The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: personal reflection

Kandagawa Jet Girls: Review and Reflection At the Halfway Point

“If you take out the ‘team’ in teamwork, it’s just work. Now, who wants that?” –Matthew Woodring Stover

While Emily Orange and Jennifer Peach take an early lead in the race, Rin and Misa begin catching up, taking advantage of the Orcano’s handling to put Misa in a spot where she can snipe the Cuisine 2 at a critical juncture. Depriving Emily and Jennifer of their speed, Misa and Rin manage to win, and honouring the terms of their competition, Jennifer yields the yellow dolphin keychain to Misa, thanking them for an exhilarating race. Later, Rin and Misa begin training on their simulator, but the simulator malfunctions. Ruca decides it’s time to pick up new parts, and heads into town with Misa and Rin. Misa and Rin explore around, stopping at an idol café along the way. The next day, Misa struggles to ask for Rin’s phone number, and Rin accompanies Emily and Jennifer to a concert. After making a reservation for a slot to practise, Rin and Misa learn that they are to forfeit their slot to Hell’s Kitchen, a team from CS Production School known for their involvement in idol activities. Tsui and Tina Pan, of Hell’s Kitchen, anger Rin with their casual remarks about Misa’s skills, prompting her to challenge the pair to a showdown. However, Rin and Misa are soundly beaten. Later, Misa decides to take Rin to a different part of Asukasa, since their previous outing had been disrupted, and here, they run into Shinjuku Takadanobaba Girls School’s Manatsu Shiraishi and Yuzu Midorikawa. After the two mention Rin and Misa’s spanking at Hell’s Kitchen’s hands, Misa takes up a variety of challenges where they both get defeated. Emily and Jennifer appear later in the day and, after watching the final challenge, point out that Rin and Misa’s weakness is their lack of communication. Realising this, Misa and Rin finally exchange phone numbers and spend the remainder of an evening marveling in being able to text one another effortlessly.

Kandagawa Jet Girls might prima facie be counted as frivolous, an excuse to shamelessly promote the upcoming game of the same name and offer an unparalleled opportunity to show some skin, but beyond this is an unexpectedly coherent story. After Rin and Misa’s win over Unkai establishes the implicit strength of their friendship, the story turns towards showing that an implicit understanding and trust of one another won’t get them very far. This is hinted at in Misa’s inability to summon up the courage to ask for Rin’s number. While seemingly a trivial detail for comedy’s sake, this actually serves to show that even as far as fundamentals go, Misa is still too shy to speak with Rin. The race with Hell’s Kitchen establishes that the successful team is coordinated and synchronised with one another, able to act as a cohesive unit while on the water. While Rin demonstrates an innate talent for racing, and Misa has experience in shooting, their individual skills aren’t enough to win races. The introduction of Manatsu and Yuzu then reinforces that this lack of communication is what is holding Rin and Misa back as racers; even in trivial activities involving teams, Misa and Rin struggle because of the absence of teamwork. Jennifer and Emily note that the first step to establishing teamwork is communication of intent. Misa does end up realising this, and symbolically, takes the first step towards improvement by asking Rin for her number. It’s a subtle gesture, but by resolving this issue at the halfway point shows viewers that Rin and Misa are ready to move into their next steps as a racing team.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Six episodes into Kandagawa Jet Girls, I am finding this series far more enjoyable than initially anticipated. Its game-like setting becomes very apparent, and this is probably one of the reasons I find no shortage of things to talk about. Having dabbled in game design and development for my Master’s thesis, I am mindful of things like collision physics, mechanics, balance and interactivity: while Kandagawa Jet Girls is heavy on the T & A, my interest in games means I’m able to keep the conversation going.

  • My predictions turned out to be accurate: Emily’s preference for a shoulder-fired rocket favours destruction and area effects over precision. Emily and Jennifer are very much about style and flash, and their choice of area-of-effect munitions weapon coupled with a fast jet ski means they’re able to deal damage to unsuspecting teams very quickly. The tradeoff is that the Cuisine 2 seems less agile, and a heavy weapon means Emily has fewer shots to work with.

  • Rin’s apprehension soon turns to excitement once the race kicks in, and while she mistakenly activates her boost on a turn, costing them precious moments, Misa reassures Rin not to worry and focus. Misa’s ability to communicate with Rin during a race is rudimentary, to a much lesser extent than more experienced teams, but early on, it is enough to get Rin focused back on the race.

  • Tsui and Tina are seen watching the Kandagawa Jet Girls with interest during a break between their work as idols and sit rather closely together. I’ve heard that yuri elements are supposed to be a factor in Kandagawa Jet Girls, although insofar, I’ve felt that focusing on yuri itself in the series is secondary to understanding how that elements impacts the teams and their ability to work together. In other words, yuri is going to be solidly present, rather than being a “will they?” question – meaningful discussion thus assumes this to be a given and then focuses on the “so what?”.

  • In Kandagawa Jet Girls, the “so what?” of why yuri is present is simply how it impacts each team’s ability to perform. As the race between Unkai and the Kandagawa Jet Girls progresses, the former begin increasing their lead with skillful piloting and well-placed shots from their rocket. Jennifer and Emily had earlier requested a tunnel segment in their race to make things more fun, and while they have little trouble negotiating the turns of the tunnel, Rin is able to keep up with a combination of the Orcano’s manoeuvrability and her own talent.

  • Yuzu’s innuendo manages to embarrass Manatsu, as the two discuss the race between the Kandagawa Jet Girls and Unkai. While I’ve been focusing on character development and the relevance of game mechanics in driving the story, other writers have chosen to superciliously focus on (nonexistent) philosophical matters surrounding Kandagawa Jet Girls. Choya of Random Curiosity argues that Lacanian psychoanalysis is required to “get” Kandagawa Jet Girls, specifically, positing that the lack of males in the series, coupled with yuri relationships and various camera angles representing Lacan’s “gaze” means that the show’s values are rooted in psychology rather than story, pertaining to how the series should differ itself from other works of its genre.

  • This is quite untrue: Lacan’s style was to present his theories in a way as to make them unfalsifiable, and contemporaries regarded him as a “amusing and perfectly self-conscious charlatan” whose work amounted to nothing more than an “incoherent system of pseudo-scientific gibberish”. In the case of Kandagawa Jet Girls, Choya does readers no favours by referencing Lacan, and adds little to the discussion besides perhaps demonstrating a lack of understanding of psychology. The yuri elements are not the core focus of either the game or the anime, but instead, serve to reinforce the idea that the pilot and gunner work closely as a team to the point where they can be seen as a romantic couple.

  • In the realm of shows like Kandagawa Jet Girls, it is quite unnecessary to claim that one is watching it to see if it “[provides] some valuable enough content to fuel this conversation deeper to explore what about [this series] makes it both transformative and derivative of its contemporaries in the ecchi genre”. Shows of this sort do not invite discussions on philosophy or psychology, least of all those from methods that have been decisively demonstrated to be false. This is why I choose to focus on the characters’ growth and interactions within their setting; applying discredited philosophical theories does little to help others understand the characters’ beliefs, desires and intents.

  • Of late, the quality Random Curiosity’s articles surrounding the series that I end up writing about have declined, and I occasionally wonder if some of their writers’ hearts are really in the game to be writing about anything with a substantial slice-of-life or ecchi component in it. Back in Kandagawa Jet Girls, Rin collapses in exhaustion after the race concludes. A well-placed shot from Misa while the Cuisine 2 is airborne impacts it, dealing enough damage to cause it to power down. This leaves Rin and Misa free to win their race. This outcome was visible from a klick away; while Rin and Misa are still novices as a team, they had to win this race simply to show that victory is possible and allow Misa to win the yellow dolphin keychain that evidently signifies her commitment to Rin.

  • In the aftermath, Emily and Jennifer accept their loss and the other keychains Rin had gotten them. Despite losing, they are thrilled to have had fun racing Rin and Misa; good sportsmanship is an integral part of any anime featuring sports, and one aspect of Kandagawa Jet Girls that I will be keeping an eye on is how Rin and Misa deal with other racers in the aftermath of a given race. Such series typically emphasise sportsmanship and the development of friendships amongst rivals, which are more professional than personal in nature. This was actually what made Girls und Panzer and Harukana Receive worth watching, and this season’s Rifle is Beautiful is also doing a solid job of incorporating sportsmanship into things.

  • Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ fifth episode was actually delayed in production. On the first Tuesday of November, when my area was hit with a major snowstorm that tangled up traffic, I slogged through six inches of snow while hoofing it back home after work. Upon arriving home, I learnt that there was no Kandagawa Jet Girls episode to watch. This ended up being a blessing, as used the extra time to work on my post for Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre. Kandagawa Jet Girls is now a week later, and while this will push back my finale post into 2020, the impact on my schedule is otherwise minimal. I think Azur Lane suffered from a similar delay and is a week behind, as well.

  • Rin’s enjoyment of the arts is apparent, and she is quick to design a new logo for the Orcano, sharing it with the other club members during a meeting. For Fumika and Hina, as well as Yamada, the drawing is tantamount to a kokuhaku, although for me, this is a bit of a stretch: Rin’s drawing is merely of her and Misa as the logo. Try as I might, I can’t find any symbols in the drawing itself that might imply a declaration of love.

  • When the training rig breaks down, Ruca notes that the age of the hardware means that a trip to town is needed in order to secure the replacement parts. Ruca reminds me somewhat of Girls und Panzer‘s Alisa in appearance, and while seemingly cold and distant, Ruca is at her best when working on mechanical projects. Anything involving repairs puts a smile on her face, and on the whole, having Ruca in their corner means that audiences can be assured that Misa and Rin’s vehicle will always be in excellent shape, leaving the outcome of a race purely to them.

  • While Ruca searches for the appropriate components, she suggests that Misa and Rin take some time to relax. One recurring joke is that each and every one of Misa’s attempts to spend time alone with Rin is inexplicably ruined whenever others show up to the party. Jennifer and Emily appear shortly after when Rin stops to check out a café with idols, much to Misa’s annoyance. Misa is not particularly vocal about this, but expresses her irritation by playing with her hair.

  • I’ve heard that some folks express different tics when whenever faced with stress, anger, annoyance or boredom. Mine is picking at loose skin on my fingers whenever I’m nervous. It is here that Rin and Misa learn of Hell’s Kitchen, a team of two idols whose appearances belie uncommon skill at jet ski racing. With Rin clearly interested in checking out idols more closely, Jennifer and Emily invite her out to a concert the next day.

  • Misa wonders why it’s so hard for her to talk to Rin about getting her phone number, and when Rin leaves for said concert, she retreats to the balcony and sulks about here. Most viewers appear to have marked Misa’s hesitation as a relatively minor point with seemingly no significance beyond comedy, but the persistence of this particular topic and how it ties into the sixth episode shows that there’s actually a bit more depth than people give Kandagawa Jet Girls credit for.

  • I think every episode of Kandagawa Jet Girls features at least one such moment, and therefore, in the spirit of the anime, I will make it a point to feature at least a handful of these screenshots purely for the sake of consistency. I know readers don’t come here for that sort of thing, but it’s still fun to mix things up a little from time to time. Considering just how limited the discussion out there for Kandagawa Jet Girls is owing to folks dismissing the anime as being little more than fanservice with a weak narrative, this leaves the floor open for me to talk about whatever I choose with the series and perhaps even set the precedence for how one might go about talking about anime with a nontrivial fanservice component without resorting to psychoanalysis to keep their discussions engaging.

  • Prior to their first scheduled practise on the river, Rin remarks that she’s still going to push for a new logo on the Orcano, which currently is adjourned with Rin’s face as decoration. However, their discussion is interrupted when Misa’s phone rings; despite having a reservation, it turns out the two have been removed from their allocated time.

  • Having seen Tina and Tsui in the passing, having them interact with Misa and Rin for the first time does not leave viewers with a positive first impression of the pair: haughty and arrogant, they are quick to put down Misa and Rin as having won by sheer luck earlier against Unkai. The pair, known as Hell’s Kitchen, are probably Chinese in origin: the surname Pan (Poon in Cantonese) is rendered as 潘 and is the 37th most common family name in China. Tsui and Tina are mentioned to be strong racers who use their influence to gain the upper hand for training, and they manage to override Rin and Misa’s booking of the course.

  • While Rin is typically cheerful and easygoing, it seems that making fun of those around Rin is a quick way to get on her bad side, and Rin immediately challenges the two to a race with the intent of settling things. It marks the first time we’ve seen Rin angry, and this adds a more human side to her character: in fiction, individuals might be defined by their usual mannerisms, but watching them act in ways contrary to their typical personality and potentially learn from the resulting mistakes serves to make everyone more plausible.

  • Tsui and Tina’s preferred uniforms for racing have a distinctly Chinese style, further reinforcing their possible origins as being Chinese. Their craft, Les Soeurs SL, is a highly lightweight craft with superior manoeuvrability and acceleration compared to the Orcano. In exchange, it lacks the engine power for sustaining a high maximum speed. Tsui is the pilot, and Tina is the gunner: the latter wields a pair of pistols as her preferred weapon.

  • Dual pistols are impractical in a real setting, since they prevent one from aiming down sights and also slows down the reload time. In fiction, however, the approach is favoured for the cool factor, and dual weapons are typically used in martial arts: sai, tonfa and kama are weapons I’ve trained with in pairs. Typically, the choice to dual wield shows an inclination towards speed and agility over precision: dual pistols effectively double one’s rate of fire at the expense of accuracy, showing that Hell’s Kitchen is about picking up speed. I’m noticing a stylistic trend in Kandagawa Jet Girls where the pilots race with their mouths open in a smile. This has no impact on the narrative, but now that I’ve seen it, I doubt I’ll be able to un-see it.

  • While normally composed and emotionless, CS Production’s Shōko expresses warmth and admiration when describing Hell’s Kitchen: she and Aqua Manjō are the commentators who provide viewers with a running commentary of every race. Aqua is normally the bubbly and bright speaker, explaining the different techniques racers use, while Shōko is more of a quiet speaker and fills the audience in on the mechanical aspects of the race. Together, they act as a narrator to help viewers follow along during races.

  • Unlike previous races, Tsui and Tina offer no quarter – Rin and Misa are decimated during their race without much effort; the sixth episode deals almost entirely with what the Kandagawa Jet Girls lack compared to more experienced teams, with notions of synchronisation and team play being at the forefront of all discussion. Kandagawa Jet Girls thus pushes the idea that until Rin and Misa work out how to work together, they’ve got no chance of winning races whatsoever.

  • While Kandagawa Jet Girls places a great deal of emphasis on team work for its theme (hence the page quote), I wager that the game, once it’s launched, will have players controlling both the piloting and shooting aspects of the race, rather like how in almost all games, players can simultaneously drive a tank and fire its ordinance. In the game, then, teamwork goes out the window as players would be able to dominate races on sheer virtue of über-micro.

  • To take Rin’s mind off the race, Misa proposes that they visit Asakusa again. When they pass a spot where Rin had taken photos with others, she recalls the moment and decides to take a self-shot with Misa. Before they can complete the shot, the same girls who’d shown up in the first episode return, ruining Misa’s photo. It turns out they’re Manatsu and Yuzu of MKHU, Shinjuku Takadanobaba Girls School’s racing team. Misa takes offense to their presence, more irate that yet another chance to spend time with Rin was interrupted, and challenges them off to a showdown.

  • However, Manatsu and Yuzu have other ideas in mind: their idea of competition is various activities at a local water park. Their decision to not race is indicative of their personalities – despite their outward appearance, like Emily and Jennifer, Yuzu and Manatsu are friendly and quick to get along with others. From a narrative perspective, watching Rin and Misa be defeated in random trivial activities further reinforces that the two are most certainly not ready to race yet – if they cannot cooperate on even minor tasks to succeed, their odds of winning a race would be quite poor indeed.

  • Halfway into the season, Kandagawa Jet Girls has done a fine job of establishing jet ski racing, the major players and what the anime’s objectives are. However, Rin and Misa are nowhere near ready to take on Kaguya and Kuromaru yet, and with six episodes remaining, I imagine that now that Rin and Misa’s weaknesses have been defined, the series must show the two training together to master the fundamentals, and in the process, take on another team or two. Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ outcomes can come across as predictable, but overall, I’ve found this not to be a problem – the journey matters rather more than the destination.

