The Infinite Zenith

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Comic Girls: Review and Reflection After Three

“Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.” —Bill Watterson

Kaoruko Moeta is a four-panel manga artist whose work is met with a cold reception. Her producer suggests that she lodges at Bunhousha Women’s Dormitory to hone her craft. When she arrives, she meets the shōjo artist Koyume Koizuka, who is her roommate, as well as Ruki Irokawa (an ecchi manga artist) and Tsubasa Katsuki (a shōnen manga artist). Settling into life at Bunhousha Women’s Dormitory, Kaoruko learns that Ruki was once an aspiring artist for children’s work, and later that evening, with a deadline looming for Tsubasa, Koyume and Kaoruko decide to help her out. Although Kaoruko begins caving under pressure, she’s inspired by Tsubasa’s kindness and determination, helping the others kick out the pages that Tsubasa needs to meet her deadline. Later, Kaoruko goes shopping for supplies with the others and learn of their passion for their work, before attending school for the first time, and although Kaoruko is nervous, she ends up in the same class as Tsubasa and Ruki. Later, Kaoruko learns that her general inexperience in life and weak drawing are what leads her manga to be counted as implausible and difficult to connect with. Her friends suggest a drawing contest, and when Kaoruko over-exerts herself and fails to eat, Ririka Hanazono, the dormitory’s manager, gets in touch with Kaoruko’s parents to learn of her preferences to make Kaoruko feel more at home. In spite of her best efforts, however, Kaoruko’s editor rejects her latest submission. This is where we stand three episodes into Comic Girls, this season’s Manga Time Kirara adaptation.

Feeling distinctly like a cross between New Game! and Slow Start, the similarity that Comic Girls shares with some of its predecessors are quite apparent. This is the consequence of my having seen so many similar anime previously, rather than any direct shortcomings on Comic Girls‘ part – beyond the superficial similarities, Comic Girls‘ utilises a different backdrop to motivate its characters and as such, is able to create unique interactions despite the characters’ familiar personalities and mannerisms. Comic Girls‘ focus is a group of manga artists and their struggles with content creation, deadlines and the like. From choosing art supplies to working out how to become inspired for manga, Comic Girls presents a world that I am completely unfamiliar with. However, while manga creation in reality has its subtleties, Comic Girls strikes a balance between technical details and depicting common, everyday occurrences that Karuko experiences. The emphasis on gentle humour means that even for folks lacking any formal experience in authoring manga, Comic Girls remains very approachable, providing viewers with consistent scenes of heart-melting humour. The tradeoff of this approach is that Comic Girls fulfills a very similar role to last season’s Slow Start. However, whereas I related to Slow Start because I did a gap year following the completion of my Bachelor’s degree, in between my decision to go for a Master’s programme, the intricacies of drawing comics and manga are lost on me. The most knowledge I have of the process comes from Bill Watterson, and even then, this is only general knowledge. Consequently, because Comic Girls inherits many of the same narrative elements as seen in other anime of its genre, this isn’t really a series I can confidently write about consistently.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Right out of the gates, Kaoruko brings to mind the likes of Slow Start‘s Hana Ichinose: one cannot help but pity the unfair, ironic situations she’s in. Comic Girls opens with her being shredded by critical reviews of her work. I’ve remarked elsewhere that derivative protagonists are often intentional: viewers are familiar with their traits out of the gates and so, have a grounded perspective on the unique worlds that they interact with. I note immediately that Comic Girls proved to be a bit more difficult to write for, and while there are certainly many adorable moments, there are fewer random remarks I could make, so this post will have twenty screenshots.

  • After arriving at Bunhousha Women’s Dormitory, Kaoruko meets fellow tenants Koyume, Tsubasa and Ruki. The manga presented the dormitory as having more residents and being of a slighty more modern design than what is seen in the anime, where the dormitory is of a rustic design. Moreover, it would appear that besides Koyume, Tsubasa and Ruki, there are no other residents in the anime incarnation.

  • Once Kaoruko and Koyume settle into life at Bunhousha (I wager that this is a deliberate choice, as “Bunhousha” is an anagram of “Houbunsha”, the publishing company that deals with the Manga Time Kirara line of magazines), things immediately take a turn for the wild side once Ruki’s role as an e-manga author is made known. She subsequently feels up Ruki and learns that Ruki isn’t as stacked as initially thought.

  • Later during the evening, while helping Tsubasa meet her deadline, Kaoruko makes a few mistakes, being unaccustomed to ink-and-paper. Understanding that Kaoruku is a novice with the medium, Tsubasa and Ruki reassure her, help her correct her mistakes and encourages her to push forwards. The first episode establishes that the characters are quite easily distinguished from one another, and while everyone has counterparts in other series (for instance, Ruki is a true level version of GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza), their manga genre specialisations keep them easy to tell apart from one another.

  • I’m no expert on the Japanese language, but I’ve been around the block long enough to pick out the patterns. Each of the girls’ family names carry a substring pertinent to their chosen genre. Kaoruko’s surname is Moeta, where moé (萌え) is referring to a sense of affection towards things that are adorable. Similarly, she enjoys doing four-panel manga depicting high school girls not unlike those that are serialised in Manga Time Kirara. Koyume’s surname is Koizuka. Koi (恋) is love in Japanese, mirroring the sort of love stories found in shoujo manga. Ruki’s family name is Irokawa, of which the substring “iro” is phonetically similar to ero, Japanese shorthand for erotic and which is also Ruki’s specialisation. Tsubasa’s family name is Katsuki: katsu (勝つ) is to win, and victory is very much a central topic of the shonen manga that Tsubasa writes.

  • Minute details such as these often make the anime a bit more fun to watch, similar to how a part of the joy of Yuru Camp△ was in hunting down Rin’s camping gear set and locating some of the spots that the girls camp in. Here, after a perilous train ride where Kaoruko nearly gets separated from the others, the girls stop to enjoy some crêpes, a commonly-depicted confectionery in anime that originates from France and is quite popular in Japan. Kaoruko is eating one for the first time and feels it’s too beautiful to eat.

  • After finishing their crêpes, Koyume, Ruki, Tsubasa and Kaoruko visit an art supplies shop to restock on provisions for manga. Koyume’s run short on funds after buying some of Tsubasa’s manga, and Tsubasa steps in to help pay for things. I couldn’t tell you the difference between all of the different brushes, inks, stencils and other tools required and what the significance of the differences are in manga: like every discipline, being a manga artists has its subtleties, and requires a considerable degree of skill to become proficient in.

  • Miharu Nijino is Kaoruko’s homeroom instuctor. Voiced by Ayaka Nanase (Sakura Quest‘s very own Yoshino Koharu), Miharu resembles Brave Witches‘ Takami Karibuchi but is otherwise very strict. Kaoruko’s defining characteristic is her shyness and quickness to tears when met with challenges. At school, she finds herself quickly overwhelmed by the number of students at school, when the begin asking her questions about her background. Being in the same class as Ruki and Tsubasa has its advantages, and they pull her from the situation, sharing a conversation with her on the school rooftops.

  • While I watch anime of Comic Girls‘ class with a nontrivial frequency, one topic that often depicted, and one that I never cover, is yuri – I count it as a topic that I cannot adequately discuss. A glance at the history suggests that use of the term to refer to romantic interactions amongst females stems from a magazine in the late seventies, although these female romances have been present in literature as early as the turn of the twentieth century, involving a shy individual developing interest in an older, more mature character. These elements are the forerunners of modern yuri works, and even in anime where they are not core to the narrative, can be quite visible.

  • While early yuri manga have academic value for drawing influence from earlier literature and influencing modern shows, yuri elements are now prevalent enough so that they become unremarkable. These dynamics do not seem to have much of an impact on the narrative overall in general: Slow Start is a fine example of where the yuri elements had minimal bearing on where Hana’s directions ended up going, and so, while perhaps amusing, I don’t really have much more to offer on yuri in my posts. Back in Comic Girls, like Ren of Anne Happy and to a lesser extent, Hinako from Hinako Note, Kaoruko has the power to draw small animals to her. She encounters a small kitten after class who is as shy as she is and struggles to pet it.

  • Like Eiko in Slow Start did for Hana and Hiroe, Koyume decides to help Kaoruko improve her style when discussion leads to a point where Kaoruko’s manga might be uninspired because of her fashion style, specifically, her lack thereof. It turns out that Kaoruko’s choice is motivated by personal reasons: she sticks with homemade clothing and has long hair to remind her that she’s grown. It’s rather touching, but comes at a cost, so Kaoruko’s friends decide to help her out and by means of a makeover, see how she looks in different hairstyles and outfits.

  • Kaoruko’s mannerisms are considered to be a bit unusual, even against the standards of the people within Comic Girls. It certainly sets her apart from even Anne and Hinako, and while some viewers count Kaoruko as a bit irritating, I don’t for the fact that her archetype and all of its variations are simply fictional portrayals of people. I’ve never encountered anyone like the characters seen in four panel manga in reality, and I would hope that this trend continues. In fact, I liken four-panel manga characters to watching small pets playing around.

  • Apparently, present discussion has developed a fixation on Kaoruko’s interest in collecting female figurines, and some have asserted that “[Kaoruko is] interested in girls. The thing is, we can’t refute either theory, and they can overlap”. There’s nothing quite like a bit of pseudo-intellectualism to get the neurons firing, and I immediately present the counterargument to refute this individual’s load of bollocks. Simply, there are many males who collect NHL or superhero figurines of Captain America, Batman, etc. If we accepted this individual’s logic, that one has attraction towards the sex of their figures, to be true, then the implications on the population as a whole would be quite interesting. This is naturally not the case – even if Kaoruko has yuri tendencies, her interest in kawaii figurines certainly is not an indicator of thus. The end result: “theory” busted, there are no purported overlaps, and that this conversation is over.

  • On a grey, rainy day reminiscent of the weather I encountered in Narita a little less than a year ago and the weather seen in Adventure Time‘s “The Hard Easy”, Kaoruko comes across Koyume and Ruki seemingly doing something quite intimate. Her subsequent embarrassment is strong enough for her to emit photons, giving her face a glow visible on this rainy day. However, as it turns out, Ruki is simply trying to get inspiration for her artwork; using a real-world figure makes it easier for her to conceptualise poses that are possible within the constraints of how humans can move.

