The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Tag Archives: Kenjirou Isshiki

Revisiting Vividred Operation A Decade Later: Reflections on the Intersection Between Friendship, Iron Man Suits and Magical Girls

“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” –Elbert Hubbard

Seven years after professor Kenjirō Isshiki contributed to the development of the Manifestation Engine, a system that harnesses Incarnate Energy as a means of generating nearly an unlimited supply of clean energy, his granddaughter, Akane end up being caught up in a plot by an alien entity, the Alone, to destroy the Manifestation Engine. Having foreseen their arrival, Kenjirō had devised the Palette Suits and Vivid System, specialised suits of armour that give humanity a fighting chance against the Alone. Joining Akane is her best friend Aoi, Wakaba, a kendo practioner and the prodigy Himawari. As the girls continue fighting the Alone, they learn that their classmate, Rei, is responsible for the Alone’s appearance, and moreover, had been given arrows to greatly empower the Alone that appear. She had lost her old world when Incarnate Energy destroyed it, and since then, had been serving a being that takes the form of a crow. Over time, Akane’s attempts to befriend her eventually lead Rei to rebel against the crow. When the crow seizes Rei’s arrows and manifests as a gargantuan form, combined efforts from Akane, Aoi, Wakaba, Himawari and Rei results in the crow’s complete destruction. In the aftermath, the entity above the crow appears and deems that humanity is worthy of wielding Incarnate Energy. For her contributions, the entity agrees to resurrect Rei’s world, and she parts ways with the others, promising to meet again one day. When it was announced, Vividred Operation drew only passing interest from anime fans: the anime had Kazuhiro Takamura, Strike Witches‘ character designer, on the team, and its premise was quickly dismissed as being likely reliant on egregious posterior angles over any meaningful storytelling. Indeed, when Vividred Operation finished airing, the anime did not seem especially memorable. Vividred Operation‘s message is not particularly novel, being about how friendship and trust is enough to overcome all obstacles, and how people can overcome challenges together whereas if they’d attempted something on their own, they’d fail. Vividred Operation is none too subtle about these themes, explicitly spelling them in each episode. Further to this, while the Manifestation Engine and Vivid System are integral parts of the show, their usage seems to break internal consistency and operate at the story’s whims, introducing plot holes.

At first glance, were it not for the crotch shots that Strike Witches had developed a reputation for, one might be inclined to regard Vividred Operation as little more than a Super Sentai/Magical Girl hybrid anime better suited for children’s programming. However, Vividred Operation ends up being more than the sum of its parts; beneath a seemingly simplistic story is a world that receives a considerable amount of development, and where the characters’ goals, beliefs and desires all speak to a multitude of topics beyond just friendship. After Akane and the others take down the crow, Kenjirō mentions how all of his research had been built on the assumption that a system operates in a vacuum, but when different systems interact, the resultant emergent behaviours are completely unexpected. Friendship is used as a catalyst for showing how complex the behaviours of multiple interacting components can be, and in this way, Vividred Operation speaks to the idea that even the most brilliant individuals cannot foresee all ends. Kenjirō had not anticipated that even his Vivid System was able to handle the threat that the crow presented, but because Akane and her friends end up using the system with a shared goal, they are able to accomplish things that would have been impossible for an individual. Similarly, after Akane makes a genuine effort to connect to Rei, Rei begins realising that there was nothing to be gained by remaining distant from the world around her. The crow had not foreseen this, and even after consuming enough arrows to become a being of great destructive power, it remains a single entity. Rei and Akane’s combined desire to save their universe and those around them, coming from two separate individuals, is enough to prevail. While friendship is an obvious theme, Vividred Operation ends up being able to utilise its unique premise and setting to tell another, more nuanced story that makes the sum of Akane, Aoi, Wakaba, Himawari and Rei’s journey worthwhile in spite of the gaffes within the anime. As a result, Vividred Operation becomes an excellent example of how an anime can remain enjoyable despite possessing numerous, visible shortcomings: not every work needs to be airtight or have a life-changing message, and sometimes, it is sufficient for a work to entertain viewers with a serviceable story, a vivid palette of colours (pun intended) and top-tier sound.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Vividred Operation aired on Saturday mornings over on this side of the world, and in the January of a decade earlier, I had just started the second term. Because it’d been thesis year, I ended up taking a step back from volunteering as a teaching assistant at the local Chinese academy so I could have Saturdays to focus on my coursework: my thesis work had been built on Mac OS X, and I had a Windows PC at home, so I spent every moment I could spare at the lab while I was on campus, and this left me weekends to tend to my other courses.

  • My fall term had been an easier one: I was enrolled in iOS programming, genomics, and science fiction literature: the former was built around a team project, while the latter two were courses that had a focus on papers. Because only science fiction literature had exams, I had enough time to make considerable headway in my undergraduate thesis project and maintain a decent showing in my other courses. This made my fall term one of the most relaxed I’d had since starting university, and I spent most of my time at the lab, experimenting with different ideas as I worked towards building a functional multi-scale model of renal behaviour.

  • My interest in the renal system was based on a summer project I’d worked on two summers prior, when I picked up a project to model fluid flow in convoluted vessels using ray-tracing. This eventually led me to investigate protein channel behaviours, and eventually, I decided that it’d be fun to take these ideas and show how the in-house game engine could allow for a (mostly) seamless transition between an agent-based visualisation of fluid flow and a macroscopic representation of renal health. Looking back, this project had been quite simple, but my project did show how use of game engines was feasible for showing physiological processes at different scales, while at the same time, maintaining visual consistency between the scales.

