The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Mami Koizumi

Yakunara Mug Cup Mo Niban Kama: Review and Reflections at the Halfway Point

“It’s very meditative. It turns off a higher level of thinking. You have to let go and give in to the unpredictability of it. You can go in with an idea of what you want to make, and the clay doesn’t want to do that.” –John Sheppard

Autumn approaches, and after the summer pottery competition, Rio Matsuse, Toko’s old classmate, shows up with the intent on challenging her to participate in the next competition. Himeno struggles with finding inspiration for her next work, and while speaking with the folks who’d known her mother, discovers that Himena actually had a very free-spirited approach to pottery. Later, Naoko spends an evening with Himeno after having a fight back home, and as the frigid air of autumn sets in, Himeno encounters Ximena, a Mexican potter who’s visiting Tamiji to see a sculpture Himena had made. Inspired, Ximena decides to move to Tajimi. However, Toko slowly becomes disheartened as the competition draws nearer: noticing this, Himeno organises an outing to lift Toko’s spirits, bringing Naoko and Mika along. They learn that Toko’s found it increasingly difficult to speak with her grandfather, and that her pottery feels like its suffering as a result. When Ximena reappears with a question about pottery tools, Himeno sets Toko the task of answering them, which in turn helps her to reflect on why she’d enjoyed pottery to begin with. This is Yakunara Mug Cup Mo Niban Kama (Let’s Make a Mug Too Second Kiln), the second season to the spring season’s Yakunara Mug Cup Mo (and Niban Kama from here on out for brevity). The first season had Himeno slowly learn the basics of pottery and begin the path her mother had once taken; while she was not able to win anything in competition, the process helped her to discover much about Himena. Here in Niban Kama, the journey continues as Himeno begins learning even more about her mother, including when Himena had trying every coffee joint in town to shape the optimal coffee cup, as well as how Himena’s sculptures have touched people around the world.

While Niban Kama uses pottery as its premise, it is more appropriate to say that Niban Kama is more of a love song to pottery: beginning its life as materials sourced from the earth, and through a potter’s effort and desire to build something wonderful, eventually takes shape. Whether it be the creative pieces that Mika puts together, or the professional, precise pieces that Toko crafts, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo presents pottery as the outpouring of emotion into something tangible, one that can give physical form to the feelings that elude description. In this way, Niban Kama does appear to be building up the idea that for Himeno, while her mother is gone, the feelings of excitement, joy and creativity Himena experienced while making her work continue to endure for Himeno to appreciate. Pottery has brought Himeno closer to each of Naoko, Mika and Toko, as well as giving her the chance to meet Ximena; by taking up pottery, Himeno has chosen to tread the same path her mother had, and in doing so, becomes closer to Himena even though she is no longer present. This is quite touching, reminiscent of how Tamayura had Fū Sawatari take up photography again so she could find the happiness her father had conveyed through his own photography. In this way, both Yakunara Mug Cup Mo and Tamayura both share the idea that while people may come and go, their legacies can endure, offering strength and support alike in one’s most difficult moments. By embracing their achievements in life, one can honour and remember those who are no longer among us, turning something quite painful into something that can be cherished. Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s first season had sent Himeno on an adventure in and around Tajimi as she picks up pottery, before shifting focus to the creative process in its second half, so I anticipate that Niban Kama will follow a similar pattern; this first half has seen Himeno continue exploring as she works to determine what her next piece will be, and together with her friends, has found that Himena’s legacy and style endures.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about Yakunara Mug Cup Mo would’ve been back in June – 86 EIGHTY-SIX was running concurrently at the time, and so, with Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s second season resuming 86 EIGHTY-SIX, it means that the former would return as well. This second season, Niban Kama, opens with some of Toko’s old classmates returning to declare a competition with her. Aside from this abrupt appearance, they don’t show up again for the remainder of the second half, leaving one to wonder if they’ll come back at a later point in Niban Kama.

  • One detail in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is the fact that the characters have a late 90s to early 00s design in their facial features. Having now read the complimentary manga volumes, it is clear that Nippon Animation has deliberately chosen to give the characters more distinct appearances relative to their manga counterparts – Nippon Animation was founded in 1962 and produced numerous anime right up until 2008’s Hyakko. After this, the studio primarily worked on films until 2020, when they produced The Genie Family. With their history, it isn’t too surprising that stylistic choices from an older time make an appearance here in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo.

  • With this being said, Nippon Animation’s work on Yakunara Mug Cup Mo and Niban Kama are consistently solid: character animation is still quite fluid, bringing Tajimi and its surroundings to life. While Himeno struggles to come up with an idea for her next project, learning about Himena’s old exploits leads Himeno to gain a better insight into how her mother had approached creating things; the first season had hinted at Himena’s genius with pottery, and she certainly did have an impact on those around her.

  • Niban Kama indicates that for Himena, pottery was a way of life, and even back in high school, she proved to be continually unexpected – filling the Pottery Club’s room with coffee mugs while pursuing the perfect shape is said to be one of her many misadventures, although it stood out sufficiently as to be remembered. When one of the judges from the first season shows up at the Toyokawa Café, this is the first memory he recounts with Himeno.

  • All of the characters in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo are likeable, but I’m particularly fond of Naoko – despite not being a member of the Pottery Club, she accompanies them frequently because she’s close to Himeno. It turns out that during their childhood, after Naoko had created a yarn-holder for her mother, the other children had teased her for it. On the other hand, Himeno found Naoko’s creation captivating, and since then, the two have been friends. After getting into a disagreement with her mother, Naoko decides to spend the night at Himeno’s to regroup, and sharing old stories helps Naoko to put things in perspective.

  • While Yakunara Mug Cup Mo might be focused on Mino-ware pottery, the series isn’t exclusively about pottery and its intricacies – subtleties in life are also presented, allowing the interplay between interpersonal dynamics and pottery-making to feed off one another to drive the story. Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is not quite as driven or focused as a full-fledged series owing to its length, but it still has heart. Moments like Himeno watching the sunset with Naoko are rendered in loving detail, equivalent to when the girls are in the Potter Club’s room and focused on their creations.

  • While visiting a local pottery museum, Himeno, Naoko and Mika run into Toko, who’s helping out with a pottery exhibition and is kitted out in a traditional kimono. The area’s lengthy history with pottery and ceramics means that such museums are found in abundance – there’s no shortage of inspiration for Himeno and her friends as far as pottery is concerned. In surprise at Toko’s appearance, Mika responds with a bit of shock; the funny faces in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo have always been funny, and Mika is often the one providing them.

  • In Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, Himeno and the others refer to Mika by her surname, Kukuri, and this is phonetically similar to Kukuru of The Aquatope in White Sand. Further to this, Mika’s surname and Kukuru’s given name have a Hamming Distance of 1 (i.e. the number of substitutions needed to change one string into another): when I first began writing about The Aquatope on White Sand, I was constantly making spelling mistakes. I typically refer to characters by their given names, but having spent a season hearing everyone address Mika by her family name, some muscle memory lingered early on. For readers, I aim to edit my posts and ensure things are as readable as possible, although on occasions, errors are inevitable.

