The Infinite Zenith

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The Human and Material Costs of Ambition, Dispelling Controversy in a Collaborative Discussion with Dewbond on Mobile Suit Gundam SEED

“If you don’t do something because you think you can’t do it, you’ll never be able to do anything in the future.” –Kira Yamato

Gundam SEED first crossed my path when I was a student. Back then, the local television station ran English-dubbed episodes on Friday evenings, and I caught a glimpse of the series late in the game. One of my best friends had taken an immense liking to the series and picked up all four volumes of the soundtrack some time later, sharing two iconic songs, Strike Shutsugeki and Seigi to Jiyuu, with me over MSN messenger. I subsequently longed to hear more of the soundtrack, and stumbled across Rie Tanaka’s Token of Water. With her singing voice, I was captivated. However, back then, it would’ve been very tricky to get ahold of Gundam SEED, and for the next sixteen years, what sort of series Gundam SEED was would remained unanswered. Recently, at my best friend, and Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime‘s recommendation, I would finally begin Gundam SEED. What followed was a fantastic journey; going in, the only knowledge I had was that internet opinions of the show were not entirely trustworthy, and so, I entered with an open mind. The road from the first episode to finish took ten months altogether; I actually started back in September of last year, but only really accelerated my experience in the past six months. With the whole of Gundam SEED now in the books, I am finally in a position to say I’m ready for a collaborative talk about Gundam SEED. I welcome back Dewbond for this discussion; with my best friend, Gundam discussions never stray far from mobile suit mechanics, their analogues in real life and video games, and how politics in Gundam always seem to predict or speak to current events with a chilling accuracy. Such topics form the bulk of discussions I am most familiar with, but this approach comes at the expense of things like characterisation and other topics. Gundam is, after all, a franchise whose largest successes come from a balance of character growth and development, exploration of a plethora of themes as varied as current events to bioethics, and thrilling, well-animated combat sequences. Having Dewbond for this collaboration thus represents a fantastic opportunity to talk about the sorts of things that I might otherwise miss while conversing with more familiar faces, and this in turn will confer, as my best friend puts it, a “most” experience.

  • The HD remaster brought new life into a series, bringing the visuals upwards to improve the experience. It’s not a complete overhaul, but having seen the side-by-side comparisons, the changes are noticeable: to put things in perspective, it’s the difference between 2007’s Halo 3 and Halo 3 from The Master Chief Collection. I’ve heard that subtle changes were also made to the order of events compared to the original, but I’ve not seen the original, and Dewbond similarly enters with the HD remaster, so for our conversation, we’ll be sticking with the HD remaster.


Firstly, Dewbond, I’d like to welcome you back to our latest collaborative project. Before we delve further into the heart and soul of things, I will note that I enjoyed every step of this journey. I’ve always been intimidated by long-running anime; at first, the prospect of watching all of Gundam SEED‘s episodes seemed daunting, and watching the series in a Netflix-style marathon was off the table. However, as I delved into the series, I did find myself watching episodes in twos and wishing I had the time to polish off one more before lunch break ended, or before I turned in for the night. The experience ended up reminding me of YU-NO, which similarly led me to watch multiple episodes in one sitting the further I got, speaking volumes to how much fun I had with Gundam SEED. In fact, I’m now wishing I bought an MG Aile Strike back in the day; that’s how enjoyable Gundam SEED is. However, that’s enough from me: Dewbond, I’d like to hear a little more from you and how you came upon Gundam SEED!


I actually have MGs of each of the Gundams in SEED, at least the first few!

Gundam SEED is a show that I watched in the tail end of the 4kids/Toonami Era, and the start of the Fansub Era. It was a show on late nights on Friday, and having been one of the people who watched Gundam Wing, I was for sure going to watch anything else with Gundam on it. To that end, SEED has been a show that’s been with me for a long time, and a personal favorite of mine. As I’ve gotten older and other Gundam series have come and gone, I’ve always retained the belief that SEED isn’t just good Gundam, it’s good anime period. Which is a surprisingly contrary opinion as most fans look down heavily on the series.

But for me, I love the characters, the story, the mechs, the themes, the music and the ease of which it brings new viewers into a classic Gundam story. Not a perfect show by any means, just look at the animation recycling, but something that I think is unfairly judged, and helped in no small part by the it’s own sequel.


That is something I didn’t know, and it’s great to meet a fellow Gunpla builder! We should swap photos and stories some time. Unfortunately for me, SEED always aired a little too late for me, so I always ended up seeing the first five minutes of episodes before turning in; my first Gundam was Gundam 00, which I’ve heard is similar to Gundam Wing in some ways. Having now seen SEED, I am aligned with the idea that it’s a fantastic series for beginners. The protagonists’ goals are clearly defined, and the scope of the ZAFT-Earth Alliance conflict is slowly expanded upon as not to overwhelm viewers, the mobile suits are similarly smaller in number early on so viewers can get accustomed to what the G-project’s implications are before more variety is introduced, and Kira himself represents a viewer who is similarly thrown into the story.

In many ways, Gundam SEED succeeds in bringing the best aspects of the Universal Century into a fresh environment – it would’ve been a bold new project during its time, and I can’t help but feel that perhaps the animation shortcuts were a result of having spent more time writing out the story; if this is the case, then the story in Gundam SEED more than offsets the fact that the Freedom’s full burst mode is identical in no fewer than six scenes. In the heat of the moment, these can be hard to notice, so in that department, I’ll also give it a pass. Finally, I’ve not seen Gundam SEED Destiny in full (save a few iconic scenes like the Strike Freedom’s launch, which is awesome no matter how the rest of Destiny is perceived), so I entered Gundam SEED with more or less a blank canvas, and will reserve all judgement for Destiny once I’ve gone through it. Further to this, I have heard the unjust hate Kira Yamato himself gets, and SEED demonstrates that almost none of these assertions hold true.


Gundam SEED was the first time a Gundam series was done on the computer instead of traditional hand-drawn animation. I’ve also heard that most of the budget went towards booking top-tier voice actors and music, though I can’t confirm that. What I can say is that the animation recycling is very noticeable, especially after a re-watch. It gets only worse in Destiny, but again we are keeping things to SEED here.

Now on to the series proper. I’ve said before in my own posts that I have little love for the UC timeline of Gundam. I’ve watched quite a bit, enjoyed some parts, but it has never pulled me in as much as the Alternate Universes have. Simply put, the UC’s vaguely defined space politics (and also telepathy) never gripped me as much as say SEED‘s story of science, or Wing‘s “philosophical” nature, or 00‘s peace through violence. I think it is important, for me at least, to point out that SEED has at least two central themes running through it. One for the overall Coordinator-Natural conflict, and one for the characters themselves. Both of these intertwine throughout the show, but I do think they are quite separate.

For the characters and most notably the lead, Kira Yamato, his story is about stepping up to the plate. By using your gifts and powers to do something, and not just run away. This is very present in the first half of the series where Kira, like Amuro Ray before him, struggles with becoming involved in a war he has no interest in. He is a kind and gentle soul who doesn’t want to kill, which is made even worse when his friend Athrun is on the other side. But things are out of his control and to protect his friends and later, the world, Kira comes to terms with realizing what he can do and what he should do.

And this theme is present in all of the characters. From Mu and Murrue on the Archangel, to Miriallia, Tolle, Sai and Kuzzy, to Cagalli and Lacus, and even to Flay. Everyone in the cast has to reckon with whether they will try to do something, or let the world go the way it is suppose to. But I’m getting ahead of myself, Zen, let’s talk about the central two characters of the story, Kira and Athrun, what do you make of them?


A long-standing question that people are asked about anime is, if the visuals weren’t exceptional but the story was, would said anime still be okay? I’ve never given my thoughts on that until now, but Gundam SEED is the perfect example of a series whose visuals might not swing with say, the likes of Gundam 00 (the mobile suit fights and combat scenes have aged very gracefully and look amazing to this day), but as far as story, emotional investment, character growth and world-building, Gundam SEED is remarkably well done: Gundam 00 was my first Gundam, and looking back, if I’d seen Gundam SEED first, I probably would’ve found it to be every bit as enjoyable then as I do now (although the “me” of a decade earlier is unlikely to have articulated his thoughts quite as coherently!).

Once we step away from the internet memes and forum discussions surrounding Kira Yamato, I found a very relatable individual who rises up to the challenge. While his Coordinator abilities certainly would’ve been an asset, it is his heart that makes all the difference. He simultaneously detests war and wishes that other options were available to sort out disagreements, but at the same time, knows that since he’s the only one capable of stepping into the cockpit and defend those around him, he does so whenever needed (however reluctantly). His first few battles open his eyes to the reality of warfare – sometimes, there really is no other way, and hesitating to pull the trigger means watching one’s friends or allies die. Indeed, the worst of it is when he is made to confront Athrun, his best friend.

Athrun might be on the other side of the war, but his convictions and beliefs are equally as strong as Kira’s. Whereas most Gundam series delineate things very clearly, having one’s best friend on the other side immediately changes things by humanising one’s opponents. It was easy to vilify Zeon, but seeing Athrun with ZAFT meant understanding him and his team, too. They’re soldiers, whose sense of duty is no less than Kira’s, and who genuinely believes that swiftly beating his foe is a route to peace. Athrun is not one of the bad guys, and in fact, one sympathises with him for the fact that he is conflicted between his duty and what and what he feels is right. Amidst the horrors and losses accrued in war, Gundam SEED brings these two to the brink, and Athrun’s fight with Kira was a milestone in the series, representing how war and its brutality strips us of what makes us human. It is a tragedy in the making, but fortunately, we have Lacus and Cagalli speak with Kira and Athrun, respectively helping them to mentally recover. By the time the two meet again, they are able to reconcile, and this moment put a particular smile on my face.

Once Kira and Athrun understand one another, as well as what they desire, Gundam SEED symbolically grants them superior mobile suits, armed with a nuclear reactor and possessing the power to finally affect positive change on the world. Had the two been given the Freedom and Justice early on, their brash impulses would’ve taken over and inevitably result in tragedy. This was a brilliant move on Gundam SEED‘s part, in using the mobile suits themselves to visually denote the characters’ state of being. The early Gundams are limited by their batteries, and constrain the pilots, who must be mindful of how they fight. The natural progression of the technology and pilot skill is synchronous with character growth – seeing Kira and Athrun improve and overcome their trials was a rewarding part of Gundam SEED. However, the two do not do this alone. Kira has the crew of the Archangel and his friends to support him early on, and eventually meets Lacus, who changes his life. Similarly, a chance encounter with Cagalli also pushes Athrun in a direction that forces him to choose what matters more to him, and her presence eventually pushes him to follow his heart. Lacus and Cagalli are similarly integral players in Gundam SEED – while they are formidable and capable individuals in their own right, their power lies in being able to inspire and support those around them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Cagalli and Lacus!


I like your view that when Kira and Athrun are given the Freedom and Justice, they are in a sense given power on par with their new resolve. I never really thought of it that way, though in hindsight, Lacus kinda does spell it out.

Kira and Athrun’s relationship is of course, the backbone of the series and it is interesting in how similar and different they are. There are both gentle souls and would avoid killing if they have too, yet while Kira fights for his friends, Athrun fights, at least the start, for a sense of duty. He feels like he has too, that it is expected of him, and that because he lost his mother in the Bloody Valentine, he should be a solider who seeks vengeance. But he isn’t really that kind of person. Even after Nicol’s death (which is changed in the HD version to make it more of a mistake, then intentional by Kira), Athrun’s rage against his friend is only for a few fleeting, but crucial days.

When he learns Kira is alive, he isn’t bent on furthering his revenge, or killing his friend. Through Lacus, he realizes he needs to figure out what he is fighting for. As she puts it to him. “Is it the medal you received, or your father’s orders?” This conversation I think helps pull Athrun out of a rage-filled revenge fest that might have driven him otherwise (as it does Yzak), and allows him and Kira to sit down and talk it out. That is a great conversation and they both reach a sense of peace that is rare both in Gundam and Anime in general.

As for Lacus and Cagalli, they are both interesting characters, and I want to talk about them both. I’ll put Cagalli aside for the moment and focus instead on Lacus. I’ll admit, that when it comes to Lacus Clyne, this is where the anime comes up short in terms of character work. There is too much “tell” and not enough “show” for Lacus, and there feels like we are just supposed to accept parts of her character with it really being shown the A to B road.

Zen, what did you think of the Pink Pop Princess?


It is probably no joke when I say that Lacus Clyne fuelled much of my interest in the series prior to my knowledge of what Gundam even was. I’d been long itching to see what role such a character would play in a series where warfare was a core concept, and where space battles were the norm. One evening, when I’d just started high school, while trying to find more music from Gundam SEED, I inadvertently downloaded Rie Tanaka’s Token of Water. At that point, I wasn’t a fan of any sort of vocal music newer than the 80s, let alone contemporary J-Pop, and Rie Tanaka’s stunning performance in that song blew me away. This one song, with Tanaka’s clear singing voice and emotional delivery, single-handedly changed my mind about songs with vocals. I would similarly fall in love with Tanaka’s other songs as Lacus Clyne (Quiet Night, and Fields of Hope come to mind), and that led me to watch Chobits. But, that’s going off topic: on Lacus herself, I entered Gundam SEED knowing she was an excellent singer and an idol of sorts with a profound dedication to peace as a result of having listened to her songs so extensively.

Gundam SEED‘s portrayal of Lacus is indeed limited – upon meeting her, viewers get the sense that her ditzy, easygoing manner is a veneer, and underneath, she has a strong sense of justice and stands strongly behind her ideals. Beyond speeches and the Clyne name, Lacus doesn’t have quite as direct a role as her popularity amongst viewers suggest. However, I believe that this element is deliberate – despite not stepping into the cockpit herself, Lacus does venture onto the battlefield and rally those around her to see what’s going on around her. Moreover, she’s the one who convinces Kira to forgive himself for what’s happened, and upon seeing Kira’s devotion to what he believes in, boldly steals the Freedom from ZAFT for him. Lacus’ actions in Gundam SEED are indirect, but they nonetheless have a large impact on how the war turns out. Princess-like figures in Gundam hold an unusual power in the series, driving pilots to do things they otherwise won’t do without a bit of encouragement, and in the most recent instalment, Hathaway’s Flash, Federation Commander Kenneth Sleg, remarks that the right women in the right place can tame even the fiercest man’s heart, suggesting that for all of their weapons and power, at the end of the day, those feelings within the heart remain more powerful still.

In Gundam SEED, Lacus is able to impact both Kira and Athrun in this way, though hearts and minds, by gently guiding them along rather than more openly propelling the to open their eyes. This is where Lacus can seem a little less prominent, especially where compared to her counterpart, Cagalli Athha, who is very much a woman of action. Where Lacus is composed and graceful, Cagalli is direct and action-oriented. She speaks her mind and is an untamed spirit, preferring to meet injustice with force compared to Lacus, who would rather sit the sides down and have them talk out their problems. With the rambunctious and daring Cagalli, whose devotion to Orb compels her to even pilot the Strike Rogue, Lacus does seem to have a lesser presence. However, I feel that Lacus is no less important, affecting the story in her own way, and before we delve deeper into Lacus’ counterpart, I would also be curious to hear more about how Lacus would’ve been able to play a larger role in SEED (and be credited accordingly).


As always Zen, you are more abstract, while I look at things like they are on the page, but it is a good counterbalance when we have conversations like this.

Like I said before, Lacus in my view, is the weakest of the four main characters, and the least developed. While Kira and Athrun both go on journeys to find their place in the war and Cagalli learns that you can’t shoot your way through everything, Lacus really doesn’t have any kind of journey. The switch from idol pop princess to the philosophical and measured leader of the Clyne Faction feels very much out of left field. There is just no connective tissue that links the two together. Was Lacus a follower of her father? We know that a little, but did she make her own speeches, did she study the issues? What is her stake in all of this? Hell the only time we see Lacus show a sliver of actual human emotion is when she runs to Kira after her father’s dead. It’s a good moment, and shows you there is a human underneath, but to be honest, we never got to see the ‘icon’ side of her that much either.

It’s not that it isn’t believable, Lacus’s role in the story is to be the guiding force for the other characters. She is in a sense, the figurehead to counter balance Rau Le Crueset and Patrick Zala. There is just no legwork done to try and connect what feels like two different version of the character. Maybe that was due to scripting reasons, critics of the series have said that the show’s tone takes a marked shift after the Kira and Athrun fight, but I can’t say for sure.

What do you think Zen, did you see any of this?


Now that you mention it, following the Kira and Athrun fight, Gundam SEED sets aside the idea of being forced to do extraordinary and difficult things (like shooting to kill even though it’s one’s best friend on the receiving end) in warfare, to the greater conflict between the Coordinators and Naturals. In retrospect, this does come across as a bit jarring, coinciding with the arrival of Muruta Azrael and the Biological CPUs. Gundam SEED suddenly feels bigger – the smaller scale and focused battles suddenly give way to a much larger war, with the racism and hatred between the Coordinators and Naturals really coming to bear. Before, we’d seen it briefly with how Naturals regard coordinators, such as through Flay and her initial treatment of Kira, but Muruta really came to embody the worst excesses of the Earth Alliance.

I would say that the shift is noticeable: even though the arrival at JOSH-A and the beginning of Operation Spit Break showed that the Earth Alliance and ZAFT both sought escalation, the series’ main conflict only comes to the table after Kira and Athrun have sorted out their own differences. The timing is quite convenient, and it does feel like ZAFT and the Earth Alliance were politely waiting for the two to reconcile before unveiling their own hostilities. If memory serves, Gundam SEED did have some directorial challenges (not as severe as Destiny’s, however!), so the tonal change might also be related to why Lacus received less development than she could’ve otherwise.

With this in mind, Gundam SEED still manages to apply the lessons learnt from earlier conflicts to guide Kira and Athrun along, so that when the world descends to extremism and madness, the pair remain resolute in their convictions. This gives a constant beacon for the two that allow them to convey Gundam SEED‘s themes. While SEED might be rough about transitioning from its character-vs-character and character-vs-self conflicts to a character-vs-society conflict in its final third, SEED continues to intrigue because of its messages. As you’ve mentioned earlier, the larger conflict in Gundam SEED deals in the ramifications of genetic engineering and pushing science faster than ethics can keep up. This has always been a fascinating topic for me (and I’m not just saying this because a part of my undergraduate education dealt with research ethics); science fiction is fond of demonstrating the risks of uncontrolled progress (“just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”), and I’d love to hear your thoughts on where Gundam SEED excels in its portrayal of dangerous knowledge.


Gundam SEED, and its outer theme (the inner theme being the characters stepping up to heroism and the right thing), has been to me, after so many re-watches: the good and bad of human ambition, which is represented in many ways by both Kira Yamato and Rau Le Creuset

For Kira, the ultimate coordinator. He represents the strive for humanity to do better. To reach for the stars, to, as Rau says “to be the strongest, to go the farthest, to climb the highest.” Man always tries to go above and beyond their limits, to break them and do them again. It’s for the greater good of humanity. Coordinators were created for that purpose, to help guide humanity into the stars and help create a more perfect earth. Kira’s abilities are the best they possibly can be, but it is only through other people, coordinators and naturals, that he is able to fully become who he is. Kira ends the story as a mature and understanding young man, aware of the evil of humanity, but always willing to see the goodness that is there.

The problem is that while humans are capable of great compassion, they are also capable of great cruelty. And that’s Rau Le Crueset.

If Kira represents the goodness of science, the Rau is the bad. He is a product of greed, ego, ruthless ambition and doing whatever it takes to get ahead. Instead of accepting your limits, that you only have one life. we see Mu La Flaga’s father try to cheat death with his money, to create a clone to replace his ‘inferior son.” Rau only sees the worst in humanity, a greedy war obsessed people who will destroy the planet as long as they can remain on top. And unlike Kira, who has friends and loved ones to guide him, Rau only has himself and he only sees what created him and the misguided hatred of the Patrick Zala and the rest of the hardliners in the PLANTs.

It is a great contrast to me brings the ‘outer theme’ of the series into focus, especially during the Mendel episodes, which remain my favorite part of the series.


This is definitely where Gundam SEED particularly excels: in order to address the larger challenge of forbidden technology, Kira must first understand what he himself is fighting for before gaining the conviction to deal with the embodiment of evil that is Rau le Creuset. Gundam villains have greatly varied, from Char Aznable himself, who initially fought for revenge against the system that wronged his family, to Ribbons Almarc, who was created to guide humanity but deviated from his aims and Full Frontal, who believed that there was a more elegant way to force human migration into space. Rau le Creuset is unique in that Gundam SEED starts him as a masked character who appears immensely devoted to ZAFT and the PLANTs. However, at Mendel, when the cards are finally laid on the table, Rau le Creuset takes on a new menace to Kira and the protagonists. The beauty in Gundam SEED comes from Kira now having the maturity to remain true to his convictions despite hearing everything Rau le Creuset had thrown at him and Mu.

The timing of this confrontation was appropriate: having now come to terms with the idea that he should do what he feels is right, Kira is able to focus even though his world has been rocked with Rau le Creuset’s revelation (and in fact, during their final fight, Kira demonstrates that Rau had been unsuccessful in changing his mind). SEED’s portrayal of how humanity deals with possibility is an optimistic one, and at the same time, suggests that, armed with the sort of compassion and empathy Kira possesses, even the fouler consequences of progress can be overcome. We see this time and time again in Gundam, where protagonists and antagonists, when possessing or given equal power, choose to wield that power differently. When that decision is to wield it selfishly, the very power they sought to control ends up consuming them. Rau le Creuset’s existence was ultimately self-destructive, and no matter how strong his desire to annihilate humanity was, his hubris would be his undoing: he is so focused on the idea that he is unequivocally right that he cannot comprehend that there could be others with a will exceeding his, to protect and defend. While Rau le Creuset might’ve had a smaller role during Gundam SEED‘s first half, his prominent role in the second makes him the perfect foil for Kira.

With this in mind, wars are fought not as single combat between titans, but a result of politicians and people in power giving orders to their subordinates as though they were pushing pawns on a chessboard. On one end of the extreme, we have Patrick Zala and his utter hatred of Naturals, believing their inferior abilities as the singular cause of his wife’s death. In the other corner is Muruta Azrael of the Blue Cosmos, who believes that the Coordinator’s enviable abilities are unfair and personally have wronged him. Where leaders convince their followers that there is an inhuman foe to be exterminated, tragedy can only result: both Patrick Zala and Muruta Azrael are completely consumed with hate, so when someone like Rau le Creuset guides them down a path of destruction, the pair are so blinded by their ideology that they would choose to fight without question. In this sense, I also see Rau le Creuset as a natural force that merely is: immensely powerful to be sure, but one that is only as potent as people allow. Dewbond, where do you stand on the PLANTs’ Patrick Zala and Earth Alliance’s Muruta Azrael?


I’ll be honest, I found both of them to be rather one-note characters to the story. Not bad, but just doing what was advertised on the box. They serve a purpose showing the two sides of the coordinator vs natural debate. Azrael representing the fear, resentment and jealously of the naturals and Zala the arrogance and superiority of the Coordinators. They more plot devices than characters, and I honestly really didn’t think much about them. Though I will say Azrael getting his comeuppance by Natarle’s sacrifice is one of the series best moments.

One of the most interesting things in the story however, is that despite the hatred shared between the naturals and coordinators. Had they let things take their course, the Naturals would have ended up winning. The show makes references to the fact that Coordinator’s are becoming increasingly sterile, and that they actually need naturals to make more of their children coordinators to help stablize the population.

