The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Japanese Animation

Anime and Real Life, The Intersection of Magic and Maturity on the Shores of Okinawa: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of The Aquatope on White Sand

“If there is magic on this planet, it’s contained in water.” –Lorene Eisley

Readers may recall that a little less than a year ago, I’d hit the white sands of Okinawa’s beaches with the Oculus Quest and its Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC processor to find where Haruka and Kanata’s quest to become Japan’s top under-18 beach volleyball players took place. During this journey, I most enjoyed the fact that Harukana Receive took viewers to corners of Okinawa that locals would be familiar with. In The Aquatope on White Sand, after Fūka Miyazawa arrives in Okinawa on a spur of the moment, after deciding she needed to get away from things following her decision to quit the idol business, she immediately finds herself in a shopping district in downtown Naha. Fūka ends up meeting a fortune teller who tells her to go east, and after falling asleep near Hyakana Beach, she encounters Karin Kudaka, who recommends that Fūka check out the local aquarium near Nanjō. Here, Fūka has a fateful meeting with Kukuru Misakino; this chance meeting changes both girls’ lives forever, allowing them to pick themselves up from what the anime described as the ruins of shattered dreams. Like Harukana Receive, The Aquatope on White Sand focuses on locations that are a bit more out-of-the way to really convey a sense of authenticity, and during the series’ first half, Okinawa’s eastern coast is lovingly depicted, becoming as familiar and friendly as Fūka and Kukuru were. The region around Gama Gama is faithfully portrayed, although right from the start, it became clear that The Aquatope on White Sand was going to take liberties with locations – Gama Gama is located where Azama Sun Sun Beach stands, and a glance at satellite imagery finds no such aquarium at this spot. However, whereas The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half portrayed Okinawa in such a way as to render viewers familiar with Kukuru’s home, the second half of the series placed a much greater emphasis on Kukuru and Fūka’s professional development as they work for the larger, better-funded and newer Tingarla Aquarium. The intensity of work displaces the wonders of Okinawa, and fewer locations were seen in this series’ second half; like Gama Gama, Tingarla is a fictional aquarium tailor-made for The Aquatope on White Sand. However, this hadn’t stopped me from keeping an eye on the locations in The Aquatope on White Sand – that the series continues to utilise real world locations speaks to the fact that both Fūka and Kukuru’s experiences are something with a basis on reality, something relatable. Since I’d already been familiar with Okinawa from previous location hunts, as well as the fact that Okinawa has 3D photogrammetry data, I continued on with my location hunt as the series progressed, and in the end, was able to find a few more locations of interest, far removed from the beaten trail that visitors normally tread when they visit Okinawa.

  • Being Japan’s equivalent of Hawaii, or Japan’s equivalent of Heinan, Okinawa is an oft-visited destination in anime: I’d previously done an Oculus Quest-powered location hunt for Harukana Receive, but will note that anime like Non Non BiyoriAzumanga DaiohPuraOre!, Ano Natsu De Matteru and countless others have also hit Okinawa’s tropical beaches and inviting waters during the summer. The Aquatope on White Sand returns things to Okinawa with its own unique spin of things, and utilises the wonderous sights of Okinawa for a new goal: to serve as the backdrop for two journeys of self-discovery and growth.

  • When The Aquatope on White Sand first began airing, P.A Works immediately established that the events would be set around Nanjō, Okinawa. This city has a population of 41000 and was established in 2006 from the merger of several villages in the Shimajiri District, together with the town of Sashiki. Located on the southeastern edge of Okinawa, Nanjō is due east of capital Naha. The fact that Nanjō is only fifty square kilometres meant I had a very manageable search area to work with, and after the first episode of The Aquatope on White Sand, I’d located the roads that Fūka had travelled along, starting with her walk here along Niraikanai Bridge.

  • Following Route 331 north allowed me to find the same spots The Aquatope on White Sand portrays throughout its earliest episodes, and while these are unremarkable in every way (they’re not exactly attractions or points of interest), they do showcase the level of attention paid to details in this anime. Although I had to imagine the tropical heat of Okinawa whilst using the Oculus Quest, every other detail was faithfully rendered, and I could imagine a lost Fūka wandering down the sidewalk along Route 331, wondering what the fortune teller’s advice from the previous day had meant.

  • As with the location hunt I’d done for The World in Colours, there are some spots in The Aquatope on White Sand where the Oculus Quest can’t reach simply because of constraints with Street View data: were one to have boots on the ground, they’d be able to simply walk up to a spot and grab a photo. However, Street View is still sufficiently comprehensive in Okinawa such that I had a reasonable time of finding everything: here, I locate the spots for one of the stills from the first episode’s beginning, which featured several frames of locations along Route 331.

  • A-Coop is a supermarket chain in Japan, and this particular A-Coop is one that visitors recommend: it stocks souvenirs as well as local Okinawan products like seasonings and sweets, selling them for reduced prices compared to more touristy shops in the area. This sort of thing wouldn’t be known to travellers who don’t wander off the beaten path, and it strikes me that, were I to visit Okinawa now, if I were looking for Okinawa specialties, A-Coops would not be a bad choice. I certainly wouldn’t have known about this had a not done a location hunt post, and this is one of the reasons why I’m so fond of location hunts (the effort to write about them notwithstanding).

  • A little further down the road is a post office, general store and travel agency: the travel agency occupies the same spot that Tsukimi’s family restaurant is located, and in the distance, the Minamishiroichi Sight Seeing Information Center can be seen. I’ve chosen not to include sites related to the characters, such as Tsukimi’s family restaurant and Gama Gama itself, because these were locations that were tailor-made for The Aquatope on White Sand. It is not uncommon for studios to modify locations to fit the anime’s story, and so, it goes without saying that folks looking to do a tour of The Aquatope on White Sand should not expect to find a cozy street-side eatery serving up Okinawan classics.

  • The building seen here is actually a coworking space called Agai Tida, which overlooks the Chinen Peninsula and offers a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean. Despite its unassuming exterior, Agai Tida has a beautifully appointed interior. Coworking spaces are a relatively new construct that became popular in Europe during the mid-2000s, and in North America, became popular after Anca Mosoiu established a coworking space in the Bay Area. Presented as a chance for cross-discipline collaboration, coworking spaces allow different companies to share office space and utilities, as well as providing remote workers an office-like environment that working from home cannot provide. In my home town, coworking has seen limited success: my previous employer operated out of a coworking space owned by Aspen Properties, and I absolutely loved the environment the space provided.

  • In late 2019, WeWork had announced they had bought out a few floors in our building, including ours, forcing us to move to a smaller building a few blocks away. This building was removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown and had a lower occupancy, making it feel a little more isolated. However, at the global health crisis’ onset, we would ultimately give the space up and worked from home remotely to cut costs further. I’m no longer with this start-up, but having acclimatised to working from home, I’ve been able to adapt to my new position quite readily. Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, I’ve made a right turn off Route 331 down Shining Sun Road, which leads to Azuma Sun Sun Beach, home of Gama Gama Aquarium.

  • It turns out that the driftwood swing set seen in The Aquatope on White Sand is located at Azama Sun Sun Beach, and while it’s probably not the most exciting swing set in the world, there is an appeal about its aesthetic: it conveys a very lonely feeling that mirrors how this early on in The Aquatope on White Sand, Kukuru is completely alone in her endeavours to save Gama Gama Aquarium from closure. Looking back, I’d gone into The Aquatope on White Sand hoping that Gama Gama would be saved, since this was the magic of fiction, but the series ended up going above and beyond expectations in its portrayal of the transition to adulthood by showing how aspirations and dreams can be realised even if in the moment, it seems like there is no other way.

  • Azama Sun Sun Beach lies at the easternmost end of Nanjō, and its location means that compared to more well-known beaches in Okinawa, it is a ways less crowded. The beach offers basic services like showers and change rooms, in addition to tubing and paragliding. The shallow waters make this a suitable place to bring children, and there are a host of gazebos with picnic tables that are perfect for a day out, although visitors report that fees are charged for everything from parking to toilet paper and towels.

  • It is here, adjacent to the shores of Azama Sun Sun Beach, that Gama Gama Aquarium is located – it appears that the shallow waters east of the beach have been filled in to accommodate an aquarium, and moreover, in The Aquatope on White Sand, this aquarium’s been here for quite some time. Although Gama Gama itself is fictional, it is with some degree of irony that visitors looking to check Azama Sun Sun Beach for themselves will find it quite true to life in that Gama Gama was demolished during The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half.

  • While looking around the Nanjō area to see if Gama Gama was indeed real during The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first few episodes, I employed 3D imagery to lend a hand to the search process, and in doing so, I came across a pair of wind turbines located a short ways away from Niraikanai Bridge. Fūka and Kukuru aren’t ever shown as coming up here themselves, but during the first episode’s opening moments, a wind turbine can be seen through the grass.

  • The first half of The Aquatope on White Sand offers the lion’s share of the anime’s real-world locations: by the second half, the focus is in Kukuru and Tingarla Aquarium. Tingarla Aquarium itself is fictional, set in an undisclosed location, and after the second half began, I did a naïve search for all aquariums in Okinawa to see if any of them could have inspired Tingarla. If memory serves, nothing came up: DMM Kariyushi Aquarium is the largest in Okinawa and is located at the heart of Naha, but inspection of its exhibits find that Tingarla is an order of magnitude more sophisticated. However, I ended up finding another aquarium at Aeon Mall Rycom, the mall that Haruka and Kanata went swimsuit shopping at. This in turn led me to find the spot where Kukuru and Fūka’s apartment is located. The Aquatope on White Sand has a rental complex on the site, whereas in reality, private residences fill the site.

  • Kukuru and Fūka’s apartment was probably the toughest spot to find in the whole of the location hunt. Like the tougher spots from The World in Colours, finding the apartments that Kukuru and Fūka reside at simply took a lot of hours looking at a lot of locations inside the Ouclus Quest, and in the end, I canvased both the build-up areas east and west of the mall. In the end, I found the apartments, located four kilometres away from Aeon Mall Rycom on foot. It would take around 40 minutes to walk, whereas The Aquatope on White Sand suggests that the apartment is no more than 15 minutes from Tingarla.

  • The pair of Shisa guarding the entry into Route 39 can be found near the Nippon Life Naha Building at the intersection between Routes 39 and 42. Things look a little glitzier in the real world than they do in The Aquatope on White Sand, but the combination of Shisa and palm trees indicates this is indeed the spot, even though there are minute differences between anime and reality. Unlike Fūka and Kukuru’s apartment, these spots were considerably easier to find; after her arrival, Fūka is limited to only a few modes of transportation and ends up at a shōtengai, so a quick search for these shopping districts returned Makisihi Public Market down Route 39.

  • From here, I was able to trace Fūka’s steps from the airport to Makisihi Public Market, a total walking distance of 4.6 kilometres if one travels along Route 331. The building here, behind Fūka, is the entrance to a store and office building of sorts. Adjacent to this is an ice cream shot, Blue Seal: if memory serves, this is where Fūka ends up grabbing an ice cream. Blue Seal was originally an American company that made ice cream for Americans in Okinawa, but by 1963, they served everyone and began integrating Okinawan flavours into their ice cream.

