The Infinite Zenith

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Jon’s Creator Showcase: A Summer Extravaganza, Celebrating July 2022’s Finest Content From Around The Community

“A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.” –Yehuda Berg

Foreword

According to the archives, the last time I hosted Jon’s Creator Showcase was back in February 2021, where I had the honour of being the first to showcase the freshest posts from around the community. Eighteen months have elapsed since then, and significant changes in my life have been the reason behind why I’ve not hosted until now. However, having foreseen that things might slow down enough for me to participate again, it is my pleasure to host Jon’s Creator Showcase for the month of August 2022. Jon’s Creator Showcase is an initiative that has its origins in 2017, when Jon Spencer Reviews opened a programme to celebrate and share content from around the community. The rules are simple: the host invites content creators (ranging from bloggers and YouTube creators, to published authors, E-commerce store owners and everything in between) to share their content via Twitter, tag it with #TheJCS so hosts can find the content, and then invite more people to participate. Traditionally, Jon’s Creator Showcase posts have become gargantuan posts as I strive to really feature all of the submissions, so this time around, I’ve elected to go with something a little different. Before I turn the floor over to the real stars of the show, the forty-two content creators who’ve submitted something, I decided to indulge my curiosity and see if there were any interesting patterns and trends among the submissions received for this Jon’s Creator Showcase.

  • If memory serves, the last time I hosted Jon’s Creator Showcase would’ve been back in February 2021, over a year and a half ago. While I had expressed interest in hosting again, the main reason why I ended up choosing the August slot was because by November last year, I’d known that a move had been on my schedule, and therefore, to ensure I had ample time to ensure all my ducks were lined up, I decided to pick a time later in the year. August proved to be a good choice: while this month has been busy, I was able to both maintain my blog and complete Jon’s Creator Showcase.

Remarks on Community Trends

Firstly, I would like to thank all forty-two of the content creators for participating. The first metric worth mentioning is that this is the single largest Jon’s Creator showcase I’ve had the honour to host. Over these forty-two submissions, there were forty blog posts and two videos. Among the forty blog posts, 57632 words were written, which corresponds to an average of about 1441 words per post. I ended up looking at two other metrics for these posts, as well (Figure I). The first of these is the Flesch-Kincaid score, which is a measure of readability. A score approaching 100 means a passage is very easy to read and is readily understood, while a score approaching 0 is extremely difficult to read. The average Flesch-Kincaid score among the submissions is 62.2, which corresponds to text that is easily understood by middle to high school students. Writing in easy-to-understand terms is a sign of effective communication, and it is evident that this cohort of Jon’s Creative Showcase submissions are very well-written. The other metric I have looked at is sentiment analysis, which measures how positive, neutral or negative a given bit of text is. While I found the natural-language processing algorithm utilised to be somewhat inconsistent (there were cases where the algorithm assigned a post to be negative when it should have been marked positive), interesting results arose from carrying out sentiment analysis on the submissions. Overall, the sentiment averages out to neutral (-6.67). With three metrics, it became possible to determine if there were any patterns in the submissions. It turns out that there is a very weak correlation between post length and readability: posts become slightly less readable the longer they are. Conversely, there is no significant correlation between post length and sentiment. This should be unsurprising: when people wish to express their criticisms or praises of something, they will do so in a manner of their preference, and seeing no correlation here suggests that the submissions are indeed as diverse as the means of expression. This is a sign that the community is very healthy and supportive of diverse, varied styles and approaches.

  • Figure I: Summary of Jon’s Creator Showcase portraying the trends for submissions. This is the surprise I was referring to on Twitter, and was motivated by the fact that, for previous Jon’s Creator Showcases, my previous format was not sustainable if that month received a larger number of submissions. However, it also hit me that, with a larger number of submissions, it would be fun to see if there were any trends and patterns among the submissions. Although my original plan had been to do more metrics and write less, August had arrived so suddenly that I didn’t have time to plan out everything, and this Jon’s Creator Showcase thus ended up being a compromise, allowing me to write a little less than before, and at the same time, do something a little differently.

Just for kicks, I also decided to see what would happen if readability and sentiment scores were plotted against one another. Based purely on the submissions, it appears that the less readable a post is, the more it trends towards a slightly negative sentiment. Although more information would be needed to draw any concrete conclusions from this outcome, it is possible that people tend to be more direct when using neutral or negative language. Finally, I plotted out submission patterns to see if there were any noteworthy trends in when content creators replied to the Twitter thread and submitted their content. It is unsurprising that almost all of the submissions happen within the first week of the month, and initially, the topics submitted are most similar to the host’s content. Since I write largely about anime, most of the submissions in the beginning were anime related. What is interesting is the surge of gaming related posts from the sixth of August, which suggests that one of the participants nominated a blogger with a gaming focus, and this subset of the community became very enthusiastic about participating. A few posts did trickle in later in the month, rounding out the submissions, and over the course of August, I had a great deal of fun in assembling this post and seeing what sort of content is out there. Since submissions tend to cluster around the early parts of a month, a host can keep up with things by logging all submissions, and then slowly chip away at their post. I’ve found that doing this is the best way of keeping up and still have enough time left over if anything unforeseen should happen: I don’t mind admitting that because of how Twitter’s mention system worked, I actually missed all of the posts from August 6 until I went back and checked the #TheJCS tags. Luckily, I did have the presence of mind to check, so I hope I’ve not missed anyone. I have now hogged the spotlight for long enough, and without further delay, I present this post’s highlight: forty-two excellent submissions that showcase the insightfulness, diversity and energy within the community.

The August 2022 Showcase

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bladeworks (2014) Route 1 Alternative – Should You Start Here? (Jon Spencer, @JS_Reviews)

Jon Spencer Reviews opens up this showcase with a breakdown of where a novice should start with the Fate franchise. This article is perfect for a greenhorn such as myself: for long, I’ve put off with Fate because of how much content there is, and while fans of the series greatly enjoy discussing the series in all of its glory, from character dynamics and themes, to philosophical implications, it leaves first-timers out in the cold. Jon Spencer’s post, on the other hand, rectifies this: not only is an order supplied for beginners, but there is also a substantial explanation backing the order he recommends. Simply put, watching things in a certain order helps to extend the storytelling, and clarify things that may otherwise appear more challenging. This becomes especially helpful because now, I’ve got the foundations for making a decision: if I were to go down the route of watching only the newer adaptations, I would start at Fate/Zero. This is actually what I’d been planning to do, since I’ve heard that Zero is the starting point. A large part of why the blogging community is so valuable is because of posts such as these; armed with Jon Spencer Review’s suggested viewing order, it really does appear that I can no longer say that concern about where to begin watching Fate is an impediment. With this being said, the community does know me as a bit of a procrastinator, so I hope that Jon isn’t terribly surprised when I come back in a year or two and then say, I’ve got my own thoughts on Fate/Zero finally written out!

College Craze Review [Indie Spotlight] (Tequila, @CoreReviews)

It’s not often when one can find a game that fulfils all of the elements they’d sought out, but Tequila of Core Reviews has experienced such a title in College Craze, which is a dating simulator set in the post-secondary. The game allows one to simulate every aspect of their post-secondary, from academics to social life with an exceptional level of depth. In fact, according to the developers, a sophisticated decision engine allows for over a thousand possible outcomes based on one’s decisions, which Tequila praises for mimicking real life, and moreover, College Craze doesn’t shy away from dealing with more difficult topics like consent, abuse and the like. Overall, Tequila’s impressions of College Craze is positive, and brings to mind a similar set of criteria I have when hunting down new games. While I’m most unlike Tequila in that I play first-person shooters almost exclusively, I share the same appreciation for a game well done. Having said this, I’ve never quite found any one game that allows me to check off all of the things I’d like in a game (a semi-open world first person shooter set in Japan and China about biological warfare, with a deep weapons customisation system, and meaningful decisions that impact outcomes in a tangible fashion), but this too is a positive: it allows me to try out a variety of games. However, I will note that my preferences limits me to what action titles can yield, and so, it is always enjoyable to read what people play, as well as specific details behind what makes different games so engaging for different people.

Anime Review: Kaguya-sama: Love is war – Ultra Romantic (Odaisensei, @Odaisensei1)

In a glowing review of Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Odaisensei offers readers a strong recommendation for the series’ comedy and romantic aspects. Despite there being only thirteen episodes to work with, Kaguya-sama: Love is war – Ultra Romantic makes full use of every moment to develop the characters to an extent where they believably bounce off one another and grow. Beyond this, the sound and visual aspects are also praised. That Odaisensei suggests that Kaguya-sama: Love is war is something that folks would enjoy, even if it’s outside of their typical preferences, is telling: I’ve said this myself in previous reviews when a series is especially impressive, to the point where one needn’t have an extensive background in a given genre and its traits. While at first glance, a priori knowledge of a genre and its style might be helpful, it turns out that these smaller details only serve to enhance a story. A solidly-executed work succeeds on virtue of its characters, storyline and themes to capture the excitement of general views, and then smaller details will wow more dedicated viewers. Yuru Camp△ is one such example on my end: for folks who don’t watch slice-of-life, showing universally relatable themes (such as solo versus group activities and the merits of both) makes the series one that almost anyone can enjoy, while outdoorsmen and cooks will enjoy the attention paid to detail in things like how to light a fire, or preparing a delicious outdoors meal. It is plain that Odaisensei greatly enjoyed Ultra Romantic and has done an excellent, but also concise, job of selling this series. I’ve now developed a curiosity to see things for myself: longtime readers are familiar with my love for slice-of-life and military moé, but I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion on recommendations from viewers, and it looks to be the case that Ultra Romantic will probably not disappoint, either.

New Video Added! – How To Train Your Dinosaur (ManInBlack, @MibIH)

For Jon’s Creative Showcase, ManInBlack submits a completed video of RentaDinosaur – How To Train Your Dinosaur!. As a part of the creative work that ManInBlack does for the community, he edits videos for the RentaDinosaur team, a British company that brings excitement to events and parties. The resulting videos are used for marketting and promotional purposes, and in this post, the video ManInBlack shares is clear, funny and plainly sells what RentaDinosaur does. The video reminds me of the promotional videos that the founder for my previous company had made as a part of our social media marketting work, and having seen him at work, I appreciate the effort that goes into making these videos. ManInBlack has done a fantastic job of this video, and it is great to see the final product approved: I don’t have the video here, but readers should definitely swing by ManInBlack’s blog and check out the finished RentaDinosaur video for themselves!

EP 68: Kids of the Slope w/ Religiously Nerdy (FatherOfVash, @DadNeedsToTalk)

Podcasts have their origins with Apple’s iPods, when content creators of their time created audio shows that could easily be played on media players or portable devices. Although they are associated with the iPod, podcasting has since been an umbrella term that refer to all audio discussions. The biggest advantage about a podcast is that, as a pure-audio format, it leaves one to listen in the background, just like a radio programme. FatherOfVash’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase is the only podcast, and the topic is Kids on the Slope, an anime dating back a decade that follows Kaoru Nishimi after he moves to Sasebo, Nagasaki. Widely praised for its portrayal of friendship and male relationships, Kids on the Slope began as a manga series and was adapted into an anime for the spring season, running for a total of twelve episodes. FatherOfVash is joined by Ellie, Tobi and Toyin, who go over a plethora of topics that the anime brings up, and in this conversation, it felt as though I were attending a panel at an anime convention. The podcast and Zoom-style format creates a more dynamic discussion that’s a world apart from the blog posts I’m most accustomed to, and watching FatherOfVash’s podcast all the way through reminds me of how even talking with one other person about an anime can lead to interesting tangents, new perspectives and laughter as one shares their thoughts. FatherOfVash’s podcast runs for an hour and nineteen minutes, which is a shade longer than the length of an average panel at my local convention, but it does provide a broad set of thoughts on an anime that looks quite worthwhile for fans looking for a slice-of-life series that deals with a range of social and interpersonal topics.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Ultra Romantic: Breaking those Limits (Dewbond, @ShallowDivesAni)

“Damn well written” and “one of the best anime I’ve seen” is how Dewbond characterises Kaguya-sama: Love is war – Ultra Romantic. My curiosity to check this anime out now doubles as a consequence of reading Dewbond’s typical fashion for presenting compelling, persuasive arguments for why something is worthwhile. It is telling that Dewbond also counts this series’ comedy and heartfelt character interactions as a plus, with Ultra Romantic especially excelling by pushing the characters’ relationship forward where most series would maintain the status quo for fear of portraying things incorrectly. There is a reason why comedy is featured so prominently in romance series: falling in love is touching, but when it’s new love, even seasoned veterans approach it as a touch-and-go problem, treading as carefully as though one were navigating a minefield. When things invariably blow up or backfire even from good intentions, the awkwardness can elicit a few understanding smiles. However, this contributes to the pay-off as things become more serious. To my great surprise, Dewbond also indicates that there’s going to be a film and new season on top of things. With this, I’ve now got two ironclad reasons to give Ultra Romantic a go, with the same caveat as I do for all the recommendations that come across my path: I’ll actually have to find time to do so. There is one consolation: anime films and new seasons do take some time to appear, so at the very least, it would appear that so long as I start within the next twelve months, I could probably catch up: Dewbond has previously succeeded in convincing me to go through Gundam SEED, and from this momentum, I would finish Gundam SEED: Destiny before the movie came out, too.

