The Infinite Zenith

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Penguin Highway: A Review and Reflection

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” –Albert Einstein

Aoyama is a fourth-grader with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and spends his days making detailed observations of the world around him. With a strong sense of confidence, Aoyama encounters a lady working at the dental clinic, whom he takes a liking to. His effort to impress her lands him a conversation, and she consents to instruct him in chess. When penguins begin appearing in his town, the lady tasks him with solving the mystery of the penguins’ origins, and Aoyama sets about applying his own brand of logic and reason towards seeking a scientific solution to this fantastical phenomenon. With his best friend Uchida and the equally-inquisitive transfer student Hanamoto, Aoyama continues to work out how the lady and penguins are connected, discovering a mysterious orb that he dubs the “ocean”. From observations made while he hangs out with the lady, and also his own experiments, Aoyama finds that while he can identify patterns (such as how the lady can only conjure penguins under clear skies and that her well-being diminishes the further away from town she is), he is no closer to solving the mystery: the enigma surrounding this orb deepens when the Lego probe with instruments that Aoyama, Hanamoto and Uchida sends into it vanishes. After a typhoon rolls over the area, and the orb expands, Aoyama and the lady enter the orb to rescue researchers from the university, including Hanamoto’s father, who became trapped in the orb while investigating it. Upon finding the researchers, the lady destroys the orb and bids Aoyama farewell, but not before he confesses that he’s fallen in love with her. After she disappears, Aoyama’s life returns to normal. One day, while relaxing at the local cafe, he sees a penguin, runs off outside and finds that while it has disappeared, the Lego probe he’d sent into the orb previously has returned. This is Penguin Highway in a nutshell, a 2018 film about the boundless curiosity and impermanence of youth, and whose home release only became available in 2019.

While Penguin Highway has Aoyama attempting to ground his observations in the realm of science, it soon becomes clear that the whole of the film takes place in a world where the laws of Newtonian and quantum physics simply do not apply. Matter is freely transformed without adhering to the Laws of Thermodynamics, and the lady herself appears to be an embodiment of the world’s mysteries given human form. With a whimsical, fantastical setting, Penguin Highway speaks to how children perceive the world; while adults have a very procedural, structured way of approaching problem, children often have alternative insights precisely because they are not bound by the same methodologies that adults have. Aoyama, while longing to be an adult and exhibiting the logical and deductive skills of someone much older, shows audiences how there are some phenomenon, miracles, in the world that can defy explanation by conventional means. Even he is baffled and impressed with the sights that he witnesses: unable to formulate a hypothesis on why, Aoyama is taken on a ride with the lady, and comes to discover a new feeling – one of love, as he becomes drawn to the mystery that the lady represents. Penguin Highway suggests that, while adults often dismiss children as thinking in simple terms, their unique outlooks on the world are as complex as an adult’s, even if they cannot structure or organise their thoughts to the same extent. Consequently, the thoughts of children can be quite wondrous when one takes the time to consider them, and this is what Penguin Highway aims to convey. While the structuring of Penguin Highway is turbulent, it captures the raw curiosity of children as they attempt to work out the things they experience in the world.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • To give an idea of how busy things have been in the past while, I watched Penguin Highway halfway through back in late February, on a Sunday afternoon where my ISP went down. I had some work-related matters to deal with that day and left for the office so I could attend to those items. I finished the film post-F8 – after the conference ended, I had a chance have a coffee at the heart of San Francisco, drove the Golden Gate Bridge, and even had lunch (fried chicken and barbecue brisket) at the Facebook Campus in Menlo Park. On my last day, I had some of the best (and biggest) ribs I’ve ever had for lunch under a beautiful afternoon sun after visiting the Armstrong Redwoods State Park. Penguin Highway opens with a monologue from Aoyama, who wastes no time in establishing his superior intellect (“I’m smart, and I know I’m destined for greatness”). At his age, I was knee-deep into the natural sciences and history, reading every book I could get my hands on, and drawing out everything I learnt.

  • Aoyama is very bright, and able to deal with Suzuki (the class bully, Penguin Highway‘s equivalent of Calvin and Hobbes‘ Moe) with a dose of wit; at the dentist, he convinces Suzuki that the latter has an unknown, lethal disease, frightening the living daylights out of him. However, Aoyama’s thoughts also wander towards how attractive the woman working at the dental office is; the lady catches him checking her out when they first meet, and he blushes in embarrassment. Aoyama’s matter-of-act temperament draws her interest and she begins spending more time with him, instructing him in how to play chess.

  • Penguins begin appearing in Aoyama’s town: the name broadly refers to aquatic flightless birds of the family Spheniscidae, and the ones seen in Penguin Highway appear to be Pygoscelis adeliae, the most widespread of the penguin species. The penguins’ sizes in Penguin Highway are consistent with those of P. adeliae, although their bills are different. With their habitat being coastal Antarctica, P. adeliae possess adaptations to deal with the frigid conditions and lack of fresh water: it is unsurprising that their appearance in Japan would be quite surprising.

  • In revenge for Aoyama’s stunt at the dental clinic, Suzuki manages to catch Aoyama, whose attempts to escape fall short: he is tied to a vending machine, and the lady appears. After she frees him, she helps him pull his loose tooth, during which she creates a penguin. Such a phenomenon easily catches Aoyama’s eye, and the lady declares that her existence is a bit of a mystery, leaving him to try and solve it.

  • Using the scientific method, Aoyama manages to work out that the lady can only create penguins under clear skies, with bats being spawned in darkness and nothing happening during overcast days. The same techniques are applied (albeit with modifications to suit their needs) in various disciplines; when I debug software, I aim to only manipulate one variable at a time to ensure that an outcome is not caused by another factor. In Penguin Highway, however, the world hardly appears to conform with the laws of thermodynamics, and so, while Aoyama might be able to draw a correlation, causation cannot be so readily concluded.

  • The artwork in Penguin Highway is of an incredible quality, bringing life to Aoyama’s world. From details in the lighting to the choice of palette for a given scene, Penguin Highway‘s visual components add a considerable amount of immersion to the story. The cool of a rainy day, or the rush of wind can be felt as vividly as though one were present in the scene in person – on a rainy day, Aoyama visits the lady’s apartment, and the grey-blues of the day give a sense of gentle gloom.

  • Aoyama’s feelings for the lady begin from physical attraction: he outright admits to staring at her chest more often than he’d like and despite his stoic nature, never objects to spending time with her. Feelings of love in children are as authentic as those adults feel, and I imagine that this is common. For me, I had a bit of a crush on my art instructor/yearbook club advisor in high school, as well as my science instructor during my first year of high school. I expect that these feelings manifest from a combination of the physiological changes that adolescents go through, as well as taking interest in mature individuals that act as role models.

  • Aoyama’s father gives him an alternate perspective on things: he uses a small bag to motivate the notion that by inverting the bag, he is in effect, holding the whole universe in the bag, since relative to the bag’s exterior, the universe surrounds the interior. It’s a clever metaphor, akin to Stephen Hawking’s analogies and explanations for how multi-dimensional spaces might work. This explanation foreshadows the phenomenon seen later in Penguin Highway.

  • Hanamoto is on par with Aoyama in terms of intellectual curiosity and is skillful in chess. She invites Aoyama and Uchida to check out a mysterious phenomenon that has appeared in a clearing in the woods. While Suzuki has taken a liking to Hanamoto, she is more interested in Aoyama for being her peer in an intellectual capacity and is keen in having him help out in trying to work out the recent string of events.

  • It turns out this phenomenon is a wormhole that resembles a suspended sphere of liquid water – Aoyama and the others are quick to christen this sphere as the “ocean”. Its physical properties are completely unknown, beyond the fact that its surface reflects light from its surroundings. Over time, Hanamoto, Aoyama and Uchida collect various observations from it, learning that its size changes over time. While Penguin Highway makes extensive use of the scientific method, it is erroneously considered to be a science fiction story: the definition of science fiction is loose, but in general, it refers to stories that deal how human society reacts to advances in science and technology.

  • Since Penguin Highway does not have a societal component, the presence of the scientific method alone is not sufficient for the film to be considered as science fiction. Penguin Highway is better classified as a fantasy-adventure, following Aoyama’s journey and expressing the components of childhood curiosity in a visual manner for audiences. Aoyama is seen here running to a meeting with his friends, and the normalcy of the neighbourhood is apparent; it’s a beautiful summer’s day, and the blue skies invite exploration.

