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Survival Camp!, or Surviorman’s Pacific Island meets Yuru Camp△: An OVA Review and Reflection

“No one wants to find themselves in a survival situation; you just want to go home, but sometimes, the ordeal becomes long-term survival, longer than seven days. Whether in a life raft, on a mountain, in a desert, or on a tropical island, long-term survival is always about maintaining the will to live, and then becoming familiar with the surroundings.” —Les Stroud, South Pacific, Survivorman

En route to Australia for some winter camping, Nadeshiko and her friends find themselves bailing out of their private jet when the pilot reports that the controls have become unresponsive. They land on an uninhabited tropical island, and after getting themselves oriented, set about trying to find food. They are unsuccessful, and morale plummets, although the girls do their best to remain positive. The next morning, Chiaki is able to find a large number of bananas, and Rin succeeds in catching a large fish that the girls cook later that evening. As they explore other options for cooking their food, they girls also enjoy the tropical weather, but when Nadeshiko begins recanting phrases and terms that remind them of home during a game of Shiritori, Chiaki and the others realise that they need to be rescued. Sprinting to an outcrop, the girls desperately shout out for rescue while Ena sleeps on. Running for half the length of a conventional episode, Survival Camp is a fun addition to Yuru Camp△ that sees Nadeshiko and the others stranded on a beautiful island, reminiscent of Survivorman‘s second season, where Les Stroud survives on a week on an island. I’ve long drawn comparisons between Survivorman and Yuru Camp△, a complement to Yuru Camp△‘s attention to detail and providing practical information on top of a highly relaxing adventure for audiences. While this comparison is not unique to me, the other, perhaps unintended, consequence of comparing Yuru Camp△ to Survivorman is that this blog is prominently featured any search whenever keywords pertaining to Yuru Camp△ and Survivorman are used in conjunction with one another. As a result, upon viewing the contents of the latest Yuru Camp△ OVA, I cannot help but wonder if C-Station’s staff have seen discussions on the ‘net, especially from here, about Yuru Camp△ and decided to take a look at Survivorman, then realised a tropical setting, akin to Les Stroud’s time on a Pacific island, would provide a suitable opportunity to portray a novel story within the latest of the OVAs.

Yuru Camp△‘s original run was an impressive showing, but the Survival Camp OVA takes survival to the next level, drawing numerous parallels with real-world presentations of survival; despite featuring high school girls in place of an experienced outdoorsman, Yuru Camp△ never strays far from reality, and as a result, the Survival Camp OVA is all the more enjoyable for it. After a bailing out of a plane and landing on a tropical island, the girls immediately take stock of their surroundings, and build a shelter. In every episode of Survivorman, Les Stroud runs through the tools and materials he has available to him, before constructing a shelter. Because the island Stroud landed in had a sizeable rat population, he builds a shelter from a derelict boat to keep him off the ground and also, away from the blistering tropical sun. He subsequently creates a rain trap for water, and explores the island in search for food. In Yuru Camp△, after they handle shelter and gain a better idea of their situation, the girls are faced with the struggle of finding food and the attendant decrease in morale: Stroud notes constantly that in a survival situation that a lack of food is one of the biggest struggles he faces, as the reduced energy can impede judgement. Nadeshiko and Chiaki are particularly hard-hit by the initial lack of food, but immediately after Chiaki’s discovery of bananas on the island, and Rin’s success in fishing, the mood turns around immediately. In the South Pacific episode, Les Stroud is in a rare situation where food is not a major concern: he finds coconuts and birds on the island, as well as clams and palm shoots. Once the matter of food and shelter are dealt with, both Stroud and the girls of Yuru Camp△ have the energy to further their situation. This is where Yuru Camp△ deviates somewhat from the Survivorman approach: Nadeshiko and the others take it easy, nearly forgetting that they still need to be rescued, while Stroud will either set about creating a signal for escape or craft transportation to facilitate an exit out of the area. In spite of this, the methods that are seen in Yuru Camp△ is largely consistent with the basics that Stroud recommends in Survivorman. It is important to note that while assessment, shelter-building and finding food is common sense in a survival situation, the aspects that Yuru Camp△ excels in depicting are the subtleties: from notions of morale, to the incredible rush of finding food, Yuru Camp△ captures highly realistic responses amongst the characters, which really gives the sense that Yuru Camp△ could be seen as another take on Survivorman.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I open with an apology: my last post on Harukana Receive was a bit of a tirade about people acting like they know more than they actually do. So, to make up for that, this post will deal with none of that. Featuring thirty screenshots, I will delve into the latest Yuru Camp△ OVA and bring some fun to the table. Ena outwardly does not seem to be wealthy, and the only indicator otherwise was that her father bought her a four hundred dollar sleeping bag so she could camp with her friends in Yuru Camp△ proper, but this OVA seems to suggest otherwise: the girls are on a private jet here en route to Australia. However, when the plane suffers from an unknown problem, Chiaki immediately bails out, prompting the others to follow.

  • The pilot is a rather comical fellow, speaking English, but the girls’ reactions to the plane’s malfunctions are even more over-the-top. Evidently, none of Chiaki, Rin, Nadeshiko, Aoi or Ena have read Patrick Smith’s Cockpit Confidential, an excellent book that explains all of the withertos and why-fors of air travel (specifically, that some “big deals” for passengers are routine for pilots). With his wit and approachable manner, Smith’s book provides insight into why air travel is the way it is and is a reassuring companion for anyone who dislikes air travel.

  • Shortly after their landing, Aoi discovers that she has no cellular signal, and Chiaki concludes that they are on a remote, uninhabited island. This is the proper depiction of a desert island: comical portrays show such islands as being only a few metres across, with a single palm tree and just enough room for two people. This particular visual gag originated in the 1930s and became quite popular in the late 1950s, a consequence of trying to fit an entire island into a comic panel. The image has since endured. However, such islands physically cannot exist: islands in the Pacific are part of atolls and belong to chains of islands.

  • While the others managed to make it to the ground, Rin finds herself stuck in a tree. When Nadeshiko and the others find her, they are immensely relieved. The process of getting Rin down is never shown, although from the height seen in this image, it should be clear that extricating Rin is probably not an easy feat. Nadeshiko’s crying is absolutely adorable, and one of Yuru Camp△‘s most distinct features is being able to capture the almost child-like innocence of youth while simultaneously providing a solid series on camping.

  • The first order of business is setting up shelter to provide cover from the elements. In Survivorman, Les Stroud mentions that tropical islands may have a large rodent or insect population, standing in contrast of the paradise image that such islands typically conjure, and so, having ground coverings or something to elevate one above the ground becomes important in a shelter. For Yuru Camp△, we can suppose that such hazards are not present, allowing the girls to put a simple lean-to shelter together to cover them from the tropical sun.

  • Both Nadeshiko and Chiako become a little loopy from the lack of food. On some of his more difficult survival challenges, Stroud has minimal food, and the impact on his psyche is immense, equaling the physical fatigue. The act of finding food is an energy expenditure, and is very frustrating to come up empty-handed. In some episodes, a lack of food also impacts Stroud’s ability to clearly communicate to audiences what he’s doing: during one survival challenge in the Colorado Rockies, Stroud begins swearing after messing up his sentences, before saying that his goal now is simply to get some food energy before continuing.

  • In almost all episodes of Survivorman, Stroud emphasises the importance of having a good fishing tackle in one’s kit. Having the right equipment allows one to catch fish for survival, and in many of his experiences, from his time in the Colorado Rockies, to the South Pacific and Baffin Island, having fishing lines has proven critical to helping Stroud survive. In Baffin Island, for instance, a narwhal corralled Arctic Char closer to the shore, allowing Stroud to catch four fish back-to-back.

  • While Rin focuses on fishing and is initially unsuccessful, Chiaki and Nadeshiko make to gather wild edibles. Ena and Aoi gather firewood. Unlike Stroud, who does many of his Survivorman episodes alone or with one other companion, Rin and the others are together, which makes possible the division of labour. Yuru Camp△ also removes the necessity of having to haul sixty pounds of camera gear around, allowing the girls to focus entirely on survival.

  • When Chiaki and Nadeshiko recover some of their provisions, it turns out that there was a single cup of instant noodles (and perhaps, a bottle of water, since they are able to cook the instant noodles) that the girls provision. By the time the cup reaches Chiaki, it’s nearly empty. She attempts to open a coconut and only gets a limited amount of juice out of it. One of the aspects that Survival Camp did not depict is the acquisition of fresh water; surrounded by ocean, desert islands do not always have a readily-available supply of fresh water for use. However, some islands have a freshwater lens that can be reached by digging a well, and other islands may be large enough to have flowing water, so it stands to reason that there’s freshwater somewhere on the island that the girls are on.

  • As food stores are depleted, the girls wonder about their odds of survival and become gloomy in disposition. Stroud notes that one of the biggest make-or-break factor in survival is the will to live, and as morale fades, so does the desire to continue living. Contributing to this is boredom, which is why in some episodes of Survivorman, where Stroud has a few free moments, he spends it making makeshift items, such as oil lamps or fishing floats that can help him out. Besides occupying his time and giving him focus, crafting things also gives him additional tools for survival.

  • Because Nadeshiko and the others are in a group, however, this confers on the girls an advantage: they can support one another and boost one another’s morale. Watching Ena sleeping peacefully also gives everyone a sense of normalcy: that Ena can rest easily reassures the girls, as well. Aoi mentions that their situation is no different than camping, albeit with less gear and in a place they are not familiar with, giving everyone a second wind and taking their minds off hunger for a moment.

  • The next morning, Rin awakens bright and early to fish. Meanwhile, Chiaki’s found a massive store of bananas somewhere on the island. A member of the musa genus, Bananas are native to tropical Indomalaya and Australia, and are thought to have first been domesticated in Papua New Guinea. Rich in starch, bananas become sweeter as they ripen, and are good sources of potassium. It is my go-to fruit when I’m in a hurry.

  • One of my biggest questions is how Chiaki is able to go bananas finding seedless bananas: in commercially-available bananas, the seeds are tiny, but in natural bananas, there are large, tough seeds that would prevent the bananas from being eaten as we normally would. This inconsistency is a minor detail I am willing to overlook, since this is a Yuru Camp△ post and not a post on the history of banana cultivation in human civilisation: the fact is that Chiaki has found bananas and this gives the girls renewed energy.

  • Rin, meanwhile, succeeds in catching a very large fish, enough to adequately make a delicious dinner. Different fishes have different flavours and textures, and similarly, different fishes have different nutritional contents, as well. However, in a survival situation, most fishes are an excellent food source, being rich in protein and fat, and survival guides also note that fishing is less energy intensive than setting up traps or going hunting for small game or birds with makeshift weapons. Les Stroud would say that one should always be mindful of their surroundings and do whatever is necessary: proactive survival is how one gets through difficult situations, and just because one has fish does not mean they can’t continue finding alternative food sources, as well.

  • With Rin’s catch, the finding of suitable coconuts and a steady supply of bananas on the island means that food’s been taken care of. The process of cleaning out the fish is likewise skipped over in Yuru Camp△ because it’s a bit of a bloody operation, and Survivorman has a disclaimer saying that gutting a fish might not be suitable for all audiences. In a survival situation, almost all parts of the fish can be eaten, including the heart and liver. The intestines, on the other hand, should be discarded or recycled as bait.

  • Because Chiaki received the short end of the stick earlier, I’d figured that I’d have a screenshot of her taking a bite of fish and savouring the moment. Nadeshiko suggests using the banana leaves to cook the fish in, and it’s shown that the girls managed to find some coconuts with more edible components than they previously had. At different stages, coconuts may provide oil and meat that both can be consumed. Rich in carbohydrates, fats and proteins, coconut meat is also high in manganese, zinc and iron.

  • The last time I saw people eating fish by night on a beach in a survival situation was in the Costa Rica, where Stroud survives on a coastal beach. Here, he uses a deliberately broken ballpoint pen and fashions a makeshift spear that he uses to catch a fish. Cooking it and enjoying it under moonlight, Stroud remarks that one of the hazards he faces while preparing fresh meat and fish for consumption is that the smell of blood can attract predators to his location. Yuru Camp△ again abstracts out this element, allowing the girls to enjoy their dinner in peace without imminent threat from sharks.

  • After their fish dinner, the girls decide to cook some bananas over the fire, and end up with a melt-in-your-mouth dessert that is delicious beyond words. Chiaki is elated that her bananas are delicious and fashions herself a Pacific-style dress, dancing about joyfully. While grass skirts are long associated with Hawaiian culture, they originate from the Gilbert Islands and Samoa, being brought to Hawaii by immigrants. The banana crown and staff are a bit excessive, and are likely present in Yuru Camp△ to indicate the girls’ carefree approach to all things.

  • Nadeshiko is seen here holding a frisbee made from banana leaves, attesting to their versatility. Besides their applications in cooking (banana leaves leave food with a slightly sweet flavour), their resilient, flexible, waterproof structure means they can be fashioned into a variety of things, including roofing materials and plates. Natural materials are often well-suited for human constructs; being able to use the environment so well (and communicating what works to future generations) is what allowed people to inhabit every part of the world.

  • Early trailers for the Yuru Camp△ OVA portrayed Chiaki, Aoi, Rin, Nadeshiko and Ena running around in swimwear on a tropical island, leading folks to wonder if fanservice was going to be a major component of the OVA. However, with the OVA in the books, it’s quite clear that Yuru Camp△ has no intent of going down that route. Consider that the well-endowed Aoi is wearing a shirt, and so, despite the opportunity for animators to draw in viewers, their choice not to signifies that Yuru Camp△ is very much about camping, not unnecessary fanservice.

  • In Yuru Camp△, the fanservice is largely confined to the variety that viewers find enjoyable; besides a high attention to detail, Yuru Camp△ also presents various environments beautifully. Here, Nadeshiko swims underwater adjacent to corals, with reef fishes visible in both the foreground and background. Although I cannot readily identify the fish in the foreground, it is clear that these are coral reef fishes; these fish are characterised by a flat body, which is evolved for maneuverability and sharp turns among corals.

  • The imagery seen in Survival Camp’s latter half is what most people think of whenever tropical islands are mentioned, being warm paradises fitting to live on. However, as Les Stroud constantly mentions, beautiful settings often hide danger underneath. Tropical islands may be surrounded by shark-infested waters, or else lack a good water source. Intense sunlight can quickly lead to a heat stroke, and food may be scarce.

  • Of course, strict adherence to realism makes for a much less interesting work of fiction. This fiction presents sound in space, fireball explosions and uncommonly distinct gunfire noises. Similarly, had Yuru Camp△ elected to go with a completely realistic approach, the series would not have the same appeal that it did: Yuru Camp△ is realistic to a reasonable extent, but is completely authentic. In fiction, authenticity refers to how faithfully things create (or recreate) an environment, design or feel for something, while realism is how faithfully behaviours, conditions and situations are. Works can be authentic without being realistic, and for the most part, an authentic and unrealistic work would typically be very enjoyable.

