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Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Angel Beats!, On accepting and making the most of the hand life has dealt

“It was more than mere chance that brought Merry and Pippin to Fangorn. A great power has been sleeping here for many long years. The coming of Merry and Pippin will be like the falling of small stones that starts an avalanche in the mountains.” –Gandalf, The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers

Yuzuru Otonashi awakens to find himself in a strange world without recollections of his self, and encounters a girl aiming a bolt-action rifle at the student council president. After attempting to talk to the student council president and being impaled, Yuzuru comes to in the infirmary. He decides to join the Shinda Sekai Sensen (SSS, Afterlife Battlefront) and learn more about the world he’s in. As he bonds with SSS members Yuri Nakamura and Hideki Hinata, he discovers that the afterlife is a world for individuals who’d died in the real world and were given a second chance to experience an ordinary high school life. Fearing disappearance, the SSS constantly strive to undermine student council president Kanade Tachibana. Along the way, Yuzuru begins to piece together his own past as he participates in the SSS’ operations, realising that he was once a medical student candidate who died on his way to the admissions exam in a train accident. Between the various antics of the SSS and helping his fellow students out, Yuzuru comes to realise that individuals disappear when they’ve found fulfilment, and that Kanade is acting with the aim of helping the others out but because of her poor communication skills, became misunderstood. Yuzuru eventually helps the others make peace with their pasts and “graduate”, falling in love with Kanade, who reveals that his final act in donating his organs helped save her life. Immensely grateful she found the individual who’d given her live, Kanade is also able to move on. Running during the spring 2010 anime season, Angel Beats! is counted as being a remarkably moving and well-written anime despite its short length, striking a masterful balance between comedy and tragedy that, in conjunction with a memorable cast and solid world-building, created a captivating, compelling story that drew viewers in.

At its core, Angel Beats! is about acceptance of one’s reality and making peace with the past, specifically, how the right people can help one see things from another perspective and how a new angle can help one come to terms with their past. Each of the characters in the afterlife had suffered a past grievance while they were alive, or else held onto emotions that were sufficiently important that they did not dispel in death. Yuri’s siblings were killed during a break-in, Masami Iwasawa died with the anger of being unable to sing, Hideki regrets his failure as a baseball player, and Ayato struggled to find his own way in life, having been forced to become a potter after his brother died. Yuzuru was dissatisfied with dying before he could make a new future for himself in a situation outside of his control. Their misfortunes make them resentful of life, and initially, the SSS is motivated by a desire to take revenge on a god that would allow them to suffer in this manner. However, when Yuzuru appears, his new perspective on things slowly leads the SSS to realise that Kanade is not an agent of whatever gods there might be, and that in their time with one another, they’ve come to accomplish those things in the afterlife that they’d yearned to accomplish in life. Friendship, and the perspective it brought, helps each of Yuzuru, Yuri, Hideki and Ayato face their pasts, come to terms with it and realise that while things had been bad, they’d also come to appreciate the second chance they were given. With the SSS, Yuri has become a dependable, reliable leader that she had regretted failing when she let her siblings down. Ayato finds new purpose in life when he meets Yuzuru, and Hideki develops a close friendship with Yuzuru that must’ve been absent from his life following that failed baseball game. Yuzuru himself learns that he once wanted to go to medical school to help others, and while his actions in the afterlife are not medical school, he has, in a manner of speaking, been given an opportunity to help others now. The friendship and camaraderie in the SSS allows Yuzuru to open up and begin exploring his environment; he begins to wonder why the SSS is so intent on fighting Kanade.

Because of his intrinsic kindness and concern for those around him, Yuzuru is a major catalyst in setting the SSS along a path of reconciliation with Kanade. Despite befriending the SSS’ members quickly, Yuzuru is quick to question on the worth of their various operations, and sense of empathy leads him to believe that Kanade is an individual, rather than an agent of the system. After seeing Kanade’s quiet look of sadness when one of their operations deprives her of her favourite meal, he begins seeing her as more of a human, and makes active efforts to speak with her. While the SSS are bewildered with this behaviour, they also begin agreeing Yuzuru’s speculation that disappearing simply means accepting one’s past. By helping Yui make peace with her past and her subsequent disappearance, the SSS slowly begin to realise that Yuzuru has a point, and each member considers their own fulfilment in the afterlife. Yuzuru brought to the SSS a new set of eyes and new ideas; under Yuri’s leadership, their goals had simply been to wreck havoc and avoid disappearing. The SSS had become set in these ways and would have remained in limbo for eternity, but with Yuzuru’s arrival, things begin changing. Sometimes, it takes disruption to shake a system from the status quo, and the right individual in the right place can have a profound affect on things. With his natural desire to help others, Yuzuru’s actions create a profound change amongst the SSS; he manages to convince the members that life is about moving on rather than dwelling on the past, and as the other members begin accepting their pasts, he, Yuri and Kanade also form a close friendship. During their graduation ceremony, Yuri accepts Kanade as a friend and wonders why they’d not been able to support one another sooner. By contributing to helping the whole of the SSS graduate, Yuzuru’s arrival is meant to show that individuals with a strong sense of empathy and willingness to help others, as well as a steadfast commitment to their convictions, can bring about positive change in a system that has otherwise been entrenched in its ways.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As the first entry in “Masterpiece Anime Showcase” series, I will establish the format posts of this style will take: they will be much larger than conventional posts, featuring a lengthier discussion and more screenshots. Even with this expanded format, it is difficult to concisely fit everything into such a space, and I’ve found that the screenshots I do end up picking will not fully convey everything there is about a series. “Masterpiece Anime Showcase” posts differ from Terrible Anime Challenge posts in that they deal with the series where, expectations going in notwithstanding, the end result was sufficient to change my world-views to some extent. Posts of this series will also feature more reminiscence.

  • The unusual setup in Angel Beats! works entirely in its favour, and after the first episode, where Yuzuru meets the SSS, I found myself immediately hooked. I still remember the days when I first picked Angel Beats! up: it was during the cold of the winter semester, and I was slowly pushing my way through a biochemistry, cell and molecular biology and fundamentals of bioinformatics course. Here, Yuzuru is formally introduced to the SSS – shorthand for Shinda Sekai Sensen, the SSS exist to wage war against the God for injustices they’d suffered in their lives.

  • Most of the SSS’ activities involve fighting one Tenshi (Angel), as the SSS’ leader, Yuri, believes her to be an emissary of God or similar. In their fight, they also hope to stave off disappearing, not understanding where vanished individuals go. Operation Tornado is one such activity: while various members of the SSS keep Tenshi busy with various firearms, the band Girls Dead Monster (Girl DeMo) perform a lively concert that distract the students. The acquisition of meal tickets is the end result, and it’s certainly a lively operation. The visuals of Angel Beats! are phenomenal, and the meal tickets resemble little more than glowing orbs of light, creating a surreal atmosphere.

  • While I have reviewed Angel Beats! previously, it was in a much shorter format at my old site. In this post, I will not be focusing on the various firearms the SSS use: their choice seems to be motivated largely by aesthetics rather than performance, and at any rate Tenshi’s own Guard Skills allow her to nullify the effects of firearms. During most confrontations, Tenshi prefers using her abilities in a defensive manner and never attacks unless actively provoked, hinting at her nature.

  • Yuri Nakamura is the leader of the SSS, coordinating operations and occasionally stepping onto the field herself, where she displays exceptional combat prowess with both melee weapons and firearms. Calculating, forward thinking but also sensitive and protective of those around her, Yuri is a natural leader whose charisma and care inspire others to fight for her. However, she is also prone to moments of immaturity, and in Angel Beats!, the colourful character dynamics do much in contributing to the viewer’s concern for the characters.

  • During an operation to visit the Guild and resupply on munitions, much of the SSS are wiped out by various anti-Tenshi traps that were engaged after her presence was detected in the tunnels. Yuzuru’s tenacity allows him to reach the Guild, and along the way, Yuri reveals that in life, she was the eldest sister amongst siblings who were killed during a break-and-enter. Regretting her inability to keep her siblings safe, she longs to rebel against God for having allowed such a cruel turn of events to occur.

  • Yuzuru’s first descent into the Guild with Yuri shows that despite his unfamiliarity with the world, he quickly comes to care about those around him, as well. While some characters immediately have a bone to pick with Yuzuru, such as Noda and Fujimaki, Yuzuru gets along with most of the SSS’ members, and in time, comes to befriend Hideki. Here, he fights Tenshi alongside Yuri, armed with a Glock 17 – this polymer-framed, short recoiled semi-automatic pistol is of German origin that has become quite popular for its light weight. The police services of my home city use the Glock 17 as their sidearm of choice.

  • Despite lacking any augmentation, Yuri is capable of going toe-to-toe with Tenshi, whose powers are conferred by a software known as the Angel Player system. Combat with superhuman entities, firearms, coordinated operations and a desire to rebel against God coexist in Angel Beats! with everyday life at school, concerts and time spent with friends. This setup is quite unusual by all standards, but it exemplifies P.A. Works’ ability to weave in multi-faceted narratives: Tari TariSakura Quest and The World in Colours later would go on to use a similar setup to great effect. Being able to weave in multiple hobbies and eccentricities keeps the worlds in anime fresh, and even though the later anime are more constrained within the laws of reality, remain very entertaining precisely because of this approach.

  • Masami is the first of the SSS to disappear: a talented musician, Masami is the lead singer of Girls DeMo and resembles Girls und Panzer‘s Maho Nishizumi to a limited extent. Known for her spirited, high-energy songs, Yuri wonders if a ballad might be appropriate for their operations, and later, while breaking from practise, Masami encounters Yuzuru. She explains to him that she came from a dysfunctional family and found music as an escape, but during an altercation, she was struck in the head and was no longer able to play music. After telling this story to Yuzuru and performing her final song, she appears to have found solace and disappears.

  • The balcony overlooking the school grounds is a quiet location: the photorealism of this moment belies the fact that Angel Beats! is nearly a decade old. Between the reflections on the granite floor, reflection of sunlight along the railing or the shadows from clouds covering the forest in the distance, this location vividly remains in my memory as an example of how well-rendered Angel Beats! is. I vaguely remember similar weather conditions at the train station the day I was leaving Shanghai after visiting the Expo 2010: I visited Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou in 2010 with an iPod filled with Lia’s music, including “My Soul, Your Beats”. As our tour group travelled along the highways cutting across the plains of the Yangtze River delta, these songs played in the background. Besides checking out the Canadian Pavilion, I also purchased limited edition commemorative medallions from the event. Other highlights of this trip to China included visiting the Forbidden City, walking the Great Wall of China, a delicious dinner at a Hangzhou hotel while a thunderstorm raged outside, and various boat rides on the West Lake, Grand Canal of Suzhou and the Yangtze River in Pudong by night.

  • After coming home from that vacation, I returned to summer research at my old lab and forgot about Angel Beats!, but was compelled to check it out two years later. The music of the series is solid and was a motivating factor in leading me to give the anime a go. Here, the SSS capitalise on a distraction Girls DeMo has created via their concert to search Tenshi’s room. They find nothing out of the ordinary, but Yuri’s enlisted Takeyama’s help, and he quickly breaks into Tenshi’s computer, learning that she’s using software to create superhuman abilities. Yuri wonders why God’s emissary would need to develop her own powers, one of the earlier signs that Yuri’s impression of the world may not be entirely correct.

  • When she is introduced, Yui is presented as an energetic and somewhat irritating girl who loves Masami’s performance. Despite Yui’s ditzy nature, she is a capable singer in her own right. Yui immediately grates on Hideki, who does not hesitate to kick her ass whenever she crosses a line. In spite of this rocky start, and their continued clashes throughout Angel Beats!, both Yui and Hideki mature as the series progresses.