Space Pirate Captain Harlock – The Power To Save Yourself (Scott, @MechAnimeReview)

In titling this post “The Power To Save Yourself”, Scott provides an insightful glimpse into Captain Harlock, protagonist of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, an older anime that was adapted from the manga in 1978 and follows Harlock as he participates in various operations against the alien Mazone in a world where humanity has become a space-faring civilisation. With an incredibly rich cast and deep world for Harlock to explore, facets of Harlock’s personality beome explored over time, bringing this intricate and complex character to life. While the characters are lifelike, and the stories are compelling, Scott notes that owing to the fact that Space Pirate Captain Harlock is an older anime, the visuals feel dated, and some of the values presented no longer hold true. In spite of these niggles, Scott greatly enjoyed Space Pirate Captain Harlock: he counts it as being among his top thirty, and with a thousand shows under his belt, this means that Space Pirate Captain Harlock would be in the 97th percentile, an impressive placement indeed. Going through Scott’s post on Space Pirate Captain Harlock leads me to the classic question of whether or not old anime should be brought into the modern era through things like movies or reboots, the same way Cucuruz Doan’s Island explores one of Amuro’s adventures in greater detail using contemporary visuals, or how Modern Warfare 2019 takes aspects from its 2007 incarnation and tells a story with increased relevance in today’s political landscape. On one hand, remasters and reboots could dramatically improve the visuals to immerse viewers in a hitherto unparalleled fashion, as well as shine more light on topics and values that are more dated, or perhaps skipped over in the original. However, reboots may also prove unfaithful to the originals. Regardless of which outcome applies for the classics, Scott’s final verdict is concrete: Space Pirate Captain Harlock is a series worth checking out.

25 Amazing Anime With Diverse Characters (YumDeku, @YumDeku)

Because I grew up in Canada, multiculturalism and diversity is a part of life: I think nothing of the fact that there’s a store selling Chinese medicine right beside an Indian Restaurant, and across the street is a Greek-style tavern. In YumDeku’s submission, we’ve gotten our first list for this Showcase: twenty-five culturally diverse anime. I won’t spoil any of the inclusions and encourage readers to check out this list: it suddenly hits me that I’ve not seen any of the shows presented. However, a glance at the series finds that all of the anime here are equally diverse in genre as they are with their characters, and moreover, many of these anime are older series. Japan is culturally homogenous, and this is most evident in slice-of-life genre, which focuses on self-discovery and other things surrounding the ordinary lives of Japanese folks. Outside of slice-of-life, the sheer creativity and imagination that goes into other genres means anime are afforded with an unparalleled chance to explore the world well beyond Japan, whether they be fantasy worlds, alternate histories, or dramatisations of the real world. Anime has been culturally diverse and multicultural for a non-trivial amount of time, and as a result, have had plenty of opportunity to celebrate this; having people of all backgrounds and ethnicities makes a series more lifelike, believable, adding to each of the anime on this list. In summarising an impressive number of series (there’s actually ten more honourable mentions), YumDeku presents readers with a fantastic launch point for getting started, and I remark here that such lists have previously helped me to become introduced to anime that I now count among my masterpieces.

Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? by Harold Schechter & Eric Powell: A Darkly Fascinating Biography of America’s Most Disturbing Serial Killer – Comic Review (BiblioNyan, @AdmiralNyan)

BiblioNyan’s submissions for this Jon’s Creator Showcase is a literature review of Harold Schechter and Eric Powell’s Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?, which is a graphic novel that portrays Edward Gein, who became known by the moniker Butcher of Plainfield after he became known for exhuming corpses and making keepsakes from the remains, as well as committing two murders. In this graphic novel, Gein’s life is described from childhood, profiling a troubled past where his mother was a dominant figure in his life, and compelling readers to continue turning the pages as crimes and disappearances plague the town of Plainfield, Wisconsin. BiblioNyan finds this graphic novel a highly captivating read, brilliantly presenting a horrific story in a shocking manner. In their review of Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?, BiblioNyan presents a powerful recommendation, and I am reminded of a book sitting on my shelf: Feng Chi-Shun’s Hong Kong Noir, which writes of a dark side of Hong Kong few people considered. One of the most vivid and gruesome stories in Hong Kong Noir is the Hello Kitty murder, whose details are sickening (which I won’t recount here) and speak to the fact that human depravity has no limits. Like BiblioNyan, I find such stories fascinating, although they also remind me of the horrors that people can commit. However, unlike BiblioNyan, I don’t have a stomach for visuals, and while I am drawn to murder mysteries of this sort, I’m most comfortable reading about them through words. Seeing the pictures is a bit much for me, so I do appreciate that BiblioNyan, in their post, clearly indicates that this graphic novel contains imagery of mutilation and cannibalism.

Lycoris Recoil Episode 4 Review – Best In Show (Terrance Crow, @CrowsAnimeWorld)

Lycoris Recoil is said to be this season’s counterpart to Luminous Witches, being a military moé series following a task force of high school aged operators who carry out wet operations against terrorists and criminals. However, unlike the military moé anime I typically watch, Lycoris Recoil is a ways more grim. However, even then, this anime still has its light-hearted moments: Crow walks readers through some of the most engaging moments of the fourth episode, which focus on the characters’ choice of undergarments and the comedy surrounding what is sure to be an awkward conversation. While this creates comedy, Crow also suggests that this comedy sets up for darker moments later in the series. The trends that Crow spots in Lycoris Recoil is one that is employed in a large number of anime, and is a recurring trend because it helps to humanise the characters. In recalling such moments in Lycoris Recoil, Crow reminds viewers that while Chisato and Takina might be wet operatives (wet in the sense of being assassins), there’s still a person behind the trigger. This is something that helps viewers to empathise with the characters and create a reason to follow their experiences. In celebrating this aspect of Lycoris Recoil, Crow’s submission reminds me that I should probably get a move on in this series: it’s been on my watchlist since several readers have indicated that the anime is up my alley, and I’ve always been fond of series that can expertly juxtapose moments of combat and trouble with calm, slice-of-life experiences and conversations. It is refreshing to see that I’m not the only person who appreciates such a contrast, and Crow’s presentation of the fourth episode to Lycoris Recoil is another reminder that my ever-growing backlog is perhaps out pacing my ability to enjoy things!

Anime Corner: Princess Connect! Re: Dive Season 2 Review (neverarguewithafish, @ChrisGJoynson)

neverarguewithafish delves into Princess Connect! Re: Dive‘s second season, and just a few sentences in, it is plain that I’m in for yet another wonderful recommendation; the second season to Princess Connect! takes the elements that were established in the first and expands them into full-fledged stories that leave viewers curious to learn more. Even though this continuation leaves some lingering questions, the character growth and animation is of a high standard, leaving to a conclusion that’s as plain as day: Princess Connect! Re: Dive‘s second season is worth checking out, and in neverarguewithafish’s words, I’m going to have to pick this one up, on top of all the other shows that have receieved recommendations: Princess Connect! is on my (procrastinating) radar. From neverarguewithafish’s review, two things immediately come to mind. The first is that Princess Connect! sounds a great deal like GochiUsa and Machikado Mazoku in that both anime, although they’re both slice-of-life, started out with a slower first season to establish the world and their characters before opening the throttle and diving into thematic elements that really help viewers to connect with everyone. The other point here that is worth raising is that neverarguewithafish has managed to sell me on Princess Connect! without spoiling any of the plot points at all. This is an impressive feat: I’ve never been able to do spoiler-free reviews because I’m entirely dependent on a story’s outcomes to draw out its messages and convey this to viewers, so it’s always fantastic to read writers with a skill for presenting an anime’s strengths and weaknesses without exposing mission-critical elements to folks who’ve not seen something for themselves.

Fav 4 Anime or Video Game Fighters (Matt-in-the-Hat, @MattXnVHat)

Blog tagging activities pre-date social media, and in fact, can be seen as a precursor of sorts to Jon’s Creative Showcase in that they operate on similar rules. For this submission, Matthew of Matt-in-the-Hat presents four of his favourite fighters from anime and video games, providing a summary of what makes each fighter so commendable: Son Gohan of Dragon Ball, Bleach‘s Yoruichi Shihōn, Sub-Zero from Mortal Combat and Street Fighter‘s very own Chun-Li make this list. What each of these fighters have in common is a sense of honour and integrity in conjunction with their physical prowess. For me, I’m most familiar with Chun-Li, since I’ve got a Street Fighter fan in the family. I still remember how when I was younger, Chun-Li was the only character I could use with any reliability thanks to her Hyakuretsukyaku, which can be executed simply by mashing the kick button. Of course, I don’t mind admitting that Chun-Li’s thighs are also appealing to me: I’ll leave readers to make of this what they will, and return focus to the post itself; Matthew tags four more bloggers to continue this party, and this represents a fantastic way to engage members of the community. I’ve participated in only a few of these tagging posts previously, but it’s always fun to know that people do remember my blog well enough to tag me, and it similarly represents a chance to spread the love to other blogs. Social media has simplified this somewhat, although it is good to see that these activities are still practised in the community, speaking the blogging community’s healthy respect for both old and new alike.

My Dress-Up Darling (Episodes 1-4) – Self-Confidence is Infectious! (Lynn, @TheOtakuAuthor)

An anime excels when its messages are so clear that viewers of all backgrounds end up drawing the same conclusion, and Lynn of Otaku Author’s breakdown of self-confidence in My Dress-Up Darling bring to mind the very things that captivated me about this anime. The first four episodes do a fantastic job of presenting several different themes. First and foremost, Marin’s popular and well-regarded not because of who she’s trying to be, but because of who she is, and this creates a powerful juxtaposition between herself and Wakana, who’s a bit more reserved about what he loves. Unlike Marin, who is unabashedly forward about what she likes, Wakana’s past experiences meant he’s worried about being judged for his hobbies. These elements play off Wakana, who slowly opens up and embraces the crafting of cosplay as a part of his journey. Along the way, Wakana also realises there’s a deeper reason behind putting in an effort to find success; he wants to see Marin smile. Lynn’s remarks about accepting oneself is especially moving: one is only as beautiful as how they see themselves, and this is where My Dress-Up Darling truly excels. Much as how Wakana is able to live life more fully and embrace his love for hina dolls, and how Marin is filled to the brim with excitement and life, I’ve found that the people in my life I most enjoy being with are those who are completely at peace with who they are, and pursue a life of maximising the things that make them happiest without worrying about being judged. These messages are especially relevant and important in an age where social media creates the impression that the grass is greener on the other side, and when presented with something like My Dress-Up Darling, which encourages people to accept their own inner beauty and wear this with confidence, one is reminded to count their blessings.

Lycoris Recoil – 03 (FlareKnight, @Flare0Knight)

FlareKnight of Anime Evo submits a review and discussion of Lycoris Recoil‘s third episode, praising the episode for focusing on two characters with different objectives and desires, but whose interactions help the pair to cooperate better despite these differences. The dynamics between the other characters are further explored as Flare Knight explains the significance behind what happens in this episode and how what’s seen here may potentially be relevant later down the line. The fun about posts like these (which are similar in style to what I do) is seeing how close we are as a series progresses. While sometimes, we’re spot on owing to being familiar with a genre, other times, series can find ways of surprising us, and this is what gives the exercise worth. Standing in contrast with the fourth episode, which Crow has presented, it appears this third episode has a much larger emphasis on the human side of the Lycoris operators. Finally, it’s always uplifting to see writers describe episodes as being fun; something one can smile about is sometimes precisely what’s needed. It is apparent that with FlareKnight’s post, which opens with the header “Grade: A”, readers would be given another, excellent reason for giving this series a go. Here, I will remark that I’m quite familiar with Anime Evo: I was introduced to the site through AnimeSuki’s former moderator and a peer, Flower, who had wondered if I would be curious to guest-blog about Brave Witches some six years earlier. Although this opportunity never came to pass, I always enjoyed the different perspectives that Anime Evo brought to the table through its small but devoted group of authors. Today, FlareKnight’s doing a solid job of keeping the blog going, and I find myself wishing him to be a closer part of the Jon Spencer community.