  • Summer is long associated with endless opportunity to explore, or else simply relax. Besides their research activities, Aoyama, Uchida and Hanamoto also partake in summer activities, such as sharing ice pops and visiting summer festivals. We’re now pushing towards the halfway point of May and are nearly halfway through spring – the days are lengthening, and I am now head home after a day’s work under sunshine. The weather, which has been persistently clinging to winter, has been remarkably nice of late, and I am hoping that the summer this year will be marked by beautiful days punctuated with a good rainfall at regular intervals.

  • During the summer festival, Hanamoto’s father shows up. He’s a researcher working with the local university and has taken an interest in the phenomenon that Hanamoto is studying, as well. During the summer festival, Aoyama and Uchida run into Suzuki and his cronies; Suzuki is interested in what’s going down between Aoyama and Hanamoto, and Aoyama quickly deduces that Suzuki is developing a bit of a crush on Hanamoto.

  • I admit that Penguin Highway was a bit more difficult to write for – I normally write about an anime series or film based on what messages a particular work aims to convey using the experiences the characters go through. By experiencing a disruption, characters mature and respond in a particular way, speaking to a life lesson that can then be discerned as a theme. Penguin Highway does not follow this particular approach and therefore, needed to be viewed with a different mindset in order for its theme to be identified. One review stands out as claiming that there is a substantial philosophical component in Penguin Highway, but fails to identify what this is.

  • The reason why this reviewer cannot identify what philosophy is being presented is simple: there is no overarching philosophical element in Penguin Highway to identify. It comes across as being disingenuous to readers when reviewers for larger sites make factitious claims that an anime is “smarter” than it is, and I make it a point to never do this with my own discussions. Penguin Highway is not a film intended to make audiences feel smarter, but strives to present a very specific picture about children and their curiosity. As their understanding of the orb’s properties increases, Aoyama, Hanamoto and Uchida decide to send a Lego probe into the orb. It is promptly absorbed into the orb and becomes unretrievable.

  • After Suzuki and his gang appear, Aoyama boldly claims that Suzuki must have feelings for Hanamoto and earns a beat down for his cheek. The lady appears and uses her penguins to scare off Suzuki and his gang. When the penguins try to interact with the orb, the orb reacts adversely and begins shooting out water that damage the surroundings. Hanamoto is shocked to learn that Aoyama had not shared this with her: Aoyama claims to have done so to keep the lady safe, and this moment is a subtle reminder of how dissemination of information in academy goes, with secrecy being a part of things as academics work to be the first to present their findings.

  • Aoyama is very blunt in his manner, and when he asks to suspend all investigation into the sphere after spotting a Jabberwock (inspired by Lewis Caroll’s Jabberwocky, a poem about the killing of a creature), Hanamoto loses her cool, accusing Aoyama of doing this because he’s got a crush on the lady and her physique. Aoyama is unfazed by this and openly admits this. As a bit of trivia, there are articles written from two years back that assert that staring at someone’s mammaries increases longevity. The precise mechanism behind this is not well-understood, but some hypotheses suggest that it increases positive thinking.

  • During a bright summer’s day, the lady decides to take Aoyama to the coastal town in her memories despite Aoyama being no closer to solving the question of who she is. However, as the lady travels further from their original town, she becomes weaker, eventually collapsing on the train station. Mysterious entities begin spawning into the platform, but these dissipate over time, and the pair agree to return home. Wondering if diet could be anything, Aoyama feverishly decides to stop eating to see if the results can be replicated, but falls ill in the process.

  • While trying to sleep off his cold, Aoyama’s dreams are turbulent and confusing. Because the mechanisms behind dreams are not understood, the reason why we have repetitive dreams while ill is similarly poorly understood: some speculate that the sheer amount of energy the body has diverted towards fighting illness leaves the brain in a state of producing stranger, more limited dreams. When Aoyama wakes up, he finds the lady by his side. Frustrated by his lack of progress and the events around him, Aoyama allows himself tears.

  • Aoyama recovers the next morning, and learns that the orb has grown to a gargantuan size. Earlier, Suzuki and his gang were interviewed by scientists to learn more about the phenomenon around town, but these scientists have disappeared. He, Hanamoto and Uchida plan on sneaking out after an evacuation order is issued, and are confronted by Suzuki’s gang: they decide to help out, as Suzuki wants to get back into Hanamoto’s good books. Never one to hold grudges, Aoyama readily agrees, and the gang come in handy for helping Aoyama and the others eluding patrols around the school.

  • After Aoyama appears to have escaped from the pursuing law enforcement officers, he runs into the lady but come face-to-face with more patrols. When it looks like they are cornered, the lady summons a veritable army of penguins to get them back into the forest, towards the orb. The spectacle is nothing short of impressive, and there are hundreds of penguins on the screen at once: the sight is comparable to the scale of the final fight in Avengers: Endgame, which I just had the pleasure of watching mere hours ago. This is not a talk about Endgame, so readers should not expect any spoilers here.

  • As the penguins carry Aoyama and the lady through the city streets, the world becomes increasingly surreal, foreshadowing the film’s complete departure from anything resembling reality. While Penguin Highway retained a largely realistic world throughout its run, as the climax approaches, this is discarded. I’ve heard comparisons for this scene to a similar moment in Hinata no Aoshigure and Fumiko no Kokuhaku, which featured a likewise chaotic scramble towards their ends: I have seen the latter, but not the former.

  • After a wild ride into the forest and upon entering the orb itself, Aoyama and the lady find themselves resting on a raft of penguins, watching the sunset in a strange world. The sort of events in Penguin Highway can only  be explained with magic approaching those conferred by entities like the Infinity Stones, and for me, I feel that approaching Penguin with the expectation for adventure, rather than instruction, is the most appropriate way to get the most from things. If and when I am asked, Penguin Highway makes extensive use of the Space and Reality stones to drive its events.

  • After entering a town where buildings float and defy physics, in a world that appears as though it were the sandbox environment for a game developer, Aoyama and the lady find the missing researchers. They decide to close off this world, even if it comes at a great cost to the lady. The setting feels infinitely peaceful, with its vividly blue skies and vast ocean. I’ve been referring to the lady only as such because she has no given name, and is referred to as onee-san throughout the movie, accentuating her enigmatic presence.

  • It’s been a week since I returned from F8, and it’s been remarkably busy, hence my low number of posts. On Tuesday, I spent the evening catching up with an old friend: we swapped stories over ramen at a local restaurant (their daily special was a pork ramen so hot that I felt the effects for the whole of the next day), and then I stepped out for lunch on Friday at a restaurant that I was sure was a furniture store, and where every item on the menu, including their Swiss-mushroom burger, was six dollars. In the aftermath of F8, there’s a great deal of work to do, and while travelling has been fun, I have enjoyed settling back into my daily routine.

  • The page quote comes from Albert Einstein, who is best known for his work in relativity and contributions to quantum mechanics. The events of Penguin Highway tend towards the creativity that Einstein described as being essential for tackling new problems – approaching problems from the realm of what could be possible, rather than what already is, allows minds to envision new solutions and approaches in ways that purely using existing knowledge cannot.

  • By the film’s end, it becomes very clear that Penguin Highway is more about imagination than about knowledge – existing reviews out there similarly identify imagination as being one of the biggest strengths in the film. Back in the real world, the orb collapses, releasing a torrent of pure water that flows through the city streets. Penguins that the lady have conjured run about, popping the water spheres in the streets, and bemused, Hanamoto’s father can only stare at what occurs. In the aftermath, Suzuki and his gang return to the school, while a tearful Hanamoto embraces Aoyama upon finding out that he’s alright.

  • Aoyama’s farewell to the lady is an emotionally-charged one: with the source of her power gone, she prepares to head off. Aoyama’s forward manner allows him to openly declare that he’s in love with the lady, and she embraces him warmly before stepping out into the evening sun. After she leaves, a new status quo is reached. Aoyama is still more or less who he was before, firmly believing he is a genius destined for greatness, but subtle changes are seen: Hanamoto teaches Suzuki to play chess, and the hostility between Aoyama and Suzuki’s group seems lessened.

