The Infinite Zenith

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Amanchu! Advance: Review and Reflection After Three

“When you are here and now, sitting totally, not jumping ahead, the miracle has happened. To be in the moment is the miracle.” —Osho

Hikari encounters a boy by the name of Kokoro while helping out at Amanchu, and follows him into the ocean, where she finds him admiring a mother octopus protecting her eggs. When she returns the surface, she calls Futaba about an upcoming fireworks show; Futaba is visiting family, but returns on the same day that the fireworks show is scheduled for. On the evening of the fireworks Futaba, Hikari, Ai, Makoto and Mato head to the beach for the fireworks show, and while the area is crowded, filled with other viewers, Hikari reveals that as a result of being one of the volunteers for the event, she’s got a special spot for everyone. The fireworks show leaves the others in awe: Mato recalls a time when she was younger and was given a piggy-back ride so she could see the fireworks better. The next day, Hikari finds Kokoro by the seaside. He missed the fireworks while trying to search for the mother octopus, worried that the eel had killed it, but when Hikari dives down with Kokoro, they find a swarm of paralarva swimming about. During the summer camp, Futaba learns the basics of using a compass to navigate in low light conditions, and manages to apply Hikari’s teachings to return to the others during an exercise. Later, when Ai, Makoto and Mato go diving by night, leaving Hikari and Futaba behind, Futaba becomes worried that she’s holding Hikari back. She speaks with Mato the next morning, who tells Futaba that all of her achievements are real, and later, Futaba announces to Hikari that she’s going to work towards an advanced diving license. Slow, relaxing and beautifully-rendered, Amanchu! Advance continues in the same vein as its predecessors, continuing to entertain viewers three episodes in.

Now that Amanchu! Advance is a third of the way into its run, its differences from the first season become more visible. New characters are introduced, and conflicts (in this case, character-vs-self) begin arising. The approach that Amanchu! Advance has taken is consistent with the continuations of every slice-of-life series I’ve seen previously; I’ve long noted that first seasons tend to establish initial friendships first, to create a status quo that can subsequently see disruption during a continuation. The end result of this is the creation of very life-like, dynamic characters. In Amanchu!, audiences are now introduced to Kokoro, a boy of eleven who counts himself a man of the sea. A chance encounter with him allows Hikari to make a new memory that she was not expecting. It is shown that there are unexpected moments that can surprise even someone as open-minded and alert for adventure as Hikari, and another instance where Hikari can be very mature and capable, where the situation calls for it, is presented. Amanchu! Advance is showing different aspect of the character with the aim of illustrating their complexity. Similarly, in spite of all of the growth Futaba has seen since the beginning of Amanchu!, she occasionally still harbours doubt about herself: all of the memories she’s made since arriving were made with Hikari, and Futaba wonders if the magical moments the two have spent together is a dream. Mato’s words of wisdom eventually motivate Futaba to do something of her own accord, and so, Amanchu! Advance‘s narrative is headed in a direction where Futaba will strive to take the initiative and make her own path, all the while continuing to treasure the time that she spends with Hikari. In slice-of-life anime, character growth occurs at a very slow, natural pace to drive the thematic elements, and it is typically during a second season where the more unexpected and interesting interactions between characters can occur.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before we dive further into this Amanchu! Advance discussion, I remark that I’ve recently crossed the finish line for Violet Evergarden and so, will be dropping by to do a talk on that before the month is out. There was a surprisingly solid story, and I’m immensely glad to have watched the series. For now, we’ll return the party to Amanchu! Advance, where I’ll open up with Hikari putting up a poster for the local fireworks show.

  • While serving some customers, Hikari notices someone sitting on the rocks nearby, and intrigued, makes off to check them out. Located on the Izu Peninsula near the town of Itō, the events of Amanchu! have capitalised on the beautiful weather and quiet scenery in the region to create a highly laid-back atmosphere. While anime like AIR or Ano Natsu De Matteru often convey long summer days and the vastness of the skies as melancholy in nature, series whose focus is not drive by romance tend to give summers as a time of adventure.

