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The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie: An Anime Movie Review and Reflection

I know you’re scared and your pain is imperfectBut don’t you give up on yourselfI’ve heard a story, a girl, she once told meThat I would be happy again

Hold My Hand, Lady Gaga

In their final year of secondary school, Futaro and the Nakano quintuplets prepare for their school festival. Amidst the preparations, Futaro expresses that he’s fallen in love with one of them and indicates that he’ll make it known as to which of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba or Itsuki’s his feelings are for. While the school festival ends up being quite a tumultuous affair (Nino had longed for their father to visit, while Ichika grapples with the fact a visiting lecturer, Mudō, is actually the Nakano quintuplet’s biological father, and Miku grows jealous Futaro’s hanging out with another girl), with Yotsuba collapsing from exhaustion as a result of having done too much. When the festival draws to a close, the Nakanos separate and head for five different places on school grounds, asking Futaro to meet up with the one he has fallen in love with. It turns out that Futaro’s fallen in love with Yotsuba, but she turns him down, feeling unworthy of being the only one of her sisters. She recalls how she’d first met Futaro and made a promise with him, but over time, lost confidence in her ability to keep it as her sisters began moving forward at their own pace. Futaro persuades her to be honest about her feelings, and Yotsuba tearfully admits that she’d been worried about the others in spite of the fact that she reciprocates Futaro’s feelings. After confirming to Nino and Ichika that his feelings are true, Yotsuba and Futaro begin dating, and at the playground they’d previously visited, Futaro proposes to Yotsuba. Five years later, Ichika’s become a full-fledged actress, while Itsuki’s become a teacher. The meet at the cafe that Miku and Nino have opened together, and here, they help pierce Yotsuba’s ears so she can wear the earrings their late mother had gifted to them. On the day of Yotsuba and Futaro’s wedding, the five quintuplets decide to play a game and see if Futaro can tell them apart. He has no trouble in doing so, and demonstrates how over time, he came to realise that there was more to life than just studying. He correctly identifies each of the five sisters and places a wedding ring on Yotsuba’s finger. Following the wedding, Ichika, Nino, Miku and Ichika help Yotsuba and Futaro pick a honeymoon destination, although much as they had with their graduation trip, they cannot all agree on a suitable place. Futaro smiles, recalling these old times with the sisters who’ve helped to change him, and with this, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is now in the books. The film acts as the conclusion to The Quintessential Quintuplets, and during its 136 minute runtime, crams a great deal of content into things to ensure the story is wrapped up in whole.

The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is a busier movie in that it also deals with how each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki come to terms with the fact that only one of them will be with Futaro, Miku’s becoming more open about how she feels towards others, Nino’s efforts to show their father that her dreams to be a pâtissier are viable, and the motivation behind Itsuki’s desire to become a teacher. The decision to include all of these secondary elements into the film in conjunction with the feature presentation, Yotsuba coming to terms with what accepting Futaro’s feelings would mean, create a movie that characterises just how many moving parts there are where relationships are concerned. At its core, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie finally puts Futaro’s feelings into the open, and shows why of each of the siblings, he’s chosen Yotsuba. As it turns out, both he and Yotsuba had promised one another that they would study hard and become successful so they could look out for the people most dear to them. This is ultimately what pushed Futaro to excel academically, and while over the years, he’d lost sight of his original promise, reuniting with the quintuplets, and Yotsuba, helped him to remember why he’d been so focused on doing well for himself. Understanding the change Yotsuba wrought in him is why after all this time, Futaro treasures her the most strongly of everyone. On the other hand, Yotsuba hadn’t been quite as successful, and in her bid to be special, eventually saw herself as falling behind while her sisters had raced ahead, each with a clear picture of their own futures. As a result of this, Yotsuba saw herself as being unworthy of Futaro, even though the reality had been that, while perhaps not being academically inclined, she still retains the same desire to do well by those around her, and it is ultimately thanks to her promise with Futaro that set him on his present course. It takes a bit of a push to get Yotsuba to take that step forward, and in this way, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows how falling in love is one of those instances in life where it’s okay to be selfish. The complex interplay of being selfish to be with Futaro, but also being selfless and being happy for the quintuplet who ends up with him forms the bulk of the tension in The Quintessential Quintuplets. Looking back, Yotsuba marrying Futaro follows well because of the five sisters, she’s the one that put up the strongest facade to cover for her own doubts. While the other sisters all eventually developed a stronger idea of what their futures entailed, Yotsuba had slowly fallen behind even though she’d been the one to spur everyone on. To give Yotsuba a reliable, ever-present source of support therefore would allow her to move ahead in her life, as well. The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is therefore able to provide a definitive conclusion to the series; despite being a story with multiple moving parts, some of which did not receive more exploration, the film does a satisfactory job of answering most of the lingering questions I had following The Quintessential Quintuplets∬.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As memory serves, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ finished airing in April 2021, and the film premièred in Japan back during May 2022, about a year later. I originally watched The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ first season back during August 2020, after I’d become curious to check the series out, and while things began on a reasonable solid note, by the time I finished the first season, I was convinced that this was an anime worth my while. By this point in time, I’m familiar with all of the lead characters, and continue to be impressed with the all-star cast’s voice acting.

  • The film opens a ways after the class trip seen in the second season, dropping viewers right into the midst of a culture festival. In Japanese secondary education, the culture festival is a culmination of one’s social experiences, combining camaraderie with one’s class and the total experience one accrued through their club activities to create one final memory of school before one sets their sights on the future. Many anime thus place a great deal of emphasis on culture festivals because they represent a time where students are allowed to channel their efforts towards something besides their academics.

  • The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is structured in a novel way: it is interspersed with flashbacks, and the culture festival is broken down into five distinct acts, one for each of the Nakano quintuplets. Each of these happen concurrently, giving each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki screen time as they navigate the culture festival and manage their feelings for Futaro. There are multiple overlapping stories that take place during the culture festival, and I recall writing previously that a third season of The Quintessential Quintuplets was probably necessary to adequately cover everything.

  • As it turns out, I get to stand by these old assertions – the culture festival sees Nino finally earning her father’s approval in her future plans, has Itsuki confronting doubts surrounding her reasons for becoming a teacher and sees Miku finally becoming more assertive. However, each of these stories are condensed into a vignette that shows different sides of the same three days, and as a result, there’s not a large amount of space to explore the significance of each of these stories. From what The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows, however, it is clear that Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki all have a very concrete plan for their respective futures.

  • I imagine that this is why the film was structured the way it was; each of these sub-stories are important and do help the characters to grow, but at the same time, it also hints at the fact that, despite how deeply Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki love Futaro, they also have something that they can devote every fibre of their being to. Losing Ichika isn’t enough to prevent these four from achieving their goals, so it was probably decided that these moments just needed to be shown and tied together so the film could focus on Futaro’s choice.

  • The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie has a runtime of 136 minutes, but a full one cour season would offer a minimum of 240 minutes. With double the space, there is no doubt that a third season could have given some of these side stories more emotional impact: one episode to set the stage, followed by a full episode for each of the quintuplets would’ve given sufficient time to cover the culture festival, and subsequently, the remaining six episodes could then deal with Futaro’s kokuhaku, Yotsuba’s struggle to accept it and how things get smoothed over.

  • The only logical argument I can think of for a movie format is that it would provide a single cinematic experience for viewers, acting as a swan song to The Quintessential Quintuplets. The longer runtime and extended budgets that anime movies have often allow them to tell stories at a much larger scale. However, having seen the remaining story through The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, it does feel that the movie format may not have been strictly necessary, and a third season would’ve been able to yield an equivalent emotional impact.

  • For me, I prefer television seasons over movies even though the latter often have improved production values – anime movies do not follow a consistent release pattern because Japanese distributors aim to maximise domestic profits, and it is more profitable to charge viewers exorbitant amounts for a theatrical screening than it is to make a film available on a streaming service or releasing them to disks. The end result is that films now take an average of eight months to come out, and the better a film does at the box office, the longer it’s kept in theatres. From a business standpoint, this is perfectly logical, and overseas viewers like myself have grown accustomed to waiting long periods for films to come out.

  • However, some viewers feel compelled to fly over to Japan, or even more there, so that they can be the first to watch a film, have an opinion on said film, or even spread spoilers online for e-cred. I’ve never understood this sort of behaviour: spending thousands of dollars to watch an anime film solely for the purpose of making a few Wikipedia edits, forum posts or Tweets spoiling experiences for others appears irrational. Individuals like these degrade the anime movie experience, and one of the challenges that I face is avoiding spoilers shortly after a film is released in Japan.

  • In the case of The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, I was able to avoid spoilers for the duration of the wait, and for this, I was met with a film which, while not strictly needing the silver screen format, was one that still proved to be a satisfying conclusion to the series. After the culture festival ends, the film finally enters its endgame. I’d long known that Yotsuba would end up with Futaro – when I watched the first season, I hadn’t been too concerned with spoilers and therefore, had no qualms reading ahead to see what would happen. Of course, knowing the outcomes don’t really bother me quite as much as knowing how a story reaches the point that it does.

  • Here in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, seeing how things came to be was the highlight, and while the series had done a fantastic job of leaving it ambiguous of who Futaro would choose right up until the end, as it turns out, the first season had not-so-subtly foreshadowed the outcomes. Of everyone, Ichika and Yotsuba had warmed up to Futaro the quickest, while Miku and Nino were cool towards him, and Itsuki was outright unresponsive. Looking further, The Quintessential Quintuplets had also shown Ichika as being more proactive than Yotsuba. Based on elimination, once Miku, Itsuki and Nino warmed up to Futaro, and since Ichika had always shown some interest, it follows that Yotsuba was unlike the others.

  • As it turns out, Yotsuba had been the quintuplet that had run into Futaro long ago, and it was with her that he’d made his promise. Putting two and two together allowed me to accept Yotsuba as the one for Futaro – although each of Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki are suitable candidates, they lack the same promise, and one of the smaller themes in The Quintessential Quintuplets is that it’s okay to lean on one another, so it followed that Futaro would begin falling in love with the quintuplet who’d motivated him to do his best for the future. However, if Yotsuba had immediately returned Futaro’s feelings, it would rather detract from the conflict that’d been building up until now.

  • A fair amount of the conflict in The Quintessential Quintuplets stems from problems in communication, and I realise that I’m fond of saying in my posts that good communication is usually essential to managing conflict. When it comes to most problem-solving, I prefer being direct and open, but now, I understand why this isn’t always a method people are willing to take. Yotsuba loves Futaro, but she also loves her sisters and believes she isn’t worthy of Futaro. It takes a bit of nudging to get things to a point where she is confident enough to put herself first.

  • Although Futaro’s been hanging out with the Nakano quintuplets for some time, there’s an aura of awkwardness surrounding their first few dates. This isn’t unexpected, as nerves will doubtlessly be present. The pair’s first date is to a family restaurant, which is admittedly different from the old standby, the local coffee shop, and then the local library. Along the way, the others end up following to make sure everything is going along smoothly. This is a classic gag, during which concerned parties tale the newly-minted couple to see what goes down, and while a long time ago, I would have said that I’d can spot a tail on a date, I’m not quite sure I’m confident I could say this claim holds true anymore.

  • The day eventually sees Futaro and Yotsuba return to the playground where they’d previously shared a pivotal conversation. The Quintessential Quintuplets has an all-star casting, and Yotsuba is voiced by Ayane Sakura. Because I know Sakura best as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto, it’s a little difficult to shake the feeling that Futaro’s given a kokuhaku to Cocoa, and this thought similarly reminds me that I’ve been around the block long enough to know some of the key voice actresses now. This is actually how I’ve been telling the different quintuplets apart when they dress up as one another – while they may appear similar physically, their voices still sound different enough.

  • When Yotsuba propel herself from the swing, Futaro promises that if he can reach a similar distance, he’ll pose a question for her. Although he fails, Futaro decides to press forward with proposing to Yotsuba anyways, surprising her. Yotsuba is right in that Futaro bypassed basically every step in the process and remarks that doing something this way would almost certainly send someone heading for the hills, were that person not her. With this in mind, this is the only other proposal I’ve seen in an anime besides CLANAND, where Tomoya proposed to Nagisa in a similarly sudden and unromantic moment. However, like CLANNAD, the strength of the feelings are such that this matters little, and with Futaro proposing to Yotsuba, things draw to a close as the quintuplets each prepare to pursue their futures.

  • The end of 2022, and the arrival of 2023 has seen a few relaxing days: I spent the whole of New Year’s Eve tending to housework and the like so I could have New Year’s Day easy. During the evening, we had a family dinner whose centrepiece was a prime rib roast with roast cauliflower and fully-loaded mashed potatoes. We subsequently stayed up to midnight for the New Year’s countdown, the first time I’d celebrated here at the new digs, and then yesterday, after sleeping in, the day was spent at home. Earlier today, the skies were gorgeous, so I ended up taking a walk out to my favourite viewpoint in town.

  • Work resumes tomorrow, and I’m admittedly quite excited to return to my usual routine: this winter break’s been fantastic, and I’m fired up, ready to do my best. The flow of time is relentless, and days disappear in the blink of an eye. In this way, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie puts the pedal to the metal as each of Itsuki, Ichika, Nino and Miku pursue their respective futures. One of the challenges the quintuplets had faced throughout The Quintessential Quintuplets was maintaining their promise to be with one another, and I’ve found that in many anime, this is a major problem characters encounter as they part ways and pursue their goals.

  • On my end, I’ve never actually worried about this because at the end of every journey, I always had the option of keeping in touch with people I’ve become friends with. While people naturally drift apart over time, the strongest friendships find ways of enduring, and moreover, even if people do fall out of touch, sometimes, they can return into one’s life as an unexpected, pleasant surprise. Knowing that the means of keeping in touch with friends and colleagues means that a parting of ways is rarely final, but in the context of anime, I’d imagine that stories are written to accentuate how strong the bonds are between people who share experiences over time.

  • The Nakano quintuplets realise this and pursue their futures wholeheartedly, knowing that they can always make the effort of remaining together even as their paths diverge. In this way, five years elapses in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, and the story subsequently resumes after everyone’s graduate from post-secondary. Assuming everyone was seventeen during the culture festival and following events, a five year time skip puts everyone at age twenty-two. For most people, twenty-two is when they’ve completed their post-secondary and are ready to become full-fledged members of society.

  • Not everyone’s path is quite so smooth: when I was twenty-two, I’d completed my honours degree in health science, but otherwise was uncertain of my future. I took a gap year to figure things out, ended up applying to graduate school and the rest is history. There is no single “right” way of living life or pursuing the future, and I believe that Tamayura best puts it, while everyone sets sail differently, the single most important thing is that eventually, everyone does set sail and make their own way. Seeing Itsuka, Ichika, Miku and Nino embracing their future was a reassuring sight, and one touch I liked was how Miku’s wearing her hair in a different style, suggesting that she’s become more confident.

  • One aspect of The Quintessential Quintuplets I found unexpectedly enjoyable was the soundtrack. As of The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, I began noticing the soundtrack; the music captures the sort of yearning and wistfulness surrounding the Nakano siblings and their feelings for Futaro. The film’s soundtrack was also phenomenal, swelling to an emotional crescendo whenever the moment called for it. There are more whimsical pieces of incidental music that capture comedy and light-hearted moments, but the best tracks are played in the film’s most touching scenes.

  • Five years is a nontrivial amount of time, and by the time Yotsuba and Futaro’s wedding arrives, the other quintuplets have made peace with things. They still like messing with Futaro, however, and on the day of his wedding, Futaro is met with Itsuki, Nino, Ichika, Miku and Yotsuba wearing identical hair styles and wedding dresses. They propose a challenge to him and say that he’s only of marrying Yotsuba if he can find Yotsuba amongst everyone else. Admittedly, if The Quintessential Quintuplets hadn’t introduced the visual characteristics that make each quintuplet distinct, then voices and mannerisms would be the only way to tell them apart

  • Earlier in the film, when Futaro is shown taking Miku to an aquarium and they spot a penguin show, the attendant is shown as explaining that the keepers tell penguins apart based on characteristics like their markings and mannerisms. Over time, Futaro has learnt to do the same, and this is what ultimately shows the Nakano quintuplets’ father that Futaro is worthy: Mudō had completely failed to tell Itsuki apart from Miku, and throughout The Quintessential Quintuplets, one of Futaro’s first tasks had actually been to tell everyone apart. As he became increasingly proficient in doing so, he earns the quintuplets’ begruding respect.

  • Futaro’s identifying each of the quintuplets and following up with a comment on everyone’s individual strengths and weaknesses shows just how well he knows them. In this moment, it was also a show of how, because he is able to connect at this level to each of the quintuplets, Futaro’s decision to marry Yotsuba was made based on assessing all of the facts and making the choice based on what his intentions and desires were. The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie might be rushed in some places, and some of the story elements may have been better presented in a third season rather than a film, but there is no denying that the story’s most powerful moments were still conveyed to viewers.

  • Overall, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie represents a satisfying and worthy conclusion to the series, which, when taken together, exceeded my expectations. The premise of quintuplets falling for the same person had initially been intriguing, and I had thought that little more than comedy would arise, but seeing The Quintessential Quintuplets explore each quintuplet’s motivations and backgrounds, plus their growth over time, made the story feel more life-like. This helped me to become invested in the characters, and I found myself curious to see how things would be resolved.

  • Having had a chance to listen to the film’s soundtrack, a handful of the songs ended up reminding me of Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand”, which was a single composed for Top Gun: Maverick. On The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie‘s soundtrack, “Fūtarō o shinjiru” reminded me of Maverick‘s “Talk to me, Goose” and “Penny Returns” because they share similar instruments and carry a similar tonal aesthetic. I found myself thinking more than once that “Hold My Hand” would actually be well-suited for some scenes in  The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie.

  • Seeing the entire journey in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows how even more outlandish situations can be resolved over time with communication, honesty and sincerity. Futaro’s character is essential in this: being studious and devoted, he’s also decisive and commits to his choices, which eliminates ambiguity. In any given love story with multiple prospective partners, this is essential. CLANNAD had done the same: early on, even before Tomoya formally asked Nagisa out, he’d (subconsciously) made it clear that he had eyes for no one other than Nagisa, and while this deeply hurt Kyou, Tomoyo and Kotomi, the directness of things also meant the others wouldn’t be led on and hurt further, in turn allowing them to step forward and recover

  • After the wedding’s done, Futaro and Yotsuba begin looking at honeymoon destinations, and to no one’s surprise, Itsuki, Ichika, Nino and Miku also help out. The fact that everyone picks different destinations is another show that despite their similarities, everyone’s their own person, with unique traits, and in doing so, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie reminds viewers, one final time, that everyone’s found their own path. However, because the moment is overlaid with a flashback to a similar moment in secondary school, it also shows that some things don’t change, and these things can certainly be cherished.

  • This post, my first of 2023, is now in the books, and while I am looking forwards to seeing what this year will bring, I have a few final comments. The first is that I’ve been following Bocchi The Rock! and Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out! ω during the last season. I’ve completed the former over the break, and only have one more episode for the latter. I intend on writing about both before the new season’s shows hit their stride: for the winter season, only Bofuri and Mō Ippon! have my eye, and I’ll likely write about them after three episodes have aired.

I had originally entered The Quintessential Quintuplets two years ago and, after the series had established its premise, became curious to see how things would unfold. Although the idea of multiple people falling in love with the same individual (and the resulting love tesseracts that arise) is nothing new, author Negi Haruba had drafted The Quintessential Quintuplets to explore what might happen when five sisters experienced this. Although the story had originally been rejected by Haruba’s editor, after Haruba was given a chance to do a standalone manga and found the story to be well-received, The Quintessential Quintuplets took off. It’s certainly one of the more unique portrayals of love in any work I’ve seen – the lack of a familial bond means that the different suitors can completely focus on themselves. Where family is involved, the Nakanos are forced to realise that if they move forward, someone’s going to get their feelings hurt, but at the same time, if they concede, they might one left with regrets. The push-pull between this drives much of the tensions in The Quintessential Quintuplets, and seeing how over time, the girls deal with their feelings and accept the outcomes, was what made this series increasingly worthwhile. While The Quintessential Quintuplets is a little rough around the edges, it is able to capture the raw emotions surrounding falling in love, along with the idea that at the end of the day, people are at their best when they’re motivated to do something for the sake of those around them. Futaro had begun his journey with a promise to Yotsuba, and years later, fate would bring him back into contact with the Nakanos. However, despite their cold reception towards him, his perseverance and insistence in reaching his goal of having the girls perform well enough academically to pass eventually wins them over, alongside their father. Along the way, Futaro also learns that there’s more to life than just hitting the books, and he comes to appreciate the Nakano quintuplets’ company, as well. The payoff at the end of this hectic journey is meaningful, and as such, I ended up having fun watching this series to completion.

