The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: OVA

Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days OVA- A Review and Full Recommendation

“Hey chief, you screwed up. There’s nothing in here.”
“Oh, it might appear empty, but the message is clear. Play Santa again, and I’ll kill you next year!”
— Bender and Robot Santa, “A Tale of Two Santas”, Futurama

Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days released back in November 12, 2016; it was only a week ago that it finally became available, and if this is the trend for OVAs, I imagine that the wait for the upcoming Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? OVA could be a non-trivial one, as well. With preparations for the culture festival ongoing, Shinobu finds herself completely immersed in her class project, contributing both the script and her considerable talents as a seamstress to making costumes for everyone. Amidst the busy activities, Aya finds herself feeling distant from Shinobu, wondering if Shinobu is closer to Yoko, Alice and Karen for their own attributes. When Shinobu steps out with Isami, Aya begins to reminisce about the time she’d spent with Shinobu in middle school, where Yoko and Shinobu were struggling with examinations for high school. While on break one day, they take a walk and visit Moegi High SChool, where they run into Sakura and get a tour of the grounds. After guidance from Aya and much effort on Yoko and Shinobu’s part, the girls manage to make it into the same school; Aya herself had her sights set on a more prestiguous all-girls school, but decides to join Shinobu and Yoko at Moegi high when they are all accepted. Back in the present, the play itself hits a hitch when the student playing the princess is afflicted with the flu, forcing Aya to step in. Despite the play starting off on the wrong foot, the girls pull together and manage to improvise something with Shinobu’s help, turning the play into a success. In the aftermath, Aya is grateful to have chosen the same high school as Yoko and Shinobu. A touching story with the light-hearted, warming feel that Kiniro Mosaic excels at presenting, Pretty Days is a welcome return to a series characterised by a colourful group of characters whose life in high school is filled with hope, wonder and a never-ceasing sense of cheerfulness.

In its premise, Pretty Days is centered around Aya and her memories of middle school with Yoko and Shinobu. While she’s initially doubtful that her friendship with Shinobu is a strong one, Yoko recounts their pivotal moment in middle school when it was Aya who motivated the two to buckle down and study for their entrance examinations such that they could be admitted to the same school. Even when Aya receives an admissions offer from a more prestigious academy, she ultimately turns down their offer, suggesting the strength of their friendship with one another. Although such an action might be seen as a poor decision from a certain perspective, Pretty Days presents this as a heart-warming choice that underlines just how strongly Aya cares about her friends, if she’s willing to pick being with them over a high school that might help her with post-secondary admissions. In addition to a well-executed central narrative, Pretty Days also brings back all of the elements that made Kiniro Mosaic so entertaining, whether it be Shinobu’s gifting of “heart” to her friends, or her determination to ensure the success of their class play, exhibited when she goes to the length of improvising lines for Karen and Aya when their original play disintegrates after Karen completely forgets her lines. The end result is fifty minutes of comedy that captures the spirit of Kiniro Mosaic, being an indispensable watch for all audiences who’ve enjoyed Kiniro Mosaic. While folks entering sans familiarity with Kiniro Mosaic may find some elements in the OVA a bit unusual, the overall pacing and structure means that this OVA can still be quite enjoyable.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Owing to Shinobu’s tendency to not wake up on time in the mornings, the girls are forced to sprint the distance to their school, leaving Aya short of breath. It’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything about Kiniro Mosaic: the last time the likes of Aya, Yoko, Shinobu, Alice and Karen graced this blog, it was the middle of summer 2015, when I had turned my focus entirely towards building visualisations of biological spaces in the Unreal Engine. This OVA is a fifty-minute feature and as such, features thirty screenshots rather than the usual twenty.

  • After Yoko expresses a wish to see Aya on stage when everyone is discussing their roles in their classes’ respective activities, Aya grows a bit sulky and is seen here with the classic anime pouty face. Conversation drifts towards reminiscence, where Yoko recounts how Shinobu’s been excited about performances and events for as long as she can remember. This is the conversation that gets Aya thinking; she becomes a little envious of Yoko and Shinobu.

  • With the culture festival arriving rapidly, everyone heads over to Shinobu’s house to continue working on the costumes for their play. Alice and Karen have already arrived, modelling Shinobu’s old middle school uniform and Isami’s high school uniforms, respectively. One common criticism I often hear for anime such as Kiniro Mosaic are the fact that the characters’ voices are too squeaky, having the acoustic properties of ultrasound, taking the form of noise complaints. As it turns out, higher frequency sounds are easier to discern because our ears are not quite so effective at picking up lower frequency sounds.

  • While Shinobu may not be particularly studious, her talents as a seamstress are ridiculously high, and from an objective perspective, she’s much more likely to be at home in an occupation involving sewing and adjustments, as opposed to linguistics and diplomacy. With this in mind, my perspectives have changed dramatically since my time as a high school student: during this time, dreaming big is an asset, allowing youth to explore their options. However, as time wears on, reality also kicks in, and people gradually choose paths that strike a balance between what they enjoy doing and what they’re good at doing.

  • In this moment, the characters’ personalities are captured succinctly in what they’re doing: Shinobu is plainly very focused and into her tasks, while Alice and Aya help out as best they can. Karen and Yoko, by comparison, are totally slacking off. However, Shinobu is whisked off with Isami on an errand of sorts, and when Alice wonder about how everyone knows one another, it is Yoko who steps up to the plate and recounts the story of their time as middle school students.

  • After Shinobu and Yoko receive their latest test scores following an in-class exam, their spirits plummet when Aya lectures them about the importance of performance in helping them get into their high school of choice. The girls decide to take a walk, and it is here that they visit Moegi High School for the first time, running into instructor Sakura Karasuma (Satomi Satō, best known for being K-On!‘s Ritsu Tainaka, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?‘s Chiya Ujimatsu and Hyouka‘s Eru Chitanda). After some introductions, Sakura gives them a short tour of campus.

  • Despite their prospects appearing low, Sakura encourages the girls to work their hardest and even gives them a cheer that Aya finds embarrassing. One of Sakura’s strongest traits is that she can go to great lengths to help the students even if her actions can come across as embarrassing; her students find this endearing and consequently, place a great deal of faith in her, accounting for why she’s held in high regard by the student population.

  • In the Canadian education system, there are no entrance exams, and students moving from middle school to high school are placed based on their geographical location relative to the school. There are provincial standardised exams that students must take, which influence the courses they can take once in high school. With this in mind, while the education systems here are less competitive, once folks finish their education, things become much more difficult when it comes time to find an occupation (whereas in Japan and other parts of Asia, the education system is gruelling, but finding work becomes a little more straightforwards based on which institution one graduates from).

  • For the time being, I’m done my education – I’ve stared down countless exams throughout my post-secondary career. Of my conventional exams, the most difficult exam I’ve ever written was for my Organic Chemistry II and Data Structures II course during my second year, while the worst performance was for Introductory Biochemistry (which I only just passed). The best exam was my Physics II (Electricity and Magnetism), written when I was in fourth year, during which I was still considering medicine as a career path, and the fastest I’ve ever finished a final was ten minutes (where I ended up missing exactly one question).

  • These exams pale in comparison to the MCAT (2012), my undergraduate honours defense (2013) and my Master’s defense (2016): these exams took a considerable amount of time to prepare for, and of the three, the MCAT was probably the most challenging. I have vivid recollections of spending the summer of 2012 studying for the exam even though it’s been nearly five years since I wrote the MCAT. Back in Kiniro Mosaic, Aya steps into the summer sun to visit Yoko’s house, where they may continue studying for their own exams.

  • Friends are often depicted studying together in things like Kiniro Mosaic: I’m predominantly a lone wolf who prepares independently for exams, but for several courses during my undergraduate degree (most notably, organic chemistry) and the MCAT, I was fortunate to be in similar company. The advantage about studying together is that help is available; this might offer a different perspective towards a problem that makes it easier to solve, and if there are people in the group who are unsure about a concept, teaching them can also help one reinforce their own knowledge.

  • With that being said, I’ve never studied with friends at my place (or theirs) before: the environment of a library or quiet room is rather more conducive towards work – Yoko, Shinobu and Aya captialise on such a space to shore up their own knowledge. Clean and minimalistic, the artwork in Kiniro Mosaic is intended to keep the viewers’ focus on the characters; this is quite similar to the approach taken in Yuyushiki, and drives home the notion that Kiniro Mosaic is more about the characters than their setting.

