The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Tag Archives: Manga Time Kirara adaptation

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.

RPG Real Estate: Review and Reflection After Three

“A realtor is not a salesperson; they’re a matchmaker. They introduce people to homes, until they fall in love with one. Then, they’re a wedding planner.” –Lydia

After completing her studies and becoming a mage, Kotone Kazairo travels to the capital city of Dali to meet her employers. On her first day in town, she chances upon a realty company, RPG Real Estate, and unaware that this is the company she’s to work for, she asks them for assistance in finding a suitable place to rent out while she’s in Dali. Here, she meets Fa, Rufuria and Rakira, RPG Real Estate’s three staff. They attempt to find a suitable home for her but come up short, until Fa suggests that Kotone lodges with her. Although Fa’s place of residence is intended for non-humans, Fa is especially skilled in communicating with other species, and realising this, Kotone agrees to live here. When a well-known sage, Luna Didrane, calls to make an inquiry, Rufuria is overjoyed, hoping that taking on a larger client will help her to move up in the ranks. Although Rufuria struggles with selling Luna on a property, after spotting Luna’s interest in a flower, Kotone suggests a quite rural property surrounded by flower fields. Luna is overjoyed and explains she’d been looking for a quiet place to settle down after a lifetime of adventure, and luxurious accommodations felt a bit much. As Kotone settles into her work, RPG Real Estate receives several listings that look difficult to sell, including a large cave near the former Dark Lord’s lair and a mansion belonging to an elderly lady who feels lonely but doesn’t otherwise wish to part ways with her home yet. While thinking about what a suitable course of action is, Kotone overhears Fa speaking with a family of mouse-like beings and immediately feels that they might be able to move to the cave. Kotone is subsequently able to find new residents for the remaining caves, all of whom are immensely satisfied with their new homes. To celebrate Kotone’s joining RPG Real Estate, Rufuria, Rakira and Fa put on a party for her. While recalling a conversation between Rufuria and Rakira, Kotone has a stroke of inspiration, and she suggests to the elderly lady that her mansion can be turned into a rental complex, which turns out to be successful. While news of a rampaging dragon reaches the capital city, Kotone struggles with a client who’s been finding a large number of properties unsuitable, and focuses on RPG Real Estate’s next assignment: a haunted house. Despite being frightened out of their wits, it turns out that a particularly challenging client has taken a keen interest in the site: she’s a necromancer and finds the haunted house’s resident spirits to be quite friendly. When Dali begins to construct a warp gate, the citizens are asked provide taxes to support its construction. The government apparently miscalculates the number of people needed by two orders of magnitude, but Fa is able to single-handedly make up for the shortfall. The staff overseeing the project are grateful and gift to Fa some sweets in return. Besides Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme, viewers this season are fortunate to have not one, but two wonderful series from Manga Time Kirara.

RPG Real Estate (RPG Fudōsan) marks the first time I’ve watched a moé series dealing with realty, and while it is early in the season, each of the episodes have placed an emphasis on a recurring theme: every time RPG Real Estate is presented with a property that seems undesirable, one that prima facie appears difficult to rent out or sell, Kotone manages to come up with a solution based on what she sees in her everyday life. Kotone is remarkably astute in this regard. She’s the first to notice that Luna has a love of flowers and wonders if a country cottage surrounded by flowers might be to her liking, recalls that rodents might be at home in a large cave and feels that a fire spirit would enjoy a reasonably fire-proof stone room. On all counts, Kotone is able to help RPG Real Estate match clients to a suitable property, and the reason why she is successful is because she listens. Being a good listener, being attuned to a customer’s needs and objectives, and empathising with a customer is an essential skill in almost all occupations: in this regard, being a successful software developer is not too dissimilar from being a realtor in that in both cases, one must listen to a client’s requirements and then deliver something up to expectations. A good realtor must therefore be able to determine the sort of individual a client is and suggest properties that a client is happy purchasing. This brings to mind my own home-purchasing experience. When my house-hunt had begun, I was looking on a casual basis, and I had booked an appointment for a property that appeared interesting. As fate would have it, the realtor who took on my inquiry happened to be the same one who had sold my parents their downsized home. We walked through the property, which had been on the market for almost a full year, and had sustained water damage. I wasn’t terribly sold on this listing; there hadn’t been much space for a home office (one of my requirements), and the fact that a leak from upstairs dealt the water damage had dampened my interest. Far from being discouraged, the realtor had asked us to be patient, and he’d been working on a new listing that would likely perk my interest. Three weeks later, I received an invitation to tour this property, and was immediately impressed. In my mind’s eye, I immediately had an inkling of where I’d stick the dining table, couches, television and home office. After careful consideration, it was determined this was the place to buy, and the process really began. RPG Real Estate abstracts out things like the property inspection, finding a broker to handle the mortgage application process and securing a lawyer to handle the transactions, but it does deal with that critical first step of matching clients up with a property that suits their requirements. Three episodes in, it is clear to viewers that with Kotone on board, RPG Real Estate will experience many adventures as Kotone contributes to helping the company out, and their successes may even help Rufuria to become one step closer to her own dreams.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Out of the gates, RPG Real Estate evokes memories of when I’d started GochiUsa: Dali might be the capital of a nation in a fantasy world, but from an architectural perspective, resembles the half-framed timber town Cocoa moves to at GochiUsa‘s beginning. Kotone fulfil’s Cocoa’s role. While looks more like a cross between New Game!‘s Aoba Suzukaze and Chiya Ujimatsu, in terms of personality, Kotone is friendly and easy-going, but also somewhat sensitive and prone to tears. She’s a good singer, as well. Unlike Cocoa, she isn’t prone to getting lost.

  • Upon arriving at RPG Real Estate (Rent, Plan, Guide Real Estate; in my discussions, I’ll italicise the text when referring to the series, and leave the company name un-italicised), Kotone finds a lively scene unfolding in front of her: it turns out that Fa, a half-human, is not fond of clothing since they catch her tail, and Rufuria is trying to get her dressed for the day’s work. The scuffle creates a sufficiently loud commotion such that Kotone initially wonders if RPG Real Estate is even a viable business, if that’s the sort of negotiations they must have with their customers, but fortunately, no such thing is occurring. When Kotone arrives in Dali, her first thought is to try and find accommodations: unlike Cocoa, whose lodgings at Rabbit House were already arranged, Kotone’s moving to Dali full time so she can begin her career.

  • Rufuria immediately sets about trying to find something fitting Kotone’s requirements, and with Fa, they tour a few candidate properties. Kotone’s ideal property is located somewhere close to the heart of town, but with a quieter ambience, and above all, has a rent not exceeding three hundred gold. For the viewer’s benefit, RPG Real Estate indicates that one gold is 120 Yen, so Kotone is looking for a place with a maximum rent of 36000 Yen (about 356 CAD) per month. This is, strictly speaking, unrealistic: rent usually starts at 800 CAD in my neck of the woods, so these parameters already give Rufuria a tougher time.

  • Although nothing seems like it’d be suitable for Kotone, in the end, after visiting the apartment that Fa lives at, and in the knowledge that Fa is able to communicate with the other residents, Kotone decides that she’s found her home. With this sorted out, Kotone surprises the others by explaining she was the new member of their staff. It is typical that anime employ this as a comedic device; when Kotone first shows up, Rufuria and Fa are engaged in a tussle of sorts, leading them to forget that RPG Real Estate was to be picking up a new team member.

  • As it turns out, Rakira is a fantastic cook, and one of the changes she’s made to RPG Real Estate was the addition of a brick oven right by the front desk. The result of this is that Kotone, Fa and Rufuria get to enjoy things like freshly-baked apple pie to start their day off. Rakira resembles GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza in manner and appearance; she’s a warrior and, befitting of her class, possesses above average strength along with a love of weaponry. On top of this, Rakira also wishes to be seen as being more feminine and has a penchant for adorable things, much as Rize does.

  • The dynamic between Rufuria and Rakira is similar to New Game!‘s Kō Yagami and Rin Tōyama, two senior staff on Eagle Jump. Here, Kō is the more easygoing of the two, while Rin is more organised and focused, but occasionally prone to her own flights of fancy. Like Rin, Rufuria has the appearance of someone well-put-together; she’s the de facto leader at RPG Real Estate and leads sales, as well as walkthroughs. However, her original wish had been to become an advisor with the king, and sees her work as a stepping stone for more ambitious goals.

  • After Kotone receives a phone call from a well-known sage, Luna, Rufuria is all smiles and believes that, if she can succeed here, word will get out and potentially accelerate her career. As such, when she meets Luna in person, Rufuria does her utmost to sell the most impressive-looking properties possible. At this point in time, discussions surrounding RPG Real Estate are limited, being constrained to simple reactions in response to what’s happening in the show. A quick gander at the conversation at AnimeSuki finds that most community members are focused on individual moments: the closest it got was one individual has compared the housing market of RPG Real Estate to Final Fantasy‘s in-game economy. Having said this, the Final Fantasy economy doesn’t even come close to reality, so I don’t count it as being a suitable analog (it’s the equivalent of saying one plays ice hockey when their experience is purely limited to NHL 2007).

  • That conversations have not ventured towards discussing personal experiences with realtors and house-hunting speaks volumes about those who spend an inordinate amount of time on forums or social media. For me, when an anime deals with a topic people have personal experience with, it drives all sorts of anecdotes and creates conversation where one has the chance to compare an experience with how an anime had portrayed it. In my case, I can recount how my realtor ended up having a much easier time of selling me on my current place of residence compared to what Rufuria is going through. I’d actually been familiar with the building the first unit was in, and while it was mostly up to specifications, the main challenge was that there was very little space for a proper home office setup.