A Review of Made in Abyss (S1) (A K, @sonata_no1)

Although I’d said to A K that I’d give Made in Abyss a go as soon as time freed up in my bewilderingly busy schedule, the moment A K indicates there’s a horror piece to Made in Abyss, one which stands in stark contrast with the art style, his post had my full, undivided attention: the world the characters inhabit is a dangerous one, and there’s hazards at every turn, but ultimately, teamwork and cooperation is what helps the characters to get through what would otherwise be incredibly difficult ordeals, the most horrific of which is what happens to some of the characters experience when they meet a villain who experiments on children and creates Eldritch horrors. The scope of the story in Made in Abyss ends up being quite compelling despite some of the shortcomings, and A K concludes on the note that Made in Abyss is worthwhile for its world-building, characters and the driving story, which conveys both beauty and horror. Having read this post in full now, I’ve more information to make a call on whether or not this one joins my watchlist. On one hand, I’ve a weakness for body horror; while I have no qualms with watching a 50-cal go to town on people, body horror is something that unsettles me to an uncommon extent. However, seeing the juxtaposition between the grotesque and pleasing in a well-written world is also quite enticing. Coupled with the fact that A K mentions that there’s nothing like The Animatrix’s Second Renaissance, and since the violence was, admittedly, a factor in my original decision to pass over Made in Abyss five years earlier, it is reassuring to know that we won’t be seeing anything quite as graphic. This is the joy of having reviews of all sorts; on some occasions, they greatly clarify what one is getting into, and beyond answering the question of whether or not a work proved enjoyable for an individual, the discussion can also offer insight into other questions that readers may have.

The Observation Deck: Odd Taxi (Jack Scheibelein, @AniObservations)

For this Jon’s Creator Showcase, Jack Scheibelein submits a recommendation for Odd Taxi, a 2021 anime that received critical acclaim for its gripping mystery story surrounding a taxi driver who becomes entangled in things, but to keep viewers captivated, Odd Taxi rolls the curtain back smartly, revealing just enough to keep one captivated while at the same time, deliberately introducing complex dialogue to keep viewers guessing. In spite of this, Odd Taxi is never too complex, allowing viewers to work things out for themselves and enjoy the story for what it accomplishes. Moreover, by using highly stylised characters, Odd Taxi is able to convey a great deal about each individual and their dialogue. A quick look at the series would suggest that the deliberate choice of using animals for the characters allows for the series to eliminate biases that might accompany people, and this enables viewers to fully focus on the dialogue and mysteries that protagonist Hiroshi Odokawa encounters during his drives: in this way, the series is able to succeed with simpler visuals. Although Jack Scheibelein writes that hype can often dampen enthusiasm for a series, Odd Taxi appears to be one of those rare exceptions in that it lives up to expectations. Hype is indeed a challenge when it comes to picking and choosing anime; there are cases where people may not fully express their reasons for enjoying something, and this can create expectations that cannot be fulfilled. However, hype also becomes an interesting indicator of a work’s ability to capture the viewer’s interests, and if a work is almost universally acclaimed, it achieves this because it plainly struck the right chords with many viewers. I myself have not looked at Odd Taxi, but reading Jack Scheibelein’s review of it strips away some of the mystery behind the hype: with this post, I’ve seen one well-presented set of perspectives on the show, and this leaves me one step closer to deciding whether or not I should give this ago.

Edens Zero Chapter 200 Review – Alternative (Haru, @OtakuSpaceBlog)

Haru of Otaku Space drops readers into the heart of Edens Zero‘s two-hundredth manga chapter, and expresses enthusiasm that despite having run for a nontrivial amount of time, this manga still continues to surprise in a positive way; even though Eden’s Zero has had this much development, there’s always more to show, and the manga shows no sign of easing back on the throttle. Long-running manga often fall into a trap of becoming repetitive or stale, but Haru finds that this isn’t even a concern for Edens Zero, giving the latest chapters a perfect score and expressing complete enjoyment of things every step of the way. The feeling of total satisfaction in a work comes from a longtime investment into said work yielding an outcome that is well-deserved, an appropriate payout. While I’m not familiar with Edens Zero by any stretch, this is a feeling that I completely relate to; seeing the winding, bumpy path characters take to achieve their goals and overcome their problems makes successes more rewarding, and watching the process unfold is gripping. Haru’s review of Eden Zero’s two hundredth chapter also provides for readers an example of how to format a manga review: back in April, I concluded my read-through of Harukana Receive when the ninth and ten volumes became available at the local bookstore, but I had no way of actually reviewing it in my usual style because manga pages convey multiple events, and this leaves me in a bind, since I would subsequently need to talk about the whole panel. Haru’s post, on the other hand, takes panels from the manga to convey some of the strongest moments while at the same time, allowing the writing to convey what’d worked so well. If I am to write about manga in the future, I see Haru’s formatting one approach I could take: I might’ve been in the blogging game for over a decade now, but I’m always impressed by what other bloggers do, and have no objections to learning from what different folks in the community do to convey their enjoyment of a given work.

Ranking 12 Times Dvorak’s New World Symphony was Used in Anime (moyatori, @The_Moyatorium)

Classical music is a big deal in anime, and when blogging veterans like Moya of the Moyatorium presents a discussion of how classical music can create vivid memories of a certain scene when used in anime, readers are in for an excellent show. In this post, Moya covers use of Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony, which has been heard in no fewer than twelve anime. After presenting a brief history of the New World Symphony, Moya jumps right to rating how well each of the twelve anime utilise the piece in order of efficacy. Legend of the Galactic Heroes takes the top spot, utilsing the symphony at several iconic moments to convey the scope and scale of battle. Although Moya claims to be not knowledgeable in classical music, the opposite holds true: this post is a fantastic demonstration of how important music is to a work, and when anime utilise classical music in place of custom-made incidental music, there is a reason for doing so; it allows for directors to immediately create an emotional tenour viewers are immediately familiar with. This is an effective technique, and while I’ve seen use of New World Symphony’s second movement in Hibike! Euphonium, I’ve not seen any of the anime on this list (which speaks poorly about me as an anime fan). Having Moya’s list provides a broader perspective on how music can be used in different contexts to convey very different ideas. However, even to a music novice like myself, I definitely appreciate the use of classical music in different anime contexts. For instance, Schubert’s Ellens dritter Gesang (Ave Maria) was originally composed for The Lady of The Lake, a romance surrounding the legend of King Authur, and in anime with a predominantly female cast (Madoka Magica and Yuri Kuma Arashi), the song comes to signify the presence of romantic feelings, akin to what was seen in The Lady of the Lake. I’m not the first to comment on the creativity of posts like these, and I certainly won’t be the last, but creativity of this sort is precisely what makes reading the blogging community so enjoyable.

Anime Review: Violet Evergarden (TangAce, @misakalol)

TangAce finds 2018’s Violet Evergarden and all of its follow-ups to be a surprisingly refreshing anime whose sincerity and simplicity made it a masterpiece to watch, and even praises it as being the best anime produced in the past decade. With a captivating protagonist in Violet, whose journey is entracing, Kyoto Animation’s usual penchant for creating vivid worlds, and Evan Call’s musical genius, TangAce finds Violet Evergarden a series whose successes comes precisely from capturing how much emotional maturity Violet undergoes when she pushes herself to make coherent the plethora of emotions people have and convey it fully to every letter’s recipient. I share TangAce’s praises for Violet Evergarden: this series represents an incredibly meaningful and heartfelt journey about the seemingly-simple phrase “I love you”, a far cry from the original light novel, which had a larger action component. In stripping out these elements and focusing purely on the human piece, Kyoto Animation’s Violet Evergarden far exceeds expectations and creates a work that, as TangAce has indicated, is worth watching even for folks who may not readily watch coming-of-age series: I’ve successfully convinced folks in my own life to give Violet Evergarden a go and was universally met with praise. Beyond a review that succinctly captures what makes Violet Evergarden worthwhile, one aspect about TangAce’s blog is the ability to jump to a specific section using a contents bar. It is not lost on me that for longer posts, such a feature could make navigation considerably easier, and while bloggers may not often consider UX, it is a vital part of one’s longevity. For instance, folks have previously provided me with the feedback that my font was too small, and fixing that has made it easier for readers. TangAce has no such challenge; the blog layout is clean and easy to read, allowing me to focus on the post’s contents Violet Evergarden.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (TheAlmightyBacklog, @EuphoriaGremlin)

TheAlmightyBacklog submits a reflection on Ghost Trick, which was played as a part of a community initiative. In Ghost Trick, the central mechanic of creatively taking control of and manipulating objects in the environment, as well as viewing the last few moments to a given object (or being) for additional insights. Information from these interactions is used to work on solving a mystery, and although the core mechanisms are cleverly woven with the story, TheAlmightyBacklog finds that a part of the tension in the game is removed by the fact one can easily reset to a given checkpoint, which diminishes the significant of certain decisions (e.g. if an outcome proves unfavourable, one can always return to an earlier state without penalty). This becomes especially challenging when the game deprives players of this feature, which means less-than-optimal choices are amplified and force a poor outcome. Similarly, the game’s outcomes left TheAlmightyBacklog feeling unfulfilled, which was unfortunate considering how enjoyable the other aspects were. TheAlmightyBacklog’s honesty in writing about Ghost Trick is valuable; games are multi-faceted experiences, and depending on one’s preferences, a title might or might not be worth investing time and money into. Folks who prefer games with a decisive ending and tie in smaller elements throughout the game into its finale might not find Ghost Trick as satisfying in the end, but TheAlmightyBacklog also acknowledges that this is one perspective, and that other players may enjoy the game anyways, especially if one can pick up the title during a sale. Here, I remark that it is through sales that I am willing to accept a game’s limitations. For instance, I recently picked up Ghost Recon: Wildlands at nearly eighty percent off. When I tried the open beta in 2017, the game was janky in its movement system and driving controls, dissuading me from playing it. At ten dollars, I was convinced to give the game another go, and in my willingness to do so, I found a richly developed world. Similarly, TheAlmightyBacklog’s suggestion for folks to give Ghost Trick a go during a discount could potentially introduce new players to a novel experience.

BABYLON’S FALL – What went wrong? (MagiWasTaken, @MagiWasTaken)

BABYLON’S FALL was released recently: a third-person hack-and-slash title coming from a storied pedigree, the game’s reception proved underwhelming after its launch, and MagiWasTaken explores some of the reasons behind why the player count dropped to zero on at least one occasion (which puts the game as being even deader than Battlefield 2042, which is currently entangled in its own troubles at the moment). In this post, MagiWasTaken pinpoints an uninspired and overly simplistic gameplay system, which limits players in their options. When limited options converge with limited variety, players lose incentive to play when the entire game loop becomes playing in the hopes of getting better gear. On top of this, a poor microtransaction and live service system stymies solo play, which becomes frustrating for players who wish to experience things on their own. The game demands multi-player co-op, which contradicts the developer’s claims the game could be soloed, and moreover, the content updates have been remarkably poor. MagiWasTaken concludes by suggesting that increasing exploration through open-world biomes and procedurally generated quests, as well as rebalancing the game to be more solo-friendly. In MagiWasTaken’s writing about BABYLON’S FALL, I am reminded of Battlefield 2042, which suffered from a similar set of issues. The live service has only delivered one new map and three new weapons despite nearly nine months elapsing after launch. Specialists and an emphasis on cosmetics completely defeat the purpose of having classes. Maps are poorly designed and favour vehicles over infantry. However, like MagiWasTaken, I still remain hopeful that DICE can turn things around, even though history suggests that Battlefield 2042 might be left to suffer. MagiWasTaken’s final section, then, is something more gamers should take a leaf from: while games can disappoint in a big way, offering constructive criticisms and suggestions for improvement shows an individual as understanding what their own preferred experiences are.

The Book of Gothel, by Mary McMyne (Jamedi, @jamediGwent)

Jamedi’s submission marks the first literature review for this Jon’s Creator Showcase, following the story of Haelewise, who lived under her mother’s protection until she died. Haelewise subsequently heads out into the world to search for a tower called Gothel and unravel its mysteries. The intriguing premise of portraying the tale of the witch that imprisons Rapunzel in her iconic tower immediately captured my attention in this post, and Jamedi praises The Book of Gothel for both its story, as well as its faithful reproduction of details to really immerse readers into its stories. While perhaps a bit of a stretch, Jamedi’s enjoyment of the attention paid to details in The Book of Gothel is reminiscent of the reason to why I enjoy Tom Clancy novels. Seeing all of the nuts and bolts, and the characters’ actions described in precise detail, adds weight to every scene. It was interesting to learn that Jamedi had actually attempted this draft three times prior to the post that wound up being published; it can be tricky to pin down what about a work makes it worthwhile, and this is something that all bloggers face. It does lead me to wonder how different bloggers handle this particular challenge.

