The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: future directions

A Milestone at the Seven Year Anniversary and An Introspection At A Thousand Posts

“Not only are bloggers suckers for the remarkable, so are the people who read blogs.” —Seth Godin

Unlike earlier anniversary posts, today, the shortage of things to say this time around is not an issue. On a cold, grey October evening seven years previously, I published the first post to Infinite Mirai. At this time, this blog was intended to supplement a much older website that I had written to previously, but with my increasing familiarity with WordPress and its features, I began using WordPress in a much greater capacity, finally retiring my old website and transitioning here full-time. Seven years since then, this blog has certainly lasted much longer than was initially anticipated, and exactly six months ago, reached the one million views milestone. Today, at the seven year mark, Infinite Mirai reaches another milestone: I have now written and published a thousand posts, as well. A thousand of anything is a nontrivial number: with a thousand dollars, one could have 235 coffees at Starbucks, buy 33 hard cover novels, 12 triple-A games or go out for a nice steak dinner every day of the week for three consecutive weeks. 1000 square kilometers is enough to comfortably fit the entirety of my home town, and 1000 kilometers is roughly the distance between Calgary and Vancouver. For bloggers, a thousand posts represents a serious commitment to their topic of choice and a profound love for writing: on the journey to a thousand posts, there are no shortages of learnings. The first learning is that any post takes some time to conceptualise and write out: on average, my posts now average around 3500 words, up from 1120 when I began utilising WordPress more frequently. Each post takes two to three hours to write, and with the site metrics, I roughly average 1000 views per post. I do not write with a predefined frequency or schedule, and I almost never use the WordPress editor directly because there’s always a risk that my browser crashes, I accidentally hit the back button or unintentionally refresh the page. A thousand posts later, I can reasonably say I’ve learned a thousand things, as well, ten of which I will share here as the summary of something called 日积月累 (jyutping jat6 zik1 jyut6 leoi6), which means “to accumulate gradually” in my tongue.

The biggest learning, however, is that the readers deserve full credit for allowing this blog to reach such a milestone. It is a joy to writing for people who will read the content and come away from it with a positive experience. The current WordPress anime community is simply put, a very positive, inviting one and I am very grateful to be a part of it. Every blogger takes their own unique approach towards writing: from my lengthy discussions to the more concise, focused talks other bloggers publish, there is no shortage of insight, friendly discussion and appreciation for different perspectives among the community. Looking back, the main reason why this blog has endured seven years is because for me, writing about anime and games, then injecting small remarks about my life (and my attendant thoughts) is no different than maintaining a journal for mental health. When I was much younger, I kept journals for school assignments and also to improve my English (contrary to expectation, English is not my native language); this practise fell away by the time I reached secondary school, but with the advent of my anime hobby and increasing stresses associated with life, I’ve found blogging to be an immensely cathartic experience, helping me keep things in perspective and also keep my blessings in mind. Thus, at the seven year mark, rather than say that I’m not sure as to whether or not I will continue blogging, wisdom would suggest that I will continue to blog as long as I find it useful and enjoyable, even if things are now sufficiently uncertain so that I can say with certainty that my frequency will be reduced in the foreseeable future. For taking the time to read this blog, and doubly so for putting up with the very unusual way that I run things here, I offer a big thank you to all of my readers for keeping things exciting and fresh.

Ten Lessons After Seven Years and One Thousand Posts

  • The biggest challenge all bloggers will face is getting the views when they are starting out. A new blog is not indexed in Google, will have no followers initially and must exist in the shadow of other blogs writing about similar topics. However, this should not be an impediment for bloggers: don’t worry about traffic and focus on getting content, as well as developing your voice and style. When I opened my blog seven years ago, I averaged 9 views a day and rounded out 2011 with 828 views. The year after, I saw a gradual increase in traffic, from 19 views a day to 188 views a day. However, when I really began focusing on writing here, traffic increased to around 300 views per day. Time and exposure will increase visibility.

  • Finding interesting subjects to write about is another impediment bloggers of all experience levels and disciplines face. With the relative ease of posting one’s thoughts, being original can be very tricky, as someone might have already expressed your thoughts precisely as you envisioned them. In the realm of anime, for instance, reacting to events in episodes and writing about one’s feelings is an admittedly dull and tired way of writing. I tend to focus on big picture elements and their relevance to reality, especially in relation to my own experiences and beliefs. Because of this personal element, my voice becomes different enough to be noticeable.