  • Hikari’s decision to follow Kokoro down is met with the discovery of an octopus protecting her eggs in an enclosed space underneath some rocks. Time and time again, Amanchu! reiterates to viewers that wonderous things can be found anywhere if one knows where to look, and I find that there is value in solitude; being alone means being completely aware of and open to one’s surroundings. While with others, I tend to focus my attention on them: I recall a walk that I took yesterday. Because I walked it alone today, I noticed things that I normally miss when I’m walking there with a group.

  • Kokoro is initially reluctant to give up his name, and from what I’ve been hearing, was mistaken for a girl until recently. His bold spirits and declaration that he’s a “Man of the Sea” subtly hint that he is in fact a guy, and while we’ve only seen him appear on a few occasions thus far, series do not introduce characters without reason: viewers will be seeing Kokoro, and his sister, Kotori, with a greater frequency in the near future.

  • Futaba was once distrustful of secrets, but in the time that she’s known Hikari, she’s become more open-minded and eagerly awaits returning to town so she may see what surprise that Hikari has for her. The changes that Futaba see in her worldview form the core of Amanchu! Advance, and one of the things I’d like to see more of is how Futaba’s had an impact on Hikari. While this has been mentioned in conversation previously, it would be fantastic to see things from Hikari’s perspective, as well.

  • While diving down to check on the octopus, Hikari and Kokoro witness an attacking eel. Despite seemingly losing the skirmish, the octopus manages to seize the eel and propels it far from her eggs. There are many marvels (and some terrors) in the depths of the ocean, many of which remain poorly-characterised; the comparison of the ocean to another world in fiction is a reminder that the vast, unexplored places of our world hold many mysteries, giving its exploration a sense of romance.

  • Last Friday marked the start of Poutine Week in my city. I’ve been participating since 2016, and the premise is simple: every year, restaurants participate in Poutine week by making unique poutines. People then go to these restaurants to eat said poutine, and proceeds from poutines purchased go to MealShare, a charity that helps youth in need by providing meals. This year, I opened up Poutine Week with Brasserie Kensington’s All-American Breakfast poutine, which is made with cold-press canola oil fries, white sausage gravy and Alberta cheese curds, plus a fried egg, breaded veal cutlet and sausage that was a rich, smokey and garlicky flavour. This is one of the fanciest poutines I’ve enjoyed: I don’t think I’ve had veal before, much less in a poutine. The veal was tender, and the sausage was seasoned well, resulting in a very flavourful poutine. I subsequently took a walk along the river and enjoyed the first rainfall of the year.

  • I say “enjoy” because, even though it was quite chilly, being there to see the first rain of the year meant a true return of warmer weather that my area’s been lacking so far. When Mato shows up at the Amanchu Beach House, Hikari invites her to accompany them to the fireworks event. Mato notices that Hikari is chipper, even more than usual, and Hikari responds that she’s been chilling with Kokoro. At this point, Hikari is under the impression that Kokoro is a girl, and viewers continue to be under the impression that this is the case until later in the anime: the manga similarly introduces Kokoro in a manner that readers would think of him as a girl, only for the truth to come out later.

  • Once Futaba is back in town, she and Hikari meet up, with Hikari gushing over Futaba’s yukata. Hikari herself is wearing sunflowers, a mirror of her bright and cheerful presence. The moment was bloody hilarious, and I note that people with a yuri perspective are quite excited about what’s happening in Amanchu!. I hate to burst that bubble, but there’s actually not too much to discuss in this area, since friendships amongst females are rather more open and more expressive. Guys tend to be more boisterous with the jokes, but the dynamics are quite different, which is one reason why there might be occasions where some mistake ordinary friendship for romantic friendship.

  • With this being said, Hikari’s mention of dates and the like does seem to come across as being more romantic in nature, and when Futaba finds out, she cannot help but feel a little jealous that Hikari is able to befriend people so quickly. These feelings quickly dissipate as Futaba begins feeling that Hikari’s bright personality is her strongest suit, and so, she sets off with the others to find a suitable spot for viewing the fireworks. The venue is absolutely packed, and Mato and the others wonder if they’ll manage to find spaces before the show begins.

