The Infinite Zenith

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Receiver 2 – Reflections Ten Hours in, Celebrating Ten Years of Wolfire’s Receiver and A Retrospective on Ethics in Media

“You have seen the signs around you – the gradual creeping decay and dysfunction. You have realised that something is wrong with the media and the people around you. You know that you are different. This is why you’re ready to become a Receiver.”

Back in 2012, the Wolfire team released Receiver, a game originally made for the 7-Day FPS Challenge back in 2012. Armed with only an M1911A1, players needed to master the art of smoothly executing pistol reloading as they made their way through a procedurally-generated world in search of special tapes which, when listened to, help the individual to reach enlightenment in an age where mass media has infiltrated every aspect of everyday life and controls how people think and act, resulting in a Mindkill event. Wolfire submitted Receiver to the Steam Greenlight programme, and Receiver itself became available on Steam ten years ago on this day. With this release, the Wolfire Team added the Glock 17 and the Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver. Besides its sobering message about the dangers of placing faith in the media, Receiver also proved to be the epitome of what games are about: players must learn how their pistol works to stand any chance against The Threat’s kill-drones, but even proficiency is no guarantee of survival, as kill-drones and tapes spawn randomly in the world. This came together to create an unparalleled experience where skill and luck came together in a true test of the player’s patience and knowledge. By late 2019, Wolfire announced a long-awaited sequel to Receiver: Receiver 2 would simulate all elements in a gun, and in conjunction with more evolved mechanics, also greatly expanded on the elements seen in the first Receiver. Receiver 2 is broken up into ranks, and as players level up from collecting tapes, the difficulty increases as The Threat makes handling firearms increasingly dangerous, and new enemy types are introduced. Along the way, the tapes collected introduce players to what it means to become a Receiver, the history behind the different firearms in Receiver 2, the importance of gun safety and most importantly, the significance of mental health and an alertness to the mass media’s techniques in obscuring the truth and increasing discord. With more involved mechanics and modernised visuals, Receiver 2 is a worthy successor to Receiver. One of Receiver 2‘s most surprising mechanic is the existence of the Threat Echoes, tapes containing recordings of individuals who commit suicide. Finding these tapes causes The Threat to briefly take control of the player, and it takes swift action to render a gun safe so one can survive this moment of a loss of control. As players acclimatise to Receiver 2 and grow familiar with the mechanics, collecting tapes and levelling up reveals an even deeper warning about contemporary society and the role of mass media in eroding an individual’s mental health. At the same time, Receiver 2‘s message is one of cautious optimism: despite the prevalence of media and its impact, people can still prepare themselves and overcome things with sufficient preparation.

When the Wolfire team set out to create Receiver, developer Aubrey Serr recorded the tapes’ dialogue with the intention of mirroring how cults and religions use techniques to displace one’s knowledge and replace it with another set of beliefs. By controlling information that one accesses, promises of enlightenment, reducing complex issues to black and white and demanding use of specific jargon, religions and cults seek to fundamentally change the way people think such that they lose their agency and submit wholly to that group’s control. In a curious meta-experience, Receiver also suggested that the key to undoing indoctrination was as grim as it was effective: to be indoctrinated by something else. Although the Receivers spoken of in-game also follow a cult-like set of beliefs, they are said to be enlightened, prepared to do what’s necessary and practise gun safety, giving them the tools to resist other forms of indoctrination. The irony, then, is that the Receiver has already been indoctrinated. In this way, Receiver raises interesting questions for players, prompting them to re-evaluate the world around them and in the process, become more aware of the techniques that are used to control people. Through Receiver and Receiver 2, it becomes apparent that the mass media is also complicit in thought control, employing a wide range of means to spread fear and misinformation in a bid to retain their benefactors’ position of privilege. Politicians and corporations alike have specific interests, and to ensure they retain their control over wealth and influence, use the media as a means of placating the masses. By selectively reporting on current events and reiterating specific angles, they can persuade viewers into accepting a truth. Per Receiver 2, the solution here is simple enough: one cannot allow themselves to believe the media, and must always operate with a combination of critical thinking and skepticism. Although Receiver and its successor both warn of the dangers of mass media, the lessons here also apply to social media. Originally envisioned as a means of democritising the transmission of information, social has only served to increase misinformation, polarising people further. Originally, the intention was that notable or interesting content could be promoted by means of things like “trending”, “upvotes” and “retweets”. In this way, content meritorious of being shared would become more visible, and individuals could become heard if they shared helpful, truthful content. However, in practise, extremist and polarising rhetoric spreads through social media with greater speed, and undeserving individuals accumulate more followers, karma and retweets as a result. Owing to the speed of propagation, social media ends up being even more harmful than more traditional forms of media. As people become demoralised by a constant stream of lies, memes and insults, their mental health declines. Receiver 2, however, suggests that even then, one can still find means of resisting the media’s harmful impact and improve their mental health amidst an endless stream of media. Much as how players drill constantly to master the skills they need to survive in Receiver 2, in reality, one can find merit in eating and sleeping well, exercising and practising mindfulness. When faced with political content on social media, it is healthier to approach with a skeptical and dismissive mindset, rather than accepting or responding to it. Invalid opinions shouldn’t be retweeted, but it’s also unnecessary to argue against it. In this way, Receiver 2 continues on in the footsteps of its predecessor, encouraging people to think for themselves, master what they can in their lives and using mental fortitude to critically examine claims people make – competence with Receiver 2‘s controls and mechanics will help one to advance through the ranks and learn more about the story, but the learnings also provide one with increased resilience in real life.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • According to the blog archives, the last time I wrote about Receiver, it was October 2015. Back then, I would’ve been in graduate school, in the middle of the most relaxed term I’d had in the whole of my programme – that semester, I had no courses and therefore was free to wholly focus on my research project. I was very deep into Receiver, and it became my go-to game whenever I had a free moment, allowing me to become proficient with the game’s remarkable mechanics. When Receiver 2 was announced in December 2019, my curiosity was piqued. However, while the sequel looked compelling enough, the price tag was a bit of a deterrent because at the time of its release, my second start-up hadn’t been doing so well, and I felt it wasn’t a financially prudent decision to buy any new games.

  • While finances would eventually be a lesser concern, I remained reluctant to buy Receiver 2 because the game had a known issue: Receiver 2 is built around a levelling system, and leaving the game would instantly cause one to rank down, wiping one’s progress. In this way, Receiver 2 was put on the back burner, and I resolved to wait until the game saw a better discount. To my great surprise, one of my friends wound up gifting me a copy of Receiver 2 during the previous Christmas, remarking it was for being there for him through some difficult times and hearing him out. I am very appreciative of this gift, and having now started the game, I am of the mind that perhaps the game was worth picking up, even at full price.

  • In the present, Receiver 2 has been updated so players only lose ranks upon death, and leaving the game will automatically save the player state correctly. With this critical issue fixed, I was able to begin my journey without the fear of losing progress. The game opens with a brief tutorial, and once players collect two tapes, they are allowed to formally start things. Right out of the gates, I found myself returning to familiar locations, firing familiar firearms. A few small changes have been made: firearms will now have a probability of discharging when holstered or unholstered quickly if their safeties are not engaged, and the firearm’s capacities are restricted compared to their predecessors: revolvers almost always spawn with a blocked chamber, and magazines for semi-automatics will almost always have reduced capacity.

  • Some magazines will also have weaker springs, causing them to fail to push a new round into the chamber. All of these elements demand utmost focus from players, and this was a straight upgrade from the original Receiver, where pistols were always in perfect condition and never misfired. The element of randomness is initially an impediment, and muscle memory resulted in me shooting myself more often than I cared to count. However, unlike something like Kantai Collection, where randomness is meant to punish players, the randomness in Receiver 2 is a valid mechanic, and with a bit of common sense, mishaps can be mitigated.

  • The opening tutorial starts players off with the Colt Detective Special and requires they collect two tapes after learning the basics. Once the tutorial is completed, Receiver 2 begins formally, and players are given free reign to explore the map. It becomes clear that iconic locations from the original Receiver make a return in Receiver 2, except this time, everything’s been given a complete overhaul, and everything in the game looks astoundingly detailed. The apartments have always been my favourite part of the map, and here in Receiver 2, they are portrayed as comfortable, well-appointed luxury condos that I wouldn’t mind calling home.

  • Receiver‘s condos had been minimally furnished and the simple visuals left much to the imagination, so seeing all of the visual improvements to Receiver 2 was the surest sign that Wolfire had put in all of the effort to ensure that this sequel was a straight upgrade over its predecessor. Upon exploring the maps further, it turns out every single section in the game’s been given an upgrade. The sections still flow into one another smoothly, but this time, there’s a small bit of variability as sometimes, doorways are blocked off, forcing one to explore alternate routes.

  • Of note is how the lowest floor of the apartments now has a proper bedroom. In the original Receiver, the bedroom had been host to a very strange-looking tent, but this has now been replaced with a comfortable-looking queen-sized bed. Similarly, the floating bathtub has been properly addressed now. Beyond familiar areas, Receiver 2 also introduces an arcade and hospital, whose unique layout compels players to move cautiously through them as one searches for tapes.

  • The tapes of Receiver 2 are more expressive and varied than their Receiver counterparts, but like Receiver, which claimed that repeated listenings are important towards learning the message and becoming an Awakened Receiver, over time, players will become very familiar with the tapes and their contents. To this point, I’ve ended up memorising all of the original tapes and can recite them from heart as a result of having played Receiver for the past decade. I’ve beaten the original on two occasions (once with the Model 10, and once with the M1911).

  • I originally received Receiver as a complementary gift for having purchased Overgrowth, and while Overgrowth was still in development, I played the heck out of Receiver. After beating the game twice, my interest somewhat waned as I moved on to other games, but in 2019, Wolfire announced that they were going to give Receiver an overhaul, updating the game code so it was compatible with the latest version of Unity. This allowed Receiver to use the lighting effects that were only available in newer versions of the engine and showed Wolfire’s commitment to their game. I did find that following the update, Receiver became significantly more difficult as the game began spawning more kill-drones.

  • Since 2015, I haven’t been successful in collecting all eleven tapes, but I have dropped in here and there to play the game on occasion, and this has allowed me to retain my ability to reload weapons swiftly here in Receiver 2. For the most part, the key bindings are the same, so I’ve had no trouble reloading the Detective Special and Model 10. After ranking up, I also unlocked the original game’s M1911A1 and Glock 17C. The M1911 was my favourite weapon in Receiver owing to its reliability and ease-of-use: it hits harder than the Glock 17 but has a higher firing rate and capacity compared to the Model 10. The Receiver 2 incarnation is a bit of a loose cannon: lacking a safety, the gun is prone to discharging when holstered and unholstered if one isn’t cautious.

  • Learning the techniques for safely handling each pistol means that over time, the starting weapon becomes less of a impediment: if I were to use the Glock, holding the key for holstering a weapon allows it to be put away or pulled out without a risk of misfire, and at higher levels, removing the magazine and ejecting the chambered round will render it safe. In this way, although Receiver 2‘s randomness may still present some challenge, having skill (in the form of knowledge) mitigates some of the risks, similarly to how in reality, where luck may always be a confounding factor in one’s endeavours, but in spite of this, the presence of skill allows one to tip probability in their favour.

  • This is, incidentally, my definition of luck and skill. For a given situation, skill refers to the set of variables one can control for in a reliable fashion through experience and knowledge, and luck refers to the set of variables outside of one’s control. A situation that is skill-dependent is one where, the better one’s knowledge and experience are, the better their odds of success are, and a luck-dependent situation is where probability dictates the outcome, independently of one’s knowledge and experience. In complex, real-world scenarios, luck and skill both come into play. I hold that sufficient skill can offset poor luck, and at the same time, good luck is no substitute for skill.

  • Receiver 2 and its predecessor become excellent examples of the interplay between luck and skill. Luck is where the resources and kill-drones spawn, while skill is how well one can manage their weapon and operate safely. A skilled player will be able to adapt to the stochasticity in where kill-drones and tapes spawn more effectively, improving their odds of completing a rank. Although some spawns will definitely tilt things against the player’s favour and even result in death, a skilled player simply has reduced odds of dying to a kill-drone.

  • Befitting of a sequel, the HUD in Receiver 2 is more refined but otherwise has the same layout. In the original Receiver, inventory is displayed on the lower left hand corner of the screen, and the tape count was shown in the upper right. However, depending on spawns, one could carry as many magazines and flashlights as there were number keys, and this sometimes resulted in a row of flashlights stretching out across the bottom of the screen. Receiver 2 limits the players to five items, minimising screen clutter. Tape counts are now displayed in the lower right-hand corner, and there is a clearer indicator of when a tape is being played.

  • Originally, weapons were holstered into the inventory, but Receiver 2 moves the holster to the right-hand side, giving the pistol its own slot. Help is rendered by means of a menu on the upper right hand side, just like Receiver, but here in Receiver 2, the game helpfully displays a text overlay if something unexpected comes up during the earlier levels. Recommended keystrokes are overlaid on the screen if one’s weapon runs out of ammunition or jams, giving one insight into what they can do to unstick themselves from a problem.

  • The earlier iterations of Receiver 2 did not display an indicator as to what stage one was on, but later versions include an icon. Here, I’ve started out at the Baseline rank, and in the screenshot below, I’ve been promoted to “Asleep”. Ranks break Receiver 2 up into a more manageable state: the original game simply required players collect eleven tapes in a single sitting, and this made the game remarkably difficult. Moreover, because one couldn’t save, one had to complete sessions all at once. Conversely, Receiver 2 allows players to now break their sessions up, and with the save feature working, it’s possible to collect half the tapes at a given level and exit the game to do something else, then return later.

  • Altogether, while Receiver 2 is more involved than its predecessor and features more complex mechanics that can prima facie prove frustrating even to Receiver veterans, Receiver 2 is a direct upgrade that adds many quality of life improvements to balance out this difficulty. Being able to save mid-session is the feature I most value; during graduate school, I often had to give up a perfectly good session in favour of other obligations, but in the present, I can hop into a level, collect one or two tapes and exit to tend to other tasks, then return exactly where I left off later.

  • Here, I make my way carefully through the mechanical room filled with tanks. Receiver‘s rooms were seemingly arbitrarily designed, and in Receiver 2, all of the classic spaces make a return. However, with improved art direction, Receiver 2‘s spaces are logically designed and give a greater sense of purpose. One is making their way through an intricate labyrinth of interconnected buildings, some of which are under construction, and thanks to clever design, all of the spaces flow together better. Outside, Receiver 2‘s skybox and environments have also been overhauled.