Top Gun: Maverick – A Reflection and Review, Flying into the Danger Zone With A New Generation

“Fight’s on. Let’s turn and burn.” – Pete “Maverick” Mitchell

Three decades after the events of Top Gun, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell has become a test pilot, and after a test flight ends with the destruction of the Darkstar hypersonic aircraft, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky sends Maverick over to train TOPGUN graduates for an upcoming assignment to destroy an illegal uranium enrichment facility in an unnamed country. After meeting his students and defeating them in dogfighting exercises, including Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, Maverick reunites with Penny Benjamin and reveals that Rooster’s mother had asked him to keep an eye on him and guide him away from being a pilot. Torn between allowing Rooster to fly and respecting his mother’s wishes, Maverick decides to speak with Iceman, who’s afflicted with terminal throat cancer. Iceman suggests that Maverick must let go of the past. When Iceman dies from his illness, and after a training accident, Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson relieves Maverick of his role and resets the mission parameters, making the initial flight to the target longer. However, Maverick seizes an F/A-18 and demonstrates the flight is possible against orders. Cyclone determines that the assignment must be completed, and with the time constraints, decides to entrust Maverick with flying a part of the mission. Although the strike is successful, Maverick is shot down, forcing Rooster to save him, and in the process, Rooster himself is shot down, as well. The pair end up stealing an F-14 and destroy the pair of Su-57s intercepting them, but run out of ammunition and flares. At the last moment, pilot Jake “Hangman” Seresin saves the pair, and they return safely to their carrier. Later, Rooster helps Maverick work on his P-51 and, while looking at a photo of their mission’s success, watches as Penny and Maverick take a sunset flight in the latter’s P-51. Releasing over three decades after 1986’s Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick (Maverick from here on out for brevity) is a phenomenal sequel that has earned its praises and accolades in full – in a rare occurrence, Maverick is an instance where the sequel surpasses the original. Maverick is a superior emotional and visual experience over its predecessor, fully capturing Maverick’s character growth as he learns to promote teamwork and entrust the future to youth. This sentiment is shared by professional critics and movie-goers alike; besides a tepid romance between Maverick and Penny, the remainder of the film hits consistent home runs, with a gripping story, solid thematic elements and authentic aviation sequences making the movie a masterpiece to behold.

Over the course of its runtime, Maverick is a film about the dynamic between older and younger generations. On one end, Maverick speaks to putting one’s faith in the next generation, and allowing younger minds to step into roles of responsibility. At the same time, Maverick also indicates that youth should not be so hasty in dismissing experience – it is to general surprise when Maverick schools the TOPGUN graduates in exercises, surprising even the cocky Hangman and defeating him in a dogfight. Even Natasha “Phoenix” Trace makes the remark, wondering who’s going to be teaching the best of the best. While youth often believe that they’re ready to handle anything and are eager to jump straight in, an experienced professional will hang back, assess a problem and then draw upon their prior knowledge to decide how to best approach a problem. Although the TOPGUN pilots have more vigour and faster reflexes than Maverick, Maverick makes up for this in being able to anticipate his student’s actions and plan accordingly. By impressing the TOPGUN graduates, Maverick shows them that learning is an ongoing process, and learning never really stops. On the flipside, because of his promise to Rooster’s mother, Maverick is afraid to let Rooster fly to his full potential, and even interfered in his application process. It is only upon hearing Iceman’s advice, “let go”, that Maverick is able to see Rooster as a full-fledged pilot and select him for the mission. In reality, veterans often can have a tough time entrusting tasks to youth: it’s natural to feel protective of the people one is asked to look after, but there comes a point where it’s important to let youth test their own strength, and have faith in their ability to get things done. Maverick demonstrates this best when Rooster, on an unexpectedly impulsive act, flies back and saves Maverick from being blasted by a Mi-28 Havoc. After he’s shot down, when Maverick demands to know why Rooster flew back, Rooster retorts that Maverick had taught him to “don’t think, just do”. In this moment, Maverick is completely taken aback, but recovers – evidently, Rooster is competent and capable. Maverick thus suggests that young and old minds, contrary to what internet articles suggest, can get along – young people should be open to learning something from old minds, and old minds should have more faith in young people, trusting them to get things done in a mix of old and new ways.

Maverick is also a visceral show of what leadership looks like. While Maverick himself has had a history of insubordination, which had prevented him from advancing to flag rank, viewers are shown that this insubordination occurs because, since Goose’s death, Maverick has become more mindful of the people around him. This is made clear to viewers right out of the gates during the Darkstar test: when Maverick learns the Darkstar program is about to be scrubbed, he decides to go on a test flight anyways and comments on how, if he doesn’t defy orders to stand down, the program will go under and take the team with it. Maverick is willing to put himself on the line to ensure everyone else is safe. A good leader is someone who puts others ahead of themselves, and while from a command perspective, Maverick is appropriately-named, those who work with him are willing to do so precisely because Maverick is not a glory-seeker; he just wants to make sure everyone succeeds. This is seen again when he designs the mission parameters for the canyon attack – Maverick’s insistent on the fact that the flight be short so that the attacking aircraft have the most opportunity to evade the enemy defenses and return home. Maverick’s experiences with Goose ended up shaping him into a leader, and while this makes him appear very unreasonable, to the point where Cyclone is all too happy to dismiss Maverick after an incident during training, Maverick has one other trait that makes him a valuable leader: he is able to walk the walk, on top of talking the talk. Maverick’s test run impresses all of the TOPGUN graduates, and even Cyclone begrudgingly admits that the mission, as Maverick defined it, is technically possible. A good leader always leads by example, and can do the things they expect of their subordinates, and by showing the TOPGUN graduates that this mission is achievable, the mood suddenly changes, as a formerly impossible mission suddenly becomes a challenge that the candidates are curious to see if they can overcome. Throughout Maverick, Maverick shows that Iceman was right; the other admirals and leadership may not see Maverick as an asset, but Maverick’s traits actually make him invaluable, and it is these leadership qualities that ultimately make the mission successful. In this way, Maverick is a highly inspiring film, demonstrating in no uncertain terms that leaders are people who can do the things they expect of their subordinates, put their subordinates first, and are able to inspire subordinates to better themselves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the 2000s, the top film experiences were the Lord of the Rings and Dark Knight trilogies. Avengers: Infinity War and EndgameFirst Man, Dunkirk and Interstellar were my top picks for the 2010s. Here in the 2020s, things start off strong with Top Gun: Maverick, and ahead of the film’s release, I watched the original Top Gun so I’d be familiar with things. The original film is a fair experience, but things do feel a little less cohesive. In spite of this, the film was still enjoyable, and the music was especially good. Maverick, on the other hand, is on a whole different level.

  • The film actually opens similarly to 2018’s First Man, which had Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) piloting an X-15 and struggling to get it back into the atmosphere during a test flight. From there, the remainder of the film was a powerful portrayal of Armstrong’s journey to being the first man on the moon. Maverick starts with Maverick (Tom Cruise) testing the experimental “Darkstar”, a hypersonic ramjet aircraft intended to reach speeds of up to Mach 10. Although Lockheed Martin representatives vehemently deny Darkstar is based on any real aircraft, it does resemble the SR-72 prototype.

  • Maverick features numerous callbacks to the original Top Gun: as Maverick reaches the stipulated speed of Mach 10, he whispers to himself, “Talk to me, Goose”: in Top Gun, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) had been Maverick’s WSO, but died during an accident when their F-14 suffered a flameout. Both Maverick and Goose had ejected, but Goose broke his neck on the canopy, and since then, Maverick regretted not being able to save his friend. Despite being cleared of wrongdoing by a military court, Maverick continues to be haunted by this failure.

  • As Darkstar reaches Mach 10, Admiral Cain arrives with the aim of shutting the programme down, disappointed by its failure and anticipating that unmanned drones would soon replace human pilots. This concept is not explored in greater depth in Maverick, but Ace Combat 7 delves into the topic in great detail and suggests that drones or no, human pilots continue to be relevant since they can make decisions automaton cannot. On the topic of Ace Combat 7, the Top Gun: Maverick DLC set was released to accompany the film, and I’ve been eying it precisely because it lets me to fly the Darkstar aircraft, along with Maverick’s custom F/A-18.

  • When Maverick pushes Darkstar past its operational boundaries, its airframe disintegrates. Viewers have been very critical of this scene: ejecting conventionally at Mach 10 would liquify the human body, and Tango-Victor-Tango’s John “Fighteer” Aldrich claims that, because this one scene isn’t survivable, the entire movie was undeserving of its praises. In the story, the Darkstar aircraft was likely equipped with an ejection capsule, similarly to the F-111 Aardvark; it’s always amusing to see people like Fighteer taking themselves so seriously, when they lack the ability to reason through things and properly walk others through their thoughts.

  • For someone who still moderates Tango-Victor-Tango to this day, while I appreciate Fighteer’s devotion to a meaningless pursuit (conversation at Tango-Victor-Tango has intellectual value the same way Spontaneous Generation is a valid scientific theory), it is a little surprising to see someone with a complete lack of literary knowledge take such an interest in fiction. I have previously argued that works of fiction like Maverick don’t need to be realistic, but rather, internally consistent: so long as the rules of the fictional world are not broken, and so long as a work can convey its message, it will be successful.

  • The only aspect of Maverick that didn’t work quite as well was the romance between Maverick and Penny: in the original film, Maverick’s attempts to impress instructor Charlotte Blackwood was a part of the story’s way of fleshing out Maverick’s character, but here in Maverick, Penny feels like she came out of the blue. Had the film omitted this piece, I feel that its themes and messages would not have been diminished in any way.

  • On the other hand, the rocky relationship Maverick has with Goose’s son, Rooster, is a central part of the film. On their first day, tensions already run high – Rooster holds Maverick accountable for Goose’s death, and Maverick wishes that Rooster would’ve chosen any other profession besides following his father’s footsteps, a wish his mother had made. The other pilots are shocked to see Maverick as their instructor, having watched him get thrown out of Penny’s bar the previous evening after he made a gaffe and wasn’t able to pay the tab, per house rules.

  • Owing to these initial impressions, the TOPGUN graduates are pretty confident that they can hold their own against Maverick, and during the first day of exercises, Payback suggests upping the stakes after hearing Maverick’s exercise conditions: the graduates must work together to shoot him down before he decides to shoot back. Two hundred pushups is a lot, and the young aviators are confident that they’ll have no trouble besting Maverick.

  • This scene was set the The Who’s iconic song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Like its predecessor, Maverick has excellent music, but unlike Top Gun, the film uses existing music – Top Gun had several pieces written specifically for the film, including Kenny Loggins’ iconic “Danger Zone” and “Playing With the Boys” and the Oscar-winning “Take My Breath Away”. My favourite piece on the original soundtrack, however, is Cheap Trick’s “Mighty Wings” because its iconic opening riff inspired the theme to Ken’s stage in Street Fighter II.

  • Were I in the TOPGUN graduate’s shoes, I’d be nervous to hear Maverick casually accept the terms of the wager: he quickly disappears off the radars and flies between the two F/A-18s from underneath, timed perfectly to “Won’t Get Fooled Again”‘s iconic YEAH moment. Maverick is all business, but the movie has moments of levity to remind viewers that while the TOPGUN graduates are all skilled aviators, and their assignment is deadly serious, they’re still human at the end of the day. It’s a clever way to lighten the film up in the early stages.

  • Maverick uses the F/A-18E Super Hornet, a twin-engine multi-role fighter that entered service in 1999, replacing the F-14 Tomcat, which featured in Top Gun. The Super Hornet was chosen in the film, over the F-35 Lightning, on the grounds that the newer aircraft and their high-tech suite of electronics wouldn’t be suited for the mission, but in reality, the F-35 is a single-seater, and this wouldn’t allow the film to have been filmed with real pilots. Further to this, the F-35 was designed to launch its ordnance from high altitudes at a distance, so using them would’ve simply meant hanging back and launching missiles, rather than going in for a high-octane low-altitude run.

  • Rooster’s “Not this time, old man!” is one of my favourite lines in the film: having just prevented Maverick from getting behind Payback and Fanboy, Rooster attempts to engage Maverick, but ends up being “shot down” in the exercise. Moments like these are a great way of showing why it isn’t a good idea to underestimate anyone: while Maverick’s reflexes and physicality aren’t what they were thirty years ago, he makes up for this by knowing his aircraft and knowing how other pilots react in certain situations, allowing him to act accordingly.

  • There are a large number of TOPGUN candidates in the beginning, but seeing which characters got more speaking roles hinted at who would be selected to participate in the mission. Among the characters is Phoenix (Monica Barbaro). I was very pleased with how her role was handled in the film – she’s presented as a confident and skilled pilot in the skies, and she’s also got a good sense of humour, even when under stress. Phoenix’s WSO is Bob (Lewis Pullman), a quiet fellow whose call-sign’s meaning is left open to interpretation, and whose name might be a clever callback to the Bob Hoover story.

  • As the story goes, after being shot down behind enemy lines, Hoover was taken as a prisoner of war, escaped during a prison riot and then managed to find a pistol. After reaching a German airfield, he held a mechanic at gunpoint and forced him to start up a Focke-Wulf Fw 190, then proceeded to fly it over to the Netherlands. This actually lines up with how the end of Maverick goes, so a part of me wonders if Bob was named after Bob Hoover. Here, watching the other TOPGUN graduates taking a selfie while Rooster is doing the pushups was an amusing sign of the times; smartphones didn’t exist back in 1986.

  • More amusing was what happened after Maverick bests all of the arrogant and brash airmen, prompting Bernie “Hondo” Coleman to remark that “it was all fun and games in that selfie”. A chief warrant officer who worked with Maverick on Darkstar, Hondo joins Maverick in the TOPGUN programme. The whole point of the dogfighting drills here is to test how pilots and WSOs work together as a team under pressure, and also to prepare them for the sort of flying they might be up against when in the air over hostile territory.

  • When it’s Phoenix and Bob’s turn to go up against Maverick, they’re paired with Hangman (Glen Powell). Hangman is easily the cockiest of the bunch, being the only pilot with a kill to his name, and his first act is to ditch Phoenix and Bob, leaving them to be shot down. Hangman’s remarks to Bob and Phoenix are mildly disrespectful, speaking to his character and reminding viewers of a younger Maverick. Again, speaking to Maverick’s experience, he comments on how “leaving your wingman” is something he’d not seen in some time.

  • While Hangman proves a formidable pilot capable of some skillful manoeuvres, without a wingman to help him spot, Hangman is surprised by Maverick, who ends up shooting him down. The importance of this moment is to show that individual skill only takes one so far – having been around the block for some time, I can speak to this. As a developer, my skills lie in mobile platforms, and while I am capable of doing a few things with backend and web client code, I count on other members of the team to ensure those aspects are working smoothly.

  • Once the initial exercises are done, the story in Maverick steps up when Rooster goes up against Maverick a second time. Maverick’s up to his old tricks, and decides to fly inverted, daring Rooster kick the party off. In the original Top Gun, Maverick and Goose had done this to an enemy combatant, taking their photo with a Polaroid camera before flying off. The scene really serves to show the sort of animosity between Maverick and Rooster: it turns out that Maverick had intervened and delayed Rooster’s application to the naval academy.

  • The resentment in the moment causes the normally-cautious Rooster to begin flying much more recklessly, and the pair are locked in a spiral down to the hard deck. The hard deck refers to a preset altitude in which aircraft during training are not permitted to go below, otherwise, it counts as an impact with the ground. This element had been a point of discussion during Top Gun, when Maverick had dipped below the hard deck to get the kill on Jester – strictly speaking, if Jester was below the hard deck, this would be counted as a ground collision, and the exercise would end. Thus, there was no need for Maverick to continue pursuing.

  • The tense exchange between Rooster and Maverick suggests that both are having trouble dealing with their respective pasts; Rooster is more open about things, whereas Maverick attempts to talk Rooster down from things even as he himself struggles to deal with what had happened to Goose. Conversations like these give a bit of insight into the characters and, when they’re set during a tense moment, such as a dogfight, it allows a film to show, rather than tell: the way Rooster and Maverick fly and move both reflect on their internal turmoil, with the small difference being that at this point, Maverick is experienced enough to identify things are going bad and is willing to pull out before anything can happen: he breaks from the dive moments before Rooster does. In the end, Rooster is unable to outmanoeuvre Maverick and is shot down yet again.

  • Maverick (and Top Gun) remain highly dramatised accounts of what being a naval aviator is like, but as a work of fiction, one must allow for the presence of creative liberties to be taken in order to facilitate the plot. I’ve previously discussed this before; as long as a work is internally consistent, then even if there are overt elements of fantasy one knows to be impossible in reality, they can still accept it because it remains within the bounds of what the writer has defined. However, even when a work is internally consistent, there remain some people who adamantly insist on analysing it for flaws.

  • As it turns out, if a work of fiction fails to engage with an individual at the emotional level, one will instinctively attempt to rationalise why. It takes a degree of emotional intelligence to do this, and where one cannot readily explain why they are unable to relate to a work, they will fall back on picking at the small details. This would explain why Fighteer immediately picks apart the Darkstar scene as “unrealistic”, and why Reckoner of Behind the Nihon Review griped about K-On! The Movie: the respective films simply don’t appeal to them, but because it takes maturity to do introspection, neither Reckoner or Fighteer are able to articulate why a work didn’t click with them personally. Their displeasure thus manifests as gripes about trivial details that have no bearing on the story.

  • I have stated before that it’s perfectly normal not to like something, and this stance hasn’t changed. However, when people use realism as the reason for why, I now know that they’re probably having difficulty in expressing themselves. I concede this isn’t easy to do: for instance, Stella no Mahou didn’t work for me, and it took a few days for me to determine that the payoff at the end of the journey wasn’t consistent with what I’d previously experienced. At a personal level, the anime didn’t succeed, but I simultaneously note that some folks might like it anyways. Back in Maverick, Maverick spends a bit of time with Penny, and while I will hold the story could have worked without the romance piece, Maverick courting Penny does have a nontrivial impact on him by showing him there is a world outside of his career.

  • The Su-57s in Maverick are referred to as “fifth-generation fighters” exclusively. The ambiguity of the foreign power with the illegal uranium facility in Maverick was a brilliant way of avoiding any political controversy, and shows that writers can indeed keep politics out of their work without impacting its quality. Here, the enemy nation is irrelevant: what matters is the presence of an assignment that drives Maverick and Rooster’s growth. While some people insist that all fiction is political by definition, I disagree. At their core, works of fiction are about individuals within a given system, and depending on the story, politics may or may not be relevant.

  • One of Maverick‘s most moving moments was the return of Val Kilmer as Iceman; now an aging admiral with terminal cancer, Iceman is unable to speak, but still retains a very healthy amount of respect for Maverick. The pair had been rivals in Top Gun, but developed professional and mutual respect for one another following their first combat sortie together. Having seen what Maverick can be like at his best, Iceman had kept Maverick around, knowing he could do the things that needed to be done. Maverick treats Kilmer and Iceman respectfully: Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015 and has found it difficult to speak since then, and this was woven into the film to create a very poignant meeting.

  • The fact that Maverick seeks out Iceman for advice shows how he’s changed: no longer cocky and self-assured, Maverick occasionally acknowledges that he needs help from others, and similarly, when his conversation with Iceman ends, and Iceman asks, “who’s the better pilot” in jest, Maverick simply smiles and embraces his old friend. Maverick is best known for its aviation sequences, but interpersonal moments act simultaneously as callbacks to the original film, as well as giving Maverick a way to acknowledge the older actors and their contributions.

  • Despite knowing the stakes, the training exercises aren’t going well: the mission entails flying through a narrow canyon to evade enemy surface-to-air missiles, popping up and delivering a pair of precision strikes with laser-guided munitions, and then escaping before enemy Su-57s can engage them. During one drill, Payback passes out from g-LOC and nearly crashes, while Phoenix and Bob both are forced to bail following a bird strike. No matter how many times the pilots try, they seem unable to fly the stipulated route in under two minutes and fifteen seconds.

  • The turning point in Maverick comes when Rooster confronts Maverick over the latter’s decision to impede his application into the naval aviation programme. Maverick had done so to honour his word to Rooster’s mother, but now finds himself at a crossroad; if he sidelines Rooster on this assignment, Rooster will resent him for the remainder of his days, but if he chooses to select Rooster as one of the pilots and Rooster is killed, then he’ll have to live with the guilt of having seen both his best friend and his son’s deaths.

  • According to interviews, when Val Kilmer was shown the sections of Maverick he appears in, he was moved by how things were done, and director Kosinski, upon seeing Kilmer’s reaction, felt that they’d gotten right such a critical moment in the film. After Iceman dies from his illness, Cyclone removes Maverick as the instructor and changes mission parameters in light of the incidents during training. If Maverick were to be entirely faithful to reality, this would be the end of Maverick’s time in the film: an instructor dismissed from an assignment won’t be returning.

  • However, assuming that viewers accept Maverick as a work of fiction, they’d be treated to one of the most thrilling moments in cinema this side of the 2020s: after Cyclone explains the updated mission parameters, the TOPGUN graduates suddenly hear a transmission from Maverick, who’s taken a Super Hornet and is now flying the course. When the range controller informs Maverick he’s not scheduled for a run, Maverick’s reply, “I’m going in anyways”, earns him a “nice” from Phoenix. As Maverick pushes his F/A-18E to the limits, the students, along with Cyclone and Warlock, suddenly find themselves cheering Maverick on internally.