  • Jennifer and Emily point out what has been increasingly apparent: without cooperation and communication, even something like a simple ball game sees the two falling. After the day comes to a close and the two leave the water park, Misa comforts Rin and then manages to ask for her phone number, signifying a first step towards improvement in communications. I expect that given the timing, the progress Rin and Misa make will probably be off-screen, implicit: with only six episodes left, including MKHU, there are three more teams to race against.

  • I have no qualms about saying that I am enjoying Kandagawa Jet Girls, and I’m interested in seeing where this series goes. I understand that this month, I’ve been much slower about blog posts: the next post I have lined up is Yuru Yuri Ten, a special OVA commemorating the series’ tenth anniversary, and then the remainder of my time this month will be split between making sure I do a passable job for hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase, as well as experiencing Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre content. Conversely, December does look like a month where I’ll have more blog posts lined up: besides doing posts for Kandagawa Jet GirlsAzur Lane and Rifle is Beautiful, I also have plans to write about Aobuta: The Movie, plus publish two special posts.

Like Harukana Receive, Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ focus on a sport driven by teams of two means that there is plenty of space to delve into teams at their most fundamental unit, and while Harukana Receive was rather more direct about the idea of pairs being synonymous with lovers, Kandagawa Jet Girls seems to be aiming for a similar setup through the other teams. In particular, Tsui and Tina are portrayed as being intimately close. Manatsu and Yuzu likewise regard one another as lovers might, with Yuzu’s innuendo-laden commentary embarassing even Manatsu at one point. Like any good relationship, communication is the first hurdle that Rin and Misa must overcome. By the series’ halfway point, issues affecting Rin and Misa are openly being addressed, and moreover, resolved at a smart pace to keep things engaging. Rin and Misa have the beginnings of a friendship, but there is still a distance that separates them despite Misa’s desire to be closer. Watching this distance close over time, and seeing the changes reflected in the pair’s racing as they encounter more teams en route to the goal of facing off against Kaguya and Kuromaru on the waters of the Kandagawa. Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ fanservice component has, surprisingly, not detracted from the overarching narrative, and this is a rather impressive feat considering that most stories of this nature appear to be held together by little more than duct tape and spirit: with incentive to root for Rin and Misa as they improve, I look forwards to seeing where the next quarter goes.

Rifle is Beautiful, or The Chidori RSC: Review and Reflection After Three

“Bolt actions speak louder than words.” –Craig Roberts

Having participated in target shooting since primary school, Hikari Kokura enrolls at Chidori High School when she learns that there was a shooting club, but to her surprise, a lack of members means that the club was disbanded. She decides to recruit new members of restarting the club, including her best friend Izumi Shibusawa, the competitive and dedicated Erika Meinohama, and Yukio Igarashi, a quiet but studious girl. Erika is dismayed to learn that the scatter-brained Hikari was the one who bested her the previous year in a shooting competition, and initially joins to get her revenge, but after seeing Hikari’s determination to reach national-level competitions, the girls decide to pick up the sport. It turns out that Hikari had no uniform, and they visit Erika’s place, where she has a few spare uniforms. The girls later set about practising, and when Hikari fails her exams, Izumi helps her study so that she might pass. Between club activities, Erika and Yukio develop a bit of a competitive streak – Yukio had scored higher than Erika on exams, and the latter seeks to even things out, beating Yukio in softball. In order to help Hikari and Izumi improve, Erika arranges for a practise competition with Asaka High School, which has a strong target shooting team. This is Rifle is Beautiful, which is referred to as Chidori RSC (Rifle Shooting Club) in some places, a rather quiet and benign series about Hikari’s desire to become more consistent as a shooter as she becomes closer with the RSC’s club members. Unremarkable but gentle in its execution, Rifle is Beautiful is a simple and straightforward series that uses the premise of the 10 metre air rifle Olympic Event at its core: with the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics fast approaching, it is natural that an interest in the Olympics is ramping up, and although Hikari is unlikely to reach such a level of proficiency, Rifle is Beautiful nonetheless stands to be this season’s show to relax to.

When Rifle is Beautiful first began airing, viewers were introduced to the use of electronic rifles and targets: 10 metre air rifle shooting is typically done with a 4.5mm air rifle and paper targets, but for safety and cost effectiveness, specialised electronic rifles are becoming more widespread. These work on the same principles as light guns and simulate the air rifles being used in competitions. Other aspects of the sport, from scoring rules to the special clothing that participants are outfitted with to improve stability and reduce the prevalence of lower back injuries from the shooting position. With the sport being well-established, Rifle is Beautiful spends time between the girls’ club activities and their everyday lives. Having been around the block for slice-of-life series, Rifle is Beautiful offers nothing particularly novel or exciting with its setup; even rifle shooting appears a little dull. Instead, it appears that the series’ main draw really is watching the characters bounce off one another and grow as they spend more time together. The fiery Erika and her love of competing with everyone offers consistent comedy, while Yukio is more or less Rifle is Beautiful‘s incarnation of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan‘s Yuki Nagato, retaining the same taciturn but mischievous personality. Izumi’s gentle and soft-spoken nature makes her a grounding implement for the other characters’ eccentricities. With character archetypes that are quite unlike those I’ve come to see in numerous other slice-of-life anime, Rifle is Beautiful provides a different sort of humour that is refreshing in its own manner.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Rifle is Beautiful has very little in the way of discussion: forums are quiet about this one, and blogs have nothing to say, either. I was actually originally set to write about Rifle is Beautiful after its first episode aired, but found that I didn’t have enough thoughts on things to write a reasonable post. After three episodes, there’s enough for me to write about, and I am enjoying this series, although the community’s lack of enthusiasm for the series has persisted.

  • While Hikari and Izumi are thrilled to have secured the requisite number of members for their shooting club, Erika and Yukio stare one another done. The closest equivalent in personalities I can think of is The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s Haruhi, and the incarnation of Yuki Nagato from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, who is rather more sardonic and expressive then her normal counterpart. This dynamic adds a bit of hilarity to Rifle is Beautiful.

  • While Hikari may not look it, she’s actually better-endowed than most everyone in the rifle shooting club: this leads to much rage from Yukio, who’d figured that she and Hikari shared a similar figure. Erika’s jealousy of her comes from Hikari having bested her previously in a shooting competition, and while Hikari may have had experience in shooting, her air-headed tendencies means that during practise, she tends to perform quite poorly.

  • The first episode’s pacing was quite unusual: most anime tend to space out the club’s development over two episodes, but Hikari manages to secure the number of members in no time at all. The remainder of the episode is given to introducing the sport of 10 metre rifle shooting, which is one of the few shooting sports that the Olympics recognises. Right off the bat, viewers are immediately familarised with what the sport entails and with it, have a clear idea of what Hikari is getting into.

  • A quick glance through the rules and regulations of 10 metre air rifle shooting shows that Rifle is Beautiful is very faithful to the real sport, meaning that more experienced shooters like Erika will be able to provide viewers with a good picture of things like scoring and equipment. While the real sport uses air rifles that fire a specialised wadcutter (flat-head) pellet, the club at Chidori uses “beam” rifles that emit an infrared beam for a sensor to detect. Depending on where the photons land, a computer then computes a score. The girls remind viewers that these aren’t the beam rifles mobile suits from Gundam series wield.

  • Yukio enjoys rifle shooting greatly, and right away, smiles warmly. In The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, Yuki never smiled, and it was only in The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi that a smile was seen, leading to a major reaction from the community. It suddenly strikes me that I’ve not actually written about either the TV series or the movie here; while the TV series did not live up to the hype the community created by putting it onto a pedestal, the movie far exceeded my expectations.

  • While Yukio resembles Yuki, Erika is a tsundere and is more similar to Haruhi in mannerisms: she is quicker to anger and grows frustrated with the other club members’ lack of drive. However, beyond this is a side of her that cares for the others, as well: when Hikari reveals that she doesn’t have a suit, Erika decides to invite everyone over to her place and lets Hikari pick her suit of choice.

