The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: OVA

One Off – A Christmas Eve Reflection on Continuous Self Improvement and The Serendipity of Fateful Encounters

“Know your limits, Master Wayne.”
“Batman has no limits.”
“Well, you do, sir.”
“Well, can’t afford to know ’em.”
“And what happens on the day that you find out?”
“Well, we all know how much you love to say ‘I told you so.'”
“On that day, Master Wayne, even I won’t want to. Probably.”

–Alfred Pennyworth and Bruce Wayne, The Dark Knight

Haruno Shiozaki had once been a lively and optimistic girl who believed that nothing was impossible, and everything was worth giving a shot. As she grew older, and learnt that her friends did not share in her enthusiasm, she’s become increasingly reserved and quiet, working at Niwa Café and longing for a more exciting life. Haruno spends her free time riding around the Nagano countryside on her moped with her friends, and one day, she’s surprised to learn that her parents have brought Cynthia B. Rogers, an Australian traveller, to help around Niwa. While Sayo, Anri and Rie take a liking to Cynthia, Haruno remains distant; Cynthia’s enthusiasm and boundless energy stands in stark contrast with her own decidedly gloomier optimistic outlook on life (there are some things one simply can’t do). When Cynthia learns of this, she decides to take Haruno on a night ride out to the ocean, surprising Haruno and showing her that when one has support, they’re able to achieve things they might not have had the courage to attempt on their own. While Niwa organises a stargazing event, Haruno’s friends consider putting on a performance at the café at Cynthia’s suggestion. Haruno is initially reluctant to participate despite having once been a talented singer, but after meeting Kageyama, a motorcyclist who is friends with Cynthia, Haruno decides that a small performance is a good place to begin. Together with Sayo, Anri and Rie, Haruno forms Poko-a-Poko (a play on “Step by Step”, mirroring Haruno’s awakened desire to do things incrementally, at her own pace). Although Cynthia’s set to return home to Australia, and Poko-a-Poko isn’t scheduled to perform until spring, when they’ll have a few more songs written, Kageyama convinces Haruno to push things ahead for Cynthia’s sake. The four friends manage to pull through and write a song for Cynthia’s farewell performance. When Cynthia prepares to head off, Haruno promises that one day, she’ll travel and visit her. This is One Off, a pair of OVAs that originally released back during late 2012 as a collaborative project between Honda and director Junichi Satō; the latter is best known for his work on Tamayura and ARIA.

At first glance, One Off is a quiet anime that is easily overlooked: without the same presence as Satō’s better known works, it is quite easy to miss an OVA that is otherwise remarkably well done for a short series. With four episodes totalling an hour, Satō speaks to the idea that limitations are often internally imposed, and that it is through opening up to others, and accepting their wisdom, that allows one to overcome their limits. In One Off, Haruno believes that it is not practical or worthwhile to do more with her life, despite her own initial dissatisfactions with living in the countryside, simply because even the application of effort doesn’t appear to have any tangible outcome. However, when she meets Cynthia, her way of thinking becomes challenged: Cynthia is someone who is more than happy to seize new opportunities and do the best she can with the hand she is dealt. As a result, Cynthia’s travelled the world on her motorcycle and is always thrilled to see what new things there are to see and do. The reason why Haruno initially takes a disliking to Cynthia is because her very presence is invalidating her identity; Cynthia is living proof that one won’t know what’s possible until they take a stab at things. However, at the same time, Haruno is also uncomfortable with stepping out of her comfort zone: her friends had once been discouraged by her own energy, and to avoid inconveniencing them, Haruno ended up dialing things back. In a manner of speaking, Cynthia is a reminder that Haruno’s been missing much in her life, and this makes her uncomfortable. Thus, when Cynthia spots this and chooses to take Haruno on an impromptu, spontaneous trip out to the ocean, Haruno is made aware of the fact that, when she’s in good company, she can break out of her comfort zone and live more openly. Although Haruno is now reluctant to rock the boat, she realises that there’s a happy medium: rather than dragging her friends into something that’s challenging, Haruno is more comfortable with easing back into things, and in this way, is able to step beyond her old ways; Haruno regains a bit of her old self, realising that as long as she’s got support, she can do anything she sets her mind to, and that all great things must begin somewhere.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • One Off is produced by TYO Productions, which has Tamayura ~Hitototose~~More Aggressive~ and ~Graduation Photo~ARIA The Avvenire and Yuru Yuri in their resume. Unsurprisingly, the art style is quite similar to that of Tamayura‘s, and this was ultimately how I ended up discovering the series. It is not lost on me that there’s always going to be hidden gems in any given season, and while larger anime inevitably generate more excitement, there are OVAs and short series that often fly under the radar, but despite this, remain worthwhile to check out.

  • One Off is one such series, and follows Haruno Shiozaki, who lives with her parents in rural Nagano. While she finds her life in the countryside quite dull, she also lacks the will to do more with her time. Super Cub had begun in the same way, with Koguma initially feeling that there wasn’t anything remarkable or worthwhile in her life. Both One Off and Super Cub are based off similar premises, but whereas the latter had Koguma taking the initiative to do more, here in One Off, it takes a bit of encouragement from the outside to push Haruno forward.

  • That encouragement comes from Cynthia, an Australian motorcyclist who’s taken up a job at the Niwa Café. Cynthia’s portrayal in One Off typifies the Japanese perception of foreigners as being easygoing: right out of the gates, she surprises Haruno by undressing in front of them, having ridden a long way to reach this remote mountain sanctuary. One Off is a little unusual for Satō in this sense: his works typically do not have such a component to them, but I imagine that, since One Off was a collaboration with Honda, the design choices here were relaxed a little to encourage viewers to check things out.

  • Rie, Sayo, Haruno and Anri find themselves surprised with Cynthia undressing to cool off, and their facial expressions are hilarious, bringing to mind the sorts of reactions characters in Yuru Camp△ have during moments of surprise, contentment or dissatisfaction. A lot of the traits seen in contemporary slice-of-life anime have been around for quite some time, and seeing them here in One Off was a reminder that newer anime will continue building on things that earlier titles introduced. One Off is by no means a new anime, having been out for a shade over a decade, but even back then, things like the fuzzy eyes are utilised.

  • For me, Haruno resembles Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Yūna in terms of appearance, and her younger self actually also is similar in manner, stating that “we won’t know until we try” and confidently taking on everything with a smile on her face. As a result of this, the younger Haruno has won singing competitions and even led her friends to becoming moped enthusiasts, as flashbacks show Haruno leading her friends in learning to ride dirt bikes when they were children. In the present day, Haruno is a lot more conservative and reserved.

  • Because of her background, Cynthia’s cooking combines elements from around the world, and her first attempt at a menu item is met with disappointment: she combines multiple international elements into some noodles. What makes fusion cuisine work is the simultaneous respect for a the core elements of an ethnic dish and balance of flavours. Some things complement one another better than others, and if the flavours in a dish clash, or cancel one another out, the fusion aspect can be lost. On the topic of fusion dishes, I enjoyed a crispy pork belly poutine yesterday at Expat Asia, a vendor at Avenida Market. The pork was prepared in the same manner as 燒肉, and worked surprisingly well with the tater-tots, cheese curds and gravy. Back in One Off, to help Cynthia along, Haruno shows her a simple Japanese dish, egg on white rice, and Cynthia becomes enamoured with it. I am reminded of a home variant of that dish, which introduces fresh ginger to give things a small bit of pungency.

  • Haruno is presented as being similar to Shimarin, perferring her own quiet time. To this end, whenever Haruno desires a break, she heads off for a peaceful viewpoint an makes tea. Haruno is voiced by Saori Gotō (Rise Matsumoto of Yuru Yuri and Karen Sonomiya of Sky Girls). Although she’s fond of this spot, any tranquility she finds her is shattered when Cynthia shows up. Out of the gates, Haruno finds Cynthia irksome, a consequence of their dramatic differences in personality. The reason why this is the case is because Cynthia and her carefree spirit, coupled with her adventures, conflicts with Haruno’s own worldviews.

  • The reason why polarisation is increasingly common nowadays is because opinions or experiences contrary to one’s own is perceived as an attack on one’s identity, and whenever this occurs, people feel compelled to justify and defend their own choices. This is what Haruno ends up doing: during the first episode, she continues to reiterate that for most people, there are things that simply can’t be done. While it is true that the average person isn’t going to become a billionaire or be offered a spot in the NHL, I’ve found the most practical way to live is to look at the things one can do, and focus on improving those.

  • When presented with opinions and experiences different than my own, my first inclination is to maintain an open mind and listen to others, then exercise my own judgement. There may be a case where people “on the other side” have a valid point, and in these scenarios, one can incorporate new information and learnings to further themselves (the only exception is political discussions online). This is what One Off succeeds in doing during its run: although Haruno is initially resistant to Cynthia, she ends up coming around as the story progresses. Here, Haruno spends time with Sayo and Anri at Café Motoya, a popular hangout for motorcycle and moped riders.

  • In a given series, small details like these give the world a lived-in feeling; having a place to call a second home and hang out in is a chance to showcase the characters’ lives. Café Motoya is described as being the perfect place to relax while waiting for maintainence to be done on one’s bike, and it’s clear that Haruno and her friends are regulars. Here, I remark that Sayo is voiced by the legendary Saori Hayami (Yor Forger from Spy × FamilyGochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain and Sawa Okita of Tari Tari). Meanwhile, Sayuri Yahagi voices Anri: Yahagi had previously voiced Tamayura‘s Harumi Kawai, an acquaintance of Fū’s father) and Michiru Hyōdō of Saekano.

  • Rie is voiced by Eri Kitamura, who has also played Madoka Magica‘s Sayaka Miki, Darjeeling of Girls und Panzer, Angel Beats‘ Yui and Kureha Suminoya from Sora no Woto. As Rie, Kitamura delivers her lines with unlimited spirit: Rie’s personality is best described as a cross between Ritsu Tainaka’s, and Chiaki Ōgaki. Although she’s a full year younger than the others, Rie very much looks forward to the day she can obtain an operator’s license and ride alongside the others. While we’re on the topic of voice actresses, Cynthia’s played by Yū Kobayashi, and I know Kobayashi best as Sora no Woto‘s Rio Kazumiya.

  • Despite being an OVA, the visuals in One Off are of a high quality. While perhaps not photorealistic, One Off‘s art style bears a strong resemblance to Tamayura, featuring a gentle colour palette. In addition, the backgrounds are sufficiently detailed to give viewers a sense of the environment, but at the same time, are simple enough so the characters never get consumed or lost in their environment. The overall art style here in One Off is deliberately chosen to keep focus on the characters and their experiences, similarly to Tamayura.

  • While Cynthia might be boisterous and appear to be unconcerned with the people around her, after she has a conversation with Haruno, she ends up with a better measure of why Haruno is feeling uncomfortable. Of everyone, however, Rie immediately takes a liking to Cynthia and is seen clinging to her on several occasions. Typically, anime require a few episodes before viewers have a better picture of the different characters, and in OVAs like One Off, the challenge is to give viewers a good sense of everyone’s personality so a story can be told.

  • One evening, Cynthia decides to help Haruno realise that the latter isn’t as powerless as she thinks. To this end, Cynthia suggests a night ride out to the ocean. While Haruno is shocked and believes her parents would turn the request down, to her surprise, they authorise the nighttime excursion. Haruno’s parents don’t have too much screentime in One Off, but even something as simple as this shows that they know of Haruno’s traits and spot this as a chance for her to broaden her mind.

  • There’s a magic about a night ride that can’t be found during the daytime. As the landscape is concealed in darkness, focus shifts purely to the road and its riders. The setup allows for the characters to speak freely to one another without any other distractions. Yuru Camp△ did something similar during its second season, giving Rin a chance to ride with her grandfather on the eve of her trip to the Izu Peninsula. Like Yuru Camp△, the night ride here in One Off acts as a chance to enjoy the open road, and although Haruno is initially reluctant, once she has a chance to settle into the ride, a peace comes upon the world.

  • Thus, as soon as Haruno and Cynthia reach the ocean, and the sun rises, Haruno’s scowl has turned upside down – she’s in fine spirits now and fully enjoying the view of the ocean. The sight brings tears to her eyes: rather than the majesty of the scenery, Haruno is surprised that even someone like her was able to make it out here in such a spontaneous fashion. As morning sets in, Haruno and Cynthia share a moment together on the beach. Cynthia indicates that at the end of the day, what a bike can do is determined by the rider, rather than the vehicle itself (“It’s not the plane, it’s the pilot”).

