The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Tag Archives: First Episode Impressions

Have You Heard? That Rumor About the Magical Girls: Magia Record First Episode Impressions and Review

“A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.” –Albert Einstein

Iroha Tamaki is a magical girl who made a wish for her sister to be cured of an unknown illness, but lost her memories of her wish in the process. Together with Kuroe, she fights Witches in her area and lives an ordinary life otherwise. Shortly after Iroha’s parents go on a business trip, Iroha begins to hear of a rumour specifying that magical girls can find salvation in Kamihara. On her way back from school, she and Kuroe find themselves in a Witch’s labyrinth, which pushes them to Kamihara. This Witch proves resilient against their attack, and Iroha briefly encounters a younger Kyubey mid-battle. Outmatched, Nanami Yachiyo arrives and destroys the Witch, saving Iroha and Kuroe. She warns the two that there is nothing for them in Kamihara, and the next morning, Iroha suddenly recalls her original wish. Magia Record marks the first time we’ve returned to the world of Madoka Magica since the Rebellion movie: Magia Record is based off the mobile game and sets viewers in a familiar, yet different setting. Witches, contracts and the cost of sacrifices return in force alongside a brand-new cast whose beliefs, intents and desires are completely unlike those seen in the original series. Even only after one episode in, Magia Record has done a phenomenal job of both establishing Iroha and her goals of finding her sister, as well as reminding viewers that this is Madoka Magica. The original series became a smash hit for completely defying expectations of what a magical girl was: rather than a saccharine, optimistic presentation on the merits of heroism and bravery, Madoka Magica suggested that the power and responsibility associated with being a magical girl came at a heavy cost, and that the duty itself was one that was a thankless one. This resulted in an emotionally-gripping series that left an incredible impact amongst viewers, whose perspectives of magical girls would be changed forever.

Gen Urobuchi’s Madoka Magica ultimately proved an enduring series, with themes and characters far more compelling than most anime of its genre and left an enduring legacy that Magia Record must pick up. However, Madoka Magica‘s success and audience reception means that, for better or worse, Magia Record has some large shoes to fill; during its airing and after the finale, droves of zealous fans spent countless hours analysing every frame in the original broadcast with the goal of deriving meaning from every symbol, motif and word in every sentence. Pixels were scoured by those looking to do a psychoanalysis on how Freud’s Id-Ego theory fit with the characters. Immanuel Kant’s works were referenced as the basis for rationalising Madoka’s choice and Kyubey’s motivations. The legend of Faust was seen as being required reading to understand what Madoka, Sayaka, Mami, Kyōko and Homura went through. Right up until the present, discussion on Madoka Magica never stopped: Rebellion saw Homura seize control of Madoka’s powers and rewrite reality on a scale that matches Thanos’ feats with the Infinity Stones for the sake of sharing a future with Madoka. The outcome of that, never satisfactorily resolved in an explicit manner, resulted in more speculation, drawing on antiquated and even flawed philosophical theories to rationalise why Homura chose this path. It has been seven years since Rebellion played in theatres, and irrespective of how factual or useful they might be, the amount of speculation, some of which ventured into the realm of tinfoil-hat theories, that have persisted is a testament to just how moved viewers were. Thus, with the high bar that Madoka Magica sets, Magia Record now exists in the shadows of a series whose very existence is often associated with philosophy, psychology and other facets of academia: the inherent danger in this is that of Magia Record does not involve those disciplines to the same extent, those fans of Madoka Magica might be more dismissive of what could still stand to be an inspired and enjoyable addition to the Madoka Magica universe.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • One episode is a bit early for one to gain a reasonable measure of what Magia Record aims to accomplish and much too early to assess whether or not the series was successful, but the rationale behind why I pushed a post out this early in the game was to establish my own expectations for the series – that Magia Record present an engaging and meaningful story for Iroha and what she discovers in Kamihara while she searches for Ui, and that even without an extensive background in philosophy or psychology, one can nonetheless enjoy this series in full.

  • Right out of the gates, Iroha is established as already being a magical girl equipped with a wrist-mounted crossbow. She’s seen fighting alongside Kuroe, who uses two batons as her primary weapon. The small scale of their weapons seem to hint at the fact that the two are still novices with the duties of being a magical girl – having seen the likes of Mami and Kyōko, who could summon limitless copies of their primary weapon for combat and engage Witches at an impressive scale, it becomes clear that these two are beginning their journey. In the game, Iroha is an excellent healer and is strong in a support role, lacking the weapons to deal effective damage.

  • Having Iroha and Kuroe save a child’s cat from a Witch’s labyrinth firmly establishes that in spite of their own doubts about the magical girl life, the two are still committed to good and conduct acts of kindness and compassion because they feel it to be the right thing to do. The first episode is set prominently on a train, and the first Witch that Iroha and Kuroe are shown fighting resides in a labyrinth of moving tracks, foreshadowing the idea that Magia Record is going to be about going to destinations that one might not expect.

  • Madoka Magica‘s architecture was very unique, bordering on the realm of the bizarre in some areas, but regardless of where Madoka and her friends went while they struggled to deal with the implications of being a magical girl, the one place in the series that always felt inviting and warm was the Kaname residence. Iroha similarly lives at home, and in Magia Record, I am inclined to say that the architectural style is actually much more normal than that of Madoka Magica; the unique cityscapes in Madoka Magica create an incredible sense of isolation amongst the characters, and as they became increasingly entangled in Kyubey’s machinations, the familiar cityscape gave way to intimidating industrial constructs.

  • It’s been some seven years since the last Madoka Magica work was shown, and the time difference between then and now is quite apparent: the artwork for the landscapes and cityscapes in Magia Record are more intricate and detailed than those of Madoka Magica‘s first run. The series received multiple retouches and remasters; the original televised run featured only minimalistic and rudimentary backgrounds, which were updated for the home release, and by the time the three films came out, the visuals had been masterfully updated.

  • The strong visual quality in Magia Record makes it a thrill to watch, and seeing all of the subtle details in Iroha’s world really gives the sense that this is someone’s home, inhabited by people, all of whom have their own stories to tell. Iroha’s home is quite unlike Mitakihara in its colour palette: Mitakihara was defined by shades of blue, but greens and browns are also present to give a more natural feel to the cityscape.

  • I’ve faced criticisms previously for suggesting that Madoka Magica could be enjoyed in the absence of philosophical and psychological principles. Many talks attempting to bring these elements in would resemble junior undergraduate essays in that, while they did demonstrate a case for the existence of a particular philosopher or psychologist’s principles within the anime, did not take things a step further and explain what its presentation in Madoka Magica meant with respect to what Urobuchi had intended to say. Literary analysis of significance aims to understand what the author was saying about a particular concept given their interpretation of a work, drawing the connection between a principle and how it was portrayed in a work of fiction.

  • Thus, in order for a talk to have academic merit, it is not sufficient to merely parrot the definition of a philosophical or psychological concept. One must sythesise things and explore why those concepts are present, and then explore what the series’ portrayal of said concepts say about them. The other aspect of Madoka Magica I’ve taken heat for was the dismissal of the application of thermodynamics Kyubey uses to justify creation of magical girls. Thermodynamics does not work as Kyubey suggests: in-show, Kyubey claims that the energy released from emotions produces a net gain of energy that can be harnessed to indefinitely stave off the heat death of the universe (itself a concept that physicists believe to be poorly-defined at best), but this implies the creation of energy. Since accepted models of thermodynamics trend towards an increase in entropy, and since emotions result from complex chemical reactions in the body, which result in a net loss of energy, from a scientific perspective, Kyubey’s explanation is, for the lack of a better word, bullshit, and therefore, not worthy of further consideration.