  • On the second property, it did feel as though all of the stars had lined up: the place was spacious and exceedingly well-lit (to the point where I actually don’t need to turn any lights on during the day), and having now moved in, there’s still enough space left over for me to play with my Oculus Quest. The decision to purchase was made within twenty minutes of conversation, speaking to how quickly one’s mind can be made up after seeing the right place. When Kotone notices that Luna’s particularly keen on a flower she’d put in a vase, she goes on a limb and wonders if one of their listings might fit the bill.

  • It turns out that this tranquil cottage, set in a field of flowers, is precisely what Luna was looking for. This is Kotone’s first win with RPG Real Estate, and with this, the series found itself on a strong footing. While realty seems far removed from my usual scope of interests, my recent experiences meant that I was curious to check out this series and see how it portrayed that first step towards buying a house. The lack of stories out there suggests to me that RPG Real Estate is not a series viewers can easily relate to. Indeed, I’ve heard from readers that at Tango-Victor-Tango, well-known names have decried the series for being unremarkable: claims abound about how the character designs are “unlikeable”, the series is “painfully generic” and that the world-building is “underbaked”, ad nauseum.

  • Whereas most people would be content to quietly stop watching RPG Real Estate and move onto other works, such an adverse reaction is indicative of the fact that the topic matter of home ownership can be a sensitive one for the folks at Tango-Victor-Tango. Granted, the housing market out there is presently unfavourable: incomes haven’t kept up with increases in housing prices in the past decade, making it difficult to get one’s foot in the door (in Canada, it takes an 14 years to save enough for a 20 percent down payment). Housing and real estate are not topics to be discussed lightly, and articles out there about dropping the daily Starbucks or avocado toast are unlikely to be helpful because the process varies person to person. Having said this, one isn’t likely to become any closer to home ownership if they’ve spent their past decade on Tango-Victor-Tango’s forums, acting as though being critical about every slice-of-life anime is a skill, and announcing the shows they’re dropping with pride, either. It is clear that a subset of Tango-Victor-Tango’s forum members are those who’ve plainly have not seen the world beyond the walls of their basements.

  • It is unfair to dismiss an anime on flimsy grounds: a couple of short sentences devoid of explanation should not be treated as being authoritative. I would ask these individuals how precisely are the character designs unlikeable, and what makes RPG Real Estate “generic”, when in reality, other anime have not yet explored the implications of running a realty in a fantasy world. RPG Real Estate has shown the occupation as being a colourful one, a chance to meet people and gain a glimpse of what housing in fantasy worlds are like. This is hardly generic, and in fact, RPG Real Estate is stepping into a realm few series have explored. If anything, the world-building here is more than adequate, and problems unique to a fantasy universe are presented alongside more conventional issues (such has handling dissatisfied clients), which leaves Rakira exhausted despite her efforts.

  • As it is, I am finding RPG Real Estate to be an anime that portrays the ins and outs of realty, albeit in a very simplified and gentle manner, and as such, whenever things look tricky, a solution arises from Kotone’s creative thinking. When a family of rodent-like people speak to Fa, Kotone puts two and two together: two of the children are reprimanded for digging, and Kotone recalls that they’d just looked over a property that would allow for the children to be themselves. These rodent-like people were absolutely adorable, and in a manner reminiscent to The Hunt for Red OctoberRPG Real Estate seamlessly translates their language into Japanese for the viewer’s benefit.

  • In this way, Kotone is able to also sort out several rooms that didn’t initially appear to be likely to draw any interest. A semi-aquatic individaul loves the well in one of the rooms, and a spirit of fire relishes a space where they can flame out without worrying about burning down the surroundings. RPG Real Estate shows that the key to doing a good job is to listen and be open-minded, a recurring theme in Manga Time Kirara series. While these elements may prima facie appear to be common knowledge, it is actually surprising as to how often people forget to take a step back and listen.

  • This appears to be Rufuria’s problem: although she’s running a large part of the show at RPG Real Estate, she tends to pick properties for clients based on her impressions of what they’d like. This stands in contrast with Kotone, who has a knack for picking up subtle cues from clients and doing things accordingly. Given that RPG Real Estate is a Manga Time Kirara series, it is likely that Kotone’s presence at this realty will help Rufuria to improve, and perhaps leave the latter one step closer to the posting of her choice. For now, Rufuria must contend with Fa’s antics, and while Fa can be a bit of a loose cannon at times, it appears that Fa’s nice enough: here, an elderly lady stops by with a posting and enjoys Fa’s company.

  • With work having picked up, Rufuria, Fa and Rakira have forgotten to formally welcome Kotone to RPG Real Estate. They decide to host a small dinner party at Rufuria and Rakira’s place: it’s a small, but cozy and well-appointed space. Ever since I’ve moved, I’ve begun to appreciate good use of spaces. This is why I’ve never been a fan of the so-called otaku room, with their shelves upon shelves of manga, games and anime merchandise. Excessive clutter makes a space hard to live in, and can turn even the chicest of digs into an overwhelming assault on the senses.

  • While Fa is resistant to clothing in general, Kotone does appear to be able to persuade her where Rufuria fails. By this point in time in RPG Real Estate, it is clear that the similarities to GochiUsa are superficial. For one, the premise differs dramatically, and the voice actresses are completely different. Honoka Inoue voices Kotone, and I know Inoue as Slow Loop‘s Aiko Ninomiya. Hina Kino plays Fa, and while she’s had central roles in a few series, they’re not series I’ve seen. Rufuria is voiced by Natsumi Kawaida, whom I know best as Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Natsumi Hodaka, and finally, Manaka Iwami is Rakira. Iwami has previously voiced Maquia of Maquia, New Game!‘s Hotaru Hoshikawa, Ryōko Mochizuki of Rifle is Beautiful and Magia Record‘s very own Ui Tamaki.

  • Prior to the party, Rufuria invites Kotone to change into something more suited for the party, which gives her some trouble. The fact that Kotone’s got a large bust has been the topic of no small discussion: in Manga Time Kirara works, lead characters usually have a more modest figure, and people are wondering if this is going to negatively impact RPG Real Estate. While perhaps used for some familiar jokes here, Manga Time Kirara series have never crossed the line previously. GochiUsa, surprisingly, had done this in its first season during a pair of pool episodes, but as the series wore on, such elements disappeared in favour of more meaningful, heartfelt moments.

  • As the evening wears on, everyone enjoys Rakira’s wonderful cooking. I’ve always been fond of the portrayal of meals and mealtimes in anime; food is lovingly rendered, and even mundane moments can be transformed through food. While there’s a certain joy about enjoying home cooking, I’ve found that the occasional treat doesn’t hurt, either: because I’d had a bit of a busier day yesterday, I went out to pick up a simple lunch: chicken tenders and potato wedges. It suddenly hits me that I’ve not had potato wedges in years, and in fact, the last time I picked up a ready-to-eat meal from the local supermarket, I was actually back in secondary school.

  • In the RPG Real Estate universe, it appears that the age of majority is sixteen, allowing Kotone to participate in some alcohol along with Rufuria and Rakira. Although Rufuria gets smashed, Rakira is a little more resilient to alcohol and ends up feigning drunkenness in an attempt to be cute. RPG Real Estate reiterates that Rufuria and Rakira are close. From a narrative standpoint, this simply means the pair can support one another and do their best to help their juniors out. I’ve long felt that people tend overread these sorts of things; while it is appropriate to look at yuri more closely in series where this is a part of the theme (e.g. in Wataten!), such discussions also have a tendency to devolve into what are colloquially referred to as “shipping wars”, which are counterproductive.

  • After Kotone’s welcoming party ends, and Fa suggests that it might be nice of all of them could share a space, Kotone realises that the elderly lady might be able to convert her mansion into a shared home. By renting out rooms to tenants, she’d be able to make the place livelier without having to move away from a home that she’s clearly grown attached to. Being set in a fantasy setting, RPG Real Estate has an edge when it comes to solving problems; in many ways, it appears to be an idealised portrayal of the realty industry as a whole. There are doubtlessly laws and regulations even in Dali, but because those aren’t explictly defined, it gives the writers flexibility to tell their stories without being limited by real-world constraints.

  • A future where Kotone, Fa, Rakira and Rufuria would be able to share a home together seems to be quite far off, but with Kotone settling into her position, this leaves RPG Real Estate to really begin exploring the world. So far, Dali is shown to be a town resembling Colmar, France, with a central difference being that there’s no Rabbit House, Fleur Lapin or Ama Usa An around. A few locations around town have already been shown, and because housing is a necessity, one can imagine that throughout the course of this series, more places will be shown as Kotone and the others bring their clients to properties of interest.

  • Fantasy anime (and isekai series) usually are set during a great war of sorts: the protagonists are usually cast into the hero’s position and must overcome a dark lord of sorts, and the threat of both warfare and subjugation means there’s no shortage of adventure. RPG Real Estate differentiates itself from others within this genre by having Kotone come of age in a world where peace has already been reached. This alone makes RPG Real Estate unique in that it’s the first time slice-of-life aspects are combined into fantasy, showing a side of the genre that is otherwise overlooked. Here, Kotone walks RPG Real Estate’s latest client through some properties. This client is a necromancer who finds conventional properties to be missing something, so Kotone agrees to keep working on something for her.

  • Elsewhere, a landlord is having trouble moving his very haunted mansion. Haunted houses have long been a challenge for realtors, and different cultures handle things differently. Here in Canada, realtors have no obligation to disclose whether or not a property is stigmatised (e.g. if a death or murder happened there), although a seller may choose to include this information if they wish. By comparison, in Hong Kong, if anything particularly negative happened in a property, listings are legally required to make this clear. This has created a curious phenomenon where some properties can go for up to a third less than similar units. Although pragmatic individuals not impacted by flights of fancy may jump at these deals, folk beliefs remain strong in Hong Kong, and such units can remain on the market for long periods as a result.

