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Do You Love Your Mom on the Shore?: Okaa-san Online OVA Review and Reflection

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.” –Unknown

Shirase invites Masato and his party to a private resort on the beach to relax. Here, Mamako attempts to spend more time with Masato, but he declines, feeling it to be embarrassing. Shirase suggests the classic sport of watermelon spitting with a wooden sword, but when Mamako inadvertently causes him to walk into her, he chucks the sword into the ocean in frustration. An unknown entity throws the sword back, knocking him out. The impact induces retrograde amnesia: Masato fails to recognise his party and Mamako, but he vaguely recalls Mamako as being important to him. Mamako decides to spend this time with Masato, who seems more receptive to her. As the evening sets in, Masato wonders if the unusual feeling he has towards Mamako might be love and attempts a kokuhaku, but before they can kiss, a kraken appears and hauls Masato into the sea. This spontaneously causes Masato’s memories to return, and Mamako defeats it. In the aftermath, Masato and the party decide to grill the remains of the kraken for dinner, only for one of the tentacles to combust, hit each of Wise, Medhi, Porta and Mamako on the head and leave them with retrograde amnesia. This is the OVA to Okaa-san Online, an unaired episode that accompanied the BD release back in March.

If memory serves, Okaa-san Online was a series that I found to be rather enjoyable despite its unusual premise. Okaa-san Online is technically an isekai anime, built around the premise of a VR game designed to help parents and their children bond. During its run, Okaa-san Online explored different facets of the parent-child dynamic, concluding in a titanic battle against a powerful but incompetent foe that helps Masato to appreciate everything that Mamako does for him, even if it does border on the embarrassing at times. In the OVA, however, it’s an off-the-books side adventure that provides an opportunity for the characters to bounce off one another. As Shirase is kind enough to inform Masato of, this day at the beach seemingly serves no purpose than to showcase the entire cast in swimsuits, doing the sorts of things most commonly associated with a Japanese style summer break. However, when Masato takes a knock to his cranium and develops amnesia, his dynamic with Mamako shows that even when his memories are lost (temporarily), the strength of the mother-child bond is sufficient so that he vaguely remembers Mamako, giving Mamako a rare chance to dote on Masato in ways that he normally would flat out refuse. In short, the OVA is a fun addition to Okaa-san Online, featuring a space to let the characters interact more freely without the constraints of a longer-term goal that the regular episodes have.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It feels a little strange to be back, writing shorter posts again; the last five posts I wrote total some thirty-four thousand words, and admittedly, were quite exhausting. I figured that, to ease myself back into things, it would be appropriate to do a shorter post on Okaa-san Online, whose OVA was released back in March along with the BDs. It’s been around nine months since I last wrote for Okaa-san Online, and I figured that since there was an uptick of searches for this series, people might’ve been looking for the OVA.

  • Within its runtime, Okaa-san Online‘s OVA brings back all of the small details that made the TV series so enjoyable to watch, but without a primary objective to work towards, the entire OVA ends up being a chance to have everyone play off one another for comedy’s sake. Last I wrote about Okaa-san Online, one of the points that came up was Porta’s origins: her mother’s never shown on screen, and of everyone, she seems the most untroubled. As it turns out, she’s a special kind of beta tester, although her background remains quite unknown.

  • After Masato offers to help Porta inflate her inner tube, Wise grows jealous and uses a spell that blows Misato’s swimsuit away. To spare him the indigity of wandering around without clothes, Mamako covers him, but creates additional embarrassment. This leads to the question of how this particular VRMMORPG even works, if it’s able to infer one’s physical characteristics: most games simply don’t bother rendering more than they have to in order to reduce the amount of resources loaded into memory.

  • Mamako’s character is very similar to that of Ah! My Goddess‘ Belldandy, and in retrospect, Ai Kayano (Utaha Kasumigaoka of Saekano, Saori Takebe from Girls und Panzer and GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hotо̄) does have similar talents as Kikuko Inoue for voicing matronly characters, alongside a very varied and impressive range of characters. Here, after Masato brushes her off and returns to shore, Mamako wonders about Masato’s sense of embarrassment.

  • Her thoughts are interrupted when Wise, Medhi and Porta splash her, leading them to frolic in the warm waters. Such waters remind me of those of Cancún, whose waters are similarly pleasant to wade into, and possess a beautiful shade of turquoise. Deep blue skies, such as those seen here, are among my chiefest reasons for watching anime: they evoke a sense of contentment that I cannot readily describe, and I have been swayed into picking what anime I check out for a season based on blue skies alone.

  • Suikawari is a longstanding tradition in Japan, resembling the Western version of piñata smashing. The game is, coincidentally, similar to the VR game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes in that it requires someone to talk to the individual smashing the watermelon in the right direction (in the game, someone looking at a separate screen walks the player using the VR headset through defusing the explosives). Masato gets talked into accepting the suikawari challenge with Mamako as the giver of instructions, and ultimately, he walks into her, failing the challenge.

  • Where Masato is unsuccessful, Shirase uses a knife to cut the watermelon into cleaner slices. One of the things about suikawari is that it tends to leave a bit of a mess, and a cloth is usually laid out so the remains of the watermelon can be eaten. Curiously enough, suika (kanji 西瓜) is rendered as sai1 gwaa1 in jyutping, but broken up into its components, 西’s Hepburn is nishi, and 瓜 is uri. Different contexts change the use of kana and pronunciation of certain kanji, and here is an interesting example of how Cantonese and Japanese share some similarities.

  • When the wooden sword Masato chucks into the sea is returned to him, striking him in the head, Masato is knocked out and awakens with no memory of himself. This is a common enough storytelling element in comedy; having a character forget their sense of self is no joke in reality, but in fiction, can be used to create unusual moments. Okaa-san Online, however, is a VRMMORPG, and as such, such a mechanic doesn’t seem to make much sense, since the characters can sustain harm in-game without physical injury to their bodies in the real world.

  • While the game world of Okaa-san Online is one that leaves many questions, some of the phenomenon can be rationalised as a consequence of the game being in beta form. Here, it is conceivable that taking a hit to the head can shock the brain in the real world into an amnesia-like state. Having said this, I’m typically not a stickler for things like plot holes and the like, and I enjoy filling plot-holes when watching a given work that may feature unexplored events.

  • In the absence of his old memories, Masato consents to participate in several games that Mamako proposes, including Twister. The original game was intended as a game of physical skill and conceived as a party game in 1966 by Reyn Guyer and Charles Foley. The game became a smash hit, but also drew controversy for potentially putting the players in compromising positions; this criticism has been used as a comedic device in anime. Okaa-san Online presents a milder version of this, and nothing particularly questionable happens beyond providing the viewer with a rather scenic view of Mamako.

  • A draw game results from Masato and Mamako playing Twister, after which Mamako decides to go crab hunting next. What happens next is worthy of Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!?, and here, I remark that while the series ran last year during the spring season, I didn’t get around to actually watching it until this March. Having gone through Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!? in full now, I can say that the series provides some laughs, although it offers nothing substantial by way of themes and isn’t exactly a series that one could recommend.

  • Consequently, I don’t think I’ll be writing about Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!? unless there is a particularly strong wish to see what I could do for that series: ordinarily, I am able to include the odd screenshot or two in a post for those moments because it offers a nice change of pacing, but in a series that is built entirely around improbable moments, writing for that could get tiresome very quickly. The equivalent moment in Okaa-san Online occurs when a crab destroys Mamako’s swimsuit, prompting Masato to cover her.

  • Fearing that Masato’s improving relationship with Mamako may threaten their adventures, Wise and Medhi devise a plan to swiftly restore Masato’s memories. However, Masato appears to see right through their ploy, and delivers two devastating blows that leaves Medhi kicking a palm tree in anger, while Wise is left commiserating after his remarks. Having now seen KonoSuba, it’s not lost on me that Okaa-san Online and KonoSuba share similarities in that for both series, male lead winds up with an all-female party.

  • The OVA actually opened here, dropping viewers right into things without creating the proper context and therefore, captures their interest. Masato’s kokuhaku comes as a bit of a surprise, and given his usual personality, invites viewers to delve into the OVA to see what precisely led to such a moment. In the absence of any context, the moment alone seems suited as being a proper kokuhaku, being set under a beautiful sunset on the beach.

  • While Okaa-san Online is no Makoto Shinkai film, its visuals are of a generally high quality, and there are moments, like this sunset, which look stunning. This isn’t too surprising: Okaa-san Online is helmed by J.C. Staff, a studio which has the likes of KonoSuba, Ano Natsu de Matteru, Amanchu!, Flying Witch, Machikado Mazoku and DanMachi in their repertoire, all of which are impressive-looking series.

  • Once the kraken appears and hauls Masato into the water, Shirase reveals that it was her doing: a tentacled monster for a beach episode is apparently an essential. Kraken originate from Nordic folklore, speaking of squid of gargantuan proportion: the legend likely came from sightings of the giant squid (Architeuthis dux), whose preference for deep ocean waters meant that they were rarely sighted. Medhi and Wise are unimpressed with Shirase’s blunt attempt at introducing fanservice in a context where it’s already quite unnecessary to push things further. It becomes apparent here that it was likely the kraken that returned Masato’s wooden sword, irate that Masato had hit it.

  • Initially, the kraken goes after Mamako, but takes Masato instead. In a panic, he calls out to Mamako, and his memories are restored. Mamako subsequently retrieves her swords and defeats the kraken: with the help of Mamako’s top-tier swordsmanship, the kraken is defeated. The kraken of Okaa-san Online is not as tough as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Watcher in the Water; this monster, of unknown origin, was able to keep attacking even when several of its tentacles were severed and ultimately forced the Fellowship of the Ring to take the Mines of Moria.

  • While the OVA might be fun and games, it also sheds a bit more light into Masato’s past: as a child, Masato had been knocked over by a wave, and Mamako had pulled him from the water. In the present, Mamako uses a spell to part the waters and reach Masato in a moment that will immediately bring to mind the Biblical story Exodus, where Moses parts the Red Sea in order to lead the Israelites to safety from pursuing forces.

  • Masato and the others enjoy a grilled squid dinner with the Kraken’s remains. Grilled squid is a common dish in both Taiwan and Japan. In Taiwan, grilled squid is found at night markets, where vendors grill it with light soy sauce and chilies. The Japanese version of the dish, ikayaki, follows a similar recipe with slightly different ingredients, and both are delicious. Admittedly, it is a little surprising the Kraken is edible: if we assume that the Kraken is physiologically similar to a giant squid, the high levels of ammonia in its flesh would render it quite unsafe to eat.