  • During the New Year, Yoko, Aya and Shinobu pray for their success in examinations at a local Shrine, as well as for one another’s success. The Chinese have an equivalent saying as a form of New Years’ wish: “學業進步” (Mandarin pronunciation xué yè jìn bù, literally “improvement in [your] studies”), but no such equivalent prayer. Some elements in anime, such as praying at a Shrine for success in studies or love, bring to mind some of the pre-game rituals people, especially athletes, have prior to a major event or trial. Mine is to halt all revisions twenty four hours before an examination and do something completely unrelated, whether it be study something else or outright stop studying altogether.

  • The rationale for this is that, if I were to be in trouble for an exam, a day is likely not to make too much difference; in the typical case, I could also lose confidence as I encounter material that may or may not be outside the scope of the exam. By relaxing, I calm my mind and allow the material that already exists to be consolidated. This strategy is my own exam-writing technique and may not work for everyone. During the winter, Shinobu and Yoko run into Aya, who’d just passed the exam for her first choice. However, feeling that she might be giving up time with her friends, she also applies to Moegi High School.

  • Although the exam turned out to be slightly more difficult than even Aya had imagined, Yoko and Shinobu put in their best efforts. The exam leaves the two slightly dejected, and this time, it’s Aya who picks up the slack and suggests that everyone relaxes with something delicious. Following my MCAT in 2012, contrary to the suggestions from a friend to have ice cream, I went for a hearty dinner at a Chinese Bistro and then proceeded to sleep like I hadn’t slept all summer. While my ability to recall things is quite powerful, I cannot recall what I did the day after the MCAT.

  • When the results for Moegi High School are made known, Aya is offered admissions. Yoko and Shinobu are initially frightened to learn their results, but with Aya’s encouragement, the two find that they’ve also been accepted. While Aya is normally presented as a shy but disciplined, no-nonsense type of person who is quick to dismiss the others’ antics, Pretty Days makes it clear that she’s also got a more caring side to her, as well.

  • Ultimately, Aya turns down her acceptance offer to the more prestigious high school in favour of Moegi High, much to Yoko and Shinobu’s surprise. This attests to the strength of their friendship, and the moment also presents an opportunity to see everyone wearing the Moegi High uniform properly: in Kiniro Mosaic, only Shinobu wears her uniform properly Yoko dispenses with the outer jacket, while Aya wears a sweater over hers. Karen wears her uniform in a very casual fashion, while Alice has a pink Cardigan over hers.

  • Alice and Karen both find this to be a very moving story. Karen’s reaction is rather adorable, and Alice is outright crying at the journey. A cursory glance at the calendar on the wall suggests that it’s 2014: Kiniro Mosaic originally began its manga run in 2010, and the anime dates back to summer 2013, although I only picked up the anime one term into my graduate program in late 2014. Unlike most anime, which I procrastinate to an extent most folks would find ridiculous, I managed to finish Kiniro Mosaic just in time for the second season to start.

  • It turns out that Shinobu and Isami went on a cake run; after Shinobu returns allegedly bearing gifts, Alice and Karen become rather excited, only to wilt in disappointment when it turns out the gift is Shinobu’s love. This forms the motivation for the page quote, where Bender receives a similar “gift” from Robot Santa in one of the Futurama holiday specials. The Futurama incarnation is rather darker with respect to its comedy, standing in contrast with the lighter atmosphere conveyed in Kiniro Mosaic.

  • Shinobu plainly remembers all that Aya’s done for her, and even though she might spend more time with Alice and Karen, Shinobu has never forgotten just how important Aya is to her. Thus, while Alice and Karen might recoil at Shinobu’s “gift”, Aya is well aware that Shinobu is being serious and genuinely appreciates their friendship, leading to this moment here.

  • Isami reveals that a cake is also on the table as a gift, turning Alice and Karen’s mood around instantly. Isami is voiced by Yukari Tamura, whom I also know for her roles as Sakura Yoshino (Da Capo), Mai Kawasumi (Kanon), Mei Suonohara (CLANNAD), Tabane Shinonono (Infinite Stratos) and Remon Yamano (Ano Natsu De Matteru). It’s actually a bit of a surprise to see just how much anime I’ve watched over the past ten years, and in the near future, I’ve got a special post reviewing the Ah! My Goddess The Movie, which was my entry into anime. It’s a thrilling story, and I wish to do it justice, so that story will be explored in full once I kick that post off.

  • Looking back, I’ve never done anything quite with the atmosphere of a culture festival during my time as a secondary student, but in university, I’ve participated in many open house events, speaking with parents and prospective students about the health science program. During my final year of graduate studies, I also had the opportunity to participate in a special celebration for the university’s fifteenth anniversary, alongside a TEDx talk: while not quite as festive as a cultural festival, things were nonetheless quite enjoyable.

  • Sakura enjoys a corndog and candied apple here prior to the play’s start, much to Yoko’s surprise. Today, besides marking the beginning for this year’s Daylight Savings, also saw an afternoon outing to watch the critically-acclaimed Logan. Prior to the movie, I stopped at Opa’s for lunch: I admit I’ve never eaten at the one on campus in all of my time there as a student, so at my friend’s recommendation, I went with the lamb wrap and fries, as well as sharing a plate of fried calamari. After lunch was over, with another friend inbound, and the movie set for a few hours later, I dropped by BestBuy to pick up a new USB hub.

  • Logan, with its thematic elements and violence (though, not quite as violent as either Wolfenstein or DOOM), sits quite far removed from the likes of Kiniro Mosaic, being a direct and forward film that is to-the-point with the presentation of its narrative. I can say that Logan is worthy of the praise it has garnered, but as the movie is still a new one, and partially because this is a Kiniro Mosaic post, I won’t go into further details.

  • With encouragement from Alice and Yoko, Aya begins her performance, masterfully delivering her lines despite being drafted at the last possible moment to perform. Despite her aversions to publicity, Aya can be quite capable, and here, she embraces her role, giving audiences a chance to see a side of her personality hitherto unexplored. It is in this play where most of the artwork comes from, then: in the aftermath of the OVA’s theatrical release, Japanese artists generated a non-trivial amount of artwork.

  • In anime such as Kiniro Mosaic, unexpected setbacks are presented for the sake of comedy rather than for drama: Karen’s completely forgotten her lines and immediately falls back on her improvisational skills. Unsurprisingly, Aya is unable to keep up, and the entire play seems to be at jeopardy. This brings to mind the Giant Walkthrough Brain from several years back, where a thunderstorm knocked out the power mid-game during the show’s first performance at the Banff Centre. Jay Ingram and his band excel at improvisation, and the use of laptops meant that we didn’t skip a beat: the show transitioned smoothly back in once power were restored, and the first performance ended up being a great success.

  • With the play in peril, Shinobu activates her NT-D summons a blonde wig and begins writing new lines in response to Karen and Aya’s predicament. While typically air-headed and incapable as a student, Shinobu’s highly talented in other areas. Academics is not everything, and while education systems place a very strong emphasis on academic performance, I’ve found that, especially in graduate school, the learnings and take-away messages from a course far exceed one’s grade: the thing I value the most of my graduate school experiences isn’t the Unity or Unreal Engine, how to formally describe a multi-agent system or mine data, but rather, how to communicate effectively.

  • Thus, what was supposed to be a structured play quickly turns into a free-for-all musical that winds up being a great success. Pretty Days grossed a total of 26 million yen (around 300000 CAD) on its first weekend. The original news article announcing Pretty Days is a deliberately misleading one, reading that Pretty Days would be predominantly about Shinobu’s situation when Yoko and Aya notice that she’s been overextending herself for the culture festival. Giving nothing away about the OVA’s contents, this blurb turned out to be a blessing and contributes to the OVA’s impact.

  • The Pretty Days OVA reaches its conclusion, with Shinobu and her classmates receiving warm applause for their performance in spite of all of the setbacks they’ve encountered. With Pretty Days in the books, eyes now turn towards the Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? special. Titled “Dear My Sister”, the OVA was announced back during the Rabbit House Tea Party in 2016 and originally set to receive a limited theatrical screening in May this year – it is speculated to involve more music than seen in the anime proper. At present, it’s been delayed by production issues, and the updated release date remains unknown.

  • At present, even OVAs are receiving the anime movie release pattern, taking at upwards of a half-year to finally become available in the home release format now; the wait for these OVAs has become as long as those for movies, accounting for why Pretty Days, released in November 2016, is only being reviewed now. In spite of the waits, I will definitely be returning to do a talk on the Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? special once that is available, and for the present, regular programming resumes as I push towards the end of Sora no Woto.