  • When she tries to get Kaoruko to help out, Ruki finds that Kaoruko is quite unsuited for things. It is quite clear that Comic Girls will have the occasional moment for mammaries and pantsu, which adds to the humour somewhat. Koyume’s physique is described as being billowy – she is rather more defined than the others in some places, and while Ruki is envious, Koyume would rather have a more petite figure similar to Ruki’s. The consequence is a minor fight that Kaoruko is content to watch.

  • While Koyume has no problem interacting with Kaoruko or Ruki, the thought of Tsubasa seeing her in this state embarrasses her, and Ruki takes the moment to capture Koyume’s expression. It would seem that Tsubasa’s resemblance to a guy causes this embarrassment, which further complicates the way things roll in Comic Girls. While I could spend sleepless nights wringing my hands about how things work in a fictional world, this isn’t the best use of my time.

  • In the laundry room, Koyume, Kaoruko and Ruki run into Tsubasa, who is changing. They feel that her figure strikes the ideal balance between Koyume and Ruki’s, but Tsubasa hilariously desires a shredded physique. One element I’ve not mentioned about Comic Girls so far is that the anime cleverly makes use of manga panel elements to transition between scenes, really giving the sense that the anime adaptation has brought the manga to life with moving visuals and sound.

  • Kaoruko pushes forwards with her project to the point of exhaustion, spurred on by a desire to produce something worth reading. Ever since meeting Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa, Kaoruko’s definitely seen more, enough to motivate her to continue working on a manga that readers enjoy – this forms the basis for the page quote, from legendary comic artist Bill Watterson. The line is sourced from Calvin and Hobbes, and it certainly holds true in Comic Girls. Now that Kaoruko is interacting with peers, she expands her experiences, which will help her create more enjoyable works.

  • Kaoruko is not fond of vegetables and natto, struggling to eat. It is when her parents call Miharu and give her insight into what Kaoruko is fond of that she begins eating better. I understand her aversion to natto – it kicked my ass when I tried it in Japan last year, and I’m otherwise pretty open-minded about new experiences. Kaoruko’s dislike for tomatoes and broccoli, on the other hand, requires a bit of genetics to explain. The hTAS2R38 gene plays a role in governing how bitter we perceive foods to be, and folks with two copies of this allele will taste bitter agents more strongly, hence their dislike for vegetables, and interestingly enough, will also have an increased consumption of sweet foods.

  • If Kaoruko could produce a decent manga after three episodes, then Comic Girls would end right here, right now, and I would go on my merry way, watching other shows and returning to Battlefield 1. Of course, this isn’t the case, and her editor rejects Kaoruko’s latest work, showing that three episodes in, Kaoruko still has a ways to go yet. I won’t be writing about Comic Girls with the same frequency that I did for Slow Start – even with a mere twenty screenshots, I struggled to write for Comic Girls. I will, however, be returning at the end of the season to do a full-season reflection and see whether or not the anime succeeded in telling an engaging story. In the meantime, Shock Operations (single-map operations) and new weapons, including the Thompson Annihilator, will be introduced in June for Battlefield 1. May might see the inclusion of new weapon variants, including a suppressed Enfield rifle. On top of this, The Division‘s next global event, “Blackout”, begins on Monday, and this one looks fun – I might even complete my exotic weapons collection with the Urban MDR if luck is favourable.

Overall, I will continue to keep watching Comic Girls; after three episodes, the anime has proven to be quite enjoyable, especially for the situations that Kaoruko finds herself in. Like Hana from Slow Start, one cannot help but feel a degree of warmth whenever misfortune falls upon her. Similarly, it is quite entertaining to watch her newfound friends do their best to support her. This is likely what Comic Girls will deal with: Kaoruko does not get what high school girls might be like despite being one herself, so it is logical to imagine that Comic Girls will place her in a variety of ordinary situations and experiences that Japanese high school girls go through, and as she becomes closer to each of Ruki, Tsubasa and Koyume, create precious memories that will help her understand high school life to an extent that she can adequately create fiction about it. A skilful writer can write about most anything even without having experienced it personally, but sometimes, it is useful to draw from one’s experiences in order to write. This is one of the reasons why I was able to write my thesis and conference papers so quickly, and why gaming posts take me no effort to write (in turn, being the reason why there are gaming posts on this blog at all), and knowing how to approach writing, using familiar topics, in turn allow one to develop a process. For my blog, these are the anime posts, and for Kaoruko, as she learns to write her experiences more effectively, it is not inconceivable to see her begin exploring other genres and topics as she improves to produce more engaging, compelling manga as a result of her experiences.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Eromanga Sensei and A Simplified Journey of Discovering Happiness Anew

“Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been.” —Alan Alda

Written by Tsukasa Fushimi of OreImo notoriety, Eromanga Sensei has nothing to do with the Eromanga Basin or Eromanga in Queensland, Australia. Rather than referring to a windy plain, Eromanga Sensei follows high school student Masamune Izumi, a light novel writer whose publications are illustrated by one Eromanga Sensei. When Masamune discovers that his younger sister, Sagiri, is Eromanga Sensei, he attempts to get her to open up to the world after she became a recluse. In the process, he meets fellow light novel authors Emily Granger (better known as Elf Yamada) and Hana Umezono (referred to by her pen name, Muramasa Senju), both of which are highly successful authors who also develop feelings for Masamune. Because of its origins, Eromanga Sensei is prima facie a front for the sort of relationship story that characterised OreImo; during the course of its run, it retains a tried-and-true approach in its narrative, but as the series progressed, watching the dynamics between all of the characters made it clear that Eromanga Sensei is rather lower-key, more restrained than OreImo. Masamune himself proved to be more likeable than his counterparts in OreImo and SaeKano, primarily because his motivations for writing, however tacky they might be, touches on a rather more interesting topic that is worth discussion. Had Eromanga Sensei done away with Fushimi’s signature approach, this particular theme would’ve resulted in a story that is far more moving and meaningful than Eromanga Sensei provides – this is not to say that Eromanga Sensei was completely unenjoyable, but I would have liked to see this particular topic explored in greater detail, since Eromanga Sensei does end up being a story of recovery and rediscovery at its core.

After his mother’s death, Masamune fell into a depression. When he picked up writing, he found himself finding happiness in being able to craft worlds for others. The joy associated with making other readers smile formed a powerful motivation for him to continue, inspiring Sagiri to become more proficient in her drawing. With a nontrivial prevalence in the world, depression is a major mental health issue – an estimated 350 million people have depression, and contemporary awareness programs have aimed to push non-clinical approaches as means of helping people recover. Social support and rediscovery are amongst two of the solutions recommended; Eromanga Sensei presents a success story in Masamune’s case. Inspired by Sagiri’s enjoyment of his work, Masamune writes to continue making his readers happy, and in doing so, he was able to accept his mother’s passing. After Sagiri joins the Izumi family, her mother dies of an unknown cause, sending her into a depression that sees her withdrawing from the world. When Masamune realises Sagiri finds happiness in drawing, his own experiences lead him to try and help Sagiri recover and open up. This takes the form of a light novel project that ends up being quite successful, and by Eromanga Sensei‘s end, Sagiri begins to show signs of improvement. Eromanga Sensei thus illustrates that social support and the rediscovery of doing something that one loves can have a positive impact on those suffering from depression – this is naturally more complex in reality, and Eromanga Sensei is only a superficial abstraction of what recovery could look like.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Why I watched OreImo some years ago eludes me, and if I had to hazard a guess, I would suppose that I was curious to see what all of the commotion about the series was. I provided no definitive verdict on whether I would recommend the series. If I go off of my recollections alone, I would count it as a neutral series, just like Eromanga Sensei, in that it is entertaining enough, but offers no satisfactory outcome for viewers. In Eromanga Sensei, my favourite characters are, curiously enough, none of the leads: Tomoe Takasago is one of them.

  • At the start of Eromanga Sensei, Sagiri is withdrawn, shy and unable to hold a conversation face-to-face, resorting to alternate means of communication in order to speak with Masamune. It is when Masamune notices how joyful Sagiri is while drawing that he makes a serious effort to try and get her to open up to those around her, and slowly but surely, a change is observed as Eromanga Sensei progresses.

  • Without its other characters, Eromanga Sensei would not have enough content for twelve episodes, and so, the likes of Emily “Elf Yamada” Granger grace the show. The classical ojou-sama, Emily is a fellow light novel writer and is quite well-known. She clashes frequently with Masamune, but as they spend more time working on novels, Emily begins to develop feelings for Masamune.

  • One of Sagiri’s classmates, Megumi Jinno, brings her entire class out to the Izumi residence with the aim of bringing Sagiri back to school, but Masamune drives them off. A former model, Megumi’s a bit mischievous and enjoys messing with Masamune; it turns out that she’s big on being with others and creating a joyous atmosphere, and so, while she feigns interest in Masamune, her main goal is to bring Sagiri back to school.

  • Quiet, bashful and somewhat resembling GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu in nature, save a perverse interest in drawing cartoonised female anatomy and a tendency to beat Masamune with very specific objects, Sagiri is much more likeable as a character against the likes of Kirino Kousaka. To Sagiri, Masamune is the reliable older sibling who tirelessly looks after her, over time, longing to help her face the world once again. His determination to help her is what drives his motivation to write light novels, and while he expresses a romantic interest in Sagiri, he constantly strives to be a supportive older sibling first and foremost.

  • In order to help her know Sagiri better, Masamune suggests to Megumi that she read some light novels and better understand the sort of world that Sagiri illustrates. When arriving at the bookstore that Tomoe works at, Megumi inadverdently offends Tomoe, calling them “creepy otaku novels” and seeks revenge by giving her recommendations for series that are still in progress. By my admission, I am not big on light novels – their English counterparts, even when given professional translations, sometimes lose something in the process, and as a result, I feel as though I’m missing something.