  • Blogging regularly and consistently is essential to keep readers returning for more, but so is good quality content. Similarly, mixing things up also can draw in readers: I typically do series reviews and discussions in a standardised paragraph and commentary format, but occasionally, there are some topics that allow me to break the mold. These special posts have done very well because they are distinct and offer unique content that occasionally draws attention from folks on Reddit, Quora or even Wikipedia, who link here and bring traffic with them. My favourite examples of exotic posts include one where I do a discussion on the size of the school ships in Girls und Panzer, as well as my location hunt posts.

  • It takes good planning to blog well. A lot of folks tend to follow a schedule and promise to blog on certain days of the week, but during slower times, don’t have anything they feel that they can share. I operate in a different space, writing only when I have things to talk about: when an idea comes to mind, I usually run through it in my head for a few days, then draft out a concept. If I can return to the draft later and still see where I was going, then the topic was worth writing about and will be turned into a full scale post. This applies to a majority of my posts, although there are cases that for topics fresh on my mind, or those that I am particularly connected with, I will be able to write those much more quickly.

  • Another discovery I’ve made is that the anime blogging community in its current form is very supportive and approachable. When I began, the likes of Behind the Nihon Review, Anime History and Dark Mirage dominated the anime blogging community, flooding it with purple prose-filled posts about the shortcomings of every show under the sun and putting down all who disagreed with them. These days, largely thanks to the tools available, more people have joined the realm of anime blogging and with it, positive attitudes have prevailed. As such, don’t be afraid to reach out to other bloggers and ask them for feedback on your content, or to discuss with them ideas you may not agree with. We are a friendly group open to different ideas, a far cry from the juggernauts of old.

  • Understand why you wish to maintain a blog: blogging can be a professional occupation, and even in its hobby form, can still be very time-consuming and demanding. If there’s a good reason that you are writing for, whether it is to simply share your thoughts, or because you are writing for folks important to you, or like myself, it’s a release from the challenges of life, then your inclination will be to continue using the blog to communicate with and share with others.

  • Don’t do controversy: fighting flame wars is stressful and counterproductive, even if it brings in traffic. I typically do not stray into the realm of controversy, and where I have opinions on things where I align with one side, I tend to be subtle about it (such as on the infamous journalism ethics in video games culture war some years back), or else I will address both sides of the argument (such as in things like Sword Art Online). Stressful blogging is a deterrent for putting out more content, and so, I personally prefer maintaining positivity where I can to ensure that I am always happy to come back to writing for this blog.

  • I’ve mentioned on several occasions that I blog when I feel it appropriate, rather than according to a set schedule. Writing when I have something to say always progresses more easily than if I struggle with a topic, and on days where I have no inclination to write, I am not likely to put out anything useful for the readers. It is similarly okay to take breaks from blogging without guilt.

  • In an age where common courtesy and civility is rare, I nonetheless strive to be polite to all of my readers, encouraging folks to disagree with me and also to think for themselves. Being polite to readers will encourage readers to return: the point of a blog is not to lay down one’s views as the only views, but to present one’s views as one of many. Having good discussions with other readers is always a big plus and may even lead to ideas for more posts. I admit that I am not always adhering to this, occasionally drawing on outrageous perspectives as topics for my posts to shoot down (e.g. Mythbusting in Your Name) and calling out random folks from across the ‘net for their perspectives on a series.

  • My ultimate learning is to be yourself, which I previously mentioned in my Million Views milestone. A lot of bloggers wonder what approach they must take to run a successful blog, and I’ve noticed that a successful blogger is someone who is concise, focused, polite and above all else, true to themselves. They write with their own voice, choice of words, on the topics they enjoy writing about, in the manner of their choosing. While it is important to consider one’s target audience, ultimately, readers will stick with the blogs that stand out. For me, this means making random wisecracks about the Marvel Cinematic Universe in posts about beach volleyball, compare history’s greatest survivalists to a group of high school girls who love camping and finding similarities between my favourite NHL team and a series about girls who ride tanks as a sport. It means occasionally thinking about food when I’m supposed to be writing about anime, and disappointing viewers when I write about how to have a good time in The Division or Battlefield when viewers would much rather read about pantsu in Strike Witches. Sorry, folks, but one does not keep a blog for seven years by being inconsistent: having a well-established style means it is easier to write things down, and perhaps I might reach the two thousand post mark at some point with my current approaches.

