The Infinite Zenith

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Sakura Quest: Review and Reflections at the Halfway Point

“Today, I’m going to outline a plan for Manoyama’s economic revival – it is a bold, ambitious, forward-looking plan to massively increase jobs, wages, incomes and opportunities for the people of our country. If we lower our taxes, remove destructive regulations, unleash the vast treasure of Manoyama’s energy, and negotiate trade deals that put Manoyama First, then there is no limit to the number of jobs we can create and the amount of prosperity we can unleash. Manoyama will truly be the greatest place in the world to invest, hire, grow and to create new jobs, new technologies, and entire new industries. Instead of driving jobs and wealth away, Manoyama will become the world’s great magnet for innovation and job creation.” –Excerpt from a speech delivered at the Manoyama Tourism Board

Resolved to improve Manoyama in whatever way she can in her role as the town’s “Queen”, Yoshino begins exploring the region’s specialities, including wood carving and sōmen. Her endeavours and visions are bold – even though the tourist board cannot fund Yoshino’s ideas, they begin making progress slowly: traditional wood carvings from native artisans are installed at the train station, impressing visitors, and a local cooking festival ends successfully. A film crew also scouts out Manoyama as a viable filming location, recruiting the tourism board and locals to assist. Their plans to burn down an abandoned home are met with resistance from Shiori, who reveals that the home is special to her, and the shoot also reveals that Maki had lost her passion in acting. Later, the tourism boards hosts a romance tour of Manoyama for the Community Club, taking them around Manoyama. Ruriko finds herself envious of Yoshino’s resolve and spirit. While Ruriko is embarrassed to participate in the Manoyama dance, Yoshino has taken the courage to learn it. Ruriko later falls ill, and comes across an alternative interpretation of Manoyama’s legend of the dragon while resting away from her duties. When she learns that Manoyama was originally about being open to outsiders, she performs her the dragon song on the final day of the tour. Though it all, Yoshino herself still resents normalcy, as well as her own role in things: when a reality show is filmed in Manoyama, Yoshino finds herself questioning her goals. Even so, she continues to do her utmost in making the tourism board’s initiatives successful, helping the television studio organise a major concert.

Sakura Quest has covered a substantial amount of territory at the halfway point. With twenty-five episodes, there remains another half to go – insofar, Sakura Quest has done a phenomenal job of bringing Manoyama and its characters to life. Whether it be the struggles and doubts each of the characters face, or the realities surrounding social trends in rural Japan, details are elaborated upon to give the town and its people dimensionality. Challenges surrounding Maki’s past with acting, Saenai’s doubts about whether or not Manoyama was her running away from her problems, or Ruriko’s isolation with the community are vividly detailed: flawed and very much human, each of the characters’ attributes come into play and slowly shift through Yoshino’s influence. Despite being an outsider herself, Yoshino also begins feeling more connected to the town of Manoyama, despite having only visited briefly during her childhood – being in this quiet and close-knit community brings about a change in her perspectives that is quite noticeable from her outlooks at Sakura Quest‘s onset, and by the halfway point, it becomes apparent that the synergy between Yoshino and the others have indeed had an impact on Manoyama. With the characters established, Sakura Quest is set to continue with detailing the tourism board’s quest to Make Manoyama Great Again℠, and I look forwards to seeing what Yoshino has in mind for the future.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Sakura Quest covers a considerable amount of turf during its first half: story arcs are typically contained within the span of two episodes, depicting a combination of both the main cast’s internal struggles as well as the tourism board’s difficulties in engaging the town. One of the first challenges Yoshino faces in her role as Queen is to figure out how to raise awareness for Manoyama’s wood carving sector. While innovative, the town’s more conservative Board of Merchants and wood carvers immediately take a disliking to Yoshino’s ideas, feeling them disrespectful towards tradition.

  • Feeling that she’s been running away from problem after problem, Sanae no longer feels motivated to help Yoshino, distancing herself from their duties. However, Yoshino manages to motivate her: even if people can be replaced, individuals each apply their own unique touch to a challenge to create their solutions, so efforts are not for naught. Consequently, Sanae’s interest in Manoyama is re-kindled, and she suggests a scaled-back version of Yoshino’s plan to elevate the visibility of Manoyama’s artisans, decorating the train station with work that impresses visitors.

  • Now that we are fifty percent into Sakura Quest, it is quite apparent that Yoshino does not have anywhere nearly as many funny face moments as her opposite number in Shirobako: Aoi Miyamori is a character I remember well for her exaggerated facial expressions. By comparison, Yoshino is more dialled back, and while highly enthusiastic about her duties, is less prone to overexcitement or stress than Aoi, even if her goals put her directly in conflict with the Board of Merchants, the folks who coordinate the businesses in the area.

  • The inaka are beautifully portrayed in Sakura Quest: intricate and remarkably well-done, Sakura Quest captures the countryside. While the cities (Tokyo especially) are a hotbed for economic activity and opportunity, the countryside of Japan has fallen by the wayside, seeing a general decline in population as youth migrate to the cities for better education and employment prospects. However, during my travels to Japan, I found the inaka to be much more enjoyable than the cities, feeling a lot more expressive of Japanese culture than the cities. In some translations, the inaka is represented as “the sticks”, a British expression for rural in reference to living amongst the trees (i.e. sticks).

  • After Sanae’s doubts are resolved, it’s Maki’s turn to have her background explored. A former actress capable of handling a variety of tasks, she refuses to play the role of a stand-in, feeling that she lacks the proper determination to be a proper actress. She rebuffs Yoshino’s request, leaving her with more work, but after a conversation with Sanae and helping coach Ririko with a role, slowly begins to rediscover her passion. When she stumbles across an old class video her father took of her class play, she rediscovers her love for acting.

  • After the director decides to use an abandoned house for filming, Shiori puts up a surprising amount of resistance, concealing the fact that she’d acquired permission from the house’s owners to torch it. It turns out that the house has sentimental value for Shiori, who’d spent a great deal of time there during her childhood. It is also explained that abandonments, haikyo, result from the cost of demolitions making removal of older buildings unviable. Often, buildings are left to decay where they are, creating these modern ruins. When Yoshino steps up to the plate and confronts Shiori about the situation, Shiori comes to understand that the decision is not for her to make.

  • Sakura Quest is the first P.A. Works anime I’ve given a review to since Shirobako – while I’ve watched both Charlotte and Kuromukuro, and found enjoyment in both to some extent, they did not prove to be shows that I could easily write about: thematic elements were tricky to determine, and the plot progression for both anime were inconsistent, making it difficult for me to ascertain what the anime’s main messages were. Comedy and slice-of-life dramas are P.A. Works’ specialities: their down-to-earth stories about everyday people are usually much more compelling than their science fiction or fantasy offerings (Angel Beats! and Nagi no Asukara are the exceptions).

  • By the episode’s final moments, Maki’s love of acting is reignited, and she agrees to stand in for Moe. Here, she prepares for a scene where she will dive into the burning remains of the home, and the entire event proceeds without a hitch. Later, one of the film staff thanks Shiori, who’s come to understand that allowing the house to be destroyed does not mean that her memories of it will be lost forever; instead, in its final moments, this derelict house allows Shiori to gain yet another treasured moment.

  • Just because Yoshino might not make funny faces does not mean that other characters do not – Maki tries to tug a beer from Yoshino, only to find that Yoshino’s maintaining a death grip on said beer despite having fallen a sleep. One of the things that I found a bit unusual in Japan (and Hong Kong) is the fact that alcohol is sold in the open at supermarkets, right beside conventional drinks. Back home, we have liquor depots and dedicated stores for selling alcohol.

  • Food is lovingly illustrated in Sakura Quest to the point where other viewers have suggested that some episodes should be watched on a full stomach, lest one desire food mid-episode. Today marks the start of the last weekend in June: this month’s disappeared, and it’s now been more than a month since I returned from Japan. Things have been incredibly busy with work, especially with our project migration to a new framework that’s taken longer than I anticipated, so I’m immensely happy that it’s the weekend. While I spent a bit of today helping with adding some features ahead of Monday, things were also relaxing enough so that I could play enough Battlefield 1 to unlock the Lebel Model 1886 and go out to the Café 100 for dinner, where I ordered the Hong Kong-style chicken steak.

  • While I’ll respond that Shiori is my favourite of the characters in Sakura Quest, with Yoshino coming in a close second, all of the main characters are likeable. Presenting realistic characters simply means giving them a range of traits, both positive and negative, and allowing these interactions to drive things – these elements mean the characters are believable, and consequently, audiences tend to care more for them, developing an interest to see what events will await them. By comparison, dull, jejune characters are blatantly overpowered, have little difficulty in accomplishing their objectives and constantly struggle from their own internal sense of inadequacy without any well-defined reason (this is the main reason I’m not particularly fond of Sword Art Online‘s Kazuto Kirigaya).

  • Celebrating Sayuri’s moving out to become a nurse, Shiori and her family encounter Kumano, an old friend of Sayuri’s from high school who trained in France as a chef and intends to inherit the family restaurant. He has long held feelings for Shiori’s older sister, Sayuri, but owing to a miscommunication, neither was able to make their feelings open to one another. In spite of this, his dedication is commendable: his original intent to study French cuisine was because Sayuri greatly enjoyed French toast.

  • Shiori’s response to Kumano’s French Toast speaks volumes as to its quality. Sakura Quest states that French Toast is not French in origin – P.A. Works has plainly done their homework, and the combination of soaking bread in egg before frying it with milk has been around since the fifth century, being of Roman origin. The French take on this dish is called pain perdue (lit. “lost bread”), after the idea of making tough or stale bread more palatable by frying it in egg, and both England and Germany have their own variations on this dish. The modern incarnation of French toast is actually a bit of a misnomer: similar to French Fries, they are a food item popularised by arrival of French immigrants in North America, hence the nomenclature.

  • While the Tourism board’s plan to host a cooking special event conflicted with the Merchant Board’s event, Shiori takes control of the situation and strikes a compromise that allows both events to proceed: the cooking competition will be to make the best sōmen dish, which is a Manoyama special. It typifies Shiori’s resourcefulness when the situation demands it, and she’s the first person that Yoshino turns to whenever questions about Manoyama and its background arise.