  • While Megumi is not one of the female leads, I rather liked her inclusion in Eromanga Sensei. She’s present to support Sagiri, and also has a few interesting moments in the anime. Her reasons for wanting to befriend Sagiri are not shown in the anime, but one assumes that she’s going for a perfect run – having befriended everyone she’s run into, it seems that Megumi considers it a personal challenge to try and become familiar with everyone in her year. As such, she views Sagiri as a particularly worthwhile bit of conquest, hence her trying to understand Sagiri’s worldview better. The end result is that Tomoe gets her revenge: after finishing the novels, Megumi is left wanting more.

  • Sagiri agrees to meet with Megumi to use her as a model, in exchange for lending her some light novels, and in the events following, Sagiri pulls down Megumi’s pantsu. To show the moment would likely cause my blog to be de-indexed, so I’m not going to do that. Readers then pose the question: if I do not like light novels, then what do I read? I am big on J.R.R. Tolkein and Tom Clancy for fiction, and have since continued reading Mark Greany’s continuation of the Jack Ryan Jr. universe. Outside of fiction, I read books that deal with evolution, cosmology and the like – while I’m not a technical expert on those things, I do like exploring topics that are outside of my speciality.

  • Masamune runs into difficulty securing a publisher for his project with Sagiri, despite having worked tirelessly to complete the manuscript. Emily decides to help him out, and goes on a “date” with him that frustrates Sagiri. From an external perspective, Emily seems to be the best match for Masamune to a much greater extent than Sagiri.

  • Masamune learns that there will be a competition held, in which the winning entry will be published. This addresses the challenge that Masamune is facing, but when it turns out that his competition is none other than one Hana Umezono, a veritable juggernaut whose got more sales than Emily and Masamune combined. She vows to crush him in competition, but later loses on the basis that she was over the word count. Writing concisely was somewhat of a challenge for me during my time as a student, and I still recall struggling to get an eight page paper down to four pages for my first-ever conference publication.

  • As it turns out, Hana became a light novel writer, emulating Masamune’s style because she was greatly moved by one of his works and became disappointed that his genres changed. She thus hoped to destroy him in competition so that he might give up his own path and help her write novels she enjoyed, citing the rush of inspiring readers as the reason why she took to writing. However, Masamune is resolute on bringing happiness into Sagiri’s life and so, remains steadfast in his own goals.

  • I’ve chosen to refer to everyone by their real names rather than pen names for two reasons: the first is that this is simply how I do things, and second, “Masamune” and “Muramasa” are very similar that it took me a few episodes to get used to things.

  • In the aftermath of the competition, the authors celebrate together before setting out to watch the fireworks, leaving Masamune to watch the fireworks with Sagiri. The conflict in Eromanga Sensei is rudimentary at best and lacks the same divisiveness that OreImo brought to the table, and as a result, reception to Eromanga Sensei around the English-speaking community is mixed. More favourable reviews found the series a modestly engaging one, although not without its flaws, while folks who did not enjoy the series cite it as being predictable and a rehash of OreImo. In a rare case, I agree with both camps.

  • On the whole, I did not find watching Eromanga Sensei to be a complete waste of time, partially because we get to see moments such as an embarrassed Hana in a swimsuit ill-suited for swimming and primarily because of the fact that Eromanga Sensei could’ve explored a completely new direction beyond the tired imouto setup. I did not watch this anime when it aired owing to a lack of interest, and it was a Battlefield 1 emblem that led me to wonder what this anime was like.

  • Emily’s confession to Masamune was an enjoyable one to watch: it speaks volumes to what she thinks of him when she brings him to the same spot where her father proposed to her mother. One of Fushimi’s most prominent approaches within his narratives is to drive things in such a way so that all of the central female leads develop feelings for the male lead, but the male lead only has eyes for the imouto archetype. This approach means that folks who would see Masamune ending up with anyone else will be disappointed. I’ve heard that some folks from Japan were sufficiently dissatisfied about OreImo‘s outcomes that they issued threats to Fushimi subsequently paid a high price for their overreaction.

  • If I did not enjoy Eromanga Sensei to the same extent as I did for shows I do enjoy, one wonders, what kept me continuing even when my ordinary modus operandi is to not write about shows I don’t like? The answer lies in the thematic elements that I managed to distill from my watch of the show, which is the point of the Terrible Anime Challenges – if I can find even a semblance of a coherent theme in a show that prima facie has little purpose, then I will write about it. Anne Happy was something that tried to tell a story and only succeeded partially, while Sansha San’yō ended up being quite enjoyable. Terrible Anime Challenge posts thus can end with one of three conclusions:
    1. The show exceeded my expectations and had a theme worth telling, or
    2. The show failed to distinguish itself and be worthwhile, but also had a theme that was at least serviceable, or
    3. The show was not enjoyable and did not attempt to have a coherent message

  • Eromanga Sensei joins the likes of Anne Happy in being in the second group. For my next Terrible Anime Challenge, I’ve got Bakuon!! lined up. As well, I will also go through Hanayamata and Stella no Mahou: all of these are shows that I watched one episode of, lost interest and did not continue watching with their respective series’ progression. The Terrible Anime Challenge series has given me incentive to go back and revisit these anime, and one of the more fun aspects about Terrible Anime Challenge is that I can take a look at other opinions out there for a given show, see how closely they align with mine and then, if they do not, I may proceed to shred them purely for entertainment value.

  • OreImo‘s Kyousuke, Kirino, Ruri and Saori make an appearance towards the end of Eromanga Sensei after Masamune’s novel comes out. This was a particularly fun moment, to watch the OreImo crew return to this blog after nearly five years – my old OreImo posts are somewhat maligned by folks who felt my stance on the conclusion was unwarranted. I was enjoying things throughout OreImo‘s first season and second season until the true end aired, after which things became a little difficult to accept. A few readers thought this was an “immature” response and proceeded to spam my comments section with long-winded arguments about my various and numerous shortcomings as a person, et cetera.

  • For its shortcomings, Eromanga Sensei is technically passable with respect to animation and sound quality. There’s a context behind this screenshot that will take a bit of explanation to reach, so I’ll leave readers to enjoy another moment of Hana in an interesting situation while I recount what happened to those errant commenters. I ended up wiping their comments, since they were contributing little to the discussion. I usually leave comments up regardless of whether or not they disagree with me, and there’ve only been one other instance where I deleted a comment for ad hominem attacks.

  • The final episode involves Sagiri’s attempts to draw real Eromanga (sorry, folks of Eromanga, Queensland!), and ends up with Sagiri totally botching male anatomy, leading her and Emily to try and use Masamune as a model to learn what a gizmo looks like in reality. This brings my third Terrible Anime Challenge post to a close, and regular programming resumes soon: I will be looking at both Amanchu! Advance and Comic Girls after three episodes have passed. As well, for readers who’ve played Valkyria Chronicies, I’ve also got a talk on my experiences with the campaign-driven DLCs, now that I’ve gotten off my rear and finally went through them.

Overall, because Eromanga Sensei attempted to take a different approach than did OreImo while retaining some familiar elements, opportunity to explore its themes of recovery further is eschewed in favour of more conventional jokes, self-referential humour pertaining to the light novel industry and free anatomy lessons. These elements are to be expected: from the glass-half-full perspective, we can say that Eromanga Sensei provides a story that is a bit more meaningful than that of OreImo‘s – there’s a reason that Masamune enjoys writing and why he directs considerable effort towards helping Sagiri open up once more. Beyond this, I am largely neutral about Eromanga Sensei – folks who are looking for something more meaningful in their anime beyond what Eromanga Sensei intrinsically offers would do better to look elsewhere, and those who are looking for something similar to OreImo might find Eromanga Sensei worthwhile. In fact, I might go so far as to consider Eromanga Sensei and OreImo to be the difference between Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in that both are separated only by minute differences, with one having a slightly stronger theme than the other. While it does step in a different direction and features a protagonist whose existence does not irritate audiences, Eromanga Sensei continues to inherit the same traits as its predecessors. Beyond this, Eromanga Sensei offers little that make it particularly standout. Having said this, one thing is certain, though: folks who enjoyed the show will have enjoyed for their own reasons, and this is perfectly okay.

Yuru Camp△ Episode Zero: OVA Review and Reflection

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” –Plato

Aoi and Chiaki are surprised to learn that they’ve received a narrow storage space as their clubroom. Before they begin cleaning, Aoi brings out a camping magazine from the school library, and she looks through it with Chiaki, learning that camping is an expensive hobby. When Chiaki grows discouraged and shares with Aoi her wishing of going camping together with her, Aoi is moved. She crafts a makeshift cooking tripod from some of the materials in the storage room. Chiaki considers creating their own camping gear with what’s available in the room, but physical constraints make this an impractical route. She later manages to find an inexpensive tent online and makes a reservation for it when they see that it’s sold out, feeling that with a tent, their adventures can really begin. With a runtime of five minutes and seventeen seconds, the Yuru Camp△ OVA brings to mind the likes of Girls und Panzer‘s OVAs – set before Nadeshiko arrives, the OVA details the Outdoors Activity Club’s first steps from humble beginnings, giving audiences a chance to see Aoi and Chiaki’s friendship prior to the addition of the remainder of Yuru Camp△‘s cast. The OVA also illustrates that Chiaki enjoyed camping with her family as a child, and although her family was not shown during Yuru Camp△, the OVA depicts her memories of camping with her parents as a positive influence; this is what prompts Chiaki’s desire to start a club for doing outdoors activities without the rigour and intensity of another existing club.

  • I realise that today is April Fools’ Day, but this post is no April Fools’ joke, and its contents are authentic. With this cleared up, we enter Yuru Camp△ discussion, where I’ve previously referred to the Outdoors Activity Club’s clubroom as the Industrial Hallway. Named after the location in The Matrix, which is characterised by an infinitely long hallway with doors in it, the Industrial Hallway itself a reference to the Long Hall in Alice in Wonderland. Unlike the Long Hall or the Industrial Hallway, the Outdoors Activity Club’s clubroom is finite, with a window looking out into the skies and no other doors, albeit a really narrow one that makes it feel like a hallway.