  • Yuru Camp△ is a series that is very authentic and largely realistic, which contributes to its entertainment value. The OVA is a lot less realistic, but being an OVA offers writers some creative freedoms that end up giving viewers twelve minutes of fun. Here, Chiaki displays a hitherto unknown skill in surfing, riding a wave on a piece of driftwood as a makeshift board.

  • Enough time has passed for the girls to craft comfortable beach chairs for themselves. Here, they begin playing Shiritori, a word game where players form the next word using the previous word’s kana. It’s frequently seen in anime and requires at least two players. Players can only use nouns, and using ん or repeating a word results in an instant loss. More sophisticated versions of the game involve using specific subsets of words or kana patterns, and the most similar equivalent in English is called “word chain”. Variations of this game also exist, and it’s typically used as a teaching tool.

  • Amidst the warm tropical weather, Ena’s fallen asleep again. What was a survival situation has turned into a very laid-back camping trip for the girls, and it is perhaps this reason that high school girls are more able to create a highly relaxing atmosphere in an anime version of SurvivormanSurvivorman episodes can be a bit stressful to watch, especially when Les Stroud finds himself in difficult situations brought on by weather conditions, wildlife or bad luck.

  • As tempting as a tropical paradise would be for a vacation spot, and as much as I enjoyed Cancún’s unparalleled weather and waters, I find that my ideal vacation spot would be the West Coast Rainforests and Inside Passage of British Columbia, coastal Alaska, or the Fjords of Norway. There’s a charm about coastal mountains, and having visited Alaska some fifteen years previously, I would love for an opportunity to go back.

  • When the girls realise that they’ve been stuck on the desert island for some time, they immediately make to get help, leading to the scene seen in the episode’s beginning where Nadeshiko, Aoi, Rin and Chiaki are running through the forest, seemingly in a panic, for some unknown destination. The ending of the OVA makes it clear that the girls are trying to be rescued, and so, after sprinting to the island’s outcrop, where Rin had been fishing earlier, they shout out in an adorable manner for help.

  • The incidental music is intended to remind audiences, who remain unconvinced otherwise, that they are supposed to find this moment funny and pitiful, as well. The English seen in Survival Camp is passable, and while I know that folks may criticise Engrish (a phenomenon where a lack of familiarity causes a speaker or writer to butcher English, often in hilarious ways), the fact is that people should be commended for trying to use a language they aren’t familiar with. For instance, I have great respect when people try to speak Cantonese when they are learning it.

  • The episode closes by zooming out and revealing that Nadeshiko and the others are located quite close to Mount Fuji, suggesting the island is located in the Sagami-nada Sea. Given the proximity of the coast, and the shape of the island, I would guess that the desert island of Yuru Camp△ is modelled after Hatsushima, which is located six kilometers off the coast of Japan and in real life, is home to around 215 people, a resort and no volcanic mountain. From the air, at around the same angle the island of Yuru Camp△ is shown in, Mount Fuji is indeed visible. This brings my talk on Yuru Camp△’s third OVA to a close, and not a moment too soon: it would turn out there’s another closed alpha for Battlefield V starting later today.

Survival Camp’s runtime, at twelve minutes, might be shorter than that of a standard episode, but nonetheless manages to fully occupy its runtime with the high-energy, adorable antics and adventures that Rin, Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena find themselves in while on a tropical island. The premise of ditching a plane and landing on an tropical island within visual sight of Mount Fuji is a little whacky, and the OVA’s place in Yuru Camp△ proper is difficult to pinpoint, but none of these elements seem so relevant when audiences see the girls doing their best to survive in their own way, all the while making the most of the moment to have a good time. Yuru Camp△ has long been counted as one of the strongest anime of the Winter 2018 season, and while we’ve had two modestly enjoyable OVAs following a solid finish to the first season, the Survival Camp OVA demonstrates that Yuru Camp△ is a series whose characters and set up are versatile enough such that they can be applied to a variety of situations and settings. That Nadeshiko and the others’ time on the tropical island progresses with equal measure hilarity and adherence to what is realistic shows that the sky is the limit for what OVAs in Yuru Camp△ can be about. Of course, I do not anticipate that C-Station would have the rights to remake Survivorman and switch out Les Stroud for the likes of Nadeshiko, Rin, Chiako, Aoi and Ena, but the fact remains is that clever writing and resourceful use of camping as a premise has allowed for Yuru Camp△ to remain highly engaging. I greatly enjoyed the OVA, and strongly recommend it for everyone who has seen Yuru Camp△ and found it agreeable: given the strong sales of this series, and the fact that the manga is ongoing, a continuation seems very likely, but until then, OVAs such as Survival Camp will be a fine way of extending the fun from watching this series.

Rise of the Red Comet: Mobile Suit Gundam- The Origin Finale Reflection

“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt

Dozle’s fleet retreats after sustaining damage, but the mobile suit groups push into the Revil fleet, inflicting heavy damage on Federation forces. The Black Tri-Stars destroy the Ananke and capture Revil himself, while Char single-handedly destroys several Federation cruisers on his own. The Battle of Loum thus becomes a victory for Zeon, and Zeon prepares to mop up remaining resistance elements in space. While Degwin feels that their objectives have been fulfilled, Giren and Kycilia conspire to continue the conflict, desiring to totally annihilate the Earth Federation. Meanwhile, Dozle gives Char his own battlecruiser, asking him to investigate the Federation’s Project V. Char accepts the assignment and sets about bringing his subordinates up to speed. While on a training exercise, Char runs into a Federation cruiser and boards it, learning that Revil had been freed. He chooses to let Revil go. Amuro later attempts to gain access to his colony’s military section and get an answer to what Gundam is. He meets William Kemp, who discloses nothing and warns him to never speak of the Gundam to anyone. Returning home, Amuro finds that his father’s research has been removed from their home. When the Antarctic conference begins, Revil makes a live speech on the state of Zeon, encouraging his men to continue fighting and enraging Degwin, who asks Garma to crush the Federation forces. Sayla Mass prepares to transfer to Side 7, away from the conflict, and the Federation sends out the Pegasus-class assault carrier to take delivery of the RX-78 II, an instrumental weapon against the Zeon mobile suits. This is the scope of what happens in The Origin‘s sixth and final instalment: from here on out, the events of Mobile Suit Gundam begin, and The Origin thus comes to a close a shade more than three years after its first episode was released. Over its run, The Origin‘s primary focus has been on Char Aznable and his rise to prominence, as well as portraying the events that led to the formation of the Zeon and instigation of the One Year War.

By the events of Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeon had already been established as a fanatical, war-warmongering group spurred on by the Zabi family: The Origin explains how things reached this state and in doing so, humanises Zeon to some extent, similarly to how Gundam Unicorn had blurred the lines between justice and evil. Zeon had not been born of a desire to eliminate Earth-born humans, but rather, to establish an independent government in space for their people and promote exploration of what would later be referred to as the continued evolution of humanity. After Zeon zum Deikun’s death, Degwin Zabi’s rise to power and his subsequent actions with the Zeon armed forces suggests that his intentions had been to make it clear to the Federation that Zeon should not be treated lightly. Throughout The Origin‘s finale, he is presented as being moderate compared to Gihren and Kycilia; having felt that their goals have been accomplished, he arranges for Revil’s release such that peace negotiations can begin. Degwin’s disgust for Gihren’s blood-lust is apparent in the finale: he openly compares Gihren to Hitler and Napoleon. The complex dynamics within the Zabi family show that even here, there is a divide as to what the proper course of action for Zeon is. However, when Revil publicly proclaims his intentions to continue the war, Degwin is shocked and immediately renounces Revil, ordering Garma to smash the Federation despite his own desire to end the conflict. The complexity of war is a central theme to most Gundam works (save spin-offs like Build Fighters, which deal with sportsmanship and craftsmanship): within the dialogue, characters wonder openly if it is in our nature to fight, as well as whether or not humanity can ever be free of war. There is no easy question, and The Origin shows that once a conflict has started, it can be very difficult to stop things from spiralling out of control: much as how the world was dragged into two World Wars within the past century, once things reached a tipping point in the Universal Century, bloodshed became unavoidable, with the only inevitability of war being that suffering and loss results.

The horrors and futility of war notwithstanding, The Origin‘s other focus is on Char Aznable. While a fearsome pilot, Char’s ultimate traits are his charisma: he has a powerful ability to inspire and also deceive those around him depending on his intentions. Char’s subordinates respect him, while his superiors place their faith in his ability; he is trusted and wears his roles well as a leader and pilot. Seeing Char wield these while outside of a mobile suit show that he’s also a terrifying individual to be around. The combination of these attributes make him the perfect foil for the more selfless Amuro Ray — The Origin can be seen as showing the milestones in Char’s life that set him apart from Amuro. Merciless and utterly focused on achieving his goals, Char only fights for himself and stands in stark contrast to Amuro, who, over the course of Mobile Suit Gundam, comes to fight for those around him and in the process, mature as an individual. Because The Origin offers additional insight into how Char came to be, seeing the endpoints for both Char and Amuro’s journey throughout the Universal Century suggest that one’s worldviews are deeply influenced by their own motivations and raison d’être — those who fight for others, for a selfless reason will continue to fight for the hope of a better future, whereas those who fight for themselves end up losing sight of what their goals are and succumb to despair, as Char does by the events of Char’s Counterattack. Watching the two clash provides a powerful visual metaphor for the conflict between two opposites, and this dichotomy, vividly portrayed within The Origin, is why the Char-Amuro rivalry remains such an enduring one.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Despite a delay of two and a half months from the original release date for this finale, the wait between episodes four and five for The Origin still remains longer by around a half-month. There’s quite a bit that happens in The Origin‘s finale, and as such, I’ve chosen to extend the post by ten images for a total of forty. We pick up where we left off last time, with Char flying into the heart of the Revil fleet with weapons at the ready. I open with the note that the fight depicted in The Origin‘s finale deviates considerably from what was seen in the first episode: Char sorties with a bazooka rather than an anti-ship rifle here, and while originally flying into combat with wingmen Slender and Denim, The Origin revises him to flying into the enemy fleet on his own.

  • Befitting of the finale, the space combat is fierce and vividly animated: the Battle of Loum far surpassed anything of Gundam Unicorn in terms of scale, and here, Tianem smashes through Dozle’s forces. The Federation initially believe themselves at an advantage – the Magellan-class ships are more heavily armed and have a higher broadside capacity compared to the Musai-class (a maximum of fourteen mega-particle shots per broadside against the latter’s six), and with their initial defeat of Dozle’s forces, victory seems straightforwards. Broadside mass is not the singular determinant of superiority in naval combat, especially considering that different factors, such as projectile energy and fire control accuracy, also impact a battleship’s effectiveness, as well.

  • As the engagement continues, Admiral Tianem loses the position of Dozel’s fleet. In order to facilitate the unique space combat of the Universal Century, writers imparted unique properties into Minovsky Particles to justify the necessity of close range combat and the ineffectiveness of long-range sensor arrays in space combat, as well as the presence of mobile suits. In the absence of this limitation, capital ships exchanging fire from a distance would be the norm, and doctrine would center around tactical manoeuvres and fire control, similar to battleship combat during the Second World War.

  • Degwin and Garma watch the Battle of Loum unfold in a cruiser on the front lines. Garma’s inexperience is mirrored here, when he begins panicking as Zeon forces begin folding under the Federation bombardment. Garma’s great weakness is a thirst to prove himself, and this comes into conflict with his inexperience.

  • Dozle’s gambit to smash into the Revil fleet unexpected is successful, catching the Federation forces completely off guard. The page quote for this talk is another line from Franklin D. Roosevelt: sourced from his Address on Hemisphere Defense in Dayton, Ohio on October 12, 1940, this speech was made more than a year before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbour and referred to the European conflicts, as well as the Japanese conquests of Asia at the time. While the Americans were reluctant to enter the Second World War at this time, Roosevelt was planning to build up his Arsenal of Democracy with the aim of assisting Allied forces in Europe and Asia. With the attack of Pearl Harbour, Roosevelt formally declared war on the Axis nations.

  • Dozle’s fleet reappears amidst the Revil fleet, and at extreme close ranges, they deal serious damage to Federation vessels. It is here that I am more impressed with both Musai and Magellan class ships: they do not explode in one salvo and it takes sustained fire to damage them. This brings to mind situations in other Gundam series where some large vessels could be destroyed in a few shots. Gundam 00 was notorious for this: during both seasons, the Virginia-class explode immediately after being hit, and the 00 Gundam was capable of destroying the Federation’s Baikal-class cruisers in one shot. This is probably meant to accentuate how powerful Gundams in general are, similar to how military hardware is useless against extraterrestrial forces in other films.

  • The vast differences in how Federation and Zeon ships are designed is meant to remind viewers that different environments result in radically different capital ship designs. Zeon forces have more skeletal ships, a consequence of their need to maximise the number of ships built given a finite amount of resources, and also to reduce their profile in combat engagements. By comparison, Federation vessels resemble ocean-going vessels given modifications to operate in space. These larger vessels can carry more firepower but ultimately present a larger profile for enemies to shoot at, as well.

  • While Char sorties with only a bazooka, one of the Black Tri-Stars utilises an anti-ship rifle during the Battle of Loum. This high-powered weapon distinctly has an anti-materiel role and resembles the M39 EMR, albeit one sporting a distinct muzzle brake. It’s been seen with a fast firing rate for a weapon of its size and appears to fulfill the equivalent of a designated marksman weapon. The anti-ship rifle that comes with Char’s Zaku II High Grade model is apparently large enough to be comfortably wielded in the hands of a Master Grade and feels more akin to a mobile suit-sized Barrett Light Fifty.

  • Details such as using rocket motors to provide additional cutting power are incorporated into The Origin: here, the Black Tri-Stars finish off the Ananke. While the finale’s portrayal of the Battle of Loum differs from what was seen in The Origin‘s first episode, the general order of events are the same, with Char racing onto the battlefield and the other mobile suit forces following suit. With only space fighters and anti-air defenses available to them, Federation capital ships are completely outmatched, becoming little more than sitting ducks for the agile mobile suits.

  • Char destroys a Federation space fighter with a well-placed kick, and earlier, fighters launch very similarly as one might see fighters taking off from the deck of an aircraft carrier. The Origin is similar to Gundam Unicorn in the presentation of details – from things like operation of various switches to change a mobile suit’s configuration to the loading of ordinance into chambers for firing, The Origin is very similar to a Tom Clancy novel, depicting even minor elements to show that everything has an engineered, mechanical nature to remind audiences that even among the horrors that arise from war, the incredible engineering that goes into the design of war machines mirrors humanity’s great capacity for inventiveness.

