The Infinite Zenith

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

Tag Archives: Japanese Animation

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.

Ōarai, Ibaraki: Home of Girls und Panzer

“There is never just one thing that leads to success for anyone. I feel it always a combination of passion, dedication, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time.” —Lauren Conrad

The last major anime locations post I did was published more than a year ago, for Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?, which was set in Colmar, France. In this post, we return to the Eastern coast of Japan just north of Tokyo in the Kantō region — it is no secret that the prefecture of Ibaraki is home to Ōarai-machi (大洗町), the setting for the series Girls und Panzer. In no small part thanks to Girls und Panzer, tourism in the town of Ōarai (which I’ve romanised everywhere else on this blog as Ooarai for convenience’s sake) has been bolstered by fans of the series, who’ve come to visit locations that feature predominantly in the anime. While Ōarai in Girls und Panzer plays host to several Panzerfahren matches, the economy of Ōarai in reality is powered by agriculture and fishing: rice and sweet potatoes, along with flounder, sardines, clams and whitebait are major products from the region (as Anzu’s penchent for dried sweet potatoes can attest). In addition, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency also operates a research center in Ōarai. The town of Ōarai was created from the merger between two villages in the Higashiibaraki district, Ōnuki and Isohama, on November 3, 1954: previously the two villages were established on April 1, 1889. Less than a year later, on July 23, 1955, Natsumi (a village in the Kashima district) was annexed by Ōarai and incorporated into the town.

  • It seems appropriate to kick this post off with an image of Ōarai station. Opened in 1985, the station serves an average of around 2690 passengers daily and is situation 11.6 kilometers from the terminal in Mito. This is one of the larger location posts I’ve made, featuring thirty images of the real world location and their corresponding depictions within Girls und Panzer for a total of sixty images. In keeping with the formatting of the other location posts, each real world image is followed by a figure caption, and the anime equivalent is posted below.

  • The building seen here during the finale, when Miho and the others ride through Ōarai following their victory at the championships. A cursory glance shows just how faithfully details are reproduced, with colours and even text closely matching the real-world equivalent. A Kumon tutoring branch can be seen here: I see branches in my country, and a looking further, the company’s origins date to 1958, when Toru Kumon’s son fared poorly in mathematics. Drafting hand-written notes, his son gradually became more adept in mathematics, and caught the neighbours’ attention. Today, the tutoring company is headquartered in Osaka and has locations in forty-nine countries.

  • In an earlier post, I remarked that I would not be keen on sifting through Google Maps to locate every spot in Ōarai, but I will occasionally do so here. This particular intersection is located at 大洗駅前通り and 県道106号線: the elevated rail carrying the Kashima Rinkai Railway Ōarai Kashima Line can be seen in the background here; the differences in lighting suggest that Miho and the others return to Ōarai by morning.

  • A very large majority of the scenes from Girls und Panzer set in Ōarai can be found in the third, fourth, seventh and final episodes: most of the events of Girls und Panzer are set aboard a vast carrier known as school ships in-universe. These gargantuan sea-faring vessels are self-contained towns helmed by students with the aim of preparing them for the duties of adulthood, and one of the OVAs, “School ship war”, deals with life aboard such ships in a manner reminiscent of Discovery Channel’s Mighty Ships.

  • The narrow streets of Ōarai provide a very claustrophobic environment for armoured combat: modern doctrine does not encourage the use of main battle tanks in armoured settings, since the buildings offer opponents places of cover, and also make it much easier to conceal anti-armour weapons, whether they be RPGs or IEDs. Instead, for an urban setting, IFVs and assault guns would be better suited for engaging infantry. Miho’s preferred tactic is to lure her opponents into urban settings with plenty of cover, knowing it will throw them off.

  • During Ōarai’s first match against St. Glorianna, a majority of Ōarai is cordoned off in order to provide the tanks with an urban environment, and below, a peace officier sets up a sign in front of several shops: the one with the colourful storefront appears to be a grocery shop, and again, a comparison between the two images illustrates the level of detail that went into replicating the scenery in Ōarai for Girls und Panzer.

  • The road to the brick structure visible here, for instance, is actually adjacent to the Brian Ōarai Store and a bakery of sorts. The building’s shutters here are closed, suggesting that much of the area has been cleared to facilitate the match, although the relative lack of shadows in the anime incarnation of the location shows that even in something like Girls und Panzer, not all locations can be rendered with the same graphical fidelity as something like Your Name.

  • This is another angle of the same location where Miho manages to make use of the close quarters to quickly dispatch a handful of the Matilda II tanks. At this point in their career, Ōarai Girls’ tankers are quite inexperienced and lose handily to St. Glorianna, even with Miho’s formidable skills in their corner providing a number of their kills. A part of the joy in watching Girls und Panzer was watching Miho’s leadership helping the different teams grow and unify under her direction, while at the same time, seeing Miho re-discover her love for Panzerfahren thanks to the environment her teammates cultivate.

  • The actual street is more densely built than the anime portrayal; the latter gives a much greater sense of space compared to the real world, but these locations do indeed match up: as the real-world image illustrates, it’s directly behind the brick building, and the house behind have very similar designs. The major difference, besides density, is the fact that the grassy field is not fenced off in Girls und Panzer. Placements of shadows suggest that it is late morning or early in the afternoon.

  • The final stages of the exhibition match are settled at this intersection, and while Miho risks a maneouver to reach the Churchill’s rear, her main gun does not pack enough punch to score a mission-killing hit on Darjeeling’s Churchill. Miho later uses the same technique against Black Forest to defeat Maho’s Tiger I, and again in the movie to overcome Alice’s Centurion. The realism of the armoured combat in Girls und Panzer is the subject of no small debate, but I’ve generally chosen to remain a spectator, preferring to focus on the anime’s overarching themes.