  • Shimarin and her Dango-style hair are visible as Aoi browses through the school library, finding a camping magazine in the process. Rin has no speaking roles in the OVA and only makes a cameo appearance to reinforce the fact that this is before Rin becomes acquainted with Aoi and the others. This discussion has fifteen screenshots, since there is quite a bit to cover despite the OVA’s short length – basic computation finds that there’s a screenshot taken every 21 seconds on average, which, while high, does not beat the record set by my Warm, Winter Canada post.

  • While browsing through a camping magazine, Chiaki and Aoi learn that camping gear can be very expensive, especially the high-end equipment designed for more extreme outdoors conditions. Aoi imagines Rin running faster with a knife, after they come across some pricey survival knives and wonder if there’s any difference between these knives and kitchen knives. A survival knife is built for outdoor applications (e.g. preparing traps, skinning animals and cutting through branches) and can be folded so they can be transported easily, while kitchen knives are strictly for preparing food and specialised for the task. They are not so easily transported in a backpack compared to survival knives.

  • Chiaki consider several makeshift, if somewhat creative, solutions to address the fact that gear is so expensive, but she ends up feeling that they might not be feasible. She recounts to Aoi that her interest in camping was sparked by the excitement she experienced while camping with her parents during kindergarten. From enjoying food cooked outdoors to the warmth of a campfire and the expanse of dark skies, it was a memorable experience that Chiaki has longed to recreate and share with Aoi. It stands to reason that Chiaki and Aoi are very close friends.

  • Aoi is moved by Chiaki’s sincerity and from her expression, is on board to help Chiaki on her quest to share the magic of camping. She bumps into some metal tubing below. While Yuru Camp△ has given Aoi and Chiaki limited characterisation, glimpses into both girls’ characters were seen: Chiaki is very enthusiastic about camping, while Aoi is more laid-back and practically-minded. Aoi is seen reigning back Chiaki’s excitement at times, a consequence of having a younger sister, and so, when dealing with her friends, has a quiet maturity about her.

  • In a few moments, Aoi creates a cooking tripod, used for suspending a pot above a campfire. One of the joys about Aoi’s character is that she’s essentially K-On!‘s Yui, Mio and Mugi rolled into one: hearing Aoi talk is always so enjoyable because her lines are delivered by Aki Toyosaki, who imparts into Aoi’s voice a soft, relaxing quality. Some viewers have found it unusual that she speaks with a Kansai dialect, arguing that her speaking the Kansai dialect in Yamanashi is equivalent to hearing someone from Alberta talk with a Brooklyn accent. It’s quite amusing that these folks do not think outside the box – using the old noodle, it’s possible that the Inuyamas might have originally lived in the Kansai area before moving to Yamanashi.

  • While I’m a fan of Aoi for her voice, browsing around on the interwebs, it seems that her voice and eyebrows are, curiously, not her defining characteristic. The manga depicts her as being well-endowed relative to Chiaki and Nadeshiko, but the anime kicks things up to twelfth gear. My intuition tells me that the author created Aoi to be a bit visually distinct from the others, and the anime decided to make things more visible, although speaking to the strengths of Yuru Camp△, excessive mammaries and yuri are largely absent, so Aoi’s large bust never distracts from the story beyond providing a few moments conducive of some interesting screenshots.

  • Seeing that it is possible to improvise, Chiaki proposes making use of the various objects in the storeroom to help create camping gear, cleaning out the storeroom in the process. Throughout Yuru Camp△‘s first half, Chiaki continues to devise solutions that, while somewhat effective, are also impractical. This is best evidenced by the use of various insulators to keep warm in place of a properly-outfitted sleeping bag; while Chiaki notes that it works, it would also be quite difficult to use the bathroom had they actually used such a solution whilst camping.

  • While Chiaki and Aoi are clearly unfamiliar with camping this early in the game, their spirit is admirable, and I mention that outdoorsmen like Les Stroud improvise frequently, making use of conventional objects in unconventional manners in order to survive. Some notable examples include him using car insulation and seats to fashion a rudimentary pair of snowshoes in Norway and making a desalination apparatus from parts he finds on the beach on Tiburon Island. While Stroud is usually disappointed with the appearance of junk everywhere he goes, no matter how remote, he also makes considerable use of it to help in his survival, reasoning that he should always be bettering his situation, and that making things also helps keep boredom away (which could be lethal in a survival situation).

  • Now is the winter of Chiaki and Aoi’s disco tent: in their imagination, a gust of wind eliminates their hardwork, snuffing out their campfire and blowing away the table into Chiaki’s face. Aoi is knocked over like a statue and begins crying. It’s a heart-wrenchingly adorable moment: bonus points are awarded to this scene for depicting Aoi as a rigid-body object. It’s a very clever play on the phrase “now is the winter of our discontent”, which is from Shakespeare’s Richard III, describing Richard as a man who abhors himself and the world he’s in. Phonetically similar to “disco tent”, the phrase has been parodied, and Yuru Camp△ has taken it one step further, having Chiaki and Aoi suffer when they create a disco tent.

  • Chiaki falls to her knees after accepting that improvisation has its limits. Later, Aoi and Chiaki will take on part-time jobs to provide funds for the Outdoor Activities Club’s excursions, making it possible to acquire some entry-level gear for camping that the girls put to good use. However, I find that their improvisation early on helps them in developing a survival mindset; while not in the same survival situations as Les Stroud, being open-minded allows Chiaki and Aoi to roll with a situation as things happen. They impart the benefits of this approach to Rin later on in Yuru Camp△.

  • While browsing on her phone, Chiaki finds an incredibly inexpensive tent: retailing for a mere 980 Yen (11.90 CAD), it turns out I was wrong about the tent being on a sale. With this being said, I have seen some tents sell for as little as 21.99 CAD (ODOLAND 2-person tent), and at the time of writing, there’s a tent, the Gigatent Cooper, which is going for 18.99 CAD. Some of the seemingly-unrealistic things in Yuru Camp△ are in fact possible, evidence that the author has taken the effort of doing the research before putting things into the manga.

  • At the end of the day, Chiaki and Aoi have cleared out the former storeroom, putting themselves one step closer to consolidating it as their clubroom. By the time Nadeshiko arrives, the room is filled with texts and magazines on camping, along with some basic camping implements. There’s also a blackboard with a drawing of what I can consider to be Adventure Time‘s Jake the Dog. Voiced by John DiMaggio, Jake sounds identical to Futurama‘s Bender, and his best moments are downright hilarious.

  • While reserving the tent for the present, Chiaki will eventually buy the tent. With one thing down, she takes a breather with Aoi in the OVA’s final moments, feeling that they’re one step closer to camping, but one thing leads to another, and soon, autumn descends upon them. Writing for the Yuru Camp△ OVA also reminded me of some of the challenges I faced while writing the Girls und Panzer OVAs years back: as short OVAs with many interesting moments, it was difficult to find something meaningful to talk about for each of the moments in my figure captions.

  • We’re now into April, and after a dinner at a Chinese restaurant, the evening is setting in. With this post in the books, I think I’ve covered off everything that can be reasonably discussed for the whole of Yuru Camp△. March has been a bit mad for posts, and moving ahead into the spring season, I have plans to watch Amanchu! Advance, as well as Comic GirlsSword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online and Gundam Build Divers – of these shows, I will watch a few episodes before deciding how often I’d like to write about them.

To see the Outdoors Activity Club come so far in the space of a few months is most uplifting – when Chiaki and Aoi first started the club, all they had was a storeroom, some magazines and a reservation for a basic 980-yen tent. All beginnings are difficult; for Chiaki and Aoi, besides initially lacking the resources to carry out a camping trip, the club is also short on members and an advisor. It is only with Nadeshiko’s arrival and eventual roping in of Ena and Rin into their adventures that Chiaki and Aoi’s visions of the Outdoors Activity Club were realised. By showing things at the very beginning, audiences thus appreciate Nadeshiko, Rin and Ena’s friendship with Chiaki and Aoi further, elevating the sense of warmth that this group of friends have developed in their time spent camping together. Its short runtime notwithstanding, the Yuru Camp△ OVA is a pleasant addition to Yuru Camp△ for accentuating the adventures and experiences that Chiaki and Aoi will later have with Nadeshiko, Rin and Ena.

Four Worlds, Four Tomorrows: A Place Further Than The Universe Review and Whole-Series Recommendation

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Upon their arrival in Fremantle, Australia, Mari and the others assist with preparations and provision acquisition. They learn that the expedition is understaffed and lacking in funds, only proceeding forwards because of Gin’s motivation to return to Antarctica. Their journey takes them on rough waters towards Antarctica: as Mari and the others help out on board their ship, they quickly learn that it’s going to be no cruise. Besides lacking the physicality of the other crew, high waves render Shirase, Hinata, Yuzuki and Mari seasick. However, their spirits and resolve are restored with time, and the ship reaches the ice sheets surrounding Antarctica. Gin worries that Shirase might hate her since Takako’s disappearance, and she shares a conversation with Shirase, learning that Shirase is still a bit conflicted as to how she should feel. When they touch down on the Antarctic ice sheet, Shirase yells out jubilantly: against all the odds, she’s done what her peers thought impossible. The crew head towards Showa Station and begin bringing the facility to life. Yuzuki is offered a role in a television drama and worries that she might have to leave Mari and the others behind. With their reassurance that their friendship is very much real when they celebrate her birthday, Yuzuki decides to accept this role. Later, Shirase spots in irate Hinata, who reluctantly reveals that she left high school from an incident with the track team. While on an assignment, Shirase encourages Hinata and delivers a tongue-lashing at those responsible during a live broadcast. As the expedition continues, Shirase wonders if she’ll lose a sense of purpose once she learns the fate of Takako. During a snowcat ride to an observatory station, Shirase and Gin recall Takako’s final words and spirit. When they arrive, Mari and the others find a laptop belonging to Takako. Shirase realises that her words to her mother will never reach her and dissolves in tears. When the time comes for the girls to leave, Shirase promises that they will return again someday. She leaves Takako’s laptop with Gin, who sends her one final email from Takako’s drafts, and while riding back, Mari and the others see the aurora australis. Upon their return to Japan, the girls go their separate ways and resolve to cross paths again. Mari learns that, spurred on by her, Megumi has joined an expedition to the Arctic.