  • Ultimately, however, Gundam intends to show its viewers that impressive engineering notwithstanding, war is fought by people, and that the impacts of warfare on people are very real. Tom Clancy holds a similar belief: his portrayal of competent HUMINT and individual soldiers are meant to show that at the end of the day, people ultimately make the difference, as well. Back in The Origin, Char earns his moniker, “Red Comet”, during the Battle of Loum, after streaking about the battlefield at three times normal speed, drawing the Black Tri-Star’s attention: they begrudgingly dub him the Red Comet after seeing his exceptional speed.

  • The last time I anticipated writing about The Origin‘s finale, I had just come back from a fantastic steak dinner at a local restaurant, and it was a beautiful spring evening. I was unaware that the finale was unavailable for simulcast, and so, it is nearly two and a half months later that I’ve finally had a chance to watch it. By a curious turn of fate, this coincided with another delicious steak dinner earlier today. Under warm summer skies, I enjoyed a cheesecake in the afternoon, as this time of year is a time of celebration and of excellent food. As afternoon turned to evening, I went to The Keg during their Lobster Summer event, during which they import fresh Atlantic lobsters from the East Coast. I ordered their eight ounce sirloin with half-lobster – their steaks are as good as always, and the freshness in the lobster was apparent. On its own, the lobster meat was tender and lightly sweet, but with clarified butter and a dash of lemon juice, the flavour can only be described as heaven on earth.

  • With naught more than a bazooka and his wits about him, Char eliminates several vessels on his own, firing rounds into specific areas and making use of his heat-hawk to slice open vulnerable areas. While the Black Tri-Stars are savage in their attack, Char is much more pragmatic and conservative with his ammunition, only dealing enough damage to cripple ships and in one instance, carefully targeting a cruiser’s magazines that triggers secondary explosions which subsequently tear a Magellan-class cruiser apart.

  • Kycilia and Gihren discuss the need to continue their war after witnessing the Zeon victory at Loum. Dozle, on the other hand, orders a moment of silence for the fallen in combat in the aftermath of the Battle of Loum. Kycilia is counted as one of the more enigmatic of the Zabis – tasked with handling intelligence, Kycilia resents that Gihren holds more responsibility and power. While demonstrating loyalty to Zeon and the cause, Kycilia also secretly plots a military coup to seize power, and to this end, created her own secret police. Her death comes at Char’s hands years later, when he kills her with a man-portable shoulder-fired rocket launcher in a scene that is counted as one of the greatest headshots of all time in fiction.

  • The likes of Adolf Hitler are rarely mentioned in anime: besides The Origin, the only other time I’ve seen Hitler was in Makoto Shinkai’s 2011 film, Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, where the Führer is seen in a tapestry depicting the world’s incursions into Agartha. Gihren’s thirst for blood and conquest here brings to mind the sort of thing that Odin worried seeing in his son, Thor, in Thor – Odin had previously contended with Hela’s lust for destruction and imprisoned her. Fearing that Thor would turn out no better, Odin banished Thor to Earth until such a time when he was ready to return. However, with the turmoil in Zeon, Degwin’s unable to reign in Gihren’s bloodlust, and eventually is reduced to little more than a figurehead.

  • Garma confesses that he feels under-accomplished, asking Dozle to help him transfer to the front lines rather than remain behind as an officier, where he may earn his own stripes and prove himself worthy of his position. Of the Zabi family, Dozle is perhaps the most reasonable – even while dedicated towards Zeon, Dozle cares for those under his command and does not share Gihren’s genocidal tendencies towards the Federation. His daughter, Mineva, would play an important role during the Laplace Conflict of Gundam Unicorn, helping Banagher Links uncover the secret behind Laplace’s Box.

  • At a gala celebrating the Zeon victory at Loum, Gihren gives a speech about his intentions to utterly destroy the Federation. Of the various Gundam universes, I’ve heard that Gundam SEED‘s story was built off the Universal Century, and so, the villains in SEED seem to inherit the worst of Gihren’s traits. By comparison, Gundam 00 is said to have drawn inspiration from Gundam Wing, although by the time Innovation and the ELS come into play, the divergence becomes large enough such that the similarities are superficial. Gundam 00 was the first Gundam series to feature extraterrestrials, and so when I began watching Gundam Unicorn, I thought Unicorn to be much better grounded (at the time, we were only up to episode three).

  • The verbal exchange that Char and Garma have draws stares from onlookers, and here, the contrast between Garma and Char could not be more apparent. Calculating and calm, Char steers Garma into playing right into his hands, infuriating Garma and encouraging him to stick to his path simultaneously. Char’s grudges against his enemies are carefully concealed behind a veneer of charisma, to the point where Char can betray his foes without giving them any indication that they have been had.

  • Degwin and Revil share a conversation after the latter’s capture, where Degwin admits that he has no appetite for warfare. Such conversations are very instructive, and as important to the development of story in Gundam as the combat sequences themselves, as they give insight into how individuals within the Universal Century see things when faced with a fellow human being, rather than when seated behind the cockpit of a mobile suit. The Origin places a bit more weighting on conversations and details than it does the combat sequences, to reiterate that war is more about the humans fighting them, rather than the hardware itself.

  • Kycilia speaks with M’quve, a Zeon commander whom she tasks with heading the negotiations. M’quve has a particular liking for cultural artifacts and is earlier seen stating to a museum curator that his relics are fakes. The scene was reminiscent of a similar moment in Black Panther, when Erik Stevens (birth name N’Jadaka) is browsing at a British museum and informs one of the curators that their Wakandan artefact is made of vibranium, prior to stealing it. Back in The Origin, despite his aristocratic nature and preference for trickery over direct confrontation, M’quve is a devoted Zeon who will step onto the battlefield when necessary.

  • Dozle summons Char for a private discussion on Zeon’s knowledge of Project V, or Project Vinson. This Federation project became known informally as Project Victory, intended to produce the first Federation mobile suit. Much as how the Soviets held the advantage early in the Space Race, Zeon’s advancements with mobile suit technology gave them a significant edge over the Federation. However, with time and the efforts of capable scientists (Wernher von Braun for the United States, and Tem Ray for the Federation), the technology gap would eventually be closed and then surpassed: the RX-78 II was far more sophisticated than any Zeon machine, mirroring how the Saturn V rocket would be the only rocket that brought man to the moon.

  • Dozle assigns Char his own Musai-class ship and staff. While the staff are initially reluctant to wear their roles, feeling that Char is a superior commander, Char makes it clear that he still sees himself as a pilot, first and foremost. His captain’s struggles to lead effectively are the object of humour, but in spite of his initial ineffectiveness, Char (somewhat sardonically) guides him towards leading his men more effectively.

  • During the covert operation to break Revil out of Zeon captivity, Federation soldiers can be seen firing bullpup rifles resembling the modern-day FAMAS, a French service rifle with a distinctly-placed charging handle (visible in this screenshot). Throughout The Origin, real-world weapons can be seen alongside fictional weapons. In earlier episodes, Federation forces are seen using the Colt M72A1, a fictional 4.8mm bullpup rifle. However, the carrying handle and sight assembly seen in earlier episodes differs than the ones seen here, as does the placement of the charging handle.

  • Revil’s escape is revealed to have been an inside job: Federation forces manage to “infiltrate” a Zeon prison and spring him with limited resistance, but this was deliberate so that Zeon had a justification to invade Earth. While a bit of a messily-explained aspect, it is worth noting that the whole of the Universal Century can be inconsistent in places owing to the number different stories, rather similar to how there are contradictions in the Star Wars Expanded Universe as a consequence of the sheer amount of material. Large franchises invariably will pick up inconsistencies as a result of authors not being fully aware of existing materials or else deliberately introducing discontinuity to better suit their narratives: this is the nature of the beast.

  • Char’s crew panics when they find themselves face-to-face with a lone Federation vessel. Ever composed, Char offers the acting captain suggestions. In the English dub, Char is voiced by Keith Silverstein, who had previously performed Full Frontal’s voice in Gundam Unicorn and absolutely nailed the role, presenting Full Frontal as charismatic and focused as Char is. In the original Japanese dub, Shūichi Ikeda repraises his role as Char, having voiced Char in his previous appearances.

  • The Federation officers, after the initial shock wears off, attempt to eliminate Char. This backfires when Char uses his own weapon, a ceremonial-looking rifle resembling a saber, to fire a disabling shot that knocks the sidearm from one of the Federation officer’s hand. Before Char can press forward with his questioning, Revil himself appears on the bridge. In response, Char promptly apologises, wishes Revil safe passage and heads off. When he returns to his allies, he explains to his men that he feels as though he stepped into some sort of political game and has no inclination to interfere.

  • One touch in The Origin I particularly liked was how there are short moments depicting all of the classic Mobile Suit Gundam characters in their lives prior to and a short ways into the One Year War before they become involved with White Base. Mirai Noa (née Yashima) is a pilot for a civilian transportation service by the events of the One Year War, and following the attack on Side 7, she joins the White Base crew. Here, she meets Bright Noa and helms the vessel. From a quiet young woman of a wealthy family, Mirai’s presented as being more confident now, although she’s still susceptible to moments of embarrassment.

  • Amuro’s curiosity about the Gundam project leads him to try and enter the military installation on the far end of Side 7. The guards manning the front post turn him away, but when Amuro mentions the Gundam, they take him in and bring in William Kemp, who warns Amuro to never discuss the Gundam with anyone. In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Amuro was presented as a skillful mechanic and had an innate understanding of machinery, which, coupled with the RX-78 II’s overwhelming combat performance, allows him to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Char in combat. The Origin reveals that he studied his father’s work extensively, which would explain his ability to operate the RX-78 II later on.

  • In order to prevent a future leak, military intelligence units pay a visit to the Ray residence and clear out everything related to the Gundam. The Origin ultimately makes several changes to the progression of events in Gundam, but overall, I never found them to be terribly disruptive towards the existing flow of events that I am familiar with. Compared to most folk, I am a freshman when it comes to the Universal Century, having first taken an interest in it through Gundam Unicorn and Char’s Counterattack – my story with Gundam began with 00 back eleven years ago, and I ended up skipping over AGEReconguista in G and Iron-Blooded Orphans, which I personally felt to have deviated from the stories that made the Anno Domini and Universal Century so engaging. In particular, my friends advise against watching Iron-Blooded Orphans because of the series’ excessive focus on drama over meaningful themes.

  • The Antarctic Treaty is so-named because it was signed in Antarctica. A climate-controlled geodesic dome houses a large metropolis, a far cry from the present-day Antarctica that was seen in the likes of A Place Further Than The Universe. The treaty of the Universal Century has nothing to do with the real-world Antarctica Treaty, which was signed in 1959 and bound signatory nations to the terms that the southernmost continent was only to be used for scientific research, and that no country may claim sovereignty over the continent.

  • With instability brewing, Sayla mass is offered a chance to transfer over to Side 7, away from the conflict. This sets in motion the events that lead her to cross paths with Amuro Ray. At this point in time, Side 7 is far removed from the Zeon-Federation war, but once the events of Mobile Suit Gundam begin, Zeon attacks Side 7, and Sayla boards White Base. She eventually becomes the second pilot for the RX-78 II and develops feelings for Amuro.

  • The negotiations begin at Antarctica: they were originally intended to be a discussion of the surrender terms, but when Revil appears and delivers a speech ordering the Federation to continue fighting. While not as memorable as John F. Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the Moon” speech or George S. Patton’s address to the Third Army, Revil’s “Zeon is Exhausted” speech is very well-known in the Gundam community. Realising the condition of Zeon, the Federation regroups, and rejects the surrender terms. The end result is a ban on WMD and colony drops: the Zeons are left with an advantage, as they possess mobile suits.

  • The abruptness and unexpectedness of Revil’s declarations anger Degwin, who had been anticipating a transition to peace once the surrender proceedings had concluded. He orders Garma to crush the Federation, continuing the war. Zeon forces subsequently launch an invasion of Earth itself. The Origin ends with the message that the story continues in Mobile Suit Gundam, and while there have been a handful of depictions concerning the events of the One Year War in other series and games, I would love to see a modernised adaptation of Amuro and his time as the RX-78 II’s pilot.

  • As Revil’s speech is broadcast, it is listened to by many, including Kai Shinden. Here, Fraw Kobayashi (née Bow) frolics in a pond with other children and invites Amuro to join her, but Amuro declines, his mind weighted down by thoughts of the Gundam project. A longtime friend of Amuro’s, Fraw looks after him in The Origin, but he seems unaware of her feelings for him. As the One Year War progresses, Fraw and Amuro grow apart: Fraw eventually marries Hayato Kobayashi. Her fate in the original Mobile Suit Gundam and retelling differ.

  • On board a flight to Side 7, Sayla listens to Revil’s speech. When accosted by some unsavoury men, she manages to cool their advances with little more than a cold glance. Sayla has since reached her aspiration to become a doctor, and despite the dramatic difference between her and Char’s careers, the two siblings share the ability to intimidate with a look. During the One Year War, Sayla searches for her brother and later meets him again, where he explains his desire to avenge their father. The two will cross paths again as the war continues, where Sayla reminds Char of his goals to destroy the Zabi family.

  • While The Origin does not show the Gundam, White Base is shown en route to take delivery of the Gundam following the credits. White Base, officially SCV-70 (although it is known by a few other designators), was commissioned to act as a mobile suit assault-carrier and was capable of independently exiting and entering the Earth’s atmosphere without additional equipment. Besides carrying a maximum of six mobile suits (including the Gundam), White Base also had comparable firepower to a Musai-class. The deployment of White Base is reminiscent of the gradual change in naval warfare doctrine during World War Two: whereas battleships and long-range guns dominated previously, aircraft carriers soon displaced them. This is mirrored in Mobile Suit Gundam, where engagements between mobile suits become the staple of space combat.

  • Seeing the interior of White Base’s bridge in a modern form was superb: the remastered designs are entirely faithful to the original layout as seen in Mobile Suit Gundam. On its inaugural mission, White Base is state-of-the-art and will serve as the home base for the RX-78 II, participating in numerous operations throughout the One Year War until its destruction at the Battle of A Baoa Qu, which would also see the defeat of the Zeon forces. However, unresolved hostilities resulted in Operation Stardust, which saw a second colony drop. The Titans were formed to prevent another Zeon incursion, but the group became worse oppressors than those they sought to stop, resulting in the Gryps Conflict. Zeon itself splintered into factions that sparked the First Neo Zeon War and later, the Laplace Conflict.

  • Bright Noa is one of the most famous commanders in all of Gundam, and in The Origin, his career with the Gundam and their pilots is just beginning: he is an ensign at this point. A dedicated leader, disciplined and forward-thinking, Bright exhibits all of the traits of a capable captain, preferring simple and effective tactics over flash. Best known for his Bright Slap, Bright guides many Gundam pilots throughout his career to follow their own hearts: by the events of Gundam Unicorn, Bright is able to convince Banagher Links to confide in him and follow through on a mission to keep the RX-0 away from the Vist Foundation.

