The Infinite Zenith

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Slow Loop: Review and Impressions After Three

“We never lose our loved ones. They accompany us; they don’t disappear from our lives. We are merely in different rooms.” –Paulo Coelho

On the first day of school, Koharu is disappointed to learn that she and Hiyori are going to be in different classes, while Hiyori is relieved she’s in the same class as Koi, a friend she’d known since pre-school. After classes end, Hiyori takes Koharu to the fishing shop Koi’s family owns, and picks up an all-in-one fishing kit here. The two later visit a lighthouse that Hiyori’s father had once taken her to, and here, Hiyori gifts the all-in-one fishing kit to Koharu. To get Koharu up to speed with fly fishing, Hiyori arranges for a fishing trip with Koi and her father: the latter is very fond of fishing to the point of occasionally forgetting about his family, and while Koharu is unable to catch anything, she is able to speak to Koi and encourages her to look out for Hiyori in her own way. Later, Hiyori learns that Koharu had lost her mother and younger brother in an accident, and despite having lived with one another for a few weeks, Koharu is a little distant with Hiyori’s mother. To this end, Koharu suggest going on a camping trip together with Koi’s family, too. Here, Hiyori realises that fishing of late’s been considerably more enjoyable, but struggles to find the words to thank Koharu, while Koharu catches her first-ever fish and savours it, before helping out with dinner. During the meal preparations, Koharu finds that she’s able to speak with Hiyori’s mother quite naturally, and Hiyori makes an attempt to know Koharu’s father better, as well. As the evening comes to a close, Koharu and Hiyori stargaze together. When Hiyori wonders if her father would recognise her as she is know, Koharu replies that so long as she smiles, things will be fine. Koharu herself grows excited about the prospect of returning to their campsite in the autumn, when the foliage is painted in hues of oranges and yellows. Here at Slow Loop‘s third episode, it is apparent that family will form the focus of this latest Manga Time Kirara adaptation, with fishing being a secondary aspect that gives the characters common ground to build shared experiences and memories from.

Both the second and third episodes provide exposition into how each of Koharu and Hiyori handled loss; Hiyori sought to understand her father better by continuing to fish, while Koharu pushes herself to be more outgoing and bring joy into the lives of those around her to the best of her ability. When these opposites meet, the end result is a sort of synergy: Hiyori is able to appreciate her father’s hobby more fully, while Koharu ends up being able to share her energy with someone. Unlike Tamayura, which presented things in a much slower and measured manner, Slow Loop‘s portrayal is considerably more spirited in nature; different people respond to loss and grief differently, and Slow Loop sets itself apart by showing viewers both the fact that people are quite resilient, but it is together that one is able to really take those difficult steps forward. The fact that Hiyori and Koharu share quite a bit in common (regarding their backgrounds) means that both are well-placed to help one another out, and I imagine that it is possible that there will come a point in Slow Loop where Hiyori will need to step up and encourage Koharu, as well. The idea of being there for one another, in both good times and the bad, is what makes a family: Koi makes this abundantly clear by saying that what a family outwardly appears to be isn’t the whole picture, and while Slow Loop‘s been quite gentle insofar, Koi’s remarks means that there will be points where Koharu and Hiyori encounter challenges, or even clash. However, in typical Manga Time Kirara spirit, whether it be through introspection or support from others (usually, a combination of both), the relationship that Koharu and Hiyori will come out all the stronger. With these directions in mind, Slow Loop has proven to be unexpectedly mature in its portrayal, and at this point in time, it is evident the series has what it takes to differentiate itself from its precursors.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Although Koharu isn’t in Hiyori’s class, she manages to hit it off with her classmates almost immediately. Hiyori, on the other hand, is glad to have ended up in the same class as her friend, Koi. The dramatic contrast in Hiyori and Koharu’s personalities are mirrored in their classroom arrangements; Koharu has no trouble with new people and appears to fit right in, while Hiyori is given a quieter setting where she’s able to be reassured by the fact she’s with someone she knows. After their first day of class, Hiyori decides to take Koharu around to some of the places she frequents.

  • As the daughter of a fishing fanatic, Koi works at a fishing store and is familiar with all of the gear that Hiyori could require in-field. Koi’s known Hiyori since pre-school, and consequently, Koi understands her quite well. Koi is voiced by Tomomi Mineuchi (Eiko Tokura of Slow Start Ilulu from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid,  and GochiUsa‘s Kano), although in appearance and personality, she’s similar to Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s Remon Yamano or perhaps Please Teacher!‘s Ichigo Monino: all characters have a quiet but somewhat mischievous disposition.

  • Viewers are given an introduction to the different types of lures: Koi classifies them into four groups (dry, nymphs, wet and streamers) based on the type of organism they’re supposed to mimic and correspondingly, the type of fish they’re intended to catch. Most guides I’ve found on a cursory search give three distinct categories, omitting the wet lure. Wet lures are stated to be a hybrid between streamers and nymphs: they float in the water, whereas dry lures sit on top of the water.

  • Although Koi’s name is evocative of the koi, a kind of Amur Carp, she explains that the kanji for her name is actually written as love (恋): it turns out on the day of her birth, her father had rushed off to fish, leaving her mother to give birth. Koi’s father is portrayed as being obsessed with fishing, and he often leaves Koi to run the store while he runs off to fish after her classes end for the day. This sort of behaviour has given some viewers trouble by making the show “unrealistic”, but for me, exaggerated traits are a signature part of Manga Time Kirara series.

  • The goal of characters like Koi and her father are to remind viewers that this is a world where both Koharu and Hiyori have experienced people in their corner. Since we are early in the series, the worth of people like Koi’s father won’t be immediately apparent, but as Slow Loop wears on, the additional expertise will become valuable. It turns out that Hiyori had wanted to pick up a special all-in-one fly fishing lure kit. The close interactions between Koi and Hiyori is such that Koi has a special name for Hiyori: “Yamahi”. This came from the fact there were two Yamakawas back during pre-school.

  • This revelation imparts a bit of jealousy in Koharu, who becomes a bit pouty after learning of this fact. Koharu continues to give off Cocoa vibes in Slow Loop, and like Cocoa, Koharu’s mood is quick to change: all jealousy evaporates when Hiyori reveals that she’d had one more destination in mind for their time together: a spot that she and her father had once visited together. Along the way, Koharu remarks on how it’s so nice that the ocean is within a stone’s throw. Koharu’s love for the ocean brings to mind Aoi and Chiaki’s response to the fact that Rin was sending so many ocean photos back to everyone in Yuru Camp△ – the ocean is especially beautiful to those who live in landlocked areas.

  • Different anime utilise different approaches when it comes to how they portray characters relative to their environments. Anime with simple backgrounds and characters that stand out indicate to viewers that the characters are the focus, while anime where the backgrounds are richly detailed remind viewers that the setting is also important; in offering something unique for the characters (such as the ocean’s bounty, or untamed natural beauty) to the extent where it can be considered a character in its own right. This was the case in anime like Yuru Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi. Here in Slow Loop, the latter seems to hold true.

  • Because the background is portrayed as being quite vibrant, it is significant to the story. I had indicated a few weeks earlier that that Slow Loop was set in Kanagawa: upon spotting this lighthouse, I turned my location hunting skills to use and did a query for all of the lighthouses in Kanagawa. This quickly allowed me to narrow the setting to Yokosuka, as this particular lighthouse is Kannonzaki Lighthouse. While not quite rural (Yokosuka has a population of 409 hundred thousand as of 2017), there is a corner of the city near the lighthouse that is a little less built-up. Knowing that Hiyori and Koharu live within walking distance of Kannonzaki Lighthouse makes location-hunting a little easier, and I just might return to do such a post in the future if Slow Loop presents enough places of interest.

  • It turns out that the all-in-one lure kit Hiyori bought was for Koharu, as a way of really welcoming her into the family and further kindle her interest in fly fishing. With her excitement still in full swing, Koharu accepts a chance to go fly fishing with Hiyori, Koi and her father. Koi’s father is all too happy to accept the chance to go out and fish, although Koi herself is less enthused by the excursion.

  • On the day of the fishing trip, Koi comes with an umbrella and is content to sit things out while her father, Hiyori and Koharu fish. It suddenly strikes me that Koharu’s got a very adorable-looking hat: it’s reminiscent of a lop-eared bunny, and coupled with the chibi art style, really accentuates the fact that Slow Loop, no matter how serious conversations might get, at the end of the day, such series are about finding the joys in life and putting a smile on viewers’ face.

  • Chibi moments like these serve to give every character more personality, and Slow Loop has utilised the transition between its normal art and chibi art to really convey how someone feels in a moment. Koharu is raring to get the party started; although she’s quite motivated and determined, poor form as a result of her still being new to fly fishing means she gets nothing.

  • On the other hand, with her experience, Hiyori begins picking fish up almost immediately. When Koharu finds herself skunked by the fly fishing, she stops to take a break and starts up a conversation with Koi. As it turns out, Koi had been worried about Hiyori ever since Hiyori’s father had passed away, but never felt it was her place to support and encourage Hiyori. Seeing Koharu come in so casually and lifting Hiyori’s spirits makes Koi wish that she’d done more for Hiyori.

  • While Koi had been doing her best to be considerate, Koharu has no such context and is therefore able to act without treading around eggshells. Seeing the change in Hiyori once Koharu shows up is ultimately encouraging for Koi, who is able to take a step forwards, as well. To accentuate this, once Koi comes to realise that she can still be there for Hiyori in her own way, similarly to how Koharu’s brightened Hiyori’s world up, she puts her umbrella away and steps out of the shadows, into the light.

  • This sort of thing was common in Tamayura, where Fū’s friends worry about whether or not the smallest thing could cause Fū grief in the beginning. However, the combination of Fū’s own open-mindedness and her friends’ unwavering support means that Fū is able to not only stand of her own accord, but flourish, too. Slow Loop does seem to be going in this direction; because of the positive energy Koharu brings to the table, Hiyori’s become excited at having a fishing partner, someone to share in her (and by extension, her father’s) love of the ocean.

  • By having Koi come to see how Hiyori’s begun taking those same steps that Fū had, Slow Loop both sets in motion Hiyori’s growth, as well as removing one more obstacle that keeps Koi from being her true self. In a Manga Time Kirara series, this means that Koi will likely become more expressive, resulting in interactions between herself, Hiyori and Koharu that are more consistent with the gentle, fluffy and humourous tone that Manga Time Kirara works are best known for.