  • While Shiori works out the details to ensure the event’s success, Yoshino works behind the scenes to get a special display ready: a mechanised nagashi-sõmen game where the goal is to catch and eat noodles as quickly as possible to maximise score. It’s a little messy, as Yoshino finds out, but the exhibition turns out to be a success, drawing the children’s interest. Yoshino is open to making use of new technologies into reviving Manoyama traditions, and while this initially puts her at odds with the townspeople, this new perspective also offers Manoyama something new.

  • Shiori and Sayuri are both rather clumsy at times: when their mother remarks that Shiori’s fear over the festival date is a trait her sister shares, Shiori realises that Sayuri must’ve missed Kumano for the same reason. She sets in motion the events that allow Sayuri and Kumano to meet again at the Chubacabra Palace, bringing their story to a solid conclusion and also allowing the two to make their feelings open to one another. One wishes reality would allow for such neat resolution, but more often that not, this is not the case.

  • With the festivals over, Yoshino makes Shiori a “Minister of Mediation” for her role in talking things through to ensure that all parties are reasonably satisfied with arrangements.

  • The Manoyama romantic tour programme turns out to be yet another story arc filled with a fine balance of comedy and mystery: comedy arises with the community club’s members putting the moves on to impress the ladies who arrive for the tour, and despite their reduced numbers, Yoshino and the others do their best to ensure the events are successful. It is here that the Manoyama dance and its origins are revealed: like the Legend of the Fire Maidens in Sora no Woto, there are two different versions of the story behind Manoyama’s dragon.

  • The men and women participating in the tour are in their middle ages: travelling around to meet people is a rather interesting concept. One observation thrown around amongst folks of my generation, the millennials, is that it is more difficult to find meaningful courtship relative to previous generations – commitment and trust is weaker than it has been for numerous reasons, but I personally think that it’s a lack of maturity for the most part. Once folks become a bit older, they will have a more well-defined notion of what they want, and by extension, more realistic expectations of what a relationship entails.

  • The Manoyama dance is an area tradition that all Manoyama girls learn. Ririko’s shyness precludes her from participating, and as a child, she’s withdrawn, spending very little time with her peers during school. Her interests are in the occult and supernatural: things like extraterrestrials, spirits and cryptids are right up her alley. Despite this, she slowly opens up as she spends more time with Yoshino and the others. By comparison, Yoshino is very much willing to learn and experience new things, picking up the Manoyama dance well enough to perform it for their guests.

  • Noticably absent from the proceedings is Ririko: similar to how Sanae, Maki and Shiori have seen exploration with the wood carving, film-making and cuisine arcs, respectively, the romantic tour arc places emphasis on Ririko. Reserved, shy and stoic, she lives with her grandmother after her father left for work overseas following divorce with Ririko’s mother, an outsider. This explains her grandmother’s mistrust for Yoshino and also explains why she’s cold towards the Tourism Board’s activities. Walking home alone under a thunderstorm, she catches a cold and is resting for much of the subsequent episode.

  • Alexandre Cena Davis Celibidache, known by his metonymy as “Mr. Sandal”, is a wanderer with blonde hair and who speaks with a very laid-back manner, dropping by to offer deep and mysterious insights whenever Yoshino or the others are wondering what their next move is. Voiced by Vinay Murthy, Alexandre’s Japanese is slower, more broken and accented, hinting at his foreign background: he also speaks English quite well. His story is that his grandparents were Manoyama natives, and despite his wandering nature, he is a skillful artist familiar with Manoyama’s history.

  • The climbing wall and tower overlooking Manoyama offers a fantastic view of the area. This moment in Sakura Quest offers yet another reason why I continue to watch anime after all this time: the attraction of skies of deepest blue and vast landscapes of mountains, plains and forests have long held my attention. I have not seen any cartoons of Western animation that go to quite the same lengths to render these landscapes: in FuturamaRick and Morty and Adventure Time, skies are usually a solid blue colour on clear days.

  • Yoshino finds Ririko at a local temple after the latter sneaks out to the library while she’s supposed to be recovering from her cold. It is here that Yoshino learns the alternative interpretation of the myth, and in an emotional moment, Ririko and Yoshino shed tears as they open up to one another. This brings about a change in Ririko: while her grandmother is long-weary of Yoshino and the others for their perceived tendency to disturb the peace, Yoshino sees this as a chance to show that the Tourism Board is not selfishly absorbed in their own machinations. Thus, she invites Ririko’s grandmother to the finale of the romance tour.

  • The surprise is that Ririko performs the Dragon song; while she whiles away her days on the internet and is not employed owing to her withdrawn nature, Yoshino manages to bring out the best in her, allowing her to take the first step towards changing. Ririko is voiced by Chiemi Tanaka, a newcomer in voice acting whose only previous role was as Sansha Sanyou‘s Sasame Tsuji, but Sakura Quest shows that Tanaka has a beautiful singing voice. Her rendition of the Dragon song is incredibly moving, to the point where it would be an insult should it not be included in the soundtrack or one of the character albums. The anime’s opening and ending albums have been available since June 7.

  • I take a brief detour to note that in its current form, the slogan “Make Manoyama Great Again℠”, is attributable to a design that I alone have created. It’s an uncommon enough slogan so that a cursory search for it will not yield too many results – one may find other usages before my first post on Sakura Quest, but since that post, folks on image-boards have taken to using the slogan more widely. The page quote is an adaptation of the current POTUS’ economic speech at the New York Economy Club back during September 2016, modified to work with what is in effect, what the Tourism board is trying to do with Manoyama.

  • The pressure of a reality film crew filming the Tourism Board’s daily routine causes Yoshino and Shiori to speak strangely, with Yoshino finally cracking up under the pressure. It takes a certain degree of control to ignore the camera and proceed normally, and while I’ve done several appearances on local television for news segments featuring my old research lab, as well as being comfortable in speaking in front of audiences, I’m not entirely sure I am cut out for live-streaming my Battlefield 1 and other gaming endeavours on Twitch.

  • Yoshino’s personal peeve of being “normal” is mirrored in her appearance – she’s the only character to have a distinct hair colour, and her uncommon way of thinking is what’s precipitated all of the events in Sakura Quest insofar, to the point where even Ushimatsu praises her. The definition of “normal” is the point of contention in Christopher Boorse’ definition of health, which states that “health is the absence of disease defined by a statistical normality”. My classmates still repress a shudder when the name Boorse is brought up despite the six years that have elapsed since we read the original 1977 paper: we argue that health is an incredibly complex topic and extends well beyond the state of being free of disease. Further to this, health as a human construct is intrinsically value-laden: by Boorse’s definition, if a large portion of humanity were to be afflicted by a condition such as blindness, then being blind would still constitute as “healthy”, since it is typical that most folks cannot see in this hypothetical population. Conversely, a value-laden approach would tell us that this population has an endemic condition impairing their quality of life.

  • I’m not here to continue discussing the definition of health: I exited the course with a decent mark and we’ll leave it to the medical specialists to discuss what health is. Returning things to Sakura Quest, the reality show is compounded by the appearance of a famous band, which promises to bring in a large number of visitors into the Manoyama region. While exciting, the logistics prove to be a rogue element, since the producers continue to assure Yoshino and the others that everything is under control. The outcome of this will be left for the upcoming episode.

  • Yoshino, Maki and Sanae are surprised at the unexpectedly large turnout for their concert. The twelfth episode comes to an end here, and looking ahead, I imagine that Sakura Quest is building up towards Yoshino’s inevitable departure once her year-long contract expires. Regardless of what the outcome will be, Yoshino will have gained a considerable amount of experience working in Manoyama by this point: staying in Manoyama and calling it home, or else returning to Tokyo with a competitive set of skills are both possibilities, and I look forwards to seeing the journey that Yoshino will have in reaching this milestone in Sakura Quest‘s second half.

It should not be surprising that I am enjoying Sakura Quest the most out of any of the anime this season. With its character development, stunning artwork and a highly relatable narrative, Sakura Quest represents a triumphant return of P.A. Works – with the exception of Angel Beats! and Nagi no Asukara, I’ve long felt their work and slice-of-life anime to be the strongest. Incorporating genuine social issues into the narrative is also a fantastic touch that elevates the anime’s authenticity: whether it be the community dynamics of a smaller town overarching in the anime or something as simple as why haikyo come about, Sakura Quest is faithful towards occurrences in the real world. This is something that Shirobako and Hanasaku Iroha excelled in depicting. Sakura Quest is following its predecessors in execution, and it’s difficult to find any strikes against this anime – even the more critical of viewers are enjoying Sakura Quest. Each episode has been enjoyable to watch thus far, and having passed the halfway point, Sakura Quest appears on track in its the quest to continue captivating its viewers. With its honest but colourful depiction, it might be more appropriate to consider not whether or not Yoshino and her colleagues can Make Manoyama Great Again℠, but rather, the route that they take to get there and what changes Yoshino’s time in Manoyama will have on her, those around her and the town as a whole.

Feast: The Fortress at War- Sora no Woto OVA 1 Review and Reflection

“An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.” —Ernest Hemingway

On a hot summer’s day, the 1121st prepare for an afternoon barbecue. When Kanata and Yumina’s suspicions about the Clocktower Fortress’ source of income threatens to expose their calvados operation, Filicia decides that a contest is in order to determine whether the truth should be disclosed. She covertly spikes everyone’s tea with their in-house alcohol, and the stakes are that, if Kanata and her team should prevail during a mock combat exercise with water pistols, she will explain what is going on. The buzz from the alcohol causes everyone to develop higher spirits, and when Noël unveils a powerful water Gatling-gun, the battle shifts to Kanata’s favour. She manages to corner Rio inside the distillery and defeats her. Later, Kanata agrees to keep the distillery a secret and spends the night with an increasingly drunk 1121st, who take an uncommon interest in Kureha. By the next morning, in the throes of a vicious hangover, Filicia, Rio, Noël and Kanata struggle in the aftermath of their indulgence, while Kureha tearfully records the events of the previous evening and laments her inability to forget what’s occurred. Included with the fourth home release volume, the first of the Sora no Woto OVAs is set between the seventh and eighth episode: in the interim between the sixth and eighth episode, Kanata has enigmatically come into the knowledge of the 1121st’s secret distillery. While the natural progression is not particularly tricky to work out, fans nonetheless counted this as being worth speculating about. The first OVA thus brings some light to this, answering the question of what occurred and also showcasing some good-natured misadventures resulting from the girls enjoying too much alcohol.

