The Infinite Zenith

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Enter The Matrix Review and Reflection

“All I’ve ever asked from this world is that when it’s my time, let it be for something, and not of something.” –Ghost

Released in May 2003, Enter The Matrix was developed by Shiny Entertainment and intended to line up with the release of The Matrix Reloaded, providing further exposition for the events of the film. After Ghost and Niobe retrieve a package containing a message from Zion that provides information about an impending Machine attack. They coordinate a meeting, but first, stop the Agents from moving Axel at the airport. The captains of each Zion ship meet to discuss the best course of action in the Matrix’s sewers, but when Agents interrupt the meeting, the rebels escape into the sewers. Niobe and Ghost move through the sewers and manage to escape, assisting other rebels along the way. They encounter the Keymaker, who saves them from an Agent and reveals that Neo must be given a special key. However, Cain and Abel make off with the key; Ghost and Niobe pursue the two into the Merovingian’s Chateau and recover the key. They later join in on the Freeway chase to assist Morpheus, and agree to destroy the power plant after the Keymaker reveals Neo’s path. Niobe and Ghost later receive a request from the Oracle, and after their conversation, must fight off the hordes of Agent Smiths, making their way down a half-constructed office tower and through Chinatown. Escaping back into the real world, Niobe pilots the Logos through the tunnels of the real while Ghost holds off the sentinels long enough for the Logos to use its EMP against them. Long considered to be an incomplete game and an attempt to cash in on the Matrix brand, Enter The Matrix nonetheless remains a fantastic game in my books for being able to augment on The Matrix Reloaded‘s events.

The biggest strength in Enter The Matrix is the game’s ability to capture the atmosphere of The Matrix, allowing players to fight inside The Matrix to very nearly the same extent that was seen in the movies. In doing so, players would become immersed in a fully-fledged experience that gave the same sense of exhilaration that Neo first experienced upon understanding what the Matrix is – the gameplay in Enter The Matrix is surprisingly sophisticated, giving players plenty of martial arts options against their opponents. Using a context-based system, Enter The Matrix captures the intricacies of fighting in the movies to give the sense that players have entered the Matrix. Supplementing the complex and fully-fledged fighting system is a diverse arsenal of weapons, ranging from sidearms to anti-materiel rifles that, in conjunction with bullet time, enables players to survive even the most unfavourable situations. Featuring complete cutscenes directed by the Wachowski brothers, Enter The Matrix adds over an hour of new live-action footage that augments the experience conferred by The Matrix Reloaded. The sum of these elements together make Enter The Matrix a superb game that is the perfect companion to The Matrix Reloaded; while the mechanics and visuals have not withstood the test of time, the game still handles quite well and is a thrill to play. Enter The Matrix is about the closest one can get to emulating the badass feats seen within the Matrix films, and this is a game that does a remarkably good job of bringing this experience to life.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The first thing to note is that screenshots from Enter The Matrix will appear much darker than those from other games. Most of the events in Enter The Matrix are set at night or in large interiors, with the exception of a few missions. The first mission involves visiting a central post office to recover a package from the Osiris. Enemies in this mission are lightly armed, with only the .380 Colt Mustang, the weakest sidearm in the game. By default, Ghost is equipped with a pair of P229 Sig Sauer pistols.

  • Most of the enemies in the post office are weak enough so that they can be dealt with using martial arts alone; this is the perfect time to become familiarised with the fighting system in Enter the Matrix: standard attacks consist of kicks and punches, as well as throws. However, additional commands and contexts allow Ghost and Niobe to execute more complex moves, while the use of Focus allow them to hit harder and move faster than normal.

  • Focus is a limited and powerful asset: the consequence of being aware of the truth, its effects in Enter The Matrix are to slow time down, allowing players to dodge bullets, run on walls, and jump greater distances. Here, I’ve managed to find the package and are engaging in Enter The Matrix‘s equivalent of The Matrix‘s lobby shootout. I may not have the M-16 or 870 MCS, but the MP5 and Colt RO635 9mm SMG, in conjunction with focus, are more than enough to deal with the cops that come into the lobby. A subtle but clever touch is that shooting at the columns will cause their marble cladding to become damage and come off, as seen in The Matrix.

  • The music in Enter the Matrix is solid, conveying a sense of urgency as players make their way across the city rooftops to the hard line, the way out of the Matrix. Despite the game’s low texture resolution and primitive lighting, there’s a charm about the graphics that make Enter the Matrix a distinct instalment in The Matrix.

  • The airport mission is one of my favourites in the game for the level design and set pieces. Police SWAT units become introduced here, and they’re more powerful adversaries than the cops seen in the previous missions, being armed with superior equipment and armour. The best tactic for dealing with them is to close the distance using Focus and disarming them, then beating the tar out of them using martial arts. Notice the Pentium IV advertisement on the wall to the left: computer processors have advanced to the point where the i5 inside my MacBook Pro is upwards of 300 percent more powerful than the fastest Pentium IV processors of the day.

  • The fight against the SWAT helicopter represents the first boss fight of the game, occasionally dropping SWAT units to fight players. The best trick for beating it is to use Focus and aim slightly above the SWAT helicopter using the MP5. MP5 ammunition can be replenished from attacking SWAT units. Once the helicopter is downed, players enter the monorail tunnels and will encounter the armoured military SWAT, the second-most lethal enemies in the games only to the Agents. Attacking them with weapons is usually a waste of ammunition, but martial arts will work well against them.

  • The revolving restaurant section of the airport requires a bit of patience, and once all enemies are cleared, the goal is to climb on top a piano and wait for the ladder to swing around. I’ve been to several revolving restaurants in my time, including the one in the Calgary Tower and CN Tower (brunch at the former, and a spaghetti dinner at the latter); they’re usually placed in towers so patrons have a nice view of their surroundings as they enjoy their meals, but the location at an airport is less likely to provide good scenery.

  • The Barrett M82A1 .50-calibre anti-materiel rifle is the single most powerful weapon in Enter the Matrix, being able to neutralise any enemy with one headshot. It is used for an incredibly long-range shot against the private jet that’s carrying Axel to take the tire out and prevent it from taking off. Unlike its real-world equivalent, the M82A1 in Enter the Matrix is mislabeled as the M95 and has an eighteen-round magazine, which doesn’t make much sense considering the size of each bullet; the real M95 is a bullpup rifle.

  • One of the SWAt will drop an SG-552 rifle, which is probably the best all-around gun in Enter the Matrix. Blessed with a high firing rate, pinpoint accuracy, high damage and a large magazine, the weapon is completely inaccurate against its real-world counterpart – the SG-552 is the carbine form of the SG-550 assault rifle and is chambered for the 5.56 mm NATO round. However, in Enter the Matrix, it is so powerful it can blow the Agent helicopter apart on very short order. The PC controls are a bit stiff, so it took me a bit longer to move into position and open fire.

  • Aside from the airport, the sewers were also a fun set of missions, giving a sense of just how labyrinthine the sewers of the Matrix are. The close quarters environments in the sewer tunnels make the Mossberg 590 (known as the Entry Shotgun in-game) a viable option: the high damage makes it well-suited for encounters with Sewer SWAT, which are second only to the armoured military SWAT in lethality.

  • The sewers are relatively linear, but there are a few places where some ancient machinery must be destroyed to allow progress, or else similarities in the scenery make it easy to get lost. There are some sections in the sewer that have impressive design: the sub-section of the level “Breathing Room” takes players through a room filled with large fans on a platform over a deep passageway. The fans can be shot at and destroyed.

  • Enter the Matrix was the first game I played that involved a large sewer system possibly surpassing Tokyo’s G-Cans system (known formally as the “Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel”). Since then, games like Metro and Wolfenstein II have come close to replicating the experience, but there’s no substitute for the original.

  • This is one of the few places in Enter the Matrix where it’s possible to use the M16A2 rifle, a good all-around weapon that hits harder than the MP5. There is the option to dual-wield weapons, as well: doubling the firepower of weaker weapons, it’s called “two fisting” in Enter the Matrix, and while I referred to the simultaneous use of two weapons as such after playing Enter the MatrixHalo would lead me to call the process “dual wielding” – “two fisting” apparently refers to the practise of holding an alcoholic beverage in each hand, and in gaming, quickly fell out of usage in favour of “dual wielding”.

  • During the trek through the sewers, players must defend fellow Rebels against hostile forces, and allowing any of them to die will result in an instant game over. The mission itself doesn’t depict the foggy caverns of the sewers seen in the preview image for Malachi and Bane, a sniper mission where players are provided with the HK33, an assault rifle fitted with a heavy barrel, bipod and sniper optics to act as a marksman rifle. Using Focus makes it much easier to hit difficult targets before they can damage the rebels.

  • If one were to click on these screenshots and look at the dates, they would find that most of them actually date back to 2015: at this point in time, I was entering my second year of graduate school and during the autumn term, had no classes, allowing me to focus entirely on my thesis paper (I’d already finished off most of the implementation to my project during the summer). As such, I had a bit more free time than previously, and spent some of that time gaming. Of course, procrastination is why I did not write about Enter the Matrix earlier.

  • The Chateau mission entails a new gameplay style: inhabited by the Merovingian’s vampires and dobermen, enemies here can only be killed by driving a wooden stake through them after melee combat. Players will also find a crossbow for launching wooden bolts, but these are quite rare, making it imperative to save them for boss fights. Firearms in this mission are ineffectual for permanently stopping vampires and dobermen, but they can be used to buy some space.

  • The stairwell where Enter the Matrix‘s infamous Chateau fight happens has been replicated in full and in fantastic detail, but unlike the film, there’s no fighting here. Instead, players will enter the Chateau’s basement for a fight with Cujo, head of the dobermen. Once beaten, players move towards finding the Keymaker and also encounter Cain and Abel, two exiles who will continue to malign players unless kicked against the prison cells, where prisoners will hold on to them and buy players enough time to make their way out of the level. A vehicle chase involving the Twins soon follows: I’ve chosen not to depict any of the vehicular levels in this post: while immensely fun (Ghost has an MP5 that can turn any vehicle into a pile of flaming wreckage in seconds), the PC version has a few graphical bugs.