  • With Project V finishing and the Gundam operational, Tem is overjoyed and remarks that he’d made life rather difficult for Amuro. While he might’ve been short with Amuro because of pressure from his research and development, Tem genuinely cares for Amuro. The Gundam’s completion marks a moment of hope for the Federation, and the post-credit scenes in The Origin exude this sense through and through – Gundam marks a point where the Federation finally had a weapon to match the Zeon mobile suits, and hope is kindled. The music in the final scenes accentuates this feeling, as does the positive atmosphere on White Base’s bridge and above all, Tem’s optimism.

  • When The Origin‘s first instalment was shown, it was March of 2015. I was nearly done my second term of my graduate studies, and had supposed that The Origin would be the Gundam series I would watch throughout my Master’s programme, much like how Gundam Unicorn was something that I watched during my undergraduate studies. I predicted that the fourth episode, then assumed to be the finale, would finish by September 2016, which was when I had expected to defend. However, I ended up defending my thesis a full three months earlier, and The Origin had two extra instalments to showcase The Battle of Loum in greater detail. I thus ended up finishing The Origin well after my Master’s thesis: the finale meant that the series wrapped up nearly a year-and-a-half later than expected, but the wait was one that was worth it, as I enjoyed The Origin much more than I thought I would. With The Origin behind us now, I remark that Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s second episode also has a known première date now, being set for June 2019. A little extrapolation shows that the sixth episode will likely be available on Blu Ray by September 2025 at the earliest.

The Origin ends up being a solid animated addition to the Universal Century for showing Zeon’s perspective of the war and how the situation became what was seen in Mobile Suit Gundam. In addition, it also solidifies Char’s character, giving more exposition as to what motivates and drives him, as well as what makes him a suited opponent for Amuro Ray. While the artwork and animation in The Origin is not as impressive as what was seen in Gundam Unicorn, it nonetheless remains of a very high standard, capturing the scope and scale of major battles in the Universal Century prior to Mobile Suit Gundam and giving viewers a modernised glimpse into the events that precipitated the formation of Zeon and the One Year War. Through details, from control panels to watching munitions being chambered, The Origin succeeds in presenting the early weapons of the Universal Century was being proper pieces of military hardware rather than cannon fodder. Coupled with its concise narration, the end result of The Origin is a greater understanding of why Zeon undertook the actions that it does, which enriched my appreciation of the story in the Universal Century. Consequently, I would recommend The Origin to folks who are fans of the Universal Century. The Origin is also suited as a gateway into the Universal Century: how the different factions and mobile suits came to be are explained in excellent detail, so those unfamiliar with the first Gundam timeline would be able to see a very succinct presentation of how things come to be. The only real disappointment is that the RX-78 II itself does not appear in a combat role, only appearing in blueprints: anyone looking to see a modernised RX-78 II in The Origin will not find that in The Origin, but beyond this, the solid origin story and modern visuals make The Origin an excellent experience overall.

Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Dear My Sister~ OVA: A Review and Full Recommendation

“YES! That’s how it feels! I’m just a huge fan of the sport.” —Loki, Thor Ragnarok

Cocoa leaves town to visit her family for a week and worries about being separated from the others. She settles in back home readily, and back at Rabbit House, Chino finds it difficult to adjust to life in Cocoa’s absence, making a large number of iced cocoas. When Megu and Maya come to visit, Rize decides to put Chino, Maya and Megu to work cleaning Rabbit House up. Chino recalls how she first met Rize: although she was initially intimidated by Rize’s disciplined, serious demeanour, Chino eventually warmed up to Rize as a reliable employee and friend. Back in the present, the girls finish cleaning up Rabbit House, and Rize gives them schedules to keep busy. After shopping, Chiya and Sharo run into Rize, who is feeling a little down about being too hard on Maya and Megu. The next day, things become lively for Chino once again when Maya, Megu, Chiya and Sharo drop by to visit; when Chino tells the story of how Rize hand-made her stuffed rabbit, the others ask Rize for their own, and embarrassed, Rize expresses that she wants Cocoa back. Chino later asks the others if they’re interested in visiting the local summer festival to watch the fireworks with her, and gets an overwhelmingly positive response. Back home, Cocoa helps Mocha and their mother out with the day-to-day operations of a bakery. With things going smoothly, Mocha and Cocoa set off to make a delivery in town. Mocha reveals that she has a moped license, upstaging Cocoa, and the two head into town together. The two sisters take time to catch up with one another, and it turns out that Cocoa’s having difficulty picking a career out. After teasing Cocoa, Mocha finds Cocoa giving her the cold shoulder, but this does not last long: the breakfast rush has begun. When their mother takes off for a local clinic get her wrist checked out, Mocha and Cocoa manage to keep things in check. That evening, the family look over the photos that Cocoa’s sent. At Rabbit House, Chiya reveals that she’s brought yukata for everyone ahead of the summer festival, and it turns out that Rize ended up making stuffed rabbits for everyone. A week passes in no time at all, and on the day she’s set to head back, she nearly oversleeps. On her way back to the bus station, Cocoa declares her intention to work in a career that lets her bring happiness to others. Cocoa arrives back in town by evening, reading one of Aoyama’s books. Chino and the others change into their yukata and head to the festival, where they partake in the various games and food stalls. Maya wonders how they’ll see the fireworks, and Chiya remarks that she knows a place. Cocoa makes it just as the fireworks begin, surprising everyone, and the girls enjoy the performance together. Cocoa is glad that she was able to make it in time and after she takes a photograph of everyone, Chino welcomes Cocoa back. In the post-credits scene, Chino gives Cocoa her very own hand-made stuffed rabbit that Rize had made.

This is the gist of what happens in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Dear My Sister~ (Dear My Sister for brevity from here on out), an OVA that screened in Japanese cinema a shade more than a half-year ago. A continuation of GochiUsa‘s second season, Dear My Sister adapts three chapters from the fifth volume into an hour-long movie that wastes absolutely no time at all in dropping audiences back into the party with Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Maya, Megu and Mocha. GochiUsa‘s first season eased viewers into the world that Cocoa moved into, being a gentle romp through life, and the second season showed that Cocoa had matured in the company of new friends and experiences. The events of Dear My Sister presents things from the flip-side – Cocoa’s also had a nontrivial impact on her friends, as well. With her happy-go-lucky, optimistic and open-minded personality, the joy and energy that Cocoa brings with her is infectious. Thus, when she leaves for a week to spend time with family, her absence is immediately noticeable. Chino reverts to making iced cocoas, and Chiya buys a large number of cocoa bars. The cast feel that their world has become quieter, having grown accustomed to Cocoa’s presence, and it falls upon Rize to try and liven things up in Cocoa’s steed. Applying her own approach to keeping the others busy, Rize learns that fulfilling the role that Cocoa had is no cake walk – it’s exhausting to constantly be on the lookout for fun things. Dear My Sister aims to and succeeds in conveying the idea that extroverted, high-energy folks who can get along with most anyone can have an immense positive impact on their surroundings and moreover, this particular skill is not something that everyone can cultivate. Cocoa herself seems aware of this and so, when Mocha inquires about her future career choice, Cocoa replies that while she’s unsure of the specifics, she’s interested in jobs that let her make others happy: despite her air-headed appearances, Cocoa can be focused and determined as the situation requires. She’s evidently matured, and is someone that can be depended upon, even if she outwardly looks to be the sort of individual one is compelled to look after.

Besides providing a welcoming story that articulates the thematic aspects of GochiUsa‘s predecessors, Dear My Sister also represents a audio-visual treat for audiences. The first season had been handled by White Fox, and the second season saw a collaboration between Kinema Citrus and White Fox. Dear My Sister is produced by production doA, a newcomer on the block whose only other title is the psychological horror Magical Girl Site (which, readers will have to convince me to watch if they desire me to write about it); despite their lack of a track record, production doA has done a phenomenal job with Dear My Sister. The characters retain their physical characteristics from White Fox and Kinema Citrus’ adaptation, being as expressive and fluidly animated as they were before. Sweeping shots of the landscapes in Dear My Sister give more insight into the world that Cocoa and the others live in: the setting had been the single best aspect about the anime adaptations of both Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? seasons, creating a compelling, immersive world that might be thought of as a separate character. In Dear My Sister, overhead shots of the town that Rabbit House is located in show that it is not too far removed from the coast. When Cocoa travels home, she disembarks from a bus stop on a hillside that offers a view of a sea in the distance. Despite Cocoa describing her home as being located deep in the mountains, it also seems that the Hot Bakery is close to a seaside town, as well. Cocoa and Mocha travel to this town to deliver bread, and, reflecting on the differences in climate, the close-ups of the town show that some parts have Germanic buildings, while districts closer to the coast have Mediterranean-Spanish influence in its architecture, different than the timber-framed buildings previously seen in GochiUsa. This is an incredibly nice touch that illustrates the series’ dedication to creating spaces that serve to accentuate the immersion in GochiUsa.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The first several minutes of Dear My Sister is watching Cocoa cry while the remainder of her friends and the train station’s patrons look on, so if you have no strength to stomach this, then you should leave…right now. Similarly, this is your last chance to duck out if you’re not a fan of the various Marvel Cinematic Universe callbacks I will be making this post. Cocoa receives some herbal cookies from Sharo; this simple gesture is a subtle hint that despite her typically regarding Cocoa as somewhat of a nuisance, Sharo’s come around by the time of Dear My Sister. The trains of GochiUsa are the LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard, a British steam train that holds the distinction of being the world’s fastest with its top speed of 203 km/h.

  • Before we delve any further into this post, I remark that GochiUsa is an anime I enjoyed immensely; there is quite a bit to talk about, and after going through this OVA, I ended up a total of a hundred and twenty-five images. I’ve pared this gargantuan collection of screenshots down to a more “manageable” sixty for this post. Because this OVA runs for sixty minutes, three times the size of a standard episode, I have three times as many screenshots. Unlike Girls und Panzer: Das Finale, I am going to treat Dear My Sister like a movie and correspondingly, each of the screenshots can be expanded and viewed in 1080p glory: I say with full confidence that I have the internet’s first comprehensive review and collection of screenshots for this long-awaited OVA, and I imagine that this review will hold that position for a long, long time.

  • As Cocoa’s train leaves the station, the camera pans upwards, revealing the outskirts of town and in the distance, a large body of water. While the town in GochiUsa might be modelled after Colmar, FranceDear My Sister suggests that the setting of GochiUsa might not be on the same world or timeline as our own (in turn making a crossover with Kiniro Mosaic implausible, if not outright unfeasible). As the beautiful summer’s day unfolds, “Happiness Encore”, a warm and welcoming song that acts as Dear My Sister‘s opening, begins playing. Dear My Sister was advertised to have a very substantial singing component when it was first announced, although it is apparent that this isn’t the case: there are certainly a large number of songs around Dear My Sister, but this OVA only presents the opening song and ending songs.

  • It took me a while to warm up to GochiUsa‘s second season opening, “No Poi”, and by now, I find the song as enjoyable as I did the opening for season one (“Daydream Café”). “Happiness Encore” is very well-written, and I’ve immediately taken a liking to it. The soundtrack in Dear My Sister recycles incidental music from the TV series, but there are also fourteen new pieces of background music on the bonus disk included with the BD, twelve of which are used in Dear My Sister. Two tracks are instrumental variations of the opening and ending songs.

  • On the train, Cocoa runs into Aoyama, who is going to great lengths to evade her editor. Despite her efforts, Aoyama is eventually caught and hauled away, all the while attempting to drown out here editor’s remarks about impending deadlines. This exact same stunt was pulled in GochiUsa‘s second season, but it is no less funny for it: the inclusion of jokes for veterans to enjoy brings to mind the Marvel Cinematic Universe approach to things, and is the reason why I’ve opted to go with a quote from Thor Ragnarok. After the Hulk gives Thor a beatdown of the same variety that he’d given Loki in The Avengers during a ring fight, Loki reacts in jubilance. Viewers who’ve seen The Avengers will recall Loki getting knocked down a few pegs after the Hulk smashes him about, explaining his reluctance to remain when seeing the Hulk again. In my case, I found the line suited for describing the sense of loneliness and the transition from such the girls experience after Cocoa takes off, as well as aptly describing how it feels to finally be able to watch Dear My Sister.

  • Aoyama’s evasion efforts are impressive, but her editor’s ability to hunt down Aoyama are doubly so: she’s about as determined as John Clark in finding her target, following Aoyama onto the train. Her name is Rin Mate (真手 凛), and she is voiced by Juri Kimura. Rin is completely dedicated to her job of making sure that Aoyama meets her deadlines. While strict and unyielding when there’s work to be done, Rin relaxes after deadlines have passed. She’s said to be named after Mandheling Coffee, which has a complex and rich taste.

  • Back at Rabbit House, Chino is quieter than usual, and this is not unnoticed. With its runtime of an hour, Dear My Sister handles very much like a movie despite being classified as an OVA. In spite of this, some folks deemed it prudent to fly to Japan with the singular purpose of watching the movie, and one individual even pre-ordered their tickets to ensure a seat. I never did understand the rationale behind these actions, as the endeavour essentially drives the price of the screening ticket up to the cost of flights, accommodations and other travel expenses, but with that being said, Dear My Sister is sufficiently well-done so that it would have been worthwhile to pre-order tickets.

  • I found myself beyond impressed with the visual fidelity of Dear My Sister: the area surrounding Cocoa’s hometown overlooking what I believe to be the Mediterranean Sea. At these resolutions, the houses below can be seen in great detail – the buildings have a stucco siding and lack the timber-framing that previously dominated the architecture in GochiUsa: they have a distinctly Germanic style to them as seen in the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

  • Dear My Sister excels in all areas from a visual standpoint; as Cocoa travels across a footbridge to reach her home, the crystal-clear water flowing below is so well-rendered that it is comparable to water effects in the Frostbite Engine or CryEngine. Volumetric lighting produces shafts of light through the forest, suggesting a shaded region with light rays passing through openings in the forest canopy. It is typical for anime to improve their visuals, and like Girls und Panzer: Das FinaleGochiUsa‘s solid artwork continued to improve over time. Subtle details like these, while often missed, help immerse viewers, and here, one gets the sense that Cocoa hails from somewhere very warm.

  • The warmth of a summer’s day can be felt even with a screen separating viewers from the events of Dear My Sister. I’ve noticed that there’s only one other review of the movie out there at present, although I happen to disagree with the claim that Dear My Sister is “nothing more but a bunch of only semi-related scenes that felt like one déjà vu after another”. The scenes are all related, transitioning from Cocoa’s return to life back home to Chino’s quiet days at Rabbit House. The OVA aimed to convey that Cocoa’s positive energy comes from her family, and that while she might not be as capable as Mocha, she has her own unique set of skills that brighten the others’ days.

