The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Christmas

Defence Specialisation and Christmas – A Bofuri Christmas and Celebrating Yuletide Joy At The New Digs

“Christmas is like candy; it slowly melts in your mouth sweetening every taste bud, making you wish it could last forever.” –Richelle E. Goodrich

On Christmas Eve, New World Online releases an update that adds a new area into the game. Maple and her guild are excited to check things out; they sign in and find themselves in a Japanese-inspired area. Everyone separates and goes exploring. Maple encounters Mii enjoying the New World Online equivalent of a cat café and joins her, while Sally runs into Frederica, and the pair enjoy a duel against one another to test their skills. Meanwhile, Kasumi falls in love with new weapons and armour that accompany the update and immediately sets about trying to unlock a new sword. Later, Maple runs into Payne, and the pair agree to go farming mobs together during an in-game event. As the event draws to a close, the New World Online administrators grant everyone a gift, and Maple invites both the Order of the Holy Sword and Flame Empire’s members to join them for a Christmas party. When they unbox their gifts, everyone gets Christmas-themed outfits and gear, which, to their surprise, provide unexpectedly good stat bonuses. Maple, on the other hand, ends up with a reindeer outfit. In spite of this, she enjoys the evening with the others. Meanwhile, New World Online’s administrators wonder what they’ll need to do in order to balance the game out ever since Maple ended up breaking the meta. Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu (Bofuri for brevity from here on out) first began airing three years ago, following Maple’s outrageous adventures in a virtual reality MMORPG – despite her near-total lack of gaming knowledge, her intuition and uncommon luck allowed her to create a character that was so overpowered that she’s been able to experience the game in a way even the developers did not find possible. Bofuri‘s charm thus lay in seeing what outlandish tricks Maple would have up her sleeve with every passing day, and along the way, other players begin to both respect Maple, as well as look at playing New World Online in their own manner of choosing.

Bofuri was built on the premise of the idea that unusual consequences can arise in a system, and utilised said consequences to simultaneously drive Maple’s adventures, as well as provide humour. In its first season, Bofuri was able to succeed because there was no reliable way of telling how Maple and later, her guild, would handle increasingly challenging events with the resources and know-how available. Although Maple’s overwhelming power meant that she was predestined to win, the joy was seeing how Maple’s guild-mates and friends would support her. Here in Bofuri‘s second season, it appears that besides exploring a Japan-inspired setting, Maple and her friends now have one additional challenge from the game’s developers – having now realised Maple’s single-handedly breaking game flow and balance, they’re struggling to determine how to best handle her without detrimentally impacting the other players’ experience. In games where player progression is tied to statistics, developers typically introduce caps to prevent individuals from trivially completing in-game objectives or gaining an unfair advantage over others in PvP. Similarly, certain game modes will introduce objectives that demand coordination or otherwise normalise a player’s performance. The Division 2, for instance, alters player specs when they enter the Dark Zone and limit certain gear set bonuses, preventing any one set from giving one overwhelming power. Similarly, raids make enemies significantly tougher to the point where even individually competent players are prevented from utilising their capabilities fully. This forces a player to alter their mindset and play-style, as well as lean more heavily on teammates, to complete their goals. This approach represents one way that Bofuri could proceed; while Maple could still retain her incredible power, increasingly creative situations can be utilised in the second season, giving viewers with new adventures that are fresh and exciting to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Bofuri was originally a recommendation from a reader, and while I’d been busy with other series, the start of the global health crisis back in 2020 left me with a great deal of open time. I thus made my way through the series and found myself impressed with things. Bofuri had been a fantastic example of one of the approaches that Agent-Based Systems took towards solving a problem – by maximising one attribute, agents in a system could yield some unorthodox behaviours as they worked towards a solution.

  • I wonder if Yūmikan, Bofuri‘s author, has read any papers or texts on these concepts – multi-agent systems and agent-based modelling approaches formed the bulk of my graduate research back in the day, and one of the things that fascinated me most was the idea of emergent behaviours, which arise as a result of interactions between the agents and their environment. Although the individual agents might be given simple rules, the resulting behaviours can be surprisingly complex; Craig Reynolds’s BOIDS and Conway’s Game of Life represent such instances of emergent behaviours in an agent-based system.

  • Of course, multi-agent systems are probably far from the viewer’s minds, and for most anime fans, Bofuri remains a strictly average anime for the fact it is a low-stakes series that doesn’t aim to do more than providing an amusing set of adventures on a weekly basis. Such anime are difficult to write for, and in the case of Bofuri, Maple’s constantly shifting powers mean that it’s nearly impossible to try and forecast what happens based purely on what’s already known.

  • While the true nature of New World Online is such that the game’s limits aren’t clearly defined (unlike The Division 2, where there is a cap on what one can do, even with optimisations), what is known is that the anime has wonderful settings. Assuming that the remainder of Bofuri‘s second season is set in a Japan-inspired world, there is much potential for showcasing a portrayal of Japan that is similar to Azur Lane‘s Sakura Empire. This idyllic depiction of Japan is something I’ve seen largely in wallpapers, featuring fantastical architecture and eternal spring weather with cherry blossoms.

  • Because of her interest in all things Japan, Kasumi finds herself immediately at home in this latest world. Katana and other swords worthy of samurai are sold, along with their armour. Japanese swords are often held as being uncommonly sharp and superior to any European sword, but this is a fictional portrayal of the samurai and their combat prowess – a well-crafted European sword can perform on par with a well-crafted kanata, and at the end of the day, a good sword’s performance depends on how well it was forged, rather than the manner in which it was forged in.