  • Here, I’ve managed to spawn in with the Desert Eagle, which is unlocked for being promoted. Players universally agree that, between the small magazine size (only seven shots with a good magazine), heavy recoil and low fire rate, the Desert Eagle is one of the most difficult weapon to use in Receiver 2. However, the Desert Eagle’s limitations are offset by the fact that, on a per-shot basis, it’s the most powerful pistol available in the game: a single shot will be enough to disable a turret, and the .50 calibre rounds have enough energy to knock turrets over. In fact, the in-game tape describes the Desert Eagle as a pocket assault rifle.

  • While careless players will instantly die when the weapon misfires if not holstered/unholstered properly, the Desert Eagle does have a safety, so flipping the safety and holstering the weapon will eliminate any chance of ending one’s round prematurely. Here, I collect five tapes and take a breather to let the tape play; when all of the requisite tapes for a rank are collected, players are transported to a new rank, given a different weapon and go through the process again. However, ranking up means encountering new enemies, reduced available resources and more challenging spawns. The shock-drones make an appearance at the “Asleep” level, and beyond this, foes like armoured turrets and ceiling turrets begin showing up.

  • In classic Receiver, the skybox of the city surrounding the game world is a modified image of Hong Kong. In the skybox, buildings like the Jardine House and Bank of China Tower can be seen. I imagine from an art standpoint, being a glittering, futuristic metropolis, Hong Kong made sense from an aesthetic perspective. In a bit of irony, a year after Receiver was released to the Steam Store, protests in Hong Kong, motivated by electoral reform, paralysed the city. When the original protests did not have any tangible change on the city’s government, dissatisfaction from this would create the very scenario that Receiver describes; following a proposal to implement an extradition bill, some people acted on the cult-like belief that violence was the only way to affect positive change, resulting in the 2019 riots.

  • Receiver 2, on the other hand, is set in a generic metropolis with buildings of a North American design. However, Receiver 2’s backgrounds are rendered with 3D objects now, rather than using a skybox. This creates a greater sense of immersion in the game, since the surrounding city now feels more tangible. The improved visuals also allowed Wolfire to add new effects: at the lower ranks, it’s nighttime, but a fog begins rolling in as one levels up. Lightning and thunder soon appear, and by the time players reach the penultimate level, the city has fallen into decays as fires rage in the buildings.

  • Here, my Desert Eagle has jammed after a cartridge failed to eject. Clearing it is a simple matter of removing the magazine and pulling the slide back, although in some cases, it is possible to clear a jam by pulling the side back and dislodging the cartridge. After weapons are unlocked, players will retain them, and that means even at lower ranks, unlocks persist. In the baseline level, the most common tape players will find deals with how anyone who is aware of the problems with the media is on the first step towards becoming a Receiver.

  • I am very fond of this tape, since there is truth in the statement: there is definitely a problem with the media, and for this reason, any time I hear about international current events, I regard the media’s interpretation of an event with a grain of salt and stop to consider what the implications are if the media was, in fact, being truthful (nine of ten times, their opinions fall apart when a bit of logic is applied). People are generally aware of media bias and untruths, but what is truly disturbing is that adults under thirty nowadays report that they regard all news from social media as having equal or greater trustworthiness than news from traditional media. While these people report that the “unfiltered” nature of Twitter and Reddit news makes it more trustworthy, there’s absolutely no way to easily verify if something is true or not.

  • By their nature, social media is not anything approaching reliable or trustworthy precisely because it is unfiltered. Social media is singularly responsible for increasing polarisation and ignorance in society, partially because anyone can create an account, use underhanded means to accumulate followers and gather retweets to give the impression of trustworthiness. Groups of coordinated individuals can also game visibility algorithms to push lies long before verification can be done, creating mass panic. In response to this stuff, I regard all social media trends as false until later proven correct, and I never share anything that’s remotely related to politics.

  • I am of the mind that Twitter’s “retweet” feature should be outright disabled for political content: originally meant to let people share content quickly, retweets have become the self-proclaimed political pundit’s most indispensable weapon – allowing people to effortlessly share what amounts to political opinion is precisely why misinformation has become such a pandemic. The very presence of retweets significantly degrades Twitter, since they’re treated as a social currency of sorts: quite simply, someone with more retweets is regarded as being more trustworthy, and as a result, people will go to extraordinary lengths to accumulate retweets, even if it means saying something incendiary and untruthful. On the other hand, non-political content should not be penalised in any way: there is nothing wrong with sharing artwork, release dates, relevant blog posts and travel photos.

  • When one judges trustworthiness of political content on the merit of reputation and retweet counts alone, they are more prone to be misinformed. In this way, those that say they “do their own research” aren’t usually any better informed than those who watch the news – there are some folks out there who read into things on their own and place their trust in a source simply because they appear reputable, then end up drawing wrong conclusions. AnimeSuki’s “ramlaen” and “mangamuscle” are both examples of this – the former continues to believe the 2020 election was “stolen”, while the latter argues that, because his knowledge of the conflict in Ukraine surpasses those of military experts, NATO should consider a nuclear exchange as a means of sticking it to Vladimir Putin, even though such an action would result in mutually assured destruction and do little more than highlight mangamuscle’s ignorance.

  • Towards the end of my time at AnimeSuki, I noticed that the political discourse was running out of steam. At the height of the global health crisis, people like ramlaen and mangamuscle were posting multiple times a day, reminding other forum-goers that everyone besides them were wrong about everything constantly, but by the end of last year, these individuals began posting with decreased frequency. This is because the effort of trying to convince people of untruths is an exhausting and unrewarding one, and I imagine that even for those with unlimited leisure time, thinking about politics constantly must be nastily exhausting. I’ve never bothered to stoop to their level and argue against them on the grounds that my time is worth a great deal more than theirs.

  • One interesting statistic I noticed was that more highly-educated individuals actually tend to make more mistakes as far as understanding foreign policy is concerned. This is because individuals with more knowledge and exposure also tend to be more confident in their ability to parse and handle information. In the realm of science, for instance, repeatability and sample size is a critical part of all research. If a pattern or observation is made repeatedly, then there might be merit to supposing there is a correlation, and if the evidence is particularly strong, claims of causation might become possible. Applying this in the context of parsing political information, if all one hears on the news is the same message, then the rational part of the mind would be inclined to say, since all of the sources make the same observations, then the claims must have some merit.

  • In reality, media collusion exists, wherein media outlets will agree on a single narrative behind closed doors so that a specific message is conveyed. This is why when news becomes available at different outlets, they often contain copy-pasted text, and the end result is that even educated individuals would fall into the trap of believing the media (or social media). More knowledgable individuals are actually harder to convince of their wrongness because they have more faith in their cognitive and reasoning, and in the case of AnimeSuki’s two self-proclaimed political pundits, both are in the IT industry, the same as myself. However, both allow their own prejudices and conviction in their superior intellect to render them oblivious to the fact that the information they’ve gathered could have significant flaws, whereas I am aware of the limits to my own knowledge and are respectful enough not to add to the noise.

  • Receiver 2 suggests that making good decisions is not a matter of intelligence, and instead, comes down to a matter of common sense. If one pauses to ask about the consistency of a given claim, it may be the case that the claim is self-contradictory or falls apart. Rejecting the media’s claims and refusing to agree with them in the absence of consistent, solid evidence is something we should be permitted to do in a free society. Seeing organisations like Anime News Network disagree is actually quite telling. In one tweet from their editorial director, it was claimed that “attacking ‘the media’ – even tiny niche publications like ANN – as some kind of monolithic evil has, historically, been proven to get you a whole lot of likes and subscribes…but…you’re demonstrably going to get one of [their number] killed”. In this case, said editorial director hid behind journalistic integrity as a shield to deflect criticisms surrounding Anime News Network’s modus operandi, and when I challenged him, I was swiftly blocked.

  • This action proved to me, beyond any doubt, that Anime News Network’s goal is, first and foremost, to control what people think about anime. It struck me that, if a “tiny niche” outlet couldn’t be trusted to talk about something as trivial as anime in a fair manner, then larger publications certainly had no trustworthiness when it came to things like foreign events (especially where special interests are involved). Back in Receiver 2, I’ve managed to rank up. Observant readers will have noticed the level logo becoming more detailed as I rank up. Ten hours into the game, I’ve become a little more familiar with where things spawn, and one of my favourite cues is how the game uses audio to indicate a tape’s location. Tapes now spawn anywhere, and one can hear vocalisations that become progressively louder as one becomes closer to the tape.

  • On my best run, I ended up making it all the way to the final rank, “Awake”. Along the way, I unlocked the Beretta 92/M9. This pistol’s slide design is such that cartridges are less likely to jam (resulting in what’s known as a stovepipe malfunction), but the magazines are of a poorer quality, so the weapon will sometimes fail to feed. While all of the 9mm semiautomatic pistols work on similar principles in Receiver 2, there are nuances that need to be learnt, and depending on one’s knowhow, some guns will initially appear to be more reliable than others.

  • During one particularly challenging segment, the Beretta I was using suffered from a faulty magazine spring that caused rounds to constantly fail to be loaded. This meant after almost every shot, I needed to tap the magazine and pull the slide back to manually chamber a round. In moments where I only had a lone kill-drone to deal with, this wasn’t a problem, but in later levels, the shock drones begin appearing. Unlike their Receiver counterparts, shock drones can now be shattered by individual rounds, and while they are still dangerous, leaving them immobile and giving them distance is a good means of conserving on ammunition.

  • Receiver 2 introduces the idea of hacking turrets and drones. If one’s weapon is holstered, they can disable a  kill-drone by hacking into it. This fully disables a drone and is an excellent means of conserving on ammunition, as well as minimising the risk of discharging a firearm at close range. Bullets can ricochet off surfaces and injure the player, and firing through windows can cause shards of glass to fall that can cut the player. While one is at full health, these hazards are survivable, but carelessness will result in failure. Here, I manage to collect four tapes and rest in one of the apartments while letting the tape run to completion. A reassuring piece of incidental music plays on every successful rank up, giving players a chance to decompress before the next level is loaded.

  • As one progresses, the environment in Receiver 2 subtly changes. A thunderstorm grips the map, creating a grim atmosphere, and towards the end, it does feel like the apocalypse, as fires rage through the city and the skies glow red. At the penultimate level, I’ve unlocked the SIG Sauer P226, Domovoi Butler’s preferred weapon. SIG Sauer is also John Clark’s preferred pistol brand: in Tom Clancy’s novels, Clark typically carries the P220, which is chambered for the .45 ACP round. This weapon is generally reliable, but differs from the other semiautomatics in that it uses a lever to de-cock the hammer. Once the weapon is de-cocked, it is safe to holster.

  • The high stakes of the later levels comes from the fact that, even though there are fewer tapes to collect, the amount of danger has increased. The Threat’s presence is far stronger, so there’s more kill-drones around, resources are more limited, and firearms are more prone to malfunction or misfire. On my first run of the penultimate stage, I somehow managed to make use of the SIG Saucer and managed to reach the end of the level. Along the way, some of the tapes I picked up contained content that was a callback to the original Receiver.

  • Although Receiver never specified what a fully-awakened Receiver is like, the game offered enough detail to suggest that in an Awake state, Receivers are able to differentiate between fact and fiction and can make their own decisions to affect positive, effective survival. Here, I collected the last of the tapes needed to reach the final rank, and for players who get this far, Receiver 2 will lock them to the Colt Single Action Army (SAA). The Colt SAA is the single most difficult gun to use in Receiver 2, since rounds can only be loaded and extracted one at a time. On my first playthrough, a lack of knowledge in how to operate the Colt SAA meant my run didn’t last long, and even though there’s only three tapes to collect, kill-drones are now so numerous that I wasn’t comfortable in entering a situation with the tool at hand.

  • In the end, I entered one of the apartments, pulled back the hammer, took aim and pulled the trigger, only for the gun to fail to fire. I was spotted, the turret fired, and I was instantly demoted. A series of unfortunate mistakes would then send me all the way back to the baseline rank. Of course, now that the Colt SAA is added to the pool of weapons, I’ll have a chance to train myself on how to use it, and return to this top level in the future, ready to win. My initial thoughts on Receiver 2 are extremely positive, and for me, the Receiver games represent the sort of game that I respect: with a high skill ceiling and a remarkable narrative that covers firearm safety, mental health and maintaining a healthy skepticism of all forms of media, Receiver 2 is a worthy successor that acts as the thinker’s game.

  • What makes Receiver 2 so enjoyable is precisely because it is able to disempower players through the skill curve to create challenge, but at the same time, encourage players to train and improve so that there will come a point where skill can help even the odds, allowing one to prevail. In short, Receiver and its sequel, Receiver 2, rewards effort while saying something meaningful at the same time, making it a frontrunner in what games should strive to do for their players. For now, I’ll wrap the discussion up here; I do have plans to write about the mental health aspects Receiver 2 strives to convey in the future. Next August will mark the ten year anniversary to the release of Depression Quest, which had no business in calling itself a game and found itself entangled in all sorts of controversy as a result of unwarranted praise. Receiver 2 does everything this title could not, and I expect that by then, I’ll have completed Receiver 2 at least once to unlock all of the tapes and their messages, leaving me in the best possible position to discuss what Wolfire succeeds in doing with Receiver 2 when Depression Quest had utterly failed.

