The Infinite Zenith

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YuruYuri Ten: Tenth Anniversary OVA Review and Reflection

“Real love stories never have endings.” –Richard Bach

To commemorate YuruYuri‘s tenth anniversary for the manga’s release, Akari, Chinatsu, Yui and Kyōko of the Amusement Club decide to reminisce on events of the past ten years, but inadvertently end up including the prehistoric era. When Ayano and Chitose arrive, they decide to host a party celebrating ten years worth of manga. They decide to help set up decorations for the party, and Himawari decides to help Chinatsu bake some cookies for the party. Meanwhile, Akari and Chitose continue with the decorations after everyone’s left. The next day, the girls kick off celebrations, and play a variety of games. When Akari loses in a rock-paper-scissors variant several times in a row, she ends up passing out from exhaustion after being made to partake in the penalty. She dreams of the encouragement and support her friends have offered her, and after waking up, it turns out that they’d planned a second surprise: the tenth anniversary of YuruYuri happens to coincide with Akari’s birthday, and they’d planned this out for her, as well. In the post-credits scene, Akari wonders how Yui and Kyōko got the photos of her for the birthday slideshow, but Kyōko remarks it’s better not to know. With its combination of comedy and yuri situations, YuruYuri has remained quite consistent in providing good laughs for readers since it began running in 2008. The anime’s first season aired in 2011, and since then, there have been three seasons, plus a special OVA and a web mini-series. Following the life of Akari Akaza and the everyday antics at the Amusement Club, YuruYuri opens as a pure comedy, using its characters purely to drive moments that elicit a smile. However, as the seasons wore on, the series did begin showing a subtle shift as the characters matured. Rather than purely focusing on gags (often at Akari’s expense), YuruYuri began showing a more genuine, tender dynamic between everyone as they come to treasure the time spent together as students. Ayano slowly begins to take the initiative to spend more time with Kyōko. Sakurako demonstrates a more mature side to her personality. Akari becomes less prone to random ills. The sum of this showed that even when character dynamics in YuruYuri began shifting, the series lost none of its edge, and continued to entertain viwers while at once, adding new depth to the characters

By the time of YuruYuri Ten, the series has struck a masterful balance between the heart-warming moments and the hilarious moments. The OVA opens with an unexpected insertion into the prehistoric era, which sees the girls gather fish and wild edibles without any dialogue. This sudden shift in the environment reinforces the sense that YuruYuri is still able to create ludicrous moments for the characters to drive humour. The OVA shifts between more gentle moments where the characters spend time together in preparation for the coming party, whether it be Chinatsu learning to bake under Himawari’s watch (and somehow managing to create a monstrosity that isn’t fit for human eyes), or Akari and Chitose boosting the club room’s decorations. During the party, YuruYuri Ten appears to relapse into the series’ old ways when Akari constantly loses at rock-paper-scissors, but this segues smoothly into a dialogue about what Akari means to everyone. While the OVA could have performed a cruel joke on her in its ending, it concludes in a meaningful manner; per Kyōko’s promise, the OVA did indeed give Akari the focus that she was often denied in the series, showing that over time, people mature and learn as a result of their experiences and time spent together. This is the theme in YuruYuri, and while it is not apparent during the earlier seasons, over time, subtle differences in the characters show that viewers have been watching a very dynamic and changing cast whose adventures become worth following because they show that one’s present situation won’t necessarily always be thus, especially if it is unfavourable, and over time, it is encouraging to see everyone make the most of their time as students while improving their circumstances.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Ten years is a lot of time, and a lot has happened in the past decade. In fact, when YuruYuri first began running as a manga, I was still a secondary student, just getting into anime. When the anime began airing, I was an undergraduate student. That YuruYuri has found a way to keep the party going after all this time is nothing short of impressive, and while the anime might have slowed, the manga is still ongoing.

  • While many things have changed, some things also never change: YuruYuri Ten opens with the same hajimaru yo~! that the first and second seasons utilised. On the other hand, season three employed a much more conventional setup, starting each episode with the opening song. Seeing this introduction come back, together with Akari being interrupted, immediately sets the tone for the rest of the OVA.

  • The Palaeolithic segment of YuruYuri Ten brings to mind the antics of B.C. SpongeBob, which placed familiar characters in a prehistoric setting and similarly reduced the characters to short vocalisations. While B.C. SpongeBob was outright hilarious (it was made before the series degraded into the unintelligible drivel of the present), the YuruYuri Ten version is short, succint and adorable, showing the Amusement Club’s members working together to start a fire and prepare a meal.

  • The prehistoric segment draws to an end once Ayano and Chitose appear. While Kyōko and Akari are quite happy to see them, Chinatsu and Yui are embarassed to have been seen doing this sort of thing. The girls sit down to discuss what to do for the tenth anniversary of YuruYuri, and ultimately decide on a party. Ayano’s tsundere mannerisms have been dialed back during the OVA, but her uncommon talent for making bad puns remains, and she is one of the few people who can consistently make Yui laugh with said puns.

  • It’s quite rare that Himawari and Chinatsu spend time together: ever-driven to impress Yui and win her affections, Chinatsu decides to try her hand at baking cookies, but ends up creating a concotion not dissimilar to Bender’s cooking from Futurama. So appalling is this creation that the contents are blurred out, and from what is seen, Chinatsu’s cookies appear to contain swarms of things. Chinatsu asks Sakurako to try one, and it’s an indicator of how terrifying it is when even Himawari is worried about what will happen to Sakurako after.

  • While Sakurako may be more mature than she was at the start of YuruYuri, she’s still envious of Himawari’s bust and will not hesitate to make her displeasure known whenever something is against her favour. This reminds me somewhat of GochiUsa‘s second season, when an irate Sharo chases Chiya around after Chiya tries on her Fleur de Lapin costume and causes a button to pop off. Himawari’s look of embarrassment is priceless.

  • Subtly has never been YuruYuri‘s strong suit, and Chitose is fond of imagining her friends in various raunchy situations with one another. The dynamic between Ayano and Kyōko has been one that dates back all the way to the series’ beginning, and while Ayano is tsundere in these situations, Kyōko is blissfully unaware of Ayano’s feelings for her: she does all sorts of things that fluster Ayano in the series. YuruYuri Ten makes a call-back to this when Kyōko, seeing Ayano struggling to inflate a balloon, takes the same balloon and inflates it. Ayano blushes because of the implied kiss, but Kyōko is completely unaware of this.

  • After a day’s of work, the Amusement Club’s main room is properly decorated. If memory serves, Ayano met Kyōko while she’d been on a mission to eliminate the Amusement Club as a part of her student council president duties, but over time, came to tolerate and accept the club’s existence. At present, the Amusement Club is no longer a thorn in her side, and she participates with the aim of getting to know Kyōko better, planning to one day make a kokuhaku.

  • The next day, the Amusement Club’s party is under way, and opens with everyone sitting down to food. Chinatsu’s cookies end up scaring Yui, but beyond this, have no long-lasting impact on her health, suggesting they look much scarier than they taste. It is fortunate that such constructs are absent in reality: on top of providing sustenance, food exists to be enjoyed, and I’m always fond of a good meal. Yesterday, I returned to a Chinese bistro that’d I’d not visited in some years for their evening special, which is both tasty and inexpensive. On Saturdays, it’s a flank steak with Russian-style sauce on spaghetti, garnished with pumpkin and carrots.

  • Having seen the club room with the basic decorations, the special decorations Akari adds to it make things even flashier than before. The party starts out fairly relaxed, with much food and conversation, but this would admittedly make for a duller OVA. Once the last of the food is enjoyed and cleared away, the fun and games come out. This is where YuruYuri Ten gets knocked into twelfth gear. The wild antics of YuruYuri match those seen in Rick and Morty at times, and in fact, despite radically different premises and characters, Rick and Morty shares a great deal in common with YuruYuri, striking a balance between storytelling to drive home a certain message and providing no-holds-barred comedy.

  • To the uninitiated, there are two Yuis in this scene: Kyōko’s brought wigs for everyone and passes them out, allowing everyone to take on different appearances. This is a visual gag that is only possible because unlike a live-action work, the fact that hair only has one texture means that palette-swapping is trivially easy to accomplish. For the remainder of the OVA, I’ll only be showing some moments off, as they are best enjoyed in their original form.

  • I don’t recall Yui being quite so touchy about Kyōko’s antics in the original series: after the girls begin playing an imitation game, Yui grows angry and spins Kyōko round (like a record). Yui’s long been presented as the most level-headed of the bunch, and is usually the one who counteracts Kyōko’s wild personality. All of the characters in YuruYuri are likeable, but for me, Yui stands out from everyone for providing insight into how ordinary folk might react to the sorts of things in the series.