  • This is the entrance to Makisihi Public Market, known to locals as Naha’s Kitchen for its dazzling array of fresh vegetables, fruits, meat and fish. The market opened in 1972, and there’s a second floor with all manner of Okinawan eateries on the second floor. For visitors looking to have the most authentic Okinawan experience possible, Makisihi Public Market is the place to visit. It suddenly strikes me that, how these establishing shots were framed really serve to capture the melancholy in Fūka when she first set foot in Okinawa.

  • The incidental music in The Aquatope on White Sand absolutely captures this, and on the topic of the soundtrack, it released earlier today. Yoshiaki Dewa reprises his role from The World in Colour, incorporating the sanshin into songs that convey a sense of longing and sadness. In particular, the tracks that stood out most for me was Fūka’s theme, Sea Turtle Fūka and Farewell to Dolphins. The Fūka at The Aquatope on White Sand‘s end the difference between night and day, being more outgoing and confident. However, every journey began somewhere, and it is amidst one of the smaller shops at Makisihi Public Market where Fūka’s course changes forever, when she meets a fortune teller who sends her eastward, towards Gama Gama Aquarium.

  • Having already shown where Gama Gama is, I see no reason to go back, and instead, will present a shot of Naha’s skyline from Daiwa Roynet Hotel: this hotel opened in 2015 and combines clean facilities, attentive staff and an excellent location with reasonable rates. There’s a restaurant on the top floor that offers an unmatched view of Naha, visible here. From here, the Naha Terrace (another hotel, visible as the building with a stairwell outside) can be seen, as well as the Fuso Building (just above the large apartment complex) and the ocean itself.

  • The building that Kukuru and Tetsuji meet the wedding planner at actually does host a wedding-related company in reality: Bridal House Tutu. They’re located down Route 58, and specialise in wedding attire rental. Bridal House Tutu actually has locations throughout Japan, from Sapporo to Osaka, and besides Western-style dresses and tuxedoes, Bridal House Tutu also rents out traditional kimonos, too. Tutu has access to several venues in Okinawa, and it speaks to the realism in The Aquatope on White Sand that a similar company is looking to expand the variety of places it has available to customers.

  • Looking around, one finds the road Tetsuji and Kukuru stand alone prior to entering the building. Finding this location boiled down to a bit of luck; it was a shot in the dark as to whether or not I would actually be able to locate the building, and I ended up doing a search for a range of wedding-related topics to see if anything would stick. Similarly to Kukuru and Fūka’s apartment, it took a bit of searching using the Oculus Quest to find the location. Standing in contrast with the locations from The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, which were clustered around Nanjō’s eastern edge, the second half’s locations are scattered throughout Okinawa.

  • This spot, for instance, is located along the Hija River in Furugen, and again, was only found because I’d been looking around the shores of Kadena Air Base to see if there were any familiar spots. Given how everything is placed in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s second half, the series’ detractors might argue that the haphazard choice of locations mirror the shift in the story’s focus. Fortunately, it is usually the case that people who tear down anime don’t exactly have the sharpest of minds or the best understanding of literary analysis – no one has yet suggested that the locations of The Aquatope on White Sand parallel the quality of writing. Had this happened, I would counter that in the series’ second half, Kukuru’s focus is narrowed, mirroring how adults often lose sight of the world around them because of their singular devotion towards accomplishing their goals.

  • During my search for other aquariums around Okinawa that might’ve been the inspiration for Tingarla,  I came across Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. This aquarium opened in 1975 as a part of the World Expo, and is one of the largest aquariums in the world, being one of the few places that exhibit whale sharks and manta rays in its tanks. In 2002, the original expo facility was replaced by a larger, and more modern installation, leading attendance rates to increase nearly six times. General admissions for adults is 1880 Yen (20.90 CAD), and a glance at the map shows that Churaumi (“Beautiful Ocean”) is vast: besides the main building, the entire area is a park. The pavilion here, where Fūka, Kukuru and Karin often have lunch, is replicated faithfully. Unfortunately for proponents of realism, Churaumi is located some 65 kilometres away from where Kukuru and Fūka live: it is simply not walkable.

  • One location that was almost certainly tailor-made for The Aquatope on White Sand was the island Kukuru ends up visiting on her unsanctioned break, and a quick look at the topological data found nothing in Okinawa that resembled this island. Conversely, when Fūka returns home, she and Kaoru head down Route 58 just south of Nago. This particular bend in the road is located near Nuchigusui, a coastal restaurant with an impressive menu: visitors report fair prices and large portions for dishes, which are tried-and-true classics with an Okinawan twist. While The Aquatope on White Sand represents one of the more tricky location hunts I’ve ever done, right alongside The World in Colours, I’m glad to have taken the time to do a handful of comparisons between anime and real life: it definitively shows the effort that went into making both series captivating and compelling.

The Aquatope on White Sand presented a different set of challenges for location hunting compared to The World in Colours – the fact that The Aquatope on White Sand had utilised fictionalised spots in conjunction with real world locations, and this has made the process considerably more difficult. For instance, Kukuru and Fūka are shown to live within walking distance of Tingarla, but no landmarks near Tingarla are ever shown. Attempts to do a search of coastal areas comes up short; an aquarium of Tingarla’s size would be located in Naha, and in reality, the largest aquarium in Naha is DMM Kariyushi Aquarium, which is five klicks south of Naha Airport. However, the entire area is flat, and Tingarla is shown as being located near some cliffs. This led me to search for aquariums elsewhere in Okinawa, and although this approach allowed me to find Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which is an established aquarium that does provide some of the inspiration for Tingarla, I was left with no more clues about things, since the nearest town, Nago, is twenty-two kilometres away by car, making it unlikely that Fūka and Kukuru would commute here on foot. Similarly, Rycom Aquarium, inside Aeon Mall Okinawa Rycom, is located too far inland to be an appropriate candidate. However, knowing that this did show up in the search led me to look around the area, and while it’s not particularly walkable, I did end up finding the area that inspired Fūka and Kukuru’s apartment. I was left to conclude that, while the major aquariums of The Aquatope on White Sand might be fictional, there remained a large number of places that inspired the places seen in the anime; the decision to retain some real world locations and create fictionalised spots speaks to how The Aquatope on White Sand is intended to tell a very specific story, and that there were moments where it was more appropriate to modify things a little so the anime was more effective in its intended aims. This aspect is a common part of fiction, and the fact that The Aquatope on White Sand took this route is to mirror the fact that realism isn’t a given anime’s objective. However, while the largest players in The Aquatope on White Sand might have no real world equivalent, numerous other spots in The Aquatope on White Sand are indeed real, speaking to the idea that the lessons this anime were aiming to convey have a basis in reality, as well. Having now gone through yet another location hunt set in Okinawa, home of my martial arts style (gōjū-ryū), I am left with the conclusion that, should I ever decide to travel to Okinawa in the future, I’d be able to do a three-in-one special: besides experiencing the touristy things that anime often depict, I’d also have a chance to walk the same beaches Haruka and Kanata vie for the beach volleyball championships in, as well as treading the same paths that Fūka and Kukuru take on their journey to becoming fully-fledged members of society. Such a trip is enticing, but as I’d noted in the location hunt for The World in Colours, any journey of this scale is going to have to wait a little while longer. Until the time is appropriate, however, I have access to a tool that will allow me to imitate the experience: Okinawa is only the opening of an app, and the flick of a wrist, away for me in the Oculus Quest.

Anime and Real Life, Finding The Colours of Nagasaki: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

“Without black, no colour has any depth. But if you mix black with everything, suddenly there’s shadow – no, not just shadow, but fullness. You’ve got to be willing to mix black into your palette if you want to create something that’s real.” –Amy Grant

Fireworks fill the sky of Nagasaki in August 2078 – it’s a beautiful evening, and the skyline below is barely recognisable from its 2018 counterpart. However, Hitomi Tsukishiro is about to head back sixty years with help from her grandmother, Kohaku. After Hitomi developed achromatopsia, she became unable to see the world in colours and fell into a depression. Kohaku believes her teenaged self will be able to help Hitomi find happiness anew and so, has opted to send her back in time using magic, a power which runs in the Tsukishiro family. When Hitomi opens her eyes, she finds herself in a world sixty years earlier. While nowhere nearly as well-developed as she knows it, Hitomi finds that the Nagasaki of 2018 is a bustling city of around four hundred thousand people. In this older time, Hitomi ends up befriending members of the photography and art club, along with her grandmother; sharing time with each of the younger Kohaku, Yuito, Asagi, Kurumi, Shō and Chigusa helps Hitomi to rediscover the magic in her life, allowing her to find colours in her world anew. It is in Nagasaki that the events of 2018’s Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (The World in Colours from here on out) are set. Nagasaki sports the unfortunate distinction being one of two cities in the world to have ever been devastated by an atomic attack in 1945. On August 9, the plutonium bomb was detonated over the city, instantly killing some thirty-five thousand people. Nagasaki was slowly rebuilt after the Second World War. Reconstruction only really began a year after the bombings, with a particular emphasis on transforming the former military city into a centre of commercial ship-building, trade and fishing. By 1949, redevelopment accelerated with the passing of the Nagasaki International Culture City Reconstruction Law, and thanks to the efforts directed towards reconstruction, the Nagaski we know forms the backdrop for Hitomi’s own journey. It is here that magic and the mundane intertwine – in The World in Colours, the ability to control magic is a trait that women in the Tsukishiro family share, and Hitomi had shut her powers away after her mother had left the family. Unlike P.A. Works’ previous anime, The World in Colours places magic at the series forefront, treating it as another skill that can create joy for others, rather than something that brings about miracles. While Nagasaki isn’t a particularly magical city (being better known for its temples and museums), The World in Colours‘ commitment to realism means that the anime is able to tell a particularly compelling story: bringing Nagasaki to life means being able to convince viewers that magic is very much a reality, even if it cannot manifest as the phenomenon that Kohaku and Hitomi can master.

  • Because The World in Colours is a story filled with magic and witchcraft, it makes sense to open the post with a virtual visit to the Forest Witch Café, which forms the inspiration for the Tsukishiro magic shop that Hitomi lodges at. In reality, the Forest Witch Café is located some twenty-seven kilometres away from the heart of Nagasaki. The restaurant is named for its location in the forest. The owners take pride in using home-grown ingredients in their dishes: vegetables come straight from their garden, and their curry is a favourite amongst patrons.

  • A quick glance at Forest Witch Café’s menu finds a wonderful variety of dishes: their lunch special is only 1650 Yen, featuring a salad fresh from their garden and homemade chicken confit, soup, a choice of house curry or pasta and a dessert, plus coffee. This is only available with a reservation. For visitors looking to do dinner, courses start at 3500 Yen. Similarly, there’s also a handful of coffees and sweets available for those seeking a pit stop. Besides this delightful café, which forms the backdrop for the Tsukishiro magic shop, Forest Witch Café also does tarot fortune telling, as well. In real life, there’s also a small shop behind the café that sells Witch-themed trinkets and goods: Owing to its location, visitors will need to take a few buses or rent a car to reach this café, which, compared to the rest of the locations in this post, is quite out-of-the way.

  • In The World in Colours, the house behind the magic shop is where the Tsukishiros live. Hitomi has numerous memories of spending time with Kohaku here, and According to Kohaku’s grandmother, their house was built in 2017 (the same year my new place was built) Inspection of satellite imagery finds that the Tsukishiro residence looks nothing like its counterpart in The World in Colours, but this is unsurprising, since actual character residences are usually custom-designed to fit with the story’s requirements.

