The Infinite Zenith

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Captain America: Civil War, On Striking A Balance Between Focus and Comedy, and Parallels In Harukana Receive

“If we sign these, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go, and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.”
“If we don’t do this now, it’s gonna be done to us later. That’s a fact. That won’t be pretty.”

–Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, Captain America: Civil War

2016’s Captain America: Civil War (Civil War for brevity) is the thirteenth movie and the first part of phase three, dealing with Steve Rogers and Tony Stark as they become divided after the Avenger’s actions at Sokovia and the events of Age of Ultron. Collateral destruction prompts the United Nations to pass the Sokovia Accords, which places the Avengers under UN management. After seeing the destruction that he feels responsible for, Stark agrees to the Accords, feeling that it would be useful to have government oversight, while Steve Rogers believes in his own judgement, having grown disillusioned with authority after his experiences with SHIELD and a mission that sees Natasha Romanov sneak off to accomplish a secondary mission. Prior to the conference to ratify the Accords, Helmut Zemo activates Bucky Barnes, who appears and bombs the conference, killing T’Challa’s father, the King of Wakanda. Barnes is brought in, along with Rogers, T’Challa and Sam Wilson, but Barnes manages to escape. They prepare to apprehend Zemo, but are declared Rogue; Stark assembles a team to take Rogers in, although Rogers manages to escape with Barnes. Arriving at a remote Hydra facility in Siberia, Barnes and Rogers learns that Stark followed them, seeking a truce, but when he learns that Barnes had killed his parents and Rogers withheld this from him, he engages them in combat. T’Challa also appears, confronting Zemo, who lost his family in Sokovia and sought revenge against the Avengers: stopping Zemo from committing suicide, T’Challa captures him. Civil War was one of the biggest movies of 2016, and in keeping with films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a highly engaging film that packages thrilling combat sequences, top-notch humour and a meaningful theme into one experience. Marvel Cinematic Universe films typically manage to strike a balance between the serious and humourous: there are plenty of moments worth reflecting on, but frequent jokes remind audiences that the films are intended to be fun, first and foremost.

The balance is something that Manga Time Kirara anime similarly capture to showcase that life is a very dynamic, varied experience: the latest manga to be adapted into an anime is Harukana Receive, and similar to its ilk, Harukana Receive has strong messages of sportsmanship, friendship and personal growth. Comedy is present to create a light-hearted, easygoing atmosphere, reminding viewers that the anime is not meant to be taken entirely seriously. Similar to Civil War, jokes are placed in Harukana Receive to break up serious moments – besides creating breaks in emotionally tense moments, humour also humanises all of the characters, making them more relatable. In Civil War, the crux of the conflict is a simple but effective one, presenting a juxtaposition between regulation and doing what one feels to be right. Both Stark and Rogers’ perspective have their merits, and which perspective is more appropriate will largely depend on one’s experiences and beliefs: some people gravitate towards having other bodies creating rules one can be held accountable to, while others will put faith in their own judgement. Neither extreme is viable, and this is the point that Civil War aims to make. However, in spite of these serious matters, however, Civil War also has its share of comedy, and nowhere is this more apparent than the airport scene – beside’s Scott Lang’s hilarious transformation and Peter Parker’s quips during battle, various moments break the emotional intensity of this battle and turns it into a competitive bout between teammates. However, just because Civil War has humour does not mean it cannot be serious: the final battle between Stark, Rogers and Barnes is an emotionally charged one, with Stark trying to avenge his parents while Rogers strives to defend his best friend. All parties have their reasons for fighting, and it’s a suspenseful fight, far removed from the hilarious and competition-like airport fight. In being able to balance both the serious moments, Civil War demonstrates that films can succeed in saying something interesting even if comedy is visibly present, and need not be all-serious in order to entertain viewers.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before readers tear me a new one, I note that this post was really born of a positive response from my Twitter readers to see if I could take two prima facie completely unrelated matters and see if I can say something about how they might relate. In other words, this exercise is to see how well I can bullshit, and whether or not I’ve succeeded, I leave it to the reader to decide. It’s been a while since I’ve done a talk with screenshots from a live-action movie, and immediately, I recall why this is the case: motion blur makes it tricky to capture the best moments in stills, unlike anime, which are easier to write for. I’ve been itching to do a talk on Civil War for quite some time, having first heard that it was a fun film. This talk, however, is not a review for Civil War: I deal primarily with how humour in Civil War increases the strength of the narrative, rather than detracts from it.

  • The same holds true for Harukana Receive: I’ve long felt that people are taking the show far too seriously. Yes, there is a major character growth component, but when people, ostensibly adults with a nontrivial amount of life experience, being talking down on fictional characters, I invariably wonder what about shows like Harukana Receive (or most anything to do with Manga Time Kirara) merit rigourous analysis. I am open to hearing reasons advocating this position in the comments below.

  • My first experience with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was in 2012, with The Avengers. My first impressions were that it was a fun film, although at the time, having not seen Thor, I felt Loki’s motivations to be a little lacking. I’ve since gone back and watched all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and my appreciation for The Avengers has increased, now that I understand both Loki’s reasons for leading the Chitarui to Earth and how this sets in motion the events leading up to Infinity War.

  • 2012 also saw The Dark Knight Rises screened in theatres: Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is far removed from the comedic, colourful nature of the MCU, being much more grounded, focused on psychology and fundamental conflicts of the mind. Themes of recovery are central in the film, and while having the most outlandish narrative of the Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises still remains faithful to the atmosphere and setting of Nolan’s earlier Batman films.

  • After watching the Dark Knight trilogy and The Avengers, I decided to give Iron Man 3 a whirl and was immediately disappointed: the villians were weakly motivated, and the extremis seemed quite unrealistic. However, on my run through the MCU, which I started after watching Infinity War, my second impressions of Iron Man 3 were much more positive.

  • One recurring element I’ve come to love about the MCU is its colourful cast of superheroes: the number of films shows that the MCU is serious about giving their heroes proper exposure, and so, while the films might be enjoyable on their own, watching all of them and seeing where the different pieces come together is where the real joys are. Here, T’Challa fights Barnes on the rooftops following a pursuit: T’Challa holds Barnes responsible for his father’s death, but since the events of The Winter Soldier, Barnes has been struggling to get past his programming.

  • Because every character in the MCU has a detailed background, watching some of the films out of order mean that references to earlier films might be missed. However, one strength about the MCU is that even standalone, the films are quite enjoyable in their own right; right up until Infinity War, I had watched only a handful of the MCU films. The question of whether or not I review the others will strictly be a matter of reader choice: I’ve heard that folks prefer my anime discussions over every other kind of talk I have.

  • If this were to be a conventional review of Civil War, I would have taken additional time to explore all of the different scenes, and perhaps make a few witty quips about them in my usual manner. I would further go on to give the film a strong recommendation, because the film deals with interesting topics, has many entertaining moments that vary from keeping one on the edge of their seat, to those that are downright hilarious.

  • For the record, the only thing that was CGI in this scene was the background. The rest of it is all real, including Chris Evan’s arms. I imagine that, for some of my readers, who have grown weary of me posting various screenshots of Haruka and Kanata doing various things, from a variety of angles, on a beach volleyball court, this moment comes as a bit of a respite. Those who watched this film could not stop marveling at this moment, which has become quite iconic in its own right, to an even greater extent than what Harukana Receive has.

  • I’ve heard that Natasha Romanoff will be getting a movie of her own in 2020: this is going to be a welcome one to see, and I’m betting it will occur prior to the events of Infinity War. In The Avengers, it was stated that she was an assassin prior to working under SHIELD, and made her share of mistakes. With an interesting background and Scarlett Johansson’s excellent portrayal of Romanoff , I am excited to see where this one goes.

  • Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker in Civil War‘s presentation is the best I’ve seen; this incarnation of Parker is an energetic, excitable and naïve one, whose lack of experienced is offset by his enthusiasm and propensity to make random various jokes even mid-battle. He is so wordy that Sam Wilson asks if Peter’s ever been in a real fight before, and at the airport, manages to fight both Barnes and Wilson to a standstill.

  • So, here we are at last, the infamous airport scene, featuring #TeamCap. Shortly after Girls und Panzer Der Film came out, I supposed that it must’ve been similar to Civil War for being a bombastic summer film that was big on scale and effects even if the plot was a little lighter. At the time, I’d not seen Civil War yet, and in retrospect, Civil War offers its characters a much more substantial reason for fighting compared to Girls und Panzer Der Film: highly enjoyable the film was, repeating the notion of Ooarai closing a second time was quite jejune.

  • In the other corner is #TeamIronMan. It’s quite impressive as to how much detailed is paid to the progression of the Iron Man suits throughout the MCU: slow to don and somewhat clumsy early on, each iteration has improved to the point that by Infinity War, Stark’s suit uses nanotechnology to pull off some extraordinary feats. One of the things I’ve come to coherently spell out, through watching MCU films, is that not everything has to be entirely logical or through-provoking to be good.

  • The airport fights has some of the best humour in the MCU outside of Thor Ragnarok and the Guardians of the Galaxy films: while fighting one another, Romanoff asks Barton if they’ll still be friends after all this, to which he responds that it depends on how hard she hits him. The dynamic between Romanoff and Barton has always been a good one to watch: while lacking the superhuman abilities of their peers, both are highly trained combatants whose fights with one another are as intense as their friendship is deep.

  • The point of this post, was really to spell out that just because a show has prominent comedic elements and then switches over to a serious mood, does not mean that the comedic parts were in any way unnecessary or pointless. I’ve never really understood why darker or serious is better, especially in the context of shows like Harukana Receive: the whole point of the lighthearted moments in anime are largely to show audiences that the everyday moments are as important to personal growth as the moments doing more focused things.

  • So, by drawing the comparison between Civil War and Harukana Receive, I aim to show how despite the vast differences in themes, narrative, setting and conflicts, that both works uses humour to remind audiences that their characters are human, not wholly focused on their objectives and goals at the expense of others. Because the work itself makes this clear, then I find that it is unwise to adopt an all-serious stance as far as discussing the work goes. This is why I’ve found discussion on Kanata’s use of pokies, or whether or not high-fives occur in beach volleyball after every point, to be an utter waste of time.

  • When Lang uses the Antman suit to grow to gargantuan proportions, an irate Stark asks if anyone on his side has any abilities they’d like to make use of now. Even during such moments, the MCU reminds viewers to just accept things as they happen: Stark’s first reaction when seeing the Chitauri army in The Avengers was “seeing, still working on believing”. The whole point of fiction is to create a compelling story, and I am more than willing to accept liberties taken provided that they advance the story. With this being said, everyone may approach fiction differently.

  • When I was watching the airport fight in Civil War, I was all smiles; more than a deadly-serious battle, the mood was that of a competition of sorts. The characters constantly make use of disabling, non-lethal moves during the fight, as their goal is to impede rather than harm: the whole airport fight occurs because Stark is trying to stop Rogers from taking off and pursuing a mission of his own.

  • During the course of the battle, it is mentioned that in order to win this fight, some will have to lose. Those on Rogers’ side are buying enough time for Rogers and Barnes to fly out, choosing to stay behind. The stakes are never far from the forefront of discussion even during the airport fight, but in spite of the comedy, or perhaps because of it, the scene has quickly become my favourite: in particular, Parker’s quips during battle, ranging from his conversation with Rogers, to suggesting using a move from The Empire Strikes Back to disable Lang, served to lighten the mood considerably.

  • Anime often faithfully replicate real-world locations, and impressed viewers travel to these locations to walk the same paths as seen in their shows. The airport fight of Civil War was filmed at Germany’s Leipzig/Halle Airport, which is Germany’s thirteenth largest and handled 2.3 million passengers in 2017. Filming at the airport was a challenge; crews described going through security, getting a small section of tarmac to work with and was permitted to shut down one terminal during filming. In conjunction with solid directing and high-tech camera set ups, plus plenty of effort from actors and crews, there is no denying the results were worth it.

  • The airport fight is fun and games until Rhodes takes a hit and injures his legs in a fall, rendering him a paraplegic. The mood in Civil War shifts here to a darker one, rather similar to how Harukana Receive‘s mood becomes much more intense once Harukana face Éclair. It is actually a little surprising to be drawing parallels between Civil War and Harukana Receive, but given expectations that Harukana Receive faithfully depict beach volleyball, I feel it necessary to bring in one of the MCU’s strongest instalments as an example of why Harukana Receive should not be treated as requiring strict adherence to beach volleyball rules and mechanics of the real world.

  • Civil War was described by critics as being best suited for MCU fans, and the film’s success comes from not trying to be something it is not. This is an appropriate assessment: the motivations that drive the film might permit for interesting conversation, but at the end of the day, the film is intended to entertain, rather than instruct. This is also why Girls und Panzer Der Film ended up being so enjoyable: both Girls und Panzer Der Film and Civil War use a weak rationale to drive the conflict seen in the film, and the conflict itself ends up being captivating to watch.

  • This entire post has consisted of me saying one controversial thing after another, so I’ll add oil to the fire with the following remark: since my experiences with anime viewers who demand for intellectually stimulating series during the days of the K-On! Movie, I’ve felt that those who hold such expectations are likely those who feel a need to justify their interests to others.