  • While soft-spoken and gentle for the most part, YuruYuri Ten also shows Chitose as becoming rather displeased with Kyōko during the imitation game. There’s actually a scene here that involves her overactive imagination painting an image of Kyōko looking after Ayano as a doctor: even in its shorter run, YuruYuri Ten manages to bring back many of the things that made YuruYuri particularly memorable, and while it’s been four years since I’ve watched YuruYuri‘s third season, my recollections of what made this series so hilarious came flooding back upon seeing the OVA.

  • Having taken a look around, I can say with confidence that this is the only complete discussion for YuruYuri Ten that exists on the internet that comes with screenshots. There aren’t any more substantial talks beyond reactions, and to the best of my knowledge, reception to YuruYuri Ten has been quite positive, being a trip down memory lane for most. I have also seen YuruYuri Ten being stylised as YuruYuri、. This is a pun on the fact that the enumeration comma (頓號, jyutping deon6 hou6, literally “pause mark”) in Japanese is pronounced ten.

  • It just wouldn’t be YuruYuri if Akari wasn’t made to suffer at least once: the rock-paper-scissors game that Kyōko suggests has losers act in a much more upbeat, high-energy level with each successive loss. The setup reminds me a little of the Tension Meter seen in Angel Beats!‘ OVA, and because Akari is intrinsically kind, she gets into the spirits and attempts to amp up the tension.

  • While it’s all fun and games initially, the others eventually grow nervous when Akari sustains several losses in a row. Something like this cannot be attributed to pure chance anymore, and as Akari’s efforts eventually has even Kyōko wondering when Akari will snap from being pushed too far. Eventually, Akari seemingly outputs enough energy to create a singularity and ends up in the void. Frightened and alone, she bursts into tears, but the spirit of her friends soon join her.

  • After ten years, YuruYuri has found its feet in being able to turn Akari’s suffering into something heartwarming. In the void, her friends remind her of all of the good she’s done and precious memories they’ve created during their time together. They wish her a happy birthday before Akari wakes up back in the club room. Rather than any Akira-level explanations, it is more plausible to suppose that as a result of having to become increasingly high tension, Akari passed out from exhaustion.

  • In the time that Akari is out, the other members of the Amusement Club prepare a cake and slide show to celebrate Akari’s birthday, as well as her contributions to everyone’s experiences despite being relegated into nonexistence in some cases. It was a bit of an unexpected but welcome twist: Akari’s birthday is given as July 24, which is when YuruYuri Reset began running, and the summer weather does seem to corroborate this, but this also creates a bit of an inconsistency in things, since YuruYuri‘s manga started its journey on June 18, 2008.

  • Of course, it is not my objective to pick apart minor inconsistencies like these, and I’ll let it slide since viewers ultimately end up with a fun return to YuruYuri. The OVA does everything well, capturing the full spirit of the original TV series over the course of its runtime, and as a result, I have no problem recommending this to anyone who enjoyed YuruYuri. 

  • In the post-credits, it turns out that the slideshow was made from photographs that Akari’s older sister, Akane had. Akane’s tendencies are questionable, and Kyōko worries about Akari finding out, so she simply opts not to tell Akari how they’d come to get the photographs. The Amusement Club then decides to figure out what their next activity should be, bringing the OVA to a close. This also brings my discussion to a close: we’re now nearing the end of November, and the only post on the plate is for Jon’s Creator Showcase.

Because the YuruYuri manga began its journey in 2008, 2019 technically is not the ten-year anniversary, and the OVA (along with this post) would be more appropriately labelled as being the eleventh anniversary. However, since the OVA was announced in 2018 as a celebratory project, the ten-year designation can be said to hold true. From what I’ve seen, production on YuruYuri Ten was delayed, and this is why the tenth anniversary special came to be a year later. Eleven years after the manga’s beginnings, and eight years since the anime adaptation first began running, YuruYuri has become a bit of a forgotten title: while reception to the series was quite positive, the reality is that the last YuruYuri finished running in 2015 with season three. Thus, the fact that YuruYuri received an OVA to celebrate its tenth anniversary at all is nothing short of miraculous, showing both the creators’ commitment to the series, as well as the fan’s dedication: the OVA was funded by a crowd-funding project that met its objectives in February 2019, and it was a few weeks ago when YuruYuri Ten released. Despite being produced by a different studio (Lay-duce handled this, whereas TYO Animations had done the earlier seasons), YuruYuri Ten retains all of the pacing, character designs and stylistic choices present in the series. Overall, the OVA is a welcome addition to the series, providing a reminder of a series that has done an excellent job of striking a balance between gag humour and meaningful character growth amongst the cast. YuruYuri Ten is therefore quite worth watching, bringing back many of the elements that made the TV series so enjoyable while simultaneously celebrating a well-deserved tenth anniversary.

Kandagawa Jet Girls: Review and Reflection At the Halfway Point

“If you take out the ‘team’ in teamwork, it’s just work. Now, who wants that?” –Matthew Woodring Stover

While Emily Orange and Jennifer Peach take an early lead in the race, Rin and Misa begin catching up, taking advantage of the Orcano’s handling to put Misa in a spot where she can snipe the Cuisine 2 at a critical juncture. Depriving Emily and Jennifer of their speed, Misa and Rin manage to win, and honouring the terms of their competition, Jennifer yields the yellow dolphin keychain to Misa, thanking them for an exhilarating race. Later, Rin and Misa begin training on their simulator, but the simulator malfunctions. Ruca decides it’s time to pick up new parts, and heads into town with Misa and Rin. Misa and Rin explore around, stopping at an idol café along the way. The next day, Misa struggles to ask for Rin’s phone number, and Rin accompanies Emily and Jennifer to a concert. After making a reservation for a slot to practise, Rin and Misa learn that they are to forfeit their slot to Hell’s Kitchen, a team from CS Production School known for their involvement in idol activities. Tsui and Tina Pan, of Hell’s Kitchen, anger Rin with their casual remarks about Misa’s skills, prompting her to challenge the pair to a showdown. However, Rin and Misa are soundly beaten. Later, Misa decides to take Rin to a different part of Asukasa, since their previous outing had been disrupted, and here, they run into Shinjuku Takadanobaba Girls School’s Manatsu Shiraishi and Yuzu Midorikawa. After the two mention Rin and Misa’s spanking at Hell’s Kitchen’s hands, Misa takes up a variety of challenges where they both get defeated. Emily and Jennifer appear later in the day and, after watching the final challenge, point out that Rin and Misa’s weakness is their lack of communication. Realising this, Misa and Rin finally exchange phone numbers and spend the remainder of an evening marveling in being able to text one another effortlessly.

Kandagawa Jet Girls might prima facie be counted as frivolous, an excuse to shamelessly promote the upcoming game of the same name and offer an unparalleled opportunity to show some skin, but beyond this is an unexpectedly coherent story. After Rin and Misa’s win over Unkai establishes the implicit strength of their friendship, the story turns towards showing that an implicit understanding and trust of one another won’t get them very far. This is hinted at in Misa’s inability to summon up the courage to ask for Rin’s number. While seemingly a trivial detail for comedy’s sake, this actually serves to show that even as far as fundamentals go, Misa is still too shy to speak with Rin. The race with Hell’s Kitchen establishes that the successful team is coordinated and synchronised with one another, able to act as a cohesive unit while on the water. While Rin demonstrates an innate talent for racing, and Misa has experience in shooting, their individual skills aren’t enough to win races. The introduction of Manatsu and Yuzu then reinforces that this lack of communication is what is holding Rin and Misa back as racers; even in trivial activities involving teams, Misa and Rin struggle because of the absence of teamwork. Jennifer and Emily note that the first step to establishing teamwork is communication of intent. Misa does end up realising this, and symbolically, takes the first step towards improvement by asking Rin for her number. It’s a subtle gesture, but by resolving this issue at the halfway point shows viewers that Rin and Misa are ready to move into their next steps as a racing team.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Six episodes into Kandagawa Jet Girls, I am finding this series far more enjoyable than initially anticipated. Its game-like setting becomes very apparent, and this is probably one of the reasons I find no shortage of things to talk about. Having dabbled in game design and development for my Master’s thesis, I am mindful of things like collision physics, mechanics, balance and interactivity: while Kandagawa Jet Girls is heavy on the T & A, my interest in games means I’m able to keep the conversation going.