  • Back when The World in Colours was airing, the one location I had confidence in locating was Megami Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge that takes route 51 over Nagasaki Bay. Completed in 2005, the bridge’s main span is 480 metres in length, and is beautifully illuminated by nightfall. The World in Colours had the Magic-Photography-and-Art Club attempt to catch a ferry passing underneath for a unique photo, and while they fail, the evening is a memorable one, typifying the journey that this anime had sought to convey.

  • Being the only cable-stayed bridge in the immediate area, finding Megami Bridge alone didn’t offer me with much to write about. However, last September, I was looking to do a location hunt for The World in Colours after utilising the Oculus Quest to identify and share locations within the anime that I’d previously watched. The premise behind these location hunts is simple enough: I can’t put boots on the ground right now owing to the global health crisis, but Google Street View is extensive enough for me to visit mundane, ordinary spots such as these.

  • Armed with a combination of 3D photogrammetry data and full immersion offered by a powerful VR headset, I found that it was possible to locate things with a much greater confidence than before, since the VR environment allowed me to quickly look around and orient myself. BY comparison, using Street View on a desktop computer or tablet is more limiting. In this way, I was able to make progress in finding the same streets that Hitomi and Kohaku hit during their time together in The World in Colours: by looking around for landmarks, I was able to define a starting point. This spot, for instance, was located after I found Izumokinrin Park and began looking for landmarks like Ōura Elementary School, which is visible on the hill in the right hand side.

  • To start off such a journey, I began by using Google Maps’ 3D photogrammetry data to explore areas near Megami Bridge, and in a curious turn of fate, one location caught my eye: Mount Nabekanmuri Park. This is the spot Hitomi visits in 2078 during the finale, being the place she and Yuito shared thoughts together away from the more rowdy and energetic crowd that is the Magic-Photography-and-Arts Club. To my surprise, just across the valley is the spot where Yuito shares his drawings with a curious Hitomi: Izumokinrin Park. Closer inspection of the park finds the same pavilion and amphitheater that forms the site of where Kohaku performs the complex bit of magic to send Hitomi back into the future.

  • A search for high schools in the area, near Izumokinrin Park, finds exactly one candidate whose exterior matches the high school Hitomi and Kohaku attend perfectly: this is Nagasaki Minami High School, which is only a stone’s throw from Izumokinrin Park. True to reality, the school seen in The World in Colours has the same statue and clock near its front. The World in Colours shows the high school both as it appeared in 2018, as well as again in 2078 – the school itself was opened in 1961, so by the events of The World in Colours, the school would’ve likely undergone several renovations to remain in full operations even a full 117 years later.

  • Nagasaki Minami High School can be seen on the hill here:  tracing the path the Magic-Photography-Arts Club take, I was able to find this spot without too much trouble. I’m always fond of still like these: the mirror, railings, yellow house and utility pole in both the anime and real-life versions match up pretty closely. While such spots are easy enough to find after locating the landmark, The World in Colours presented me with another challenge. Kohaku and the others are fond of taking side routes down flights of stairs that line the hills of Nagasaki.

  • There are a lot of narrow streets in Nagasaki, and even more stairwells cutting up and down the steep slopes, but Google Street View doesn’t go down these paths, so the steps that everyone uses as shortcuts are something that I wasn’t able to replicate in my Oculus-powered travels – as one would reasonably expect, the Oculus Quest is not the magic bullet solution for replacing travel outright. However, owing to current circumstance, the ability to almost wander the streets of Nagasaki with the same freedom as I would in reality is a welcome one.

  • To my great surprise, the park that the Magic-Photography-and-Art Club visit during The World in Colours‘ sixth episode is actually within walking distance of their high school. This is Glover Garden, an open-air museum that showcases Nagasaki’s western-style buildings. The most famous of these is the Former Glover House, which belonged to Scottish merchant Thomas Glover, who would later play a role in overthrowing the Tokugawa Shogunate, kicking off the Meiji Restoration. Glover Garden most closely resembles Calgary’s Heritage Park in that many of the buildings here were relocated from other parts of the city, and there’s a 620 Yen admission fee to the site.

  • Yuito is shown to be working at the Jiyu-tei Café and Teahouse, which is located in Glover Garden’s grounds. Open from 0930 to 1715, Jiyu-tei Café and Teahouse is known for its ambience and Castella, a Japanese sponge cake that Nagasaki is particularly well-known for. According to their website, Jiyu-tei offers Castella sets with seasonal drinks, although they do have cake and ice cream on their menu, along with a solid selection of hot and iced teas and coffees. Visitors report friendly service and love the ambience: altogether, one would probably find this to be a fantastic place to take someone on a date.

  • It suddenly strikes me that as a result of location hunting for anime, and as a result of looking around town for restaurants, I’ve amassed a reasonable knowledge of places nearby, including those that could prove quite romantic. In Nagasaki, Glover Park seems like a great place for a first date. The bridge that Kohaku crosses near Nagasaki Seaside Park, on the other hand, is a little more mundane, being something seen en route to a date – there are actually a pair of these bridges, and the one Kohaku crosses is the further one from Route 499, whereas here, I’m only able to see the first of the bridges. This is a case of “close enough”, since I wasn’t able to find a way of getting closer, but fortunately, the bridges are similar enough so that readers should be convinced that P.A. Works also replicated this spot with their usual attention to detail.

  • This particular spot offers an unparalleled view of Nagasaki’s skyline: it is located near Ōura Elementary School, not more than a quarter-kilometre from the Glover Garden. The stunning nightscape reminds me a great deal of the hill where Stuttgart’s House R128 is located: this house is well-known for being a modernist home capable of fulfilling its energy requirements and possesses an open floor concept: the only closed rooms in the house are the bathrooms. I’ve long had a fascination with this style of living: the open concept exposes the house to nature, and by night, the Stuttgart cityscape can be seen.

  • When I first finished watching The World in Colours, I had no idea as to where the walkway that Kohaku was running along was located: I still recall how in a similar frame during one of my The World in Colours posts, I only remarked that the site looked photorealistic. This time around, because I had found numerous of the landmarks in Nagasaki for, I was able to determine that this walkway is a part of Glover Sky Road, which consists of a covered escalator similar to Central Mid-Level escalators in Hong Kong, which is the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator.

  • Glover Sky Road is the best way to reach Glover Garden if one were approaching from the east end, and this escalator system is something that locals also appreciate, making it much easier to get around: this project was built to increase accessibility in Nagasaki, and was the first of its kind in Nagasaki. Like Hong Kong’s Central Mid-Level Escalator, Glover Sky Road has since become something of a local attraction, offering visitors with a brilliant view of Nagasaki’s cityscape.

  • Here at the intersection where Hitomi and Yuito see one another off, the Former Mitsubishi No. 2 Dock House can be seen to the left. Featuring high ceilings, coal-fired fireplaces and large windows, this building was constructed in 1896 as a dormitory for sailors. In 1972, it was relocated to its current site, and presently houses an exhibit on Nagasaki’s shipyards; shipbuilding has been an integral part of Nagasaki’s economy, alongside heavy industry.

  • After Hitomi and Yuito part ways, Hitomi prepares to make her way down Glover Sky Road and return home. The Tsukishiro home and magic shop is a central location in The World in Colour, and were such a site to be real, it would certainly be worth visiting: the magic shop is filled with luminescent jars of star-sand that exude a gentle, calming glow, and the Tsukishiro residence is smartly designed. In particular, Hitomi and Kohaku’s rooms are separated by a circular opening, allowing the two to open up to one another without exposing themselves wholly, mirroring how Kohaku takes things with Hitomi one step at a time.

  • There’s also a skylight in the Tsukishiro residence that gives Hitomi a beautiful view of Nagsaki’s nightscape and harbour. Initially, this spot comes to act as a refuge of sorts for Hitomi, representing a distant vantage point that emphasises her removal from the world. As Hitomi grows closer to the Magic-Photography-Art Club, she begins to tread the streets of Nagasaki with the others, signifying a better connection to the world around her. Here, Yuito and Hitomi head down Ringer Street, adjacent to Ōura Elementary School.

  • This intersection is located down Oda-Kaigan Dori near Nagasaki Seaside Park. Owing to the lack of Street View coverage down here, I wasn’t able to capture the places where Hitomi and Shō visited together; while ostensibly for club activities, Shō had taken a liking to Hitomi and this was a bit of a date of sorts. Chigusa and Kurumi also spend time together here while Kurumi waits for her older sister to arrive. Despite lacking the imagery, given that The World in Colour faithfully renders things like the intersection, it is not inconceivable that P.A. Works would’ve taken the time to ensure the park in The World in Colours was true to its real-world counterpart, as well.

  • A little further down the road, the Nagasaki Harbour Medical Centre can be seen, along with line 5 of the Nagasaki Electric Tramway. The tramway has a lengthy history and was opened in 1915 and is the only tramway in Japan to have retained all of its original lines: despite an adult fare of 130 Yen, the company remains profitable, and The World in Colour has the Magic-Photography-Arts Club utilising public transit quite frequently, allowing me to follow it and locate other areas of interest.

  • One such spot is Oranda Bridge crossing a tributary of the Nakashima River, where Kohaku wonders if feelings for Yuito might be the cause of Hitomi’s colour vision intermittently returning. To the right, the Juhachiginko Head Office building can be seen, and the building on the left houses Gibraltar Life Insurance. The Nagasaki Electric Tramway Line 1 runs along this road, so following it using VR allowed me to find this spot. While other sites, such as Like a Fish in Water, utilise Japanese social media and bloggers from Hatena to do the heavy lifting for them, my location hunt posts depend entirely on the technology available to me.

  • As such, finding a spot entails locating landmarks, putting the Oculus Quest headset on and “walking” around until I locate the area of interest, based purely on my estimates of where something is using hints from the anime. The process is quite tiring, and in order to avoid eyestrain, I limit my sessions to a quarter-hour at a time. For this post, locations were a ways more obscure than usual, so it took a lot of wandering over a lot of hours to find everything, such as this spot in a quiet neighbourhood near Shiiko Park. Altogether, it took around 20 hours spaced out since September to actually locate enough spots of interest, which is why this post is only out now.

  • The last spot I’ll cover in this location hunt is the observation platform at Mount Nabekanmuri Park: because The World in Colours had Yuito and Hitomi visit an observation point where the Megami Bridge was visible, I ended up doing a search to see which places in Nagasaki would offer such a view. This was the spot I would use as a starting point for my location hunt using the Oculus Quest, and I decided to save it for last because the views up here are spectacular. Although the ascent can be a little difficult for some, visitors generally report that it is well worth it.

  • With this VR-powered location hunt in the books, I’m glad to have taken the effort of treading through The World in Colours‘ locations. While certainly all of the locations possible, being able to nonetheless see iconic spots in The World in Colours using the Oculus Quest and Wander, without having to board a plane and put boots on the ground, speaks volumes to what’s possible with this technology. With the location hunt for one of director Toshiya Shinohara’s signature anime in the books, I remark that I’ve got another location hunt coming up in under a week while I’m on a roll with finding places in anime.