  • To provide some final laughs before the OVA ends, the Kraken tentacle Masato and the others are happily grilling begins to heat up unevenly, and ruptures, propelling it into the air. It outright kills Shirase and knocks out Mamako, Wise, Medhi and Porta. When they come to, each has amnesia, leaving Masato in a bit of a bind. Writing for the Okaa-san Online OVA was fun, being a return to the shorter format, and I will be doing the same for Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ OVA in the near future.

The OVA thus represents a short but enjoyable return to Okaa-san Online, whose story stood out for making an honest effort to use a VRMMORPG in order to convey a specific story about the mother-child dynamics amongst people. As an isekai series, Okaa-san Online is typically light-hearted and easygoing, preferring to use comedy, made possible by being set in a game world, to drive most moments forward. This is something I’ve noticed a trend: my enjoyment of isekai series stems largely from how well the series is able to utilise its setting to communicate a particular message and furthermore, where there is a good reason to have a characters enter an alternate world, in a setting where the real world definitively exists (as opposed to being set in a completely different world outright with no connection to the real world as we know it). In the case of Okaa-san Online, the VRMMORPG world is used to eliminate the space separating Masato and Mamako. While this is typically done for comedy, it also has the tangible effect of helping Masato to appreciate Mamako more, as the two spend time on adventures together with Porta, Wise and Medhi. When I last wrote about Okaa-san Online, the light novels had been ongoing: since then, two more volumes were released, and the series concluded in April. Given that the entire light novel series is done, one wonders if there will be a second season to Okaa-san Online: at the time of writing, I’ve not heard anything that indicates that Masato and Mamako’s adventures will continue in the anime format, but it would be interesting to see where this series would go in a second season if one were to be made.

Sauna, Meal and A Three-Wheeler: Heya Camp△ OVA Review and Reflection

“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” –Henry David Thoreau

When Rin arrives home from school one day, she finds her usual moped is gone, replaced by a Yamaha Tricity. She learns from her father that he’d taken her moped for maintenance work, and the workshop has given her a loaner. Because she had plans to camp that weekend near Hokuto, Rin decides to take the Tricity out. On the open road, she’s blown away by its handling and performance. Rin’s first destination is Enmei Hot Spring, where she soaks in the onsen before recalling a conversation she’d had with Ena earlier, who had mentioned that the trifecta of five minutes of warming up in a sauna, followed by a five-minute dip in spring water and then relaxing in the open air for five minutes has rejuvenating properties. Rin decides to give this a go, and finds that Ena was absolutely correct; she’s also left hungry by the experience, and sets off for lunch. She finds a restaurant named Takaoka and orders the tempura set, featuring a variety of tempura on rice with a side of miso soup and pickled vegetables. Lunch leaves Rin immensely satisfied, and she goes grocery shopping at Himawari Supermarket, purchasing local ingredients for her dinner. Marvelling at the Tricity’s performance, she heads off to her campground at Nyukasa JA House, a 32.5 kilometre journey. As night falls, Rin sets up camp and enjoys a delicious dinner of a bacon and eggplant and tomato sandwich with tomato soup. Under a starry sky, she reflects on the day and smiles, feeling that there is no better way to relax than by means of solo camping. Heya Camp△ had spent most of its run focused on Nadeshiko and the stamp rally that Chiaki and Aoi had put on for her, so Rin was largely absent from the proceedings, and so, in its OVA, Heya Camp△ allows viewers to follow Rin’s excellent adventure. The OVA is described as a bit of a sponsored programme with Yamaha, who wished to promote their Tricity line: a second generation was introduced in 2019 to address limitations the first generation model. Described as possessing exceptional stability and handling, but with a weaker engine for a vehicle of its size and requiring frequent maintenance, the Tricity has not seen the success Yamaha was hoping for. Rin’s experiences with the Tricity are decidedly positive: it is more powerful and stable than her own moped, and overall, the OVA presents a superbly relaxing experience.

Heya Camp△‘s OVA is an immensely peaceful experience that focuses on Rin, who had only made a few appearances during Heya Camp△ proper, and in this special episode, a sense of calm and solitude permeates the entire episode, giving viewers an experience of what constitutes as a trip that Rin considers ideal. While the Heya Camp△ OVA is prima facie a gentle journey, the OVA demonstrates Rin’s growth ever since meeting Nadeshiko: specifically, she’s become a bit more open-minded and flexible. Right out of the gates, Rin’s plans to camp are surprised with a new bike, and she decides to roll with it, immediately finding it to be a fun experience. At the onsen, Rin takes up Ena’s suggestion to try a relaxation technique and is pleasantly surprised at the outcomes, despite the painful cold of the spring water bath. When Rin goes shopping for groceries, her only criteria are that the dinner has to be light and something she can prepare without too much trouble. She ends up picking some local ingredients and using her pie iron, whips up a delicious sandwich. It’s a journey of new discoveries rolled in with the atmosphere that Rin is so fond of. While Rin indisputably enjoys the solitude and quiet of solo camping, the trip that she takes in the Heya Camp△ OVA was one that was filled with surprises, and Rin seems more able to roll with new experiences now to a greater extent than seen in Yuru Camp△. Where Heya Camp△ indicated that Nadeshiko is now more familiar with the Yamanashi area and able to take a more proactive approach in inviting Rin to accompany her and the Outdoors Activity Club, the OVA shows that Rin’s become a bit more open-minded, as well, which sets the stage for what is to come during season two of Yuru Camp△, which was formally announced back in March, shortly before Heya Camp△ concluded. Character growth corresponds with being able to explore new directions, and it will be excellent to see what new adventures awaits a group of friends brought together by their love of Mount Fuji and the outdoors.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Heya Camp△‘s OVA begins with Rin returning home to find a three-wheeled bike in the place of her usual moped. When I published my talk on Yuru Camp△‘s live action adaptation and remarked that I had found the real world equivalent of Rin’s house, I stated that I would not share the location out of respect for the residents’ privacy. Since then, one Izumi Tomiyama went ahead and uploaded the location to Google Maps; Tomiyama is a local and states that the actual building was once a restaurant. Provided that visitors are respectful and only hang out on the outside without disrupting the building’s occupants, I suppose this shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Yuru Camp△ had used a fictionalised portrayal of Rin’s house, which is supposed to be closer to the town of Furuseki in Minobu. This town is a short ways northeast of the Minobu High School, which would explain why the area is portrayed as being less densely populated. The trend of inanimate objects speaking in Yuru Camp△ is one of those subtle but enjoyable aspects in the series, and makes a brief reappearance in Heya Camp△‘s OVA: after arriving home, Rin’s surprised to see a hulked-out bike in place of her usual moped, which greets her the same way pinecones and acorns do. In this OVA, viewers are also introduced to Rin’s father, Wataru Shima, who is voiced by Takahiro Sakurai, of Hibike! Euphonium‘s Taki Noboru fame.

  • As it turns out, Rin’s moped is out for maintenance, and the shop’s lent her an interim bike, Yamaha’s Tricity. Rin’s a little surprised, but otherwise decides to roll with things, continuing on with her trip as planned. Ordinarily, Rin operates a Vimo 50 moped, which has a 50 cc engine: in my area, a moped must not have an engine displacement exceeding 50 cc, and moreover, cannot exceed a maximum speed of 70 kilometres per hour. The Vimo would therefore be something that someone with a Class VII license could operate. In Japan, different laws allow Rin to operate the Tricity, which has a 125 cc engine displacement, although back home, this would not be permissible (she’d need a Class VI license): my province defines a motor cycle as any two or three-wheeled vehicles not meeting the definitions that constitute a moped.

  • Right out of the gates, Rin is impressed with the Tricity, whose larger engine and double front wheels confer superior performance and stability compared to her Vimo. She’s running the Aqua Blue Tricity 125, and compliments the smooth ride she’s getting out of it. Rin’s experience in Heya Camp△‘s OVA brings to mind an adventure I had last year: during the Canada Day long weekend last year, I ended up renting a hybrid for a weekend road trip: while the hybrid does not accelerate or maintain a top speed as well as a conventional vehicle, its fuel economy was incredible.

  • After the cold of the drive up from Furuseki, Rin relaxes in the warm water baths of Enmei, who advertises their baths as having a European influence. The entrance fee is 830 yen for non-locals and 460 yen for residents (who need to produce an identification card). Enmei requires that visitors bring their own towels (or else purchase them at the front desk), but soap and shampoo are provided. Visitors generally praise the onsen for its excellent value and cleanness, but some feel the maintenance could be a little better.

  • The incredibly warm and cuddly-looking smiles of Yuru Camp△ make a return in the Heya Camp△ OVA; it was Ena who suggested that Rin try a variant of the Nordic Cycle technique. Ena is Rin’s best friend and able to elicit the most interesting reactions from her. Gentle, friendly and somewhat mischievous, Ena’s also somewhat lazy, preferring not to join any clubs and enjoys staying up late, as well as sleeping in. While she genuinely enjoys the Outdoors Activity Club’s excursions, she’s not quite ready to commit to a club yet.

  • Saunas are Finnish in origin, making use of high temperatures to encourage users to perspire. In small increments, use of a sauna is excellent for cardiovascular health, since the heat causes blood vessels to dilate, reducing blood pressure and improving circulation, as well as helping stiff joints to loosen up. However, sweating profusely caused by exposure to heat can cause dehydration, and saunas warn their users to spend no more than a quarter-hour inside. Ena’s routine stipulates that Rin is to spend no more than five minutes in the sauna before switching over to the next phase.

  • Cool baths at the Enmei Hot Spring draw water from the aquifer; while an elderly lady is enjoying the brisk water, Rin immediately feels uncomfortable with the dramatic temperature differential between the sauna and cool water as a part of the Nordic Cycle: people who do this routine remark on its positive effects, as the temperatures not only impact circulation, but also prompts the contraction of different muscles and helps with skin health, as well. Experts typically recommend making a shorter cold plunge, since staying in cold water for extended periods can lower the body’s core temperature.

