The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: First Episode Discussion

Non Non Biyori Repeat: First Episode Impressions and Review

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” —Robert Frost

Non Non Biyori Repeat, the second season of Non Non Biyori, marks a welcome return to Asahigaoka, a serene village in rural Japan far removed from the bustle of major urban centres. However, there does seem to be a small twist on things: rather than picking up in Okinawa as originally speculated, the second season opens a few days before Renge is set to start elementary school. While Renge admires her new backpack and rides the bus on her own to reach the Asahigaoka branch school, Hikage prepares for high school in Tokyo. Unbeknownst to them, Asahigaoka will also see the arrival of one Hotaru Ichijou, who wonders if she’ll make any new friends at Asahigaoka school. Providing a glimpse into life prior to Hotaru’s arrival, Non Non Biyori Repeat‘s first episode illustrates the languid, laid-back life that Renge, Komari and Natsumi enjoy in Asahigaoka, a place where cell phones seem like Forerunner technology. While somewhat surprising, the decision to step back to just before the first season started allows Non Non Biyori Repeat to set the stage for first-time viewers, introducing them to the characters. However, to established viewers, these same scenes serve to remind them of everything that made the first season so enjoyable to watch. Through the long, lovingly-presented moments depicting the gentle scenery in and around the region, both old and new viewers alike are reminded of the pastoral beauty in Asahigaoka, setting the atmosphere for what subsequent episodes will entail.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post is half the length of an ordinary post, featuring only ten images, rather than the usual twenty. The slow pacing of the first episode means that there are plenty of stills depicting the landscapes, and quite honestly, screenshots won’t do them justice. Thus, I’ll only offer remarks on some moments, such as Renge admiring her backpack from every angle and her brimming over with excitement about starting school soon.

  • Viewers with an acute memory and ear for detail will notice that Non Non Biyori Repeat makes use of all-new background music in most of its scenes. This seemingly inconsequential detail expresses that the second season is more than a mere continuation, that Renge and the others will be encountering new adventures as the season progresses. Naturally, I am anticipating the soundtrack’s release, although this won’t occur until at least October, after the anime’s concluded.

  • While subtle, lighting effects have improved slightly since the first season for some scenes to really convey a sense of languidness in the atmosphere. Other than that, the colour palette and landscapes have remained similar.

  • Even though the first episode is focused around Renge, Komari and Natsumi’s personalities are hinted at in the episode quite nicely. Newer viewers will gain a modicum of insight into their characters, while veterans will immediately be reminded of what made the first season so entertaining.

  • Owing to Asahigaoka’s small size and limited infrastructure, Hikage must attend high school in Tokyo. She’s given a flip-phone, and is immensely satisfied with its capabilities. I’m not sure if highly advanced flip-phones are still commonplace in Japan: ever since the advent of touch-screen based smart phones, flip-phones seem somewhat out of date, although it could also suggest that Asahigaoka is somewhat of a backwater as far as technology goes.

  • Hikage somehow leaves her phone behind: she initially dismisses Renge’s shouts as the latter missing her already, but it turns out that Renge is shouting to return her phone. Such moments exemplify the sort of comedy that was present in Non Non Biyori, and as this season progresses, I look forwards to seeing what will happen next.

  • Natsumi and Komari share a conversation, with the latter wondering if Renge will call her senpai. There is a bit of dramatic irony here: once Hotaru arrives, she’ll constantly be calling Komari senpai, although it seems that Komari is largely oblivious of Hotaru’s crush on her. This could be an element explored in the second season.

  • Renge remarks that her uniform for starting school is haute couture, French for “high fashion”, without fully understanding what the term entails. Even Kazuha is at a loss for words when Renge mentions this, but yes, there is a charm about her uniform’s design. This is the first time we’ve seen this uniform: in the previous season, Renge wore a dress of sorts to school.

  • The welcoming ceremony soon begins: the previous day, Kazuha was preparing the room and sent the others off to relax. It appears that Asahigaoka Branch School has been around for 105 years, and attesting to its age, another reference to its decaying floorboards is mentioned.

  • Kazuha hands Renge a set of school supplies as the latter formally enters the first grade. The “legendary sword” Renge was playing with earlier in the episode was used to mark a path, although Renge wistfully notes the path from the day before is fading quickly, suggesting that things in life can be fleeting in nature. I’ve no screenshots of Hotaru here, but as the first episode is set right before season one, it’s not too difficult to surmise what happens next.