  • Hideki’s story is that he was involved in a traffic accident that claimed his life, and his biggest regret is that his failure to catch a loose baseball cost his team a major game. During an operation involving baseball, Hideki wonders if he should make a catch, as finding fulfillment in the afterlife may lead to his disappearance. Before he can make his decision, Yui collides with him, and an irate Hideki wrestles with Yui subsequently.

  • Tenshi’s real name is Kanade Tachibana, and she’s shown as a quiet student who goes about her business unless otherwise interfered with. In order to test the limits of their world, Yuri proposes messing with Kanade’s examination results, and she is subsequently made to stand down as the Student Council President. Kanade is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, whom readers will best know as The Garden of Word‘s very own Yukari Yukino, Manaka Mukaido of Nagi no Asukara (which, incidentally, is also slated to be featured in Masterpiece Anime Showcase) and Shirase Kobuchizawa from A Place Further Than The Universe.

  • After Kanade’s complete lack of resistance to the SSS’ latest iteration of Operation Tornado, Yuzuru wonders if Kanade is really just an ordinary student unrelated to whatever gods Yuri imagine to be an integral part of the afterlife. He tries the mapo duofu (麻婆豆腐) a Sichuan dish legendary for its spiciness and whose name takes after its pockmarked appearance. Yuzuru is overwhelmed with its flavour the same way Adam Richman was stopped by some of the spicy challenges, but after the heat wears off, he finds the taste to be pleasant. In his mind’s eye, he sees a solitary Kanade eating this dish on her own and begins to feel that their operations have taken away this simple happiness from her after her removal from the student council.

  • The SSS’ members walk through one of the bridges connecting the school grounds to the surrounding areas. While often unmentioned on account of being overshadowed by the emotional aspects of Angel Beats!, the architecture of the high school’s facilities in the afterlife are stunning: unlike conventional high schools, this facility is a mixture of older classrooms, a spacious gym and an ultra-modern canteen/gathering space. The vastness of the complex facilitates the diversity of events that the SSS experience, and its size is likely deliberate, mirroring the scope of the SSS’ members’ backgrounds and their interests.

  • After Kanade is removed from the student council, Yuri decides to determine if there’s another agent that might be acting on behalf of God or equivalent. She asks the SSS’ members to be deliberately disruptive in class. Slaying Mahjong and generally being pains in the lower backside (per the approach Yui takes, when she asks to go to the bathroom every half-minute) seems to have little effect, but when Kanade and Yuzuru go to have a morning meal together, Ayato appears and orders the two locked up.

  • It turns out that Ayato has hypnotic powers that he abuses to harm the non-SSS students, and when the SSS confronts him, he utilises his powers to subjugate the non-SSS students. The end result is that the SSS are brought to their knees. After escaping their imprisonment, Yuzuru confronts Ayato, who is about to hypnotise Yuri, and learns of Ayato’s past: Ayato was born into a family of potters and was not as skilled as his brother, but when his brother died, Ayato was made to continue despite his ineptitude. With his main regret being unable to follow his own path, Yururu listens to his story and in the process of being the first to properly acknowledge him, earns his respect.

  • While aloof and arrogant, to the point of using his powers on any SSS member who displeases him, Ayato will stand down whenever Yuzuru forces him to. Angel Beats! succeeded in humanising its characters by giving them detailed stories, as well as a chance to bounce off the established cast, and audiences invariably will find Ayato’s dynamics with Hideki to be a riot. While the characters largely refer to one another by surname in Angel Beats!, I’ve taken to referring to all characters by their given names simply because that’s consistent with the approach I’ve taken for all of my other posts.

  • Spending more time in the afterlife and trying to make sense of everything, in conjunction with his own past allows Yuzuru to do what none of the other SSS could. His own story is one of tragedy: after his younger sister perishes from illness, he resolved to become a medical doctor with the aim of saving others from disease and injury. After the effort it took him to reach this point, the train he was riding en route to his examination was caught in a tunnel, and despite his best efforts to coordinate with the survivors, Yuzuru ended up dying moments before rescuers could reach him. His final act was to sign his organ donor card with the aim of saving at least one more life before his death.

  • Whereas Angel Beats! had been engaging up until now, after learning of Yuzuru’s own story and aspirations of becoming a medical doctor, which once paralleled my own ambitions, I immediately saw Angel Beats! in a new light: this was an anime that could capture genuine feelings and motivations to create life-like characters, and the lessons learnt were very relevant. That same summer, I was set to take the MCAT, and as such, drew a very personal connection with Angel Beats!. Here, Yuzuru and Kanade share a conversation in the school gardens: amidst the weather of a beautiful day, Yuzuru convinces Kanade to join him and the others for a cookout.

  • Seeing Kanade with the others reinforces that beyond her Guard Skills, she’s really just an ordinary girl who happens to be quite reserved and studious. However, another Kanade appears shortly after and attacks the original. By playing with the Angel Player system, the SSS have inadvertently introduced irregularities into the system. Here, I remark that because I am approaching Angel Beats! from a reminiscence perspective, there are some minute details I am unlikely to cover: this will apply to the other Masterpiece Anime Showcase titles I write for: it’s been many years since I’ve last watched these series, so I’m not likely to remember every nook and cranny there is to each show.

  • This is a sight that audiences are unlikely to have speculated about seeing early on into Angel Beats!’ run: the members of the SSS have gathered to see if Kanade is doing okay after her fight with a red-eyed clone. The gradually changing dynamics of Angel Beats! illustrate that the right person in the right place at the right time can set in motion events that have far reaching consequences – this is what motivates the page quote, which is sourced from Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers. Merry and Pippin might initially look to be Hobbits who’d gotten entangled in something of great complexity, but their actions ultimately play a major role during the War of the Ring: Merry helps Éowyn slay the Witch King of Angmar, while Pippin prevents the death of Faramir.

  • Kanade is taken deep into the Guild shortly after by other clones, and the SSS decide to rescue her, knowing that they need the original Kanade to limit the clones’ ability to replicate. Since the facility has been abandoned, all of the traps have been disabled, and like the first incursion in, the entire group, save Yuzuru and Yuri, make it. Incursions into the Guild are a source of humour: death in Angel Beats!‘ afterlife is only temporary, and watching characters melodramatically react to deaths is especially hilarious knowing everyone is going to return, alive and well, much later.

  • After Kanade is recovered from the ruins of the Guild, Yuzuru recalls the remainder of his memories in a dream. Once she makes a full recovery, she and Ayato return to their old positions in the student council. While the remainder of the SSS assume that they’ve returned to their old status quo, Yuzuru realises that the afterlife exists in order for people to be given a second chance and find fulfilment where they had previously been denied.

  • With Kanade in his corner now, Yuzuru decides to help Yui find her fulfilment first. Kanade’s mannerisms and demeanour strongly resemble  GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, and attest to Kana Hanazawa’s skill as a voice actress: her delivery of Kanade’s voice with a quiet, polite quality is quite far removed from the mature, but hesitant manner of The Garden of Words‘ Yukari Yukino, or the spirited and easily-embarrassed Shirase of A Place Further Than The Universe.

  • Yui’s boundless energy turns out to have been a consequence of her original life: she was paralysed and thus, unable to move. Hence, in the afterlife, she bounces off the ceilings. Yui had also developed a longing to do the various things she’s seen on TV, Yui has Yuzuru help Yui do a German suplex, score a goal in soccer against five other players and hitting a home run. She manages to accomplish both the suplex and soccer goal, but is unsuccessful with the homerun. In spite of this, she is quite satisfied, and reveals one other wish – to become married.

  • While Yuzuru is unable to fulfil her request, Hideki steps in and decides to take up Yui’s proposal, arguing that no matter what separated them, they would be happy together even in spite of her paralysis. Fully happy that she’d found fulfilment again, and no longer bearing past regret, Yui disappears. While Hideki’s kokuhaku seemingly comes out of the blue, this turn of events is not too unexpected – Angel Beats! has shown Hideki as being the first to react to Yui’s antics, and she seems to make him her victim more frequently than anyone else. Despite the dramatic contrasts in their personalities, the two do get along fine, and hearing Yui’s story allows Hideki to understand her.

  • Having demonstrated that his hypothesis is true, Yuzuru prepares to pass this information to Yuri, but mysterious Shadows begin appearing and attacking the SSS. These shadows seemingly transform people into the non-player characters, and when Takamatsu (the healthy fellow who is often seen without his shirt) is taken, Yuri decides that the phenomenon must be dealt with swiftly. However, she also invites Yuzuru to present his discoveries to the SSS.

  • The other members of the SSS are initially hostile towards Yuzuru’s explanation, that the world was meant to be for making peace with their pasts and disappearing was a desirable goal. When Hideki and Ayato share their experiences as well, the other members begin to see Yuzuru’s perspective. There are a great many members in the SSS, as seen in this screenshot, and given the nature of Angel Beats!, it would stand to reason that every character here has their own stories to tell. The next morning, members of the SSS and the Guild decide that Yuzuru’s way of thinking is commendable, and realising that they’ve come to find the life they’d sought in the afterlife, peacefully pass on. Several members of Girl DeMo personally thank Yuzuru for having brought the change into their lives and helping them gain both closure and understanding.

  • Yuri decides that in order to combat the shadows manifesting in their world, she must strike at their source. In the hours before her operation, she prepares a KRISS Vector personal defense weapon. With its futuristic appearance, the Vector is often featured in video games and film: the weapon has a high firing rate and a rail for mounting optics: Yuri appears to use a reflex sight of some sort. I’ve utilised this weapon in The Division and Far Cry 4: it’s an entertaining weapon, but beyond its cool design, is outperformed by other weapons in their respective games.

  • When she runs out of ammunition for the Vector, Yuri picks up an M4A1 carbine modified with the Close Quarters Battle Receiver. Classified as the Mk 18 Mod 0, the M4A1 Yuri carries is set up with an EOTech holographic sight, foregrip and beta-C drum magazine. This assault rifle is intended to provide operators with a weapon rivalling a PDW for compactness while at the same time, firing intermediate rounds. However, the combined toll of exhaustion from fighting the shadows, coupled with her own dejection, leads her to wonder if this endeavour is worth it. She dozes off and dreams of life as an ordinary student, but before she can succumb, Yuzuru and the others arrive. They eliminate the rest of the shadows, and Yuri pushes on ahead, eventually learning that school computers are powering the Angel software.

  • A mysterious male student questions Yuri on her intentions and, like the Matrix’s Architect, the individual here explains that love has introduced an imbalance in the system, and the shadows are a result of this systematic anomaly. He eventually offers Yuri the option of becoming the new God of this world, but Yuri rejects this, feeling that in light of all of her experiences, becoming God would stand contrary to her own beliefs. Like Neo, who rejects the Architect’s terms,  Yuri destroys the computers, and the individual vanishes. She later slips into a dream and is reunited briefly with her siblings, who tell her that they’d never hated her for what happened and ask her to move on.

  • When Yuri comes to, she’s in the infirmary. The others inform her that the SSS have taken Yuzuru’s remarks to heart, and after understanding that this world gave them a chance to find their second chance and overcome the regrets they’d carried with them into the afterlife, have parted ways. Hideki, Ayato, Kanade and Yuzuru are the only remaining members now, and the others wonder what Yuri experienced earlier. I admit that Yuri is probably my favourite of the SSS’ members, and her hot-bloodedness adds to her appeal.

  • We’re now entering the twenty-fifth day of the deep-freeze over my province: it’s a far cry from the warm and inviting weather of Angel Beats!, and after a brief warm-up, the temperatures have plummeted back to a low of -30ºC. Last night, I stepped out to dinner with a long-time friend from university: over a flavourful and fresh Vietnamese short rib and spring roll vermicelli, we caught up on all sorts of things since we last hung out in December. It’s not lost on me that we’re into the end of February now: the flow of time is relentless, and on the horizon are the Captain Marvel and the long-awaited Avengers: Endgame movies.