  • Niban Kama introduces Ximena Valdez, a Mexican traveller who is familiar with Himena’s works and has visited Tajimi with the purpose of seeing things for herself. Ximena’s name is pronounced similarly to Himena’s, and she occasionally reverts to her native tongue whenever excited. When Ximena runs into Himeno and the others, she’s overjoyed to learn that Himeno is Himena’s daughter, and Ximena explains that there was a particular sculpture she’d been interested in checking out in Tajimi.

  • It’s evening by the time Himeno takes everyone over to Himena’s sculpture, and while the sculpture is not quite as radiant as it might be by day, it retains all of its beauty. Moreover, the wind still creates a very distinct sound as it blows through the sculpture’s contours. An old track, 風の塔 (Herpburn Kaze no Tō, literally “Wind Tower”) makes a return; the incidental music in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is of an excellent standard, conveying everything from the excitement of making something to the joys of experiencing the ordinary in Tajimi. The first season’s soundtrack released about a month after the series finished airing, and Niban Kama‘s soundtrack is set to release on January 26, 2022, as a part of the BD.

  • In the end, after locating Himena’s sculpture, Ximena is overjoyed to have met Himeno. Ximena and her friend had been planning to camp near the sculpture overnight, while Himena and her friends return back to town. Ximena is voiced by Sally Amaki – Amaki was born in the United States and pursued a career in acting in 2016. Although her Japanese was a little weaker, which led to companies rejecting her applications, she did find an offer with the group 22/7. In Niban Kama, one can hear Amaki speaking Spanish quite naturally while playing Ximena: besides English and Japanese, Amaki has competence in both Spanish and French.

  • The fourth episode of Niban Kama is set from the perspective of the clay that became a sculpture sitting in front of the Pottery Club’s building. Mika created this particular sculpture from a special kind of clay unique to Tajimi, and initially, the clay gives voice to its hope that it will become something exquisite. As a result of how Mika handles things, the clay is dismayed at its fate – here, Mika and Himeno trod on the clay to loosen it.

  • Despite coming on a bit strong and putting off Himeno, Mika presently gets along with Himeno just fine, and here, Mika shows Himeno what the clay has become. Throughout the clay’s monologues, it is suggested that despite her carefree nature and unorthodox way of approaching pottery, Mika’s skill is present, and she knows how to handle the clay, as well.

  • However, what makes Mika a respectable potter is ultimately her ability to adapt. Throughout the process, Mika’s project faces continued setbacks: an accident results in paint being splattered on the sculpture, and Mika decides to change things to roll with punches. Similarly, when firing the sculpture in the kiln causes the top to crack open, the others become worried that Mika would feel down from seeing her efforts undone.

  • Instead, Mika immediately spots another use for her creation. She cleans up the cracked portion and transforms the sculpture into a flowerpot. The end result isn’t bad at all – even the haughty-sounding clay ends up pleased with the final product. Of everyone at the Pottery Club, Mika does seem to have the most fun with her creations, and in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s first season, this did put her at odds with Toko, who is much more serious about the pursuit of pottery. Indeed, this ends up being a topic spanning several episodes of Niban Kama: to take her mind off things, Himeno suggests they go out for a while.

  • Toko and Himeno end up going to a local gohei mochi joint, where their signature mochi sells out in the blink of an eye. Toko offers the last one to Himeno, since she’d been there before, and after the pair settle down with some takoyaki, they begin discuss what’s been on Toko’s mind. On the topic of eating out with friends, I invited my best friend out to a local tavern because he’d been itching to have a go at their poutine challenge: 5 pounds of fries, cheese curds and gravy. I decided to go for their more manageable but still tasty Rancher’s Special: poutine topped with fried chicken, succulent cuts of Canadian bacon, beer-battered avocado and a generous helping of ranch sauce. The poutine was tasty, and I was especially impressed with how the fried avocado tasted like tempura.

  • My friend didn’t end up beating the challenge: at our age, food challenges aren’t something I can readily pull off anymore. Back in Niban Kama, it turns out that for Toko, she’d been under a bit of pressure to produce something that would impress her grandfather. Of late, it seems that praise from him has become quite rare, and Toko is worried that her craftsmanship might be slipping: her grandfather hasn’t expressed a particular interest in coming to the latest competition to check out her entry, either. This accounts for why pottery appears to be losing its sparkle for Toko.

  • Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is a series that has flown under the radar for most, and I’ve only seen a handful of blogs writing about this one. Admittedly, I am glad that Niban Kama isn’t getting more coverage – larger blogs occasionally butcher slice-of-life reviews by focusing on the characters’ shortcomings rather than what setbacks are meant to emphasise, and this sort of discussion ends up becoming much more heated than it should. Slice-of-life series are meant to be relaxing, first and foremost; their pacing is deliberately so that over the series’ run, characters will learn from the failures they experience. As such, it is a meaningless exercise to talk down to the characters.

  • This is why I strive to understand the characters and story instead; appreciating why things happen, and the journey taken to reach a resolution, is what makes slice-of-life worthwhile for me. Back in Niban Kama, Himeno comes up with a creative suggestion: she asks Mika to invite Toko out for a shopping trip. Toko is quite sharp and immediately spots that Himeno is going out of her way in an effort to brighten her day up, and so, accepts the invitation. The skies are clear on the day of their excursion, and the four are able to really just live in the moment and take some time away from their club activities to regroup.

  • Browsing and trying out various outfits bring smiles to the girls’ faces, especially when they see Toko rocking an all-new wardrobe. While perhaps not as adorable as the smiles from something like Yuru Camp△, the distinct art style in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo does capture emotions quite well. Going from the others’ reactions, I would hazard a guess that Toko dresses in a very consistent and practical manner, so when she does wear more elegant clothing, she stands out quite a bit more than she otherwise would.

  • Moments like Mika nearly falling into the fountain typifies her enthusiasm, and during the first season, Mika did end up getting soaked after an accident of sorts. Here in Niban Kama, Himeno, Naoko and Toko are on hand to prevent this from happening, speaking to how everyone’s now familiar enough with one another over the course of their shared experiences from the previous season. The opening song from the first season is inset over the trip, and it hits me as to how fond of the first season’s opening song I was. While the second season’s opening song is great, there’s something about the first opening song that makes it an absolute joy to listen to.

  • The day ends at a pottery shop, where the girls look upon some of the bowls and mugs available for sale. When the others find Toko gazing wistfully at a bowl that costs 144000 Yen, she remarks that there’s something about the bowl that wouldn’t suit her, price notwithstanding, mirroring her doubts about her pottery at this point in time. Such a bowl would be equivalent to 1590 CAD at the time of writing, and something of this price would probably be better suited as a showpiece, rather than something that can be used daily.