  • When Hikari begins to smell the Erika’s old suit, she causes Erika to quickly become embarrassed. Once Hikari’spicked out a suit that she likes, the girls step out to a convenience store, where the closeness between Hikari and Izumi becomes apparent, and Erika begins to yearn for friendship of a similar calibre. This aspect will likely be a part of Rifle is Beautiful as each of Erika, Yukio, Hikari and Izumi become closer as a result of their sport: while treading on a well-worn road, the themes of Rifle is Beautiful will nonetheless offer a relaxing experience even if the setting and world-building is very conventional.

  • The rifles used in Rifle is Beautiful are of a make I’m not familiar with. Whereas the manga shows each of Yukio, Erika, Hikari and Izumi sporting different rifles, the anime has everyone using the same training rifles for their club. Compared to the shooting I’ve seen elsewhere, 10 metre rifle shooting involves hitting a very small target very precisely, and only allows participants to shoot standing up. In competitive shooting, shooters pin their non-dominant elbow against their body to reduce sway, but rather than using an open hand, some shooters may form a fist and use their other hand as a platform for holding the rifle steady.

  • This is a marked departure from the combat stances I’m more familiar with: unlike the military, where mobility also comes into play, competitors in a 10 metre rifle shooting match are only concerned with hitting their targets with precision. On the flip-side, rifle shooting as a sport means Rifle is Beautiful is much more laid-back in nature compared to a series where real firearms are used and also side-steps the rather dodgy issue of firearms violence elsewhere in the world.

  • Some folks insistently refer to Rifle is Beautiful as Chidori RSC, which is an alternative name based on Chidori high school’s rifle shooting club. The new title has absolutely nothing to do with Ribeyrolles, Sutter and Chaucha, who designed the semi-automatic RSC M1917 rifle, which was one of the first semi-automatic rifles introduced into service. The RSC M1917 featured in Battlefield 1 as a semi-automatic weapon for the medic class and had high damage to offset its small magazine, while in Battlefield V, the RSC returns as a weapon for the recon class and exchanges reduced muzzle velocity for being able to leave an extra round in the chamber, making it able to theoretically drop three enemies before requiring a reload.

  • When Hikari wonders what her objective with the rifle shooting club should be, Erika immediately suggests international level skill, but Hikari loses interest once Izumi brings out apple pie to share. Hikari’s poor performance prompts Erika to get in touch with her contacts and arrange a training session. While Erika is initially reluctant to do so, she nonetheless follows through with the request and sets up a practise match with Asaka High school.

  • On the day of the practise match, Hikari and the others meet Asaka’s rifle shooting club. A dedicated, serious club with more members, Asaka’s club is more akin to what Erika was expecting from a rifle shooting club. I’ve heard that the practise was supposed to be similar to Ooarai taking on St. Glorianna in Girls und Panzer, but it becomes very clear that because of the vast difference in the sport being used, Rifle is Beautiful simply does not have the same atmospherics: the chosen sport and setup means that there is little opportunity to present more colouful settings

  • I will eventually need to learn the name of Asaka’s students, but for the time being, they’re only present for the practise round. It turns out that Erika knows Akira Shinonome, their club president, which is how they were able to arrange for the practise match, and Erika has dirt on her. One of the other club members begins to listen in, but before anything interesting is discussed, Yukio’s sharpshooting catches everyone’s attention.

  • I’ve become rather fond of Izumi: she reminds me a little of Girls und Panzer‘s Rukuriri in appearance, but unlike Rukuriri, she’s soft-spoken and supportive. Reliable and present for Hikari, Izumi’s main goal in joining the rifle shooting club is to lose weight by sweating it off: the suits the girls don to shoot don’t particularly breathe well. However, losing weight is not this simple, and naturally, Izumi finds that this goal is actually less attainable than Hikari’s aim of competing at a national level.

  • Hikari’s wildly inconsistent performance is discussed, and while she is overall a poor shot, Akira wonders if Hikari’s the sort of person who does better when they’re in the moment. Whether this will be the case or not is left as a matter for future episodes to resolve, although I’m going to hazard a guess that since Rifle is Beautiful is a slice-of-life anime, Hikari probably has a clumsy archetype that leaves her unable to perform unless the moment really calls for it, purely as a comedic device rather than anything more substantial.

  • After Hikari and Izumi finish their turns, they prepare to head home, only to be reminded that Erika actually still needs to go. Gentle moments like these are the norm in Rifle is Beautiful, and while the series is not conducive towards more interesting talks where I can quickly draw upon a multitude of subjects to keep things going, series that are much quieter have their merits, as well. I am looking forwards to spending Sunday mornings watching this after training at the dōjō.

  • Hikari connects with Karen Sakashita, a novice shooter from Asaka who similarly scored poorly during the practise run. The two immediately get along, and this, together with the fact that Erika is related to Akira means that Asaka’s club members could become recurring characters in the show.

  • Learning that Akira is a skilled marksman inspires Hikari to look on. When she picks up her rifle, Akira remarks that it’s been a while since she’s shot an electronic rifle, having grown accustomed to using air rifles. I wonder if air rifles will be introduced later in Rifle is Beautiful: while the beam rifles are fine for training basic technique, an air rifle would also allow Hikari to become familiar with recoil control and reloading techniques.

  • With the day over, Chidori’s girls find their session with Asaka a useful one, where Hikari both meets a new friend and gains inspiration to continue practising and improving. For the time being, I have no plans to write about Rifle is Beautiful until the finale, but I am looking forwards to watching this one every week: with the world a chaotic and unfriendly place, it is reassuring to know that there are small things to look forwards to each week, and in between Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre chapter, I think that Rifle is Beautiful will fill the role of helping me unwind for the remainder of the Sundays. We’re now rapidly nearing the end of October, as well, and while there are a handful of posts to look for in November (including the Hibike! Euphonium and Aobuta‘s movies) I do have one more post I’d like to roll out for Blend S before the end of the month.

This season, it is quite apparent that there is a bit of a disconnect between an anime’s enjoyment factor and my ability to write for them: like Azur Lane, I am enjoying what I’ve seen in Rifle is Beautiful thus far, and after three episodes, I will be continuing to watch this one for the relaxing atmosphere the anime exudes. However, with 10 metre air rifle shooting being a rather uninteresting sport, and the technical elements being quick to grasp, Rifle is Beautiful offers very little for me to write about. Admittedly, when Rifle is Beautiful drew my eye, I had anticipated a series involving live firearms and a fictionalised variant of the Olympic sport: as it currently is, Rifle is Beautiful‘s use of standardised electronic rifles means that things like firearm maintenance and customisation, ballistics and recoil management no longer come into play. As such, writing about Rifle is Beautiful at regular intervals will see me encountering considerable difficulty in keeping readers engaged. With this being said, I see no problem with Rifle is Beautiful as a whole, and I do look forwards to seeing the sorts of activity that the shooting club will partake in to improve their skills, as well as whether or not the progress that is made will allow the club to fulfill their goal of reaching a national-level competition before the series comes to a close. I remark that just because a series is not conducive of conversation does not necessarily mean the series is lacking in any way, and so, I will be returning once Rifle is Beautiful concludes to focus primarily on what Hikari and the others have learned through their time together, as well as seeing whether the payoff from their journey was a meaningful one.