  • I’ve heard that Maverick’s breathing during the whole sequence is actually deliberate, a means of forcing air into the lungs and stave off hypoxia. From a cinematography point of view, these moments really emphasise how taxing flying is on the body. To put things in perspective, we feel our heads spin when a commercial aircraft banks more than ten degrees, and in science fiction works, technologies like G-force dampeners are supposed to nullify the extreme forces that occur as a result of the demanding manoeuvres pilots engage in.

  • As Maverick nears the simulated target, the entire room waits with bated breath, hoping that Maverick will successfully hit the target. For this exercise, Maverick is using the laser module on his F/A-18E to designate the target, making a successful bulls-eye strike all the more impressive. For the actual run, the aircraft will fly in pairs: a front aircraft will drop the bombs, and a supporting aircraft will provide the laser. When the training bombs, characterised by their blue colouration, strike their target, the entire candidate group is impressed.

  • Warlock’s silent fist pump says it all, and in the aftermath, Maverick’s demonstration the mission could be done changes the tenour of the film. Of course, Maverick’s actions are not without consequence; his career’s been dotted with reckless acts of insubordination, and this latest stunt earns him yet another reprimand from Cyclone, who comments on how Maverick’s choices have left him in a difficult position. On one hand, following protocol means discharging Maverick dishonourably, but on the other, Maverick’s actions here show that the mission is doable.

  • In the end, because the consequences of allowing a rogue nation to achieve nuclear capabilities far outweighs the need to discipline Maverick, Cyclone’s decision ends up being a relatively simple one. He assigns Maverick to fly the lead aircraft and asks him to pick his pilots. Rooster, Phoenix, Bob, Payback and Fanboy are selected for the mission. With the mission now set, the fun and games in Maverick ends as the film becomes deadly serious. For the viewers’ benefit, the mission outline is given to viewers again: the supporting fleet will launch Tomahawk cruise missiles at the enemy airfield to cripple their aircraft, and Maverick’s team will fly in and destroy the target before the patrolling Su-57s can intercept them.

  • Maverick and Rooster share one more personal conversation before taking off from the carrier: Maverick promises they can chat after everyone comes back in one piece. Throughout Maverick, Maverick had emphasised the importance of coming back alive, and this mindset had stemmed from his own experiences. While this meant making the mission requirements seemingly unreasonably demanding, it’s Maverick’s way of expressing how he values life following Goose’s death. With these personal thoughts set aside, it’s time to get all of the aircraft in the air.

  • Upon seeing the mission for myself, I was immediately reminded of Ace Combat 7‘s Cape Rainy mission, which required players to fly through an extremely narrow canyon to evade enemy radar, while at the same time, avoiding searchlights placed throughout the canyon. Viewers familiar with Ace Combat immediately saw the similarities, and after watching Maverick, immediately went about recreating the film’s most iconic moments in-game. Project Aces saw these similarities and released the Top Gun: Maverick expansion for Ace Combat 7, adding six new aircraft, ten Maverick-themed emblems and twelve call-signs.

  • The DLC ordinarily retails for 26 CAD, but past sales have seen prices drop as low as 13 CAD. At this price point, I feel that it would be worthwhile, and I am now waiting for the Steam Winter Sale before I add the Maverick set to my library; during the Winter Sale, purchases also give players event cards, and since I do enjoy jazzing up my Steam profile, I feel that I can wait a few more weeks before I fly Darkstar or Maverick’s custom F/A-18E for myself. Having said this, I am quite excited to do so: Darkstar equips pulse lasers and can reach a maximum speed of 5000 kilometres per hour.

  • Mach 4 is only 40 percent of what Darkstar in Maverick is capable of reaching, but even this renders the aircraft brazenly overpowered: the AIM-9 Sidewinder has a maximum speed of Mach 2.5, so in theory, if an enemy aircraft fires on Ace Combact 7‘s Darkstar, evading the missile would simply be a matter of opening the throttle and accelerating. In fact, this is how SR-71 Blackbird pilots were taught to deal with missiles: after surface batteries detected the aircraft, it’d be too far away to hit by the time the missiles were ready.

  • Back in Maverick, the Tomahawk missiles impact the airfield, and this causes the patrolling fifth-generation fighters to immediately divert and head back to defend the uranium site. Although Maverick and Phoenix are on track, Rooster begins falling behind after spotting the surface-to-air batteries. The unnamed enemies in Maverick use S-125 Neva/Pechora missiles, which are Soviet-era weapons that were designed to hit smaller, more mobile targets. I imagine that the missiles seen in Maverick are the V600 variant, which have a fifteen kilometre range and carries a sixty kilogram warhead. V600s have a maximum speed of Mach 3.5, so F/A-18E/Fs are not outrunning them.

  • Maverick’s experience allows him to reassure his fellow pilots: when the fifth-generation fighters begin diverting, Maverick remarks they’re headed to defend the uranium plant, and the S-125 batteries remain on guard. After taking a moment to gather his thoughts, Rooster opens his aircraft’s throttle, allowing him to make up lost time. According to the air speed indicator, Rooster begins reaching 800 knots. This corresponds to roughly 1400 kilometres per hour, an impressive speed considering how narrow the valley is.

  • The computer imagery used to brief the pilots had made the canyon seem narrower, and the mountains look steeper, than they did in reality. This doesn’t mean that the flight was a walk in the park, but for me, seeing the actual terrain itself helped to put things in perspective. While Rooster, Payback and Fanboy follow from the rear, Maverick, Phoenix and Bob prepare for the first strike. They pop up over the ridge, invert their aircraft and bring their planes into a dive. Having dug around, there’s more to this manoeuvre than the cool factor; it’s done to maintain positive loading and prevent the airframe from failing, as well as allowing the pilot to maintain consciousness.

  • Here, the GBU-24 Paveway IIIs can be seen on Maverick’s pylons: these laser-guided munitions carry a two ton warhead and require a beam from a designator to lock onto their target. In reality, the Paveway III is indeed accurate enough to be guided down a ventilation shaft so long as the laser is not lost. Military tacticians comment on how a single B2 Spirit carrying the BLU-109/B bunker buster would’ve completed the mission more readily, and while this is true (I would’ve probably recommended a Tomahawk strike), it is akin to wondering why the Eagles didn’t just carry Frodo and Sam to Mordor.

  • Common sense causes fiction to break down, and while this is important in reality (I favour simple solutions over complex ones), it also takes the fun out of a story and diminishes its ability to convey a specific message. Taking a more convoluted route allows for characters to grow, and this is one area where Maverick did unexpectedly impress in. Being the most soft-spoken and low-key of the TOPGUN graduates means that Bob has my respect: although he’s a skilled WSO, he lacks the same bravado and swagger as the other pilots, preferring to do his work in the background. By having Maverick select him as a part of the strike team, Maverick acknowledges that the quiet folks can walk the walk even if they choose not to talk the talk.

  • The more subtle lessons about teamwork, trust and humility are present in Maverick, even if they can occasionally be buried by the more bombastic, thrilling moments, and having now taken the time to give thought to both Maverick and the Yuru Camp△ Movie, I can see why there might be a case where the two films might be compared against one another, especially since both were quite successful. Both movies deal with people coming together to achieve something against the odds, persevering and overcoming both external and internal challenges.

  • Such themes are hardly unique to either Maverick or the Yuru Camp△ Movie, but the films do share quite a bit in common despite being in totally different genres. This has led Hinataka, a writer for the blog Netorabo, to claim that when compared side-by-side, the latter is a movie that “surpasses” the former as being the best film of 2022 without any additional explanation or context. Since Hirakata never elaborates, I conclude that this remark was probably an off-hand comment; Hirakata is free to enjoy movies however he wishes.

  • Film opinions can and will vary from individual to individual, but things become trickier when Centcom08 repeated this statement at Wikipedia. To the casual reader, it would set the expectation that the Yuru Camp△ Movie is a technically superior film or possesses a message that’s more cohesive and meaningful than what Maverick presents. In reality, neither film is better than the other; the Yuru Camp△ Movie excels in presenting an incremental tale of perseverance and making the most of the hand one is dealt, while Maverick is a story of trust, teamwork and learning to let go of the past.

  • Between this and the radically different premises (Maverick never goes camping with Rooster, Phoenix, Bob, Payback and Fanboy, and Rin, Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena aren’t about to take on fifth generation fighters), I don’t feel that such a statement should be taken as anything more than a personal opinion. While a valid opinion, it should be common sense that this is by no means the end-all. While I am tempted to sign up for a Wikipedia account and strike that particular line from their Yuru Camp△ Movie article with due haste, I am aware that users like Centcom08 spend every waking moment monitoring the page – any changes I make will be reverted within minutes. I have better things to do than drop to Centcom08’s level, but I will remark that the Wikipedia article on the Yuru Camp△ Movie is unreliable and filled with factual errors.

  • Back in Maverick, after Bob provides the laser that allows Maverick to hit his target, Rooster follows up so he can drop his Paveway IIIs down the hatch. When Fanboy reports that his laser is malfunctioning, Rooster decides to drop the bombs blind. As luck would have it, both bombs find their mark, and seconds later, the entire uranium enrichment facility collapses. The moment this happens, the enemy forces are now aware of their presence, and all of the S-125 sites come to life, filling the air with missiles. In the chaos, it’s all the pilots can do to evade the missiles, dropping flares in a bid to throw them off.

  • When Rooster runs out of flares, Maverick sacrifices himself to keep Rooster alive. In the process, one of the V-600 missiles hits him. The moment brought to mind the likes of the 2001 film Behind Enemy Lines (starring Owen Wilson) as Chris Burnett, although flares and missiles behave a little more plausibly here in Maverick: the missiles in Behind Enemy Lines switch between heat-seekers and radar guided modes at times, allowing them to turn around and ignore flares, and they appear to fire buckshot, whereas real missiles carry an explosive warhead.

  • However, viewers generally agree that despite the lack of realism in Behind Enemy Lines, the scene where Burnett and his pilot, Jeremy Stackhouse, evade the surface-to-air missile does capture the intensity and terror that accompanies air combat. Since Behind Enemy Lines captured this well, it can be said to be authentic, even if it isn’t realistic. I have found that a lot of folks who demand realism in their fiction oftentimes are conflating lack of realism with a story they can’t relate to or connect with at an emotional level.

  • Despite being a solid story from a narrative perspective, Maverick cannot be said to be realistic by any stretch. After Maverick is shot down, he survives and finds himself face to face with a Mi-28 Havoc. He manages to somehow evade 30 mm rounds from its Shipunov 2A42 autocannon and survives long enough for Rooster to show up and shoot it down. In the process, Rooster himself is shot down, and he manages to eject. In another situation, the odds of survival would be quite slim, but viewers must set this aside and accept that, if Maverick were realistic, the film would’ve probably ended an hour earlier.

  • It is necessary that some aspects of a story be contrived such that one can be granted a satisfyingly experience. Here, Maverick manages to catch up to Rooster, and after their initial shock wears off, Maverick devises a plan for getting them back home. The lighting and tone surrounding the moment is evocative of how Behind Enemy Lines had felt after Burnett and Stackhouse were shot down, but in that film, the story had been about how Burnett evades capture in the Balkans, and here, both Rooster and Maverick are only shot down late in the game. Maverick’s plan is as bold as it is daring: see if there’s any airworthy planes left at the airfield their forces just took out and use one of them to get back into the skies.

  • At this point in the film, the reasonable viewer accepts that this is the only route Maverick and Rooster have for getting back home, and spots that, given how an earlier briefing had mentioned that F-14s might be present, opens the floor up to an exciting possibility: seeing Maverick and Rooster fly an F-14 as a clever, well-written homage to the original Top Gun. Indeed, this is exactly what Maverick has in mind, and after sneaking up to a hangar unseen, he and Rooster get one of the F-14s online. For Maverick, it’s the return of an old friend, but for Rooster, who’s accustomed to the F/A-18 and its glass cockpit, the F-14 feels ancient.

  • This scene in Maverick was reminiscent of the Yuru Camp△ Movie‘s finale, which had similarly seen the return of an old piece of hardware from the originals; when Rin’s motorcycle develops a fault, her father suggests that she fall back on her original ride, the Yamaha Vino, and it ends up playing a big role in the film’s climax. Having seen Maverick first, it was nice to see echoes of Top Gun in Yuru Camp△ Movie, although here, I note that an appreciation of the similarities between the two movies despite their drastically different premises is about the extent of my wish to compare the two films.

  • In typical Maverick fashion, both aviators are airborne after a harrowing takeoff: Maverick has used the F-14’s variable sweep wings to generate more lift and accommodate for a very short takeoff, surprising Rooster. To emphasise this, the F-14’s front landing gear is knocked off, but for the present, Maverick and Rooster are aloft, to the surprise of the command staff back on the carrier. Of course, it just wouldn’t be a Top Gun movie without dogfighting in a live environment, and now that they’re in the skies, the patrolling fifth-generation fighters intercept the pair.

  • Any experts or fans of military aviation will immediately recognise the Su-57, a Russian multi-role fighter that began development back in 2010 and entered service in 2020. Although widely considered to be inferior to the American fifth-generation fighter, the F-22 Raptor, the Su-57 is still leaps and bounds ahead of the F-14 owing to superior avionics. In an engagement, what would likely happen would be that the Su-57 would simply fire a missile from outside visual range and score a kill before the F-14 could even flinch. Moreover, even though the Su-57 lacks the same the same thrust vectoring that the F-22 possesses, it still has an impressive turn rate and would easily overcome the F-14 in a dogfight.

  • The idea of an F-14 going toe-to-toe against an Su-57 is the sort of exercise that military fans love thinking about (experts are more concerned about how their hardware stacks up against hardware that’s presently in service, versus against older hardware), and in fact, reminds me of the thought experiments I did regarding hypothetical matchups like pitting a single M1A2 against twenty Tiger Is, or a head-to-head battle against the Panzer VIII Maus. For the most part, comparing technology from different periods is akin to comparing video cards more than two generations apart: the newer technology comes out on top every time.

  • When the Su-57s show up, Maverick reasons that at least for the moment, the pilots don’t really know what’s going on and attempt to hand signal to them. While pilots do know hand signals so that they can continue to communicate in the event of a radio loss, or during an exercise, it is possible that the Su-57 pilots operate on a different set of standards, ones that Maverick and Goose are unfamiliar with. Some folks with a background in aviation translate the pilots’ signals as requesting them to “divert to heading 3-3-0”, suggesting that they’re to defend the facility from further attack.

  • Thus, when Maverick signals he’s not understanding the message, the other Su-57 prepares to engage the F-14, which they now interpret as being under hostile control. The setup here is a bit of writing that allows Maverick to shoot down one of the Su-57s and take it out of the fight: in a prolonged dogfight, the F-14’s odds are extremely slim, even with a good pilot at the stick, but since the F-14’s M61 Vulcan is simply an older version of the M61A2 that newer generation aircraft carry, it’s not inconvincible for an F-14 to disable an Su-57 with a well-placed shot, the same way a Tiger I could score a mobility kill against an M1A2 that was standing still.

  • Much as Top Gun had previously done, the hostile pilots wear helmets with tinted visors. Protagonists wear clear visors simply so we can see their expressions: in reality, all helmets have tinted visors, but this is another instance of how being realistic would diminish the film’s impact, similarly to how portraying the combat performance differences between an F-14 and an Su-57 would prevent the film from telling its story. Once Maverick and Rooster realise their ruse isn’t going to work, Rooster persuades Maverick to give this fight everything he’s got.

  • Spurred on, Maverick uses the element of surprise to disable one of the Su-57’s engines, and immediately breaks off. In a moment of pure savagery, Maverick manoeuvres his F-14 so that the damaged Su-57 shields him from the other fighter’s missiles, and this results in the first of the Su-57s being taken out of the fight. With the second pilot dead-set on taking the rogue F-14 out, it’s an all-out fight. The entire scene is set to some of the tensest music I’ve heard throughout the whole of Maverick: with Hans Zimmer listed as a composer, there is no surprise that the incidental cues in the film are well-suited for the moments they accompany.

  • While motion blur means that it’s difficult for me to get good screenshots in a live-action movie, some of the stills for this post turned out quite well. This is the biggest challenge I face whenever writing about live-action; in anime, this isn’t a problem since everything is smooth. I don’t mind admitting I had a bit of difficulty in writing this post; cutting down the screenshots to a manageable number was probably the biggest challenge, and originally, while I have had the pool of screenshots and an idea of the post’s contest ready since late October, it’s taken some effort to distill everything into a post that isn’t the size of a graduate thesis.

  • One of the most thrilling moments during this dogfight happens when the Su-57 suddenly executes what appears to be a flat corkscrew. Immediately, viewers are reminded that Maverick and Rooster are dealing with a highly skilled pilot who isn’t just depending on his aircraft’s technology to get by. Maverick spots this and decides that it’s time to go for a lower altitude, claiming that the terrain will confuse their adversary’s targetting system. Assuming that the Su-57s in Maverick is carrying the R-77, this holds some truth: the R-77 is a radar-guided missile, but some versions are outfitted with infrared seekers that use radar to acquire an initial lock. By flying closer to the ground, the Su-57’s radar system is prevented from quickly acquiring its target.

  • Maverick ends up getting behind the Su-57 and uses his guns to damage its engine, causing it to crash. Only in a film could such an old aircraft stand any chance against a current-generation fighter, but it is a thrilling show of skill. In fact, the mindset of going up against a fifth generation fighter with an F-14 is equivalent to watching Graham Aker fighting the Exia to a standstill with a Flag, or seeing Char Aznable giving Amuro Ray’s RX-78 II trouble. The idea of skill being able to overcome technological disparity is a staple in fiction, offering a satisfying experience.

  • Rooster cheers after seeing the second Su-57 crash into the canyon’s ledges. Moments later, he’s able to get the radio on. Having Rooster act as Maverick’s WSO is a direct callback to the original Top Gun and shows how Maverick and Rooster have both overcome their pasts to be able to work together as a team, much as how Maverick and Goose originally had. For Maverick, Rooster has become a full-fledged pilot in his own right, while Rooster now sees why his father was able to work well with Maverick. However, even after getting in touch with the carrier, the fight’s not over yet.

  • A third Su-57 appears on their nose, and with their F-14 out of missiles, guns and countermeasures, it’s all Maverick can do to keep the fighter off them. During the dogfight, the F-14 takes a few hits. The portrayal of aircraft guns in Maverick is one of the few gripes I do have about the portrayal of things: the M61 Vulcan fires with a distinct buzzing noise rather than the rat-tat-tat of a machine gun, while the Su-57 is armed with the 30 mm GSh-30-1, which is a slower-firing autocannon that can destroy enemy aircraft in as few as three shots. The fifth generation fighters appear to fire the same guns as the F-14, and moreover, despite taking three hits, the F-14 continues to fly.

  • This is yet another moment created to maximise dramatic effect, and it is actually quite rare for movies to correctly depict aircraft guns, so I will clarify that the guns have no bearing on my overall enjoyment of the movie. Realising that there’s no other way, Maverick orders Rooster to eject, but the ejection handles are damaged and fail to fire. Having come so far, Maverick is filled with regret at not being able to protect Rooster. However, moments after the Su-57 fires one of its missiles, it’s blown out of the sky. Hangman has come to the rescue, and while he was chosen to be a reserve pilot, he ends up being given permission to sortie and cover Maverick and Rooster.

  • Although Hangman is portrayed as being arrogant and self-assured, at the end of the day, all of the TOPGUN graduates are on the same side and work towards the same goal. The rivalries between the candidates is secondary to the fact that everyone is fighting on the same team, and this is a piece of Top Gun I’ve always loved seeing: a healthy rivalry encourages growth, but when the chips are down, everyone has one another’s backs. On the topic of Hangman, Glen Powell had previously appeared as a trader in Dark Knight, and he will be starring in Devotion, which portrays naval aviators in the Korean War.

  • I’m suddenly finding myself excited to watch Devotion: the Korean War isn’t portrayed all that often in film, but it’s also a critical part of the Cold War. The film opened a week ago in North America, and I might just go catch a screening if time allows (I do have a fair amount of vacation time banked up). Failing this, I imagine that Devotion will be available for streaming in the new year. Back in Maverick, after ensuring Maverick and Rooster are okay, Hangman breaks off and heads back to the carrier for a landing. Since Maverick had broken the nose landing gear while taking off earlier, his landing will be a little trickier.

  • As a bit of a clever callback to Maverick’s tendency to buzz the tower after a successful flight, he ends up doing exactly this, causing Cyclone and Warlock to duck for cover. Previously, doing this has landed Maverick in hot water, but here in Maverick, the successful operation means that this is probably the last thing on Cyclone’s mind: all that matters is that their hit was successful, and everyone’s come back in one piece. I’ve heard that carrier landings are one of the hardest parts of being a naval aviator, and things only become more tricky if the carrier is bobbing up and down in rough waters.

  • Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector captures the details that are involved in touching down on a carrier, and through reading the novel, I became aware of the fact that aviators will prefer to increase power when touching down. This is because if the aircraft misses any of the arresting wires on deck (I think this is called a “bolter”), it has enough power to climb back into the air and try again. Of course, this beats coming in too low. Since Maverick’s experienced, and since the oceans seem quite calm, the technical aspects of a carrier landing aren’t shown; Maverick and Rooster’s return to the carrier has the same feel as returning home after a difficult drive.

  • Overall, I found myself immensely satisfied with Top Gun: Maverick, as it tells a solid, self-contained story, is respectful to its predecessor and is accessible to both old and new viewers alike. The story isn’t something that demands familiarity with the original Top Gun, but folks who’ve seen the original film will immediately appreciate all of the references made to the original movie. Moreover, despite being a film about the navy, Maverick manages to elegantly handle the matter of politics: for this movie, the biggest enemy is actually within oneself (fear and doubt), with the hostile nation and pilots acting merely as the driving force for Maverick and Rooster to overcome their inner dæmons.

  • While Maverick has been criticised for glorifying the American armed forces and acting as propaganda promoting the military’s actions, I’ve always felt that war films are simply just a highly visceral way of portraying a given theme, the same way that first person shooters are simply a game of resourcefulness and being observant. The healthy mind is able to make a distinction between fiction and reality, and here, I would argue that the themes of Maverick are actually not too different than the themes from 2015’s Creed, which saw Adonis Creed enter the ring and fight to create his own legacy with help from Rocky, who had similarly been reluctant to train Creed initially.

  • The ending of Maverick does prompt the question of whether or not Top Gun will continue in any way: Miles Teller has expressed interest in a follow-up film, and given the quality of Maverick, I am curious to see what such a film would entail. On the flipside, Maverick is successful mainly because it tells a self-contained story that respectfully wraps up elements from the original Top Gun, and a continuation is not strictly necessary simply because Maverick closes things off on such a decisive note.

  • Observant readers may have noticed that in my screenshots, letterboxes appear in some stills, but are absent in others. This is because the action scenes were filmed in IMAX, which allow more to be shown. For dialogue scenes, the aspect ratio is a standard 21:9. The hybrid approach allows a film’s most critical moments to completely immerse viewers, and admittedly, this can make for some inconsistencies in a screen-shot heavy review: when I wrote about Dark Knight Rises back during the summer, I elected to go purely with the IMAX stills.

  • However, this had also been because that particular post was an unconventional discussion. For Top Gun: Maverick, a more ordinary review, I utilise a mixture of stills so I have a chance to cover all of the thoughts on my mind. I admit that my talks can be on the long side, but this is primarily a consequence of a given work providing a lot to consider. For readers in a rush, reading the paragraphs will give a complete insight into what I make of something; the figure captions are meant to provide various thoughts, trivia and asides.

  • With this in mind, I’m not about to change the way I blog: I believe that celebrating fiction and what one enjoys is best achieved by being thorough. While lengthier posts can be discouraging to readers, I contend that this is a matter of UX. This is why my posts are structured the way they are. Everything important, I provide up top, and then I use the screenshots and figure captions to talk about details that are not relevant to the more important topics. The conclusion at the end then sums up my personal thoughts and allows me to speculate on what future directions look like, or otherwise address elements that aren’t quite as important to readers.

  • It goes without saying that Maverick was a superbly enjoyable film for me, and having now written about the film in full, I am filled with an inclination to go back and revisit both Project Wingman and Ace Combat 7. I am glad to have taken the time to lay down what made the movie so entertaining for me, and while Maverick does seem far removed from my typical predisposition for slice-of-life anime, it is always fun to branch out and explore different forms of media every so often.

  • Since Maverick opened with Maverick working on his vintage P-51, I’ll conclude this post with a screenshot of him taking it out for a flight with Penny. This just about brings this talk on Top Gun: Maverick to a close. This is going to be my last post of November; I was originally planning on writing about Itsuka Ano Umi de, but production issues shook things up somewhat. Entering December, readers can expect more posts on Yama no Susume: Next Summit, a few special topics posts, and my thoughts on Itsuka Ano Umi de once the fourth episode airs. Before any of that, however, I do have a talk on Battlefield 2042‘s third season lined up. The game’s come a very long way since last year, and the latest additions make the game feel like a proper Battlefield title.

There is a reason why Top Gun: Maverick is 2022’s top movie – the themes are inspiring, the flight sequences are phenomenal, and elements from the original Top Gun make a return. Unsurprisingly, it is 2022’s highest grossing film, and the film is nearly universally acclaimed. However, when Netorabo’s Hinataka suggests that the Yuru Camp△ Movie surpasses even Maverick in terms of enjoyment in their review of the former, eyebrows are raised – Hinataka doesn’t explain what specifically about the Yuru Camp△ Movie makes it the superior film. Both films, despite their radically different premises, actually share quite a bit in common. The Yuru Camp△ Movie and Top Gun: Maverick both are set some time after their original, deal with an ongoing assignment that requires Maverick, Chiaki and their respective teams to pull through and get things done in creative ways, and similarly see the return of an iconic piece from their original works (in the Yuru Camp△ Movie, Rin’s Yamaha Vino makes a comeback, and in Top Gun: Maverick, Maverick and Rooster steal an F-14). However, whereas the Yuru Camp△ Movie is a highly cathartic experience which gently reminds viewers of what it means to be an adult, Top Gun: Maverick is meant to be a thrilling and inspiring adventure that shows viewers what leadership and trust look like. The two films are quite different in this regard, and where the Yuru Camp△ Movie is meant to portray its story in a relatable context, Top Gun: Maverick uses a much more dramatic story to convey its themes in order to fire up viewers. As a result, Top Gun: Maverick is endlessly quotable, and scenes from the film are endlessly rewatchable. The Yuru Camp△ Movie reminds me of the fact that I’m probably conducting myself in a reasonable manner, but Top Gun: Maverick shows me one vivid example of what leadership looks like. In conjunction with the fact that I’m rewatching moments like Maverick flying the course in the two minutes and fifteen seconds, or managing to take on a pair of Su-57s in an F-14, on a daily basis, and making bad jokes about real life situations with lines from Top Gun: Maverick, it is clear that the two movies cannot be compared side-by-side as Hinataka does. Consequently, in response to Hinataka’s comment, I would counter that Top Gun: Maverick isn’t “surpassed” by the Yuru Camp△ Movie in any way, and in fact, I would suggest to readers that both movies are worth watching on the basis of their own distinct merits.

Misaki no Mayoiga: An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” –Gandalf, Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

An elderly lady named Kiwa takes Yui and Hiyori to her home, located on the edge of a cliff facing the ocean. Both Hiyori and Yui were affected by the Tōhoku Earthquake, hence Kiwa’s offer to take both in. Upon arrival, Kiwa tasks the pair with cleaning up the place and making it more inviting, while she sets about preparing dinner. Yui is impressed with dinner but has her doubts about Kiwa, who shares with the pair a story about Mayoiga, a palatial home that appears to those in need, and how they’re currently living in a Mayoiga. The next morning, Yui asks for a glass of water with ice in it and is shocked the home is able to fulfil her request. She recalls a past fight with her father and grows uneasy, running out into the forest. Hiyori manages to convince Yui to stick around; Yui consents to accompany Kiwa and Hiyori on a shopping trip. The next day, Kiwa brings kappa as guests; it turns out that an ancient entity appears to have escaped. Meanwhile, Yui gives Hiyori a notepad so she can communicate with her classmates, and sets off for town, where she ends up taking up a job with the local convenience store. At school, Hiyori befriends some of her classmates and agrees the join the Fox Dance in the local festival, but becomes traumatised upon hearing the drumbeat. Yui later reassures her and learns of Hiyori’s background: Kiwa explains that Hiyori is mute from the trauma of having lost her parents in a car accident, and was subsequently devastated by the earthquake. Hearing this prompts Yui to keep a closer eye on Hiyori, especially since unusual snakes have been spotted in the area. Kiwa fills in some of the details for Hiyori and Yui. Long ago, a serpent named Agame had come to the area and drove the residents off by projecting horrific visions on those who met its gaze, but a hero took up an enchanted blade and cut Agame down. As Agame’s power grows, Yui herself spots her father in the area and panics. Meanwhile, more supernatural beings meet with Kiwa, promising to provide assistance when the time is right. Kiwa ends up taking Yui and Hiyori to a larger Mayoiga and met with a contingent of deities who are here to answer the threat of Agame. Kiwa sets off to fight Agame on her own, locking Yui and Hiyori in the Mayoiga, but Yui manages to convince Mayoiga to let her render whatever assistance she can. Although she faces down another vision of her father en route, Hiyori overcomes her mutism and shouts out to Yui, who forces away the vision. The pair join Kiwa on the beach, where she’s already duelling Agame, and while Hiyori plays the flute to distract the serpent, Yui uses a conjured arrow to strike down Agame for all time. In the aftermath, Yui promises to be Hiyori’s older sister, and Kiwa mentions that no one recalls the previous day’s events, allowing them to continue living out their days in peace while Yui works out what she’d like for her future.

In the aftermath of the Tōhoku Earthquake, hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced, and even in the present, the earthquake’s impacts are still felt. Misaki no Mayoiga (The House of the Lost on the Cape) speaks to the feelings of despair and uncertainty these people would have experienced; through Yui and Hiyori’s perspectives, the film voices something that everyone affected by the earthquake and tsunami would have likely asked themselves: “why me?”, “what did I do to deserve this?”. Hiyori lost her parents in an accident, and after she moved to live with other relatives, the earthquake struck. Yui ran away from an abusive home, and found herself in the Tōhoku region when the earthquake occurred. Misfortune has come to deeply impact their lives, but in response to the question they pose of the skies, the answer is “nothing”. Hardship and adversity can affect all individuals with equal probability, and while it can prove immensely challenging to extricate oneself and better their situation, Misaki no Mayoiga also suggests that community bonds and family provides the support one needs to begin taking those first steps forward. Hiyori, who’d become mute from the trauma following her parents’ deaths, finds it in her to speak again after forming a bond with Yui. Yui similarly overcomes her fears of her father and is able to find strength to protect Hiyori. All of this comes as a result of Yui and Hiyori spending time with Kiwa, a kindly, if mysterious, elderly lady with a profound knowledge of the local folklore and mythology. While Yui is initially mistrustful of Kiwa, seeing Kiwa’s generosity and patience, as well as a nascent connection with Hiyori leads her to slowly open up to the community, too. Similarly, Hiyori begins to integrate with the community; she’s a little quicker to trust Kiwa and accept things. The interplay between the central characters, when scaled up, shows how faith, trust and mutual respect for one another provides those critical first steps towards recovery. Much as how Hiyori and Yui both find a renewed reason to appreciate life and community thanks to Kiwa and their shared time together, Misaki no Mayoiga suggests that following the Tōhoku Earthquake, recovery efforts and the courage to move onwards stems from people’s shared wills to live, and a mutual desire to help one another out in a collective effort to get everyone back on their feet.

Misaki no Mayoiga introduces one additional element to accelerate Yui and Hiyori’s recovery through Mayoiga, mythological homes that provide for those in need. As Kiwa states, if one takes care of their home, their home will take care of them. Here in Misaki no Mayoiga, the home that Kiwa brings Hiyori and Yui to provides them with a dependable place to retreat to, and regroup. In Kiwa’s story, a woman finds the Mayoiga and, while intrigued by the luxary it provides, chooses to leave without taking anything. In return, the Mayoiga rewards her honesty. In Yui and Hiyori’s case, the Mayoiga provides them with a place to live and supports them in its own way. While a house that can provide meals on its own is something that remains relegated to the realm of fiction, homes do care for and support their inhabitants; in addition to keep out the elements, it also acts as a reliable, steadfast place one can return to at the end of the day. Having a home is what provides familiar comfort for Yui and Hiyori during the more turbulent moments of Misaki no Mayoiga, and when the family visit a larger, more stately Mayoiga later, Yui and Hiyori both agree that despite the large one’s grandeur, their smaller home feels more comforting. In this way, the sea serpent, Agame, becomes a metaphor for the uncertainty and fear resulting from not having a home to return to: in driving people out of its domain, Agame breeds enmity and discord by depriving people of their right to shelter. This aspect of Misaki no Mayoiga is addressed when Yui, Hiyori and Kiwa work together with the other deities to destroy Agame once and for all; the titanic clash becomes a visceral show of how important people’s homes are to them ― these are things that are worth standing up and fighting for. In the aftermath of this conflict, both Yui and Hiyori are grateful to have somewhere to return to at the end of each day. Kiwa promises that for as long as Yui needs to rediscover her own path, she is welcome to call Mayoiga home, and having this reassurance means that Yui is, at the film’s end, left in a position where she can move forward from the problems that had previously impacted her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I vividly remember the day the Tōhoku Earthquake occurred: I was reading about it right before my organic chemistry lecture began. Even though the news footage was showing the scope and scale of the destruction, I instinctively felt that the footage itself wouldn’t capture the tragedy. When Fukushima Daiichi began undergoing a meltdown and forced the creation of an exclusion zone, the threat of a nuclear disaster suddenly overtook the consequences of the earthquake and tsunami. It did feel as though other affected areas were suddenly forgotten.

  • As such, to see films like Misaki no Mayoiga being produced shows a respectful acknowledgement of those who were impacted by the disaster. Films that show the resilience of the human spirit is a reminder that, as devastating as things were in 2011, people have still found a way to recover. If memory serves, Misaki no Mayoiga was released last August in Japanese theatres, and the home release became available half a year later, in February of this year. I’d been looking forwards to watching this, but by February, it was all hands on deck as I geared up for a move of my own.

  • Yui and Hiyori are Misaki no Mayoiga‘s protagonists. In the beginning, viewers have almost no context as to what’s happening in the movie: Yui and Hiyori, for all intents and purposes, are accompanying someone who appears to their grandmother to her rural home on a remote cliff. Misaki no Mayoiga slowly rolls back its curtain to expose more of the story to viewers over time, and in using this approach, the film holds the viewer’s attention. Out of the gates, Yui reminds me of Her Blue Sky‘s Akane Aioi in manner and appearance. Both are sullen teenagers who appear reluctant to participate in what’s happening around them.

  • However, the similarities end here. Akane had opened up after learning of her older sister’s lingering feelings for Shinno, whereas here in Misaki no Mayoiga, Yui comes from a difficult background; her mother had left the family, and her father held her responsible. From what happened, I would hazard a guess that Yui’s father was abusive towards both herself and her mother, which left Yui with a deep-seated mistrust of others and an unwillingness to open up to those around her. Joining Kiwa and Hiyori to a quite house on the cape would be the starting point for a new chapter of her life.

  • Misaki no Mayoiga renders 迷い家 as マヨイガ, likely a deliberate way to indicate that in this case, Mayoiga is a proper noun referring to the mythical houses that provided for their occupants. Generally speaking, 迷い家 are well-kept and often, formerly-opulent homes that were abandoned in rural areas. In reality, abandoned houses aren’t always safe to inhabit or even explore: an unmaintained building exposed to the elements may not be structurally sound, and possess both pathogens, mould and pest infestations. In Jordy Meow’s Abandoned Japan, however, the abandoned homes Meow visits possess a melancholy about them, and when personal belongings are left behind, one cannot help but wonder what the inhabitant’s stories were.

  • Hiyori and Yui both feel uncomfortable in the beginning with their new surroundings, although Hiyori seems a little more receptive towards things. Upon entering the old house, the place immediately exudes a sense of warmth despite clearly having not been inhabited for some time. By the time the lights come on, it becomes clear that, save for a layer of dust covering things, the place is still in excellent condition, and moreover, the place is already furnished, possessing both couches, tables and chairs of a contemporary design, as well as a modern kitchen.

  • In a flashback, it turns out that Yui had been alone at one of the evacuation shelters, and met Hiyori while out and about. Hiyori had been trying to dislodge a branch that had fallen on the Komainu. She brings Hiyori back to the shelter and became enraged when another man knocks down Hiyori. Before things escalate, Kiwa shows up and covers for the two, saying that they’re her grandchildren. Although such a happenstance may come across as a bit suspect, and caution is a suitable response, for Misaki no Mayoiga, accepting the kindness of strangers is merely a part of the story.

  • It is instinctive to give a new home a good cleaning before moving in proper: from a hygienic point of view, this eliminates any dust and other things that may have accumulated while the building was vacant. After possession date, we made it a point to clean the place out, giving every square inch a thorough scrubbing and vacuuming. Of course, there are some Chinese traditions associated with moving in, and among these traditions, I’m familiar with carrying in a bag of rice over the threshold, opening all of the windows and putting on a kettle right away.

  • Having now moved in for almost a half year, I dust the place daily, vacuum and clean the bathrooms weekly, and mop the floors bi-weekly. The improved ventilation means it’s significantly less dusty than the old place, but a good amount of dust still accumulates. Back in Misaki no Mayogi, Yui’s reaction to a proper home-cooked meal hints at her own background: while surprised by Kiwa’s cooking, she finds dinner to be most enjoyable despite originally wondering why Kiwa was using what she’d considered to be weeds in her cooking. The Salisbury Steak turns her around, and as she sits down to eat, she finds everything delicious.

  • Normalcy is precisely how people can weather extraordinary circumstances, and Les Stroud has, in Survivorman, mentioned how important it is to keep doing what one can in their usual manner. For instance, when out in survival, being able to drink hot water can be enough to remind one of their humanity. Similarly, cooking the food he finds gives a sense of comfort. In the aftermath of the earthquake, Hiyori and Yui have not likely sat down to a proper meal for some time, so the opportunity to do so with Kiwa represents a welcome return of something familiar.

  • After dinner, Kiwa tells the tale of Mayoiga, and a farming lady who had stumbled upon an incredibly ornate home. Despite how opulent everything was, the lady simply decided to return home, and the Mayoiga would end up giving her an enchanted rice bowl that would keep her family well-fed for the remainder of their days. The moral of this story is that integrity will be rewarded, but the story also sets the groundwork for the mysteries surrounding Yui and Hiyori’s new home. The stories are animated in a completely different style than the main narrative in Misaki no Mayoiga and resemble a picture book brought to life.

  • The next morning, Yui wakes up and, when greeting Kiwa, remarks that ordinary water would be fine. A glass of water immediately appears, and out of curiosity, Yui comments that some ice would be nice. She hears the clink of ice, and Kiwa returns; she explains the house is doing this for Yui’s sake. This causes Yui to flash back to a fight she had with her father, and a fear overtakes her. While Misaki no Mayoiga doesn’t choose to go intro further details, one can immediately infer that aside from what was shown on screen, Yui’s father had been abusive and unkind to the point where Yui felt compelled to run away from home.

  • Fearing the same might happen here at Mayoiga, Yui runs off, but she eventually comes around thanks to Hiyori’s kindness. Although it is the case that Hiyori and Yui hadn’t met prior to the earthquake, the pair immediately develop a bond of sorts, and Hiyori’s actions show that she does care about Yui. After Yui gathers herself, she consents to go shopping with Kiwa and Hiyori: while Mayoiga is capable of answering things like water and patching itself up, there are some luxuries that even a mythical house cannot provide for its inhabitants.

  • In showing that the Mayoiga can only provide some things, Misaki no Mayoiga‘s interpretation of things is that that even small gestures matter. In exchange for being looked after and being lived in, the house gives Kiwa, Yui and Hiyori a few conveniences to show its appreciation of their presence. However, in limiting what it can do, Misaki no Mayoiga shows that for people, it ultimately is through their own initiative and resolve that their desires can be attained. The house is merely an aid in the process, but an important piece, giving people a place to regroup and rest up for their endeavours.

  • The shopping trip represents a chance for Hiyori and Yui to enjoy normalcy: they pick up clothing, household appliances and even swing by a bookstore. The day’s excursions would be counted as unremarkable under most circumstances, but both Yui and Hiyori have been through quite a bit, so going out to the local mall becomes a treat. While such a thought would seem quite difficult, the global health crisis and its impact on our everyday lives is nontrivial: at its height, shopping centres, theatres, restaurants and event venues emptied out as the pandemic ravaged the world.

  • As such, when I began returning to the mall and eating out again, things did feel a little unusual for the first little while and was worth writing about: I still vividly remember the first time I went back to a shopping mall before picking up burgers from A & W for our afternoon meal a year ago. While it was nice to begin returning to doing the things I’d been long accustomed to, the global health crisis was also a reminder for me to be more appreciative of the things I’d come to take for granted, too. Misaki no Mayoiga is conveying the same: going to the mall might feel ordinary, but under extraordinary circumstances, it’s a luxury people may not always have.

  • At the bookstore, Yui had also picked up a notebook for Hiyori: while Hiyori has become mute from her past experiences, she’s actively trying to speak and, even without words, she’s very expressive. A notebook allows Hiyori to communicate with everyone else, and en route to school, Hiyori befriends another classmate. That Yui had thought far enough ahead to get Hiyori a notebook shows how, despite her sullen appearance, she’s actually kind and compassionate. Kiwa had spotted this immediately in Yui, and while this isn’t initially apparent, gestures like these show that Kiwa’s observations are correct. Over time, Kiwa becomes a repository of wisdom and knowledge, someone viewers can trust to guide Yui and Hiyori as they navigate difficult times in their lives.