  • To the group’s surprise, they run into Ximena: she’s now a resident of Tajimi, having decided to immigrate over to continue studying pottery. However, she does have a few questions on her mind about some of the tools used in pottery-making, and while the others are reluctant to help out, Himeno ends up roping Toko into things, to Ximena’s great joy. While Himeno might not be a skillful potter of the same calibre as Toko or Himena, she still has a good grasp of what the people around her are feeling and so, can act accordingly.

  • In this case, deciding to bring Ximena back to the Pottery Club’s building and having Toko explain the functionalities of the tools would serve to take Toko’s mind off the present and share her knowledge, which is a clever, but gentle way of re-lighting Toko’s enjoyment of pottery. The character growth piece of Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is built out alongside the pottery, and while I first noted that Himeno’s entry into pottery gave this series a Tamayura-like feeling, this series has come to stand of its own merits by covering different topics related to pottery.

  • In the end, Toko does end up getting her groove back and explains what a series of tools are intended for, from ensuring that one can quickly ascertain the shape of a work to ensure it is consistent with others, to grabbing things and turning them. There are some tools that even Toko aren’t familiar with, but fortunately, Mika is on hand to explain them. While framing it as an exercise to inform Ximena of what they’re for, this also doubles as a crash course on pottery tools for us viewers, who may not be familiar with the more technical aspects.

  • The Pottery Club’s building has an impressive setup, and here, the girls show Ximena different glazes that can be applied to ceramics. To the best of my recollection, the library was not shown during Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s first season. There’s always a joy about having a decently-sized collection of books: I am reminded of The Series of Unfortunate Events, where libraries and book collections were regarded as being a beacon of hope in a sea of ignorance.

  • The learnings leave Ximena overjoyed: she embraces Toko, who feels a little bit of her old spirits returning to her. I’m not sure if readers have noticed, but Ximena’s sweater and jeans are very similar in colour to Arthur‘s usual outfit. It suddenly strikes me that Arthur typically showed Arthur and his friends running around town as though they were middle school students, whereas in anime, high school students behave more like primary students. The contrast between shows like Arthur and anime is their intended audience: shows for children are written to encourage them to mature and explore their world, while anime is more about nostalgia and reminiscence.

  • In the end, Toko is in a much better spot and feels considerably improved thanks to the combined efforts everyone had in trying to lift her spirits. One thing I’ve not written about for Niban Kama is the fact that, like the first season, there is a live-action component, as well. I’ve heard these are quite enjoyable, although given my current schedule, I’ve not had the chance to watch the live-action segments yet (even for the first season).

  • The next day, Naoko shows up with an anchor for holding eel in place while they’re being prepared. Such a tool was shown in Yuru Camp△, when Nadeshiko invites Rin to an unagi restaurant. The tool does surprise the others, but after Naoko reveals its purpose, everyone shares a good laugh together. It typifies Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s ability to incorporate pottery so seamlessly with messages of problem solving and regrouping, and Niban Kama continues on in the same manner as its predecessor, making this a highly enjoyable series.

The main question about Niban Kama now that we have passed the halfway point is how Toko will handle her own doubts and face off against old friends in a pottery competition, as well as what Himeno ends up making: slice-of-life series such as these have traditionally been simple to follow, and the series’ themes are conveyed in a clear, direct fashion that results in a story whose outcomes is easily to spot. However, the merit of anime like Tamayura and Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is seeing how the end result is achieved. For instance, while it had been known that Himeno was going to enter the pottery competition in the first season, watching her find the inspiration to make a ceramic cushion, and then attempt to make a glaze reminiscent of her mother’s sculpture, couldn’t have been seen ahead of time. Watching this unfold and march towards the end is the payoff, since it shows that while Himeno might be following in Himena’s footsteps, Himeno still has her own agency, set of friends and path to guide her along, producing an experience that is uniquely her own. Niban Kama will doubtlessly follow in its predecessor’s footsteps and strike a balance between showcasing Mino-ware pottery, the best sights and sounds of Tajimi, and the path that each of Himeno, Toko and Mika will take towards creating pottery for their latest competition. Along the way, the Pottery Club will continue to discover ways of respecting their predecessors’ traditions while simultaneously capturing the new flair of youth and innovation, and with the promise of fierce competition from a rival high school’s pottery club, I imagine that sportsmanship might also figure in Niban Kama.

Yakunara Mug Cup Mo: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Having a little fun at my work does not make me any less of an artist and people who appreciate truly beautiful and original creations in pottery are not frightened by innocent tomfoolery!” –Clarice Cliff

Himeno struggles to come up with a design for the local pottery competition. While working on the concept on a hot summer’s day, she falls asleep and has a vivid dream, eventually realising that it’d be nice to make something that works as a cool cushion for the Tajimi summers. However, the prototypes that she assembles lack comfort, and so, Himeno becomes struck once more. Out of the blue, she gains inspiration from braiding Mika’s hair and decides to incorporate a fabric cord into her design. As Himeno had also been curious to make a ceramic glaze similar to the one her mother had created, she enlists Toko’s help to create the perfect colour. With her submission finished, Himeno grows worried as the date of the competition arrives – she had intended to participate purely for the experience, but soon finds herself wishing that she might be able to win something and in her eyes, show her father that she’s making progress with pottery. Prior to the day of the competition, Himeno, Mika and Toko check out the other entries, all of which are creative and unique. Himeno’s cushion ultimately does not win any awards, but the judges are moved by the colours Himeno had used. The judges later swing by her father’s café and try his latest curry out, also commenting on how there was something special about Himeno’s piece. When she returns home with her entry, her father feels compelled to use Himeno’s cushion as an actual seat. Having never told her father what she was making, Himeno is moved to tears that her emotions could be conveyed through this work, and she decides that there is joy about making clay-ware with the pottery club – perhaps, Himeno thinks, she might try making a mug one of these days, as well. Thus ends Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s first season, a curious and unconventional portrayal of picking up a new skill and the accompanying journey quite unlike other anime of its genre; while not possessing a clear and cohesive path for Himeno, who meanders and occasionally wonders if she’ll be able to make anything of note, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is also sincere in its portrayal of the creative process, how inspiration can come from the most unusual sources and how folks have different way of sorting out their hurdles, whether it be Toko’s down-to-earth, pragmatic methods or Mika’s spirited, fun-filled approach.