Kandagawa Jet Girls: Review and Reflection After Three

“Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic. If something is not to your liking, change your liking.” ―Rick Steves

The race between Rin, Misa, Kaguya and Kuromaru begin. While Rin and Misa pull to an early lead, Kuromaru’s sharpshooting slows down the two long enough for Kaguya to take the lead. The commentators explain that jet ski racing is a sport of speed, with the water guns being intended to slow down competitors. The wetsuits that the competitors wear are designed to automatically disengaged after sustaining enough hits as a safety feature, and moreover, while Rin’s Orcano is a balanced jet ski with solid acceleration and manoeuvrability, Kaguya’s Tamakaze has a much greater stability and top speed, allowing it to dominate on straight tracks. Rin’s natural performance with a jet ski impresses Kaguya, who considers using the boost ability to win the race, but ultimately manages to win anyways thanks to Kuromaru’s marksmanship. Far from being disappointed at their loss, Rin is exhilarated and resolves to start a Jet Ski racing club at her high school. After convincing instructor Yamada to be their advisor, Rin attempts to recruit the required number of members to form an official club. She manages to recruit Hina, one of her classmates, to act as the club manager, and later, with Misa’s help, entices Ruca, a mechanical enthusiast, to participate on the promise that she’s allowed to maintain and customise the Orcano to her heart’s content. Her latest attempt to submit a club application is met with resistance until the student council president, Fumika, learns that Rin intends to compete against Kaguya again. With their club formed, Misa sets Rin out on a training regimen that the latter manages to keep up with, and as a reward, decides to show Misa around Tokyo. On the day of their date, the two become separated, and Rin runs into two foreign racers, Jennifer Peach and Emily Orange. They take Rin around, and later, after meeting up with Misa, Rin gives souvenirs to her newfound friends when Misa becomes enamoured with a keychain that Emily is eyeing. They decide to settle things with a jet ski race. A quarter of the way into Kandagawa Jet Girls, the series has done a passable job of rationalising the mechanics of jet ski racing, and further establishes the visual spectacle that the sport entails.

From a thematic perspective, Kandagawa Jet Girls appears to follow the tried-and-true route of placing an energetic, outgoing character together with a stoic, reserved individual. While Misa might not be particularly versed at speaking her mind, Rin’s optimism and energy convinces her that jet ski racing is intended to be enjoyed, and she finds herself drawn to Rin in spite of herself. When Rin asks her to join the jet ski racing club, she initially hesitated, but would quickly come around. Her reflections show that she once took the sport very seriously, and never regarded her competitors as friends. Feeling that the sport was too casual, she eventually left it, and seeing Rin’s spirits has begun imparting a change in her. Whereas Misa avoided jet ski racing earlier on, her commitment to Rin slowly begins manifesting as she becomes impressed with Rin’s devotion and spirits. This is why Misa becomes interested in picking the yellow dolphin keychain: Rin had possessed a blue dolphin earlier but wears a yellow wetsuit in races, whereas Misa wears a blue wetsuit. The dolphin thus comes to represent the idea that Rin must be complementary to her, and when this token is threatened, Misa decides to accept a challenge to win it both for herself, and for Rin. There is, in short, a surprising amount of character growth in Kandagawa Jet Girls, and the value of following this one through lies in seeing how Misa develops as she spends more time with Rin and the jet ski racing club. Like Azur Lane, Kandagawa Jet Girls will likely continue to show how the easygoing mood that accompanies Rin begins to help Misa comes to terms with her own views of the sport, which is expected to help Rin improve as a racer and also send the club down the path of allowing Rin to experience a race with Kaguya again.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before we go any further, I remark that this Kandagawa Jet Girls post, and all future posts, will feature papilla mammaria to some capacity, so if that’s not to your liking, now is the perfect time to mash that back button or close this tab. I figure that I should at least feature these moments to keep things engaging for viewers, and remark that, considering how terse and serious discussions on Kandagawa Jet Girls everywhere else are, one should not begrudge me for trying to liven things up a little.

  • While Rin worries about Misa’s well being, an embarrassed Misa replies that she’s fine, and that Rin ought to focus more on the race. It turns out that the guns the shooters use are amped-up water guns with a limited ammunition reserve. When used against jet skis, they will slow a jet ski down somewhat. Consistent hits to the jet ski, or to critical areas, will cause noticeable performance losses.

  • A long range rifle, such as the one Kuromaru wields, would be advantageous for Kaguya and the Tamakaze: with a long acceleration time, the Tamakaze’s main edge lies in its mass. Once it picks up sufficient speed, it dominates on stretches of straight track, but until then, Kaguya is dependent on Kuromaru to snipe at a distance while the Tamakaze accelerates to maximum speed.

  • It is later revealed that Kaguya and Kuromaru are top-tier jet ski racers, having gone undefeated for quite some time. Per my forecast, they are Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ equivalent of Ayasa and Narumi, acting as a highly skilled opponent whose performance inspires the protagonists to pick up the sport. For Rin, she’s simply captivated at being able to square off against the best, and for Misa, she will come to support Rin as she recalls what made the sport fun for her, rather similar to the dynamic between Haruka and Kanata.

  • Despite not having any formal training or understanding of jet ski racing, Rin’s prior experience with operating jet skis and a natural talent for operating the Orcano allows her to surprise Kaguya during the race. Rin’s performance is actually such that Kaguya considers deploying her boost to win the race: Kaguya has prided herself on only used the boost on a handful of occasions, preferring to count on her skill to achieve victory. In this way, Kaguya is rather like myself: I tend not to deploy power-ups in games, saving them for situations where I might need them to extricate myself from a difficult situation.

  • Once Misa gets her head back in the game, she opens fire on Kaguya and Kuromaru with her MP5, getting even with Kuromaru and blowing off her entire wetsuit. PDWs typically are used in close quarters, where their compact size and firepower allow them to be effective. This choice of weapon suggests that Misa prefers engaging her opponents at close range to buy her driver space, which in turn would lend credence to the idea that Misa is someone who trusts her driver greatly and only uses her weapon where the race is close to give her team an edge.

  • Having the announcers explain the basics of the first race allowed me to quickly grasp what was happening, and this in turn created a more enjoyable experience where I could simply focus on the race and what the characters were doing, rather than speculate on how the characters’ actions at one point lead to the final outcome.

  • Overall, my previous experiences with weapon types and their roles in the context of a first-person shooter means that I will have plenty to say about what the different weapons and jet ski setups say about each of the teams that we will see in Kandagawa Jet Girls – while I count myself as being moderately familiar with the Pacific Theatre, Azur Lane does not appear to offer quite as much to talk about as Kandagawa Jet Girls. There’s also a game that’s supposed to release in January 2020, so gaming mechanics would likely be relevant to the anime, as well.

  • Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ game incarnation will initially release for PS4 and is developed by Marvelous, who’d previously done the Senran Kagura games. While no PC release has been scheduled yet, I would pick up the PC game if it became available, if only for the fact that I’d probably pick a semi-automatic rifle as my weapon of choice. Rin can be seen cooling off with a Dyson fan in the derelict shack that houses the Orcano. Like Haruka, Rin is completely okay with the outcome of their race with Kaguya and Kuromaru, having now experienced first-hand the excitement of a jet ski race.

  • Moments like this are why I’ve opted to stick with a larger post format of thirty screenshots for Kandagawa Jet Girls. The series’ unique combination of T & A, with surprisingly solid jet ski racing animation and a generally solid art quality means that the series is visually appealing, and there are many moments that I could share my thoughts on. Consequently, I have decided to pick up Kandagawa Jet Girls as the series to write about. This means that Rifle is Beautiful will be given the same review pattern as Azur Lane, and with the third episode coming out Sunday, I’ll be able to explore why this is in more detail.

  • Kaguya’s reactions further reinforce the idea that she’s competed against or with Misa previously: while she and Kuromaru had won their race, Kaguya can’t help but feel that had Rin chosen to activated her boost, the race’s outcome might have turned out to be quite different. Given the way Kandagawa Jet Girls is set up, I imagine that for the time being, Rin and Misa won’t be able to race Kaguya and Kuromaru for a while yet, since Rin is still evidently a novice in the sport.

  • Entranced by the prospect of operating the Orcano again, Rin decides to form the jet ski racing club at her high school. Whereas most anime show the protagonist starting with just under the requirement of five members, Kandagawa Jet Girls has Rin recruiting the advisor first. She approaches Yamada, who yields without too much difficulty, standing in sharp contrast with other series like K-On!, where finding members was the straightforward part.

  • Rin’s smile is reminiscent of Yuru Camp△‘s Nadeshiko, and it’s smiles like this that allow Rin to persuade those around her to be more optimistic. Right out of the gates, Rin was a character that I immediately took a liking to, and like Haruka from Harukana Receive, it seems like very little can dissuade Rin from a positive outlook on things. This optimism is likely to be instrumental as Kandagawa Jet Girls continues on.

  • Such moments attest to the fact that Kandagawa Jet Girls is meant to be regarded as an easygoing anime: so far, discussions on the series have remained limited to the fanservice, as well as the characters designs. The series’ reputation clearly precedes it, and folk have not really begun to look beyond the superficial aspects of Kandagawa Jet Girls to consider where the series could go.