One invariably will wonder which directions Non Non Biyori Repeat will take from here on out. The second episode is titled “We Went to Look at the Stars”, suggesting that stargazing is likely to be involved. In the manga, Renge and the others take an excursion by night to catch fireflies; this is set a ways after Okinawa, and the preview does not seem to involve anything set in Okinawa, so at present, it’s reasonable to surmise that Okinawa will be left as an OVA for the future. As such, the second episode will likely be set a short ways after Renge and the others return to Asahigaoka during the middle of summer and continue the story from there. However, give that my speculation was quite far from the truth, it is possible that the anime could deviate from the manga. Regardless of how accurate my speculations were, with a solid start to the second season, I will greatly look forwards to Non Non Biyori Repeat each week; as the series progresses, the days will shorten, and autumn will return once more, evoking the seasons that Non Non Biyori depicts in such tender detail.

Saki Zenkoku-hen: Mid-season reflection

“I’m coming at your base with two rockvees and an ambo – you’ve got a Jarmen, two scorps, and a quad. What do you do?” —Pure Pwnage

If I am playing Zero Hour and encountered such a scenario, I would use my jarmen to snipe the soldiers from the rockvees. The scorps can mop up the rest, and the ambo can be taken down with the quad. This is the solution to the age-old problem posed in Pure Pwnage, although I imagine readers might be wondering what place it has in the middle of a Saki Zenkoku-hen talk. The answer is simple enough: if that question didn’t have much meaning, then one has a reasonable idea of what it feels like to be watching Saki given my level of mahjong comprehension. However, I emphasise that Saki can be enjoyed anyways, and thus far, at the halfway point, Yuuki and Mako have played their turns, and Hisa has just regained her flair for the game. The series flashes back to the training camp, but as the episodes approach the halfway point, the games begin in earnest, and it’s enjoyable to see Kiyosumi duel other schools. As far as the new schools go, Eisui seems to be the most interesting of the three competitors thus far: the other just don’t feel like they can put up much of a fight.

  • Before I continue with the talk about the first half in Zenkoku-hen, I bring attention to the soundtrack, which has not been mentioned at all in the previous discussion. For me, the music simply serves as ambiance and doesn’t particularly stand out, hence the minimal mention of it.

  • From left to right, Hajime Kunihiro, Jun Inoue, Koromo Amae, Tomoki Sawamura and Touka Ryuumonbuchi. Last time, I never got around to properly introducing the Ryuumonbuchi cast. Despite being depicted as faceless champions early on, the first season did a spectacular job of painting them as human, attesting to the significance of being able to give viewers a chance to see characters from multiple perspectives.

  • I’ve already introduced Tsuruga’s cast, but I’ve included them here anyways. I will take the time to mention Satomi’s infamous “~wahaha” laugh and lethal driving skills. At the time of writing, my driving is now acceptable, and aside from merging, my basic skills are largely present.

  • Of course, I will need to continue practising so I may pass one final driver’s exam and get my full license. Before the tournament starts, Hisa receives a video from Kiyosumi cheering them on. While uplifting, this video may contribute to Hisa’s stress later on.

  • This is a rare image that features all of the main teams featured in the first season. I argue that because the national tournament is greater in scope, the second season would have benefited substantially from having twenty-something episodes’ worth of space to work with, given that it would have allowed for matches to proceed at a reasonable pace while simultaneously presenting character and school backgrounds.

  • Yuki explodes out to a massive lead over her competition in the East wind, but the tide of battle can shift in a heartbeat, hence the importance of building up insurance points, so to speak, so that if things go south, they don’t go south all the way.

  • Much like Girls und Panzer, there are a lot of characters in Saki, far more than is reasonable for people to remember from memory. I feel no inclination to do a post featuring all of the characters just yet, although as with Girls und Panzer, things could change in the future if time permits. Kasumi Iwato, Haru Takimi, Tomoe Karijuku and Hatsumi Usuzumi observe the progress of the match.

  • Komaki Jindai is a second year who acts as a vessel for 7 out of the 8 Goddesses. In the previous year, she pushed herself too hard, causing the lineup for Eisui’s team to consist entirely of the branch families. She bears a limited resemblance to Tari Tari‘s Sawa Okita. Speaking of Tari Tari, I’ll probably get around to discussing why Tari Tari deserves a second season or movie after I conclude the half-way point talks and the Koi to Senkyou to Chocolate OVA reflection.

  • After a thrashing from Sawa Komaki sinks Kiyosumi to the bottom, a dejected Yuki returns to the waiting room. With only thirteen episodes, Zenkoku-hen must and does progress at a very rapid pace to ensure that all of the battles can be shown.