  • The climatic battle of Civil War is a no-nonsense fight to the death after Stark learns of how his parents died. Furious that Rogers withheld this from him, he engages the two in a battle and abjectly refuses to stand down. Driven by pure emotion, he brawls on with the aim of avenging his parents. Against Rogers, however, he utilises a variety of non-lethal means to keep him out of the fight.

  • While somewhat disjointed if taken as a standalone film, Civil War‘s contributions in the MCU are much more substantial when considered in conjunction with the other films. By this point in time, Rogers has become much more disillusioned with regulatory systems and organisations, having seen the truth that SHIELD was really another iteration of HYDRA. No longer trusting organisations, he prefers to count on his own judgement. By comparison, Stark’s arrogant and independent mannerisms gradually give way to understanding that he is responsible for his actions and that the universe is much bigger than himself. His fear of the unknown led him to create Ultron, but when this backfired, Stark realises that it would be useful to have someone oversee them to prevent disaster.

  • Changing character traits over time is the great strength about the MCU, and over time, some of the antagonists fighting the protagonists turn around and join the Avengers. Character development is one of the main reasons why I partake in fiction: watching people learn and grow over time, and seeing the applicability towards reality is something I’ve long enjoyed.

  • Ever since The Avengers, folks have wondered what it would be like if Captain America went up against Iron Man following a buildup of tensions on board SHIELD’s heli-carrier. Civil War is the logical culmination of the conflict between the two: anger and his suits’ technological capabilities allow Stark to dictate the pace of the battle early on, but Rogers’ determination to save his friend proves stronger. As the battle wears on, Rogers gains the upper hand over Stark.

  • Helmut Zemo is the real antagonist of Civil War, seeking revenge against the Avengers for allowing his family to die during the Sokovia incident. With the Avengers in disarray, he prepares to commit suicide, but T’Challa stops him. Zemo’s motivations are quite weak and drive the events of Civil War about as well as Ooarai closing a second time, but the events of both Civil War and Girls und Panzer Der Film are well-executed and engaging. Looking back, I find that this comparison, between Civil War and Girls und Panzer, also holds true.

  • Robert Downey Jr. perfectly captures the fear going through Stark as Rogers pummels him; Rogers does not kill Stark, and Stark is fully aware of this, as well as what he’d come close to doing. With his arc reactor disabled, the fight comes to an end. Rogers and Barnes prepares to leave. The events of Civil War separate the Avengers, and by the time of Infinity War, Stark and Rogers have yet to reconcile in person, although Stark does understand the importance of Rogers and asks Bruce Banner to contact him, before going after one of Thanos’ Q-ships.

  • Barnes is later seen at a Wakandan facility undergoing de-programming. In Infinity War, he is firmly in the good guys’ camp again. Here, I apologise to readers looking for a full review of Civil War: this post cannot be considered to be a review of the movie, but rather, an exploratory piece on how the things that made Civil War enjoyable can also be applied to something like Harukana Receive. The timing of this post is deliberate, coming out ahead of the finale: there is a reason to why I’ve not expected, and will not be expecting, a more serious focus on beach volleyball and psychology from Harukana Receive.

In Harukana Receive, the stakes and environment are radically different than those of Civil War, but the presence of humour serves a similar purpose: breaking up the serious moments to humanise the characters. Harukana Receive may have beach volleyball in the foreground, but its goal is to portray matters of friendship, sportsmanship and self-discovery rather than specifics behind psychology and beach volleyball. Light-hearted moments are present in Harukana Receive because the series is about people, rather than sport, the same way that Civil War is about a disparate group of people and their conviction in opposite systems, rather than being a thriller akin to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. Dark Knight is a fine example of a film that is very serious and humanises Bruce Wayne by forcing him to struggle with difficult decisions in his pursuit of the Joker, and while Civil War takes a very different approach towards presenting conflict, it remains successful. Similarly, Harukana Receive can tell a strong story without a focus on drama and technical detail: the more ordinary experiences that slowly help the characters mature, and the current match between Éclaire and Harukana is meant to be viewed as less of a beach volleyball match, and more of a contest of the wills, one that would hold the same emotional weight if the mode of competition were to be different. Consequently, it is quite disappointing that there is an insistence that Harukana Receive must be treated as a sports series, and subsequent discussion focuses entirely on the plausibility, mechanics and adherence to rules behind what is seen in Harukana receive. Approaching Harukana Receive as a sports series is akin to entering Civil War with the expectation that it covers themes the same way Dark Knight did will invariably leads to disappointment: at its heart, Harukana Receive is ultimately about people, rather than the sport, and the presence of comedy serves to reinforce this notion strongly, akin to how light-hearted moments humanise the characters in Civil War and strengthens the weight of their conflict to enhance the film’s impact on audiences without strictly following the all-serious approach seen in the equally thought-provoking and thrilling Dark Knight.

Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai (I Want to Deliver Your Voice): A Review and Reflection

“Kind words are a creative force, a power that concurs in the building up of all that is good, and energy that showers blessings upon the world.” –Lawrence G. Lovasik

Nagisa Yukiai is a girl who has long believed that words hold spirits (kotodama) that impart on them a powerful impact. As she nears her final year of high school, she struggles to determine her future career path. While evading an unexpected rainfall one day, Nagisa takes shelter in a derelict shop called Aquamarine. She discovers a vast collection of records here and broadcasting equipment. Activating the station and playing radio host, Nagisa’s words reach Shion Yazawa, whose mother, Akane, fell into a coma after an accident twelve years previously. Shion asks that Nagisa not return to Aquamarine, but Nagisa’s curiosity soon gets the better of her, and she encounters Shion at the shop, using the radio equipment to send a message to her mother with the hope that she would one day wake up. Moved, Nagisa decides to help Shion broadcast these messages. They are joined by Nagisa’s friends, Kaede Tatsunokuchi and Shizuku Dobashi. The group’s activities soon draw Ayame Nakahara’s interest – an amateur radio enthusiast, Ayame lends her background towards helping Nagisa and her friends’ making a more legitimate radio program. She recruits Otoha Biwakouji to help compose music, and as the summer wears on, the girls’ broadcast reaches a growing audience in town. Through their broadcasts, the girls grow closer to one another and also learn to express themselves more directly. With no progress made towards getting their message to Akane, the girls face two challenges – Yuu’s grandfather has scheduled Aquamarine for redevelopment, and Akane is being transferred to a different hospital. On the day of the transfer, Nagisa and her friends set up a live broadcast at the local shrine. With the help of the townspeople, their song reaches Akane, who reawakens. Shion is reunited with her mother, and deeply moved by her experiences, Nagisa decides to become a radio show host.

Released last year in late August and only meandering into the home release realm last month, Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai (I Want to Deliver Your Voice, known in short Kimi Koe, or Your Voice) is a Madhouse production. In its ninety-minute runtime, Your Voice‘s focus is an ode to the radio. The film hammers home that our voice, carrying emotional tenour and intent, can have an impact on others, as well as ourselves. In a world where communications have become increasingly textual, we’ve forgotten how much power our voice can hold: subtle differences in tone, pronunciation and articulation convey different intent, from love, to disgust. Because of the intent behind our voice, the radio is thus presented as a powerful amplification of the emotions and feelings our voices carry. Nagisa, who had spent her life believing in kotodama and hesitates to speak ill of others, finds radio to be a platform where she can channel positive energy. It is the magic of this moment that leads her to continue broadcasting, and as she continues, her audience expands. Her words reach more people, and move more people: this is the magic of the radio. By pouring her sincerity and energy into a voice that others her, Nagisa draws in her friends, who in turn help her draw in an entire town’s interest, much as Akane had done years before. By Your Voice‘s end, having reached so many people, Nagisa is able to funnel the town’s support for Akane through their voices: the strength of everyone’s feelings allow Akane to wake up after twelve years. Having seen the impact of what voices can do, Nagisa subsequently finds her calling in life and becomes a radio show host. While highly fantastical in its depiction of feelings, and reiterating the spirits of a voice to the point of ad nauseam, Your Voice‘s message is a simple and direct one that is also quite moving in spite of its derivative outcome.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The cast of Your Voice is voiced by people who had successfully auditioned for roles in the film, rather than professional voice actors. Mina Katahira provides Nagisa’s voice, and the story begins following a lacrosse game that sees her team lose. Nagisa immediately recounts her story with the kotodama, which manifest as luminescent orbs. Ever since her grandmother related the story to her, Nagisa’s long held the belief that words carry very powerful impacts and negative effects can come back to bite one, so for her part, she refrains from speaking her mind except when visiting a local shrine, where she shouts her concerns underneath a bell. Here, she watches a rainfall stop after discovering the abandoned coffeehouse, Aquamarine.

  • I admit that, when I saw the first of the key art for Your Voice, I was initially dissuaded by the character designs, but seeing more finalised artwork and A Place Further Than The Universe assuaged these doubts. In appearances and manner, Nagisa takes characteristics from A Place Further Than The Universe‘s Mari and Yuzuki. Optimistic and a bit of a naïf, Nagisa is the quintessential protagonist for films of this sort. Descriptions for Your Voice put Nagisa as a bit impatient in finding her future, and so, the film can be seen as a coming-of-age story, providing a snapshot into the events that help Nagisa find herself, all the while helping others out.

  • Nagisa receives a message after her first-ever broadcast from a listener, and although it amounts to a cease-and-desist, Nagisa’s curiosity gets the better of her: she’s intrigued by Aquamarine, and learns that its owner was a well-known local radio show host, broadcasting out of her coffeehouse. However, after an accident that left her comatose twelve years previously, the shop was boarded up and left derelict. Nagisa learns the name of this individual is Akane Yazawa, and that she’s at a hospital nearby. While visiting, Nagisa hears on the radio an active broadcast in session: putting two and two together, she hastens back to Aquamarine.

  • Set in the Enoshima area, it was interesting to see Madhouse’s portrayal of the region, which had prominently featured in P.A. Works’ 2012 series, Tari Tari. The Madhouse version of Enoshima features fewer complex lighting effects (e.g. rain water on the ground does not create visible reflections as they do in Tari Tari) and warmer lighting, creating a sense of summer. The use of summer in anime is less of a thematic element by this point in time and more of a trope: long days and endless skies in anime convey possibility, and so, it is unsurprising that summers are portrayed as a time of discovery in anime. Your Voice is no different, as it’s ultimately a story about a journey.

  • While Shion’s mail to Nagisa might have been a little hostile, Nagisa seems to pay no mind and meets her face-to-face for the first time at Aquamarine. It is here that the two strike up a friendship, and while Shion is initially reluctant, Nagisa’s cheerful manner convinces Shion to give things a whirl for at least a little while. Nagisa is very tearful here, and while crying, she definitely resembles Mari of A Place Further Than The Universe. The same white outlines are present there as well as in Your Voice, although minor facial features in Your Voice are a little rougher than in the better-polished A Place Further Than The Universe. This should not be surprising, as the latter represents the result of applying the learnings from Your Voice.

  • Shion explains to Nagisa that she’s staying for the summer and in person, she’s much more soft-spoken than her initial message to Nagisa suggests. In spite of getting off on the wrong foot, Nagisa’s earnest personality and genuine concern for Shion eventually leads Shion to consent having Nagisa help her out. Nagisa’s persistent belief in the kotodama initially seems a little childish and misplaced, but their presence in the film strongly suggest that their role is not a trivial one.

  • Initially, Shion is hesitant to deliver a more spirited broadcast as Nagisa is wont to doing, and rushes off, embarrassed. It does take a certain degree of confidence to be able to honestly express oneself on the radio, and the power of a good radio program can be non-trivial. When I work, I listen to the local Cantonese radio programs; my favourite shows are Vancouver’s “摩登狄寶娜” (Modern Deborah, featuring Deborah Moore), which deals with various travel and lifestyle topics. 一家人 (One Family) is broadcast after, and similarly deals with the daily comings and goings closer to home. Although their hosts do not know it, their programs certainly do brighten up my day. Nagisa has a very extroverted personality, and upon hearing Shion’s wavering resolve, decides to become friends with her and spur her on.

  • Athletic, competitive and headstrong, Kaede is one of Nagisa’s friends and also works as a waitress at a local family restaurant. Her longstanding rivalry with Yuu comes from their past: envious of Yuu, she’s resolved to compete with her and prevail, although finds herself failing. When Yuu is made captain of a rival lacrosse team and also schools Kaede’s team at the film’s start, Kaede has naught but ill-will towards Yuu. Of the characters in Your Voice, Kaede is the only individual with the angular tsurime: everyone else sports tareme, and consequently, she does look a little out of place compared to the other characters.

  • The girls’ radio programme receives more feedback from another listener who challenges the show, stating that it’s unprofessional. Later in the day, Nagisa finds a pair of eyes on her, and after a few tense moments, comes face to face with one Ayume Nakahara, another student who feels that the girls are ineffective with their radio program. Similarly to Shion, Ayame’s messages come across as a bit confrontational, but in person, their tone changes quite a bit. When it comes to feedback around these parts, I will assume good faith, especially where alternative perspectives and corrections are made. However, as I’m always interested in hearing more from readers, I’ve also decided that it’s worth inviting the folks offering corrections to discuss things further. Being right means less to me than seeing what readers think of things.