Released quite separately from the televised release, OVAs are able to be a bit more overt and brazen with their depictions of events in an anime. While raising some thought-provoking questions, as well as striking a balance between drama and comedy, Sora no Woto‘s televised run remained quite focused on thematic elements owing to the fact that there were only twelve episodes to adequately explore the unique world Sora no Woto was set in. The characters remain quite consistent in manner and personality even if they do mature over the anime’s run, and so, in this Sora no Woto OVA, it was quite surprising, not to mention hilarious, to see the different characters under the influence of alcohol. A world apart from their usual selves, the alcohol leads the characters to act in over-the-top, melodramatic ways quite unlike that of their usual selves. The OVA ends up being a non-stop comedic ride; while simple in premise and contributing little towards the world-building that Sora no Woto is known for, it nonetheless offers the characters yet another dimension to their personality. From its open depiction of underage alcohol consumption to the implications that Kureha was desecrated by the others, Sora no Woto plainly capitalised on the OVA format to present an episode that offers another perspective on the characters which would not have likely been approved for broadcast on television. In the freedoms offered by the OVA format, however, viewers are treated to some nice laughs.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I had done a discussion of the first Sora no Woto OVA some five-and-a-half years previously, and in my Sora no Woto discussions earlier this year, I wondered if it would be worthwhile to go back and do another talk on the OVAs, since I’d already covered them. Looking back, I will be covering the OVA both for completeness’ sake, as well as because the insights I have on the different OVAs have changed somewhat since my initial posts. To ensure that these posts remain fresh and avoid venturing into dank territory, I’ve gone with a completely different set of screenshots; none of the images I have here are duplicates from the original post.

  • While it’s only for the briefest of moments, and not shown anywhere else on the ‘net, the “feast” component of this OVA refers to the pile of steaks that the Clocktower Maidens are grilling for lunch, bringing to mind the Chinese-style dinner buffet I attended last Saturday to help out at. Besides the usual suspects at Chinese buffets (sweet and sour pork, ginger beef, lemon chicken, fried chicken, fried shrimp, fried noodles, basa in garlic sauce, roast potatoes, a variety of vegetables and the like), this particular place has a different spin on the carving station: prime rib is grilled on demand, and tastes quite nice.

  • In my original post, I had a picture of Noël pressing a plate against Shuko, who’s taken an interest in the steaks being grilled. This is that same moment from another perspective, where Yumina reacts negatively to Kureha’s use of Calvados as a cooking wine. She begins to wonder where the 1121st get their alcohol from, and it takes Kureha some effort to deny that they are participating in anything illegal.

  • Elsewhere, a curious Kanata begins wondering what could be on Rio’s mind when she fetches Rio for lunch. This moment features several funny faces from Rio, none of which I’ve featured here. Rio’s behaviours here is most telling that she is unnerved, even though Kanata has made no mention of wondering what’s behind the door she’s watching to any capacity. Instead, her curiosity is piqued by Rio’s insistence that there’s nothing here worth looking at.

  • Befitting of the OVA’s light-hearted mood, the weather remains sunny and warm, befitting of a lazy day well into the summer season. Because weather has played such a substantial role in Sora no Woto, it is possible to very quickly ascertain what moods the characters will experience based on the sky conditions and lighting. This is one of the greatest strengths in Sora no Woto, and the lessons derived from the anime have been applied elsewhere to great effect.

  • Tea is commonly drunk with Chinese and Japanese meals: some kinds of tea can help with digestion, and so, after the steaks have been enjoyed and their plates cleared, Filicia brings out some tea. Immediately upon trying it, the girls become enamored with it: Filicia only mentions that it’s a “special” brew. With Calvados in it, I imagine that the tea would have a bit of a sweet, apple-y taste to it. It certainly would not go well with my preferred tea, Tieguanyin (鐵觀音): with its leafy taste, this oolong tea is something I ask for whenever I go to a Chinese restaurant and is well-suited for aiding digestion. During my trip to Hong Kong, family members there seem to prefer pu’er tea (普洱茶).

  • The alcohol’s effects begin kicking in, and Filicia’s suggestion to have a mock training exercise is initiated, with the victors’ terms being met. In this case, Rio agrees to disclose the truth about what’s happening with the Calvados. The teams are Rio, Kureha and Filicia on one side, working to keep thing secret, and in Kanata’s corner are Yumina and Noël, who aim to win and find out what’s going on. Playing elimination, a team wins when all of its members are taken out, by means of dyed water to make it immediately apparent who’s been hit.

  • Thus begins the elimination match, bringing to mind some of my misadventures in Battlefield 1. During the last weekend, I played several poor matches of domination and was utterly defeated, but the next day, I returned to play my usual conquest; I favoured the medic this time, making use of my syringe and health kits to heal teammates. Although I did not focus on kills as much as playing my intended role, I nonetheless made MVP with a paltry thirteen kills. During that same match, I also unlocked the second tier of the Royal Order of the Stag medal.

  • I subsequently grinded TDM modes until I secured a pair of victories, allowing me to earn my first-ever medal of Battlefield 1. It’s about time, too, having been some eight months since I bought the game. Back in Sora no Woto, Noël’s broken off from the others to retrieve a special surprise to aid their team’s victory. During their time together, Yumina and Kanata share a conversation, with Yumina mentioning that she’s from a far removed part of the country where things were quiet.

  • While the terrain in and around Seize is filled with sandstone cliffs, Yumina is from a part of Helvetia with more mountains and hills. The landscapes of Sora no Woto are beautiful and contributed greatly to my decision of picking up and following the anime – even if some may consider it a superficial way of determining whether or not a particular show is worth watching, a part of what influences the list of shows I watch in a given in a season is where the story is set. Alternative worlds such as that seen in Sora no Woto or Break Blade have long captured my interests.

  • Despite technically being superior marksmen, having trained for longer, Filicia and Rio run into Noël’s ambush and very nearly allows her to score an Ace (killing all enemies on the opposing team on your own). Kureha is at a bit of a disadvantage here, fulfilling the role of a support class while Rio and Filicia play assault. While they manage to evade, Noël and the others go after them, utilising their superior firepower to press the initiative. Noël’s look of anticipation is priceless, and it is one of the few times in the series audiences get to see her genuinely excited about something, even if it is under the influence.

  • Under heavy fire, Filicia is eliminated from the match shortly after Rio resolves that they will fight. The siege vehicle Noël devised requires three operators: one to carry the water and one to act as a source of propulsion. In exchange for its firepower, it is slow and cumbersome. Inspection of the dyed water shows that the girls are using similar water to the kind that is present at Seize’s Water Festival.

  • In retaliation, Rio returns fire and manages to eliminate both Noël and Yumina after their siege vehicle runs out of water. Kanata subsequently pursues them, leaving the others to on the ground under a pleasant summer sun. Lacking a weapon herself, Kureha can only watch the match progress. Sora no Woto‘s first OVA is set entirely on the Clocktower Fortress grounds: despite the lack of other locales, the episode remains quite exciting and even showcases some parts of the fortress previously unseen. It typifies the slice-of-life genre to have a relatively small number of settings in exchange for additional emphasis on character development.

  • Cornered in the bowels of the Clocktower Fortress’ secret distillery, Rio and Kanata find themselves in a standoff. Rio explains the truth to Kanata about the purpose of their project, that it is to enrich their own pocketbooks and has allowed them to live more comfortably than otherwise possible. After additional exchanges of dialogue, Kanata and Rio open fire on one another, with Kanata winning the duel.

  • Later, the 1121st take a trip to their on-site onsen to bathe off the aftereffects of their drinking. While partaking in alcohol and bathing in an onsen have been shown in a non-trivial number of anime, it is actually not advisable to take hot baths while under the effects of alcohol, since the combination of impaired judgement and increased circulation in conjunction with increased heat can make one lose quite a bit of water through perspiration.

  • Ever since a particularly memorable Christmas party during my final undergraduate year with the Health Sciences programme, I’ve not been able to partake quite as much as folks of a similar build and constitution to myself, so for the most part, I do not drink alcohol. Kureha is seemingly immune to the effects of alcohol and does not suffer from hangovers or the loss of memory. This is purely a genetic trait: I tend to get headaches, while other folks get stomach aches, although like Kureha, I tend to remember what happens even when I’m a bit fuzzy.

  • Not much is left to the imagination as to what Filicia, Kanata and even Yumina do to Kureha, although it appears that by the next morning, everyone save Kanata has forgotten everything, bearing only hangovers as the single indicator that they’d had such a wild evening previously. While done for laugh’s sake in Sora no Woto, such actions during war were certainly much more brutal and sobering  in nature, bringing to mind Timothy Findley’s depiction of rape in The Wars, illustrating that war takes away from people totally, including privacy and all that is sacred.

  • The next morning, Filicia, Kanata and Rio see Yumina off. Having forgotten the events of the previous evening, Kanata and Filicia are in fine spirits, seemingly over their hangovers, while Rio is still a bit worn from the previous evening. The same dilation of blood vessels is responsible for the headaches, and can cause stomach irritation, as well. I’m actually not too sure what the biological utility of drinking is, owing to all of the adverse effects it has on the body. While social science may suggest a social function, I sometimes wonder if wings and Irish potato nachos are equally as effective at bringing people together.

  • Noël, on the other hand, is reeling from a debilitating headache. This is the hangover I experienced after the Christmas party and a mere three drinks: I woke up with my head feeling as though a drum was beating against my cranium. I staggered awake, drank several glasses of water and tried to ignore the headache by playing Halo: Combat Evolved. Fortunately, the headache had abated by the afternoon, and since then, I’ve been more cautious with drinking — my last drink in Cancùn, a lemon daiquiri, while not giving me a headache, did make me immensely sleepy.

  • Whatever sort of defiling that Kanata, Yumina and Filicia did to Kureha was apparently so traumatic that she breaks out in tears when forced to recall it. If I were to surmise what happened to any level of detail, this blog would likely be reported for family-unfriendly content. So, I leave it up to the readers to imagine the fire (and in a rare exception to my usually-lax commenting rules, I will excise any comments that go too far). With the first of the OVAs in the books, I will return to write about the second OVA in September to coincide with its release date seven years ago.

