The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: personal reflection

Courting Hope: Revisiting Kyou and Tomoyo’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“If the results come true, it’s as if there’s only one future. If it fails, we can think that other futures exist…I want to believe that in our future, there are many possibilities waiting.” –Kyou Fujibayashi

With the drama club acquiring the requisite number of members, Tomoya and Nagisa focus next on securing a club advisor, but when they speak with Toshio Koumura, they learn that he’s already the advisor of the choral club. Nagisa decides to stand down after she discovers a letter warning her to back off, and Tomoya decides to visit Yukine. Youhei believes that a basketball game where Tomoya is victorious could get the choral Club to reconsider, but Tomoya refuses. When Youhei’s sister, Mei visits, she worries for him and cleans up his room. As she cannot stay with him, she lodges with the Furukawas, and later, Tomoya agrees to the basketball game. Kyou decides to participate, as well, and the choral Club are brought in to watch. Tomoya’s team is off to a strong start against their rookies, but the basketball team decides to switch in their starting line, who even the scores out. Tomoya manages to score the final basket when he is spurred on by Nagisa, and the choral club consents to share their advisor with them. The Student Council intervenes and states that such an arrangement is prohibited, and later, Nagisa collapses in school, forcing her to rest at home. In this time, Kyou tries to bring Tomoya closer to Ryou and ends up trapped in the equipment storage room with him. Later, Tomoya decides that, if Tomoyo were to become president of the Student Council, the drama club’s fate could be turned around. When he speaks to her after class one day, some thugs appear with the intent of fighting her; to prevent her chances from being jeopardised, Tomoya takes the blame and is suspended. Tomoyo, Kyou, Ryou and Kotomi visit him, and when he returns, he decides that the best way to help Tomoyo is to have her help out with various sports clubs. Tomoya learns of Tomoyo’s reason to become president; she wishes to preserve the sakura trees on the walk to school as a promise to her brother. Nagisa returns to classes and watches a tennis game with Tomoya: Tomoyo is participating, and during the match, Tomoya inadvertently shows his devotion to Nagisa when a stray ball strikes her. Kyou and Ryou are heartbroken with this revelation.

Initially starting his journey out of a selfish desire to stave off boredom during his monotonous days, Tomoya’s quest to revive the drama club sees him investing a considerable amount of effort into making things work. As CLANNAD progresses through its next arc, the source of his determination and persistence begins to shift: evident in Kotomi’s arc, Tomoya is driven by intrigue and a sense of duty to do right by those around him. When he finds himself making a basket during a match after hearing Nagisa’s voice, he begins to develop a greater interest in Nagisa, whom he has regarded as a friend until now. The two seemingly complement one another, and Nagisa’s absence further accentuates this sense of mystery. Tomoya begins to wonder how he feels about her, and while she remains at home, he sets about doing what he can for her. When Tomoya seeks Tomoyo to help out with resurrecting the drama club, he puts his fullest efforts into working out ways of boosting Tomoyo’s reputation amongst the students. He learns from Tomoyo that she wanted to save the sakura trees for her family’s sake, and here, it is significant that he learns of this late in the game: this is intentionally done to show that Tomoya’s efforts are entirely driven by Nagisa, rather than purely by a desire to help and drive off monotony. The extent of his efforts remain strong even without Tomoyo’s exposition to really illustrate who his efforts are for. In this arc’s final moments, where instinct kicks in during the tennis match, what Kyou and Tomoyo have suspected is confirmed: Tomoya’s fallen in love with Nagisa.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Toshio Koumura is an older instructor at Hikarizaka Private High School. Behind his understanding demeanor lies exceptional wisdom and experience: as a teacher, he is able to motivate even the most disinterested students into turning their lives around and is credited with turning unruly students into people who care about the world around them. At Hikarizaka, he acted as the drama club’s advisor previously, and noticing that Tomoya and Youhei seemed unusual, guided the two along a better path from behind the scenes.

  • A conflict arises when Nagisa learns that Koumura is already acting as advisor to the choral club; Rie Nishina vehemently opposes the proposal to share Koumura between the two clubs. It turns out that Rie was once a talented violinist who had suffered an accident that left her unable to properly grip a violin. With her hopes of performing abroad dashed, she fell into a depression, but Koumura encouraged her to find another path in singing. Since then, she’s helmed the choral club and has rediscovered her happiness, so when Tomoya and the others ask her to consider sharing Koumura’s time, her best friend feels that Tomoya is threatening to take away the dream that Rie had worked so hard to reassemble.

  • Nagisa has a difficult time believing that Rie and her friends could be behind the note left in her desk; ever willing to see the best in everyone, Nagisa is kind to a fault, and in CLANNAD, a different side of her personality begins appearing late in the game. Although normally quiet and reserved, Nagisa can become quite animated and determined when the situation calls for it.

  • When Youhei manages to call out Sugisaka, Rie’s friend responsible for the note, Nagisa steps between the two to defuse an impending physical beating and promises to listen to whatever Sugisaka says. It is here that Rie’s story is made known: Youhei dismisses it as a call for sympathy, but Nagisa is visibly moved and agrees to stand down, leaving Youhei frustrated. Youhei’s remarks, seemingly tactless, mirror the audience’s perspectives that many of CLANNAD‘s moments come from characters with uncommonly difficult or even tragic backgrounds.

  • Tomoya explains to Nagisa that Youhei’s strong reaction to her decision in standing down is a consequence of his own past: he was formerly a soccer player who was forced to quit after fighting with a senior. Recalling Tomoya’s background, Nagisa begins crying, and Tomoya comforts her, feeling it the right thing to do. The golden light of the early evening and volumetric lighting suggests to audiences that Tomoya is touched by how selfless Nagisa is, marking the beginning of his interest in her, but before anything can happen, Kyou shows up and tears Tomoya a new one for having allowed Nagisa to stand down.

  • When Youhei suggests taking the fight to the choral club, Tomoya mentions that the act would further sadden Nagisa: it’s another subtle sign that he’s concerned for her. Youhei decides to slack off, but Tomoya takes him to the reference room, where Yukine suggests a basketball game, and later, runs into Tomoyo, who is accosted by members of the judo club. He extricates her from the situation, and earns Tomoyo’s thanks. In the process, this incident is what allows Tomoya to devise his solution later, having heard from Tomoyo her goals of running for the Student Council presidency.

  • In a bold move, Tomoya takes Nagisa by the hand and brings her outside of campus to evade Youhei, who is quite enthusiastic about the idea of a basketball game to turn the choral club around. When Youhei catches up, Nagisa lies that she’s seeing Tomoya, hence their need for space. It’s noteworthy that this is the first thing that comes to her mind; she’s willing to risk embarrassment to cover for Tomoya. Once Tomoya gets over his initial shock, written all over his face, he is happy that Nagisa is willing to go to these lengths for him. In the awkward silence following, both Tomoya and Nagisa wonder how to best react, showing that the feelings are probably mutual, even if both are too bashful to be forward at this point in time.