  • In the seventh episode, Miho and her friends return to Ōarai’s ferry terminal after visiting Mako’s grandmother. They travel through the streets of Ōarai by evening, and in the distance, the Ōarai Marine Tower is visible. Even with the low lighting, the details in the anime replication of the actual town is apparent, whether it be the small symbols on the house in the foreground,  or the placement of fliers on the telephone poles and vegetation growing out of the sidewalks.

  • A vacant lot adjacent to a Panasonic store serves as the site for some vendors to set up their stands on the day of the exhibition match. Careful inspection of the sign above the storefront shows that in Girls und Panzer, the brand “Panasonic” has been swapped out for “Nanasonic”: shows usually make use of this technique if they wish to present a product similar to that of a real-world brand without going through the procedure in order to acquire the permissions to use the brand, although there are some cases where shows may use brand name products with the company’s endorsement.

  • The sign welcoming visitors to Ōarai is visible from near the town’s post office, leading to the ferry terminal. I live somewhere landlocked, so there are no ferries: the nearest substantial body of water is the Pacific Ocean, and there are ferries that move between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. I’ve not visited Vancouver Island and Victoria for quite some time, but the island does seem quite picturesque for driving around on. At some point, I should rent a vehicle and drive the island.

  • The complex visible in this image is the Resort Outlet Ōarai, a shopping center near the Ōarai Marine Tower. Miho and her friends visit this facility to purchase swimsuits during the “Water War” OVA, as well as to relax in the aftermath of their match against St. Gloriana. The location also serves as the main event centre during this match, where Ōarai’s citizens congregate to watch the first match hosted locally in quite some time. Inspection of this image shows again that details are faithfully reproduced, whether it be the placement of rooftop chimneys or the number of arches in the buildings.

  • Sixty meters in height, the Ōarai Marine Tower is one of the tallest structures in the area. It provides a beautiful panorama of the area surrounding the town, and also serves excellent ice cream. With an admissions cost of less than 10 CAD, it’s a ways more inexpensive than the 18 CAD for ascending the Calgary Tower. While eclipsed by several buildings downtown, the Calgary Tower continues to offer an impressive view of the Calgary skyline: visiting the Calgary Tower is less costly than the 168 HKD (roughly 28 CAD) for an adult ticket to visit Hong Kong’s Sky 100 Observation Deck.

  • While the Resort Outlet Ōarai is perhaps a quieter mall, its staff are very friendly, and the mall’s proximity to the ocean, coupled with a playground, makes it a suitable point for families to visit. Since Girls und Panzer aired, there’s a small diorama in the mall depicting events from the anime. For folks interested to check this out, the mall is a mere fifteen minutes’ walk from Ōarai Station, although it will take around an hour and forty minutes to reach Ōarai Station from Tokyo Station.

  • Given the vast differences in population, I imagine that for a Tokyoite would regard the Resort Outlet Ōarai the same way I see the smaller shops in places like Cochrane or Bragg Creek in comparison with the largest shopping malls in the city. I’ve got a fondness for small shops, as they exude a much warmer atmosphere and oftentimes, have unique items available for sale that might otherwise be unavailable from larger shops.

  • The Ōarai Marine Tower is visible from the original image, but is noticeably absent in the anime incarnation: a bit of reasoning will find that the overhead image of the entire Resort Outlet Ōarai buildings was taken from the southwestern corner of the tower. The distance separating the two locations is only a hundred meters.

  • This is the interior of the Aqua World Ōarai, the regional aquarium. This large hallway serves as the site of a flower arrangement exhibition that Hana takes part in, and her display, a bold and expressive statement about her love for Panzerfahren, is visible in this frame. It is here that she reconciles with her mother, who feels that Hana’s involvement in Panzerfahren has allowed her to develop a more individualistic approach for arranging flowers.

  • Covering 19,800 m² and featuring an animal population of 68000, Aqua World opened in 2002 and receives around 1.1 million visitors annually. The aquarium is open from nine to five most days, and adults are charged 1850 Yen for admissions (around 21 CAD), making it slightly more expensive than admissions for the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller (18 CAD) or Calgary’s Glenbow Museum (16 CAD). The former, I visited during the Labour Day long weekend of 2016, while in 2013, Heritage Day in Alberta meant that the Glenbow Museum was free of charge; my last visit there prior to 2013 was back when I was still a primary school student.

  • A small side road here that Miho takes to enter Ōarai from a rugged countryside actually leads to the Ōarai Isosaki Shrine, which was established in 856, destroyed in a conflict between 1558-1570 and rebuilt in 1690. Designated a site of cultural significance by the Ibaraki Prefecture, the sea is visible from the site. Folks looking to visit will note that the Shrine is open from six in the morning to five in the afternoon, and there is no cost for admissions.

  • In Girls und Panzer Der Film, Miho and Chi-han Tan’s forces evade the combined forces of St. Gloriana and Pravda during an exercise near this location, and in the original anime, Miho directs her group into the town along this road. This particular spot is only some 120 meters from where the previous screenshot was taken: a hotel occupies the left of this image, while the warehouse to the right is a seafood processing factory.

  • The facilities that Miho and the Panzerfahren club are sent to are modelled after the old Kamioka Elementary School (旧上岡小学校) in Daigo, some seventy kilometers northwest of Ōarai. The wooden school was built in 1879, during the Meiji Restoration period and has closed as an elementary school. Its construction and historical value meant the site has been preserved, with television dramas and movies being filmed on the school grounds.

  • The official site encourages visitors to check out the old Kamioka school: there is no admissions cost, and the grounds are open from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon. Its location is admittedly reminiscent of the Atlas Coal Mine in Drumheller, although in the case of the latter, there is a ten dollar charge to walk the area: I was intrigued by the old tipple and coal mining facilities, and next time I visit, I will be purchasing the “Ghost Tour” package. The site is said to be haunted, and I am rather curious to tour the tipple’s interior, as well as some of the subterranean coal shafts.