  • Mako’s last showing in Saki was a little disappointing, but she shows the extent of her skills in Zenkoku-hen and single-handedly restores Kiyosumi’s lead.

My impressions of the second season so far are that it is strong where the first season is strong, continues in the same spirit by balancing mahjong matches with a bit of downtime in between matches. However, characterisation of the other schools to give them a more human side was one of the strengths in season one, and this time around, though, I have yet to find the raison d’être for each of the schools, beyond entering for enternal mahjong glory à la Adam Richman and Man v. Food. While the mahjong and graphics have been improved from the first season, the other schools don’t appear to have reasons to win in the same fashion as did Kazekoshi Girls’ School, Tsuruga Academy and Ryuumonbuchi. As such, the other schools feel more like nameless competitors that are waiting be squashed. This is probably a consequence of the series’ shorter length, although I will note that the series is paced appropriately, and now that I’m fully caught up, every subsequent episode will be greatly anticipated.

  • Aislinn Wishart reacts to her micro being disrupted by unconventional plays from Mako, blowing away her concentration. Playing for Miyamori, Aislinn is not fluent in Japanese and uses her whiteboard to communicate with her teammates.

  • I hear that Achiga Girls Academy is going to be the final opponent Kiyosumi faces, although this would tend to reduce the impact of Kiyosumi’s victory in the tournament. I think that a final match-up with Shiraitodai High School (however unlikely or disproved by magazine scans) would be a more fitting conclusion

  • Hisa feels out of character prior to her match, leading her to stumble somewhat in her game. Earlier, I noticed a discussion elsewhere about a track on the Achiga soundtrack that “demonises” Teru Miyanaga, describing the song as being cold and formal, being more of a natural force than human. That is not so: I’ve listened to that song for myself, and I find that the song is bombastic, (probably) Vivacissimo and militaristic in nature, reflecting merely on her aggressive and unpredictable play-style rather than her personality. A song that reflects on Teru’s “demonised” personality would be more brooding and have a significantly slower tempo.

  • I know the feeling before a great battle, having stared down exams and even a thesis defense in previous years. I typically count on prep time to ensure that I know the material and have the confidence to execute my knowledge well under all circumstances. If I went into the thesis defense without prep time, I probably would not have graduated.

  • Because it’s the Sochi 2014 Winter  Olympics, I could easily chalk this image up as Yuki reacting to Canada defeating Japan in the Women’s Curling to get a spot in the semi-finals.

  • Admittedly, I haven’t been fully following the Winter Olympics fully, and aside from cheering on Team Canada for all of its events, the main event I look forward to most is the Men’s Hockey.

  • Near the end of the match, Hisa finally settles into her groove and wields her infamous Hell wait technique to make a short comeback. When partaking in an activity, some individuals enter state known as flow and become so focused on one activity that one’s sense of spatial awareness and time become distorted. I add that individuals with über-micro are able to perform the same as individuals in a state of flow, but maintain full spatial awareness.

  • This moment reminds me of Light’s dramatic strokes in Death Note, an anime I began back in 2010 to see whether it lived up to all of the praise surrounding it. Death Note itself is quite interesting, although it was only strongest at the beginning and didn’t really hit the right notes following L’s death.

  • Haru shares some muscovado candies with Hisa: after Hisa begins playing as she normally does, Haru realises that she’s having fun against another opponent. Muscovado is nutritionally richer than other sugars by unit mass, and this moment brings back memories of the MCAT, where I brought a bunch of trail-mix for the exam. Compared to candies, the nuts in the trail-mix provide slower burning calories, while the chocolates give an initial boost of energy, providing a minor amount of support for what is a long exam.

  • The seventh episode is out now, and I’ll get around to watching that. My next Saki post will be a final reflection of the second season. Because of the series’ namesake, I think the probability that Kiyosumi wins is a sure thing. Would anyone else care to challenge me? That’s what I thought.

Where do things go from here, one asks? Simply put, a solid knowledge of mahjong is not necessary or sufficient to enjoy Saki or predict the outcome, in the same manner that I don’t need to be an astrophysicist to enjoy NOVA. There isn’t a need to analyse every play because the outcome is predetermined in a sense: the writers have carefully crafted each play to optimise suspense. Every move that ever was, or ever will be, is already set in stone, being carefully picked to captivate the viewer. As such, even if Kiyosumi is likely to win the national tournament, the journey there will be a thrilling ride, and it would make the reconciliation between Saki and Teru to be a well-deserved one, dispelling the feeling that older siblings are always so cold and distant to younger siblings. One way or another, I am looking forwards to the series’ second half; we’ll return to Hisa getting her act back together and hopefully dispense some hurt before turning things over to Nodoka and Saki. Now that I’ve gotten my Saki  halfway point post out, my attention will turn to SoniAni (there is actually something to talk about) and The Pilot’s Love Song (Superman jokes aside, this is shaping up to be an interesting series).