  • Things are interrupted when Mei, Youhei’s younger sister, shows up to visit. Mei plays a much larger role in CLANNAD ~After Story~; in CLANNAD, she visits for a few days to check up on Youhei, whom she considers as a bit of a rogue element. After gifting him something he does not need, Mei helps him clear up his room. However, because of the dormitory rules, Mei cannot lodge with Youhei, so the Furukawas agree to have her stay over.

  • Source documents indicate that Nagisa was born in 1984, and Tomoya in 1985. In 1984, the MacIntosh computer was release to the market, and the Sino-British Joint Declaration was announced to outline what would happen when Hong Kong would be handed back to China in 1997. A year later, Calvin and Hobbes began running in newspapers, and Mikhail Gorbachev replaced Konstantin Chernenko as the leader of the Soviet Union. While the Furukawas share dinner with Tomoya and Mei, a glance around the Furukawa’s home suggest that the anime is set in an older time: the dates are closer to the start of the new millenium – mobile phones have yet to be common, and televisions are still of the old CRT type.

  • In a previous comment, I remark that Valentines’ Day is something I am largely neutral about. Last year, I wrote a thought experiment wondering what a hypothetical date with someone like Nagisa would be like, and concluded that it would be possible to make things work. I had planned on doing a similar talk about Miho Nishizumi, but as her Meyer-Briggs personality type is similarly consistent with Nagisa’s, such a talk would have been exceptionally boring, differing only on what a date with Miho might entail. I would lean towards a museum, and given my choices, I suppose it speaks volumes about the sort of personality I’m drawn to. It’s a bit of a surprise as to just how quickly a year’s elapsed: during that thought experiment, I also announced that I would be revisiting CLANNAD. With this series of post very nearly in the books, I look ahead to next year and wonder about how ~After Story~ should best be handled, provided that I’ve still time to write about it.

  • Kyou and Tomoya take great fun in trolling the living daylights out of Youhei when they discuss the organisational structure of their team of three; Kyou mentions the master-slave dynamic, and I’m certain she’s not referring to the cooperation concept that I implemented for a multi-agent rescue robot simulation for my project. The scene is meant to indicate that Tomoya gets along with Kyou rather nicely: for their differences, they share a similar sense of humour, and while Kyou does her best to set Tomoya up with Ryou, she comes to see Tomoya as someone she can count on, a far cry from her initial distaste in him.

  • The confrontation between Kyou and Tomoyo is hilarious – it’s the first time the two clash, and while there’s no physical violence, it’s amusing to see Kyou outmaneuvered when Tomoyo implies that Kyou might have feelings for Tomoya. It is during this arc that Kyou begins trying to put Tomoya into more situations with Ryou, with the aim of helping Ryou bolster her confidence, and as she spends more time with the two, Kyou herself begins to realise she’s in love with Tomoya. The outcome of this is covered quite separately in an OVA, and in CLANNAD proper, is addressed at the appropriate time. Similarly, Tomoya’s efforts in helping Tomoyo secure presidency of the student council leads her to see him differently, and this is also covered in an OVA.

  • When Tomoya, Youhei and Kyou begin making the junior players look bad, the basketball team bring their top line into play. The equivalent of bringing an NHL team’s first line to bear against junior players, it’s deliberately unfair, done to preserve the basketball team’s integrity, and their skill quickly evens things out. When the score reaches a tie, Tomoya manages to make a shot despite his bad shoulder after hearing Nagisa’s voice, allowing his team to take the win. This is yet another sign that Nagisa is Tomoya’s special person; I am reminded of my MCAT and the encouraging conversations I had prior to my exam. In the years following, I’ve since counted entirely on my own skill and experience to carry the day: there’s no one in my corner offering this sort of encouragement, so I fall back on myself to get by.

  • In the aftermath of the match, the basketball team captain compliments Tomoya on his hand-eye coordination and remarks that even with his injury, he might still be valuable as an asset. It seems, however, that this particular competition was unsanctioned, and when an instructor finds them, the players and entire audience make a break for it. Later, Mei remarks that in spite of Youhei’s minimal contributions to the game, she nonetheless respects him for having put forth the effort. She departs on a high note.

  • Nagisa, ever considerate of those around her, has given Tomoya (and audiences) very little insight into her background: when she falls ill for the first time in CLANNAD, audiences do not initially make too much of a deal about it, since occasional illness is a common enough occurrence. Nagisa’s absence, while seemingly insubstantial early on, imparts a noticeable change on Tomoya and his friends. He becomes sullen, while Kyou decides to spur Ryou on in pursuing a relationship with Tomoya, all the while concealing her own accumulated feelings for him. Here, Tomoya, Kyou, Ryou and Kotomi visit the Furukawas, who update them on Nagisa’s status.

  • It pains me to say that, even though I’d bought CLANNAD a year ago during a Steam Sale, I’ve yet to actually touch it. I’ve heard that the visual novel is tougher than Halo‘s Legendary difficulty, and even puts DOOM‘s ultra-nightmare setting to shame: one mistake will send Tomoya to Davy Jones’ locker. One of my readers recommends playing through CLANNAD with a guide, and I’ll probably have to do just this, since I have no intention of dying in a game that can trade blows with Wolfire’s Receiver in difficulty. The timeline for this particular endeavour will likely be when my gaming rig can no longer keep up with contemporary titles – with Far Cry 5Metro: Exodus and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown coming out this year alongside a new Battlefield title, I think that my machine’s finally met its match.

  • I’m looking at the housing market at present, so things like a new gaming rig will have to wait until things settle down, and while my current computer might not be able to run the latest and greatest, I still have a backlog I’ll need to get through, so CLANNAD will definitely be on my list of games to get into. Back in CLANNAD The Anime™, Ryou recoils in embarrassment, complete with infrared emissions and even steam, from one of Kyou’s remarks.

  • The issue of sharing an advisor with the choral club is settled, but with the arrangements in violation of school rules, Tomoya begins putting his backing behind Tomoyo’s campaign to run for the presidency of the Student Council. In exchange, she begins visiting him and Youhei each morning to encourage their punctual arrival to school, as a part of her campaign. While Youhei is constantly trying to fight her and gets his arse handed to him each time, Tomoya treats her as he does everyone else and ends up sharing meaningful conversations with her.

  • While carrying some volleyballs, Kyou runs into Tomoya after classes. Yukine had earlier shown Tomoya a charm, feeling that his feelings for someone is bothering him. It’s surprisingly specific, and it is quite telling that the first person Tomoya thinks of Nagisa. However, in her absence, Tomoya picks Kyou, feeling that the charm’s improbability means that things are unlikely to happen. His choice mirrors prevailing thoughts on the best person for Tomoya, as some find that Kyou’s fiery personality would be a good match for Tomoya’s grounded and practical mindset.

