The Infinite Zenith

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Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (The World in Colours): Review and Reflections At The Halfway Point

“You cannot beat a river into submission; you have to surrender to its current, and use its power as your own.” –The Ancient One, Doctor Strange

Kohaku arrives back in Nagasaki from her travels abroad, and her classmates itch for her to demonstrate her magic. Kohaku asks Hitomi to aid her, creating an illusion resembling the English school she studied at. However, when Hitomi unconsciously injects her own magic into Kohaku’s spell, a steam train passes through and covers the classroom in smoke. While surprised to learn that Hitomi is her granddaughter, Kohaku nonetheless sets out to help Hitomi; she agrees to join the Photography and Arts Club, on the condition that it be rebranded as the Magic-Photograph-and-Arts Club. To give Hitomi a better sense of monochrome photography, the club decides to visit the school at night and photograph the Nagasaki cityscape. Later, Asagi is disappointed to learn that her feelings for Shō are not reciprocated when Kohaku tells her fortune, and when Yuito appears at the magic shop in search of something that might help him overcome a slump, Hitomi struggles to find something suitable. At Kohaku’s suggestion, she decides to craft her own star-sand for him. Later, Magic-Photograph-and-Arts Club gather to celebrate their status as a club, where Hitomi manages to give Yuito her star-sand. The club go on an outing for photography, and here, Hitomi manages to enter one of Yuito’s drawings, being frightened by a black figure attempting to capture the golden fish that she’d previously seen in his drawings. Upon reawakening, Hitomi tries to question Yuito about this, but he storms off. Speaking with her friends, she attempts to muster the courage to talk to him again. Hitomi and Kohaku find Yuito at Sanami Asakawa’s art exhibition. Sanami is Yuito’s senior and Yuito is seeking her counsel. When Hitomi spots Yuito, she runs off, but with encouragement from Kohaku, Yuito gives chase. He catches up to Hitomi and promises to draw something that he’ll show her when finished. Moved, Hitomi begins seeing the world in colour again.

That Hitomi recovers her ability to resolve colour again at The World in Colours‘ halfway point was somewhat unexpected, but is also unsurprising owing to P.A. Works’ propensity for advancing the narrative quickly. At this point in time, the explanation for why Yuito’s drawings alone are unique for Hitomi remain unexplored, and with her colour vision returning in full, audiences are expected to conclude that there is, without any doubt, something special about Yuito and his drawings. That she ended up in his house in the first episode, and sees her first bit of colour in his drawings, are indicators that Yuito is going to be instrumental in helping Hitomi find what she was seeking when returning to the world sixty years previously. At this point in time, however, what Hitomi is seeking has become more open-ended – I imagine that colour vision is ancillary to the root cause of why Hitomi lost her sense of colour to begin with. This root cause will doubtlessly be the underlying aspect of the episodes remaining in The World in Colours. For the time being, Kohaku’s arrival into The World in Colours has certainly given the anime new colour; forward, outgoing and a people-person, Kohaku disrupts the dynamic and creates newfound energy in the series to spur the characters forward. However, it is also shown that Kohaku is someone who is often caught up in the moment and does not stop to consider the consequences of her actions. She is, in short, the perfect foil to the reserved Hitomi, whose personality is dominated by reservation and reluctance. Much as how Kohaku pushes Hitomi out of her comfort zone, Hitomi’s slower approach to things could influence Kohaku to be more considerate before acting. With all of the major players on stage, The World in Colours has taken off, and halfway in, is providing a solid display thus far.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The visual aspect of The World in Colours are doubtlessly impressive, and present a very vivid image of Nagasaki that is as magical as the magic the Witches themselves produce. At its best, P.A. Works have created incredibly detailed worlds and environments that contribute much to the story-telling: like Kyoto Animation, CoMix Wave and Studio Ghibli, subtle details in lighting and colour are masterfully used to augment emotions conveyed by dialogue and sound.

  • Even at the halfway point, I am inclined to dismiss discussions of causality and any disruptions introduced by time travel for the simple fact that The World in Colours is not about time travel, but rather, uses time travel to accommodate the story. The World in Colours treats time travel similarly to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, which sees the time traveler explore future societies and discover that class conflicts endured, as well as how faith in progress is a hubris present in humanity. How the time machine itself works in The Time Machine is secondary to its use in fleshing out these themes, and because time travel is not used again in The World in Colour, there is little reason to write a treatise on how it works here.

  • Upon returning, Kohaku gifts her classmates tea from her travels abroad, before proceeding to demonstrate some magic. While Kohaku’s magic is very much considered to be bombastic and even destructive, her classmates have an interest in its effects and gather in anticipation. Kohaku is shown to be in control of her magic, being able to use it with proficiency and conviction; this stands in contrast with Hitomi, who has less control and like the children with magical abilities, can produce magic unconsciously.

  • The World in Colours utilises a familiar mechanic to drive Hitomi’s development: while her time with the Photography and Arts Club could have introduced changes in how she approached things, this would have been a very gradual change. Kohaku, on the other hand, has the potential to introduce changes in a shorter time frame: this is an appropriate choice considering that The World in Colours only has thirteen episodes.

  • While Hitomi’s initial adjustments to contemporary society were noticeable, the series places a lesser emphasis on her inexperience with some present-day implements. Matt Groening’s Futurama initially had Phillip Fry doing the same, but the writers knew that the “fish out of water” jokes stemming from Fry’s immersion into a society a thousand years from now were limited. While amusing, Futurama really began excelling once it began exploring the eccentricities of a future world, and in later episodes, utilise the time separation to create very meaningful and moving stories.

  • By evening, the Photography and Arts Club return to the school to photograph the cityscape from the rooftop. Present-day Nagasaki is a lot more reserved and low-key than the portrayal of its cityscape sixty years into the future, creating a gentle, quite backdrop for the club’s activities. In its use of blue lighting, the cityscape that P.A. Works crafts ends up having both a ethereal and cold feeling, creating a sense of detachment and distance. It is both beautiful and wistful.

  • One of the longstanding challenges with night photography is that the lower lighting (and corresponding number of photons impacting the CCD chips in a camera) is that images can turn out to be quite noisy or blurry. The noise comes from the CCD chip: daytime photos do not have this issue because there is enough light coming into the camera so as not to require any amplification, but when it is dark, the chip will amplify the signals, which results in noise. This can be manually tuned in better cameras, and photography guides recommend lowering the ISO and increasing exposure to improve image quality for night photography.

  • Their journey is a simple one, but Kurumi ends up being scared stiff by the prospects of their school being haunted. While the others head up top, she insists on staying behind on the ground, and Chigusa accompanies her until Kohaku uses her magic to create a “ghost” that frightens the pair through the school, allowing everyone to bet together again. The moment is peaceful, and the club activities subsequently go into full swing afterwards.

  • Hitomi manages to cast a magical train into the night sky with her magic, creating a memorable moment for the others. It is apparent in this screenshot that there are a vast number of stars in the sky, and while creating a magical moment, P.A. Works’ choice to do so also comes at the cost to realism: light pollution charts show that on the Bortle Scale, Nagasaki is a 7-8. This corresponds with a grey sky by night, and magnitude 4 stars are the faintest stars that can be seen. In my area, substantial efforts have been made to curb light pollution, and we’ve gone from a Bortle Scale of 6 back to a 5 with the installation of ground-facing LED lights.

  • When Kohaku joins the Photography and Arts Club, she rebrands it the Magic-Photography-and-Arts Club, bringing to mind the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club of Tari Tari. Themes of self-discovery also make a return, and romance is subtly present, being a natural part of the characters rather than occupying the foreground. Here, a variation of Kanagawa-oki nami ura (“The Great Wave off Kanagawa”) can be seen in the clubroom: it’s a famous, immediately-recognisable painting created by Katsushika Hokusai as a part of his Thiry-Six Views of Mt. Fuji.

  • While I’m inclined to place my faith in sciences and the concrete, I admit that there can be a bit of fun in things like fortune-telling. For instance, looking through my Chinese horoscopes for this year, it was interesting to see how much actually holds true (although the real science behind a horoscope is that it’s vague enough so everything is technically true). In The World in Colours, Kohaku tells Asagi’s fortune pertaining romance and finds that Asagi’s luck is roughly equivalent to that of mine.

  • The different varieties of Star Sand look absolutely beautiful, and I would not begrudge anyone for wanting to keep a vial of Star Sand as a gentle light source of sorts. The properties of Star Sand are such that they can capture magic for later use, and depending on what magic is placed into the sand, the effects will vary. Here, Hitomi speaks to Kohaku’s grandmother, and is asked to look after the shop, and later encounters Yuito, who is seeking a Star Sand to motivate his drawing.

