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Tag Archives: Manga Time Kirara adaptation

Slow Loop: Review and Impressions After Three

“We never lose our loved ones. They accompany us; they don’t disappear from our lives. We are merely in different rooms.” –Paulo Coelho

On the first day of school, Koharu is disappointed to learn that she and Hiyori are going to be in different classes, while Hiyori is relieved she’s in the same class as Koi, a friend she’d known since pre-school. After classes end, Hiyori takes Koharu to the fishing shop Koi’s family owns, and picks up an all-in-one fishing kit here. The two later visit a lighthouse that Hiyori’s father had once taken her to, and here, Hiyori gifts the all-in-one fishing kit to Koharu. To get Koharu up to speed with fly fishing, Hiyori arranges for a fishing trip with Koi and her father: the latter is very fond of fishing to the point of occasionally forgetting about his family, and while Koharu is unable to catch anything, she is able to speak to Koi and encourages her to look out for Hiyori in her own way. Later, Hiyori learns that Koharu had lost her mother and younger brother in an accident, and despite having lived with one another for a few weeks, Koharu is a little distant with Hiyori’s mother. To this end, Koharu suggest going on a camping trip together with Koi’s family, too. Here, Hiyori realises that fishing of late’s been considerably more enjoyable, but struggles to find the words to thank Koharu, while Koharu catches her first-ever fish and savours it, before helping out with dinner. During the meal preparations, Koharu finds that she’s able to speak with Hiyori’s mother quite naturally, and Hiyori makes an attempt to know Koharu’s father better, as well. As the evening comes to a close, Koharu and Hiyori stargaze together. When Hiyori wonders if her father would recognise her as she is know, Koharu replies that so long as she smiles, things will be fine. Koharu herself grows excited about the prospect of returning to their campsite in the autumn, when the foliage is painted in hues of oranges and yellows. Here at Slow Loop‘s third episode, it is apparent that family will form the focus of this latest Manga Time Kirara adaptation, with fishing being a secondary aspect that gives the characters common ground to build shared experiences and memories from.

Both the second and third episodes provide exposition into how each of Koharu and Hiyori handled loss; Hiyori sought to understand her father better by continuing to fish, while Koharu pushes herself to be more outgoing and bring joy into the lives of those around her to the best of her ability. When these opposites meet, the end result is a sort of synergy: Hiyori is able to appreciate her father’s hobby more fully, while Koharu ends up being able to share her energy with someone. Unlike Tamayura, which presented things in a much slower and measured manner, Slow Loop‘s portrayal is considerably more spirited in nature; different people respond to loss and grief differently, and Slow Loop sets itself apart by showing viewers both the fact that people are quite resilient, but it is together that one is able to really take those difficult steps forward. The fact that Hiyori and Koharu share quite a bit in common (regarding their backgrounds) means that both are well-placed to help one another out, and I imagine that it is possible that there will come a point in Slow Loop where Hiyori will need to step up and encourage Koharu, as well. The idea of being there for one another, in both good times and the bad, is what makes a family: Koi makes this abundantly clear by saying that what a family outwardly appears to be isn’t the whole picture, and while Slow Loop‘s been quite gentle insofar, Koi’s remarks means that there will be points where Koharu and Hiyori encounter challenges, or even clash. However, in typical Manga Time Kirara spirit, whether it be through introspection or support from others (usually, a combination of both), the relationship that Koharu and Hiyori will come out all the stronger. With these directions in mind, Slow Loop has proven to be unexpectedly mature in its portrayal, and at this point in time, it is evident the series has what it takes to differentiate itself from its precursors.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Although Koharu isn’t in Hiyori’s class, she manages to hit it off with her classmates almost immediately. Hiyori, on the other hand, is glad to have ended up in the same class as her friend, Koi. The dramatic contrast in Hiyori and Koharu’s personalities are mirrored in their classroom arrangements; Koharu has no trouble with new people and appears to fit right in, while Hiyori is given a quieter setting where she’s able to be reassured by the fact she’s with someone she knows. After their first day of class, Hiyori decides to take Koharu around to some of the places she frequents.

  • As the daughter of a fishing fanatic, Koi works at a fishing store and is familiar with all of the gear that Hiyori could require in-field. Koi’s known Hiyori since pre-school, and consequently, Koi understands her quite well. Koi is voiced by Tomomi Mineuchi (Eiko Tokura of Slow Start Ilulu from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid,  and GochiUsa‘s Kano), although in appearance and personality, she’s similar to Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s Remon Yamano or perhaps Please Teacher!‘s Ichigo Monino: all characters have a quiet but somewhat mischievous disposition.

  • Viewers are given an introduction to the different types of lures: Koi classifies them into four groups (dry, nymphs, wet and streamers) based on the type of organism they’re supposed to mimic and correspondingly, the type of fish they’re intended to catch. Most guides I’ve found on a cursory search give three distinct categories, omitting the wet lure. Wet lures are stated to be a hybrid between streamers and nymphs: they float in the water, whereas dry lures sit on top of the water.

  • Although Koi’s name is evocative of the koi, a kind of Amur Carp, she explains that the kanji for her name is actually written as love (恋): it turns out on the day of her birth, her father had rushed off to fish, leaving her mother to give birth. Koi’s father is portrayed as being obsessed with fishing, and he often leaves Koi to run the store while he runs off to fish after her classes end for the day. This sort of behaviour has given some viewers trouble by making the show “unrealistic”, but for me, exaggerated traits are a signature part of Manga Time Kirara series.

  • The goal of characters like Koi and her father are to remind viewers that this is a world where both Koharu and Hiyori have experienced people in their corner. Since we are early in the series, the worth of people like Koi’s father won’t be immediately apparent, but as Slow Loop wears on, the additional expertise will become valuable. It turns out that Hiyori had wanted to pick up a special all-in-one fly fishing lure kit. The close interactions between Koi and Hiyori is such that Koi has a special name for Hiyori: “Yamahi”. This came from the fact there were two Yamakawas back during pre-school.

  • This revelation imparts a bit of jealousy in Koharu, who becomes a bit pouty after learning of this fact. Koharu continues to give off Cocoa vibes in Slow Loop, and like Cocoa, Koharu’s mood is quick to change: all jealousy evaporates when Hiyori reveals that she’d had one more destination in mind for their time together: a spot that she and her father had once visited together. Along the way, Koharu remarks on how it’s so nice that the ocean is within a stone’s throw. Koharu’s love for the ocean brings to mind Aoi and Chiaki’s response to the fact that Rin was sending so many ocean photos back to everyone in Yuru Camp△ – the ocean is especially beautiful to those who live in landlocked areas.

  • Different anime utilise different approaches when it comes to how they portray characters relative to their environments. Anime with simple backgrounds and characters that stand out indicate to viewers that the characters are the focus, while anime where the backgrounds are richly detailed remind viewers that the setting is also important; in offering something unique for the characters (such as the ocean’s bounty, or untamed natural beauty) to the extent where it can be considered a character in its own right. This was the case in anime like Yuru Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi. Here in Slow Loop, the latter seems to hold true.

  • Because the background is portrayed as being quite vibrant, it is significant to the story. I had indicated a few weeks earlier that that Slow Loop was set in Kanagawa: upon spotting this lighthouse, I turned my location hunting skills to use and did a query for all of the lighthouses in Kanagawa. This quickly allowed me to narrow the setting to Yokosuka, as this particular lighthouse is Kannonzaki Lighthouse. While not quite rural (Yokosuka has a population of 409 hundred thousand as of 2017), there is a corner of the city near the lighthouse that is a little less built-up. Knowing that Hiyori and Koharu live within walking distance of Kannonzaki Lighthouse makes location-hunting a little easier, and I just might return to do such a post in the future if Slow Loop presents enough places of interest.

  • It turns out that the all-in-one lure kit Hiyori bought was for Koharu, as a way of really welcoming her into the family and further kindle her interest in fly fishing. With her excitement still in full swing, Koharu accepts a chance to go fly fishing with Hiyori, Koi and her father. Koi’s father is all too happy to accept the chance to go out and fish, although Koi herself is less enthused by the excursion.

  • On the day of the fishing trip, Koi comes with an umbrella and is content to sit things out while her father, Hiyori and Koharu fish. It suddenly strikes me that Koharu’s got a very adorable-looking hat: it’s reminiscent of a lop-eared bunny, and coupled with the chibi art style, really accentuates the fact that Slow Loop, no matter how serious conversations might get, at the end of the day, such series are about finding the joys in life and putting a smile on viewers’ face.

  • Chibi moments like these serve to give every character more personality, and Slow Loop has utilised the transition between its normal art and chibi art to really convey how someone feels in a moment. Koharu is raring to get the party started; although she’s quite motivated and determined, poor form as a result of her still being new to fly fishing means she gets nothing.

  • On the other hand, with her experience, Hiyori begins picking fish up almost immediately. When Koharu finds herself skunked by the fly fishing, she stops to take a break and starts up a conversation with Koi. As it turns out, Koi had been worried about Hiyori ever since Hiyori’s father had passed away, but never felt it was her place to support and encourage Hiyori. Seeing Koharu come in so casually and lifting Hiyori’s spirits makes Koi wish that she’d done more for Hiyori.

  • While Koi had been doing her best to be considerate, Koharu has no such context and is therefore able to act without treading around eggshells. Seeing the change in Hiyori once Koharu shows up is ultimately encouraging for Koi, who is able to take a step forwards, as well. To accentuate this, once Koi comes to realise that she can still be there for Hiyori in her own way, similarly to how Koharu’s brightened Hiyori’s world up, she puts her umbrella away and steps out of the shadows, into the light.

  • This sort of thing was common in Tamayura, where Fū’s friends worry about whether or not the smallest thing could cause Fū grief in the beginning. However, the combination of Fū’s own open-mindedness and her friends’ unwavering support means that Fū is able to not only stand of her own accord, but flourish, too. Slow Loop does seem to be going in this direction; because of the positive energy Koharu brings to the table, Hiyori’s become excited at having a fishing partner, someone to share in her (and by extension, her father’s) love of the ocean.

  • By having Koi come to see how Hiyori’s begun taking those same steps that Fū had, Slow Loop both sets in motion Hiyori’s growth, as well as removing one more obstacle that keeps Koi from being her true self. In a Manga Time Kirara series, this means that Koi will likely become more expressive, resulting in interactions between herself, Hiyori and Koharu that are more consistent with the gentle, fluffy and humourous tone that Manga Time Kirara works are best known for.

  • The biggest surprise in Slow Loop so far was learning that Koharu’s background is at least as tragic as that of Hiyori’s, but in spite of this, she’s able to put on a smile and brighten up Hiyori’s day anyways. I expect that this will be something left for future episodes: for now, Hiyori’s the person who’s growing, and as Hiyori becomes increasingly able to stand of her own accord, she’d be able to support Koharu on the days where she’s not at the top of her game. For now, however, Koharu is all smiles, and she’s able to reminisce about her family without becoming saddened.

  • Koharu understands that the process isn’t going to take place overnight, but because there’s a distance between herself and Hiyori’s mother, she longs to close that distance over time. Like Sayomi and Nadeshiko, Koharu believes that adventure is the key to this, and ends up booking a fishing/camping trip. Koi and her family are also invited, but Koi’s a little befuddled as to why they’re to partake even when they’re not family. However, Koi’s father immediately jumps on the chance, seeing it as another chance to go fishing.

  • Slow Loop‘s use of familiar elements initially can come across as being derivative, but the activity isn’t the star of the show here; even assuming this was to be the case, my discussions would veer towards the differences in how Slow Loop and Houkago Teibou Nisshi portray fishing; one key difference is that Houkago Teibou Nisshi purely has the girls fishing from the breakwater (shore fishing), and Slow Loop portrays boat fishing. For now, however, Hiyori must first get the boat into the water, and while she’s done it before, it was adorable to see her struggle with Koharu in the boat.

  • In the end, the pair end up over the lake despite Koharu’s inexperience with rowing. Boat fishing offers numerous advantages over fishing from land: for one, range is improved, and one can hit spots that are otherwise inaccessible on land. However, fishing from the shore has less setup and teardown. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina and the Breakwater Club fish from the shore exclusively because their home, Sashiki, is a fishing town: there’d be a lot of commercial boats on the water, making it difficult for the Breakwater Club to head out into open water. Conversely, Slow Loop has Hiyori and Koharu do a combination of both kinds of fishing, acting as a metaphor for how different approaches and tools both have their pluses and minuses.

  • While Hiyori and Koharu enjoy lunch, Hiyori (somewhat insensitively) brings up fishing superstitions that leave Koharu disappointed. Here, I will note that insofar, discussions on Slow Loop have been fairly limited: the larger blogs I visit don’t appear to be writing about this series. While I normally welcome discussions, especially for the hotter series, slice-of-life anime are something I’d prefer to watch in a vacuum: I’ve never received a satisfactory answer as to why people take these anime so seriously, and discussions inevitably devolve into attempts to psychoanalyse even the most minor of actions the characters take.