Ten hours into Receiver 2, I’ve become more comfortable with operating the new pistols that join the roster. Receiver originally had three weapons available to players, but here in Receiver 2, the Colt Detective Special, the Desert Eagle Mark I, the Beretta M9, the SIG Sauer P226, the Hi-Point C-9, and the Colt Single Action Army all become available. Different weapons have different handling traits, and because of the dangers The Threat poses, players are encouraged to learn weapon safety as soon as they begin. Whether it’s removing the magazine and ejecting any chambered rounds for weapons lacking safeties, leaving the hammer un-cocked for revolvers and flipping weapon safeties on for some semi-automatic pistols, small actions taken can go a long way in keeping one alive: weapons will now misfire when mishandled, and this can end an otherwise solid run. Some tapes will remind players of how important it is to check their targets before firing, never flinch in anticipation of a gunshot, and treat every firearm as though it was loaded. This primer on gun safety, as well as how to render a firearm safe (or armed) from any state, is a reminder of how dangerous they are. With this improved knowledge about Receiver 2‘s weapons, which do indeed simulate every part of a weapon (shell casings may occasionally fail to eject properly, and rounds may fail to load), it’s become possible for me to advance further: I’ve managed to reach the Awake level in a relatively short amount of time, and while I was helped by a prior knowledge of Receiver‘s mechanics, there’s enough going on in Receiver 2 so that returning players will need to spend a bit of effort to familiarse themselves with the additions to the game. For folks who’ve put in the hours, Receiver 2 becomes a superb extension to the first game, and since Wolfire has long addressed a critical bug, in which players level down if they quit, Receiver 2 has become a very enjoyable title that simultaneously informs players of the importance of weapon safety, mental health and the media’s efforts to brainwash, as well as providing a game that genuinely challenges one’s skill. Contrasting multiplayer games, where players can install software to gain an unfair advantage over other players, there is no substitute for skill and competence in Receiver 2; every smoothly-executed reload, and every level cleared en route towards reaching an Awakened state, is satisfying, reminiscent of how in real life, preparation and knowledge can turn a life-threatening situation into a manageable one.

Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω – Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“It’s your outlook on life that counts. If you take yourself lightly and don’t take yourself too seriously, pretty soon, you can find the humor in our everyday lives, and sometimes it can be a lifesaver.” –Betty White

After summer draws to a close, Hana and Shinichi’s friendship slowly begins moving forward after Hana realises that Shinichi has never called her by her given name before. Although she manages to convince Shinichi to address her by her given name, Shinichi ends up revealing that Hana’s special to him, and the embarrassment of this leads him to seek out a means of stress relief. He ends up starting a membership at the local gym and meets Fujio, a trainer who’s impressed with Shinichi’s drive and physical prowess. Unbeknownst to Fujio, Shinichi is also Hana’s senior. Over the course of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, both Hana and Shinichi end up walking a tightrope: it seems that every last person believes that the pair are a good match for one another, and as a result, the pair end up struggling with these conflicting feelings. By Christmas, Hana decides to invite Shinichi over, and Fujio is shocked that he’s the senior Hana had been talking about. After Shinichi gets hammered, he expresses a more candid view of things, indicating beneath his tough exterior, he’s appreciative of everything Hana does for him, and during the New Year’s shrine visit, Shinichi agrees to hang out with Hana more in the new year. This is Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω (I believe the ω is pronounced “double” and is meant to represent a mischievous smile rather than a lowercased “omega”), the second season to the 2020 anime. The first season had been an amusing, if unremarkable tale of an extrovert forcibly adding some life into an introvert’s life; as Hana hauls Shinichi everywhere with her, he comes to begin enjoying the adventures even if he would never outwardly admit it. However, as Shinichi spends more time with Hana, who had admired him since their secondary school days, Shinichi himself begins to develop feelings for his annoying and persistent junior, in spite of himself. It is here in Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω that things become more engaging to watch, as the pair struggle with their growing feelings for one another.

While the relationship development is a central part of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, what makes this second season especially notable is its use of dramatic irony to create an impressive build-up. Throughout Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, audiences are given a full view of what’s happening, whereas Shinichi, Hana, and the people around them, have a more limited picture of things. The matter of when everyone discovers the truth is never a question, but instead, the build-up and an anticipation for how everyone reacts once the truth is in the open drives much of the humour. This is most apparent with Fujio: after Shinichi signs up for a full membership and trains to take his mind of Hana, he occasionally shares his concerns with Fujio. Fujio is unaware that Shinichi happens to be the same person that’s been on Hana’s mind, and Hana’s conversations at home suggest that despite her protests otherwise, she does have feelings for Shinichi, too. Fujio is torn between supporting Hana and wanting to fight this unknown senior. There are a few moments in Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω where Shinichi and Fujio come close to discovering the truth, but the series masterfully saves this for the end. Eventually, this comes to pass when Hana invites Shinichi over for Christmas, and although Fujio struggles to master his thoughts, he ultimately decides that after seeing everything, Shinichi is someone worth respecting. Despite the outrageously funny events that occur as a result of this misunderstanding, Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω is a show where the anticipation can be equally as enjoyable as the moment itself: because the characters have their own distinct traits, imagining how they’d react to the truth drives the user’s engagement in a given moment on top of providing an immensely satisfying payoff once the beans are out. This aspect makes Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω stronger than its predecessor, and once the tension is released, Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω is able to walk viewers to a more cathartic ending. Both Hana and Shinichi agree to continue hanging out and doing things at their own pace, wrapping up this second season in a satisfactory manner.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!, it was late August 2020, and I’d concluded that the series had been strictly average, neither excelling nor disappointing, and certainly not doing anywhere nearly enough with its premise to warrant a weeks-long rage-fuelled smear campaign against the Japanese Red Cross Society. The reason why the first season had been unremarkable had been because the episodes didn’t seem to be bound by a common goal, consisting of misunderstandings that drove humour on a per-episode basis.

  • When the first season ended, I learnt that a second season was in the works, allowing the story to continue. In retrospect, the slower first season was meant to establish the dynamic between Shinichi and Hana, and while it did take a little longer to convey something that was apparent right from the start, ensuring the exposition was complete meant that by the time of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, the story is able to hit the ground running and explore the progression of things between Shinichi and Hana.

  • At the same time, Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω also manages to utilise both existing and new characters alike to create a story that spans several episodes, in turn giving each individual episode a more substantial role in the context of the season. For instance, after a post-secondary culture festival sees Hana and Shinichi participate in a variety of events as a couple might, the pair end up checking out a fortune-telling stall at the behest of their friends.

  • In the previous season, things would’ve quickly returned to the status quo after a reading suggests that Shinichi and Hana are compatible with one another. However, here in Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, the outcome of this session leaves Shinichi a little shaken, and Hana herself is similarly ruffled even as she tries to play it cool with Shinichi. The lingering feelings of uncertainty and awkwardness actually persist throughout Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, and this gives the series a chance to develop the relationship between Shinichi and Hana far more than the first season had.

  • The end result of this is that, as misunderstandings mount, the build-up becomes larger, and this creates anticipation for what’s coming. At the same time, Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω also maintains comedy throughout individual episodes to ensure that, even as things inch towards something more substantial, every individual episode still manages to create humour in shorter moments. By covering off both bases, Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω is able to capitalise on the fact that viewers are already familiar enough with things so that new developments can now be explored.

  • I imagine that Ami’s character stands in for the viewers, who would wish that Shinichi and Hana would be a little more forward about how they feel. Her perversions notwithstanding, Ami is an interesting character, and her interactions with Itsuhiro initially come about as a result of the pair’s shared interest in seeing Hana become closer with Shinichi. One potential side effect here is that Ami and Itsuhiro might end up becoming closer themselves, although with Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!‘s focus on Shinichi and Hana, this may not occur. As an aside, Ami is voiced by Ayana Taketatsu, whom I know best as K-On!‘s Azu-nyan and The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ Nino Nakano.

  • As Shinichi realises he needs to up his cooking game, he seeks out help from both Hana and Tsuki. They’re happy to teach him, and his focus eventually allows him to produce udon of a high standard, as well as getting a handle on how to make karaage. The experience also sees Shinichi becoming comfortable with addressing Hana’s mother as Tsuki – this bit ends up frustrating Hana, who wonders why Shinichi’s still calling her by her family name. On the topic of voice actresses, Saori Hayami plays Tsuki; I’d thought that Tsuki sounded a little similar to Spy × Family‘s Yor.

  • Eventually, Shinichi explains that there’s something special about Hana that makes it difficult to call her by first name. Outwardly, Hana is ecstatic and acts smug about things, but at the same time, she’s also a little rattled. Later that evening, Shinichi wonders why he was so blunt about things, and stress ends up building in him. When he receives a gym membership trial, Shinichi immediately takes it up, feeling that hitting the gym and lifting weights might be a good way to take his mind off things.

  • At the gym, Shinichi meets trainer Fujio, a well-built fellow who encourages him during the bench press. Eyeballing things, Shinichi is lifting the equivalent of two plates here (45+25+10+10 pounds), for a total of 225 pounds. This is an impressive number, especially considering Shinichi’s just walked in to the gym, although I note that back when I was a university, I was lifting in the presence of athletes who did two plates for warmup. At the time, I lifted weights simply as a means of taking my mind off organic chemistry and data structures, but over the years, lifting weights has become a bit of a casual hobby for me, and I still continue to lift, although my goal is to maintain general fitness rather than push my weights further.

  • Fujio ends up being a welcome addition to Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω – his over-the-top reactions to everything, coupled with a generally affable personality, makes him a fun character to have on-screen, and I was particularly fond of how Fujio’s shown to be taking things too seriously. Portraying this side of Fujio sets the expectations for what would happen when he discovers Hana’s been referring to Shinichi; at the gym, Shinichi sometimes voices his concern to Fujio, who does his best to help him out, and dramatic irony comes from the anticipation of seeing all hell break loose once the truth does come out.

  • Fujio’s muscular physique and Shinichi’s athletic build are an integral part of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω‘s humour, and things become especially amusing once Kiri hits the gym, thinking he’ll be the fittest person there, only to be utterly decimated by some of the older members, and Shinichi himself. The first season had drawn humour from Hana’s figure, creating some questionable moments, but by Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, the series makes it clear that no one is immune to some degree of light-hearted humiliation. Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!‘s most vocal critics have gone on to other pastures, of course, and I am glad that this season, controversy has been absent from the proceedings.

  • Prior to Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!‘s first season, a blogger had posted a tweet decrying a harmless poster Red Cross Japan Society had used to promote their blood drives. Said tweet immediately resulted in a backlash against the individual who made it, but to them, the response had become positive proof that there was merit in their moral absolutism – Japanese values, they argued, largely remain unknown to foreigners because of a language barrier, and that progressive identity politics are universal. The resulting controversy was heated, with proponents and opponents spending an inordinate time on trying to show the other side that they were wrong.

  • In the end, by committing any time to the controversy at all, both sides ended up being the losers. On the other hand, the blogger who started the controversy wound up as the sole winner because the resulting attention was able to put them on the map. In appealing to individuals who are quick to react to any perceived slight, the tactic of taking advantage of a controversy to drive views to one’s blog or publication is an effective one. However, this is one blogging approach I do not condone or endorse – building one’s brand by capitalising on controversy and acting as though one cares about a given issue is dishonest approach towards building an online presence.

  • For me, controversies have no bearing on what I make of something: Modern Warfare 2‘s infamous “No Russian” level is one such instance, and while it left the media with a field day, when the time had come for me to actually step into Joseph Allen’s shoes and observe Vladimir Makarov’s terror attack on an Russian airport, I simply chose to walk around and not fire my weapons. That one mission hadn’t particularly stood out of me in a game where the message had been about how a small group of individuals with the right mindset could still overcome seemingly-impossible odds.

  • In the case of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!, the anime itself ended up being an unremarkable story of how an extrovert inserts herself into an introvert’s life and, slowly but surely, allows him to experience more in his world while at the same time, also showing her why boundaries exist. Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, on the other hand, introduces new elements into the story and drives it down the path of a romance comedy: the first season had been quite basic because it sought to fully introduce the lead characters and their traits, but once everyone’s personalities have been established, the story can really begin exploring everyone’s circumstances.

  • Similarly to any system, whether it be in engineering, natural sciences or society, any time additional variables are added, complexity increases dramatically. Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω brings Hana’s siblings to the table, and of everyone, Yanagi is the most interest in taking a shot at Hana and her love live. Because it’s not her reputation on the line, Yanagi is very forward about things, and she’s able to push Hana’s buttons in a way that Shinichi cannot. This does lead to moments where Hana becomes embarrassed, especially when Yanagi also becomes a patron at the Asai’s café.

  • There is, in short, a method to the madness within Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, and it is for this reason that I’m glad that for this second season, I was afforded a chance to watch things in relative peace. With a given series, I’ve found that if I become too involved in discussions where participants do not have any intention of listening or learning, I would be left with an unpleasant experience of that anime even if the series had been excellent. This occurred with Girls und Panzer a decade earlier, when a handful of individuals believed that the Nishizumi Style purportedly embodied the spirit of “true” martial arts by being ruthless, when in reality, the Nishizumi Style and its practitioners simply value the idea of “忍” (strength through resilience and perseverance).

  • The resulting arguments at AnimeSuki was quite wearing and permanently left me with an unpleasant reminder of the flame war whenever I watched Girls und Panzer, even though the anime itself is technically excellent and thematically solid. Since then, I’ve chosen to sit out discussions and watch anime at my own pace, which has resulted in a superior experience. In the case of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, I found a rather amusing series that I enjoyed watching each week, and at the end of the day, this is the approach I prefer to take in watching my shows.

  • While Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω is hardly the first anime to portray the idea of two friends who are practically a couple in all but name (and lack the grit or interest in taking things up a notch), the series does do a good enough job with the characters and their situations so that one develops a curiosity to see what happens next. It is perhaps a little unfair to laugh at the situations Shinichi and Hana find themselves in, but at the same time, it is the case that, like most stories, if the pair had been a little more communicative, Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! would’ve ended in one volume.

  • It’s always easy to prescribe actions for characters because as a third party, viewers are privy to information the characters don’t have, and moreover, because it’s not the viewer’s asses on the line, one can think about a variety of choices one might make in the characters’ shoes and not worry about the consequences. If one were to take a step back and see things from the characters’ standpoint, one might end up being a little more cautious. Here, Shinichi returns home for the holidays to visit his family and is surprised he’s now got a younger sister.

  • While Shinichi had implied his relationship with his parents weren’t the best in the world, as a family, it feels like everyone’s getting along well enough, and that Shinichi’s reluctance to come home had actually resulted from poor communications. The later episodes give viewers a chance to see Shinichi’s parents, and it turns out his father runs a judo dōjō. Despite Shinichi’s physical prowess, his father still schools him during sparring, and it turns out Shinichi’s father is in excellent shape, similar to Fujio. Ironically, Shinichi’s mother is to be even stronger than his father, and she uses this to force the pair to come to dinner at one point.

  • Eventually, Shinichi’s father does suggest to him that if he’s as close to Hana as he imagines, then the time has come to be forward about things, rather than potentially misleading her. Shinichi reluctantly agrees, but he also believes that bring forward might not be as easy as it looks. Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω might be a romance comedy, but the series does have its moments where the realities of relationships are portrayed in a thoughtful manner. Of course, any time Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω begins to show this side of things, the tension in a moment winds up breaking owing to Hana’s tactlessness.