  • Ever the go-getter, Kohaku suggests that Hitomi create her own Star Sand. The circular opening in their rooms here is an interesting visual representation of connectivity: Hitomi and Kohaku peek through it from time to time to communicate with one another, and the opening in the wall is meant to signify that for the two, both are always right there for one another if need be.

  • Spurred on, Hitomi ends up giving Kohaku’s suggestion a go, and burns through several batches of Star Sand before succeeding in creating the Star Sand. Hitomi’s grasp of magic and Kohaku’s suggestions to her are mirrored in the page quote: her reluctance now appears to be her biggest limitation, and while Kohaku has not formally mentored Hitomi in magic, I imagine that spending time with Kohaku and the club members will help Hitomi build the confidence she needs to embrace her magic.

  • Looking back on the calendar, I’ve actually only got one other post for November, and we’re very nearly halfway into the month. During the Remembrance Day long weekend, I took advantage of the pleasant weather to take a hike in the nearby Grassi Lakes trail, which branches into an easy and difficult path. The difficult path takes one along a cliffside with a good view of Canmore below, but at this time of year, it’s also more dangerous, since the cold weather and streams create ice patches. However, the hike was worthwhile, and the Grassi Lakes themselves are beautiful.

  • We pushed further on up a rocky area towards Whitemans Pond, and then made the difficult descent back down to the trail-head. Per our usual custom, a Montréal Smoked Meat Poutine with bacon, mushrooms and sautéed onions at 514 Poutine followed: on a cool day after a hike, a hearty and flavourful poutine with a refreshing Spruce Beer is exactly what one needs to unwind after a walk. The remainder of the afternoon was spent doing a much easier walk along the spur line trail at the heart of Canmore, before heading back home and gearing up for a raclette party. Back in The World in Colours, Asagi and Hitomi look at the food Shō has brought, including fried chicken, katsu and fries: he deliberately chose so as a courtesy to Hitomi.

  • Hitomi expresses to Kohaku that she’d like to give Yuito the Star Sand she’d made, and Kohaku creates an opening, sending the two off to pick up drinks. Asagi later speaks with Kohaku about her feelings for Shō, admitting that she wanted to help Hitomi out because it she saw a bit of herself in Hitomi. Worried that a more outgoing Hitomi might captivate Shō, Asagi is conflicted by her friendship with Hitomi and a longing to have Shō see her as more than an ordinary friend.

  • Under a swift sunset, Hitomi gives Yuito the Star Sand, and he promises to give it a go. Hitomi reveals to Yuito that his drawings are special to her, and in this moment, the colours of Nagasaki are faded away, giving the scene a dream-like quality.

  • Asagi’s doubts are reinforced when she hears Shō speak of Hitomi and worrying about her ability to adapt to life sixty years before her time. Insofar, I’ve not seen any indicators that Shō has feelings for Hitomi; his concern and actions stem from worrying about her as a friend, although Asagi’s worries about losing Shō come to the foreground. She later speaks with Kohaku, who reminds her that fortunes are not absolute.

  • For having directed Hitomi towards using the high quality Star Sand, Kohaku lands herself in hot water and is made to clean up the ruined sand, suggesting that the sand itself can reused in some conditions and likely will have a weaker effect than using good quality sand.

  • A quick glance ahead into the future shows that The World in Colours‘ soundtrack will release on February 2, 2019 and retail for 15120 Yen (176 CAD at present exchange rates). The tracklist and number of tracks is not yet known, but the soundtrack is quite compelling and adds depth to an already impressive series. On the other hand, The World in Colours‘ opening and ending songs have been released for quite some time. Haruka to Miyuki’s “17-sai” is the opening song, and Yanagi Nagi performs the ending song, “Mimei no Kimi to Hakumei no Mahō”.

  • As Yuito’s artwork takes on increasing prominence in The World in Colours, some folks are beginning to wonder if artistic symbolism might be necessary to appreciate the anime in full. I would expect that even in the absence of a complete understanding, The World in Colours should remain quite comprehensible to viewers. Hopefully, any “analysis” akin to the sort seen during the days of Glasslip will not manifest: I’m getting to be a little old to be dispelling any untruths about shows of this sort from folks who excel at little more than purple prose.

  • If memory serves, Sakura Quest was as detailed and pleasing to the eyes to watch as The World in Colours, as was Hanasaku IrohaTari Tari, Nagi no Asukara and Angel Beats!. It suddenly strikes me that I’ve never actually done a proper review of Angel Beats! before, and when I stop to consider where this blog is headed for the future, a future that will likely see me rolling back posting frequency, I think it makes sense for me to go back and write about those series that really set the standard for what I’ve come to look for in series that I watch.

  • It was quite fun to see the Magic-Photography-and-Arts Club go on an excursion where they dress up in Victorian-style outfits for the camera. The whole club enjoys their outing, and it’s a chance to simply watch the club amidst their activities. A part of the joy in these clubs with more than one focus is that there’s always something new to be exploring. In my experience, being multidisciplinary means being able to apply problem-solving methodologies from one discipline into another to create novel, and sometimes even more effective solutions. In the case of anime, it means there is never a dull moment.

  • Asagi later returns to her preferred subjects for photography after the group disperses and pursues their own activities. Looking ahead into The World in Colour, I anticipate that while this series will not be quite as sincere as Tari Tari or as relatable as Sakura Quest, it will continue to strike that balance between the fantastical and ordinary, and in doing so, succeed in telling its story. In retrospect, Glasslip‘s limitation was not exploring and making use of the glass beads in a greater capacity: the penultimate episode’s focus on an alternate reality should have been replaced by a full episode dealing with the glass beads much earlier in the season to motivate their significance.

  • Hitomi finds Yuito drawing again, and this time, she manages to enter his drawing: a richly-coloured world that slowly transitions from a fantastical cityscape to a barren desert. Hitomi wonders what the meaning of the black shadow is, and when she recounts her thoughts to Yuito, Yuito grows angry and leaves, feeling that she is intruding into something private. Later that evening, a rainfall covers the area, mirroring the mood that Hitomi is in. I found the visuals to be very impressive. Whether it be the lens flare or reflection of light from wet surfaces, P.A. Works’ rainy scenes are particularly well done, having a photo-realistic quality to them.

  • While Hitomi is now saddened that Yuito is unhappy with her, Kohaku sees it differently; she tells Hitomi that fighting with friends is a natural occurrence and imagines that the two will patch things up in no time at all.  Kohaku astutely likens life to being like a hedgehog: these mammals are covered with defensive spines to prevent predation, and as pets, they can be tricky to care for. Kohaku mentions that they inadvertently hurt those who care for them, but this won’t change the fact that their owners love them.

  • Sanami Asakawa is Yuito’s senior, someone that Yuito looks up to and likely was someone who inspired Yuito to take up drawing. Lacking the inspiration to continue his own drawings, Yuito seeks her help to see what motivates her, and Sanami mentions that she’s nervous about the future, drawing only to stay focused. I know this feeling very well, and remark that some days, it commands one’s full efforts to take things one step at a time because of how uncertain the future is.

  • Upon seeing Hitomi, Yuito takes off after her, promising to draw something to show her. In this instant, Hitomi finally begins resolving the world in colour again. I’ve seen very little discussion on The World in Colours out there, and of those few, at least one has hastily concluded that the return of colour is meant to indicate that Hitomi is falling in love with Yuito. While it is the case that colour is used as a framing device, there is very little to otherwise suggest this is the case for now.

  • While I was doing my utmost to remain optimistic about Glasslip when its halfway point was reached, The World in Colour has had no trouble keeping me engaged and positive. For my readers, who’ve doubtlessly noticed the low post count here, things have been a little rough on my end to be scheduling posts with the same frequency that I once had, so I’m going to roll back my blogging so that I’ll write when I have the time to. With this being said, I am going to be writing about Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazarō, “Let’s Decorate the Promised Flowers in the Morning of Farewells” in English and Sayoasa for brevity) in full before November is out.

The World in Colours is another installment in a long line of titles from P.A. Works that inherit elements from its predecessors. In this case, The World in Colours draws from Tari Tari’s focus on the desire to discover oneself during a busy youth, and uses magic in a much more open manner than Glasslip, to accommodate its narrative. Having more visceral magic works to The World in Colours‘ favour – rather than standing in as a sometimes-obscure symbol of various meanings, the magic acts as a tool for influencing the narrative, both providing the unique setup that sent Hitomi back six decades, and also in driving the humour and drama within the series. Magic is regarded as just another discipline in The World in Colours, and so, while the precise nature of what Hitomi seeks might not have been explored yet, I could hazard a guess that The World in Colours is meant to tell a story of discovery and appreciation for one’s background, attained by way of a life-changing adventure with good company. Whether or not this holds true after all thirteen episodes is up for discussion; as more episodes are aired, the directions The World in Colours will take will become clearer. For the present, what is immediately clear is that The World in Colours has put up a top-tier visual and aural performance, adding additional incentive to keep up with and watch what is turning out to be an excellent offering: in more common terms, I showed up for the artwork and stayed for the story.

