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Worst Anime Challenge? The Themes of Glasslip Explained (Yet Again), and Revisiting P.A. Works’ Parvulum Opus

“By some need to appear intellectual, non-thinkers will instantly, and without question, subscribe to the opinions of those they feel other people think are educated.” –Criss Jami

In their final summer break as high school students, high school girl Tōko Fukami suggests to her group of friends, Hiro Shirosaki, Kakeru Okikura, Sachi Nagamiya, Yanagi Takayama, and Yukinari Imi, that the no-relationship agreement be lifted after she runs into the enigmatic Kakeru Okikura following the local summer festival. The aftermath has Yukinari attempt a kokuhaku with Tōko, only to be shot down, while Yanagi herself struggles with her unrequited feelings for Yukinari. Meanwhile, Sachi and Hiro begin a slow, awkward and measured relationship, exploring things one step at a time. All the while, Tōko struggles to understand her unusual feelings surrounding Kakeru, who claims to be in love with her and shares her ability to glimpse briefly into the future. As the friends explore new territory, their old friendships begin drifting apart. Glasslip is ostensibly a love story, one that deals with how relationships can unequivocally and irrevocably alter the dynamic amongst a group of once-close friends. Further to this, Glasslip sought to demonstrate that relationships and romance are a fickle dance and can progress in any way, from a gentle pacing seen in Sachi and Hiro, to the challenge that Yanagi faces. In particular, Tōko and Kakeru’s ability to perceive the future, idiosyncratically referred to as “fragments of the future”, would suggest that even with a bit of foresight, relationships are so dynamic that knowing what’s about to happen isn’t necessarily of any benefit – the so-called “fragments of the future” serve to help Tōko and Kakeru very little, leaving them in the same spot as Hiro, Sachi, Yanagi and Yukinari. This is what Glasslip is about, given what the anime had presented during its thirteen episode run. However, Glasslip never quite connected with the viewers, who felt shafted by the anime’s poor execution and unsatisfying conclusion – to this day, Glasslip is widely regarded as P.A. Works’ worst, (parvulum opus can be thought of as a “deficient work”), leaving viewers with more questions than answers.

The main reason why Glasslip‘s reception was so frigid lies primarily in poor lead characters, and the subsequent lack of impact the so-called “fragments of the future” had on the storyline. Tōko is indecisive, uncertain and meanders in her feelings, desiring to keep her old friendships while pursuing a relationship with Kakeru. Meanwhile, Kakeru acts as though he has a grasp on the phenomenon, talks down to the other characters and acts (perhaps willfully) oblivious to the turmoil he causes amongst the small group of friends. It becomes difficult to empathise with Kakeru and his pursuit of Tōko. Similarly, Glasslip had intended to suggest how foresight may not be of much benefit in something as tumultuous as romance; the viewers’ expectations going in would be that an increasing awareness of this phenomenon would allow Kakeru and Tōko to be more truthful with one another. Instead, the two continue to pursue the “fragments fo the future” seriously, which lead the pair to continue stumbling. Rather than coming to terms with how they feel, both try to rationalise their experiences as a consequence of the magic, whose limitations and extents are never satisfactorily defined. The end result of this is that for their troubles, Tōko and Kakeru do not learn anything of note from their experiences. They leave their final summer of high school with a fractured group of friends in their wake: Yukinari, Yanagi, Sachi and Hiro’s futures are just as uncertain, filled with doubt. Glasslip has its characters experience heartbreak and romance, but there is no helpful lesson the characters walk away with, and no payoff for the viewers that makes this journey worthwhile. Because viewers cannot connect with and support the characters, Glasslip‘s themes become lost amidst a tangle of irrelevant, ill-conceived symbolism that ultimately contributes little to the anime, acting as detours and red herrings rather than legitimate metaphors for describing the characters’ experiences.

“An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm of arrogance. It interferes with a person’s main task in life – becoming a better person.” –Leo Tolstoy

The consequence of Glasslip‘s execution results in an unsatisfying experience – after thirteen weeks, no adequate resolution is reached, and the mechanics in Glasslip ultimately impede, rather than assist, the story in conveying its theme. This is what creates the frustration amongst viewers: Japanese and English-speaking viewers alike did not find Glasslip to be satisfying or rewarding to watch, not for any deficiencies on their part, but because the anime had failed to convey what precisely its aims were. For an anime of such deplorable showing, one must wonder if there was any way for P.A. Works to have salvaged Glasslip. As it turns out, the root of Glasslip‘s problems lie entirely with how Kakeru is characterised. Stoic, aloof and arrogant, Kakeru is ill-suited as the male lead of Glasslip – despite appearing to possess deeper understanding of the so-called “fragments of the future”, Kakeru does not give up their mysteries so easily, even to Tōko (and by extension, the viewer). While this is a deliberate choice to depict his fear of attachment, it also impedes with the larger narrative. By acting as though he is superior to the others because of his limited precognition, Kakeru quickly alienates Tōko’s friends, and makes it difficult to close the distance between the two. This is easily remedied by having Kakeru be more open about his power, as well as treating Tōko’s friends more cordially. A Kakeru more willing to speculate on and talk through the “fragments of the future” with others would be able to give viewers a better understanding of why precognition is relevant to the story. This would certainly help Tōko understand where his feelings are coming from and make their relationship more plausible. Further to this, were Kakeru more aware of social convention, Tōko’s friends would be more willing to accept his inclusion in their tightly-knit group. Together, this would allow Kakeru to act as a relatable character who can guide Glasslip‘s progression, and help keep Tōko’s group of friends together even as they explore new directions. Ultimately, this one simple change would have completely altered the course of Glasslip, enough to render it a satisfactory experience; this demonstrates the importance of having well-written characters that viewers can get behind.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In a vacuum, Glasslip is an anime that would earn a 4 of 10 points on the ten-point scale: the solid music and opening sequence merit two points, the superb artwork adds another, and finally, since I am able to discern what Glasslip was trying to go for, we add another point for that. Previous reviews had me assign Glasslip a paltry 3 of 10. However, even with an additional point, this still corresponds to an F grade (0 points on the 4-point scale): the conclusions reached in Glasslip do not correspond with the path it took to get there, and while there’s nothing particularly deep or complex about the series, it does take some effort to determine what the series intended to leave its viewers with.

  • The reason why I say “in a vacuum” is because one’s Glasslip experience degrades significantly should they read analysis or interpretations from the community: a lot of the analysis out there contains reference to obscure symbolism and metaphors that only obfuscate the anime’s meaning, making it even trickier to get a bead on what the anime is about. Consequently, in conjunction with the detailed and “matter-of-fact” tone these analyses have, reading too extensively into what others are saying can give one the impression that they were missing something obvious even though they are not. Conversely, my answer to “what is Glasslip about?” is straightforward – it’s a story of how relationships inevitably create rifts in friendship, and how even with magic, there are some things about romance that cannot be so readily addressed.

  • I further remark that viewers who struggled to get a handle on what Glasslip was saying, are not lacking in any way or missing anything “simple”: the unusual usage of imagery (especially the stills and glass beads), plus Kakeru’s metaphors and enigmas, would mean that it was Glasslip that struggled to convey its messages effectively to viewers. Again, reading analysis out there too seriously would severely diminish one’s experience for Glasslip further; if I were to watch Glasslip on the basis that it is in intellectual’s work that acts as an analogy to The Myth of Sisyphus or deals exclusively with wabi sabiGlasslip would score an F- (which corresponds to a negative score), because I would be immediately branded a knuckle-dragger for not having immediately understood what was supposed to be “self-evident”.

  • I’ve found that all of the analysis out there reached conclusions based on incomplete evidence: many of those partaking in the analysis ignored aspects of Glasslip, namely, the so-called “fragments of the future”, because these were inconvenient towards their conclusion. As such, while they might say something interesting about what Glasslip was attempting to convey, there remains the fact that the so-called “fragments of the future” are never accounted for. If Glasslip had purely been about wabi sabi, the anime could have conveyed the same theme without the “fragments of the future”: the stills that dominate the anime, seemingly of pivotal (but ultimately trivial) moments, was a rather visceral way of forcing the viewer’s attention towards a moment. Similarly, Kakeru’s arrival and the consequences it has on Tōko’s group of friends would have worked without the “fragments of the future”.

  • However, since the “fragments of the future” are such an integral part of Glasslip, any discussion of the anime must account for them. After revisiting Tari Tari earlier this month, my thoughts lingered towards Glasslip, and I wondered if I had been too harsh on this series. Doing a revisit of Glasslip ultimately allowed me to better describe what I think the series to be about, and I reached a new conclusion as to why I found the series to be so disagreeable. With this being said, I still find myself wishing Glasslip had been about a girl who wanted to pursue a career in glass-blowing and ends up making glass beads for someone she likes instead.

  • As it turns out, it boils down to characterisation, specifically how Kakeru’s character was presented and utilised. The mystery of the “fragments of the future” in Glasslip needed to be explained in order for viewers to connect it to the story, and Kakeru was supposed to be the agent for this. However, Kakeru’s personality and single-minded pursuit of Tōko meant that the supernatural piece of Glasslip was never adequately explained, or even speculated upon, leaving both Tōko and the viewers in the dark. This simple change would’ve made all the difference, and so, I am left wondering why the decision was made to portray Kakeru as an aloof know-it-all. In fact, I’ve noticed that a lot of the people behind the more widely-circulated analysis out there bear a resemblance to Kakeru’s negative tendencies.

  • This could be why so many disagreeable people painted Glasslip as a work of art that required a certain intellectual threshold to appreciate, but I digress. In retrospect, each of Tōko, Yanagi, Hiro, Sachi and Yukinari were reasonably well-written characters with their own challenges and aspirations. Hiro and Sachi represent the couple who progresses through things slowly, while Tōko, Yanagi and Yukinari are in the midst of a love triangle with no easy resolution. Even without Kakeru and the “fragments of the future”, Glasslip would’ve told a compelling coming of age story surrounding a group of friends whose foray into relationship leaves a nontrivial impact on their friendship.

  • In many ways, Glasslip is to P.A. Works what Battlefield V was to DICE: both had an infinitely better-received predecessor that served as inspiration (Nagi no Asukara and Battlefield 1, respectively), and both did enough well as to leave people wondering what on earth had happened. Battlefield V had the best weapon mechanics and traits of any game in the franchise, as the weapons were entirely skill-based. The gunplay in Battlefield V was therefore immensely satisfying. However, from a faulty marketing campaign, to a poorly-executed plan for post-launch support that resulted in a lack of content, and bizarre periodic changes to core mechanics meant the game suffered continuously throughout its lifetime.

  • Glasslip is similar in many regards: it had some of the best music and visuals of anything P.A. Works had done up to that point, and conceptually, a story about romance during the final summer vacation of high school could have very much captured on feelings of yearning and melancholy to create a moving tale. Instead, a few bad design choices (namely Kakeru) caused Glasslip to vastly under-deliver. Overall, I still found Battlefield V enjoyable despite its flaws: while many practises were poor, the gunplay alone encouraged me to return. Glasslip similarly convinced me to stick around each week: while Kakeru was as unlikeable as can be, Tōko, Yanagi, Hiro, Sachi and Yukinari kept the anime going where Kakeru did not, and I was interested to see how things would unfold among this group of friends as their summer wore on.

  • If Glasslip was indeed so poorly done, one would wonder if there is any audience I could recommend this anime to. Surprisingly enough, there remains a group of people who would enjoy Glasslip: folks who enjoy watching anime for exceptional visuals would not be disappointed, provided that they not think too deeply about the story. Like Battlefield VGlasslip took visuals to a new level, and the visual effects are stunning. By comparison, the real world version of Fukui, where Glasslip is set, looks absolutely drab by comparison. Even today, very few anime have had quite the same eye-popping aesthetics as Glasslip did. Similarly, the music in Glasslip was of a superb quality – besides the inclusion of classical pieces and string to create a feeling of chaos amidst the romance, Glasslip also features a song titled “Sudden, expected loneliness” that summarises everything that Kakeru and Tōko experienced throughout the anime. The song itself is excellent in all regards, and during its nine minute runtime, puts into music what Glasslip was intended to be about. The remainder of the incidental pieces on the soundtrack are varied, capturing melancholy, whimsy and everything in between.