  • Far from reading between the lines, such discussions invariably miss the big-picture message the work was originally intended to go for. Attempts to bring topics like philosophy and psychology into Manga Time Kirara works is therefore of limited value at best, and I’ve found that characters’ interactions and intentions in these series should be taken at face value. Here, a sudden rainfall forces Koharu and Hiyori to take cover under some branches by the shore. Hiyori thinks to herself that of late, thanks to Koharu’s presence, fishing has become much more enjoyable: it’d taken Rin two full seasons of Yuru Camp△ to appreciate this, so to see Slow Loop not-so-slowly convey this to viewers is a clear indicator of where this series intends to go.

  • Although Hiyori isn’t quite able to openly thank Koharu yet, the weather unexpectedly becomes pleasant again, and while Hiyori suggests returning to shore, she spots a few fish underneath the water. She seizes the moment and asks Koharu to ready her line while she prepares a lure. Earlier, Koi had set the condition that in order to partake in dinner with the others, each of Hiyori and Koharu needed to catch something. For Hiyori, this isn’t a problem, but Koharu is still a novice who has yet to catch anything. Feeling like she should return the favour to Koharu, Hiyori swiftly gears up.

  • In the end, Koharu is able to catch her first fish, following suggestions from Hiyori. This is a milestone moment for Koharu, who can now be said to be hooked on fly fishing. Unlike Hina, who’d outright fainted at the prospect of having to gut and clean a fresh catch, Koharu is much more accepting of the process, and again, this is an aspect to Slow Loop that differentiates it from other series of its lineage. It takes no small measure of subtlety to really appreciate slice-of-life series; for those unfamiliar with the genre, all slice-of-life series feel similar and are about “nothing”.

  • This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it does take a bit of open-mindedness to be open to what slice-of-life series are intended to convey. This is the reason why I am such a staunch defender of slice-of-life anime: these aren’t series that can be graded on conventional metrics, and their worth comes from whether or not they are able to present a meaningful message about life itself. Back in Slow Loop,. Koharu wonders if this fish’s experience is akin to being burnt at the stake. For a fluffy and cheerful individual, Koharu certainly has no qualms about speaking her mind, and this has led some to wonder if she’s quick to antagonise those around her for this.

  • I’d counter that in Manga Time Kirara series, character traits are exaggerated for comedy’s sake. If it is indeed necessary to explore this side of Koharu’s character later, then I will consider Koharu’s loose lips later on. Like the Breakwater Club’s doctrine in Houkago Teibou Nisshi (“eat what you catch”), Hiyori observes the idea that one should eat their catch to appreciate what goes into it. There’s a barbeque facility at the camp site, making it easy for Koharu to prepare her fish and eat it, as she says, as one would in a manga. The technique of eating fish this way is known as shioyaki, a practise that has been along for a very long time.

  • By evening, the families prepare to set up a hearty dinner. Thanks to Koharu, an acqua pazza soon takes shape. With the rainbow trout salted and grilled shioyaki-style, Koharu adds Manila clams and cherry tomatoes. Once the flavours get to know one another, the dish is done. The fact that Koharu is so knowledgable about cooking impresses Hiyori’s mother, who comments that Hiyori’s father had always been the cook, and after his passing, they’d gotten by on convenience store meals. In no time at all, cooking allows Hiyori’s mother and Koharu to bond.

  • The portrayal of camping in Slow Loop brings back memories of last year’s Yuru Camp△ 2: at this time last year, the third episode had just aired. Rin spent the day with Nadeshiko in Hamamatsu and explained her reasons for enjoying solo camping – Yuru Camp△ is one of those series where every episode offered something distinct to talk about, and I did episodic discussions for the second season during its airing. For Slow Loop, I’ve elected to write about it with my usual frequency (every three episodes). While World’s End Harem has proven interesting, the setup means that I might write a single post about it once it’s over – there’s a lot of moving parts right now with this one. On the other hand, Girls’ Frontline has been a bit of a disappointment insofar; the series has not established its characters well yet, and I’m not sure where this series intends to go.

  • Back in Slow Loop, seeing Koharu taking the initiative spurs Hiyori to do the same, and here, she offers a bowl of acqua pazza to Koharu’s father. After dinner’s done, Hiyori and Koharu decide to go star-gazing, where, away from the city lights, they’re able to spot Ursa Major in all of its glory, plus the Milky Way itself. While a stunning sight to behold, one reminiscent of how Ao and Mira had met in Koisuru Asteroid, a quick look around light pollution charts around Japan suggests that such gorgeous skies would be outside the realm of possibility nearest the larger cities.

  • It is under the vast night sky where Koharu explains how she’s able to put one foot in front of the other despite what’d happened in her past: keep smiling, because even though those around her might be gone, they’ll still be able to remember her smile from the other side. What Koharu means that her mother, and Hiyori’s father, would’ve wanted them to keep on moving forwards in their lives, to keep finding things to smiling about (i.e. make new memories). This is the sort of thing that Tamayura had particularly excelled at, and with Koi joining the group, I’m rather curious to see when Ichika, Futaba, Aiko, Niji and Tora enter the picture. In the meantime, speaking of enjoying family time, we’ve just picked up some Southern Fried Chicken and fries, and I’ve not sat down to a dinner of this sort since the New Year began, so it’s time to go ahead and enjoy this to the fullest extent possible on this unexpectedly warm but blustery winter’s night.

With this being said, Slow Loop‘s incorporation of elements from other slice-of-life series, like Houkago Teibou Nishi, Yuru Camp△, Tamayura and Koisuru Asteroid means presenting to viewers a familiar experience. Whether or not this is a bad thing will depend on the individual: amongst the community, some folks contend that if something is “generic”, it counts as a strike against a given work. For me, this isn’t ever a problem: treading on previously explored territory allows an anime to quickly establish its premise, and this in turn provides more time to focus on what the work intended to convey. In other words, whether or not a work contains derivative elements is irrelevant to me: what matters is how well said work can deliver a relevant, meaningful message. Here in Slow Loop, Hiyori and Koharu’s dynamic had previously been seen in Yuru Camp△‘s Rin and Nadeshiko, while the events forming the backdrop for Slow Loop‘s story is similar to Tamayura‘s. Hence, viewers can reasonably expect that Slow Loop would be a story of opposite personalities coming together to drive individual growth. However, because the setup is quite distinct from those of Yuru Camp△ and Tamayura, Slow Loop provides an opportunity to show something neither of these works focused on: how the combination of Koharu’s cheerful, happy-go-lucky personality and Hiyori’s introspective, quiet traits complement the other in a way as to allow both characters to come to terms with their losses, support one another and ultimately, step forward together. I’ll admit that this was something I wasn’t expecting from Slow Loop based on its synopsis alone, but now that we’ve seen three episodes, I am looking forwards to seeing how this anime explores more challenging topics about handling loss and grief while at the same time, continuing to remind viewers to be appreciative of the smaller things in life, like sharing a meal with loved ones.

A Very Unique Girl: Slow Loop First Episode Impressions

“The great charm of fly-fishing is that we are always learning.” –Theodore Gordon

After her father had passed away from an illness three years earlier, Hiyori Yamakawa is a little worried about her stepfather and stepsister after learning her mother is going to remarry. To assuage her worries, Hiyori decides to take her mind off things by returning to the breakwater overlooking the ocean and do some fly fishing, which her father had taught her. She ends up running into Koharu Minagi at the breakwater: it’s Koharu’s first time seeing the ocean, and she’s even come in her swimsuit, intent on going for a swim. However, in March, the waters are still too frigid, and Hiyori ends up hooking Koharu to prevent her from taking a plunge. After introductions, Hiyori invites Koharu help her catch some fish and try some sashimi; the two quickly bond despite Hiyori not being good with meeting new people. To both Hiyori and Koharu’s surprise, it turns out that they’re now step-siblings. When Hiyori becomes a little uncomfortable with things back home and heads off to the breakwater, Koharu follows her, and Hiyori ends up providing instruction on how to fly fish. In return, Koharu whips up a zukedon for Hiyori using some older fish. The night before the new school year starts, Hiyori reassures Koharu it’s completely fine for her to be sleeping in Hiyori’s father’s old room, and she also promises properly teach Koharu on how to fish. On the first day of classes, Hiyori and Koharu head for school together to kick off their new year. With the arrival of the new anime season, Slow Loop is off to a flying start; this first episode wastes no time in introducing the characters, their backgrounds and setting up the fated encounter that brings Koharu and Hiyori together as family, all the while setting the stage that comes from enjoying the ocean’s bounty in a respectful and sustainable manner, much as Houkago Teibou Nisshi did before it a few years earlier.

Slow Loop differentiates itself from Houkago Teibou Nisshi in that this time around, Hiyori is still coming to terms with her father’s passing three years ago. Fishing becomes the activity that reassures her and connects her to her father. However, until Koharu arrives in her life, fly fishing is also a pursuit that Hiyori explores alone, and she’s initially limited only to one style of fishing. With Koharu’s genuine interest in learning more, bit by bit, Hiyori is pushed out of her comfort zone, and is prompted to explore new directions, as well. The setup in Slow Loop is reminiscent of Tamayura, where Fū Sawatari moved to Takehara to better learn the town her father had grown up in, and in doing so, Fū came to connect her father more closely. Here in Slow Loop, Hiyori is taciturn and reserved, fishes with only one technique and generally has trouble interacting with others. However, Koharu’s arrival acts as a catalyst to push her forwards, too: similarly to Fū, Hiyori is someone who can take initiative on her own, but when spurred on by friends, finds that her path to recovery and discovery is greatly accelerated by the new experiences that are only possible when one opens up their hearts to those around them. In this way, Slow Loop appears to be a Manga Time Kirara-style representation of Tamayura, being a bit more colourful and spirited (in contrast with the more measured and contemplative mood of Tamayura) portrayal of how fateful encounters can set people in new directions. After one episode, Slow Loop demonstrates that it has the makings of a consistent, if familiar series, and my interest in Slow Loop will be what unique messages are presented in its blend of elements from Houkago Teibou Nisshi and Tamayura, with character traits from other Manga Time Kirara series like Koisuru Asteroid.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll kick things off with Hiyori fishing on her own at the pier; Hiyori is voiced by Rin Kusumi, a relatively new voice actress whose role in Slow Loop represents her first lead role. While it’s March when Slow Loop begins, the weather still feels considerably warmer than it is here in the Great White North thanks to the blues in both ocean and sky. Since 2022 started, the daily high hasn’t exceeded -20°C (although with wind chill, it’s closer to -40°C). Before getting too much further into this post, one of the things I’ll have to steel myself to do is not mistype Slow Loop and spell it as Slow Start, another Manga Time Kirara series I’d previously watched, enjoyed and written about. Manga Time Kirara is very much characterised by doing things slowly, methodically, a mindset that has numerous merits but, all too often, is forgotten in today’s world.

  • 2020’s Houkago Teibou Nisshi proved to be superbly enjoyable, providing a combination of fishing information and slice-of-life antics in conjunction with messages of being respectful to marine ecology by not overfishing and not leaving any garbage after one’s finished. When Slow Loop was announced, I was admittedly curious: this one appeared to be more character driven than experience driven (such as Houkago Teibou Nisshi) owing to its premise, and as such, entering the first episode, I had no idea what to expect.

  • After Koharu chucks her clothes and prepares to dive into the ocean, Hiyori uses her line to catch Koharu’s attention. The latter ends up falling on her back and comes face-to-face with Hiyori, who blushes furiously. Koharu’s energy and enthusiasm brings to mind the likeness of Cocoa, Mira and Nadeshiko, all of whom have cheerful, extroverted and easy-go-lucky personalities. In appearance, Koharu is reminiscent of Blend S‘ Kaho, who was quite well-endowed and often wore her hair in twintails as a part of her work outfit. Koharu is voiced by Natsumi Hioka, whom I know best as Mitsuboshi Colours‘ Kotoha and Shii Eniwa from Super Cub.

  • The initial meeting between Koharu and Hiyori feels somewhat like the meeting between Nadeshiko and Rin during Yuru Camp△‘s first season: a happenstance occurrence that sets in motion the events for the remainder of the series. Such fateful encounters are a common literary device in Manga Time Kirara series, showing how friendships can come from the most unlikely of moments. Because of how Manga Time Kirara series are structured, they share many elements in common: folks looking for an all-new experience won’t find them with adaptations from Manga Time Kirara.

  • Instead, the joy in these series stems from their portrayal of how every journey is different, and therefore, worthwhile. After Hiyori shares some tea with Koharu, she invites Koharu to help her fish: while she casts her line, Koharu is to take the net and scoop the fish up. Even this early on, there’s a bit of chemistry between the two: like Nadeshiko and Rin, Mira and Ao, and Cocoa and Chino, the sharp contrast between Hiyori and Koharu’s personalities inevitably mean that the two will complement one another very well.

  • Right out of the gates, Slow Loop has Hiyori fishing for rockfish (Hepburn mebaru), which are of the genus Sebastes. There are 109 recognised species in this genre, and like Houkago Teibou Nisshi, the rockfish is portrayed as possessing poisonous spines that must be removed prior to consumption. This is done to show that Hiyori is no novice when it comes to fishing, but also shows how centuries of aquatic expertise means that humanity has learnt to make the most of what nature provides. Houkago Teibou Nisshi did the same, but in later episodes, once Hina had become more accustomed to fishing.