  • Having spent the fall term building most of the project out, by January, I had a functional model that showcased renal physiology at three different scales. At this point in time, my main priority was fine-tuning the model, adding components to make it more user-friendly, writing out the thesis paper itself, and preparing for various presentations that made up the thesis course. The bulk of the harder work had been completed already, and I am glad to have taken advantage of my schedule in the fall term to have done so.

  • During the winter term, I also had three courses, but this time around, I had statistics, databases and software engineering. These courses were significantly more involved than the courses from my previous term; all of them had midterms and finals, and on top of this, databases and software engineering had a large project component, too. While my home faculty had tried to balance things out by making the thesis course a 2 FCE (it took up two slots in any given term), having three other busy courses would’ve made it a bit tricky had I not made the progress I did in my fall term.

  • As memory serves, I ended up working out a strategy to stay on top of things for that term. While I was on campus, I would work on tuning my renal model, and where I had extra time, I could work on my assignments for statistics and databases. Software engineering was a bit more involved, so I would do some revisions and start assignments on campus, but otherwise, I redirected my work to Saturdays, when I had the whole day to myself. Sundays, I spent chipping away at the non-technical aspects of my thesis course (namely, the papers and presentations).

  • On Saturdays, I always made room for Vividred Operation, watching it right before lunch. Back then, besides Vividred OperationBoku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXTTamako Market, and Yama no Susume were also airing. I ended up watching the first two and ended up skipping Yama no Susume somehow, but I do remember that Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT and Tamako Market were enjoyable series in their own right. Once I’d settled into a schedule, my winter term became more manageable, and I slowly pushed ahead to the finish line.

  • When Vividred Operation began airing, I had written about the first four episodes in an episodic fashion, but over time, this practise became too time-consuming, and I stopped as term became busier. After the first midterms occurred, I ditched the episodic reviews and eventually returned to write about the finale, stating Vividred Operation to be a fun series in spite of its overt shortcomings. In doing this, I bypassed all of the events that took place after Himawari joins Akane’s crew, and Akane’s persistence in getting to know Rei better.

  • Originally, my largest gripes about Vividred Operation was in how the Palette Suits operated. Akane, Aoi and Wakaba are new to the Vivid System, but they have no trouble activating and using it. The transformation sequences show everyone as expertly operating the Vivid System and, aside from a small hiccough when Aoi and Akane attempt to dock for the first time, Wakaba and Himawari both dock smoothly enough. The only exception was that Himawari, being a major fan of Kenjirō’s work, would’ve studied how his constructs operate and therefore knew about its capabilities ahead of time.

  • Similarly, when Kenjirō explains the docking mechanism needs two minds to be in sync, Aoi and Akane, being longtime friends, would have managed after some of their own challenges were sorted out. Wakaba and Himawari have only known Akane briefly, but they manage to use the system without any issues. These aspects were done to accelerate the story and ensure that Wakaba and Himawari could become full-fledged users of the Palette Suits, coming at the expense of consistency. However, if one were to assume that Kenjirō had simply designed the Vivid System with good UX practises, and the transformation sequences are merely cosmetic, then things fall into place more readily.

  • Moving past the internal consistency piece (which I now find satisfactory), revisiting Vividred Operation and all of the events that take place leading up to the finale was a reminder that this series has a bit more to it than meets the eye. Rei’s presence within Vividred Operation, her motivation for acting and the changes that she undergo means that technically, she’s the protagonist of the series. Although she starts out in opposition to the Manifestation Engine and assists the Alone as a deal with the crow in order to bring her world back, seeing Akane’s kindness eventually leads her to come around.

  • Akane, Aoi, Wakaba and Himawari are more static than Rei is: once their friendship is established, while a few moments may trouble them, overall, everyone gets along very well and are able to fight effectively against the Alone. On the other hand, Rei struggles with her interactions: on one hand, she desires nothing more than to bring back her family and home by fulfilling her end of the bargain, but her interactions with Akane and the others create a bit of attachment, too. She longs to reciprocate Akane’s friendship, but is forbidden from doing so.

  • I have received flak previously for writing about anime like Strike Witches and Kantai Collection: some readers believe that these anime glorify immoral behaviours and thoughts, and suppose that the mere act of watching them is enough to corrupt minds. The correlation between media consumption and one’s actions in reality is poorly-characterised, and I hold that any well-adjusted individual will have the requisite cognition to watch a variety of shows without trouble. This is analogous to the controversial claims that video games directly promote violent behaviours. I find that individuals who impose their own brand of morality upon others to be much less agreeable than those who are content to watch (and write about) whatever they enjoy.

  • Although this blog is frequented by open-minded and fair individuals for the most part, I do have the occasional reader who believes that it is their duty to steer me clear of the so-called immoral anime. There is a time and place for these discussions, and while I welcome conversation on the morality of actions the characters take, questioning the morality of certain anime genres is outside the scope of discussion: I will entertain these comments only if things remain respectful, but for the most part, if a commenter’s intentions are to lecture me on what shows I should and shouldn’t watch, they’re unlikely to be seeking a meaningful dialogue.

  • Vividred Operation follows very closely in Strike Witches traditions and isn’t something for everyone – the “monster of the week” approach and camera’s focus on the characters’ posteriors does not make for cultured entertainment, and the sixth episode of Vividred Operation was in keeping with how Strike Witches was presented: every season features one episode that is irreverent, completely unrelated to the story. In these episodes, a thinly-veiled excuse for having the characters running around in swimsuits is presented, and hilarity results as a series of misunderstandings escalate.

  • In the case of Vividred Operation, Kenjirō had arranged for the school summer trip to push Akane and her friends to bond through a series of “team building exercises”, but when Rei shows up, Kenjirō knocks her out with a stun dart: he hopes to use Rei as another instrument in testing Akane and company. Rei eventually reawakens and defeats the traps that Kenjirō had set up, inadvertently helping Wakaba, Himawari, Aoi and Akane to escape, and the four eventually destroy the automaton Kenjirō had set up, including one that resembles Mobile Suit Gundam‘s Acguy.

