The Infinite Zenith

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Bofuri 2: Review and Reflection After Three

“The beast’s hide is too thick to be pierced from the outside. I must cut through it from the inside!” –Drax The Destroyer, Guardians of the Galaxy 2

With Christmas Break over, the Maple Tree guild work towards clearing the fourth world. Maple herself is out with a cold, so she ends up resting. After she recovers, she returns to New World Online (NWO) and solos the boss while helping Frederica’s party; while she’d previously ended up fighting another named elite, Maple ends up with yet another powerful skill. She later meets up with Yui and May and help them defeat a named elite gaining access to the sixth level. This horror-themed space overwhelms Sally, who’s too frightened to even set foot in the world, and Maple decides to accompany Sally when the latter expresses a want for some loot from a haunted house landmark. Although they end up failing, Maple will later return and solo the haunted house. While Sally explores other levels, Maple hangs out with Mii; after they defeat foes giving Mii some trouble, the pair hang out at a café, where Mii wishes she could be herself in-game. Later, the developers start another in-game event, and despite the challenge specifically surrounding the instance Maple and Sally are given, the pair manage to clear three floors within the tower despite initially struggling with foes that were custom-made to give Maple a tough time. This is where Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu‘s second season (Bofuri 2 from here on out for brevity) lands after three episodes. After doing a special pre-airing prior to Christmas, Bofuri is set to continue on in the same manner as its predecessor, following the RPG novice Kaede Honjō (Maple), and her best friend, Risa Shiromine (Sally) as they explore NWO and its unusual mechanics. Along the way, thanks to Maple’s near-total absence of knowledge surrounding gaming, and her propensity to go with what works, she ends up having a wonderful time in the game, frustrating the developers, who appear to be at their wits’ end when it comes to handling Maple and her now-infamous guild.

After the first season had ended, I concluded that Bofuri had been an excellent example of an unusual optimisation solution in some multi-agent systems: in the typical RPG, players pick from a wide range of statistics to build characters suited for their class and play-style. Because Maple had lacked any gaming knowledge, she maximises her defensive capabilities and instead, draws upon a very unusual set of skills to advance her experience, and in the process, she ends up having a fantastic time. The lessons seen in Bofuri (and doubtlessly, Bofuri 2) is a simple one: having a varied skill set and an open mind leads to a good experience. This particular theme is general enough such that it could apply to all walks of life, and mirrors the easygoing tone in Bofuri; NWO isn’t a death-game like Sword Art Online, the competition between the different guilds are friendly, and Maple has a tendency to befriend those she meets. In the absence of high stakes and interpersonal drama, Bofuri isn’t going to tell any inspirational stories, nor is it likely to change my worldviews on a given subject. However, the series is relaxing and fun: a part of the enjoyment stems purely from seeing what outrageous solutions Maple applies towards a given problem, and watching the developers squirm as they realise nothing they propose is working. Not every series needs to compel viewers to think, and Bofuri is an excellent example of how important it is to simply focus on having fun every so often: Maple herself isn’t worried about the in-game meta or about playing the game a certain way, and as a result, she is able to have extraordinary experiences. While this means I won’t be discussing the series’ themes and their implications as I am wont to doing, as a bit of a gamer myself, I do relate to the idea of purely having fun in a game without concern for playing something “the way it’s meant to be played”.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As it turns out, the Japan-themed world in NWO was only one step of the journey, and by the time Maple has a chance to play through things following Christmas, her friends have already cleared it and are exploring higher level spaces. One thing I’ve never understood about Japanese games is why open levels are referred to as “floors”: in older RPGs where the setting is a dungeon or large building, floors make sense, but when it comes to wide open spaces, the nomenclature is misleading. Calling them “worlds” or “levels” is more appropriate a descriptor.

  • All of the RPG games I play are completely open-world, being set in large maps subdivided into large biomes, and there’s no need to clear a boss fight in order to enter new biomes. In World of Warcraft, regions do have a level requirement to dissuade low-level players from rushing ahead, and Skyrim is completely open for players to explore, as enemy difficultly scales with the player level. Japanese games are built on different philosophies than Western games, and while elements from the former have strongly influenced the latter, cultural differences result in dramatically different experiences.

  • For me, both games have their merits (I’ve found things like Valkyria Chronicles and Street Fighter just as engaging as Sim City and Battlefield), but on the whole, I generally prefer games that don’t demand a large time investment in them. The idea of spending hours upon hours levelling up and picking up usable gear isn’t something that appeals to me, and so, when games take a fair approach towards things (anything worth earning should take some effort, but not demand more effort than work), I find myself more inclined to enjoy things.

  • From what I’ve seen of NWO throughout Bofuri, the game’s biggest draw seems to be a dynamic skill system that allows players to pick up any skill and use them in conjunction with one another. Maple uses them in unorthodox ways to trivially solve most of the challenges she encounters, and I am reminded of the classic game, Magicka, a satirical game that allows players to combine magic in different ways to solve puzzles. Most RPGs don’t allow players to combine skills in an unusual manner (for instance, a World of Warcraft mage can’t use spells to bring the dead back to life, and shamans can’t use powerful frost spells to control crowds) with the aim of preserving balance.

  • Maple’s first adventure after returning to NWO from a cold is to solo the boss in the Japanese level, and then she joins her friends in the subsequent world to mop the next boss. Her overwhelming power leads the others to wonder if there’s anything left to do, and I am left to feel that Maple is similar in Donnie Yen’s portrayal of Ip Man in Ip Man – Yen’s Ip Man always finds a way of winning the most important fights and tends to draw in fights of lesser significance. While an indestructible protagonist is generally counted as being dull to watch because there’s no struggle and payoff, stories can still make such characters work.

  • This happens when the protagonist is made to learn that power isn’t going to be the answer. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is a fine example of this – although Yuna is exceptionally powerful, she finds that jumping into the middle of a problem and solving it with her fists or magic won’t cut it all the time, and in doing so, she slowly learns to listen to the world’s inhabitants. Here in Bofuri, it appears that Maple’s state in the game is such that she’s able to purely focus on having fun, but I do find myself wondering if the story is set to go further than this.

  • Bofuri‘s ability to vividly render every region is impressive: Silver Link has spared no expense in making sure every world is vividly rendered and packed with detail. The animation and artwork in Bofuri is of an excellent standard, and this shouldn’t be too surprising – Silver Link has an impressive repertoire, ranging from Non Non Biyori and Brave Witches to Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow and Kokoro Connect, and most of their shows have been well-presented.

  • The sixth world, a horror-themed space, might hint at what’s upcoming in Bofuri 2 – although Sally is a remarkable player who built her character around agility and has a reputation similar to Maple’s, her fear of all things horror means that she’s left conflicted as to whether or not she wants to play on. On one hand, Sally doesn’t do well with ghost stories, but on the other hand, she’s tempted by some excellent gear that’s said to drop in this region.

  • Using game spaces to help characters grow as individuals wouldn’t be a bad idea, and having spent the whole of the first season showing how Maple’s able to visit all sorts of spaces without worrying about being defeated, it would be nice if Maple could spend more time with her friends and help them with various in-game objectives, in time, coming to learn more about their real-world traits and potentially using the game to help them overcome an individual shortcoming. In the present, Maple agrees to accompany Sally into a haunted house where some interesting gear is set to drop.

  • If I had to guess, once players acquire a skill in NWO, the skill’s performance probably scales as one levels up. This would allow Maple to continuously use her old skills in higher levels without worrying about them becoming obsolete. The Division and The Division 2 had a similar mechanic in play, allowing seeker mines, explosive drones and remote turrets to do more base damage as one levelled up, so that they would remain useful as one hit the endgame. By using her Machine God ability, Maple carries Sally through the haunted house, both literally and figuratively.

  • Maple’s firepower actually does tangible damage to whatever ghosts are in this world, and as such, it stands to reason that, had Sally simply stood her ground and fought back, she’d be able to hold her own. However, since her fear of ghosts and spirits surpasses her confidence in NWO, she ends up being ineffectual during the exploration. I recall a similar scene in Metro: Last Light, where during the mission to save Pavel, Artyom has a frightening vision where hands of the damned protruded from the walls while he follows the Dark One. Back then, I only had a GTX 660, but I was still able to run the game at high settings and maintain 60 FPS with the 1080p resolution.

  • When Sally gets separated from Maple, her ensuring reaction is adorable. This was a somewhat unexpected side to her character, and although I vaguely remember Sally being uncomfortable with ghost stories and the like, seeing moments like these really accentuate her dislikes. Admittedly, it was also quite amusing to see the otherwise cool-and-collected Sally reacting in such a manner. In the end, she does manage to link up with Maple, who uses her latest ability to give Sally a chance to regroup, and when some other adventurers enter the house, they draw the spirits off the pair, allowing Sally and Maple to escape.

  • Sally’s original quest of gaining some new items ends up unsuccessful, but for their troubles, she and Maple both gain access to a new skill. While I’ve never had an experience quite like Sally’s in a game before, I have had times where I entered a mission thinking I had what it took to complete it, only to get stomped. This most often happens in games like The Division – after I completed my six-piece Classified Striker’s set, I foolishly thought I was capable of handling Incursions solo and found myself hopelessly outmatched; this activity had been scaled for four players with good gear. Similarly, in The Division 2, I’d imagined that the Hunter’s Fury would be an asset when I tried to solo the raids, but during the airport level, I couldn’t even make it off the tarmac into the terminal.

