The Infinite Zenith

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shirobako: The Movie- An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“At Musashino Animation, where there’s one Aoi Miyamori and sixteen departments, there’s only enough time for Aoi Miyamori to make it to a department. She can’t be in two departments at once. This FEBruary, it’s time to AOI down your Miyamoris…in Shirobako: THE MOVIE.” –Unreleased Shirobako trailer

Four years after their successful delivery of The Third Girls Aerial Squad, Musashino Animation (MusAni from here on out for brevity) had fallen upon tough times after their latest project, Time Hippopotamus, was cancelled, and instead, are working on smaller projects to keep the lights on. Aoi Miyamori does her best as production manager, while her former colleagues have left MusAni for other companies. After meeting up with her friends one evening for drinks, Aoi wishes to one day work together with everyone again, feeling unhappy that while everyone’s moved on in their careers, their original dream appears to be more distant than ever. She later learns that line producer and current president Shun Watanabe has accepted a a new film project, Aerial Amphibious Assault Ship SIVA (SIVA for brevity), which was advertised to première in February 2020, but ran into production problems and was shelved. With only ten months left before the première date, the time-frames are tight, but Aoi accepts, knowing that it would be a project that could get MusaAni back on their feet. She later runs into former production assistants Tarō Takanashi and Daisuke Hiraoka while out running an errand, and when stopping at former president Masato Marukawa’s curry shop, is overwhelmed by emotion, recalling that Masato’s curry tastes exactly as it did when they’d worked together. While walking home, Aoi decides she’s going to do her absolute best with this movie project. She meets with producer Kōtarō Katsuragi, who had submitted SIVA to a production studio called GPU. However, as they’ve made no progress, Kōtarō’s decided to hedge his bets on MusAni. He introduces Aoi to Kaede Miyai, a producer from Western Entertainment: they’ve agreed to collaborate with MusaAni to complete work on SIVA. Reinvigorated, Aoi sets about gathering the old crew, some of which have similarly fallen on hard times, but all of which are more than willing to lend a hand to Aoi. She manages to persuade director Seiichi Kinoshita to snap out of his depression and return to produce something he’s proud of. Others, such as key animators Yumi Iguchi and Rinko Ogasawara, are happy to help out despite their own workloads. Even animation supervisor Ryōsuke Endō returns, optimistic that he can work on something to turn his life around. With the old team back together, SIVA begins taking shape. When Shizuka Sakaki auditions for a role in SIVA, encouraged by her supervisor, she manages to land a leading role. One day, Aoi runs into former senior key animator Shigeru Sugie, who asks Aoi and her friends to help with an animation class. While the children are unruly, the five manage to turn things around and excite the children, who greatly enjoy the class. The five recall their own love for animation and resolve to double their efforts in SIVA. As production draws to a close, a few impediments present themselves. Director Masashi Yamada is falsely accused of being involved in a scandal, but is able to clear this up. Meanwhile, GPU’s president threatens legal action against MusAni for having taken up the project in violation of their exclusivity contract, but together with Kaede, Aoi finds that GPU had actually breached their original contract by failing to deliver, forcing GPU to relinquish their rights to SIVA. With only a few weeks left before the première, director Seiichi finds the ending to be lacking in impact, but this time, commits to fixing things with the staff. SIVA releases to critical acclaim, and Aoi later briefs her team on The Third Girls Aerial Squad‘s third season.

During its original run, Shirobako covered various aspects of anime production, from the conceptualisation to storyboarding, asset creation, voice acting and editing, all the while striking a balance between bringing a creator’s vision to life and creating a story that could stand of its own merits. Shirobako: The Movie, on the other hand, deals in the notion of copyright and licensing, as well as the importance of getting all of the right contracts signed and notorised, as well as ensuring that one is cleared to begin work on a project. Time Hippopotamus had been an instance of MusAni being a ways into production when the plug got pulled. Because the license belonged to this company, it was impossible to continue production without the proper permissions, and the end result was that MusAni had done little more than burn precious resources on a project that it could not recover from financially. Similarly, the final major obstacle in the film deals with the transfer of rights to production from another studio to MusAni: the director of GPU had not explicitly authorised Kōtarō to find another studio who had the capacity to produce a movie. Intellectual property and its handling becomes a central piece of Shirobako: The Movie: because rights to works of fiction can be very lucrative if a given works is popular, there are provisions in place to ensure that these intellectual properties are respected. However, these same systems can also be shackles, threatening entire projects. When the original studio was not able to deliver their results, Kōtarō seeks out Aoi for help, creating a very sticky situation where things could’ve ended quite poorly for MusAni. It was only carelessness from GPU’s part, that a critical document had not been read in full, and with a bit of fortune on Aoi’s end, she’s able to prove that the exclusivity agreement was null and void precisely because the original contract required that deliverables be handed over in a timely fashion. With no deliverable to show, the contract is not binding. MusAni thus dodges a bullet here, although this element in Shirobako: The Movie was meant to show that navigating copyright and licensing laws can be a tricky field as well. In this way, Shirobako: The Movie covers new territory during its run, while simultaneously revisiting familiar aspects of anime production. This time around, the returning staff are at the top of their game, determined to produce a film of excellent standards.

While it’s been four years since the events of the original Shirobako in Shirobako: The Movie, for us viewers overseas, closer to six years have passed. Watching Shirobako: The Movie was therefore a trip down memory lane, bringing back recollections of the things that the original TV series had excelled in during its run. The film returns with messages of perseverance, teamwork and doing something properly: Aoi is determined to see SIVA to the end, and demonstrates her talents for management by connecting with old staff, as well as motivating everyone to do their best, as well. With the entire former team together again, their familiarity with one another and skill-set allows them to work on the SIVA project in earnest, at a much more efficient pace than they had previously. Aoi’s own experience also allows her to find a solution to the matter of copyright, as well as helping director Masashi to escape a nasty bit of accusations designed to bring his reputation down. Despite falling into a depression when MusAni lost most of its staff, Aoi remains committed to doing her best in every situation, stepping out of her comfort zone to see things through to the end. Similarly, when director Seiichi expresses discontent with SIVA‘s ending despite having kept quiet about it earlier, Aoi is able to demonstrate to him that the team cares as much as he does. Despite only a few days remaining to launch, MusAni thus buckles down and remakes the ending, producing something that Seiichi is confident the audience will enjoy. Of the characters in Shirobako, Aoi embodies the core tenants of success, striving to make her dreams possible even when it looks as though all hope is lost. The end result of her actions is a successful launch, and the ending to Shirobako: The Movie was as satisfying as it gets, with MusAni being given the responsibility of producing The Third Girls Aerial Squad, a successful series that demonstrates the world’s faith in MusAni. During its run, it was encouraging to see that notions of hard work, effort and persistence to the end is what brings about hope, and a better shot at pursuing one’s ambitions, even when one’s path forward isn’t clear.

I need a goddamned Aoi Miyamori!

From a narrative perspective, Shirobako: The Movie treads on familiar ground to indicate to viewers that themes don’t necessarily change with the passage of time, and that things like effort, responsibility and integrity are universal. This is how the movie is able to present a compelling story despite running through the same learnings that Aoi had made in the original Shirobako. While the story is an experience viewers won’t find surprising, what sets Shirobako: The Movie apart from its predecessor is the actual artistic merit and animation quality. Shirobako: The Movie possesses slightly improved backgrounds and artwork compared to Shirobako‘s TV series, but where it truly shines is the animation and variety of styles during its run; of note is the sequence where Aoi regains her motivation, and in her mind, performs a musical that sees her revisit Andes Chucky, Exodus and The Third Girls Aerial Squad, along a host of other series, including Jiggly Jiggly Heaven. Shirobako: The Movie seamlessly transitions between these moments, demonstrating a technical prowess that brings to life Aoi’s rich imagination. Similarly, when Aoi and her friends teach children animation, disinterest and apathy soon turns to genuine excitement as Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa and Midori bring their own skills to enchant their students, who are thrilled to have brought their own work to life. In the aftermath of this event, Ema is reminded that she took up key animation because she had a love for drawing and shakes off discouragement to ensure she’s able to perform. One of the joys about Shirobako had always been seeing how P.A. Works brought to life the anime that MusAni and Aoi work on: by Shirobako: The Movie, their craft has allowed them to create genuine interest in these fictional works. SIVA looks like a fantastic movie, and MusaAni’s efforts to set the climax right really shines through in the end. Switching between different styles creates a visually varied film that serves as a welcome addition to Shirobako and bringing to life MusAni’s works, creating a stronger connection between viewers and the projects Aoi contributes to, in turn strengthening the series’ themes.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • With this review on Shirobako: The Movie, I do believe I’ve broken into uncharted waters with the internet’s first full-scale review on the film, which released last year on February 29 and opens with a delightful skit summarising the events that had taken place in Shirobako. The film runs for a total of 120 minutes and was an absolute blast to watch the entire way, so I’ll open with my final verdict and score – for doing something that only the best works do, for engaging for the full duration and for bringing back everything that made the TV series so enjoyable, and then scaling this up for the silver screen, Shirobako: The Movie takes a well-deserved A+ (4.0 of 4.0, 10 of 10) and is something I have no qualms recommending to people.

  • The film proper opens with Aoi sleeping in the office, exhausted after a long day’s worth of work. How disheveled Aoi is speaks volumes about her commitment to her work, but at the same time, it also appears that Aoi is working for the sake of working now; she lacks the same enthusiasm and spirit that she’d demonstrated in leading the MusAni team during Shirobako‘s second half. Similarly, the office appears to be in a dishevelled state, although the place is also cloaked in darkness on account of the lateness of the hour. Visual cues suggest that MusAni of 2019 (when the movie is set) is a very different place than the one we remember from 2015.

  • Aoi initially hesitates to check out the release of MusAni’s latest episode for The Third Girls Aerial Squad‘s second season, and once the footage starts rolling, it appears to be for good reason. This anime appears to have fallen very far from the tree, resembling World Witches Take Off! more than a combination of Sky Girls, Strike Witches and Warlords of Sigrdrifa, which is what the original anime reminded me of. The skeleton staff at MusAni watching this episode’s airing was similarly disappointing in size, standing in contrast with how in the old day, the entire office would show up for these airings.