  • While the idea of “it’s not the plane, it’s the pilot” in the context of Top Gun: Maverick was meant to indicate how individual skill triumphs over a technological advantage, the same sentiment can also refer to the idea that what a tool can do boils down to the user’s mindset. In One Off, this would simply mean that having an open mind allows one to experience the extraordinary. Even if Haruno were to get a more capable bike, for instance, it wouldn’t make a difference if she didn’t have the motivation to travel and explore. Similarly, Cynthia could still make wonderful memories if she switched over to Haruno’s Honda Giorno.

  • Now that One Off has Haruno reaching the ocean with Cynthia, Haruno begins to understand that in order to achieve more, she needs to lean on others more. Cynthia had relayed to Haruno that their travels were made possible by the engineers who designed their bikes, and the construction workers that laid down the roads. It is true that advancements are made on the shoulders of giants, and that no individual is ever alone. Realising this is what motivates Cynthia to travel, and the moment also helps Haruno to spot that she doesn’t have to achieve things on her own.

  • The vastness of the beach and ocean here acts as a suitable backdrop for the moment – it feels like a fresh beginning for Haruno. While people do not change overnight (and it is unreasonable to expect anyone to), moments like these act as the catalyst for instigating positive change. Ultimately, it is the sum of smaller experiences that result in long-term changes; Tamayura had done a fantastic job of capturing this, and while One Off lacks Tamayura‘s runtime, this OVA still manages to hint at this.

  • Overall, One Off has a total runtime of an hour, and its four episodes together are equivalent to three regular-length episodes. This meant that there’s significantly less time to flesh out the characters and follow their journey. However, the OVA does manage to utilise the time available to it successfully, and the story is able to give enough insight into Haruno’s progression. Her friends remain static characters, but with their support, and a bit of a kick from Cynthia, viewers are left with the sense that Haruno’s now able to take that first step forward.

  • The soundtrack in One Off is surprisingly rich and varied, considering that One Off was an OVA, and similarly, both the opening and ending songs were performed by Round Table, a band that was formed in 1997 and is best known for their performance of Chobits‘ Let Me Be With You. Round Table has been inactive since 2012, and their songs for One Off, Yakusoku no Basho and Memories, are among the last songs they performed.

  • The changes in Haruno become more visible when she (reluctantly) agrees to hosting a small concert of sorts at the Café Niwa. As a child, Haruno had been quite fearless and boldly tried all things. Although she left her friends in the dust and ended up dialling things back, during her time as a child, she ended up entering a singing competition and winning. Her friends still remember this, and end up suggesting that they put their own concert together, similarly to how Kaoru had ended up organising the We Exhibition in Tamayura.

  • Haruno’s resemblance to Yūna in appearance, and her old quote about how “we won’t know until we try” meant that while watching One Off, my thoughts occasionally strayed to Yūki Yūna is a Hero. However, it is worth noting that One Off was released in 2012, and Yūki Yūna is a Hero began airing in 2014. Clearly, the archetype isn’t an original one, but it was interesting to see how similar characters respond in different contexts. While Haruno remains somewhat lacking in confidence, her friends nudge her forward, and here, Rie tries to convince Haruno to sing again.

  • In classic Haruno fashion, she’s reluctant to perform. Cynthia, on the other hand, is quite enthusiastic about the idea and tries to convince Haruno to bring this idea to life. However, despite opening up somewhat ever since the ocean trip, progress isn’t immediate, so it was only natural that Haruno would still have a bit of difficulty hopping into things and seizing the moment. It takes Cynthia some amount of pestering to achieve this, again showing how valuable chance meetings are in helping to spur people onward. Of course, Haruno isn’t particularly impressed with Cynthia’s efforts, and Cynthia ends up pestering Haruno for the remainder of the day until she turns around.

  • Now that I think about it, Haruno’s personality is a cross between Fū’s and Kaoru’s – although shy and doubtful about herself, Haruno’s also got a stubborn streak. Contrasting personality elements serve to make characters more lifelike, and this is something that I had found particularly notable about Yama no Susume‘s Aoi Yukimura: these traits intrinsically make it tougher for an individual to change, so when an experience does convince them to open their minds, the moment becomes all the more magical.

  • While at first glance, One Off is set in a fictionalised portrayal of Japan, a closer look at landmarks finds that the OVAs are set in the Nagano Prefecture. Here, Haruno and the others stop to rest after classes at the Ryuenji Temple – Haruno is still worried about the prospect of a concert, but after hearing from her friends, Haruno decides it might be worthwhile to do a smaller concert. Knowing that One Off is located in Nagano allowed me to work out some of the other locations. The Niwa Café is modelled after the Amanogawa Shirabiso hotel, and Café Motoya is based on the Tochinoki Woodworking Centre, which is now closed down.

  • A little bit of interpolation will allow the curious reader to find the remainder of the locations with relative ease. Knowing that One Off is set in a real world location makes Haruno’s discoveries all the more lifelike, and here, the sun sets over Nagano, creating a sort of nostalgia as a result of the colours and composition within this scene. The observant reader will spot a motorcycle driving along the winding mountain path. This is none other than Kageyama, one of Cynthia’s friends. She’s also a motorbike enthusiast and is arriving ahead of a stargazing event held at Niwa Café.

  • Based on where the Niwa Café is located, the Bortle Index is a Class 3 – the dimmest objects one can resolve with the naked eye is 7.0, which is considered excellent, and on a clear night, the Milky Way can be easily spotted. This is a perfect spot for stargazing, and here, Kageyama invites Haruno to look through her telescope. Kageyama calls it a Dobsonian telescope, a kind of Newtonian telescope that is popular among amateur astronomers for its simple design and portability, while at the same time, offering a large aperture. The conversation Haruno shares with Kageyama leads her to reach a conclusion.

  • Although not quite ready for anything resembling a live concert at a massive venue in front of an audience of thousands, or even a school’s culture festival, Haruno is yearning to sing for those around her at the Niwa Café. On her friends’ suggestion, the group Haruno is forming becomes known as ぽこあぽこ, or “little by little”, befitting of One Off‘s tone. Satō is especially fond of conveying these messages in his works, and while viewers unfamiliar with the intention behind his, and other iyashikei works, will find One Off difficult to follow or contrived, folks with a more mature mindset will appreciate the beauty even in this short.

  • The original timeline that Haruno and the others have were based on the fact that it’s quite tricky to write a collection of songs, and as such, everyone was planning to take things one step at a time. This concert gives Haruno something a little more concrete to work towards, and the preparations for a performance means that One Off takes on a K-On!-like vibe. In fact, one could say that One Off is an amalgamation of elements from K-On!Super Cub and Tamayura. Such an anime could have benefitted from a one-cour run, and while notes surrounding this OVA is limited, I imagine that the story was originally written promote the Honda brand. Despite this requirement, Satō was successful in fitting a reasonably well-crafted story into things.

  • Whereas Haruno had planned on taking things one step at a time, living up to their unit’s name, after learning that Cynthia is set to return home and tend to her obligations, Haruno’s left disappointed. Cynthia’s presence had been a big one, and Haruno had come to take her presence for granted. As Haruno mulls over what to do, Kageyama stops by and indicate that the limited time makes things all the more precious. Spurred on, Haruno decides to push for a mini-performance to see Cynthia off properly, and this drives both Haruno and her friends to work towards finishing one of their songs.

  • I’ve gone ahead and skipped a few moments here in One Off so I could showcase more of the Nagano countryside, which is beautifully rendered. Despite being a decade old, One Off has aged rather well, and I’ve noticed that, generally speaking, anime from the Gundam 00 era and later all hold up remarkably well in terms of animation quality. The warmth of Nagano is a world apart from the bitter winter cold and heavy snowfall gripping North America. In my area, temperatures had been -30ºC until today, and yesterday, after enjoying the Pork Belly Poutine, I returned back to the downtown core to check out the Christmas lights again, as well as enjoying a festive peppermint mocha.

  • With the thermometer hovering around -20ºC, it was significantly more manageable to walk around outside. However, taking off my gloves to operate the iPhone still proved quite trying, and in the end, I managed to come out with a small collection of photographs, including of Steven Avenue and Olympic Plaza. Unlike my photos from last Wednesday, which were captured under warmer weather, the cold really comes through here. It’s not possible to stand outside for extended periods of time, as Rie does here – the verdant forests and clear skies in One Off are evocative of a much warmer time of year.

  • Over time, the formerly-disorganised Poko-a-Poko group find their footing and finish off their song, before practising over the same lookout that Haruno has become so fond of. Things fall into place quite quickly once the song is written, and in no time at all, Poko-a-Poko is geared for their performance, which is set for the day Cynthia is leaving. Having a singular objective to focus on allows Haruno to make the most of every moment, rather than lamenting Cynthia’s inevitable departure. One Off shows how having a goal is enough to change one’s perspective and give people focus enough to turn something sorrowful into something memorable.

  • Haruno and Sayo are the lead vocalists for this performance, and the song they perform is wonderful, having a similar warmth as the vocal music from Tamayura did. I’ve always found this particular style of music to be charming; it creates a very nostalgic tone about it. The use of horns and trumpets in these songs are similar to the style of Karen Carpenters’ “Close To You”. The Carpenter’s music was quite distinct during its time featuring horns and woodwind, introspective lyrics about love and Karen’s rich, melodic delivery of the songs.

  • Despite period critics challenging the music as being too sentimental and saccharine, the Carpenters were extremely popular, and I imagine that their influence played a role in the sort of music Satō desired in his works. Back in One off, the concert ends up being a success, and Cynthia is moved – she embraces Haruno warmly, to Rie’s jealousy. Once everything’s said and done, the time has finally come to say farewell.

  • What makes this moment special is that, moments before Cynthia takes off, Haruno promises to one day visit her in Australia, showing her desire to broaden her own horizons and take an opportunity to live more freely, rather than worry about what’s possible and impossible. Cynthia is touched, and I imagine that for Haruno, although Cynthia only spent a brief period in Japan with her, the changes this meeting left on Haruno were indelible, changing her perspective and opening her to new experiences anew.

  • For me, I’m generally open to new experiences and don’t really need any nudging to explore. Earlier today, I whipped up a homemade Montreal Smoked Meat Hash for the family, modelled after the Red Wagon Diner food truck’s smoked meat hash. I substituded sweet peppers for the banana peppers and otherwise kept to a similar recipe: sautéed onions, mushrooms, and cheese on a bed of hash browns, and a generous helping of Montreal Smoked Meat. While I was a little doubtful of the final product, things turned out alright. There are some things where I still need a push, but seeing anime like One Off continue to remind me of the merits in taking a chance on things.

  • After Cynthia returns home, time passes back in Nagano, and Haruno appears to be much happier than she’d been previously. Some time has passed now, since Rie has earned her motorcycle license, and Haruno is now comfortable sharing her secret spot with her friends. It typifies Satō’s style to use subtle cues to show things, and while this may not be visible to all viewers, who are expecting something a little more obvious, the approach Satō takes allow viewers to draw their own conclusions. Some time later, Haruno receives air mail from Cynthia, promising to meet again.

  • With this, my Christmas Eve post draws to close. Today’s been a busy day as I helped gear up for Christmas, and having finished most of the preparations, the evening’s going to be a quieter one. There are a few matters to tend to, and once things settle down, it’s going to be time take a look at the Steam Winter Sale. This time around, there’s only two items on my wishlist that I will be picking up – the Top Gun: Maverick aircraft set for Ace Combat 7, and the “Vault Edition” upgrade for Modern Warfare II; owing to my schedule, I do not believe I’ll have too much time for picking up new games as I once did, but on the other hand, I don’t mind extending my experiences in the titles I’ve already got. Before I wrap this post up, I’d like to wish all readers a Merry Christmas! I’ll be back later tomorrow evening with a special Christmas-themed post, but since it is Christmas day in most parts of the world, I do hope everyone’s having a good one 🙂

While perhaps not quite as moving as the likes of Tamayura, or breathtaking as ARIA, Junichi Satō continues to present a serviceable story here on One Off, which distinctly possesses the same aesthetic and emotional tenour as his better-known works. The characters of One Off learn and grow at their own pace, much as they do in Tamayura, and the events in One Off are set in a tranquil corner of Japan, removed from the hustle and bustle of the major population centres, giving this OVA the same timeless feeling as do Satō’s full-length works. The end result is an unexpectedly touching story about how chance encounters can change one’s world views and help them to embrace a more optimistic way of thinking, as well as how it’s okay to lean on others and be supported when things get difficult. Through her experiences, Haruno comes to regain her old sense of passion for trying new things, but at the same time, she’s now more mindful of what she can do and what her friends may or may not wish to do. Although the prominence of Honda’s mopeds and motorcycles in this OVA indicate that this anime was also meant to promote their products and how Honda is an instrument in helping people to go further than they believed possible, the presence of Honda-branded mopeds and motorcycles aren’t especially brazen, allowing One Off to maintain its cathartic and calming atmosphere. Longtime readers will probably have spotted that I’m especially fond of anime that gently push its characters out of their comfort zone, and the reason for this is simple enough: speaking as someone who’s all about routine and order, it can be difficult for me to go out and try new things, whether it be delving into a new programming language or taking up a new hobby. For instance, a decade earlier, I only knew Objective-C and Java, and I lifted weights. I’ve since added Swift to my repertoire, and I also hike with some frequency now. In both cases, I’ve found that being allowed to learn at my own pace and explore incrementally is how I get into something, so it is always refreshing to see anime sharing this message. Although One Off is short in runtime, it remains a worthwhile experience for fans of Tamayura and ARIA: at this point, both have been completed, and folks who are longing for anime with a similar aesthetic and style will find it here in One Off.