  • Now that I think about it, Maple resembles Girls und Panzer‘s Miho in some manners – both are exceptionally powerful in their respective settings, are easygoing and quick to befriend those around them, and since Miho and Maple are normally seen wearing a smile on their face, it can be surprising to see them with other expressions. After suggesting everyone explore the new world independently, Maple spots an unusual sight: Guild-master Mii has changed her appearance and heads into what appears to be a shady establishment.

  • Given the nature of Bofuri, nothing of the sort has taken place – it turns out that, to get away from her duties (and the difficulties of maintaining a stoic personality befitting of a guild leader), Mii partakes in visiting the New World Online equivalent of a cat café. Maple decides to relax a little here, learning that the real Mii is very friendly and bubbly, but puts on a more serious façade while role-playing her character. Worried about others finding out, Mii asks Maple to keep this side of her under wraps. Maple has no trouble keeping this promise.

  • Elsewhere, Sally and Frederica explore the new skills added to New World Online and duel. The pair had developed a friendly rivalry since the events of the first season, and while Frederica is a skilled player in her own right, it does appear that overconfidence is her weakness. Sally is able to prevail in this duel, and it does feel as though Sally fulfils the same role in Bofuri that Miyu did in Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online, being the more experienced best friend to guide Maple and Karen through their games, respectively.

  • Looking back, Sword Art Online Alternative had come out right as Battle Royale games were becoming popular. In 2018, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had gained momentum, and the genre had begun taking off. By 2020, Warzone and Apex Legends had joined Fortnite as being the biggest battle royale games around. I’ve never been a fan of these games, but I have heard that modern games trend in this direction because players want to feel special, whereas earlier games emphasised teamwork in a larger context, but did not do enough to differentiate victory from a loss.

  • Back in Bofuri, while testing out her new weapon, Kasumi is surprised to find that using this weapon has an unusual side-effect – it reverts her to a younger age. From a gameplay perspective, this wouldn’t normally be a problem so long as one’s attributes weren’t impacted, and in fact, most games will try to balance out items by giving them positive and negative traits, rather than altering the player’s in-game model. That New World Online chooses to change player appearance is more of a comedic element, but one wonders if this will come up again as an element affecting the story later down the line.

  • With the initial exploration phase over, New World Online’s administrators create a special in-game event that will allow players to unlock exclusive items. In-game events are a common part of contemporary gaming, and add to the seasonal cheer – Team Fortress 2 was my first-ever holiday event, and back in those days, a buddy and I bought keys so we could unlock festive weapons. The Division 2 was also quite big on events, offering holiday-themed game cosmetics, as well as a modified Thompson submachine gun that shot snowballs.

  • This still here captures the scope and scale of the new space present in New World Online. A lot of fantasy worlds seen in anime, especially in the isekai genre, set set in a high fantasy variant of Europe. Because so many series utilise this setting, this creates a situation where many isekai become difficult to distinguish from one another. The Japanese region in New World Online allows Bofuri to differentiate itself, and one thing I’ve always liked about Bofuri is that it’s plain everything is set in a sophisticated VR title, rather than an entirely separate world.

  • Maple’s “Machine God” loadout is one of my favourites – it gives Maple access to mechanised equipment that lets her engage multiple foes simultaneously, as well as independent flight. The sheer bulk of this gear brings to mind the likes of the RX-88GP03 Dendrobium’s Orchis armed base. Beyond the Gundam-like design and its utility, the Machine God also leaves Maple’s admittedly sexy navel in the open. While farming mobs, Maple ends up transforming into her Hydra form and runs into Payne. While their last meeting had been as competitors, the pair decide to cooperate for a while; Payne sees this as a chance to learn a little more about what Maple’s able to pull off.

  • If I had to guess, skills in New World Online appear to be dynamically generated and adapt to the player’s style, similarly to real life. The second season will probably explore this in greater detail, and I am curious to see how Yūmikan will continue to portray this world. Games typically do not use such a route because a system cannot be reasonably balanced this way, but for storytelling purposes in Bofuri, a dynamic skill system works well enough in driving the story, allowing for there to be no shortage of misadventure resulting from Maple’s unorthodox gameplay style.

  • In recent years, we’ve been using a turkey recipe that’s turned one of the trickiest meals of the year into a straightforward endeavour: per this recipe, the turkey is first stuffed with celery, carrots, onion, rosemary and thyme. It is then cooked upside-down, first at 400°F for twenty minutes, and then 325°F for two hours. From there, the oven temperature is reduced. The vegetables inside the turkey emit moisture, which the turkey re-absorbs. The end result is a moist, tender and juicy turkey: even the turkey breast is succulent and flavourful, and best of all, there’s no guesswork as to how long it takes to cook the whole turkey. Dinner concluded with Crème brûlée and a Yule Log.

  • My family’s Christmas traditions have been simple: we observe a more secular Christmas, and the most prominent events of a given day are the gift exchange and the dinner. While I’ve read stories about how some folks dislike Christmas because of an increasingly commercialised component (some stores begin promoting Christmas as early as November), for me, Christmas is a time of togetherness and of warming up the coldest, darkest days of the year. Seeing a majority of people fired up for the festivities makes me happy, too. It is possible to not be sucked in by the commercialism and at the same time, partake in the festivities.