  • The charm ends up putting Kyou and Tomoya inside the storage room. Yukine refers to her spella as a charm, and under J.K. Rowling’s definitions used in Harry Potter, a charm is a spell that alters the properties of an object without changing it fundamentally. While CLANAND largely remains the realm of realistic, there are supernatural elements present to advance the story: how much of it can be accounted for by hard science and how much of it is left to the realm of magic is not particularly relevant, since the strength of CLANNAD always lie within each arc creating a compelling story that immerses audiences into whatever Tomoya is dealing with.

  • Kyou reveals her reason for bringing Ryou and Tomoya together, although she’s also flattered by the fact that Tomoya decided to think of her for the charm. There are numerous conflicting emotions here, as Kyou begins to accept that she may have feelings for Tomoya, but before anything unsuitable for CLANNAD can occur, Tomoya recalls the countercurse that nullifies the charm. He manages to stay hidden and extricates himself from one of CLANNAD‘s most amusing situations.

  • Tomoyo is confronted with a large number of ruffians, and teachers arrive to drive them off. Tomoya subsequently shoulders the blame to ensure that Tomoyo’s record is not tarnished, taking a suspension from school in the process. Tomoyo begins to see Tomoya as someone who cares about her, and she continues visiting him every morning to ensure he awakens on time. However, in the grand scheme of things, helping Tomoyo out really was a means to an end, and Tomoya’s sights are set squarely on helping Nagisa resurrect the drama club.

  • The dramatic changes between the amusing and serious in CLANNAD were one of the reasons why I enjoyed it to the extent that I did: I find that it humanises the characters so that audiences can really empathise with them. Following Tomoya’s suspension, Kyou, Ryou, Tomoyo, Kotomi and even Fuuko visits him, bearing food. What happens next is a food challenge worthy of Adam Richman. However, outside of these moments, Nagisa’s absence is taking a toll on Tomoya, who becomes more silent and grim than before. Kyou and Ryou begin to notice this, as well, and while it cast doubts on whether or not Tomoya might return Ryou’s feelings, as well as Kyou’s unrequited love, Kyou continues holding onto hope. It’s a surprisingly painful place to be, as I can attest.

  • Tomoya’s suspension concludes before Nagisa recovers, and when he returns to school, he learns that the incident has torched off rumours that are harming her chances of becoming the president for the Student Council. In response, Tomoya devises an inspired solution: having long noticed how virtually all of the athletic clubs at Hikarizaka long to recruit her, he decides to have her perform against the athletic clubs, turning her considerable strengths and skill towards something constructive to illustrate her as being a well-adjusted individual worthy of being the Student Council president.

  • Subtle imagery in this scene remind audiences that even the aloof Tomoyo has her tender moments. Stories of this class, with their multiple female characters and lone male lead, often are frustrating to watch because the male protagonist is indecisive and lacks the sort of determined personality that would make them appealing to the female leads. In contrast, CLANNAD presents Tomoya Okazaki as a kind-hearted individual who, despite his cynical views of life, can and will put forth his genuine best when asked of him. In short, he is someone who earns the affection and interest of the female characters around him.

  • As the evening sets in, Tomoyo shares with Tomoya her story: her greatest desire is to make her younger brother happy again, after he fell into a river and nearly drowned as a consequence of trying to stave off their parents’ divorce. The incident left him injured, forced Tomoyo’s parents into re-evaluating their situation, and while things appear to have reached an equilibrium, Tomoyo’s brother had a request to see the sakura blossoms. With the plans to cut them down, Tomoyo feels that her ability to honour this promise is to reach a position where she can influence the decisions of those around her to preserve the things that remind her of what family means.

  • As the evening sets in, Tomoya and Tomoyo spend a quiet moment together on the hillside. By this point in time, it’s apparent that CLANNAD sets most of its most emotionally-charged moments during the evening, when the sun is setting. Casting the landscape in golds and reds long-wavelength light serve to suggest that that evenings, long-associated with endings and unwinding, are the time when people begin relaxing. With their normal vigilance dialed back, people begin opening up, and allow others to learn more about them. It is during the evenings that Tomoya learned of Fuuko’s condition, remembers his friendship with Kotomi, watches as Nagisa yields the drama club to the choral club and hears about Tomoyo’s family: this time of day begins to create a sense of melancholy in viewers.

  • The tennis match in CLANNAD is what I consider to be the turning point of the series: after numerous hints and subtle clues, it is here that the way in which the wind is blowing becomes apparent. Tomoyo and a male tennis player begin their match, and as it increases in intensity, a stray ball hits Nagisa in the ankle. The song “Over” can be heard playing in the background: the lyrics are upbeat and cheerful, suggesting a ceaseless sense of wonder about the surrounding world, as well as the gradual ending of things. It seems to be sung from Nagisa’s perspective.

  • Instinctively blocking the tennis player’s efforts to help, Tomoya helps Nagisa to the infirmary. In this single moment, Tomoya accomplishes a triple kill, shooting down Kyou, Ryou and Tomoyo in one action. While Ryou and Kyou’s reactions make it clear that they are hurt, Tomoyo’s also feeling it. Her reaction is a bit more subtle, and she gazes up at the sky in silence. Kotomi seems largely unaffected, and she looks more concerned for Kyou and Ryou. Having experienced this before, I’m confident in saying that time will eventually heal those wounds, and that it’s definitely okay to embrace the ensuing sadness: that one feels so strongly about the loss shows that they have experienced love.

  • This outcome is what motivates my page quote: Kyou generally is optimistic and believes that there will be another way even when things fail. The outcome of Kyou and Tomoyo’s arc is that Tomoyo succeeds in becoming the Student Council president. With her position, she’s able to accomplish what she’d set out to do and save the sakura trees on the hillside road leading up to their school. As appreciation for Tomoya’s efforts, she also allows for the unique arrangement between the choral club and drama club to exist. With the drama club’s future steady, CLANNAD enters its final act as Tomoya prepares to help Nagisa realise her dreams.

A common criticism directed at narratives featuring a prominent male lead and several female leads is that the story ends up nowhere, but CLANNAD does the opposite, providing audiences with subtle hints that foreshadow which direction Tomoya takes. The love that Tomoya develops for Nagisa is a natural progression, brought on by spending time with her. His initial goal of doing something with his time besides his usual routine transforms into intrigue, and when Nagisa falls ill, he comes to appreciate her quiet and gentle company to greater heights. Never forcibly advanced by the narrative, the development of Tomoya’s feelings proceeds at a plausible pace. Once Tomoya becomes aware of his feelings, and his friends find out, the consequences are similarly portrayed in a natural manner. Tomoyo had begun showing interest in Tomoya for his resolute determination in helping her, while Kyou had been trying to suppress her own long-standing feelings for Tomoya by hooking Ryou up with him. Both see their chances with Tomoya evaporate when Tomoya stands up to look after Nagisa; it speaks volumes to how well both Kyou and Tomoyo have come to know Tomoya, as well, when they’re able to understand who Tomoya’s feelings are directed at. From this simple gesture, CLANNAD decisively settles the heading its story is moving towards. Without lingering doubts to sow the seeds for conflict, the risk for a meandering narrative is struck down. CLANNAD is able to enter its final arc at full force, with the story’s goal clearly in mind, as Tomoya deals with the greatest challenge he’s faced since meeting Nagisa for the first time.