Memories of a Warm Breeze: Tamayura ~Hitotose~ OVA Review and Reflection

“If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them.” –James O’Barr

During a phone call with Chihiro, who’s visiting a summer festival with Tomo, Fū recalls an old promise that she’d made with Chihiro long ago – they were to visit the summer festival in yukata together. Fū’s grandmother would begin making a yukata for her, but after Fū’s father had passed away, these plans were shelved. In the present, Chihiro invites Fū to visit her in Yokosuka for the next summer festival. Fū’s grandfather is also visiting, and he’s brought over the photos Fū’s father had taken, along with an undeveloped roll of film: having been certain the photos were going to be flops, he’d felt it was a waste of money to bring them to light. When Fū mentions the upcoming summer festival, Fū’s grandmother reveals she’d actually finished Fū’s yukata from long ago in anticipation of the day that Fū would find her smile anew. On the day of the festival, Fū meets up with Norie, Kaoru and Maon. Before they head off to the event grounds, everyone receives a surprise message from Sayomi. Although they are exasperated to learn another mind-bogglingly long adventure is in the works, after meeting up with Kō and Fū’s grandparents, Sayomi posts an update, saying her coursework has kept her tied up, and the “surprise” spot she had for them was actually Fū’s place. From the quiet here, everyone enjoys the fireworks, while Fū tries to photograph them with her camera. Seeing Fū prompts Kō to comment on why their father referred to a good yukata as resembling a warm breeze. When the show ends, Fū’s mother explains the origin of Fū’s name, and everyone then sends their photos to Chihiro. Later, Fū picks up the developed pictures from her father’s camera roll, learning that they were his fireworks photos, and moreover, that they’d come out blurry, just like Fū’s. This is Tamayura ~Hitotose~‘s OVA, which accompanied the home release’s final volume. When I had gone through Tamayura ~Hitotose~ for the first time, I’d been a university student, and it’d been an academic semester, so I ended up setting the OVA aside, resolving to one day revisit it. That day didn’t come until eleven years later; things back then had been quite busy, and as time passed, the ~Hitotose~ OVA fell to the back of my mind. After revisiting Tamayura a year ago, I realised I’d missed this OVA on my original watch of the series and resolved to give it a go, although I’ve not been able to find a moment until now.

The concept of “at your own pace” is integral to Tamayura, and here in ~Hitotose~‘s OVA, another milestone Fū’s healing journey is shown. Fū’s grandmother puts things best – although she had intended for Fū to wear that sunshine-coloured yukata to the next summer festival with her father, after he passed away, everything was put on hold. In her words, time had come to a standstill as everyone grieved for this loss. However, Fū’s grandmother has been around the block and understands that there would come a day when Fū would recover and would want to take a step forward again. Knowing that Fū’s ability to accept thing was inevitable given her own growth, Fū’s grandmother would ultimately finish the yukata she had originally started. This is a consequence of the wisdom she’s accrued over the years, and in this way, by the events of ~Hitotose~, when Fū’s desire to wear a yukata to a summer festival is sparked following a conversation with Chihiro, her wish is able to be fulfilled because the people around her have been looking out for her. In this way, this OVA accentuates how, even though Fū’s father is gone and has left a considerable hole in her life, Fū still has plenty of people around her, all of whom are able to help support and nurture Fū so that she can stand of her own accord. Through both the warmth from her brother, mother and grandparents, and the energy and spirits that her friends bring, Fū’s curiosity to explore the world around her becomes rekindled. Along the way, she is able to try out the things that she’d previously avoided owing to the difficult memories they brought up, and with the people around her, Fū comes to appreciate that to honour her father’s memory, it is imperative for her to take those tricky steps forward. In doing so, Fū learns that so long as she is able to do this, her father’s memory will continue living on – after Fū takes those photographs while watching fireworks with her friends, the end result is identical to the photos her fathers had taken, showing how even now, those precious memories can persist and endure into the present. In this way, Fū’s father is still with her, and as Fū gradually takes an increased initiative to seek out the things her father had loved, she finds that she’s able to incrementally learn more about him, and along the way, discover more about herself, too.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Tamayura reminds me of a simpler time of back when I was a student – I had come upon the anime while looking for something similar to K-On!, and immediately took a liking to it. As a student, however, my life experiences back then were limited, and consequently, my impressions of Tamayura back then weren’t quite as articulate as they are now. Nowadays, I feel like I’ve got a better measure of where Tamayura‘s strengths lie; in the last year, I revisited the OVAs, ~Hitotose~ and ~More Aggressive~ because it’d been a decade since the original series had aired.

  • The nostalgic feel surrounding Tamayura evokes memories of my time in Japanese class: I don’t mind admitting that I took introductory Japanese so I could gain some experience with Japanese, and while my major’s requirements meant I wasn’t able to continue, having some understanding of basic grammar, hiragana and katakana, and vocabulary was helpful. It would’ve been nice if I could take a few more courses and gone on an exchange programme. While the fulI programme is meant for majors, I learnt that there was a summer programme open to non-majors, and the only requirement is introductory Japanese.

  • I had considered signing up just for the experience, before I could make a decision, my supervisor invited me to help out with the Giant Walkthrough Brain project. The opportunity to work on a science communication show would ultimately be the spark that drove my desire for a career in software development, and in retrospect, it was more beneficial than spending seven weeks in Japan. I do not have any regrets about the path I took; while it would’ve been nice to meet someone like Sayomi in my travels, choosing to stay home and work on the Giant Walkthrough Brain ultimately laid the groundwork for my graduate thesis and also sparked my interest in iOS development. I can always visit Japan again in the future.

  • I’m fairly positive that I skipped over the Memories of a Warm Breeze OVA when I first went through Tamayura, and because of my tendencies for procrastination, I never actually got around to writing about it. Longtime readers will be familiar with the fact that I have a fondness for writing about OVAs – while OVAs have been considered to be side-stories that are used for comedy, slice-of-life series utilise the additional space to expand on the characters’ worlds and provide insights into things that might not fit so neatly in to that series’ regular run.

  • Shortly after making her promise to Chihiro, Fū had asked her grandmother for a yukata. Fū’s father had mentioned that the yukata should evoke the same feeling as a warm breeze. Such descriptions are common in poetry, and while they can be a little hard to parse at times, if one has a creative mind, the intentions behind such descriptions are more apparent. Fū’s grandmother has no such problems with making Fū a yukata to her father’s description, but since he would pass away shortly after, everything was put on hold.

  • When Tamayura‘s original OVAs aired, it was 2010. During this time, the first iPad was released, and Intel’s Westmere 32 nm processors had just hit the market. In Tamayura, high-end electronics like smartphones and tablets are absent, allowing the anime to exist in a timeless context. The story is therefore able to proceed at its own pace, and even a full decade later, the lessons and experiences Tamayura shares with viewers feels recent. Fū is shown using a feature phone here, and she’s rocking her father’s Rollei 35S, a film camera that was introduced in 1966.

  • While Chihiro and Fū did meet up in ~Hitotose~, since the OVA was released after the series, the conversation that is shared here would foreshadow the events of ~More Aggressive~, which aired in 2013. Living up to its title, ~More Aggressive~ saw Fū taking up a more active role in her life as she started her own photography club, and even hosted Chihiro, who would be overjoyed to see her best friend for the first time in over a year.

  • For this OVA, however, Tamayura decides to take small steps: a new promise to meet up the next time there’s a summer festival is born of this conversation, and Fū finds herself quite excited to see Chihiro again. However, since it is the summer, and since there will be a festival in Takehara, Fū begins to wonder if she’s got a yukata of her own floating around.

  • As it turns out, Fū’s grandfather has shown up and plans on accompanying everyone to the summer festival. After enjoying lunch at Café Tamayura, he shows Fū and Kō some of their father’s old photographs: when he picked up photography, Fū and Kō’s father had pursued perfection and didn’t really enjoy looking at images that came out blurry. While he hadn’t found the photos of note, Fū’s grandfather had kept them. Today, advances in technology has meant that cameras are now an integral part of smartphones. One can take incredible photos and share them without ever requiring a film developer, increasingly sophisticated sensors automatically stablise a device, and algorithm adjust lighting and contrast in images to produce photos of exceptional quality.

  • This, however, takes away the skill in adjusting a camera to produce the best shot, and similarly, the anticipation that comes from waiting for film to develop is lost. Tamayura captures the romance of these older times and envelopes them in tenderness. Here, Kō tries on the almost-complete yukata: Norie is beside herself in excitement. In Tamayura proper, Komachi would show up and spoil her fun as a bit of a recurring joke for viewers, but in this OVA, Komachi doesn’t appear. After Norie composes herself, Fū gives the yukata a try, and her grandmother explains the remainder of the story for everyone’s benefit.

  • Through Fū’s grandmother’s story, viewers are given another glimpse as to how deep Fū’s feelings of grief and loss were after her father’s passing. Since Tamayura is set after Fū returns to Takehara, one doesn’t really have a full sense of how extensive these feelings were, but what is shown to viewers is how, amidst the historical town of Takehara, its gentle breeze and cozy streets, Fū begins to find herself again. Having known Fū since she was born, her grandmother is able to spot that Fū’s slowly beginning to heal, and as such, is overjoyed that Fū has now reached a point where she is able to begin seeking out adventure and discovery on her own initiative.

  • At the Hanawa residence, Kaoru and Sayomi’s conversation reveals that Fū’s father had passed away before the Hinamatsuri – the Festival of Dolls is observed on March 3, and this means that this would’ve happened in February. The choice of month is probably not significant, but for me, February is among my least favourite months of the year simply because it is cold and grey. Having known Fū for so long, the Hanawa sisters understand that asking for Fū’s grandmother for a yukata acts as a milestone of sorts for her.

  • Fū’s grandmother finishes the yukata ahead of the summer festival, and it fits Fū perfectly. The shade of yellow brings to mind the gentle warmth of a sunflower field on a summer’s afternoon. It is befitting of Fū’s personality, and now that it’s ready, all that’s left is to give things a go on the day of the event. Fū’s mother and grandfather both comment on how her father would be pleased to see this moment. Since Fū is now able to live her life more fully, her father’s spirit would rest knowing that Fū’s been able to accept what’s happened and find her own way.

  • Death isn’t something a topic I’m fond of discussing, but thanks to a combination of my parent’s thoughts, and my own experiences, I hold the belief that we honour those who’ve passed on by living our own lives with integrity and generating value for those who live. A part of this actually does come from Tamayura: Fū’s journey is consistently shown as being respectful, honouring her father’s memory by having her experience and cherish the things he once did while at the same time, doing so on her own terms, and in her own manner.

  • When the festival arrives, Fū meets up with Kaoru, Maon and Norie, all of whom are similarly wearing yukata. Kaoru sports hers with confidence, saying that while it once belonged to Sayomi, it looks better on her. Kaoru’s been a character I’ve long been fond of – her confident, no-nonsense personality is similar to my own, but she’s also supported Fū since she returned to Takehara, which would in time give Fū the confidence to befriend Norie and Maon.

  • The peace is broken when Sayomi messages Kaoru with the promise of yet another adventure. Sayomi’s proposals often leave the girls on gruelling experiences that take them way out of the way. Sayomi loves exploring, but her sense of direction means that more often than not, anyone who participates ends up getting lost. The reason for this in Tamayura is two-fold: it creates humour, but it also shows that life is full of craggy roads and unexpected detours. As unenjoyable as being sent off-mission is, if one approaches things with patience, the resulting journey and outcomes can be quite memorable, too.

  • For the present, Fū, Kaoru, Norie and Maon resign themselves to Sayomi’s impending adventure and head off over to the harbour to meet the others. The walk from Café Tamayura to Ōnori Elementary School, where the Takehara Summer Fireworks festival is held, is about 5.8 kilometres, so on this evening, I’d imagine that everyone would take the train to reach the festival grounds – after walking to Takehara Station, it’d be a 24 minute ride over to Ōnori Station.