  • It is certainly true that, were it not for their initial misunderstanding, Yuri and Kanade would’ve been friends. The two regret not sorting out their differences and coming to terms with one another sooner, but it is better late than never. The graduation ceremony of Angel Beats! is one of the most poignant moments in any anime I’ve seen – the joy of watching this cast come so far brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it, and the graduation represents the culmination of everyone’s learnings.

  • Graduation from the afterlife means having come to accept that, with the second chance given to them, each of Yuzuru, Hideki, Yuri, Ayato and Kanade have come to use the afterlife to find fulfilment. Regardless of how unfair the real world had been to each, the very existence of a world that gave them this opportunity to experience the things they were deprived of seems to indicate that on the whole, the universe is at least benevolent enough to recognise where individuals were wronged and give them a chance to approach it from a different perspective. In the end, the system can be seen as being more fair than initially expected, and Yuzuru’s arrival was precisely the catalyst that helped the SSS realise this.

  • P.A. Works’ phenomenal attention to detail is most apparent in the graduation ceremony, where the reflections of lighting and items are visible in the highly polished wooden floor of the gymnasium. It has been quite some time since I’ve attended any sort of graduation, with the last being my own some two years previously. Even though I’ve been out of school for some time, my memories of being a student remain fresh in my mind, and I remember that, after finishing Angel Beats!, I would go on to finish the winter semester of my third year in a satisfactory manner.

  • Kanade’s own reason for staying in the afterlife was so she could properly thank the person who’d given her life: when her heart failed, it turns out that Yuzuru ended up donating his heart to her. This forms the basis for Angel Beats!‘ title: it refers to the heartbeat of an angel, here, referring to Kanade. After all they’d been through, Yuzuru has fallen in love with Kanade, and the two share an embrace before Kanade disappears, having fulfilled her own desire to give thanks to Yuzuru for his selfless actions.

  • LiSA’s Ichiban no Takaramono is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard for an anime bar none, and I typically avoid listening to it, or the Yui version, because the song brings tears to my eyes. The original version speaks of falling in love and parting ways, and even though I’d not experienced that myself when I first heard it, the songs were very moving. These days, having gone through just this, the songs remain a powerful reminder of what good music can accomplish. With this, my reflection of Angel Beats! comes to an end. It’s been nearly seven years since I first watched Angel Beats!, and even now, the anime remains a veritable masterpiece in my books, bringing to memories so many things that happened in the spring some seven years previously. I intend to continue with the Masterpiece Anime Showcase this year: upcoming titles I will be writing about include Nagi no Asukara and Your Lie in April.

When I first watched Angel Beats!, I was closing up my third year of university and preparing for an MCAT. My original interest in Angel Beats! was motivated by an interest in seeing the series that had utilised Lia’s “My Heart, Your Beats”, which one of my friends had recommended to me two summer previously. I’d taken the music with me on a trip to the Shanghai-Suzhou-Hangzhou area during the Shanghai 2010 Expo, and subsequently, decided to give Angel Beats! a go. Upon watching it, found myself thoroughly impressed with the considerable depths the characters were presented in. In particular, seemingly antagonistic characters were humanised and came to cooperate with the protagonists, humanising the characters and improving how one relates to them. The large cast of unique, noteworthy characters creates an environment where a variety of scenarios can be explored: from the development of firearms, to performing live music, or even antics associated with exam season, the sheer number of people and their backgrounds in Angel Beats! allows the series to build a multi-faceted world that covers a great deal. This approach was used in Tari Tari, Sakura Quest and The World in Colours to great effect in P.A. Works’ subsequent productions. The joys of such diversity creates a very compelling group of individuals whose time together is marked by discovery and comedy: they become much more relatable for this. The strong characters of Angel Beats! also create the anime’s singular flaw: thirteen episodes is far too short of a time to adequately explore everyone’s stories. TK, to Shiina and Matsushita are just a handful of characters who could’ve had exceptional stories, but these remain untold. Beyond its short length, the characters, in conjunction with a phenomenal and emotional soundtrack, clean and crisp artwork and solid animation, result in an anime that is exceptional. Yuzuru’s journey in the afterlife and the revelation that was was a medical student hopeful also provided me with a source of motivation: I myself was gearing up for the MCAT, and the examination seemed overwhelming. Seeing Yuzuru’s commitment to doing what was right gave me the resolve to push through the summer and study for the exam; Angel Beats! ended up helping me approach the MCAT with a new perspective, and for having a tangible impact on how I approached things, I have no trouble in counting it a masterpiece. Even in the absence of such an impact on other viewers, Angel Beats! remains a standout anime in its execution, and it is something that all individuals interested in anime would find enjoyable.

Endro! Review and Reflections After Three

“Well, I don’t imagine anyone west of Bree would have much interest in adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner!” —Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Yūsha is a hero who resides on the island of Naral: she is the latest in a generation of Heroes, whose duty is to defeat the ancient evil known as the Dæmon Lord, whenever one appears. When she and her friends, Seira, Fai and Mei use a spell to seal away the Dæmon Lord, an accident occurs that sends the Dæmon Lord backwards in time. Manifesting as a small girl, the Dæmon Lord Mao decides to work as a teacher at the Adventurer’s School with the aim of preventing Yūsha from reaching her potential as a hero in the future. Her first attempt as a teacher is to rig a simple assignment and send them down the wrong path with the goal of forcing their expulsion, but Yūsha and her company return with the Hero’s Sword. Later, Mao learns of the girls’ unique talents (Seira is well-read, Fai is a capable fighter, Mei excels with Cartado and Yūsha’s luck is unmatched), and decides to throw the group into chaos by asking them to elect a leader. The girls struggle to decide who should lead their party, and after failed attempts to find one leader, decide that they can lead one another as the situation calls for it. Mao realises that history may repeat, and consigns herself to living a normal life. When the girls begin their practical for finishing assignments, they are somehow assigned to locating cats. They later receive a quest for retrieval, but end up detouring to help a little girl find a lost cat, defeating a stronger arachnid to do so. In their excitement, they forget to pick up the herb they were originally set to retrieve. This is Endro! (End Roll!) after three episodes, a fantasy anime drawing elements from slice-of-life series that has proven to be surprisingly enjoyable for the various misadventures Yūsha and wind up becoming entangled in as they explore their world.

By this point in time, the notion of “alternate worlds” (isekai) anime are one that has been the subject of no small discussion among the community; isekai stories are characterised by a high fantasy, RPG-like setting where a protagonist may have recollections of a past life; the typical isekai series has a protagonist whose capabilities in their original world were limited or otherwise unappreciated, and in this new world, their profound knowledge of things one might consider to be trivial (e.g. RPG mechanics, high fantasy tropes, etc.) allow them to find success. It’s a genre whose popularity is such that there are presently no shortage of such series (mirroring the fad in battle royale games), and so, the surge of isekai series means that commonalities between different series are manifesting now to render different series unremarkable. Endro!, on the other hand, might be set in a fantasy setting where RPG mechanics are present, but the series has not displayed any traits found in other isekai series (for one, wish fulfillment in the form of an uncommonly powerful protagonist with recollections of life in another world). Instead, Endro! focuses on Yūsha and her friends’ blissful everyday lives as they train for the eventual challenge of defeating the Dæmon Lord. Things more common to slice-of-life come into play, with the end result being a fluffy and humourous series that, despite drawing so many elements from well-established genres, manages to come across as being quite original and exciting to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Endro! is not a Manga Time Kirara series (the manga was serialised to Comic Fire), but it does appear to be one prima facie: Yūsha resembles Yuru Camp△‘s Nadeshiko and is voiced by Hikaru Akao (Comic Girls‘ very own Kaoruko), and Seira looks somewhat like Aoba from New Game. Mei is voiced by Inori Minase, who delivers her lines a great deal like GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, while Fai looks like Koyume from Comic Girls.

  • While one might imagine that following the outcome of Yūsha’s triumph over Mao, she’s enjoying a well-deserved sleep, it turns out that we’re now back in a period before Yūsha had even become a hero. Mao is transformed into a small girl and decides to stop Yūsha from defeating her by expeling her from the Adventurer’s School. The notion of endless, looped time was previously explored in The World in Colours, and the simplistic usage left some disappointed. In Endro!, it’s a bit early to tell what impact Yūsha’s failed forbidden technique has on causality.

  • While a monsterous being modelled after classic anime villians before, Mao becomes a small girl with dæmon horns after being sent back in time. As the teacher for Yūsha’s class, she proves to be knowledgeable on the world, but secretly schemes to prevent Yūsha from ever reach the point where she could challenge her. This suggests that Mao’s capacity for evil is likely matched by her ability to know what goes down in Naral.

  • Seeing Aoba, Nadeshiko, Koyume and Chino in a fantasy world was sufficient to convince me to give Endro! a go for blog posts: as the winter 2019 season started, I was intending to wait and see to pick any anime to write about, since changes in my schedule mean I can no longer write with the same frequency as I used to. As such, I would prefer to only write about series where I might be able to say something useful, amusing or both.

  • Mao’s insidious plan involves doing whatever it takes to expel Yūsha using her position as a teacher; she is able to control the nature of the assignments and exams, but also manipulate some aspects of reality to send the girls astray. However, Yūsha’s luck as a hero and her indefatigable spirit means that she somehow manages to find a way through. Besides their outward resemblance to other Manga Time Kirara characters, each of the girls have a unique trait: Seira has a fixation on horned gorillas, Fai’s mind never strays far from food, and Mei lives for Cartado. Whenever topics allow the girls to express their interests, they tend to delve into a long-winded talk that leaves the others flummoxed.

  • RPG elements in Endro! are present in all but name; everything seen in RPG games are available, including notions of levelling, looting and questing. However, Endro! gives no signs of being an RPG: the characters seem to be a natural part of their world rather than experiencing it with an external perspective. As such, viewers are free to focus on the humour and character dynamics, rather than attempt to work out game-like mechanics or rules.

  • When the girls get caught in a dungeon with seemingly no chance of escape, Seira throws an adorable fit. I haven’t seen very many series where the “arms and legs become reduced to simple geometric shapes”, so it is always quite entertaining to see this go down in what Cantonese people call 扭計 (jyutping nau2 gai3, literally “to kick up a fuss”). When Endro! was close to airing, I heard speculation that the series could go grimdark very quickly, given that Studio Gokumi’s last work with heroes had the heroes languish in despair as they discovered the truth about the world. After one episode, it is clear that there will be none of this, and this works to Endo!‘s favour.

  • Yūsha manages to somehow free the girls, finds the Sword of the Hero (two-handed, binds on pick up, confers +150 strength and +150 stamina, and on attack, has a chance to deal massive damage against all opponents, ignoring resistances, etc), picks it up against Seira’s suggestion and promptly uses it to defeat a golem guarding the sword. However, unaccustomed to its power, Yūsha inadvertently destroys the dungeon they were originally supposed to be in.

  • Besides being party members, Yūsha, Seira, Fai and Mei are friends, as well. During their down time after hours, they spend many evenings having various conversations, with the effect that Yūsha sometimes falls short on sleep and dozes off during class, to Mao’s simultaneous displeasure and pleasure (for disrupting class, and for increasing her odds of being tossed from the Adventurer’s School). Despite their eccentricities, each of the girls in Yūsha’s group have their own unique talents, and Mao is quick to recognise this.

  • While it sounds juvenile for me to say so, this was the magic moment for me in Endro!: while trying to work out who should be leader, the girls decide to test each individual, and here, Seira is embarrassed to admit that she’s not much in the way of “leading by example”. Fai, Yūsha and Mei’s eyes here are a riot, bringing to mind the cut‘s eyes from Girls’ Last Tour. So out of place and distinct the Eyes of Disdain are, I hesitate not in saying if the whole of Endro! was to be rendered this way, I would still watch it. From here on out, Endro! has established beyond any doubt that it is a fun series to watch.