  • The biggest surprise in Slow Loop so far was learning that Koharu’s background is at least as tragic as that of Hiyori’s, but in spite of this, she’s able to put on a smile and brighten up Hiyori’s day anyways. I expect that this will be something left for future episodes: for now, Hiyori’s the person who’s growing, and as Hiyori becomes increasingly able to stand of her own accord, she’d be able to support Koharu on the days where she’s not at the top of her game. For now, however, Koharu is all smiles, and she’s able to reminisce about her family without becoming saddened.

  • Koharu understands that the process isn’t going to take place overnight, but because there’s a distance between herself and Hiyori’s mother, she longs to close that distance over time. Like Sayomi and Nadeshiko, Koharu believes that adventure is the key to this, and ends up booking a fishing/camping trip. Koi and her family are also invited, but Koi’s a little befuddled as to why they’re to partake even when they’re not family. However, Koi’s father immediately jumps on the chance, seeing it as another chance to go fishing.

  • Slow Loop‘s use of familiar elements initially can come across as being derivative, but the activity isn’t the star of the show here; even assuming this was to be the case, my discussions would veer towards the differences in how Slow Loop and Houkago Teibou Nisshi portray fishing; one key difference is that Houkago Teibou Nisshi purely has the girls fishing from the breakwater (shore fishing), and Slow Loop portrays boat fishing. For now, however, Hiyori must first get the boat into the water, and while she’s done it before, it was adorable to see her struggle with Koharu in the boat.

  • In the end, the pair end up over the lake despite Koharu’s inexperience with rowing. Boat fishing offers numerous advantages over fishing from land: for one, range is improved, and one can hit spots that are otherwise inaccessible on land. However, fishing from the shore has less setup and teardown. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina and the Breakwater Club fish from the shore exclusively because their home, Sashiki, is a fishing town: there’d be a lot of commercial boats on the water, making it difficult for the Breakwater Club to head out into open water. Conversely, Slow Loop has Hiyori and Koharu do a combination of both kinds of fishing, acting as a metaphor for how different approaches and tools both have their pluses and minuses.

  • While Hiyori and Koharu enjoy lunch, Hiyori (somewhat insensitively) brings up fishing superstitions that leave Koharu disappointed. Here, I will note that insofar, discussions on Slow Loop have been fairly limited: the larger blogs I visit don’t appear to be writing about this series. While I normally welcome discussions, especially for the hotter series, slice-of-life anime are something I’d prefer to watch in a vacuum: I’ve never received a satisfactory answer as to why people take these anime so seriously, and discussions inevitably devolve into attempts to psychoanalyse even the most minor of actions the characters take.

  • Far from reading between the lines, such discussions invariably miss the big-picture message the work was originally intended to go for. Attempts to bring topics like philosophy and psychology into Manga Time Kirara works is therefore of limited value at best, and I’ve found that characters’ interactions and intentions in these series should be taken at face value. Here, a sudden rainfall forces Koharu and Hiyori to take cover under some branches by the shore. Hiyori thinks to herself that of late, thanks to Koharu’s presence, fishing has become much more enjoyable: it’d taken Rin two full seasons of Yuru Camp△ to appreciate this, so to see Slow Loop not-so-slowly convey this to viewers is a clear indicator of where this series intends to go.

  • Although Hiyori isn’t quite able to openly thank Koharu yet, the weather unexpectedly becomes pleasant again, and while Hiyori suggests returning to shore, she spots a few fish underneath the water. She seizes the moment and asks Koharu to ready her line while she prepares a lure. Earlier, Koi had set the condition that in order to partake in dinner with the others, each of Hiyori and Koharu needed to catch something. For Hiyori, this isn’t a problem, but Koharu is still a novice who has yet to catch anything. Feeling like she should return the favour to Koharu, Hiyori swiftly gears up.

  • In the end, Koharu is able to catch her first fish, following suggestions from Hiyori. This is a milestone moment for Koharu, who can now be said to be hooked on fly fishing. Unlike Hina, who’d outright fainted at the prospect of having to gut and clean a fresh catch, Koharu is much more accepting of the process, and again, this is an aspect to Slow Loop that differentiates it from other series of its lineage. It takes no small measure of subtlety to really appreciate slice-of-life series; for those unfamiliar with the genre, all slice-of-life series feel similar and are about “nothing”.

  • This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it does take a bit of open-mindedness to be open to what slice-of-life series are intended to convey. This is the reason why I am such a staunch defender of slice-of-life anime: these aren’t series that can be graded on conventional metrics, and their worth comes from whether or not they are able to present a meaningful message about life itself. Back in Slow Loop,. Koharu wonders if this fish’s experience is akin to being burnt at the stake. For a fluffy and cheerful individual, Koharu certainly has no qualms about speaking her mind, and this has led some to wonder if she’s quick to antagonise those around her for this.

  • I’d counter that in Manga Time Kirara series, character traits are exaggerated for comedy’s sake. If it is indeed necessary to explore this side of Koharu’s character later, then I will consider Koharu’s loose lips later on. Like the Breakwater Club’s doctrine in Houkago Teibou Nisshi (“eat what you catch”), Hiyori observes the idea that one should eat their catch to appreciate what goes into it. There’s a barbeque facility at the camp site, making it easy for Koharu to prepare her fish and eat it, as she says, as one would in a manga. The technique of eating fish this way is known as shioyaki, a practise that has been along for a very long time.

  • By evening, the families prepare to set up a hearty dinner. Thanks to Koharu, an acqua pazza soon takes shape. With the rainbow trout salted and grilled shioyaki-style, Koharu adds Manila clams and cherry tomatoes. Once the flavours get to know one another, the dish is done. The fact that Koharu is so knowledgable about cooking impresses Hiyori’s mother, who comments that Hiyori’s father had always been the cook, and after his passing, they’d gotten by on convenience store meals. In no time at all, cooking allows Hiyori’s mother and Koharu to bond.

  • The portrayal of camping in Slow Loop brings back memories of last year’s Yuru Camp△ 2: at this time last year, the third episode had just aired. Rin spent the day with Nadeshiko in Hamamatsu and explained her reasons for enjoying solo camping – Yuru Camp△ is one of those series where every episode offered something distinct to talk about, and I did episodic discussions for the second season during its airing. For Slow Loop, I’ve elected to write about it with my usual frequency (every three episodes). While World’s End Harem has proven interesting, the setup means that I might write a single post about it once it’s over – there’s a lot of moving parts right now with this one. On the other hand, Girls’ Frontline has been a bit of a disappointment insofar; the series has not established its characters well yet, and I’m not sure where this series intends to go.

  • Back in Slow Loop, seeing Koharu taking the initiative spurs Hiyori to do the same, and here, she offers a bowl of acqua pazza to Koharu’s father. After dinner’s done, Hiyori and Koharu decide to go star-gazing, where, away from the city lights, they’re able to spot Ursa Major in all of its glory, plus the Milky Way itself. While a stunning sight to behold, one reminiscent of how Ao and Mira had met in Koisuru Asteroid, a quick look around light pollution charts around Japan suggests that such gorgeous skies would be outside the realm of possibility nearest the larger cities.

  • It is under the vast night sky where Koharu explains how she’s able to put one foot in front of the other despite what’d happened in her past: keep smiling, because even though those around her might be gone, they’ll still be able to remember her smile from the other side. What Koharu means that her mother, and Hiyori’s father, would’ve wanted them to keep on moving forwards in their lives, to keep finding things to smiling about (i.e. make new memories). This is the sort of thing that Tamayura had particularly excelled at, and with Koi joining the group, I’m rather curious to see when Ichika, Futaba, Aiko, Niji and Tora enter the picture. In the meantime, speaking of enjoying family time, we’ve just picked up some Southern Fried Chicken and fries, and I’ve not sat down to a dinner of this sort since the New Year began, so it’s time to go ahead and enjoy this to the fullest extent possible on this unexpectedly warm but blustery winter’s night.

With this being said, Slow Loop‘s incorporation of elements from other slice-of-life series, like Houkago Teibou Nishi, Yuru Camp△, Tamayura and Koisuru Asteroid means presenting to viewers a familiar experience. Whether or not this is a bad thing will depend on the individual: amongst the community, some folks contend that if something is “generic”, it counts as a strike against a given work. For me, this isn’t ever a problem: treading on previously explored territory allows an anime to quickly establish its premise, and this in turn provides more time to focus on what the work intended to convey. In other words, whether or not a work contains derivative elements is irrelevant to me: what matters is how well said work can deliver a relevant, meaningful message. Here in Slow Loop, Hiyori and Koharu’s dynamic had previously been seen in Yuru Camp△‘s Rin and Nadeshiko, while the events forming the backdrop for Slow Loop‘s story is similar to Tamayura‘s. Hence, viewers can reasonably expect that Slow Loop would be a story of opposite personalities coming together to drive individual growth. However, because the setup is quite distinct from those of Yuru Camp△ and Tamayura, Slow Loop provides an opportunity to show something neither of these works focused on: how the combination of Koharu’s cheerful, happy-go-lucky personality and Hiyori’s introspective, quiet traits complement the other in a way as to allow both characters to come to terms with their losses, support one another and ultimately, step forward together. I’ll admit that this was something I wasn’t expecting from Slow Loop based on its synopsis alone, but now that we’ve seen three episodes, I am looking forwards to seeing how this anime explores more challenging topics about handling loss and grief while at the same time, continuing to remind viewers to be appreciative of the smaller things in life, like sharing a meal with loved ones.

A Very Unique Girl: Slow Loop First Episode Impressions

“The great charm of fly-fishing is that we are always learning.” –Theodore Gordon

After her father had passed away from an illness three years earlier, Hiyori Yamakawa is a little worried about her stepfather and stepsister after learning her mother is going to remarry. To assuage her worries, Hiyori decides to take her mind off things by returning to the breakwater overlooking the ocean and do some fly fishing, which her father had taught her. She ends up running into Koharu Minagi at the breakwater: it’s Koharu’s first time seeing the ocean, and she’s even come in her swimsuit, intent on going for a swim. However, in March, the waters are still too frigid, and Hiyori ends up hooking Koharu to prevent her from taking a plunge. After introductions, Hiyori invites Koharu help her catch some fish and try some sashimi; the two quickly bond despite Hiyori not being good with meeting new people. To both Hiyori and Koharu’s surprise, it turns out that they’re now step-siblings. When Hiyori becomes a little uncomfortable with things back home and heads off to the breakwater, Koharu follows her, and Hiyori ends up providing instruction on how to fly fish. In return, Koharu whips up a zukedon for Hiyori using some older fish. The night before the new school year starts, Hiyori reassures Koharu it’s completely fine for her to be sleeping in Hiyori’s father’s old room, and she also promises properly teach Koharu on how to fish. On the first day of classes, Hiyori and Koharu head for school together to kick off their new year. With the arrival of the new anime season, Slow Loop is off to a flying start; this first episode wastes no time in introducing the characters, their backgrounds and setting up the fated encounter that brings Koharu and Hiyori together as family, all the while setting the stage that comes from enjoying the ocean’s bounty in a respectful and sustainable manner, much as Houkago Teibou Nisshi did before it a few years earlier.