  • Overall, the Nordic Cycle does have its benefits, and the usual caution should be observed (e.g. individuals with hypertension should not do this activity). Ena’s variant of the Nordic Cycle adds a five minute breather in the open air, allowing the body to recover. This additional wait makes the exercise less taxing on the body, and so, after three sets of three, Rin does feel noticeably more relaxed. This first stop represents the sauna piece of the OVA’s title.

  • Heya Camp△‘s OVA has Rin dispense with her longer hairstyle, which is only really noticeable when she enters Enmei Hot Spring: normally, she puts her hair in a bun before soaking in a hot springs, and while some viewers count this change in hairstyle tantamount to sacrilege, I personally don’t really mind at all. This OVA had actually been uploaded to YouTube back in April for a day so people could check it out and was removed after a day elapsed although the OVA was heavily watermarked and deliberately capped at 480p. Discussions of the OVA have been found on Reddit and MyAnimeList’s forums, but do not cover the locations that Rin visits; the OVA’s release to BD means the time is suited for rectifying this.

  • Having spent a morning rejuvenating herself at Enmei Hot Spring per Ena’s recommendation, Rin’s worked up an appetite and sets off for lunch. While Spatio Kobuchisawa Hotel does have a Cantonese restaurant on-site, their offerings are a bit pricier. Knowing that Rin depends very heavily on Google Maps (to the point where she often forgets to apply her own judgement and comes across roadblocks as a consequence), I was able to trace down the route Rin took from Enmei to her destination: she travels along the shortest path that Google recommends, leading her to pass by this otherwise unremarkable field in en route to lunch.

  • Rin ends up having lunch at Takaoka Japanese Restaurant (高岡和食処), located about six minutes away from Enmei Hot Spring by road. Despite being quite out of the way, locals praise the restaurant for its simple but delicious food, good prices and generous portions, as well as a very relaxing atmosphere, although some visitors have noted that the wait times can be a bit long. Like Enmei Hot Spring, I ended up using the kanji on the restaurant to find its location. I admit that normally, when searching up kanji, I actually use a Chinese keyboard since it’s more intuitive for me: 高岡 means “tall ridge” when translated to Chinese.

  • Takaoka’s standard tempura set rolls for 980 yen (about 12.50 CAD) and features miso soup, pickled vegetables and a large bowl of rice along with the tempura centrepiece and tentsuyu, a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, dashi and mirin. Takaoka offers a variety of vegetable tempura in its meal: Rin digs into Japanese leaf tempura alongside eggplant, maitake and jikobo (two kinds of Japanese mushrooms), yam and pumpkin before making her way to sillago (a fish) and last but not least, the prawn tempura. During my trip to Japan three years earlier, I spent one night at Ikenotaira Hotel on the shores of Shirakabako, and dinner encompassed a variety of tempura that proved quite delicious. Here, I also was able to try fiddlehead tempura along with Japanese leaf tempura; the slightly bitter flavour offers this tempura a rather unique character.

  • Rin comments that making tempura during camping would be a bit of a hassle: while the batter is made with simple ingredients (flour, egg and water, chilled with ice cubes), it cannot be prepared ahead of time since the batter can’t be kept at low temperatures for extended periods. The process of frying it would also require a pan and oil heated to around 170-180°C, which can prove tricky to clean up in a camping scenario. Curiously enough, air-fryers can be used to make tempura, and while it may not yield the same fluffy batter as traditional oil frying would, the results look delicious. Having already seen that an air-fryer can be used to make sweet and sour pork even more delicious than those of a restaurant (the home-made approach allows me to use less batter and more meat), it is tempting to go and give some recipes out there for tempura a go.

  • Watching Rin eat her way through the tempura set brought to mind how Adam Richman enjoys a good meal when he’s not under a time constraint to finish, but it also gives insight into Rin’s personality: she eats her vegetables first and then meat, saving the shrimp tempura for last to savour it. This is, coincidentally, exactly how I eat my meals. I always eat my vegetables first before the meat, and when shellfish is available, I tend to save that for last, as well (e.g. in a surf-n’-turf, I eat the steak before the lobster). This subtle detail suggests that of everyone in Yuru Camp△, I’m the most similar to Rin, and there is truth in this comparison; beyond the order in which we prefer to eat our foods, I genuinely enjoy my alone time.

  • Rin thanks the staff at Takaoka for a delicious meal before heading off for her next stop. Local fans of Yuru Camp△ immediately visited Takaoka after the corresponding manga chapter became available a year ago, to experience the same meal that Rin experienced. Through Heya Camp△‘s OVA, the chapter is brought to life and really accentuates the peaceful atmosphere at Takaoka, as well as Rin’s enjoyment of the simple, yet delicious meal that lends itself to the gohan piece of the OVA’s title.

  • From the sounds of things, there’s been a bit of a debate on the intertubes as to whether or not Heya Camp△‘s OVA, サウナとごはんと三輪バイク, should be given as Sauna to Gohan to Miwa bike or Sauna to Gohan to Sanrin bike. The proper romanisation of 三輪 in this context is Sanrin, since the kanji is referring to Rin’s Tricity, a three-wheeled bike. In Cantonese, the jyutping for 三輪 is saam1 leon4, which is phonetically similar to sanrin. Unlike Chinese, however, Japanese kanji can have multiple pronunciations; while miwa is technically valid (and sounds a bit more adorable), it is not correct in this context.

  • By this point in time, given that I’ve found Takaoka Japanese Restaurant, and with the knowledge that Rin’s next stop is a supermarket, all I needed to do with Google Maps was look up supermarkets in the area. The first result that appears is Sunflower Supermarket (ひまわり市場, Hepburn Himawari Ichiba), and taking a closer look, this is indeed the supermarket that Rin swings by to purchase ingredients to prepare dinner with. Thus, despite lacking any background information from the characters’ dialogue or direct references in Heya Camp△, I was able to locate most of the locations Rin travels to using a simple bit of kanji and Google-fu without difficulty.

  • Rin finds Sunflower Supermarket to be very well-stocked, with a diverse array of items; besides local vegetables from the Yatsugatake Mountains (located a mere twelve kilometres north of Sunflower Supermarket) and a bewildering array of spices, Rin’s impressed with their selection of meats. She ends up buying bacon from Hakushū, a small town that was merged with Nagasaka, Sutama and Takane to create the city of Hokuto in 2004. This is why a cursory search for Hakushū will only yield results for the distillery from the area, which has retained its name. Besides a strong selection of groceries, Sunflower Supermarket sells firewood out front.

  • Rin remarks that Sunflower Supermarket looks like a great place to shop for camping provisions, and further to this, has a great atmosphere. It would appear that Rin’s never been to Sunflower before, given her remarks. A panning shot of the interior shows that it would be a great shop for locals, selling a combination of everyday necessities as well as unique locale wares. While most supermarkets have a similar layout, smaller ones often have products that can’t be found at larger ones, and I imagine this is one of the joys of living in a smaller town with access to the freshest agricultural products.

  • Rin’s final stop for the day is her campsite. This was the only location I couldn’t locate with the techniques I described earlier, but fortunately, I was able to track down the official page from Yamaha, which verifies that all of the locations I found line up, and moreover, provides the location of the campground Rin visits. Rin’s journey ends at Mount Nyukasa, and upon finding a special map of the area, it turns out that there’s a very obscure camp ground at Mount Nyukasa, called the Nyukasa JA House. The location is not marked on Google Maps, but fortunately, Google Street View does have reach out here; upon inspection, the still seen in the OVA lines up with what Street View shows.

  • The Heya Camp△ OVA is of a superb animation quality, and enjoying the BD version is the optimal way of really taking in the visuals. The only quibble I have with the OVA is that there are a few places where Rin’s helmet visor, from a distance, takes on an opaque character that makes it resemble the modified helmet with the blast shield that Luke used in A New Hope to train his Jedi reflexes. Naturally, the visor isn’t actually opaque, and this is just a level-of-detail design to simplify the animation. After Rin arrives at the campsite, she sets up camp and goes about making dinner.

  • Darkness has set in by the time Rin’s good to go: with her tent set up and a warm campfire to sit by, Rin messages Ena, remarking that she’s rather enjoyed the Nordic Cycle at the sauna, but isn’t still quite feeling fully rejuvenated yet. The exchanges between Ena and Rin show a more spirited side to Rin’s character; while she’s typically stoic and not outwardly expressive, her monologues show that Rin does have the words for what she’s feeling despite not having a lot to say. Through her text messages, viewers can see that Rin is playful and has her own sense of humour.

  • The time has come for Rin to begin preparing a simple but delicious dinner of tomato soup and a grilled bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich with onion, eggplant and pickled jalapeños. She uses the pie iron she’d used to grill a pork bun during her unexpected solo camp trip during Yuru Camp△, when Nadeshiko caught a cold, which leaving Rin to do an impromptu trip. Since then, Rin’s evidently looked up more recipes to see what can be made with the pie iron: besides sandwiches, one can also make pizza, quesadillas, omelettes and even waffles with a pie iron. Like a cast iron pot, pie irons should to be seasoned before they can be used: besides providing rust-proofing, this also helps to create a non-stick coating.

  • Heya Camp△‘s OVA shows the result of Rin’s effort in vivid detail: Rin’s homemade BLT and soup combo look delicious. Since the global health crisis’s impacts became increasingly felt, there’s been an uptick of creative recipes being published to help people at home craft delicious and uplifting meals. Good food has been touted as helping people to get through these times, and strong morale, coupled with the slowly declining number of new cases is encouraging. For me, creative cooking means being able to do things like a peanut butter French toast (which was so rich that I ended up feeling that all day), as well as shrimp wor wonton with broccoli and cilantro that was remarkably refreshing thanks to how much flavour the soup picked up.

  • For its simplicity, the sandwich is probably one of the biggest innovations in gastronomy since humanity discovered how to preserve food, allowing one to experience a smorgasbord of flavours in every bite: Rin’s sandwich would create a flavour explosion from the savory bacon, crisp onions, refreshing tomatos and a bite from jalapeño from one mouthful. The name “sandwich” is British in origin, and the story is that John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, was an avid card player and frequently requested that his meat be placed between two pieces of bread so he could continue playing cards without leaving a mess. Those who played cards with him began “ordering the same as Sandwich”, and became a colloquial way to refer to what had once been known simply as “bread and meat”.

