suwa Lake after leaving the Ikenotaira Hotel beside the shores of Shirakaba Lake en route to Nagoya and Gifu.

  • Figure XVIII: Overhead view of the entire route from Tokyo to Hida, Gifu, intersecting with Lake Suwa. The total distance separating Taki’s apartment from Suwa Lake is 154 kilometers, while the full distance from Hida to Tokyo as the mole digs is 243 kilometers. To put things in perspective, Red Deer to Calgary is a little less than 154 kilometers, while Edmonton and Calgary are separated by a distance of 270 kilometers.

Closing Remarks

An interesting point to note is that only 480 metres separates Taki’s old apartment from the Suga Shrine. This entire exercise only took around five minutes to complete, although the post itself took a ways longer to draft out: from exploring the areas by means of Google Maps’ Street View and 3D utilities, it becomes clear that, as with Suga Shrine, Your Name takes some creative liberties in recreating locales for the film but nonetheless retains considerable accuracy. That it is possible to apply a bit of triangulation and make use of a commonplace tool to precisely determine where the events of an anime film occur, is itself a testament to how far technology has come in recent years. Sophisticated techniques for obtaining stereographic data to create 3D maps has made photogrammetry, the process of using imagery for locating structures and objects, increasingly accessible to all users: Google has optimised their 3D maps so even computers with an Intel Iris GPU can view maps in 3D. Such tools make it effortless to figure out where one’s destinations are, what road layout and traffic controls lie along a hitherto unexplored route and gain a preview of what things look like on the ground at a location halfway across the world. With tools of this calibre, quickly ascertaining locations within anime becomes a much more straightforwards task, especially if one is familiar with a handful of landmarks in the area of interest. All of these sophisticated tools means that hopefully, I’ve adequately answered the question posed: when asked “where is Taki’s apartment located?”, I can suitably respond “〒160-0011 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Wakaba, 1 Chome-22-15“. Back in The Raccoons, for Bert and Cedric, being lost on an island now simply means sending out a phone call and tagging their location to simplify the search and rescue process. Having said this, some lessons, such as informing others of their intended activities and destinations, continue to endure even if the technology we’ve presently got far outstrips anything that was available in 1989.

Kantai Collection: The Movie- Review and Reflection

 “Where the hell have you been?”
“Enjoying death. 007 reporting for duty.”

—M and James Bond, Skyfall

While the Kan-musume celebrate their recent victory at Ironbottom Sound, Fubuki notices a strange voice emanating from the ocean. This observation is mirrored by other Kan-musume, although Secretary Nagato has another matter on her hands; Kisaragi has seemingly returned back from the dead. It is revealed that Kan-musume and the Abyssals share an unusual relationship – Kan-musume become Abyssals when sunk, while destroyed Abyssals are reborn as Kan-musume. Kaga herself retains her memories as an Abyssal, remarking on the intense obsessions Abyssals experience, but notes that the cycle can be broken if Abyssals are eliminated, forcing them to be reborn as Kan-musume. Mutsuki is saddened to learn of this truth and resolves to remain by Kisaragi’s side even as Kisaragi undergoes a slow transformation into an Abyssal vessel. The area surrounding Ironbottom sound has also taken on an unusual character; the ocean waters have become crimson and slowly degrades the Kan-musume‘s equipment. As this region is expanding, Nagato organises an offensive to stop the phenomenon. As Fubuki is seemingly immune to this degrading, she’s assigned to punch through the frontlines and reach the portal at the centre of Ironbottom Sound. The intense combat forces most of the Kan-musume to retreat, leaving Yamato, Mutsuki and Fubuki to press forwards. When Yamato and Mutsuki sustain heavy damage, Kisaragi arrives to save them. This provides Fubuki the opening she needs to enter the portal; she reaches the other side and comes face-to-face with her Abyssal form, learning that Kan-musume and Abyssals formed from the spirits of sunken World War Two vessels. The optimistic, hopeful elements and feelings of hatred and regret split into separate beings: the original Fubuki had sunk here during the Battle of Cape Esperance in October 1942. Since then, the separation has resulted in the cycle of fighting between the Kan-musume and Abyssals. The Abyssal form of Fubuki compels Fubuki to give in to her darkness, but Fubuki refuses, being driven on by her determination to push forward as a symbol of hope. The strength of these feelings destroys the remaining Abyssals in the area, including the Abyssal Kisaragi. Fubuki reunites with her friends, launching with new Kan-musume on a training exercise, while Mutsuki meets up with Kisaagi, who has returned as a Kan-musume in full.