Saki final reflection and Saki Zenkoku-hen first episode impressions

“I demand your best!” —Graham Aker to Setsuna F. Seiei, Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season 2 Episode 21

This marks a deviation from my typical posting format, since I am going to do a combined season reflection and episode one reflection at the same time. The approach is simple enough: the paragraphs will be used for a talk about the original run of Saki, and I’ll make use of the figure captions to bring readers up to speed about Saki, as well as talking about the first episode to season two. I immediately begin by noting that Saki shares much in common with Girls und Panzer, except the former precedes the latter by three years, and rather than dealing with armoured warfare, speaks of mahjong. Other than that, both stories are driven by tournaments and a team’s rise to the top from obscurity thanks to newfound spirits introduced by its members. Both stories also feature a protagonist who is initially distant to an activity from their past, and through their experiences with newfound friends, rediscover their love for that activity. The similarities even extend to familial constructs: both Saki and Miho have an elder sister that is very distant, appearing as a cold construct whose talent and skill surpasses theirs. Indeed, these similarities is what led me to pick up Saki, even though my mahjong skills are virtually non-existent (and my familiarity with armour warfare doctrine is much greater). At the end of the day, though, this deficiency wasn’t enough to take away from the anime, which, while I imagine would be immensely enjoyable for those familiar with riichi mahjong, is nonetheless enjoyable for someone such as myself. Before I go further, I would like to mention the seemingly supernatural capacities some of the more skilled players have, which manifest as sparks and flames during matches and can be focussed to trigger localised events under moments of extreme stress. The last time I saw something in a similar vein was in the mockumentary Pure Pwnage, where gamers of a great skill are said to have über-micro. Because micro is defined as a capacity to masterfully rapidly handle decision making and react on instinct to a shifting battlefield, I will continue to refer to the girls’ skills as micro, since similar skills are needed to excel in mahjong.

  • Saki was released in 2009, if I’m not mistaken, while the Saki Achiga-hen episode of side-A was released back in 2012. That is to say, it’s been a long time for Saki fans since the last installation came out in the series.

  • This time around, I decided to do things a little differently, so this post is a sort of two-in-one where I will discuss the entirety of the first season set to images of the second season. For practical reasons, I was only able to acquire a DVD-quality copy of the first season, but this time around, since I’m on the ball, I’ve got access to HD video.

  • Saki looks so much more amazing in high resolution. The first Saki season was animated by GONZO, the same studio who animated the first season of Strike Witches. As such, Saki’s previous incarnation bore resemblance to Strike Witches‘ Yoshika Miyafuji.

  • Let’s introduce Nodoka Hanamura first (left): she is a first-year, who was the previous year’s National Middle School Individual Champion and plays the vice-captain position (4th) on the team. Contrasting the other skilled mahjong players, who draw upon their micro to win, Nodoka depends on her experiences online, entering a zen-like state where she depends entirely on heuristics to determine the best play.

  • As I will note below, I shot through the entire season one in less than a week-and-a-half; after finishing the first episode, which sets the stage for the remainder of the season, I realise now that to fully enjoy what is going on here, one will require some familiarity with the first season.

  • Mihoko Fukuji is Kazekoshi Girls School’s mahjong captain, and is gentle towards everyone (including her mahjong opponents). Mihoko is a perfect figure in her school and takes care of the house chores in the Kazekoshi mahjong club, thinking in doing so allows other members to practice with ease. Like one of my instructors, who had done the same for our for cell and molecular biology class, she is able to remember the names of all hundred members in Kazekoshi’s mahjong club.

  • The first episode is very laid-back in tone, contrasting the thrilling mahjong battles from the first season. However, in the first few moments of the second season’s opener, viewers are treated to some of the same mahjong antics characterising the first season.

  • Despite lacking the air of a nigh-unparalleled mahjong player, Saki Miyanaga is masterful with the rinshan kaihō, or winning off of a tile taken from the dead wall after calling kan. It can even go to the extend that she can call multiple kans off of the dead well en route to the win. It is because of this ability that Hisa places Saki into the captaincy position. Away from the mahjong table, Saki is very shy, an avid bookworm, and has deficiencies in spatial coordination, leading her to lose her way at every tournament she attends.

