The Infinite Zenith

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

Tag Archives: Japanese Animation

New Game!!- A preview of season two

“Let’s optimise for player experience rather than what we think will make more money.” —Ron Carmel

A year has passed since Aoba began working for Eagle Jump, and she wonders if there will be any new hires this year. While there are none, Kō and the others plan a hanami. Nene later meets up with Umiko to gain some insights into programming, confiding in her that Aoba’s inspired her to take up development of a simple game. Rin and Shizuku later interview each of their employees to gain their insights over their past year, and at their hanami, Shizuki announces a character design contest for their next project. A year has also elapsed in the real world – I was just starting out last year, and a year later, while I can’t quite say I’m a Swift 3 wizard, I am becoming at least a little more familiar with app development and project management. It’s most welcome to see New Game!! continue with its depiction of a highly fictionalised game studio; being a Manga Time Kirara adaptation, New Game!! is characterised by its light-hearted, humourous portrayal of an industry that is brutal and unforgiving in reality. Like its predecessors, the first episode to New Game!! is unsurprisingly easy-going, driven by comedy. Old characters are brought back to the forefront as the episode acts to give audiences a refresher on who everyone is, and with the old crew back in full force, New Game!! opens the stage for introducing new characters.

Like GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic before it, New Game!! opens its second season by re-introducing the characters that made their first seasons so enjoyable: even if the characters are memorable, a year’s passage means that some of their best moments may not be so readily recalled. As such, by placing familiar characters in novel scenarios that allow them to bounce off one another, audiences are immediately reminded of what had made the first season so enjoyable while simultaneously increasing their anticipation for what is upcoming. In New Game!!, it is welcoming to see Aoba and Kō set out on their next journey as game artists, and similarly, the seeds are sown for Nene’s interest in game development, as evidenced in her meeting up with Umiko to learn more about C++. Character interactions, being the core of Manga Time Kirara works, drive virtually everything in such anime, and one of the strongest aspects about second seasons are that they allow different characters, whom have had limited interactions insofar, to interact with one another. The end result is the creation of a much more dynamic cast: different personalities can draw out different responses and facets to the characters to really bring them to life. This is something that both GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic excelled at, and it will be exciting to see how New Game!! will bring new characters into the fold while further developing the existing cast.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Aoba owns New Game!!, so it is fitting to open with a screenshot of her all fired up and ready to receive Eagle Jump’s new employees. Not shown is her wilting when she finds out there are no new hires. A cross between Azusa Nanako and Chino Kafū, Aoba is innocent, hard-working and the sort of character audiences can rally around – she provides a grounding perspective for viewers, allowing them to take in the other characters’ eccentricities in stride, especially those of Kō’s, whose habits would almost certainly get her tossed from any company out there.

  • Aoba nonchalantly greets Kō when she arrives, only to become shocked that she’s grown accustomed to Kō’s propensity to go Strike Witches-style while working late nights at the office. It’s a clever call-back to the first season to show that things have changed for Aoba, while at the same time, things have also remained the same. I imagine that by this point in time, there should be no misconceptions about what New Game!! is and isn’t. This is certainly an anime for relaxing to, rather than wondering how realistic everything is.

  • The correct answer is that New Game! is realistic like Battlefield 1 is realistic, but it’s also authentic the same way Battlefield 1 is authentic. A work can be authentic and fun without being realistic; authenticity is about maintaining an atmosphere and retaining enough elements that are accurate to their real-world counterparts, and New Game! had this down solid. A realistic depiction of New Game! would be much less fun to watch, if only for the fact that when people are in the zone while working, it is dead silent in the office.

  • Hence, when folks focus too much attention on the minutiae in New Game!, such as what kind of hardware they’re using or the nature of NDAs at Eagle Jump, I turn a blind eye to things and steer discussion away from the unimportant, irrelevant details – New Game! is about the characters and their experiences, not the hardware sitting on their desk. If one so desired a work of fiction where the hardware plays a role of similar importance to the characters, I would strongly recommend Tom Clancy’s novels; here, details are provided in abundance and will be sure to impress enthusiasts.

  • The layout of the art department at Eagle Jump is more similar to my old office space at the University of Calgary than it is at my current workplace, an older building converted from nurses’ quarters dating back to World War One. Despite the age and creepy basement, I’ve acclimatised to the environment. It’s quite comfortable during the summer, since we have an excellent air conditioning system, but by winter, it becomes most uncomfortable: the heaters only have one setting, “overkill”, and I’ve become sick on at least one occasion thanks to an over-zealous furnace.

  • When I say I am interested in character interactions, this strictly refers to how they deal with one another on a professional and inter-personal level. Said interest does not extent to the notion of pairings of characters, which are trite and contribute little to the overarching themes in the show. While Rin may possess feelings for Kō, overall, this does very little to affect how Eagle Jump delivers their next title, and instead, serves to alter how Rin acts around Kō for humour’s sake. The pairings, in short, are meant solely for laughs, and interpreting them is an exercise in futility.

  • Easing viewers back into things means that there’s very little in the way of work being done this episode. One can surmise that it is probably set a short ways after the vacation OVA that was released a few months ago. Things can get quiet in between projects, and it is during this time that I will usually do maintenance of the code base or work on frameworks and APIs to make it easier to build things in the future. A good set of frameworks can save hours of development, especially where code is reused.

  • Shizuku decides to take the staff out for hanami: the blossoming of Sakura trees in Japan is usually from late March to early May, which means that during my trip to Japan, I would have been at the tail end of flower-gazing season. While most trees were already devoid of the famous pink flowers by my arrival, we did see some sakura trees still in bloom at Oshino Village near Mount Fuji. Closer to home, there are a large number of sakura trees on campus grounds, and while I was a student there, I would spend May mornings and afternoon admiring the trees. By the time the local anime convention came around, the blossoms would have gone.

  • Nene’s fieldcraft is inadequate, as Umiko is quick to point out. She’s holding rifle optics here to keep an eye on Umiko, but promptly loses her. As noted in the Tom Clancy novels, the best defense against someone with exceptional fieldcraft is to blend in with the crowd and betray nothing. Adam Yao excelled at this: in Threat Vector, he notes that it is more productive to pretend to be an ordinary citizen and enjoy a bowl of noodles besides executives to learn about company secrets. Because countermeasures against tails are often done by determining which people do not belong, blending in can defeat the countermeasures, although as Nene is a post-secondary student not trained in spycraft, all is forgiven.

  • After a bit of light-natured humour involving Nene and Umiko sharing ice cream, Nene gets down to business and presents Umiko with a simple 2D game she’d developed in her spare time. It’s written in C++ and impressive considering the little experience Nene’s had with programming, but a ways into the demo, the game crashes with the “_Block_Type_Is_Valid (pHead->nBlockUse)” error. Umiko is plainly a skillful programmer, knowing that as a beginner, Nene should not have the answers given to her. Umiko instead decides to point Nene out in the right direction to figure things out, helping her learn as a programmer, and Nene even documents her methods appropriately, showing her commitment to learning and improving, and in the next bullet, I present an explanation for what the error is about, as well as how to fix it. 

  • The technical worked solution is uninteresting – the following answer is, in plain terms: “_Block_Type_Is_Valid (pHead->nBlockUse)” is thrown when attempting to deallocate something in a block of memory that has already been removed. Examining the code more closely finds that Nene calls the function “DestroyMe()” without checking to see if her character object exists. Thus, her function could be called even after her object’s health attribute has dropped below zero and the initial deallocation occurs. This is where the deletion of a non-existent object occurs. The fix is simple: do a check to see if the object exists before deleting it (as a failsafe to prevent the crash), and add another guard elsewhere to prevent characters’ health from dropping below zero (which is good practise for enforcing game logic).

  • At an interview with the high-ups, audiences are given a hint that Shizuku is the reason why the entire art department and one of the developer teams are entirely female. She managed to strike a deal with one of the male lead developers, promising that he can have all male developers provided that all female employees are under her watch. While this seems contrived, I note that I work in an all-male development environment despite our higher-up’s openness to hiring males and females. It does become a little dull without female developers, since female developers can often provide insights that males do not. Either way, it sets the stage for why there are only girls in New Game!, and some explanation, however improbable, is much preferred to no explanation at all.

  • While Hifumi remains quite shy and is quite flustered when asked to speak her mind, Hajime wastes no time in outlining her own proposal for a game. A quick glance at the cast finds that Kō is voiced by Youko Hisaka of K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama, while Rin is voiced by Ai Kayano (Mocha of GochiUsa and Saori Takebe of Girls und Panzer): it always is a bit surprising but amusing to learn of the folks behind each role, and with time, one becomes more familiar with who’s who. Having said this, I never base my decisions to watch something based on who is in it.

  • Umiko reacts to Shizuku’s remarks about changing requirements here in her usual manner. Her requests for the requirements to remain stable is a pipe dream that most software developers will be familiar with: changing specifications are a pain in the backside to deal with and may add additional development and testing time to a project. Furthermore, scope creep is an ever-present threat to a project’s schedule. Because shifting expectations from clients are the reality, I place great value on modular architectures and code reuse; having a solid code base makes it faster to implement and test new components on a moment’s notice.

  • If GochiUsa were an indicator, we will likely see new characters introduced a short ways into New Game!!‘s run. The whole idea of there being no new hires is plainly a feint, since news sources have revealed four new characters. The concept of introducing them later allows viewers to settle back into things before the status quo is disrupted; GochiUsa was able to create a completely new atmosphere with a single new character in Mocha Hoto, although her presence also meant she took the spotlight during the episodes she were present in. In New Game!!, the four new characters will likely be a little more distinct and crafted with the intent of integrating them with the main cast.

  • At the flower gazing, it’s a potluck of sorts, with everyone bringing a little something to share. Hanami is a custom in Japan, being a big deal, as people often do picnics and dates under the fluttering of the pink-white petals. This stands in contrast with the cherry blossoms of campus, which often go unnoticed because they typically blossomed during that sweet spot following exams and before spring courses start, folks in Japan appreciate the transience of cherry blossoms. Because my research programmes start in May, I was around campus to enjoy them back when I was a student.