  • As a predominantly solo player, I definitely wouldn’t make it very far in NWO unless I managed to make a Maple-like build. Back in Bofuri, after logging out, Sally is surprised to find her home empty; her parents are working late, and she’s still a little jittery following the excitement of having just escaped a haunted house. The real world is rarely shown in Bofuri, but I am fond of its portrayal, since it does remind viewers that this series isn’t an isekai, strictly speaking, and as a result, the stakes are much lower. A few months ago, I would’ve been a little envious of Sally’s home setup, but post move, I’ve put together a setup of my own that has suited my needs.

  • Luckily for Sally, Maple’s on hand to talk her through things. Moments like these speak to what’s really important in gaming, and while Bofuri doesn’t have the same high stakes as the typical isekai or something like Sword Art Online would, the change of pacing makes this a relaxing series to follow. Understanding this about Bofuri means managing my expectations accordingly: I’m not here looking for a world-class, life-changing tale, but instead, it’s sufficient to see characters learn and grow alongside one another in a world where the only aim is to have a good time, something that many streamers and gamers in the present seem to have forgotten.

  • In the end, Maple ends up soloing the haunted house and secures all of the stuff that Sally had been looking for. In the time that has passed between Bofuri and Bofuri 2, I’ve managed to finish The Division 2 fully – seeing the excitement in Bofuri 2 about loot brings back memories of when I’d spent my downtime after work running through Washington D.C. doing various things for exotics. In The Division, I ended up joining random groups in order to complete legendary missions, but with the presence of exotic crates in The Division 2, I was able to amass a reasonably extensive collection of exotics without needing to play the toughest content.

  • My old Hunter’s Fury gear set, paired with the Chatterbox and Ninja Bike kneepads, allow me to trivially beat missions in PvE – the fact I get health and armour back on each kill, coupled with the fact that every kill also returns a third of my ammunition, and the Chatterbox’s ability to increase its firing rate when near enemies, renders this the perfect setup for PvE. On the other hand, against individually strong opponents, the Hunter’s Fury loadout I have now is quite ineffective. My approach towards The Division 2 was partly inspired by Bofuri, and since I have no intention of playing PvP or the game’s tougher content, things work out well enough for me.

  • The main reason why I’ve not returned to The Division 2 since finishing the Faye Lau manhunt had been because for most of 2021 and 2022, the game went on a bit of a hiatus as no new content was added. Ubisoft had launched a roadmap indicating that new content would be added, along with a new free-to-play title, but having felt I’d gotten my money’s worth from The Division 2, I ended up moving on. Back in Bofuri, after receiving a request from Mii, Maple joins her and uses her newfound defensive buffs to give Mii a chance to use her powerful, but slow-to-deploy AoE skill. This particular spell brings to mind Megumin’s ex~PLOSION~!, which similarly was damaging but was stymied by a high magic requirement and long charge time.

  • On the topic of Megumin, it turns out that next season, Konosuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World is going to be released. This spinoff will deal with Megumin and show her life prior to meeting Kazuma, and I’m rather looking forwards to seeing how things turn out. During the start of the global health crisis back in early 2020, I found myself with an abundance of time at home, so I spent most of it powering through anime I hadn’t had time to watch. Konosuba was one of them, and in this series, I found comedy of a consistently good quality. Besides KonosubaKuma Kuma Kuma Bear is also going to get a second season.

  • While I don’t typically watch or write about isekai anime, there are a few series that do catch my interest from time to time – I prefer to watch the more relaxed and comical series over the serious ones. Back in Bofuri, Mii and Maple swing by an in-game café following their adventure, and the conversation switches over to something on Mii’s mind; she’s been wanting to be herself, but obligations to her guild means she must maintain a more serious persona. Hanging out with Maple allows her to relax and show her true self, and I am hoping that at some point, seeing Maple doing what she does best will also help Mii to relax around others.

  • When conversation turns to hanging out with folks one otherwise normally wouldn’t, I am reminded of how slice-of-life anime are able utilise their casts and have different characters interact with one another, in turn creating new experiences that may differ in tone and outcomes compared to what is seen with the lead characters. GochiUsa had done an especially good job with this: while Cocoa and Chino carry most of the show in earlier seasons, later on, episodes give the other characters a chance to shine. Episodes of Bofuri around other characters in the Maple Tree guild, or even the other guilds, could act as a fun way of showcasing more of NWO.

  • Bofuri is wasting no time on pushing ahead – by the game’s seventh major event, Maple and her friends are fully ready to take things on. This time around, rather than a large-scale event involving multiple guilds, small groups must take on instanced areas. The idea of an “instance” originates from World of Warcraft, where small groups were given their private copy of a dungeon to take on. The term itself comes from Object-Oriented Programming, where an instance of an object is a occurrence of an object that can be acted upon. The easiest way to describe this is with physical entities: supposing that Person is a class describing people, then Maple would be an instance of the Person class. The term stuck, and since then, private dungeons have been referred to as instances.

  • Maple and Sally end up taking on their instance together, but unbeknownst to them, the developers have altered theirs so the pair end up with far tougher foes than necessary. As Maple and Sally destroy their opponents, the developers watch in horror; nothing they have seem to work. However, their conversations also suggest that these foes were designed to be challenging, but not unbeatable. The problem NWO’s developers have stem from a fundamental design problem in their game: caps to skill power and statistics, coupled with limiting what combination of skills can be equipped and earned, would’ve eliminated most of their headaches.

  • Game balance is eschewed in Bofuri precisely to accommodate Maple’s outrageous adventures, and as such, the developers find themselves on the backfoot. Battlefield 2042 had suffered from this – originally, the class system was abolished, and this reduced the incentive for teamwork. The reintroduction of classes is intended to ensure that players are locked to a specific role, increasing the need to work as a team. Here, Maple equips her Wooly skill: this one is one of my favourites because Maple’s response to using it is always adorable. While outwardly envelopes Maple in wool, she is able to utilise it in a creative way.

  • Writing for Bofuri is admittedly a bit of a challenge: since the anime’s objective is simply present a fun experience, there isn’t much to do in the way of speculation, either. As such, Bofuri is one of those series where it’s easiest to kick back and watch things as they unfold. With this in mind, while I’m writing about both Bofuri and Mō Ippon! in the same manner, the latter does provide more opportunity for the sort of discussion I’m partial to; I’m not sure how many readers here follow my references to games, for instance.

  • Back in Bofuri, upon fighting their first foe, Maple and Sally initially have a tough time damaging its exterior. Once they spot that the monster’s mouth might be a weak spot, Maple decides to cut it up from within. This is the inspiration for the page quote, sourced from Guardians of the Galaxy 2, during the opening fight against a multi-dimensional monster known as the Abilisk. When Drax determines that the only way to deal damage to it is from the inside, both Gamora and Peter Quill are perplexed, since skin is supposedly the same thickness from the outside as it is from within. However, there is merit in Drax’s argument – the fleshy interior is probably not as tough as the exterior, so more damage can be done.

  • In this way, Maple and Sally conquer the first floor without too much trouble and move onto the second, where they fight a foe that takes the form of a large book and utilises Maple’s own skills against them, while at the same, preventing Maple from using any skills it’s taken. This enemy is actually pretty cleverly designed and brings to mind the likes of Aaron Keener, who had access to the same plethora of skills as the player’s Agent. Against Keener, I found the best way to handle him was to continuously push the offensive – staying behind cover isn’t too effective, and I found that it was by getting up close and personal that let me do effective damange.

  • The visual quality in the second floor’s fight is degraded somewhat, as the character models become more blocky in terms of appearance. The darkness in the room somewhat masks this, but it was still noticeable. Silver Link generally has a solid history of producing visually consistent works, but there have been cases where things have seen slippage (such as 2016’s Brave Witches). However, if their record is anything to go by, Bofuri 2 shouldn’t see any delays to its schedule: it is possible that some shortcuts were taken to ensure that episodes aired in a timely fashion.

  • The fight against the second floor’s boss ends with Sally using her speed to overcome it, and the two advance to the third floor, which is controlled by an elemental golem. Initially, the environment resembles World of Warcraft‘s Molten Core, but after Sally begins using cold spells against it, the golem switches over to cold-based attacks. Maple ends up using her Atrocity form and consumes the golem, defeating it instantly and giving the developers more headaches. At this point in time, it almost feels like Maple and Sally would be better served as play-testers brought on before a game ever hit alpha stage: their unconventional play-styles would expose problem areas of a game that can then be fixed.

  • Having said this, with the way Maple plays, one might be inclined to consider fool-proofing certain things, and this approach towards development does have its detriments. One longstanding axiom in software development is that users will always find ways of breaking something no matter how well-guarded something will be. For NWO’s developers, it may not be a meaningful exercise to keep up with Maple, so here in Bofuri 2, I am curious to see how they react as the story continues. Viewers will likely have an excellent ride ahead, and I look forwards to seeing what the second season will present. In the meantime, it’s time to call it an evening: I’ve returned from my first dinner out with the extended family to celebrate the Chinese New Year, and after an exquisite menu, which included a whole steamed fish and fresh lobster, I’m inclined to do as Maple does and enjoy some time in a game.