  • Meanwhile, Yui ends up picking up a moped and a part-time job at the local convenience store. While she’d dropped out of secondary school, the locals here are quite understanding, and in a fortuitous turn of events, it turns out Yui’s paperwork is accounted for, allowing her and Hiyori to both remain with Kiwa. Yui is reluctant to accept the moped and the job, but spotting that the townspeople are being genuinely thoughtful, she accepts things. This notion of community, and of the collective good, is something that Misaki no Mayoiga excels in conveying: here, collective good isn’t about sacrificing individual rights for the sake of others, but simply, being there for people in need.

  • One aspect of Misaki no Mayoiga I liked was watching Hiyori’s efforts to become a part of the community. Her classmate, Makio, manages to convince her to check out the Fox Dance they’re set to perform at a local festival – by actively participating in a community tradition, Hiyori is doing her best to make the most of things, and this also shows a willingness to learn the local traditions and customs. One of the adults running the show asks if Hiyori would like to play the flute for them, but upon hearing the flute and drums, Hoyori is gripped with an overwhelming sense of grief and loneliness as she recalls her parents’ funerals.

  • Hiyori subsequently runs off: she’s unable to express herself to the others at this point, and can only return home to Mayoiga. The idea that certain stimuli can evoke very specific memories has been one that’s challenged neuroscientists for some time: it is thought that stimuli like sounds or smells, which fired specific neurological pathways when a memory was made, would also fire those same pathways when experienced at a later date. This is why when I returned to campus and walked the ICT buildings, the smells there immediately reminded me of my graduate thesis. I imagine that for Hiyori, the instruments used for the Fox Dance might’ve been played at her parents’ funeral, and the rhythms would’ve led her to recall the loss that day.

  • When Hiyori isn’t able to elaborate on things initially, she does mention the Fox Dance, and Kiwa fills in the gaps. She explains that in the areas, foxes are sacred because fox spirits helped the locals in fending off Agame, a monstrous sea serpent that fed off despair and sought to claim human territory for its own. Per Kiwa’s story, foxes gave an elderly man the dagger Makiri to defeat Agame with, and since then, the Fox Dance was performed to honour this deed. With Kiwa’s story, Hiyori is able to share her past, and one of the townspeople subsequently arrive with a stray cat. Kiwa is okay with taking the cat in and naming him Kofuku. The presence of a cat lifts Hiyori’s spirits considerably, and as Kiwa notes, it’s the small blessings that make a difference.

  • The next day, Hiyori invites Makio over for a picnic overlooking the cape. While imagery of the Tōhoku Earthquake usually portrays Sendai and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, located on the coastal plains, the earthquake and tsunami also affected the mountainous areas east of Ishinomaki. Misaki no Mayoiga is set in the Tōhoku area, but the specific area is not shown to viewers to reinforce the idea that this is a film about Tōhoku in general, rather than any specific area. On their picnic, Makio enjoys Kiwa’s cooking and mentions how lucky Hiyori is to live with such a fantastic cook. Kiwa later shares a story about the underwater grottoes that were disrupted by the tsunami.

  • On the morning their special guests arrive, Hiyori meets kappa for the first time. Traditionally portrayed as being antagonistic towards people, kappa are also fiercely loyal, and when afforded with the proper respect, are helpful and friendly. The kappa that show up at Mayoiga know Kiwa as an old friend, and because kappa tend to stick with people they respect for a lifetime, it stands to reason that long ago, Kiwa must’ve done something to help them out before. The kappa are more than happy to help Kiwa check out the damaged grottoes and confirm that something is amiss.

  • As thanks to their guests, Kiwa’s prepared a feast of sorts for the kappa, including their favourite vegetable, cucumber. It turns out that, as a cook, Yui is no slouch, either – while her father never appreciated her cooking, it’s the case that while Yui might not have a head for numbers, she does seem to be deft hand in the culinary arts. The kappa have a great time at dinner, and one of the kappa even begins to sing a song. In this moment, although the kappa might be deities, they feel very human. Hiyori has no problems with them, and demonstrating the traits of an older sister, Yui accepts them quite readily, too, saying that Hiyori’s happiness is her own.

  • While delivering some sake to the locals, Yui’s route takes her right by the place where Hiyori’s been practising for the Fox Dance. Having encouragement means that Hiyori’s been able to pick herself up, and she’s now participating with her whole heart. Hiyori is all smiles, and one of the men decide to ask Yui to join the Fox Dance, as well. Although Yui is reluctant to participate, Hiyori persuades her to join in. In this way, an entire afternoon passes joyfully. However, as the afternoon grows late, clouds roll into the area.

  • Some of the townsfolk discuss unusual occurrences that have been observed around the area: dogs have been barking at an unseen entity, and some people have had terrifying visions, similar to what Kiwa had described in her story about Agame. This is tied to the mysterious snake-like creature with glowing red eyes that shows up. Kofuku attempts to chase it, and Yui wakes up, wondering if it was a snake. Although this is forgotten, it’s an ominous sign of what’s to come in Misaki no Mayoiga. The tenour here reminds me of a conversation in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, when Bree’s night watchman mentions that “there’s talk of strange folk abroad” to Frodo and his friends.

  • The townspeople suggest Yui and Hiyori head straight home, but in the wooded path leading back to Mayoiga, they come face to face with the snake-like beings. Before any harm can come to them, a pair of lion-dogs appear and drive them off. It is here that Kiwa explains the remainder of the story behind Agame, that Agame is responsible for creating feelings of unease and enmity, and Hiyori poses the question that motivates the page quote. There is no easy answer to this, but folks who’ve gone through a great deal and come out the other side often say that in the moment, they don’t care quite that they’re affected, but rather, care about finding the strength to reach the other side, to focus on putting one foot in front of the other and endure the moment in the hopes for a better tomorrow.

  • Kiwa reassures Hiyori that she’s not alone, that there’s also many others who wonder the same thing. Negativity in the community manifests as Agame, but the arrival of the Lion-Dogs and Jizo show that, while the spirits might be preparing to fend off calamity, the people living in the earthly realm have these unseen guardians looking over them. The next day, when Makio shares her concerns about how her best friend hasn’t once written since she’d moved, Hiyori takes some of the strength she’s learnt from Kiwa and does her best to reassure Makio, too.

  • When one of the snakes enters the shop Yui’s working in, it manifests as her worst fear, causing Yui to run out into the day and scream her lungs out in panic. Although viewers know it’s an illusion thanks to Kiwa’s story (and the unlikelihood of Yui’s father actually showing up in town), the moment speaks to how desperately Yui had wanted to escape her old life. Curiously, the music in Misaki no Mayoiga doesn’t really connect with the emotional tenour of some moments; when Yui panics, a gentle guitar piece is playing in the background. This disconnect means the scene won’t convey to viewers what Yui is feeling, and the impression I got from the moment was that it’s meant to show that the town is safe and peaceful, but the snakes that are appearing will disrupt this.

  • Yuri Miyauchi composes Misaki no  Mayoiga‘s incidental music, which has an aural tenour most similar to the soundtrack from Little Forest. Both Misaki no Mayoiga and Little Forest are set in the Tōhoku region of Japan and have an emphasis on a rural locale, and while the films are separated by their emphasis on the supernatural (Little Forest does not have any supernatural pieces to it at all), the similarities in the music indicate that the Tōhoku region is a peaceful setting. Taken together, I would imagine that the music in Misaki no Mayoiga is meant to show that the peaceful setting is enough to help Yui to regroup and return home.

  • On this evening, it is Yui who returns home disheartened and worried, and it is Hiyori’s turn to comfort her. Similarly to Hiyori, the fact that Yui has a home to return to is a vital part of getting her back on her feet. As families do, Hiyori and Yui support one another, and in an environment where there is no judgment, everyone is free to be open with how they feel about things. While this is a part of Mayoiga’s magic, in reality, having a home is a source of refuge from the troubles of the world. When Hiyori and Yui return to Mayoiga, Kiwa is always on hand to provide words of guidance and wisdom.

  • More so than the accommodations and food, this is probably what Yui was lacking most in her old life, so being able to love and be loved here at Mayoiga is a game-changer for Yui, allowing her to be her best self. Kiwa has an excursion planned out for them for the next day, but before this is shown, Misaki no Mayoiga cuts to scenes of the snakes consuming flowers around various townsfolk. The scenes are completely silent and lack any background music; although music is utilised to set a mood, the soundtrack in Misaki no Mayoiga has been peaceful so far, so the absence of music is equally effective in conveying unease.

  • It turns out that Kiwa’s excursion is to visit another, grander and older Mayoiga. The kappa are more than happy to help them move their boat along a narrow canyon, which is beautifully rendered and brings to mind the tributary leading out of Lothlórien into Anduin towards the end of The Fellowship of the Rings, and again when the Fellowship cross the Gate of Argonath into Nen Hithoel. The grandeur in Misaki no Mayoiga is plainly not to the same scale that is seen in Lord of the Rings, but there is a majesty about the landscapes that Yui, Hiyori and Kiwa pass through.

  • On the topic of Lord of the Rings, the page quote was selected from a remark Gandalf makes to Frodo: this bit of wisdom has become an iconic part of Lord of the Rings, and simply means that while one cannot choose their circumstances, they have the agency and power to make the decisions that’s best for them. Hiyori lost her parents, and Yui ran away from an abusive father. Both were affected by the earthquake, but in the present day, they are actively choosing to live their lives as best as they can by becoming part of their new community.

  • Stills like these are commonplace in Misaki no Mayoiga – the Japanese countryside is gorgeous, and I’ve long fantasised about spending a week living in the inaka. However, this isn’t to say the rural areas in my home province aren’t beautiful. During this past weekend, during the Mid-Autumn Festival, I went with family to a sunflower farm an hour north of town. My immediate impression was that this is an immensely peaceful place to be: while exploring the sunflower maze, I reached the edge and glanced westward. The plains beyond the fields reminded me of the Shire, and while the day had been extremely smoky, we were lucky to have sunlight by the time we arrived.

  • After a pleasant afternoon amongst the sunflowers and corn stalks, we turned around and made our way back home for dinner. Since it was the Mid-Autumn Festival, we celebrated with a 3-course Peking Duck special dinner (which comes with duck fried noodles and duck soup on top of the Peking Duck itself) with a beef and Chinese Broccoli stir-fry. The lateness of the evening meant that I ended up skipping the Moon Cake, and by that point, the smoke had returned, blocking out the moon. However, on Sunday, I was able to enjoy a slice of Moon Cake. While I’ve not previously been fond of the yolk, I’ve since come around and now enjoy Moon Cake fully.

  • The outing takes Kiwa, Yui and Hiyori to a torii leading up a hillside, and this path takes some time to climb: by the time everyone reaches their destination, the sun’s begun to set. As it turns out, Kiwa’s plan had been to temporarily relocate to a much older and grander Mayoiga ahead of the impending doom of their time. Along the way, Kiwa shares her story with Yui and Hiyori: as a child, Kiwa was fond of playing in the forests, and one day, she’d gotten lost. By sheer stroke of luck, she came upon a Mayoiga, and presumably, had become very familiar with the supernatural entities as a result.

  • Because of the scale of things, one can surmise this Mayoiga is likely the one in Kiwa’s story. The presence of multiple Mayoiga seem to suggest that these homes reveal themselves to those who need it, looking after those who find them. However, because stories like these always come with a tradeoff, I imagined that to encounter a Mayoiga also means accepting the service that is expected of those who find it. In reality, this is why I believe in honesty and integrity: folks who game a system so they can benefit at someone else’s expense will always be unpleasantly surprised when the consequences of their decisions catch up to them.

  • Both Hiyori and Yui are impressed with how ornate and luxurious everything is, but this Mayoiga lacks the same feeling of home that their original Mayoiga had. Unsurprisingly, a major part of a home is being a place where one can be true to themselves and retreat from the world. This is why when I travelled to an Airbnb in Canmore as a company retreat some years earlier, even though the place had been a resort condominium that was comfortably furnished, the place didn’t quite feel like home. When I completed my move half a year earlier, I had felt that the new place exuded a similar feeling, resembling an Airbnb rather than a home, but over time, that’s changed.

  • To Yui and Hiyori’s surprise, all manner of deities and spirits have gathered, promising to lend their powers in helping Kiwa to fend off the threat that Agame represents. Having already met the kappa, and listened to Kiwa’s stories, both Yui and Hiyori are accustomed to the existence of such beings. Kiwa thanks everyone for showing up, and following suit, Yui and Hiyori bow, as well. When they complete their bow, everyone’s already taken off, leaving Yui, Hiyori and Kiwa to enjoy dinner. I imagine that people with extensive background in Japanese mythology and folklore would be familiar with everyone assembled here, but I lack such a background. Consequently, I’m only familiar with a few, such as the yuki-onna, but everyone’s presence here suggests that contrary to our existing perception of these spirits, they’re actually benevolent.

  • Following dinner, Hiyori enjoys some fireworks with the Mayoiga’s Zashiki-warashi, a spirit that is said to bestow good fortune upon the homes they inhabit. Although this particular spirit is shy, she gets along fine with Hiyori. Yui and Kiwa share a conversation about Yui’s future – because her life had been so hectic, Yui hasn’t had a chance to really define her goals or aspirations. Kiwa’s completely okay with this and suggests that for Yui, she has time yet to figure something out. If I had to guess, Yui’s enjoyment of cooking would mean that she’d probably find a fulfilling career in a culinary arts programme.

  • Before turning in, Hiyori and Yui share a conversation about the Mayoiga. This one’s grander than theirs, and while there’s nothing wrong with it per se, the pair both agree that the smaller one they previously lived in felt more like a home. There is truth in this – while some people justify larger homes as having more space for storage and privacy, the realities are that larger homes come with more property tax and increased utility costs, on top of time needed to keep everything ship-shape. In 2017, Chris Foye published a paper to the Journal of Happiness Studies that found people actually up-size their homes not for practical reasons, but as a status symbol, so having a larger house didn’t correlate to increased happiness in the long term.

  • Home developers continue to insist that two thousand square foot single-family homes are sustainable even where there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that urban sprawl is unsustainable, whereas in reality, there is an upper bound for how much space people need to be at their happiest. Back in Misaki no Mayoiga, Kiwa receives an enchanted dagger from a pair of foxes. The inevitable reality becomes clear: Agame has become a sufficient threat such that intervention is now necessary, and Kiwa sets off to deal with Agame on her own.

  • The next morning, Yui and Hiyori are shocked to find that the Mayoiga has only laid out breakfast for two and swiftly realise that Kiwa’s gone to take on Agame on her own. They search the whole of the Mayoiga to find nothing and set off to find Kiwa, only to learn that the Mayoiga has sealed them in per Kiwa’s wishes. While Kiwa had done this to protect Yui and Hoyori, par the course for anime films, the story is always going to be written in such a way so that tensions are increased. Kiwa’s decision thus speaks firmly to the fact that she alone cannot handle Agame.

  • The Mayoiga relents and unlocks its front gates after Yui implores it to let them help Kiwa out, that this is what being a family means. Despite only spending a short amount of time together, Yui and Hiyori have come to view Kiwa as an indispensable part of their family, enough to take the initiative and act according to their own judgement. It is the case that the elders are often more protective of youth, whereas youth are always striving to prove their worth. In stories like Misaki no Mayoiga, the characters’ decisions and the corresponding outcomes tend towards showing adults should give youth a chance.

  • Giving Yui and Hiyori a chance to catch up to Kiwa means giving the producers a chance to showcase the town by morning: it’s a pleasant day with blue skies, and the morning calm shows how there’s still time for Yui and Hiyori. The visuals and animation in Misaki no Mayoiga are of a fine quality, and the film itself is produced by David Production, whose repertoire includes Planetarian, Strike Witches: Road to Berlin and Cells at Work. While varying greatly in style, and perhaps not quite as visually distinct as studios like P.A. Works and Kyoto Animation, David Production’s work is still solid.

  • Before we enter the film’s climax, I’ll go on a brief tangent and comment on the recent iPhone 14 Pro preorders, which opened last Friday at 0600 MDT. I placed my order shortly before my workday started, and Apple’s estimate now is that my order is likely to ship early October. While this delay is apparently newsworthy, as was Apple’s online store folding from the volume of orders, I’m not terribly worried; I’m in no rush for a new phone (the iPhone Xʀ I’m running is still in excellent shape). I will be giving my own impressions of the device once I receive mine – online technology sites suggest the device is overwhelmingly positive, and critics are suggesting the new features aren’t sufficiently innovative. I expect that the iPhone 14 Pro will be a serious upgrade over the Xʀ, and that my reaction will be somewhere between the news outlets and the critics’ opinions.

  • Back in Misaki no Mayoiga, Hiyori and Yui had correctly deduced that Kiwa had set off to take on Agame on her own, feeling it to be her responsibility to protect those around her. Contrasting the other scenes in the movie, the skies here are truly dark and grim, setting the stage for Misaki no Mayoiga‘s climax. Weather is an element that is utilised extensively in anime to convey a specific atmosphere or mood, and viewers with an eye for these details will quickly discern nuances in each moment: subtle differences in lighting and sky conditions can speak volumes to what a moment intends to convey.

  • Although the blade is imbibed with the power to cut down Agame, the engorged Agame has been bolstered by the negative energies surrounding the earthquake and tsunami survivors. Calling all of the smaller serpents in the area, it grows to a tremendous size, far greater than had been described in the tales and far exceeding what Kiwa can handle alone. For her efforts, Kiwa is unsuccessful, and the enchanted blade is shattered.

  • Yui and Hiyori are temporarily impeded when Yui’s father seemingly appears out of nowhere, intent on bringing her home. Defeated, Yui has no choice but to follow, and in this moment, recalling all of the memories they shared together, Hiyori regains use of her voice and calls out to Yui. Surprised that Hiyori’s come to care so deeply for her, Yui rejects her “father” and casts him aside, breaking the serpent’s illusion. Yui and Hiyori share a moment together; the two could not have grown to the extent they did without one another. Caring for one another has allowed Hiyori to speak again, and Yui manages to find enough strength to make peace with her past.

  • With Agame calling all serpents to it, a massive snake eye-like orb begins manifesting in the skies. The final act of Misaki no Mayoiga ventures into the realm of fantasy as the fight is finally taken to Agame, and here, I remark that anime films do have a tendency towards flooring the accelerator towards the end. Both A Whisker Away and Hello World had similar pacing, with the story beginning slowly, but steadily, only to wildly speed up towards the ending. This approach is not one that all viewers appreciate, as it conveys the sense that the film had miscalculated early on and must now accommodate for everything that was hitherto unresolved so that a resolution can be reached.

  • In Misaki no Mayoiga, the clash with Agame did seem surprising: Agame felt more like a metaphor for sadness and desolation, so giving it a physical presence and plunging the story into the realm of fantasy can seem jarring. At the same time, this route also means that Misaki no Mayoiga presents a very visceral portrayal of how people might overcome despair and melancholy. Alone, Kiwa had no chance of defeating this monstrosity, but having spotted that they’d become a family, Yui and Hiyori had reasoned that their best odds of besting Agame is also together.

  • The lion-dogs thus bring the pair to the seawall where Agame is manifesting, and the other supernatural entities that had shown up at the large Mayoiga have also arrived. Because of their cordial relationship with Kiwa, it stands to reason that similarly to the kappa, Kiwa must’ve also encountered them previously; preparations for this fight might’ve been a long time in the coming. While Agame hurls bolts of lightning in an attempt to set the nearby forests alight and keep the spirits busy, it is too distracted to notice two arrivals.

  • Drawing parallels with their roles in the Fox Dance, Hiyori begins playing the flute. The melodies diminish Agame’s power, and the skies begin clearing as a result. Kiwa’s original story had mentioned that Agame was weak against music, and as such, nothing that happens here in the climactic fight comes across as being contrived; no matter how small, all details that are mentioned are fair game when it comes to being utilised for helping to resolve a plot. Speaking to how much effort she’s put into practising, Hiyori’s flute skills are enough to tangible slow Agame down.

  • Meanwhile, Yui’s gained access to an enchanted bow. She’d reluctantly accepted the role of playing one of the dancers in the Fox Dance, and becomes well-suited for being the one to land the blow that will finish Agame off. Unlike the other sections of Misaki no Mayoiga, where there hadn’t been any incidental music during the tenser moments, the lead-up to the showdown against Agame has an intimidating choral piece. The final fight itself is set to the Fox Dance music, consisting of traditional flute and percussion mixed in with orchestral elements. This was deliberately selected to emphasise the scope and scale of the battle, and of the songs on the soundtrack, these ones stand out from the gentler slice-of-life pieces.

  • While the music may slow Agame down, it begins rising towards the vast orb in the skies. No explanation is directly provided as to what this orb is, but thanks to Kiwa’s stories and the emotional tenour surrounding the confrontation, it stands to reason that this orb would confer Agame with the power to spread discord and chaos to a much wider region that extends beyond Tōhoku. Before Agame can reach the orb, the skies suddenly clear out, and Yui readies an enchanted arrow, ready to shoot Agame in the eye and stripping it of its power.