  • While Ena’s Nordic Cycle may not have left Rin feeling fully content, a fully day’s worth of solo activities, rounded off with a delicious dinner, does leave Rin rejuvenated in full. In spending a fully day with Rin, Heya Camp△‘s OVA serves one more critical purpose: it shows how quiet Yuru Camp△ would be had it purely followed Rin and her solo camping adventures. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, although it should be clear that a full-season of this would grow dull quickly, even for the biggest Shimarin fans. With the addition of Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi, Yuru Camp△ takes on a much more energetic feeling. A noisy, rambunctious group of campers being Yuru Camp△‘s pure focus would similarly lose its pizzazz, and this is where the genius of Yuru Camp△ becomes apparent: the simultaneous presentation of group camping and solo camping in different combinations keeps things fresh, creating both exciting and calm moments.

  • As Rin settles down for the evening and enjoys the solitude of a quiet night under a starry sky, I take a quiet moment to reflect on this post and remark that I am rather surprised that it was as lengthy as it was: it was an immensely fun exercise to locate all of the places that Rin stopped along for her solo trip using the Tricity, using nothing more than the kanji from the frames depicting each area. The end result is thirty screenshots worth of material to present to readers, and I hope that the reader had fun with this post as much as I enjoyed looking up and presenting the details about each spot; it feels like I did a virtual tour of the Hokuto for myself right alongside Rin.

  • It should be unsurprising that Heya Camp△‘s OVA scores a well-deserved A+ (4.0 of 4.0, or 9,5 of 10), same as the series proper; the amount of detail that went into showing Rin’s adventure with the Tricity is evident, and while Yamaha might’ve sponsored the OVA to have Rin speak to the Tricity’s capabilities, the OVA itself is never too brazen in being an advertisement for the Tricity. The end result is a clever incorporation of Yamaha’s promotion of their latest Tricity model into an OVA that shows what a flawless solo camping trip looks like for Rin. The OVA is very much a must-watch for anyone who enjoyed Heya Camp and are looking for something to tide them over while awaiting Yuru Camp△‘s second season.

Throughout Yuru Camp△, the girls have only camped during the autumn and winter; Rin had previously stated that this is her favourite time of year because the cooler weather means fewer crowds and a lack of insects. Similarly, since Nadeshiko met Rin, she’d been so excited about camping that she immediately began camping with Chiaki and Aoi in the Outdoors Activity Club during winter, becoming familiar with the specifics behind winter camping, from bringing a good camping pad to keep warm and appreciating the importance of dressing in layers, having the right sleeping bags and carrying a few warmers. Yuru Camp△ was a great success in portraying winter camping, as well as the journey it took get Rin to consent with camping with Nadeshiko and the others during Christmas. As such, the realm of summer camping is territory that Yuru Camp△ has yet to explore, and with the first season concluding with Rin and Nadeshiko meeting one another at Koan Campground by Lake Motosu by spring, the second season will pick off where things left off with the first season: Nadeshiko and the Outdoors Activity Club are doubtlessly open-minded and have no qualms with camping by summer, so it will likely take some effort to convince Rin of doing the same with them, and along the way, both Rin and the Outdoors Activity Club will share new experiences, with a few new characters in tow as well. With Yuru Camp△‘s second season set to air in January 2021, excitement for the series is building despite the fact that the second season is still a half-year away. Fortunately, with Heya Camp△ breaking things up, the wait does not feel to be an inordinate one, and given how consistent Yuru Camp△ and Heya Camp△ have been, it should be apparent that the second season will be an absolute joy to watch.

God’s Blessings on This Wonderful Choker: Review and Reflection on KonoSuba’s First OVA

“Have you acquired creepy, specific old stuff from an antique or thrift store that gives you powers but fucks with you in unforeseeable ways? Bring it to Curse Purge Plus! I use science to un-curse the items for cash, and you get to keep the powers! Don’t pay for cool stuff with your soul. Pay for it with money. You know, like how every other store in the world works?” –Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Kazuma visits Wiz’s shop with the entire party in tow. Here, Megumin runs into Yunyun, her so-called self-proclaimed rival, and the two get into an altercation. Amidst the chaos, Kazuma notices an innocent-looking choker described as being able to fulfil wishes. Wondering if it’ll boost his luck stats, he tries it on, only to learn from Wiz that the choke actually will kill anyone who fails to recall their original wish within four days. Kazuma attempts to recall it and has each of Wiz, Darkness, Megumin and Yunyun do questionable things, feeling his wish might’ve been connected to humiliating them in some way. However, after four days, Kazuma still has not remembered what his wish was. He prepares to die, and admits that having done all that to the others, he feels a sense of serenity. It turns out this was his wish, to have some peace every now and then, and the choker relinquishes its grip on Kazuma. Embarrassed beyond measure, Wiz, Darkness, Megumin, Yunyun and Aqua beat the living daylights out of Kazuma, who finds himself in the respawn point in front of Eris once again. Released three months after the original run ended, KonoSuba‘s first OVA continued in the vein of its predecessor with its humour, and this time, with no imminent adventure or threat to the town of Axel, follows Kazuma’s own misadventures in exploring a side of his personality that was only seen once during the first season proper: Kazuma’s less-than-clean thoughts had not been a point of contention, and his actions towards Darkness in season one’s penultimate episode stemmed from a misunderstanding. However, in KonoSuba‘s OVA, Kazuma’s perversions come out in full force as the OVA’s driver.

In spite of such a crass and callous storyline, KonoSuba makes Kazuma’s mistreatment of Wiz, Darkness, Megumin and Yunyun amusing to watch, while at the same time, foreshadowing the precise relationship between Kazuma and Aqua. After realising his doom is inevitable, Kazuma asks Wiz to act as a lap pillow for him and eventually starts grouping her. Darkness, he has go through punishing exercises, and with Megumin and Yunyun, he decides their challenge will be strip rock-paper-scissors. Aqua, on the other hand, is asked to fetch lunch. While Aqua is convinced that Kazuma will do something questionable to her, she invariably is spared each and every time. In the end, Kazuma apologises to everyone for possessing thoughts of perversion towards them, but for Aqua, he apologises for seeing her as strictly a friend. Thus, what was probably a crude OVA suddenly takes new meaning in providing a bit more insight into how Kazuma sees Aqua: despite their frequent noisy quarrels, Kazuma does hold Aqua in a higher regard than he lets in on. In addition, the OVA also introduces Yunyun to viewers; for now, the most that we’ve seen of Yunyun is that she’s another Crimson Dæmon of the same order as Megumin, that she’s envious of Megumin in some way, and that the animosity is mutual because Megumin is jealous of Yunyun’s figure. These are the OVA’s contribution to KonoSuba: aside from its humour, the OVA also drives character development that would subsequently become more important as viewers enter season two, exploring new facets of the characters to augment their dimensionality.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because OVAs typically deal with events that are outside the scope of a given story, they offer a unique opportunity for character interactions that the main story otherwise won’t have the time to cover, creating a unique experience for viewers. This is why I tend to cover OVAs separately, and so, I’ll be doing the same for KonoSuba, whose first season proved superb and left me wondering why I didn’t watch this series sooner.

  • Immediately after arriving in Wiz’s shop, Megumin does her best to ignore one Yunyun, a fellow Crimson Dæmon who openly challenges Megumin to a duel of sorts. All Crimson Dæmons possess similar physical characteristics, with dark hair, red eyes and an affinity for magic. It’s been a while since I’ve played any fantasy games, but I still have fond memories of my Ragnarok Online and World of Warcraft days in high school on a friend’s private server. I was particularly keen on playing the casting classes and loved offensive magic. Although a busy university schedule would mean this would come to an end, I ended up buying Skyrim and played a hybrid character with offensive magic and archery skills.

  • While Megumin might be prone to delusions of grandeur and have a fixation on explosive magic, it turns out that she’s also bothered by more mundane things, like the fact that Yunyun’s bust is far larger than hers – in a fit of jealousy, she begins beating up Yunyun, who had earlier been looking at a choker after Wiz reveals Yunyun, upon hearing that Wiz was acquainted with Kazuma’s party, had been visiting daily in the hopes of running into Megumin. Feeling bad, Yunyun decided to buy the choker, which runs for a hundred thousand Eris. Apparently, one Eris is equivalent to one Yen, so the chocker would cost about 1280 CAD.

  • Kazuma wonders if the choker would be a good idea, since granting wishes is similar to increasing luck, and puts it on to try it. However, it turns out it’s a cursed choker, of the same sort of item that Mr. Needful would’ve sold in his shop during Rick and Morty‘s first season, Something Ricked This Way Comes: every item had some sort of mysterious power that came with an incredibly high cost, (e.g. a typewriter that churns out best selling murder mysteries but then actually made the murders happen). Summer takes a job at this shop, but to spite Mr. Needful, Rick ends up creating a contraption that removes the curses, leaving the item with only its powers, and then opens Curse Purge Plus to put Mr. Needful out of business.

  • For a reasonable amount of Eris, Rick’s Curse Purge Plus would’ve certainly been able to remove the killing curse on the choker, leaving Kazuma with a wish-granting choker. However, Rick has always shown a distain for fantasy and magic. To introduce his character into KonoSuba would ruin the universe outright – Rick would solo the Dæmon King in seconds with science, and then there’d be no series. Hence, without Curse Purge Plus to save his fate, Kazuma must determine what his immediate wish when he put the choker on was; recalling the original wish dissipates the curse.

  • I believe Rick and Morty‘s fourth season will resume somewhere in May: the first two seasons were excellent, and season three was enjoyable enough, even though I found it a little less inspired than the first two. Season four’s first half has been fun so far, and I especially liked the fourth episode, which showed the extent of Rick’s insecurity and how his desire to control everything in his life comes from the idea that despite his incredibly vast knowledge, there are things that even he cannot control, and that he saw in himself a weak man for fixating over something that others have been able to better manage. Of course, this isn’t a Rick and Morty talk, so I’ll return the party back to Kazuma, who now seems doomed to die.

  • Whereas Kazuma has been shown to have a tendency towards perversions in the first season, circumstance would prevent him from becoming out of control. When there are no threats on the horizon, and with the girls feeling sympathetic for the plight Kazuma finds himself in, Kazuma uses this situation to have everyone do questionable things. He sets about asking Wiz to act as a lap pillow and has Darkness do a hundred pushups. Since this is an OVA talk, the results are something I have no qualms about showing here.