  • If Enter the Matrix was to be redone in a modern game engine like Frostbite 3 or even The Division‘s Snowdrop engine, it would definitely bring the Matrix to life. Such a game would keep the narrative and two campaigns as in the original, but levels could be redesigned to be even more immersive, making full use of modern rendering and visuals to really capture environments within the Matrix. If such a game did come out, I would buy it in a heartbeat. Of course, they’d have to fix the weapons so they’re more faithful to their real-world counterparts and add better bonus arena modes, but other than that, it’d be a title worth playing through again.

  • Apparently, the transformer field was the toughest level in Enter the Matrix; the close quarters maze and swarms of SWAT units made it easy to make a wrong turn and die. However, players also are provided with a halo-alkane launcher, which fires canisters of oxygen-depriving gases that are ostensibly used for firefighting but also asphyxiates anyone who breathes the gas in. It’s highly effective, and in conjunction with the Striker shotgun (called the Street Sweeper in-game), allows careful players to pick their way through this labyrinth. Following the goal tracker is essential, as is backing up if lost.

  • The nuclear waste sector was one of my favourite parts of Enter the Matrix, being filled with bottomless chasms and massive fuel tanks that go off with a large explosion when shot. Here, I’m wielding the G36 with a beta-C drum magazine. The weapon is rare, but quite effective: it’s second only to the SG-552 in terms of effectiveness and the strategy guide suggests that its lower rate of fire allows it to be more efficient with ammunition. The cover system in Enter the Matrix was a bit tricky to use, so I ended up making extensive use of Focus to get through most parts; if Enter the Matrix were ever to be remastered, the cover system should also be improved slightly.

  • Ghost will need to provide covering fire for Niobe once he reaches the control room, fighting off waves of SWAT units. This mission is quite demanding, forcing players to switch from the role of being a precise sniper to a close-quarters brawler, and the UMP-45, which was near-useless in the Chateau mission, is actually quite good for dealing with SWAT units here. Eventually, Niobe will reach the top of the reactor and prepare the bomb that will blow the nuclear power plant to pieces to facilitate Neo’s meeting with the Architect.

  • I’ve seen a lot of complaints from contemporary reviewers and conformists from Tango-Victor-Tango that the game is really an unfinished beta. Interviews with the staff reveal that the game was indeed rushed into deployment in order to coincide with The Matrix Reloaded‘s theatrical première, and while I concede that textures in some part of the game are plainly placeholders, such as the muzzle on the HK33. However, I’ve never gotten stuck on walls or run into any collision detection issues on my end despite having completed the game on at least five different occasions.

  • Even if the game was rushed, it’s evident that a great deal of effort was directed towards making the game as authentic to the Matrix as possible: interviews with the developers and Anthony Wong, who plays Ghost, shows this effort, which I definitely appreciate. Here, I fight an Agent and are tasked with killing him in order to buy enough time to escape – Agents can only be killed in special circumstances, and here, the Agent is defeated by kicking him into a server cluster, electrocuting him. Agents normally cannot be defeated and will make short work of Ghost and Niobe, but in the City Rooftops level, I’ve managed to kill an agent by kicking him off the side of a ledge.

  • Like Neo, who must fight Seraph to gain an audience with the Oracle, players must also prove their worth by defeating Seraph. This fight represents a turning point in the game: if players succeed, they will meet the Oracle and learn more about what’s to come, while failing that will send them back to the Logos. Of course, I wasn’t content to miss out on a few missions, so I sparred Seraph with a high intensity and managed to beat him.

  • The last two missions of Enter the Matrix have players escaping from Agent Smith after speaking with the Oracle. Ghost narrowly manages to escape the Industrial Hallway and into a half-built skyscraper: Agent Smith presented a challenge even to Neo in The Matrix Reloaded, so there’s not a ghost of a chance that Ghost can fight Agent Smith on even footing. The only focus is to keep running, following the goal tracker until the end of the level is reached.

  • The last mission is set in Chinatown, and there’s a siu aap (roast duck) shop visible on the left. Chinatowns, or districts with a high population of Han Chinese are located around the world; the oldest Chinatown is located in Manila in the Philippines, and the Chinatown back home is largest in the province, featuring the continent’s largest Cultural Centre. I visit every weekend, since my dojo is here, and there are some specialty shops in the area. While folks I know go to Chinatown for the dim sum, the best places are actually located outside of Chinatown.

  • Besides police officiers, the other enemy in this level as Agent Smith. Players will pick up the Milkor MGL, a 40mm grenade launcher that deals massive damage. It only appears here, can kill players if they’re careless and appears a bit too late to be useful against the armoured military SWAT seen earlier. However, against the hordes of Agent Smiths relentlessly pursuing players, it can be used to buy some breathing room.

  • My first desktop computer had a 600 MHz AMD Model 3 Spitfire processor with 64 MB of RAM and 15 GB of hard drive space. Enter the Matrix required a minimum 800 MHz processor, 128 MB of RAM and 4.3 GB of storage, recommending at least a 1.2 GHz processor and 256 MB of RAM in conjunction with 64 MB of dedicated graphics memory. As such, I stuck with the GameCube version of Enter the Matrix initially, but since then, I’ve upgraded computers several times, allowing me to go through the PC version.

  • Of course, uninstalling the game would allow me to save 4.3 GB of space, but on today’s hard drive, 4.3 GB isn’t too much to worry about, and as time permits, I should go back and beat the Niobe campaign, as well. The end goal of the Chinatown mission is to reach the church in the distance, where the hard line is located. This allows red-pills to exit the Matrix, and while rebels will disappear once out, the game doesn’t depict this process.

  • The last mission for Ghost involves shooting at Sentinels while Niobe pilots the Logos deep into the tunnels of the real. It’s actually quite dull, and before long, the Sentinels will spawn a tow bomb. Keeping it at bay with the Logos’ guns will end the mission and the campaign. While I would love to recommend Enter the Matrix, chances are that the game’s going to be quite difficult to find now. I’ve heard rumours of a Matrix film is in the works, and while there’s been very little information on the project since rumours began circulating in March this year, if it results in a new game being made, players may finally have a Matrix game made with modern-era technology. For now, though, this brings my reflections of Enter the Matrix to a close.

The biggest draw about Enter The Matrix was its ability to really immerse players in the Matrix universe. Whether it be the gun-fu, bullet-time combat or setpieces, the game has definitely recreated the atmosphere and tenour seen within the Matrix. The game has no shortage of content, featuring two full campaign missions, in conjunction with a hacking game that lets players learn more about the Matrix universe and even modify the way the game itself plays. I first played through Enter The Matrix on a GameCube during summer break years back; I initially had the PC version, but lacked a PC with the requirements to run the game. The title impressed me, and I developed a stronger interest in the Matrix, as well as its philosophical underpinnings about reality, existence, and yin and yang. Few works have since succeeded in leading me to contemplate these things, and subsequently, when I built a more powerful PC, the time had come to give the game another go. It’s definitely aged from a mechanical and technical perspective, but besides itself, there are only two other games: The Matrix Online, and The Path Of Neo. Of these games, The Matrix Online is no longer playable since the servers shut down, and The Path of Neo lacks the same finesse and polish from what I’ve seen. That leaves Enter The Matrix, and from a personal perspective, it’s the definitive Matrix game to experience.

The Child of the Wind: Revisiting Fuko’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Right now, Fuuko likes you more than a sea slug” —Fuuko Ibuki

When Fuuko tries to invite Tomoya to her sister’s wedding, Tomoya is initially dismissive and declines. However, as his efforts to help Nagisa gather the requisite number of drama club members falls short, he seeks out Fuuko and learns from Nagisa that Fuuko is the younger sister of Kouko Ibuki, who is Nagisa’s art instructor and moreover, Fuuko is supposedly bed-ridden from a car accident. The two decide to assist Fuuko by carving wooden starfish and passing them around as invitations to Kouko’s wedding, then recreating a high school experience for Fuuko with help from Sanae and some classmates. During the school festival, Kouko attends the school’s Founder’s Festival at Nagisa and Tomoya’s invitation, but cannot see or hear Fuuko. In spite of this, Tomoya and Nagisa convince Kouko to carry on with their wedding, feeling that Fuuko would have the same wish for her. As Fuuko’s condition deteriorates, her memories begin fading. Feeling their time is short, Tomoya and Nagisa prepare a birthday party for Fuuko, celebrating at the school during the night, and while they appear to have forgotten Fuuko by the next morning, they manage to recall Kouko’s wedding. On the day of the wedding, only Tomoya, Nagisa and Fuuko appear, although by means of a miracle, the entire student population attends to wish Kouko and her husband, Yuusuke, happiness. Fuuko disappears after thanking Tomoya and congratulating Kouko, while Tomoya feels that it is possible that Fuuko will recover. In CLANNAD‘s visual novel, Fuuko’s route is the first arc that players must complete: it sets in motion the remainder of the game, and also trigger the events of CLANNAD After Story, so players looking to get the full experience must sit through this section of the game.

Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of CLANNAD faithfully reproduces the events of Fuuko’s arc, which initially begins in a gentle, comedic manner. However, as Tomoya and Nagisa discover more irregularities in their experiences with Fuuko against what others are saying, it becomes clear that CLANNAD is involving supernatural elements into its story. This is most evident in Fuuko being able to freely interact with select individuals, as well as the environment; by the time this revelation is made, it spurs Nagisa and Tomoya to work towards fulfilling Fuuko’s wishes despite Tomoya’s general irritation at Fuuko’s antics. In doing so, the Fuuko arc begins to illustrate that underneath Tomoya’s cynical exterior is the heart of someone who genuinely wishes to help out. In asking Tomoya and Nagisa to attend her sister’s wedding, as well as prompting the two to begin addressing one another by their given names, Fuuko hints that of the possible pairings for Tomoya in CLANNAD, Nagisa is the best fit for him; even though the two are not a couple at this point in the story, they spend a considerable amount of time together as friends, getting to know one another better as he helps her resurrect the drama club. While discussions are numerous on whether or not Nagisa really is the best person for Tomoya, I personally found this to be true; Nagisa is able to bring out the best in him and find things to look forward to, and Tomoya’s encouragement is what gives her the confidence to accomplish her dreams.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While my earlier CLANNAD discussions had twenty screenshots apiece, the talks for each of the arcs will be a bit larger, with thirty screenshots each. This will give me more time to explore some of the elements that I find to be worth commenting on, or else insert a few remarks about what I thought of a particular scene. Five years after watching CLANNAD, my own experiences in the journey of life has advanced in some areas, but in others, remain woefully unchanged.