As is the modus operandi for OVA posts, one wonders if the OVA is the end-game, or merely a stepping stone for a continuation. Kiniro Mosaic performs reasonably well with respect to sales, and with the manga ongoing, it is possible that an animated adaptation depicting Shinobu and the others’ third year could come to fruition in the future, dealing with the girls as they finish their third year and move towards graduation. Nineteen months separated the first and second seasons, and by this trend, if Kiniro Mosaic is to receive a third season, it would likely be aired during the Winter 2018 anime season, just slightly less than a year from now. In comparison to my remarks that a second season of Yuyushiki, would be unlikely owing to how much time has elapsed since 2013, Kiniro Mosaic has already received its second season: the Pretty Days OVA comes at an intermediary point, so I am a bit more optimistic about the prospects of a third season. A continuation of Kiniro Mosaic would therefore be most welcome, acting as a conclusion of sorts to the series. Aside from graduation, a continuation could also open the possibility of Shinobu and her friends visiting England once more before they set off for whatever their futures have in store for them (with this being said, such an adventure might even be presented as a movie).

Annoying and Being Annoyed: Yuyushiki OVA Review and Reflection

“Some memories are unforgettable, remaining ever vivid and heartwarming!” —Joseph B. Wirthlin

The last time I had written a Yuyushiki discussion, memories of the Great Flood of 2013 were still fresh in my mind, and we were in the depths of summer. I had remarked that it might be possible that I would forget the events of Yuyushiki with the passage of time, were it not for the fact that Yuyushiki excels at a very special brand of humour surrounding everyday conversation. The events of Yuyushiki‘s anime proper concluded with the end of summer and the return to classes: this OVA, titled “Annoying and Being Annoyed” (Japanese title: “Komarasetari, Komarasaretari”), is set during autumn of the new school year, starting with the Yui, Yukari and Yuzuko share a conversation about gestures in conversation. After an ordinary day of classes and the girls’ characteristically non-sequitur conversations), they make for the data processing club room. Chiho, Kei and Fumi soon join their activities, where the topic turns to how Chiho came to be friends with Kei and Fumi. Later, on a brisk autumn’s day, Yui, Yukari and Yuzuko discuss the future as their third year approaches. The OVA marks a welcome return to the sort of nonsensical humour that drives Yuyushiki, bringing back the fun that allowed the anime to provide a lift to my spirits amidst the sunny yet melancholy July days after as the city began picking itself up from the Great Flood.

Puns and non-sequiturs, desultory thoughts about the most unusual of things is central to Yuyushiki, mirroring Yui, Yuzuko and Yukari’s everyday activities at the data processing club — this particular brand of humour is unorthodox and can be difficult to follow in places, with some even counting Yuyushiki as one of the most disappointing anime of 2013 because how things are presented. Such conversations in Yuyushiki are understandably in a format unconducive towards discussions in reality, and so, is not particularly easy to relate to, but the ridiculous situations that arise, usually whenever Yuzuko and Yukari start thinking on the same wavelength and begin exasperating Yui, wind up generating much of the humour in the anime. The OVA ultimately captures this sense succinctly, bringing the girls’ lives back into autumn. Even the change of seasons cannot alter their trains of thought or their easy-going lives — when we consider that Yuyushiki (ゆゆ式) translates directly to “serious” in English, this provides a sort of juxtaposition that shows the anime is not what its name may suggest; the girls come and go as they please, living life in the manner and pacing of their choosing, quite unconcerned with the destination and making the most of their journey.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As it turns out, I’ve not forgotten about Yuyushiki over the past several years since the Great Flood. Yuyushiki was an anime hailing back to spring 2013, running from April through June. However, I did not pick the anime up until early May, wrapping up the anime mid-July and returned in August to write about it. One way or another, it’s been some time since the likes of Yui, Yukari and Yuzuko have graced this blog, and so, for this OVA discussion, I’ve lined up the usual twenty screenshots, which also happens to be the internet’s first and only collection: no other comprehensive reviews of the Yuyushiki OVA exist at the moment of writing, so folks looking for the OVA screenshots will only have this blog as an option for the time being.

  • Chiho, Kei and Fumi are the ordinary counterparts to Yui, Yuzuko and Yukari. This comparison is emphasised by contrasting their conversations to illustrate the differences in their content. These two groups generally go about their own activities, but Chiho admires Yui to an extent and longs to know her better. This brings the two groups into contact with one another, whereupon the contrast between Chiho and Yui’s friends become quite noticeable.

  • Animated by Kinema Citrus, the Yuyushiki OVA seems to use a colour scheme having a reduced saturation value compared to the vivid colours of the TV series. This was especially noticeable during the summer episodes, where the skies are of a dazzling aquamarine hue to convey the heat of a summer day, so it stands to reason that, now it’s autumn in Yuyushiki, the colours are a bit more subdued to indicate cooler temperatures. The golden-yellows of the leaves pop out in this screenshot.

  • Yui suppresses laughter after her conversation with Yukari about how folks tend to move their hands around while talking. From an article in Nature, it turns out that this is an ingrained part of human nature and help people formulate their thoughts, as well as for others to understand them by means of body language — individuals who are blind make gestures when talking, and our inclination is to trust people who are more expressive with their hands while talking. With this in mind, there is a moderation to this: folks who do not gesture might be seen as colder, while folks who make excessive gestures convey a sense of nervousness.

  • I use science to provide some of the figure captions that arise from Yuyushiki, but in the anime itself, the nonsensical inclinations that Yuzuko and Yukari are prone to means that conversations usually go sideways, moving in a direction driven more by humour. The sudden changes in topics and ideas are possibly a hint of the shortening attention spans of H. sapiens: in an article I read, the average attention span of a person back in 2000 was twelve seconds, whereas in 2015, it was eight seconds. To put things in perspective, a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds, so that raises the question of how many people actually have enough focus to read through all of my posts.

  • It is quite fitting that in the OVA, Yui and the others begin looking up how the act of annoying others works. Reading from whatever in-universe resource stands in for Wikipedia, Yui notes that the act is to bother someone for amusement rather than malice. The English-language Wikipedia article in reality defines an annoyance to be a stimuli that distracts one’s conscious thinking, resulting in frustration and notes that annoyance can be used as a form of psychological warfare, a far cry from the gentle forms of irritation that Yuzuko and Yukari subject Yui to. Curiously enough, there is no equivalent article in Japanese at the time of writing.

  • Chiho arrives at the data processing club on short order, and Yuzuko offers her Yui’s seat. The yuri elements are out in full force; Chiho is plainly flustered while sitting down in the same seat, and sweat drops are lightly emanating from her. Despite being intimidated by the shenanigans that Yuzuko and Yukari partake in, Chiho generally gets along with the Data Processing Club’s members.

  • The girls’ instructor, Yoriko Matsumoto, is affectionately referred to as “mom” (お母さん) by Yuzuko, and in the series proper, is subject to some rather interesting things in the girls’ imaginations. She’s the only instructor shown at the girls’ school and occasionally drops in on the Data Processing Club to see how they’re doing.

  • Back in 2013, I had just purchased a shiny new custom rig and a wide-screen monitor. Previously, I had a Dell 19-inch 4:3 monitor whose maximum resolution was 1280 by 1024, and the new monitor finally brought me into the world of 1920 by 1080. My machine has not changed since then, save a substantial upgrade to my GPU, and from the looks of it, the Data Processing Club is still rocking the computers they had back in Yuyushiki‘s anime.

  • One of the aspects that gave Yuyushiki a unique feel was the fact that details in the background art is kept to a minimum. Their world is one that feels incredibly clean, almost sterile, forcing audiences to keep their focus on the characters. However, while minimalist, landscape scenes are still rendered nicely to create a specific atmosphere and backdrop to frame the characters’ interactions.

  • The girls wonder about the idea of small talk, which serves a social function in defining social stature amongst a group of individuals, filling silences in conversation and acting as a means of politely marking when more formal conversations end or begin. Their topic soon reaches how Chiho befriended Kei and Fumi in spite of her shyness — Kei initiated conversation, starting off their friendship. It brings to mind the story of how I became friends with half the people in my health science faculty: our story differs in that our interactions were forged by the common interest in not getting eliminated by our first medical science inquiry course.

  • There’s a gentle quality about some of the songs in Yuyushiki‘s soundtrack that capture the anime’s friendly and carefree spirits. Whether it be Yui and Yukari’s themes, or the tracks that play in the background when the girls’ minds begin wandering (such as “Monopole”, “Going Home” or “Puppy Love”), the warm songs of the soundtrack contributes substantially to the atmosphere in Yuyushiki despite being otherwise mundane compositions: my mind is pulled to the hottest days of the summer whenever these songs play in my music rotation.

