The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Manga Time Kirara

RPG Real Estate: Review and Reflection After Three

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Remarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme: Review and Reflections After Three

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow Loop Finale Impressions, Whole-Series Review and Recommendation

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow Loop: Review and Reflections At The ¾ Mark

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” –Voltaire

After Koi and Futaba participate at a study session at Hiyori and Koharu’s place, Futaba reveals that she’s been wanting to take her friend, Aoki, fishing, but worries that Aoki might not be into the pursuit. To this end, they end up visiting an amusement park that allows visitors to fish, and here, Futuba is surprised to learn that Aoki has no qualms about her interests in fishing whatsoever. Although the day has been fun, Koharu’s been yearning to do more fishing, so Ichika brings everyone out to the mountains for some stream fishing. Here, after realising that their parents don’t wear their wedding rings and never really had a formal event, Koharu and Hiyori decide to do their own celebratory dinner for their parents’ wedding using the fish Koharu had caught. Later, Koharu and Hiyori visit Hiyori’s maternal grandparents in the countryside. During one excursion, Koharu gets caught in a downpour and develops a cold. Hiyori decides to cook for Koharu. Koharu recovers, to her father’s relief, and by evening, Koharu watches the summer festival fireworks with Hiyori from the quiet of Hiyori’s grandparents’ place. As autumn sets in, Koharu develops a desire to go on a trip with Hiyori, and is disappointed when her father denies this request. After talking it over with Koi, Koharu creates a proposal and does her best to assuage her father’s concerns. Koharu’s father relents, admitting that he’d also been worried about Hiyori, as well. On the day of the trip, Koi, Hiyori and Koharu set out to their campsite, where Koharu ends up successfully catching fish, and points some other fishermen to a site she’d found fruitful. After enjoying their evening meal (salt-grilled fish and steamed fish with mayonnaise and mushrooms), they prepare to turn in for the evening. Hiyori falls asleep almost immediately, while Koharu hears a story from Koi about her father, and Hiyori’s father, had encountered a bear on one of their fishing trips. Koharu has trouble falling asleep, and the next morning, is surprised that Hiyori’s cooking. The three swing by an onsen before heading home to conclude their first trip together, and Koharu hopes there’ll be a chance to do more trips of this sort in the future.

Three-quarters of the way through Slow Loop, focus has been placed on appreciating the smaller moments of family and how they drive one’s growth; the wedding dinner that Koharu and Hiyori put on for their parents shows how both have accepted their parents’ remarriage and wish to celebrate things in their own way. This small gesture is nonetheless effective in reminding both parents that their children are fully supportive of this union, as well as expressing thanks for having given the two opportunity to grow and mature as a result of getting to know one another better. Similarly, when Koharu and Hiyori visit Hiyori’s grandparents, Hiyori notices that her mother is a lot more childish the presence of her parents, while viewers gain insight into what Koharu means to her father, especially after everything that had previously occurred. This is ultimately why Koharu’s father is so reluctant to allow Koharu to camp and travel on her own; although he later admits that he also wanted to accompany Koharu and Hiyori on adventures, it cannot be easy to watch Koharu longing to walk her own path, especially when there’s the lingering concern that trouble might befall her. However, this also gives Koharu and Hiyori a chance to show how far they’ve come: by organising an itinerary and arranging for communications, they are able to put Koharu’s father at ease by indicating how they intend to do things, and what contingencies they have in event of an emergency. Indeed, once this is set up, Koharu, Hiyori and Koi are able to take that step forwards together, allowing everyone to begin finding their own place in the world by exploring it at their own pace. Both Hiyori and Koharu have matured as a result of meeting one another, and despite the loss that both have experienced, are able to slowly, but surely, find joy in the world anew. Nine episodes in, Slow Loop has done a fantastic job of conveying this, all the while incorporating both humour and tender moments to bring Hiyori and Koharu’s journey to life.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s now the heart of summer, and that means Slow Loop has entered the season of long, beautiful days punctuated by a need to wrap up summer assignments. While it’s a little tricky for Koharu to focus, some choice words from Koi fires Koharu up, enough for everyone to get through their work: it’s always heartwarming to see anime characters speaking English; their effort is commendable. Futaba’s shown up, as well, and she’s actually wondering how to best introduce her friend, Aiko, to fishing.