  • After being scared off by the ghosts, upon learning that the client they’ve got is a necromancer, RPG Real Estate bring her in to check the haunted mansion out, and within seconds, she finds it perfect. There’s a steady population of spirits here that she can use to channel her experiments, and the spirits themselves seem to get along with her fine: they go from being a nuisance to being a benevolent and comforting presence. This sort of thing is par the course for Manga Time Kirara series, and I hold that what is shown in most Manga Time Kirara series is a very optimistic and warm way of looking at the world.

  • This sort of optimism is precisely why I’m a fan of Manga Time Kirara series: reality is a place littered with failure and disappointment, and I’ve long found that having anime that is suited for unwinding to helps me to regroup, allowing me to approach the problems I face with a fresh set of eyes and newfound determination. When I was a second-year university student, I had been on the verge of failing out of the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, and it was my happenstance coming upon K-On! that saw me gain that second wind, enough to stay in satisfactory standing (because I’d been in an Honours programme, I needed to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.3 to stay in good standing).

  • Since then, easygoing series have been my go-to anime of choice, and similarly, I’m fond of writing about such series here with the goal of sharing what about these seemingly unremarkable and mundane stories can tell viewers. Although I am aware this may not be a fair assumption, I have noticed that the folks who dislike slice-of-life series generally are not the most pleasant people to converse with. It is above my pay grade to speculate on why this is the case, but my experiences have found that those who are more open-mined about slice-of-life series tend to be more polite and respectful in discussions.

  • With the latest of their listings sold to a happy necromancer, Kotone and the others prepare to pay a magical power tax to help with a city project to build a warp gate of sorts. Two of the government officials discuss a gaffe that’s occurred: the number of people required to provide enough magic was miscalculated, and the “two digits” error equates to being off by two orders of magnitude. One of the officials panic, fearing it’s her head on the line, and the other tries to assuage her fears. Missing something by two entire orders of magnitude (a 100x difference) is nontrivial, and typically, errors of this sort are easily caught before they make it to production, so one wonders what kinds of processes exist (or don’t exist) here in RPG Real Estate.

  • When Kotone and company head off to drop off their magic, Rakira ends up registering zero, while Fa is able to single-handedly make up for the deficiet and somehow has magic left to spare. This moment may seem trivial, but it does hint at her origins; together with mention that the dragons might be returning, it is reasonable to conjecture that Fa might have a bit of dragon in her. Time will tell whether or not this holds true, and in the meantime, I will note that the return of dragons might signify the end of a peaceful era; in The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo mentions that dragons have not been spotted in the Shire for over a millennia, and dragons were more common in the First and Second age.

  • As such, RPG Real Estate leaves open the possibility that the peace might not last. Whether or not this is the case, however, doesn’t seem to be too large of a concern; if their world stays tranquil, then Kotone and the others can simply continue matching clients with properties. If war breaks out, Kotone and her friends may be pressed into service, but bring their unique skills to help others both on and off the battlefield. Despite the opening sequence suggesting otherwise, the latter is actually quite unlikely, since Manga Time Kirara series are characterised by their cheerful and adorable aesthetic. Consequently, expectations are that this series stays light and fluffy; I’m quite curious to see how this one turns out. It’s a wonderful complement to Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme and showcases a side of isekai-style anime that are typically unexplored.

Speaking to the sheer variety of topics anime can cover, I’d never expected to be watching an anime that deals with realty, much less in a fantasy world. However, shows like RPG Real Estate demonstrate how almost any topic can be covered in an amusing and enjoyable way. I’m certain that realtors would look at RPG Real Estate and indicate that the anime is merely a simplification of the process, much as how I found the software development workflow in New Game! to be a very stripped out representation of what actually happens. For one, there’s no peer review or QA: in reality, Tsubame’s changes wouldn’t have even made it onto the development branch, much less be put on the branch to production. However, as a work of fiction, RPG Real Estate has proven successful so far: this is an anime meant to highlight how a successful realtor must, among other things, be creative, use lateral thinking and make an honest effort to understand their client’s needs. Doing so in a real-world setting could become unimaginably dull, so applying things to a fantasy world also provides the author with a space where different aspects of the career can be explored without the constraints of reality, as well as the creative freedom to accentuate specific messages that would otherwise be tricky to convey in the real world. Altogether, it does appear that Kotone is settling into her work with RPG Real Estate, and while her days will be filled with matching clients with properties, it is plain that the fantasy world also provides a considerable opportunity for exploration. Traditionally, fantasy setting such as these are set during the course of a great war, with the protagonist being a hero destined to strike down a dark lord of sorts. However, since RPG Real Estate is set a decade and a half after the war ends, in a peaceful era, this series is therefore able to depict how life in such worlds might work, compare and contrast fantasy worlds to our own, and potentially, even show how during times of peace, unexpected events may nonetheless occur and propel ordinary folks into having extraordinary experiences.

Harukana Receive Manga: Endgame Considerations and Whole-Series Reflection After Volumes Nine and Ten

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” –Douglas Adams

Following their victory at the Okinawan championships, Haruka and Kanata prepare for the Valkyrie Cup, a national-level competition. Akari is surprised to run into another beach volleyball player who’s searching for a partner, and it turns out that this particular volleyball player is none other than Natsuki Fukami, a skilled player whose older sister, Mika, is writing a piece on Okinawan players to keep an eye on in the upcoming tournament. As it turns out, Mika is also a coach for the pro leagues, and she’s interested in bringing both Haruka and Kanata on board. While the pair mull over their decision, Akari also receives invitations to visit a new cafe in the area. To decide who gets to go, Haruka, Kanata, Emily and Claire compete with both their exam scores and then wager on the outcome of the summer beach volleyball tournament. To help Haruka and Kanata grow, Emily suggests that they switch up partners so they’re aware of how capable one another is. In the end, the results are inconclusive, and Akari ends up receiving enough invitations so everyone can visit. Meanwhile, Ayasa reminisces on how she met Narumi, and of the promise they’d made to one another. When the Valkyrie Cup begins in Ehime prefecture, Kanata and Haruka face off against several tough opponents, all of whom have their own reasons for participating. In gruelling matches, the pair manage to earn their victories and end up reaching the finals, where they square off against defending champions Narumi and Ayasa. During this match, Haruka and Kanata initially hold their own, but a change in Ayasa and Narumi’s style throws Haruka off. Having read her opponents to gain a sense of how they play, Haruka is shocked that this pair seems unreadable. Although they lose the first set, Kanata reassures Haruka to trust her own judgement, and the pair are able to tie the series. In the end, Ayasa and Narumi win their third consecutive title. Narumi later speaks to Kanata: although Kanata might’ve lost the finals, Narumi is relieved that she was able to find her way again. Because she and Ayasa are set to fly back soon, Narumi and Ayasa decide to play another match with Haruka and Kanata.

With Harukana Receive‘s manga fully completed, Kanata’s journey finally draws to a close: although she and Haruka are unable to defeat Ayasa and Narumi in the finals to claim the Valkyrie Cup, the journey the pair take to reach this point is ultimately what gives Kanata strength to stand of her own accord. Here in Harukana Receive, the journey is plainly more important than the destination, and while Kanata and Haruka still have a ways to go before they’re able to win, their learnings over the course of a year prove instrumental in helping Kanata rediscover her own love for beach volleyball. Throughout the manga’s second half, this is a topic that is returned to time and time again, and while the volleyball remains at the forefront of events, underlying Haruka and Kanata’s desire to win, both for themselves and those around them is a desire for Kanata to rise above the emotional barriers holding her back. In playing with different partners, Kanata learns that Haruka, although still a novice, is a competent player in her own right. Haruka similarly begins to have more faith in her own abilities and makes an honest effort to lean less on Kanata’s judgement calls, in time, coming to learn how to read other players and help devise a means of overcoming them. While Ayasa and Narumi are still out of reach, the sheer progress that Haruka and Kanata make in such a short time impresses even Ayasa. As such, losing in the finals to Ayasa and Narumi isn’t as large of a blow as it would otherwise be: the fact that Haruka and Kanata could trade with the defending champions shows Narumi and Ayasa that there isn’t anything to worry about anymore. Kanata has overcome the loss of her mother, and in accepting Haruka as a partner, she’s been able to find her own way forward again. This in turn gives both Narumi and Kanata the strength they need to finally speak with one another, face-to-face. In their conversation, there is gratitude and relief, reflection and apology. In this way, while Haruka and Kanata do not win or fulfil their promise to take home the title, they have exceeded expectations in being able to perform so well together, and so, readers are left with confidence that, now that all of the past dæmons are addressed, both Kanata and Haruka are ready to take on whatever the future throws at them together.

Additional Remarks

  • This is my first-ever shot at a manga discussion, and it becomes clear that there’s a reason why I typically don’t write about manga: I normally prefer to have screenshots so I can give context to the things I discuss. It’s a little trickier to take photographs from the manga I’ve bought, and the results leave much to be desired, so I wasn’t able to include screenshots for this. With this being said, I do believe that Harukana Receive ends in such a way as to be worthy of a full-scale post. A quick look around finds that there’s zero discussion on what happens from volume six onwards. The anime concluded with volume five, so it’s fair to say that this is probably the only place where one can read about what happens after the anime finished: I hope that this post, while not in my usual format, helps to answer the question, “how does Harukana Receive end?”

  • Ever since watching Harukana Receive back in the summer of 2018, I found myself impressed with the series: I’m no beach volleyball player, but the anime had brought the sport to life in a way that was accessible, while wrapping a story of self-discovery and sportsmanship around it. After the anime ended, I learnt that the series had still been ongoing, and therefore became curious to check the manga out to see where Kanata and Haruka’s promise ended up. The end result was a fulfilling one: I’d gotten to the point where I was rooting for the pair in each match, and while I’d long known that Ayasa and Narumi represent the best of the best, I’d always hoped that grit and spirit would allow Haruka and Kanata the win.