  • Yuyushiki kicks off in late spring, at the start of a new school year, but with only twelve episodes, it blazed through the seasons, predominantly focussing on summer and spring: only a few episodes are set in winter itself, and to the best of my recollections, the golden-yellow of autumn leaves were not shown in the TV series proper. While I expressed a distaste that the summer was ending so soon back in 2013, my perspectives have changed somewhat, and I’m presently fond of all seasons save winter, if only for the fact that windchill makes it highly uncomfortable to be outside.

  • Conversations about ear-cleaning and curry parties soon give way to a restlessness that sees the girls take a walk outside in the autumn air. Yui begins thinking on her friends’ strong points: despite their relentless messing with her, Yui finds Yuzuko to be reliable and capable despite her outward actions, while Yukari’s curiosity is her most endearing feature. The cool air leads the girls back to Yui’s house, where things are rather warmer.

  • Similar to Yui, I’m rather fond of books: ranging from non-fiction books explaining the effects of technology on the mind and how learning to cook our food might have contributed to the growth of human intelligence to Tom Clancy novels and even manga, my personal library expanded over the past few years, requiring a new bookshelf to hold everything. Unlike Yui, who’s rather embarrassed to read her book out loud, I have no qualms reading any of my texts out loud, except for maybe Strike Witches: The Sky That Connects Us.

  • One of the most distinct aspects about Yuyushiki is the unusual transformation of the characters’ eyes whenever they are deeply confused, irritated or mischievous. Looking back on my old Yuyushiki posts, I note that the figure captions were much more simple and feature more one-liners. The most infamous one follows Auralnauts’ Bane Outtakes. It’s quite surprising as to how much time has passed since I first found the Bane Outtake reels; besides a hilarious depiction of the first fight between the Batman and Bane, it also has Freestyle Bane, which features one of the best mic drops of all time.

  • The Yuyushiki OVA is set in October 2013: in the TV series, Yoriko is looking through a calendar at the end of summer vacation that is dated September 2013. I was enrolled in open studies at the time while trying to figure out my future directions, and was taking a Japanese history course, as well as a course on proteins. Having only three courses meant that I had a bit more free time than usual, accounting for the large number of blog posts during this time frame — by this point in time, I’d largely retired my old website and wrote posts entirely here.

  • Evening sets in, and the girls head home; Yuzuko resolves to take a bath the instant she gets back, and resolves to sound like a train before entering said bath. One aspect of Yuyushiki that surprises me to no end is the fact that Yukari is voiced by Risa Taneda (Aya Komichi of Kiniro Mosaic and Rize Tedeza of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?): gentle and air-headed in quality, Risa’s voice in Yuyushiki lacks the shyness of Aya’s or the decisiveness and confidence in Rize’s voice, attesting to her skill as a voice actress.

  • Later during the quiet evening, Yui discovers that there is indeed a love story in the novel she’d just purchased and transmits this knowledge to Yukari and Yuzuko. In a quiet evening of my own, while I relax after a dinner of southern fried chicken, my mind turns to how different things are now in comparison to when I first watched Yuyushiki. It’s been quite the journey, and I was happy to learn that there would be a Yuyushiki OVA at all: news of the OVA’s existence was announced March last year, although I only heard about the OVA in January.

  • At the end of the day, the Yuyushiki OVA is intended for folks who’ve seen and enjoyed Yuyushiki back during 2013. Returning fans will find it to be a pleasant trip down memory lane, bringing back the best aspects of Yuyushiki, while those who dislike Yuyushiki will find the OVA to be quite disjointed and incoherent. With this OVA now in the books, I turn my eye to Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days  — this OVA is fifty minutes in runtime and deals predominantly with Aya.

In the three and a half years since I wrote my last Yuyushiki discussion, a great deal has occurred. That I still vividly recall Yuyushiki is an indicator of the anime’s memorability: far from being dull and derivative, the unusual conversation topics, situations and even art style has allowed Yuyushiki to remain a clear memory that brings to mind the events of summer 2013. Thus, the OVA is a welcome return to the world that is Yuyushiki, and a cursory glance at the manga shows that it is still ongoing. If the anime performed reasonably well with respect to sales, it is possible that a continuation could be in consideration. A bit of inspection finds that five years of manga content corresponds to twelve episodes’ worth of material. Since Yuyushiki received an anime adaptation in 2013, five years after it began running in Manga Time Kirara, it might be reasonable to estimate that a continuation could be seen in 2018, although these time spans suggest that this Yuyushiki OVA might be the last of the anime we’ll see in the foreseeable future. This is a shame, since Yuyushiki proved to be quite entertaining with its uncommon approach to building humour — I would’ve liked to see more of this anime and what adventures await Yui, Yuzuko and Yukari as they enter their third year.

Eve of Destiny: Mobile Suit Gundam- The Origin Episode Four Reflection

“Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive one; it is man and not materials that counts.” —Mao Zedong

In the aftermath of the Dawn Rebellion, Degwin Zabi arranges for the Federation to withdraw their military assets from Side Three to avoid future incidents. After being reprimanded for failing to look after Garma, Dozel orders Char to Earth, but grants his request to be a mobile suit pilot. On Earth, Char works as a construction worker and meets Lalah Sune, working for a shady figure. He saves her life and grants her request, taking her into space. Meanwhile, Tem Ray pushes forwards with the RX-78 program to develop a Federation mobile suit. When the Federation learns that Trenov Y. Minovsky plans to defect, they stage an extraction operation that is foiled by Zeon, who deploys their mobile suits to great effect against the Federation RX-77 Guncannons, eliminating them and killing Minovsky in the process. Back at Side Seven, Amuro Ray begins to wonder why his father is sent on frequent business trips and begins reading into his father’s research, learning about the development of the RX-78 mobile suit even as the first shots of the One Year War begin, when Zeon declares itself as an independent Principality and mounts an invasion of the moon. The progression of history in The Origin differs from that of the original Universal Century in some key areas: for instance, the One Year War began originally when Zeon gassed four colonies at the start of UC 0079, and Minovsky dies much later. However, in spite of these differences, The Origin‘s final episode proved to be a solid addition to Gundam origin, primarily following the first deployment of mobile suits against Federation forces.

The main draw in the fourth The Origin OVA is its depiction of the natural progression of humanoid weaponry resulted in the Universal Century from construction vehicles and arming them, in a manner not unlike the development of the earliest fighter aircraft in World War One, which consisted of pilots bringing pistols and grenades with them into the air. Soon after, machine guns were bolted onto the aircraft, and with the development of an interrupter mechanism to prevent the guns from shooting up the propellers, the earliest dedicated fighter aircraft were born. Mobile suits share a similar background, initially being armed mobile workers that saw great strides after the development of a suitable power supply (a Minovsky reactor) and the AMBAC system, which provided unparalleled balance and coordination needed to give the weapon human-like dexterity. The Origin captures the development of fictional military hardware in a plausible manner, allowing mobile suits to gain credence as a weapon, and their first combat operation against Federation forces draws yet another parallel with the introduction of tanks in warfare. Although the first deployment of tanks at the Battle of Flers–Courcelette in September 1916 is widely regarded as a failure, German soldiers initially lacked the means to effectively engage them, falling into disarray when they arrived on the battlefield. Unable to penetrate them with their rifle rounds and grenades, Germans claimed that tanks turned warfare into a slaughter, and it was not until later that they began devising means of confronting these vehicles, using six grenades in a cluster to blow tracks off. The Zeon mobile suits, though far more effective and reliable than Mark I tanks, have a similar effect on Federation Forces, overwhelming them and prompting them to continue development into the mobile suit programme.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The fourth episode to The Origin comes out nearly a year and a half after the release of the first episode back in March 2015. I was quite excited about the announcement, which encompassed four episodes, and so, imagined this one to be the last release for The Origin. Here, Garma, Zenna and Char participate in a ticker-tape parade after their successful strike against the Federation garrison. The Federation seems to be an inept bureaucracy by this point, lagging behind the Zeons.

  • After Char is dismissed, Zenna is called to Dozle’s study. Subtle details in the animation, such as Dozle trying to straighten his hair out, already hints at what will subsequently happen: Dozle asks out Zenna here, who is completely taken aback. Viewers already familiar with the Universal Century will already know the outcome, as Zenna later marries Dozle and they have one daughter, Mineva, who will go on to play a substantial role in Gundam Unicorn.