Slow Loop differentiates itself from Houkago Teibou Nisshi in that this time around, Hiyori is still coming to terms with her father’s passing three years ago. Fishing becomes the activity that reassures her and connects her to her father. However, until Koharu arrives in her life, fly fishing is also a pursuit that Hiyori explores alone, and she’s initially limited only to one style of fishing. With Koharu’s genuine interest in learning more, bit by bit, Hiyori is pushed out of her comfort zone, and is prompted to explore new directions, as well. The setup in Slow Loop is reminiscent of Tamayura, where Fū Sawatari moved to Takehara to better learn the town her father had grown up in, and in doing so, Fū came to connect her father more closely. Here in Slow Loop, Hiyori is taciturn and reserved, fishes with only one technique and generally has trouble interacting with others. However, Koharu’s arrival acts as a catalyst to push her forwards, too: similarly to Fū, Hiyori is someone who can take initiative on her own, but when spurred on by friends, finds that her path to recovery and discovery is greatly accelerated by the new experiences that are only possible when one opens up their hearts to those around them. In this way, Slow Loop appears to be a Manga Time Kirara-style representation of Tamayura, being a bit more colourful and spirited (in contrast with the more measured and contemplative mood of Tamayura) portrayal of how fateful encounters can set people in new directions. After one episode, Slow Loop demonstrates that it has the makings of a consistent, if familiar series, and my interest in Slow Loop will be what unique messages are presented in its blend of elements from Houkago Teibou Nisshi and Tamayura, with character traits from other Manga Time Kirara series like Koisuru Asteroid.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll kick things off with Hiyori fishing on her own at the pier; Hiyori is voiced by Rin Kusumi, a relatively new voice actress whose role in Slow Loop represents her first lead role. While it’s March when Slow Loop begins, the weather still feels considerably warmer than it is here in the Great White North thanks to the blues in both ocean and sky. Since 2022 started, the daily high hasn’t exceeded -20°C (although with wind chill, it’s closer to -40°C). Before getting too much further into this post, one of the things I’ll have to steel myself to do is not mistype Slow Loop and spell it as Slow Start, another Manga Time Kirara series I’d previously watched, enjoyed and written about. Manga Time Kirara is very much characterised by doing things slowly, methodically, a mindset that has numerous merits but, all too often, is forgotten in today’s world.

  • 2020’s Houkago Teibou Nisshi proved to be superbly enjoyable, providing a combination of fishing information and slice-of-life antics in conjunction with messages of being respectful to marine ecology by not overfishing and not leaving any garbage after one’s finished. When Slow Loop was announced, I was admittedly curious: this one appeared to be more character driven than experience driven (such as Houkago Teibou Nisshi) owing to its premise, and as such, entering the first episode, I had no idea what to expect.

  • After Koharu chucks her clothes and prepares to dive into the ocean, Hiyori uses her line to catch Koharu’s attention. The latter ends up falling on her back and comes face-to-face with Hiyori, who blushes furiously. Koharu’s energy and enthusiasm brings to mind the likeness of Cocoa, Mira and Nadeshiko, all of whom have cheerful, extroverted and easy-go-lucky personalities. In appearance, Koharu is reminiscent of Blend S‘ Kaho, who was quite well-endowed and often wore her hair in twintails as a part of her work outfit. Koharu is voiced by Natsumi Hioka, whom I know best as Mitsuboshi Colours‘ Kotoha and Shii Eniwa from Super Cub.

  • The initial meeting between Koharu and Hiyori feels somewhat like the meeting between Nadeshiko and Rin during Yuru Camp△‘s first season: a happenstance occurrence that sets in motion the events for the remainder of the series. Such fateful encounters are a common literary device in Manga Time Kirara series, showing how friendships can come from the most unlikely of moments. Because of how Manga Time Kirara series are structured, they share many elements in common: folks looking for an all-new experience won’t find them with adaptations from Manga Time Kirara.

  • Instead, the joy in these series stems from their portrayal of how every journey is different, and therefore, worthwhile. After Hiyori shares some tea with Koharu, she invites Koharu to help her fish: while she casts her line, Koharu is to take the net and scoop the fish up. Even this early on, there’s a bit of chemistry between the two: like Nadeshiko and Rin, Mira and Ao, and Cocoa and Chino, the sharp contrast between Hiyori and Koharu’s personalities inevitably mean that the two will complement one another very well.

  • Right out of the gates, Slow Loop has Hiyori fishing for rockfish (Hepburn mebaru), which are of the genus Sebastes. There are 109 recognised species in this genre, and like Houkago Teibou Nisshi, the rockfish is portrayed as possessing poisonous spines that must be removed prior to consumption. This is done to show that Hiyori is no novice when it comes to fishing, but also shows how centuries of aquatic expertise means that humanity has learnt to make the most of what nature provides. Houkago Teibou Nisshi did the same, but in later episodes, once Hina had become more accustomed to fishing.

  • Looking back on the past few years, one of the most noticeable changes to my dietary preferences are that I now am a ways more comfortable eating raw fish than I’d been previously. I attribute this change to both Survivorman, as well as anime like Yuru Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which led me to become more open-minded about trying things. There’s a flavour and texture about sashimi and nigiri that is particularly appealing. Having said this, I still prefer my fish cooked thoroughly as a result of my background: 魚生 (jyutping yu4 saang1, literally “raw fish”) isn’t a popular part of Cantonese cuisine, and my favourite fish dishes usually see the fish steamed, then seasoned with a dash of soy sauce, ginger and scallion.

  • In moderation, though, raw fish is delicious, and after Hiyori prepares the fish, Koharu is immediately blown away by how fresh everything tastes. I believe that saltwater fish are slightly safer for raw consumption compared to freshwater fish, although in general, fish intended for use in sushi (nigiri) or sashimi is generally frozen first to kill any parasites: freezing causes ice crystals to form in the parasites’ cells, eventually rupturing them. It is not lost on me that the character designs in Slow Loop have a very GochiUsa-like feel to them.

  • As the sun begins setting, Hoyori remarks that she’s got to take off soon, since her mother’s getting remarried and they’re going to meet her future step-father, as well as his child. The moment Hoyori says this, it becomes clear that Koharu would say the same: that her father is getting remarried to someone who’s got a child, as well. This sort of thing might be seen as highly unrealistic, especially from a probability perspective, but such happenstance events are deliberate in stories to really drive home the idea that things like fateful encounters can exist and have a nontrivial impact on one’s life.

  • For me, predictability has never been an issue in anime for the same reason it’s never been an issue for whenever I watch Western films or television shows. This is because stories are intended to serve a specific function, whether it be to inform, persuade or entertain. As such, my goals when consuming a work is to determine what message the author has for me, and then, how well the journey towards those messages were portrayed. In Slow Loop, for instance, Maiko Uchino aims to present the idea of how being open-minded creates new experiences that help individuals to accept past losses, so now that Koharu and Hiyori are, in effect, sisters, what I am looking for most is to see how fishing and cooking will come together for the two, and what experiences they have together as a result.

  • With this being said, it is very reductionist to suppose that Slow Loop is purely about “found family in a group of misfits”, as one of Random Curiosity’s writers puts it: there’s more of a Tamayura-like vibe in Slow Loop in that both series presents the idea of becoming passionate and skilled about something as a means of better learning about loved ones who are no longer present. I will remark that it does take a certain mindset to write about slice-of-life series in a manner that’s interesting and meaningful for readers; reacting to things that occur isn’t something I find particularly valuable. Here, Hiyori recalls how her father’s old office is now Koharu’s room, and although Koharu’s father spots that this is bothering Hiyori somewhat, Hiyori herself is more conflicted than disapproving.

  • This is because the room would’ve represented her existing memories of her father; having Koharu move in would mean displacing those memories. On the flipside, however, having Koharu move in also means that while the present is displacing the past, the memories still remain. In this way, it’s a bit of a visual metaphor for having Hiyori take a step forward. After noticing Hiyori’s gone out, Koharu follows suit, and decides that now would be a great time to learn how to fly fish. Hiyori is a little befuddled by Koharu’s actions, wondering if she’s doing this to take her mind off things, or if she’s just curious. Past experience says that it’s likely a combination of both: characters like Koharu, Cocoa and Mira seem attuned to how those around them feel, and intuitively act in a way as to help them out.

  • While Hiyori notes that this day is windier than when they’d met, Koharu indicates that she’s like to at least try her hand at casting. Moments like these bring out Hiyori’s true self, and she immediately delves into the technical aspects of how to properly cast a fly fishing rod. The terminology overwhelms Koharu, but when Hiyori switches over to layman’s terms, Koharu comes around and begins to understand what Hiyori is getting at. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina suffers from a similar problem. As a beginner, she asks Makoto to help her out, but Makoto’s experience means she uses terms Hina is unfamiliar with. Conversely, Yūki’s explanations are far simpler, and in no time at all, Hina’s up and running. Being able to convey complex ideas to a novice is a mark of skill, and here in Slow Loop, having Hiyori being comfortable with both simplifies things somewhat for Koharu.

  • While Hiyori begins to wonder if Koharu’s wanting to learn fly fishing solely to take her mind off things back home, it turns out that Koharu had really just been about the fly fishing. However, this does give Hiyori a chance to clear her head, and seeing Koharu’s energy leads her to open up a little more – as they head home, Hiyori becomes comfortable calling Koharu by name, and learns that Koharu is two months older than she is.

  • For the time being, Slow Loop has made only the briefest of mentions regarding where its events take place: based on the name of the high school that Hiyori and Koharu attend, it’s somewhere in a hillier, coastal region of Kanagawa. This is speculative, of course, and I do wonder if a bit more information will be given with respect to where Slow Loop occurs come later episodes; I’d previously done a location hunt for Houkago Teibou Nisshi that wound up being very enjoyable, and it’d be phenomenal to bring the Oculus Quest back out of storage for another location hunt.

  • Although they didn’t catch anything, Koharu admits that she’d wanted to get at some fresh fish so she can cook: it turns out that Koharu is a skilled cook, and when Hiyori admits they have more fish than they know what to do with, including fish that’s no longer quite as optimal for sashimi, Koharu indicate she’s got a recipe up her sleeve that’s worth trying out. The difference in skills that each of Koharu and Hiyori possess creates a scenario where Hiyori will teach Koharu fishing, and over time, Koharu will impart her cooking knowledge on Hiyori, as well. The interplay between two different, but complementary skills will similarly help both to grow: as it turns out, Koharu’s not much of an outdoors person since she was afflicted with asthma when she was younger.