  • A nervous Rin waits for Kō to sample her cooking, and when Kō praises her, Rin steps up her demands, only to be unintentionally turned away when Kō decides to try sashimi. It’s time to share on a little secret: while New Game!! was originally to start airing on July 11, a pre-airing has available for a week and some now. While I have no current plans to do episodic reviews for New Game!!, I’d figure that I’d set the table with some opening remarks before really delving into the series, given that the episode has not shown New Game!! any new territory just yet.

  • Aoba reacts to wasabi in her sashimi: it is a bit of an unpleasant trick to play, and back when I was in high school, I participated in a game of sorts with sushi where ten percent of the rolls were loaded with wasabi in a food variation of Russian Roulette. The only kicker is that I’m quite fond of spicy foods, so when I landed on one, no one noticed I’d taken it until I said so. At this year’s Calgary Stampede, there’s a legendary pizza loaded with the Carolina Reaper, a pepper scoring 1.569 million Scoville Units on average (rounded to four significant figures). It is so intense, I’ve heard that emergency services are on station in case people brave enough to try it react poorly to the pizza. I’m not quite so adventurous, and have my eye on the Lobster Poutine.

  • Despite Kō’s prank earlier, after Shizuku announces the internal character design competition, Aoba lightens up and expresses her looking forwards to working on another project. The improbability of Aoba securing a position as a 3D modeller despite lacking a profound knowledge of Autodesk Maya, is explained as Shizuku running into Aoba prior to her interview, and after a more casual conversation, found Aoba’s personal attributes to be a much greater asset than her technical skills. Their decision has been a good one: hardworking and motivated to improve, Aoba is a fine fit with the team and gets along with the others as well as she completes her tasks.

  • In Kō, Aoba sees a role model and leader. The two definitely make a fine student-mentor pair, and a part of New Game!! will be seeing how the two continue to help one another grow even as new staff are hired into Eagle Jump. As an aside, it looks like Unity3D is featured in the credits: I wonder what role they’ve played in New Game!!. This brings my post to an end, and the next talk on New Game!! will be done after three episodes have elapsed. Owing to the non-trivial number of posts on New Game!, I’ve created a new category, and also note that the second season is merely denoted with an additional exclamation point, rather than being titled “New Game Plus!“. Upcoming posts will include the third movie in Washio Sumi Chapter, as well as Battlefield 1‘s “Praise de Tahure” update whenever that is released.

One of the elements that I found surprising about New Game! was not the anime itself, but the severity that some fans regarded the series with, whether it be the nature of the computer hardware used at Eagle Jump, how realistic the depiction of AutoDesk Maya is or whether or not New Game! was an effort to glamourise overwork and unreasonable hours in light of deadlines. While undoubtedly relatable for some viewers, who are similarly working in technology or innovation-related fields, the fact is that New Game! is a Manga Time Kirara adaptation and consequently, intended to entertain rather than be an accurate depiction of reality. It is a rose-coloured view of the industry intended to evoke a few laughs, with numerous creative liberties taken so characters can bounce off one another. In this role, New Game! is immensely successful – the things that made season one so entertaining make a return in the second season’s first episode, and looking ahead, it will be exciting to see what directions New Game!! will take. The first episode is set for broadcast on July 11, and I will be following this one quite closely, as I did a year ago when New Game! first aired.

Kouko Nosa in a Pinch!?- High School Fleet (Hai-Furi) OVA Part Two Review and Reflection

“‘…and the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home.’ Christopher Columbus.”
“Welcome to the New World, Captain.”

— Captain Ramius and Jack Ryan, The Hunt For Red October

After relaying her concerns to Mashiro and Akeno, Kouko is tasked with gathering everyone in the Harekaze class for a general assembly. Rather than idling while waiting for the deadline, Kouko decides to initiate a petition to save the Harekaze, and sets out to find her classmates at their usual hangouts. From the conversations shared by the various classmates, all of the students are troubled by their purported situation and sign onto Kouko’s petition, which also doubles to restore her spirits. On the day before their sealed orders can be opened, the Harekaze’s crew put on a festival with the hope of raising more awareness to the cause with help from Moeka and Wilhelmina’s fellow classmates. Despite a slow start, the festival sees a large number of attendees who sign onto the petition. Their event is successful, with their petition gathering a large number of signatures, and on the morning the students are permitted to open their orders, the Harekaze’s crew learn that they are to remain together under Akeno’s command, operating the Okikaze, a new vessel outfitted with operational gear from the Harekaze. Principal Munetani remarks to Akeno that the vessel can be re-designated the Harekaze, and with their new home in order, Akeno sets sail on their next adventure together with her classmates. Thus, the second of the Hai-Furi OVAs comes to a close, wrapping up in a manner that was quite welcomed even if it was foreseeable.

In spite of the melancholy ending of its precursor, the second of the Hai-Furi OVAs manages to maintain a very cheerful atmosphere. Kouko’s fears from the previous OVA turned out to have been from confirmation bias, and my speculation turned out quite close to the actual events — I had suggested that teamwork could make up a large portion of the second OVA and would result in the crew working towards bringing back the Harekaze by repairing the original vessel. Although not true in its entirety (the original Harekaze is destined to be scrapped), the Harekaze is reborn and brought back in a manner of speaking. The events of the OVA continue to build on the thematic aspects seen in the TV series, and serve a twofold purpose. The strength of the bonds amongst the Harekaze’s crew allow them to now function quite cohesively, and their faith in Akeno as a captain only serves to augment their capability. Far from being the ship that was home to the misfits, the Harekaze’s students have proven time and time again that they can pull through together to get the job done. This is not diminished even with the revelation that the Harekaze’s crew would not be disbanded: the implications were that, petition or not, their exemplary actions are worthy of praise and noticed by their command. There was never any threat or risk that they would be disbanded; how the girls responded to circulating rumours merely serves to reiterate the points raised in Hai-Furi‘s original run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve been noticing a great deal of inbound searches for the second Hai-Furi OVA, so as stipulated, here I am writing the discussion for the second Hai-Furi OVA. Like the previous Hai-Furi OVA post, I will feature thirty screenshots fresh from the OVA, which released on BD on May 24. Despite Kouko’s entering the OVA with a subdued mood, it appears that a combination of a night’s sleep and a conversation with Mashiro, who promises to inform Akeno, lightens her up sufficiently so that she’s back up to her usual self.

  • Still inundated with paperwork, Akeno is given an update, and Mashiro reluctantly decides to help her finish. Armed with fresh resolve, she begins filling out the smaller forms at a faster pace. It’s been a shade under a week since I flew back home from Hong Kong now, and while time has resumed moving at breakneck pace since I returned to work, I was quite happy to take the vacation that I did; time flowed a little more slowly, allowing me to really enjoy the moment and take in the sights and sounds of a world away from home.

  • With a few days left until their sealed orders can be opened, Kouko shares a bold plan with Megumi and Tsugumi, intending to create a petition to convey the feelings that she and her classmates have regarding the Harekaze. Kouko references Tōgō’s actions from the Battle of Tsushima, where he ordered his fleet into a U-turn to take the same course as the Russian vessels they were engaging, at the same time preventing the Russians from launching broadside volleys. While the Japanese fleet sustained hits from the Russian ships, the Japanese gunners returned fire, hammering the Russian ships and managed to sink the Oslyabya, a Russian vessel.

  • At Tsushima, the Russians lost all of the battleships and suffered a loss that was quite shocking to the rest of the world. Kouko is referring to this battle here, to continue with a difficult course owing to the long-term outcome, and sets in motion the idea of a petition to save the Harekaze. The Battle of Tsushima was the turning point in the Russo-Japanese war and reaffirmed to the British that large caliber weapons would be instrumental to naval combat. This way of thinking precipitated the creation of larger battleships, and the belief in the battleship’s might endured until the Second World War.

  • I note that searching for the “Tougou Turn” as it appears is not too instructive: it turns up some music videos. Conversely, using “Tōgō” in place of “Tougou” brings up the Battle of Tsushima, which is more relevant to the discussion at hand. The gunnery team is initially open to the idea of a transfer to a different ship, relishing the idea of firing more powerful weapons, but their friendship with one another draw them back, coupled with the prospect of giving up having Akeno as a captain, lead them to reconsider. They sign Kouko’s petition.

  • A visit to the engineers results in additional signatures being added to Kouko’s petition. I’ve seen several forms of spelling for the character names around the ‘net – each character has a nickname, as well, and most venues for anime discussion prefer the nicknames because they are faster to type. Kouko is thus referred to as Coco. Having said this, I prefer referring to the characters by their given name: this did lead to some challenges earlier on, where I was mixing up Shima and Tama to be different people.

  • Elsewhere, Shima and Mei continue on with their own game. While Mei has consistently schooled Shima during the previous OVA and appears to be dominating the game here, Shima manages to turn the tables on her in a hilarious moment. I’m not sure if this was a budgetary constraint or a stylistic choice, but some of the backgrounds in the Hai-Furi OVAs appear to be done in the style of a watercolour painting. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this, it does appear a little out of place compared with the other backgrounds, which are more consistent in style.

  • While signing a petition certainly won’t alter one’s physical appearance or likely improve their grades, Kouko manages to inspire the Navigation team to sign the petition. They had been the most visibly shaken by the news in the previous episode: it took all of Kouko’s willpower to assuage their fears without bursting into tears herself, but here, the total of Kouko’s dialogue, music and lighting seem to be insinuating to audiences that their so-called dissolution might not be what it appears, and for a supposedly-serious situation, the Hai-Furi OVA’s second half is surprisingly laid-back in emotional tenour.