  • By April 2016, Girls und Panzer fans had visited the site in such numbers that they were interfering with operations at the facilities, and were otherwise causing disturbances in general. The site’s caretakers have since banned cosplayers from the site, although standard visitors remain free to walk around and photograph the grounds. I’ve heard that some anime fans can be generally unpleasant; while I’ve encountered a few fans from the military-moé genre with whom I’d rather not think about, in general, anime fans are ordinary folks that I have no trouble getting along with. As such, it’s quite logical to suppose that in this case, it is the actions of the few that ruin things for the majority.

  • The interior of the Principal’s office is shown in the pair of images here. Details in the interior, from the wooden panelling of the room and placement of furniture, to framed documents on the walls, are highly conserved between the real-world setting and anime depiction. The only major difference is the Championship flag hanging on the left wall.

  • While I’ve tried my best to avoid duplicate photos in this locations post, the images illustrating the broadcast room have been recycled: no other anime image quite captures the real-world version quite as effectively, with its cramped setting and clutter. Compared to the TV series, Girls und Panzer Der Film seems to have improved on the artwork in different scenes, featuring much more detailed environs than its predecessor.

  • When the engines of Saunders Academy’s C-5M Super Galaxy are heard, the girls run out into the hallways, eager to receive the tanks they’ve come to regard as dearly as family. In these frames, note the posters on the walls, which are highly accurate renditions of those found in the actual school: on the right wall, the distant image is of the water cycle, while the image closer to the camera depicts a volcano’s magma chamber and movement of magma through the Earth’s crust.

  • I’m actually one flight of steps too early in the real-world image relative to the position that the anime equivalent was taken from. The multitude of moments from Girls und Panzer Der Film evokes memories of when I wrote the review for the movie some seven months ago. It was an endeavour taking me twelve hours to complete, but looking back, I’m no longer surprised that reviewing the film on such short order after its home release had no impact on my graduate thesis. I had largely finished the thesis paper by then and was in reasonably good shape to take on the defense, so I was able to take the day off to write the review.

  • Kamoika Elementary’s exterior is visible from this shot. For the curiously-minded, this is where the school is located: compared to previous location posts, I’ve included occasional links to Google Maps so that readers may use them as starting points to explore around. I remark to the fellow who spent a fair bit of time tracking down the locations from the “Anglerfish War” OVA, that tracking down the linked locations took a total of less than ten minutes, because I’m One With the Force and the Force is with me. I realise that Ōarai location posts are probably abundant in number, but nonetheless, when I received the request to write this one, I accepted, knowing that I could consolidate a side-by-side comparison of Girls und Panzer locations under one roof — my roof, to make them more accessible. Besides Girls und Panzer, I also have a request to do Flying Witch.

Even before the rise of Girls und Panzer, Ōarai drew upwards of three million visitors per year — its beaches and golf courses aside, the area also boasts an aquarium known as Aqua World, a marina, as well as several museums. In addition to the plethora of outdoor activities, Ōarai is well-known for its monkfish. Belonging to the Lophius genus, monkfish has a moderately firm texture and is somewhat chewy, with a mild, sweet flavour reminiscent of lobster. Monkfish can be prepared in a number of ways (common means include baking, broiling, frying, grilling, steaming or poaching), and in Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector, John Clark enjoys a finely prepared dinner of monkfish while on an assignment to assassinate a known terrorist while in Libya. With a population of 16823 as of September 2015, the town of Ōarai is a fine destination for visitors looking to partake in marine sports or try out the monkfish. The city can be reached by the Number 51 highway or through the Kashima Rinkai Railway Ōarai Kashima Line, for which there is a stop in Ōarai. With the town covering only 23.74 km², the area is quite small — dedicated fans will have next to no problem identifying all of the locations in Ōarai that featured in Girls und Panzer.

Shuumatsu no Izetta: Full Series Review and Reflection

“For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” —Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

The war between Elystadt and the Germanian Empire initially sees Elystadt take the upper hand as Izetta continues to provide support from both a combat and morale perspective, but the Germanians manage to utilise their own technology in creating a witch, Sophie, as well as a terrifying new weapon that they aim to use to force the world into submission. Determined to help Archduchess Finé fulfil their vision of a world where people can choose their own futures, Izetta steps out onto the battlefield once more and hold off Sophie, while draining the magic from the world so Witches no longer present a threat to contemporary civilisation. This action reduces the conflict to one fought entirely with conventional weapons and the Allied forces eventually mount their equivalent of D-Day, landing on the beaches of Normandy. Emperor Otto commits suicide shortly after, ending the war, and in the end, it seems that Izetta managed to survive the titanic explosion during her climatic showdown with Sophie. This brings Shuumatsu no Izetta to a close — this season’s other alternate history anime proved to be an entertaining watch, whose take on a familiar theme, substantial amount of world-building and exploration of the mechanics behind magic is dulled by its short runtime.

In presenting Izetta and Finé’s interactions with one another in response to the war’s progression, it becomes clear that Shuumatsu no Izetta strove to suggest that application of a supernatural force in an ordinary world would have far-reaching consequences on its inhabitants. Izetta’s intervention in the war, though allowing Elystadt forces opportunity for victory over superior Germanian weaponry, also draws their desire to devise an equivalent weapon, as well as alienating the nation from the rest of the world. The interplay between magic and non-magic is also a query that is often brought up in discussions J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings: some have wondered why Gandalf, being an Istari, could not have simply used his magic to aid the Fellowship in their quest. Tolken himself has mentioned in his earlier stories that this was intrinsically a poor choice — the Valar expressly forbade the Istari from using their magic in Middle Earth because the consequences would have been tremendous. During the First Age, in the War of Wrath, the Valar rode into battle against the dark lord Morgoth, and while victory was achieved, entire continents were ravaged. Presumably, the Valar subsequently vowed not to intervene in Middle Earth directly with power, instead, guiding their inhabitants with counsel. This is Gandalf’s modus operandi: in conjunction with his extensive wisdom, Gandalf effectively guides the Fellowship’s characters towards their futures, similar to Finé and Izetta’s own wishes to have people decide for themselves what their futures should entail without the intervention or aid of magic. In both cases, there are terrible costs for using magic, hence the Valar and Izetta’s grandmother holding the belief that magic should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. In Shuumatsu no Izetta, Izetta’s own use of magic comes at a great cost: besides shortening her lifespan with the magic stone, the victories achieved through her initial actions only served to escalate the war and potentially would have earned Elystadt additional foes. It is only using magic to reject magic that peace is attained, keeping in line with Tolkein’s proposition that magic is not the end-all towards achieving a goal.