  • In the end, Akane and the others learn that their mishaps on the island was not the Alone, but rather, Kenjirō’s machinations. Up until this point, Vividred Operation had been very easygoing, and for me, this allowed the series to warm viewers up to the characters and their background. Once this was done, Vividred Operation stepped things up – the second half, while still light-hearted, is a ways more serious as Rei’s motivations are presented, and the Alone’s backgrounds are explored along with why Kenjirō refuses to patent his work despite his exceptional talents.

  • Rei keeps a small parakeet, Piisuke, around – it’s her only companion, and Rei’s treatment of animals offers insight into her true character. Although Rei is kind by nature, her losses and a desire to avoid repeating the pain of loss is why she’s so distant and aloof. However, despite her efforts to minimise forming any connections to those around her, Akane’s persistence eventually leads her to try and break the ice. At this point in time, Akane and Rei are quite unaware of the others’ role, so there was always the question of what would happen once the truth got out.

  • When I first watched Vividred Operation, I had no way of knowing that Ayane Sakura, Maaya Uchida and Rie Murakawa would go on to take on large roles in GochiUsa a year later. Prior to Vividred Operation, Sakura, Murakawa and Uchida had played secondary characters in a range of anime, but here, it marked one of their earliest roles as leads. As Vividred Operation‘s central characters, everyone does a fair job of things: Murakawa and Uchida play their roles as Aoi and Rei, respectively, well, and Sakura gives Akane a Cocoa-like vibe. In fact, the choice of casting means that Akane is basically an amalgamation of Strike Witches‘ Yoshika Miyafuji and Cocoa Hoto.

  • Rei’s Parakeet reminded me of Iron Man 2‘s Ivan Vanko, who was quite attached to his pet cockatiel. This comparison eventually led me to feel that the Palette Suits themselves are more or less a magical girl version of Tony Stark’s Iron Man suits in Iron Man and subsequent films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Palette Suits are able to store weapons in different dimensions and do not fully protect the users: while built for offense and mobility, their defensive capabilities are quite low – during their latest engagement with a dynamo-shaped Alone, Akane is shot down and seriously injured when a fragment of it survives.

  • While Akane recovers, Wakaba, Himawari and Aoi must figure out how to stop the Alone before it matures fully. A bold plan is hatched – since the others can’t dock without Akane, the idea is for Aoi to distract the Alone and draw its fire. Since the Alone must drop its barrier to use its beam attacks, timing would allow Himawari to use her shields to keep the barrier open, and Wakaba would then fly into the centre and drop off an SGE bomb. In Vividred Operation, the SGE bombs are equivalent to Neon Genesis Evanganlion‘s N² warheads, being a nuclear weapon in all but name.

  • Although things do not go quite as planned when Rei powers up the Alone with one of her arrows, Aoi is able to close the distance with a boost from Akane’s boomerang and push the SGE warhead further into the Alone, setting off the detonator and destroying it. The Alone are portrayed as being immune to conventional weaponry, but it turns out that the Alone simply have a powerful energy barrier that renders them impervious to all conventional weapons. I wonder if something like a CR-03 Series-8 Super MAC would do any damage to an Alone: the Vivid System’s weapons appear to be able to bypass the Alone’s barriers and directly impact their surface by an unknown means.

  • While Wakaba and Himawari go on a date of sorts, and then Wakaba later makes things up to Himawari after failing to listen to Himawari’s desire to tour a factory complex, I’ll comment on the Manifestation Engine and its ability to harness Incarnate Energy. The precise mechanism is not given, but because it’s been stated that use of Incarnate Energy is capable of destroying entire worlds, it is possible that Incarnate Energy is drawn from false vacuum decay, and the Manifestation Engine creates limited vacuum decay in order to harness the resulting energy. Assuming this to be the case, Incarnate Energy would be quite risky to use.

  • Based on what Vividred Operation portrays, it’s clear that once the Incarnate Energy is captured, it is then transmitted wirelessly to capture points that convert it into usable power. The Palette Suits use this power from the Incarnate Engine, and one imagines that they can channel a large amount of power into a very focused point, giving Akane and the others enough to deal damage to the Alone. Of course, being work of fiction, the precise mechanism isn’t important, and all that matters is that there’s a consistent means of giving the characters a tool they can use to stare down the Alone.

  • The possibilities of clean energy are limitless – it is doubtful that something like false vacuum decay should be utilised, but something like fusion would be of great value. With nearly unlimited power, humanity’s energy needs could be satisfied without more polluting sources, and allow for incredible feats to be accomplished. For instance, water desalination, carbon capture and emissions-free vehicles would be possible at scale. As the technology becomes miniturised, we’d also have a viable power source for exploring the solar system. While long held to be a difficult endeavour, fusion is looking more plausible: in 2022, an exciting development arising from the US National Ignition Facility has generated renewed excitement for fusion.

  • In December, the US National Ignition Facility announced they had conducted an experiment where they were able to get more energy out of a reaction than it took to start the reaction. Meanwhile, Chinese researchers at the Heifei-based Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak have sustained plasma containment for an unprecedented seventeen minutes. Containing the superheated plasma is a critical part of the fusion process, and the combined breakthroughs from both Chinese and American researchers increasingly show that fusion is an achievable process. In Vividred Operation, use of the Manifestation Engine does indeed create a world where the world’s energy requirements are met, ushering a new era that offers hope until the Alone appear and begin threatening the world’s power supply.