  • Looking back on the past few years, one of the most noticeable changes to my dietary preferences are that I now am a ways more comfortable eating raw fish than I’d been previously. I attribute this change to both Survivorman, as well as anime like Yuru Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which led me to become more open-minded about trying things. There’s a flavour and texture about sashimi and nigiri that is particularly appealing. Having said this, I still prefer my fish cooked thoroughly as a result of my background: 魚生 (jyutping yu4 saang1, literally “raw fish”) isn’t a popular part of Cantonese cuisine, and my favourite fish dishes usually see the fish steamed, then seasoned with a dash of soy sauce, ginger and scallion.

  • In moderation, though, raw fish is delicious, and after Hiyori prepares the fish, Koharu is immediately blown away by how fresh everything tastes. I believe that saltwater fish are slightly safer for raw consumption compared to freshwater fish, although in general, fish intended for use in sushi (nigiri) or sashimi is generally frozen first to kill any parasites: freezing causes ice crystals to form in the parasites’ cells, eventually rupturing them. It is not lost on me that the character designs in Slow Loop have a very GochiUsa-like feel to them.

  • As the sun begins setting, Hoyori remarks that she’s got to take off soon, since her mother’s getting remarried and they’re going to meet her future step-father, as well as his child. The moment Hoyori says this, it becomes clear that Koharu would say the same: that her father is getting remarried to someone who’s got a child, as well. This sort of thing might be seen as highly unrealistic, especially from a probability perspective, but such happenstance events are deliberate in stories to really drive home the idea that things like fateful encounters can exist and have a nontrivial impact on one’s life.

  • For me, predictability has never been an issue in anime for the same reason it’s never been an issue for whenever I watch Western films or television shows. This is because stories are intended to serve a specific function, whether it be to inform, persuade or entertain. As such, my goals when consuming a work is to determine what message the author has for me, and then, how well the journey towards those messages were portrayed. In Slow Loop, for instance, Maiko Uchino aims to present the idea of how being open-minded creates new experiences that help individuals to accept past losses, so now that Koharu and Hiyori are, in effect, sisters, what I am looking for most is to see how fishing and cooking will come together for the two, and what experiences they have together as a result.

  • With this being said, it is very reductionist to suppose that Slow Loop is purely about “found family in a group of misfits”, as one of Random Curiosity’s writers puts it: there’s more of a Tamayura-like vibe in Slow Loop in that both series presents the idea of becoming passionate and skilled about something as a means of better learning about loved ones who are no longer present. I will remark that it does take a certain mindset to write about slice-of-life series in a manner that’s interesting and meaningful for readers; reacting to things that occur isn’t something I find particularly valuable. Here, Hiyori recalls how her father’s old office is now Koharu’s room, and although Koharu’s father spots that this is bothering Hiyori somewhat, Hiyori herself is more conflicted than disapproving.

  • This is because the room would’ve represented her existing memories of her father; having Koharu move in would mean displacing those memories. On the flipside, however, having Koharu move in also means that while the present is displacing the past, the memories still remain. In this way, it’s a bit of a visual metaphor for having Hiyori take a step forward. After noticing Hiyori’s gone out, Koharu follows suit, and decides that now would be a great time to learn how to fly fish. Hiyori is a little befuddled by Koharu’s actions, wondering if she’s doing this to take her mind off things, or if she’s just curious. Past experience says that it’s likely a combination of both: characters like Koharu, Cocoa and Mira seem attuned to how those around them feel, and intuitively act in a way as to help them out.

  • While Hiyori notes that this day is windier than when they’d met, Koharu indicates that she’s like to at least try her hand at casting. Moments like these bring out Hiyori’s true self, and she immediately delves into the technical aspects of how to properly cast a fly fishing rod. The terminology overwhelms Koharu, but when Hiyori switches over to layman’s terms, Koharu comes around and begins to understand what Hiyori is getting at. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina suffers from a similar problem. As a beginner, she asks Makoto to help her out, but Makoto’s experience means she uses terms Hina is unfamiliar with. Conversely, Yūki’s explanations are far simpler, and in no time at all, Hina’s up and running. Being able to convey complex ideas to a novice is a mark of skill, and here in Slow Loop, having Hiyori being comfortable with both simplifies things somewhat for Koharu.

  • While Hiyori begins to wonder if Koharu’s wanting to learn fly fishing solely to take her mind off things back home, it turns out that Koharu had really just been about the fly fishing. However, this does give Hiyori a chance to clear her head, and seeing Koharu’s energy leads her to open up a little more – as they head home, Hiyori becomes comfortable calling Koharu by name, and learns that Koharu is two months older than she is.

  • For the time being, Slow Loop has made only the briefest of mentions regarding where its events take place: based on the name of the high school that Hiyori and Koharu attend, it’s somewhere in a hillier, coastal region of Kanagawa. This is speculative, of course, and I do wonder if a bit more information will be given with respect to where Slow Loop occurs come later episodes; I’d previously done a location hunt for Houkago Teibou Nisshi that wound up being very enjoyable, and it’d be phenomenal to bring the Oculus Quest back out of storage for another location hunt.

  • Although they didn’t catch anything, Koharu admits that she’d wanted to get at some fresh fish so she can cook: it turns out that Koharu is a skilled cook, and when Hiyori admits they have more fish than they know what to do with, including fish that’s no longer quite as optimal for sashimi, Koharu indicate she’s got a recipe up her sleeve that’s worth trying out. The difference in skills that each of Koharu and Hiyori possess creates a scenario where Hiyori will teach Koharu fishing, and over time, Koharu will impart her cooking knowledge on Hiyori, as well. The interplay between two different, but complementary skills will similarly help both to grow: as it turns out, Koharu’s not much of an outdoors person since she was afflicted with asthma when she was younger.

  • The recipe that Koharu has in mind isn’t particularly challenging: it’s a zukedon (marinated tuna bowl) that is prepared by adding equal measures of soy sauce, dashi and mirin to the fish, then throwing in some ground sesame seeds, adding this onto the rice and then topping with scallions to finish things off. Donburi is similar to the Cantonese 碟頭飯 (jyutping dip6 tau4 faan6, “topping on rice”), a simple dish with meat served on rice, and while there are countless varieties, my favourite is chicken curry or char sui with choy sum. Rice is incredibly versatile, and for dinner yesterday evening, I ended up having Hamamatsu-style unagi on rice. This eel was incredibly rich in flavour, being both savoury and piscine, and I now appreciate why Rin was overjoyed to try eel while with Nadeshiko during their time in Hamamatsu.

  • In the end, the resulting zukedon is delicious – Hiyori notes that it’s a little different than the ones her father used to make, and the ensuing conversation has Koharu shocked to learn that some fishes are actually at their best a few days after they’re caught. I have noticed that discussions elsewhere are very focused on Hiyori accepting her family name being changed from Yamakawa to Minagi, but this aspect is ultimately inconsequential – Hiyori herself is the sort of person who rolls with the punches and does her best to be accommodating; while Koharu and her father moving in is a big change, she’s not too bothered and even remarks shikata ga nai (仕方がない), a saying associated with accepting adversity in a dignified manner. Incidentally, the Chinese have a similar saying, 冇辦法 (jyutping mou5 baan6 faat3, literally “no other way”).

  • The reason why I’m less concerned about Hiyori accepting the family name change, despite its ties to her father, is because accepting this change equates to accepting the future, which in turn opens the anime to explore what lies ahead. Hiyori’s father remains important to her, but Koharu is the present and the future; I do not doubt that Hiyori’s father would’ve wanted her to find her own happiness anew, much as how Fū did indeed find her own way in Tamayura. As it was, Hiyori’s already looking forwards to figuring out some new fishing techniques that might be helpful for Koharu, whose enthusiasm to learn evokes a very Shimarin-like response from Hiyori, and this signifies that focusing on the minutiae is not too beneficial in a series like Slow Loop.

  • On the first day of term, Koharu gently pulls Hiyori forwards and hopes they’ll be in the same class together. Thus begins Slow Loop, and with the first of the anime now off to a fine start, I’ll remark here that I have plans to return and write about Slow Loop on a quarterly basis: discussion on shows like these are uncommon, and on some occasion, folks deem it necessary to bring in various aspects of psychology or sociology into such series where it is not needed. Manga Time Kirara series are, by definition, easygoing and approachable, so that a wide range of people can enjoy them: I hope to be able to convey this enjoyment as I journey through this one. Besides Slow Loop, I am also watching Girls’ Frontline and Shuumatsu no Harem this season. Once I have a measure of how these two shows are doing, I’ll make a more concrete decision as to whether or not I will be writing about them.

Before we delve too deeply into Slow Loop as more episodes air, it is logical to briefly mention the etymology behind this series’ title. Slow Loop‘s title is derived from a step during casting, during which one casts backwards, causing the line to form a loop. As Hiyori explains, casting forward and backward without dropping the fly into the water is called false casting. During this time, a loop is retained in the line: this process is done in preparation for the act of casting a line fully, and so, a “slow” loop therefore refers to the idea of taking as much time as needed to become ready for the next step forward. Slow Loop is appropriately named, and speaks to how for Hiyori, the path to acceptance and of thriving is one that she should take at her own pace. This is reminiscent of the advice that Maon’s father had given to Kanae in Tamayura ~More Aggressive~, when he’d suggested that everyone eventually casts off from the harbour, even though everyone does so only when they’re ready. As such, moving into Slow Loop‘s main story, it is evident that this is an anime that will combine the topic of fishing with self-discovery and acceptance while adding the Manga Time Kirara traits of adorable characters, bad jokes and warmth. On paper, this is a solid combination, so it goes without saying that Slow Loop is a series I am going to enjoy watching this season. Given the remarkably enjoyable experience Houkago Teibou Nisshi had imparted, and the unparalleled lessons seen in Tamayura, I am not holding Slow Loop to those same expectations – instead, the value in Slow Loop will come from how the story differentiates itself from those of its precursors.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: K-On! The Movie (Eiga Keion!), A Review, Recommendation and Remarks On Serendipity At The Film’s Ten Year Anniversary

We’re buddies from here on out!
Pictures of us together,
Our matching keychains
Will shine on forever
And always, we thank you for your smile

—Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!

With its theatrical première ten years previously to this day, K-On! The Movie has aged very gracefully from both a thematic and technical standpoint. The film follows Houkago Tea Time shortly following their acceptance to university. With their time in high school drawing to a close, the girls attempt to come up with a suitable farewell gift for Azusa, who had been a vital member of their light music club. Feeling it best to be a surprise, they try to keep this from Azusa. When word nearly gets out, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi wind up fabricating that their “secret” is a graduation trip. The girls decide on London; after arranging for their flight and accommodations, the girls arrive in London and sightsee, before performing at a Japanese pop culture fair. Upon their return home, the girls perform for their classmates and finalise their song for Asuza. Simple, sincere and honest, K-On! The Movie represented a swan song for the K-On! franchise’s animated adaptation, making the extent of Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi’s gratitude towards Azusa tangible: K-On! The Movie is a journey to say “Thank You”, and as Yui and the others discover, while their moments spent together might be finite, the treasured memories resulting from these everyday moments are infinitely valuable. Ultimately, representing the sum of these feelings is done by means of a song; music is universally regarded as being able to convey emotions, thoughts and ideas across linguistic and cultural barriers, and so, it is only appropriate that the girls decide to make a song for Azusa. However, Yui and the others initially struggle to find the right words for their song. It is serendipitous that a fib, done to keep Azusa from knowing about her graduation gift, sends the girls to London. During this trip, Azusa undertakes the role of a planner. She handles the logistics to ensure that everyone can visit their destinations of choice and on top of this, fit their travels so that they can honour a commitment to perform at a festival. At the top of her game in both keeping things organised, and looking out for Yui, Azusa is exhausted at the end of their travels. Once they agree to writing a song, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi set about composing the lyrics for it. When they begin to draft the lyrics, they come to realise how integral Azusa has been to Houkago Tea Time, a veritable angel for the club. This is the birth of Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! (Touched by an Angel), an earnest song whose direct lyrics convey how everyone feels about Azusa. Because everyone’s spent so much time together, Azusa’s presence in Houkago Tea Time is very nearly taken for granted. It takes a trip to London for Yui and the others to discover anew what Azusa has done for everyone: from planning out the trip and fitting their itinerary to everyone’s satisfaction, to keeping an eye on the scatter-minded Yui, Azusa’s actions during the London trip act as the catalyst that reminds everyone of how her presence in the Light Music Club has helped everyone grow.