  • High spirits in spite of what appears to be sobering news dominates the second Hai-Furi OVA’s first half. In the time since the first half aired, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Hai-Furi official Twitter, where build-up to the OVAs have been presented every so often. Since the OVA aired, their channel has gone quiet, and I remark that discussions surrounding both OVAs have been surprisingly minimal, with only one claim that stands out: that the first OVA was “…probably weaker than any other episode of the main series”. Such remarks can only come from a mindset that OVAs are generally frivolous, and such a belief is incorrect especially for things like Girls und Panzer and Hai-Furi.

  • The rationale for my position, that OVAs can be enjoyable and offer insights into characters, is that OVAs that are light-hearted relative to their TV counterparts provide opportunity to explore another side of the characters to more fully flesh them out. Seeing characters out of their duties and observing their interactions in a more relaxed environment, if done properly (which Hai-Furi has) can also serve to reinforce thematic elements in a show. It is for this reason that I am so fond of OVAs, and here, the navigation team continue on their photoshoot with Machiko as their subject, although their ploy to draw the crowd’s interest is unsuccessful, prompting Kouko to move on.

  • Encountering Kaede near the harbour again, Kouko learns that Kaede was contemplating leaving briefly to attend an Opera Ball, a social event where debutantes present their eligibility for marriage. She has no plans to leave long-term, at least, not until her education is complete at age eighteen, meaning that Kouko’s assumptions in the previous episode are false. With more indicators that her concerns might not come to fruition, the overall tone in the OVA shifts subtly as Kouko continues on her quest.

  • Aspects of Kaede and her aristocratic background, represents a fine example of where an OVA is able to present aspects of characters the TV series itself is not able to. Similarly, we’ve seen very little of Tsugumi and Megumi in the series proper, so giving them a bit more screentime in the OVA allows audiences to appreciate that the Harekaze’s crew are a unique, diverse group. This is why it is not always appropriate to hastily dismiss OVAs, being the rationale for why I myself enjoy anime OVAs to the extent that I do. It is also here that I remark that Megumi looks a bit like Da Capo Second Season‘s Aisia, a magician-in-training whose resolute belief in magic being used for the good of all precipitates the events of Da Capo Second Season‘s later segments.

  • I finished watching Da Capo and Da Capo Second Season a year ago. While quite unremarkable with respect to story and concept in its anime incarnation, Da Capo and its second season did manage to nail the unusual atmosphere surrounding Hatsunejima. Similarly, I rather liked Nemu Asakura and Kotori Shirakawa. My interest in Da Capo came from me coming across a collection of CooRie songs a friend had sent me years ago, and I decided to see the anime that made use of Akatsuki ni Saku Uta as its ending song. I don’t see enough positives in Da Capo or its second season to recommend, hence the lack of a review. Back in Hai-Furi, Kouko encounter Minami, obtains her signature for their petition and learns that she enjoys the hover-board because it mimics the rise and fall of the sea.

  • The Harekaze’s crew put on a grandoise festival in order to raise awareness for their cause, and despite the amount of effort they’ve put in (even recruiting Moeka and Wilhelmina to assist), the day is off to a slow start with low attendee numbers. Disappointment reigns supreme, but things quickly turn around when Akeno shows up – the profound change in morale amongst the students is nothing short of remarkable.

  • Stepping into the open-air stage, Akeno and Moeka perform a live song that turns things around: although her role in the OVAs has been primarily restricted to dealing with paperwork while Kouko’s been out and about, she now carries with her the same presence as Miho of Girls und Panzer, as well as the great heroes from Lord of the Rings: when folks like Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli stepped onto the battlefield, characters and audiences alike knew that the situation would be well in hand as extraordinary folk went to work. The similarities between Miho and Akeno are noticeable: both are capable leaders who believe in leading by example, each motivated by an event in their past, and over time, earn the respect of their classmates with their actions.

  • Following the live concert performance, attendance at the festival skyrockets, and the Harekaze curry being sold is depleted. Other students step up to the plate and bring in supplies to make festival foods such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki, and all sorts of things, like, such as that. During my last day in Japan, at the Kansai International Airport, I had Botejyu’s seafood okonomiyaki – an authentic taste of Tamayura, it was absolutely delicious, featuring succulent prawns and cuttlefish in a flavourful batter, topped with a hearty sauce. I subsequently explored the airport’s shopping outlets and purchased the Kimi no na wa movie guide while waiting for baggage check-in to open.

  • It’s been a week since my final day in Hong Kong, which I spent shopping at Taikoo Shing Cityplaza. I came across Ian Lambot and Greg Girard “City of Darkness”, running for about 110 CAD. Tempted though I was to buy it, the book was very bulky and would have presented considerable challenges to bring in my carry-on. We stopped for lunch at a Pizza Hut at Cityplaza, ordering a Seafood pizza (scallops, prawns and pineapple toppings with a sausage-cheese crust), before continuing to explore Hong Kong University and Central. The evening was rounded out with a family dinner. At present day, a week after returning to routine, I enjoyed another family dinner at the T. Pot China Bistro much closer to home: the Cantonese cuisine back home is of the same standard of that in Hong Kong, being of an excellent quality. Elements inspired by Vietnamese, Thai and Canadian elements make their way into dishes here: our dinner tonight encompassed wonton soup, sweet and sour pork, roast crispy chicken, yi mein and shrimps in a savory sauce.

  • Back in Hai-Furi, Hiromi, Kouko and Maron admire a fireworks display rounding off their festival; despite a sluggish opening, combined efforts from everyone make the event an unqualified success. Numerous signatures are gathered as attendees visit to enjoy Akeno and Moeka’s singing, the curry and other festival foods. The effort the Harekaze’s crew places into the festival move the attendees, prompting them to sign Kouko’s petition, allowing them to accrue a large number of signatures.

  • Later that evening, Akeno, Mashiro and Kouko carry the signatures to their superior officers, resolute on illustrating that they do not wish to go separate ways with a crew that has accomplished so much during a crisis. The course of this meeting is not shown, although it is not unreasonable to suppose that their higher-ups will simply commend them on their resolve, tell them to leave the petition with them and that a decision will be reached in the morning, when everyone is finally cleared to open their sealed envelopes.

  • The skies are pleasant on this June day when everyone assembles. The atmosphere is tense as the Harekaze’s crew await the instructions allowing them to open their documents. While certainly not something I would recommend or personally do, there is a way to open adhesive-sealed envelopes in a reasonably difficult-to-trace manner. The process is quite simple and was used in Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector: place the envelope in a freezer for around an hour, and carefully cut at the interface where the sealant is with a sharp knife. Cooling makes the sealant brittle, allowing it to be cut without tearing the paper. Once the document is inspected, re-sealing the envelope is as simple as letting the envelope thaw.

  • When the order is issued, each of the Harekaze’s crew apprehensively open their letters, learning they are to be transferred to a new vessel. Seemingly confirming Kouko’s fears, it turns out that she, and everyone else present, is to be moving to the vessel Y-469. These are transfer orders as Wilhelmina had predicted, but far from what Kouko was expecting – everyone is moving together into a new vessel after the Harekaze was found to have sustained excessive damage, and as such, will be sticking together as a class. Principal Munetani and other members in command have found the Harekaze’s actions to be commendable, and impressed with their abilities as a team, permits them to stick together.

  • Kouko’s relief and happiness is written all over her expression here; it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Because the sealed envelopes had been printed and issued well before Kouko was aware of their existence, it would appear that the Harekaze’s crew were never in any risk of being separated from one another. A secondary theme in the Hai-Furi OVAs, then, is that there are occasions when fear of bad news drives individuals to worry needlessly, and that it might have been to simply wait for the news before making any decisions. With this being said, had Kouko acted as common sense might dictate, there would have been no Hai-Furi OVA to enjoy.

  • Designated Okikaze (literally “Flourishing Wind”), Akeno climbs into the bridge of the vessel Y-469 and finds Garfield Isoroku sitting on the instruments. She realises that all of the equipment is familiar, right down to the binoculars, compass, wheel and fire control systems: the other bridge crew marvel at this seeming miracle, as well, feeling as though they are reuniting with an old friend after a long separation.

  • Elsewhere on board the Y-469, the different crews make similar discoveries in that much of the Harekaze’s equipment seems to have been transferred wholesale onto the new vessel. From the engine room to navigation and everywhere in between, familiar traces of home are found. What the girls are feeling is probably best approximated with the real-world analogue of restoring a new iPad or iPhone to a backup after an accident that totals one’s older device. Thanks to iCloud backups, users can rapidly restore data and settings to new devices should they lose an older device, and in this day and age, our data’s value grows to be much more valuable than the physical device itself.

  • Mikan Irako, the Harekaze’s head cook, hugs her beloved rice cooker upon learning that it has been restored and placed in the Y-469’s galley. The rice cooker was one of the first items to be listed in the damage report, being dented during the skirmish in the first episode, and became the subject of no small discussion. I remarked that the rice cooker should still work, since its walls did not appear to be compromised, but discussions elsewhere were much lengthier. To see this reaction from Mikan is a reminder that Hai-Furi does pay attention to the details in its characters, and I smiled at this moment.

  • Outside, the weapons team admires their vessel’s 15 cm SK C/28, an upgrade from the 12.7 cm/50 Type 3 naval gun the Harekaze originally ran with. This weapon was originally fit to Fubuki-class destroyers, and on the note of Fubuki and destroyers, I’ve heard unverified rumours that KanColle: The Movie will see a home release on August 30. I felt that the anime, for all of its impressive visual effects and masterpiece of a soundtrack, did not compel me to try Kantai Collection or move me with its story. Having said that, I am still interested to see what the movie is like, and I might drop by to review this movie as time permits.

  • Back on the bridge, Principal Munetani explains that Y-469, Orikaze, was a new vessel laid down and intended to be an addition to the fleet, but in light of circumstances, they took the unfinished vessel and fitted its interior with equipment from the Harekaze. This course of action suggests that the original Harekaze’s internal structures must have sustained extensive damage beyond repair even if the hull appeared to have been damaged minimally. She allows Akeno to re-christian the Y-469 as the Harekaze, and if there is to be a continuation of Hai-Furi, I will refer to Y-469 as Harekaze II on account of all of the trials the original Harekaze went through.