  • Dear My Sister released on November 11 last year, during which I was still making my way through Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. By December, it had earned a total of 320 million Yen (3.8 million CAD) at the box office, with a box office total of 102 million Yen (1.2 million CAD) after its first weekend, considerably higher than Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days‘ 26 million Yen (around three hundred and eight thousand CAD) on its first weekend. The numbers suggest that GochiUsa is more favoured than Kiniro Moasic, and from a personal perspective, the setting is what gives GochiUsa a much more interesting feel compared to Kiniro Mosaic, which feels rather more conventional in its design.

  • When Cocoa gets home, she fancies herself surprising her mother and Mocha, but ends up being on the receiving end of a surprise, where Mocha and her mother dress up in Rabbit House-style uniforms and Tippy-shaped hats in an attempt to recreate the home that she’s grown accustomed to. It’s a tearful reunion, and without the burden of having to maintain an older-sister image, Cocoa immediately settles in and allows her mother and older sister to spoil her. It’s clear that mother and daughters are very much fond of surprising others, although because Cocoa is a rank novice by comparison, she usually finds herself being surprised.

  • The Hot Bakery is so remote that cellular service is nonexistent, and so, Mocha invites Cocoa to an old standby: the land line telephone. Because of our increasing movement towards mobile phones, I personally see very little incentive to buy a land line package, but there are some advantages that remain to the old ways. Land line phones have superior sound quality and because of their setup, allow emergency operators to immediately pinpoint one’s address should the need arise. However, as cellular connectivity services improve, I imagine it will only be a matter of time before the disparities in security and sound quality is closed.

  • Cocoa attempts to call Chino, but finds the line tied up. She’s using a cradle-style telephone here, whose design dates back to the 1890s. While the model in Dear My Sister is merely in the style of an older phone, the original cradle phones worked by means of connecting with an operator, who manipulated switches to connect calls together: phones with the ability to dial specific numbers did not come about until 1905. The combination of old-style designs with modern technology is very apparent in GochiUsa: things like feature phones exist alongside old-style homes and steam engines (most contemporary trains are electrically powered), creating a very unique world.

  • Chino begins absent-mindedly making a large number of iced cocoas, mirroring an incident during GochiUsa where Cocoa was out studying with Chiya and Sharo. Missing Cocoa causes Chino to make milk cocoas, and she relapses again. There are several modes of preparations for iced cocoas: the more common recipes recommend preparing a standard cocoa and then chilling the drink, adding ice cubes to create a cold drink. This ensures that the cocoa powder dissolves evenly. While this is going down, Megu and Maya speak of going on another Ciste Hunt, alluding to the one they did with Cocoa back in the second season.

  • To defeat the idleness and quiet that has gripped Rabbit House, Rize breaks out her inner drill sergeant and orders the girls to clean up Rabbit House. Rize’s militaristic spirits leads Chino to have a flashback about how she’d first met Rize: identical to Cocoa, who encounters Rize in naught but her underwear, Chino first encountered Rize while she was changing and found herself face-to-face with Rize’s model Glock. She recounts how Rize could be a bit intimidating, but was also quite friendly.

  • In most anime, when one walks in on a girl who’s changing, they can reasonably expect some furious blushing, shouts of 出て来 (romaji deteki, “get out!”) and possibly, the throwing of various objects to expedite said process. GochiUsa has Rize breaking the convention: she draws her model Glock 17 at all who see her while she’s changing. It’s a marked departure from other shows, but in its intended role of eliciting some laughs, Rize’s reactions work all the same.

  • The events of Dear My Sister show that despite her tough exterior, Rize is completely unequipped to deal with Megu and Maya. While this behaviour is not unexpected from Maya, who is the more energetic and mischievous of Chino’s friends, it was a bit surprising to see Megu participate, as well. This suggests that Megu’s become a little less shy, as well. It brings to mind the more rambunctious students that I’ve taught as an assistant teacher and while volunteering to teach children at my dōjō.

  • After spending a better part of two hours cleaning up Rabbit House, the café shows a newfound glitz and sparkle. Keeping busy has helped the girls take their mind off Cocoa’s absence. With their task finished, Rize has one more surprise for everyone; Maya and Megu are shocked that Rize’s gone to the lengths of creating schedules for them to follow. When Chino mentions that Rize has more stuffed rabbits similar to the one she gave Chino, Megu and Maya, also wanting one, ask Rize where it’s from.

  • As evening sets in, Rize wonders if she should’ve pushed Chino and the others so hard. While the most disciplined of the girls, Cocoa’s nonetheless had an impact on her: Rize is much more open about herself in Cocoa’s influence. With Cocoa gone, Rize returns to her old, tough-as-nails personality. I feel that Cocoa’s carefree nature and willingness to accept everyone encouraged Rize to be more true to herself in front of others; Rize’s love for the military and survival is very real, but she also uses it to hide the other side of her personality.

  • Different areas of town are shown in Dear My Sister. I bought the artbooks for both seasons (Memorial Blend and Miracle Blend) a few years ago; these provide unparalleled insights into how the world of GochiUsa was constructed, and at 2500 Yen apiece (nearly 30 CAD today, with the exchange rates), they’re not too unreasonable a purchase. I’ve amassed a small collection of artbooks to the shows that struck a chord with me, and having an official resource confers access to insights that one cannot get simply by watching a series.

  • While looking at her stuffed rabbit more closely, Chino notices that the stitching does not look machined, and there’s a lack of a manufacturer’s tag. In conjunction with Rize’s reaction when she’d given her the doll, and other subtle hints, Chino deduces that the rabbit was handmade. That Rize is learned in making stuffed animals by hand is yet another surprise that Dear My Sister introduces. This is the joy of slice-of-life anime: given enough time, the multi-dimensionality of the characters become apparent, making them more life-like.

  • Despite their innocence, Maya and Megu can be mischievous in their own manner: they frustrate Rize on occasion (to the maximum extent that such dynamics can occur in GochiUsa), and this is another noticeable difference between Rize and Cocoa. Rize is more strict, playing the bad cop to Cocoa’s good cop: Cocoa rolls with whatever Megu and Maya do. Rize consequently tires out more quickly when dealing with them because of a very similar principle to those seen in martial arts: rather than rigidity, martial arts emphasises fluidity.

  • After Chino reveals that her stuffed rabbit is handmade, Rize is completely shocked, and the revelation leads each of Maya, Megu, Sharo and Chiya to request their own. Embarrassed, and then flattered, we see a side of Rize that’s quite rare. The mixed emotions within her prove exhausting, and Rize soon longs for Cocoa to come back. Everyone expresses their missing Cocoa in different ways: Chiya buys a large number of Cocoa ingredients, Chino makes nothing but iced cocoas, and Rize seems to retreat back into her tough-as-nails shell. The differences that Cocoa introduce illustrates the impact she’s had on the others.

  • As the week progresses, the girls become increasingly lively and energetic; in a lull, Chino asks the others if they’re interested in attending a summer festival with her. She is met with enthusiastic affirmatives, setting in motion the events that Dear My Sister‘s trailers presented. Summer festivals are an international phenomenon, but vary greatly depending on the region. In North America, they take the form of music festivals, country fairs and fireworks performances: the long, warm days are very conducive towards outdoors activities. One of my favourite aspects about The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth™ is actually the variety of insanely delicious but unhealthy midway food, and while said Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth™ also has good fireworks, GlobalFest actually boasts the city’s best fireworks performance.

  • At home, Cocoa returns to her old life of baking bread for the family bakery. While Cocoa is noted for her baking skills (the others have remarked that it’s the one thing Cocoa can consistently and reliably do well), she’s still got a ways to go; Mocha’s bread is regarded as even better than Cocoa’s. The sisters help out the family bakery with great enthusiasm, and in a short period of time, bake enough bread to begin for the day’s customers. The Hot Bakery uses a brick oven, which allows for high temperatures to be reached because bricks can retain heat well. The end result is bread that bakes very quickly, which is perfect for a bakery with a high customer volume.

  • When a request for a delivery comes through, Cocoa and Mocha set out to fulfill it. Mocha surprises Cocoa with the revelation that she now has an operator’s license for a moped. Mopeds are surprisingly common in anime, and where I’m from, the basic learner’s license will allow one to operate them. While these vehicles are no doubt great during the summer as a convenient form of transportation, mopeds are rather limited and do nothing to keep one insulated from the elements, so they’re not too commonplace.

  • Mocha’s not particularly skilful with mechanical devices, but in time, she’s learned to master the art of riding a moped, even popping wheelies and totally shocking Cocoa, who comes away from her ride exhausted. I would like to think that my driving is not particularly deadly, although my home province is legendary in Canada for hosting the worst drivers. As far as road behaviours go, I’m a defensive driver, actively keeping an eye on my surroundings so I can anticipate the actions of other drivers. I don’t mind being cut off half as much I mind tailgaters, and I minimally tolerate tailgaters. My buttons are pressed when I encounter drivers who sound their horn because I’m waiting for a pedestrian to cross or vehicles with right of way to pass while making a right turn.

  • After Cocoa and Mocha deliver bread for a customer, they stop at a viewpoint overlooking the sea below, with a Spanish style building adjacent. Steam trains and cradle phones existing alongside cellular phones and modern rifles, small towns with old-style architecture and a world that’s quite pastoral, featuring many small towns, leads me to wonder if GochiUsa is the logical evolution of the world depicted in Sora no Woto. Takahiro and Rize’s father mention fighting together in a war of some sort: with the distinct mish-mash of Japanese and European cultures, anachronism in technology and a world with few major urban centres, there is merit to the idea that world of GochiUsa can be the result of social and technological advancement after the events of Sora no Woto, in which humanity manages to begin recovering again. This is a very optimistic outlook of things, and a view that not everyone may share – for one, such speculation would likely break down with some scrutiny.

  • Conversation between the sisters turn to catching up: Cocoa and Mocha’s father is a professor at a university, one of the brothers is a scientist of unknown discipline (likely in chemistry or biology), and the other is a lawyer. All three of them work in the city, which is why we’ve not seen them so far. Because of the diverse array of talents and interests in the family, Cocoa grew up seeing a plethora of options available. At her age, I was similar to Cocoa in this regard, being interested by a wide range of disciplines. As high school ended, I narrowed it down to health and computing, eventually being accepted by the university’s Bachelor of Health Sciences programme for an honours degree in bioinformatics.

  • Cocoa cannot settle on a career, feeling that she could be a barista, lawyer and novelist at the same time. Strictly speaking, this is not impossible – there are many incredibly talented people out there, so the probability of someone who’s done all three occupations, sometimes simultaneously, in their lives, is non-zero. Cocoa is also quite talented with numbers despite her appearances. While trying to work out a career, Cocoa remarks that she’s happy as long as she’s viewed as an older sister of sorts.

  • Watching Cocoa be taken in by Mocha’s prank was particularly adorable: Mocha recalls back when they were children, Cocoa had aspirations in becoming a master of the mystic arts magician, but after Mocha deceived Cocoa by pretending to have turned into a rabbit, Cocoa was shocked enough to drop these goals. Unlike the other flashbacks seen in Dear My Sister, this moment is rendered in a non-traditional perspective, implying that the memory itself is a bit fuzzier (other flashbacks are merely less saturated) as a result of its distance from the present.

  • It’s an embarrassing memory for Cocoa, who puffs up her cheeks and pouts after being reminded. With this being said, there are some traces of the supernatural in GochiUsa, and the first season suggests that Cocoa might have been involved in why Chino’s grandfather had his consciousness transferred into Tippy’s body. Barring the presence of a Reality Stone, the precise mechanism for how this happened remains unknown, and besides Chino and Takahiro, the other characters remain unaware that this has occurred.

  • Cocoa and Mocha’s mother is voiced by Yuko Minaguchi (Kōko Yoshino née Ibuki of CLANNAD, and Akiko Minase of Kanon). She made a brief appearance in the finale of GochiUsa‘s second season, having a more substantial role in Dear My Sister. After Cocoa and Mocha get home, Cocoa’s in a sour mood – it turns out that even Cocoa can have a few moments where her happy-go-lucky disposition disappears, and Mocha is one of the few people who can make this happen. This is hardly surprising, since siblings know one another best, and also serves to augment the authenticity of Cocoa’s character.

  • There’s hardly any time to sulk around, since the breakfast crowd soon shows up, filling the small bakery with patrons. With their mother out for the count, Mocha’s exceptional efficiency comes into play here – she single-handedly manages everything, moving at three times the speed of the others to serve customers, manage transactions and even has time to speak with a little girl. When the crowds thin, Cocoa feels as though she’d just done a month’s worth of work: Rabbit House seems to be quiet as a coffeehouse, and the fact that it’s still in business suggests that its bar is doing well enough to keep the balance book in the black.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that it’s been four years since GochiUsa‘s first season aired. When I picked up GochiUsa, I was right in the middle of working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain project for my supervisor and Jay Ingram: in 2014, my most predominantly used language was C# and I worked largely with the Unity 4 engine. By the time GochiUsa‘s second season rolled around, I transitioned over to the Unreal Engine and wrote most of my code in C++. Time makes fools of us all: I now largely work with Swift 4.1 and iOS frameworks, although I occasionally dabble in Python and Java, as well as some SQL. Of course, if I were to blog about optionals, delegates and completion handlers, I would not begrudge the reader to find another place to read about anime. If you’re looking to learn about Swift and get into iOS programming, while yes, I could be of some assistance, there are more useful resources out there, like Ray Wenderlich, that would be more useful.

  • I still vividly recall the warm summer afternoons spent watching GochiUsa while on lunch break, and the splendid Thanksgiving morning that I took to review the first episode of the second season, before spending more or less the entire day playing the Star Wars Battlefront open beta. When I wrapped up GochiUsa‘s second season, I had nothing but good things to say about it. The first season is a solid A, a 9.0 of 10, and the second season is a 9.5 of 10 for an A+. I subsequently did a second reflection on the first season, which in retrospect, contributed to how I built the Giant Walkthrough Brain and then in the preview post for Dear My Sister, joked that one would probably need an ARIA-level miracle, such as the Time Stone, to watch this any earlier than the BD release date.

  • Cocoa channels her inner Nanako Usami here, recoiling in surprise and then pouting again when her mother reveals her arm was fine, and she’d been merely making a reason to get the two sisters together. While it might’ve been two-and-a-half years ago, I still recall mentioning that GochiUsa was a series that some could find it difficult to write for – giants like Random Curiosity did not feel they could find something to talk about in each episode, and episodic posts that did exist were quite underwhelming, being limited to reactions to the events seen on screen. My unusual take on things, on the other hand, allowed me to find something to discuss in each episode, and so, for its second season, I managed to do episodic reviews of a satisfactory standard.

  • While Chiya prepares yukata for everyone to wear for the festival, Rize’s hard at work making stuffed rabbits for everyone. By this point in time, Rabbit House has become very lively and joyous even in Cocoa’s absence: in doing their best to keep busy while Cocoa’s away, the girls learn to find joy in the ordinary, something that Cocoa excels at. I should mention here that, if one were to describe what watching Dear My Sister is like, I would liken the experience to hugging a large stuffed animal for an hour straight.