  • Incidentally, with the distancing measures now in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, and the ensuing lack of access to a gym and my usual weights, I’ve been exercising in a reduced capacity with sets of techniques that don’t involve dumbbells or plates. Push-ups are a highly effective upper-body exercise, and I will do spiderman push-ups on my palms or go on my knuckles depending on what I need to train for that day. The benefit of knuckle pushups are that they increase resistance and build up toughness of the knuckles, but also increase the risk of injury if not done correctly.

  • As the day wears on, Kazuma becomes bolder in his perversions, and he now lies face-down on Wiz’s bare thighs. He decides to move things outside with Megumin and Yunyun’s contest, after sending Aqua off on a bread run and leaving Darkness inside to finish the hundred push-ups on her own. While Kazuma’s been asking the others to engage in questionable acts, the worst he has for Aqua is quite unremarkable, foreshadowing what Kazuma’s real thoughts on her are.

  • The end result of sending Aqua to grab food of any sort has hilarious results: she brazenly denies having taken half of Kazuma’s sandwich despite having puffed-up cheeks and crumbs on her face. Of everyone in KonoSuba, Aqua’s reactions are the most hilarious to behold: the first episode of the first season established this within minutes of introducing her, and since then, KonoSuba continues to find ways of putting a smile on viewers’ faces by having Aqua suffer at the hands of (minor) misfortune as a result of her own actions.

  • Megumin and Yunyun are made to play strip rock-paper-scissors, a variant of a simple game in which the loser has to gradually remove one article of clothing. A few years back, I read a paper on an algorithm that could raise one’s win rate to around seventy percent: shortly after GochiUsa‘s second season came out and people wondered if they could consistently beat Chino, Megu and Maya in the rock-paper-scissors game. Most were unsuccessful because of the randomness of the game, but with the algorithm, I ended up winning a majority of the game. Such an algorithm would probably help one to stave off total humiliation in this situation.

  • In order to stave off Kazuma’s perversions, Megumin and Yunyun agree to a truce and attempt to draw as many times in a row as possible, but Kazuma shifts things up, and Megumin deceives Yunyun into drawing yet again, but then wins, causing Yunyun to go ballistic. As it turns out, Yunyun is voiced by Aki Toyosaki (K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa and Yuru Camp△‘s Aoi “Inuko” Inuyama), which is a hilarious addition: Toyosaki may not be everyone’s favourite voice actress, but in some of her roles, she plays characters with a very serene and relaxing voice. As Aoi Inuyama, there’s a very calming sense one gets when listening to her speak, but Yunyun feels more generic as a character.

  • Towards the end of the day, everyone is floored from Kazuma’s requests: Darkness is spent from the exercises that Kazuma’s set her, and both Megumin and Yunyun are burnt out from their fighting, lying face down still clutching at one another’s clothing. Aqua is sitting in the middle of a pile of trash crying her eyes out; it’s a sight of destruction that evokes a simultaneous sense of pity and comedy.

  • Aside from the mess, Aqua herself is defaced – someone’s drawn on her face with a marker, leaving her in tears. Ordinarily, because Aqua is the architect of her own demise, such moments are funny, but the OVA’s setup means that this is one of those moments where viewers would sympathise with Aqua. The choice to show the aftermath means that viewers are left to wonder horrors Aqua and the others will endure as Kazuma’s time runs out in the days upcoming.

  • Day two kicks off with Kazuma using Wiz’s chest as a pillow while watching Darkness do squats, and Megumin and Yunyun in various outfits. While the community seems to be in universal agreement that Wiz is probably the hottest of everyone in KonoSuba, I’ve also been reading that folks count Darkness and Wiz as being tall; this is probably a relative measure, since Kazuma is short by most standards.

  • Even if this is an OVA and I’m a little more relaxed about what I can and can’t show in a post, I’ve opted not to show the bath scene, since there are some boundaries that I can’t really cross. the gist of it is that on the third day, Kazuma attempts to embarrass Megumin after setting Aqua the task of creating an onsen, and this backfires when Aqua succeeds in creating a single jet of water that hits him in the wrong place, resulting in a reaction that this blog won’t play host to.

  • As death nears for Kazuma, even he begins running out of ideas for what he could have everyone do. With this in mind, a classic conversation topic for people is exactly thus: if one were to be limited to four days of life, what would they do in the time remaining to them? For me, I’d probably spend that time reading a good book, cook steaks and lobster, and go for a walk in the nearby hill that overlooks half the city in good company. These exercises give insight into what matters to people, and for me, the things in life I value most are good people, food and books.

  • After considering using a spell (diffindo!) to sever the choker (Megumin had even considered Sectumsempra! followed by Aqua’s powered-up Rennervate! to bring Kazuma back to life), the girls decide to let things run its course and give Kazuma one more day to figure out his original wish. Under a star-filled sky, Yunyun and Megumin’s rivalry appears lost amidst Kazuma’s situation – Megumin explains to Yunyun that the reason why everyone’s gone along with Kazuma’s wishes was precisely because beyond his perversions, he offered everyone a place to party where previously, they had been rejected. Thus, it meant something to them that Kazuma’s accepted her into the party.

  • Having done a variety of perverted things to Wiz, Darkness, Megumin and Yunyun, Kazuma prepares to die and admits he’s at peace now. He freely states that he ogles everyone in the party, and that for Aqua, he counts her as a friend above all else. However, Kazuma’s wish for peace was his original wish, and the choker falls off in an anti-climatic fashion. The girls’ sympathy and understanding for Kazuma’s situation suddenly gives way to the realisation they’ve been had.

  • Because anime tends to use specific visual styles, I’m tempted to say that Darkness, Megumi, Yunyun and Wiz take their revenge on Kazuma for abusing them, while Aqua is probably angered because Kazuma doesn’t see her that way. The ensuing physical beating is probably severe, matching what the Doom Slayer regularly does to monsters in DOOM, and it’s probably safe to assume that even the kind-hearted and gentle Wiz took part. With this post in the books, I’m turning my sights towards the first Violet Evergarden movie, and I do have a minor update: since Oregairu‘s third season was announced to be delayed, I will not be writing about that in the foreseeable future.

Because guessing when an OVA is set relative to the main series has become something of a frivolous pursuit I’ve taken to doing for OVAs, if I had to guess, I would say that KonoSuba‘s first OVA is set between the eighth and ninth episodes of the first season, after Kazuma finds Wiz’s shop and moves into the mansion, but before Kazuma and his party destroy the Destroyer and Kazuma lands in trouble for being the leader of the party that destroyed an aristocrat’s property. Typically, OVAs set between the events of two episodes, during the course of a series, serve to provide a glimpse at the characters’ daily comings-and-goings outside of the adventures that form a key part of the story. In the case of Kazuma, the first OVA shows him as being a less favourable character than one would like, and the misfortune that befalls him is oftentimes, a consequence of his own actions. However, while it is hard to feel sympathetic for what happens to Kazuma after he spends an entire episode abusing Wiz, Darkness, Megumin and Yunyun, what is known is that since Kazuma and Aqua are central to KonoSuba, I will need to wrap this talk on KonoSuba‘s first OVA pronto and get on watching the second season, which begins where the first season left off.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Act Two OVA: Taiyaki War!

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” –Sun Tzu

Tensions at BC Freedom Academy between the Examination Class and the Escalator Class reach an all-time high after they learn they’re set to take on Ooarai; when students from the Escalator Class appear and threaten to shut down their food stalls, this prompts the Examination students to protest the Escalators’ decision to foist upon them costlier, fancier meals over simpler fare like taiyaki and yakisoba. The Escalators respond with a line of students equipped in riot gear and baguettes. Just when it appears that their mutual hatred will boil over, Marie appears and presents a unique taiyaki with a chocolate filling. Both Rena and Ruka are moved when they try this new taiyaki, realising that their foods can be fused together and still retain their original traits while being delicious and novel. Marie has effectively resolved the long-standing conflict between the two factions, but when Yukari arrives at BC Freedom Academy to recon out Ooarai’s opponent, Marie decides to put on a bit of a show. She arranges for the old conflict to be staged amongst the students around the school, and then prepares a scripted fight between Rena’s Examination classmates and Ruka’s Escalator classmates over who should act as the flag tank. Yukari sneaks closer to the fighting and captures it on tape; she eventually gets caught in the melee and comes away looking distinctly woebegone, but is immensely satisfied with her work. Meanwhile, Marie, Rena and Ruka bring their staged fights to an end, thanking everyone for their efforts and look forwards to squaring off against Ooarai in combat, having successfully given the impression that they are as disorganised and ill-prepared as they had been previously.

This special episode, released with Das Finale‘s second act, is meant to help viewers to appreciate the sort of teamwork that BC Freedom exhibited during their match with Ooarai: the entire team’s lack of cooperation had been a cleverly-manufactured ruse intended to throw off even Miho, and indeed, during Das Finale‘s first act, BC Freedom is shown to be keeping up this façade even entering the match, with Ruka and Rena sparring one another en route to the match’s venue. Thus, when BC Freedom suddenly began displaying a hitherto unexpected and impressive level of coordination amongst their tanks, Miho is in fact thrown off and drawn into a trap. It’s a very convincing bit of deception and is a reminder that reconnaissance can work both ways: because Marie had been aware of Yukari’s antics, they exercise exemplary countermeasures and all the while, never give the impression that Yukari’s been compromised. This may impact Ooarai’s willingness to fully count on Yukari’s excursions in the future. Besides showing the behind-the-scenes, the OVA also presents a simple truth: that in spite of their differences, people have more in common than they are willing to admit, and it sometimes takes finding common ground on something simple, like a confection, to help people realise this. Once BC Freedom’s students understand that the Escalators and Examination factions aren’t really so different as people despite their social status and preferences for things in life, they begin to appreciate aspects from the others’ lifestyle, coming in time to accept one another more than they had previously.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I may not have the internet’s first Das Finale Part Two talk, I have utmost confidence that this is the only talk that exists on the whole of the internet that deals with the accompanying OVA. Taiyaki War is set prior to the events of Das Finale; shortly after the merger of BC and Freedom, Rena and Ruka immediately take a vehement and vociferous disliking to one another. This divide endures: during the ceremony to draw lots on who to fight, they’re immediately at one another’s throats when they learn they’re against Ooarai, to the horror of their classmates. The rift is bad enough so that even Marie remarks that the fighting is ruining her cake.