  • After thirty screenshots, I feel like I’ve given a modestly succinct collection of my thoughts for Penguin Highway. Overall, I enjoyed it for its portrayal of what youth feels like – the adventure that Aoyama goes on during the film’s run is a reminder of what my days in primary school were like. I used to spend a great deal of time drawing, reading and making sense of the world. While I’m nowhere as brilliant or verbose as Aoyama, I think that even now, a bit of that childish desire to know and understand everything endures in me.

  • We thus come to the end of this talk for Penguin Highway, which I think has the internet’s first proper collection of screenshots. With this one in the books, along with Avengers: Endgame, I look ahead into May. I have finished Yama no Susume‘s second season and have passed the halfway point of Valkyria Chronicles 4, which I’ve enjoyed so much that I’m considering purchasing the DLC for it. On DLC, I am also looking to buy the season pass for Ace Combat 7. In addition, Gundam Narrative will release on May 24, giving me a chance to watch the continuation for the events of Gundam Unicorn, and I will naturally be writing about this. Finally, I will need to get my Nagi no Asukara review off the ground at some point: I understand that there is interest in this series from readers.

The art and animation of Penguin Highway are a major contributor to its thematic component; while the theme initially appears to be about the limits of intellectual curiosity (seen in Aoyama’s persistence in attempting to apply logic in piecing together cause and effect), the visually stunning transitions between the real and fantastical appear to emphasise childhood wonder and excitement about the world as a whole. As a result, Penguin Highway is unique in that the deliberate choice of artwork and animation forms a part of the message the film aims to convey, and that in its absence, the theme would have found itself much more difficult to discern. This is likely why there are so few discussions on the thematic elements in the film: most existing reviews are from newspapers, which tend to focus on the enjoyment factor instead, and I’ve not seen any other reviews on the movie. The theme in Penguin Highway encompasses more than the outcome of its narrative and character growth: sight and sound come into play, as well. Penguin Highway therefore comes across as being less of a story and more of an immersive experience whose engaging presentation outweighs the story’s weaker cohesion and direction. Although I do not believe that Penguin Highway is suited for anyone looking for a good mystery or will be useful for those seeking to understand the philosophical ramifications of how children think, the film earns a recommendation for viewers who are open-minded towards a highly visceral and visual romp through the mind of a child – I hope that more people would give Penguin Highway a watch, and look forwards to seeing what others make of the film.

Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai (I Want to Eat Your Pancreas): Movie Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” –Sir William Wallace

While at the hospital, the introverted Haruki Shiga encounters an unusually-titled book, “Living with Dying”. He picks it up and leafs through it, before coming face-to-face with its owner, Sakura Yamauchi. It turns out that Sakura is afflicted with a pancreatic disease that will in time, result in her death. After Haruki promises to keep her secret, Sakura recruits him to spend time with her, feeling that he represents a balance between the normalcy that her parents want her to experience, and the reality that she must face given her condition. Unlike her doctors, who give a stark view of her life expectancy, and her parents, who are overcome with emotion whenever Sakura mentions her disease, Haruki is seemingly far removed from things to help Sakura live life normally and experience everyday things. While Haruki is initially hesitant, Sakura is persistent; she takes up a position at the library he works at, and later invites him out to a yakiniku restaurant. Sakura is determined to make the most of her remaining time, and drafts a bucket list of things to do before she dies. As the two spend more time together, classmates become suspicious of Haruki. Sakura later books a trip out of the blue, and during this excursion, Sakura and Haruki learn more about one another. After returning home, Sakura’s best friend, Kyoko, confronts Haruki, wondering what’s going on between the two. Later, Haruki visits Sakura to borrow a book from her and leaves following a misunderstanding. He runs into Takahiro, Sakura’s ex, who demands to know what’s going on and knocks him to the ground. Sakura finds Haruki, and after helping him clean up, asks him to return the book that he’s borrowed within a year. Sakura and Haruki push into her bucket list as summer break continues, although one day, she is admitted to the hospital. While they play cards, Sakura reveals that her outlook on life and socialisation is than one’s interactions with others is what made life worth living, and later, she sneaks out of the hospital, taking Haruki to a hill to watch some fireworks. Here, Haruki realises the extent of the impact that she’s had on him, and now, he has a genuine desire for her to keep living. He agrees to Sakura’s request to go to the beach, but when she misses their date, Haruki heads home, where he learns that Sakura was stabbed. Devastated, he does not attend her funeral, but later visits Sakura’s mother and pay respects to Sakura. Here, Sakura’s mother gives him “Living with Dying”. Haruki learns that Sakura had been curious about him and admired him after meeting him. Despite their short time together, Sakura was deeply moved by Haruki’s choice to stick by her. Haruki promises to Sakura’s mother that he will return to visit along with Kyoko, and also passes Sakura’s final words to Kyoko. Despite refusing to accept this initially, Haruki persuades Kyoko to give him a second chance. A year later, Kyoko and Haruki visit Sakura’s grave, before heading off to the Yamauchi residence.

The unusually-titled Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai (I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, which is what I’ll refer to the film for the remainder of this talk) is a journey about life that began as a web novel authored by Yoru Sumino, was adapted into manga and then made into a live-action movie. The animated film was produced by Studio VOLN and released in September 2018. Dealing with themes of what life means, and how opposites introduce dramatic changes in one’s world-view, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a sincere and genuine glimpse into what living is about. Haruki begins as an antisocial individual who prefers the company of books over people, but a chance encounter with Sakura changes all of this. Her seemingly boundless energy and optimism despite her imminent death initially has little impact on the stoic Haruki, but as he spends more time with her, he comes to enjoy her company. However, this route has both its ups and downs. Encountering emotions that he had previously been unaware of, Haruki is conflicted by these new experiences; while he becomes closer with Sakura, he must also deal with Kyoko’s refusal to accept him and Takahiro pasting him onto the pavement, Haruki only handles these with a taciturn outlook. However, seeing Sakura’s experiences eventually leads him to realise that he’s now emotionally close with Sakura, and that for everything she’s done for him, he desperately wants her to live. Sakura’s upbeat, outgoing personality stands in contrast with Haruki’s quiet, reserved one, and these polar opposites do much to bring change to Haruki, who begins to understand that life is about interacting with, and caring for people around oneself. While Haruki feels he’s given nothing to Sakura in return, it turns out that being there for her, however reluctantly it was early on, Haruki showed to Sakura that there was someone out there who would come to genuinely care for her, making her feel special and fulfilled. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas reiterates that, time and time again, bringing people together, that are seemingly polar opposites, can result in a synergy that brings about undeniable and profound change in their lives as they come to empathise with one another.

While the topic of Sakura’s death is ever-present in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, the movie is about what life means. That life is finite and fragile serves to give it all the more value – the answer to the meaning of life is infinitely varied and diverse. For Sakura, and by extension, Sumino, life is defined by the meaningful relationships that one forms with others. Whether it be caring for others, giving them joy or support, life is to be treasured because one has the potential to make someone else happy. The emphasis on life, rather than death, is emphasised in every aspect of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Sakura is full of life, with her boundless optimism and acceptance of death driving her to make the most of each day. Despite her days being more limited than most, Sakura is resolved to make each second count. The film’s animation and artwork are deliberately crafted to reflect this – scenes are vividly rendered, and every moment is filled to the brim with colour. In this manner, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas reminds viewers that there’s value in all life, that all one really has to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to them. Even in death, Sakura’s optimistic spirit endures, providing Haruki the motivation to continue living – a year after her death, Haruki has undergone a profound change and nominally gets along with Kyoko, showing just how far he’s come of his own volition since being motivated by his fateful meeting with Sakura. The film’s title gives insight into the sort of effect that Sakura and Haruki have on one another; early in the film, Sakura mentions that some cultures will eat certain organs to heal a related physiological function or take up its strength. Both Haruki and Sakura, by spending time with one another that becomes highly treasured, eat one another’s pancreas in a metaphorical sense, imbibing the traits from the other that help them mature.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I Want to Eat Your Pancreas opens in April, under the blooming of cherry blossoms. It is a foregone conclusion that Sakura will be dying in the movie – Haruki is shown at home, still in grief after her death. However, there is a considerable journey taken to get to this point, and this is what I Want to Eat Your Pancreas showcases. After a chance meeting at a hospital, Sakura takes a keen interest in Haruki, and the movie’s events thus begin. I’ve got a longer talk for I Want to Eat Your Pancreas because there is a bit of ground to cover, and consequently, this talk will have forty screenshots.