I was always surprised this plot point never really got fully addressed in the story. It gives the entire world of the PLANTs a ticking clock, that despite their supposed superiority, they are a doomed race regardless. It’s almost as if they want to be ‘king of the ashes’ as Game of Thrones put it. Did you pick up any that?


There is no question about that particular moment, although Muruta’s death comes at a cost to Natarle. It’s true that Patrick Zala and Muruta Azrael were the products of decades of resentment and mistrust, which in turn speaks to the writing in Gundam SEED; enough world-building was done to create a compelling and plausible backdrop for the events which lead up to the Alliance-PLANT conflict.

Regarding the reproductive challenges Coordinators face, this is another detail that I enjoyed. Had the Coordinators been created as flawless, the Naturals would have no edge to speak of. Instead, this seemingly small flaw in their genetics ends up being how the Gordian Knot could’ve been cut were it not for resentment and contempt. It’s a very clever way of showing how the simplest solutions (here, the idea of cooperating to better the world, per George Glenn’s original ideals) are often forgotten. Further to this, the genetic limitations in Coordinators also suggest that extremism and patience don’t usually go hand-in-hand. The Earth Alliance very nearly pay the price for this at Jachin Due: had GENESIS fired a third time at Earth, it would’ve probably eliminated the whole of humanity.

These small details really speak to what makes the Cosmic Era so enjoyable: we have the central theme that guides the story’s events, but then the tangents can each lead to a rabbit hole in their own right, giving viewers something further to think about. It is therefore unsurprising that even now, nineteen years after Gundam SEED aired, there can still be meaningful and engaged discussion about the series’ messages, and what it had contributed to the Gundam franchise. (If we go down the characters route:) Of course, no theme can exist in a vacuum, and Gundam SEED‘s characters are very much at the heart of what happens. One of the advantages about Gundam SEED was that with its runtime, it was able to satisfactorily explore a lot of character dynamics. Where do we begin?


I think Gundam SEED has a good run-time. There is enough time to tell the story and I honestly don’t feel that anything was left out. Everything felt wrapped up and explored to an adequate level.

I mean, we could Monday morning quarterback the series to death. There would be somethings I would do differently, I would try to tie the second half closer to the first, I would make the sterilization of the coordinators a bigger issue. I would absolutely give Lacus more backstory and quite frankly, I’d add more boobage. But what we have ranges from good to really great.

Most Gundam Series often fall apart in the back half, as they run into ‘third disc syndrome’ where they need to tie their ending up with some philosophy, but SEED, with it’s coordinator vs natural fight, gets most of it done without it feeling shoved in.


It’s a shame more anime don’t go the 4-cour approach nowadays, when everything is based off BD sales rather than telling a well-explored story, and Gundam SEED‘s first half was solid for this reason. Now that you mention it, the dwindling Coordinator question would’ve been perfect materials in a continuation: it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the Naturals to exploit this and use this to start a new war. Of course, this never materialised, which is a shame, because Gundam SEED laid down the groundwork for what could’ve been exciting directions. I don’t believe Gundam SEED Destiny can be said to achieve this, but that’s going off-mission: I mention Gundam SEED Destiny only because, having only seen glimpses of Gundam SEED Destiny on TV back when children’s channels actually aired anime, I’d always gotten the sense that the Cosmic Era had a lot of moving parts.

Gundam SEED‘s first half shows that my misconceptions were untrue; the Cosmic Era is very accessible to newcomers, which is great. Beyond Kira, we have Sai, Flay, Tolle and Miriallia, whose friendship with Kira provides him with his initial desire to fight and protect the Archangel. They’re not soldiers, but ordinary people propelled into extraordinary circumstances. Sai, Tolle and Miriallia each rise to the occasion several times over, as do Marrue, Natarle and the Archangel’s crew. Their initial mission of reaching JOSH-A at Alaska was a very self-contained adventure, giving the characters plenty of time to grow, and despite the tragedies they suffer, continue to fight for the hope of a better world and for survival.

Of the initial group that Marrue encounters at Heliopolis, I am probably not mistaken in saying that Flay is probably the most nuanced, but also the most controversial. Whereas her friends willingly volunteer to keep one another safe and out of harm’s way, Flay herself is reluctant to fight and demonstrates a degree of prejudice towards Coordinators. However, if memory serves, Dewbond, you’ve previously noted that Flay’s portrayal often is not given proper credit: after all, Flay represents the average individual unaccustomed to war and its demands. Beyond the controversies and angry internet discussions, Flay is an integral part of Gundam SEED in many ways. I’d like to hear a little more on her and how her actions are central towards Gundam SEED‘s progression!


Ah yes Flay. If people have followed my look at the series from earlier this year, or my character dive on her. They’ll know that I came out of the series with a newfound appreciation for the character. Where once I sort of dismissed Flay as a ‘nothing character’, someone who was there to cause drama, going back to the series I found that Flay is both a damn compelling character, and a key aspect of the plot.

I won’t re-hash what I said in my blog post (pluggity, plug), but I will say that Flay Allster serves as a mirror to most of the character themes of the story. While Gundam SEED is about the crew of the Archangel, especially Kira and his friends, stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing, Flay is the opposite. She is weak, cowardly, and has absolutely no place in the situation she is. She is shunted from one ship to another, never having stability or purpose. She seeks comfort in Kira’s arms, but then runs right back to Sai when he vanishes. While Miriallia, in a moment of weakness, attempts to kill Dearka, she pulls back, while Flay goes for the gun. She is weak willed, cowardly and often bitterly racist person. Yet it all works in the series.

Because the truth is, not everyone is able to step up to the plate. Not everyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get it together. Just as their are strong people, there are weak people. Flay is one of those weak people. A woman in a situation she should never be in, and who doesn’t have the personality or mental fortitude to adjust. It is what makes her death at the end so tragic, because she is never able to find a true level of peace. And in a series where nukes end up flying, and a giant space laser is wiping out fleets. That one death seems to be the most tragic of them all.


In the end, all of the death and wanton destruction seen in Gundam SEED is a tragedy, a cost of politicians treating soldiers as little more than pawns on a chessboard. I’d heard of the controversy surrounding Flay, and the combination of your thoughts and being able to see everything for myself puts things in perspective. I could never hate her after all she’s gone through, and especially towards the end, being forced to accompany Rau le Creuset and hear his visions for the world might’ve changed her. Lives are cut short all the time by laser fire, both intended and unintended, in Gundam SEED; this is a series that handles death in a very mature, plausible manner.

Even among the soldiers, death isn’t something to take lightly; Gundam SEED took the time to develop characters on all sides of the conflict. In doing so, viewers come to care for Athrun and his team, as well. By giving the characters down time after their initial operations of the war, we’re reminded that each of Athrun, Dearka, Nicol and even Yzak are humans first, and soldiers second. Consequently, when Nicol dies in the fight with Kira, it mattered little that he was ZAFT and part of the team tasked with destroying the Archangel: we’d come to hope that he might get out of this war alive and survive to play the piano for those around him again. Even with the biological CPUs, once it became clear they were modified into weapons and made to suffer for some fanatical cause, it felt like for Shani, Orga and Clotho, death was a release from their suffering. This aspect was a masterful way to help remind viewers of the idea that behind every gunsight is a human being, and having explored it with you further, this part of Gundam SEED now stands out as being particularly noteworthy.


I have to agree, and while I don’t think SEED goes too deep into the ‘war is hell’ vibe that other shows, including Gundam series have done. It does a fine job when it wants to.

Before we wrap up, I do want speak about Cagalli, and I also think it would be remiss to not talk about the mobile suits of the series, as well as the music. Where do you want to start first Zen?


It makes the most sense to begin with Cagalli! She’s the second of the Gundam SEED princesses, and unlike the refined, elegant and philosophical Lacus, Cagalli is brash, impulsive and driven by a desire to do good on the front lines. She’s a fighter, and very much an interesting foil to Lacus for this reason. However, while her heart is always in the right place, her hot head often threatens what she stands for, too. Her first real meeting with Kira in the African desert sets her on a path of growth – Cagalli begins to realise that it is not prudent to rush in to everything with fists raised and guns blazing.

Things only continue to get more interesting from here after Cagalli meets Athrun after they shoot one another down, and as their paths become increasingly entwined, Cagalli, Athrun and Kira continue to have a considerable impact on one another. Having said all of this, I’d like to hear your impressions of Cagalli, as well, Dewbond!


Cagalli was the character I hated the most in SEED for a long time. For me, she was the worst example of the ‘rebel girl’ trope. The woman who has to be 110% more committed to the cause to make up for the perceived deficit of being a woman. She’s never been a character who stuck well with me, being abrasive, angry, confrontational and trying to prove something. Gundam has no shortage of these bratty characters, and Cagalli fit into that mold well.

However, with this re-watch, I paid a bit more attention to Cagalli this time, and I found that, while she’s my least favorite of the four leads, she isn’t as bad as I thought. Seeing the story with new eyes, I found Cagalli to be all those things, but also someone who has a drive and zeal that helps fill in the gaps of the other character. She may be blunt, but there is a layer of kindness and compassion that can only come from someone who wears their heart on their sleeve. Her relationship with Kira, her twin brother is a good back and forth. While Kira hesitates, Cagalli is a woman of action. Both of them have moments when they are right, and both when they are wrong.

Where Kira struggles to find his place in the war, Cagalli throws herself into it, often to the detriment of the bigger picture and her own safety. She has an emotional side to her that clashes with Athrun’s failed attempt to ‘go cold’ against Kira. It is only during the last half, after her father gave her a talking to, that Cagalli realizes that blindly throwing yourself into the fight doesn’t help anyone and that she’s only doing it for her own self-satisfaction.

So I think I liked Cagalli a bit more this time around. What did you think of her Zen?


Personally, I rather liked Cagalli precisely because she was so blunt and short-sighted early on – perhaps your dislike of her speaks to the fact that Gundam SEED did a solid job of presenting just how immature she’d been at the series’ beginning. In a way, her idealism and belief that being actively involved was the only way to change the world, was something that was exaggerated so we viewers could see how events later on, from meeting Kira and watching him fight, to that fateful encounter with Athrun, culminate in her finally realising that fighting without understanding and unnecessarily putting oneself in danger isn’t the way to go.

This character growth is what makes Cagalli an interesting character; like Kira and Athrun, being involved with the conflict itself teaches them the significance of patience and thinking things through before acting, in turn giving them the conviction needed to stand against large-scale horrors, extremism and foes wielding an inhumane amount of power. I’m always fond of watching characters grow, especially if unlikeable characters become at least those we can sympathise with later on, and signifying this, Cagalli ends up piloting the Strike Rogue, a Gundam – she’s become mature enough to handle the responsibility of operating the sort of power Kira and Athrun wielded when Gundam SEED first began.

This is a fantastic segue into the mobile suits of Gundam SEED. To be honest, this aspect could be an entire thesis on its own, because Gundam SEED‘s mobile suits are awesome, so Dewbond, I’ll make a sincere effort to not to overdo things when it comes to discussing the mobile suits and eponymous Gundams!


I’ve always been a fan of the ‘less is more’ type of design when it comes to Gundam, and SEED mostly does that. The Strike is probably one of my most favorite suits, because even with it’s striker packs it wasn’t overdone. That suit is just damn fucking cool. A great example of re-imagining the iconic RX-78 Gundam, but taking it in a new direction.

The Freedom and Justice I was also a big fan of. Again, the Freedom is a great example of a suit having a bunch of cool weapons, but not overwhelming in terms of design. It’s not dressed to the nines like the Unicorn ends up becoming, or with its weapons stuck on the shoulder like the 00 Quan-T or Nu-Gundam. It’s a damn good design, and the same can be said for the Justice. I love the backpack, and I wish they’d have shown more scene of Athrun riding it.

 


For me, the Strike acts as the perfect first Gundam for Kira – he begins Gundam SEED a civilian, and mirroring his inexperience and naïveté, the Strike by design holds him back and forces him to think tactically. The Strike’s battery is reduced wherever the Phase Shift armour sustains a blow, and similarly, every shot Kira fires consumes limited battery power. In order to protect his allies, Kira must learn to make the most of his mobile suit. The fact that the Strike can switch so readily between different configurations also shows that Gundams can be built for a range of roles.

Indeed, when one looks at the Strike, its design philosophy goes into how the Earth Alliance and ZAFT subsequently design their mass production and special purpose mobile suits. Prior to acquiring the Duel, Buster, Blitz and Aegis, ZAFT’s GINN mobile suits were inspired by the Zaku line, being basic but reliable units that was far more powerful than the Möbius fighter craft. Subsequently, the data the Earth Alliance acquires allows them to build the Strike Dagger, a cut-down Strike that mirrors real-world design philosophies that take place whenever a given product is marked for mass production. Seeing the natural progression of mobile suits among both ZAFT and the Earth Alliance in the aftermath of the information returned from the G-Weapon project was a superb detail that again, accentuates the attention to detail in the series.

By the time Freedom and Justice arrive, mobile suit design has really accelerated, and ZAFT again takes the lead in technology when they successfully incorporate the N-Jammer Cancellers into these machines. From a design perspective, both Freedom and Justice look amazing. The Freedom’s biggest strength is that it works out of the box, and in a word, is the complete package, capable of single-handedly turning the tide of a battle without being overpowered, unlike the 00 Gundam, which spent half the season hampered by the fact that it couldn’t operate at full power. While there is considerable talk of how the Freedom is plot armour, when one considers that the Freedom’s Full Burst mode only allows for Kira to hit five independent targets at a time, the Freedom is actually well-balanced and an extension of Kira’s preference to disarm rather than kill. Compared to the likes of the 00 Qan[T] or RX-0 line, the Freedom is a thoughtful machine (the 00 Qan[T] is capable of teleporting at will, and the psycho-frame on the RX-0 series allows these mobile suits to turn back time or accelerate faster than the speed of light, which is ludicrous).

The Justice itself has a little less notoriety compared to the Freedom, and its design is strikingly similar to the Aegis. In Gundam SEED, I was initially a little less awed by its performance in battle – while similarly has unlimited operational time like the Freedom, it appears the Justice’s greatest strength is its mobility, and its loadout is correspondingly smaller. However, in retrospect, this makes sense: the reduced firepower and Fatum-00 backpack means Athrun is well-suited to assist his allies. He’d been trained as combat pilot and follows orders even if it meant casualties against his liking, so giving Athrun a high-speed mobile suit meant to support those around him allows him to follow his heart and still make meaningful contributions without causing casualties. Indeed, the Justice’s final act in destroying GENESIS was an artfully-done decision.

Freedom and Justice, the two most iconic Gundams in Gundam SEED‘s second half, also form the name for one of my all-time favourite songs on the soundtrack. It’s a tense, urgent sounding piece of incidental music that transitions into a haunting choral performance and speaks to feelings of resolute determination to do what’s right. When my best friend introduced me to that song sixteen years earlier, he mentioned it was for times when I needed to stay focused and not allow setbacks to keep me from doing my best. At the time, I’d been vying for spot of best student in my middle school (I was a bit of a trophy hunter when I was a student, and liked doing well in classes to collect shiny awards for the purpose of having shiny stuff). Said best friend also sent me Strike Shutsugeki, a heroic sounding track that plays whenever a Gundam takes off, ready for battle – this song, I was told, was something I should save for my moment of triumph. The soundtrack in Gundam SEED is, bluntly, amazing, and Toshihiko Sahashi did an incredible job of capturing everything from combat scores, to more melancholy and reflective pieces that speak to the sorrows of warfare. What do you think of the soundtracks in Gundam SEED, Dewbond?


I always love how you go way too deep into the weeds with things like this, while my response is always “yeah, they look pretty cool, I like the one who shoots the lasers from its wings”

Anyway, I do really like how SEED was able to look at what was done before and adapt it for this new re-telling. Like you said the GINN and such are similar, but not a copy/paste job of the ZAKU (that’s for the sequel). It shows a respect for the series that came before, but enough creatively to take things in a new direction. I forgot to mention that I was a big fan of the Buster and Duel as well, as they continued that ‘less is more’ design. The Blitz and Aegis meanwhile never sat well with me. Too busy, too much shit going on, like they were trying to hard. The same for the EA Gundams, which the exception of the Calamity. That was a cool suit.

Going to your point about the music. The tunes of Gundam SEED is where even the most vocal hater of the series has to give it points. This is a top shelf soundtrack, and absolutely where the most money was put into. Each of the opening themes was solid, with great visuals (and boobs). ‘Moment’ remains a great duet that I have yet to see repeated in anime, Believe is a great action packed song, and Invoke by TM Revolution can sit beside Gundam greats like ‘Beyond the Time’ ‘Daybreak’s Bell’ and ‘Just Communication’. The OST was great as well, especially during the final fight between Kira and Rau, or when Cagalli escapes to space.

Lacus’s singing was great as well, and I know that production community worked hard to secure a top-tier singing voice for those moments. Lacus has a beautiful voice, and I like how they were able to incorporate it into the series when they could. I have no doubt that with the movie finally coming, we’ll be able to see more of that.


Gundam SEED (and just about any series with a large mechanical piece) causes me to go a little crazy! I’ll dial it back some, but that there’s so much to go for in Gundam SEED really speaks to my enjoyment of all the different parts. The opening and ending songs were fun, TM Revolution’s Meteor is an iconic piece, and Rie Tanaka’s performance of Lacus’ songs were sublime (Token of Water was the one song that got me into appreciating vocal music and J-Pop!). I think Gundam SEED did a nice balance with Lacus: while she’s a singer, her role doesn’t overshadow the pilots and soldiers. The two songs we do get to hear (Quiet Night and Token of Water) present a very wistful and contemplative mood amidst all of the fighting and chaos, a beacon of light in the darkness, as it were. It is fair to say that my original interest in Gundam SEED came from its soundtrack, from the incidental pieces and openings, to the insets and endings!

Similarly to you, Dewbond, I’m quite excited to see what the Gundam SEED Movie entails. If I’m not mistaken, fans have been waiting for fifteen years for this announcement. That’s quite a bit of anticipation, so I hope that what results from this production, fans will be given a phenomenal experience. I personally have no idea of what to expect, but I suppose that’s also a large part of the fun.


The Gundam SEED movie is going to be very interesting to see, part that it has been so long since it was first revealed, and also because the series is well into its second decade. I hope it is good, but I mean, we can only go up after SEED Destiny.

With that, I think we’ve covered the gambit when it comes to this series. This has been a very interesting conversation Zen, and probably the first where you and I both come to with vastly different ideas. We both looked at this series very differently, but those different views make for good conversation!

Overall though, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is a great mecha show and a great Gundam series. Full stop. I’ve always loved it each time I’ve watched it, and despite some fobiles, it remains a very well done and easy understand Gundam show that newbies can get into. Great characters, fantastic music and solid designs. Like Sword Art Online, it is an anime that people love to hate, but I think those haters have it wrong, and they are missing out on what is a damn fine show.


  • Gundam SEED is indeed a damn fine show, and while Dewbond and I found different facets of Gundam SEED to be particularly noteworthy, the outcome is obvious: the reputation that the Cosmic Era has picked up is not at all deserved, contrary to what the most vocal internet discussions (circa 2003-2004) have said, Gundam SEED is well worth one’s while, and especially with the upcoming film, it could be a good idea to re-watch the series and recall where the Cosmic Era had started. In the meantime, this wraps up the latest collaboration between Dewbond and myself. Two thoughts remain from me: first, I wonder what series might make its way to our table next. Dewbond has suggested that Fate/ZERO (or perhaps Sword Art Online‘s Færie Dance arc) could be a possibility, so time will tell where we head next. The second is that folks interested in doing a collaboration can always get in touch; it’s always nice to get a different set of eyes on things, after all!

Gundam SEED has proven that internet reputation is by no means an accurate or fair assessment of a given anime: looking past the stock footage and whatever other criticisms this amassed back in the day, it becomes clear that Gundam SEED is indeed a fine addition to the franchise, well-suited for folks getting into things for the first time. With due respect, the inter-fandom rivalry has never particularly made much sense: each universe has its own strong points and charms, and speaking as someone who entered Gundam through the Anno Domini universe, I see the Universal Century and Cosmic Era as each possessing something that make them distinct and meaningful. With this in mind, there are precious few people around in the present day to talk about Gundam SEED, owing to the fact that Gundam SEED did begin airing back in 2002. Consequently, where an opportunity to speak with fellow Gundam SEED fans like Dewbond presents itelf, I am inclined to seize such a chance, and our conversation finds that despite its age and the fact it was likely discussed to death back in 2003, there are always new surprises around the corner. Gundam SEED received a remaster nine years after its original airing, dramatically improving the visual quality, and ten years after the HD remaster, it turns out there is going to be more to the Cosmic Era in the form a new model kit, manga and film. I am, of course, a little behind on the times, and while Gundam SEED is under my belt, I’ve yet to see Gundam SEED Destiny in full. I am aware that the controversy surrounding Gundam SEED is legendary, and even the Gundam fans around me indicate that Gundam SEED Destiny is a bit of a special case. However, it does feel appropriate to continue on with things, in the event that the film does reference events from Gundam SEED Destiny. My decision means I’ve got another fifty episodes ahead of me, but with the timelines anime films follow, I suppose that even if I do take another six to eight months to roll through Gundam SEED Destiny, I’ll finish it with time to spare. In the meantime, both Dewbond and myself have previously written about Gundam SEED, and folks looking for my mecha-and-politics focused threads or Dewbond’s big picture theme and character analysis will find them here for perusing.

Dewbond’s Gundam SEED Posts

Infinite Zenith’s Gundam SEED Posts

Revisiting the Nishizumi Style to Understand Shiho and Kuromorimine in Girls und Panzer Through Martial Arts: An Exercise in Sportsmanship and Good Faith

知彼知己,百戰不殆;不知彼而知己,一勝一負;不知彼,不知己,每戰必敗。

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”. Sun Tzu’s most famous remarks about warfare hold true in virtually every field, from team sports to business. However, like most treatises, applicability is also situational, and despite my deep respect for Sun Tzu, I also accept that it might not always be a catch-all in every situation. While reading through my blog during the Victoria Day long weekend, I came upon an older post I wrote some years earlier. According to this post, I was having insomnia that summer night, and my mind turned to the question of how the Nishizumi Style could be bested by practitioners of Sun Tzu’s Art of War: earlier that year, a massive flame war on AnimeSuki resulted when one Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi had held the position that Shiho Nishizumi and the Nishizumi Style had been the proper way of practising martial arts. Arguing that Miho’s approach had been the “‘gentle’ version of sports [that ignored] the martial of martial arts”, Sumeragi supposed that the true meaning of martial arts entails the expectation of “injuries and possible deaths to happen, as with any activity”, which are the “essence of traditional martial arts”. As a result of these claims, AnimeSuki descended into chaos as individuals argued against Sumeragi’s misguided interpretation of martial arts, and inevitably, it became difficult to separate Sumeragi from the Nishizumi Style and its practitioners. Indeed, when I wrote my own post about how the Nishizumi Style was limited by its inflexibility, I had intended my post to demonstrate that Sumeragi’s interpretation was flawed. However, the resulting conclusions I drew would also prove unfair to Shiho and Maho Nishizum: Girls und Panzer is, after all, an anime about sportsmanship. In the aftermath of Girls und Panzer, viewers would indulge in schadenfreude upon watching Ooarai defeat Black Forest to win the championship. Their loss was well-deserved on the virtue that Shiho, Maho and Erika had been unfriendly towards Miho, and consequently, got what was coming to them. This mindset is inconsistent with the messages Girls und Panzer had sought to convey: time and time again, Miho befriends those she meets in Panzerfahren, reminding her teammates and opponents alike that friendship counts more than pure victory. While the lingering negative perception of Black Forest has lingered over the years, the themes in Girls und Panzer make it clear that extending Shiho, Maho and Erika this courtesy is also a necessary exercise. Consequently, In this post, I will explore the core tenants of the Nishizumi Style, where real-world martial arts fits in with the style and how Shiho, Maho and Erika ultimately remain worthy of the viewer’s respect despite their initial appearances.