The size of the summary, ladies and gentlemen, is why I likely should have broken up the talk on A Place Further Than The Universe, which proved to be a superbly enjoyable anime. However, things are what they are, so focus will return to the thematic elements in A Place Further Than The Universe and how they contribute to the anime’s high enjoyment factor. The key reason why A Place Further Than The Universe stands out is because of its four characters, all of whom have a different story and reason for being. Mari signs up because she’s tired of backing down from adventure and longs to do something meaningful before her time as a high school student expires. She represents the average viewer, acting as the eyepiece from which the Antarctica expedition is presented from. Innocent, energetic and cheerful, Mari stands in for the audience and provides grounding for the adventures she and her friends embark on. Her simple determination and optimism is sufficent to inspire Megumi to do the same, speaking to the influence friends have on one another. Shirase’s story is one of closure and search for a purpose in its aftermath: having long endured ridicule and logistical challenges, Shirase’s dreams of going to Antarctica remained a fool’s dream until she met Mari and Hinata. When the combined efforts of her friends allow her dream to be realised, she is able to defy expectation – her first words upon hitting the surface of Antarctica is to taunt those who doubted her. However, with this purpose now fulfilled, Shirase begins wondering about her mother and whether or not she will find closure. Ultimately, it is in the company of her friends and their warm encouragement that Shirase comes to terms with Takako’s death, accepting that she’s now got her own memories of Antarctica and goals of her own. With one journey over, Shirase prepares to set out on another one.

Hinata participates in the Antarctica expedition to escape from her troubles and similar to Mari, do something remarkable: after leaving high school and forging her own path independently, Hinata admits that she was envious of the focus that Shirase and Mari had. When she learns to rely on others once again and opens up, however reluctantly, to Shirase, she finds that companionship is being able to trust and be trusted. Letting her friends know the reason as to why she left high school, and seeing the dedication her friends have for her allows Hinata to see friendship from a new light. Finally, Yuzuki learns that friendships are very fluid and open-ended in nature. Far from being a formalised construct, it’s a relationship with its highs and lows, bound together by a sense of camaraderie that survives challenging times. Being with Mari and the others allows Yuzuki to experience the things that she’d long to do, and she comes out with a much stronger sense of what friendship is, which may impart a newfound perspective that changes her acting. Overall, each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki are fundamentally changed with their time in Antarctica, having come out of their journey with a profoundly different view of the world. However, each girl experiences their journey differently and leaves with an unique life lesson learned. There are, in effect, four separate themes in A Place Further Than The Universe, one for each of the characters, and while they share the commonality of friendship and overcoming challenges together, the differences that make Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki unique also means that they get correspondingly unlike experiences despite sharing them together. Through its short run, A Place Further Than The Universe manages to weave each of these four stories tightly together to form a cohesive and moving narrative that was entertaining, moving and refreshing.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because I’ve been away from the proceedings of A Place Further Than The Universe for quite some time, I pay the price by having a lot more ground to cover: this post will have forty images. We open with Hinata filming an interview for their project, which entails presenting their travels in Antarctica as a part of Yuzuki’s promotional work. While Hinata and Mari are comfortable on screen in general, and Yuzuki is experienced with such things, Shirase becomes embarrassed very quickly, and here, can be seen blushing furiously even from this distance. Prior to continuing into this post further, I mention that I’m aware that A Place Further Than The Universe is referred to as Yorimoi for brevity, but it’s only got a Hamming Distance of five from the Moyamoya disease. Characterised by clots in the blood vessels of the brain, Moyamoya is so-named because on X-rays, these clots resembles puffs of smoke (moyamoya is onomatopoeia for puffs of smoke in Japanese). This didn’t really sit well with me, so I’ve opted to refer to the show by its English title in full.

  • Mari and Hinata marvel at the view from on board the ship while they tour it in advance of departure. Of the characters, Mari and Hinata are more spirited and cheerful, while Shirase and Yuzuki are more reserved. With their distinct personalities, I’ve long felt that A Place Further Than The Universe is really four stories wrapped up in one, unified by a shared goal, and as such, this is what lends itself to the post’s title. It’s inspired by Gundam Unicorn‘s sixth episode, titled “Two Worlds, Two Tomorrows” in English. Being four characters, each with their own insights and perspectives, there are correspondingly four separate worlds and four futures, one for each of Mari, Hinata, Shirase and Yuzuki.

  • During a departure party, Shirase and Gin share a conversation about their mutual interest in returning to Antarctica while Mari, Yuzuki and Hinata have a fine time on board. Although Gin is ever-stoic as the captain of the expedition, she opens up to Shirase about her motivations for returning and later admits that seeing Shirase’s youthful passion was what led her to accept and push the operation forwards even in light of limited resources.

  • During the talk I did for A Place Further Than The Universe‘s first half, most of the screenshots were set in Japan or Singapore. For this talk on A Place Further Than The Universe, this has changed, with all of the screenshots being either in Antarctica or on board the ship. Admittedly, the ship-borne episodes brought to mind Mighty Ships, another Discovery Channel programme that I frequently watched during the year that I did my MCAT.

  • Here, Shirase tries to interview one of the ship’s crew on their functions and roles. A central part of the Mighty Ships program focuses on the vessels and their crew; from operations to technical capacities, unique points about each ship are shown in great detail, with the show interviewing crew to gain insights into their duties and associated challenges. A Place Further Than The Universe is not a documentary, however, and consequently is not expected to detail life on board the ice breaker to the same level of detail – if I were seeking that, I would watch the episode on the CCGS Henry Larsen, a Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker that’s been in service since 1988.

  • As the ship moves through the waters of the Southern Ocean, the girls notice increasing amounts of rocking. The adults are used to it and roll with things; here’ Mari and the others are peeling potatoes under Yumiko’s eye. The ship’s designated cook, Yumiko brings the girls under her wing and teach them the ins and outs of cooking when she observes that some of their number are unfamiliar with cooking.

  • I could not help but laugh at the fact that each of Yuzuki, Shirase and Mari are so out of shape that curling five pounds and doing sit ups puts them on the floor. I’ve frequently alluded to the fact that I lift and do Gōjū-ryū; having trained for around eight and seventeen years, respectively, I consider myself in slightly above average shape. That Hinata is able to keep up without too much trouble foreshadows at her background, and she keeps an eye on the others while they train. Fortunately, necessity soon pushes Mari and the others; as Place Further Than The Universe progresses, their low physicality no longer seems to be an issue, suggesting they’ve improved.

  • Crew remark in Mighty Ships that a ship’s galley is the heart of a ship; keeping the crew well-fed and watered is essential to morale on board, and some large commercial ships have top-tier galleys that serve up gourmet or homemade meals that ends up being something crew members look forwards to after a tough shift. Being immensely complex machines, Mighty Ships shows just how involved running a large ship is, from ensuring the engines are running to keeping track of cargo and equipment on board. What impressed me most is the professionalism all of the crews display under very stressful conditions.

  • Seasickness is no joke, and I’ve only ever encountered the Strait of Georgia’s waves twice: once during a cruise fifteen years ago and another during a school trip twelve years ago. I managed to stave off seasickness while my classmates were put out of commission by sitting out on deck and looking into the distance, but the Strait of Georgia is relatively calm compared to the likes of the waves in the Southern Ocean, so more involved measures are required to keep one’s dinner. Unaccustomed to things, audiences are treated to funny faces from Shirase and Mari as they struggle to endure the rough seas.

  • While in the throes of another tempest, Mari, Hinata, Shirase and Yuzuki break out onto deck, where they take in the waves for the first time. Resolving to endure it as best as they can, their spirits allow them to recover and acclimatise to life at sea. This moment here, captured right as they exit the ship’s interior, provides yet another example of the funny faces seen in A Place Further Than The Universe – I’ve become quite fond of Madhouse’s style, and their upcoming movie (by home release standards), Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai, is set to feature a very similar art style.

  • As their ship moves closer to Antarctica, Hinata and the others decide to interview Gin when they learn that Toshio’s developed feelings for her. Naturally, Shirase wants no part in things and resorts to her signature move: clinging to a bunch of stuff. It typifies A Place Further Than The Universe‘s approach in being able to employ both comedy and drama to equal extents within the anime; fiction that strike this balance tend to yield characters that audiences can empathise with, by illustrating that they are human and subject to the same emotions as the rest of us.

  • In its light-hearted moments, A Place Further Than The Universe delivers moments that make audiences smile. The only other anime of the season with such welcoming smiles is Yuru Camp; that A Place Further Than The Universe is a close second speaks volumes to how effective its art style is at conveying emotions. I’m especially fond of Yuzuki’s smile in this moment as the girls prepare to interview a reluctant Gin, and note that upon seeing trailers for Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai, I had some reservations on watching it owing to the art style. Having seen A Place Further Than The Universe and coming to embrace the way characters look, I’m now fully looking forwards to Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai, which will release on May 25.

  • During Toshio’s pursuit of Gin’s heart, he’s constantly rebuked by Yumiko. Watching the interactions between the two was at once amusing and also a bit disheartening. One might be forgiven for thinking that Yumiko is interested in being with him; as this is not the focus of A Place Further Than The Universe, the anime has Toshio stand down and that’s about as far as things go.

  • Gin’s concerns are far removed from the comings and goings of her crew and their love lives: she’s spent most of the journey worried about Shirase’s well-being. Flashbacks show that she was the last person to be in touch with Takako prior to her disappearance during a blizzard, and since then, while doubtful that Takako is still alive, nonetheless resolves to Antarctica in order to continue with her work and also for Takako’s sake. Here, Shirase and Gin simultaneously react to the sight of penguins on the ice packs as they near Antarctica.

  • Vast white landscapes evocative of Hoth and endless blue skies are the imagery that characterise A Place Further Than The Universe, and so, it wouldn’t be a satisfactory talk on Place Further Than The Universe without at least a handful of images that illustrate the scale of things down in the Antarctic.