  • The implications of unlimited clean energy are only tangentially covered in Vividred Operation, and as a result, discussions a decade earlier skated over these aspects in favour of things that had a more tangible presence within the anime – the friendship aspect was at the forefront of all discussion, and as time wore on, Akane’s efforts to connect with Rei begin to show some progress. While Rei had maintained an aloof and taciturn manner, a part of her had also longed to be true to herself, and this manifests as acts of kindness to animals. While the crow had expressly forbidden Rei from interacting with people, Rei occasionally allows her old self to come through, such as when she saves a young boy from a falling I-beam.

  • Rei’s actions throughout Vividred Operation simply suggested that her desire, first and foremost, had simply been to be with the people she cared most about, and the crow had been exploiting this to drive Rei’s assignment. The crow’s rationale is simple enough: if Rei isn’t connected to Akane’s world in any way, she’ll have fewer qualms about seeing its destruction. The conflict between Rei’s own disposition and her desires drives the events of Vividred Operation, and in having Rei’s wish for friendship win out, Vividred Operation would ultimately suggest that benevolence and kindness allows for one to reach new heights and gain back things they thought impossible.

  • One unusual point of discussion during Vividred Operation‘s airing that hasn’t gained any amount of momentum was from one commenter at Random Curiosity, who made the assertion that Kenjirō had written the source code for the Vivid System in Ruby. Inspection of some of the source code in Kenjirō’s terminal windows finds that there are some function definitions that are Ruby-like, but beyond this, whether Kenjirō had used Ruby, Python, C# or Swift is ultimately irrelevant. Said commenter had noted that Ruby would be an unbelievable choice – I imagine this particular individual was a novice programmer who believed Ruby was not suited for anything more than web apps, whereas in reality, Ruby is quite powerful (in fact, the Cocoapods dependency manager is written in Ruby). Assuming that Kenjirō did in fact write the Vivid System in Ruby or a Ruby-like analogue, the language was chosen simply because it is 1) Japanese in origin and 2) was intended to be an easy-to-use language.

  • At any rate, the choice of programming language behind the Vivid System is irrelevant and doesn’t impact Vividred Operation‘s story in any way. When Himawari works out a means of tracking where Rei and her arrows are, during one engagement, Akane and the others move in to intercept after defeating an Alone. The subsequent revelation that Rei and Akane are at opposite ends of the conflict shakes everyone to their core. Far more than the fact that Rei is seemingly working for the Alone, Akane’s biggest concern was that Rei’s trust in her was completely shattered – the implications of this moment had been that more than the conflict between humanity and the Alone, Akane had come to care about Rei as a person, and earning her trust meant a great deal to her. Rei is subsequently kept at a detention facility in the same manner that MI6 had held Raoul Silva following his capture in Skyfall.

  • After visiting Rei’s apartment, Akane and her friends discover a spartan quarters that has very little in the way of personal effects. Seeing this galvinises Akane, Aoi, Wakaba and Himawari into saving Rei – the minimally furnished apartment was a reminder that Rei had been completely on her own. After mulling it over, everyone decides that military protocol or not, and irrespective of whether or not Rei was a conduit for the Alone, it’s time to save her. The defense forces, on the other hand, have no qualms about executing Rei after learning she’s likely the reason why the Alone are attacking. In their eyes, the collective good matters more than one individual, and sacrificing one person for the sake of many justifies the means.

  • Although it’s easy enough to say one should sacrifice a small number for “the greater good”, when one is placed in the hot seat and asked to make a decision with material implications, even the same individuals who are convicted in their correctness in a debate will likely hesitate. Over the years, I’ve come to hold that matters of morality are not simple matters of black and white, and this is why I do not enjoy participating in online discussions about what one would do in a hypothetical situation because, no matter how tough-talking one is, when the time comes for action, multiple factors always come into play. As such, when looking at Akane’s actions, one cannot begrudge her for wanting the chance to save Rei.

  • Akane’s act of saving Rei and standing up to the crow shows Rei that in spite of her original intentions, Akane still sees her as a friend. This moment clarifies things between Rei and Akane, as well as frustrating the crow to no end – dramatically differing values and aims is why extraterrestrial life forms are portrayed as finding humans irrational, and fiction is fond of using these values to drive home the point that things like empathy and compassion are an important part of humanity.

  • Unable to understand why Rei is making the decision that she does, the crow ends up consuming Rei and seizing her remaining arrows by force. Now imbibed with five Alone’s worth of power, the crow grows to a gargantuan size and declares that it’s now got even more power than the entities it was originally speaking on behalf of. No longer needing to serve anyone, the crow decides it’s time to go to town on the Manifestation Engine. Here, even Kenjirō begins to feel that even the Palette Suits won’t be enough to stop this monstrosity.

  • However, in typical Super Sentai fashion, Himawari, Wakaba, Aoi and Akane believe that as long as they try something, they’ve got a chance. The four take off after the crow, and using their combined teamwork, manage to deal enough damage to the crow using all three forms of the Vivid avatars. In this post, I’ve not covered Vivid Blue, Vivid Green and Vivid Yellow – these avatars manifest when Akane “docks” with one of her friends, combining their cognitive and physical powers into a single entity that is capable of taking down even the powered-up Alone with a single stroke. Because the crow has consumed the equivalent of five arrows’ worth of energy, using a Vivid avatar once allows Akane and her friends to slowly wear it down.

  • Throughout Vividred Operation, the process of docking is shown in great detail, and on this return visit, I’ve elected not to spend any screenshots on things. However, the anime had not, until the finale, shown what happens when the characters undock from one another. By switching between all of the different Vivid avatars, Akane and her friends clear a path into the crow’s interior, finding a pocket dimension here where Rei is being held. The crow had originally intended to have Rei watched as it ravaged Earth, but instead, Rei is treated to the sight of her friends moving heaven and earth to reach her.