  • In the early stages of the Drama Club’s revival, the club room remains quite empty aside from some boxes in the back. The members-to-be sit in a desk centred in the room, and the spaces arising from this arrangement give the sense that this is a fresh canvas for Nagisa to create from as she wishes. The cooler lighting suggests a sense of distance that is introduced when Tomoya recruits Youhei to help out, and their conversation here is to first find enough members such that the Drama Club can be brought back.

  • Tomoya never passes up an opportunity to prank Youhei, which is partially why he’s never on the receiving end of any beatdowns that Tomoyo or Kyou are likely to administer. Here, at Tomoya’s suggestion, Nagisa asks Ryou to join the Drama Club, but Nagisa’s hesitancy and the setup that Tomoya proposes leads both Kyou and Youhei to get the wrong idea. The misunderstanding is cleared up, and when Kyou asks her to toss Youhei and Tomoya in favour of her and Ryou’s help, Nagisa feels that for having started the journey with her, she can count them as friends.

  • After classes, Tomoya and Nagisa run into Kouko, who asks if the two are dating. Nagisa’s response is immediate and says that there are others worthier. As Tomoya’s single, Kouko feels that Nagisa’s odds with him are good, and subsequently asks if Tomoya finds Nagisa agreeable, putting both on the spot. Sharp thinking from Nagisa steers the conversation away from these waters. It’s a conversation that I’m somewhat familiar with, and in the aftermath of my MCAT, entering my fourth year, some folks wondered what my sitrep was. The story itself has been recounted countless times by now, and while I note that CLANNAD indirectly precipitated what would happen, it’s not too relevant towards talk of the Fuuko arc.

  • It is in conversation with Kouko that hints of the supernatural in CLANNAD begin materialising, when she reveals that Fuuko is hospitalised in a coma following a vehicle accident. Pieces in CLANNAD do not initially add up from a logical sense, leaving audiences wondering what’s going on. Nagisa becomes quite fond of hugging Fuuko when the opportunity presents itself, and with the impression that Fuuko chikd-like in nature, it foreshadows Nagisa’s maternal sense. Here, Tomoya and Nagisa diffuse a situation where Fuuko nonchalantly swipes the Furukawa’s neighbours’ surnames, leading Tomoya to swat her.

  • The race to carve starfish-shaped invitations for Kouko’s wedding with Yuusuke is on, and here, large wooden blocks await turning into invitations. The process of creating the shape with a small carving knife is arduous, although the hand-made quality reinforces the notion that Fuuko, and those helping her, are putting their genuine feelings into making the invitations – using a jigsaw would allow for a much larger number to be produced in a shorter time, but at the expense of the message that can be conveyed with hand-made carvings.

  • Whenever Fuuko begins thinking about starfish, her concentration is diverted from reality and can be subject to various pranks without being fully aware of them. Tomoya usually is responsible for said pranks, and while Fuuko resents their happening, she’s unable to prevent it. Fuuko is shut down in a similar manner when Nagisa hugs her, bringing to mind how cats grow limp when held by the scruff. Mother cats will do so to kittens to quickly move them safely and never do so as a disciplinary measure.

  • When Fuuko wishes to attend high school normally, she foreshadows her own supernatural presence. Not knowing the full story but sympathising with her, Nagisa asks her mother to help set up a mock class to give Fuuko the experience. Voiced by Kikou Inoue, whom I best know as Ah! My Goddess‘s Belldandy, Sanae is surprisingly adaptive and can convincingly take in the air of almost any profession or role asked of her. She plays a school teacher surprisingly well, and while it’s not immediately apparent, this also foreshadows at Sanae’s past interests.

  • A conversation between Nagisa and Tomoya leaves Nagisa embarrassed when she likens them to being Fuuko’s mother and father. It’s another hint of what’s upcoming; Nagisa is slowly growing more accustomed to Tomoya’s presence and is the first person to begin unearthing a side of him that folks previously did not see. A loud silence lingers between the two until they encounter Yuusuke, and it is here that both learn that Kouko is marrying Yuusuke’s. At their suggestion, Yuusuke agrees to try and convince Kouko to check out the Founder’s Festival.

  • The operation to invite as many people as possible to Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding means going into overdrive and creating as many wooden stars as possible. The effort exhausts Fuuko, and she falls asleep while making one. Tomoya feels that it is imperative to bring Fuuko and Kouko together to work out what the mystery surrounding them entails.

  • To make sure Fuuko isn’t late for school, Tomoya carries her on his back, while Nagisa hauls the stars they’d made the previous evening for distribution at the school festival. Fuuko herself is hauled into one of the activities, giving the sense that she’s an ordinary student, and Nagisa helps her class as a waitress. The combined efforts of everyone mean that excitement for Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding is tangible amongst the school’s student population: some folks have even started a Fuuko fan club and will go to the end of the earth to keep her from harm.

  • When Kouko arrives at the Founder’s Festival, she enjoys herself but is unable to see Fuuko. The mystery deepens here, as Kouko clarifies that Fuuko’s been in a coma for quite some time, leading to inconsistencies with what audiences share with Tomoya and Nagisa. The revelation changes Tomoya’s perspective of Fuuko, and while he’s still willing to play the occasional prank on her, he begins to view Fuuko as someone who’s quite precious.

  • This change in perspective is not unlike that of Makoto’s arc in Kanon, where Yuuichi kicks Makoto’s ass in all things related to pranks and finds himself growing irritated with her, but when he learns that Makoto is really a fox spirit taking human form and is rapidly losing her memories, he spends more time with her even as her cognitive capacities fail. In both Kanon and CLANNAD, supernatural elements contribute to both extraordinary challenges and their attendant miracles. We return to CLANNAD, where the quest to distribute the wooden stars as wedding invitations continue even in light of the unusual information that Kouko’s brought to the table, and here, Fuuko gives one to Kotomi.

  • Kouko expresses a desire to have a wedding at the high school with her fellow instructors and students. Tomoya asks about the kind of person Fuuko was, and learns that Fuuko’s never really been good around people. During the whole of the conversation, Nagisa is fighting back the tears, but the next day, Nagisa gets into a bit of a dispute with Fuuko about what is more adorable. In the eternal war between starfish and dango, I’d have to say that dango win: Nagisa can be a bit immature at times, and this early in the game, Tomoya lacks the familiarity with Nagisa to put her back on track.

  • As preparations for the wedding plough forward, Kouko informs Nagisa and Tomoya that Fuuko’s condition has worsened, reducing her odds of waking up from her coma. Presumably from overexerting herself trying to project a Force Ghost, Fuuko’s placed a great strain on her body. The pattern of setting up a fall right as things are proceeding smoothly is not unique to CLANNAD, although CLANNAD certainly has a way of evoking a powerful response from audiences. Quick to tears, Nagisa takes the news quite hard, and even the normally-stoic Tomoya begins tearing up.

  • Tomoya comes to the realisation that Fuuko’s efforts might have resulted as a desire to see her older sister happy, and so, while she’s not physically present, the strength of her feelings allows her to manifest as a physical presence. While hanging out with Youhei later, Youhei remarks that he cannot help but feel as though he’s forgetting something. Fuuko’s ability to maintain her presence seems tied with her health, and corresponding with abrupt decline, people begin losing their memories of her.

  • It would appear that the strength of Fuuko’s memories is directly tied to how close people were to her, and while the remainder of the student population is beginning to forget, the Furukawas, Tomoya and Youhei manage to retain their memories longer than most. Nagisa fears losing her memories of Fuuko, treasuring their time together, and Tomoya reassures that Nagisa that they won’t forget, encouraging her with optimism that they’ll be able to see things through because Kouko’s wedding is close. Relative to his interactions with the other female characters, Tomoya’s unconscious decisions to look after Nagisa suggests that he is drawn to looking after and supporting her, even though the two aren’t really close yet. Similarly, while Nagisa isn’t terribly fond of Tomoya’s way with words, she likes the fact that his actions are always considerate and his intents are kind.

  • Fading memories and the attendant increasing sense of loss are mirrored in darkening lighting conditions and pronounced shadows inside the school, but when Fuuko, Nagisa and Tomoya leave classes, they set off under a warm evening’s light. Oranges and yellows give the sense of a quiet end to a day where the three can share yet another memory together; the mood lightens when they decide to go buy something for Fuuko. They settle on a small birthday party kit, which Fuuko finds agreeable.

  • Watching CLANNAD again frame-by-frame reveals some minor inconsistencies in the animation, although on the whole, the animation quality in CLANNAD is of an incredibly high standard. Known for their top-tier animation, Kyoto Animation’s quality and consistency were among the strongest in the animation industry a decade ago, featuring detailed backgrounds and making use of animation that only became more commonplace recently. Some of Kyoto Animation’s recent titles, including Hibike! Euphonium and Koe no Katachi are so detailed that they rival Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai’s films in terms of detail.

  • While the memory loss has been a nagging feeling for audiences since Youhei mentions it, the enormity of its impact is not really felt until Sanae collapses in tears and says that, try as she might, she can no longer remember Fuuko. Her anime incarnation greatly resembles Belldandy, and the melancholy here is compounded with the use of colours: red tinges appearing in the evening light indicate that the sun’s very nearly set, and is a fantastic visual metaphor for how Fuuko’s presence is disappearing.

  • Thus, after the sun sets, Nagisa and Tomoya are left wondering what options they have available to them; after deciding where the best place to go is, they settle on returning to school. The moment admittedly brings to mind Poe Dameron’s quote from The Force Awakens, where, during the assault on Starkiller Base’s Thermal Oscillator, he rallies his fellow pilots after they learn their attack run has no effect on the target:

“Remember, when the sun is gone that weapon will be ready to fire. But as long as there’s light, we got a chance.”

  • Star Wars isn’t known for having the best dialogue in the world, and I remember it best for things like The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise, that spinning is a good trick and the importance of having the high ground, but The Force Awakens and Rogue One have acceptable dialogue now, so I’m hoping that The Last Jedi will follow in this pattern. Back in CLANNAD, Fuuko wastes Tomoya after Tomoya’s prank on her backfires.

  • For me, this was the magic moment in CLANNAD, nine episodes in. There was something indescribable about the light cast by the candles that Tomoya and Nagisa light. They decide to have celebration commemorating Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding, and here, Fuuko sees something that Kouko spotted: the distance between Nagisa and Tomoya has lessened somewhat, leading her to wonder why the two aren’t calling one another by their given names yet.

