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Staying Behind!- Appreciating Quieter Moments, and How A Rainy Afternoon Foreshadowed K-On!’s Future Directions

“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favourite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice.” –Joseph B. Wirthlin

After Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi leave for their class trip to Kyoto, Ui notices that Yui had left her camera behind. At school, she speaks with Azusa, who wishes that like Jun’s Jazz Club, the Light Music Club would take things a little more seriously. Jun is thrilled that a large chocolate bun is available for purchase, and later, Azusa and Jun decide to spend the night with Ui. Since there’s no Light Music Club, Ui and Azusa accompany Jun to the Jazz Club, where Azusa helps two junior students to improve their technique. During the evening, Jun and Azusa arrive at Ui’s place, and they share a scrumptious dinner. Jun falls asleep almost immediately, leaving Azusa and Ui to chat. They decide to visit the zoo in the morning, but the next day, showers blanket the area, forcing the three to cancel their plans. Although Jun and Azusa grow bored (Jun had been hoping Yui might have the volume of the manga she’d been reading), they end up swinging by the batting centre, where Ui wins a large stuffed turtle for hitting a grand slam. Seeing the turtle reminds Azusa of how she had promised to feed Ton-chan, and the three head back to school. Here, Jun finds the missing manga volume, and the three play a song together as the day draws to a close. When Yui and the others return, they give her a keychain souvenir, a part of a set that spells out “けいおんぶ”. This fifth episode to K-On!! is an anime original: the manga focused on Yui and the others’ trip to Kyoto, omitting what Azusa and the others were up to. Conversely, in K-On!!, director Naoko Yamada took the time to flesh things out – the fifth episode is, even by K-On!! standards, exceptionally laid-back and easygoing. Ordinarily, such a direction is frowned upon, and series are often criticised for filling episodes with content that has not occurred in the manga. In the case of K-On!!, Yamada masterfully uses the additional time during the second season’s extended, twenty-four episode run to create a deeper connection among the characters. An additional sense of depth behind Ui, Azusa and Jun’s friendship is conveyed, indicating that even after Yui and the others graduate, Azusa still has friends in her corner. This particular aspect actually becomes a vital bit of foreshadowing for what would eventually unfold in K-On! – when Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi graduate, Azusa takes the reigns and ends up running the Light Music Club as its president.

Although Azusa had initially been hesitant about the role and strove to run the club as how she envisioned a president should act, she would quickly fall back on old habits, consistent with how she saw Ritsu running things. Her journey is eased by the fact that she has Jun and Ui in her corner; K-On!!‘s fifth episode had shown that there is enough chemistry between Azusa, Ui and Jun to continue driving the show. As a rainy afternoon progresses, the three end up playing their first song together – Jun and Azusa already have some experience, while Ui is a quick study and has actually helped Yui practise, too. In this way, this episode indicates that among her friends, Azusa already knows of two people who have a modicum of skill as musicians. Indeed, when Azusa does take over the Light Music Club, Ui and Jun immediately join. Having familiar faces gives Azusa the drive and encouragement she needs to continue running the show, and in time, Azusa does end up successfully rebuilding the Light Music Club in K-On! High School – she picks up Sumire Saitō, Tsumugi’s cousin, who ends up taking on drums, and Nao Okuda becomes their songwriter. Azusa’s Light Music Club is a little more dedicated than she’d known it under Ritsu and Yui, but she quickly finds that there are merits to Yui and Ritsu’s approach, too. In this side story in K-On!!, the sort of dynamics between Azusa, Ui and Jun are closer to Azusa’s ideal: things are a bit more focused, but there is still plenty of time to take things at one’s own pace and live in the moment. Indeed, the atmosphere and tone of this episode closely mirrors that of K-On! High School; this manga sequel shows Azusa’s side of the story and was released in 2012, a full two years after the fifth K-On!! episode aired. It is possible that author Kakifly drew some inspiration from Yamada’s interpretation of K-On!, taking this concept and applying it to create a full-fledged story that underlies how in time, people tend to take after their predecessors and apply their own unique spin to things to result in a novel experience that ends up creating the precedence for the next generation to build upon.

Besides foreshadowing the events of K-On! High School long before there had been any news of a sequel to the manga, K-On!!‘s fifth episode also provided hints as to how Yamada would handle K-On! The Movie. In the manga, Yui and the others buy a guitar pick from Kyoto for Azusa. However, the anime chose to portray the girls as picking up keychains in a set that, when put together, spell “けいおんぶ”. These matching keychains become a symbol of how everyone’s unique, but when together, they’re part of a greater whole. Although it’s not a gift that’s unique to Kyoto, it comes to show that for Yui, Mio, Ritsu, Tsumugi and Azusa, where they go is irrelevant – everything is meaningful and memorable when together. In this way, Yamada takes what Kakifly had created and adds to it another dimension. Although the second season follows in its predecessor’s footsteps, it is easy to spot that Yamada had become genuinely invested in showing a side of K-On! that the manga did not convey. The movie would be born as a result of this, being a heartfelt journey from the senior girls say thank to their youngest and most determined member for everything she’d contributed to their friendship and the Light Music Club. Giving Yamada the creative freedom to write in the moments between the larger, more boisterous experiences represents an opportunity to show how K-On! can be introspective and thoughtful, and as a result, Yamada spotted that, while K-On! might’ve originally been a comedy that Kakifly had written to present a topic he was familiar with (pop music) in a high school setting, there had been considerable depth that otherwise wouldn’t be explored in the printed medium. Through the anime, K-On! became more, and these aspects is why the series achieved the success that it did: K-On!‘s anime adaptation is respectful of the original manga, while at the same time, adding more to the story and accentuating Kakifly’s themes of friendship, gratitude and appreciation in a compelling, meaningful manner. It is therefore fair to say that allowing Yamada a degree of freedom in adding her own interpretation to K-On! eventually resulted in K-On! The Movie being produced, finally providing Yamada a space in which to really express what K-On! and its characters would mean to her, over time. The end result speaks for itself: K-On! The Movie is touching, sincere and moving, acting as a swan song to a series that had meant so much, to so many, and in retrospect, it is impressive to see that even early in K-On!!‘s run, bits and pieces of what would appear in both K-On! High School and K-On! The Movie would appear.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Ten years ago to this day, I was sitting at my desk in the cool of the lower floor, absent-mindedly reviewing verbal reasoning drills. It’d been a sunny day, and ordinarily, I’d be hard at work doing revisions for the MCAT. However, on this day, I had been quite distracted because K-On! The Movie was set to release, and I’d been waiting for my copy to arrive. By this point in the summer, I’d become a little more confident about the exam: I was consistently scoring above 30 in practise drills, and every week, I would do full-length exams by morning before taking the afternoon off.

  • By the morning of the 19th, my copy of the film had arrived, and I decided to take a rare day off from MCAT revisions so I could sit down and enjoy the movie. Right out of the gates, I was impressed: the film had felt like the TV series had, but as Yui and the others began discussing how to be proper seniors for Azusa, and their discussions ended up transforming into a graduation trip, the film really began to shine on the silver screen. After the film ended, I ended up writing a series of posts about my initial impressions on my old website and here.

  • What had stood out about K-On! The Movie had been a lingering sense of melancholy that permeated the entire movie, and it wasn’t until a decade later that I ended up putting into words what this was: it’s Mono no Aware, wistfulness that results from being aware of transience. The movie had conveyed this because even though the characters are living in the moment, we viewers would know that this time was finite. These thoughts would lead me to revisit K-On! and K-On!! again, and in doing so, I would revisit the second season’s fifth episode anew.

  • This episode, titled “Staying Behind!”, prima facie appears to be little more than a glimpse of the two days in which Yui and the others are out on their class trip, leaving Azusa, Jun and Ui to go about things without their rowdy seniors to liven things up. However, in showing how things are in Yui et al.’s absence, K-On!! suggests that things could still be quite lively in their own right. After Azusa begins contemplating what her ideal senpai is like, the scene changes over to the lunch line, where Jun is able to pick up a chocolate baguette.

  • One unintentional side effect of this episode was that it made me fonder of Jun – a bassist in the Jazz Club, Jun is friends with Azusa and Ui from middle school, but after entering high school, joined the Jazz Club after being inspired by one of their performers, and had found the Light Music Club a little off-putting. Boisterous and easygoing, Jun ends up joining the Light Music Club in her final year, and while she’d previously been jealous of the adventures Azusa gets to embark on, she will have a chance to experience remarkable things for herself, too.

  • This episode thus shows that, even without Yui or Mio, K-On! was more than capable of carrying the show with its secondary characters – Ui and Azusa are full-fledged characters, and Jun begins to get increasing screentime as she becomes more important. The K-On! High School manga would ultimately show that Azusa and her leadership of the Light Music Club is just as successful as the times she would come to cherish, and considering that the manga sequels were published after K-On!! aired, this is especially impressive; it is plain that some things in the TV series would go back and inspire the manga.

  • I am only afforded this bit of insight because I am writing about K-On! after everything was released; the English-language translations of K-On! College and K-On! High School was available in October 2013. I ended up buying all of the volumes, and recall how of all the volumes, the second had given me the most trouble since none of the local stores had it in stock. I would finally order it online to complete the collection, and since then, all six K-On! volumes have graced my shelves. Here, after Ui and the others head to Yui’s classroom to retrieve something, Ui becomes visibly saddened by the prospect of Yui being absent, and she begins tearing up, leading Azusa and Jun to suggest a sleepover to keep her company.

  • Subtle hints in this episode foreshadow Azusa’s initial troubles with running the Light Music Club – while a skilled musician surpassing Yui in technical skill, Azusa is more by-the-book and would prefer to run a tight ship, but at the same time, she’s also a little shy and unaccustomed to leading. When waiting for Jun to fetch her bass, Azusa and Ui run into a pair of first-years. Ui is immediately able to take the initiative and helps introduce the two, suggesting how even though Azusa’s task of rebuilding the Light Music Club is a daunting one, she has excellent people in her corner.

  • Once the initial hurdles are overcome, Azusa becomes more comfortable in providing knowledge to the first years. This exact same set up is seen in K-On! High School – Ui and Jun both accompany Azusa, and while the Light Music Club initially comes under risk of being abolished a second time, they manage to pick up Sumire Saitō and Nao Okuda to make the minimum number of members. Azusa stumbles initially, but support from her fellow club members and Sawako gives Azusa the confidence she needs to run the Light Music Club. Ironically, when she’s in the moment, Azusa tends to act like Yui does; during one concert, she lapses and forgets that the Light Music Club has never played Fuwa Fuwa Time before.

  • K-On!! shows nothing quite so dramatic, but once Azusa warms up, she’s able to offer pointers to the first-years, who are struggling with a passage in their performance: the stretching exercise she does is a familiar one, and some folks had found similarities between the exercise and the iconic Vulcan salute, which was popularised by Star Trek and has its origins in Jewish traditions. While I’m not too versed with Star Trek, I’ve long found the fanbase surrounding the series fascinating: Star Trek fans have learnt Klingon as a language, cosplay extensively and even travel to Vulcan, Alberta, to visit their Star Trek convention (called Spock Days).

  • As amusing as it might be to bring up the Vulcan salute in a K-On! talk, the tendency of the old K-On! fanbase to focus on these small details and repeat them ad nauseum, until they became memes, may have contributed to the disapproval that some segments of the community expressed towards the series. Looking at some of the contemporary discussions surrounding K-On!, I’ve not found anything quite like my own talks about the series, in that many reviewers focused on reactions rather than implications. There’s only so many times one can say K-On! is cute or adorable before it gets wearing, and this may have given the impression that K-On! was a shallow and superficial series even to fans.

  • Although on the surface, K-On! is a “cute girls doing cute things” series, there is a significant amount of depth that goes into each moment. Those who had greatly disliked the series or only reacted to things were unlikely to have noticed these elements. For instance, earlier, I had mentioned that K-On! The Movie conveys a sense of Mono no Aware through its runtime. While I hit the points that this speaks to a part of life, I realised that I forgot to account for why Yamada would add such a theme. T turns out that K-On! The Movie represents a swan song, a send-off to the series. This is a franchise that has been with the staff for four years, and it is understandable they’d be sad to see it conclude.

  • To this end, Yamada decided to allow the entire staff’s feelings to permeate the movie, so viewers could also feel what the staff were feeling. In this, they’ve succeeded, and K-On! The Movie ends up surprising viewers with depth that is much greater than what is initially visible. All of the episodes in K-On!! similarly possesses minor nuances that extend what is initially visible, but Staying Behind especially stands out because it was able to foreshadow both K-On! High School and K-On! The Movie so well. However, this is masterfully presented, being a subtle part of the episode, and the end result is an episode that is relaxing and cathartic, even more so than the other episodes. If I had to draw a comparison, this is equivalent to a Rin-centric episode of Yuru Camp△.

  • I imagine that Ui tends to cook a large amount because she’s basing portions on Yui’s appetite, and so, when Azusa and Jun show up, they immediately comment on how much food has been made. Between this, plus the sushi Azusa’s brought, and Jun’s donuts, dinner is a hearty affair. On the topic of epic meals, my summer food quest continued during the weekend when I returned to a local katsu joint with family and friends. I’ve been yearning for a good fried shrimp dish for a while, and while a mix-up resulted in my ebi curry losing all of its garnishes, the ebi curry turned out to be quite tasty (and my iPhone Xʀ graciously captured the deliciously fluffy and crispy fried shrimp with superb clarity).

  • I subsequently drove down to the local IKEA to help pick up a new shelf, and then dropped by a BestBuy. Originally, I had intended on picking up a Lightning-to-aux cable, but after a store attendant helped me to find them, I immediately spotted BlueTooth FM transmitters going for the same price. After thinking it over, I determined that not every car I drive will have an aux cable port, but every car will have an FM receiver. Throughout the day, things remained extremely hot, and this made me doubly appreciative of the fact that the new place has air conditioning. I would then spend the Sunday tending to housework and helping to put the new shelf together.

  • Although dinner is hearty, Azusa has a second wind and decides to try one of the donuts Jun’s brought with the Super All Star package. Azusa notices that all of the donuts have a third taken out of them, and Jun says it’s her way of trying all of them out, by way of explanation. One imagines that had Jun probably cut all of them with a knife, and this action is a very subtle indicator of Jun’s personality: she can be quite creative in how she goes about trying new things out, and while she may have joined the Jazz Club, being open to new experiences (as the donuts indicate) means she has no trouble joining Azusa and Ui later on.

  • Throughout this fifth episode, which occurs in parallel with the fourth episode’s events, Azusa and Ui gain glimpses into the Kyoto class trip. When K-On!‘s manga was published, Japan had been well ahead of the Western world in terms of feature phones; although only limited to grainy, low-resolution cameras, one could still take and send photos with them. It is by this means that Yui relays photos back to Azusa and the others despite having forgotten her camera. Here, Azusa and Ui smile at a photo of the pillow fight that had happened while Yui and the others were in Kyoto.

  • Unlike the rowdy Ritsu and Yui, Jun immediately hits the hay, leaving Azusa and Ui to stay up a little. Perhaps speaking to the influence the Light Music Club has had on her, Azusa wonders why Jun isn’t staying up more, but the ever-accommodating Ui decides to remain with Azusa and chat for a bit. Subtle things like these simultaneously show the similarities and differences in atmosphere between Houkago Tea Time and Wakaba Girls, and while things would not have been apparent when K-On!! was airing, it is only returning to the series later that really allows one to appreciate these details.

  • It suddenly hits me that, a decade earlier, the MCAT had been so consuming that I missed the “Light Up The City” Centennial Fireworks, which I’m told was the fireworks show of the century in Calgary, far surpassing even GlobalFest’s fireworks shows. However, in subsequent years, I would have the opportunity to see Hong Kong’s legendary New Year’s Eve fireworks in person, and after watching footage of the Light Up The City event, I can conclude that the fireworks shows here are miniscule compared to the world’s most impressive showings.

  • The Stampede’s Grandstand Show fireworks are more modest by comparison, but a major part of the enjoyment lies in heading out into the night and then enjoying the view at Scotsman’s Hill before the fireworks finale starts at the Grandstand. It suddenly hits me that cameras have advanced significantly since I began watching these shows, and using my iPhone, I had no trouble with either the night photography of the Stampede Grounds, or the fireworks themselves. More so than the fireworks show, these evenings are fun simply because they represent a break from routine, and it was nice to attend my first fireworks show in over three years.

  • The next morning, Azusa, Jun and Ui awaken to rain, and Jun reveals that her hair becomes unruly on humid days. The rain immediately puts a stopper to the girls’ plans to go to the zoo, something that Azusa had wised to do on account of seeing how much fun Yui and the others are having. Rain has long been associated with boredom, and many a work of fiction have portrayed rainy days as being impediments to adventure, I actually love rainy days because they’re cool and comfortable. When it rains heavily, the sound of rainfall is comforting, while when it’s raining lightly, it is refreshing to be out and about.

  • Longtime readers will be familiar with my shifting weather preferences – I love perfectly sunny days, and enjoy completely overcast (and cool), or rainy days. However, I am not fond of days with cirrus or stratus clouds covering a majority of the sky because they scatter light and causes my photos to be washed out if I’m out and about. An experienced photographer might be able to make such days appear pleasant, but I lack that skill set and would prefer my outdoor adventures to take place under clear days. Similarly, smokey days completely defeat the purpose of going out and about, obscuring the landscape and sky alike.

  • On a rainy day, I tend to stay in and read books, or game if there’s no housework to tend to. There are a few things to do in Calgary on rainy days, with favourite suggestions being to hit the local malls, visit the Glenbow Museum or check out the recreation centres. Seeing this episode of K-On!! reminds me of the fact that there are many places in the city that are worth revisiting, and in the knowledge that I have a large number of vacation days left in the year, I would probably find it enjoyable to take a few days off here and there; depending on the weather, checking out local attractions or visiting trails just a short ways outside of town would be nice.