  • However, it turns out that Hikari’s got an ace in the hole: as a volunteer, she was given access to special seating that puts them directly underneath the fireworks, and when the show starts, Futaba, Hikari, Ai, Makoto and Mato are treated to a spectacular fireworks display. I’m particularly fond of fireworks, and every summer, there are a handful of shows around town. The most famous is Global Fest, where dedicated performances are held at Elliston Park every August. Other shows include the nightly performances for the Calgary Stampede and Canada Day fireworks: the best shows are always on Saturdays, I find, since it means that I get to sleep in the next day.

  • Of course, as it’s still a ways off until the summer, I will happily accept anime fireworks as the next best option to watching real fireworks. A testament to the solid animation in Amanchu! Advance, the fireworks show was stunning: the animation in Amanchu! is handled by JC Staff, who’ve previously worked on Flying WitchUrara MeirochoTora Dora! and Azumanga Daioh. A sign of a good anime is that it immerses viewers in the universe being depicted, and for Amanchu!, the adaptation has done a spectacular job of creating this immersion, if I am remarking that the fireworks are an acceptable substitution when no real fireworks are available.

  • Spoiler alert: because fireworks are essentially explosions, they distribute their metallic fuels in a near spherical pattern, so independently of where one views a fireworks display, one will always see the disk facing them. I have plans to write about the upcoming film Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?: unlike some folks, whose home countries screened the film, I live in a dead zone where only the biggest anime films are screened, and as such, will need to wait for a bit longer in order to check this film out for myself.

  • The next day, Hikari finds Kokoro trying to make his way back to the spot where the mother octopus was and tries to dissuade him, telling him that death is a natural part of life. Dealing with death is a very tricky topic, especially when communicating it to children, and a part of properly addressing things is to be honest. This was dealt with in Non Non Biyori Repeat, surprising some viewers; a good slice-of-life series explores the everyday, and while it’s a topic some might be uncomfortable with contemplating, death is very much a part of our reality.

  • While having missed the fireworks of the previous evening, Kokoro bears witness to a swarm of paralarva glistening in the ocean waters with Hikari: it’s a miraculous sight that indicates the mother octopus had ultimately fulfilled its duty and ensured the survival of her offspring. These paralarva will consume other small copepods, zooplankton and larvae as they mature into adult octopi. Octopi tend to have shorter life spans, with some living for only a half year, while longer-lived species can push five years.

  • Hikari’s constant encounters with the extraordinary are very much presented as a strength in Amanchu! – she’s seemingly always in the right place at the right time to enjoy the present. Kozue Amane’s work illustrates that she’s someone who believes that miracles can be found in both the small of moments and most momentous of events. I’ve previously stated that this is the reason why I am particularly fond of iyashikei anime: people who are very task-oriented and goal-driven often forget to stop and smell the roses, and anime such as these remind me of the merits of doing so.

  • A qualified pilot must be able fly a plane with only the instruments and no visual cues of what’s outside, and similarly, divers must train to ensure they are able to navigate in low-light conditions. Futaba is practising how to navigate using a compass and manages to succeed in her simulated run on dry land, perfectly moving in the direction she intends to. After passing her trial run, she moves into the water to put her learnings to the test.

  • Unsurprisingly, the techniques outlined in Amanchu! Advanced are correct: compasses designed for scuba diving have a lubber line (pair of red lines) clearly marked, and this is first set to be oriented with the target. The bezel is then adjusted so that 0º is oriented to the north. Once underwater, turning in a direction so that the compass’ north marking lines up with 0º indicates that one is facing their intended direction, and revolving the bezel 180º will allow one to travel back the way they came from.

  • There’s always a degree of challenge when doing something in the actual environment, as opposed to in a training environment, and when Futaba sets out to put her navigation learnings to use, she becomes unsure as to whether or not she’s done things correctly and considers throwing the towel in when she loses sight of Hikari. However, while alone in the ocean, several thoughts return to Futaba, and spurred on, she makes her way back to the others with the techniques that she’s picked up.