Unlike its predecessor, Kantai Collection: The Movie focuses on the origin of the Abyssals and explores what drives the war between them and the Kan-musume. With this particular aspect now in the open, it should dispel any misconceptions that Kantai Collection is an exercise in propaganda: simply put, the vessels of the IJN and the USN were both constructed with a particular goal in mind, and sinking is the ultimate form of death for a ship. Sinking in battle, then, is to die with strong lingering emotions, which subsequently separate into their negative (the Abyssals) and positive incarnations (the Kan-musume). These elements, while not particularly novel or impressive (the concept of cycles is rather similar to the Witches and Magical Girls of Puella Magi Madoka Magica), provide a reasonable explanation for what drives the conflict in Kantai Collection: some rationale is preferable to no rationale, and the movie’s done a passable job of doing so. Like its predecessor, however, Kantai Collection: The Movie falls into the trap of introducing an attempt at philosophical elements late in its presentation. In Kantai Collection: The Movie, there is an effort to present anti-Nihilism messages. The negative feelings that Abyssals embody attempt to overpower Fubuki and suggest that effort is meaningless in death, but when Fubuki learns of her original vessel’s own role in the IJN, she decides to choose a path that entails making something meaningful even if there is no meaning. While optimistic and certainly not the worst conceivable ending for Kantai Collection: The Movie, the messages also were added much later in the movie, precluding exploration of the thematic elements in adequate detail as to explain what makes it worthwhile for the Kan-musume to keep fighting (conversely, the Abyssal’s motivations are simple enough; they fight for revenge, aiming to bring suffering to a world that had constructed their suffering).

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I originally had eighty five screenshots ready for this post, but in the name of conciseness, I pared the number down to thirty. As such, while I may have the internet’s first collection of high quality screenshots, it is inevitable that a more comprehensive set of screenshots will become available in the upcoming days. My choice to reduce the number of screenshots means that moments such as the Mikawa Fleet battle are not featured in this discussion, which opens with Mutsuki anxious to see Kisaragi now that she’s returned to the Kan-musume.

  • Immediately apparent in Kantai Collection: The Movie is the visual fidelity and the incredible use of colours and lighting in its environments. Kisaragi and Mutsuki embrace after their separation, and after looking around, it seems that if one loses a ship in combat, it is possible to re-roll that ship and start again. Kisaragi’s return prompts the page quote, although beyond seemingly coming back from the dead, there’s very little in Kantai Collection: The Movie that is similar to 2012’s Skyfall.

  • Hiei, Kongo, Nagato, Mutsu, Akagi and Kaga see Kisaragi off after she debriefs with them. They note the gravity of the situation and after discussion, consider Kisaragi’s return as classified. It’s quite some time since the likes of Kantai Collection‘s characters graced this blog with their presence: the movie was released in November 2016 and only became available on home release since August 30.

  • Here, Yuudachi enjoys a gelato amidst the celebrations; she’s best known for appending ~poi to almost all of her dialogue. Approximating to “maybe” or “perhaps”, its use in Japanese is to denote a certain degree of uncertainty, and for English-speakers, is most similar to the interjection “like”, which, while originating with the Valley Girl stereotype of the 1980s, has permeated spoken English to a considerable extent. Developers have noted Yuudachi’s speech patterns is meant to mirror the fact that the original Yuudachi’s role in Battle of Guadalcanal remains unclear, as the ship’s credited kills were never clearly recorded amidst the chaos of battle.

  • During the celebrations, Yamato is seen manning the carving station and is exasperated when the other Kan-musume calls her the Hotel Yamato. A useless bit of trivial that has nothing to do with Kantai Collection – I’m big on carving stations at buffets and will always drop by for prime rib au jus. In Kantai Collection‘s game incarnation, the Yamato is immensely resource intensive but has enough firepower to lessen the odds of failure. Players consider this a reasonable trade-off and will field the Yamato-class when engaged in difficult battles.

  • Fun and games are short-lived in Kantai Collection: The Movie once Fubuki begins discussing the unusual voices she’s been hearing with her friends. A quick glance at the history books finds that Ironbottom Sound, the Allied name for Savo Sound, is a stretch of ocean where dozens of Allied and Japanese vessels were sunk during the Second World War. Sailors will observe silence as they sail through these waters, and the real Yuudachi, Fubuki and Hiei met there ends here. As a major ship graveyard, it forms the perfect focal point for the source of disruption in Kantai Collection: The Movie.