  • While we do have a batting centre here at home, I’ve never been a talented athlete in ball sorts, and therefore, would probably not perform particularly well. Jun promptly gives up after expending her quota of balls, but to everyone’s surprise, Ui is able to hit a home run after overhearing a father giving his son some pointers on how to nail the ball. Ui has been presented as being uncommonly talented at picking up new skills, and this makes her ideally suited for joining the Light Music Club. She spends two of her three years of high school without any club activities because she greatly enjoys looking after Yui.

  • With Yui at university, Ui suddenly found herself with an abundance of free time, and is able to pick up the guitar as Yui did. Ui proves to be a ways more competent, remembering all of her chords without sacrificing her studies, and while this might be seen as unrealistic, Ui’s competence becomes important in allowing Azusa the assurance that her peers are solidly dependable, allowing K-On! High School to focus almost entirely on the two new members.

  • For her troubles, Ui wins a massive stuffed turtle, and this reminds Azusa that she’s forgotten something important. Early on, Yui sends Azusa a message reminding her to feed Ton-chan, and while Azusa sees herself as being similar to Mio, being dependable and mature, she also has moments where she becomes forgetful. However, it is thanks to Ui and Jun that Azusa is able to grow, and here, upon spotting her original promise, Azusa and the others immediately return to school.

  • K-On! is now over ten years old, but the story itself is timeless, and even today, Toyosato Elementary School continues to host K-On! related events; birthday parties for the characters have been held here each and every year for the past decade. However, I was a little surprised that there hasn’t been more news surrounding K-On! The Movie‘s ten year anniversary. Ano Natsu de Matteru and AnoHana both received new key visuals to commemorate ten years, and considering how successful K-On!‘s been, it seemed reasonable to suppose that there would be some sort of recognition of this milestone.

  • However, the quiet coming and going of K-On! The Movie‘s tenth anniversary does have its merit – while K-On! was nearly universally acclaimed during its run, there had been a handful of vocal detractors who made it their mission to dissuade people from enjoying this show. Among some subsets of the community, it was in vogue to hate the series, but despite a full decade having elapsed since then, many of the detractors have continued to cling onto the belief that the series is not worth consideration. I’ve never really understood this mode of thinking, as I’ve long held people should always feel free to watch and enjoy whatever they choose without worrying about what’s popular or what the consensus is. K-On! was never “harming the industry” as some have claimed, and those who felt otherwise never provided sufficient the evidence to back up this statement.

  • As it stands, being able to revisit K-On! The Movie (and K-On! in general) in an unostentatious manner has proven to be most relaxing – a decade earlier, I made the mistake of involving myself in trying to refute claims from Behind the Nihon Review’s Reckoner that K-On! The Movie was “disingenuous” and “false advertising” at AnimeSuki after others began agreeing with these claims. In those days, the AnimeSuki community placed a great deal of emphasis on their reputation system, and for challenging opinions held by Reckoner, who’d been a well-regarded member, Reckoner used his considerable influence to neg-rep me into oblivion. This is equivalent to today’s downvotes, having the effect of getting me shadow-banned for a time. After I voiced concerns about the reputation system’s abuses to the administrators, the system was scrapped a few months later.

  • In the years following the reputation system’s removal, I would go on to enjoy productive and constructive conversation with members like Ernietheracefan, WildGoose and Flower. However, I’d long wished that I was able to continue refuting Reckoner more fully, and made a larger effort towards convincing those who had agreed with Reckoner to at least reconsider (or provide a justification of why they were willing to redact their own enjoyment of the movie in deference to Reckoner). I ended up standing down because I felt Reckoner wasn’t so important that he was worth losing the MCAT for, but in retrospect, I’d already been more than ready to take the exam on, so I do regret not taking the fight to Reckoner. In later years, I would learn that Reckoner hadn’t posted contrarian opinions of K-On! to create discussion, but rather, to cause discord and enmity, driving traffic to Behind the Nihon Review and elevate their status.

  • In the end, while no disciplinary action was taken against Reckoner despite his obvious violation of forum rules (i.e. abusing the reputation system), in an act of providence, Behind the Nihon Review’s domain was suspended after the owner failed to pay the hosting fees back in 2020. The fact that I’m still here, and that Behind the Nihon Review is gone, speaks volumes to whose approach to anime is more appropriate – although I normally don’t criticise other blogs for their approach, Behind the Nihon Review is one of the rare exceptions, and I’m glad that they’re no longer around to create artificial conflict. Back in K-On!!, after Azusa feeds Ton-chan, Jun finds the volume of the manga she’d been looking for, but with the rain persisting into the afternoon, everyone finds themselves bored, at least until Jun suggests they play music together. No one else is around, and there are no classes or students to disturb.

  • This moment thus marks the first time Jun, Azusa and Ui have played together. It’s a pivotal moment in K-On!!, and it sets the stage for what happens in K-On! High School. As the girls play through a simpler but still enjoyable song, a golden warmth fills the music room, and when they finish, the sun finally breaks through the clouds, almost as though the heavens had heard the girls’ performance and decided applaud their efforts. Moments like these really highlight how peaceful the world of K-On! really is, and while excitement and humour had come to define K-On!, in retrospect, a quieter and more reflective series, akin to Tamayura, would also work.

  • Thus, what had otherwise been a dull, unremarkable day turns into something superbly memorable. This is significant because it shows how even without Yui and the others, Azusa is able to carry things on her own, and moreover, it is with Jun and Ui that things become magical.  K-On! High School deals precisely with this matter, and with due respect, K-On! High School is actually the stronger of the two sequels. As fun as Yui and her group are, there’s a certain magic and inspiration in seeing Azusa continuing things on in her senpai‘s steed, as this shows how there’s something wonderful each and every generation.

  • The sun’s return is coincident with Azusa, Ui and Jun recieving a message from Yui and the others; the juniors and seniors might be separated physically, but their hearts remain connected. This approach is utilised to great effect in Yuru Camp△ , where Nadeshiko and Rin share an experience together on several occasions despite being apart. This is something that helps Rin to warm up to Nadeshiko, and their respective applications in K-On! and Yuru Camp△ parallel the sophistication of mobile technology. In K-On!‘s time, feature phones were relatively limited, so communications were more infrequent. By Yuru Camp△ , smartphones have become ubiquitous, and this allows Rin and Nadeshiko to communicate both more frequently, and in a more visual means.

  • In K-On!!, an episode without Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi did come across as being extremely quiet, and in this way, the episode stands out from other episodes. In particular, Yui et al.’s time in Kyoto is extremely rowdy and rambunctious – the sharp contrast between the two is meant to highlight the differences between Yui and Azusa. The contemplative pacing in this episode is reminiscent of Rin’s solo adventures in Yuru Camp△, whereas the noisier, fun-filled time Yui and the others spends in Kyoto would be equivalent to Nadeshiko and the Outdoor Activities Club’s group excursions. With the day at an end, Jun, Ui and Azusa prepare to part ways – Jun’s still engrossed with her manga, and Azusa reminds her not to miss her stop.

  • Seeing the precise moments where Azusa and Yui’s days intersect was an especially clever touch on Yamada’s part: here, Azusa receives a call from Yui, whose entire group had become lost. Mio’s voice can be heard in the background, asking what calling Azusa would accomplish. It’s a bit of a surprise for Azusa, but Ui is glad to hear Yui’s choice. With the technology available in 2010, Azusa is unlikely to have been able to do anything, but today, it’s possible to send one’s location to a trusted contrast and then utilise a map to help the others navigate back (assuming that Yui and the others didn’t already have a good map app). The comparatively primitive technology of the era lends itself to a much slower pacing consistent with what K-On! is about, and it is not lost on me that today, sophisticated smartphones and apps mean problems of a decade earlier could now be trivially solved.

  • The next day, classes resume, and Azusa braces herself for her senior’s return. Azusa had thought that, with how carefree her seniors are, they might forget a souvenir for her. At this point in the episode, the atmosphere returns to the high-energy tenour that K-On! is known for; unlike Jun and Ui’s presence, which exudes a cathartic feeling, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Tsumugi bring with them spirit and comedy. Kakifly’s manga focuses entirely on Yui and her crew, so seeing another side of K-On! in this fifth episode provides a unique, memorable experience.

  • Yui hauls Azusa back to the Light Music Club, where she and the others have a surprise for her. This surprise turns out to be matching keychains of a set – it’s about as far removed from Kyoto as one can imagine, but in retrospect, the keychains are well-chosen and represent how the Light Music Club operates. As the me of a decade earlier stated, “everything is special if the group of individuals one is with is specialregardless of what one is doing“. The keychains represent this; the gift might not represent Kyoto, but it represents Houkago Tea Time in full.

  • Seeing the girls together in the Light Music Club’s clubroom is an iconic part of K-On!, and K-On! The Movie opens in this manner. The choice to have the film spend so much time in Japan was a reminder that this movie was never about London; the class trip had come about as a happy accident, and the entire focus of the film was showing the sorts of adventures that followed during a journey to say thank you. Of course, once the girls do hit London, they approach their travels as they did in Kyoto – everything is at their own pace, in iconic Houkago Tea Time style.

  • A great deal of time has passed between when K-On! The Movie‘s home released became available and the present day. In these past ten years, I’ve wrapped up two degrees, accrued six years of industry experience, and bought a house. I’ve travelled to Japan for myself, presented at academic conferences, attended a tech conference and became a nidan. Even after all this, K-On! still holds a special place in my heart, and this speaks to how enduring the series has been in my heart – this is a series that helped me to stave off probation in my second year, and during 2012, the film’s release gave me something else to look forward to as I hurtled towards the MCAT. For me, K-On! is a masterpiece because it was able to change my life in such a tangible manner, and this is why even now, I continue to revisit the series – writing about K-On! allows me to reflect on a series that has given me so much, and also share this experience with readers.

A full decade has now elapsed since K-On! The Movie‘s home release became available. I vividly recall the summer of 2012 well – at this point in July, my MCAT preparation course was rapidly drawing to a close, and I admit that excitement over being able to watch K-On! The Movie had left me quite unable to focus on anything else. Within two days of the film’s release, I was able to watch and get a review of the movie written out. However, these early reviews do not capture everything there is to say about the film, and over the years, I would come to revisit the movie annually. Each time I re-watched the film, I ended up with a far richer and more comprehensive experience than I had before. Having long approached the film as a thank you gift for Azusa, I would soon come to appreciate that the film was also conveying the sense of melancholy that arises as one milestone draws to a close, but it is precisely because things are transient that gives it value. Spotting that K-On! The Movie captures the Japanese concept of Mono no Aware speaks volumes to how much thought went into its writing. Things like this meant that for me, watching K-On! The Movie has become an annual tradition, and the film impresses regardless of how many times I revisit it, speaking to its excellent quality. Having now seen what K-On! The Movie‘s achievements are, revisiting the whole of K-On!, K-On!! and the manga become especially enjoyable, knowing that they possess all of these elements which would subsequently be extracted and utilised to create one final, immeasurably moving swan song for a series that has continued to impact and influence people well into the present. Slice-of-life series focused on everyday messages of appreciation and gratitude continue to be produced, and some musicians have attributed K-On! as being an influence in their choice of career. The town of Toyosato in Shiga Prefecture still enjoys visitors who’ve come to check out the former Toyosato Elementary School, which influenced the school in K-On!. K-On!‘s legacy cannot be understated, and it speaks to the series’ excellence that some of K-On!‘s greatest achievements when, even something as seemingly inconsequential as an episode dedicated purely to Azusa, Ui and Jun’s experiences while Yui and the others are on their class trip is able to foreshadow and hint at the directions K-On! was headed.

Yuru Camp△ Virtual: Visiting A Thousand-Dollar View of Mount Fuji with Rin, Camping the Friendly Fields of Fumoto with Nadeshiko and Discussing Expectations on the Eve of The Yuru Camp△ Movie on Canada Day

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” –Alexander McCandless

Although Steam’s page indicates that one requires at least an i5-4590 and a GTX 1060 in conjunction with a HTC Vive or Valve Index to comfortably run Yuru Camp△ Virtual‘s two instalments, Lake Motosu and Fumoto Campsite, one can actually do so without a high-end desktop; despite the game being classified as a part of Oculus Labs, Yuru Camp△ Virtual runs flawlessly on the original Oculus Quest, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. Both titles together are quite pricy, costing a total of 50 CAD on Oculus Quest, but in exchange, one is able to fully immerse themselves in a virtual Yuru Camp△ environment. Gemdrops have fully recreated the first two campsites in Yuru Camp△ in this VR project: Lake Motosu has players see the experience from a more experienced Nadeshiko’s perspective, while Fumoto Campsite puts players in Rin’s shoes after she’s become more receptive towards group camping. Both experiences are quite short and possess the same technical sophistication as the UX in prototype for my Unity visualisation of microtubule dynamics (while the model itself was quite complex, being an agent-based simulation of tubule assembly and disassembly, one could only move around and interact with a limited set of items in a scripted manner). However, what Yuru Camp△ Virtual excels in is recreating the atmospherics of the anime: Nao Tōyama and Yumiri Hanamori return to voice Rin Shima and Nadeshiko Kagamihama, respectively. Moreover, in the SMS segments, Chiaki Ōgaki, Aoi Inuyama and Ena Saitō’s voice actresses all reprise their roles. Together with an art style that is consistent with the anime, and Akio Ōtsuka providing narration, Yuru Camp△ Virtual provides a chance for players to fully immerse themselves in now-iconic camping experiences with Rin at Lake Motosu, and Nadeshiko at Fumoto Campsite. Both experiences take place over the course of a day, and after sharing conversations (and occasionally, hot drinks), Nadeshiko will prepare a scrumptious dinner. Rin and Nadeshiko will continue enjoying the night together under the stars before retiring for the evening, and the next morning, prepare to head back home. Although lacking the interactivity of more sophisticated titles and possessing a very steep price point, Yuru Camp△ Virtual represents one more way for fans of the series to enjoy things. In fact, one could say it is the perfect way for us overseas fans to experience things before Yuru Camp△ Movie‘s theatrical première in Japan today – unlike the film, which will likely have a seven to eleven month delay before the home release becomes available, Yuru Camp△ Virtual is available for immediate purchase: Lake Motosu was published in March 2021, and Fumoto Campsite released a month later, in April 2021.

At present, only a handful of details have been published regarding the Yuru Camp△ Movie: some time has passed since everyone had met in high school. Rin works at a publishing company as an editor, and one day, she’s surprised to receive a message from Chiaki, who ended up joining Yamanashi’s tourism board. Chiaki is in charge of a new project to reopen a site that had closed some years previously, and Rin’s mind immediately flits towards camping. At this time, Nadeshiko’s taken up a job with a camping goods store in Tokyo, while Aoi’s become an elementary school instructor, and Ena is a pet groomer who works out of Yokohama. When they receive news of Chiaki’s project, together with Rin, they embark on an ambitious project to see Yamanashi’s latest project succeed. From organising meetings and planning out the logistics, to getting their hands dirty and working on preparing the site, the girls are reminded of their camping experiences together back when they were high school students. From this premise, the Yuru Camp△ Movie gives every indicator that it is going to be a moving, and touching story of both progress and reminiscence; the decision to do a large-scale project that allows everyone to bring their own unique skills, and their shared enthusiasm to the table in a way that had hitherto been unseen, represents a very large step forwards for Yuru Camp△. Until now, the story had focused purely on seeing the girls plan out and enjoy their travels, all the way adapting to things and making most of whatever unexpected event occurs on their trips. However, to now see everyone reunite, and moreover, apply their skill set towards a task that will help their home out in a meaningful way allows Yuru Camp△ to tread new grounds. Naoko Yamada had previously spoken about the challenges associated with bringing anime series to the silver screen – through Yui, Yamada felt that what a movie must accomplish is using its runtime to convey a greater sense of scale. K-On! The Movie had succeeded by framing the London trip as a chance to make everyone’s appreciation for everything Azusa had done for the light music club tangible. The Yuru Camp△ Movie appears to suggest that no matter what adversity one might face, facing it together, through a combination of passion and of experience, is what allows one to rise above their problems, and in doing so, one will gain both new memories worth treasuring, as well as further experience for whatever may lie ahead.

Additional Remarks and Commentary

  • I still vividly recall writing about anticipation for the Yuru Camp△ Movie a year ago: back then, we’d only known that there would be a movie, but beyond this, details were scarce. In the time that has passed, we now know that the Yuru Camp△ Movie is going to have a two hour runtime, and that it is set after high school. Given that Rin and the others are working now, it’s fair to say that everyone’s probably graduated from post-secondary, as well. The change of timeframe means that the Yuru Camp△ Movie opens things up to hitherto unexplored territory.

  • The decision to set the movie a few years after the original manga gives the story nearly unlimited potential, and this is what makes the Yuru Camp△ Movie so exciting: the film could take any number of ways to show viewers how Chiaki will, together with Nadeshiko, Rin, Aoi and Ena, solve the problem of repurposing previously unused land into a campsite for Yamanashi. Because of Yuru Camp△‘s commitment to reality, one cannot help but wonder if there was a real-world inspiration for this story; it is possible that a real-world location might have precisely undergone this route, although such an undertaking would likely involve a committee, on top of city planners, engineers and other members of the community.

  • For me, the biggest piece I look forwards to seeing in the Yuru Camp△ Movie is seeing how everyone’s skills come together in order to get things done. From the premise alone, it is plain that we have a multidisciplinary bunch, and one thing that anime is fond of showing is how it takes a combination of skills to overcome great challenges. Series like Koisuru Asteroid, ShirobakoSakura Quest and The Aquatope on White Sand all had characters with different backgrounds collaborating to achieve goals that were seemingly unattainable. Some fans are not fond of these approaches and are quick to deride the series, but like my undergraduate faculty, writers have spotted the importance of having diversity in skills.