  • Having callously dismissed two of the topics that generate the most amount of intellectual discussion in Madoka Magica, I am considered to be anti-intellectual for my approaches. However, this labeling bears the hallmarks of an ineffectual argument: an intellectual is commonly accepted to be someone who uses reason and critical thinking to explore a concept, and to this, I append “for tangible applications beneficial to others”. Instead, I am strongly opposed to intellectual dishonesty, the act of using intellectual methods for things like deception, intimidation and personal gain (e.g. an increased social status).

  • This inevitably leads to the question of how to gauge intellectual honesty online, and fortunately, there is a simple test. If someone is honest, they will be open to discussion, have no objections to being wrong and maintain a very positive attitude. Someone who is intellectually dishonest will be adverse to being proven wrong, and be quick to point out flaws in the arguments that others present, or else insist that intellectual merit is a necessary feature in any work worth watching. Back in Magia Record, Iroha is shown to be kind and willing to lend a hand to her classmates where needed.

  • Having Iroha interact with her classmates creates a sense of ease: Homura, Sayaka and Homura were shown as being very distant from their classmates, and when the truth behind the Witches was made known, they had no one to turn to. Left to their own devices, Sayaka succumbed to despair and morphed into a Witch, Madoka gave her old life up to create a better world, and Homura would ultimately be driven insane by her desire to give Madoka happiness, creating a new world whose implications were never explored. By connecting Iroha with her classmates, it hints at the fact that she values those around her, in turn increasing her reasons for surviving and finding her sister.

  • Because of subtle differences between Madoka Magica and Magia Record, my inclination is to suppose that the overall themes in Magia Record will differ than those covered in the former. While some messages might make a return, the old themes of sacrifice are unlikely to take the forefront in Magia Record simply because that path has already been tread. A spin-off provides a fantastic chance to explore different ideas, and so, Magia Record has a strong opportunity to delve into facets of being a magical girl that Madoka Magica did not cover.

  • The Witch that Iroha and Kuroe square off against prove to far exceed their capacities to fight. Folks who’ve played the smartphone game will likely already be aware that Iroha was never geared for DPS, and Kuroe’s weapons seem similarly ineffectual. While Iroha and Kuroe seem the counterparts to Madoka and Homura, there are marked differences in their personalities and intentions, mirroring the idea that Magia Record is less likely to focus on sacrifice.

  • Mid-battle, Iroha is entranced by a smaller Kyubey and ceases her attacks on the Witch. Alone, Kuroe’s weapons have next to no impact on this monstrosity, and her fate seems to be sealed until a new Magical Girl enters the fray. This is Nanami Yachiyo, a veteran Magical Girl with well-rounded abilities. Having been fighting Witches for seven years, she’s reserved, mindful of the rules surrounding Magical Girls and in the anime, summons spears as her primary weapon. She was originally more friendly towards other Magical Girls until learning that becoming a Witch was what awaited them.

  • Nanami combines traits from Mami and Homura: at the age of nineteen, she’s BTDT and strikes a fine balance between Mami’s confidence during combat, as well as Homura’s caution and reluctance to depend on others. Despite only making a short appearance in Magia Record‘s first episode to briefly lecture Iroha and Kuroe, the fact that she’s introduced so early on, and that she’s been around the block means that her character will likely return in the future.

  • After one episode, discussions on Magia Record are prominently focused on the characters and the series’ callbacks to the original Madoka Magica, although I’ve caught wind of at least a handful of individuals on Tango-victor-tango asserting that Magia Record‘s cast of Magical Girls is a study in the dangers of Faustian bargains. Colloquially known as “a deal with the devil”, the Faustian bargain entails a trade where one receives their desired benefit at a high moral or personal cost, after the medieval legend of Faust, who exchanges his soul to the devil for unlimited knowledge and ultimately agrees to being enslaved by the devil.

  • Of course, this is not a sufficient case to make: name-dropping Faust into discussions doesn’t do anything useful for the reader, and so, I’d follow up by probing into what Magia Record makes of deals with the devil. Since some Magical Girls make wishes with a less severe consequence than others, the themes of Magia Record is plainly not a 1:1 study of Faust in anime form, and the extent that Faust is relevant to Magia Record, then, can only be determined as the series wears on. This is what motivates my page quote: in my experience, folks who are aware of how much they don’t know are considerably more knowledgable and useful than those who give the impression they know more than they do.

  • The first episode’s literary hook lies in the mysterious rumour surrounding Kamihara: Iroha’s begun hearing these unverified claims, and learns that other Magical Girls have also had strange dreams surrounding the phenomenon, that Magical Girls will find salvation in Kamihara. This stands in direct contradiction to Nanami’s word of warning, that Kamihara holds nothing for Magical Girls. The initial contradiction here is what will drive viewers back to check things out, along with Iroha’s own story, which is only starting its journey at this point.

  • Having come into contact with the young Incubator, Iroha suddenly recalls her original wish: she had wished to heal her sister, who then disappeared. While Magia Record is the sort of series where every episode could have something relevant to keep an eye on, I’m going with my usual format for discussions. Two more posts are lined up for Magia Record: one after three episodes to gauge where things are headed, and then a finale post to see if the series succeeds in delivering a satisfying and distinct story from Madoka Magica.

Because my background is in health sciences and software development, disciplines driven by facts and reproducible, refutable results, I’ve never really had a taste for introducing obscure philosophical and psychological topics into my discussions of Madoka Magica where a great deal of interpretation and subjectivity is present. While Madoka Magica had been groundbreaking for painting the duty of a magical girl in a new light, it actually did not provide a revolutionary outlook on what heroics equated to. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy had succeeded in doing the same thing years earlier, similarly prompting discussions on the philosophy and psychology of Batman; both The Dark Knight trilogy and Madoka Magica were excellent works not because they synthesised new ideas (which is the requirement for something to be worthy of academic consideration), but because they presented a very refreshing perspective of what being a hero meant. The philosophy and psychology, while perhaps somewhat enhancing one’s experience, was by no means a requirement to derive enjoyment from either works, and as such, I’ve not bothered writing thousands of words on how Faust, Kant or Freud is intimately tied to either Madoka Magica or The Dark Knight. Thus, for Magia Record, I enter the series with an open mind – Iroha’s quest to find her sister and get to the bottom of whatever lies in the depths of Kamihara City, in addition to what she learns along the way, and how Magia Record chooses to convey this, matters considerably more to me than how well the series incorporates principles from philosophers and psychologists, or references to literary works, both famed or obscure. Magia Record should stand of its merits, and whether or not it succeeds as an instalment to the Madoka Magica universe will depend on how compelling Iroha’s journey and learnings are.

Azur Lane: The Girls of the Sea and First Episode Impressions

“I have never advocated war except as means of peace, so seek peace, but prepare for war, because war never changes. War is like winter and winter is coming.” –Ulysses S. Grant

When the mysterious Siren overwhelmed humanity and conquered the oceans, the world’s major navies, the Eagle Union, Royal Navy, Sakura Empire and Iron Blood, formed an alliance and developed the Ship Girls to combat them. The Siren were driven back, and ultimately defeated, but a schism formed between the former allies. In the present, Cleveland and Prince of Wales meet with Illustrious and Unicorn in a base near the Sakura Empire, but the facility is infiltrated. Unicorn, Javelin and Laffey befriend Ayanami while searching for Unicorn’s familiar. However, the peace is shattered when Kaga and Akagi arrive, launching a surprise attack. Cleveland enters the fray with the remaining allied ships to drive off the attackers, but find themselves slowly overwhelmed until Enterprise arrives. Severely damaging Kaga, Enterprise forces the Sakura Empire forces to withdraw, but not before Akagi remarks that their intial objective has been accomplished. This is the opening to Azur Lane, the Chinese counterpart to Kantai Collection, which has its origins in a side-scrolling shooter that was originally released for mobile and gained massive popularity in China. Azur Lane is built around a similar premise of female moe anthropomorphic warships from the World War Two era duking it out with an unknown force, but differs chiefly in its gameplay mechanics and platform. Similarly, the anime adaptations of Kantai Collection and Azur Lane differ in their presentation as well, despite similarities in many of their elements.