  • As it turns out, Rin’s a bit of an artist, and she recounts the struggle she experiences in attempting to recruit new members through simplistic but adorable drawings. I imagine that Rin’s energy and status as a recent transfer student makes it difficult for her: she does not command much interest with the latter, and the former may intimidate the people she approaches. Misa’s posture suggests a disinterest, and the lighting here further shows the gap in personalities: Misa is in the shadows, while Rin sits in the light.

  • Rin is rather fond of Misa, and will not hesitate to hug her whenever the moment calls for it. It does lead to some moments that are more questionable when taken out of context, although insofar, Kandagawa Jet Girls has not delved into the realm of yuri: while Rin might be rather clingy, there’s nothing yet to indicate that her friendship with Misa is anything more than just a friendship.

  • While Rin initially has trouble securing the last member, the student council president, Fumika, decides to join Rin’s jet ski racing club. Her desire to see Kaguya defeated means that she likely has had some experience in jet ski racing before, or at least some sort of quarrel to settle with Kaguya. This turn of events was unexpectedly hilarious, and it will be curious to know what role Fumika will play in things later down the line.

  • As it turns out, Rin had never really considered if Misa had really wanted to join the jet ski racing club. However, compelled by Rin, Misa accepts Rin’s invitation, thus bringing the club to the required number of members. Rin thus holds the club’s first meeting, and sets the goal of getting the club to a point where they can begin competing in local races. Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ premise exists purely for the sake of showcasing anatomy, but despite this, has proven to be reasonably well-justified even after three episodes.

  • Of course, the good folks of tango-victor-tango have taken a different stance on Kandagawa Jet Girls and, in their typical manner, are quick to mark the series with the one-liner “ugly, boring, and has no grasp of how to properly integrate fanservice”, which appropriately describes the nature of the discussion’s participants: while I’ve not been an active member of their community for over five years, I still swing by to see what discussions are hosted there on the shows I follow to see what deficiencies they may sport.

  • I am generally not disappointed, and it seems like now, any semblance of critical thinking at tango-victor-tango is nonexistent, if their members think that one-liners constitute meaningful, analytical discussion or that having a large list of dropped anime increases their credibility. This is where the page quote comes from: I don’t particularly care for people who tear shows down and never seem to spend time with what they do like. Back in Kandagawa Jet Girls, Misa and Rin begin training their stamina as a part of their club activities. While Misa initially expected Rin to tire out from her regimen, Rin keeps up surprisingly well.

  • I know that this post comes a bit later than I’d like: while my typical weekday evenings entail coming home and chilling (which is when most of my blogging gets done), this past Thursday, I got a pair of tickets to the Flames game and therefore spent the evening cheering on the home team, who won in a thrilling 6-5 match over the Florida Panthers in a shootout. Before the game, I stopped by a Shawarma house near my workplace: they’re known for massive portions, and the wrap I had was absolutely loaded, being more beef shawarma, vegetables and hot sauce than wrap.

  • Thursday’s 6-5 victory marks the first time I’ve ever seen a shootout in person, and with this victory, we climb in the standings, although the fact that we gave up five goals means that defense needs to improve if we are to stand any chance in the playoffs. Back on the topic of Kandagawa Jet Girls and anime with a great deal of fanservice, it is not lost on me that it seems like all things ecchi are at the focus of undue discussion, with some arguing that anyone who accepts it will view detractors as endorsing censorship. I suppose it was only a matter of time before that crowd entered the space of anime, and with these rather irrelevant issues making their way into anime, I’ll do my best to steer clear of them and continue doing what I typically do.

  • While Misa might not be good with expressing herself, she does get credit for making an effort and chooses to spend time with Rin, taking her on a tour of Asakusa. Located in Taitō, Asakusa is particularly famous for the Sensō-ji temple and its massive gate, as well as for being home to numerous other shrines. Misa intends on taking Rin to a café with the unusual distinction of serving orange juice on tap, but the real-world Asakusa is also known for its street foods, including satsuma imo (sweet potatoes) and chikuwa kamaboko (grilled fish cakes).

  • In the crowds of Asakusa, Rin becomes separated from Misa. Misa sits down and attempts to contact Rin, but since she does not have her number, this becomes a more difficult task. It is here that Misa’s past with jet ski racing is shown in a limited extent; it looks like Misa was once a try-hard, which alienated her from other competitors and presumably led her to quit competitions. I expect that this will be elaborated upon in more detail.

  • More cautious fans regard Kandagawa Jet Girls as a vessel for fanservice intended to promote the PS4 game, but as having a passable story and premise. This should be no surprise given its connection to Senran Kagura, and I remark that I am perhaps a lot more optimistic about this series than most viewers. My expectations for Kandagawa Jet Girls are relatively basic – I am looking for a colourful series set in a world whose characters’ journey is enjoyable.

  • Rin encounters Jennifer and Emily by chance after picking up a trinket belonging to Emily. These two students have a very exaggerated air about them, exhibiting the tendencies of stereotypical foreigners who’ve taken to some aspects of Japanese culture. Despite their gaudy manner, they appear friendly enough and immediately take to Rin, giving her a tour of the Asukasa area that Misa had intended to do.

  • I’ve not yet mentioned the soundtrack for Kandagawa Jet Girls yet: while the incidental music is able to convey the mood surrounding Rin’s everyday experiences and jet ski racing, it is nothing particularly remarkable, and similarly, the opening and ending songs have not been particularly standout. On the flip-side, Kandagawa Jet Girls does have above-average visuals. Despite some rough spots during the races, the artwork and animation is of a generally high quality and rather pleasing to watch.

  • Misa runs into Rin, Jennifer and Emily later, stopping at a small shop for drinks adjacent to a rail line. The Senran Kagura series is infamous for non-rigid body dynamics that won’t conform to any physical laws, and it appears that Kandagawa Jet Girls has inherited this trait: as Rin fights with Emily for the yellow dolphin keychain, passing trains cause oscillations that would be impossible in reality.

  • While Rin had been excited to board the Orcano and challenge Kaguya and Kuromaru, this race against Emily and Jennifer has Rin a little more nervous, since she’s squaring off against newfound friends. On one hand, Rin would rather not start things off with competition, but at the same time, she wants Misa to be happy, as well, putting her in a conundrum of sorts.

  • Emily and Jennifer use a jet ski of unknown properties, and Jennifer wields the water-gun equivalent of a shoulder-fired rocket launcher. These weapons are typically intended for anti-armour roles and can be surprised to be unwieldy, tricky but also devastatingly powerful if they connect, mirroring Jennifer and Emily’s flamboyant nature, and also hinting that these two might be risk-takers. With this post in the books, the only posts I have planned for the month are for Rifle is Beautiful and a Terrible Anime Challenge post for Blend S.

While the premise between Kandagawa Jet Girls and Azur Lane differ considerably, after three episodes, there is a possibility that the underlying themes could share some overlap. One would therefore reasonably expect that I cover both series in similar levels of detail. However, whereas I have elected not to cover Azur Lane in greater detail, I do intend on writing about Kandagawa Jet Girls at quarterly intervals. The reason for this decision boils down to the fact that Kandagawa Jet Girls has a much more focused, well-defined premise of jet ski racing, whose mechanics are simple to grasp, as well as the smaller character count: the large cast of Azur Lane meant that it took time for Enterprise to be established as the lead protagonist, while in Kandagawa Jet Girls, Misa and Rin are clearly the main characters the story revolves around. Kandagawa Jet Girls thus has a bit more of a solid ground for discussion, and in conjunction with the more blatant anatomical lessons the characters provide, this series seems to be rather more entertaining to write for. Consequently, pushing into the fall season, I am rather looking forwards to seeing both where Kandagawa Jet Girls goes, as well as seeing what boundaries I can push with my blogging, specially with respect to keeping the discussions fresh and meaningful even as I am given face-fulls of papilla mammaria with a consistent frequency.