At the seven year mark and one thousand posts, I now have 1.1 million views and some 1750 comments. Akismet has blocked nearly 40000 spam comments, and I’ve got around 1.9 million words in total across the thousand posts. With these numbers in mind, “where is Infinite Mirai headed in the future?” is the questions readers invariably ask. To this, I have no definite answer: life is mutating, unpredictable and ever-changing, and circumstances always arise to both accommodate and reduce blogging. Having said this, because of the beneficial aspects of writing for me (for one, it keeps my mind focused and also helps me hone my writing), I am going to be sticking around even if I write with reduced and more erratic frequency. My focus predominantly deals with slice-of-life series, anything telling a particularly noteworthy story about life lessons and the oft-maligned military moé genre, as well as various video games I’ve experienced, and this will not be changing in the future. I still have plans to write about Girls und Panzer Das Finale, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?’s third season, Strike Witches‘ Road to Berlin and the Hai-Furi movie, for instance. Battlefield V, Metro: Exodus and DOOM Eternal also look to offer some interesting points of discussion. With the community’s support and encouragement, I will be continuing my journeys and see where things take me. I’d like to thank everyone again — you readers and fellow bloggers mean the world to me, and whether you’re a regular who shows up whenever new content is published, or if you’re here by chance because my idiosyncrasies tend to mess up search engines, your readership is precisely what keeps things going here.

A Reflection on the Faraway Receiver and the Not-So-Distant 2018 Summer Solstice

“Smell the sea, and feel the sky. Let your soul and spirit fly.” —Van Morrison

Gone are the times when the summer solstice meany two months of unparalleled tranquility, of a period when the campus hallways and lecture halls laid empty amidst the seemingly-endless blue skies of the hottest time of year; these days, without the ever-present challenge of exams, the calm of summer seems to extent well beyond the period when the days are at their longest and the weather conducive of exploration. Save winter, much of the year feels like one long summer now that I’m no longer a student, but while these times might be past, the magic of summer certainly has not left me. The weather is already summer-like, with today’s high being 26ºC. However, tomorrow is the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. With the beginning of this year’s summer, we enter a season where beautiful days make adventures possible. From hiking in the trails of the mountains, to for resting in the cool of the shade with a cold drink in hand, summer invites these activities. It is also the time of year that blogging tends to slow down a little around these parts. Last year, I averaged 11.75 posts per month, totalling 141 posts. Of these, a 30 of them were written in July, August and September, for an average of 10 posts per month. In the year before, I totalled 115 posts (9.5833 posts per month), of which 21 were written during the summer months (7 posts per month). The combination of fantastic weather and adventure means that one would be forgiven if they saw a decline in motivation to write. In my previous years, I’ve spent the summers travelling abroad and locally: 2016 saw me attend the LIFE XV Conference in Cancún, and last year, with my nation celebrating its 150th Anniversary of Confederation, the complementary parks passes saw me visit the national parks with an increased frequency. This year, things have settled down a little: travelling will be much lighter, and with the summer ahead, it is a blank slate for me. Relaxing with a good book while the evening air cools, or a stroll in the vast hills nearby are but two of the numerous possibilities of this summer; I might be busy on weekdays, but in the time since I’ve graduated, I’ve learned the art of playing as hard as I work.

  • In my mind’s eye, a romantic summer would entail running into a soft-spoken girl on a train hurtling across the vast expanse of countryside under an endless blue sky. The countryside, especially that of rural Japan, has long captivated me, and my belief is that it is chosen as the setting for many a romance anime precisely because the open space, greenery and reduced population creates a sense of longing, acting as a visual metaphor for love and relationships. Of course, thoughts of romance blossoming while travelling into or through the countryside is a pipe dream where I’m from – while we have prairies and open spaces in abundance, the distances separating cities of the prairie provinces and West Coast are connected by highways and automobiles, rather than trains and rail lines.

  • Summer is a time of adventure, but it can also be a time of loneliness, as well: with everyone capitalising on the weather to travel, it can occasionally be challenging to get people together to hang out. It is in our inclination to be with people, but for folks who are introverts by nature, such as myself, being alone and embracing solitude is how we tend to revitalise ourselves. I would consider a summer afternoon, spent at a café with a chilled lemon tea and browsing through shelves of books to be one well-spent. As important as it is to build connections with others, it is equally as important to look after oneself, especially if one is not involved in any romantic relationships: taking yourself on a date is very cathartic and relaxing.