  • From left to right, we’ve got Shizuku Dobashi (Momone Iwabuchi), Ayame Nakahara (Mitsuho Kambe), Kaede Tatsunokuchi (Yuki Tanaka), Shion Yazawa (Suzuko Mimori), and Otoha Biwakouji (Hitomi Suzuki). Kaede and Shizuki are friends with Nagisa, resolving to help Shion out with her desire to broadcast messages to her mother. Ayame and Otoha later join their rank: Ayame is proficient with broadcast-related details, such as delivery of effective programs and legality of broadcasting music, while Otoha is highly talented in composing music. When the girls learn that they can only use royalty-free music, Ayame brings Otoha in to create custom music they can freely use.

  •  Your Voice that more prominent reviewers have criticised is that there are more characters than is necessary, but I will stand up and challenge them right here: for films with a large number of characters, one must be willing to set aside individual growth and development in favour of focusing more on the collective goal. Rogue One had a large number of characters, each with limited development, but the film succeeded because each character was a part of a whole: the sum of their contributions allowed Jyn and her rag-tag band of misfits to secure the Death Star plans. Similarly, in Your Voice, while each character (save Shizuku) faces their own struggles, everyone also puts these aside to help Shion out. The real world is about how we interact with others, not about ourselves, so to dismiss shared goals in fiction in favour of individual growth is to be unfaithful to the fact that humans are a social animal.

  • Their radio program gains momentum over time, so the girls begin expanding their broadcast capabilities and advertise their show around town. Here, they enjoy katsu cutlets outside of a shop while on break from their activities. I do seem to have a particular talent for enjoying things that people are critical of: a case in point is my recent viewing of Solo: A Star Wars Movie. After sitting down to a hot and tasty chicken-fried steak with sautéed zucchini and hash browns for dinner (it’s been a while since I’ve had a good chicken fried steak, with the last time being when Battlefield 1‘s open beta was in full swing), I headed over to a nearby theatre and watched Solo with a longtime friend. We found the movie enjoyable, certainly not meritorious the vitriol that supposed “expert” critics have leveled against the film, and after Solo ended, I stepped back outside to see a double rainbow gracing the skies.

  • Granted, the film’s depiction of Corellia is inconsistent with that of the expanded universe, Darth Maul’s appearance was illogical, and I prefer the extended universe’s version of how Han met Chewbacca, but overall, the film was coherent in presenting Han’s origins. Thus, claims that “tropes and twists of shamelessly recycled clichés are presented throughout with an absurd earnestness” is a load of horse dung. Back in Your Voice, the broadcasts that the girls deliver become smoother and more varied over time. With Ayame’s expertise, Otoha’s music and the others’ spirit, the girls resurrect what was once an old classic in town.

  • At the end of the day, I fail to see how Your Voice is “torn between two different narrative goals and can’t quite manage to achieve either of them”, as our anime journalist voices. There is a single goal, which is Nagisa and her friends working with Shion to bring their voices and feelings to Akane, and as they continued, they developed a more sophisticated operation. In the process, Nagisa has a profound experience with voices and finds a career path she is passionate about. Occam’s Razor definitely applies to anime, and overthinking something simple is what creates befuddlement amongst critics, many of whom I feel should be more genuine in their approach rather than be critical for the sole purpose of being critical.

  • Then again, I personally feel that the role of a professional critic is (and should be) diminished now: larger sites like Anime News Network can have ineffectual, ill-argued reviews that do not properly represent films like Your Voice, and obscure blogs may have very thoughtful critiques and discussions that the giants have not even considered. This is the topic of no small discussion on Twitter, where many of my peers are struggling to find motivation to write when readership and traffic is not increasing with time and improved content. I understand this feeling: it is unlikely that I will be able to convince the folks out there that I cannot reach, that they should take even Anime News Network reviews with a grain of salt. Having said this, beating down folks with perspectives contrary to mine is not my goal: this blog exists because it’s fun to write.

  • Shizuku’s role in the radio program is quite limited, but with her talents for baking cookies and sweets for the others, Shizuku is raising morale at Aquamarine while the others help with the radio program directly. Shizuku is a static character in Your Voice, undergoing very little development as an individual, and is intended to provide a reference point for the changes that will impact Nagisa, and to a lesser extent, Kaede.

  • As each of Nagisa, Kaede, Shion, Shizuku, Ayame and Otoha become closer through their shared interest in radio and using this as a tool to reach Shion’s mother, they spend more time together outside of Aquamarine. Shion has longed to be with friends, having spent most of her life transferring schools before she could become close to anyone, and Nagisa’s actions allow Shion to experience friendship. Here, the girls visit a summer festival together: the festival features the bamboo lights seen in Tamayura‘s Path of Longing festival.

  • After Kaede learns that Yuu’s been stripped of her captaincy, she decides to broadcast onto the airwaves and invites Yuu to visit Aquamarine to hang with the others. Kaede remarks that Yuu is the sort of person she isn’t, someone who is simultarnously proper and also somewhat dependent on others. During the course of Your Voice‘s run, there are five inset songs performed by the voice actors from the movie. Their inclusion gives Your Voice a very sentimental feeling that is befitting of its themes about voices and their impacts.

  • When Kaede drops by and runs into long-time rival Yuu, they have a terse exchange before Nagisa arrives. The two have been rivals since childhood, with Kaede striving to outperform Yuu and failing at every turn. Her patience exhausted, Nagisa decks Kaede, and Yuu runs off. Reviews elsewhere found this rivalry unrealistic and unnecessary, but its presence in Your Voice is to remind audiences that in a narrative, while our focus largely remains on the protagonists, the other characters can also be complex in their own right, with unique stories and challenges that simply are not the focus of the story at hand.

  • Similarly, the rivalry is in no way unrealistic: high school students can be very competitive with one another, and what is obvious to more mature individual may not be evident to high school students. This serves to increase Your Voice‘s credibility rather than detracting from it: stubborn characters caught up in the trivialities of the world may seem unreasonable to us viewers, who are seeing things from an external perspective. While we might be able to see the bigger picture, it is not so difficult to imagine ourselves as being entangled in the moment, during which solutions are not so straightforwards.

  • I therefore contend that a degree of empathy is required to enjoy media where drama is involved. It can be easy to dismiss the characters’ problems as trivial, but I imagine that many have been in difficult spots before, during which a solution seems out of reach. As a software developer, I am acutely aware that sometimes, it does take another person to help out: the bugs that I miss in my code, from having the wrong Boolean, to a flipped comparison operator, has sent me on bug hunts lasting hours, only to be solved when one of my coworkers steps through and points out the error. When Yuu runs off, it is Nagisa who goes after her. After listening to Yuu explain why her grandfather has such a role in her life, Nagisa contends that it is possible for her to make up with Kaede.

  • As evening sets in, Yuu and Nagisa begin yet another broadcast, with the aim of reaching Kaede. Nagisa points out on the show that everything Yuu’s done is a consequence of an honest effort, that Kaede’s enmity towards Yuu is unjustified. Yuu adds that she welcomes the challenge, and Kaede, listening in while at work, decides that the time has come to step her game up. This wraps the secondary narrative up, and with this, Your Voice enters its final act.

  • I’ve noticed that all discussions of Your Voice date back to shortly after the film’s première last August, and since then, discussions on Your Voice have otherwise been non-existent. With the film now out now, then, it is a bit surprising that Your Voice has not generated more conversations elsewhere, so it looks like for at least a while longer, this will remain the only passable collection of screenshots from Your Voice. In the time that has passed since last August, A Place Further Than The Universe aired. Inheriting many of the same features and development patterns, I feel that Your Voice can be seen as a warm up act for A Place Further Than The Universe.

  • Yuu eventually manages to convince her grandfather to leave Aquamarine until at least the end of summer vacation, but Shion reveals that the additional time won’t be of any use: their efforts insofar had not been of any consequence, and her mother is set for transfer to another health facility well. Perhaps also realising the weight of what’s been occurring, Nagisa runs out into the pouring rain and cries her eyes out. However, this is not the end: Nagisa’s the sort of person to get right back up after getting knocked down, after all.

  • The time between the première in August of last year and the home release is staggering: nine months, or 50 percent longer than the previous average of six months. It’s been a recent trend for anime films to release their BDs and DVDs much later than the première, and I’ve heard that it’s to do with sales figures; since home release sales are not as sure as they once were, companies simply keep their movies running in the theatres for longer. While I’m not adverse to waiting for anime films to come out, it does mean that if trends continue, the gap between première date and home release dates will continue to increase as time wears on.

  • While en route to the new health facility, Shion sees a kotodama floating outside. Realising that Nagisa’s claims were true after all, she feels that Nagisa might also be doing something with Aquamarine and asks her father to turn the radio on. The kotodama‘s existence in Your Voice are ambiguous until this moment, whereupon it becomes clear that they are more than something Nagisa believes. This is the single supernatural aspect of Your Voice, which is otherwise very grounded in reality, and was likely intended to drive home the message about the power of words, were it not already clear.

  • As it turns out, Nagisa and her fellow radio show hosts had relocated to the shrine, where a large group of listeners have aggregated to support Nagisa’, her team, Shion and her mother. Hearing Nagisa’s determination prompts Shion to ask their driver to return into the broadcast area when the signal cuts out, and the scene crescendos into the climax when the girls begin singing. Your Voice does a great deal over its 90-minute run, and there’s a great deal going on, mirroring the chaotic nature of life itself. However, everything converges on the singular goal of helping Akane reawaken, with the other positives that come of this endeavour serve to reiterate that when judiciously applied, voices can have a meaningful impact on listeners.

  • The sheer intensity of emotions in the moment create numerous kotodama that precipitates Akane’s reawakening. I absolutely loved the message of Your Voice: while I ardently believe that actions hold a much greater weight than words alone, it is true that the right words at the right time can make all the difference. The resultant ending to Your Voice is one that was unsurprising but well-deserved: while the plot’s progression holds no twists and ends in the manner that one might expect it to, the journey is nonetheless one that is heart-warming to watch. Heart is something that Your Voice has plenty of, and we can’t reasonably ask for more than a little heart in these troubled times.

  • In the epilogue, Shion spends time with her mother, and here, I would recommend this film. If and when I am asked about a more concrete score, I find that Your Voice earns an A- (3.7 on a four-point scale, or 8.5 of ten). More time would’ve been nice to deliver parts of the story, especially the Nagisa’s restoration of the radio program with her friends, and a greater resolution for Yuu and Kaede beyond what was seen in the film, but beyond this, Your Voice is very clear about what it aimed to leave audiences with after everything was said and done. I do note here that these are my opinions alone – I am a bit of a sucker for sentimental stories, and individuals different than myself may experience Your Voice in different manner. Further to this, I am similar to TheRadBrad in that I tend to focus on the positives rather than the negatives, which is why I usually enjoy most what I decide to write about.

  • The events of this fateful summer gives Nagisa a concrete path to follow, and she becomes a radio show host in Tokyo, showing that she has found her way. This brings my talk on Your Voice to a close, and with a fair review of the film in the books, I turn my eyes towards what’s next. We’ve passed the halfway point of June now, which means that Amanchu! AdvanceComic Girls and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online‘s finales are nearing. In addition, summer is only three days out, so I’ve got a pair of special topics posts lined up, as well. The Road to Battlefield V‘s final phase is beginning this week, and once over, I imagine the final patch for Battlefield 1 will be released. Finally, the Steam Summer Sale is also expected to begin this week.

While perhaps more rudimentary in its goals, and hampered by its shorter runtime, which precludes exploration of other narratives that ended up being solved quickly, Your Voice is nonetheless a solid film whose execution is of a high standard. Your Voice is set in Enoshima, a location previously seen in Tari Tari, and while perhaps not quite as vivid or faithful as Tari Tari‘s Enoshima, Your Voice nonetheless makes use of the area to create a compelling setting for notions of the self-discovery warranted by the nearly-endless summer days. Coupled with a musical score that outlines the gentle hope in Your Voice, the film itself is an enjoyable watch overall: I would recommend this film, especially for individuals looking for a film to ease into the upcoming summer with. Easy to follow and direct, Your Voice might not be a powerhouse blockbuster or revolutionise how I see the world, but it is effective as a feel-good movie. Your Voice has one additional contribution that cannot be ignored – it sets the precedence for the well-received and excellent A Place Further Than The Universe. With a similar atmosphere and art style, it is quite clear that A Place Further Than The Universe had taken the learnings from Your Voice to produce an anime that ended up positively impacting many viewers. With this in mind, it was instructive to see the progression of the rather unique art style that Madhouse utilised in Your Voice and how it became smoother by the time A Place Further Than The Universe was aired. I previously remarked that the rather unique art style of A Place Further Than The Universe was capitalised upon to create expressiveness in characters to augment the idea that voices can tell a surer story of than images alone, and the origins in Your Voice are quite apparent: Nagisa is as expressive as Shirase and Mari, giving her character life and giving audience cause to empathise with her as she discovers what her calling in life is.