  • Representing the common folk, the Examination students are portrayed as being ordinary in manner and possessing a love for unsophisticated, basic things. Their side of the school ship is more run down, but the students don’t seem to be in a terrible state of being: food stalls line the dirt paths on the Examination side of things, and Examination students here enjoy taiyaki, a Japanese confectionary (kanji 鯛焼き, literally “baked sea bream”) consisting of pancake batter cooked into a fish-shaped cake with a red bean paste filling. It has its origins in the Meiji Restoration and is a popular snack today, being a favourite of Kanon‘s Ayu.

  • Rena is an accomplished taiyaki baker, and her fellow classmates greatly enjoy this simple, yet delicious item. The closest equivalent to taiyaki, that I’ve tried, is a red-bean panwich: this is a homemade creation where a generous helping of red beans are spread between two mini-pancakes: I’ve never actually had taiyaki before, and had long to tried a Calgary Stampede midway fare equivalent (which had a sausage and fries filling) a few years ago, only to learn that their taiyaki mold was not operational.

  • On first glance, I personally find the Examination students more relatable: the Escalator students, being of a higher social status (and representing the French Monarchy prior to the French Revolution in the 18th century) have a much haughtier manner and routinely look down on the Examination students’ ways. I’ve not studied the French Revolution since my penultimate year of secondary school, but what I do remember is that following a series of wars that left the French monarchy in debt, they implemented a taxation scheme that placed excessive pressure on the common people, whose resentment of the nobility and Church eventually led them to violently resist.

  • While King Louis XVI was disposed of, France become plunged into extremism after Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobins created a dictatorship. Robespierre was eventually executed after his methods proved too radical in what is known as the Thermidorian Reaction, and a council known as the Directory was established. However, their corruption resulted in Napoleon Bonaparte rising to power in a coup d’état that plunged France into war with its neighbours, fuelling French nationalism and making Napoleon a hero until his defeat at the hands of the British. The British would then instal the Bourbon dynasty as France’s leaders, bringing about a period of peace.

  • In Girls und Panzer, a scaled-down form of the French Revolution can be seen with Rena leading the Examination students in a rally against the Escalators’ highly privileged lifestyles: their opposition to escargot is a parody of the stereotype that the French are fond of this dish, which involves removing the snails from their shells and then cooking them in garlic butter or red wine, then replacing the snails back into their shells. While a decidedly French dish, snails are also present in German and British cuisine, to a lesser extent.

  • The Escalators’ response is to send a team of students equipped in riot control gear and baguettes in place of batons, with the visual humour prodding fun at the misconception that French bread is notoriously tough. The baguette‘s toughness comes from its crust, and this has been parodied before in other series like Futurama, where an irate Bender is enraged at seeing his date with Flexo, causing him to attempt bending week-old French bread. While Bender is designed to be capable of bending steel girders without any problem, his arms fall off before the bread yields.

  • It suddenly strikes me that, in the absence of their blue blazer, BC Freedom’s uniforms somewhat resemble the uniforms seen in School Days, although closer inspection will find differences. Tensions reach boiling point, and the Escalator and Examination factions are ready to get physical. That both parties are willing to resort to violence indicates just deep the rift is, and in this way, the OVA explains why the school’s cooperation during their match against Ooarai was legitimate, as well as how the friendly fire incident remains plausible: while they’ve reconciled by the events of Das Finale, betrayal during a Panzerfahren match is sufficient to bring back the old grudges.

  • Marie’s timely arrival is enough to stop things temporarily, and she presents a novel solution: she’s got a new kind of taiyaki that combines the commoner’s taiyaki with the aristocratic chocolate, resulting in a new taiyaki that is quite delicious. This taiyaki shows that both the fancy and simple can co-exist, and not only that, demonstrate a synergy. The same synergy can be extended to the Examination and Escalator students; both have their strong points that make them stronger when united.

  • While chocolate-filled taiyaki is nothing new, Marie uses it to demonstrate how different things can coexist with one another: Marie is a leader of sorts at BC Freedom who commands respect from members of both factions, and so, when she praises the taste of the new taiyaki, both Rena and Ruka also try them out. It turns out Marie’s brought enough for everyone, and this singular act sets in motion the events that prompt the Examination and Escalation students to begin cooperating.

  • Marie’s solution is ultimately what creates the reconciliation in Girls und Panzer, and it is a satisfying approach that involves no force whatsoever: watching Rena and Ruka shake hands in a genuine show of understanding and goodwill was very welcoming to watch. Whereas real-world politics are nowhere nearly as easy to resolve, the underlying principles still hold true. Disagreeing parties often still share a common interest (e.g. government accountability, accessible services, fair treatment, care and concern for well-being of the environment), and aside from aligning in the means needed to get somewhere, have the same desire for a given outcome. This is why bipartisanship exists, and while many will find me naïve for thinking so, I continue to hold that cooperation and trust count for more than taking sides, moral signalling and being “right”.

  • The second half of Das Finale‘s OVA is where the real fanservice kicks in: Yukari’s secured a BC Freedom uniform and begins to do some recon. However, having anticipated this, Marie instructs the students to put on an elaborate ruse: whereas the Escalator and Examination students have largely resolved their differences by this point in time, this reconciliation appears to have gone unnoticed by the outside world, and when Yukari arrives, she finds the entire school conveniently amidst what appears to be a full-blown civil war.

  • Yukari’s reconnaissance excursions shows that she’s no John Clark or Adam Yao level operator: she’s had varying levels of successes. On her first excursion to Saunders Academy, she was burned after her alias failed to pass, and she was forced to beat a hasty exit. With Anzio, Yukari is able to act convincingly as an ordinary student and blends into the school’s street market, where she masquerades as an Anzio student more convincingly by capitalising on the festive environment to stay under cover.

  • While Yukari openly films the apparent chaos at BC Freedom, she’s unaware that her assignment was compromised from the moment she set foot on their school ship: this particular excursion probably will show Miho that reconnaissance does have its limitations, and is a fine example of Sun Tzu’s remarks on deception. While Miho exemplifies the use of Sun Tzu’s tactics, any school with a commander who is familiar with the same tenants will have some means to counter Miho; BC Freedom gains the upper hand over Ooarai precisely because they effectively used counterintelligence to deceive Miho.

  • Yukari’s methods are so brazen that I was surprised that she didn’t flinch at the fact that no one at BC Freedom seems to have any problems with someone crawling around the place with a video recorder. Such OPSEC would make Tom Clancy’s John Clark’s flinch in horror – the key to being a good operator is to act like you belong: people who act with conviction, who look like they belong, draw the least amount of attention, and crawling around on the ground with a camera is probably as far away from discreet as one could get.

  • For the present, Yukari is completely hoodwinked by the ruse and is so excited that she doesn’t mind being at the receiving end of a physical beating – the chaos at BC Freedom suggests to her that the in-fighting is so bad, there Ooarai should have no trouble beating BC Freedom. When Yukari returns to Ooarai, she relays this to Miho, who enters the match under the impression that Momo should have a bit of breathing room against an opponent who might be too busy fighting amongst themselves to fight, which explains their surprise at the match’s beginning.

  • Yukari is endearing, and I greatly enjoy watching her warm, authentic interactions throughout the series. Yukari is voiced by Ikumi Nakagami, who has roles as BanG Dream!‘s Maya Yamato and even as Rena Akinokawa from RDG: Red Data Girl. As Yukari, Nakagami presents an excitable and energetic girl who loves tanks. Save for letting Miho down, very little gets Yukari down: as the loader, she’s able to share her thoughts with Miho during combat and support her with her unparalleled knowledge.

  • Once Yukari leaves, Rena and Ruka thank one another: the girls at BC Freedom look forwards to their match with Ooarai now, and will later stage a fight en route to the match to keep the ruse up. The dynamic between the Escalator and Examination factions in Das Finale are presented as being much more reasonable than they were in Ribbon Warrior, a manga spin-off of Girls und Panzer that ended up being counted as non-canon and therefore, is not counted as providing an accurate representation of how the characters are. Overall, I’ve found that the series itself presents characters as being much friendlier and more amicable than in the manga, and so, are a much better representation of who everyone is as a whole.

  • Taiyaki War thus ends up as being another fine example of how OVAs can be used to greatly enhance series: Girls und Panzer‘s OVAs genuinely stand out for helping expand the universe further, and while one could still get a solid enjoyment of the series without watching the OVAs, being able to experience the OVAs adds a considerable amount of depth to the series. With Taiyaki War now in the books, I imagine that this will be the last I write about Girls und Panzer until Das Finale‘s third act comes out. The timing of this is excellent: Halo: CE has just released for The Master Chief collection, which means I’ll be able to now go through Halo: CE‘s campaign in full.

  • I’ve heard that the original remaster’s ability to freely switch between the updated and classic graphics was retained, so I’m especially excited to play the game again with classic visuals, which is how I best remember playing the game on PC during my time as a secondary student. At this point in time, I’ve also reached World Tier Five in The Division 2, having just cleared the Tidal Basin mission solo. As such, besides Halo: CE, I’ll also be looking to write about that experience alongside Koisuru Asteroid after the three-quarters mark this month. We’re also very nearly at the end of the winter season, so I’ll be swinging by to write about Koisuru Asteroid and Magia Record once their finales have aired at the month’s end.

One of Girls und Panzer‘s greatest strengths outside of the already masterfully-presented main series lies within their OVAs. OVAs are traditionally used as a means of fanservice, whether it be to highlight fan-favourite moments and make callbacks to earlier parts of the series, or else give the characters a chance to relax at the beach, pool or onsen in downtime away from their typical activities. Girls und Panzer utilised its OVAs to accomplish both: the first two OVAs were a thinly-veiled excuse to show the cast in swimsuits, but subsequent OVAs helped with world-building, expanding on minor plot points to show how certain outcomes were reached, and otherwise simply give characters a chance to interact with one another in moments not essential to their matches. The latter approach ultimately creates characters that have greater depth than possible through just the series itself. Whether it was Yukari and Erwin conducting recon together, or Miho doing her best to sell Alice the idea that Ooarai is a great high school to attend, OVAs in Girls und Panzer have always added something new and enjoyable to the experience: this latest OVA from Das Finale is no exception, giving viewers insight into how BC Freedom ended their open internal strife (it’s largely successful, although vestiges of old grudges still remain at times) and how Marie’s solution ends up being turned into a countermeasure against Yukari’s recon operation, leading to the events seen in the first act. Such OVAs are most welcome, and also have one exciting implication: the incredibly vast and interesting world of Girls und Panzer is so richly-built and detailed, that any number of spin-offs could be written long after Das Finale concludes, meaning that should Ooarai ever square off against Maple High School at any point in the animated format, you can bet that I will be around to write about how well that school captures the Canada Strong ™ spirit.