While it is tantalising to entertain a summer where I take a break from my writing and spend all of my time taking it easy, such a course of action would likely spell doom for this blog; fellow bloggers have noted that leaving for a while can make it difficult to resume, and as there are things I would like to continue sharing with you, the readers, I believe that it is a fair balance to slow my blogging down slightly for the summer months without fully stopping. I’ve mentioned previously that if I were to take any hiatus of any sort, there would be a dedicate post for such an announcement, and this is not it. However, this raises the question of what I could write about. In previous years, widely publicised movies featured during the summer, as did whatever my latest endeavours in gaming were. This year, the summer looks quiet on both fronts; Mirai no Mirai, Non Non Biyori: Vacation, Shikioriori and Penguin Highway will première, but if the trend from Your Voice continues, it will be quite some time before we see these films. For gaming, I admit that I’ve hit a saturation point: Metro: Exodus, DOOM Eternal and Battlefield V are a ways away yet, and there are not recent titles that catch my interest, so this summer, I may simply revisit some of my older titles again while I wait for these new titles to become available. We’re covered off on games, but what about anime? This is, after all, the meat-and-potatoes of this blog, and site metric show my readers as being quite uninterested in some of my whacky exploits in Battlefield 1 and The Division. The logical answer then, is that there must be something in the summer season that catches my eye, and there are: Violet Evergarden and Yuru Camp△ are both getting OVAs. I will also be writing about the Manga Time Kirara adaptation, Harukana Receive, in an episodic fashion.

  • Okinawa is considered the Hawaii of Japan, the site of vacations for many anime (including the upcoming Non Non Biyori movie), was the site of one of the Pacific Theatre’s fiercest battles that saw an Allied victory, and is also the birthplace of my martial arts. In Harukana Receive, Okinawa is going to be none of these things. Instead, I foresee featuring many landscape shots of Okinawa, which will be simply home in Harukana Receive. Because of the nature of this anime, I think that readers will have to grit their teeth and simply accept that I’m going to be showing off a lot of 455 and 7175 in the screenshots. However, readers familiar with this blog also know how I deal with figure captions for 455-and-7175-intensive posts: I tend to meander off and talk about other stuff, so there should be no danger of this blog veering into family-unfriendly turf while Harukana Receive is running.

  • Here’s a bit of trivia as to why this post is titled “A Faraway Receiver”. Harukana is はるかな, which directly translates to “far away”, which is appropriate as an title for a series set in the distant beaches of Okinawa by summer, when the skies do seem further away. I remark that I was tempted to make a DragonForce joke, since half of their songs contain the phrase “so far away” or some variation of. The last time I did episodic reviews as a series aired, was for Brave Witches. This was a fun series to write for because of the combination of girls and guns, and while Harukana Receive may not have any guns, it does have many other elements that I am interested in taking a look at. I’m not sure how many of my readers are big on sports anime, and I’m similarly certain that many will be surprise that I will be writing about beach volleyball when my strengths lie elsewhere.

Readers would be forgiven in wondering what there is to write about in Harukana Receive, whose manga is centred around Haruka Ōzora, a tall girl who moves to Okinawa from Tokyo during her second year of high school. In Okinawa, she encounters her cousin, Kanata Higa, who is quite skilled in beach volleyball but also short in stature, making it difficult for her to continue playing. However, between Haruka’s height and Kanata’s skill, the two find partners in one another. A heartwarming and fun sports story thus awaits, but as I am a complete novice in volleyball, one could imagine that I would struggle with finding things to say on a weekly basis. Further to this, it’s been quite some time since I’ve done episodic reviews. With this being said, Harukana Receive looks to be a fine opportunity to write about an anime that is set during the summer; most of the slice-of-life show I’ve written about previously during the summer span a handful of seasons, but Harukana Receive is predominantly on the warm beaches of Okinawa, home of Gōjū-ryū, the branch of karate that I practise. As such, with the warm weather, endless beaches and stunning characters, Harukana Receive exudes the sense of summer. I greatly look forwards to seeing Haruka’s growth as a beach volleyball player as the series progresses, as well as seeing what other strengths that this anime has to offer. Because the manga is in a standard format, rather than the four-panel format, I am expecting that the series will resemble Yuru Camp△ in some areas, being friendly towards newcomers, like myself, who are unfamiliar with volleyball, but also tell a meaningful story about teamwork and talent in the process. Yuru Camp△ capitalised on the anime medium to really bring camping to life through the use of visuals and audio, so I also imagine that Harukana Receive will do the same. With the first episode airing on July 6, I will aim to finish the finale posts for each of Amanchu! Advance, Comic Girls and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online before then.

An Introspection At A Million Views: Reaching A New Milestone

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.” –Brian Clark

The Infinite Mirai is roughly six-and-a-half years old now, and it is at this point where I’ve crossed the million-view threshold. Seeing this number on the all-time views metric leads me to reflect on what this means: a million of anything can be either a lot or a little depending on one’s perspective. A million milliliters of water would weigh a million grams (a thousand kilograms). A computer display with the resolution 1280 by 800 would have 1024000 pixels, and a million one-dollar USD bills would weigh a thousand kilograms (USD bills weigh one gram). It would take 11.57 days to count to a million if one incremented once every second. This is where the Infinite Mirai currently stands, and this milestone is the culmination of the readers’ continued interest – it is no exaggeration to say that readers are the singular reason why the Infinite Mirai has a million views, and consequently, it makes sense to give my thanks to all of you for having helped this blog reach such a milestone. Taking a leaf from TheRadBrad’s page, you’re the best readers ever, so thank you – I know you’ll probably get sick of me saying it, but thank you for giving me the inspiration to watch and write about things for you guys. It means a great deal to me, and without you, this blog would probably not be what it is now. There’s quite a bit of road that was covered to reaching a million views, and this post represents a break in tradition from what I usually do.