  • While Rei herself doesn’t have a Palette Suit or access to the Vivid System, she is able to dock with Akane, and the pair end up manifesting as Vivid Red. Throughout some points in Vividred Operation, whether it be the transformation sequences or common scenes, papilla mammaria are visible, and over the years, I’ve become increasingly blasé about using such screenshots in my posts because, at the end of the day, anatomy is anatomy – I worked extensively with 3D models of the body for my undergraduate and graduate projects because our lab specialised in 3D visualisation of the body, so such things don’t bother me.

  • After combining into Vivid Red, Akane and Rei prepare one final, devastating punch against the crow, destroying it outright. In the moments after, the entity only known as “Them” appear and judge that, owing to how they handled Rei and the crow, humanity has demonstrated a worthiness for possessing the Manifestation Engine. Further to this, seeing Rei’s change of heart makes her worthy of having a home to return to: in the end, Rei had decided that her world was not more valuable than Akane’s, and having spotted this, the entity determines that Rei has earned her happy ending, as well.

  • Overall, Vividred Operation proved to be an entertaining series despite its shortcomings, and I had a great time watching the series. I do remember that, after the finale aired in March, I found myself wondering when Strike Witches would continue – the movie had just become available, and I’d heard news that after this movie, more Strike Witches was in the works, contingent on the completion of Vividred Operation. A continuation of the series would ultimately be realised in 2015, when Operation Victory Arrow came out, and since then, fans of Strike Witches would receive Brave Witches, a third season of Strike Witches and Luminous Witches, in addition to a chibi spin-off.

  • On the other hand, Vividred Operation concluded on a very decisive note – there hadn’t been any plans to expand the story or continue it. A video game titled Vividred Operation: Hyper Intimate Power was released for the PlayStation 3, but beyond this, Vividred Operation itself has not continued. Instead, the anime’s legacy lies in the release of increasingly well-written, mature instalments of Strike Witches and laying down the groundwork for several voice actresses’ increasing presence in the industry. On these grounds, while Vividred Operation might not be a ground-breaking or world-changing experience, that it has a non-trivial impact on later anime and remains an enjoyable series meant it was worthwhile for me.

Perhaps as a result of its self-contained story and a distinct similarity to Strike Witches, Vividred Operation was quickly forgotten amongst the community after its airing. Despite possessing superb animation, voice acting and unexpectedly detailed world building, Vividred Operation had otherwise flowed in a very conventional manner. Akane, Aoi, Wakaba and Himawari defeat the crow, befriend the once-distant Rei, and in turn, Rei gets her world back. However, Vividred Operation did leave behind a considerable legacy. The anime proved that even with a different setup, the Strike Witches concept was still viable, and this allowed Strike Witches to continue. A movie and OVA series proved successful, allowing the franchise to mature and ultimately, tell more compelling stories. Brave Witches, Road to Berlin and Luminous Witches would expand the Strike Witches universe further in world-building and show how over time, a compelling story could be told even as the emphasis on posterior and crotch angles lessened. Vividred Operation also marks a turning point for voice actresses Ayane Sakura, Maaya Uchida and Rie Murakawa: prior to Vividred Operation, these three voice actresses had played secondary roles in anime. Vividred Operation put them in lead roles, and subsequently, each of Sakura, Uchida and Murakawa would become well-established in the industry as skillful voice actresses, working together in additional series. While the anime itself isn’t going to be for everyone (in fact, it’s quite difficult to recommend Vividred Operation to viewers, save those who are fans of Strike Witches or similar series), the series represents marking a turning point for anime of the 2010s. In the present, Vividred Operation has aged gracefully, being a series that remains as enjoyable now as it had been when I’d first finished with it ten years earlier. Back then, I’d been entering the second and final term of my undergraduate thesis, and vividly remember following Vividred Operation on a weekly basis as I inched closer and closer to the defense date: Vividred Operation might not be particularly innovative or memorable, but having something fun to look forward to each week helped me to stay focused, and this is why even a decade later, I still recall this series with clarity.

Vividred Operation- Finale

While the crow begins rampaging with her new-found power, Kenjirou deduces that Rei is still alive within the center of the Alone she has become. With the crow taking off to head towards the Manifestation Engine, Akane finds Rei’s key, which she believes may hold the key to their victory. The crow arrives at Blue Island and starts draining the Manifestation Engine, causing blackouts all over the world. Akane and the others soon arrive at the scene, with each girl giving their remaining suit power to help Akane break into the crow. Akane manages to reach Rei and together they dock to become Vivid Red, allowing them to overcome the crow’s power and destroy her. After the battle, the mysterious being Kenjirou saw seven years ago appears, revealing Rei’s world has been restored. Promising that they’ll see each other again, Rei leaves Akane her scarf before heading back to her home. Some time after life returns to normal, Akane once again sees Rei.

  • The Alone’s unusual nature are more similar to the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion rather than the Neuroi of Strike Witches. Thus, we see some more (comparatively) grotesque Alone compared to the cleaner designs found in the Neuroi.

  • Admittedly, I have not had time until recently to finish the Winter 2013 anime line-up until a few days ago. Thus, I had spent the last few days catching up: the advantage of doing so is that I can watch the episodes without the need to wait a week for the next to come out.

  • While Vividred Operation may not have a particularly strong story, it more than compensates through stunning visuals and through giving viewers a sense that even where the show is more serious, it ends up being fun anyways.

  • Havoc-Grade payloads don’t do anything against the super-charged Alone: this cliché has been around since the 1950 version of War of the Worlds; this has been noted on my Strike Witches Movie review previously, where I state that the effectiveness of contemporary military hardware is related with the plot. As such, to ensure that extraterrestrial beings and another anomalies are not wiped out by period weapons, they often have capacities to shrug off our weapons, thereby giving the writers the justification for fielding unorthodox technology.