Because the Nishizumi Style underlies this discussion, it is appropriate to begin with understanding what the style itself entails. Unfortunately, Girls und Panzer only offers glimpses into the style: other schools and their students mention that it emphasis is on firepower and precision, of rigid discipline, of setting up a formation to create an impenetrable wall and luring opponents into range for a single, devastating strike that simultaneously saps them of their materiel and morale. Overwhelming weaker schools and obliterating them outright, the Nishizumi Style is derived off the Panzerkeil tactic, where formations are lead by the heavily armoured Tiger Is, followed by the more mobile Panthers and with the lighter Panzer IV and IIIs at the edges. This variant of the armoured spearhead provides advantages in allowing practitioners to absorb damage out front, and the number of tanks in the column meant opposing forces would need to re-range their guns constantly. At the same time, this formation concentrates firepower to a very precise point. The Nishizumi Style similarly places an emphasis on having heavy armour to shrug off damage long enough for highly accurate gunners to concentrate their fire on an enemy and devastate them in a short period of time, all the while acting in perfect unison. Skill and communication come together to form a foe that appears indefatigable. Weaker enemies collapse in terror, and more skillful foes must move with caution. In practise, the Nishizumi Style is dependent on setting up and maintaining this cohesion, as well as counting on the psychological intimidation from tanks that can apparently shrug off everything one throws at it. At the same time, practitioners of the Nishizumi Style do not always give the same level of attention to training for situations where they cannot get set up or are disrupted mid-formation. Having established how the Nishizumi Style operates, it is unsurprising that Sun Tzu’s methods, of constantly watching an enemy and striking weak spots would be sufficient for one to overcome the style. The key here is patience and mobility: the armoured spearhead is weakest at its corners, and striking here creates enough confusion to break up the formation. With the right caution and positioning, any team that survives the Nishizumi Style’s initial onslaught could subsequently break them apart, sow confusion and begin capitalising on the Tiger I and II’s inferior mobility to whittle down their forces in the long game. This is, of course, contingent on teams possessing the will to survive: Sun Tzu stated that an enemy that is strong everywhere will also be weak everywhere. Conversely, when an opponent has not understood the Nishizumi Style, it can seem overwhelming to fight a foe that steadily advances without taking damage from one’s own efforts. This is where the Nishizumi Style’s fearsome reputation comes from, and for the better part of a decade, had served Black Forest very well, at least until Miho’s fateful decision to save her teammate from a tank that’d fallen into the river.

  • For this discussion, I’ve chosen to draw a great deal of material from the supplementary materials in addition to what was seen in-show: I’ve previously indicated that Girls und Panzer is a masterpiece, a perfect score for its execution and themes. The only strike I have at all about this series is common to all series that I enjoyed; there aren’t enough episodes, and this series would’ve deserved a pure slice-of-life spinoff. While no such animated adaptation of such exists, there is a manga titled Girls und Panzer: Motto Rabu Rabu Sakusen desu! (Girls und Panzer: It’s the More Love Love Operation!) which deals with life at Ooarai outside of Panzerfahren.

With the Nishizumi Style now defined, the next question becomes whether or not its tenants are inconsistent with Girls und Panzer‘s themes, and the essence of martial arts itself. Shiho, after all, has stated numerous times that the Nishizumi Style is about attaining the ultimate victory, and of never backing down. This emphasis on pursuit of victory is seemingly single-minded, and contrary to martial arts itself. However, this particular aspect of the Nishizumi Style comes from limited dialogue in Girls und Panzer: Shiho’s lecture to Miho, and later, Maho’s promise to decimate Miho, provides an incomplete picture of the Nishizumi Style as being brutal, ruthless and even bloodthirsty. This paints a false picture of the Nishizumi Style and of Black Forest: it is often forgotten that Girls und Panzer also suggests, through Darjeeling and Katyusha, that Black Forest is “boring” to fight. A foe that is boring would imply a style that is predictable, and moreover, boring does not correlate with terrifying. A foe willing to absolutely crush an enemy would be terrifying. Boring, on the other hand, suggests a by-the-book, disciplined and rigid set of patterns. The discipline in Black Forest and their interpretation of the Nishizumi Style, is better described as a martial art more than as a team sport: discipline lies at the heart of all martial arts, and practitioners train themselves pursue excellence through practising a set of techniques endlessly. The founder of Gōjū-ryū, Chōjun Miyagi, taught his practitioners that karate was a state of mind, that strength was found through intellect, and that the ultimate goal of any martial art is to build character and conquer adversity. Through not strength of force, but strength of the mind, one finds freedom. Strength is always open to interpretation, but as a martial art, the Nishizumi Style would similarly have a focus on mental development in addition to physical development. The ultimate goal of practising any martial art, whether it be Panzerfahren or Karatedo, is to cultivate resilience, confidence and self-control: the true martial artist knows when to hold a punch or kick back, never allowing their emotions to get the better of them.

  • While technically a spin-off, Girls und Panzer: Motto Rabu Rabu Sakusen desu! simply exaggerates traits among the characters, the same way World Witches: Take Off! and Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! exaggerates personalities for the sake of humour. Consequently, I hold the manga as having enough validity to indicate how the characters would act in more light-hearted, humourous circumstances. This is taken in conjunction with the fact that Girls und Panzer‘s themes are about companionship, discovery, growth and sportsmanship: to suppose that the Nishizumi Style and Shiho opposes this would be to contradict what the series had aimed to show: that through friendship, one finds their way, and through finding their way, people simultaneously learn to respect tradition and innovate.

The Nishizumi Style is counted as tedious by other schools, and to an external observer, their emphasis on precision, structure and order can feel difficult to understand. As a martial art, however, the Nishizumi Style is consistent with the precepts and principles in things like Gōjū-ryū karate. Nowhere is this more apparent than kata (literally “form”), which can speak volumes to what a given school believes in. Gōjū-ryū (hard-soft) karate emphasises a combination of hard, linear motions and graceful circular motions. Saifa (tear and destroy) consists entirely of harsh strikes, while Seiunchin (control and pull) focuses on circular grabs and sweeps. At first glance, Gōjū-ryū appears be a rigid style: there are conventions that practitioners follow (for instance, we only chamber our inactive hand under the armpit, and all of our kicks have the same starting position to maximise surprise). However, Miyagi believed that Gōjū-ryū was a state of mind. Much as how one fluidly switches between hard and soft even in the same kata, one should always be ready to adapt. Gōjū-ryū seeks to subdue and create openings, to be rigid when required, and to be graceful where appropriate. Having trained in this hybrid style for over twenty years, I convey to students that Gōjū-ryū focuses on adaptability, using an opponents force against them and keeping distance. In a real-world scenario, the objective isn’t to put one’s opponent in the hospital, but rather, to create an opening and de-escalate a situation as swiftly as possible. With this being said, those who assert that to take martial arts seriously is to bludgeon an opponent to death demonstrate themselves unfit for the practise. Supposing that the Nishizumi Style was written to be a more traditional interpretation of martial arts, I imagine that Shiho would espouse similar virtues as a part of the Nishizumi Style, expecting her students to similarly fight with integrity, restraint and order in matches to uphold the school’s honour. It should become clear that the Nishizumi Style is most certainly not ruthless or bloodthirsty, although Shiho is stymied by her comparatively poor communication skills, which has in part contributed to a misunderstanding of her character, as well as the Nishizumi Style as a whole.

  • While this post has me admitting that my assumptions about the Nishizumi Style eight years earlier were not entirely correct, and that a cursory glance shows I am thinking along the same lines as Sumeragi, I will state that I’ll agree with Sumeragi the day Hel freezes over. Sumeragi became aggrieved during discussions and eventually resorted to ad hominem attacks, claiming himself an expert in martial arts and dismissing others because he’d been supposedly being in an occupation which “merges ruthlessness with situation awareness”. I usually see self-aggrandisation as a sure sign of someone who’s clearly lost the argument, and looking back, I would hold that had Sumeragi not succumbed to emotion and the desire to be right over being civil, a much more interesting and reasoned discussion could have been held. This is unlikely, however, since Sumeragi has since been banned from virtually every online community of note (most recently, from Sufficient Velocity).

Going purely from Girls und Panzer‘s animated incarnations alone, Shiho is a cold and rigid woman with a stated belief in victory rooted in skill, and that strength matters. Her words are terse, and she appears to have a distant relationship with both her daughters, focusing on her pursuit of martial arts over family. This is a misconception that results from Girls und Panzer‘s short runtime, and supplementary materials indicate that Shiho is simply the sort of individual who takes everything she does seriously, following a rigid pattern of logic and procedure to get things done. This is most evident in her parenting of Miho and Maho: she went to great lengths to look after the two, even bathing both until they were thirteen, and it turns out that, because she spends so little time with both on account of her being wrapped up in work, has little understanding of what Miho and Maho are like outside of Panzerfahren. To counteract this, Shiho resorts to books to help her out, and in a hilarious series of misunderstandings, Shiho tries to bond with Maho by cuddling with her and giving her a credit card, which confuses Maho totally. Later, when Miho returns home to speak with Shiho about the tournament, Shiho decides to throw a full-scale party complete with fireworks, frightening Miho enough to cancel her visit outright. The TV series doesn’t portray these events, but there are hints that despite her harsh words, Shiho does care for Miho; she smiles at Miho’s victory, evidently pleased that her youngest daughter has found her own way while at once, respecting family traditions and making something of herself on her own skill, and in the movie, angrily reprimands the MEXT official when he makes an offhand remark about Ooarai’s victory being luck. It is clear that in spite of outward appearances, Shiho cares very deeply for Miho and Maho. Given what viewers see in Girls und Panzer, then, it is clear that Shiho’s dislike of emotion simply comes from not fully understanding it fully; she sees it as something that acts as an impediment to her goals, and indeed, I see hints of myself in Shiho.

Unlike Shiho, however, I count myself a more effective communicator: her beliefs in strength and victory on their own might sound cold and impersonal, but with a wider perspective, it turns out that they are not problematic in any way. Strength extends to mental resilience, having the toughness to endure adversity and persist towards a solution. Victory is the act of completing one’s goal. It is not about rendering an opponent incapable of fighting, destroying their hope or crushing their spirit, it is simply achieving what one intended to do. The summation of strength and victory can therefore be taken to mean “having the discipline and resolve to accomplish one’s aspirations”. Because Shiho accepts Miho’s victory as well-earned, genuine, it stands to reason that since Miho found her own resilience (strength) to bring her friends to win and save their school (victory), Miho still achieves what the core of Shiho expected her daughter to. While she might not use the same tactics on the battlefield (precision and always moving forward), Miho nonetheless remains faithful to what her mother had taught her, and in this moment, Shiho is proud to have Miho as her daughter. This interpretation of Shiho’s credos, and the Nishizumi Style, paints Shiho and her expectations in a positive light, consistent with what themes Girls und Panzer strove to leave with viewers. It also leaves me wishing that there was a bit more to Girls und Panzer; the series has been about positivity in self-discovery, and given that all of Miho’s opponents come out of a match respecting her, it is not particularly surprising that the seemingly-cold and unfeeling Nishizumi-style is actually an honourable martial art. Further to this, Shiho herself isn’t a bad parent by any stretch, being a decent person who simply struggles to convey how she feels. While the TV series hasn’t shown this more clearly, this is where Girls und Panzer: Das Finale could step up to the plate. We are satisfied that Shiho still loves Miho, but Miho still remains apprehensive about talking to her mother. Consequently, one brilliant way to wrap up Das Finale, and unequivocally show that Miho has grown, would be to have her summon up the courage to speak with Shiho face-to-face, to put things out in the open and face one’s challenges rather than shy away from them. To have Das Finale accomplish this would be a massive triumph for the series from a thematic perspective. Through this post, I’ve reached the conclusion that the me of eight years earlier had been mistaken in my earlier thoughts on the Nishizumi Style. I’ve stated this on numerous occasions, but I don’t mind being proven wrong, especially where it leads to interesting conversation: I’m sure the me of eight years earlier would have appreciated such a discussion – one that is rooted in rationality, logic and evidence.

Jon’s Creator Showcase: Valentine’s Month Special and Celebrating January 2021’s Finest Content From Around The Community

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.” –Arthur C. Clarke

Foreword

Jon’s Creator Showcase was a programme that began back in 2017 with the aim of highlighting content that creators, ranging from bloggers and YouTube reviewers, to writers and Podcasters, were most proud of. Individuals with content to share submit them via Twitter to the individual hosting, and subsequently, the host aggregates everything into a single highlights reel. Folks submitting content are also encouraged to nominate others to submit their works. The style in which a host presents this content will vary, and while my approach is quite unremarkable, I’ve seen hosts do some amazing things with their showcases (including a magazine-style feature). This is my fourth time hosting, and before I delve into the post proper, I would first like to thank the participants, all thirty-eight of you, for making this month’s showcase possible. Thirty-eight submissions is nine more than the one I did last year: this is the largest one I’ve ever had the honour of hosting, and while things initially started off slowly earlier this month, once things began picking up, I had the opportunity to read through and experience a wide range of content: from anime and game reviews, to a chapter from a fan fiction, a podcast, and even an interview with an E-commerce merchant, this month’s showcase really highlights the variety and diversity of topics that content creators produce. I think that this is a satisfactory preamble, and the time has come to turn the floor over to the stars of Jon’s Creator Showcase: each and every single creator who’ve submitted their favourite creation to kick off 2021!

The February 2021 Showcase

Redo of Healer Episode 2: With nothing but your Hatred (Shallow Dives in Anime, @ShallowDivesAni)

Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime opens up this party with a bit of déjà vu – there’s never a dull moment in Dewbond’s post, and the first in this batch of submissions is a talk on Redo of Healer, which follows one Keyaru, who takes his revenge on a world that had exploited him. By the time the series’ second episode rolls around, Dewbond finds Redo of Healer to be in a category of its own. The episode’s centrepiece occurs when Keyaru manages to infiltrate Princess Flare’s castle and allows himself to be captured, then turns the tables on Flare. The scene itself is a challenging one to watch: Dewbond praises Ayano Shibuya (Flare’s voice actress) for a highly visceral performance, and praises the scene for pulling no punches now that the shoe is on the other foot. From Keyaru shattering Flare’s fingers and repeatedly healing her, to raping her and destroying Flare by changing her appearance. It is rare that anime leaves this little to the imagination, and for it, Dewbond finds that it is moments such as these that serve as a shining example of what is possible in anime. The satisfaction of vengeance and the hubris of humanity is gruesomely, vividly portrayed in a manner as to render it tangible to the viewer. A work of fiction succeeds when it is able to make audiences feel what the characters are feeling, and in this area, Dewbond finds that Redo of Healer succeeds totally. I’ve certainly never been a fan of watching people suffer, but like Dewbond, I appreciate it when a work goes the full ten yards in conveying the extremities of human emotion to viewers.

Reading Dewbond recount what happened in Redo of Healer is a reminder of both how leaving little to the imagination makes certain ideas very clear, and also brings back memories of an author who similarly does this in his novels. Tom Clancy, with his technical descriptions of most everything, also leaves nothing to the imagination to show the depravity and brutality that occurs in the field. John Clark uses a barometric chamber to torture a pimp in Without Remorse. In the Jack Ryan Jr. series, The Campus employ succinylcholine to shut down a victim’s heart in an assassination, and the events of Dead or Alive has The Campus administering this drug to the Emir, creating a horrific sensation akin to having one’s heart “wrenched from his chest, as though a man had reached inside with his hand and was pulling it out, ripping the blood vessels as he did so, tearing it loose like wet paper from a destroyed book”. Locked On saw John Clark at the receiving end of a brutal torture, where a rogue SVR element uses a hammer to crudely rend the bones in Clark’s dominant hand during an off-the-books interrogation: “With no warning whatsoever, he slammed the hammer onto John’s outstretched hand, shattering his index finger. He pounded a second and then a third time, while Clark shouted in agony…The fourth finger cracked just above the knuckle, and the pinky shattered in three places.” Clancy is no stranger to the sort of madness that show people at their worst, and while I have no stomach for such acts, I have the advantage of being able to draw, in my mind’s eye, what I will of that scene. Redo of Healer, however, offers no such quarter to viewers: as I’ve previously stated, nothing is left to the imagination, and I am curious now to see this series for myself.

The Pleasures of Slow-Paced Anime Watching: A Discussion (BiblioNyan, @yonnyaan)

In today’s world, the practise of marathoning a series is so commonplace, it is colloquially referred to as Netflix Binging (or binge-watching, I’ll use all three interchangeably). There hardly seems to be anyone who hasn’t done this at least once, assuming we define a marathon as watching an entire series, in three or more episode intervals without any breaks. Yonnyan is among this portion of the population, and after discovering the joys of streaming services, proceeded to watch anime at an incredible rate. While a great way to increase exposure to a variety of different shows, however, marathons also left Yonnyan exhausted; this exhaustion manifested as eyestrain and in the form of headaches, an unpleasant experience. Yonnyan would later switch over to slow-watching, in which one proceeds through a series at a pace of their choosing. The end result was profound: besides eliminating the physical demands of binge-watching, this approach also allowed Yonnyan to really enjoy a work and create an intellectual connection with it. Finishing a series and having the time to consider its messages is a cathartic feeling, and altogether, Yonnyan finds that slow-watching anime represents a refreshing change of pace, encouraging viewers to slow down, smell the roses and appreciate what a given anime is aiming to tell through its story.

Slow-watching a series has always been how I roll – I don’t really have the endurance or patience to watch entire anime series in one go, no matter how excellent the series is. Yonnyan’s journey with the slow-watch methodology is precisely why I prefer watching anime at my own speed: even when series are available, I watch at most two episodes in a sitting per day. While this makes me incredibly slow with series, the advantages of doing so are that watching episodes and spacing them out allows me to consider each episode’s significance and accomplishments. Watching at my own pace also means if a series is becoming wearing or tricky, instead of forcing myself to continue, I can partake in another activity and then carry on, once I’ve had a chance to regroup. The idea of a slow-watch is no different than situations where I’ve encountered an iOS problem that seemed beyond my ability to handle. After taking a walk or sleeping on the problem, what might’ve been a four-hour problem suddenly becomes a four-minute solution. The advantages of a slow-watch are numerous: I attribute it to why I’ve been able to find enjoyment in anime for the past decade, and as Yonnyan so succinctly puts it, the approach certainly has its merits.

Love Me For Who I Am Volume 1 [Manga Review] (Matt Doyle Media, @mattdoylemedia)

Love Me For Who I Am (Fukakai na Boku no Subete o, FukaBoku for brevity) is a more recent manga: written by Kata Konayama, it began serialisation in COMIC MeDu in June 2018, and two years later, received an English-translated volume. Matt, in their review of the first volume, covers the elements within Love Me For Who I Am and in particular, why they’d found the first volume to be an interesting look at gender and the realm of non-binary identities, which is a topic that not too many works deal with. This introductory volume provides exposition for the protagonist, Ryuunosuke Mogumo, who initially takes on a job at a maid café known as Question!. Although this initial misunderstanding creates a bit of friction, Mogumo begins to interact with others who are in the same boat as they are, exploring the LGBTQ community in a novel manner. As the first volume, Love Me For Who I Am does have a few rough spots, but Matt overall finds that this is a reasonable opening to a manga that has the potential in delving into topics that are not often represented in other works.

In recent years, the topic of representation has come to the forefront of discussion, with writers finding that it helps viewers relate more closely with certain characters and their experiences, creating empowerment and a drive to portray people from all walks of life, backgrounds and identities in an accurate, respectful manner. Love Me For Who I Am is a form of this representation about non-binary people, capitalising on positivity and a light-hearted tone to present viewers with a better understanding of this world. Of courses, being a first volume, Matt finds the story still has yet to hit its stride; this is a common enough challenge in reviewing the first volume of a given manga, since most of their content is to create the exposition and get readers familiar with both characters and premise alike. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan and Harukana Receive are fine examples of this: the first volumes introduce the characters and set things up in a light-hearted manner, and it is not until later volumes where the characters’ strongest stories, their reasons for being and backstories are fully developed. It would be interesting to hear Matt’s thoughts on Love Me For Who I Am‘s later volumes as they become available, then: once the premise and characters are set up, the floor is open for exploring truly meaningful, and engaging stories that can tell people more about their own experiences.

The Gymnastics Samurai – A Surprise Seasonal Hit! (Jon Spencer Reviews, @JS_Reviews)

Jon Spencer submits a discussion on The Gymnastics Samurai (Taisō Zamurai): no Jon’s Creator Showcase would be complete without a piece from the mastermind behind this programme, and this review of The Gymnastics Samurai is a reflection on a series that proved to be unexpectedly enjoyable. The Gymnastics Samurai follows Jōtarō Aragaki, a gymnast who never quite reaches the gold medal despite his talents. He considers retirement before encountering Leo while at an amusement park with his daughter, Rei. With this premise comes a story of redemption for Jōtarō, and self-discovery for Rei: Jon finds the daughter-father dynamic in The Gymnastics Samurai to be particularly strong, and the anime itself also has clean CG in moments where movement demands more than what is possible with hand-drawn animation. With its story, Jon suggests that the main strike against the series is its short length, and encourages readers to give this series a whirl.

In a review that conveys the strengths of The Gymnastics Samurai without giving away any of the narrative, Jon succeeds in selling to readers the anime’s merits in a concise, succinct manner. The approach here is commendable: in a few clear paragraphs, readers gain a clear understanding of what Jon makes of The Gymnastics Samurai. Going through Jon’s review, this does feel like a series that creates a compelling journey for its characters during its eleven-episode run. Blogging allows writers to express themselves in whatever manner is best suited for one’s style, and for me, it’s always impressive to see fellow writers do more with less. This is something that I personally struggle with: my blog posts are notoriously long, and to be frank, a pain in the ass to write. However, I need this length to share my thoughts on things in a manner I am happy with. With a varied array of bloggers and styles out there, Jon’s review is a shining example of how folks have options available to them. If my discussions ever induce eye-strain or headaches, there are plenty of great bloggers out there who give a fantastic idea of what they make of different series to readers in a much more focused, concise manner!

3 Ways Magic Can Undermine Good Anime (100 Word Anime Blog, @100wordanime)

Magic, loosely defined as a plot device that allows characters to tap into a supernatural power source and carry out extraordinary feats, is a longstanding part of fiction. Karandi’s submission covers how inconsistencies in how magic is utilised can often subvert the themes and diminish enjoyment to an otherwise solid anime: undefined limits in magic are often employed to allow protagonists to pull a win out of nowhere, and in doing so, diminishes the enjoyment of a work. Karandi covers three specific examples where this occurs: Sailor Moon S: The Movie, Irregular at Magic High School and Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card. Karandi is clear in stating that inconsistent magic may not always necessarily render an anime unpalatable to viewers, although abuses can certainly weaken the story and give the impression that the writers did not completely think thing through. Conversely, authors and series that do take the time to properly build out the extents and limitations of magic will create a story in which the characters must still count on elements viewers are familiar with (effort, sacrifice, leadership and decision-making, to name a few) in order to achieve their objectives, resulting in a more satisfactory story. I’ve found that the most iconic works utilising magic are successful precisely because the magic itself is merely a tool to an end: characters must still rely on their own resolve and effort in order to find success.