At the time of its release seven years ago, I was quite unaware of Sora no Woto and was engaged in summer research at the university, working on a model of blood flow and oxygenation within the lab’s in-house game engine. I had returned from a day trip with the lab out to the mountains, and my project had been progressing smoothly, and I was gearing up to go on vacation to China (Beijing, Shanghai, Hanzgzhou and Suzhou). I’m not quite sure how I came across Sora no Woto, but it is likely that I found the anime while looking for recommendations of shows similar to K-On!: a year later, I came across Sora no Woto and found myself blown away with the overall quality and enjoyment factor the anime provided. I’ve an older review of the episode here that dates back to January 2012, a few months after I finished Sora no Woto. In the five-and-a-half years that has elapsed since then, my blog and writing style have both undergone a dramatic change in style. However, looking through the older post, it’s quite clear that my enjoyment of Sora no Woto‘s first OVA has not changed. The second of the OVAs would not be released for another three months at that point, and while it seemed a long wait for contemporary reviewers, my coming across Sora no Woto after it finished airing allowed me to continue watching the OVAs uninterrupted.

Sakura Quest: Review and Impressions After Three

“I felt the need to be more open and expressive of my feelings, not just about the hills and the countryside, but about the daily life.” –Donald Hall

Faced with the challenges of finding full-time employment as her graduation draws near, Yoshino Koharu finds herself offered with an unusual position: to become the Queen of Manoyama, a small town in rural Japan far removed from Tokyo, to promote tourism to the area. While this offer turns out to have been made on the basis of mistaken identity, Yoshino learns that Manoyama was the town where one of her fondest memories of being crowned were made: she nonetheless is displeased with prospects of staying for a year, attempting the impossible task of selling a thousand boxes of manjū on the condition that she be released from her contract on success. Despite failing, she draws upon her resources and know-how to try and bolster sales with the friendly Shiori Shinomiya, Ririko Oribe (Shiori’s friend with a profund knowledge of the occult), ammeter actor Maki Midorikawa and the web developer Sanae Kōzuki, becoming closer to them in the process. Later, during a televised competition to promote Manoyama, Yoshino realises that, following her attempts to learn more about the town and its residents, she genuinely wants to make a difference, and to Ushimatsu Kadota, head of Manoyama’s Tourism Board, she agrees to stay the year and help out on the condition of being able to work with Shiori, Sanae, Maki and Ririko. I am all smiles when watching Sakura Quest, and there is little doubt in my mind that this is going to be one of the strongest anime on my table for this season: wielding both sincerity and comedy, Sakura Quest is a reminder that P.A. Works is at their finest when they work with original anime set in the real world to showcase the trials and tribulations of people. Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari and Shirobako were each excellent works, firmly about challenges and adversity in life, as well as making the most of what one is dealt to ultimately craft a highly compelling story whose characters audiences can empathise with.

Hanasaku Iroha dealt with Ohana learning about the worth of hard work and dealing with her feelings for her friend, Kō, Tari Tari follows a group of friends seeking to create an opus magnum before their halcyon days in high school draw to a close, and Shirobako sees Aoi Miyamori settle into her job as a production assistant at an anime studio, being later promoted to production manager as she discovers her own talents in the position. Each of these anime were highly engaging, and in Sakura Quest, P.A. Works’ talent for depicting real-world stories continues. Yoshino’s predicament in trying to help Ushimatsu drive tourism to Manoyama parallels the struggles that towns in Japan’s inaka, or rural Japan, face: their populations aging, and with youth like Yoshino being drawn to the city for its greater opportunity, populations in the inaka are declining along with economic prospects. However, in some places, settlements and towns in the inaka are making a resurgence, brought on by the people’s desires to escape the manic pace of the city or as a result of increased promotional efforts. This social issue is captured in Sakura Quest, and despite a healthy dose of comedy present, Sakura Quest is very open about the challenges that inaka communities, such as the fictional Manoyama, face in their futures. Consequently, Sakura Quest‘s upcoming depiction of Yoshino’s journeys with her newfound friends in Manoyama will certainly be one that is as much about her own personal discovery as it is about how a group of friends can indeed make a difference in a a part of Japan that seems stubbornly set in its ways even in the face of decline.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I will mention this again later: Sakura Quest has twenty five episodes in the works, meaning that I will be returning at some intervals to discuss how the anime is progressing. I also open with the remark that I’m up to speed with Sakura Quest, and that of the numerous discussions I’ve seen so far, none have delved into the societal elements of Japan that drive the narrative of Sakura Quest. Population aging and decline is a very real issue facing the countryside, and programs incentivising citizens to move to or stay in the countryside definitely exist.

  • Yoshino Koharu is Sakura Quest‘s Aoi Miyamori, the reluctant hero who finds herself thrown into situations she’s initially uncomfortable with handling. Yoshino is voiced by Ayaka Nanase, a relatively new voice actor for whom this is her first leading role. After arriving in Manoyama, Yoshino is greeted by the tourism board, who immediately note that she’s not the person they’re expecting. In a bit of dark irony, the individual they were expecting had died some years back, and consequently, they’re ready to see if Yoshino might be a fit.

  • The interior of the Manoyama Tourism Board’s office will undoubtly be a location that audiences can expect to see more of in the upcoming episodes, being their base of operations. Its depiction in high detail here complete with one of the employees playing Go on their laptop, is a reminder of the level of quality that P.A. Works places into its anime. In general, their anime strike a balance between highly intricate and organisation in its environments that create a detailed, yet clean setting.

  • Shiori is a Manoyama native roughly around Yoshino’s age. Being friendly and kind, she’s a member of the tourism board with a genuine interest in bolstering tourism around the Manoyama area and is extremely knowledgeable about the region. Shiori is voiced by Reina Ueda, whom I’ve seen previously as Kuromukuro‘s Sophie Noelle and Shizune Takatsuki of Infinite Stratos². I finished Kuromukuro in December, some three months after it finished airing, and the reason why I never did write a review for it was because I had mixed feelings about it after the conclusion.

  • After Yoshino accepts her position, she has dinner with some of the more senior members of the Tourism Board. While food and drink is partaken, I take advantage of the moment to steal a cursory glance at my archive for this month: I’ve got a fair number of gaming posts out as a result of having pushed through Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered. I’ve still yet to actually write about Titanfall 2: the past while’s been busy in real life, and yesterday, I returned to the CYSF as a judge. After a light pastry and apple juice, I stepped out into the fair to begin my adjudication of the student’s projects.

  • The last science fair I participated in was eleven years ago; it was a rainy day, and I’d struggled to get my trifold to the exhibition venue. My project, outlining the implications of genetics research, went reasonably well, earning me a bronze medal and a small cash prize: looking back, it was a fun experience. Presently, it was an equally fun and meaningful experience to approach the science fair from the judge’s perspective, encouraging young minds to explore science. Back in Sakura Quest, Yoshino meets Maki for the first time, who irritates her to no end with her abuse of the word “normal” (普通, futsū).

  • If time permits, I may go back and continue to judge science fairs as a volunteer. For the present, I return my attention to Sakura Quest and share with the reader a cruel laugh at Yoshino’s expense: she learns that her contract is to be a year rather than a day, choosing to flee for her life rather than honour it. However, Manoyama’s remoteness makes escape next to impossible – the train station is closed. It brings to mind the gulag of the Kolyma region; these were sufficiently isolated and located in frigid lands such that escaping was pointless, as escapees would simply freeze to death.

  • P.A. Works might be known for a variety of things, but for me, I know them best for their exceptional “funny faces”: Shirobako featured Aoi wearing a variety of hilarious expressions, and one of my goals this season for Sakura Quest will be to capture as many funny faces as I can in the reviews that I do for this series. So far, it’s been pretty disciplined, but I’m hoping that we see Yoshino with some Aoi Miyamori-level facial expressions soon. Here, Yoshino flees after a “Chupacabra” appears. Refusing to use a special sword to dramatically take it out, Yoshino winds up injuring Ushimatsu instead.

  • A thousand boxes of manjū are delivered in error, and Ushimatsu decides that Yoshino is free to go if she can sell of all thousand boxes within a week before their “best before” date. This is a Sisyphean task: Manoyama’s entire population is around fifty thousand, and Ushimatsu pegs it a test of Yoshino’s resolve. Her initial efforts are unsuccessful, and she decides to figure out a means of marketing their presence to the locals, recruiting the local web developer and blogger Sanae to help.

  • Demonstrating her knack for creative solutions, Yoshino suggests that they try to capitalise on the chupacabra sightings in the area to create a sense of intrigue around the manjū; they speak with Ririko here to learn more. Sakura Quest spells the chapacabra as “chupakaura”, the katakana form for the cryptid. Life in the inaka is said to be remarkably quiet, and outside of work, there is not too much to do. Surprisingly, life in suburban Canada without a vehicle is rather similar – folks suggest picking up a good hobby, and armed with a powerful internet connection and a sense of adventure, I would imagine that, besides a significantly longer commute, my life in the inaka would probably not be too different than it is now: I would spend weekends exploring the countryside via hikes on days with pleasant weather and game or write if the conditions is unfavourable.

  • Yoshino’s resourcefulness drew me into Sakura Quest, and it is quite clear that despite her numerous rejection from jobs in Tokyo, she has a unique skillset as a result of her studies in Tokyo. Simply because companies might not count her as being a qualified candidate does not mean that Yoshino lacks skills, and it is reasonable to imagine that her experiences in Manoyama change her in appreciable ways, either setting her up to stay in the countryside or equipping her with marketable skills in order to gain an offer.

  • With sales of the manjū doing quite poorly even after a few days, Yoshino further resolves to create a short movie to capture the novelty around them, hoping to motivate sales. Even this proves unsuccessful, but the exercise accomplishes several important functions, such as bringing Yoshino, Ririko, Sanae and Maki closer to one another. It is often through failure that critical learnings are attained, and the value of these learnings can become much more valuable than the success itself. It is around the events of the second episode where Sakura Quest truly begins shining, providing viewers with an iron-clad incentive to continue enjoying this anime.