  • This does work in Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω‘s favour, since it shows that perhaps, Hana and Shinichi aren’t quite ready to take things to the next level yet: Shinichi is still unsure of his feelings, while Hana’s a bit immature and enjoys teasing Shinichi a little too much, interrupting any progress they might make. This still here is probably the best example of Hana’s smug :3 smile, which is what I believe to be the reason why Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!‘s second season uses the omega symbol: unlike “w”, the round lines of “ω” more closely resemble Hana’s favourite facial expression.

  • After a series of misunderstandings, Hana is finally able to invite Shinichi to meet her family during the Christmas break, and it is here that Fujio finally learns the truth. This moment had been something Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω had been building up to since Shinichi took up the gym membership and met Fujio, and Fujio himself is shocked beyond words. Tensions do ease off as the evening wears on, and while Fujio is generally overprotective of his children, he also spots that Shinichi is quite respectable, having lifted with him for a nontrivial amount of time.

  • Fujio’s reaction thus ends up being precisely what viewers would anticipate: although an outburst would be most conducive for a few laughs, the reality is that Fujio’s come to know Shinichi quite well, and the comedy here thus comes from him doing his utmost to remain composed. In the end, he is mostly successful, but decides he needs some air and sets off for the convenience store to pick some stuff up. Meanwhile, as Shinichi becomes increasingly hammered, Hana is able to get some truthful answers out of him about their friendship, before a series of misunderstandings lead the Uzakis to try and remove his clothes.

  • For Shinichi, being inebriated also means he forgets what happens, so when Ami ends up showing him photos of what had happened, Shinichi is mortified. Hana herself wonders why Ami is so insistent on paying for the photos, and it hits me that throughout Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, Ami and her father’s seen a reduced presence as other characters are introduced. I do remember finding it funny that the pair would break out rice and slowly eat it whenever things between Hana and Shinichi heated up. This visual gag returns briefly in Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω for kicks.

  • However, when the chips are down, like Fujio and Shinichi’s father, Ami’s father also has some valuable insight to offer. During the New Year’s shrine visit, he nudges Shinichi forward with his words. Ultimately, for Shinichi, whether he chooses to do anything is now squarely on his shoulders, and I imagine that for him, he does wish to return Hana’s kindness. Were it not for her tendency to break the moment with her irreverence, things might’ve been easier, but at the same time, Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω makes it clear that, despite his words suggesting otherwise, Shinichi does value Hana. This leaves Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω in an excellent spot with its ending, but not everyone will agree with this.

  • I do wish people would be a bit more mature in how they present their disapproval of things. One AnimeSuki member claimed that “there’s nowhere else for this series to go” and since “[the story] kind of fails if they don’t do anything with it”, the “ending alone tanked the season”. I disagree strongly with these sentiments: the ending sets the stage for Shinichi and Hana to ease into things at their own pace. Moreover, I’ve always had a dislike for arguments that are namby-pamby: “‘kind of’ failing” shows a complete lack of conviction in one’s opinions and creates a passive-aggressive “you should agree with me” tone. Similarly, allowing a single moment to taint one’s experience is to dismiss everything else the series had done up until the ending.

  • While I am left with wondering if this individual has any personal experiences with relationships that drive their opinion (they were the same person who decried the Yuru Camp△ Movie for leaving Rin and the others single), I will not be responding to them: I am one or two rebuttals away from a permanent ban, and the users there clearly show no interest in perspectives that aren’t in alignment with the forum’s more well-heeded members. Of course, if said individual wishes to challenge my claims, I welcome them to do so here: unlike relentlessflame, who considers counterarguments against popular AnimeSuki users to be a “personal attack”, I typically listen to people so long as they don’t fall back upon insults.

  • I’d consider Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω a B+ (3.3 of 4.0, or 8 of 10 points); the second season is more focused than its predecessor and capitalises on the fact that the lead characters’ eccentricities and traits are already known to make things a little more wild. The end result is that each episode brought a smile to my face, and this was reason enough for me to have a good time with things. While Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω isn’t going to have the best artwork, most immersive story or top aural engineering, sometimes, it is sufficient for an anime to bring me a few laughs in a world where people take everything too seriously. With this, the only post I’ve got left is a talk on The Witch From Mercury: I’m two episodes behind and plan on writing about the first half come February. I imagine that, even more so than Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω, I’ll be stepping on a few toes.

Although Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω is an enjoyable experience, the Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! series continues to exist in the shadow of a controversy dating back two years, when a second-rate blog took advantage of a dispute surrounding an advertisement the Japanese Red Cross Society had produced in order to promote a blood drive initiative. The resulting debates online resulted in a decrease in blood donations for the Japanese Red Cross Society, but it also created intrigue in Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! as people became curious to know what this series had been about. When the first season aired, however, viewers found a the story to be unremarkable, the art to be strictly average, and where the overall experience was quite dull. This sharply contrasted to expectations of a series that dared to challenge the viewers’ beliefs or world-views: this blog had made it appear that Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! was a series that promoted harmful thinking, and viewers coming in found this wasn’t the case at all. Expectations created by the controversy thus diminished interest Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! despite being the very same thing that generated interest in an otherwise run-of-the-mill series. The lesson here is that when things become overblown on the internet, it becomes difficult to gain a good measure of whether or not an anime is worth watching, and folks who end up checking a series out as a result of controversy will likely end up disappointed, especially if the work in question is outside of their area of interest and was originally intended as little more than a comedy. Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! is an unexceptional series overall, albeit one with sincerity and heart: the series certainly doesn’t touch on any sensitive topics enough to warrant a full-scale campaign of hate, but it does succeeds in eliciting a few laughs, and when everything is said and done, it’s sufficient that Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! manages to utilise its characters and their circumstances to drive comedy, with Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω surpassing its predecessor in this area to create an experience that I found worth watching on a weekly basis.

Revisiting the Tsukishiro Residence and Finding Metaphors For Growth In The World in Colours’ Architectural Choices

“Architecture is shaped by human emotions and desires, and then becomes a setting for further emotions and desires. It goes from the animate and inanimate and back again. For this reason it is always incomplete, or rather is only completed by the lives in and around it.” –Rowan Moore, Why We Build

Hitomi Tsukishiro had found herself in an unfamiliar world after her grandmother, Kohaku, had sent her back sixty years to meet her younger self. Although she initially finds herself disoriented, Hitomi ends up at the Tsukishiro residence thanks to help from Asagi, Kurumi and Shō, members of the Photography Club who are familiar with Kohaku. While Kohaku is absent, her grandmother (Hitomi’s great great grandmother) prepares a room for her and mentions that this home, located near the family-run magic shop, had been built recently. Hitomi indicates that it’s a familiar spot for her; Kohaku used to read to her up in this cozy space. Not much more is mentioned about the Tsukishiro residence, and the significance of this spot becomes eclipsed by The World in Colour’s touching story, but the interior architecture of Kohaku’s home ends up being a superbly well-written metaphor for Hitomi’s own developments throughout the course of The World in Colours, foreshadowing the elements that would guide Hitomi forwards back onto a path where she can appreciate the colours of her world. In particular, two design choices inside Hitomi’s attic room are of importance. The first of this is shown within moments of her setting foot inside the attic – there’s a small, circular door separating her space from the adjacent space, which belongs to Kohaku. In a home, the bedroom is often counted as the most private of spaces. The notion of the bedroom acting as a sanctuary is a relatively recent thought, and following the Industrial Revolution, as hygiene became ever important, society began favouring homes that allowed people to sleep in a space of their own. Having one’s own room thus became a symbol of success, and of decency. Over the years, bedrooms would become a sacred space, a place of self-expression, and a place where it’s okay to be vulnerable. With this in mind, The World in Colours‘ focus on Hitomi’s bedroom space during the series’ first episode was meant to accentuate the fact that, although she might be having some difficulties of her own, at the Tsukishiro residence, she will always have a place to call her own. Given Hitomi’s personality, there was always the possibility she would just retreat into this space, unwilling to open up to others. To this end, the Tsukishiro’s attic was engineered to give Hitomi a balance between openness and privacy.

The little wooden door separating Hitomi’s space from Kohaku’s ends up being a piece of architectural genius in this regard. As a door, it can be open or closed; Hitomi can be given privacy and time to herself as required, but having the door also allows Kohaku to freely visit her without having to step out into the hallway and knock on the main door. In this way, the wooden door symbolises how with family, there is always the opportunity to be connect to someone and voice one’s concerns. The World in Colours uses this interior fixture in an incremental fashion; initially, Kohaku is content to open the door and speak with Hitomi, but gradually, Hitomi uses the door and takes the initiative to talk to Kohaku. Eventually, Hitomi becomes okay with Kohaku coming all the way through the door and hanging out on her side of the space. This acts as an expressive metaphor for how it takes time for people to open up, even to their own families. While this process can’t be rushed, when allowed to progress naturally, it does eventually help Hitomi to come to terms with her own complicated relationship with magic, as well as gaining the courage to befriend Kohaku’s friends. The use of this door parallels Hitomi’s own opening up to the world around her. Early on, it takes a catalyst from the outside to start things (i.e. Kohaku starting the conversation), but as Hitomi gains more confidence, she lets Kohaku into her room, symbolising how she’s also allowed Kohaku into her heart. Accepting her grandmother’s knowledge and spirit in turn helps Hitomi to grow. To show the extent of this growth, the skylight in Hitomi’s room is used to great effect. This skylight represents the link between Hitomi and the outside world. Offering a beautiful view of Nagasaki Harbour and the night sky, Hitomi gazes longingly out this window throughout The World in Colour, showing an increasing desire to open up to others to a greater extent. On the eve of the culture festival, Hitomi’s feelings finally spurs her on: she creates a magic-infused paper airplane, opens the window and sends the plane to Yuito. This is a milestone moment in The World in Colour – for the first time, Hitomi has taken the initiative of opening herself up to the world, and this is mirrored in her act of opening the skylight window so she can send something to Yuito. From this point on, it becomes clear that Hitomi has gained the very thing Kohaku had intended her to experience when the latter had arranged for Hitomi to be sent back.

Additional Thoughts and Remarks

  • I’ve long held an interest in interior architecture at a casual level; back when I was a middle and secondary school student, I was always fond of borrowing interior architecture books from the local library and reading them in my spare time. The interiors that always appealed to me most were those that made extensive use of glass and creatively divided spaces to increase functionality, and this influenced how I laid out the furniture after my move. The end result is that my place is filled with natural light during the day, making for a much more welcoming, well-lit space.

  • The Tsukishiro residence seems quite ordinary at first glance: Kohaku’s grandmother (and Hitomi’s great great grandmother) mentions that their house was completed in 2017. Being only a year old when Hitomi is returned to 2018, the house is still new enough for Hitomi to notice a “new house” smell to it, and all of the surfaces are still shiny. One clever touch in The World in Colours‘ opening episode is actually seen right at the beginning: the wood has a more faded, worn quality to it, befiting of a home that’s stood for six decades.

  • However, even though the anime chooses not to actively show the space off just yet, it is clear that the Tsukishiro residence in 2078 has been a lovingly-looked after home: Kohaku’s filled the attic space with her work, and uses it as a sanctuary of sorts. However, in 2018, the space remains largely unused, so Hitomi has no trouble in moving into this part of the house. While aging buildings normally fills one with a sense of melancholy, to see the old room still being in active use is a hint to viewers that the Tsukishiros look after what’s dear to them.

  • Despite appearing unremarkable at first glance, this little circular doorway is the star of this discussion. While it’s not particularly practical from a real-world standpoint because by reflex, people would prefer to stand up and walk over to an adjacent room, versus getting down on the hands and feet and crawling, the doorway has metaphoric significance in the context of The World in Colours. Architectural choices like these would not be found in the typical home, and I imagine that the Tsukishiro residence was therefore tailor-made to the family’s specifications.

  • Although it is never mentioned, then, the fact that Kohaku and her family live in a custom home suggests that their business as magicians is going well enough. Small details like these, when properly attended to, can speak volumes about the characters and provide exposition without needing to employ more time-consuming aspects, like flashbacks or through dialogue. Over the years, P.A. Works has masterfully fit anime into the single-cour format, doing more with less: this trend began with 2012’s Tari Tari, and while I had been skeptical that 13 episodes was enough to tell a compelling tale, Tari Tari had me proven wrong.

  • The World in Colours kicks into high gear once Kohaku returns from her studies abroad. The dynamic between Kohaku and Hitomi in The World in Colours had been reproduced in The Aquatope on White Sand, with Fūka being equivalent to Hitomi, and Kukuru occupying Kohaku’s role. P.A. Works is fond of recycling character archetypes (Tari Tari‘s Konatsu, Wakana and Sawa are modelled after Hanasaku Iroha‘s Ohana, Minko and Nako, respectively, while Glasslip‘s Tōko was derived from Nagi no Asukara‘s Manaka, and Aoi from Shirobako inspires the design for Sakura Quest‘s Yoshino), but by using different contexts, character growth happens in a completely novel manner, resulting in distinct, memorable stories.

  • The uncluttered interior space in Hitomi’s room is meant to signify the fact that she’s not going to remain in 2018 indefinitely: there will come a point where she will need to return to 2078. In anime, visual clutter is a deliberate choice, meant to show that a space is lived-in, and two of the strongest examples of this are found in Studio Ghibli’s films, as well as anything from Makoto Shinkai. Looking at objects and how they’re arranged in a room speak volumes to the characters, and a space with clutter may indicate anything from its frequent usage, to the inhabitant’s personality.

  • For me, I’ve always been fond of keeping a clean environment in my living space. In my day-to-day, this simply means putting stuff away when I’m done with it, and making it a point to always wash the dishes after a meal. I have a schedule for tasks like cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming and mopping the floors, and while cleaning house can be a chore, I let my mind wander when doing any sort of housekeeping; in fact, I draft out blog posts in my head during this time, and this has also helped me to maintain this blog post-move.

  • The design of the Tsukishiro residence is one of the reasons why I’d been so disappointed in the fact that no official guidebook for The World in Colours was released. These guidebooks provide concept art for the settings and characters, cast interviews and all of the promotional artwork for a given anime, on top of episode summaries. Some artbooks will go as far as providing the floor plans and interior sketches for a space, as well as a commentary on why spaces were designed the way that they were. Insight like this greatly enhances one’s enjoyment of a work.