  • One aspect of Shirobako I don’t think I spoke too much about was the growing friendship between Ema and Ai. Four years after the events of Shirobako, the two are roommates now, and Ai’s able to speak more cohesively – I remember that she was unable to complete even individual words, but with Ema, she’s able to be quite articulate. Here, she worries about Ema not eating properly; the latter is so engrossed with her work that she forgot to eat her lunch earlier.

  • Further hinting at how Aoi feels, a glance at her apartment shows it to be quite messy and dishevelled inside. She becomes uncomfortable with mention of hanging out with her family, and it was about here that I began seeing a bit of Aoi in myself. It struck me that Aoi’s career is not going quite as well as she would’ve liked. However, for those closest to her, she puts on a brave face and does her best to smile. This is something that I completely get – I’ve been where Aoi is, and I understand what it feels like to live in a world where every day is uncertain.

  • Because Aoi dearly loves the work she does at MusAni, she struggles to face her friends on their outing at a local pub the group has become fond of, worried that she’s fallen the furthest behind in her career goals of everyone. Before entering, she forces her face into a smile. While it is disheartening to see Aoi like this, I also take heart knowing that Aoi’s still resolute in her dream – the disappointment and frustration she sees in her day-to-day work shows that she cares very much about doing a good job, and this is something to be commended. In a completely unrelated aside, Aoi is voiced by Juri Kimura, whom I know best as GochiUsa‘s Rin Mate, a pushy but kind-hearted editor not unlike Aoi.

  • Admittedly, this particular outing brought to mind the time I attended a raclette party shortly before I accepted a job offer for my previous company – while I’d initially been hesitant to share that I was with a failing start-up, hearing my friends’ stories led me to open up a little, and they assured me that while they had struggles of their own, that evening was purely to unwind and swap bad stories. I thus ate and laughed with everyone, my worries forgotten that cold November evening. I’ve since gone through that cycle a second time, and while it has been rough, the silver lining is that I’ve accrued more iOS experience over the past two years. I am therefore very grateful to have worked for my previous post because of the learnings I got out of it; during my time here, I learnt to build my own UIs, and at present, I am able to build pixel-perfect UIs from mockups designers hand me, as well as put together UIs of my own when no designs are available.

  • Upon spotting Shizuka, the pub’s owners switch the channel to a programme where Shizuka is seen speaking with a young voice actress. While Shizuka is not an iconic voice actress and works on live-action programmes, she’s not lost sight of her goals and believes that expanding her repertoire would be valuable. Prior to entering my last role, I’d been more of a mid-end developer, building out data models and business layers in an app, but as Shizuka found, taking on new roles has been very helpful: at present, I’m completely at home with RESTful APIs, JSON serialisation and CocoaPods, amongst others. My experiences, within the context of Shirobako, suggest that Shizuka will do fine and reach her dreams as long as she’s willing to learn and be open to new experiences, which she’s clearly willing to do.

  • As the evening draws to a close, a sickly version of the Seven Lucky Gods passes by, visually denoting that the five friends’ dream appear as distant as it’s ever been. While returning home by train, Aoi and Ema share a conversation: Aoi mentions that MusAni has been quiet for some time, suggesting that the workload and the corresponding revenue has been reduced. In light of this, she notes that it was better that Ema ended up becoming a freelance keyframe animator like Misato Segawa. Leaving one company for another is always tricky, especially when one loves what they do, but Ema appears to have landed on her feet, and indicates that she’d be happy to work with MusAni again should the opportunity present itself.

  • When Aoi arrives at work the next morning for their team meeting, the interior of MusAni’s office is thrown into sharp relief: the scuffled wallpaper, accumulation of boxes and generally beat-up quality of the surroundings is a far cry from the offices I remember back when Aoi first started. It was here, beyond any doubt, that MusAni was in dire straights: the smaller staff count and an office that has clearly seen better days leaves no doubt in the viewer’s mind where MusAni is now. Aoi’s reservation and poor spirits earlier are mirrored in her surroundings now; the movie had done a solid job of slowly building viewers up with what had happened so it doesn’t come as a shock.

  • On this rainy day, Shun brings Aoi out for a private conversation; the grim weather accentuates MusAni’s current state. Like other works I’ve greatly enjoyed, Shirobako: The Movie makes use of weather and visual metaphors to tell stories in ways that dialogue and body language cannot. I often rely on weather and lighting to help me with identifying what the significance of different scenes are because writers utilise weather to create a very specific mood, and generally speaking, weather is chosen to line up with how the characters are feeling. Consequently, when the weather is contrary to expectations, I pay even closer attention to understand what the intentions are. The choice of weather in Shirobako: The Movie reminded me a great deal of Les Stroud’s Baffin Island episode in Survivorman: during his fourth day in the arctic tundra, difficult conditions created a sort of darkness that made it seem especially melancholy, and his remarks here capture perfectly what a lack of hope looks like.

  • I couldn’t help but smile upon seeing Yutaka Honda running his own cake shop. Formerly a production manager like Aoi, he eventually left to pursue his dreams after Exodus was completed, but periodically returned to drop off sweets and encourage the team. Yutaka represents someone who ends up finding his own path and pursuing it in earnest; as a pastry chef, he is a happy and energetic individual: by the events of the movie, he’s regained his former weight as a result of trying every new creation to ensure its taste is satisfactory. After placing their orders, Shun and Aoi sit down to discuss MusAni’s future, and Shun opens with the question that people would dread hearing: has Aoi considered quitting MusAni in light of their current situation? This conversation confirms all of the visual signs that had been presented earlier, as Aoi affirms that MusAni is in a difficult spot.

  • As luck would have it, Stroud would turn his situation around when a Narwal forced Arctic Char close to his camp, allowing him to capture four fish and secure a sizeable supply of food for the remainder of his episode. Survivorman has shown how situations can turn around in a heartbeat, and while skill and preparation are essential, sometimes, a little luck can help. In Shirobako: The Movie, the turning point is when Shun reveals that MusAni has the opportunity to produce a movie. Suddenly, the grey skies and rain give way to a warm sunlight that illuminates the shop’s interior. Aoi doesn’t react to the offer on-screen, but the shift in weather speaks volumes about how Aoi feels: she’s seen wearing a look of utmost determination in the next scenes, which flash briefly over to what Ema, Midori, Shizuka and Misa are working as a bit of foreshadowing. It becomes clear that this film project is what MusAni needs, even if the deadline is a tricky one.

  • The next day, Aoi runs into Tarō while fuelling up the company car, which has become quite ragged and beaten-up over the past four years. It turns out he’s looking for a ride and while some time has passed, Tarō retains all of his energy and enthusiasm. Along the way, Tarō spots Daisuke and has Aoi drive him, as well. While I remember Daisuke for being quite confrontational and getting on poorly with Tarō, in the past four years, the two have developed a bit of an interesting friendship, and Daisuke feels a lot more relaxed now than he did four years earlier. It turns out the two are on their way to pitching ideas, and they thank Aoi for the ride before heading off.

  • Before Daisuke leaves, he provides some words of encouragement to Aoi, encouraging her to fight for her dreams in a world where things only come to those who prove they want it more. In Shirobako: The Movie, the famous “Miyamori Faces”, as I called them back in the day, don’t really make a comeback: during Shirobako‘s original run, Aoi was seen with a range of hilarious facial expressions resulting from shock, frustration and overwork. I imagine that these stopped being a part of the show because Aoi’s matured since then, and the things that would terrify her back then are now merely another problem to deal with.

  • Hearing Daisuke offer words of support for MusAni, however, does prompt Aoi to think back to that day when it was announced that they’d be halting all work on Time Hippopotamus. It turned out that because the company who’d contracted MusAni to produce Time Hippopotamus was undergoing restructuring, and as a result, the new company president determined that the Time Hippopotamus series wasn’t likely to justify the cost of producing it. Because this company held the rights to the characters and concept, it was impossible to finish the project and have a different company air the product.

  • While making a delivery to Masato’s curry shop, Aoi decides to have some curry, as well; the familiar taste brings tears to her eyes, as she remembers all of the times the MusAni team had spent together, hashing out projects and enjoying the curry Masato had made. Olfactory memory is something I’ve made mention of in previous posts, with tastes and smells being able to evoke very strong memories in our mind. For Masato, the flavour his curry had was also deeply engraved in his mind, associated with the times he’d spent with MusAni: after he resigned and opened his curry shop, he tried everything he could to create a new flavour, one that wouldn’t remind him of these memories. That Aoi feels it still tastes as it once did now suggests that Masato has found his way and accepted what’s happened, acknowledging that there were good memories alongside the bad.

  • Because Masato had been president of MusAni at the time, he felt that the responsibility was his to bear and resigned: MusAni had accepted the contract and diverted all of their resources into production before anything was even signed. As a result, MusAni had begun work before even receiving payment, and so, when the project was cancelled, the resources that were spent could not be so easily recouped. This is why work never begins on something until a written contract can be produced and signed. With this being said, I do occasionally spend some free time conceptualising on projects so if they are to go ahead, I can hit the ground running. While getting some air, Aoi runs into Seiichi, who attempts to stoically take the blow, but was impacted by the news as everyone else had.

  • While Time Hippopotamus proved to be MusAni’s breaking point and sent the company in a downward spiral, Aoi also felt that for that project, everyone had been at the top of their game, finishing episodes three months ahead of their scheduled deadline. In spite of what happened, the team at MusAni had demonstrated they were capable of moving heaven and earth to accomplish their goals, and while circumstances been against them that day, Aoi promises to right the ship and turn things around. Promise of working on SIVA has her pumped up and ready to go, and Masato’s words encourage her: he reminds Aoi that her motivation for making anime, to reach the hearts and minds of those who watch it, will doubtlessly inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

  • Thus, as Aoi heads home for the night, she begins singing a song to lift her spirits and encourage herself. In her mind’s eye, Mimuji and Roro join her, along with characters from Andes Chucky, Exodus, The Third Girls Aerial Squadron and Jiggly Jiggly Heaven soon join her, putting on a performance worthy of any musical. It was here that Shirobako: The Movie really proved itself as being worthy of a movie: the challenge that all anime movies based on a TV series face is scaling things up for the silver screen experience. At the heart of Shirobako: The Movie is the fact that this is a movie about making a movie, but to really make the experience unique, Shirobako: The Movie has gone the extra mile to produce a musical number that really speaks to Aoi’s optimism.