  • Outside of the gift exchange and Christmas dinner, Christmas Day for me is extremely relaxing. As a child, I spent my Christmas Days building Legos, and then during the family Christmas dinner, I’d play Agent Under Fire with my cousins. Nowadays, it’s a peaceful day spent reading, watching movies and playing games: after our gift exchange today, for instance, I ended up playing Modern Warfare II‘s invasion mode. For this year’s Steam Sale, I ended up picking up the “Vault Edition” upgrade, giving me access to the Battle Pass and the Vault weapons pack.

  • The extra weapons add more variety to the gameplay in Modern Warfare II, and like Maple, I’m finding that I am able to play to my own style and have fun anyways. At this point in time, I’ve reached level fifty, and are maintaining a better KDR than I am in Battlefield 2042. While SBMM means that any time I do a little too well in one match, I’ll be placed into a sweat lobby in the next and find my face pasted into the ground harder than Maple can steamroll her adversaries. In spite of this, consistently levelling up weapons and unlocking attachments makes the process fun for the most part. I’ll return to write about these experiences in full at a later date.

  • With this post in the books, I would again like to wish readers a Merry Christmas! This episode was a pre-airing ahead of Christmas, and the second season will formally kick off on January 11. At present, I have no plans to actively write about Bofuri, at least, not in the same manner that I did for Yama no Susume – while Bofuri is an excellent series, it’s not an anime that invites discussions about equivalent experiences or other topics. With this being said, I am looking forward to Bofuri‘s second season once it starts in full. It’ll be nice to see Maple’s new adventures with familiar crews, as well as how the administrators’ attempts to balance things work out. For now, however, it is time for me to wrap this post up and get some rest: Boxing Day tomorrow means joining the crowds for some excellent discounts and waking up earlier to secure a parking spot.

Although during most in-game events, Maple and her guild are a formidable foe to face down, during an event like Christmas, all of the guilds set aside their typical sense of competition to celebrate, reminding viewers that peace and goodwill towards man is still very much alive. Christmas is a time of togetherness, and while Maple enjoys an extravagant party with fellow players and friends alike, this time of year is characterised by spending time with the people that most matter to oneself. For me, this Christmas represents a new milestone – it was my first Christmas at the new place. Although the scenery is different, traditions still remain. I still spent the morning opening gifts with immediate family, and then took the remainder of the day to help in the preparation of the Christmas turkey, the first time we’ve used this particular oven for such a meal. While it is inevitable that things in life are constantly shifting, there is also comfort in the fact that long-standing traditions endure – despite the long dark of winter, Christmas remains one of my favourite times of the year precisely because it is a time of togetherness, of spending time with the people closest to us. Bofuri manages to capture this feeling in its Christmas episode, and while Maple is celebrating with the folks she’s met in New World Online, the festive spirit is fully conveyed during this episode’s runtime. I imagine that many surprises will await viewers once Bofuri‘s second season launches in the New Year. In the meantime, it’s time to take it easy on this Christmas night: following a turkey dinner, there’s nothing left to do but unwind, appreciate the winter scenery from the warmth of home, and bring out the ol’ GameCube to play Agent Under Fire‘s multiplayer on the Town map, with the AI bots cranked up to maximum difficulty and aggression, just like old times.

Christmas Camp and Mount Fuji: A Yuru Camp△ Christmas

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.” —Bob Hope

Once the Outdoors Activity Club is fully established, they decide to camp together over the Christmas break. Meeting at the Asagiri Plateau, the girls set up camp, play with fellow campers. Once evening sets in, they don Santa outfits and prepare their evening meal. Rin heads off to purchase propane when they run out of gas and recalls Ena’s remarks about the joys of camping in groups. The girls spend the remainder of their evening watching shows on Chiaki’s tablet before turning in. Christmas is a magical time of year, characterised by spending time with family and friends, partaking in good food and great times. Traditionally, the word Christmas evokes imagery of a fresh snowfall, sipping hot chocolate by a fireplace and sledding. Yuru Camp△, however, has Rin and her friends celebrate their Christmas in a unique manner in a camp site on the plains adjacent to Mount Fuji. It seems quite far removed from the Christmas festivities that I am familiar with, but watching Nadeshiko and the others camp find that this is only a prima facie observation: as the sun sets and the girls begin preparing their Christmas dinner, it turns out there is a considerable overlap in what they do while camping, and what I traditionally do for Christmas. After working together to prepare dinner and decking themselves in Santa outfits to channel the holiday spirit, the girls savour a warm meal under the evening skies, before breaking out Chiaki’s subscription to the Japanese equivalent of Netflix. Their manner of celebration may differ, but at its heart, the girls are sharing time together, resulting in a treasured memory of Christmas that particularly stands out for Rin, who spends Christmas together with her friends doing something that she’s long loved – Christmas is a season of togetherness, and as such, I’ve found that so as long as people are together, the notion of a Christmas spirit will continue to endure.