  • The culmination of Shirase’s efforts with her friends lead her to this point: encouraged by the others, Shirase prepares to take the first step onto Antarctica’s ice pack, and in doing so, she starts on a new adventure with her friends. It was only together that the girls have made it this far: the sum of Yuzuki’s connections with promotional work and Shirase’s ties with Gin, paired with unending support from Hinata and Mari is what allowed them to reach Antarctica. None of the girls could have done this alone, so seeing them stand at the edge of a staircase with all smiles was an immensely rewarding scene.

  • Standing on the ice cap at Antarctica, Shirase shouts out that she’s done it, against all of her detractors’ claims that such an undertaking would be impossible. When the girls step off the boat, they are immediately hit with the cold: the average temperature at Showa Station during the summer is around 0ºC, with a low of -4ºC. During the winter months, temperatures range between -14ºC and -20ºC. These temperatures are well within the realm of what I count as ‘comfortable’ – I’ve mentioned previously that any real Canadian would count temperatures above -15ºC as warm. However, being in the most extreme places in the world, the Antarctic cold is no joke.

  • With the initial rush of arriving in Antarctica past, the crew prepare to ship their supplies out to Showa Station. Established in 1957, it is Japan’s permanent research facility in Antarctica and is located at 69º00’16”S 39º34’54”E. This is probably one of the most remote locations that have been shown in any anime, and while it is unlikely that civilians will be able to tread the same walks that Mari and her friends do, travelling to Antarctica is not outside the realm of possibility. Organised tours and cruises down to Antarctica, complete with shore excursions, start at around ten thousand CAD per person, which, incidentally, corresponds with the million yen that Shirase had.

  • With the hard numbers in mind, travelling to Antarctica is a matter of money: the price range is definitely outside my reach for now (it does not include the air fare), but it might be worth considering. If I do decide to make such a trip, if I still write for this blog in the future, I’ll be sure to write about the experience and attribute it to having watched A Place Further Than The Universe. For now, I’ll return to A Place Further Than The Universe, where Kanae introduces Mari and the others to their quarters at the Showa base.

  • After arrival, the expedition crews work tirelessly to activate station functions. They stop to celebrate Christmas here: most of the heavy lifting (i.e. research, operation of heavy machinery) is left to the adults in the team. Mari and the others take on everyday tasks, such as cooking and cleaning, as well as distribution of foodstuffs to other crew. While their roles might be seen as minor, they nonetheless are incredibly important in keeping morale and spirits up amongst the station’s crew.

  • When Yuzuki tries to get Mari and the others to sign a contract reminiscent of Sheldon’s “Friendship Agreement” from The Big Bang Theory, Mari and the others try to convince her that friendship isn’t something that can be codified. They manage to impart on her that friendship is a matter of trust and togetherness, and when they throw her a birthday party, she’s moved to tears. Having spent most of an episode troubled by whether or not she should accept a new assignment that might separate her from Mari and the others, she eventually realises that friendship can be a powerful force and so, accepts her assignment in a new drama.

  • Exposure to UV radiation while wearing goggles leaves Mari with a goggle-shaped tan that persists for the remainder of one of the episodes, leaving Shirase, Yuzuki and Hinata attempting to conceal peals of laughter, much to Mari’s embarrassment. The solution would’ve been to wear a full face covering: as none of the girls have eyewear, fogging up shouldn’t be a problem. On an unrelated note, I attempted to recreate the sort of clothing that the expedition team might wear in The Division after seeing the masks and goggles. I ended up quite close with my reproduction, although since I don’t have any hard hats or white jackets with orange highlights, this is as close as I got.

  • Once in Antarctica proper, Yuzuki, Hinata and Shirase get their own episodes in which their own personal challenges form the underlying story. After live streaming to viewers back home, Hinata runs into folks she once knew. Despite maintaining a cheerful façade, she hulks out – Shirase bears witness to this and spends the remainder of the episode trying to get Hinata to be truthful about how she feels.

  • It’s a clever touch that Mari’s tan remains visible throughout an entire episode and fades away by the next. Aside from cooking and cleaning duties, Mari and the others also help out with setup of research facility equipment. In between all this, they recount their experiences as per their original agreement. Here, Shirase measures the depth of a hole in the ice, bringing to mind a remark that Les Stroud had while traversing a glacier in one of his earlier episodes. While taking a shortcut over a glacier to reach a meadow, he encounters numerous crevices in the ice. Formed by the movement of ice, which opens up cracks, he says that some of them are deep enough so that if he’d fallen in, he’d never be found.

  • Is it possible to drink meltwater from ponds on the surface in Antarctica in real life? With its cold conditions suppressing bacterial growth and almost nonexistent exposure to pollutants, save for traces from the atmosphere, this water is quite clean and would be something that Les Stroud would recommend making use of in a survival situations. Mari and the others find it very refreshing to try. Here, Hinata reminds the others that whatever troubles she’s experiencing should not have any bearing on the others, befitting of her usual manner; while admirable, her friends genuinely worry about her.

  • While helping out with the deployment of solar panels and placement of satellite markers, Shirase manages to get Hinata to open up about how she genuinely felt over what’d happened in high school: she explained earlier to Mari and the others that she was an exceptional track student who incurred the jealousy of senior students, who retaliated by spreading rumours that lead her to leave high school. While she maintained a cheerful outlook on life after, she has trouble deciding whether or not she can forgive those who simply stood by and watched, and it takes developing trust with her friends, especially Shirase, before Hinata is able to openly confront how she feels about things.

  • Shirase doesn’t forgive easily and during their next live broadcast, delivers a tongue-lashing towards Hinata’s former teammates, calling them out for their actions and stating that Hinata’s moved on. Hinata is moved to tears by the spectacle of how deeply her friends care for her. I personally do not forgive easily – while some contend that only the strong can forgive, I maintain that forgiveness is something that must be earned. I do not give out free passes, seeing it as a key indicator of weakness when forgiveness is handed out too easily. Conversely, when an individual demonstrates they have earned forgiveness, I will regard them as I would anyone else who has earned their respect.

  • Shirase and Gin share another conversation about Takako. Shirase’s internal conflict about Takako is brought to bear in the penultimate episode – her entire reason for coming was to learn of her mother’s fate since her disappearance three years previously, and she feels that once this is done, her entire raison d’être will evaporate. Fearing this loss of purpose, she hesitates to go on an excursion to the site where Takako was last seen. With much support from Mari and the others, Shirase decides to go.

  • The girls help Kanae set up the snowcat convoy by lashing the vehicles together and attaching the required provisions. Once they set off, a ferocious blizzard strikes: Antarctica may be classified as a desert, but blizzards are not uncommon, and once they set in, visibility drops down to zero.

  • Ice crystals in the air create a spectacular phenomenon for Mari and the others to behold: known as a sun pillar, this results when hexagonal ice crystals align in the air to create a large mirror of sorts that reflects the light. While the sun is the most common light source for sun pillars, the moon and even street lamps can create light pillars. They can be observed with a nontrivial frequency where I am: owing to the climate, airborne ice crystals create all manners of observable optical phenomenon. Besides sun pillars, sun dogs and halos are also commonly seen during the winter.

  • In general, reception to A Place Further Than The Universe is very positive, with some people counting it as the strongest anime of the season. Discussions have gone in interesting directions elsewhere, from Shirase’s conflicted feelings about being up close and personal with penguins (the real deal, not the Pittsburgh Penguins) to whether or not the anime could’ve been better with more episodes. Aside from some incoherent ramblings from one “Verso Sciolto” (who’s plagued talks of Kimi no Na wa previously with pseudo-intellectual banter of no substance), talks have been reasoned, well-thought out and generally show that behind the enjoyment factor, is a show that’s clearly taken the time to ensure it strikes a balance between realism and narrative advancement.

  • Takako vanished during a blizzard, and while nodding off to Gin recounting Takako’s final words, Shirase sees her mother’s Force Ghost. Mari thanks Shirase for having allowed everyone to have come so far. When the girls enter the observatory, Mari tearfully sets off, feeling that Shirase’s trip would have fulfilled its purpose only if they can find any hint that Takako was once there. They scatter into the facility and locate a laptop that Takako used.

  • There’s a bit of waterworks in A Place Further Than The Universe, some of which is warranted and some of which might feel a little excessive. When Shirase opens Takako’s laptop and it hits her that her mother never received and never will read any of the messages, the finality of her death hits her in full. The tears come out, while outside of the room, Mari, Hinata and Yuzuki silently cry for Shirase, and audiences also feel the impact of what’s going down. This is one moment where the tears are appropriate.

  • As their time in Antarctica comes to an end, Mari enjoys a shaved ice made from glacial ice: the dissolved air bubbles in the ice date back several millennia, and while not tasting any difference than standard ice, when one considers that they are ingesting something that’s been untouched for such a period time, it is interesting compared against the “ordinary” water and air we drink and breathe. Once each of the characters have overcome their own individual barriers, the finale is much more light-hearted in nature, and back at base, the adults unveil a banner thanking Mari and the others for having helped out.

  • Shirase cuts her hair short, signifying a renewed outlook on the world and a fresh start. A major change in hairstyle has long associated with a change in relationship status, but the practise is actually a global one – longer hair might represent the past, and to cut it indicates a willingness to let go and move on. While Shirase’s not suffered any heartbreak, she’s nonetheless feeling like a new person with the sum of her experiences in Antarctica.

  • The time has thus come for Shirase, Yuzuki, Mari and Hinata to leave Antarctica, bringing their trip to an end, and it is here I explain the page quote. A long time ago, some of my readers felt that the quotes I picked had hardly any relationship to the post in question; while I can see the connection immediately, I understand that my non sequitur thinking means that parallels that I intuitively draw are not apparent, hence this practise. Today’s quote comes from J.R.R. Tolkein – he refers to Bilbo’s adventures and involvements with the Quest for Erebor, stating that it is challenge and adversity that is worth recounting. From struggling to begin their adventure to fighting amongst one another, from seasickness to the challenges of Antarctica itself, Mari and the others have experienced their share of adversity on the journey to Antarctica.