  • Sakura explains the film’s title as coming from an ancient belief that eating a particular organ will help alleviate illnesses. She suffers from a pancreatic disease of unknown nature: besides this disease, Sakura is otherwise completely healthy, and in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, is shown to be unaffected by other symptoms that are found in pancreatic conditions (e.g. pain, nausea and vomiting in pancreatitis). Her condition is left ambiguous because it is not relevant to the story; the condition and its fatal nature is more relevant. Despite his initial reservations, Haruki reluctantly agrees to join Sakura to a yakiniku restaurant, where they grill a variety of variety meats.

  • Despite claiming to not be interested in Haruki in a romantic manner, her persistence in bringing him along to finish her bucket list has parallels with Your Lie in April‘s Kaori, who similarly pushed Kousei back into music despite ostensibly not being interested in him. Similarities between Your Lie in April and I Want to Eat Your Pancreas are inevitable, although the latter abstracts away the music component in favour of a more direct message about what living means. Eating well is a part of living, and while we take it for granted at times, being able to enjoy good food adds a considerable amount of joy to life. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas places a great deal of emphasis on food moments for this reason.

  • Sakura is every bit as spirited as Karoi, and while walking through the shopping district, they encounter a worker who is bullying an elderly lady after his wares are knocked over. She intervenes, pointing out that the worker is at fault; bikes are not permitted here. After the shopping district’s patrons and vendors’ attention is drawn, Sakura cans the worker before running off, leaving beat cops to arrest the worker.

  • The artwork and animation in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is of a high quality; settings are simply but vividly coloured, bring every moment to life. The film maintains its colourful scenery when Sakura and Haruki are together, emphasising that each moment is a memorable one for the two even in spite of Haruki’s generally gloomy and pessimistic outlook. Being taciturn and unsociable, Haruki would very much prefer to read books, engrossing himself in the admittedly rich and exciting worlds within them rather than spending time with others.

  • Haruki believes that minimising social interactions with others is the simplest way to live: caring very little about those around them thinks of him, he is content to be ignored and not deal with others. In a manner of speaking, Haruki is the embodiment an extreme – I myself find happiness in solitude, whether it be reading, walking on my own and the like, but I’ve also come to appreciate and respect the importance of close social relationships. No man is an island, and having people to fall back on when things get difficult can mean the difference between suffering and finding enough alternate outlooks to approach problems differently.

  • Use of space as a visual brake is a common element employed in visual arts. Towards the beginning of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, there is a spatial gap between Haruki and Sakura whenever they meet up. As the film advances on, the time that the two spend at opposite ends of the frame is lessened, indicating to viewers that the two have become very close despite Haruki’s seeming lack of interest in getting to know Sakura better early on. These cues are immensely valuable in giving viewers subtle hints as to what’s going on; Bill Watterson utilised space as a way of conveying an idea in Calvin and Hobbes, where the medium was static and therefore, even mire dependent on placement.

  • Kyoko is very close to Sakura and is disapproving of Haruki, viewing him as an outcast unworthy of Sakura’s time. Sakura’s optimistic and level-headed approach in dealing with Kyoko’s reactions shows that she views both Sakura and Haruki as important: she chooses neither over the other and simply does her best to make things work, befitting of her outlook on life. Sakura is unfazed, and presses on ahead: after running into Kyoko at the desert café, she brings Haruki to the beach.

  • Sakura’s jacket, in conjunction with the subdued hues, suggest a cooler spring evening. It’s much too early to be enjoying warmer waters, but here, Sakura asks Haruki to spend additional time with her and mentions that on her list of things to do before she snuffs it is to become closer to a guy in a romantic fashion. Sakura teases Haruki from time to time about it; from Haruki’s perspective, Sakura’s intentions are ambivalent, and audiences will similarly be unsure of whether or not she’s teasing Haruki or not because he’s so unresponsive. By leaving audiences to guess what’s going on, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas compels the audience to keep watching.

  • Sakura convinces Haruki to take an excursion with her to Fukuoka. With a population of 1.6 million, Fukuoka is the sixth largest city in Japan. While Haruki is initially set up for a day trip, it turns out that Sakura had intended for an overnight stay and arranged for accommodations to be made so their absences could be explained away. En route to Hakata Station, Sakura asks for Haruki’s name, and I suppose now is a good time as any to mention that this entire discussion is one big spoiler – I understand that the choice of names underlies the theme of connectedness and fate in the movie, hence the decision to keep his name unknown, but for discussion, it would have been difficult to mention Haruki without his name.

  • Hakata Station is the largest in Kyushu; with over 120000 passengers a day, it acts as the access point from Kyushu to Honshu. The station seen in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas was built in 2011 to replace an older station, and even has its own department store. It forms the starting point for Sakura and Haruki’s trip, the point in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas where Haruki’s character slowly begins changing. After the warm-up, things begin accelerating as Haruki gets to know Sakura better.

  • While exploring Fukuoka, Sakura and Haruki stop at a ramen shop, having what I eyeball to be a Hakata ramen, which features cuts of pork in a milky white broth and thin noodles. The food in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is rendered in great detail, and one feels as though they were there with the two. On the topic of food, Poutine Week is in full swing right now, and last Saturday, I stopped by a steakhouse downtown to try their Big Smoke poutine: this poutine consists of smoked brisket, a special in-house gravy, crunchy bacon, truffle mushrooms, jalapeño, and Chimichurri sauce. The richness of the gravy, brisket and bacon pieces was complemented by a tang from the Chimichurri, as well as a mild spice from the jalapeño. This poutine was accompanied by a refreshing ginger beer, and I subsequently stepped out to pick up Marie Kondo’s The Manga Guide to Cleaning Up.

  • Enjoyment of the smaller things in life is one of the reasons why I can be happy with an afternoon spent browsing through a book store. I feel that amongst my peers, I stand as being a bit unusual in that I believe that experiences and memories (something that Millennials greatly value) can be found even while doing the ordinary. There is value in everything, no matter how trivial, and different scales of an experience simply confers different kinds of happiness, which is ultimately happiness all the same. The montage of Sakura and Haruki exploring Fukuoka shows various snapshots of the two having a good time, with Sakura taking the lead in all of the frames.

  • As the evening wears on, Sakura and Haruki walk through a yatai (night market) – Fukouka’s night markets are known for their food, being counted as one of the best in Asia, and the stalls serve a diverse array of foods, from Japanese street food to French items. Night markets have an exhilarating atmosphere: I went to Kaohsiung five years ago and walked through their night market, which was a spectacular experience for the sights and smells alone. At the time, my constitution was not at full health, and so, I did not eat anything – one of my longstanding goals will be to go back to Taiwan, for the singular purpose of eating the grilled squid at their night markets. While I’m there, I would also love to rent a scooter and overnight through Huadong Valley, waking up in a countryside inn and finding a swift sunset awaiting me.

  • An error in booking results in Sakura and Haruki sharing the same room. Haruki immediately decides to sleep on the couch, giving the bed to Sakura, but Sakura counter-argues that a bed this nice must be experienced. I imagine that some minds immediately wander towards what could go down next, but the context of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, something like that was never going to happen. It was interesting to see how Haruki immediately picks his course of action and how this parallels mine.

  • Sakura and Haruki stay at the Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk: facing west, the Fukuoka Tower is visible, with its distinct profile standing tall in the Fukuoka skyline. Standing at 234 meters, it is two meters shorter than The Bow, the second tallest building in Calgary, but unlike The Bow, Fukuoka Tower has an observation deck, and its glass façade gives the impression that it’s a full office building: the tower only resembles an office building, and actually has no floor space for offices. Rated for magnitude seven earthquakes and 233 km/h winds, the Fukuoka Tower was completed in 1989.

  • It turns out that Sakura’s managed to buy alcohol, and the two immediately set about playing “Truth or Dare”. Haruki presses his turns to learn more about Sakura out of curiosity, while Sakura is a bit more coy and asks questions that gauge Haruki’s impressions of her. Haruki’s choice of questions shows his concern for her, which grows after he helps her grab a bottle of shampoo from her bag; the quantity of medications and needles is a powerful reminder of how serious her condition is, but from her happy-go-lucky attitude, this is not always apparent.