  • However, even though Haruka and Kanata do not take the Valkyrie Cup, the amount of progress they’ve made in a year is impressive, enough to turn Ayasa’s head and even catch the attention of a former professional player turned coach. Harukana Receive‘s second half places a great deal of emphasis on the characters and provides hitherto unseen insight into how Narumi ended up so close to Ayasa. The focus on back stories meant that readers would become equally acquainted with the other characters’ experiences, in turn giving their raisons d’être more weight. This means that every match is an uphill battle, making them considerably more exciting. The advantage that the anime naturally has over the manga, then, is that it is able to convey the flow of each match better: the manga does an excellent job of showing the energy behind every play, but nothing is comparable to animating each scene and bringing it to life.

  • Although Akari had sat out competitions in the anime, Harukana Receive‘s manga has her training alongside Haruka, Kanata, Claire and Emily to the point where she ends up partnering up with someone and beginning her own journey towards playing beach volleyball. Along the way, new characters are introduced, and specifics behind Kanata’s mother are also shown. Further to this, Haruka’s mother also visits her in Okinawa, consenting to allow Haruka to choose her own future. While Harukana Receive has sports as its premise, the series is not a conventional sports story in that victory is secondary to personal growth. Themes of partners being like lovers are even more prominent in the second half, although I contend that it’s not a direct endorsement of romance. Instead, the idea here is that falling in love is broad enough of a metaphor to describe many situations in life, with partners in beach volleyball being one of them.

  • Having now finished the manga in full, questions inevitably turn towards whether or not a continuation is likely to occur. Considering that it’s been a shade under four years since Harukana Receive got an anime adaptation, I would suppose that anime-only viewers will not be seeing this series wrap up. Although an excellent all-around series, sales for Harukana Receive weren’t likely strong enough to warrant a second season to wrap things up. In spite of this, I found the journey to be well-written enough so that it deserved to be followed right through until the end: each volume costs 17 CAD, and I’ve been collecting Harukana Receive since the manga became available at my local bookstores in June 2019. Three years and 170 CAD later, I’ve got all ten volumes in my personal library, and with it, the complete experience. I don’t normally collect manga, so any series that I purchase to completion should speak volumes to how much I enjoyed it.

The ending to Harukana Receive is one that some number of the community would consider “realistic”: back when Girls und Panzer was airing, it was noted that the series would fail to deliver on its messages if Miho were allowed to win. However, what these individuals miss is that Girls und Panzer was about how Miho’s conviction in supporting those around her was enough to rally teammates to overcome all odds. By comparison, Harukana Receive‘s central focus in the manga’s second half lies with both Kanata striving to meet Narumi in a match to assague the latter’s worries for her, and Haruka learning to stand of her own accord as a beach volleyball player. The outcome of the finals, then, was never as important as what Haruka and Kanata learn as they train for the tournament and square off against players whose desire to win was no less than their own. All the while, Haruka and Kanata also learn that they have the opportunity to keep playing as a pair in the future; in order to make the most of such a future, Kanata and Haruka must first excise whatever dæmons that remain in their lives. Because this was the foe to overcome, the nationals suddenly become secondary, and Harukana Receive is therefore able to take a more “realistic” route. Had the manga been purely about a sports series, then it would have taken a more conventional route and have the pair win to show how finding the right team is essential towards achieving one’s goals. Because the themes in Harukana Receive are about how finding the right person can help one to accept their past and seize the future, victory was never the endgoal; Haruka and Kanata only needed to win the matches needed so the pair could face off against Ayasa and Narumi to show the latter that by now, Kanata’s recovered and capable of standing of her own accord, allowing Narumi to focus on being the best she can be, too. Harukana Receive thus concludes on a high note, and my four-year journey through this series comes to a close; although the outcomes were somewhat surprising, the series remains successful in conveying its themes.

Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme: Review and Reflections After Three

“No individual is alone responsible for a single stepping stone along the path of progress, and where the path is smooth progress is most rapid.” –Ernest Lawrence

When summer vacation arrives, Yūko attempts to challenge Momo to a showdown, only for Momo to see this as a want to spend time together. During their time spent hanging out, Yūko realises that there’s still much about Momo that she doesn’t know, and slowly develops a desire to see Momo smile again. Later, Mikan moves into the same apartment block that Yūko lives in. Feeling left out, Momo does the same, and to celebrate, everyone enjoys a sukiyaki party together with the fancy meat Momo’s brought. During the party, Mikan spots that the box housing Yūko’s father’s spirit is similar to the one her family utilised or transporting fruits, and they decide to visit the warehouse Mikan had once lodged in: this was where Momo’s sister, Sakura, was last seen. While waiting for Momo to join them, Mikan shares a story with Yūko: Mikan’s family had made a deal with the devil to keep her safe, resulting in the curse where misfortune befalls those who would attempt to cause Mikan trouble, and this led her to isolate herself. However, upon meeting Momo, Mikan became friends after learning Momo wasn’t too concerned about the curse. In the present day, Mikan, Momo and Yūko swing by the warehouse, which has been levelled. They comb through the remains in search of clues and located a weapon belonging to Yūko’s father. This weapon manifests as a fork, but it can take on any form the wielder can think of. Yūko attempts to master its powers and initially, comes up with mundane uses for it, such as transforming it into a pen when she needs to write down something. After Momo sets up an internet connection at the apartment complex so Ryōko can finish her schoolwork, Yūko decides to stalk Momo’s Twitter page to learn more about her. Mikan follows the pair, and annoys Momo when they begin talking about a movie, causing her to shut down the wireless connection for an evening. When Lilith expresses a desire to go out to the health spa, Yūko allows Lilith to borrow her body on the condition that Momo accompany her. Despite annoying Momo with her haughty attitude, Lilith is surprised to learn that Momo looks after everyone equally, impressing her. Lilith ends up having a good time, but during a blackout, Momo learns that Lilith secretly fears the dark and threatens to reveal this if she should step out of line. After returning home, Seiko discovers that Lilith has run up a large credit card bill after purchasing clothes online and forces an apology out of her. With this, Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme (The Demon Girl Next Door District 2, and 2-Chōme for brevity) has begun, picking up right where the first season had left off. The first season of Machikado Mazoku had proven to be a heartwarming tale of how friendship offers an unorthodox and viable solution for longstanding problems where conventional means proved ineffectual.

Second seasons traditionally have the advantage in that, with the characters now firmly established, the story is free to really begin delving into details. We recall that in Machikado Mazoku‘s first season, Yūko had overcome the 40000 Yen after befriending Momo, and learnt from Momo that her family’s situation stemmed from her father being involved in a deal of sorts with Momo’s sister, Sakura, to exchange his physical presence in the world for the sake of Yūko’s health. Sakura had subsequently disappeared, and since then, Momo had been seeking her out. Machikado Mazoku very quickly advanced from being a run-of-the-mill comedy to utilising its comedy to handle things like the decisions parents make on their children’s behalf, and how certain choices may look appropriate in the moment, but otherwise, may have far-reaching consequences. However, twelve episodes proved to be hardly any time to really begin exploring these more meaningful elements; the first season ended on a strong note, and since then, viewers had been left hoping to continue on the excellent adventure Machikado Mazoku had presented. With 2-Chōme, this wish is fulfilled: the second season opens up precisely where the first had concluded, gives viewers a quick refresher on what the daily lives of Yūko, Momo and Mikan are like, and swiftly sets the stage for the second season’s aims. This allows the second season to hit the ground running. While the overarching objectives are now more prominent, 2-Chōme remains faithful to Machikado Mazoku‘s roots; comedy continues to be expertly employed to keep viewers smiling. From Yūko wielding what is effectively a super-weapon in a hilariously mundane manner and her inexperience with social media, to Momo threatening Lilith with blackmail after Lilith had spent nearly a full day mistreating her (and experiencing her comeuppance when Seiko finds out Lilith had misused the family credit card for her own ends), Machikado Mazoku provides plenty of laughs on top of what is looking to be a much more engaging and thoughtful story. This is only possible because of the ground-work Machikado Mazoku‘s first season has laid down, and with this in mind, 2-Chōme is looking to be an excellent series.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about Machikado Mazoku, it would’ve been a shade more than two years ago. At that time, the global health crisis was really beginning to grip the world, and I found myself working from home with an unprecedented frequency as offices closed their doors. I suddenly found myself with a lot more time on my hands, and initially, that time was filled watching anime. Machikado Mazoku had been a series on my radar since it aired back in 2019, but I never did manage to get into it during its original run. Once the global health crisis altered my schedule, I decided to give this series another go, and found it to be quite enjoyable.

  • Two years later, the world’s a very different place than it had been two years earlier. While I count myself as being fairly adaptable and receptive towards change, I also take solace in the fact that some things have remained constant, providing a source of reassurance. Machikado Mazoku is one of those things; shortly after I finished the first season, a second season was announced. Despite the fact that Machikado Mazoku had been well-received, excitement on the series had been very limited. I myself had not known there’d be a second season until recently, and although I’d forgotten much of season one, watching the first episode to 2-Chōme proved sufficient to bring me back up to speed.

  • Transitions between seasons can sometimes be unwieldy, but Manga Time Kirara series tend to have smoother transitions. As it turns out, after Yūko had managed to write a letter of challenge to Momo, Momo saw it as a chance to spend a day with Yūko. The pair end up hanging out, and despite the initial confusion, both Yūko and Momo have a reasonable time together. The awkwardness here is a clever callback to how it can feel a little strange to get back in the swing of things after a few years have passed. With this being said, Machikado Mazoku doesn’t miss a beat; after Yūko and Momo’s date, Mikan arrives at the same apartment block that Yūko lives in.