In Harry Potter, Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration prevent characters from trivially create something from nothing, and miracles like resurrecting the dead simply cannot be carried out. Limits in what magic in Harry Potter can accomplish compel the characters to overcome their challenges through a combination of friendship, trust and sacrifice. However, while it is useful for a narrative to define what magic can and cannot do, there are other authors who can get away without doing so on virtue of their aims: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Istari and Maiar never had their powers explicitly defined, for instance. Beings like Gandalf and Sauron are hypothetically capable of extraordinary acts, but Tolkien deliberately writes his stories so that their focus are on the actions of common heroes like Samwise Gamgee. The Maiar and Valar of the First Age sundered the world with their battles against Melkor, sinking continents in the process. However, in Lord of the Rings, Tolkien structures his stories deliberately such that Maiar are forbidden from using their magic to dominate or intervene directly; even though the nature of Gandalf’s magic is left ambiguous, the end effect is similar, pushing the story to focus on what the peoples of Middle Earth do in their quest to defeat Sauron. Karandi raises a very valid perspective on magic, and it is often the case that being consistent with magic will help a story along greatly by keeping focus on the characters. Of course, some authors (like Tolkien) are able to employ other means of ensuring their stories remain rewarding and consistent, speaking to the varied means in which magic can be integrated into fiction.

Seiyuu Feature: Kenjiro Tsuda (ThatRandomEditor’s Anime Blog, @RandomEditorAn)

ThatRandomEditor introduces Japanese actor Kenjirō Tsuda, who has a prolific career and has voiced characters in a variety of anime series: his career as a voice actor began with an anime called H2 in 1995, and his breakthrough role was as Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters‘ Seto Kaiba. Beyond voice acting for anime, Tsuda also has roles in radio programmes. ThatRandomEditor is most impressed with Tsuda’s performance as Nicolas Brown in Gangsta, and remarks that Tsuda possesses a great range: despite typically voicing stoic characters, Tsuda has also successfully played more bombastic characters, as well. Tsuda’s career is certainly an interesting one: besides directing a project for the Actor’s Short Film in 2020, GET SET GO, Tsuda also appears in live action movies and TV series.

The voice actors and actresses behind an anime are of a great interest to viewers: besides sight, anime also relies greatly on sound to convey a particular mood or atmosphere. Voices are no different, and when the right individual is cast for a role, anime can really come to life. I’m somewhat familiar with some of Tsuda’s roles in anime (e.g. Damian Baldur Flugel of Violet Evergarden, Konosuba‘s Hans and Takuya Gotou from Hibike! Euphonium, to name a few), attesting to the extant of his skills, although I cannot say I’ve watched anime where he’s voicing a lead character. With this being said, prolific voice actors (and actresses) are always impressive: on my end, Rie Tanaka, Yōko Hikasa, Risa Taneda, Ayane Sakura and Inori Minase are my favourite voice actresses, being able to similarly voice a variety of characters and sing well on top of this.

Final Thoughts: Gleipnir (Animated Observations, @AniObservations)

Gleipnir is a massive airborne fortress that was deployed during the Aurelian War in the events of Ace Combat X for the PlayStation Portable, and…just kidding! Gleipnir follows Shuichi Kagaya, who can transform into a giant dog, and after encountering Claire Aoki, agrees to help Claire find her older sister. In Jack Scheibelein’s review for Gleipnir, this was an anime that proved to exceed expectations going in. Although Jack found Claire’s character under-utilised, the remainder of Gleipnir proved to be enjoyable, with an engaging concept, and in particular, the powers utilised to advance the story were nifty. Jack notes that he generally enters shows with low expectations to be as fair as possible to the show. Of course, when works like Gleipnir show up and captivate, it becomes impossible not to get excited.

Jack Scheibelein’s enjoyment of Gleipnir is tangible in his post, and while I’ve not seen the anime for myself, I am familiar with Jack’s approach: it’s no secret that I enjoy almost everything I pick up, and the reason for this is that, beyond expecting to go on an adventure of some sort, there are no objectives that a given work has to accomplish, no checklist of criteria it must satisfy in order to get a passing grade. The end result of approaching entertainment this way is simple: things prove to be pleasant surprises at best, and at worst, we end up with an experience we can joke about with others. With Jack’s review of Gleipnir, even someone such as myself, who writes almost exclusively about CGDCT shows, I do now feel inclined to give the first episode a go and see how Gleipnir treats me: one of the joys about hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase is also gaining insight into what different people make of anime, and becoming intrigued by a work in the process. Having said this, I am a terrible procrastinator, and I’ve not even touched the shows that I said I’d check out the last time I hosted (a year ago)!

Writing as A Stress Reliever (Mechanical Anime Reviews, @MechAnimeReview)

Scott of Mechanical Anime Reviews presents a highly relevant and notable topic – stress management in the form of writing, and how Scott personally relates to the topic. Scott is a consistent and prolific blogger, but beyond writing, also reads a great deal of blogs. This journey has made it clear that different bloggers manage stress differently; for Scott, consistently writing allows for immersion into the things that he finds enjoyment in, and the process of creating content for readers to take in creates an accomplishment to keep the mind busy. Scott is happiest when actively doing something, as it creates focus and takes his thoughts off things like directions in life and the like. By writing, Scott is able to reduce anxiety and keep his train of thought from wandering in negative directions, which is a vital piece of caring for mental health in difficult times such as these. While I cannot speak for my peers in the anime blogging community, what Scott has shared in his post is the same reason I write.

I am getting up there in the years, and like Scott, I’ve seen and done many things that may appear nice on a resume (whether it is overseeing five different apps, end-to-end, from design and implementation to the App Store submission, building a 3D model of the cell using Unreal or leading the Unity3D project for the Giant Walkthrough Brain), but for someone of my age, there are many milestones I’ve not yet crossed. Thoughts of my underachievement vanish when I’m immersed in a project for work, where I write Swift code rather than about anime, and to help push away constant reminders that folks of my age should be married, I actively busy myself, whether it’s hiking, lifting weights or keeping my own blog alive. There is definitely merit to what Scott has written: writing is another activity I do to keep my mind sharp and away from negativity, and I will finally note that Les Stroud of Survivorman has noted that one of the most important things to do in a survival situation (or any though time, really), is to find something to do in order to keep busy. Even if creating a snare or water catch might not be effective immediately, the act of having something to work on keeps the mind from dwelling on negativity, improving survival in difficult scenarios.

Good Things for the New Year (This is my place, @AuNaturelOne)

Positivity is something the world is in great demand of: 2020 was a bit of a tougher one, and gave very little to celebrate about it. However, people have become very creative in dealing with what the mainstream media colloquially refer to as “the new normal”. Fred of Au Natural shares with readers a list of things that he is engaged in doing, or looking forwards to. The post opens with several YouTube channels, hand-picked for discussing relevant and interesting topics, moves into the series Fred intends on checking out, his plans to overhaul his backyard with family and hike more in the new year. This is a large list of things that brings joy into Fred’s life, and acts as a reminder for me that beyond my own aspirations and goals for 2021, there are plenty of things that I should be doing to balance things out and help me to regroup: when I’m not trying to figure out the latest SDK or API for work, or recalling the difference between the decorator and adaptor patterns in my spare moments, I should make a more concerted effort to make a dent in my own backlog of stuff.

Like Fred, 2020 saw a change in how I did things. I subscribed to more YouTube channels last year alone than I did during the entirety of my having a YouTube Account (before, I just watched things at random), and I spent a lot more time working off my home iMac, which had, until recently, simply collected dust and served as a backup machine for when I wanted to blog. Entering 2021, the year is bringing with it a great deal of uncertainty, but reading through Fred’s post about the New Year (which we’re now two months into), I am encouraged to look back at my own life choices, face them with a resolute determination and in quieter moments, appreciate the things that I’ve accumulated over the years but until now, never really had the time to give my proper, undivided attention to. Such is the impact of a well-written blog post: I simultaneously learn about the author and are reminded about the things that I can be doing to better my situation or unwind.

[Sims Saturday] Paranormal Stuff Pack Overview (Mel’s Universe, @MelinAnimeland)

Don’t let the blog title fool you: while Mel in Anime Land sounds like it’s a blog about anime, Mel also covers a host of other materials. For Jon’s Creator Showcase, Mel delves into the latest content update for The Sims 4, the Paranormal Stuff Pack. This newer release accompanies a patch that modifies Sim behaviours slightly, and per its name, includes a variety of things to create a haunted house and allows Sims to take on tasks that render them more versed with the paranormal. The content further adds nuance to The Sims 4 and creates novel experiences. Besides new skills, the package also includes new NPCs to deal with, new furniture options and updated character customisation options, all of which are appropriately themed and acts to create a more immersive atmosphere surrounding the supernatural. Overall, Mel found the content a meaningful choice for folks who enjoy the paranormal or are seeking something to do a comprehensive Halloween experience with.

While I’m not too familiar with The Sims 4 (I’ve not played The Sims since the original in 2000), I have heard of the series and its successes, especially with regard to allowing one to simulate and customise different aspects of a character’s life in detail. For games that folks are invested in, content expansions and the like are immensely enjoyable to pick up, offering new ways of playing and extending the experience to being well beyond what the base game offers. Being a fan of games, myself, I definitely appreciate the value in what a good expansion can do. 2003’s Sim City 4 Rush Hour introduced brand-new modes of transportation into the game that completely altered the way cities could be built, encouraging players to make a much greater use of mass transit to improve efficiency in car-logged cities. My love of Sim City 4 Rush Hour is similar to Mel’s enjoyment of the Paranormal Stuff Pack, and reading through Mel’s post, I am reminded of the fun that I had in Sim City 4: I really should be returning to this game and build back my glittering metropolises of old, which was developed by Maxis, the same studio that built the Sims franchise.

17 Writing Tips for Fanfiction Writers (Geek Nabe, @_marichanx)

Nabe-chan is a tour de force in the anime community, and her anime blog uses an in-house solution from Nabe-chan’s expertise as a web developer to host a variety of topics at GeekNabe. Unlike Infinite Mirai, which is a solo operation, GeekNabe is a team project, with writings from Mari-chan keeping things fresh. For this submission, Nabe-chan sends in a writer’s guide to fanfiction, specifically, seventeen good practises to maintain while writing. The tips vary from writing everything down and observing proper grammar, to ensuring that an editor and friends sweep through things to give feedback, and even more exotic methods such as writing certain scenes while using music to establish a mood, or buying a proper chair to write in. Mari-chan’s top tip is an encouraging one, to practise good self-care and never beat oneself up over feedback or writing slumps. At the end of the post, Nabe-chan appends some additional suggestions, such as writing in a circle and picking a good environment to write in. It is clear that a great deal of experience and thought went into this post.

Having now gone through all seventeen items, I will add that Mari-chan’s tips for fanfiction writers can in fact, be generalised to writing of original fiction, technical writing, blog posts, academic papers, and even code to software. The overarching theme is that writers, from fiction, technical or persuasive writing, right down to the engineers who design systems in C#, Java or even assembly, are producing something, and that this process is an effort-intensive one (I don’t differentiate between a memorable scene in a fan-fiction or a clever proof demonstrating that reversing a 1D array requires O(n) time complexity). A good writer uses every tool in the toolbox to hone their craft and looks after themselves, as well as explores unique methods to get their creativity flowing. For me, my best work, both for work and for my blog, comes when I’m in the zone: I develop the ideas in my mind first and explore possibilities in my imagination, before drafting things out on paper. Once I am satisfied with one or two of the drafts, I have the motivation and energy to implement the concept and hone it. The practises that Mari-chan and Nabe-chan describe are a part of my everyday workflow, and while the post might specify that it’s for fanfiction writers, let me be the first to say that all writers should give this post a read. It is the case that a good chair, and some Hiroyuki Sawano can get one psyched up and ready to pen what could be the next masterpiece.

Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions Review (MyAnime2go, @YumDeku)

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is a curious anime, least of all for the fact that it is alternatively known as Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions on some platforms (and Grimgar for brevity from here on out). It’s an isekai work whose focus is on the characters’ acclimatisation to the world they unexpectedly find themselves in, but without traditional gameplay elements. YumDeku finds that the series’ emphasis is on adjusting to a world where even the most basic of foes are a threat, and necessities must be dealt with as they are in the real world. The end result of this is a slower-paced isekai that prompts viewers to consider the changing dynamics amongst the characters. After losing leader Manato in a combat situation, Haruhiro takes on the responsibility of being a leader and doing his best to keep the group, made up of the impulsive and rash Ranta, calm and reserved Moguzo, cheerful and plucky Yume, the shy Shihoru and distant Merry. The characters’ journey and process of becoming more comfortable with one another as a team are set in a vividly-rendered world, and YumDeku found that Grimgar‘s greatest strength lay precisely in exploring the psychological and mental health aspects of unexpectedly being foisted into a world where RPG elements dominate, as well as suggesting that common life lessons (teamwork, cooperation, resolve and appreciation) transcend realities.

I am grateful to have read YumDeku’s review of Grimgar: after finishing the series during downtime at the Cancún ALIFE 2016 conference, I saw a series that was much to dark and moody for my liking, and having never put in the effort to make a sincere effort at understanding what Grimgar was going for, I did not end up writing about my experiences with the series. YumDeku’s review changes that; I still remember the main events in Grimgar, and the constant struggle that Haruhiro deals with in attempting to lead his party in Manato’s stead. The journey was one fraught with challenges, and conflicts among the party were frequent. Folks familiar with the series I write about know that I very much prefer stories where learning takes place in a happier environment, but in retrospect, Grimgar represents a different look at things; the real world is not always so kind as to give such an environment, or the time, for one to learn in, and folks must therefore pick things up as they go. In this area, Grimgar is successful: learning is as much about making mistakes and changing one’s approaches as it is about becoming more efficient and effective. By the end of Grimgar‘s run, although Haruhiro is still doubtful about what lies ahead for his party, he is more confident that his experiences together with them will leave them more prepared for whatever lies ahead. It is moments like these that make it worthwhile to peruse other blogs, and I am glad to have seen YumDeku’s thoughts on Grimgar; perhaps there will be a chance for me to revisit the series and find the words to express what I had been unable to do so some four years previously.

Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (Space Kaleidoscope, @RussellLatshaw)

Russell of Space Kaleidoscope’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase is an insightful talk on Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro, a film with the legendary Hayao Miyazaki as the director. Back then, Miyazaki had worked on a variety of roles, and this role marks the first time he’d directed a movie. In The Castle of Cagliostro, gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III pulls off a successful casino heist, only to discover he pulled counterfeit money, and after tracing the money to a country known as Cagliostro, embarks on an adventure to defeat Count Cagliostro, head of the operation. Early in his directorial career, Russell notes that Miyazaki’s signature style is already present: landscapes and establishing shots tell entire stories about the setting in the span of a few seconds. Within The Castle of Cagliostro, Miyazaki’s own feelings permeate the film, as he is later wont to doing: Russell finds that Miyazaki is speaking to his own feelings as an animator through Lupin’s dialogue. Introspection aside, The Castle of Cagliostro is a strong movie, filled with romaticism and promises of adventure that captures the viewer’s attention. Russell comments that not matter how many times he re-watches the film, there’s always something new around the corner: The Castle of Cagliostro is counted as a classic, and Russell finds that this film has definitely earned its designation.

It’s not often I come across bloggers that write in a similar style as I do: many bloggers are very succinct writers who successfully capture their thoughts about a work with brevity, and while I greatly respect this trait (being someone who fails completely when it comes to being concise), I also value bloggers who really take the time to explore a work, as the attention to detail. Russell of Space Kaleidoscope’s presentation of Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro is a fantastic exploration of the film, both in Miyazaki’s context, and in the viewer’s context. Being able to appreciate what Miyazaki was going through at the time and seeing how this fed into his execution of The Castle of Cagliostro adds an additional level of nuance to a film that is riveting and worthwhile to watch. Russell’s remarks about rewatch value are also something that I similarly relate to: when revisiting films of a high calibre, there are always subtle details that reward the observant, astute viewer. While these aren’t requirements towards enjoying a film, small things can go a long way in greatly augmenting the experience and create a deeper connection with a given work of fiction.

On Social Media & Content Creation (Wretched and Divine, @MELO__NSODA)

Rose of Wretched and Divine’s submission deals with a topic that remains highly relevant: the rationale behind why people use social media. Use cases vary from using the platform for sharing and staying in touch, but things can become unhealthy when one uses it as a means to an end, rather than as a means of expression. The quest for more views and follows thus becomes a tiring process, and as folks strive to consistently put out content to keep the algorithms happy, this comes at the expense of quality and happiness. When applied to blogging, this approach can make the hobby quite untenable. Rose prefers to use social media sparingly and pursues blogging as an avenue for fun – our hobbies social media should not bring exhaustion to us, after all.

I’ve certainly found Rose’s perspective on social media and its relation to blogging illuminating: I’ve always intended to use my blog as a bit of a personal diary of sorts, as well as as a place to vent at time. The associated numbers from views and followers have never really been my aim in starting a blog (this is why I don’t show a hit counter), and similarly, my use of Twitter is primarily to keep up to speed with the anime community and its events, as well as for me to host food and travel pictures. If I were to lose my entire readerbase and followers tomorrow, my blog would continue on as it has for the past nine-and-a-half years. I write for fun, and the fact that I am able to amuse, or even help, readers, is a bonus on top.

Geekosaur Weekly #1 (Geekosaur, @FalconSensei)

Falcon of Geekosaur presents a brand-new style of blog post, in which he covers thoughts at weekly intervals – for Jon’s Creator Showcase, it appears that I’ve got the honour of presenting the first post in the series, which covers a variety of topics. Forums are the first topic, and how their form of communication appears to be a dying form as folks covet the instant-gratification of microblogging platforms like Reddit or Twitter. Falcon subsequently moves onto some new acquisitions, including a motorised standing desk, vinyl records and new books, shares some ‘tunes with the reader, and concludes with noteworthy Tweets.

The freedom that a blog confers allows for all sorts of posts to be written. Falcon’s post offers a fun insight into a range of topics. For instance, I very much miss the days of when forums were the main avenue of communications, as the length and format of posts allowed folks to really delve into topics to a much greater extent than social media (today, algorithms and rules impact whose content is more visible), and seeing Falcon’s list of books reminds me of the fact that I’ve also accumulated a backlog over the years; I’ve still yet to finish The Silmarillion and Relentless Strike, for instance. Seeing fellow bloggers write about topics outside of their blog’s primary area of interest is always a refreshing change of pace and serves to humanise the authors: this is something that the current blogging community has done particularly well with, and emphasises how behind every blog, is a human being, someone unique and with their own stories to tell.

The Kings Avatar Season 2 Anime Review: The Preparation for War (Yu Alexius Anime Portal, @YuAlexius)

Yu Alexius shares with readers a full review of The Kings Avatar‘s second season: this is a Chinese web series following Ye Xiu, a professional E-sports player from Hangzhou whose principles and refusal to participate in sponsorship resulted in him leaving the team he’s a part of. When he takes up a position at an internet cafe, he meets Chen Guo, who is a fan, and over time, rediscovers his love for gaming. He sets up a new account and sets his sights on reaching the championships again some day. With animation from BCMAY Pictures, The Kings Avatar Season 2 features crisp animation and well-choreographed fight scenes that Yu Alexius greatly enjoyed (although some scenes were more drab by comparison). The story continues from the first season, with Ye Xiu beginning to rebuild his team and return to the professional scene on his own terms. There are many highlights in the series that Yu Alexius covers throughout this post, and the lingering question is, given the story is still on going, whether or not a third season is a possibility.

Anime is often disparagingly referred to as “Chinese cartoons” amongst members of communities of a more questionable reputation: true Chinese animation is known as dònghuà (動畫, literally “moving picture”), and while it is still lesser known than Japanese animation, has really begun to gain traction in recent years. Seeing Yu Alexius’ post on The Kings Avatar Season 2 indicates that dònghuà is becoming more established: watching the videos in Yu Alexius’ review shows an art style and animation of a similar quality as Japanese animation, and with the technical quality in dònghuà being of a good standard, the mind inevitably wonders if Chinese animation will begin exploring as diverse as a range of topics as anime does. It was through anime that many viewers get a glimpse into aspects of Japanese culture, and as China continues to take an increasingly prominent role on the world stage, dònghuà could prove to be a valuable means of showcasing aspects and intricacies of Chinese culture to the world as a whole, helping to highlight customs and values as anime has done for Japanese culture. This is, of course, a bit of wistful thinking, and in the meantime, it does appear that, with dònghuà telling interesting stories and featuring eye-catching animation, The Kings Avatar could be a solid starting point into the world of dònghuà.

Akudama Drive: The Bloody Sci-fi Action Survival Game You’ve Been Waiting For || Review (Takuto’s Anime Cafe, @TakutoAnimeCafe)

Takuto of Anime Cafe’s Jon’s Creator Showcase submission is for Akudama Drive, a manga set in a dystopian cyberpunk world where the titular Akudama (criminals) take on various jobs to make ends meet. The story begins with four Akudama being given an assignment to free a murderer, but it turns out this assignment was to bring them together on an even larger heist. Unlike most anime, Akudama Drive‘s characters are not given any conventional names, but rather, named for their roles, which Takuto found an immensely effective storytelling device in that it renders the characters more memorable. Of Akudama Drive‘s characters, no one is more memorable than Ordinary Person, whose growth from being a bystander to an active participant in crimes is one of the most engaging aspects within the anime. From a visual standpoint, Akudama Drive also impresses: from the choice of colouring and aesthetic to accentuate each scene, to intricate background work, details in the setting serve to really immerse viewers. Of course, Akudama Drive isn’t perfect: there are a handful of plot points that Takuto found implausible, but beyond this, Takuto greatly enjoyed Akudama Drive, recommending it to anyone who’s looking for a unique and wild presentation, although folks who dislike gore might not find this one so enjoyable.

The naming approach taken in Akudama Drive is reminiscent of Steven Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer: Steven Chow is fond of dispensing with names in his films because he’s always felt that the characters should be memorable for what they do, rather than who they are. The end result is that throughout Chow’s films, his over-the-top characters end up being over the top and immediately recognisable for their actions. As such, upon hearing Takuto discuss this aspect of Akudama Drive, it strikes me that this series is one where there is an emphasis on action, and perhaps, a subversion of expectations through protagonist Ordinary Person and her increasing entanglement with the Akudama’s plans. Altogether, this does sound like a series worth checking out on account of the noteworthy personalities and the depth of the world building (and indeed, I’ve begun watching anime on the basis of an interesting world alone); there is one hang-up I have, and I’m glad that Takuto has mentioned that Akudama Drive can be violent in places. I’ve never done so well with brutal violence in animation, so with Takuto’s heads-up, I can make my own call on whether or not Akudama Drive will make it onto my to-watch list. This is the mark of a good review: offering a complete picture and then making mention of things that draw in (or turn away) different viewers before leading the reader to make their own call on whether or not something is worth their while.