  • The recipe that Koharu has in mind isn’t particularly challenging: it’s a zukedon (marinated tuna bowl) that is prepared by adding equal measures of soy sauce, dashi and mirin to the fish, then throwing in some ground sesame seeds, adding this onto the rice and then topping with scallions to finish things off. Donburi is similar to the Cantonese 碟頭飯 (jyutping dip6 tau4 faan6, “topping on rice”), a simple dish with meat served on rice, and while there are countless varieties, my favourite is chicken curry or char sui with choy sum. Rice is incredibly versatile, and for dinner yesterday evening, I ended up having Hamamatsu-style unagi on rice. This eel was incredibly rich in flavour, being both savoury and piscine, and I now appreciate why Rin was overjoyed to try eel while with Nadeshiko during their time in Hamamatsu.

  • In the end, the resulting zukedon is delicious – Hiyori notes that it’s a little different than the ones her father used to make, and the ensuing conversation has Koharu shocked to learn that some fishes are actually at their best a few days after they’re caught. I have noticed that discussions elsewhere are very focused on Hiyori accepting her family name being changed from Yamakawa to Minagi, but this aspect is ultimately inconsequential – Hiyori herself is the sort of person who rolls with the punches and does her best to be accommodating; while Koharu and her father moving in is a big change, she’s not too bothered and even remarks shikata ga nai (仕方がない), a saying associated with accepting adversity in a dignified manner. Incidentally, the Chinese have a similar saying, 冇辦法 (jyutping mou5 baan6 faat3, literally “no other way”).

  • The reason why I’m less concerned about Hiyori accepting the family name change, despite its ties to her father, is because accepting this change equates to accepting the future, which in turn opens the anime to explore what lies ahead. Hiyori’s father remains important to her, but Koharu is the present and the future; I do not doubt that Hiyori’s father would’ve wanted her to find her own happiness anew, much as how Fū did indeed find her own way in Tamayura. As it was, Hiyori’s already looking forwards to figuring out some new fishing techniques that might be helpful for Koharu, whose enthusiasm to learn evokes a very Shimarin-like response from Hiyori, and this signifies that focusing on the minutiae is not too beneficial in a series like Slow Loop.

  • On the first day of term, Koharu gently pulls Hiyori forwards and hopes they’ll be in the same class together. Thus begins Slow Loop, and with the first of the anime now off to a fine start, I’ll remark here that I have plans to return and write about Slow Loop on a quarterly basis: discussion on shows like these are uncommon, and on some occasion, folks deem it necessary to bring in various aspects of psychology or sociology into such series where it is not needed. Manga Time Kirara series are, by definition, easygoing and approachable, so that a wide range of people can enjoy them: I hope to be able to convey this enjoyment as I journey through this one. Besides Slow Loop, I am also watching Girls’ Frontline and Shuumatsu no Harem this season. Once I have a measure of how these two shows are doing, I’ll make a more concrete decision as to whether or not I will be writing about them.

Before we delve too deeply into Slow Loop as more episodes air, it is logical to briefly mention the etymology behind this series’ title. Slow Loop‘s title is derived from a step during casting, during which one casts backwards, causing the line to form a loop. As Hiyori explains, casting forward and backward without dropping the fly into the water is called false casting. During this time, a loop is retained in the line: this process is done in preparation for the act of casting a line fully, and so, a “slow” loop therefore refers to the idea of taking as much time as needed to become ready for the next step forward. Slow Loop is appropriately named, and speaks to how for Hiyori, the path to acceptance and of thriving is one that she should take at her own pace. This is reminiscent of the advice that Maon’s father had given to Kanae in Tamayura ~More Aggressive~, when he’d suggested that everyone eventually casts off from the harbour, even though everyone does so only when they’re ready. As such, moving into Slow Loop‘s main story, it is evident that this is an anime that will combine the topic of fishing with self-discovery and acceptance while adding the Manga Time Kirara traits of adorable characters, bad jokes and warmth. On paper, this is a solid combination, so it goes without saying that Slow Loop is a series I am going to enjoy watching this season. Given the remarkably enjoyable experience Houkago Teibou Nisshi had imparted, and the unparalleled lessons seen in Tamayura, I am not holding Slow Loop to those same expectations – instead, the value in Slow Loop will come from how the story differentiates itself from those of its precursors.

Tawawa on Monday 2: An Anime Short Review and Reflection

“So, your body’s changing. Believe me, I know how that feels.” –Steve Rogers, Spider-Man: Homecoming

Maegami manages to convince the teacher to take her to the beach, and the salaryman receives an invitation to visit a local farm that weekend, although he confesses that his neighbours’ love-making has been keeping him from sleeping well. Later, the junior and senior office workers spot the teacher buying an engagement ring, and the junior wistfully remarks she could get married. Maegami and the teacher soon move to a different apartment after the teacher proposes to her. Maegami later introduces herself to her new neighbours, Ai and her family. When the topic of relationships come up, Ai and her sister daydream about their ideal relationships. On lunch break, the junior and senior office workers watch a programme featuring cheerleaders. It turns out the lead cheerleader is also quite popular with her classmates, but is fond of teasing her childhood friend. On a company vacation, the junior office worker soundly defeats her senior in ping pong and share a conversation whilst in the baths. She wishes to go on another trip with the senior worker, causing their coworkers to wonder if the pair are seeing one another. While the cheerleader shows off her new swimsuit to her childhood friend, Ai’s friend accidentally wrecks Ai’s bra after attempting to lift Ai so she can clear the blackboard, and the two subsequently go shopping for a new bra. Finally, the day of Maegami’s wedding to the teacher arrives, and after the ceremony, Ai manages to catch the bouquet that Maegami tosses; Maegami wishes Ai the best in capturing the salaryman’s heart. The senior and junior office workers pass by, and the junior wishes she could get married. Later, Ai and the salaryman meet on the train en route to school and work, respectively, and both vow to do their best this week, too. Thus, Tawawa on Monday 2 draws to a close, bringing with it a series of endearing moments arising from what can be described as fateful encounters adapted from Kiseki Himura’s Twitter comic.

Whereas Tawawa on Monday’s first season focused on Ai, and occasionally presented other characters, Tawawa on Monday 2 has a narrative that weaves all of the different stories together. All told, Tawawa on Monday 2 suggests that the world is a smaller place than one might expect; the comings and goings in the lives of others may also impact one’s own life in unforeseeable ways. In Tawawa on Monday 2, Ai and the salaryman know of Maegami and the teacher. Similarly, the junior and senior office workers have also seen Maegami, even if they’ve not formally met, and the pair have also watched the cheerleader on television. These stories all appear disconnected at first glance: all of the relationships are in different stages. Ai and the salaryman are friends, although their thoughts wander towards romance. The junior is quite unaware that she’s making the senior uncomfortable with her suggestions about wanting a relationship, while the teacher and Maegami have accepted their feelings for one another and get married at the end of Tawawa on Monday 2. Despite these disparities, there is warmth and friendship in each dynamic: Tawawa on Monday 2 indicates that whether it be something as intimate as kiss before heading to work, or simply being able to run into one another on a busy Monday morning train, there are constants in life worth looking forward to. Moreover, one needn’t be in a relationship to find meaningful human contact, either; although it is clear that the childhood friend, senior office worker and salaryman do yearn for a proper relationship with their love interests, even just being able to spend time with those around them is enough of a reason to get out of bed, head out the door and take on a new week with one’s best.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Originally, I had planned to write about Tawawa on Monday 2 all at once, but an uptick of interest in my old Tawawa on Monday posts piqued my curiosity. To my surprise, it turned out that Tawawa on Monday had a second season, which explained the influx of readers looking for Tawawa on Monday related posts. While I can’t say with confidence that these are my best posts in terms of offering readers with something unique, I can say that, like the drawings they originate from, Tawawa on Monday 2 is entertaining despite its short run.

  • Irrespective of what anime I’m watching, whether it’s a slice-of-life, adventure or something with more symbolism and imagery in it, I tend to consider what the work is trying to tell viewers through its themes. This is something that drives my enjoyment of a work, since seeing the themes is equivalent to walking a few kilometres in the creator’s shoes. Through Tawawa on Monday 2, I get the impression that Himura suggests that it’s small moments that make things worthwhile, and while he may have chosen a very specific kind of moment for Tawawa on Monday, one could easily generalise this to simpler things in general, whether it be a bit of courtesy from someone, or being able to watch a particularly striking sunrise while going to work.

  • Of course, anime dealing with those sorts of things would unlikely be to garner as much attention. Once Maegami and the teacher end up together, their lovemaking becomes sufficiently energetic so that the salaryman can overhear almost everything through the thin apartment walls, keeping him from sleeping. The salaryman briefly wishes he were doing that with Ai, only to stop and chastise himself for going thinking such thoughts. The desire for closeness does have a negative impact on the salaryman, leaving him a little dejected, and so, when Ai messages him to ask if he’s available to hang out over the weekend, he immediately accepts.

  • Tawawa on Monday is the originator of the so-called “Tawawa Challenge”, which became a bit of a fad amongst Japanese and Korean online communities. Because of their sheer size, Japanese and Korean fads can completely dominate all social media for a time once they gain enough momentum. In general, I greatly dislike internet memes because they depend entirely on repetition to be effective; in a discussion with a friend of mine, we concluded that proper humour comes from context, expectations, and timing. Making something comedic, then, is to set a context, and then subvert expectations at the opportune moment.

  • This is why Michael Hui, Sam Hui and Steven Chow’s movies are hilarious, as well as why jokes within the Marvel Cinematic Universe are funny when we are first exposed to them – they are unexpected. Similarly, in ecchi anime, the bulk of the humour comes from timing a moment to maximise embarrassment amongst the characters. Tawawa on Monday actually does not have many of these jokes, instead, relying on gentler moments to put a smile on viewers’ faces. Generally speaking, misunderstandings tend to happen with the other characters, and wherever Ai is concerned, things are family-friendly.

  • By all standards, Tawawa on Monday is tame, and the most risqué it ever gets here is when the characters show off a swimsuit, move around a great deal, or when tease one another. Tawawa on Monday 2 pushes things slightly when Ai remarks that the salaryman seems uncommonly apt at milking cows, and it doesn’t take much of an imagination to see where something like this could go, especially in a series that is as up front about mammaries as Tawawa on Monday 2.