  • While Dear My Sister focuses on all of GochiUsa‘s characters the same way Pretty Days focused on Kiniro Mosaic‘s cast, both OVAs put their resident twin-tailed tsundere at the forefront of things. Besides sharing similarities in their appearance, Rize and Aya’s voices are both provided by Risa Taneda. Much like how Pretty Days gave Aya a bit of a chance to shine, Dear My Sister also gives viewers new insights into Rize’s character.

  • Mahou Shoujo Chino is a concept born from an April Fool’s joke that was very well-received, and eventually, Inori Minase performed a song about Magical Girl Chino. Dear My Sister takes things one step further, actually incorporating Magical Girl Chino into a dream that Cocoa has while staying with her family. This was a pleasant Easter Egg that the most diehard GochiUsa fans will find enjoyable, bringing to life what was intended to be a simple joke, and more casual viewers unfamiliar with the April Fool’s joke will still find this an adorable sequence.

  • Ever the doting elder sibling, Mocha is concerned when Cocoa wakes up with her head still in the clouds. While I’d like to say that my internal clock is infallible, there was an instance in recent memory where I overslept by forty minutes on a workday. I somehow managed to get my rear in gear and did my usual morning routine, making it to the office just in time for work. Days like these are (and will hopefully remain) the exception: most days, I awaken around ten minutes before my alarm is set to go off.

  • After oversleeping, Cocoa manages to get ready, and Mocha drives her to the bus station. Cocoa reveals that while she’s still undecided on a career, she wants to do something that makes others smile. Cocoa subsequently heads back to Rabbit House by train, and on her journey back, she reads one of Aoyama’s novels. Titled “Bakery Queen- Beloved Sisters’ Moving Story”, one must wonder how Aoyama manages to get her story ideas. It’s shown that she’s a capable writer and has numerous talents despite her propensity to ignore deadlines, so one can imagine her pulling some John Clark-level stunts to gain inspiration for her stories. This book is her latest work, and at the end, Cocoa sees a request from her mother and Mocha – get the book autographed.

  • With the month of June now in full swing, some hiking trails in nearby Kananaskis Provincial park are now open, and after a week of cool, misty and grey weather, the skies gave way to a warm day of sunshine today. The combination of good weather and open trails meant that I could take some time to really unwind in the mountains: I ascended the West Wind Pass trail, easily one of the more difficult hikes I’ve done, if only for the fact that the trail is adjacent to a deep ravine and despite this, is quite poorly marked. The path takes hikers to points where they need to hug a cliff sheer to pass, and also branches off in different directions without indication of whether or not it was a part of the trail, but despite these challenges, it was very invigorating and fun to climb up. Reaching the West Wind Pass itself, I was greeted by a vast, wind-swept clearing and a stunning view of the Spray Lakes reservoir some 390 metres below. The view was beautiful, but up here, the cold meant that we couldn’t stay for long, only stopping long enough to take some photographs, before turning around.

  • There are some deviations in Dear My Sister from the original manga: aside from some obvious additions, such as the inclusion of Mahou Shoujo Chino and Chino working out the courage to invite everyone to the fireworks festivals, there have also been some omissions, as well. Cocoa does not return to Rabbit House ahead of the festival to finish her assignments, and Aoyama does not run into the misfortunate of wrecking her manuscript. These differences are relatively minor and did not break the flow of events in Dear My Sister in any way.

  • The use of violets and pinks in the town by evening casts its buildings in hues that were previously unseen, creating a festive and ethereal, timeless sense quite similar to the choice of colours seen in Fireworks: Should We See Them From The Side or Bottom?. While poet T.S. Elliot uses the phrase “violet hour” in his famous poem, “The Waste Land”, repetition of this phrase is meant to suggest the melancholy of the end of a day and sunset. However, sunrise always follows, and so, Elliot is lamenting that relationships cycle endlessly between a joyful start and a sadness-filled closing. This is relevant to Fireworks, where Norimichi’s final attempt to be with Nazuna saw him share a conversation while the skies took on a pink-purple hue. In the case of Dear My Sister, the lighting is probably meant to indicate a sort of melancholy that Cocoa is not around.

  • Despite the violet hour’s implications, Dear My Sister presents the summer festival as a happy moment. While walking about, the girls take in the sights, sounds and smells, and Sharo demonstrates another aspect of her character. Spending time with the others have improved her confidence: when Rize asks if there’s anything she’d like as a prize after being drawn by a shooting game, Sharo recalls her own talents with blowdarts and so, challenges Rize to a showdown that the latter accepts.

  • At the festival, Megu demonstrates a hitherto unknown talent for winning at ring toss. These games, like casinos, are slightly rigged so that they favour the vendor’s gain, but for folks familiar with how they work, they are certainly winnable. Megu consistently wins in a ring toss game and earns a small collection of prizes here that she feels is a good set of souvenirs for Cocoa: we recall that Megu’s got a talent for spinning (which, by the way, is a good trick), and giving the rings a slight, level spin can help boost their accuracy: she applies the technique here to land consistent hits on the prizes.

  • A quick glance at the various folk in the background show that only Chiya, Megu, Chino, Maya, Sharo and Rize are wearing yukata, with everyone else wearing more conventional clothing. It stands to reason that elements of Japanese culture are uncommon where GochiUsa is set. The girls thus stand out quite a bit, about as much as one would stand out while wearing cowboy hat and boots to a Japanese festival, but the colours of the yukata and festival work very nicely together to create a scene that has not been seen in GochiUsa until now. Despite the predominantly French-German cultural aspects in GochiUsa, the inclusion of Japanese elements into a festival for Dear My Sister is integrated very smoothly without breaking immersion.

  • Sharo becomes the life of the party after eating coffee-flavoured shaved ice, speaking in a joyful and somewhat slurred manner while waving a small firework. It’s actually quite fun to see Sharo in this manner, and I do not believe I’ve mentioned this thus far: Sharo is voiced by Maaya Uchida, whom I know as Yuru Yuri‘s Mari, Rei Kuroki of Vividred Operation and Slow Start‘s very own Hiroe Hannen. Hard-working, frugal and practical, she’s also a character who deserves a bit more screen-time in GochiUsa.

  • The five kilometre hike to and from West Wind Pass took around two-and-three-quarters of an hour in total. Once the hike concluded, we returned to 514 Poutine, Canmore’s premiere poutine spot (previously known as La Belle Patate). Here, I ordered their deluxe poutine: it’s a blend of succulent chunks of Montréal Smoked Meat, bacon, sauteéd onions and mushrooms on top of their poutine. Every time I’ve visited, I am impressed with how flavourful and generous the helpings of the Montréal smoked meat is. Coupled with the smokiness of bacon, the sweetness of the onion and the plain fact that I love mushrooms, it’s the perfect poutine that quickly restored my energy. Their Spruce Beer Soda is also a fantastic accompaniment for lunch: with a distinct pine and slightly sweet flavour, it is superbly refreshing and perfect for after savouring a hearty poutine.

  • It was a bit of a later lunch: we finished at two-thirty, and with more than half the day passed, we decided to do a simpler walk around the Quarry Lake area of Canmore. With negligible elevation gain, this walk was very relaxing and also allowed us to loosen off from the morning hike: Quarry Lake itself is only five minutes from the parking lot, and surrounding the area are a series of well-marked trails that line the grass fields beneath the mountains. Back in Dear My Sister, as the evening grows later, the girls begin making their way up to a secret spot for viewing the fireworks that Aoyama’s informed them of. An overhead view of the town by night can be seen from here, and while the town is quite large, it’s definitely not Colmar, France: inspection of maps show that no river runs through the actual city, whereas a river dividing the town in two is clearly seen here.

  • Despite being noticeably absent from the proceedings, Cocoa manages to meet up with Chino and the others right as the first firework flies into the night sky. While the others initially look to be reacting to the fireworks, prompting Cocoa to wonder if they’ve even noticed her, it soon becomes clear that everyone is in fact aware of Cocoa’s arrival, and warmly greet her. Rize and the others are somewhat surprised that Cocoa managed to find them, but it would seem that Cocoa returned to Rabbit House, spoke with Aoyama and then changed into her yukata before heading off to reunite with the others.

  • Many moons ago, when Mocha was shown downing milk in a beer mug, one individual wondered why GochiUsa would “censor” alcoholic beverages, but never received a satisfactory answer. While the fireworks progress, Aoyama and her editor share some beers, decisively showing that GochiUsa has no aversions to showing alcoholic drinks on screen. The alcoholic offerings from Takahiro’s bar is also quite visible, and he is shown preparing alcoholic drinks, as well. Quite simply, there is no censorship. I’ve previously remarked that Mocha took milk as a comfort drink for her personality and preferences – just because someone can legally drink does not mean that they will.

  • After Sharo sets off the lone firework, Cocoa determines that with the obscure location, that’s where everyone else must’ve been. There’s been a surprisingly limited amount of buzz out there for an OVA that’s been so long overdue: the original release was supposed to be May of last year, and this got pushed back to November. Normally, there’s a six-month gap between the theatrical opening date and BD releases, but the BDs were released eight months later this time around. It is a bit disappointing to see that so few are aware of this OVA, and while it is a bit of an achievement to hold what is the internet’s only Dear My Sister review, having this title also means that very few GochiUsa fans have had the chance to enjoy the OVA.

  • Dear My Sister marks the third series that I’ve written about of late that features fireworks: Fireworks and Amanchu! Advance also featured some stellar fireworks shows. Once reunited with the others, Megu gives Cocoa a rabbit mask that eerily resembles the rabbit mask seen in GochiUsa‘s second season, and subsequently spars with Rize about older sisters in a friendly manner. With the fireworks in full swing, the girls watch the fireworks performance. Throughout the scene, the fireworks are actually out of focus or otherwise not the subject of focus, reminding audiences that for Cocoa and the others, their friendships and bonds come first.

  • After struggling to express herself, Chino manages to overcome this and welcomes Cocoa back, as well. The ending song, “The World Has Become a Café”, is a fantastic ending song performed by all eight of the characters: both Petit Rabbits’ and Chimame-tai come together to form the unit Petit Rabbits’ With Beans, and the lyrics are joyful, spirited and upbeat, signalling the joy of having everyone together once again. It’s a happy ending to Dear My Sister, and at this point, one cannot begrudge me for including one more MCU-style reference to the table – there’s a post-credits sequence that, like those of MCU films, serve an important purpose.

  • We’re very nearly at the end of this post, and as this talk on Dear My Sister is likely to be my largest single post of the year, I figure it could be a fun way to wrap things up with some statistics about this post. With a total word count of some 8300 words, it’s definitely no slouch, but writing for the OVA was very enjoyable, as well. It turns out that Rize had also made a stuffed rabbit for Cocoa, as well. This brings my long-awaited, long-overdue talk on Dear My Sister to a conclusion, and for my final score, Dear My Sister has earned a 9.5 of 10, an A+; highly entertaining, Dear My Sister brings back everything that made the earlier seasons so enjoyable and introduces new character dynamics among a familiar group, while at once providing spectacular artwork, animation and music.

  • In short, I enjoyed Dear My Sister the same way I enjoyed Infinity War. With Dear My Sister decisively in the books, the immediate other post on the horizon will be for Amanchu! Advance now that we’ve hit the three-quarters mark. We’ve also entered the month of June now, so the spring anime series will be concluding quite soon. I will be writing for Amanchu! AdvanceComic Girls and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online as their respective series close off. Finally, Battlefield 1 is running a “Road To Battlefield V” event, and I’ve yet to tell the story about how I got an Urban MDR in The Division – I will naturally be writing about both.

The long-awaited OVA to GochiUsa is finally in the books, and my final verdict is a strong recommendation. Dear My Sister brings back all of the aspects that made the originals so enjoyable to watch, capitalises on the summer weather to introduce a distinctly Japanese style of festival that suggests a highly multicultural area that Cocoa and her friends live in, explored another dimension of friendship that shows how interpersonal interactions go both ways, and upped the quality of artwork and animation in a series that already was technically superb. The masterful combination of all aspects result in an OVA that was worth the wait, and so, Dear My Sister is something that anyone who enjoyed GochiUsa will not want to miss. For folks who’ve yet to watch GochiUsa, I would count Dear My Sister as being similar to Avengers: Infinity War. Much like how various jokes and event references in Infinity War require some familiarity of previous movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (e.g. Loki echoing that they have a Hulk and Captain America’s “I am Steve Rogers” to Groot’s “I am Groot”, to name a few), Dear My Sister adapts chapters from volume five of the manga, and there are events and specific jokes that occurred in the seasons that require a bit more context to have the maximum impact (such as Aoyama being hauled off by her editor, or Chino’s unconscious making of iced cocoas). Both share the commonality of being quite enjoyable standalone, but are also clearly intended for audiences who’ve seen earlier instalments. With all this being said, Dear My Sister is an excellent adaptation of the chapters following the Ciste Hunt, and as the manga is ongoing, another season could be on the horizon. Having tested their mettle with Dear My Sister, I feel that if production doA were to be given the responsibility of creating a third season of GochiUsa, they would do a spectacular job. There certainly is enough material, and the series has had a strong reception. As such, I would imagine that a third season is a matter of when, rather than if, and this is an encouraging thought.

Nekopara OVA Review and Reflection

“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a function.” –Garrison Keillor

While unpacking in his new confectionery shop, La Soleil, Kashou Minaduki learns that Chocola and Vanilla, two of his family’s Nekos, have stowed away with him. Kashou is initially unwilling to let the two stay, but later relents and allows the two to remain with him upon seeing their determination. Kashou’s younger sister, Shigure, later visits with the other Nekos and remarks that for Chocola and Vanilla to work at La Soleil, Chocola and Vanilla will require a permit exam. Despite their initial difficulties, the two pass their exams, leading Kashou to bring Chocola and Vanilla to an amusement park and aquarium in celebration. When Kashou develops a fever from exhaustion later, Chocola and Vanilla try to reach a doctor’s clinic but forget to bring their bells with them. Kashou arrives and manages to sort things out before the authorities take them away. Later, Shigure decides to bring in the other Nekos to help out with work at La Soleil. With its origins in a series of visual novels, Nekopara‘s OVA was first announced in July 2016 in a crowd-funded project. Interest in an OVA became apparent when the crowd-funding campaign reached its goal within a day of launch, and the OVA itself was completed in November 2017. The OVA was scheduled for release on Boxing Day. During its fifty-minute run, the Nekopara OVA covers the first chapter of the visual novel (there are four in total), and for folks who’ve played through the game, one of the strongest aspects about the OVA is how faithful it is to the original.