Anima Yell!- Review and Impressions After Three

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” ―Babe Ruth

Kohane Hatoya becomes enamoured with cheer-leading after seeing a riverside performance and decides to take it up when she becomes a high school student. On her first day of high school, after learning that her school has no cheer-leading club, she decides to start her own and decides to recruit experienced cheerleader Hizume Arima. While her initial efforts are unsuccessful, her persistence moves Hizume, who relents and agrees to join. They begin training, although Kohane’s wavering motivation appears to be an impediment. With Uki Sawatari’s assistance, Hizume is able to convince Kohane to keep moving forwards. Kohane longs for Uki to join the cheer-leading club, as well – she sees Hizume’s performance and consents to participate. However, exam season is upon the girls, forcing them to put their club activities on hold while they study. Later, the girls’ cheer-leading club becomes approved as an association, and turn their efforts towards helping fellow classmate Kon Akitsune convey her feelings to her private tutor. This is where we are three episodes in to Anima Yell!, this season’s Manga Time Kirara series that follows Kohane’s journey to become a cheerleader.

Like beach volleyball in Harukana Receive, my knowledge of cheer-leading is very limited, although insofar, this does not appear to be an impediment. Anima Yell! is immediately familiar to folks who’ve seen Manga Time Kirara series previously, and here, the notion of putting a club together is a very well-worn one. Having seen clubs all manners, from light music, to yosakoi, resurrecting a club and embarking on a journey with friends, old and new alike, is a staple in Manga Time Kirara. Messages of discovery, camaraderie and overcoming challenges are universal, and as such, series such as Anima Yell! have well-known outcomes before even the first episode has aired. In Anima Yell!, cheer-leading is the topic of focus; protagonist Kohane has no trouble fitting the role of a cheerleader, possessing all of the energy and very little in the way of physical capabilities. By comparison, her friends are rather more disciplined and physically capable of the role – as their journey progresses, Kohane will learn more about herself and her friends as they build up a small cheer-leading unit. What will be motivation to watch Anima Yell!, then will be the nature of the journey that occurs.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Kohane is Anima Yell!‘s protagonist, and the story proceeds primarily around her journey to focus on something of her own choosing after her longtime friend, Uki, urges her on. Kohane’s tendency to help and support those around her, even at a cost to herself, is her defining characteristic, and she also resembles Angel Beats!‘ Yui with her energy and enthusiasm. By comparison, Uki is more similar to Yuyushiki‘s Yui, who was serious and reserved.

  • Hizume is an experienced cheerleader, and whose performance is what led Kohane to seriously consider cheer-leading. Disappointed that their new high school has no cheer-leading club, Kohane decides to start her own, but invariably, without any talent or expertise, intially finds it difficult. When she encounters Hizume, Kohane goes on a mission of unbridled focus, determined to convince Hizume to join.

  • As it turns out, Hizume was ejected from her old cheer-leading group for excelling; others felt her to stand above them. It’s a situation one might compare to Hinata’s experiences in A Place Further Than The Universe, where Hinata’s performance in track and field spawned jealousy amongst her teammates. A part of Hinata’s struggle was coming to terms with things and making the most of her travels to Antarctica: seemingly an escape, she comes to learn what friendship is anew with Komari, Yuzuki and Shirase.

  • By comparison, Hizume’s experiences created a situation where she became quite worried about losing those near her. After rebuking Kohane’s efforts to recruit her, Hizume realises that she’s, in effect, driven Kohane off, and finds it awkward to speak with her the next day. However, par the course for a Manga Time Kirara series, protagonists rarely hold grudges, and the next day, Kohane continues her pursuit.

  • While enjoyable, and lacking the elements that make it a guilty pleasure, I find that Anima Yell! treads on extremely well-worn territory. As such, there is very little to discuss in the way of thematic elements and big-picture topics this early in the game, in turn corresponding to my difficulties in writing about series such as these consistently. However, simply because I find it difficult to write about a series does not mean the series was lacking, and there are many shows that I’ve enjoyed, that I don’t bother writing about.

  • Anima Yell! has average artwork: settings are very simplistic and flat. This design choice results in many open spaces; it presently results in expanses that the eye lingers upon, creating a sense of emptiness, but there is a reason why landscapes and interiors are simple. As Kohane and her friends get further into cheer-leading, their movement will fill that space, acting as a visual metaphor for how cheer-leading and its associated energy can bring a tangible change to the feel of an environment.

  • Kohane has acrophobia, and is usually unwilling to go anywhere elevated. While acrophobia is no laughing matter, Anima Yell! chooses to represent it as an obstacle that Kohane must overcome en route to becoming a cheerleader, showing her dedication to things. Her initial understanding of cheer-leading is likely equivalent to the average gamer’s understanding of the military, and as such, she makes many mistakes that Hizume is quick to point out.

  • Realising that Kohane is likely to stick it out and be with her, Hizume reluctantly accepts Kohane’s invitation to join the cheer-leading club, and promptly goes about setting up training for Kohane. Today was a bit of a quieter day, and I capitalised on slower things to enjoy a burger and fries from a nearby A&W: of the fast food chains that delivers reasonably good burgers and my favourite fries. I suppose that slice-of-life anime can be considered the fast food of shows: if made to a reasonable standard, they can be good in moderation.

  • A portion of the comedy in Anima Yell! comes from Kohane’s naïveté: she orders cheerleaders’ outfits, not knowing the implications of the source she orders from. The more rational Uki immediately declines to wear them. While she might be afraid of heights, Kohane strives to overcome this fear, and is also shown to be okay as long as she does not have a direct sight of how high up she is relative to the ground.

  • I empathise completely with Kohane’s situation in being inflexible: flexibility is an aspect of fitness that I am guilty of neglecting (I lift for strength and run for endurance), and a well-written article out there states that having the strength to lift things and the endurance to last long doesn’t mean much if one isn’t flexible enough to move their muscles. I stretch before lifting, and warming up before a run or bike ride has helped me to kick higher, but compared to most people, I’m still well-below the norm. It is not a mark of pride that I am more flexible than Kohane.

  • An aspect of Uki’s character that I’m particularly fond of is that, as level-headed as she is, she’s also got a bit of a mischievous side to her personality. Unexpected parts of a character enhance an anime by making the character more multi-dimensional.

  • The pom poms of cheer-leading are completely unrelated to the QF 1-pounder 37 mm autocannon seen in Battlefield 1: here, Hizume provides instruction to Uki and Kohane on making them, after learning that endlessly drilling Kohane with exercises might dissuade her from sticking to cheer-leading. In a way, Uki’s friendship with Kohane, and Hizume’s desire to never be alone results in a bit of an equilibrium that also will lead the two to become friends.

  • The sum of the forces keeping Kohane, Hizume and Uki together result in a dynamic that I don’t think I’ve seen in other slice-of-life series, making it a novel one. Once their friendship is established, Anima Yell! will invariable introduce new characters to disrupt the status quo and keep things fresh. However, before this can happen, Uki must become a part of the cheer-leading club, as well.

  • Old habits die hard, and while Hizume might not want to be a cheerleader any further, the combination of wanting to keep Kohane around and her training means that she has no trouble putting on a show for Uki’s benefit. The girl with long, dark hair is a staple in Manga Time Kirara series – from the protagonist to being support characters, such individuals are serious, proper but also have an unexpected vulnerability. I think Yuyushiki is one of the few exceptions in recent memory; my familiarity with Manga Time Kirara does not go that far back.

  • Uki is moved by the performance, feeling it to be simultaneously cute and cool, and at last, consents to join the cheer-leading club. Uki occasionally runs with her imagination and sees herself or those around her in somewhat embarrassing outfits, lending itself to the series’ comedy.

  • On what Anima Yell! actually means, the title’s representation in Katakana implies a word of foreign origin, and from there, Google-fu finds that anima is Latin for “animating principle”, itself a translation of the Greek term for “soul” or “spirit”. Then, Anima Yell! becomes “Soul Yell”, which is appropriate considering that cheer-leading is really about a sort of coordinated cheer for the soul to drive up motivation. Anima Yell! also lives up to its title in that there is indeed a great deal of yelling and high spirits.