  • In a cruel bit of irony, Moeka is taken aside for reprimand, having been involved with a matter she was unauthorised to deal with. One would imagine that the repercussions are not too severe in nature: its military setting and unexpected narrative direction notwithstanding, Hai-Furi is, at its best, a tale of human team spirit and cooperation. Something more severe would not be consistent with the message that Hai-Furi has aimed to send since its plot began to materialise in Hai-Furi‘s televised run.

  • In life, folks win some, and they lose some; today, Akeno and her friends win some, big time. Here, the bridge crew prepare to take the Harekaze II on a test run. This is the end of the two Hai-Furi OVAs, and my final verdict is that I enjoyed them, as they add a bit more to the characters that were not frequently seen during Hai-Furi itself. The OVAs are definitely worth watching for that reason, and a new Harekaze opens the possibility for new adventures. It seemed a shame to waste a finely-crafted world, and if Hai-Furi goes down the same route as Brave Witches, a continuation could prove worthwhile to watch.

  • In news quite unrelated to Hai-Furi, it turns out that my preorder for Your Name‘s novel incarnation, which was set for release on May 23, arrived on May 16, a full week before the release date. It speaks to Canada Post’s efficiency and just how on their game that Chapters-Indigo is for deliveries. As we move into the final few days of May, the biggest posts on the horizon will deal with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I finished the game today, and will be looking to write a final impressions post on it, plus some reflections on Modern Warfare Remastered in the new future. As for anime-related posts, the largest planned post is a revisitation of Garden of Words: it will have been four years since I watched it, and I do wish to look at this film again before diving into a full-scale discussion of Your Name come July.

The second of two OVAs is now in the books, and was an enjoyable addition to Hai-Furi. I have remarked that the outcomes are predictable; there was never any doubt that Kouko and her classmates would be separated, especially with their previous role in saving the Musashi in mind. However, I place less emphasis on the outcome and more on the journey taken, so seeing the events of this second Hai-Furi OVA unfold and progress was most entertaining. More so than the first OVA, this OVA portrays the commitment and unity shared universally amongst the Harekaze’s crew. To see them take the initiative and, within legal bounds, do what they can to save their vessel was admirable. To see the entire crew unify and undergo a dramatic improvement in morale when Akeno appears was moving — this is the mark of a good leader, to be able to single-handedly lift spirits simply by making an appearance. Viewers are given an opportunity to see Akeno sing when she performs a song for her classmates and the festival’s attendees with Moeka. With all of these elements in mind, one must wonder about what a continuation could entail; a Tweet from the official Hai-Furi Twitter account strongly hints at a future project, stating that “Planning and policies for various projects are under way. Please look forward to it”. While we’ve heard little since then, having Hai-Furi go through a more involved narrative, possibly featuring a plot to destroy the Blue Mermaids, and the Harekaze’s involvement in thwarting this scheme, could definitely be something that I would be interested to watch.

My First Time on a Company Vacation: New Game! OVA Review and Reflection

“讀萬卷書不如行萬里路” —Chinese Proverb

Despite her initial fears about skiing during a company vacation, Aoba discovers that she enjoys skiing and overcomes her fear in the process. Meanwhile, Kō becomes sick and Rin looks after her. After a speedy recovery, Kō takes to drinking and goads Umiko into a drinking contest while Aoba and Hifumi relax in the onsen. The OVA for New Game! comes as a bonus for individuals who had bought each of the six home release volumes and submitted their proof-of-purchase stubs: despite early materials strongly suggesting that this would be a hot springs episode, the actual OVA turns out to be set at a ski resort, being a faithful adaptation of the manga’s story. Despite being a bonus episode set in the aftermath of Eagle Jump’s successful release, the simple tale of how Aoba manages to find enjoyment in something that she initially is initially apprehensive about serves as the episode’s message, acting as an analogue to her experiences with taking on a new job. Though doubtful, Aoba manages to find enjoyment in a new activity because of her interactions with her co-workers, as well as with her own resolve to make the most of things. Although simplistic, it’s a fitting element for the New Game! OVA that subtly mirrors the thematic elements seen in the anime proper. Fun, relaxing and fitting for New Game!, the OVA is something for all viewers who enjoyed New Game!, although folks should not be missing out on too much should they pass over the OVA.

The contents of the New Game! OVA bring to mind my own recent experiences. Having just returned from a two-week long vacation to Japan and Hong Kong, of which a week was spent in Japan, the time is also fresh to look back on my first-ever setting foot upon the Land of the Rising Sun; I do not quite feel up to the task of writing about this fantastic vacation just yet, primarily because so much was seen, done and eaten over the past two weeks. However, I will recount the second evening in Japan, during which the itinerary saw me visit the Hotel Heritage in Kumagaya. Set just a short ways outside of Tokyo, it’s located in a quiet area with beautiful scenery, although upon arrival, darkness had already settled over the land, hiding the landscape. After checking in, we sat down to an exquisitely prepared Japanese dinner: a personal-sized nabe with rich cuts of beef, katsu with shredded cabbage, sashimi and bento, along with snow crab. This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and upon its conclusion, I soaked in the onsen. Despite living only an hour from the Banff Upper Hot Springs, I’ve never actually gone to a hot springs before, so this was a wonderful experience. I found the onsen empty upon arrival and had the bath to myself; after cleaning up, I stepped into the bath and marveled at the water’s warmth. After ten minutes, however, I began feeling light headed and exited to cool off. All in all, this was superlative, and I left with a sense of relaxation. These elements are seen in numerous anime, ranging from The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan and Urara Meirocho to K-On! and Yūki Yūna is a Hero: to have experienced the same first-hand is quite unlike merely watching from behind a screen, and it continues to impress me the extent that anime in the slice-of-life genre capture elements in Japan.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’m back, baby! It’s been a shade over twenty days since my last post, and while it may have appeared that I unceremoniously stopped writing for my blog, the truth is that I was on vacation. Superbly enjoyable, I saw, hiked and ate my way through the trip in all of its glory. I mentioned earlier that I would be writing about the second Hai-Furi OVA, but the contents of the New Game! OVA were more closely aligned with my vacation experiences, so I figured that I would do a post that was one part anime discussion and one part a short discussion on my vacation.

  • The page quote, a Chinese proverb, translates directly to “it is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books”, and my experiences in Japan definitely confirm this: it was something to watch in anime the sorts of things Japanese people do for recreation, but quite another to have actually experienced it for myself. As is the custom, this talk will feature twenty screenshots, although like the Non Non Biyori OVAs, the images are captured from a DV PAL source and so, are of a lower resolution than my usual posts. When fit into a 640 by 360 form, the fuzziness is minimised and the image quality becomes acceptable for a blog post.

  • The start of the New Game! OVA sees a raging snowstorm that blankets the land in white. I’ve seen more than my share of snow during the past winter, which had been a bitterly cold one, and in a bit of irony, a powerful low pressure system swept into Alberta today, bringing with it powerful wind gusts reaching 100 km/h and copious amounts of rain. It even snowed while I was at work. In Hong Kong, a Black Rain Advisory was issued earlier today, and news reports of waist-deep flooding in places like Shau Kei Wan have arisen.

  • Aoba savours the moment as she prepares to tuck in to breakfast. One of the things that I enjoy most about travelling and staying in larger hotels is the fact that breakfasts are quite large, featuring all manners of baked goods such as bread, croissants, muffins and pancakes, as well as eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, vegetables, fruits, cereal and yogurts. In general, having a good breakfast is essential for keeping energy up for the day, and this goes double for travelling, which can be quite exhausting on account of all the listed activities: I typically have continental breakfasts or something quick at home, since I need to roll off for work on short order.

  • However, when I travel, there is invariably the opportunity to eat what is known as an American-style breakfast: the combination of simple and complex sugars, plus proteins means being able to maintain reasonable energy throughout the day. Diverse selections available at breakfast buffets means that I will also pick fruits, as travelling means reduced availability of fresh fruits. Here at breakfast, Aoba remarks that she’s more inclined to relax at the hotel rather than go skiing with the others. Midway through breakfast, Aoba notices that Kō’s not touched her food, and it turns out she’s developed a minor fever.

  • Rin looks after Kō to ensure that the latter makes a speedy recovery, and here I am, in the aftermath of my vacation, rocking a sore throat and cough. My health remained solid through the trip, but on the flight back home across the Pacific, I noticed that I was feeling a bit drier than usual, and drinking water did little to alleviate the sand in my throat. A bit of sleep the day after proved helpful, although I’m still coughing at the time of writing. Having said that, my headache has vanished, and the jet lag seems to be abating. Being sick while on vacation is unpleasant, but Kō’s choice to rest will allow her to recover.

  • While preparing for their ski run, the art team runs into Umiko, who is outfitted in winter gear and enjoying some time practising survival game drills in the snow. Between the choice of joining Umiko or skiing, Aoba decides to bite the bullet and remain with her colleagues. I’ve only ever gone skiing once: back during January 2012, I visited the mountains with friends from the Health Sciences program. My friends plainly overestimated my ability, and after a single hour of basic training, they decided to take me out to the “beginner” hills.

  • While I managed to hold out and make it for most of the track, there was a steeper hill that I was quite unprepared to deal with. Poor technique and inexperience saw me fly down the hill; I eventually hit a bump, did a front flip and landed back-first in the snow, winded, stopping just meters from some trees. In New Game!, Aoba’s colleagues seem a little more understanding and give her a bit more time in basic training.