In contrast with Kantai Collection, whose Abyssal simply present foes for the protagonists to square off against, and whose focus was surrounding the unremarkable Fubuki, Azur Lane opens with a war amongst the Ship Girls, who disagree on what means must be employed against the Sirens. This creates the conflict that Azur Lane opens to, and out of the gates, creates a more tangible reason for Azur Lane‘s ships to be fighting, whereas in Kantai Collection, the reason for fighting was not presented until the movie itself, which revealed that the spirit of a Kan-musume and Abyssal cycle between two phases, and that the war was to save the Kan-musume forms of the different spirits. This came across as being far more abstract than the concrete reason for fighting in Azur Lane, which insofar, could bring about a more interesting discussion of whether or not the use of alien technology justified in a war, when said technology’s capabilities and effects are unknown. The division between the old alliances into a fictional equivalent of the Allied and Axis powers, with England and United States on one side, and Imperial Japan and The Third Reich on the other, also marks the first time that an anime has presented Imperial Japan as the antagonists: Kaga lacks the same composure of her Kantai Collection counterpart, and is rather more bloodthirsty in nature. The prospective possibilities in Azur Lane are intriguing, and could bring about a more engaging story overall, but after one episode, audiences are also indunated with a large number of Ship Girls. Kantai Collection kept the story to Fubuki’s perspective, and while counted as being an unremarkable character, the advantage of this approach give the story grounding, so viewers were not overwhelmed. By comparison, Azur Lane drops viewers into the midst of things, and after one episode, no clear protagonist has yet been identified, with the lead contender being Enterprise.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My current plans for Azur Lane are to write about it again after three episodes have passed, and then decide from there as to which series this season will be getting quarterly posts. The other two candidates for this season are Rifle is Beautiful and Kandagawa Jet Girls, both of which look fairly exciting in their own right. I will likely be doing something similar where I look at the first episodes, determining which series will be given additional discussions once I have a stronger idea of what the series is about.

  • Cleveland and Prince of Wales exhibit the same tendencies as Girls und Panzer‘s Kay and Darjeeling, respectively: Cleveland is easygoing and boisterious, while Prince of Wales possess the regal manner and stiff upper-lip that is associated with the British. They encounter a cloaked Ship Girl that turns out to be Ayanami while walking on the island. The large number of characters out of the gates made it tricky to tell which characters Azur Lane would be centred around.

  • The Cleveland of Azur Lane is the 1942 light cruiser CL-55, which saw combat in North Africa before sailing to the Pacific, where she participated in the invasion of the Palau Islands and Okinawa. The Prince of Wales is the HMS Prince of Wales (53), a King George-class which fought the Bismark and was destroyed by the Japanese aircraft in 1941. Cleveland and Prince of Wales meets with Illustrious and Unicorn here; both are aircraft carriers belonging to the British Navy.

  • The main facilities in Azur Lane are stunningly rendered: the cherry blossoms and the metal anchor installation stand in contrast with the vividly blue sky that is evocative of a summer’s day. The weather today was actually reminiscent of the weather from a year ago, when I went on a short trip to the province over to check out the salmon run. Like last year, the mild weather created an incredibly comfortable setting to be out and about, and I’m hoping things will hold steady as we enter the Thanksgiving Long Weekend.

  • After a September whose weather proved rather more hospitable than the weather of last year, October is off to a solid start as well: aside from colder mornings, the weather’s been most pleasant. Entering this weekend, we had a mostly sunny day that was prefect for visiting the local zoo. Two panda cubs born here are set to go to Chengdu in China now that they’ve reached gestation age, and I spent the early afternoon watching the younger pandas eat and fight over the best sleeping spot in their space, as well as an older panda who chilled on a log.

  • It’s been many years since I visited the zoo proper: in the past several years, I attended the Illuminasia Festival and saw lanterns of the animals, but these events were set during the night, so the rest of the zoo was closed. Today, however, I visited by day and therefore was able to see the animals, from giraffes and Bactrian camels to musk ox and Chilean flamingos. The weather remained quite pleasant, and we left closer to the end of the day, which ended off with a family dinner whose centrepiece was a crab fried rice (蟹飯, jyutping haai5 faan6).

  • Folk who’ve played Azur Lane to a greater extent than I did will have to explain what the Unicorn familiar is about. It appears that some of the Ship Girls of Azur Lane exhibit animal-like traits, similar to the Witches of Strike Witches. Here, Unicorn, Javelin and Laffey share a conversation with Ayanami: they are unaware of her affiliation and immediately take to her, but Ayanami suddenly vanishes having been whisked away by aircraft to a secure location. Here, she apologises for what is to come next and signals that the time has come to begin combat operations.

  • Whereas Kantai Collection presented Kaga and Akagi as refined, calm carriers, their Azur Lane counterparts are more villainous in nature, relishing the idea of combat and dealing damage to their opponents. At this point in time, I much prefer the Kantai Collection incarnations of Kaga and Akagi. Azur Lane‘s versions both sport fox tails here and share an unusually close bond with one another.

  • When enemy aircraft resembling the YF-23 appear in the skies, Cleveland suits up and begins to return fire. The equipment configurations and setup are nearly identical to those seen in Kantai Collection, although the transformation process is distinct in that the girls transmute the material properties of their respective ships into infantry-sized gear pieces that they wear into combat. The precise mechanics of both Kantai Collection and Azur Lane don’t make much sense when scrutinised, so I’ve resolved to simply enjoy them as they are.

  • My perspective on Azur Lane is that of a beginner: I have no intrinsic familiarity with the game beyond the quarter-hour I spent playing it on my iPhone. With this being said, I would count myself as being sufficiently well-read as to understand why the analogues of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany are the antagonists in Azur Lane. Contrary to the supposition that the show was written with political implications in mind, I counter-argue that the choice to have the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood oppose the Eagle Union and Royal Navy is simply intended to both provide a setup where Ship Girls fight one another purely for fanservice’s sake.

  • From a story perspective, having other Ship Girls as enemies simply allows Azur Lane to explore whether or not the risks of forbidden knowledge (the Siren technology) is an acceptable tradeoff for a more powerful and effective weapon against an enemy whose intentions and full capabilities remain unknown. Sino-Japanese relationships did not figure in the design of Azur Lane, and I’d wish that folks lacking the requisite background in this area would cease their emotionally-driven prating on how the contrary is true. Such discussions are wearisome and inane, accomplishing little except showing just how uninformed the participants are.

  • Similarly, the absence of ordinary civilians and an equivalent of Kantai Collection‘s admiral are not relevant to the discussion. This becomes apparent when Unicorn summons a familiar that allows her to soar through the battlefield – Azur Lane dispenses realism and waltzes into the realm of magic with its use of familiars, so it is reasonable to suppose that this series is supposed to be about visually exciting things happening in battle over everything else. Watching with the intent of having fun is how I’m going to roll, and I’m going to be dismissive of any “serious” discussions, since the original goal of Azur Lane‘s mobile game is fun, first and foremost.

  • If I do decide to push forwards with Azur Lane in the quarterly review format, I will be making a more conscious effort to include more pantsu purely for the sake of my own amusement as well as the reader’s. I typically focus on scenery screenshots, since I have little to offer in the way of discussion when the frame is focused on someone’s pantsu at close range, but I think that it wouldn’t be such a mad idea to mix things up every so often. I invite the reader to provide feedback here as to whether or not this is something you might tolerate from this blog.