  • While Ai and the salaryman enjoy their weekend outing to the farm, I’ll note that I’ve not been to a farm since I was in preschool; back then, they were fond of taking us to a petting farm on the northwestern edge of town. In those days, this petting farm would’ve been located quite a ways away from the edge of town, but owing to the fact that the subdivisions have grown uncontrollably over the past few decades, the petting farm is now only half a kilometre from the edge of town. When I was younger, I wondered how long my commute to work would be, since newer communities were always built further away, and a look at things suggests that, were I to buy a place in the newest community, my drive to work would jump from being a manageable 30 minutes, to 45 minutes.

  • To wrap things up, Ai and the salaryman enjoy a soft-serve ice cream made with fresh dairy before heading back into town. On their outing, the salaryman finds that everyone he encounters on this day has a similar figure to Ai; some of the staff at the farm were pretty stacked, and the salaryman gets distracted when the car wash attendant begins wiping down his vehicle. Fortunately, Ai doesn’t notice: she’s more curious to know how the salaryman would react were she to ask about swinging by his place after. Tawawa on Monday isn’t Higehiro, so this is one of those questions that will wisely remain unanswered.

  • Quite separately, the junior and senior office workers speak with one another over a few beers when the former swings by the latter’s place. After the junior has a few too many, she falls asleep, leaving the senior to wonder what on earth to do about her. Here, I will note that while it works for Himura, having unnamed characters makes it a bit tricky to refer to everyone in a discussion. I am reminded of Steven Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer, where a majority of the characters have no names, and while Chow might be able to direct a film where no one refers to anyone else by name, this does make it difficult to know who one is referring to when talking about the story or characters.

  • Writing about Tawawa on Monday 2 brought back memories of why the original series had been tricky to capture good screenshots for – the camera has to pan frequently to show full-body shots, and landscape images aren’t always the best for these moments. Some writers get around the formatting limitation using animated GIFs, but I don’t use them simply because even in an age of multi-core processors, the act of rendering and decoding an animated GIF is expensive compared to video playback, where encoding algorithms have become so efficient that one could have multiple videos on a web page and suffer next to no performance lost. For me, moving images can be a little distracting, so I eschew them altogether and simply strive to find the best frame for a given moment.

  • When their mother finds a racy-looking bra, Ai and her sister are asked if it belongs to either of them. This ends up setting the stage for revelation that Maegami has moved to their apartment building; Ai and her sister meeting Maegami becomes a bit of a turning point in Tawawa on Monday in that until now, the different vignettes were relatively isolated. In the first season, Ai and the salaryman only ever meet on the train, and the junior and senior office workers similarly had their own little world. There’d been a few unrelated segments involving a personal trainer and a convenience store clerk, as well, but they never were a part of the main story as Tawawa on Monday 2 has done.

  • Connecting the characters’ story together makes the world of Tawawa on Monday more plausible and believable, as well as provides more opportunity to really flesh out a world that was originally about disparate, disconnected individuals. Looking around, because Tawawa on Monday 2 is a series of shorts, discussion for it has been limited. From what I’ve been able to see, people have similarly enjoyed the fact that the different segments are connected. Folks also indicate that giving the male characters voices whilst refraining from rendering their eyes creates a sort of discrepancy.

  • I do get where these individuals are coming from – voicing the characters means that, even though they’re supposed to be stand-ins for the viewer, hints of the voice actor’s own personalities show. This sort of effect is precisely why first person shooters of old had silent protagonists: developers argue that this would allow players to play their character in their own way and become the character. In later games, trends shifted away from this, and these days, characters from HaloDOOM and Wolfenstein are voiced, giving them a unique personality. There are merits and drawbacks to both approaches, although I do feel that if the males of Tawawa on Monday 2 are to be voiced, it would be nice to properly render them, too.

  • During the discussions I’ve seen, people are able to keep it mature and focused; in fact, the only exception comes from a single individual who argued that Maegami’s choices were immoral owing to the fact that student-teacher relationships represent a violation of trust by authority figures, and that nothing changes even after Maegami has graduated. This individual is grasping at straws here, since the teacher only chose to express his feelings once the pair were no longer student and teacher. The same individual had also popped in on a discussion about The Aquatope on White Sand and argued the anime was skating over the horrors that occurred in Okinawa and therefore, was being insensitive about history.

  • I’d contend that it was this individual who is being insensitive by foisting ignorant political opinions unto others – the choice to mention the mass suicides during the Battle of Okinawa and then contrast it with the tropical beauty on this island in The Aquatope on White Sand is meant to show how peacetime replaces horrors with normalcy, and that this is something people should be mindful of. Moreover, this individual incorrectly asserts that The Aquatope on White Sand is being “corrupt” and “dishonest” in its aesthetic. I counter that this is not the case; fiction oftentimes will abstract out other moving parts in life so that a particular learning can be presented. If works were to be wholly realistic, there’d be enough factors playing off one another so that a story cannot be reasonably resolved in a fixed timeframe.

  • This is why there are narrative devices fiction will employ to ensure that a story can conclude on a meaningful note if it is appropriate for said story. I’ve always found that individuals like these are putting in a little too much effort into trying to be the smartest person in the room – rather than making an effort to understand the story and objectives, they take it upon themselves to pass judgement on every moment an author has made a “mistake”. I’ve never figured out why people feel compelled to do this, especially in series where there is no significant philosophical, sociological, psychological or political content.

  • For Tawawa on Monday 2, talking about the cheerleader and her childhood friend proved to be the most tricky simply because I have no easy way of referring to them. Some folks call the childhood friend “baldy”, but this doesn’t fly with me, since “baldy” is a nickname that is used in both Sam Hui and Michael Hui’s films. I would therefore end up calling the childhood friend 光頭老鼠 (jyutping gwong1 tau4 lou5 syu2), but this name would only have meaning for me. To keep things consistent, I’ll refer to the childhood friend as such, and comment on the fact that every time he’s around, he’s clearly conflicted.

  • On one hand, he’s clearly attracted to the cheerleader, but is also embarrassed by her antics. The cheerleader herself is very fond of teasing him, and decides to strip down in  a bid to “persuade” him to let her copy his assignments, after her modelling work cuts into her time to study. Back in high school and middle school, it never took such persuasion for me to help fellow classmates with their work: while I never gave out answers for free, I would take the time to explain how to reach an answer and walk people through until an almost-answer, after which it’d click for them. The persuasion was unnecessary simply because the process also helped me to understand something a little better. Again, were Tawawa on Monday 2 to work like reality, I can imagine that the show would have far fewer viewers.

  • One can imagine the sort of trouble that could accompany someone around if their childhood friend was this open: in flashbacks, the cheerleader has no qualms with asking her childhood friend to check out her assets, even though he has no inclination to do so. Things are exacerbated by the fact that she tends to mention him a great deal, even giving him all of the credit when she manages to throw a strike at a local baseball game and is subsequently interviewed about it. It is clear that the cheerleader is very comfortable with who she is, but at the same time, she also knows how her childhood friend feels about things.

  • In reality, people are rarely so straightforward and upfront with their emotions, so this is the one area where I will count Tawawa on Monday 2 and its predecessor as being “unrealistic”. A recurring theme in many works of fiction is that, were people to be more honest about themselves and how they feel, many conflicts could be avoided. Of course, this is the sort of thing where hindsight is twenty-twenty, and it is only in the aftermath of something where a better course of action can be spotted more readily.

  • Of the stories seen in Tawawa on Monday 2, the cheerleader and her childhood friend most closely resembles those seen in the original Tawawa on Monday, being a relatively self-contained series of events. In Tawawa on Monday, I found that a lot of the events that occurred were left ambiguous, creating a sense of yearning amongst the characters; this is probably Himura’s way of saying that the people we develop crushes on may also reciprocate, but for our own reasons, people choose not to act on these feelings more often than not. There was one story in Tawawa on Monday‘s first season that stood out to me; a new salaryman runs into a lady who’d been a fellow classmate, and although she loved him, he never returned her feelings.

  • I suddenly feel that, were something like that to cross my path in reality now, I would absolutely take that chance and at least get to know that individual better over a coffee or similar. These stories were always my favourite, both in Tawawa on Monday and in other contexts: there’s something immeasurably romantic about having lost an opportunity long ago, only for the heavens to present one with another shot. Over the years, one would gain a better measure of themselves and what they’re seeking, so if the heart is still saying “yes” after all that time, then one’s way forward would be clear.

  • It is not lost on me that Ai and the salaryman actually make only a limited appearance in Tawawa on Monday 2: the series is predominantly focused on Maegami and the teacher. While I adore that story greatly, Tawawa on Monday‘s short format means that any time spent with Maegami and the teacher is time not spent on anyone else. Here, Ai gives her friend a death glare after the latter’s antics causes her bra strap to snap during class.

  • As recompense, Ai forces her friend to accompany her to pick out a replacement, although in the end, Ai herself must foot the bill. This topic had been covered in a very tasteful and mature manner back in Yama no Susume, and I had a reader remark on how when properly done, anime can cover all sorts of topics without ever overstepping into the realm of the inappropriate. With this being said, Tawawa on Monday isn’t exactly Yama no Susume, and the only thing sharing these two series share in common is their extremely short runtime.

  • At the store, Ai and her friend run into Maegami, who remarks that this is the curse of being well-endowed. Curiosity led me to take a look at some supplementary materials, and it is stated that Maegami ended up using a variety of techniques to boost her own bust in an attempt to win the teacher over. A quick glance around finds that all of the techniques are ineffectual at best. I imagine that anime parody these techniques precisely because which appear to be little more than an old wives’ tale; size is a consequence of genetics, body composition, age and a host of factors.

  • The page quote was chosen because for posts like these, I’ve usually got nothing too meaningful to quite from; for such scenarios, there’s a host of humourous and comical quotes I can draw from. There are some jokes that are stymied by a cultural barrier; for instance, if I were to remark that Maegami and the teacher were “playing mahjong”, only folks who’ve seen Michael Hui’s The Private Eyes would understand what I’m saying. As such, I will aim to bring something to the table that folks can appreciate. So, I’ll stick to Captain America’s remarks in a detention video sourced from Spiderman: Homecoming – it certainly does seem to fit with the recurring trend in Tawawa on Monday of Ai growing past her namesake.

  • After coming home, Ai is surprised to see her mother and sister throwing her a 100 centimetre club party, leading to this reaction of resignation/exasperation. With this particular milestone, it would appear that Ai’s beaten out every other person in Tawawa on Monday, although it’s not one she’s terribly proud of.