  • The South Pacific seems the perfect place for narratives, even of the sort seen in Kantai Collection. A great many texts I read for literature class during my secondary education are set in tropical islands, as well, including Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game (1924) and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954). The differences in time periods between the two serve to underline the prevailing attitudes in society of the period; The Most Dangerous Game speaks of the justifiably of murder for survival, a question born from the First World War, while in Lord of the Flies, one of the great ironies is that the sailor who ends up landing on the island is disgusted that a group of British boys have devolved from civilised thought, while himself is part of a greater war that speaks of the gradually increasing tensions in the world following the end of the Second World War.

  • The next morning, aberrations begin appearing in Kisaragi. She blanks out and opens fire on base facilities. The oddities in Kisaragi’s return, coupled with the appearance of a scale-like buildup on her arms and the fact that she can only remember Mutsuki shows that Kisaragi has not returned in full. These observations perplex Fubuki and the others, while the higher-ups, including Nagato and Kaga, appear to know something about this phenomenon.

  • In the game, Kisaragi sports a very vain personality, whereas in the anime, she’s more mature, fulfilling an elder sister role for Mutsuki. After sinking in the third episode, the anime suggested that she was reborn as an Abyssal, with the film clearing things up considerably. She’s much more withdrawn and sad in Kantai Collection: The Movie; retaining her old memories, she feels that things are different and is fearful that she might attack the others.

  • After receiving clearance, Kaga explains that she was once an Abyssal vessel, consumed with longing and hatred. She retains vivid memories of these experiences, and her story finally clarifies what the Abyssals’ origins are. It’s actually surprisingly similar to the dynamics of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, although there are distinctions: Kantai Collection presents the transition between Abyssals and Kan-musume as being a natural cycle, while in Madoka Magica, the transformation is seemingly one-way prior to Madoka’s intervention. Mutsuki resolves to protect and look after Kisaragi, and Kaga notes that the cycle can be broken if they eliminate the Abyssals, offering a glimmer of hope.

  • While Nagato, Yamato and the others consider their next actions in light of an expanding area, Fanservice in Kantai Collection: The Movie is very limited, and beyond a moment of one of the Kan-musume trying to strip Fubuki here with the goal of getting her to relax, Kantai Collection is remarkably disciplined where fanservice goes. This moment also underlines by lack of familiarity with Kantai Collection‘s full lineup: I can’t recognise the two Kan-musume with Fubuki here. In the game, there are at least 150 ships, and unlike Battlefield, where it is possible to unlock everything with enough patience and determination, Kantai Collection players only have enough free slots to store up to 100 vessels.

  • Akagi and Kaga decide to have a word with Fubuki after learning that Fubuki is immune to the damaging effects encountered in the section of ocean near Ironbottom sound. Players of the game expressed their disappointment that Fubuki was given such a substantial role in the anime and movie, when she is otherwise quite unremarkable in the game. The first season hinted at her role in future events when the other Kan-musume were surprised at the brass’ decision to transfer Fubuki to the front line despite her lack of experience, so the movie is merely following up on this.

  • Kisaragi suffers a minor breakdown upon seeing the extent that she’s transforming into an Abyssal. She begins wearing a hoodie to cover her horns, and in a manner reminiscent of Lady MacBeth’s slipping sanity in Shakespeare’s MacBeth, where she scrubs at non-existent bloodstains in guilt at having driven her husband to murder King Duncan. In spite of everything that has happened, Mutsuki stays by her side and does her utmost to assuage Kisaragi’s fears.

  • Yamato and Fubuki share a conversation in the deep breath before the plunge: Nagato has authorised a mission to investigate the waters of Ironbottom Sound. While an unlikely friendship (the Yamato and Fubuki never fought together in World War II), it’s a dynamic I’ve grown rather fond of. In the months after Kantai Collection‘s anime began airing, numerous blog posts appeared claiming that Kantai Collection had “unfortunate implications”. While I’ve never been a fan of Imperial Japan’s actions in history, the Kantai Collection franchise as a whole is not intended to garner sympathy or support for the IJN: the addition of the Iowa and Bismark show that Kantai Collection is about personifying ships in general for entertainment purposes.

  • Inclusion of USN vessels, and with the film offering an account of what the Abyssals are mean that there is now sufficient evidence to suggest that folks who believe Kantai Collection to be IJN propaganda are overthinking things. Back in Kantai Collection: The Movie, Nagato briefs the participating Kan-musume on their upcoming assignment.

  • Zuikaku apologises to Kaga for her earlier remarks, and in a rare moment where the two are not at the others’ throat, Kaga reassures Zuikaku, as they both have a duty to perform. The operation begins in earnest soon after, and similar to Girls und Panzer: Der Film, a large section of Kantai Collection: The Movie is dedicated to the final battle. However, for the visual quality of the combat shown on screen, I did not find the fighting in Kantai Collection: The Movie to be quite as intense or exhilarating to watch as I did for Girls und Panzer: Der Film or Captain America: Civil War.