  • It turns out she’s moving in after her previous home at an old factory belonging to her family was levelled. Without another place to stay, Mikan’s determined that being closer to Yūko might not be such a bad idea. When Momo learns of this, she hastens to move in, as well: Momo had previously lived in a detached home a ways more comfortable than Yūko’s home, but it is clear she’d also been very lonely. While tasked with defending the town as a Magical Girl, Momo had been on her own ever since her sister disappeared. Things only changed when Yūko entered her life, and although they’d started out as foes, circumstances have led Yūko and Momo to become friends in all but name.

  • To celebrate the housewarming, Momo and Mikan bring enough food for a sukiyaki party. Seiko (Yūko and Ryōko’s mother) begins preparing some green onions on the box housing her husband’s spirit, and while Momo looks on with concern, Seiko isn’t particularly worried: this box is supposed to have uncommon durability. Although Momo had brought some highly expensive beef to the party, she begins to feel guilty about not helping out and lapses into her old ways of using magic to assist with the cooking. It is clear that magic in Machikado Mazoku is not quite as versatile as it is in worlds like World of Warcraft or Harry Potter, where spells can be used to conjure or transform food.

  • Befitting of her citrus-like disposition and family background, Mikan is very fond of adding citrus fruits like lemons and oranges into things that don’t need them, creating a bit of a disaster for those involved. To stave off trouble, Momo has Ryōko accompany Mikan on a shopping trip while the others prepare dinner. Mikan’s love for citrus fruits comes from the fact her family has involvement in farming, and she’s named after Citrus unshiu, which is commonly known as a tangerine. In Chinese, I know them as 蜜柑 (jyutping mat6 gam1, literally “honey citrus”, which is rendered mikan in Hepburn): as a part of a healthy diet, I have one per day, every day, on workdays.

  • Watching 2-Chōme brought back memories of what had made Machikado Mazoku so enjoyable: it took me four episodes to really warm up to the show and its antics. However, once Machikado Mazoku hit its stride, I found myself fully enjoying this anime: the contrast between Yūko and Momo forms the bulk of the humour here. Momo is very literal, and Yūko is quite naïve. As such, when the two come together, misunderstandings abound, usually coming at Yūko’s expense. However, in spite of this bad luck, Yūko’s biggest strength is that she continues to pick herself up, and in conjunction with her sense of empathy, Yūko usually ends up looking for ways to do right by those around her, rather than screw them over, as her dæmon heritage might suggest.

  • By the events of 2-Chōme, all of the central characters are now under one roof, close enough to be in constant contact with one another. This proximity means that Mikan will become a more regular part of the series, and having more characters around corresponds to a livelier atmosphere. This has long been one of my favourite aspects about a given Manga Time Kirara series: as time wears on, more people are added to the story, giving the world a richer feeling. In Machikado Mazoku, Mikan had been a secondary character during the first season, so to see her play a more substantial role meant that Yūko now has one more person she can share her thoughts and feelings with.

  • While Yūko prima facie supposes that living so closely with two magical girls will put her plans for world domination on hold, since their powers directly clash with hers, Machikado Mazoku had previously shown that whatever Yūko’s plans are, she isn’t going to be winning through brute force or strength of arms alone. Instead, Yūko’s kindness is ultimately her largest asset: this is what allows her to overcome setbacks. 2-Chōme thus has the narrator return to encourage Yūko: ganbare, Shimiko has become an iconic part of Machikado Mazoku, and it was therefore quite welcoming to hear the return of these lines anew.

  • After Seiko gets hammered during their dinner party, she decides to make a game of “find the spirit box amongst the real boxes” using the boxes Mikan had brought, leading Momo to object vehemently to the suggestion. However, Seiko’s idea does lead to the observation that the box housing her husband’s spirit is virtually identical to the boxes Mikan had brought over to hold her stuff. This in turn leads to the conclusion that Sakura would’ve known about the Hinatsuki family’s business, providing a lead (however small) for Yūko, Momo and Mikan to pursue.

  • Seeing this aspect of Machikado Mazoku became the refresher I needed to recall what the first season had set up: it turns out that both the Yoshida and Hinatsuki families were impacted by something Momo’s sister had previously done. Sakura may have been an especially powerful magical girl, but since her disappearance, she’s left behind a host of problems that seem quite tricky to resolve in her absence. It is thought that, if Sakura can be found, then some of the problems manifesting now might be fixed. Whether or not this holds true will likely be a topic to be explored later.

  • Whenever the topic of Yūko’s father, Momo’s sister and Mikan’s family are brought up, Machikado Mazoku takes on a more melancholy tone. These elements initially seem out of place, as Machikado Mazoku is predominantly a comedy. However, upon closer consideration, changing out the emotional tenour is logical because the heartwarming and humourous moments in the anime occur when the characters are together with family and friends. That each of Yūko, Momo and Mikan have absent family members means everyone is missing someone important in their lives. On the flipside, considering how important connections are, I would hazard a guess that 2-Chōme is about how these problems can be addressed by trusting the people one does have in their lives.

  • As a part of this trust, Mikan shares with Yūko the story of how she came to know Momo: as it turns out, the curse on Mikan had even driven her family away. Isolated from the world, it wasn’t until Mikan met Momo that things began changing; as a magical girl, Momo was more resilient to the effects of Mikan’s curse, and by staying with Mikan, Mom was able to help her slowly recover, too. To punctuate what would otherwise be a very touching story, Mikan begins to tell Yūko about how Momo used to be fond of posing and exclaiming catch-phrases during her transformation sequences, but is stopped cold in her tracks when Momo finally joins the two.

  • Once they arrive at the Hinatsuki factory, Mikan is devastated to find it completely blown away; she had only imagined that it would’ve crumbled somewhat but otherwise still have a sizeable part of its structure present. Upon closer inspection, they find Sakura petal-shaped blast marks. I note that the blast marks are quite clean, and there’s no sign of charring or searing on the concrete, hinting at how magical energy is quite unlike anything we would be familiar with in reality. Here, Mikan points out that the Momo she once knew was considerably more cheerful, and this remark sets in motion a thought that will continue to bug Yūko.

  • While searching the ruins for any sign that Sakura had been there, Yūko comes upon a magic wand. Convinced she’s onto something big, she shows said wand to Momo and Mikan, only for it to transform into a fork. The resulting comedy distracts viewers from the melancholy that had permeated the scene before, acting as a bit of an emotional break of sorts. The combination of happier moments with more poignant moments is a longstanding storytelling device, meant to emphasise the fact that comedy isn’t being just done for comedy’s sake, and to create a spectrum of moments to remind viewers that the characters are human. This is something that Jun Maeda had particularly excelled with through works like CLANNAD and Angel Beats.

  • Yūko’s tantrums are always heart-meltingly adorable to watch; moments like these remind viewers that Machikado Mazoku isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, and are balanced by more contemplative moments that indicate the series is more than a comedy. Having said this, some folks have taken the conflict between dæmons and magical girls too seriously: trying to figure out what precisely had happened in the past and how it is impacting Yūko isn’t likely to be too helpful, and similarly, the path that Machikado Mazoku is projected to head down has nothing to do with magical power.

  • This is why Yūko is granted access to a weapon that would, in the hands of someone with less compassion, would be a world-ending tool. Power in the wrong hands is a quick recipe for trouble, but Yūko’s desire isn’t conquest or destruction, despite some of her rants. Having said this, the perspective I hold is presently an unpopular one: AnimeSuki’s discussions have fixated on the suggestion that, because Yūko has done things her ancestors could not, it must be logical that she’s the most powerful dæmon to have roamed for some time. This completely ignores the fact that Machikado Mazoku is about approaching the dæmon-versus-magical girl conflict from another perspective, one that involves friendship rather than force. Here, Yūko attempts to transform the weapon into a form befitting of her stature.

  • The resulting weapon manifests as a larger fork that proves too heavy for Yūko to handle, and she collapses from its heft. Yūko’s facial expression is hilarious: while she’s doubtlessly improved in terms of physicality since Machikado Mazoku began, Yūko’s physical condition is still such that she struggles with some things. Granted, a metal fork of that size would probably have a mass of at least 20 kilograms, and even at my fittest, I was only able just do dumbbell shoulder presses with 20 kilograms per arm. Since the global health crisis began, and I found myself unable to hit the gym, my dumbbell shoulder presses have dropped down to 12 kilograms. I am slowly returning to my old weights, but it’s important not to push myself too hard, too quickly.

  • Back in Machikado Mazoku, Yūko transforms her weapon into something more mundane: an ordinary pen topped off with ink. Because this weapon can take on almost any form, one could imagine Yūko transforming it into something as legendary as the Ashbringer, or perhaps Andúril. With a more modern mindset, something like the Golden Gun or BFG 9000 would be possible. This is actually hinted at in Machikado Mazoku, when Ryōko and Momo consider bringing it to Yūko’s attention, but it would be unlikely because such an outcome stands contrary to what the series seeks to do. At present, I don’t believe the weapon even has a name, so I’ll call it Láthspell for kicks: in Old English, láð spell means “ill news”, and Yūko’s finding Láthspell could be seen as being bad news bears for Sakura.

  • I found it particularly amusing that 2-Chōme elected to satirise the internet: when Momo connects the Yoshida’s laptop to her network, she’s using the router settings and correctly identifying her actions as configuring the router. The terms router and modem are easily mixed up: the modem is a piece of hardware that links one’s network to the internet, whereas the router creates a local network that allows connected devices to communicate. As such, if the WiFi fails, but one’s TV is still working, it’s fair to say the router is acting up, while complete loss of connectivity signifies how one’s modem might be the fault.