  • Had Mari chosen to remain idle and live in the status quo, it is likely that none of the events in A Place Further Than The Universe will have occurred. Audiences are therefore happy that Mari took the initiative to step out of her comfort zone: while she had no real learnings in Antarctica, her internal conflicts were presented early into the season and as a character, she reaches her resolution once the trip becomes realised and she parts ways with Megumi.

  • Having eaten shaved ice made with All-Genuine Antarctica glacier ice and walked amongst the penguins, the only thing that Shirase and the others have not done is experienced the aurora australis, the southern equivalent of the aurora borealis. As they rest on the deck of the icebreaker, a stunning display begins, filling the skies with curtains of shimmering light. Coincidentally, Gin sends Shirase the final email that Takako had intended to send Shirase before she passed on; it was that the southern lights are much more beautiful in person.

  • Mari’s journey in A Place Further Than The Universe ends where it began, and she returns home. She sends a message to Megumi, who replies that she’s in the Arctic. Unlike Frodo, who’s tribulations in Middle Earth and exposure to the One Ring’s evil has a permanent effect on him, Mari will have no trouble resuming her old life. The epilogue shows each of Hinata, Yuzuki and Shirase going their separate ways, having come back from Antarctica with a profoundly changed world-view and presumably, a newfound appreciation for what they do have. When their journey began, each of Mari, Yuzuki, Hinata and Shirase were longing for something more: A Place Further Than The Universe shows how their travels help each of the girls fill the gaps.

  • I’ll close off with a screenshot of Megumi in the arctic, mention that this post has 5426 words, and as is customary, give A Place Further Than The Universe a numerical score. With a score of A+ (9.5 of 10), A Place Further Than The Universe ties with Yuru Camp△, but the distinction here is that the presence of a more cohesive narrative and clear objective means that I could recommend A Place Further Than The Universe to anyone. With the last of my March posts in the books, I look ahead to the shows of the Spring season, mention that I’ll be writing about Violet Evergarden once the firefights on that settles, and return to Battlefield 1, where a new patch fixes mid-round balancing, changes visibility when looking outside from inside a building and also makes the PTFO skins legendary rarity along with other UI improvements.

As per my original expectation, Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki’s friendships are tested and through trial by fire, the girls come out stronger than they entered. While I previously was unsure whether or not A Place Further Than The Universe would take a more plausible or fairy-tale like approach in dealing with Takako, the later aspects of the series also answered that question, choosing to go with a realistic approach that simultaneously serves as the catalyst for Shirase’s maturation. Overall, A Place Further Than The Universe has many positives going for it, being a show that I looked forwards to each and every week once I got into it. In conjunction with its riveting story, highly engaging and likeable characters and technical excellence, the only thing that one can really hold against A Place Further Than The Universe is the fact that the waterworks come out a bit too frequently than one might reasonably expect of high school girls. While the dramatic might be occasionally placed into situations more often than necessary, it does not serve to detract from A Place Further Than The Universe‘s story. Consequently, I am confident in giving A Place Further Than The Universe a strong recommendation: the biggest draw is simply watching Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki grow as they spend more time together, work together to overcome challenges and ultimately, gain a broader view of the world together. With A Place Further Than The Universe now over on such a decisive note, I do not expect there to be a direct sequel, although the possibility of a spin-off dealing with Megumi and her path to the Arctic following Mari’s departure would be a story well worth telling.

Slow Start: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” —George MacDonald

Hiroe is unable to decide whether her new outfit is to be worn one way or another, leading Hana to call Shion for assistance. Eiko later drops by, and after clarifying that both are suitable to Hiroe, gives Hana a brooch as a gift. Hana learns that Shion had difficulty finding a job after graduating from post secondary and became a landlady in the meantime so as not to waste her time. Shion feels that this detour wasn’t necessarily a bad one, giving her a different set of experiences and also allowed her to look after Hana. During summer vacation, Hana, Kamuri and Eiko visit Tamate’s house, where Tamate cooks for everyone. The girls don yukatas and set off for a summer festival, where Hana expresses thanks for having met Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate before they watch fireworks together. Hiroe and Shion also visit the summer festival; encouraged by Shion, Hiroe decides to take a preparation course for post secondary and get herself back on track. Later, Hana receives money from her parents, who feel the time has come for her to pick clothes most befitting of her. Struggling to figure out what her style is, Eiko decides to help her out. They find a dress that Hana particularly likes, and after spending the afternoon with Kamuri and Tamate, Hana heads home, where Shion decides to take a photo of Hana and her new dress. Slow Start thus comes to its conclusion, wrapping up its narrative in a manner that I was not anticipating – Slow Start did not see Hana telling her friends about her situation. In retrospect, this outcome would have been too quick for a series like Slow Start, which, true to its name, takes things very slowly. However, even though Slow Start does not reach this point after its conclusion, the anime nonetheless presents several aspects about friendship in details that are often taken for granted.

The reason why Slow Start progresses at the pace the series is titled for is to show the development of trust in a friendship. In order for Hana to be truthful with Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate about being a year older than them as a result of having missed her entrance exam, Hana needs to be able to trust that her friends can still accept her as a peer in spite of this age difference (recall the senpaikouhai dynamics in Japan). This trust is not easily established, and so, Slow Start takes the pains of depicting the different events in Hana’s life that show her growing closer with the mature and reliable Eiko, energetic Tamate and shy but observant Kamuri. In spending more time with them, Hana becomes more comfortable around them; her friends certainly have begun trusting her, and in particular, Eiko is able to share with Hana a secret about her interests in crafts. From various conversations, to sleepovers, shopping together and summer festivals, Slow Start depicts the gradual but steady progress Hana makes ever since meeting with her friends. Along the way, audiences are presented with the eccentrics and attributes for each of Eiko, Tamate and Kamuri. The eventual goal in Slow Start will be for Hana’s growth reaching a point where she is comfortable in bringing up her history with friends, but Slow Start shows that its definitely in no rush to reach this point, and that en route to this end goal, audiences can enjoy the humourous situations that the girls encounter in their everyday lives.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Hiroe arrives at Hana’s place, she’s in a bit of a quandary, being unable to decide whether or not she should tuck in her top. For folks whose imaginations are a bit more vivid than mine, I’m sure that these moments won’t give any hint that Hiroe’s simply having trouble with picking her style. Of course, if your mind did wander there, excuse yourself from this blog, go play some Battlefield 1 and then return when you’re feeling happier. I’m not much for clothing and fashion, but it really depends. My button-up short sleeve shirts can be worn either way: all of them are fit properly, and for a casual scenario, I leave it untucked and wear them in conjunction with jeans or shorts. It’s when I have a belt and smart casual pants that I tuck the shirt in.

  • Tucked in, Hiroe’s blouse-and-skirt attire sets her in a smart casual manner. With the blouse out, she’d be going for casual look: both are equally viable, as evidenced by the pattern on the bottom. When Hana herself is unsure of what best works for Hiroe, she recruits Shion, who likewise thinks that both approaches seem to work. For this finale post on Slow Start, I’ve chosen to go with thirty images; after the second half, there’s actually a bit more to consider in discussion.

  • Hiroe explains that after Eiko took her shopping for new outfits, and subsequently left her hanging about what the best way to wear this one was, she’d been feeling a bit down. Eiko later arrives to help sort things out, and also gives Hana a brooch. Of all the characters, Eiko seems to get along best with Hana, and while various individuals in Slow Start feel flustered around Eiko, Hana views her strictly as a friend.

  • Entering Slow Start‘s final few episodes, I began wondering about what the thematic elements in this frivolous anime would be. With the finale fast approaching and little indicator that Hana would let her friends know of her being a year older than everyone else, it became clear that Slow Start‘s first season was not simply about how friendship alone can overcome a well-established Japanese cultural element in the senpaikouhai dynamic.

  • Hana’s conflict throughout Slow Start is whether or not she should let her friends know of her situation, and while Hana appreciates their company enough to live in the moment, it remains a lingering topic. One of my disappointments with Slow Start was precisely that this was not resolved by the season’s end, but then I had a moment of clarity: if Hana was able to overcome this particular barrier, then Slow Start would not live up to its name. She asks Kiyose here for advice, who tells her that Hana should do so only when she feels ready.

  • Shion is a visual treat for the aesthetically-deprived, so for my Slow Start talks, I’ve aimed to have at least some moments of her: in the manga, apparently, she’s capable of causing space-time distortion with her assets. Staring at this image will lead viewers to wonder why the bath water in anime is often depicted with a green hue. While the typical explanations range from use of bath salts and mineral water, to depth impacting the wavelength of light the water that can be returned, in Slow Start, the water is actually clear, and there’s simply a green covering for the bathtub. #TeamShower

  • During a conversation with Shion, Hana learns that Shion is having trouble with finding employment ever since their grandfather frightened a company. However, in taking up the post of a landlady, Shion has also gained some unique experiences. The lesson imparted by her story is that setbacks can be turned around if one is open-minded, and new opportunities can arise from taking a detour. Of course, one should remain vigilant and work hard to get back on track: by surrounding herself with people in a similar boat as her, Hana is able to move forward and help inspire those around her to do the same.

  • Up until now, Hana, Kamuri and Eiko have not visited Tamate’s home: everyone’s spent most of their time at Hana’s place, and so, one can suppose that at some point in the future, everyone will visit Eiko and Kamuri’s homes. This would naturally require a second season; Slow Start has been running since 2013 and could have covered quite some ground, but some folks are a bit pessimistic that the series will get a continuation.

  • Tamate introduces her friends to her grandmothers. When they first made their appearance, folks at Tango-Victor-Tango jumped to many conclusions, and I dismissed their conclusions on the basis that they were completely irrelevant to the overall progression of Slow Start. It continues to elude me as to why some trivial details figure so prominently in discussions surrounding slice-of-life anime: I typically make a few wisecracks about things and then trundle along, only stopping to explore thematic elements in greater detail.