  • It is almost impossible to have a discussion about Glasslip without mention of Helene “Soulelle” Kolpakova, whose Glasslip “analysis” became widely accepted as the single most definitive and authoritative interpretation of the anime, despite being incorrect and incomplete (Kolpakova had written her opinions a few days before the finale aired to MyAnimeList’s forums). My attempts to understand Kolpakova’s perspectives since have been completely unsuccessful, since she’s clearly not interested in having a conversation about Glasslip. This particular “analysis” is detrimental to one’s ability to understand and enjoy Glasslip to the maximum extent possible, so I am considering a course of action that will, at the very least, help those who are looking for Glasslip interpretations. I understand that my course of action will not likely persuade those who’ve already agreed with Kolpakova’s “analysis” to change their minds, but at the very least, this will hopefully reduce the visibility of her “analysis”, leaving people free to pursue other interpretations that are less patronising, and better written.

  • Kakeru’s preference for sleeping in a tent is intended to mirror his unwillingness to call any one place home, a consequence of having moved around all his life and the corresponding fear of forming attachments because of their potential to be lost. However, this isn’t the central theme of Glasslip – instead, Kakeru’s eccentricities were likely intended to illustrate just how important Tōko is to him, given that he’s willing to pursue a relationship (i.e. attachment) with her despite his initial desire to stay as detached from places and people as possible. The visual metaphors of Glasslip were never complex or difficult to understand, and a common misconception is that “unlearned” people dislike the anime because the symbols and metaphors were in over their heads, that those unsatisfied with Glasslip were “used to stories being spoon-fed to them”.

  • I would therefore contend that the hostility towards Glasslip stems from a combination of the anime failing to deliver a satisfying, emotionally meaningful story and the pseudo-intellectual attitudes some have taken towards approaching the anime. One individual wrongly argued that the “fragments of the future” were actually insights into Tōko’s own mind, that she neglects her friends and do not see them as people, hence her fear of losing them. This is untrue, since the phenomenon would not be named “fragments of the future” if they dealt with the present: Glasslip utilised this phenomenon to show Tōko the consequences of pursing a relationship and the rifts it would cause. This separation is supposedly what leads Tōko to value her friends more than before. However, this is not what Glasslip is about: the time spent on Yanagi, Yukinari, Sachi and Hiro shows otherwise (if the anime had been about Tōko, it is completely unnecessary to build out the other relationships).

  • One subplot in Glasslip I found meaningful was the newfound friendship between Yanagi and Tōko’s sister, Hina: after she’s indirectly rejected by Yukinari, she begins to take up running to take her mind off things. Yanagi’s route takes her by the pool that Hina and her friends swim at, and with her model-like appearance, Yanagi soon draws the swimming team’s interest. Hina, in particular, becomes friends with Yanagi, showing how the unexpected can occur from detrimental events: had Yanagi not been rejected, she would’ve not become closer to Hina, who sees her as an older-sister like figure with a distinct air of coolness.

  • The sheer number of different interpreting of what Glasslip was about, is an indicator that Glasslip had failed as a story. A good story is able to transcend linguistic and cultural barriers to convey a consistent theme that viewers can walk away with. For instance, in The Rolling Girls, despite being very busy, leaves viewers with a message about how ordinary people can make a difference. In the Twitter anime community I am a part of, viewers of different backgrounds and styles each came to this conclusion independently. With Glasslip, however, the central themes have been concluded to be wabi sabi, a desire for a home and attachment to a place, transitions in life, and valuing what’s around oneself, but each of these conclusions result from massive subjective leaps during analysis that conveniently skip over things in Glasslip.

  • While good art is indeed open to multiple interpretations, such interpretations necessarily consider all aspects of a work, and not just the parts that allow one to draw the conclusion of their liking. Those who say Glasslip is about home (through the presence of Kakeru’s tent and chickens) ignore the relationship dynamics between Sachi, Hiro, Yukinari and Yanagi. The idea that Glasslip is about wabi sabi through stills fails to account for the “fragments of the future”. A story purely about friendship would similarly not have had such an emphasis on romance. This is why a lot of the analysis on Reddit and MyAnimeList are outright incorrect and not worth consideration: good analysis must involve all parts of a work, not just the aspects that conveniently line up with one’s conclusions.

  • When all of Glasslip‘s elements are properly considered, the anime ultimately ends up being a show of how relationships can be disruptive to friendships, and that they are unfixed, ever-mutating. It is not the case that Glasslip was intrinsically difficult to understand that resulted in the dislike against the series, but rather, an unlikeable character whose actions are unlikeable and motivations are never properly shown, in conjunction with the fact that the anime left many questions unanswered. Real life is never as neatly packaged as a story, but it is expected that a successful story leaves viewers with some sort of pay-off (e.g. Tōko pursues a relationship with Kakeru and accepts that her old friendships are permanently changed as everyone matures).

  • What I hope readers take away from this post, is that one should always exercise their own judgement and never just blindly accept someone else’s interpretation of any work of fiction as fact. To do so would be to do oneself a serious disservice: instead of exercising one’s own judgement, one would be showing deference to someone who may only outwardly appears to understand something and possessing an above-average ability to express it. The willingness to follow, rather than lead, is responsible for some of the worst excesses in human history, and more often than not, asking the right questions and following one’s own judgement is the best way to go – had a few more people stood up to history’s despots and liars, atrocities and calamities might have been lessened or mitigated.

  • It is uncharacteristic for me to do so, as I never presume to tell people what to think or do, but Glasslip is one of those rare exceptions where I will caution readers against placing faith in the various analyses and interpretations out there on Reddit and MyAnimeList. I do not, and will not, hold it against people who enjoyed Glasslip for the things that this series did do well, but people should not force themselves to say they enjoyed Glasslip because of a fallacious analysis. Similarly, those who disliked Glasslip should not feel any obligation to alter their stance simply because someone out there had put together an undergraduate term paper explaining why those who did not get the series were missing something “simple”.

  • I’ve deliberately timed this post to coincide with the sixth anniversary of Glasslip‘s finale. It is actually curious that two of my least favourite anime are from P.A. Works, a studio that has also produced my most favourite works. Having dubbed Glasslip as a contender in my “Worst Anime” category, my next move will be to rewatch RDG: Red Data Girl to determine whether this, or Glasslip, holds the title of being the worst anime I’ve ever seen. With this post done, that’s enough negativity out of me: I’ll be returning on short order to write for Oregairu‘s third season, after it ended yesterday, as well as SaeKano: Fine, which recently became available.

While Glasslip is ultimately a failure that offers nothing substantial to its viewers, the series also acts as a resounding lesson that P.A. Works would take to heart. Glasslip had been intended as a condensed romance that drew elements from its infinitely more enjoyable (and successful) predecessor, Nagi no Asukara, the same way Tari Tari had drawn from Hanasaku Iroha to create a more concise experience. However, by failing to write Kakeru as a character viewers could be sympathetic to, Glasslip alienated its characters and viewers alike. P.A. Works would later revisit the concept of using magic to help an individual come to terms with their past and move forwards into the future in The World in Colours. In this anime, Hitomi is sent back sixty years to spend time with Kohaku, her grandmother, as a youth. In the process, Hitomi becomes more confident, as well as accepting of her magic, which had caused her mother to abandon her. While possessing competence with magic, similarly to how Kakeru had some existing knowledge of the “fragments of the future”, Kohaku is the opposite of Kakeru. She is outgoing, cheerful and does her best to look after those around her. However, she is also aware of her own limitations and actively studies to improve herself. Kohaku’s positive influence on Hitomi means that audiences are assured that Hitomi will gain something from her experiences, which results in a much more engaging story. It is evident that writers would not fall to the same mistakes that afflicted Glasslip in The World in Colours; having an approachable mentor figure with an amicable personality made all the difference, resulting in a very touching story of discovery and acceptance. In retrospect, it is quite conceivable that Glasslip may have ended up a more compelling story; although Glasslip remains unenjoyable on its own merits, it nonetheless did pave the way for 2018’s The World in Colours, demonstrating that in the event that P.A. Works ends up producing a terrible anime, they are also able to apply these learnings to regroup and create superior works in the future.

Houkago Teibou Nisshi: Finale Review and Whole-Series Recommendation

“Fresh cooked Arctic Char: mmm! Wow…that’s unbelievable. Right now, my editor is watching this and thinking, ‘Man, I wish I were there. Catching them Char, and eating them too’. Right Barry? Oh, that’s so good!” –Les Stroud, Survivorman

With summer in full swing, Yūki feels disinclined to go fishing on account of the warm weather, but Hina feels that since they’d come to the clubhouse, it’d be worthwhile to do something. Yūki decides that to keep it simple – they’ll go for the Horse Mackerel fry, and this time around, they’ll use fishing rods without reels. The experience is supposed to be quite different, and these low-cost rods have their own advantages, as well. Hina has fun, although things slow down towards the evening. However, Yūki convinces the girls to stick around for a bit longer, since the evening is when fish begin coming in to feed. Hina ends up catching an adult Horse Mackerel, and it turns out that this is what Yūki had been setting the club up for. The girls end up with a sizeable catch and go about preparing the fish for consumption, but Hina struggles to properly filet the larger Horse Mackerel. The next day, the girls set up a grill and sit down to enjoy their fish with Sayaka, who’d invited herself to the party. While fishing one day, Hina catches a spiney fish. Natsumi suggests she carefully returns it, since they are highly poisonous, but with Makoto’s instruction (at Yūki’s behest), Natsumi and Hina come around. After Hina has Whiting tempura for dinner one evening, she asks if the Breakwater Club can go fishing for Whiting next, but learns that they’ll need live bait to do so. Frightened at the prospect of using worms, Hina picks up artificial bait at the local shop instead, but spends the outing unable to catch anything. Yūki suggests to the dejected Hina that she look up the technique required when using artificial bait, since the others had taught her the way to use a rod when using live bait. As it turns out, Whiting are attracted by motion, and so, Hina’s been itching to try things out. While her first attempts are promising, a lack of fish prompts Hina to move to different spots to see what happens. While taking a break, Hina realises that the online guides she’s been following were for larger Whiting – lengthier bait corresponds to the smaller Whiting not being able to reach the hooks. After shortening the bait, Hina successfully catches her first Whiting. With their fish, the Breakwater Club prepare freshly-caught Whiting tempura. Yūki remarks that fishing is really about figuring things out for oneself, and a successful catch this is the reward of the activity. On the hottest day of summer, Hina and Natsumi decide to make a large stock of barley tea after the clubhouse runs out. Makoto notices that Hina and Natsumi have matching plushies. As it turns out, after their midterms ended, Natsumi visited Hina’s place so they could make plushies. When Makoto expresses an interest, Hina decides to show her how, and when Natsumi asks Hina about her interests in handicrafts, Hina replies that the time she’s spent with the Breakwater Club is fun precisely because of the people she gets to be with. All twelve episodes for Houkago Teibou Nisshi are now in the books, and despite an intermission brought about by the global health crisis, the anime remains immensely enjoyable and well-crafted.