A Theory of Everything: Revisiting Kotomi’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“The world is beautiful, even when it’s filled with sadness and tears.” –Kotomi Ichinose

With the drama club still lacking the requisite members to be formally reinstated, Tomoya speaks with Kotomi in the hopes of recruiting her to help out. In the process, he helps her become more sociable, and with Ryou, Kotomi decides to join the drama club. During one meeting, Kotomi becomes drawn to the music club’s violin performance, and when she tries to play for herself, she ends up causing those around her great distress. Hoping to help her improve, Kyou suggests that Kotomi give a live performance. While her performance is abysmal, her friends nonetheless encourage her, although Kotomi grows frightened when a mysterious man appears. Kotomi begins spending more time with her newfound friends and in classes, but one day, she witnesses an accident and becomes withdrawn. Tomoya visits her home and, finding her in a room filled with newspaper clippings, recalls his past with Kotomi: the two had met as children and spent a considerable amount of time together, but when her parents’ university research conflicted with her birthday, Kotomi resented them for not being with her. They later perished in a plane crash, and remorseful at her final words to them, Kotomi had since decided to take up her parents’ work. Tomoya decides to restore the garden in Kotomi’s backyard in the meantime. Nagisa and the others begin helping, as well; moved by this gesture, Kotomi opens up once again. During a small birthday party they host for her, the gentleman reappears and introduces himself to Tomoya and his friends. He reveals that Kotomi’s parents had been thinking about her right up until the end, and their final gift to her had travelled a considerable distance to reach her. The strength of her parents’ love allows Kotomi to reconcile with her past and embrace the future with Tomoya and the others.

After the basics were established, CLANNAD became free to explore different thematic elements related to Tomoya’s story. Kotomi’s arc is the first of the stories explored, and while perhaps better known for Kotomi’s infamous and lethal performances on the violin, the arc itself provides two main contributions into CLANNAD. The first of these is illustrating the extent that Tomoya will put forth his best effort for the people close to him, and while Tomoya did contribute to helping Fuuko make Kyouko’s wedding a special one, it is not until his time with Kotomi where the depths of his concern and caring for his friends become presented. An old childhood friend, Kotomi was born to two well-known researchers on cosmology, and in his youth, Tomoya had visited the Ichinose home frequently, stopping for a spot of tea in the garden with Kotomi. In the years since, the garden has grown decrepit and overgrown with weeds. Wanting to make amends for having halted their friendship, Tomoya feels that it is his responsibility to restore the garden, symbolically restoring his friendship with Kotomi. The other element in Kotomi’s arc sets the standard for what CLANNAD defines to be what constitutes as respectable parents. Long having felt guilty for destroying her parents’ work, Kotomi had zealously pursued her studies with the aim of continuing where they left off, and while it’s revealed that Kotomi had done no such thing, the story that her guardian presents to Tomoya and the others illustrates the love that Kotomi’s parents had for her. In their final moments, they sacrificed their research in favour of their daughter’s happiness – by making the choice to put family above even society, her parents’ decision show that a true parent is someone who is always willing to put their children first. With Tomoya’s help, Kotomi comes to understand and deeply appreciate this message, while Tomoya himself also gains a better insight as to what he himself would want in a parent.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because this is the Kotomi arc, this screenshot of the thirty will feature Nagisa and Tomoya alone: Tomoya’s found himself in the path of Kyou’s scooter yet again and is knocked down, but fortunately, no major damage has occurred. CLANNAD is a universe where injuries and harm are dependent on the plot: characters can survive ludicrous amounts of damage without ill-lasting effects during moments of comedy, but when the mood turns serious, they will sustain injuries normally.

  • While Tomoya’s encounter of Kotomi in the library initially seems random, the first indicator that there’s a bit more history comes from the fact that of everyone, Kotomi is able to interact with Tomoya where she is much more bashful and quiet around other characters.

  • When meeting the boisterious and straight-shooting Kyou, Kotomi immediately hides behind Tomoya. Kotomi’s initial limitations in communication lead to some misunderstandings, and of everyone, Kyou takes the most initiative to try and bring Kotomi up to speed with everyone; although the two are off to a comically rough start, Kyou and Kotomi do get along with one another over the course of time. Their dynamics are quite fun to watch, and other folks count it as amongst the more endearing moments in CLANNAD when Kyou initially tries to hold a conversation with Kotomi.

  • I’ve always held a fondness for locations with plenty of books; during my time in middle and secondary school, I spent a considerable amount of time in the library, as my preferred place to hang out and work on various assignments. I continued to make use of library facilities during my early undergraduate career – in the quiet, sun-filled workrooms of an early morning, I reviewed for my MCAT and prepared for many a exam here. It was not until I began my undergraduate thesis that I was granted my own office space. During this time, a new library had opened on campus, and I shunned the location.

  • Initially, it was because the location was very busy and crowded, making it difficult to find space to work in; by comparison, my old office space was quiet, well-maintained and the perfect place to write software. After a botched kokuhaku during the Summer of the Flood and the revelation that she was seeing someone else a half-year later, I became adverse to seeing young couples in general. The new library was the premiere place where couples on campus went to “study”, so I pointedly avoided the library unless I was there to help give presentations on my lab’s research. Back in CLANNAD, Kyou messes with Kotomi, who is unaccustomed to Kyou’s approach in dealing with people.

  • It is really Kyou who drives the drama club forward, and her decision to join, along with Ryou, brings the total member count up to five. Despite playing an ancillary role in the drama club, her strong personality means that the other members initially have little choice but to follow in her wake: Kyou is frequently seen lecturing Nagisa, Kotomi and Ryou whenever she’s displeased with their bashfulness.

  • Besides Kotomi herself, off-hand references to the works of Steven Hawking, Brian Greene and other great physicists are what I most strongly remember in her arc. However, for most audiences, Kotomi’s abysmal violin playing is probably the most memorable element; Kotomi is blissfully unaware of her poor skills even as those in her vicinity writhe in agony, as though they were subject to the Cruciatus curse. There’s no indicator that Kotomi is deliberately playing poorly, but the Dunning–Kruger Effect could be in play here: Kotomi’s played the violin previously and is a brilliant student by all counts, but years of being out of practise means that her perception of her ability is inconsistent with her actual ability.

  • While dissimilar in appearance, Kotomi’s voice and personality does remind me somewhat of a friend who had been adrift with respect to their direction at the time, and I spent many an hour chatting with them about research, graduate studies and other related materials. Since then, they’ve managed to engage in research and was accepted into graduate school. Outside of those conversations, we talked about things in all manners, and as the flood waters receded towards days dominated by brilliant blue skies, I wondered if I was developing a bit of a nascent crush on them.