Skull Man is a ★★★★☆︱The Vigilante’s Mephistopheles (Egghead Luna’s Blog, @EggheadLuna)

Eggheadluna’s submission is for Skull Man (completely unrelated to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Red Skull!); the eponymous Skull Man is an anti-hero of sorts who would later influence the hero in Kamen Rider, but also speaks to matters of Japanese politics. Despite this, the original Skull Man remains relatively unknown in English speaking communities. In the original, Hayato Minagami pursues a mysterious suspect only known as Skull Man, but later learns that the Skull Man‘s identity is none other than his childhood friend, Yoshio. Hayato eventually inherits the mantle of Skull Man to fight against the evils of the world and comes to grapple with his own understanding of good and evil. Altogether, Eggheadluna was moved by the series; after buying the DVDs, it was a marathon to the finish line. Eggheadluna is happy to award this series a four out of five stars, citing the animation and visual aspects as being excellent.

One of the things I noticed in Eggheadluna’s post was another curious reader inquiring about the availability of Skull Man. Eggheadluna answers that the review was based on the DVDs and for now, Skull Man is not available on streaming platforms. While streaming has become ubiquitous of recent years, old classics often remain relegated to the realm of physical releases if one is fortunate. Skull Man is one such series where the DVDs exist, which allow people to check them out. However, it is also the case that many excellent works are quite tricky to get a hold of and as such, are things that we viewers will never get to see on account of obscurity. My most recent experience in this arena are Shigeru Tamura’s works: were it not for Lys (@Submaton) suggesting this during an anime Christmas Exchange event, I would’ve never had the chance to check out a work of art that I’d certainly not heard of previously. It is through the community that these works are made known to readers, and I’m hoping that the commenter at Eggheadluna’s post will have a chance to check Skull Man out for themselves at some point, too.

WandaVision episode 1-3 first impressions (spoiler-free) (Matt-in-the-Hat, @MattXnVHat)

Jac Schaeffer’s WandaVision is a miniseries that has taken the world by storm, focusing on the Marvel Cinematic’s Wanda Maximoff and Vision in the aftermath of endgame: without the threat of the Mad Titan, Wanda and Vision now live together in Westview, New Jersey in the 1950s, and while life initially seems good, there appears to be lingering trouble around every corner. Matthew of Mat-In-The-Hat writes about this miniseries, which sees the superhero couple dealing with ordinary, everyday challenges unique to a sitcom environment set during different eras. WandaVision had three episodes released when Matthew published a talk on the mini-series, and Matthew describes the series as being a wonderful combination of The Twilight Zone with a healthy inspiration from the basic sitcom method. The end result is that WandaVision feels like a revisit of the most iconic sitcoms over the past seven decades, and because it was so early into WandaVision, there’s always the sense that things aren’t what they seem.

WandaVision is one of those shows that have received a great deal of acclaim, and going from what Matthew has written, this is for good reason; the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the most successful film franchises around, known for its combination of solid character writing, humour, and the scale of its story. Wanda and Vision both played major roles within the cinematic universe, so to hear that they’ve been taken out of their element into a world of sitcoms and Twilight Zone-style mystery has caught my intrigue: it’s always curious to see how characters handle entirely new environments, and with comedy being a strong point about the MCU, I imagine that WandaVision is a series that could definitely offer viewers a good laugh. I’m glad that Matthew has submitted to Jon’s Creator Showcase a spoiler-free discussion of WandaVision; while I generally have no qualms about spoilers, I do appreciate that entering a series with no a priori knowledge can increase the impact of certain events and occurrences. Writing about something without spoilers while simultaneously conveying the elements that make something appealing is a skill, and such reviews are great for enticing folks who are on the fence about picking something up for themselves.

Manga Series I Wish Would Get an Omnibus Release (Al’s Manga Blog, @AlyssaTwriter)

Alyssa T of Al’s Manga Blog presents a list of manga series that would do well to have an omnibus release. Traditionally, after a given series is licensed for English-speakers, they receive releases in separate volumes. However, for older manga, they can be a little harder to come by or otherwise have so many volumes that it would be impractical to purchase them all. In this list, Alyssa writes about five different series that could do with an omnibus, opening with Kimi Ni Todoke. This manga series is a lengthy one, at thirty volumes altogether, and while Alyssa became interested in series, some volumes became very tricky to find: Alyssa hopes that the series could be released as three collections, each with ten volumes. Haikyu is next, and like Kimi Ni Todoke, is a long-runner with forty-five volumes. With the series done, it is also a good candidate for being released in the omnibus format. Alyssa finds that My Hero Academia is, of the items listed, the most likely to receive an omnibus release on account of its popularity. Ghost Hunt rounds out the list, and unlike the other manga, never had a proper English license. Since the manga has finished running, Alyssa suggests that an omnibus format would be great for drawing more interest towards a series she found to be a solid supernatural mystery.

Omnibuses are indeed an excellent way to efficiently pick up manga en masse: my first manga purchase was the Azumanga Daioh Omnibus, which is a beast of a door-stopper at 686 pages and weighs in at almost a full kilogram. Contained in this volume is the entire Azumanga Daioh journey from start to finish, and for the low price of 30 CAD, allows one to own an iconic slice-of-life manga. The appeal of an omnibus cannot be denied, and while I don’t write about manga often here, Alyssa’s Jon’s Creator Showcase submission reminded me of the fact that I’d like nothing more than to see Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? see an omnibus release. At the time of writing, no English-licensed copies exist, but the manga is a charming one that I’d be happy to pick up. The thought of picking up ten plus volumes, however, is an intimidating one, since manga in my neck of the woods isn’t exactly inexpensive: there are nine volumes thus far, requiring 144 CAD were it ever to go on sale. Similarly, Kiniro Mosaic is a series I’m fond of, and eleven volumes have been published. This one is available in English, but again, purchasing all eleven volumes isn’t the most prudent choice. However, Kiniro Mosaic does have a pair of anthologies available, so it is possible that at some point in the future, this series could receive the omnibus treatment, as well.

Burning Questions with Reading Room Candle Co. (Nerd Rambles, @Nerdramblesmeg)

Megan of Nerd Rambles Blog has a special feature for this Jon’s Creator Showcase. Megan’s previously submitted several intriguing posts to the showcase, and this time, we’ve got a guest from Northern Ireland: Sara from The Reading Room Candle Co., a small candle company inspired by the fantastical world of fiction; olfaction creates memories, and candles are thus a powerful way of creating yet another sense of immersion into a book. Sara’s journey begins with a search for cleaner-burning candles, but when commercially-available options proved inadequate, she began making her own using soy wax, a more ecologically friendly alternative to standard paraffin wax. Initially, Sara began with four scents, perfecting them over long hours. With support from family and friends, these initial candles proved successful, and since then, Sara’s been experimenting with a wide range of candles, creating scents that create visions of a place that she’d visited in a book. Once a blend is conceptualised and put to the test, the concept is sent to a chemist in Lithuania. During the course of Megan’s interview with Sara, Sara replies that the trickiest scent to recreate was the Signature Scent, which is a reflection of Sara herself, and today, Sara’s favourite candles include Lothlorien or Paddington’s Lunch. While the global health crisis and the British departure from the European Union have posed some challenges, Sara is grateful for her customers, and concludes with a sneak preview of new candles, as well as thanking everyone who’s made The Reading Room Candle Co. possible. Megan herself notes that her favourite candles are Persephone and Hades, Rivendell and Geralt of Rivia, and that Sara’s got an Etsy online store for folks interested in checking things out.

Sara’s Rivendell and the Shire would probably be my go-to choice: I’m a fan of candles for the ambience they create, and scented candles are particularly inviting because they fill the air with a gentle aroma. I typically use standard scented candles for defeating the smell of fried chicken, and it strikes me that as far as reading in the presence of a scented candle goes, I’ve never done this. Having said this, it is absolutely the case that smells can elicit powerful memories in people: olfactory memory is a part of our cognition, helping us with a variety of functions. In its more everyday utility, certain smells bring back recollections of things like home cooking, hitting one’s first home run or buying a new car for the first time. Consequently, when one takes in certain aromas, such as those emitted by custom scented candles, the ability to recall a scene from a novel in detail is enhanced, and one may suddenly find themselves thinking about the verdant fields of the Shire or the golden waterfalls of Rivendell. Even before the enhanced experience that reading beside a scented candle brings about, such candles are inherently relaxing, and in Megan’s interview with Sara, the joys leading Sara to open her own store was a very inspiring and uplifting story.

Japan Sinks 2020 — A Disaster Series Destroyed by its Disastrous Writing (Tiger Anime, @TigerAnime)

Japan Sinks is the topic of discussion for Tiger’s Jon’s Creator Showcase submission. This anime is an adaptation of the 1973 novel, which details the geological disaster that befalls Japan after a series of massive earthquakes causes Japan to subside beneath the waves. Tiger had entered the series anticipating a post-apocalyptic series depicting people surviving in the aftermath of a disaster, but instead, found a series about the immediate effects of a nation-shattering earthquake: rather than focusing on a smaller group of characters, Japan Sinks instead chose to present a vignette of stories which came at the expense of a coherent theme, and the end result is that death in the anime feels trivialised. In this area, Japan Sinks is completely unsuccessful, failing to give viewers an incentive to follow the characters and their discoveries as they navigate a world torn apart by natural forces. However, Japan Sinks is not a total write-off by any stretch; after all, Tiger did watch the entire series through, finding its visual presentation to be solid, and its soundtrack to be an uncharacteristically moving one, speaking more so to the story than even the writing itself, and watching the series for moments where it triumphs did make the journey one with some merit.

I’ve only heard about Japan Sinks in the passing, so Tiger’s thoughts on the series are my first of the series – going purely from Tiger’s review, I gain the impression that Japan Sink’s 2020 adaptation is a very busy series, switching between stories and giving viewers little time to develop an attachment to the characters. This is perhaps one of the biggest draws about any works of fiction: over time, readers and viewers come to appreciate the characters’ objectives and relate to them, in turn creating a story one can be invested in. Where a series fails to do this, it becomes difficult to connect with the characters, and even moments like death can seem diminished. However, it’s not all bad news bears for Tiger, who found that Japan Sink’s soundtrack was a phenomenal experience. Tiger’s review of Japan Sinks is an example of how to fairly approach a negative review: all too often, people will critique a series for every slight imaginable where their expectations were not met, and in doing so, fail to take a step back and reflect on what a show did get right. By indicating that Japan Sinks is disappointing, but not all bad, Tiger leaves it to the viewer to determine whether or not it’s a show worth checking out. A good review accomplishes precisely this, and admittedly, this is why an effective negative review is so hard to come by: most writers don’t take the time to mention any redeeming traits about a work or who may find it enjoyable.

Is Haruhi A Manic Pixie Dream Girl (In Search of Number Nine, @Cameron_Probert)

Iniksbane of Search of Number Nine’s submission comes right at the edge of Janaury, and is about one of anime’s most iconic characters: the one and only Haruhi Suzumiya. During the height of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s popularity, Haruhi was regarded as a god of sorts, one who existed in blissful ignorance of her nature. Iniksbane finds that Haruhi’s character presents an interesting dichotomy; on one hand, Haruhi is the foil to the down-to-earth, mundane Kyon, existing to bring colour into his world as what literary critics refer to as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but on the other hand, Haruhi acts on her desires, actively seeking out the fun in the world after learning that she’s otherwise “unremarkable”, a single individual in a world with seven billion other people. The contrast that exists in Haruhi’s character makes it difficult to decisively define her as either one or the other, and Iniksbane concludes that it’s difficult to decisively support one interpretation over the other, leaving it to the readers to use this post as a springboard for additional discussions.

Having been a longtime fan of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya after adamantly refusing to watch it until the memes died down (lest I ruin my experience of the show), I’ve come to see the series as being a highly modernised fantasy-adventure story not unlike J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit; I appreciate that this is well outside the realm of what Iniksbane covers in their analysis, but for me, Haruhi isn’t purely a Manic Pixie Dream Girl whose existence is to liven up Kyon’s life, nor is her desire to seek out the unusual phenomenon of the world a literal one. Given what The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has presented, I found that Haruhi is more similar to Gandalf in function, and Kyon is analogous to Bilbo Baggins. The former compels the latter to step out the front door, and occasionally sets in motion things that the latter must adapt to, but over time, both Kyon and Bilbo find themselves rising to the occasion unexpectedly well. Iniksbane mentions that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a romance comedy at heart, and this is to the series’ benefit – the feelings that Haruhi and Kyon have for one another allow each to complement the other well. Haruhi pulls Kyon out of his comfort zone to give him life-changing experiences, and Kyon reigns Haruhi back, turning her visions into reality by bringing them to a plane where her plans can be realised. At least, this is what I think lies at the core of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and like Iniksbane, I invite readers to offer their thoughts on this series, as well (at the appropriate post, of course).

This is not a game about a coffee shop. ☕️ – a “Café Enchanté” Review (Shoujo Thoughts: ☆ ~(‘▽^人) Otaku Ramblings, @Shoujothoughts)

Shoujou of Shoujou Ramblings’s submission is for the game Café Enchanté on the Nintendo Switch Platforms, a title about Kotone Awaki, who starts a new job as a barista at the eponymous Café Enchanté after her grandfather dies. Leaving behind the corporate world for a fantastical world, Kotone’s adventures begin, changing her world views forever. Shoujou opens with the initial elements that make the game fun to play, from small design choices in the UI to variety of music in the soundtrack, everything about Café Enchanté feels inviting. Of course, there are minor issues, such as the lack of a stats tracker and grammatical issues, but beyond this, Shoujou found the game fun and details the routes in her post. It’s evidently a detailed game, so I’ll leave readers to peruse Shoujou’s original post to learn more. However, what is important is the verdict: Shoujou had a blast with Café Enchanté, which presents a world far richer and deeper than its initial coffee shop setting would suggest. Besides a captivating story, Shoujou also enjoyed how Café Enchanté gives a proper set of instructions for pour-over coffee (a process where hot water is poured over coffee grounds to make a cup of joe). For fifty dollars, the game is worth the price of admissions, and invites other readers who’ve played through the game to share their thoughts, as well.

If memory serves, an otome game is a subset of the visual novel for female players, in which a female character navigates a story and potentially develops a relationship with a set of male characters. Visual novels have always been detailed in this regard, striving to tell a moving story above all else, and in its format, is able to do so by having players read through the dialogue and make decisions at critical junctures. While I’ve never played an otome game myself, I am always fond of hearing people speak about the games they play and more importantly, why people enjoy said games: one of the most important outcomes of reading different blogs is gaining insight into a blogger’s mind, and I’ve found that especially in the world of gaming, people are often so focused on themselves that they forget that different people play games for different reasons. Reading posts like Shoujou’s acts as a valuable window into what features in an otome game make them enjoyable for players, and while I myself might never buy Café Enchanté on the singular reason that I don’t have a Nintendo Switch (or the patience to play such games), it does put a smile on my face to see people speak about the things that make their games so enjoyable for them.

Publisher’s Digest: Glossy Magazine Edition (The Animanga Spellbook, @MagicConan14)

For Jon’s Creator Showcase, The Animanga Spellbook’s MagicConan14 presents a summary of major magazines in which anime and manga information are published to. Animage, Animedia, PASH and Newtype are the larger ones, each with a specific emphasis (e.g. Newtype focuses on Kadokawa works like Gundam). In these magazines, manga are also run: serialisation to a popular magazine is a big deal for manga artists, and in addition, artists’ work will also appear. While magazines are published digitally, companies provide an incentive to buy the physical versions by means of bonus items, such as clear files with special illustrations (Newtype, for instance, occasionally include special parts for Gundam models in some cases). For MagicConan14, while these magazines are enticing to pick up, the main priority in determining what to buy is whether or not the experience conferred is worth it.

The major anime and manga magazines in Japan are nothing short of impressive, being resources for anime and manga news the same way National Geographic features natural wonders of the world, and Scientific America showcases the most up-to-date developments in the realm of sciences. Unlike National Geographic, Wired, Scientific American or Reader’s Digest, the main appeal of Japanese anime and manga magazines does appear to be the bonuses that they confer: I’ve never gotten any cool stuff from the magazines that I’m fond of reading, and therefore have little incentive to pick up a paper copy (which I often find to be best suited for places like the doctor’s office). Like MagicConan14, I find the prospect of ordering magazines online from CD Japan or Hobby Search to be a daunting one: unlike an artbook or model kit, one can never be too sure as to what they’re getting. With this being said, some local anime stores in Chinatown do stock magazines, and one of my friends is fond of picking them up whenever they feature a limited edition weapons pack for a Gundam model – as MagicConan14 notes, the experience is everything, and for us, this includes the act of going downtown and checking everything out before making a purchase.

EXTRA/NORMAL, Chapter Eight (@Voyager_GT)

Voyager’s submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase is a chapter from EXTRA/NORMAL, a fiction set in a world where advancement and innovation reigns supreme, and whose protagonist, Mio Morioka, is unremarkable in every respect. Voyager’s eighth chapter, however, is a confrontation between students during a scene of bullying, and the ensuing misunderstanding that sees another student, a member of the disciplinary committee, sent off with her tail between her legs. Fiction submissions are not uncommon for Jon’s Creator Showcase, and previously, I’ve received some excellent stories that creators have been hard at work on. With this submission, I am dropped into the middle of the story with no context, which, of course, prompted me to read the other chapters to gain a better measure of what was going on, and in turn, immersing me into the world that Voyager has created. This is, incidentally, one of the ways I end up picking a work of fiction up: if I enter the world without context, curiosity will lead me to start from the beginning. The other way is reading the blurb on the back of a paperback or inside a hardcover’s dust jacket.

Reading through the eighth chapter to EXTRA/NORMAL was a reminder to me about how important context is, and why one necessarily should read carefully before passing judgement on the events in a story. At first glance, the haughty but competent Diana seems the foe of this chapter, seemingly in the middle of causing grief to another student and picking a fight with a member of the school’s disciplinary committee. However, the chapter changes the reader’s view by explaining things in more detail: it turns out that Diana was driving off a student who had been caught red-handed in the act of harassing another student, and that Diana has deep-seated beliefs about not sticking one’s nose in business that is not one’s own. In the short space of a chapter, my understanding of Diana’s character changed quite quickly, and I therefore view this as a chance for me to reiterate the fact that, in any given work of fiction, it’s critical to understand the whole context before determining the justifiability of a character’s actions. Voyager’s EXTRA/NORMAL is one such example of how creative the community is, and folks who’ve invested the time into writing their own stories definitely deserve more opportunity to share their writings with others.

Celebrating the Joy of Gaming | Bofuri (Galvanic Media, @GalvanicTeam)

BulletoonGirls from Galvanic Media presents the first video of this creator’s showcase, doing a dialogue on last year’s Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu (I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt, so I’m Going to Max Out My Defense, or Bofuri for brevity). This anime follows one Kaede Honjō, who takes the name Maple and joins a VRMMORPG at the behest of her best friend, Risa Shiramine (Sally in-game). Because Maple is a scrub when it comes to games, she dumps all of her initial points into defense and over time, plays the game in a way that even the developers did not foresee. In this video, it’s an energetic and engaging dialogue behind why Bofuri was such a fun series, and while the series initially appears to have no objective or goal, it just works. Despite discarding the entire Hero’s Journey storytelling approach, Bofuri‘s appeal lies entirely in the fact that it’s all about fun, first and foremost: it fully captures the spirit of gaming, of exploration and joining with other players to check out a virtual world and the adventures that game studios create for players. In this regard, BulletoonGirls’ video suggests that Bofuri is a video game given anime form, capturing the joys that comes from being allowed to play a game precisely as one wants.

The very thing that makes Bofuri‘s New World Online fun for Maple and Sally is ultimately what compels viewers to come back, and BulletoonGirls’ video captures this aspect of gaming in full. Galvanic Media’s Bulletwins (Rila and Riley) bring an additional dimensionality into engaging viewers to convey what made Bofuri work, and admittedly, the anime-like presentation brought to mind the vigour of my local anime convention, as well. Putting videos together is no small task, involving script-writing, voice work, editing and a suite of other skills. That BulletoonGirls has been doing videos consistently is therefore commendable, and having them cover a work I was familiar with meant being able to look into what was being said, as well. In this case, the Bulletwins suggest that Bofuri, in defying convention, still find success because the anime feels more like a game than a story. They are absolutely correct here, and although Maple and Sally might not need to go after a Dæmon King or learn about themselves, watching them get into the game likely brings to mind one’s own experiences in an RPG, from picking up the basics to really becoming immersed over time. For me, Bofuri offered humour through exploration, and my own discussion on the series covers the same topics that the Bulletwins do. With this being said, the Bulletwins’ video is rather more engaging than my own talk, especially as I delve into the arcane world of multi-agent systems, which I’ve not worked with for quite some time.

Chivalry of a Failed Knight (Season One) (The Otaku Author, @TheOtakuAuthor)

Chivalry of a Failed Knight (Rakudai Kishi no Kyabarurii) is the topic of Lynn Sheridan’s submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase, and out of the gates, Lynn wastes no time in stating that with its combination of swords and hawt anime girls, Chivalry of a Failed Knight would be a show of note: this anime was adapted from a light novel and follows one Ikki Kurogane, a low-ranking Blazer (any human possessing the power to manifest physical weapons as extensions of their soul) who is assigned to the same room as transfer student Stella Vermillion, a high-ranking Blazer from Europe. After an initial misunderstanding, the two train together to hone their craft, and in the process, discover more about one another. Lynn praises the series’ romance as one of the highlights, along with the fact that Ikki constantly must prove his worth; despite a low ranking, Ikki’s strength lies in his creative ways of fighting. The fight sequences stand among the main highlights of Chivalry of a Failed Knight for Lynn, praising how fluid and dynamic everything was. However, there are moments that also are a little more gloomy: Ikki’s relationship with his family is one of the lower points of the season, and while accentuating this, does come across as a bit excessive. Lynn also covers favourite and reviled characters, before concluding that Chivalry of a Failed Knight is a series about how societies fear those with potential, and a continuation would be more than welcome.

I’ve been a long-time reader of Otaku Author: Lynn has a particular talent for condensing out thoughts into a highly readable format, and for this, Otaku Author is a fantastic resource for swiftly determining what the ups and downs of a given work are. Here, Chivalry of a Failed Knight is the core topic, and I have had this series on my to-watch list since the anime began airing back in 2015, during my grad school days. I was seeking something quite unlike my usual series, and Chivalry of a Failed Knight appeared to be quite interesting. Par the course for what happens to me, I ended up procrastinating, first promising I would finish after my term project, then conference paper, then thesis defense, then graduation, and by the time I’d realised what happened, I’d been inundated with more series to watch than I’d care to keep track of. Fortunately, with Lynn’s post, I’ve got a good measure of what to expect should I start Chivalry of a Failed Knight off: Jon’s Creator Showcase is, at least for me, a fantastic chance for me to get a sneak preview of anime that I’ve been meaning to watch, and I enjoy the event for being able to see what people make of series that have caught my eye but otherwise never got to watching (on top of showing the creativity and excellence within the community, of course).

Pokemon Episode 61 Analysis: The Misty Mermaid (Anime Madhouse, @TheFiddleTwix)

One of the joys about Jon’s Creator Showcase is being able take on submissions from folks I’ve not even heard of before. This submission from FiddleTwix is one such example, being a post about Pokemon‘s sixty-first episode. After providing a synopsis of the episode and a collection of thoughts, FiddleTwix delves into the core of the episode and how Misty/Kasumi’s role allows her to shine in this episode with the underwater ballet, although the battle itself appeared inconsistent with the expected rules governing which Pokemon have the advantage in which environment. FiddleTwix also notes that Misty/Kasumi’s sisters were an irritant, employing a roundabout way of asking for her help, and their actions in this episode also demonstrate why Misty/Kasumi ends up being a gym leader, owing to her skill with water-type Pokemon.