The meaning of Christmas is two-fold: it is a winter celebration of Jesus Christ’ birth, and is a season to spend with family and friends. Although its precise origin is unclear, Christmas was not widely celebrated until the ninth century, and prior to the spread of Christmas, European nations with a pegan culture had long been celebrating the Winter Solstice. By the Middle Ages, Christmas festivities were much more common, and concerns about Christmas as an avenue for commercialism and excesses began arising. As early as the seventeenth century, Christmas was banned in England for resulting in drunkenness and rowdy citizens. In the early twentieth century, Coca-Cola modernised the image of Santa Claus and this led to the view that Christmas was a time of gifts, of materials. Charles M. Schultz’s A Charlie Brown Christmas captures this concern, having Charlie Brown discover the meaning of Christmas while those around him concern themselves with a big, commercial Christmas, filled with expensive gifts, cash and aluminium Christmas trees. While attempting to direct a play, he picks up a shaggy tree that his peers mocks. But, upon learning from Linus that the original meaning of Christmas is not forgotten, Charlie Brown attempts to give the tree another chance. His peers later reappear to properly give the little tree love, and their animosities set aside, perform Hark! The Herald Angels Sing together. In the years following, while it may certainly seem that commercialism and consumerism permeates the Christmas holidays (in Canada, retailers aggressively advertise for Christmas on November 12), the true meanings of Christmas have continued to endure; the holidays continue to be a time of goodwill and togetherness for people.

Screenshots and Additional Commentary

  • Consider this a Christmas gift from me to the readers; I’ve been incredibly busy for the past while, and my posting frequency has been dramatically reduced as a result, but Christmas Day means down time, a chance to sleep in and really rest up. This is my favourite Christmas gift: the chance to sleep in and wake up feeling really refreshed is incomparable. As such, I am sufficiently motivated to write a Christmas post for Yuru Camp△.

  • The last time I wrote about Yuru Camp△ was back during the summer, and I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that the Survival Camp OVA was not particularly well-received. OVAs are usually intended to deviate from the style and approach of a season proper, hence the differences, so to see people not accept this was rather off-putting. This year, I chose to go with a Yuru Camp△ Christmas talk because its portrayal of Christmas is as unique and enjoyable as that of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?‘s Christmas.

  • It continues to impress me just how tasty a prime rib roast can be despite its simplicity of preparation: black pepper, salt, olive oil and oregano is rubbed generously onto the meat, which is then cooked for 25 minutes at 500ºF (260ºC). After 25 minutes, the heat is turned off, and the roast is then allowed to warm in the oven for two hours. Since Rin and the others don’t have access to a 2400 Watt power supply, making a roast on the plains of Mount Fuji is not feasible, and so, they make nabe with fancy meat that melts in the girls’ mouths..

  • For me, 打邊爐 (jyutping daa2 bin1 lou4, the Cantonese equivalent of nabe) is a New Year’s Eve tradition: this time year is typically quite cold, and there’s nothing like the rush of eating something hot on a chilly night. Unusually, this year’s been remarkably warm, and this is the first Brown Christmas I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s only -3ºC out there at the time of writing, and overcast; I’m hoping we could get some snowfall today.

  • If Christmas Eves are a time for food and company, then Christmas Day for me is a quiet day spent relaxing. After the exchange of gifts with family by morning, I spend the afternoon taking hikes, reading books or gaming; because it’s overcast right now, my inclination to walk has diminished, and I think that I will enjoy some of that tea I got with a good book or movie later…provided that I am not gaming.

  • The rush of eating too much is a familiar nemesis during the holidays: after the girls down their first pot, Aoi reveals that she’s also got a tomato broth and more meat. The girls reluctantly agree to continue with their Christmas dinner and eventually hit a food wall, although Nadeshiko is fine and is okay even when noodles are brought out. On my end, we still have the leftover prime rib beef bones from the prime rib, so tonight’s dinner will invariably include that.

  • Yuru Camp△ was one of the strongest slice-of-life anime of the past year, and was met with near-universal acclaim. Sales figures for the series were solid, so it is no surprise that second season and series of shorts was announced a ways back. With its occasional instructions for camping and a generally relaxing atmosphere, Yuru Camp△ took a familiar concept, applied it to camping and then showcased the joys of exploration very well, making it particularly standout.

  • Yuru Camp△‘s portrayal of Christmas is, like Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?‘s, a highly enjoyable and distinct one. Far from using the holiday as the basis for jokes or even fanservice, the story in both is tailored to say something specific about the Christmas spirit. Besides this, I admit that Yuru Camp△ made a fine choice for a blog post because I had a pile of screenshots that I never got to use in my earlier posts.

  • Even working on the basis that I would not duplicate screenshots, I had no difficulty in picking out the screenshots for this post: my approach for picking screenshots is to take far more than a post requires, and then from this set, trim it down to the moments I can find something to say something about.

  • After Rin returns from her trip to pick up additional propane, she returns to find the others speculating about the future. The use of space and lighting in this scene create a sense of warmth amongst the group and convey to viewers that the girls themselves represent light and warmth in an otherwise dark cold world. The night scenes of Yuru Camp△ are incredibly well done, and throughout the season, audiences are treated to spectacular night views.

  • One aspect of Yuru Camp△ that I am very fond of, but have to made a particular mention of, are the voices. Soft and gentle, they contribute to the relaxing tone of the series; for the most part, I have no objection to what are colloquially referred to as “squeaky anime voices”.

  • A classic question that is invariably asked around Christmas is whether or not one believes in Santa Claus. Santa Claus is a modernisation of Saint Nicolas, a wealthy bishop who was known for his generosity. However, after reforms, the concept fell out of popularity, even though gift-giving, especially to children, endured: Victorian writers rekindled interest in Saint Nicolas, and Clement Clarke Moore really sparked off the modern incarnation of Santa Claus that we know, with his 1823 poem “T’was The Night Before Christmas”.