Uchiage Hanabi, Shita Kara Miru ka? Yoko Kara Miru ka? (Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?): A Review and Reflection

“Even the wisest cannot tell. For the mirror shows many things: things that were, things that are and some thins that have not yet come to pass.” —Lady Galadriel, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring

On the day of Moshimo’s local fireworks festival, Norimichi Shimada and his friends make a bet as to whether or not fireworks are flat or round when viewed from another vantage point. On the way to school, Norimichi notices Nazuna standing by the seaside, who’s found a small glass ball. Nazuna later encounters Norimichi and Yūsuke at the pool, when the two are assigned to clean up the pool deck. She challenges them to a race and makes a request of the winner. When Yūsuke wins, she asks him to meet her later, but after she returns home and hears of her mother’s remarks, she decides to run away from home. She encounters Norimichi at a local clinic and mentions to him that she was hoping that he’d win. Norimichi later runs into Nazuna’s mother, who drags her back home and causes the contents in Nazuna’s suitcase to spill out. When Yūsuke and the others arrive, Norimichi realises that Yūsuke did not meet with Nazuna and throws the glass ball at him. Subsequently, Norimichi finds himself back at the school pool, wins the race and promises to meet up with Nazuna. He finds Yūsuke in his room and manages to shake him off, taking Nazuna to the train station. Before he can board the train, Nazuna’s mother and her boyfriend arrive, separating the two, leaving Norimichi to rejoin the others. At the lighthouse, the fireworks take on a flat shape, and Norimichi later fights with Yūsuke over Nazuna. Throwing the glass ball again, Norimichi sends himself back to the point before Nazuna’s mother arrives, and this time, fends off her boyfriend, buying the pair enough time to board the train. Nazuna and Norimichi then share their thoughts for the future, and Nazuna sings as the train passes through a tunnel. However, they are spotted by Yūsuke and the others, leading them on a wild chase that leads back to the light house. Up here, Nazuna and Norimichi view the fireworks, which morph into flowers: despite the surrealness of the moment, Nazuna asks Norimichi if it is satisfactory that they are together. Before Norimichi can answer, Yūsuke arrives and pushes him off the lighthouse, leading Nazuna to fall, as well. Norimichi returns to the train, and this time, pushes Nazuna out of sight when passing the train crossing. The train continues on a track over the ocean, and enters a surreal space, seemingly inside the lighthouse itself. Norimichi and Nazuna share their final moments together and kiss while the lighthouse enclosure around them crumbles, with shards hinting at their futures littering their surroundings. Nazuna expresses her desire to meet him again, wondering what awaits them, and swims off. The next day, Norimichi is absent from their class’ roll call. This anime adaptation of the 1993 film captures the youthful approach to budding romantic feelings amongst three classmates and was released in Japan in August 2017, making use of the supernatural to drive its narrative forwards over its ninety-minute runtime.

Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?, Fireworks from here on out for brevity, is a love story at its core; as an adaptation of the 1993 iteration, its central premise is set around the idea of being able to make use of do-overs. Norimichi and Yūsuke both have feelings for Nazuna, who returns Norimichi’s feelings. The friendship between Yūsuke and Norimichi becomes increasingly strained throughout the movie’s run, and this rift continues to challenge Norimichi’s pursuit of time with Nazuna. It is through the inclusion of a glass ball capable of turning back time, through a supernatural trinket, that Norimichi is able to explore what challenges might lie in a relationship with Nazuna, and also, what outcomes might ensue if he should persist. That Norimichi requires divine intervention in the form of time travel, and moreover, multiple do-overs, in order to reach a point where he and Nazuna share a kiss, illustrates the finicky, uncertain nature of love and relationships. There are numerous what-ifs, and Fireworks seems to suggest that the way to starting and maintaining a relationship lies in a razor’s edge. Each do-over that brings Norimichi closer to Nazuna, however, comes at a price. As he works out those impediments that stand between him and Nazuna, his world becomes increasingly surreal environment. From fireworks defying the laws of physics, to the Puella Magi Madoka Magica-like world that is presented, Fireworks makes extensive use of imagery to evoke the idea that starting a relationship is a very tumultuous, phantasmagorical experience. Whether or not the events depicted on the night of fireworks actually occurred remains ambiguous, emphasising to viewers that falling in love is dream-like in nature: you have absolutely no idea of what you are doing, but it is exciting and, one way or another, it is over way too fast. What actually happened between Norimichi and Nazuna remain unexplored, leaving audiences to fill in the gaps. Norimichi and by extension, the viwer, is thus left with many unanswered questions, and having experienced what falling in love is like, is not content to merely sit on his hands. His absence at the closing of Fireworks hints at his having cut class to be with Nazuna, who, despite Norimichi’s efforts, was forced to move anyways.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Summer is my favourite time of year: the days are long and warm, inviting to adventure. Explorations come in many varieties, and love is a possibility, as well. By contrast, I feel that winter is the least romantic time of year: the miserable weather and days of seemingly eternal darkness is a dampener on the mood. For this post on Fireworks, I will feature thirty screenshots and my customary quip that thirty screenshots does not fully cover everything in this film, but nonetheless should offer a reasonable breadth for some of my thoughts on this film, which I’ve been interested in seeing since it screened in Japanese cinemas last August.

  • Feeling somewhat like Typhoon Noruda‘s Noruda, Nazuna’s character has only a limited timespan to develop over Fireworks‘ runtime. From what audiences gather, she’s not particularly sociable and doesn’t get along with her mother, but beyond this, is also counted as being quite beautiful, enough to capture Norimichi and Yūsuke’s attention. At the movie’s start, she finds a glass ball that is beautifully rendered, and while it initially looks to be of limited significance, this little device is a Chekov’s Gun that plays a nontrivial role in the events of Fireworks.

  • Miura is Norimichi and Yūsuke’s instructor. Her figure and assets draw the interest of the male students in her class, especially those of Norimichi’s friends, who wonder what her measurements are. Miura only has a minor role in Fireworks, but she is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who most will better know for her role as Garden of Words and Your Name‘s Yukari Yukino. Aside from both being instructors, Yukari and Miura also share the (perhaps unfortunate) distinction that their respective looks seem to garner unwanted attention from students. Beyond this, the two instructors are quite different: Yukari is more slender and graceful, while Miura is more active in disciplining her students and has more of a no-nonsense personality.

  • While attempting to work out what Miura’s measurements are using the inefficient brute force approach (a fancy way of saying exhaustive guessing), one of Norimichi’s friends is hit in the face with a not-so-stray volleyball, resulting in a hilarious funny face moment. I note that it is possible to probably eyeball these numbers using a variety of tricks from something like the Handbook of Geometric Topology or else use sophisticated image recognition algorithms, but the better question is, why?

  • I would almost certainly balk at the prospect of another student walking on my desk in class. After boldly asking ifMiura has a boyfriend, one of Norimichi’s friends draws Miura’s ire: of the group, he’s quite attracted to her and messes with her frequently. His escapades eventually end up with him tripping near Norimichi’s desk and landing flat on his face. The school that Norimichi attends has a very distinct architecture, being composed of two circular buildings connected by a central area.

  • Fireworks places a great deal of focus on one of the spiral staircases within the school, and interiors are also rendered with a good amount of clutter. As a result of this design choice, and the fact that some of the female students seen earlier have a well-defined figure, one can reasonably surmise that this is probably a middle and secondary school rolled into one. If this is the case, then one can similarly suppose that this town is a smaller one. Here, Nazuna hands Miura a letter from her parents mentioning her transfer out of this school.

  • Weather of this sort graced my area on Saturday, during which it felt as though the world had decided it appropriate to skip spring and jump into summer. I capitalised on the fantastic weather for the second round of Poutine Week and visited Leopold’s Tavern for their Crispy Chicken Cheesy Buffalo Dill Poutine. This poutine is as delicious as its name is long – topped with crunchy, succulent chucks of fried chicken, deep fried battered cheese curds, a rich cheese sauce and Buffalo-dill sauce, this was a very hearty and tasty creation that reminds me of the over-the-top foods served in a fair’s midway. Because the weather was pleasant, and partially to burn off some of the food energy from this poutine, we took a walk around the downtown core under pleasant skies.

  • Nazuna is quite mysterious, and all the more compelling as a character for that. She’s resting by the poolside here and lazily shares a conversation with Norimichi, before challenging him and Yūsuke to a race, on the condition that she’ll pick the winner to listen to what she has to say. In the first iteration, Norimichi injures his foot and is impeded by pain, leaving Yūsuke to win. Nazuna explains that she wants to see the fireworks with him and asks him to meet her by five.

  • Back in the classroom, Norimichi’s friends argue over what shape fireworks are. In the original Fireworks movie, everyone was in the sixth grade and close to the age of eleven. Here, the anime adaptation presents them as being somewhat older – I would hazard a guess of grade nine based on the guys’ behaviours, which corresponds with an age around fourteen. The wager of what shape fireworks are feels a little out of place in their age group, especially considering that fourteen-year-olds would be more learned and make use of resources to answer their query. The limited presence of smartphones gives Fireworks a timeless quality: the original live action film was produced in 1993, before the advent of such technologies.

  • With this being said, the choice to bring the characters’ ages up for the animated movie is probably so the anime can facilitate humour and interactions of the sort that older characters can permit, as well as so love can be explored with a greater level of detail: I cannot say this with full certainty because I’ve not seen the original 1993 Fireworks movie. While we are on the topic of things unknown, the real-world basis for Moshimo is not certain; the town’s name approximates to “if only I had”, which is a recurring theme in Fireworks, but beyond being a generic, if beautifully-rendered, seaside town, little English-language materials exist pertaining to what real world places influenced Moshimo, if any.

  • When Norimichi arrives home, he finds Yūsuke already in his room. While mobile devices do not have a significant presence in Fireworks, the presence of flat-screen televisions and a game console suggest that this incarnation of Fireworks might happen in the early 2000s. Beyond this, I do not have the know-how to pin down when precisely Fireworks is set: modern consoles can play retro games, further confounding the year. I imagine that leaving the time period ambiguous in Fireworks is a deliberate choice, giving the anime a timeless feel that acts as a callback to the original 1993 live-action film.

  • Fireworks suggest that the outcome of an event can be changed by the most trivial of details: things derail rapidly because Norimichi lost the race. Most folks will know this as the butterfly effect, where small changes in a system can have a dramatic change on the outcome (e.g. manipulating parameters of a simulation, or values of an expression). While the butterfly effect largely applies to complex systems, such as weather and quantum mechanics, it’s a popular literary device in fiction because it is a more tangible description of how small events can have unexpected consequences.

  • Because Yūsuke ended up winning the race but winds up standing Nazuna up, Norimichi runs into her at a clinic while getting his wound treated, and he is powerless to stop Nazuna’s mother from forcibly taking Nazuna home. In reality, this is where most relationships end up. While we well know that the world is not this simple, the literary device does allow for a certain message to be conveyed: in Fireworks, the narrative uses the butterfly effect to suggest that Norimichi’s feelings for Nazuna can only be returned if a very specific set of events happen, and that in the absence of a priori knowledge, one cannot make the decisions that favour an outcome where Norimichi ends up with Nazuna. It therefore stands to reason that Fireworks is suggesting that in the absence of blind luck, a relationship can be quite difficult to get of the ground.

  • Throwing the glass ball results in time reverting back to a point specified. Without any science fiction style justifications of how this actually works, like the body-switching phenomenon in Your Name, time travel in Fireworks is left unexplained because it is present to facilitate the narrative. The how is not as important as the why, so audiences must suspend their disbelief and accept that Norimichi is now able to load from a save state, as it were, because this is what allows Fireworks to make its message clear to viewers.

  • After reloading, Norimichi manages to escape from Yūsuke and takes Nazuna to the station on his bike. Knowing the successive outcomes of events in Fireworks enables Norimichi to be increasingly bold in his interactions with Nazuna. However, foreknowledge has its limitations, and he’s forced to return to improvising as best as he can to spend time with Nazuna whenever things go south. This is what prompts the page quote, which is sourced from Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring: after arriving in Lothlórien, Frodo encounters Lady Galadriel, who shows him the Mirror of Galadriel and warns him that what is seen in the mirror are merely possibilities future.

  • At the train station, Nazuna explains to Norimichi her circumstances; because of difficulties at home, she’s running away, and having brought Norimichi along, counts it as eloping, feeling it to be more mature than merely running away. It turns out that her mother also eloped previously, and Nazuna wonders if it’s in her blood to handle challenges in this manner. When Norimichi wonders where they’ll go, Nazuna considers Tokyo. She imagines herself taking a job at a convenience store or in the more shady side of things to make ends meet.

  • To throw off any potential tails, Nazuna switches into a white dress. The colour is long associated with purity and a blank slate: Nazuna dons one, mirroring her longing for a new start. When Norimichi wonders how Nazuna will find work, given that she’s under the age requirements, Nazuna remarks that she could probably pass for sixteen. The ages of the characters in Fireworks have been ambiguous: on one hand, the characters are clearly not eleven as in the original Fireworks, but they don’t seem mature enough to be high school students, either. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that Norimichi and Nazuna are around fourteen.