It’s been a very long time since I watched Pokemon: if memory serves, it was on the youth television network in my region, and I got about as far as episode 49. Back then, Pokemon was all the craze at school, and it seemed that everyone had cards, trying to trade for the rare holographic foil cards that showed up from time to time. While the anime itself caught my attention, and I watched episodes after school, the trading game never really caught on for me. Instead, I used to play the GameBoy games instead, eventually beating all of the bosses and catching the legendary Mewtwo. Since it’s been such a long time since I’ve done anything Pokemon related, FiddleTwix’s post is a trip down memory lane. While Pokemon was probably the first anime I got into, my first anime ever was probably Sailor Moon (apparently, I used to be able to do the poses from the transformation sequences). This, of course, goes back to a time where I could only vaguely remember anything, and so, if and when I’m asked, the anime that got me into anime remains Ah! My Goddess: The Movie.

GANGSTA. Analysis — Tribute To Those Who Are Lost 1 (All The Fujoshi Unite, @fujoshi_unite)

Nora of All The Fujoshi Unite has reached a momentous milestone at her blog: a hundred posts. For this special occasion, Nora submits to Jon’s Creator Showcase a special post on GANGSTA., which follows Worick Arcangelo and Nicolas Brown as they take simultaneously deal with jobs from the law enforcement and organised criminals in the city of Ergastulum. Nora finds that the architecture, and very name Ergastulum, speaks volumes to the messages that GANGSTA. aims to convey; the name Ergastulum is derived from the Roman building used to house slaves, and the naming itself has Greek origins. The distinct limestone and stone construction in the city greatly resembles Italian Renaissance architecture, and together with the town’s naming, speaks to the subjugation that enhanced humans, known as Twilights, are subject to. Walls are a prominent feature in GANGSTA., constantly reminding viewers of the forces that divide and separate people. By making use of the architecture to parallel the characters’ situations, Nora finds that GANGSTA. does a phenomenal job of speaking to viewers through the world-building, and invites viewers to read her next post on the interpersonal dynamics between protagonists Worick and Nicolas.

Architecture in anime varies from being an afterthought to being an integral part of the world, and in the case of GANGSTA., Nora creates a very compelling case for how the world this anime is set in contributes very strongly to the series’ themes. While I’ve never seen GANGSTA. for myself, I am familiar with the design choices of a given world; architecture mirrors the meanings that authors intend to convey with their works, and set the tone for conversations, encounters and events. In Tari Tari, buildings are depicted with large windows that allow natural light to illuminate their interiors, visually indicating that for Wakana and her friends, opening up to others and letting the light in is how one overcomes their own problems. In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the school rooftop becomes the perfect metaphor for the conundrum that Magical Girls face: above the world below, Magical Girls are conferred an incredible power to fight evil, but become incredibly isolated in the process. Sora no Woto uses Mediterranean Spanish architecture to remind viewers of a world after a massive war with an unknown foe caused the regression of society. When done well, architecture complements a series’ theme, subtly reminding viewers of the characters’ own journeys ahead.

Anime Lists That Caters To Exist Because: Jealously Sucks, It Dominates and It’s Ugly (Lita Kino Anime Corner, @Kinoreviews)

From Lita Kino Anime Corner, we’ve got three recommendations for anime that deal with one of the nastier human emotions: jealousy. Lita Kino’s lists are intended to act as recommendations for series that deal with very specific topics, and noticing that finding such recommendations was a challenge, Lita Kino decided to create a miniseries. So, with jealousy as the area of interest, Lita Kino opens by noting that the anime on the list deal with the topic in a particularly visceral watch, opening with Scum’s Wish, a series about the couple Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya, who are only dating one another while pursing someone else. This setup creates a chance to cover those feelings people normally shunt aside to show what people are when the chips are down. Next is Domestic Girlfriend, a series that crosses the line several times in its portrayal of relationships and what happens when one’s heart wavers, creating drama akin to what is seen in something like The Young and The Restless. Rounding off the list is Rumbling Hearts, where the sticky topic of cheating and what leads people to pursue these actions is covered. Lita Kino notes that every anime in these lists have been completed in full, since it would be disingenuous to recommend something that one does not have a complete measure of, and in general, it’s more entertaining to recommend anime based on themes rather than genre.

The pain of jealousy and loneliness can be physically felt, as though an icy dagger were plunged into one’s heart. I’ve seen Domestic Girlfriend before, and it fills the heart with an emptiness as one watches the characters fumble their way through their emotions without giving logic a chance. Reading through Lita Kino’s list, I am assured of at least two other series to check out should I ever feel compelled to watch a story of how desperation can drive people into corners, and in these situations, how people might react to their circumstances. I note that School Days is also mentioned in Lita Kino’s post, but owing to the unique setup that sends Makoto down a path of no return, I fully respect Lita Kino’s decision to not make a full category for it: at its worst, jealousy compels people to act in horrendous ways that really speak to the consequences of unbridled emotions and the very blackness that can lie within the best of us. Making recommendations based on themes is an interesting concept, and I imagine that for folks who are looking for very specific anime based on themes and concepts, such an approach could prove successful. Even within this realm alone, it could be interesting to see how different anime approach a given theme to present its outcomes, which speaks volumes to what the creator’s thoughts on things are.

My 5 Favourite Detective Conan Movie (Art of Anime, @artof_anime)

The Detective Conan series has an extensive history behind it, and Art of Anime covers the top five movies of the series, as well as the rationale behind why each entry is where it is on the list. Art of Anime opens with the second movie, The Fourteenth Target: it’s a solid all-around experience but otherwise eclipsed by the series’ best. Next up is the third movie, The Last wizard of the Century, which introduces Kaito Kid to create an excellent blend of intrigue and character development. Private Eye in the Distant Sea (the seventeenth movie) was particularly engaging owing to how unpredictable it was, and in second place is the fourteenth movie, The Lost Ship in the Sky, whose premise is bold, and where the characters really come together in their efforts to stop a sinister plot. Occupying the coveted first place is The Fist of Blue Sapphire, the twenty-third movie, whose story and animation show the series at its finest.

Detective Conan is a long-lived franchise with plenty of proponents, and because of the franchise’s scale, it’s been a series I’ve never had much exposure to. One of the challenges with these long-running series is knowing where to begin, and when a series is large enough to have twenty-three movies, finding a good starting point is especially daunting. Lists such as Art of Anime’s, then, can be assets in helping one to gain a foothold: in essence, top five and top ten lists distill out what people make to be essential experiences, and checking out these lists can therefore give on a fantastic idea of what something is about, potentially even helping people to get a foothold on long standing series and enjoy them alongside the long-time fans.

Tonikaku Kawaii (BakaNow, @CodyLatosh)

Cody LaTosh of Bakanow submits a detailed review of Tonikaku Kawaii (Fly Me to the Moon), a romance comedy from 2020 about a fellow by the name of Nasa Yuzaki, a prodigy who is saved by a girl on his first day of high school, and while she promises to marry him someday, disappears, only to reappear after high school with the paperwork. The result is an unusual marriage and the ensuing comedy. On paper, one could reasonably expect a gentle and familiar comedy arising from this arrangement, a story that brings to mind the likes of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, but in practise, Tonikaku Kawaii is unsuccessful in delivering a story with similar magic: characters do not grow during the course of their relationship, and while the artwork appears solid at first glance, the animation is inconsistent in places and utilises cuts that break the emotional tenour of a moment. Overall, Cody LaTosh finds Tonikaku Kawaii serviceable, but isn’t one that excels in any category to an extent where viewers will be excited to recommend it to others: the series earns a 6.2 on the ten point scale.

Breaking out the grade conversions, a 6.2 corresponds to a C-, which is strictly middle of the road (although for me, time is limited to the extent where I don’t write about or finish anime that don’t score at least a C). Cody LaTosh’s review is honest, open and fair, pointing out the shortcomings in Tonikaku Kawaii the indicate what diminished the experience, and at the same time, making mention of the things that Tonikaku Kawaii did do well during its run, leaving readers with a solid understanding of what they can expect, and also to make their own decisions on whether or not Tonikaku Kawaii is worth their while. Whereas Tonikaku Kawaii appears to be an anime that might not work for me, what works is the clean format and summary elements which offer an at-a-glance summary of the whole review. This eye-catching chart provides a very clear overview of what Cody LaTosh made of the anime: folks in a hurry will quickly understand where he stands on Tonikaku Kawaii, and readers with a bit more time will be able to comb through a more detailed discussion to see Cody’s rationale for his final verdict were. It’s a clever way to display information without forcing readers to read through everything, which is, admittedly, something that my blog absolutely fails in.

Boruto to Transformers War for Cybertron: Siege [Weekly Jump #17] (Blake and Spencer Get Jumped! An Anime Podcast, @BandSGetJumped)

Blake and Spencer Get Jumped! are a podcasting team who watch anime and then discuss them. For this submission, Blake and Spencer present a 40-minute long discussion of mangas Boruto and The Elusive Samurai, before switching over to The Rising of the Shield Hero and Pop Team Epic as a part of their anime discussion. For the finale, Blake and Spencer come together to discuss Transformers War for Cybertron: Siege, the same way that I’ve been discussing with Dewbond the intricacies of Higurashi. While I am a novice in these manga and anime, what is clear is that Blake and Spencer are proficient speakers versed in ensuring that their podcasts are engaging. With excellent audio clarity, fantastic oral skill and great writing, Blake and Spencer’s podcast brings to mind the radio programs that I am so fond of listening to when I start my day.

The podcast format has its pluses and minuses: when I take in information, I’m very much a hands-on, visual learner, so I prefer reading or watching videos (and where necessary, by doing something for myself). However, the reason why these approaches work so well for me is because I’m actively engaged in something. Conversely, with podcasts handling more like radio programs, I am free to pursue other activities while I listen, and in this way, a great podcast is something that keeps me company, with a human voice, while I work on other things. Having worked in environments where podcasts were produced, I do appreciate the effort that goes into making consistently great podcasts; it’s a process that requires everything from proper equipment and preparation, to no small amount of skill in speaking clearly (something I can’t do). Seeing how engaging and sophisticated podcasts nowadays are are a testament to the effort people put into making them, and while I may have no prior knowledge of something like Boruto or Pop Team Epic, listening to Blake and Spencer gives me a clearer impression of what these works entail.

[Review] Dr. Stone S2, Ep. 1 (Couch and Chill, @CouchandChill)

Ang of Couch and Chill submits a Dr. Stone post on the second season’s opening episode, which has two distinct halves. The first deals with Senku’s introduction of freeze-drying to villages to give them increased survivability, but Ang found this a little dull, considering that the first season had done something similar, and ramen itself isn’t particularly challenging (and therefore exciting) to create given the technological level within the world of Dr. Stone. The episode’s second half deals with a double agent of sorts who initially appears to be working for Tsukasa, but in actuality, is loyal to Senku. Because Tsukasa is physically powerful, Senku and his allies believe the way to defeat him is by undermining his supporters, and to this end, they decide sway Tsukasa’s followers with a bit of deception, weakening them enough so they might capture Tsukasa. Despite not covering all aspects of Dr. Stone‘s second season opening, Ang suggests curious viewers to check it out for themselves.

The instant ramen we know today is created by cutting the dough into noodle form, and then baking the pallet for an hour at temperatures of 80ºC, or frying the pallet in oil to remove all of the water content. Freeze-drying, on the other hand, entails freezing a given article of food and then in a special environment, reduce the pressure, which allows the ice crystals to evaporate by means of sublimation. The process allows the food to retain most of its original properties, and like instant noodles, the application of hot water will rehydrate the food, rendering it ready to eat. While I’ve not seen Dr. Stone for myself, freeze-drying ramen feels a roundabout way of accomplishing the task, especially when frying the noodles or using an oven to bake them would accomplish the same with simpler techniques. Ang’s remarks on the episode’s second half brings to mind Sun Tzu’s remarks that all war is deception, although at the time of writing, it was still early into the season. It is the case that second seasons may not always start on the strongest of footings, especially when continuing from a solid first season. With this being said, sequels can prove enjoyable as they begin exploring newfound directions, and for Ang, the aspect of deception could prove to be an interesting side to Dr. Stone.

First 2021 Blu Ray Haul! (Valkayink: Figures, Cards, Reviews, @Valkayink)

Valkayink’s video represents a very welcome way to open off the New Year, being about the new Blu Rays she’d acquired over the past month. Titles include Ride Your Wave, Children of the Sea, the steel-book version of Lupin III: The First, Laughing Under The Clouds (The Complete Series), Land of the Lustrous, Love Stage!! (Complete Collection), Crowds Gatchaman, Chihayafuru and Galaxy Express 999. In this video, Valkayink showcases the special features that come with each disk, from the booklets featuring extras, to nifty designs on the Blu Ray case itself, and shares with viewers what makes each item a noteworthy one.

While not technically an unboxing video, Valkayink’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase comes pretty close to fitting the bill: the Blu Rays might already be opened and ready to pop into a player for an afternoon of entertainment, but the video itself possesses all of the cathartic effects of watching folks talk about the cool stuff they’ve acquired. In Valkayink’s case, the merits of picking up the Blu Rays are quickly conveyed: while digital products have the advantage of convenience, there is something very tangible about a physical product that one can hold. This is why Blu Rays remain popular despite the rise of streaming services; to give people incentive to pick up a physical product, Blu Rays often come with all sorts of bonuses that really enhance one’s experience even beyond what the original work may provide.

Laid Back Camp 2: EP 1 Impression (Umaru Blog, @TheHimoutolife)

It’s always a pleasant surprise to see other bloggers writing about the shows that I am fond of: umaruchan92 of UMARU BLOG’s submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase is a post on Yuru Camp△ 2‘s first episode, which aired back in January. umaruchan92 greatly enjoyed this first episode as a segue back into the series. Establishing Rin’s original interests in camping gives additional depth to her love of the hobby, and the second half to the episode gave viewers a chance to see that when the chips are down, Nadeshiko is reliable and hard-working. For umaruchan92, the strongest part of the episode comes at the end, when Rin and Nadeshiko share a conversation that shows the development of the two’s friendship; whereas Rin had found Nadeshiko irritating during the first season, she’s come to greatly appreciate Nadeshiko after the pair share several adventures together, and umaruchan92 hopes that Yuru Camp△ 2 will continue on in this fashion.

Anyone who’s read my blog will know that I am an ardent Yuru Camp△ fan, to the point of writing about the second season episodically. It is always welcome to see folks who enjoy shows like Yuru Camp△ (and GochiUsa, which umaruchan92 has also written about): such anime typically place an emphasis on an appreciation of the ordinary, but also touch on enough topics to appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers. Seeing what other viewers have to say about these series is always enlightening, offering insight into how different people approach watching different shows. However, in some cases, there is also considerable overlap between what about a given episode (or series) people found noteworthy: both umaruchan92 and myself found the character dynamics of Yuru Camp△ to be the anime’s strong suit. However, the both of us express ourselves in a completely different fashion, which simultaneously serves to remind readers that while people may like similar things, there’s always a different perspective on the whys behind what makes a work so meaningful for people.

Drama|Sweet Home — Final Impressions (Black & Yellow Otaku Gamers, @piecesofminty)

Sweet Home is a webtoon following Cha Hyun-soo, a bit of a recluse who moves to a new apartment and soon finds himself experiencing otherworldly events as various tenants mutate into monsters that assume the shape of whatever their innermost vices are. In this review, Minty of Black and Yellow Otaku Gamers writes about the drama adaptation of the webtoon, which released to Netflix back in December 2020 and which Minty found to be reasonably faithful to the webtoon in terms of atmosphere and aesthetics, but because of changes made between the webtoon and the adaptation, some elements were not covered to the same extent as they were in the original: character development in the drama felt a little weaker, and the nature of the monsters themselves are unexplored. However, Minty enjoyed the acting and soundtrack, and there were some genuinely surprising twists; while the series started off strong and meandered in its middle, some moments were particularly standout, and overall, while she did enjoy Sweet Home, Minty prefers the original source materials in terms of story and character growth.

While I am a novice to the world of K-dramas, I am rather more familiar with the different experiences viewers have between the source and adapted materials; people inevitably will have different expectations going into a work, and in my case, I’ve seen adaptations both succeed in capturing the essence of a work, as well as completely miss the mark. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s anime adaptation is considered to be a controversial one, but for me, it faithfully brought the manga to life and remained consistent with the mangas, resulting in a work that gave a new level of dimensionality the story presented by the manga. Conversely, in the Harry Potter films, changes to events from the novels result in the alteration of some moments and their severity, as well as skating over some critical aspects that the novels discussed. Adaptations can be tricky, and as Minty writes, there are situations where adaptations cannot always fully capture the details of a work that were present in the original. In spite of this, by giving motion and sound to a story, adaptations can also be fun in their own right even if they sometimes leaves the viewers with the impression that more could’ve been done.

Closing Remarks

I believe that this Jon’s Creator Showcase represents the largest single post I’ve ever written (totalling 16220 words, making it a full thousand larger than the previous record, also held by a Jon’s Creator Showcase post), and the journey to get to the finish line was not a particularly smooth one in the beginning. I had initially felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of submissions received, and it was ultimately the community support that allowed me to cross the finish line for this one; Jon Spencer himself stepped in with advice and suggestions. All of the submissions to Jon’s Creator Showcase are of a high standard, and all of them are made with sincerity and the desire to share. Taking stock in this, and imbibing the efforts that went into each submission, I have done my best to convey what makes each and every submission noteworthy, meaningful. Consequently, once I found my groove, it became a joy to continue forwards. Having said this, the latest Jon’s Creator Showcase has also demonstrated that my approach is not particularly scalable, especially when real life decided it would also get hectic at around this time. Traditionally, Februaries are a bit slower and more relaxed for me, but circumstances can always change. Realising this, and also recalling how much fun it is to see how everyone does things through Jon’s Creator Showcase, I believe that taking a new approach to hosting in the future could also be a part of the enjoyment in hosting, as well. As to what this new approach is, I think I will surprise readers with it the next time that I decide to host. There are a few slots left in the later stages of 2021 that are unclaimed, and this may represent a chance to experiment a little to see if I can continue hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase in a more scalable, sustainable manner. In the meantime, as we exit February, we actually did have a bit of a challenge entering March; until Friday evening, we actually had no hosts. Fortunately, Cameron Probert of In Search of Number Nine and CrippledNerd90 have been gracious enough to jointly take on the mantle of hosting the next one, and I invite folks to send their favourite post for February over to continue this cycle of community.

Higurashi: When They Cry, Collaborating with Dewbond, and Solving The Enigma of Agent H173 Nano Desu

“Hōjō brainwashed you, but Takano had plans of her own. He was never in Hinamizawa. The real defector with the H-173 dossier died during the attack on U-731. He was never at the Cotton-drifting Festival. He was never at Irie Clinic. Satoshi Hōjō’s been dead for five years. He died at Harbin during the escape! All the years you thought he was with you, that was just in your mind!” –Jason Hudson

As Higurashi revealed that the Curse of Oyashiro-sama was the consequence of a pathogen that resulted in what was known as Hinamizawa Syndrome, the series transitioned away from a supernatural horror mystery into a science-fiction thriller. In Higurashi‘s final moments, Rena discovers that Curse of Oyashiro-sama had a scientific origin, and moreover, Miyo Takano had been researching the phenomenon extensively. In the process, Rena becomes a person of interest and develops increasing paranoia, eventually holding her school hostage. Rika, unfortunately does not bear witness to what happens after Keiichi manages to save Rena: she dies yet again. Higurashi: Kai continued on with the story and really began delving into Hinamizawa Syndrome and Tokyo, a shadowy organisation, coveting it as a biological weapon. From here on out, Higurashi ventures into the realm of military conspiracies and a race against time to overcome fate itself. Having set the table with the previous season, and illustrating the consequences of acting upon incomplete information, Higurashi: Kai has its characters acting with some knowledge of what might happen should they make unwise decisions, choosing the things that favour their friendship and ultimately, with the aim of preventing Tokyo from achieving their ends and destroying Hinamizawa in the process. It is no surprise that Kai is very much up my wheelhouse, and I could write a small book on how well Kai was executed with regard to compelling viewers through the thriller aspects. However, characters remain the heart of Higurashi, and so, I welcome Dewbond back to continue on with our coverage of the characters, traits and significance to the unfolding events.

  • There’s nothing like a little healthy discussion to really gain a solid appreciation of a series and its aims: Higurashi was one of those works that I’d greatly enjoyed, but never really found the right words to describe and discuss. I believe that this is the sixth collaborative post I’ve done with Dewbond, which cover contents from four different series. However, with Higurashi, it marks the first time where I’ve hosted anything related to this series: collaborations are a wonderful way of pushing the envelope and stepping outside my comfort zone, so for me, they’re always a joy to work on.

In our previous part, Dewbond, we covered Rena, Mion, Shion and Satoko’s stories, as well as their significance in creating the iconic atmosphere that cemented Higurashi as a mystery-horror. We had chosen to save Rika and Miyo’s roles in Higurashi because it is in Kai that they become truly significant. Rika’s deaths in various timelines, and Miyo’s involvement in some of her deaths have ramifications on the choices Rika makes, as well as the fate of the entire village. Should Miyo kill Rika, it’s game over for Hinamizawa: a disaster befalls the village, and the government typically covers it up with reports of a hydrogen sulfide release from the nearby Onigafuchi Swamp as the cause of total casualties in the town. Coverups and conspiracies notwithstanding, let’s get started with the characters most critical to Kai, the season that acts as the answer arc to the first season’s question arc!


Before we start that, I want to comment on the shifting narratives for Higurashi.

Changing the nature of a story, or anime is a difficult thing to do. Often times it doesn’t work, and can feel out of place, or even worse, damage the series. We saw this with Darling in the Franxx where the last minute addition of aliens ruined what had been, at that point, a very interesting story. Babylon completely shit the bed by trying to switch up its story and go too big. Even Re:Zero was able to shift it’s paradigms in the first season to a story about redemption and admitting your flaws, and while the shift back has been good, there has been some bumps in the road.

Higurashi in my view, doesn’t have this problem. While I did greatly enjoy the ‘horror of the week’ aspect of its first season, I was floored by just how effective and deep the second season changes things. Everything we suspect about what is happening turns on its head. From Rika ending up being the heroine, stuck in a constant time-loop, fated to die. To Miyo’s backstory and the revelations that everything we’ve seen is the result of a virus run amok, and and a military and governmental conspiracy that stretches out decades. All at once we see that Keiichi and the rest of the gang are just pawns in a much larger world, bystanders caught up in things they shouldn’t have.

And what is the most terrifying in this terror-filled anime is that Higurashi makes it work. It all just falls into place so damn well. Everything makes sense, everything checks out, and when you see everything that has happened and why it did, you find yourself going “Holy shit.”

It is a very rare thing, to have a show completely change direction and still maintain viewer interest. Yes, the second season is lighter on the blood and gore, but the story, especially Miyo and Rika’s pulls you in all the same. What did you think of the shifting paradigms Zen? Did Higurashi need to do this? Could it have all fallen apart?