  • Santa Claus as we know him, with his flying reindeer and ability to visit several billion households over the course of 24 hours, remains relegated to the realm of fantasy. Some engineers working for The City of Calgary’s department of building codes set out to mathematically indicate Santa’s existence is implausible assuming conformance with macroscopic physics (i.e. the speed Santa needs to move at to accomplish his feat would have him burn up into a carbon cinder before he finished visiting his third house), but of late, folks studying quantum mechanics suggest that this field might allow Santa to exist.

  • As the evening wears on, Nadeshiko and the others exchange their Santa outfits for something more comfortable amidst the falling evening temperatures: at the time of writing, the temperature at Asagiri Plateau also happens to be -3ºC; it can get quite chilly here in the winter, necessitating the proper gear in order for one to keep warm.

  • The smiles in Yuru Camp△ are some of the most adorable I’ve seen in any slice-of-life anime, and believe you me, I have seen a non-trivial number of these shows, so I can make such a claim with confidence. Seeing these smiles is equivalent to hugging a large stuffed animal, and if it were not evident already, I have a fondness for all things adorable despite my profound love for first person shooters.

  • Christmas is a fantastic time to sit back and watch shows; Chiaki’s brought a tablet and subscription to a media services provider. As the evening winds down, the girls kick back and watch shows before turning in. A miniature Christmas tree adorns the table: traditional trees are eight to ten feet in height and take an entire morning to properly decorate, whereas the smaller, desktop-sized trees can be put together in under ten minutes. I plan on using these small trees for Christmas until such a time as I need a larger tree to house Christmas gifts under.

  • Nearing the end of this post, my mind turns towards wondering what a second season of Yuru Camp△ could entail; the first season was about Nadeshiko’s discovery of camping and its attendant joys, as well as Rin’s newfound perspective on group camping. One wonders where precisely a second season could go: the introduction of more members or new camping locations is likely to be the case.

  • Regardless of what a continuation entails, I would be more than happy to watch it: Yuru Camp△ was consistently relaxing and enjoyable throughout its run. With solid visuals and an excellent soundtrack, every element in Yuru Camp△‘s adaptation was able to bring the manga to life.

  • I’ve decided to wrap up with another angle of Rin and the others enjoying the sunrise by breakfast: this post has a “mere” twenty screenshots for ease of reading (and also because it’s faster to write). For all of my readers and visitors, Merry Christmas! I will be returning to wrap up The World in Colours before the end of the year, but until then, have a good one, and take it easy 🙂

Consequently, watching the girls of Yuru Camp△ celebrate Christmas in their own unique fashion, without expensive gifts or highly intricate parties; their best gift to one another is a memorable camping experience spent together with everyone for the first time. Having spent the majority of Yuru Camp△ trying to convince the solo camper Rin into the joys of group camping, Yuru Camp△ frames Rin’s acceptance of Nadeshiko’s invitation as the surest sign of change in her character. For Nadeshiko, this is a Christmas miracle of sorts, and so, creates an additional magic for Yuru Camp△, an already solid and enjoyable series. For me, camping on Christmas day with my friends seems quite difficult to fathom: my Christmases are characterised by spending the day with family and taking some down time from my usual obligations and responsibilities. Christmas Eves see a dinner with family, and the Christmas Day is about relaxing at home. There is one exception: four years ago, I spent Christmas Day on the observation deck at Taipei 101 overlooking the capital of Taiwan, and then Boxing Day was marked with a drive from the Monster Village to Kaohsuing City along the plains of Western Taiwan. While far removed from my usual hot chocolate and quiet mornings, that Christmas was still spent with family, doing something exciting; I imagine that since it is commonly accepted that Christmas is about togetherness and people, concerns about consumerism displacing the true meaning of Christmas are likely to not be as severe as some might be inclined to think. As long as there is this goodwill and togetherness, the meaning of Christmas will continue to endure into the future.

The Girl Dons a Red Coat and Drives a Team of Rabbits Across the Christmas Eve Night Sky: A Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? Christmas

“Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.” —Thomas S. Monson

Though it aired a full half year (and six days, to be precise) before Christmas 2014, the eleventh episode of GochiUsa’s first season was set around Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, following the girls as they visited a Christmas market to purchase ornaments and plan out a Christmas Eve party after-hours. Though Christmas Eve turns out to be quite busy, with patrons lining up to try Rabbit House’s Christmas Pancake special, the girls are in fine spirits to continue with their party. Later that evening, Cocoa assumes the role of Santa Claus and clandestinely makes her way into Chino’s room to deliver some gifts, but winds up falling asleep by Chino’s bed in the process. The next morning, Chino is pleasantly surprised by what “Santa” had delivered during the course of the night. Filled with elaborately drawn scenes of Christmas around Rabbit House and its setting, the episode stood out as a king amongst kings: GochiUsa’s first season featured memorable episodes, but the Christmas episode was particularly unique, making use of the winter season to capture each of the characters in their element. Consequently, GochiUsa’s Christmas episode raises the bar for what one might reasonably expect from anime with an episode set during the winter holidays. While this could be seen as surprising, given GochiUsa’s relatively simple premise, there are elements that set GochiUsa’s Christmas episode above the rest.