The World in Colours represented a very unique challenge with respect to location hunting – previously, I’d used the Oculus Quest in rural areas with great success, but urban areas were intimidating because the sheer amount of streets and structures would make it considerably more difficult to locate points of interest. This is because when location hunting, I typically start with a landmark, and then use the characters’ preferred modes of transportation to determine where other sites are. If characters typically walk, I’ll know to determine which streets provide the easiest path to their next destination. Similarly, characters taking the train means seeking out their destination station and then exploring nearby areas. In rural areas, like those of Yamanashi, or smaller urban areas like Kawagoe, this isn’t a challenge because the search area is smaller. Google Maps has improved dramatically over the years, and an increasing amount of regions on Earth now have 3D data available, so using a combination of 3D photogrammetry data and the Oculus Quest is usually sufficient to pinpoint the spots seen in an anime. However, after a city becomes large enough, these techniques become more time-consuming, and limitations in map data also preclude certain areas from being visited. In The World in Colours, for instance, Hitomi and the others often take narrow stairwells connecting streets together, and these paths are simply inaccessible in the Oculus Quest. However, on the flipside, even in a city as large as Nagasaki, the old techniques still work: locating the park where Kohaku and the others prepared to send Hitomi back to 2078 was the breakthrough moment, and after this game-changer, I determined that most of the areas of interest would likely be walkable (i.e. within 3 kilometres). From this point onwards, I ended up identifying several key areas seen in the anime simply by strolling the streets using the Oculus Quest, and ultimately, I accumulated enough spots to do a discussion on the locations seen in The World in Colours. In this way, the combination of sophisticated technology, prior experience in location hunting and a little bit of patience has allowed me to identify the same spots that Hitomi visits with the Magic-Photography-and-Arts Club during her time in 2018. The end result is that, should I ever decide to plan a trip to Nagasaki in the future, I wouldn’t have much trouble in finding the locations to an anime that had deeply moved me when I’d first watched it. However, for the time being, any trip to Nagasaki (or Japan, for that matter) remains a hypothetical, and consequently, I am glad that we are at a point where it is possible to do the next best thing from the comfort of an armchair – walk the virtual streets of Nagasaki using the Oculus Quest.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

Dewbond’s Higurashi GOU and SOTSU Posts

Infinite Zenith’s Higurashi GOU and SOTSU Posts

Missed the earlier Higurashi collaborations between Dewbond and myself?

Higurashi SOTSU: Whole-Series Review and Reflection, Remarks on the Curtainfall

“This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” –The Joker, Dark Night

After gaining unearthly powers from Eua, Satoko’s humanity begins eroding as she enters countless loops in a bid to persuade Rika to back down from her dreams: the dæmonic energy eventually expels Satoko’s original spirit and takes over, leading Satoko to commit atrocities beyond description. However, Rika soon works out that Satoko is the one behind her return to suffering, and the two break out in open hostilities. Meanwhile, Hanyū is forced to watch Rika’s suffering, but in spite of what happens, declares that miracles will come to those who make it happen. When Satoko and Rika’s fight causes them to relinquish the Onigari-no-ryūou, an ancient blade forged to kill dæmons, the sword passes over to Hanyū, who uses it to defeat Eua. In the real world, Satoko and Rika continue their fist-fight until they are exhausted, upon which they return to their older selves. Keiichi, Rena and Mion find the pair in the river and drive them back, remarking that friends aren’t constrained by the idea of being together, that a part of friendship is the ability to let go and know that they can still get in touch with and count on the support from the other when needed. In 1987, Rika prepares to attend St. Lucia while Satoko chooses to remain behind in Hinamizawa, and growing weary of the peaceful life in Hinamizawa that Satoko had yearned for, the dæmonic form returns Satoko’s spirit to her body and departs, while Hanyū watches happily in the knowledge that a new peace is reached. This is Higurashi SOTSU, sequel to GOU and a series that has inevitably created among viewers an overwhelmingly negative impression: after all, KAI had ended on a very definitive and solid note, with Rika breaking free of her curse and finding happiness after overcoming all odds. Thus, when GOU finished, expectations were that SOTSU would properly explain what had happened in GOU. While SOTSU does roll back the curtain on why the events of GOU happened, the underlying conflict SOTSU presented was contrary to expectations, the result of Satoko’s inability to face the future and accepting a curse that sapped her of her humanity. In this way, SOTSU indicates that the events in GOU were the consequence of humans being made mere playthings for deities; although having the deities play a larger role (in particular, Hanyū is able to finally have a tangible impact on things, whereas before, she was a passive observer), this undermines what the original Higurashi and KAI had sought to convey.

While SOTSU and GOU lack their predecessor’s impact, these continuations did nonetheless manage to convey the idea that human desires, augmented by otherworldly powers, are a recipe for suffering; Satoko was simply never meant to possess the same power as Rika, and even though Rika is able to live endlessly by virtue of her bloodline, she certainly experiences no joy in reliving the same few weeks endlessly. Regardless of what Satoko’s objectives might’ve been, accepting Eua’s power ended up turning GOU and SOTSU into a crude approximation of the unstoppable force paradox, which asks the outcome of an unmovable object meeting an unstoppable force. From a physics standpoint, the paradox results because an unstoppable force has infinite energy and cannot be dispersed by any means, whereas the unmovable object has infinite inertia and cannot be displaced by any means. Physicists have found an answer for this by suggesting that the result is dependent on one’s frame of reference, while other philosophers have cleverly suggested that the object and the force are one and the same. Assuming this to hold true in SOTSU, the conflicting goals between Rika and Satoko (moving away from Hinamizawa to experience the world, and staying behind to appreciate things forever) is resolved by means of a compromise. Instead of allowing the forces to meet and clash, Satoko and Rika’s problems are addressed by approaching it from a different perspective; namely, friendship isn’t about being together forever, but about being together despite being apart. This is what SOTSU and GOU were likely to have been going for. However, rather like how the solution to the unstoppable force paradox requires an unconventional solution that does not yield a satisfying answer, SOTSU and GOU together do not yield a story that is fully rewarding. This leads to the inevitable question of whether or not SOTSU and GOU are worthwhile for fans. For my answer, I fall back on an old classic from my health science days: “it depends”.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The elevator version of this post is simple: “while I wouldn’t recommend SOTSU or sing praises for it, there’s still a theme and the music was pretty good, so I don’t hate it as much as I would something like Glasslip“. I particularly care about incidental music because it can be used to tell a story where visuals and dialogue fail. In stronger anime, the music is typically a part of the background, accentuating the tenour of a given moment, but if absent, the moment can retain all of its impact. Conversely, when a scene is poorly executed, but the series has a strong soundtrack, the music can actually carry the scene and do what the dialogue and visuals cannot.

  • The original Higurashi and KAI had suggested to me that individuals could take control of their destiny: both the original first and second seasons did a wonderful job of portraying how horror and fear come from a lack of control, and the second season had shown that by taking the initiative to regain that control, one could make miracles happen. However, GOU and SOTSU‘s portrayal of Eua and Hanyū was an example of supernatural beings clashing, and given what these entities were capable of, even the best firearms and training would prove useless against the gods themselves.

  • As such, it did feel as though GOU and SOTSU was saying that, in a duel between the gods themselves, we humans were only capable of being taken along for the ride and otherwise, lack the agency to master our own destinies. This implication didn’t particularly sit well with me, since Higurashi was previously about the exact opposite of this. Eua remarks that Rika and Satoko are destined to continue fighting one another until the end of their days, since neither are resolute enough to kill the other, but simultaneously refuse to back down and compromise.

  • For me, watching Satoko killing Rika in ways that would probably impress the Doom Slayer in a repeated manner eventually became tiresome, and so, when Rika finally comes to realise what’s happened and fights back, I’ll admit that there was a satisfaction in this. Their fight takes them through various timelines, and for the other shortcomings in SOTSU, this was a bit of a visual treat that took me back to iconic locations and moments, including the first season’s confrontation at the top of Hinamizawa School. However, whereas the originals made these an emotionally-charged moment, I didn’t feel the same investment into the fight’s outcome upon returning here.

  • The fight gets kicked upstairs when Rika reveals she’s still got a Shard of Narsil Onigari-no-ryūou, the weapon that could be used to kill dæmons. Her initial stroke looks like it would’ve dealt some damage, but what follows next ends up being something I did not expect: Satoko has more or less the full swords and subsequently engages Rika in a battle that was reminiscent of Setsuna squaring off against Ali Al-Saachez’s Enact Custom during the Middle Eastern intervention in Gundam 00‘s first season. That fight was a pivotal one in Gundam 00, marking the first time anyone had engaged the Exia with such ferocity (Union ace Graham Aker was a bit of reserved when dealing with Setsuna and only really went all-out after piloting a GN Flag into battle).

  • Such a fight did indeed come unexpectedly, although I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call this moment a meme. The reaction I have to SOTSU is rather different than that of the community at large: when I watch something I didn’t find satisfactory, I am content to let it go and at most, remark it wasn’t suited for me. The only exception to this rule is when I’m actively being told that a work is a philosophical masterpiece demanding that I go back to university and take a few courses on Albert Camus’ literary works (e.g. The Myth of Sisyphus).

  • While there are legitimate use-cases where philosophy can be used to discuss anime, it is not adequate to simply say that a given anime is an allegory for something that people wouldn’t ordinarily study as a counterargument for the fact that a given anime failed to deliver a discernible theme. Glasslip‘s messages were obscured, and the messages in The Myth of Sisyphus do nothing to clarify what Kakeru and Touko were about. Conversely, SOTSU and its viewers has not made this particular ask of me: however quickly thrown in the theme was, at least it was present to some capacity.

  • Given the fact that Satoko had essentially sent viewers on a wild goose chase for a year, I was personally hoping that Rika would finish the fight here: a part of breaking curses can mean making difficult decisions, but at the same time, executing Satoko would also go against the themes that the original Higurashi had presented. Originally, no matter how irredeemable and reviled someone was, there existed a set of conditions where even these individuals could be saved. KAI had shown that even Miyo could find happiness, and in GOU, it was shown that Teppei could indeed turn over a new leaf where given the chance. Against all odds, I actually did feel sympathy for Teppei in several of the timelines where he had genuinely tried to make amends with Satoko.

  • In keeping with the older themes, Rika spares Satoko from death and contends herself with beating her up instead. Onigari-no-ryūou is discarded and falls into the river. Hanyū recovers it, and now armed, is able to fight Eua on even terms. Here was another aspect that SOTSU ended up doing differently than its predecessors; Hanyū had previously been little more than a passive observer, resigned to Rika’s fate in the timelines where things failed, but having seen this many iterations, Hanyū begins to take a more active role in shaping Rika’s future.

  • The end result is that Hanyū defeats Eua, stripping her of her powers. Hanyū might’ve been all talk about miracles and taking the initiative to shape one’s future, but given her constant efforts to overcome Eua, the sword levels the playing field. It was satisfying to see Eua get her comeuppance; it felt like all of the events in GOU and SOTSU simply emerged from a bored deity looking for some amusement. Having seen what the consequences were, Eua thus became a grating character to watch. Some folks have speculated that Eua is a powered-down version of Dawn of the Golden Witch‘s Featherine Augustus Aurora, a similar deity with the power to rewrite reality at will, holds a high opinion of herself and whose ultimate foe is boredom.

  • Of course, being immortals, the gods themselves don’t look like they can be killed: Eua somehow just reverts to a child-like form, not unlike Hanyū, and disappears to fulfil her end of the bargain. With interference from the heavens gone, everything that occurs now is left for those in the mortal realm to sort out. While deities and spirits did play a role in the original Higurashi, they were secondary to all that was going on; the first season gripped viewers with its horror-mystery piece, and KAI was right up my alley, being a science-fiction thriller with a government conspiracy piece.