  • Yūsha fails as a leader for being too bold and for charging into a situation without assessing her surroundings, while Fai lacks the will to lead a team owing to her preoccupation with food. Chino Mei ends up pushing the team to camp out overnight to be first in line for a new card. The girls eventually take a third option, opting to simultaneously lead one another, showing their resourcefulness and ability to employ the sort of creative thinking needed to best a Dæmon Lord.

  • Mao concludes that if she were to allow Yūsha and the others to mount an assault on her as they are now, their incomplete mastery of the time magic would result in her suffering the same fate as Dormammu: the heroes and Mao would be trapped in this moment, endlessly. Realising that this would essentially make her Yūsha’s prisoner, she decides to simply live in the moment. There’s a Doctor Strange reference here for the readers who are MCU fans, and I should note that it should be no surprise I am hyped about both Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.

  • After rolling a second consecutive quest where their goal is to find a cat, the girls become determined to get a proper retrieval assignment after recalling the brutally difficult effort it took to find a cat. Ho exceedingly efficient in their task. Yūsha has an unusual talent for rolling stacks, and they get five more cat retrieval assignment, becoming exceedingly efficient in the process. Thus, they cannot believe that they’ve gotten a real assignment on their third day, and set about finding some herb. When a little girl approaches them and asks about her cat, Yūsha and the others decide to take up the search as a side-quest of sorts.

  • The girls follow a trail of tips from townsfolk into the woods, defeat an arachnid-type monster and secure the herb per their assignment. As darkness falls, they decide to set up camp, and Seira realises she’s forgotten to bring food. An irate and semi-delirious Fai begins munching on Seira’s ears, her go-to reaction when food is unavailable, forcing Yūsha to return to town for provisions. The next morning, Seira’s ears are noticeably worse for wear, and she resolves to never forget the food again on pain of having her ears worn down by a ravenous Fai.

  • A year ago, we would have been three episodes into Yuru Camp△, and was quickly proving to be one of the most enjoyable anime of the season. While there’s a bit of camping in Endro!, it’s nowhere near as comprehensive as what’s see in Yuru Camp△. As such, I will not be doing any comparisons between Survivorman and Endro! today. The page quote today comes from The Unexpected Journey, when Bilbo is declining Gandalf’s invitation to help him with an adventure. Hobbits are known for their love of food and a simple life: I’m certain that Seira is feeling this way now: while Yūsha and the others are no stranger to adventure, missing dinner is something that Fai simply won’t tolerate, and Seira’s ears pay the price for her oversight. A little-known fact about me is that I will become as unreasonable as Fai if I miss a meal.

  • We’re approaching the Chinese New Year now, and that means family dinners to welcome the Year of the Boar. Earlier today, we had the first of our dinners at one of the best Chinese restaurants this side of time. Among the things on the menu were fried cod, fried shrimps, birds’ nest sirloin, pork collar and snow pea shoots (in addition to fried tofu, yi mein, fried rice and crispy chicken): Cantonese cuisine may not look it, but it certainly can leave one feeling quite warm on a chilly winter night. I’d woken up to thunder, of all things, this morning, and the entire day was a blustery one.

  • The next morning, Yūsha and the others arrive at a tower, whose attendant states that yes, a cat matching their description is to be found inside. Upon entering, the girls find plenty of traps and monsters awaiting them. Rather than fighting their way to the top, Yūsha somehow manages to find shortcut that leads them to the top. Here, they square off against an elite arachnid, and Mei notes the difficulty of the battle, correlating the colour of a monster to its difficulty. I am reminded of The Division, where different health bar colours on enemies indicate their difficulty. Red health bars are normal, purple enemies are tougher, elites have a mustard-yellow bar, and then named elites have bright yellow bars. When I started out, anyone tougher than a purple would take me a while to beat, and groups of elites would overwhelm me.

  • Having sunk nearly two hundred hours into The Division, and acquired a full six-piece Classified Striker Set, plus every exotic in the game and excellent weapons, even named elites fall before me, and it is only in legendary missions where my character becomes inadequate when solo. Back in Endro!, after the girls beat the arachnid, they find the cat stuck on the roof. It turns out that Seira is indeed a good archer, but dislikes wearing glasses for fear of being counted as a bookworm.

  • With another assignment completed successfully, Yūsha and company return the girl’s cat. However, they end up forgetting their original assignment and immediately depart to retrieve the heart-shaped herb they were supposed to be securing. Endro! surprisingly exceeds expectations, and after three episodes, I see an anime I could relax to every Saturday for the next season, which is a busy one. I purchased Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown yesterday and have every intention of experiencing Ace Combat on the PC. In conjunction with this, Battlefield V‘s Tides of War assignments are keeping me busy, and The Division 2‘s open beta is set to open on the seventh of February.

  • Owing to the number of things to do, I likely will be writing about one more anime this season, and The Magnificent Kotobuki is probably the one other show to be accorded this. For both Endro! and The Magnificent Kotobuki, I will return to do whole-season reviews after the three-episode post, and in the interim, I will be writing a great deal more about games. For those who are here for my anime discussions, fear not: I also intend to look at Mirai no Mirai and Non Non Biyori Vacation in the upcoming months!

Endro! is so-called because of its premise: the series’ outcome is preordained and already known to viewers within the first five minutes. After Yūsha and her friends destroy Dæmon Lord, the end credits roll. However, while audiences know what the end results of Endro! are, there remains the question of how Yūsha and the others get to this point. This is a very clever way to remind viewers that the journey is more relevant than the destination, and so, when audiences see Endro!, they know that every choice and experience Yūsha and her friends make and have will contribute to the ending in some fashion. This particular approach is what makes films like First Man and Apollo 13 so enjoyable: audiences enter knowing that Neil Armstrong successfully lands on the moon and will become the first human to walk on the surface of another world, and similarly, that Jim Lovell and his crew would successfully return to the earth after an explosion in the Apollo space craft forced them to abort their landing on the moon. In both cases, the journey, seeing how the outcome was reached, matters more than the outcome, and Endro! is using the very same approach to set the precedence for viewers as to what happens; viewers come in with the knowledge that this series in a fantasy realm is going to be comedic, easy-going and light-hearted, which is a welcome departure from the darker and more serious atmosphere that some isekai anime convey.

Hibike! Euphonium: Liz and the Blue Bird (Liz to Aoi Tori) Movie Review and Reflection

We’ve such a golden dream
Such a golden dream can never last
My burden lifted
I am free

–Cage, Aimer

After an encounter in middle school led to friendship developing between Nozomi Kasaki and Mizore Yoroizuka, the two joined Kitauji High School’s Concert Band. Energetic and outgoing, Nozomi plays the flute while the reserved, taciturn Mizore plays the oboe. When the concert band picks Liz and the Blue Bird as a piece, Mizore and Nozomi are selected to perform the suite’s solo. At the same time, Nozomi and Mizore are forced to consider their futures; Mizore is recommended a music school, and Nozomi decides to follow her, but realises that her skill with the flute is not comparable to Mizore’s oboe. Meanwhile, Mizore envies Nozomi for being able to connect with others so easily, and at the same time, longs to be closer to Nozomi. After a conversation with Reina, Mizore performs the solo with her fullest effort, bringing some of the concert band’s members to tears. The two share a heartfelt conversation after, promising to remain friends even if their paths diverge in the future. Liz and the Blue Bird premièred in April 2018, focusing on secondary characters; the choice to tell a deeper story about the friendship between Nozomi and Mizore is motivated by the impact they had on Kitauji’s concert band in the events prior to the start of Hibike! Euphonium; the driven and determined Nozomi spearheaded an exodus after realising that Kitauji’s band was a raggedy-ass group disinterested in competing seriously. Mizore ended up staying behind, and Nozomi’s return during the events of Hibike! Euphonium 2 formed the basis for the conflict during its first half. The depth behind each of the characters in Hibike! Euphonium meant that a myriad of stories about concert band’s members could be told, and on first glance, the story between Nozomi and Mizore is one of interest, dealing with two polar opposite personality types, their friendship and how the two each deal with thoughts of parting ways in the future.

Liz and the Blue Bird‘s primary themes is a familiar one – deliberately chosen for the characters’ involvement in Kitauji’s incident, it shows the extent of Nozomi and Mizore’s friendship. Having long admired Mizore’s skill with the oboe, Nozomi’s charisma and fiery personality has a major impact on the band, but it now appears that she went to these lengths to give Mizore a chance to shine. Liz and the Blue Bird thus explores the difficulty both encounter as their time in high school comes to an end. The film is so named after the færie tale that frames the narrative: a girl named Liz finds a bluebird who transforms into a girl. As they get to know one another, Liz comes to enjoy her time with the bluebird. However, when Liz finds that the bluebird periodically sneaks out to fly at night, she realises that she cannot keep the bluebird forever and lets her go to rejoin her winged companions. It is a tale of parting, with both Mizore and Nozomi realising that they’re struggling to part with one another. In the end, though, it is precisely by letting go that allows the blue bird to reach her full potential; Nozomi must learn to let go of Mizore so she can pursue her career in music, and Mizore must let go of Nozomi so she can continue to direct her unparalleled passion and energy towards leading others. Liz and the Blue Bird proceeds as one would expect: by the film’s end, Nozomi and Mizore find their solutions, accepting that they will one day part ways, but this does not preclude their continued friendship.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Liz and the Blue Bird‘s segments with Liz feel distinctly like a watercolour brought to life, attesting to the sophistication of animation. By bringing sound and motion to such scenes, it is possible to really capture a particular aesthetic. The story of Liz and the Blue Bird is a fictional one, being written specifically for Liz and the Blue Bird; I could not find any reference to the story outside of the context of Hibike! Euphonium, even when doing a search for its German name (Liz und ein Blauer Vogel).

  • Unlike Hibike! Euphonium, which is vivid, rich in colours and bursting with life, Liz and the Blue Bird is much more subdued and gentle with its hues. Differences in the animation style are apparent; Liz and the Blue Bird tends to focus on subtle, seemingly trivial details, whether it be the bounce in Nozomi’s ponytail, the girls shifting their chairs together or assembling their instruments. Small moments are lovingly rendered, and while not of thematic significance, shows that Hibike! Euphonium is intended to convey a very human story in that no journey or experience is too trivial for consideration.

  • Old characters make a return in Liz and the Blue Bird; Kumiko, Reina, Midori, Hazuki, Natsuki and Yūko appear as secondary characters. The flatter art style means that everyone looks different from their usual selves, and this reduction in detail has the very deliberate and calculated effect of forcing the viewer to focus on what’s happening to the characters. While the characters do not stick out unreasonably from their environments, their motions and voices immediately draw the viewer’s attention to them.

  • I would imagine there is another reason to utilise a more subdued palette: because Liz’s story is rendered with watercolours, an inherently soft and gentle medium, had Liz and the Blue Bird stuck with the style seen in the series proper, the contrast would’ve been too jarring. Hibike! Euphonium is vivid to convey that music is immensely colourful, and Kumiko’s performances have always been very spirited as Kitauji strove to further their performances.

  • The short of the færie tale is that a young woman encounters a girl with blue hair following a strong storm and takes her in. Over time, the two become close as friends and live their days together happily. However, the blue bird’s nature means that she occasionally sneaks out at night to stretch her wings. Liz notices this and begins to realise that the blue bird longs to fly again. In this context, the bird is taken to represent freedom, and in particular, blue birds have traditionally been regarded as harbingers of happiness and joy.

  • The blue bird in Liz and the Blue Bird, then, suggests to viewers that happiness is found in freedom, and applying this to Nozomi and Mizore, the girls cannot be said to reach or discover their full potential unless they have the freedom to do so. Nozomi and Mizore both see themselves in the story; while Mizore actively wishes her eventual parting with Nozomi will never come, Nozomi puts on a brave front and expresses a desire to perform the piece, hiding her own doubts behind a veneer of confidence.