  • Norimichi’s first attempt to board the train fails when Nazuna is taken away, and after he resets things again, he manages to fend off Nazuna’s mother’s boyfriend, buying the two enough time to board. Afforded some quiet, Norimichi and Nazuna share a conversation before the latter begins performing Ruriiro No Chikyu (瑠璃色の地球), one of Seiko Matsuda’s songs. Matsuda is a well-known pop singer in Japan and began her career in the 80s: this period has some of the greatest Cantonese pop artists of all time, and Matsuda’s songs sound like the best Canto-pop songs of the day. I know Matsuda best for her performance of Taisetsu na Anata (大切なあなた), which was covered by Vivian Lai in the song 陽光路上 (jyutping joeng4 gwong1 lou6 soeng5).

  • Because it is possible that none of the events past Norimichi throwing the glass ball actually occurred, Fireworks hints at the idea that in love and relationships, especially surrounding  a first love, is a world of “what-ifs”. When a relationship fails or never makes it past the first stage, minds often become consumed with these hypothetical “what-ifs”. Relationship advice usually entails “let go of the past, make the most of the present and pursue the future”; I usually find relationship advice to require a personalised approach, but here is some advice that I feel is effective. What was once lost usually cannot be regained, so the advice is really telling people that there usually are other opportunities out there, and if one’s eyes are facing the past, they cannot enjoy the present or see future opportunity.

  • If I were to do a review based purely on the scenes that are firmly set in reality, however, then this post would probably have been published a few days ago and have only ten screenshots. However, to ignore the other parts of the film would result in a disappointingly short discussion. In this particular iteration, Norimichi and Nazuna are spotted by both Nazuna’s mother and Norimichi’s friends, who give chase. The pair manage to evade their pursuers and reach the old lighthouse, where they stop to view the fireworks and catch their breath.

  • Despite the bet about what shape fireworks are figuring prominently in Fireworks‘ synopsis elsewhere, as well as forming the basis for the story’s title, actual fireworks do not figure very prominently in the film. The fireworks displays that are seen in Fireworks from the lighthouse take on very unusual properties, exploding in a disk or else dispersing pedal-like sparks. The final display is seen underwater. The disconnect in the title is intended to represent the split in interests: Norimichi can either spend time with his friends or Nazuna, but not both, and because it is with his friends that the fireworks become relevant, the relatively few moments with normal-looking fireworks is likely indicative of where Norimichi’s heart lies.

  • Norimichi is aware that what he’s seeing is not reality, evidenced through the unusual fireworks patterns, and Nazuna replies that reality or not, as long as she’s with him, it matters not. While a highly romantic thought, it’s also likely the result of Norimichi’s thoughts, rather than anything the real Nazuna might say. In our imaginations, people become what we imagine them to be, and it is only in the mind’s eye where the most romantic, or even forbidden, thoughts might manifest. Reality is harsher, and when the magic of a relationship’s start wears off, whether or not that relationship will endure is determined by a multitude of factors, including trust, commitment, faithfulness and loyalty. At the risk of stepping on many toes, I feel that the strongest relationships are not necessarily those with the most romantic moments, but the ones where two partners continue to find ways of working together to get through difficult times and enjoying the good times together.

  • When Norimichi is pushed off the lighthouse, he loads another save state (the fourth, I believe) and returns on board the train. This time, he pushes Nazuna out of sight, ending up on top of her and sparing them the trouble of being spotted. This sets in motion the final phase of the movie: it’s taken a fair number of attempts for Norimichi to really be alone with Nazuna. As the train they’re on continues travelling, it switches tracks and begins passing over the ocean itself as evening sets in, creating a beautiful and surreal setting.

  • As the train travels over the ocean under the violet hour, the scene evokes a very viseral representation of what love is like: ethereally blissful, but also uncertain in that no one really knows where the train will stop next.  When the train reaches its destination, Norimichi and Nazuna disembark to find themselves in a world covered by a vast dome, seemingly inside the lighthouse’s light fixture itself. Fireworks has done much to set up the events leading up to Norimichi and Nazuna finding themselves in a space where they are assured of some solitude, and if it was not visible earlier, then there is no doubt by now that the movie has stepped into the realm of the hypothetical.

  • While Nazuna might be fourteen, Fireworks renders her character in a manner such that she appears older than she is. After reaching the ocean’s edge and inviting Norimichi to join her, Nazuna begins stripping down into a lighter gown before entering the water. She looks several years older in this moment, smiling at Norimichi in an almost seductive manner. Norimichi eventually relents and joins here. Meanwhile, on the shore opposite, the fireworks technician manages to come across the glass ball, and while drunk, loads it into the fireworks apparatus and fires it off, shattering the done surrounding their world.

  • In the film’s final moments, Nazuna and Norimichi see visions of the future in the glass shards that fall to the surface. These visions illustrate all that could’ve been: because the future is always in motion, it is very tricky to pin down what will occur. Yūsuke, for instance, sees that if he’d simply chosen to go with Nazuna, he would’ve had a memorable time with her and this could’ve led to something more. However, because he chose to remain with the status quo, nothing ever occurred. Similarly, Norimichi sees a vision of him and Nazuna kissing while overlooking Tokyo Bay.

  • One might even say that the complex system that is human society can result in any number of possibilities. Because human interactions are turbulent and chaotic, it can be nigh-impossible to predict the long-term outcomes merely from a snapshot in a moment. Fireworks acts as a bit of a snapshot; it presents parts of the story and leaves the others out to remind audiences of this reality. As Grand Admiral Thrawn might put it, Fireworks is very artistically done – it takes a bit of thinking to really figure out why the movie is presented in the manner that it is, but behind all of the visual metaphors, symbols and motifs, the message underlying everything is straightforwards.

  • At the film’s climax, Norimichi and Nazuna kiss while underwater, before Nazuna heads off, mirroring her departure. In reality, it is clear that Norimichi did not really have any ability to stop Nazuna from leaving, and that Nazuna’s desire to elope was more of a whim. While perhaps thought of as being quite romantic, kissing underwater is quite impractical: besides the small matter of breathing and the elevated heart rate when one is in such a moment, some people (like myself) also find it painful to open their eyes underwater, making aiming a rather challenging task.

  • I’ve not mentioned the incidental music in Fireworks thus far – the soundtrack to Fireworks is quite varied, from melodic and emotional pieces right down to the mood-setting pieces that play whenever Norimichi’s friends are around. It goes without saying that I prefer the string and piano pieces in the soundtrack. A quick glance at the box office numbers shows that Fireworks did modestly well at the box office, with a gross of 26 million internationally, and grossed 4.2 million within three days of its première, becoming the best-performing Shaft film thus far.

  • At the end of the day, I found this movie quite fun to watch, and I think of it similarly to what I thought of Hirune Hime. Today marks the final day of April, and so, this is going to be my last post for April, as well. We’re now moving into May, a time when spring really kicks into high gear. Looking ahead, I don’t have any posts in mind aside from the scheduled talks about Amanchu! Advance, so May and June will be a bit of a free-for-all with respect to what I write about. Having said this, however, Battlefield 1 and The Division both have some exciting things upcoming, so the reduced number of anime posts might not be such a bad thing.

In reality, fireworks are simply explosions and will always explode in a spherical pattern. Variations in air turbulence, density and pressure may affect the rate of an explosion’s movement in a direction, but the end shape is a sphere. To create shapes in fireworks, pyrotechnicians running the show will have previously packed the fireworks with pieces of cardboard having the desired shape, often in multiples, to ensure that the fireworks can explode with the required effect and give the same view from a range of angles. As a result, fireworks will be round from almost any perspective, certainly not flat as some of the boys in Fireworks suggest. Deviance from this outcome is indicative of a universe where the laws of physics no longer apply, and in Fireworks, the visuals are done with a very high quality, enough to convince audiences of an unreal reality. While inconsistent in some places, Fireworks is a very stunning anime. From the details of the mirror inside the lighthouse, to the play of light in the glass ball, and water effects in the pool, Fireworks captivates its viewers with its exceptional artwork and lighting. While not directly pertinent to the narrative, Fireworks‘ use of high-detail moments provide a pause in the story, encouraging viewers to consider what has already occurred, before things move on to the next scene. The sum of these elements come together to create a film that excels technically and also provides an engaging, if simple, story for viewers, making extensive use of visual elements to reiterate the notion that love is tumultuous and chaotic. Overall, I would give this movie a recommendation: while nothing world-changing and somewhat ambiguous, it’s nonetheless a fun interpretation of what young love must feel like, putting into not words, but pictures, the feelings associated with striking up the courage to be with someone special.

Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari (Napping Princess: The Story of the Unknown Me): A Review and Reflection

“I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.” ―Elon Musk

The Kingdom of Heartland is entirely driven by vehicle manufacture, and the heiress, Ancien, is given a magical tablet that allows her to bestow life into mechanical creations. She encounters a pirate named Peach when a Colossus attacks, helping him drive off the Colossus when the nation’s war machines, the Engineheads, fail. It turns out that this is a dream that Kokone has – she is a high school student who lives with her father, Momotarō, a skilful but taciturn mechanic who draws the attention of agents from the corporation Shijima Motors, who accuse him of stealing company secrets. Watanabe, oneof Shijima’s advisors, arrives to retrieve the tablet, and when Momotarō refuses, he is taken in for questioning. Kokone manages to recover her father’s tablet with help from Morio, an old friend. After dozing off and dreaming that her motorcycle can fly, Kokone awakens to find herself in Osaka. She makes her way to Tokyo with the intent of meeting with Isshin Shijima, the chairman of Shijima Motors, and while sleeping along the way, Kokone realises that her father’s story about Heartland was inspired by her mother, Ikumi. Upon meeting Isshin, Kokone learns that her mother had developed self-driving software but was denied permission to continue with the project. In Heartland, the Colossus attacks again, but Ancien manages to upload a spell into the remaining Enginehead, which Bewan (the King’s advisor and the parallel to Watanabe) had planned to use to usurp the King. In a pitched fight, the Colossus is destroyed, but Bewan attempts to destroy Heartland. Peach flies the Enginehead into lower orbit to eliminate the remains of the Colossus, and back in reality, Kokone finds herself saved from certain death when her self-driving motor cycle arrives, fulfilling Ikumi’s promise to be there for her family. The company’s contribution to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics later progresses smoothly, and Isshin spends more time with Kokone and her father. Released in March 2017, Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari (Hirune Hime for brevity) is an unusual fantasy-adventure whose draw is its seamless transitions between Heartland and reality, resulting in a highly unique film that ended up being remarkably enjoyable to watch.

Beautifully rendered and presented, Heartland is a fantastical world of great scale that emphasises its fictional nature. Sequences set in Heartland were a thrill to watch, capturing a setting that is simultaneously familiar and different to reality. That Hirune Hime flits between the two suggest that for their initial differences, the Heartland that Momotarō created for Kokone and the real world are not so dissimilar. The blending of the two worlds means that, while there are some gaps within Hirune Hime, the overall thematic elements are never disrupted; Hirune Hime presents its themes when the narrative is set in the real world, and in the film, two messages stand out. The first is that familial love comes about in different ways, evident when Kokone realises that, contrary to her initial resentment towards her father for not reflecting on what Ikumi was like, he’d created an entire world to capture Ikumi’s character. This suggests that, while he is greatly impacted by Ikumi’s death, he nonetheless loves Kokone and thus, designs a story, a fairy tale of sorts to both give Kokone an idea of what kind of person her mother had been, without forcing himself to recount his painful experiences. The second aspect of Hirune Hime deals with the importance of accepting and valuing technological advancements – Ikumi had long foreseen a future with self-driving cars and wishes to pursue it, but when her father, Isshin, rejects her proposal, his company ultimately finds itself at the edge of a PR disaster years later, when Shijima Motors is tasked with showing the world how far Japan has come during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Because their own developments had not been fruitful, Watanabe resorts to unethical means of fulfilling his goal, with the aim of taking over the company. Technology is an ever-present part of Hirune Hime, as seen through Ancien’s (and Momotarō’s) tablet: that much of the film’s progression is driven by what has become a commonplace technology is a reminder of how much things have advanced, and illustrates that a refusal to accept and adopt new technology can have detrimental consequences in the long run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The soundtrack of Hirune Hime and the unusual combination of flatter character colouration creates a compelling opening; the music in Hirune Hime is composed by Yoko Shimomura, whom I know best for her video game soundtracks. The soundtrack in Hirune Hime features a predominantly classical component reminiscent of Beethoven and Chopin, which is par the course for her usual style, although Shimomura also utilises different styles in her game soundtracks for a diverse aural experience.

  • It’s been around seven years since tablets became popular: when Apple introduced the iPad back in 2010, the gadget was regraded as a curiosity, a bigger iPhone. However, seven years of progress has turned the tablet into a powerful productivity and entertainment platform. In Hirune Hime, Ancien receives a tablet that she uses to bring life to mechanised creations, although for her actions, she’s imprisoned in a glass tower.