I’m getting ahead of myself here. The transition in Higurashi from a frightening look at human nature’s dark side to a Clancy-esque thriller was so fluid that I never found it to be jarring or unexpected – the writers had been setting us viewers up for this, and the first season saw Rena beginning to discover hints of the truth. Thus, by the events of Kai, with the big reveal, things fall into place in an elegant fashion. I’m no stranger to dramatic changes in where a story is going – Half-Life initially began its story as a story about a scientist trying to contain a disaster at a research facility, only to be whisked away to an alien dimension with the task of defeating an alien overlord. Halo felt like a classic space marine story, and the Master Chief’s initial goal was helping to support allied forces after they crash land on a ring world and resist the alien Covenant forces. However, when the Covenant release the ancient horror known as the Flood, it becomes a rush to destroy Halo before the Flood can escape the ring world and spread.

In both Half-Life and Halo, the unexpected twist caught me by surprise on first glance, but upon closer inspection, it speaks to the strength of the writing. YU-NO surprises players in a manner reminiscent to that of Half-Life, and I find that Higurashi joins the ranks of these giants in being a work to successfully turn things around and run with it. I imagine that in each case, the story and gameplay was written in advance, so the element of surprise lay in timing. From the sounds of it, Darling in the Franxx and Babylon may have had a new idea come up after the initial story was written, and revisions were made to accommodate these new ideas.

While it is conceivable to have Higurashi succumb to failure, this seems unlikely. For me, I feel that there are hints that Higurashi had always been intended to be a thriller rather than a horror: historically, the supernatural had always been used to explain phenomenon that we humans did not fully understand. In the context of Hinamizawa Syndrome, a mysterious disease in a world where pathology was not well-characterised would seem like a curse. I would hazard a guess that the thriller was written as the underlying cause, and then around this central piece, horror could be introduced in a measured manner. To Keiichi, Rena, the Sonozakis and others, Hinamizawa Syndrome’s mechanisms and the mysteries surrounding the village do seem as mysterious as a supernatural curse. With this in mind, by deliberately withholding the explanation, Higurashi could successfully use this unknown to terrify viewers. In this, the series is completely successful.


That is a pretty in depth way to view it, but you always like to dive into the real meat of an issue. Stories are always evolving, and some of the best often either keep in their lane, or change to take on bigger and better ideas. Higurashi is the latter for sure, and we see that with the revelation that Rika is in fact the main character, a girl caught in a time-loop, force to relive the same two weeks over and over again. We saw hints of this in the first season, but now it has come into full force.

Before I give my take, what are your thoughts on Rika?


Rika was a bit of a surprise, to be sure: the first season did not really give us much in the way of story, save the fact that Rika would see a gruesome end at the hands of Hinamizawa Syndrome induced madness. However, over time, as it became clear Rika was trapped in an unending cycle, desperate for a way to break her fate and live life on her own terms, her mannerisms and traits became clear. Rika represents optimism and determination, in that no matter how many times she’s forced to die or watch her friends fall, she continues to return, making use of her previous knowledge to sway events away from a course leading to calamity. While she would fail, the accumulated knowledge leaves Rika incrementally more prepared to handle her new timeline, even if the exhaustion from reliving a timeline over and over again begins to weigh heavily on Rika.

I found that this was probably one of the most well-designed, clever narrative approaches I’d seen in a given work of fiction – Rika’s experiences are immensely encouraging from a thematic perspective, but from a gameplay perspective, do a vivid job of standing in for us viewers: by going through the different arcs, we are, in effect, experiencing things as Rika does. Initially, it’s a mystery as to what’s happening, but as we read more perspectives and beginning drawing our own conclusions, more of the story becomes clear. The mysteries of Hinamizawa become apparent, and much as how we would develop a desire to see the characters find happiness, Rika herself begins visibly demonstrating her yearning for the same.

Of course, no discussion of Rika would be complete without her signature phrases, mii (みぃ〜) and nipah (にぱ〜), which are an iconic part of her character. Her incredible wisdom, a consequence of her knowledge and experiences, leads her to act in ways to be consistent with that of someone who’s eleven, and in this way, she’s a reassuring character to have around – while knowing the story behind Hinamizawa Syndrome and determined to defeat her own curse, Rika gets along with the characters and adds joy to a story that has otherwise seen so much suffering. These are, however, merely my thoughts: Dewbond, if you wouldn’t mind sharing your thoughts on Rika?


Rika is judged on her NPE or “Nipah‘s per Episode”

But in all seriousness, the switch of Rika to the main character, or rather having been the main heroine all the time is a terrific change. We had moments where our blue haired lady seemed to know more about what was going on, but now we see it come into full force. And when you look back, you see the hints being dropped left and right. She was always an enigma among the cast, asking more questions than giving answers, and always seeming to get killed. You don’t really think much about her until the final few episodes, especially the knife scene with Shion. Rika is as you said, stuck in a time loop, and it begins to weigh heavily on her. Forced to relive the same days over and over, constantly stuck in a nowhere village with friends who might go insane at a moments notice, it’s not hard to see how much she starts to hate it. Hanyū, doesn’t do much to help either, offering empty encouragement and not much else. Rika is a character of incredible strength, and despite being put through horror after horror, still attempts to break her curse.

I was particularly struck by how well Rika’s seiyuu was able to switch from little kid, to deep adult voice as well. It’s always a terrific thing to see, and it shows both how long, and how tired she is. It’s a great performance, one of the best in what is overall a solid cast. Though that final scene of the series with Miyo always confuses me. Can she jump dimensions? Time travel? Why is she older? Did everything just get negated. It’s weird man…


The dramatic contrast between Yukari Tamura’s portrayal of the easygoing and happy Rika, and the jaded, mature Rika is pronounced. This speaks to Tamura’s skill as a voice actress, and over the course of Higurashi, it becomes impossible not to root for Rika, even as she attempts to understand her nemesis, Miyo. I believe that Rika’s final confrontation with Miyo here was meant to be symbolic – Miyo’s insecurities from her childhood form the bulk of her drive as an adult, and by the events of Higurashi, Miyo is so convinced of her own righteousness, that it would be nigh-impossible to talk her down from executing Manual 34’s contents. I would believe that one of two things is happening; either Rika uses her connection with Hanyū to return to Miyo’s childhood and reassure the young Miyo, preventing her from going down a destructive path, or otherwise, is appealing to the part of Miyo that is clinging to the past. The latter is a device that other anime have used to show what characters are behind their façades, often to great effect.

This does mean, then, that it’s time to take on the elephant in the room that is Miyo Takano. When we first meet her, she seems an air-headed character accompanying Tomitake Jirō, although even early in, Miyo exudes an aura of mystery to her. Even though she appears to possess some knowledge and exhibits a clear interest in Hinamizawa and its ancient customs in the original Higurashi, her status as the villain never becomes openly so until Kai, which proved to be a game-changer. Giving an antagonist human form in stories always diminishes the mystery, and all too often, it becomes a matter of having the individual defeated to give the protagonist their happy ending. This is the part where Higurashi truly excels: it is not often that I empathise with an antagonist, but in Miyo and the desire to prove herself in the face of adversity is a feeling I relate to. In short, I feel bad for her, and I understand that she had hoped to accomplish in Hinamizawa.

Having said this, I appreciate that this comes at odds with Rika, Keiichi and the remainder of their friends: this conflict that Higurashi creates thus serves as a very interesting representation of things in real life: the world is grey, and not so readily divided into the good guys and bad guys. Of course, these are merely my thoughts on Miyo, and Dewbond, I’d like to hear what you made of Miyo.


Miyo is a character that you forget about in the first half of the series. She isn’t really there, and when she is, it’s mostly comedic or mentioning that she was apparently killed. It is only when the second half comes that we get to realize who she is and what she represents for the story. And like you said, it’s damn effective.

Miyo’s story is tragic, marked with moments of horror and joy. She goes from being abused in an orphanage, to being welcomed into a loving family with her grandfather, only then to watch as the scientific community destroys everything her grandfather had worked for. It is there where she decides to claim vengeance, and it sets her on a path that will end up turning Hinamizawa into her own little ant farm. She cares little for the life in the city, and in the moments where we see that she actually succeeds, it only after gassing and killing the entire population.

Yet despite those actions, I can’t help but feel sympathetic to her. Miyo had a hard a life, and all she wanted was to show the world that her grandfather was right, and he was. The syndrome was a real thing and much of the first half of showing just what insane things it can end up doing. So in many ways, I don’t blame Miyo for her actions, even though they are wrong.

You are right Zen, that creating a villain you can understand and feel that sympathy for can make a story great, and it absolutely does so for Miyo. Even the story thinks that, as the final moments show Rika, or Bernkastel going back in time to prevent Miyo from losing her parents.


This human aspect of Higurashi really hits the viewers hard, and despite the horror of the first season, humanising everyone in Kai really helped to remind viewers that, yes, we as people are capable of committing acts of unspeakable depravity, but when we take a step back to understand our foe, more often than not, we see ourselves in our enemies: they’re people too, with their own beliefs, intents and desires. Yes, it is conceivably possible to send a black ops team over to Hinamizawa and sort out Miyo and the Yamainu by force (which, incidentally, is the summary of every Western first-person shooter ever), but the opportunity to understand a different perspective and history thus becomes lost. This is where I find that Japanese games excel in particular. Whereas the stories I’m accustomed to favour use of overwhelming force to dominate an enemy (I’ve never been given an option to take in someone quietly in my games), there is rarely the sort of understanding and compassion that Higurashi conveys to its viewers.

Consequently, even though Miyo is supposed to be the villain, we come to worry about her instead of hating her: it might even be appropriate to say that Higurashi‘s true antagonist isn’t necessarily a person or a disease, but rather, the darkness that lies within each and every one of us. Alone, isolated and desperate, people lash out at the world from a fear of the unknown. United and finding strength in one another, people begin finding sustainable, long-term solutions for their problems. It is with support that Rika is able to weather the storm and leads to the final push in Kai‘s story, which I found to be absolutely uplifting and encouraging. Before we get there, however, there’s still the small matter of Hanyū, a deity whose desire to save Rika is what created the time loops, and whose presence answers the mysterious phenomenon that people often hear. When introduced in Kai, I felt that her presence to be a soothing one that gave the Rika and the others strength. Of course, this is scratching the surface, Dewbond: how does Hanyū fit into the larger story within Higurashi?


Hanyū is in my mind, the weak link of the Higurashi. After watching the whole thing, I honestly don’t feel she added much to the overall plot. She’s pretty much Rika’s version of Navi, offering helpful words of encouragement that long ago lost their value. She seems to be a spirit who hates that she can’t really do anything to help Rika. Yet even when she does decide to take action, jumping into the final timeline with her, there is little that she seems to do.

I don’t know, maybe I missed something, but I can’t really remember Hanyū doing anything that really stood out to me. It may have been better if Higurashi had dropped more hints about her throughout the series, like if Rika was muttering to herself more, but that’s just me trying to Monday-morning quarterback the series. What did you think of her Zen?


For me, Hanyū’s arrival in Kai was, more than anything, a bit of moral support that hinted at where things were eventually headed – Rika’s situation had gotten to the cusp of breaking free of her curse, and while yes, Hanyū can’t really impact the physical world or its outcomes, she does act as another resource to Rika, whose resolve to overcome her fate strengthened with every passing moment as Kai continued. I believe that the visual novel has a deeper explanation of her precise relation to Rika, but as it was in the anime, I took Hanyū’s presence as a sign that things were changing for Rika.

It really is in the final chapter of Kai where everything comes together for us viewers – the mysterious Tokyo is interested in Hinamizawa Syndrome and intends to weaponise it as a WMD, and even Miyo becomes little more than a pawn in the grand scheme of things. All the while, Kai has Rika guiding her friends down different paths. Here, the two concurrent stories were sufficiently detailed such that, despite knowing the series is ultimately about Rika freeing herself from a curse, the machinations that Tokyo have planned out, as well as all of the inter-factional infighting, I found myself wishing to see a side story surrounding the political techno-thriller pieces to Higurashi.

The implications of Tokyo are that, at the end of the day, while Rika, Keiichi and the others have their own battles to fight, they are merely parts of a much larger and more sinister evil. This creates a sense of intrigue: while yes, Rika’s consciousness is able to save even Miyo from a terrible fate, and Keiichi and the others find happiness in Hinamizawa after prevailing, it remains the case that there is a shadowy organisation with nearly unlimited resources, able to bring trouble back to Hinamizawa whenever they choose. This is not to downplay Rika and the others’ victory over the Yamainu at the end of Kai, but it always felt like, in a given timeline, the continued existence of Tokyo means that Keiichi and his friends, the residents of Hinamizawa and even the people of the world, live under the threat of an organisation possessing a powerful biological weapon that could be turned towards extortion, political manipulation and other nefarious schemes. I could probably go on about this all day, but Dewbond, it’s time that I turn the floor over to you on the not-so-small matter of Tokyo!


This is going to be the part Zen where we differ, and our views of the show and how we watch it separate. I know you love to dig into the little things, while I prefer more broad strokes and character actions, how they feel and how they act. It’s for that reason that I honestly didn’t care much for the Tokyo stuff at all. It was good, and it is credit to Higurashi and it’s ability to paradigm shift so well, but I just didn’t really get pulled in by it.

It felt like fluff, good fluff that expanded the world, but at this point I was so invested in Miyo and Rika as characters that I didn’t really care for the shadowy cabal. It makes sense when the syndrome is expanded upon, and adds to the world, but it wasn’t keeping me at the edge of my seat like it did for you.


World building is always something that fascinates me, especially where it is done to create a compelling world for the characters’ experiences. I’ve long been a fan of the Cold War’s secrets, and truth be told, Hinamizawa Syndrome and Tokyo would not be out of place in a hidden conspiracy of sorts. Having said this, we would be going off-mission to delve too deeply there; I’ll save this for another time! We thus return back to the matter at hand, the central themes of Higurashi.

In the first season, the themes were not always clear, especially when every arc concluded in a bloody manner. However, as Higurashi entered the last moments of its first season, we viewers began to get an inkling of where things were going. By the time Kai fully introduced Rika and Miyo’s stories, the themes were all but out in the open – Rika’s monologues about overcoming fate, Miyo’s desire to clear her adopted grandfather’s name, and Keiichi and his friends’ determination to do right made it clear that Higurashi is about compassion: understanding a situation before acting, making choices while being mindful of those around oneself, and acting on empathy. The sum of these things is what is needed to break a curse resulting from impulsiveness and incomplete information.

For me, I got the impression that Higurashi intentionally paints the picture that having Miyo eat a bullet is one possible solution to Rika’s problems, but it is meeting violence with violence, a quick and dirty solution that does nothing to answer the underlying reason behind why Miyo had been so intent on enacting Article 34. Instead, it is allowing the authorities to sort things out, while keeping her friends alive, that gives Rika the outcome she desires in Kai. If there was one takeaway from Higurashi, it would be that taking shortcuts only begets more suffering in the long term. The first season had given viewers a taste of despair and hopelessness, but Kai comes around, suggesting that through the proper channels and means, people can find their happy endings no matter the odds. I believe that this is what made Higurashi as a whole so strong: it pulls no punches in depicting the worst of humanity, but then goes on to show what is possible when we put our best selves forwards, as well. What about you, Dewbond? The themes of Higurashi are varied, and many, so I’d love to hear what you make of the themes spanning both seasons.


I think when it comes to themes, I think Higurashi, both of its seasons is about violence, and how kneejerk reactions don’t solve anything. While they are influenced by the syndrome, Keiichi and everyone else in the village often act without thinking, jumping to conclusion and taking things to the next level without really thinking things through. We see this when Keiichi murders Sakoto’s uncle, or when Shion goes on her rampage, or when Rena believes that aliens have invaded the village. People don’t think, they just feel, they just act. And that often leads to violence.

That violence is central to what I think Higurashi is about. Even with the cutesy anime designs, we see that all of these characters, many of them young children are capable of extreme hatred and bloodshed. We see it time and again in the first season, and Miyo, despite being rescued from violence, views it as the only way to get her goals accomplished.

The answer is a, what Rika does. You have to keep trying, you have to work together, and no matter the odds, keep persevering. It may be slow, it may be grueling and frustrating, but you can in the end, change fate. Pressure and protest and real dedication can move the needle, and learning from your mistakes is key to that.


The consequences resulting from this lack of patience and perseverance can be dramatic; in Higurashi, Keiichi, Rena and Shion pay dearly for rushing into things in search of an easy answer, and each arc where this occurs, the bad ends, viewers are left with a sense of revulsion and shock. What happens next is never shown, adding to the horror of their situation as our minds go into overdrive. The strength of the writing in Higurashi is such that it fully captures actions and their consequences in a very convincing manner: tangible, positive change has, historically, always been effected by a determined and resolute group of people playing the long game, working within the rules of a system to build a new system. As you’ve said, Dewbond, rather than subverting a system, it is important to understand the existing system and then determine where to go about laying down the groundwork for a better future.

Higurashi Kai ended up on a very strong note because of its themes, and when I finished the series, I left it immensely satisfied. Horror and violence to pull viewers in, a mystery that kept us guessing, and a way forward that gave us every reason to root for Rika, Keiichi and their friends all came together for a titanic finish. Higurashi Kai could not have ended any other way, and upon finishing, it was a conclusive ending that seemingly left no stone unturned. Hence, imagine my surprise at Higurashi Gou‘s announcement! This series initially left as many mysteries as Higurashi‘s first season did, and with it airing now, I’d like to hear your thoughts on what Gou‘s directions are insofar, Dewbond.


Higurashi Gou has had a strange start, mostly because the author was frustratingly numb and deceiving on what the show was. A sequel? A remake, a mid-quel? A series of stories that happened when Rika was jumping timelines? At the start it seemed to have elements of it all, but there was also a noticable lack of the horror that Higurashi was known for, and moments where the series seemed to be spinning its wheels. It was rather strange to see the series not have a strong heading, especially when the first outing was so good at weaving it’s world, even when things felt episodic. In the initial run, I kept watching because the show was so fresh with me, and I wanted to see what it would do, but it was only when we reached the second half that it, very much like before, the real truths were revealed.

Before I talk about that, I should make sure that you are ok with discussing the series at that part. Are you current with what has been happening as of the latest episode?


I’m at the part where Satoko spends a nostalgic day with the old crew before being ported into middle of nowhere; I believe that’s the latest episode.


It is! And man, now that Higurashi has seemed to have revealed it’s hand, what an absolute genius way to take the series. I’ll be honest, very, very few anime sequels have ever worked, and Higurashi seemed like it was going to go down the same path. Instead we get a really cool direction that actually moves the characters forward instead of nostalgia minded coddling.

Gou, at least at this point, and we should mention that this story is not over yet, is about one thing: a fear of change. We see it with Sakoto, who now seems to have made a deal with a new devil (who I believe is a character from another one of the author’s visual novels) it return herself back to when she was a child. The reasons? Because people grow and move on, and Rika, after all she has suffered wants to move on in her life. She wants out of the hick village and into a world of prim and proper ladyship. And while Sakoto goes with her, not everyone can fit into that world, and her struggles to keep up, along with the changes that come from growing up and growing apart seems to have set her on a dangerous path.

I’ve absolutely loved this new direction Gou has taken, it feels authentic to the characters, especially Sakoto. We have to remember that she really has no one else but Rika, her brother is still in a coma, and the other members of the gang have grown up as well. To have Rika move on with her life and (deservedly in my view) seize a world that she clearly wants, is Sakoto’s worst fear, because it may very well be a world she can’t fit into anymore.

Again, we don’t know how it is going to end, but what do you think of things so far Zen?


The first bit of Gou was maddeningly inconsistent with its direction; old mistakes were both repeated and done better, and it felt like a condensed retelling of the originals. Beyond this, I had no idea what Gou had intended to do. I don’t mind admitting that I continued watching because Higurashi had a previous track record of surprising viewers. Surprising us, it did: when Rika began lamenting her cursed fate, and when Hanyū leaves Rika, things suddenly became more captivating. It reaches one of the most disturbing episodes, where a good half of the runtime was watching Satoko disembowel Rika while remarking that Rika’s sin was yearning for a life outside of Hinamizawa. I’d never once recalled Rika stating this in the originals, but as the episodes passed by, it began to make sense. Trapped in a loop for upwards of a century, it made sense that Rika wanted to grow up, see the world and realise her potential.

With the most recent episodes and Satoko’s struggles, the fact that she’s unable to keep up academically and fit in with the upper echelons of society despite her efforts, gave me an incredible sense of unease. Given her previous love of traps and tricks, it felt a matter of time before Satoko became overwhelmed, and recalling what Hinamizawa Syndrome does to people, there was always the old possibility of Satoko going on a rampage, too. Once Gou began depicting what a post-1983 world was like, the series’ themes suddenly come out into the open. Change is indeed terrifying to think about, and even for people who thrive on change, constantly readjusting to new environments, meeting new people and facing new challenges represents a considerable burden.

I think that the fear of change also can bring about a secondary theme: what it takes to choose one’s own path in life. Rika has chosen her path, and St. Lucia represents a decision of her own volition. Conversely, Satoko’s unhappiness comes from this being Rika’s path; as she so viscerally states, Satoko had given up everything to be with Rika, and because of the conflicts this creates, Satoko finds herself increasingly isolated. We have seen the consequences of isolation in Higurashi, so Gou‘s setting us up for something big, and I am quite glad to have stuck it out. In retrospect, the weaker beginning might’ve been deliberately chosen to welcome viewers back to the format and style that is Higurashi.


I won’t make any final conclusions on the theme just yet, the show could very well go in a whole new direction, as is the case for Higurashi, but so far, I like that we are in agreement. A weak first half, that only gets better when the real story kicks into gear.

As of right now, I think Gou will do fine, but it won’t touch the original in terms of legacy, quality and sheer enjoyment. Higurashi: When they Cry is the rare show that earns all the accolades and adoration people have heaped on it for years. Brutal, violent, and horrific, it doesn’t forget to have a good cast of characters, and makes you care the villain once the story gets fully revealed. It could have easily been just a simple horror of the week set-up, but the author clearly had the ambition, and more importantly, the skill to go further. There is a mystery in every corner, one fully explained, with clues and hints expertly dropped even in the most minor of moments. If anything I credit Higurashi for having, and landing one of the best paradigm shifts ever done in anime, completely transforming itself and still making you come back for more. I thought YU-NO did it great, but Higurashi absolutely did it best.

As we put a pin on this discussion for now. Zen, what are your final thoughts on the series?


For Higurashi‘s original two seasons, it was a veritable masterpiece of an ending that closed off everything neatly, providing viewers with full closure and a sense of satisfaction that Rika found the means of escaping her fate through persistence, faith and trust in her friends. As you’ve said, Dewbond, it is the perfect blend of horror, supernatural mystery and even political thriller, wrapped up into a vivid tale of friendship and resilience. I left Higurashi with a smile on my face, knowing that no matter the odds, the human spirit can prevail.

As for Higurashi Gou, we’re still a ways from the finish line. Like you, I’ll reserve my judgment for when the entire series concludes and we can see what its contributions are to Higurashi. There is one thing that I will touch briefly on that we’ve not discussed: Kenji Kawaii (Gundam 00, Ip Man) does a phenomenal job with the music. He’s had an excellent track record with scoring horror movies, writing the incidental music to things like Dark Water and The Ring. The heavy instrumentation he uses creates a sense of suffocation, and light piano notes play on tensions in a moment. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Kawaii also composes the most easygoing and laid-back slice-of-life songs in the soundtrack, too. The dramatic contrasts in the music add greatly to the atmosphere in Higurashi, and with Kawaii’s music in Gou, I am glad they’ve opted to bring him back, as I’ve found the music to be an integral part of Higurashi.