  • When faced with exams, Kohane finds it difficult to study until Uki and Hizume motivate her; with the threat of being unable to pursue club activities, Kohane gives it her all, until Hizume fears that Kohane will drop the cheer-leading in favour of her studies and then asks Kohane to reign it back. The end result is that Kohane gets trampled by the exam and is made to take remedial exams. However, she manages a pass here.

  • Instructor Inukai (given name unknown at the present) is one of Kohane’s instructors, and while appearing strict at times, she eventually lets the cheer-leading club know that they’ve now got enough members to form an association. At least, this is what the translations give: Yuru Camp△‘s translations have been quite variable because of the Outdoors Activity Club’s informal status, and some have yielded “circle”. For me, as long as I can understand that there is a difference (e.g. when a group is operating with a different level of freedom and resources), then the precise translation is not so important.

  • When Kon Akitsune comes to the cheer-leading club with the aim of getting some support for a kokuhaku, the girls immediately set about helping her out, and are successful. Discussions on Anima Yell! are limited right now, although I think that this scene would be a topic of interest, for a remarkable moment where characters are very forward and direct with how they feel.

  • With the cheer-leading club having its core members now, I imagine that upcoming episodes will follow a conventional approach, adding more characters and sending them on familiar adventures, leading up to the big finish when the sum of everyone’s efforts is shown in a titanic final performance. Predictable that Anima Yell! might be, and likely being ill-suited for long discussions, it will still represent twenty minutes every week of light-hearted fun, and for me, this is what counts.

In a manner of speaking, Anima Yell! is initially similar to Yuyushiki in its initial setup, with three central characters whose personalities that share some overlaps. Yuyushiki‘s draw was its unstructured premise, with each of Yui, Yukari and Yuzuki bouncing off one another as they explore random topics and experience high school. The setup in Yuyushiki allowed for very unusual humour to be presented, and aside from its character design, Anima Yell!‘s premise is rather different – there is a focus on cheer-leading, which means that the anime will remain in the realm of the experiences that Kohane and her friends encounter as they build their club out and perform at sports events. Anima Yell! looks to offer a familiar experience on first glance, sticking with the tried-and-true rather than anything novel, although the character setup and cheer-leading elements could also create unique moments, as well. I am not expecting anything too fancy in Anima Yell!; this is a series to share a few laughs about, but beyond this, I imagine that writing about this one could prove quite challenging.

Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (The World in Colours): Review and Reflections After Three, and Applying Lessons from Glasslip

“I once stood in your place, and I, too, was disrespectful. So, might I offer you some advice? Forget everything you think you know.” –Baron Mordo, Doctor Strange

Hitomi Tsukishiro is a high school girl who comes from a family of magicians. Suffering from achromatopsia as people important to her departed, Hitomi lost much of her enjoyment of the world around her and is perpetually alone. On the night of the summer fireworks, Kohaku, her grandmother, decides to send Hitomi back sixty years into the past so Hitomi can meet her younger self and learn about the colourful nature of youth. When Hitomi arrives in the world sixty years previously, she finds herself in Yuito Aoi’s house, and causes a minor ruckus when attempting to escape. She meets with Kohaku’s grandmother and mother, who runs a magic shop, and transfers into the same high school as Kohaku. While Kohaku is abroad, she meets Asagi Kazeno, Kurumi Kawai, Shō Yamabuki and Chigusa Fukasawa, members of the high school’s photography club. She also comes across Yuito for the first time while locating her jewel, she discovers that his artwork is vividly colourful and grows intrigued with him. While Hitomi attempts to hide her magic at school, her newfound friends express a willingness to accept her and manage to recruit her into the photography club. Meanwhile, Hitomi aims to improve her magic and show Yuito again. A journey of acceptance and self-discovery, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (From the Colour-Changing World’s Tomorrow, or The World in Colours for brevity) is the latest of P.A. Works’ projects. Featuring thirteen episodes, The World in Colours is off to a solid start in creating a sense of intrigue with its premise. As the lead, Hitomi struggles to connect with those around her, bringing to mind Wakana Sakai of Tari Tari, who was similarly distant until she met Konatsu and Sawa. Over time, Wakana became more expressive and warm, helping her friends around her while rediscovering her own love for music and overcoming her regrets in not giving her mother a proper farewell. While Hitomi’s story remains open for exploration in The World in Colours, her initial personality, and the small spark of friendship’s potential for development after three episode means that this anime is one that commands intrigue.

The last time P.A. Works dealt with a narrative set in a real world with magical elements was 2014’s Glasslip, which ended up being counted as a disaster for being unclear, incoherent and vague with its themes. At its core, Glasslip was intended to showcase the uncertainty of youthful love by suggesting that even with supernatural intervention, love is too complex to predict and will run its course naturally. However, ill execution caused the series to lose most of its viewers, and of those who insisted otherwise, numerous falsehoods were construed and propagated like wildfire. By comparison, The World in Colours is very clear from the onset as to what it intends to accomplish; by putting the reserved and stoic Hitomi with the boisterous and forward Kohaku, and with a supportive group of friends who genuinely care, The World in Colours demonstrates that about people first and foremost. Magic, only subtly present through the glass beads and “fragments of the future” in Glasslip, is very visible in The World in Colours – this deliberate choice is to make it clear that while some things can only begin with supernatural intervention, it is ultimately the people around her, and Hitomi’s own decisions, that will have a tangible outcome on her life and world-views. While still early in the season, there are signs that The World in Colours has definitely taken lessons learned from the debacle that was Glasslip and applied them here. Magic is much more prominent, and the characters’ way forward is much more visible. The expected outcome of this is a series whose message and corresponding enjoyment factor will be quite enjoyable: should the writing remain solid and consistent as The World in Colours continues running, I anticipate that viewers will find this series much more palatable than the likes of Glasslip.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Set in Nagasaki, Kyushu, The World in Colour presents the Nagasaki of 2078 as a vibrant, Hong Kong-like city. Indeed, anyone in Tsim Sha Tsui during either the New Year’s or National Day would be treated to a spectacular sight of fireworks over Hong Kong Harbour and Central. Hitomi, however, sees none of the hues that we do: she’s afflicted with achromatopsia, more commonly known as total colour blindness, and she describes it as something that occurred over time. While this is attributable to damage in the thalamus resulting from tumours, The World in Colour presents this as being a psychological response to stress.

  • Magic, however, is an integral part of The World in Colour, so we may suspend our disbelief and accept that, for all intents and purposes, Hitomi is an ordinary girl with some magical abilities and a lack of colour vision. Even within the anime’s first five minutes, the atmosphere is established with a variety of shots, from wide scenes of the summer festival, to close-ups of the glass planet ornaments a vendor is selling. While some feel that P.A. Works’ close-ups are intended to have symbolic meaning, it is more likely that these are used as establishing shots to convince audiences that there is depth in the world being presented.

  • Kohaku is Hitomi’s grandmother and a skilled Master of the Mystic Arts magician. Concerned for her granddaughter’s well-being, Kohaku meets up with a solitary Hitomi on a hill overlooking Nagasaki, where the fireworks is most visible. While Hitomi’s monologues has her frequently reassuring herself that she’s alright when alone, the reality is that no person is an island, and so, audiences are given that Hitomi is longing for company, but lacks the motivation to pursue it.

  • At the age of 77, Kohaku is an impressive magician comparable to the likes of Dr. Strange, if she is able to construct something that is quite similar to the Time Stone: time travel appears to strictly be a plot device in The World in Colour, and using powerful time spells seem to have no effect on causality as of yet. While fans of the specifics usually enjoy pouring over the implications of time travel on things like causality, works of fiction may alternatively use it simply to drive the narrative.

  • In the case of The World in Colour, Hitomi’s growth is more critical than the specifics of time travel, and as such, the anime has elected to abstract out the precise mechanisms. For the most part, the remainder of discussions currently on The World in Colour have not strayed into the realm of details: it is a good sign that the anime has made this clear to audiences. By comparison, Glasslip left in its wake numerous discussions where there was no clear consensus on that the series had been about.

  • After arriving in Nagasaki sixty years early, Hitomi finds herself trapped in Yuito’s room and hides to escape detection, before escaping through the window. Yuito’s peers notice this and immediately jump to the conclusion that she’s a hidden lover of sorts. Once she enters the open, she gazes upon the world sixty years previously and finds Nagasaki to be a quieter town where the scenery has remained largely the same as she knew it.

  • To put things in perspective, sixty years ago, the University of Calgary (back then, known as the University of Alberta, Calgary Campus, or UAC) was just undergoing construction, and there was around 200000 residents in Calgary. In Hong Kong, the population surged to two million as instability in China led people to immigrate, and after the Shek Kip Mei fire, the government mandated that residents be accommodated in high rise buildings. We are overlooking Nagasaki Bay here, and as P.A. Works is wont to do, this spot is based off a real location.