  • The finale has Maegami realising her dream of marrying the teacher. Ai, her sister and mother both attend the ceremony, while the junior and senior office workers pass by, leading the junior to openly wish she could get married some day, causing the senior no small amount of embarrassment. I would imagine that both do have feelings for one another to an extent, although both are too bashful to admit it, creating a sort of status quo that leads to the junior being very friendly towards the senior in ways that could be misinterpreted.

  • After Ai catches the bridal bouquet, Maegami approaches her and wishes her the best in capturing the heart whoever catches her fancy. The bouquet toss is said to be an ancient tradition, and whoever catches the bouquet is next in line to get married. That Ai’s mind goes straight to the salaryman makes it evident that she’s come to like him greatly, although where things end up is something that remains to be seen – a part of the charm of Tawawa on Monday is the fact that the dynamic between the salaryman and Ai is a not-quite relationship. In my time, I’ve had far too many of these to count, and while this can seem depressing, being able to have someone to talk to proved cathartic and calming. If and when I’m asked now, the responsibility for not kicking things up a notch falls entirely on me: I’m the sort of person who doesn’t fall in love until much later, when I get to know someone better, but I’m a bit slower here, so by then, that individual’s gone.

  • Tawawa on Monday 2 ends with Ai and the salaryman promising to do their best this week, too. The twelfth episode is the finale for the series proper, but there is an OVA that I am planning on watching and writing about. Having said this, I do find the task of writing about Tawawa on Monday 2‘s OVA a little daunting; writing for Tawawa on Monday 2 proved quite tricky, since it deals with a topic I’ve not any practical experience in. I hope that my posts on Tawawa on Monday 2 are at least readable and somewhat entertaining for readers, and I’ll wrap up by saying the next post I write about, for The Aquatope on White Sand, will be something I am more learned in.

With Tawawa on Monday 2 in the books, it is clear that the first and second seasons are as different as night and day. The first season had been a ways more disconnected, resembling its origins more closely in that there wasn’t a cohesive storyline to follow. By comparison, Tawawa on Monday 2 still showcases glimpses into the characters’ lives, but everything is linked together by the fact that Maegami is getting married to her love; her experiences positively impact Ai and her sister, as well as give the junior office worker a bit of a push. The senior office worker has similarly spotted the teacher picking out an engagement ring, and finds himself wondering if he should ask out his junior. Ai also knows of the cheerleader, who in turn has been seen on a television program the office workers were watching. These connections mean that, compared to its predecessor, Tawawa on Monday 2 is a shade warmer; rather than a sense of empty longing, Tawawa on Monday 2 feels cozier by comparison. I imagine this is a consequence of the fact that the first season had simply been a set of original net animations meant to bring the original sketches to life, whereas by Tawawa on Monday 2, the series has been better established and therefore, able to really bring out the original feeling that Himura had been attempting to convey: not only does conversation bring a bit of joy into one’s lives, but they can also be a driving force behind bringing people together. Altogether, this isn’t a bad outcome for a series that is better known for teasing viewers with a world where bust size clearly does not adhere to the normal distribution: it is no joke when I say that, were Tawawa on Monday to have less-endowed characters, the series would still be effective in its conveying its messages. However, the curvaceous characters form much of the series’ appeal, and I imagine that, were Ai and the others a little less stacked, viewership for Tawawa on Monday would likely be lessened.

Tawawa on Monday 2: Review and Reflections After Three

“Impressive! You’ve upgraded your armour! I’VE MADE SOME UPGRADES OF MY OWN!”
“Sir, it appears that his suit can fly.”
“Duly noted.”
–Obadiah Stane, JARVIS and Tony Stark, Iron Man

On the commute to work, Ai explains to the salaryman that she’s got two buttons to give him this Monday because she and her sister had been imitating a scene out of Laputa: Castle in The Sky and totalled their shirts, before mentioning that her younger sister is beginning high school, too. Later, while the salaryman leaves home, he’s envious of a neighbour who has a loving wife; it turns out that he’s a teacher, and when one of his students fell in love with him, did what he could to conceal the fact that he returned her feelings. After she graduates, the pair are no longer teacher and student, and the teacher finally agrees to go out with her. During a business trip, the well-endowed junior employee makes no end of trouble for the senior employee, but the two manage to succeed in their trip’s aims and end up buying some sake to celebrate on return, although returning through the airport, the junior’s forgetfullness means that she leaves some keys in her pocket, setting off the metal detector and embarrassing her senior. This is Tawawa on Monday 2, a continuation of the 2016 ONA that adapted Kiseki Himura’s distinct blue-monochrome illustrations, which Himura stated as being done to encourage people in the workforce and students alike at the beginning of every week. The first season had been done by Pine Jam, but Yokohama Animation Laboratory is producing this second season, which opens off in a manner that immediately brings to mind the first: the shorts are snapshots into Ai et al.’s everyday experiences. Through these gentle interactions, the unusual combination of humour and mild embarrassment creates a sense of catharsis that clears the mind and ostensibly adds a spring to one’s step, letting them face a new week with vigour. I can speak to the efficacy of what Himura proposes from personal experience, and it is clear, from both the fact that Himura has continued drawing Tawawa on Monday to the present, as well as the fact that there is a second animated series, others also concur with this sentiment.

While Tawawa on Monday primarily deals with those inevitable moments of embarrassment that are simultaneously tender and heartwarming, there are some stories that are particularly well done (especially considering the short length of each episode). In Tawawa on Monday 2, the second episode serves as this example: a student’s feelings for her teacher lingered for the full three years she was in high school, and this teacher managed to maintain his sense of professionalism about him, doing his best to keep that distance and stopping his own feelings from getting the better of him despite how forward this student is. In the end, once the two are no longer teacher and student, the teacher is able to be truthful about how he feels, and indeed, the two end up getting married. There has always been something about this kind of love that I’ve always found immeasurably touching; while people might know one another for long periods of time, they may not always interact with and learn more about one another, or are otherwise constrained by circumstance. Tawawa on Monday had a similar story, where a salary man encounters a girl from his old high school years later; she now works at the local convenience store, and while she had a crush on him back then, he never really noticed. The feelings of yearning for what could have been permeate these stories, and really creates this feeling of emptiness about the characters who never noticed those around them. I particularly relate to this; hindsight is flawless, after all, and looking back, I may (or may not) have left a small pile of broken hearts in my wake as I strove to pursue my career and professional development without stopping to consider the feelings of those around me. If and when I’m asked about what I’d do provided a second chance, I would not be so foolish and take things up this time around; my circumstances now are rather different, and I now have the time (and resources) to do the sorts of things I couldn’t previously.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Since I opened with Ai’s smile when I first wrote about Tawawa on Monday, I’ll do the same for this introductory post to Tawawa on Monday 2. I remember that when I first heard of Kiseki Himura’s illustrations, I struggled to understand what たわわ meant. It turns out this is a bit of slang for someone who’s got a lot out front. I’ll also get this off my chest before delving further into discussions of  Tawawa on Monday 2Tawawa reminds me a great deal of Wawanesa Insurance, a Winnipeg-based mutual insurance firm named after an unincorporated community in Manitoba with a population of 594 as if 2016.

  • Because of how I process information, I sometimes mistakenly refer to Wawanesa Insurance as Tawawa Insurance. After meeting with the salaryman on the train, Ai recounts how on the weekend, she got into a bit of a flexing contest with her younger sister, who, while pretty stacked, loses out to Ai. I’d never thought I’d see the ripped-shirt contest from Laputa: Castle in The Sky in something like Tawawa on Monday, and especially not in this format. For this post, I had originally decided to go with a quote from Steven Chow’s Forbidden City Cop, but my written Cantonese isn’t of a level where I could quote Chow’s character for the relevant scene, so I’ve fallen back on an old classic from the MCU, referring to how Ai’s bustier than she had previously been.

  • Ai’s mother subsequently remarks that it’s on her to mend her own shirts after this performance. This post admittedly comes out of the blue: I hadn’t been intending to write anything today, since yesterday, I spent a nontrivial amount of time on the Battlefield 2042 open beta discussion. I slept in a little today, spent the morning reading through manga, and then sat down to a delicious homemade burger. As the afternoon progressed, however, I did notice that my old Tawawa on Monday post was rapidly climbing in views.

  • I thus decided to shoot through the first three episodes to gain a measure of what they were about and write about the series; it is clear that there is interest in Tawawa on Monday 2, and I’d figured that this was likely what people are popping in to read about: for the most part, I write according to my own schedule, but if the metrics suggest a demand for something, I have no problems obliging and providing readers with what they seek. Formerly a first year, Ai is now a second year, and is seen looking over the classroom assignments before her friend shows up and cops a feel, causing all of the people in the surroundings to blush and stare.

  • The character designs are noticeably different now that Yokohama Animation Laboratory has taken over from Pine Lab: while the contents and atmosphere remain the same, it does feel like that Yokohama Animation Laboratory is still finding their feet with respect to how the characters look. At the time of writing, I prefer the designs from the first season more, but I imagine that as this series continues, I’ll acclimatise all the same.

  • The precise relationship between the salaryman and Ai is never explicitly defined, and in fact, the salaryman’s eyes are never shown, either. This was a deliberate choice, so viewers could imagine themselves in the salaryman’s place, and is a decision that brings to mind the reason why most first-person shooter protagonists (e.g. Half-Life 2Halo and DOOM) are unspeaking: it’s so the player can better immerse themselves in the world. In Tawawa on Monday, the salaryman is a stand-in for us viewers whenever it’s Ai’s turn for a story, but there are other stories featuring different characters.

  • The second episode is such a story, following a high school girl’s determined  one-sided crush on a male teacher. This sort of thing is more common than I imagined, and I certainly wasn’t immune to this, either, having developed a bit of a crush on my first-year science instructor and yearbook club advisor. Before readers go off and imagine anything, nothing happened. I did go out of my way to put in extra effort and do well in those classes, but that’s about it. While the ceaseless flow of events in life meant I probably would’ve forgotten these things, I still have the awards for that science class and yearbook hanging around to remind me.

  • The time for dealing out or receiving a kokuhaku in a classroom as the sunset is long past now, and I suppose the only way to have such an experience will be in my dreams or respawns. With this being said, realising one were in love with someone else all along isn’t bad, either. I’ve not experienced love in the sense that poets, writers and singers have expressed, but compared to the me who wrote about Tawawa on Monday five years earlier, I think I’ve got a better measure of what I’d like out of a relationship. Besides the trust, faithfulness, openness and cooperation, one thing I greatly value is someone who can be full of pleasant surprises.