  • At a casino, Char watches his higher-ups lose in roulette. Another client appears, winning consecutive matches before the casino staff switch the dealers, causing the same client to lose a large sum of money. Standing behind this man is Lalah, who Char feels is a little unusual. I’m no gambler, and remark that I’ve got no idea of how to play Poker, so whenever casinos are featured in a particular work I’m watching (especially something like Casino Royale), I don’t particularly understand what plays are being made.

  • A young girl from Mumbai, Char and Lalah meet again formally at a dock. This is where things begin, later resulting in Char rescuing her and assigning her as a pilot. While with a friendly disposition, she holds Char in high regard and is willing to fight for him, culminating in Lalah’s death after she takes a blow from Amuro Ray meant for Char during a heated battle. Amuro Ray himself had noticed that Lalah was unique, and her death transforms the rivalry between Amuro and Char.

  • Lalah laments the fact that her only family photo is of a poor quality and is initially distrustful of Char, but Char later offers to help her create a digital image and use software to boost its quality. Scanning an image is relatively easy, as is cleaning it up using photo editing software. Owing to my background, I’ve been sent to help deal with technological issues pertaining to computers and their peripherals, as well as in accomplishing tasks that seem minor.

  • Despite being smaller than his opponents, Char is more than a match for them physically. His death glare is sufficient to send adults recoiling in horror, being comparable to those that Sam Granger and John Clark occasionally field during their operations in order to dissuade local toughs from bothering their work. After Char intervenes and prevents the fellow in the image from striking her for ostensibly disobeying him, a frigate arrives and sinks his boat before firing on the adjacent area. In the chaos, Char makes off with Lalah.

  • Back at the construction site, the fellow from earlier has arrived to take back Lalah, but is decapitated by his bodyguard by means of a chakram, who has taken up a new offer. Char picks up a shovel and fights him, during which Lalah subconsciously calls out to him, allowing him to dodge the chakram and impale the bodyguard using the remains of the shovel. This scene is one of the more explicit depictions of violence I’ve seen in Gundam, although lacking any of the disturbing implications seen in other anime.

  • Even with the assassin dispatched, another party joins the fray. From the casino, they order Lalah be handed over, seemingly aware that she has capabilities that could help them profit. However, while the casino group begins marching on the construction site to find Lalah, Char powers up his mobile worker and destroys most of the party’s equipment, driving them off.

  • Federation brass share with Tem a plan by Minovsky to defect from Zeon. A fair portion of the fourth episode is thus set on the moon as this occurs, which has been colonised by the time of the Universal Century. I’ve never actually seen the moon cities in Gundam before until this OVA, having only heard about it in the passing during Gundam Unicorn, where Alberto Vist suggests that the Nahel Argama bring the Unicorn to Anaheim Electronics headquarters on Von Braun rather than Luna II.

  • Documentation on Tem Ray is not particularly illuminating; The Origin paints him as a skillful but also rigid engineer with a very set vision for his RX-78 program. His interactions with Amuro, coupled with Amuro’s remark that “not even his own father hit him” in Mobile Suit Gundam, suggests that he is more conservative and disciplinarian in nature. Here, he wonders why Amuro had Fraw Bow over without any pants on.

  • The mass produced RX-77-01 Guncannons are the forerunners of the RGM-79 GM series of production mobile suits, which were produced using information derived from the Gundam project. The manufacturers consider the RX-78 unnecessary and are eager to demonstrate the Guncannons in battle. However, these units are designed based on combat footage of the YMS-03 Waff, the first mobile suit to utilise a miniturised Minovsky Reactor.

  • During the operation to transfer Minovsky into Federation hands, a small detachment of mobile suits, led by Ramba Ral, arrives to regain custody of Minovsky. The Federation decide to deploy twelve elite pilots into combat against four Zeon suits, boldly claiming that it will be taking a sledgehammer to deal with a fly, although they fail to account for a fifth mobile suit painted in red.

  • During the Battle of Mare Smythii, Char draws first blood by shooting down one of the Federation fighter craft escorting the Guncannon carrier. Their destruction prompts Miguel Gaia, Ortega and Grade Mash, three other mobile suit operators, to disparage Char. Openly expressing distaste for Char and how he managed to become a mobile suit pilot. These pilots later become the Black Tri-Stars, a mobile suit team legendary for their aggression and efficacy in combat.

  • Equipped with lower calibre weapons and rockets, the Guncannons arrive and organise themselves to fire on the Zaku mobile suits. Despite landing what appears to be direct hits, the mobile suits emerge from the dust clouds unscathed and begin a devastating assault on the Guncannons. Despite outwardly resembling mobile suits more so than the original Guncannon, their loadout appears more suited for dealing with conventional weaponry, such as capital ships and fighter craft.

  • Lacking the same heavy-calibre weapons as the Zakus, the Guncannons are defeated one after another. One of my friends, an expert on all things Universal Century, speculates that the Guncannons lack the AMBAC system, which prevents them from executing melee attacks. The Zakus capitalise on this, closing the distance and absorbing all fire in order to knock down and disable the Guncannons.

  • Some of the Guncannons seem similarly armed to the Titans of Titanfall, possessing a smaller caliber cannon and a shoulder-mounted ordnance pod firing rockets. The mobile suits evade them, and here, Ramba Ral’s MS-04 Bugu charges into combat, firing its 100mm machine gun. Firing shots nearly the size of main battle tank rounds, the sheer volume of shells mobile suits could put down range made them particularly lethal, and even the advanced Chobham armour modern NATO tanks use might not be able to resist firepower of that volume.

  • One of the Zakus use a heat-hawk to brutally beat down one of the remaining Guncannons, and in the ensuing carnage, Minovsky is killed as a falling Guncannon crushes him. The battle over, Tem observes that the Guncannons are plainly no match for the Zakus and is approved to continue development into the RX-78 project, officially dubbing it a Gundam. The original RX-78 was the first mobile suit to feature beam weaponry: its primary armament was a rifle capable of firing rounds as powerful as those of a battleship and could rend a mobile suit with a single shot, as Char later finds out when encountering the RX-78 for the first time.

  • While Ramba Ral and the others engage the Guncannons, Char himself hangs out in the back, destroying the carrier while evading its anti-air fire.

  • The battle draws to an end with total losses for the Federation forces. It seems almost a tradition that I am able to enjoy a meal out on days where I’ve watched The Origin: with the first episode, it was a family dinner, and on the second episode, I had a ginger-beef poutine. This time, I sat down to a dinner of Russian-style beef on spaghetti with fried pumpkin and carrot, accompanied with garlic bread and tomato soup. A hearty dinner is perfect for a chilly autumn evening, and although this month has been warmer than average, it’s beginning to cool down now.

  • A Zeon official negotiates with the administrator of the Grenada city here as the Principality of Zeon prepares for all-out war. I gathered that her name was Catherine, and that she’s working with Kycilia Zabi.

  • In contrast with Amuro’s sloven ways, Tem is organised and meticulous: this is evidenced in how he keeps his room, and it is here that Amuro discovers the true nature of his father’s work. Schematics for the RX-78 can be seen in the background, and its leg design carries over to the RX-93 ν Gundam. Delving into some of the blueprints, Amuro spends long hours in front of his computer while the world around him braces for the inevitable.

  • The Principality of Zeon is formed in UC 0078, adopting a political agenda similar to that of the Third Reich. While they are designed to be an antagonist faction that makes it very distinct as to who’s who, some folks seem to sympathise with Zeon for reasons beyond fathoming. While there are certainly reasonable characters in Zeon, the Zabi family’s directions lead Zeon to commit numerous atrocities, and as of late, it seems that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s Settlement Defense Front is organised along similar lines as Zeon.

  • Consequently, as a result of his sleep patterns, Amuro falls asleep in class, and here, is teased by none other than Kai Shinden. I usually try to maintain a half-respectable sleep pattern, hitting the hay at no later than 23:00 local time and waking up at 07:00. In this manner, I am assured at least seven to eight hours of sleep, which keeps me going for the day. Of course, by around 17:00, I’m usually quite tired and ready to call it a day.

  • Later in the day, Kai and his friends insinuate that Amuro and Fraw are in that kind of relationship, resulting in the world’s most hilarious expression from Fraw. Fraw Bow (sometimes Frau Bow in romanisations) is a friend of Amuro’s — she looks after him while his father is away, but their relationship never reaches such a stage in Mobile Suit Gundam as Amuro continues fighting against Zeon.

  • As relationships between Zeon and the Federation further deteriorate, hostilities erupt. Musai-class light cruisers exchange fire with Federation cruisers. While originally outfitted with conventional projectile weaponry, both Zeon and Federation cruisers field mega-particle cannons The Origin: over time, beam weapons render armour useless, so mobile suit development gradually shifts towards a greater emphasis on speed over armour.