  • Hitomi is described as being dazzling to behold, and she stands out from other characters in The World in Colour, having violet-grey hair and eyes of gold. This is likely by design, to make her stand out in an environment that audiences are accustomed to, and while the world largely remains the same in customs, minor differences in technology result in Hitomi struggling to work locks, paper-based documents and cameras.

  • It is not surprising that the first group of people who run into and speak with Hitomi will come to play a much larger role in the series: running into members of the Photography and Art Club (the combined club brings back memories of Tari Tari‘s Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club), Hitomi learns that high school students of this age have different uniforms. While Kurumi comes across as a bit too enthusiastic for Hitomi, Asagi is much more considerate and notices that Hitomi’s scraped her knees.

  • I’ve noticed that out there, reception to The World in Colour is quite mixed, with some folks immediately dismissing the series for its inclusion of magic and for generally not writing the show to their manner of liking; at least one individual claims that the first episode should have entirely been in monochrome to help audiences relate to Hitomi and that Kurumi and the others were introduced too early. I counter that introducing characters on early creates an expectation that they will be more relevant later on, and if one were so desperate as to watch an anime in monochrome, I suggest running After Effects or an equivalent tool on this anime before watching it.

  • Others hold it to be intriguing and meritorious of continued watching: P.A. Works has traditionally packed a great deal into their best works, tying all of the different aspects together under a single unifying theme. Angel Beats! was about acceptance of life, but also dealt with guilt, expectations, and a determination to move forwards, while Sakura Quest explored social issues facing small towns in Japan, but also followed Yoshino’s discoveries over the course of a year as she comes to embrace her role as Manoyama’s “Queen”. Tari Tari followed a group of disparate high school students who come together to make a big finish prior to graduation, but was also about how friendship played a role in helping Wakana come to terms with her past.

  • The interior of the magic shop is absolutely stunning, and I love the colours in the jars of magical powder on the back shelf. In The World in Colour, magic can be distilled into sand and then spread for a variety of effects, or else concentrated into an artifact. Masters of the Mystic Arts Magicians are able to channel their innate abilities and create these effects, or else capture them into sand. So far, with magic clearly being a part of The World in Colour and given adequate explanation, there is no question that it will be an integral part of the story, standing in contrast with Glasslip, where the “fragments of the future” were never sufficiently explored or utilised to drive things forward.

  • Existing “explanations” of Glasslip are woefully inadequate in providing a satisfactory account of why the story progressed in the manner that it did: there are two perspectives out there that claim to be this magic bullet. One argues that the show is about a longing for finding a home and that the chickens were critical, while another attempts to claim that wabi sabi is important in describing the transience of various feelings. Both are wrong, because the presence of the “fragments of the future” demands inclusion, and both perspectives choose to discard them. Glasslip was really about the uncertainty of love, characterised by visual distortion when viewing the future through glass beads, and meant to say that nothing ever is certain.

  • For Hitomi, the turning point that leads her to develop an interest in the world sixty years previously is when she speaks with Yuito for the first time while in search of her brooch, which contains a magical crystal and also acts as a Jarvis of sorts. When she glances at Yuito’s tablet, she is able to see colour again for the first time. The sight captivates her, and she longs to look upon it forever. That Hitomi can see the colours here suggests that her achromatopsia does not have a physiological basis, again reiterating that magic is very much at play in a world that is very similar and very different to our own.

  • After the visual spectacle of the first episode, The World in Colour returns to a more ordinary depiction of things, although even here, the artwork is certainly of a good quality. There is a distance between Yuito and Hitomi: the visuals in The World in Colour use both light and objects in the environment to clarify this, and this sets the expectation that as things progress, Hitomi will become closer to those in the Photography and Art Club. For now, she resembles Wakana: taciturn and struggling with her internal conflicts, appearing aloof to her peers.

  • As we hurtle through October, the days are beginning to shorten, although after the miserable weather throughout September that persisted into early October, we’ve had some pleasant weather now, and things have slowed down for the weekend, enough for me to sit down after a warm dinner of fried chicken and write my thousand-and-first post out during the calm of an Saturday evening. Here, Hitomi speaks with Kohaku’s family, who agree to look after her.

  • I would not mind if The World in Colour really is about taking the lessons of Glasslip to create a superior series. Back in The World in Colour, when word spreads that Hitomi is also a magician, her classmates are eager to see what she can do. Kohaku, a skilled magician, is infamous around campus for causing destruction with her magic, likely a sign of her outgoing personality, and so, her classmates come to be intimidated by her. On the other hand, the hesitant and reluctant Hitomi can only summon stars with her magic, disappointing her classmates.

  • P.A. Works draws upon very similar thematic elements in many of their anime, and some wonder how The World in Colour will differentiate itself from its predecessors, especially Glasslip, which was similarly set in the real world and incorporates supernatural aspects to a degree. Elements from Tari Tari are also quite visible, and it is not implausible to suppose that The World in Colour will likely follow the path Tari Tari used. If this is the case, then The World in Colour might be seen as a second shot at making an anime that Glasslip should have been, incorporating magic and everyday life into a story to suggest that magic or not, it is ultimately people that make the difference.

  • Out of the gates, I find that the Photography and Art Club’s photographers to be amicable, likable folk: Kurumi, Asagi and Chigusa are approachable and inviting, doing their best to convince Hitomi to join their club. While motivated by funds and a need for new members, their intrigue in Hitomi also translates to a concern for her, feeling that she might need a friend in her circumstances.

  • Yuito is rather unsociable and prefers drawing to hanging out with others. In a manner of speaking, he resembles the aloof and difficult-to-read Kakeru of Glasslip. P.A. Works occasionally reuses old characters’ appearances and personalities as the basis for some of their new characters: Tōko Fukami and Manaka Mukaido share commonalities, as do Yoshino Koharu and Aoi Miyamori, for instance. The end result of this decision, deliberate or not, is to create a character that viewers are familiar with, and for the most part, P.A. Works’ series have noteworthy, interesting characters, too.

  • When Yuito consents to allow Hitomi one more glimpse of his artwork, Hitomi takes it in and gazes on the colours with profound appreciation. All of this is set under a swift sunset, and the moment is free of visual clutter to indicate the liberating feeling she experiences when viewing colour. The friendship between Hitomi and Yuito will be an interesting one as it develops, although at this point in The World in Colour, where things go remain quite open.

  • While I am looking forwards to seeing where The World in Colour is going, I am not expecting a top-tier anime rivaling the likes of Angel Beats!Hanasaku IrohaTari TariShirobako or Sakura Quest in levels of impact. Of the lot, Angel Beats! stood out for creating complex characters whose circumstances and motivations were deeply moving, while Sakura Quest and Tari Tari both excel at covering a variety of thematic elements without ever diminishing their respective series’ main message. Wherever magic is involved, P.A. Works has fared a little less gracefully in the past, so for The World in Colour, I am going to have to see how the series unfolds before making any sort of judgement on it.

  • The main draw to The World in Colour right now is the prospect of watching Hitomi mature as she spends more time with the Photography and Art club, as well as the sort of (mis)adventures that will unfurl once Kohaku joins the party in full. Coupled with beautiful artwork, this is sufficient for me to stick around for the duration of the season.

  • Hitomi is introduced to the sort of photography the club does, and also does a painting while Yuito watches. Here, Yuito deduces that Hitomi has achromatopsia, seeing the bold and unusual colour choices she makes while painting. One of the items that is mentioned briefly is that the photographers in the club also do monochromatic photographs. While it’s only one remark, I imagine that once the others learn of Hitomi’s condition, they will begin doing more monochromatic photography to understand the world as Hitomi sees it.

  • In three episodes, the Photography and Art Club’s members are given some exposition. Kurumi is outgoing and practical-minded, Chigusa seems to be friendly but prone to being swept along by the club’s schemes, and Asagi is kind-hearted. The club’s leader, Shō, is confident and easy-going. Interacting amongst themselves, they can be a rowdy bunch, generating a great deal of positive energy already and slowly spur Hitomi to be more open. Because Kohaku’s unseen antics suggest she is even more boisterous than they are, I think that the Photography Club will end up being the midpoint between Hitomi and Kohaku, dialing back the latter’s wildness while driving Hitomi forwards.

  • For a photography demonstration, Kurumi has Hitomi walk across the pool as observers try to photograph her. While Hitomi uses the wrong vial of magical sand, her innate magical talents manifest and she is able to walk across the water surface. However, she is distracted and plunges into the pool. Yuito apologises on behalf of the group, but Hitomi is more worried about having troubled the others for not speaking up earlier.