In Favour of Old School Open World: My Own Brand of Hot Beverage (Hundstrasse, @Hundstrasse)

Open world games are among some of the most richly-developed and immersive experiences out there. My first open world game was 2011’s Skyrim, and while overwhelming at first, I chose to build a hybrid caster-archer on my way to defeating Alduin. Along the way, I became the Thane of Whiterun, got myself a house and explored the world on horseback. There wasn’t a specific need to defeat Alduin, but being the goal-oriented person I am, I elected to finish the campaign. Here in Hundstrasse’s post on open world game, the idea of what makes open world worth playing is explored. Knights of the Old Republic and Red Dead Redemption 2 are compared: Hundstrasse found the former significantly more enjoyable because of the fact that the activity density was greater, and the impact of one’s actions were more clearly felt. This forms Hundstrasse’s metric for what makes open world fun: the game can’t be set in a space that is large for the sake of being large, and accomplishments should be more tangible. For Hundstrasse, games like No Man’s Sky and Fallout 4 proved tedious because there wasn’t any nuance or variety to what one can do in these spaces; travelling from point A to point B to achieve a repetitive task is hardly the definition of fun, and older open world games, despite their technical limitations, still manage to create a superior experience by focusing on player choice and cutting down on travel times. Trends in the industry mean that open world games tend to create cautious optimism for me; Bethesda’s Starfield is one such example, and while it promises to be massive, contemporary open world games occasionally do fall into the trap of creating excessively large worlds without a suitable content density and variety to occupy players. On the other hand, some open world titles, like The Division, spaces strike a balance between large scale spaces and high engagement. Because open world games demand a high time investment, picking the right experience becomes essential: having well-defined metrics like Hundstrasse’s helps one to ensure their time is spent on the things that one enjoys most.

Aquamarine Review (Michelle, @AGeekGirlsGuide)

Jon’s Creator Showcase always represents an opportunity for receiving surprisingly enjoyable and unexpected topics. In Michelle’s review of Aquamarine, a print-and-play game is presented. This game simply requires one to print out a map, acquire some dice, and then explore the ocean within the constraints the game provides. While seemingly simple on paper, there is considerable depth and nuance, requiring players to act with an eye on strategy. Moreover, the game supports both solo and multiplayer modes, extending its versatility. Altogether, Michelle recommends this game and indicates the game is available on Kickstarter. In Michelle’s review, besides successfully selling readers on the game’s merits, a very clever solution for increasing the printouts’ longevity is shown: the game can be played by inserting the page into a page protector, and then markings are made using dry-erase pen. Print-and-play games are making a resurgence in part owing to the fact they can be played without an electronic device, internet connection or power supply; in a world where tablets and smartphones are only going to become more ubiquitous, physical games have an appeal to them, and print-and-play games represent highly accessible (and affordable) alternatives to board games for getting people together for wings, a couple of beers and a good night all around.

Dorfromantik Review – Zen/10 Experience (Frostilyte, @Frostilyte)

Although Zen games have recently seen a rise in popularity, Frostilyte finds that they can be quite stress-inducing if they require a substantial learning curve and entail keeping on top of tasks. Dorfromantik is none of these things, being a cathartic puzzle game built in the same lineage as Carcassonne; the goal is simply to build a town by connecting similar hexagonal tiles together and maximise one’s score. However, if players so choose, they can pursue side goals instead, and players looking for a purely relaxing experience can play a creative mode, allowing one to see where things go. Frostilyte’s recommendation represents a departure from the titles I write about: longtime readers will be familiar with the fact I prefer games with guns in them. However, I wholly relate to Frostilyte’s experiences, and sometimes, it’s good to play a game that isn’t about sneaking into a base, blowing stuff up and leaving, or fending off entire armies on my own. Earlier last month, I had the pleasure of playing through Among Trees, an outdoor survival simulator with the zen aesthetic, and although getting started was quite tricky, once the game settled down, I found that the game allowed my mind to wander as I began exploring further. There definitely are merits to this genre, and from Frostilyte’s review of Dorfromantik, it does feel like a version of Sim City 4 that isn’t a game of hardcore optimisation and planning. Such a game would represent a pleasant change of pace from something like Battlefield 2042, Ghost Recon: Wildlands or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and as such, I could see myself picking up Dorfromantik when it goes on sale.

Well Folks, I Fucked Up My First Three Hopes Playthrough (Robert Ian Shepard, @adventure_rules)

In Robert Ian Shepard’s submission, a reflection on Fire Emblem: Three Hopes. However, rather than delve into recollections of the best playthroughs, Robert Ian Shepard delves into the thought process behind his worst playthrough, shares the learnings from this and then explores how these were applied to subsequent playthroughs so that he could have a more complete experience. Three points stand out: on should play the game with an eye for the decisions that appear, make an effort to complete the side missions and utilising every mechanic available to give one the best fighting chance. Robert Ian Shepard’s points apply to Fire Emblem: Three Hopes, but they can universally be applied to almost every game available, and by extension, even has applicability in reality. While I’ve never played Fire Emblem previously, I immediately relate to how making mistakes is one of the most effective teachers; once Robert Ian Shepard finished his first playthrough and landed the bad ending, he applied all of these experiences and returned to the game with every intention of seeing what could be done better. I have had similar experiences before: in 2013’s Metro: Last Light, I occasionally used lethal force to swiftly achieve my objectives, and earned a bad ending as a result. By the time of Metro: Exodus in 2019, I played the game with significantly more patience, made a more significant effort to explore and support the characters, and the end result was similar to Robert Ian Shepard’s: I earned the good ending. Most games tend to operate in this fashion, rewarding players for taking the time to think out solutions and achieve their goals in ways they might approach their own lives. In this way, games act as a superb teacher; people who slow down and methodically work out solutions tend to fare better than those who rush headlong into a problem.

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 1 – Canyonlands (Part 2) (NekoJonez, @NekoJonez)

The idea of speedrunning represents a realm of extreme gaming that demands commitment, precision and utmost skill. For NekoJonez’s submission to Jon’s Creative Showcase, a detailed blow-by-blow breakdown of burning through Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine‘s first level is presented. Unlike the typical any% (basically, a speedrun that prioritises ending a level over completeness), NekoJonez presents a run that entails collecting all of the treasures, and moreover, NekoJonez holds the current record of four minutes and forty-one seconds. In a post that reminds me of strategy guides that I used to read to up my game, NekoJonez recounts every detail, every decision and every aspect of the thought process that went into making this record possible, before mentioning that along the way, some things could have been done better. It is fantastic to read bloggers who reflect on their choices and indicate the room for improvement; in the context of a blog post, it may apply to a game, but the same drive for self-betterment in a game extends to reality, and bloggers who partake in reflection often produce some excellent discussions. I certainly did enjoy reading through this exceptionally vivid post. I’m no speed runner, and while I have optimised a few runs in my time to farm points for games like Halo 2 and The Division, it takes a special kind of dedication to speed run games. Such runs are always enjoyable to watch and read about, and this marks the first time I’ve featured a speed run discussion here for Jon’s Creative Showcase.

Street Cat Photography (GhastlyMirror, @GhastlyMirror)

I share GhastlyMirror’s wish for having a pet, but unlike myself, GhastlyMirror is a talented photographer who’s able to capture wonderful pictures of the cats in his neighbourhood. This submission is unique is that it’s a photo post, so there’s a lot less reading, but the age-old maxim, that a picture is worth a thousand words, certainly holds true here. GhastlyMirror’s five photographs portray five different cats, each with their own story. While reading through this submission, I couldn’t help but notice that GhastlyMirror is a newer blogger, and this is one of this times where Jon’s Creative Showcase excels: it allows us readers to find and enjoy content from creators of all experience levels. With a solid start to blogging, I hope that GhastlyMirror will come to find fulfilment and enjoyment in this hobby, both through sharing excellent content and through interacting with an open, inviting and accepting community.

You Need to Play Stray (Kate, @bloggingdragons)

The joy of video games is that they allow players to experience worlds from all sorts of perspectives, from the day-to-day life of a train operator, to exploring a remote forest with nothing more than a radio and compass. For this Jon’s Creative Showcase, Kate presents Stray, a game that takes things to the next level by allowing players to wander an immensely mesmerising world from the viewpoint of a cat. In this dystopian world, players only encounter robots and terrifying life forms, and as a cat, Stray presents gameplay opportunities that are otherwise implausible when playing as a person. This encourages players to consider options and think creatively, and in conjunction with the game’s slowly unveiling things to player through exploration, rather than forcibly introducing story and gameplay mechanics, creates for a game that captivates. While Kate notes that some elements, like the user interface and lack of customisation were strikes against the game, Stray is, overall, a fantastic title: Kate finds it to be something to be suitable for both animal lovers and folks seeking a game with exceptional world-building, and more impressively, indicates the game is worth every dollar. Through Jon’s Creator Showcase, I always enjoy reading about the plethora of games out there beyond the usual genres that I myself enjoy and write about. Besides offering insight into the minds of the bloggers who play them, written posts about games provide a much more comprehensive and detailed explanation of what makes a game worth checking out: while I have nothing but respect for YouTubers like TheRadBrad, who’ve played Stray, it can be tricky to consider things like narrative and game design when title has completely engaged the player, and video game reviewers can be a little tricky to follow if they’re showcasing gameplay footage while discussing the game. For deep-dives into games, I find that blogging remains the best option for sharing nuance and analysis, and Kate’s review of Stray is an excellent instance of why blogging about games is still effective in a world where videos are now commonplace.

Even If Tempest | Game Review (Oona Tempest, @sweetnspicy_en)

Games that give players powers equivalent to the Time Stone are intriguing, and while at first glance, such powers would be overwhelmingly powerful, game designers often find ways of cleverly utilising this ability without breaking immersion. In Oona Tempest’s review of Even If Tempest, it is made plainly clear that this game is one that invites multiple play-throughs for one to appreciate the depth of this story. After picking the game up for the Nintendo Switch, Oona Tempest indicates that this is the sort of game that one should block out a decent amount of time for and get comfortable with, as the game’s developments really drive one to continue on. While the game is dark, the themes speak to hope and courage, encouraging players to persist and continue moving forwards. Events will occur that feel overwhelmingly depressing, but these serve to remind players that life is adversity, and that picking oneself up is the best way to continue onwards. Since Even If tempest is a visual novel style game with branching storylines, Oona Tempest’s post also provides a recommended play order and a succinct overview of game mechanics for folks looking to get into things for themselves, as well as a profile of the key actors. This detailed and comprehensive review wraps up with the note that while Oona Tempest greatly enjoyed Even If Tempest, there are some elements that make it less suitable for some players, before wrapping up by reiterate some of the game’s strongest points and indicating which sort of demographic would find Even If Tempest to be up their alley. While I’m probably not in the target demographic (as my extensive library of first person and third person shooters can attest), I always appreciate a lengthy review that covers all of an author’s bases, and in the case of games, it’s always valuable to get as complete of a picture as possible before one makes a decision of whether or not something enters their libraries. Reviews like Oona Tempest’s are especially valuable in this regard, and I have a feeling that somewhere out there, a fan of otome games who’s read this review will have gained enough information from Oona Tempest’s post to determine whether or not Even If Tempest will be entering their library.

Reading List | Sweet & Spicyyy — More Spicy, Sweet, Wholesome, and/or Fluffy Smut (Minty, @piecesofminty)

Minty’s submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase comes with a surprising title: this is going to be a list of spicy (am I using this euphemism correctly?) works that are also wholesome. At first glance, this is a juxtaposition of two, seemingly contradictory terms. However, as I continue to read through Minty’s list, it turns out that all of the works themselves involve romances that are more physical, but each of the works are defined by a very meaningful emotional piece to it. Of the works recommended, Isanghan Ahopsu and Dekiai Zentei, Keiyakukon. ~Iwashiro Bengoshi wa Ai ga Deka Sugiru!?~ appear to be especially strong: while it’s not fair to say that correlation implies causation, I have found that when people have more to say about a work they recommend, chances are, they had an especially good time with it. While Minty generally isn’t too big of a fan of steamier works of literature, works that possess a modicum of emotional maturity are worth reading. What Minty describes with this recommended reading list, an insightful and thoughtfully-articulated one, has parallels to reality; while relationships and romance will inevitably involve a degree of physicality, it is ultimately the emotional components of a relationship that makes it worthwhile. Books that capture both aspects are therefore those that are being the most faithful to portraying a wider variety of the aspects in a relationship, and when tastefully done, bringing the physical piece in can accentuate the strength of the feelings in a relationship. All of the titles on Minty’s list do this, and while I’m generally not a romance reader, I can probably say with confidence that these authors portray the physical side of a relationship much more effectively than Tom Clancy’s novels can. Sometimes, it’s better to leave some things to the imagination, rather than reading about everything with the same precision that Clancy describes military hardware in!