  • Under the warm light of a summer evening, Kotomi and Tomoya begin spending more time with one another as Tomoya tries to help her be more sociable. CLANNAD‘s lighting is generally used in a mundane fashion until the defecation hits the oscillation: when things get serious, lighting and colours are used to great effect in conveying what the characters feel to audiences. The universality of colours is such that I prefer using them to define the emotional tenour of a moment, as opposed to symbols – obscure symbols may have different meanings, and some anime analysis erroneously try to fit the symbol with their conclusions.

  • While Kotomi has ostensibly practised in preparation for her recital, her performance on the day of the recital proves to be abysmal, incapacitating the entire audience. Indeed, Kotomi’s violin skills would find application as acoustic weapons, which are being considered as non-lethal area-denial weapons. Such weapons are largely experimental and have also made the news of late: staff working at an American Embassy in Cuba have been reporting unusual symptoms including hearing loss and irregularities in mental ability. While investigators initially suspected acoustic weapons, they’ve since been ruled out.

  • Kotomi endures a lecture from Kyou on the basics of the Japanese manzai routine. Ryou and Nagisa’s looks of horror are priceless, as is Kotomi’s vacant stare. It would appear that Kotomi’s attempted to ask Kyou to teach her how comedy works, and here, Kyou shows that she’s quite spirited, possessing the makings of an actress. Like Zoidberg of Futurama, Kyou feels that Kotomi isn’t cut out for the part.

  • The drama club’s members, certainly en route to counting one another as friends, spend a weekend together. There’s a voice-over during this scene, so I’m not too sure what the context of Ryou and Nagisa’s embarassment are, but the voice-over itself provides a bit of foreshadowing as to what’s happening next; Kyou learns that Kotomi’s birthday is upcoming, and so, plans to give Kotomi a birthday bash worthy of remembrance.

  • After a days’ worth of searching around for a suitable birthday gift, Tomoya and the girls are unsuccessful. Tomoya reassures the others that there’s time yet to find a good gift, but notices that she’s spaced out. CLANNAD excels at making use of foreshadowing that astute viewers will catch onto, especially if they’ve played through the visual novel, and for anime-only folks such as myself, it will take a second watch-through in order to catch these minor but relevant details that contribute to the depth of each story in CLANNAD.

  • At Kyou’s insistence, Kotomi decides to prank Tomoya, whose reaction is immediately of embarrassment. According to the supplementary documentation, Kotomi’s assets are larger than anyone else in CLANNAD, and Kyou is fond of messing with her for this reason. Played purely for the audience’s amusement, it also serves as a dramatic setup for the next scene, when Nagisa learns of a vehicle accident, leading to a bit of a panic as Tomoya wonders if anyone was injured.

  • When Kotomi witnesses a vehicle accident, it induces great panic in her; up until now, Kotomi had been making great strides in interacting with those around her, so to see this happen was quite unsettling. It speaks to Mamiko Noto’s capabilities as a voice actor in being able to convey the sense of pure terror at the scene unfolding before Kotomi, adding yet another piece of the puzzle to Kotomi’s past. Besides Kotomi, Noto has also provided the voice for Sakura Quest‘s Sayuri Shinomiya (Saori’s older sister), as well as Taihō of Kantai Collection. Overwhelmed, Kotomi takes her leave, with the others left to wonder what went down.

  • The man that Kotomi had been frightened of earlier turns out to be her legal guardian, and while Tomoya is initially hostile towards him, he consents to listen to the gentleman’s story after he reveals that he is a longtime acquaintance of the Ichinoses. This fellow somewhat resembles Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight trilogy, and Kotomi’s fear of him is not because of any misdeeds he was responsible for, but rather, because she fears the possibility of bearing direct responsibility for what’s happened in the past.

  • While perhaps not quite as powerful as in Fuuko’s arc, lighting is utilised to great effect in the Kotomi arc to convey a very specific sense during a scene. The dying light of a setting sun emphasises the browns and yellows of the decaying yard surrounding the Ichinose residence, reinforcing the notion that this place has long been neglected. That Tomoya visits by sunset shows that the day is ending; given the situation, there is little he can do now but wait for another day to begin so he can properly begin working on a solution.

  • The strong crimson hues inside Kotomi’s room, filled with newspaper clippings concerning her parents, create a highly unsettling sight that conveys to viewers the emotional intensity that Kotomi feels. Here, in a room illuminated in a surreal manner, Tomoya finally recalls the nature of his relationship with Kotomi – they’d been friends in their childhood. CLANNAD transitions into a flashback to fill audiences in on what’s happened previously, and provides a vivid picture of what’s happened.

  • In 2003, Brian Greene’s 1999 book, The Elegant Universe, was adapted into a three-part documentary for NOVA that outlines his research on string theory and how it could be the solution towards reconciling Newtonian physics at the macro-scale and quantum theory underlying interactions at incredibly minute scales. I found the three-part series to be incredibly enjoyable and wondered just how close we were at the time to a theory of everything. It’s been fifteen years since I first watched The Elegant Universe, and the complexity of these systems means that there’s no satisfactory theory that can really account for everything yet.

  • Greene’s research has continued into the idea that the universe is multi-dimensional, with extra dimensions wrapped up into small structures similar to how a strand of hair might be seen as being one-dimensional from a distance. The theory of everything might not be something we can readily demonstrate to hold true at present, but with continued research into properties of the universe, it is expected that our knowledge in this area of physics will only improve. It is this that forms the name for the final episode of Kotomi’s arc in CLANNAD and by extension, this post. Back in CLANNAD, Tomoya recalls how he first met Kotomi and the time they subsequently spent in her family’s garden.

  • Kotomi became frustrated on the eve of her birthday when a conference came up for her parents; such a reaction is not unexpected of someone of her age, and when they failed to return on account of a plane crash, Kotomi felt responsible for the actions. On the assumption that the gentleman was here to take her parents’ research papers, Kotomi tried to torch them with the hope of preserving it, but has since regretted her decision. This is the reason why Kotomi is studious: she aims to atone for her actions by recovering and rediscovering the knowledge that was presumably destroyed with her parents’ deaths.

  • After appraising Ryou, Nagisa and Kyou of the situation, Tomoya decides to restore Kotomi’s garden to its original state, and the group also takes Kotomi’s violin to a repair shop. Owing to the fact that ten years have elapsed since the original airing of Kotomi’s arc, curiosity led me to take a look and see what discussions were like back when internet speeds averaged 3 Mbps (375 kb/s) and the Kentsfield Core 2 Quad Q6600, one of the earliest affordable quad-core CPUs, had only been on the market for a year. To put things in perspective, my MacBook Pro, an early 2015 model, is armed with the i5-5257U, which is around 73 percent faster than the Q6600, and my current internet connection is twenty times faster.