The ability to play a game in any manner of one’s choosing is a topic of debate amongst those who partake in video games. On one hand, game mechanics may lead to certain tactics being more effective than others, and in PvP environments, this can result in heated exchanges regarding whether or not said tactics are fair. For instance, the practise of camping in a first person shooter is regarded as dishonourable because it gives the camper an advantage over their foes. By staying in one spot and remaining hidden, one can defeat unsuspecting foes with ease. There is, however, one legitimate use of camping: if one has just exited a firefight and needs to regenerate their health, it is perfectly acceptable to hide behind cover or somewhere safe while awaiting recovery. If one is ambushed in the process, there’s nothing unethical about defending oneself. In PvE games, play-styles are irrelevant, and one can choose to have fun in any manner of their choosing. The whole point of gaming is to have a good time, and this is why for me, single-player experiences are my preference. I can do something in my own manner of choosing, in an environment where my mistakes won’t harm any teammates or allies. Similarly, when I play PvP experiences now, I enter a match without any expectations: the goal isn’t to help my team win or maintain a positive KDR, but rather, to have a blast, and I’ve found that when approaching games with this mindset, I tend to do better and have a better time of things along the way. Bofuri celebrates this approach towards gaming. With all of the streamers out there trying to engage their audiences by using meta loadouts and strategies exclusively, as well as viewers who try to emulate them, the spirit of video games is somewhat diminished, so Bofuri acts as an amusing counterargument for this in suggesting that even using the so-called “off meta” methods and equipment can still be viable so long as one has an open mind, and above all else, a willingness to have fun in the process.

KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de – Review and Reflection at the ¾ mark

“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.” –Joan Didion

After reviewing Yamashiro’s post-battle report, Yahagi determines that the Kan-musume are still combat-capable. The next day, Shigure shares a conversation with Isokaze and Hamakaze, learning in the process that to them, being sunk in combat isn’t quite as frightening as being forgotten, and Shigure promises to never forget their accomplishments. When the newly-formed Second Torpedo Squadron neet, Yahagi announces a BLUFOR/OPFOR training exercise to test everyone’s readiness. Shigure and Yukikaze end up assigned to the same team, and despite unexpected surprises appearing during the exercise, the pair manage to score hits on Yahagi herself. With confidence that the remaining Kan-musume can perform, the Second Torpedo Squadron is tasked with escort missions, defending convoys from Abyssal attack as they transport critical supplies. Shigure is happy to see an old friend, Ryūhō, and although Yukikaze develops stomach problems that end up requiring her to return to Kure for engine repairs, leaving their group down one defender, the escort mission continues. Shigure, Hamakaze and Isokaze manage to destroy the initial waves of Abyssal submarines, but things look grim after their store of depth charges is depleted. Fortunately, coastal defense Kan-musume are nearby, and they manage to repel the remaining Abyssal submarines, allowing Ryūhō and her escorts to safely reach their destination. With this, Itsuka Ano Umi de finally reaches its three-quarters mark; only two episodes remain, and Shigure’s nascent friendship with Yukikaze means that Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s theme is slowly starting to manifest in a series that has otherwise been quite melancholy, a consequence of a lengthy conflict that has been gradually eroding at the Kan-musume‘s numbers.

At first glance, Yukikaze appears to be better suited for Kantai Collection‘s first season rather than Itsuka Ano Umi de: she’s cheerful, easygoing and hardly anything appears to dampen her spirits. This stands in stark contrast with the reserved and stoic Shigure, who’s weighted down by the losses she’s experienced over the years, and Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s aesthetic appears to be in keeping with Shigure’s feelings; the use of lighting and music conveys her general feeling of melancholy and introspectiveness, but where Shigure experiences happiness, the music relaxes, and during battle, the soundtrack similarly becomes tense. After Yukikaze’s introduction, Shigure appears to be smiling more, and it is plain that she admires how Yukikaze is able to still find cheer even during more difficult times. Meeting Yukikaze, then, serves to drive change in Shigure: while this won’t change the fact she’s lost friends previously, being able to fight alongside someone so optimistic gives Shigure hope, and a reason to return after battle. The approach that Itsuka Ano Umi de is taking, in short, looks like it’s progressing exactly as I’d imagined it would. Anime generally seek to tell a story of growth and optimism; since Shigure had started her story burdened by losses and the prospect of fighting a war people would forget, it was logical that a new encounter would help change her perspective. On this reasoning, it appears that Itsuka Ano Umi de will likely wrap up with a difficult, but hard-won battle that shows Shigure that it is sufficient for her to always remember those she fought alongside, while at the same time, doing her best for the people in her present.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s production woes meant that, owing to scheduling conflicts, the sixth episode was only able to air in January after its episodes were delayed. Kantai Collection isn’t especially noteworthy, and even though Itsuka Ano Umi de has above-average production values, it’s difficult to say that the delays are worth it; Girls und Panzer had been an instance of an anime where it’d been worth the wait – the story and characters, coupled with the incredible attention paid to detail, had made it a series deserving of a proper conclusion.

  • Kantai Collection‘s second season is superior to its predecessor in tone and story, but it hasn’t given viewers quite the same opportunity to connect to the characters and root for them because delays in result in the unfortunate effect of making it easy to forget what’s happened, even though we’ve now reached Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s halfway point. While I have only good things to say about Itsuka Ano Umi de, it isn’t the case that this series is one where I’d say the wait for individual episodes are worth it.

  • While war is evidently a tragedy that leaves its mark on all involved, portrayal of its effects on individuals is something that requires a bit more time to capture – the decision in Itsuka Ano Umi de to go with with eight episodes rather than twelve, in conjunction with the delays, has meant that the Kantai Collection sequel hasn’t left quite as strong of an impression on me as I was originally anticipating. Elsewhere, I’ve noticed that reviews about Itsuka Ano Umi de has been similarly limited: a Google search finds that besides myself, there’s only one other site that’s actively writing about this series (excluding Reddit and MyAnimeList).

  • It’s fair to say that interest in Kantai Collection isn’t anywhere close to what it’d been seven years earlier, and while the franchise still has a dedicated following in Japan, that it’s been seven years since the original series aired means that this series was probably unlikely to have done well from the start owing to declining interest. This is lamentable, because Itsuka Ano Umi de is otherwise an overall improvement to Kantai Collection. Having a longer runtime, and a more consistent release pattern would’ve been to the series’ benefit, allowing the series to show the side of Kantai Collection that the first season had failed to convey.

  • Having said this, what Itsuka Ano Umi de does convey to viewers is well-done: the series has done a satisfactory job of striking a balance between the naval combat and slice-of-life pieces. I’ve long held that in any given series colloquially referred to as “cute girls doing cute things”, the ordinary moments spent away from said work’s main premise are equally as important as the moments portraying the characters advancing their craft. The reason for this is that it shows the characters as having more depth beyond their activity of choice, and because it also provides an opportunity to show how mundane experiences may unexpectedly provide a stroke of inspiration.

  • In the case of Itsuka Ano Umi de, showing the Kan-musume‘s lives outside of battle serves to humanise them and remind viewers that even the spirits of naval vessels share the same desires as people do, preferring peace and normalcy over warfare and destruction. The Kan-musume might be fighting a fierce war against a foe dead-set on humanity’s annihilation, but they’re doing so precisely because it gives humanity a chance to live on. By choosing to show what’s at stake in Itsuka Ano Umi de, there’s a stronger reason for the Kan-musume to sortie here in the second season, than there had been in the first.

  • Adding Yukikaze into things and having her pick up the mikan that Shigure are so fond of is to create a bond; while Yamashiro and Fusō have retired, and the number of active Kan-musume dwindles, the positive spirits that the remaining vessels to the newly-formed Second Torpedo Squadron gives viewers the sense that, even though it looks like the Kan-musume are on the backfoot, so long as everyone’s got one another, hope still remains.

  • To ensure that this disparate group of Kan-musume are able to work as a team, group leader Yahagi decides to organise a training exercise to see how everyone cooperates and respond to unexpected circumstances on the open seas. The admiral himself is present, and traditionally, shows like Itsuka Ano Umi de have always invited political discussions to some extent because of their historical associations, but so far, viewers are fortunate that those elements of the fanbase are absent. I’ve never been fond of those who shoehorn politics into everything, and on this note, I’ve got a brief update about one infamous military-moé fan, “Toukairin”. I had this individual banned from AnimeSuki some years earlier owing to their radical opinions about current events, and had hoped this ban would force him to re-evaluate his life decisions.