  • To the left is Mako Someya, a second year who was introduced to mahjong by her grandfather, and Hisa Takei is to the right in this image, a third year student who is the club president. The former is able to use her memory of similar board patterns to try and determine the best means of victory, while the latter is able to utilise “hell waits” – waits with those with just one tile to win. Mako was the first person that Hisa recruited for the mahjong club and became someone that Hisa coould rely upon and she share her concerns to. Hisa exhibits great leadership skills over her team as well as organizing events and communicating with other schools in the prefecture. In addition, she’s very caring towards not just her teammates, but for other players as well.

  • One may notice that my posts completely dispense with any of the specifics behind the riichi-mahjong, which I have no understanding of. Instead, to gauge each match’s directionality, I rely entirely on character reactions and atmosphere to determine who has the advantage at a particular instance, although as with most things, the tide of battle can turn in an instant, as Saki demonstrates during the prefecture team competition.

Saki is able to capture my interest not for the technical details in the gameplay itself, but rather, for its careful pacing to hold the viewer’s interests. Contrasting armoured warfare, mahjong happens at a smaller time-scale and as such, watching a match in reality has a different pace than watching tanks engage one another. As such, Saki is spread out over twenty five episodes, and matches are well-polished. Starting with an introduction to Kiyosumi’s mahjong team, the series depicts Saki Miyanaga’s gradual rekindled love for mahjong, thanks in no small part to Nodoka Haramura. Kiyosumi’s team is composed of Yuuki Kataoka, Hisa Takei and Mako Someya, with Kyoutarou Suga being more of an assistant of sorts. During intermissions between rounds, or during particularly tense moments, characterisation is given to the competitors of all the major schools, providing their backstory into what drives them foreword to strive for victory. Whether it be Kazekoshi Girls’ School’s determination to thank their captain, Mihoko Fukuji, for her sacrifices for the team, Tsuruga Academy’s Momoko Touyoko and Yumi Kajiki, or Ryuumonbuchi High School’s Touka Ryuumonbuchi and Koromo Amae, the other schools are presented in such a way as to give them a distinctly human side in a manner similar to that in Girls und Panzer. The other schools are not merely opponents on the battlefield, but rather, everyone has a reason for participating in the tournament. It certainly adds weight to their fight, even though the title of the series is a clear indicator of the expected outcomes. In Girls und Panzer, the shorter length of the anime precluded exploring the backgrounds behind the other schools, but thanks to its full-length, Saki is able to delve into some of these smaller details. By setting up such a connection, it is, though unsurprising, very rewarding to see everyone gather in the end as friends to play mahjong for fun.

  • Yuuki Kataoka is a first year who dominates the East wind of every game, often jumping out to huge leads against her opponents. She is very fond of tacos and has a child-like personality, but is also is very protective of her friends. Her interactions with Kyoutarou are amusing; she regards the latter as an errand boy, and indeed, Kyoutarou’s presence in the series is quite limited owing to his weak mahjong skills.

  • Because of my lack of familiarity, I cannot assess whether or not a particular play was good or not in the same manner as I had with Girls und Panzer, where my incredibly vast knowledge of military doctrine allowed me to predict the ending exactly as it unfolded.

  • Where as I am an expert at navigation and have full spatial awareness of my relative position even in a new building, poor Saki is the opposite and somehow winds up in the competition hall’s basement. In season one, Saki’s tendencies means that she gets lost while trying to find the bathrooms, leading her team to wonder whether or not she succumbed to Koromo’s play-style.

  • For her reliability and dependable character, Hisa became one of my favourite characters in Saki, providing critical guidance to the mahjong club members during the training camp to optimise their play styles. She manages to draw a 33 in the nationals roster, and with this, the mahjong games will begin again in earnest.

  • Tsuruga Academy’s team include (from left to right) Satomi Kanbara, Kaori Senoo, Yumi Kajiki and Momoko Touyoko. Saki excelled at depicting the different competitors in the prefecture competition, giving them even more characterisation than Girls und Panzer did for the other schools. As such, when the first season ended, the competitors felt more like old friends.

  • Given the intensity of even the prefecture-level games, I imagine that Zenkoku-hen will feature even more über-micro than the first season. I commonly jest that anyone particularly skilled at something has über-micro for their capacity to do it masterfully. In my case, it’s adaptability and prioritisation of tasks, whether it be balancing papers and exams, or deciding what my next move in Battlefield 3 is, granting me what some consider to be unnatural ability as far as finishing things to a high standard goes.