  • As it turns out, there’s a fishing-themed amusement park nearby: if I had to guess, this would be set near UWS Aquarium Underwater Space in Yokohama, which, in reality, is located by Yokohama Cosmoworld, an amusement park. By this point in Slow Loop, it is clear that attempting to do a location hunt is not a particularly meaningful exercise. Very little emphasis has been directed towards the setting, with Hiyori, Koharu, Koi, Futaba and Ichika’s adventures taking them to generic rivers, lakes and open ocean for their experiences.

  • The conclusion arising from how Slow Loop has chosen to portray its venues indicates this is a series where the characters come first and foremost, and that what messages Slow Loop seeks to convey are universal; setting an anime in a real-world location speaks to the series’ being rooted in a world that is intended to be familiar, but generising locations shifts the focus entirely over to the characters themselves. Here, Aiko tries her hand at fishing, and with some help, manages to catch something.

  • What Aiko enjoys most are the fried fish burgers they have for lunch, bringing back a memory of last year’s Yuru Camp△ 2; Rin and the others swung by a place called Ra-Maru during their excursion to the Izu Peninsula. Although Slow Loop does not render their fish burgers quite as lovingly, Aiko’s reaction to the burger speaks volumes to its taste; a good fish burger is made with a firm fish such as salmon or tuna (flakier fish will tend to fall apart), and preferably, is either grilled or baked rather than deep-fried. After lunch ends, the group heads into the aquarium area, where Aiko reveals she has absolutely no objection to Futaba’s love of fishing.

  • As it turns out, Futaba had tried to branch out and do the sorts of things Aiko enjoyed doing, worrying that she might lose Aiko if she’d express a want to go fishing. For Aiko, this isn’t a problem; it’s always heartwarming and instructive to see how children resolve their differences, and it is with a great deal of irony that I remark most children seem to have a better sense of how conflict resolution works relative to even adults. While children have correspondingly simpler problems to deal with, the way adults handle disagreement and conflict can be downright immature, as social media constantly remind us. Once Futaba’s worries are assuaged, she and Aiko decide to get souvenirs for those deal to them; seeing how mature Futaba is causes Ichika to cry, and suddenly, Koharu wonders why she’s not this close to Hiyori yet.

  • Being an older sibling myself, I can comment on how the dynamic will vary greatly: not all siblings will be like Futaba and Ichika, Cocoa and Mocha, or Yui and Ui. Instead, shared experiences, family circumstances and personality traits determine how close siblings will be. Koharu leaves the day happy, but feeling a little salty about having not done a whole lot of fishing, so Hiyori invites her over the mountains during Obon to do some proper fishing. In the meantime, the girls enjoy a day out in the a stream so Futaba and Ichika can try their hand at fly fishing.

  • For Koharu and the viewers’ benefit, Koi explains that this stream is one that is managed: staff periodically add fish to the stream so people can fish, and because it’s a stream, different techniques will be needed to be successful. After the girls break for watermelon, Futaba is excited to point out that Ichika’s been wearing the pendant since their previous outing, and Koharu notices that her parents don’t wear their wedding bands often. This leads Hiyori and Koharu to recall that they’d never had a formal wedding ceremony. Koharu decides to catch enough fish so they can do their own mini-celebration in lieu of something more formal.

  • In the end, Koharu nails it; she and Hiyori surprise their parents with a surprise celebration at home. Anime typically celebrate gestures like these: while they might not be as extravagant or intricate as an event put on by professionals, it’s the thought that counts. Having Ichika pony up for the roses also helps: a good bouquet starts at 40 CAD and can go for as much as a hundred dollars depending on how they’re arranged and how many roses there are, so two bouquets of the sort that Hiyori’s mother and Koharu’s father receive would require at least eighty dollars.

  • Once the guests of honour are seated, Koharu prepares dinner, and Hiyuori does the serving. Koharu prepares rainbow trout meunière with the fish she’d caught, and the main course she prepares is worthy of a high-end restaurant, right down to the presentation. The meal is well-received, and Koharu hugs her father, while Hiyori and her mother share a conversation about how far Koharu’s come in fishing since they’d met. Hiyori’s mother notes that Hiyori herself has also changed somewhat, to Hiyori’s embarrassment.

  • Dinner is rounded out with a homemade wedding cake. For Hiyori’s mother and Koharu’s father, this gesture shows that both their children have fully accepted, and embraced their union. It’s a very touching moment, one of the highlights in Slow Loop for showing how everyone’s getting to know one another better. By taking this step forwards and showing that both Koharu and Hiyori are happy with their parents re-marrying, Slow Loop eliminates a potential source of conflict and therefore, is able to focus on the lead characters’ own growth.