  • I’ve now been around the block to have my own favourite Kan-musume; Kongou definitely counts as my favourite for more or less channeling Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō. Their personalities are very similar, mirroring their shared connections to England. I’ve finally decided to take a look at why Kongou calls Fubuki “Bucky”: it’s actually not an English name, but rather, similar to how shortening of names is a common practise in English. So, Fubuki simply becomes -buki, which phonetically similar to “Bucky”. This means Fubuki has nothing to do with James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes.

  • By any standard, I am a scrub as far as Kantai Collection goes, and some folks, including one Myssa Rei, would probably consider it sacrilegious that someone who’s never played the game before has their nose into the Kantai Collection universe. On my end, I’m impressed that people can put in that sort of dedication into playing Kantai Collection, spending time outside of games building spreadsheets to optimise play, and discussing endless stats on forums. Kantai Collection is also very much driven by chance; there’s always a possibility for frustration, so I hold Kantai Collection‘s player-base in a begrudging admiration for being able to play something that I wouldn’t have the patience for.

  • Having said this, I’m not sure if it would be wise to delay one’s degree or deprioritise one’s relationships for a browser-based flash game to the same extent as Myssa Rei has. There’s a ways more to life than playing flash games and as such, I don’t think becoming one of the ‘net’s most respected Kantai Collection authorities would be worth the costs – it seems to me that enjoying the pleasant summer weather in a park, such as the short walk I took yesterday in the nearby Ranche Park, is a superior use of time. Back in Kantai Collection: The Movie, Fubuki joins in the firefight against the Abyssals, firing her main weapon. This particular frame exemplifies the sort of visual effects present in the movie, and overall, I’ve got no complaints about the artwork or animation.

  • Mutsuki folds under the heavy fire, and is nearly dealt a killing blow when at the last moment, she is saved by the Abyssal form of Kisaragi. When I learned of the film’s home release date back in early July, my expectations were not particularly high. One of my friends were taken aback to learn that there was a movie at all: he’d just finished the first season at the time, and immediately asked me to send a link to a webpage with screening dates. The answer is that there are no screening dates for Kantai Collection: The Movie in our area, even in our city’s largest theatre that had previously done anime screenings – interest in the military-moé genre on this side of the world is very limited, and as far as authoritative voices on things like Girls und Panzer and Kantai Collection go in the prairie provinces of Canada go, I’m it.

  • While ostensibly an Abyssal, Kisaragi fights on the Kan-musume‘s side, returning fire and keeping the others safe long enough for Fubuki to complete her goal. Not quite as feral looking as a full Abyssal, Kisaragi retains her uniform and naval weapons, in contrast to the more organic-looking weapons of the Abyssals.

  • According to folks who’ve played the game, the portal seen in Kantai Collection: The Movie is a copy of the designs from the final map in Kantai Collection‘s PlayStation Vita game. Now that Fubuki is here for herself, staring down the opening to another world, I’m forcibly reminded of Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer, where there is a similar struggle to reach a target point through heavy fighting.

  • Mutsuki is given a chance to fight alongside Kisaragi again during the darkest hours of their operation: the Abyssal counterattack has been fierce enough to heavily damage the other Kan-musume, leaving just Mutsuki, Yamato and Fubuki. Despite being surrounded, Mutsuki and Kisaragi do their utmost to fight and give Fubuki a clear shot at entering the portal. Some Abyssals can be seen here: their equipment is organic in nature, and they seem to shun ornate clothing. In spite of the film’s revelations invalidating existing fan theories about the Abyssals, I’m a little surprised that there’s not more discussions surrounding the film.

  • To give an idea of just how intense the combat was, even Yamato sustains heavy damage, losing most of her weapons in the process while trying her hardest to keep Fubuki’s path to the portal open. She makes a final stand, engaging enemies with what remains of her vast arsenal, but even Yamato folds against numbers, reminiscent of how the real Yamato was defeated not by a single equal, but rather, large numbers of dive bombers and torpedo bombers. Historians generally find that had the Yamato and Iowa engaged one another in single combat, without their escorts and air support, the resulting battle would have favoured the Iowa slightly. Despite having less armour overall and a smaller broadside output, the Iowa had a formidable fire control system, better projectile engineering, superior speed and superior damage control. In actual combat, the Iowa’s crew would have kept moving while hammering the Yamato to damage it, evading the Yamato’s shells, although any hits from the Yamato would have been devastating to the Iowa.