  • Despite the amount of time that’s passed, the Fried Chicken Ramen remains as delicious as I remember; the last time I enjoyed this dish, it would’ve been back in 2019, when I was eating lunch with my previous team. Our developer from Los Angeles came into town to visit us in person prior to our app’s full launch, and after this, we were scheduled for a retreat in Canmore. At this time, I had also written a post on Non Non Biyori Vacation, a post that celebrates the film’s portrayal of travel; the movie is one that hasn’t received much recognition despite its sincerity. Back in the ~Hitotose~ OVA, Kaoru receive a message from Sayomi. Norie and Maon brace themselves, but as it turns out, Sayomi’s swamped with schoolwork and therefore, is unable to make it. She ends up giving Fū and the others the location she’d wanted to take them to anyways.

  • This “secret spot” turns out to be none other than the Sawatari residence. I’ve previously done location hunts in Takehara, but the Sawatari home was one spot I never bothered finding because it was probably set in a fictionalised area. The only clue I had was the fact that from Fū’s home, the Takehara Thermal Power Station’s distinct smokestacks are visible, and this led me to look around Ōnori Station. The area is home to a number of residents, but is a little less-travelled compared to Takehara proper, making it a suitable spot for fireworks.

  • When the fireworks start, the Sawatari residence proves to be a wonderful place for viewing the show, being a quiet sanctuary far removed from the hustle and bustle of the festival grounds. The spot is, in short, perfectly suited for the sort of aesthetic that Tamayura strives to convey, and while there is a strong case for being in the middle of things at the festival grounds, the calm here provides a moment for introspection. Even in its most rambunctious moments, Tamayura has always exuded a cathartic, tranquil tone, with the aim of slowing down the story and helping viewers to focus on the moment.

  • Viewers are afforded a view of what the fireworks look like from the Sawatari residence: although they don’t fill the skies as they would when viewed from much closer, it’s not so far away that the fireworks appear as tiny, distant bursts of light. Here, the Takehara Thermal Power Station’s smokestacks can be seen, and together with hills, I was able to roughly guess where the Sawatari residence is. With this in mind, I would imagine that Tamayura had fictionalised the spot (as Yuru Camp△ did with a few locations) for convenience, and because a decade has passed, the rice paddies seen here in this screenshot are now broken up by a few more houses.

  • As the fireworks continue, Fū breaks out her camera and attempts to capture the show on film. The sort of focus and flow that Fū enters whenever she’s got her heart set on taking a good photo is noticeable, and for both Kō and Fū’s friends, watching her going after that next snapshot of a moment is the surest sign that Fū is incrementally finding her place in the world. This moment prompts Kō to comment on how Fū seems to resemble to serenity a warm breeze might create: Fū’s father was almost certainly referring to this when describing the idea yukata, and while in words, things may seem a little cryptic, having the imagery makes the meaning behind his words much clearer.

  • During the last summer, I had a chance to watch my first fireworks show since the global health crisis began, and I was thrilled to see that the Calgary Stampede’s fireworks remained just as spectacular as they did in previous years. This time around, I had an iPhone Xʀ, and while it’s an older phone without any night mode functions, I was quite surprised as to how well the photos I took turned out. They are nowhere near the level of what a professional photographer, with the right camera and knowhow, can take, but as a point-and-shoot, the results came out impressive. I remember a time when digital cameras were in their infancy, and night photos demanded a tripod (otherwise, they’d come out blurry).

  • From the iPhone 11 onwards, advances in lens technology and image processing means that night photos are now far easier to take than they’d been a decade earlier. However, from a thematic standpoint, if Fū had an iPhone 14 Pro, the idea of waiting to get her photos developed, and treasuring the blurry photos as much as the successful ones, would be lost. From a professional standpoint, a digital camera is more practical than a film camera in almost every aspect, and even back in 2010, digital cameras were already of a sufficient maturity so that their usage was widespread.

  • At the end of Tamayura, Fū ends up receiving a DSLR camera from Nozomu Natsume, a friend of her father’s. Behind is gruff and cold exterior is someone who had deeply cherished his friendships with those around him, and after meeting Fū for the first time, he realises that his best friend continues to live on in his daughter. A digital camera will change the way Fū approaches photography, but throughout ~Hitotose~ and ~More Aggressive~, Fū continues to run with her Rollei 35S. Tamayura treats film cameras with respect and highlights the advantages of such cameras, but at the same time, also shows how even in a space as timeless as Tamayura, things continue to advance.

  • While Fū prefers to take photos with her film camera, when the moment calls for it, she has no qualms about using her feature phone’s camera to snap a quick image. By the time Tamayura aired, camera phones were moderately sophisticated: 4 MP cameras were not uncommon, and high-end devices had 8 MP cameras. Nowadays, thanks to the incredible advances in technology, smartphones and cameras are on the same hardware platform, making it easier to share than before. It does feel a little strange to see Fū using a feature phone to send photos more quickly, since she’s usually seen with her Rollei 35S: here, she sends an image of everyone in their yukata to Chihiro, who replies almost immediately.

  • I’ve always loved the calm that follows a fireworks show; ~Hitotose~‘s OVA captures even this during its runtime, and after the show’s over, Fū receives a phone call from Chihiro, who worries about forgetting to send a photo of Tomo over. Tomo would be formally introduced in ~More Aggressive~. The scenes are set to Natsumi Kiyoura’s Hanabi, a slow ballad that joins the other vocal pieces in Tamayura as being cathartic songs that convey a sense of longing and nostalgia. The music in Tamayura is of a great quality, and over the years, multiple albums have been released. The “Tamayura Complete” album would compile everything into a single place, and came out in April 2021 along with the complete BD collection. Having all of Tamayura‘s music in one album means being able to fully appreciate just how unique the music in this series is: I listen to the album whenever I go for drives or walks.

  • The morning after the fireworks festival, Fū heads over to Hinomaru to get her photos developed alongside her father’s undeveloped roll. While her photos came out blurry, she is shocked to learn that the photos on his camera roll are more or less identical to those of her father’s. This is significant because it shows how Fū’s experiencing the same as her father, and in treading the same paths he once did, is able to continue connecting with him, and share the same thoughts as he did. Thanks to the home release labelling the OVA episodes, Fū’s experiences at the summer festival are set following Chirio’s visit to Takehara, and prior to the Path of Longing Festival in autumn.

  • The idea of setting an OVA between episodes of a given series is not new, but it’s a successful approach because moments in between the milestones are still worth sharing. ~More Aggressive~ would do the same thing, following everyone’s adventure to Onomichi after Maon falls ill prior to a class trip. I had previously written about this OVA eight years earlier, shortly after it released with ~More Aggressive~‘s OVA, praising the OVA for portraying the idea that travel is worthwhile because of who one is with, rather than the nature of the destination, and also speculated on what a Tamayura continuation would entail. If there is interest in my revisiting ~More Aggressive~‘s OVA, I would be happy to do so (please let me know in the comments!), and in the meantime, I will be resuming to scheduled programming with Yama no Susume: Next Summit‘s eighth episode.

The idea of a new promise evoking old memories creates a bit of irony – although ~Hitotose~‘s OVA was a part of the first season, I’d actually never watched it during my original run through the series a decade earlier. Going through this OVA, I am reminded of the fact that that when revisiting things anew with a fresh set of eyes, the experience may yield new discoveries. Things that one may have forgotten about take on newfound value upon revisitation. This is what allows Fū to create new memories of her friends to cherish: a happenstance mention of wearing yukata to watch the summer fireworks with Chihiro might not have fully materialised yet, but Fū is reminded of her old promise and suddenly wishes to do the same with Kaoru, Norie and Maon. In the process, Fū not only has the chance to see fireworks with her friends in Takehara, but she also discovers more about her father and becomes, in her and Chihiro’s words, “more aggressive”. Simple decisions to take a step forward can have an immensely valuable impact on one’s perspective and help one along; in an environment where Fū longs to learn more about her father at her own pace, with people who are there to support her at each step, ~Hitotose~‘s OVA shows yet another snapshot into Fū’s journey as she gradually opens up. That Fū’s photographs wind up being similar to her father’s old photographs is a very valuable show of Fū connecting with him, and despite his absence now, his memories continue to endure, acting as a source of comfort and inspiration. The idea of seemingly trivial events creating fateful moments is not new in anime, but Tamayura does an especially solid job of conveying this to viewers – being open to new experiences can pave the way for life-changing moments down the line, and similarly, there is worth in looking back and revisiting old memories with a new perspective. For me, there is always joy in discovering something new in a given activity or object I had thought to be familiar. I was surprised that I’d never written about ~Hitotose~‘s OVA, but now, I am glad to have done so – going through the OVA has accentuate my enjoyment of Tamayura, making Chihiro’s visit in ~More Aggressive~ all the more significant, and with this, I believe that I’ve now written about everything in Tamayura to some extent.

Kase-san and Morning Glories: OVA Review and Reflection Upon A Tale of Romance Amidst the Flowers

“Following all the rules leaves a completed checklist, following your heart achieves a completed you.” –Ray Davis

Yui Yamada is a member of her school’s Gardening Club, and when she entered high school, she’d been quite reserved and shy. She develops feelings for Tomoka Kase, a popular athlete who competes on the school’s track and field team. While Yui becomes worried about being unable to spend as much time with Tomoka as she’d like because Tomoka is so involved, Tomoka reassures her that the feelings between them haven’t changed. It turns out that, while eating lunch on the school rooftop one day, Tomoka had spotted Yui tending to the school’s flower gardens and became entranced by the dedication Yui had exhibited. Over time, Tomoka would look forwards to seeing Yui, and on one occasion, Yui finally turns around and looks at Tomoka. The pair eventually begin going out with one another. In the present, Yui invites Tomoka to her place on an evening where her parents are out, and in the moment, Tomoka asks if Yui would be okay with taking things to the next level. Before anything can happen, Yui’s mother calls her, and Tomoka laughs, promising there’ll be another time. Later, during a class trip to Okinawa, Yui becomes worried about Tomoka seeing her naked and declines to join her in the hot springs. Although Tomoka worries that Yui wants to end the relationship, a heart-to-heart conversation between the pair on a secluded beach clears things up. With the end of high school fast approaching, Yui applies to a local university, but is saddened to learn that Tomoka’s received a recommendation to an atheletic university in Tokyo. Although she struggles with the prospect of separating from Tomoka, she still wishes her well. In the end, Yui decides to follow her heart and applies for a post-secondary in Tokyo, such that she can continue to be by Tomoka’s side. An adaptation of Hiromi Takashima’s manga Kase-san, Kase-san and Morning Glories is a love story set towards the end of high school, when paths begin diverging as people follow their own ambitions for the future. The manga originally ran between 2010 and 2017, and in 2018, an OVA adaptation première in Japanese cinema, bringing the story’s first act to life in an hour-long journey that follows the beginnings of Yui and Tomoka’s romance in a touching and heartwarming journey in which Yui decides to trust in her feelings and pursue a future where she can be with Tomoka, rather than forgoing the opportunity.

Kase-san and Morning Glories is a story that employs the age-old literary device of “following one’s heart”, in which characters will act on their emotions and feelings in the heat of a moment such that they do not have any future regrets. The fact that this theme is so prevalent in fiction speaks to the fact that this is something that people yearn for: all too often, people fail to act, whether it be a consequence of aversion to failure and the unknown, or because of constraints making it impractical to do so. In the realm of fiction, then, being able to follow one’s heart, and tangibly benefit from a personal growth perspective, is to serve as a message of encouragement and suggest that sometimes, one should take the plunge and go for it, if only to give things a go and see what becomes of one’s efforts. The applicability of this particular lesson varies depending on the context, and in the case of Kase-san and Morning Glories, it is a trickier place to apply the message. On one hand, it is commendable that Yui is so committed to her relationship with Tomoka that she’s willing to give up a slot at her local university for a post-secondary in Tokyo that she might not gain admittance to. However, the risk here is that if Yui’s gamble had not succeeded, she’d be separated from Tomoka anyways. Because this is a story, things work out nicely for Yui: she does end up attending a Tokyo post-secondary and majors in horticulture, simultaneously pursuing a field she’s genuinely interested in while at the same time, being close to the person she loves. However, this isn’t something that is always applicable to reality; sometimes, one must make the difficult decision and pick one choice among two owing to certain limitations in their circumstances. In this case, the suggestion that having it all comes across as being ludicrious: making difficult choices is a part of maturing, and a large part of being an adult is owning the consequences of one’s decisions. As a result, I find myself disagreeing with the messages that sometimes are sent with the “following one’s heart” theme on some occasions. Here in Kase-san and Morning Glories, Yui’s decision is admirable, but not always viable in every situation: at the very least, Kase-san and Morning Glories would have benefitted from additional portrayal of Yui reasoning out her decision to change her post-secondary applications at the last minute.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Kase-san and Morning Glories is a departure from the topics I typically write about – it is a yuri anime through and through, and normally, in the moé series I watch, yuri is a tangential element, being secondary to other aspects of said show. However, here in Kase-san and Morning Glories, romance is lies at the heart of things, and therefore is something that will be discussed. I have previously received flak for this approach; some readers hold that all romantic subtext is relevant, and expect that other viewers share their views even when it is plain a work has no intention of going down such a route.