  • I’m sure that numerous of my readers will have their own memories of picture books from their childhood that stand out. When I was a primary student, I predominantly read science books, and at the age of six, I knew about all of the planets and their compositions. I have a particular fondness for non-fiction and so, did not read very many picture books. However, I do recall greatly enjoying The Berenstain Bears, as well as David Bouchard’s If You’re Not From The Prairie, a beautiful book about things only those living in the grasslands of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba might appreciate.

  • The sharp contrasts between Nozomi and Mizore are immediately apparent; people flock to Nozomi and her energy, and here, she befriends fellow fluatists, connecting with them and becoming a part of their energy. I’ve always found the pronunciation to be a little strange (“flaut-ist”, IPA: flaǔtist), having heard about it while listening to a radio programme about flutes following a concert band practise during my time as a middle school student. It may surprise readers to know that once upon a time, I was a clarinet player and also performed for my school’s jazz band.

  • As a part of the old concert band at my middle school, we went on to perform well in several competitions around the city. The jazz band was strictly an in-school activity, and I learned trumpet on my own to give that a go. After entering high school, I stopped with music, but I have no regrets about both performing in a band, and then choosing to explore other avenues. Here, on the left-hand side, we have Ririka Kenzaki, a new addition to Hibike! Euphonium. She’s a first year oboist who is voiced by Shiori Sugiura and does her best to befriend Mizore, stating that it’d be good for section cohesion if everyone got to know one another a little better.

  • Every event in Liz and the Blue Bird parallels the events Mizore and Nozomi have experienced: the time Liz and Blue Bird spend together are moments of bliss during which both Liz and Blue Bird are living in the moment. However, all things eventually come to an end, with the færie tale foreshadowing Blue Bird’s longing to soar in the skies again, and how this mirrors Nozomi and Mizore’s situations.

  • Mizore’s shyness is her weak point; at several points in Liz and the Blue Bird, Mizore expresses a desire to be physically closer to Nozomi. For much of the movie, circumstance prevents anything from happening. I’ve received numerous complaints about my lack of focus on yuri in my discussions. In general, my counter-arguments are that making the distinction between close friendship and yuri does not alter the conclusion that I reach: in the case of Liz and the Blue Bird, whether or not I chose to count Nozomi and Mizore’s as yuri, the theme invariably is that separation is a real concern for the two, but that they manage to move past it.

  • With almost three quarters of a year having elapsed since Liz and the Blue Bird premièred in theatres, it is unsurprising that discussion about the movie has been very limited of late. As is the case for every anime movie, folks with the time, resources and commitment would’ve watched this movie as it screened in Japan. In a rare turn of events, I agree with most early reviews of the film; these reviews citing the film’s imagery and message as its strengths, and its pacing and outcomes as being weaker.

  • However, an old nemesis appeared amidst the discussions: Verso Sciolto, who’d previously plagued the Your Name discussions, arrived and claimed that folklore and fairytale references were essential to appreciating both Liz and the Blue Bird as well as Hibike! Euphonium, believing that symbolism in the film will “inspire people to re-watch and re-examine the two seasons of the TV series as well”. The correct answer is that if people choose to revisit Hibike! Euphonium, it will be to see the character dynamics, rather than any non-existent literary symbols Verso Sciolto has fabricated.

  • Verso Sciolto goes on to claim that “Ishihara embellishes whereas Yamada distills” in comparing Hibike! Euphonium‘s TV series with Liz and the Blue Bird, and that the latter is an example of minimalism. Both are wrong: Hibike! Euphonium is richer in detail because the details and colours serve to reinforce the idea that music is more than the sum of its parts. It is unfair to grossly reduce a director’s style into one word. I noted earlier that Liz and the Blue Bird deliberately takes its style so it can more seamlessly transition between Nozomi and Mizore’s stories and that of Liz and the Blue Bird.

  • It is of some comfort, then, that this Verso Sciolto has been banned from a variety of avenues for discussion for forcibly injecting psuedointellectual remarks, pointed questions and a know-it-all attitude into discussions wherever they went. While having some influence on discussions, especially surrounding Your Name, their absence will be welcomed, especially now that Makoto Shinkai has announced that his next work, Tenki no Ko (Weathering with You), will hit theatres in Japan on July 19 this year.

  • Over the course of Liz and the Blue Bird, Ririka’s persistent but gentle efforts to befriend Mizore yields results when Mizore consents to help her prepare reeds. Ririka’s personality blends a kind and gentle nature with innocence, and it was rewarding to see the beginnings of a friendship form as she spearheads the effort to create more cohesion among the double-reed instruments.

  • Back in Liz and the Blue Bird, tensions begin growing between Mizore and Nozomi when Mizore mentions that she plans to go to music school. Lacking any idea of what to do with her future, Niiyama sensei suggests that Mizore apply for music school owing to her skill with the oboe.  Mizore is the sort of individual who seems uncertain of her future, but when she applies herself towards making her dreams a reality, she does so with her full efforts. After joining concert band in middle school on Nozomi’s suggestion, Mizore put her all into playing the oboe to keep from being separated from Nozomi.

  • After Reina arrives and bluntly remarks that Mizore seems to be holding back, Yūko, Natsuki and Nozomi see Reina and Kumiko performing the solo with their respective instruments. Noting the emotional intensity but also the balance between the two, Nozomi realises the strength of Kumiko and Reina’s friendship as well as their musical prowess. The precise relationship between Reina and Kumiko was the subject of no small debate when Hibike! Euphonium aired: this particular aspect of Hibike! Euphonium seems to overshadow everything else, even though the point of the anime was to see a raggedy-ass group come together and realise a shared dream.

  • While my school days are long behind me, I still vividly recall all of the instructors who helped inspire and encourage me: at each level, there are a handful of mentors and instructors who stood apart from the rest, and it is thanks to them that I ended up making the most of each choice that I took. Whether it be offering new ways to think about problems, or providing words of encouragement, their contributions helped make me who I am, and to this day, I am still in contact with some of my old mentors.

  • Nothing is truly infinite; in Liz and the Blue Bird, separation soon comes up, as well. When the time comes for Blue Bird to leave Liz, it is a difficult moment. A quote whose source has been difficult to pin down states that one must let go of something if they love it; its return heralds that things were meant to be. It seems counterintuitive, but in Cantonese, there’s a concept called 緣份 (jyutping jyun4 fan6, “fate”), that supposes that if something was meant to be, then it will show up in one way or another.

  • I disagree that Liz and the Blue Bird is a minimalist film from a visual and thematic perspective; numerous closeup of everyday objects are presented to show that despite the simpler artwork, elements are nonetheless present in the environment. They form a bit of a visual break, causing the eye to pause for a moment while one continues listening to the dialogue. Liz and the Blue Bird is simple, but not minimalist: simplicity is something easy to understand and natural, while minimalism is a deliberate design choice that aims to do more with less. Simplicity is not equivalent to minimalism, and in Liz and the Blue Bird, the anime is not doing more with less, but rather, being very precise about what its intents are.

  • While Mizore speaks to instructor Niiyama, Nozomi speaks with Yūko and Natsuki: both come to the realisation that they must learn to let the other go in this dialogue, for holding into the other is to deny them of exploring the future. This is the turning point in the film where the tension rises: for Mizore, she decides to be truthful with her feelings, while Nozomi is a bit more stubborn. I admit that Nozomi is my favourite character of Hibike! Euphonium – for her fiery spirit and figure.

  • In the færie tale, Liz eventually ends up allowing Blue Bird to take flight and join her fellow birds in the sky. Cages form a part of the symbolism in Liz and the Blue Bird: representing security in the present and also constraining the future, Mizore expresses a wish that she’d never learned to open the cage. This imagery is mirrored in Aimer’s “Cage”, a beautiful song that was used during the unveiling of the life-sized Unicorn Gundam at Diver City in Odaiba.

  • We’re now a ways into 2019, and the year’s already been quite busy as I acclimatised to a new workplace. I wake up much earlier than I did before to make the bus ride downtown, and while I greatly enjoy what I do, I admit that weekends have become even more valuable as time to sleep in a little (I get to wake up at 0720 rather than my usual 0600, or 0530 on days where I lift). This past weekend, after karate, I enjoyed the first dim sum of the year: their special included two different kinds of noodles as well as a flavourful salt-and-pepper fried squid.

  • While Liz and the Blue Bird might deal predominantly with Nozomi and Mizore’s friendship, music is still very much a part of the narrative. During one practise, the band reaches the solo, and Mizore begins playing her part with such sincerity and emotion that it brings several of the band members to tears, including Nozomi. It is in this moment that Nozomi realises that she needs to allow Mizore to go free and pursue her future.

  • In a manner of speaking, Mizore and Nozomi are simultaneously Liz and Blue Bird: both long to prolong a friendship with someone special, but both also need to let the other go for the future’s sake. Mizore’s performance shows that she is committed to her decision in enrolling in a music school, and understanding their gap, Nozomi ultimately decides to pursue studies at another institution. She is shown studying diligently for her entrance exams later on.

  • While Hibike! Euphonium is ultimately simple in its themes and all the stronger for it, discussions surrounding this series is much more complex and involved than strictly necessary. Taking a step back and enjoying Hibike! Euphonium in a vacuum, I find a genuine series whose enjoyment comes from being able to empathise with the characters over time and gradually coming to root for them.

  • The film’s climax occurs in the science room by the day’s last light; Mizore and Nozomi open up to one another about their feelings and intentions for the future. Much as how Nozomi envies Mizore’s skill with an oboe and how her musical talents will allow her to accomplish great things, Mizore is jealous of Nozomi’s ability to take charge, influence and get along with numerous people. They voice their dislikes about the other, and with their feelings out in the open, tearfully embrace.

  • The sum of their understanding is mirrored in the environment, which takes on a warm glow as red and pink hues seep in, displacing the cooler and more distant yellows. Kyoto Animation excels at use of light and colour to convey emotions: they are particularly strong in using subtle details to complement the dialogue, and I find that understanding the choice of colours in a given scene contributes more substantially to one’s enjoyment of their works, rather than focusing on objects that end up being red herrings.

  • I’ve lasted thirty screenshots without mentioning thus: the necks of Liz and the Blue Bird were never a visual distraction that some felt it to be. With this post, I’ve finally caught up with Hibike! Euphonium, and the next major instalment will be another film releasing in April 2019. Titled Oath’s Finale, it will deal with the national competition and return things to Kumiko’s perspective. Given release patterns for Hibike! Euphonium and my own habits, I anticipate that I’ll be able watch and write about Oath’s End somewhere this time next year – anyone who’s still around by then is clearly a champion.

Standing in sharp contrast with Hibike! Euphonium‘s televised run, Liz and the Blue Bird has a much simpler, flatter art style. Although environments are still gorgeously animated, the characters’ own conflicts take the forefront: the deliberate choice to create more subdued backgrounds is to place focus on the characters and their challenges, reducing emphasis on the world around them. The story of Liz and the Blue Bird itself is also distinctly animated: Kyoto Animation succeeds in bringing a water colour to life and creates a very compelling style that, while distinct from the events of Liz and the Blue Bird, also integrate elegantly into the story. The choice to use a different visual style than Hibike! Euphonium‘s exceptionally rich colours and details is not a strike against Liz and the Blue Bird; although they might look different, the characters retain their personalities in full. The end result is a very concise, slow-paced story of parting and its difficulties; music still has its focus, and perhaps because of this art style, the music of Liz and the Blue Bird‘s concert band movements also has a much more singular attention on the flute and oboe solos, in a parallel of how the film is about Mizore and Nozomi. Altogether, Liz and the Blue Bird is an enjoyable addition to Hibike! Euphonium; helmed by Naoko Yamada (who’d previously directed K-On! The Movie and Koe no Katachi), Liz and the Blue Bird shifts away from the politics of high school clubs as seen in Hibike! Euphonium and employs Yamada’s preference of returning things to the basics, crafting a story about the intricacies of interactions between individuals. Admittedly, I prefer this approach, as it is much more sincere and meaningful in exploring people; Yamada has succeeded in Liz and the Blue Bird with giving Mizore and Nozomi’s friendship a more tangible sense, making the film a different but welcome addition to Hibike! Euphonium.