  • Hitomi is given lodgings where Kohaku is staying and is afforded with a beautiful view of the night sky here. The Nagasaki of 2018 evidently has reduced light pollution compared to that of 2078, although this isn’t saying much: light pollution maps show the Nagasaki area as being very bright, and even accounting for localised variation, it is probably difficult to see many stars easily.

  • The next day, Hitomi appears to be avoiding the others, but is actually worried about meeting up with them for having caused them some trouble earlier. She finds them at the pool, where the Photography and Art Club are cleaning as a punishment for entering the water without authorisation. Hitomi decides to join them, feeling responsible for having set these events in motion, and when monochromatic photography is brought up, her interest is piqued. Coupled with a desire to learn more about Yuito’s drawings, she agrees to join the club.

  • When Hitomi joins the Photography and Art Club, an overjoyed Kurumi hugs her, eliciting the first real smile we’d seen out of Hitomi all season. The third episode is titled “No Rain, No rainbow”, which foreshadows that without challenge, there is no reward, either. Elsewhere, discussions have largely focused on aspects that The World in Colour will not cover, including the precise mechanic of how magic works, the hereditary traits of magic and whether or not causality will become a problem the same way Fry became his own grandfather in Futurama.

  • I am concerned with none of these things for the present: P.A. Works has traditionally introduced mechanics later in a series if they are relevant to the narrative, and discussions can be more complete if those items do end up being important. What is relevant, is that Kohaku is now returning from her travels abroad. Her stance suggests a very powerful character, someone who is bold and accustomed to doing her own thing without concern for others’ judgement. I am curious to see how she mixes things up once she meets Hitomi here; after three episodes, The World in Colour is shaping up to be an interesting series, so far showing much more promise than Glasslip did. This motivates the page quote, which is sourced from 2016’s Doctor Strange: while Glasslip comparisons are only natural, I would suggest not focusing too much on attempting to port the analysis from Glasslip over into The World in Colour and simply watch the series with a fresh outlook.

With its beautiful artwork, a captivating premise and the promise of a journey that will be quite unique in its own right, The World in Colours has definitely held my attention. P.A. Works has consistently produced series with exceptional artwork, rivalling the likes of Kyoto Animation in quality. At their best, P.A. Works creates masterpieces that use strong artwork and animation to bring fictional worlds to life: Angel Beats!, Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari and Sakura Quest stand P.A. Works’ strongest titles to date, telling compelling stories through their authenticity and emotional impact. The World in Colours is dealing with a range of elements, from magic to everyday life at school – life is rarely so straightforwards, and going ahead, the anime does have quite a bit to deal with. All of these elements, if balanced well with Hitomi’s growth, will contribute to creating a rich, detailed world for her to rediscover magic and its positives. I am looking forwards to what lies ahead for The World in Colours, and because there is be quite a bit to cover in conjunction with a general lack of interest (understandable, considering the mess Glasslip left in its wake), I am inclined to write about this one every three episodes to consider some of the more interesting points The World in Colours looks to bring out.

Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“What I love most about this crazy life is the adventure of it.” —Juliette Binoche

Aki Shiina is often mistaken as a girl for his looks, so he decides to move to Tokyo and enrol in a school here so he can learn to be more manly. When he lodges at the Sunohara Dormitory, he meets its caretaker, Ayaka Sunohara, and the other residents, including Yuzu Yukimoto, Sumire Yamanashi and Yuri Kazami, who are on the student council, and Nana, Ayaka’s younger sister. Aki begins acclimatising to life at the Sunohara Dormitory, but his efforts to become more manly are often met with gentle failure, and all the while dealing with the eccentricities of the Sunohara Dormitory’s other residents. In spite of this, Aki grows accustomed to life at Sunohara Dormitory, and over time, develops a bit of a crush on Ayaka. The original manga has been running since 2014, and Silver Link’s adaptation brings Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō to life. While its setup presents numerous opportunities for awkward moments, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō‘s presentation is also surprisingly relaxing and heart-warming, focusing on the ordinary events of everyday life that many take for granted, well beyond the fanservice the series outwardly seems to focus on.

By making outrageous situations out of common activities, audiences are able to see the sort of turbulence in Aki’s life at Sunohara dorm. His attempts at normalcy typically end up unsuccessful, although even with the sort of disruptions that Ayaka, Yuzu, Sumire, Yuri and Nana bring to the table, Aki handles the chaos as well as can be expected of anyone in his position. Over time, however, Aki begins to adjust, and, appreciative of the help that Ayaka has given him, seeks ways of expressing his gratitude, whether it be offering to help Ayaka with household activities or else looking after her when she catches a cold. While initially irritated from being treated as a girl at the hands of Sunohara Dormitory’s residents, Aki begins to regard everyone as friends; a year after his arrival at Sunohara Dormitory, Aki expresses that the past year was not so bad, being quite livelier than before. The appreciation for the energetic is a common theme in many series: The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi’s Kyon ultimately prefers a world where things are lively when confronted with a choice, despite vocally voicing a want for an ordinary life, for instance, and in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, it would appear that, in spite of his reluctance to say so, the rowdy life at Sunohara Dormitory is something that Aki would now see as being something to enjoy.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While substance and a strong narrative is what compels people to watch fiction, there remains a large amount of fiction where the focus is not in a particularly cohesive or well-defined journey. Various slice-of-life and comedies do just this, preferring to subject characters to various misadventures; despite their being counted as unnecessary by some, I’ve long felt that such stories can be relaxing in their own right.

  • Ayaka is the star of Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, and is voiced by Rina Satō (Gundula Rall of Brave Witches and Kaede Kagayama of Non Non Biyori). With her maternal mannerisms, Ayaka is likely simply acting in the interests of those living at the Sunohara Dormitory, although how aware Ayaka is of the feelings (and embarrassment) of those around her remains open to speculation.

  • Small in stature, assertive and loud, Yuzu is the student council president who wears a small chicklet hairband with the aim of boosting her height. Despite her professed disapproval of Aki, she occasionally will try to get closer to Aki in a manner of speaking.

  • Besides Yuzu, Sumire and Yuri (left and right, respectively) also reside at the Sunohara Dormitory. Sumire is tall, aloof and has feelings for Yuzu, while Yuri enjoys various questionable activities. Their presence in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō do much to liven the show up, and while the dynamic between Aki and Ayaka acts as the basis for the show, the addition of three characters provides additional insights into Ayaka’s character, namely, that she treats everyone similarly.

  • While Aki is initially unsuccessful with helping Ayaka run Sunohara Dormitory, his efforts are not for naught; as time wears on, he is able to contribute here and there. On one occasion, Aki attempts to help Ayaka cook. While there is a common stereotype that men are ill-suited for cooking, the reality is that this is largely used for comedy: I’ve seen men and women cook equally well, the same way that men and women can write software equally well.

  • While Aki’s first and foremost desire is to be recognised as a man, he is definitely lacking in confidence and a take-charge mindset: situations tend to sweep Aki off his feet early on, and he finds himself at the mercy of everyone at Sunohara Dormitory. One of the joys of Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, then, is watching Aki slowly find his own approach as he becomes accustomed to life here with Ayaka and the others.

  • After a minor accident with a ladder strands Ayaka and Aki on the roof while they are trying to patch it, the situation is compounded with a sudden downpour. While Aki occasionally entertains the notion of marrying Ayaka one day, he also feels conflicted about these feelings and becomes quite embarrassed whenever Ayaka seizes the moment. However, Aki also comes to treasure these moments: when not embarrassed, he feels warm and at ease with Ayaka, allowing him to live in the moment.

  • While in Japan last year, I was visiting during May, the time of year when temperatures are very pleasant. I’ve heard that during the summer, the heat can be quite intense. I’ve experienced the full force of summer in Hong Kong, during which it feels like standing in a furnace whenever one is directly outside, and because of the intense air conditioning Hong Kong uses, the temperature contrast between the outdoors and indoors is even more pronounced. Having experienced the heat and humidity of Hong Kong, I thus wonder whether the apparent temperature in Japan’s summers are more strongly-felt than even those of Hong Kong’s.

  • Watermelon is a fruit to be enjoyed during the summer: while I bemoaned the lack of summer this year on account of the forest fire smoke blanketing this side of the world in a thick haze and for being out of town for a better part of it, I did enjoy watermelon on many a summer evening, on those days where the refreshing cool of a watermelon was precisely what was needed to beat back the heat lingering from the day.