  • The execution seen in the originals, coupled with how decisive and conclusive ending, meant that strictly speaking, Higurashi and KAI are the definitive experience: the story was intriguing, engaging and satisfying. GOU and SOTSU adds nothing to the themes the originals had sought to convey in this regard: I felt that these continuations ended up being an alternate “what if” scenario, if Satoko were to be given the powers Rika possessed and allowed to go to town on Hinamizawa. The end result started out shocking, but this gradually wore thin when it became clear the sorts of atrocities we witnessed were for what more or less amounts to childish whims.

  • Childish whims result in immature antics, which manifests as a fistfight between Satoko and Rika that certainly did not merit the emotional tenour of Kenji Kawai’s music: my ears told me I was watching Donnie Yen vs Mike Tyson, but my eyes saw otherwise. The music in GOU and SOTSU was being the piece that I came to enjoy most; I first came upon Kenji Kawai’s music through 2007’s Gundam 00, and subsequently came to associate his style with Ip Man. Characterised by a heavy use use of strings and choir, Kawai’s style is very distinct: while Kawai’s motifs are iconic, the more emotional pieces Kawai composes all possess a similar style.

  • Hearing the same elements in SOTSU and GOU as those in Ip Man 3 and Ip Man 4 meant that for me, the same feelings of melancholy and struggle Ip Man faced in handling Wing-sing’s cancer, or when Ip Man discovers that he himself has cancer. Thus, while it was quite difficult to empathise with Satoko and Rika’s situation in and of itself, having Kawai’s music present meant I had something familiar to ground myself to. This is why music is such an integral part of anything I watch, whether it be anime or a film: the music can tell stories that the writing alone might not, and here in SOTSU, Kawai’s music carries some of the moments.

  • With Kawai’s music, the same conflict, longing and desire for reconciliation in spite of their differences could be heard. This is unfortunate; since not everyone is going to be looking at the soundtrack and utilising that: a story should stand of its own accord and give viewers precisely what the authors intended. It also goes without saying that Satoko and Rika’s fistfight is several orders of magnitude removed from the most iconic fights in Ip Man, lacking the same emotional intensity and desperation that was conveyed when Ip Man squared off against General Miura, Taylor “The Twister” Miller, Cheung Tin-chi and Barton Geddes.

  • Besides the music, one aspect about GOU and SOTSU that also helped me to find some positives were the backgrounds and scenery artwork: Passione did an excellent job here, bringing Hinamizawa and its surroundings to life. Passione had previously worked in Rail WarsHinako Note and Ishuzoku Reviewers, works with above-average visuals. I am aware that the character designs in GOU and SOTSU are not well-received by everyone (facial expressions appear pinched and constrained compared to their original incarnations, for instance), but they’re serviceable, and Passione does successfully capture Rena’s kyute moments.

  • Towards the end of SOTSU, it appears that all of the timelines have converged back to one point: Rika is bound for St. Lucia as she’d dreamed, and prepares to part ways with the others for the present. Mion, Rena and Keiichi are present to see her off, but Satoko is noticeably absent. However, she does show up fashionably late, and in a manner reminiscent of Homura’s words to Madoka at the end of Rebellion, suggests that while they’re going to be parting ways for now, their destinies would be bound together. To me, this signifies the possibility that there could be a continuation is non-zero: I’d thought Rebellion marked the end of Madoka Magica, but recently, it was revealed that a fourth movie would be released at some point in the future.

  • I’m not sure where Higurashi intends to go from here on out, but SOTSU and GOU had already stretched things by reviving a story that had already been neatly wrapped up. Folks wondering why all of my screenshots are concentrated towards the final few episodes will find the answer to be unremarkable: the whole of SOTSU presents the events of GOU from a different angle to show how Satoko had manipulated things in each timeline, but from a discussions perspective, this didn’t offer me much to consider, so I’ve opted to skip to the end, where there was new content.

  • Overall, Higurashi GOU and SOTSU are experiences that will depend on the viewer. The completionist fans of the series who want to see every corner of Higurashi through to the end will probably find time for GOU and SOTSU, but for most fans, it’s going to be up to the individual. to determine whether or not GOU and SOTSU is worthwhile. For me, I managed to get a message out of it, and the music helped in some places: SOTSU and GOU don’t have the magic that Higurashi and KAI did, and I didn’t get anything new from the experience. However, I’m also not going to be a piece of shit about it and say that I laughed sarcastically at what I saw: it’s okay if works don’t hit home runs a hundred percent of the time.

  • The ending of SOTSU appears to be indicative of a new status quo (Satoko is restored to her old self, and even Teppei seems cool now), but I’m also going to be more cautious, since GOU and SOTSU shows how writers can find ways of resurrecting series that ended on a high note, even when it’s not necessary to continue. With this post in the books, I will note that I’ve probably only scratched the surface for the discussions, and I intend on inviting Dewbond over for a collaborative post such that we might look at SOTSU in a more comprehensive (but still fair) manner. Finally, with SOTSU‘s soundtrack coming on November 26, I am rather looking forwards to hearing how much Ip Man made it into the music for this season.

My enjoyment of a given anime and the subsequent verdict is not dependent on a predetermined rubric composed of a checklist; typically, my experience is based on whether or not I got anything meaningful out of something, and since I tend to be looking for this actively, most of the time, I do end up with some sort of discernible theme. In this area, SOTSU has not failed for me, and at the very minimum, even though the anime goes about doing so in a lengthy and roundabout manner, SOTSU still has a message to leave with viewers. The other aspect of SOTSU (and GOU) I found enjoyable were the pieces of incidental music that Kenji Kawai composed: Kawai has been with Higurashi since the beginning, and the stylistic elements he uses here is consistent with how he had scored the Ip Man soundtrack. While Higurashi and Ip Man have drastically different motifs, Kawai’s use of strings and percussion are virtually identical in their respective series’ most emotional songs. Eua’s inclusion into GOU and SOTSU had made the anime very inconsistent in terms of emotional impact; on their own, Eua’s over-the-top mannerisms and irreverent attitude had diminished what was going on for Satoko and Rika. She laughs at the tragedy, and invites the viewer to do the same even as Hanyū represents the opposite end of the spectrum, desperately trying to stave off another calamity. Viewers are pulled in two directions, but familiar music helped to ground a given moment and remind me that there was a point being made. In this area, having Kawai’s signature style was an asset: listening to the music in each moment clarified what it was intended to do, and this in turn helped me to understand why something was happening. When everything is said and done, SOTSU made a brave stab at bringing an old classic into the present, and covers a side of Higurashi I certainly thought to be impossible; it’s not easy to make a recommendation for SOTSU, especially for fans of the original Higurashi and KAI, but on the flipside, I do not feel the same level of vitriol towards SOTSU as others out there have: the story wasn’t something that impresses, but at the very least, there’s still a discernible theme, and the music is pretty good. On these grounds, Higurashi SOTSU does not dethrone Glasslip as my least favourite anime of all time: Glasslip‘s lack of a theme means that at least, for the time being, it continues to sit in the unenviable position of being the worst anime I’ve watched to completion.

ARIA the Crepuscolo: An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“It’s great to reminisce about good memories of my past. It was enjoyable when it was today. So learning to enjoy today has two benefits: it gives me happiness right now, and it becomes a good memory later.” –George Foreman

Anya becomes worried when she notices that Alice and Athena have both a little off of late, and relays her worries to Ai and Azusa, who suggest that they do a surprise party for the pair. After speaking with Akari, and on President Aria’s suggestion, the three decide to time things for the Festa del Redentore, a July festival that gives thanks to the end of the 1576 Plague and has since included fireworks. However, Aika denies this request, since Himeya Company plans on doing a fair on the day of Festa del Redentore. In spite of these initial setbacks, Akari remains optimistic that they’ll be able to put something together. Anya later runs into Aletta, a Sylph-in-training, who gives her a brief ride over Neo-Venezia and encourages her about finding beauty in the present. Anya later has a chance to speak with Alice in the baths, learning that Alice had been down since Athena had set such an incredibly high standard as a senior that she feels like she hasn’t done anything similar for Anya. Alice recounts a story from back when she was still a pair: during Christmas, Alice had grown disheartened that Befana (Neo-Venezia’s equivalent of Santa Claus) doesn’t exist and found it difficult to get into the holiday spirit. One night, Athena had arranged a surprise party for Alice with help from Akari and Aika, and when Alice had arrived, Athena noted that the Christmas spirit for adults lies not with the existence of mythical figures, but rather, being able to look back on how wonderful the world had previously been, and using one’s own experience to help the new youth realise their dreams. On the day of Festa del Redentore, everyone is engrossed with their duties, but after the workday draws to a close, Akari and Aika meet up with Anya, Azusa and Ai. As it turns out, even Alicia and Akira were in on the plans to cheer up Alice and Athena: they’ve arranged for Alice and Athena to meet just prior to Athena’s concert and sing together. In the empty auditorium, Athena admits to Alice that during the latter’s exam to become a Prima, a part of her had wished that Alice might fail such that they could spend more time together, and moreover, Alice’s poor singing had come from her own doubts. Athena suggests to Alice that she sing in a way that she enjoys, and that moreover, it’s okay to make mistakes, allowing Alice to finally find her voice and pass her exam in full. In the present, Athena and Alice sing together before the evening show, and then board gondolas for the Yakatabune Cruise. While Alice and Athena are graceful for their past memories, Alice and Anya feels that being able to look back is what makes something so memorable, but the present will also come to become a precious memory, and the future will doubtlessly be full of new experiences, too. Thus, ARIA the Crepuscolo draws to a close. This first instalment was announced last year just ahead of ARIA‘s fifteenth anniversary, following an original story set somewhere after Avvenire. Crepuscolo is dedicated to Orange Planet’s Athena and Alice. Eri Kawai, who provided Athena’s singing voice, passed away in 2008 from liver cancer, and Tomoko Kawakami, who voiced Athena, passed away from ovarian cancer in 2011. This meant that Athena was largely absent from Avvenire. However, Rina Satō has since taken up this mantle and does a wonderful job as Athena. The themes within Crepuscolo mirror the respect for the older voices: ARIA remembers both Kawai and Kawakami’s contributions to Athena’s character, and at the same time, keep things moving forwards to honour their work.

I first watched ARIA through the Avvenire OVAs in 2016, and I subsequently picked up the three original seasons, which ran between 2005 and 2008. ARIA is an impressive series for its world-building and cathartic tone, for being able to convey the majesty of once-in-a-lifetime moments and the merits of the everyday. However, ARIA also proved a desperately tricky series to write for; ARIA is a series that covers a plethora of themes through Akari, Aika and Alice’s experiences together, and it is appropriate to say that there isn’t just one central theme or idea in ARIA. Being a self-contained experience, Crepuscolo does not continue on in the same vein as its predecessors: it speaks broadly about the doubts and concerns that arise during what is colloquially referred to as the passing of the torch. Alice presently worries about being a good enough mentor to Anya, but also recalls a time when Athena didn’t feel ready to guide Alice, either. However, bit-by-bit, Athena grew into the role and began understanding Alice a little better, such as being able to help create a visceral representation of how as adults, the Christmas spirit could be appreciated from a different perspective (rather than deriving enjoyment from recieving magic, adults get to experience the joys of making others happy). Over time, Alice and Athena would come to deeply treasure their time together. However, owing to Alice’s innate talents as an Undine, she rises through the ranks and can bypass the Single rank, which cut short the time Alice and Athena spent together. While things might’ve been short, Athena imparts the bit of advice that has since shaped who Alice is now, and in the present, Alice is able to sing as well as she’d like, although athena wondered if Alice had been unhappy with her. Introducing new juniors into ARIA really helped to depict succession and the passing down of knowledge to new generations, and here in Crepuscolo, the doubts that Alice face in mentoring Anya are the same as what Athena had experienced. It is the case that people can find it difficult to be honest about how they feel, as well as how newer generations can feel it exceedingly difficult to follow in their forerunners’ footsteps, but as a senior, one can always find their own approach towards things; friendship and magical circumstances can help one open up, and all it takes is a little nudge from the important people in one’s corner to set them down this path. Experience is what allows Athena to now help Alice find her way again, and in doing so, Crepuscolo indicates that Anya’s got much to look forward to, as well.