  • My predictions turned out to be accurate: Emily’s preference for a shoulder-fired rocket favours destruction and area effects over precision. Emily and Jennifer are very much about style and flash, and their choice of area-of-effect munitions weapon coupled with a fast jet ski means they’re able to deal damage to unsuspecting teams very quickly. The tradeoff is that the Cuisine 2 seems less agile, and a heavy weapon means Emily has fewer shots to work with.

  • Rin’s apprehension soon turns to excitement once the race kicks in, and while she mistakenly activates her boost on a turn, costing them precious moments, Misa reassures Rin not to worry and focus. Misa’s ability to communicate with Rin during a race is rudimentary, to a much lesser extent than more experienced teams, but early on, it is enough to get Rin focused back on the race.

  • Tsui and Tina are seen watching the Kandagawa Jet Girls with interest during a break between their work as idols and sit rather closely together. I’ve heard that yuri elements are supposed to be a factor in Kandagawa Jet Girls, although insofar, I’ve felt that focusing on yuri itself in the series is secondary to understanding how that elements impacts the teams and their ability to work together. In other words, yuri is going to be solidly present, rather than being a “will they?” question – meaningful discussion thus assumes this to be a given and then focuses on the “so what?”.

  • In Kandagawa Jet Girls, the “so what?” of why yuri is present is simply how it impacts each team’s ability to perform. As the race between Unkai and the Kandagawa Jet Girls progresses, the former begin increasing their lead with skillful piloting and well-placed shots from their rocket. Jennifer and Emily had earlier requested a tunnel segment in their race to make things more fun, and while they have little trouble negotiating the turns of the tunnel, Rin is able to keep up with a combination of the Orcano’s manoeuvrability and her own talent.

  • Yuzu’s innuendo manages to embarrass Manatsu, as the two discuss the race between the Kandagawa Jet Girls and Unkai. While I’ve been focusing on character development and the relevance of game mechanics in driving the story, other writers have chosen to superciliously focus on (nonexistent) philosophical matters surrounding Kandagawa Jet Girls. Choya of Random Curiosity argues that Lacanian psychoanalysis is required to “get” Kandagawa Jet Girls, specifically, positing that the lack of males in the series, coupled with yuri relationships and various camera angles representing Lacan’s “gaze” means that the show’s values are rooted in psychology rather than story, pertaining to how the series should differ itself from other works of its genre.

  • This is quite untrue: Lacan’s style was to present his theories in a way as to make them unfalsifiable, and contemporaries regarded him as a “amusing and perfectly self-conscious charlatan” whose work amounted to nothing more than an “incoherent system of pseudo-scientific gibberish”. In the case of Kandagawa Jet Girls, Choya does readers no favours by referencing Lacan, and adds little to the discussion besides perhaps demonstrating a lack of understanding of psychology. The yuri elements are not the core focus of either the game or the anime, but instead, serve to reinforce the idea that the pilot and gunner work closely as a team to the point where they can be seen as a romantic couple.

  • In the realm of shows like Kandagawa Jet Girls, it is quite unnecessary to claim that one is watching it to see if it “[provides] some valuable enough content to fuel this conversation deeper to explore what about [this series] makes it both transformative and derivative of its contemporaries in the ecchi genre”. Shows of this sort do not invite discussions on philosophy or psychology, least of all those from methods that have been decisively demonstrated to be false. This is why I choose to focus on the characters’ growth and interactions within their setting; applying discredited philosophical theories does little to help others understand the characters’ beliefs, desires and intents.

  • Of late, the quality Random Curiosity’s articles surrounding the series that I end up writing about have declined, and I occasionally wonder if some of their writers’ hearts are really in the game to be writing about anything with a substantial slice-of-life or ecchi component in it. Back in Kandagawa Jet Girls, Rin collapses in exhaustion after the race concludes. A well-placed shot from Misa while the Cuisine 2 is airborne impacts it, dealing enough damage to cause it to power down. This leaves Rin and Misa free to win their race. This outcome was visible from a klick away; while Rin and Misa are still novices as a team, they had to win this race simply to show that victory is possible and allow Misa to win the yellow dolphin keychain that evidently signifies her commitment to Rin.

  • In the aftermath, Emily and Jennifer accept their loss and the other keychains Rin had gotten them. Despite losing, they are thrilled to have had fun racing Rin and Misa; good sportsmanship is an integral part of any anime featuring sports, and one aspect of Kandagawa Jet Girls that I will be keeping an eye on is how Rin and Misa deal with other racers in the aftermath of a given race. Such series typically emphasise sportsmanship and the development of friendships amongst rivals, which are more professional than personal in nature. This was actually what made Girls und Panzer and Harukana Receive worth watching, and this season’s Rifle is Beautiful is also doing a solid job of incorporating sportsmanship into things.

  • Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ fifth episode was actually delayed in production. On the first Tuesday of November, when my area was hit with a major snowstorm that tangled up traffic, I slogged through six inches of snow while hoofing it back home after work. Upon arriving home, I learnt that there was no Kandagawa Jet Girls episode to watch. This ended up being a blessing, as used the extra time to work on my post for Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre. Kandagawa Jet Girls is now a week later, and while this will push back my finale post into 2020, the impact on my schedule is otherwise minimal. I think Azur Lane suffered from a similar delay and is a week behind, as well.

  • Rin’s enjoyment of the arts is apparent, and she is quick to design a new logo for the Orcano, sharing it with the other club members during a meeting. For Fumika and Hina, as well as Yamada, the drawing is tantamount to a kokuhaku, although for me, this is a bit of a stretch: Rin’s drawing is merely of her and Misa as the logo. Try as I might, I can’t find any symbols in the drawing itself that might imply a declaration of love.

  • When the training rig breaks down, Ruca notes that the age of the hardware means that a trip to town is needed in order to secure the replacement parts. Ruca reminds me somewhat of Girls und Panzer‘s Alisa in appearance, and while seemingly cold and distant, Ruca is at her best when working on mechanical projects. Anything involving repairs puts a smile on her face, and on the whole, having Ruca in their corner means that audiences can be assured that Misa and Rin’s vehicle will always be in excellent shape, leaving the outcome of a race purely to them.

  • While Ruca searches for the appropriate components, she suggests that Misa and Rin take some time to relax. One recurring joke is that each and every one of Misa’s attempts to spend time alone with Rin is inexplicably ruined whenever others show up to the party. Jennifer and Emily appear shortly after when Rin stops to check out a café with idols, much to Misa’s annoyance. Misa is not particularly vocal about this, but expresses her irritation by playing with her hair.

  • I’ve heard that some folks express different tics when whenever faced with stress, anger, annoyance or boredom. Mine is picking at loose skin on my fingers whenever I’m nervous. It is here that Rin and Misa learn of Hell’s Kitchen, a team of two idols whose appearances belie uncommon skill at jet ski racing. With Rin clearly interested in checking out idols more closely, Jennifer and Emily invite her out to a concert the next day.

  • Misa wonders why it’s so hard for her to talk to Rin about getting her phone number, and when Rin leaves for said concert, she retreats to the balcony and sulks about here. Most viewers appear to have marked Misa’s hesitation as a relatively minor point with seemingly no significance beyond comedy, but the persistence of this particular topic and how it ties into the sixth episode shows that there’s actually a bit more depth than people give Kandagawa Jet Girls credit for.

  • I think every episode of Kandagawa Jet Girls features at least one such moment, and therefore, in the spirit of the anime, I will make it a point to feature at least a handful of these screenshots purely for the sake of consistency. I know readers don’t come here for that sort of thing, but it’s still fun to mix things up a little from time to time. Considering just how limited the discussion out there for Kandagawa Jet Girls is owing to folks dismissing the anime as being little more than fanservice with a weak narrative, this leaves the floor open for me to talk about whatever I choose with the series and perhaps even set the precedence for how one might go about talking about anime with a nontrivial fanservice component without resorting to psychoanalysis to keep their discussions engaging.

  • Prior to their first scheduled practise on the river, Rin remarks that she’s still going to push for a new logo on the Orcano, which currently is adjourned with Rin’s face as decoration. However, their discussion is interrupted when Misa’s phone rings; despite having a reservation, it turns out the two have been removed from their allocated time.

  • Having seen Tina and Tsui in the passing, having them interact with Misa and Rin for the first time does not leave viewers with a positive first impression of the pair: haughty and arrogant, they are quick to put down Misa and Rin as having won by sheer luck earlier against Unkai. The pair, known as Hell’s Kitchen, are probably Chinese in origin: the surname Pan (Poon in Cantonese) is rendered as 潘 and is the 37th most common family name in China. Tsui and Tina are mentioned to be strong racers who use their influence to gain the upper hand for training, and they manage to override Rin and Misa’s booking of the course.