  • Owing to the hazards associated with flying down a slippery, snow-covered slope on two thin pieces of wood, folks tend to wear helmets when they ski where I come from, so it does come across as a bit strange that the characters of New Game! are seen without helmets whilst skiing (especially Aoba, who’s about as much of a novice at the trip’s beginning as I am now). I am content to overlook this, since in fiction, characters are not subject to the laws of physics quite as vigorously as people would in reality 😛

  • Aoba crafts a number of miniature snowmen throughout the course of the OVA, giving them numeric designations, subjecting them to “tortures” by bringing them into the warmth and sending one to Kō to wish her a speedy recovery. She’s also heard making some snow-related puns during the episode, something that Hifumi notices but fails to give comment on. This playful side of Aoba’s personality, though not commonly seen during New Game! proper, is not unexpected, given that she is still quite young.

  • Aoba’s friend, Nene, reacts to a message from Aoba while studying on campus. Closer inspection of this image shows a large number of sticky notes in Nene’s textbooks and notes — it’s a common technique to allow one quicker access to important materials, but during my time as a student, I preferred creating notes anew for finals. This was motivated by the fact that I would be forced to revisit all the materials again to distill out core concepts to build a summary, allowing me to better recall things. As it turns out, after two days, Aoba’s become rather more familiar with skiing and is able to traverse the basic slopes without much difficulty, keeping up with the others.

  • As the evening sun sets in, Aoba’s perspective on skiing has done a full one-eighty. An open mind and willingness to learn has allowed her to become sufficiently skilled in skiing to enjoy it, and it is this that forms the basis for the OVA’s theme. Typically, OVAs do not offer much in the way of an overarching idea owing to their short length, but in supplementing the events of an anime proper, they can offer additional insights into the characters’ beliefs and values. Sometimes, these insights can be quite surprising, which is why I enjoy looking at OVAs and seeing what new perspectives they can provide viewers with about characters in a given show.

  • Yun, Hajime and Aoba relax in the outdoor bath with Kō and Rin. At the Hotel Heritage, there were indoor and outdoor baths, although the outdoor bath was for mixed use and required purchase of a special swimsuit. That evening was modestly warm, certainly more comfortable than the sub-zero conditions of New Game!, but despite being of the True North Strong and correspondingly accustomed to cold, I could not bring myself to go outside out of fear that I would catch the chills. The indoor bath, on the other hand, allows for folks to bathe without any sort of bating attire.

  • I stepped into the indoor bath only after thoroughly cleaning myself; the day had, after all, included a lightning tour of Tokyo, and we’d been rained on at some points. The bath was surprisingly quiet, and save for two other fellows, I had the place to myself. Back home, I’m quite bashful about walking around without clothes despite being modestly fit (a reminder of social norms in North America), but at the onsen, those reservations disappeared pretty quickly. Any more information and this post will become R-rated, so I will leave readers with an aesthetically pleasing view of Hifumi resting in the onsen.

  • Having recovered from her cold, Kō is back in business and challenges Umiko to a drinking contest even as they order different dishes at the hotel restaurant, including sea urchin and sashimi, which Kō enjoys tremendously. While a Japanese delicacy, and a part of dinner during my stay at Hotel Heritage, I was still in the early stage of my vacation and had no intention of taking the risk, however minor, of contracting food-borne illnesses — being the wet blanket that I am, I dipped the sashimi into the nabe pot and soon had myself some cooked fish that tasted delicious, on top of giving the broth a bit of extra kick.

  • If there were to be a single image in this entire post that captures how I felt while immersed in the soothing warmth of the onsen, Aoba’s expression here would be it. The indoor bath at Hotel Heritage, compared to New Game! and most anime, differ greatly; the particle density is lower (i.e. less steam) and water details are much greater (the water is clear, having no obscuring properties). Having Frostbite or CryEngine-level visual effects in anime dealing with hot springs is typically reserved for BD releases, and with this in mind, while New Game! is certainly playing it safe in its OVA, I would not have minded seeing this OVA (and Hifumi) on ultra settings.

  • Whil Aoba plays with a snowman and simulates killing it, Hifumi partakes in some sake. I speak strictly for myself when I say that I would not have done this; I’m already pretty bad with alcohol, and after some ten minutes of sitting in the onsen, I was beginning to feel a little light-headed. Sake would have almost certainly kicked my ass, although Hifumi is plainly enjoying hers. Closer inspection of this image finds that Aoba’s snowman has become a pile of mush from prolonged exposure to the warmth, a clever touch; I now understand why folks are depicted drinking a glass of milk after leaving the onsen. Feeling thoroughly content but a little dizzy after my soak, I took a bottle of cold water after returning to my hotel room.

  • In this post, I have taken advantage of the events of the New Game! OVA to recount one of my experiences while on my trip to Japan. Naturally, there were numerous others, and this will be the subject of a future post (most likely, soon, before I forget everything) — it was a thrilling journey, and I wish to do it justice. Here, as we near the end of the post, I remark that discussion on the New Game! OVA has been surprisingly minimal: even Tango-Victor-Tango’s self-appointed 3D modelling and computer hardware experts seems to have little to say about the OVA. Having said that, I am certain that things will change, and discussions will grow more lively, in the very near future.

  • Umiko recovers from her drunkenness rather abruptly, all the while insisting that she’s fine, after having one drink too many following Kō’s challenge to up the ante and take on something more potent. Contrary to what might be imagined, I never feel left out when I am at a social gathering and choose a soft drink over something like a beer: for one, the taste is better, and with ever-conflicting research about whether or not alcohol has health benefits or increases the risk of cancer, I think that trading in my ale for a ginger ale isn’t all that bad.

  • The New Game! OVA is in the books, and this means I’m fully back, both to work and to routine. For the folks who were hoping for my demise, I must apologise, today is not it: coming on the horizon will be a talk on the second Hai-Furi OVA, which released today, and before May draws to a close, I will be aiming to wrap up Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Koe no Katachi is also out now, and I will be watching that as I make the time to. It feels great to return, and for folks who are wondering what else my vacation entailed, I will (probably) write about it in due course.

With the OVA finished, there is a second season of New Game! in the works, set for release in the summer 2017 anime season. Continuing on with where the first season left off, four new characters will be introduced. I enjoyed New Game!‘s first season for being able to capture the eccentricities of a game company’s artistic team; the anime exceeded expectations in being able to strike a balance between humour and character growth, as well as for integrating minor details to enhance the authenticity surrounding the 3D modelling and asset creation process. While I was less pleased with some aspects of the community for taking the anime a bit more seriously than warranted (driving discussions down a drier path, debating minutiae about whether or not Eagle Jump was using Dell computers, for instance), on the whole, New Game! itself was solid, and it is a most pleasant surprise to learn that a second season would be coming out so soon. For me, the anime does not need to be realistic to succeed, and so, looking ahead to the second season, I enter with an open mind and the expectation of more humour as the four new characters interact with the existing team.

Kouko Nosa in a Pinch!: High School Fleet (Hai-Furi) OVA Part One Review and Reflection

“Uncertainty is a permanent part of the leadership landscape. It never goes away.” —Andy Stanley

It’s been a year since Hai-Furi finished its original run, and it was only of late that a concrete day for the OVA’s release, long-known to be from Kouko’s perspective, was made known. In the first part of two OVAs, Kouko learns from Wilhelmina that the Harekaze’s crew might be disbanded following the incidents that had unfolded earlier: with no vessel to train from, the school is considering measures to ensure that their students can continue training, potentially resulting in their class’ reorganisation. Despite Wilhelima’s reassurances, Kouko remains doubtful of their futures. Meanwhile, Akeno grows frustrated with her assignment of writing a detailed report of the preceding events, but with Moeka’s encouragement, manages to continue. She assigns Kouko the task of delivering messages from their principal, which contain time-delayed information. With her classmates hanging out around their campus, Kouko receives help from some classmates and visits the different students, finding them engaged in a variety of activities (ranging from playing Mahjong and generally relaxing to working at a café and honing their craft). She succeeds in her task, but Kouko’s doubts materialise when the other students mention plans to transfer the students. She meets with Wilhelmina as per their original plans to hang out and watch movies, dissolving in tears at the prospect of being transferred and losing ties with the people who have grown dear to her. At a loss for words, and unsure on how true these rumours are, Wilhelmina offers her another choice should Kouko’s fears come to pass: to join her school.

Surprisingly focused in its story, the Hai-Furi OVA deals in the aftermath of the Harekaze’s one-month long sojourn that resulted in the discovery of a virus and its accompanying vector as the agent responsible for disrupting the girls’ curriculum. The contents of the letters, being confidential, drive the episode’s narrative: while the closing seems to all but suggest that a restructuring is on order, leaving Kouko despondent, it does not seem particularly likely that this will be the case. For one, the Harekaze sustained damage of the sort that allowed it to continue sailing into port. It only sunk in its final moments, and the structure still seems largely intact. Further to this, Akeno and Mashiro do not seem particularly worried about things: as the captain and second-in-command on board the Harekaze, it is likely that they would be briefed on the future of their crews. With this in mind, Hai-Furi‘s original run has been known to throw surprises at its viewers for better or worse, so the actual outcomes will be left to the events of the second OVA. While it would be tempting to say that a more story-driven OVA could entail a continuation for Hai-Furi, one challenge is in the fact that the OVA was broadcast, rather than screened at a theatre, suggesting that its sales might not be as strong as those anime that can command a theatrical presentation.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I believe that the last time I wrote about Hai-Furi, it was three days to my defense, and I remarked that I had nothing more to do except wait for the day of the defense itself. One of the biggest challenge I experienced with Hai-Furi was handling the speculation that was plainly in violation of how science works, dealing with the politics surrounding internet discussions while at the same time, working on my thesis paper and defense. Ultimately, I’d say that the Master’s Thesis proved far easier to defend compared to trying to discuss anime.

  • I am very early to the Hai-Furi OVA party; Google-fu suggests that there are no other discussions out there about this OVA, but I imagine that this will change very soon. Hopefully, there will be discussions considering what will happen in part two, but for now, we begin with a screenshot of Kouko and Wilhelmina enjoying a lighthearted moment together before the latter breaks out the bad news: that the Harekaze’s crew might be transferred to different vessels in light of them losing the Harekaze to damage sustained during combat.