  • The actual musical presentation was impressive because it combined different art styles together and seamlessly brought them to life. Aoi’s song, beginning as a minimal set of lyrics, eventually develops into a full-fledged musical number, mirroring how life is often a game of momentum. When things don’t swing in one’s favour, finding the motivation and courage to get started can be tricky, but with a bit of momentum, the impossible suddenly appears possible. With SIVA now a reality for MusAni, Aoi promises to do her best, taking a meeting with Western Entertainment’s Kōtarō Katsuragi, a producer who had worked extensively with MusAni in the past.

  • It turns out that Kōtarō had been working on SIVA, but after another production studio, GPU, absolutely failed to deliver even after two years, GPU’s president had decided to leave Kōtarō to deal with the mess, suggesting that they might be able to work faster if Kōtarō could convince his higher-ups to send them a little more money. Kōtarō attributes his passion for the project to Aoi, and expresses his hope that MusAni will be able to pull things off. To this end, Kōtarō leaves the competent Kaede Miyai with Aoi. Kōtarō and Shun send Aoi and Kaede on their way so they can iron out remaining details to the arrangements.

  • While the odds are stacked against Aoi and MusAni right from the start (MusAni is short on staff and only has ten months to complete a movie that would normally take two years), it appears that Western Entertainment is quite ready to foot the bill. Kaede notes that Aoi basically has free reign in picking her staff, leaving Aoi free to choose a crew she’s comfortable working with. Since Kaede was brought in to sort out the problems the previous production assistant had left behind, and the project is finally moving forwards, it stands to reason that Kaede is competent in her work. To get to know one another better, Aoi accepts a dinner invitation from Kaede, and the two promptly get smashed at what appears to be half the pubs around town.

  • Aoi and Kaede immediately bond over shared work experiences and grievances – with the alcohol talking, both complain vociferously about various aspects of their jobs and industries. I’m impressed with how Aoi manages to keep up with Kaede throughout the evening and still manages to sleep it off for the next morning. This is a feat I can’t pull off; after one drink, I’m struggling to stay awake, and two is enough to give me the emperor of all headaches. For this reason, I don’t really drink, especially not to drown my sorrows. The problem for me is that my sorrows have learnt to swim, and alcohol simply leaves me feeling worse later down the line. Conversely, I have no qualms about a small glass of champagne during celebrations.

  • SIVA admittedly feels like Space Battleship Yamato in concept, with a Phantom Thief Lapin twist to it and a name that simultaneously reminds me of both the SHIVA-class nuclear missiles from Halo, as well as Skyfall‘s very own Raoul Silva. I’d been watching this with a friend, and he’d remarked that the choice of name for a space-faring vessel is deliberate: vessels of special significance are often given cool names: USS Enterprise from Star TrekBattlestar GalacticaStar Wars‘ Millennium Falcon, the Endurance from Interstellar and Halo 4‘s UNSC Infinity come to mind. This makes sense; I highly doubt that something like “UNSC Miporin” would strike a sense of awe into viewers.

  • The aspect of Aoi’s character that I liked most is how pushy she can be without overstepping: when she attempts to recruit Seiichi back to MusAni, Seiichi is reluctant, fearing yet another failure. In the four years since, he appears to be inactive, and it takes some pressuring to get him to accept his old position as a director. Aoi ends up chasing him out the front door, and he collides with Yutaka, after which Aoi notes that she’s inspired by Masato’s words. Seiichi eventually relents, promising to pick up his work again on the condition that Aoi persuades screenwriter Shimeji Maitake to also join the project.

  • It turns out that asking Shimeji to come on board took no effort: like Aoi and the others, he hadn’t been happy with how everyone’s efforts with Time Hippopotamus were so callously discarded, and sees this as a chance to both redeem himself, as well as MusAni’s reputation. With Shimeji on board, Seiichi is happy to report for duty. However, his old tendencies soon begin manifesting, and there are points where he is confined to a caged room in order to force him to focus on storyboarding. Old habits die hard, and there are several points where Seiichi attempts to escape, just like in the days of old.

  • Aoi finds Yumi at an art gallery, and while she’s up to her eyeballs in work with her current company, she’s more than happy to lend Aoi a hand; after the Time Hippopotamus failure, she ended up leaving MusAni to pursue other opportunities, but it is clear that she and many of the staff only left for practical reasons. That Aoi is able to gather everyone up with little resistance speaks to their respect for her and the company – while poor working relationships are a common reason in why people move between jobs, that so many of MusAni’s former staff still have fond memories of working here continue to suggest that the Time Hippopotamus incident was a one-off, but catastrophic enough as to put the company on the verge of collapse. That Aoi’s helped to keep things alive after all this time is a reminder of her own skill as a production manager.

  • During the events of Shirobako, Rinko had always stood out from the other characters for her distinct preference for Gothic Lolita fashion; it turns out she adopted this style because it reminded her of a character she was inspired by. When Aoi encounters her on a run, Rinko is embarrassed and asks for a moment to change into her usual outfit before speaking with her. Like Yumi, Rinko has no qualms about lending her skills and time towards MusAni’s project. One of the biggest challenges about watching Shirobako was the fact that the series had such a large cast: beyond Aoi and her friends, there are forty characters at MusAni alone.

  • Shirobako: The Movie, on the other hand, only has a handful of central characters, although even then, there are enough people such that the film continues on in the style of its predecessor and names the characters, along with their roles, for the viewers’ benefit. I certainly found this useful, and it helps that some of the characters have uniquely identify traits that make them much easier to remember. Seiichi, Kōtarō, Erika, Tarō and Ryōsuke are some of the easiest characters to remember for their distinct personalities, for instance. With the old MusAni team starting to take shape again, work can finally begin on SIVA itself.

  • When Shizuka learns that Aoi and MusAni are producing SIVA, she decides to audition for a role in the movie, and here, speaks with her friend and mentor, Mari Tateo, a veteran voice actress who is in the same company as Shizuka. With Mari’s encouragement, Shizuka decides to at least give things a shot and attempt to land a secondary role in SIVA. However, when the directors are interested to have her voice a central character, they find themselves impressed with Shizuka’s range and decide to cast her in the larger role. For Shizuka, the wait is a bit of an excruciating one, since she long desires to do the things that she sets her sights on.

  • On Aoi’s request, Misato heads off to try and get Ryōsuke on board – the directors and staff have decided that his exceptional ability to design ships would be valuable for SIVA. Misato finds Ryōsuke at an arcade and delivers a verbal beatdown, wondering what he’s done with his life since he left MusAni. Things escalate into an argument, and Misato is ultimately unsuccessful in convincing him to return. The two are technically rivals, striving to improve their own craft as to keep up with the other, and while Misato’s continued to work as a freelance key animator, it appears that Ryōsuke’s been unable to pick himself up after the Time Hippopotamus incident. That he retains his passion and energy, however, suggests that he’s willing to do what it takes to right himself.

  • While Misato was unsuccessful, a conversation with 3D director Yuichiro Shimoyanagi causes Ryōsuke to pause and reconsider – despite the two working in different fields, and Ryōsuke’s distaste for CG, the pair get along very well. Yuichiro is able to convince Ryōsuke to consider returning to his old post at MusAni: realising that there’s a chance to pull himself out of a slump, Ryōsuke ends up accepting. The two visit an aquarium, where Yuichiro is watching how aquatic life moves in water to gain a better sense of how to capture their movements in an animated fashion.

  • Ryōsuke’s wife, Mayumi, unconditionally supports him, and even after he quits his job with MusAni, she takes on a cashier job at the local supermarket to help make ends meet, believing in Ryōsuke’s potential and that he will return to his old self. As such, when he brings news of his return to MusAni to her, she decides that a celebration is in order – while rough around the edges, Ryōsuke demonstrates that the love the two share are mutual. He passes her his freshly-opened beer after she chips her nail opening hers. People like Mayumi, who are totally supportive of their partner’s dreams, must be rare, and it shows that the two’s feelings are genuine, since Mayumi has been willing to endure the bad along with celebrating the good.

  • One aspect about Shirobako: The Movie that has not been discussed is the soundtrack, which is composed by Shirō Hamaguchi, best known for his work on the Girls und Panzer and Ah! My Goddess soundtracks. Influence from the former is immediately noticeable in Hamaguchi’s music for Shirobako, which has the same spirited marches as Girls und Panzer does, and therefore, is well-suited for the energy that Shirobako strives to convey. While Hamaguchi excels with creating marches, his incidental music for more contemplative or calm moments are just as enjoyable as the more energetic pieces. On the topic of Girls und Panzer, it is not lost on me that Das Finale‘s third installment had released two days earlier. The gap between the second part’s première was eight months and twelve days, and the first part required a much more reasonable three months and sixteen day wait.

  • Assuming we use an average to estimate six months and four days, it means that part three will be available to overseas viewers in late September or early October. My original estimates put the theatrical screening of Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s third part in December 2020 and using the three month gap between the first part’s première and home release, the BD was supposed to come out this month. While the ongoing global health crisis might’ve pushed production back, one hopes that they take a route that sees the BDs available as soon as possible; readers have my word that I will be covering Das Finale to completion, whatever it takes. Back in Shirobako: The Movie, Shigeru makes an appearance. An animator of legendary skill, he continues to assist MusAni even now, and also runs workshops on the side to pass knowledge on to the community. He invites Aoi and her friends to help out with a class he’s running for children.

  • With the whole team back in play, Shirobako: The Movie returns to the style and pacing the TV series presented as MusAni works towards producing an entire movie. The usual impediments show up, with Shimeji struggling to best determine how to bring everything together in SIVA‘s conclusion. Rather than let the problem manifest, Seiichi suggests that a late meeting could still prove valuable, and Aoi sets up a meeting, bringing everyone in to help out. Although the meeting isn’t particularly fruitful, Shimeji will come to work out something for SIVA with help from Midori, whose words help him determine how to best handle SIVA‘s conclusion as the two throw a baseball around and catch some fresh air. The point of this scene was really to give a glimpse into MusAni’s process and show while that the road to SIVA isn’t a smooth one, the combined efforts from the team will allow them to find success, and that sometimes, taking a step back is what one needs.