  • The last episode’s title is the series’ namesake, involving Rei and Akane docking to form Vividred. Despite lacking a Palette suit (at least, that’s what I think they’re called), Rei is able to complete the docking procedure.

  • At this point, the rules in-show themselves break down and contradict what was said in previous episodes about docking. I do not care in the slightest.

  • Vividred summons a final attack, akin to those found in existing magical girl and super sentai shows, to finish off the final boss.

  • All of the laws of conservation and physics are broken in some way, shape or form during the course of Vividred Operation. Kenjirou shadows on this, and notes that he would begin his research from scratch.

  • If there is a single point that Vividred Operation tries to bring to the table, it is that friendship is sufficiently powerful a motivator to overcome anything, and here, will dismiss physical laws to achieve a certain end. This thematic element is similar to those found in virtually every other magical girl or super sentai show.

  • The same entity that appeared before Kenjirou in the past reappears, affirming its status as somewhat similar to the Forerunners; in this case, the entity decides that humanity has passed the test, and agrees to resurrecting Rei’s homeworld.

The last time I wrote about Vividred Operation here, it was January. The finale has long come and gone now, and having had the opportunity to watch it, I can honestly say that Vividred Operation can be thought of as a light-hearted caricature of the whole magical girl and super sentai genre, featuring over-the-top dialogue, flashy transformation sequences, and unnecessarily unusual attack names. These traits are packaged into an anime with excellent animation and sound quality, resulting in a show that is fun to watch. As Vividred Operation does not attempt to take itself seriously at any point, any discussions about plot and character development is hardly relevant. For nitpickers, the plot is cliché (dialogue-wise)  and overly idealistic (friendship is capable of doing what Havoc-grade payloads cannot), if one must know. However, I am quite happy to overlook these elements because, at day’s end, the anime satisfies a single criteria in my books: it is fun to watch, and that alone makes Vividred Operation worthwhile as a means of kicking back after the daily routine of going to school/work. Vividred Operation succeeds as a fun anime, and if it was intended to act as a light-hearted parody of the magical girl and super sentai genres, then I offer bonus points for hitting the nail on the head.

Vividred Operation Episode 4

Akane, Aoi and Wakaba’s latest fight against the Alone are observed by Himawari Shinomiya, a girl who spends her days confined to her room and participates in classes through a camera. Following the battle, Wakaba begins training Akane and Aoi so they can safely dock in battle. The next day, Kenjirou discusses a recent security breach on their network and resolves to identify the responsible party: making his way to Akane’s classroom, his investigation is cut short when Akane’s misplaced baseball shatters the window and destroys Himawari’s camera. The girls go to Himawari’s apartment to apologise, and meet Himawari for the first time. Following a brief conversation, the girls decide to bring Himawari to see the sunset at a local power distribution facility, but the sudden reappearance of the Alone forces the girls transform to defeat it. Akane delivers Himawari into the facility to shut it down, but the latter finds herself barricaded when a part of the structure collapses. In a flashback, Himawari recalls how she was betrayed by her previous friend, leading to her aversions towards friendship. However, Himawari is rescued by Akane, who kept her promise to come back for her. Touched by this gesture, Himawari is granted an ignition key and joins the girls in their fight. After the Rei powers up the alone again, Akane docks with Himawari to become Vivid Yellow and defeat the Alone. Following the battle, Himawari decides to start attending classes before asking Kenjirou for his autograph.

  • Aoi is wiped out after her and Akane’s training session with Wakaba. In the foreground is Himawari’s custom camera, which distinctly has WALL-e like attributes. I’m guessing the two camera lenses allow for stereoscopic vision, but considering the signal goes through to a computer screen, that’s quite unnecessary.

  • Akane is noted to be holding the baseball bat incorrectly. That said, it’s still less incorrect than Lan’s attempts in Rinne no Lagrange.

  • In 1080p Akane’s reaction to totally wrecking Himawari’s camera is rather amusing. I get Yoshika Miyafuji vibes when I see this picture.

  • I get the nagging feeling that this episode is primarily about how trust amongst friends work: through their overwhelmingly positive attitides, Akane et al. are able to convince Himawari of the value of friendship.

  • The Alone that show up in this episode take on more alien forms than previously shown and can even regenerate after total destruction, unlike the Neuroi.

  • I find myself with less to say about Vividred Operation at this stage, primarily because the anime keeps me entertained but simultaneously does not possess any elements that might give me the opportunity to drive discussion in a different direction.

  • Vividred Operation has a unique take on the whole magical girl genre that, coupled with its resemblance to Ironman, make the series immensely fun to watch. I don’t watch other magical girl anime because they fall outside the scope of my interest.

  • Himawari’s Vivid System confers awesome funnel-like weapons that can be used as shields. While her appearance completes the Vivid team, her backstory feels a little rushed and appears almost trivial. However, this does nothing to detract from the anime’s execution and visuals. 

  • The highlight of this episode has to be Vivid Yellow’s appearance. Compared to the sleeker, more modern appearance of Vivid Blue and Vivid Green, Vivid Yellow sports an elegant Victorian-era dress and wields an awesome Forerunner-like particle weapon.

  • Himawari’s sudden change of heart perhaps demonstrates how friendship and the confidence it brings is a powerful force. She expresses pure joy at meeting Kenjirou and asks for an autograph. Her innate familiarity with the Vivid System through her hacking means that it is less surprising when she uses the commands, compared to Wakaba, who is able to wield the system without any effort.