  • The first battle the Eagle Union and Royal Navy fight against the Sakura Empire’s Kaga and Akagi implies that a Ship Girls’ combat performance is impacted by game mechanics like level and specialisations. While Cleveland is able to intercept the fighters sent against them, she and the other Ship Girls are slowly overwhelmed once Kaga gets serious and summons a wolf familiar similar to Fenris from Thor Ragnarok.

  • The combat sequences of Azur Lane seem to be flashier and more dynamic than those of Kantai Collection, featuring a much greater range of motion from the Ship Girls themselves. Javelin reluctantly engages Ayanami in combat, forcing the former to do a flip into the air that, in Kantai Collection, would be counted as impossible. While Azur Lane is off to a good start, I admit one of the things I will need to master is my own constant inclination to spell Azur as “azure”. With this in mind, there are plenty of azure skies in Azur Lane.

  • Enterprise is a higher-tier Ship Girl modelled after the USS Enterprise (CV-6): a Yorktown-class, the CV-6 Enterprise was commissioned in 1937 and was absent from Pearl Harbour in 1941. The ship would participate at the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, becoming the most decorated ship in the navy at the time. In Azur Lane, Enterprise is a highly skilled and powerful aircraft carrier, capable of fighting Kaga to a standstill without any apparent effort.

  • Because it’s so early in the game, the full scope of the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood Ship Girls remains unseen and therefore, something the series could potentially explore as time wears on. For now, the first episode has suggested to me that use of Siren technology allows the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood ships to possess more brute strength than their Eagle Union and Royal Navy equivalents, but in exchange, the veteran ships on the Allied side will likely possess better combat experience and/or tactics, playing on the Axis ships’ arrogance and faith in Siren technology.

  • This is, of course, speculation, since I am not at all familiar with Azur Lane. Here, Enterprise launches a point-blank shot at Kaga after closing the distance, surprising Kaga. The results of a close-range shot damages Kaga, and she reluctantly complies with Akagi’s request to retreat. I remark here that the phrase “point-blank” is often abused: it means “the range where the trajectory of a projectile is sufficiently flat so it experiences no drop, so that aiming directly at a target without adjusting for gravity will allow one to hit the target”. For instance, some rifles have a point blank range that extends out to 300 metres. The media and film take the phrase to mean “at close ranges, often just short of being a contact shot” – while technically correct, since there is no bullet drop at this range, it’s also a bit of a misnomer, since it excludes the idea that a pistol shot that hits its mark at 15 metres is also in point-blank range.

  • Ayanami retreats from the battle, wondering what will happen next. I’m certainly intrigued by the series’ setup, although Azur Lane will have to work hard in the episodes upcoming to newcomers such as myself on the characters and their objectives. For folks who’ve felt I’ve not adequately discussed the series, I present fellow blogger Jusuchin’s reflections of Azur Lane‘s first episode. Despite his modesty about such matters, Jusuchin is markedly more knowledgeable than myself on all things military and also has extensive background in things like Kantai Collection, so those looking for more information will find his perspectives to be valuable.

  • With Azur Lane‘s first episode in the books, I am going to experiment with a slightly different approach this season and write about the first episodes to the series I will be writing about in some capacity, and then pick one series to follow in greater length. Kandagawa Jet Girls and Rifle is Beautiful vie with Azure Lane for more writing time. In the meantime, my focus turns to writing about Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Sing For You~ and Star Wars Battlefront II‘s campaign. The latter, I beat last month, and the former, I’ve been waiting to write about since last September. I expect that, for Sing For You, I remain on target to have the internet’s first and most useful review of.

Overall, with its uncommonly sharp visuals and animation, Azur Lane is off to a solid start, presenting a far livelier world than the one that was presented in Kantai Collection‘s anime. The character count and lack of a central perspective so far has been the main shortcomings of the first episode, but with a strong premise and engaging battles, Azur Lane could prove to be a reasonably enjoyable series as time wears on. One additional aspect that makes Azur Lane worthwhile are its incidental pieces; like Kantai Collection, orchestral pieces are employed, and in the case of Kantai Collection, the music was masterfully performed to really convey the might of the navy, the gentle and frivolous days the Kan-musume spend together, and the enmity of the Abyssals. From the soundtrack that’s been heard in Azur Lane so far, it appears this series will be following suit in its use of music to create a very specific atmosphere. Taken together, I am curious to see how Azur Lane plays out: I had downloaded the game for iOS and gave it a whirl prior to the anime starting, and while it is unsophisticated compared to the titles I am accustomed to, Azur Lane‘s increased accessibility and substantial gameplay component means that between it and Kantai Collection, I would prefer to play Azur Lane over Kantai Collection‘s luck-based approach. With this being said, for the time being, I am much more familiar with and prefer the style of Kantai Collection‘s characters, so Azur Lane‘s anime adaptation is going to need to put in some effort in order to sell me its story and encourage me to follow the Ship Girls’ adventures and experiences.

In a Pinch On Our First Voyage!- High School Fleet (Hai-Furi) First Episode Impressions and Review

“When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is insubordination. When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is collapse.” —Sun Tzu

Spring 2016’s High School Fleet! (Hai-Furi for brevity) was on my watchlist initially owing to the concept of exploring life in a world where dramatic tectonic activity submerged large portions of the world, leading humanity to create ocean-borne cities and a defense task force known as the Blue Mermaids to defend these installations. Akeno Misaki is an aspiring Blue Mermaid, and was assigned to be the captain for the destroyer Harekaze, a Kagerō-class destroyer (as per the official documentation, although historically, none of the Kagerō-class destroyers were named Harekaze). However, the vessel suffers from engine difficulties en route to the girls’ first class, and as a result, they are shelled by the Sarushima, an instructor vessel. After their attempts to communicate fail, the Harekaze is forced to launch a training torpedo and retreat, resulting in the Hazukaze being reported as having mutinied. For an anime whose promotional materials and first act presented the air of a series where naval warfare would be secondary to interpersonal interactions, Hai-Furi surprises viewers when the stakes are elevated with the girls’ instructors firing live ammunition at them for seemingly being late in the first episode. Thus, viewers immediately get the sense that Hai-Furi will be more serious than initial impressions, and with Girls und Panzer’s technical advisor and scriptwriter, Suzuki Takaaki and Yoshida Reiko, respectively, as staff, it’s apparent that Hai-Furi is likely to feature a substantial technical component. Without the safety features present in Girls und Panzer, the naval aspects of Hai-Furi imply that death could be a real factor, leaving characters to confront the realities associated with naval warfare.

Because attempting to determine Hai-Furi’s central thematic element one episode in would be considered folly by all individuals with the slightest familiarity with literary discussion, this first-episode talk will deal primarily with the projected consequences of Akeno’s actions and its implications on what subsequent episodes will deal with. While audiences will immediately be aware that Akeno issued the order on the basis of self-defence and moreover, opted to use a nonlethal approach, they are immediately aware that her actions are appropriate. However, their instructor has reported this as an instance of the naval equivalent of fragging (a term coined during the Vietnam War, referring to the deliberate or attempted killing of a fellow solider, such as a superior officer), and Command has branded the Harekaze as traitors. Following military process, the offenders can expect to be court-martialled, and as such, someone will need to bring them in. In Hai-Furi, it is not difficult to imagine that Akeno’s friend, Moeka China (captain of the Musashi), will be tasked with handling the Harekaze. Only armed with one episode’s of knowledge, it is not unreasonable to speculate that the next few episodes will deal with the Harekaze’s crew learning more about how to operate their vessel under Akeno’s command and in the process, grow closer together. This could set up for a final confrontation against the Musashi. While such a turn of events is plausible, the blue-on-blue would serve to undermine the Blue Mermaid’s mission statement (to serve and protect). Thus, after one episode, my curiosity is definitely elevated, and it will be quite interesting to see what directions Hai-Furi takes, as well as whether or not there are any surprises in store for audiences as the anime progresses.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hai-Furi is an anime where the old co-exist with the new, and here, Akeno rides a jet-ski to her first day of classes under skies of deep blue. While I found the texture and lighting detail somewhat on the low end, especially with respect to water details, Hai-Furi is generally quite smooth with respect to animation and the incorporation of CG with hand-drawn elements is reasonably-handled.