  • This is something that I am constantly reminded of; when I began my current position a year ago, I entered with the expectation that there’d be a chance to learn different technologies, and in the present, the one skill I am glad to have begun cultivating is Android development. While I’m, in the words of the internet, an Apple fanboi through and through, working with Android has given me an appreciation of how Google’s paradigms towards mobile developers result in some choices that are more intuitive. Of course, there are many areas where Apple excels, and while Android development is far tougher than any equivalent in iOS, working with Android gives me a better understanding of how apps are built, and more confidence in dealing with things like fragments and activities.

  • I jokingly remark that working with Android also gives me legitimacy when I say iOS development is superior in every way. However, the reality is that having familiarity with Android means that I’m better equipped to work on existing apps, whether it’s sorting out bugs or developing new features, allowing my mobile skillset to reach out beyond just iOS. In the Yuru Camp△ Movie, seeing all of the characters as adults means being able to see this sort of growth – I’m not expecting Nadeshiko to be a competent mobile developer at the film’s end, but one of the aspects in the film worth keeping an eye on is seeing how everyone begins to take learnings from their experiences and bring it back into their own careers.

  • With this being said, what Yuru Camp△ excels in most is its ability to combine an educational component alongside character growth: the TV series had felt like a hybrid between Les Stroud’s SurvivormanMan v. FoodRick Steves’ Europe and even Jamie Oliver’s cooking shows, teaching both bushcraft and cooking alongside showcasing some of Japan’s most scenic campsites and attractions. As such, the Yuru Camp△ Movie is also likely to deliver some of this. Because the premise has everyone working on a larger project together, one possibility is that we could see some flashbacks as the characters reminisce on past experiences and draw upon learnings that are applicable to the present.

  • Alternatively, in order to draw inspiration for a particularly tough challenge, Rin may have a chance to go camping alongside Nadeshiko, Chikai, Aoi and Ena again – I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn and get out of a rut is to experience something from the end user’s perspective. Seeing things from end-to-end give insight into the bigger picture, and this will, in turn, guide one’s decisions in how they want to fit one piece of a solution into the entire process. As I continue to work in software, I continue to see parallels between my work, and the sorts of methods for troubleshooting in other occupations.

  • While the media may present technology and software occupations, especially mobile development, data processing and AI, as a Silicon Valley-like occupation, the reality is that the soft skills in these disciplines are actually not too different than those of finance, engineering, trades and the like; at the end of the day, working is about generating value by solving problems. I’m therefore curious to see Yuru Camp△‘s portrayal of this; the TV series had shown how a bit of creative thinking and willingness to reach out to others for help is the key to averting crisis, so seeing an extension of this in the Yuru Camp△ Movie feels logical.

  • While I’ve given my thoughts on what I’m hoping the Yuru Camp△ Movie will deal with, the reality is that I’ve got naught more than the premise and a trailer to go off of. Having said this, the Wikipedia article is surprisingly detailed, and the only editor of the article apparently already translated the entire soundtrack’s tracklist into English. I’d ordinarily doubt the authenticity of this, but my own experiences have found that someone with a basic knowledge of Japanese and access to Google Translate can now produce reasonably accurate translations without too much effort.

  • The Yuru Camp△ Movie soundtrack released on June 29, along with the opening and ending songs, and this dulls the pain surrounding the wait for this movie somewhat. Having said this, knowing Yuru Camp△‘s thematic elements, I can rest assured knowing that no problem will be insurmountable, and that throughout the film, viewers will be treated to Nadeshiko’s warm smiles. The eagle-eyed reader will have doubtlessly noticed that everyone’s rocking shorter hair now: shorter hair is easier to care for and dries much more quickly, being an essential when one’s life is so busy.

  • Now, I change the programme out and switch over to screenshots from Yuru Camp△ Virtual – I picked this up last year to experience Yuru Camp△ on my Oculus Quest headset, and while the interactivity is about as limited as what I’d implemented into my agent-based model of microtubule assembly and disassembly (the model itself had been a term project I finished two weeks into the semester), the game itself fully captures the atmosphere of camping with Rin and Nadeshiko. Gameplay is comprised of looking around at things in the environment, which trigger a dialogue that offers insight into the characters.

  • The Oculus Quest captures images in 1440 by 1440, so screenshots are square. However, the sharpness leaves much to be desired, and the built-in mechanism by which screenshots are captured is cumbersome. In something like SUPERHOT VR, it means I’ve found it quite difficult to take good pictures – there’s a bit of a delay, so I can’t just capture a moment. On the other hand, in Yuru Camp△ Virtual, the laid-back pacing means I’m free to push the screenshot button and casually wait for an image to be taken.

  • Some events will change out the context and character models: it is possible to make a hot drink for Rin on the shores of Lake Motosu and obtain new dialogue, for instance. Once one has exhausted all of the interactive event in their environment, the next chapter can be reached simply by looking at an object that brings up a clock icon. Yuru Camp△ Virtual will ask players if they want to move ahead. This is about it for the gameplay, but my favourite feature of Yuru Camp△ Virtual is the ability to disable all of the event prompts, which allows one to chill.

  • Both Lake Motosu and Fumoto Campsite feature a cooking segment: narrated by Akio Ōtsuka, they give insight as to how that particular evening’s dinner is prepared. With Rin, Nadeshiko whips up a delicious curry that looks absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, the world’s most sophisticated virtual reality technology has not yet figured out the art of simulating taste – there is no way to taste what Rin’s eating. On the flipside, since Yuru Camp△ Virtual does provide one with the recipe, an inquisitive player could simply copy down the recipe and try things out for themselves.

  • In the morning, Rin thanks Nadeshiko for having joined her on this camping trip. The events of Yuru Camp△ Virtual are set after the second season’s events; by this point in time, the characters’ interactions convey a sense of closeness, and while everyone’s still rocking winter clothing, there’s a hint that winter is drawing to a close in the environments. I’d be interested in seeing whether or not Yuru Camp△ ventures into the summer for camping – this would represent a dramatic departure from what the series is known for, but the summer also has its advantages. For one, one would get to see Yamanashi and its surroundings with verdant vegetation and deep blue skies.

  • Fumoto Campsite is Yuru Camp△ Virtual from Rin’s perspective, and plays identically to Lake Motosu. The scenery here is similar to that of Morley Flats, about 20 minutes east of Canmore. On Canada Day most years, the family tradition has been to go over to Banff and enjoy a day in the mountains, since National Park fees are waived on Canada Day. However, this also results in congestion of a level that one doesn’t see, so this year, the plan is to head over to Drumheller and do a walking tour of the Atlas Coal Mine.

  • The weather today looks solid, so I’m hoping that things hold out for the remainder of the day. However, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”; last year, temperatures on Canada Day topped out at 36ºC, and having taken my second dose, I was feeling a little under the weather, so I spent the whole of the day resting in the cool of home. At the time, I thought that my lethargy was caused by the high temperatures, but back in February, after picking up the third vaccine and becoming so bushed I slept a full half-day, I conclude that the exhaustion I experienced last year was probably a consequence of the vaccine.

  • We’re actually set to start the drive in an hour, so my goal now is to finish off this post and then hit the open road. Back in Yuru Camp△ Virtual, Nadeshiko enjoys cabbage rolls with Rin – like Lake MotosuFumoto Campsite has Nadeshiko cooking for Rin, and the resulting dinner is so delicious that Rin makes room for seconds, as well as promising to one day make something for Nadeshiko as thanks. Once dinner is done, Nadeshiko and Rin enjoy the beautiful evening weather before turning in.

  • Motosu Campsite is set in a more traditional camping location, and I found myself getting immersed with watching the night skies. By morning, it’s time to take off, and for both instalments, Rin and Nadeshiko are standing up. I played through Yuru Camp△ Virtual sitting down, so to keep consistent with things, I stood up for both games’ final act. It was a little surprising to see how small the character models for Rin and Nadeshiko are – I’m of average height, but I tower over Rin and Nadeshiko anyways.

  • In this post, I’ve briefly discussed my expectations for the Yuru Camp△ Movie and finally share some screenshots from Yuru Camp△ Virtual. I do hope to have the chance to write about the former at some point in the future once it comes out, and in the meantime, it’s time for me to enjoy the fantastic summer weather on this Canada Day, as well. I’ll return tomorrow to write about Tari Tari and my thoughts of the first episode since it aired ten years ago, as well as share some photos of my travels; regular programming resumes on Monday as I delve into the first of the summer anime. Luminous Witches has my eye at present, and I am rather looking forwards to writing about this one.

In this way, the Yuru Camp△ Movie may represent unexplored ground for the series, but the series’ impressive execution (a consequence of being able to successfully present meaningful lessons, accentuate the beauty in the outdoors, showcase Japan’s travel spots and generally create a sense of catharsis) has resulted in Yuru Camp△ being immensely successful, both in Japan and internationally. Very few slice-of-life series gain such universal acclaim, and as a TV series, it did feel as though Yuru Camp△ had already succeeded so wholly that there isn’t much in the way of new direction to explore. However, the second season of Yuru Camp△ ends with volume nine, and the manga is still ongoing. At first glance, it would be logical for a movie to continue covering the manga’s events, which follows Rin and the others on new camping adventures as winter turns to spring. A summer camping trip with everyone, including Ayano, would have been the logical, showing how Rin’s experiences with everyone opens her to experience camping during a time she previously avoided. However, such a story is more befitting of a third season. In choosing to go with all-new material, the Yuru Camp△ Movie is truly stepping up its game to, in Naoko Yamada’s words, fill the scale and expectation that accompanies the silver screen. Yuru Camp△‘s reputation means that expectations for this film are going to be high, but with two seasons of anime, a short anime series, two seasons worth of live-action dramas, a visual novel and a pair of virtual reality games setting the precedence for what’s possible, it is reasonable to suppose that viewers’ expectations for the Yuru Camp△ Movie will be exceeded: it goes without saying that viewers in Japan and abroad alike will greatly be looking forwards to this film, although for those of us internationally, the wait to see the Yuru Camp△ Movie will likely correspond with when the BDs become released. To ease the agony of this wait, I’ll likely spend more time admiring the sunset on the shores of Lake Motosu, or sharing another conversation with Nadeshiko in the middle of Fumoto’s seemingly-endless grass plains.

Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” –Og Mandino

While pursuing leads to find more dæmons who know of Sakura, Yūko finds Café Asura, a restaurant run by a tapir, Shirosawa, and his cook, Lico. Yūko ends up working for them and comes under the effects of Lico’s cooking, but learns from Shirosawa that he had known of Sakura, having last seen her a decade earlier. Together with the fact that Shirosawa’s mascot is a familiar-looking cat, Ryōko deduces that the cat might be a vessel for holding Sakura’s core. Yūko delves into her dreams and manages to meet Sakura, who reveals she transferred her core into Yūko so the latter could live. Momo enters Yūko’s dreams to retrieve her, having done a deal with the devil for this power, and realising that Sakura is now a part of her, Yūko promises to do what she can to make Momo happy. With the end of summer vacation fast approaching, Anri suggests that Yūko take things easy for a day, but when Yūko visits the summer festival, she’s filled with loneliness until Momo and Mikan join her. Upon hearing that Momo’s looking forwards to a trip to the zoo with her, Yūko asks Lico to teach her how to make a suitable lunch for Momo. On the day of the trip, Momo becomes displeased that Lico and Shirosawa has joined them. With her mood fouling, Momo begins succumbing to the dark side. Sion believes that Momo’s been weakened since she accepted the dark side to save Momo, but when Yūko makes her a handmade lunch, Momo begins to recover. The pair travel to a special place Sakura had known of to restore her magic, and it is here that Yūko defeats her first foe in combat. On a quiet day, Yūko helps Momo deal with cockroaches, and trains to see what she can make with Láthspell, her transforming weapon. Mikan decides to transfer to Yūko and Momo’s school and finds herself befriending the Sports Day Committee members. After an accident causes her curse to activate, Mikan begins to become distant. Yūko and Momo do not accept this and agree that they must sort out the cause of Mikan’s curse, a spirit named Ugallu. With Yūko’s help in forcing Ugallu to manifest, Momo manages to negotiate with Ugallu, and Mikan herself states that, despite the trouble Ugallu’s caused, her intentions were honest, and she’d like nothing more than for Ugallu to enter the real world. Thanks to a summoning ritual all of Yūko’s friends carry out, Ugallu takes a physical form and becomes a part of Mikan’s family. In the aftermath, Momo mentions that Yūko’s more powerful than she realises, in being able to accomplish things in unusual ways that have stumped her predecessors, but Yūko still feels that Momo is teasing her.

Machikado Mazoku has long excelled in portraying how friendship and companionship is the key towards solving problems in ways that force cannot: this was evident during the first season, when Yūko managed to (inadvertently) remove the curse on her family while looking after Momo. Par the course for a Manga Time Kirara manga, Machikado Mazoku had shown the importance and effectiveness of soft power in situations where people had previously failed because they depended purely on hard power. Having firmly established this, 2-Chōme is able to subtly remind viewers of this while at the same time, give the characters a chance to explore their world in greater detail. In doing so, the mystery behind Sakura and Mikan’s curse are both unravelled in a manner that is typically Yūko: through support from those around her, whether they be her family, friends or so-called foes (who are still her friends). The choice of imagery for both Sakura and Ugallu as being entities that reside inside a host body acts a metaphor for how both strength and weakness can come from within. 2-Chōme presents the juxtaposition between these two extremes: on one end, Yūko ad not known that it was Sakura’s spirit residing within her that would give her a chance to live life more fully. Her determination to find Sakura makes this known, and it gives her the resolve to continue doing her best, both for herself, and those around her. At the opposite end of the spectrum, when Mikan explains the origin of her curse, she also feels that being alone is the best way to contain it. However, Momo and Yūko feel differently and believe that they need to address Mikan’s problem at the source. The solution they reach is one that benefits both Mikan and Ugallu. While the scenarios are quite different, both share in common the idea that without people around Yūko, she would have never known Sakura’s core was within her and giving her strength. Similarly, had Mikan not voiced her worries to Yūko and Momo, her curse would’ve remained with her for a much longer time frame. In both cases, the things that are within our minds are not always known to us until we voice them out to family and friends: the different perspectives they have on things means that one might be pushed out of their comfort zone, but when the intentions are sincere, having friends and family in one’s corner also means one can appreciate what they have, as well as address any internal conflicts more effectively than bearing the burden on one’s own.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because of its timing, Machikado Mazoku is plainly a summer anime in the sense that its events are set around the summer. Last we left off, Lilith and Momo had a chance to bond, and Yūko had set her heart on trying to do things that would make Momo smile. However, when it becomes clear that finding Sakura, Momo’s older sister, would yield answers to some of the questions everyone’s had, Yūko decides to go swing by Café Asura for a quick look. Sakura had been a mystery since the first season, so for me, it was uplifting to see the series begin tackling elements that Machikado Mazoku had opened.

  • In classic Machikado Mazoku fashion, Yūko ends up taking a job at Asura rather than finding any information of value, having been coerced into such a position by the owner, Shirosawa. Although this seems far removed from Yūko’s initial objective, it is yet another example of how detours actually allow one to reach their goals. Accepting the job at Asura seems to be out of Yūko’s control, but after gaining Shirosawa’s confidence, he will begin speaking to Yūko more about some of his experiences. These elements are contrasted with visual humour: Shirosawa is bipedal tapir with a propensity for injury, to the point where the simple act of tripping will put him in a cast.

  • As a perk of the job, Yūko is allowed to take home leftover food on top of her paycheque. Machikado Mazoku had resolved the Yoshida family’s curse, of being unable to make or spend more than forty-thousand Yen a month, and by the events of 2-Chōme, Ryōko and Seiko are no longer constrained by this curse. While they continue to live frugally, both are noticeably happier now that they are able to afford the occasional luxury every so often, although they are still overwhelmed by the fact that food as fancy as Lico’s can exist.

  • On the topic of awesome food, I had a day off today and stepped out to visit the Palomino Smokehouse, a barbeque restaurant downtown that’s right on the C-Train line. I’ve passed by this restaurant everyday when I was working downtown and had always wanted to visit. However, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when I was watching Man v. Food‘s Kansas City episode, that I suddenly developed a yearning for barbeque. Palomino Smokehouse has a selection of smoked meat sandwiches, including their legendary Pitboss, which features all of their signature meats (Applewood smoked pulled pork, Alberta beef brisket and smoked sausage) piled onto a bun with ‘slaw and pickles. I enjoyed my sandwich with garlic fries and bacon-wrapped corn-on-the-cob. This was an immensely satisfying meal and a fantastic way to kick off the Canada Day long weekend.

  • After lunch concluded, I swung by the Central Library: I’ve not been back since December 2018, when it first opened, and the place looks immaculate, as new and fresh as it did back then. I’m used to spending that time with my nose in an IDE, so it was a relaxing change of pace to take the day off. Back in 2-Chōme, as Yūko becomes increasingly forgetful and lethargic, Momo and Mikan do their best to figure out what’s happening. As it turns out, Lico’s wonderful cooking has a very unusual side effect in creating withdrawal symptoms in those who consume it; she’s infused the food with a bit of her magic to ensure the café’s success.

  • Once Momo and Mikan figure things out, they manage to talk Lico and Shirosawa into letting Yūko rest back up. Although it appears Yūko has failed in her original objective entirely, she does express a desire to continue working for this magical café. This decision is what leads Yūko into finding enough pieces of information surrounding what had happened to Sakura: there’s only hints to go on, but for Yūko, having so many people in her corner now means that even with only bits of intel floating around, there’s enough for everyone to slowly work things out.

  • Of course, it wouldn’t be Machikado Mazoku without comedy, and in this arena, 2-Chōme continues to deliver. The combination of manzai-style routines, where characters retort to outrageous actions or statement, coupled with visual humour and hyperbole, means that in every episode of 2-Chōme, there’s something to smile about. I’ve long found that the best humour counts on timing and expectations to create absurdity, and have never understood why “intelligent” forms of comedy, like self-referential humour, is held in high regard: the best jokes transcend linguistic, cultural and social backgrounds.