  • Five years after watching the scene where Nagisa, Fuuko and Tomoya spend time together in the drama room, I think that the magic comes from the symbolism that is present in this moment: if the light is representing the strength of everyone’s memories of Fuuko, then darkening skies visually indicate that people are beginning to forget. Against this, the act of lighting candles is then important for the fact that Tomoya and Nagisa are willfully trying their best to remember, even as the candles deplete; they spend Fuuko’s last moments close together.

  • The next morning, Nagisa and Tomoya have forgotten the events of the previous evening. The cold, grey ambiance in the classroom is a far cry from the inviting warmth candlelight cast in the room: the closing distance between Tomoya and Nagisa seems undone somewhat, as seen when the two address one another as they did prior to Fuuko’s suggestion.

  • When they recall Kouko’s wedding, Fuuko reappears before Nagisa and Tomoya’s very eyes. The cool morning skies give way to warmer hues that signify the return of something important, and encouraged by her return, Nagisa warmly hugs Fuuko.

  • On wedding day, only Tomoya and Nagisa show up for the proceedings, with the rest of the world seemingly having forgotten about the wedding. However, when the ceremony is over, and Yuusuke and Kouko are wedding as husband and wife, Kouko, Yuusuke, Nagisa and Tomoya are treated to a sight that can only be described as a miracle. The first sign that things have turned around is the arrival of Botan, who is accompanied by Kyou and Ryou.

  • Here’s a bit of random trivia about my blog and the way I romanise things: while I usually roll with macrons for long vowels in Japanese on my blog, such as “ō” in place of “ou” (おう) and “ū” for “uu” (うう) CLANNAD remains one of the exceptions owing to the way that it’s romanised. Quite simply, I’m used to spelling out things the long way: Kyō and Ryō look a little different than what I’m accustomed to, so in CLANNAD, I’ve chosen to pick one style and be consistent with it. Another bit of trivia is that I learned Japanese during my undergrad formally and so, have a bit more of a consistent approach in romanisations, whereas with Cantonese Chinese, I grew up with it, and so, struggle to convey things: I’ll likely stick with the jyutping system.

  • I’m thankful that I do not review Cantonese movies, otherwise, I’d get my ass kicked. For now, we return to CLANNAD, where an entire group of students have arrived to watch Kouko and Yuusuke get married. Sharing her sister’s happiness with the world has succeeded by dint of Fuuko’s determination and substantial assistance from both Tomoya and Nagisa: in CLANNAD‘s visual novel, this is supposed to unlock the globes of light that players can collect as karma points, as well as allowing Fuuko to randomly appear at inopportune moments to lighten the mood up.

  • In a fitting close to CLANNAD‘s first true arc, both sisters are able to see one another; Fuuko congratulates Kouko and disappears, but not before thanking Tomoya and Nagisa one final time. With her life force no longer spent on projecting a Force Ghost, Fuuko is able to focus on recovery, and Tomoya feels that she will reawaken later. I realise the rest of the world counts Fuuko an ikiryō (literally, a living ghost), but as I am not versed in Japanese lore or anything occult, I’ve chosen to fall back on what I do know. With this being said, Fuuko is not a true Force Ghost, being neither deceased or Force sensitive. With this CLANNAD post in the books, I will be returning in mid-January to write about Kotomi’s arc, and in December, my focus will continue to be directed towards Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter, my journey continuing journey through Tom Clancy’s The Division and my experiences with Battlefield 1‘s “Turning Tides” DLC.

With its combination of humour and poignancy, the introduction of the supernatural as being a very real part of their universe and a remarkably enjoyable soundtrack, CLANNAD‘s first arc draws to a close. While it might only be the first act, CLANNAD wastes no time in delivering a highly poignant narrative whose resolution comes about not because of deus ex machina, but because of Tomoya and Nagisa’s joint efforts in seeing Fuuko’s wishes through to the end. As much as Tomoya would rather not deal with Fuuko, Nagisa’s gentle insistence and his own desire to help overcome his general annoyance with Fuuko: the arc shows the true nature of Tomoya’s character and consequently, will continue to reinforce the notion that while there are miracles within CLANNAD, these miracles only occur because Tomoya takes the initiative to make things better and finish what he’s committed to. This aspect of his character is intended to bode well for Nagisa and her wishes to restart the drama club: Tomoya isn’t the sort of individual to give up, and is very resilient, making him the perfect partner in helping the gentler but also more hesitant Nagisa reach her dreams.

Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari (Napping Princess: The Story of the Unknown Me): A Review and Reflection

“I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.” ―Elon Musk

The Kingdom of Heartland is entirely driven by vehicle manufacture, and the heiress, Ancien, is given a magical tablet that allows her to bestow life into mechanical creations. She encounters a pirate named Peach when a Colossus attacks, helping him drive off the Colossus when the nation’s war machines, the Engineheads, fail. It turns out that this is a dream that Kokone has – she is a high school student who lives with her father, Momotarō, a skilful but taciturn mechanic who draws the attention of agents from the corporation Shijima Motors, who accuse him of stealing company secrets. Watanabe, oneof Shijima’s advisors, arrives to retrieve the tablet, and when Momotarō refuses, he is taken in for questioning. Kokone manages to recover her father’s tablet with help from Morio, an old friend. After dozing off and dreaming that her motorcycle can fly, Kokone awakens to find herself in Osaka. She makes her way to Tokyo with the intent of meeting with Isshin Shijima, the chairman of Shijima Motors, and while sleeping along the way, Kokone realises that her father’s story about Heartland was inspired by her mother, Ikumi. Upon meeting Isshin, Kokone learns that her mother had developed self-driving software but was denied permission to continue with the project. In Heartland, the Colossus attacks again, but Ancien manages to upload a spell into the remaining Enginehead, which Bewan (the King’s advisor and the parallel to Watanabe) had planned to use to usurp the King. In a pitched fight, the Colossus is destroyed, but Bewan attempts to destroy Heartland. Peach flies the Enginehead into lower orbit to eliminate the remains of the Colossus, and back in reality, Kokone finds herself saved from certain death when her self-driving motor cycle arrives, fulfilling Ikumi’s promise to be there for her family. The company’s contribution to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics later progresses smoothly, and Isshin spends more time with Kokone and her father. Released in March 2017, Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari (Hirune Hime for brevity) is an unusual fantasy-adventure whose draw is its seamless transitions between Heartland and reality, resulting in a highly unique film that ended up being remarkably enjoyable to watch.

Beautifully rendered and presented, Heartland is a fantastical world of great scale that emphasises its fictional nature. Sequences set in Heartland were a thrill to watch, capturing a setting that is simultaneously familiar and different to reality. That Hirune Hime flits between the two suggest that for their initial differences, the Heartland that Momotarō created for Kokone and the real world are not so dissimilar. The blending of the two worlds means that, while there are some gaps within Hirune Hime, the overall thematic elements are never disrupted; Hirune Hime presents its themes when the narrative is set in the real world, and in the film, two messages stand out. The first is that familial love comes about in different ways, evident when Kokone realises that, contrary to her initial resentment towards her father for not reflecting on what Ikumi was like, he’d created an entire world to capture Ikumi’s character. This suggests that, while he is greatly impacted by Ikumi’s death, he nonetheless loves Kokone and thus, designs a story, a fairy tale of sorts to both give Kokone an idea of what kind of person her mother had been, without forcing himself to recount his painful experiences. The second aspect of Hirune Hime deals with the importance of accepting and valuing technological advancements – Ikumi had long foreseen a future with self-driving cars and wishes to pursue it, but when her father, Isshin, rejects her proposal, his company ultimately finds itself at the edge of a PR disaster years later, when Shijima Motors is tasked with showing the world how far Japan has come during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Because their own developments had not been fruitful, Watanabe resorts to unethical means of fulfilling his goal, with the aim of taking over the company. Technology is an ever-present part of Hirune Hime, as seen through Ancien’s (and Momotarō’s) tablet: that much of the film’s progression is driven by what has become a commonplace technology is a reminder of how much things have advanced, and illustrates that a refusal to accept and adopt new technology can have detrimental consequences in the long run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The soundtrack of Hirune Hime and the unusual combination of flatter character colouration creates a compelling opening; the music in Hirune Hime is composed by Yoko Shimomura, whom I know best for her video game soundtracks. The soundtrack in Hirune Hime features a predominantly classical component reminiscent of Beethoven and Chopin, which is par the course for her usual style, although Shimomura also utilises different styles in her game soundtracks for a diverse aural experience.

  • It’s been around seven years since tablets became popular: when Apple introduced the iPad back in 2010, the gadget was regraded as a curiosity, a bigger iPhone. However, seven years of progress has turned the tablet into a powerful productivity and entertainment platform. In Hirune Hime, Ancien receives a tablet that she uses to bring life to mechanised creations, although for her actions, she’s imprisoned in a glass tower.

  • While trying to retrieve her tablet, Ancien is spotted and is forced to navigate the exterior of the glass tower. It typifies the scale of construction in Heartland, and one can only imagine what it would have been like to experience this film in the theater: the movie originally released in Japan in March, and American theatres screened this during September this year. In spite of this, discussions on this film have been minimal, and I imagine that while I may view the film favourably, not everyone will feel the same way about it.

  • The film will switch between the real world and Heartland. Initially, these come across as being quite disjointed and seemingly unrelated, but as the film progresses, the events happening in one space begin correlating with the other in a clever manner. The connections are not explicit, forcing viewers to draw the connections themselves. Even early on in the film, similarities in things such as Joy (Kokone’s stuffed animal), the tablet and the motorcycle “Heart”, audiences are reminded that the worlds are more closely related than they appear.

  • Kokone is voiced by Mitsuki Takahata, an actress who primarily performs in live-action television dramas and has done some voice work in animated movies previously. She brings to the table a much more natural-sounding voice (as opposed to the likes of Ayane Sakura, Inori Minase and Mai Fuchigami); there’s a right time and place for different voices, and having the sort of voices from GochiUsa or Kiniro Mosiac in a film would be quite off-putting.

  • The Colossus and Engineheads bring to mind Pacific Rim: I saw the film only quite recently, and have heard that Pacific Rim: Uprising will be screened somewhere in 2018. There are a lot of elements that Hirune Hime cover, from the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and self-driving vehicles to consumer electronics. All of these aspects are touched on briefly, and some folks consider them to be shoehorned in; Hirune Hime covers quite a bit of turf, but I never found these to be too distracting from the film overall.