Anima Yell!- Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Let’s go, Kaminoki! Go for win!” —Kaminoki High Cheer

The Cheer Association begins gaining momentum, as Kohane and the others farmiliarise themselves with basics. They are asked to cheer in a variety of venues for their classmates, including at several basketball games, an opening ceremony for a festival and for Uki’s younger brother’s soccer match. After wondering why Uki would join the Cheer Association, Kana joins the Cheer Association after standing in for Uki during a routine, who’d become injured. With the required five members, the Cheer Association becomes a full-fledged club. The girls recruit Ms. Inukai as their advisor and make Kohane the president, partake in a training camp on the beach and use their new funds to purchase upgraded uniforms. Kohane and the others sign up for a cheer-leading tournament, as well. Here, Hizume learns that her old teammates are glad to find her and wish that she were still with them; they nonetheless wish her the best, and in their performance, everyone comes together to keep Kohane going after she became worried about Hizume. Despite not qualifying in the preliminaries, the girls have a wonderful time and resolve to continue practising for their upcoming events, as well as for another tournament in the future. Anima Yell! was the fall season’s Manga Time Kirara series, and for better or worse, these invariably end up on my watchlist. After three episodes, Anima Yell! gave the distinct impression of simply being Yuyushiki with cheer-leading, but as the series progressed, there was considerably more enjoyment as the Cheer Association began picking up their activity and explored aspects of cheer-leading that made it worthwhile for each of Kohane, Uki, Hizume, Kotetsu and Hanawa.

Anima Yell! ends up being a fun romp through the world of cheer-leading and high school life, as is the case for almost all adaptations of manga published to Manga Time Kirara. However, there was a bit of a surprise for me; I was not anticipating that the series would have something discernible in the way of a theme: Anima Yell! has Kohane and her boundless energy at the forefront. With her cheer and desire to help those around her, Kohane’s presence is strong enough to overshadow the other characters, even the highly experienced Hizume. Anima Yell! is, upon first glance, about Kohane channelling her energy towards helping others through cheer-leading and over time, realising that she’s got support from her friends, is willing to put an effort towards overcoming her acrophobia. However, each of Hizume, Uki, Kotetsu and Hanawa have their own challenges that cheer-leading helps them tackle. In particular, Hizume learns to appreciate cheer-leading from a smaller group, really allowing her to know everyone better. Initially dismissed from her old cheer-leading team for being a non-team player, Hizume comes to realise that she was more focused on the technical details of her performance, than paying mind to those around her, and so, while excelling as a cheerleader, failed as a team member. Working in a smaller team forces Hizume to train Kohane and Kotetsu, as well as organise things with Uki and Hanawa. In doing so, Hizume opens up naturally to her new-found friends and overcomes her own doubts about being alone. Through Anima Yell!, it is shown that the small-team dynamic provides an opportunity to really get to learn about one’s teammates better, and the ensuing friendship can have a profound positive impact on an individual.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Anima Yell! will receive a shorter post, featuring only twenty screenshots taken from various points in the show. In the beginning, a lack of funds means that Kohane and the others need to get creative – their uniforms are hand-made, as are their pom-poms. Their status as an association ends up being a boon for the club, resulting in actions that indicate ingenuity and a chance to take the characters in directions otherwise unexplored were they permitted club status.

  • Kohane’s first objective is to get Kotetsu to join the club, and after much manoeuvring, succeeds in convincing her; their performance in cheering the basketball team sees each of Uki, Kohane and Hizume deliver enough energy to allow the team to win, and inspired, Kotetsu agrees to join.

  • It turns out that Kohane’s acrophobia stems from an incident in her childhood, where she’d fallen out of a tree while attempting to help someone. While the physical pain did not deter her, the fear of worrying those around her had a long lasting impact, and since then, Kohane’s concern about troubling those around her means that she cannot be in high places. With time and effort from the club, Kohane gradually begins to overcome these fears, and she’s able to act as the top of some rudimentary formations.

  • Hanawa is Anima Yell!‘s Sharo Kirima rolled in with Love Lab!‘s Yuiko Enomoto; fiercely protective of Hizume, Hanawa becomes greatly flustered in her presence and reveres her. She is initially disapproving of the Cheer Association, wondering why Hizume went from being a top-tier cheerleader to participating in a club where it is nowhere near as serious as the sort of organisation Hizume might’ve been in before.

  • Uki explains the situation to Hanawa on the school rooftop, but sprains her ankle when she catches a falling Hanawa. Feeling responsible for the situation, Hanawa decides to act as the substitute for Uki when the basketball team requests the Cheer Association perform for their match. During the course of their presentation, Hanawa witnesses firsthand Hizume’s enjoyment, and also rediscovers her own love for cheer-leading. She reluctantly decides to join the Cheer Association, bringing its membership to five and officially giving the group club status.

  • Inukai sensei is the stereotypical instructor, being quite lazy and unmotivated. She refuses the post of advising for the Cheer Club, but the girls manage to persuade her. Like every advisor for clubs that come before her, Inukai sensei is not usually willing to expend energy to help the club out, but when the moment calls for it, she will pull through. In addition, she also supports the girls’ aspirations from the sidelines, revealing that for her laziness, she genuinely does care for the club’s members.

  • Uki suffers from a conundrum when it turns out the Cheer Club is set to perform at her younger brother’s soccer game. Uki’s younger brother, Akane, is not particularly appreciative of cheerleaders, saying they are quite distracting and contribute little to the game, but also remarks that he’s cool with Uki. Struggling to reveal she’s a member of the Cheer Club and will be making an appearance, Uki finally snaps when Akane mentions his dislike stems from cheerleaders flashing their pantsu during some stunts, and reprimands him, saying that cheerleading is far removed from exhibitionism.

  • On the day of the match, Akane finds himself unexpectedly impressed with Uki and the Cheer Club’s energy and stamina; they spur him on, and the coach takes notice, putting him in the starting line for the game’s second half. As the girls continue their cheer, Akane’s resolve strengthens and he scores the game-winning goal. He thanks the Cheer Club and begrudgingly admits that cheerleaders are not so bad after all.

  • Hanawa switches from loud and obnoxious to Kohane, to submissive and flustered when Hizume appears. Having seen so many anime with such a character, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Uki and the others managed to turn things around and help Hanawa overcome her own doubts. As such, where I may have felt an annoyance previously, I now wait for the character to grow and mature. Watching Hanawa become increasingly close with the Cheer Club was rewarding, and in the end, she is Anima Yell!‘s Sharo Kirima, whom I’ve come to appreciate for her role in GochiUsa.

  • While we’re into winter now, Anima Yell! takes things into summer when the Cheer Club goes on a training camp. Although Hizume insists that their objective is practise, and the girls do get a respectable amount of practise in, there is a focus on what everyone does on the beaches under beautiful summer skies. For me, deep azure skies is a hallmark of the summer season in anime, conveying a sense of warmth that the longest days of the year bring.

  • During the training camp, Hizume notices that Hanawa seems to have trouble interacting with her, and is quite unaware that Hanawa’s got a crush the size of a planet on her. Being the most reasoned of everyone, Uki offers Hizume advice, to take things one step at a time, helping the two close their distance. The training camp of Anima Yell! is not particularly fanservice-oriented, and has the characters coming out both on better terms with one another, as well as better equipped to face their challenges.

  • Times change, and most of the folks who’ve previously analysed shows like Anima Yell! in forums have ceased. It’s been a year since we’ve been treated to seminar-style discussions of minutiae in Manga Time Kirara series, such as how economics work in Urara Meirocho, the exam procedures of Hanayamata or whether or not older PCs can run drawing software in Stella no Mahou. I cannot say that I miss these these divergences – they contributed nothing to discussions about the show, but now that they’re gone, it also means I have no need to shoot them down and explain why these individuals misunderstood or misinterpreted something. In each and every case, the answer to their questions was simple and could be explained in two or fewer sentences.

  • Of course, at least one individual has been left with analysing the kanji in everyone’s names and concluded that everyone’s names has roots in an animal name, but watching through the whole of Anima Yell! finds that this has no impact on the story whatsoever. I’ve long found that analysing names has not done me any favours in understanding a show: names like Jack Ryan or Samwise Gamgee do little for helping me gain a deeper understanding of a story. Back in Anima Yell!, the girls’ training camp draws to a close with another successful and fun performance.

  • Having club funds means being able to afford new uniforms, and after spending an entire day at the cheerleading speciality shop, the girls finally agree on a uniform that works for everyone. They encounter twin sisters who were formerly Hizume’s teammates, whose personalities are reminiscent of cats. Their cordial conversation with Hizume foreshadows what her former teammates think of her.

  • On the day of the Cheer Tournament, the whole club has gathered and exhibits nerves to some level. Kohane varies between pure excitement and total fright – between her concern for Hizume’s well-being and her own ability to perform, fear slowly creeps into her day. She ruins a few group photos, and despite her insistence that everything is fine, audiences are keenly aware that Kohane’s not her usual self.

  • As it turns out, Hizume’s old teammates found themselves in disarray after she left and wanted her back, but slowly pulled together and then found their way. Admitting that she’s happy to have seen this change as a result of Hizume’s departure, they also understood just how important Hizume was to them and are happy to see that she’s found her own way again. For Hizume, working with a smaller team has really forced her to be mindful of her teammates, and she apologises to her old team for not being more aware of them. They part on friendly terms and wish one another luck in the tournament.

  • When their performance starts, Kohane immediately falls. Their performance in jeopardy, Hizume, Uki, Kotetsu and Hanawa step in to support Kohane, who realises that her friends will catch her. Her cheering spirit restored, Kohane comes back to help her teammates put on a performance that, despite not having the technical depth of finesse of a more experienced team, one that captures the amount of fun everyone is having in the moment.

  • In the end, the enjoyment that each of Hizume, Kohane, Uki, Kotetsu and Hanawa experiences is very visible, and watching the Cheer Club advance was one of the biggest draws in Anima Yell!: my enthusiasm for the show was waning at the halfway point, as the mid-sections of this series was unremarkable and even dull in a few places, but once Hanawa joins, Anima Yell!‘s spirit is rekindled, prompting me to push through to the end. I’m glad that I did.

  • If and when I am asked, Uki is my favourite character of Anima Yell! – she’s well-rounded, being skilful enough to keep up with Hizume and Hanawa, but is also able to reign in Kohane and Kotetsu. As seen from her reaction to failing to qualify, Uki is also very serious and committed to what she does. Despite this, the girls remark that yes, things were very memorable. Having seen where cheerleading could take them, they resolve to work hard and see just how far into the next tournament they can progress.

  • When everything is said and done, Anima Yell! would earn a B, a 7.5 on the 10 point scale (3.0 of 4) – despite being strictly average, Anima Yell! has plenty of heart, and for me, this counts for something. With this post in the books, I’m officially done with writing about the anime I watched for last year: there are many titles I’ve invariably passed on, and I could return to them at some point in the future (I still need to see if Aobuta lives up to its praises, for example), but for now, with the winter season upon us, a few shows have caught my eye. At this point in time, I express an interest in writing for Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai – only one show is on the plate for the present, as my free time has lessened and I’d like to allocate what’s available to blasting bad guys in things like Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash and Battlefield V in addition to writing.