  • Akeno and Mashiro meet for the first time after the two collide, and Mashiro slips on a banana peel, falling into the water. Complaints have been levelled at this seen for being extraneous, and while I’ve not seen the banana peel joke in anime with any frequency such that I can recall an example off the top of my head, the Mythbusters have shown that banana peels are not guaranteed to cause people to slip even if they can be slippery on a smooth surface (and the concrete pier, assuming it has the same coefficient of friction as concrete in reality, is presumably not smooth).

  • As one of the more surprising anime of the Spring 2016 season, there’s been no shortage of discussion about Hai-furi elsewhere, and one of the points that I will immediately note is the universal discrepancy in Akeno’s ship’s name. Spellings of the name give it as either Harukaze or Harekaze; there is a large difference, as the former is given as 春風 (lit. “Spring Wind”) and the latter would equate to 晴風 (lit. “Sunny wind”) in English. The official documentation gives 晴風, so Harekaze is what I’ll stick with.

  • Official documentation states that the Harekaze is part of the Kagerō-class destroyers, although no Harekaze was ever documented as a Kagerō-class (the Harekaze-class was commissioned after World War Two). The Kagerō-class consisted of nineteen destroyers that were built in the 1930s as improvements to the Asashio class. Sporting six 5-inch guns and eight torpedo tubes, the destroyers had a maximum surface speed of 35.5 knots (roughly 65km/h). During the course of the Second World War, eighteen of the nineteen Kagerō-class destroyers were lost in combat.

  • Akeno and Moeka share a moment together after the entrance ceremony, and it turns out that Mocha’s been made captain of the Musashi, the Yamato’s sister ship that was sunk during the Battle of Layte Gulf in October 1944. There is a noticeable absence of aircraft carriers in Hai-Furi, which feels illogical considering the sort of utility aircraft carriers can play in contemporary warfare. Having what are essentially ocean-borne landing strips would be a supremely useful utility in a world where landmass has been submerged, so the lack of carriers is puzzling.

  • Such a screenshot typifies the sort of atmosphere one could reasonably expect from Hai-Furi, although it’s a poorly kept secret that Hai-Furi is anything but conventional. Given that Hai-Furi is looking to visit a route more at home in a Tom Clancy novel, the expectations are that there will be a particular focus on naval tactics of the WWII-era, given that aircraft carriers have been absent so far.

  • My indolent propensities means that rather than counting all of the people in this image, I applied a computer visions technique to count the characters in this screenshot, yielding thirty-one characters. Like Girls und Panzer, there are a lot of characters to remember, but Hai-Furi gives no clear indicator of who’s who just yet. It is possible that the anime could take a Girls und Panzer approach and make each and every individual memorable by means of a defining characteristic (although admittedly, I still don’t know the names of all the Girls und Panzer characters from memory at present).

  • Here, Akeno asks her instructor as to whether or not she’s truly qualified of being a captain, to which the latter responds that it is satisfactory to follow whatever vision that Akeno’s got for what an ideal captain is like. Akeno’s reply mirrors Sun Tzu’s definition of a good commander: one who treats their subordinates as family, rewarding them and disciplining them as appropriate to ensure good cohesion.

  • Mashiro was stated to have top-tier grades and is the deputy captain of the Harekaze, greatly resembling Strike Witches The Movie‘s Shizuka Hattori in manner and appearance (although Mashiro’s look of disgust here is legendary). Shizuka was bemoaned for being an uninteresting character, but I completely digress with that assessment: she was present to illustrate how Yoshika’s background as a civilian led her to carry out actions that, while in direct violation of military protocol, nonetheless contributed to the 501st’s successes.

  • I’ll be watching Hai-Furi to see just how faithfully the anime reproduces battleship doctrine: prior to the aircraft carrier’s success in WWII, battleships were meant to project power. Such vessels are typified by large calibre guns and heavy armour, travelling in a battlegroup where escort ships would  serve to act as reconnaissance units to locate the enemy. Once an enemy was found, the battleship would engage the enemy’s vessels and battleships in combat.

  • As a psychological weapon, battleships were only really effective up until the Battle of Midway, where it was shown that aircraft carriers, with their ability to project over-the-horizon force, would be the new capital ship during the remainder of and following World War Two. For me, the one engagement that illustrated the battleship’s obsolescence was during Operation Ten-Go: in April 1945, the Yamato, Japan’s mightiest battleship, was sunk by sustained attack from carrier-launched bombers and torpedo aircraft rather than another battleship.

  • While Mashiro gripes about her bad luck, I’m going to do a quick detour and shoot down a theory that erroneously states that a love triangle is brewing in Hai-Furi. For that, we look no further than Girls und Panzer, where the cast developed an iron-clad friendship with one another that remains quite far removed from yuri; given that Suzuki Takaaki and Yoshida Reiko are on board, the probability that a love triangle and dispute arising over such a love triangle will materialise in Hai-Furi is infinitesimally small (but, non-zero, since the manga may go down this route).

  • Seemingly for their tardiness, one of the instructors opens fire on the Harekaze without provocation, leading Akeno to order the Harekaze to take evasive maneuvers while attempting to communicate with their instructor. In the post mentioned above, I further remark that none of Mike, Moka or Shiro (and their English equivalents, “Spot”, “Mocha” and “White”) fall into the top hundred most popular names for cats in either English or more common Japanese cat names.

  • Mashiro attempts to stop the bombardment via negotiations, although the lack of a response from their instructor, plus the different aura the instructor is projecting, give the impression that something else is amiss. Whatever this is will likely be left as something to be answered in an upcoming episode. Continuing from the previous bullet, I counter-argue that the the girls’ nicknames are not likely to be intentionally inspired by popular names for cats, and that even if this held true, it would have no correlation with the purported love triangle that is almost never to become a part of the main narrative in Hai-Furi. So, the names are unlikely to have any relevance on the overall narrative, and it’s prudent to dispel such notions before they become widely accepted (again, unless the manga does otherwise, in which case, I will eat my hat).

  • The near-misses from the Sarushima only manage to jostle around the Harekaze, but some of the crew sustain minor injuries, and in the galley, the rice cooker sustains some superficial damage: although the mood is decidedly more serious at this point, the inclusion of such a moment may be to rein in the atmosphere somewhat by injecting some humour into the mix. Fortunately, it appears that only the surface is dented, and provided the cooker’s hull is not compromised, it will continue to function.

  • A live round misses the Harekaze by a narrow margin, and the girls speculate that the vessel firing on them, the Sarushima, is shooting to kill. An Independence-class littoral combat vessel (of the same type seen in Battlefield 4‘s Suez mission), ships of this class have a maximum speed of 44 knots (roughly 81 km/h) and are intended to patrol the littoral zone and is typically outfitted with a Bofors 57 mm gun. In Hai-Furi, however, they are inconsistently depicted as a consequence of shortfalls in animation. During its engagement with the Harekaze, the Sarushima is shown with the Mark 45, a five-inch gun with a firing rate of 20 RPM against the Bofors’ 200 RPM.

  • Concluding that the Harekaze needs to buy some time to continue radioing in to stop the bombardment, Akeno gives the order to fire an exercise torpedo at the Sarushima. Her decisiveness and resolve, in spite of a seemingly easy-going and klutzy aspects, is a familiar combination: right before the bombardment begins, she’s seen feeding Isoroku, a cat whose manner resembles that of Garfield and whose namesake was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy.