A locked room mystery. (Fred, @AuNaturelOne)

Fred is a Jon’s Creator Showcase veteran, and for this submission, we’ve got a review of The Perfect Insider, a proper mystery where the protagonist is pitted against a foe of even greater cunning. In this anime, Fred mentions the perfect storm of darkness in conjunction with philosophy, and this is impressive because it can be difficult to write about brilliantly gifted people when one doesn’t have first-hand experience of how they think. However, despite gaps in The Perfect Insider‘s writing and conclusion, Fred still finds the mystery to be the series biggest draw. It’s clear that Fred’s having a good time of watching older anime, and at the end of the day, this is exemplary of what it means to be an anime fan. All too often, people forget about the having fun and simply watching shows for kicks: while Fred may not have found every aspect of The Perfect Insider to be perfect, the anime succeeds in its intended role. I was especially intrigued by Fred’s remark about how difficult it is to write about characters with abilities exceeding the norm: having read about intelligence and the like, one thing that uncommonly gifted people share is that they intuitively reach solutions in ways that are illogical to ordinary people. However, intelligence at this end of the spectrum is unfortunate because it can be wasted, and so, one element that I’ve always been taught to value is to find a way of conveying complex ideas in a way that is easily understood. I would be curious to see if The Perfect Insider does this: a part of enjoying the actions that super-intelligent characters take is having them walk us through the process and feel the pieces fall into play, and I personally hold that, it’s perfectly okay if authors can’t get into the heads of such characters, so long as the process feels consistent with the sort of personality a character possesses. Fred’s sold me on The Perfect Insider‘s intrigue, but like all of the wonderful recommendations for this Jon’s Creator Showcase, I find myself wondering if I’ll have time to add this to my constantly expanding watchlist.

Three Episode Rule – Lycoris Recoil – Episode 3: More haste, less speed (Jusuchin, @RightWingOtaku)

This Jon’s Creator Showcase has three separate submissions on Lycoris Recoil from three separate writers, two of which deal with Lycoris Recoil‘s third episode. Jusuchin’s review of the third episode reinforces something that Crow and Flare Knight have already conveyed: that Lycoris Recoil is an excellent series. Jusuchin is a blogger I respect for having an eye for military detail that even I miss. In this review, he speaks to an organisation called the DA, which has exceptional gear and training, but whose operatives lack creativity and adaptivity in their tactics. In addition, Jusuchin also shares his thoughts on the complexity of organisations like these, and how dynamics create scapegoats that can be hard on those who are made to take the fall. In spite of this, Lycoris Recoil actively takes the effort to humanise its characters, both through the cafe the operators hang out at, and through moments the characters share together. With three submissions on Lycoris Recoil now, it seems that I hardly have any excuse for skipping this anime, and it appears that, as soon as things settle down and the finale airs, I’ll join the party for myself and see what this series does well. While this means that I won’t be hearing people talk about things as episodes air, nor will I be able to join in on the speculation parties surrounding seasonal anime, in the past, I have found that watching acclaimed anime at my own pace helps me to relax: series such as Lycoris Recoil have, in the past, seen particularly fierce discussions, and by my admission, I’m getting a little old to be arguing with people on whether or not a secondary school-aged character’s actions are professional or realistic. Jusuchin’s posts offer a superior discussion to what’s on social media and forums, possessing a detail that helps me to gain a better measure of this show, and so, in conjunction with the positive impressions that Crow and Flare Knight have presented, it looks like I’ll pick this one up as early as the gap between the summer and autumn anime seasons.

Streaming from the Nintendo 64 (Tipa, @tipadaknife)

In this step-by-step guide, Tipa walks readers through how to get the venerable Nintendo 64 set up for streaming, and more impressively, how it can all be done for under 50 USD: armed with the TENSUN HDMI video converter and a video capture card, it’s possible to grab the video from the Nintento 64 and get it into a format the OBS Studio can interpret. After some experimentation, Tipa has managed to get a working setup that can stream old classics from the Ninento 64. This post demonstrates how a little creativity can get people a long way: there is a dedicated solution for streaming from the Nintendo 64 at unparalleled resolution, but the tradeoff is that this costs six times as much. As a software developer, I’ve always been intrigued by inexpensive solutions that can get the job done for a lower cost than alternatives, and when things work out, there’s always a sense of relief. While Tipa expresses interest in buying a RetroTINK-5X Pro, the more expensive solution, I hope that at the very least, the solution discussed here provides a workable solution in the meantime.

9 Monkeys of Shaolin Indie Game Playthrough (Jordan GGG, @GameGushGamer)

The prevalence of indie games speaks to how powerful and versatile developer tools are, and whereas triple-A titles from big-name developers are often beholden to formulaic approaches, indie titles allow smaller shops to be creative. In this submission, Jordan writes about 9 Monkeys of Shaolin, a short but enjoyable title that sees players hone their arts in Shaolin as they fight through intense and well-designed levels, all the while ranking up their skill tree and unlocking powerful new abilities to employ in combat. One downside about 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is that the achievements appear to be buggy, and Jordan speaks of the frustration in putting in the effort to earn something, only for faulty code to stop this in its tracks. For this post, Jordan also provides a YouTube commentary-free playthrough of the game to provide readers with an idea of what the game looks like. I am especially fond of this element: having blogged about games for as long as I have anime, I utilise screenshots heavily, and while they give a fair idea of a given title’s aesthetics and UI/UX, screenshots offer no insight into the gameplay itself. By supplying a video, readers now have a good idea of how 9 Monkeys of Shaolin handles, and it does look like a fun game that is both nuanced and simple.

Another One Bites the Dust (Roger Edwards, @ModeratePeril)

Roger Edwards’ submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase is a more sobering one: this post is about longtime members of the blogging community who decide to call it quits because of circumstances in their lives. While blogging doubtlessly becomes a large part of these individuals’ lives, one cannot blog forever, and Roger Edwards speaks of Geek to Geek, two podcasters who delivered excellent, insightful and sincere content but ended up retiring. Their absence leaves behind a void, but Roger Edwards presents an optimistic outlook of things: people will continue to create cool stuff irrespective of the medium, and while Roger Edwards expresses sadness at the closing of these podcasters, over time, people will come to fill the vacuum. Roger Edwards’ post got me thinking: I’ve long wondered what the inevitable closure of my blog would look like, and while I’m confident that there will be no shortage of excellent writers (as this Jon’s Creator Showcase already shows) to take my place, I find it difficult to decide when to close things off, and how to most elegantly do so.

Search Engines Other Than Google (Tagn, @wilhelm2451)

After being delisted from Bing for potentially not meeting their standards, Tagn began exploring the other search engines out there, and writes of several notable search engines that might represent alternatives to Google. Tagn expresses surprise at how many there are beyond the juggernaut that is Google, and how using different search engines might be able to yield different results for what one is looking for. These other search engines have proven quite useful, as Tagn states; I do use Baidu to search for Chinese music. Similarly, Yandex has an interesting reverse image search tool that I’ve utilised when Google’s reverse image search came up short. With this being said, like Tagn, my blog isn’t indexed on Bing, and in fact, a search for me doesn’t yield any results at all. My guess is that my screenshot heavy format violates their copyright terms. However, I don’t miss Bing at all: almost all of my traffic comes from Google, and I have previously stated that I’m in the blogging game for myself. If I get readers from a search engine, that’s icing on the cake.

Steam Summer Sale 2022 – What I Bought (Emily, @MLsDiary)

Emily expresses a problem that affects every Steam user, myself included: whenever the Steam Summer Sale rolls around, one always feels compelled to pick up something. For this sale, Emily’s bought Stray (a fantastic game that was part of this submissions for this Jon’s Creator Showcase!), A Plague Tale: Innocence, a survival game set that is set during the Black Death period of time, and sees two siblings survive to try and make their way in a brutal, unyielding world. The last title Emily picked up is PC Building Simulator, which provides a bit of a sandbox for getting used to a new build. Emily’s haul, while comparatively modest this year, still represents a fun set of acquisitions, and with a Steam Deck on the way, it appears that Emily’s future is going to be an enjoyable one. Steam Sales are probably one of the best opportunities during the year to pick up games, and while it represents a fine chance to broaden one’s horizons, they also create backlogs of gargantuan proportions. Over the years, I’ve found that having a backlog isn’t a bad thing: at lease one will never have a dull moment, and I myself have whiled away otherwise dull afternoons exploring new worlds in the books and games I’ve picked up during the summer on winter days where it’s too cold and snowy to be out and about.

I Shouldn’t Be Running Sword Coast Adventures, However… (Jaedia Hannah, @jaedia)

Hannah reflects on how she came to begin being a GM for Sword Coast on top of her existing, already-busy schedule, citing a Dungeons and Dragons movie trailer, plus all of the incredible lore and possibility as starting this journey, and on top of this, still has a collection of books (such as the Drizzt Do’Urden trilogy) and older PC games, Hannah’s certainly booked solid. It’s always fun to see how the community fills its time, and while Hannah cites a busy schedule as reasoning for putting the breaks on Sword Coast, in the end, the draw of trying things out outweighed this. Curiosity is a powerful agent, and at its best, can lead individuals to have fantastic experiences; as long as one manages their time well, there is absolutely no problems with adding new things to one’s schedule, and Hannah demonstrates that at the end of the day, the biggest metric is having fun: so long as one is having fun, one’s time is well spent.

Game Over – Escape Academy (Krikket, @OhaiKrikket)

Krikket’s submission is a review on Escape Academy, a short game that, despite a steeper price point and deterministic gameplay elements, remains a modestly enjoyable title. While mostly fun, Krikket recommends waiting for a complete edition to be released before picking this game up. While I’ve no familiarity with puzzle games, I am familiar with the modern-day practises of publishers and their preference to release season passes and DLC. This stands in stark contrast with the early days of gaming, where players got the complete package upon a game’s launch after spending years in development; for their patience, players are rewarded with a whole and satisfying experience, one that could keep them occupied endlessly. Games have certainly changed since then, and having been around video games for the better part of my time, my strategy is similar to Krikket: I tend to wait a year or so before deciding on picking up a title, because by then, more content will become available, and the game is likely to have seen some discounts. Gaming is a hobby that requires a modicum of patience, and those who are willing to wait may find themselves with a better deal, one which may justify an experience that may otherwise feel a little pricey.

FFXIV: Journey Through the New ARR MSQ for a Hat (Aywren, @Aywren)

Rounding out Jon’s Creator Showcase is Aywren’s exploration of Final Fantasy 14‘s updated A Realm Reborn content, which began from a desire to pick up an item called Amon’s Hat. To unlock said hat, Aywren needed to reach level fifty and complete all of the A Realm Reborn‘s story missions to unlock the Syrcus Tower. Along the way, some of the updated changes became apparent to Aywren, who enjoyed the updated visuals and mechanics that have been tuned to improve a player’s experience. After going through all of the content in two weeks (an impressive feat), Aywren finally unlocked the raids, promptly got destroyed, and found the spirit to continue. Upon reaching Syrcus Tower, Aywren was fortunate enough to find the hat almost immediately, bringing this quest to an end. I absolutely love hearing gaming stories like these, as it makes me feel as though I were right there watching the experience for myself. Although Aywren’s post makes use of many acronyms that I am unfamiliar with (MSQ is Main Story Quest, referring to campaign missions that advances the game’s core narrative), Aywren provides an explanation of what these mean, and I am reminded of a practise I am occasionally guilty of: players unfamiliar with first person shooters would not immediately know what TTK or ADS mean, for instance. Beyond this, reading through Aywren’s post was a joy: it is clear a lot of effort went into the two-week run which yielded Amon’s Hat, and I remember having similar experiences in The Division and The Division 2, where I would go hunting for exotic gear (extremely rare items with special properties that are a cut above even the high-end stuff available to players at the endgame). It is immensely satisfying to finally have something drop, allowing me to complete my gear-set or try out a new exotic weapon: while I’ve never played any of the Final Fantasy games myself, I completely relate to Aywren’s story.

Tuesday Tea: Error143 & Na Daoine Maithe (Sailor Otome, @sailor_otome)

Sailor Otome’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase is a weekly update on the state of things, and in this post, the stars of the show are Error143 and Na Daoine Maithe. Error143 is a visual novel with a curious premise: the player takes on the role of a hacker whose OPSEC is a little less-than-stellar, and ends up being busted. Rather than any legal recourse, however, the person on the other end begins to create the beginnings of a curious relationship. Next up is Na Daoine Maithe (The Good People), which deals with færies, and a title that Sailor Otome is especially enthusiastic about for portraying magical creatures in a way that most stories do not bother depicting. Both titles show promise and has Sailor Otome excited to see what new developments arise. Gaming update posts are similarly a rarity in the blogging community I’m most closely connected to: most of the folks I follow write extensively about anime, and as a result, seeing posts like Sailor Otome’s is a bit of a rarity, which made this submission especially fun to peruse. Tuesday Tea reminds me of LevelCap’s This Week In Gaming, which has a similar premise but takes on the video format. LevelCap is a well-known YouTuber whose content is always helpful, so when I say that Sailor Otome’s Tuesday Tea posts have the same quality and engagement factor as LevelCap’s, it’s plain that I found Sailor Otome’s submission enjoyable to read, too: I’m not knowledgeable about otome games by any stretch, but it is reassuring to know that there are always wonderful folks within the community who have experience in this arena and moreover, are willing to share their thoughts to help readers out.