  • Things quickly escalate when director Masashi is accused of being involved in a scandal. MusAni’s team is shocked: having worked with him for years and knowing the sort of person he is, they suspect that something is off. In the immediate aftermath, Aoi remarks that if Masashi is unable to do a live-streaming event, then he might be able to use this time and help the SIVA project out. MusAni is understandably nervous, since in this day and age, such accusations can have devastating consequences on one’s career regardless of whether or not said accusations had any basis in truth. This is one of the worst excesses of social media, and I’ve long held that while people must be held accountable for their decisions, the court of public opinion should have absolutely no say in the matter whatsoever: the public, by and large, are uninformed and lack the qualifications needed to make fair and accurate assessments that should be left to professionals in a court of law.

  • Despite improving in the four years since Shirobako‘s original run, Ema’s key frames end up feeling too stiff; despite capturing the artistic style of the originals, they lack fluidity. Ema begins to question her abilities again. I understand that setbacks are very much a part of life, and have been guilty of this mode of thinking myself: there are days where I wonder if I’m even a passable iOS developer who could code a path out of a paper bag. The key here is to focus on the task at hand and not let the setbacks get the better of one. Besides to Aoi, I’ve always had a soft spot for Ema’s character because she illustrates the doubt that exists in all of us, and in spite of this, finds the courage to continue anyways. That she worries about the trade-offs between quality and speed even now shows she remains passionate and willing to improve.

  • When Masashi shows up at MusAni’s office one day, it turns out he’s come to seek help from the team, claiming that the scandal he was involved in was a setup. Within a few moments, the truth is out: during a celebration with another company he’s working with, Masashi had his photo taken, but this photo was later altered to remove any context. On Tsubaki and Sara’s suggestion, Masashi releases an official statement to his website surrounding the event, explaining what really happened, and when his website times out, it suggests that people are at least reading things. This bit of drama passes shortly after, allowing Masashi to focus on SIVA: Aoi manages to get in touch with Tarō and Daisuke to help with production.

  • Assertive, confident but also kind, Erika Yano played a major role in Shirobako, mentoring Aoi wherever she could. She left MusAni to look after her father, and by Shirobako: The Movie, it appears that her father’s health has stablised, allowing Erika to return full time. Despite the time that’s passed, she’s clearly lost none of her edge: with four months left to launch, she returns to MusAni and her first act is to set Seiichi straight when he experiences a writer’s block. Erika’s unique way of dealing with Seiichi pays off, and his storyboards are finished with time to spare, allowing the team to push on ahead. Erika notes that they need one more unit director, and heads off to speak with Hiroshi Iketani, who does decent work, but more often than not, attempts to shirk his duties.

  • The day that Aoi and her friends are to help at an animation workshop arrives, and while their students, young children, initially prove to be quite a handful, even hostile, towards the idea that animation could be fun, things turn around with Misa’s help: she quickly realises that Aoi’s introduction to animation is a little too dry, and with children, a more hands-on approach is what’s needed. She’s able to motivate the children by challenging them to out-do one another in making something cool, and soon has enough frames to make something. Two young girls take an interest in Misa’s scanning of the frames and decide to help out despite being disinterested in things earlier.

  • Boredom soon turns to excitement when the children’s drawings are brought to life. With Shizuka’s voice acting skills, the children finally feel connected to their creation, and break out into song, another musical that adds a great deal of life to their experience. The complete turnaround here acts as a visceral indicator of how things can change in a heartbeat so as long as one has the skill and passion for what they do, being a scaled-down reminder for Aoi and her friends as to what can await individuals who make an honest effort to do their best. The engagement level in this class shows that the event was a complete success, and in the aftermath, Shigeru has some words of wisdom for Aoi and her friends.

  • At the heart of all artwork is conveying joy, and being able to work with children is a constant reminder of this. Each of Aoi, Ema, Midori, Shizuka and Misa gain something from the experience, and in particular, Ema is able to find her footing again. Their conversation is set under a warm sunset, with red and orange hues giving the scene a very welcoming feel. Prevously, I’d felt that Shirobako‘s background artwork felt a little flat and uninspired, especially when compared to what was shown in Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari, which looked on par with anything from KyoAni or Makoto Shinkai in quality. Looking back, I believe the background art is deliberately simplified in Shirobako, since the emphasis is on the characters and their work, but for Shirobako: The Movie, P.A. Works has gone the extra mile in creating rich, vivid backgrounds. The film looks amazing in this regard, and this is one of the things that Shirobako: The Movie does to scale the series up for the silver screen.

  • Shigeru’s words to the girls bring to mind my own reasons for volunteering as a science fair judge, during which I get to assess what youth are doing these days for science. Earlier this month, I did virtual judging for both a prestigious private academy and the city-wide science fair. Projects were largely impressive, and with the former, I had a chance to speak with students in a Google Hangouts call to gauge their understanding of their work. Seeing brilliant, young minds with a passion for science is always uplifting, and I am always pleasantly surprised with what youth are capable of with the right encouragement. This is uplifting and reminds me to also continue with my own work with the same level of vigour. For Aoi, Midori, Misa, Shizuka and especially Ema, they are motivated to put in that final effort to make SIVA a success.

  • With time passing in the blink of an eye, the whole of MusAni’s staff begin seeing the finish line and express joy that things have come together smoothly. When the last recording session is over, however, Kōtarō receives a message that threatens to send the entire project the way of Time Hippopotamus again. He decides not to share this with everyone for now and deals with it himself, speaking with GPU’s president. When the president reveals that GPU technically owns the rights to Silva, Kōtarō blows at least three fuses. He makes such a commotion that he is escorted off GPU premises and prohibited from returning.

  • Once he’s had a chance to cool down, Kōtarō acknowledges that what GPU is claiming is true. Shun notes that this is a delicate situation and that acting rashly will only reflect poorly on MusAni, as well as resulting in legal trouble. Kōtarō says that he has people working on things to see what can be done. Copyright can be a nasty process when not handled properly, preventing intellectual property from being utilised when abused or creating trouble for those whose aims are fair use. The existence of copyright laws, however, is necessary, as it protects those who create, and one of the challenges in this area is ensuring that copyright laws succeed in protecting creators, while at the same time, not being abused to punish people arbitrarily.

  • For Aoi, this news is probably the lowest point for her in the whole of Shirobako: The Movie: as snow begins falling under a grey sky, she collapses in the middle of the crosswalk, utterly defeated. In this moment, even more so than when Aoi had began tearing up at Masato’s curry shop, I really felt the feelings that were being conveyed to viewers: a chill stole through me, and I found myself wondering if Aoi needed a hug here to regroup. While cheerful and optimistic for the most part, a series of setbacks had left Aoi vulnerable to her circumstances. However, the night is always darkest before the dawn, and while the SIVA project appears to be in jeopardy, the fact is that Kōtarō’s company does have a legal team with which to look over things.

  • Aoi looks a bit like Miho here, again bringing to mind the Girls und Panzer connection that Shirobako has. In the darkest of moments, Mimuji and Roro appear to lift Aoi’s spirits, asking her why she’s a producer at all. Aoi answers that beyond the technical elements, it’s about delivering a finished product. The rationale is that as long as Aoi fulfils her duties completely, she can look back without regrets.  She subsequently returns to the office and runs into Yuka, who has a special assignment for her. Since Kōtarō isn’t allowed to return to GPU, Yuka sends Aoi. It turns out that the legal team at Western Entertainment did find something, and Aoi is briefed on this. She meets up with Kaede, who is here to support Western Entertainment on Kōtarō’s behalf.

  • Shirobako: The Movie excels in its over-the-top portrayals of what certain actions feels like, and while Kaede and Aoi are simply walking through the front doors of GPU’s offices, it does feel like they’re squaring off against an entire army, ninjutsu-style. The two don kimono and set off with fire in their hearts, determined to sort things out with GPU. While the president of GPU is uncooperative and cites the contract as being absolute, Aoi and Kaede have identified a clause that forces GPU to relinquish their rights to the project owing to the fact their other studio completely failed to deliver anything as agreed upon.

  • This was a bold moment, even for Aoi: I imagine that the Aoi of four years earlier would’ve been willing to go to such lengths for her work, and while perhaps a little dramatic, her undressing to reveal a tattoo (likely a temporary one) of a SIVA character serves to indicate the lengths Aoi will go to ensure that her projects are finished to a satisfactory extent, whatever it takes. It typifies Shirobako‘s ability for conveying the gravity of a situation through theatrics, and Shirobako: The Movie follows in its predecessor’s footsteps. Thanks to the clause within the original document, and in conjunction with the fact that GPU’s president never signed the contract, there is enough here now for Western Entertainment and MusAni to take GPU to court. I imagine that GPU’s president subsequently stands down, lest he face a costly legal battle that he is likely to lose.

  • With the dubbing now complete, SIVA appears ready for release. Some of the staff head back to the MusAni offices to celebrate, or otherwise begin making their way home. Having been so enraptured by the work, everyone’s ignored the catered lunch that was provided, and Seiichi remarks that the meal was a bit of a special one, consisting of grilled eel on rice. Eel is a Hamamatsu specialty, and as seen in Yuru Camp△, can be quite pricey. In the aftermath of the first screening, a melancholy sets in: while the team had doubtlessly achieved an impressive feat, picking up and finishing a movie in ten months where it normally takes two years, even sorting out a copyright claim issue, things don’t quite feel as exciting they when MusAni conquered their deadlines in the TV series: something still feels like it’s missing.

  • After Aoi learns that Seiichi was feeling unhappy about the abruptness of SIVA‘s ending, she pressures him into following his heart so he has no regrets. When she brings up the matter with the other staff on the project, they agree about how SIVA‘s ending feels rushed, and moreover, consent to change it. The end result is a film that Seiichi is proud of, and this brings Shirobako: The Movie to a close, with Aoi and her friends preparing to experience SIVA anew in the theatre. The payoff in Shirobako: The Movie is immense, and Aoi has certainly earned her ending, which came about as a consequence of hard work and perseverance. However, not everyone thinks this way: an old nemesis from Anime News Network asserted that “realism that this series had when depicting the grueling workflow of anime production gets thrown out the window in favor of pursuing a fairy tale ending” on the grounds that “it’s [not] satisfying for the characters to achieve their goals so easily”.