  • While Rin is typically cheerful and easygoing, it seems that making fun of those around Rin is a quick way to get on her bad side, and Rin immediately challenges the two to a race with the intent of settling things. It marks the first time we’ve seen Rin angry, and this adds a more human side to her character: in fiction, individuals might be defined by their usual mannerisms, but watching them act in ways contrary to their typical personality and potentially learn from the resulting mistakes serves to make everyone more plausible.

  • Tsui and Tina’s preferred uniforms for racing have a distinctly Chinese style, further reinforcing their possible origins as being Chinese. Their craft, Les Soeurs SL, is a highly lightweight craft with superior manoeuvrability and acceleration compared to the Orcano. In exchange, it lacks the engine power for sustaining a high maximum speed. Tsui is the pilot, and Tina is the gunner: the latter wields a pair of pistols as her preferred weapon.

  • Dual pistols are impractical in a real setting, since they prevent one from aiming down sights and also slows down the reload time. In fiction, however, the approach is favoured for the cool factor, and dual weapons are typically used in martial arts: sai, tonfa and kama are weapons I’ve trained with in pairs. Typically, the choice to dual wield shows an inclination towards speed and agility over precision: dual pistols effectively double one’s rate of fire at the expense of accuracy, showing that Hell’s Kitchen is about picking up speed. I’m noticing a stylistic trend in Kandagawa Jet Girls where the pilots race with their mouths open in a smile. This has no impact on the narrative, but now that I’ve seen it, I doubt I’ll be able to un-see it.

  • While normally composed and emotionless, CS Production’s Shōko expresses warmth and admiration when describing Hell’s Kitchen: she and Aqua Manjō are the commentators who provide viewers with a running commentary of every race. Aqua is normally the bubbly and bright speaker, explaining the different techniques racers use, while Shōko is more of a quiet speaker and fills the audience in on the mechanical aspects of the race. Together, they act as a narrator to help viewers follow along during races.

  • Unlike previous races, Tsui and Tina offer no quarter – Rin and Misa are decimated during their race without much effort; the sixth episode deals almost entirely with what the Kandagawa Jet Girls lack compared to more experienced teams, with notions of synchronisation and team play being at the forefront of all discussion. Kandagawa Jet Girls thus pushes the idea that until Rin and Misa work out how to work together, they’ve got no chance of winning races whatsoever.

  • While Kandagawa Jet Girls places a great deal of emphasis on team work for its theme (hence the page quote), I wager that the game, once it’s launched, will have players controlling both the piloting and shooting aspects of the race, rather like how in almost all games, players can simultaneously drive a tank and fire its ordinance. In the game, then, teamwork goes out the window as players would be able to dominate races on sheer virtue of über-micro.

  • To take Rin’s mind off the race, Misa proposes that they visit Asakusa again. When they pass a spot where Rin had taken photos with others, she recalls the moment and decides to take a self-shot with Misa. Before they can complete the shot, the same girls who’d shown up in the first episode return, ruining Misa’s photo. It turns out they’re Manatsu and Yuzu of MKHU, Shinjuku Takadanobaba Girls School’s racing team. Misa takes offense to their presence, more irate that yet another chance to spend time with Rin was interrupted, and challenges them off to a showdown.

  • However, Manatsu and Yuzu have other ideas in mind: their idea of competition is various activities at a local water park. Their decision to not race is indicative of their personalities – despite their outward appearance, like Emily and Jennifer, Yuzu and Manatsu are friendly and quick to get along with others. From a narrative perspective, watching Rin and Misa be defeated in random trivial activities further reinforces that the two are most certainly not ready to race yet – if they cannot cooperate on even minor tasks to succeed, their odds of winning a race would be quite poor indeed.

  • Halfway into the season, Kandagawa Jet Girls has done a fine job of establishing jet ski racing, the major players and what the anime’s objectives are. However, Rin and Misa are nowhere near ready to take on Kaguya and Kuromaru yet, and with six episodes remaining, I imagine that now that Rin and Misa’s weaknesses have been defined, the series must show the two training together to master the fundamentals, and in the process, take on another team or two. Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ outcomes can come across as predictable, but overall, I’ve found this not to be a problem – the journey matters rather more than the destination.

  • Jennifer and Emily point out what has been increasingly apparent: without cooperation and communication, even something like a simple ball game sees the two falling. After the day comes to a close and the two leave the water park, Misa comforts Rin and then manages to ask for her phone number, signifying a first step towards improvement in communications. I expect that given the timing, the progress Rin and Misa make will probably be off-screen, implicit: with only six episodes left, including MKHU, there are three more teams to race against.

  • I have no qualms about saying that I am enjoying Kandagawa Jet Girls, and I’m interested in seeing where this series goes. I understand that this month, I’ve been much slower about blog posts: the next post I have lined up is Yuru Yuri Ten, a special OVA commemorating the series’ tenth anniversary, and then the remainder of my time this month will be split between making sure I do a passable job for hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase, as well as experiencing Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre content. Conversely, December does look like a month where I’ll have more blog posts lined up: besides doing posts for Kandagawa Jet GirlsAzur Lane and Rifle is Beautiful, I also have plans to write about Aobuta: The Movie, plus publish two special posts.

Like Harukana Receive, Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ focus on a sport driven by teams of two means that there is plenty of space to delve into teams at their most fundamental unit, and while Harukana Receive was rather more direct about the idea of pairs being synonymous with lovers, Kandagawa Jet Girls seems to be aiming for a similar setup through the other teams. In particular, Tsui and Tina are portrayed as being intimately close. Manatsu and Yuzu likewise regard one another as lovers might, with Yuzu’s innuendo-laden commentary embarassing even Manatsu at one point. Like any good relationship, communication is the first hurdle that Rin and Misa must overcome. By the series’ halfway point, issues affecting Rin and Misa are openly being addressed, and moreover, resolved at a smart pace to keep things engaging. Rin and Misa have the beginnings of a friendship, but there is still a distance that separates them despite Misa’s desire to be closer. Watching this distance close over time, and seeing the changes reflected in the pair’s racing as they encounter more teams en route to the goal of facing off against Kaguya and Kuromaru on the waters of the Kandagawa. Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ fanservice component has, surprisingly, not detracted from the overarching narrative, and this is a rather impressive feat considering that most stories of this nature appear to be held together by little more than duct tape and spirit: with incentive to root for Rin and Misa as they improve, I look forwards to seeing where the next quarter goes.

Finding Takaki’s Answers in Five Centimeters per Second: One More Side, or, Insights From a New Perspective

“Reality is brimming over with beautiful things, brilliant feelings. How many of them have I been missing?” –Takaki Tohno

Until now, the final act of Makoto Shinkai’s Five Centimeters per Second remained a bit of an enigma, leaving viewers with questions about Takaki Tohno and his ultimate fate. The animated film, which premièred in 2007, had three acts that detail a different stage of Takaki’s life, from the moment that he met Akari Shinohara and their falling in love, to when he moves back to Tokyo as an adult. The existing misconception is that since meeting Akari, Takaki had never been able to truly let go of her when they separated, and this in turn negatively impacted his ability to connect with those around him in the present, whether it be the athletic and cheerful Kanae Sumida, or Risa Mizuno, a lady he meets through work. The claim that “Takaki still longs for Akari to the detriment of his lifestyle” and that he is “unable to cope with his feelings for Akari” persist even after a decade has passed since its premièred. Five Centimeters per Second‘s third act does indeed show Takaki as being downcast and depressed, but one spring day, when he decides to take a walk under the morning sun to clear his mind from his tasks, he has a seemingly chance encounter with Akari. As he turns around to look back, a train passes through; once the train passes, Akari has gone, but Takaki merely smiles and continues with his walk. This dramatic contrast appears to contradict the gloom and misery that Takaki had experienced earlier, leaving viewers to wonder why a glimpse of Akari would be enough to undo the loneliness Takaki was suffering. While the film left many aspects ambiguous, creating a highly poignant message amongst viewers who incorrectly counted the film where “that actually resolving things was never the point”, supplementary materials, taking the form of two novels and one manga, provided an answer to these otherwise forgotten questions, where analysts and reviewers had originally been forced to conclude that the story’s outcome was “ambiguous”.