  • Although dejected, Yoshino tries a manjū, learns that it is exceptionally good, and suddenly realises that her time with the others has been an enjoyable one. They decide to stick together long enough for Yoshino to check out the sakura blossoms in the area one week from this point: fate itself continues to draw Yoshino back to Manoyama, and despite her reluctance, Yoshino slowly will come to appreciate the different features and pacing of the inaka. While I speak as though there is source material, Sakura Quest is an original anime; my speculations (and confident delivery of such) is motivated by my familiarity with outcomes in such narratives. Knowing what happens, however, is not where the fun lies – the real enjoyment comes from watching how a narrative’s events progress.

  • It typically takes me some time to become acclimitised to all of the characters and their names, but in the case of Sakura Quest, I’ve become familiarised with all of the major characters at the third episode mark; there’s no need for me to look at an external reference in order to determine how to spell their names or identify who they are. This is a solid start to Sakura Quest in the exposition component, introducing enough characters to get things started without overwhleming the viewers.

  • Shiori and Yoshino meet Maki’s brother, who is trying to convince her to return home. On top of being easy to remember, the characters of Sakura Quest are (perhaps with the exception of the cold townspeople) immediately likeable – this presentation seems to suggest that the anime will be about the tourism board trying to rally the town behind them to Make Manoyama Great Again℠. While long associated with the presidential campaign of 2016, the phrase “Make America Great Again℠” originates with Ronald Regan’s campaign in 1980.

  • Despite being the Queen of Manoyama, Yoshino realises that she has very limited background on Manoyama and its people. Here, she’s preparing for a televised interview about Manoyama, and promptly botches it despite support from Shiori. Ever-supportive and cheerful, Shiori and Yoshino get along remarkably well: Shiori is the first to begin supporting and encouraging, Yoshino, who finds her own feet with the conclusion of the third episode’s events.

  • While idealists have grand visions in their minds about bringing about change, the largest impediment to change is the fact that for the most part, people are unaccustomed to change and prefer the status quo. This is why disruptive forces, such as new technologies, often do not take off until on particular approach to the technology catches on for its convenience and ease of use. The smartphone is a fantastic example of this: the IBM Simon Personal Communicator was the first-ever smartphone, being able to make calls and receive emails. Introduced in 1992 and retailing for 1099 USD, the device had a touch screen. However, these devices remained uncommon and largely used by businesses until 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone. The concept of a device that could do mobile computing in conjunction with acting as a phone was nothing new by that point, but Apple succeeded in creating a smooth, enjoyable user experience that subsequently changed the face of electronic communications forever.

  • It would be quite unrealistic (and unfair) to expect Yoshino to streamline a concept or process in order to revitalise Manoyama’s economy, but to see what she makes of her situation is what will make Sakura Quest fun to watch. When a costume mishap leads to #TeamManoyama nearly missing their allocated time slot in a competition, Yoshino steps in and orders for them to combine the two costumes, then proceeds to deliver a heartfelt speech that, while not scoring any points with the judges, conveys her own conviction in helping Make Manoyama Great Again℠.

  • While on hanami with the others, Yoshino comes to realise that she’s found four fantastic friends in Manoyama. She comes to a conclusion, making a request to Ushimatsu to work with them, and her decision thus sparks the remainder of the story that will be presented in the upcoming weeks. I’ve always been fond of origin stories, and seeing how things begin – Sakura Quest is no exception, and I look forwards to seeing how things proceed in this twenty-five episode anime. The opening and ending songs, Morning Glory and Freesia, respectively, are set to release in June 7. Overall, the visuals and direction in Sakura Quest have been solid, but the soundtrack’s been a bit lower-key so far.

  • After lifting weights, I spent most of the day playing through Battlefield 1 and went for a walk to acquire the Earth Day challenge on Apple Activities. It was an overcast evening that I stepped out to for dinner; besides a special fried rice with garlic shrimps, we also had Thailand-style chicken, sweet and sour pork, a stir fry and fried fish balls. With the “after three” post for Sakura Quest in the books, I will be looking at Saekano♭ after three episodes in the near future. In addition, with Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act available now, another post for that will be rolling off the runway in the very near future. This is about it for the anime I’ve got lined up to write about in the foreseeable future – Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1 Premium are the other two posts that are on the list of things I aim to finish before April is out.

Immensely relatable right out of the gates, Sakura Quest seems an anime that audiences in my age bracket will relate with quickly: the uncertainties associated with making that transition between school and work is a frightening one, and sometimes, opportunities can arise from the most unlikely of circumstances. This is precisely what happens to Yoshino, whose career in the tourism industry begins with a mistake arising from illegible handwriting. This opening reflects on how reality itself can play out in the most unusual of ways, and for those persistent enough to stick things out, the journey can prove to be a rewarding one. With this remark, I have an inkling that I may have with reasonable accuracy, described Sakura Quest‘s main thematic element already, but like all of its predecessors, it is this journey whose worth makes the anime worth following. Sakura Quest is slated to run for twenty five episodes – such a number corresponds with an adequate time frame to really capture Yoshino’s experiences, and consequently, it would not be mistaken to surmise that Sakura Quest could be as captivating and entertaining to watch as its predecessors set in the real world.

Nyanko Days: The Pinnacle of Human Achievement

“Sometimes science is a lot more art, than science. A lot of people don’t get that.” –Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Anatomically modern humans have been around for around two hundred thousand years, and human civilisation itself extensively making use of agriculture and other implements only dates back around twelve thousand years. In a comparatively short period, the advancement of technology in our civilisation has progressed at a dazzling speed: throughout our history, there have been several inventions of particular note: the compass, printing press, wheel, incandescent lamps, the telephone, internal combustion engine, powered flight and penicillin stand in history as several of the most influential, far-reaching inventions. Coupled with the scientific process and notions of a production line, substantial advances in the past century has allowed humanity to split the atom and land on the moon. We’ve managed to construct a means of nearly-instantaneously communicating with one another in the internet, and with the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices now, wearable technology and augmented reality stand poised to shape the way we interact with one another and the world as we move into the twenty-first century. However, there is a magnum opus that stands to eclipse all of humanity’s achievements: known as Nyanko Days, this anime depicts the combination of the human genome with that of the Felis catus. Every discovery, advancement and discovery has lead to this single moment, demonstrating our species’ mastery of fiction and the nature of our progress as a form of intelligent life.

Nyanko Days depicts the life of one Yūko Konagai with her “Nyanko”, the fusion of H. sapiens and F. catus genes, results in a novel organism that shares traits both their original species. The anime goes into exceptional detail surrounding the science behind Nyanko, being more similar to a biology textbook than a work of fiction. Anatomically, Nyanko resemble miniature humans, with the distinct addition of F. catus-like ears and a tail; similar to those of F. catus, Nyanko can subtly convey their emotions through the position of their tails. In addition, they are proficient with bipedal locomotion, although as the need arises, they can also move about as quadrupeds. Their dietary requirements are more consistent with those of F. catus than H. sapiens, preferring items high in protein and may find H. sapiens sustenance unpalatable. Most notable is their exceptional intelligence and ability to interact with humans: besides being able to understand human emotions in laughing and crying, Nyanko can also speak Japanese with a very high fluency, and even interact with human implements, such as television remotes, although for some tools, such as a mechanical pencil, their understanding remains rudimentary. The conceptualisation of a novel species with intellect, memory and reasoning capacities similar to that of a human is perhaps a testament to how advanced our society has become in the past hundred years alone: although we have yet to find a clean energy source, resolve the NP-Complete problem or develop faster-than-light travel, our superior understanding of biology and fiction has allowed us to speculate about intelligence and sentience in species beyond ourselves. This is truly a momentous accomplishment for our species, setting the stage for grander, more influential discoveries – for this reason, Nyanko Days is a series that will forever act as a record of this world-changing innovation, a true masterpiece that reflects on the growth and progress of humanity.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The shy protagonist of Nyanko Days, Yuko Konagai is a high school girl who’s got a particular fondness for cats. She resembles Kantai Collection‘s Fubuki and Locodol‘s Nanako Usami in physical appearance, and while quiet at school, she takes on a much lighter demeanour when in the company of her three cats.

  • From left to right, z-ordering independent, we have Shii, Rō and Maa. Shii is modelled after a Singapura cat with a relaxed personality, while Rō is the most serious, being a Russian Blue. Maa is a Munchkin and is fond of messing around. Their days consist of hanging around while Yūko is at school, while Yūko yearns to be with her cats more often.

  • While playing a game on her phone, Yūko finds herself losing when Maa shows up and starts nibbling on her fingers. Pets who’ve bonded with their owners are very affectionate and will enjoy being petted, although as Yūko finds out, Maa can often show up at inopportune moments. In spite of this, she’s very understanding of her cats’ behaviours.

  • Small animals in bowls have always been appealing for folks viewing them, and here, Maa enters a bowl, rocking around for the heck of it. Of the cats, she’s the most child-like, finding joy in most everything and acting with little thought for the consequences later. Maa is voiced by Ibuki Kido; she plays minor characters in OreGairu and OreImo, but otherwise, I’m quite unfamiliar with her voice roles.

  • After Maa creates a mess, Rō steps in to clean up; she’s voiced by Mikako Komatsu, whom I know best for her roles as Sora no Method‘s Shione Togawa and Amifumi Inko of Aldnoah.Zero. Mikako will also be voicing Sanae Kouzuki in the upcoming Sakura Days, a P.A. Works anime I’m interested in following for its Shirobako-like premise. To round things out, Shii is voiced by Erii Yamazaki: like Ibuki, I’ve not seen any of the works she plays a role in.

  • Despite only lasting two minutes in length each, the artwork in Nyanko Days is of a high standard: here, Yūko takes a walk with her cats around town and reach a scenic viewpoint that shows the cityscape below. The atmosphere around a pleasant summer day is captured in this moment: it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to go on afternoon walks owing to my work schedule, where things have begun picking up as of late.

  • A chance meeting with Azumi Shiratori and the subsequent discovery that she’s also a cat person allows a friendship to develop between the two. A girl with a wealthy family, Azumi is admired by many at her school; after meeting Yūko, she spends more time with her as the two get to know one another and share their thoughts on raising cats.

  • At an upscale café that her family owns, Azumi and Yūko share a conversation over some rather expensive pancakes. Naomi Ōzora provides Azumi’s voice: the other of her roles that I know of is as Gabriel Dropout‘s Satanachia McDowell Kurumizawa, a rather amusing character whose precise place in the sun is quite worthy of a separate discussion.