  • This is a disingenuous argument, to say the least: Anime News Network’s reviewer evidently missed the fact that Shirobako: The Movie is set four years after the original series, and in this four years, the characters have only had time to hone their craft further. Aoi is more than capable of running the show now than she was in Shirobako, and those who gather to work on SIVA, were already skilled in their areas. Coupled with the fact that everyone has an idea of how their teammates work, they’re able to work more efficiently together, as they had during Time Hippopotamus‘ production. Moreover, assets left over from Time Hippopotamus were reused, further cutting down production time. From a logical standpoint, there is nothing remotely “fairy tale” about the ending: the sum of hard work and skill is what allows MusAni to make its deadline. It is a recurring trend that Anime News Network’s writers struggle with understanding narrative choices in anime, especially where hard work and the corresponding payoffs are concerned: while this may seem like a novel concept for Anime News Network, the reality is that hardworking, skilled and competent people have pulled off what appears to be miracles before. The Mars rover Perseverance is one example of such a feat.

  • To suggest the happy ending was undeserved would be akin to saying that Frodo should have failed in his quest at Mount Doom, and that forces should not have resulted in Gollum plummeting into the lava below. Had this happened, J.R.R. Tolkien would’ve undermined the themes he’d striven to convey in The Lord of The Rings. Tolkien later stated that Ilúvatar himself intervened, causing Gollum to trip: Frodo had exceeded all expectations and took the Ring thus far. After such a journey, Frodo was completely spent, so another power took over to finish things. Frodo had certainly deserved all of the honour because he’d completely given himself to the task, and to deprive him now would simply be unfair. Similarly, in Shirobako: The Movie, foisting a “realistic” ending on viewers would undermine the film’s themes entirely and absolutely defeat the purpose of having a film: in both The Lord of The Rings and Shirobako: The Movie, the individual characters took things as far as they could together and overcome numerous obstacles, which made the ending satisfying.

  • To put things in perspective, four years ago, I struggled to get push notifications working, put a working credit card checkout system together using the Stripe SDK and hadn’t any idea how Autolayout worked. Four years is a lot of time to improve, and at present, I’m quite comfortable with putting an entire iOS app together: push notifications, checkout and autolayout are old friends now. This is why I not only accept, but expect, MusAni to succeed in their endeavours. We are dealing with professionals with both drive and pride, so it only makes sense for them to come together and work hard for their success. Aoi, Ema, Midori, Misa and Shizuka have certainly earned their chance to enjoy SIVA with their signature doughnuts in hand.

  • Aoi, Ema, Midori, Shizuka and Misa close the film a lot happier than they did entering, and I was all smiles throughout this entire movie. It speaks volumes to how well emotions are conveyed: when Aoi began tearing up in frustration or smiling in success, I felt those emotions as clear as day. Any movie that can hit those notes right and keep me engaged to this level has definitely done a good job. This is why I have no qualms giving Shirobako: The Movie an A+ and counting it a masterpiece: the movie has taken everything from the TV series and scaled it up successfully for the film, with the end result being something that Shirobako fans will definitely enjoy, and something that folks who’ve never seen before will still find entertaining. With this in mind, I do not recommend this film to the latter: having that additional context and background will greatly augment one’s experience of Shirobako: The Movie.

  • To visually indicate Aoi’s mindset at the film’s end, when she steps out into the night this time around, the Seven Lucky Gods‘ pirate ship soar into the skies, signifying that Aoi’s lifted herself out of her slump and is ready to take on new challenges. When it comes to anime movies, my primary expectation going in is to see if the film is able to scale up the things that the series did well and apply it to the silver screen: I cut slack for anime movies of a TV series because they already have an established premise and setting, so for things like K-On! The MovieGirls und Panzer: Der Film and High School Fleet: The Movie, I enter knowing that aspects of the TV series will be revisited, and this never impacts my assessment of a work.

  • Shirobako: The Movie has a somewhat open ending: in the aftermath of their success, Aoi prepares to lead her team on The Third Girls’ Aerial Squad‘s third season, suggesting that success from SIVA had allowed MusAni to retain some staff and take on larger projects again. No one knows how the future will turn out for Aoi and MusAni, but the accumulated experience means that Aoi is better prepared to deal with the future. If Shirobako ends here, it will have been a very decisive and satisfying conclusion to the series. However, the ending doesn’t shut out the possibility of Shirobako getting another continuation; in the event of such a continuation, I’d be more than happy to give that a go.

P.A. Works is not known for doing sequels, so to have them revisit and continue Shirobako was a bit of a surprise. The finished product is as much of a film version of the TV series as it is a chance for P.A. Works to strut their stuff; the highlights in this movie are in the technical elements, allowing P.A. works to really bring thoughts and emotions to life through animation. If Shirobako: The Movie had been intended to bring some of that joy to us viewers, the film has definitely succeeded in this area. Altogether, Shirobako: The Movie was a superbly enjoyable watch from both a story and technical piece, making use of sight and sound to really immerse viewers in this movie about creating a movie. The messages of effort and persistence in the pursuit of one’s dreams remain as relevant now as they did six years earlier, and seeing this aspect of Shirobako: The Movie was a reminder of my own career choice: the reason why I’m in iOS is simply because I believe that whatever skills I possess should be put to use in a way to benefit people, and since apps are ubiquitous, it means that I can lend my skill set towards making someone’s day a little easier, helping them to get what they came for with a given app. When Shirobako ran in 2014 and 2015, I’d not yet decided on my career choice. By now, having had almost five full years of iOS Development in Swift and CocoaTouch under my belt, returning to see where Aoi, Ema, Midori, Shizuka and Misa are now, and their remarks about their own career advancement, allowed me to appreciate Shirobako from a new perspective. The questions that they each face in their careers, namely, what they enjoy about it and why they each wish to continue, is a question I find that viewers with careers will find particularly worthwhile to consider. Shirobako shows that Aoi enjoys her line of work because producing anime and delivering a high-quality products to thousands of viewers, and being able to bring the pictures in someone’s mind’s eye to life is immensely rewarding. Shirobako provides a rock-solid reason for why Aoi is able to put on a smile every morning and go to work, and it does much to keep her taking the next step forwards even when that next step isn’t clear. Exiting Shirobako: The Movie, the future of MusAni is uncertain, but with a new project to take on, one hopes that hard work here could help the company to build its reputation back up and allow Aoi to continue pursuing her dream of one day bringing anime to life together with her best friends.

Non Non Biyori Vacation: A Movie Reflection, Full Recommendation and Perspectives from Travelling to Okinawa

“I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

After Suguru wins plane tickets to Okinawa in a shopping mall lottery, Renge, Hotaru, Komari, Natsumi, Kazuho, Kaede, Hikage and Konomi prepare for a vacation in the southern islands. Upon arrival, the girls set off for their inn and check in. Here, they encounter Aoi, the eleven-year-old daughter of the inn’s managers, and after settling in, spend a day on the azure beaches of Okinawa. That evening, the whole group enjoys a delicious Okinawan-style dinner at the inn, and after dinner, Natsumi encounters Aoi practising badminton on her own later, and the two strike up a friendship. Before turning in, Natsumi suggests grabbing some instant noodles, saying that the absence of adults makes things taste more intriguing. The next day, the group splits up for their activities. Renge and Kaede see a stingray, while Hikage is stricken with motion sickness when snorkelling. When they go canoeing, Komari and Hotaru are ensnared by a branch; Kazuho rescues them, and later, they climb up to a waterfall. On the spur of the moment, Kazuho jumps into the pond and is soaked. Later, the girls take photographs by a lighthouse as evening sets in, and spend time with Aoi, who mentions that she is available the next day. To help her out, the girls clean their room that morning, and Aoi’s mother gives her permission to spend time with the girls, since it’s to improve their guests’ experiences. They end up visiting Aoi’s school, and she takes them around lesser known spots around Okinawa, including an ice cream shop, a secluded beach and a viewpoint providing a beautiful view of the island. When night falls, Aoi brings the girls to the beach, where they admire the star-filled skies and frolic in the phosphorescent waters. When their vacation draws to a close, Natsumi is saddened to leave, and she bids farewell with Aoi, asking her to stay in touch. The group return home as evening sets in, and Renge announces that she’s back. Released on August 25, 2018, Non Non Biyori Vacation brings Non Non Biyori to the silver screen for the first time, and during its seventy-minute-long run, brings back the familiar elements that made Non Non Biyori such an enjoyable run, while simultaneously providing a new setting that broadens the girls’ everyday experiences.

Despite being a slice-of-life series, Non Non Biyori excels with its focus on the subtle details of everyday life that often are ignored or taken for granted. Non Non Biyori Vacation continues in the path of its predecessors, detailing the wonders found in the ordinary. In this film, Non Biyori focuses on the different aspects of a vacation. The girls (and Suguru) first experience the highlights of Okinawa from the perspective of a tourist, relaxing on the beach, as well as joining a group to go canoeing and snorkelling in the warm, inviting waters of Okinawa. Besides these more tourist-oriented activities that showcase the best of Okinawa, the girls also befriend Aoi, a girl roughly their age who helps out at her family’s inn. In doing so, they are able to gain a much more personalised experience of Okinawa from a local. Having grown up in Okinawa, Aoi knows all of the ins and outs of the island, and so, is able to bring Natsumi, Hotaru, Komari and Renge on an intimate tour of spots she’s enjoyed. The ice cream shop and viewpoint would not be on the list of destinations for a tour group; the girls thus learn that life on Okinawa is both quite distinct, but also quite similar to their homes. This is the joy of travelling that Non Non Biyori Vacation aims to convey to viewers: being able to travel means being able to experience for oneself the different ways of life people have in different corners of the world, but also appreciate that there are also many similarities in how people live. At the end of the day, we are all human and therefore, part of a global community; sharing many commonalities while at once, having unique cultural aspects that are all immensely valuable. Non Non Biyori Vacation presents both sides of this coin in a concise package: for Natsumi, Komari, Hotaru and Renge, going to Okinawa shows them both what is special about the southern island long considered to be Japan’s Hawaii, as well as the aspects of their lives that are not so different.