  • When Yūko expresses a desire to learn the ways of the internet, hilarity results: her goals are simply to use it as a tool for getting to know Momo better, but lacking the know-how means Momo becomes concerned. She decides to give Yūko a crash-course on internet safety, teaching her how to spot scams and malware intrusion. Internet safety boils down to installing a good ad blocker to prevent malicious ads from loading, avoiding clicking on the URLs in suspicious emails and only providing sensitive information to websites with a valid security certificate, after verifying the website is in fact valid. Other tricks include removing EXIF data from the photos one takes (and to frustrate the living daylights out of would-be doxxers, taking photos in a way to conceal landmarks and other hints about one’s whereabouts), and not sharing personal information like one’s name or date of birth freely.

  • What Momo’s lesson doesn’t reach, because Yūko rage-quits shortly after, is how to properly handle people who are less-than-friendly in online communities. However, since Yūko’s only interested in keeping in touch with Momo via Twitter, and is unlikely to utilise the service for the more sinister purpose of disseminating misinformation for clout, I imagine that this won’t be a problem. Instead, Yūko’s challenge is actually convincing Momo to connect with her online. It takes some coercing, but in the end, Yūko is able to follow Momo. Momo immediately regrets this, since Yūko’s also following Mikan, and their conversation floods Momo’s phone with notifications, causing her to shut the network down. This is a hilarious outcome, and I’m no stranger to this: whenever #TheJCS happens, or whenever I participate in #AniTwitWatches, the speed of conversations causes my phone to chime non-stop.

  • Some time later, Lilith makes a request of Yūko and Momo: she’s been yearning to get out more, and because Yūko’s gaining access to more of her powers, Lilith’s old strength is beginning to return to her. Previously, Lilith could only borrow Yūko’s body under specific weather conditions, but she’s slowly able to increase the scope of her influence. Upon hearing Lilith out, Momo agrees to her request, feeling bad that she continues chucking Lilith great distances out of indignation in response to something Lilith had said.

  • On the day of their outing, Lilith kits Yūko in gothic-style clothing, having ordered it online after convincing Yūko that it’s as good as free. In reality, nothing online comes for free: while some places may do a ten percent discount or a double points bonus for first-time customers, ordering online always requires a working credit card. For now, the credit card bill is deferred to be a problem for later, and unlike Yūko, who is kind-hearted and low-profile, Lilith acts as the stereotypical anime dæmon girl, speaking in a pompous manner befitting of a chūnibyō.

  • It is plainly taking all of Momo’s self-restraint to keep herself from beating up Lilith, but she realises that anything she does to Lilith now is something Yūko will pay for later. This is a subtle but clear indicator that her stoic mannerisms notwithstanding, Momo does indeed care greatly for Yūko and regards her as a friend rather than a rival. While she’d been interested in Yūko’s well-being initially out of guilt over what Sakura had done, over time, Momo does come to see Yūko as someone she genuinely would want to be with and open up to.

  • For me, the human aspects of Machikado Mazoku are the strongest: if we were to distill out the dæmons versus magical girls bit and applied the same lessons towards rivals in more mundane areas (e.g. sports), the messages would still work. The conflict surrounding the forces of light and dark in Machikado Mazoku are simply an element that adds additional variety and depth to the series, allowing it to viscerally convey its themes to viewers that more ordinary settings might not. This is why I prefer looking at Manga Time Kirara series from the interpersonal perspective and then seeing how the premise is used to tell the story, as opposed to attempting to speculate on how the magic affects the characters.

  • After subjecting Lilith to a workout in order to have her pay off the admissions for the health spa, Momo and Lilith prepare to make use of the facilities itself, but the power unexpectedly goes out. Here, Lilith reveals she has nyctophobia, a consequence of being sealed in a pitch black environment for millennia. This initially appears unexpected, but a fear of the dark is really fear of the unexpected and unknown. Humans are visual beings and count on sight to make decisions, so if this sense is stymied, fear of attack and danger kicks in. For Lilith, her fear of the darkness would signify how after she was sealed away, unable to perceive the world around her, she began to worry about her fate.

  • Despite a rough start to their outing, Lilith and Momo do end up bonding with one another, with Lilith respecting Momo’s desire to not discuss her scars further. In the end, Lilith returns to the statue, and Yūko is restored to her body. She overhears Momo and Lilith chatting and assumes they’re now at least on somewhat better terms. Although this is true, Momo has also learnt something unexpected and fully intends to use this information to keep Lilith in line. It is hilarious, and I’m curious to see where in 2-Chōme this will come in.

  • Although I’d started Machikado Mazoku‘s first season a little more reluctant, as I got further into the series, it became clear that this was one with a strong story to tell, and therefore, was a series worth watching. Manga Time Kirara works, more often than not, sit well with me because they say something meaningful through the characters’ growth as a result of their experiences (either reinforcing a value I hold true, or reminding me of something I should be more mindful of in my everyday life). As it stands, after watching that Machikado Mazoku‘s first season, I enter 2-Chōme with a much more positive outlook: the comedy and story are engaging enough such that I’m excited to see how far 2-Chōme gets in unveiling the mystery behind Momo’s sister, and how these learnings would impact Yūko, Momo and Mikan.

While the first season had been characterised by adorable antics and the prevalence of heartwarming humour, 2-Chōme begins taking Machikado Mazoku in a different direction. Comedy and warmth still dominate the second season, but underneath the laughs surrounding the characters’ adventures lies a hint of melancholy and longing. The mystery that Machikado Mazoku had introduced in its first season is beginning to gain more exposition, giving 2-Chōme a much stronger sense of purpose: this is possible because all of the principal characters have now been introduced, and this provides 2-Chōme with an opportunity to show where things can go now that Yūko, Momo and Mikan know one another better. With this being said, there is still a distance amongst the characters. Yūko’s quest to release her father from Sakura’s curse leaves her more contemplative, wondering about what exactly had transpired to create the current status quo, and having spent some time with Momo, as well as hearing stories about both Momo and Mikan, Yūko is filled with a desire to see Momo smile, too. Although she’s certainly trying her best to act as a Shadow Mistress and live up to her family name, Yūko’s kindness and empathy outweighs her desire to dominate and control. However, neither Momo nor the past will give up its secrets so readily. 2-Chōme‘s use of incidental music and pacing serve to remind viewers that while Machikado Mazoku excels with lightening up scenarios, there is a lingering feeling of yearning, as well. As such, it is reasonable to surmise that Yūko’s becoming closer with Momo and Mikan will inevitably be linked to her becoming one step closer to finding Sakura and releasing her father from the spell Sakura had placed upon him years earlier, and in the long term, finding Sakura would likely also help Momo to smile again. It’s an encouraging thought for a series that has already put in a considerable effort in making the characters’ journey compelling, and as such, I look forwards to seeing where 2-Chōme is headed.

Slow Loop Finale Impressions, Whole-Series Review and Recommendation

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” –Kahlil Gibran

With their school’s culture festival in full swing, Koharu gloats about her fishing prowess and expresses a want to do something related to fishing. Their class ends up doing a haunted house featuring parasites encountered whilst fishing. Meanwhile, Hiyori and Koi’s class go with a more traditional cafe, where they plan on serving fish sandwiches. While speaking with Futaba, Hiyori learns that she’s worried about reading her essay in front of the entire school. She decides to invite Futaba out fishing with her, and seeing Hiyori attempt to prepare her own bait inspires her to give the essay-reading her best, too. Later, Hiyori and Koharu’s parents attend the culture festival. Hiyori’s father is repulsed by the parasites, but both of them enjoy the fish sandwiches from Koi and Hiyori’s class. Futaba and Aiko arrive too late for the fish sandwiches, but after Hiyori promises to go fishing with her, Aiko asks if she can join, too. This culminates in a girls’ camping trip: Hiyori and Koi’s mothers, along with Futaba, Miyano, also join Koharu, Hiyori, Koi, Futaba and Aiko. During this trip, Koi reassures Aiko that it is enough to spend time with Futaba to maintain their friendship, and the next morning, Koi and Hiyori reminisce about how a slip-of-the-tongue led to Hiyori’s mother tying the knot with Koharu’s father. Although Koi feels like she had been meddling in something outside her domain, Hiyori is grateful for this, as it allowed her to meet and become close to Koharu. While looking through some old photo albums, Koharu learns that Koi had once shown Hiyori how to tie fishing flies and asks her to do the same. During a fishing competition, Hiyori becomes excited to learn that first place is a giant plushie, and she ends up taking home the prize with her catch, while Koharu wants to catch a fish with the fly she’d tied. She succeeds, but accidentally drops her phone in the river. When Koharu’s birthday arrives, after Hiyori spots the gifts that Aiko, Futaba and Koi gift her, she becomes worried her gift (a photo album) would look plain by comparison and hesitates to give it to her. She is able to do so in the end, and the two spend an evening looking at their photos, before promising to go fishing together again soon. This is Slow Loop, the latest Manga Time Kirara series to receive an animated adaptation, and during its run, combines elements from several slice-of-life series to present a generally light-hearted and cheerful story of discovery, and taking a step forwards together with family.