  • Elsa is Azumi’s Turkish Angora: proud, haughty but also yearning for friendship, she wonders what Yuūko is like. Elsa spends her days alone at Azumi’s residence while the latter is at school. Initially, I mistook Elsa’s breed for the same breed as Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s cat, which is a Persian Cat: the breed is not of note, since the scriptwriters merely needed a white cat to match Ian Fleming’s novelisations, standing out to provide visual focus for a character who was initially without a known face.

  • On a quiet day, Shii, Maa and Rō try to amuse themselves, first by trying their hand at drawing, then subsequently decide to read books. Rō is quite into reading and has remarked on several occasions that she wouldn’t mind going to school and learning: the cats’ intellect are on par with those of a human in Nyanko Days, although their dexterity is not quite as well-developed, as seen in their attempts to draw.

  • Things quickly devolve when boredom hits a new high: Rō and Maa have different interests as far as television programming goes. While the latter prefers shows tailored for cats, Rō is looking to watch the news. A fight breaks out: rather than hard to watch, it actually ends up adorable – compare and contrast Jerome Iginla’s fight with Deryk Engelland’s during a showdown between the Calgary Flames and L.A. Kings just a few days ago. Fired up by the fight, Iginla would go on to get a Gordie Howe hat trick against the Flames, depriving them of a shot at clinching a playoff spot. That game was amusing but had too many fights for my liking: yesterday’s game against the San José Sharks was rather more appropriate, and with a 5-2 win, we’ve clinched a place in the playoffs.

  • Back in Nyanko Days, when Yūko arrives home, a tearful Shii describes the events that had unfolded earlier, and her lack of success in getting them to reconcile. However, Yūko has other means of rectifying the situation, in the form of a new toy, that let the two make up quickly.

  • One of the things that don’t seem to make sense from a biological perspective about how cats are depicted in Nyanko Days are the thin necks relative to head size. This is something in chibi-type artwork that, while conferring a degree of cuteness, also is strictly unfavourable: our necks are designed to withstand the motions of our head, and there is no way to fit a cervical vertebrae, esophagus and trachea in a neck of a small diameter. Hence, the cats in Nyanko Days must be engineered using means that exceeds all previous technology, as well as possibly, some future technologies.

  • Arashi Iketani is another one of Yūko’s classmates, who constantly competes with Azumi in all areas but finds herself outclassed. During a marathon for physical education, she initially takes the lead but is stopped cold in her tracks when she comes across a cat. She reminds me a bit of Sharo Kirima from GochiUsa in appearance.

  • The biology of the cats in Nyanko Days notwithstanding, I do have a legitimate criticism of the anime – it is remarkably short, and the entire season’s runtime is close to twenty-four minutes. While I am aware that there is only so much one could do with this premise, and that there are only two volumes of the manga out at present, Nyanko Days could be used to present an interesting story akin to that seen in GochiUsa: in fact, one thing that I would like to see is a version of GochiUsa where all of the characters are rendered as anthropomorphic rabbits.

  • In fact, the blissful world of GochiUsa leads to the question: could all of the anime’s events be the result of rabbits imagining themselves to be humans? With this being said, if such an incarnation of GochiUsa were ever to be made, it must never see the light of day: even with our level of sophistication, humanity as a whole is not quite ready for something like that yet. We thus return to Nyanko Days, where Yūko brings her cats to a summer festival, where she will meet up with Azumi.

  • Maa is excited when she sees goldfish in the legendary goldfish-scooping challenge, but the others let her know that the goldfish are not for eating. Fired up, Maa decides to compete with Elsa to see who can catch the most, but before they know it, Yūko, Azumi and the others have left, leaving them alone.

  • I’ve explored the evolutionary origins of our reaction to things we consider cute, whether it be babies or small animals in earlier posts and remarked that a general aversion to cuteness would be detrimental to evolutionary fitness. With that being said, different people find different things adorable, and for some, Nyanko Days probably won’t do anything. This is perfectly alright, but for the folks who did enjoy Nyanko Days, I have a challenge: how long can you stare at this image of Elsa crying before your heart melts away entirely, leaving you with nothing but feelings of bliss?

  • Despite their predicament, Maa manages to find a solution: they are united Yūko and the others on a short order. In the aftermath of their misadventures, Maa and Elsa become friends, with Elsa off-handedly remarking that she’s okay with hanging out. This brings Nyanko Days to an end.

  • With this post finished, I resume my usual programming soon: there’s a handful of things on the horizon that will be written about, but for the present, I am trying to push further into Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remaster. This is an endeavour compounded by the fact that Battlefield 1 is hosting the DICE 25ᵗʰ Anniversary Battlefest event, with its double XP event that will help me push my scout class closer to level ten, when I can unlock the Kolibri and mess with people.

Owing to its exceptional content, and the implications that the creation of Nyanko entail, I would give Nyanko Days a strong recommendation for all scientists as inspiration for their research. With its detailed depiction of Nyanko, above-par artwork, average soundtrack and unremarkable human characters… so the jig is up; I can’t lie well enough to continue. For those who have not noticed, today is April Fool’s Day, and in the spirit of good fun, I decided to create a post that would be in the spirit of April Fool’s Day. I offer my apologies if I misled or confused anyone with this post’s contents. With this being said, most of the contents in the figure captions are true: I haven’t made up anything about the voice actors, or the events in the anime. Similarly, the Flames did indeed clinch a playoff spot yesterday. Overall, Nyanko Days‘ concept of anthropomorphising cats and their adventures with Yūko form the bulk of the anime, with episodes running for around two minutes each. It’s a fun short series, but its length also runs against things: episodes are hilarious while they run, but they end too suddenly, leaving little time to develop the characters further. With this being said, Nyanko Days stands as one of the most adorable things I’ve seen in a while. It’s probably not enough to warrant a strong recommendation, but I personally enjoyed this anime, for providing two minutes of heart-melting Nyanko antics in most of its episodes every week. Hopefully, the unusual content of this post should have alerted you to the possibility that this was not a serious review; if you’re interested in checking out something light-hearted and frivilous, Nyanko Days will deliver, otherwise, you won’t stand to lose too much if you choose not to watch this anime. Regular programming resumes with this post’s conclusion, so have a good one!

Reflections on the Ah! My Goddess: The Movie- An introspection into my ten years of anime at the 800th post milestone

“Even if the whole universe comes between us, even if you lost every single memory, I’ll still find you and we’ll start again and again.” -Keiichi Morisato

With this special feature on Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, this blog passes the eight hundred post milestone. It’s a nontrivial marker, coming as a consequence of nearly five-and-a-half years of writing about anime, games and other things. That I’m still here after all this time is a consequence of having a fantastic group of readers who’ve been kind enough to provide discussions and feedback, motivating me to continue writing despite the other things that occur in the real world. After looking through the post count and the timing, I decided that reviewing Ah! My Goddess: The Movie would be appropriate for this eight hundredth post, given that it’s been ten years since I developed an interest in anime, and that Ah! My Goddess: The Movie was the work that precipitated this interest. The story, recounted in brief elsewhere on this blog and only in a fragmented manner, is as follows: some of my friends during my secondary school days decided that I should join them for lunch hours at the school’s anime club. After managing to evade and decline for several weeks, I finally caved and attended a meeting. They were screening Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, and while I was disinterested initially, by the time the movie finished, I was moved. That evening, I began hunting for the movie’s soundtrack, found the soundtracks for Ah! My Goddess‘ 2005 anime, and decided to give that a whirl. While I never did finish, the episodes I did watch of Ah! My Goddess were modestly enjoyable, so when another friend wished for me to watch Gundam 00, I yielded and began watching the anime. In Gundam 00, I found something to look forwards to weekly, and while my interest in anime waned briefly during my first year of university, it returned in full force after I picked up Five Centimeters per Second. This brought my interests in anime back to life, leading me to watch Sora no Woto, and from there, my interests in anime are rather easier to follow, having been thoroughly chronicled here at this blog. Thus, for the remainder of this post, I turn my eyes towards looking at the movie that started it all.

Three years after her arrival on Earth, Belldandy and Keiichi Morisato begin their new term; recruiting for the different clubs is well under way, and the Motor Club, hopeful of gaining new members, showcase their vehicles. However, Toraichi Tamiya and Otaki Aoyama’s actions frighten off most prospective members, including the stern-looking Morgan. Later that evening, amidst the Motor Club’s celebrations, Belldandy encounters her old mentor, Celestin. Unbeknownst to her, Celestin had broken out of the lunar prison, and seeks to meet her. She collapses after Celestin kisses her, reawakening the next morning with no recollection of Keiichi. Meanwhile, Heaven’s supercomputer, Yggdrasil, has been compromised by a powerful virus: Peorth and her assistants are working around the clock to contain it, but in the meantime, much of their infrastructure is crippled. Skuld’s efforts to restore her memories are unsuccessful, and Keiichi agrees to make the most of things. He breaks news of her situation to the Motor Club; the members are disheartened, as there is an upcoming race. Morgan arrives and agrees – the trial’s results are solid, and watching the pair race leads Belldandy to recall some of her past memories with Keiichi. The next day, Belldandy comes across some old photographs of her and Keiichi: she decides to participate in the race in spite of her amnesia. Later, Belldandy overhears a conversation between Urd and Keiichi, revealing that Celestin was responsible. It turns out that he had rebelled against the Gods, destroyed the Gate of Judgement, and intends to continue his machinations to destroy the current world and create a new one, free of all suffering. Feeling she’s brought only suffering to Keiichi, Belldandy accepts a dangerous procedure that will eliminate the virus but also clear her memories. In order to deliver this program, Heaven directly links with Belldandy, allowing the virus to override Yggdrasil’s core functions, exposing the tree itself and a leviathan that attacks the trunks. Out of options, Peorth authorises a direct strike using Gungnir; refusing to allow Keiichi to die in the strike, Keiichi and Belldandy move to block the attack after they convince Celestin to assist. Transported to the Gate of Judgement in the aftermath, Belldandy and Keiichi pass Heaven’s test. Belldandy returns to Earth, and with both Urd and Skuld’s help, they restore Yggdrasil with their song and eliminate the virus. With the damage to Heaven records, Belldandy offers Keiichi a new wish, and Keiichi uses it to reignite their love for one another.