At the end of Non Non Biyori Vacation, the film portrays two conflicting different angles on the conclusion of a vacation: one is simultaneously yearning to stay for longer and continue exploring, while at the same time, also begins looking forwards to sleeping in their own bed once again. Natsumi channels the former, having had a much better time in Okinawa than she had originally anticipated, and having made a new friend in Aoi, feels saddened that they can’t spend more time together. Conversely, the other characters have had a similarly enjoyable experience (except maybe Hikage, who was beset with an unexpected number of minor grievances during the trip), and while satisfied, are also growing a little exhausted. The feelings of travel are captured well in Non Non Biyori Vacation, and at the film’s end, Renge expresses what I’m certain everyone feels upon returning home. The film strives to and succeeds in capturing the different facets of travel – these elements are accompanied by visuals that are incredibly life-like. Non Non Biyori Vacation bears the traits of an anime movie, featuring impressive visuals that are vivid and photorealistic. Audiences feel as though they are there beside the cast as they travel Okinawa, feeling the intense heat of summer, refreshing cool of the ocean and everything in between. The exceptional artwork is complimented by a very well-done collection of incidental pieces: the soundtrack for Non Non Biyori Vacation incorporates elements of Okinawan music into its composition, but at the same time, sounds distinctly like the Non Non Biyori soundtrack. This further accentuates the movie’s theme, that travel highlights both the uniqueness of another region, as well as the similarities despite our differences, and as such, acts as a solid accompaniment for the film.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Non Non Biyori Vacation opens up in Asahigaoka, a small rural village located in the heart of the mountains and sporting some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in any anime set in the inaka, which is saying something, considering that shows like Ano Natsu de Matteru also have solid artwork. For this post, I’ve given it the full silver screen treatment: besides an extended discussion, I also have sixty screenshots, each of which can be viewed in full 1080p – the movie is gorgeous from a visual perspective, and I absolutely intend to convey this to readers.

  • I’ve opted to spend less time at the shopping mall that everyone visits because this is a post about going to Okinawa, but have chosen to mention it in some capacity: the film establishes for viewers that Suguru manages to win a vacation while the girls explore a local mall. Because Asahigaoka is a small village, going to a mall such as this would be a very exciting experience. The mall itself is named “Weather” (hiyori is also pronounced biyori, 日和 in kanji), and the series’ name seems to be “non non weather”, a reference to Non Non Biyori‘s often nonsensical but genuine humour in everyday life.

  • Character-defining moments are also set early in the film: Komari is very sensitive about her short stature and diminutive figure, being quite jealous of Hotaru, who is seen here looking at belts and unintentionally embarrassing Komari to no end, who is under the impression Hotaru is looking at undergarmets. The dynamic between Komari and Hotaru is a hilarious one, and created some unique humour during the TV series. In Non Non Biyori, such antics are decidedly fewer, being condensed into the film’s opening moments.

  • Natsumi ends up purchasing a game console with Suguru, having pooled some of their saved money to do so. Despite purchasing a last-generation console, Natsumi remains quite excited and is looking forwards to giving it a go. I’ve never been much of a console gamer: the newest consoles I have are a PlayStation 2 and a GameCube. Despite my being a PC gamer through and through, I am well aware of the merits of a good console: for one, being able to play split-screen with friends means that multiplayer experiences are top-tier.

  • Komari is visibly still hot and bothered from the events of earlier, but when Suguru wins a mall lottery, all thoughts suddenly turn towards their impending trip to Okinawa. Non Non Biyori Vacation follows the structuring of the manga faithfully: the events in the OVA “We’re Going to Okinawa” are original and deal primarily with the preparations leading up to the trip, but scenes of the girls and Suguha at the airport are sourced from the manga.

  • It suddenly strikes me that four and a half years has elapsed since I wrote about that OVA, and presently, it’s great to see Non Non Biyori continue along its run. In that time, I’ve flown to a handful of conferences, went out of country for work-related matters and realised my dream of travelling to Japan for the very first time. While the time frames between anime releases are extremely long, and their waits can seem quite unreasonable, individuals with busy, productive lives will find that time passes in the blink of an eye: it only seems like yesterday that I wrote about the first Non Non Biyori OVA while taking a break from developing the Giant Walkthrough Brain.

  • After Renge takes off to grab some food, Hikage begs Kazuho and Kaede to allow her to accompany them on the trip to Okinawa, admitting that she was acting nonchalant to play it cool in front of Renge. Unfortunately for Hikage, Renge saw everything go down. Moments of exaggeration such as these form the joy in watching Non Non Biyori, and it also speaks to the characters’ familiarity with one another when Kazuho remarks that she’s already got a ticket for Hikage.

  • For the remainder of this post, I will be focused on Hotaru and company’s time in Okinawa: the OVA had covered everything up to their flight, so I’ve jumped ahead to everyone’s arrival in Okinawa. The temperature and humidity is immediately apparent: while the skies are precisely the same shade of vivid azure as they were in Asahigaoka, and the vegetation just as verdant, the tropical vegetation and ambient sounds create a sense of warmth that is not seen in Asahigaoka.

  • The long pauses allow Non Non Biyori Vacation to capture the atmospherics and sights around Okinawa: these visual gaps are intentionally chosen to mirror those of the stills from Asahigaoka, reminding viewers what while Natsumi and Renge are in Okinawa, there are some things that are similar to the sorts of things they might encounter back home. This dichotomy forms the basis for the theme in Non Non Biyori Vacation: travel might be about experiencing new things, but it also provides an opportunity to really see for oneself that there are similarities across the globe in how people live their lives, as well.

  • Upon arriving at their inn, Kazuho and the others check in. They are greeted by Aoi, an eleven-year-old who is the same age as Natsumi. Aoi is unique to the film and was not present in the manga. She is voiced by Shino Shimoji, an Okinawa native who previously played Stella no Mahou‘s Marika Shimizu and Aki from Girls und Panzer. Despite being the same age as Natsumi, Aoi actively helps her family run the inn and Natsumi’s friends point out that despite their ages, the two seem quite disparate as far as maturity goes.

  • After settling into their rooms, Renge decides to show the Okinawan landscape her drawing of home. After Natsumi tampers with the air conditioning (this is a perfectly natural choice of action, and I typically do the same while travelling, since unoccupied rooms usually have their units switched off to save power), the girls subsequently don their swimsuits and hit the beach, kicking Suguru out while they change. The manga has everyone lodging at a more modern hotel, but in the film, the choice to go with a more traditional style inn gives a more distinct character to things.

  • The water effects in Non Non Biyori Vacation are top-tier, comparable to the water seen in the Cry Engine and Frostbite. It looks photorealistic and captures all of the warmth that tropical waters possess. Years previously, I was in Cancun for a conference on artificial life, and during mornings, I would walk the beaches, marvelling at the fact that the water was not bitterly cold. I rather enjoyed that experience, and after delivering a pair of successful talks, one of which was for a colleague’s project, I sat down and sipped a lemon daiquiri under the evening sun.

  • Komari is not particularly skilled at swimming, and while Hotaru is enjoying the water, Komari hesitates to step further out. Everyone is shown as enjoying the beach in their own manner of choosing: Renge sips a fruit cocktail while Kaede watches her, while Natsumi and Konomi play in the waters. Suguha and Kazuho end up resting on the beachside. In Non Non Biyori, the taciturn Kaede is often seen watching over Renge, and despite her disposition, she seems to enjoy keeping an eye on Renge.

  • While it may seem like a paradise that remains confined to the realm of fiction, the beaches of Okinawa do look this nice. Non Non Biyori‘s Okinawa is more vivid and detailed than Harukana Receive‘s Okinawa: here, the setting itself is a character in its own right, while in Harukana Receive, the Okinawa setting was chosen because the warm climate accommodates beach volleyball nicely. Harukana Receive‘s setting is beautiful and well done, but it was secondary to watching Haruka and the others mature – it naturally does not hold a candle to the Okinawa of Non Non Biyori Vacation, whose surroundings are so well done that it does feel like I’m there with everyone else.

  • While it’s a tropical paradise equivalent to China’s Hainan and America’s Hawaii, Okinawa was the site of some of the fiercest fighting during the later days of World War Two. The American forces had advanced via island-hopping to the doorsteps of Japan in 1945, and in April, began a massive offensive to capture the islands. Casualties were staggering, totally some 160000, and by late June, the Allied forces had secured the islands. With ninety percent of the island levelled, and massive civilian casualties, the Allies would convert the island into an airbase from which offensives could be launched against the home islands.

  • Today, the United States maintains an air force base in Okinawa, and the islands have been redeveloped, making it a paradise. Okinawans are among the longest-lived people on earth as a result of their diet and lifestyle, and the karate that I practise, Okinawa Gōjū-ryu originates from Naha. As a result, I would very much like to visit the birthplace of the “hard-soft” style that I practise, and the karate whose principles subtly impacted many aspects of my life. Here, Renge does a sketch of the scene she’s seeing unfold before her: it is pure bliss.

  • This post actually would’ve come out a bit sooner, but this past week has been quite busy, and I’ve had not time to blog: the post about CLANNAD ~After Story~ was written back in mid-February. On my itinerary was a company retreat that saw me visit the mountains with the entire team, and despite being overcast, the weather was very warm. Aside from doing team-building exercises and pushing on with polishing an app for deployment, we visited a frozen-solid Lake Minnewanka, saw more wildlife than I’d ever seen in the National Parks (big-horn sheep and a herd of elk, including one with 12-point antlers), ascended Sulfur Mountain and reached the top as a break in a snowfall occurred, and took a horse-drawn sleigh ride around Lake Louise, where we saw an ice-waterfall.

  • For those wondering, ostrich is quite tough and chewy, with a dull flavour. Kangaroo resembles a very rich, gamy and flavorful steak, while the shark meat I tried is not dissimilar to cod. Alligator meat resembles turkey in texture but has a more fishy flavour overall. The Grizzly House is a Banff institution, although I think that it is only with more adventurous folk, such as my team, that we’d try these: my family would very much prefer a classic cut of AAA prime rib. Tonight, I hit the roads again to visit a local Chinese style buffet, and will need to diligently hit the gym to ensure the food doesn’t defeat me.

  • Following dinner, Natsumi encounters Aoi practising badminton, and then helps Aoi hide this when her mother comes out to check on her. Seeing that Aoi is not so different than herself, Natsumi strikes a quick friendship with her. This particular aspect was absent from the manga, but it adds an additional degree of depth to Non Non Biyori Vacation‘s theme: the story told in the manga alone merely depicts Renge and the others visiting Okinawa for fun, but the movie juxtaposes the differences and similarities of different places to create a much more compelling message.

  • Natsumi decides to pick up some cup ramen after dinner, commenting that no adults around means being able to do the sorts of things they might not normally do otherwise. Her sense of adventure is boundless, and Natsumi is certainly more bold than I am – supervision or not, I tend to be highly rigid, disciplined and quite unwilling to do things that deviate from what I’m used to for the most part. The singular exception is when I am in an environment that allows me to loosen up a little, and I decide that there is no major risk to lightening up a little.