  • I focus on romance when it is evident that romance has a nontrivial role in the story. This is why I hold that in something like Amanchu! or The Aquatope on White Sand, there is no need for me to speculate on things. Conversely, to do something like that in Kase-san and Morning Glories would be inappropriate; within moments of the OVA’s opening, it is plain that romance is vital here. The sorts of things that Yui and Tomoka experience is typical of a romance starting out, and initially, even something as simple as a phone call is a cause for awkwardness, although this gives way to warmth and joy once things settle down.

  • Kase-san and Morning Glories is very gentle and light-hearted in its presentation. Besides use of an unsaturated palette and clean backgrounds, this series makes use of facial expressions that are right at home in a comedy. The message this sends to viewers is that while things might get serious, the film will never unnecessarily foist drama onto viewers; use of facial expressions to convey shock, surprise or outrage is associated with a more laid-back atmosphere.

  • Yui resembles Rifle is Beautiful‘s Hikari and This Art Club Has a Problem‘s Kaori in appearance, but her shy disposition and choice of activity means that from a personality standpoint, she’s more similar to Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Hina, or perhaps Yama no Susume‘s Aoi. By this point in time, I’ve seen enough anime to notice commonalities amongst characters, but familiar characters and archetypes do nothing to diminish my enjoyment of a given work – in fact, such characters help provide me with grounding.

  • Yui’s love interest, Tomoka, reminds me of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform‘s Kei in appearance, but has an athletic background and a sunny disposition; in this way, she’s like Harukana Receive‘s Haruka. Immensely popular amongst the female students, Tomoka is still remarkably kind and returns Yui’s feelings, although her commitments initially make it difficult for her to spend any time with Yui whilst at school. Unlike Tomoka, who exudes a confident air, Yui is a ways more reserved and initially wonders if Tomoka returns her feelings.

  • A heart-to-heart talk on the school rooftop removes all ambiguity: this aspect of Kase-san and Morning Glories is one I greatly respect. In some romances, half the series is spent with the characters spinning their wheels, wondering if they should put their feelings into the open or be content to admire their crush from afar. However, while nerves may make this a realistic outcome, indecision is frustrating from a storytelling perspective. Putting everything onto the table means Kase-san and Morning Glories is able to advance its story past this initial stage.

  • This is especially important, since Kase-san and Morning Glories only has a runtime of fifty-eight minutes. The OVA is a little jumbled at times, switching constantly between the present day and flash backs, but this also works to the OVA’s advantage in conveying the tumultuous feelings associated with being in love. Unlike the numerous other things I’ve done, where preparedness and adaptivity allows one to plan out next steps and devise backups, romance is very much a touch-and-go pursuit, taken one step at a time.

  • After their initial meetings, Tomoko and Yui begin going out shortly after,  and one evening, even share a kiss under the sunset whilst waiting at the bus stop. Use of the warm, golden colours of a day’s end creates a timeless quality that speaks to how memorable the moment is. While it might be the end of a day, Yui and Tomoko seem locked in this moment for a tender eternity, blissfully wrapped in their own world. It’s a turning point in their relationship, where the awkwardness transitions into something that becomes more tangible.

  • The visuals in Kase-san and Morning Glories are nowhere near the levels seen in Kyoto Animation, Studio Ghibli or Makoto Shinkai’s works, but nonetheless work extremely well given the story Kase-san and Morning Glories seeks to tell. Such moments are referred to as sakuga (作画), when the artwork and animation is particularly outstanding from a visual perspective. From a literary standpoint, especially significant moments correspond to especially beautiful artwork and animation. However, the term has since broadened to refer to good animation and artwork in general, but this definition comes with a caveat: if one is not looking for moments that are standout in the context of a show, then some story-specific elements may be missed.

  • This is why when it comes to sakuga, I care about its application in a given work, rather than counting it as a work with above-average visual quality. Back in Kase-san and Morning Glories, things between Yui and Tomoko stablise enough such that Yui becomes confident enough to invite Tomoko over to visit. It marks a first for the pair and shows that spending time with Tomoko has made her a little more confident than she’d been before, enough to take the initiative and have Tomoko over.

  • Although Tomoko is presented as being cool, confident and composed, it turns that even she can feel embarrassment. Here, after she lets slip that she was counting on a maps app, she suddenly blushes and falls silent – doubtlessly, Tomoko had been trying to contain her excitement for the moment and appear dependable to Yui. This moment brings to mind the age-old stereotype that men never ask for directions or rely on maps, and as it turns out, this has nothing to do with visual-spatial coordination and is more of a matter of pride for some folks.

  • Yui had been quite nervous about Tomoka visiting her, and spends a bit of time cleaning her room up so it looks spotless. This effort impresses Tomoka so thoroughly that her heart flutters. The pair enjoy the cakes that Tomoka’s brought – she yields her strawberry to Yui, who, like K-On!‘s Yui, believes that the strawberry is the heart and soul of a cake. The symbolism here is simple enough; Tomoka loves Yui enough to give her the strawberry as a sign of the extent of her feelings.

  • Once the cakes are cleared away, Kase-san and Morning Glories‘ most heart-pounding moment occurs; Tomoka desires to take her relationship with Yui to the next level, and while Yui isn’t sure of what Tomoka means by this, she decides to go forwards. Had things gone all the way through, Kase-san and Morning Glories wouldn’t be family-friendly, although by this point in time, longtime readers will probably have guessed that I would talk about things anyways. Before anything can happen, the phone rings, defusing all of the tension in the moment and releasing it via comedy.

  • The next segment of Kase-san and Morning Glories is set on the girls’ class trip to Okinawa. The class trip is a classic part of anime, either taking students to the historical streets of Kyoto or the tropical beaches of Okinawa. The choice seems entirely based on what an anime seeks to convey, and Okinawa appears to provide a very carefree locale for everyone. By comparison, the amount of history in Kyoto makes for a much more introspective experience.

  • Yui’s best friend, Mikawa, had initially opposed Yui’s relationship with Tomoka, but over time, came to be quite accepting of things – by the Okinawa trip, she’s more than happy to photograph the happy couple, and accompany them as they shop for souvenirs. Because Kase-san and Morning Glories is an adaptation of the manga, some elements seen the manga are simplified or omitted. Some of these would’ve been helpful in providing viewers with more of a background as to how things between Tomoka and Yui unfolded, but on the whole, I felt that Kase-san and Morning Glories did a satisfactory job of how the pair’s relationship progressed.

  • I completely relate to Mikawa here: one of my favourite things about being on vacation is the fact that hotel beds are always so comfortable; having an entire queen-sized bed to oneself is incredible, and it feels as though I’m on a cloud when I sleep. Ever since the move, I’ve been enjoying this particular luxury, and although I tend to sleep on the side of the bed closer to the alarm clock, being able to spread out makes for an especially relaxing sleep. Similarly, while we’ve now had nearly two consecutive weeks’ worth of heat warnings, the presence of air conditioning has been a blessing: home feels like a hotel.

  • One subtle cue is that whenever Yui becomes embarrassed, flustered or otherwise excited, a small leaf appears on her head. Here, she enters the baths, but instantly changes her mind after seeing Tomoka’s smoking hot body; Yui is a little uncomfortable with her own physique and decides against taking the bath. The tension this creates worries Tomoka, who becomes uneasy and wants to level with Yui to ascertain what’s happened. Body acceptance is something I’ve not seen in too many anime, although in reality, it is a major concern for both women and men alike.

  • Body acceptance isn’t something I normally talk about: I’ve generally been okay with my physique, and if and when I’m asked, I have no qualms wearing a swimsuit. While I’ve not a model’s physique, I am at peace with my appearance, knowing that as long as I continue to keep up a decent exercise routine, I’ll continue to feel like I’m in good shape. Having said this, social standards have no bearing on how I perceive myself; how comfortable I am in my own skin is largely dictated by how I physically feel, rather than how I look. If I wake up and I feel lively enough to hit the day running, I’m confident I’ll have a good day. On days where I feel sluggish, I will myself out of bed and hit the gym anyways.

  • In the end, once Tomoka and Yui hash things out on a beach together, the issue becomes sorted out, and the pair end up frolicking in the warm Okinawan waters. The trip ends on a high note, and the moment shows how Yui and Tomoka’s problems are those that need to be talked out. This segues into the film’s final act; as graduation approaches, and Tomoka’s path begins diverging from Yui’s the strength of their ability to communicate is put to the test. This is where the bulk of Kase-san and Morning Glories‘ conflict and themes come from.

  • Yui initially tries to take things in stride and wishes that Tomoka would succeed in her aims; Yui’s own aspirations are a little more humble, and she has decided to apply for a local post-secondary to pursue her interests. However, a side of Yui feels conflicted, unable to imagine life without Tomoka. I have mentioned that this conflict is not one I relate to readily; when I was making the transition away from secondary into post-secondary, my decision was made purely based on what I thought would be best for my career.

  • I’ve never been a believer of choosing one’s post-secondary or faculty based on what my friends were doing, simply because university lasts four years, but a career lasts a lifetime, and the costs of returning to education and picking a different career path is a costly one. Even though I wound up being the only person from my secondary school’s graduating year to be admitted into health sciences, I was far from lonely: I made friends with half the people in my graduating class in the first year alone, and still hung out with my old friends during breaks.

  • For Yui and Tomoka, however, the pair are in a romantic relationship, and the decision becomes more difficult. Their situation is dramatically different than mine, and so, while I hold my own thoughts on how to choose one’s path, I will not say that my approach is necessarily the correct one. Everyone will have different backgrounds, and what worked for me won’t work for everyone. Spotting this is an essential reason behind why I was able to enjoy Kase-san and Morning Glories even though the stated outcome is so different than what I experienced.

  • As such, when Tomoka and Yui struggle to be true to themselves and appear consigned to their chosen paths, even though it means separating, as a viewer, I nonetheless felt compelled to root for Tomoka and Yui, hoping that the pair would find a solution that would work for both of them. This particular aspect of being an anime fan comes as the result of over a decade of watching anime and writing about it to with some level of critical thinking; just because I don’t agree with a message doesn’t mean that a message doesn’t have value.

  • Similarly, if something didn’t work for me for this reason, someone who’s lived a completely different set of experiences may, perchance, relate immediately to what’s happening in Kase-san and Morning Glories. Their experiences are no less valid than mine, and in this scenario, my first inclination is to hear them out. This is something I’ve found that some anime critics are lacking: when a work is inconsistent with their own experience, they are swift to deem said work as “mediocre” or “trite”, making no attempt to understand that there are some folks out there who may happen to relate to something. This is why I’m always more cautious when I deal with folks who claim to write from an “objective” perspective.

  • Conversely, people who make it clear their perspectives are based on their experiences are always worth hearing out. Back in Kase-san and Morning Glories, the day has finally come for Tomoka to head off for Tokyo. It appears that this is the end, and that Yui has resigned herself to the path she’d previously chosen. Here, I note that Yui is voiced by Minami Takahashi. Takahashi is best known as Uma Musume Pretty Derby‘s El Condor Pasa, Machikado Mazoku‘s Lilith and Lucoa of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Conversely, Tomoka’s voice actress is someone that needs no introduction: she’s voiced by the legendary Ayane Sakura (Cocoa of GochiUsa and countless other roles).

  • The colours of this sunset, as Tomoka heads off, are much more saturated than they’d been when she’d shared that first kiss with Yui. Previously, I’ve felt that rich colours during a sunset serve to emphasise to viewers the finality of a moment, and from a certain point of view, this sunset marks a sort of turning point in Kase-san and Morning Glories. The old status quo is gone, and Tomoka is fully committed to pursing her career.

  • However, it just wouldn’t be a story without a bit of an epiphany: in this moment, Yui decides that her feelings for Tomoka outweigh her wish to attend a local university. The sunset’s vivid colours also could be seen as symbolising that for Yui, she’s also seen the sunset of one part of her life. No longer doubting what she wants with her future, she decides to pursue Tomoka with all her heart. I personally would’ve liked this decision to be spaced out over a few more scenes, showing Yui making the necessary changes and committing to her choice; this is ultimately what I felt to be the biggest omission from Kase-san and Morning Glories.