Anya and Alice both reflect on how being able to look back on past memories enhances the sense of nostalgia and wistfulness, rather like how the night looks darker when the sun is rising. This is why flashbacks are featured so prominently in Crepuscolo: they deliberately break up the story’s flow and directs the viewer’s attention away from the present. By forcibly altering the focus, viewers are inclined to pay more attention to events in the flashback to determine how they impact the present. This allows viewers to therefore see two critical moments in Crepuscolo that were of significance to Alice and Athena. Alice believes that Athena’s greatest moments come from imparting wisdom to her and helping her to appreciate what being an adult means, while for Athena, the lessons she taught to Alice have done much to make Alice the Undine she is today. While these are dramatically different moments, they had a nontrivial impact on how Alice and Athena view one another. In spite of doing much to shape the present, however, these things are also past, something to reflect on and appreciate, but not become bound to: with morning approaching, and the dawn of a new day, Crepuscolo also visually indicates that things don’t end here, with plenty more in the future that will be worth experiencing and discovering. This is openly stated during the Yakatabune Cruise; having come forward with their honest feelings, Alice and Athena are able to be truthful about how they feel about things and walk the future without anything concealed. Akari herself mentions something similar during the morning cruise, saying that she wonders what sorts of new discoveries and growth her future self will have made. While Crepuscolo might have spent half the film in flashbacks, Akari’s remarks thus remind the viewer that there is more to self-discovery than understanding moments from long ago, and that is to seize the moment, making the most of what lies ahead. Overall, the past, present and future figure prominently in Crepuscolo. All of the characters have matured (most notably, Akari, Aiko and Alice), but the traits that make everyone unique are still present: altogether, while Crepuscolo might be set a ways after Avvenire, the film feels timeless. ARIA has always excelled in conveying a sense of timelessness, and by weaving these elements together in a world quite different from our own, it does feel as though time has stood still: Neo-Venezia looks like it hasn’t aged a day, but it certainly is more vivid and detailed than I remember.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been five years since I last wrote about ARIA: after Avvenire finished, I took an interest in the series and watched all three seasons in the space of a few weeks. On the whole, ARIA excels in encouraging viewers to appreciate the mundane and extraordinary alike, to keep an open mind and always be mindful of one’s surroundings. In conjunction with the gentle guitar motifs, the peaceful world and fantastical setting that combines the great beauty of Venice with exotic future technology, ARIA creates a highly immersive and compelling world that is simultaneously similar to and unlike our own.

  • It is here that Kozue Amano is able to really present her ideas: Aqua is a terraformed Mars, and Neo-Venezia is a faithful reproduction of Italy’s Venice. In order to ensure that Aqua remains livable for humans, Amano introduces specialised space stations and exotic generators that help the planet to retain its atmosphere and retain an Earth-like gravity. When I watched Avvenire five years earlier, I joked that use of DOOM‘s Argent Energy would certainly have provided the power supply needed to fuel such functions. Said theory never took hold, and I’m rather surprised that a search for similar puts another blog ahead of mine, even though said blog has written exactly nothing about DOOM. In a curious turn of events, I beat DOOM Eternal last weekend, so I’ll be aiming to get a post on that done very soon.

  • Returning to ARIA, “Crepuscolo” is Italian for “twilight”, referring to this film’s focus on endings; this latest instalment of ARIA places emphasis on Alice and Athena, whom I felt were both shafted by Avvenire. This is a remark I can only make now that I’ve seen the whole of ARIA. I imagine that some readers will be wondering why I’ve not written about the original ARIA in my usual manner, and the reason for this is two-fold. First, I blitzed through this series at a breakneck speed, and at the time, I’d also been keeping up with episodic reviews of Brave Witches, so I was a little too swamped to write for ARIA. The second season is that ARIA is a pleasantly deep series, and there are many themes that Amano covers through Akari, Aika and Alice’s experiences.

  • At Crepuscolo‘s opening, Pair Anya is able to meet up with Athena, who is a legendary singer and was a former Prima of Orange Planet, Neo-Venezia’s largest Undine company. At present, she’s retired from her duties as an Undine (a Gondola operator and tour guide) to focus on opera singing, but still shows up from time to time. Since Athena had mentored Alice, Anya figures Athena’s the best person to speak to, since she noticed that Alice has been a little down of late. During their meeting, it’s clear that Athena still retains all of her old traits; she adds a little too much condensed milk to her beverage out of absent-mindedness.

  • At Aria Company, Alicia’s similarly retired and had since become a manager of the Gondola Association, leaving Akari to be Aria Company’s sole Prima. At this point in time, Ai’s become a Single, and here, she accompanies Akari while they give two guests a tour of Neo-Venezia’s beautiful canals. With JC Staff at the helm, Crepuscolo is beautiful: Aqua and Neo-Venezia are even more detailed than they were before, really coming to life. One noticeable change was that all of the characters have been given minor changes so they more closely resemble the characters of Amanchu!, another manga from Amano that JIC had adapted.

  • These changes bring the designs of ARIA‘s characters to be more consistent with Amanchu!‘s to mirror this fact, although things are subtle, so the differences are never too dramatic. With this being said, the characters do look a ways more mature, speaking to the amount of time that has passed since ARIA‘s beginning. Even with this newfound maturity, everyone still bears their most iconic traits, which was a pleasant reminder that while people do grow up and grow old, the heart of their personalities often remain consistent.

  • Alice’s peers notice that she’s been a little odd, and here, Alice is so distracted that she decides to eat her omuice sans ketchup. Because of Alice’s reputation as a rowing prodigy, others are intimidated by her and so, are hesitant to approach her. However, Alice’s true nature is that she’s a bit shy and not comfortable around new people; she takes time to open up to those around her. These traits are reminiscent of GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, and now that I think about it, Alice might’ve been the inspiration for Chino: save the fact that Chino uses elastics as her hair-ties, Alice and Chino are quite similar both in terms of appearance and personality.

  • Back at Aria Company, Akari shares a meal with Anya, Azusa and Ai. One detail I liked was the fact that President Aria is seen happily polishing off his rack of lamb before wilting when Ai reminds him to eat his veggies and hands him a plate of salad. President Aria’s antics are awesome, and in the original ARIA series, he’s gone on some wild adventures of his own while Alicia and Akari were out servicing customers and training for Akari’s eventual promotion to Prima: if I’m not mistaken, President Aria even has a super-hero alter-ego, where he goes around Neo-Venezia fighting crime and keeping the peace. In this way, I am strongly reminded of Peanuts‘ Snoopy, who was a similarly amusing and intelligent character.

  • Over three seasons, there are fifty-two episodes of ARIA (excluding other OVAs like Avvenire), and some of the more incredible moments pertain to the cats, including one time where Akari finds herself whisked to the past after crossing a covered bridge when spotting some cats, and another time where curiosity leads Akari and Aika to the Kingdom of the Cats. The blending of the commonplace and supernatural had always been one of the great strengths in ARIA, and I believe that in Avvenire, Akari reminisces about a rumoured road tile that brings misfortune on those who tread upon it. When she tries the same, she’s thrown into the sky and encounters the Cait Sith, a benevolent cat spirit who seems to show up whenever Akari is in need.

  • Akatsuki appears mid-lunch, and going from Ai, Azusa and Anya’s reactions, they’re none too fond of him because of his brash, hot-headed character. In ARIA, Akatsuki was the first customer Akari had served, and while he’s quick to call Akari “pigtails”, Akatsuki spends a great deal of time with Akari every time he visits. The other characters dislike Akatsuki, but Akari treats him a little better, taking the time to speak with him whenever he visits: he began ARIA in pursuit of Alicia’s heart, although having made it a point to meet Akari on all of his visits, Alicia suspects that Akatsuki is probably in love with Akari.

  • When Anya, Ai and Azusa consider what they can do to bring Athena and Alice together, they realise that they can time something for Festa del Redentore. The real Festa del Redentore is an Italian festival dating back to the 16th century, featuring plenty of fireworks. Many Italian festivals and events are imported into ARIA, and then subsequently adapted to fit in with the future world’s customs: ARIA‘s Festa del Redentore similarly features fireworks, as well as a boat ride over to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. The original was also built in the 16 century and can be seen from every point along the Riva degli Schiavoni.

  • Aika is Himeya Company’s heiress, and throughout ARIA, had long struggled with her familial connections to the company. Despite her a no-nonsense personality and tough exterior, Aika is sensitive and kind, as well. She constantly strives to prove that she’s a worthy contributor to the family company, but after meeting Akari, begins to appreciate the smaller moments in life, as well, although she retrains a very competitive and driven manner.

  • The iconic chibi art style makes a return in Crepuscolo – they were very prominent in ARIA, and every character takes on distinct features when flustered, embarrassed or surprised. These aspects carried over to Amanchu!, and while I had found them a little distracting early on, over time, the shifts in character art would become very endearing to me, speaking volumes about what was happening in a given moment in ways that dialogue alone could not fully convey.

  • The extensive use of flashbacks in Crepuscolo is not a particularly novel thing for ARIAAvvenire had done something similar, and flashbacks also figure in the original ARIA seasons. Their presence is meant to show that important memories have as much weight as the present, and that neither are inherently more valuable than the other. Such a remark would, of course, prompt the uptight Aika to shout, “embarrassing remarks are prohibited!” Here, Athena and Alice meet for the first time, and although Athena is a skilled Prima, Alice initially worries about Athena, who is so clumsy that she ends up spilling most everything. Over time, things between the two change as Athena and Alice get to know one another.

  • It turns out that Aria Company is located down the Riva del Sette Martiri along Saint Mark’s Canal. Neo-Venezia is the location hunter’s ultimate dream, being a 1:1 reproduction of Venice, and as such, the only thing one would need to do for the complete and comprehensive ARIA experience would simply be to book a trip to Venice. Famous landmarks like Piazza San Marco and St. Mark’s Basilica feature prominently in ARIA, so there’s no missing them. After Ai, Azusa and Anya depart, they decide to find places in Neo-Venezia where it might be good to bring Athena and Alice together.

  • Here, Azusa passes by Ponte di Rialto, oldest of the four bridges crossing the Grand Canal, while considering a possible spot. The original bridge was constructed in 1181 and was a pontoon bridge, but as the nearby Rialto Market expanded, the bridge was rebuilt with wood. This bridge burned down in 1310, then collapsed twice (once in 1444, as Azuisa mentions, and then in 1524). By 1551, it was proposed that the bridge was to be rebuilt using stone, and in 1588, construction began, finishing three years later. Although the design was criticised after its completion, Ponte di Rialto is an iconic Venice landmark today.