  • Unfortunately for me, Toukairin simply fell back on his old habits through Twitter, posting insults and hateful messages as “@AKDNManUtd2010”. I managed to find this account by pure luck, and have since been working towards getting him suspended from Twitter. There’s no place for people who believe that petty insults constitutes as intelligent political discourse, and just today, I managed to get the AKDNManUtd2010 account temporarily locked. Although this lock will expire in a week, Toukairin has already lost a number of followers since his account was temporarily locked. I doubt AKDNManUtd2010 will check his tone once his account’s reinstated, but I will continue to report him for as long as necessary until AKDNManUtd2010 is permanently banned: Toukairin may be entitled to an opinion, but owing to his attitudes and actions, he certainly isn’t entitled to an audience or agreement. Returning back to Itsuka Ano Umi de, the training exercise begins shortly after the objectives are outlined, and everyone becomes fired up.

  • With the Admiral having a tangible presence in Itsuka Ano Umi de, the world of Kantai Collection becomes a lot more plausible. One of my biggest grievances about Kantai Collection‘s first season had been that it was too game-like, which in turn diminished the world’s ability to immerse viewers. One example of a game-turned-anime with excellent world-building and immersion is Uma Musume: Pretty Derby – all game elements have been removed from the anime, and instead, compelling stories are told about the characters. At the same time, the characters’ experiences take place in a world with a lived-in feeling, giving things significantly more depth.

  • In taking this approach, Itsuka Ano Umi de shows that yes, it is possible to tell good stories so long as the world is properly fleshed out. On an unrelated note, after doing some digging around, I’ve found nothing about the music in Itsuka Ano Umi de, save the fact that the incidental pieces are composed by Kaori Ohkoshi, who had worked on the music to the game. This is a shame, since the music in Itsuka Ano Umi de is excellent, and similarly, the opening song exudes World War Two vibes. There’s been nothing on whether or not a soundtrack exists at all for Itsuka Ano Umi de, and I imagine that things could go the same way as they had for Luminous Witches, where the original soundtrack had remained unreleased long after the series had ended.

  • For some of my military moé posts, a large part of the joy comes from being able to look at the hardware and tactics, and using real-world specifications, try to speculate on how something might end up. This is one of the things that made Girls und Panzer so enjoyable, but in Kantai Collection, the Kan-musume themselves are only modelled after their real-world counterparts, and the foes they fight have unknown properties, so trying to guess at the outcome of a battle isn’t something that can be reliably done.

  • While Kantai Collection players would probably have a better idea of how the different Kan-musume would perform in battle, as well as against one another during mock battles, my lack of familiarity with the ships’ in-game statistics leaves me ill-equipped to ponder how battles turn out. As such, I am content to simply watch things unfold: for my part, I don’t recognise half of the Kan-musume that appear, and it’s times like these where I do wish that they’d do as Shirobako had and provide name tags for characters making their first appearance.

  • Unlike the frenzy of a night battle, doing a training exercise by day under calm seas allows for the animation team at ENGI to really show viewers what they’ve got. ENGI has previously worked on Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out! and its sequel; although Itsuka Ano Umi de is more detailed than Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out!, both series are characterised by extremely sharp lines and a more faded colour palette.

  • In the end, despite surprise attacks from aerial and sub-surface foes, Yukikaze and Shigure end up working together to reach Yahagi and “sink” her in the exercise, leaving Yahagi with a better measure of what the  Second Torpedo Squadron can do. Viewers have some reassurance that, despite the internal struggles Shigure faces, she’s still a team player and can cooperate with those around her.

  • Post-exercise, the Kan-musume maintain and clean their gear. Actions like these were absent in Kantai Collection‘s first season, so showing them here in Itsuka Ano Umi de serves to enhance the feeling of immersion. I get the sense that the first season had been rushed out as a means of promoting the game by fitting in the largest number of characters possible, and this had come at the expense of giving viewers a chance to connect with Kantai Collection‘s story and world. On the other hand, Itsuka Ano Umi de has made a more concerted effort towards giving viewers a chance to see why the Kan-musume are fighting, even as the tide of battle begins shifting against them.

  • Yukikaze’s cheerful, happy-go-lucky demeanour is prima facie better-suited for the likes of the original Kantai Collection, or perhaps Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!. However, on closer inspection, she’s precisely the sort of person that Shigure needs: since Shigure has seen many losses on the open oceans, she’s become quite reserved and jaded; having someone like Yukikaze in her corner would liven her world up and show that even though many of her allies and friends have retired from active service or were lost at sea, there’s still things worth fighting for.

  • Hence, when Yukikaze shows up and immediately helps herself to the onigiri and tangerines that Hamakaze’s brought, Shigure smiles while Hamakaze and Isokaze look on with surprised expressions. Small moments like these do much to remind viewers that even though Shigure is serious for the most part, there are things in the world that bring her joy, and as such, she still retains a reason for heading out into battle and returning alive. With characters that are written to have little left to live for, they often push themselves in battle and fight with little regard for their own safety.

  • In series like those, writers often have said characters developing a friendship or discovering something worth living for, which alters their mindset. Itsuka Ano Umi de doesn’t portray Shigure in this light and instead, has taken a more incremental route. Shigure may be rendered grim and taciturn from what she’s seen, but at the same time, she also understands there’s value in her commitment. In battle, Shigure fights with determination and caution. Outside of battle, there are still things she enjoys, and here, seeing Shigure interacting with the sprites maintaining one of Ryūhō’s aircraft show that Shigure’s able to value the smaller moments in life. It helps that Ryūhō is on excellent terms with Shigure: the pair have fought alongside one another previously.

  • When Yukikaze unexpectedly experiences stomach problems and is brought to her knees by the intensity of the pain, I was left wondering if Itsuka Ano Umi de was going to take a darker route to things, but these concerns were quite unnecessary: as a result of having eaten too many tangerines, Yukikaze is rendered unable to participate in the next assignment, to escort Ryūhō, and instead, requires repair work to be done. This leaves the escort ships down to three: Shigure, Isokaze and Hamakaze must carry out their task without Yukikaze.

  • The smaller team sizes and relative absence of secondary characters in Itsuka Ano Umi de makes things a little easier to follow, and most of the introduced characters do have a more substantial role, whereas in Kantai Collection, it could become difficult to keep track of everyone. Anime with a large number of characters will always have this challenge, and while some series will provide labels identifying the characters, I’ve always found that my preferred approach for handling this is to remember the names of the central characters and focus on their experiences.

  • In a briefing with Yahagi, the assignment is defined – the Second Torpedo Squadron is to follow a course that will see them escort Ryūhō over to the island of Taiwan to resupply forces there. The observant reader will note that the route the Kan-musume are taking hugs the coast of China, with red markers presumably denoting areas of Abyssal activity. I am glad that Ituska Ano Umi de returns things to Japan, since it gives the Kan-musume‘s fight greater weight – when Kantai Collection had set things in a generic location that was plainly not tropical (deciduous trees are visible), it felt as though the Kan-musume were fighting in a vacuum.

  • Separating the characters from the homeland they’re fighting for took away from the impact of their actions, and as such, while I felt that Fubuki and her goals were noble, Kantai Collection never quite succeeded in conveying this to viewers. Kantai Collection: The Movie was when the series began utilising setting more seriously – the Kan-musume were based out of the Solomon Islands, and the mystique of a tropical jungle in the remote reaches of the Pacific contributed to the feeling of unease the film had sought to convey.

  • Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s sixth episode spends quite a bit of time showcasing the launch of the Second Torpedo Squadron. Moments like these accentuate the fact that the Kan-musume are naval vessels – in contrast with the original Kantai Collection, where the Kan-musume‘s launches felt more like the deployment of Iron Man suits, things happen much more slowly, suggesting at the mass and power of each vessel.

  • A quick look at Ryūhō finds that the original had been a light aircraft carrier that was primarily used as an aircraft transport and training carrier owing to her small size, poor speed and weaker construction. As the Pacific War turned against Japan, the Ryūhō would see increasing combat assignments, and in December of 1944, the Ryūhō was assigned on a run to Taiwan with Shigure, Isokaze and Hamakaze. History has Ryūhō reaching her destination and surviving American airstrikes before successfully returning home to Kure.

  • Assuming that Itsuka Ano Umi de uses this assignment as the final assignment, one can readily predict what will happen in the series: Ryūhō will reach Taiwan with Hamakaze, Isokaze and Shigure, where they will get hammered by Abyssal forces. A combination of teamwork and luck will allow them to survive and return home. Of course, if Itsuka Ano Umi de goes for the historical route, Ryūhō was attacked while in harbour in March of 1945 and mission-killed. Hamakaze was sunk outside of Nagasaki, and Isokaze would be scuttled after sustaining heavy damage while escorting the Yamato a month later.  Seeing everyone sunk or decommissioned would likely go against the themes Itsuka Ano Umi de is seeking to convey, and ending the story on an optimistic note seems more likely.

  • Here, after running out of depth charges, Shigure pulls out a box and throws two reserves into the water, successfully sinking another Abyssal submarine in the process. By this point in time, the fierce enemy counteroffensive means that everyone’s running out of anti-submarine options, but fortunately, they’re close enough to their destination so that coastal patrol Kan-musume can help them deal with the remaining enemies.

  • I’ve never seen Kan-musume of this sort previously, and I’d expect that had they been in Kantai Collection, the episode would’ve likely had a more slice-of-life focus. Speaking to the gravity of the situation in Itsuka Ano Umi de, the newly-arrived coastal patrol team is all-serious as they dump their depth charges to take out the remaining Abyssal submarines giving Shigure and her team trouble.