Azur Lane: Review and Reflection After Three

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” -Steve Jobs

In the aftermath of the battle, the Azur Lane begin repairs on their facility. Meanwhile Kaga and Akagi meet with Prinz Eugen, an Iron Blood ship girl, before sending Zuikaku and Shoukaku to ambush a seaborne Azur Lane fleet. Z23 and Ayanami are also deployed in this engagement, and while they have the upper hand initially, a partially repaired Enterprise appears to engage Zuikaku and Shoukaku, but failing equipment prevents her from landing a decisive blow. While Cleveland escorts the damaged vessels, the Royal Navy’s fleet, led by Queen Elizabeth, arrives. Belfast prevents Enterprise from taking a fatal hit, and the Red Axis forces retreat. While the others return to the base and relax, Unicorn shares a word with Enterprise, learning that she sees no joy in the oceans. While Belfast confronts Enterprise about her nihilistic beliefs, a distress signal is sent out. A small fleet is deployed, and Enterprise finds a pair of damaged Dragon Empery cruisers. She begins engaging a Siren, but Belfast ultimately saves her and upon realising that Enterprise fights for those around her, resolves to make a proper lady out of her yet. This is Azur Lane after three episodes, which slowly begins to establish that Enterprise is the silent protagonist whose seeming lack of emotion and unerring combat prowess conceals a more fragile, human personality. While she may be the top-performing ship in Azur Lane, her tendency to take on battle independently even when she is not at full condition constitutes a personality flaw, and it appears that the anime will be setting out to show how Enterprise begins to place more trust in her companions, rather like how contemporary carrier groups operate with an escort fleet to provide support for the aircraft carrier.

Three episodes in, Azur Lane‘s main challenge lies in its juxtaposition of themes surrounding warfare and the necessity of conflict with messages of friendship and trust. This manifests as a sharp contrast the other ship girls’ exuberant, easy-go-lucky mannerisms and Enterprise’s cold, emotionless approach towards her duty. Said contrast creates a disconnect in what Azur Lane aims to do with its story, and thus, this can seem quite disconcerting. However, determining what Azur Lane‘s intended atmosphere should be is not a particularly difficult task: given that it is only Enterprise with the cold, detached outlook, and each of Laffey, Unicorn and the others are friendly ships who express little concerns about the horror and desolation of war, it becomes clear that the light-hearted antics of the latter group, of the ship girls and their unique idiosyncrasies and colourful personalities, are what characterise Azur Lane. As such, it would be grossly unfair to dismiss Azur Lane simply because of the series’ contrasting atmosphere and lack of adherence to historical authenticity: after three episodes, Enterprise’s development as a ship girl looks to be Azur Lane‘s priority. As she spends more time with the other vessels, Belfast in particular, she’ll come to discover a new reason for fighting and help the Azur Lane properly hold back the Red Axis’ machinations. Having established this, Azur Lane sets the expectations for the episodes upcoming, and I anticipate that the series will likely take on Kantai Collection‘s slice-of-life focus as it follows Enterprise learning more about her teammates, and through the course of both the ordinary and combat, she may come to appreciate what she means to everyone beyond being the Eagle Union’s top aircraft carrier.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the aftermath of the Red Axis attack, the Azur Lane forces are left to clean up and repair their base. At least one reviewer stated that this was intended to have parallels with Pearl Harbour, before mentioning Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Date that will live in infamy” speech and how the light mood in Azur Lane precluded anything meaningful from happening. Given the initial setup of Azur Lane, such a comparison is inappropriate, and such expectations are unreasonable.

  • The reviewer in question claims that there are too many unanswered questions in the anime, and while this is true, we are still early on in the season. Ultimately, their post goes on to label Azur Lane as “stupid”, dismissing it as something one should “turn their brain off while watching”. I’ve not seen this poor of a review from the blog Random Curiosity in a very long time, and while I have no qualms about negative reviews, this reviewer later argues in their comments that enjoying the show equates to letting one’s “feelings block analysis”.

  • In this case, the original post is not what analysis looks like, and it is a positive sign that Random Curiosity’s readers are pushing back on the reviewer’s approach. Had the individual taken the time to understand the contrast between Enterprise and the other ships, it would have become clear that Azur Lane is not meant to be serious despite Enterprise’s mannerisms. With that bit of foreword done, I return to discussion to Azur Lane proper, and deliberately choose to feature the same moment of Javelin accidentally being stripped after Laffey pulls down her shirt upon falling asleep.

  • Traces of Siren technology can be seen amongst the Iron Blood ship girls: alien-looking appendages can be seen on Prinz Eugen, who arrives to meet a recovering Kaga and Akagi. The interactions between the Iron Blood and Sakura Empire ship girls seems unnecessarily stiff and formal, perhaps indicating at their dislike for one another despite being allies. By comparison, the Eagle Union and Royal Navy ship girls get along much more naturally.

  • Enterprise is voiced by Yui Ishikawa, who I know best as Violet Evergarden‘s Violet Evergarden and Eromanga Sensei‘s Tomoe Takasago, as well as China Kousaka from Gundam Build Fighters. Laffey is played by Maria Naganawa: there are no surprises here, as Laffey sounds very similar to Kanna from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and Slow Start‘s Kamuri Sengoku. Seeing familiar voices return into new series is one of the joys of having been around the block for a while.

  • I yield that moments like these would be what makes writing about Azur Lane interesting, and I’m certain that readers would concur. With this being said, posts consisting purely of T & A cannot be very conducive towards interesting discussion: moments such as this fine view from behind the USS Helena naturally do not invite conversation about more noteworthy topics, such as performance and tactics.

  • Enterprise’s promptness to deploy into the battle does initially suggest a disregard for her own safety, but as I’ve mentioned in my anniversary post, I don’t assess characters for their personalities, decisions and actions at the start of a series. Instead, it is the sum of their growth throughout the series that counts. As such, while Enterprise’s serious personality very much puts her in sharp contrast with the other characters, I do not feel that this is a flaw that will continue to remain with her as Azur Lane continues.

  • Hornet of Azur Lane is modelled after the USS Hornet (CV-8), considered to be the younger sister of the Enterprise. Both are Yorktown-class carriers, and in particular, the Hornet was best known for its involvement in the Doolittle Raid during 1942, which marked the first time anyone had reached the Japanese islands and struck them. While the damage caused was minimal, it showed that the United States was capable of retaliating. The Hornet would later participate in the Battle of Midway and Solomon Islands campaign, where she would be sunk by Japanese destroyers after sustaining damage from dive bombers.

  • In combat with Zuikaku, Enterprise finds herself evenly matched only because her equipment begins to fail. Her desire to immediately enter a situation with the aim of doing good is an admirable one, but this haste to deploy means that while she might always be ready, her gear isn’t and thus, fails at inopportune times. While I share Enterprise’s sense of urgency when asked to do something, I always make certain that the outcome of whatever I am engaged in does not fall down to whether or not my equipment was ready. For example, in most games, I always make it a point to enter new missions with the best possible gear and fully-stocked consumables, and similarly, in real life, I do not typically approach something until I am satisfied that I can do what my assignments are.

  • While the Red Axis forces prove to be formidable, the arrival of the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth and her escorts prompts the Red Axis to retreat. Queen Elizabeth is modelled after the 1913 dreadnought battleship, which was commissioned in 1914 and served in the European theatre early in World War Two, before joining the Pacific theatre in 1943. The ship was given major upgrades in between the two world wars: her armour was increased, and additional guns were added along with new safety measures.

  • Even from a distance, the damage on Enterprise is visible: cracks appear on the large carrier deck-like shield. Unlike Kantai Collection, there does not yet appear to be any sort of consistency with respect to how the different costume pieces work out, and for my sanity, it would probably be easier to suppose that the ship girls of Azur Lane work more similarly to magical girls rather than mecha musume.

  • The page quote for this discussion is from Apple’s co-founder and former CEO, Steve Jobs: it mirrors my belief that trying to make sense of something only works when one is afforded with the big picture, or at least, hindsight. This is why I feel that Random Curiosity’s reviewer reached a conclusion with faulty reasoning that was based on emotion rather than analysis: two episodes in is too early to be dismissing the entire series on a few observations. I further note that the more mature, analytical approach would’ve simply be to say that the series was not to their liking, provide an example of another series that does it in a style they agree with, and then abstain from using historical references as the precedence for what Azur Lane should be.