  • A year ago, I noticed that The Aquatope on White Sand was getting an artbook of sorts, and I had been surprised to see it sell out within minutes of becoming available. Although I tried to acquire a copy through CD Japan’s proxy shipping service, the exorbitant cost (about 90 CAD) meant I ended up standing down. Someone who bought the artbook indicated that, rather than the content from a typical official guidebook, the book consisted of drawings from the staff and interviews with the cast. With this information, my disappointment in being unable to pick this artbook up has waned.

  • One evening, after an outing with the Magic-Photography Club, Hitomi feels downtrodden that Yuito isn’t willing to open up to her, Kohaku ends up hearing Hitomi out. Despite being the same age at this point, there’s a weight to Kohaku’s words: she feels that at least Yuito is responding to Hitomi, and this beats being ignored. One interesting point that comes out of this conversation is that Kohaku mentions the Hedgehog’s Dilemma (if two hedgehogs are cold and wish to seek warmth, they cannot close the distance without barbing one another), in which people can hurt one unintentionally another if they’re close, but will be lonely otherwise.

  • This concept comes from Arthur Schopenhauer’s 1851 essay, and while anime fans use the concept to explain isolation, it was quite bold of The World in Colours to both define the concept and offer a solution (Kohaku indicates that moderation is key). In anime, fans enjoy ambiguity whenever philosophy is concerned because it allows them to interpret things in their own manner of choosing, so when a series actively indicates it’s got a specific interpretation of a philosophical model, fans tend to ignore it rather than trying to understand why the writers incorporated the concept into a given work. For me, I prefer it when works do this, since it tells me precisely what the creators think of an idea.

  • In The World in Colours, Kohaku’s comments indicate that the Hedgehog’s Dilemma isn’t as much of a dilemma as people make it out to be, and can be addressed by giving people space. By offering viewers with one potential answer, The World in Colours demonstrates that philosophical quandaries can still have solutions even if they appear difficult. Indeed, this is where the series excels, and over time, Kohaku visits Hitomi with greater frequency. Kohaku’s casual posture here shows that Hitomi has accepted and opened up to her.

  • A look around Hitomi’s room finds jars of Star-Sand and a small number of personal effects. The Star-Sand is one of my favourite aspects of The World in Colours because they emanate a gentle glow of their own, and seeing the jars of Star-Sand in the Tsukishiro shop gave it a very distinct appearance. Star-Sand is used as a conduit for magic in The World in Colours: after being infused with magic from a Witch, the magic is stablised and can be stored for later usage. It was a clever concept, and although the magic in The World in Colours is a bit more fantastical than that of either Glasslip or The Aquatope on White Sand, it was utilised extremely well to drive character growth.

  • The other aspect of Hitomi’s room that I found important to The World in Colours was the skylight window. On a clear night, Hitomi is afforded with an unparalleled view of the night sky, and the window’s placement means that she could lie in bed and see the stars. In reality, the light pollution in Nagasaki is ranked as a Class 6 on the Bortle Scale. Only magnitude 5.0 or brighter stars are visible with the naked eye. However, to put things in perspective, my home city’s skies are a Class 7, and the maximum magnitude visible is 4.5, speaking to how Nagasaki has better control of their light pollution than my home town: despite the transition to LED street lamps years earlier, the sheer sprawl of the city means that the night sky is degraded to the point where, even on a clear night, it’s a light grey rather than pitch black.

  • The sight of Hitomi gazing out, longingly, over the city of Nagasaki is a common scene in The World in Colours, and if the Tsukishiro residence represents the world Hitomi is comfortable opening up to, then the rest of the world corresponds to the people around her. Throughout The World in Colours, although Hitomi gets along with Kohaku, she still struggles to open up to the others. Mirroring this, the skylight window remains closed: Hitomi can see out the window and longs for a connection, and the latch is inside, show that ultimately, it’s up to her as to when she’ll open it.

  • According to the blog archives, the last I wrote about The World in Colours was back in December 2018; although I briefly mentioned this series and its influences on The Aquatope on White Sand, I’ve not otherwise had a chance to revisit the series in writing since then. I remember that December well: I’d just started a new position, and was working out of the downtown core. In the time that has passed, I now work with a different organisation, and on Wednesday, my last workday of 2022, I decided to ride the bus downtown after work and take in the Christmas lights. While the world today is dramatically different than it’d been four years earlier, the view from my old bus stop still looks like it did when I boarded my bus here previously. However, with the iPhone 14 Pro’s Photonic Engine, the photos of the same spot look much sharper than they had previously.

  • When I was watching The Aquatope on White Sand a year earlier, the similarities between Hitomi and Fūka only held in the first few episodes; as Fūka found her footing, she became increasingly confident and was able to guide Kukuru through a few rough spots, whereas here in The World in Colours, Hitomi leans on Kukuru for the most part. However, towards the end of The World in Colours, Hitomi does begin to make several strides, taking the initiative to better learn and control her magic. With support from the Magic and Photography Club, Hitomi slowly improves her control over her magic and eventually is able to make her own decisions.

  • Thus, when Hitomi opens the window to the skylight for the first time, it’s symbolic of a season’s worth of progress: this action had been her call alone, and this shows that Hitomi is now more honest about what she’d wanted. With her time in 2018 limited, she ultimately returns to her own time with more confidence, and she’s able to befriend two of her classmates, who are presumably Asagi and Kurumi’s grandchildren. The World in Colours had ended on an exceptional note, and entering 2019, I was feeling happier than I had in the years following graduate school.

  • Overall, The World in Colours is one of P.A. Works’ more underappreciated anime; it took concepts from Glasslip and presented them in a more mature fashion, ultimately creating a moving tale that also set the stage for last year’s The Aquatope on White Sand. I would like to remark that this one did take some effort to write out: the idea of writing about the circular wooden door in Hitomi’s room had been in my mind for the past two years, and it was only now I’ve managed to put out something coherent about the topic. With this post now in the books, and with only a week left until Christmas, I am now officially on winter break, so there will be some time for me to unwind in the next few weeks.

The World in Colours had done a fantastic job of conveying its themes to viewers, with great clarity – the metaphor of colour made it unambiguous as to what the anime had intended to accomplish. However, to accentuate its messages, P.A. Works had taken their game one step further, and utilises architecture to provide one more avenue of highlighting pivotal moments in Hitomi’s development throughout the series. Interior spaces and lighting can be employed to further give viewers insight into how characters might be feeling in a given moment, and while such details can be subtle, they remain highly valuable to the story. Use of architecture allows P.A. Works to enrich a given story’s clarity and meaning without needing to use any additional dialogue, and this allows a scene to kill two birds with one stone; while the spaces the characters occupy can be used to denote their progress, the conversations characters share while using these spaces can be focused on advancing the story. For instance, when Hitomi asks Kohaku about the Star-Sand, the moment itself brings Hitomi one step closer to thanking Yuito and expressing how she feels, but at the same time, the space allows The World in Colours to also remind viewers that Hitomi is being gently nudged to take a step forward, and she’s now at a stage where she can take the initiative to start something. It is quite understandable that details like these can be overlooked when one is going through an anime: all eyes are on the main story and how well its intentions are conveyed. However, the merits of a re-watch become apparent; small details that were missed the first time around suddenly become more apparent, and this creates a much richer, deeper connection to a given work and its messages. Although it’s been four years since The World in Colours aired, this work remains one of P.A. Works’ most impactful titles, and it is the studio’s use of every appropriate tool that contributes to this enjoyability. Moments like these, of rediscovering something like the clever use of interior architecture in The World in Colours, is what makes rewatching anime a worthwhile task; since there are no more surprises or twists, the mind is allowed to freely explore other facets of an anime, and the results can be fulfilling.

Four Worlds, Four Tomorrows, and Four Fashions For Finding Fulfillment on this First Day of the Fourth Month: Remarks on A Place Further than the Universe on Exploration, Closure, Determination and Teamwork

“Sometimes, people are just mean. Don’t fight mean with mean. Hold your head high.” –Hinata Miyake

2018’s A Place Further than the Universe is a title that aired to universal acclaim for its heartfelt and sincere portrayal of a disparate group of four high school students, each resolute on fulfilling their individual dreams, and through a serendipitous turn of events, come together as members of an expedition to Antarctica. Each of Mari Tamaki, Shirase Kobuchizawa, Hinata Miyake and Yuzuki Shiraishi set out for the last continent of the world with different aims, but through their shared dream, determination and perseverance, come away from their experiences completely changed. A Place Further than the Universe‘s successes came from watching this journey unfold and how it impacted the characters, and by the time the season ended, there was no doubt as to what this anime had accomplished. However, even amidst the excitement of going to Antarctica, each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki never forget why they’d set out on this journey to begin with – viewers, on the other hand, were so blown away by the scope and scale of A Place Further than the Universe that these initial motivations were forgotten. While this speaks positively to the anime’s ability to build excitement and anticipation in viewers, the reasons behind why Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki set off on their journey are quickly shelved. However, these reasons are an integral part of A Place Further than the Universe, represent four different reasons why everyone wants to succeed in their expedition and more broadly, four perspectives on why people pursue success.

  • This post began its life as a series of thoughts after I began rewatching A Place Further than the Universe and realising that while discussions have thoroughly covered off why the anime was so rewarding, the ending outcomes were strong enough to eclipse the reasons that spurred Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki’s initial reasons for going to Antarctica. Without these initial reasons, the events of A Place Further than the Universe wouldn’t have been anywhere as moving as they were.

Success in achieving one’s goals is a central theme in A Place Further than the Universe, and the anime wastes no time in letting viewers know that success takes persistence, effort and dedication, traits that are ultimately summed up as “hard work”. Hard work consists of attributes that are necessary and commendable, and while the initial payoffs may not always be apparent, hard work is understanding that short term pains translate to long term gains which far outweigh the initial costs. Whether it’s learning how to set of navigation waypoints on the side of a mountain and learning that Mari tends to hug whoever she sleeps beside, acclimatising to the disciplined and turbulent life on a boat, or the frigid dangers of Antarctica itself, the road to the most remote continent is fraught with challenges. However, Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki, in their own reasons for being here, each rise to the occasion, and their individual rationale parallels reasons why people in reality wish to succeed. In this post, I’ll briefly explore how everyone’s motivations have roots in reality and how each motivation impacts one’s approach towards achieving their goals where real-world objectives and dreams are concerned, using my own experiences as an iOS developer to speak about everyone’s desires and experiences.

“I want to explore something new.”

Mari’s justification for participating in the Antarctica expedition is of everyone, is the most innocent. Having gone through middle school and her first year without having gone on any destinationless journeys, Mari simply wants to do something. However, she is initially unaware of what this something looks like, and supposes that cutting class to visit Tokyo would qualify. Upon meeting Shirase, however, and learning of the latter’s desire to go to Antarctica, Mari’s world is completely opened up. From visiting the Shirase II in port to attempting to speak with expedition members, Mari’s befriending Shirase sets in motion a journey that Mari never anticipated. With her naïveté and open-mindedness, a key part of her desire to try new things out, very few things can keep Mari down. She’s optimistic, enthusiastic and adaptive. A Place Further than the Universe sought to show, through Mari, that open-ended journeys, trips without destinations, have their merits because it allows one to be wholly immersed in the experience. The good become immensely pleasant memories, and the bad result in one’s learning how to better handle a scenario next time around. As an iOS developer, this is where my journey began – a love for the mobile devices and their ubiquity led me to accept a project to build an iOS app that collected survey data for patients undergoing treatment five years earlier. At this time, I’d only worked on small iOS apps for university coursework, and putting a full app together was a daunting task, considering I’d never built one before.

Through this experience, I learnt the ins and outs of RESTful APIs, authentication and the fundamentals of implementing view controllers, their data models and having everything play nice on different phone sizes. After five months, the app was finally finished, and while it was certainly not my best work, it was the first commercial app I’d assembled. There were more failures than successes, and it was frustrating work to debug things while at the same time, getting used to Swift. However, looking back on this project, I remain grateful to have taken it, because the underlying principles would be what I subsequently saw in every app I’ve since worked on. Similarly, in A Place Further than the Universe, Mari is quite unprepared for her Antarctica expedition and treats things as a game. However, when the chips are down, Mari proves more than willing to learn, and much as how her body adjusts to life on a rocking boat and the harsh climate of Antarctica, Mari develops a more resilient mentality, allowing her to begin appreciating the exceptional experience she finds herself in. Mari’s motivation to simply do something, even if she does not know the outcome, represents the explorer’s mindset: her goal is the journey itself, and so, without any specific objectives beyond this, Mari is open-minded, flexible and adaptive. Someone seeking to explore will similarly be willing to take things in stride, seeing adversity and challenge as being an integral part of the experience, and whose presence simply serves to make successes even more rewarding.

  • Where stepping into the unknown, there’s a little Mari in all of us. Mari represents the optimistic greenhorn, inexperienced but willing to learn. Because Mari is so new to everything, she has no expectations going into a given challenge – this leaves her slower on the uptake compared to veterans, but at the same time, also means that she’s not limited by existing knowledge when it comes to solving problems.

“I want to find closure and finish what was started.”

For Shirase, ever since her mother, Takako, went missing in Antarctica three years earlier on the first-ever civilian expedition, Shirase’s been absolutely resolute on returning there to see for herself what Takako had seen, and gain closure on the fact that Takako hadn’t been in her life for the past three years. The sense of powerlessness and helplessness that Shirase feels each and every day, from not knowing precisely what had happened to Takako, is focused onto a single, concerted effort to make the journey and find the answers that she seeks. Shirase had long known that Takako held an utmost respect and a great love for Antarctica; her words in the book A Place Further than the Universe accentuates this, that despite its inhospitable conditions, the continent was also home to unmatched, unspoiled beauty. Takako’s disappearance left more questions than answers, and for both Shirase and many of the expedition members, a part of this operation had been intended to fulfil a long-standing promise to Takako, to return and continue on the work she had envisioned. While Shirase is doubtlessly driven, her focus is such that she puts earning money for such a trip ahead of everything else. When Mari meets her for the first time, Mari’s innocence and optimism is surprising to her: for Shirase, the uncertainty of not knowing what happened to her mother has pushed everything, even friendship, out of her mind, and A Place Further than the Universe shows here that sometimes, our search for the answers and solutions can cause us to lose perspective. However, when given a chance to regroup, things turn around rapidly: having the support from Mari, Hinata and Yuzuki is what allows Shirase to find a conclusive answer in the frigid cold of Antarctica.