Par the course for a slice-of-life series with an educational component, Houkago Teibou Nisshi introduces viewers to the nuances of fishing in detail: it is much more than the act of obtaining a fishing license, sticking bait on a hook and then whiling away an afternoon on a boat, as Westernised portrayals are wont to present the activity as. Through Hina’s inexperience and reluctance to come into contact with any insects, Houkago Teibou Nisshi showcases the varieties of fishing one can partake in using different techniques and equipment, illustrating just how varied fishing is even when one is unable to (or unwilling to) catch larger fish or use live bait. It becomes evident that fishing is very involved, but also very rewarding those who participate – in this manner, Houkago Teibou Nisshi speaks to the idea that activities in general are very accommodating, allowing individuals of all skill levels to have a good time, and also for beginners to pick things up at their own pace based on their comfort level. Despite her great fear of creepy-crawlies, Hina has come quite a ways since she met Yūki, developing an interest in fishing and even taking the initiative to go on her own trips to try out the things she’d learned from the others, as well as making suggestions for what to try and fish for next. While there are moments and days where Hina comes out disappointed, the Breakwater Club also help Hina learn the value of perseverance. Much as how Hina’s perseverance had allowed her to become proficient with handicrafts, taking the initiative to seek out new knowledge also helps Hina to improve her fishing. This is reiterated towards the series’ end, where Yūki encourages Hina to learn about how to make use of artificial bait works following a day of disappointment, and Hina at last finds success with her new-found knowledge. In conjunction with the fact that the Breakwater Club allow Hina to gradually step out of her comfort zone by selecting modes of fishing that do not frighten the daylights out of her, Hina comes to develop a great love for an activity that she never imagined she would participate in, and in doing so, Hina comes to cherish her foods to a much greater extent than before, appreciating the effort it takes to capture and prepare what ends up on her plate. She also realises that the Breakwater Club is fun precisely because she’s been able to hang out with people, whereas with Handicrafts, she’s always able to pursue it at her leisure, making fishing a superbly enjoyable and rewarding activity for her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Houkago Teibou Nisshi is a very summer-like anime, and so, it is appropriate that its finale comes on the autumnal equinox; today marks the first day of autumn, and it’s a surprise to see summer pass by so quickly. This year’s been a bit of an unusual one, and present circumstances precluded any opportunity to travel into the mountains. However, there are more important things than travel, and I’ve been enjoying the beautiful summer weather of our area in alternative ways to do my part: this past week has been quite smokey on account of fires in the province over, but Sunday saw the skies clear up, making it perfect to take a walk under.

  • Pole fishing is the practise of using no-reel fishing rods to catch fish. Both Japan and the West have their own no-reel techniques: in the West, the extremely long poles allow fishermen to reach distant or difficult-to-reach spots with great precision. The Japanese counterpart, tenkara fishing, was developed independently. The idea is that simple equipment would allow fishermen to catch fish without worrying about their gear, and tenkara fishing became popular, since these simple poles were far less costly than conventional rods with reels. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina quickly adjusts to pole fishing and finds it enjoyable, being a different way of catching the Horse Mackerel Fry.

  • While pole fishing, the girls come across a variety of fish, including blackfish, red seabream and even a fine-patterned puffer (Takifugu poecilonotu). Hina finds herself enraptured by its small, rotund appearance. However, pufferfish are highly poisonous and difficult to prepare: the fine-patterned puffer contains the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin, which blocks sodium channels. Further to this, Natsumi explains that these fish will take bait from rods, snap hooks and cut lines. To prevent trouble from befalling her, Hina returns it back into the ocean.

  • As evening sets in, the Breakwater Club finds that they’d had a slower day. Natsumi had gotten bored and switched over to a more active form of fishing, but for Hina, the slower pacing of pole fishing suits her just fine. This attests to how different styles of fishing may appeal to different people. With nothing of note biting, the girls enjoy a peaceful sunset before preparing to head off. However, Yūki has another idea in mind: by evening, fish return into the tidal areas to feed, and so, it is during the evening that larger fish are the most active.

  • When Hina gets a bite on her line, she’s shocked at how ferocious the fish is. She extricates an adult Horse Mackerel from the waters, which comes across as a complete surprise to her. Encouraged by Hina’s success, Natsumi and the others follow suit and drop their lines in the water. The Horse Mackerel in Houkago Teibou Nisshi are specifically, the Japanese variety (Trachurus japonicus). These fish can reach lengths of half a metre, and the average size is roughly a foot. After Hina catches her first, she stops to admire it, showing how she’s come to find beauty in the ocean’s life.

  • After Hina makes the kill on the Horse Mackerel she’d caught, she loses focus of her surroundings upon seeing blood pour out of the fish. Natsumi remarks that since Hina’s not fainting anymore, she’s slowly getting used to things, although there are still moments that shock her. During this time, the others successfully catch Horse Mackerel of their own, and very soon, they have enough fish to prepare a meal with. Makoto subsequently walks Hina through the process of filleting a Horse Mackerel: after descaling the fish, one makes cuts underneath the pectoral fins on both sides to remove the head. Then, one makes cuts lengthwise along the top and bottom down to the tail, before making a cut along the ribs. In this way, three filets result, although Hina isn’t quite as deft as Makoto: her filets end up misshapen (but otherwise, still edible).

  • Makoto also introduces viewers to an alternate method, where after the head is removed, a lengthwise cut is made along the spine. Once the cuts are removed, the fish is ready to be soaked in a 1.71 ᴍ solution of salt water for half an hour, and finally, the fish is ready to be refrigerated overnight. Learning traditional methods for preserving fish can prevent a lot of food from going to waste, and Houkago Teibou Nisshi goes the extra mile in presenting this sort of thing: every step, from fishing to preparation, is shown, so viewers understand the processes and their context. While the girls look forwards to enjoying their Horse Mackerel on white rice the next day, they worry that Sayaka might show up and rain on their parade. In a cruel turn of events, Sayaka happens to be nearby and immediately discovers the girls making preparations for tomorrow.

  • Yūki’s rather displeased that their originally-peaceful lunch will be crashed, and instructs the others to get started as soon as possible so they can spend less time in the presence of a drunken Sayaka. However, Sayaka does appear to be mindful of the girls’ wishes, and refrains from getting hammered right off the start. While Makoto grills the fish, Sayaka reveals that she’s brought her smoker: in her spare time, Sayaka also appears to hunt, making use of snares and the like to catch game as large as boar and deer. She promises to treat the girls to some deer and boar at some point in the future.

  • It suddenly strikes me that a hunting anime, making use of basic implements like deadfalls and snares, to compound bows, crossbows and even firearms, would be worth watching were it to be done in the same style as Houkago Teibou Nisshi. Such a series would need to feature post-secondary aged students, since the minimum age to hunt in Japan is eighteen. However, some have suggested that this will never fly, simply because having university students would defeat the purpose of the high school girl genre. However, series that feature older characters have worked reasonably well before (e.g. New Game!, Sakura Quest and Shirobako). Back in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Yūki’s fears do not come to pass, as Sayaka and the Breakwater Club sit down together for a peaceful lunch, bringing the tenth episode to a close.

  • While fishing, Hina and Natsumi come across a White-spotted Spinefoot (Siganus canaliculatus), a species of rabbitfish: Natsumi is swift to note that these fish have venomous spines and suggests that Hina (carefully) return it. Having eaten rabbitfish before, Natsumi finds the flavour to be overpowering: but Yūki is insistent that they keep it. Rabbitfish are indeed commercially farmed and used as food. Although consuming improperly prepared rabbitfish can result in hallucinations, they are widely-cultivated and have a more moderate flavour. Natsumi is unconvinced, and so, Yūki decides to send in the big guns after Hina releases it.

  • Les Stroud notes that there are three basic criteria as to judging whether or not something is safe for general consumption: whether something has bright colours, moves slowly and smells bad. It is sufficient to make the decision not to eat something if one of those traits are seen, and Natsumi remarks that the White-spotted Spinefoot Hina’d caught smells bad. However, Makoto is versed in preparing rabbitfish, and at Yūki’s request, steps in to show the pair how to properly prepare one when Hina catches a second White-spotted Spinefoot. It turns out that, after the spines are removed, the fish should be swiftly gutted so the organs’ chemicals do not leech into the flesh. Hina and Natsumi are surprised at how good the resulting sashimi tastes.

  • After enjoying whiting tempura for dinner, Hina becomes interested in catching whiting for herself and makes the suggestion at the Breakwater Club the next day. The Japanese Whiting (Sillago japonica) is locally known as kisu. A commercially-fished species in Japan, the Japanese Whiting is very popular in Japan, enjoyed as sushi or tempura, with its flaky texture and a subtle sweetness. If memory serves, Rin enjoys Whiting tempura as a part of her lunch during her solo outing in the Heya Camp△ OVA at a local restaurant en route to her campsite, attesting to the fish’s popularity in Japan. However, catching Japanese Whiting presents a different kind of challenge for Hina: although they’re not terribly large (reaching a maximum length of thirty centimetres), catching them is preferably done with live bait, such as ragworms.

  • Upon seeing these creepy-crawlies, Hina’s enthusiasm to go fishing for Whiting evaporates. Her scream is loud enough to bring the shopkeeper back inside to see what’s going on, and once he gets a measure of what’s going on, he recommends artificial bait to Hina. More durable than live bait, and reusable, artificial bait is also cleaner and easier to store. Their advantages are immediately apparent for Hina, who wishes she’d known about artificial bait sooner. When asked, Yūki remarks that she’s come to grow fond of watching Hina’s reactions, which are admittedly adorable. However, artificial bait also has a set of drawbacks, with the main one being that artificial lures require a bit more skill to use: fish aren’t as readily attracted to these compared to live bait.

  • Hina’s exchange with the shop keeper shows that she’s learning, becoming more familiar with the different sizes of hooks and other details required for a successful day. With their equipment and provisions ready, the Breakwater Club prepare to head out for a day of Whiting fishing. The club thus begins to head on over to Tsurugahama Beach, the same spot where they’d gone fishing for Flatheads back in the third episode. The observant reader will notice that Hina and the others are equipped with their automatic floatation belts. Since the events from the ninth episode, the girls wear these as a safety measure in the event they fall into the ocean.

  • In any other anime, the combination of a beautiful beach and summer weather would mean that swimsuits and a laid-back sort of day would be inevitable. However, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is in a different category, and beaches are simply another place to fish at. However, it does seem a waste to not frolic at least a little in the white sands and warm waters at Tsurugahama Beach before setting about their day’s feature activity. Looking back at this past summer, the weather most resembled what was seen in Houkago Teibou Nisshi during August: every weekend saw flawless skies, and I capitalised on this by exploring the area, visiting places that I’d never visited previously. Since September, the weather’s been passable, although the combination of shortening days and more overcast weather means that opportunity to enjoy pleasant weather will be on the decline.

  • Yūki provides Hina with a primer on how to draw in the Whiting using her rod, and having prepared her line, Hina is excited to begin catching Whiting. To catch Whiting, the line needs to be prepared so that the hooks don’t catch on the bottom. Armed with their live bait, Yūki, Makoto and Natsumi begin reeling in Whiting on short order. Encouraged, Hina sets about trying to catch Whiting of her own. Uncha However, after a full afternoon, Hina has nothing to show for her efforts. Makoto and Natsumi are itching to give Hina advice, but Yūki stands them down, explaining that this should serve as a learning experience for Hina: fishing doesn’t always end in success, and one of the luxaries of fishing for the Breakwater Club is that there is room to fail and learn.

  • In a survival situation, being shafted can be a huge demoraliser: on multiple occasions, Les Stroud had attempted to catch fish without proper gear for Survivorman and typically comes up short. For Hina, catching nothing on an outing is, fortunately, not a matter of life or death, but she remains too dejected to consider potential improvements as the day comes to an end. Yūki reluctantly steps in and gives Hina a hint, that she’d only shown her how to catch Whiting using live bait. Artificial bait has different properties than live bait, and therefore, it stands to reason that a different technique would be involved.

  • With this clue to go on, Hina spends the evening looking up how to properly use artificial bait for catching Whiting: lures often require a correct combination of line lengths, hook sizes, weights and colours, in conjunction with movement to convince the fish that the lure is real. Armed with this newfound knowledge, and seeing folks successfully catch fish with artificial bait online, Hina’s spirits are restored, and she’s ready to hit the beach again to catch the elusive Whiting. Here, I remark that the internet is an immensely powerful pool of knowledge available at one’s fingertips, but nothing is a match for field experience. The finale has Hina putting the suggestions online together with her own experiences; since the information people share online can also be dependent on their circumstances, preferences and equipment, I’ve always found that online resources act more as a hint, rather than a step-by-step solutions manual for problems.