  • This is Kiyosumi’s entire loadout. They captured my interests, and now that season two is here, I’m rooting for Saki as she strives to set things right with her older sister, Teru.

  • I will not bother to analyse the hands as the series wears on, but I can say that this series can be enjoyed fully even if one is unfamiliar with mahjong, rather similar to how Girls und Panzer can be enjoyed fully by individuals who have never heard of the Panzer IV Aus, Kamfwagen or differentiate between a HEAT and kinetic penetrator round.

  • I believe that at the time of writing, three episodes are out. I wonder how the pacing of Zenkoku-hen will go: season one was able to balance the relatively slow-paced matches by using breaks to introduce character backgrounds. Even if Zenkoku-hen is going to be thirteen episodes in length, if masterfully executed, the other teams could get some good stories, and that would be quite interested to watch, provided that they appear quite interesting in their own right.

  • Saki distinctly feels like a cross between Yoshika Miyafuji and Miho Nishizumi. I’ve refrained from introducing anything about the new teams this time: this will be left as an exercise for my next post, where I will talk about purely the second episode and if persuasive in the episode, introduce some of the other teams.

It was a harrowing week-and-a-half for me to catch up with Saki; at present, because term has merely begun and the major deadline of scholarship applications have already been met, things are reasonably light, allowing me to have watched all the episodes quickly enough. Over this short period, the immediate enjoyment factor in Saki stems from a combination of good storytelling to hold the viewer’s interest, capitalisation of downtime to explore backstories, and dramatic visual elements to depict what characters are inwardly feeling during their matches. The design is such that even those with no substantial mahjong background would be able to enjoy Saki. There is one primary element that has not been explored to much detail yet, though: Saki’s distant relation to Teru, her elder sister. The manga suggests that Saki’s incapacity to swim might have a hand in this current status, and with the anime now at the nationals, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens, as well as watching Saki reconcile with Teru in the same way Miho and Maho reconcile at the end of Girls und Panzer. Having now finished Saki owing to the overwhelming powers of multi-core optimisation and mobile systems, I have finally begun watching Saki: Zenkoku-hen. I will close off my reflection here, and promise that I will do a talk on the second episode, before returning at the half-way point and finale to provide insights into the Saki about its strongest points. With the sequel projected at being thirteen episodes long, I’m tempted to do talks for each episode, but unfortunately, time is a premium for me, so after my next Saki post, readers will have to wait until episode six for the next one.

SoniAni- Super Sonico The Animation: First Episode Impressions

SoniAni is one of this season’s slice-of-life anime, set around the daily life of a girl called Sonico, and her endeavours in academics, modelling career, music and part-time job as a waitress. The first episode proceeds at a very relaxed, casual manner, dropping viewers directly into the midst of Sonico’s life, which is set in a very optimistic and cheerful world. In addition to being the mascot of Nitro+, the anime illustrates that Sonico’s life is very busy, filled to the brim with activities typical of the above-average undergraduate student. SoniAni, thus, marks one of the few anime I have to be set in a university setting, which is appropriate given the direction the show has taken insofar: some of the moments or events are unsuited for the high school level, even if the remainder of Sonico’s activities outside her modelling career are reasonably safe. Of course, as we’re only an episode in at this point in time, it’s too early to ascertain whether or not this anime does its job, but with a very cheerful disposition, and artwork of a consistently high quality, the anime will probably succeed in helping push the Nitro+ brand further.

  • Despite being depicted by various artists, Sonico’s trademark traits (i.e. her headphones, colour and large bust) are typically kept consistent to ensure that her character remains recognisable as the mascot to Nitro+, a company that develops visual novels.

  • Sonico is sitting through what appears to be an ecology class and answers a question posed by the lecturer rather nicely. Sonico might be considered by some to be the personification of an ideal, being academically capable, but also managing several careers and is proficient with a guitar. Sonico is presented as being hardworking and ensures that she does is done to the best of her capacity.

  • Sonico’s headphones accompany her wherever she goes, even when she’s in lectures or while swimming. A sharp-eyed viewer will notice a picture of a younger Sonico with a smaller pair of these headphones later in the anime. Because these headphones are a visual signature, I’m going to completely disregard existing discussions about their practicality.

  • My spidey senses tell me that this is probably going to be the reason viewers will continue watching SoniAni. They also tell me that I may be short on material for future posts, which may or may not be limited to ten screenshots each.