  • Guided by President Aria, Ai gets a tour of Neo-Venezia’s premiere eating spots and learns that President Aria himself had conquered numerous food challenges, including one for ramen and pizza. Cats in Neo-Venezia are treated great respect, being the mascot of their respective Gondola companies. All of the cats are endearing in their own right, and President Aria’s a special breed with full sentience. Alicia and Akari indulge him, leading him to become pudgy, but he’s kind-hearted and helps out where he can, as well.

  • While struggling to find a suitable spot, Ai runs into Alicia and explains that she’s searching for memories for Athena and Alice’s sake. Such an idea is inherently peaceful and is an integral part of ARIA: entire episodes have previously been spent on trying to find locations of interest, track things down or get something done, and while this meant that ARIA is a very slow series, this proved to be the series main joy. Humour in ARIA is very gentle, a world apart from the laughs that something like Azumanga Daioh provides.

  • Animation has certainly come a long way from 2005: Crepuscolo is comparable to P.A. Works and Kyoto Animation’s best. Of note are the water effects: so much of ARIA is set on the canals of Neo-Venezia, and while the original series did feature some reflections, highly-detailed, real-time reflections and ripples on the water come together to really create a sense of tranquility. Here, Akira takes a group of friends along Neo-Venezia’s Grand Canal, where she notices Azusa and Anya together.

  • While wondering what to do about the fact that Alice seems so down, Anya runs into Aletta, a Slyph (mail carriers) in training. In the original ARIA, Woody was a Slyph who often dropped by with messages for the main characters: back in 2002, phone calls, faxes and emails were the most widespread form of communication. In the nineteen years since Amano had penned ARIA‘s manga, the world has changed beyond recognition when it comes to communications. Instant messaging represents the easiest form of rapid communication, and video calls are now commonplace. This change gives letters and messengers a more romantic feel, hailing back to a simpler time.

  • Over the buildings of Neo-Venezia, Aletta explains that what makes her position so enjoyable is that, even though she’s a trainee and therefore limited to a certain altitude, the view nonetheless remains impressive, and she’s confident that once she becomes fully qualified, she’ll still enjoy the scenery over Neo-Venezia as she does now. This helps Anya to understand that while it’s important to think about the future, she should also be mindful of her present, as well.

  • In a brief flashback, while Aletta waves up at the sky, Anya takes an interest in a passing gondola. Simple moments like these don’t consume too much time, but even these can speak volumes about the characters and everyday observations. In this case, it’s the idea that while the future is uncertain, there are some things that occur during our childhood that can do much to inspire who we are as people today. While flying through the skies with Aletta, Anya realises that the scenery holds a piece of her past, too.

  • Right on cue, Woody appears and greets the pair before flying off for his duties. Throughout Crepuscolo, a gentle piece of incidental music can be heard playing in the background. The soundtrack in ARIA has always been of a fine standard, and I greatly enjoy music from the original series for how relaxing it is (just listening to the music alone reminds me of a gentle summer’s day with blue skies). However, for Crepuscolo, I believe only the film’s opening and ending songs are available.

  • Because I don’t often write about ARIA, I’ll present a stunning view of Neo-Venezia by sunset – from the location, this appears to be the Orange Planet’s base of operations (two large gates leading onto the canals can be seen to the left). In reality, Orange Planet is located at the site of Basilica St. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in real life, but the canal feels a little wider than the one in reality. Like other anime, ARIA is quite faithful to real-world locations, but some liberties have been taken to accommodate the story.

  • Back at Orange Planet’s headquarters, Alice has returned to her room with Maa and finds Anya admiring an autumn leaf that she’d picked up while meeting Aletta. Alice invites Anya to dinner, but Anya declines, leading Alice to wonder if Anya’s doing alright. Coincidently, when Anya bounces the question back at Alice, Alice wilts. The conversation suggests that Anya and Alice are both bad at being forwards with how they feel about things. Being honest with oneself, and being open about one’s feelings is always a challenge; even now, this is something that I struggle with.

  • Of course, there is time yet to improve this aspect about myself, and I try to be expressive about the things that don’t work for me. Given what anime has presented, I think it is reasonable to suppose that people who are the least likely to come forward with their feelings are usually the most considerate people; they’d rather take one for the team if it means those around them are happy, but sometimes, this can lead to miscommunications. In the baths, Alice admits to Anya that she’s worried about not being a good mentor for Anya, especially considering everything that Athena had previously done for her.

  • The story thus flashes back to when Alice, Akari and Aika were still trainees; it’s Christmas, and while Akari and Aika are in the holiday spirit, Alice seems a little detached from everything. Venice is beautiful during the Christmas season, and besides the Christmas markets, the area is quite foggy during the winter, so it feels like the buildings are floating in the skies. During winters, Venice can be quite chilly because of the humid air, so bringing a coat is suggested. I imagine that Neo-Venezia inherits Venice’s climate, as well; the real Venice has a humid subtropical climate with cooler winters and hot, humid summers.

  • Akari transforms into a chibi form while admiring a Befana doll – it appears that in ARIA, elements of Halloween are combined with Christmas, with the witch, Befana, replacing Saint Nicholas as the patron saint of the Christmas season and deliverer of gifts. I’ve always loved these chibi expressions, as they represent the character’s true selves in a visual format. Akari’s flat, angular lines signify that she’s completely lost in the moment, while Aika’s eyes become shiny and her mouth take on a cat-like shape, perhaps indicative of someone who’s trying hard to remain cool and composed. Alice’s chibi form signifies lack of amusement in the situation.

  • It was around here that I really began noticing how Amanchu!-like everyone looked – while it has been five years since I’d watched ARIA, seeing the characters in the present day meant some of the visual changes weren’t immediately apparent. However, comparing each of Akari, Aika and Alice in the present, versus their past selves, shows that everyone’s matured. It’s a subtle and pleasant touch. Here, Hime can be seen clinging to Aika: she’s the president of Himeya, and President Aria has a bit of a crush on her. During the original ARIA, President Aria would do things like sucking in his gut to impress Hime, but things always would backfire.

  • The dynamics among the cats bring to mind how the bunnies in GochiUsa act, and now that I think about it, ARIA might be seen as a more contemplative, quieter forerunner to GochiUsa, which shares in common with ARIA lovable characters, strong animal motifs, and a wonderfully designed world that is simultaneously similar to and different than our own. Upon returning to her room, Alice collapses on her bed, completely defeated that Christmas isn’t getting her excited. Athena ends up hearing Alice out, and does her best to cheer Alice up, but when nothing works, Athena takes a more dramatic route.

  • One evening, Alice spots something out the corner of her eye, and although she knows it’s Athena, curiosity takes a hold. Alice stumbles into a darkened courtyard after following Athena’s singing, and finds herself face-to-face with Athena, who’s decked out as Befana. It turns out that, with help from Aika and Akari, Athena had prepared a Christmas party of sorts for Alice and even granted her wish, of becoming the princess to the kingdom of bubbles. Alice had been saddened to learn that Befana was merely a myth for children and didn’t exist; her reaction is what most children go through upon learning Santa Claus is a story.

  • However, the transition from being a child to adulthood means helping the next generation of children to have fun and make their own discoveries. To this end, Athena puts a little something together for Alice and notes that it was very rewarding to have done something for those around her. This is the spirit of Christmas, and an integral part of growing up; becoming more mature means understanding others well and being able to address the challenges they face in an effectual, instructive manner.

  • After this particular evening, Alice appreciates that Christmas isn’t about the existence of Befana, but rather, being able to realise the dreams of others. The entire scene is quite magical: Athena, Akari and Aika have prepared non-burst bubbles with candles to create an otherworldly feeling. The cat waiters serving Alice and Athena are Aika and Akari – while ARIA has a very noticeable supernatural piece to it, the series is very measured about when to incorporate such elements. Here, the magic comes purely from the effort Athena directs towards helping Alice to rediscover her joy for the winter holidays.

  • Back in the present, Alice’s recounting this story to Anya shows what sort of senior Athena had been, giving Anya an idea of what Alice wishes to do as a senior. The natural progression in ARIA means that the series presents both perspectives very well. I’m sure a great many people have experienced this: as a junior, they’d see their seniors as role models, people to learn from and even lean on, and as the senior, they’d treat their juniors as they wish their seniors would’ve treated them. As a TA, for instance, I always strove to be clear in my instruction to students, and assess their work fairly. When I was a second year student, an excellent TA had prevented me from failing data structures, so by the time I became a TA, I worked hard to ensure no-one in my sections were left behind.

  • I also ended up going out for lunch with the product owner from Denver, where I had a breakfast burger (British bangers and a fried egg with onion), although if memory serves, that had been a bit of a stressful day, being my last in Winnipeg. Now that I think about it, without Alicia around, Aria Company does feel like it’s a bit of a lonelier place, but so long as Akari and Ai are present, things are a little livelier. Here, Akatsuki shares another conversation with Akari, hoping he’d be able to join her for a spot of tea, but with things being busy, Akari declines. I’ve noticed that present-day Akari speaks in a more confident and measured manner: Erino Hazuki has always given Akari’s voice a hesitant, soft inflection, so hearing the changes in Akari’s voice is another reminder that the characters are maturing.

  • On the day of Festa del Redentore, Aika is flooded with work, but fortunately, the Undines from other companies also show up to help out, and even President Aria has appeared to help direct guests to their tables. Akari and Ai are out taking passengers on gondola tours, so they’re unavailable to help out, but Anya is around to lend a hand. Orange Company and its large number of Undines means she’s able to get away on occasion to help out during festivals.

  • ARIA‘s presentation of different company sizes is a faithful and truthful representation of what is commonly referred to as the “bus factor” – for a given company, the bus factor is a measure of risk based on how well skill and information is distributed amongst a team. Specifically, it is a measure of how many people can become unavailable before productivity stops outright. Aria Company has a bus factor of 1 (if Akari were unavailable, Ai is not qualified to take customers on her own, and Aria Company’s operations grind to a halt), while Orange Planet has a bus factor of 20 (there are 20 Primas, so all 20 must be unavailable before business is halted). When I started working with my first startup, our bus factor was 1.5, and with my last position, our bus factor was 1 since I was the only mobile developer on the team (and similarly, our main product was an iOS app).

  • To reduce the bus factor on a team, cross-training is important: even if other developers can’t fully develop new features into the app or architect it out, having enough knowledge to debug smaller bugs and manage releases can save headache down the line. Generally speaking, a larger bus factor is desirable because it means more people can become unavailable before productivity sustains a decrease, and in more practical terms, it means that on a team with a higher bus factor, I can go on vacation for a week and not feel guilty about letting work accumulate dangerously. With the day’s work over, Akari joins Aika, Azusa, Ai and Anya as they prepare their surprise for Alice and Athena.

  • While Aika might be a Prima now and deeply respects her mentor, Akira, for allowing her to develop into a full-fledged Undine under Akira’s watchful tutelage, this hasn’t stopped Aika from calling Akira a dæmon instructor. Ironically, Akira happens to overhear Aika, causing the latter to jump in shock: Akira’s still got a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense personality. A major part of the fun in Crepuscolo was watching old dynamics amongst the characters make a return. There’s a sense of nostalgia surrounding ARIA, and I imagine that this fifteenth anniversary project will be a pleasant trip down memory lane for longtime viewers.