  • A common enough case-in-point is when I search for information surrounding specific errors I encounter during iOS development. People online often report the same error, but under completely different circumstances, and the solutions they take towards solving the problem is probably for their specific use case. As such, after reading their solution, I assess what aspects of their solution are relevant to me, and then I decide whether or not I can attempt their solution as it is, or hand-pick parts of it to synthesise my own answers. In this way, I find that I solve a problem in a way that is much more appropriate for the problem I faced, rather than jury-rigging a solution that was meant for a different context.

  • This is something that Hina comes to realise during her second attempt. After spending the day psyched up to go fishing again, she notices that moving the rod in a convincing manner allows her to get nibbles, but something still isn’t quite right. When Hina decides to try a different spot, Natsumi spots a difference in how Hina is fishing. Hina’s come a long way from the first episodes, and she’s actively engaged in the process now, taking the initiative to learn more on her own. I imagine that Hina’s desire to pursue excellence, evident in how she approaches fishing, is also likely how she became so proficient with handicrafts.

  • After a lack of success, Natsumi decides to sit Hina down for a break, and during their conversation, Natsumi inquires as to how large the Whiting were that the various videos were using: she knows that small differences in circumstances means that what may work in a video may not work in reality, and soon, Hina has her answer: the bait she is using is attractive to the Whiting, but they’re also a little too large; Natsumi and the others had been catching smaller fish the day before. She decides to shorten the lures and gives things another go.

  • Hina manages to catch her first Whiting, having found the proper technique for enticing them to take the artificial bait and setting the length up such that the Whiting can actually get hooked. This is Hina’s largest triumph in Houkago Teibou Nisshi: up until now, Hina had been following the techniques that Yūki and the others have taught her, but with the Whiting, Hina needed to figure things out for herself (Yūki notes that the packaging already explains how to use them, and Hina could’ve saved herself the trouble by reading the attached instructions). Independent learning is very much a part of the world I am accustomed to: in software development, unique use cases mean that oftentimes, solutions and algorithms need to be adapted for whatever I am doing. However, resources remain immensely useful because they can set one down the right path, providing an idea of how one can start working something out. Hina warmly thanks Natsumi for having helped her, surprising the latter.

  • One of my favourite examples of this is the time where I was implementing a table view in Swift that needed to accommodate both a string search and section index scrolling simultaneously, but no tutorials existed for how to handle this particular function. I ended up using an algorithm to sort the items into a dictionary, and then applied the indexing on this to support the scroll. I then filtered the values of the dictionary for searching, but since the number of elements was constant and a smaller number, this was an acceptable solution. Today, I would probably create an array of objects instead and apply the filter on the array: while a dictionary offers O(1) search if the key is known, in that particular situation, the keys are not used in the search, so iterating over the values of the dictionary would yield a O(n) complexity, same as the array. In that case, the array of objects would be more readable and extensible. Back in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, the girls enjoy Whiting tempura of their own as the sun sets, and for Hina, this tempura is sure to be doubly delicious, since she’d caught most of it.

  • The final half of the finale is a bit of a breather: on a hot day, after Hina braves the sweltering club room to open the windows and air it out, the girls learn that their supply of barley tea is depleted. Japanese barley tea, mugicha (麦茶), is a staple in Japan during the summer, served cold to refresh drinkers. As Hina and Natsumi make enough to keep the clubhouse well-stocked, Makoto swings by and notices matching bag charms on Natsumi and Hina’s school bags.

  • A flashback follows, giving viewers a chance to see Hina showing Natsumi how to make plushies, as they’d promised to do so during the seventh episode. These plushies are of the Horse Mackerel, the first fish Hina catches, and to ensure Natsumi can keep up, they go with simpler plushies that don’t come apart. It’s a touching moment, and while Natsumi’s plushie doesn’t come out perfectly, it’s still serviceable, rather similar to how Hina’s preparation skills are a little rough: the gentle atmosphere suggests that with time, much as how Natsumi could improve at handicrafts, Hina can improve her fishing.

  • The Houkago Teibou Nisshi soundtrack also released today alongside the finale: it consists of forty-two tracks, thirty-eight of which are instrumental cues, and then four of the remaining songs are image songs, sung by each of Hina, Yūki, Makoto and Natsumi’s respective voice actresses. There is a great variety of moods conveyed by the incidental music, and to no one’s surprises, my favourite tracks are the songs that convey a hot summer’s day: 放課後ていぼう日誌-メインテ一マ- (Houkago Teibou Nisshi -Main Theme-), 釣りって、楽しい! (Fishing is Fun!) and 今日はなにを釣るんですか (What are we catching today?). The use of wind instruments and percussion in Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s soundtrack gives it a warm, inviting sense reminiscent of both Yuyushiki and Non Non Biyori‘s incidental music.

  • While Yūki has no particular interest in making plushies, she immediately realises the depth of Hina’s skill and considers opening a stall at the local flea market. Given the quality of Hina’s handicrafts, Yūki believes they could command a good price. Hina sees through this plot immediately, and later, after seeing Hina’s handiwork, Natsumi wonders why Hina didn’t leave the Breakwater Club to do activities with the Handicrafts Club. The reason is two-fold: Hina’s come to love fishing with Natsumi, Yūki and Matoko, feeling handicrafts is something she can do whenever she’s got time.

  • The second reason is a bit more amusing; the handicrafts club is inexplicably all-male, and Hina had been dissuaded from joining as a result. I remark that in this final post for Houkago Teibou Nisshi, I’ve not done any location-hunting. This is because the last three episodes all happen in familiar turf, in and around Sashiki. While this means I don’t get to break out the Oculus Quest, drop myself off in Sashiki and look around for locations, it also reduces the amount of effort taken to write this post: one of the great joys about series like Houkago Teibou Nisshi is that I am looking up the real-world equivalents to what Hina and the others are doing, but this also takes a bit of time, as I strive to ensure that what I’ve got here is accurate for the readers.

  • When everything is said and done, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is a solid A+ (4.0 of 4.0, or 9.5 of 10): immensely enjoyable, informative and adorable, Houkago Teibou Nisshi certainly piqued my interest in fishing. Despite my having no prior experience in fishing, Houkago Teibou Nisshi properly walks viewers through the details. Houkago Teibou Nisshi stands out for utilising all its characters to provide a perspective of different skill levels. Hina doubtlessly stands in for folks like myself, who have not fished before. Natsumi and Yūki act as entry-level instructors who present the basics such that Hina knows what to do (and also to allow beginners to follow along), while Makoto acts as a guide for the experienced. Altogether, each of Hina, Natsumi, Yūki and Makoto represent a different level of skill, allowing all viewers to enjoy Houkago Teibou Nisshi.

  • It is a little sad to see Houkago Teibou Nisshi draw to a close with its final haikyu: “always look after the ocean”. Having a good slice-of-life series in a given season always brings a smile to my face, and I am rather fond of anime of this style. The next season where an anime of this calibre will grace viewers is in January 2021, when Yuru Camp△ returns with its second season. However, in the upcoming season, GochiUsa: BLOOM will be airing, filling the void that Houkago Teibou Nisshi leaves behind. The fall anime season looks to be extremely busy, and I have plans to do episodic reviews for GochiUsa: BLOOM, as well as Strike Witches: Road To Berlin. In addition, Kamisama ni Natta hi, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Iwa Kakeru! Sport Climbing Girls also have my interest. It’s going to be interesting to see just how the next three months pan out, and in the meantime, I have both Halo 3: ODST and The Division 2‘s third manhunt season to unwind to during the brief intermission between the two seasons.

Acting as a balancing act between entertainment and informing viewers of the subtleties of fishing, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is an excellent series that is to fishing what Yama no Susume is to hiking, and what Yuru Camp△ is to camping. Simultaneously instructive and adorable, Houkago Teibou Nisshi shows how with the right instruction and encouragement, individuals of all backgrounds and experience levels can get into a new activity. Hina’s entry into fishing is gentle, and with ample instruction from each of Yūki, Makoto and Natsumi, viewers feel as though they’re right there with Hina as she learns the basics surrounding fishing, from picking the right rod and hook size, to preparing the bait needed and making the correct motions to draw in the fish of choice. It is clear that a great deal of attention was paid towards these minor details to create a compelling and accurate depiction of fishing; together with solid artwork and animation, as well as a warm, inviting soundtrack and a cast of lovable characters, Houkago Teibou Nisshi stands alongside the giants of its genre, being informative, cathartic and a fun series to watch. Such a series is one that could easily gain a continuation, but owing to flooding in the Kyushu region, where author Yasuyuki Kosaka resides, the Houkago Teibou Nisshi manga has gone on indefinite hiatus. Until Kosaka’s situation improves, it stands to reason that for the present, Houkago Teibou Nisshi will see another intermission. With this being said, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is an excellent series, and I am confident that once things look better for Kosaka, Houkago Teibou Nisshi will resume in all of its glory, with a second season becoming reality once there is enough material to adapt. When that occurs, I will certainly be returning to watch and write about this excellent series.

Houkago Teibou Nisshi: Review and Reflections At The ¾ mark

“We have enough Pym particles for one journey each, plus two test runs…one test run.” –Scott Lang, The Avengers: Endgame

On a lazy day, while Yūki is dozing away in the clubroom, Makoto explains the concept of light rock fishing to Hina and Natsumi. Yūki overhears them and decides that this should be their activity for the day, as she’s yearning for some Scorpionfish, which is supposed go great with miso soup. Makoto lends Hina her life-jacket, and Hina manages to catch something shortly after starting out. However, the girls notice that Makoto’s been a little antsy all day. As it turns out, Makoto had fallen into the ocean and very nearly drowned on her first fishing trip, and since then, she’s preferred wearing a life-jacket for safety’s sake, being quite unable to swim. Later, when Hina forgets to study for the upcoming midterms, she swings by Natsumi’s place to study with her, before sharing with Natsumi her love for handicrafts. On a rainy day, club activities are postponed until Yūki and Makoto reveal they’ve been keeping small rods for prawn fishing in the school infirmary. They head to a nearby bridge to fish for freshwater prawns, promising to save some for Sayaka, and although Hina’s initial lack of experience means she’s unsuccessful, Yūki shows her how to properly fish for them. At the end of the day, they have a reasonable haul: Makoto fries them up, and the girls enjoy them under the cool, rainy weather. Later, Sayaka has the Breakwater Club practise floating to ensure survival in an emergency, but Makoto’s fear of the water makes it difficult for her to pick up the techniques. Sayaka ends up introducing an emergency self-inflating waist belt, which assuages Makoto’s fear, but when Hina, Natsumi and Yūki give it a whirl, an irate Sayaka charges the girls for the cost of the compressed air cans. While fishing, Hina notices a heron with a fishing wire stuck to its leg and feels guilty about fishing. Yūki has the Breakwater Club help clear litter around their fishing spot. The next day, Yūki and Hina announce a plan to help the heron out; they manage to capture it and remove the wire. The next day, the heron reappears, having come to expect Hina to give it free food.