At its core, Nekopara‘s OVA presents a gentle, heart-warming story about Kashou’s gradual acceptance of his Nekos in life at his confectionery shop and the misadventures that they share, along with their more tender moments. The OVA, and Nekopara itself, brings to mind the sort of antics seen in the animated series Nyanko Days. In both, anthropomorphic cats are present, with human-like traits and intellectual capacity. The similarities end here – whereas Nyanko Days is purely about the everyday lives of Yūko’s cats and features tiny Nyanko, the Neko of Nekopara are more similar to humans in stature to accommodate for the sort of narrative that Nekopara presents. With this in mind, the OVA is more family-friendly than the visual novel and therefore, more similar to Nyanko Days than its visual novel incarnation, preferring to focus on the adorable and amusing rather than the risque. However, because there is a male protagonist and human-like Nekos, as opposed to the kitten-like Nyanko, the OVA opens the floor to conventional jokes surrounding misunderstandings that are usually seen in romance-comedy anime. With this in mind, the OVA can be seen as either a fine addition into the Nekopara franchise for current fans of the visual novels, as well as being a bit of a barometer for the undecided to determine whether or not the Nekopara games are within the scope of their interests.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I suppose it would be fair to open with the remark that I’ve never actually seen “Neko” being used in plural as I have: in Japanese, we would probably say 猫たち (neko-tachi) to refer to cats in plural.  However, in this post, I will use it to refer to the cat-girls in plural for convenience’s sake. I’m not sure how exactly Nekos work from a evolutionary and biological perspective; they are human-like in anatomy save for their ears and tails, possess intelligence comparable to that of children and are omnivorous, but otherwise, their minds are cat-like. However, the documentation states that interbreeding between humans and Nekos are not possible, which technically should mean that Nekopara should be family-friendly through and through.

  • The protagonist, Kashou Minaduki, is a pâtissier who comes from a family of Japanese chefs and is distant with his parents for his interests. Resembling Itsuki Koizumi of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, Kashou is the generic protagonist and is unremarkable. Chocola is the first of the Nekos seen in Nekopara: she is the more energetic and outgoing compared to her twin, Vanilla. The two Nekos are the youngest the Minaduki family has: Kashou and his sister found them around nine months ago, and they have been caring for the Nekos ever since.

  • One aspect about Nekopara‘s game form is that it makes use of 3D animated characters, in contrast to static 2D characters of traditional visual novels. As a result, there’s a slider for altering the modulus of rigidity in the game, which is utterly pointless: I bet that in Nekopara, elasticity is a pre-rendered animation rather than involving real-time physics calculations, so changing the settings with the aim of stress-testing a computer set up isn’t even worth it. With this in mind, if I should ever decide to buy Nekopara, I’m going to set the modulus of rigidity to zero: Chocola and Vanilla don’t exactly require any other setting, and soft-body dynamics is computationally expensive.

  • A miscommunication results in the delivery of additional hardware to La Soleil, and while a Herculean task seemingly awaits Kashou, Chocola and Vanilla lend their skills towards sorting out the boxes to find the ones containing Kashou’s orders in an efficient manner, leading to much happiness from the delivery lady.

  • While Kashou is initially not keen on keeping Chocola and Vanilla around, Chocola up front lets Kashou know that he means a great deal to both of them, recalling a story where he looked after the two and brought them to the hospital after the two fell ill from a combination of stress, cold and a weakened constitution. In a moving display of kindness that Kashou counts as common sense, Chocola and Vanilla would recover and became quite fond of Kashou, to the point of following him when he moves out to open La Soleil. It takes some negotiations, but Kashou eventually relents and allows the two to live with him.

  • Kashou reluctantly agrees to let Vanilla and Chocola help him out at La Soleil. They run into a strangely-attired customer later revealed to be Kashou’s younger sister. A capable Neko owner and elegant in her own manner, Shigure is responsible for training the family’s Nekos. In the OVA, she’s quite ordinary, although in the visual novel, it’s said that she holds unrequited feelings for Kashou, which doesn’t appear to be a rational narrative device considering what Nekopara is about.

  • From left to right, the other Nekos in Nekopara are Maple, Cinnamon, Azuki and Coconut (Shigure is in the middle, wearing the kamino). Each of the cats sports a bell that signifies their qualification to hold what Nekopara calls an “Independent Action Permit” (abbreviated IAP for short and not to be confused with the shorthand for “In App Purchase”), which allows a Neko to travel alone without human supervision. In order to have Chocola and Vanilla helping out at La Soleil, the two must also pass an examination to hold an IAP.

  • Nekos have a modified digestive system that allow them to enjoy cakes and tea along with food more consistent with what cats should be given. It should go without saying that Nekopara is the last place on earth one should go to learn about cats – cats have no sweet receptors and won’t enjoy sweets the same way humans would. Further, the presence of dairy products in cake can be cause digestive issues for cats, and theobromine in chocolate can be lethal. Of course, this would result in a dull visual novel.

  • Cinammon (to the right) is the third oldest of the Nekos and here, is seen giving Vanilla a crash course on flowers, somehow becoming turned on at the thought of reproduction. It brings to mind the jokes that I sat through as a high school student in biology, where my instructor remarked that only an ineffective instructor would be distracted by reproductive biology and said that from scientific perspective, there should be nothing particularly embarrassing as to how life works. Having said this, while I’m not particularly bothered by what would be considered indecent, there is a limit to what I can and can’t show on this blog in order to maintain the PG-13 rating.

  • N. cataria has a profound effect on Chocola and Vanilla, who are affected by the nepetalactone present. The compound, a two-ringed, ten carbon molecule, produces a relaxing effect in cats in conjunction with sleepiness and drooling. Nepetalactone has no impact on humans owing to physiological differences, so it stands to reason that Nekos likely have a different nervous system composition than humans despite their physical similarities. Curiously enough, nepetalactone doesn’t seem to affect a third of all cats, and this is apparently not Mendelian trait.

  • I have a feeling that the sustained application of science will outright ruin Nekopara: the origins of Nekos and the implications on technological levels in society would probably cause readers to count me a non-team player, a wet blanket. This is because if we could genetically engineer a species with human and cat-like traits as having near-human intelligence, it would imply that our medical knowledge is remarkably sophisticated. This would then raise the question of why things like FTL and fusion are not present in Nekopara. Hereafter, I’m going to do my best not to mention scientific elements in too much more details from here on out and return things to the OVA, where Chocola and Vanilla are shown to have successfully passed their IAP exam.

  • As a celebration, Kashou takes Chocola and Vanilla to an amusement park, which Chocola has expressed an interest in visiting. Most apparent in this scene is the level of detail and intricacy in both Chocola and Vanilla’s dresses. At the time of writing, the Nekopara OVA is only available on Steam to the wider world and retails for 34 CAD, which is only slightly less than the Nekopara bundle, which costs 36 CAD in the absence of a sale (for a scant 18 CAD, one can buy all four volumes of Nekopara on Steam during a sale).

  • Today’s been a bit of a more festive one: I spent most of it at a New Year’s Eve brunch. After driving the treacherous roads to get there, I settled down to the warmth of home-made Eggs Benedict, turkey bacon, potato pancakes and hash browns, plus the most impressive array of cookies, Nanamo Bars and other sweets I’ve seen in a while. Conversation during this brunch lasted into the late afternoon, during which the weather remained incredibly frigid (-29°C before windchill).

  • Once I got back home, it was very nearly evening, and I arrived just in time for my family’s annual 火鍋 (jyutping fo2 wo1, better known as “hot pot”, and folks familiar with anime will refer to it as nabe even though the Chinese version isn’t really thus). The combination of a warm soup with beef, lamb, chicken, shrimp, fresh scallops, squid, fish ballsbak choy, cabbage and lettuce, plus yi mein, is the perfect ward for the cold winter’s evening, and with dinner now done, it’s time to watch as the final hours of 2017 draw to a close.

  • After their outing to the aquarium, Kashou develops a fever that greatly concerns Chocola and Vanilla. Their understanding of human health being limited, they attempt to call for medical assistance upon seeing Kashou’s state, as opposed to letting him sleep it off. Typically, bed rest and hydration is the best initial means of dealing with a fever – medical attention is sought if the fever is very severe or persistent. After Kashou falls asleep, Chocola and Vanilla head into the night to reach a clinic.

  • While Nekopara may not have Makoto Shinkai or Kyoto Animation level visuals, the simple, clean artwork works in the OVA’s favour. I took a quick glance at the Steam system requirements for Nekopara‘s OVA, and they’re identical to K-On! The Movie, which is also available on Steam. The act of streaming videos is not a particularly demanding task: any dual core CPU, 2 GB of RAM, 500 MB of space (presumably to act as a cache) and a 12 Mbps connection will be sufficient for enjoying anime from Steam.

  • Shigure and the remaining Nekos decide to join the ranks of employees at La Soleil, much to Kashou’s surprise. This sets in motion the whacky antics that are seen in the remainder of Nekopara, and given the setup, I imagine that the OVA was largely intended to be a bit of promotion for newcomers such as myself as much as it is intended to entertain current fans of the game.

  • With the entire family of Nekos geared up and ready to help, the stage is set for later volumes of Nekopara, which deal with the antics surrounding Kashou as he acclimatises to Nekos working at his confectionary shop. As a kinetic novel, Nekopara has no branching decisions and can be seen as an electronic story of sorts. In a manner of speaking, the OVA and game are different interpretations of the same story, and if the OVA had been more extensive, I would likely prefer watching the OVA to playing the game.

  • From the perspective of those who’ve played Nekopara and subsequently watched the OVA, the OVA seems to have done a passable job of bringing Nekopara to life in the anime format. While not perfect, these individuals have found it entertaining. From my perspective, which is that of someone who’s seen the OVA and are wondering about the game, I think that the OVA could inspire some to pick up all four volumes of Nekopara and give things a whirl to see what happens at La Soleil after all of the Nekos come on board. However, for me, I have my own reasons for not buying Nekopara: for one, I feel that my Steam library has hit saturation, and there are simply no more games that I’m keen on checking out for the present.

  • The exterior of La Soleil is simple and clean, set in front of a backdrop of skyscrapers. It’s well designed and aesthetically pleasing, so I figured I would feature at least one screenshot of it during this discussion, which now comes to an end. This is my final talk for 2017, and I am going to spend the remaining few hours of the year taking it easy. Upcoming posts to kick off 2018 will include Wolfenstein II‘s Uberkommando and Episode Zero talks, the final impressions for Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! and the final episode of Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter. I also have plans to write about Violet EvergardenYuru Camp and Slow Start in the upcoming season.

One of the more interesting elements in the OVA that the world that Kashou inhabits feels much more lively relative to the visual novel. This aspect is likely by design – in the visual novel, the absence of other inhabitants save mission-critical characters places greater emphasis on Kashou and his Nekos, as well as reducing the amount of resources spent drawing extras. However, the animated format has additional background characters to give the sense that there is a world beyond the characters players interact with. This is one of the strengths of the animated format confers for adapting visual novels: the worlds that characters live in can be made to feel a bit more alive. The OVA certainly has done a solid job of bringing Kashou’s world to life: while nothing groundbreaking or remarkable, the visual quality and artwork in the Nekopara are of a high standard, as are the aural elements. Overall, the Nekopara OVA succinctly captures the basics of Nekopara in a modestly entertaining fashion, and here, I remark that while the OVA was fun to watch, I’m not too sure if I will be adding Nekopara to a Steam library whose existing titles include DOOM, Half-Life 2 and Far Cry 4 in the foreseeable future: I prefer my games to involve über-micro, after all.

Clash at Loum: Mobile Suit Gundam- The Origin Episode Five Reflection

“Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.” —General Dwight D. Eisenhower

The opening stages of the One Year War begin when Zeon launches a surprise attack on Side 2, eliminating Hatte altogether, while Kycila leads task force in capturing the lunar cities of Granada and Von Braun. Amuro and his friends are caught attempting to sneak into a restricted area in Side 7, but Amuro is spared a beating when guards recognise him as the son of Tem Ray. After witnessing the massacre at Side 2, Ramba Ral refuses to participate in Operation British and becomes wanted for treason against Zeon. The Zeons continue with Operation British, dropping the coloney Island Iffish on Earth with the aim of destroying the Federations Jaburo Base, but the coloney break into three sections upon re-entry. The largest pieces impacts with Australia and the sum of the impact halves Earth’s population. Meanwhile, Sayla Mass has become a doctor, and while treating the injured from the political strife breaking out, she learns from a Zeon operative that Casaval is alive, piloting a red mobile suit and later sees him attacking a coloney, after she herself had helped fend off ruffians. While she manages to protect Eduardo Mass, he dies. With Operation British unsuccessful, Zeon launches another attack at Loum. Although their ships are routed by Federation Forces, their mobile suits allow them to even the odds in terms of fighting strength. Char himself steps out into battle, locating the main Federation fleet on short order after pushing his Zaku to its limits. The Origin‘s fifth instalment comes nearly a year after the fourth, and in it, the more horrific stages of the One Year War are illustrated, including the gassing of Island Iffish for the purpose of dropping it as a kinetic impactor. The Origin presents a different take on things than did Gundam Unicorn, but with its high animation quality, is able to capture the sort of devastation that characterises the One Year War, and also illustrate the processes, as well as individuals, behind Zeon’s atrocities.

In contrast with the earlier instalments, the fifth The Origin entry is more fragmented in design, portraying different aspects of the One Year War’s opening stages. From the early Zeon victories to their failed execution of Operation British, from Char’s verbal sparring with the Black Tri-Stars to watching Sayla Mass defend her adopted family and home, The Origin presents a series of war stories that show where everyone’s at since the events of the previous episode. The episode does not follow any one character in particular; in doing so, it is able to capture the scope of the One Year War. In this episode’s presentation, one also gains the impression that Zeon’s worst atrocities and actions were the consequence of Gihren’s decisions. Gihren has been counted as the Universal Century’s incarnation of Adolf Hitler, sharing Hitler’s Social Darwinism beliefs, as well as placing an undue amount of emphasis on Wunderwaffen. Gihren’s beliefs are extreme enough that his father, Degwin, denounces him: Degwin’s original ambitions had been to gain independence for and rule over Zeon, whereas Girhen sought to dominate and destroy the Federation entirely. The Origin evidently presents Gihren as having architected the suffering and deaths of billions; the lingering animosities and injustices indirectly lead to the formation of the Titans and precipitate the rise of three Neo Zeon factions following the downfall of Zeon.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I can’t believe it’s been ten months since I last wrote about The Origin, and for this post, we begin with the Zeon fleet engaging Federation forces. As the instigators, Zeon has the initiative in the One Year War’s early stages, rapidly gaining an edge over the Federation. Early space battles were characterised by long-range engagement between naval vessels. Originally, the Federation were lagging behind on their armaments and fired conventional rounds from their cannons, only upgrading to mega-particle cannons later in the war.

  • Along with the Magellan-class cruisers, The Salamis-class cruisers were the earliest space-faring vessels the Federation fielded, but by the time of the One Year War, they proved outdated: their weaker weapons and lighter armour made them ill-equipped to deal with Zeon battleships, and they were lost in great numbers. Magellan-class cruisers were better armed than the Salamis-class, but both vessels proved inadequate against mobile suits, leading the Federation to design spacecraft capable of housing their own mobile suits.