  • I’ve heard discussion stating that it’s impossible for a training torpedo, lacking a warhead, to punch through an Independence-class’ hull and cause said vessel to list on account lacking the kinetic energy to do so, suggesting the damage might be staged. The Independence-class is stated to have a lightweight aluminium construction of reduced durability in reality, but without confirmation of the exact numbers, computing whether or not the Sarushima could have sustained such damage in a quantitative manner is an exercise in futility.

  • In the engine room, the staff there begin stripping down as temperatures rise, so I’ve captured that moment here to fulfill my fanservice quota. On a more serious note, I am well aware of the fact that military-moé anime tend to draw a clientèle who are rather quick to point out the most minor of errors in all manner of discussions. I respect adherence to factual accuracy (in part accounting for why this post took forever to write), but nonetheless, I am still human and therefore, susceptible to error. As such, I appreciate those who take the time to point out the errors in my writing and will fix them on short order, but also remark that etiquette should not be forgotten.

  • Girls und Panzer illustrated a shot of Ooarai’s vast 7.6 kilometer-long carrier near the first episode’s closing, and Hai-Furi seems to be following in its stead; this here screenshot and the following moments illustrate the dramatic extent rising sea levels have had on civilisation, to the extent where vast floating cities have been constructed. Now that this beast of a first episode review is done (totalling 2573 words), I’ll be resuming regular programming shortly. At present, I’m wondering whether or not I should write about She and Her Cat: Everything Flows or the second Aria The Avvenire OVA first.

Introducing a narrative element into Hai-Furi that completely defies expectations was a risky manoeuver on Hai-Furi’s part, but by and large, it has definitely succeeded in capturing the audience’s interest: discussions and speculations have taken off, exploring an incredibly vast range of possibilities. One element stands out: insofar, there have been no complaints that Akeno bears a direct resemblance to Girls und Panzer’s Miho Nishizumi and Strike Witches’ Yoshika Miyafuji: in fact, Akeno has been praised for being a decisive, strategic-thinking commander whose desire to work well with others and protect the seas adds additional weight to her character. This reception is likely fuelled by the fact that Akeno’s character is a familiar and comforting one, especially in the face of adversity of this calibre; audiences have a stronger reassurance that Akeno will be able to find some way of extricating the Harekaze from their current situation because if she resembles Miho and Yoshika, then she’ll likely have a few aces to play. This is why the generic protagonist is not necessarily a detractor from an anime, and with this in mind, Hai-Furi has definitely surprised and impressed most viewers, myself included. This is a series that could be worth writing about on an episodic basis, and whether or not this becomes a reality will largely be determined by whether or not the next episode continues to deliver, as well as whether or not there is sufficient reader interest (i.e. comments from readers that result in interesting discussion).

Her Smile And Flash Are Annoying: That’s My So-called Older Sister- Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? First Episode Impressions and Review

Oh yeah! It’s HEADSHOT time!” —FPS_Doug, Pure Pwnage

As the second season to Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka??‘s title merely differs with the addition of a single question mark in its title. For brevity’s sake, I will continue to refer to the anime’s second season as GochiUsa. It’s a beautiful Saturday morning, and GochiUsa‘s first episode aired, marking a much-welcomed return to the gentle atmosphere surrounding this anime. Nearly a year has elapsed since Cocoa moved to Rabbit House to work as a waitress, and she’s quite eager to share her experiences with her family. To this end, she goes around town to photograph her friends, and while Chiya, Rize and Sharo don’t mind being photographed, Chino encounters considerable difficulty in smiling for Cocoa’s camera. Later, when Chiya and Ama Usa An are featured in a local magazine, alongside Sharo and Fleur de Lupin, Chino wonders if her presence isn’t doing enough to warm up the atmosphere around Rabbit House and grows melancholic. Takahiro Kafū shares a few words with Cooca about Chino, and to the latter’s surprise, Rabbit House is featured on a double-spread in the magazine’s next issue. Welcoming the news, Chino smiles. Cocoa sends her letter to her family, and later stumbles upon a picture frame Chino’s made.

The main draw about sequels of slice-of-life anime, such as GochiUsa, is that their pacing and design allows the anime to be inherently accessible to viewers. This first episode was spent depicting two seemingly trivial, mundane elements in the girls’ everyday lives, but nonetheless, manages to capture volumes about each girls’ personalities. Cocoa remains as easy-going as she did in the first season, and similarly, Chino is as shy and reserved as she had been earlier. This holds true for the airy Chiya, disciplined Rize and elegant Sharo. Thus, the characters’ identities and contributions to the dynamics in GochiUsa become immediately apparent, leaving new viewers with a solid impression of what aspects set each individual apart from one another. For veterans of GochiUsa, watching all of the characters go about their everyday lives will remind them of the things that made season one so enjoyable. This is partially why such anime are appreciated: they’re able to capture the interests of an audience who’ve never seen it before, while simultaneously presenting enough new material to keep the veterans entertained, and in this regard, GochiUsa‘s first episode of its second season succeeds in doing just this.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Twenty screenshots adjourn this here post. The episodes release at 0730 PDT, and I think this is the quickest I’ve ever written about an anime on launch day. In keeping with how I opened the GochiUsa season one post, which had Cocoa looking at the Rabbit House sign, here, I’ll open with Chino looking at the same sign after a trip to the local market for groceries. Judging from the character’s clothing, it’s late winter, probably in January or early February.

  • Cocoa’s camera, though unbranded, is a Sony DSC-W630 CyberShot. With a 16.1 megapixel chip, this older but highly compact camera is relatively inexpensive, producing images of reasonable quality for its price. It’s also got a good battery life, and images average around 6 MB individually. However, the camera is a little slow to process images when the flash is enabled. The pink models are quite real, and I am certain it’s a DSC-W630 because of the placement of the flash and auto-focus lamp (the little circle right of the flash), as well as the aperture’s design.

  • The notion of an overreaction to what might be perceived as an embarassing photograph is not new, but it’s always hilarious to see. Here, Rize reacts in horror after realising that she inadvertently made some cute poses for Cocoa, whose camera spree results from her wish to share details about life at Rabbit House with her friends.

  • Thus, this provides the context for what was seen during the trailer released a ways back. This post is predominately about the characters, and consequently, there aren’t any cityscape shots. With this being said, the cityscape in GochiUsa season two are as detailed and beautiful as they were in season one. The unique setting is one of the strongest elements that set GochiUsa apart from other slice-of-life anime, and makes it more memorable.

  • It feels that the colours of GochiUsa season two are a bit more saturated than they were in season one. This could be a consequence of the stream, but fortunately, the increased vividness doesn’t detract from the viewing experience. After visiting Chiya, Cocoa pays Sharo a visit next and voices her disappointment towards the degree of resilience Chino’s shown towards being photographed.

  • Rize wonders if tickling Chino will elicit a smile from her, but this ends up failing, with Rize remarking that something feels off about doing something like this to Chino. Insofar, it’s taken a fair degree of effort to get Chino on camera, but some individuals simply don’t like being photographed, and while the causes vary, it’s usually easiest to respect the individual’s wishes and simply not photograph them. While it’s adorable to watch everyone coax Chino out of her dislikes, this is an anime, so the rules of reality don’t apply.

  • Despite remaining as airy as ever, Chiya is able to strike some surprisingly bold poses: here, she and Cocoa carry out a comedy act of sorts that results in Rize unknowingly playing the role of the “sane man”. Strictly speaking, the DSC-W630 isn’t able to capture images that quickly if the flash is on, but given that GochiUsa isn’t an anime about photography, such an oversight is easy enough to forgive.