Despite technically being a series of shorts and lacking the same character growth as a full-length anime, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo proved quite surprising as the day of the pottery competition neared. Himeno’s hesitation and doubt transforms into determination and enjoyment as her idea materialises, and once she settles on a design to build, it is easy to see how Himeno can become immersed in the moment, her mind on nothing other than doing her best. This is most apparent after she finishes the base design for her entry and decides to apply a glaze: in pursuit of a colour she’ll be happy with, Himeno is absolutely focused on the process. She learns the techniques from Toko and experiments with a variety of options, finding joy along the way. While her final result might not have won any awards at the competition, the choice of colours does move the judges, and its design fills the judges with sudden urge to use the piece as an actual cushion. While perhaps not a technically impressive submission, this demonstrates that Himeno has reached a critical milestone in her journey, indicating that she is able to create works that convey intent clearly. Himeno evidently has a ways to go before her pottery skills are noteworthy, but at the end of Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, Himeno has gained a better understanding of what makes pottery so enjoyable; it is a process of discovery and understanding of how to convey a given article’s intended function to others. This is no small achievement, and news of a second season suggests that Himeno will begin learning the basics and in time, create serviceable earthenware that will help her to feel closer to her place of residence.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, Himeno had found her mother’s old sculpture and felt at ease, although she also knows that she has some large shoes to fill: her mother, Himena, had been a talented potter with Toko’s technical skill and Mika’s creativity. The disconnect between the happy-go-lucky aesthetic in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo and Himeno’s uncertainty created a sort of contrast that suggested the series could go down a more Tamayura-like route.

  • Motivation to make something isn’t enough on its own, and Himeno initially struggles to come up with something that she’d like to submit for the local competition. Whereas Toko’s been making usable pottery all her life, and Mika’s creative talents allow her to build whatever’s in her mind, the fact that Himeno is a novice means that she has a hard time picking out something within her realm of interests. To help her along, Toko suggests that Himeno sketch out her ideas.

  • When even this fails, Toko calls in a break: while it appears logical to keep pushing forwards on a problem while stuck, it can be more effective to step away and regroup before reattempting. One aspect of Yakunara Mug Cup Mo that I particularly liked was how, while maintaining a modern aesthetic, elements from nineties anime also make a brief appearance. These moments are meant to highlight the idea that Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is intended to be taken as a laid-back, easygoing series: chibi Himeno and Mika are adorable.

  • Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is not above taking viewers on a wild ride to show off Tajimi by means of a dream sequence. This threw some folks off entirely, and as the episode progressed, things became increasingly wild: it begins with Mika falling asleep at the Toyokawa Café, only to be roused by Himeno’s return. They end up swinging by the river, where they find Toko enjoying a gargantuan parfait. Because Toko is no-nonsense when it comes to pottery, it was surprising that Toko would be found out here. This is the earliest sign the episode was set in a dream.

  • During Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s run, I became very fond of Naoko: while she’s not technically a member of the Pottery Club, she is friends with Himeno and always encourages her to push on forwards even when things get tough. Naoko’s lack of pottery experience is actually an asset for Himeno; while Himeno’s learnt some of the basics and has two excellent mentors in Mika and Toko, having someone unfamiliar to a discipline can mean introducing a completely novel solution.

  • Mika’s dream subsequently charges into the realm of the surreal when it turns out there’s a massive palace inside of the Toki river. Here, Mika is challenged to an epic game show, but loses. When she re-awakens, it turns out her dreams had been shaped by a conversation from outside. Once Naoko arrives at the café, she shares a conversation with Himeno’s grandmother and they talk about Japanese game shows. Some of this seeps into Mika’s imagination, altering her dreams completely.

  • Dreams often entice us with things that are completely out of reach in reality: Mika completely laments the loss of her century-supply of bread and throws an adorable tantrum here. The eighth episode is named after Mika, and in Yakunara Mug Cup MoHimeno refers to Mika as Kukuri-chan, suggesting that while she’s friends, she’s not quite familiar enough with Mika to address her by her given name. For me, since I address all characters by their given names, it makes sense to maintain this consistency, and therefore, I have no trouble with referring to Mika as such.

  • In a home economics class, Mika tries to get creative by adding cheese into her Hamburg Steak (the Japanese counterpart of the Salisbury Steak, which is a ground beef patty smothered in a mushroom gravy), but the cheese ends up melting into the patty itself, leaving it hollow. There is a burger known as the Juicy Lucy that follows a very similar construction: a large amount of cheese is placed between two burger patties, and when cooked, the cheese itself melts. Unlike Mika’s creation, the Juicy Lucy is made in such a way so it stays cheesy inside, and it was to my surprise to learn that this burger, originally hailing from Minneapolis, can be found in my hometown.

  • While Himeno’s coasters initially fail, one particularly hot summer’s day, she realises it’d be nice to have a ceramic cushion, which is sure to retain its coolth. With this being said, materials with a low specific heat means that it also quicker to pick up heat, so I’m not sure how practical such a piece would be. On the topic of heat, Environment Canada has issued a severe heat warning for Western Canada: an unprecedented heat dome will bring temperatures exceeding 30°C for over a week across this entire side of the country, and the high in my region is expected to be 37°C.

  • At these temperatures, the only countermeasure would be to stay in the shade and keep hydrated. Himeno’s ceramic cushion will probably not be too helpful in beating this heat, but as an entry in the competition, a ceramic cushion doesn’t sound bad at all. Himeno thus sets out creating different clay cushions and firing them in the kiln before trying them out to see how sound different designs are from a structural standpoint. Unfortunately, testing finds that the more durable cushions are uncomfortable, and the comfortable ones are fragile.

  • For Himeno, inspiration comes when she’s braiding Mika’s hair: recalling the disappearing cheese from earlier and the fact that braids increase tensile strength gives her the inspiration to put her piece together in a way as to give the cushion some comfort without rendering it so fragile that it collapses from the mass of its own dead load. The end result is a very unique-looking cushion that Himeno is happy with. The idea she has is that she’ll use three lines: two are clay, and one is rope. Once the composition has been heated, she’ll then remove the rope and swap it out for one more consistent with the piece’s aesthetics.

  • Moments such as these are Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s highlights: they show Himeno living fully in the moment as she works in something with the intent of making it come out well, and in the anime, it does seem that it is during these moments she is at her happiest. The act of creating is where Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is at the top of its game, and having both motion and audio means really being able to bring the process of sculpting something to life: while manga are fantastic, anime adaptations can make use of movement and sound to really capture something.

  • With her composition in good shape, Himeno decides it’s time to step things up and give it some colour. Here, Himeno and Naoko hang out at Café Wani, which is located a stone’s throw away from Tajimi library. This cozy-looking spot ends up inspiring Himeno to create a more challenging glaze for her composition after asking Mika and Toko (unsuccessfully) for help, and here, both Himeno and Naoko picked up a little something to eat, too. Café Wani only has an Instagram account, but a glance at their food tells me all I need to know about the place; it’s a spot worth visiting.

  • Tajimi bridge is a commonly featured thoroughfare throughout Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, and unsurprisingly, the locations seen in the anime are all based off real-world locations. Coupled with the live-action segments, which tread the same locations the anime depicts, there hardly is a reason for me to duplicate their efforts and do an Oculus-powered hunt for the locations. On the flipside, Super Cub had also offered the possibility of a location hunt, but most of the spots in Yamanashi were mundane and, while not particularly hard to find, offers very little to discuss.