  • When she’s doubtful of whether or not she set her compass up correctly, Futaba recalls bits of advice from Hikari, from various landmarks and species of fish she’s seen, to the orientation of ripples in the sand as a result of waves propagating through the water. This scene was intended to illustrate that, even if Futaba and Hikari are separated, their presence will endure in one another’s hearts, and moreover, it appears to be a powerful enough motivator as to bring them back together, if Futaba’s exercise was meant to be a metaphor of thus.

  • Futaba thus completes her test successfully, and Hikari is thrilled to see Futaba returns on her own without any assistance. To illustrate the lightening mood, the ocean water become much brighter, with lighter shades of blue returning into frames that were previously dominated by black. I’ve noticed that elsewhere, discussions on Amanchu! Advance have been rather minimal despite the near-universal positive reception to the sequel. This phenomenon is primarily a consequence of the slow pacing of Amanchu!, which is even more languid than the likes of K-On! or Yuru Camp△.

  • As a result, some bloggers have found it challenging to write about this series, much less on an episodic basis. It would be quite vapid to simply react to things as they occur in the anime, and Amanchu! isn’t the sort of thing where “deconstruction” can be performed, considering how open and clear the themes are: the messages that Amanchu! strives to convey are the sum of the events in the series, with individual episodes being snapshots and an example of how events drive the theme.

  • In the aftermath of Futaba’s exercise, they freshen up and relax under beautiful summer skies. The question that remains is, if writing for something like Amanchu! Advance presents unique challenges, then will I be continuing with posts after six and nine episodes as planned? The answer to this is that I will continue: my big picture discussions allow me to take a look at how the progression of an anime align with the overarching themes (or more appropriately, what I’ve interpreted to be a suitable theme), while the “screenshots and commentary” give me some space to simply react to moments and have fun with my writing.

  • Returning the focus back to Amanchu! Advance, here, Ai manages to elicit a squeal out of Futaba that sounds strikingly similar to Finn’s screams from Adventure Time. Having completed the navigation tutorials, Futaba feels she’s one step further along in acquiring the skills that divers require, even if there is quite a bit for her to learn, and is feeling particularly happy about things.

  • Ai notes that things only really get exciting once one has an increased skillset: I am brought back to my experience in martial arts. I teach occasionally, and there are some students who occasionally wonder what the point of doing all of the basics are. The basics (e.g. stances, techniques, discipline) are essential before one can properly learn kata, and as such, we place a great deal of emphasis on ensuring that our basics are satisfactory. Even though I am a ni-dan now, I feel that my basics could definitely use improvement still, but I know enough so that I’m able to do the more advanced things, which, as Ai says, is where the fun begins.

  • Ai and Makoto highlight some of their new gear, including a high-intensity flashlight and glowsticks, that allow them to safely descend and view the ocean by nightfall. Back on the surface, Hikari mentions to Futaba that night diving has its own charms: the use of white light allows for wildlife and structures underwater to be viewed with a more natural colour, and Hikari expresses a want to eventually try this out.

  • Futaba feels that she’s holding Hikari back in some cases, and that her achievements feel a little unreal at times. Futaba ends up waking up early and gazing at the ocean; after Mato joins her, Futaba decides to share with Mato the doubts that she has. While Mato has been shown to be energetic and similar to her students at times, even participating in a game of red light, green light, back during the first season, she is also reliable, mature and helpful towards her students.

  • One minor detail in Amanchu! Advance is the presence of Aria and Ohime’s antics, which subtly occur in the background while the characters converse. These dynamics add life to a scene, and while Aria was noticeably absent in Amanchu!‘s first season, it’s quite pleasant to see Aria getting along with Ohime now. Their interactions bring to mind Maa and Aria’s interactions from ARIA: Maa is quite fond of Aria and expresses her affection for him in a manner that is quite painful. Here in Amanchu!, Ohime often is seen kicking Aria around even though she’s much smaller than he is.