  • One of my favourite songs, Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes, speaks precisely to the sort of love I seek. In this song, Holmes speaks of a man who’d grown to find his lady unremarkable and dull, so he ends up writing an ad in the paper’s classified section describing what he’s looking for next. To his surprise, the man ends up getting a hit, and with a twinge of guilt, goes off to meet the woman who answered his ad. When he gets to the café, he is blown away by the fact that the lady meeting him happens to be his current partner.

  • Although the song sounds like it could be encouraging infidelity, the actual point of the song is to show that the people we fall in love with can find a way to surprise us even years later. The man and woman in the song have their love rekindled, surprised that there had been a side of their partner they never knew about. Whenever this song comes on the radio, I always have a smile on my face, and as a bonus, this song featured in The Guardians of the Galaxy. Having done what I’ve done, and seen what I’ve seen, nothing brings me more joy than falling in love with something all over again, and it is such an encouraging thought that all it takes is a change of perspective to experience this anew.

  • Robert F. Young’s short story, The Dandelion Girl, is another example of such love. With a bit of help from time travel, the married protagonist falls in love with a younger girl who turns out to be his current wife. Discovering new things about the familiar is something I am very much fond of: whether it be finding a new footpath in a park I’ve visited since childhood, or learning that an old game of mine has AI bots, thus allowing it to be played now even though the servers are offline, it’s always a thrill to rediscover things as though it were my first time. This part of me has carried over to what I look for in a relationship, although it’s not a must-have.

  • For the high school girl, there is a melancholy as the episode indicates how her feelings for her teacher never waver throughout all of high school: she had promised to conquer his heart before graduating, and despite her efforts, which range from trying to seduce him the same way Sayu had tried in Higehiro, to suggesting that she wants to go out with someone else in order to elicit a reaction, nothing seems to be effective. Even after the graduation ceremony, the teacher appears to have steeled his heart and walk a future without her, despite signs that he has come to reciprocate her feelings.

  • It’s a bit of a tearful moment for both the teacher and former student after the latter learns that he had indeed reciprocated her feelings, but otherwise never exhibited any sign of interest out of professionalism. Fiction oftentimes speaks to the idea that miracles can happen, even against established rules, so it is refreshing whenever something like Tawawa on Monday shows how happy endings can be found without violating any laws (although I imagine folks who are sticklers about things adhering to reality are left disappointed because this deprives them of something they can complain about).

  • For comedy’s sake, it turns out the former student also recorded the teacher returning her feelings as a bit of a momento. Anime often poses the question of whether or not someone is worth dating even if they’ve got a few eccentricities about them, and my personal answer to this question is an old standby: “it depends”, and then, within moderation. Hensuki is such an anime, and overall, I’m a Sayuri fan first and foremost, with Mizuha taking second place. Of everyone, Sayuri and Mizuha’s respective things are not troublesome at all (especially compared to Yuika). Of course, answering the question at all gives insight into the sort of person I am, and I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader, as to whether or not one’s opinion of me changed.

  • The third episode focuses on a senior salaryman and his energetic, but sometimes careless junior as they go on a business trip to pitch something for their company. I’ve not been to an airport for two-and-a-half years now; the last time would’ve been when I went to F8 2019, and passing through US Customs is probably the trickiest part of my travels. Watching people going about their business normally in things like anime is admittedly a little weird, and unfortunately, it looks like for the present, normalcy is still a ways away in reality.

  • In any series where ecchi elements are present, I’d have to resort to using animated GIFs to fully portray what’s happening on screen. This is something I’ve never considered doing over the course of my blog’s run, since animated GIFs are bandwidth intensive, distracting, and quite frankly, annoying – repetition has never been witty for me. As they say, a joke is never as funny the second time one hears it, and the reason for this is because an effective joke depends on timing and context. This is why I despise memes and never use GIFs as a response to something someone might say: it’s a sign of respect to reply properly.

  • After boarding their flight, a flight attendant asks if the senior and junior need any help stowing their luggage, but struggles with the latch. The ensuing hassle eventually leads the senior to step in and secure things himself. A part of the humour here comes from watching the senior worker’s expressions while things are going down: even though the men in Tawawa on Monday are presented without any eyes, they are still quite expressive, at least, enough for us viewers to pickup on what’s going on.

  • Tawawa on Monday 2 appears to have improved the background art compared to its predecessor, and after a successful presentation, both junior and senior alike decide it’s time to go ahead and celebrate with a drink or two. In the event such occasions come up, I typically order whatever non-alcoholic options are available. While fiction would suggest that I’m a wet blanket, it turns out that the variety of non-alcoholic options out there is mind-boggling. There are non-alcoholic beers and wines, on top of soft drinks, juices and the like, to the point where I could grab a ginger beer and still partake without getting hammered. My personal disinclination to drink isn’t on any moral grounds: I light up like a Christmas tree and then fall asleep if I’ve had one too many.

  • Unfortunately for the junior office lady, after she comes out of the shower with naught but a towel wrapped around her, the senior worker suddenly loses all inclination to go out, and the next day, he ends up buying a bottle of alcohol for her in place of things. The topic of office romances is one that poses challenges for companies, since it creates tension among coworkers, lowers productivity and in the worst case, create nightmares for human resource. In the realm of fiction, office romances are employed almost entirely for comedy. Tawawa on Monday, being fiction, falls squarely into the realm of comedy.

  • Upon returning through a security checkpoint, the junior’s forgotten about her keys again, and here, I’ll pointlessly reminisce about the fact that, for the past year, I’d been wondering what one of the keys on my key ring were for. As it turns out, this “mystery” key is for my dōjō. With this post in the books, I think that folks coming here for Tawawa on Monday 2-related discussions will have finally have something to read, and now that this unexpected post is in the books, I’ll return next time with a scheduled post for The Aquatope on White Sand.

While Tawawa on Monday has never been the most world-changing or insightful series about relationships, life lessons or the human condition, their ability to endure is a consequence of speaking to people’s desires to love and be loved, to experience warmth and a sense of belonging. Tawawa on Monday‘s first season had aired in late 2016, and I wrote about the series briefly in early 2017; the fact that a second season is running now, five full years after the first, speaks to the fact that this out-of-the-way series is doing well enough to warrant a continuation. I rather enjoyed the first season, and Tawawa on Monday 2 is off to a solid start. The characters here look a little different than their 2016 counterparts, a consequence of Yokohama Animation Laboratory taking over for Pine Jam, but other than that, it does feel as though I never left: Tawawa on Monday 2 is looking quite enjoyable, and I am curious to see what sorts of experiences that the salaryman, senior employee and others will have throughout this series run. It should be clear that nothing crazy happens in Tawawa on Monday, and a part of the magic in this series is precisely because it teases what could happen, rather than outright depicting it. I will note here that I’d originally been planning to write about Tawawa on Monday 2 after the whole series had finished airing later this year, but I do pay attention to my site metrics, and it appears that there’s been a considerable uptick in interest for my old Tawawa on Monday posts. Thus, for the readers’ sake, I’ve opted to write about this series earlier than scheduled so folks have a chance to hear about what my thoughts on this continuation are.

Let’s Take a Coffee Break: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka, Thanksgiving and Thoughts on Continuations Through Life

“What I love about Thanksgiving is that it’s purely about getting together with friends or family and enjoying food. It’s really for everybody, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from.” –Daniel Humm

It’s a gorgeous autumn afternoon outside right now: the golden foliage clings to a handful of trees, and the sky is of a deep shade of blue. This time of year is characterised by still-warm days, pumpkin pie and previously, the arrival of a new GochiUsa season. In 2015, GochiUsa‘s second season began airing, and just last year, BLOOM began on the Saturday of the Thanksgiving Long Weekend, giving me one more thing to be thankful for. This year, while no new GochiUsa is available, the current season does have a very large number of sequels – Yakunara Mug Cup Mo: Niban Kama, 86 EIGHTY-SIX and Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Great Mankai Chapter are all running. Each series takes its own approach towards continuing with their respective universe’s story: Niban Kama has Himeno learn more about her mother’s love for pottery, 86 EIGHTY-SIX drops viewers into things some time after the first season had ended, with Vladilena now leading a new squadron, and Shinei being found by the Federacy of Giad, and Great Mankai Chapter gives the Hero Club some much-needed downtime as they go around town and have fun, before Mimori unexpectedly gets a request that will see her group pressed back into service against an unknown foe. If one’s memory is a little rusty as to what happened earlier in each of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo and 86 EIGHTY-SIX, these first episodes will probably jolt the viewer’s memories somewhat, reminding one of what had previously happened and then beaconing viewers to continue on with the journey. Story-driven anime like Yūki Yūna is a Hero and 86 EIGHTY-SIX will have little trouble picking things up. However, with slower-paced, slice-of-life anime, it can often feel that a bit more effort is needed to resume where things had left off. However, this is something that GochiUsa has never struggled with; the series expertly picks things up, and despite the oftentimes long duration between seasons, when a continuation does air, it feels as though there had never been a gap between seasons at all.

The reason why GochiUsa is especially apt at this is because while there is an overarching story throughout the series, episodes are largely self-contained, dealing with an experience or journey that is resolved within the course of that episode. Characters also possess very distinct identifying traits, and as such, seeing everyone together again immediately reminds viewers of what the previous season had done, before setting viewers about with the promise of all-new adventures. In GochiUsa, the first season had ended on a cold winter’s day, with Cocoa and Chino falling ill and subsequently looking after one another. The second season begins as spring begins returning, and Cocoa is seized with a desire to take photographs of her friends to send back home, but struggles to photograph a smiling Chino. The second season ended with a ciste hunt during the late spring, during which Maya, Megu and Chino decide to put on a hunt for Cocoa, too. By BLOOM, summer has arrived, and it’d become a little too hot to work at Rabbit House, prompting Cocoa, Chino and Rize to create new uniforms, before selling off some unused items at a local flea market. These events are completely unrelated, but share the commonality of showcasing each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo at their best. Moreover, while the characters do mature of the course of GochiUsa, they remain true to themselves, as well. This unifying element means that regardless of how much time has passed since the last season, starting a new season means viewers immediately feel at home, creating a sense of warmth and comforting familiarity.

Additional Thoughts and Commentary

  • It’s now been six years since GochiUsa‘s second season began airing: I was starting my final year of graduate school back then, and the Star Wars Battlefront beta was going. I’d deliberately taken a half-day off so I could get some screenshots for discussions on Friday: back then, I was making enough progress with my thesis work so that my supervisor had no objections to this whatsoever. I thus spent the morning organising the citations I needed, evaluated the submissions for the iOS class I was TA’ing, and by the afternoon, I delved into the beta.