Closing Remarks

  • It was a pleasure to go through each and every one of the forty-two submissions to showcase the best of blogging for the month of August. Such showcases are quite time-consuming: it took about eight hours to read through each submission and summarise it, two hours to gather all of the metrics and prepare a visual, an hour to write the opening and closing text, and one more hour to format and proof this post, for a total of twelve hours. However, this is spaced out over the course of three weeks, and the prize for hosting is having the chance to read blogs I otherwise don’t normally get to read.

I’ve been a participant in hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase for three years now, having started the party back during July 2019, and since then, have hosted four times in total. Each and every time, I’m always impressed with the quality of the submissions, and the enthusiasm that is shown in the community. For me, this means that as Jon’s Creator Showcase grows, my old format was less likely to be sustainable, and this time around, I decided to mix things up a little by running a little data analysis on the submissions to see if anything interesting might show up. All of the quantitative aspects notwithstanding, what is very clear is that we have a wonderful group of writers out there. While some folks have suggested that blogging as a whole is on the decline because of shifting formats, like YouTube videos, TikTok shorts and Reddit threads, which allow content to be shown and conversations to move at a much greater pace than blogging, such is evidently not the case. Bloggers are still thriving, capitalising on the medium’s slower pacing to share their thoughts on things in a manner that invites readers to really understand the blogger’s thoughts. This in turn cultivates a sense of community, and it is for this reason blogs have continued to endure. Going through the superb blogs in Jon’s Creator Showcase continues to remind me of this fact, and it’s been remarkably fun to host this iteration of the showcase, as well as experiment with a slightly different avenue of presenting all of the submissions in a fresh way. With this Jon’s Creator Showcase in the books, I hope that all of the participants have as much fun reading through all of the submissions as I did. As we enter September, we presently have no host for the upcoming Jon’s Creator Showcase. Folks who are interested can get in touch with Jon Spencer to host (or drop me a comment expressing interest: I’d be happy to pass things along and get everyone connected), and in the meantime, I will note that whoever chooses to host won’t have to suffer through my talk on Blue Thermal; it wouldn’t be sportsmanlike conduct for me to submit a post with eleven thousand words, especially considering the average post length submitted to Jon’s Creator Showcase hovers around a much more manageable 1440 words!

Reconciling The Incredibly Strange Mutant Creatures who Rule the Universe of Alienated Japanese Zombie Computer Nerds, Information Flow and How Accessibility has Defeated Gatekeeping in the Anime Community

“The Internet has democratised content, and the gatekeepers are no longer in control.” –Andrew Zimmern

“One day, everyone will be an otaku“, Zero proclaims from his home in Kawagoe. It’s 1993, and Wired Magazine has concluded with an interview with the sullen software trouble-shooter, a member of the otaku subculture. Characterised as Japan’s socially inept but often brilliant technological shut-ins, it seemed inconceivable that such individuals would ever become commonplace at the time. Unbeknownst to Zero, some three decades later, his prediction would come to pass. The internet has evolved from being a curious form of communication to a ubiquitous resource responsible for handling everything from transportation to banking, cumbersome dial-up modems have been displaced by sleek fibre optic networks, and smartphones are now more powerful than room-filling mainframe computers. Attesting to these profound changes in the world, my own days resembles that of Zero’s: after starting my day at the gym or read through the latest news, I get to work tracing through iOS and Android source code to expand an app’s function, or identify existing bugs so I may fix them. Eight hours later, I unwind with a good book, exchange thoughts with an online community about the things I find in anime, chat with my friends or otherwise, put on the season’s latest anime series. Nowadays, the process is as simple as opening a streaming service, sitting down and taking it easy. However, I remember a time when things were not quite as straightforward. When I began this blog ten-and-a-half years ago, anime streaming was unreliable, choppy and limited. Back then, anime fans would’ve had to navigate the grey area of fansubs (anime episodes with subtitles provided by other viewers, rather than professional translators) to keep up to speed with a given season’s shows. I was a novice anime fan at the time, swapping videos with my friends on flash drives and exchanging stories on how quickly our down speeds allowed us to pick up fansubs. In that era, finding anything worth watching was tricky: the fansubbing groups were fond of imposing their presence on those who consumed “their” videos, and to this end, would create what were colloquially referred to as “trollsubs”, which contained excessive honourifics, translation notes and occasionally, blatantly incorrect translations designed to muddle comprehension and enjoyment. Video codecs were chosen to be exclusive, demanding people specifically use Media Player Classic and warning anyone that, if they had less than a 2.4 GHz quad-core CPU, the videos wouldn’t decode smoothly, and they didn’t deserve to watch their fansubs anyways. Those who uploaded soundtracks to shady file-sharing sites enjoyed encoding files in obscure formats like .ape, and the origins of fanart accompanying blog posts were jealously guarded secrets. Japanese fans refused to share location hunt comparisons in images wider than 210 pixels and even blocked right-click on their travel blogs to prevent distribution of their images, while other fans uploaded custom animations only to NicoNico Seiga at low resolutions and routinely caused phony takedown notices to delete videos from anyone who reposted their work to YouTube. Blogging was still a relatively limited pursuit, and giants of the day saw themselves as the sole authorities on which anime were “objectively” good. It seemed unusual that the anime community of the time was so insistent on making the hobby as difficult to participate in as possible, especially in a hobby that was already a niche one.

Reading through the Wired interview some ten years earlier, however, I found a modicum of understanding behind the behaviours within the community. In this interview, the article describes the otaku Zero as a dropout from Keio University’s math sciences department because he “didn’t like being ordered around by teachers to whom he felt superior”. Despite failing to finish his degree, Zero landed on his feet: by day, Zero earned his keep as a remote help desk technician to the tune of 350000 Yen per month (about 48000 CAD per year, adjusted for inflation), enough to comfortably pay the bills and keep up with rent in his Kawagoe apartment. By night, Zero acquired and analysed game cartridges for bugs and defects with the aim of, in his own words, “exposing the phony computer experts who invented the game in the first place”. Zero’s life revolved around disseminating information that was not previously known to others – in this zero-sum game, Wired describes the otaku as seeking out information solely for the purpose that they got to it first, and others didn’t. Being able to have something no one else had was the prize, and those who consistently could acquire information became widely respected: when one of Zero’s online friends posts information surrounding a concert, Zero is impressed. However, this feeling evaporates when Zero reads a seventeen-page report on how one game apparently utilised the same underlying code as another game. Zero’s known this for at least a week and gets to work writing a message warning others to pay this user no mind. The Wired article is telling: Zero’s motivated by two, seemingly conflicting factors. Posting something before anyone else, in Zero’s mind, would prove his own brilliance and gain him approval from others. Yet, Zero is also reported as believing himself to be superior to others. He engages in picking apart game cartridges to show that other software developers are flawed, if someone like him could find bugs in their work, and believes that he can get by without ever “[needing] to deal with anyone like [professors]”. This mindset is mirrored amongst those of the anime community in the late 2000s and early 2010s: those who had made the so-called troll-subs openly claimed that only a subset of people deserved to enjoy “their” content, while bloggers fluent in Japanese would travel to Japan for the singular purpose of watching a film so they could say on a forum or blog post that they saw the movie ahead of anyone else. The Wired article had been most telling: Zero’s conviction in his own superiority, and the constant need to gain validation by shutting down others, was a sign of someone who saw themselves as being separate from society, rather than a part of it. Zero was, in short, a forerunner of sorts to the gatekeepers within the anime community I encountered. Having now read Wired’s article, I had my answer: the fansubbers, uploaders and bloggers of the time saw their pursuits as an exclusive community only open to a limited few. People had to either earn their way in through technical know-how, or put up with being insulted at every turn by those who felt themselves superior to others: fansubs patronised viewers, communities had rules that forbade questioning why certain codecs or encoding algorithms were used, and bloggers openly disparaged entire genres as being “anti-intellectual”. Gatekeeping is the act of deliberately obstructing or excluding someone from participating in a pursuit, to the extent where it significantly degrades their experience. Ten years earlier, gatekeeping was facilitated by the fact that the technology was still quite arcane. A great deal of time and know-how was needed to partake in the hobby in an enjoyable, meaningful way. However, while the motivations behind gatekeeping have remained quite unchanged since Wired’s interview with Zero, technology has changed dramatically.

Nowadays, streaming services make it easier than ever for fans to watch their favourite shows and listen to their favourite songs. Reverse image search algorithms allow one to swiftly determine where a character is from, and blogging is accessible to anyone with a mind full of ideas and an internet connection. In a world where accessibility has greatly improved, the ability for gatekeepers to operate as they did ten years earlier has been crippled. Elitist bloggers who believe only certain genres of anime are worth producing are few in number, and troll subs have largely evaporated. Anyone who’s a fan of Japanese popular culture is free to partake in the manner of their choosing. Advancing technology, and unprecedented accessibility means that, at least on paper, gatekeeping is beaten back, defeated. If a troll sub group decided they wanted to release a meme-laden set of subtitles, fans can simply hop on a streaming service. A streaming service that injects contemporary politics into its translations may similarly prompt viewers to fall back on another service, or abandon legitimate means for grey options, options where the translators attempt to produce a more faithful translation knowing they can be replaced if their work is below par. A YouTuber who claims to “own” concert footage and refusing to name the songs in said concert can be side-stepped by making use of Shazam and Apple Music, or perhaps Spotify. In spite of these advances, the contemporary anime community still appears to grapple with gatekeeping from time to time. However, upon closer inspection, this new gatekeeping manifests as individuals, or groups, posting to Twitter or Reddit that certain fans are not legitimate, certain genres are, in meme-speak, “mid”, ad nauseum. Although this form of gatekeeping is sufficient to spark off lengthy debate on who should participate in a community, what makes one a fan and the like, it is so feeble and ineffective that one wonders why anyone would let a 280-character string or upvotes impact what they do and do not enjoy. Today’s gatekeepers minimally satisfy the definition: while they seek to exclude, they are unable to negatively degrade one’s experience as the gatekeepers could previously a decade earlier: while an unplayable codec might stop a fan in the early 2010s from watching their shows, a poorly-written Tweet from someone with a few thousand followers doesn’t have that sort of impact (short of said user coming over to one’s residence and physically stopping one from pursuing their interests). The very technology gatekeepers had once counted on to rigidly control their hobby and the surrounding community has, ironically, become the very instrument that has made anime significantly more inviting, welcoming and accessible. This is largely in part a consequence of the increasing ubiquity of high technology: as more people become otaku, they take up positions at large technology companies and bring with them a wider variety of perspectives. These perspectives make their way into the technology and create a feedback loop in which more inclusivity makes technology easier to use, encouraging more people to become versed with its function. In this way, gatekeeping, as I’d known it in the late 2000s and early 2010s, is all but extinct.

Additional Remarks and Comments

  • At the opposite end of gatekeeping is the celebration of one’s hobbies. A decade earlier, there was no more visceral expression than otaku rooms, living spaces that are adjourned with figurines, wall scrolls and other anime merchandise. Danny Choo’s “Worldwide Rooms” was intended precisely for showcasing some of the more stylish rooms around the world, and it is from here these images are derived from. Among the otaku rooms highlighted, two stood out to me: the first was Tigra of Poland. Tigra’s immaculately-kept room drew the envy of those who saw the photos: the kanji 虎 (“tiger”) is embossed into a striking hardwood floor, and skylights flood the room with natural light. Recessed light fixtures create a sense of sophistication, reducing the aerial clutter in the room and pushing the occupant’s focus on the room itself. The slanted ceilings create an avant-garde aesthetic, and the light-orange ambience conveys a feeling of warmth. The space itself is classy, elegant and clean; a chic lounge chair and low-platform bed can be spotted, giving the room coziness.

  • Adorning Tigra’s room and its shelves are figurines, piles of manga and the most cutting-edge electronics of its time: Tigra is a figurine and manga collector, and when Danny Choo posted this room’s contents in 2011, readers expressed admiration for the space, which struck a balance between form and function. Of course, being a shade over a decade old means that all of Tigra’s hardware is quite outdated by this point in time. Back in 2011, I was an undergraduate student and had run a Dell XPS 420 for my coursework. I still used a flip-phone, and while I had an HP laptop, it was a slower machine that struggled to start up. My current workspace is a ways cleaner than Tigra’s (the only sign I’m an anime fan is a Madoka Magica keychain, which I’ve affixed to my favourite USB for file transfers), and offers a gorgeous view of the city.

  • Tigra’s room was, in short, the embodiment of “living the dream”. I myself was envious of such a setup when I first read through this post. However, fast forward seven years, and Tigra would write a blog post about her experiences with collecting figurines as a part of her hobby. In this blog post, Tigra details how her hobby turned into something of an addiction: it was always enjoyable to purchase a new figure, but once the new figure arrived, Tigra would already be thinking about buying the next new figure. One morning, she had arisen to a room full of figurines, manga and gadgets strewn about. It’d hit her that she’d collected things she didn’t even had time to properly enjoy, and Tigra found herself overwhelmed. The hobby had become exhausting, and chasing the rush of anticipation turned Tigra’s hobby into an all-consuming one.