Azusa is also evidently selfless, worrying about others ahead of herself: when the others notice her slowing down in the Underground, Azusa mentions that her new shoes are somewhat uncomfortable. She insists it’s fine, but Yui figures they can buy new shoes for her. Because of Houkago Tea Time’s easygoing approach to things, this detour into an adventure of sorts at Camden. However, K-On! The Movie is not an anime about travel; sightseeing is condensed into a montage, and greater emphasis is placed on the girls’ everyday moments together. Subtle, seemingly trivial moments are given more screen time than visiting the London Eye, or David Bowie’s House, reminding viewers that Houkago Tea Time is about its members, not where they go. While it is likely that any destination would have accomplished the same, visiting London, the birthplace of many famous musicians whose style have influenced the Light Music Club’s music, proved to be an appropriate choice that also sets the stage for the girls to compose their song for Azusa, showing that London had a role in inspiring Yui and the others. With crisp animation, attention paid to details, a solid aural component and a gentle soundtrack, K-On! The Movie is executed masterfully to bring this story of gratitude to life for viewers. Its staying power and timeless quality comes from a story that is immediately relatable: many viewers have doubtlessly wondered how to best express thanks for those who have helped them through so much, and more often than not, found that simple gestures of appreciation can often be the most meaningful. Naoko Yamada mentioned in an interview that one of the challenges about K-On! The Movie was trying to scale it up to fit the silver screen. This challenge is mirrored in the film, where Yui wonders how to create a gift of appropriate scale to show everyone’s appreciation for Azusa; in the end, just as how the girls decide on a gift that is appropriately scaled, Yamada’s film ends up covering a very focused portrayal of Houkago Tea Time that works well with the silver screen: less is more, and by focusing on a single thing, the movie ends up being very clear and concise in conveying its theme. A major part of K-On!‘s original strength was instilling a sense of appreciation for the everyday, mundane things in life; the film’s success in scaling things up is from its ability to take something as simple as finding a gift to express thanks and then meticulously detailing how this gift matured over time into the final product viewers know as Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!. However, while director Naoko Yamada fills K-On! The Movie with the series’ previous sense of joy and energy, the overall aesthetic of K-On! The Movie is unlike that of its predecessors. For the past ten years, I’ve wondered why the film felt different – the film is still K-On! at heart, but there was a feeling of melancholy and sadness about the film that was absent in the TV series. For the past decade, I’ve lacked the words to express this, but here at K-On! The Movie‘s ten year anniversary, it is worthwhile to look at why the film continues to endure – since the film became available, I’ve watched K-On! The Movie once a year, every year.

While K-On! The Movie opens with Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi playing one of Death Devil’s songs to see what things would be like if their band had a different aesthetic, and then segues to the cheerful, Christmas-like Ichiban Ippai!, Yui and the others head off to discard some rubbish from the club room. As they walk through a sun-filled corridor leading into the courtyard, a contemplative piano begins playing in the background. Yui gazes out into the courtyard. The entire scene is faded out, featuring very little colour compared to when they’d been in the clubroom, and Yui opens by saying that she’s feeling that they should do something befitting of a senior. The moment’s composition was quite unlike anything else seen in K-On!; even though colour and joy do return to K-On! The Movie moments later, one cannot help but feel a lingering sense of sadness in knowing that, this is the end for K-On!. Much as how Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi know their time with Azusa is drawing to a close, viewers know that for every smile and laugh the girls share throughout this film, there is a point where things will inevitably come to an end. Moments like these return after the girls come back home from London. Whereas their travels had been filled with colour, upon returning home, the world becomes faded out and desaturated again. The music becomes slower, gentler and carry with it a sort of finality. Those feelings had been set aside among the excitement in London, but back in Japan, they return in full force. This melancholy, however, is not overwhelming at all. Instead, it adds to K-On! The Movie, emphasising the beauty of the girls’ previous experiences together, and that despite its impermanence, the friendship between Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa is very real. While they might part ways for the present, that it existed at all counts for something. This respect for that which is transient and fleeting creates a very unusual feeling which the Japanese describe as Mono no Aware (物の哀れ, “the pathos of things”): something is beautiful because it isn’t going to last forever. This juxtaposition and seemingly contradictory set of feelings results in a bittersweetness surrounding a given moment, and much as how viewers are aware that after the movie, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi will part ways with Azusa, the fact is that they will hold onto and cherish the countless memories they have of one another, too. It is because of these memories that everyone is able to accept that they are moving onwards into the future. Yamada’s masterful inclusion of gently wistful musical pieces and choice of colour in K-On! The Movie speak to notions of Mono no Aware, and in this way, weaves a central piece of Japanese aesthetic into the film: nothing, not even friendships, last, but this is just a part of life. Seeing K-On! The Movie capture Mono no Aware speaks to the depth of in this film, and while K-On! might ostensibly be about a group of girls who would rather enjoy sweets and tea over practising, the series also indicates that like all things, friendships do not last forever. In spite of this, and perhaps because of this, such bonds are all the more meaningful.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post came about because I did wish to share something at the film’s ten year anniversary, and the observant reader will note that this year is the tenth anniversary to many things, coinciding with when I started this blog and really began writing in earnest. The film opens with Yui and the others acting like Death Devil for kicks (at least, Yui, Ritsu and Tsumugi are in on it, while Mio’s just playing as herself). Once the ruse is up, the opening song, Ichiban Ippai (“Full of Number Ones”), begins playing. This song has a very Christmas-like feel to it, appropriate for the season.

  • Because this revisitation similarly comes a full ten years after K-On! The Movie first premièred, now that ten years’ worth of accumulated experience is in the books, I was hoping to share a renewed set of thoughts about this movie. I’ve previously written about K-On! The Movie on several occasions and explored some of the aspects that made it worthwhile to watch, but reading through these older posts, it feels like back then, I’d only really scratched the surface for what I wished to discuss.

  • When Yui and the others leave the club room, the lighting is diffuse, and colours are faded. In conjunction with the music, this scene spoke volumes to me about what K-On! The Movie had been attempting to accomplish. Whereas Hajime Hyakkoku, the composer for the series’ background music, had previously written joyful, bubbly pieces, the second track on the soundtrack has a more contemplative, thoughtful tone to it as Yui considers doing something worthy of being a senior.

  • It was here that I began to realise that throughout the entirety of K-On! The Movie, a feeling of gentle sadness permeated everything that is shown, even when the characters are caught up in their own antics and creating adorable moments for viewers to laugh at. While Mono no Aware is a part of K-On! The Movie, however, it never overshadows the general aesthetic and mood; there are still plenty of jokes throughout the film, such as when Yui attempts to make a break for it after cheating in the lottery to determine where their graduation trip should end up.

  • On writing about K-On! The Movie in full for the first time in a few years, I’ve come to pick up a few things that I missed earlier, and in conjunction with a keener eye for subtleties, this post is the result; my conclusion about the film’s central theme is a little more specific now, with a focus on Yui and the others crafting a memorable farewell gift for Azusa in gratitude for her participation in Houkago Tea Time. My earlier reviews focused on friendship at a much higher level, and looking back, I think that this review captures the reason for why I enjoyed the movie a shade more effectively than the earlier reviews.

  • Gratitude is the first and foremost theme in K-On! The Movie, with everything else being an ancillary aspect that augments the film’s strengths. The movie, then, succeeds in conveying the sort of scale that Naoko Yamada desired for viewers, showing the extent of everyone’s appreciation towards Azusa. This underlines Azusa’s impact on Houkago Tea Time, and so, when one returns to the televised series, all of those subtle moments suddenly become more meaningful, and more valuable.

  • Mio gives in to her happiness and makes no attempt to hide it when it turns out London is their chosen destination. The movie’s original première on December 3, 2011 is now a distant memory. I vaguely recall concluding my introductory Japanese class and finalising my term paper on the role of a protein in iron transport for bacteria. At the time, I was focused on simply surviving that semester and save my GPA, which had taken a dive after my second year, and for most of the winter term, I was similarly focused on maintaining passable grades in biochemistry and and cell and molecular biology. I exited that term on a stronger note, and with my final exams in the books, I learned that the movie would release on July 18.

  • I still remember when this film became available to watch: it had been a gorgeous July day, and the high reached 26°C. At this point in my summer, I’d spent almost two and a half months studying for the MCAT. The course was under my belt, and I’d been going through practise exam after practise exam. When I did my first exam, I scored a 22 (equivalent to today’s 496). However, a summer of giving up research and hanging out had an appreciable impact on my performance, and by the time K-On! The Movie came out, I was consistently scoring 30s (510 in today’s scoring system).

  • For reference, a good MCAT score is 508 (29 in 2012). I had been worried if watching and reviewing K-On! The Movie would’ve had an impact on my MCAT scores, but in the end, the movie presented no trouble in that area, and I ended up watching the film after a day spent going through a practise exam. Back then, this blog was still relatively new, and I never wrote extensive articles here. Instead, I published my first review to my old Webs.com site: over the course of two days, I wrote out a review that was comparable to the average post here. This never did interfere with the MCAT, and indeed, having the chance to watch K-On! The Movie contributed to helping me relax.

  • I had decided to take the MCAT earlier that year, and this represented a major commitment from my part. From the film’s home release announcement to the day of release, time passed in the blink of an eye. The movie’s first forty minutes are still in Japan, and it provided plenty of time to establish the witherto’s and whyfor’s of how Houkago Tea Time end up travelling to London; here, Ui helps Yui to pack, and their mother can be seen in the background. Until now, Mister and Missus Hirasawa have never been shown on screen in the animated adaptation.

  • The manga would end up doing so in its fourth volume, but since K-On!! had no such equivalent (the events of the anime diverge somewhat from the events in the manga towards the end), Yamada decided to slot Yui and Ui’s parents in as Yui heads off to the airport. The manga suggests that the Hirawasas are a happy family, although the parents are very fond of travelling, accounting for why they were never seen in the TV series.

  • With its slow pacing, K-On! The Movie is very relaxing: as it turns out, Houkago Tea Time ends up overhearing classmates discuss a graduation trip and then, while focused on their own goal of gifting something special for Azusa, hide their plans by saying they’re also doing a graduation trip. This turn of events is precisely the way things Houkago Tea Time rolls, although it is notable that even while planning for the trip takes precedence, Yui’s mind never strays far from their original goal of figuring out how they can give Azusa a memorable gift.

  • In an interview with Yamada, she explains that the biggest challenge the movie format posed by K-On! The Movie was how to scale the series up to fit the silver screen. This challenge ended up being mentioned in film itself, when Yui wonders how they’d make a suitable gift for Azusa that captures all of their gratitude. In the end, much as how Yamada succeeds with K-On! The Movie by being true to the original series’ style, Yui and the others found that a gift for Azusa would mean the most so long as it had heart. The journey to London thus becomes a bit of a sideshow, demonstrating how regardless of where in the world Houkago Tea Time go, they’re still themselves.

  • K-On! The Movie is at its most energetic while the girls are on their travels. The London segment of K-On! The Movie only occupies a third of the movie, but it is here that some of the franchise’s most unique moments are shown. It is the first time anyone is seen heading to the airport and travelling on an aircraft –until now, K-On! had been set entirely in Japan, so having Houkago Tea Time set foot on a plane and becoming, as Yui puts it, a part of the international community, was a monumental occasion for K-On! in showing that the series had taken one giant leap forwards.

  • For the most part, K-On! The Movie was very well-received, with praises being given towards the direction, sincerity and ability of the film to remain true to the atmosphere in the TV series, while at the same time, capitalising on the movie format to do something that could not have been done in a TV series. Criticisms of the film are very rare – I can count the number of the film’s detractors on one hand, and most of the gripes centred on the film’s relatively limited focus on travel, portrayal of London citizens and gripes that the film was protracted in presenting its story. It is with satisfaction that I note the most vocal of these critics, Reckoner and Sorrow-kun of the elitist Nihon Review and Behind The Nihon Review blogs, are no longer around because both blogs’ domains have expired. Reckoner had been a particularly fierce critic of K-On!, but his assertions were unfounded and poorly argued, while Sorrow-kun had written numerous articles claiming K-On! was “objectively” a poor series.

  • As of now, both Nihon Review and Behind The Nihon Review have gone offline: after their owner finally stopped paying the hosting fees, their hosts suspended both sites, resulting in all of Sorrow-kun’s posts becoming removed. In particular, Sorrow-kun had believed Behind The Nihon Review’s goals were to “enlighten” fans on why anime was only worthwhile if it contained philosophical or academic merit, so seeing some of the internet’s most invalid opinions of K-On! become lost forever is something worth smiling about. The comparatively short amount of time spent in London is not a detriment to the film – K-On! The Movie is not a travel show, and London was only an aside, a consequence of a fib to keep Azusa’s gift hidden. With this in mind, it wasn’t particularly surprising that London would be secondary to figuring out what kind of song they should write for Azusa. Throughout the film, Yui’s determination to figure out something and efforts to maintain secrecy lead Azusa to wonder if something is amiss. If she did suspect something, things are quickly shunted aside when the girls’ plan to visit London become realised.

  • Upon arriving in London, the girls enjoy the sights over Hounslow, a district in West London immediately east of Heathrow Airport. It’s been a while since I’ve boarded a plane: the last time I flew was back in 2019, when I attended F8 2019. The last time I was on a plane for leisure would’ve been back in 2017 on a particularly memorable trip to Japan. No matter where I go in the world, there is always a joy about flying over a city and wondering to myself, what are the folks down below doing in their day-to-day lives? Of course, when I’m on the ground and looking up at an aircraft, I find myself thinking of where people might be headed.