In reality, being driven to finish what one starts is a respectable trait, demonstrating one’s willingness to see things through to the end. Finishing something represents commitment and dedication. It is only by fighting and working hard to the last possible second that one can say they put in their best efforts, and because one had genuinely put in an effort, there are no regrets lingering as a result of wondering if one could’ve done more. This is the sort of mentality that is mandatory in iOS development – bugs or difficult-to-implement features remain on my mind until I’ve taken a good shot at them and have either solved the problem or at least, ascertain what would be needed to solve the problem and determine whether or not something is outside of my skill set (for instance, my knowledge of Core Animation isn’t as strong as it is with Core Location or AV Kit) – to leave bugs and issues unattended is inviting future disaster, since errors could propagate and affect other parts of the system. For Shirase, the question of what happened to Takako was always going to hang over her head, and it was only by going to Antarctica that she is able to decisively accept things, having seen it for herself. While this knowledge is painful, it also brings Shirase closure that she was able to gaze upon Antarctica with her own eyes and finally connect with her mother’s dream: Takako is gone, but her experience now lives on in Shirase, and this allows her to move on without regrets. Seeing something through and finding closure is unsurprisingly a key reason why people are driven: we want to be able to do something that we have no regrets about, and this is accomplished by finishing what one starts.

  • While Shirase states that she wishes to succeed and stick it to those who doubted her, her actual motivations for going to Antarctica are far deeper than A Place Further Than The Universe initially presents. Shirase’s conflict in the series stems from understanding her mother’s probably deceased, but at the same time, she holds out hope that they might one day reunite. To move on from the latter and gain closure for the former, Shirase intends to travel to Antarctica and decisively find closure. However, along the way, with the others, she’s able to really express how she feels and comes to terms with the outcome of her journey: at the end of A Place Further Than The Universe, Shirase cuts her hair short to signify that she’s turned over a new leaf, and the closure she found allows her to seize the future with her best effort.

“I want to prove it’s possible that I can do something big.”

The drive to explore and push the limits for what’s possible has been one of the major reasons why humanity has been able to accomplish feats like putting a man on the moon or creating microchips that transform the way we communicate. Hinata, the most energetic and spirited of the group, initially joins Mari and Shirase because she appeared to like the pair’s personalities, but later, she explains that she’s here to do something big before returning to high school. As it turns out, Hinata had been an exceptional track-and-field athlete, but because of her ability, antagonised more senior members of the team, who would go on to slander her. Unable to deal with the social pressures, Hinata dropped out of high school. While her confidence was shaken, Hinata nonetheless studies independently and hopes to one day return with a smile on her face, with an achievement or two to her name. For Hinata, Antarctica thus represents a chance to do something amazing, and she seizes the opportunity upon meeting Mari and Shirase: people doubted her, and Hinata intends to demonstrate that each and every one of her detractors wrong, as well as to prove to herself that she can make it on the merit of her own skill and traits. Of the girls, Hinata’s reason for going to Antarctica is one that I relate to the most. As an iOS developer, I have previously worked with other developers who were uncooperative, and who even actively worked against me: the first app that I’d been working on depended on JSON responses with keys spelt a certain way, and I was informed that the keys would always be lowercase. I thus built my serialisation logic on this assumption, although one day, where I had a meeting to demonstrate the app to the product owner, the backend developers unexpectedly changed the keys and capitalised the first word, resulting in the app crashing.

Because I had the presence of mind to take a video of the app working (a habit I got into because the simulator could occasionally be unreliable back then), and swapped out the keys for that meeting to match the responses from the backend, I was able to show the product owner the iOS app was working fine (and suggest that more communication about changing keys would be a good idea). Communication and conflict-diffusing thinking allowed me to sort that problem out: it simply felt more appropriate to fix things on my end and ask for clarification, rather than point fingers. I meet challenges head-on, and like Hinata, I enjoy nothing more than showing people that I am able to keep my word and deliver what was promised no matter what obstacles present themselves. This drive is doubtlessly something that motivates people to work hard and find their success: when people say something isn’t possible, it fuels my desire to test their assertions out for myself. It therefore becomes easy to root for Hinata, and once the Antarctica expedition draws to a close, it is quite clear that this group of friends wouldn’t have made it as far were it not for Hinata’s constant encouragement of everyone. In exchange, Shirase is able to help Hinata find her closure by blasting Hinata’s old classmates on a live broadcast, stating that no matter how hard they dragged Hinata down, Hinata’s own determination and perseverance led her to go somewhere that these classmates can only dream of visiting, proving decisively that Hinata has indeed done something big with her time, both for herself and to prove to her detractors that they ultimately mean nothing. While admittedly petty, proving wrong those who would underestimate me is something I like doing, as well. Of everyone in A Place Further Than The Universe, I am most similar to Hinata, striving to demonstrate what can be done when I’m playing for keeps.

  • Outwardly, Hinata’s diminutive stature means that people underestimate her. However, as Yuri Orlov would describe, Hinata is a big spirit in a small package – pound for pound, she’s livelier and more cheerful than anyone else, and has the book smarts to match her energy. She’s always pushing people forwards, and while never hesitating to speak her mind, is mindful of those around her as well. As such, Hinata is a go-getter, fully aware of what her objectives are and longing most to prove her worth, both to herself and those around her.

“I want to do something special with the people I care about.”

When Yuzuki met Mari, Shirase and Hinata for the first time, she assumed the three were best of friends on account of how well they got along with one another. Reluctant to take an assignment that would see her report on an Antarctic Expedition for the entertainment industry, Yuzuki is convinced upon realising that Mari and the others are more than willing to accept her as a friend. Having been a child actress all her life, Yuzuki never had time to partake in everyday activities and make friends. However, when her current “friends” from school end up leaving her behind, Yuzuki realises that the eccentric but genuine Mari, Shirase and Hinata are there for her, prompting her to accept her assignment on the condition that these three are allowed to come with her: she wishes to really be a part of a team and work on something with others, whereas previously, her assignments had never really allowed her to connect with those she worked with. As a result, Yuzuki’s desire is to work on a team with Mari, Shirase and Hinata: in her own words, she wishes to commiserate over setbacks, celebrate successes, argue and laugh with the others. Indeed, over the course of the expedition, Yuzuki will do precisely thus, experiencing the aspects of friendship that had, until recently, been a foreign world to her. It becomes clear that through ups and downs, Mari, Shirase and Hinata are here to stay, understanding her circumstances and choosing actively to remain by her side in spite of this. Teamwork is something that I greatly respect about Yuzuki: we both have an appreciation of what it entails and what is possible because of teamwork, but in both cases, our situation means that we’ve not really had a chance to be a part of something larger.

The reason why teamwork is so vital is because it enables the sharing of knowledge and perspectives towards problem solving: a problem that I can’t solve on my own might simply require a fresh set of eyes, or a procedure that I might not have thought of because of my experience and background. Indeed, when teamwork is at its finest, miracles can happen; Neil Armstrong’s historic achievement in 1969’s Apollo 11 mission, for instance, involved some four hundred thousand scientists, engineers, technicians and other support staff. Until then, landing on the moon had been something relegated to the realm of fiction, but with four hundred thousand people working on a shared vision, the impossible suddenly became merely challenging. Similarly, as a developer, while I may not always see eye-to-eye with other developers, I nonetheless respect and appreciate the work they do. At the time of writing, I can’t build my own SQL databases or write NodeJS endpoints to allow apps to retrieve and modify information stored in a backend. Working with the people who do possess these skills is how my apps are successful, and also allows me to learn off these developers, as well. On larger teams, with more people, it becomes possible to bounce ideas off one another, and even solve problems in novel ways. With few exceptions (such as individual sports), success and teamwork go hand-in-hand, with synergy resulting from the sum of everyone’s efforts leading people to new heights. With Yuzuki, being able to coach Shirase in speaking more effectively also helps her to feel more connected to the others, as does participating in the routine work at Showa Base and heading out to conduct experiments: she returns home with three friends, and although everyone heads their separate ways for now, everyone’s more connected than before.

  • Yuzuki’s desire to see every aspect of friendship, both the good and bad, stems from having worked on her own for so long, and never really being able to connect with anyone. Where given the chance to connect, Yuzuki is able to support those around her, and even if a few rough moments arise, her honesty allows the group of friends to sort things out with nothing held back. Yuzuki parallels folks who wish to share in their experiences with everyone, believing that the individual succeeds with the team, and despite not having many friends until now, gets along very well with Mari, Shirase and Hinata.

While individual motivation and hard work is central to each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki making their dreams a reality in A Place Further than the Universe, it is unfortunate that in reality, the respect for hard work and effort isn’t quite what it used to be. The ceaseless social media controversies and politics does give the impression that traditional values are being displaced by a demand for instant gratification and an entitlement to an audience, where retweets and memes matter more than having done something useful with one’s time for the benefit of others. For instance, video game developers now place emphasis on lootboxes and cosmetics over engaging gameplay, as functional gameplay demands skillful development. Governments tackle non-issues because this make it look like they’re doing something, as opposed to addressing matters of economics and sustainability, something that requires a considerable effort to even begin approaching. Journalists run with misinformation because it’s easier to draw an audience with sensationalism than using legitimate news based in fact. There appears to be a genuine aversion towards hard work and effort, and should such trends continue, society will be in for a very grim future. While this sounds pessimistic, the reality is that hard work and being useful can take many forms. Once one accepts that this is a long-term deal, things become much more manageable. I consider someone worth respecting if they choose their actions such that they are able to make even a single person’s day better; kindness and effort are both scalable, with the mindset for helping one person easily being applicable for bettering the lives of many. While A Place Further than the Universe has Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki setting off on their journey for themselves at the onset, they come to impact many lives in a positive manner, beyond satisfying their own initial objectives: everyone started their adventure for a different reason, but everyone arrives in the same place, leaving behind the same positive impact together. Consequently, A Place Further than the Universe suggests that there is value to taking that first step, and that people can have a nontrivial, positive impact on others as well as themselves with a bit of effort and hard work. I thus leave readers with the question: what gets you up each and every morning?

  • I will note that today’s April Fool’s Day, but the only thing about this post that’s an April Fool’s joke is the fact that the post is actually not a joke in every way – I stand behind every word I’ve written, and this post was actually more for myself, more than anything. Today, I start work as an iOS Developer for a new company, and this post is to remind me of the things that I believe in, to never compromise those core values that I adhere to, no matter how difficult things get. I understand there are many ills in the world, but it’s not on me to convince governments to stop pursuing Sisyphean Tasks or for game developers to remove lootboxes from their games. As long as I am able to do what I can for those around me, and make any part of their day smoother, easier and better, I’ve done my part for the world, and that counts for something.

MythBusters meets High School Fleet: Addressing Claims Surrounding Hai-Furi and Akeno’s Pinches on the High Seas

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes…as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons, than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.” –Norton Juster

In the aftermath of Hai-Furi: The Movie, I felt the inclination to revisit 2016’s Hai-Furi, which first began airing in April that year. Back then, it took many viewers completely by surprise: all indicators had suggested that this was going to be an easy-going series around discoveries made while training to become Blue Mermaids, a venerable organisation whose duty is to patrol the oceans and provide assistance and defense where appropriate. On her first day of class, Captain Akeno Misaki leads her destroyer, the Harekaze, into training, only to come under fire from her own instructor. In the aftermath, the Harekaze becomes wanted for alleged mutiny. In the ensuing chaos, Misaki and her crew get to know one another better as they work to clear their names, eventually unearthing a mystery behind their pinches. As the series continued running, viewers created their own speculations and theories regarding what was occurring. While generally interesting to read, some of these theories became increasingly ingrained as fact even as Akeno’s adventures began proving them to be untrue. Hai-Furi is the sort of anime that really requires an open mind to appreciate, and there are some claims that absolutely must be ascertained before one can start this series. In this post, I will be covering four myths surrounding Hai-Furi, which came about during and shortly after the first few episodes aired. When accepted as true, these myths significantly degrade one’s experience of the series, where the extraordinary events ultimately form the backdrop for a simple and straightforward theme: that bad luck is often-times only an excuse, and that the outcome of a given action is more likely to be successful when everyone is working as a team where the individuals trust one another to perform their role in a satisfactory manner. As Mashiro Munetani learns, luck has very little to do with things, and even what appears to be a setback, or the bad luck she is quick to cite, can become an asset with enough creativity and forward thinking.

The inert torpedo from the Harekaze sank the Sarushima

In the first episode, after the Harekaze arrives late at the rendezvous point with the Sarushima to begin their first class, Akeno and the others find themselves under fire from their instructor. The girls initially assume that this is a reprimand for being late and attempt to signal the Sarushima, but when nothing is effective, Akeno orders a training torpedo to be launched: realising that they’ll be pummeled to death if they continue to evade, Akeno chooses a course of action that sets in motion the events for the remainder of Hai-Furi. The crew thus put their training to use, firing a single inert torpedo that impacts the Sarushima and buys the girls enough time to escape. In the aftermath, the Sarushima appears to have suffered from noticeable hull damage, listing to the port and leaking oil. However, claims from Myssa Rei suggest that the Harekaze outright sank the Sarushima:

Wrong, in fact this is one of the things that the people at /a/ immediately contest — an armed 93cm Long Lance would have blown the Sarushima in half, as LSCs literally have no armor (or modern missile destroyers for that matter). They simply weren’t built to defend against an attack like that, because torpedoes no longer figure in modern (Cold War and onward) ship to ship combat. The Kagerou class could only launch one type of torpedo, as the Type 92 launcher was only made for the Long Lance in mind.

In every source I’ve looked and read, the Type 92 launcher, which is rendered EXACTLY how we saw, was only designed for the Type 93 1933 61 cm Torpedo, aka the Long Lance. IJN destroyers carried nothing else, and the torpedos that came later — the Type 95 and Type 97 — were made to be launched from subs, and would be too small to be launched safely from the Type 92. We’re talking a big difference here, as the type 95 and 97 were 53 cms. They wouldn’t fit snugly into a Type 92.

Now the fact that an UNARMED Long Lance would have sunk the Sarushima though? That’s where conspiracy theory and wild mass guessing steps in. According to the usual military enthusiasts, a PRIMED 93 cm Long Lance would have blown the Independence-class to smithereens, yet an UNPRIMED dud wouldn’t have made it list so much as in this episode… which could point that it was all a set-up.