  • The dark weather and rainy seas means another battle set under moody conditions, where the combat isn’t quite as visible to viewers as something that occurs during the light of day, but once the friendly patrols arrive, breaks in the cloud signify the end of a difficult stage of Shigure and her compatriots’ journey, giving viewers a chance to breathe again as the threat posed by the Abyssals are eradicated for the time being. It was lucky that this episode ends on a positive note, since there’s now a bit of a wait before the seventh episode. Without a cliffhanger, the wait will be significantly more manageable.

  • While the breaks mean that Itsuka Ano Umi de will have a tough time maintaining its momentum, one of the big positives is that this actually makes my blogging schedule a little more manageable. Had Itsuka Ano Umi de aired with more regularity, I would’ve found difficulty in getting Mō Ippon! and Bofuri into my schedule. These are the next two anime-related posts I’ve got planned for January, and I’m also eyeing a post on Kaginado!‘s second season; this had aired back during the spring, but owing to timing, I never did get around to watching it back then.

Itsuka Ano Umi de continues to demonstrate that it is the Kantai Collection viewers deserved back in 2015: character progression is meaningful, and the aesthetic is authentic. Coupled with world-building that hints at a much richer world, Itsuka Ano Umi de has proven to be enjoyable on all front save one: owing to production delays, the entire airing schedule for Itsuka Ano Umi de has been thrown off. Scuttlebutt has it that the delays meant that broadcasters were left trying to fit the remaining episodes in with currently airing shows, and because slots are limited, the anime continues to be pushed back. The delays between episodes is understandable, but it does give the feeling that Itsuka Ano Umi de has been given the shaft. I imagine that at the height of its popularity, broadcasters would’ve ensured that Kantai Collection got a reasonable time slot to ensure viewers were happy, but given that it’s been over seven years since Kantai Collection was a popular topic, it is fair to suppose that diminished interest in the series means that the consequences of pushing Itsuka Ano Umi de back are minimal. This is a little disappointing, since the long gaps between episodes breaks the momentum within the story; a consistent schedule helps to maintain engagement, and if a story is too broken up, it does require a bit more effort to recall the previous episode’s events, and excitement is diminished as other things come up. While I expect Itsuka Ano Umi de to deliver a good experience to viewers, the next episode’s release date is February 12, and this suggests that Kantai Collection isn’t something that people are especially interested in. In spite of this, I am looking forwards to seeing Itsuka Ano Umi de send off the franchise in a respectful manner.

Defence Specialisation and Christmas – A Bofuri Christmas and Celebrating Yuletide Joy At The New Digs

“Christmas is like candy; it slowly melts in your mouth sweetening every taste bud, making you wish it could last forever.” –Richelle E. Goodrich

On Christmas Eve, New World Online releases an update that adds a new area into the game. Maple and her guild are excited to check things out; they sign in and find themselves in a Japanese-inspired area. Everyone separates and goes exploring. Maple encounters Mii enjoying the New World Online equivalent of a cat café and joins her, while Sally runs into Frederica, and the pair enjoy a duel against one another to test their skills. Meanwhile, Kasumi falls in love with new weapons and armour that accompany the update and immediately sets about trying to unlock a new sword. Later, Maple runs into Payne, and the pair agree to go farming mobs together during an in-game event. As the event draws to a close, the New World Online administrators grant everyone a gift, and Maple invites both the Order of the Holy Sword and Flame Empire’s members to join them for a Christmas party. When they unbox their gifts, everyone gets Christmas-themed outfits and gear, which, to their surprise, provide unexpectedly good stat bonuses. Maple, on the other hand, ends up with a reindeer outfit. In spite of this, she enjoys the evening with the others. Meanwhile, New World Online’s administrators wonder what they’ll need to do in order to balance the game out ever since Maple ended up breaking the meta. Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu (Bofuri for brevity from here on out) first began airing three years ago, following Maple’s outrageous adventures in a virtual reality MMORPG – despite her near-total lack of gaming knowledge, her intuition and uncommon luck allowed her to create a character that was so overpowered that she’s been able to experience the game in a way even the developers did not find possible. Bofuri‘s charm thus lay in seeing what outlandish tricks Maple would have up her sleeve with every passing day, and along the way, other players begin to both respect Maple, as well as look at playing New World Online in their own manner of choosing.

Bofuri was built on the premise of the idea that unusual consequences can arise in a system, and utilised said consequences to simultaneously drive Maple’s adventures, as well as provide humour. In its first season, Bofuri was able to succeed because there was no reliable way of telling how Maple and later, her guild, would handle increasingly challenging events with the resources and know-how available. Although Maple’s overwhelming power meant that she was predestined to win, the joy was seeing how Maple’s guild-mates and friends would support her. Here in Bofuri‘s second season, it appears that besides exploring a Japan-inspired setting, Maple and her friends now have one additional challenge from the game’s developers – having now realised Maple’s single-handedly breaking game flow and balance, they’re struggling to determine how to best handle her without detrimentally impacting the other players’ experience. In games where player progression is tied to statistics, developers typically introduce caps to prevent individuals from trivially completing in-game objectives or gaining an unfair advantage over others in PvP. Similarly, certain game modes will introduce objectives that demand coordination or otherwise normalise a player’s performance. The Division 2, for instance, alters player specs when they enter the Dark Zone and limit certain gear set bonuses, preventing any one set from giving one overwhelming power. Similarly, raids make enemies significantly tougher to the point where even individually competent players are prevented from utilising their capabilities fully. This forces a player to alter their mindset and play-style, as well as lean more heavily on teammates, to complete their goals. This approach represents one way that Bofuri could proceed; while Maple could still retain her incredible power, increasingly creative situations can be utilised in the second season, giving viewers with new adventures that are fresh and exciting to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Bofuri was originally a recommendation from a reader, and while I’d been busy with other series, the start of the global health crisis back in 2020 left me with a great deal of open time. I thus made my way through the series and found myself impressed with things. Bofuri had been a fantastic example of one of the approaches that Agent-Based Systems took towards solving a problem – by maximising one attribute, agents in a system could yield some unorthodox behaviours as they worked towards a solution.

  • I wonder if Yūmikan, Bofuri‘s author, has read any papers or texts on these concepts – multi-agent systems and agent-based modelling approaches formed the bulk of my graduate research back in the day, and one of the things that fascinated me most was the idea of emergent behaviours, which arise as a result of interactions between the agents and their environment. Although the individual agents might be given simple rules, the resulting behaviours can be surprisingly complex; Craig Reynolds’s BOIDS and Conway’s Game of Life represent such instances of emergent behaviours in an agent-based system.

  • Of course, multi-agent systems are probably far from the viewer’s minds, and for most anime fans, Bofuri remains a strictly average anime for the fact it is a low-stakes series that doesn’t aim to do more than providing an amusing set of adventures on a weekly basis. Such anime are difficult to write for, and in the case of Bofuri, Maple’s constantly shifting powers mean that it’s nearly impossible to try and forecast what happens based purely on what’s already known.

  • While the true nature of New World Online is such that the game’s limits aren’t clearly defined (unlike The Division 2, where there is a cap on what one can do, even with optimisations), what is known is that the anime has wonderful settings. Assuming that the remainder of Bofuri‘s second season is set in a Japan-inspired world, there is much potential for showcasing a portrayal of Japan that is similar to Azur Lane‘s Sakura Empire. This idyllic depiction of Japan is something I’ve seen largely in wallpapers, featuring fantastical architecture and eternal spring weather with cherry blossoms.

  • Because of her interest in all things Japan, Kasumi finds herself immediately at home in this latest world. Katana and other swords worthy of samurai are sold, along with their armour. Japanese swords are often held as being uncommonly sharp and superior to any European sword, but this is a fictional portrayal of the samurai and their combat prowess – a well-crafted European sword can perform on par with a well-crafted kanata, and at the end of the day, a good sword’s performance depends on how well it was forged, rather than the manner in which it was forged in.

  • Now that I think about it, Maple resembles Girls und Panzer‘s Miho in some manners – both are exceptionally powerful in their respective settings, are easygoing and quick to befriend those around them, and since Miho and Maple are normally seen wearing a smile on their face, it can be surprising to see them with other expressions. After suggesting everyone explore the new world independently, Maple spots an unusual sight: Guild-master Mii has changed her appearance and heads into what appears to be a shady establishment.

  • Given the nature of Bofuri, nothing of the sort has taken place – it turns out that, to get away from her duties (and the difficulties of maintaining a stoic personality befitting of a guild leader), Mii partakes in visiting the New World Online equivalent of a cat café. Maple decides to relax a little here, learning that the real Mii is very friendly and bubbly, but puts on a more serious façade while role-playing her character. Worried about others finding out, Mii asks Maple to keep this side of her under wraps. Maple has no trouble keeping this promise.

  • Elsewhere, Sally and Frederica explore the new skills added to New World Online and duel. The pair had developed a friendly rivalry since the events of the first season, and while Frederica is a skilled player in her own right, it does appear that overconfidence is her weakness. Sally is able to prevail in this duel, and it does feel as though Sally fulfils the same role in Bofuri that Miyu did in Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online, being the more experienced best friend to guide Maple and Karen through their games, respectively.