  • Karuizawa is located between Mount Asama and Mount Myōgi, deep in the Nagano prefecture. From orbit, Karuizawa looks about as densely built as most suburban areas in North America, but at street level, there are plenty of open fields: Tamate lives in a more rural area near Karuizawa, and here, the girls take a walk in the countryside. The brilliant blue sky here suggests a day that’s quickly warming up; with an average high of 24°C in July, the area has a humid continental climate, the same as Calgary.

  • Roadside fruit and vegetable stands are commonplace in Japan compared to the likes of North America. Tamate introduces the girls to some of the freshest tomatoes they’d seen all day, and Hana later struggles to eat one, worrying that its juices will stain her shirt. The trick to eating tomatoes whole would be to take measured bites and suck the juices up as one goes. Back during my trip to Japan last year, I had freshly-picked strawberries from a roadside vendor near Ena in the Gifu prefecture. Free of any pesticides and already washed, they tasted very refreshing on a morning that was rapidly warming up.

  • There’s definitely an appeal about fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer: corn on the cob and watermelon are regarded as staples for long, hot days. I’ve omitted the part of Slow Start where the girls enjoy Tamate’s cooking and their subsequent donning of Yukata, during which Tamate discusses her friends’s character with her grandparents.

  • The combination of warm lighting and a pleasant summer evening means that summer festivals are often the place to have characters visit together, and during their exploration of the summer festival, Hana and her friends run into several classmates, who are capitalising on the free time after club activities to likewise visit. With its large cast of characters, Slow Start

  • Summer festivals in Japan are probably equivalent to the midway at agricultural shows over here in North America, where there are carnival games and whacky foods only available at the midway. Kamuri would definitely be at home with the Calgary Stampede’s midway: last year, we had the one-metre-long sausage, deep-fried jello, funnel cake poutine, chili-lime popcorn shrimp perogies, tempura-fried soft-shell crab tacos and other mad foods. I only ended up trying the Tropical Bobster, a lobster-covered poutine, and conclude that to try everything out would probably involve multiple trips.

  • Tamate fixes one of her classmates’ geta with a clever application of a handkerchief while Kamuri is seen munching on summer festival foods. Her shy disposition and quiet voice means that she’s quite similar to GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu and Himōto Umaru-chan‘s Hikari Kongō, but unlike Hikari and Chino, who are both voiced by Inori Minase, Kamuri is voiced by Maria Naganawa. Kamuri also differs from Chino and Hikari in that she’s a lot quicker on the uptake and will occasionally crack bad jokes.

  • Eiko runs into Kiyose in front of an ice cream shop and gets trolled yet again when an attempt to give Kiyose ice cream backfires: after Eiko picks stray ice cream off Kiyose’s face with her finger, Kiyose proceeds to lick Eiko’s finger. I’m not too sure what’s going on, but as Slow Start chooses to depict Eiko’s losing battle purely for humour’s sake, I’m going to say that there’s decisively nothing of note to discuss.

  • Elsewhere, Hiroe and Shion take in the culture at their own pace. Watching Hiroe enjoy herself was a sure sign of her progress, and in the time since audiences have met her, Hiroe’s come quite a long way. While seemingly comical, that she’s made this much progress illustrates just how much of a catalyst Hana and her friends have been for her, as well as how supportive Shion’s been.

  • Lighting senko hanabi  (incense-stick fireworks) is a quintessential part of summer in Japan: these slow-burning fireworks are nothing like the bombastic western sparklers, burning with a much gentler flame that requires a steady hand to maintain. The quiet fire is said to lead partakers to consider the mono no aware of all things, unlike the exciting, spirited sparks that sparklers emit right from the beginning. This difference is primarily a result of the addition of a metallic fuel in sparkers that senko hanabi lack. The metal combustion results in the immediate formation of large sparks, which signify festivities and excitement.

  • Enjoyable that Slow Start might be, I am not without a few critiques here and there, most of which is based purely on what I’ve seen so far. The first is that Hiroe and Hana’s interactions, where seen, were very meaningful in helping both understand the other’s situation and in turn, respectively allowing each to reflect on their own situation and figure out how to make the most of things. It therefore would’ve been nice to see Hana spend more time with Hiroe than was seen in Slow Start. My second is that Nanae and a few others in Hana’s class should also be featured more frequently. I’m especially fond of Nanae, and it was a shame she only made a major appearance in one episode.

  • Under a firework-filled sky, Hana tells Eiko, Tamate and Kamuri that her wish was really more of a thanks for having been blessed to meet the people that she did. The page quote thus comes from Hana’s growth over the course of Slow Start – in choosing to direct the story where it ended, it turns out that Slow Start‘s aim was to illustrate the gradual building of trust that Hana has in her friends, the more time she spends with them. It’s been a bit of a lengthy investment, and serves to show audiences just how much time Hana’s spent with Eiko and the others, to be able to begin trusting them. On the flipside, trust can evaporate in a heartbeat, as well.

  • All of my criticisms of Slow Start would easily be rectified with a second season: as is customary for 4-koma slice-of-life anime adaptations, second seasons usually are where the cast expands as the central characters begin interacting more with those around them, having established their relationships with one another. Consequently, if there is a second season, one can hope that Nanae would join Hana and the others to places like the beach, pool, et cetera. As for the reasons why, I’ll keep that to myself for the present.

  • Twelve episodes into Slow Start, I’ve accepted that Kiyose and Eiko’s interactions are purely intended for comedy and therefore, lack the depth and meaning to be treated with any degree of seriousness. There have been folks who felt that the yuri elements in Slow Start were off-putting and that it detracted from their enjoyment of the series, but personally, it’s nothing outlandish or excessive compared to other adaptations of works from the Manga Time Kirara lineup.

  • The other complaint I’ve heard about Slow Start is how the anime allegedly regresses into a more familiar approach from its initially promising premise. This particular individual does not elaborate further, leading me to conclude their opinions are not meritorious of further consideration. I posit that Slow Start manages to keep the central theme close to the foreground with acceptable frequency and makes detours to help establish moments where Hana becomes closer to her friends. These detours happen to take the form of familiar jokes and events, but on the whole, the pacing is deliberately chosen to match the series’ theme, that things like trust can take a considerable amount of time to be earned.

  • After receiving some cold, hard cash from her parents one day, Hana wonders if her parents are cutting her lose, but it turns out they’re simply interested in having Hana buy her own clothing and are curious to see what styles Hana picks. After talking it over with Eiko and the others, they decide to take Hana shopping for clothes and aim to have her discover her own style.

  • Hana returns home from school here during the early afternoon, running into Shion and Hiroe. Unlike other anime, Slow Start does not have a soundtrack release in a standard album format: similar to The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, the soundtrack and vocal albums will be bundled in parts with each of the BD volumes, with the first releasing today, and the last releasing in August. The music in Slow Start is satisfactory in contributing to the atmosphere within the anime, but is otherwise unremarkable.

  • After accompanying Hana to the stores, Kamuri and Tamate disappear when they hear of a tuna-cutting demonstration, leaving Eiko and Hana to shop on their own. Hana soon sees a dress that she likes and finds that it’s suited for her. She also asks Eiko about other shopping, having grown in more ways than one. Because Slow Start was more open with its jokes than most anime of its group, it therefore came as a surprise when this shopping was cut off with Tamate and Kamuri’s return.

  • Slow Start chose not to fully explore Hana’s development to the extent where she can share her history with others, and I initially felt that this was to the anime’s detriment. This sense is lessened by the fact that Slow Start is ongoing, and when sleeping on what to write, I also realised that the development of trust over time isn’t something that can be rushed. It would seem that many viewers were also expecting the story to go where I was initially expecting it to go, but on closer inspection, it’s actually more in line with Slow Start‘s themes that the first season concludes where it did.

  • Looking back through this post, I am surprised that I was able to find enough to talk about for each of the figure captions. I believe this is the only place online where one can get a reasonably detailed discussion of Slow Start that extends well beyond mere summarisations of what happens; it seems that most reviewers tend to focus on snapshots of the characters interacting with one another without considering that moment’s contribution to the theme.

  • Shion prepares a fish head for dinner on top of the sashimi: fish heads have a stronger flavour and a surprising amount of meat. As well, the eyeballs are also packed with nutrients. While food has never been a focus in Slow Start, the meals that Hana shares with Shion are rendered with a high quality. The Japanese hold the notion that food should look as good as it tastes, and so, place a particular emphasis on preparations that are unmatched.

  • While Hana and Shion pose for the camera so they can send a photograph of Hana wearing her new outfit back to Hana’s mother, I’ll wrap up by saying that I intend to break the trend of giving Slow Start a seven of ten – I feel that this series has earned a B+, an eight of ten by my old university’s grading scale, which is a whole point above the norm. Entertaining, humourous and occasionally thought-provoking, the strikes against Slow Start for me come in introducing new characters where more time should have been spent on consolidating existing relationships. With this being said, if there’s a second season that expands on things further, I will certainly be watching it with interest.

When everything is said and done, Slow Start is a bit more meaningful than its premise and individual moments suggest. While prima facie another 4-koma adaptation with a high yuri density, the worth of Slow Start lies not in its jokes or situational irony, but for the depiction of a very natural friendship that slowly helps Hana develop confidence. It is not easy to recover in the face of adversity, and Slow Start suggests that recovery should be a gradual process done at a pace appropriate for the individual. By all counts, Slow Start is successful in conveying its themes by using the pacing of the series itself. The crisp artwork in Slow Start breathes life into the world that Hana and the others reside in without taking focus off the characters, who are fluidly animated, and with consistently solid sound, the production values of Slow Start make it a visually appealing series to watch. While my positive impressions of Slow Start might look like they’re leading towards a recommendation, Slow Start might not be for everyone. The underlying narrative and themes of Slow Start are often lost among the yuri elements, and so, while I personally enjoyed Slow Start to a considerable extent, I find that Slow Start is best suited for folks with a keen interest in 4-koma adaptations for their strengths in character interactions and gentle comedy. For everyone else, there are plenty of other shows out there that can deliver comedy without sacrificing the presence of the main narrative (A Place Further Than The Universe comes to mind). At present, no news of a continuation have materialised, but if Slow Start were to receive a continuation, the first season has been of a satisfactory quality so that I would likely enjoy a second season.