  • The flight leaves Yui excited to finally become part of the international community, and she begins bouncing while riding the moving walkway. In this frame, the girls’ hands look quite small; in a cast interview, Yamada mentioned that she wanted K-On! The Movie to appeal to as many people as possible, and to this end, modified the characters’ appearances slightly from the style seen in K-On!!. The end result leaves the characters more expressive than they’d been in K-On! and K-On!! – simple things like facial expressions are able to speak volumes here in the film, whereas in the TV series, such nuances were not conveyed through such a subtle manner. After exiting the plane and entering the terminal, Azusa remarks that they’re going to have to clear customs.

  • Yui and the others are able to get through without any issue, although Yui’s weaker English leads her to mispronounce “sight-seeing” as “side business”, leading to some confusion from the customs official: I’m not sure what the laws in the United Kingdom are, but here in Canada, doing something business-related requires a visa. Fortunately, this mispronunciation doesn’t result in any complications, and all five clear customs without any trouble. The joys and drawbacks of travelling are presented in K-On! The Movie to the girls: while K-On! has long favoured gentle escapism, the movie adds an additional dimension of realism to its story through linguistic differences and challenges associated with travelling, such as the girls trying to figure out which Hotel Ibis their booking was for, or when Mio’s luggage is seemingly misplaced.

  • In the end, Mio’s luggage was placed off to the side, and she tearfully reunites with it, while developing a mistrust for revolving things in the process. Once outside in the brisk London air, the girls set off to find a taxi that will take them to their accommodations. Excitement sets in, and Mio begins taking photographs of everything Yui points at, including this Airline lounge sign for Air Canada patrons. I am Canadian, so seeing mention of Canada in the film put a smile on my face: Air Canada is the largest airline company in Canada and runs numerous flights to London. Even from my home town, there are five direct flight to Londons every week, and the average duration is around nine hours.

  • I am interested in checking out London for myself at some point in the future – aside from minor linguistic differences between Canadian and British English, I could readily do a free-for-all visit without a tour group and navigate on my own well enough. Aside from iconic spots like the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, I would like to walk the River Thames and visit the same spots in Earl’s Court as the girls of K-On! do. Such a vacation could be done for within four thousand dollars, and in the past, I have considered the logistics of such a trip.

  • After spotting a taxi, the girls board with enthusiasm – the driver asks if they’re going to London City, to which Ritsu answers with a yes. While Azusa has done her reading to ensure the trip was a success, not everything can be planned for ahead of time, and for the girls, the fact that London is broken up into smaller districts is not something that crosses their mind. This bit of miscommunication leads to the girls ending up at the wrong Hotel Ibis, and here, even Tsumugi is unable to keep up with the English.

  • For the most part, my travels have never put me at a linguistic disadvantage because I can get by well enough with English, Cantonese and Mandarin in the places I visit. When I visited Laval in France for the first time for a conference, I had trouble getting around because I could not speak a word of French. Seeing Mugi and Azusa struggle with English might’ve been amusing when I first watched this, but after the humbling experience in France, I took on a newfound appreciation for all of the languages around the world. When the girls reach London City’s Hotel Ibis, it is thanks to Mio who is able to interpret things and set the girls on track for their hotel in Earls Court.

  • Skyfall was screened in November 2012, a few months after K-On! The Movie’s home release and nearly a year after its original screening in Japan. The only commonalities the two films share are that they have scenes set in London, including the Underground. While Yui and the others use the Underground to reach Earls Court, Skyfall saw James Bond pursue Raoul Silva through the Underground after he escapes MI6 custody.

  • On their first day in London, Yui and the others have a busy one as they try to make their way to their hotel. It’s misadventure after misadventure, but in spite of these inconveniences, everyone takes things in stride, going to Camden to buy Azusa new shoes, casually enjoying the Underground and, when trying to grab dinner, end up playing an impromptu performance on account of being mistaken for a band.

  • In spite of their surprise at being asked to perform, Houkago Tea Time’s showing is impressive. While it seems a little strange the girls travel with their instruments, the last several times I boarded a plane, it was with a laptop or iPad in tow, as I was either set to give a conference presentation or be involved in work. Carrying additional gear while travelling is a pain when one is alone, but with others, it’s much easier – one can simply ask their companions to look after their belongings.

  • K-On! The Movie has several moments where Kyoto Animation was able to showcase their craft at the movie level, and clever use of camera angles really brought the performances to life. Aside from the opening, inset and ending songs, there are no new Houkago Tea Time songs in the film: all of the performances in the movie are done with existing songs, and at the sushi restaurant, the girls perform Curry Nochi Rice after Yui spots an East Indian man in the crowd. Back in 2011, I wasn’t too big of a fan of raw fish, but I imagine that my openness to try it began after watching Survivorman‘s Arctic Tundra episode. A few weeks ago, when my office did a sushi lunch, I decided to participate and greatly enjoyed the nigiri: there’s a special flavour about raw fish that makes it delicious, and it goes especially well with a dash of soy sauce.

  • Movies typically are scaled-up TV episodes, with superior visuals and music accompanying it; K-On! The Movie is no different, feeling distinctly like an extended episode. I particularly loved the soundtrack, which features both the motifs of the TV series and new incidental pieces that gave a bit of atmosphere to where Houkago Tea Time was while at the same time, reminding viewers that it’s still K-On!. Here, Ritsu runs into Love Crisis, another Japanese band that was supposed to be performing at the sushi restaurant.

  • K-On! The Movie depicts London with incredible faithfulness, and perusing the official movie artbook, the precise locations of where the girls visit are given. Abbey Crossing, David Bowie’s House, West Brompton, and many other areas are on the list of places that Yui and the others visit. Their travels are set to the upbeat, energetic Unmei wa Endless! (Fate is Endless!) in a montage that highlights the girls enjoying themselves in London in their own unique manner. Throughout the trip, Azusa takes on the role of a tour guide, planning and coordinating itineraries for the others, who end up having a wonderful time.

  • The montage in K-On! The Movie is ideal for showing that while in London, Yui and the others have an amazing time sightseeing: the tempo would suggest that the girls’ experience is very dream like, hectic and dynamic, reminder viewers that when they are having fun, time flies. Vacations often seem to go by in a blur, and so, a montage is a very visceral way to capture this feeling. In condensing out the travel and sightseeing, the montage creates the impression that K-On! The Movie is not about London, but at the same time, it also allows the focus to remain on the girls’ aim of working out their gift for Azusa.

  • London, Japan and Hong Kong share the commonality in that they have left-hand traffic, an artefact dating back to the Roman Empire; right-hand traffic is the result of French standardisation, while Americans used right-hand traffic out of convenience for wagon operators. For Yui and the others, traffic in London would be identical to that of Japan’s, but when they encounter a “Look Right” labels on the road, they conform. These labels are also found in Hong Kong, as well: for folks like myself, they are very useful, since I instinctively look left before crossing most streets.

  • I’ve long held that the best way to truly experience a culture is to experience their food, and so, when I was in Japan, having the chance to enjoy snow crab, Kobe beef, okonomiyakiomurice and ramen was high on the highlights of my trip. In K-On! The Movie, the girls end up stopping at The Troubadour on 263–267 Old Brompton Road in Earls Court. Opened in 1954, The Troubador was a coffeehouse that has since become a café, bar and restaurant. Catching Yui’s eye early in their tour of London, the girls have breakfast here. Their Eggs Benedict is shown: it costs £9.95 (roughly 16.88 CAD with exchange rates).

  • Earlier this year, I did a special tour of London using the Oculus Quest to show how faithful the film had been to details; the real-world locations are portrayed faithfully in K-On! The Movie, although here, I will remark again that London’s skyline has changed quite a bit in the past decade. K-On! The Movie shows The Shard as being under construction, and it was opened in 2013. Some of the areas still remain as they once were. Earl’s Court, for instance, still looks much as it did in 2011, while downtown London is quite different; folks looking to visit K-On! locations in central London now will be hard-pressed to find some locations since they’ve changed so much – the Harper’s Coffee has since been replaced by a Costa Coffee, for instance.

  • After Yui gets her hand stuck in a receptacle for dog waste, the girls set off to find a bathroom and wind up at the British Museum. Here, they take the London Underground’s Central line from the Kensington Gardens: during the day, the Underground is nowhere near as busy as it was when Yui and the others first arrived, and certainly not as crowded as it had been in Skyfall, when 007 pursued Silva through the London Underground after the latter managed to escape MI6 custody.

  • While they’d intended to only stop by for a quick bathroom break, Mio, Tsumugi, Yui, Ritsu and Azusa end up checking out the British Museum’s exhibits, including the original Rosetta Stone. The girls recognise this as the replacement tombstone they’d borrowed from the Occult Club back during the events of K-On!!, when they found Juliet’s headstone was misplaced. The Rosetta Stone replica ended up being a suitable replacement, and the class play of Romeo and Juliet went off without a hitch. To see the Rosetta Stone again shows the kind of care that Yamada put into the film, giving Yui and the others a chance to see the world beyond Japan.

  • Here, Ritsu, Mio, Yui, Tsumugi and Azusa run down the stairs on the Westminster Bridge’s south banks: the location was not hard to find, since the girls end up at the London Eye moments later. There’s a doorway underneath the South Bank Lion sculpture on the left of this image, and this was used as a secret entrance to MI6’s new digs in Skyfall after Silva bombed the SIS Building. One of the joys about K-On! The Movie was that so many locations seen in this movie were also featured in Skyfall, and I myself wondered if the SIS Building would make an appearance. While this never occurred, it was a contrast to see Yui and the others have fun in the same places where Bond was on duty.

  • Mio’s fear of rotating things kicks in when the others suggest boarding the London Eye to gain a better vantage point over central London; she decides to stay on the ground and let the others have a good time. To this, Yui and Ritsu decide to haul Mio off anyways. A longstanding joke in K-On! stems from Mio’s various phobias, although it is typically the case that once Mio is pushed out of her comfort zone, she is able to live in the moment with the others.

  • As such, despite her initial reservations about all things with angular velocity, Mio is convinced to go on the London Eye. With a height of 135 metres, it is more than double the size of Hong Kong’s Observation Wheel and during K-On! The Movie, was the highest public viewing point in London. Since the movie’s release in 2011 (and the home release in 2012), The Shard opened and now offers London’s highest observation deck.

  • The girls rest here near The Royal Menagerie on the west end of the Tower of London, a major landmark that has variously been used as a mint, armoury and presently, the home of the Crown Jewels. Adjacent to the Tower of London is a modern office block and fish and chips shops. While it would be a tight schedule, the girls’ tour is possible to carry out within the course of a day. To really take in the sights and sounds, however, I would allocate at least seven days for the entire trip London, which leaves five full days to explore.

  • One aspect in K-On! The Movie that I enjoyed was that smaller details about travel were presented; most travel shows only highlight attractions and the best eats of a given trip. Conversely, K-On! The Movie portrays the smaller, more awkward moments that result when people are far from home. After their day’s worth of adventure, the group return to Ibis Earl’s Court, and almost immediately, Yui and Azusa end up missing one another often enough to the point where they wonder where the other’s gone. Yui’s just scatter-brained, but Azusa is genuinely tired from having spent the day putting an itinerary together that allows everyone to see as much as they could.

  • In the end, the pair end up running into one another in Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi’s room. Such moments typify the sort of humour present in K-On! as a whole; it’s not over-the-top, and instead, acts to create gentler moments that elicit a smile. Some folks consider K-On! to be a comedy, but this is, strictly speaking, incorrect: K-On! might’ve had origins as a 4-koma manga driven by punchlines, but Yamada’s interpretation of the series allows for more meaningful learnings to be presented; themes like appreciation and mindfulness are more important in K-On! than making viewers laugh.

  • With this being said, comedy does crop up from time to time as a result of everyday occurrences; here, Yui slips after rushing to meet Azusa after wandering off to the Brompton Cemetery whilst considering what the song for Azusa should entail. One small visual aspect in K-On! The Movie that did stand out was the fact that all of the folks in London are uncommonly tall relative to Azusa and the others. While Azusa is stated as being only 4’11”, a quick glance at this image finds that the average Londoner would be around eight feet in height. I imagine this was a deliberate choice to show how small everyone is compared to the world.

  • After Ritsu and the others run into Love Crisis following their performance at the sushi restaurant, they are invited to perform at a Japanese Culture Fair. The girls agree to the performance even though the timing will be a bit tight, and when Azusa hesitates, the others reassure her that it’ll be fine. Because they are to be performing in front of an English audience, Yui and the others feel it might be useful to translate some of their songs to English. Strictly speaking, preserving the meaning is of a lesser challenge than finding the words with the correct syllables to match the melody.

  • The Ibis at Earl’s Court, while being a bit more dated, has attentive staff and is situated in a good location, being close to public transit. By comparison, the Ibis London City is located a stone’s throw to the London city centre and the Tower of London. The choice to have the girls book lodgings at Earl’s Court, in a comparatively quieter part of London, allows the film to also show Yui and the others spending downtime together while not sightseeing. Here, they begin working on translating their songs for their performance at the Japanese culture fair.

  • The performance itself is set at the Jubilee Gardens adjacent to the River Thames and London Eye. The introduction into the culture festival features a sweeping panorama over the area, taking viewers through the spokes on the London Eye. It’s one of the more impressive visuals in K-On! The Movie and really shows that this is no mere extended episode: I’m particularly fond of movies because they provide the opportunity to use visuals not seen in TV series. Here, the girls react in surprise that Sawako has shown up.