One of the major shortcomings of Shuumatsu no Izetta is ultimately its short length: spanning only twelve episodes, the time span was not sufficient to delve into additional elements that would have given the other characters greater impact within the story; Finé and Izetta both have motivations and actions consistent with their beliefs as a result of having the most exposition time, but the other characters come across as being more simplistic. This is especially apparent in the case of Berkmann and Bisterfelt, whose roles as antagonists could have been enhanced by giving them a more substantial background. Giving the different characters screen time to develop their roles means that the protagonists’ raison d’être become much more relatable to the audience, and similarly, for the antagonists, might also add weight to their cause that leads the viewer to wonder whether or not the antagonists are also people, each with their own stories and goals. Such humanistic approaches do much for war stories by emphasising the human sides often forgotten amongst explosives and gunfire (an excellent example is found in the 2002 film The Pianist, where Wehrmacht Officer Wilm Hosenfeld spares and provides food for Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman). However, in spite of its short runtime and thus, being unable to explore the different characters’ backgrounds further, Shuumatsu no Izetta manages to do a reasonable job with the time that its been given.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Originally, this post was meant to only have twenty screenshots, but in the end, I decided to go with thirty since, even though this means an extra fifty percent of effort required to finish it, it means that I can include some of the fanservice shots within the discussion. Admittedly, only a sixth of the screenshots in this whole-series talk actually deal with combat, but that is because for me, the messages in Shuumatsu no Izetta deal more with people and how they address the issue of power, rather than military hardware itself.

  • Correspondingly, I’ve chosen to focus most of my screenshots on the human element of Shuumatsu no Izetta rather than the weapons and hardware. Here, Elvira Friedmann, Finé’s personal tutor, is feeling up Izetta with the goal of trying to accurately determine her dress size, resulting in Izetta’s mien taking on hues consistent with those of embarrassment. This information is later used to craft a white dress for Izetta such that she may fully take up the mantle of being the White Witch of Elystadt.

  • At Finé’s coronation, Izetta is asked to publicly make an appearance, where she demonstrates the scope of her powers. The citizens of Elystadt are delighted: they now have a figure who offers them a fighting chance against the Germanian empire, and becomes as much of a propaganda figure as an asset to the Elystadt forces, representing hope for the common people.

  • Germanian Emperor Otto is modelled after Adolf Hitler and Wilheim II in manner, but is presumably named for the Holy Roman Empire’s Otto. Unlike Valkyria Chronicles‘ Maximilian Gaius Von Reginrave, who was fighting for the sake of revenge, Otto’s war of conquest appears to be fuelled by little more than his own megalomanic whims to rule the world. He immediately takes an interest when Izetta announces her presence, having long believed the legends about Witches; like Maximilian, he believes that their power is essential to his aims.

  • Izetta is immediately deployed on missions to liberate territories held by Germanian forces, and since her last operation at Coenenberg, flies into battle with dedicated lances that are magically accelerated to punch through contemporary tank armour. Despite her overwhelming performance on the battlefield, Izetta’s magic is revealed to have limitations: she can only wield her powers in special areas running along “Ley” lines, where magic is channeled.

  • In order to deceive their enemies, Elystadt decide to stage an operation in an area where the Ley lines do not run, making use of deceit to give the sense that Izetta can wield her powers anywhere. The operation results in the destruction of Germanian forces, but it is also shown here that there is a spy amongst the Elystadt forces who tries to interrogate one of the soldiers, Jonas, for information. To keep Izetta’s secret safe, Müller, one of Finé’s counsellors, executes him.

  • Izetta is voiced by Himika Akaneya, a relatively new voice actor whose roles I’m not too familiar with. Finé is voiced by Saori Hayami: she plays Tari Tari‘s Sawa Okita and GochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain, amongst others (Sword Art Online‘s Sachi and OreImo‘s Ayase), and Bianca, lead of the royal guard, is voiced by Aya Uchida (Kaede Furutani of YuriYuri, Himawari Shinomiya of Vividred Operation and Strike Witches The Movie‘s very own Shizuka Hattori). Lotte, one of Finé’s maids, is voiced by Nao Tōyama, who I know best for her roles as Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujo and the Kongō sisters in Kantai Collection.

  • An often-presented convention in anime is the idea that clothes belonging to another character become tight in the chest area when worn by another character, resulting in much jealousy from the clothes’ owner. It was a little surprising but amusing to see Finé in less than fine spirits after the realisation that for her own role, she’s outmatched in assets by Finé and Bianca. On a completely unrelated note, the Shuumatsu no Izetta soundtrack is set for release on December 21, along with the Brave Witches soundtrack, and naturally, I look forwards to hearing both.

  • During the Second World War, Britain ran tests to determine whether the nation could weather a total cut-off of supplies from U-Boat assaults and found that they were capable of doing so, although in reality, supplies from America meant that rationing was not as severe as simulated. In Elystadt, the conflict has similarly limited supplies, so something as simple Finé sneaking out with her entourage for some cherry pie becomes an adventure of sorts.