  • Myssa Rei’s reasoning was that, since these mounts were designed for the Type 93, it stood to reason that the Type 93 was the only torpedo the Harekaze could have carried. However, discussions immediately deviated from the topic – while Hai-Furi had established Akeno specifically ordered a dummy torpedo loaded and fired, things immediately turned over to the question of how much damage a live Type 93 would do to the Sarushima, which is an irrelevant question with regard to what had been happening at the time.

  • The reality is that the Harekaze was equipped with Type 93 torpedoes with an inert warhead for training: Myssa Rei’s implications, in omitting mention of Akeno’s order, here would be analogous to suggesting that a rack for launching the AGM-114 Hellfire would only be compatible with live variants, but is otherwise unable to accept missiles outfitted with the M36 training device in place of its usual warhead. This is evidently not true: launchers are agnostic to the type of warhead the torpedo or missile is loaded with, as long as the missile casing is the right size and type, it will fit into the launch mechanism.

  • Thus, the torpedo mounts on the Harekaze would’ve accommodated both training and live torpedoes without any issue. There was never any doubt that the Harekaze had a stock of training torpedoes to use for exercises. The bigger question that this myth created was, how could a training torpedo have sunk the Sarushima? The answer itself is actually simple enough, and looking back, I now wish that I did take the time to step into the discussions and make my presence more visible: I imagine that by debunking Myssa Rei’s claims, discussions would not have gone in a cyclic, unproductive manner as it did.

  • The reason I did not actively correct or counter-argue with Myssa Rei had been because at the time, I had just been gearing up for my graduate thesis defense, and had simultaneously begun to do episodic reviews of Hai-Furi. Together, this was a very busy time: I was juggling the final draft of my thesis paper, the defense presentation itself and keeping abreast of all of the different speculation and theories that had surrounded Hai-Furi to ensure that my own posts adequately answered questions that might’ve been raised. Arguing with Myssa Rei did not seem the best use of my time, so I did not act, and in retrospect, the decision was both wise and foolish: by focusing on my work, I was able to pass my thesis defense with flying colours, but on the flipside, I allowed myths about Hai-Furi to endure.

  • Once the training torpedo hits the Sarushima, it leaves a sizeable dent in the hull. The ship begins listing to port, and evidently, the fuel tanks must’ve also sustained damage. However, even though the Harekaze’s crew imagine that they were in trouble for sinking an instructor’s vessel, no such thing has occurred. It typifies forum and image-board discussions to immediately jump to conclusions in a hive-mind like manner, and it was this mode of thinking where many of the misconceptions and errors about Hai-Furi came from.

Firstly, the Type 93 “Long Lance” was a 610 mm (24 inch) torpedo, not a 930 mm torpedo (probably a typo on Myssa Rei’s part). Being one of the most sophisticated Japanese torpedoes of WWII, the Type 93 utilised compressed oxygen as the oxidiser, greatly increasing the torpedo’s range and speed. Together with the 490 kilogram warhead, the Type 93 allowed small destroyers like the Kagerō-class to equip weapons capable of dealing damage to battleships at a range of 40 kilometres at a speed of 70 km/h. To put things in perspective, the best Allied torpedoes were the 530 mm Mark 15, which carried a 375 kilogram warhead out to a maximum range of 14 kilometres at 49.1 km/h (although the Mark 15 could reach a maximum speed of 83 km/h at a cost to its range). There were risks associated with these torpedoes, but in practise, the Imperial Japanese Navy recorded successes with the Type 93: for instance, four Type 93 torpedoes were used in sinking the USS Hornet at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in 1942. As it stands, modern warships are much more lightly armoured than their predecessors, instead, depending on electronic countermeasures to evade enemies over heavy armour. The Sarushima is modelled after the Independence-class littoral defense ships, which use an aluminium alloy hull and only possesses light armour, counting on its speed and ECM to evade enemy fire. Intended for shore patrol, intercepting smaller ships and anti-submarine warfare, the Independence-class represents a completely different use-case, and it is the case that a single live Type 93 could have rendered the Sarushima inoperable, overwhelming multiple bulkheads and creating a catastrophic situation where water would’ve filled enough compartments to eventually sink the ship, had the torpedo hit the wrong spot.

However, in Hai-Furi, the Sarushima only suffers from moderate hull damage; the very dialogue has made it clear that a training torpedo with an inert warhead was used. As for the amount of damage the training torpedo did to the Sarushima, we recall that the Type 93 torpedo had a mass of 2.7 metric tonnes: capable of reaching speeds of up to 96 km/h, at the close quarters that the Harekaze fired it in, even if no warhead was equipped, a glance at the relationship between velocity and mass finds that the amount of kinetic energy imparted by a direct hit is non-trivial. The light armour on an Independence-class would at least buckle a little from the impact, especially if the torpedo had struck whilst moving at high speeds, and given Akeno’s unusual luck, it is not out of the realm of possibility that she could’ve hit somewhere critical, breaching the hull and allowing water to seep in, creating the list seen in the anime. However, modern naval vessels possess watertight compartments so that, if one compartment is breached, it is immediately sealed off, preventing water from entering other areas. When the Sarushima was hit, systems on board would’ve prevented the hull breach from causing the ship to sink. Owing to their engineering, naval ships are very difficult to sink outright; for example, during a 2016 RIMPAC SINKEX exercise, a Perry-class frigate was used in a live fire exercise. With no crew on board, and all of the watertight compartments sealed, other vessels hammered this abandoned Perry-class. Without a damage control crew, the vessel still took a day to sink. Moreover, the Independence-class has a Trimaran hull, so the port impact would not have affected the starboard hull. Hence, it is clear that a live Type 93 is not guaranteed to have immediately sunk the Sarushima (even if it does mission-kill the ship), and moreover, an inert training warhead certainly did not sink the Sarushima. It is important to reiterate that at this point, the Sarushima was damaged, but not sunk: the vessel was later towed to port for repairs, while instructor Furushou was transferred to a different vessel.

Verdict: Busted

The Hunt For Red October‘s plot influenced Hai-Furi‘s plot in its entirety, and the entire staff watched the film ahead of production

Shortly before the third episode aired, the Hai-Furi production team released a special interview with script supervisor Reiko Yoshida on their official website. In this interview, Yoshida remarks that Hai-Furi had always been intended to be about overcoming difficulties, and that crossing the ocean became a metaphor for the series’ themes. As such, the series placed a particular emphasis about camaraderie on the high seas, and to this end, showcased different members of the crew and their unique points to really emphasise how life on a ship was conducted. As a part of the interview, Yoshida was asked about whether or not she was inspired by any other works while writing for Hai-Furi.

According to this the production crew watched The Hunt for Red October as reference material. Let that sink in.

問: なかなか参考資料が少ない作品だと思いますが、参考にされたものはありますか?
答: 吉田 鈴木さんから参考資料を貸していただいたり、映画はいくつか観ました。『レッドオクトーバーを追え』などですね。船内の生活の参考にしています。

Whether its[sic] for script reference, of just crew conditions, is up to debate.

Q: This is an original work with few references to existing works, but are there any references to other works?
A: I mostly referred to materials from Suzuki, but I also saw some films. For instance, I used The Hunt for Red October as a reference for what life on board (a ship) was like.

  • It was indeed Hai-Furi that led me to pick up and read Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October – at the time, I’d already been a fan of Tom Clancy, having read a handful of his Jack Ryan Jr. books, which followed the clandestine off-the-books group, The Campus, as they work to collect intelligence and action it in order to stop plots that threaten the United States. The Hunt for Red October had been described as “the perfect yarn” by former President Ronald Reagan, and upon reading it, I was very impressed with how the book managed to weave so much technical detail into a compelling story. I subsequently watched the film, as well, finding it to be every bit as engaging as the novel.

  • However, one thing also became apparent to me: all of the memes online that suggested Hai-Furi was The Hunt for Red October with hawt anime girls were wrong. A bit of tracing found that all of this ended up from Myssa Rei: originally, the interview at Hai-Furi‘s official site was posted to Reddit and initially did not receive too much traction. When Myssa Rei found it and posted the above quoted passage to both AnimeSuki and Tango-Victor-Tango, the idea immediately took off like a wildfire. Some fans even create fan art of The Hunt for Red October‘s movie poster featuring Akeno and Mashiro, while at Tango-Victor-Tango, a troper would write that there were enough similarities between the two’s plots: both involve pursuit of a “rogue” naval vessel.

  • When I first watched Hai-Furi, I had not read nor watched The Hunt for Red October for myself, and so, I could only remark on it. However, once I did finish, I found next to no similarities beyond this, and so, I dug a little further into the interview. Armed with my own rudimentary ability to read Japanese, I quickly learnt that Myssa Rei had, in fact, left out a great deal of context and (inadvertently, I’m sure) mistranslated the interview passage. The interview had been with one of the script supervisors, Reiko Yoshida, who mentioned that she specifically watched the film to gain insight as to the conditions inside a ship.

  • Nowhere in the interview did she suggest that other members of the staff also watched The Hunt for Red October. Yoshida’s mention of The Hunt for Red October was in the passing, and wasn’t an integral part of the interview. In spite of this, the lack of any other information resulted in memes being created, and misinformation being spread. When one reads the interview in full, it becomes clear that The Hunt for Red October was but one part of Hai-Furi, which had been intended to be a story about overcoming difficulties as a team.

  • The lesson learned from this myth is not to always trust someone’s translation work in full unless they are a professional: languages have their own subtleties, and Myssa Rei’s partial translation left out enough details such that it completely changed what the interview’s answers had been about. Instead, folks should always strive to reason through things themselves, and where applicable, use any appropriate resources to assist in the process.

Yoshida largely used scriptwriter Takaaki Suzuki’s notes to help with her work, and in the interview, she explicitly stated that she also watched The Hunt for Red October to gain a measure of how other works presented life on board a ship (in this case, the submarine, USS Dallas). In the interview, however, there is absolutely no indicator that the entire production crew had sat down to watch The Hunt for Red October, nor is there any truth in the claim that the overarching narrative in Hai-Furi was inspired directly by The Hunt for Red October. The Hunt for Red October was about CIA analyst Jack Ryan struggling to convince his superiors that Soviet Captain, Marco Ramius, was intending to defect, and the novel’s themes had been about the complexities of politics interfering with one’s ability to do what is right, as well as the idea that not everyone in another nation is subservient to their ideology. These themes were framed around a submarine chase and technical expertise from the submarine crews, as well as Ryan himself: the US Navy had intended to capture Ramius and the Red October, a Typhoon-class submarine equipped with a revolutionary silent propulsion system, something that Ryan was familiar with. Shortly after this interview came out, Myssa Rei quoted the passage above out of context and mistranslated it, resulting in the impression that The Hunt for Red October had served as the primary inspiration for Hai-Furi. This resulted in the preposterous claim that Hai-Furi was, in effect, an anime adaptation of The Hunt for Red October, since both series involved “a rogue ship is being hunted down by the world’s navies”.

When the interview is read in its entirety, however, Hai-Furi was written with a very different objective in mind: even before the anime’s story was fully presented, the full interview shows that Hai-Furi had always been intended to show how people grow and mature when placed into difficult situations. The idea to use a naval setting was simply because on a naval vessel, quarters are very cramped and narrow. Things that people take for granted become valuable or even absent, and so, it created an environment where trouble and adversity awaited around almost every corner. Thus, Akeno and the others needed to adjust to this environment and rise above their problems. Conversely, in The Hunt for Red October, the metaphor of using sonar to hunt for a rogue submarine was chosen to represent navigating political circles: finding the answers is akin to searching for a needle in a field of haystacks, but even then, skill and perseverance carry the day. It becomes clear that Hai-Furi and The Hunt for Red October only share the most superficial of similarities: both works take place on the high seas, but beyond this, strove to accomplish entirely different goals, tell different stories and present different themes. There is no basis to suggest that Hai-Furi was inspired directly by The Hunt for Red October at scale. This particular misconception resulted as a result of a mistranslation, and as a consequence of taking Yoshida’s words out of context; the lesson learnt here is not to take fan-translations of interview materials at face value, especially if they are sourced from individuals who do not have the skill or willingness to provide a correct, complete translation.

Verdict: Busted

Takaaki Suzuki tweeted a full justification for why powered flight doesn’t exist in Hai-Furi

The absence of heavier-than-air flight in Hai-Furi became immediately noticeable by the events of the third episode, when Kouko comments on how she wishes she could fly like a bird, without the need for hydrogen or helium, and Mashiro remarks it’s outright impossible. I myself had immediately noticed the absence of aircraft carriers out of the first episode and found it absurd that they’d be absent, especially considering that smaller carriers have been successfully used as helicopter carriers: while there may be no need for super carriers and power projection, helicopter carriers would be immensely useful for deploying rotorcraft, which have applications as emergency transport vehicles, search and rescue, observation and even carrying loads. Their utility would be immediately apparent in a world like Hai-Furi: helicopters do not require a runway to take off, and given how that the land had been submerged by rising oceans, it stands to reason that these aircraft would only become more valuable as a part of the Blue Mermaid’s tool set. This apparently was not the case: it soon became clear that heavier-than-air flight had never been developed at all in Hai-Furi. This was evidently a plot device: the presence of heavier-than-air flight would’ve allowed for the Blue Mermaids to trivially solve the anime’s story, and the restrictions were present precisely to give World War Two era naval vessels a chance to shine. For the same reason air and infantry support are absent in Girls und Panzer, Hai-Furi dispensed with heavier-than-air flight altogether to accommodate the story. This is understandable, but things became murkier once Myssa Rei claimed to have found a series of tweets from Takaaki Suzuki himself.

I think that people should be MORE worried about another tweet by someone connected with the production itself, rather than getting angry at how airpower was just taken out of the picture by authorial fiat (because the sheer butterfly effect this would cause is already driving some people up the wall). The extra information you seem to be referring to were kind of Q&A Tweets from Military Adviser Takaaki himself:

In addition, I wonder how many people watched script writer Takaaki Suzuki’s commentary on the setting for Hai-Furi. According to the commentary, it’s “a world where powered flight was unsuccessful”, so there are no blimps, aircraft or rockets that use onboard propulsion to fly. As such, aircraft carriers do not exist, either.

Furthermore, because Japan became resource-rich as a result of methane hydrate mining, there was no need for a Pacific War. World War Two became a strictly European conflict, and without aircraft, there was no need to develop effective anti-air weaponry. As such, more advanced anti-air weaponry from the latter half of the war will not appear.