In particular, the novel One More Side is of great worth in helping to determine what Five Centimeters per Second sought to accomplish with its story. Originally published in 2011, and receiving an English language publication only in 2019, One More Side presents the Five Centimeters per Second story from different perspectives. The first act is told from Akari’s point of view, painting her as being quite shy and finding solace in Takaki’s kind and reliable company. The second act shows that Takaki was actually quite directionless during his time as a high school student and, while the film may not have shown it, he found himself wishing to be closer to Kanae. The third act shows how his past regrets only occasionally haunt him, and his inability to connect with others stems more from his personality of wanting to push forwards no matter the cost. At work, Takaki thus suffered through difficult deadlines and unyielding product managers who were unsympathetic to what his suggestions were. This placed a great deal of stress on Takaki, and ultimately led him to break up with Risa. Reading through these new perspectives, it becomes clear that Takaki is not pining for Akari per se, but rather, the melancholy he has stems from being unable to properly find his footing at work. These are subtle details that the film conveys through its use of colour: by the time Takaki becomes a freelance developer, the blues and grays dominating the palette are replaced with the brighter hues of spring, indicating his improved well-being. This comes with him finding the freedom to work at his own pacing and take control of life; Takaki hints throughout One More Side that he dislikes losing control of his situation, stemming from the fact that he’d moved numerous times as a child. His dissatisfaction with his old job thus came from lacking the control to make decisions for the better, and by becoming a freelance developer, being able to set his own hours, pacing and clients afford him with the control that he sought from life.

Additional Remarks

  • I vaguely remember one reader asking me if I had read One More Side a ways back, but at the time, I did not have access to this. So, when I’d learnt that One More Side was actually available at a local bookstore, I hastened to pick my copy up. The book, classified as a light novel, offers insight into Five Centimeters per Second that even the novel adaptation of the movie and manga do not possess: it is an essential read for anyone who wishes to get more out of their experience with Five Centimeters per Second. Spanning 240 pages, I bought One More Side a few days before midsummer’s eve along with the first two volumes of Harukana Receive‘s manga, and read through it over the past few months.

  • The biggest takeaway from One More Side‘s first act is that Akari was very much drawn to Takaki for his kindness and fondness for books. As a transfer student, Akari found herself unable to fit in with other students, and found solace with Takaki, who similarly found it tricky to relate to others. Their common interest in the sciences brought them together, and both had envisioned spending their time as middle school students together, although this was cut short, and Akari felt as badly as Takaki did about their helplessness in the situation. With the newfound information, I hope that folks looking for something like “5 Centimeters Per Second ending explained” or similar will find this post useful.

  • Besides the myths that Anime News Network perpetuates about Five Centimeters per Second that have made their way to Wikipedia and other tertiary sources, speculation at places like Tango-victor-tango can leave folks with conflicting, contradictory information. For instance, some fans at tango-victor-tango speculate that Akari’s parents were completely disapproving of Takaki. One More Side gives no indicator to suggest that this is true whatsoever, and instead, the reason for their lack of contact once Takaki moved to Tanegashima was simply because their lives were becoming busier to the point where sending mail no longer was practical.

  • In One More Side‘s second act, Takaki’s perspective is given in great detail; while the film presented him as seemingly in control of his life, which impresses Kanae, it turns out he’s about as lost as she is, but has a different way of showing it. The novel also confirms that the girl in his dreams is not Akari, but rather, an abstraction of someone he wants to be with; Takaki entertains thoughts that it would be nice if this were Kanae. With this, a long-standing question is addressed, and there’s one fewer ambiguity for folks to deal with. Takaki’s thoughts on Kanae are also provided in greater detail, and it suggests that he was actually hoping to get to know her better.

  • With everything said and done, One More Side is an indispensable read for anyone who enjoyed Five Centimeters per Second but felt shafted by the ending. The fact that there’s an official English translation now means that the story is more accessible overall. It’s taken twelve years for all of the pieces to fit into place, and One More Side provides the insights that fans deserve. This short post is now in the books, and I expect the next time I will be writing about Makoto Shinkai will be for Tenki no Ko, which released in July and for which the home release still remains unknown.

While Five Centimeters per Second is largely counted as a love story, it is more appropriate to approach it as a drama about life in general, and specifically, about control (or lack thereof) of one’s situation. The speed at which cherry blossoms fall, then, becomes not merely a metaphor about falling in love and falling out of love, but about how people’s fates are as transient and fragile as the cherry blossom, whose downward trajectories are stochastic and dependent on things like wind, which the cherry blossom petal itself is powerless to influence, much less control. Makoto Shinkai mentions this in other materials, adding credence to the idea that Five Centimeters per Second‘s theme is more broad than that of a love story. The ending scene where Takaki reaches reaches the train crossing on that spring day and encounters Akari, has a simple and profound explanation: Takaki smiles because he feels contentment at being able to fulfil his original promise to Akari. Their original promise, to see the cherry blossoms together again, is to be taken in a literal sense; viewers analysing the scene have over-scrutinised everything in Five Centimeters per Second and somehow ended up with the conclusion that seeing the cherry blossoms together was a poetic metaphor for getting married and spending their futures together. However, One More Side shows that Takaki’s memory is quite keen, and his smile comes from having satisfied their original promise, whereupon Takaki realises that he’d always had the initiative to take charge of his situation. The additional insights offered by One More Side allows audiences of Five Centimeters per Second to gain closure regarding Takaki, who unambiguously leaves the novel feeling happier, more content and ready to take on the future. In other words, after more than twelve years since Five Centimeters per Second premièred in Japanese cinema, the answer to whether or not Takaki got a happy ending is a resounding, decisive and well-deserved yes.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Asking Questions of the Stars in Hensuki

“I hate to break it to you, but what people call ‘love’ is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard, Morty, then it slowly fades, leaving you stranded in a failing marriage. I did it. Your parents are gonna do it. Break the cycle, rise above, Focus on science.” –Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

When high school student Keiki Kiryū finds a love letter and a pair of pantsu accompanying it one day following his calligraphy club activities, he enlists the help of his best friend, Shōma Akiyama, to determine who this might be. As Keiki works through the clues based on the timing of who happened to be in the club room at the time, he deduces that the pool of candidates must be limited – senior Sayuki Tokihara, the assistant librarian Yuika Koga, Nao Manjō or student council vice president Ayano Fujimoto. Intending to find the girl behind the love letter, Keiki spends more time with each of Sayuki, Yuika, Nao and Ayano, only to learn that each possesses a unique perversion that makes them quite unappealing. When Keiki runs afoul of third year Koharu Ōtori, he decides to help her become closer to Shōma and ends up finding her to be helpful in seeking out the girl behind the unknown letter: with help from Shōma and Koharu, Keiki ultimately eliminates Ayano, Nao, Yuika and Sayuki as candidates. It turns out that Keiki’s younger sister, Mizuha, had sent the letter, having long been in love with him: she had been adopted after her own parents’ passing, and while Keiki’s regarded her as a sibling, she’d always seen him as something more. While Keiki struggles to accept Mizuha’s feelings, the two do reach a resolution at the series’ end. This is Kawaikereba Hentai demo Suki ni Natte Kuremasuka? (English title Are You Willing to Fall in Love with a Pervert, as Long as She’s Cute?) or Hensuki for brevity, an anime that had aired during the summer. Hensuki‘s outlandish and deviant premise means that one would be hard-pressed to find instructive discourse on the series: discussions elsewhere have drawn dubious references to Japanese law and psychology to make sense of the character’s actions, and end up yielding little in the way of a useful outcome relevant to Hensuki – while I suppose that some viewers go to great lengths to use intellectualism as a cover for some of the series that they watch, it should be evident that requisite knowledge of psychology and law are strictly not needed to figure out what Hensuki was aiming to accomplish with its raunchy story.

At its core, Hensuki draws upon hyperbole to present the idea that falling in love is unpredictable and commands its own price: Keiki is presented as being quite interested in pursuing a relationship with someone, and actively dreams of a romantic experience, so when he receives the initial love letter, he is ecstatic. However, as he delves into figuring out who’d sent the letter, he comes to understand more about Sayuki, Yuika and Nao: Keiki is also subject to each of the girls’ unique and terrifying whims. Sayuki desires nothing more than to be treated as a pet, while Yuika aims to dominate Keiki. Nao has no interest in a relationship and is head-over-heels about yaoi. Spending time with each exacts a toll on the hapless Keiki, who desires nothing more than a storybook romance with an ordinary girl. Hensuki thus acts as a bit of a cautionary tale about relationships, warning viewers to be mindful of what they wish for. In Keiki’s case, Saiyuki, Yuika and Nao are rather more than he’d initially expected, bringing with them their own unique perversions that they expect him to fulfil, and while each of their tendencies are greatly exaggerated, it does act as a rather colourful representation of the idea that entering a relationship extends beyond displays of affection and courtship: one must also be prepared to accept eccentricities about their partner. Keiki ultimately decides that the extremities that Nao, Sayuki and Yuika command simply isn’t worth it, and he laments having spent an entire summer single despite the female attention on him. Hensuki ultimately conveys these learnings through comedy: as viewers watch Keiki suffer, the message becomes quite apparent.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While Hensuki has its shock moments, the central premise of Keiki trying to work out who was responsible for the unknown love letter proved to be engaging enough for me to watch this series at a reasonably smart pace. Keiki’s initial attempts in figuring out this mysterious party’s identity gives Hensuki a bit of a thriller vibe, and the entire crux  of the series is focused on the sorts of discoveries and experience Keiki has after it is shown that members of the Calligraphy Club have feelings for him to varying extents.