  • Cocoa et al.’s efforts are not in vain, and Chino eventually warms up enough to smile, being touched by how much her friends care about her. It’s easy enough for me to capture the images, but Cocoa seems to have less luck, with all of her images failing or becoming blurry. This forms the basis for the episode’s first half, motivating my use of the page quote, as Cocoa is really trying to capture an image of Chino’s smile.

  • Chiya mentioned that she was being interviewed for a magazine story earlier, and at present, everyone has an opportunity to read said magazine article. Fleur de Lapin is also featured, along with the Hoto Bakery (Cocoa’s skill at baking bread stems from the fact that she comes from a line of bakers), Aoyama’s food column and some images of Rize modelling dresses (a callback to the first season). It’s not too surprising that Aoyama does writing work outside of being a novelist, and there’s no denying that “Hungry Aoyama Gourmet Mountain” has a nice ring to it.

  • In search of a quiet place to relax, Aoyama arrives at Rabbit House. Compared to the other coffee houses in the area, Rabbit House does seem a little quiet. The café doubles as a bar by evening, serving alcoholic beverages such as the gin and tonic and the salty dog, amongst other things. Because the cast is predominately of a high school age, this side of Rabbit House is only seen on some occasions.

  • Chiya notices that Chino seems a little melancholy after reading all of the magazine articles and wondering about business at Rabbit House. The topic of magazine article reminds me of life at the LINDSAY Virtual Human Lab: while I’m usually busy with building simulations, media groups and the higher-ups at campus do occasionally show up to interview my PI (and I’m visible in some of the resulting videos/photographs). Naturally, I won’t link to them for security reasons.

  • Aoyama experiences an instance of catastrophic structural failure, when the chair she sits down on collapses. Initially brushing it off as a sign that Rabbit House has a rich history, she suddenly wonders if this is the Master’s punishment for her not working hard enough. During such moments, the screen takes on an unearthy hue, and in general, I choose not to feature these moments since they’re better watched, rather than read about.

  • Chino laments the fact that Rabbit House is somewhat dilapidated: it’s been around for quite some time, and though GochiUsa lovingly makes use of audio and visuals renders it as being very clean and well-maintained, anime is inherently unable to represent olfactory aspects. So, I would imagine that Rabbit House, underneath the pleasant aroma of coffee, would also smell like an older wooden building.

  • When Sharo learns that Cocoa was responsible for some of the seemingly-antiquated features at Rabbit House, she grows frustrated and chastises her. Earlier this week, I began watching the Yuru Yuri OVAs whilst enjoying a massively delicious pulled-pork poutine with a succulent helping of smoked pork and fried onions on top of thick cut fries, gravy and cheese curds. I wondered if I would finish quickly enough such that I could begin supervising a new workspace on campus.

  • Maya confidently states that Rabbit House will also be featured in a magazine at some point in the future, and in a heartwarming moment reminiscent of a similar scene in the K-On! Movie, interview her with near-identical questions about relationships, before leading her on a short chase.

  • The day draws to a close as golden beams of sun stream through the windows, and Takahiro thanks Cocoa for the day’s efforts before leaving a message with her to relay to Chino. Such moments show that there are hidden depths to Cocoa: she’s hardworking and precise when working, only maintaining a fluffy, energetic presence whenever Chino’s around.

  • Earlier, Chino is seen tugging at her face to force a smile. When Cocoa arrives, she tries to lighten Chino’s spirit up with her own brand of ventriloquism. Humour derived from Tippy’s ability to talk as ventriloquism makes a return in the second season, although I do not see it as being likely that Cocoa or the others will learn about the truth behind Tippy’s state. This is most likely to maintain the status quo, as well: things could presumably get chaotic if Aoyama and the others learn that Tippy is a vessel for Chino’s grandfather’s spirit.

  • It turns out that the message Takahiro had for Chino was that they would also be featured in a magazine, with a double-spread, no less. A glance at the magazine article (and those seen in previous scenes) strongly illustrates just how much effort went into the art and animation in GochiUsa, where attention is paid to even minor things like ripples in coffee as its being poured, or seeing the transparent reflections of characters in windows.

  • The choice to show Cocoa preparing to mail a letter back to her family by evening demonstrates the quality of writing in GochiUsa: smaller plot elements make a return to yield closure for the episode. The fact that Cocoa is still using traditional mail, even with the presence of digital cameras and cell phones, obfuscates when and where the anime happens, but also serves to reinforce the notion that the setting in GochiUsa is relaxed and laid-back to the extent where people are perfectly willing to use snail-mail (in comparison to reality, where email, IM and SMS has led to ever-increasing demands for instantaneous responses).

  • I’ll end the post off with Chino smiling as she looks at a picture frame that she’d made. I originally had forty images, and it was no small effort to pick the best twenty for discussions. With the first episode of GochiUsa‘s second season out and reviewed now, I’m going to return to Star Wars: Battlefront Beta and see if I can’t experience playing as Luke or Darth Vader, before enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, which will feature, amongst the usual turkey and stuffing, shrimp (I’m in Canada, hence the observance of Thanksgiving in October).

Looking ahead, GochiUsa is going to be something that I will look forwards to watching every week. The first season dealt with Chino and Cocoa gradually coming to learn more about one another to the extent where Chino’s icy façade towards Cocoa dissipates somewhat, and it’s logical to imagine that the second season will see this trend continue. The end result is a very-natural, credible relationship that never feels forced. However, the elephant in the room at present is Mocha’s upcoming presence in the remainder of GochiUsa‘s second season. Her presence is most likely to disrupt the status quo and consequently, we could see new sides to each character, thereby livening up the second season. Though she’s not yet made an appearance, I previously remarked that it would not be logical to be introduced after one episode: the first episode must aim to (re)establish the primary characters, and adding new characters right off the bat would take time away from doing so. Consequently, there are no issues with leaving Mocha’s introduction for a later episode. The episode preview actually yields very little in the way of what’s to come, so it is possible that Mocha could show up as early as next week’s episode. This is something that time will tell, and I will return after the third episode to provide my impressions of GochiUsa by the three-episode mark. For the present, there is no denying that this first episode was most enjoyable, and I look forwards to seeing what directions GochiUsa‘s second season (hitherto referred to as GochiUsa) will take.

Hello! Kiniro Mosaic: Reflection and review after three

“Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students.” —Charles Kuralt

The sequel to Kiniro Mosaic, Hello! Kiniro Mosaic marks a welcome return to the gentle, slow-paced humour that characterised the first season, which saw Alice and Shinobu resume their friendship after the latter’s homestay in England five years prior to the present. When the first season ended, Alice and Shinobu were advancing into their second year of high school, but were separated on virtue of being in different classes. The second season picks up right where the first left off; Aya, Shinobu and Karen have Akari Kuzehashi as their homeroom instructor, and owing to her strict, intimidating presence, are having a difficult time adjusting. Karen’s efforts eventually leads Akari to open up somewhat, and by episode three, Hello! Kiniro Mosaic has settled right with the pace of things, with Yoko’s younger siblings making an appearance and Alice expressing a desire to be with Poppy, her pet dog.

For most viewers familiar with Kiniro Mosaic, the first season concluded nearly two years ago, and it was only a few months ago where a second season had been given the go-ahead and announced. On my end, it’s only been two months since I finished the first season. Consequently, I still recall vividly what the first season was like; the second season is off to an exceptionally strong start, offering incredibly amusing situations that allow the characters to bounce off one another. It is quite reminiscent of Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, where the jokes became consistently better as Waterson continued to tune his craft. Hello! Kiniro Mosaic does just this: all of the sheer ridiculousness of some of the situations, whether it’s Karen’s determination to befriend Akari, the antics that ensue when everyone tries to reproduce an authentic English High Tea experience or Alice’s desire for a pet indicate moments that were are well-polished, intended to be accessible for new viewers, while simultaneously reacquainting those familiar with the show through some of the more subtle moments that allow the audience to learn more about the characters.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Alright, we’re back to Kiniro Mosaic, and I’m commentating this while I watch, picking up where I left off, let’s do this. I’m feeling magical; I can complete this review…in roughly thirty seconds. For newcomers, Hello! Kiniro Mosaic is quite accessible, although watching the first season is recommended, since there are subtle call-backs to the first season that make the second season doubly enjoyable to watch.