  • Every time I did a milestone post, I said that I might quit. Six-and-a-half years in, I think that it’s safe to say that this blog is likely to stick around in its current incarnation, using the methods that I’ve found that work well enough for me. Over the past year, I find that I’ve been a lot closer to parts of the WordPress anime blogging community, and it’s been a fun experience to interact with other WordPress bloggers, all of whom have their own strong points, struggles and experiences with both life and anime.

Up until now, I have not particularly been keen on sharing my site metrics, nor have I given any suggestions and learnings I’ve accumulated to other bloggers. The reason for the former is simply because my traffic does not and should not impact what I do: while professionals bloggers need to be mindful of their visitor count for good reason, I blog as a hobby, and as such, it matters little if my posts reach ten people or ten thousand people. As for advice, I’ve long felt that in the population of casual bloggers, the number of ways to run an operation equals the number of members in that population. In other words, speak to ten bloggers and you’ll likely get eleven different approaches, all of which are functional. However, with this million views milestone, I’m breaking the tradition: first, all readers now know that a million pages have been viewed in some capacity, and basic arithmetic means that I get around 416 visitors a day. There are a total of 943 posts excluding this one, so each post averages 1060 views. Of course, these numbers are quite skewed – my earliest posts are not visible on search engines, and since I started my blog in October 2011, the years 2011 and 2012 are characterised by a very low visitor count, corresponding to my not using this blog to its full capacity until 2013. Looking through the archives will show just how different my style is now, compared to what it was when I first started. As an aside, I was secretly hoping that I would reach the thousand-post milestone close to when I reached a million page views, but as I’m still some sixty six posts out, that certainly won’t happen now. Having now dealt with the hard numbers about the Infinite Mirai, I move to the next topic which has hitherto not been covered here: any learnings that I’ve accrued over the past six-and-a-half years.

  • This is what things look like from my dashboard. Rudimentary statistics from my site are shown here, and I share a few interesting points: compared with the remainder of the community, my site has a much smaller number of followers, fewer comments and fewer likes. While I cannot say anything definitive about traffic for other blogs that I enjoy reading, the Infinite Mirai enjoys relatively consistent viewership coming from social media, Reddit and other platforms, as well as a high search engine visibility (try doing a search on Google for “Kantai Collection” and “Frostbite Engine”).

The list of things I’ve seen both professional bloggers and fellow anime bloggers present is a large one: suggestions have included tips for extending one’s presence and promotion, how to maintain consistency in one’s content, what sorts of topics to cover in anime reviews, and even how to pick a suitable layout for one’s blog. I’m going to say this openly: none of this matters unless one is writing for a professional blog, where search engine optimisation and inbound traffic corresponds with advertisement revenue, which keeps the lights on. For non-professional blogs, I have a very simple credos: be yourself. Traffic is not the end-all for us, and the joys of blogging are community building; it is a joy to be able to talk with other individuals sharing similar interests, and the close-knit nature of anime blogging in this age means that differing perspectives are eye-openers, instructive, rather than fuel for flame wars. With this in mind, one might then ask, if I’ve not followed any particular approach that both professional and casual bloggers advocate, then why is the Infinite Mirai as visible as it is? After all, searches for certain keywords will find the Infinite Mirai at or near the top of Google searches. Some folks have even remarked that my blog appears almost everywhere in searches related to slice-of-life and military-moé. The answer to this is that I’ve been unknowingly doing a form of search engine optimisation: I take a very unusual approach to my anime and gaming discussions, comparing things that seemingly cannot (or should not) be compared (e.g. comparing Les Stroud’s survival tips with what is seen in Yuru Camp△). I also dabble in conversion of Japanese information into English articles, write about games and reference various shows that I watch, and in general, approach things differently enough so that search engines can find the content, and that people end up finding what they sought when encountering my content. This is how I roll, but it wasn’t how I always rolled: it takes time for bloggers to find their structure and workflow, so when I say “be yourself”, I refer to finding a workflow that one should enjoy using, and then applying their own take on things. This is what keeps blogging enjoyable for me, and the reason why I’ve stuck around for a non-trivial period of time.