  • Finé watches as a pair of Handley Page Halifax bombers take off, carrying Izetta to her next mission and reminding me of photographs depicting B-25 Mitchell bombers taking off from the deck of the USS Hornet. If Shuumatsu no Izetta had been a story written by someone in the West, Izetta would be a wizard or warlock and Finé would have depicted as a love interest outright. I think that, had Izetta been a male character, Shuumatsu no Izetta still would have worked.

  • The Battle of Sognefjord, though seen as another opportunity to prove Izetta’s great worth against the Germanians, is in fact a cleverly-prepared exercise to determine the limits of Izetta’s power. By using the incomplete aircraft carrier, Drachenfels, as bait, and allowing its destruction, Berkmann confirms that there are places where Izetta cannot operate. The end battle was a thrilling one as Izetta weaved through heavy anti-air fire, and despite losing most of her ordinance, she manages to mission-kill the carrier.

  • I’ve heard some folks suggest that the Battle of Sognefjord resembles the Rebel Alliance’s attack on the Death Star, but I fail to see the similarities, since the carrier Drachenfels is not even close to the Executor (much less the Death Star) in strategic value. On the topic of Star Wars, I have plans to see Rogue One in the near future — I am particularly excited to see Chirrut Imwe, who is played by Donnie Yen (whom I know best for his roles in the Ip Man films).

  • Rickert Bisterfelt infiltrates Elystadt with the aim of rendezvousing with the Germanian undercover asset, and shares a conversation with Bianca here. Bisterfelt is surprised that their enemies are seemingly ordinary, and in a much longer series, the dynamics between him and Bianca could have been explored in a much greater capacity to tell a smaller story in Shuumatsu no Izetta either about how love surpasses devotion to a cause, or vice versa.

  • I believe it was around here where I decided that Bianca was my favourite character of Shuumatsu no Izetta: despite her skill as a royal guard and the fact that anime clichés in general seem out of place in this anime, she is subject to the classic “guy walks in on her while bathing” routine. I never got how this is possible in general, since people check thoroughly what rooms they’re returning to before they open the door, and since at most accommodations (save the dicier ones), keys will only unlock the door to one room.

  • At a masquerade ball, Finé and Izetta encounter Berkmann with a white-haired girl who bites Izetta, drawing blood. As it turns out, the Germanians have managed to clone the original White Witch, but owing to difficulties, never managed to activate her consciousness until they learned that blood might be the key. Because cloning in general remains a highly experimental field (the most sophisticated organism ever cloned remains the sheep Dolly), human cloning remains confined to the realm of science fiction because of complexities in primates posing unacceptable risks to the clones’ health.

  • Ultimately, while I draw comparisons between Shuumatsu no Izetta and Valkyria Chronicles‘s anime incarnation, I believe that the latter had the advantage of a much greater length to explore the different characters’ backgrounds (even if the anime form of Valkyria Chronicles did come across as being melodramatic in several places). In my discussion for Shuumatsu no Izetta after three episodes, I remarked that this was a series that would require twenty four to twenty six episodes to really touch on everything.

  • By this point in time, the Elystadt forces have developed specialised lances and spears for Izetta. Izetta summons her weapons by saying oide (お出で), which I’ve heard used by Mocha in GochiUsa to coax Rize out into being cuddled, and if memory serves, Chiya also tries to lure out some feral rabbits in this fashion. In general, when I hear Izetta say oide, my mind drifts towards how characters from the Universal Century are prone to saying “funnels!” whenever deploying their funnels. Seemingly superfluous, there is a logical reason to do so: armed forces do so to alert their allies about the imminent firing of a weapon (examples include “fox two” to indicate firing infrared-guided missiles and shouting “frag out” for tossing a grenade).

  • It seems Izetta’s blood is the special sauce that gives the cloned Witch a consciousness. Inheriting the original White Witch’s memories, the new Witch, Sophie, vividly recalls her betrayal by Elystadt royalty and vows revenge. Making use of a magical stone, she defeats utterly Izetta when the latter’s magic is depleted and hangs her out in the open for the Germanians to claim, but Elystadt forces retrieve her and over the course of a few months, allow her to recover from her injuries.

  • Witches primarily use their magic in Shuumatsu no Izetta as a means of manipulating and moving objects under their control, whereas the Valkyrur of Valkyria Chronicles derived their power from being able to fully utilise the mineral ragnite, bringing forth highly destructive energy and channeling its force to perform supernatural feats. Because magic is an inherent part of the land in Shuumatsu no Izetta, it can be stored and released for use later, as Sophie demonstrates here.

  • Despite her situation, Izetta manages to maintain a cheerful, optimistic disposition; so as long as she’s got Finé, she feels she can continue to do whatever it takes to help Finé out. A cursory glance shows that I’ve spelt Finé’s name in this post with the “e acute” rather than with a conventional “e”; on a Windows computer, this is accomplished by using alt-code 0233, but I’ve always found it tricky to work alt-codes on Windows. On Mac OS X, an “e acute” is as simple as holding down the “E” key and choosing the symbol one requires.

  • Izetta’s devotion to Finé is remarkable: she’s willing to put her own life on the line if it means that Finé’s goals are realised. After Germanian forces storm the bunker where Finé is hiding out and threaten to execute all inhabitants if Finé does not surrender herself, Izetta activates the magic stone that Müller’s been holding onto and handily defeats the Germanian forces. Meanwhile, Berkmann betrays the Germanian forces and asserts that he works for whomever will guarantee his safety, giving up secrets of the Germanian military. It would have been nice to see his background and how that ties into his current belief system, but that ultimately boils down to Shuumatsu no Izetta not having enough time to really portray everything.