  • Of course, if future episodes continue the trend and provide scenes such as these, I’ll probably just find something else to talk about for the figure captions, like the NP Complete problem. If, for whatever reason, one is interested in having a variant of this or the image above without the camera alignment cross-hairs, I could probably clean the images up and return the results reasonably quickly. Requests are being accepted in the comments section (hint hint).

  • Sonico occasionally helps out at her grandmother’s Izakaya, the Japanese equivalent of a pub. These establishments serve smaller dishes at a more casual pace, including Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), Kushiyaki (grilled meat or vegetable skewers), Sashimi (slices of raw fish) and Karaage (bite-sized fried chicken), in addition to sake, beer and cocktails. A ways back, one of my friends noted that a pub was a superior place to hang out relative to a bar on the virtue that a pub serves more substantial meals, such as burgers, meat pies and steaks, in additional to traditional bar food such as nachos and wings. I myself prefer pubs, as I can hang out with friends and order a substantial meal before downing a few drinks (or else dibs being the designated driver, which spares me of having to drink).

  • SoniAni‘s inner K-On! is being channeled here: Sonico is part of a band called First Cosmic Velocity, and here, she is speaking with Suzu Fujimi, the band’s bassist, although at present, her background is not yet known. First Cosmic Velocity is minus a keyboard player, though, compared to Houkago Tea Time. I wonder if the music will be as memorable as that in K-On!, whose music is still something I listen to on a regular basis and use in the game Audiosurf. This is, of course, a note to do a short talk on Audiosurf somewhere in the future.

  • Fuuri Watanuki is the drummer in First Cosmic Velocity and is said to be suffering from a broken heart. She’s sleeping off postprandial somnolence: notice the pile of plates to her left.

  • Reading the documentation carefully finds that the story in SoniAni is to be motivated by a concert in a later episode where Fuuri and Suzu are unable to make it to the performance venue, leaving Sonico to play on stage alone.

  • The first episode ends with Sonico preparing to perform the new song Suzu has prepared, and I’ll probably have a better reason to watch SoniAni beyond Sonico’s assets alone, with what is set to happen in upcoming episodes.

As far as episode one is concerned, its depiction of Sonico’s everyday life is one that is remarkably similar to that of a high-achieving university student. Not too long ago, I was an assistant instructor for Chinese language classes and Gojuryu karate; in the same year, I was also spear-heading an effort to publish a paper to a journal, on top of an MCAT. I eventually pitched the extra-curricular activities to finish a thesis the previous year, but life is more or less similar for most students, as they balance academics with part-time jobs and other events. With very little in the way of story for the present, however, SoniAni is going to be a series that few would be inclined to continue following as the season wears on, as the pacing is rather slow and wouldn’t appeal to those seeking something more substantial in the story and world-building departments. Of course, for other viewers, Sonico herself is probably sufficient a motivator for continuing to follow this show: easy on the eyes and with a friendly personality, I happen to fall in the second set of people and will continue blogging this in my typical format (i.e. there will be two more SoniAni posts: one mid-season and one final reflection) such that screenshots can be viewed by the interested reader. I will bring up one final point: unlike other parties elsewhere, at the very least, my posts are written in full, coherent sentences, rather than bizarre bullet point summaries.

Servant x Service: First Episode Impressions

Lucy Yamagami, Yutaka Hasebe, and Saya Miyoshi are introduced to the Ward Office as new civil servants and are placed under the care of their upperclassman Taishi Ichimiya, who is rather unreliable. Yutaka is very relaxed to the point of slacking off every chance he gets, while Saya is very nervous because this is her first job. Lucy is introduced to Megumi Chihaya, who is a very low-key and emotionless person. After the first few hours or so, the three newbies meet up again and share their disappointments. Saya was caught up in a long story with Mrs. Tanaka, unable to escape; Lucy was scolded by a customer for taking too long in directing her to the right window; Yutaka was disheartened to discover that he couldn’t slack off as frequently as he would’ve liked. Later however, Lucy is shown making great progress, much to Saya’s admiration. Afterwards, Yutaka, Taishi, and Saya find out that she’s a modern day Jugemu (a great source of embarrassment for her), due to her parents not being able to decide on one first name. Lucy reveals that the real reason she joined the civil service was to get revenge on the civil servant who carelessly allowed her birth certificate to pass without raising a single question about her name. Hasebe begins calling her by the the first part of her name, to Lucy’s great displeasure. After rescuing Lucy twice from some customers, her opinion of him changes, until he begins to make fun of her name again. Taishi and Saya later comment that although Lucy holds a grudge against the civil service, she’s actually suited for the job.