One More Wish: Sora no Method OVA Review and Reflections

“The Force is with me, And I am one with the Force; And I fear nothing, Because all is as the Force wills it.” –Chirrut Îmwe, Star Wars: Rogue One

A mysterious girl named Carol arrives in Lake Kiriya City and begins tailing Noel, who’s settled in to life with Nonoka and her friends. She now works at the Nozomi with Yuzuki: Nonoka pays them a visit and shares lunch with Noel. Koharu arrives and is the first to notice Carol, wondering if she’s lost, but Carol dismisses her. Nonoka and the others share a conversation about their friends: Sōta’s gone abroad to study and has left to prepare, and Shione is also away. Shione’s birthday is coming soon, and the girls decide to get her some sweets. Noel begins to wonder what a birthday is, and when Nonoka explains her the details, she realises that she doesn’t have one. Later that evening, Nonoka looks through old family photos and recalls the day her friends made the wish to bring the saucer into town. She realises that this is when things started for Noel, so this could be her birthday. Meanwhile, Carol confronts Noel, stating that Noel’s original directives were to grant wishes and implores Noel to accompany her back. Noel declines, and the next day, Carol attempts to make a wish of her own, to bring Noel back with her. She’s unsuccessful, and decides to petition for the removal of Noel’s saucer from the area. After running into Nonoka and the others, who are returning from school, Carol becomes frustrated and runs off, only to crash into the monster billboard in front of Koharu’s shop. Saddened at the billboard’s destruction, Carol bursts into tears, but the girls work together to fix the billboard. Later, Noel takes Carol on a trip around town, and they spend their time together before Noel invites Carol to her birthday party. On the day of the party, Sōta arrives in town, Carol runs into Shione, who’s returned for the party and suggests that Carol be up front with her feelings, as she was needed to be in front of Nonoka. Carol returns to the observatory and encounters Noel here: at this moment, her powers are restored, and her original wish was realised. Noel is pulled into the skies per Carol’s original wish, seemingly disappearing. However, by a miracle, Noel and Carol are reunited and show up fashionably late at their birthday party: the others decide that since Carol’s arrival was on the same date as that of Noel’s, they also share the same birthday.

The core theme of Sora no Method was ultimately about the return of friendship to a group of once-close friends who drifted apart when Nonoka moved away, and how Noel’s innocent, naive manner was instrumental in bringing everyone back together. However, when the series’ original run ended, a considerable number of viewers found themselves quite dissatisfied with the series outcome; Sora no Method has therefore become a bit of an under-rated series and was forgotten. For me, this was a quaint series with its own merits, and I enjoyed Sora no Method greatly during its run. With nearly five years having elapsed since I wrote my final impressions post, returning to the world of Sora no Method through a new OVA, One More Wish (Mou Hitosu no Negai), was therefore an especially pleasant and warming experience. Within the OVA, Carol’s arrival and her desire to have Noel come back with her helped me to see a new theme in Sora no Woto; Carol’s arrival and goals parallel those of Yuzuki’s and Shione’s early on, but as she gets to understand Noel better, she appreciates why Noel desired to stay with Nonoka and the others. Sora no Method‘s theme is therefore elegantly and succinctly contained within this new OVA: even among individuals with conflicting goals, there are more commonalities than most would care to admit, and it is through realising that the sum of what people share more in common is greater than their differences, that allow people to reconcile their differences and overcome distance separating them. This was something that Nonoka and Shione had to resolve after the former’s unexpected departure, and similarly, Nonoka had to work hard to convince the others that Noel’s presence was meant to bring them back together after their sudden separation. The outcome of this from the original series is evident within the OVA: each of Nonoka, Shione, Yuzuki, Koharu and Sōta are on much better terms with one another, and Shione’s become more open and kind, sharing advice with Carol. Shione’s words are ultimately what prompts Carol to realise her feelings about Noel, reflecting on her own learnings from the original series and reminding audiences of how much Noel’s presence ended up helping Nonoka and her friends.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about Sora no Method, it was for the OVA where Nonoka, Koharu and Yuzuki tail Shione to figure out why she was continuously renting out a certain monster film. That post was published during the summer of 2015. During this point in time, my graduate thesis was in full swing, and I had been about three months into doing a full conversion of my biological visualisation software from Unity into Unreal. It suddenly strikes me that I had much more time as a graduate student than I do now, but this comes with the territory.

  • Carol is the latest addition to Sora no Method; at the episode’s beginning, she’s tailing Noel, and her origins are shown to be similar to Noel: a small saucer follows her around, and she’s prone to accidents whenever this saucer hits something. While she’s been tailing Noel and Nonoka with the subtly of a thrown brick, she’s not yet burned – Koharu wonders if she’s lost and becomes the first person to speak directly with Carol, who’s voiced by Marika Kōno (Yua Nakajima from Hinako Note, and Slow Start‘s Sachi Tsubakimori).

  • While Noel is a staff member at the restaurant that Yuzuki and Sōta’s family runs, she’s occasionally prone to wanting to join the customers. With a lull in things, Nonoka invites Noel to help her enjoy the omelette rice together with her, and Yuzuki joins in shortly. The weather in my area stands in stark contrast with the rainy and mild weather of Sora no Method: the cold weather’s finally arrived, and the average temperature during the past weekend was -25ºC. However, a 打邊爐 (jyutping daa2 bin1 lou4, or hot pot) yesterday was the perfect way to warm up: with prawns, oyster, beef, lamb, pork shoulder, fish balls, cabbage, lettuce and yi mein on our menu, I spent the better part of an evening warming up with good food, good conversation and a generous helping of the house special chili sauce from the best Chinese restaurant in town.

  • Like Noel, Carol uses large leaves as an umbrella whenever the rain appears, and while I had trouble identifying them in my last round of talks for Sora no Method, I would now hazard a guess that these are the leaves of the Alocasia macrorrhizos, or Giant Taro, a plant who is thought to have originated from Taiwan and then domesticated in the Philippines. With heart-shaped leaves reaching up to 90 centimetres in length, A. macrorrhizos‘ leaves are indeed used by tropical islanders as makeshift umbrellas. This would explain why while in Taiwan, my thoughts strayed to Noel.

  • Sōta’s been busy preparing to study abroad, and Shione is similarly doing well. Since reconciling with Nonoka, she smiles much more frequently now, and gets along well with everyone.  Seeing this Shione is a far cry from how the series started, and I still remember finishing off the series only after I returned from my travels to Taiwan the year that Sora no Woto was airing. It marked the first time I’d travelled during the winter holidays, and so, did not watch the finale until after I’d returned a ways into the new year.

  • My favourite memories of the Taiwan trip was probably visiting the Monster Village, going to the observation deck of Taipei 101, walking amongst Kaohsuing’s night market and the trip up Taiwan’s eastern coast. After the Taiwan leg of the trip concluded, we went to Hong Kong and spent a week with family before heading back to the bitter cold of the Canadian winter. I wrapped up Sora no Method and put out my finale post shortly after, before turning my attention towards Kantai Collection and the last graduate course I would take for my Master’s degree: Multi-Agent Systems and their properties. I took this course to gain a more formal understanding of agent-based modelling approaches, a core component of my old research.

  • Noel is voiced by Inori Minase, a highly talented and renowned voice actress known as GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, Hestia from DanMachi, Mari Tamaki of A Place Further Than The Universe and numerous other roles. As Noel, Minase does not sound like Chino quite to the extent as she did in Girls’ Last Tour as Chito, or Endro‘s Mei. Nonoka notices that something is bothering Noel, and learns that Noel was hoping to experience the joys of birthdays.

  • In the years following my trip to Taiwan, I’ve often found myself considering what might be on my itinerary should I make more concrete plans to return. The Eastern Rift Valley and its hot springs are high on my list of places to visit: it’s beautiful here, and there are a host of Bed and Breakfast style lodges that look like they’d offer comfortable, homely accommodations. As well, I’d also like to properly experience the night markets and try their grilled squid out – in 2014, I got a little overexcited upon arrival and ate too much on the first night, giving me stomach troubles that encouraged me to eat more conservatively for the remainder of my travels: I elected not to take any chances for the remainder of my time in Taiwan.

  • Upon hearing Noel voice a desire to have a birthday party, Nonoka decides to look back through her old albums and see if she can find any inspiration. Nonoka comes across a bunch of old family photos she can’t ever recall experiencing, and while this might be seen as a sign that Nonoka’s selective amnesia might still be at play here, I note that this is unlikely to be the case – people aren’t typically able to perfectly remember all of their previous experiences, and the mind also has a way of distorting some memories where they appear as the truth to us. We can chalk this up to a scientifically-motivated explanation, and return to the importance of this scene: Nonoka is able to figure out a way to celebrate Noel’s birthday, marking the day her friends made the wish as the day they’d met Noel properly.

  • Carol finally has a chance to speak with Noel: it turns out that she and Noel are part of an organisation that works to grant wishes, travelling about to strong-willed individuals to realise their desires. While she has trouble expressing so, it’s clear that Carol misses Noel and wants the latter to return to her duties, rather than spending time with Nonoka and the others, so that they might be together again.

  • Like Noel, Carol is adorable in her own right, and does things that bring to mind the sort of things that Noel would do on her own while Nonoka and the others were in classes. Here, she’s trying to use her own saucer’s powers to fulfil her wish of bringing Noel back with her – besides bouncing the pocket-sized saucer on a A. macrorrhizos leaf and trying to do a bit of a summoning ceremony with it, nothing appears effectual.

  • Shione’s birthday arrives, and the gift that Nonoka and her friends send her ends up being a year’s supply of sweet buns. Shione smiles warmly and notes that she’ll go through the buns in a heartbeat, indicating that Nonoka and the others were right on the money about Shione’s love for sweets. Her portrayal in the original series saw her return to a friendly personality as Nonoka and Noel did their best to get through to her. In the first OVA, released during the summer of 2015, Shione was shown to be quite cold and distant: this was set during the middle of the series, although even here, it shows that Shione did have a delicate side to her, as well.