  • Once all of the information is in place, Ryōko works out that the cat that Shirosawa is speaking of must be related to Yūko in some way, and that Yūko’s mind must hold the secrets behind Sakura’s disappearance. Being a succubus, Yūko is able to venture into dreams freely, and this ability has proven to be essential in setting motion the series’ events. Nothing in Machikado Mazoku is ever convoluted or contrived: when an element is introduced, it is done so in a way so that it only adds to the series.

  • Once inside her memories, Yūko initially struggles to fend off animated needles and hospital machinery. The psychology behind their existence is conveniently provided by Lilith: in 2-Chōme, Lilith plays a larger role and appears to suffer with reduced frequency, such that Yūko never shouts out her name. While Lilith is still confined to her statue, Momo will occasionally transplant her spirit into a doll so she has mobility, Lilith’s pompous manner typically causes Momo to regret her decision. However, when she’s on mission, Lilith is knowledgeable and helpful. Yūko does end up finding Sakura, or more correctly, her recollections of Sakura.

  • After a reunion, Sakura explains that she transferred her core into Yūko to bolster her strength and give her a chance to live a normal life. Sakura’s disappearance is subsequently solved – it turns out she’d been nearby all this time, and this revelation causes Yūko to realise that while one day, she’ll have to find the strength to live without Sakura’s core (removing her core now would cause Yūko to revert to her frail, bed-ridden self), for the time being, what she can do while possessing some of Sakura’s power is to do everything she can for Momo’s sake. This proved a pivotal moment in 2-Chōme, to the point where some viewers felt this was worthy as a series finale.

  • However, I disagree with this sentiment – having Yūko sort this out at 2-Chōme‘s halfway point is symbolic, showing that Yūko’s won half the battle. The effort to find Sakura was successful, but Yūko ends up trapped in her dreamscape, causing Momo to quickly accept a deal with the devil; she surrenders her Light Clan allegiance, giving her the power to interact with Yūko. That Momo was willing to do this despite her background shows that she’s come to care greatly for Yūko, again showing how Yūko’s way of doing things has been especially successful compared to more direct methods.

  • The melancholy that permeates 2-Chōme comes as a consequence of Yūko being uncertain of how to best proceed with Momo – Sakura feels that Yūko should do what she feels to be appropriate, having seen her approach towards things, but Yūko seems oblivious of the fact that, while Momo may not always show it, she’s actually quite content with just being with Yūko. This desire becomes increasingly obvious as the summer wears on.

  • I particularly related to the emptiness Yūko feels when she’s visiting a summer festival on her own – in most anime, summer festivals are events to be enjoyed in groups, and without others to share in her experiences, Yūko is feeling like something is missing. The whole point of events like these is to hang out with others, after all, and while there are things one can comfortably do on their own, such as hiking or camping, attending large events alone feels a little strange.

  • Once Mikan and Momo show up, Yūko’s spirits lift considerably. 2-Chōme excels in reminding viewers of how important it is to have people in one’s life; as they say, no man is an island. Having people in her life is a two-way street – much as how Mikan and Momo bring Yūko happiness, Yūko has also had a nontrivial impact on Mikan and Momo’s life. This is the single strongest piece about Machikado Mazoku, and acts as the basis from which all of my thoughts are formed. I’ve never seen fit to analyse the series from a fantasy perspective because the magic and world-building aspects of Machikado Mazoku is secondary to themes of friendship.

  • Knowing how the Light and Dark clans work, the scope and limitations of their magic, and how this impacts their presence has no bearing on how the characters interact – magic supplements the story, rather than being a dependency. If the magic was to be removed, Machikado Mazoku‘s messages would still be conveyed, but with the caveat that the series would feel a little duller. Classic elements of an anime summer break also return as Yūko tries to get Momo through her coursework. Because 2-Chōme is set during the summer, it is quite easy to forget that both Momo and Yūko have the responsibilities of a student on top of their goals to sort out the mysteries in their life.

  • Seeing Momo’s determination to finish her work leads Yūko to fulfil her promise of cooking her a homemade lunch. Yūko’s cooking is weaker, so she asks Lico to help her out, and in time, is able to make a lunch she’s excited to have Momo eat. Momo had also been interested in checking out the tigers at the local zoo, so Yūko had planned to make a date of things. Such a gesture is touching: this is exactly how Yūko operates, and despite her doubts about how she can support Momo, it turns out that these simple, everyday activities with Momo are precisely what she’s looking forwards towards.

  • As such, when Lico and Shirosawa crashes Yūko and Momo’s “date”, Momo’s day rapidly goes down the drain – she had been looking towards some alone time with Yūko. Things further decay when the misunderstanding causes Momo to miss the day’s key attraction: the chance to pet some baby tigers. While Lico’s tail is sufficiently soft, it’s no replacement for the real deal, and in the aftermath, Momo’s sour mood causes her to succumb to the dark side again – besides causing her powers to run wild, it also renders her exhausted. In the end, Yūko ends up making Momo another lunch, and the pair travel to a private springs Sakura’s family owned.

  • Along the way, Yūko ends up destroying one of the traps Sakura had devised to keep trespassers out, and this marks the first time Yūko’s won in combat. In the process, Yūko also collects a gem and some dirt from the site to commemorate the moment, while Momo locates the springs and restores her magic. For Sion’s sake, they also gather some samples for her study. It suddenly hits me that while Sion is remarkably knowledgeable about the Light and Dark clans, and has made considerable strides in understanding them, her work is still informal and lacks the same rigour as a research lab might.

  • On this reasoning, it is possible to say that, were a well-funded research group to be tasked with studying this power, it would yield results quite quickly, and Magical Girls may even be weaponised as instruments of war. This is why in the Harry Potter universe, a Statute of Secrecy exists to prevent such an outcome, as well as to prevent the magical community from being annihilated. In Machikado Mazoku, Magical Girls and Dæmons don’t have the same constraints, and this allows the story to purely focus on world-building at a more personal scale. Sion’s interest in things is such that she eventually moves her lab into the rafters of Momo, Mikan and Yūko’s building.

  • Despite being a slice-of-life magical girl fantasy series with a relaxed pacing, 2-Chōme‘s episodes are actually quite busy. Even conversations yield a large amount of detail, and this helps to keep interest in the anime. As such, when brakes are put on the exposition, and characters are allowed to relax, things slow down considerably: before 2-Chōme‘s climax, Mikan is frightened by a cockroach that shows up in her unit, and when she enlists Yūko to help her, they end up giving her apartment a thorough cleaning. Momo later shows up and suggests a magical solution to things, but the barrier Yūko creates fails shortly after.

  • On a gorgeous day prior to everyone’s return to class, Yūko helps with the laundry before attempting to gain an increased mastery over Láthspell. While Yūko refers to it as the “Whatchamacallit Rod”, I find that this is too many characters for me to spell. Láthspell, on the other hand, is quite easy to type out, and its function is well described by this name – I’ve previously mentioned that Láthspell is derived off Old English for “ill-news”, and chose it because this weapon is able to take on any form. When Yūko is able to wield it properly, it spells bad news for whoever is on the receiving end. Yūko has put it to use for more mundane purposes, such as acting as a laundry bar, but with a bit of training, she becomes more confident in wielding it.

  • When it turns out Mikan transfers to the same school as Momo and Yūko, she’s initially thrilled to help out with setting up the sports festival, as this gives her a chance to be with other people. An accident causes her curse to manifest, and Mikan ends up reverting to her old manner – while she’s happy to be around people, she worries her curse could cause someone to get hurt. This leads Momo and Yūko to talk Mikan out of leaving; both want to fix the root cause of the issue rather than leave Mikan with a bandaid solution.

  • This mindset is commendable and shows how far Momo has come since Machikado Mazoku‘s beginning – Momo is willing to go the extra mile for Mikan and Yūko to the point where she’s willing to embrace the Dark Side again: she chokes down the special elixir Sion’s prepared for her here ahead of their incursion into Mikan’s mind. I’ve always held this mindset as a software developer; although it is tempting to simply paper over a bug with a short term fix, longer term solutions are always more attractive when they actually address the cause of a problem. I’ve had situations where a bug was thought to be a UI issue, but then the issue actually resulted from how the app was parsing data. Fixing the root cause means there would exist no situations where the app would now display the incorrect information to users.

  • It suddenly hits me that what Yūko and Momo are doing here is not too different than dream-walking, although given that Machikado Mazoku lacks the concept of a multiverse, we can suppose that the events in the dream space are completely aligned with what is happening in their primary reality. On the topic of dream-walking, I’ve finally had the chance to watch Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness, and while the film leaves a few plot holes with America Chavez’s character, as well as making previous works like WandaVision and What If? mandatory, the film was fun overall and became an unexpected horror experience – as the Scarlet Witch, Wanda’s actions evoke memories of The Ring and Steven King’s Carrie in places.

  • Fortunately, 2-Chōme is clearly not such a series; once Yūko and Momo enter Mikan’s mind, they find an amorphous darkness surrounding Mikan’s consciousness. Yūko’s initial attempts to communicate with this entity fails, but with help from Lilith, Yūko summons an ancient weapon for distilling the darkness into a discernible form. While her mind is able to transform Láthspell into a tool capable of the job, its physical manifestation is that of an oversized wired whisk. It typifies Machikado Mazoku‘s propensity to portray cuteness even in moments of great need – Yūko is adorable, and the weapons she summons tend to match her aesthetic, even if they are powerful in their function.

  • Yūko exhausts herself in using her whisk to draw out Ugallu’s true form, and when Momo makes to draw out a fight plan, Yūko forbids her from using violence. In the end, after softening up Ugallu with sweets, Momo is able to reach an understanding of sorts with Ugallu – she was summoned to protect Mikan from trouble, but misinterpreting her duties owing to how poorly she’d been summoned, she indiscriminately acted whenever feeling Mikan was in distress. The revelation this went against her duty causes Ugallu to consider disappearing, and although this would, technically, be a solution that eliminates the curse, Yūko’s kind heart wishes that Ugallu would be given a chance for a do-over.

  • With help from everyone, this is something that ends up happening; even Mikan ultimately came to empathise with the spirit residing in her, and since she is technically Ugallu’s “owner”, she issues an order – Ugallu is not to disappear until she’s found a purpose. To this end, Yūko and all of her friends have gathered to perform a proper summoning ritual in order to allow Ugallu to physically manifest in the real world. Although Sion is able to walk everyone through the process, she realises the list of ingredients for such would be immense, not possible to gather in one evening.

  • Yūko reveals that over the summer, she’s done a variety of activities that does leave her with the right materials, and with everything prepared, she sets off to ask Lico to prepare some karaage worthy of the dæmons. Meanwhile, Momo’s managed to finish the summoning circle with help from the Sports Committee members. Yūko is asked to imbibe the circle with her magic, since she wields the correct magic needed for such a function, and when she summons Láthspell, the weight overtakes her, until Momo grasps the weapon with Yūko. This moment was especially significant, showing how for better or worse, Yūko’s kindness means that Momo is now by her side, ready to see things through with her to the end.

  • This little detail is monumental in 2-Chōme and reiterates the fact that, while Yūko may not be more powerful than a magical girl, she has an uncommon talent to sway those to her side through not deceit and lies, but kindness and empathy. These traits are very unusual for a dæmon, but they’re right at home in a Manga Time Kirara work, which emphasises that the world exists in shades of grey, and moreover, labels don’t hold much value despite how much weight some folks put on them. While Yūko may be a dæmon, she certainly doesn’t act in a way befitting of one, and this is what allows her to find success in overcoming the challenges that she faces.

  • Altogether, Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme earns an A grade (4.0 of 4.0, or 9 of 10): it is sincere, honest and above all, fun to watch. The emotional payoff in this series is immense, and while Yūko may have entered 2-Chōme with apprehension, once she realises that she can have a tangible impact on helping Momo and Mikan to find happiness, she is able to overcome the feeling of melancholy that had been present in 2-Chōme‘s first three episodes. In this way, Yūko was able to help Momo be more truthful with herself, and this would in turn lead both Yūko and Momo to liberate Mikan from her curse, which brings one more ally to the table in the form of Ugallu. Since the story in Machikado Mazoku is still open, and because the series has seen moderate success, I join other viewers in expressing my wish for a third season.

I had entered Machikado Mazoku‘s first season skeptical of the series, exited with satisfaction at having found something that was meaningful, and began 2-Chōme with an open mind. With 2-Chōme in the books, it was uplifting to see the series show the importance of human connections in a very creative and colourful manner. While the themes in Machikado Mazoku are nothing novel (in effect, the entire series is a visual representation of the English proverb “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”), what sets the series apart is how comedy and pathos is seamlessly woven into everything. Viewers will laugh with the characters when something amusing happens, pity them when their efforts fall short and over time, come to root for everything that Yūko and her friends their hearts on doing. On top of lovable characters, Machikado Mazoku also demonstrates how to build a complex world without overwhelming viewers. While the rules of magical girls and dæmons, as well as the longstanding conflict between the Light and Dark clans are numerous and complex, Machikado Mazoku only will present as much as is necessary to the viewers so they know what’s going on. This makes the world more compelling, since it pushes viewers to wonder what other rules and constraints there might be, but otherwise, viewers are not overwhelmed with every fact and figure. This results in a world that feels credible and lifelike, and not excessively convoluted. A subtle, but pleasant touch within Machikado Mazoku is the fact that Yūko’s classmates never seem concerned with Yūko, Momo and Mikan’s unusual powers: they take everything in stride, and remember the three for their kindness, first and foremost. When the moment calls for it, they happily show up to help out, culminating in everyone being able to help Ugallu take a physical form and find purpose anew, while at the same time, liberating Mikan from her curse. As Momo puts it, the way Yūko does things has merit and shows her power, albeit in a different way. In a world where the bigger stick seems to remain the choice for negotiations, seeing an anime that reminds viewers of how important it is to exercise more diplomatic means of problem-solving is uplifting. In this area, 2-Chōme succeeds to the same extent as its predecessor while capitalising on the fact that everything’s established to further flesh out Yūko’s world and how her friendships are slowly allowing her to affect positive change in a way her predecessors could not.

RPG Real Estate: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” –Bryant H. McGill

Kotone settles into her work as a real estate agent and helps Rufuria, Rakira and Fa to close deals: between Fa’s ability to communicate with all beings, and Kotone’s willingness to listen to clients, RPG Real Estate continues to find success in matching clients with suitable properties, from Toto and her Pegasus, to a bard with a lethal singing voice. All the while, news of a dragon terrifying nearby villages continues to raise tensions in Dali, forcing Satona and the armed forces to investigate. Through the course of their time together, Kotone becomes especially close to Fa and begins to worry when Fa seems to appear and disappear in a manner coinciding with the dragon attacks. Kotone’s fears come to pass when Fa vanishes, and even when RPG Real Estate closes enough deals to reach their quota, Fa’s the only thing on her mind. Despite her efforts to push doubts out of her mind, the armed forces take Fa in after one of their clients, an elf with a desire to purchase a long-lasting home, puts two and two together. While it turns out Fa isn’t the dragon that’d been attacking nearby villages, she’s revealed to be the Dark Lord’s daughter: Satona had taken her in with the hope of raising Fa to be a gentle and kind individual. However, although Fa attempts to stop the dragon with Kotone’s help, a mysterious individual chants an incantation that allows her to take control of the dragons. In this state, Fa kills Kotone, but upon seeing this, immediately reverts to her usual form. In the aftermath, Fa, Rufuria and Rakira are hailed as heroes for stopping a dragon attack, but Kotone’s seemingly passed on. On the eve of a celebration in their honour, the necromancer appears and reveals Kotone’s spirit had endured. She restores Kotone’s spirit back to her body, and the four are given a new assignment – keeping an eye on the dragon on a remote tropical island. Kotone is especially thrilled, since this assignment allows everyone to be together, per a wish she’d made. With this, RPG Real Estate draws to a close, bringing the first of this season’s Manga Time Kirara series to a close (Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme‘s finale was originally scheduled to air this week, but production delays meant the finale will air next week instead); RPG Real Estate is a bit of a surprise, departing from the Manga Time Kirara tradition of joyful, saccharine worlds to explore new directions, but at the same time, without deviating too greatly from the approach that has come to characterise Manga Time Kirara series.

Despite the emphasis on dragons and lingering grudges from the Dark Lord’s faction that result in conflicts not seen in RPG Real Estate since their war ended a decade-and-a-half earlier, RPG Real Estate manages to stay true to its central message: that listening is the first step towards addressing conflict. This becomes especially apparent with Fa’s ability to understand all languages, an asset that comes in handy whenever Kotone, Rufuria and Rakira find themselves dealing with non-human clients. During an evacuation, a reptilian and a man get into a disagreement, but Fa is able to interpret what’s going on and helps the two to strike up a friendship. When visiting a hot springs, Fa similarly is able to give Kotone enough information to help their owners, bipedal cats, to rebrand and rethink their concept, turning it into a success. Fa’s unusual background notwithstanding, her ability to bridge the communications gap between species, coupled with Kotone’s talent for hearing people out, brings success to RPG Real Estate, and it is this belief in Fa that ultimately leads Kotone to support Fa as she attempts to reason things out with the dragon. Even this ends up being a misunderstanding, as the dragon had been merely seeking out a place to settle down and give birth to her child. Much as how Kotone and the others listen to their clients, once Fa hears out the dragon, she does her utmost to sort things out peacefully. Such a message, while seemingly rudimentary, remains one that is necessary; although listening to others and empathising with people appears to be common sense, it is shocking as to how often this is forgotten as people talk past one another and flat-out refuse to hear others out if others possess a perspective differing from one’s own. It is this sort of enmity and stubbornness that gives rise to conflict, conflict that could’ve very well been avoided had one simply taken a step back and listened. Manga Time Kirara series excel in presenting and reminding viewers of things that are seemingly obvious but often forgotten in practise; sometimes, it does take such a direct and blunt portrayal to indicate to viewers that common sense isn’t always so common, and even the best of us need the occasional nudge to recall these lessons.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • A perk of a job that entails visiting properties in all sorts of places, and in RPG Real Estate, this means that Kotone and the others enjoy a day at the beach whilst hunting down a property. RPG Real Estate‘s biggest charm is the fact that viewers do get to go check out a plethora of fantasy homes, and the premise of trying to match clients with properties in a game-like world, at least on paper, meant that RPG Real Estate was venturing into turf that the average fantasy (or isekai) series does not cover; conventional series tend to drop the protagonist amidst a major conflict.