  • As such, I’ve decided to skip doing a talk on Super Cub‘s locations. While doing a search for Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, I further ended up learning that the first seven volumes are freely available as a PDF and for Apple Books on their official website. This was such a pleasant surprise from the manga’s author, Osamu Kashiwara, and the town of Tajimi: it’s a very gentle introduction to the series, which is ongoing and spans thirty-three volumes at the time of writing. The characters in the anime look a ways more distinct than their manga counterparts, who appear much more ordinary by comparison.

  • After taking Naoko up to her mother’s sculpture, Himeno decides that it would be fun to try and create a glaze that is as fluid and sparkly as the one her mother had made. While this is more tricky than anything she’d done before, with support from her friends, Himeno manages to create a colour that she’s pleased with. She applies this to her creation and allows it to bake, and the next morning, is pleased to see the results exceed expectations: it’s not exactly the same hue as the glaze Himena had used for the sculpture, but creates a very similar feeling.

  • This was meant to show that Himeno simultaneously respects the tradition her mother had left behind and applies her own character to things. Throughout the process, Naoko had been writing about how happy she is to see Himeno so wrapped up and excited about her project. The focused Himeno is a far cry from the defeated Himeno we’d see earlier in the season; most slice-of-life series have characters gradually work their way up to a challenge, and typically, when a character faces an obstacle of this sort, it is usually present for a reason.

  • Yakunara Mug Cup Mo initially is a series about pottery, but underneath, it’s also a series about accepting loss, respecting tradition and finding one’s way. The former, we’ve not seen much of yet; because Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is a hybrid series, featuring half-length episodes followed by a live-action segment, the story advances at half the speed of a conventional series. The reason why there’s a second season, then is because Himeno’s experiences up until now technically would’ve been the halfway point. Here, the Pottery Club and Mami, their advisor, arrive at the Gifu Museum of Modern Ceramic Art.

  • It is no surprise that this landmark is modelled faithfully to its real world counterpart. Opened in 2002, this museum features ceramic art from across Japan (and even some international pieces), with an emphasis on modern creations. The museum is open from 1000 to 1800 and costs 340 Yen per adult (although group discounts are available, too). There is no better setting for a pottery competition, and unsurprisingly, Mika is overjoyed to be here. Yakunara Mug Cup Mo shows that the only thing that really gets her down is if she spars with people important to her, but beyond this, even the stresses of a competition don’t faze her.

  • Conversely, Himeno is a little nervous, despite having told herself that she’s participating purely for the experience and in the hopes of making something her father would like. Here, Himeno, Mika and Toko check out the main exhibition hall. A host of submissions were made, but as inclination dictates, Mika is most interested to first find their own works. Once they are located, Himeno spots a red sticker on the name plates for Toko and Mika’s entries; they’re supposed to be for submissions that particularly stood out. Mika and Toko reassure Himeno that occasionally, ordinary entries can also win an award, as well. However, since Toko’s grandfather is also one of the judges, Toko chooses to make tracks: she’s longed to make pottery at her own pace and earn recognition on her own merits.

  • Himeno’s creation does seem to pale compared to Mika and Toko’s, but one judge takes an immediate curiosity in the work, studying it intently. The penultimate episode actually proved quite stressful: even though it would’ve been illogical for her to win owing to her limited experience, viewers cannot help but hope alongside Himeno, whose desire to win is better expressed as a desire to show her father that she’s not only taken up pottery, but is respecting her mother’s hobby and learning things for herself. That this judge here is drawn in by Himeno’s work suggests some familiarity with Himena’s work.

  • By checking out the other submissions, Himeno learns that pottery isn’t necessarily an all-serious pursuit, and moreover, it’s okay to have fun in the process making something. This is what motivates the page quote: while potters oftentimes make items of practical value (cups, plates, bowls and coasters), they’re also free to mess around. Mika definitely understands this, and here, she, Himeno and Toko check out a project that certainly looked like it was fun to make.

  • The animation and artistic style in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo does seem to borrow elements from Western comics: Charles M. Schulz was fond of having characters tilt their head backwards such that only their mouth is visible, usually when something uncommonly unfavourable or joyous was happening. Here, Mika expresses pure joy at the fact that it’s lunch time. Even the pressure of the pottery competition results don’t bother her, and she simply looks forwards to a good meal.

  • The group is eating on Gifu Museum of Modern Ceramic Art’s deck: Google Street View does cover this spot, and the amount of effort paid to detail in the anime is impressive: going off Google Street View, the Tajimi skyline is also faithfully reproduced. One would imagine that eating lunch up here would feel pretty nice, although Himeno is so stressed that she’s unable to enjoy the food and resorts to hoping that the presence of rolled omelettes would be a sign that she’d win something.

  • Back inside, the judges are in the middle of looking at the entries shortlisted for an award. Mika and Toko’s submissions are a shoo-in; Mika’s is fun and exemplifies what is possible with pottery, whereas Toko’s represents technical excellence and a superior understanding of the craft. When the judges reach Himeno’s work, they are impressed with the uniqueness of the approach, but find that it is nothing standout. However, the same judge who had been drawn in by Himeno’s work earlier has a few additional thoughts owing to the glaze’s unique colours.

  • In the end, Himeno doesn’t win anything from the competition, but watching the awards ceremony proved to be a bit more gripping than I would’ve thought. While Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is about pottery, the series always hints at the idea that Himeno has taken up pottery for a larger purpose beyond what most slice-of-life shows usually set up. With this in mind, while all slice-of-life anime necessarily deal with life lessons and speak to different challenges people face in their lives, it is also the case that appreciating what a given series is going for requires more empathy and patience than purely literature and philosophy.

  • I find that slice-of-life series are typically harder to write for precisely for this reason: rather than reciting definitions from textbooks, slice-of-life series require one to understand how the characters are feeling, and oftentimes, this entails either having gone through what the characters go through, or else possessing the empathy to put together why characters act and feel the way they do. In Himeno’s case, for instance, while she’s all smiles about having participated, when she’s alone, melancholy takes over. Something like existentialism won’t answer why this is the case, but making a genuine effort to understand Himeno will help considerably.

  • This does require a bit of patience from the viewers: in Himeno’s case, she takes up pottery because of her mother’s passing. Longing to get to know her mother better where their time had been cut short, Himeno initially finds disappointment that she’s not able to become as proficient as she’d like, but over the course of Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, discovering the creative process with her friends and learning the same steps her mother would’ve started out with helps her to connect to the happiness Himena had found while making earthenware. By the first season’s ending, having created a work of her own, Himeno feels a little closer to her mother.

  • Himeno’s father had spent the whole of the series working on a new curry; at the finale, it’s finally complete. He dubs it “Tajimisio Baked Curry”, and it turns out this curry is able to bring joy to those who eat it. While Himeno had been working on her project, her father had similarly strove to make something that could evoke a specific emotion in those who tried it. This is the mark of a particularly well-crafted work; regardless of cultural or linguistic barriers, a work succeeds if it is able to create a response in the recipient as the creator had intended. Given both Himeno and her father are pursing this, it stands to reason that Himena was particularly good at doing this with her pottery.