  • This image depicts the characters: from left to right, we have Saya Miyosh, Lucy Yamagami and Yutaka Hasebe. While I’ve never held any community service positions as a mandatory requirement, I was once a teaching assistant at a Chinese Academy, and are presently doing development on computer models of human physiology. As time permits, I also volunteer at events hosted by my faculty. I continue to believe that a mandatory community service requirement for high school is meaningless because students who are involved usually are doing so for the sake of getting credit rather than actually putting their fullest into learning and doing a good job.

  • Taishi Ichimiya is an experienced member of the staff who manages the newcomers, having nearly eight years of experience, but nonetheless feels like a beginner. Continuing on from my previous bullet, I’m sure I have (unintentionally) stepped on a few toes with my assertions. I mean no harm, and merely am expressing that a volunteer is only particularly useful if they are participating of their own volition. This is because back when I was a teaching assistant, I also managed a group of volunteers, and I found that volunteers who chose to be at the academy to help were far more helpful than volunteers who were there solely for satisfying credit requirements.

  • Lucy approaches her job with the mindset I’ve always assumed people to take when in the workforce, and as such, it was quite surprising to learn that most people actually act more like Hasebe.

  • This moment simply had to be included in my reflection: the obvious strain seen in the buttons on Lucy’s shirt attest to…how heavy Lucy’s assets are (^_^;) I’m sure someone else could probably write a better figure caption, but in all seriousness, I included this image simply because it is unexpected relative to what I normally post. I don’t do this more often because it’s quite difficult to write about things I’m not used to writing about.

  • Where I am, there is a federal building downtown that handles government-related matters. Unlike the tiny building in Servant x Service, this building is imposing and was opened in 1978, costing 45.8 million dollars to build. Located in the eastern side of the city centre, the building is eight stories high and has 520000 square feet of usable space. Of course, anyone who guesses the identity of this building will know my current location, but good luck with that (^_-)-☆

  • Of the three newcomers, Lucy is the most naïve and low guarded, but also the most dedicated and determined. Hasebe is characterised by his mythical slacker tendencies, and Saya a soft-spoken girl who tends to keep her opinions of other people to herself, but tends to get stuck listening to lengthy stories from clients.

  • I absolutely hate telemarketers, but I do my utmost to try and keep things civil. The thing that bothers me most about them is that they tend to call right as I’m about to sit down to dinner. Lately, thanks to caller ID, I’ve had next to no need to handle them, merely dismissing calls from unfamiliar numbers with funny area codes.

  • My day goes something like “work for 50 minutes, stretch legs, and every three hours, take a ten-minute stop, take hour break for lunch, repeat pattern until day is over or until a sufficient amount of work is done”. Unlike Hasebe, I have a tendency of forgetting I have breaks, but then again, an engaging project and a 27-inch 2560 by 1440 Cinema display is sufficient to make most wish to keep on working.

  • I can’t see myself doing a civil service job, but that’s only because my interests and skills don’t lie in that field. Thus, anime like Servant x Service offer (however dramatised and fictionalised) one perspective on what some of these occupations are like.

  • With reasonably good animation and solid humour, I can see myself following this anime. The fanservice aspect doesn’t appear to be that substantial, meaning I should be able to watch this without raising eyebrows from my coworkers.

Servant x Service represents an interesting departure from the anime I typically watch in that it’s set in the workplace, with adults rather than high school students. However, despite having held several positions over the past few years, none of these positions were in the civil service, and as such Servant x Service isn’t something I can readily relate to: I am a developer by trade with a degree in the health sciences. Nonetheless, the concept of a workplace was sufficiently unique to get me into this series, and after a single episode, I will probably continue following it (if I wasn’t to follow it, I would have never written this post). Insofar, I am treated to a reasonably light-hearted, enteraining series where humour lies at the forefront of everything, whether it be Lucy’s reactions to others mocking her name, or Hasebe’s constant slacking off. Of course, the series also goes to note that, like any other occupation, the civil service jobs has its ups and downs: on a bad day, a client may lose their cool with the staff, and on a good day, the client thanks the staff for a job well done. Contrast this to being  a developer, where a bad day sees code crash, or fail to compile. There are good days: when the code works, I generally stretch and take a walk about the building where I work. From what I’ve seen so far, Servant x Service appears to be an excellent series. It’s time to get rolling: this was released back in the summer, if I’m not mistaken, and my tendencies to procrastinate on anime are legendary amongst those who know me.