The main reason why GochiUsa’s Christmas episode is so remarkable is because, rather than using the Christmas season as a backdrop to frame certain events, the concepts underlying Christmas itself is captured within the episode. Most anime (for instance, CLANNAD: After Story, K-On!, Lucky Star, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan and SoniAni) utilise Christmas as an opportunity to add a bit of festivity to their respective stories. Quite simply, Christmas is fit into the anime. Conversely, in GochiUsa, the episode is fit around Christmas. This is visible when, upon arriving at Rabbit House and seeing that Chino and the others are still inundated with customers, Chiya, Sharo, Maya and Megu lend a hand to help out. This progression fully captures what is known as the “true meaning of Christmas”; coined in the mid-nineteenth century, the phrase refers to selflessness, to bring happiness to others, and this is exactly what the girls are doing in helping Cocoa, Rize and Chino serve their customers (the latter themselves are spending their time to ensure that Rabbit House’s customers have a good time). However, although they are busy, the girls have an opportunity to be together in their work (and later, deservedly enjoy their own Christmas party). Up until the Christmas episode, the girls have not been seen working together; another significant aspect of Christmas is about being together regardless of what the event is, and on a busy Christmas Eve, the girls find joy in working hard together to serve their customers. That the story is able to draw from such distinctly Christmas-related themes is impressive, and while not quite as well known as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Charles Schulz’s A Charlie Brown Christmas, GochiUsa nonetheless expresses what Christmas is about as effectively as these classics.

Additional Sceenshots and Commentary

  • This is the Christmas post that would have come out last year had I not been in Taiwan and Hong Kong during the winter holidays, and might also be a reasonable approximation of what a GochiUsa post for the first season would have looked like had I done an episodic review for the first season. The only difference is that there are thirty screenshots rather than the usual twenty, and that is a consequence of the episode featuring an above-average number of special moments to discuss.

  • Because this post is special, all of the images are in 1080p and available for viewing in full size; on that note, if you’re reading this on Christmas morning, I’d like to wish you Merry Christmas! Here, Cocoa and the others visit the local Christmas market while Chino is searching for ornaments to display at Rabbit House.

  • I mentioned this in the GochiUsa first season review, but there’s a store in Banff called The Spirit of Christmas. They sell all manners of Christmas ornaments, decorations, lights, nutcrackers and Christmas lighthouses; even during the middle of summer, the shop gives off an air of Christmas. For individuals seeking the Christmas spirit during the spring and summer, this shop is as close as it gets.

  • The Spirit of Christmas has over five thousand square feet of retail space and has been open for the past twenty-five years. It appears that the shop in GochiUsa is rather smaller, but nonetheless conveys a very warm and inviting atmosphere.

  • Cocoa and Rize discuss gift ideas for Chino while the latter is perusing the merchandise within the store. I’m noticing that as of late, going Christmas shopping for other has been most enjoyable: it’s fun to think of what gifts might be suitable for someone, being something they’d enjoy while conveying appreciation. I usually begin considering Christmas gifts for family and friends as early as October and will get my shopping done ahead of the holiday rush to avoid the associated stress of über-crowded malls.

  • Cocoa decides to gift Chino a music box, and decides to buy a spooky-looking rabbit for the gift exchange. I began learning how to properly wrap gifts two years ago when I began doing more Christmas shopping, and at present, though I am a little slow, I am minimally capable of wrapping rectangular gifts. Strangely-shaped packages remain beyond my skill level for the present.

  • Cocoa’s winter coat makes her resemble a snow angel. Her carefree, ever-cheerful spirit reminds me of the joyfulness that children express during the season for the winter weather, festivities and gifts. As people mature, happiness appears to become increasingly associated with being able to tangibly express appreciation and love for others: at that unique interface between childhood and adulthood, Cocoa radiates the happiness seen in children, while simultaneously demonstrating an adult’s maturity in considering how to best express her appreciation to Chino.

  • The university sent out an email reminding staff that campus was to be closed at noon on Christmas Eve, so all staff have a half-day off; originally, I had been planning on using the half-day to get work done, but as I’ve been maintaining reasonable pacing, I was able to take the whole day off.

  • While handing out fliers to Fleur de Lupin on Christmas Eve, Sharo briefly imagines herself as The Little Match Girl, a Danish poem by Hans Christian Andersen about a poor girl who’s tasked with selling matches. Despite the bitterly cold conditions, she continues on pain of corporeal punishment, and eventually lights a match to keep herself warm. Though the ending is gut-wrenching, Andersen intended the story’s ending to be optimistic one, for in death, the girl’s suffering ceases.

  • GochiUsa‘s Christmas depicts various locations around town by night as the snow begins to fall. These scenes are very peaceful and show the extent that a particular place can change under different lighting and weather conditions.

  • Thus, there’s a bit of magic in seeing very familiar scenes transformed during the Silent Night; up until this point in GochiUsa, the town has largely been depicted by afternoon or evening during the spring and summer. It’s not often that an anime goes through the lengths of characterising distinct seasons, and I believe that besides GochiUsa, one of the best anime to profoundly capturing the seasons is Non Non Biyori.

  • Back at Rabbit House, Maya and Megu arrive early to find that it’s still fairly busy. They’re soon recruited to help out and do so with gusto. Cocoa, being Cocoa, finds herself struggling to stay on target once she sees the two dressed up and ready to roll for Christmas.

  • The Rabbit House Christmas Pancake special is a work of culinary art, composed of three pancakes stacked on top of one another, interspersed with layers of banana, strawberry, blueberry and whipped cream. Theres also a confectionary bunny up top (probably a pastry of some kind) and the entire creation is drizzled lightly in chocolate. Maya and Megu promise to get to work after trying one, and I remark that this pancake, if scaled up, would be worthy of a Man v. Food challenge.