  • During their performance, Yui is spurred on by a baby in the crowd and plays with more energy as the concert progresses, even improvising lyrics into Gohan wa Okazu. Whether or not Houkago Teatime plays for the people they know or not, this has very little bearing on the enthusiasm and energy the girls put into their song. Personal or not, each performance is spirited conveys that Houkago Tea Time’s music is universally moving, whether they are playing for a crowd of folks in London, or for Azusa as a thank you gift.

  • It turns out that as a place to have a graduation trip, there is no better option than London, England: Houkago Tea Time’s style draws inspiration from British artists, and the songs produced for K-On! have a mass appeal for their simplicity, earnest and charm found from the saccharine nature of the lyrics. Even now, whenever I see images and footage of London, K-On! The Movie is the first thing that comes to mind; the film had done a phenomenal job of bringing the city to life, and while melancholy gently permeates the whole of the film, the thirty minutes spent in London are K-On! The Movie‘s most cheerful, energetic moments.

  • After the concert draws to a close, the girls depart for Japan; owing to their timing, things are really close by the time Yui and the others have to return to the airport and board their flight back home. In general, it is recommended that one arrives at least three hours before their scheduled departure when flying internationally. This is so one can make it through customs and security checks, which can take a while, and because some airlines require one to check in an hour before their flight. Accepting a concert on the same day they were heading back would be cutting it close, especially in a city as large as London.

  • Fortunately, some elements can be abstracted away, and the girls’ ride over to Heathrow is uneventful, with Azusa falling asleep immediately from exhaustion. A snowfall begins in London, bringing the girls’ trip to a peaceful close, and here, the soundtrack takes on a much slower, gentler tenour. The track that accompanies this scene has a very wistful, reflective mood about it and is appropriately titled “Winter night in a warm room”.

  • Back in Japan, Ritsu and the others attempt to convince Sawako to give them permission to host a farewell concert for their classmates. To her colleagues and other students, Sawako presents herself as professional and caring, attempting to distance herself from her Death Devil days, but in front of Houkago Tea Time, she’s less motivated and occasionally partakes in actions that are of dubious legality. At the end of the day, however, Sawako does care deeply for her students, and so, decides to allow the concert.

  • One of the other teachers is opposed to the idea of a concert and on the morning things kick off, Sawako does her utmost to keep him from finding out. While unsuccessful, this instructor does not seem to mind Houkago Tea Time quite as much, suggesting that Sawako’s Death Devil band were rowdier back in the day to the point of being a nuisance. During this in-school concert, the song Sumidare Love is performed: the song had been on the vocal collections, but until now, had not been played in the series proper.

  • Compared to the more colourful segments in K-On! The Movie, the final segments depicting the girls drafting out their song for Azusa are much more faded, almost melancholy, in nature, hinting that all things must come to an end. Kyoto Animation has long utilised colour to make the emotional tenour of a scene clear in their drama series; from CLANNAD to Violet Evergarden, time of day, saturation and the choice of palette are all used to great effect. Traditionally, comedies have seen a lesser dependence on colour and lighting, so for these effects to appear in K-On! show that the series has matured.

  • Despite having drawn blanks while in London, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi manage to begin their song once they’re back home; it was Azusa’s actions throughout the trip that really led everyone to see anew how much they’d come to rely on their junior. While this should be a joyous moment, K-On! The Movie reminds viewers that this moment is also steeped in a sort of finality: once they finish their song and deliver it, they will have to part ways with Azusa.

  • The K-On! The Movie‘s home release was only twenty four days from the day of my MCAT, and one of the dangers about this was that reviewing the movie so close to the MCAT might’ve taken my focus from the exam. In the end, watching the movie and writing about it was very cathartic, and I found myself lost in each moment: seeing Mio and the others sprint across the school rooftop with a carefree spirit was a light moment that really captured what K-On! was about. The movie helped me relax, and in conjunction with support from friends, some time management skills and the usual efforts of studying, I ended up finishing the exam strong.

  • Audiences thus come to learn how Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! came about: K-On! had preferred to focus on the girls’ experience together, and things like songwriting were often set aside in favour of having everyone enjoy tea together. This did lead to the impression that Houkago Tea Time were unqualified. However, K-On! did show that Mio spent some of her free time writing lyrics to songs, and to reinforce the idea that Houkago Tea Time’s success is well-deserved, K-On! The Movie opts to show the song-writing process behind Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!.

  • This song had appeared to come out of the blue in K-On!!, but the film shows the process behind how the song the lyrics and heart that went into the song came from seeing how much of an impact Azusa had on the light music club. However, Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! was not written overnight, and because of the timeframes, I would estimate that the film is set over the course of three weeks – the first third of the movie would’ve taken place over the course of a few days as the girls figure out they’d like to do a song for Azusa, and then book a last-minute trip over to London as a graduation trip. The London trip itself is explicitly mentioned as taking five days, and then after returning, some time would’ve been needed to put the song together.

  • While this seems excessive, we recall that in K-On!!, there had been quite a gap between exams and graduation – when Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi head off to write their entrance exams for the women’s college, it would’ve been shortly after Valentines’ day, and graduation itself was in March. This in-between period was never covered in K-On!!, and Yamada expertly used this time as when Yui and the othes came to write out Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! ahead of graduation for Azusa. Through K-On! The Movie, it is shown that the in-betweens in an anime can also have a story to tell. Non Non Biyori Repeat adapted this concept for the entire second season, showing that anime only shows the best moments that impact the narrative.

  • Consequently, while Yui and the others might appear to be pulling songs out of nowhere, and performing like experts without much apparent practise, the reality is that the anime and manga tend to show us viewers moments when Houkago Tea Time are slacking off, but once the chips are down, and the girls get their motivation, they’re quite determined and capable. As such, this is the one criticism of K-On! I can dismiss immediately – folks who hold this against the series have fundamentally misunderstood that anime only show milestone moments, and more mundane details are deliberately omitted for a reason.

  • Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! is the song that got me into K-On!, and after I became curious to know how the series reached its culmination, I stepped back and watched everything from episode one.  With this modernised talk on K-On! The Movie very nearly finished, I note that it was very enjoyable to go back and re-watch this film under different circumstances, then write about it with a new perspective and style. Even a full decade later, the song remains every bit as enjoyable as it had been when I first went through K-On!.

  • Like a good wine, K-On! The Movie improved with age. My original score for the movie was a nine of ten, an A grade. However, revisiting the movie and seeing all of the subtleties in the film, coupled with recalling watching the film to unwind from studying for the MCAT, led me to realise that this film had a very tangible positive impact on me. Consequently, I am going to return now and give the film a perfect ten of ten, a masterpiece: for a story of pure joy that was successful in helping me regroup, and for being every bit as enjoyable as it was ten years ago, K-On! The Movie had a tangible, positive impact on me.

K-On! The Movie remains as relevant today as it did when it first premièred a decade earlier; even for those who have never seen K-On!‘s televised series, the movie is self-contained and the themes stand independently of a priori knowledge. After all this time, I have no difficulty in recommending K-On! The Movie to interested viewers; the film is every bit as enjoyable and meaningful as it was ten years previously. Because of how Yamada conveys Mono no Aware, as it relates to friendship, it becomes clear that K-On! The Movie was intended to be the final act for Kyoto Animation’s adaptation – author Kakifly had written two sequels, K-On! College and K-On! High School, which respectively cover Yui’s life at university and Azusa’s efforts to keep the light music club going. K-On! College was published in September 2012, and a month later, K-On! High School became available. Precedence would have suggested that adapting both of these volumes into an anime could’ve produced a two-cour season with twenty-four full episodes, but this would stand contrary to the aesthetic in K-On! The Movie. At the time, K-On!‘s anime adaptation had exceeded expectations in promoting the manga – the anime had been intended to promote the manga, and in this role, it has certainly succeeded. The manga itself concludes in a fashion that is consistent with the Mono no Aware aesthetic. K-On! College has Yui settling in to life at university and even makes rivals out of Akira, a serious musician whose skill is enough to get her noticed by professional producers, while K-On! High School has Azusa wondering what fun things the future will bring. However, this diverges from the feeling that K-On! The Movie originally concluded with; to bring K-On! back in the present would undermine what the film had accomplished ten years earlier. Six years earlier, I did walk through whether or not a continuation was possible, and back then, I had concluded that such a project would have been welcomed. After all, there had been enough materials to do so, and K-On! would’ve still been relatively fresh in the viewers’ minds. This answer has changed since then – a full decade later, it is safe to say that it is unlikely that Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa’s stories will be expanded upon. While Kakifly’s spin-off series, K-On! Shuffle, is set in the same universe and built around a similar premise (protagonist Yukari Sakuma is inspired to take up drumming after watching Ritsu perform), K-On!‘s success had largely come from the fact that it had been so groundbreaking at the time. The concept is no longer novel, and as such, adapting K-On! Shuffle is similarly unlikely in the foreseeable future. With this in mind, I imagine that this is the last time I will be writing about K-On! The Movie – as enjoyable as the series is, I do feel that I’ve said everything that needs to be said for a film that has aged very gracefully and certainly stands of its own merits, during the past decade that I’ve been active as an anime blogger.

Let’s Take a Coffee Break: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka, Thanksgiving and Thoughts on Continuations Through Life

“What I love about Thanksgiving is that it’s purely about getting together with friends or family and enjoying food. It’s really for everybody, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from.” –Daniel Humm

It’s a gorgeous autumn afternoon outside right now: the golden foliage clings to a handful of trees, and the sky is of a deep shade of blue. This time of year is characterised by still-warm days, pumpkin pie and previously, the arrival of a new GochiUsa season. In 2015, GochiUsa‘s second season began airing, and just last year, BLOOM began on the Saturday of the Thanksgiving Long Weekend, giving me one more thing to be thankful for. This year, while no new GochiUsa is available, the current season does have a very large number of sequels – Yakunara Mug Cup Mo: Niban Kama, 86 EIGHTY-SIX and Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Great Mankai Chapter are all running. Each series takes its own approach towards continuing with their respective universe’s story: Niban Kama has Himeno learn more about her mother’s love for pottery, 86 EIGHTY-SIX drops viewers into things some time after the first season had ended, with Vladilena now leading a new squadron, and Shinei being found by the Federacy of Giad, and Great Mankai Chapter gives the Hero Club some much-needed downtime as they go around town and have fun, before Mimori unexpectedly gets a request that will see her group pressed back into service against an unknown foe. If one’s memory is a little rusty as to what happened earlier in each of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo and 86 EIGHTY-SIX, these first episodes will probably jolt the viewer’s memories somewhat, reminding one of what had previously happened and then beaconing viewers to continue on with the journey. Story-driven anime like Yūki Yūna is a Hero and 86 EIGHTY-SIX will have little trouble picking things up. However, with slower-paced, slice-of-life anime, it can often feel that a bit more effort is needed to resume where things had left off. However, this is something that GochiUsa has never struggled with; the series expertly picks things up, and despite the oftentimes long duration between seasons, when a continuation does air, it feels as though there had never been a gap between seasons at all.

The reason why GochiUsa is especially apt at this is because while there is an overarching story throughout the series, episodes are largely self-contained, dealing with an experience or journey that is resolved within the course of that episode. Characters also possess very distinct identifying traits, and as such, seeing everyone together again immediately reminds viewers of what the previous season had done, before setting viewers about with the promise of all-new adventures. In GochiUsa, the first season had ended on a cold winter’s day, with Cocoa and Chino falling ill and subsequently looking after one another. The second season begins as spring begins returning, and Cocoa is seized with a desire to take photographs of her friends to send back home, but struggles to photograph a smiling Chino. The second season ended with a ciste hunt during the late spring, during which Maya, Megu and Chino decide to put on a hunt for Cocoa, too. By BLOOM, summer has arrived, and it’d become a little too hot to work at Rabbit House, prompting Cocoa, Chino and Rize to create new uniforms, before selling off some unused items at a local flea market. These events are completely unrelated, but share the commonality of showcasing each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo at their best. Moreover, while the characters do mature of the course of GochiUsa, they remain true to themselves, as well. This unifying element means that regardless of how much time has passed since the last season, starting a new season means viewers immediately feel at home, creating a sense of warmth and comforting familiarity.

Additional Thoughts and Commentary

  • It’s now been six years since GochiUsa‘s second season began airing: I was starting my final year of graduate school back then, and the Star Wars Battlefront beta was going. I’d deliberately taken a half-day off so I could get some screenshots for discussions on Friday: back then, I was making enough progress with my thesis work so that my supervisor had no objections to this whatsoever. I thus spent the morning organising the citations I needed, evaluated the submissions for the iOS class I was TA’ing, and by the afternoon, I delved into the beta.

  • On Saturday morning, GochiUsa‘s second season began airing. Like BLOOM, episodes came out at 0830 MDT (or 0730 MST), so I was able to watch the episode almost immediately after waking up and starting my day. That had been a particularly peaceful morning, with blue skies and brisk autumn air. However, whereas we were just coming out of the summer and entering autumn, GochiUsa‘s second season was exiting winter and headed into the summer.