  • Mato reminds Futaba that all of her memories and accomplishments are very much real: while Futaba’s more mature and open now than she was at the very beginning of Amanchu!, personal growth is a life-long journey, and she still occasionally stumbles. Fortunately, it is with her friends that she’s able to slowly, and surely, develop a stronger sense of confidence. While Futaba provides this monologue, she is shown diving with Hikari, and in this sequence, animation of the world underwater is superb. Details in the anemone and clownfish are remarkable, illustrating to viewers what Futaba and Hikari see.

  • Futaba declares that she will be going for her advanced diving certification, which gives Amanchu! Advance a clear focus as we continue into the season. As mentioned earlier, it would also be nice for Amanchu! Advance to focus on how Hikari has seen personal growth since meeting Futaba. This brings my Amanchu! Advance post to a conclusion, and looking ahead into the future, I’m surprised that April’s almost over. I will be working on a Violet Evergarden post, since the anime seems to be the hot topic, and on top of that, with the upcoming Fireworks movie, I also will see if I can write about that in a timely fashion. Battlefield 1 and The Division also have exciting things in store: the latter is getting new weapons and content, while the latter is running a Global Event starting tomorrow. With all of this stuff on the table, and having gotten some feedback surrounding my prospective Your Lie in April talks, I’ve decided not to write about Your Lie in April until I know I can do the series justice.

With its cathartic pacing and focus on the minor details, Amanchu! Advance has hit its stride, acting as this season’s go-to anime for relaxing after the work week. Continuing to remind audiences that there is great value in taking things slowly and making the most of every moment, Amanchu! is also considered to be a series that can be difficult to write for owing to the rate of progression: a few activities that Futaba, Hikari and the others partake in are rendered in great detail, with Futaba and Hikari’s monologues informing audiences precisely how they are feeling about things. Amanchu! is very direct as to what audiences should take away from the anime, and consequently, some have expressed that episodic reviews of Amanchu! Advance could be quite tricky. With this in mind, my approach, to return every few episodes to offer some thoughts as to where things are going, is quite suitable for series like Amanchu! — dropping in to see where the story and characters are headed while considering the messages from a big picture perspective offers just enough to write about without things becoming repetitive, and as a second season, Amanchu! Advance will certainly offer something distinct from its predecessor precisely because the series is now open to introducing new characters and exploring hitherto unexplored interactions between different subsets of characters. These have always added a new dimensionality to the characters and augment the enjoyability of a show, so I am greatly looking forwards to seeing how Amanchu! Advance‘s journey will unfold.

Comic Girls: Review and Reflection After Three

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Story of One Summer Night and a Confession: Amanchu! Advance First Episode Impressions and Review

“Fun is infinite!” –Futaba and Hikari

During a beautiful summer’s day, Futaba meets up with Hikari, Ai and Makoto. When they arrive at the beach house, they find Kino swamped from the lunch rush and decide to help her. In the quiet moments after, Hikari invites Futaba to scuba dive for the next day, but Futaba decides to help Kino out instead. She arrives to find the beach house empty, and wonders how Hikari would go about making the most of the moment. Meanwhile, after their scuba diving excursion, Hikari enters a hot springs, leaving her swim top in the open. Mortified, she calls her friends for assistance – Futaba arrives to provide a distraction, and Ai retrieves Hikari’s swim top before anything can happen. Hikari decides to have a summer barbecue for the evening, and afterwards, Futaba shares with Hikari her fears about what would happen if they were to separate. Hikari assures Futaba that fun is infinite, encouraging her to simply make the most of the moment and enjoy the present. With this first episode, Amanchu! Advance marks a triumphant return of Amanchu! – the first season was characterised by a superb exploration of the growing friendship between Futaba and Hikari, and how this introduced gradual but profound changes on each. At the opening of the second season, it becomes clear that Futaba’s come to treasure her friendship with Hikari, Ai and Makoto as dearly as she does with Akane and Chizuru, and Amanchu! Advance follow what occurs as Futaba continues to spend time with her friends, as well as what occurs when new individuals are introduced.