  • Early in Hai-Furi, Kouko expresses a wish for heavier than air flight, only for Mashiro to reply with a blunt “no”, that it’s impossible. I did not particularly take exception to this fact, since Hai-Furi would’ve progressed very differently were air power available as an option. The choice to remove air power was done deliberately so naval ships from the World War Two era had a chance to shine in Hai-Furi – as aircraft carriers became more integral to naval power during World War Two, battleships were quickly pushed out of the picture. The Yamato, Japan’s greatest battleship, was defeated not by the USS Missouri, a similar battleship, but by aircraft launched from carriers.

  • Instead, I disagreed immediately with Myssa Rei pushing a few Tweets as being sufficient evidence for why air power never developed. Looking back, it was suspect that Myssa Rei chose to screencap the Tweets and upload the images to an image host, as opposed to providing a direct link to the Tweets themselves. While this was likely done out of convenience (e.g. if the Tweets were deleted, or the account were to become deactivated), a record of them would remain. However, this also prevented others from grabbing the text and translating it for themselves, which meant that for ease of discussion, forum-goers simply accepted Myssa Rei’s translations and interpretations to be true.

  • I was able to use Twitter’s findfor-since-until query to locate the original Tweets and grab the original text for a bit of machine translation. The results should not be too surprising: the original Tweets had not actually been from script writer Takaaki Suzuki as claimed, and moreover, were again, translated in an incomplete manner. Through Myssa Rei’s translation, it was implied that air power had simply been too hard to figure out, so people gave up on it. The actual text simply supposes it was unsuccessful, and gives no further explanation, meaning it was equally likely that powered flight went the way of the earliest electric cars after the internal combustion engine was developed.

  • As it was, I disagreed with Myssa Rei on this particular detail, and was met with a stony silence on the forums. It typified Myssa Rei’s usual modus operandi: since I was deemed unworthy of talking to them at the same level, I never got responses for any of the information or theories I put forward. However, in a curious bit of passive-aggression, Myssa Rei later edited Tango-Victor-Tango to read that I was a part of the “broken base” over the absence of air power. I had not been opposed to the lack of heavier-than-air vehicles, but rather, the assertion that it was simply too hard and therefore unnecessary to develop aircraft and helicopters.

  • I’m not sure how Myssa Rei would’ve actually found the Twitter posts in question, but I imagine that it was probably through imageboards. I’ve never particularly liked image boards, since their anonymous nature meant that people were often prone to abuses, with users posting fan theories and outrageous guesses that almost always turned out incorrect. For instance, 4chan’s anime boards speculated that the phenomenon caused by what was later known as the Totalitarian Virus was actually mind control, whereas I contended it was a virus. When I made this suggestion on AnimeSuki, I was told that this was impossible, and mind control made more sense. Once the later episodes revealed the phenomenon had a biological origin, discussion on that topic immediately ceased.

I will open by remarking that the Twitter account in question does not actually belong to Suzuki: Suzuki operates a Twitter account under the handle @yamibun, and specifies his birthday as being June 9. This profile is definitely Suzuki’s, as it openly specifies that he works as a writer and does screenplays. Conversely, the account that Myssa Rei cites, @hunini181202 (formerly @xBbZcxGT3KAVmR9) belongs to a military enthusiast who enjoys uploading military photos to Wikimedia Commons and lives in Ujitawara in the Kyoto Prefecture. Furthermore, @hunini181202’s profile lists the user’s birthday as November 16. The lack of overlap indicates that @hunini181202, who Myssa Rei cited as being Suzuki, is in fact, not Suzuki, who uses the @yamibun account. Thus, the conclusion is simple enough: the individual who made those Tweets about heavier-than-air flight in Hai-Furi is not Takaaki Suzuki, and in fact, is only stating that he has source material from Suzuki. We can thus discard Myssa Rei’s assertions that the lack of air power in Hai-Furi is justified on the basis of “authorial fiat”, having shown that Myssa Rei’s initial premise is false. However, in proper MythBusters style, this isn’t any fun, so those claims from the anonymous user are still worth considering. Thus, let’s suppose for a moment that Takaaki Suzuki did, in fact, argue that the lack of heavier-than-air flight stems from setbacks dating back to the Wright Brothers in 1903.

The primary point here is the assertion that heavier-than-air flight, like fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, don’t exist simply because the attempts to develop it failed, and as such, humanity simply discarded the concept and walked away without ever considering the idea again in the future. This is, quite frankly, an insult to Wilbur and Orville Wright, as well as every aviator who attempted to carry out powered flight prior to 1903: the Wright Brothers had struggled extensively to design a vehicle capable of powered flight. After testing various designs between 1900 and 1902, they determined that the Wright Flyer design was the most suitable and set about testing it. On their first trial, Wilbur crashed the vehicle, but it was repaired, and Orville took to the skies for a total of twelve seconds on a subsequent attempt. Although short, and their initial efforts resulted in the destruction of the original Flyer, the Wright brothers had demonstrated that powered flight was indeed possible. History would’ve dictated that, had the Wright Brothers failed, early aviators like Karl Jatho, Samuel Pierpont Langley or Alberto Santos-Dumont would have succeeded given enough time. History is dotted with individuals who were met with failures before success: the Dyson vacuum under went more than five thousand iterations before it worked, and James Dyson ended up creating his own manufacturing company to build them when large manufacturing firms declined to, Robert Goddard’s concept of a liquid fuel rocket was originally dubbed “impossible” but would form the basis for all modern rockets, and Thomas Edison famously experimented with a thousand designs before succeeding in creating the incandescent lamp. The lesson here is that humanity is largely a species characterised by a desire to explore and discover, so to suggest that humanity gave up on powered flight is to imply that as a species, we are not driven by innovation. So, for the sake of discussion, let’s suppose that is the case. Writing letters is effective enough of a form of communication, but it hasn’t stopped Hai-Furi‘s universe from developing tablets of the variety that Kouko uses. Consequently, innovation and advancement does exist in Hai-Furi, and since this contradicts the original idea, that humanity in Hai-Furi has stagnated, we can conclude by saying that it is the case that humanity is still advancing, the idea that humanity simply lost interest in powered flight is not an acceptable answer. As such, barring a more detailed explanation from Suzuki, this is not the answer we’re looking for.

Verdict: Busted

Methane hydrate mining cannot cause land to subside, so the alternate time-line in Hai-Furi is implausible from a geological perspective

At Tango-Victor-Tango, one of the tropes I’m least fond of are the “artistic license” ones: inaccuracies committed for the sake of story, in their own words. Tropes seem to love these, because it gives them a chance to show off their own knowledge and intellect. In Hai-Furi, it is supposed that because Japan was involved in the mining of methane hydrate (simply, methane crystallised into a ice-like material as a result of pressure extremities), their economy was stable and therefore, there was never any need to engage in any expansionism. However, Japan became highly dependent on the mining and sales of ice hydrates to the point where they over-mined, causing Japan to sink. Myssa Rei immediately posted the “artistic license” trope under geology, stating that:

The explanation given by Mashiro’s mother for the reason for the subsidence of Japan’s landmass being partly due to the over-mining of the undersea deposits of Methane Hydrate doesn’t make any sense. There’s a chance that she was genuinely misinformed, however.

  • There was actually one more myth I was originally looking to write about in this post – shortly before the first episode aired, a blog post argued that all of the characters’ nicknames had been based on popular cat names in Japan. I ended up asking for a source to prove this and received a link for a pet name ranking for dogs, dated for 2018. The names “Mike” and “Shiro” do not even appear in 2018, so that myth was so busted, it didn’t merit a full entry. As it stands, Akeno and Mashiro are not named after cats.

  • As Hai-Furi wore on, it became apparent that my speculations were consistent with what ended up occurring, and I found the series to be more than it let in on. Looking back at the discussions at various forums, it became clear that they were likely the reason why Hai-Furi had not been enjoyable for some: people spent more time arguing the withertoos and whyfores that the series original themes, which Yoshida had touched in in her interview, were completely forgotten. In my finale post, I praised the series for having a clear theme despite the hurdles the plot faced, noting that the inaccuracies and liberties taken did not detract from the messages of trust and teamwork even if they had been numerous.

  • However, in retrospect, beyond the mechanism for the Totalitarian Virus, everything else in the series stands up to scrutiny: Hai-Furi is not realistic by any means, but how the world was presented was sufficiently well thought-out that the story did work despite the fact that the series felt distinctly cobbled-together. Once the finale to Hai-Furi ended, many of AnimeSuki’s most active participants did not show up for the OVAs or film that followed. In the aftermath, I ended up working with another netizen to iron out the remaining issues at Tango-Victor-Tango. This individual was an active editor there, and I would help them with writing out the Hai-Furi page such that all of the speculation and outdated information sourced from image boards were removed.

  • This is the overhead view of Japan that led me to conclude that Hai-Furi‘s geography had resulted from a mining accident, rather than a global rise in sea levels. As it stands, I believe the four myths discussed, and busted, in this post are likely the main details I wished to address. The Totalitarian Virus is a central part of the story and therefore, one’s reception to that is a more accurate determinant of whether or not Hai-Furi would be enjoyable for them. That is to say, dismissing Hai-Furi on account of a torpedo’s damage, whether or not it lined up with The Hunt for Red October, plausibly explained away heavier-than-air flight or was realistic in its geological description of the mining disaster is to be mistaken.

  • Admittedly, re-watching Hai-Furi without any of the forum drama going on is how I prefer to watch this series. It’s now time to finish busting the last myth, finish off this post (which has reached 6649 words in length and took seven hours to write altogether), and then return to regularly scheduled programming: immediately on the horizon is Wednesday’s post for the tenth Road to Berlin post, and I need to get a move on the post for Halo 4, having beaten it last Thursday.

Evidently, the Tango-Victor-Tango Department of Geological Sciences does not have mining subsidence as a part of their syllabus: subsidence is the sinking or settling of ground downwards with little horizontal motion, and it has been shown that extensive mining activities can cause the ground to sink. In the case of natural gas deposits, there is a limit to how much the gas can be compressed before it enters the liquid phase, and liquids, being incompressible, will support soil layers above the gas field. Extracting the gas then results in a reduced pressure, and the mass of materials above the deposit will begin sinking. Methane hydrates do indeed have commercial applicability: the deposits around the world are thought to contain as much as ten times the volume of natural gas as known deposits, and Japan has expressed interest in using this as a fuel source: their geologists estimate upwards of 1.1 trillion cubic metres of methane hydrates in the Nankai trough alone. Real-world geological research has thus indicated that Japan does indeed have sizeable reserves, and in the realm of fiction, things have simply been scaled up. As such, excessive mining, coupled with the fact that natural gas extraction could in fact cause land subsidence, is not too far-fetched a concept for setting up how Hai-Furi‘s Japan ended up the way it did.

Experimenting with sea level maps, the image of Japan shown near the first episode’s ending suggests that Japan’s sunk by anywhere from 50-80 metres. However, the Korean peninsula looks relatively unaffected, whereas a 60 metre sea level rise (occurring if all of the world’s ice caps melted) would also be noticeable in that overhead image. The sum of these observations indicate that the sea level rise in Hai-Furi did not result from global warming as a result of burning natural gas: this was something that a few folks at Anime News Network concluded was the actual cause of the events in Hai-Furi, and the anime had simply gone with a different route to avoid the topic of climate change and its impacts on the world. When everything is considered, catastrophic climate change resulting from greenhouse gases was not the cause of Japan sinking: investigation of the consequence of extracting natural gas and assuming that a similar model can be used for methane hydrate extraction at scale finds that it is plausible for such a disaster to occur. Consequently, the claim that Hai-Furi‘s world-building is an example of artistic license in geology is untrue: while admittedly far-fetched, Mayuki wasn’t misinformed in any way. Such an occurrence is not beyond the realm of what is possible given the distribution of methane hydrate deposits around the world and is consistent with what is potentially known to occur with natural gas extraction.

Verdict: Busted

Closing Remarks

Having shown that the theories and research surrounding for Hai-Furi were oh-for-four in this post, the conclusion I leave readers with is really just to approach Hai-Furi with an open mind. Misplaced expectations will inevitably result if any one of these myths were on the viewer’s mind while watching Hai-Furi. The observant reader will have noticed that all of these myths came from Myssa Rei. It is not the intent of this post to cast Myssa Rei in a poor light, but to demonstrate the consequences of basing one’s interpretations and speculation about a series from incomplete details missing context, or speculation from disreputable sources like 4chan. Had I agreed with Myssa Rei, Hai-Furi would not be enjoyable. Akeno making a decision that resulted in the Sarushima’s sinking would paint her as bumbling and incompetent. If Hai-Furi had really been a retelling of The Hunt for Red October, the vastly different themes between the two works would mean that certain events would never reconcile. The lack of powered flight would speak poorly of society in Hai-Furi, giving very little incentive to suppose that the people in charge are competent and able. A lack of a plausible mechanism for explaining why the world was the way it was would imply the writers did not care enough for the final product to make a reasonable world for Akeno and the others, and consequently, there wouldn’t be a reason to root for Akeno, Mashiro and the others. All of these are untrue, and Hai-Furi is, in fact, a moderately enjoyable series.

The point of this post is to demonstrate how exercising my own judgement and forming my own conclusions allowed me to enjoy Hai-Furi. As such, in retrospect, I probably should’ve written this post much earlier, as this would’ve helped to smooth out any inconsistencies as a result amongst the other viewers. Looking back, a common problem that I’ve noticed with news and information of any sort is that, the first person to release it inevitably gains all of the credit for it, and their work is automatically assumed to be correct. Consequently, even if it can later be shown that the first person had been in fact, wrong, and a retraction is issued, the misinformation continues to endure because most people will not be interested in the recanting of outdated, incorrect information. I realise full well this is what’s happening here with this MythBusters-style post: even though I’ve busted four myths in a succinct manner, it is doubtful that Hai-Furi fans will read this post, much less realise that Myssa Rei had been completely mistaken about a great many things. While the ship has sailed for busting Hai-Furi myths (pun intended!), there are two take-away lessons from this post for readers that certainly apply to other series. The first is that when a series is airing, one should always make their own judgements and not allow influential-looking individuals to affect their impressions of a work. The second is that, for a series that has finished airing, someone who sounds authoritative about the work might not always be correct, and again, one’s assessment of said work should be based on their own judgements.