  • I was quite surprised to learn that Ayane Sakura, of GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto fame, would be playing as Nana, Ayaka’s younger sister. Despite her outward appearance as a gyaru (Japanese slang referring to a fashion-conscious girl), Nana is perceptive and is well-rounded, being sociable, capable with her schoolwork and also has a diverse array of interests, including old-school video games. From Nana’s remarks, Ayaka is not approving of video games and attempts to enforce a time limit for Nana.

  • After an evening spent watching horror movies, unsettling sounds keep Aki and Yuzu up. When they make to investigate, it turns out that Nana is using an empty storeroom as a personal gym of sorts. Her choice of equipment suggests exercises to slim down and tone up – she remarks it’s necessary to maintain her figure. Outside of shonen anime, it’s rare to see characters exercise regularly, and as someone who hits the gym with some frequency, a question on my mind is how many of my readers also are lifters or otherwise do regular exercise.

  • Channelling Cocoa’s spirit of competition, Nana’s first course of action whenever a conflict arises is to compete with the other party. She typically tramples Yuzu in a competition of smarts and physicality, but Yuzu later turns the table with a test of endurance. I vividly recall that when I was in my final year of primary school, I could still hang from monkey bars and swing around like nobody’s business; during a party with friends in the time since, where we visited a playground for fun, my shoulders ached after swinging across once.

  • After looking for ways to thank Ayaka for her efforts at the Sunohara Dormitory, Aki wonders if a massage might be the way to go: Yuri forces Sumire to be a test subject of sorts and asks Aki to use her for practise. Taken out of context, the various moments in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō might raise a few eyebrows, but on the whole, once folks get into the show, it becomes clear that much of the humour comes from Aki’s innocence.

  • Ear-cleaning is featured in anime as a means for expressing closeness between two people: anime typically presupposes that everyone has the dry earwax that does not form easy-to-remove globs. Left to accumulate, it can impact hearing, and North American remedies are not so effective, leaving manual extraction as one way of removing it. While the reality is that my ear canals are rather sensitive, and it does hurt a little for me, anime portrays this as a very quiet experience to signify familial-like bonds between those involved.

  • A recurring joke in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō is that despite his constant efforts to be more manly, Aki ends up being treated akin to a cat or dog, instead: he often finds the older ladies familiar with him to treat him like a plaything and becomes frustrated. During a summer festival, he runs off and becomes lost, but is eventually found.

  • Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō covers the flow of events over the course of a year, so things like Halloween and Christmas are invariably covered. Unlike anime such as Non Non Biyori or GochiUsa, where the flow of seasons is very distinct, the weather patterns in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō are much less varied. Instead, viewers are given a sense of what time of year it is based on the presence of certain events. Such series show they are very strongly character-centric, counting on characters and their experiences to drive the flow of events, while series that feature the natural environment more strongly aim to show the unique impact a setting can have on the flow of events.

  • Aki’s older sister, Matsuri, appears late in the season and comes across as an aloof, but loving older sister who wishes nothing more than to keep Aki sheltered. Intent on taking Aki back home, she challenges Ayaka to a series of tests to assess her capability in looking after Aki – despite Matsuri’s intent to fail Ayaka, Ayaka manages to exceed all of her expectations and she relents, allowing Aki to stay.

  • Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō ultimately ends up being a fun ride: while thematic elements and conflicts are not at the forefront of the series, what Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō does excel at doing is managing to create amusing situations that utilise ecchi elements without crossing over the line. I was quite surprised the series was as disciplined as it was, and in the end, the cast of characters and their mannerisms is what convinced me to finish this series.

  • One aspect of Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō that I paid little mind to was the soundtrack: above average in its execution and application as incidental music, the music serves to accentuate the mood of a moment in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō despite being nothing remarkable. The ending song, Sonna no Boku ja nai, is an upbeat song that starts off with a somewhat melancholy opening, befitting of Aki’s improving experience as the series progresses.

  • In the end, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō earns a B- (7.5 on the 10 point scale, or 3.0 of 4 on a 4-point scale). While nothing particularly groundbreaking, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō never tries to be something it’s not, and ends up being entertaining by sticking to its guns. If there were a continuation, I would count it as a series worth watching, although I confess that it would be quite difficult to write about.

While Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō is unlikely to be counted as a highly moving or thought-provoking series, it does offer consistent comedy throughout its run. The situations that Aki finds himself in are amusing, as are his reactions to some of the more embarrassing moments. With its cast of familiar, yet dynamic characters, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō manages to avoid the trap of falling upon tired and family-unfriendly elements, instead, presenting a story of a young boy who would like nothing more than to be regarded as a man: confident, reliable and dependable. As he continues to live at Sunohara Dormitory, his actions demonstrate a commitment to this, and he gradually begins to be counted upon more. However, there are moments where Ayaka and the other residents will continue to dote on or tease him, reminding audiences that appearances can be a little hard to overcome, even if the spirit is present. With this being said, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō ends up being a modestly fun watch that surprises with its disciplined fanservice and interesting portrayal of Aki’s time in a dormitory where normalcy is very quickly disrupted.

Valentines and Hot Springs!: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid OVA Review and Reflection

“When you have seen as much of life as I have, you will not underestimate the power of obsessive love.” –Horace Slughorn, Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince

On Valentines’ Day, Tohru is unsuccessful in giving Kobayashi chocolates spiked with a love potion. Kanna receives chocolates from her classmates and Kobayashi shares chocolates at work. Later, Kobayashi accidentally consumes the spiked chocolates from Tohru and becomes drunk. Makoto invites everyone to a hot springs; after a busy day spent relaxing and doing the sorts of things one might do at a hot springs, Tohru gives Kobayashi regular chocolates. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a unique entry among my “Terrible Anime Challenge” series in many ways – besides being an absolutely engaging and enjoyable series, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid also has an OVA that accompanied the seventh BD volume. Par the course for an OVA, it’s an opportunity to have the characters play off one another in romance, and further becomes a thinly-veiled justification to put the characters in a hot springs; traditionally, episodes such as these contribute very little to the narrative. However, this is not to say that OVAs are devoid of value, and my enjoyment of OVAs typically come from presenting characters in a much more relaxed, or even whimsical moment that shows different aspects to their personalities. In Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Fafnir is given more exposition: despite his disdain for humanity, that he goes along with customs such as Valentines’ Day and hot springs trips in reasonable accordance with Makoto indicates a degree of begrudging respect for the things that humanity does.

A mile wide and a mile deep, is how I described Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid in my original review: there was enough by way of themes in the thirteen episodes dealing with acceptance of new culture, the importance of family, shifts in perspective through immersion, not taking things for granted, et cetera, such that audiences could relate to various aspects of the show in their own manner of choosing. Without deliberately and forcibly pressing its messages, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid presents ideas through everyday events, having the characters learn and discover things naturally. All of this is encapsulated in comedy, making the characters more relatable. The OVA does the same in its shorter runtime – it is a miniaturised Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, condensing the style and sense of the entire series into a single episode and providing the unique brand of humour the series is known for. In particular, Tohru’s attempts to seduce Kobayashi using a love potion, and Kobayashi catching on was quite amusing. It should be no surprise that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid utilises its world well to set up humour, and the jokes seen in the OVA have lost none of their potency.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Twenty screenshots for a single OVA is usually the norm for a full-fledged series that I’m writing for, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is no exception. Had I done a more conventional review for this series, I would’ve likely given things a thirty-screenshot talk. Even now, I’m impressed that what looked to be a frivolous series could cover so many interesting topics adequately over so short a run.

  • It’s no surprise that at this point in time, Kobayashi has known Tohru long enough so that she immediately suspects that there’s something funny in the Valentine’s chocolates. While Tohru might be a dragon more powerful and terrible than even J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ancalagon the Black, Kobayashi always manages to rein in Tohru with naught more than a glance. During the screen capture session, I managed to obtain a hilarious frame of Tohru pulling the chocolates away from Kobayashi, declaring it to be a defective batch, after Kobayashi warns her about spiking the chocolate.

  • Misunderstandings involving Kanna are always defused quickly in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and after Riko wonders why everyone is so quick to give Kanna chocolates, Kanna asks for Riko’s chocolates, as well. Despite not receiving any chocolates in return, Kanna’s chosen approach, to eat the chocolate straight out of Riko’s hands, sends her into a bliss.

  • Back home, Kanna’s want for chocolate leads her to find the chocolate that Tohru’s hidden away. This is the chocolate spiked with love potion: chemicals that alter one’s brain chemistry to induce sexual desire certainly exist (aphrodisiacs), the love potions of fiction are liquid medicines that can induce feelings of love. J.K. Rowling writes that no artificial substance could recreate something as complex as love: her love potions only induce infatuation over short periods of time. Given Tohru’s reactions while adding love potion to the chocolate, one would suppose that she’s aware of this.