  • By 2015, I’d more or less found the style that I write with for this blog: on average, an episodic post takes around two hours to write if I’m coming fresh from the episode. I believe that GochiUsa‘s second season would’ve been the first time that I did a full episodic review. Originally, I’d been intending on writing the series after three episodes, and then again once the whole season had concluded. However, as I continued watching, it became clear that there was plenty of material to consider. Because the episodes are largely self-contained, they each cover a distinct topic.

  • All of these topics are then related to the overall message the entire season is going for. Along the way, GochiUsa does a fantastic job of ensuring that the world Cocoa, Chino and the others reside in is a world that is plausible. There is an incredible amount of attention paid to details, whether it be the apparatus that Chino uses to grind coffee beans and brew coffee, the fung-shui charts Cocoa and Chiya’s class use to optimise their layout for the culture festival, or the fact that the animators have even hidden in neat Easter eggs into things like license plates and QR codes.

  • Because of these factors, GochiUsa is an exceptional series that draws in viewers; the world feels real, the learnings are relevant, and the characters are loveable. Even tougher anime critics note that GochiUsa has only improved since it began airing: the first season had been a little lighter on themes because it was focused on introducing the characters and their setting, but once everything was established, GochiUsa could really begin exploring things that were more thoughtful and mature. This aspect really allowed GochiUsa to excel: the gentle slice-of-life atmosphere could soften up difficult topics like being separated from friends as everyone pursues a different future, or dealing with death and honouring those who are no longer among the living.

  • Here, Aoyama Blue Mountain holds up a copy of the magazine that she writes for, and looking more closely, one can spot Rize modelling for the magazine known in-universe as Walker. After GochiUsa finished airing, I purchased a copy of the second season’s artbook, Miracle Blend: it proved to be an incredible resource that includes behind-the-scenes interviews, concept and setting art, and high-resolution artwork. In this artbook, every page from Walker is shown in high resolution, and using image recognition technology, I’ve been able to translate the magazine’s contents.

  • In the end, I also picked up the artbook Memorial Blend for GochiUsa‘s first season, which similarly provided a wealth of information about the series, right down to what phones each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo were using, spots in Colmar that formed inspiration for the town, and my personal favourite, sketches of Rabbit House’s floor plans to ensure that the interior remained consistent throughout all three seasons. I had plans to pick up the artbook for BLOOM, but at the time of writing, I’ve not heard any indicators that such an artbook will be released.

  • Such an artbook would doubtlessly be an asset to have, especially if it also covers off Dear My Sister and Sing For You: Yuru Camp△‘s second artbook was a bit heftier than the first because it also shows the events of Heya Camp△. There is a lot of content inside these artbooks, and I do draw upon them from time to time if revisiting a series. However, I’ve never really had the chance to sit down, sift through everything, translate everything to English and share this with readers.

  • Such an exercise is something that the most die-hard GochiUsa fans might consider, but for me, while I am a pretty devoted fan of this series, I’m also a bit of a generalist in that with the time I have, I would prefer to experience a wider variety of stuff. There are some folks who end up specialising in one series and can offer some solid insights or tidbits of trivia I miss, but for me, the tradeoff about becoming specialised is that I might end up missing out on other stuff. I’m similar in this regard with respect to games; rather than become insanely good at any one game (e.g. Halo), I’m happier trying out a variety of games and becoming just good enough in each to hold my own.

  • Once GochiUsa‘s second season picked up, I found myself returning weekly, every Saturday afternoon, to write about the series. In this way, my autumn academic term disappeared in the blink of an eye, and every week, I looked forwards to seeing what each episode would bring to the table. Here, in one of Chino’s flashbacks, Saki can plainly be seen: even as early as the second season, it was hinted that GochiUsa was headed towards a more introspective direction by implying that Cocoa’s actions reminded Chino of her late mother.

  • BLOOM began airing a full five years after GochiUsa‘s second season, but the in-betweens were punctuated by Dear My Sister (2018) and Sing For You (2019), so the wait didn’t feel too terribly long. At this point last year, BLOOM was kicking off, and unlike the second season, I knew from the start that I was going to do episodic reviews for it, making the first time that I did a pair of episodic reviews simultaneously in a season.

  • GochiUsa has changed studios three times during its run, but thanks to consistent character designers and voice actresses, one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference for the most part, and in fact, the only noticeable changes is that the artwork and animation have improved with time. The wood-framed town does not change much in terms of aesthetics, but subtle things like lighting and water effects make the world come alive.

  • A quick glance at the official GochiUsa website finds that they’re celebrating ten years of success: the comics originally began serialisation in Manga Time Kirara back in March 2011, and there have been a bunch of events commemorating this milestone. With this going on, one wonders if there will be announcement of any continuations: it has been, after all, a year since BLOOM finished airing, and at the time of writing, there are a total of nine manga volumes. The series’ positive reception (and corresponding sales figures) means that a continuation is going to be a matter of when, rather than if.

  • Like season two’s first episode, BLOOM opens at Rabbit House on a hot summer’s day, and eases viewers back into the swing of things. Five years had passed, and in that time, I’ve transitioned fully over into industry from academia (during season two, I was about ten months from finishing graduate school): looking back, it’s been quite a bumpy journey, what with the turbulent nature of start-ups. However, the experience imparted here was invaluable, and allowed me a chance to really learn all of the technical and problem-solving skills needed to be effective in my role.

  • Watching the everyone go shopping for materials to create summer uniforms typified the experience that GochiUsa‘s successfully conveyed in its anime adaptation; compared to the manga, where there is a greater emphasis on humour (typical of the 4-koma format), the anime is able to begin exploring topics that are only touched upon in the manga. K-On! was very similar in this regard: while both anime and manga alike were about Azusa coming to cherish her time with Houkago Tea Time despite lamenting how lax Yui is towards music, the anime made this point especially clear (whereas in the manga, this was covered over the space of a few pages).

  • The success GochiUsa‘s animated adaptation experienced is a parallel to K-On!: in both cases, the anime took events occurring over the space of two or three pages and spaced them out over a longer time period, giving viewers time to consider things beyond the punchline. Furthermore, the addition of motion, colour and audio means that a given moment in the anime can evoke emotions that are otherwise more implicit in the manga. For instance, after Cocoa reunites with the others during the Halloween festival, a moment that spans eight panels in the manga was brought to live with dialogue and music that further accentuated what it meant to Chino, now that Cocoa could pull off her magic trick.

  • In this way, I’ve found that GochiUsa is providing viewers with an alternate experience of the series compared to the manga to present a different perspective on things. With this being said, the manga remains the source for the anime, and it is not unreasonable to read ahead in the manga to gain insight as to what might be upcoming. Unfortunately, at least at the time of writing, GochiUsa remains unlicensed over in North America, and without a publisher like Yen Press or Seven Seas, it means that for the time being, I won’t be able to hop on over to my favourite bookstore and pick up a copy of the manga, as I have for something like Harukana Receive or The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan.

  • GochiUsa is definitely a series I would have no qualms picking up the manga for, and given that two compilation volumes have been released, I would hope that, if an English-language version of GochiUsa ever becomes available, they’d be in the omnibus format, as well. With this in mind, it’s almost time to wrap this post up. The morning had been overcast and gusty, but the clouds gave way to sunshine and unexpectedly warm weather, so I took the afternoon to walk around outside while it’s still nice; I ended up walking over to a viewpoint overlooking the west end of town, where the mountains are visible. While the trees are starting to lose their colour now, the park nearby remained radiant; their leaves are still brilliantly yellow. Our Thanksgiving dinner is set for tomorrow evening, and this year, we’re opting to keep things simple on account of how busy it’s been.

  • This is because my house hunting endeavours turned into a process of buying the house, and throughout September, I was busy with getting all my documentation prepared, and all of my forms signed ahead of possession date. Thus, it seemed appropriate to make a smaller, simpler Thanksgiving dinner: this year, there is much to be thankful for. I give thanks for the support I’ve had, especially in these times, and also for the opportunity that I’ve been given to pick myself up and continue moving forwards. I am especially thankful about my family, friends, and also you, the readers; this blog has allowed me to write out my challenges and experiences, and being able to share thoughts with readers has also been a mode of support for me.

  • With this post reminiscing about GochiUsa in the books, I’ll wrap up with a moment of Chino smiling, remark that Cocoa would have an easier time of photographing a smiling Chino by the events of BLOOM than she did in the second season, and wrap things up. The Battlefield 2042 open beta has been live for a day now for me (I’m not in the EA Access group, and I didn’t preorder), and while I’ve had the chance to put in three hours so far, the beta ends later this evening, so I’d like to get as much out of things as I can.

Because of the atmosphere and aesthetics in GochiUsa, whenever a fourth season begins airing, viewers can be reasonably confident that it will be as though they’d never left. GochiUsa has proven to be unexpectedly popular amongst viewers; while prima facie appearing to be little more than a fluffy slice-of-life about appreciating the more down-to-earth and subtle aspects of everyday life, the series captivated viewers with its detailed and unexpectedly immersive world. As the series wore on, GochiUsa began to explore more personal and challenging topics, of accepting death and finding happiness with those around one self: by BLOOM, thoughts of graduation and choosing one’s future with conviction becomes the main theme, and Chino closes the third season by remarking that she’s now curious to see what’s out there, signifying her own desire to grow and become aware of how vast the world really is. When the day the fourth season airs, I imagine that GochiUsa will have no trouble welcoming its fans back to what has been an uncommonly engaging and immersive series. I’ve heard that the manga is still ongoing, and BLOOM ended with volume seven. Because the anime adaptation does things quite differently compared to the manga, the anime actually ended up with a more cohesive and focused story. Since BLOOM ended with the desire to travel, it is possible that we could get a full-fledged movie of the group travelling together over to the city that combines landmarks from Prague, Milan, Paris, Brussels, Helsinki and Stockholm, before returning back to town for the new school year. What lies ahead is exciting beyond words, and it should be no surprise that GochiUsa is a special to me – I picked the anime up before graduate school began, saw the second season as graduate school drew to a close, became a competent iOS developer by the time of BLOOM, and this year, I’m now getting ready to sign off on the mortgage for the new place I’d bought. I’m not sure where in my life I’ll be by the time GochiUsa‘s next work, whether it be a new season or a film, comes out, but I am very confident that I will enjoy whatever lies ahead at least as much as I’ve enjoyed the existing three seasons and two OVAs (if not even more so).

Travelling Shimarin: Yuru Camp△ 2 OVA 2 and The Official Guidebook Yagai Katsudo Kiroku Volume 2 Review and Reflection

“Exceeding expectations is where satisfaction ends and loyalty begins.” –Ron Kaufman

In the near future, a manned Mars lander enters the planet’s atmosphere and prepares for a historical achievement. However, as the lander approaches the surface, its camera array picks up something surprising: the profile of a young girl camped out on the surface, nonchalantly grilling meat. Mission control identifies this as Shimarin, and are shocked beyond words that mankind’s next giant step has been beaten out by the solar system’s greatest camper. At least, this is what Ena imagines Rin’s camping will take her; it turns out that as the night sets in on their latest camping trip, the Outdoor Activities Club and Rin are swapping stories about the sorts of adventures Rin might have once she gets her advance license. Once Hokkaido opens up to Rin, Nadeshiko suggests that Rin will be able to have all sorts of delicious food from Hokkaido, while Chiaki imagines Rin as being an aruki-henro rocking the Shikoku Pilgrimage on her trusty Vino 50. Meanwhile, Aoi supposes Rin would be able to push herself further during the winter to enjoy the warmth of various onsen. However, Rin feels that these adventures are a bit outlandish and unlikely to be within the realm of her usual travels This is the second of the Yuru Camp 2 OVAs accompanying the third and final Blu-Ray volume, being a gentle fireside conversation about camping that was probably set during the second night of Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club to the Izu Peninsula. Unlike the previous OVA, the second Yuru Camp 2 OVA is gentler in nature and lacks the mean-spirited cut of Nadeshiko camping at a work camp; a chat around the campfire about camping is the best way to wrap up what will be the last bit of Yuru Camp△ viewers see prior to 2022’s Yuru Camp: The Movie.

The contents of Yuru Camp 2‘s OVAs both stem from the manga’s Heya Camp△ segments; this time around, elements were drawn from segment 33 in volume five, and segment 65 in volume eight. The adaptation of content from Heya Camp△ for OVAs demonstrates how much material there is within Yuru Camp△: unlike the regular manga’s story, which is grounded in reality, the Heya Camp△ segments are fanciful, imaginative and creative, presenting a more comedic and exaggerated side of camping that otherwise wouldn’t fit into the regular story. The end result is a fantastic means of allowing the series to poke fun at itself and also remind viewers that at the end of the day, Yuru Camp△ is about having fun. Further to this, the second and final OVA to Yuru Camp 2 also hints at what is upcoming for the series; by choosing to portray Rin in a variety of different camping trips quite unlike anything that we’d seen previously, the OVA is hinting at the fact that Yuru Camp: The Movie will be doing something bigger and bolder than before. This isn’t too surprising, as anime films have typically taken concepts from their original run and then expanded it such that the scope matches what one expects from a silver screen feature presentation. Given that Yuru Camp△ has continued to expand the scale of Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s adventures, one can reasonably surmise that the camping trip within the movie will be both further away and features more people than anything the series had shown until now. This prospect is most exciting, and while it probably won’t see the girls reach Mars ahead of NASA or CNSA, I am rather curious to see what destinations and experiences await this group of friends.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As it is right now, the United States and China possess the greatest likelihood, technology and scientific know-how to run a successful manned Mars mission: such an undertaking has been given serious thought since the 1950s, and the subject of no small discussion in academic circles and fictional works alike. The second Yuru Camp 2 OVA parodies this by giving Rin the ultimate advantage: a manned Mars mission is estimated to cost five hundred billion US dollars, so, seeing Yuru Camp△’s most proficient camper can trivially accomplish something that the world’s brightest and best minds were so close to reaching, drives the humour in this first scene.