  • Had Kase-san and Morning Glories included this as a part of the story, Yui’s decision would’ve appeared more reasoned, and less impulsive. Small details like these can indeed bridge the gap between scenes and give the characters’ decisions a more rational basis. Because of how I approach things, I have no objections to reading between the lines and interpolating what needs to happen in order to realise a story’s outcome, but in general, I feel that works are more successful at conveying their intended message if they leave fewer elements ambiguous.

  • These aspects of Kase-san and Morning Glories notwithstanding, I had a good time watching this film and seeing its portrayals of how love can prevail, and that all it takes from an individual is a little courage to pursue the unknown. From what I gather, Kase-san and Morning Glories represents the beginning of the journey, so folks interested in checking out what happens next, or perhaps to gain a better feel of what happened in the manga’s portrayal of the beginning, would benefit from giving the manga a whirl.

  • I am not one to deny characters of a happy ending, and here at Kase-san and Morning Glories conclusion, I am glad that Yui found the courage to do what she feels is right. Overall, Kase-san and Morning Glories earns a B+ in my books; it represents a very optimistic story of how following one’s heart leaves one with no regrets. It would’ve been nice to show in the film that for her decision, Yui manages to find a future route that works for her; this would eliminate any ambiguity as to whether or not Yui scarified her own future for Tomoka’s sake (as a bit of a spoiler, she doesn’t) and yield a more satisfying, definitive ending.

While I do not wholly agree with the message that Kase-san and Morning Glories sends, I nonetheless found this OVA to be enjoyable, as it shows the awkward and uneven progress that often accompanies a relationship where both partners are getting a feel for things. Miscommunications are sorted out without incident after a little bit of rumination, both partners are unsure of how quickly (or slowly) to take things, but the feelings are very much real. For this reason, Kase-san and Morning Glories remains a fantastic film for its portrayal of how a first relationship might unfold. The dichotomy between my response to Kase-san and Morning Glories‘ themes and its execution may prima facie appear contradictory, but in reality, there isn’t anything so unusual about this outcome: I can enjoy something even if the message isn’t one I agree with, as it represents a chance to see how another mind (i.e. the author’s) might approach a problem. Through Kase-san and Morning Glories, Takashima suggests that it’s okay to throw caution to the wind and trust in one’s feelings. In my own experiences, I’ve always weighed my decisions and make them based on what I think to maximise my benefits in the long term. Although I’ve ended up with a few regrets as a result of my choices, on the whole, I tend to make more decisions that leave me satisfied with their outcomes, and moreover, the decisions I’ve come to regret, I’ve also accepted responsibility for. The gap between what I’ve seen and what Takashima indicates through Kase-san and Morning Glories might be at odds, but considering how vast the world is, there are almost certainly situations where, were one to be in Yui’s shoes, her choice would be counted as correct; just because something didn’t work for me does not mean it is universally inapplicable in every situation. This is why I’m able to watch series without disliking them: I understand that an author’s experiences will be dramatically different than my own, and that through their work, I am able to gain a little more insight into a mode of thinking that I otherwise would not consider. The ability to reflect on one’s own biases in the context of an anime is something that I’ve found to make for a good discussion, and this is something I try to apply to other things in my life, as well. This has worked reasonably well for me, allowing me to broaden my horizons; from an anime perspective, this means trying new shows out and being pleasantly surprised by them, and in reality, it means being open to new experiences that enrich my own life and knowledge.

Umayon: An Anime Short Review and Reflection

“I’ve often said there is nothing better for the inside of the man, than the outside of the horse.” –Ronald Reagan

When Tracen Academy’s Horse Girls are not training for races, they’re found participating in make-up exams, shooting promotional videos for their school, put on Shakespearean plays, challenge one another to eating competitions and even act as Super Sentai to protect their neighbourhood from nefarious elements – Umayon is a series of shorts featuring Uma Musume Pretty Derby‘s most iconic Horse Girls as they navigate through life in an adorable and amusing manner. With each episode being a mere three minutes long, Umayon provides an insight into the world of Horse Girls and suggests that outside of the emotional intensity and focus that goes into each race, the Horse Girls themselves also exude a spirit of fun and can work as hard as they play. Umayon thus joins the ranks of Azur Lane: Slow Ahead and World Witches: Take Off in providing gentle, light-hearted humour, allowing characters to be invovled in outrageous moments that further accentuate everyone’s traits. Such series are, by definition, intended for fans of the series: they require prior understanding of the world and its characters, so for folks looking to get into Uma Musume Pretty Derby, Umayon is not the optimal route for doing so. Conversely, for viewers who found enjoyment in the original series, Umayon represents a hilarious series that pokes fun at some of the elements in the TV series and also gives the writers a chance to parody other series using elements that are unique to Horse Girls. While oftentimes considered as being frivilous, animated shorts like Umayon are superbly enjoyable because they give writers a chance to explore things that would otherwise not work in a standard series – having BNW go hunting for Rhinoceros Beetles amidst a training camp, surprise one another during the traditional test of courage or, most impressive of all, rig a race with strange parameters that allows Gold Ship to trivially win, would never fly in the original Uma Musume Pretty Derby. However, such antics work well as a series of shorts, offering a gentle parody of some of Uma Musume Pretty Derby‘s more outrageous elements.

Compared to most fans of Uma Musume Pretty Derby, I am a relative newcomer, having picked up and watched the series only last August. As it turns out, horse racing is a popular sport in Japan, and over twenty thousand races are hosted throughout the country on an annual basis. Here in my hometown, horse racing is a newer event: there are a few equestrian tracks around the city, but the first major one is located north of the city and only opened in 2021. Conversely, rodeo is immensely popular here; Calgary hosts the Calgary Stampede, one of the world’s largest rodeo events and possessing history dating back to 1886. Unlike horse racing, rodeo events are rowdier and built around activities that ranchers would have cultivated as a part of their work. Despite the dramatic differences between racing and rodeo, however, both events share some commonalities. Aside from obvious similarities, such as how horses are a key part of both, and that gambling drives much of the interest, the crowds for horse racing and rodeo exude a similar energy, even if the manner in which said energy is conveyed is different. Having lived in Calgary since time immemorial, seeing the spirits around the city and Stampede events being reflected in Uma Musume Pretty Derby is a show of the series’ commitment to convey the atmospherics surrounding horse-driven events. The crowds in Uma Musume Pretty Derby rival those of the Calgary Stampede’s rodeo in both exuberance and vigour. Small details like these are sufficient in creating a convincing, compelling world for Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and while the regular anime excels in conveying the tenour in and around races, being able to see the Horse Girls off the field in a series of shorts greatly enhances one’s appreciation for the characters.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It goes without saying that Umayon is a series purely for fans of Uma Musume Pretty Derby: the shorts demand requisite knowledge of how Horse Girls race, and there are small jokes here and there that are dependent on knowing other aspects of the show. With this background, the jokes connect; the first episode deals with Special Week, El Condor Pasa and Grass Wonder square off in the classroom as they are made to do a re-test after botching their exams.

  • Here, the joke is that on an exam, speed is irrelevant, and score is what counts; while Special Week is first to finish, she fares the worst of everyone. Good humour is subjective, but having read about how comedy works, from folks who’ve nontrivial experience in the field, I’ve seen commonalities. All good comedy is derived off subversion of expectations; there isn’t anything about this approach that demands a specific cultural or social background, and this is why the best comedians are able to succeed anywhere in the world.

  • For instance, Steven Chow’s films are almost universally funny simply because he’s able to create incongruity in actions and their consequences, while Bill Watterson uses time and space (in a medium like newspaper comics, no less) to allow viewers time to process the mismatch between a scenario and its context. Neither Chow or Watterson’s works depend heavily on complex self-referential humour or demand familiarity with a culture to appreciate; the bulk of the comedy is almost always universal, and then subtle references to meta-humour or jokes requiring cultural knowledge are more subtle, enhancing a moment.

  • How well a work utilises this two-tiered approach is what determines how well it fares outside of its intended audience. If a work is able to appeal to a general audience, and then possesses nuances that enhance the experience for those who’ve got a background in it, it is likely to receive wider acclaim. A work that appeals to a general audience, but lacking in depth will be considered average, while works that appeal to niche audiences will similarly be poorly received unless one was familiar with its topic. Girls und Panzer and Yuru Camp△ are examples of works that is general enough to attract viewers, but then explores their chosen topics with enough depth to impress people with a deeper knowledge of the topic.

  • Uma Musume Pretty Derby tends towards being more accessible, but small hints of the characters’ real-world namesakes and lovable characters, coupled with a fully-fledged exploration of the universe means that the series is able to be very successful. We recall that I did not start watching Uma Musume Pretty Derby until last August, but upon finishing the first season, I found myself impressed, and this is even though I’m not any experience in watching horse racing as a sport, or in playing the mobile game itself. This speaks to how well-presented Uma Musume Pretty Derby is.

  • This post on Umayon marks the first time I’ve written about Uma Musume Pretty Derby while the Calgary Stampede was running; although horse racing and the rodeo are drastically different, watching Uma Musume Pretty Derby and seeing the Tokyo Racecourse’s grandstand reminded me of home. While Tokyo Racecourse has an impressive capacity of 223000, here in Calgary, the GMC Stadium’s grandstand has a total seating capacity of 17000, compared to Tokyo Racecourse’s 13750. Moreover, our grandstand has a fully enclosed suite in its upper levels for private functions and events, speaking to differences in their functionality.

  • Umayon actually dedicates two full episodes to the Horse Girls’ food misadventures. Here, Special Week squares off against Oguri Cap and Taiki Shuttle in an eating contest, with the goal of demolishing a massive bowl of ramen in the least amount of time possible. In the end, Special Week and Oguri Cap draw for first, while Taiki Shuttle brings up the rear. The commentators speak to things like strategy, bringing to mind the likes of Adam Richman in Man v. Food. While I’ve never done a food challenge before, my general approach for eating larger foods is to always crack down on the vegetables first, as they tend to cool the quickest. Then I move onto the meats and wrap up with starches.

  • This past weekend saw me enjoy lunches that were quite different than my usual routine: yesterday, I picked up a fish and chips lunch (pollock and potato wedges, which was especially tasty) from the local grocery store’s ready-to-eat value meals section as a quick meal prior to a dental appointment that had unexpectedly been moved up three hours. The dental office had managed to reach me at the last second on Friday, and I was more than willing to take an appointment three hours earlier than my original slot. The weather on Saturday had been standout, and after my appointment concluded, I took a walk around the downtown core under a brilliant afternoon sun, passing by my old office building and a pleasantly busy Steven Avenue Mall before heading back to pick up a few things and return home.

  • Today, I spent the morning doing a slower leg-and-core day at the gym before stepping out to relax at the bookstore and then enjoy a grilled chicken and spring roll vermicelli (topped with a shrimp roll) from the Vietnamese restaurant across from my place. I was especially impressed with how flavourful the grilled chicken was, and the spring rolls themselves were packed with meats. Vermicelli has become a favourite of mine because of how well the flavours mingle, and how varied the textures are; overall, I’m pleased to know that I’m within walking distance of a fantastic Vietnamese and Japanese restaurant.

  • Back in Umayon, Mejiro McQueen visits a casual noodle shop with Ines Fujin, Fine Motion, and King Halo. While Mejiro McQueen and King Halo are unfamiliar with more casual establishments, Ines Fujin walks everyone through the etiquette of ordering and eating at these places. King Halo mistakenly orders a mega-sized version of the ramen and struggles to finish it, resulting in much comedy, and in the end, although King Halo is barely able to walk after a titanic meal, she and Mejiro McQueen are thankful to have accompanied Ines Fujin on such an outing. Of course, Ines Fujin is already planning out their next trip.

  • The vignettes in Umayon are completely unrelated, and there’s no overarching story, but this flexibility allows the series of shorts to go on whatever direction the writers choose. I vividly recall watching Biwa Hayahide, Narita Taishin and Winning Ticket overcome their own internal struggles to face one another again on the racetrack, but here, the three end up getting caught up in a hunt for beetles. It’s a hilarious change of pace, made more amusing after Winning Ticket kicks a tree to dislodge the beetles, only to end up breaking open a hornet’s nest. The three only escape by jumping into the ocean.

  • In another episode, several of the Horse Girls are presented as being super sentai, and while they attempt to throw down with their sworn enemies, Silence Suzuka ends up being disillusioned after spotting how unfair their unit fights. While the Horse Girls are generally true to their personalities from Uma Musume Pretty DerbyUmayon capitalises on its comedic setup to mix things up; Silence Suzuka was stoic and reserved in Uma Musume Pretty Derby as Special Week’s role model, but  here in Umayon, she’s much more expressive.