  • Keiki’s reaction of shock and disgust whenever Sayuki and Yuika force themselves on him is perhaps more of a plausible reaction: reserving physical intimacy for a much closer relationship is a sacrosanct component of relationships, and how forward Sayuki and Yuika are with Keiki ends up creating him much discomfort. Sayuki is a masochist of sorts and longs to be treated as a pet. She knows that her ample bust is something that Keiki is partial to and constantly exploits this whenever competing with Yuika for Keiki’s attention.

  • In the Terrible Anime Challenge schema, Hensuki fits under the “it was enjoyable, contrary to expectations” category: this series certainly is not going to be for everyone, and there are some moments that certainly can be a bit over the top. With this in mind, simply because I got a few good laughs and a good message out of Hensuki does not mean others will share this experience. However, this is no reason to bring in an incomplete knowledge of the belief–desire–intention model to figure out the character’s end goals, as everyone’s objective is simple enough: get close enough to Keiki to satisfy their own goal functions.

  • Since Yuika might not have the same figure as Sayuki, she resorts to even more direct methods of forcing Keiki to have eyes for none other than herself: after Keiki takes her on a proper date to see if she’s the person behind the love letter, Yuika manages to corner him at school, and then forces him to eat pantsu, causing him to pass out. Sayuki is voiced by Ayana Taketatsu (K-On!‘s very own Azusa Nakano, Fū Sawatari of Tamayura, Oreimo‘s Kirino Kōsaka, Ayana Taketatsu from Kiss X Sis, and even Hotaru Shidare from Dagashi Kashi), while Yuika is voiced by Rina Hidaka (Rinon from Ano Natsu de MatteruKantai Collection‘s Kisaragi and Ako Tamaki from And You Thought There Is Never a Girl Online?).

  • While Nao seems the most normal of everyone in the calligraphy club, it turns out that she’s into yaoi and wants to get closer to Keiki purely so she can gain new story ideas for her work, which has Shōma and Keiki as the lead characters for a manga. Despite being disinterested in a relationship, she is quite attuned to pushing Keiki’s buttons and initially, in the absence of knowledge surrounding Nao’s interests, viewers do initially believe that Nao could be a viable candidate. Iori Nomizu plays Nao: besides her role as Upotte!‘s Funco, I’m not familiar with her other roles.

  • Sayuki and Yuika use Nao’s work to extort attention from Keiki, intending to show it to Mizuha and ruin her opinion of him should he fail to comply with their absurd requests. While Keiki appears to have average willpower and abstains from doing anything too questionable unless he’s cornered, he greatly cherishes his role as older brother for Mizuha and fears that she might be corrupted by the others’ actions.

  • While contemplating the order of events at the calligraphy club’s room, Keiki saves student council vice president Ayano Fujimoto from falling off the stairs, and she quickly takes an interest to him, luring him into the student council room and crafting an atmosphere that leads Keiki to fall asleep so she can collect his scent. The characters of Hensuki are intentionally exaggerated to make clear the point that relationships have their pluses and minuses.

  • One of the leading complaints about Hensuki outside of its setup was the suggestion that the art and animation here are substandard compared to other series. While Hensuki uses simpler artwork than other series, there are no moments that are so blatantly poor that they come to mind. While the quality of animation and artwork do impact my thoughts on a series, I am not going into each and every work expecting a Makoto Shinkai or Kyoto Animation level experience. As long as things are sufficiently smooth and consistent as not to distract from the characters and their experiences, this aspect earns a pass from me.

  • I find criticisms of Hensuki in the community unconvincing, with some folk enforcing their own perspectives on what a proper relationship should look like and then dismissed Hensuki as implausible or even as a form of wish fulfilment. While analysing the individual episodes yielded little more than “could have, should have” suggestions towards what Keiki should do in his situation and critiquing the story for being a “cop out”, my own approach means that I tend to look at the series from a wider perspective. Rather that studying Keiki and the others’ actions, it is the sum of all character interactions over the course of the series that matter: this lead me to a different conclusion about what message Hensuki aims to present.

  • Overall, I would say that of everyone in Hensuki that isn’t Mizuha, Sayuki is probably the individual who would be most easy to accept and tolerate as far as her preferences go. Nao’s focus on yaoi means that pursuit of anything there wouldn’t be particularly fruitful, and Yuika’s tendencies border on the realm of nightmarish. The post title comes from a line in Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King when Gandalf speaks of the decline of Gondor. Asking questions of the stars can be taken to mean astrology, a pseudoscience that supposes future outcomes can be foretold by astronomical patterns and is known for its wildly inaccurate outcomes.

  • Astrology does have one legitimate stake in history: interest in tracking stellar and planetary motions formed the basis for astronomy and led to developments such as Kepler’s Laws and Newton’s Theory of Gravitation, the outcomes of which can be found in the form of six lunar landers on the lunar surface. Because Mizuha and Keiki are often seen watching a television channel programme that does horoscopes, it seemed appropriate that, in conjunction with the task Keiki is presented with, the sense of uncertainty he encounters does seem like he’s relying on something as unreliable as astrology to figure out who the unknown sender of the love letter was.

  • Conversely, the page quote is sourced from Rick and Morty, and while it may not look it at first glance, it does appear that the theme in Hensuki, considering all of the trouble Keiki goes through for the want of spending his days together with someone ordinary, is that relationships aren’t always as they appear. When things work well, they work really well, but when things go south, they can get ugly very quickly. Rick certainly seems to believe this: despite having conquered every unknown and every challenge known to infinite realities and timelines, love is something that even Rick does not fully understand or have control over.

  • When Ayano receives a free day pass to the municipal pool, she is unable to go. Ayano thus gives the ticket to Keiki, who invites everyone and plans to unveil who had written the original love letter. He provides commentary on everyone’s swimsuits, and is particularly impressed with Mizuha, whose figure is surprisingly, only second to Sayuki’s. Mizuha’s been largely a background character up until the final segments of Hensuki, offering support to Keiki where needed, but otherwise had more of a quiet role. Mizuha is voiced by Kaede Hondo, whom I know best as Urara Meirocho‘s Kon Tatsumi, Koyume Koizuka from Comic Girls and Iroduku‘s Kohaku Tsukishiro.

  • After a day spent frolicking about at the municipal pool, the girls are enrolled into a kokuhaku competition that sees Sayuki, Yuika, Nao and Mizuha compete in. Each of the girls end up presenting a confession that mirrors their own reasons for being interested in Keiki, but ultimately, it is Mizuha who wins. This foreshadows who the love letter’s sender was, and as it turns out, Keiki already had an idea of who it is going into the penultimate episode.

  • Mizuha is revealed to be Keiki’s secret suitor: having spent most of the series watching from afar and offering him advice on how to best get along with Yuika, Sayuki and Nao, Mizuha herself had housed feelings for Keiki for most of her life. She and Keiki are not related; after her parents had died from unknown causes, she was adopted into Keiki’s family. Keiki had always viewed her as a sister, and even after recalling this fact, his view on Mizuha has not changed at all.

  • Hensuki‘s remaining episode is spent dealing with this revelation, and up until now, Hensuki had been proceeding at a smart pace. I admit that this took me by surprise: Mizuha being quite unrelated to Keiki came completely out of left field, and for me, is an instance of what is called cutting the Gordian Knot. Hensuki had created a love tesseract that immobilised Keiki: between Sayuki, Yuika, Nao and Ayano, Keiki is troubled by their perversions, but they each intend to seduce him and have him for themselves. By having Mizuha be the suitor, this defied all expectations.

  • Keiki’s reaction to Mizuha’s romantic feelings for him has him becoming lethargic and confused. He eventually gets caught in the rain and develops a cold after leaving home to gather his thoughts, and eventually succumbs to his cold, forcing him to return home. Sayuki and Yuika come to visit him and end up sparring with one another: while it is completely off-mission, it seems that Yuika’s desire to dominate others would actually mesh well with Sayuki’s desire to be dominated. Keiki eventually comes to terms with Mizuha and the two resume their lives as siblings, although Mizuha’s flirting becomes more brazen.