The whole episode bears direct resemblance to the previous ones, bringing to the table the fourth member of the Vivid team. Similar to Wakaba, Himawari is again granted a key a little too quickly, but this is being nit-picking here: the episode itself was just as fun to watch as the previous ones for the transformation sequences, although they’ve cut back on combat scenes (as with episode three). Now that the entire cast is more or less present, minus Rei, whose story is expected to be explored in the next episode, things will get under way for real now and there will hopefully be more combat to showcase the visuals in this series. Of course, now that the fourth episode is out and as per my original intention, this means that the next Vividred Operation post I make will be at the half-way mark of the season, and the finale.

Vividred Operation Episode 3

Akane, Aoi and Momo begin their first day to New Oshima Academy. En route to school, Akane’s bike breaks down, forcing her to use the Vivid System in an effort to arrive on time. She ends up meeting kendo club member Wakaba Saegusa, who becomes shocked when Akane counters her attack. After Akane and Aoi officially transfer into Wakaba’s class, Wakaba chases after Akane with the intent of demanding a rematch. She collides with Momo and decides to take her to the nurse’s office. As Wakaba and Momo get acquainted, Akane overhears how Wakaba wanted a rematch to prove she’s the strongest. After her father tells her to consider what ‘true strength’ is, Wakaba formally challenges Akane to a serious kendo match, which reminds Wakaba of how fun kendo used to be for her. Just then, their match is interrupted by the appearance of a serpent-like Alone. As Wakaba comes to realise what true strength is from watching Akane and Aoi fight, she asks to fight alongside them and is granted her own ignition key. Despite Rei’s intervention, Akane and Wakaba dock to become Vivid Green and effortlessly defeat the Alone.

  • What happens when your ride breaks down half-way to school? Akane’s response is to transform into Ironman and fly there, being sighted by Wakaba in the process.

  • The Vivid system allows Akane to effortlessly repel Wakaba’s sword skills. This discussion comes late because I’ve been preoccupied with a journal publication and grant applications. The irony here is that I’ve a little more time on a weeknight to put in this episode discussion. As soon as this discussion is done, it’s time to put a presentation together >.<

  • The classic concept of transfer students is one that many anime fans are familiar with and is used as a classic plot device in many anime. With that in mind, it gives Akane and Aoi the uniforms we’ve seen much of in the promotional materials.

  • Wakaba is voiced by Yuka Outsubo, who also supplied the voice for Toshinou Kyouko! from Yuru Yuri. While their personalities are rather different, traces of similarity can be heard.

  • The most amusing part of the episode is clearly the chase through the school. Akane demonstrates that her athletic abilities are in fact real, pulling off stunts that would make the average ODST look slow-footed.

  • Wakaba has a strong sense of honour and looks after Momo after they collide. It is here she finds out more about Akane, and her resolve to the duel strengthens. I do not know if this view is shared by other viewers, but Wakaba definitely has similar character to Graham Aker; both are exceedingly good at what they do and challenge worthy opponents to duels for the sole reason of duelling.

  • The visual quality in episode three has not dropped at all: this episode ultimately ends up being more of a character-building one, and I image the trend to hold until Himawari shows up.

  • Akane’s overwhelming speed makes her seem op’d: despite not having any formal training in kendo whatsoever, Akane is able to hold her own surprisingly well against Wakaba. In fact, I would argue that Akane’s style mirrors Kirito’s from Sword Art Online. In both cases, they are able to defeat or match superior opponents on the sheer virtue of determination.

  • The only exception I have with this episode is how easily Akane and Wakaba dock, as well as how quickly all the sequences happen. I’ve become accustomed to seeing the first transformation sequence take longer, with the length decreasing as the series progresses.

  • Vivid Green wields a buster sword of some kind. This third episode continues on with the trend of simple, light-hearted fun. If the creators intended on making a concise, enjoyable series in place of a story-driven one, they’ve succeeded. Many anime critics out there would decry this series for its lack of story and complexity, but I digress: this series’ intrigue comes from its re-visitation of the magical girl genre and comes across as a satire of the genre, illustrating (in-universe) that some of the things may not have to make sense, but can happen anyways.

Episode three formally introduces us to Wakaba, the third of the four girls with the Vivid System. Thus, I’m likely to do one more episode discussion for episode four as Himawari Shinomiya is introduced. With respect to the episode itself, Vividred Operation continues to impress with both its spectacular visuals: it seems the island is always nice and clear, a sharp contrast to the snowstorm brewing outside as this post is being generated. Akane’s introduction to Wakaba is a rather amusing one, with the latter mistaking the former for a scoundrel and challenging her on the spot, only to get wiped out (think “regular ODST goes up against Master Chief). Thus, we are immediately familiarised with Wakaba’s personality as a competitive but fun person. Naturally, the chase through the school adds to the notion that, despite the threat that the Alone pose to humanity, this is still a show about middle-school girls. The combat sequences in this episode are fewer, with one hastily executed one at the episodes’ end: otherwise, the bulk of the episode is on character development. I’m rather curious to see how Himawari will be integrated onto the team, and perhaps more so, what role Rei will play in the future.

Vividred Operation Episode 2

After Kenjirou instructs Akane and Aoi to undergo ‘docking’, Aoi receives her own Ignition Key, allowing her to also transform using the Vivid System. Receiving weapons to go along with their new abilities, Akane and Aoi begin fighting against the Alone whilst protecting the innocent. Meanwhile, Kenjirou contacts the head of the Manifestation Engine’s management bereau, Yuuri Shijō, in order to gain military support in assisting the girls in fighting the Alone. After knocking out the Alone’s core, stopping its movement, Akane and Aoi attempt the Docking Operation, but it fails due to what Kenjirou believes is a lack of ‘friendship power’. As Aoi worries that she might be the one causing it to fail, she thinks back to when she first became friends with Akane, who gave her a tomato on their first meeting. Meanwhile, a mysterious girl fires a glowing arrow into the Alone, bringing it back to life and changing it into a more powerful form. As the girls find their attacks ineffective against the Alone’s new form, Aoi confesses to Akane that she actually hates tomatoes, feeling it to be the reason their docking failed. Akane tells her that she already knew about that, but admired her perseverence to eat them regardless and assures her they are best friends. Reconfirming their friendship, Akane and Aoi perform the Docking Operation, fusing together to become Vivid Blue, combining their strenths to destroy the Alone. The next day, as Akane, Aoi and Momo discover their school has been obliterated as a result of the battle, Mizuha Amagi, an officer for the National Defense Force, informs them they are being transferred to a new school.