  • Yui resolves to do what she can, signifying that she’s managed to let go of her past and live in the present. She subsequently fires an arrow that hits Agame squarely in the eye, and with its source of power gone, Agame explosively unravels. Agame resembles the Basilisk, a mythical reptile of European origin whose gaze was said to be lethal, and whose movements left a trail of deadly venom in its wake. Unlike Agame, and the Basilisk of Harry Potter, the original creature was no more than a foot long. Unlike the Basilisk, Agame’s gaze induces horrifying visions; Misaki no Mayoiga suggests the strange comings and goings were a result of Agame’s influence.

  • The next morning, Hiyori awakens to find Yui and Kiwa with her. Kiwa had caught Yui up to things and notes that the townspeople remember nothing. Hiyori has fully regained the use of her voice and implores that she be allowed to remain with Kiwa and Yui so that she can continue exploring the world of mythological beings. Kiwa finally reveals a bit more about her background: she too had lost her parents and wandered from place to place. In this moment, Yui realises that she and Kiwa are more similar than she’d thought, and expresses a desire to continue living at Mayoiga, which she now counts as a home.

  • Walking out into the garden, Kiwa points out a cherry tree sapling that has begun growing. The tree has put down its roots, and when it matures, it will provide Yui, Hiyori and Kiwa with sakura blossoms every spring. Putting down roots is not a small decision, and the presence of this tree shows that Yui, Hiyori and Kiwa are finally ready to settle down, having found a place to call home and the people to cherish life’s moments with. Overall, Misaki no Mayoiga was an enjoyable film, and while I’m out of my depth when it comes to Japanese mythology, the movie’s overall themes and progression were consistent and meaningful.

  • Coupled with good visuals and a wonderful soundtrack, Misaki no Mayoiga is a movie that has my recommendation: the movie earns an A grade (4.0 of 4.0, or 9 of 10) in my books. I am glad to have taken the time to watch this movie, and with this, my talk on Misaki no Mayoiga draws to a close. We’re now halfway through September, and this corresponds to the ending of the summer anime season. I’ve been following Luminous Witches and Kanojo Okarishimasu on a weekly basis, and will write about both once they wrap up. Lycoris Recoil and RWBY, I am planning to watch in once they conclude in full, and with the time I’ve got, I’ve been catching up on Spy × Family ahead of its second season, which is set to air come October.

Misaki no Mayoiga utilises both the mundane and the supernatural in order to convey its messages, resulting in a film that masterfully combines stunning portrayals of landscapes with vividly detailed renderings of supernatural beings that seamlessly blend together in a touching and meaningful story about recovery following the Tōhoku Earthquake. The topic remains a poignant one because, although more than a decade has elapsed since the earthquake, its impacts are still felt today. Works like Misaki no Mayoiga are an uplifting and encouraging tale for folks, reminding them that so long as they’ve got one another, they can rebuild their homes and communities, and so long as they’ve got their homes, they have a base from which to rebuild their lives and help others to do the same. While the supernatural elements in the film are quite bombastic and stand in stark contrast with the gentler slice-of-life aspects, they serve an important purpose in reminding viewers of how the past may yield some encouragement for people in the present day. Much as how Kiwa draws on mythology to provide Yui and Hiyori stories of strength, and how there is precedence for the problems they each face, Misaki no Mayoiga reminds viewers that lessons from the past remain relevant now. Being a tectonically active nation, earthquakes and volcanos have long impacted the nation, but its people have always been resilient, and will continue to find a way even during moments when it seems that all hope has faded. Overall, while the supernatural piece may come across as a bit jarring compared to the remainder of the aesthetic and tenour within the movie, it is there for a reason, and Misaki no Mayoiga ends up being a worthwhile film to watch; it speaks volumes to the idea of Japanese stoicism and resilience in the face of adversity is, in part, a consequence of community, and also gives viewers the sense that while the disaster may have impacted hundreds of thousands of people, even to this day, the spirit within Japan remains strong, and people have found their way in that time frame.

Ten Years After The Dark Knight Rises: Revisiting a Batman Masterpiece and The Last Weeks of Summer

I see a beautiful city. And a brilliant people, rising from this abyss. I see the lives, for which I lay down my life – peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.

Eight years after Harvey Dent’s death, and the Batman’s vanishing, Bane kidnaps a nuclear physicist over Uzbekistan in preparations for his plans to finish Ra’s al Ghul’s work of destroying Gotham and avenging his death. Having been out of action for eight years, Bruce Wayne is unprepared for Bane’s arrival and is brutally beaten in a fistfight with Bane. Bane condemns Bruce to the same prison he was once held in, before setting in motion his plan to destroy Gotham using the fusion reactor Bruce Enterprises had been working on. Refusing to see his city die, Bruce trains relentlessly and eventually makes the jump, escaping the pit and returning to Gotham, where he forms an unlikely alliance with the cat burglar Selina Kyle, who ends up returning and killing Bane with the Batpod’s cannons. With help from Commissioner Jim Gordon, police officer Johnathan Blake and his longtime friend, Lucius Fox, Bruce manages to secure the weaponised reactor and uses the Bat to fly the core over the bay, where it detonates harmlessly. Batman is presumed dead in the aftermath, but Alfred spots Bruce and Selina while on vacation. Meanwhile, Blake resigns from the police force, receives a package from Bruce and discovers the Batcave. When The Dark Knight Rises premièred ten years earlier, it became the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight triology, which approached Batman and Bruce Wayne’s character with a then-novel position: Nolan strove to present a more realistic, human side to Batman and the duality that existed in Bruce. Although Nolan’s films are known for involving aspects of philosophy, such existential and ethical themes, into his works, he also has a talent for ensuring that his films are approachable. Here in The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan uses Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities as an allegory for messages of revolution and revival. Sydney Carton’s willingness to sacrifice himself at the guillotine is paralleled in Batman’s decision to fly the bomb out over the bay; Carton’s actions give hope that Paris will be restored, much as how restoring the Batman’s legacy through sacrifice gives Gotham new hope, especially after Dent’s accomplishments was revealed to be a sham. Similarly, in A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens suggests that while revolution in and of itself is commendable, the violence surrounding it is deplorable; fighting fire with fire simply shows that the revolutionaries only perpetuate violence, and generally speaking, the mob’s actions are never justified. Nolan chooses to present this more directly: while Bane inspires a revolution in Gotham, the violence and spoils ultimately amount to nothing because Bane simply had planned to kill everyone anyways. Nolan thus adds to Dickens by suggesting that getting caught up in the pillaging and looting is counterproductive because the revolutionaries may use the mob to their own end, but otherwise never had any intentions of helping them.

While chock-full of references to A Tale of Two Cities, The Dark Knight Rises remains immensely accessible to viewers, even those who’ve never seen Batman Begins and The Dark Knight: in previous films, Nolan’s villains are highly intelligent and calculating, preferring to match wits with Batman using wits rather than physical force. Ra’s al Ghul plays on patience to advance his plan, while the Joker’s chaos and machinations mean that conventional means have no impact on him. In this way, Batman had previously counted on being a superior martial artist and support from his allies to get him close enough to his foes in order to outsmart them and play on their weaknesses (e.g. Ra’s al Ghul’s incorrect belief in Batman’s compassion, and the Joker’s belief that people are monsters by default when the chips are down) to triumph. Bane represented a new kind of villian, being both clever and apt; while the most traditional of the villains seen in the Dark Knight trilogy, Bane’s plans and actions mean that he is remarkably easy to follow, and this in turn makes The Dark Knight Rises very straightforward: it’s a film that speaks to two central messages. The first of these messages is the idea that “evil rises where [one] buried it”. During a terse conversation between Jim and Batman following Jim’s hospitalisation after falling into the sewers and encountering Bane, Jim’s remarks reveal his guilt at having allowed himself to live with the lie that Harvey Dent had stayed uncorrupted to the end; this lie had allowed Gotham to nearly completely eliminate organised crime, but the lie also came with a price. However, things had been so dark in The Dark Knight that Jim was forced to take this route, a band-aid solution, and so, when Bane appears, he finds the perfect weapon to use against Gotham. There are numerous parallels with reality in that band-aid solutions never last long-term, and in some cases, may even cause more trouble than they solve. For instance, if an app is written such that a text label displays error codes that cuts off, a band-aid solution would be to truncate the string if it exceeds a certain length. However, this doesn’t address the underlying problem: the server might be returning bad data and could potentially suffer from an exception if this isn’t dealt with server-side. The Dark Knight Rises thus indicates that the consequences of trying to bury a problem won’t cut it: the truth always gets out, and the consequences can be devastating.

While evil can fester where it is buried, evil does not exist in a vacuum, and in The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce finds the strength within himself to revive what he’d once lost. Speaking to themes of duality in A Tale of Two Cities, if evil can rise, so too can good. Trapped at the bottom of the pit, the other prisoners help Bruce to recall his old strength, and while Bruce believes that his body makes the jump, the elderly prisoner is right in that the mind drives the body. Bruce had largely acted without fear before, feeling that his aim was to overcome his fears by embracing it, but in time, he’d grown accustomed to embodying fear without understanding what it felt like. This is what Bane refers to when he remarks that “victory has defeated [Batman]”. Nolan had previously shown Bruce as striving to compartmentalise his fear and overcome it. However, operating in the absence of fear can be an impediment, as well. This is akin to stress management: in the absence of stress, one becomes complacent and lazy. Too much stress can immobilise an individual and render it impossible to act. In the middle, stress drives one to work harder and push past their doubts. Similarly, in the absence of fear, Batman fights with the expectation that his foes will fall, and so, when faced with an opponent like Bane, who is familiar with the League of Shadows’ methods, the same tricks fail, and Batman is defeated. When Bruce learns to rediscover fear again, he fights with a greater intensity, of knowing what the stakes are should he lose again. In this way, Batman and Bruce Wayne are both reborn after being thrown into the pit. Rediscovering fear acts as a form of resurrection, and the only way this was possible was because Batman and Bruce Wayne fell. Through The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan also suggests that one can improve, and be their best self, after being knocked down. This message had been alluded to in Batman Begins, but here in The Dark Knight Rises, it is explored fully. Between its accessible themes, deeper allegories and philosophical pieces, excellent choreography and a compelling soundtrack, The Dark Knight Rises is a triumphant conclusion to the Dark Knight Trilogy. Even though The Dark Knight Rises was my first Batman movie, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it acted as a fitting way of kicking off my post-MCAT summer a decade earlier.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The Dark Knight Rises opens with what has become the trilogy’s most-parodied moment: an unknown CIA agent takes custody of the masked man known as Bane, but in parodies, is ridiculed for his efforts to maintain control and keep cool. In the theatre, I had no idea of what to expect, but this scene was meant to establish that Bane is a sufficiently cunning foe that he can plan things out and maintain control of a situation flawlessly, as well as the fact that his henchmen are willing to sacrifice themselves for Bane’s cause.

  • Beyond establishing Bane’s character, the opening sequence also has Bane seize a Russian nuclear physicist, Leonid Pavel, foreshadowing Bane’s plans for the film. The use of nuclear weapons in film is an age-old plot device: their terrifying firepower and immense destructive potential have meant that fiction gravitates towards them because they immediately convey what’s at stake. In mere moments, Bane’s men takes control of the plane, kills off most of the soldiers on board and gives Bane the space he needs to secure Pavel.

  • For his role as Bane, Tom Hardy put on some 30 pounds of muscle, but what makes Hardy’s performance especially brilliant is the fact that as Bane, he’s wearing a special mask throughout the entire movie. Despite only acting with his body language, eyes and eyebrows, Hardy manages to convey emotion and intensity anyways. Unlike the Bane of the comics, this mask supplies Bane with a painkiller gas, and all of Bane’s physical feats in the film are otherwise under his own power, making him a plausible match for Batman, who, in Nolan’s trilogy, is similarly a highly experienced martial artist with prototype gear meant for the armed forces.

  • Without any of the over-the-top elements, such as Batman’s peak human conditioning, or Bane’s Venom (a sort of strength-enhancing substance), the Dark Knight trilogy is firmly grounded in reality, and Nolan uses this to explore the human side of each character that the previous films had not emphasised. Further to this, Nolan also chooses to shoot the Dark Knight trilogy in real world locations, rather than using a highly-stylised portrayal of Gotham: in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, Chicago and Manhattan stand in, giving Gotham a much cleaner feeling compared to the rainy, grimy and gritty feel of the comic Gotham. 2022’s The Batman and Batman Begins are both more faithful to the originals in this regard.

  • After a congressman goes missing after Harvey Dent Day, Commissioner Jim Gordon heads off to search for him, while Bruce Wayne deals with the fact that they’d been robbed, and that his mother’s pearls have gone missing. The congressman is found, and Jim chases some of the culprits into the sewers, where he is knocked out and captured by some uncommonly well-equipped thugs. It is here that Jim runs into Bane for the first time, and viewers gain a modicum of insight into how extensive Bane’s plans must be.

  • While the internet’s parodies of the CIA plane scene abound, the YouTube channel and musical group, Auralnauts, took things one step further, using their incredibly sophisticated skill in sound engineering and video editing to create hilarious videos parodying virtually everything Bane does. In their Bane Outtakes video, they portray Bane as a heavy-savvy terrorist who’s more concerned with people’s dietary preferences and eating well, rather than blowing Gotham City to kingdom come. Seeing these parodies helped me to lighten up considerably.

  • It turns out that the fingerprints the cat burglar had lifted are used to help Bane and his men carry out a hit on the stock exchange, where they use Bruce’s fingerprints to purchase future options illegally, effectively rendering Bruce penniless. This segment of the film really got me into The Dark Knight Rises: besides the suspense conveyed throughout the entire sequence, watching Bane burst out of the stock exchange after commenting that the stock exchange is where people go to steal money from others proved to be an excellent juxtaposition that again emphasises how Bane has the brains to go with the brawn.

  • The resulting chase sequence marks Bruce’s first appearance as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, and while he’s been out of action for eight years, Batman still operates the Batpod expertly, using an EMP gun to stop one of Bane’s mercenaries before continuing on the chase. The entire way this vehicle pursuit was done is brilliant: use of the lighting from the sirens and city lights and Hans Zimmer’s crescendoing soundtrack acts to convey the intensity of things. However, this scene also acts as a stunning visual metaphor: in the dark, Batman’s weaknesses are concealed, and he’s able to take down the mercenaries and retrieve their tablet only because of a technological advantage.

  • Nolan is well known for how he uses symbolism in his films, but despite covering topics that can be highly complex and thought-provoking, Nolan does so in an approachable manner, presenting challenging questions and moral dilemmas in a way that people can readily understand. This is something I especially respect: as a university student, my supervisor constantly reiterated the importance of being able to communicate scientific concepts well, and in fact, his lab’s aims were to showcase swarm behaviours in a way that was visual.

  • My undergraduate thesis project was the task of taking the model of physical flow I’d built a year earlier and then scaling it up so that a mathematical model could be used to influence behaviours back at the agent level. In retrospect, I didn’t accomplish much with this project, since the mathematical model was doing almost all of the heavy lifting and simply fed parameters back into the agent-based model. At the undergraduate level, however, this project was deemed to be of a satisfactory difficulty, and I therefore spent the next six months building and tuning my model.

  • The thesis project was actually more about the research process, development of the project and presentation of the results, rather than the work itself, and looking back, this proved to be an incredibly enjoyable experience. Back in The Dark Knight Rises, after saving Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), Batman asks to be taken to Bane for a confrontation. Having not trained for the past eight years, Batman’s lack of physicality is apparent. Upon encountering Bane for the first time, Batman launches into a frenzied attack, but his blows deal no appreciable damage. Bane then effortlessly kicks Batman over the railing.

  • It was actually quite terrifying to see Batman getting beat so easily: although I’d not seen the previous movies, the reputation surrounding Batman is legendary. I would later watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, when Batman was at his prime. His technique here lacks the same strength and precision, speaking to how out of shape he is. While perhaps at his peak, Batman may have traded with Bane, here, he is outmatched. For the viewer’s benefit, Bane even voices as such; nothing in Batman’s arsenal, whether it be his smoke grenades or martial arts, is doing anything of note.

  • The fight ends when Bane reveals a part of his plan, which entails stealing Bruce Enterprises’ hidden armoury, before he breaks Batman’s back on his knee in an iconic moment inspired from the comics. In the aftermath, Bane has Bruce delivered to a remote prison in an ancient part of the world, and Selina disappears, hoping to get out of country before Bane carries out his plans. However, the new cop, John Blake, happens to catch her after visiting Bruce Manor and finding no-one there: Alfred has already left at this point, and Bruce is nowhere to be found. The worst that Alfred had feared has come to pass; Alfred (Michael Caine) has a much smaller role in this movie, but his moments on screen are especially poignant.

  • Although Blake is seen as a liability because he’s meticulous and dedicated, Jim quickly promotes him to a detective and has him look into the unusual comings and goings around Gotham. With a sharp mind, Blake quickly works out that the construction companies around town have been pouring concrete laced with explosives, and moreover, since the disappearance of the entire Wayne Enterprises board, Gotham’s police force have decided to go underground in an attempt to flush out the mercenaries under the guise of a training exercise.

  • Unfortunately for Blake and Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley, Blake’s discovery comes way too late: during a football game, Bane sets off the explosive charges that trap the entire police force underground and isolates Gotham from the rest of the world. Without any cops, or National Guard to intervene, Bane’s plan is now able to go ahead unimpeded, and Bane himself reveals himself from the darkness. Much of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight take place at night, where darkness conceals things and make things look more intimidating than they are.

  • Still recovering from his sojourn in Gotham’s sewers, Jim continues to recover and can only watch as Bane takes control of the situation. Throughout The Dark Knight Rises, Jim is presented as being at war during peacetime, and his fellow police officers comment on how, since the events of The Dark Knight, Jim’s wife and children have left him. As a sort of coping measure, Jim immersed himself in his work and puts in strenuous hours even as other cops take it easy in the knowledge that Gotham’s organised crime engine is all but dismantled. When Bane reveals himself, his mercenaries head to the hospital to take out Jim, but Jim hasn’t lost his edge.

  • Bane and some of his mercenaries take to the football pitch and announce their plan to put the detonator of a now-primed nuclear device in the hand of, in Bane’s words, an “ordinary citizen”. He kills Pavel in full sight after the latter had converted Bruce’s fusion reactor into a neutron bomb with a ten kilometre blast radius. Although Nolan commits to realism, there are some oversights here in The Dark Knight Rises: fusion reactors are safe by definition because a fusion reaction requires very specific conditions in order to proceed, and if these conditions are removed, the reaction would fizzle out and stop. However, a fusion reaction does yield a large neutron burst, and when the right casing is picked, free neutrons from the reaction escape. Such a device should have a very low blast yield, below ten kilotons: Dr. Pavel suggests it is a four megaton device, but a blast of this size would have a fireball exceeding the irradiated area. While the weapon itself doesn’t work in concept, it prompts the existing story to a satisfactory extent.

  • Coming out into the open by day thus reminds viewers that Bane is unlike any foe that Batman has previously faced. Bane’s speeches and promises felt outlandish and ludicrous back in 2012, but it is ironic that some of the colour revolutions out there have people flocking to the cause and its leaders in the same way that Bane’s accrued a group of fanatical followers. The irony lies in the fact that Bane cares very little for those who support his cause: the very fact is that Bane doesn’t actually just hand the detonator to anyone. As Bruce quickly figures out, Bane’s likely got the detonator, and that his speech was purely metaphoric. Here, Bane announces the truth behind Harvey Dent and frees Blackgate’s prisoners, creating total chaos on Gotham as the underprivileged classes begin looting, and wealthier members of society are hunted down, beaten and killed.

  • Seeing the chaos unfold gives Bruce the motivation he needs to try and escape the pit. In his spare time, he trains to overcome his injuries and old limitations: Bane had knocked a vertebra from his spine, but one of the prison doctors replaces it, and over time, with his old discipline and will, Bruce recovers quickly. If memory serves, a half year passes, giving Bruce time to rebuild his strength. While he becomes physically strong enough to make the attempt, initially, he fails. One of the prisoners states that in order to succeed, Bruce must not mask his fear, but use it as a source of motivation.

  • I’d long seen fear as something to be overcome, set aside and compartmentalised. However, Nolan boldly shows, in The Dark Knight Rises, that fear is a powerful motivator. In order to save Gotham, Bruce must make the jump, and failing would permanently stop him from doing so. The realisation that failure is final is what gives Bruce the psychological boost he needs, to push himself further and harder than ever before. In the years after, I came to see this for myself: under the threat of failure and defeat, I found myself producing work of a standard higher than I could before.

  • The prisoners chant deshi basara, which composer Hans Zimmer has indicated to mean “rise up”. Folks fluent in Arabic state that it’s actually as تيجي بسرعة (Tījī basara’ah), which translates literally as “come quickly”. The scene with Bruce’s final jump, without the rope, was the most inspiring of the moment in the whole of The Dark Knight Rises, and when he succeeds, the music crescendos to a triumphant flourish as the prisoners cheer wildly, having witness what would’ve been a miracle. This is the turning point for Bruce Wayne: he’s found his will again, and as Ra’s al Ghul had stated, the will is everything.