  • The Elystadt government soon learns that the Germanian empire has managed to use Sophie’s power to create the equivalent of an atomic bomb and plan on tipping a V2 rocket with the warhead, using it to wipe out Elystadt’s capital. Finé’s despair face is hilarious even though it should not be, and it takes a slap from Izetta to set things right. Notions of Nazi Germany having access to atomic weapons are not new in fiction: in a trailer for Wolfenstein: The New Order, Blazkowicz narrates “they beat us to the bomb; no one knows how”, and German weapons felled America. While the Third Reich did indeed have a nuclear weapons programme, their designs were hampered by human and material resources. Had they succeeded, the resulting weapon would have been smaller than the bombs the Americans tested, and would have likely driven the Americans to push the Manhattan project with even more intensity.

  • Finé and Izetta share one final peaceful moment together in the nearby mountains above the clouds before Izetta sets out to stop Sophie, while Finé herself heads to a conference with the aim of dissuading the Allied forces from giving in to Germanian demands. I spent the past two days struggling through a cold which imparted drowsiness, aching and coughing, and with the weekend here, I finally had a chance to really sleep it off today. By around mid-afternoon, I had recovered sufficiently to go out for an evening dinner of a chicken steak with mushroom sauce on spaghetti, and because that was delicious, it seems that my cold is on the mend now, seeing as I can taste things. While I’m probably not fit enough to bench press my usual yet, I am in a reasonable enough condition to write this post, and with enough sleep, I should be ready to return to work on Monday.

  • Anticipating Izetta’s arrival, Sophie is already in place to take on Izetta in a battle of titanic proportions. With Izetta’s desire to fight for common people against Sophie’s vendetta, this battle ultimately becomes the showdown between a past grudge against a yearning for a better tomorrow. I’ve noticed this since the days of Gundam 00, where translators return “fighting for tomorrow” or equivalent because of the phrase 明日 (literally “tomorrow”, in both Japanese and Chinese). This is compounded by the fact that “future” is 未来 (romanised “mirai”), and while functionally similar, I think that “future” is probably more appropriate in English, since it has a much broader application.

  • For the folks who’ve missed my “Mail Sack” series, where I explain the origin of this blog’s name, I will reiterate the story. Owing to a naming conflict, I could not take the name “Infinite Zenith” when I started this blog, so I went with “Infinite Mirai”, partially inspired by Danny Choo’s Mirai Suenaga (and for which I’m still waiting for an anime adaptation to). This blog’s name thus translates as “Infinite Future”, and I rather like how that turned out, since I’m big on seeing where progress will lead humanity in general. Back in Shuumatsu no Izetta, Sophie shows no regard for allied forces and sends anti-aircraft vehicles into the air in her fight against Izetta. The battle is not easily captured in a static screenshot and would be better appreciated in its original glory.

  • The oily, filmy residue in this screenshot is not a defect with the means I am using to capture aforementioned screenshots, but stems from Izetta using her magic with much more ferocity than before. The battle becomes increasingly personal as the two show down, fighting for different causes. Both Witches become battered and bruised during the combat, growing increasingly frustrated that their opponent is not falling.

  • Anyone familiar with Selvaria’s Final Flame will probably be reminded of it as Izetta summons her magic to create a vast magic crystal with the aim of taking both herself and Sophie out. Not to be outdone, Sophie quickly creates her own crystal that merges with Izetta’s, causing a vast explosion that dissipates all magic from Europe and claims Sophie’s life in the process. Having anticipated that Sophie would prioritise their duel over the V2 launch, Germanian forces arranged for another Sophie clone to guide the rocket, but the removal of all magic causes the rocket, plus all stocks of the magical crystals, to fail.

  • Emotion wells up when Finé recalls her conversation with Izetta, and with tears in her eyes, Finé asks the world leaders as to whether or not Germania can rule the world in the absence of powerful new weapons. Soon after, the culmination of Izetta’s duel with Sophie ends with a pillar of light extending into the heavens as magic is excised from the world. Izetta accepts her end, feeling that she’s done everything she can for Finé, and back at the conference, Finé’s composure disintegrates, thinking that her best friend is lost forever.

  • In the epilogue, with the power conferred by Witches no longer relevant, Allied forces storm Normandy Beach and invade Europe by 1941. The Volga republic invades Germania after nullifying their non-aggression pact (a mirror of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact), and the combined offenseives turn the war totally against the Germanian empire. Like Hitler, Otto commits suicide in a secret bunker, paving war for the end of the war. The war in Shuumatsu no Izetta ends much sooner than World War II did, and the closing monologue suggests that Witches allowed the war to end sooner than it would have otherwise.

  • I don’t normally offer screenshots in 1080p (they’re condensed to 640 by 363 to fit on the website from Flickr), so Izetta is not easily visible in this screenshot unless one zooms in on their screen, but she is alive and well, very much an ordinary human being now. In the care of Lotte, she lives in a cozy cabin situated at the pond where she and Finé first met, and Finé visits regularly in spite of her busy schedule to help preserve the peace in the world. In this single post for Shuumatsu no Izetta, I have not covered every single element about the anime that is discussion-worthy: that is only realistically achievable through an episodic review, and Jusuchin has done a phenomenal job of covering details in this anime in this manner.

Ultimately, Shuumatsu no Izetta proved to be an entertaining journey whose idea and execution made it something worth watching each week. Fans of magic and WWII-era alternate history will be right at home in this anime, and those who’ve played Valkyria Chronicles (or seen the anime adaptation) will find an anime with many parallels to the series: both are alternate-histories where magic feature prominently. While it’s shorter length meant that the characters’ goals and aspirations are not explained fully to be compelling, Shuumatsu no Izetta does a sufficient job of covering the details behind how magic works, as well as the lore behind Witches in history and how these elements together impact the way that Izetta and Finé plan their next course of action. The artwork and animation in Shuumatsu no Izetta is of a generally high quality (save for a few moments where characters are drawn without faces for LoD reasons), and the soundtrack, with its strong choral element, brings to mind the sort of mystique associated with Witches that feels right at home with something like Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The final verdict for Shuumatsu no Izetta is a relatively straightforwards one — for fans of alternate history mixed with magic, this one is recommended, and for general viewers like myself, Shuumatsu no Izetta earns a weak recommendation: the world is explained to a satisfactory extent so most things make sense, although the anime’s short length will leave the viewer wishing the series was a bit longer such that more elements could have been detailed.