  • So, on a quiet April evening, where the winter weather has finally given way to the warmth of spring, I pass a milestone that, like my all-exotic loadout from The Division, I never really expected to reach. From what I’ve heard, this blog’s contents have been somewhat useful and mostly enjoyable for readers, so I’m very happy to have been able to positively impact a number of individuals out there. It is my belief that positivity is a choice, and in a world where negativity can be overwhelming, I aim to bring a piece of happiness into whatever it is that I do. Blogging is no different, and as such, I find that the best way to enjoy entertainment is to be open-minded; while some folks prefer the challenge of assessing what they don’t like, for me, life is too short to be doing this unless one is doing so in a professional capacity, so I stick with reflecting on what I like. Having said this, what would you, the readers, like to see from me in the future?

The lingering question for readers then becomes what will the future have in store for the Infinite Mirai. I’m not sure whether or not the Infinite Mirai will be around long enough to hit the two or ten million view mark, and on that note, I’m similarly uncertain as to whether or not I will reach the two or five thousand post mark. With that being said, there are some things that are a bit more certain. This blog has proven to be unexpectedly resilient, and I’ve said this previously – I will keep the party going here until there’s a suitable endpoint for this blog. In the meantime, readers can expect more of the same from me: unusual, unorthodox and unconventional approaches to talking about anime. I will continue approaching shows from a high level and exploring who a given show is for, as well as what aspects about people the show is trying to present. I will continue referencing the obscure or unusual, and I will continue to have a good ol’e time with those who participate in discussions. As for fellow bloggers who have begun their journey, I will note that the million views milestone is merely a part of the journey, and would encourage them to stick around; by the time one’s blog reaches a million views, they will have encountered a host of interesting individuals and ideas, and have created content that’s likely helped someone, somewhere with their own endeavours. In the meantime, I would like to thank all of the visitors and fellow bloggers alike for having done so much to inspire and motivate me to continue writing, to the point where a milestone I once thought unreachable is now something that is very much a reality. ありがとう!

An end of summer reflection: On pleasant weather and the dog days of summer in Yuyushiki

“August has passed, and yet summer continues by force to grow days. They sprout secretly between the chapters of the year, covertly included between its pages.” —Jonathan Safran Foer

While Yuyushiki is primarily about Yuzuko, Yui and Yukari’s time in their high school’s data processing club, one of the aspects that is often passed over during discussions of Yuyushiki is its depictions of the summer season. Throughout Yuyushiki, the lighting and colours are typically of a moderate intensity and saturation to convey a gentle mood throughout the anime as Yui and the others go about their everyday lives in the data processing club, looking up uncommon topics and having enjoyable discussions about the things they learn during their time in the club. However, when the hottest days of the year arrive and classes are no longer in session, the atmosphere in Yuyushiki takes on a different tone. Summer skies are of a a dazzling blue hue, with the landscapes fading away closer to the ground, where moving air creates a sense of heat. The brightness of the landscape reinforces the sun’s intensity to accentuate the hot days of summer, and to complete the presentation, the sound of cicadas are openly heard. In spite of the simpler artwork of Yuyushiki, it’s quite evident that summer is in the air. There’s a palatable sense of excitement at the unlimited possibilities conferred in a season characterised by long days and pleasant weather; all of these feelings are captured in Yuyushiki to give the sense that this is really an anime to be watched during the summer, and from a personal perspective, the summers of Yuyushiki remain the most vivid in my memories of this anime, despite the fact that only two of Yuyushiki‘s original twelve episodes were actually set during the summer itself.

  • One of the things about Yuyushiki that took some getting used to were the unusual facial expressions. They’re very much a part of Yuyushiki now and are a fantastic visual indicator that a character is feeling exasperated, mischievous or confused. Close inspection of this image finds Yui rendered in rather higher detail in some parts than others, while background characters remain quite two dimensional.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this, but Yui is my favourite of the main characters. I’ve not actually been to a pool in the summer for quite some time now; while I have basic knowledge of swimming and could probably survive in water, but I’m generally not fond of pools, owing to the smell of chlorine, which lingers for a while after leaving the pool. Even the unseasonably high temperatures of this summer have not been sufficient to motivate me to visit the local pool: the most I’ve done this summer to cool off on a hot day was to buy a Pepsi-flavoured slush by evening.

  • The hot summer weather of this image evokes memories of a quiet neighbourhood following the aftermath of the Great Flood of 2013: on Canada Day, the weather had been most beautiful, and I spent the day at home in the cool, playing Tribes Ascend and Vindictus after stepping out to a nearby Dairy Queen for a burger. Quiet summer days of this sort can induce a melancholy if one’s schedule is not filled, but in the time that’s passed, I have come to appreciate a quiet summer afternoon to myself, if only for the fact that I now only experience thus on weekends.