  • Hiyori makes good on her promise to take Koharu on a fishing trip during Obon, and they hang out at Hiyori’s grandparents’ place. Koharu is surprised to see a side of Hiyori’s mother she’d not previously seen, but is even more surprised there’s a cute side to Hiyori that she’d never known about: after Koharu casts her line, Hiyori imitates the fish’s C H O M P, causing Koharu to break out into laughter over just how adorable Hiyori can be.

  • Heartwarming moments and characters whose mannerisms evoke a sense of warm fuzziness is the order of business in Manga Time Kirara works – the four-koma manga that the anime are adapted from generally feature comedy, and this particular magazine has thus developed a reputation for featuring cute series driven by gag humour and punchlines. However, this reputation is actually not a full representation of what Manga Time Kirara works are about: underneath the humour, such series deal with a wide range of topics, from expressing gratitude for the people we come to take for granted (K-On!), embracing multidisciplinary approaches (Koisuru Asteroid) and appreciating diversity (Kiniro Mosaic), to rediscovering a love of something one had given up (Harukana Receive) and enjoying an activity in new ways one never thought possible (Yuru Camp△).

  • So far, Slow Loop has aimed to show how people become closer together as a result of their shared interests in something, as well as how one’s enthusiasm and devotion to their interests can create commonality that acts as the basis for helping people know one another better. Had Koharu not met Hiyori whilst the latter was fishing, she may have never had that initial spark: meeting Hiyori in her element leads Koharu to understand her better, and this is something that is common to all Manga Time Kirara series – fateful encounters have a habit of changing one’s life for the better, and it is with an open mind that people are able to embrace this and experience things they’d hitherto never thought possible.

  • For Koharu, who’d been exceptionally skilled with cooking, being able to fish means being able to become more connected with her food and Hiyori at the same time. Houkago Teibou Nisshi had actually touched upon this – the Breakwater Club’s motto is “eat what you catch”, and being able to see every step of the process, from catching a live animal, to preparing it for consumption would enhance one’s appreciation of what goes into making a meal. While I myself am no fisher or hunter, I watch enough How It’s Made-style shows to understand the effort that goes into food production.

  • While fishing, an unexpected shower catches Hiyori and Koharu unaware. Hiyori had brought her poncho, but Koharu had left hers behind, leading her to get soaked. It’s always heart-meltingly adorable and saddening when misfortune befall anime characters in this manner, and the ponchos remind me of a moment that occurred a few days ago while I was doing some packing – I’d found the rain poncho I’d brought with me to Japan after almost five years. I had thought I’d lost it after we returned, but it was buried under clothes in my old drawer. It is a little crazy to think that in the blink of an eye, a full five years has almost elapsed since my Japan trip back in May of 2017.

  • To commemorate this, I’ll be reminiscing about this through a post on Go! Go! Nippon!; while I found out about the game through a joke video a friend had been watching, the premise intrigued me enough so I bought the game, played through it, and then picked up both the 2015 and 2016 HD expansions, which add new content. Despite having beaten the game twice, I’ve never actually written about it, so timing it to coincide with the five-year mark since I travelled to Japan seems appropriate. Back in Slow Loop, Koharu’s developed a cold as a result of getting soaked. This occurrence is common in anime despite there being no scientific evidence that the chills causes a cold: the common cold results from a rhinovirus infection, and while colder weather can increase the risk of catching a cold, it does not cause the cold. Scientific accuracy notwithstanding, one cannot help but feel bad for Koharu in this moment.

  • Having praised Koharu for taking up fishing and becoming better connected to the meals she cooks, Hiyori has similarly matured over the course of Slow Loop; seeing Koharu in this state pushes Hiyori to ask her grandmother how to cook: she ends up using the fish Koharu had caught and a bit of miso to whip up a simple, but warming dish. That this is the first thing Hiyori has made without Koharu shows that bit by bit, she’s also matured as a result of meeting Koharu.

  • While fighting off her cold, Koharu dreams about a time in her past when she’d been hospitalised, and both her mother and younger brother was still around. Slow Loop has only hinted at the fact that despite her bubbly appearance and smiles, a bit of the past lingers in Koharu, and this led me to wonder if the series will go into a little more depth behind this part of her character: it is implied here that as a child, Koharu’s health wasn’t the best, and as a result, she hardly had any time to be with her family, so her loss would’ve been especially profound.