  • Wilhelmina attempts to reassure Kouko and notes that these are all rumours at this point in time, but the possibility of being transferred away from her friends leaves Kouko pensive through the remainder of the OVA. For this talk, I bring to the table thirty screenshots; despite the OVA having a conventional runtime of twenty-four minutes, there is quite a bit to go through and look at, so having a bit more room to discuss things is pleasant, allowing me to flesh things out in greater detail.

  • This moment might just become my new Steam profile picture. It is quite clear that Akeno is not cut out for desk work that higher-ranking officers deal with; she pitches a small fit while working with Mashiro and Moeka. One of the elements that I enjoyed in Hai-Furi was the depiction of combat sequences: even if they are not entirely realistic or representative of how navies would employ their resources, it was always fun to see how the characters reasoned their way through a problem, devise a solution and then execute their solution.

  • One of the biggest gripes Mashiro had in Hai-Furi‘s earlier stages about Akeno was her propensity to step into the field and personally involve herself in an operation; some viewers shared this sentiment, arguing that a captain should retain a leadership position. This is true: the risk of losing a senior officer to enemy action or circumstance could throw the chain of command into disarray for a sufficient time period that allows for an enemy force to capitalise, but in fiction, an officer accompanying soldiers onto the battlefield is typically portrayed as being someone who cares for their subordinates.

  • Some folks enjoy being in the middle of things, while others enjoy managing the bigger picture; it seems that Akeno is unaccustomed to paperwork, and if Hai-Furi were to be more realistic, Akeno should, in fact, be getting a bit more paperwork to deal with than is seen in the anime. My own preference, in keeping with my background and interests, seems to be somewhere in the middle. I place a great deal of emphasis on the big picture to know where the objectives as a whole are, but I’m also comfortable with diving down deeper into the details and working out the parts that fit together to form the objective.

  • Nervous about whatever news Akeno has for her, Kouko drops by to find that she’s being given an assignment: to delivered sealed documents to each and every one of her classmates. The ominous note on the letters, that they cannot be opened until June 13 at 0900, further giving Kouko the sense that something big might be happening. The task seems a Herculean one, since their classmates are scattered around town nearby.

  • After stepping out into the sun, Kouko attempts the old “holding the letter up to a light source” trick to see what’s inside, but as expected, all she gets is an opaque sheet that discloses nothing about the letter’s contents. Her imagination begins running wild, and Kouko begins imagining that their academy’s been infiltrated by an outsider. The voices she manages to make is impressive both in-universe and in reality: Kouko is voiced by Yūko Kurose, a relative newcomer in voice acting with only three titles in her portfolio thus far. I’m hoping to see more roles from Yūko, as her talents definitely show in Hai-Furi.

  • While enacting this scene out loud, Tsugumi Yagi and Megumi Uda arrive. These two work the sonar, fulfilling a similar role as The Hunt For Red October‘s Petty Officer Jones, an expert sonar technician whose skill and expertise get Commander Mancuso and the USS Dallas out of pinches on numerous occasions, as well as closing the gap between them and the Red October. A brilliant student, he was expelled but takes up a military position, becoming a commissioned officer over the course of the Jack Ryan novels.

  • While perhaps not quite as talented or skillful as Jones, Megumi and Tsumugi are still very sharp: they suggest messaging everyone in class to determine their locations before deciding how to best visit everyone in order to deliver their letters. Although unmentioned, this is a fine example of the travelling salesman, a classic algorithm problem that aims to identify the shortest total path in a graph where each vertex is visited once and the individual must end up where they began. It’s a difficult problem to solve: the best solution in terms of finding an answer is a brute force approach, whereas solutions with a better run-time yield approximations that may not be the best answer.

  • Their strategy works and the first group they visit are the engineers, who are playing Mahjong. In my opinion, compared to Mahjong, Poker is by far easier to play: I never have bothered to learn how it works, and find myself impressed that there are folks out there who have learned Mahjong just so they can analyse all of the hands and details in the anime Saki and its derivatives. I note that Saki‘s last animated incarnation finished airing some three years ago, and there’s been no news of when Zenkoku-hen will continue: we last left with Yuki stepping onto the playing field.

  • Fortunately, Mahjong is not the focus of Hai-Furi‘s OVA: while some people may be Mahjong experts, I certainly am no expert and therefore, would not be able to discuss things quite to the same extent as for other disciplines. Maron and Kuro are noticeably absent from the proceedings, being away on training, and when Luna very nearly opens her letter, Kouko manages to stop her, mentioning that to do so ahead of the designated time will be a direct violation of their school’s code and will result in a suspension.

  • Next on the list of people to visit are the logistics crew; handling the cooking back on board the Harekaze, they are working at a sweet shop of sorts here. After they receive their letters, the logistics crew offer Kouko and the others some eclairs, although they seem a bit sweet. In mammals, detection of sweetness is handled by the T1R3 and T1R2 proteins. These complex to form a G-protein coupled receptor that processes sweetness, although different mammals have vastly different perceptions of what is actually sweet. Some substances are far more potent than table sugar: thaumatin and lugduname are two examples, and I wonder what the actual result is when one’s sweetness receptors are overwhelmed.

  • By Kouko’s intuition alone, the navigation team is found in the park, with Machiko Noma climbing to the top of a cell phone tower and enjoying the view from above. Although Hai-Furi might be about the navy, the OVA has remained predominantly on land. During my episodic blogging, each episode’s screenshot collection featured at least one image of the Harekaze’s bridge, and the ocean would be visible in multiple images. In this post, however, I’ve actually got no screenshots of the ocean, which is only visible for short periods of the OVA.

  • Outside of their duties as lookouts and navigation, the girls in this department seem to have a varied set of interests. The mood is initially warm, but things becoming quieter when the girls wonder what will become of the Harekaze. Machiko soon spots a large vessel approaching the Harekaze from her viewpoint as the OVA reaches its halfway point and her reaction suggests that the Harekaze is destined for the scrap heap.

  • Without further information from the staff detailing the extent of the damage, audiences will have to suppose that the Harekaze is not salvageable despite appearing intact externally. When Kouko and the others make towards the port to see what’s going on, they find Kaede Marikouji there with a butler. Kaede remarks that her father is requesting her to return home, and this seems to further suggest to Kouko that the Harekaze’s crew are likely to be separated. The scene cuts to Mei and Shima playing shogi: far removed from the concerns of their peers, it’s a few moments of watching Mei decimating Shima.

  • By noon, Kouko, Tsumugi and Megumi stop for lunch outside of a burger joint. A week ago, while the weather was pleasant and spring was present, I spent an evening at the local Irish Pub with friends who had just arrived from Edmonton. We were meeting to discuss one of his personal software projects, and I ordered the legendary “Stuffed Bacon Cheddar” burger, which features mango avocado salsa, back bacon, a patty infused with more bacon and melted cheddar, and even a fried egg. On Sundays, their burgers go for twelve dollars, so I upgraded my side to a poutine to capitalise on the savings. The evening was originally intended for talking about what classes and methods we’d need to implement, but unexpected circumstances resulted in little actual work getting done. The burger itself, and accompanying poutine, was delicious.

  • Near the end of their lunch, Kouko and the others learn that the artillery unit is at a bowling alley, where Ritsuko Matsunaga scores a strike. Kayoko Himeji manages a spare on two pins located at opposite sides of the pin deck. I’ve only been bowling on a few occasions with friends and as such, won’t usually perform too well. Their day sees many precision-related events: while Kayoko and Ritsuko bowl, the others are playing darts.

  • While they are ostensiby relaxing, the sinking of the Harekaze has also weighed deeply on the minds of the artillery crew, alongside the others. A recurring element is that the Harekaze’s crew are concerned for both their ship as well as their fates: despite being a Karegō-class that felt quite under-armoured and out-gunned in many of the situations it itself operating independently, the vessel has been the girls’ friend through many dangers. Lost in their thoughts, they do not notice Kouko’s arrival.

  • Before distributing the letters to everyone present, Kouko notes that it would be wonderful to get together with everyone again, lapses into one of her spiels and inadvertently lets slip her worries about the class’ potential dispersion now that the Harekaze’s sunk. Despite these doubts, she tries her best to reassure the others that nothing is written yet. Seeing this side of Kouko in the OVA brings a new dimension to her character that was absent during the anime – besides occasional outbursts of her re-enacting what is in her mind a reasonable possibility and supporting the bridge crew, Kouko is presented as an easygoing character who’s very cheerful and will do her best to get along with everyone.

  • Interrupting their discussion is a message from Shima and Mei. Kouko and the others set out to find them such that they can deliver the remainder of the letters. The engineering team soon arrives, and learn that there is a non-zero possibility that everyone will be separated in their upcoming year owing to their lack of a ship. This strikes them as a particularly difficult bit of news, especially as how the entire vessel had begun fighting as one as a result of their combined adventures. While Shima continues to get decimated by Mei in Shogi, it turns out that the special training Maron and Kuro have embarked on is a team-building exercise; the two are repairing a small ship’s engine together. They are approached by the captain to another ship to discuss matters surrounding the rumours circulating.

  • I’ve heard comparisons between Hai-Furi‘s OVA and Girls und Panzer owing to the prospect of the Harekaze’s class being split, but this does not hold true: after watching the events of the OVA, it’s clear that Wilhelmina and Kouko only seem to have cursory information, and because of Kouko’s unintentionally passing of this partial information, the ship’s crew, as well as crew of other ships, have caught wind of the news. This creates a bit of a feedback that seemingly confirms Kouko’s suspicions.

  • Known formally as confirmation bias, Kouko is unaware that her duty in passing these letters around, coupled with her occasional mention of a possible dissolution of her class, is allowing incomplete information to be propagated amongst the students. The accumulation of confusion results in a telephone game-like scenario, further creating an environment where it genuinely feels like the class running the Harekaze will be separated, and when news of this reaches Kouko, it seemingly confirms that her worst fears are true. This is merely my take on things: given that Hai-Furi previously presented a situation as being more dire than it was, I am inclined to believe that an actual separation is unlikely to be the ending.