  • Whereas Rabbit House is depicted to be generally quiet, it’s packed and full of life on Christmas Eve. I imagine that most of GochiUsa depicts the periods in between customers as a consequence of practical constraints (animating many moving entities can be costly) and to ensure the focus stays on the girls’ interactions.

  • I spent most of yesterday working on the Master Grade 00 Raiser, and consequently, my fingers hurt like a thousand needles, even after a much-welcomed chicken sandwich for lunch. The day before, I finished grading the iOS assignments with my supervisor, and was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the submissions were high-scoring. One team implemented an app for wait times at a restaurant, and I cannot help but wonder if Rabbit House could benefit from using this app: all they’d need is an iPad.

  • Once Sharo arrives, she despairs that she’s left one workplace to enter another. She subsequently enters the zone and begins delegating tasks to everyone, even Rize, resulting in a dramatic increase in efficiency, presumably because she most wishes to party with everyone else, and becomes willing to work harder to make their Christmas party happen sooner.

  • GochiUsa‘s first season primarily focused on making use of the setting to yield insight into Cocoa and the other girls’ lives in such a picturesque town, and consequently, everyone in the first season could be readily matched with an equivalent personality in K-On!. By season two, with the cast and setting well-established, GochiUsa capitalises on familiarity to begin exploring new directions, and consequently, the second season does feel distinctly different compared to season one.

  • Prima facie, how Cocoa’s Santa-themed party hat manages to stay on is a little bit of a puzzle, but it’s likely bound to her hairband, allowing said hat to rest at an unusual angle. I’ll drop by after the finale to GochiUsa‘s second season airs and do a full review on what the second season contributes to things. It’s actually quite substantial, and for an anime that’s about cute girls doing cute things, plenty of interesting new directions are explored.

  • I’ll save the actual review for after the finale comes out. A year ago, I was on a plane outbound for Hong Kong, and at this point in time, I think I was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. The Taiwan/Hong Kong vacation last year was quite fun: it marks the first time I’ve traveled anywhere while on winter break, and Taiwan/Hong Kong was quite pleasant by winter. Far from being the icebox my relatives describe, it was pleasantly warm.

  • It was Christmas Day by the time our flight touched down in Taoyuan Airport, and after being whisked away to our hotel for a short sleep, we explored some of the sights in Taipei, including Taipei 101. The afternoon was spent driving through Taroko National Park, where we visited a Japanese-style town and spent the night at the Leader Hotel in the middle of the mountains. The next day, we traveled to the southern part of the island and stopped for an all-fish lunch at a restaurant underneath a massive bridge near the Yanchao district.

  • If anyone’s actually interested in hearing more about Taiwan, you can find me on Facebook or Twitter. I’m going to return to GochiUsa for the present, where, after the last of the customers pay their bills and head off for the night, the girls are finally free to begin their Christmas party, opening off with a toast. I’ve never celebrated Christmas at my workplace before, mainly because it’s a research lab with expensive computers and fancy VR technologies.

  • The closest I’ve had to a workplace Christmas party was when I visited my supervisor’s home out in the mountains two weeks ago. I’m immensely grateful the weather remained quite pleasant: we’ve got a White Christmas this year on account of snow. I included this image because it’s yet another example of how much attention is paid to detail pertaining to food. The holidays are a time for rich foods, and Christmas dinner tonight is set to include an oven-roast, bacon-wrapped scallops, jumbo garlic shrimp and fully-loaded potatoes.

  • Sharo is impressed and somewhat bewildered at the impressive array of foods as Rize prepares to carve the Cornish game hen (it’s too small to be a turkey or even a chicken). On an unrelated note, the Hibike! Euhonium and Locodol OVAs released earlier yesterday, but owing to the holiday schedule, I’ll try to get the reviews for both of those out before we get too far into 2016.

  • Aoyama and Tippy share a moment together, watching the girls enjoy their evening. I was initially hoping that GochiUsa‘s second season would have returned to Christmas, but given that we’re apparently in the middle of summer, that’s definitely not going to happen.

  • As the evening wears on, snow begins falling again. Apparently, what constitutes a “White Christmas” has a very specific definition: Christmas Day must fall on a day where there is persistent (so, more than 5mm) snow on the ground, and a “Perfect Christmas” is a special kind of White Christmas where snow is also falling.

  • Closed for the night, the Christmas Market is deserted, illuminated only by the central tree. Coupled with the snowfall and gentle music, this scene captures the sense of what a proper”Silent Night” might feel like. In Cantonese, Christmas Eve is also referred to as “平安夜”, literally translating to “Peaceful night”: the world takes on a calm on Christmas Eve, and everywhere, children find themselves struggling to fall asleep for anticipation of Santa’s arrival.

  • I shared a discussion with my supervisor a few days ago over a peppermint Mocha (I’ve finally had Mocha’s namesake, it’s sweet like a cocoa but has the distinct edge with the espresso, so my claims stand), and 2016 is going to be quite eventful. We’re kicking off the year with a pair of presentations, then I’ll have to apply for a few more conferences and journals, consider 3D printing parts of my project for augmented reality, and as I’m enrolled in his biological computations course, I’ll have a chance to build a much more sophisticated influenza simulation. For the present, though, I’ll set aside all of my work and take it easy, then resume working on my conference paper once the weekend is over.