  • Through his efforts, weeds are removed from the garden, and life begins to fill it once more with colour. Looking back at discussions of a decade past, folks largely agree that the Kotomi arc is quite moving and well-written. Appropriately, period discussions were focused on the emotional impact of the story, and even now, CLANNAD discussions tend to not mention any technical elements of multi-verses because, while they facilitate the story in both CLANNAD and CLANNAD ~After Story~, how they precisely work isn’t important for us viewers.

  • The reason why I’ve made no mention of Kotomi’s quote from Robert F. Young’s The Dandelion Girl is that I’ve done a separate post on the topic already, which dealt with the original short story rather than CLANNAD. In the case of CLANNAD, one can reasonably infer that Kotomi sees Tomoya as a great friend, someone who continues improving with the passage of time. She references this line because the two had read The Dandelion Girl as children and wishes for him to remember the past friendship that they once shared.

  • Some sources of documentation state that Kotomi’s only seen Tomoya as a friend in the anime, and her response when Tomoya’s feelings for Nagisa come out into the open seem to suggest that this is the case, but her choice of words and steadfast hope of meeting him blur the boundaries. When Tomoya fully recalls the full story, Kotomi is finally ready to face the her friends once again, feeling that she’s in the company of individuals who have accepted her.

  • The evening sky is presented again in great prominence, although now, reds are replaced with a gentler carnation pink to illustrate that the mood has softened. To the audience, this is meant to convey the idea that through Tomoya’s efforts, Kotomi has moved past her own inner dæmons. The next day, Kotomi returns to classes; she’s immediately greeted by her friends, who hand her a receipt for violin repairs.

  • The one remaining unresolved element in Kotomi’s arc at this point is the story dealing with her guardian. Having confirmed him to be a friend, Tomoya and the others feel that it’s time for Kotomi to learn of the whole truth about her parents. As the gentleman explains what really happened in her parents’ final moments, when they chose to save Kotomi’s gift over their paper, a warm golden light fills the room. The dominance of gold and yellow denotes that things have finally reached a resolution, and Kotomi makes peace with her past here.

  • The scene dealing with the suitcase that the Ichinoses left behind and its journey to reach Kotomi has long been subject to analysis for whether or not it added any value to CLANNAD and saw attempts by folks to decipher the different languages being used. Neither are particularly meaningful uses of time: as noted earlier, the whole point of Kotomi’s arc is to illustrate the extent to which Tomoya is willing to go for his friends, as well as a more dramatic example of the extent that good parents are willing to look after their children.

  • In short, the Kotomi arc is where precedent is set for Tomoya’s actions upcoming in CLANNAD. This brings my revisitation of the Kotomi arc to an end, and I found that, compared to the Fuuko arc, I’ve deviated a bit more from the Kotomi arc in my figure captions. Here, Kyou and the others bring Kotomi her newly-refurbished violin, and thanks to her involvement, Kotomi is able to celebrate the birthday party that her parents had once planned for her. In their stead, Tomoya and the others have planned a similarly enjoyable day for Kotomi.

  • Concerned with numbers, Tomoya asks if Kyou’s idea is a good one, and Kotomi remarks that she’s got a big garden…for you. This brings my Kotomi talk to an end, and the next CLANNAD revisitation post will cover Tomoya’s journey to help Nagisa rebuild the drama club. To do so, he hopes to help Tomoyo become student council president, feeling that it could help with the process, and invariably draws both Tomoyo’s and Kyou’s eye, leading to an interesting conflict. The gap between this post and the next will not be quite as long: the arc ended on Valentines’ Day, so this is when I will next write about CLANNAD.

Besides a powerful pair of messages with what family is and the sort of person Tomoya is, Kotomi’s arc also introduces the notion of multi-verses. One of the strengths in CLANNAD is that its portrayal of these multi-verses and the Ichinose’s research in such is given the perfect amount of detail to motivate the story, but no further. One of the issues in anime is whenever authors attempt to fit in immensely technical concepts without an inkling of the laws that govern such systems and the constraints within them. Some anime have taken to mentioning technical jargon with the aim of elevating the gravity in a scene, but in CLANNAD, details about M-theory, branes and interactions between dimensions are noticeably absent. Instead, concepts relevant to the story are presented in approachable terms: it is in one such multi-verse that the mysterious robot and girl’s story is set in. Initially, this world is of little more than a curiosity for the audiences, but as CLANNAD progressed, this alternate reality becomes much more significant towards the narrative overall. The inclusion of this element and sufficiently frequent mention of the possibility thus drive the story forwards, and opens up audiences to the idea that miracles are possible within CLANNAD: all of this is accomplished, permitting viewers to enjoy Kotomi’s story without requiring that audiences pick up Brian Greene and Steven Hawking’s publications as background material.

Reflections on 2017, Welcoming 2018 with the Girls und Panzer 2018 Calendar

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every new year find you a better man.” – Benjamin Franklin

We’re now a short ways into 2018, and before we begin busying ourselves with making the most of another year, I’m going to take a few moments to look back on what 2017 entailed, especially pertaining to some of the learnings that were accrued over the past year. Most of these learnings apply to the workplace and interpersonal skills. It is always bewildering as to just how much one can learn in the space of a year, and during 2017, I came to appreciate the importance of good emotional maturity and problem-solving skills in individuals to be far more important than any technical skills. It was a strong reminder for me that being able to professionally and courteously interact with people is by far one of the most important traits that one can have: regardless of what profession one is in, our occupations ultimately deal with doing something of value for people, and as such, moving into 2018, I’m definitely going to be mindful of this as I work harder for a company whose aim is to generate more revenue and is looking to expand. 2017 was a bit of a difficult year that had also seen its share of enjoyment – from the challenges at work to the days spent in the mountains and my travels to Japan and Hong Kong, I’ve come to really appreciate maintaining a good work-life balance. I continue to lift weights and do martial arts, while at the same time, make time to sit down with a good book or game. Last year, I simply resolved to let things happen as they happened, and in retrospective, that didn’t turn out half bad.

As such, my resolution for 2018 remains quite unchanged: I’m going to keep doing everything I did last year, but better. I will continue to make the most of whatever happens, and further to this, I will take responsibility for what happens. I’ve heard folks remark that resolutions are usually vague and pointless in keeping, but looking back at last year, I did manage to keep all of them (I did end up volunteering for a pair of science fairs, for instance). As such, I contend that resolutions are not entirely unnecessary, and I’ll likely keep up the practise of being a bit more introspective than average in New Years posts graced with anime calendars so as long as this blog continues to be maintained. On the topic of The Infinite Mirai, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the blog has proven to be this resilient, and in the upcoming year, I will continue to write for it. That leads me to wish all of you, my readers, a Happy New Year 2018. While I’m not certain of what exactly this year will entail for my blog, I am immensely thankful for your readership and feedback. Let’s get it!