  • Eventually, bored with how straightforward Haruki is, Sakura puts a “rock and a hard place” option onto the table: either put into words what he finds attractive about her, or bridal-carry her to the bed. Haruki goes with the latter option, and they wind up sharing a brief conversation before retiring. The next morning, an irate Kyoko calls, and threatens Haruki with a physical beating if anything happened to Sakura.

  • The excursion to Fukuoka marks a turning point in Haruki and Sakura’s friendship: Haruki’s reluctance to hang out with Sakura evaporates, now that he’s gotten to know her better and also understands the extent of her condition. On the train ride back home by sunset, there’s a sense of melancholy, of departure and longing: I’ve got a sizeable collection of anime wallpapers portraying nearly empty trains, and there’s a certain appeal to them.

  • While I am a PC gamer with a respectable level of skill, on console, I am terrible by all counts, and I’m sure that most anyone could take me out in even shooters. Sakura schools Haruki here in a game while he’s visiting her, on the promise of picking up a book. Sakura is surprised to learn that Haruki’s not read a certain book and decides to lend him a copy on the promise that he finish and return it to her in a timely fashion.

  • Sakura’s feelings towards Haruki is probably tempered by the fact that she doesn’t really feel as though they’ve connected yet, hence her sending mixed signals to him. Confused by this, Haruki is at a loss and responds with frustration, but being kind at heart, he never crosses the line, and runs off into the rain. Here, he runs into Sakura’s ex, whose jealousy prompts him to strike Haruki. Haruki is not the sort of individual to fight back, and Sakura arrives to find Haruki on the ground. After angrily telling her ex off, Sakura reassures Haruki, who comes to understand what Sakura is feeling.

  • After returning to her place to dry off and retrieve the book, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas shifts into high gear as summer vacation kicks in. There’s still a large number of items on Sakura’s bucket list, and with classes over, the two turn their time towards making the most of summer, when long days and beautiful weather make everything seem possible. I’ve always wondered why people, especially those in newspaper comics dealing with workplaces, called them bucket lists – I initially thought they were buckets in a hash table, data entries in a fast-access location, but as it turns out, it refers to “list of things to do before kicking the bucket”, where “kicking the bucket” itself stems from a 17th-century euphemism for dying.

  • Being Good Friday, I had a day off today to really sleep in and regroup: I’ve been waking up at the crack of dawn for work, and so, opportunities to sleep in are rare, so when they happen, I aim to make the most of them. Having time off means being able to take a day on more slowly, but as it happens, today is also the second last day of Poutine Week here at home. Hence, I spent a bit of the morning working from home, validated my taxes and then geared up to head downtown.

  • I’m getting up there in the years now, and high on my list of things to do is to spend a brilliant summer day with someone special, even if the probability of something like this happening as I grow older lessens. This moment captures what that might look like in a succinct manner. Besides enjoying various food, Sakura and Haruki bowl, partake in karaoke and eventually, make plans to visit the beach together.

  • I entered I Want to Eat Your Pancreas with no existing knowledge of what to expect, and having avoided all spoilers for the film. This resulted in a more complete experience, and I appreciate why folks are so adamant about avoiding spoilers – not knowing what to expect means that one can get a much more authentic experience. I am generally more tolerant of spoilers in video games and for series I do not have a strong interest in, but for films, I prefer finding things out for myself. Keeping clear of spoilers for anime movies like I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a relatively easy task, since there’s next to no discussions of it elsewhere, but I imagine that for something like the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, it will be a considerable challenge.

  • While hospitals are typically quite saddening places to be, there’s a calm here as Haruki visits Sakura, who’s been admitted after some tests showed a false positive that her condition was worsening. She’s still optimistic and joyful: even a hospital cannot dampen her spirits, and the two continue on with Truth or Dare here. During this game, Haruki learns that Sakura believes life to be worth living based on the time one spends with others, and the emotional worth of the relationships one builds up. For Haruki, this is a bit of an epiphany moment, wherein he comes to realise that being with Sakura has allowed him to open up for the first time and learn about the importance of forming meaningful connections with others.

  • For Sakura, being with someone who is willing to follow her to the ends of the earth in her desires made her feel particularly special, and one evening, having snuck out of the hospital to watch the fireworks, the two share an embrace that captures the warmth and gratitude that they feel towards one another. This is the apex of their friendship; Sakura and Haruki both understand one another now, and both their lives have changed dramatically as a result of the fateful meeting that brought them together.

  • The changes in Haruki’s character are apparent when he accepts gum from his friendly classmate while en route to the beach. Having declined up until now, accepting gum visually represents accepting friendship. It’s an uplifting moment that makes it clear how far Haruki has come since the beginning of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, and audiences will invariably want to see what happens next. This, of course, foreshadows what occurs next; Sakura is late, but she exchanges messages with Haruki that keep him in the loop.

  • Haruki decides to stop at the teashop he’d first visited with Sakura, but as afternoon turns to evening, he heads home and learns that Sakura was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant. Earlier in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, news of a violent criminal in the area was presented, and it is likely this same individual perpetrated the crime. While the authorities capture the suspect, it is too late for Sakura, who succumbs to her injuries. Haruki is left in shock and grief in the aftermath, missing Sakura’s funeral.

  • I ended up skipping over those moments in the immediate aftermath of Sakura’s death for this talk, primarily because I had very little to say on said moments. This was one of the toughest parts of the movie to watch: Sakura’s death came out of left field. Having spent much of the movie building up to the inevitable, audiences are initially expecting Sakura to die from her illness, and so, seeing her life end at the hands of some petty criminal was completely unexpected. The aftermath of this is that Haruki eventually regroups and heads off to the Yamauchi residence to pay his respects.

  • Speaking with Sakura’s mother, Haruki is given Sakura’s diary, and reading through the entries, Haruki reaffirms that Sakura was optimistic and a free spirit akin to Kaori Miyazono. However, after the entries come to an end, it turns out there’s an epilogue. Rather like how Kaori left Kōsei a letter, Sakura’s letter explains that she’d long admired him for his dedication to books, and the quiet sense of mystery he evoked in her that compelled her to learn more about him.

  • While most romances and feelings go unfulfilled, Sakura’s condition drove her to live life fully, and this included getting closer with Haruki. Thus, when fate made it so that the two could meet up and talk for the first time, rather than watching from a distance, Sakura seized the moment and set about fulfilling one of the biggest items on her list. The result of this nascent friendship made Sakura feel wanted and cared for, which deepened her feelings for Haruki. Meanwhile, Haruki feels his first emotional connection with someone, and views Sakura as the agent for this change. To have had all of this occur, and then crueley wrested from him made this part emotionally intense.

  • The quote for this post is from Sir William Wallace, a Scottish Knight who was the Guardian of Scotland until being defeated at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. Seven years later, he was captured and executed, but in death, he became a larger-than-life symbol. His quote simply means that not everyone truly lives their lives in a fulfilling manner, even though death is inevitable for everyone.

  • While Sakura believed that life was defined by the quality of relationships with others, I personally believe that a meaningful life is defined by what positive impacts one can bring about in their relationships with others – I am at my happiest when I am doing something meaningful for someone else, and for better or worse, I’m drawn to helping people out. Having said this, I have less patience for people who act in their own interests even with the knowledge that doing some will come at someone else’s expense.

  • Understanding the extent of Sakura’s feelings for him, and the extent of his impact on her, Haruki allows himself to cry in sorrow and grief for her. He thanks Sakura’s mother for bearing with him, and she makes a request of him: to bring Kyoko over, as well. The final part of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas has Haruki doing his best to honour his promise to Sakura’s mother and reconcile with Kyoko.

  • The reason why Haruki’s name is not given until I Want to Eat Your Pancreas‘s denouement is because taken together, Haruki’s given name in kanji is 春樹 (“Spring tree”), and Sakura’s given name is 桜良 (“Beautiful cherry blossom”). When one puts them together, the names are related to one another: Haruki can be seen as the tree from which cherry blossoms bloom during spring, and this is meant to tie the two characters together by fate. Spring is when cherry blossoms bloom, and they bloom from a tree. A tree looks much more beautiful with the blossoms, and the blossoms depend on the tree: this symbiotic dynamic mirrors how Haruki and Sakura mutually benefited from their friendship, however short their time together was.