  • While trying to retrieve her tablet, Ancien is spotted and is forced to navigate the exterior of the glass tower. It typifies the scale of construction in Heartland, and one can only imagine what it would have been like to experience this film in the theater: the movie originally released in Japan in March, and American theatres screened this during September this year. In spite of this, discussions on this film have been minimal, and I imagine that while I may view the film favourably, not everyone will feel the same way about it.

  • The film will switch between the real world and Heartland. Initially, these come across as being quite disjointed and seemingly unrelated, but as the film progresses, the events happening in one space begin correlating with the other in a clever manner. The connections are not explicit, forcing viewers to draw the connections themselves. Even early on in the film, similarities in things such as Joy (Kokone’s stuffed animal), the tablet and the motorcycle “Heart”, audiences are reminded that the worlds are more closely related than they appear.

  • Kokone is voiced by Mitsuki Takahata, an actress who primarily performs in live-action television dramas and has done some voice work in animated movies previously. She brings to the table a much more natural-sounding voice (as opposed to the likes of Ayane Sakura, Inori Minase and Mai Fuchigami); there’s a right time and place for different voices, and having the sort of voices from GochiUsa or Kiniro Mosiac in a film would be quite off-putting.

  • The Colossus and Engineheads bring to mind Pacific Rim: I saw the film only quite recently, and have heard that Pacific Rim: Uprising will be screened somewhere in 2018. There are a lot of elements that Hirune Hime cover, from the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and self-driving vehicles to consumer electronics. All of these aspects are touched on briefly, and some folks consider them to be shoehorned in; Hirune Hime covers quite a bit of turf, but I never found these to be too distracting from the film overall.

  • In Heartland, Peach and Ancien meet for the first time when Ancien decides to assist. Peach is using what appears to be the M79 grenade launcher, and manages to blow off the Colossus’ limb, which it starts regenerating. While conceptually similar to a kaiju, the Colossus is perhaps more closely related to Peter Jackson’s interpretation of  J.R.R. Tolkein’s Balrogs, fire spirits that were corrupted Maiar: in The Fellowship of The Ring, the Balrog Durin’s Bane appeared as a gargantuan being composed of magma, roars like an erupting volcano and emitted molten rock when struck.

  • In the film’s synopsis, Kokone is described as someone who can “fall asleep at will”, but Hirune Hime suggests otherwise. After returning home to find it deserted, Kokone decides to kip for a bit, returning to Heartland in the process. When she reawakens, she recongises Watanabe and makes to hide after realising what he’s after. Interior details in Hirune Hime are of a generally high quality and convey that lived-in sense.

  • Back in Heartland, Ancien introduces Peace to Heart; given life long ago, Heart can transform into a humanoid vehicle on command, and here, the vivid blue of a summer day can be seen. I’ve long found myself being drawn to anime with vivid blue skies, and this is actually what prompted my decision to watch Strike Witches; similarly, the reason why Yuyushiki reminds me of summer lies in the fact that the anime effectively captures what summer feels like.

  • Bewan arrives to requisition Momotarō’s tablet, the source of the rising action within Hirune Hime. In Heartland, it’s the source of Ancien’s power that he seeks to control, whereas in the real world, Watanabe is seeking to take control of the software that Momotarō had helped complete. Either way, Peach/Momotarō are arrested and held for questioning. From his manner to his appearance, Watanabe and Bewan is designed to be unlikable.

  • Back in the real world, Kokone manages to make off with Watanabe’s bags before he can check into his flight, escaping into the night with Morio’s assistance. The airport sequence brings back memories of when I was at the Rennes International Airport, which was a smaller airport that only opens at five in the morning. We had arrived early that morning, and I had temporarily managed to fight off a stomach bug at the time. The flight back from Paris was a long one, and I subsequently fell ill again after returning home, but the conference itself was quite fun. As of now, I’m still getting paper invitations in my old university inbox.

  • Morio himself enters the dream and pilots Heart through the night sky. Fantastical and visually stunning, both Heartland and the real world are rendered in a spectacular manner. The suspension bridge seen near Kokone’s home becomes a vast structure rising above the clouds; their night flight brings to mind the most famous scene from the 1982 film ET: I’ve not seen this film despite its renown, but even I’m familiar with the oft-parodied scene where Elliot and the alien fly across the night sky.

  • Upon arriving in Heartland, the vast cityscape is visible below. In this fictional world, the entire economy is directed towards vehicle manufacture, and bumper-to-bumper traffic is an epidemic. Economies in reality exist because of the need for commodities and skills to be exchanged, so a world where all expertise is invested in vehicle manufacture for a local population is not one that is sustainable for the long term. With this being said, such issues can be ignored in the context of evidently fictional worlds.

  • The next morning, Kokone and Morio find themselves in Osaka; in the real world, Heart had engaged an autopilot and safely delivered the two to Osaka, but ran out of gas. While audiences initially are left wondering just how Heartland and the real world are connected, it turns out that the transitions between the two are really just narrative elements, and quite unrelated. Later, Kokone and Morio realise they’re short on cash, but seemingly through magic, the necessary resources are provided for her to travel back to Tokyo.

  • It turns out that some staff from Shijima Motors have been assisting Kokone, as they have access to the same message board that Kokone’s been typing into. Here is a close up of the bento that train staff provide for her and Morio. Even at lower resolutions, the Japanese aesthetic is visible here, including a piece of haran: these plastic strips of grass are seen in boxed lunches and while mistakenly assumed to be for decoration, the actual purpose is to prevent some foods from coming into contact to preserve their flavour and longevity.

  • Morio is seen operating a VR headset throughout Hirune Hime, and unlike the full-dive headsets of Sword Art OnlineHirune Hime more conservatively suggests that VR headsets will remain bulky and cumbersome, similar to products available on the market, albeit in a more sophisticated format (Morio’s fingers suggest a virtual keyboard). En route back to Tokyo, Kokone falls asleep: the ride on the shinkansen is two and a half hours, with tickets starting from 13620 Yen (roughly 150 CAD) for a one-way trip.

  • Ancien manages to infiltrate one of the Engineheads and uses her magic to automate it, allowing it to perform much more effectively than previously possible, although the operators soon catch on and order the engines to be shut down. Ancien’s tenacity comes through; she exits the vehicle and sets off to manually re-light the engines. While she’s successful, she falls off the Enginehead, and is caught at the last second by Momotarō.

  • Through this particular dream, Kokone learns that Ancien is actually based off her mother, rather than herself, and the story suggests that Momotarō had tried to save Ikumi but failed, damaging his tablet in the process. This realisation leads Kokone to appreciate her father’s efforts to take care of her, and with renewed resolve, she sets off for Shijima Motor’s headquarters in Tokyo.

  • Kokone’s attempts to speak with Isshin fail when secretaries do not believe her identity. I note that for this review, I’ve opted to stick with thirty screenshots for brevity’s sake – I have not covered every conceivable topic that can come of this film to keep the post manageable in size. One of the aspects of Hirune Hime that I found to be an indicator of the film having focus is the fact that familial love is one of the main themes within the movie, and Kokone’s friendship with Morio remain merely thus, leaving the film free to focus on its central messages without unnecessarily introducing complexity.

  • The locations of Hirune Hime are likely accurate to their real-world counterparts: Chairman Shijima looks out at the scenery surrounding Rainbow Bridge on Odaiba Island. Odaiba Park and the Sixth Daiba are visible here: the latter was the setting for Koji Suzuki’s Solitary Isle, a short story in his Dark Water anthology. I’ve found that horror stories in written form tend to be a lot easier to enjoy, if only for the fact that there are no visual or audio cues that impact my internal sense of unease or dread.

  • In spite of Kokone not having introduced herself properly, Isshin begins telling her the story of Ikumi and her role at Shijima Motors. His resemblance to Heartland’s King is no coincidence, and I imagine that he recognises the doll in Kokone’s hands immediately, hence being able to recognise her as his granddaughter.

  • Passionate, devoted and brilliant, Ikumi was the first to propose Shijima Motors in exploring self-driven vehicles, but when turned down, she left the company and later married Momotarō, helping him work on a perfected version of the software. This is what Watanabe has been coveting, since he intends to replace Isshin as the chairman of Shijima Motors, and his success with self-driving vehicles at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will pave the way for his succession.

  • The final incursion into Heartland is done without warning and the revelation that Bewan was planning to betray the King roughly correspond with events of the real world. The chaotic nature of things hints at the climax of Hirune Hime arriving, and with the Colossus arriving to wreck havoc, the King resolves to step out onto the battlefield. Bewan’s betrayal is dealt with, after he reveals his intention to replace the King by using a special Enginehead to defeat the Colossus. Here, Kokone appears as herself, no longer seeing herself as Ancien.

  • Peach pilots the Enginehead and destroys the Colossus once and for all in a titanic battle, but Bewan manages to run a curse that threatens to destroy Heartland. This final battle seemed quite disjointed from the remainder of the film: it’s the one place in Hirune Hime that does not seem to relate to events in the real world.

  • Ultimately, Peach realises that there is another direction he can take to defeat the Colossus’ remnants; the remaining Enginehead engages a flight system and launches into the atmosphere, taking the Colossus’ fragments with it. This section is likely imagery for Momotarō coming to an understanding with his internal struggles about whether or not he should give up the algorithms for the self-driving vehicles concept that he and Ikumi had previously developed.

  • The outcome of whether or not Kokone is able to rescue Peach is left ambiguous, and while the messages behind the imagery of the final scenes in Heartland elude me, I cannot deny that they are not visually impressive, especially with respect to the swarms of what remains of the Colossus.

  • Owing to how chaotic things are towards the ending of Hirune Hime, how Kokone got into this situation is likely an exercise left to the viewer’s imagination. The gravity of this situation brings to mind Rick and Morty‘s Concerto, where Rick and Morty find themselves tied to a massive piano and facing certain death. While no Jaguar comes to save Momotarō and Kokone, the autonomous bike, Heart, makes a timely arrival, sparing the two from death.

  • It is this moment that led me to pick a quote from Elon Musk: a well-known entrepreneur and engineer, Musk has been leading developments in sustainable electric vehicles and autonomous systems for his Tesla line of vehicles. A firm advocate of innovation, Musk’s quote definitely applies to Momotarō and his continued love for Ikumi leading him to both continue her vision and care for Kokone in her stead.

  • After the Olympics, Isshin spends more time with his granddaughter and son-in-law on a peaceful summer’s afternoon. Momotarō continues working in his shop, declining Isshin’s offer for a position with Shijima Motors, and with this, Hirune Hime comes to an end. This marks the end of yet another anime film I’ve written about this year, which has seen the likes of Kimi no Na WaKoe no KatachiKono Sekai no Katasumi ni and Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale. It’s been a fantastic year for anime movies, with each film delivering enjoyment in a unique manner.

  • With this post at an end, I leave readers with another beautiful screenshot of summer in Japan, and will conclude this post by looking into the future: Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter begins this week, and I will be doing an episodic review of this anime. Tomorrow is a bank holiday, so I’ll also be looking to catch up with Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! and present my thoughts at the halfway point. In addition, I’m moving quite swiftly through Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and I’m locking in plans to pick up The Division once the Steam Black Friday sale is live.

The sum of a curious story that combines a fantastical setting with the real world, current issues and ideas, solid animation and artwork, and a fantastic soundtrack results in Hirune Hime being an entertaining watch. While it’s definitely not perfect (especially closer to the ending, where some leaps exist in the story as things pick up), the film overall presents a well-crafted story and solid thematic elements that kept me wondering what is to happen next with both Ancien and Kokone. Altogether, Hirune Hime earns a recommendation; it is impressive of how Heartland was presented to correspond with both people and events in the real world. Only by watching both does one gain a sense of who Momotarō, Ikumi, Isshin and Watanabe are within the context of Hirune Hime, and it was immensely rewarding to put these pieces together as a consequences of the two narratives being woven together to augment the viewer’s understanding of what is going on, even fi there are some shortcomings with this approach towards the film’s end. In conjunction with the humour arising from Kokone’s transitions between Heartland and reality, as well as how her friend, Morio, comes into Heartland, Hirune Hime is quite simply, fun; I was immersed for the whole of its runtime, and such films exemplify that stories can definitely be enjoyable and thought-provoking even if their setting is that of a colourful, vividly-portrayed world.

Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (In This Corner of The World): A Review and Full Recommendation

“Human beings are remarkably resilient. When you think about it, our species has been teetering upon the edge of the existential cliff since Hiroshima. In short, we endure.” —Rick Yancey

A young Japanese girl with a keen eye for sketching, Suzu, marries a man named Shūsaku after he arrives in Eba, Hiroshima, to propose to her. She moves to the town of Kure with him and begins living with his family as the Second World War rages on. When American bombers begin conducting bombing raids Japan, forcing the construction of air raid shelters and rationing, Suzu continues to live her life to the best of her ability, spending time with Keiko and her daughter, Harumi. She is visited by Tetsu Mizuhara, who had run into Suzu back when they were students. He had fallen in love with her, and later is assigned to serve on board the Aoba. As the air raids intensify, Suzu sees Harumi die in front of her when a delay-action bomb detonates. She survives but loses her right hand, grows depressed and longs to return to Hiroshima to be with her family. One day, while speaking to Keiko, she and Keiko notice a bright flash and a mushroom cloud coming from Hiroshima. She dissolves into tears upon learning of the Japanese surrender. In the aftermath, American soldiers arrive to assist the citizens, and Suzu visits Hiroshima, learning that her sister, Sumi, is suffering from radiation sickness: their mother and father perished in the atomic blast. She runs into Shūsaku while in Hiroshima and find a little girl orphaned by the atomic bomb; they agree to take her in, and Suzu slowly rediscovers her love for life, raising the little girl as her own. When the United States dropped Little Boy in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the world had been at war for nearly six years: the Axis powers had fallen, but Imperial Japan had continued to fight. Faced with the possibility of an extensive land invasion, the American leadership decided to put their faith in the atomic bomb, which had been successfully tested for the first time twenty-one days earlier. Three days later, the second atomic bomb, a plutonium implosion weapon code-named Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki, and Japan surrendered on August 15. The history books and documentaries I’m familiar with present the story from the Allied perspective, and the actions of the Imperial Japan’s military forces remain unjustifiable (especially considering their atrocities in Manchuria and Southeast Asia); it seems that the old phrase, that victory is written by the victors, very much hold true. Consequently, In This Corner of The World becomes a wonderfully moving film about the civilian perspective of the war and their struggles to survive as the war turned against Japan, presenting a perspective that is quite unique and illuminating.

Resilience and perserverence in maintaining a positive spirit underlies the messages of In This Corner of The World. In this film, the depiction of Suzu’s life before, during and after World War Two is broken up into snapshots into the more memorable moments of Suzu’s life. It is largely gentle, humourous and ordinary in nature, only shifting in tone as American bombers begin hammering Japan later into the war, and even then, Suzu’s efforts to maintain routine and find happiness in everyday things continue. Reduced rations lead her to cook more creatively to keep her new family in good spirits, and even when the air-raid siren sounds, she maintains a structured process to maintain her home’s safety before retreating to a shelter. Through it all, Suzu continues sketching and drawing, providing her a means of expression and escape even as American forces intensify their raids. Remarkably, these simple things in Suzu’s life confer upon her a considerable degree of stability and focus, allowing her to remain strong during difficult times. It is not until she loses her right hand in an explosion and watches Harumi die in front of her that her optimistic disposition is shaken, and at the movie’s climax, she bawls her eyes out after learning of the Allied victory. However, with unwavering support from Shūsaku and the fact that the occupying American forces prove quite friendly, she slowly regains her old outlooks, to the point where she takes in an orphan and raises her as family, suggesting that resilience is in part a result of having support from family on top of being individually-driven. With the support of those around her, Suzu comes to find happiness again in the days after the war has ended.

Aside from its concise thematic component, In This Corner of The World presents a distinct art style that brings to mind the approaches taken in The Tale of Princess Kaguya: gentle colours and clean character designs dominate In This Corner of The World, which has a very timeless feel to it. From the vividness of colours in the landscape to minor details inside the Hojo residence, In This Corner of The World illustrates the seeming normalcy and resilience in residents amidst the war. The entire film feels like a moving watercolour, allowing for boundaries between Suzu’s drawings and their reality to be blurred: the movie’s events are told with Suzu’s narration, and her imagination is woven seamlessly with her recollections of what’s happened. I’ve long held that a simpler art style with lower saturation really allows for the film’s visuals to focus on character motions and dialogue; this certainly holds true in In This Corner of The World. Aside from natural-sounding voice acting, one of the elements that In This Corner of The World captures in its characters are their facial expressions, which do much to convey how Suzu and the others are feeling even in the absence of words. I’m especially fond of how Suzu tilts her head whenever she’s embarrassed or hesitant, for instance. The combination of aural-visual elements in In This Corner of The World are of an exceptional standard and adds a sense of realism to the characters that serves to further draw in viewers into the story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before delving into this post further, I note that there will be forty screenshots rather than the usual thirty for In This Corner of The World owing to the amount of content that can be discussed, and further to this, I won’t be placing an emphasis on the Imperial Japanese Army or Navy hardware simply because, aside from a minor role, they do not figure too much compared to the human side of things. The film opens with Suzu riding a boat and recollecting her encounter with a monster of sorts to Sumi, her sister, and provides a vivid sketch of what she’s seen, including a boy close to her age when she falls into the monster’s basket by mistake.

  • Suzu’s family business is involved in the gathering and picking of nori (海苔), an edible seaweed of the genus Pyropia. The Japanese have a profound understanding of the cultivation and harvesting of nori, which is used widely in Japanese cuisine for wrapping sushi and onigiri, as well as garnishing soups. In her childhood, Suzu is close to her sister, Sumi, but neither of them are fond of their older brother, Yōichi, who constantly belittles Suzu. Yōichi is later killed in action and supposedly was so mangled, authorities send back a stone in place of his ashes, although Suzu and Sumi don’t appear to express much in response to news of his death.

  • By her own admission, Suzu is prone to daydreaming, but her tendency to daydream and vividly recall them probably led to the development of her art skills. Suzu’s enjoyment of sketching is a pivotal part of her character, and the extent of her skills are seen when Tetsu appears one evening to give Suzu a pencil, also asking her to help him with a class assignment. She creates a beautiful reproduction of the ocean, describing the froth of waves as rabbits. As it turns out, Tetsu is going through a difficult time upon learning that his older brother died in a ferry accident.

  • The Urano family hails from Hiroshima, specifically the Eba area. Located three kilometers from the epicenter of Little Boy’s airburst, Eba is a part of the Naka-ku (lit. “central ward”) district. Suzu is said to be extraordinarily ordinary, and is voiced by Rena Nōnen, an actress. One of the joys about films such as In This Corner of The World is the fact that female characters have realistic voices, standing in contrast with the squeaky voices seen in things like Girls und Panzer or GochiUsa.

  • Tetsu runs into Suzu one day, and in dialogue here, it appears that Tetsu has some feelings for Suzu, feeling irritated that Suzu is to marry someone she’d not met, and when Suzu remarks that Sumi will be more beautiful, Tetsu refutes this. He is assigned to the Aoba, a heavy cruiser that participated in combat at the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Savo Island. Heavily damaged by the submarine USS Bream, the Aoba would return to port and was sunk in Kure’s harbour in 1945.

  • It turns out that the boy in the monster’s basket was Shūsaku. His recollections of the day are different than Suzu, who has a tendency to daydream and so, remembers things differently. Suzu agrees to marry Shūsaku and finds in him an honest, stoic and devoted husband who’s always there to support her. Originally working in a civilian court, he is transferred into the military and later made to fight as the war intensifies.

  • In the eternal struggle between showers and baths, I’m still firmly on the side of #TeamShower, even after my experiences in a Japanese onsen a half-year ago. Granted, it is immensely comfortable to be completely immersed in hot water, which gives a sensation akin to having all of one’s stresses and worries evaporate, but ultimately, a shower conserves more water and is more effective at removing dirt and debris from one’s body. This is why onsen mandate that people wash up before entering the waters.

  • The unique art style in In This Corner of The World means that the characters look much younger than they are, and standing in sharp contrast with the art styles of anime I am wont to watching, have a much more classical, timeless feel that brings to mind the approach of The Tale of Princess Kaguya. While not a Studio Ghibli work, In This Corner of The World is nonetheless animated and presented with finesse: it is a film that will withstand the test of time.

  • Shūsaku’s family is generally accepting of Suzu: San is Shūsaku’s mother and bears a compassionate disposition, helping Suzu look after the hosue, while Entaro is Shūsaku’s father and is an engineer for Hiro Naval Arsenal. Shūsaku’s sister, Keiko, is initially quite hostile towards Suzu, regarding her in a negative light and clashes with her, but in spite of this, Suzu takes things in stride and does her best to get along with her.

  • Suzu carries a sketchbook with her and occasionally takes the time to sketch out the scenery around her. She runs into a woman named Rin Shiraki while walking through a part of Kure she’s unfamiliar with and strikes up a fast friendship with her, using her sketching skills to draw out a watermelon and some sweets. Because Suzu’s sketches closely match with the art style seen in In This Corner of The World, one can imagine that she is remarkably talented with her craft. The ages have changed substantially, and these days, one can create highly intricate drawings on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil.

  • There’s a certain charm in watching Suzu cook for her new family with the ingredients available to her. In her narration, she explains in detail the process behind her cooking methods, during which she takes whatever is accessible and does her best to create dishes that drive a sense of normalcy. Devising a routine and trying to do things as normally as possible is Les Stroud’s main suggestion for survival during difficult situations: in Survivorman, he explains that this is the reason why he takes the time to plan things out and attempt to do things as he would back home, and one of the first things he does is usually to create a fire from which he can warm himself and cook with.

  • Suzu’s setup here, with the dandelions, violets and sardines further brings to mind Les Stroud’s survival experiences in the Colorado Rockies, where he managed to catch some fish and coupled it with greens to make a survival meal, cooking it to mirror how one normally eats while at home. While Les Stroud is out in the wilderness, simulating survival situations in Survivorman, Suzu is living in wartime Japan. Despite the differences in their scenarios, very similar mindsets are utilised to maintain morale: Suzu’s cooking does much to keep the Hojo family happy even as resources begin dwindling.

  • The Hojo family settles down to dinner here, and despite the moody lighting, the atmosphere is a peaceable one. Things change shortly after Keiko’s arrival. Numerous scenes of the family during dinner are shown throughout In This Corner of The World, emphasising that meal times form stability amidst trying times. While In This Corner of The World released in theatres around a year ago and only became available back in September, I finished this movie just this week with what is known as the “Notorious PIG” poutine, which is an offering from the Big Cheese Poutinerie. Described as a concoction of pulled pork with BBQ sauce, maple-smoked bacon and Italian sausage, the poutine I bought was not merely topped with the meats, but packed with an inch-thick layer that proved both delicious and enduring: it took nearly ten minutes of eating my way through the wall of meats before I reached the poutine underneath.

  • Keiko’s daughter, Harumi, is only six, but remarkably well-versed on Japanese naval vessels. She greatly enjoys spending time with Suzu, who introduces to her the cumulonimbus clouds form of atmospheric instability and bring about thunderstorms. I’ve heard that when I was much younger, I could memorise the phone numbers of various companies and services that I’d seen on TVB commercials, so this must be a part of the developmental process when children take on a keen interest in a particular topic. I’m now characterised by an inability to memorise something as simple as a 4-digit code and have taken to writing down whatever I need to recall.

  • After Suzu is caught sketching naval vessels and accused of being a spy by the kenpeitai, a secret police akin to the Nazi’s SS, she is let off with a warning. When the kanpeitai leave, the whole of the Hojo family burst into laughter at the ludicrous situation; Suzu’s nature is unbefitting of that of a spy, and how seriously the kanpeitai presented themselves was also mocked. In particular, Keiko spent most of the afternoon fighting off a fit of laughter while the secret police had been present, only erupting in hysterics after they depart.

  • The landscape around Kure is beautifully departed, and the harbour, with its warships, is just visible in this still. The verdant blues and greens are a world apart now from local scenery: I took advantage of the fading-but-still-pleasant weather yesterday to hike the Ink Pots in Banff National Park. The trail through Johnston Canyon was covered in a thin layer of snow, and despite the ergonomics provided by new hiking shoes, the path was quite slippery. In the mountains during this time of year, snowfalls are not uncommon, but fortunately, the weather warmed up as the day progressed. The ink pots are reached by a 5.9 kilometre hike with an elevation gain of 335 metres and takes around two hours to complete one-way.

  • One afternoon, Suzu decides to visit Shūsaku, but before heading off, is treated to a hilarious lecture from Keiko that is sped up for great comedic effect: Keiko finds it appalling that Suzu is considering going into town as unkempt as she is and forces her to clean herself up. The increased pitch comes from the fact that the sound waves making up the audio track are shortened into a higher frequency ƒ, defined in Hz, is described by the relationship ƒ = 1/T, where T is the period in seconds. We are shortening the period T, so frequency increases, resulting in a higher-pitched sound. In In This Corner of The World, one imagines that Suzu regards Keiko’s manner in a light-hearted manner, and this is reinforced by the expression on Suzu’s face.

  • Described as a moderately difficult, the hike up to the Ink Pots was a bit tricky since the snow and ice made the inclines slippery. However, when we arrived in the meadows where the Ink Pots are, we were treated to a beautiful sight: there are five mineral water pools here, each coloured slightly differently because of their sediment content, and while a few had frozen over, one remained unfrozen, with its blue-green waters brilliant under a clearing sky. Another pool with darker waters also had yet to freeze, underneath a mountain in the distance whose upper slopes were covered in snow. Back in In This Corner of The World, Suzu meets up with Shūsaku at his workplace and the two set off after a friendly exchange when Shūsaku asks about Suzu’s health; owing to the makeup she’s donned, she has a distinctly pale appearance.