  • When Manga Time Kirara series introduce more serious moments, they’ve traditionally done so in such a way as to maturely address the matter without breaking the easy-going atmosphere. The net effect is that Manga Time Kirara allows for trickier topics to be presented in a gentler manner for viewers. As it was, a hint of melancholy can be detected in the atmosphere after she wakes up. However, Hiyori’s fish soup warms Koharu right up, and her father shows up, relieved that Koharu’s alright. Having lost his first wife and child earlier, it is understandable that Koharu’s father would want to make sure nothing’s happened to his daughter, as well.

  • As the evening wears on, and Koharu’s strength returns to her, she and Hiyori watch the fireworks from the back porch. Koharu feels bad at having made Hiyori miss the summer festival, but Hiyori is okay with the peace and quiet. In the moment, Hiyori addresses Koharu as onee-chan, which completely perks Koharu up the same way it would for GochiUsa‘s Cocoa. To drive home this point, Koharu is adamant on hearing a now-reluctant Hiyori say onee-chan again, reminiscent of how Cocoa has tried to get these words out of Chino on several points.

  • Some time after the summer draws to a close, Koharu “runs away” after her father flat out denies her request to go camping with Hiyori and Koi in the absence of adult supervision. Koharu’s father makes a valid point, one that Koi reinforces – to enjoy the privilege of such an experience requires a certain amount of responsibility. Slice-of-life anime particularly excel in combining the presentation of relevant life lessons with a side of humour (Koharu’s tantrum is adorable), and given the audience, I am inclined to say that these moments are for parents as much as they are youth.

  • To no one’s surprise, once Koharu shows her father that she’s thought things through properly, things turn around very quickly. Something similar had happened in Koisuru Asteroid, where Ao and Mira had worked hard to convince their parents that Ao should be allowed to live with Mira while they pursue their studies and aspirations together. Honesty is the best policy, and openly having a conversation about things worked out in Ao and Mira’s favour. In Slow Loop, the stakes are lower, but Koharu’s willingness to demonstrate her responsibility is another sign of growth, that her horizons are broadening, and with it, her readiness to do things in a responsible, measured manner.

  • Thus begins Koharu’s first-ever trip without her parents: Hiyori and Koi accompany her on this journey, which takes the girls to a comfortable campground complete with small cabins. Because the focus of Slow Loop is fishing, rather than Yuru Camp△‘s emphasis on outdoors techniques and bushcraft, the series chooses to swiftly handle shelter so more time can be spent on this series’ focus. The campground is shown to be a bit of a fancier one; while it’s not quite glamping (vernacular English: “fancy-ass camping”), the site has numerous amenities including a barbeque option.

  • Despite Koi’s skill in fishing, she lacks the same passion that Hiyori and Koharu do. While the others ready their lines, Koi sets up a portable brewing apparatus for making coffee and enjoys the quiet of this afternoon in her own manner. Koi’s preferences actually bring to mind my own; although I’ve a fondness for hiking in the mountains and strolling city parks, my preference is to curl up with a good book and a lavish beverage. Simple moments like these speak volumes about the characters far more effectively than dialogue alone can, and Koi’s choosing to enjoy some hand-made coffee shows her enjoyment of quieter activities.

  • After gearing up, Hiyori and Koharu head their separate ways to catch some fish. Hiyori is immediately successful and, after heading off to check up on Koharu, finds Koharu engrossed in a catch of her own. Koharu initially had limited success until recalling advice to go somewhere the fish might be, and after she does so, her game changes completely. This moment is significant because it represents Koharu drawing on past knowledge and her own decision-making to find success: doing something for oneself is the best way to learn, and Koharu’s using past lessons shows how far she’s come since Slow Loop began.

  • Having been around the block for the duration that I have, I confirm that the best way one can demonstrate a solid understanding of a given topic is to be able help others in their learning. Although Koharu’s still a novice, she is able to offer some other campers a tip on where the fish are: she’s filled with a smugness at having been helpful to others in the aftermath that Koi rapidly picks up on, but in Koharu’s defense, it does feel excellent to help people out.