While Houkago Teibou Nisshi had been focused on fishing and its processes thus far, the anime has also begun delving into ancillary activities and know-how: fishing, preparing catches and enjoying said catches is fun, but there is a great deal that goes on behind the scenes, from fishermen’s unions to look after local aquatic populations, to health and safety, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is open about each aspect behind the Breakwater Club’s activities. The decidedly duller details are no less important: from ensuring one is able to float and keep safe should they fall into a body of water, or making certain that one leaves no detritus or litter behind from their activities to avoid having an adverse impact on wildlife, Houkago Teibou Nisshi indicates that there is always more to something than meets the eye, and that each activity has an accompanying set of responsibilities participants must uphold. In its ninth episode, Houkago Teibou Nisshi presents a safety and wildlife awareness video elegantly rolled into Hina, Natsumi, Yūki and Makoto’s story. Having established how much fun the girls have had thus far, Houkago Teibou Nisshi gently, but also firmly, reminds viewers that there is more to their activities that must be accounted for, and that in being aware of emergency procedure, safety measures and being respectful to the environment are essentials to fishing. When all of these are factored into one’s activities, one can fully enjoy fishing in a safe and responsible manner, ensuring that they minimise disruption to the environment and also maximise the fruits of their effort.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The seventh episode opens with Makoto getting rather excited about light rock fishing, a form of fishing with its origins in Japan where fishers use a specialised kind of rod and small lures to target smaller species that make their homes in rocks underwater. As Makoto falls into a reverie and begins rambling about the technical aspects of light rock fishing, Natsumi and Hina become a little confused, prompting Makoto to stop in embarrassment. Makoto’s resemblance to Azumanga Daioh’s Yomi Mizuhara and Sakaki is more apparent than before: tall and shy like Sakaki, Makoto also has Yomi’s facial appearance and is very level-headed, keeping Yūki in check.

  • Equipped with special fishing poles and tiny lures, Yūki has the girls fishing for Scorpaenidae (commonly known as scorpionfish), which are a family of marine fishes with many highly venomous species: coming into contact with the spines on a venomous species will be extremely painful, and care must be taken to handle them to prevent injury. To render the meat from a scorpionfish safe for consumption, venomous or not, the spines must be removed, and then the fish is cooked all the way through. Properly prepared, the flesh from a scorpionfish is said to be quite delicious, being said to resemble a cross between the flaky meat of a halibut and crab in texture, as well as a similar taste to Monkfish.

  • For Hina, the scorpionfish’s fear factor lies not in the fact that it is venomous or spiny, but because it has a highly frightening appearance. Seven episodes in, Hina’s fears still remain: this is to juxtapose the fact that while she’s acclimatising to fishing, there are still things she’s not quite ready for. It also serves one more purpose – watching Hina squeal in horror and be reduced to a trembling wreck is immensely adorable, adding a bit of comedy to Houkago Teibou Nisshi.

  • Because light rock fishing has Hina stand close to the breakwater’s edge, Makoto decides to lend Hina her life-jacket, and she also is seen frequently reminding Hina to not get so close. It is uncharacteristic for Makoto to be this jumpy, but this does foreshadow a bit of exposition for her later on in the episode. As the girls begin fishing, some of their lures become caught on the bottom, and in a moment reminiscent of The Avengers: Endgame, when Scott Lang is concerned about how the limited supply of Pym Particles limits everyone to one round trip each (plus two test runs), Yūki reminds both Natsumi and Hina that their supply of lures are limited, hence the need to be careful.

  • Hina once again demonstrates her uncommon talent for catching something once she gets the hang of the technique as she reels up a scorpionfish. Hina wonders how to unhook it, and the girls immediately show her the way owing to the presence of spines. The episode doesn’t go into how the Breakwater Club prepares their catch: given the fact that anime like these usually offer a reasonable picture of things, the fact that it was omitted is a sign to users that preparing a freshly-caught scorpionfish requires advanced skill. Consequently, I imagine that the task in Houkago Teibou Nisshi would fall to either Makoto or Yūki.

  • The seventh episode’s choice to explore Makoto’s background gives viewers a strong understanding of her personality and also reminds viewers that for her talents in fishing, she’s also got weaknesses of her own: after nearly drowning, Makoto became quite fearful of falling into water and as a result, isn’t a good swimmer. This is why she’s seen with a life-jacket whenever fishing, and why she’s so pensive during the course of the episode’s events. The girls make plans to get their own life-jackets for safety’s sake, but this looks like it’ll be a task for another time.

  • In excitement about fishing and her own handicrafts, Hina’s forgotten to study for the upcoming exams. Fortunately, Natsumi is on station to help her, and she suggests a study party at her place. Like Hinata, Natsumi might be energetic and carefree, but contrary to their appearances, both girls also surprisingly responsible and focused. Seeing these depths in a character is what makes slice-of-life series so enjoyable; rarely are people one-dimensional, and having an unexpected side to individuals both serves to remind viewers that the characters are complex beings, as well as drive humour where appropriate.

  • It turns out that Natsumi’s parents run a café of sorts – the model for their café is the Grill Kakashi, which is located about seven minutes southeast of the Nishi-Hitoyoshi Station on foot and sports a distinct pyramidal appearance. Locals compliment the restaurant on its ambience, solid menu and large portions, although their staff aren’t fluent in English, and service can be a bit slow. Hitoyoshi itself is twenty-four kilometres east southeast of Sakishi, so folks looking around that area won’t have any luck locating Natsumi’s home: given the path the girls take, one would imagine that Natsumi lives along the Yunoura River, and a search for Neapolitan restaurants in Sashiki finds that the Bistro Pazapa would be the nearest candidate as the location for where Natsumi’s house is.

  • After a morning’s worth of studying, Natsumi’s mother has the girls break for lunch, where they enjoy a Spaghetti Neapolitan. This dish is, like omurice, Japanese in origin, being a spaghetti pan-fried with onion, bell pepper and ketchup. From here, it can be topped with sausage, beef and cheese. The dish is a great option when tomato sauces with herbs and spices are not available: while ketchup and spaghetti don’t initially sound like they’d go well together, pan-frying causes the ketchup to take on a different texture and character. One of my variations of the dish is to add small beef meatballs and pineapple to the pasta.

  • Thanks to Natsumi, Hina’s feeling more confident about the maths exam, and the two decide to take a break. Here, Hina has a chance to share with Natsumi her hobby of handicrafts; she’s made a fish plushie that can open up to expose the plushie’s “entrails”, impressing Natsumi and inspiring her to give it a whirl, although she admits that what Hina’s made might be too complex for her to pick up out of the gates. It’s a gentle moment that allows the two to interact in an ordinary setting, and also shows that for their sparring, like Hinata and Aoi, Hina and Natsumi genuinely do care for one another, getting along like peas in a pod.

  • On a rainy day, the Breakwater Club decides to visit a clubroom closer to their school: Yūki had managed to convince Sayaka to allow them to store small fishing rods in the infirmary, as well as make use of the space as a meeting spot should weather make it difficult to travel to their usual clubroom. Although Sayaka objects to use of school facilities for such a purpose, Yūki is able to placate Sayaka with the promise of freshly-caught freshwater prawns.

  • As the girls set off for their prawn fishing spot, the typically-blue skies of Sashiki are overcast, moody and grey. The girls stop briefly by a 7-Eleven in Ashikita along Route 27, to pick up their fishing license so they can legally fish in the river. There are two 7-Elevens in Sashiki, and this particular 7-Eleven is located just down the way from Ashikita High School. While the skies and colour palette suggests a cooler day, experience indicates that even when overcast, it can still be pretty muggy and humid in Japan.

  • I believe this is the first time in Houkago Teibou Nisshi that the weather’s been rainy: up until now, the weather in Sashiki has been shown to be extremely pleasant, with blue skies and warm days. Kumamoto has a humid subtropical climate, and in May, averages around eleven rainy days. June and July are far rainer: despite only averaging fourteen rainy days, the area can receive up to 400 millimetres of rainfall during each month. As the girls walk along the roadside en route to their fishing spot, the rain begins to fall.

  • Under a bridge crossing the river, the Breakwater Club is reasonably well-protected from the elements, and here, they begin fishing for the freshwater prawns, specifically, the giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii). These are one of the biggest freshwater prawns in the world, capable of reaching thirty centimetres in length and half a kilogram in weight. Native to the Indo-Pacific area, they were introduced to Japan, and the local fisherman’s union manages their population. The fishing license that Hina and the others purchase is a means of supporting the union and their duties in preserving the local aquatic populations, as well as maintain sustainable practises.

  • As the day wears on, the rainfall and misty weather brings back memories of my vacation to Taiwan some six-and-a-half years earlier. After arriving in the Taitung area, we stopped at a jade shop located in the Huadong Valley. It had been a cool and grey day, and a part of the tour included a visit to a warehouse where the jade blocks were stored. Rain began falling as the guide explained how jade was processed and carved, and even though it was only four in the afternoon, it was quite dark. Back home, rainy days are hardly ever this moody, and here, two girls from the same high school as Hina and the others hear a piteous scream emanating from the river below as they cross the bridge that the Breakwater Club is fishing under.

  • It turns out that Hina’s having absolutely no luck with catching anything: the prawns let go of the line after taking the bait, leaving Hina with nothing. Frustration mounts, and Hina throws a small, adorable tantrum. Each of Yūki, Natsumi and Makoto have their own measures for how long to keep the line in after a prawn’s grabbed on, giving Hina a bit of trouble as she struggles to strike a balance between pulling the line in and leaving it to entice the prawns.

  • Fortunately, with guidance from Yūki, Hina soon manages to reel a prawn in. However, when she taunts it, the prawn slips off back into the river. Yūki might be a lazy individual, but her knowledge of fishing and conveying this knowledge is unparalleled – it is with Yūki’s encouragement that Hina’s managed to pick up fishing so quickly which is no mean feat. Soon after, Hina manages to help catch several of the freshwater prawns, returns a prawn with a full clutch of eggs to keep the populations healthy, and Yūki calls it in, asking Sayaka for a ride back so they may prepare the prawns for enjoyment.

  • Makoto takes on the preparation and walks viewers through her favourite recipe. After rinsing the prawns in fresh water to remove any grit and sediment, she drops them into bowl of sake, which intoxicates them and calms them down. Subsequently, the prawns are placed in a bag with starch and shaken to thoroughly coat them. From here, they can be fried in oil (Makoto recommends 170ºC) to cook them, and then salt or lemon juice is added for taste. One thing I noticed is that Makoto is cooking the prawns directly, which results in the freshest experience possible, but I’ve always learnt to devein shrimp and prawns before cooking them.

  • This large “vein” is actually the intestinal tract, and for peace of mind, I prefer taking them out. With this being said, the vein can be left in a shrimp or prawn and consumed, having no adverse impact when eaten. Once everything is good to go, the girls sit down to enjoy fresh prawns, which is easily one of my favourite seafoods to eat. Hina is shown to be eating one, shells and all – deep-frying a prawn will render the shell crunchy and palatable. However, when boiled, they are much tougher to chew and usually are discarded: I typically suck on them to get the flavour out before setting them aside.

  • Sayaka objects to the idea of getting the Breakwater Club members annual licenses to fish in the river, since it’d be quite costly: Yūki attempts to persuade her otherwise, suggesting that with the licenses, Sayaka would be able to more or less have as much prawn as she’d like. Sayaka’s counter-proposal, that Yūki allow her to drink, leaves Yūki reconsidering. While this moment might be simply seen as Sayaka falling to her old habit of drinking, from another angle, this is Sayaka firmly saying no to the licenses in a very indirect, but effective manner. Although she might have an unhealthy fondness for alcohol, Sayaka is still the school nurse and has a responsibility to her students. Being able to decline the club’s request for annual licenses in this way, therefore, shows that Sayaka is rather clever and capable of dealing with her role as the Breakwater Club’s advisor.

  • Nowhere is Makoto’s fear of open water more apparent than when she’s asked to swim – she appears to have mild aquaphobia. Despite sporting a physique that suggests athleticism, Makoto is unable to swim, and the thought of being immersed in water without any flotation device terrifies her. However, since falling into the water is a real risk during fishing, it is imperative that the girls know basic water safety, and Sayaka is on hand to teach everyone the basics, having been a lifeguard during her university days.

  • Makoto’s aquaphobia brings to mind a training exercise that all Navy SEALS must take: rescuing a panicking individual who may very well drag them down, as well – the key to survival is to keep the distressed individual’s head above the water, and also find a way to restrict their limb motion, otherwise, one risks being dragged down. It goes without saying that using force to restrain the individual is out of the question. For folks unaccustomed to open water, the fear of drowning is very real, and water safety classes will always teach the back float, the most basic and important of skills. By going onto one’s back, one keeps their head above the water and can breathe. Coupled with the body’s natural tendency to float, one can therefore be assured of some safety as they await rescue.