With its opening episode, Amanchu! Advance submits to audiences that Futaba is someone who treasures her memories very greatly; the first season illustrated that Futaba was troubled by the prospect of not being able to store all of her photos, and Futaba’s monologues show that she’s very nostalgic. Further to this, once Futaba settles into a new environment, she finds it difficult to entertain the notion of readjusting to a new one; the first season depicted Futaba slowly easing into her new life with Hikari and scuba diving. Having grown accustomed to the energy and adventure that Hikari brings into her life, Futaba becomes worried that these experiences will end should they two ever separate. In conjunction with the addition of new characters into Amanchu!, which will act as the catalyst for pushing Futaba to embrace living in the moment and finding joy in everyday things, I would therefore imagine that Amanchu! Advance‘s main goal will be to present the journey that Futaba and Hikari experience together; their opposite personalities will doubtlessly allow the two to continue learning from one another, especially considering the strength of camaraderie that Futaba and Hikari share (to the tune of both girls openly expressing their feelings as love). These learnings will be set against the backdrop of scuba diving, and consequently, I’m very much looking forwards to seeing what directions that Amanchu! Advance will cover.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This is why I watch anime – fluffy cumulus clouds rising high into the sky on a summer’s day evokes a sense of adventure, inviting hikes into far-flung forests or lying in an open field as a breeze introduces relief from a comfortably warm summer sun. Summer weather of this sort usually gives me a sense of melancholy; summer is when I would consider to be the most romantic season, and relationships that blossom during the summer in anime are characterised by equal measures of closeness and distance. Of course, being Amanchu!, the melancholy element is absent, leaving only the feeling of infinite possibility that accompanies summer days.

  • The weather of Amanchu! Advance‘s first episode is a world apart from the miserable, dreary and cold, grey weather my area’s experiencing. While it’s remained -10ºC and snowing, at least the weather in Amanchu! Advance is beautiful, and here, Hikari races Futaba to the viewpoint, remarking that she enjoys trying to find fun things to experience in common, everyday activities. It typifies Hikari’s character to live in the present. Here, at the beginning of my journey into Amanchu! Advance, I will note that this first episode post will feature the standard twenty images, and that I will likely continue to write about Amanchu! Advance as I did for Yuru Camp△.

  • Scuba diving is now second nature for Futaba, who spent a majority of Amanchu! easing into the activity and earning her certifications to be able to dive with Hikari and the others. The journey to the destination was meaningful, and the conclusion was a well-deserved one. In my review for the first season, I gave the series a recommendation – it’s an excellent anime and fell short of “strong recommend” only on the basis that Amanchu! moves very slowly, and the chibis might be a bit distracting at times. Anime I give “strong” recommendations to are the cream of the crop: these are the shows that even the most seasoned and perhaps, jaded viewer might enjoy.

  • After hearing some guests speaking about this being their last scuba diving trip for the present, Futaba begins wondering about what would happen once she and Hikari go their separate ways. She helps the guests take a group photograph, and subsequently, the crowds begin thinning. It’s not often that Kino’s beach house is this busy – it’s generally quite quiet in the anime, bringing to mind GochiUsa‘s Rabbit House, which was similarly quiet.

  • Once things settle down at the beach house, Hikari and the others settle down for lunch: Kino’s pork soup and ice cream. After Hikari mentioned making fun in every moment to Futaba, when Hikari invites her to go scuba diving with her and help with a programme she’s teaching, Futaba declines, trying to make her own path and feeling that helping Kino out would be a fun experience in its own right. Futaba’s decision leaves Hikari a touch disappointed.

  • I do not believe that I have any screenshots of Kino, Hikari’s grandmother, up until now: with a laid-back personality, she’s voiced by Kikuko Inoue (Ah! My Goddess!‘s Belldandy, Sanae Furukawa of CLANNAD and Megu’s mother in GochiUsa). I live in a land-locked place, and as such, views such as these are completely unattainable to me except during travels: Cancún was one such destination, and I still remember the mornings where I strolled along the beach and marvelled at the warm, turquoise waters.