  • Kyoko is initially resistant, even hostile, towards Haruki’s request, and becomes embittered when she reads Sakura’s diary, wondering why Sakura would keep it from her. Running off, she rejects Haruki’s explanation, but Haruki pushes on, managing to catch her before she takes off. From here, a reluctant friendship develops, and the changes in Haruki serve to make him more sociable and attuned to those around him.

  • A year later, Haruki and Kyoko visit Sakura’s grave to pay their respects before visiting Sakura’s mother. While Kyoko is still somewhat disapproving of Haruki, they get along much better than they had during the course of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Haruki has evidently turned over a new leaf: his new haircut gives him a cleaner, more mature look, and he astutely responds to Kyoko when she asks him whether his words are a kokuhaku. It turns out that Kyoko’s become interested in the friendly fellow who frequently asks Haruki if he’d like any gum, and has also begun finding her own happiness.

  • The greens and blues in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas‘ final scene create a peaceful mid-morning that shows two individuals who’ve come a long way since the film’s beginning. While I shed no tears during the film, I won’t deny that I enjoyed this one immensely: movies dealing with life lessons can come across as being melodramatic if emotions are too forcefully conveyed, but I Want to Eat Your Pancreas manages to keep everything consistently believable. Between this and the character dynamics, growth and technical excellence, this film was definitely worth the wait.

The setup in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, and Haruki and Sakura’s characters are by no means unique; Your Lie in April‘s Kōsei Arima and Kaori Miyazono met in similar conditions, with Kaori suffering from an unknown disease and sharing Sakura’s desire to be closer to the quiet, taciturn male protagonist. However, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas abstracts out the musical component and simply has the characters interacting in the absence of a common, shared hobby: Haruki and Sakura do not particularly align or have any common interests, allowing their personalities to be the sole factor in driving their dynamics, and in this way, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas can be seen as a more general perspective on the themes explored in Your Lie in April. The end result of this is a highly relatable film not dependent on music, that is unique and moving in its own right. As a story, and as a film, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas stands firmly on its own merits, telling a profoundly moving tale of life, of carpe diem and ultimately, what makes life worth living. In addition to a cohesive, focused story, the production values in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas are also of a high standard: landscapes are beautiful, and the sakura blossoms are animated with great detail to convey a mystical sense for audiences. In conjunction with a collection of strong incidental pieces, the movie’s audio and visual components bring to life a story that I’ve been waiting quite some time to watch I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Having sat down to finally see it, I can decisively say that the film was well worth the wait: I can easily recommend this film to all viewers, who will walk away from I Want to Eat Your Pancreas with a reaffirmed sense of what living really means.

Little Forest: Considering Insights into Life Decisions, A Movie Review and Recommendation

“Komori is a small settlement in a village somewhere in the Tohoku region. There aren’t any stores here, but if you have a little shopping to do, there’s a small farmer’s co-op supermarket and some other stores in the the village centre, where the town hall is. The way there is mostly downhill, so that takes about half an hour, but I’m not too sure how long the trip back takes.” —Ichiko

After encountering considerable difficulties with life in the city, Ichiko moves back home to Komori, a small rural village in Tōhoku. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city, Ichiko farms the land and makes the most of each season, using her knowledge of the land and local ingredients create simple but tasty dishes. Ichiko recalls stories of her mother in her childhood, who had left one day. The seasons pass in Komori, and Ichiko receives a letter from her mother. Deciding that living in Komori was equivalent to running away from her problems, Ichiko moves back to the city, but later returns to Komori permanently as a farmer upon realising that she’s come to love the way of life in rural Japan. The original manga was written and illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi; running between 2002 and 2005, it received a two-part live-action theatrical adaptation that was released in August 2014 and February 2015. A Korean adaptation loosely follows the structure of Little Forest and screened in 2018. The Japanese film will be the focus of this post: Ichiko is played by Ai Hashimoto, who delivers a very matter-of-fact performance in Ichiko’s everyday life in the country. Facets of life, from the preparation of foodstuffs, to subtle details in each season, are outlined in a manner reminiscent to Rena Nōnen’s performance as In This Corner of The World‘s Suzu Hojo (née Urano). Little Forest presents rural life as being very idyllic, slow-paced and earnest: one of Ichiko’s friends, Yūta, remarks that he’s fond of the country life and cannot stand urbanites because they are untruthful, whereas in the countryside, people are more honest and doers rather than talkers. The film is an ode to simpler living, in a world far removed from the connectivity and pressure of a scheduled, digital world; in a manner of speaking, Little Forest is a Japanese interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Shire; the Hobbits of the Shire live a very simple life, treasuring good food, a warm heath and all of the comforts of home above treasures and power. However, while one cannot be blamed for wanting to return to a simpler life, Little Forest also raises the question of whether or not escaping from the more complex, ever-changing world is the right way to handle one’s problems.

During her days in the country, Ichiko demonstrates a strong knowledge of the land and resourcefulness, looking after her crops and crafting meals with whatever is available to her. Her monologues show someone who is deeply entrenched in the land, and that she is someone who is definitely at home in the countryside. From simple bread, to the preparation of fried trout, duck, onigiri and home-made jam, Ichiko uses a combination of her mother’s knowledge and own discoveries to create simple but delicious meals. The past and present come together as she cooks; the passage of time infuses new knowledge into old dishes, suggesting that change is inevitable but gradual in all things. How much of Ichiko’s mother’s stories are genuine, then, becomes largely irrelevant, as she takes what is true and then combines it with her experiences to make her dishes work. The focus of Little Forest is in the realm of cooking, how recipes might change over time and imbibe the characteristics of the individual cooking them. While family recipes are often thought of as being immutable, a taste of an older time, the reality is that every cook will apply their own styles to it and create something slightly different. In this way, a particular dish can be thought of as ever-changing, for no two individuals will prepare a dish in precisely the same way. Change is then thought of as inevitable, applying not just to food, but to one’s life, as well; no two individuals will handle their problems in the same way, and ultimately, it is up to the individual to seek out and execute solutions to the challenges that they might come across within their lives.

While Little Forest presents Ichiko’s days of cooking and tending the farm as idyllic, her monologues are interspersed with thoughts of her past. It turns out that Ichiko’s had a rough time in the city; between a failing relationship and difficulties at work, Ichiko succumbed to pressure and decided to leave, regrouping in the countryside. While life back in her old home is peaceful, there are a unique set of challenges, as well; there are bears in the area, and insects get into the crops. Furthermore, her friends in the countryside occasionally remark that she’s running away from her problems in the city, retreating to Komori when her work and relationship takes a hit. This is true, and presents the audiences with a dilemma: if Ichiko returns to the city to face her challenges, then she’s suggesting that a simpler life in the countryside might not be as idyllic as one might imagine. Conversely, staying in Komori would signal to viewers that it’s okay to escape one’s problems. Ichiko’s final decision, to return to Komori after attempting to make life in the city work once more, neatly addresses Little Forest‘s theme: Ichiko does make another (presumably honest and whole-hearted) attempt to make her situation work out, returning to face her problems, and then with the knowledge of which life she feels that she could put a more complete effort towards, makes the choice to return to Komori. In the end, the simpler life prevails, but only after Ichiko has had a proper opportunity to face her problems once more. Having said that she has honestly made an effort to see if she could have made life in the city work, Ichiko’s return to Komori is not running away, but stems from a conscious decision that this life is what she desires.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Known for its scenery and climate, the Tohoku region occupies the northeastern side of Honshu and has a comparatively lower development level compared to the rest of Japan. Little Forest was filmed in the Iwate prefecture, which has the lowest population density of anywhere in Japan save for Hokkaido. The area has a hot-summer humid continental climate, and Ichiko opens by saying that the area is very humid in the summer, with the heat sticking to one.

  • With its low population and relative seclusion relative to the remainder of Japan, Iwate is the perfect place to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Lacking the same melancholy as Inao in Nagano, where Please Teacher and Ano Natsu de Matteru is set, the rural setting for Little Forest is cozy, inviting and very laid-back even during the hottest days of the summer.