  • While audiences familiar with things like Cosmic Era and even Anno Domini would be more accustomed to seeing mobile suits equipped with directed energy weapons, Universal Century does not introduce beam weaponry until the RX-78 II. Prior to the Federation’s deployment of the first Gundam, mobile suits were essentially humanoid tanks, armed with scaled-up firearms that still proved exceptionally effective: the basic machine guns Zakus carry fire MBT-sized rounds at several hundred RPM and despite becoming ineffective later on in Gundam as technology advances, they certainly would have been sufficient to overwhelm whatever was available to the Federation when first deployed.

  • During the battles on the moon, Char himself is present, but while engaging Federation forces mid-combat, his thrusters fail to provide the propulsion that he needs. He nonetheless destroys Federation fighters engaging him before continuing with his mission. Char’s choice of red colouration is strictly a personal preference, making him immediately recognisable on the battlefield and earning him the ire of other Zeon soldiers, especially the Black Tri-Stars.

  • Zeon forces destroy the Hatte Colony Cylinder here during an operation. Colonies are fairly commonplace in the Universal Century and are separated into two categories – open colonies have windows and mirrors that allow sunlight in to mimic natural weather patterns, while close colonies were more inexpensive and could house double the number of residents. Industrial 7 in Gundam Unicorn is a closed colony. Despite their seeming fragility, the large size of colonies allow them to withstand a considerable amount of damage – colonies have a diameter of 6.4 kilometres and are typically 36 kilometres in length.

  • Ramba Ral watches as his forces assault the colony Hatte, encountering next to no resistance. He considers it a meaningless slaughter rather than war, and his experiences here shape his actions later on. While Zakus and early space-capable battleships are often presented as primitive and obsolete, enhanced by the limited animation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the revisitation of the Universal Century with modern animation and artwork illustrate that for its time, the early weapons of both the Federation and Zeon are cutting edge.

  • Gihren Zabi is probably my least favourite of the characters for his facial features: he’s got all of the characteristics of an unlikeable 80s villain. With his exceptional brilliance and ability to sway a crowd, his resemblance to Adolf Hitler is probably deliberate, and here, he gives a speech about the need to eradicate enemies to Zeon. Having seen The Origin and read the history of the Universal Century, it is safe to attribute many of the worst events to him in some manner.

  • Amuro’s only appearance in the fifth episode of The Origin is when he and Kai Shinden, plus a couple of classmates, are caught trying to sneak into an area of Side 7 under construction. Some of the guards recognise Amuro as Tem’s son and jovially remark that if he wished to tour the area, he merely needed to ask for permission. They then proceed to beat the living daylights out of the others while Amuro looks on in disapproval.

  • When Dozle explains the plan behind Operation British, Ramba Ral has reached his limit and storms out of the meeting, feeling that war is not about maximising the enemy’s casualties. His refusal to carry out an order eventually lead the Zeons to count him a traitor, but in the fifth The Origin episode, his fate remains unknown. Dozle and the others continue the operation in his absence, mounting engines onto Island Iffish and prepare to guide it along a trajectory towards earth.

  • Inside the colony, a young man named Yūki promises to protect the inhabitants from Zeon invaders and spends his final moments with his girlfriend before she takes shelter. When Zeon introduces the nerve agent inside the colony, total casualties ensue, and Yūki himself dies slowly in the cold after expending the last of his energy trying to enter the shelter, after seeing the bodies of others caught outside. The nerve agent penetrates the interior of the shelter, killing all within, as well: officials were likely anticipating an invasion force rather than outright extermination.

  • When it becomes clear of what Zeon’s intentions with the depopulated colony are, Admiral Tianem leads the already depleted Federation fleet in a desperate bid to stop the colony from impacting with Earth. The full firepower of the remaining Federation ships are insufficient to destroy or even slow the colony, and the Federation fleet sustains further damage while trying to stop Island Iffish, engaging defending Zeon elements. It is not until the Zeons construct the first Colony Laser that there is a viable weapon of destroying objects the size of a colony all at once. The Titans would construct their own Colony Laser during the Gryps conflict, and in Gundam Unicorn, the Federation secretly commissioned the Gryps II laser.

  • One wonders if the UNSC Infinity’s CR-03 Series-8 MACs could deal enough damage to stop a colony, given an estimated yield of around 50 gigatons. The Zeon’s plan do not account for the forces of re-entry causing Island Iffish to break up in the atmosphere. While considerably less dense compared with a natural asteroid of similar dimensions, the sheer size of a colony could deal considerably damage nonetheless: the three fragments hit Australia, the Pacific Ocean and North America near Toronto, and the resulting damage from the impact, resultant cooling of the climate and seismic activity lead to immeasurable casualties.

  • Sora no Woto fans typically do not agree with my conclusion that the world’s state in the anime was caused by a human war, instead, insisting that global devastation was caused by an extraterrestrial avian species. Their theory is ill-justified and disintegrates when one asks about the species’ role on ecology and why their presence is not noticed in Sora no Woto. An event rivalling a colony drop in scale, following a protracted war, on the other hand, provides a much more plausible explanation, and the events of The Origin reinforce the idea that colony drop events can cause the sort of devastation that the folks in Sora no Woto must contend with.

  • The results of Operation British are vast Federation civilian casualties, with no damage done to Jaburo base whatsoever. Despite his insistence to continue the war, and his proclaimation that those who carried out Operation British are to be punished, Gihren offers no rebuttal when Degwin counters that responsibility of Operation British actually falls on him. I imagine that Gihren is referring to the subordinates who executed the plan, but ultimately, it would appear that for his sharp-mindedness, Gihren did not expect the colony to disintegrate during re-entry.

  • Dozle is easily the least disagreeable member of the Zabi family. Despite his bombastic nature, Dozle is surprisingly gentle. His loud rants quickly cause Mineva to wake up. He promises to make a world where children do not needlessly die in war and resolves to fight for Zeon in the hopes that a Zeon victory will allow such a dream to be realised. Mineva will later play an instrumental role in the Laplace Conflict during the events of Gundam Unicorn, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the OVAs, one of the elements that remained unaddressed is what eventually happens to Banagher, Mineva and Riddhe.

  • A doctor by this point in time, Sayla Mass is very dedicated towards her work, but when a Zeon operative reveals information to her about Casval, who’s taken the name Char Aznable by now, Sayla cannot help but be distracted from her duties. Her longing to meet Casval again does not appear to have wavered after all this time, although the rumours surrounding him lead her to wonder what he’s become since they went their separate ways following their mother’s passing.

  • Char informs his mechanic of performance limitations in his Zaku and requests that the limiter be disabled here. He later spars verbally with the Black Tri-Stars, whose animosity for him are out in the open. While they are quite hostile towards Char, perceiving him as being present to steal their glory and receiving special treatment, the events at Loum will lead them to confer upon him begrudging respect. The Zeon forces begin amassing to take Loum, realising that the Federation will certainly respond, and despite the disparity in their numerical strength, the Zeons place their wagers on mobile suits as playing an instrumental role.

  • Freshly-outfitted Federation cruisers launch from underground sites. Special booster units are seen attached to them, allowing them to overcome escape velocity, speaking to the relatively primitive state of the Federation space fleet: in later Gundam instalments such as Gundam Unicorn, warships are able to exit the Earth’s atmosphere and return to space at will. The composition of this scene brings to mind a moment in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare where Captain Reyes takes control of the SDF Olympus Mons and sets course for Mars to exact revenge against the SDF fleet.

  • Zeon’s march to war drives their supporters to rally and clash with anti-Zeon parties, resulting in civil disturbances within the colonies as citizens become divided with respect to which side they should support. Because Loum is set to receive Federation support, Zeon’s leadership decide to eliminate Loum before the Federation can reinforce them and as such, is anticipating attack from Admiral Tianem’s forces at Loum.

  • The fifth instalment of The Origin reveals that Crowley Hamon is also an accomplished singer. After evicting agents working on Kycilia’s behalf, she performs a ballad that mirrors the increasingly grim and sorrowful mood that has gripped the Universal Century as Federation and Zeon forces continue their war. For a few moments in The Origin, the futility of war can be felt in Miyuki Sawashiro’s performance: she’s a capable singer and played Perrine H. Clostermann of Strike Witches, Masami Iwasawa in Angel Beats! and Sword Art Online‘s Shino Asada (aka. Sinon).

  • When ruffians begin attacking the nearby village in the Texas Colony and make their way to the Aznable Estate, Sayla picks up a lever-action rifle and begins firing, killing several ruffians in the process. Despite her objection to the fighting and violence between the Federation and Zeons, seeing all of the injured and wounded as being people, Sayla does not hesitate to fire on people who threaten those around her. Despite their older weapons, the residents of the Aznable Estate put up a fight and eventually manage to drive off the ruffians.

  • During the course of the night, Eduardo Mass dies from cardiac failure, likely brought on by the intensity of the combat. There’s little time to mourn his passing, as outside, the Zeon forces have engaged and destroyed the docks to a nearby colony. The surviving ruffians are consumed with fear when they realise they cannot return, only to find themselves at the hands of understandably angry residents.

  • As of late, one of my friends picked up the 1/144 System Weapons 007 revision package for the beam spear for Federation mobile suits, as well as the Sinanju’s Rocket Bazooka options. As I have an HGUC Sinanju, he gave me the parts to upgrade the Sinanju: I’ve found the Sinanju to be an excellent model all around for its detail and options, and I’ve also seen several different choices for the Rocket Bazooka. The 007 revision provides the original under-barrel attachment, as well as the means to convert the bazooka into a standalone weapon system, and even can be mounted onto the shield, allowing me to configure the Sinanju into the loadout it’s seen with in the fifth and sixth episodes of Gundam Unicorn.

  • Despite her furious resolve to survive and do what she can, Sayla’s desire to contact her brother’s fate drives much of her actions in Mobile Suit Gundam, where she later takes on a position on board White Base and becomes the backup pilot for the RX-78. She encounters him on several occasions, and later learns of his motivations to exact revenge on the Zabi family. This revelation shows that Char actually had very little interest in the Zeon cause, desiring advancement to better position himself for revenge. However, upon meeting Amuro Ray and losing Lalah Sune, Char’s quest for revenge against Amuro takes on a more personal tone.

  • The Zeon forces prepare for their attack on Tianem’s fleet, marking the opening of the Battle of Loum. One of the elements I’ve noticed in The Origin is that combat sequences are comparatively fewer relative to those of other Gundam series; The Origin places a much greater emphasis on the human elements of warfare and so, it is appropriate to be illustrating the sorts of things people experience in war. With this in mind, I’m hoping that the finale will have a bit more combat scenes, rather similar to how Gundam Unicorn was predominantly driven by stories of the people involved and presented a fantastic finale.

  • Degwin and Garma watch on as the Zeon forces begin engaging the Federation Fleet. The Origin’s animated incarnation appears to have dispensed with the Zeon’s attempts to drop a second colony onto Earth, and instead, opens with the Zeon forces engaging Tianem’s fleet as a distraction. Nuclear weapons are also absent, with all of the engagements being traditional ship-to-ship battles. When the Battle of Loum is mentioned, my mind immediately returns to the fuzzy, low-resolution image that belies the true scale and intensity of the ship-to-ship battles as seen in the high-resolution, crisp presentation in The Origin.

  • The Origin depicts the Federation as having an overwhelming edge over Zeon forces, and here, Tianem remarks on the necessity of stamping out Zeon as his forces decimate Dozle’s fleet. Both Zeon and the Federation have access to mega-particle cannons, which are explained to result from the fusion of Minovsky Particles in a high energy-environment. When properly contained by an I-field and propelled in a certain direction; compared to other directed-energy weapons, the mega-particles are much more powerful for their size, but the generators to compress and fuse Minovsky particles are themselves massive, being only appropriate for deployment on capital ship-sized platforms.

  • The RX-78 II was thus revolutionary for making effective use of an innovation called the E-cap. An energy capacitor, the E-cap holds Minovsky particles and fuse them to generate a mega-particle beam capable of destroying a mobile suit in a single shot, as Amuro discovers when sortieing in the RX-78 II for the first time. Because the high energy resulting from a beam rifle cannot be deflected by anti-beam coatings, mobile suits would come to rely on speed and I-fields to avoid destruction. Federation Mobile Suits adopted beam technology more quickly than their Zeon counterparts, although Zeon eventually catches up.

  • Char prepares for sortie in his distinct red Zaku. To reach the Federation fleet, he pushes the engines to their absolute limits, ignoring the system’s warning and gaining a lock before Federation vessels can detect and engage him with their CIWS. Subtle details in the thruster outputs, the keystrokes Char uses to disengage the limiters and warning indicators even as his targeting computer marks out Federation vessels made this scene particularly enjoyable to watch. With the hitherto unmatched power of a mobile suit, Char feels as though even God himself ought to bow down to him: for his exceptional skill as a pilot, Char is also unabashedly confident in his own ability.

  • It is here at Loum that Char becomes known as the Red Comet, and with this final screenshot, my talk on The Origin‘s fifth episode draws to a close. Superbly enjoyable to watch, I’ve found The Origin to be an excellent interpretation of the Universal Century, perfect for folks who enjoyed Gundam Unicorn and general fans of the Universal Century in providing a modernised, detailed view of Char’s story and the rise of Zeon. I note that this movie’s been around since September 2, but things have been busy, and I’ve only recently had the chance to really sit down and write about it. The conclusion of this post means that we’re very nearly done The Origin, which will close with the sixth episode, “The Rise of the Red Comet” in the upcoming May.

With the next and final chapter of The Origin releasing in May 2018, there remains a ways to go yet before we see the conclusion of The Origin, which deals with Char and his ascendancy in Zeon as the ace pilot. I’ve longed to see the Battle of Loum with modern animation, and the fifth instalment of The Origin does just this, showcasing the One Year War’s most infamous battles in fantastic detail. From the technical aspects of Zeon’s Musai-class compared against the Federation’s Salamis and Magellan-class vessels, to Char’s requests for removing the limiters on his Zaku and participation in some of the battles, The Origin continues in following the development of the hardware involved in fighting the wars, as well as the people fighting them. Of note was Ramba Ral’s refusal to participate in Operation British, reflecting that while the Zeons were undoubtedly an antagonistic entity, there remained at least a handful of reasonable individuals in Zeon. Ramba Ral’s role in The Origin differs greatly from what it was in the original Mobile Suit Gundam, where he was intended to represent an ordinary but devoted soldier whose death came about from the tragedy of conflict. The Origin takes numerous liberties with the narrative, but so far, things have remained consistent: ultimately, I am quite excited to see what the last chapter of The Origin will entail, and it would be most pleasant if Amuro Ray and the RX-78 II makes a combat appearance in the finale to fight Char and his Zaku II Custom.