  • When I was much younger, I took swimming lessons, and although I’ve not swam in quite some time, I still retain enough knowledge of the basics to hopefully survive should I fall into open water. However, even with basic water safety knowledge, it can be quite dangerous to fall into a body of water; lower temperatures can cause hypothermia. Because Makoto’s phobia limits what she can do, Sayaka decides to showcase another apparatus designed for emergency use – the self-inflating emergency waist belt, which uses a can of compressed carbon dioxide and automatically inflates on contact with water.

  • These low-profile devices are compact and effective: Makoto decides to give it a test after worrying that she’ll only be a burden to the others should anything happen, and upon hitting the pool, the device inflates, keeping her above the water. Typically, there’s a small seal that keeps the compressed air in its cylinder, and on contact with water, the seal dissolves, releasing the air into the chamber. More sophisticated self-inflating life-jackets may have a pressure gauge that monitors external pressure and will engage after a certain threshold. While Houkago Teibou Nisshi does not mention this, self-inflating life-jackets will also have valves for manual inflation in the event that the automatic inflation fails.

  • In excitement, the other girls hop into the water, as well, forgetting about Sayaka’s explicit request for them not to do so: each compressed air cylinder costs a hefty two thousand yen, so having Hina, Natsumi and Yūki discharging theirs means the Breakwater Club has now expended a total of eight thousand yen, six thousand of which were unnecessary. The girls end up remunerating Sayaka for the cost of the materials, and I admit that this was a little uncharacteristic of everyone to forget instructions given to them. The unnecessary expenditure of compressed air tanks, combined with Hina and Natsumi burning through fishing lures earlier, motivates the page quote.

  • While fishing, a heron ends up eating the fish that Hina had caught but was planning on releasing. Hina is initially angry, until she notices a bit of fishing wire, hook and missing toes on the heron. She is subsequently distraught, and the Breakwater Club spends the remainder of the day cleaning up the area, removing litter and detritus around the breakwater. However, the thought of the heron hurting keeps her awake into the night, and she finally phones Yūki, who has an idea on how to proceed.

  • With permission from the municipal government, the Breakwater Club decide to capture the heron and attempt to remove the fishing wire. While Hina may dislike animals and see them as opponents, she does care about their well-being, as well: Yūki and Makoto are on board with the plan, since the heron could be in a great deal of pain. Such a task is ordinarily reserved for municipal wildlife specialists, who have both the know-how and equipment for properly freeing wildlife from difficult situations: my go-to in the case of anything unusual surrounding wildlife, from injured large birds to encountering entire deer carcasses on the road, is to call the local government and have them handle things.

  • Houkago Teibou Nisshi chooses to have the girls do it themselves; doing things this way is not typically exactly recommended, since there’s always the risk of biological contamination when handling wildlife. This is why municipalities will recommend people contact them, as opposed to doing things themselves. With this being said, we can assume that Yūki, Natsumi and Makoto are somewhat familiar with handling these situations on account of them being accustomed to rural life, and it is easier from an animation perspective to have them do it, as opposed to designing new characters and having separate voice actors and actresses in the corresponding roles.

  • With a bit of luck on their side, the Breakwater Club succeeds in trapping the heron after Hina distracts it, and with her skill, Hina swiftly removes the wire, allowing the heron to finally fly freely without being encumbered by the fishing wire. She hopes that it’ll fly to better grounds, expecting to never see it again, but the next day, it returns, clearly expecting Hina to give her more fish. In a cruel twist, in helping the heron to remove the fishing wires, the girls may have also habituated the heron to humans, which presents a different set of problems – habituated wildlife are less likely to keep their distance with humans, resulting in increased confrontations and decreased survival.

  • Houkago Teibou Nisshi chooses to portray this as comedy, but for readers and viewers alike, I think it should go without saying that leaving the wildlife alone (and letting professionals handle major situations) is the best way to go. While I may have rattled off a list of things this final story portrays as being detrimental, this is in no way a strike against Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which remains excellent. Small details like these aren’t anywhere nearly sufficient to detract from the things that Houkago Teibou Nisshi does well, and having said this, my first post for September comes to a close.

Having now passed Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s three-quarters mark, I find that the series has consistently delivered a solid experience in each of its episodes, striking a balance between educating viewers on different aspects of fishing, as well as advancing Hina’s growth and increasing familiarity with fishing. However, while Hina’s come to love fishing with her friends, fishing has by no means displaced her existing interests; Hina still loves the handicrafts, and her skills here have come in handy more than once for the Breakwater Club. Joining the Breakwater Club has simply allowed Hina to expand her horizons and also develop a very practical skill in fishing, showing how new experiences do not necessarily change a person completely, but rather, adds to one’s repertoire of existing skills and interests. The key here is to keep an open mind, and being in the company of skilled, like-minded individuals can do wonders in helping one maintain and cultivate their interest in new experiences. Entering the final quarter of Houkago Teibou Nisshi, it is clear that this anime will not disappoint, having firmly established that the series can strike a balance between exploring fishing, Hina’s growth and acclimatisation into the Breakwater Club’s activities and also creating an immensely cathartic atmosphere in each of its episodes. I am greatly looking forwards to seeing where Houkago Teibou Nisshi wraps up, as well as writing about this series once it has completed: this is an anime that has done everything right, having been immensely helpful in helping me to relax and find perspective each and every week.

Terrible Anime Challenge: How The Quintessential Quintuplets Avoided Hitting the Bricks by Hitting the Books

“Peace is present when things form part of a whole greater than their sum, as the diverse minerals in the ground collect to become the tree.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When Futaro Uesugi receives an offer to take up a position as the tutor with a good pay, he accepts: despite being highly studious, he comes from a difficult background and lives frugally as a result. As it turns out, Futaro is set to look after not one, but five students. These quintuplets come from a wealthy background, but all of them are disinterested in academics and have poor grades as a result. However, determined to ensure their success, Futaro presses forwards despite their initial hostility towards him, and over time, manages to turn them around: the girls gradually begin to see merits in Futaro’s methods and accept him while their grades begin improving. This is The Quintessential Quintuplets (Go-Tōbun no Hanayome, literally “Five Equal Brides”), an anime adaptation of Negi Haruba’s manga, which was serialised to Kodansha between 2017 and 2020. With its interesting premise, the anime proved an unqualified success, and a second season is set to air in 2021, now that the manga has concluded. The positive reception thus prompts the question: what about the series made it particularly successful, even in the eyes of those who are critical of the genre? The answer is almost immediately apparent; The Quintessential Quintuplets‘s success comes from doing things well on a broad spectrum of categories, from its animation and artwork, to top-tier voice acting from an all-star cast, and above all, likeable characters in conjunction with a genuine curiosity to see what methods Futaro uses to help each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki find success. The journey is a warm and rewarding one: while it is evident that The Quintessential Quintuplets was to be a love story out of the gates (the anime opens with a wedding ceremony), it manages to keep things exciting by making it tricky to ascertain who Futaro ends up marrying in the end, as well as presenting another, rather unexpected theme as a result of Futaro becoming the quintuplets’ tutor.

The Quintessential Quintuplets is a romance, but thanks to the premise of Futaro taking up his post initially to help his family pay off a debt, and the fact that Futaro himself is remarkably studious, the anime demonstrates that individuals, however similar they are, each have their own unique style. Consequently, in order to get to each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki, Futaro must first understand the girl as a person before he can decide how to best motivate them. This aspect of The Quintessential Quintuplets became visible with Miku: she’s the first to open up to Futaro and reveals an interest in Japanese history, specifically, surrounding the Sengoku era. Once Futaro realises that he can motivate Miku by matching her in knowledge and showing her that, were she to approach history the same way she approaches the Sengoku, she can pick up the materials quickly. Miku, Yotsuba and Ichika thus warm up to Futaro when he begins taking a more personalised approach to things, while Nino adamantly refuses, and Itsuki persists on her own out of pride. However, as The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ continues, it becomes clear that everyone’s slowly begun to warm up to Futaro because he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and use adaptive, flexible approaches in coaching the girls: rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, his personalised approach allows him to motivate each of the quintuplets according to their own circumstance and interests. This is something I’ve noticed during my time as a student and instructor: everyone has their own background and corresponding way of learning, and the way that schools approach teaching is not really the most optimal approach for everyone. As Futaro discovers, sometimes, the best means of understanding someone comes outside the academic setting, where people are truer to themselves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • From left to right, the quintuplets are Yotsuba, Miku, Ichika, Itsuki and Nino. Each of the girls are named after numbers in order of their birth (Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki), and out of the gates, this screenshot captures everyone’s reception to Futaro: Yotsuba and Ichika seem the most receptive, while Miku’s gaurded. Itsuki outright rejects him, and similarly, Nino meets Furaro with open hostility. Ichika is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Yukari Yukino of Garden of Words and A Place Further Than The Universe‘s Shirase Kobuchizawa), Ayana Taketatsu plays Nino (Azusa Nakano of K-On! and Hana Uzaki of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out), Miku Itō is Miku (Locodol‘s Nanako Usami and Maple of Nekopara), Ayane Sakura plays Yotsuba (Cocoa Hoto from GochiUsa and Oregairu‘s Iroha Isshiki), and Itsuki is voiced by Inori Minase (GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu and Danmachi‘s Hestia).

  • In the Terrible Anime Challenge series, the goal is for me to see if a given anime meets the expectations that the community has established. The Quintessential Quintuplets is well-received and enjoyed by many, so entering, my expectations for the series was for it to excel: per some of the harshest critics around, The Quintessential Quintuplets is “nothing revolutionary, but does a lot of basic things well”. This constitutes as high praise from a site whose reviewers frequently draw theory from undergraduate gender studies textbooks to tear down a given work. Exiting The Quintessential Quintuplets, I was impressed with the series for being able to strike a balance between comedy and drama, which really pulled me in.

  • As a result, The Quintessential Quintuplets is an anime that matches the expectations that the community had set, being superbly enjoyable. This was apparent from episode one of The Quintessential Quintuplets, as Futaro does his best to get through to a group of girls who are adamantly disinterested in studying. After seeing for himself just how tricky things are, Futaro discovers that Miku has a hidden interest for the Sengoku era based on her love for a mobile game, and decides to verse himself in the period’s history to motivate Miku. For his trouble, Futaro is successful, and Miku begins to accept his tutelage. For me, Japanese history is not my forte, and I much prefer reading about the Cold War and World War II.

  • Yotsuba has little objections with Futaro, but her busy schedule leads her to ditch most of their early sessions, typically leaving Futaro alone with Miku. Futaro’s attributes bring to mind my own mannerisms back in the day: as a high school student, I was among the top of my year in academics, but was also a real piece of work in retrospect. Some of my favourite moments include outperforming my chemistry instructor on a practise standardised exam we were giving a whirl ahead of our final exams, and drew scores with my social studies instructors on those exams. For the actual exams themselves, if memory serves, my scores were: 90 for English, 95 for social studies, 98 for mathematics, 96 for biology, 98 for chemistry and 94 for physics. Together with my extracurricular activities, secured me a spot in the university’s undergraduate health sciences programme.

  • Once university arrived, I performed well enough in my first year, but second year saw me fall to just a tenth of a grade point above satisfactory standing. This experience was remarkably humbling, and since then, I’ve viewed grades differently: my old performance back during high school isn’t particularly noteworthy at present. One of the possible outcomes of The Quintessential Quintuplets, then, could be that the girls help Futaro to enjoy life a little more and strike a balance between striving for excellence, as well as spending time with those important to him. Back in The Quintessential Quintuplets, Ichika is the next of the quintuplets to begin opening up to Futaro. Itsuki is insistent on pushing forwards on her own and only reluctantly allows Futaro to help her sisters because she’s met Raika, Futaro’s younger sister. Nino goes to great lengths to push Futaro out: on their first session, she spikes his water, causing him to fall unconscious.