  • While walking to her destination, Kouko runs into Minami, who is using a hover-board to get around and remarks that she’s been working almost non-stop, not even having the time to sleep or observe proper hygienic practises. While a cool-looking mode of transportation, I’ve heard that some hover-board models have a tendency to catch fire and explode. Moreover, their naming is a bit of a misnomer: they’re technically self-balancing scooters that can be an interesting form of exercise as one engages their core muscles and work on balance, but because they lack an anti-gravity propulsion system, I feel that they should not be called hover-boards.

  • As evening sets in, the mood in and around Hai-Furi has definitely become more grave. Unlike the remarks out there comparing Hai-Furi to Girls und Panzer, I tend to concur with the idea that the OVA’s storyline is quite strong, especially considering the fact that OVAs typically take a more frivolous route; they choose to depict the characters under more relaxed conditions, as opposed to one where the gravity is much greater. The transition from afternoon to evening, and the corresponding decrease in light, seems to visually represent the prevailing atmosphere in the Hai-Furi OVA as the day wears on.

  • Herself unsure about whether or not things are true, Kouko tries to reassure the others, who’ve become convinced that their separation is real. It is quite paining to see everyone with their fears, but one thing that’s stopping this from really hitting home is the fact that the girls’ voices begin approaching the frequency of ultra-sound. This is one of the reasons that moé anime often has a difficult time conveying the severity of a moment in anime with a decidedly more serious narrative to tell: the character’s voices seem to lessen gravity.

  • Totally dejected by the time the sun has set, Kouko believes that she’s holding transfer orders. I have another guess: they’re special orders to brief the Harekaze’s crew on their new assignment, having handled the situation as effectively as they did. The OVA’s second part will then deal with the girls as they receive these instructions, get together as Kouko suggested, and then work together to repair the Harekaze. Because Hai-Furi‘s original theme was about teamwork, friendship and trust, it would be quite contrary to suddenly pull everyone apart after all they’ve been through: even if this is jejune and predictable, I would rather the anime stay consistent than try and write the story in a drama-oriented direction for surprise or even shock value.

  • The events of the day mean that Kouko is utterly spent and late for her evening with Wilhelmina; overcome with emotion, Kouko finally bawls in Wilhelmina’s arms. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see Kouko in this state, having tried so hard to stay composed all day and complete her assignment. While Wilhelmina might not know of a solution, or even the reality of the situation, she is evidently a good friend, reassuring Kouko all the same. This brings the OVA to an end: with no preview and only a release date, I’m definitely interested in seeing what the second half will entail.

Altogether, it was most welcome to revisit Hai-Furi again following the anime’s original run and see all of the characters again: this OVA ends up being driven by characters, rather than the naval implements as the anime series was wont to focus on. With its chaotic story and unexpected turns of events every few episodes, Hai-Furi generated mixed reception upon conclusion. From a personal perspective, I found Hai-Furi to be modestly entertaining, certainly for its ability to keep audiences guessing every week as to what would happen in the episodes, even if it became clear that the anime would be following a very well-known pattern: in Hai-Furi‘s case, the journey, rather than the destination, made it worth watching from a personal standpoint, and the unique combination of trying to keep up with speculation while simultaneously working on my Master’s Thesis certainly was a fun (if wearing) exercise. The second half to the Hai-Furi OVA is set to air on May 24, which is a ways off. I imagine that it will be primarily focused on the letter’s contents, addressing any concerns Kouko may have (either by assuaging them or having her fears come to pass) and perhaps, even feature some naval combat. The OVA definitely has enough to keep the audiences guessing, and with my own limited speculations at a close, I open the floor for readers to join the discussion: what do you think is likely to happen in the OVA’s second half?

Hirosaki Region, Aomori: Home of Flying Witch

“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Terror in Resonance depicted the Aomori prefecture of Japan as a perpetually snowy and miserable locale perfect for governmental agencies to conduct secret nuclear weapons research, but this is a gross over-generalisation of the prefecture as a whole. Granted, being the northern-most prefecture on the Honshu does subject the prefecture to heavy snowfall and has a relatively cool climate, and its rugged terrain results in Aomori having a lower population density. However, this also corresponds with mountains and lakes that remain quite pristine: it is amongst the quiet plains of western Aomori that Flying Witch is set: the events of the anime are set in and around the city of Hirosaki. With a population of 176590 (September 2015 estimates), the town’s castle and surrounding cherry blossoms are the central attractions — during Golden Week, there is a cherry blossom festival held near the castle. Hirosaki is also known for its agricultural sector: besides rice, the Hirosaki region accounts for nearly a fifth of Japan’s apple production. The area has been populated since the Heian Period, and Hirosaki was renamed several times over the course of history: its current moniker was adapted in 1808 from its former name, Takaoka. Besides the Hirosaki castle, the town is also home to a collection of Western-style buildings dating back to the Meiji restoration. With its humid continental climate, summers in Hirosaki are hot, reaching a daily average of 23°C in August, while winters are mild in comparison.

  • Moving from the hustle and bustle of Yokohama to the comparatively quieter Hirosaki region marks a substantial change of pace. I live in a city of around a million people; it’s a fine balance between the quiet of a smaller town and the energy of a larger town, and I am quite happy with the city. With this in mind, the city sprawl, arising as a consequence of (presumably ill-informed) consumer preference, is very grating, since it drives up the costs of infrastructure. There’s more surface area to cover for power grids, water, transportation and sanitation, increasing the costs per person, but not everyone shares my views, and some former classmates have lectured me for not supporting subdivision growth.

  • Of course, I couldn’t give two hoots about their opinions, so we won’t peruse that topic further. Back in Flying Witch, here is a local shopping center where Makoto goes to purchase a broom for travel. The placement and storefronts of the anime incarnation closely resemble the real-world counterpart, which is located in Hirosaki’s western edge. While brooms are typically depicted as magically enhanced to be capable of flight, Flying Witch suggests that they act as conduit for magic, so a skilled Witch need not ride the broom, but can fly merely by touching the broom and willing themselves to fly.

  • While initially mistrustful of Makoto, Chinatsu warms up when Makoto agrees to take Chinatsu to her favourite doughnut shop in the mall. The real-world equivalent is a bit more ornately decorated, compared to the more conservative colours seen in the anime version, but the resemblances are quite apparent. Us Canadians are said to consume the most doughnuts per capita of any country on earth (Japan comes in second place), and this is partially owing to the presence of Tim Hortons in the country.

  • While on a walk, Makoto crosses a bridge over a small canal. A handful of these canals cut through Hirosaki, and a cursory glance at the city reveals that it is mostly low rises, with Hirosaki Castle and Park at the heart of the city. Makoto’s penchant for getting lost is a personality trait that is gradually phased out over the course of the series as she grows familiar with the area, although she still enjoys taking things at a casual pace and can appear to be going off-mission.

  • On her walk to a local fabrics shop, Makoto runs into Nao, who is on a delivery for her parents. With a maximum east-west distance of around 6.5 kilometers and a north-south distance of 6.9 kilometers (to traverse those distances would be a short 10 minute drive assuming light traffic at 50 km/h), Hirosaki is not a particularly large town, and so, one could make their way around town by bike. The city is built in the Tsugaru plains, and being relatively flat, making this trek more straightforwards than back home, where the hills and valleys present a bit more of a challenge for cyclists.

  • Café Concurio is modelled after Hiarosaki’s Taishō Roman Tearoom (大正浪漫喫茶室), located a short ways from the southwestern edge of Hirosaki park inside the Fujita Kinen park. Its naming is derived from the Taishō period in Japan — running from 1912 to 1926, this period was marked by the convergence of Japanese and Western culture thanks to increased exposure to foreign elements, reinforcing Japanese cultural values while integrating aspects from the west. It is a highly romanticised period, hence the moniker “Taishō Roman”.

  • The interior of the tea room is faithfully reproduced in Flying Witch, although in Café Concurio, the lights are dimmed, and only natural light illuminates the interior. Beyond differences in lighting, elements in the real-world equivalent make it into Flying Witch, whether it be the wooden paneling of the walls, or the stone fireplace and its attendant decorations. The major difference between the two cafés are their location: the real world tea room is located at the heart of Hirosaki, while in Flying Witch, Café Concurio is located in a quieter area.

  • The Taishō Roman Tea Room is popular amongst locals, who note that the apple pie sold here is of a particularly excellent quality and some have even claimed the Taishō Roman Tea Room’s apple pie to be the best in the city; the tea room is often crowded as a result, and naturally, the terrace seats offer the best environment to enjoy an apple pie under. With this in mind, the number of patrons means that it can be difficult to get a seat here, and while Café Concurio is depicted to be very quiet, allowing Makoto, Kei and Chinatsu to sit in the terrace, at the Taishō Roman Tea Room, some patrons sit in the inner areas during busier hours.

  • Aside from their apple pie and coffee, the Taishō Roman Tea Room also serves a variety of pastries and some hot meals. While the tea room appears to be hidden in plain sight, some English-speaking patrons have noted that the menu, while limited in variety, is excellent: the tempura soba is said to be unparalleled, and the owners speak English. Between the atmosphere and quality of the food, the Taishō Roman Tea Room seems like a location worth visiting should one ever be in Hirosaki: to really have a Flying Witch experience, one merely needs to visit the nearby Hirosaki Park by morning, and then stop by the Taishō Roman Tea Room for lunch.

  • In Flying Witch, Café Concurio is given a Harry Potter treatment in that it is bewitched to be hidden away from Muggles, and it is Makoto’s knowledge of magic that allow Chinatsu and Kei to visit, bringing to mind how Witches and Wizards conceal their locations in the Harry Potter universe using a variety of spells, with Diagon Alley being the most famous of these locations. Access is controlled by a woebegone-looking pub known as the Leaky Cauldron, and there is a special brick that must be tapped in order to reveal the entrance.