  • Cocoa’s longed to play the role of Santa, and as she comes from a family where she’s the youngest sibling, she’s likely not had the chance to do so, with Mocha taking the helm. Thus, when presented with a chance to gift something to Chino, she seizes the opportunity, moving quietly to ensure she does not wake Chino up in the process. It turns out that Takahiro has the same idea, although his execution is rather smoother.

  • The next morning finds Rabbit House under a light dusting of snow, enough to satisfy the criterion for a white Christmas. I’ll go off-mission for a little bit and recount a story in my childhood, where I figured out that “Santa’s” handwriting looked suspiciously familiar, and the following year, “Santa” suddenly switched formats, making use of a word-processed letter. Fortunately, Santa continued to visit thereafter.

  • This marks the end of my first-ever Christmas post, and if you’ve gotten this far, I’ll again wish you a Merry Christmas. I’d love to stick around, but there’s a host of things to do today. For one, I’d like to finish building the 0 Raiser and GN Sword III, then begin making use of a shiny new 4 TB hard drive. I’ll return to do a double-posting on December 30: one for the GochiUsa finale and one for Life is Strange.

Besides a particularly well-written theme about the meaning of Christmas, GochiUsa’s Christmas episode makes extensive use of artwork to enhance the sense of festivities in and around the town where there anime is set. The details that capture the Christmas season in the episode are astounding, from the individual stands and Christmas tree of the Christmas market, to the miniature light-up Christmas village models seen in a small shop Cocoa and the others visit. Despite the cold weather, the town itself feels warm and inviting. As the hours grow later, and the last of of parties draw to a close, a gentle snowfall blankets the town, turning familiar locations into a winter wonderland. All of this imagery allows GochiUsa to depict a Victorian Christmas, of an old-fashioned town covered in snow, and folks dressed in great coats carolling under a winter’s night. Such images of Christmas have continued to endure despite concerns that the holiday has become increasingly commercialised; this demonstrates that modern Christmas institutions notwithstanding, messages of togetherness and charity so central to Christmas have endured through the ages, and while GochiUsa might be an anime, its Christmas episode ultimately succeeds in expressing the author’s own thoughts on what the true meaning of Christmas is.

New York Fries and the MG Nu Gundam

The acquisition of the Master Grade Nu Gundam Ver. Ka. is a story that is worthy of its own post, albeit a short one. The day following a faculty Christmas party, a friend and I hit one of the hobby shops in the downtown core. It had only been five days since the release of the Nu Gundam, and I had settled on the kit as a Christmas gift of sorts. It had been a cloudy morning, and I was replaying “The Maw” in Halo before realising that I was to meet up with said friend for our excursion, which had become something of an annual Christmas break tradition. Because the kit was such a new release, I was not expecting the kit to have shipped so quickly, but upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised, for there it was, being one of two in stock at the shop. The fact that it was in stock give me the opportunity to purchase the kit, and I would build it on Christmas Day, finishing two days later. My thoughts on this beast of a war machine can be found here.

  • Despite being called “New York Fries”, there are no locations in New York City, and in fact, New York Fries was founded in Brantford, Ontario by Jay Gould and his brother in 1983. The first time I went back in 2009, I had the classic fries with gravy.

  • New York Fries are distinct from other fries in their preparations, which utilise a three stage cooking process which is cited to maximise flavour and produce crispy, lightly golden french fries. The difference can be tasted, and this year I went with “The Works”, a fries dish topped with beef chili, sour cream, a cheese sauce, green onions and bacon. 

After I had purchased the model (my friend had picked the Real Grade Zeta Gundam), we made our way to The Core. Having been reopened since its renovations a year ago, entire area is revitalised and boasts more natural light owing to a massive skylight. The upper floors are occupied by the Devonian Gardens and a food court of sorts, with New York Fries being among them (yet another Christmas tradition, started when I purchased the HG 00 Raiser+GN Sword III). Following  a break here, we would make our way home as the sunset began. Thusly, I now have a glorious Gundam model that acts to recall this late December day following the conclusion of my penultimate term as an undergraduate student.

A Very Festive Team Fortress 2 Christmas

Team Fortress 2 was updated a few days ago to drop the naughty and nice crates, as per tradition (or at least, something that was first done last year). The previous year, I purchased keys for two nice crates to get my premium account, while this year, I purchased two keys to open naughty crates to get a festive grenade launcher and übersaw. and also traded two key-equivalents with a friend to obtain festive weapons, including the Festive Frontier Justice, Festive Buff Banner and Festive Ambassador.Nice crates drop seasonal hats, while naughty crates drop coveted festive weapons.

Festive weapons are a special class of weapons wrapped in blinking Christmas lights powered by a battery pack. The lights are green, yellow, and team-coloured, even though the backpack icons depict both red and blue colours being on a weapon at the same time. The visual additions are purely cosmetic changes and have no effect on gameplay. Festive items could only be found by unlocking Naughty Winter Crates and are available in both Unique and Strange quality, though the Strange versions are much rarer.

The festive weapons turned out to be a considerably better deal compared with the contents of the nice crates, which eventually become craftable. Conversely, festive weapons do not drop and can only be acquired via purchasing  a key and opening naughty crates. This year, Valve must’ve realised the value of Festive weapons and slowed down the drop rates on the naughty crates: I acquired my weapons through transactions with a friend. With blinking lights, I don’t mind that the festives I picked up aren’t strange: they really bring on the Christmas spirit in ways that the Spycicle and the Ornament Armament.