  • Looking back, Sword Art Online Alternative had come out right as Battle Royale games were becoming popular. In 2018, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had gained momentum, and the genre had begun taking off. By 2020, Warzone and Apex Legends had joined Fortnite as being the biggest battle royale games around. I’ve never been a fan of these games, but I have heard that modern games trend in this direction because players want to feel special, whereas earlier games emphasised teamwork in a larger context, but did not do enough to differentiate victory from a loss.

  • Back in Bofuri, while testing out her new weapon, Kasumi is surprised to find that using this weapon has an unusual side-effect – it reverts her to a younger age. From a gameplay perspective, this wouldn’t normally be a problem so long as one’s attributes weren’t impacted, and in fact, most games will try to balance out items by giving them positive and negative traits, rather than altering the player’s in-game model. That New World Online chooses to change player appearance is more of a comedic element, but one wonders if this will come up again as an element affecting the story later down the line.

  • With the initial exploration phase over, New World Online’s administrators create a special in-game event that will allow players to unlock exclusive items. In-game events are a common part of contemporary gaming, and add to the seasonal cheer – Team Fortress 2 was my first-ever holiday event, and back in those days, a buddy and I bought keys so we could unlock festive weapons. The Division 2 was also quite big on events, offering holiday-themed game cosmetics, as well as a modified Thompson submachine gun that shot snowballs.

  • This still here captures the scope and scale of the new space present in New World Online. A lot of fantasy worlds seen in anime, especially in the isekai genre, set set in a high fantasy variant of Europe. Because so many series utilise this setting, this creates a situation where many isekai become difficult to distinguish from one another. The Japanese region in New World Online allows Bofuri to differentiate itself, and one thing I’ve always liked about Bofuri is that it’s plain everything is set in a sophisticated VR title, rather than an entirely separate world.

  • Maple’s “Machine God” loadout is one of my favourites – it gives Maple access to mechanised equipment that lets her engage multiple foes simultaneously, as well as independent flight. The sheer bulk of this gear brings to mind the likes of the RX-88GP03 Dendrobium’s Orchis armed base. Beyond the Gundam-like design and its utility, the Machine God also leaves Maple’s admittedly sexy navel in the open. While farming mobs, Maple ends up transforming into her Hydra form and runs into Payne. While their last meeting had been as competitors, the pair decide to cooperate for a while; Payne sees this as a chance to learn a little more about what Maple’s able to pull off.

  • If I had to guess, skills in New World Online appear to be dynamically generated and adapt to the player’s style, similarly to real life. The second season will probably explore this in greater detail, and I am curious to see how Yūmikan will continue to portray this world. Games typically do not use such a route because a system cannot be reasonably balanced this way, but for storytelling purposes in Bofuri, a dynamic skill system works well enough in driving the story, allowing for there to be no shortage of misadventure resulting from Maple’s unorthodox gameplay style.

  • In recent years, we’ve been using a turkey recipe that’s turned one of the trickiest meals of the year into a straightforward endeavour: per this recipe, the turkey is first stuffed with celery, carrots, onion, rosemary and thyme. It is then cooked upside-down, first at 400°F for twenty minutes, and then 325°F for two hours. From there, the oven temperature is reduced. The vegetables inside the turkey emit moisture, which the turkey re-absorbs. The end result is a moist, tender and juicy turkey: even the turkey breast is succulent and flavourful, and best of all, there’s no guesswork as to how long it takes to cook the whole turkey. Dinner concluded with Crème brûlée and a Yule Log.

  • My family’s Christmas traditions have been simple: we observe a more secular Christmas, and the most prominent events of a given day are the gift exchange and the dinner. While I’ve read stories about how some folks dislike Christmas because of an increasingly commercialised component (some stores begin promoting Christmas as early as November), for me, Christmas is a time of togetherness and of warming up the coldest, darkest days of the year. Seeing a majority of people fired up for the festivities makes me happy, too. It is possible to not be sucked in by the commercialism and at the same time, partake in the festivities.

  • Outside of the gift exchange and Christmas dinner, Christmas Day for me is extremely relaxing. As a child, I spent my Christmas Days building Legos, and then during the family Christmas dinner, I’d play Agent Under Fire with my cousins. Nowadays, it’s a peaceful day spent reading, watching movies and playing games: after our gift exchange today, for instance, I ended up playing Modern Warfare II‘s invasion mode. For this year’s Steam Sale, I ended up picking up the “Vault Edition” upgrade, giving me access to the Battle Pass and the Vault weapons pack.

  • The extra weapons add more variety to the gameplay in Modern Warfare II, and like Maple, I’m finding that I am able to play to my own style and have fun anyways. At this point in time, I’ve reached level fifty, and are maintaining a better KDR than I am in Battlefield 2042. While SBMM means that any time I do a little too well in one match, I’ll be placed into a sweat lobby in the next and find my face pasted into the ground harder than Maple can steamroll her adversaries. In spite of this, consistently levelling up weapons and unlocking attachments makes the process fun for the most part. I’ll return to write about these experiences in full at a later date.

  • With this post in the books, I would again like to wish readers a Merry Christmas! This episode was a pre-airing ahead of Christmas, and the second season will formally kick off on January 11. At present, I have no plans to actively write about Bofuri, at least, not in the same manner that I did for Yama no Susume – while Bofuri is an excellent series, it’s not an anime that invites discussions about equivalent experiences or other topics. With this being said, I am looking forward to Bofuri‘s second season once it starts in full. It’ll be nice to see Maple’s new adventures with familiar crews, as well as how the administrators’ attempts to balance things work out. For now, however, it is time for me to wrap this post up and get some rest: Boxing Day tomorrow means joining the crowds for some excellent discounts and waking up earlier to secure a parking spot.

Although during most in-game events, Maple and her guild are a formidable foe to face down, during an event like Christmas, all of the guilds set aside their typical sense of competition to celebrate, reminding viewers that peace and goodwill towards man is still very much alive. Christmas is a time of togetherness, and while Maple enjoys an extravagant party with fellow players and friends alike, this time of year is characterised by spending time with the people that most matter to oneself. For me, this Christmas represents a new milestone – it was my first Christmas at the new place. Although the scenery is different, traditions still remain. I still spent the morning opening gifts with immediate family, and then took the remainder of the day to help in the preparation of the Christmas turkey, the first time we’ve used this particular oven for such a meal. While it is inevitable that things in life are constantly shifting, there is also comfort in the fact that long-standing traditions endure – despite the long dark of winter, Christmas remains one of my favourite times of the year precisely because it is a time of togetherness, of spending time with the people closest to us. Bofuri manages to capture this feeling in its Christmas episode, and while Maple is celebrating with the folks she’s met in New World Online, the festive spirit is fully conveyed during this episode’s runtime. I imagine that many surprises will await viewers once Bofuri‘s second season launches in the New Year. In the meantime, it’s time to take it easy on this Christmas night: following a turkey dinner, there’s nothing left to do but unwind, appreciate the winter scenery from the warmth of home, and bring out the ol’ GameCube to play Agent Under Fire‘s multiplayer on the Town map, with the AI bots cranked up to maximum difficulty and aggression, just like old times.

KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de – Review and Reflections at the Halfway Point

“What’s past is past. For both of us.” –Maverick, Top Gun: Maverick

After the third section enters Surigao Strait, Mogami’s spotter aircraft identify Abyssal patrol boats, signifying an ambush. Moments later, Abyssal forces strike the third section from the skies, but Shigure and the others are able to repel this attack and press forward deeper into the strait. Upon nightfall, Mogami, Yamagumo, Asagumo, and Michishio break off to engage Abyssal patrol boats. However, this leaves Shigure, Yamashiro and Fusō to come under fire from additional Abyssal forces. Mogami and the destroyers return just in time to provide covering fire, while the second fleet begin to advance towards the Abyssal fleet. During the combat, Fusō sustains damage from an Abyssal torpedo and is damaged, but Yamashiro orders the remainder of the third section to continue advancing. They reach the heart of the Abyssal fleet, where a pair of Night Strait Princesses await them. Although their firepower is inadequate to deal with this threat, the first fleet arrive and begin bombarding one of the Princesses, leaving Yamashiro to dispatch their remaining foe. In the aftermath, Fusō and Yamashiro are decommissioned, having sustained too much damage to remain sea-worthy. Shigure and Mogami both managed to survive with minor injuries, and although Shigure is saddened to see Fusō and Yamashiro retire, she promises to keep fighting for everyone’s sake. Shigure is reassigned to the Second Torpedo Squadron, learns that their contributions have delayed the Abyssal invasion of the Japanese mainland, and given orders to take some time off. She visits a ryokan and meets Yukikaze. The pair share time together, and Shigure hardly believes that even amidst a war, she is still able to rest up and enjoy something as luxurious as an onsen. The next day, she returns to base and meets the remainder of the Second Torpedo Squadron, which is placed under Yahagi’s command. Itsuka Ano Umi de was supposed to reach this point three weeks earlier, but unexpected challenges in production ultimate lead the fourth episode, the series’ halfway point, to be delayed until today.