  • As a gesture of compassion, Bruce throws a heavy rope into the pit, inviting the prisoners to free themselves, before making his way back to Gotham. Looking around the production notes, this particular part of the film was filmed in Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. However, the interior of the prison itself was constructed on a sound stage. With Bruce’s resolve back in full now, and the occupation of Gotham under way, the stage is set for the inevitable rematch between Batman and Bane.

  • In the six months or so that have passed, Gotham’s residents have kept their heads down while Bane’s mercenaries and Blackgate’s thugs roam the streets unchallenged. Although ordinary folks live in constant fear, and the presence of the neutron bomb prevents the remainder of America from intervening, common citizens appear to have gotten off easy, while society’s top echelon, the so-called one percent, have been harshly punished. Cillian Murphy makes a cameo here, reprising his role as Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow), and here, he acts as the judge to a kangaroo court, clearing enjoying sending out the wealthy to their deaths.

  • While Bane and his mercenaries have more or less taken complete control of Gotham, they’ve not explored every nook and cranny. This is to Bruce and Fox’s advantage: after arriving home, the pair locate the old underground saferoom where Bruce had kept spares of his Batsuit, along with other equipment that he’d previously used. When Bruce Manor had burned down in Batman Begins, while it was undergoing reconstruction, Bruce built a second saferoom to store his gear. By the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce shuts the room down.

  • The Batsuit in the Dark Knight trilogy is one of my favourite portrayals of the Batsuit in general: Fox had previously outfitted Bruce with a heavily customised Nomex suit which provided protection from blunt tools and lighter bullets but restricted his mobility. By The Dark Knight, Bruce approaches Fox with a new design, consisting of hardened kevlar plates on a titanium-dipped fiber. This suit provided a significant improvement to mobility at a cost to defense, and could not withstand gunshots from even pistol calibres at close range. In Batman v. Superman, the Batsuit Ben Affleck’s Batman wears is heavily armoured, to the point where it could even repel a pistol to the cowl at contact distance. The vulnerabilities in Nolan’s Batsuit is another sign of this trilogy’s commitment to realism, and that as Batman, Bruce Wayne must find other ways to win.

  • Since Batman had left the Bat high on the rooftops of Gotham, Bane’s mercenaries never found it, and this vehicle, a curiosity at the film’s beginning, becomes instrumental in saving Gotham. There is a sense of reassurance in knowing the Bat had been allowed to stay here all this time – as far reaching as Bane’s impact is, even he has his limitations, and subtle cues reinforce this. Here, Lower Manhattan’s financial district can be seen: the shot is north-facing, and the One World Trade Center is seen under construction.

  • Bane personally kills a special forces leader sent in to Gotham to help, and out of options, Blake decides to try and help out. Bane’s mercenaries promptly stop him. Meanwhile, Jim’s also been captured, and after a brief show trial, Crane decides to exile him. However, on the cold river ice, the Batman makes a return; after the guards are taken out, he invites Jim to light a flare that ignites a fire on the bridge tower, making the shape of the Bat-logo.

  • Bane is shocked to see this, and in this moment, the assured calm he’s held begins vanishing. Knowing the Batman will likely go for Miranda Tate, he orders his men to keep her close. Bruce had fallen for Miranda earlier on, and in the novelisation, meeting her marks the first time he’d not thought about Rachel Dawes in eight years. A major part of Bruce’s depression here in The Dark Knight Rises comes from his guilt at failing to save her and the belief that she was the person he wanted to be with in the future. The letter she’d written for Bruce would’ve been to signify that she no longer would wait for him, and this would’ve presumably led Bruce to continue being the Batman. Alfred burns the letter to spare Bruce of the pain.

  • I’m very familiar with what Bruce had been feeling: after the friend I’d wished to ask out began seeing another fellow, I felt a combination of disappointment, dejection and anger – this individual had supported me throughout my MCAT and my undergraduate thesis project, and I became convinced I might’ve had a shot. However, I channeled this frustration into a different direction, and also forced myself to re-evaluate my own values, which impacted how I approach things today. I’ve heard faint rumours that said individual, who became an expatriate in Japan, isn’t doing so well at present. Although this friend and I no longer communicate on a regular basis, if we were to chat again, I’d do my best to help her talk through things.

  • I note here that while this friend has a sizeable social media presence, support from strangers on Twitter or Twitch end up being empty words – there is no substitute for a heart-to-heart conversation from family or friends. While I wish I could do more, I’ve moved on, and it feels unwise for me to re-enter her life unexpectedly. Back in The Dark Knight Rises, after saving Jim, Batman also ends up beating down the mercenaries about to shoot Bane. Once the last of the mercenaries are cleaned up, Batman offers a suggestion to Blake – this moment was especially touching, since Batman had not, until now, ever considered the idea of someone else taking on his role. During The Dark Knight, Batman had adamantly rejected any help, but now, he imparts advice for Blake, to operate in a way to protect those around him.

  • Once the cops are freed, Batman passes a special EMP jammer to Jim, who’s tasked with putting it on the truck carrying the nuclear bomb. While Jim and a small group of allies work to locate the truck, the other cops will march on Bane’s base of operations, and they will be joined by Batman. Foley had been trying to keep his head down throughout the crisis, but spurred on my Jim’s words, and the Batman’s return, he ends up donning his dress blues and leads the cops downtown to assault Bane’s headquarters.

  • Every person seen in this scene is an extra, and in a behind-the-scenes commentary, Nolan describes how this scene was controlled chaos. Off-camera, all of the extras playing both the cops and Bane’s mercenaries are shown as sharing friendly banter – I always love the special features that accompany a movie, as it serves to show how much effort went into making things.

  • Although she’d been reluctant to help, after Bruce returns to Gotham, she agrees to take the Batpod and clear a path. Despite being relatively new to the highly-customised motorcycle, Selina wields it well, and quickly blasts a hole in the barrier. However, something compels her to go back into the heart of the fight, showing that Bruce was right about her. I’ll admit that as Selina Kyle, Anne Hathaway appears to have a natural affinity for the Batpod in a way that even the Batman didn’t: it does feel as though this vehicle was designed for her style.

  • When Batman appears for his second showdown with Bane, it marks the first time viewers see Batman in broad daylight. By no longer hiding in the shadows and operating by night, Nolan emphasises the idea that Batman and Bruce Wayne are reborn to the extent where he is no longer bound by his old limitations. In this fight, Batman fights Bane in a much more measured fashion, striking at the mask and using blocks rather than attempting to absorb Bane’s blows, before creating openings and landing hits of his own.

  • Although Bane starts the fight confident and calm, as Batman deals more damage to his mask, the painkillers no longer are delivered to Bane, and pain begins creeping in. Bane abandons his more refined fighting style for something more animalistic. Eventually, Batman is able to overcome Bane and kicks him into the hall of a building, demanding that Bane reveal the location of the trigger in one of The Dark Knight Rises‘ most hilarious moments. While this aspect of Batman is virtually unheard of, it’s probably Nolan’s way of reminding viewers that here, Bruce isn’t the old Batman, and he’s basically fighting Bane as himself, albeit kitted out in a specialised suit of armour.

  • While the fighting is going down, Blake gathers the children from the orphanage and asks them to help spread the word to evacuate in the event that the Batman cannot succeed in stopping the bomb. The Dark Knight Rises‘ climax is gripping, and I found myself rivetted to the screen on the day that I’d watched this film, precisely a decade earlier. At this point in time, my summer had really begun: I’d finished the MCAT for two days, and after taking the previous day easy by sleeping in (I don’t actually recall what else I did that day), the next day, I went to the theatre to watch The Dark Knight Rises and stopped by the bookstore to pick up some new books.

  • I had about twenty days of summer left to me after the MCAT ended, and I resolved to make the most of this time. I ended up using most of that time to spearhead an effort to get a paper published to the provincial undergraduate journal, and in my spare time, I began conceptualising what my undergraduate thesis project looked like. This allowed me to occupy the remainder of my summer in a productive manner: I subsequently lost the inclination to game, as I’d lost all of my cosmetics in MicroVolts and began attributing the game with my pre-MCAT jitters.

  • Besides getting the journal publication done and rapidly catching up with my peers on laying down the groundwork for my undergraduate thesis project, I had enough time left over to build the MG 00 Gundam Seven Swords/G, and also spent a weekend with the family out in Cranbrook a province over. After visiting the Frank Slide in the Crowsnest Pass, the first day ended in Cranbrook, where we enjoyed a steak dinner. The second day saw us drive up the Banff–Windermere Highway, stopping in Invermere for lunch before passing through Radium for home.

  • Thus, even though I “only” had twenty days of summer vacation left to me, I entered my undergraduate thesis year fully rejuvenated and refreshed. This year proved to be my strongest: after the MCAT, I developed a much more relaxed attitude about challenges, and this newfound confidence allowed me to approach exams with a sense of purpose rather than worry. It is striking as to how much time has passed since then, and in that time, The Dark Knight Rises has aged very gracefully. I ended up making a habit of watching the film every New Year’s Eve, with a glass of champagne in hand, ever since rewatching the film during the New Year’s Eve leading to 2013.

  • Although Batman defeats Bane, Miranda Tate betrays him and reveals herself as Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s. Shocked, Batman is unable to respond, but he is saved at the last second when Selina appears and blasts Bane with the Batpod’s cannons. The pair subsequently work together in an attempt to stop Talia, with Batman taking to the skies in the Bat. Meanwhile, Blake’s now reached the bridge, and he implores the guards there to open the bridge and let them across, since the nuclear device is about to go off. This moment proved to showcase some of the finest acting in a film chock-full of excellent acting.

  • The cop is so utterly gripped with fear that this is tangible in his voice and body language. In a moment of panic, he orders the bridge blown, stranding Blake and the convoy behind him. Although Gotham’s citizens and Bruce’s allies have maintained a dignified composure about them, the fear that this cop conveys must’ve reflected on the sort of fear and concern Gotham’s citizens must’ve surely felt. With this bridge down, everything now falls on Batman and Selina’s efforts to secure and stop the reactor; the original plan had been to force Talia’s convoy back to the reactor coupling in an attempt to stablise it.

  • The scene of the cop setting off the charges and blowing the bridge shows that this was filmed at the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge facing north on the East River: Roosevelt Island can be seen below. However, the location has been digitally modified: Randall’s Island cannot be seen, and Astoria appears to be cut off, although the Ravenswood Generating Station and its distinct chimneys can still be seen. The Dark Knight Rises presents Manhattan as Gotham, and it did feel curious that The Avengers, which I’d watched with friends a few months earlier, was also set in New York. The dramatically different stakes and contexts illustrate the gaps between the MCU and Dark Knight trilogy, and I remember being about as lost in The Avengers as I was in The Dark Knight Rises.

  • That is to say, I wasn’t terribly lost with either films despite having only a minimal background in both; while there’s some prerequisite information one must be familiar with in order to appreciate all of the events and references, I found both movies were well-written enough so that even someone coming in new could enjoy things. In both cases, I would be compelled to watch all of the previous movies in full. For the Dark Knight trilogy, I ended up doing this in December 2012, after I’d finished all of my finals, while for the MCU, I ended up doing a full-scale watch-through after Thor: Ragnarok came out.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that this year’s summer is rapidly dwindling: this week, I began noticing that I now need my alarm clock to wake up again, since the sun no longer illuminates my room before 0600. Having now settled in, I’ve capitalised on the time I’ve got to make use of some of my vacation days, and earlier this week, I decided to take my parents out to Cochrane, a tranquil small town located half an hour northwest of the city. Here, we explored the Cochrane Ranche park under gorgeous skies. I’ve not been back since 2017, when the Kantai Collection movie became available, and because it’d been a Monday, we more or less had the entire park to ourselves.

  • Because I’d already gone out for fried chicken pancakes, and then a Swiss Mushroom grill burger with poutine over the weekend, and because my parents were longing for a full breakfast, we ended up swinging by the A&W on the quieter west side of town. I ended up enjoying an Bacon Cheddar Uncle Burger, a heartier burger that was delicious as always. The afternoon was spent visiting Glenbow Ranch, a stunning provincial park of rolling hills and grasslands overlooking the Bow River. From this park, an eagle-eyed visitor can even spot the city center: with more or less perfect weather, we walked along the pathway until reaching Vista Pointe, whereupon we turned back. This wound up being the perfect day to wrap up my own long weekend, and I returned to work refreshed.

  • Looking back at the summer thus far, I’ve begun making some progress on some of the things I had wished to do post-move, especially with regard to getting to know the community better. Besides swinging by the bookstore on quiet weekends and enjoying sushi from the place across the way, I’ve also gotten to know a handful of the people in the area better, too. This has made lifting weights in the mornings more spirited. I’ve also capitalised on the hot summer weather to try working out of the local Starbucks with a Mango-Dragonfruit beverage: it represents a livelier environment than the quiet of my home office, and it hits me that this wouldn’t be a bad way to work if I’ve got days where my assignments are less intense. I ended up helping another patron with connecting to the free Starbucks WiFi.

  • In making use of the Bat, the final effort to stop Talia’s convoy sees Batman use the Bat’s full arsenal to try and stop the extremely heavily-armoured truck. The upgraded Tumblers give the Bat some trouble, but fortunately, Selina’s on station to blow them away, and in the end, Batman manages to destroy a Tumbler by flying some of its own guided missiles back to the sender. With the Tumblers gone, Batman trains the Bat’s rockets on the truck, and while the truck is able to resist these lower-caliber rockets, the resulting explosions create enough of a visual obstruction such that Talia crashes into the underground freeway.

  • Talia dies shortly after, and Batman decides that, with time running out (as well as the fact that Talia activated the reactor’s emergency flood protocol), there’s only one way to get rid of a bomb. He hooks the reactor to the Bat and flies off with it, but not before revealing to Jim indirectly that he’s Bruce Wayne. The revelation is a shocker, but it also gives Jim a sense of closure regarding what had happened years earlier, and everything that had transpired since. In a way, becoming the Batman and helping Jim fight the mob became Bruce’s way of expressing thanks.

  • The scene of Batman flying the reactor core out over the bay reminds me of a much more comical and light-hearted moment in Adam West’s 1966 Batman, during which Batman has a similar struggle of disposing of an active bomb and removing it from a populated area. However, with Nolan’s interpretation, things become considerably more grim and heroic: the weight of the reactor alters the Bat’s handling characteristics, forcing Batman to use the remaining missiles to blast a hole in the buildings in front of him to gain more breathing space.

  • Before taking off, Batman explains that the Bat has no auto-pilot, which led to a bit of ambiguity in this scene surrounding whether or not Batman makes it out okay. I’ve heard that some eagle-eyed viewers would’ve noticed that shadows flicker around the Batman moments before the bomb explodes, but flying over an open ocean, there shouldn’t be any shadows (presumably cast by the buildings). On this reasoning, some viewers felt that The Dark Knight Rises did an excellent job of hinting at Bruce’s survival, and moreover, one shouldn’t need an auto-pilot to fly in a straight line.

  • With the nuclear device dealt with, and the cops gaining the upper hand over the remainder of Bane’s forces, The Dark Knight Rises draws to a close – I found the film’s message about violent revolution to be a well-written one, and in it, Nolan conveys the idea that the methods Bane utilises are deplorable and untenable. At the same time, The Dark Knight Rises also indicates that modern society is one that teeters on the brink of revolution, a consequence of widening inequality.

  • Although there isn’t a Batman equivalent in the real world, Nolan reiterates that anyone can be a hero – the reason why society hasn’t folded outright despite increasing inequality and unrest is because, at least for now, the number of people committed to doing good still exceeds the number of people who desire disorder. Here, I define “doing good” to be actions with tangible consequences: donating to the local food bank and giving blood qualifies as doing good, whereas retweeting activists or trying to get a political hashtag to trend on social media does not make the cut by a longshot.

  • While Bane’s mercenaries were originally so devoted they would be willing to die for him, after Bane’s death, the remainder of the mercenaries are shown as surrendering rather than fighting to the death. This could be seen as a sign that in the absence of a charismatic leader, people would not view their cause as being so important as to lay down their life for it. Seeing this in The Dark Knight Rises creates a sense of catharsis – viewers know that with the nuclear device no longer a threat, and Bane dead, Gotham now has a fresh start. The truth about Harvey Dent is out, but so is the reality that Batman has just saved a city of 12 million.

  • Seeing the injustices of the world, and how governments become shackles prompts Blake to throw his detective’s badge into the river. While order and systems ostensibly exist to protect the people, over time, systems can and do become corrupted. The absence of any order and system is similarly undesirable, and the fact that humanity operates best somewhere in the middle, a balance of individual freedom and social responsibility, is spoken to in The Dark Knight Rises – Nolan’s genius is that in his films, he never espouses one extreme as being better over the other. Instead, in implying that there is a happy medium that people thrive under, Nolan leaves viewers to decide for themselves what works best, only enforcing the idea that extremes are bad.

  • Once the climax passes, The Dark Knight Rises enters its dénouement. Bruce Wayne is believed to be dead, and his estate is settled. The Batman becomes recognised as a symbol of hope and heroics, and Gotham begins picking itself back up. The entire scene is set to Hans Zimmer’s iconic incidental music: Zimmer creates a soundscape that constantly creates a sort of suspense and anticipation for Nolan’s movies, and because the sound is ever-present, silence becomes even more noticeable.

  • When one of Fox’s technicians tell him that the autopilot to the Bat had been fixed, he’s surprised – I imagine that Bruce was using some sort of version control, like Git, and since these repositories are reasonably secure (Git, for instance, accepts SSH keys as a means of authenticating a user prior to a commit), this was the biggest sign that Bruce is alive and well. In 2012, I was an undergraduate student, and my lab used SVN. The principals behind both are different when it comes to management, although from a user standpoint, there are similarities, and so, I transitioned over to Git from SVN without too much difficulty after entering industry.

  • At the end of The Dark Knight, Jim had smashed the Bat-Signal as a symbol of his reluctant disavowal of the Dark Knight for his “crimes”, but here, seeing the repaired Bat-Signal reminds him that even though Bruce Wayne is gone as the Batman, what the Batman stands for will now endure.

  • For me, the best part of The Dark Knight Rises was seeing Alfred enjoying his drink in Florence, and then spotting Bruce with Selina. He’d long expressed a wish for Bruce to move past Batman and live his life out. Years after my own experience with unrequited love, I’ve come to relate with the events of The Dark Knight Rises, and throughout the film, Alfred and Lucius Fox’s remarks about the women in Bruce’s life parallel remarks I’ve been given. The Dark Knight Rises suggests that Bruce was held back by the belief Rachel would wait for him, but it ultimately takes a rebirth of sorts for him to see what there had been out there, beyond the cowl and memories from eight years earlier.

  • The optimism The Dark Knight Rises demonstrates here made the film’s ending decidedly positive, a fitting and decisive conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy and shows how the combination of time and experience allows one to open back up – even it takes a great deal of time, the important thing is to allow this healing process to take place at once’s own pace. The sum of the messages in The Dark Knight Rises makes for an exceptional movie, and although the film might be ten years old, it has aged remarkably well, just like K-On! The Movie. The themes are still relevant, the action sequences hold up very well, and the execution makes the story timeless.

  • Because of the film’s ability to speak to so many topics so effectively, and because the film easily withstands the test of time, I count The Dark Knight Rises to be a masterpiece of a movie. I’m not alone in this stance, and I’d hazard a guess that the reason why so many enjoy The Dark Knight Rises is because Nolan is able to hit so many points in a way that works for different people; in fact, I’d expect readers to tell me that they’ll have enjoyed this movie for completely different reasons, and drew completely different conclusions than I did. This speaks to strength of the writing in this film, which ends with Blake taking up the mantle of the Dark Knight, and with both this film and my reflections at a close, it’s time for me to take a break from blogging for a bit and finally begin looking at submissions for Jon’s Creative Showcase.