Shelter: Reflections On A Collaborative Music Video Between Porter Robinson and A-1 Pictures

“Collaboration is important not just because it’s a better way to learn. The spirit of collaboration is penetrating every institution and all of our lives. So learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy.” —Don Tapscott

Shelter is a six-minute short that illustrates a small section of seventeen year-old Rin’s life in a simulated reality. Although her life is one of infinite tranquility, it is also an immensely lonely experience. As she creates worlds through a tablet, the simulator gradually exposes Rin’s own memories: she was seven when a moon-sized celestial body is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth. Her father, Shigeru, constructs a spacecraft to preserve Rin’s life, while making the most of their remaining time on Earth together. Despite its short length, Shelter is quite haunting: this effect is a consequence of the stunning visuals in the short. As Bill Watterson had done with his Calvin and Hobbes comics, Shelter is able to tell a succinct story in the absence of dialogue. An entire world and its story is conceived and explored in the space of six minutes — in fact, the possibilities of such a world have resulted in some viewers yearning for a longer feature that more completely describes Rin and her experiences. Through the visuals alone, Rin is infinitely creative and inquisitive, crafting the wonders of the world to explore as she passes her solitary days. Whether it be vast fields of verdant grass as far as the eye can see or an Aurora Borealis filling the skies, Rin counters her loneliness through creativity. This would be the theme that lies at the heart of Shelter: individuals can create highly compelling works when they are alone, and this act gives them hope, allowing them to find fulfillment in an alternate avenue.

While Rin’s situation seems to be one of melancholy, a bit of reasoned speculation, coupled with Porter Robinson’s upbeat performance, suggests that Shelter is not meant to depict Rin as the last human alive. The music’s lyrics, speaking of how people can be together even if they’re not physically together, plus the overall tone the song conveys, is meant to be a positive one. Consequently, it yields an optimistic tone that permits discussion to wander in a direction that suggests Rin’s loneliness is not infinite. Such a perspective is further augmented by scientific elements: the music video plainly depicts a moon-sized object on the verge of impact with Earth. There are presently few objects of that size in the solar system (the largest object is the dwarf planet, Ceres, which has a diameter of 945 kilometers), and as such, any object with a collision course with Earth would be readily spotted. This in turn allows Earth’s inhabitants a substantial window to prepare, and in a science fiction setting, it is very unlikely that a population would idly allow their species to go extinct, knowing that such an object exists. Barring the more outlandish course of action (i.e. destroying the object), humanity could construct spacecraft and organise a mass exodus from the planet prior to its destruction. Assuming this to hold, there are likely other survivors in this universe, and so, the possibility that Rin is found would be non-zero.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • One of my friends remarks that the possibility for missing out on examples of superb animations is a botheration, although I’ve remarked to him that it’s more about chancing upon the good ones that make things worthwhile. For this talk on Shelter, I’ve got the usual twenty screenshots, and that comes out to around 3.3̅… screenshots per minute, which isn’t quite as high compared to something like Utopia or Cross Road.

  • One of the questions that were fielded by other views is whether or not Shelter could have worked if the individual in the simulation were male rather than female. The answer is “yes”, since the concepts about creativity and loneliness, as well as parental love, transcend gender. These are universal values people share, so whether or not the protagonist is male or female wouldn’t change the fact that Shelter would have solid animation and music that brings out the moods.

  • One of the reasons I’ve grown fond of anime is because of the fact that landscapes and worlds are so vividly created: through the course of the six minutes, a range of locations, both abstract and extraordinary, are shown. These worlds, created through Rin’s tablet, are fluidly created: the control that she has over these worlds is akin to playing an ultra-high fidelity version of Minecraft or similar.

  • With technology’s pacing, I would not be particularly surprised if virtual and augmented reality technologies capable of creating images that the mind do not reject become commonplace within the next decade. The release of increasingly powerful graphics hardware, coupled with decreasing power costs and efficient algorithms for rendering and shading means that there could be a future where phones and wearable headsets carry GPUs surpassing even the modern-generation GTX Titans in performance while allowing for extended periods of wireless usage.

  • I watched Shelter about a week ago, but things have been rather busy: I was able to do my weekly discussion for Brave Witches owing to a fortuitous break in my schedule, and then on Friday, I attended a stand-up comedy evening with my coworkers, enjoying both the smoked ribs and fries dinner as well as the show itself. I spent most of yesterday playing through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and finished the Golem City story mission before visiting a local Chinese restaurant for dinner (beef short ribs in a pepper sauce, Peking-style pork chops and crispy chicken, among other dishes). As such, yesterday saw limited motivation to write.

  • However, I’m back in full force today, and so, this review will be done before I forget about it. Back in Shelter, in a beautiful field stretching as far as the eye can see, Rin recreates a single tree with a swing on it, then vaguely recalls getting hurt on a swing. Her old memories start manifesting as she begins recalling memories of a distant past, and hints that her reality is not what it seems begin appearing via flashbacks.

  • For the most part, reception to Shelter has been positive, and I am in the camp that believes that Shelter is worthwhile. I’ve come across a particularly asinine review from “Zergneedsfood” that purports Shelter to be “utterly trite” for “undermining” the viewers with its supposed lack of “emotional resonance”. From a personal perspective, that was never the point of Shelter to begin with, so the review becomes rather disingenuous for trying to academically critique something for a theme it does not intentionally portray. Compare the chap who wonders why he cannot fulfill the role of a counter-sniper with a shotgun.