  • The first few episodes deal predominantly with Akari, a new character who is the home economics instructor and also Aya, Karen and Shinobu’s homeroom instructor. Much of the humour in the episodes is dramatic in nature, with Karen mentioning Akari in a moderately unflattering light and subsequently learning that Akari happens to be standing right behind her.

  • While she’s actually quite kind-hearted and enjoys working with her students, Akari’s intimidating appearance causes her students to become quite distant as a result. Karen sees her as a tiger for her ferocity, and speculates that she’s even eaten students.

  • It comes across as somewhat unnerving in reality, and Kiniro Mosaic manages to turn Alice’s recording observations of Shinobu into something that’s endearing and entertaining. Not every anime can pull this off, but in the remarkably relaxed, carefree world that is Kiniro Mosaic, something like this is not unplausible.

  • Karen somehow manages to acquire a Sherlock-esque garb in her investigation to figure out Akari, and in the process, learns that Shinobu is also quite mysterious, as well. Together with Aya, Yoko and Alice, they follow Shinobu around to no avail, and later, Shinobu reveals that her wish to learn English and become an interpreter was brought on by a memory from her childhood, where she saw someone converse with a native English speaker.

  • While Karen is rather rambunctious, she’s also kind-hearted and is quick to befriend others. Her determination to get on good terms with Akari is quite endearing, and in fact, brings back memories of when I was an assistant instructor for kindergarten-aged children at a Chinese language school. It was there I realised the joys of piquing students’ enthusiasm for learning things.

  • Upon hearing Sakura’s suggestion about “squeezing something cute”, Yoko and even Aya gets in on it. Kiniro Mosaic is remarkably similar to GochiUsa with respect to atmospherics and pacing, despite their respective manga’s different authors. The time difference between Kiniro Mosaic‘s first and second seasons’ start points is 21 months, so assuming this trend to hold, GochiUsa‘s second season will probably air during Winter 2016.

  • Shinobu proposes that everyone gets together for afternoon tea, and after spending an afternoon just making the scones and biscuits, they’re forced to reschedule it. Afternoon tea has its origins in the 1840s amongst the British upper classes, and thus, can be said to be a relatively recent custom. A direct translation into my native tongue yields “yum cha” (飲茶), although rather than British staples, such as pastries and crumpets, dim sum is served instead. It’s one of my favourite events, and I’m especially fond of har gow.

  • Karen decides to give some of the additional cookies she’d made with the others to her classmates as thanks for offering her sweets previously. Karen’s ever-lively personality and openness lends Kiniro Mosaic a very energetic feel: prior to her arrival in the series, things felt much slower, more laid-back in pacing. Something similar is happening in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: now that Haruhi’s back, the show feels like it’s really picked up.

  • Despite knowing that happi coats don’t require measurements, Aya takes Yoko’s measurements anyways. Read directly in Chinese, 法被 has no meaning in Hanzi, but refer to the happi coats in Japanese kanji; these are typically worn during festivals and its phonetic similarity has led them to be referred to as “happy coats”, which Akari tries to make a joke out of.

  • While Shinobu may be under-performing as a student, her love of clothing means that she’s quite a seamstress, impressing Akari with her craftsmanship. On my edge, I tend to be similarly impressed with students who submit exceptionally well-done programs that satisfy the assignment criteria. These assignments are the easiest to mark, and I typically begin the marking procedure by separating assignments into two piles: the pile that outright works, and the pile where I give the assignment a closer look so they can be fairly evaluated.

  • After a conversation with Sakura, Akari gradually figures out how to interact with her students without scaring them. One of the things that students look for in an instructor is their approachability: ever since I took the position of being a TA, I strive to present myself as being available to help the students to the best of my ability. While this means my inbox typically fills up (even with emails from students in other sections), it is immensely rewarding to see students learn and grasp the material.

  • Naturally, I do not intimidate my students quite to the same extent that Akari does, and while I remind my students of important dates, since said students are undergraduates and adults, I expect that they are able to manage their own schedules and become aware of the deadlines.

  • This year for April Fools’ Day, I changed my relationship status on Facebook from what it normally is to “In a Relationship”. It was a remarkably effective prank, since numerous of my friends did in fact fall for it, but those who know me quite well would know that it’s unlikely that such a thing would happen on such short notice. I thought it was fairly amusing, until I found out about Matimi0’s April Fools’ joke, which deceived even me.

  • In fact, I would argue that those who read my blog and the accompanying image captions for each post would probably know me better than those who see my news feed on Facebook. This blog does act as an electronic diary of sorts, even if it is not quite as detailed as other online diaries. Apparently, dogs do not get along with Shinobu and bark in her presence.

  • Last season, we had Alice bursting into tears after a New Year’s Dream near the series’ end, although this time around, the wait for such a reaction was not quite so long. My posting schedule’s been thrown off by the fact that I’ve been remarkably busy over the past while: on Sunday, I attended brunch with my professor for multi-agent systems and classmates; the morning had been quite gloomy when I drove there. As I sat down to plates of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, a freshly made omelette, honey glazed ham, mini-steaks and chicken quesadillas, discussion turned to applications of multi-agent systems in real-world scenarios.

  • Discussions feel much more informal outside of the classroom, and after I finished cheesecake some time later, the weather had cleared out completely, leaving skies of blue and sunshine.  I spent the remainder of the day grading assignments. Back in Kiniro Mosaic, Alice has fallen from a strong desire to pet and play with Poppy again. Such visuals add a great deal of humour to the scenario.

  • Despite suggestions to pet Yoko in Poppy’s stead, Alice remarks that it’s different. Akari remarks that the students feel more similar to primary school students, and to an external observer, this is quite true. It’s only in anime where characters are able to act much younger than their ages would otherwise suggest, and the unique environment here allows this to be executed quite well.

  • Sakura goes to extreme lengths to help her students, even managing to mimick Poppy’s barking to resuscitate Alice. Today marked the end of my first year in graduate studies; I completed an oral exam for the multi-agent systems course and summarily received my grade to continue my perfect streak. Now that the summer’s practically here, I finally picked up the Wolfenstein bundle (The New Order and The Old Blood) and will be starting on that quite soon. As well, I’ll be concluding April with a post on Hibike! Euphonium and my impressions of the finale to Gundam Build Fighters Try.

  • Shinobu later makes a robotic dog for Alice to keep her company until she returns to England and sees Poppy again. Whatever lies ahead for Hello! Kiniro Mosaic will be something that I look forwards to seeing, as the academic term gives way to the summer. I anticipate that having humour of this calibre will be particularly helpful as I gear up to learn the Unreal Engine and begin my thesis in earnest.

Moving forwards, it appears that several new characters will be added to the line-up, offering the possibility of pushing new adventures and humour forwards. The second season’s off to a fine start: the first season was quite enjoyable to watch, but here, the situations seem to segue into one another very neatly, making each moment more enjoyable. If this trend holds for the remainder of the season, audiences will be left with a fantastic comedy that is sure to entertain in every moment. It’s been a while since I’ve watched a well-executed comedy; insofar, Hello! Kiniro Mosaic is something that’s very easy to recommend, and while this second season can be watched without having watched the first, there are some nuances that can only be understood if one’s watched the first season. We are still reasonably early into Hello! Kiniro Mosaic, so catching up before the fourth episode is not a particularly momentous undertaking.