  • The first dish that Ichiko creates is a stove bread: before we delve further into this discussion, I remark that my cooking skills are rudimentary at best. I have basic knowledge in food preparation and baking to the extent where I can prepare edible food that passes for a meal, but the more advanced techniques, I am less versed. The most complex dish I’ve made in recent memory was a sirloin-and-pepper stir fry with Dijon-mushroom sauce.

  • While life in the countryside, the inaka, is very slow-paced for us urban-dwellers, Little Forest shows audiences that there is a completely different set of things that folks in the rural areas do during their day. Where we commute to work and sit in an office for a day, those in agriculture tend to their crops, maintain their equipment and spend plenty of time cooking, making use of their ingredients to make hand-made meals that city folk may not have the time to make.

  • Ichiko recounts how her mother fabricated all sorts of tall tales during her youth. Her introspection of these memories suggests a bit of surprise when the truth came out, but otherwise does not convey any other emotion. The frequency that Ichiko brings up these stories suggests that despite her distance with her mother, she’s definitely appreciative of the effort her mother took in raising her, and indeed, the memories that audiences see from Ichiko’s childhood are simple, but warm.

  • Ichiko lives in her mother’s old house, a rickety wooden building that nonetheless is very inviting. Having lived here for most of her life, Ichiko is familiar with the ins and outs of the countryside: by summer, all sorts of things come to life during the night, including various insects, owls and even bears. I am spoiled by the fact that urban dwellings are relatively free of unwanted visitors, and the thought of insects marching through my room while I sleep is a bit of a scary one.

  • Besides tending to her crops, Ichiko also helps out around the village: as a part of a smaller community, everyone knows everyone, and form a close-knit group that is very friendly amongst one another. Here, Ichiko helps Yūta with moving trout around from their hatchery to a larger pond. The trout that are seen in Little Forest differ from the trout that I’ve had in the past year: during a business trip to Winnipeg, I had Steelhead Trout, which is characterised by its orange flesh and a more oily flavour: while not quite as distinct as salmon, it’s still quite salmon-like and is very tasty.

  • Roasting fish on a skewer over an open fire is something I’ve seen in many series, whether its Les Stroud’s Survivorman or other anime. After the intestines and other inedible parts of the fish are removed, they are cooked over flame before being served. Little Forest has Yūta and Ichiko discarding the heart and liver from the fish, but these are edible and provide additional nutrients; Les Stroud eats those in addition to the fish during his survival trips.

  • Yūta’s remarks about what makes people genuine struck a chord with me: he believes that people who are worth respecting are those speak from experience, who’ve done things rather than merely talk about doing them. Especially in the age of the internet, people often over-estimate the scope of their knowledge and make like they know more than they do. Fortunately, it is quite easy to spot when this is occurring: a few well-placed questions are often enough to determine if someone genuinely knows their stuff, or if they’re bluffing. For my part, I try to speak (and write) within the realm of what I know.

  • For me, food is grown in the great plains surrounding my home city or else imported, and then it’s something I pick up at the supermarket. However, this is not something to be taken for granted; much like how it takes a considerable effort to make even a simple app work, the process of growing food is a very extensive one, and those in agriculture have my utmost respect. The Chinese have a saying: 飲水思源 (jyutping jam2 seoi2 si1 jyun4, literally “when drinking water, think of its source”): I am ever mindful of what it takes to grow the food on my table and strive to make sure no food goes to waste.

  • I love tomatoes: refreshing and delicious, they are a fantastic food that are classified as a berry but utilised as a vegetable. The longstanding debate of whether or not a tomato is a fruit or vegetable is the subject of no small debate, but for me, tomatoes are a fruit hands down: science wins every time. I take tomatoes wherever I can get them; they are delicious in sandwiches, and the smaller cherry tomatoes are delicious on their own, packing a stronger flavour than standard tomatoes.

  • The passage of the seasons runs throughout Little Forest – each of summer, autumn, winter and spring brings with it a different set of ingredients that Ichiko has to work with. As the trees yellow during autumn, Ichiko prepares her harvest and also picks chestnuts from the area nearby.

  • The process of food preparation can take a good bit of time, and having tried my hand at cooking, I can honestly say that it can be a fun process during which time flies by. The night I prepared the sirloin and pepper stir-fry, it took four hours from opening the packages of meat and washing the vegetables, to enjoying said meal and then washing the dishes. Similarly, I tried my hand at making a chicken and broccoli dish that turned out to be delicious, as well.

  • One of the things I likely won’t do for the short term, regardless of how delicious the outcome is, is frying battered meat in an oil using a pan at home. This is in the interest of preserving the air quality in wherever I am: the process produces a great deal of greasy smoke that clings to the air if done improperly (e.g. if the type of oil is poorly picked), so I would sooner learn to make other things, before attempting something like this.

  • Sharing meals or snacks together with a dose of conversation may seem quaint for us city folk, but as it turns out, gathering to talk and eat is both superbly relaxing (a world apart from staring into the screen of a smartphone), and a great way to pass time. During the hot pot on Sunday leading up to the New Year’s, I spent upwards of 90 minutes with family, putting various meats and vegetables while sharing conversation, and during New Year’s Eve, conversation spanned two hours after the last of the cheesecake and flan were had.

  • At home, Ichiko’s recollections often have her telling stories of her mother’s own recipes for common condiments and spreads, like Nutella and Worcestershire sauce. Her mother’s recipes yield a product different in taste than those of the commercial ones, and Ichiko is often surprised at the fact that these recipes are not original to her mother. As a side note, the original Worcestershire sauce from Lea and Perrins is a British invention, being used to season salads, soups and is a component of the Bloody Mary cocktail. However, it also goes great with the steamed meatballs served in dim sum.

  • One part of Little Forest that really puts the perspective on fresh meat is when Ichiko is shown looking after ducklings that later mature into ducks; she states that ducks are useful around the farm, aerating the paddies and also consume any insects that may harm the rice plants. Audiences get to see the ducklings; their fluffiness and small size make them absolutely adorable, and one’s mind should be quite far removed from thoughts of eating them. However, as the ducklings mature into ducks, Ichiko takes the knife to one and carves one for dinner, roasting it over a fire.

  • Meat cooking over a fire is a very inviting image for me, and the ethics of eating meat is not something I personally partake in debating – from a biological perspective, humans evolved bigger brains precisely from our transition to a diet with meat in it. The nutrients in meat contributes to the synthesis of materials involved in the brain, and in conjunction with cooking, we could now spend less time eating. The reduction in jaw muscles changed our skull morphology and also accommodates for increased brain size. Our evolutionary origins live on in me: when at home and meat-on-the-bone is on the table, I will take the time to gnaw any meat off the bones. Just yesterday, we had roast lamb on the bone to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and later today, a dijon-honey-mustard ham is on the table.

  • Komori is a fictional town, but the locations are real, and the scenery of rural Japan is very beautiful. The open spaces between mountains are captivating, and for me, hold a certain appeal because they are a sight I do not often see. By comparison, the majesty of the Canadian Rockies are a familiar sight, and while certainly scenic, is not quite so special for me because I see them often. From the opposite viewpoint, the Japanese find their rural villages to be quite ordinary, and see our mountains as breathtaking; Japanese tourists in the Canadian Rockies are so common that our stores offer Japanese signs, books and menus for travellers to accommodate them.

  • Everything that I know about cooking, I learned from either my mom or through courses I took during school. Things picked up from home tend to endure as a family tradition, and the one thing that I learned from home that schools will never teach is the proper process of de-veining shrimp. Most procedures will say that it is sufficient to make an incision into the shrimp from its dorsal side and then use a knife to pry the intestine out, but there is a hind gut containing stuff that one would rather not eat. Extending the dorsal incision into the tail allows for this hind gut to be removed, as well.

  • One aspect of Little Forest that was particularly standout for me were the use of frames and cutouts as transitions. They give the movie a very modern, elegant feel that stands in contrast with the decidedly more rustic lifestyle being portrayed within the movie. Clever use of these allow the film to illustrate Ichiko cooking from different angles, reminding viewers that cooking and preparing ingredients is a very dynamic process.

  • The soundtrack in Little Forest is very minimalist; this is an appropriate choice given the film’s composition. The whole of Little Forest can be summed up as “a girl returns to countryside and cooks various dishes using local ingredients”, but outside of a short blurb, the movie is an excellent example of where less is more. Because Little Forest only gives a few explicit details, the remainder are implicit and so, leaves audiences to connect to the film in their own manner of choosing.