Audiences familiar with the Manga Time Kirara world would seen this countless times in other series; while Anima Yell! may not be particularly novel or exceptional, it is honest, and the end result is a fun story that picks up considerably once the series is under way. The energy and spirits that each of Kohane, Uki, Hizume, Kotetsu and Hanawa bring to the table livens up Anima Yell!; the girls’ cheer-leading performances are surprisingly polished in spite of Kohane and Kotetsu’s inexperience, and while the girls never get to doing the more sophisticated stunts, watching Hizume return to the basics and help bring everyone up proved to be a warming experience that is always a joy to watch for the journey everyone takes to reach the endgame. As such, in spite of Anima Yell!‘s average visuals and aural aspects, the story itself keeps things compelling enough for this one to be watched to completion. Anima Yell! is the sort of anime for Manga Time Kirara fans looking for something relaxing and comforting; beyond this, the nature of Anima Yell! means that it is unlikely to appeal to audiences with a different set of preferences. Finally, I imagine that Anima Yell! will not be seeing a continuation; while the manga is ongoing, I’ve not heard anything that suggests that Anima Yell! is as well-received as something like Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? or Kiniro Mosaic — this series is not particularly stand-out with its execution or premise, but what Anima Yell! does have is a fun story about growth and being appreciative of those around oneself.

 

Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (The World in Colours): Whole-Series Review and Recommendation After The Finale

“You know, you should’ve stolen the whole book because the warnings…come after the spells!” –Doctor Strange

The Magic-Photography-Arts Club begin to send Hitomi back. While waiting for the magic to build up, each of Shō, Chigusa, Kurumi and Asagi bid their farewells to Hitomi. When it’s Yuito’s turn, he has a terse exchange with Hitomi before the spell is ready, but Hitomi subconsciously rejects it, feeling that there are still things she has to say to Yuito. Entering another realm, Hitomi and Yuito exchange their true feelings, revealing that the presence of the other had helped them out in growing and opening up. Happy that she is accepted, and admitting her feelings for Yuito for done so much in helping her, colour is restored in full to Hitomi’s world. She accepts that she must return to the future, and once she departs, Kohaku and the others promise to remember her. Back in her time period, Hitomi reunites with Kohaku, admitting that her sojourn back sixty years allowed her to experience joy, sorrow, anger and friendship. Kohaku shares with Hitomi a time capsule, which holds albums of their past times together and also a picture book that Yuito had authored. She settles back into life with her peers and resolves to make the most of her future, living in the moment and doing her best to make everything as colourful as she can. This brings The World In Colours to an end; its thirteen episodes follows a story of discovery and learning, one that is set at the edge between adolescence and adulthood. Combining the diverse array of topics associated with youth with magic, The World in Colours is a cross between Tari Tari and Glasslip – evidently, learnings from the failures of Glasslip were judiciously applied to The World in Colours, with magic being explained in a more comprehensive manner to drive the narrative, but otherwise do not interfere with Hitomi’s journey. The end result is a fantastical, if somewhat familiar story about self-discovery and the impact of friendship on one’s world-view.

In its presentation, The World in Colours presents to its viewers that the problems individuals face are a matter of perspective, and moreover, that support and encouragement from peers have a substantial, positive impact in helping one along with their troubles. Hitomi, having long despised magic for driving people away from her, comes to see other applications for magic, as well as the potential of magic to bring joy to those around the wielder. As she spends more time with the Magic-Photography-Arts Club, she opens up to them as friends, and also begins seeing the world differently. Over time, Hitomi becomes more outgoing and more open-minded, beginning to explore magic as a way of bringing happiness to those around her. However, the true magic she learns is simply being able to support someone: Kohaku, Asagi and Kurumi help Hitomi open up, and she in turn begins encouraging Yuito in his drawings, helping him reaffirm his decision to pursue artwork as a career. Positivity and warmth from friends have this magic of driving people be more comfortable around one another, as well as the confidence to deal with one’s own doubts and troubles. Even the confident Kohaku ends up calling on her friends in the Magic-Photography-Arts Club to help her prepare for Hitomi’s eventual return to the future. The World in Colours covers a great deal of ground in thirteen episodes, but in the end, the entire narrative consistently and constantly deals with moments in friendship, both memorable and everyday, that allow individuals to overcome challenges they otherwise could not. Through her experiences, Hitomi discovers anew that magic can help create happiness, that there is magic in the ordinary and that seeing the world in colours is a matter of choice.

The presence of a strong, overarching narrative ensured that The World in Colours could remain focused despite its propensity to explore a variety of tribulations that youth encounter. From the struggle to work out what one’s future might entail, to matters of the heart, The World in Colours dabbles in this and that, much as its predecessor, Tari Tari, did. Like Tari Tari, The World in Colours succeeds because the diverse range of elements in each of the characters’ lives conveys that they are multi-faceted characters, with strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and aspects to their personality that can come as a surprise. Because personal growth resulting from mutual support is ever-present, The World in Colours is able to deal with everything from futures to romance, and include magic, without losing sight of its intentions. This theme and its variations are common to P.A. Works’ other series; The World in Colours differs in that magic becomes a more integral part of the story. Its presence ultimately allows for an interesting premise to be created; Kohaku sends Hitomi back in time to allow her past self to help Hitomi. Glasslip‘s ultimate failure was that magic was only ever a distraction from the main narrative and had no bearing on the outcome of the developing love n-gons that had arisen, which diminished its presence and resulted in questions being asked of why it was present to begin with. The limitations and applications of magic are explained as The World in Colours progresses – it feels a natural part of their world, being sufficiently developed to remain plausible, which did much to breathe life into the world that Hitomi and her friends live in.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The World in Colours‘ finale brings to a close a series whose strong point was being able to remain focused and consistent. The episode is split evenly down the final farewells and Hitomi’s return to her own time, and there’s plenty to go over; this post will be a larger one with forty screenshots so that I can offer various thoughts and opinions, as well as have more space to showcase some of the artwork in this series and go on one last set of tangents before 2018 draws to a close.

  • Shō and Chigusa’s farewells are the most straightforwards: they are incredibly proud that Hitomi came as far as she did during her time with them, and are going to miss her. Their short farewells are typical of men, who are less adept at sharing their feelings. Chigusa and Shō choose to focus on reiterating all of the accomplishments and growth Hitomi’s had, since these are tangible observations, and their words to Hitomi contain suggestions, advice for making the most of the future.

  • By comparison, Kurimi and Asagi both focus on feelings and memories. The times they spent together are important, and both tearfully embrace Hitomi. Body language plays a much greater role in female communication, and as much as words embody gratitude, their hugs also serve to convey just how much of an impact Hitomi’s had in their lives: with only a short window to speak, the girls put their feelings into hugs and hand-holding.

  • Through something as simple as a farewell, The World in Colours shows that it was written with details in mind: capturing the differences between the way men and women talk correctly conveys that P.A. Works cares to make its characters plausible. The fundamentally different communication strategies means that men and women approach problem-solving quite differently, and I imagine that sufficiently seasoned readers could probably tell if a guy or girl wrote a blog post even if the author’s real name were not known.

  • For Kohaku, this is less of a farewell and more of a parting of ways for the present. Finally, it is Yuito’s turn: he struggles to say something, and for the sake of avoiding a protracted, painful farewell, decides to keep it short. However, in doing so, Hitomi feels that there was something he’s longed to say, and is unwilling to fully return to the future until they’ve been forward with one another.

  • A few days ago, a transformer in New York malfunctioned and discharged electricity into the air, energising atoms in the atmosphere and prompted them to glow. Initially, residents were unsure as to what was happening and imagined it to be Independence Day or some sort of paranormal activity. The New York Police Department immediately stepped in to social media and clarified that no ghosts or aliens were attacking: this was merely a transformer malfunction.

  • Unconsciously suppressing the time spell, Hitomi causes energy buildup to produce a similar phenomenon, and I’m sure that thoughts of Independence Day might come to mind, as well. The energy is strong enough to push Kohaku back, who realises that she’s unable to do anything while this is happening. Sending Hitomi back was not going to go without a hitch, and this acts to create a bit of suspense.

  • In the end, Yuito decides that he must be honest with his feelings about Hitomi: this is something that guys may have difficulty with, and a part of any relationship is for guys to be able to listen to the girls, who like to express their thoughts as a means of regrouping, as well as figure out how to articulate their feelings better. The buildup of magic pushes Yuito into another space, where he finds Hitomi and is able to convey how he feels.

  • Although he was not initially aware of it, Yuito began to see himself in Hitomi, having long kept his distance from others. Seeing Hitomi connecting with the others, and making an effort to master her magic, as well as her yearning to see his drawings, lead him to want to draw for someone, as well. When he sees Hitomi’s past, and offers the younger Hitomi advice, he realises that the same could very well apply to him; he grows as a result of his time with Hitomi, and for this, Yuito is very grateful to have met her, promising to never forget her.

  • This is what Hitomi was looking to wrap up before truly returning to her time, and with her heart at ease, she is finally ready to return to her time. Kohaku prepares the spells again, and Hitomi is sent forwards in time again. In the end, time magic was merely a device for the narrative, and a casual loop was utilised to keep things as simple as possible. A causal loop is best visualised as a stationary ball enters a time machine, but emerges in a way as to knock its past self into the time machine.

  • In The World in Colours, Kohaku sends Hitomi into the past, knowing that she’d done it before and therefore does have the ability to do it, rather similarly to how Harry was able to conjure a corporeal Patronus in The Prisoner of Azkaban despite only having summoned wisps before. None of Hitomi’s actions impact her existence because Kohaku was present in the future to send her back to begin with, and so, with the mechanics of time travel kept at the most simple level, The World in Colours is able to focus on the narrative, rather than diverting unnecessary time to work out how the time travel worked to begin with.

  • This was apparent immediately in the first episode: Chigusa and the others seem perfectly unperturbed that someone from the future is around, and consequently, it is not the point of focus. Here, Kohaku receives a message through time from her future self, indicating that Hitomi is safely returned to the future. She smiles and turns to join up with her friends, knowing that in sixty years’ time, she will be able to see what Hitomi has gained.

  • The new Hitomi is more confident and able to see a joke now: she bids the bus driver farewell and drops into the clouds below, returning to her time. I note that my final assessment of The World in Colours is a positive one, but this assessment is not shared by everyone. Some feel it to be pedestrian (we have entered the realm of fancy artistic criticisms lingo) for not doing more with magic or romance, and for “meandering”. My counterargument is that The World in Colours was never meant to deal with romance or magic; Hitomi’s returning to the past was intended to help her rediscover happiness.

  • In its ending, The World in Colours delivers precisely what it set out to do: last week, I felt that the ending this series needed (and ended up getting) was that Hitomi would be shown back in her own time as being much happier and open to new experiences. She is the focus of the story, and the choice to leave everyone’s fates undisclosed serves to suggest that life is not 十全十美 (jyutping sap6 cyun4 sap6 mei5, “perfect”) like in stories. People go their own ways, disperse and pursue their own futures, but their memories will live on in Hitomi. While it would have been nice to see everyone’s futures, The World in Colours does not suffer for the path it ended up taking.

  • I’ve had a similar screenshot from my first impressions discussion: the comparison between this and the first image is obvious, with the same scene having less fade and more saturation. The simple choice of colours in a scene does much to convey the difference between the Hitomi that left, and the Hitomi that came back. Kohaku admits here that despite her love of magic, she was unsuccessful in helping Hitomi’s mother find happiness.

  • With the sum of her experiences, Hitomi hugs Kohaku; although Kohaku might have let Hitomi’s mother down, she’s atoned in helping Hitomi rediscover happiness. The precise fate of Hitomi’s mother is left unknown, similarly to the fates of the other members in the Magic-Photography-Arts Club, but as per my opinion previously, leaving this open is a mirror of life, where people do not necessarily know the details about everyone they’ve met or befriended after parting ways.