  • On Saturday morning, GochiUsa‘s second season began airing. Like BLOOM, episodes came out at 0830 MDT (or 0730 MST), so I was able to watch the episode almost immediately after waking up and starting my day. That had been a particularly peaceful morning, with blue skies and brisk autumn air. However, whereas we were just coming out of the summer and entering autumn, GochiUsa‘s second season was exiting winter and headed into the summer.

  • By 2015, I’d more or less found the style that I write with for this blog: on average, an episodic post takes around two hours to write if I’m coming fresh from the episode. I believe that GochiUsa‘s second season would’ve been the first time that I did a full episodic review. Originally, I’d been intending on writing the series after three episodes, and then again once the whole season had concluded. However, as I continued watching, it became clear that there was plenty of material to consider. Because the episodes are largely self-contained, they each cover a distinct topic.

  • All of these topics are then related to the overall message the entire season is going for. Along the way, GochiUsa does a fantastic job of ensuring that the world Cocoa, Chino and the others reside in is a world that is plausible. There is an incredible amount of attention paid to details, whether it be the apparatus that Chino uses to grind coffee beans and brew coffee, the fung-shui charts Cocoa and Chiya’s class use to optimise their layout for the culture festival, or the fact that the animators have even hidden in neat Easter eggs into things like license plates and QR codes.

  • Because of these factors, GochiUsa is an exceptional series that draws in viewers; the world feels real, the learnings are relevant, and the characters are loveable. Even tougher anime critics note that GochiUsa has only improved since it began airing: the first season had been a little lighter on themes because it was focused on introducing the characters and their setting, but once everything was established, GochiUsa could really begin exploring things that were more thoughtful and mature. This aspect really allowed GochiUsa to excel: the gentle slice-of-life atmosphere could soften up difficult topics like being separated from friends as everyone pursues a different future, or dealing with death and honouring those who are no longer among the living.

  • Here, Aoyama Blue Mountain holds up a copy of the magazine that she writes for, and looking more closely, one can spot Rize modelling for the magazine known in-universe as Walker. After GochiUsa finished airing, I purchased a copy of the second season’s artbook, Miracle Blend: it proved to be an incredible resource that includes behind-the-scenes interviews, concept and setting art, and high-resolution artwork. In this artbook, every page from Walker is shown in high resolution, and using image recognition technology, I’ve been able to translate the magazine’s contents.

  • In the end, I also picked up the artbook Memorial Blend for GochiUsa‘s first season, which similarly provided a wealth of information about the series, right down to what phones each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo were using, spots in Colmar that formed inspiration for the town, and my personal favourite, sketches of Rabbit House’s floor plans to ensure that the interior remained consistent throughout all three seasons. I had plans to pick up the artbook for BLOOM, but at the time of writing, I’ve not heard any indicators that such an artbook will be released.

  • Such an artbook would doubtlessly be an asset to have, especially if it also covers off Dear My Sister and Sing For You: Yuru Camp△‘s second artbook was a bit heftier than the first because it also shows the events of Heya Camp△. There is a lot of content inside these artbooks, and I do draw upon them from time to time if revisiting a series. However, I’ve never really had the chance to sit down, sift through everything, translate everything to English and share this with readers.

  • Such an exercise is something that the most die-hard GochiUsa fans might consider, but for me, while I am a pretty devoted fan of this series, I’m also a bit of a generalist in that with the time I have, I would prefer to experience a wider variety of stuff. There are some folks who end up specialising in one series and can offer some solid insights or tidbits of trivia I miss, but for me, the tradeoff about becoming specialised is that I might end up missing out on other stuff. I’m similar in this regard with respect to games; rather than become insanely good at any one game (e.g. Halo), I’m happier trying out a variety of games and becoming just good enough in each to hold my own.

  • Once GochiUsa‘s second season picked up, I found myself returning weekly, every Saturday afternoon, to write about the series. In this way, my autumn academic term disappeared in the blink of an eye, and every week, I looked forwards to seeing what each episode would bring to the table. Here, in one of Chino’s flashbacks, Saki can plainly be seen: even as early as the second season, it was hinted that GochiUsa was headed towards a more introspective direction by implying that Cocoa’s actions reminded Chino of her late mother.

  • BLOOM began airing a full five years after GochiUsa‘s second season, but the in-betweens were punctuated by Dear My Sister (2018) and Sing For You (2019), so the wait didn’t feel too terribly long. At this point last year, BLOOM was kicking off, and unlike the second season, I knew from the start that I was going to do episodic reviews for it, making the first time that I did a pair of episodic reviews simultaneously in a season.

  • GochiUsa has changed studios three times during its run, but thanks to consistent character designers and voice actresses, one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference for the most part, and in fact, the only noticeable changes is that the artwork and animation have improved with time. The wood-framed town does not change much in terms of aesthetics, but subtle things like lighting and water effects make the world come alive.

  • A quick glance at the official GochiUsa website finds that they’re celebrating ten years of success: the comics originally began serialisation in Manga Time Kirara back in March 2011, and there have been a bunch of events commemorating this milestone. With this going on, one wonders if there will be announcement of any continuations: it has been, after all, a year since BLOOM finished airing, and at the time of writing, there are a total of nine manga volumes. The series’ positive reception (and corresponding sales figures) means that a continuation is going to be a matter of when, rather than if.

  • Like season two’s first episode, BLOOM opens at Rabbit House on a hot summer’s day, and eases viewers back into the swing of things. Five years had passed, and in that time, I’ve transitioned fully over into industry from academia (during season two, I was about ten months from finishing graduate school): looking back, it’s been quite a bumpy journey, what with the turbulent nature of start-ups. However, the experience imparted here was invaluable, and allowed me a chance to really learn all of the technical and problem-solving skills needed to be effective in my role.

  • Watching the everyone go shopping for materials to create summer uniforms typified the experience that GochiUsa‘s successfully conveyed in its anime adaptation; compared to the manga, where there is a greater emphasis on humour (typical of the 4-koma format), the anime is able to begin exploring topics that are only touched upon in the manga. K-On! was very similar in this regard: while both anime and manga alike were about Azusa coming to cherish her time with Houkago Tea Time despite lamenting how lax Yui is towards music, the anime made this point especially clear (whereas in the manga, this was covered over the space of a few pages).

  • The success GochiUsa‘s animated adaptation experienced is a parallel to K-On!: in both cases, the anime took events occurring over the space of two or three pages and spaced them out over a longer time period, giving viewers time to consider things beyond the punchline. Furthermore, the addition of motion, colour and audio means that a given moment in the anime can evoke emotions that are otherwise more implicit in the manga. For instance, after Cocoa reunites with the others during the Halloween festival, a moment that spans eight panels in the manga was brought to live with dialogue and music that further accentuated what it meant to Chino, now that Cocoa could pull off her magic trick.

  • In this way, I’ve found that GochiUsa is providing viewers with an alternate experience of the series compared to the manga to present a different perspective on things. With this being said, the manga remains the source for the anime, and it is not unreasonable to read ahead in the manga to gain insight as to what might be upcoming. Unfortunately, at least at the time of writing, GochiUsa remains unlicensed over in North America, and without a publisher like Yen Press or Seven Seas, it means that for the time being, I won’t be able to hop on over to my favourite bookstore and pick up a copy of the manga, as I have for something like Harukana Receive or The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan.

  • GochiUsa is definitely a series I would have no qualms picking up the manga for, and given that two compilation volumes have been released, I would hope that, if an English-language version of GochiUsa ever becomes available, they’d be in the omnibus format, as well. With this in mind, it’s almost time to wrap this post up. The morning had been overcast and gusty, but the clouds gave way to sunshine and unexpectedly warm weather, so I took the afternoon to walk around outside while it’s still nice; I ended up walking over to a viewpoint overlooking the west end of town, where the mountains are visible. While the trees are starting to lose their colour now, the park nearby remained radiant; their leaves are still brilliantly yellow. Our Thanksgiving dinner is set for tomorrow evening, and this year, we’re opting to keep things simple on account of how busy it’s been.

  • This is because my house hunting endeavours turned into a process of buying the house, and throughout September, I was busy with getting all my documentation prepared, and all of my forms signed ahead of possession date. Thus, it seemed appropriate to make a smaller, simpler Thanksgiving dinner: this year, there is much to be thankful for. I give thanks for the support I’ve had, especially in these times, and also for the opportunity that I’ve been given to pick myself up and continue moving forwards. I am especially thankful about my family, friends, and also you, the readers; this blog has allowed me to write out my challenges and experiences, and being able to share thoughts with readers has also been a mode of support for me.

  • With this post reminiscing about GochiUsa in the books, I’ll wrap up with a moment of Chino smiling, remark that Cocoa would have an easier time of photographing a smiling Chino by the events of BLOOM than she did in the second season, and wrap things up. The Battlefield 2042 open beta has been live for a day now for me (I’m not in the EA Access group, and I didn’t preorder), and while I’ve had the chance to put in three hours so far, the beta ends later this evening, so I’d like to get as much out of things as I can.

Because of the atmosphere and aesthetics in GochiUsa, whenever a fourth season begins airing, viewers can be reasonably confident that it will be as though they’d never left. GochiUsa has proven to be unexpectedly popular amongst viewers; while prima facie appearing to be little more than a fluffy slice-of-life about appreciating the more down-to-earth and subtle aspects of everyday life, the series captivated viewers with its detailed and unexpectedly immersive world. As the series wore on, GochiUsa began to explore more personal and challenging topics, of accepting death and finding happiness with those around one self: by BLOOM, thoughts of graduation and choosing one’s future with conviction becomes the main theme, and Chino closes the third season by remarking that she’s now curious to see what’s out there, signifying her own desire to grow and become aware of how vast the world really is. When the day the fourth season airs, I imagine that GochiUsa will have no trouble welcoming its fans back to what has been an uncommonly engaging and immersive series. I’ve heard that the manga is still ongoing, and BLOOM ended with volume seven. Because the anime adaptation does things quite differently compared to the manga, the anime actually ended up with a more cohesive and focused story. Since BLOOM ended with the desire to travel, it is possible that we could get a full-fledged movie of the group travelling together over to the city that combines landmarks from Prague, Milan, Paris, Brussels, Helsinki and Stockholm, before returning back to town for the new school year. What lies ahead is exciting beyond words, and it should be no surprise that GochiUsa is a special to me – I picked the anime up before graduate school began, saw the second season as graduate school drew to a close, became a competent iOS developer by the time of BLOOM, and this year, I’m now getting ready to sign off on the mortgage for the new place I’d bought. I’m not sure where in my life I’ll be by the time GochiUsa‘s next work, whether it be a new season or a film, comes out, but I am very confident that I will enjoy whatever lies ahead at least as much as I’ve enjoyed the existing three seasons and two OVAs (if not even more so).