  • A few of Ichiko’s conflicts are shown, whether they be with her friends or other farmers, but for the most part, Ichiko gets along very well with those around her. Scattered throughout Little Forest, they show that Ichiko is not entirely free of her worries and troubles when living in Komori, but the fact that Ichiko can handle them (whereas she ended up leaving the city because she was overwhelmed with troubles) foreshadows that Ichiko is at home in the countryside.

  • Whether or not the foreigner that visits Ichiko and her mother was a real memory or not is ambiguous, but he is shown as having a fun character, playing with the younger Ichiko. Ichiko recalls her mother’s recipe for a Christmas cake here and notes that while they never really celebrated Christmas, the tradition of making a cake during the winter endured. In Japan, Christmas is celebrated with a different set of traditions; for one, KFC is the preferred bird of choice over turkey.

  • Ichiko inspects some dried persimmons that she’d previously prepared. These fruits have a wide range of culinary uses, and can be eaten as-is; I’ve never actually had the dried variety before, but fresh ones are quite tasty.

  • Winter in Komori is characterised with snowfall: winters in the inland portions of Iwate are very cold, and can be quite snowy, as well. When a fresh snowfall blankets Komori, the landscape is transformed into a winter wonderland resembling those seen in Canadian photobooks. Winter in Canada varies greatly owing to the sheer size of the country, and in the prairie provinces, winters are usually bitterly cold with some snowfall.

  • Besides cooking, Ichiko also covers nuances about agriculture and harvesting, mentioning the details of looking after crops. One criticism of Little Forest was that the challenging side of agriculture, from pests to undesirable weather, that impact yields, are not shown. Little Forest is not a movie about farming, it is a story of discovery, and so, I would consider this to be nit-picking, since failing crops would not contribute to the narrative in a meaningful way.

  • At this time of year, Alberta is typically quite cold and snowy, but the weather of late has been contrary to expectations, being quite warm and dry. Meteorologists are predicting that winter across the prairies will be warmer and drier than usual, but there could be some periods of extreme cold. With the winter holidays now past, the most miserable time of year is upon us as winter truly sets in, but fortunately, with no shortage of things to do, winter should pass by fairly quickly.

  • Curry is a mainstay of Japanese cuisine; introduced into the Japanese Navy by the British as a means of combating beriberi, Japanese curry is much milder than its Indian counterpart and goes great with rice. Here, Ichiko shares curry and flatbread with Kikko, her best friend. The two get along as peas in a pod, and while they occasionally have their differences, always work things out.

  • Rediscovery is also a theme explored in Little Forest, using cooking of greens as a metaphor. Ichiko initially wonders why her greens never have quite the same texture as those her mother made, being much stringy and fibrous in comparison despite being prepared with the exact same technique, using the same ingredients. She attempts a variety of cooking methods, but then figures out that removing the tougher fibres from the greens before cooking them results in a dish that tastes identical to those her mother made.

  • Little Forest is made up of two separate films, each of which have two acts: there are a total of four acts, one for each season, and at the conclusion of each, FLOWER FLOWER performs an ending song. Of the ending songs, I’m most fond of Natsu: it’s a very happy, bouncy song whose personality reminds me of a friend of old. Each ending is accompanied with scenery in and around Komori.

  • Tempura made from greens and vegetables is very delicious: last year, I had vegetable tempura made from things as diverse as broccoli, onions, yams and even pumpkin. During my visit to Japan, I was able to try both bakke and Fiddlehead tempura at an onsen buffet. I typically eat my vegetables steamed or stir-fried, since that’s the quickest way of preparing them, and so, whenever vegetable tempura is available, I savour it.

  • A fresh snowfall is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, there is no denying the beauty of a landscape blanketed in snow, silencing everything, but on the other hand, snow corresponds with traffic delays and either frustration in negotiating with poor road conditions or waiting long periods in the frigid weather for a bus to show up. Having said this, I accept that snowfall means soil moisture come spring, and so, I begrudgingly accept the inconveniences of winter for the most part.

  • For the most part, the vegetables one can buy from the store are quite clean and free of bugs, so rinsing them in cold, fresh water to remove any chemical residues is often sufficient. Spinach and watercress can be a bit messier; a trick for cleaning watercress (which we use in a pork bone soup) is to soak it in salt water for a bit, and then rinsing the salt water off. The salt in water causes water to leach from the bugs, dehydrating and killing them.

  • Noodles are a fantastic standby, being relatively simple to make and is very much delicious when one has extra ingredients. After our hot pot on New Year’s Eve, we ended up making yi mein ramen with shrimp and fish-balls, with a generous helping of hot sauce. As spring rolls in, Ichiko and Kikko sort out various greens, and make spaghetti with the extras. Grilling sea trout and mixing it in, Ichiko cooks a simple but tasty trout spaghetti for the two to enjoy. After watching Little Forest, I took a look at the original manga, and remark that the films are quite faithful to the source. Little Forest could have easily been adapted into an anime and still have carried its impact, but the choice to adapt it as a live-action film worked very well, especially with all of the closeups of the food that Ichiko cooks.

  • The question of why I chose Little Forest for a New Year’s Day post was primarily because the movie does deal with new beginnings and choices. I originally watched the first part back in October during the Thanksgiving long weekend, and then finished the second part after my trip to Salmon Arm a province over. This was the low point in my year, when I was working on a project that was seemingly going nowhere. The combination of a weekend off and watching Little Forest made me realise that I would need to actively shape my future to pull myself out of this nose-dive.

  • Two months of time spent reviewing data structures, design patterns and more details about the Swift language, resume updates and the sending out of cover letters later, a new opportunity had arisen right here in my home town, and I seized it. Like Ichiko, who struggles between leaving Komori to pursue her career and staying behind, I’ve become quite attached to Heart of the New West and was conflicted in moving elsewhere for work versus staying where I am. For now, this decisions been made, and I intend to put in my fullest and best efforts for my work.

  • Where Ichiko’s mother went remains a bit of a mystery, and in Little Forest, Ichiko does not make a greater effort to visit, suggesting that a distance does exist between the two. The letter appears to be her reason for going back to the city and giving things one final shot, but Ichiko winds up moving back to Komori permanently. Little Forest has Ichiko return to the city to show that now that she knows both perspectives, and has put in the effort to make life in the city work, she can return back home having said that this was a measured decision, rather than because she was running away.

  • With my first proper post of the new year nearly in the books, I look into the near future and consider what I will be writing; while a new job and the attendant new schedule means considerably less time (and resolve) to blog, this blog isn’t quite dead yet (sorry to those who were hoping otherwise!). I intend to wrap up my thoughts on Anima Yell! and also take a look at Battlefield V‘s Tides of War after a full month of experiences in it. Finally, January means that I will be returning to CLANNAD ~After Story~ and continue with my revisitation.

  • It is not my modus operandi to grade live-action films the same way I do for anime, but I can and will recommend this movie to anyone looking for something that is highly relaxing, part cooking show and part life lesson. I would also like to thank The Moyatorium for recommending Little Forest to me. She was watching this film on a flight and recounted her experiences of the film to me, piquing my interest. As it turns out, Little Forest was exactly what I needed to gain some perspective and regroup during a tougher spot this year.

Little Forest seems a well-picked movie to watch for motivating a start to the New Year; the movie was particularly enjoyable for me because at the time of watching, I was going through a rough spot. As tempting as it is to retreat to the countryside and live there, this is not feasible for me: agriculture is a dedicated profession with its own skill set and challenges. As such, my only option would have been to face my challenge head on and make the most of things. This effort to handle the problem was met with an opportunity, and so, I am glad to have taken this approach. Aside from themes surrounding life, of dealing with problems and making life decisions in a measured manner, Little Forest excels with its general presentation of cooking and food: the movie is simple to the point of excellence, succeeding in captivating viewers despite being little more than a cooking show with elements from everyday life interspersed throughout the film. It is definitely worth a watch, and for folks who may have been going through a rougher patch, this film is something to consider, providing a perspective on what it means to regroup, recover and get back up to face a challenge. It helps that Little Forest embodies catharsis: watching Ichiko cook is superbly relaxing, and the film does offer interesting insight into Japanese cooking well beyond things like sushiomurice and other foods more commonly presented in fiction.

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.