  • Koi and Hiyori greatly enjoy the salt-grilled fish that they’d caught. This is a traditional Japanese way of preparing fish, and the salt is said to enhance the fish’s natural flavours while extracting extra water, which draws out the compounds that give a fish its distinct fishy character. Koi remarks this is the definitive way to enjoy fish – while Koharu disagrees and brings out a new recipe out to show Koi the merits of more elaborate cooking, I do find that to really enjoy seafood in its glory, simplicity is the best. Yesterday, a relative dropped off freshly caught mackerel. It was prudent to enjoy these fish as soon as possible, so the mackerel was prepared for tonight’s dinner; the only thing we needed to do (after cutting the fish up) was pan-fry it with a soy sauce called 蒸魚豉油 (jyutping zing1 jyu4 si6 jau4, literally “soy sauce for steamed fish).

  • I’ve found that what works best for fish depends on the fish: lighter, flakier fish like basa and cod are best prepared with seasoning as a part of a dish, while oily fish is flavourful on its own and only requires a few seasonings to bring out their best. For Koharu, she takes some of the fish, salts it for twenty minutes, then mixes mayonnaise and miso onto the fish. On aluminium foil, onions and butter, plus white-beech mushroom, are added. The fish is then wrapped in this foil and steamed on low heat for a quarter hour. Koharu’s creativity shows there is no shortage of ways to enjoy one’s food, and moreover, a little ingenuity can create culinary works of art without too much extra effort. This is actually a clever way of using leftovers: one example that comes to mind is reusing stir-fried beef from a previous evening’s dinner and mixing it into the current day’s vegetables to liven things up.

  • Both Koi and Hiyori hit the hay immediately, leaving Koharu a little bothered that no one’s staying up for swapping ghost stories or romantic escapades: amped up after the day’s events, Koharu finds it difficult to sleep, and Koi ends up telling a true story about her father and Hiyori’s father, who’d encountered a bear on one of their trips. With thoughts of bears roaming her mind, suddenly, every noise seems an order of magnitude scarier, leaving Koharu unable to sleep. She ends up clinging to Koi for the remainder of the night. The next morning, Koi and Koharu awaken to find Hiyori cooking breakfast. I’ve never been one for staying up late, so I empathise with Koi’s desire to catch some shuteye. With this, we are now nine episodes through Slow Loop, and I’ve definitely been enjoying what this series has brought to the table.

  • I note that discussions elsewhere on this series has been limited – although absolutely adorable and presenting a wonderful story of growth through family, I find that it takes a certain mindset to really get into anime such as these. The reason why slice-of-life series, especially iyashikei anime, appeals to me is because they help me to living in the moment more: time flies, and entire days disappear when one is immersed in work. I’ve heard that perception of time accelerating comes from the lack of new experiences in one’s routine, which is why time passes more slowly when I’m travelling compared to when I’m working my way through a bug or doing housework. Watching slice-of-life anime helps me to slow things down and regroup, leaving me refreshed for my obligations, and on this note, with only three episodes left to Slow Loop, I am looking ahead to the spring season. Only two shows have my eye at this point in time: Machikado Mazoku 2-Chome and Magia Record‘s third season.

It may appear that Slow Loop has gone down a stereotypically-Manga Time Kirara route in its progression thus far; the episodes of the third quarter are purely focused on appreciating aspects of a family, whether it be expressing thanks, or looking out for one another. The lingering question of whether or not losses, and the attendant grief, have any impact on both Koharu and Hiyori appear to have been set aside for the time being, but Slow Loop also indicates, via flashbacks, that the topic remains one of relevance. As Slow Loop enters its final quarter, one does wonder if the series will introduce any surprises and cover more series topics such as being open with one’s feelings, and knowing that it’s perfectly okay to be sad once every now and then. Manga Time Kirara adaptations do have a track record of dealing with heavier matters during its final object, and while things can appear rushed because it’s condensed into the last two or three episodes, as Harukana Receive and Koisuru Asteroid had previously done, the method nonetheless remains viable because it allows a given anime to show how the joyful everyday moments intersect with more trying times, and how it is through the lessons learnt during the good times that one can weather bad times and come out the other end. Much as how Ao and Mira find a way to stay together while in pursuit of their goal to discover an asteroid, or Haruka and Kanata coming to terms with the fact that they must face off against their friends, Emily and Claire, in order for Kanata to fulfil her dream of reaching the national competition and showing to her old partner, Narumi, that she’d found her path anew, it is possible that Slow Loop may have one more surprise left in store for viewers in its final quarter. However, even if the series does not, this won’t stop it from being any less enjoyable; different authors approach a given topic differently, and the end result is an alternative perspective, a unique message about what they’d wish to say of a given matter.