The message that Slow Loop presents in its run is a familiar one: unified by a common interest and a new bond allows Koharu and Hiyori to become closer to one another and rediscover joy anew with one another. Although both had suffered loss in their lives, fate brings the two together and leads them to, as family, rise above their grief together. Along the way, both Koharu and Hiyori have plenty of support from those around them: whether it be the steadfast love from their parents, the wisdom that Koi brings to the table, or the youthful vigour surrounding Futaba and Aiko, Slow Loop indicates that the process of coming to terms with loss, and taking that difficult step forwards, is catalysed by good company, in conjunction with a healthy bit of patience. Living up to its name, Slow Loop slowly allows Koharu and Hiyori to know one another, slowly has the two learn from one another as they fish and cook together, and bit by bit, both mature as a result. Koharu learns to fly fish and becomes more honest about how she feels (where she’d previously masked her feelings with a smile, Koharu now openly expresses her thoughts on things), while Hiyori begins to develop basic understanding of cooking and becomes a little more outgoing (being able to speak with others and even hear out some of their problems). Altogether, the journey in Slow Loop presents a very optimistic outlook on how people can overcome great hurdles: together. In typical Manga Time Kirara manner, Slow Loop delivers a story that tends towards comedy and smiles over more introspective and contemplative moments; exaggerated facial expressions, punch-lines and use of humour remind people that with the right people in one’s corner, there is always new joy to find in the world, even in moments of great sadness. While Slow Loop might not be as focused as Tamayura, Houkago Teibou Nisshi or Yuru Camp△, the series does succeed in its stated goal, hinting at how fateful encounters and shared interests can propel people forwards. This anime ends up being a best-of-both-worlds, showcasing how different elements can come together and impact individuals in unforeseen, but beneficial, ways.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about Slow Loop, we’d left off with Koharu, Koi and Hiyori finishing up their first-ever trip together. After autumn arrives, their high school’s culture festival kicks into full swing, and while Hiyori and Koi’s class go with a wa-maid style café, Koharu’s class decides to go with something a little more unconventional: after her classmates learn of Koharu’s experience in fishing, they decide to do a haunted house-themed exhibit with the horrors of fishing. Before delving further, I will remark that Slow Loop‘s soundtrack actually released back in February, a full month before moving day.

  • The soundtrack has a surprisingly diverse range of incidental pieces, some of which resemble Koisuru Asteroid‘s songs, and my favourite songs are SLOW LOOP II, Kindness, and Koharu’s Kitchen. Back in Slow Loop proper, Koharu’s smugness at having some success in fishing brings to mind how Cocoa is whenever she’s praised: this is a classic Manga Time Kirara trait, but while it is quite destructive in reality when people act as though they’re more knowledgeable than they are (I can think of no finer example than discussions surrounding current events at a certain anime forum), anime tend to portray this as being more light-hearted.

  • Meanwhile, Futaba worries about being asked to read her composition in front of the entire school. Her friends are ultimately able to convince her to summon up the courage to do so, and this is helped by a day spent fishing with Hiyori: Hiyori needs to catch enough horse mackerel fry for the culture festival, and since fishing is how Hiyori has come to deal with stress, she imagines that giving Futaba a day at the breakwater might also help her to regroup.

  • As it turns out, Futaba is a deft hand with fishing and knows about techniques outside of fly fishing, sufficiently well as to guide Hiyori. She helps Hiyori to set up, but Hiyori begins to go outside her comfort zone by attempting to hook on live bait herself, after imagining Koharu mocking her in a manner not too dissimilar to what had happened in Yama no Susume, when Aoi would suppose Hinata was making fun of her behind her back and in turn, spurring her to venture outside of her comfort zone, as well. In no time at all, both end up with a successful catch. If memory serves, Houkago Teibou Nisshi had Hinata start out with Horse Mackerel Fry.

  • After seeing Hiyori venture into new directions, Futaba decides that she’ll put her best foot forwards, as well: she ends up reading her composition in front of her classmates without any trouble, and exceeds expectations. Sometimes, it takes that little push to send people through challenges, and Slow Loop indicates that this push can come from unexpected places. It was absolutely adorable to have these sorts of dynamics.

  • While Futaba reads her essay in front of the entire school, including Aiko, who’s happy that Futaba had gotten past her nerves, I recall a time more than a decade ago when I was invited to participate in my Chinese school’s recital competition. Despite my generally being terrible with public speaking at that time (I didn’t become a passable public speaker until later in my undergraduate programme, when I spent several courses learning to hone how to present), I managed to win second place in my year, and in fact, I still have the trophy from that time. These days, I tend to put a presentation together with an outline of what I wish to say, and then I improvise the rest, although one thing remains constant: I do not like to have wordy slides. This is to ensure the audience stays focused on what I have to say, as opposed to reading my slides.

  • On the day of the culture festival, Hiyori and Koharu’s parents swing by their school to check out what their children are working on. Being an integral part of the Japanese education system, anime feature them with great frequency, and what’s fun for viewers is seeing which elements said anime chooses to emphasise. This is why no matter how often culture festivals are portrayed in an anime, they never become tiring to watch, and in fact, seeing all of these events do create, amongst some viewers, a sense of nostalgia for what most English-speaking viewers have not experienced.

  • It turns out that Koharu’s class focused on parasites and other marine horrors: while some folks have wondered why Lophiiformes (anglerfish) are absent, the explanation is simple enough: Koharu finds that things that she might encounter on a day-to-day basis while fishing to be more frightening than life forms that are unlikely to be seen. Lophiiformes typically are found in the aphotic sections of the ocean, where sunlight does not reach, and as such, those fishing are unlikely to encounter them. Conversely, parasitic worms afflicting fish, or the Cymothoa exigua (common name, “Tongue-eating louse”), can be quite common.

  • Contrary to the little shop of horrors Koharu’s class have put together (and the attendant lack of visitors from their rather grotesque topic), Hiyori and Koi’s class do something that’s a lot more approachable, being a Japanese-style café with serving a special fish sandwich. Although Koharu’s father experiences a dulling in his appetite after viewing her exhibit, Koi’s cooking is good enough to turn things around for him. I’ve come around to Koi’s character: while she’d been a steadfast source of support for both Hiyori and Koharu throughout Slow Loop, taking things in the same way Remon and Ichigo do, she’s remarkably well-written and plays a crucial part in helping the others to step forwards. For me, bonus points go towards the fact that her eyes are a very pretty shade of amethyst.

  • As promised, Futaba and Aiko show up to visit Hiyori at their culture festival. Although they’re out of fish sandwiches now, Futaba has no qualms in going out fishing with Hiyori so they can catch more fish and make some sandwiches. Not wanting to miss out, Aiko wants to go, too. This promised is fulfilled shortly after, as Aiko joins Hiyori, Koi, Koharu and Futaba on a family trip of sorts. This time, Hiyori and Koi’s mothers, as well as Ichika and Miyano, also show up. That the entire cast has gathered for one final event is a reminder that Slow Loop‘s was fast approaching.

  • While Koharu might be excited about fishing, there are nuances that she still has yet to pick up. Fortunately, Koi is on hand to explain the differences between different gauges of fishing wire. This is a reminder of how there is always something to learn about a given field, and this is why I never suggest I am a “master” of something. For instance, with my recent computer build, having not built a new desktop in just a shade under nine years, the Non-Volatile Memory express (NVMe) standard has matured greatly. In 2013, 1.0e was released, but it was still quite expensive. Fast forward to the present, and we’re up to 2.0: these drives plug directly into the motherboard and offer up to 3.6 GB/s, nearly six times faster than my previous SSD, which used a SATA connection. I was therefore surprised when the technician indicated that I actually had a spare SATA bay available to me since the NVMe SSD plugged into the motherboard.

  • This time around, with 1 TB of storage for my OS, I don’t expect to run out of space as I had previously as a consequence of system files. Back in Slow Loop, Aiko shares a moment with Koi: since Koi grew up with three younger brothers, she’s accustomed to offering advice to those around her. When Aiko becomes worried that Futaba may leave her behind, Koi reassures her that owing to their bond, there isn’t a replacement for her so long as Aiko makes an effort to spend time with Futaba. Reassured, Aiko heads out to help Futaba net a fish. Such advice is reassuring to Aiko, accentuating the fact that Koi does much to improve the lives of those around her, and being an older sibling myself, I’m guilty of doing this to folks I know, too.

  • While Slow Loop doesn’t have the same visual quality of some of the top-tier slice-of-life series out there, and the series would require more skill than I’ve got to do location hunts for, overall, the background art and settings in Slow Loop are still very well done, sufficiently as to convey the aesthetic within each moment. I recall a time when prevailing sentiment against Koisuru Asteroid was that its background artwork and visual effects were “forgettable”. It is true that some anime do simplify their background art, but this is usually a deliberate choice, meant to focus the viewer’s attention on the characters, and as it is, both Koisuru Asteroid and Slow Loop have good artwork that conveys to viewers the sort of world their respective stories are set in.

  • Alongside with Koi, Futaba’s also become a favourite character of mine – she’s very enthusiastic about fishing and is more experienced than Hiyori, but at the same time, is troubled by the sorts of things that would bother a grade-schooler. The constant exchange, of give-and-take, between the older members of the cast, and the younger members, helps everyone to grow: the older members may learn things from younger members just as readily. Adding grade-schoolers and adults to Slow Loop brings to mind GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic, which similarly has the main cast interacting with both older and younger characters. While in school, people often are mindful of the ages of those around them, age stops being a significant factor in the real world.

  • By evening, although Koharu’s been unable to catch anything of note despite her earlier enthusiasm, her spirits return as she tasks Futaba and Aiko with helping out with the cooking. At this point in time in Slow Loop, the cast have been on several excursions outdoors, and at the penultimate episode, it becomes clear that this series draws elements from Tamayura (learning to rediscover joy in life after a loss), Yuru Camp△ (appreciating the great outdoors) and Houkago Teibou Nisshi (seeing the process of catching food from start to finish and being more mindful of the effort it takes to bring something to one’s plate). While folks have previously derided anime for being generic or similar, I comment that it is combinatorics that makes every anime unique.

  • To put things in perspective, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and a handful of elements, when placed together, create organic compounds with a myriad of properties, and whose interactions are sufficiently varied such that predicting the products of certain reactions is challenging even for experts. Slice-of-life anime is similar in this regard: although the core premise might be the same, how things unfold can be so varied that even if an anime draws elements from other series, the outcomes can be dramatically different. When I’d seen the key visuals for Slow Loop, I’d initially imagined that Aiko was Koi’s younger sister. This misconception endured until I read the cast list, upon which things became more clear to me.