  • One thing I’ve always wondered is how race horses get their names, and while it is usually the case horses are named based on their lineage, so long as owners pick names that fall within certain criteria (they cannot be named after people without express permissions from said individuals or their families, be anything offensive, be named after racetracks or named after winning horses, to name a few), owners can actually be creative in their naming. During the Stampede’s rodeo event, I saw horses with names as creative as those from Japan (Special Delivery, Borderline Untimely and Born Fearless were some of the horses in events like Bareback and Saddle Bronc).

  • I would therefore imagine that in Japan, horse names can use both fully Western names (like Grass Wonder, Gold Ship and Special Week), or combination of Japanese and English naming (Mejiro McQueen and Silence Suzuka). Here, Daiwa Scarlet and Vodka go at it again; this aspect of Umayon is true to the rivalry seen in Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and it is easy to see the pair spar over something as trivial as a test of courage. Matikanefukukitaru, another horse girl who has a fondness for all things supernatural, tries to spur the two on, and while the pair enter the test intent on proving the other wrong, scares from Haru Urara, Manhattan Café and Gold Ship send them packing.

  • What’s truly scary is the fact that the real Matikanefukukitaru never accompanied them into the forest. While being scared by their friends would’ve been somewhat terrifying, the thought that they’d actually encountered a ghost causes the pair to faint. Although one might be inclined to believe Matikanefukukitaru was lying, others confirm that she never went into the forest with Daiwa Scarlet and Vodka. It suddenly hits me that I’ve never written about Matikanefukukitaru as a central character in Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and for this, I’m thankful: at thirty-one characters, her name would be a pain in the lower backside to type out.

  • The idea of eliciting a confession on a coastal cliff brings to mind the likes of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?‘s Phantom Thief Lapin, and this means that both Phantom Thief Lapin and Umayon must be parodying a trope from detective anime or live-action dramas. I’m not especially familiar with this genre, so I have no idea which shows popularised this setup and, on this token, I would be quite open to hearing from readers which series may have been the origin for this setup.

  • The finale to Umayon‘s first half was especially fun to watch: with the past eleven episodes focused on various slice-of-life aspects surrounding Horse Girls, it was a fun return-to-form for a series that is known for its racing. This time around, we have Gold Ship and Tokai Teio providing the commentary, while Tamamo Cross, Super Creek and Hishi Amazon running the race itself. Competitions in Umayon appear to be constrained to three individuals at a time, but each and every time, this has worked to the shorts’ favour, allowing characters to really bounce off one another.

  • Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen Hishi Amazon, Super Creek or Tamamo Cross in the spotlight in earlier iterations of Uma Musume Pretty Derby: this is a reminder of how many characters there are in Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and theoretically, there isn’t an upper limit of how many seasons production studios could make with Uma Musume Pretty Derby so long as the stories were all compelling and engaging: Uma Musume Pretty Derby‘s second season, for instance, gave Mejiro McQueen just as much focus as it did Tokai Teio, and this helped viewers to see more of Team Spica’s Horse Girls where in the previous season, Special Week was the star of the show.

  • The race course Gold Ship’s designed is diabolical and non-regulation in every aspect. It is only in a slice-of-life parody that this concept would work, and suddenly, I find myself wishing that Girls Und Panzer: Motto Love Love Sakusen Desu! would receive a similar adaptation. I’ve always had a fondness for slice-of-life focused presentations of anime that have a significant world-building piece; since these anime focus so much on the activities, they leave less time to show what life in such a world could be like. Here, Tamamo Cross has switched into a kindergarten uniform, while Super Creek’s donned a housewife’s garb. Poor HIshi Amazon is embarrassed and enraged to be wearing a magical girl costume and is seized with a desire to beat up Gold Ship.

  • As it turns out, Gold Ship orchestrated the entire race so she could win it. I do not believe I’ve ever seen Gold Ship win before in Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and while Umayon isn’t likely to be official, it was still fun to see Gold Ship go through all this extraneous effort to score a win where typically, old-fashioned training would be needed. With this post in the books, I’m one step closer to wrapping up all of the animated Uma Musume Pretty Derby content: unless I’m mistaken, Umayon‘s second half is all that I have left. I admit that I am a little surprised to have found myself Uma Musume Pretty Derby to the extent that I did, and that Uma Musume Pretty Derby may have contributed to an increased enjoyment of my first-ever rodeo this year.

Earlier this year, Uma Musume Pretty Derby fans were pleasantly surprised to learn that a third season will be released somewhere in the future and deal with new Horse Girls, such as T.M. Opera O, Admire Vega, Narita Top Road. However, rather than being released in a traditional format, this third season will be streamed. Moreover, Umayuru was also announced and has a known release date: it will begin airing in Autumn 2022. The fact that Uma Musume Pretty Derby has enjoyed sufficient success as to receive a third season and new series of shorts speaks to the series’ successes – sales of the anime have been uncommonly strong and have even edged out highly successful series, while the mobile game is widely played and quite accessible. Unlike Kantai Collection, which was dependent on Flash Player and required players register through an unwieldly lottery system, Japanese users can simply log into the App Store or Play Store, download the game and find themselves, quite literally, off to the races. With a compelling world, lovable characters and an accessible presentation of horse racing, it is easy to see how Uma Musume Pretty Derby has found success where other series based on games had not; it is rare for anime based on games to be successful because game mechanics do not necessarily translate elegantly into a story. However, Uma Musume Pretty Derby succeeds because it is able to bring out the emotional tenour surrounding each Horse Girls as they strive to be the best racer possible. From Special Week’s desire to become the best and win for her mothers, to Tokai Teio’s admirable efforts in overcoming numerous injuries so she can race alongside Mejiro McQueen, Uma Musume Pretty Derby has, insofar, given viewers plenty to root for and enjoy. A third season will, regardless of its format, be no different, and this would be quite exciting. Until then, viewers do have Umayuru to look forward to, and having seen Umayon, more daily tomfoolery from the Horse Girls is always welcome.

You Never Let Us Down: Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita! OVA Review and Reflection

“If your actions were to boomerang back on you instantly, would you still act the same?” –Alexandra Katehakis

When summer vacation arrives, Miyako reluctantly accompanies Hinata, Hana, Noa and her mother, Chizuru, out to the countryside for a camping trip by the lake. Despite Miyako’s objections, she eventually dons a swimsuit and enters the water to join the others. As the day draws to a close, Miyako ends up helping her mother to set up the tent and begins preparing dinner, before sitting down to make s’mores with the others. When night falls, a strange noise in the bush shocks the group: they find that it’s none other than Kōko, who was originally set to join them but got lost along the way. Kōko recalls her rather one-sided friendship with Miyako, and during Halloween, while Miyako becomes excited to see what costume Hana will wear, Kōko and Yū both appear: it turns out that Kōko’s been itching to have Miyako model her latest creation, and has even managed to convince Yū to help her in persuading Miyako to give things ago. When Hinata, Noa, Kanon and Koyori show up in costume, Miyako is thrilled with how adorable everyone looks. However, Hana is late, and she’s defined expectations by showing up in a rather grotesque costume. Miyako later recalls meeting Hinata after the latter had been born, and how quickly they bonded. With this, I’ve crossed the finish line for Wataten!‘s OVA, which was released with the BDs a few months after the series had concluded back in 2019. Although Wataten!‘s initial premise had raised more than a few eyebrows, the series would come to present an endearing story about how the right influences and experiences can push individuals out of their comfort zone and also temper some aspects of one’s personality so that they may better present themselves and their feelings towards others. In Wataten!, Miyako’s effort to pursue Hana ultimately leads her to lend her own skills and hobbies towards others beyond Hinata, whom she dotes on, and in doing so, Miyako becomes better-adjusted as a result. Wataten! originally left with Hana expressing that, while she’s still occasionally put off by Miyako’s actions, getting to know her better had shown Hana that Miyako’s intentions are genuine, and not something to trivially cast aside.

Wataten!‘s OVA is contingent on viewers having already seen the original televised run: there’s four distinct vignettes weaved together to give viewers a collection of stories that show how Miyako’s changed since Wataten!‘s beginning. It is plain that for Hinata, Miyako is willing to do most anything, and so, when Hinata expresses a desire for Miyako to get out more and experience life more fully, Miyako accompanies Hinata, only to find herself enjoying things more than she’d expected. However, there is another aspect that drives Miyako’s growth: she eventually meets Kōko properly and finds herself shocked at how Kōko views their friendship. From an external observer’s point of view, Kōko regards Miyako the same way Miyako originally sees Hana, going to great (even unhealthy) lengths to win their object of affection over. From the story’s standpoint, Kōko fulfils a very important role. By making Miyako uncomfortable, Kōko is able to show Miyako how difficult she’s making things for Hana. Realising this is what leads Miyako to dial back her emotion: although she still loves Hana very much, Miyako slowly begins to master her impulses so that she’s not frightening Hana away at every turn. Of course, what would really be valuable is if Miyako could express this towards Kōko, as well: like Miyako, Kōko is well-meaning and skillful in her own right, but common sense seems to be defeated by infatuation wherever Miyako is concerned. However, Kōko’s behaviours are not fixed in stone: Wataten! has shown how over time, characters will change for the better as a result of their shared experiences, and consequently, it is not inconceivable that even Kōko could learn to reign things back some to build a more meaningful friendship with Miyako, of the sort that she dreams of in her mind’s eye. Wataten!‘s flawed but loveable characters forms a majority of the series’ charm, making this journey of development particularly enjoyable, and because everyone is distinctly human, this corresponds to the possibility for further stories to be told. This fact is not lost on the writers: a film, Wataten!: Precious Friends will premiere in Japanese cinema later this year to advance things further.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because there is a Wataten! movie, I determined that while I’ve got the opportunity now, I should wrap up my journey here before the film releases; I typically leave some time between finishing a series and the OVAs so I can return to them with a fresh set of eyes and determine whether or not the OVA is successful in capturing the same feeling the anime conveyed. The main drawback about my approach is that I have a tendency to procrastinate, and one risk about this is that I’d only realise I’d have an OVA to watch once the movie actually screens.

  • For Wataten!, the only thing I know of the release date is that it’s somewhere in the autumn, and given how anime films release, overseas viewers usually have an eight to eleven month long wait. As such, I’ll probably get to writing about the movie next September or so. Although I initially passed over Wataten! as a result of my schedule and struggled to regain my motivation in watching this series, I ended up doing so earlier this year. For my troubles, I was met with a series that proved surprisingly heartwarming and amusing despite its initial impressions.

  • Having said this, Wataten! getting a movie came as a bit of a surprise for me: the TV series had ended on an excellent note, and this OVA acts as an encore of sorts. From a thematic perspective, Wataten! had done a thorough job of portraying Miyako’s growth: she starts as someone who exudes questionable tones but, as a consequence of being open to new experiences, slowly acclimatises to interacting with others. The anime closed with Hana remarking that, while she still finds Miyako a little dubious at times, seeing her try so hard to be her best self has convinced Hana that they can be friends nonetheless.

  • Although she’d not brought a swimsuit and was intending on doing some photography, Noa and Chizuru both planned ahead: it turns out that Kōko has Miyako’s measurements on hand (and now that I think about it, Kōko feels like she’s into Miyako to a much greater extent than any of the stunts Miyako herself had pulled when trying to persuade Hana to cosplay), and both Noa and Chizuru had anticipated some resistance from Miyako, so they’d bought a swimsuit for her using this knowledge and even prepared a waterproof case for her camera.

  • The camping trip in the Wataten! OVA would suggest that while Miyako is more receptive towards hanging out than she had been previously, it still takes a nontrivial amount of effort to get her to do so. Hinata is particularly versed at coercing Miyako into doing things, and in retrospect, this is no similar than Miyako attempting to win Hana over with sweets. The joke here, then, is that despite being quite a ways older than Hinata and the others, Miyako is still child-like in some ways.

  • Back in Wataten!‘s OVA, Miyako ends up being dragged into the water, where she finally relents and joins the others. This outcome speaks to how everything can seem more imposing than it is, but once gets over that initial hurdle, it becomes easier to continue. For Miyako, now that she’s actually in the water, she’s able to relax a little and live in the moment, joining Hinata, Hana, and Noa in enjoying the lake water. The same holds true in reality; once the inertia of starting something is overcome, one will typically find it easier to get into things, whether it’s a new project or anime.

  • This particular camping site is located in a generic location: Wataten! is a series where the focus is on the characters, rather than the characters and their surroundings. In series that allow it, location hunts are an immensely enjoyable activity, allowing me to explore a setting and feel as though the events of a given work could’ve really happened. Conversely, in series that are set “somewhere in Japan”, the message I draw is that the characters are the sole stars in the show, and that the events of that story could happen anywhere and still succeed in conveying its themes.

  • As a safety measure, everyone’s donned life jackets to ensure they don’t sink in the lake: unlike beaches seen in other series, there are no lifeguards around, but fortunately, Hinata, Noa and Hana are well-behaved and keep close to shore. In this way, what started out as something she was disinterested in becomes a morning of bliss for Miyako, and in the OVA, it does feel as though the effort needed to persuade Miyako to participate was much less than what it’d been when Wataten! first started.