Now that half of Itsuka Ano Umi de is in the books, it is evident that this is the Kantai Collection anime fans were waiting for. Between the grim gravity of the Kan-musume‘s situation, vividly-rendered battle sequences and significantly improved world-building, Itsuka Ano Umi de captures the emotional tenour of every moment more effectively than its predecessors did. The stakes are plainly laid out for viewers: the Abyssal’s objective is the attrition and destruction of Japan, and to this end, are preparing for an invasion. Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s version of Operation Shō-Gō, then, was to cripple the Abyssal fleet’s fighting capability, and thanks to the contributions of each fleet, including Shigure and the third section, enough damage was done so that the Abyssals won’t be directly attacking Japan any time soon. This in turn allows for the Kan-musume and their Admiral to repair their forces, rearm and reorganise for the difficult path ahead. After two full episodes of continuous combat, the fourth episode is deliberately paced to give viewers insight into the Shōwa era. Civilians are seen browsing through their local shopping district, and peaceful ryokan exist in rural areas, giving Shigure a chance to unwind and meet a peer, Yukikaze. Watching ordinary people live out their lives is a subtle reminder to viewers of what the Kan-musume are fighting for; they’re here to protect their homeland and its people. Seeing these elements coming together in Itsuka Ano Umi de makes this second season of Kantai Collection a dramatic improvement over its predecessor – there’s a clear reason why the Kan-musume must fight the Abyssals. This time around, Shigure and the others aren’t fighting to define the purpose of their existence, but rather, they’re fighting to protect what is dear to them. However, just because the Abyssals have taken a loss doesn’t mean the war is over yet, and at present, despite having sustained heavy damage to their own fleet, the Abyssals still have a largely-intact submarine force, which necessitates additional action in the name of protecting Japan and its people.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Having now seen the combat sequences, it is plain that the visuals in Itsuka Ano Umi de are a step above from those of its predecessors with respect to small details like the anti-air guns on each Kan-musume and the færies, which are more prominent than they’d been in earlier instalments. Similarly, Abyssals attack in larger groups, which, in conjunction with improved visuals and cinematography, means that battles tend to feel more dynamic and chaotic.

  • One aspect that Itsuka Ano Umi de will need to address is how the Abyssals fit into things in light of what Kantai Collection: The Movie had revealed; Kantai Collection had left the Abyssals purely as a foe to fight against, but the film clarified that they’re the negative manifestations of a given vessel’s spirits, and showed that Fubuki was the first to understand that rather than fighting those feelings, she should accept them because they were a part of her. In Itsuka Ano Umi de, Fubuki is absent, and the anime’s portrayal of the Battle of Leyte Gulf doesn’t have much context.

  • All that was shown thus far, is that command is launching a major offensive with the remaining assets that were available to them in a bid to wipe out the Abyssals. However, from the dialogue and overall mood in Itsuka Ano Umi de, things aren’t going well for the Kan-musume, standing in stark contrast with the cautious optimism that was seen at the film’s end. Because the film had portrayed the events of the Guadalcanal campaign in 1943, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf took place in 1944, it stands to reason that following the movie’s events, the Kan-musume continued to sustain losses even with the newfound hope gained from Fubuki’s experiences.

  • Because the Pacific War ended with Imperial Japan’s defeat, if Itsuka Ano Umi de were to maintain a historically accurate portrayal of things, it would ultimately end with every Kan-musume in the First Strike Force’s Third Section except for Shigure being sunk. Because Shigure had already been shown as having seen the loss of her fellow Kan-musume earlier, taking the historically accurate route would mean that Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s outcomes would be quite grim, leaving viewers to contemplate on the futility of war.

  • Such a theme would stand contrary to the messages the film left behind, and also suggest that the browser game itself is ultimately meaningless: if the fleets players have painstakingly worked to build and maintain are to be offered up as sacrifices, it would demotivate players from continuing to invest time and effort into the game. Assuming that this isn’t the case, Itsuka Ano Umi de needs to have things turn out differently for the the First Strike Force’s Third Section, and it wouldn’t be the first time Kantai Collection altered the outcome of a historical battle to better fit the story.

  • The first season of Kantai Collection had Fubuki and her friends come out on top at the Battle of Midway, whereas in reality, Japan suffered the loss of key assets that irrevocably altered the course of the Pacific War and tipped it in the Allies’ favour. I have heard that some folks consider Kantai Collection to be “revisionist” for this reason, but because Kantai Collection is simply a conflict involving the spirits of World War Two era vessels against a manifestation of their darker selves, the story can, and should be allowed to progress in a way that ensures the themes can be consistent.

  • This is why Jonathan Gad’s VICE article decrying the presence of miltary moé anime is invalid: Gad claims that series like Kantai Collection and Strike Witches are increasingly painting military forces as “cute” and harmless in an attempt to bury what’s happened historically. In the same article, Gad is also suggesting that the Japanese government is encouraging the production of such anime and games in an attempt to push this narrative. However, this conclusion is only reached if one hasn’t made an attempt to understand a given work. Kantai Collection‘s original run had strove to do two things: portray Fubuki’s journey to improve as a Kan-musume, and suggest that people have the agency to do good even in the face of overwhelming odds.

  • From a numbers perspective, one anime, about one online game, is not an attempt at whitewashing history, and together with the themes that were present in Kantai Collection, I can say with confidence that criticisms about Kantai Collection‘s first season being a weaker series because it couldn’t pin down its intended direction are more valid than suggestions that things like military moé is inherently harmful. Itsuka Ano Umi de appears to have stepped away from its predecessor’s approach entirely; insofar, the series has been a lot more focused and compelling.

  • In previous Kantai Collection posts, I tended to steer clear of night battle shots simply because they’re hard to take screenshots for. Night battles are excellent for conveying a sense of urgency because most operations in the Kantai Collection anime usually begin by day, and having conflict stretch into the night shows the Kan-musume‘s determination. Similarly, the darkness night confers corresponds to decreased visibility, and this increases the danger that Kan-musume face. As the Third Section’s battle wears on, Fusō sustains damage as the Abyssals relentlessly hammer them.

  • There’s the faintest hint of resignation in Fusō’s character here in Itsuka Ano Umi de: although she’s kinder than Yamashiro and does her best to reassure everyone, the way she sounds in speech suggests that she’s aware of her impending demise and is at peace with things. Mogami and the Asashio-class destroyers act more similarly to military moé characters, and this creates a bit of a contrast, even during battle.

  • As the night wears on, the Abyssals begin sending heavier forces: the patrol boats that Shigure have been fending off are soon replaced by destroyers and cruisers. Having already been pushed to their limits, and with Fusō damaged, the Third Section appears to be completely overwhelmed, especially when what appears to be the Abyssal versions of Fusō and Yamashiro appear. The spider lilies make a return, blooming at the feet of the Kan-musume‘s foe, but they take on an unearthly blue hue. In reality, blue spider lilies do not appear with such a deep shade of blue. The Lycoris sprengeri (Electric Blue Spider Lily) is the closest equivalent, but it has more of a lilac colour, and their flowers have a different shape.

  • The timely arrival of other vessels allow the Third Section to live to fight another day: they provide covering fire thin out the number of guns firing at Fusō and Yamashiro. Because of the sheer number of characters in Kantai Collection, I have no objections to admitting that I’m not going to be able to recognise most of the vessels in the series beyond my personal favourites and central characters. As new vessels show up to pick up the slack, the Abyssal flagship, controlled by the doppelgänger Fusō and Yamashiro, increase the ferocity of their assault in turn.

  • I rarely provide any screenshots of the Abyssals because of their grotesque appearance, and because for the most part, their appearance on screen is usually limited to them exploding after being fired upon. I believe that the Abyssal specters of Fusō and Yamashiro here would be what’s known as event bosses, which are uncommonly tough and require careful preparation and special tactics to beat. I remember a time when the English-speaking Kantai Collection community griped about how difficult these events could be, requiring a combination of luck and time investment to overcome, but in the present, I’m not sure if large numbers of English-speakers still play Kantai Collection.

  • The game and franchise remain popular in Japan: the main reason why Kantai Collection never gained widespread popularity was simply because Kadokawa only intended for the game to be played by a domestic audience. However, this approach does mean that there is little incentive to adopt improved technologies: Kantai Collection didn’t make the jump over to HTML5 from Flash until 2018, and by then, longtime overseas players had grown bored of the fact that beyond the events, Kantai Collection hadn’t been offering them with anything new.

  • Kongō and Haruna subsequently appear, and I am immediately reminded of Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō whenever Kongō speaks: both are voiced by Nao Tōyama, a renowned voice actress that I know best as Yuru Camp△‘s very own Shimarin. Unlike Rin, Karen and Kongō are energetic, spirited and lively – I’ve heard that Tōyama’s personality is more similar to Karen and Kongō’s than she is Rin, while Yumuri Hanamori, who voices Nadeshiko, is actually more similar to Rin. It was nice to see familiar faces returning in Itsuka Ano Umi de, and I welcome hearing Kongō returning to the party.