An off-shoot of the Ah! My Goddess series, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie adapts none of the elements from its source manga, and instead, focuses on the nature of love. This particular theme has been explored extensively in the 2005 TV series, whereas the prior OVAs’ short runtimes meant that the comedic situations and situations that Keiichi and Belldandy find themselves in dominated any sort of overarching theme. With this in mind, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie presents a much more tangible idea, in that the time Keiichi and Belldandy have spent together is precious, creating feelings that can survive even the most ardent tests that fate and the heavens have set against them. Despite losing her memories and subsequently made to stand before the Gate of Judgement, it turns out that (unsurprisingly) the love Keiichi and Belldandy have is genuine. While Morgan has seen loss before the Gate of Judgement and consequently despises the heavens for marking clearly what constitutes a relationship of value, she later learns that there can be love in the world, making it worth protecting. That love is very much a reality thus forms the main message for Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, and the movie’s climax, featuring Belldandy, Urd and Skuld wielding their feelings to run a system restore on Yggdrasil, serves to emphasise this point further. Although this theme is an immensely familiar one by this point in time, it was my first exposure to such a portrayal (and anime in general), and in the movie, I found an exceptionally moving story.

Screenshot and Commentary

  • Being a combination movie discussion and serving as a bit of a milestone for this blog, I’m classifying this post both as a general discussion post (for the milestone) and as an anime reflections post (for the fact I’ll be running through Ah! My Goddess: The Movie). The occasion also means that I will be running with forty screenshots in this Ah! My Goddess: The Movie post. The movie was released in 2000 and runs for 100 minutes, making it perfect to be watched over the course of several lunch breaks, each lasting some forty minutes.

  • One of the initial limitations about the movie is that it is not particularly friendly for first-timers, who won’t know how Keiichi and Belldandy first met. Prior to 2000, it would have been necessary to either have some background with the manga or the OVAs, which show Keiichi making a phone call, only to connect to Belldandy, who arrives to grant any one wish of his. Certain it’s deception from his seniors, he decides to test things and asks her to stay with him. Here, it’s spring, a new semester, and the Motor Club is recruiting new members; Keiichi initially joined owing to his interests in mechanical engineering. He himself is capable as a mechanic and highly skilled as a racer, demonstrating a new vehicle here in the film’s opening.

  • The unusual dynamics between Belldandy and Keiichi drive the romance-comedy aspect of Ah! My Goddess, but these elements tend to be present in the manga and TV series – overall, the movie comes across as being more of a romance-drama, having a much greater focus on what love means to both Belldandy and Keiichi. The two share a moment under the cherry blossoms here, after a misunderstanding causes Belldandy to take off.

  • Celestin is Belldandy’s former mentor, and after a short introduction, incapacitates Belldandy. Bearing the appearance of ancient deities from Chinese folklore, his actions come from well-intentions, but his “means justify the end” outlook paints him as the films main antagonist. Only seen in the movie, Celestin does not return in the 2005 series, which is a re-telling of the entire story and places a much greater emphasis on comedy than drama.

  • When they return home that evening, mysterious crystals have formed on Holy Bell, Belldandy’s resident angel. The dynamic between Heaven and Earth is portrayed as one powerful computer system that manages reality; the system would suggest that all of existence is a simulation (akin to but rather more being than the one seen in The Matrix), and Heaven’s entities are caretakers to the system. With this in mind, I arrived on Ah! My Goddess much too late (2007-2008) to see much discussion on it, and so, any speculation on how their world actually works is likely to be lost to time.

  • When Celestin kissed Belldandy, he copies a virus into her that impacts her memories, completely eliminating her memories of Keiichi. The anomolies are noticed in heaven, where Yggdrasil’s technicians notice a virus moving through their systems. Fictional computer viruses are always portrayed as something that can be traced, moving through a system and methodically targeting systems, leaving a clear signature behind. Real-world viruses are rather more dull, with most writing themselves onto regions of a hard drive and duplicate themselves before executing their functions: doubtlessly, this is very difficult to visualise, hence the stylistic choices movies take.

  • Peorth stands before the highest members of Heaven’s leadership to report on the situation. The Peorth seen in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie is serious, dedicated and focused on her duties, standing in stark contrast with her depiction in the other works – she is rather more flirtatious (thank goodness for spell-checking, I believe this is only the second time I’ve had to use this term) and does her utmost to win Keiichi over from Belldandy initially as revenge, only to do so for real when she realises that she harbours feelings for Keiichi, as well.

  • In the morning, Skuld exhausts her memory-enhancing devices that were intended to help her remember Keiichi; the most effective device only allows her to recall that she’d forgotten to give Keiichi her business cards (remark: that Goddesses have business cards is an interesting one). In the face of adversity, Keiichi and Urd settle on that it is probably best to try and live as normally as possible, a method that is often suggested by experts in order to survive challenging times.

  • A færie of sorts, Morgan was the one who had freed Celestin from his imprisonment on the lunar surface at the movie’s beginning with the goal of assisting him. With her hime-cut and narrow eyes, she possesses the characteristics of the stern ojou-sama archetype while in human form, and is seen communicating with Celestin while he is in a more mobile form.

  • The Motor Club grows disheartened to learn that Belldandy has become amnesiac, made especially difficult by the fact that they have an upcoming race. When I first watched the movie, I wondered if the race itself would be seen in-movie, but this turned out not to be the case, being a secondary element to the machinations that Celestin is planning. Morgan steps up and offers to race in Belldandy’s place.

  • The two seem to perform quite well, triggering some memories for Belldandy. This moment suggests that, however sophisticated the algorithm that Celestin used, some of her memories endure. This moment also begins to showcase the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra’s exceptional performance with the film’s soundtrack: the song playing as Keiichi and Morgan fly across the track is titled “Kizuna Motomete” (“Searching for a connection”) is a majestic piece with horns, strings and woodwinds that captures the rush of speed on a racetrack in a highly elegant manner. The entire soundtrack is an amazing listen that really brings out the emotional tenour of each moment in the film.

  • The different tracks convey different feelings, ranging from longing and hopefulness, to doubt and confusion in the film’s darker moments, masterfully using specific instruments to create a very unique sound that evokes a very particular feeling in every scene of the movie. It is the first anime soundtrack I’ve listened to, and stands even against the likes of Howard Shore or Hans Zimmer with respect to quality.

  • Despite lacking her memories of Keiichi, Belldandy nonetheless strives to fulfill her directive in the knowledge that her original goal was to help Keiichi find happiness, and here, prepares a fantastic evening meal for him. Back in high school, for my art class, one of the works I made for an art class was a playing card, the Queen of Spades, featuring Belldandy. It was here that I realised that Kōsuke Fujishima renders ears in a very distinct manner, with concentric rings visible in place of the structures of the Auricle.

  • Later, she finds a photo album detailing the time they’ve spent together. Realising the depth of their relationship, Belldandy resolves to restart anew and learn more about Keiichi. While Ah! My Goddess: The Movie is an older film, the artwork remains of a superb quality and can stand against modern titles with respect to detail and smoothness. However, the character designs in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie clearly are from an older age: the 2005 incarnation of Ah! My Goddess features a Belldandy and Keiichi with larger eyes.

  • My last lecture was eleven months ago, but I still recall the days when I attended classes in large lecture halls. While some of the newer lecture halls have spacious desks, other, older facilities were remarkably cramped: I did not field a laptop at all throughout my undergraduate, and even though I had access to MacBook Pro laptops during graduate school, I continued to take notes by hand, since material proved easier to recall if I had handwritten it. Keiichi is shown to study German, and here, is hauled out of lecture by Morgan. Ah! My Goddess is one of the anime I’m familiar with to feature university-level characters, compared to almost everything else I’ve got, which is set during the high school range.

  • Despite having no memories of Keiichi, Belldandy recovers more of her memories when she agrees to a challenge that Morgan presents: in a mock race, Keiichi and Belldandy handily best Morgan and her partner, Megumi (Keiichi’s younger sister). Unlike the song played during Keiichi and Morgan’s first run, the competition has a much more urgent sense to it. While most of the songs in the soundtrack are orchestral, there are a few songs that make use of electronic and synthesiser elements, giving them an other-worldly vibe.

  • Bothered by her memories, and the realisation that Celestin was responsible for her memory loss, Belldandy is drawn by a moving light crystal and follows it to a coastal installation, where Celestin reveals himself and tells her the story of why he’s returned. Unwilling to accept Heaven’s mandate, he sought to destroy the Gate of Judgement (showing Morgan and her lover crossing it, only to be separated forever). His actions also led to the destruction of other entities, causing Heaven to issue an arrest warrant for him.

  • When Heaven sends out beings to arrest Celestin, Belldandy slaughters them. She is taken in, and in the aftermath of the incident, is deemed too valuable an asset to lose. Hence, Heaven suppresses her memories of the incident and allows her to continue as a Goddess, while Celestin is tried and imprisoned on the lunar surface for all time. Had SATO explored the moon, however, they would be unlikely to locate Celestin’s prison: the film’s opening shows Morgan as passing through a portal to reach him.

  • One of the best-known anime review sites out there notes that there’s a “scene in which Urd kisses Belldandy might startle Westerners…unaccustomed to that”, but she’s actually transferring a special potion to Belldandy via mouth-to-mouth. Upon seeing that for the first time, I assumed that Urd was taking the potion for herself, so trying was their situation, but it seems to make little sense on closer inspection, hence the newer conclusion. The same site gives this movie a perfect rating, counting it as a masterpiece

  • Urd and Skuld arrive on station, but Belldandy, still under Celestin’s influence, begins to engage Urd in a direct confrontation. Urd is plainly holding back, aware that Belldandy is not fully in control of her powers. In the aftermath, Skuld lashes out at Celestin, releasing a large amount of water. Keiichi manages to protect Belldandy from this torrent but is knocked unconscious, later reawakening back home.

  • Back in high school, this scene did not particularly make much sense, but it appears to be a visual representation of the present Belldandy accepting the past Belldandy’s mistakes, reassuring her past-self that things are going to be alright. The rationale for “past and present self” is based on visual elements within this moment that should become apparent merely by staring at this screenshot. This scene is accompanied by a synthesiser-like instrument that brings to mind the instrumentals from Miyazaki’s Totoro, giving it a very surreal, yet comforting feeling, and coming to an acceptance about herself, Belldandy manages to prevent her powers from running amok.