  • Suzu and Shūnsaku reminisce about how they’d met in Hiroshima years previously. It is a stroke of fate that Shūnsaku remembers their original meeting here, which Suzu only recounts in a dramatised account. After exploring the meadows around the Ink Pots, we turned around and returned back down the trail. Snow-covered during the chillier morning, warming temperatures cleared the trails, making the journey back down much easier than the ascent. We returned home late mid-afternoon and stepped out for dinner at a local Cantonese restaurant, which encompassed 沙拉骨 and 金沙蝦, along with a stir-fry known as 小炒王, which includes beef, chicken, scallops, shrimp, celery, beans, peppers and thinly-sliced Lotus rhizomes (蓮藕, Cantonese lein ngau), as well as crispy chicken – perfect after a long day’s hike.

  • Tetsu comes to visit one day, drawing Suzu’s irritation. Despite his brusque manner drawing Suzu’s annoyance mid-dinner, Shūnsaku allows him to stay in a storehouse on the family property and encourages Suzu to spend time with him, understanding that Tetsu’s time is likely short on account of his transfer to the Aoba. He admits to falling in love with Suzu and the two reminisce briefly before he departs.

  • One of the scenes I’ve not mentioned yet is when Harumi and Suzu notice a column of ants getting into their sugar jar; sugar became a highly valued ingredient, and to keep insects from it, they decide to place it in a bowl floating in a bucket of water. However, an accident results in the sugar being knocked into the water, leading to a dejected Suzu and Harumi. It is possible to recover the sugar using crystallisation, but considering the amount of water it was dissolved into, such an endeavour would have been tricky. One day, while sharing a conversation about Harumi’s everyday experiences at school, American planes appear. Their attacks were intended to damage military installations here, and in In This Corner of The World, F4U Corsairs are depicted firing rockets at ground targets. These are likely the HVAR “Holy Moses”, capable of punching through 1.22 metres of concrete and saw extensive use in the Pacific Theatre against transports, pillboxes and other stationary ground targets.

  • Suzu visits Entaro, who was injured and went missing after an American bombing raid on the Hiro Naval Arsenal, but is shown to be treated for his injuries at a hospital. Suzu brings Harumi along for the visit, and Harumi immediately wanders off, speaking with other sailors. After the visit ends, American raids begin yet again. At this point in the war, America had begun targeting Kure, as remaining IJN vessels were still harboured here, and owing to the harbour’s depth precluding the use of torpedoes, variable time-fused bombs were used, instead. During the raids, the Aoba is hit by four bombs and, with almost every ship in the IJN disabled save the Nagato, the Japanese naval presence was almost completely eliminated by this point.

  • Suzu hears warnings from firefighters nearby about the possibility of unexploded munitions making the area unsafe. At least one of the special bombs dropped by B-29s land in a seaside path, and detonates right beside Harumi, killing her instantly. In the aftermath, Suzu is critically injured and loses her right hand. During the course of In This Corner of The World, American fighters are shown strafing civilians, including a near-miss that very nearly kills Suzu. I did not find any records that indicate deliberate strafing of civilians during my brief search, but numerous accounts of US aircraft strafing airfields are found.

  • In the aftermath of Harumi’s death, Suzu reels from both the loss of Keiko’s child, whom she had grown very close with, and her right hand, which had allowed her the one escape and release from the difficulties she and her family faced during war. Keiko feels Suzu to be responsible for Harumi’s death, and wrought with guilt, Suzu falls into depression. She slowly recovers from injury, but the effects on her mental health are much more deep-seated.

  • Suzu’s depression is occasionally offset with a sense of anger and helplessness: when another firebombing leads to a bomblet landing in her house, Suzu attempts to put the fire out in a fit of desparation. To see an ever-optimistic character succumb to despair is always painful to watch, even in the context of fiction. One of the aspects in In This Corner of The World was seeing how the characters respond to the constant threat of air-raids, and one of the worst aspects about air raids are psychological: not knowing when the bombers will appear would have been emotionally taxing, and while the Hojo family develop a procedure to safeguard themselves, the US air attacks were somewhat unpredictable. By comparison, The Blitz in London failed to have any psychological effects on Londoners, who had grown accustomed to bombs falling as though it were rain and reacted accordingly.

  • In the account of P-51 pilot Captain Jerry Yellin, he mentions that his and his fellow pilots’ primary concern was carrying out their directives during the war. From the skies above, he never gave much thought to the people below, at the receiving end of the weapons, or their suffering. However, when he visited Japan some years later, he was astonished with their culture and feels that it is possible for formerly bitter enemies to become friends. Propaganda on all sides of World War II’s participants presented their enemies as monsters and animals to motivate the fighting spirit – allowing empathy and compassion would have eliminated this willingness to commit to the war effort, attesting to the unpleasant tendency in war to dehumanise one’s opponents.

  • Suzu and Sumi share a laugh when Suzu prods into the latter’s love life, when Sumi mentions that she’s eying an officier in the armed forces. Suzu has long felt Sumi to be more beautiful – this is not immediately apparent in the art style of In This Corner of The World, and indeed, Sumi bears great resemblance to Suzu, especially when embarrassed or flustered, barring the fact that Suzu has become more pale since she lost her right hand. Even so, Suzu occasionally finds joy in the small things in life and attempts to live to her fullest anyways.

  • On the morning of August 6, Suzu and Keiko are sharing a conversation, where Keiko apologises for having blamed Suzu for Harumi’s death, when a bright flash fills their room, followed by a shockwave. Kure and Hiroshima are separated by a distance of 18 kilometres as the mole digs; when the shockwave reaches the Hojo residence, the entire family steps outside to find a vast mushroom cloud filling the sky where Hiroshima is. When Little Boy was deployed at Hiroshima, Japan’s leadership were befuddled at what could have happened; as the atomic bomb’s presence was secret at the time, no one was sure as to what weapon this was. In This Corner of The World chooses to not depict the horrific effects of the blast, only showing its aftermath.

  • With an estimated blast yield of 15 kilotons, Little Boy flattened everything within 1.6 kilometres of the point of detonation, and started a firestorm 3.2 kilometres across. The airburst detonation reduced the radioactive fallout on the ground, but the gamma radiation emitted led to radiation sickness in exposed individuals in a 1.3 kilometre radius around the blast. People would have been vapourised by the intense heat, leaving nothing but shadows baked into the ground, and survivors further away would have suffered horrific burns and injuries, as well as the effects of acute radiation poisoning. Later, a black rain fell in Hiroshima, but this would have offered limited relief in halting the firestorms.

  • After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, American propaganda aimed to minimise reports of the atomic bombs’ effects on civilians, instead, showing only the mushroom clouds and the possibility of deploying additional atomic weapons to bring the war to an end. At this point in time, American sentiments leaned towards the total elimination of the Japanese, and a film such as In This Corner of The World would be unthinkable. At present, our society has been more open about the horrors of warfare, and seeing the lives of fellow human beings subject to these horrors have inspired folks to promote peace. While the events of In This Corner of The World are fictional, the film strives to maintain realism in depicting the lives of the Japanese during the war.

  • At noon on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito released a recording announcing Japan’s intention to open dialogues with the Allied powers and accept the Potsdam Declaration. Delivered in Classical Japanese, most listeners were not certain of whether or not Japan was intending to surrender. In In This Corner of The World, the Hojo family meets the news with resignation and sorrow, wondering what Japan under American occupation would be like, and Suzu is driven over the edge, demanding that the country can continue fighting on much as she did. It’s the strongest expression of emotion from Suzu in the whole of In This Corner of The World.

  • Suzu’s anger gives in to sorrow; at the film’s climax, she cries her eyes out for everything that has happened since the war begin, from the death of Harumi and the loss of her right hand (by extension, her hobby), to all of the destruction and losses she’s seen around her. The end of an era, however, marks the beginning of another: in the aftermath of Japan’s surrender, Americans quickly arrive to help the citizens, and began driving the country towards political and economic reform. When the American occupation ended in 1952 with the San Francisco Treaty, control of Japan was fully returned, and the nation would become a major economic power in the world, characterised by their exceptional economic growth and high technology.

  • I’ve seen remarks that In This Corner of The World is a love story, although I hold that it is not a love story in the traditional sense – In This Corner of the World deals with love for a family and love for life itself rather than romantic love, and the conflict in the film stems from Suzu doing her utmost to retain a love for life during the most trying of times. The romantic elements in this movie are secondary, and as such, I’ve chosen not to delve into this particular topic at all; it is simply eclipsed by other elements within the movie.

  • In This Corner of The World made extensive use of photographs and accounts from the period to accurately reproduce damage locales seen in the film. Incendiary bombs were particularly effective in Japan owing to the wooden construction of buildings, and some of the worst casualties came from firestorms that arose when fires merged into conflagrations of gargantuan proportion. While wooden buildings were popular in North America, great fires in major cities prompted officials to rebuild with sandstone.

  • Suzu offers Keiko some food given by American soldiers and are surprised at how flavourful it is, compared to their seemingly-tasteless cooking. Later, Suzu will extract salt from seawater and use it to season their food, bringing back some life to her cooking; this simple act signifies the gradual return to normalcy following the war. By this point in time, Keiko is no longer resentful towards Suzu.

  • Save Suzu and Sumi, the whole of the Urano family perishes from the atomic bomb and its effects. Here, Suzu visits Sumi, who is afflicted with acute radiation poisoning. My first exposure to Hiroshima and the atom bomb was when I was in my second year of primary school: in Canada, reading Eleanor Coerr’s “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” is a mandatory part of our education, being a fictionalised account of Sadako Sasaki, who survived the detonation at Hiroshima. She later developed leukemia (a cancer of the bone marrow) and was brought in for treatment, encountering a roommate who encouraged her to fold a thousand paper cranes for a miracle, but succumbed to her cancer and died at the age of twelve.

  • Today, the Peace Dome in Hiroshima remains a reminder of the risks and dangers associated with nuclear weapons. In this post, I continued to refer to the bomb as an “atomic” device rather than a nuclear device: the reason for this is that a nuclear bomb can either be atomic or hydrogen. Atomic bombs operate purely by fission, where the nuclei of a large, unstable atom (usually Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239) are split, creating a chain reaction. Hydrogen bombs generate their destructive power through fusion: a fission device is used to generate high temperatures that allow hydrogen fusion to occur, and while hydrogen fusion itself is clean, these bombs generate fallout because of their initial fission components.

  • I managed to last most of In This Corner of The World with only the ol’e sand in my eyes, but the film’s final moments proved to be sufficient to change that. A woman and her daughter are seen wandering the ruined cityscape of Hiroshima. The former has sustained severe injuries, with her arm blown off and has large glass shards embedded in her right leg. She later succumbs to her injuries, and her daughter clings to her, even desperately fighting off the flies and maggots resulting from decomposition. There is something about the implications of this scene that hit me in ways that even the climax of the film did not. This sort of footage of atomic bomb victims was outright banned, and the American public was thus unaware of the extent of what atomic weapons were capable of: most Americans felt that it would be acceptable to continue using atomic bombs against Japan.

  • The world has changed dramatically now, and I’m thankful that for the most part, the world is aware of the importance of nuclear disarmament. While visiting Sumi in Hiroshima, Suzu runs into Shūsaku, and they encounter the orphan, who’s looking worse for wear. They decide to take her in, and after giving her a good bath, the credits show her as growing up in the Hojo household, while Suzu herself has found another reason for happiness.

  • This review finally reaches an end, and I would count In This Corner of The World a masterpiece, a 10 of 10. Even among the giants released in 2016, including Kimi no na wa and Koe no Katachi, I feel that Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni stands ahead for its overall execution and delivery: while perhaps not quite as impressive from a visual perspective, the narrative and messages are of a very high quality. This post was completed quite quickly by my usual standards for its size, taking a total of five hours to complete from first draft to hitting the publish button. With this post finished, October is very nearly over, and there are only a handful more posts on the horizon for this month, including a talk for Girls’ Last TourWake Up, Girls! New Chapter! after three, and a talk about Battlefield 1 a year after I bought it.

My verdict for In This Corner of The World is simple: it’s a strong recommendation to anyone interested in seeing World War Two from a different perspective, one without any propaganda or political undertones. The story is entirely focused on Suzu and her everyday life prior to, during and after the war, and although simple from a thematic perspective, nonetheless presents an incredibly moving story that is as powerful as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Whereas Dunkirk conveyed an overwhelming sense of unease and suspense as Allied soldiers prepared to evacuate ahead of advancing German forces, In This Corner of The World presents the Suzu and the Hojo family as ordinary people. As viewers see more of their daily lives, they come to empathise with them; by the film’s end, I dissolved in tears. Ultimately, while I’ve always been a staunch proponents of the Allied Forces, I find that in modern warfare, the efficiency that humans can cause harm to one another means that there is not always a victor, and moreover, war is certain to lead to suffering. As In This Corner of The World demonstrates, civilians are unfortunately made targets of undue suffering, brought on by their leaders’ decisions. In spite of the horrors of warfare, In This Corner of The World demonstrates the nature of human resilience, and ultimately, our desire to survive and endure also brings about acts of great good in helping one another out during difficult times. I am immensely grateful to have watched In This Corner of The World: the film originally released in October of last year, only coming to home release back in September, but the wait was well worth it, and I would think that folks will find this film enjoyable the same way Dunkirk is enjoyable, regardless of one’s familiarity with anime.