  • The reason for doing this is quite plain; it creates the most exciting storytelling and forces protagonists to mature in ways that peacetime cannot. However, when a majority of series does this, things can become quite derivative quite quickly. As such, series like RPG Real Estate take things in a different direction – the setting remains that of a class-based high-fantasy role-playing game, but because the great war is past, the world’s inhabitants are given a chance to live ordinary lives. Without the threat of war present, this allows for authors to write out what nuances such worlds may possess. In this way, I contend that RPG Real Estate is nowhere near “generic” as some detractors might suggest, and if anything, the twist that begins developing actually ends up being more conventional than the idea of selling or renting properties to a fantasy clientele.

  • With this in mind, were someone to suggest that RPG Real Estate was “generic”, I could be persuaded to listen provided that things were sufficiently presented. For instance, if one says that 1) RPG Real Estate is generic 2) because it is similar to other shows that they’ve seen, as 3) said series have previously attempted to mix-and-match grim elements in with the slice-of-life, then this is an argument worth considering. Saying 1) alone is a statement without evidence. Adding 2) gives the argument a bit more weight, and in turn, I gain a modicum of insight into the opinion holder (e.g. what sort of shows they’ve seen and perhaps prefer).

  • With 3), any doubt is removed because hard evidence is provided, and the opinion now satisfactorily explains why a show didn’t work. While I may not necessarily agree, I have learnt something about that individual; one’s opinions do speak about their background and experiences, and learning of these helps with things like compassion and empathy, two virtues that are invaluable as a part of conflict resolution. Unfortunately, people will, more often than not, simply present 1) and then expect that is sufficient in lieu of 2) and 3). This is why I do not pay attention to Twitter-length statements dismissing an anime. Clarity matters more than conciseness, and generally speaking, 240 characters is a unique aspect to Twitter. When other avenues of communication offer one with significantly more than 240 characters, there is space to properly express oneself – listening only works if there is something to listen to.

  • As such, my stance regarding some of the criticisms levelled against RPG Real Estate has not changed since I last wrote about it on the grounds that they make no attempt to elaborate; I’ve not seen satisfactory reasoning to convince me that the concept of real estate in a fantasy world is “generic”. At Tango-Victor-Tango, one “WarriorsGate” has argued that I’m supposedly “divorced from reality”. Such an insubstantial argument has no value; if WarriorsGate had wanted to disprove me, sharing their own journey to buying a home and outlining how RPG Real Estate failed to portray the process would have sufficed. The absence of effort is why arguments here are generally not worth considering, and this is why I would say to RedSavant that I have no intention of registering for an account at Tango-Victor-Tango.

  • RedSavant suggests we’ve previously clashed on Sora no Woto, but I have no recollection of this (my disagreements are with a blogger who argued that Sora no Woto‘s central theme is existentialism when it is not). If either RedSavant or WarriorsGate would like to have a legitimate discussion, I welcome them to do so here, note that if WarriorsGate chooses not to say anything here in my comments section, it would show me they’re the ones with no meaningful argument, and return the conversation to RPG Real Estate: while Kotone looks over some floor plans for houses, I’ll note that she’s seen a fair number of successes since joining the company because she’s observant and willing to listen. This stands in stark contrast with Rufuria, who had simply tried to offload properties onto clients to fill a quota and earn a promotion. This aspect of RPG Real Estate is its strong suit and the main reason behind why I returned to watch the series weekly.

  • Besides food and clothing, shelter is counted as a basic necessity, and throughout the world, one can gain insight into a culture and its people based on how these needs are met. A series about housing set in a fictional world, then, provides an opportunity to world-build in ways that series with a larger story cannot; here Rufuria, Fa, Rakira and Kotone check out a large house whose previous tenants were thieves and therefore modified the building so that they could confound pursuers while at the same time, allowing them to beat a hasty exit. Curiously enough, all of the doors in this house do actually lead somewhere, standing in stark contrast with Rick and Morty‘s Real Fake Doors™, which don’t go anywhere.

  • Although Kotone is quite devoted to her job and becomes visibly saddened when struggling to find a client for a home, or a home for a client, she’s not above having fun on the job, either. A mix between GochiUsa‘s Cocoa and Chiya, Kotone typically has a cheerful disposition, but can become depressed and scatter-minded when something weighs on her mind. As RPG Real Estate progresses, news of dragon attacks begin ravaging the area, and when Kotone notices Fa disappearing or acting unusual on several occasions, she wonders if Fa could be the dragon. Early on, it is easy to ignore these misgivings – whereas RPG Real Estate‘s dragons are powerful beings capable of great destruction, Fa is gentle and kind.

  • It is Kotone’s friendship with Fa that allows Fa’s talents to be utilised. Rufuria had typically been short with Fa, seeing her as a liability more than an asset. Kotone, on the other hand, finds Fa adorable and is more patient with her. When she spots how Fa can effortlessly communicate with all beings, including the family gryphon here, Kotone realises that Fa is an indispensable part of the team, and is able to therefore use Fa’s translations to help broker a deal. Things at RPG Real Estate thus proceed smoothly, allowing Kotone to return home for a vacation. She ends up bringing Fa with her.

  • On the topic of vacations, we’re now three days into the summer, and I’ve got one vacation day next week, set just ahead of Canada Day. I’ve still got all of my vacation days, plus a handful carrying over from last year. I’m still debating what to do with that time (a trip to Japan is still off the table for the present), but I do know that taking a longer long weekend would be great for checking out restaurants around town. I’ve long been a fan of trying out different foods, and earlier this week, to mark the start of the summer, I ended up spending a lunch break with the team at a food truck. This time around, I tried a Taco Platter from the Happy Fish. Consisting of their signature fish taco, a shredded-beef Bulgogi taco and tempura prawn taco, every individual taco brought with it a different flavour profile. The fish taco was especially tasty, with the rich beer batter and flaky fish complementing the tangy mango salsa and coleslaw quite nicely.

  • Kotone’s younger sisters initially take a disliking to Fa, feeling she’s taking Kotone away from them, and shortly after, tasks Fa with finding a moonlight flower to win them over. While Fa is a naïveté and sets off to actually find the flower, the pair grow guilty and take off after her. Fa ends up finding the flower and even helps to create an understanding between the two sisters and a minotaur, which had otherwise been creating conflict with the human residents nearby. Unsurprisingly, the minotaurs do wish to get along with people, and once the misunderstanding is cleared, the adventurers stop hunting them, creating peace amongst the species.

  • Rejuvenated from her time off, Kotone returns to work fully-charged and ready to roll. As RPG Real Estate nears their target of deals closed, Rufuria becomes increasingly flustered and does her best to quickly move properties. However, this proves trickier than expected; one client is looking for a very isolated home, and it turns out she’s a well-known idol who yearns for some peace and quiet away from her adoring fans. Having not disclosed this earlier, Kotone and the others do have a trickier time, but once they learn of her fame and wealth, they find the perfect property for her.

  • Another interesting client that appears is a fortune teller whose craft appears legitimate; after giving everyone their fortunes, she requests a very run down place because she’d foreseen that good things may happen there. She ends up meeting the love of her life and later returns to RPG Real Estate to inform the staff of their marriage. While this is par the course for a Manga Time Kirara series, but when she also gives Kotone a good luck charm and says she’ll need it later, the sense of unease Kotone experiences returns. Some folks were very quick to speculate that Fa is the dragon, but I’ve never given speculation of this sort too much weight.

  • The reason for this is becuase Manga Time Kirara series tend to present events that are consistent with the messages. Here in RPG Real Estate, the themes speak to the importance of listening, and as such, were Fa to be the dragon, it would render the main messages null and void by suggesting that despite her gentle disposition, Fa would be violent at heart or similar. As it was, this certainly isn’t the case, and while there is considerable foreshadowing to show that Fa isn’t merely a adorable, small character for Kotone to look after, said foreshadowing does not indicate that Fa was anything resembling a destructive being.

  • During one festival, where wishes are sent into the skies, Kotone and the others encounter a lost little girl. Despite having some troubles initially, the four manage to reunite the little girl with her mother, only to learn that the gods do exist, and moreover, as thanks for having found her daughter, the four are granted all of their wishes, leading Rufuria to regret not wishing for something bigger. The question of wishes is something that authors enjoy writing about, since there’s a great deal of room for discussing how one’s wishes mirror their character, and Bill Watterson was especially fond of this, having Hobbes wishing for simple things that were attainable to show how happiness is a matter of perspective, and of counting one’s blessings.

  • As the signs of Fa being connected to the dragon attacks in some way become increasingly visible, RPG Real Estate begins shifting from its initial premise of fantasy realty to a story that is more conventional in nature. Strictly speaking, this wasn’t entirely necessary; even in Dali, there’d been plenty of properties that could be presented without the need to introduce an additional element into the story’s progression. Having said this, the rationale for why RPG Real Estate might’ve gone this route was to emphasise the idea that listening is the first step towards defusing a problem.

  • While Kotone is adamant that Fa isn’t the dragon Satona and the army are trying to hunt down, Rufuria is becoming worried about how Fa’s unusual behaviours might suggest her role in things. A conflict of sorts does end up brewing between the two: whereas Kotone shares Rufuria’s concerns, she’s banking on Fa’s personality as being the main reason why Fa can’t have been behind the attacks, but she’s unable to convince Rufuria otherwise. This ends up making their landmark deal a bit more muted, everyone had been looking forwards to this, but Fa’s apparent connection with the dragon attacks dampens the mood.

  • Had RPG Real Estate dispensed with this outright, the series would still be able to convey its themes. The dragon element thus ends up being a bit of a detour towards the series’ end – it leaves more elements that must be resolved, and the resulting conflict does stand in contrast to the aesthetic that Manga Time Kirara series are known for. Here, the elf that Kotone and the others had found a home for ends up working out that Fa’s characteristics means she’s a person of interest, and she consents to be taken into custody if it would mean preventing additional devastation from occurring. The confrontation also shows the gap between the magical abilities of government officials and ordinary citizens, showing viewers that one must have uncommon talent and skill if they are to land a high-ranking position, and that Rufuria is probably still a ways out yet.

  • While Fa is being transported, the real dragon appears and disrupts the transfer. Fa’s talents have come in handy up to this point, and she tries to talk the dragon out of things. These initial efforts are successful; the dragon explains to Fa that she’d been looking for a home to give birth and had travelled extensively for this reason. Fa’s ability to communicate with even the dragon would accentuate the fact that if certain barriers were bypassed, then there wouldn’t be a need for conflict. Generally speaking, conflict occur whenever there is a difference in individual aims or values, and at the heart of all conflict resolution is communication.

  • For the dragon, being attacked simply because she was trying to find a home would certainly come across as unreasonable, whereas for the people, the presence of a dragon and their association with the past Dark Lord is worrisome because it is connected to strife and warfare. However, the dragon isn’t interested in causing destruction for kicks, and Satona’s forces definitely don’t having a particular appetite for warfare, either. Instead, RPG Real Estate shows that the dragon appears to be under some sort of spell from an individual who appears to be associated with a faction that intends on bringing the Dark Lord’s ways back into the world.

  • This aspect of RPG Real Estate is the weakest link in a series that was otherwise solid in its portrayal of communications: had RPG Real Estate done away with this faction and had the confrontation with the dragon at its climax, to be resolved by Fa and Kotone attempting their preferred manner of conflict resolution, the anime would have remained very successful in its delivery. Instead, introducing another character with a chip on her shoulder and yet-to-be-defined motives adds unneeded obfuscation to the story. This is in violation of Chekov’s Gun; since we have a character introduced, it stands to reason that said character must play a nontrivial role of some sort.

  • Because of how RPG Real Estate had proceeded up until now, I was half-expecting Kotone to notice this individual and try and talk her down from using dragons as weapons of mass destruction. Instead, this unknown individual proceeds to utilise the same spell against Fa, causing her to go rogue, as well. In the end, there is no opportunity for Kotone and Fa to utilise the sum of their shared experiences in addressing a problem unlike anything they’d faced earlier. The outcome in RPG Real Estate ends up being quite unconventional for a Manga Time Kirara series.

  • It turns out that Fa is named after Fafnir, the Norse dwarf with a great love for treasure. This love of treasure corrupted him and, coupled with a curse, would transform him into a dragon. Fafnir is what inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s Smaug, as well as Thorin’s madness, in The Hobbit. In RPG Real Estate, however, Fa does not possess any of the attributes of her namesake, and even in dragon form, retains clarity: before she comes under the spell’s influence, she tries to talk the other dragon out of its rampage, using just enough force to keep the other dragon’s attacks from hitting the massed soldiers below.

  • While Fa shows that the dragons can indeed be reasoned with, the unknown faction has perfected spells that reduce dragons, which otherwise would be clever and wise entities, into rampaging monsters. This aspect of RPG Real Estate absolutely demands exploration, and the fact that it was introduced so late into the series leaves a gaping hole in things: even though the outcomes are uplifting, one cannot help but feel that after fifteen years of peace, conflict may be brewing again. This could be resolved by giving RPG Real Estate another season, allowing the story to explore these elements in greater detail, but the problem here would be that a second season would depend almost entirely on how well RPG Real Estate performs in terms of sales.

  • There is no guarantee that this is going to happen, and so, RPG Real Estate would leave viewers with more questions than answers in some regards. After taking a claw to the face, Kotone dies, leaving Rufuria, Rakira and Fa devastated. Fa’s emotional response is strong enough for her to overcome the unknown spellcaster’s incantation, and she departs. This marks the first time I’ve seen blood in a Manga Time Kirara series, and while some folks have informed me that not all Manga Time Kirara series are going to be happy-go-lucky, easygoing series, I hold that what makes Manga Time Kirara series distinct from others is the fact that the themes will always be more optimistic than pessimistic.

  • I’ve been watching Manga Time Kirara works for upwards of a decade, and having seen a nontrivial number of their works, I have enough of a precedence to say that leaving Kotone dead would undermine the sorts of themes in what RPG Real Estate was attempting to go for. As Fa, Rufuria and Rakira attend Kotone’s funeral, a small, adorable doll suddenly bursts into the room and frantically gestures at Kotone’s body. It turns out that Lily had encountered a spirit hovering in front of RPG Real Estate’s main office and imagined it to be Kotone’s. After encasing it in a doll, she’s brought the spirit here and in mere moments, manages to restore Kotone’s spirit to her body.

  • In almost any other anime, viewers would probably cry foul over how Kotone was resurrected, but because RPG Real Estate introduced Lily early on, this isn’t a problem – in fantasy worlds, resurrection spells are not uncommon, and this mechanic is ultimately utilised to ensure RPG Real Estate does not subvert its message. Kotone remarks that this is the first time she’s been brought back to life, and this leads to the question of whether or not some souls are irrecoverable if they are separated from the individual’s body. Regardless of how precisely things in RPG Real Estate work, what matters is that Kotone returns to Fa and the others.

  • In recognition of their actions in stopping the dragon from decimating the area, the king himself thanks Kotone, Fa, Rufuria and Rakira for their actions. After consulting with Satona, he decides the best course of action is to have the four accompany the dragon to her new home, allowing everyone to stay together. Rufuria is devastated, since this puts her career plans on hold, but Satona reassures her that once they have sort out what happens with Fa, everyone will be allowed to return. It turns out that Fa is the Dark Lord’s daughter, and Satona had found her after the hero had defeated the Dark Lord. Raised under a loving environment, Fa became gentle and kind. After a large celebration that evening, Kotone, Fa, Rufuria and Rakira prepare to set off for their next destination.

  • RPG Real Estate will be immediately relatable to anyone who’s moved house recently, capturing the entire spectrum of emotions, from excitement, to not wanting to go, in a succinct manner. Shortly after arrival, the dragon thanks everyone for having helped her, and everyone heads off for their new home. Here, Kotone remarks that her wish of living together with everyone has been realised: it is spacious and beautifully appointed, even possessing its own office space to allow everyone to continue their work. It is a satisfactory ending to a series that had, save the mysterious individual, been very consistent in its messaging. Before I wrap this post up, I will remark that RPG Real Estate Services is an actual company in Toronto that deals with realty services in the Greater Toronto Area, and I feel the slightest bit of pathos for them, since anyone looking for their services will now come across content related to RPG Real Estate the anime.

  • Overall, RPG Real Estate earns a B grade: it represents a fun romp into the world of realty without overburdening viewers with specifics like home inspection, mortgages and insurance policies while at the same time, presenting a chance to see how vivid fantasy worlds can be. While the warring factions and their ability to control dragons was completely unaddressed, knowing the themes in RPG Real Estate means that there definitely is a possibility that even this can be solved peacefully in the future. With the first of this season’s Manga Time Kirara work in the books, I have a handful of posts planned out for this month, including a talk in Battlefield 2042‘s Zero Hour Update and a discussion of Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme‘s finale once it becomes available.

While RPG Real Estate is largely a self-contained exploration of realty in a fantasy, of matching clients to properties in a world where the possibilities are more varied and colourful than they are in reality, the anime also hints at the fact that discord is always just around the corner. This aspect stands in juxtaposition to the cheerful, happy-go-lucky tone that otherwise dominates RPG Real Estate, and leaving the unknown individual who’d attempted to enchant dragons to carry her bidding leaves the floor open to additional conflict in the future. It is plain that while the Dark Lord’s faction was defeated fifteen years earlier, danger still lurks in this world. Prima facie, this seems out of place: it seems unusual to create suspense and terror in what is otherwise a gentle slice-of-life series, and doubly so when the source of the conflict is introduced so late into the game. This unresolved aspect in RPG Real Estate leaves open the possibility that additional strife could appear in the future, and that the otherwise peaceful world that Kotone, Fa, Rufuria and Rakira know is always under threat of disruption. However, upon closer inspection, RPG Real Estate provides all of the information viewers need to draw a conclusion. While a confrontation with this mysterious sorcerer is likely inevitable, given that Kotona and the others have always drawn upon their ability to listen and talk things out to resolve conflicts, it is likely the case that the learnings Kotone, Fa, Rufuria and Rakira draw from their experiences will be an asset. As such, while RPG Real Estate concludes a little too abruptly and introduced elements that are definitely unrelated to real estate, the anime appears to convey the idea that listening is a vital skill, and that one’s learnings can find applicability in situations outside of their occupation. The manner in how RPG Real Estate concludes is a definitive one, although it is quite clear that, assuming sales for this series turn out to be reasonable, any sort of continuation would have a wealth of directions to potentially explore.