  • How does one differentiate an honest review from one that is psuedo-intellectual in nature? The answer is surprisingly straightforwards: a psuedo-intellectual review is excessively critical, with a propensity for sesquipedalian loquaciousness. In short, a psuedo-intellectual author believes that a complex vocabulary somehow elevates their argument’s value. When writing, one should not require a dictionary every five words because the author had multiple tabs to Thesaurus.com or were using Microsoft Office’s built-in thesaurus to replace terms in their prose. These individuals hide behind a veneer of sophistication, forcibly enforcing their own narrow world-view upon others with the intent of impressing or intimidating other readers.

  • Whenever such nonsensical reviews are encountered, I make it a point to remind readers that the opinions of someone with a blog or an uncommonly diverse vocabulary do not confer any additional weight towards their argument. This probably is the reason why this blog gets the same traffic in a day as theirs does over a month. This goes both ways: if I say something that does not align with your own views, that’s perfectly fine. Back in Shelter, Rin strolls through an abstract field of trees adorned with emissive cube ornaments.

  • I’ve often joked that I could be quite happy with any size of home provided I’ve got a stable power supply and powerful internet connection, since when I’m at home, I tend to be hanging out on a computer of sorts. On pleasant days, I take to the parks nearby for a stroll, preferring to enjoy the sunshine and blue skies (or minimally, a lack of temperature extremities or precipitation). One of the strongest features of my city is the relatively large number of pathways and parks.

  • Admittedly, for me, the music in Shelter was sometimes eclipsed by the visuals: I’m very much a visual person, having a fondness for figures, diagrams and charts. I learn fastest when a procedure is illustrated step-wise as a diagram, and as such, when it comes to most entertainment, I also keep my eyes on the visuals. Smooth and well-done, the animations in Shelter were produced by A-1 Pictures, who also did work on Garakowa: Restore The World (accounting for the similarities in style and atmosphere).

  • While the first half of Shelter is illustrating Rin’s everyday life as she passes the time creating new worlds to explore, the second half arises after old memories begin manifesting: she recalls events that happened in her childhood as the simulation taps into her mind. I recall reading a text about the limitations of human intelligence, and one postulate put forth the idea that humans do not universally have eidetic memories is because that such a capacity would allow one to recall highly painful memories with ease.

  • This could be detrimental, and I count myself as thankful that I cannot recall with a high precision all of the negative things I’ve experienced (usually, just the lessons associated with them). This is merely a theory, and from an evolutionary perspective, the practical reasons why humans cannot be more intelligent (assuming a common definition of intelligence to exist, of course) is that a larger mind would make passing through the birth canal more difficult: infants are born with their heads very nearly at adult sizes.

  • Rin receives a stuffed bear from her father as a gift during Christmas. It strikes me that, after the Remembrance Day long weekend and my convocation, I will need to begin Christmas shopping. I glance at the calendar and remark that already, a week of November has very nearly elapsed. Daylight Savings ended yesterday evening, requiring that clocks be rolled back an hour, and I got an extra hour’s worth of sleep. The skies are noticeably darker now than they were a week ago, and winter will nearly be upon us.

  • Rin traversing her old memories brings to mind how the Pensieve in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter operates. An apparatus for storing memories, such a device could be quite useful for recalling different memories and giving the brain additional storage. While initially a curiosity, Pensieves become a major element within the novels, as Harry utilises them to understand Voldemort, as well as Snape.

  • As this moon-sized object draws closer, its interactions with the Earth’s atmosphere would cause the surface to heat up considerably well before it contacts the planet, accounting for why it looks more like a gas giant than a rocky object. An object of such size would hit with enough force to displace the whole of the lithosphere and generate enough heat to create a world-wide firestorm. Volcanic activity would increase on the surface, and once the debris settles, the entire planet would be seen as one large lava field from orbit.

  • To ensure that his daughter survives, the scientist creates a specialised spacecraft, to send her off. It’s a tearful farewell. Owing to the scope of Shelter, nothing else is shown, but this premise has been mentioned to be an excellent starting point for an OVA or even a full-fledged movie. Like countless viewers before me, it would definitely be worth checking out if a full length narrative was to be created, although similar to Star Wars Madness and Cross Road, I imagine that this probably won’t be the case.

  • This image shows the object colliding with the Earth’s surface, and the results are consistent with those seen in an animation portraying the effects of a hypothetical body of 500 kilometers in diameter impacting the Earth. While such scenarios are often used in science fiction, that there is intelligent life on Earth is the surest sign that such objects are rare in the Solar System: in the Earth’s early history, impacts would have been very common, but as the planets coalesced, the number of smaller objects decreased in number as they were absorbed into larger entities.

  • The end of the music video is viewed by some to be on the pessimistic side, since the final shot is that of Rin tearing up while in the spacecraft. It may have been more fitting to conclude with search lights shining upon her in the pod, which could have lessened or even eliminated the ambiguity, but other than that, this was a rather fun music video.

  • I’ll be resuming regular programming shortly after: ahead of time, I’ll be doing a talk on Mankind Divided now that I’ve finished talking with Talos Rucker. There will be some special post coming out later this week related to Remembrance Day, as well as a short reflection on my convocation from graduate school, in addition to the scheduled post for Brave Witches.

Fluidly animated and remarkably well-produced, Shelter is a visual treat to behold: Robinson’s performance complements the visual components, although there are points where the visuals seem to even eclipse the song. This collaborative project was a remarkably enjoyable watch despite its short length, and as remarked by countless others, its biggest shortcoming seems to be its short length, wondering whether or not there could be a more substantial story that carries on the narrative in the future to either show more of Rin’s backstory or her future experiences. It’s not very often I do standalone talks for music videos, but Shelter‘s execution is quite remarkable. As a collaboration between Eastern and Western artists, some audience members have remarked that Shelter could be an exciting beginning for international works. In light of some articles, such as one at Anime News Network discussing whether or not Japan’s projected population decline, these individuals feel that cooperation is very much welcomed to both bolster creativity and address the unsustainable aspects of the Japanese animation industry. Both components are quite important, and I very much welcome prospects of increased collaboration.