  • Most of my summer activities this year involve hiking in the mountains: during the course of the summer, I made three trips out to the National Parks, compliments of the free Park Pass. The first trip of the summer was out to Yoho National Park, then I visited the Vermillion Lakes and had dinner at Melissa’s Missteak in Banff, and more recently, hiked to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive. It’s been fantastic, and into the autumn, there are plans to visit the mountains again provided the weather is favourable.

  • Besides going into the mountains, I’ve also enjoyed our equivalent of a summer festival in the Calgary Stampede, attended the GlobalFest 2017 fireworks finale show and watched Dunkirk. The weather this summer has also been quite conducive to eating watermelon and corn on the cob: we’ve had one watermelon a week since July and nothing defeats the summer heat quite like a chilled cut of watermelon. Other notable summer activities include enjoying a vast BBQ dinner at Big T’s.

  • The only real downside about this summer was the fact that, the beautiful weather that has given so much opportunity to spend time outside and the associated heat also means that conditions were ideal for wildfires. To our neighbour in the West, vast fires having been burning since July, and at least twenty days have seen smokey skies. According to old weather records, the last time my city was covered by this much smoke, it was 1969. The smoke’s wrecked havoc on my lungs, and just last night, I awoken to a face full of smoke.

  • It’s actually somewhat surprising to note that as I’ve enjoyed this summer to quite an extent considering my busy schedule: work’s been an uphill climb since I returned from Japan, and I fully appreciate weekends now that I’ve finished university for good. Back in Yuyushiki, Yuzuko, Yui and Yukari make for the beach. There are precisely two episodes set during the summer: the first has the girls going to a pool and spending time at Yui’s house under the air conditioning, while the second is the finale, which sees Yui and the others visiting the beach.

  • In these moments, Yuyushiki conveys the sort of carefreeness associated with summer; even I feel the effects of pleasant weather on Fridays leading into a weekend, and productivity typically declines by a small margin when the day grows late. The images above illustrate the sort of skies in Yuyushiki that so effectually capture the summer feeling despite the minimalist art in Yuyushiki – other anime, including The Garden of Words, CLANNAD, Non Non Biyori and Ano Natsu de Matteru, are rather more detailed with respect to foliage and environment details to convey a sense of warmth and brightness.

  • Unless I’m mistaken, Yuyushiki‘s manga is still running: it’s been four years since the anime’s original run, and there’s likely quite a bit of material that could be adapted into anime form. Having said this, Yuyushiki‘s premise is remarkably basic, even for a Kirara-kei anime; while I’d likely watch a continuation, there’s no guarantee that there is a market for more Yuyushiki.

  • It feels appropriate to conclude this post with an image of Yuzuko, Yui and Yukari walking home after their day at the beach under a sunset. As summer turns to autumn, days begin shortening, and winter will be upon us once again. No longer do I mind the end of a season so greatly loved, knowing that it light return once again.

It’s been some four years since I’ve watched Yuyushiki, and the fact that the summer episodes remain quite memorable is a powerful testament to the effectiveness that the use of visual and aural elements can have in shaping the viewer’s recollections of an anime, and in retrospect, some of Yuyushiki‘s best moments are set during the long days of summer, when Yui, Yuzuko and Yukari capitalise on the weather to create their own memories. The fantastically agreeable weather also brings to mind the events of my own summer. While I’m no longer a student and therefore have no summer vacations, this has not diminished my enjoyment of the season. Owing to a high pressure system in the area, the whole of this summer has been sunny and hot: from the various hikes I’ve taken, to the quiet days spent at the local library or bookstore, from the journeys out into the mountains to watching a partial eclipse happen, this summer certainly has been enjoyable. Today is the last day of August, and with it, we march into a season where students begin returning to classes. For me, this means the gradual cooling of things, the transition of the landscape from verdant to gold, and traffic jams. In my Tamayura: More Aggressive review four years ago, I reviled this, saying that it was a return to “that most hated of seasons”; looking back on my old words, it’s a bit of a surprise to learn that my outlooks on things have changed considerably since then. Autumn is a beautiful season, with its own merits that make it worthwhile, and I imagine that this shift of heart perhaps is a sign that I’m growing older. Furthermore, contrary to my assertions four years earlier, I’ve not completely forgotten Yuyushiki, and that in itself is an indicator that the anime was worthwhile to watch.