  • In Heartland, Peach and Ancien meet for the first time when Ancien decides to assist. Peach is using what appears to be the M79 grenade launcher, and manages to blow off the Colossus’ limb, which it starts regenerating. While conceptually similar to a kaiju, the Colossus is perhaps more closely related to Peter Jackson’s interpretation of  J.R.R. Tolkein’s Balrogs, fire spirits that were corrupted Maiar: in The Fellowship of The Ring, the Balrog Durin’s Bane appeared as a gargantuan being composed of magma, roars like an erupting volcano and emitted molten rock when struck.

  • In the film’s synopsis, Kokone is described as someone who can “fall asleep at will”, but Hirune Hime suggests otherwise. After returning home to find it deserted, Kokone decides to kip for a bit, returning to Heartland in the process. When she reawakens, she recongises Watanabe and makes to hide after realising what he’s after. Interior details in Hirune Hime are of a generally high quality and convey that lived-in sense.

  • Back in Heartland, Ancien introduces Peace to Heart; given life long ago, Heart can transform into a humanoid vehicle on command, and here, the vivid blue of a summer day can be seen. I’ve long found myself being drawn to anime with vivid blue skies, and this is actually what prompted my decision to watch Strike Witches; similarly, the reason why Yuyushiki reminds me of summer lies in the fact that the anime effectively captures what summer feels like.

  • Bewan arrives to requisition Momotarō’s tablet, the source of the rising action within Hirune Hime. In Heartland, it’s the source of Ancien’s power that he seeks to control, whereas in the real world, Watanabe is seeking to take control of the software that Momotarō had helped complete. Either way, Peach/Momotarō are arrested and held for questioning. From his manner to his appearance, Watanabe and Bewan is designed to be unlikable.

  • Back in the real world, Kokone manages to make off with Watanabe’s bags before he can check into his flight, escaping into the night with Morio’s assistance. The airport sequence brings back memories of when I was at the Rennes International Airport, which was a smaller airport that only opens at five in the morning. We had arrived early that morning, and I had temporarily managed to fight off a stomach bug at the time. The flight back from Paris was a long one, and I subsequently fell ill again after returning home, but the conference itself was quite fun. As of now, I’m still getting paper invitations in my old university inbox.

  • Morio himself enters the dream and pilots Heart through the night sky. Fantastical and visually stunning, both Heartland and the real world are rendered in a spectacular manner. The suspension bridge seen near Kokone’s home becomes a vast structure rising above the clouds; their night flight brings to mind the most famous scene from the 1982 film ET: I’ve not seen this film despite its renown, but even I’m familiar with the oft-parodied scene where Elliot and the alien fly across the night sky.

  • Upon arriving in Heartland, the vast cityscape is visible below. In this fictional world, the entire economy is directed towards vehicle manufacture, and bumper-to-bumper traffic is an epidemic. Economies in reality exist because of the need for commodities and skills to be exchanged, so a world where all expertise is invested in vehicle manufacture for a local population is not one that is sustainable for the long term. With this being said, such issues can be ignored in the context of evidently fictional worlds.

  • The next morning, Kokone and Morio find themselves in Osaka; in the real world, Heart had engaged an autopilot and safely delivered the two to Osaka, but ran out of gas. While audiences initially are left wondering just how Heartland and the real world are connected, it turns out that the transitions between the two are really just narrative elements, and quite unrelated. Later, Kokone and Morio realise they’re short on cash, but seemingly through magic, the necessary resources are provided for her to travel back to Tokyo.

  • It turns out that some staff from Shijima Motors have been assisting Kokone, as they have access to the same message board that Kokone’s been typing into. Here is a close up of the bento that train staff provide for her and Morio. Even at lower resolutions, the Japanese aesthetic is visible here, including a piece of haran: these plastic strips of grass are seen in boxed lunches and while mistakenly assumed to be for decoration, the actual purpose is to prevent some foods from coming into contact to preserve their flavour and longevity.

  • Morio is seen operating a VR headset throughout Hirune Hime, and unlike the full-dive headsets of Sword Art OnlineHirune Hime more conservatively suggests that VR headsets will remain bulky and cumbersome, similar to products available on the market, albeit in a more sophisticated format (Morio’s fingers suggest a virtual keyboard). En route back to Tokyo, Kokone falls asleep: the ride on the shinkansen is two and a half hours, with tickets starting from 13620 Yen (roughly 150 CAD) for a one-way trip.

  • Ancien manages to infiltrate one of the Engineheads and uses her magic to automate it, allowing it to perform much more effectively than previously possible, although the operators soon catch on and order the engines to be shut down. Ancien’s tenacity comes through; she exits the vehicle and sets off to manually re-light the engines. While she’s successful, she falls off the Enginehead, and is caught at the last second by Momotarō.

  • Through this particular dream, Kokone learns that Ancien is actually based off her mother, rather than herself, and the story suggests that Momotarō had tried to save Ikumi but failed, damaging his tablet in the process. This realisation leads Kokone to appreciate her father’s efforts to take care of her, and with renewed resolve, she sets off for Shijima Motor’s headquarters in Tokyo.

  • Kokone’s attempts to speak with Isshin fail when secretaries do not believe her identity. I note that for this review, I’ve opted to stick with thirty screenshots for brevity’s sake – I have not covered every conceivable topic that can come of this film to keep the post manageable in size. One of the aspects of Hirune Hime that I found to be an indicator of the film having focus is the fact that familial love is one of the main themes within the movie, and Kokone’s friendship with Morio remain merely thus, leaving the film free to focus on its central messages without unnecessarily introducing complexity.

  • The locations of Hirune Hime are likely accurate to their real-world counterparts: Chairman Shijima looks out at the scenery surrounding Rainbow Bridge on Odaiba Island. Odaiba Park and the Sixth Daiba are visible here: the latter was the setting for Koji Suzuki’s Solitary Isle, a short story in his Dark Water anthology. I’ve found that horror stories in written form tend to be a lot easier to enjoy, if only for the fact that there are no visual or audio cues that impact my internal sense of unease or dread.

  • In spite of Kokone not having introduced herself properly, Isshin begins telling her the story of Ikumi and her role at Shijima Motors. His resemblance to Heartland’s King is no coincidence, and I imagine that he recognises the doll in Kokone’s hands immediately, hence being able to recognise her as his granddaughter.

  • Passionate, devoted and brilliant, Ikumi was the first to propose Shijima Motors in exploring self-driven vehicles, but when turned down, she left the company and later married Momotarō, helping him work on a perfected version of the software. This is what Watanabe has been coveting, since he intends to replace Isshin as the chairman of Shijima Motors, and his success with self-driving vehicles at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will pave the way for his succession.

  • The final incursion into Heartland is done without warning and the revelation that Bewan was planning to betray the King roughly correspond with events of the real world. The chaotic nature of things hints at the climax of Hirune Hime arriving, and with the Colossus arriving to wreck havoc, the King resolves to step out onto the battlefield. Bewan’s betrayal is dealt with, after he reveals his intention to replace the King by using a special Enginehead to defeat the Colossus. Here, Kokone appears as herself, no longer seeing herself as Ancien.

  • Peach pilots the Enginehead and destroys the Colossus once and for all in a titanic battle, but Bewan manages to run a curse that threatens to destroy Heartland. This final battle seemed quite disjointed from the remainder of the film: it’s the one place in Hirune Hime that does not seem to relate to events in the real world.

  • Ultimately, Peach realises that there is another direction he can take to defeat the Colossus’ remnants; the remaining Enginehead engages a flight system and launches into the atmosphere, taking the Colossus’ fragments with it. This section is likely imagery for Momotarō coming to an understanding with his internal struggles about whether or not he should give up the algorithms for the self-driving vehicles concept that he and Ikumi had previously developed.

  • The outcome of whether or not Kokone is able to rescue Peach is left ambiguous, and while the messages behind the imagery of the final scenes in Heartland elude me, I cannot deny that they are not visually impressive, especially with respect to the swarms of what remains of the Colossus.

  • Owing to how chaotic things are towards the ending of Hirune Hime, how Kokone got into this situation is likely an exercise left to the viewer’s imagination. The gravity of this situation brings to mind Rick and Morty‘s Concerto, where Rick and Morty find themselves tied to a massive piano and facing certain death. While no Jaguar comes to save Momotarō and Kokone, the autonomous bike, Heart, makes a timely arrival, sparing the two from death.

  • It is this moment that led me to pick a quote from Elon Musk: a well-known entrepreneur and engineer, Musk has been leading developments in sustainable electric vehicles and autonomous systems for his Tesla line of vehicles. A firm advocate of innovation, Musk’s quote definitely applies to Momotarō and his continued love for Ikumi leading him to both continue her vision and care for Kokone in her stead.

  • After the Olympics, Isshin spends more time with his granddaughter and son-in-law on a peaceful summer’s afternoon. Momotarō continues working in his shop, declining Isshin’s offer for a position with Shijima Motors, and with this, Hirune Hime comes to an end. This marks the end of yet another anime film I’ve written about this year, which has seen the likes of Kimi no Na WaKoe no KatachiKono Sekai no Katasumi ni and Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale. It’s been a fantastic year for anime movies, with each film delivering enjoyment in a unique manner.

  • With this post at an end, I leave readers with another beautiful screenshot of summer in Japan, and will conclude this post by looking into the future: Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter begins this week, and I will be doing an episodic review of this anime. Tomorrow is a bank holiday, so I’ll also be looking to catch up with Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! and present my thoughts at the halfway point. In addition, I’m moving quite swiftly through Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and I’m locking in plans to pick up The Division once the Steam Black Friday sale is live.

The sum of a curious story that combines a fantastical setting with the real world, current issues and ideas, solid animation and artwork, and a fantastic soundtrack results in Hirune Hime being an entertaining watch. While it’s definitely not perfect (especially closer to the ending, where some leaps exist in the story as things pick up), the film overall presents a well-crafted story and solid thematic elements that kept me wondering what is to happen next with both Ancien and Kokone. Altogether, Hirune Hime earns a recommendation; it is impressive of how Heartland was presented to correspond with both people and events in the real world. Only by watching both does one gain a sense of who Momotarō, Ikumi, Isshin and Watanabe are within the context of Hirune Hime, and it was immensely rewarding to put these pieces together as a consequences of the two narratives being woven together to augment the viewer’s understanding of what is going on, even fi there are some shortcomings with this approach towards the film’s end. In conjunction with the humour arising from Kokone’s transitions between Heartland and reality, as well as how her friend, Morio, comes into Heartland, Hirune Hime is quite simply, fun; I was immersed for the whole of its runtime, and such films exemplify that stories can definitely be enjoyable and thought-provoking even if their setting is that of a colourful, vividly-portrayed world.

Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (In This Corner of The World): A Review and Full Recommendation

“Human beings are remarkably resilient. When you think about it, our species has been teetering upon the edge of the existential cliff since Hiroshima. In short, we endure.” —Rick Yancey

A young Japanese girl with a keen eye for sketching, Suzu, marries a man named Shūsaku after he arrives in Eba, Hiroshima, to propose to her. She moves to the town of Kure with him and begins living with his family as the Second World War rages on. When American bombers begin conducting bombing raids Japan, forcing the construction of air raid shelters and rationing, Suzu continues to live her life to the best of her ability, spending time with Keiko and her daughter, Harumi. She is visited by Tetsu Mizuhara, who had run into Suzu back when they were students. He had fallen in love with her, and later is assigned to serve on board the Aoba. As the air raids intensify, Suzu sees Harumi die in front of her when a delay-action bomb detonates. She survives but loses her right hand, grows depressed and longs to return to Hiroshima to be with her family. One day, while speaking to Keiko, she and Keiko notice a bright flash and a mushroom cloud coming from Hiroshima. She dissolves into tears upon learning of the Japanese surrender. In the aftermath, American soldiers arrive to assist the citizens, and Suzu visits Hiroshima, learning that her sister, Sumi, is suffering from radiation sickness: their mother and father perished in the atomic blast. She runs into Shūsaku while in Hiroshima and find a little girl orphaned by the atomic bomb; they agree to take her in, and Suzu slowly rediscovers her love for life, raising the little girl as her own. When the United States dropped Little Boy in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the world had been at war for nearly six years: the Axis powers had fallen, but Imperial Japan had continued to fight. Faced with the possibility of an extensive land invasion, the American leadership decided to put their faith in the atomic bomb, which had been successfully tested for the first time twenty-one days earlier. Three days later, the second atomic bomb, a plutonium implosion weapon code-named Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki, and Japan surrendered on August 15. The history books and documentaries I’m familiar with present the story from the Allied perspective, and the actions of the Imperial Japan’s military forces remain unjustifiable (especially considering their atrocities in Manchuria and Southeast Asia); it seems that the old phrase, that victory is written by the victors, very much hold true. Consequently, In This Corner of The World becomes a wonderfully moving film about the civilian perspective of the war and their struggles to survive as the war turned against Japan, presenting a perspective that is quite unique and illuminating.

Resilience and perserverence in maintaining a positive spirit underlies the messages of In This Corner of The World. In this film, the depiction of Suzu’s life before, during and after World War Two is broken up into snapshots into the more memorable moments of Suzu’s life. It is largely gentle, humourous and ordinary in nature, only shifting in tone as American bombers begin hammering Japan later into the war, and even then, Suzu’s efforts to maintain routine and find happiness in everyday things continue. Reduced rations lead her to cook more creatively to keep her new family in good spirits, and even when the air-raid siren sounds, she maintains a structured process to maintain her home’s safety before retreating to a shelter. Through it all, Suzu continues sketching and drawing, providing her a means of expression and escape even as American forces intensify their raids. Remarkably, these simple things in Suzu’s life confer upon her a considerable degree of stability and focus, allowing her to remain strong during difficult times. It is not until she loses her right hand in an explosion and watches Harumi die in front of her that her optimistic disposition is shaken, and at the movie’s climax, she bawls her eyes out after learning of the Allied victory. However, with unwavering support from Shūsaku and the fact that the occupying American forces prove quite friendly, she slowly regains her old outlooks, to the point where she takes in an orphan and raises her as family, suggesting that resilience is in part a result of having support from family on top of being individually-driven. With the support of those around her, Suzu comes to find happiness again in the days after the war has ended.

Aside from its concise thematic component, In This Corner of The World presents a distinct art style that brings to mind the approaches taken in The Tale of Princess Kaguya: gentle colours and clean character designs dominate In This Corner of The World, which has a very timeless feel to it. From the vividness of colours in the landscape to minor details inside the Hojo residence, In This Corner of The World illustrates the seeming normalcy and resilience in residents amidst the war. The entire film feels like a moving watercolour, allowing for boundaries between Suzu’s drawings and their reality to be blurred: the movie’s events are told with Suzu’s narration, and her imagination is woven seamlessly with her recollections of what’s happened. I’ve long held that a simpler art style with lower saturation really allows for the film’s visuals to focus on character motions and dialogue; this certainly holds true in In This Corner of The World. Aside from natural-sounding voice acting, one of the elements that In This Corner of The World captures in its characters are their facial expressions, which do much to convey how Suzu and the others are feeling even in the absence of words. I’m especially fond of how Suzu tilts her head whenever she’s embarrassed or hesitant, for instance. The combination of aural-visual elements in In This Corner of The World are of an exceptional standard and adds a sense of realism to the characters that serves to further draw in viewers into the story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before delving into this post further, I note that there will be forty screenshots rather than the usual thirty for In This Corner of The World owing to the amount of content that can be discussed, and further to this, I won’t be placing an emphasis on the Imperial Japanese Army or Navy hardware simply because, aside from a minor role, they do not figure too much compared to the human side of things. The film opens with Suzu riding a boat and recollecting her encounter with a monster of sorts to Sumi, her sister, and provides a vivid sketch of what she’s seen, including a boy close to her age when she falls into the monster’s basket by mistake.

  • Suzu’s family business is involved in the gathering and picking of nori (海苔), an edible seaweed of the genus Pyropia. The Japanese have a profound understanding of the cultivation and harvesting of nori, which is used widely in Japanese cuisine for wrapping sushi and onigiri, as well as garnishing soups. In her childhood, Suzu is close to her sister, Sumi, but neither of them are fond of their older brother, Yōichi, who constantly belittles Suzu. Yōichi is later killed in action and supposedly was so mangled, authorities send back a stone in place of his ashes, although Suzu and Sumi don’t appear to express much in response to news of his death.

  • By her own admission, Suzu is prone to daydreaming, but her tendency to daydream and vividly recall them probably led to the development of her art skills. Suzu’s enjoyment of sketching is a pivotal part of her character, and the extent of her skills are seen when Tetsu appears one evening to give Suzu a pencil, also asking her to help him with a class assignment. She creates a beautiful reproduction of the ocean, describing the froth of waves as rabbits. As it turns out, Tetsu is going through a difficult time upon learning that his older brother died in a ferry accident.

  • The Urano family hails from Hiroshima, specifically the Eba area. Located three kilometers from the epicenter of Little Boy’s airburst, Eba is a part of the Naka-ku (lit. “central ward”) district. Suzu is said to be extraordinarily ordinary, and is voiced by Rena Nōnen, an actress. One of the joys about films such as In This Corner of The World is the fact that female characters have realistic voices, standing in contrast with the squeaky voices seen in things like Girls und Panzer or GochiUsa.

  • Tetsu runs into Suzu one day, and in dialogue here, it appears that Tetsu has some feelings for Suzu, feeling irritated that Suzu is to marry someone she’d not met, and when Suzu remarks that Sumi will be more beautiful, Tetsu refutes this. He is assigned to the Aoba, a heavy cruiser that participated in combat at the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Savo Island. Heavily damaged by the submarine USS Bream, the Aoba would return to port and was sunk in Kure’s harbour in 1945.

  • It turns out that the boy in the monster’s basket was Shūsaku. His recollections of the day are different than Suzu, who has a tendency to daydream and so, remembers things differently. Suzu agrees to marry Shūsaku and finds in him an honest, stoic and devoted husband who’s always there to support her. Originally working in a civilian court, he is transferred into the military and later made to fight as the war intensifies.

  • In the eternal struggle between showers and baths, I’m still firmly on the side of #TeamShower, even after my experiences in a Japanese onsen a half-year ago. Granted, it is immensely comfortable to be completely immersed in hot water, which gives a sensation akin to having all of one’s stresses and worries evaporate, but ultimately, a shower conserves more water and is more effective at removing dirt and debris from one’s body. This is why onsen mandate that people wash up before entering the waters.

  • The unique art style in In This Corner of The World means that the characters look much younger than they are, and standing in sharp contrast with the art styles of anime I am wont to watching, have a much more classical, timeless feel that brings to mind the approach of The Tale of Princess Kaguya. While not a Studio Ghibli work, In This Corner of The World is nonetheless animated and presented with finesse: it is a film that will withstand the test of time.

  • Shūsaku’s family is generally accepting of Suzu: San is Shūsaku’s mother and bears a compassionate disposition, helping Suzu look after the hosue, while Entaro is Shūsaku’s father and is an engineer for Hiro Naval Arsenal. Shūsaku’s sister, Keiko, is initially quite hostile towards Suzu, regarding her in a negative light and clashes with her, but in spite of this, Suzu takes things in stride and does her best to get along with her.

  • Suzu carries a sketchbook with her and occasionally takes the time to sketch out the scenery around her. She runs into a woman named Rin Shiraki while walking through a part of Kure she’s unfamiliar with and strikes up a fast friendship with her, using her sketching skills to draw out a watermelon and some sweets. Because Suzu’s sketches closely match with the art style seen in In This Corner of The World, one can imagine that she is remarkably talented with her craft. The ages have changed substantially, and these days, one can create highly intricate drawings on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil.

  • There’s a certain charm in watching Suzu cook for her new family with the ingredients available to her. In her narration, she explains in detail the process behind her cooking methods, during which she takes whatever is accessible and does her best to create dishes that drive a sense of normalcy. Devising a routine and trying to do things as normally as possible is Les Stroud’s main suggestion for survival during difficult situations: in Survivorman, he explains that this is the reason why he takes the time to plan things out and attempt to do things as he would back home, and one of the first things he does is usually to create a fire from which he can warm himself and cook with.

  • Suzu’s setup here, with the dandelions, violets and sardines further brings to mind Les Stroud’s survival experiences in the Colorado Rockies, where he managed to catch some fish and coupled it with greens to make a survival meal, cooking it to mirror how one normally eats while at home. While Les Stroud is out in the wilderness, simulating survival situations in Survivorman, Suzu is living in wartime Japan. Despite the differences in their scenarios, very similar mindsets are utilised to maintain morale: Suzu’s cooking does much to keep the Hojo family happy even as resources begin dwindling.