  • Construction on Hirosaki castle began in 1603, but following Ōura Tamenobu’s death a year later, the project stalled until Tsugaru Nobuhira resumed the project in 1609, finishing the castle in 1611. It was destroyed by a lightning strike that subsequently ignited a fire in 1627, and it was not restored until 1810. A large park surrounds the castle and is home to a large number of cherry blossoms that have made the park famous: towards the end of April and early May, the park’s 2600 cherry trees come into bloom, receiving upwards of a million visitors over this time-frame.

  • Makoto flies over Hirosaki Park’s southern edge en route to a fabric shop, and Sannomaru Ōtemon Gate is visible here. This particular image was captured from a staircase on Hirosaki’s Tourism Board building, close the public library.

  • Makoto, Chinatsu and Kei enter the park via the Sannomaru Ōtemon Gate, one of the five surviving gates to the castle. Located on the park’s southern end, the gate’s assembly and surroundings is rather similar to that of the Kitanokuruwa gate in the park’s northern edge, which directly faces the city (there is a small parking lot in the park’s southern end).

  • This is one of the ponds in Hirosaki Park: details such as the crookedness of the tree and the placement of ornamental shrubs are meticulously captured to reproduce actual elements from the area, and I imagine that locals familiar with the park would have no trouble picking these details out. A ways back, Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans did a scene using Edmonton, Alberta as the setting: our neighbours to the north immediately identified which buildings and locations downtown served as the backdrop for the anime’s events.

  • Originally opened in 1894, the present-day facilities at Hirosaki Station were completed in 2004 and as of 2012, has a daily ridership of around 4500. The nearest hotel, visible here to the right, is the Art Hotel. A four star hotel boasting modern facilities, it is located approximately 1.67 kilometers (just a hair more than a mile) from Hirosaki Castle and would only necessitate a 15-20 minute walk to reach.

  • A bus terminal lies just outside of the train station: Makoto takes the number five route, which takes ridsers to Namioka, Goshogawara, Onoe, Kuroishi, Okawara and the Aomori Airport. This scene brings to mind an experience I had during my Cancún conference: I had arrived at the George Bush International Airport and realised I had forgotten to arrange for transportation to the zona hotelera from Cancún International Airport. Armed with an iPhone and Google-fu, I managed to book a private shuttle that ended up costing around 50 USD for a round trip.

  • The lessons learned there is to do my research before taking off: after I sorted that out, the Cancún conference turned out to be much smoother than Laval, as my hotel was located right beside the conference venue. In Laval, owing to our last-minute bookings, a colleague and I only managed to get a hotel at the outskirts of town. It would have taken around three quarters of an hour walk this distance, but we later found a bus that took us close to the conference venue.

  • This guardrail may seem unextraordinary, and by all counts, it is an ordinary guardrail. What makes it special is  the fact that Makoto, Chinatsu and Akane are going whale watching and make a brief stop while trying to locate a sky whale. While Edmonton has been featured in an anime now, I wonder if Cowtown will do the same: our city’s still-futuristic downtown core, with its glass buildings, was featured in the 1983 film Superman III and 2001’s Exit Wounds. Neither film turned out to be critically acclaimed, and the latter turned out hilarious for trying to pass off Calgary as Detroit.

  • If an anime were ever to use locations from Calgary, I would notice almost immediately. Back in Hirosaki, a bridge provides a vantage point, looking out over a river canal. Besides providing an excellent side-by-side comparison of anime locations against their real-world equivalents, the location posts I do also offer a prime opportunity to showcase some of the scenery in anime through screenshots that are otherwise not selected (often, it’s a difficult decision) for use in conventional posts.

  • Chinatsu and Makoto cross a small bridge en route to the shopping center on their first outing in Kamisukisawa, and this bridge is roughly five-decimal-four klicks from the centre on foot. This would make a fantastic walk lasting around an hour at a casual pace, and a year ago, while in Kelowna for the Giant Walkthrough Brain performance, I walked to the Kelowna Community Theatre from the Manteo Resort on both days of the presentation. While it would be a longer walk, it can also be quite pleasant.

  • While one might imagine that it would be fairly straightforwards to recognise areas from one’s own town were it to be featured in a show, the truth is that even locals are unlikely to be familiar with every nook and cranny in their neighbourhoods. It is this reason that I am so fond of taking walks, and one of the best surprises was in fact from Pure Pwnage: while the show had portrayed Lanageddon 2005 as taking place in Calgary, for instance, it took me quite some time to work out that the setting was Bowness Community Center. It was during a Japanese cultural festival, when I visited the Bowness area myself, that things clicked together.

  • Nao finds Makoto under a pavilion during the fifth episode, after Makoto decides to follow Chito for a walk. A cursory glance at a map suggests that locations in Flying Witch are closer than they are in actuality: this is typically done to give characters a chance to share conversations while walking to a destination, and I recall a café in Glasslip that was located much further from Mikuni than initially thought: it’s quite a ways away from the city where the characters reside, but the frequency of their patronage suggests that it would be within walking distance.

  • Creative liberties such as these are perfectly acceptable, as they allow an anime to facilitate both its narrative while conveying a sense of realism (Glasslip remains an unusual exception!), and back in Flying Witch, this view of Mount Iwaki is taken from near Apple Park. With a maximum elevation of 1624.7 metres, it is a dormant stratovolcano whose last eruption occurred in March 1863, and the summit can only be reached by hiking to the top. This trek takes roughly four hours to complete, starting from a shrine, although a more widely-used route involves a ski lift that takes hikers to within half an hour of the summit.

  • There’s always a joy about visiting small towns for their tranquility, and while Hirosaki is not a small town (being only a shade smaller than Regina, Saskatchewan) by any definition, the outskirts of town have a very rural feel to it: it becomes difficult to tell where the countryside ends and the city begins until one is a ways into town. This stands in sharp contrast with Canadian cities, where build-up is found up to a certain point, and then abruptly stops, giving way to the countryside.

  • The Yuguchi Shinto Shrine is where Akane decides to provide some instruction to Makoto about spell casting: she’s taught a simple spell to summon crows in the third episode. As I’m not too versed with magic and magical lore, I wouldn’t know what the application of such a spell would be. Long considered to a symbol of respect for family in Chinese culture (孝), the crow’s call is also considered to be an ill-omen, and when I was an undergraduate student, I recalled a story where Cao Cao heard a crow’s call before his ill-fated campaign during the Battle of the Red Cliffs whenever hearing a crow’s call before an examination.

  • Inspection of any pair of images in the location posts will invariably find that the photographs (top) are much more detailed than their anime counterparts: the real world simply has unmatched textures, detail and lighting effects. By comparison, anime locations often feel much cleaner, devoid of any visual clutter: the cleaner anime renditions make them less busy and allow for focus to be directed towards things that move (such as the characters).

  • While well-known locations are expected to be reproduced with a high accuracy, one of the biggest draws about slice-of-life anime such as Flying Witch is that the artists go out of their way to ensure that even seemingly trivial locations are rendered such that they faithfully represent their real-world equivalent. This is a small street that Chinatsu walks along while following Chito around on his walk during the fifth episode.

  • The high school that Makoto, Nao and Kei attend is modelled after the Hirosaki Seiai Academy (弘前学院聖愛中学高等学校), with facilities for both middle and high school students. The school is located in Hiarosaki’s southern area, around 3.75 kilometers from Hirosaki park and seven kilometers from the locations where Makoto and Chinatsu share their first walk. Makoto is seen frequently walking to school from her residence, another indicator that distances in the anime have been modified to better accommodate the atmosphere in Flying Witch.

  • This is a Shinto Shrine in the Mount Iwaki area, an area steeped in mythology. The Slenderman Harbinger of Spring stops here briefly before continuing on with his travels, and the Shrine itself officially encompasses the whole of the mountain. Established in 780, most of the present-day structures were built in 1694 with support from the Tsugaru clan of Hirosaki Domain. The shrine hosts the Oyama-sankei, a festival held annually during the autumn equinox with a parade from the shrine to the top of the mountain as its centerpiece where where pilgrims carry colorful banners and are accompanied by traditional drums and flutes.

  • I’ll round this post off with an image of the Imaya Knitting and Sewing shop that Makoto stops at to purchase cloth for her cloaks during the finale. While nearly identical in terms of appearance, right down to the banner, placement of items and the storefront’s design, inspection of the Hiragana finds that the real shop is known as the Shimaya Knitting and Sewing Shop. It’s been five months since Flying Witch aired, and I recall giving it a strong recommendation: there has been no news of a continuation, but I have had a chance to check out Flying Witch Petit, a short anime depicting the characters in chibi. With this Flying Witch location post finishe, this marks another anime whose locations have been presented in a manner accessible for English-speakers. My next locations post will be for Kimi no na wa: the photographs are ready, and all I need are high-resolution screenshots from the movie itself.

A large part of the magic in Flying Witch, aside from the actual magic that Makoto practises, lay in how the choice of setting. Makoto is presented as a Witch who is very attuned to her surroundings, and as she is originally from Yokohama, the rural backdrop of Hirosaki offers her an opportunity to really explore the environment and master the disciplines required for becoming a fully-qualified Witch. A great many discussions, my own included, do not fully cover this, but it is the tranquil, laid-back atmosphere of the countryside that allows Makoto to focus on her tasks: life in a city is rather hectic, which would have detracted from Flying Witch‘s theme that an effective Witch is someone with an open mind and a sense for adventure amongst nature. Consequently, it should be clear that the setting has a substantial contribution to the messages being portrayed in Flying Witch; the anime brings all of this to life, and while I’ve presently not heard of any news for a continuation, the manga is on-going, so it would be most pleasant to see what lies ahead in the future, especially considering how Chinatsu’s innate curiosity about Witches and magic later lead her to apprentice under Makoto. To watch her own journey as a Witch would likely be very enjoyable, considering how well-executed Flying Witch‘s first (and only) season is.