  • Having no idea of what Himeno had made for the competition, her father comes upon the cushion and is taken with a sudden urge to sit down. The cushion shatters, but Himeno, spotting that her feelings had been conveyed, is overwhelmed with joy. Her mother’s pieces had similarly been able to convey a specific idea or thought to people, and because Himeno’s father expresses that her cushion had accomplished just this, her intentions were successfully put into her work. This moment is the highlight in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo and shows viewers that her ability to get an idea across is now present. Encouraged, Himeno takes up pottery whole-heartedly, and along the way, hopes to make a mug, too.

One unexpected outcome of Yakunara Mug Cup Mo arose with the awards presentation: Himeno had entered the competition purely for the experience’s sake, and initially did not believe that she’d stand any sort of chance at winning something. However, as energy and excitement surrounding the competition increases, Himeno finds herself wishing that it’d be nice to win something and show her father that pottery is something she’s competent with. This sense of yearning is visibly felt, and despite being a slice-of-life, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s last two episodes actually did end up being quite tense. Despite understanding Himeno was not going to win anything, one could not help but hope that she might actually be a finalist for one of the awards. This is the mark of a strong slice-of-life anime series; Himeno’s story began on an uneven footing as she struggled to determine if pottery was for her, but once Yakunara Mug Cup Mo hit its stride, it became quite captivating to watch. Himeno’s persistence to make something her father would like also speaks volumes to how close as a family that they must’ve been; while Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is a cheerful series, and Himena’s legacy was one of joy, I imagine that her passing was difficult for everyone. Himeno’s father opens a new café to focus on creating new things, the same as Himena had once enjoyed, and Himeno wants to continue creating pottery of the same calibre as her mother’s such that her father can remember the memories they’d shared. This aspect was not explored in any detail in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, but in the knowledge that there will be a second season, there’s no reason Yakunara Mug Cup Mo couldn’t portray a story of finding one’s strengths anew and seizing the future, similarly to how Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and Tamayura had done so previously. With this in mind, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s second season has become something I am looking forwards to. Fortunately, the wait won’t be long; the second season airs this October.

Yakunara Mug Cup Mo: Review and Reflections at the Halfway Point

“The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind.” ―Kiran Desai

Himeno Toyokawa moves to Tajimi in Gifu with her father after he decides to quit his job and opens a café. Tajimi is where Himeno’s late mother, a legendary potter, is from, and Himeno is now attending her mother’s old high school. While Himeno is reluctant to take up pottery, she is spurred on by classmates Naoko Naruse and Mika Kukuri to join the Pottery Club, where she is convinced to see the joys of being able to craft something with her own hands that others will find useful. As Himeno picks up the basics, she also learns that different potters have different styles – when the energetic Mika and club president Toko Aoki spar over the former’s inability to focus, Toko recalls that Mika is at her best when given the space to be creative after she’s had a chance to cool down, and later reconciles with Mika. After Himeno accidentally breaks her father’s favourite Ochazuke cup, she sets about creating a new one upon learning that her mother had created that cup. However, in spite of her efforts, Himeno is heartbroken when her father doesn’t react to it as warmly, and begins to lose her interest in pottery. Naoko and Mika decide to take her on a day trip to help her regroup, but they end up tailing their instructor, Mami Koizumi, when they believe she’s going on a date. After they’re caught, and Himeno explains how she’s been feeling, Mami suggests that taking detours every now and then isn’t so bad. She shares in a spectacular summer sight with Himeno, Mika and Naoko – fireflies illuminating the gentle night sky. As the summer settles in, Himeno decides to participate in a pottery contest, but struggles to decide on what to make. When Mami asks Himeno to help out with the pottery museum’s setup over her day off, Himeno comes across a sculpture her mother made, and discovers her mother’s old notes in the museum’s archive. Realising the extent her mother could influence others with her work, Himeno decides to pursue her own brand of pottery and make something that she can be proud of.

Besides Super Cub, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo (literally “If planning to fire (pottery), mug cup too”, English title Let’s Make a Mug Too) is this season’s other slice-of-life series about Mino-ware pottery, an industry that has over a millenia of history and originates from the Toki and Minokamo regions of Gifu prefecture. Archeologists have found evidence of kilns dating back to the seventh century, and during the seventeenth century, Katō Yosabei and his sons opened potteries in the area, cementing the region’s reputation for fine pottery. Part tourism promotion and part cute-girls-doing-cute-things, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is a curious series that is split cleanly down the middle – the first half of each episode is an animated segment that follows Himeno as she picks up the basics surrounding pottery and in doing so, comes to appreciate the craft her mother had excelled at, while the second half is a live-action that presents specialities and features from the area. With the series hybridising animation and live-action, the story piece to Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is about the same length as the average Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! episode. However, the condensed runtime allows Yakunara Mug Cup Mo to be very focused in its presentation, and it becomes clear that Himeno’s journey into the world of pottery will consist of both honing her craft, pursuing her own approach towards pottery and presumably, coming to terms with her mother’s passing as she makes worthwhile discoveries and learnings with her new friends. To this end, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is simultaneously energetic and contemplative, portraying life at both ends of the spectrum to indicate to viewers that sorrow and joy necessarily co-exist, for without sadness, happiness cannot be understood.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Pottery and the creating of earthenwares is a discipline that is well outside the area of my expertise: unlike camping and recreational fishing, which I could pick up and enjoy at a hobby level with a bit of time commitment and the right instruction, or amateur astronomy, where having a solid pair of binoculars and a good guidebook will send one on their way to enjoyment, pottery is a skill that demands skill and attention to detail. Consequently, for Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, I won’t be commenting on the quality of Himeno’s works.

  • Right out of the gates, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo has Himeno headed to school with her friend, Naoko. Having moved to Tajimi in Gifu, Himeno’s father opens his own café after being laid off from his office job. Despite the cheerful atmosphere seen in the typical slice-of-life series, however, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo does seem to suggest at the melancholy and sadness that surrounds the Toyokawa family after Himeno’s mother passed away. This balance creates the lingering sense that pottery is going to act as the catalyst for something bigger,

  • On the first day of classes, Himeno and Naoko run into Mika, a spirited and energetic girl whose mannerisms can seem a little off-putting to some. Naoko and Himeno are certainly taken aback by how forward Mika is, and the pair secretly hope that their paths won’t cross again. Of course, anime create these chance encounters precisely because different personalities serve to help the protagonist grow in some way. Much as how Nadeshiko and Rin end up meeting despite Rin wishing otherwise early in Yuru Camp△, Himeno and Naoko do end up befriending into Mika owing to their interests in pottery.

  • As a part of her introductions, Himeno tries to advertise the fact that her father runs a café, but what really draws her classmates’ (and instructor’s) attention are the mugs that she brings in. Mika immediately falls in love and attempts to recruit Himeno to the pottery club, and while Himeno does not possess her mother’s innate talent for pottery, she does decide to give things a whirl after learning that her mother had been an alumni of this very school (and pottery club). In the end, Himeno feels that pottery might be something she could take up, although her father wonders if Himeno’s choice of activity might bring back memories of Himeno’s mother.