  • While everyone enjoys an outdoors dinner with the freshly-caught fish and hot soup that Futaba and Aiko help to prepare, Koi reminds Koharu of never exaggerating the size of her catch, since it tends to become greatly exaggerated. Such life lessons are subtle, but this is one area where Manga Time Kirara series tend to be effective; discussing these sorts of things openly can become sanctimonious if not done correctly and irritate viewers, so things usually come down to how well a series can weave life lessons into its stories. Doing so through conversation is effective, and Koi is able to capture the idea of not hyperbolising things with a proverb I’m not familiar with.

  • The next morning, Koi and Hiyori share a conversation under a swift sunrise: as it turns out, Koi had long been worried about saying the wrong thing and overstepping. Before Hiyori’s mother had remarried, Koi had heard her mother speaking with Hiyori’s mother about such a possibility and imagined that it was a sure things, so she hastened to tell Hiyori, who in turn asked her mother. While it was the case that Hiyori’s mother was only considering such a route, hearing Hiyori’s enthusiasm for things accelerated her decision to move things ahead. Koi, however, had felt that she had ruined things for Hiyori. Being able to get this into the open helps Koi to learn that Hiyori sees things quite differently, and while Koi may occasionally see herself as immature, insensitive, it is the case that imperceptible actions can have dramatic outcomes.

  • This is something that Manga Time Kirara series also excels in conveying: small decisions can set off a chain of events that tangibly benefit those involved, and all it takes is an open mind to embrace these changes. The fact that Koi is doubting herself does speak to her own maturity; she’s wondering if she could have worded things differently, and this shows both a willingness to self-reflect, as well as weigh the consequences of her actions. With time, Koi will become more confident in helping those around her in life-related matters, to the same extent she is confident in helping Koharu with fishing terminology and technique.

  • After a beautiful sunrise, Koharu has also awoken and finds Koi and Hiyori sharing a conversation that Koi dubs a private one. Although mildly frustrated at not being in on things, Koharu joins the pair for breakfast: fresh salmon on a baguette. A long time ago, I wasn’t a fan of smoked salmon: I recall sharing this story elsewhere, but the combination of Survivorman and anime like Slow Loop have allowed me to come around; a few years ago, I decided to try a lox bagel from the Rocky Mountain Bagel Company and subsequently became receptive of smoked salmon. These days, I enjoy nigiri, too.

  • The finale opens with Hiyori recalling a time when Koi had offered to show her how to tie a fly, but, unable to make them as good as her father’s, begins to cry. It typifies the ability of anime to really emphasise just how adorable children are, and a few nights earlier, after I’d finished moving, my parents arrived. After a traditional dinner of char sui, crispy pork and chicken, they sat down and read through the first book I’d learnt to read on my own: Little Duck’s Moving Day. Being read the book aloud in Cantonese brought back some of my earliest memories of holding a book.

  • In the present day, Koharu becomes curious about the process, and Koi, who now can make commercial-grade ties, has no qualms in showing her how. Together with Hiyori, the three spend an afternoon tying flies. The terminology confuses Koharu, but the process is something she can go with. Through the course of an afternoon, Koharu makes a few ties she’s proud to use, and as it turns out, there’s a fishing competition which looks to give her the perfect opportunity to do so. I remark here that, while I will, over time, acclimatise to technical jargon, initially, I experience the same as Koharu. During university, I was always lost when my peers were talking about cAMP (cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate, a messenger molecule involved in a large number of biological pathways) or design patterns (reusable approaches towards creating organised, clean code, of which my favourites are MVVM and decorator, but for which the details are outside the scope of this discussion).

  • Befitting of a competition, there’s prizes to be won. The lower-tier prizes include new fishing gear from the shop Koi’s family runs, while second place is a Roomba. First place was a bit of a surprise: a full-sized plushie. While originally just a chance to get out and fish during the crisp autumn air, the plushie produces a motivated and determined Hiyori. Koharu initially struggles to catch anything, a result of her fly being unsuited for the current conditions, but because she’s not eying the prizes as Hiyori is, her goal is to successfully catch something with her own hand-made fly.

  • Hiyori is seen using techniques to really persuade the fish in, and manages to reel in a large trout that ends up being the game-winner. Spotting this, Koi goes in to assist with the net, and it’s an impressive moment that speaks to just how well Koi knows Hiyori, as well as fishing. For many viewers, Koi ended up being Slow Loop‘s MVP:  while she’s a static character who remains consistent throughout the series, her role is vital, acting as a reliable source of advice and support to both Koharu and Hiyori alike. Static characters are often frowned upon in writing, but this is only the case if a primary character is static.

  • Secondary characters can get away with being static because they’re either an opposing force, or because they’re a source of guidance, and there is a misconception that a static character is synonymous with a flat character (someone who isn’t particularly fleshed out). Koi certainly isn’t flat by any means: she may be a little more stoic and deadpan than Hiyori or Koharu, but this is in her favour, giving viewers the impression that Koi is dependable and solidly present. Small moments, such as her fist-bumping with Hiyori after a successful catch, serve to remind viewers that Koi is a very round individual, with a full spectrum of emotions.

  • Koharu, meanwhile, manages to catch a fish with the fly, and while it’s not as impressive of a specimen as the one Hiyori had caught, she had both done it on her own skill, and using the fly she’d created. Such a moment would definitely be photo-worthy, but unfortunately for Koharu, her smartphone also ends up taking a swim, rendering it little more than a several-hundred dollar glass, metal and plastic brick. Some smartphones are water-resistant and survive being dropped into a foot of water, but even with phones that aren’t rated with water-resistance, they may yet be able to survive depending on the make and model. For Koharu, her phone’s hit the end of its lifespan with this incident, and she ends up picking up a new one.

  • On Koharu’s birthday, Koi, Futaba and Aiko show up to celebrate: Koharu’s whipped up a delicious takikomi gohan, a pilaf-like dish where rice is cooked with other things. Besides the rainbow trout that Hiyori had caught, this particular dish also has carrots and enoki mushrooms. In the blink of an eye, the rice disappears. After their meal ends, Koi, Futaba and Aiko respectively gift a new apron and hairclips to Koharu, both of which were thoughtfully picked. Feeling somewhat insecure, Hiyori puts off giving Koharu her gift, a photo album. As Koi predicts, this causes Koharu to become quite pouty, and she ultimately expresses her displeasure openly.

  • As it turns out, Hiyori’s fears were completely unfounded, and once the pair reconcile, they head up to their room and begin sorting through their photos, deciding on which ones to put into it. Koharu’s photos also survived, since she’d enabled cloud backups, and here, I will remark that while my move was largely smooth, one of my hard drives did suffer a catastrophic failure while I was moving files from my old desktop to the new one. This meant the loss of my collection of rare Cantonese albums, all of my travel photos, and every last file, presentation and paper I had from high school up to, and including my graduate studies. It is some consolation that I can get my Cantonese music back, and that some of my travel photos are also backed up to cloud storage, but my old work is gone forever.

  • I personally see this as a sign: with the move, I am to take it that it’s time to leave the past where it is and embrace the fact that there’s a host of things I can, and will, need to tend to now. With this finale post on Slow Loop in the books, this is the first anime-related post I’ve written after the move, and the second post I’ve written on this new desktop. Before I wrap things up, the observant reader will have noticed Koharu and Hiyori’s parents peering in a crack in the door on their daughters, who’ve become as close as biological sisters can be. To viewers, then, this is a definitive way of showing that from here on out, Koharu and Hiyori have one another’s backs, reading to help and support the other should anything happen.

  • While Slow Loop never does venture into the more serious territory despite hinting at this on several occasions, overall, the anime still succeeds in conveying the message it had set out to present. For this reason, I am quite happy to recommend Slow Loop to slice-of-life fans who are curious to see what the intersection between Tamayura and Houkago Teibou Nisshi is: this series earns a grade of A- (3.7 of 4.0, or 8.5 of 10 for those who prefer the 10-point scale) for its portrayal of family and finding new joys in life, losing points only for leaving some elements unexplored. This is a relatively minor issue, and overall, I had a great deal of fun both watching, writing about and perusing thoughts from readers on this series.

Overall, the light-hearted approach Slow Loop takes towards portraying what one journey of recovery could look like ends up being one of its merits. These topics had previously been explored to an unparalleled extent through anime like Tamayura, which set a very high bar to overcome. Rather than attempt to excel where Tamayura had, Slow Loop instead utilises aspects from other series to show how, while the approach might be dramatically different, the outcomes are the same. Rather than taking photographs, Koharu and Hiyori fly fish in the serenity of mountain lakes and the vastness of the ocean. Away from the endless hustle and bustle of the cities, Koharu and Hiyori are given a more laid-back atmosphere to gather their thoughts. In this way, Slow Loop also indicates that recovery and growth is something that nature can help with: in this day and age, people are glued to their smartphones, and in difficult times, tend to withdraw into virtual spaces rather than connect with other people in a meaningful way. By removing the virtual aspects, both Koharu and Hiyori are compelled to face their feelings, doubts and concerns head-on. Nature, however, offers a gentle setting for this, spurring the characters to do so at their own pacing. The choice of activity, coupled with the fact that both Koharu and Hiyori had lost family, would therefore show that one means of gaining perspective and learning to take a step forwards entails becoming more connected with others, treasuring the bonds one has, and becoming more attuned with the land, to truly spot that life and death is a part of the natural order, and that honouring those who’ve come before simply means being respectful to the land, as well as living life in an honest, sincere and compassionate fashion. Despite being a slice-of-life comedy on the surface, Slow Loop‘s topic and choice of imagery creates a convincing argument for how people can overcome their own struggles if they have the right people with them, and if they take such incidents as an opportunity to step back and open themselves up to new experiences. Seemingly simple anime can have surprisingly meaningful themes to them, and Slow Loop is no exception to this: its twelve episode run may be characterised by comedy and heartwarming moments, as is expected of a Manga Time Kirara work, but beyond this is a touching message about what it means to truly live.