  • While The Quintessential Quintuplets is about Futaro doing his best to motivate the girls, a series purely about studying would be rather dull. Solving quadratic equations, balancing a stoichiometric expression and reviewing English grammar does not lend itself to more colourful moments, and folks looking to experience that would do better to pick up a textbook. Instead, The Quintessential Quintuplets shows the time that Futaro spends with the quintuplets outside of their sessions. At the summer festival, Miku is the first to explain the significance of the fireworks event to Futaro: she’s the first to develop feelings for him.

  • The Quintessential Quintuplets is a visually impressive anime: while not particularly standout compared to the best of something like Kyoto Animation or P.A. Works, Tezuka Productions has nonetheless done a solid job with background artwork and character animations. The fireworks sequences were particularly impressive, although the girls wind up being separated after a failure to communicate. It is here that Futaro learns of Ichika’s secret ambition of becoming an actress; an audition had coincided with the night of the festival, and Futaro encourages her to pursue what she feels to be important. This action causes Ichika to begin accepting Futaro.

  • I always found it interesting that of everyone, Yotsuba has the least resistance towards Futaro. Even shortly after meeting, she’s the first to speak with him of her own volition, and never openly objects to anything he suggests when it comes to studying. I will remark that at this point in time, I’ve not read the manga and therefore do not know which of the five quintuplets ends up marrying Futaro. With this being said, The Quintessential Quintuplets manages to keep the viewer guessing right up until the end, and since there is a second season, I am rather looking forwards to seeing this outcome.

  • Consequently, I will be most displeased if anyone should spoil the ending for me: a part of the thrill in The Quintessential Quintuplets is the fact that any one of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba or Itsuki could potentially be the special person for Futaro. The first season suggests that Ichika, Yotsuba or Miku are more likely, given that they immediately open up to him, but this raises the possibility that Itsuki or Nino are viable, as well, since there’d be a bit of a journey for Futaro to get to a point where they trust him, and in doing so, this would help Itsuki and Nino appreciate the sort of person Futaro is beyond his love of studying.

  • With midterms on the horizon, the quintuplet’s father issues Futaro an ultimatum: should any of the girls fail, he will be dismissed from his post. This pushes Futaro to make a more honest effort in helping the girls study, although he finds it difficult to convey this news to the others. He attempts to tell Itsuki, but instead, Nino hears the news. One recurring gag in The Quintessential Quintuplets is that the quintuplets all look similar enough so that they can be mistaken for one another, and in the anime, everyone is given a distinct colour scheme so that viewers can easily differentiate them.

  • For viewers, it is remarkably easy to warm up to Miku, Yotsuba and Ichika even though their disinclination to study is no better than Itsuki and Nino’s. In an attempt to encourage them, Futaro will grant them them concessions in exchange for studying: since the girls became curious to hear what his preferences in women are, he decides that for some milestone they reach, he’ll reveal one of three: these end up being 1) a cheerful disposition, 2) skillful at cooking and 3) cares for her older brother. The last one is a curveball: Futaro won’t easily give up his secrets, but the anticipation shows that everyone has begun to take an interest to Futaro in some way.

  • Futaro notices that Ichika is always the most composed and mature of the quintuplets, someone who won’t hesitate to give him advice on how to best manage this rowdy, rambunctious bunch. Recalling her advice earlier about kindness, he acts on it and pets Ichika, causing her heart to skip a beat. By The Quintessential Quintuplets‘s halfway point, it becomes clear that both Miku and Ichika have feelings for Futaro despite is disinterest in pursing a relationship.

  • If and when I’m asked, Miku is my favourite of the quintuplets: her quiet and shy disposition brings to mind the sort of traits that I’m fond of. It’s difficult to describe what about these characteristics are so appealing for me. I found myself rooting for Miku early on, and despite her hesitant nature, she gradually becomes more forwards about how she feels towards Futaro, even climbing into bed with him during one overnight study session, and later admitting that while their mother had always taught them to see one another as equals, she wouldn’t hold back where Futaro was concerned.

  • When the midterms come, each of the girls pass in precisely one subject and fail the others. Futaro steels himself for the inevitable, only for Itsuki to brazenly lie about everyone having passed. On some technicality, if each quintuplet is a fifth of a whole, then together, they pass, but this reasoning is a non sequitur. For the sake of The Quintessential Quintuplets, however, the girls’ father accepts this as the truth, allowing Futaro to retain his post for a little longer, and given the outcome, it stands to reason that Futaro is successful in mentoring the girls. Because the girls getting their grades up is a foregone conclusion, this leaves The Quintessential Quintuplets free to explore things beyond studying.

  • Inori Minase’s done an excellent job of portraying the tsundere Itsuki: Itsuki sounds nothing like Chino or Chito, which attests to her skill. Conversely, since Yotsuba is a happy-go-lucky sort of individual, Ayane’s chosen to voice her in the same style as Cocoa and Iroha: it is rather difficult to see Yotsuba as anyone other than Cocoa, and in conjunction with OreGairu, it’s suddenly struck me just how much I miss GochiUsa. Fortunately, with GochiUsa BLOOM on the horizon and set to air on October 12, Thanksgiving Long Weekend for me, I am looking forwards to seeing what adventures await Cocoa, Chino and the others.

  • As the first season draws to a close, Futaro is convinced to join on a class camping trip into the mountains. On the eve of the trip, the girls take him shopping for new gear so he looks a little less shabby, but when Raika falls ill with a fever, Futaro looks after her instead and is prepared to skip the trip. However, Raika recovers, and the girls pick him up instead. When a snowstorm brews and creates a traffic jam, the group ends up lodging at a ryōkan for the night.

  • Ryōkan, traditional Japanese inns, are not inexpensive by any means: they can run for anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five thousand yen (186-312 CAD) per person per night, but in exchange, offer unparalleled service and an experience in Japanese hospitality. Most ryōkan serve guests with a full Japanese breakfast that renders lunch almost unnecessary, and full kaiseki ryori courses for dinner that showcase Japanese cooking at its finest. Some ryōkan also have an onsen on premises, allowing guests to fully relax.

  • The camping trip could have merited an entire post on its own, seeing an eventful day where Futaro helps Yotsuba with a test of courage and ends up getting locked in a storeroom with Ichika. Prior to the trip, another fellow interested in Ichika had tried asking her out to the bonfire dance, which is rumoured to help a couple stay together if they are holding hands at its conclusion. However, this “Ichika” was actually Miku, creating a bit of a misunderstanding. The other fellow eventually meets another girl thanks to Futaro’s help on the test of courage.

  • Ichika falls ill from the previous night’s events, but mysteriously reappears the following morning for the skiing event. Meanwhile, Itsuki has gone missing. Futaro manages to deduce that “Ichika” is actually Itsuki, and while trying to escape Yotsuba and Nino, runs into Miku. The Quintessential Quintuplets has begun setting the stage for a love tesseract, and in any other series, this has the potential of devolving into an unsolvable problem. However, since the series has made it exceedingly clear what the outcome is, this leaves it clear to simply explore the story in between. It is a brilliant bit of writing on Negi Haruba’s part: his decision to break with some conventions and stick with what makes for a clean story in the manga eliminates the problem that plagues most series with multiple female protagonists.

  • At some point, one of the quintuplets will walk the isle with Futaro, and the other four will have made peace with this fact despite being in love with him themselves. How this comes to be will likely be what season two deals with, and as season one draws to a close, the anime does not readily give up the manga’s mysteries as each of the girls hold Futaro’s hand during the finale of the bonfire dance before waking him up accidentally, resulting in much commotion. Overall, The Quintessential Quintuplets earns an A- (3.7 of 4.0, or 8.5 of 10): it matches expectations going in, uses a clever setup to avoid pitfalls of other, similar series, and has be excited about its continuation.

What The Quintessential Quintuplets particularly excels at in, during its first season, is creating anticipation: it is known ahead of time that Futaro will marry one of the quintuplets, and as such throughout the whole of the anime, watching Futaro interact with Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki leads the viewer to wonder, which of the five ends up tying the knot with Futaro? Is it the girls who open up to him earliest, or is it going to be those who most vehemently oppose the idea of him helping? Seeing the dynamics Futaro has with everyone thus makes the series quite captivating, as it represents the journey to the wedding altar that began with mistrust and doubt. With a second season on the horizon, I expect that The Quintessential Quintuplets will continue to portray this particular story, stepping slowly away from the studying piece and more towards the sorts of experiences that will eventually lead Futaro accept one of the girls as his bride. The Quintessential Quintuplets has demonstrated that it earns the praise it received; the positive reception for this anime is not misplaced, and considering that even the more difficult-to-please critics view The Quintessential Quintuplets favourably, it speaks to the strengths of the series to stay focused. Altogether, given the strengths in the first season, it is reasonable to say with confidence that the second season will continue to impress, and I am rather looking forwards to seeing how the anime chooses to wrap things up.

The Rolling Girls: Review and Reflections on an Unexpected Journey

“You fought the Best, now try the Rest!” –Rufus, Street Fighter IV

After The Great Tokyo War divides Japan into ten smaller nation states, individuals known as the Best are hired to defend each prefecture from further conflict, supported by ordinary people known as the Rest. When Rest Moritomo’s friend, Masami Utoku, becomes injured after an engagement with Kuniko Shigyo, Nozomi sets off with her new-found friends, Yukina Kosaka, Ai Hibiki and Chiaya Misono to support Masami, heading off to tour Japan and fulfill the role Masami had as a Best. Their travels bring them to unique regions of Japan, each with their own distinct culture, people and problems. Despite lacking any of the powers a Best possesses, Nozomi, Yukina, Ai and Chiaya manage to help each area in their own way, helping to resolve conflicts and unearth the mystery behind the Moonlight Stones. At its core, The Rolling Girls is a tale of perseverance and the importance of the masses: common people can, and do have considerable contributions to a society; despite being a Rest and lacking any of the combat prowess or durability of a Best, Nozomi and her friends nonetheless play a pivotal role in helping the peoples of Always Comima, Aichi, Mie, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Okayama sort out their troubles via a more face-to-face approach, using words and kindness in place of overwhelming force. Although Nozomi and her friends do not always have the easiest of times, their dedication and ordinary approaches leave a considerable impact, showing how normal folks can still do something positive: while individually weak, together, people can nonetheless achieve great things when unified. This theme is the heart and soul of The Rolling Girls, keeping the anime cohesive; as a story about travel, The Rolling Girls is packed with adventure and colour, discovery and exploration. Each episode is an awe-inspiring, and occasionally, overwhelming experience, so having a clear message that comes from each journey serves to keep The Rolling Girls focused.

Besides its central theme, a secondary theme begins manifesting in The Rolling Girls as the story progresses: in this unique world, confrontation and conflict is initially presented as the norm. The anime opens with Masami fighting Kuniko for territory and pride over something of limited value, and for their troubles, both wind up hospitalised. As Nozomi and the others travel to other parts of Japan, they see a similar story: Bests fighting one another over past grievances and perceived slights. Because they are unable to match power with force, Nozomi and the others devise different ways to help out, and these seemingly trivial actions wind up having a large impact on those they sought to help, even changing how opposite sides of a conflict view one another. Over time, even Masami and Kuniko set aside their differences to help Nozomi and the others resolve a problem in the Hiroshima-Okayama area, as Chiaya’s origins as an alien is revealed and she’s set to return home during a rare astronomical event. Throughout The Rolling Girls, Nozomi, Ai, Yukina and Chiaya enter different areas unaware of the more subtle nuances in the local history, and as such, bring a properly neutral mindset with them. Their words and actions, understandably innocent, also helps to put things in perspective.Through Nozomi and her friends’ actions, as well as their travels, it becomes clear that The Rolling Girls set out to show how despite their superficial differences in customs, beliefs and traditions, people have more in common than they are different, and that allowing trivialities to get the better of one results in conflicts that, in retrospect, appear ludicrous and petty. Fortunately, with a nudge from outsiders who have a different outlook, seemingly deep-seated problems can be approached and solved, as well.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Out of the gates, with the #AniTwitWatches crew, my immediate impression was that The Rolling Girls is incredibly busy: the first few episodes establish the basic context and showcases the fights that can happen between two rival regions. Once Masami and Kuniko finish beating the living daylights out of one another, Nozomi, having long been inspired by Masami’s role as Maccha Green, takes up her mantle, and despite lacking any power of her own, sets off with three others to help other regions sort out their problems, each with their own reasons for coming along.