  • Fortunately, there is a happy ending in Tigra’s post: she began to sell off her collection and only keep the figures that only bring her joy. In doing so, the minimalism has brought Tigra new joy. Tigra’s learnings, of moderation, is the key to maintaining a sustainable and healthy hobby, and a massive collection is not always highly regarded – Danny Choo has shown off what he titled “The Ultimate Otaku” room, and comments here are a little more lukewarm. Some folks comment that such a room must be hard to sleep in, feeling more like a shop than a private space, while others wonder how much such a collection would’ve costed.

  • It is clear that to fans, what makes an otaku room appealing isn’t the sheer quantity of items collected, but rather, the combination of how a space is utilised to strike a balance between expressing one’s hobby and maintaining an inviting, livable aesthetic. It is therefore unsurprising that what appealed to me most about Danny Choo’s top Worldwide Rooms weren’t the figurines or merchandise itself, but rather, the fact that a given space was tastefully organised. There are other several instances of Worldwide Rooms that are particularly inspiring and well done.

  • The other otaku room I particularly was fond of was from Kraster of Denmark. This clean room is highlighted with green accents, making things pop. Shelving units are cleverly employed to increase storage space without amplifying clutter, and Kraster has done a good job of striking a balance between showing off their collection without overwhelming the space with stuff. Compared to Tigra and Kraster’s setups, mine is significantly more spartan. Folks will have noticed that I only have Gundam models in one shelf on the wall unit, and I have a small shelf dedicated for my manga and artbooks. Beyond this, I have no wall scrolls or posters. There is a practical reason for why so few of my Gundam models are out and about: I’ve chosen to only display my Master Grades, and all of my High Grades are in boxes. This is because dusting off things like figurines and models are tricky, and while the new place is significantly less dusty, I’ve made it a habit of dusting everything off, and sweeping the floors, once a day.

  • Seeing some of the otaku rooms and the thought of having to dust all of that off makes me recoil. The me of a decade ago found these otaku room to be quite inspiring, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing how people set their spaces up. In the decade that has passed since I first read these posts, I’ve long finished my education and, in conjunction with my obligations and responsibilities, now have a bit of freedom to kit out spaces in my manner of choosing. I’m finding that a Konmari-style method, in which I only keep the stuff that genuinely makes me happy, is appropriate: space is a premium now, and there’s a certain joy in having a very clean living space that resembles something out of an AirBnB listing, albeit with hints of my personality interspersed throughout.

  • Since this is a post that touches on gatekeeping, one might wonder if I have any gatekeeping stories to share. The most notable story I have involves a friend who had uploaded segments of a Gundam Unicorn live action concert for me to check out on YouTube, only to get his channel terminated when one PotKettleB1ack reported him. A week of effort was spent on appeals, to no avail, and the infuriating part had been the fact that this individual had not been the legitimate copyright holder. There was a happy ending here: both of us would later experience schadenfreude after learning PotKettleB1ack had his channel terminated for the very thing he tried to leverage against my friend, proving he most certainly did not own the Gundam Unicorn concert footage.

  • As for me, the most egregious example of gatekeeping I’ve personally experienced came shortly after I wrote my Girls und Panzer: Der Film review. Japanese anime fans had somehow found said review, and on their message boards, some claimed that I had no business in the Girls und Panzer franchise. One individual stated that “また泥棒が違法視聴してるのか?金を出さないなら見るなよアニメ業界にとってお前らは寄生虫と同じだ。” (“Is this thief watching illegally? If you don’t pay for it, you shouldn’t be watching. You’re just like a parasite on the anime industry”), while another suggested that “サイトで見るような奴は真のファンじゃない。本当に好きな奴はDVDを買う” (“The person you see on [this blog] isn’t a true fan. Those who genuinely support [Girls und Panzer] would buy the DVDs”). Since Der Film‘s BDs had been available on CD Japan, I find it tough to believe these individuals would be ignorant to the fact that BDs can be purchased overseas. Such claims can only come from a desire to exclude foreign fans, like myself, from watching and writing about anime. In response to these criticisms, I shrug and get on with my day.

  • Between myself and my friends, we have amassed quite the collection of gatekeeping incidents we’ve experienced. However, we recall most of these stories with a laugh: over the years, it’s become increasingly easier to ignore and bypass gatekeepers. When Gundam 00 was airing, fans could have their experience actively degraded by those who were too uptight to provide their fansubs in a playable format. Today, a streaming subscription gives one access to a plethora of anime for low prices, and these codec elitists have since faded to obscurity. On the other hand, fans who believe others shouldn’t be in their hobby can be negated by paying them no mind; the Japanese message board users certainly didn’t impact my Girls und Panzer experience to any capacity, and short of coming over to my place to physically stop me (incidentally, I’d like to see them try), are powerless to stop me from buying the BDs and writing about my experiences. Despite some of the issues surrounding improved technology and accessibility (especially on social media, where outrage is manufactured every other week), what I’ve seen over the past ten years leads me to a simple conclusion: it’s easier now to be an anime fan than it’s ever been.

Accessibility is, in short, the countermeasure for gatekeeping, and technology is the instrument for this accessibility. Having come upon Wired’s article a decade earlier, and finding it to fully explain a phenomenon that had made it tricky to be a fan of anime at the time, I was able to develop an understanding of why some folks were so insistent on hoarding information. Despite these hurdles, I continued to enjoy anime in my own way, and having now seen the evolution of things like streaming services and reverse image search, I can say with confidence that anime fans today have unprecedented access to the medium. The barrier for entry has never been lower, and this means folks are able to, more effectively than had previously been possible, watch what they enjoy, and discuss it with people who are respectful, reasoned and open-minded. Gatekeepers have been reduced to making quips on social media about who “should” be allowed to watch something, although with the ground constantly shrinking around them, I imagine that even this form of gatekeeping could go the way of the dodo. Zero’s prediction of everyone becoming otaku may have come to pass, but it has also gone beyond this: the Wired article had suggested that being an otaku, or technologically savvy, brings with it numerous advantages. At their best, otaku are hard-working individuals with a profound love of their chosen occupation. With the right encouragement, they can become team-players with unparalleled drive and passion, putting in a significant effort towards advancing the world in hitherto unimagined ways. Revisiting the Wired article anew in the present, it is not lost on me that, in many ways, I am a contemporary Zero. However, beyond the superficial similarities and vast technological differences (even the seven-year-old Series 0 Apple Watch skates rings around Zero’s Quadra 900 Macintosh PC, which cost 7000 USD back in its time), it is quite clear that the otaku world today is dramatically different. Sharing information and including people in communities has never been easier, while those who wish to play the “first past the post” game are finding it increasingly difficult to do so, and this suits me just fine: gatekeeping is defeated by accessibility and inclusion, so it follows that a world where things are easier to access, and more inclusive, would become correspondingly more challenging to gatekeep.

Revisiting Higurashi GOU and SOTSU With Dewbond: Were The Sequels Worth It?

“If you’re wondering what I mean by ‘miracle’, it’s simple: a miracle is a shift in perspective from fear to love.” –Gabrielle Bernstein

2020’s Higurashi GOU and this year’s Higurashi SOTSU very quickly became entangled in controversy after revealing that Satoko had been the architect of Rika’s renewed suffering after her efforts to fit into life at St. Lucia were met with failure: on a reunion trip to Hinamizawa to meet up with Keiichi, Rena and Mion, Satoko declines an invite to go to dinner with the others, and instead, wanders the village, which is slowly changing as a sign of the times. Upon coming upon the ceremonial shed behind the temple, Satoko finds herself transported into another dimension and determines that she would very much like to take a shot at changing things in her favour. Now armed with the power of the gods, to live in loops, Satoko returns to old timelines and digs up old fights with the singular pursuit of utterly crushing Rika’s spirit. Higurashi and its sequel, KAI, had decisively wrapped up the series in 2007, so to see a sequel series appear some thirteen years after the originals had ended was a bit of a surprise. Viewers were even more surprised with the directions and outcomes that GOU and SOTSU have taken – the results were widely deemed unsatisfactory, and in the aftermath, some viewers raised the question of whether or not GOU and SOTSU should have even existed to begin with. This is a rather expansive topic, and certainly one that I am not going to be capable of adequately answering on my own.

  • This latest collaboration between Dewbond and myself actually began during the Canadian Thanksgiving Long Weekend, a short ways after SOTSU drew to a close. These discussions are always enjoyable, and it is fantastic to be able to get a fresh set of eyes on things. While our conversation this time around might not be as lengthy as some of our previous collaborations, I’m certain readers will find things interesting. Before Dewbond and I continue with our party, I will stop to briefly mention that five years ago to this day, I convocated from graduate school to earn my Master’s of Science in Computer Science.

Within minutes of finishing SOTSU, it became clear to me that to tackle the topic of these Higurashi sequels, it would be wise to get another set of eyes on things. I thus welcome Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime back for our latest collaborative discussion. I do not mind admitting that, this time around, I’ve actually got no idea where things will begin: Dewbond, it’s great to have you back, and I turn the floor over to you!


Thanks for having me back once again Zen. I knew once SOTSU and the Higurashi sequel as a whole finished up, we would return to this topic once more. I’m glad I did, because while we briefly discussed this last time, we can now really dig into it with everything said and done.

I will say that I have not been surprised at the reception towards this series. Higurashi is a beloved and popular anime series, which means any attempt to cash in on a sequel wasn’t going to work. It never has. Very much like the endless loops, the idea of a sequel to a beloved property has never been successful. Gundam SEED, Code Geass, Inuyasha, all of them are examples. Higurashi had really no chance, especially when its story, a masterful transformation from ‘horror of the week’ to ‘fantasy/conspiracy thriller’ was so bloody well told. What chance did GOU and SOTSU really have?

This is made further clear, with the way that GOU seemed to play with people’s expectations. Many believed that it would be a full on remake of the original series, which it was, until it wasn’t. That turned a lot of people off. But what do you think Zen? What were your expectations going into Higurashi GOU?


My expectations upon hearing about GOU were practically non-existent. As you’ve noted, Higurashi and KAI had presented such a masterful twist, and wrapped things up so decisively that sequels were simply unnecessary: Rika got her ending, and even Miyo found a way to liberate herself from her curse.

After watching the early trailers, I decided I would give things a go: going purely from these, I too imagined that GOU would be a sort of HD remaster, of re-telling familiar stories with updated visuals, and perhaps, a bit of foreshadowing to show off small details that might’ve not been present. I certainly wasn’t expecting things to head where it did! How about you, Dewbond? At GOU‘s onset, was there a direction you were looking for the series to take?


I first expected it like you, to be an HD remaster of the series, or a top-down remake. However it didn’t take long for the series to be something else. A small change there, a little difference here. The fact that the show was so similar at the start probably rubbed people the wrong way. I went into it after my second re-watch of the series so I was a little bit more grated.

I think Higurashi GOU/SOTSU‘s biggest thing was that there was a clear lack of understanding of what it is. Most of that was because there was a brand new mystery to solve. Had that been brought up at the start, it might have gone down with viewers better.

With it all done as I said though, I enjoyed where the story went. And let’s save a bit of time and assume viewers know the general jist of the series, and get into the big changes. Zen, what were your thoughts on Rika being tossed back inside the loops, and the idea of Satoko being behind it?


I have mixed feelings about having Satoko being the architect of Rika’s renewed suffering. On one hand, Higurashi had ended on such a conclusive note that it felt gratuitous to bring things back to where they’d been before Rika begn actively working to overcome her curse. It’d be equivalent to winning a gold medal fair and square, only for the medal to be redacted for an arbiturary reason. On the flipside, viewers were indeed stuck in Hinamizawa during the first season and KAI: until GOU, we’d never actually saw what sort of life Rika had been yearning for. Seeing her survive through the Cotton-Drifting Festival, graduate from middle school and gain admittance to St. Lucia was a rather exciting direction, and I was quite fond of how the series portrayed the widening rift between the two close friends.

Having said this, subjecting Rika to the unending, gruesome fates that resulted from Satoko’s interventions was a bit of a shocker, and my gut reaction was that this seemed to stand against what Higurashi and KAI intended its themes to be. The Satoko of Higurashi and KAI had been instrumental in helping Rika, so it felt illogical to see this change of heart. It’s honestly something that I’m torn about, at least until I had a chance to read the excellent points in one of your posts about Satoko’s fear of change, of losing Rika, as driving force behind why she is driven to such extremes. In fact, it feels like the reason why things get as out-of-hand as they do sounds like it is a consequence of Rika and Satoko being so close to one another: is it fair to say that the closer these two were, the more inevitable that we would get what we saw in GOU and SOTSU?