  • Fubuki faces a dimension similar to that of Interstellar when crossing through. The voices she’s long heard become more persuasive and persistent, until at long last, she reaches a reconstruction of a classroom hallway and meets her Abyssal counterpart. Here, Fubuki learns that, in a manner similar to how Rick and Morty’s toxic selves are excised from their body during the third season’s sixth episode, the Kan-musume and Abyssals split off from their ships after sinking. The ships’ desires to defend and hopes for a better future manifest as the Kan-musume, while their anger and resentment became the Abyssals.

  • The space that Fubuki finds herself in resembles the Witches’ Labyrinths of Madoka Magic to some extent, with sinking ship motifs in the background and a sinister colouration to further enhance the audience’s sense of unease in this area. Fubuki’s beliefs are challenged when her Abyssal counterpart asks of her as to what the point is when all they’ve known is suffering, and she faces certain death in the depths of this portal when the Abyssal Fubuki ensnares her, but her recollections give her a second wind, allowing her to break free of her chains.

  • Fubuki decides that there is a point to living even in a world where the deck is stacked against them, that there are meaningful things worth fighting for, and embraces her Abyssal self. The final fight of the movie is decided through a peaceful resolution rather than a violent confrontation, and having come to terms with her Abyssal self, the other Abyssals in the area begin disappearing. In game, Abyssals disappear after what are known as “event maps” are cleared, but here, I imagine it’s more similar to what was seen in The Avengers after the Chitauri’s flagship was hit by a nuclear warhead.

  • The fighting comes to an end – before disappearing as an Abyssal, Kisaragi shares one final moment with Mutsuki, and with this, my thoughts on the movie also reach their terminus. Overall, the movie represents an hour and a half of fun. The efforts to add in something thought-provoking fall short, but recalling my own low expectations entering the movie, I wasn’t too bothered by this particular aspect.

  • Following the events of Ironbottom Sound, the atmosphere in Kantai Collection: The Movie becomes noticeably less tense. Fubuki is gearing up to train the new arrivals, while Yuudachi is lounging around. The Kantai Collection: The Movie review was admittedly a bit trickier to write for, since I cannot draw on anything beyond my experiences with the film itself; with this in mind, one could suppose that this discussion is useful for folks who only have knowledge of Kantai Collection‘s anime form.

  • It turns out that the onigiri that Mutsuki were preparing were for Kisaragi, who has fully returned as a Kan-musume at the film’s ending.With Kantai Collection: The Movie in the books, the next major film I’ll be writing about is Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (In A Corner of This World), which is slated for home release on September 15. Dealing with life in Hiroshima and Kure in the decade leading to the dropping of the atom bomb, and the events ten in the following decade, I’ve heard the film is of an exceptional standard and greatly look forwards to writing about it. Besides In a Corner of this World, the other major posts for this month will include those for Battlefield 1, which may get more than one post owing to just how extensive the upcoming DLC are, New Game!!Sakura Quest and Gundam: The Origin‘s fifth OVA.

It’s been two years since I watched Kantai Collection – when I finished the original anime, I felt that the anime had not succeeded in inspiring me to pick up the game. The movie is much stronger than the anime with respect to world-building and in presentation of its narrative (the final battle is the result of a clearly-defined purpose, for one), but similar to the anime, hardly provides any inspiration for me to begin playing Kantai Collection. This reaction comes as a consequence of the immensely challenging set up process (I believe that setting up a game should be as simple as buying it, installing it and if needed, create a new account, before dropping into the game world), as well as for the fact that I’ve got a vast collection of games that keep me occupied. With this being said, like the anime, Kantai Collection: The Movie is a technically excellent film, featuring high quality animation and a soundtrack that is worthy of being used in a feature film such as Letters from Iwo Jima or the 2011 film, Isoroku Yamamoto. It certainly was a fun watch even if the narrative elements are not at their strongest. While I find that Kantai Collection could conclude at Kantai Collection: The Movie without any further continuation, I imagine that a second season could remain within the realm of possibility as Fubuki and the others now have a known raison d’être for fighting. For the present, we return discussion to whether or not this movie is worthwhile as a watch; my personal assessment is that Kantai Collection: The Movie is primarily for the Kantai Collection fans who enjoyed the original anime to some extent. In spite of a top-tier soundtrack and solid visuals, Kantai Collection: The Movie is not the introduction to Kantai Collection‘s world that inspires folks to give the game a shot, nor is it able to capture all of the elements that Kantai Collection‘s players have come to enjoy about the online game. With this being said, I still found the movie modestly enjoyable, although not everyone will share this particular opinion.