Kiniro Mosaic: Thank You!!- An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“There will be times when your best isn’t good enough. There can be many reasons for this, but as long as you give your best, you’ll be okay.” –Robert De Niro

Third year is now in full swing: Karen’s ended up in Sakura’s class, while Alice, Shinobu, Yōko and Aya are now in Akari’s class. For their class trip to Kyoto, the girls start in Nara, where they check out Nara Deer Park and the Nara Daibutsu, a as well as Kofuku-Ji. Alice impresses Shinobu and the others with her knowledge of the destinations. The next day, after arriving in Kyoto, Honoka struggles to get a photo of her with Karen, and although Kana tries to help, various misunderstandings prevent Honoka from succeeding. After visiting both the Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji, Honoka manages to work up the courage and asks Karen for a photo, being overjoyed she’s succeeded. That evening, after sharing a bath together, the girls attempt to start a pillow fight, only for Aya to display an unexpected ferocity: she’s longed to swap love stories with everyone else. On their final day in Kyoto, Shinobu and Alice share a conversation about their future plans while at Kyoto Tower, although Aya reminds everyone that entrance exams await them once they return home. Back home, Yōko decides to practise for entrance interviews, and Aya decides to join, feeling it to be a chance to learn whether or not Yōko returns her feelings. While Alice is writing a letter back home, she begins to worry about Shinobu’s future. A squeal from downstairs rouses her from her thoughts, and it turns out Shinobu’s mother is going through old photos: Shinobu’s mother had studied in England during her time as a post-secondary student and met Alice’s mother here, which is why when Shinobu later wanted to do a homestay in a foreign country, she would meet Alice. For old time’s sake, Shinobu’s mother decides to hop on a FaceTime call with Alice’s mother after they return home from shopping. Back at school, Alice is struggling to explain to Shinobu that she wants to return home for her post-secondary studies, and upon hearing this, Aya becomes caught in the moment, thinking the time has come for Shinobu to do a kokuhaku with Alice. Once this misunderstanding is cleared up, Shinobu explains that she’s got the gist of what’s happening, having looked up Alice’s English earlier. Upon hearing this, Shinobu decides her future is settled: she’d very much like to go to England with Alice. However, the afternoon’s felt quiet: Karen’s missing, and it turns out she’s also struggling to choose her way forward. With their plans now established, everyone begins to study in earnest. While Aya, Yōko and Karen prepare to stare down entrance exams, Shinobu spends her nights preparing for the overseas exams. Izumi reflects on how once Shinobu is committed to something, she’ll give it her all, and decides to make her some fish and chips as encouragement. When the new year arrives, Akari and Sakura swing by the local shrine to pray for their student’s success. After running into Karen and learning that Yōko’s drawn bad luck, Akari decides to do a good luck dance, to the embarrassment of those around them. Entrance exams soon arrive, and the pressure from the exams is immense: Yōko, Aya and Karen are stressed beyond words. However, exams go well for all three: despite a terrifying few moments, the three have made it into their institute of choice. Graduation arrives shortly after, and while Shinobu, Karen and Yōko sit through the ceremony with a smile, Aya and Alice end up bawling their eyes out. Even Akari has trouble saying goodbye to her first group of students. After the ceremony ends, the friends prepare to part ways. Some time later, after Alice and Shinobu have settled into life in England, Karen, Aya and Yōko arrive to visit.

With Kiniro Mosaic now at a definitive end, Kiniro Mosaic: Thank You!! (Thank You!! from here on out for brevity) portrays each of Shinobu, Alice, Aya, Yōko and Karen gearing up to pursue their own futures while at the same time, remaining true to their promise of being together with one another. With their time as high school students winding down, everyone worries about whether or not they’ll be able to continue spending time together as friends, and this in turn prompts the characters to push themselves further for one another’s sake. Shinobu has her heart set on studying English abroad despite her still-weak command of the language, and ends up gaining admittance overseas to an English institute. Aya, Yōko and Karen end up at the same post-secondary, as well: Yōko and Karen move heaven and earth to succeed on their entrance exams for the sake of being together. While a few moments leave them feeling completely defeated, and even their instructors worry for them, all of this effort is met with a reward after the three gain admittance to their school of choice. In this way, Aya, Yōko and Karen get to remain together, mcuh as how Alice and Shinobu can continue to spend their futures together, as well. In this way, Thank You!! speaks to how people are willing to put in their best effort and go the extra mile for those around them, and moreover, when such raw determination and resolve manifests, miracles result. This is a heart-warming, and positive theme that is befitting of the gentle and cheerful world within Kiniro Mosaic. The film’s ending is particularly telling: although Alice and Shinobu move to England to pursue their futures, while Aya, Yōko and Karen study at a Japanese post-secondary institute, they’ll always be able to meet up again even if they are separated for the present. This leaves everyone free to cherish their old friendships while at the same time, remain open to new experiences. This aspect of high school is one that countless anime have covered, albeit in different fashions: Azumanga Daioh had left the post-secondary period ambiguous, while K-On! portrays Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi as being able to stay together when they are admitted to the same institute. Thank You!! marks the middle of the road between these two extremes, showing how secondary is definitely not the end, and people will always have the opportunity of getting back together even if their paths diverge for the present. Consequently, Thank You!! represents an immensely satisfying conclusion to Kiniro Mosaic; after three years’ worth of discoveries, the characters are left in a better position to pursue their futures while at the same time, continue to enjoy time they’d spent together as friends.

Thank You!! enters the field populated by giants: 2011’s K-On! The Movie remains the definitive yardstick for what makes for a successful silver screen experience, and in an interview, director Naoko Yamada expressed that the biggest challenge was scaling the aesthetic and messages from the TV series into a much larger, moving experience. To this end, Yamada ended up zeroing in on how Tenshi no Fureta Yo! came about, transforming the film into an expression of gratitude through an all-new story. By comparison, Thank You!! directly adapts segments of the Kiniro Mosaic manga and ties them into a cohesive narrative, showing how everyone prepares for the future ahead of graduation. However, despite not utilising an original story as K-On! The Movie had, Thank You!! still succeeds in stepping into the realm of the silver screen. This is accomplished by opening the film with Shinobu and Alice’s class trip to Kyoto – although Kiniro Mosaic briefly portrays Alice and Karen’s homes in England, the series is predominantly set in Tokyo. Changing the pacing up by sending the cast over to Kyoto creates a feeling of adventure, and in this way, even though Thank You!! returns home for the girls’ entrance exams and graduation, the energy from the class trip carries on over to the girls’ everyday experiences, creating excitement and anticipation in viewers as Yōko, Karen and Aya strive to get into their post-secondary institute of choice. By re-tooling the manga’s story to fit the movie format, Thank You!! is able to strike a balance between the scale of a movie, and the cozier, more intimate feeling of a TV series: familiar moments, like Yōko’s straight-man quips in response to outrageous moments, or Isami’s blunt, no-nonsense attitude about Shinobu’s idea of a souvenir, are presented right alongside events with a much larger novelty or weight. Things like the class trip to Kyoto, and the graduation ceremony itself are pivotal moments for the characters, and to emphasise this, inset music is used to accentuate the emotional tenour of such scenes. Altogether, Thank You!! shows that, even if an anime film feels more like an extended episode thanks to frequent inclusion of elements that had been common to the TV series, use of devices can nonetheless create the sort of scale that gives the story a larger, more encompassing feeling as befitting of a film: Thank You!!‘s runtime and choice of moments to adapt from the manga creates a logical flow of events, showing how the girls prepare for their futures and say goodbye to the plethora of memories they created as students in such a way as to decisively, and definitively, conclude Kiniro Mosaic.

Besides acting as an enjoyable close to Kiniro Mosaic, Thank You!! also sets the precedence for what lies ahead for its sister series, GochiUsa. Similarly to Kiniro Mosaic, GochiUsa had portrayed life in an idyllic world, showing how friendships facilitate self-discovery. Both series show characters grow and mature, treasuring the time they share together as they hurtle towards the inevitable milestone that is graduation. Both series also use travel as a metaphor for stepping into the future. After graduation, Alice and Shinobu move to England, where Karen, Aya and Yōko visit. When Rize’s admittance into university is given, Chino expresses a desire to travel and gain a broader perspective of the world after realising she’d spent her life living in the wood-framed town. A glance into GochiUsa‘s manga shows that such a journey does end up happening, as Chino accompanies Maya, Megu, Cocoa, Chiya, Sharo and Rize in exploring a larger city. Visiting the city would represent a considerable departure from the everyday comings and goings at Rabbit House, or the classroom; it follows that Chino’s graduation trip would represent a major milestone in her life, sufficiently significant as to warrant a movie. Such a film would easily be able to scale up the GochiUsa experience for the silver screen, and perhaps even mark a stopping point for GochiUsa‘s animated form. While the manga is still ongoing, showing Chino’s experiences in high school, long-running series often experience the challenge of continually finding something meaningful to say. Running for extended periods may result in a work becoming stale – this is something that Bill Watterson had expressed as being his primary reason for ending Calvin and Hobbes where it did. Considering how touching GochiUsa has been in its run, this outcome would not be a had idea: allowing Chino’s journey to end at graduation, leaving her a clean slate to go exploring with, is equivalent to the blank slate that Shinobu and Alice have at the end of Thank You!!. Having taken that first step forward, viewers do have the reassurance that everyone will be able to succeed so long as they put their minds to it. This is where Thank You!! succeeds, and in doing so, also sets the bar for how GochiUsa might be able to end its story gracefully.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • According to the blog archives, it would’ve been roughly five years since I last wrote about Kiniro Mosaic‘s last instalment, Pretty Days. This would’ve been a few months before I left for Japan, and even back in 2017, it would’ve been a full two years since Hello! Kiniro Mosaic finished airing. I came upon this series after finishing GochiUsa: I’d been looking for a similar series, and Kiniro Mosaic appeared to fit the bill quite nicely. I still remember watching the first episode at the lab on campus a few days before I was set to fly out over to Taiwan, and I ended up finishing the first season just in time for the second season’s arrival in the winter of 2015.

  • While I originally felt that Kiniro Mosaic was eclipsed by GochiUsa owing to the latter’s distinct setting, in time, I would come to appreciate how Kiniro Mosaic was distinct from GochiUsa. This is one of the main joys about Manga Time Kirara series: although they may prima facie appear to be identical to one another, a closer look will find distinct flavours in each work. Thank You!! opens with a class trip to Nara and Kyoto, and perhaps speaking to Shinobu’s weaker knowledge, she imagines that Nara Park and its famous deer are in Kyoto. After Alice explains the significance of the deer as being the gods’ messenger, Karen hands her a biscuit, causing the deer to overtake her.

  • Later, Karen decides to give her own spin on the Nara Daibutsu’s story and, in a manner reminiscent to Yuru Camp△‘s Aoi Inuyama, openly lies about things, causing her classmates, Akari and Alice to step in. On paper, it sounds like it should be relatively easy to spot tall tales in such stories, but the joke here is that while foreigners might not be fully versed in specific, small details in the history of some of the sights, there are details that even locals may not be aware of. On the flipside, Alice’s knowledge of Japan is encyclopaedic, rivalling the level of detail that Go! Go! Nippon!‘s Makoto and Akira Misaki present things to players.

  • Here, Alice explains the stories behind Nigatsudo (a water drawing ceremony site) and Kasuga Shrone (shown here, home of Nara’s guardian deities). Although Thank You!! has Shinobu and Aya visiting them sequentially, there is actually quite a bit of distance between them: Nigatsudo and Kasuga Shrine are 1.2 kilometres apart as the mole digs. At a casual pace, it’d take about 10 minutes to walk on over. Shinobu and Aya express interest in these sites, but when Alice reaches Meoto Daikokusha, a shrine for couples, Aya becomes especially enamoured with it. Unlike Nigatsudo, Meoto Daikokusha is only about two hundred metres from Kasuga Shrine, making it a much easier walk.

  • I will remark that I’ve opted to romanise Kiniro Mosaic without the extra dash: some sites choose to romanise things as Kin-iro rather than Kiniro, and I imagine this is because きんいろ is rendered as kin’iro in Hepburn. The apostrophe is meant to eliminate ambiguity; it is used to separate homophones that might be easily confused. In the case of Kiniro, if the apostrophe isn’t present, then one might accidentally transcribe きんいろ as きにろ. The dash is technically incorrect (the Third Edition of Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary specifies it’s a dash), having its origins from Victor-Tango-Victor and limitations in how their old custom PMWiki implementation could not handle some Unicode characters, but it’s persisted to this day, even being counted as the “correct” transcription of the title at Wikipedia. Conversely, the official English manga simply renders the title as Kiniro Mosaic, with neither dash nor apostrophe, so for ease of typing, this is what I’ve gone with.

  • The dinner that Alice and the others sit down to at their ryokan is a kaiseki-style dinner with wagyu beef as its centerpiece, reminiscent of the dinner I had at the Heritage Resort in Saitama. At its finest, Japanese cuisine is sublime to behold, resembling works of art rather than dinner; the sushi I enjoyed last week is an example of how is intricately and artfully prepared even seemingly-simple Japanese dishes are. This isn’t to say that other foods around the world can’t look as good as it tastes. Recent trends meant that even something like a breakfast poutine can look wonderful from a visual standpoint. Use of different colours and textures brings out the aesthetic in food, and one of my favourite examples is a local breakfast joint called OEB’s.

  • Earlier today, I’d been out and about on a walk around the city centre to capitalise on the fact that the weather in the morning was beautiful. I’ve not been downtown for quite some time, since my office is located in a quiet corporate campus in a quiet neighbourhood, and since I primarily work from home now. On my morning walk, I passed by the Telus Convention Centre (where the local anime convention is hosted) and Steven Avenue mall, which are within walking distance of my old building. I ended up heading up towards the river, where a park is located. They’re currently undergoing some upgrades, so I couldn’t quite walk the whole thing, but here, one is afforded a pleasant view of the downtown’s buildings. Since it’s now late May, the cherry blossoms were also in bloomHanami happens in March in Japan, but owing to climate differences, these trees bloom in mid to late May. The morning concluded with a breakfast poutine at OEB’s, located underneath this cluster of office towers.

  • The next day, the girls head on over to Kyoto. Lovingly referred to as “Anagram Lover’s Tokyo” in Futurama, Kyoto in reality is the former capital of Japan, and is one of the few Japanese cities to be spared Allied bombing during the Second World War. As a result, many of Kyoto’s buildings are older and therefore, gives the city a more historical feel about it compared to other Japanese cities, which were levelled and extensively rebuilt. The historical elements are far from everyone’s mind, as everyone is more inclined to take things easy.

  • In particular, Honoka’s taken a keen interest in having her photo taken with Karen: since the events of Hello! Kiniro Mosaic, Honoka’s developed a crush of sorts on Karen, and towards the end of the season, the two began to spend more time together. This aspect of Kiniro Mosaic was done to show how Karen was slowly beginning to fit in with her classmates: previously, Alice and Karen had known one another since childhood, and as a result, she ended up following Alice to Japan. In time, Karen would slowly come to find her own place in the sun, setting down the groundwork for her own way forward.

  • In Kyoto, Yōko, Aya, Alice, Shinobu and Karen swing by Kiyomiz-dera, a Buddhist temple known for its legendary 13-metre balcony: founded in 778, the structures seen today were constructed in 1663. Legend has it that anyone who survives the drop would have their wishes granted, although for safety reasons, jumping became prohibited in 1872. Today, it’s a popular destination, and the site could be of interest to Aya, as it’s also home to a pair of stones which, if one could walk in a straight line between them blindfolded, their romantic ambitions may come true. However, the sights up here end up being more inspirational to Shinobu, who spontaneously composes a haikyu up here.

  • For Honoka, nerves prevent her from asking Karen openly for a photo, and she ends up spending her wish at a shrine to get said photo with Karen. Karen, on the other hand, has no qualms about such a photo and is quite open to such a request. However, the moment never seems quite right for Honoka, and she even contemplates using a selfie-stick to insert herself into a photo. I’ve not seen selfie-sticks for quite some time now: they were all the rage in the mid 2010s, and while I had been in Taiwan and Hong Kong, one could hardly take a step without spotting a tourists rocking these sticks. The more advanced ones even have a BlueTooth transmitter that allows one to take the photo remotely.

  • En route to their next destination, Shinobu reveals that all of her photos are of Karen and Alice – she feels that their blonde hair makes them particularly standout at Japanese destinations. This comes at the expense of the photos they were supposed to take as a part of their day’s assignment, prompting Yōko and Aya to try and take over as photographers. The last destination of the day is Kinkakuji, and at this point in time, I can say that I’ve seen this iconic landmark with my own eyes. It’d been a grey, rainy sort of day, but even under overcast skies, the Kinkakuji’s distinct gold siding shone with a regal brilliance.

  • In the end, Honoka manages to get her photo at the Kinkakuji, and this leads everyone to want photos with both Alice and Karen. It typifies Kiniro Mosaic‘s ability to find heartwarming resolutions to the problems that characters face, and here, Aya is able to get in on things, as well. For this post, I’ve opted to go with eighty screenshots. The rationale was that Thank You!! has a runtime of 80 minutes, which corresponds to about four episodes’ worth of content. I imagine that at the time of writing, I’ve got what is the internet’s only full discussion of Thank You!!, complete with screenshots.