  • Slice-of-life anime prima facie appear to have little by ways of conflict and story, but I’ve found them to be fantastic vehicles for exploring life lessons in a cathartic manner. This is why I have nothing but positive things to say about shows like Non Non Biyori, and why I might be seen as more lenient about such series than most. I particularly enjoy considering personal values and life lessons that these shows bring about: while action-oriented shows might have a more tangible message for its viewers, subtleties in slice-of-life shows make them worthwhile in their own right.

  • Hotaru is ecstatic to be sleeping in the same bed as Komari, but then realises that she always asks her mother for extra time when sleeping in, and then worries Komari might see this side of her. It turns out that she does exactly thus, and then bolts up in embarrassment. Meanwhile, Hikage sleeps on the floor, as they’d run out of beds, and finds herself dissatisfied with the arrangements.

  • For their second day in Okinawa, Kaede and Kazuho take the crew snorkelling and canoeing. They depart the inn under breathtaking weather conditions: the rich colours in Non Non Biyori Vacation give a very visceral sense of being in Okinawa, and I continued finding myself impressed with the artwork, the further I went into the movie. The stunning artwork in this movie is precisely why each and every screenshot can be viewed at full resolution.

  • While Renge and Kaede enjoy the sights of the ocean, even spotting a stingray, Hikage suffers from motion sickness and is unable to explore to the extent that she’d like. It appears that Hikage runs into minor misfortune after minor misfortune during this trip to Okinawa – while this device is employed as a means of comedy, I admit that I am not keen on witnessing people experience low-level problems on a frequent basis: the occasional moment of surprise is what keeps things fresh, and after a while, one would come to feel pathos for individuals like Hikage rather than experience any humour.

  • Inland, the girls in the other group join a canoe trip. Komari immediately requests a two-person canoe, citing the reduced risk of falling into the water, but when she boards the canoe, immediately falls in to the water. Dramatic irony and situational irony are abundant in Non Non Biyori: despite its gentle atmosphere, the series is very fond of placing the characters in a series of unfortunate situations to remind viewers that life can sometimes simply be unfair, but in spite of this, there’s plenty of good things, too. Portraying minor misfortunes as something to laugh off, Non Non Biyori shows that looking past these small ills means being able to enjoy things that are truly spectacular.

  • Hotaru and Komari pair up in a canoe and begin to make their way downriver, but while admiring the mangroves, they lodge their canoe in the roots of one of the mangroves. Canoeing down the river of mangroves is a quintessential experience in Okinawa, and the river’s course is smooth enough so that anyone ages three and over can participate. Hence, viewers cannot help but feel a twinge of pity mixed in with their laughs when Komari and Hotaru get stuck and begin panicking in an adorable manner.

  • Movies oftentimes give characters a chance to shine, and in Non Non Biyori Vacation, Kazuho has such an opportunity. Her students can evidently be a handful, and despite her laid-back, lax manner, as well as her tendency to sleep during work hours, she’s actually quite attentive and is mindful of her students. When Kazuho arrives and hears the pair’s calls for help, it’s just another day at the office: she helps Komari and Hotaru extricate themselves from the branches, allowing them to continue on with their adventure.

  • Despite having left their tea and bread in the car from excitement, Kazuho has noticed this earlier and brought the provisions that Komari and Hotaru have left behind. Being able to see another side of some characters in an anime movie serves to enhance the viewer’s ability to relate to them, showing that everyone is multi-faceted. I find that the joy of slice-of-life anime is precisely in seeing characters react and interact under different conditions, revealing a more complex character than one might have otherwise expected. Over time, these interactions shift gradually and the characters mature, mirroring how individuals in reality slowly change over time, as well.

  • After their canoeing adventure, the girls climb a trail leading to a beautiful waterfall. On the spur of the moment, Kazuho jumps into the water, feeling invigorated. It is here that everyone’s adventure begins transitioning from more tourist-oriented activities into a more personalised, self-guided one: Non Non Biyori has long conveyed that the best adventures are often those that occur unexpectedly, and the beautiful scenery surrounding this waterfall gives the cast a chance to explore on their own.

  • Konomi is a third-year high school student who had limited appearances in the TV series: being a ways older than the others, she’s looked up to as a role model and is voiced by Ryōko Shintani, whom I know for her roles in Saki and Love Lab. She takes a photograph of Komari, Hotaru and Kazuho in the water here. In the manga, Kazuho does not jump into the water, and her energy simply results in her crashing subsequently, whereas in Non Non Biyori Vacation, she tires out from a combination of heat and being soaked.

  • As evening sets in, Renge, Natsumi, Hikage and Kaede enjoy the cooling air and darkening skies by the Cape Zanpa Lighthouse. This thirty-metre lighthouse is located in a particularly picturesque area and is suited for photography. Renge sketches the lighthouse here, before joining Natsumi and Hikage in a photograph. The purples of the sunset convey a unique sense of distance to the day’s end: in Asahigaoka, sunsets predominantly have colours in the oranges and reds, but the Okinawan sunsets feature more purples and pinks. This is likely to hint at the different feeling that a tropical sunset might evoke.

  • The page quote for this talk is from J.R.R. Tolkien, whose perspectives on adventure and travel coherently and succinctly mirror my own personality. Being very literal and straightforward, I rather enjoy Tolkien’s style, and in this quote, he simply means to say that knowing there is a home to go back to makes all adventure and hardship more bearable. I admit that I am not much of a traveller; unlike others of my generation, I do not believe that travelling is the sole means to enrich oneself. Justifications for why people of my generation travel include notions that exploring the world is the single most effective way to become a better person, and to this end, travel frequently. While travel does broaden one’s horizon, it is also an endeavour that requires a time commitment. For me, I would much rather put my time into work, developing my interpersonal and technical skills to positively impact the lives of others in a tangible way.

  • While travelling would help me connect with people better, I still would need to prove it with my work experience, and as such, travel is a lesser priority compared to contributing to something much bigger than myself through my work. At the opposite end of the spectrum, one of my friends ended up moving to Japan after meeting someone there while doing a home-stay program, leaving behind family, friends and a prospective career. I don’t think I could pull off something like this: I’m rather like a Hobbit in many ways, preferring the comforts of home and a good routine. Having said this, I am okay with adventure in moderation, and at any rate, moving somewhere to pursue matters of the heart is not exactly a good ROI if things should go south.

  • After arriving back at the inn after a day’s worth of adventure, Natsumi greets Aoi. The gentle purple-pinks of the evening skies become more pronounced, and gives a magical quality to Natsumi’s growing friendship with Aoi. Despite different backgrounds, Natsumi finds that she shares similarities with Aoi, as well. I was quite surprised to learn that Natsumi is voiced by Ayane Sakura, whom I know best as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto: if one listens carefully, a bit of Sakura’s kawaii voice can be heard in Natsumi.

  • Another evening in Okinawa means another scrumptious dinner. Entering this month, the weather was still brutally cold, and as the work week began, I sat down to a hot and tasty fried chicken ramen with miso-sesame broth, charred corn and snap peas, plus a soft-boiled egg at a local pub. Their fried chicken stands as some of the best I’ve had, being crisply fried while maintaining juicy chicken on the inside. In moderation, good food during a cold day is the perfect countermeasure, and after a meal such as this, even -20ºC weather is not quite so cold. Of course, things are now warming up again, and I am quite glad to see the worst of winter behind us.

  • After dinner, the girls invite Aoi to hang out with them, where Renge shows her some of the drawings that she’d made. It turns out that Aoi is free the next day, and she offers to take them around different spots in Okinawa that are far removed from tourists. This is the side of the world that Rick Steves promotes in his series, Rick Steves’ Europe: taken the path less travelled, Steves highlights local cuisines and sights that often go missed by travellers in favour of more well-known attractions. Having a local guide who knows the area helps greatly and serves to create a more authentic experience: folk of my generation wish to experience this in particular, and I cannot fault them for that.

  • The next morning, Aoi wakes up bright and early to meet up with Natsumi and the others. Even at this early hour, the Okinawan heat is apparent: with the temperature averaging highs of 26ºC throughout the year, the humid sub-tropical climate of Okinawa is a world apart from the winters in my area. This year, winter came later: January was unusually mild, and then the bitter cold slammed the city with five straight weeks of cold. Forecasts are showing warmer weather incoming, and this will be a breath of fresh air, to finally be able to walk outside without a scarf covering my face.

  • Mirroring Aoi’s thoughtfulness, Hotaru and the others have given their room a cleaning so that she is not burdened with the task, and Aoi’s mother allows her to spend the day with Renge and the others, since it’s improving the customer experience. Simple gestures like these show that for their occasional misadventures, the cast of Non Non Biyori are ultimately good people. Some individuals have stated that this creates the impression that Non Non Biyori has no conflict, and in turn, this prevents the characters from developing. However, I find that exploring characters over time and portraying different sides in an individual is equivalent to character development, so it is inappropriate to dismiss Non Non Biyori on the basis that there are no conflicts in a traditional sense.

  • The soundtrack for Non Non Biyori Vacation is a well-composed one, integrating traditional Okinawan elements (such as the Sanshin) into the incidental music. Familiar motifs from Non Non Biyori also make a return, and together, this is meant to accentuate that Non Non Biyori Vacation is about the fusion of the familiar and unfamiliar. I greatly enjoyed listening to the music for this reason: it evokes imagery of Okinawa in the mind’s eye, while at once being distinctly Non Non Biyori in tone, and as such, the soundtrack is a perfect aural representation of the film’s thematic elements.

  • Aoi takes the girls to her school, where she briefly meets up with a friend before showing them around the grounds. Again, minute details in the environment, such as the stains in the walls surrounding the school and cracks in the pavement, give the environment a more realistic, worn sense. This stands in contrast with the near-flawless infrastructure of Harukana Receive – highly clean environments provide less visual clutter, which is excellent where the focus is on the characters. In something like Non Non Biyori, including these details immerse viewers in the environment.