I think you are right on the money. The one thing I do think GOU and SOTSU get full marks for, is the story they wanted to tell. Satoko and Rika’s conflict is a logical place for the story to go. Instead of trying to go back to the well of usual antics, it instead tries to tell a story about how characters change and involve. Just because Rika solved her predicament didn’t mean her life was now perfect. Life goes on, and new problems come. The push and pull between what these two characters want became that new problem, and Higurashi asks a new question: What is Satoko Hōjō without Rika Furude? And what is Rika Furude without Satoko Hōjō?

Rika and Satoko only had each other, and being the only two characters close in age, had a deep bond that can only come from two children growing up. They were each other’s world, and for Satoko, the only real positive and constant force in her life. The idea of that going away, and being removed from that safe space, its the biggest fear she ever has. Because just what is Satoko without Rika? Can there even be a Satoko, or would she become consumed by the traumas that had haunted her life? What did you think of this Zen?


The sheer strength of emotion driving Satoko to the lengths that she did in order to break Rika’s will reminded me of Mark Frost: “there is no light without darkness”. This bit of poetry spoke generally to the idea of Yin and Yang, of things that necessarily exist because the other exists. Satoko’s own life is no picnic, and considering that her friends had been her source of comfort and support, it was only natural that she would seek out the path that she believes would provide her these things. Rika, similarly, had lived lifetimes of suffering, and through it all, Satoko had been unequivocally there for her, too. Neither can exist without the other, and Rika’s sparing Satoko at the end of their fight speaks to that; no matter what comes between them, there are more important things yet.

The way things panned out in GOU and SOTSU creates a bit of a tragedy: it is so easy to fall onto our own values and think of Satoko poorly for her actions here, but looking back now, it turns out that Satoko’s resorting to increasingly extreme methods was a consequence of her own despair. At St. Lucia, she is isolated, and as she takes on the power to live in loops, she becomes even more alone. This in turn is what lead to GOU‘s most infamous moment, when Satoko bisects Rika with the implement. We humans are wired for companionship, and oftentimes, those around us guide us from poor decisions. Satoko does not have this luxury in GOU and SOTSU, so having had a chance to sleep on things, I think that the series did make a brave effort to portray this side of their friendship, and how far things can go if people are trapped in their own thoughts. These themes certainly answered my question of what led up to Satoko tearing Rika’s internal organs out in GOU. That particular moment had been quite shocking indeed, but otherwise, GOU and SOTSU was a bit inconsistent, even restrained for a series known for its graphic portrayal of violence. Dewbond, I’d love to hear about how this changes up the look-and-feel of GOU and SOTSU compared to their predecessors


This is an interesting question, because in a way you can’t really answer it. If you want a straight answer then no. The violence on display does not hold up to the original. I mean, perhaps for a new viewer, but if you came into this series from the first one, then what you see doesn’t hold a candle. There is just no equivalent of something like Shion’s breakdown, or Rika’s “You lie!”, moments that remain in the minds of an entire generation. The janky animation at the time, while you can laugh at it, actually adds a layer of creepiness and horror that surprisingly still works. Do I think the sequel looks better? I do, but there was something missing as well.

You can’t recreate that feeling, that shock of seeing what Higurashi actually is for the first time. But that doesn’t mean GOU/SOTSU doesn’t have some good moments. While they don’t hold a candle. While the hoe scene is probably the most iconic moment of the sequel, things like the smash cut of Rika being happy, and then dying on the floor was a great moment. As was the death montage that followed. Anytime a baseball bat is used is great, and the final fight where Satoko smashes Rika against the wall is fantastic. It is still a gory show, no question, but it doesn’t have the same “holy shit” feeling, probably because you can only feel that once.


The older visuals definitely had a more uncanny vibe to them: to be honest, I too like the general aesthetics of GOU and SOTSU, but for unsettling us, the classics hit harder because of how abrupt the changes were. There was also another piece that the originals did a little better: if memory serves, Higurashi and KAI struck a balance between outright showing the more graphic moments, and concealing things by shifting the camera angles, and then allowing sound to do the rest. By showing us things implicitly, the mind is allowed to wander, and this greatly contributed to the horror present within the original: I’ve always been terrified of scenes where people continue to desecrate a corpse long after the victim is dead, and it speaks to just far gone everyone was.

Conversely, GOU and SOTSU were a bit more explicit. This occasionally did work in the series’ favour: on top of Satoko bisecting Rika, GOU and SOTSU do have a few moments that were quite disturbing (such as Keiichi’s rampage through Angel Mort in one of the realities), but other moments were a bit gratuitous. Because of how the violence was presented in GOU and SOTSU, it feels more of a visual metaphor for Satoko gradually losing her humanity the longer she keeps at trying to roll the dice in her favour, being less of a shocker to keep viewers guessing. This also does lead to the question: Satoko was only able to resort to the means that she did after accepting Eua’s powers, but in the original Higurashi and KAI, the gods only had a minimal role, leaving Rika and her friends to resolve their own problems. Here in GOU and SOTSU, the gods seem to have a much larger role. What do you make of this, Dewbond?


I think this was a good idea to keep GOU/SOTSU from being too much of a re-hash. Like I said before, I think it was the right idea to get as much distance from the governmental thriller storyline and Miyo’s revenge as possible. We didn’t need to go back to the well, and it would cheapened what was a fun and good conclusion to that story.

So that left us with the idea of the witches, and I think this is where GOU/SOTSU both works and falters. The idea of the witches, and the author’s tying everything into his later visual novels is a cool piece of trivia and lore for deep Higurashi nerds, but for others, it might have been a little strange. Sometimes not everything needs to be explain or expanded upon. There is joy in letting some mysteries remain mysteries, or some concepts unexplained. I never really once questioned the idea of looping and witches, it all just made sense because the story was so good.

With the sequel, it was the same thing. Despite the focus on the supernatural aspects of the story, it didn’t overwhelm or distract from the plot. The character interactions and Sakoto’s desire to keep Rika and that conflict was far more interesting. It was a tool, and the best tools don’t take away attention from the story said tool is being used for.


As someone who’s unfamiliar with the 07th Expansion universe, I am in the camp who found things a little strange at first. Higurashi had established that the gods were indeed a presence, and that their power was very much a part of the world, so it wasn’t out of left field to see the story shift over, but the idea of Hanyū being a “failure”, and Eua’s familiarity with everything did come across as a bit unexpected. Once the initial shock wore off, however, the interaction between Eua and Satoko did become more interesting to watch: while ostensibly an antagonist, Eua doesn’t do more than grant Satoko the power she desires to pursue Rika and egg Satoko on to keep things, in her words, entertaining.

In retrospect, it makes sense that Eua and Hanyū’s remain enigmas – while I usually like seeing how all facets of a given story tie together, GOU and SOTSU‘s decision to leave the gods’ world unexplored is probably a hint to viewers that there are things that go on out there beyond our comprehension. This suits GOU and SOTSU just fine, and given that things aren’t terribly distracting, it works well enough for people like myself; I don’t feel that it is strictly necessary to do a little reading on Umineko: When They Cry in order to see what GOU and SOTSU are going for.


Do you need to read Umineko to enjoy this sequel? Absolutely not. It’s more of tidbits and fanservices for die-hard fans of the series, and really about confirming long held fan theories. I didn’t know much about it, and I still found GOU/SOTSU to be a very enjoyable affair, with a touching ending that even the original didn’t really capture.

So, with all of that said. Zen, do you feel that Higurashi GOU and Higurashi SOTSU were a worthy follow up to the original, putting aside fan expectations?


For me, GOU and SOTSU proved to be unexpected in many ways – the direction was unexpected, as were the outcomes, and when everything wrapped up, I wasn’t too sure what to make of it. Having now had a chance to sit down, digest things and give everything some thought, I feel that GOU and SOTSU succeeded in bringing us a new experience. The themes were different than the original, and the series cast off some limiters from the originals, allowing us to see more “what if” scenarios.

While GOU and SOTSU are unlikely to displace the originals in terms of impact, I am quite happy to give credit where it is due; GOU and SOTSU end up with a different theme than did the originals, conveyed a sense of mystery in its beginning that brought back memories of the originals, and looking back, the only real quibble I have is that things dragged out for a little longer than I would’ve liked. All told, I would likely amend my initial impressions of SOTSU and say that yes, GOU and SOTSU together as a whole do add something new to Higurashi in a worthy manner.

Having said this, GOU and SOTSU have been a bit more polarising, and some folks have counted the series unnecessary as a continuation and unwatchable, amongst other things that are a little less civilised. GOU and SOTSU does feel like a series where mileage will vary depending on the person, but where provided with the opportunity, Dewbond, what would you have to say for viewers who do not see any merits on GOU and SOTSU?


I would say this to those fans who do not see any merits to the sequel.

Every follow up to a popular series has to answer the one all consuming question: “Did we need this?” So far, the resounding answer all around has been no. GOU and SOTSU do not change that equation. They are unneeded sequels to a show that pretty much ended perfectly. They are unable to re-capture the feeling of watching Higurashi for the first time, and even the most impressive blood and guts can’t bring that feeling back.

That being said. GOU and SOTSU try to do what few follow ups try to do and move the story in new directions. Instead of running back to the well, they take a few risks and let the characters grow. It is a story about change, the inevitability of it, and how growing up means growing apart, but not the destruction of friendships and yes, love. If you go into the series with an open mind and not expecting to be thrown back to your first experiences, then you might really enjoy it.


I couldn’t have said it better myself, Dewbond. As you’ve stated, GOU and SOTSU is a sequel that took risks and has its own unique rewards. Especially now, where anime can become divisive very quickly, I would think that at the end of the day, people should make their own call as to whether or not something like GOU and SOTSU is up their alley. For me, I fall into the group who enjoyed seeing where things headed overall – having now had a chance to reflect on things a little, I am happy to put GOU and SOTSU in the “enjoyed it” column.

With this being said, it’s hard to begrudge those who disliked the series; perhaps this is an outlandish comparison, but GOU and SOTSU is to Higurashi what Halo 5: Guardians is to Halo as a whole. Mechanically, Halo 5 was excellent and advanced the franchise, but the story left folks quite divided, too. At the end of the day, I remain quite glad to have watched GOU and SOTSU to completion for the experience, and I am doubly happy to have you back to share a discussion of how this continuation fits into the Higurashi franchise!


Thanks for having me as always Zen, and I’m sure we’ll be talking again real soon.


  • I’ll wrap up this talk with Satoko waving at Mion, Rena and Keiichi in SOTSU‘s final moments. Dear You begins playing, and longtime viewers will be familiar with the song know it as being used to embody the character’s feelings, as well as the overall themes and motifs within Higurashi itself. I disagree with the prevailing sentiment about how using this song was “undeserved”: this was a pleasant way to wrap GOU and SOTSU up. Similarly, I will note that Kenji Kawai’s incidental music are solid. The compositions he provides has a very distinct Ip Man character about them, and this really helped to augment the emotions of a given moment.

I’m confident that I’ll be hosting Dewbond again in the near future. With our latest collaboration in the books, Dewbond has certainly helped me to clear up some of the lingering thoughts on my mind after Higurashi GOU and SOTSU ended; GOU began running last October, and then SOTSU picked up during the summer of this year: with thirty-nine weeks of stuff happening, watching both series as they aired proved to be no mean feat, and the series certainly did offer things to consider. The conclusion that we reach after stepping through both GOU and SOTSU should not be particularly surprising, as we indicate that credit should be given where it is due. Our discussion is an instance of why I’m fond of hearing out differing perspectives on the series: on one hand, Higurashi GOU and SOTSU were indeed extraneous, but simultaneously, and perhaps contradictorily so, GOU and SOTSU also does end up offering something new to the Higurashi franchise. Having an extra set of eyes on things means I can take a step back and understand what this sequel’s aims were, as well as appreciate where it did things well. Collaborative posts are always fun to write, and I will remark that I am open to such conversations: if readers are interested in collaborating, please let me know in the comments or on social media. In the meantime, I have not yet forgotten my promise to Dewbond about Fate/Zero: folks have suggested that the anime’s main themes are about how sacrifice is required to ensure peace, that one must always be critical of the social structure and to this extent, must resort to any means necessary to create one’s own vision of society, even if it comes at a great cost to others. In order to dispel any misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding my first impressions of the series, it is only fair to watch Fate/Zero myself and make my verdict after I’ve got a full picture. That could be a solid topic to review with Dewbond, and until then, I hope folks have enjoyed the conversation Dewbond and I have shared concerning GOU and SOTSU, and if our conversation here has kicked off an interest, both Dewbond and I have readers covered.

Dewbond’s Higurashi GOU and SOTSU Posts

Infinite Zenith’s Higurashi GOU and SOTSU Posts

Missed the earlier Higurashi collaborations between Dewbond and myself?

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 Hell 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.