  • While Belldandy’s character remains largely unchanged in Ah! My Goddess‘ 2005 incarnation, Urd, Skuld and Peorth are markedly different with respect to their personalities. One of the biggest strengths in the movie that is lacking in the TV series are the implications of higher-order beings interacting within a world of mortals: comedy reigns supreme in the 2005 television series, with the antagonists motivated by weaker elements than Celestin, who shows that there can be dissent amongst the Gods with respect to how Heaven runs. Consequently, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie ends up having a very well-defined narrative compared to the looser feel that Ah! My Goddess‘ 2005 series (and its second season) conveys

  • Belldandy’s jealousy is an aspect of her character that has been exploited on numerous occasions in the TV series, and is never too far from the forefront of discussion in the movie – subtly hinted at when she inadvertently causes glass bottles to shatter during the Motor Club’s party earlier in the movie as a result of seeing Sora and Megumi clinging to Keiichi. Celestin exploits this, and here, Morgan forces a kiss unto Keiichi that Belldandy witnesses. She takes off, her feelings tumultuous as she struggles to comprehend what she saw.

  • Keiichi and Belldandy share a moment together after Belldandy decides to accept a dangerous procedure that might wipe her memories entirely. Keiichi resolves that, whether or not Belldandy’s memories are restored, they can start again as many times as they need. This lends itself to the page quote, a rarity in that it was taken directly from the movie rather than being a generic quote or a mutated one. Throughout these moments, the song “Hoping For Happiness” can be heard playing in the background. A truly wistful song, the single element that stands out is a flute that materialises when Belldandy walks into the temple hall; the short motif captures Belldandy’s gentle yet determined spirits.

  • I listened to the whole of Ah! My Goddess: The Movie‘s soundtrack during the summer of 2007, having only previously heard individual songs. I subsequently loaded up the tunes onto my iPod and took the album, amongst others, with me during my vacation in Yellowstone National Park. The hills in the backdrop here bring to mind the hills of Yellowstone’s western end, which has gentler slopes than the eastern end. At this point in the film, it’s the deep breath before the plunge. Progressing at a steady rate up until now, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie‘s pacing quickens as the movie enters its final stage.

  • The delivery of a “Vaccine”, really the execution of an anti-virus program, serves to only exacerbate the situation further by offering a direct connection between Belldandy and Yggdrasil’s mainframe systems. As it turns out, anti-virus programs are becoming increasingly ineffective in the face of new techniques of introducing viruses and malware into a system: while the programs themselves can remain effective, it is social engineering employed by criminals that allow these programs to enter and compromise a system. Like how Belldandy’s memories of Celestin allow him to damage Yggdrasil, most viruses out there arise as a consequence of inadequate caution.

  • Belldandy comes to recall Celestin more fully in a flashback; he resurrects a dead bird and takes her under his wing, eventually raising a capable goddess who graduates with top honours but is also a little naïve about the nature of reality. This moment here brings to mind the dynamics between children and adults: the problems that children face, from their perspective, are world-breakers, but having been around for a considerably longer time, adults can quickly locate solutions. It’s similar to how children would approach me with broken crafts during my time as a TA for children, and I would fix said craft, restoring their cheerfulness in the process.

  • Celestin presumably has root access into Yggdrasil (technical jargon referring to the ability to completely modify and access all parts of an operating system, including critical system files), allowing him to summon a physical manifestation of the World Tree, along with a vast being that begins hacking at the tree (likely deleting data that runs the universe and allowing Celestin to rewrite the world in his image). Belldandy’s initial efforts to stop them are futile: Morgan uses Force lightning to slow her down before taking off.

  • Transforming into their combat attire, Skuld and Urd attempt to stop the being from dealing any more damage to the system. Despite summoning an exceptionally powerful blast of lightning, the being is protected by an energy shield that repels all attack. Morgan subsequently engages in battle with Urd to buy Celestin more time to complete is machinations.

  • Possessing Keiichi’s body, Celestin explains to Belldandy the rationale for his plans. I’ve typically found that misguided idealists often make the most intriguing villians, since their cause and initial reasoning for executing a particular plan is prompted by a desire to do what they feel is correct. However, their methods wind up being inappropriate, either causing unnecessary death or destruction. Such villains are not above seeing the error of their ways, either accepting the protagonists’ perspectives or else gracefully yielding when bested (Gundam Unicorn‘s Full Frontal and Raʾs al-Ġūl of Batman Begins come to mind).

  • Belldandy’s facial design in the movie allows her to properly be depicted with a serious expression as she counters Celestin, explaining that happiness and sorrow can only exist in the other’s presence. She arms herself and prepares to stop Celestin, donning a combat suit of her own. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen Ah! My Goddess, and I think that last I checked, there were some OVAs bundled with home releases back in 2011.

  • Higher up in the branches, Skuld drops a pair of explosives resembling the Model 24 Stielhandgranate. Essentially a cluster of grenades taped together to yield a larger explosion, they could deal damage to armour of the WWI era and are equipped by Battlefield 1‘s assault class for anti-armour combat. However effective they might have been historically against armour, the modernised versions Skuld uses deals no damage against the leviathan hacking away at Yggdrasil.

  • It stands to reason that this behemoth of an entity is a program tailored by Celestin to destroy Yggdrasil. Since I no real remarks about this entity, except maybe to re-dub it “Walrus Face”, I will take a look at the inconsistencies between Ah! My Goddess and Oh! My Goddess. In Japanese, ああっ女神さまっ is romanised as “Aa! Megami-sama“, so phonetically, “Ah!” makes sense, but the authors meant for it to convey a similar meaning as “Oh my God”, hence, Oh! My Goddess is technically correct. However, I’ve typed it out as Ah! My Goddess for the past ten years, and all sources seem to give the title as “Ah!”, as well, so this is what I will stick with.

  • In response to their desperate situation, Heaven authorises the use of Gungnir, which manifests in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie as an energy sphere whose effects on organics are unknown as Belldandy moves to stop the sphere from impacting Celestin. Realising her devotion to Keiichi, Celestin concedes and helps her stop the weapon. Like almost everything else in Ah! My Goddess, Gungnir is inspired by Odin’s spear of Norse mythology, being so well-crafted that it could strike any target with perfect accuracy.

  • There should be no doubt as to Keiichi and Belldandy make it through the Gate of Judgement. The song that plays, “Testimony Between Us”, when they pass through together, is a triumphant song brimming with optimism and faith.

  • Their faith stands against the Gods’ exams – Belldandy and Keiichi find themselves staring at a verdant alpine forest that would not look too out of place in either the Canadian Rockies or parts of Yellowstone National Park. Realising that the system is not rigged to pull people apart, Morgan resolves to stay behind and pass on the two’s story. Their love for one another reaffirmed, Belldandy finds a renewed spirit in her to set things right: she and Keiichi return back to Earth.

  • While the damage done is immense, Belldandy is confident that by putting their true feelings into song, they can yet save Yggdrasil. Together with Urd and Skuld, Belldandy reverts her gear back into her default Goddess state, and they begin singing Coro Di Dea, a song written in Latin that, despite its sort length, brought a single tear to my eye, followed by several more individual tears. It’s the first time I cried when watching an anime, so moving was the song – this is the magic moment, that turning point that triggered my interest in anime.

  • Coro Di Dea is probably the equivalent of a combination of a powerful virus quarentine and Windows’ System Restore tool; the latter allows users to restore their operating system back to a functional state without altering the file, but is ill-advised for removing viruses, which can hide themselves in temporary files. The Goddess’ song prompts Peorth and the others to begin singing, as well, rapidly repairing Yggdrasil. With the crisis over, some of the other Goddesses remark that they’d love to take a break, but Peorth orders them back to work to ensure the system is stable.

  • Dawn settles over the world; with the restore and all that has happened to Yggdrasil over the past several days, Belldandy notes that all records have been removed of past wishes, leaving Keiichi free to make his wish to be with Belldandy forever once more. Skuld and Urd share a humorous exchange in the film’s final moments. The question then becomes: what is my verdict for this movie? With its standalone and cohesive narrative, fantastic artwork and top-tier soundtrack, it’s easy to give this movie a strong recommendation to existing anime fans. New viewers might not find this an appropriate gateway into anime, but will nonetheless enjoy the film.

  • Quantitatively, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie earns an A+, a 10 of 10 – clear and precise in its message, and delivering a song that can make someone as stoic as myself to shed several tears, this here’s a fantastic film that left a very profound impact on me. So ends Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, and with it, my first-ever proper Ah! My Goddess discussion here, along with the 800th post. Regular discussion resumes with the upcoming posts, where I will be taking a look at Gabriel Dropout and Titanfall 2, alongside my thoughts of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare at the halfway point.

Because Ah! My Goddess: The Movie was my first-ever anime, there existed almost no baselines for which to compare it against at the time. However, the artwork, narrative, character dynamics and world-building that I did see in the movie came together to create a standalone story that was well-worth watching. I thoroughly enjoyed Ah! My Goddess: The Movie following watching it ten years ago, and even now, the movie remains reasonably enjoyable on its merits. This movie set in motion my interests in anime, and by the time Gundam 00 had begun airing, anime-watching became one of my hobbies. While seemingly a frivolous one, watching anime and discussing it with friends motivated me to start a website to write about my thoughts. The practise of writing bolstered my writing skills: prior to anime, my written English was of a low standard, leading one of my high school instructors to wonder if English was a second language for me (for the record, it is: Cantonese Chinese is my first language). By the time I was through Gundam 00, writing to clearly express an idea became second nature for me, and in my final year of high school, the same English instructor had wondered what precipitated such a profound change in my writing. My enjoyment of anime and the attendant enjoyment of writing would carry over to university; I was more fond of writing papers than my peers. Maintaining my website and writing in university created a sort of positive feedback loop, and eventually resulted in the creation of this blog, as well as affording me the practise to write a graduate thesis paper. It’s surprising as to how much of an impact a single anime movie had, and ultimately, the learnings from having watched (and reflected upon) Ah! My Goddess: The Movie is that an open mind can create paths that are unexpected, but also highly fulfilling. This is certainly not a bad legacy for a movie that’s now seventeen years old, to say the least.