  • The last time I wrote about Amanchu!, it was the OVA that I’d long waited to see. It accompanied one of the BD releases and released in March, although circumstances meant that I did not have a chance to watch it until August, after coming home from a hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse and Beehives in Lake Louise. The uncertainty of OVAs and movies means that I prefer second seasons to shows that I greatly enjoy: having a known schedule makes shows much easier to write for.

  • Hikari’s main shortcoming is that, in living in the moment, she occasionally fails to consider the consequences of her actions. After hopping into a hot bath, Hikari realises that she’d left her swim top slightly out of reach, but before she can retrieve it, some older gentlemen occupy another bath nearby, preventing her from getting out. She finds herself in a bit of a quandary, blushes in the style that is unique to Amanchu!, and then decides to call her friends for assistance. While they’re initially away from their phones, they end up receiving Hikari’s message and immediately move in to help

  • Futaba ends up giving the gentlemen some pork soup to focus their attention away from Hikari. Spending too much time in the hot springs causes blood vessels to dilate, lowering blood pressure and inducing feelings of nausea. By the time Ai and Futaba reach Hikari, reach her, she’s beginning to overheat, and Ai is so focused on getting Hikari out of the water that she forgets Hikari’s got no top, resulting in a hilarious funny face.

  • Hikari cools off with Ai and Futaba by her side, quickly returning to normal after a dangerous situation. Here, I remark that the translations I’ve seen use a colloquial phrase associated with wardrobe malfunctions: Hikari’s original dialogue on her phone reads “SOS ポロリ” (romaji “porori”). This phrase is slang for “slipping out” or “nip slip”, and consequently, the choice of translation ends up being spot on. I further remark that I certainly don’t write with this set of vocabulary because it’s not the sort of things this blog covers, so unless there is another need for it, you won’t be seeing this phrase elsewhere.

  • Evidently, recovery from overheating and the effects of a prolonged stay in warm water is much quicker in anime than it is in reality. After a few moments, the effects have worn off, and Hikari hops up with a new announcement. Prompted by Futaba’s coming to the rescue, Hikari decides to throw a barbecue by way of thanks. Folks wondering why I don’t ever refer to Futaba as “Teko” and Hikari as “Pikari” will be disappointed to learn that it’s because it’s for clarity. As a bit of digression, I note that Pikari (ぴかり) refers to something brilliant, shining, mirroring Hikari’s high-energy presence. Futaba’s nickname stems from Hikari finding her eyebrows to resemble the tenten strokes, so Teko is the combination of te– from the tenten and ko is “girl”.

  • As evening sets in, the girls and their homeroom instructor, Mato, have a fantastic barbecue by the seaside.  Besides the assortment of meats and corn on the cob from Hikari, Ai and Makoto bring shellfish (prawns and scallops). Mato’s brought snow crab, and Kino provides onigiri. Anime such as Amanchu! are why I would suggest to bloggers not to write on an empty stomach, and is actually one of the reasons why I’m so fond of sharing food pictures in some of my anime discussions.

  • Having good food is precisely what is necessary to ward of the miserable winter days, and so, yesterday, while the world remained a dreary grey, I sat down to a home-made fish burger with a side of two kinds of fries, which was delicious and also a sight more colourful than the landscape around town. The weather’s begun warming up slightly, and we’re expected to see more seasonal temperatures soon, but expedite warming from within, we had prime rib with a salt-and-pepper thyme rub, mushroom gravy, loaded mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Tender, tasty and warming, it’s the perfect thing for when the weather has remained quite miserable.

  • Futaba and Kino share a conversation: audiences have been aware of Futaba being uncertain of her directions in life until she met Hikari, but Kino reveals that Hikari had a tendency to lose track of things when living in the moment until she’d met Futaba. A strong indicator of the strength of their friendship, both Futaba and Hikari have helped one another grow. There’s a subtle detail in this conversation: Ohime blows through her food and manages to eat some of Aria’s too, but Aria isn’t too bothered by this, and later settles down with Ohime.