  • Overwhelmed with her own helplessness as the Federation and Zeon forces go to war, Fraw Bow bursts into tears after entering Amuro’s room and seeing him reading through weapons manuals. Unbeknownst to either Amuro or Fraw, both will play a role in the One Year War, and it is suggested that his talents for mechanical engineering allowed him to become familiar with the Gundam despite it being his first combat deployment.

  • A Megellan-class battleship explodes after taking fire from Zeon battlecruisers. Depicted as being quite fragile, the battleships in Gundam generally feel more fragile than their counterparts in Halo, lacking the energy shielding that larger vessels have. However, mega-particle cannons might have similar effects on armour as the plasma weaponry that the Covenant uses. Consequently, it would be interesting to see whether or not Zeon cruisers could fight toe-to-toe with UNSC capital ships.

  • Char’s Zaku is seen with a standard 100mm machine gun here, firing at Federation cruisers. With the Battle of Loum unfought as of yet, Char has not made a name for himself in combat, but nonetheless resolves to excel as a mobile suit pilot and eventually, take his revenge on the Zabi family for their actions.

  • Lalah gazes out at the stars from the lunar surface and remarks that their twinkling is beautiful. Char corrects Lalah, stating that, lacking an atmosphere, stars won’t twinkle. The effect is formally known as astronomical scintillation, arising comes from moving air refracts the starlight in random directions, giving the sense that their magnitude is fluctuating. Following Lalah’s remarks, I wondered briefly whether or not The Origin would dispense with physics, but thankfully, it has not, and the moment is probably to suggest that at this point, Lalah is still a bit of a naïf.

  • The fourth OVA ends with Char streaking off into battle as a red comet. Overall, The Origin was a fantastic adventure, and news that it will be continued was most welcome. The fifth episode will be titled “Clash- Battle of Loum” and the sixth will be “Birth of the Red Comet”. For the time being, though, this post draws to an end: I’m quite excited that The Origin will be continuing, and look forwards to seeing where things go. Further to this, unlike Girls und Panzer: The Final Chapter, I will very likely be able to watch and write about The Origin‘s final two episodes in a timely fashion.

The only negative point that readily comes to mind about the fourth The Origin OVA lies in how abruptly it ends: while a fantastic portrayal of ever advancing mobile suits and the growing hostilities between Zeon and the Federation, the amount of space combat was admittedly insufficient. In fact, one of my friends remarked that four OVAs seemed inadequate to cover material leading up to the One Year War, and would only accept the fourth OVA as the last installment if an official source stated thus. Mere hours later, we learned that there will in fact, be a continuation. Split into two parts, with one being released in autumn 2017, and the final in 2018, the upcoming episodes will deal with the Battle of Loum in much greater detail and Char’s journey to becoming the Red Comet. While the dates are a long ways off, the announcement is most welcome, for there will be additional installments that bring the events of the Universal Century to life using the visual styles Gundam Unicorn established. To see pivotal battles, including the One Week Battle and Operation British, in high detail, would be a chilling but instructive experience for Universal Century fans, and I look forwards to gaining more exposure to the most intricate universe in the Gundam franchise. This news also means that, for completion’s sake, I will try to stick around long enough to blog about the two remaining OVAs in The Origin.

Hotaru Had Fun: Non Non Biyori Repeat OVA Review

The dark clouds fading for my mind
No pain will last forever
The seasons pass and the sunlight will shine
On my life again

Seasons, Dragonforce

A year ago, I was settling into my schedule as a second-year graduate student. My thesis paper was then a collection of unfinished Microsoft Word files, with only the background and motivation sections’ basic structure outlined. I had not yet begun writing any of the conference papers, and my project had just passed the milestone where I had generalised an algorithm describing protein interactions for use in Unreal Engine. At around this time, Non Non Biyori Repeat was drawing to a close, and in an off-hand remark, I mentioned that an OVA would almost be certainly within the realm of possibility, dealing with the Okinawa trip in full. It turns out that I only receive partial credit for this prediction: an OVA did indeed come out, although it does not deal with Okinawa in any way. Instead, this OVA is set in the tranquil and serene village of Asahigaoka, detailing the adventures Hotaru partakes in as the seasons progress. She frolics in the snow by winter, bakes cookies with Kaede by spring, helps Renge and the others drive Komari’s dreams in a positive direction under the summer season, and during the autumn, collects wild edibles under the brilliantly-coloured foliage.

The central theme in Non Non Biyori‘s first season is the wonder conferred by the four seasons (the second season presented more elements on life experiences); each season is distinct and confers a particular set of elements to be enjoyed. However, in the Non Non Biyori Repeat OVA, Hotaru is shown as having a ball of a time under different circumstances: whether she’s on her own, spending the afternoon with one person or all of her friends, things wind up being quite memorable even if what she’s doing seems quite unextraordinary. This exemplifies the magic that is prevalent throughout Non Non Biyori and other Iyashikei — being set in the countryside gives Non Non Biyori an even more laid-back tenour. It represents opportunity to step away from the high pace of life in the city, inserting audiences in a place where time itself appears to stand still and giving them a chance to appreciate things that might otherwise be missed.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The twenty images accompanying this post were originally 1024 by 578, which is much lower than the resolutions I prefer watching shows at; technically, these additional episodes are considered to be OADs rather than OVAs, but nonetheless, they are of a sufficient quality such that the beauty surrounding Asahigaoka is not lost, as demonstrated by this opening image.

  • It is unsurprising that Hotaru is the star of this OVA, as her name adorns the title. While taking a walk with Pecci, her Shiba Inu, Hotaru marvels at the snow and stops for a few moments to partake in snow activities. Although I cannot say I’m fond of days where whiteouts and slick road conditions make it difficult to commute, there is a magic about clear, sunny days following a snowfall.

  • Here, Hotaru marvels at a particularly large pane of ice that’s formed on the creek. Even at the lower resolutions, subtle details, such as Hotaru’s fingers turning pink in the brisk air, are visible, attesting to the effort put into Non Non Biyori. It was quite pleasant to learnt that Rie Murakawa, Hotaru’s voice actor, also provides the voice to GochiUsa‘s Megu Natsu. As Megu, her singing voice evokes imagery of rabbits having a ball of a time in a large meadow.

  • After crafting a snowman, Hotaru builds a smooth surface to slide down. There is a hill at my old elementary school where students would do just this by winter, and although there was a fence at the bottom to prevent anyone from reaching the road, the school made it clear that students were not supposed to sled down this hill during school hours. Even with this in mind, students would slide down the hill anyways during lunch break, or else bring a full sled and partake on weekends.

  • En route to Hotaru’s house to spend the day, Komari stumbles across the results of Hotaru’s handiwork and promptly gets caught in a cascade of bad luck. After slipping on the ice pane Hotaru had found, she falls down the hill and smashes through the small igloo that Hotaru had built earlier, narrowly missing being drenched in the frigid winter creek.

  • Though quite shaken, Komari makes it to Hotaru’s house and promptly requests that they spend the day indoors on account of all the hazards. There is dramatic irony here, given that Komari is completely unaware that Hotari is indirectly responsible for her woe.

  • Asahigaoka takes on a lively green colour as spring settles in. Infinitely peaceful, the landscape is rife with opportunity for adventure, and Hotaru sets off the visit Kaede after her mother has to head off, promising Hotaru that they will bake cookies another day.

  • Kaede (known by her nickname “Candy Store” amongst the other characters) senses that Hotaru’s got a desire to bake cookies: she tries to purchase ingredients for such from Kaede, and so, the latter decides that, in light of the lighter business on this day, she will help Hotaru out.

  • The cookies wind up being quite delicious: edible flowers can be used on cookies to impart a special flavour, and in North American recipes, Lavender and pansies are commonly-used flowers for such a role, although, as Hotaru and Kaede demonstrate, sakura blossoms can also be used.

  • I’ve always longed to visit the Japanese countryside, having seen many photographs, accounts and depictions in fiction. I suppose now is a good time as any to mention that next summer, I’ve got plans to visit Japan. The specifics are not known yet, but it looks like I’ll be fulfilling one of the items on my list of things that I wished to do; back during the depths of 2014’s winter, I wondered if travelling would be a viable countermeasure against lovesickness and in particular, whether or not visiting Japan would cure said lovesickness.