Half-Life 2- Downfall: A Reflection

“Prepare for unforeseen consequences.” —The G Man, Half-Life 2 Episode 2

Gordon Freeman is tasked with retrieving a resistance weapon capable of destroying Combine Citadels in a mission whose timeframe relative to the other events of Half-Life 2 are not known. After arriving at a sawmill, Freeman fights his way through hordes of zombies to reach a derelict mine guarded by a veritable armada of Combine soldiers. Entering the mine, Freeman begins his descent into the bowels of the earth itself in search of this weapon. Released earlier this year as a Half-Life 2 mod, Downfall is an excellent fan-made addition to the Half-Life 2 universe that remains highly faithful to the mechanics and visuals of the Half-Life 2 games. Set in the White Forest area, the atmospherics and visual effects are top-tier, matching those of Half-Life 2 Episode 2 in most areas and surpassing it in others. The mod is incomplete at present, and two more chapters are planned. The first chapter is a ways longer than Half-Life 2: The Lost Coast. The mod is comparable to a single chapter in a Half-Life 2 episode, taking around three-quarters of an hour to beat on standard difficulty, but it’s an immensely thrilling ride, being the next best thing to a proper announcement about the likely non-existent Half-Life 2 Episode 3 and Half-Life 3 itself.

What makes Downfall such an entertaining mod is the fact that, while the level design is structured consistently with what is seen in the actual Half-Life 2 titles, Downfall introduces a new twist on things: players are only equipped with the legendary Zero-Point Energy Manipulation Device (Gravity Gun) to begin with. Upon arriving at the sawmill, zombies begin appearing en masse to attack the player, forcing players to get creative with the objects available in the environment. Even after a crowbar is found, things remain quite tricky – clearing an area of zombies and moving onwards is an especially rewarding feeling. One of the more exhilarating moments was fighting a poison headcrab zombie in one of the houses: I’m accustomed to having some heavy firepower in the form of under-barrel grenades and a good stockpile of hand grenades when taking these monstrosities on, but Downfall only provides players with a pistol at this point. Running out of ammunition will occur before one can take down the poison headcrab zombie, so players are forced to bait the zombie into throwing the poison headcrabs at them, and then dispatch each individual poison headcrab with the crowbar. As players acquire more weapons, the gameplay in Downfall begins feeling more like a traditional Half-Life 2 mission; engaging Combine soldiers and other enemies become rather more straightforward.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Downfall opens with a casual Sunday drive to a location where a beacon signal is transmitted, under what appears to be the setting sun. Downfall could hypothetically be set in the moments following Episode 2, after Eli Vance is killed by a Combine Advisor; Freeman must then regroup with additional members of the Resistance before they set off for the Borealis. Once players reach the sawmill, the muscle car must be abandoned.

  • There’s a definite calm in the atmosphere as Freeman begins exploring the area, and there’s an abandoned boathouse adjacent to a lake. Of all the existing instalments in Half-Life 2Episode 2 stands out as having some of the most memorable scenery, being set in the remote forests of Eastern Europe rather than the close-quarters of City 17. I’ve heard that Episode 2 was inspired by forests of Oregon.

  • The moody skies in Episode 2 bring to mind the mood of my area shortly after the Great Flood of 2013. The Royal Family visited the area shortly after, and I recall listening to a news programme covering the event while I was fighting my way through the White Forest Inn ambush. The quiet beauty of the area is offset by the fierce onslaught, so after the fighting died down, I spent a few moments exploring the area.

  • Because players only start out with the Gravity Gun and find a crowbar early into Downfall, the first segments of the mod handle similarly to the Ravenholm mission. To encourage creative play, Valve implemented an achievement called “Zombie Chopper” for using only using the Gravity Gun. While seemingly a difficult task, ammunition was already quite scarce in Ravenholm, and bullets are actually less effective against zombies than large objects.

  • The crowbar is a fantastic weapon against leaping headcrabs and can kill one in a single hit, including poison headcrabs. A large number of zombies, including zombines, appear here, but the abundance of objects that can be thrown means that there are no shortage of options for dealing with zombies. The tire swing on the left of image can be used to great effect; it is hilarious to send conventional zombies flying with it, but there is also a risk: I lost thirty points of health because the tire swing swung back at me after one use.

  • In the sawmill’s attic, players will come across the control panel for opening the flood gate, allowing Freeman to move into the next area. There’s also a large ammunition cache here, plus several computer terminals, indicating that the sawmill was probably used as a Resistance outpost before the Combine overwhelmed them. For the time being, there’s no way to actually get into the ammunition cache, which is present purely for aesthetic purposes.

  • The house here is infested with poison headcrabs and a poison headcrab zombie: while I’m accustomed to using heavy firepower to deal with them (burning them with explosive barrels, or otherwise using a combination of hand grenades and the MP7’s under-barrel grenades), these are not options in the house. Instead, Freeman must bait the poison headcrabs into leaping off the zombie, and then beat them down with the crowbar. After all of the poison headcrabs are expended, the zombie itself can be pummeled to death using physical objects, and the cinder brick found in the cellar of this house is particularly useful for that task.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that it’s been five days since Christmas, and six days since I posted anything. This is because it’s been a bit of a relaxing, if somewhat busy Christmas: on Christmas Day this year, the day began with a fantastic breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, hash browns and Belgian waffles. After the opening of gifts, I took a walk on the nearby hills by afternoon despite the -20°C weather, where I found some Christmas ornaments hanging on one of the aspen groves, and then spent the rest of the day playing Overgrowth. We finished the day with prime rib and the remarkably flavourful beef bones.

  • They definitely aren’t kidding when the say that the Icefields Parkway is a remote stretch of road with reduced maintenance in winter. The drive back home was as treacherous: a blizzard had began in earnest when we began making our way back. Last evening, temperatures reached a low of -31°C before windchill and a fresh snow had fallen. It’s expected to be -32°C later tonight (-43°C with windchill), making me extremely appreciative of being able to rest in a warm place. I’m sure readers are not here about the cold, so we’ll return to Downfall, where the mines are warm, even if inhabited by barnacles.

  • Upon exiting the first of the mines, Freeman comes across a rail line covered by a Combine Sniper. There’s practically no cover leading down the tracks, and while there is another path that allows Freeman to close the distance between him and the sniper, I chose to make use of a log and well-known limitation in the AI to close the distance more quickly. The sniper will throw back the first grenade, but will not do anything about the second grenade Freeman throws at them.

  • The Colt Python pistol, for all of its incredible power, is constrained by a small ammunition pool, and I’ve typically not run into situations where I’ve required it. It’s best saved for Combine elite soldiers and Hunters; in Downfall, these enemies do not appear and so, it can be used to quickly deal with the first wave of Combine soldiers Freeman encounters. Here, I look back at the train tracks and the scenery.

  • With the sniper now cleared out, I take a look around at the setting and marvel at the details of the mining structures. This mine forms the setting for the only firefight against Combine soldiers in Downfall, and while players are armed with only the pistols at this point, use of cover and a little bit of creativity will allow for the first wave of soldiers to be cleared out in a relatively straightforward manner.