  • For me, I watched ARIA to completion five years earlier: I remember starting in August and slowly made my way through the series until by October, I’d finished. Back then, I was still working with my first startup, and I spent lunch hours watching episodes. During my marathon, one episode particularly stood out to me: during ARIA The Natural, Akari encounters a lady in black who asks for a ride to the cemetery at Isola di San Michele. Akari had heard about a ghost story surrounding such a lady in black, and finds out for herself that this lady is in fact a spectre. She is saved at the last second by the Cait Sith and finds herself back at Aria Company, although it is suggested that Akari’s experiences were no dream.

  • With all of the principal characters involved planning out the surprise for Athena and Alice, Akira and Alicia indicate they’ve found something that will work, and begin recalling a time when Athena had seemed quite down about something: when Athena had been assigned to mentor the brilliant but young Alice, she’d been worried about disappointing Alice; other Singles at Orange Planet had found it difficult to befriend someone like Alice, so Athena ended up deciding to take things slowly with Alice.

  • Over time, Alice would come to treasure her time with Athena, but because of Alice’s own skill, she advanced through the ranks quickly, and Athena despaired that their precious time was going to be cut short. Athena thus found herself wishing that time would pass more slowly, and chastises herself because a part of her wished Alice might fail, so that the two might be able to spend more time together. Athena recalls that Alice’s weakness had been in her singing: Primas also sing for their customers, and like GochiUsa‘s Chino, Alice’s voice isn’t particularly loud.

  • In the end, Athena suggests that Alice sing in the manner that makes her happy, and that with confidence, her love of singing would also reach her customers: Athena is famous in Neo-Venezia for her angelic voice and natural talent for singing, but despite this natural talent, Athena is also able to properly explain how she makes her singing work for her. This is the mark of a genius: although society has long counted someone as a genius if they possess uncommon talent in a field, as well as a ceaseless drive to explore, I’ve found that genius also entails being able to approach complex problems with elegant approaches.

  • In Athena’s case, she’s able to put into words what makes singing work for her and convey this to Alice. Being able to capture the feelings in one’s heart is a highly challenging task, and Violet Evergarden had similarly suggested that honestly articulating one’s feelings is a skill that must be cultivated over time. Athena is able to do just this, and I am reminded of Steven Hawking and Richard Feynman, both of which had a knack for finding creative ways of communicating incredibly abstract and tricky concepts in a way that even laypeople would understand. My old graduate supervisor similarly believed in this: the Giant Walkthrough Brain and my graduate thesis resulted from this, striving to present neuroscience and cellular biology in an accessible way to people.

  • With Athena’s words, Alice is able to reach her full potential and sings well enough for herself, allowing her to pass her exam and do what became a landmark accomplishment in ARIA: go from a Pair straight to a Prima. The composition of this scene evokes a sense of nostalgia, in recalling a pivotal moment in Alice’s career as an Undine, and for me, there was a lingering feeling of familiarity that I couldn’t quite place my finger on.

  • As it turns out, the big surprise plan that everyone was helping with was to bring Alice and Athena together; Athena and Alice had been worried about not being able to meet one another, so the group writes a letter to bring Alice to the concert hall where Athena is performing. In the moments before the concert begins, the pair share a conversation together, reflect on the journey Alice took to become a Prima and everything she’d learned from Athena in the process. As the others indicate, it was difficult for both Alice and Athena to be honest with one another about how they feel.

  • However, in the end, with everything out in the open, Athena is able to express her happiness at having mentored someone like Alice, while Alice is immensely grateful to have learnt under Athena. The idea of cycles and the student becoming the teacher is especially apparent in CrepuscoloAvvenire had depicted the events following Origination and showed that Ai had joined the Aria Company, while Azusa becomes Aika’s student, and Anya began under Alice. However, Avvenire had only really scratched the surface, and having now seen the whole of ARIA, I found that Avvenire was only really an essay in the craft.

  • As such, the new series of ARIA movies have the possibility of really showing the relationship between the current generation of Prima Undines and their students, all the while giving an opportunity to expand upon moments from the original ARIA series. Crepuscolo has already shown what is possible in the movie format, so I’m hoping that Akira, Aika and Azusa will get some shine time in the upcoming movie, and then assuming this to be the case, Alicia, Akari and Ai will have their stories told in the third, and final movie.

  • With their hearts at peace, Athena and Alice are able to sing together. The vocal pieces in ARIA are beautiful: originally, Choro Club collaborated with Takeshi Senoo to compose the series’ incidental pieces and Eri Kawai’s most iconic songs. The “lyrics” were composed of tones not from any known language, to create a sense of timelessness, and according to director Jun’ichi Satō, the opening and ending songs were originally intended to be written in this way. However, Kawai decided that the lyrics should be Japanese in the end to better convey the feelings consistent with ARIA‘s aesthetic.

  • There is a sadness about Athena’s character in the knowledge that both Kawakami and Kawai have passed away: this sadness seemed to permeate Crepuscolo as Alice feels like she’s treading on eggshells where Athena is concerned, perhaps mirroring the difficult decision to recast Rina Satō as Athena. Assuming this to hold true, the remarks that Athena has for Alice, and Alice’s subsequent singing with Athena parallel Crepuscolo‘s desire to let viewers know that what happened before were to be treasured forever, but what happened in the past notwithstanding, there’s a future ahead of everyone that is worth seizing, and should be seized, free of the burdens from the past.

  • In this way, Crepuscolo‘s message is a very encouraging one; the film may have begun in a melancholy and introspective fashion, but remembering the times of old and what joy it’d brought means that the film is also optimistic. As the performance’s audience begin filing into the concert hall, they are pleased to see Athena and Alice singing already; in particular, Alice’s coworkers are happy. They’d been quite worried about Alice earlier, but seeing her on stage with Athena indicates beyond any doubt that Alice had found her answers and is no longer down.

  • Al, Akatsuki and Woody were noticeably absent from the events of Avvenire. Having seen Woody and Akatsuki, it’d be nice if in Benedizione, Al and Aika are able to spend more time together: during the events of Natural, it was shown that Aika had fallen in love with Al, who works as a Genome (an occupation entailing the maintenance of the equipment that regulates the artificial gravity on Aqua to be about 1G). This story was particularly touching, and it was fun to see the normally collected Aika become flustered in Al’s presence.

  • There are a large number of opera houses in Venice, but based on the building façade, as well as ARIA‘s tendency to use the most iconic locations of Venice, I am going to guess that Athena is performing at La Fenice, which is one of Venice’s (and even Italy’s) most renowned performing venue. The current theatre, seen in Crepuscolo, was actually built in 2001, the same year ARIA‘s manga began running. It was destroyed by a fire in 1996, a consequence of arson from electricians who’d been servicing the building’s wiring. The original theatre was opened in 1792, but was also destroyed by fire in 1836. Fortunately, swift construction efforts meant that La Fenice reopened a year later, in 1837. The building has so far rebounded thrice after fires, and therefore, lives up to its name, which is “The Phoenix” in English.

  • In flashbacks, moments from ARIA the Origination‘s ninth episode are brought to life in full, given the HD remaster treatment and completely refreshed. Because Crepuscolo brought back so many memories, both for me and for the characters, I began developing this feeling that I’d seen everything before. I therefore hopped on over back to Origination, and sure enough, the very same moments in Crepuscolo were shown in Origination, albeit with a massive visual update.

  • Athena and Alice’s smiles speak volumes about the catharsis both experience after being open with one another. While the concert Athena performs at isn’t shown, the fact that we got to hear familiar, iconic performances in Crepuscolo was very heartwarming. The combined nostalgia and warmth that Crepuscolo conveys, coupled with the fact that Benedizione isn’t going to be out until May or June 2022, there’s probably enough time to go back and re-watch the whole of ARIA, front-to-back (even with my schedule and tendency to procrastinate).

  • With the concert over, the group of friends take a Yakatabune Cruise together into the dawn. Crepuscolo had covered a very wide array of themes, from the importance of honesty and an appreciation of the learnings the past holds, to the idea that growing up can mean taking one’s childhood memories and applying that to make others happy even when one knows the truth behind some things one might’ve believed as a child. However, the strength of the symbolism here, of sailing from the dark of night into the dawn, coupled with Alice and Akari’s remarks, really drove home that Crepuscolo was about living in the present and valuing the past in equal measure.

  • The strength of this message meant that I exited Crepuscolo feeling completely refreshed: like ARIA, I am a bit of a sentimental, nostalgic person, and as the anime suggests, I do view the past with a rose-tinted lens. However, this isn’t because I want to go back to those days per se, but rather, because the sum of my experiences now allow me to appreciate the importance of what had happened previously even more strongly. For instance, while my work with the Winnipeg team was not enjoyable to me in that moment, I also learnt a great deal and became a stronger iOS developer for it: today, were I to go back, there’d be a few things that I’d do differently, and I’m confident that I’m now better prepared to handle conflicts and work towards a completed deliverable.

  • Overall, ARIA the Crepuscolo was a very welcome trip down memory lane, and I was very moved in watching it. It’s a strong recommendation for all fans of ARIA, and folks wondering if this film is worthwhile do have enough time to go back and check out ARIA in full before the next film releases. Themes of the past, present and future within Crepuscolo reminds me of how these days, my thoughts are turning towards what my first home will look like; I’ve been saving for a very long time for this, and since this is a major milestone, I wish to make certain I’m satisfied with everything before signing on the dotted line. Being able to watch Crepuscolo was a reminder that some things are inevitable, but with the right mindset, I will be prepared to handle what comes up, rather like how Alice is now a bit better equipped to be a good mentor for Anya.

As it turns out, JC Staff handled the production of ARIA the Crepuscolo; JC Staff had previously been involved with adapting another one of Kozue Amano’s works, Amanchu!. In typical JC Staff fashion, backgrounds are beautifully rendered, and lighting is masterfully used to convey emotion and totally immerse viewers in another world. Within moments of spotting Anya, it becomes clear that JC Staff have also brought on board the character designers from Amanchu!. Throughout Crepuscolo, visual traits from Amanchu’s characters can be spotted amongst everyone, including sharper facial features, eyelashes and brighter eyes. While not quite what I remember from the original ARIA series, the choice to subtly shift the characters’ appearances closer to their Amanchu! equivalents really accentuates the fact that Amano had created both Amanchu! and ARIA. Overall, ARIA the Crepuscolo is a welcome addition to ARIA, possessing all of the aesthetics that had been present in the originals, bringing back familiar characters and presenting hitherto unseen stories, while simultaneously giving the ARIA universe a fresh coat of paint and giving fans of the series a new story to enjoy. The first of the movies for the ARIA fifteenth anniversary project shows that in the town of Neo-Venezia, there’s always something new to explore, whether it is learning more about those around one, or some obscure treasure that has gone unnoticed. The next of the ARIA films will be titled ARIA the Benedizione and is scheduled to première in Japan on December 3, 2021. The wait this time was absolutely within the realm of what is reasonable, being only five and a half months. I am rather looking forwards to seeing what happens in Benedizione, and because Crepuscolo‘s focus was on Athena, Alice and Anya, one could reasonably surmise that Benedizione will follow Himeya’s Akira, Aika and Azusa. The basis for this is that, since ARIA originally had Akari and Alice occupy the spotlight, it follows that the last of the movies will be about the smallest Undine Company, but one that has nonetheless built out a legendary reputation over the years and therefore, would act as a proper conclusion for this set of movies.