  • There’s one another anime that immediately comes to mind when the preparation of and enjoyment of food is depicted to this level of detail, and that’s Yuru Camp△. The sizzling of crab on a grill is a sound for the ears to enjoy, and one can imagine the aroma that the cooking process produces. The cooking process isn’t actually too difficult: the crab legs should be brushed with a thin layer of olive oil, and after the grill is heated, they can be placed around 12 to 15 centimeters from the coals. Crab legs will cook in around four to five minutes, and should be flipped once during cooking.

  • Having eaten their way through the grilled meat, corn, shellfish, crab, pork soup and onigiri, everyone’s feeling the effects of the food wall, although not yet reaching a point where they get the legendary meat sweats. Both are encountered by Adam Richman in Man v. Food: the former is simply a consequence of beginning to fatigue from eating too much, but the “meat sweats” specifically refers to the phenomenon where one begins sweating profusely after eating excessive meat. This arises because proteins take a considerable amount of energy to digest, and the increased energy corresponds with increased heat production, which in turn results in sweating.

  • As their dinner winds down, Futaba receives a message from Chizuru, who shares her evening’s events with Futaba. Having eaten enough to impress the likes of Adam Richman, Futaba squeals in response to Chizuru’s photo of meat on a grill. Chizuru and Akane later call Futaba: it was a pleasant surprise to see Akane and Chizuru again. They’re essentially ARIA‘s Akari and Aika in the real world, sharing their respective voice actresses, and in this moment, some call-outs to ARIA can be seen. The Orange Planet emblem is seen on a pillow, and Akane is holding a Maa doll.

  • Today’s page quote comes from this moment. When Futaba voices her worries to Hikari about the possibility of them parting ways, Hikari reassures Futaba that even if this was to happen, then the only thing to do is to live in the present and make the most of the now. Both Hikari and Futaba represent the extreme ends on a spectrum, and in reality, people will find that they fall on a continuum between the two. I personally am more similar to Futaba; it takes me a bit of a kick to get me out of my comfort zone.

  • Because I’m now familiar with Amanchu!, watching the characters revert to chibi form is no longer a bit of a surprise to me. Hikari and Futaba more or less do a mutual kokuhaku here, although given the nature of Amanchu!, I would tend to believe that these feelings are more strongly tied to mutual trust, respect and the understanding that the two friends complement one another is what draws the two to one another, rather than anything associated with romantic love.

  • With the first episode in the books, I say with confidence that Amanchu! Advance is going to be this season’s Yuru Camp△, fulfilling the role of an anime that puts a smile on my face, helps me relax and also prompts me to take a look back and appreciate the simpler things in life. This is the main reason why I continue to watch slice-of-life anime, and I imagine that others of Amanchu!‘s ilk continue to be produced in Japan primarily because there is a market for shows that help people kick back after a day of hard work.

Right out of the gates, Amanchu! Advance is a visual treat on top of introducing new narrative directions. As the first episode progresses, I was superbly impressed with just how vivid the colours are. The deeply azure skies and verdant landscapes create a contrast of colours that fully and completely capture what a summer properly feels like. Kino’s beach house and its surroundings are rendered immaculately. Lighting is expertly applied to breathe life into the world that Hikari and Futaba live in. All of this comes together to create an unparalleled sense of immersion: Amanchu! Advance is quick to remind audiences that a vast ocean awaiting exploring, the endless summer calm and heartwarming characters of Amanchu! have returned in full force for another season. However, this is a continuation that will explore new directions, and a subtle reminder of this is found in the rather unfortunate and embarrassing situation Hikari finds herself in; audiences are to infer that Amanchu! Advance will be more bold than its predecessor. Amidst the cathartic atmosphere and valuable life lessons depicted, Amanchu! Advance will very much be this season’s equivalent of Yuru Camp△Amanchu! might have a dramatically different setting, premise and art style, but like Yuru Camp△, Amanchu! masterfully utilises dissimilar personalities and the resulting interactions to create stories that calm, warm and induce a sense of ease amongst viewers that entice them to return each week to follow the adventures and learning that Futaba and Hikari partake in.

Yuru Camp△ Episode Zero: OVA Review and Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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