  • While summer in the inaka often evokes feelings of melancholy in something like Yosuga no Sora, Ano Natsu de Matteru and Please! Teacher, the same colours and atmosphere in Non Non Biyori creates a sense of excitement and adventure. A similar palette was used in CLANAND ~After Story~ to great effect: long days are perfect for adventure, and skies of deepest blue that seem to stretch on forever might be seen as acting for a visual representation of this unlimited possibility. What effect the sky has is affected by the nature of an anime, and seemingly unending skies can also signal uncertainty, as is often the case where romances are involved.

  • Aoi gives everyone a chance to play badminton, and after Natsumi plays Komari, an irate Komari asks Aoi to play Natsumi after she’s beaten. With her experience, Aoi tramples Natsumi without much effort, and Natsumi is utterly exhausted after the fact. However, there’s little time for a rematch, as Aoi’s got an exciting itinerary planned for Hotaru and company. I know the excitement of stuff occurring: things have been hectic as of late, and earlier this week, I had the opportunity to go attend a live-event featuring former U.S. President Barack Obama. In his talk, he emphasised the importance of innovation, cooperation and above all, optimism. I greatly enjoyed the talk, and Obama is a very charismatic, presidential speaker: the reality is that in a world ruled by enmity and discord, we overcome it by showing equal bonds of friendship and trust.

  • This is why I am so insistent about optimism and positivity in whatever I do, whether it be in real life or for my blog. Back in Non Non Biyori Vacation, one subtle touch that I found to be pleasant is the fact that each of Hotaru, Renge, Komari, Natsumi and Aoi have different hats that mirror their personalities. Hotari has a simple but elegant sun hat, while Komari’s hat has a ribbon on it. Both Aoi and Natsumi have ballcaps, and Renge has a bucket hat. Having a good hat is essential in places like Okinawa, where the sun is intense and so is the corresponding UV index. While folks often associate pleasant weather with a high UV index, in places with a higher elevation, there can be a high UV index even when it is overcast.

  • Aoi takes the girls to a shop that sells hand-made Okinawan accessories. In a subtle call-back to Komari’s being perceived as a child, the others notice that a pendant looks sharp on Hotaru, who is more mature for her age. Viewers are largely dependent on dialogue to expose this fact: except for Renge and Kazuho, who have a distinct eye shape, the characters in Non Non Biyori have the same facial features. Barring their hair styles and eye colour, they look very much alike, and I have gotten into the pitfall of mixing characters up. In particular, I find that Hotaru looks very similar to Konomi.

  • After visiting an ice-cream shoppe and savouring sundaes, Aoi brings everyone to an observation point looking over Okinawa. While ice cream had previously not been something I was too interested in, I’ve come to realise that it actually boils down to the hardness and flavour of the ice cream; I’m fond of softer ice cream, and maple ice cream in particular hits the spot. During this past week, I had the chance to try a beaver-tail maple ice cream, which is about as Canadian as ice creams can get.

  • Having local knowledge of an area means being able to take in sights away from the crowds: Aoi brings the girls to a quieter beach, where they enjoy the sights of a calm, rocky beach that is quite far removed from path better travelled. I’ve long had a fondness for exploring the more hidden corners of my homeland and discovering local gems that I normally pass over. For instance, it was taking a second look for holes in the walls that I came across the 514 Poutine in Canmore.

  • In the manga, Renge decides to take a shell home, but in Non Non Biyori Vacation, Aoi suggests that the girls take some white sand home with them, having bought small glass vials with her. This is a wonderful souvenir of what was an immensely relaxing and enjoyable vacation, and also brings to mind a vial of sand from Cancún that I bought. This vial also has a few small seashells within, and the vial is stoppered by a glass ball to keep the sand from coming out.

  • By evening, Aoi takes the girls to the beach where, away from the effects of light pollution, Natsume, Renge, Hotaru and Komari are treated to a stunning view of the night sky, with the Milky Way plainly visible. This is perhaps a more optimistic view of the night skies in Okinawa; most of the island is as bright as Cochrane, which is around 36 kilometres from the city center. While the night skies at this distance are more pronounced than they are in the suburbs of Calgary, it’s still bright enough so the Milky Way would not be easily spotted. As Non Non Biyori Vacation is fiction, this is forgiven.

  • Aoi’s brought the girls here to show them a spectacular phenomenon: Noctiluca scintillans exhibit bioluminescence and when stimulated, will emit a blue light. The girls frolic in the water in a truly magical setting, and similar to a moment in Non Non Biyori Repeat, where Kazuho takes the girls to a pond to watch fireflies, Non Non Biyori Vacation sets one of its most magical moments under the night sky.

  • For me, Non Non Biyori represents a film where, despite the lack of a unifying conflict or an end goal, messages about life are nonetheless present in full. The film is working within the constraints of the manga, which presented the trip to Okinawa as a detour from their routine. There is not supposed to be a conflict or explicit lesson: life simply has breaks in it, and the movie has certainly succeeded in capturing this particular concept, bringing it to life with first-rate visuals and sound. Silver Link has done a phenomenal job on the movie, and presently, with an impressive collection of anime in their profile, I am happy that the studio has continued to find a way.

  • While the manga had Natsumi crying for no discernable reason, the film allows this moment to carry more weight: she’s clearly saddened to leave such a beautiful place, but also is saddened because she’s not able to spend more time with Aoi. The format in Non Non Biyori Vacation allows the film to do things that the manga could not, and this creates a more solid story that can be touching, as well as comedic.

  • For better or worse, the time has come to depart, and Aoi bids everyone farewell. Natsumi promises to write her, and improve on badminton in the meantime. A part of every vacation is the part where one must leave for home, and in my experience, this is usually a mixed bag. On one hand, being in another country engenders a desire to continue exploring, but on the other hand, being elsewhere also amplifies one’s appreciation for their own home. There’s nothing quite like sleeping in one’s own bed after a vacation.

  • While Natsumi is probably the rowdiest of the group, seeing her grow in Non Non Biyori Vacation was probably one of the strongest elements. Despite being unscholarly in manner, Natsumi is shown to have a strong knowledge of the outdoors and is also quite active. She tends to create trouble for others, but at heart is caring for those around her. The film offered Natsumi an opportunity to develop in a manner that the manga did not, and by taking advantage of this, helps viewers like myself warm up to her further.

  • The palm trees and pristine beaches of Okinawa give way to the rolling hills and endless fields of Asahigaoka as the group returns home. The deliberate choice of lighting here, with purples and pinks dominating the evening sky, mirror the sunset of the second day; this was done to remind audiences that while everyone might be back in Asahigaoka, they’re still under the same skies as Okinawa, similarly to how Aoi and Natsumi have commonalities.

  • Having the characters walking apart as they wave goodbyes for the present creates a visual break here. While everyone is parting ways for now, they’re still planning on hanging out in the time that is left before summer is over. I imagine that this film segues into Non Non Biyori Repeat: the manga seems to portray things as taking place after Hotaru arrives in a linear manner, but the TV series’ second season suggests that it’s set in between the episodes seen in the first season. With a third season announced, one wonders where it will fit in the timeline.

  • After arriving home, Hotaru shares her experiences with her parents. Non Non Biyori presents the girls as living in a more old-fashioned environment, and so, do not have access to things like smartphones. I usually communicate with my parents while travelling to inform them that I’ve arrived safely by means of WhatsApp. While I prefer iMessage and Skype in every way, I usually aren’t too picky about the choice of tool I have to use.

  • At the Koshigayas’, Komari recounts her experiences in Okinawa to her mother, while Suguru chills. Natsumi is seen in her room, fondly hanging up the image that Renge had drawn of her and Aoi. Everyone’s gotten something unique out of their experience in Okinawa, and come away with what will be memories to treasure for a lifetime. I note that for the most part, Suguru has not been mentioned to any real extent in my discussions: he’s unique in that he has no voice actor, and his presence is quite minimal.

  • When the Miyauchis arrive home, Renge immediately runs into their house and declares that they’re back. Earlier, Renge wonders if they’ll be able to go back to Okinawa, and Kazuho remarks that such a vacation is too pricey to be doing on a regular basis. Renge decides that in the future, she’d like to go back again anyways. Simple details in conversation give great insights into the characters, and I found that while still having a secondary role in the film, Kazuho was given a few moments that present her as being attentive, mindful of those around her and astute, leaving audiences with the sense that she’s qualified to look after elementary and middle school students despite her lethargic appearance.

  • For my readers, I’m also back in full now: I’ve been writing less so far because my priorities have been on work-related matters. With one major milestone now in the books, I look forwards to continuing on with my work, but for the present, this means that I will be blogging with at least a better frequency than I have in the past several weeks. I’ve long anticipated Non Non Biyori Vacation with enthusiasm, and having finished this post, which is this year’s largest (having some seven thousand five hundred and ten words), I look to the future. I have one final post left for CLANNAD ~After Story~, and will be writing about Ace Combat 7 now that I’ve passed the halfway point. Endro!‘s ending is coming later this month, and I still have one more post on Battlefield V‘s campaign, as well. Finally, I do have (tentative) plans to write about Nagi no Asukara. I would like to thank the reader who’ve stuck around long enough to read this entire post.

Taken together, Non Non Biyori Vacation is an excellent film that capitalises on the silver screen format to deliver a bolder, larger-scale theme while simultaneously remaining very faithful to the structuring and atmosphere seen in the original TV series. Like the themes the film conveys, Non Non Biyori Vacation is both familiar and different relative to the TV series. Watching all of the characters sightsee and experience a more personal side of Okinawa was superbly enjoyable. Non Non Biyori has long excelled at conveying subtle lessons on life in its gentle, cathartic run, and Non Non Biyori Vacation continues on in the same manner its predecessors did. This is a movie that I can easily recommend to anyone who enjoyed Non Non Biyori, and for folks who are looking for something relaxing, Non Non Biyori Vacation fits the bill even if one is unfamiliar with the series. Granted, there are some jokes that require some background in the series to fully appreciate, but the film itself is reasonably standalone such that one could enjoy it even without having seen the TV series or read the manga. It’s been a shade over six months since Non Non Biyori hit the theatres in Japan, and presently, having had the chance to see the movie for myself, I find that this is something that viewers should definitely experience for themselves. Finally, looking ahead into the future, I’ve heard that a third season of Non Non Biyori is in the works, and this is exciting news: Non Non Biyori‘s success comes from being committed to its ability to do more with less. By utilising a simple moment and then drawing the fun from the ordinary, Non Non Biyori shows the merits of taking a step back to smell the roses when the world constantly seeks to accelerate – this is something that is most welcome in my books.