  • I first had their poutine when I was doing my open studies term. I vividly recall watching Tamayura ~More Aggressive~’s finale during a lunch break during mid-Autumn, and in fact,  The Fried Chicken Poutine is one of the simpler poutines on the list of poutines I’ve tried, but Waffles n’ Chix delivers such a good poutine that, when food trucks began regularly appearing on campus, I made it a point to have lunch there at least once a year. After entering graduate school, I remember enjoying this poutine again after a getting Unreal Engine set up for my thesis work, and again when I finished watching Gakkō Gurashi. According to the blog archives, they used to add a dash of maple syrup to their poutines, and while this practise stopped in 2015, their poutine remains top-tier, the perfect fuel for a busy, and productive day.

  • Back in Wataten!‘s OVA, while Hinata, Hana and Noa get dinner set up, Miyako and Chizuru pitch the tent before joining the others for dinner. Barbeque is a popular activity in Japan during summers, although anime portray skewers and thinner cuts of meat as being popular, whereas over here in Canada, barbeque means burgers, hot dogs, wings and whole steaks. I’m moderately competent with cooking, but grilling is an area I’d love to get into: there’s something immensely satisfying about the sizzle of meat on a fire, likely a consequence of our evolutionary origins.

  • It takes Chizuru a bit to light the coals, bringing to mind a similar moment from Yuru Camp△ when Rin struggled to get her binchotan fire going. While the others become worried after the third attempt, it turns out there’d been some fire starter floating around that greatly accelerates the process, and finally, the fire’s hot enough to cook on. Having watched Survivorman for as long as I have, in the absence of any additional fire-starting material like paper, my first inclination would be to gather dried leaves, punky wood, small twigs or pinecones to start the fire, and then add larger twigs or small branches to keep the fire going.

  • One returning joke from Wataten! is Hana’s propensity to butcher even the most basic of meal-prep: the slice of meat she lays on the grill crumples and falls through the grating into the fire, being burnt to a crisp in the process. Worried Hana will burn up their stockpile, Noa offers to lay the meat on the grill. Being bad with food has long been employed as a comedic device, there is a biological basis behind clumsiness: opposing dominance between one’s hands and eyes create a delay in spatial-visual perception, resulting in errors in coordination that manifest as clumsiness.

  • The TV series had presented Chizuru as being a little intimidating (she once tied Miyako to the ceiling for having spoiled the girls’ appetites), but as the anime continued, it becomes clear that she loves her children very much. Now that I think about it, Chizuru somewhat resembles OreGairu‘s Shizuka in appearance, and here, she introduces Hana, Hinata and Noa to the idea of toasting marshmallows over an open fire. This is a longstanding camping tradition that’s seen in virtually every portrayal of camping on television and in film; recalling this piqued my curiosity, and I found myself wondering how marshmallows came to be an indispensable part of camping.

  • As it turns out, marshmallows were originally intended as a medical supplement, with sap from the Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) plant being mixed with white meringue and rose water to form a candy that could help soothe the throat and boost immune response. Because Marsh Mallow sap is difficult to gather, in the 1900s, confectioners eventually replaced the sap with corn syrup and gelatin, forming today’s marshmallows, and although the origins of marshmallow roasting is lost to time, it is thought to have coincided with when s’mores became popular. After Hana’s luck runs out when she overcooks her marshmallow on one side, causing it to fall off the stick, Chizuru gives Hana an alternative recipe that is less likely to fall.

  • The addition of a roasted marshmallow to crackers produces a ‘smore, and Hana digs in. Watching Hana eat has always been adorable: I liken it to watching rabbits eat, something that I also find immensely cathartic. From what I’ve read, adorable things resemble children and activate the brain’s amygdala, triggering a release of oxytocin, which helps defeat stress. The reason why this is hardwired into people is to promote looking after offspring, and moé anime have made a science of this: such series elicit the same sense of warmth as one might experience when watching videos of small animals.

  • When night falls, Chizuru falls asleep immediately, and the bushes suddenly begin rustling. Since this is Wataten! and not a horror flick, it turns out the source of this commotion is none other than Kōko, who was apparently invited along with everyone but got lost in the process. The OVA subsequently transitions to a flashback of what Kōko makes of her friendship with Miyako: even back in high school, Miyako had been introverted and stoic, but Kōko saw this as Miyako having an aloofness about her that made her particularly appealing. However, Kōko struggled to break the ice, and settled for following Miyako around.

  • The transition over to Halloween is smooth: one of the things I particularly liked about the Wataten! OVA is how the transitions between the vignettes were handled. After realising it’s Kōko who’d been given them a scare, the OVA portrays Kōko’s perception of her relationship with Miyako, and this ends with a scene of Kōko walking past Miyako’s house with Yū. In the present, the story returns to Miyako, who’s positively aglow with excitement at the thought of seeing Hana in a Halloween costume.

  • When the doorbell rings, however, it’s Yū and Kōko who show up. Yū was a very welcome part of Wataten! despite having made only a few appearances: she’s even younger than Hinata, Noa and Hana, and befitting of a child, brings with her an adorable aura that adds to Wataten!‘s already cuddly and warm atmosphere. It turns out Kōko’s brought Yū along as a secret weapon of sorts: there’s a cosplay she’d been wanting Miyako to model, and figured this would be the best way to convince Miyako without going to further measures.

  • Kōko herself is dressed as Wendy from Where’s Waldo: created in 1986 by Martin Handford at the behest of David Bennett, Where’s Waldo features intricate drawings that require players to locate the iconic character. Earlier iterations just featured Wally (Waldo in North America), but later books would feature lookalikes and additional characters to find. Over the years, Where’s Waldo challenges have become progressively difficult, and here in Wataten!, I imagine that this would be the easiest game of Where’s Waldo anyone would have the opportunity to play.

  • Thanks to Yū, Miyako reluctantly agrees to wear the costume that Kōko’s made for her. It’s a perfect fit, and also indicates to viewers that while Miyako wears a tracksuit which conceals her figure, she’s technically no slouch in appearances: it’s commented that if Miyako were to spend a little more time tending to her own appearances as she does on her cosplay and cooking, and go out more often, she’d probably turn a few heads, although her reaction suggests that she’s unlikely to be fond of this outcome.

  • Miyako’s look of mortification says it all; for me, more so than Hana’s initial cold attitudes towards Miyako, it’s Kōko that evokes the strongest change in Miyako. While Kōko is very overbearing and even resembles a yandere at times (albeit without the violent tendencies), when the chips are down, she genuinely looks up to Miyako and has stepped up to help Miyako out previously. Assuming one could accept that Kōko’s tendencies are probably here to stay, Kōko is a good person to have in one’s corner. With her desire to see Miyako wearing her outfit satisfied, Kōko and Yū take off, giving Miyako time to change back into her usual outfit.

  • Later, Hinata arrives along with Noa, Kanon and Koyori. In a turn of events, everyone’s dressed up precisely as Miyako had envisioned in her mind’s eye (with the key difference that Miyako had imagined Hana wearing all of the outfits). Halloween has always been a fun time to dress up and get candy: this tradition is one that I grew up with, and as a child, I went as a wizard. Once I hit secondary school, I kitted myself out in an old karate gi and went as a white belt for the in-school costume event. In university, I picked up a basic Stormtrooper costume, although I’ve never bought a blaster to go with said costume.

  • Trick-or-treating used to be quite popular in my old neighbourhood, but as the demographic aged, we’d received fewer and fewer visitors, until the global health crisis hit and we sat the event out. Having now moved, I’m not too sure how trick-or-treating works now that I’m not in a detached house. However, old traditions, namely watching both It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, have endured. Regardless of whether the HOA’s rules allow for trick-or-treat or not, I do plan on picking up some KitKats (my go-to Halloween candy) and watching my favourite Halloween specials.

  • The joke’s on Miyako, who’s noticed that Hana’s late: the observant viewer will have noticed that including Miyako herself, all of the costumes that she’d imagined have now been shown, so whatever Hana’s brought to the table will be something else. The humour in this scene comes from the fact that viewers will be well aware of the fact that Miyako is expecting something adorable, but Hana will almost certainly defy expectations in some way. This comes to pass as soon as Hana shows up: while Hana herself may have captured Miyako’s heart, her definition of cute stands in stark contrast with the norm.

  • Viewers are thus left to take in the situation, and Wakaten!‘s OVA switches over to its final vignette, a flashback to how Miyako became close to Hinata. Even before Hinata was born, Miyako had been most excited to finally meet her younger sister: she’s holding a stuffed penguin in anticipation, and it’s clear that Miyako has probably asked Chizuru on how to properly hold a baby: the cradle hold is one of the easiest positions for infants, with one hand supporting the baby’s head and neck, and then the other hand supports the baby’s bottom to create a cradle of sorts.

  • From the very moment Miyako meets Hinata, she begins to realise that she’s important to Hinata: although Hinata had suddenly begun to cry, seeing Miyako soothes her, and she suddenly begins smiling. This is a sign that the sisters are closer than Miyako realises here; in this moment, Hinata’s smile is more of a reflexive smile, a response to a comforting situation, but a baby’s smile is still precious, and Miyako is immediately filled with joy to be holding Hinata. From this moment on, the sisters are as close as can be, bringing to mind the likes of K-On!‘s Yui and Ui, and GochiUsa‘s Mocha and Cocoa.

  • With this last vignette, the Wataten! OVA draws to a close, and I’m left in a position where I’m as caught up as can be for Wataten!. I don’t mind admitting that while Wataten! had been on my radar since I read the season previews back in 2019, my own doubts about the series after one episode and the fact that my schedule at the time had been quite overwhelming, so Wataten! ended up falling off my watchlist. I am glad to have picked the series up again; time and time again, I’ve found that whether they’re series on my own list, or from recommendations, I tend to enjoy most of the anime that I watch to completion.

  • Of late, I’ve finally begun my journey into Konobi (Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru! or This Art Club Has A Problem!, not to be confused with the currently-airing Kenobi): I started Konobi on recommendations from one of my readers, and although I can’t quite place when I received the recommendation, at the very least, I’m watching the show now. I’ll reserve my final thoughts on Konobi once I finish, but I can say that I’m thoroughly enjoying this series and will be writing about it in full once I cross the finish line. In other news, Battlefield 2042‘s finally got an update: titled “Zero Hour”, it will see the addition of a new map that I’m excited to try out.

  • Overall, I enjoyed Wataten!‘s OVA: this addition to the series doesn’t extend the thematic elements explored in the TV series, but instead, represents a chance to simply see the characters again before the film releases. Seeing how close Miyako and Hinata were ends up being a fitting way to enter the movie, and while I’ve no idea what the film will entail, experience suggests that Precious Friends will likely scale things up in Wataten! for the silver screen similarly to how Kiniro Mosaic: Thank You!! had. Time will tell where Wataten! goes with its movie, and while the release date is a ways off for us overseas viewers, I will aim to write about Precious Friends once it’s available.

While Wataten!‘s first episode may have started things on a rough footing for viewers, folks with the patience and maturity to continue the series would ultimately find it to be a heartwarming tale of how love pushes people to be their best selves. That a film is in production speaks to Wataten!‘s staying power: not every anime series will receive a theatrical adaptation, so the fact that Wataten! is getting a movie means that reception to the series in Japan has been positive. There’s hardly any controversy surrounding Wataten! in Japan, standing in sharp contrast with some reception of the series at some North American anime news outlets. Cultural differences are not responsible for this gap; Wataten! deals with how people handle and respond to falling in love, and while different cultures may approach things differently, the process is one that people can universally relate to. As such, if Wataten! had indeed been a sub-par portrayal of these topics, its reception in Japan would have been sufficiently poor so that no movie project would have been approved. The existence of a movie similarly speaks to the fact that this series was well-received in Japan, and moreover, viewers overseas have also spotted Wataten!‘s merits and joys. Because there is a movie, the conclusion is simple enough; reception to Wataten! is positive, and the initial flaws (largely a consequence of Miyako being completely unfamiliar with social convention) are swiftly overshadowed by what the series does well in its portrayal of how meeting Hana acts as a catalyst for Miyako to better herself and become more socially apt. Since Wataten! had been a story of showing how Miyako’s experiences become the agent for her growth, one wonders what would await viewers in Precious Friends. Without much more known about what the film will cover, one can reasonably surmise it’ll be a heartwarming and humourous story; I’m certainly excited to see what’s on the horizon. Given the film is estimated to hit Japanese cinema in the fall of this year, I estimate that overseas viewers, like myself, will have the chance to watch Precious Friends once the spring or summer of next year arrives.