  • I finally acquire the MP7, which is probably my most-used weapon in all of Half-Life 2 and its episodes simply because of how plentiful ammunition for it is. The weapon is used extensively by Combine, and ammunition crates for the weapon are easily found. While ineffectual at longer ranges owing to its spread, its large magazine capacity and carrying capacity makes it a solid all-around weapon for most close range engagements.

  • I cannot quite put my finger on what it is about the lighting and assets that give Episode 2 environments such a unique feel to them, but overall, the presence of open wilderness as opposed to urban build-up meant that, had Half-Life 2 Episode 3 ever come out, I would have been hoping for more rural settings. With the story hypothetically set to take place in the arctic, it seems that players would have had the chance to explore non-urban settings.

  • There’s a restrictor here that keeps the Antlions away. These insect-like aliens can spawn indefinitely and overwhelm players with their numbers, but they can be kicked back using the gravity gun. Enough hits from the gravity gun will kill them, although their numbers makes the technique viable only with solitary antlions.

  • The elevator here leads to the control room with the energy orb powering the Combine defenses here, and disabling it will lower the force field covering the path Freeman needs to take. Antlions begin swarming the area, although now that Freeman’s got the MP7 and SPAS-12 Shotgun, taking them on becomes a bit more straightforwards.

  • While there’s been no official news of Episode 3, some dedicated folks have begun working on an unofficial continuation using the Unreal 4 Engine, which powered my Master’s Thesis project. This continuation, titled “Project Borealis”, is being undertaken to build a game from the story that Marc Laidlaw provided back in August, outlining what Episode 3 would have entailed. The project’s lead manager has industry experience and seeks to create the best possible experience for fans of the series and presently, the story is around half finished.

  • Some interesting concept art has also been provided for Arctic headcrabs and a new model of Strider. Enemy AI and weapon concepts are also entering testing; while no news of when Project Borealis’ release was provided, the team did mention that they will be keeping the community updated as they continue with the project. This is quite exciting, and it seems that, even if Valve has no interest in continuing the Half-Life franchise, dedicated and devoted community members can and will keep things going. I’m curious to see where things will end up, and with the Unreal 4 Engine driving things, the game could look quite refreshed once completed.

  • After entering the main mine shaft and descending deep underground, Downfall comes to a close. The bitterly cold winter evening is upon us, and after a warm dinner of fried chicken, I’m watching the mercury plummet. The weather is expected to warm up as we enter the New Year; before 2018 sets in, I’ve got one final post for 2017, dealing with Nekopara‘s OVA. 2017’s been a bit of an interesting year for the blog, and while I can’t say that my numbers are particularly strong a motivator for continuing this blog, a strong reader-base and the associated discussion means I’m not quite ready to call it quits fully yet.

It typifies Valve’s ability to create suspense and horror in games whose aim is not solely horror, and Downfall makes excellent use of Valve’s techniques to create a mod that feels as though it is a proper instalment in the Half-Life 2 universe. While faithful to Half-Life 2 in design and concept, subtleties in the gameplay show that there remains some room for improvement still: besides cleverly forcing players to adopt different strategies, there are other minor surprises in store for players, with the most notable being the Combine Sniper that returns a grenade players throw at them, requiring players use a second grenade to defeat the sniper. This moment was completely unexpected and shows that the Source Engine, in spite of its age, can still be made to throw off players to create refreshing moments. While there’s been talk of Half-Life 3 and Half-Life 2 Episode 3 sporadically in the years since I first beat Episode 2, my intuition tells me that the expectations for these two items is one of the contributing factors to why Valve is not actively pursuing a continuation of Episode 2. With this being said, Downfall isn’t quite finished yet, and it will be interesting to see as to whether or not its continuations will come out as the modder has suggested – if there are indeed to be future instalments of Downfall, I will definitely be interested in seeing where things are headed.

A Reflection on Winter Solstice 2017

“While I relish our warm months, winter forms our character and brings out our best.” –Tom Allen

Today is the shortest day of the year for folks in the Northern Hemisphere, marking the beginning of winter, the one season that Canada is best known for. A fresh snowfall has blanketed the area in a quiet covering of white, obscuring the landscape and giving the world a semblance to that of a blank canvas, ripe for exploration. Even though I’m not particularly fond of winter for its long hours of darkness and bitter cold, there is nonetheless a beauty to this season that makes it one that has its own merits. It’s a sign of my age that I’ve begun regarding winter in a new manner: I still vividly recall remarking that I had a deep-seated dislike of winter, but as I’ve collected the years, I’ve come to accept the positives there is in this season. For one, there is no other time of year better suited for making a hot chocolate and reading a good book while snow is falling outside. On Sunday, I celebrated the Dōngzhì Festival (冬至, jyutping dung1 zi3) with family: each of the chicken, crispy roast pork, shrimps and 東菇 have a symbolic meaning corresponding with good luck, so a traditional meal will feature these dishes. With winter now upon us, the days begin lengthening once again, although in Canada, the heart of winter only really begins in January, after the Christmas decorations are stowed away and folks begin returning to routine.

  • To give an idea of how long I’ve been around for, this is my nine hundredth post. This year, autumn’s been remarkably mild, and it’s actually felt like spring for much of the year. It’s only been in the past few days where the weather’s been more seasonal, and with the recent snowfall, it’s finally beginning to feel like Christmas outside. Christmas is fast approaching: work, however busy it has been, is winding down for the year, and I’m looking forwards to unwinding a little during the break upcoming. If the weather permits, I might close the year off with a trip into the mountains and soak in our equivalent of the onsen in Banff, but for now, on my horizons are a hockey game, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and a variety of other activities.

I’ve typically done blogging awards during the Winter Solstice, but this year, I’m mixing things up a little. For one, I’ve been relatively inactive in the anime blogging community. The reason for this is simple enough: after work, I’m now less inclined to write and prefer relaxing, so my blogging output this year has not been of the same quality as the content I’ve previously written. Site readership has correspondingly seen a decline, and unlike other bloggers out there, who’ve either superior dedication to their craft or multiple authors (or both), I’m finding it more difficult to keep up: after a day of implementing software, designing things, writing unit tests or sitting through meetings, it’s a challenge to summon the motivation to write when one would rather sit down and close one’s eyes, so I admit that the posts I’ve written this year certainly aren’t my best. There are days where I feel as though I’m reaching the upper limits for hard work can do. I am curious to hear what you, the reader, make of all this. How would you handle stress and motivate yourself when things get tough? Finally, I’d like to thank all of you, the readers, for sticking around and contributing to the discussions: it is quite certain that I would not be finding the motivation to write were it not for insightful remarks that you’ve provided. I am not quite ready to call it quits yet for the present, and folks who were doubtlessly hoping I pack it up will need to be a bit more patient – I am going to continue running this blog until Girls und Panzer: Das Finale comes to a close.