  • With this post in the books, it should be clear that I am watching Gou on a weekly basis, and while the series initially was a tricky one to write about, recent developments have made Gou a lot more compelling. My schedule is absolutely insane at the present, so I will remark that it is a minor miracle that this collaboration was as on time as it was, and similarly, the fact that #TheJCS is in a minimally presentable state is also something of a miracle considering what’s been happening these past few weeks. I’ll explain what’s been going on this month that’s made it so tricky in due course, but for now, readers are assured that I am still (mostly) on target for everything I need to deliver, both for real life and for the esteemed community.

Dewbond and I have now covered the whole of Higurashi‘s original run, and even ventured into the realm of Gou to see how this story has been doing so far. Higurashi is a vividly rich and detailed story, capable of surprising and intimidating at every turn. Having said this, the scale and scope of the story in Higurashi has been a bit tricky for me to work with, and with this here collaboration between Dewbond and myself coming to a close, this is only my second proper post on Higurashi (with the first being our earlier collaboration). I do briefly mention Higurashi in my post about Call of Duty: Black Ops; the story in Higurashi would not feel out of place in a shooter about deadly biological weapons, government conspiracies and shadowy political dealings. At least for the time being, I don’t have any more Higurashi posts (I may return to write about Gou depending on how my schedule plays out), and for folks looking to read insightful discussions of Higurashi, Dewbond has thankfully risen to the occasion and then some!

More of Dewbond’s Higurashi Posts

Higurashi: When They Cry, Collaborating with Dewbond to Probe the Secrets of Hinamizawa

“Do not fuck with me, Maebara: I know when you’re lying!” –Jason Hudson

As the sun began setting on a quiet June evening in 2014, the land was cast in a warm golden light, and shadows began lengthening in my neighbourhood. I had been home, recovering from a minor operation to my jaw, and had remained home to recuperate. At the time, the Giant Walkthrough Brain project was well under way, and I’d planned my summer accordingly to ensure that this day wouldn’t impact the progress. During my time off, I decided to check out Higurashi: When They Cry at the behest of a friend. Intrigue seized me within an episode, and I managed to go through the entire first arc in an afternoon. The mysteries that Hinamizawa held were compelling, and far more than the horrific scenes of death, murder and torture, Higurashi: When They Cry‘s intrigue lay in the precise nature behind what is colloquially known as Oyashiro-sama’s Curse. As timelines reset, and I learnt more about this remote, sleepy village in deep in Gifu’s forest valleys, the enigma only deepened. After twenty-six episodes, what was known is that Oyashiro-sama’s Curse was an area myth designed to conceal something much more sinister: an unusual virus of unknown origin, and closes with a confrontation at the school. A striking horror-mystery, Higurashi: When They Cry caused quite a bit of a stir when it aired owing to its graphic portrayal of violence and immersive story. The questions posed in Higurashi: When They Cry would later be addressed in Higurashi: When They Cry Kai, and the end result was an exceptional journey of comprehension, friendship and overcoming fate itself. Of course, before reaching such a conclusion, it makes sense to revisit Higurashi: When They Cry‘s beginnings, and this time, I welcome Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime to look over things in details that are relevant to the story.

  • Until today, I’ve only ever mentioned Higurashi in the passing, usually for my Call of Duty: Black Ops related talks. I’m not sure if my perspective is widely shared, but I found that as disparate as Higurashi and Black Ops are, notions of madness, loyalty, doing what’s right and sinister hidden agendas are themes both series touch on during their run. Discussing series outside of my comfort zone with other bloggers is always an exciting thing, and before we delve into the main body of this post, I would like to note that the door is always open for collaborations: they’re a fantastic way for me to explore series in ways I’d not thought about.


It’s been a while since our last collaboration, and an even longer time since I watched Higurashi: When They Cry in full; I finished both seasons while working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain, and had absolutely found myself hooked by this series for its combination of horror and thriller elements. On one hand, there’s a mystery to figure out, but on the other, as I became familiar with Higurashi: When They Cry, it was apparent that every step forward would only result in suffering and death. However, the accumulated details all contribute in a meaningful way to unraveling Hinamizawa’s secrets, and while I may have forgotten the specifics, it is most fortuitous that Dewbond is here to offer his insight and thoughts into a series that has become very well-known. Higurashi: When They Cry is a massive series, and the sheer scope of its writing can initially appear overwhelming. Dewbond: you’ve come from a relatively recent journey through Higurashi: When They Cry (Higurashi from here on out for brevity’s sake); where would be a good place to start this party?


Thanks for having me back here Zen. As you say, I’ve only recently watched Higurashi, having jumped into it in the tail end of 2020. That was because, what we thought of the time, it was going to be remade, and I wanted to see what everyone was saying about the series. Having grown up in the fan-sub era, Higurashi was a series that was on everyone’s lips. A must see classic that was to many, their first steps into the horror genre. I think they couldn’t have picked anything better. Having watched both seasons, I can say that Higurashi earns those accolades and more.

As Higurashi is a series broken up into question and answer arcs, I think it would be best to discuss the first season as a whole, instead of going through piece by piece. I found that after I finish the first half, and without the knowledge of what was to come that the series did a wonderful job at being an episodic splatterfest, and that the constant shifting of characters and roles kept things fresh.

Who was the hero, the villain, the by-standers, the victims, it all kept constantly changing throughout the first half, and it made the show feel like, as Forrest Gump says, a box of chocolates. You never knew what you were going to get. Did you have that same feeling Zen?


The big-picture approach makes sense, and works because, since it has been six years since I binged this series, I’ve forgotten the smaller details! First, there was getting past the initial hurdle that was the violence! It was never the blood, guts and gore that bothered me, but rather, the psychological aspects behind it. The healthy human mind doesn’t have an inclination to take another human being apart, piece-by-piece, or desecrate a corpse, after all. The brutal contrast between Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko’s happy, everyday life and the horrific acts they inflict upon one another while under the effects of Oyashiro-sama’s curse immediately made it clear that the story in Higurashi was going to be anything but conventional.

Higurashi‘s first season was indeed an unpredictable box of active grenades: as insanity claims a perpetrator and victim alike in each of the arcs, Higurashi constantly kept us viewers guessing what would happen next. There was no precedence, no prior series that did anything quite like it; if Higurashi intended to grip viewers with a story that kept us viewers guessing, it certainly succeeded. After each of the question arcs, I felt like I was no closer to understanding what Oyashiro-sama’s curse was. However, seeing Keiichi and the others, time and time again, enjoying life in Hinamizawa, made one thing abundantly clear: no matter what atrocities were committed, I never once faulted them, counting the extraordinary circumstances in Hinamizawa as being the cause of their suffering, and so, over time, the shock of the violence became replaced by a sense of pity, as well as intrigue. Having Keiichi and his friends thus became a grounding rod of sorts for me: there was reason to follow the developments and see what awaited the characters.


They are very much a sort of grounding rod like you said, and the first half round of the series lives and dies on those characters. Despite the blood and gore, and the constant shifting if who is good or bad, the central cast is incredibly important.

What really stands out, is that despite being friends, and that friend being what carries the day in the final timeline, they are also people who aren’t ‘that’ close to each other. The paranoia, the fear, and most all the dark secrets. Despite the humor and good nature, all of them have a dark side, and when that is brought out by the Syndrome, we can see how quickly that friendship can fall apart.

That was always something that really pulled me in, something that a few animes do. When the ‘animeness’ of the characters is stripped away, when the illusion drops and instead they closely resemble real humans, with anger, rage, and violence. The best example in the first half is seeing Rena in the first question arc. The cutesy-kawaii girl, so common in that era, lose her absolute fucking mind is still really damn unsettling.

Rena herself is probably the mascot character of the show, and while the crown of most fucked up goes to Shion/Mion, she’s a close runner up. What do you think of our knife-wielding girl who just wants to take things home?


It suddenly strikes me that Higurashi represents, from a pessimist’s perspective, a very visceral representation of humanity as a whole – we’re only as nice as the system allows us to be, and in this case Oyashiro-sama’s curse feels like a simple catalyst that brings out the madness and irrationality amongst Rena, Keiichi and the others. In this case, the horror really lies in what acts ordinary people are perhaps capable of perpetrating when pushed over the edge. It’s a darkness that lies in all of us, and admittedly, I fear that quite a bit. It’s a thought that I have to willfully push out of my mind. Higurashi seems to be reminding viewers that madness is like gravity, requiring only a little push. Thus, when it comes to Rena, the contrast between her usual self and her paranoid, violent self is dramatic. Under ordinary conditions, Rena is the sort of person who brings the heart and warmth to a group – she’s a lot like CLANNAD’s Nagisa Furukawa in this way, gently reassuring the others and of course, possesses her infamous kawaii~ mode.

Especially through Rena, I think that the difference here is really to emphasise what fear, isolation and being left alone with one’s thoughts can do to people. Of course, even without the influence of Oyashiro-sama’s curse, Rena can be an intimidating individual, and for the viewer, this means that we’re never too certain what her next move will be. This uncertainty creates that suspense that makes Higurashi continually unexpected, and it does lead to the ever-present feeling that in Hinamizawa, Keiichi does not have anyone to reliably count on. Of course, despite her negative traits, when Rena is sane and rational, I always found her reactions to kyute things hilarious: she might be a brutal murderer when pressed, but where circumstances allow it, Rena is friendly, soft-spoken and kind. This puts her in sharp contrast with Mion Sonozaki, who is boisterous and always keeping an eye out for those around her. While Rena might be the scariest character for her unrestrained moments of insanity, however, I personally count Mion and Shion to be terrifying in their own right when pushed. Dewbond, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the heir of the Sonozaki family.


You are right to say that Rena is soft spoken and kind, but there is also a brutal edge to her, and put aside the insanity of the syndrome, there is, like I said, a deep dark side to her. The ability to commit murder, to turn from kawaii cute, to deeply unsettling is not something you just get from a sickness, it’s always there. That to me was one of the great thing that Higurashi did, and why I think it has become so beloved among the fan-sub generation. It pulls off the mask of cute anime girls and reveals that they are just as capable of doing things that can turn your stomach.

That is no better seen with the story of Shion and Mion. To compare to a western show. If Rena is the ending of Game of Thrones season 1, then Shion and Mion’s question and answer arc is the Red Wedding. Everyone who watches this show, or grew up in that era knows the moments, the gifs, the maddening laughter of the Sonozaki runner-up. Shion, being the most distant of the gang doesn’t seem to do much at the start, but when you get to her answer arc, you see that the author of Higurashi is a master at mystery and the revelations are some of anime’s best.

What really floored me, even months later, was the sheer cruelty of it all. While Rena’s madness can be tossed up to classic horror tropes, Shion’s is intense hatred, black as coal, and made only worse by the syndrome and the seemingly cold reaction from her sister. I’ll always find Mion’s ability to switch from happy-go-lucky group leader, to serious and no-nonsense family head to be damn effective. Not even her beloved sister is spared, even if there is great regret for it later.

As for Shion? Her one-sided love for Satoshi, who may not even had noticed her feelings drives her to do more and more irrational things, culminating in the brutal murder of Satoko who is, as we should remember, an ten or eleven year old girl. Having just come off Redo of Healer, not even that show can hold a candle to some of the moments Shion dishes out.

I want to know your thoughts on the sisters too Zen, but were you aware that Shion and Mion are not actually who they say they are, that they are actually their opposites? Shion was born Mion and Mion was born Shion? A single day where they switched identities for fun led them to be branded for life. I don’t think it was ever covered in the anime.


I am indeed aware of the switch. I think late in the first season (or somewhere in the second?), it was mentioned that the real Mion is Shion, and vice versa. That revelation had my head spinning, and it took me a little while to really get in my mind what happened. The switch, of course, makes Shion’s madness all the more apparent. Even under normal circumstances, Shion is manipulative and calculating; although her manner (especially towards Keiichi) might seem flirtatious and innocent, her choice of words and body language is indicative of someone who knows they’re in control. I do wonder if this is a consequence of the switch she and Mion had made years previously: since she and Mion constantly switch places, it is possible that Shion suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. If this were to be the case, in conjunction with her own insecurities, jealousy of Mion and inclination towards violence, Shion has the makings of a ticking time bomb. I think that her tortue of Satoko was probably one of the most brutal scenes in Higurashi, a shining example of where the series took things.

On Mion’s end, I’ve always been a bit more fond of her, even with the fact that she is the Sonozaki heir: unlike Shion, who conceals her cruelty and hate behind a friendly façade, Mion puts on a brave front, acting as the responsible leader amongst her group of friends, and her actual personality is someone who is shy and hesitant. Similarly, Mion’s serious manner when carrying out her duties as the Sonozaki heir suggests that she’s someone who never does anything halfway. Even after she orders Shion to tear out her own fingernails towards one of the end of an arc, I always got the impression that Mion is simply someone who would go to any lengths to defend what is dear to her, and as she never succumbs quite like the other characters do, it creates the sense that Mion is a reliable constant for keeping everyone else in check, too.


Mion is absolutely a leader, and we see it throughout each different arc. She’s a natural at it, often bringing the townspeople together and keeping her friends on the right path, but yes, she does that have that super serious mode like when she confronts her sister. However, it also comes with empathy, and we see that Mion tears out her own fingernails in order to try and share some of the suffering. She didn’t do what she did because she thought her sister was wrong, only because it was her responsbility as a clan head.

I always found that Mion herself was a character underused by the story, because most of what we see of her in the Sonozaki focused arcs is indeed Shion. I do agree that Shion herself is a character who seems to suffer from an identity crisis, and how fast she clings to Satoshi says to me that she seeks a place to belong, or someone who will love her unconditionally, or at least gives her security. We see how, when influneced by the syndrome, how little she thinks of Keiichi. To Shion, he is an imposter, taking over the role that Satoshi was suppose to have, and she can’t stand it.

One thing I want to note before we discuss Satoko, is that the Syndrome, despite being the cause, may only be a trigger for deeper, repressed memories and actions. While it does drive them all mad, I do think it also provides Rena, Keiichi and Shion an outlet for their madness. Taking the ‘safety off’ in some regards. They would always end up like this if they were pushed far enough. What do you think Zen?


Hinamizawa Syndrome, informally known as Oyashiro-sama’s Curse, is probably my single favourite aspect of Higurashi. Until it was revealed that the frightening events awaiting Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko had a scientific basis, the series remained a supernatural horror. The murders and disappearances that Oyashiro-sama’s Curse seems outside the characters’ control, and viewers were gripped in a state of constant uncertainty. It shows us how easily people can lose their shit, and the unspeakable acts of evil they can commit when no longer bound by reason. The true terror, of course, is the suggestion that anyone could be a monster. Admittedly, this is a thought I am, again, uneasy with: in Eli Wiesel’s Night, Wiesel relates his shock that civilised beings were reduced to grovelling on all fours like a beast during times of difficulty. The characters’ powerlessness had done an excellent job of conveying the horror aspects of Higurashi, but seeing each of Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko suffer was heart-wrenching.

However, with knowledge that Oyashiro-sama’s Curse was an unknown agent that inflicted mental breakdown in its victims, a topic of research, suddenly turned things around for the characters. Initially, this seems counterintuitive: I personally would have guessed that Hinamizawa Syndrome is caused by an unknown neurotopic, thermodependent, barodependent pathogen. Viruses are intimidating entities in their own right, insidiously hitching their way into a cell and hijacking its processes to ensure its own survival, often without concern for the host’s well-being. A virus that affects the nervous system would be especially frightening, and while I would love to say that Hinamizawa Syndrome is fictional, its effects on the victim are not dissimilar to the rabies virus, which attacks nerve cells and makes its way into the central nervous system. The symtoms manifest as aggression, mania and even paralysis. Similarly, there are viruses that are most active under a certain temperature range, and other viruses only become active under certain atmospheric pressures. Suddenly, the pathogen causing Hinamizawa Syndrome doesn’t seem so far-fetched: paranoia and formication do seem within the realm of what an entity can cause.

While viruses are not exactly a topic to be taken lightly, especially in light of recent events, the revelation that Hinamizawa Syndrome might have a viral origin, one that has been researched for a long time, also has an unusual, but effective impact on Higurashi: it gives viewers hope that the characters can overcome their inner darkness, however slim the odds are. Much as how placing faith in a rapidly-developed, novel vaccine in the face of a devastating virus is a gamble, the knowledge that Hinamizawa Syndrome has a biological origin initially seems of little comfort. However, seeing things from a scientific perspective means appreciating that a solution might just exist, no matter how small the probability is. For the first time, viewers get the sense that there is hope for Rika and the others. The fact that Hinamizawa Syndrome has a biological component affects each of the characters differently, but this would’ve been especially hard on Satoko, whose older brother, Satoshi, contracted Hinamizawa Syndrome and was taken away for study. This was devastating for her, and taken together with her family life, cannot have been easy for her.


Satoko was the character I wanted to talk about last, because she has the moment that is frankly the most disturbing, not only in the series, but also among anime in general. Anime characters going crazy is no real surprise, and even the insanity of Higurashi ends up becoming a bit blunted (but never not effective) by the end. What doesn’t though, is Satoko’s panic attack at the school. The terror, the vomiting, the constant apologizing, the denials of her trauma. All of it is deeply disturbing because it is real. Such things have no doubt happen to real people, and seeing such a proud and haughty young girl be so effected by her abusive uncle is very unsettling. It’s the one moment where Higurashi ‘gets real’ and in many ways it is the series most horrific moment.

I discussed this before when I gave my thoughts on Emergence, one of the most infamous hentai manga. The horror and shock value doesn’t come from the sex, or in this case the gore. Yes that works in the short term, but it is not what I remember Higurashi for (ok, well I’ll probably never forget many scenes, but run with me here).

I remember those brief moments where the line between fiction and reality are blurred, and an anime is able to almost perfectly capture a moment like it was real life. Sakoto’s abuse and the reaction she has is one of the moments and it hits hard. It’s made even worse by the constant stonewalling of Child Protection, and the truth that Satoko ‘cried wolf’ once before. Zen, did you feel the same way?


As you state, Dewbond, the horror in Satoko’s story does indeed come from the abuse she suffers at the hands of her uncle, and the fact that despite Keiichi et al.’s efforts to help her, they are initially unsuccessful. Moreover, viewers are forced into the others’ perspective – since we have no idea what precisely is happening to Satoko, our minds empathise with Keiichi. Higurashi succeeds here in making the viewers feel as helpless as Keiichi does; in reality, child abuse is an appalling act of depravity, and Satoko’s previous actions only further obfuscate things. Yes, Satoko is an integral part of the cast, and a valuable friend in difficult times, but given her usual antics, it is difficult to ascertain what’s going on with any confidence. Satoko further mentions that toughing it out seems to be the only way of bringing Satoshi back, and for me, this was probably the worst of it: a promise that was unlikely to ever be fulfilled. Her suffering is a recurring point throughout Higurashi, and from a narrative perspective, acts as a vital juncture for determining what fates await everyone.

In the first season of Higurashi, an impulse and brash Keiichi is only able to see what’s in front of him and ultimately kills Teppei, before suffering the consequences for his action. This was to demonstrate what awaits those who act rashly – yes, Teppei’s treatment of Satoko is reprehensible, but by taking the law into his own hands and taking a life, he sets himself down a path of no return. The second season has Keiichi stopping to consider what possible alternatives there might be to save Sakoto; by calling on help and pushing the Sonozakis to step in, Keiichi and the others save Satoko, allowing the authorities to do their job. If the first season had been about the cost of acting out of incomplete information, then the second season suggests the power of cooperation and putting faith in others.

I think that beyond being a visceral portrayal of child abuse, Satoko’s story is perhaps the best indicator of what Higurashi is about: alone, Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko are powerless against forces like Hinamizawa Syndrome, Tokyo and fate itself. Blood is spilt, characters descend to madness and suffering results. However, in being open and honest, both with one another, and those around them, they can find allies in the most unexpected of places and build the future that they seek. The question arcs isolate the characters and demonstrate their outcomes if they attempt to solo their challenge, and the answer arcs show an outcome where the characters, aware of what pitfalls lie ahead if they act rashly, make choices that are more sustainable for the long term. In doing so, this creates a superbly powerful story around Higurashi‘s original two seasons, and it is reasonable to say that this is where Higurashi truly excels: while the series might be a horror, it also suggests that the darkness within us, while ever present, is quelled and displaced by light when there are people in our corner.


I think you say it, as always, better than I could. There is a great degree of loneliness among the characters of Higurashi, and that syndrome high focuses on the bad and negative aspects of those feelings.

As we wrap up our look at the first season, I will that on its own, the first half of Higurashi is a masterwork in classic horror. The episodic nature, the way that questions are asked and answered, and how the mystery becomes bigger and bigger is still, even over a decade later, the default example in my mind, of how it do it. I like what you say about how Keiichi first tries to take matters into his own hands, and then realizing that he has to work within the system and use pressure, not a baseball bat. It’s a heartwarming end to the first half, but of course as with everything Higurashi, there is darkness in every corner.

What is even better though, is how Higurashi is able to do what so few series are capable up. Have a perfect paradigm shift in genre and tone. But we’ll talk about that, and the true hero, and villain of the series, next time.


Unsettling and gripping, Higurashi‘s first season is the shining example of what horror is – exiting this first season, it feels like the deck is completely stacked against our protagonists. I’ve always held horror to be a genre defined by the protagonists’ inability to respond to a threat. While broadly referring to a genre designed to evoke thoughts of fear or revulsion in viewers, an effective horror makes known to viewers just how powerless a given group of characters are against their foe. Seeing arc upon arc conclude in a bloody fashion, Higurashi has driven this point home and then some.

However, as you’ve stated, Dewbond, we undergo a change in Higurashi by the second season: having established what is, and how incomplete information results in grisly ends for Keiichi and the others, Higurashi Kai turns things around in a manner that, until then, was something I’d certainly never seen before.

  • For folks wondering, I am indeed watching Higurashi: Gou this season. I was initially curious to see what the project would be about, and insofar, it’s been a curious journey so far. It goes without saying that Gou requries Higurashi to fully appreciate, since there are references back to the original. I’ll probably do a talk on the entire Higurashi series, from the original season back in 2006 all the way to the events of Gou in the future, but for now, there’s the second half of this collaboration with Dewbond, and the remainder of Gou, to go through.

What awaits us in this collaboration’s second half is nothing short of exciting. Higurashi Kai had been an exceptionally fun ride, and while it’s been some six-and-a-half years since I watched it in full, I still recall the series’ details in great detail. Observant readers will have noticed that in this first half, we’ve left out a few central players. This is deliberate: Higurashi is a vast series, and to do it justice, our collaboration has been spit into two halves. In the second part, we will return to looks over the answer arcs. As the mystery begins giving way to facts, the horror in Higurashi slowly gives way to a world that I am familiar with, and especially fond of discussing. As such, Dewbond and I will both take a short breather here, gather our thoughts and then proceed to the second half – stay tuned! In the meantime, for folks who are interested, Dewbond also has a separate, and insight, set of thoughts on Higurashi‘s first season. I’ve never actually written about Higurashi until now: this is a series with both depth and breadth, and I never did feel I could adequately distill out its core messages in a single post, or set of posts, since there’s a very intricate, well-written story at Higurashi‘s core. Every detail needs to be considered in order to draw a satisfactory conclusion from things for a series like Higurashi, and, as collaborations demonstrate, having an extra set of eyes on things has been superbly helpful towards unraveling the enigmas behind what is one of the most well-done horror-mysteries around.