  • Another old friend, Yamato, returns: the presence of the IJN’s most powerful battleship here suggests to me that the original operation must’ve been successful, since everyone’s now being redirected to save the Third Section from certain death. While writing for this post, I learnt that Yamato is voiced by none other than Ayana Taketatsu, another star voice actress known for her roles as K-On!‘s Azu-nyan, Fū Sawatari of TamayruaOreImo‘s very own Kirino Kōsaka, The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ Nino Nakano and even Sword Art Online‘s Suguha Kirigaya.

  • Encouraged by the show of support from her fellow Kan-musume, Yamashiro prepares for one final attack on the Abyssal’s flagship, firing on its weak spot in a show of acrobatics as Shigure provides covering fire. In the ensuing explosion, Yamashiro’s fate is not shown, but the resulting shot does take out the flagship moments before sunrise. Here, I will remark that the music in Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s soundtrack and opening song are both excellent, but I’ve not found anything on either. By this point in the season, most anime will have already released the opening song.

  • When I reached this point in Itsuka Ano Umi de four weeks earlier, I had been hoping that viewers would have the chance to see the aftermath, but instead, the Kantai Collection anime’s official Twitter announced that owing to production issues, the anime would take a four-week hiatus before continuing. While it is true that Itsuka Ano Umi de is a cut above its predecessor, especially with respect to its character development and world-building, the fact that there’s only eight episodes meant that at least in theory, production would be a little more manageable than that of a twelve episode series.

  • Admittedly, the delay has allowed me to write about other things, and in this way, I was able to finish a more difficult post on Top Gun: Maverick before November drew to a close. Back in Itsuka Ano Umi de, Fusō and Yamashiro prepare to take their final leave: although they’d survived the battle, they’re no longer combat-worthy. They bid Shigure and the admiral farewell. The admiral had remained a nameless and faceless in the original Kantai Collection, so bringing him to the party as a character with speaking roles serves to remove the game-like nature the first season had.

  • The slower pacing throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de is to the series’ advantage, forcing viewers to consider the costs of warfare and its all-consuming nature. Rather than driving home this point with the subtlety of a thrown brick, Itsuka Ano Umi de has instead opted for a more open-ended approach: a melancholy permeates every aspect of this series, even during more light-hearted moments, and this stands in stark contrast to how the first season had presented things. The melancholy throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de also is, inadvertently, a reflection of how Kantai Collection is no longer as big as it’d been seven years earlier.

  • Seven years ago, one could hardly go anywhere online without encountering people discussing how to get into Kantai Collection‘s browser game if they were overseas, and those who did figure it out played obsessively, sometimes to the detriment of their careers and real-world obligations. I do remember one player expressing the belief that a GTX 980 Ti was needed to get optimal frame rates in this browser game at Reddit, and in today’s terms, it’d be equivalent to stating as fact that, if one didn’t have an RTX 4090, they wouldn’t be able to play Kantai Collection.

  • In reality, if a browser game was so demanding that one needed an i9 13900k and RTX 4090 to run, then Kadokawa’s developers are clearly sub-par: at its core, Kantai Collection is merely a random number generator that pulls information from a hash table and rendering the results as 2D graphics. With this in mind, I have heard that Kantai Collection is poorly optimised and can cause memory leaks can slow down any machine with less than 32 GB of RAM, and given that Kadokawa thought acquiring Anime News Network was a good idea, I wouldn’t be surprised if their Kantai Collection team consisted of third-rate developers who can’t tell the difference between a method override and a method overload.

  • Outside of her combat roles, Shigure dresses in a more conservative outfit that is styled after women’s clothing from the Shōwa era. The intersection of the fantastical elements of Kantai Collection intersect with a more authentic portrayal of Japan here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, and it was seeing Shigure’s journey from the naval base in Sasebo (incidentally, where Brave Witches‘ Hikari and Takami were from) to the rural ryokan that helped provide an answer to why Itsuka Ano Umi de has proven to be more compelling than its predecessor.

  • The reason is simple enough: by showing the world as being inhabited, and that the war against the Abyssals does have material consequences should the Kan-musume lose, it gives viewers a better idea of why the Kan-musume are fighting to begin with. The original Kantai Collection had been lacking this, placing the Kan-musume in a vacuum and omitting their battle’s significance. This made it difficult to root for the characters and their struggles: beyond sinking, it felt that their fight was inconsequential, being set in a remote part of the South Pacific.

  • One aspect of Itsuka Ano Umi de that really drives home the gravity of this situation was how, even though Shigure is allowed a chance to unwind and recuperate following her contributions to the latest operation, these scenes have a more muted tone to them. The cost of the ongoing war with the Abyssals is constantly weighing on her mind, and now, with both Fusō and Yamashiro retired, it does feel as though Shigure is continuing to lose the people around her. As such, whereas Kantai Collection would have originally taken this chance to show Shigure off a little, Itsuka Ano Umi de dispenses with this entirely.

  • I imagine that the dramatic shift in tone was probably in response to both the precedence that Kantai Collection: The Movie had set, as well as how Azur Lane came to prominence in the years afterward. Azur Lane had also tried to mix the introspective and melancholy elements with slice-of-life comedy moments and similarly struggled to deliver a cohesive story, so when they released the Slow Ahead! spin-off and found that there was much that could be done to lighten things up, it seemed natural that Itsuka Ano Umi de would need to go in the opposite direction to differentiate itself from its competitor.

  • Halfway through Itsuka Ano Umi de, it should be clear that this approach is working, and insofar, has succeeded in giving viewers a reason to watch Shigure’s journey. For anime like Kantai Collection, I imagine the aim was originally to drive interest in the game, but considering how long it’s been, I cannot help but get the feeling that Itsuka Ano Umi de was produced so Kadokawa could fulfil their original promise of delivering a second Kantai Collection season (albeit seven years later). Had something like Itsuka Ano Umi de been made back in 2015, it may have succeeded in promoting the game, but in the present, this second season, as enjoyable as it’s been, feels more like a Hail Mary.

  • In any other anime, moments like Shigure and Yukikaze spending time to know one another, before swapping ghost stories and clutching one another when the lights flicker, would be portrayed in greater detail to show viewers the bonding. The decision to truncate it is deliberate, meant to mirror how this is a war, and during wartime, the things that are normally taken for granted become scarcer. While these moments are short, however, they do much to show how even despite the losses she’s experienced already, Shigure still makes an effort to open up to those around her.

  • As a result, although the third section is no more, the Second Torpedo Squadron, Shigure’s new teammates, will almost certainly have a much bigger role to play, both in repelling the Abyssal attempts at an invasion, and in helping Shigure to accept the losses in her past and make the most of the present. After she returns to base with Yukikaze, viewers have a chance to see the newly-formed Second Torpedo Squadron, and here, I will note that Hamakaze is visible. It is good to see her with the potential of getting more screen time, along with Hibiki, a familiar face returning from the first season. I suppose that hoping Fubuki would return in some form was too much to ask for here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, but beyond this, the series has held my attention in a way the original Kantai Collection did not.

  • Having now reached the second season’s halfway point, I am hoping that the release schedule for Itsuka Ano Umi de will be a little more consistent from here on out; there’s only four episodes left, and I do plan on returning at the three-quarters mark to offer some thoughts on where things have headed. In the meantime, my work year has come to a close. Owing to the fact I had thirteen-and-a-half vacation days unused, I determined it would be a good idea to use this time and catch up on some rest of my own as the winter holidays draw near. This rest can come later: later tonight, I’ve got a Christmas party with the office, and we’re set to return to the Italian restaurant we went to last year. Their food’s amazing, and this year, I now know to pace myself and not become full before the entrée shows up.

Itsuka Ano Umi de is what Kantai Collection‘s 2015 run should have been: rather than attempting to treat the animated adaptation as a video game, complete with mechanics and no apparent objective to mimic the game’s endless gameplay, Itsuka Ano Umi de instead gives the antagonists’ actions and intentions significantly more weight, which in turn provides a stronger, more tangible motivation for Shigure and the other Kan-musume. Moreover, each battle is presented as being a matter of life and death; even the small Abyssal Patrol boats are presented as threats that must be taken seriously, and every successful sortie comes with a cost, even if no one is outright sunk. Similarly, every single Kan-musume that comes home from battle is celebrated. The overall presentation of warfare in Itsuka Ano Umi de is vastly more mature than that of its predecessor, and presents a story that better represents the Kantai Collection universe in animated format. Itsuka Ano Umi de does not hold the viewer’s hand or explain its mechanics, and instead, chooses to focus purely on its story. While assuming that viewers are somewhat familiar with Kantai Collection and how things work in game means leaving out some aspects, Itsuka Ano Umi de is able to trade exposition for telling a more compelling story about Shigure and the other Kan-musume that are still around to fight the Abyssals. Despite what is likely to be an extremely difficult journey up ahead, the halfway point shows that despite the odds remaining firmly against the Kan-musume, everyone is willing to stand up and fight to protect the most precious things in their world. Following a three-week delay, one hopes that Itsuka Ano Umi de will continue maintaining a smarter pacing: there are only four episodes left, and the setup in Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s first half creates a compelling reason to watch the second half to see what outcomes result, as well as what learnings can be derived from Shigure’s experiences.

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

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

–Maverick versus Rooster, Top Gun: Maverick

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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