  • Two years hence, I’ve experienced enough such that lovesickness isn’t too frequently on my mind, and I’d rather it stay that way for now: we return to Non Non Biyori and note that it’s now summer. Everyone’s completing their summer assignments together, and after Renge remarks that Komari’s got errors here and there in her work, Komari decides to take a kip.

  • Komari’s misfortunes in the OVA are adorable rather than piteous, and here, she drifts off with the aim of collecting her thoughts. I’ve found that short rests of around 15 or so minutes can be tremendously effective in restoring one’s energy, far more efficiently than any energy drink. I do not particularly enjoy energy drinks or coffee, for that matter, in bolstering my vitality.

  • Feeling bad for Komari, Renge decides to help guide her dreams such that when she wakes up, she’ll be feeling happier. Dreams are highly complex processes whose mechanics are not well characterised, and as Renge finds out, their application of stimuli have a range of effects on Komari. The comedy in this section, however, comes when it turns out that their efforts have an appreciable, positive impact on Komari, at least until she wakes up.

  • I was rather surprised to learn that Natsumi is voiced by Ayane Sakura (I know her best for her role as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto, Tsubaki Sawabe in Your Lie in April and VividRed Operation‘s Akane Isshiki); as Natsumi, her voice is much deeper here and consequently, I could not immediately recognise her. I’ve heard that some folks dislike Sakura for her voice for its acoustic properties (read “too squeaky”), but I find it appropriate for the characters she voices. Furthermore, she can do other roles quite well.

  • Autumn has become a season I’ve grown to love: that nature is able to put on such an incredible display with its yellowing leaves is impressive. A few years back, I remarked that the transition from light to dark, and warmth to cold was a bit of a disheartening one, and in E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, the crickets sing a song lamenting the end of summer. However, as Non Non Biyori graciously illustrates, there is joy and wonder to be found in all seasons.

  • On a pleasant fall day, Hotaru, Komari, Renge and Natsumi make to explore the woods in their area, picking wild edibles as they go. The page quote is taken from Dragonforce’s “Seasons”, one of my favourite songs from any of their albums for its composition and lyrics. I listened to it extensively during the summer of 2013 and fell in love with the song. In contrast with their other songs, which feature their signature speed electric guitar and percussion, Seasons is a much slower song that speaks of cycles and recovery. Here’s a bit of trivia about Seasons I did not know until now: the song is about the end of a relationship (which is something that, with the Flood of 2013, made the summer a more difficult one).

  • After being attacked by a flying squirrel (genus Petaurista in Japan), Komari loses her haul and promptly gives chase, finding the squirrel in a tree. In this here OVA, Komari sees more than her share of misfortune, although these are relatively minor and drive humour. Despite their name, flying squirrels do not carry out proper flight, and instead, make use of a membrane to glide very precisely. Aside from fruits and nuts, their diet also consists of fungi and some insects.

  • Komari’s indignation soon turns to amazement when she learns that the flying squirrel had sourced food for her offspring. This is the wonder of life, although my inner former biologist will note that flying squirrels typically mate during the Spring months of March and April. With a gestation period of roughly forty days, and reaching developmental maturity in two and a half months, most flying squirrels will be able to go out on their own during the summer months, rather than autumn as shown in Non Non Biyori.

  • The autumn sights around Asahigaoka are absolutely beautiful, with the foliage exhibiting yellows, oranges and reds. The differences in colours are a result of different pigments becoming visible once chlorophyll synthesis stops; carotenoids form a yellow or orange colour, while anthocyanins result in red. It is hypothesised that anthocyanin pigments result from evolutionary strategies where red pigmentation dissuaded insects from consuming the plants, but owing to the ice ages, the reduced threat of insects in European forests meant that fewer species needed to produce a red pigment, whereas in North America, the arrangement of the mountains meant that even with an ice age, there remained a need to ward of insects.

  • So ends the latest Non Non Biyori OVA, which acts as yet another gentle, refreshing installment. As I’ve now accumulated a fair number of posts regarding Non Non Biyori, I’ve created a new category to make these posts easier to find. I’m now largely caught up on all of my shows, and are in an excellent position for the start of Brave Witches: the first episode releases tomorrow, although as it’s a weeknight, I definitely will not be able to put out a post on the same day. I imagine that Saturday will be the earliest I can get that post out.

With another excellent Non Non Biyori OVA now in the books, I’m reminded of the shift in the seasons where I am. It’s definitely feeling like autumn, with the days shortening and giving way to much cooler skies. The leaves on the trees have begun turning gold, orange and red in earnest, giving rise of a particularly beautiful landscape. It’s the perfect time of year to go for hikes: it’s neither too hot or cold, and the number of insects are declining, as well. Thoughts of the seasons invariably lead my mind to recall Non Non Biyori‘s first season, and it suddenly strikes me that it’s been three years since that released. In that time, I’ve grown to appreciate the seasons more, and I do wonder on occasion if the large number of Iyashikei anime I watch has contributed to a differing, more open-minded outlook on the seasons themselves. With this review reaching its conclusion, I wonder if a continuation will be likely; the manga is ongoing, so there is no shortage of source material, and consequently, I hope that said continuation will probably be a “when”, rather than “if”.

Planetarian: Review and Reflection

“I think of space not as the final frontier, but as the next frontier. Not as something to be conquered, but to be explored.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson

After a devastating global war eliminates civilised society, survivors eke out living in a grim world fraught with danger. Originally a kinetic novel, Planetarian is told from the perspective of a Junker who takes refuge in an derelict shopping centre while hunting for supplies. He encounters the planetarium’s guardian, Yumemi Hoshino, who offers him a special performance on account of his being (nearly) the planetarium’s 2.5 millionth customer. Despite finding himself annoyed at Yumemi’s talkative nature, he agrees to sit through one of the projections and assists in repairing the projector. Yumemi insists on escorting him out to his destination following the show, but the pair encounter a heavily-armed combat robot. The Junker’s efforts to engage it ends with Yumemi attempting to protect him, and she is torn in half by the robot’s auto-cannons. She recalls her pre-war memories before powering down, and the Junker is left to make his way back outside the city walls with Yumemi’s memory card. A relatively short and poignant OVA about the seemingly paradoxical dichotomy between human excellence and human limitations, Planetarian is one of the summer season’s shorter offerings.

That human constructs, such as Yumemi and the planetarium dome, continue to persist well after the fall of human civilisation suggests that, in the event that our so-called intelligence causes us to wipe ourselves out in a global conflict, aspects of our world will nonetheless continue to persist. These aspects can speak both beneficially and detrimentally about our species; in particular, humanity is capable of great good and great evil. In Planetarian, Yumemi represents the side of civilisation where creativity and ingenuity has resulted in the forging of a construct that serves to further an observer’s knowledge of humanity’s history with the stars and their desire to visit them: ever-cheerful and totally devoted to her assignment, Yumemi’s persistence is able to sway the Junker who comes across her old planetarium. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the large battle droids that continue to carry out their initial assignments. Programmed with (presumably) sophisticated machine learning algorithms, these droids are purpose-built to fight wars, mirroring the side of humanity that is war-like and barbaric in nature. Although we might be capable of great good, humans are also more than capable of committing atrocities towards one another. These dynamics appear to be mirrored in the robots: towards the end of Planetarian, Yumemi is destroyed by a war robot, but the Junker retrieves her memory card. Thus, although destruction may seem to be the more powerful force, this only holds true in the short term; the Junker’s recovery of Yumemi’s memory card and aim of resurrecting her suggests that the human spirit and desire for constructive acts outweigh our tendencies for destruction.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The protagonist in Planetarian is only known as a Junker and remains unnamed, so for this post, I’ve opted to refer to him as such. Here, he’s evading some anti-personnel combat robots while venturing into the derelict city to scavenge for supplies and high-value goods, using the FN P90 to fend them off in the process. The P90 depicted here seems a little shorter in proportion and seems ill-suited for taking on the heavier armour on combat droids. Earlier this week, I dropped by a local pub for wings and nachos to mark the deployment of a prototype at work: it’s surprising as to how quickly the summer’s passing by.

  • Technically, the Junker is not the 2.5 millionth customer to visit the planetarium, but according to Yumemi’s algorithms, he’s “close enough”, and so, she offers him a makeshift bouquet before stating that his prize is to be a special viewing of the planetarium’s main feature, which includes a bonus segment. Kindhearted and quite fond of speaking, the Junker does not take too kindly to her friendly personality when they first meet.

  • This is Miss Jena, the planetarium’s main projector. Generally, planetariums make use of dome projectors to simulate sophisticated views of the heavens. These projectors can be set up to work with sophisticated systems that can project the night sky for any given time point, with systems that enable for laser and fog effects optionally present to further the planetarium’s experience. Owing to their size and cost, large setups are typically restricted to museums and science centers.