  • Overall, for having a surprisingly relevant theme wrapped with a seemingly frivolous premise, and for the amount of hilarity I got from watching Keiki suffer at the hands of Sayuki and Yuika, Hensuki earns a solid B-, a 7.0 of 10 or 2.7 of 4.0. I entered Hensuki with the singular aim of watching Sayuki mess with Keiki in the way that only she can, but ended up with a quasi-whodunit mystery that also had an unexpected message about relationships and a twist I didn’t see coming. I appreciate that everyone won’t see this series the same way, so it’s more than acceptable if there are folks who didn’t like Hensuki.

  • Of everyone, Mizuha looks the most normal, being soft-spoken and having skill with housework, but perhaps unsurprisingly, she has a”thing”: exhibitionism. Outwardly resembling a more voluptuous Miho Nishizumi and having a voice reminiscent of SaeKano‘s Megumi Katō, Mizuha was the last person I’d expect to be the letter’s sender, and Keiki refuses to see her as a romantic partner as Hensuki draws to a close. With this, my post on Hensuki draws to a close, and I hope that this will partially make up for my lack of content over the past few weeks. With the delay in Hibike! Euphonium: Chikai no Finale, I actually have no more conventional posts scheduled for this month beyond the halfway point impressions for Kandagawa Jet Girls, so one of my challenges will be to find stuff to write about and not spend all of my available free time in Battlefield V.

The question of who the unknown suitor is ends up being a lingering question throughout Hensuki, and after numerous red herrings and Chekov Guns that distract and foreshadow the suitor’s identity, after much comedy viewers share at Keiki’s expense, Hensuki reveals that this suitor is none other than Mizuha. This ramifications of this outcome are irrelevant, but its impact on the story simply serves to show that one does indeed miss the forest for the trees: this outcome was completely unexpected, and Keiki notes as much, having decided that the odds of Mizuha sending the letter were zero. Hensuki thus ended up being a bit of a surprise to watch, and while it might be a bit of a depraved series to watch, Hensuki manages to command a certain amount of curiosity that Keiki experiences as he works towards figuring out the love letter’s sender. In conjunction with some moments that are truly outrageous (Yuiki forcing her pantsu into Keiki’s mouth, to name one), Hensuki ends up being a romance-comedy-thriller that gives viewers reason to stick around. Underneath its perversions is a surprisingly relevant and straightforward theme, and ultimately, Hensuki did turn out to be modestly engaging: folks looking for a good laugh from Keiki’s misfortunes might find Hensuki to be a worthwhile title, although for most viewers, Hensuki isn’t going to be particularly meaningful to watch. Irrespective of whether one chooses to watch Hensuki or not, one thing should be abundantly clear: endlessly psychoanalysing the characters to predict their actions and intents is a Sisyphean task, clouding one’s perspective from the broader narrative. I’ve stated this before, but it is worth reiterating that the reductionist approach’s limitations are quite evident in the realm of anime: knowing how a character reacts to certain stimuli is completely insufficient towards working out what a story’s aims are. Hensuki is ultimately something simple that can elicit a few laughs with its straightforward theme, and folks looking to give this one a go should at least know they are not obligated to have a professional understanding of psychology to enjoy this one.

Terrible Anime Challenge: An Etymological Examination of Style in Blend S

“What’s your shtoyle?”
“My style? You could call it the art of fighting without fighting.”

–Parsons and Lee, Enter The Dragon

In order to provide funds for her desire of studying abroad, Maika Sakuranomiya decides to take on a part time job. She is turned away from several places owing to her sadistic-looking smile, but a chance encounter with Dino, an Italian fellow who runs Café Stile, results in her working at this unique café whose staff take on character archetypes from anime. Here, she meets Kaho Hinata, a bubbly and friendly waitress who is fond of video games and has a tsundere role, Mafuyu Hoshikawa, whose role as an energetic younger sister conceals a stoic personality, and chef Kōyō Akizuki. While Maika initially has trouble adjusting to customer service and consciously strives improves her smile, her unintentional lapses into sadism is a hit with customers. All the while, Dino deals with his crush on Maika, who is blissfully unaware of his feelings for her, and his attempts to get closer to Maika usually end up backfiring. Together, Blend S presents a wonderfully light-hearted, hilarious story of life at Café Stile and Maika’s becoming closer to the team there as she is joined by doujin writer and older sister figure Miu Amano, as well as the cross-dressing Hideri Kanzaki, who aspires to be an idol. Being outwardly an amalgamation of key moments in Maika’s time at Café Stile, Blend S shows that there is a place for everyone, and that in the right company, one can nonetheless find acceptance and worth. Maika might unintentionally be sadistic in appearance, but her heart is genuine and kind, so being able to show her true self at Café Stile helps her grow and, while working towards her dreams of studying abroad, also experience a different sort of journey that broadens her worldview.

While Blend S might be a Manga Time Kirara adaptation, its premise and employment of darker humour led some to folks to decide that a better understanding of Machiavellianism (a personality trait that gauges one’s willingness to manipulate others, be emotionally cold and indifferent to others) was mandatory towards understanding the series. Maika’s unique personality left some wondering whether or not her actions were deliberate or accidental. Maika’s treatment of Café Stile’s customers ventures into realm of torture: she verbally denigrates those who visit, and even waterboards a customer, and so, it seemed logical to delve into personality psychology to figure out how Maika fit into things. As it turns out, Maika’s actions, and those of Café Stile’s other staff, are simply optimised for humour. Maika is merely a naïveté in the ways of the world, and her well-meaning intentions to helping improve customer experience backfires in her eyes whenever she makes a mistake. While Maika may be disheartened, her customers appear to enjoy her service the point of returning to Café Stile for the experience. Consequently, because Maika is intrinsically kind and wants to be effective in her role, Maika would likely score low on the Mach IV survey (which gauges Machiavellianism) – her sadism traits are purely intended for humour rather than for harm, and as such, discussions on Machiavellianism do not particularly apply to Blend S, where the humour and setup is consistent with that of a Manga Time Kirara series, through and through; this allows one to enjoy Blend S as one would something like GochiUsa or Kiniro Mosaic.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As long as there are anime that I procrastinate in watching, there will be material for the Terrible Anime Challenge series: Blend S originally aired two years ago alongside Kino no Tabi and Girls’ Last TourYūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter and Wake Up Girls! Shin Shou. I was already flooded with shows at the time and while Blend S looked up my alley, I never got around to watching the series. When the fall season ended, Yuru Camp△ and Slow Start kicked in. It was only when I gave Yuri Kuma Arashi a whirl that I found the time to pick up Blend S, and here we are.

  • On the categorisation of Terrible Anime Challenge shows, Blend S is a series that meets expectations of being an enjoyable slice-of-life series. Neither great nor terrible, Blend S‘ strength lies in the contrasting personalities amongst the characters, both between one another and the differences between their role at Café Stile and their usual selves. It’s a series that I can recommend to Manga Time Kirara and comedy fans. Conversely, Blend S is not for folks who prefer clearly defined stories, and I further remark that anyone looking for an intellectual journey would be disappointed.

  • One of the comedic aspects of Blend S comes from Maika’s unintentional mistreatment of customers despite her efforts to give them a good experience. Far from dissuading them from returning, some customers have become fond of the sadism that Maika brings to the table. Over time, Maika becomes acclimatised to her role, and it turns out that the level of sadism from Maika we’ve normally seen can actually be ramped up several notches, resulting in server who’d likely be bad for business.

  • When a customer drops an R-rated doujin, the staff struggle to find its owner and learn that it belongs to Miu, an older patron who resembles GochiUsa‘s Blue Mountain in manner and style. Kaho becomes deeply embarrassed when reading it and reacts strongly to the ideas that Miu has. Kaho herself is an amalgamation of GochiUsa‘s Rize and Himouto‘s Umaru, being very fond of games while at once retaining a cheerful personality. Mafuyu reminds me of Sansha San’yō‘s Shino Sonobe. With its colourful cast, there are no dull moments in Blend S, a series that further has the distinction of two male leads.

  • The page quote comes from Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon, when a man decides to bully the others on board a ship. When he faces off against Lee, Lee manages to win the fight without lifting a finger, citing his style as “fighting without fighting”. It is a play on Sun Tzu’s remark that the greatest victory is achieved without fighting – by outwitting the man, Lee shows that martial arts is about more than just fists, it is a matter of discipline and creative thinking. Café Stile certainly has no shortage of shtoyle, and while Stile itself refers to a small passage consisting of steps, I imagine that Café Stile itself is merely a deliberate misspelling of style for shtoyle points.