The Dark Knight Rises is a fantastic film, raising the bar for what a superhero film could convey well beyond providing thrilling action sequences: The Dark Knight Rises is thought-provoking, inspiring and emotional. In fact, after finishing The Dark Knight Rises, I later would watch Iron Man 3 and wonder why Aldrich Killian’s motivations felt so shallow compared to those of Bane – in fact, it did feel as though villains of other films suddenly became superficial, and for a time, I found myself with a decreased enjoyment for Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. This subsequently dissipated after I watched Captain America: Civil War; the MCU’s films are fine, and speak to a different set of ideas than do Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The experience I had resulting from The Dark Knight Rises is a phase that some consumers of fiction go through: after watching something especially well-done, expectations are raised, and going into another film with a different director can often alter one’s enjoyment of things. Unlike the Dark Knight trilogy, the MCU is a long-running series whose greatest strength lies in how well-connected the stories are, and the masterful use of humour. It is therefore unsurprising that the aesthetic, tenour and end messages differ so dramatically, and failing to appreciate this is why the me of a decade earlier initially was more reluctant to watch MCU films. Fortunately, an open mind allowed me to turn around, and in the years subsequent, I would come to greatly enjoy the MCU for what it succeeded in presenting. However, not everyone follows this path: for instance, shortly after K-On! The Movie became available to international audiences, Reckoner of Behind the Nihon Review was quick to dismiss K-On! The Movie as being “disingenuous” and “false advertising” for not delivering the same level of though-provoking content as his favourite work, Ergo Proxy. Such a mindset precludes one from broadening their perspectives; had I remained stuck on that path, I would’ve never been open to enjoying things like Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War and Endgame. However, I am ultimately glad to have seen The Dark Knight Rises because it represented a unique experience. My enjoyment of this movie led me to watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and help me appreciate different interpretations of the Batman, whether it was Ben Affleck or Robert Pattinson’s portrayals (Pattinson proved a solid detective Batman, Affleck captures Batman’s physicality and resourcefulness, but for me, Christian Bale is the best Bruce Wayne hands down) – it goes without saying that an open mind allows one to have the most complete experience, and in taking such a method, also deepens one’s understanding and enjoyment of a work (or genre) by appreciating different interpretations and perspectives of things.

Summer Ghost: An Anime Movie Review and Reflection

“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.” –Alice Walker

During the summer, legends begin circulating about a ghost that is said to only appear to those who burn fireworks at an abandoned airfield. Curiosity surrounding these legends bring together Tomoya Sugisaki, Aoi Harukawa, and Ryō Kobayashi, who share an interest in seeing this ghost: Tomoya is academically brilliant but yearns to be an artist, while Aoi is bullied by classmates. Ryō suffers from a terminal illness and is forced to give up his passion, basketball. One evening, the three gather at the airfield’s runway and light some fireworks together, and although the summer ghost looks little more than a legend, she soon appears and reveals she can only be seen by those who are near death. They learn that her name is Ayane, and of everyone, Tomoya is the most affected by things, and he begins to visit her more often. Over time, Ayane reveals she died after she’d gotten into a disagreement with her mother, and after running out into a storm, was hit by a vehicle. While death might offer freedom from the world’s obligations, it is also an unimaginably lonely experience. The incident did not kill her, but in a panic, the driver shoved her body into a suitcase, buried said suitcase and left her for dead. Since then, Ayane’s spirit had been searching for her body so she could give her mother some closure. However, with summer rapidly ending, Tomoya’s mother insists that he spend more time on his studies to secure admissions at a top university, and Tomoya begins to wonder if death would offer him freedom from his mother’s expectations. Certain that helping Ayane find her body would also help him find an answer, he begins to accompany Ayane more often, even imploring Aoi and Ryō to help one evening. Ryō refuses, stating that Tomoya hasn’t an inkling of what he’s going through, but after Aoi comforts him, the pair decide to help Tomoya find Ayane’s body, which was buried in a landfill. With Ayane’s body found, they return her brooch to her mother and begin moving forwards with their own lives. Tomoya ends up being upfront with his mother about his interests in art, and Aoi becomes more confident in herself, telling the bullies off. Ryō, on the other hand, succumbs to his illness, but he is determined to see the spring one last time before he dies. A year later, Tomoya and Aoi meet at the same runway, where Ryō’s spirit tells them to live their best lives. This is Summer Ghost, a film that released back in November 2021 and whose home release became available in March this year; Summer Ghost is a ways removed from the shows I’m wont to writing about, but longtime readers will likely have spotted that summer is usually when I tend to write about films that deal in more abstract themes.

At the heart of Summer Ghost, lies the poignant question of what it means to live – at the film’s beginning, Tomoya, Aoi and Ryō are united by, in Ayane’s words, their closeness to death and a desire to understand it further. This is especially apparent with Tomoya, who’s fallen into a depression because of the disconnect between his dreams and his mother’s expectations for him. Feeling as though he is backed into a corner, Tomoya begins to wonder if death might be a means of gaining the freedom he yearns for. This drives his curiosity in the summer ghost, and while Tomoya himself believes that Ayane’s existence is one of unrestricted liberty, Ayane herself conveys that, despite whatever the afterlife may appear to be, it’s a lonely place. Ayane was untimely torn from the world of the living, and as such, never had the chance to experience romance or even travel. Conversely, she notes that, so long as Tomoya is alive, he will have a chance to turn things around in his life. This ultimately ends up being the main message in Summer Ghost: it’s a poignant reminder that while it may seem appropriate to take this way as a means of escape, the finality of death means one is permanently unable to affect any other decisions in their life. This is why Ayane is insistent on pushing Tomoya to live on and pursue his own goals, as opposed to helping her locate her body. Although Tomoya is not explicitly suicidal, one can spot that he’s feeling trapped, and in this moment, while he’s not seeking death per se, he’s certainly curious about it. Upon learning about Ayane’s story, however, his desire to help her overrides any wish to understand death. By treating Ayane’s spirit as he would anyone who’s flesh-and-blood, Tomoya begins to understand what standing firm for his own principles means; he feels strongly about becoming an artist, but previously lacks the courage to express his thoughts to his mother. Pursuing his heart and helping Ayane thus gives Tomoya a stronger sense of what being true to oneself means, and with his newfound friends’ help, Tomoya ends up locating Ayane’s body, allowing her spirit to move on, and giving her mother closure. As a result of these experiences, Tomoya is able to be truthful to his mother, and pursues a career path in the visual arts. Similarly, these experiences also give Aoi a newfound resilience: she stands up to her bullies by the film’s conclusion. Although the outcomes in Summer Ghost could have been accomplished through alternate means (akin to how a journey to Antarctica helped each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki of A Place Further Than The Universe to gain perspective and regain their footing in life), the choice to explore melancholy and a fascination with death in Summer Ghost helps the series to show viewers the merit of living on and doing one’s utmost to make the most of the hand they are dealt, even in the face of adversity.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Senkō hanabi (線香花火, literally “incense-stick fireworks”) are a traditional Japanese firework said to embody the idea of Mono no Aware, and fireworks here in Summer Ghost becomes a symbol for representing life as being a transient, but spirited existence akin to the fireworks itself – although short-lived, it is beautiful, varied and unique. Films like Summer Ghost are fun to write for because they challenge me to step outside my usual realm of discussions, and the outcome of writing about these films is that I get to appreciate their message a little more strongly than if I’d just watched the film.

  • Summer Ghost begins a year after the events of the film proper, with Ryō, Tomoya and Aoi assembling to enjoy fireworks as they had a year previously. In life, I’ve always found a sort of tranquility in returning to do something in the future, at a time when things are perhaps not as hectic as they had been when I had first partaken in something. Although I’m drawn to doing things in this way, a bit of introspection finds the reason why is because this allows me to see the same experience, but on a different day and from a different perspective; this in turn creates a deeper connection to and appreciation of said experience.

  • A year earlier, three students, Aoi, Tomoya and Ryō meet up for the first time to pursue a local legend, which tells that the ghost of a young woman who had apparently committed suicide will appear if one were to light fireworks at an abandoned airfield by a summer’s evening. Admittedly, I had no a priori knowledge of what this film would entail, and entered with a clean slate. As such, when the idea of a local legend was presented, I had no idea if the film was going to introduce the supernatural and make this a reality, or if this would be a catalyst for something else.

  • This is the joy about watching something completely in the absence of all external information, even something as simple as a synopsis. By having no expectations, I would not be able to look for anything specific ahead of time, and therefore, would be made to actively pay attention to the film and pull in everything I see, deciding if in the moment, my thoughts have any merit. However, I never record my thoughts in a moment – without full knowledge of what happens next, any assumptions I make in a given instant could easily be dispelled in a subsequent scene.

  • Real-time reactions are perhaps most appropriate if one is streaming an experience live to viewers, but in a blog setting, it is difficult to convey this in my style. As such, I choose to talk about things only once I’ve finished something wholly. This makes all of my reviews spoiler-laden by definition, but I find it significantly easier to do things this way because it eliminates the speculation and allows me to connect things from a work’s beginnings to what is seen in the climax and falling action. There is, of course, not a single right way to do things – other bloggers have found ways of making reaction-type posts and spoiler-free discussions with great success.

  • Summer Ghost is characterised by an extremely simplistic set of character designs, and the backgrounds initially seem quite flat compared to anime with more detailed visuals. While Summer Ghost might not have the most impressive visuals, the film does make use of excellent lighting to convey its messages. The decision to go with this style becomes apparent as the film continues.

  • The disparate group’s efforts seem to have been in vain – despite following the rumours’ instructions closely, the summer ghost does not appear. The practise the three engage in here is known in North America as “legend tripping”, visiting a site with alleged phenomenon as a means of testing one’s courage. For the most part, such practises allow youth to bond with one another, although when taken too far, accidents may occur, and charges might be laid. In Summer Ghost, Tomoya, Aoi and Ryō may be busted for trespassing on the airfield’s runway, but because this film doesn’t deal with those elements, it becomes a non-issue.

  • After Tomoya lights one final senkō hanabi, the three suddenly see the ghost of legend. Unlike the onryō that J-Horror cinema have popularised, the ghost is a stricking, well-kempt young woman. Her presence surprises everyone, who are shocked to learn that there was truth to the rumours after all. When the ghost speaks, she indicates that many have visited the site and attempted to draw her out, but there is a caveat: only those who are close to death in some way will be able to see her.

  • The use of fireworks to make her visible is perhaps indicative of the fact that senkō hanabi are similar to the traditional incense that the Chinese burn to show respect to their ancestors: burning senkō hanabi might be seen as closing the distance between the worlds of the living and dead, and those who have come to make an offering might be granted a chance to have their questions heard. The revelation that Ayane only shows up to those who are “near” death is a chilling one, and it suggests that each of Tomoya, Aoi and Ryō’s lives are filled with their share of troubles.

  • The choice of using an abandoned airfield creates a sense of isolation in Summer Ghost: the location is secluded and removed from populated areas. This further accentuates the fact that Aoi, Ryō and Tomoya are quite alone as members of society; had they been in a better situation, they would not likely have been drawn in by this particular rumour and instead, spoken with either friends or family about things. However, I do appreciate that this is much easier said than done, and folks who are in a difficult place might not be willing to open up about things, especially if they feel like they are alone in their troubles.

  • This is why it’s so important to at least have one person, like a best friend, that can be counted upon: although I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never felt close to death as Tomoya or Aoi do, I have previously experienced mild depression, and it is being able to talk things out that helped me to overcome this. Back in Summer Ghost, Rina Kawaei voices Ayane: I’m not familiar with her previous roles in animated works, but she is known for being a former AKB48 member who was involved in an attack during a handshake event back in 2014. On the other hand, Miyuri Shimabukuro voices Aoi, and I know her best as Harukana Receive‘s Narumi Tōi.

  • My depression had originated from briefly losing my direction after I finished my undergraduate degree nine summers earlier. This coincided with the Great Flood of 2013, which left me unable to do a kokuhaku. The story itself is old hat for longtime readers, but even in those days, what got me motivated enough to get out of bed every morning was the fact that I loved the work I was doing for the lab I was with. That particular summer, I’d been working on a distributed simulation of the renal and cardiovascular systems, and I was able to lose myself in this work. In the long term, discovering that I found enjoyment in software and figuring out a more concrete path for myself would lead me out of this depression.

  • Tomoya ends up feeling drawn to Ayane and begins seeking out her spirit more to speak with her further. In response, she takes him of a trip around the world she now knows, surprising him with an ability to fly freely in this space. This ability gives Tomoya a glimpse of what death must be like, and he begins seeing it as a release from his own problems. However, Ayane rightly notes that her experiences in this realm is a pale imitation of what she’d be able to do otherwise, and that Tomoya should cherish life more wholly. This idea is not new, and countless authors, writers and creators have spoken to how there is much to live for.

  • The summer season is, coincidentally, the best time of year to really live life – long days and beautiful weather gives one limitless opportunity to explore, both the world and themselves. Activities such as hiking, drinking lemonade and eating watermelon are long associated with the summer, and in particular, being outside is a way to both journey outward and inward. As it turns out, being in nature helps one feel more connected with the land, and this is why people generally report being at peace when enjoying the great outdoors.

  • As the morning transitioned into the afternoon, we decided to turn back, stopping along a waterfall in the trail before returning to Canmore. Here, we stopped for lunch at Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. Here, we ordered their Fig-Bison-n’-Brie Pizza and “The Meats” (Italian Sausage, Valbella All Beef Pepperoni, Smoked Bacon) flatbreads; besides the fact that their wood-fired flatbreads are especially delicious, the staff were also remarkably attentive and friendly. This marks the first time we’d been to Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.: previously, Canmore was a poutine location, but the pandemic forced them to close. I’m glad to have broadened my experiences, and perhaps on a return visit, I’ll give their West Coast smoked salmon flatbread a go.

  • We subsequently walked the Spur Line trail and stopped by Gap Lake before making the drive home ahead of a Southern Fried Chicken dinner with family. Back in Summer Ghost, Ayane explains that despite Tomoya’s curiosity about her world, she’d actually longed to live a fulfilling and complete love, experiencing things like travelling and falling in love. Instead, one evening, she’d gotten into a disagreement with her mother and stormed off into the night. Because a typhoon had been raging, she didn’t see an oncoming car and was knocked unconscious. The unknown driver, in a panic, had thought Ayane dead, and stuffed her body into a suitcase, before burying it at an unknown location. Ayane’s spirit, then, results from her undying wish to locate the body and at least give her mother some closure.

  • The day concluded with a walk around the Spur Line Trail, and we stopped by Gap Lake before returning home, where a Southern Fried Chicken dinner with family awaited. Back in Summer Ghosti, upon hearing Ayane’s story, Tomoya feels compelled to help her and begins spending more time in this ghostly world, even shirking his real-world obligations to do so. This decision baffles Ayane, who’s surprised anyone from the world of the living would care so much and go to such lengths to help her. For Tomoya, however, helping Ayane represents the first bit of agency he’s had in life for quite some time, and as seen through his academic performance, Tomoya seems to be the sort of person who gives everything his all, so it is unsurprising that Tomoya would be so unyielding.

  • Tomoya’s determination to help Ayane is great enough for him to request Aoi and Ryō’s help; Ryō suffers from a terminal illness and hasn’t long to live, so his frustrations boil over, and he refuses to help out. Since he and Aoi barely know Tomoya, there isn’t a chance to properly explain everything – this creates that bit of tension towards the end, but in a film as short as Summer Ghost, things get resolved fairly quickly after Aoi goes after Ryō and manages to help him regroup. Both subsequently rush off to pick up some fireworks with the intent of helping Tomoya.

  • Ryō and Aoi’s timing couldn’t be better; Tomoya’s just depleted his fireworks stockpile, but now, with two more people in his corner, there is the possibility of exploring a larger area. Tomoya gratefully accepts their help and immediately returns to the spirit realm. While the search space seems overwhelming, Ayane herself recalls a handful of clues that end up being helpful to the three. The topic of living and dying, at least in fiction, universally presents life as the path people should take, and works present suicide as being the route people should veer away from. Life is indeed of immeasurable value, and the topic of suicide is one that is brought up whenever mental health is a topic.

  • I have found that increasing awareness of mental health has meant that suicide prevention and maintaining balance in life has led to improved conversations and countermeasures for at-risk individuals. However, there remain subsets of the online community that appear to believe that it is somehow acceptable to tell someone to shuffle off this mortal coil, and previously, tragedies have occurred because of online remarks of this nature. Experts have previously written about how anonymity brings out the worst in people, and members of certain online communities, in their insecurity and lack of fulfilment in life, take to the internet to perpetuate anti-social behaviours. As such, I feel that mental health and wellness services should also necessarily include training and information pertaining to managing problems that come from the internet.

  • The symboism in Summer Ghost isn’t exactly subtle, and this helps viewers to quickly grasp what a given moment or scene is supposed to convey. For Tomoya, even after he and his friends help Ayane to locate her body, there’s still a barrier that prevents them from spending more time together. For Tomoya, this remains the last conflict that he faces, and in the moment, his conscious thoughts are focused purely on finding Ayane’s body and finishing off his promise to her, even though once this is done, Ayane’s spirit will be at peace and vanish.

  • When Tomoya first flew with Ayane, he’d been surprised by her ability to fly, but having now spent so much time in the spirit world, Tomoya is completely at home with things. Ryō and Aoi are immediately at home with flight, and with their help, Ayane is able to work out where her body had been. With her information, Tomoya and the others deduce that the culprit had buried Ayane’s body in the landfill after sealing it in a luggage case, and they set off for the local landfill.

  • Tomoya ends up locating the suitcase, and while he begins to dig for it, an unknown force suddenly seizes him – a part of Tomoya doesn’t wish to continue and would rather move on into the next world, but Tomoya is able to overcome this particular barrier and convince his other self that there is merit in living, after all. Although Ryō and Aoi cannot see what’s overtaken Tomoya, they are relieved when he is able to take control and finish his fight.

  • I’d been a little worried about what Tomoya would find: while there is nothing inherently frightening about a body, the implications of what happened to Ayane in the time since she’d gone missing and what we’d seen of her would be quite unsettling. Summer Ghost has the tact to leave this part unseen, and Tomoya’s reaction is one of relief rather than of horror. In the aftermath, Tomoya returns Ayane’s brooch to her mother and prepares to pursue his own path as an artist.

  • Summer Ghost shows that Tomoya is able to convince his mother to allow him to pursue his own career path, and in this way, his world suddenly opens up, no longer being as suffocating as he had once known it to be. The efficacy of this approach of parenting has long been debated – proponents suggest that children need discipline to be successful, but the reality is that people are at their best when allowed to follow their own dreams (within reason). It is unsurprising that moderation is the best approach, and I would imagine that, as a result of his experiences with Ayane, Tomoya is able to firmly draw the line in the sand and perhaps strike a compromise with his mother.

  • Meanwhile, Aoi has become more creative in overcoming her bullies. A great deal has occurred in the past year, but unfortunately, Ryō passes away from his illness. Although he’d held out long enough to watch the cherry blossoms bloom, he doesn’t make it. Thus, when Aoi and Tomoya visit a year later, they are visiting Ryō’s spirit, and he’s able to pass on in the knowledge that both Aoi and Tomoya have both found their way: before he departs, he wishes both will be able to live out their lives to the fullest extent possible.

  • There’s a melancholy seeing Tomoya and Aoi without Ryō, and the flatness of this terrain accentuates this. However, on the flipside, the colours here are more vivid than at any other point in Summer Ghost – because the colours do convey the tenour of a moment, one can conclude there’s a sort of catharsis here, as well. Both Tomoya and Aoi are plainly in a better place here than they’d been a year earlier. However, while their direction is a little more concrete, viewers hoping that Aoi and Tomoya may find solace in one another’s company may be a little disappointed.

  • Visual cues in the moment, such as the distance between Tomoya and Aoi, speak to this. On the other hand, those who do not approach Summer Ghost as a romance will find that its messages on life and death may hold some merit. This is a film that I found worthwhile to watch, and while it is a bit more open-ended than most of the films I’ve previously watched, the overarching themes are still plain.

  • Altogether, I found Summer Ghost to be an enjoyable and meaningful experience – the film’s short runtime precludes exploring things in more detail, but sometimes, less is more, and leaving some elements to the viewer’s interpretation means this film can impact a broad range of viewers in accordance to their own experiences and thoughts. With this, I have one final post left for July: the beginning of August is going to be very busy on the blogging front, as I finish off some posts marking the milestones to the events of a decade earlier.

From a thematic perspective, Summer Ghost tends towards the more abstract, but remains very accessible and clear. The messages in Summer Ghost are accentuated by the distinct visuals. Colours are liberally applied to convey a specific aesthetic – moments of melancholy are washed out and tend towards monochrome, while poignant moments are cast in a deep blue. To indicate the monotony of everyday life, sunlight is typically faded. On the other hand, the once Tomoya and Aoi have taken steps forwards, and gather to communicate with Ryō’s spirit, who is at peace, the sky is vividly coloured to remind viewers of how much possibility there is in the world. Simple details like these help viewers to connect with the emotional tenour in a moment; Summer Ghost might not be the most profound story or visual impressive work out there, but it succeeds in capturing the idea that the long days of summer are conducive towards exploration. Where other anime would stick with exploring one’s world, Summer Ghost takes a bold stab at showing what a journey inwards might look like. In this area, Summer Ghost is able to present an introspective journey: the idea of travelling into a world that spirits inhabit, a world that is devoid of energy and activity, is no different than self-reflection and overcoming the foes that threaten one from within, and in the end, Tomoya is able to find himself. In finding Ayane, the journey also helps Aoi and Ryō make peace with their own situations. Altogether, while Summer Ghost might not prima facie be a conventional summer anime, it definitely has the elements that make it a film worth watching during the summer, representing a different sort of journey that is, while a world apart from the typical fixtures of summer, like hikes, days at the beach and a watermelon in hand, still shows how the longest days of the year invite people to look within and better understand that, life is worth living because, so long as one is alive, there will always be the agency to seize the initiative and make the most of things.