  • With the second day drawing to a close, Alice, Shinobu, Yōko and Aya retire to their lodgings, where a beautiful dinner has already been prepared for them, allowing for a quieter meal that stands in contrast with the more energetic, communal meal from the previous evening. Alice is impressed with the distinctly Japanese aesthetic of the room and states it stands in stark contrast with Shinobu’s bedroom; the latter is furnished in a Western style and is something I’d be more familiar with. Japanese-style rooms have minimalist design about them that emphasises simplicity, whereas in the West, rooms are designed to be cozy.

  • I imagine that the girls’ accommodations are at a ryokan: these Japanese-style inns are a ways more pricey than conventional hotels, but offer a distinctly Japanese experience. Many ryokan provide intricate kaiseki meals and have their own onsen on-site, which the girls here enjoy after dinner. I admit that my interest in relaxing at a ryokan does stem from seeing their portrayal in anime such as Kiniro Mosaic, and a few summers ago, I ended up picking up a coffee table book showcasing some of Japan’s most famous ryokan, ranging from ultra-modern establishments that blend tradition with cotemporary comforts, to classical establishments that give guests an entire wing of a building to themselves.

  • Whereas Aya had wanted to talk about romance the previous evening, everyone had been exhausted by the day’s events. When presented with a second chance, Aya immediately seizes it: this second night, everyone’s wide awake and is prepared for a pillow fight of epic proportions (in a Ōsama dare da style game). Determine to have her love talk, Aya swiftly steals all of the pillows and pummels her opponents into the ground to win. Although the pillow fight is not shown, the end results bring to mind the likes of what happened after Ip Man fought ten black belts. Aya is typically presented as being physically weak, but when romance is concerned, she acquires supernatural strength that matches the likes of Rize, her counterpart in GochiUsa.

  • While Shinobu’s already dozed off, Aya decides to ask Karen what her story is, and Karen’s reply is that her first love was Alice. As far as relevance towards Kiniro Mosaic‘s themes go, yuri manifests as desire to remain with those one loves. This is the driver behind some of the characters’ actions, spurring everyone to be their best selves, and in the process, creates a large part of the comedy here, as well. Conversely, because the relationships in Kiniro Mosaic are very clear-cut, there are no love tesseracts, and as such, what is colloquially referred to as “shipping wars” is practically nil.

  • As it turns out, when people say they’re doing “analysis” on yuri, they’re largely referring to “shipping wars”, in which they assessing whether or not the characters are a good fit for one another. My own approach towards yuri, then, would be considered sacrilegious: I care very little for these so-called “shipping wars”, since I am of the mind that the author’s intentions, through the characters they pair together, speak volumes about the larger message. Disregarding this and going off on exercises in the hypothetical leaves me no closer to appreciating what a work is about. At Kyoto Tower, Alice wonders if something’s bothering Shinobu: it turns out Shinobu’s a little antsy about missing a travel programme she’s recorded, but beyond this, would be happy to go anywhere in the world, so long as Alice and her friends are with her. It is here that plans for a trip to England are laid down, but before any of these plans can be considered, exams now loom on the horizon.

  • Upon returning home, Isami greets them, only to be disappointed by the lack of souvenirs: it turns out she’d given Shinobu a large list of things to pick up. I’ve always had a fondness for Isami: as it turns out, unlike Shinobu, who’d been head-over-heels with foreign cultures, Isami saw herself as being content to make Shinobu happy. Since then, she’s gone on to pursue post-secondary studies and models on the side. Like Mocha, Isami is portrayed as the reliable older sibling who dotes on her younger sibling, although unlike Mocha, Isami can be a bit blunt about what she wants.

  • Shinobu appears to have crossed a line of sorts after she pulls a stunt similar to Pretty Days, where she brings back “love” as a gift of sorts for Alice and Karen after a cake run: she remarks that this time around, she’s returned an armful of memories to cherish. However, what follows is even more hilarious: Shinobu apparently also captured some sacred air from Kiyomizu-dera in a bag. This moment reminds me of a souvenir one of my relatives had: a bottle with a cork stopped labelled “Fresh Air from Ottawa”. As the story goes, after I began learning how to walk, I somehow found the bottle and uncorked it, resulting in much laughter from said relatives.

  • Moments like these are why I’m so fond of Kiniro Mosaic: in disgust, Isami punches out the bag to show Shinobu her dissatisfaction. With air from any location, I imagine that short of vacuum-sealing something, the molecules will eventually diffuse over time, so even if a container were to remain sealed, it would mix in with local air whether I’d opened the cork or not. Consequently, such souvenirs are usually meant as a joke, and one’s only really paying for the price of the container and any branding it has, rather than for the air itself. Conversely, I do have a few bottles of fresh sand from my Cancún trip for an academic conference some six years earlier.

  • With the Kyoto and Nara trip now over, Shinobu, Alice and Aya return to class. For their third year, Akari’s their homeroom instructor, while Sakura, who’d previously been their homeroom instructor, is now Karen’s homeroom instructor. Thank You!! drops viewers into the middle of their third year, and in adapting content from volumes seven through eleven of the manga, skips over many of the secondary moments (such as another class play, and a Christmas party). In spite of this, Thank You!! fully captures the most emotional of the moments to create a worthy finale to Kiniro Mosaic.

  • After classes end, when the topic of entrance exams and admittance interviews come up, Aya pulls Yōko aside to practise, even though their schools of choice won’t have an interview: Aya is hoping to gauge whether or not Yōko returns her feelings, and although the conversations proceed in typical Kiniro Mosaic fashion, Aya soon finds her answer. Yōko sees Aya as irreplaceable, a comforting constant in her life. It is not lost upon Yōko that Aya’s been putting in additional effort to maintain their friendship, and this is what motivates her to do her best, as well. A look at the calendar finds that Thank You!! premièred in Japanese cinema last year, on August 19. According to the blog archives, I was playing through DOOM Eternal and watching Magia Record‘s second season at this point in time.

  • I’ve long been interested in watching Thank You!! once I found out about the existence of a film – the project was announced back in March 2020, and by January 2021, the theatrical première date was known. However, discussions on the series has been limited every step of the way, and aside from folks excited to see Nao Tōyama back as Karen, there hadn’t been much buzz about Thank You!!. Ordinarily, such films would lead folks to speculate on whether or not the film would adapt manga chapters or feature all-new content, among other topics, but owing to the gaps between releases, I imagine that excitement for Thank You!! was limited to the most die-hard of Kiniro Mosaic fans (which is natural, considering the second season of Kiniro Mosaic finished airing seven years earlier).

  • Shinobu’s room is a very clean space, free of clutter. The only hint of any personalisation from this angle comes from Alice: a glass case containing a pair of Japanese dolls, and a Kakemono can be seen, but beyond this, the room feels more like something out of a realty listing. It’s always interesting to see how anime portray interior spaces; most series have minimalist environments so that focus is kept on the characters, and as such, personal spaces are kept in excellent order. By comparison, Makoto Shinkai and Studio Ghibli fill their spaces with clutter to create a more lived-in environment.

  • While Shinobu’s mother is looking through an old album, Shinobu’s practically beside herself with excitement and is reduced to a squeaky mess; it turns out that Shinobu’s mother had met Alice’s mother back when she’d been studying abroad, but after the former had finished her programme and returned back to Japan, they began drifting apart. Noticing Shinobu’s interest in foreign nations, Shinobu’s mother would later send her overseas after getting in touch with Alice’s mother. This bit of a story shows how some things can seem like they happened by fate, and it adds additional depth to the friendship that Shinobu and Alice share.

  • After Shinobu’s mother shares this bit of history, she and Shinobu head off to pick up some groceries. While Shinobu feels like she’s got a full heart, her mother begins sulking a little and considers skipping dinner for one evening. After the jokes pass, Shinobu finds herself with a newfound determination to see her dream of studying English overseas fulfilled; her mother’s confident that Shinobu can achieve whatever goals she sets her mind to. When Alice witnesses this, she becomes filled with a desire to have a conversation with her mother, too, and thank to the powers of FaceTime, are afforded such a conversation.

  • Back in class, Shinobu notices that Alice seems a little down: and it turns out that Alice has plans to return back home to pursue her post-secondary. However, she’s worried about how Shinobu will take the news, and in attempting to explain her future to Shinobu, Alice ends up reverting back to English. I’ve heard that multi-lingual people tend to revert to their native tongue whenever they’re stressed: Tom Clancy slides in such a detail in the novel Locked On, and I read a paper titled “Why do bilingual code-switch when emotional?” that explains this phenomenon in more detail.

  • It turns out emotional intensity decreases cognitive control and spontaneously causes code-switching. In my case, I tend to think and curse in English, primarily because it’s the language I’m most comfortable with, and because I don’t know any Cantonese expletives. Conversely, when things get exciting, I do occasionally transition into Cantonese. Alice’s voice actress, Manami Tanaka, speaks English in an accented, but perfectly understandable fashion, and I have no trouble understanding what Alice is saying. After hearing this, Shinobu voices her concerns with Aya, Yōko and Karen.

  • Aya immediately jumps to the conclusion that Alice must be lovesick: in Thank You!!, Aya’s fixation on romance becomes increasingly visible. However, far from taking away from her character, this makes her more endearing. Kiniro Mosaic had shown Aya as being studious and perceptive, possessing a serious streak that occasionally gives way to embarrassment whenever Yōko was concerned. By the events of Thank You!!, Aya’s become a little more open and assertive, even if she does still struggle with her feelings from time to time.

  • Worried about Alice, Shinobu decides to hit the library and makes an attempt to look up what Alice has said so she can find a way of reassuring Alice and respond properly. I imagine that despite her weaker command of English, Shinobu would still be able to match enough patterns to get the gist of what’s being said, although a large part of competency in a language is vocabulary. This is something I’ve noticed, even when I watch Cantonese films – I’ve got a solid idea of what’s going on, but I’m missing a few words here and there, and when I get those clarified, my understanding of a given scene improves considerably.

  • While Shinobu attempts to do things the old-fashioned way, appropriate given her aspirations, Aya and Yōko decide to do things in a manner more befitting of Kiniro Mosaic: they imagine that what Alice needs is the reassurance that Shinobu still loves her, and to this end, have kitted Shinobu out with a kimono, as well as a kokuhaku script. Such moments are typical fare for Kiniro Mosaic: the series is driven by the classic manzai routine, in which humour is created between a joker and stooge. Their interactions create misunderstandings that lead to comedy. For the most part, Yōko provides the tsukkomi lines.

  • Excitement leads Aya, Karen and Yōko to watch from the bushes: initially, everything appears to proceed to plan as Shinobu reads from the script. However, the tranquility in the moment soon leads Alice to be more truthful about how she feels, and she’s finally able to voice her concerns to Shinobu. Once the truth is out, Shinobu replies that she’d actually been thinking the same thing: after giving her future some thought, she feels it best to travel and study abroad for her post-secondary. When things start going off-script, Karen, Aya and Yōko break cover.

  • Although Aya and Yōko are relieved that Alice is her usual self again, Karen becomes disheartened; whilst heading home from school, she suddenly disappears. The manga has this happen a few pages later, occurring under a completely different context. Thank You!! manages to weave these moments together seamlessly and create a smooth transition, allowing for the manga’s most poignant moments to come together for the film. Within the manga, things are split up, and this breaks up the flow of things in a different way. Whereas the film places an emphasis on how diverging paths can be difficult to accept when one initially hears about them, the manga utilises the same moments to create gentle humour.

  • The group splits up to search for Karen, who’s hiding in a cardboard box that Alice readily spots. It turns out that Karen’s feeling a little left out after learning of Alice’s plans. The two had been together for as long as Karen can remember, and while ordinarily, Karen would simply have done as Alice has done, she’s now come to greatly treasure her time here in Japan, as well. She’s torn between staying in Japan with her friends, and returning home with Alice. Alice feels as though she’s directly in competition with an entire nation, but once she hears Karen out, she’s able to offer her own suggestions.

  • Alice believes that separation isn’t going to be a problem because they’ll always be together in their hearts, and moreover, the fact is that everyone is closer than they think because of the internet. In this moment, Thank You!! makes clever use of lighting to show how Karen and Alice are feeling. Since Karen is down, she’s shrouded by shadow, whereas Alice is in the light. When Karen is able to see the point Alice is making, the shadows suddenly clear, and Karen’s old spirits return to her. Visual effects in Kiniro Mosaic are nowhere nearly as vivid as those of a Kyoto Animation work, and even GochiUsa is more detailed. However, the subtler use of visual effects here in Kiniro Mosaic are to the series’ advantage, allowing one’s eye to remain on the characters while the background gives a hint of they’re feeling in the moment without overwhelming the viewer.

  • With Karen back to her cheerful self, she announces that she intends to stay in Japan, plans on visiting England as often as she can, and moreover, has been eying the same university that Yōko and Aya had been planning to apply for. Given that Karen’s able to outline her future so clearly, it is likely the case that she’d already given her future some thought, but had simply been doubting whether or not she wanted to follow her heart and stay in Japan, or do as she’d previously done. Thank You!! overcomes this particular barrier in a manner befitting of Kiniro Mosaic: talking it out with people close to oneself.

  • During Hello! Kiniro Mosaic, in response to the antics Alice and her group were engaged in, Akari had remarked that this particular group of students were just like primary school students, and the conversation subsequently went towards how pets show a truer side of one’s personality. Manga Time Kirara series have long placed emphasis on adorable characters that exude the same aura as that of a small animal, creating a sense of catharsis amongst some viewers, including myself. This approach does not work for everyone, and some folks steer clear of Manga Time Kirara series because the characters can come across as unrealistic.

  • In a few heart-to-heart conversations, each of Aya, Alice, Karen, Yōko and Shinobu’s respective futures suddenly take on a newfound clarity. This gives everyone a clear target to focus all of their energies towards: Shinobu is especially motivated, and even Karen is psyched about working towards a future where she can be with everyone. However, Yōko’s long been weaker in her studies, and while she’s determined all the same, she ends up becoming exhausted much more quickly than the others even as they study together.

  • In particular, seeing Shinobu study with such concentration is a sign of the times: Kiniro Mosaic had presented Shinobu as scatter-brained, with an eye for making extremely intricate and well-crafted outfits, and not much of a mind for studying. However, with a promise to Alice to fulfill, Shinobu has all of the motivation she needs to prepare ahead of admissions to a post-secondary in England. Seeing this, Isami recalls how she’d been quite worried about Shinob Hu when the latter decided to do a homestay in England. After Shinobu returned home, Isami was impressed with how she’d always given her passions her all, no matter what they were. To support Shinobu, Isami’s whipped up some homemade fish-and-chips for her with help from their mother to show her support. Fish-and-chips would be a bit heavy to eat at night, but the gesture shows Isami’s kindness all the same.

  • Although Shinobu is surprised, she finds the fish and chips delicious and is thankful Isami is looking out for her. This dish is an iconic English food: originally, fried fish was inspired by immigrants who prepared fish by coating it in flour before frying it in oil. By the mid-1800s, fish and chip shops became widespread in England, and gained widespread popularity because it was an inexpensive by hearty meal the working class loved. I’ve not had fish and chips for some years now, but luckily, a good plate can be had at virtually any pub in the city.

  • The seasons begin passing in the blink of an eye, and soon, the new year is upon everyone. With exams on the horizon, even Akari and Sakura are a little nervous about their charges: for their New Year’s Shrine visit, Sakura and Akari show up to pray for everyone’s successes. Akari is especially stressed and is prepared to offer ten thousand Yen per student in her class. This corresponds to a hundred Canadian dollars per student at the current exchange rates. Of late, high interest rates in American banks has resulted in a weaker Yen, whereas the previous exchange rates had been closer to 120 Yen per Canadian dollar.

  • The weaker Yen makes it especially attractive to pick up merchandise from Japan now, and recently, I placed an order for both Violet Evergarden: The Movie and Hello! Kiniro Mosaic‘s TV animation guidebooks to capitalise on the weaker Yen, as well as to see how shipping works after I’d moved. Both books were sold out and could only be resolved via proxy shipping at CD Japan, but the weaker Yen is softening up the costs (otherwise, I’d be paying about 20 percent more). Back in Thank You!!, after making their offerings, Sakura shares with Akari the trick she used for passing exams: a dance of sorts.

  • While such a dance might seem hokey, there is actually merit in dancing: it increases circulation, and physical activity also generates endorphins, which in turn helps with concentration and focus. Slice-of-life anime often employ unusual behaviours to drive comedy, but some actions do have a scientific basis. However, dancing out in public could seem unusual: Yōko’s siblings, and Kana’s younger sister, immediately spot Akari and Sakura and feel it’s best not to look. They then begin discussing their own new year wishes. Both Kōta and Mitsuki pray for Yōko’s success.

  • Shortly after writing down their wishes (Akari wishes for her students to be constantly smiling, or, as I know it, 笑口常開), Akari and Sakura run into Yōko and Karen having a snowball fight. Here, Shinobu can be seen with an adorable hood with flaps that make her resemble a lop-eared bunny. The dance had been showcased on Kiniro Mosaic‘s official Twitter channel last year, and while this can be counted as a spoiler, it turns out this moment happens mid-movie. One of the biggest challenges associated with watching trailers is that folks who are movie-savvy can inevitably put two and two together from moments in a trailer.

  • I feel that a good trailer, and good promotional materials shouldn’t show content from the final third of a given film. Fearing that Karen could catch a cold, Akari immediately shuts down the snowball fight and gives Karen additional layers when the latter sneezes. It goes without saying that Thank You!! is basically 80 minutes of non-stop warmth, and moment such as these serve to accentuate that no matter what happens in these anime, everything is going to turn out okay.

  • This is why, even when Yōko picks up a fortune marked “terrible”, viewers don’t really need to worry too much about her exam performance: such stories are always written in a way as to ensure a happy outcome for all characters. Some folks contend that this is “predictable”, but I counter that slice-of-life series tend to worry more about the journey than the destination, and as such, “predictable” is an invalid criticism because such anime are, by definition, written around showing how a good outcome is reached. As an aside, drawing misfortune is a common enough joke for New Year’s shrine visits in anime, but as Akari states, fortunes are secondary to one’s own determination and skill.