  • From left to right, the Rolling Girls consist of Yukina (Rina Hidaka), Ai (Risa Taneda), Chiaya (Yumiri Hanamori) and Nozomi (Ari Ozawa). These are all familiar voice actresses: Hidaka played Kantai Collection‘s Kisaragi and a few other ships, Sword Art Online‘s Silica and Ano Natsu De Matteru‘s Rinon, Taneda is Rize Tedeza of GochiUsa and Aya Komichi of Kiniro Mosaic, Hanamori is Yuru Camp‘s very own Nadeshiko Kagamihara, and Ozawa plays Yuno from YUNO, as well as Endro!‘s Fai Fai and Wakaba Kohashi from Wakaba Girl.

  • The page quote is sourced from Street Fighter IV, or more appropriately, a variation of Rufus’ pre-fight line: having seen what Bests are capable of, it seems inconceivable that individuals who routinely get blown away like ragdolls whenever Bests fight have any chance to make a difference. However, this is precisely what The Rolling Girls is about: the girls’ journey takes them to a curiously named place called Always Komima, where they help a Best named Thunderroad to find her Moonlight Stone and settle a matter involving a terror group, which turns out to have been a fabrication to try and keep everyone together.

  • While away from home, the background artwork in The Rolling Girls takes on a fantasy-like tone, sacrificing the normally smooth lines and bold colours for a watercolour-like feel. This effect is deliberate, to create the sense that every region has its own unique culture and elements. To be truthful, The Rolling Girls has enough regions and subplots that I wouldn’t be able to realistically describe and discuss everything in a single post, so I’ve elected to discuss The Rolling Girls at a higher level.

  • The title, “The Rolling Girls, is probably a play on The Rolling Stones, an immensely famous British rock band and the idea that Nozomi and her friends are always on the move, rolling, so to speak. While not musicians per se, Nozomi, Ai, Yukina and Chiaya do sing while on the road and are fans of music. Their journey is usually spaced over the course of two episodes: the first half has the girls arriving in town and gaining a measure of the situation, and then contribute to a solution of some sort in the second.

  • This results in a highly clean and consistent experience for viewers; the variety of places in The Rolling Girls is great, and moving from place to place, the anime does remind me of Kino’s Journey. Whereas Kino typically just experiences a place in Kino’s Journey, Nozomi and the others actively intervene in whatever way they can to help out in The Rolling Girls. In Aichi and Mie, Ai reacts in shock when a girl steals her noodles and begins wolfing them down. It turns out this is Himeko Uotora, the daughter of a shachihoko craftsman who aspires to be as great as her father.

  • Mie and Aichi are afflicted by a rivalry between two factions, and ultimately, this is resolved with a race. During this time, the Rolling Girls also end up helping Himeko rediscover her reason for wanting to continue the family business, as well as for racer Tomoki Suzuka to pick up racing again. My peers in the #AniTwitWatches counted this to be one of the strongest arcs of The Rolling Girls, as it conveyed a particularly moving story of self discovery. For me, it marked one of the best examples of how a Rest can solve a problem: while it is possible to have simply pasted both sides into the ground with force, the girls’ helping Himeko would actually turn out to be  more effective in resolving an old rivalry.

  • By the events of Kyoto, I’d become accustomed to the way The Rolling Girls worked, and was looking forwards to the episodes we were watching: when the girls reach Kyoto, they are treated to a rock concert of gargantuan scale. The vocal music in The Rolling Girls is excellent, and the series makes extensive use of the electric guitar to create a very energetic, youthful sound. The incidental music of the soundtrack is a bit more subtle, often overshadowed by the vocal songs, but are still excellent in their own right.

  • Kyoto has the team work out a conflict between two former friends, Misa Ichijō and Mamechiyo. A misunderstanding had caused a rift between the two, and in the present day, the two are not on speaking terms. Things are further complicated by a fracture between members of a band in the area, as well as a third party whose leader, Shutendōji, seeks to do naught more than kill time. While seemingly antagonistic, it turns out that Shutendōji’s desire to kill time is simply another way of saying keeping things interesting: he is neutral, hardly interested in the conflicts, and merely seeks to do whatever it takes to prevent life from being too dull.

  • In the end, Nozomi and her crew help Mamechiyo recover one of the Moonlight Stones, during which Mamechiyo’s mother ends up revealing that Misa had never intended to leave her. While Mamechiyo and Misa ultimately reconcile and resolve their differences on their own, had Nozomi and her team been absent, Mamechiyo would’ve likely not learnt of the truth, and a resolution would’ve either never been reached, or taken considerably longer to reach. Nozomi, Ai, Chiaya and Yukina’s actions are indirect, setting the stage for people in the various regions to solve their own problems, rather than taking the approach that Masami would have as Maccha Green.

  • The whole notion of indirect action brings to mind J.R.R. Tolkien’s role for Gandalf, a Maia spirit sent to Middle Earth to assist its beings. Verboten from using their powers to directly influence events in Middle Earth, Gandalf and other Maiar were only permitted to use their wisdom and guide beings. Gandalf himself ended up giving Bilbo Baggins a light push out the door, allowing Thorin’s company to reclaim Erebor and eventually, drew forces away from Sauron’s main army. Gandalf similarly motivates Frodo Baggins to continue a Herculean task of carrying the One Ring to Mordor. Back in The Rolling Girls, in between their requests in different regions, the girls often take it easy, stopping at onsen and the beach as time allows.

  • Towards the end of The Rolling Girls, Ai and Nozomi spar, prompting Ai to leave. Nozomi, Yukina and Chiaya continue on their journey into the Hiroshima area. Throughout their travels, Nozomi and the others are tailed by Kuranosuke Momiyama, Chiaya’s caretaker. He’s tasked with ensuring Chiaya’s safety and ultimately bring her back home; Kuranosuke initially seems a shifty-looking fellow, but he’s kind at heart and reveals the truth to the girls: that Chiaya is actually not from this world.

  • While wandering on her own, Ai comes across a field of peach trees and is caught stealing by Momo and Haru Fujiwara, the family who runs the peach farm. She witnesses a tax collector exorting fees from the area’s residents, and it turns out that Momo’s been tired of seeing her neighbours get pushed around. She rushes off to square off against Ura Kukino, a dæmon who controls the area, but finds herself completely outmatched. Fortunately, Haru and the other soon arrive, where it is revealed that Ura was Momo’s birth mother, but circumstance pushed her to leave Momo.

  • Meanwhile, Nozomi attempts to stop Kaguya Nayotake from being decimated in a fight with Shima Ishizukuri and Kishō Ōtomo, members of a shadowy faction who’ve been collecting the Moonlight Crystals and various artefacts for their own end. At this point, experience would suggest that while Shima and Kishō have some evil scheme to cause harm to the others, there is actually a more personal reason behind what they’re doing. Of course, their initial actions do everything except endearing them to the viewers. However, before Shima and Kishō can be dealt with, Nozomi brings one of Ura’s aides to the party, stopping the fighting long enough for everyone to talk things out.

  • Despite wielding a Moonlight Stone, Ai is unable use the same power as a Best to get between Haru and Ura: I had spent much of the season under the impression that the Moonlight Stones were similar to the Infinity Stones, offering nearly unlimited power to its wielders. One aspect I’d forgotten to mention was that the Infinity Stones could only be wielded by those with sufficient mental and physical strength, and in The Rolling Girls, the Moonlight Stones appear to be a conduit for the individual’s will. In this way, it would seem that the Moonlight Stones manifest an individual’s will into physical power, and those with a strong enough spirit can subsequently perform feats of incredible strength and endurance. This is probably what the Bests are: people with an extraordinary will given physical form through the Stones. However, it would appear that Ai does have the beginnings of this power, as well.

  • With Momo accepting both Ura and Haru as her mothers, one more problem is solved. It was here that The Rolling Girls really accentuated the idea that having Bests confronting one another head-on wouldn’t solve anything – this had been quite subtle up until now, and had Ura and Haru continued fighting, it is likely that an impasse would’ve been reached. Instead, it was through Ai’s intervention that the two gain a moment of clarity, moment enough to stand down and talk things through.

  • The Rolling Girls’ finale is a thrilling spectacle as everyone works together to shut down the scheme that Shima and Kishō have been working towards. Chiaya’s origins are also put out in the open, and after twelve episodes, Haruka openly allows Chiaya to accompany Nozomi and the others, having spent much of the series behind a desk and orchestrating the acquisition of Moonlight Stones to fuel Chiaya’s return home.

  • Yukina had been captured earlier, but reunites with everyone after Kuranosuke busts them out, along with Yukari Otonashi. Past differences are set aside, and Nozomi is shocked that Masami and Kuniko are not at one another’s throats. When an attacking force arrives, they take advantage of the confusion to seize a mobile suit that Shima had been secretly holding but was unsuccessful in getting fully operational. She decides to escape in the alien vessel that had brought Chiaya to Earth, but with the seal that allows her to activate the mobile suit, Kaguya is able to help Kuniko and Masami stop Shima.

  • In the aftermath, negotiations and conversation, rather than death, follows. It typifies The Rolling Girls‘ ability to resolve problems through more diplomatic, peaceable means – having four Bests talking it out as the Rests would shows the sort of impact that Nozomi and her team had during their run. In the end, a resolution is reached, and everyone bands together to help get the ship back up and running such that Chiaya may return to her homeworld. It’s a tearful departure, but for Nozomi, Ai and Yukina, it was a journey that ended up being well worth it.

  • Altogether, The Rolling Girls far exceeded my expectations going in – I am happy to give this series a well-deserved A (4.0 of 4.0, or 9.0 of 10) owing to how well everything comes together despite initially giving off a sense of incoherence. I believe a year ago, I came out of Yurikuma Arashi with a similar outcome, being impressed with what the show did well. This is a recurring trend for me, and the lesson here is reiterated: an open mind allows one to experience things that they would’ve otherwise missed. This is why I’m such a proponent of positivity and fair expectations: life is too short to be spent perpetually criticising and tearing down everything that’s outside the scope of one’s interests. My Terrible Anime Challenge series is, in part, about broadening my horizons, and it seems that #AniTwitWatches has a similarly positive effect. Of course, the latter is on a schedule, so my participation is dependent on whether or not I can accommodate it.

I picked up The Rolling Girls as a part of Jon Spencer Reviews’ #AniTwitWatches programme, and while the anime appeared to be very busy and even incoherent in the beginning, as Nozomi takes on the task of travelling around Japan and doing what Masami was doing as Maccha Green in her stead, it became clear that The Rolling Girls was really about the importance of not underestimating the rest; historically, society remembers its heroes, but lesser figures are lost to history even when their contributions directly allowed the heroes to triumph. Neil Armstrong’s historic moon landing, for instance, was as much of his achievement and dedication, as it was the efforts of the hundreds of thousands of technicians, scientists, engineers and support staff. In this way, The Rolling Girls celebrates what it means to be a Rest and how even the unremarkable can have an important role to play. Consequently, The Rolling Girls proved itself to be far more enjoyable than I’d expected: together with a healthy comedic component, a highly unique art style and a compelling collection of music, The Rolling Girls was a thrilling and heart-warming experience, whose seemingly frivolous setup and wild world belies highly meaningful and worthwhile themes. For me, while the first few episodes were chaotic and unfocused, the series doesn’t really kick into high gear until Nozomi and her friends set out on their bikes to tour Japan; folks who are able to push through the first three episodes will find a much more engaging series that was well worth it: The Rolling Girls is ultimately a series about how kindness leaves a more powerful impression than force, and that people are more similar than they are different. In these trying times, I believe that this is a message more of us would benefit in seeing.