  • I’ve not seen a full planetarium presentation since I was in primary school, but I do recall that I enjoyed the two that I had the opportunity to see. There’s a magic about dome screens that can’t quite be captured even with VR headsets; in recent years, I’ve not seen any planetarium shows at the new Telus Spark Science Centre. My last visit to their dome theatre was for the Giant Walkthrough Brain, and I was quite nervous about the prospect of implementing a camera to project the show onto a dome screen. Fortunately, this feature was not needed, allowing me to focus my attention on ironing out remaining bugs in the show, and our Beakerhead presentation’s two performances to a sold-out crowd proceeded very smoothly.

  • I’m still getting used to the whole idea of using Flickr as an image host, and while they’re a little clunkier than Picasa, Flickr allows for bulk image editing, offers a reasonably powerful set of tools for organising albums and above all, allows for images to be copied directly to this page (whereas Picasa limited users to copying from a link, which is slower). For now, the time taken to set up a post is roughly the same, but Flickr offers 1000 GB of storage against Picasa’s 15 GB, so it’ll be a suitable replacement I’ll quickly acclimatise to.

  • While quite resistant to the idea of watching the planetarium’s show, the Junker eventually comes around and consents to repair the broken projector to see what sort of presentation awaits him. He catches rainwater for consumption during a break, remarking that a special filter renders the water potable: the war that devastated their world arose with the deployment of a biological weapon that precipitated a nuclear war. Society collapsed, and similar to Metro: 2033, survivors were forced to eke out survival amongst the ruins of a once-great civilisation.

  • Yumemi assists the Junker in repairing the planetarium’s projectors, using her onboard power stores to test various pieces of equipment before installing them into the projector. On the topic of installation, the reason why this post did not come out sooner was because I’ve been remarkably busy over the past week; my 6 GB EVGA GTX 1060 SC arrived. It was Tuesday afternoon when I received a phone call saying the the video card I reserved was available for pickup. I dropped by the retailer after work and picked it up, installing it on Thursday evening and got around to testing it yesterday evening.

  • The 1060 is so far, proving to be a beast of a card: some of the games I initially tested ran quite poorly and saw frequent frame rate drops, it turned out that it was because I was running several downloads and other processes at once. Once the downloads completed, most of my games seem to run very smoothly, maintaining a steady 60 FPS at 1080p on ultra settings. In particular, Battlefield 4 and DOOM run buttery smooth now, as does Alien: Isolation. I’m very excited to try out Deus Ex: Mankind Divided now, having spent today preloading it.

  • Back in Planetarian, the Junker and Yumemi succeed in repairing the projector, so the show can finally get started. While skeptical, the Junker finds himself amazed, in spite of himself, at the wonders of the night sky seen on screen. Technology has come a very long way since I was a wide-eyed primary school student with a newfound curiosity in all things science, and although we may have 4k screens, consumer-accessible VR and even augmented reality devices now, very few display methods can compare to the immersion provided by a dome screen.

  • Despite introducing herself as a basic android model, Yumemi is remarkably sophisticated by contemporary standards. She is programmed to be effective in looking after her customers, and there are several points where viewers see the world from her perspective. Advanced image processing algorithms allow her to quickly ascertain her environment, and her AI is capable of allowing her to make her own decisions in the event that her access to a centralised database is removed.

  • Yumemi’s internal storage would presumably not be spent largely on the planetarium’s programmes, and instead, be used to hold her memories: the uncompressed text of Wikipedia occupies around 51 GB of storage, which fits comfortably on a 64 GB memory card. Here, Yumemi presents a story about the mythological stories behind each of the constellations seen in the sky. The show proceeds nominally until the emergency power stores are depleted.

  • Despite the lack of imagery, the Junker is now interested to see Yumemi’s take on the special presentation. This special presentation follows the history of humanity’s interest in the heavens above, and how humanity strove to, through its technological innovation and determination, eventually allowed them to begin exploring other worlds. Aware of the strife and warfare in the world, Yumemi remains optimistic that humanity will eventually be able to reach other stars.

  • I was on campus last Saturday to clean up my office space. The Korean BBQ house on campus remains one of my favourite places to eat on campus: I enjoyed their Korean BBQ spicy chicken on rice with a side of noodles and sweet potatoes while watching the final three episodes of Planetarian during noon hour. The Junker is visibly moved by the presentation, and reluctantly agrees to allow Yumemi accompany him to the city walls. While Yumemi is well-suited for her role as a guardian of sorts for the planetarium (which I’ve read is set on the rooftop of the Matsubishi Department Store), her algorithms for movement are not so advanced as to allow for learning to move efficiently on uneven surfaces, and so, she trips on several occasions.

  • After making a short detour into an abandoned liquor store and finding a bottle of Scotch Whiskey inside, the Junker contemplates taking Yumemi with him, finding a power supply to keep her running and allow her to continue on with her wish of serving people, telling them wondrous stories about the heavens above. However, their path is blocked by a massive combat robot.

  • The Junker fields a M79 break action 40mm grenade launcher, a standalone grenade launcher that was adopted by the American military in 1960. Despite its versatility in being able to fire a wide range of projectiles, from HE to smoke rounds, it was limited in being able to fire only a single round, and moreover, restricted the user to carrying a sidearm as his backup weapon. The US Army would address this with the M203 under-barrel grenade launcher, which could be mounted to the underslung rails of the M16 rifle.

  • High-explosive rounds for the M79 arm themselves after travelling 30 meters and have a muzzle velocity of 75 m/s. However, the Junker’s plan to use such a round on the combat robot is unsuccessful: it fails to detonate, and the robot trains its railgun on him, forcing him to retreat. While he is able to deal some damage to the robot, he becomes injured in the process.

  • Having never seen a combat robot before, Yumemi walks out into the open and attempts to initiate a shutdown protocol. The robot does not respond and opens fire on her with its secondary cannons, blowing her apart. In the chaos, the Junker lands a round that finally disables the robot, but Yumemi is now critically damaged. In her final moments, she shares her memories with the Junker, revealing that she’s served many happy customers and desires nothing more than to continue doing so.

  • Instead of a system of mighty organs lying strewn across the pavement, Yumemi’s power cables, hydraulics and other components are exposed. Being a robot herself, Yumemi remarks that she can continue to exist even with the destruction of her body, as she can be transferred to a new body. Moved by her plight, the Junker takes her memory card, a 128 Exabyte (1018 bytes, or a million terabytes) device that holds her personality and memories, resolving to restore her.

  • As a final gesture, the Junker leaves Yumemi with his necklace, depicting the cross-shaped constellation Cygnus. It can be seen in the northern hemisphere during the summer and early autumn, and its brightest star is Deneb, which has an apparent magnitude of 1.25. These final few images bring my Planetarian to a close, and all told, I found a rather enjoyable, straightforward story in Planetarian.

  • My posting patterns have become (unsurprisingly) sporadic as of late owing to my schedule, but once I finish this last journal paper, I imagine that I’ll be able to find some time in the evenings to continue blogging. I intend to write about Brave Witches (Strike Witches‘ long-awaited third season) during the fall season in an episodic manner, as well as Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season in the two-post format. Before we reach October, I have several other posts upcoming, including my final impressions of Alien: Isolation (as of today, I’m one mission from finishing), and first impressions of both DOOM and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. From an anime perspective, I’ll be dropping by in September to write about Amanchu! and New Game!.

Simply written and surprisingly moving, Planetarians’ five episodes were remarkably enjoyable to watch. From a technical perspective, the post-apopcalyptic environment was rendered quite well. Similarly, Yumemi’s voice is masterfully delivered by Keiko Suzuki: slow and precise, yet joyful, Yumemi sounds as an android should, adding much depth to the anime and giving the Junker’s interactions with it a much more plausible feeling. Similarly, the soundtrack was a joy to listen to, While I enjoyed Planetarian, there is a single caveat I found with the presentation. Given that Planetarian was originally a kinetic novel, I felt that the entire story would been better presented in a movie format: in the absence of break points, the extended runtime of a movie would permit for the story to be presented in a fluid manner. Curiously enough, there is in fact going to be a movie format for Planetarian: titled Planetarian: Hoshi no Hito. Set for release in early September, this movie is presumably going to be a sequel of sorts. I’m quite excited to see what themes lie in this continuation; this series of OVAs is relatively short and quite worth watching. For individuals interested in seeing what’s happening next, but have yet to see Planetarian for themselves, there is a small time frame to catch up on this anime.