  • With respect to Blend S, I have definitely been fighting without fighting – while the folks who believe themselves to be more intellectual have pored hours into trying to figure out whether or not Blend S possesses the characteristics of a Manga Time Kirara series, I came in much later with the goal of merely enjoying the series as it was. Rather than arguing with individuals who intend to lecture rather than learn, I’d rather wait them out and then counter their points once a series has concluded, when I have the big picture. It should therefore be no surprise that after finishing the series, Jungian archetypes and Machiavellianism do not figure at all in my discussions beyond me doing a beat-down on why it shouldn’t figure in discussions.

  • I have stated this previously, but my main reason for not involving psychology and philosophy in anime is because most of the principles that fans gravitate towards have in fact, been discredited or else have not been properly applied to the series. A work that requires functional knowledge of these elements must have a good reason for incorporating them, and while a series with a particular theme or story may find these more complex elements useful, they invariably have little relevance in slice-of-life series, where the goal is simply to share a few laughs and watch characters develop.

  • Instead, more nuanced and enjoyable discussion on slice-of-life series stems from understanding what different characters get out of their experiences, and then relating these to one’s own experiences and values are. The successful slice-of-life anime will allow a viewer to reflect on their prior knowledge, and even add additional perspectives on how one may approach life. My thoughts are likely considered heretical by some: I find that those who attempt to inject philosophy, psychology or politics into something as simple and harmless as Blend S usually are those who reject life’s lessons.

  • While Blend S might deal with Maika’s life at Café Stile, the team is shown in settings commonly seen in other slice-of-life series set in a high school environment. When the summer rolls around, after Dino takes Maika shopping for a new swimsuit, the staff decide to host a river-side barbeque and then visit the beach. It is here that Kōichi’s embarrassment whenever gazing upon Kaho’s ample bust becomes apparent, and he later develops a pronounced overreaction whenever Kaho is around.

  • If I had to single out one moment in Blend S that made the series worthwhile, it would be when Dino decides to transform the entire café into a jungle setting. The foliage is so dense that Maika gets lost in here, and Mafuyu takes on the roll of an energetic imouto dressed as a monkey. The visual humour is top-notch and hilarious, but also remarkably well-balanced. When the staff begin experiencing challenges with the artificial jungle, Dino decides to restore the café to its former glory.

  • For some, the most controversial moment of Blend S involves Hideri, a new hire who fulfils the idol archetype. Despite dressing like a lady, Hideri is actually a guy, leading to endless, cyclic speculation on his orientation and whatnot. Because Blend S doesn’t focus on the other characters’ acceptance of him, this is shown to be a given, leaving the series to instead portray the humour that accompanies such a character. I’ve never gotten the whole fuss with such characters: if they are well-written into and contribute to a series as Hideri does, I have no issues. I similarly have no qualms about individuals of all sorts in real life: I judge and respect people based on not who they are, but what they do.

  • Maika has an older sister and older brother, both of whom dote on Maika and worry that she’s got no friends. When they learn that Maika’s working at Café Stile, Maika’s older sister decides to swing by for a visit. While her older siblings can be somewhat intimidating, Maika herself can frighten them into standing down. Such setups in reality would not be accepted as normal, but the realm of fiction allows for outrageous situations to be presented in a lighter fashion.

  • Once Maika’s settled into her position at Café Stile and becomes more comfortable with serving customers, Blend S takes time to explore the other characters’ interactions. Kaho and Mafuyu is one such combination: when Kaho fails an exam, Mafuyu agrees to tutor her, and over the course of an episode, Kaho manages to learn the ropes and succeeds on her replacement exam. All of the characters in Blend S are likeable, and while I had entered the series wondering if this was going to be untrue, this was, to my pleasure, not a problem at all.

  • One wonders what my beef with Jungian and Freudian principles are: I have no issue with studying derelict or discredited theories, since they are the stepping stones towards contemporary knowledge. The theory of spontaneous generation and a geocentric model of the universe are such examples, and I have no qualms with the origins of their theories. The problem lies in the application of such theories within trying to enjoy fiction, and when folks telling others that characters and their interactions should be interpreted a certain way using an outdated theory that sounds intimidating, I cannot say I am fond of this behaviour.

  • Towards the end of the series, the relationship between Dino and Maika are explored in more depth: having long been shown to be head-over-heels for Maika, Dino’s efforts to be closer to her inevitably end up in failure, partially a consequence of his own ineptitude and thanks to intervention from Mafuyu. When the two are permitted a moment to themselves, they get along swimmingly: when visiting a dog park with owner (a dog that Dino ends up adopting), others assume Maika and Dino to be a couple.

  • Because this is a Terrible Anime Challenge post, it means I get a bit of liberty with respect to choosing what screenshots I feature, and I think by this point in time, even though I’d not mentioned it explicitly, Kaho is my favourite character for many reasons. Readers who’ve seen my earlier Terrible Anime Challenge posts may have noticed that all posts in this series have rather long or unusual titles. For Blend S, the title comes from one individual who demanded an etymological examination of whether or not we should refer to Blend S (originally ブレンド・S in katakana) with a hyphen simply because Crunchyroll did so.

  • Focusing on these details is foolish to the point of hilarity, and talking about this sort of thing is unproductive: arguing about pointless semantics detracts from one’s enjoyment of a given show. Similarly, I don’t particularly care that Blend S is etymologically derived from the pun between a brand of coffee some shops blend and “Do-S” (which supposedly means DoSadism): knowing that adds nothing of value to one’s enjoyment of the show, and yields no insight about the themes of Blend S. Good discussion is about being inclusive, not about dropping random details to show the depth of one’s knowledge.

  • As such, when such serious discussions were conducted surrounding Blend S, I wondered if I would enjoy this series, since my own knowledge on Japanese products and colloquialisms are certainly not that extensive: I can tell the difference between genuine maple syrup and normal pancake syrup, as well as different varieties of TimBits, but I am not familiar with things in Japan to the same extent. Time and time again, the answer I get from simply watching a show is clear: the sciolists don’t possess more knowledge that are necessary to enjoying a show.

  • Towards the end of Blend S, the Café Stile crew go on a team vacation to the mountains for skiing. Here, Dino attempts a kokuhaku on Maika while teaching her to ski, but ends up failing in a hilarious manner. While anime is often filled with implausibility, challenging these elements results in disappointment: the whole point of fiction is to abstract out systems and removing some constraints of the real world so specific ideas can be explored. Blend S is no exception, and while not particularly noteworthy, good comedy carries the series through from a strong start to a satisfying finish.

  • Overall, Blend S scores a solid B+ from me (3.3 of 4.0, or 8 out of 10) for being able to consistently create humour with its unique setup. With Blend S now in the books, I’m just in time for the entry into November. While I am officially supposed to hold the announcement, the release of Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre content has prompted me to move my schedule up. My announcement is that I am going to be hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase for the month of November. I’ll have more details on this come the first, and in the meantime, I will be enjoying Iwo Jima and Pacific Storm thoroughly.

Having established that a working knowledge of personality psychology is not required to optimally enjoy Blend S, the next item to attend to is what makes Blend S so enjoyable. At the heart of Blend S lies a cast of characters whose job at a cosplay café requires they adapt a different personality than their usual selves, and this aspect is deployed in a spectacular manner to create humour. Maika might be sweet and kindhearted, but as a server, her sadistic tendencies rivals those of outlandish villains seen in other series. Kaho is excellent with the tsundere personality, but beyond this is a cheerful and approachable manner. Mafuyu’s imouto personality fits her appearance more so than her usual mien, that of a jaded and quiet college student. Hideri might be an idol concerned with all things cute, but when flustered, he reverts to a boyish mindset. Despite conveying the air of an older sister while working, Miu makes Blue Mountain look like a rank amateur when it comes to lewding characters for story ideas. The sum of these dynamics means that Blend S never has a dull moment, and all of this is in conjunction with Dino’s genuine, but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to court Maika. Blend S consistently maintains its comedy, resulting in a show that is sure to amuse. While Blend S may lack a single theme that drives its events, and is average from an audio-visual perspective, the setup at Café Stile means that the characters and their interactions are the series’ biggest draw. One only need to sit back while everyone bounces off one another to enjoy Blend S, and so, for the folks who figured that a more serious discussion involving psychology was needed to get the most out of things, I take a leaf from Bruce Lee’s playbook and suggest that that they don’t waste themselves.