Five years since the MCAT: A Personal Reflection

“You’ll do really good you know, I’ll pray for your success! But you got it. Tell me how it goes after, and go buy something sweet afterwards! You should reward yourself with something yummyy~” —Ab imo pectore

As the title states, five years have now elapsed since I took the MCAT, and in the time that has passed, quite a bit has changed. For one, the AAMC has revised their exam such that there are now five sections, taking a total of seven-and-a-half hours to complete, compared to the 1994-2014 version of the exam: the computerised variant in 2007 could be finished in around five hours. In this time, my old MCAT expired, meaning that if I were to still retain any aspirations for a Medical Doctor degree, I would need to face down the new MCAT. This is something I’m unlikely to do, but at this five-year mark, the impact of taking an MCAT and the associated preparation for the exam remains a very profound one for me. There are bits and pieces of these recollections in the blog, especially in the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare posts, and the short of it is that I spent three months of my summer in 2012 preparing for the exam, spending many a summer day poring over textbooks and review material, occasionally stopping by the medical campus to review with friends who had previously taken the exam and were gracious enough to offer assistance, or else whiled away short breaks in the library, watching anime on an iPad during mornings before my MCAT preparation courses. Through the combination of sheer willpower, unending support from my friends and a bit of luck, I left my exam feeling as though a large weight were lifted from me: under the golden light of an evening sun, I stepped out for dinner at a Chinese-style bistro and greatly enjoyed this despite it not being something sweet as one of my friends recommended. I then proceeded to sleep the best sleep I’d slept all summer. Now, the summer lay ahead, and I spent the remainder on it working on my first-ever publication, as well as shoring up my old renal model in preparation for my final year in the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme.

  • Besides long days spent studying for exams, one of the most vivid memories I have of 2012 was the fact that, owing to a frayed cable coming into the house, my broadband internet connection intermittently disconnected that summer, making doing full-length practise exams at home impossible. I recall a memorable July morning that I spent doing a practise exam and finished, scoring a 30T on it, right before the internet cut out. After lunch, I watched Survivorman and took the day easy. The connection eventually became so problemmatic that I did my final full-length exam on campus, using my lab’s Mac Pro, during one afternoon, before heading out to dinner at Bobby Chao’s with family. Here, I scored the 33T, and entering the exam, I was feeling much more confident.

  • This is a screenshot of my exam results. With encouragement from a friend, I walked into the exam a little nervous, but striving to do my best. Said friend’s constant, upbeat encouragement and support gave me a huge sense of comfort, and when my exam results came out, I was pleasantly surprised. However, as my undergraduate thesis wore on, I wondered if medicine would really be the best career path for me, and so, I took another year to figure that out while my friend took an exchange program in Japan. Our paths diverged here – they were broadening their horizons and chasing their dreams in Japan while I busied myself with learning more about software and learning to appreciate my home town more.

  • While we have gone our separate ways, it is appropriate to thank this individual once more: looking back, these experiences have also been integral in shaping who I am. Perhaps in the future, there’ll be a chance to do things over again properly. For now, this brings my reminiscences very nearly to a close: I do not think I will mention the MCAT again as it fades into memories past. I assure readers that future posts will return to the realm of the subjects I am wont to dealing with; this unusual segue is the consequence of the five-year mark passing on my MCAT, the point where scores usually expire.

A month later, my results arrived; I have previously not mentioned my scores at this blog, but with my scores expired, there is no harm in revealing them now. On my MCAT, I scored a 35T (the true score is likely between 33 and 37, inclusive), having managed to squeak by in verbal reasoning with a 10. The AAMC conversion estimates that of the people taking the exam, only four percent scored above me, and in today’s standards, a 35T approximates to a 517. Five years after the MCAT, my score has largely become a number now, with limited applicability except perhaps acting as a conversation topic for dinner parties. While the exam score itself may not hold a particularly great deal of importance, the experiences leading up to the MCAT and the attendant learnings would forever change the way I approach challenges. The summer also led to a first for me: I liken it to a variant of Tsuki ga Kirei where things don’t work quite so nicely, but as that story’s already been recounted in full previously, I won’t detail it too much further. While undoubtedly painful, I do not regret that things happened; it was reassuring to have someone provide support and encouragement during the MCAT, and although our paths have separated, I’ve not forgotten what they’ve done to help me. While the MCAT may initially appear to have been quite unnecessary, considering my eventual directions and the costs associated with preparing for the exam, in retrospect, this was an exam where the experiences conferred were those that proved to be quite helpful, whether it be learning how to read and problem-solve efficiently or how to handle stress. These learnings would subsequently allow me to wrap up my undergraduate and graduate programmes on a high note, contributing to how I approach problem-solving even today.