  • It does feel like there’s a subtle conflict here in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, but such moments seem to be dispersed by the fact that episodes generally possess a very upbeat feeling: it’s hard to be weighed down by past doubts when there’s so much to learn about pottery. Yakunara Mug Cup Mo spends a bit of time explaining to viewers the bit of background behind the different types of pottery, which helps viewers to appreciate the intricacies and nuances in pottery. It turns out that Tajimi’s pottery is known as Mino ware (美濃焼, Hepburn Mino-yaki), which is futher subdivided into four categories based on its colour.

  • Pottery is a big deal in Tajimi, a city with a population of 110000 in Gifu Prefecture. Weather here is generally pleasant, although it gets very hot and humid in the summers. The area has historically been critical in ceramic production, although more recently, with manufacturers located elsewhere, Tamiji’s ceramics industry is more focused on trade and wholesale. A few manufacturers do remain within city limits to continue on with the area’s traditions.

  • To bolster Himeno’s interest in pottery, MIka and Toko decide to bring her around town and show her some examples of local Mino ceramics: well beyond tableware and tiles, ceramics are also used in things as varied as insulators and public works of art. The reason why ceramics are chosen as electrical insulators is because of their mechanical strength, and other insulators, like glass, are comparatively brittle and difficult to cast. Their distinct disk shape, known as sheds, ensures that the leakage area stays dry. Ceramics in statues, on the other hand, are a bit easier to understand: treatment of nonmetallic minerals with heat causes them to assume a tough, corrosion resistant form, but before heat treatment, they’re malleable and can be readily shaped into whatever the user intends.

  • Mami is Himeno’s homeroom instructor and also happens to be the pottery club instructor. She’s fond of swinging by the Toyokawa café and here, checks up on Himeno, who notes that she’s got some large shoes to fill. The idea of the new generation working in the shadows of their forerunners is not new, and for the most part, those who start their journey quickly discover that while their predecessors might’ve accomplished some impressive achievements, their own work is nothing to sneeze at, either.

  • While conflicts are not terribly common in slice-of-life anime, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo does have Mika clashing with Toko after the former displays a very blasé, unconcerned attitude about pottery and creates a commotion with Naoko when goofing off. It turns out that Mika’s talent in pottery comes from the fact that she’s so carefree and spirited, and while it might take her a while to come up with the inspiration, once she’s got it, she’s more than capable of making unique, colourful works. Toko realises this after Himeno picks up a cup that Mika had made, and shortly after, Mika and Toko reconcile.

  • It turns out that Himeno’s father had been hard at work trying to bring new visitors to his café, and determining that offering curry might help bring in new customers, he decides to try out a range of recipes. The pottery club end up enjoying all of them, and even if they aren’t necessarily new recipes, still bring something to the café’s table. This subtle lesson is likely a bit of foreshadowing for Himeno: as she’s still a novice to pottery, she wants to make something worthy of those around her, and as a result, is often bogged down by details.

  • This comes to light when Himeno attempts to craft a replacement ochazuke bowl for her father after accidentally ruining the original, and she sets off to create a new one. I’ve not done any sort of pottery since my time as an elementary student: back in the day, instructors would give us clay to work with, and after we were finished, they would send them off to be baked. The pieces I’d made back then are still around, and compared to even Himeno’s first works, are crude.

  • Ochazuke is a dish of steeped tea and rice in a single bowl topped with salmon, seaweed and other savoury ingredients. It is most commonly enjoyed as an after-meal accompaniment or as a slightly heartier alternative to a snack. Himeno’s father has his ochazuke down to a science, attesting to his love for the dish (and likely, the associated memories with Himeno’s mother).

  • Himeno ends up running into the pottery club while out working on a design: they share with her some pickled plums, which Toko supposes could be an excellent accompaniment for ochazuke. Mika also ends up giving one of Toko’s bowls to Himeno to act as a stand-in for the one that her father hda lost: when her father tries the bowl out, he immediately takes a liking to it. Seeing the sort of bowl her father likes gives Himeno the inspiration to finally get started.

  • Himeno supposes that the ideal bowl would be able to hold onto the proper quantity of ochazuke and thus decides on a deeper, heavier bowl. With the design settled on, it’s time to start crafting them. Himeno ends up making no fewer than fifteen, and seeing the work-in-progress indicates to me that such bowls would be better suited for ramen.

  • While excited at the prospect of finalising the bowls and painting them, learning that her father’s original Ochazuke bowl has had some three decades immediately drives the pressure up: Toko had made the replacement bowl at around Himeno’s age, and Himeno’s grandmother notes that the original bowl had also been made when Himeno’s mother was of that age. The original bowl was skillfully made, and this suggests that Himeno’s mother had a talent for creating the right shape for a given function, as well as the fact that Toko probably has a similar style to Himeno’s mother.

  • For the first time, Himeno finds herself absolutely absorbed in her project and looks forwards to finishing it so that she can see her father’s reaction. However, a part of her also worries about the outcome, and she describes the feeling as being comparable to entering high school. This speaks volumes to Himeno’s personality: she doesn’t like to do things halfway and she cares very much about her father. This is reminiscent of Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Hina Tsurugi, who similarly becomes hooked on fishing because of her disposition for trying until she succeeds. As such, it stands to reason that setbacks won’t hold Himeno back for long.

  • While Himeno’s father says nothing negative per se about the ochazuki bowl Himeno had made for him, she immediately notices that he’s not enjoying things quite to the same extent that he had with Toko’s bowl, and immediately becomes disheartened. This moment was meant to indicate that Himeno, being a novice in pottery, has not yet learnt to eyeball a work’s intended purpose and instead, has gone for style over functionality. With this in mind, it is understandable that at this point in time, Himeno’s feeling nothing but disappointment and promises to improve her craft.

  • The episode’s contribution to Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is to give Himeno a tangible objective, and as such, was a necessary one given the series’ composition. In any other series, this decidedly more serious approach might be seen as overkill. In the words of lesser writers, I believe this is known as “forced drama”, a phrase whose usage is indicative of inadequate understanding, but Yakunara Mug Cup Mo had established that it’s not going purely for the light-and-fluffy route. One other thing that had irked me about Yakunara Mug Cup Mo discussions was that at least one viewer felt compelled to claim that Himeno was a novice for not following a more conventional design, and moreover, that her decoration was “pretty bad, not to mention unnecessary”. Viewers such as these, who try to stand above the characters have never made for good discussion, and I see little reason to place much stock in whatever they say.