  • The Hojo family settles down to dinner here, and despite the moody lighting, the atmosphere is a peaceable one. Things change shortly after Keiko’s arrival. Numerous scenes of the family during dinner are shown throughout In This Corner of The World, emphasising that meal times form stability amidst trying times. While In This Corner of The World released in theatres around a year ago and only became available back in September, I finished this movie just this week with what is known as the “Notorious PIG” poutine, which is an offering from the Big Cheese Poutinerie. Described as a concoction of pulled pork with BBQ sauce, maple-smoked bacon and Italian sausage, the poutine I bought was not merely topped with the meats, but packed with an inch-thick layer that proved both delicious and enduring: it took nearly ten minutes of eating my way through the wall of meats before I reached the poutine underneath.

  • Keiko’s daughter, Harumi, is only six, but remarkably well-versed on Japanese naval vessels. She greatly enjoys spending time with Suzu, who introduces to her the cumulonimbus clouds form of atmospheric instability and bring about thunderstorms. I’ve heard that when I was much younger, I could memorise the phone numbers of various companies and services that I’d seen on TVB commercials, so this must be a part of the developmental process when children take on a keen interest in a particular topic. I’m now characterised by an inability to memorise something as simple as a 4-digit code and have taken to writing down whatever I need to recall.

  • After Suzu is caught sketching naval vessels and accused of being a spy by the kenpeitai, a secret police akin to the Nazi’s SS, she is let off with a warning. When the kanpeitai leave, the whole of the Hojo family burst into laughter at the ludicrous situation; Suzu’s nature is unbefitting of that of a spy, and how seriously the kanpeitai presented themselves was also mocked. In particular, Keiko spent most of the afternoon fighting off a fit of laughter while the secret police had been present, only erupting in hysterics after they depart.

  • The landscape around Kure is beautifully departed, and the harbour, with its warships, is just visible in this still. The verdant blues and greens are a world apart now from local scenery: I took advantage of the fading-but-still-pleasant weather yesterday to hike the Ink Pots in Banff National Park. The trail through Johnston Canyon was covered in a thin layer of snow, and despite the ergonomics provided by new hiking shoes, the path was quite slippery. In the mountains during this time of year, snowfalls are not uncommon, but fortunately, the weather warmed up as the day progressed. The ink pots are reached by a 5.9 kilometre hike with an elevation gain of 335 metres and takes around two hours to complete one-way.

  • One afternoon, Suzu decides to visit Shūsaku, but before heading off, is treated to a hilarious lecture from Keiko that is sped up for great comedic effect: Keiko finds it appalling that Suzu is considering going into town as unkempt as she is and forces her to clean herself up. The increased pitch comes from the fact that the sound waves making up the audio track are shortened into a higher frequency ƒ, defined in Hz, is described by the relationship ƒ = 1/T, where T is the period in seconds. We are shortening the period T, so frequency increases, resulting in a higher-pitched sound. In In This Corner of The World, one imagines that Suzu regards Keiko’s manner in a light-hearted manner, and this is reinforced by the expression on Suzu’s face.

  • Described as a moderately difficult, the hike up to the Ink Pots was a bit tricky since the snow and ice made the inclines slippery. However, when we arrived in the meadows where the Ink Pots are, we were treated to a beautiful sight: there are five mineral water pools here, each coloured slightly differently because of their sediment content, and while a few had frozen over, one remained unfrozen, with its blue-green waters brilliant under a clearing sky. Another pool with darker waters also had yet to freeze, underneath a mountain in the distance whose upper slopes were covered in snow. Back in In This Corner of The World, Suzu meets up with Shūsaku at his workplace and the two set off after a friendly exchange when Shūsaku asks about Suzu’s health; owing to the makeup she’s donned, she has a distinctly pale appearance.

  • Suzu and Shūnsaku reminisce about how they’d met in Hiroshima years previously. It is a stroke of fate that Shūnsaku remembers their original meeting here, which Suzu only recounts in a dramatised account. After exploring the meadows around the Ink Pots, we turned around and returned back down the trail. Snow-covered during the chillier morning, warming temperatures cleared the trails, making the journey back down much easier than the ascent. We returned home late mid-afternoon and stepped out for dinner at a local Cantonese restaurant, which encompassed 沙拉骨 and 金沙蝦, along with a stir-fry known as 小炒王, which includes beef, chicken, scallops, shrimp, celery, beans, peppers and thinly-sliced Lotus rhizomes (蓮藕, Cantonese lein ngau), as well as crispy chicken – perfect after a long day’s hike.

  • Tetsu comes to visit one day, drawing Suzu’s irritation. Despite his brusque manner drawing Suzu’s annoyance mid-dinner, Shūnsaku allows him to stay in a storehouse on the family property and encourages Suzu to spend time with him, understanding that Tetsu’s time is likely short on account of his transfer to the Aoba. He admits to falling in love with Suzu and the two reminisce briefly before he departs.

  • One of the scenes I’ve not mentioned yet is when Harumi and Suzu notice a column of ants getting into their sugar jar; sugar became a highly valued ingredient, and to keep insects from it, they decide to place it in a bowl floating in a bucket of water. However, an accident results in the sugar being knocked into the water, leading to a dejected Suzu and Harumi. It is possible to recover the sugar using crystallisation, but considering the amount of water it was dissolved into, such an endeavour would have been tricky. One day, while sharing a conversation about Harumi’s everyday experiences at school, American planes appear. Their attacks were intended to damage military installations here, and in In This Corner of The World, F4U Corsairs are depicted firing rockets at ground targets. These are likely the HVAR “Holy Moses”, capable of punching through 1.22 metres of concrete and saw extensive use in the Pacific Theatre against transports, pillboxes and other stationary ground targets.

  • Suzu visits Entaro, who was injured and went missing after an American bombing raid on the Hiro Naval Arsenal, but is shown to be treated for his injuries at a hospital. Suzu brings Harumi along for the visit, and Harumi immediately wanders off, speaking with other sailors. After the visit ends, American raids begin yet again. At this point in the war, America had begun targeting Kure, as remaining IJN vessels were still harboured here, and owing to the harbour’s depth precluding the use of torpedoes, variable time-fused bombs were used, instead. During the raids, the Aoba is hit by four bombs and, with almost every ship in the IJN disabled save the Nagato, the Japanese naval presence was almost completely eliminated by this point.

  • Suzu hears warnings from firefighters nearby about the possibility of unexploded munitions making the area unsafe. At least one of the special bombs dropped by B-29s land in a seaside path, and detonates right beside Harumi, killing her instantly. In the aftermath, Suzu is critically injured and loses her right hand. During the course of In This Corner of The World, American fighters are shown strafing civilians, including a near-miss that very nearly kills Suzu. I did not find any records that indicate deliberate strafing of civilians during my brief search, but numerous accounts of US aircraft strafing airfields are found.

  • In the aftermath of Harumi’s death, Suzu reels from both the loss of Keiko’s child, whom she had grown very close with, and her right hand, which had allowed her the one escape and release from the difficulties she and her family faced during war. Keiko feels Suzu to be responsible for Harumi’s death, and wrought with guilt, Suzu falls into depression. She slowly recovers from injury, but the effects on her mental health are much more deep-seated.

  • Suzu’s depression is occasionally offset with a sense of anger and helplessness: when another firebombing leads to a bomblet landing in her house, Suzu attempts to put the fire out in a fit of desparation. To see an ever-optimistic character succumb to despair is always painful to watch, even in the context of fiction. One of the aspects in In This Corner of The World was seeing how the characters respond to the constant threat of air-raids, and one of the worst aspects about air raids are psychological: not knowing when the bombers will appear would have been emotionally taxing, and while the Hojo family develop a procedure to safeguard themselves, the US air attacks were somewhat unpredictable. By comparison, The Blitz in London failed to have any psychological effects on Londoners, who had grown accustomed to bombs falling as though it were rain and reacted accordingly.

  • In the account of P-51 pilot Captain Jerry Yellin, he mentions that his and his fellow pilots’ primary concern was carrying out their directives during the war. From the skies above, he never gave much thought to the people below, at the receiving end of the weapons, or their suffering. However, when he visited Japan some years later, he was astonished with their culture and feels that it is possible for formerly bitter enemies to become friends. Propaganda on all sides of World War II’s participants presented their enemies as monsters and animals to motivate the fighting spirit – allowing empathy and compassion would have eliminated this willingness to commit to the war effort, attesting to the unpleasant tendency in war to dehumanise one’s opponents.

  • Suzu and Sumi share a laugh when Suzu prods into the latter’s love life, when Sumi mentions that she’s eying an officier in the armed forces. Suzu has long felt Sumi to be more beautiful – this is not immediately apparent in the art style of In This Corner of The World, and indeed, Sumi bears great resemblance to Suzu, especially when embarrassed or flustered, barring the fact that Suzu has become more pale since she lost her right hand. Even so, Suzu occasionally finds joy in the small things in life and attempts to live to her fullest anyways.

  • On the morning of August 6, Suzu and Keiko are sharing a conversation, where Keiko apologises for having blamed Suzu for Harumi’s death, when a bright flash fills their room, followed by a shockwave. Kure and Hiroshima are separated by a distance of 18 kilometres as the mole digs; when the shockwave reaches the Hojo residence, the entire family steps outside to find a vast mushroom cloud filling the sky where Hiroshima is. When Little Boy was deployed at Hiroshima, Japan’s leadership were befuddled at what could have happened; as the atomic bomb’s presence was secret at the time, no one was sure as to what weapon this was. In This Corner of The World chooses to not depict the horrific effects of the blast, only showing its aftermath.

  • With an estimated blast yield of 15 kilotons, Little Boy flattened everything within 1.6 kilometres of the point of detonation, and started a firestorm 3.2 kilometres across. The airburst detonation reduced the radioactive fallout on the ground, but the gamma radiation emitted led to radiation sickness in exposed individuals in a 1.3 kilometre radius around the blast. People would have been vapourised by the intense heat, leaving nothing but shadows baked into the ground, and survivors further away would have suffered horrific burns and injuries, as well as the effects of acute radiation poisoning. Later, a black rain fell in Hiroshima, but this would have offered limited relief in halting the firestorms.