  • According to Pottermore, the countermeasure for a love potion involves, Wiggentree twigs and Gurdyroot mixed with castor oil. I’m willing to bet that magical substances in the twigs and Gurdyroot must interact in some way with the triester of glycerol and ricinoleic acid in castor oil to neutralise whatever agents are in the love potion. The love potions of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid work differently, and although some claim that the ethanol “cancelled out” the love potion, from a chemistry perspective, this is incorrect. The ethanol present would have been altered in some way (decomposition, or replacement) so that distinct ethanol properties (e.g. inducing drunkenness) would no longer be present. Instead, I’m guessing that the ethanol acted as a catalyst for another reaction with one of the ingredients Tohru added, or else was a non-player in the reaction that neutralised the love potion. Either way, it results in some comedy of the likes not previously seen in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.

  • The OVA consists of two distinct acts, with the second being set around the group’s hot springs trip. They reach the onsen by means of the shinkansen. It typifies anime for depicting various aspects of everyday life in Japan with high faithfulness, and one of the stories I frequently hear is that people often will visit Japan with the aim of recreating their anime experiences, right down to riding trains and the like. For me, riding the trains of Japan were no different than the MTR of Hong Kong, or the LRT back home.

  • When I was in Japan last year, one of my favourite experiences was indeed the onsen. While I live fairly close to the Rocky Mountains and the hot springs of Banff, the geothermal waters of our national parks are actually quite mild in temperature. By comparison, the waters of an onsen were perfect, and I melted in the warm waters of the pool. I had the place to myself that evening, and one thing I noticed was that the (female) cleaning staff seem to have no aversions to continuing their work while I changed.

  • Watching Elma enjoying her food in bliss is most relatable: according to meterologists, we’re significantly colder than seasonal, and the past three weeks that I’ve been back home were characterised by non-stop overcast misery, gloom, and snowfall. Coupled with the chilly weather, I succumbed to a cold and spent several hours of each day in the past week sleeping. Despite this, I’m still getting my work done, and I’m on the mend now. Yesterday, I stepped out for dinner under moody skies: having recovered a fair bit, I decided it was prudent to enjoy myself but not eat too much, so I had a chicken steak sizzling plate with mushroom and red-wine sauce, corn, egg-fried-rice and fries at the local bistro. Dark chicken meat is my go-to meat of choice when I’m not at my best – highly nutritious, it’s also tender and tasty.

  • I often feel that, if I had a sauna at hand, I could spend a quarter hour in there upon feeling the onset of a cold. One of the classic methods to lessen the severity of a cold that my parents employ, is to drink 盒仔茶 (jyutping hap6 zai2 caa4, known more commonly as Kam Wo Tea), a bitter herbal tea with centuries of history. I’m personally on the rocks about its efficacy in stopping a cold, since I always end up requiring a day to rest regardless of whether or not I take it, but as far as relieving a sore throat goes, Kam Wo Tea does eliminate it within a day if taken right when one feels a cold incoming.

  • One way or another, with this cold largely behind me, I’m going to return to my routine very soon. I’ve noticed that blogging output for this past month has dropped by half: things have been remarkably busy of late. With this being said, as we move into October, and the fall anime season, posts will come out at a slow and steady rate. A few shows have caught my eye and together with the continuation of my CLANNAD review at the ten year anniversary, I think that this blog will continue to endure for a little while longer.

  • All of the dragons have a noticeable bust, and because my previous Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid post did not do so, I’ll capitalise on this post to feature one of Elma. Her constant bickering with Tohru, weakness in foods and interactions with Kobayashi are fun to watch. Earlier, a short skit in the OVA shows Elma trying to make chocolates of her own, but fails to create anything to give away, as she ends up eating all of the ingredients. Far from Tolkien’s clever and cunning fire-breathers, or Rowling’s untamed beasts, the dragons of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid are much more human in nature despite their origins being both fallible and adorable.

  • Kobayashi’s decision to chill with Kanna draws ire from both Riko and Tohru, after Kobayashi wonders why all dragons manifest as attractive humans. When asked about what she looks like, the images of Kobayashi in dragon form are not particularly illuminating. It is common practise to drink cold milk after a soak in the hot springs, but during my trip to Japan, I did not bring any change with me for the vending machines, only having small bills the machines did not accept. However, I did have a bottle of cold water, and downed this in the blink of an eye, so I can attest to the refreshing properties of a cold beverage after exiting the onsen.

  • Because I was on a schedule, my next move was to hit the hay so as to be rested for the next day’s itinerary. The cast of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid have home field advantage: their vacation is the onsen, so they make use of the inn’s amenities, and play ping pong here. After a spirited match between Tohru and Elma, Riko and Kanna play a much slower match that Kobayashi enjoys watching.

  • Shouta immediately hits the hay after growing flustered upon seeing Quetzalcoatl and Elma. The same age as Riko and Kanna, Shouta is portrayed as being typical of boys his age – he is not so good with teasing, and earlier, storms off after Quetzalcoatl asks if he’s interested in a souvenir. Makoto has the sense to understand that Shouta was interested in the sword keychain and buys one for him.

  • While Riko and Kanna are fast asleep, Tohru and Kobayashi share another moment together. Compared to Kyoto Animation’s other works, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is comparatively simpler in terms of artwork; the impressive lighting and visual effects of things like Hibike! Euphonium or Violet Evergarden are absent, and the anime is more in line with the likes of Tamako Market in its design. However, the animation itself remains of a solid quality, and I imagine that Kyoto Animation carefully picks the appropriate level of detail for each anime that it does.

  • This is not to say that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has poor artwork: a look at the town by night shows that even while working in a simpler environment, Kyoto Animation nonetheless presents it in a rich, appropriate manner to best capture the emotions of a particular moment. The warm lights of the town here stand in contrast with the cool of the night, and sets the mood for a romantic exchange between Tohru and Kobayashi.

  • It turns out that Tohru had made chocolates properly for Kobayashi, and this time, Koyabashi decides that Tohru is being honest with her feelings in this exchange. Audiences will have also picked up on the differences – the Tohru trying to give the spiked chocolates away was more sly and mischievous, whereas here, Tohru exhibits the same nerves that might be seen when giving chocolates to one’s love interest.

  • Kobayashi accepts the gift and munches on the chocolates, before holding her hand out to Tohru and offering to walk back together to the inn. I realise that I am not particularly well-received in some places for my so-called refusal to address yuri in my discussion, and I’ve explained this previously – social and cultural ramifications are not quite as important for me when it comes to addressing this topic, and I only handle it if it is immediately relevant to a show. In shows where romance is present as a central part of or as a natural development in the plot, I will discuss it. However, where it is strictly used as humour (e.g. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and Harukana Receive, for instance), I will typically not go into further details.

  • It was a riot when Tohru asks Kobayashi whether or not this is the part where they breed. It’s the most open attempt from Tohru yet, and while Kobayashi is quick to shut things down, there is no exasperation or frustration. It is doubtful that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid would ever reach that level, keeping things PG and only hinting at Tohru’s want to take things up a notch for humour, but this is quite okay.

  • On the way, back, Kobayashi speaks with Makoto, thanking him for having organised the tour and feeling that with everyone together as often as they are now, they’ve become friends. It is true that since Tohru’s arrival, Kobayashi’s life has become rather more colourful and exciting: for the challenges dragons bring, they also introduce company and joy that has a nontrivial impact on Kobayashi. With this post as my last for the month, I note here that I’m now six posts away from reaching my next major milestone of one thousand posts, and that I’m opening October with a return to CLANNAD, kicking the party off with ~After Story~. Following my conclusion of the first season, I remarked that I would continue to write about CLANNAD if even one reader expressed interest.

One aspect of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid that I did not cover in great depth was the overt attraction Tohru has for Kobayashi: I do not give romantic love between female characters much consideration unless it is present in a way that affects the narrative. In the case of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, the absence of this romance would mean that notions of family and discovery would not be as straightforward. Often, the strong feelings in romance drive profound changes in individuals, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is convincing in using this as a reason for why Tohru and Kobayashi change over the course of the anime. Further to this, a lack of romance would deprive the series of its ability to convey humour: in its absence, many moments would feel much drier. With this being said, it is quite unnecessary to read too deeply into this; past discussions on romance from an academic perspective have proven to be, quite frankly, a waste of time that yielded little more than hurt feelings. I’m in the business of watching and enjoying anime, not persuading closed-minded people to stop attempting to treat every series as a work demanding literary analysis and comparison with classical Japanese, after all. We step away from this matter and note that the OVA for Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was released a shade more than a year ago, and with this OVA in the books, I imagine that this is the last time I will be writing about Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid in the foreseeable future.