  • Since Alice and Shinobu are studying abroad, they’re not taking the same exams that Yōko, Aya and Karen are. However, Alice is plenty worried about them and prays that they’ll be successful. The moment brings to mind the feeling my classmates and I had after we’d finished exams: amongst the health science students, we had the post-exam ritual of “press F5 in the student centre every five minutes” as we waited for the results to come out. This speaks to how strong the bonds are amongst this group of friends.

  • To lighten the moment up, Shibobu appears with a video camera belonging to Isami – she’s filming Alice for kicks and had imagined that Alice was trying not to hit the bathroom. For the class trip to Nara and Kyoto, Shinobu had borrowed Isami’s camera, and it suddenly hits me that Isami has a lot of recording devices. This brings back memories of YuruYuri‘s Akane Akaza, whose love for Akari is next-level. While Isami dotes on Shinobu, she’s also a bit strict and will not hesitate to nudge Shinobu back on course, but inwardly, she loves Shinobu very much.

  • The girls’ first exam leaves everyone defeated: the first test is always the toughest, and I recall my first-ever MCAT experience. During mid-June, I had my first-ever simulated full-length exam, a four hour experience that took an entire morning. I scored a 14 on it and, while I was rendered exhausted after the fact, I was immensely grateful that a part of MCAT preparations includes the test itself. Taking simulated exams allowed me to prepare myself mentally for the exam format and structure: as the MCAT preparation course wore on, I took several more simulated exams, scoring 22, 27 and 33 on the subsequent exams.

  • After their first exam, Yōko appears as though her very spirit is being drawn from her, much as how I’d felt after my first full-length practise exam (I would’ve been in the seventh percentile). Karen finds this hilarious, to Yōko’s displeasure: outwardly, Karen seems quite unfazed by the exams. However, on closer inspection, her bun’s on the right side (where it’s normally to her left), and her socks are mismatched. This can actually be seen as the three walk out of the exam venue; for me, one of the joys in watching anime come from catching these small details, which serve to tie different scenes together.

  • To help Karen settle her nerves, Alice lends her a pencil and promises that when it’s time to return said pencil, Karen will have passed already. Karen immediately considers using it as a die of sorts. Yōko gets in on the good luck charms: she’s still got the hairpins Aya had lent her from middle school. When Aya begins feeling a little left out, Shinobu gives her a homemade kokeshi hairpin. Although the hairpin was made in goodwill, Aya gets bad vibes out of it, as though it were a Sith artefact. Kokeshi dolls are given to children as a good luck charm, and in Kiniro Mosaic, Shinobu’s resemblance to a kokeshi doll is mentioned on several occasions. Because they’re iconic, I decided to buy a keychain-sized kokeshi while in Japan five years earlier.

  • After hearing Kana’s been accepted into her school of choice, Sakura is overjoyed. Akari is worried for her students, feeling that some of their aspirations might not have a happy ending. In fact, Akari has been so concerned that she’d forgotten that this is the same day Karen’s set to take her exam, and to take her mind off things, she’s made a bunch of plushies of her students, including Karen, Aya, Yōko and Honoka. While Akari initially appears to be a strict, no-nonsense instructor, it turns out that she is just as caring and considerate as Sakura was, but simply had a tough time showing her students her true self.

  • If memory serves, Akari had actually been Sakura’s junior when they’d been students, and while she had intended to be a proper teacher for her students, Sakura’s example leads Akari to try and strike a balance between strictness and kindness. Out of stress, Akari even begins talking to the Karen doll. In reality, something like this would be indicative that one would need to unwind and decompress. In anime, however, such actions convey an adorable sense of helplessness, akin to watching ducklings attempt to clear a flight of steps.

  • On the morning of their next exam, the tension is palatable in the air: everyone’s done everything they can to achieve their aspirations, and after a group hug, it’s off to the examination centre. Since I’m a Canadian student, I’ve never had to take entrance exams – instead, when secondary school wraps up, my province administers standardised exams for us to take, which impact whether or not we’re admitted into the institute and faculty of our choosing. I’d actually been quite nervous about my English exam: the Faculty of Health Sciences requires a minimum grade of 80 percent to gain admittance, and I was barely holding onto an 80 average in that class.

  • In the end, effort would carry the day, and the next truly terrifying exam I stared down would be the MCAT. This exam was a foe of a proportion I’d not seen previously, and while preparations for said exam would be gruelling, it left me better equipped to deal with all exams in the future. I’ve never had a head for memorisation, so I approached the exam from a first principles standpoint: know enough of the basics to quickly re-derive whatever I needed to solve a problem. Memorisation is not a sign of intelligence, and while I imagine a few classmates from my secondary school’s IB program would disagree, I can say this with authority because nothing I do in my day-to-day involves memorisation.

  • Yōko, Aya, Karen and Honoka thus sit down to take on the exam that determines whether or not their aspirations for the future will be realised. Thank You!! shows glimpses of the exam questions themselves, including geometry, Japanese literature, English and chemistry. The me of twelve years earlier would have been able to trivially solve everything without trouble, although since then, my knowledge has become highly specialised towards software development. Although I retain a fundamental level of knowledge in biology and chemistry, I am no longer able to delve into stoichiometry and predicting organic reactions as I could during the MCAT: it is fair to say that, while I am a moderately competent software developer, I’m no longer smarter than a fifth grader.

  • Upon returning home that evening, Yōko, Karen, Honoka and even Aya look completely defeated; Aya had been looking forwards to post-secondary life with her friends, and she states that if anyone should fail, she’ll fail alongside them so they can be together. This remark is made in jest, but interpreted from a certain point of view, one might see Thank You!! as suggesting friends are more important than one’s future. I’d strongly disagree with this sentiment: to draw a parallel, I’ve known folks who’ve gone to university so they could continue hanging out with their friends, but this four years would not be productive: rather than pursue the education that aligns with their career interests, these individuals were motivated simply by old friendships, and the cost can be high, as one ends up with a skill-set that may not be consistent with their passions.

  • However, I am aware that this is not what Thank You!! is going for, and just because there comes a point where Aya might be considering such a route does not mean Kiniro Mosaic is intending this to be a part of its themes. This is a critical part of being a fair viewer: unfairly dismissing a work because one was jumping to conclusions is to be insincere. Back in Thank You!!, exam results become available: Aya, Yōko and even Karen are anxious about the results. To this end, they’ve brought Alice along as moral support, and Shionbu’s kitted her out with an adorable færie costume.

  • The large crowds mean Alice initially has trouble getting to the board where successful applicants were posted, but she ends up reaching them in the end. Here, she spots Karen’s number and hastens to report back to her friends, who immediately dissolve in tears of joy. However, Alice has only found Karen’s number, and it takes Yōko and Aya some courage to look for themselves. To their immense relief, they’ve also passed, and in her exuberance, Aya decks Yōko.

  • Once the tension gives way to relief, Aya, Karen and Yōko can relax a little, with Karen joking that Aya has staved off being turned to the Dark Side of the Force. More so than passing and getting into the school of their choice, the joy in this moment comes from the fact that, for the next four years, everyone will get to be together with one another. This is quite touching, and a well-deserved outcome for each of Karen, Yōko and Aya. While everyone’s majors are never stated, it is sufficient to go to the same university because in between classes, one can still hang out with their friends during breaks and in various events.

  • Of all the people in my graduating class, I was the only one to have entered the Health Sciences programme: none of my classmates joined me, and I ended up making all-new friends as a result. However, enough of my old friends had also gained admittance to the university, so we always had a chance to hang out during lunch breaks, and on some occasions, we even ended up on the same classes. To Yōko, Aya and Karen’s surprise, Honoka and Kana are also around; Honoka had arrived earlier to check for her number, and she’d made it in, as well.

  • As the moment sinks in, large cherry blossoms suddenly begin flying through the air. This seems fitting for the moment, being a bit of pleasant symbolism to show that something new is beginning, at least until one realises that everyone’s still wearing their winter coats, and that it’s a bit early for hanami: Aya is the first to notice these “blossoms”, and it turns out they’re coming from Alice’s dress. It turns out that, perhaps when Shinobu had been sewing the outfit together, she might’ve not made it up to her usual standards because she’s distracted both by her friends’ successes, and her own studies.

  • However, one other possibility is because Alice had made her way through such a tight crowd, the movements may have loosened the threading. In the ensuing chaos, Aya implores the others to quickly retrieve the bits of Alice’s skirt that’s fallen off. While this is happening, Karen and Honoka are too busy enjoying the moment to help, and the scene switches over to Akari and Sakura, who’ve shown up to see how their students are doing, as well. Both are reduced to tears of happiness at the sight before their eyes.

  • The page quote was chosen because effort is ultimately what underlies everything in Kiniro Mosaic: whether it be Aya and Yōko putting in their best effort for a school play, Karen and Shinobu hitting the books to stay afloat, and Alice learning to express herself more openly, everything that’s happened in Kiniro Mosaic happens because everyone makes the effort to realise their goals. While efforts may sometimes fall short, there is no penalty for trying, and seeing what happens when one applies oneself is always rewarding. As a result, even if one’s best “isn’t good enough”, one at least knows where their limits lie and can look back on things without regret.

  • A few weeks have passed, and spring approaches, bringing with it cherry blossoms, and graduation. On the day of their ceremony, Alice and Shinobu are very nearly late because the latter is having trouble waking up, but with some help from Alice, the pair get out the door just in time. Thank You!! supposes that this is Shinobu being her usual self, but in the manga, everyone had taken a graduation trip over to England to visit Alice’s family and check out London’s sights. Thank You!! skips over this entirely because the film had been focused on Shinobu, Alice, Karen, Aya and Yōko finding their way: going to London, as fun as it would be, wouldn’t directly contribute to this particular story.

  • I would imagine that bringing the graduation trip segment of the manga to life would’ve entailed doing some location scouting to ensure that the animated adaptation of London was true-to-life, and recalling that Thank You!! was produced during the global health crisis, travel might’ve been trickier, hence the decision to keep the story in Japan. There is a sufficient amount of material that could result in another OVA later down the line if Studio Gokumi and AXsiZ do end up picking up Kiniro Mosaic again, but for the present, the girls’ graduation marks the end of the series.

  • En route to their graduation ceremony, Alice, Shinobu, Alice, Karen, Aya and Yōko run into Honoka and Kana: in a bit of a clever callback to the second season, Honoka’s doing her balancing act to relieve her nerves, causing the others to comment that this scene is probably going to be burnt into their minds forever. Curiously enough, I only have the vaguest memories of the days I attended my graduation ceremony, and assuming this to hold true for the characters of Kiniro Mosaic, I imagine that Honoka’s balancing act will not endure.

  • Anime typically present graduation as an emotional event: it marks the end of one era and time spent with people one would’ve become very close with. However, my own experiences with graduation were dramatically different: there were no tears to the best of my recollection, only excitement. Having said this, the portrayal of graduation in anime feels a lot more tearful than their counterparts over here in Canada – classmates appeared more interested in partying it up after the ceremony, and so, there never felt like there was much weight behind walking across the stage and shaking faculty hands.

  • The gap in reactions is symbolic, as Shinobu is quick to point out: those who smile at graduation are happy with the memories they picked up, whereas those who cry enjoyed themselves and wish they could live in the moment for longer. One touch I particularly liked was how Karen hands Aya a full roll of toilet paper, almost as though she’d foreseen that Aya would cry during the principal’s speech. Sure enough, when even a handkerchief fails to cut it, Aya falls back on the toilet paper.

  • For me, graduation never represented the end of something, but rather, a new beginning. Separation from friends never was much of a bother because even during my time as a secondary student, electronic communications like instant messaging had already been quite mature, and social media was slowly taking shape, allowing me to keep in touch with people more readily. Kiniro Mosaic‘s manga began running in 2010, a time when these technologies were present, so I imagine that the reactions harken to a more romantic era when communications were slower.

  • For Alice, her yearning to spend more time with everyone outweighs her desire to push forwards into the future, and when Shinobu replies how she’s smiling for all the good times they had, Alice is torn between smiling and crying at the same time. The last time I saw an anime graduation this emotional was Azumanga Daioh, which saw Chiyo dissolve into tears during the singing of Aogeba Tōtoshi. Conversely, in K-On!, Yui and her friends crossed the stage, all the while worrying about whether or not Sawako would find out about the farewell surprise they had planned for her; it wasn’t until Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi perform for Azusa where the waterworks begin.

  • The sharp-eyed viewer will probably find everyone wearing their uniforms in the default setup to be unusual: two seasons and an OVA, over nine years, has seen to it that viewers have acclimatised to Yōko’s messy style, Karen’s Union Jack coat and Alice’s pink cardigan. For viewers who’d been around when Kiniro Mosaic‘s first season aired, all the way back in 2013, their journey would have been even longer. When an anime runs over such a long period of time, it can feel as though the series has accompanied them through their own experiences, too.

  • For me, the anime that accompanied me through university was Gundam Unicorn: I didn’t come upon Kiniro Mosaic until late 2014, and in retrospect, it would’ve been nice to have watched this series while it had been airing during the summer of 2013. Back then, a historic flood had ravaged my province, and I was left in a depression after my summer plans dissolved. Watching the gentle comedy of Kiniro Mosaic might’ve proven to be the panacea I needed to get back on my feet a little more quickly: I had finished my Health Sciences degree that year and was still deciding on what my own future would be at the time.

  • After the graduation ceremony, the students return to their classroom to receive their diplomas, and Akari is so overcome with emotion that she’s struggling to remain coherent. Karen’s sudden appearance surprises her, and it turns out Karen’s here to receive her diploma from her a second time, feeling it appropriate considering how much she’d been bothersome to Akari. Thank You!! does a wonderful job of showing what it must feel like from the instructor’s perspective, to watch students start in their class and then go through all of the trials and tribulations that lead to graduation.

  • It speaks volumes to how effective Kiniro Mosaic is, that even a full five years after Pretty Days, it feels like only yesterday that I finished writing about Aya and Yōko preparing for their culture festival. Despite a half-decade passing, all of the characters still feel as familiar as they did when I first watched the series, and in a manner of speaking, Akari and Sakura’s tears mirror the viewers’ own feelings at the fact that Kiniro Mosaic has drawn to a close. The manga itself ended back in 2020, and while the title had been given to Yui Hara by an editor, over time, Hara came to try and shape her stories to fit with this title.

  • In the manga’s afterword, Hara hopes that she’s managed to convey what a “Golden Mosaic” is. I would contend the manga and anime have both succeeded in this. The colour gold is associated with prosperity and success, but also could refer to the blonde-haired girls in the story (Alice and Karen). In coming to Japan and brightening up everyone’s lives, Kiniro Mosaic can be seen as a mosaic, or collection, of these moments. As the graduation ceremony rolled, moments from both seasons, and the Pretty Days OVA, are shown, each of them being positively radiant and providing a golden mosaic for viewers.

  • Thank You!! ends with Karen, Aya and Yōko meeting up with Alice and Shinobu in a gentle field somewhere in England. This spot feels like the verdant fields and rolling hills in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Shire, and in this moment, it is clear that even though everyone’s graduated and is pursuing their own futures, they still have the means and opportunity to hang out together again. We’re getting close to the end of this post now, and here, I will note that this is probably the largest post I’ve written this year: at 11151 words, this reflection took over ten hours to write, and once I’m done, I plan on taking a short break before continuing on with regularly scheduled programming come June.

  • Because Thank You!! offers such a satisfying and conclusive ending to Kiniro Mosaic, issuing this series a final grade of A+ (4.0 of 4.0, or 9.5 of 10) was a straightforward decision: this film acts as a final send-off to the series, bringing back everything that originally made Kiniro Mosaic so enjoyable while at the same time, indicating to viewers that everyone’s on a good course for the future. I hope that all fans of Kiniro Mosaic will have a chance to watch this movie when they get the chance: it is the capstone entry in a series that has been around for twelve years, and represents a swan song that brings things to a definitive close.

Overall, Thank You!! acts as the fitting swan-song for Kiniro Mosaic, bringing back all of the things that had made Kiniro Mosaic so enjoyable. While Thank You!! does not up its visuals (background artwork remains simplistic, much as it had in the TV series), where the film excels is the character animation, voice acting and use of inset music to really accentuate the emotional tenour of a given moment. Rather than attempting to go big with its visuals, Thank You!! places its emphasis on the characters, counting on their motions and dialogue to deliver how everyone is feeling as they push towards graduation. From stress and joy, to sorrow and defeat, every aspect of Thank You!! goes towards showing viewers how the characters are feeling, to the extent that by the time Shinobu and her friends pick up their diplomas, viewers are likely to be crying alongside Alice, Aya and Akari. The use of inset music to serves to further augment the emotional punch of these moments; the songs’ lyrics speak This particular aspect has always been a strength in Kiniro Mosaic: in the TV series, the hilarious moments everyone shares together, and Shinobu’s often non-sequitur train of thought, all come together to create humour and punctuate quieter scenes with laughter, bringing Shinobu and Alice’s world to life. In bringing these aspects into Thank You!!, the film becomes a love letter to fans of the series – it is aptly named, thanking viewers for having accompanied them after all this time and giving them one final set of memories to smile about before Kiniro Mosaic concludes. For folks who’ve not seen Kiniro Mosaic, on the other hand, Thank You!! would become a little more difficult to follow, and its emotional payout is diminished: Thank You!! is dependent on a priori knowledge of the series and its nuances, being meant for existing viewers who’ve been following Kiniro Mosaic since its initial airing nearly nine years earlier. With Thank You!! in the books, Kiniro Mosaic reaches its ending, wrapping a heart-warming and emotional journey up in a conclusive manner, leaving no doubt in the viewers’ minds that Shinobu, Alice, Aya, Yōko and Karen are ready to embrace what lies ahead in their respective futures.