  • Sora no Method is set in a small town modelled after Tōya: the series takes place around the hot springs district located on the shores of Lake Tōya, and Mount Usu Eruption Memorial Park, with its distinct sculptures, are featured frequently in the anime. Here, Nonoka and the others cross Tōya Bridge. On the left of the image is the Tōyako Onsen Bus Terminal: like most other anime, Sora no Method did a phenomenal job with reproducing the locations of its setting, giving it a life-like feeling.

  • When the girls see Carol out protesting the saucer’s existence, Yuzuki is reminded of back in the day when she had done the same thing herself, and immediately approaches Carol with the aim of coaching her to be more effectual. This backfires, however, and Carol is scared off. She runs off and collides with the monster billboard – Noel had previously destroyed this one in Sora no Method‘s original run, and her desire to help the others repair it helped her to bond with the others.

  • The very same thing happens in the OVA: after colliding with and shredding the billboard, Carol dissolves into the most adorable (and pitiful) tears I’ve seen in an anime in quite some time. I’m not sure why it is the case, but the crying of small children melts my heart, and I am overcome with the want to offer comfort, to say that things will be alright. Noel takes this on and reassures Carol: the girls set about rebuilding the monster billboard anew.

  • After spending a better half of the day, the girls’ efforts are met with a restored monster billboard. Carol shares manjū and tea with Koharu and Noel: she’s thrilled that the sweetness of the buns and the bitterness of the tea balance out so well in spite of herself. Carol can be seen as a combination of Noel’s naïveté and Shione’s perceived coldness at being unable to express how she genuinely feels about herself. The next day, she decides to follow Noel around, and Noel figures that here is an opportunity to really help Carol to have fun.

  • In spite of herself, Carol does end up having fun with Noel; the two take a pedal-boat ride over Lake Kiriya, manage to land some tickets to an onsen after running into Yuzuki, who’d won the tickets from a prize draw. This Sora no Method OVA, technically an ONA (as it was uploaded to YouTube), has a rather curious designation: it is labelled as the seventeenth episode, and the explanation is that in production, the “fourteenth” and “fifteenth” episodes were the opening and ending sequences, respectively. The first OVA was then marked as the sixteenth episode in production, and so, this OVA winds up being tagged as episode seventeen.

  • While Noel is quick to enjoy the onsen, Carol is a little more reserved about swimming about, but later related and actually out-swims Noel. This OVA was released on October 11, 2019, and admittedly, was not something I was aware of. It was serendipitous that I was able to find it at all, and with a lull in my posting (Rifle is Beautiful‘s finale won’t be airing for another week), I decided to take a look through a series that I rather enjoyed upon finishing it. While reception to the series was mixed, and Sora no Method was eventually forgotten, I still remember the series.

  • As such, it was not a particularly large surprise that there are no full discussions of the OVA out there on the internet: having looked around, I can say with confidence that this is probably the only talk on the second Sora no Method OVA out there with screenshots. Besides hanging out at an onsen, Noel takes Carol to visit Nonoka’s school for a culture festival, where they enjoy the food and also have a chance to check out the planetarium exhibit that was showcased in Sora no Method‘s original run: the planetarium was something Nonoka had built for their culture festival, a time when Shione and Nonoka were on rocky terms.

  • Noel invites Carol to her birthday party, but Carol declines, feeling left out after seeing just how close Noel is to the others. The page quote is sourced from Rogue One, being Chirrut Îmwe’s most well-known line from the film, referring to his faith in the Force throughout the film. Sora no Method‘s theme initially seemed incoherent, but as I progressed further into the anime, it struck me that the outcomes were always going to be a positive one, and with this in mind, I placed my faith into the writing and therefore was able to enjoy the journey it took to reach the end.

  • On the day of the party, Sōta arrives in town ahead of the party but hesitates to join the others until Koharu notices his presence and hauls him inside. Having long held feelings for Koharu, Sōta remained quite disinterested in the events surrounding Noel and Nonoka in Sora no Method but appeared owing to his interests towards Koharu. Koharu does not appear to be aware of these feelings as far as I can tell, but by the time of the second OVA, she’s become rather more playful and “encourages” him to come on in and join the others, who are amidst preparing for the party.

  • En route to the party, Shione runs into Carol, who is at a bit of a crossroads about what to do. Shione shares some wisdom with Carol, suggesting that she simply be forward and open about her feelings rather than trying to suppress them. As it turns out, this had been precisely what Shione had done during Sora no Method‘s original run. After she’d been hurt by Nonoka’s sudden departure, she rejected Nonoka’s return and refused to speak with her out of fear that should the two become friends again, she may experience the same hurt again. This barrier was resolved, and having seen it for herself, Shione now knows when something is happening to someone else.

  • Shione’s smile is really a pleasant one, and while Sora no Method may have had those in short supply, the second OVA more than offsets that. The biggest joy about the second OVA is that all of the characters are likeable: one of the leading gripes about the original run was that most of the characters had not been easy to sympathise with owing to their decisions and actions. In retrospect, this was because each of Nonoka, Shione, Yuzuki and Sōta had to make certain discoveries in order to begin reconciliation with one another; as their journey continues, it became easier to empathise with everyone, and the path towards resolution of everyone’s conflicts was a rewarding one.

  • Noel reappears to Carol, and the latter admits that she’s only wanted to be together with her. The strength of her emotions, and truthfulness in her statement activates her saucer, which promptly takes its original form and begins fulfilling Carol’s wish of bringing Noel back to her old assignments. However, Carol realises now how much Noel means to Nonoka and the others, and begins to second guess her wish.

  • One thing about Sora no Method that I didn’t mention in much detail during my original discussion of the series was the soundtrack. The incidental music in the series is by Tatsuya Kato and Kazuya Takase, featuring a variety of pieces that capture the emotional tenour of every moment, all of the highs and all of the lows from humourous moments and reunions, doubt and even resentment, within Sora no Method. I greatly enjoyed the music, and to hear familiar pieces make a return was most reassuring and welcoming. My favourite song on the soundtrack is はっぱの傘、溢れる笑顔 (Hepburn happa no kasa, Afureru Egao, or “Leaf Umbrella, Overflowing Smile”), a joyful and happy piece that reminds me of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”.

  • Having Carol’s wish granted, despite her protests that her desires have changed, creates quite a poignant scene that mirrors Noel’s departure once her original purpose was fulfilled. However, Sora no Method is rather known for driving things towards a happy ending, and so, I was never under impressions other than the fact that despite Carol’s wish, Noel would return. The OVA draws many elements from the original TV run, and in many ways, I see the OVA as simultaneously clarifying a few things that were unanswered from the TV series, as well as condensing the TV series’ core messages into a twenty-eight minute long run.

  • Thus, when Noel and Carol appear in time for their birthday party as the first snowfall of the year kicks in, I saw such an outcome to be inevitable rather than surprising. The rules of Sora no Method favour happy endings, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the way things turned out. Here, since Carol’s evidently learned why Noel is so insistent on staying with Nonoka and the others, she’s earned her happy ending with them. My yardstick for whether or not a happy ending is deserved is a relatively simple and fair one: if the characters have gained something meaningful from their journey that betters them, or expands their perspective, then a happy ending is justified.

  • If I had to guess, I’d say that the restaurant that the Mizusakas work at is the Boyotei: this restaurant is known for its quaint atmosphere, attentive staff and solid food that combines Western with Japanese elements. Their beer and omelette rice are supposed to be excellent, although some feel that the restaurant’s prices are a bit expensive. Working out the location from looking through satellite data wasn’t tricky: knowing that the girls were close to the bus terminal earlier meant it was relatively simple to swing by the area and look at areas within walking distance. In a few short moments, I found the distinct ceremony arch at the restaurant’s front, and the rest is history.

  • The atmosphere inside the restaurant is pure joy as everyone celebrates Noel and Carol’s birthday: since Carol arrived on the anniversary as Noel, they also share the same birthday, and the others have gone ahead and prepared the cake with this in mind. It is a satisfying conclusion to the OVA, and also wraps things up in a definitive manner. The folks who did end up enjoying Sora no Method wondered if a second season could ever be a possibility, although given both the finality of the OVA and the fact that it’s been five years since any sort of Sora no Method project was announced, it’s safe to say that this series is probably in the books.

  • When everything is said and done, the second of the Sora no Method OVAs is well worth watching, being a valuable addition to the series that answers some lingering questions and acts as a satisfying epilogue. I admit that writing about Sora no Method‘s OVA was not something I expected to have on my schedule, but I am returning to the scheduled post for Rifle is Beautiful, and as time allows, a short talk on Azur Lane. In addition, Koisuru Asteroid and Magia Record are fast approaching their third episodes, so I’m looking to get talks for those done at the appropriate time. Finally, I have a surprise post in the works: folks following my Twitter will have a good idea of what this is, but my remaining readers will get to find out once the post is out!

The last time I wrote about Sora no Method, I was still in graduate school; time’s definitely flown by, and so, I was quite surprised to learn that there was another instalment in Sora no Method five years after the series’ original run. Despite the gap separating Sora no Method‘s original run from the latest OVA, it is clear that the series has not lost any of its magic, and the OVA ultimately ended up being a very succinct and enjoyable retreading of themes from the TV series, using Carol’s development as the basis to reiterate what Sora no Woto had originally been about. At the same time, the OVA also shows how far Nonoka and the others have come since Noel was able to grant their wishes: the rifts amongst this group of friends have healed, and Noel’s become a welcome part of this group. In addition, the OVA also reminds viewers as to what the significance of the saucer was. Viewers have criticised the series for using the saucer as a MacGauffin originally, missing the idea that the saucer was meant to represent the group of friend’s wishes. Hanging over the city like the weight of an unfulfilled promise, its arrival in Lake Kiriya was meant to show what Nonoka had left in the wake of her unexpected departure, and that in this world of miracles, the saucers are meant to help people grant wishes that mean something dear to them. The OVA thus provides a new perspective on the saucers and also summarises the original series’ messages neatly, making it a valuable addition to the Sora no Method series that can be helpful in wrapping up loose ends. With the freshly-gained insights from the second of the Sora no Method OVAs, it might even be worthwhile to go back and give Sora no Method a re-watch: the anime may have been somewhat of a challenge to follow, but Sora no Method portrays a very moving and heartfelt journey at its core.