  • I’ve never understood why people feel compelled to criticise and correct what the characters are doing in a given slice-of-life anime – the intent of having Himeno making these mistakes was precisely to show she’s still new to pottery. Had Himeno made the logical decision, it would show that she’s experienced, and there’d be no point in having the anime. In Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, Himeno’s disappointment and disillusionment with pottery leads her friends to take her on an outing that quickly turns into a classic tailing exercise. When the girls pass by a station with Hime in its name, Naoko and Mika are quick to tease Himeno about it. I found this adorable – I have similar tendencies, and make puns with people’s names often if I know said people well.

  • It turns out that Naoko and Mika become intrigued in what Mami is doing after they overhear her on the phone, speaking with a friend. The single teacher archetype in anime is one that people consider clichéd, but I’ve long asserted that this is a deliberate choice to maximise the adventures the characters can have with an adult’s assistance. Teachers who are married and home with the family in their personal time won’t be able to drive the students around or help them with various events. The prospect of Mami breaking up with her partner intrigues Naoko and Mika, who decide to tail her through the Gifu countryside.

  • The end result is a delightful day hike that sees Himeno live a little in the moment with her friends, and under the calm of a beautiful summer’s day, the girls eventually tail Mami to a shrine of sorts. They lose her here, and while taking a break, Himeno finally admits that after her father’s less-than-enthusiastic response to her bowl, she began losing her interest in pottery, feeling guilty that she was actually looking forwards to a break in club activities. However, what had weighed heavily on Himeno’s mind don’t bother Naoko and Mika at all.

  • While their heart-to-heart talk helps Himeno to gain some perspective, it also leaves the girls open to discovery – shortly after, Mami shows up, bringing the girls’ attempt to tail her to an end. The classic foot follow is a bit of tradecraft that involves tailing someone, and following someone undetected varies in difficulty. Against most people, keeping a moderate distance will do the trick, although folks familiar with countermeasures will make changes to their route or make unexpected stops and changes to their pacing, looking to see if their followers react in any way. In slice-of-life anime, foot follows always end up in failure for comedy’s sake.

  • Par the course, it is clear that they would’ve gotten a straight answer had they just asked. It turns out that Mami wasn’t talking about her partner, but instead, was talking to a friend about taking some downtime to check out something with her. She had planned going for herself even though her friend had been busy, but with her students now around, Mami figures she’d share with them what she had intended to see.

  • The surprise turns out to be two different species of fireflies chilling in a rural pond – one species emits a green light, while the other emits a yellow light. Here, Mami mentions that today’s adventure is why one should always keep moving forwards even if the way ahead isn’t clear, as something wonderful can await. For Himeno, even though she had been unsure about pottery, until she gives it her best effort, there’s no telling what new discoveries could await her. Under a gentle rural evening, the girls watch the fireflies, and Himeno is encouraged to enjoy pottery in her own way.

  • With the pottery competition coming up, I imagine that this competition will be the motivating factor behind Himeno really honing her craft, as she strives to put out a work that represents who she is. While a competition can still be stressful, the reduced emotional pressure means that Himeno has the space to create something of her own choosing, and so, preparations for the competition will help Himeno to discover her own approach towards pottery.

  • Since the Toyokawa café opened, Mami’s become a regular patron and is enjoying some fried chicken and a salad here. Earlier today, I sat down to a delicious grilled chicken burger and shoestring fries. Chicken, being leaner than beef, has a much lighter flavour, and it strikes me as to just how good a homemade chicken burger is: I typically go for fried chicken burgers when out and about because they tend to be juicier (grilled chicken is a little drier than I’d like). It turns out that Mami isn’t here just for the food – there’s something she needs a little help with over the weekend, and Himeno accepts, curious to check out the pottery museum behind their school.

  • It turns out that the way to the museum takes one along a hillside path that offers a spectacular view of Tajimi that Himeno had previously not known about. As she follows the kappa sculptures deeper into the woods, Himeno also discovers a sculpture of great beauty, one that conveys a sense of windiness. Having Himeno come up here on her own acts as a metaphor for how she’ll come to determine her style in pottery: it’s a combination of exploring and drawing inspiration from her predecessors.

  • The incidental music used in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo had been quite unremarkable, but upon hearing the song that plays when Himeno comes across this sculpture, I’ve suddenly become quite keen to check out the soundtrack for this series. The only thing I know about the soundtrack is that it  is composed by Tomoki Hasegawa and will release on July 28 as a part of the BD set. The opening song, Tobira o Aketara, is a spirited and sincere-sounding song performed by the voice actresses, Minami Tanaka, Yu Serizawa, Yūki Wakai, and Rina Honnizumi. The ending song is performed by Aya Uchida and will release on June 2.

  • The lady curating the pottery museum is surprised to learn that Himeno is the daughter of the artist who’d  created the sculpture on the way up to the museum, and reveals that Himena had been a very free spirit whose determination was actually what convinced the city to leave the museum running. In the museum’s archives, Himeno finds her mother’s notes on why she created things the way she did, and reading these notes proves inspirational to Himeno, who is ready to take her first step towards discovering her own style in pottery.

  • I’m sure that a lingering question on some viewers’ minds will be why the title is “Mug Cup”, when “mug” or “cup” on its own would’ve gotten the message across. As it turns out, マグカップ (magu kappu) is a wasei-eigo term, borrowed from English. The literal translation of the title refers to the act of firing up a kiln and making a mug, as well. The English title is a simplification of this and translates the intent clearly, but for visibility’s sake, I’ve chosen to go with the Japanese title. It goes without saying that I am finding Yakunara Mug Cup Mo to be quite enjoyable; while I don’t have any background in pottery, I am looking forwards to seeing what awaits Himeno in the series’ second half.

Slice-of-life series have always found ways to make unique topics memorable: from fishing, hiking and camping, to pop music and astronomy, series in this genre strike a balance between advancing the characters’ growth through their chosen field and presenting mundane moments to depict how this change occurs over time. While such series are charming, the progression ends up treading along familiar paths each and every time. Consequently, when Yakunara Mug Cup Mo chose to mix things up by having a more concise animated segment and then incorporating a live-action piece to make the series part story, part travel show, the series has now found a novel way of showcasing the extent of Mino ware pottery in Tajimi in full. Being able to see the real-world inspiration for what is seen in the anime reminds viewers of the level of attention paid to details within the manga, and this in turn accentuates the idea that Himeno’s journey is going to be a meaningful one. At the same time, the live-action component solidifies the idea that Tajimi is a place worth visiting, both for its extensive pottery industry, and for attractions that only the locals know about. While my posts have chosen to focus on the narrative and thematic aspects of Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, I will note that the live action piece has also proven to be immensely enjoyable for highlighting things about Tajimi that might otherwise go unnoticed by foreign visitors. For the time being, in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s animated segment, it appears that Himeno has, in discovering an important piece of her past, come to accept what she can do for herself in the episodes upcoming: it would appear that the pottery competition is what will lead Himeno to better her craft and perhaps close the distance between her and what happened with her mother. As it stands, I look forwards to seeing what Himeno ends up making for the competition as she comes to terms with her past and uses this strength to embrace her future.