  • After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, American propaganda aimed to minimise reports of the atomic bombs’ effects on civilians, instead, showing only the mushroom clouds and the possibility of deploying additional atomic weapons to bring the war to an end. At this point in time, American sentiments leaned towards the total elimination of the Japanese, and a film such as In This Corner of The World would be unthinkable. At present, our society has been more open about the horrors of warfare, and seeing the lives of fellow human beings subject to these horrors have inspired folks to promote peace. While the events of In This Corner of The World are fictional, the film strives to maintain realism in depicting the lives of the Japanese during the war.

  • At noon on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito released a recording announcing Japan’s intention to open dialogues with the Allied powers and accept the Potsdam Declaration. Delivered in Classical Japanese, most listeners were not certain of whether or not Japan was intending to surrender. In In This Corner of The World, the Hojo family meets the news with resignation and sorrow, wondering what Japan under American occupation would be like, and Suzu is driven over the edge, demanding that the country can continue fighting on much as she did. It’s the strongest expression of emotion from Suzu in the whole of In This Corner of The World.

  • Suzu’s anger gives in to sorrow; at the film’s climax, she cries her eyes out for everything that has happened since the war begin, from the death of Harumi and the loss of her right hand (by extension, her hobby), to all of the destruction and losses she’s seen around her. The end of an era, however, marks the beginning of another: in the aftermath of Japan’s surrender, Americans quickly arrive to help the citizens, and began driving the country towards political and economic reform. When the American occupation ended in 1952 with the San Francisco Treaty, control of Japan was fully returned, and the nation would become a major economic power in the world, characterised by their exceptional economic growth and high technology.

  • I’ve seen remarks that In This Corner of The World is a love story, although I hold that it is not a love story in the traditional sense – In This Corner of the World deals with love for a family and love for life itself rather than romantic love, and the conflict in the film stems from Suzu doing her utmost to retain a love for life during the most trying of times. The romantic elements in this movie are secondary, and as such, I’ve chosen not to delve into this particular topic at all; it is simply eclipsed by other elements within the movie.

  • In This Corner of The World made extensive use of photographs and accounts from the period to accurately reproduce damage locales seen in the film. Incendiary bombs were particularly effective in Japan owing to the wooden construction of buildings, and some of the worst casualties came from firestorms that arose when fires merged into conflagrations of gargantuan proportion. While wooden buildings were popular in North America, great fires in major cities prompted officials to rebuild with sandstone.

  • Suzu offers Keiko some food given by American soldiers and are surprised at how flavourful it is, compared to their seemingly-tasteless cooking. Later, Suzu will extract salt from seawater and use it to season their food, bringing back some life to her cooking; this simple act signifies the gradual return to normalcy following the war. By this point in time, Keiko is no longer resentful towards Suzu.

  • Save Suzu and Sumi, the whole of the Urano family perishes from the atomic bomb and its effects. Here, Suzu visits Sumi, who is afflicted with acute radiation poisoning. My first exposure to Hiroshima and the atom bomb was when I was in my second year of primary school: in Canada, reading Eleanor Coerr’s “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” is a mandatory part of our education, being a fictionalised account of Sadako Sasaki, who survived the detonation at Hiroshima. She later developed leukemia (a cancer of the bone marrow) and was brought in for treatment, encountering a roommate who encouraged her to fold a thousand paper cranes for a miracle, but succumbed to her cancer and died at the age of twelve.

  • Today, the Peace Dome in Hiroshima remains a reminder of the risks and dangers associated with nuclear weapons. In this post, I continued to refer to the bomb as an “atomic” device rather than a nuclear device: the reason for this is that a nuclear bomb can either be atomic or hydrogen. Atomic bombs operate purely by fission, where the nuclei of a large, unstable atom (usually Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239) are split, creating a chain reaction. Hydrogen bombs generate their destructive power through fusion: a fission device is used to generate high temperatures that allow hydrogen fusion to occur, and while hydrogen fusion itself is clean, these bombs generate fallout because of their initial fission components.

  • I managed to last most of In This Corner of The World with only the ol’e sand in my eyes, but the film’s final moments proved to be sufficient to change that. A woman and her daughter are seen wandering the ruined cityscape of Hiroshima. The former has sustained severe injuries, with her arm blown off and has large glass shards embedded in her right leg. She later succumbs to her injuries, and her daughter clings to her, even desperately fighting off the flies and maggots resulting from decomposition. There is something about the implications of this scene that hit me in ways that even the climax of the film did not. This sort of footage of atomic bomb victims was outright banned, and the American public was thus unaware of the extent of what atomic weapons were capable of: most Americans felt that it would be acceptable to continue using atomic bombs against Japan.

  • The world has changed dramatically now, and I’m thankful that for the most part, the world is aware of the importance of nuclear disarmament. While visiting Sumi in Hiroshima, Suzu runs into Shūsaku, and they encounter the orphan, who’s looking worse for wear. They decide to take her in, and after giving her a good bath, the credits show her as growing up in the Hojo household, while Suzu herself has found another reason for happiness.

  • This review finally reaches an end, and I would count In This Corner of The World a masterpiece, a 10 of 10. Even among the giants released in 2016, including Kimi no na wa and Koe no Katachi, I feel that Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni stands ahead for its overall execution and delivery: while perhaps not quite as impressive from a visual perspective, the narrative and messages are of a very high quality. This post was completed quite quickly by my usual standards for its size, taking a total of five hours to complete from first draft to hitting the publish button. With this post finished, October is very nearly over, and there are only a handful more posts on the horizon for this month, including a talk for Girls’ Last TourWake Up, Girls! New Chapter! after three, and a talk about Battlefield 1 a year after I bought it.

My verdict for In This Corner of The World is simple: it’s a strong recommendation to anyone interested in seeing World War Two from a different perspective, one without any propaganda or political undertones. The story is entirely focused on Suzu and her everyday life prior to, during and after the war, and although simple from a thematic perspective, nonetheless presents an incredibly moving story that is as powerful as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Whereas Dunkirk conveyed an overwhelming sense of unease and suspense as Allied soldiers prepared to evacuate ahead of advancing German forces, In This Corner of The World presents the Suzu and the Hojo family as ordinary people. As viewers see more of their daily lives, they come to empathise with them; by the film’s end, I dissolved in tears. Ultimately, while I’ve always been a staunch proponents of the Allied Forces, I find that in modern warfare, the efficiency that humans can cause harm to one another means that there is not always a victor, and moreover, war is certain to lead to suffering. As In This Corner of The World demonstrates, civilians are unfortunately made targets of undue suffering, brought on by their leaders’ decisions. In spite of the horrors of warfare, In This Corner of The World demonstrates the nature of human resilience, and ultimately, our desire to survive and endure also brings about acts of great good in helping one another out during difficult times. I am immensely grateful to have watched In This Corner of The World: the film originally released in October of last year, only coming to home release back in September, but the wait was well worth it, and I would think that folks will find this film enjoyable the same way Dunkirk is enjoyable, regardless of one’s familiarity with anime.

A Milestone at the Six Year Anniversary

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” –William Barclay

Today marks the six year anniversary to the chilly October evening when I opened discussions with my Hello World! post. To put things in perspective, World War Two lasted six years from the moment Nazi Germany invaded Poland to Imperial Japan signing the surrender documents on board the USS Missouri, and it took six years to build Surrey’s Port Mann Bridge, which is the world’s second widest bridge and was fully finished in 2015 (although it opened to traffic in 2012). Six years is also the lower limit for the average student to complete their undergraduate program and conclude a Master’s degree in Canada; a great deal can happen over six years, and therefore, it is something of a milestone that Infinite Mirai has reached this year. The site’ continued endurance over time is largely in part thanks to an immensely loyal and well-read reader base such as yourselves. I cannot emphasise how large of a role you’ve played in motivating and inspiring me to continue writing content for this blog – thank you for continuing to stick around. This blog has lasted well beyond its projected lifespan in part because of all the interesting discussions that continue to be provided courtesy of our readers. While some blogs have been around for a much longer period, they also have had the advantage of several authors: Infinite Mirai is a solo act, and I write only as time allows. As I continue to move forwards in life, I foresee my time becoming directed towards other pursuits, but for the present, I’m still going to stick around, presumably, to the displeasure of folks where the name “Infinite Zenith” is synonymous with “disturber of the peace”.

  • There’s something about this particular wallpaper that makes it particularly appealing; the composition of the sky and the girl’s expression gives off an indescribably serene quality. I don’t often run with anime wallpapers for my desktop or mobile devices, but this one’s the exception. At this year’s anniversary mark, I’ve opted to do things a little differently, so the endless stats about my site for 2017 so far are not so endless. So far, 120 posts were written this year (including this one), and the largest post we’ve got now is the Kimi no na wa review, which has a total of 14401 words and 100 screenshots. Site traffic is also down 30 percent from last year, and the top post is the location hunt post for Garden of Words.

  • Now is a good as a time as any to note that for the remainder of 2017, blogging will proceed as usual. In 2018, I’m planning on easing back on the throttle: I’ll be returning to the twenty screenshot, “after three and whole series” format for any new shows that I follow. I’m also thinking that, once I finish with Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s discussions, it’s likely time for me to ride off into the sunset and pursue my other interests. With this being said, Girls und Panzer: Das Finale is likely to last quite a while, so I’m not going anywhere yet.

For this anniversary post, I am deviating from my usual modus operandi and will take the remainder of this post to address my particular approach towards writing about anime. While I’ve long counted myself to be someone who watches anime purely for entertainment, I find additional enjoyment when an anime aligns with challenges facing the real world – this allows me to compare and contrast real-world issues with their portrayal in anime, and the value comes from watching how people address these concerns. As a fictional medium, there is a great deal of freedom in portraying the journey that characters undertake. Their learnings, in forming the theme for an anime, can provide some insights as to how the authors see the world and ultimately, mirror how they might go about seeking out solutions for problems, in turn enriching perspectives. This is the main reason why I place such an emphasis on the big picture in my discussions: I am not particularly worried about minor details if they have little relevance on the overall outcomes of a narrative. If the entire story follows logically from the presented sequence of events and yields a message that is consistent with what has occurred, then I will view an anime favourably even if a few details are amiss. The recent trend on fixating in minor details and inaccuracies is incongruous with what might be considered good anime discussion, and this is why I have taken the approach that I do towards discussing anime. It ends up being much more fun this way, and moving into the future, I do hope that you, the readers, will continue to find the contents here both enjoyable and informative even as my posting patterns continue to shift.