  • Vividred Operation is essentially a magical girl anime, bearing all of the hallmarks of the genre, including detailed transformation sequences that make the Unicorn’s NT-D activation seem short, vocalising one’s attacks, instant expertise with an unfamiliar system and the like. For the next several screenshots and mouse scrolls, note that most of the images feature a vivid blue sky.

  • A handful of individuals have probably felt that if the Neuroi from Strike Witches were to encounter modern military hardware, they’d lose far more quickly. Given that the Alone are essentially redesigned variants for the Vividred Operation universe, and that a modern fleet is struggling to repel them, it’s safe to assume the Neuroi would present a similar hazard for even the modern armed forces. On the other hand, with a bit of Forerunner technology…

  • We are treated to another transformation as Aoi dons her Vivid System. She promptly uses it to save a downed F-35, contrasting Ironman, who accidentally downs an F-22 while testing his suit. The Vivid System is remarkably similar to the Ironman suits, right from its ability to provide flight, superhuman strength and uses a neat holographic display. The only difference is that Ironman suits have the arc reactor, a self-contained power source, while the Vivid System requires remote power transmission from the Manifestation Engine.

  • The girls’ weapons have unusual names to them, and require unusual phrases to activate. Anime has taught us one thing about story writers’ tendencies: in cases where the best in modern military hardware won’t suffice, it seems that magical girls are always the best solution to drive plot forward. I’m not particularly familiar with other “magical girls fight monsters” genre, but it appears that Vividred Operation is doing a fine job of bringing an ageing genre into the present.

  • Strike Witches style fanservice is absent from Vividred Operation; instead, more detail is spent replicating the weapons that the girls use. Akane wields a boomerang with little decals and markings that give it a Master Grade feel, while Aoi wields a war hammer. The Alone are, perhaps unsurprisingly, taken out via exactly the same means as the Neuroi; they possess a vulnerable core that disables the entire entity when destroyed. The regular army express surprise at the outrageousness of two small girls being able to do what trained men cannot, but adapt quickly and help grease the wheels.

  • Aoi and Akane’s ‘docking’ procedure fail owing to a trivial point: that Aoi is hesitant to disclose to Akane that she does not like tomatoes. Akane mirrors the viewer’s reaction.

  • A flashback shows us how Akane and Aoi became friends, with Akane tossing a newspaper too closely to Aoi’s vehicle, and their subsequent meetings while Aoi is in town.

  • Aoi is not particularly fond of tomatoes; while understandable that different people have different food preferences, I find tomatoes to be an excellent addition to sandwiches and salads. Cherry tomatoes are awesome when eaten alone.

  • Rei Kuroki, the same girl from the season’s opening episode, makes a return with an unusual bow that fires energy projectiles that allow the Alone to keep on resurrecting. Judging from her reactions and appearances, she might be an antagonist of sorts with additional roles in the future.

  • The docking sequence is absolutely nothing like the 00 Raiser; expectation was that they would somehow link together, but instead, in yet another visually astounding process, Aoi and Akane defy the Law of Conservation, merging to form the Vividblue system. This nomenclature  implies that Vividred might be the consequence of docking involving four entities, given that it is the namesake of the series.

  • I’m not even sure what to call the entity that arises when Akane and Aoi dock. All I know is that this being wields a massive gravity hammer that can cut down even an over-powered Alone without much effort. While this is hardly realistic, it is definitely fun to watch.

  • Vividred Operation solidly establishes itself as a series where story complexity and thematic elements are less relevant than brilliant visuals and a re-visitation of the magical girl genre. Thus, those who continue to lament the decline of anime will probably continue to do so, as more anime seem to be shifting towards the paradigm of immersion and enjoyment rather than the traditional complexity of plot. I don’t mind, given that I watch anime for pure entertainment value (in the same way I play FPS for entertainment): if I desired complexity, I would go read a novel, academic papers or APIs for my development projects. I deal with enough complexity on a regular basis, and I’d prefer if my entertainment was light-hearted and fun to offset the usual seriousness.

In keeping with the tradition of reprisal posts, a second post about a new anime is typically done if a second episode does something that merits discussion. In this case, Vividred Operation merits that coveted second post on the virtue that its execution confers a sense of fun when watching. I contend that the science here is at best ‘soft science’ and will abandon all efforts to view the series as such: despite being touted as a series about technology, what I’ve seen thus far is clearly a magical girl series, completed with the over-the-top transformation sequences, weapons and dialogue. Indeed, Vividred Operation appears to be written in such a way that it is sufficiently ridiculous at points to give a sense of aesthetics that ultimately comes across as appealing and humorous, without overwhelming the viewer. From the combat sequences we’ve seen thus far, it seems that this trend will continue in future episodes. Ergo, viewers will not require unreasonable neural capacity to follow; with pseudo-science that I will refer to as magic from this point onward and spectacular visuals, Vividred Operation is surprisingly enjoyable for being able to capture the feel of classic magical girl anime, emphasising simplicity and fun over things that self-proclaimed anime critics demand of ‘good’ anime.