  • In my books, The World in Colours exceeds expectations, as it succeeds where Glasslip failed, weaving magic into the narrative and properly using it to drive the story forwards. Glasslip chose to leave these elements out; the so-called “fragments of the future” were never adequately explained when the show clearly indicated that a supernatural connection would play on Kakeru and Touko’s meeting. Glasslip made it clear that magic would have a role to play, and so, this cannot be chalked up to mere imagination or wabi-sabi. By comparison, The World in Colours plainly defines the extent and limits of magic; audiences come to expect that the presence of magic would impact the narrative in a meaningful way, and the anime delivers.

  • Existing discussions that are widely-accepted have not sat well with me because they either made massive subjective leaps and focused on minor details with no relevance to Glasslip, or else repeatedly emphasised that the reader was lacking for not understanding the show as they did. A good analysis never opens up by undermining the reader or presupposing that they are missing something. By comparison, I always aim to be fair, and comprehensive: everything that I present is intended to give readers a new perspective on things, or help clarify to them how I reached my conclusion.

  • After returning home, Kohaku retrieves a time capsule containing photo albums of their time spent together, as well as a picture book that Yuito had written. Hitomi comes to realise that this was the one book that she could always see in colour, and with this knowledge, audiences conclude that Yuito had a role in helping Hitomi recover. Hitomi’s returning to the past impacted Yuito and helped him rediscover his inspiration, so when he published the book, his feelings were captured in his drawings. Thus, when Hitomi returned back in time, his earlier craft would be familiar to Hitomi, accounting for why his drawings were in colour for her even when the remainder of the world was in black and white.

  • Today is New Year’s Eve, the final day of 2018, and it’s been one interesting year with its ups and downs. Like my previous The World in Colours post, I’m publishing this before I head off for work; it’s a half day today, but my afternoon is packed, so I figured I would get this out sooner. In the last Friday of 2018, I found time to watch a sunrise over the city, and later, I stepped out for lunch and had the biggest fish and chips I’d seen: the fish was piping hot, tender and flaked apart in my fork, going great with tartar sauce.

  • On Saturday, I attended the Flames game which saw us square off against the Vancouver Canucks. A thrilling and close game, the Flames would lose 3-2 in overtime, although I hold that one goal that was discounted during a power play should have been allowed. Had this been the case, we would have won that game. Then, yesterday was our annual 打邊爐 (jyutping daa2 bin1 lou4): although the weather this year was nowhere near as cold as it was last year, a good hot pot is always welcome. After an hour and a half of beef, chicken, lamb, shrimp, oysters, squid, fish, cabbage, lettuce, lo baak and yi mien, I certainly was feeling much warmer, having spent a good chunk of the day writing this post and tending to things around the house.

  • Reading the picture book again, and seeing Yuito as the author allows Hitomi to put two and two together, the causal loop of The World in Colours is a simple one, and its design prevents any paradoxes from arising. Because of the nature of The World in Colours, no issues arise to the same extent as seen in Futurama, where Fry inadvertently makes himself his own grandfather; the nature of The World in Colours precludes such wild antics from occurring.

  • The story that Yuito has written is a parallel of what Hitomi had experienced during her time with Kohaku; it follows a shy penguin whose animal friends show up to dramatically break up the monotony in her day. Bit by bit, the penguin accepts these adventures and becomes all the happier for it, mirroring Hitomi opening up to everyone. Children’s picture books are joys to read, featuring a straightforward narrative with appealing artwork.

  • I am not fond of making massive subjective leaps in my discussions, but since virtually all of the discussions I’ve frequented skip over the golden fish seen in Yuito’s drawings, I will take a stab at guessing its contribution to The World in Colours: unlike the seabirds of Glasslip, which incidentally have no contribution to the story in any way and are merely part of the scenery, the golden fish is prominently featured. I imagine that it is derived from the Buddhist symbol with the pair of golden fish, which denotes happiness: fish have freedom to swim about as they please, and so, a golden fish swimming freely through the world represents the freedom Yuito seeks, to create and draw worlds as he so chooses.

  • This time around, the folks of Tango-Victor-Tango have been much more disciplined in their discussions compared to those found elsewhere: the former are uncertain as to whose tombstone Hitomi is visiting, and the latter speculate that it is Yuito’s grave without providing a justification for why this is the case beyond “artists tend to die alone quickly” (which, incidentally, one cannot reasonably expect me to accept on virtue of that individual’s reputation alone: I expect facts and figures backing that up). One longstanding goal I have is to never make a claim without providing some sort of explanation for why I believe said claim to hold true, and I am of the mind that making claims without rationalising it is to expect others to accept it without a second thought.

  • I never expect my readers to buy what I say: readers are free to make their own judgement on what I say and decide whether it works or not. If my intent is to convince readers of something, then I am expected to put an effort into explaining why it holds true. As such, low effort explanations are something I am quick to dismiss; if someone wants me to believe them, they had better work for it. Here, I’ve got a screenshot of Hitomi’s high school; the building of 2078 is more or less the same, with several upgrades to the facility that indicate expansion has occurred to modernise it. Those who remark the school “looks way too similar to how it was in the past”, then, seem unaware of how old buildings work: buildings in Calgary hailing back to the 1920s still look as they once did, albeit modernised to accommodate their present function.

  • On the way to school, Hitomi encounters the two girls who’d asked her to watch the fireworks from the previous evening and, with her newfound confidence, greets them. It’s a profound change from her personality at The World in Colours‘ opening, and for me, this was the singular joy of The World in Colours: Hitomi’s come out far stronger than she entered, more open and sociable. Glasslip‘s characters never undergo similar changes, and so, that series ended up being quite unsuccessful in portraying the journey within a story that compels viewers to follow it.

  • When Hitomi first went back in time, the digital apparatus she’s wearing indicates that it is unable to lock onto a signal and update itself. Returning to her time, the device immediately reconnects and updates its clock. Attention to details in The World in Colours has been one of the series’ great strengths, and shows that a great deal of care was placed into crafting each of the moments.

  • Hitomi is shown returning to the same classroom where she’d once spent many a day with Kohaku’s classmates as a member of the Magic-Photography-Arts Club. She is shown to be a knowledgeable member of the club, providing instruction to fellow students, and even manages to bring back the magic into the club as Kohaku once did. Seeing all of the changes in Hitomi makes it clear just how much occurred over the course of The World in Colours.

  • It would be a surprise to me if standalone cameras were still in widespread use come sixty years from now: the advent of high resolution digital cameras built into smartphones, and even AI-assisted cameras have increasingly rendered point-and-shoot devices obsolete. Having said this, dedicated DSLR cameras for professional and enthusiast usage continue to endure. I expect that future cameras will likely have increased on-board storage, wireless connectivity and the processing power to handle image processing and machine learning, allowing their users to shoot more vivid, exciting photographs.

  • Hitomi’s newfound friends are seen visiting the shop that she works at, and it is apparent that Hitomi’s come to embrace her abilities with magic once again. She feels very much at home in the magic shop and with magic itself now. Moments such as these serve to remind audiences that Hitomi’s life has definitely turned around for the better, and per her promise to Yuito, she is definitely going to make the most of her future and walk it with confidence.

  • The question of who Hitomi’s grandfather (and Kohaku’s husband) is was answered in the finale; it is indeed the bookstore’s keeper. Romance was, while present in The World in Colours, never its focus, and so, the tensions that had arisen with relationships was always swiftly dealt with. Some folks longed to see a more substantial romantic component, but this would have detracted from the messages of The World in Colours; dealing with tumultuous feelings on top of trying to rediscover happiness would have yielded a very chaotic, turbulent story that could not have easily been told in thirteen episodes.

  • I understand that I appear focused on the positives of The World in Colours, doling out praises where others might see criticisms. The reality is that The World in Colours gets many things right, far more than the things it gets wrong. A little bit of acceptance is how I moved past the series’ shortcomings; it is understandable that not everything in life is so cut-and-dried. Relationships in high school, for instance, may not endure as one grows older, and so, questions of things like whether or not Shō ends up with Asagi are largely irrelevant.

  • There is a single reason why I tend to focus on the positives of something: life is short, and focusing on negativity has never done any favours for anyone. I would much rather focus on the things in whatever I do that I enjoyed, and the things that work for me; this lets me be much more authentic and genuine in how I present content to readers. While I will offer the occasional critique here and there, the objective of a given post is not to tear down a work for whatever reason that motivates people to tear stuff down.

  • The World in Colours was by no means flawless; personally, I would’ve preferred a bit more time to flesh everyone out further and have them each spend more time with Hitomi, further augmenting the sense that she’s become an integral member of the Magic-Photography-Arts Club. In addition, the epilogue would have done better to have Hitomi catch up with and visit everyone to see what they’re like. With this being said, if the two girls that Hitomi befriended are grandchildren of Asagi and Kurumi, that would make my day.

  • The Nagasaki of 2078 has more skyscrapers and admittedly, resembles Victoria Harbour by nightfall. During the day, a number of changes can be seen: the buildings are more futuristic, and some unusual-looking hovercraft are present in the harbour. However, the Megami Bridge remains as it once did: bridges that are well-maintained can have a lifespan of a century, and so, it is not surprising to see that this cable-stayed bridge remains a prominent part of Nagasaki’s skyline.

  • If we accept the assertion that this golden fish is to represent freedom, then The World in Colours is telling audiences that after everything that has occurred, Hitomi is free to pursue her future without being weighted down with her past. The brilliant skies of day are more vivid than any other point in the anime, signifying endless possibility now that the colour has returned to Hitomi’s world.

  • The final moment in The World in Colours is one of Hitomi smiling, a very pleasant sight to behold. With the whole of The World in Colours in the books, my final verdict is a recommendation, and a score of nine out of ten (A grade, 4.0 on a four-point scale): The World in Colours has much going for it, using magic in a creative fashion to explore the impact of friendship and how the attendant shifts in perspective can help people understand their pasts to embrace their future. Together with P.A. Works’ signature high visual quality, with both animation and artwork, as well as a superior soundtrack, The World in Colours is a treat to watch.

  • Since Glasslip, P.A. Works has done several excellent coming-of-age stories, and in my books, they’ve more than found their redemption from Glasslip. Straightforward, captivating and earnest, The World in Colours was the one anime I consistently looked forwards to each and every Friday, and with the finale now past, the time has come to look at the upcoming winter season. A few series have caught my eye, but I don’t think any of them motivate my writing about them for the present. This is going to be the final post for 2018; I am going to be returning in the New Year to write about Little Forest and Anima Yell!, and until then, take it easy!

While stories of self-discovery and friendship are a familiar, well-explored one, The World in Colours manages to present a sufficiently unique take on things to create a compelling narrative that audiences can invest into. Over time, viewers come to care for Hitomi and Kohaku, as well as each of Yuito, Asagi, Kurumi, Shō and Chigusa. Their aspirations and challenges mirror aspects of the viewers’ own experiences, and so, one cannot help but wonder how solutions might be found for the different problems and doubts everyone faces. This is the magic in The World in Colours, a series that manages to make the most of its setup to create a fun and meaningful journey for Hitomi. I have no trouble in saying that The World in Colours is what Glasslip should have been: with magic built out in a meaningful manner, its applications serve to make The World in Colours even more colourful. Logically applied and well-developed, the magic of The World in Colours serves to bolster the anime, showing that P.A. Works can indeed work supernatural forces into its stories without leaving them vague and convoluted. The World in Colours is indeed what Glasslip should have been, presenting a remarkably enjoyable story that covers a considerable amount of ground about youth, reminding viewers about the freedoms of days past. Overall, I enjoyed The World in Colours – I recommend it to anyone who enjoys watching coming-of-age stories and is looking for something similar to Tari Tari. This series certainly helped me relax with its atmosphere and story, and for the past three months, provided me with something to look forwards to every Friday evening.