  • The scientists running the mission are reduced to incoherent puddles, and I imagine that it would be a considerable shock to see five hundred billion dollars and decades of effort be defeated by a girl’s power to desire grilled meat anywhere in the solar system. One detail I liked was how everyone is speaking broken Japanese during these scenes; the Yuru Camp manga has everyone speaking in English. Of course, such a feat is well outside the realm of possibility: Rin is wandering the surface of Mars without a pressure suit, but Mars’ atmosphere is two orders of magnitude thinner than Earth’s, lacks the oxygen content and can drop down to around -70ºC by nightfall, forcing the inevitable conclusion that this is a bit of fantasy.

  • Unsurprisingly, this turns out to have been a what-if scenario from Ena. The manga supposes that this is another one of Rin’s dreams, and it speaks to the strength of both Yuru Camp△’s anime and live-action drama that aspects of the manga are so cleverly written into a different context without breaking immersion. Besides the Yuru Camp OVAs, one moment from the manga’s Heya Camp segments was the idea that keeping everything packed makes it easier to clean up the next day, and the Outdoor Activities Club decide that they can pack up everything, even their tents, before the next morning, leaving them to sleep in the open air. The drama ended up bringing this to life for laughs.

  • Given the jackets that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club are wearing, coupled with the fact that Minami are accompanying them, I concluded that Yuru Camp 2‘s second OVA was set during the second night of the Izu trip. It doesn’t seem quite so outlandish to have everyone telling campfire stories before turning in for the evening, and par the course for Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club, their stories are all camping-related. This is what lends itself to the second OVA’s title, which had long hinted that the OVA’s contents would be related to Rin in some way.

  • The second Yuru Camp 2 OVA is nowhere near as fleshed-out as Heya Camp△’s Sauna, Meal and A Three-Wheeler OVA, which saw Rin do her weekend camping trip on a loaner Yamaha Tri-City motorbike. When I watched the first of the Yuru Camp 2 OVAs, I was a smidgen disappointed that it was only four minutes long and lacked the same level of content as did the Heya Camp OVA, but I subsequently recalled that the OVAs were largely adaptations of the manga’s omake content. As such, entering the second Yuru CampOVA, I tempered my expectations and anticipated a shorter, but still enjoyable segment.

  • This time around, Yuru Camp 2‘s second OVA exceeds expectations for being enjoyable to watch, and matching the remainder of the series in tone. The first OVA, Mystery Camp, was fun in its own right, but the middle vignette saw Nadeshiko go to a work camp. It was utterly heartbreaking and demoralising, and to the best of my knowledge, was a new story written specifically for the OVA. While funny in a twisted, cruel way, I did remark that doing something like that again would be a tough pill to swallow – I am therefore glad that Yuru Camp 2‘s second OVA is much more in keeping with the tenour as the rest of the series.

  • Nadeshiko’s ideal camping destination for Rin is Hokkaido: the northernmost island would be a fun place to ride, and they do have some of Japan’s best food: from top left going clockwise, Nadeshiko imagines Rin riding off to have kaisendon (a seafood bowl of white rice topped with sashimi, crab, prawn, squid and roe), baked potatoes topped with butter, yūbari melon, Genghis Khan (a grilled mutton dish) and corn off the cob. I certainly would like to go visit Hokkaido purely for their food alone, although the northernmost Japanese island is no slouch in attractions, either: Hakodate is supposed to be beautiful owing to its distinct night-scape, and Sapporo is famous for their ice sculptures.

  • Chikai’s vision of a travelling Shimarin entails Rin travelling to Shikoku for the 88-temple pilgrimage, decked out in the aruki-henro‘s garb. The aesthetic of Chiaki’s suggestion casts Rin as being similar to Kino of Kino’s Journey, wandering to different parts of Japan and gaining spiritual enlightenment as a result. While I’ve not seen the original Kino’s Journey, curiosity led me to give the 2017 anime a go. I was promptly impressed with the thematic aspects, and how much effort was paid into making each nation unique, noteworthy. Kino herself is well-suited for the journey, possessing exceptional sharpshooting skills to keep herself out of trouble, and despite her stoic mannerisms, is polite and open-minded.

  • Earlier today, my copy of the Yuru Campofficial TV guidebook arrived. I had pre-ordered it back in June when the listing was first created, and figured that to save a few bucks, I’d go with unregistered airmail, which was ten dollars less costly than the other options. Airmail takes an estimated five to twelve days, and since my copy of the guidebook came on day eleven, I’m very happy. After opening the package, I was impressed with the book’s heft: it’s a fully twenty-five percent larger than the first season’s guidebook while at the same time, costs only twenty percent more.

  • Most impressive was the fact that the guidebook details every location, both in and around Minobu, as well as the different campsites, restaurants and attractions for both Yuru Camp 2 and Heya Camp△. Besides locations, concept art of every dish is shown, and in conjunction with the cast interviews, the guidebook really demonstrates the level of effort that went into making the series. The guidebook’s extra materials come from the fact that Yuru Camp 2 has one more episode than Yuru Camp did, as well as the fact that it fully covers Heya Camp△, as well: the stamp card Nadeshiko completes is also included.

  • Altogether, the Official Guidebook Yagai Katsudo Kiroku Volume 2 is the ultimate resource for Yuru Camp fans, and I’m immensely glad to have picked it up when I did. I’ve heard rumours that an election is about to take place here in Canada, and with mail-in ballots being one of the primary options on account of the ongoing health crisis, it is suggested that Canada Post could slow down as they need to make additional deliveries, so the guidebook couldn’t have come at a better time.

  • I had been a little worried after the first OVA: the Dystopian Camp, as it is known, is really just a work camp, and puts Nadeshiko in a piteous situation. With this being said, the anime adaptation has nothing on the manga; during one of the omake comics in volume eight, Chikai and Aoi discuss how to keep the campsite clean, but then Nadeshiko interjects and states it’s fine to eat any waste they produce. The panel is horrifying to behold, and as it turns out, Chiaki had been having a nightmare.

  • Conversely, owing to Rin’s not-so-secret love of onsen, Aoi supposes that Rin would want to push her enjoyment of the hot springs to the limit by travelling in increasingly cold weather, only to hit the thermal waters immediately after. This is something I’d like to try, and since my area is blessed with bitterly cold winters, as well as geothermal hot springs an hour over, it would be possible for me to hop over to the Upper Hot Springs in Banff during the winter. I have considered doing an overnight stay during the winter, during which I would hit the hot springs early in the morning, then don a thick woolen sweater and then sip a hot cocoa on a café down Banff Avenue before returning to my lodgings and sit down to a warm, hearty dinner.

  • In Aoi’s mind’s eye, Rin even gets to bathe with the Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata), an Old World Monkey (differentiated from New World Monkey by the lack of a prehensile tail and arboreal preferences) found in Nagano. In reality, the Japanese Macaque were first seen bathing in open-air hot springs belonging to a hotel in 1963, so to give the monkeys a place of their own, Jigokudani Monkey Park was constructed. It is only in the imagination where one could bathe with the Japanese Macaque – hygienic factors preclude such an activity in reality, altough one cannot deny that Yuru Camp has a talent for visually portraying comfort through the characters’ fuzzy eyes.

  • While a winter hot springs trip to Banff would be fun, I suddenly realise that it would also be immensely relaxing to spend a few days at a ryōkan, especially one with private baths and an in-house kaiseki dinner. There is a draw about the aesthetic of peace and simplicity at a ryōkan that conventional accommodations do not offer, and being able to soak in my own private onsen while overlooking the mountains as Rin does here would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While ryōkan are no slouches in terms of price, I have been working for a while and could go on such a trip, so long as I plan for a trip where I’m not busy with work.

  • While I’m not keen on driving a moped though the snow as a part of said vacation on account of that being my everyday life for eight months of the year, I suppose that I should treat myself to a ryōkan experience at some point in the near future – for the past four years, I’ve not travelled out of country except for work (including business trips to Denver, Winnipeg, and attending F8 2019), and I’ve not taken any vacation time off for myself because I’ve been so focused on building stuff for start-ups. Since I was the only iOS developer around, it was always all-hands-on-deck, so it was difficult to get away. However, I am working with a larger company now, and since there are other developers, it would be possible for me to take some proper time off: since I now have five years of experience, I have three weeks of vacation time.

  • I can get by well enough with just the statuary holidays – I live to solve problems. However, I do appreciate that work-life balance is important, and from the other side of the coin, I also solve problems to live. Three weeks of vacation time (15 days off) is quite a lot, and I could go on a one-week trip to Japan for a ryōkan stay, and still have enough left over for a week off at the end of the year, plus five more days of time for things like other appointments. With this sort of timeframe, I’d definitely be able to give the ryōkan experience a go: I’d previously had a similar experience during my travels to Japan, during which I was served sukiyaki nabe and sashimi for dinner, before going for a soak in the hotel’s onsen.

  • Such a trip is something to look forwards to in the future, but for the shorter term, there’s also Yuru Camp: The Movie to look forwards to. With Aoi’s thoughts of winter onsen in the books, the second Yuru Camp 2 OVA draws to a tranquil close, being a warm and light-hearted way of wrapping up the second season. While Yuru Camp△ came with three OVAs, including a particularly enjoyable romp on a deserted tropical island, one cannot fault C-Station, since all of their present efforts are probably directed at the film.

  • With this final OVA and the second season’s official guidebook, I’ve had a very Yuru Camp△-focused year: I also ended up watching the live-action drama and bought both Yuru Camp Virtual experiences for my Oculus Quest. Having had a chance to try things out now, I conclude that the Oculus Quest is the best way to enjoy Yuru Camp Virtual. Unlike the mobile app for iOS and Android, the Oculus Quest is completely immersive, and unlike the HTC Vive, Valve Index or Oculus Rift, the Oculus Quest is unencumbered by wires, offering the most freedom of movement.

  • Now that I think about it, I’m been pretty picky about what I about what I buy for the Oculus Quest, and a full two years after picking up my complementary Oculus Quest from F8 2019, the only apps besides Yuru Camp Virtual I paid for are Wander and SUPERHOT VR. Although VR has improved dramatically since the days I put my virtual cell into the earliest Oculus Rifts, the technology is still quite limited, so I don’t spend too much time in VR. I’ll close off with the OVA’s final moments, which has Rin rocking her moped on the surface of Mars. In the near future, I have plans to write about Action Heroine Cheer Fruits, which I recently finished, along with some thoughts on Far Cry 5 following the free weekend, a special post on Kanata no Astra, and of course, a talk on The Aquatope on White Sands now that we’re six episodes into the series.

Besides the second Yuru Camp 2 OVA, I also recently picked up the official TV guidebook for the second season – the first TV guidebook had impressed with its thorough presentation of the behind-the-scenes in Yuru Camp△, featuring character design, concept art, cast interviews, location stills and never-seen-before artwork, as well as a summary of all the episodes and OVAs. The first season’s TV guidebook sold for 2500 Yen, and so, when I learnt that the second season’s TV guidebook would retail for 3000 Yen, the price increase suggested to me that this would feature more content: Yuru Camp 2 is bigger than its predecessor, after all. I therefore hastened to pre-order my copy – these guidebooks always offer phenomenal insight into series that online discussions alone do not provide, and while I made the choice of going with a slightly less expensive shipping option (which resulted in my copy taking a bit longer than usual to arrive), it becomes clear that the wait was well worth it. Yuru Camp 2‘s official TV guidebook is bigger and badder than its predecessor. With 160 pages over its predecessor’s 128, the second season’s guidebook showcases the new locations in hitherto unseen detail (in particular, having information about what went into the Izu Peninsula segment of Yuru Camp 2 was most illuminating). In addition, it also details the new equipment that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club utilise. To my pleasant surprise, the guidebook’s increased price tag means that Heya Camp△ is also presented, and with it, the locations that Nadeshiko visits with Chiaki and Aoi on her stamp rally, along with Rin’s experiences while she’s rocking the Yamaha Tri-City bike. The guidebook acts as a tangible copy of Yuru Camp 2, allowing me to catch details that I missed during my initial watch of the series, and reading through it, I am thoroughly impressed with the level of effort that went into Yuru Camp 2. There is no doubting that C-Station will continue to put on an impressive showing for Yuru Camp: The Movie – if Yuru Camp 2 was anything to go by, we viewers can reasonably expect to be blown away by the adventures that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club share.