  • In short, it is sufficient to say one didn’t like something, but it is not necessary to count those who did like something as having “tweet-length attention spans and don’t care about storytelling”. Broadly categorising those whose opinions are contrary to one’s own is a sign of weakness, and I’ve long argued that those looking for intellectual and philosophical discussion in anime featuring moé anthropomorphism are either being elitist or else lead a dreary existence where their intellect is not sufficiently challenged. Here, Belfast appears to save Enterprise from sustaining fatal damage, prompting Zuikaku to retreat.

  • For me, Azur Lane provides a fun experience, and while I do not particularly have many thoughts on the series’ events to the point where I can consistently write about it, I nonetheless do intend to continue watching Azur Lane. Outside of combat, the ship girls behave as ordinary youth might, preferring to lounge around and relax. One aspect of Azur Lane I’m enjoying is a subtle one: almost all of the screenshots feature incredibly azure skies, giving the anime a very warm, summer feeling. I’m particularly fond of Hornet’s expression here, and note that while I’m a newcomer to Azur Lane, I’m increasingly becoming fond of Hornet.

  • Such an atmospheric is especially welcome, now that the milder days of autumn are past and the nights have become increasingly long. The girls’ day at the beach is more typical with the atmosphere that Azur Lane projects. While some of the ship girls play beach volleyball, their match is disrupted when San Diego is attacked by a shark, leading to much hilarity as the others immediately transform and intervene with shells. The entire commotion is a noisy, turbulent and fun affair that shows what Azur Lane is about.

  • Funny facial expressions are typically absent in whole from serious anime, and moments like San Diego attempting to escape the maw of a shark mirror Hornet’s remarks, that the ship girls are more than combat units. On the topic of sharks, I’m reminded of the presence of the megaladon in the Battlefield series, an Easter egg I’ve never bothered spending the time to find. The last time I went hunting for an Easter Egg was for the Escalation skin in Battlefield 1.

  • Unicorn thanks Enterprise for having saved her, and expresses a love for the ocean that Enterprise does not share. Her cold presentation of the ocean prompts Unicorn to ask her if she fears the ocean, but she does not get a proper response. Enterprise’s bleak outlook stands in contrast with Hornet, but when asked what my favourite ships of the Second World War are, I would probably have to go with the USS Enterprise CV-6 or the USS Missouri BB-63 for their instrumental role in the Pacific Theatre.

  • A rainstorm blows in and ruins what was otherwise a flawless day at the beach, forcing everyone to take cover and dry off. Laffey shakes the water out of her hair in a hilarious manner, similar to that of a dog. However, while dogs can remove up to seventy percent of the water in their fur with one shake thanks to their having looser skin (and many mammals can excise water from themselves on a short order), humans don’t have this ability owing to the fact that our skin is relatively tight. Instead, our ingenuity allows us the luxury of towels, hair driers and other implements for removing water.

  • Belfast confronts Enterprise and informs her that the latter’s way of life is ultimately self-destructive. Enterprise has no response for Belfast, either, but a sudden distress call forces her to sortie along with a handful of available ship girls. When Enterprise arrives, she finds two damaged Dragon Empery cruisers. After making sure they are out of harm’s way, she makes to engage the damaged Siren battleship on her own, but when her gear fails yet again, Belfast arrives to bail her out.

  • Having seen why Enterprise fights, Belfast decides that Enterprise is worth keeping a closer eye on, and this brings the third episode to an end. After three episodes, I am having fun watching Azur Lane, but as I’ve stated on a few occasions, the route this series is likely to take means that there isn’t much that I can do in the way of writing about it every few episodes. Instead, I will be returning to write about Azur Lane as a whole once the finale airs in December. Similarly, having seen Rifle is Beautiful, I do not feel that there is much to write for there despite the series’ warm and easygoing mood. I will cover my thoughts on Rifle is Beautiful once the third episode airs and then do a whole-series talk on it come December. This leaves Kandagawa Jet Girls as the anime that has won extended coverage from me this season: I will be writing about the series at its halfway and three-quarters point once those milestones have been reached.

While Azur Lane looks exciting as a series to follow, the nature of the story also means that progression will have to take place incrementally: Enterprise will need to spend time both on and off the battlefield with her allies in order to learn things like trust and companionship. In conjunction with Azur Lane‘s deviation from historical events and authenticity in favour of a highly colourful cast and wacky antics, this means that Azur Lane looks to be a series that will be difficult to consistently write for: with realism and authenticity not figuring prominently, there is no reason to bring in historical details surrounding the ships themselves, or the battles that they fight in, and there is an upper limit to what I can do with everyday life at the Azur Lane base and smaller-scale battles that bear no resemblance to their real-world counterparts. As such, I will be returning once Azur Lane has concluded to look at the series in greater detail and see whether or not it succeeded in delivering a meaningful story over the course of its run. The verdict that I reach on this series will primarily be motivated by whether or not character growth and world-building occur to a satisfactory extent. My decision to not do a more extensive set of discussions for this series is not related to my enjoyment of the anime: so far, Azur Lane has proven to be quite entertaining because of the dynamics amongst the ship girls, and furthermore, the Red Axis’ presence and motivations are intriguing. I am looking forwards to seeing what their relationship with the Siren are, as well as whether or not Azur Lane will delve into more details surrounding their universe.

A Review and Reflection on HBO’s Chernobyl: Remarks on The Cost of Lies

“To be a scientist is to be naive. We are so focused on our search for truth, we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there, whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not. The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants. It doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time. And this, at last, is the gift of Chernobyl. Where I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask: “What is the cost of lies?'” –Valeri Legasov, Chernobyl

On the morning of April 27, 1986, reactor 4 at Chernobyl suffered a catastrophic explosion and fire. In the immediate aftermath, fire-fighter Vasily Ignatenko is sent in as part of the response unit to put the blaze out. Meanwhile, Plant Director Bryukhanov, Chief Engineer Fomin reach an agreement to downplay the disaster as a hydrogen explosion. Valery Legasov is sent to Chernobyl to provide technical expertise on managing the disaster after briefing the Soviet leadership, and scientist Ulana Khomyuk travels to Chernobyl to investigate the cause of an unusual radiation spike she recorded. Legasov confirms that the reactor core had indeed been exposed, and after suggesting the use of a sand-boron mixture to suppress the fire, learns of the risk of a steam explosion that could further spread radioactive material. Three divers are sent in to drain the flooded basement, and a group of coal miners are tasked with tunnelling under the power plant to install a heat exchanger and migitate the risk that the melt-down could seep into the ground water. Khomyuk begins investigating the plant technicians present during the night of the disaster, learning that the reactor only exploded after the emergency shutdown was initiated. Ignatenko’s wife travels to Moscow to visit him, and learns that he is dying from radiation exposure. Liquidators begin to clean up the areas affected by the disaster and stop the spread of radioactive material, while Pripyat, a town a few kilometers from Chernobyl, is evacuated as a part of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. A team of liquidators is sent to clear the power plant’s roof of the graphite, while Khomyuk implores Legasov to tell the truth about Chernobyl. At the IAEA in Vienna, Legasov goes with the official government version of what happened and Chernobyl, but during the trial for Dyatlov, Bryukhanov, and Fomin, Legasov reveals that the KGB had suppressed information about the RBMK reactor’s flaws. He is stripped of his duties for his efforts, and committed suicide two years after the disaster. HBO’s Chernobyl very quickly became an acclaimed series after its release, and despite liberties taken with the accuracy, remains a highly gripping and compelling drama portraying the Chernobyl disaster, which is the most devastating nuclear accident in history.

Chernobyl is categorised as a historical drama, and while the series does merit praise for its authenticity and ability to capture the human aspect of the Chernobyl disaster, one of the series greatest strengths is that it also exudes elements of a horror. The horror genre is characterised by the protagonist’s powerlessness to change their situation and plays on the audience’s fear of what will happen next. In order to accommodate this, homicidal maniacs, supernatural phenomenon or cryptids are present. The fear in a horror movie often lies in suspense, counting on a foe remaining unseen in order to inflict maximum terror when it does arrive. While Chernobyl may not involve murderers, ghosts or monsters, the series nonetheless features all of the elements of a horror. The full scope of the disaster is left unknown in the first episode – after the explosion occurs, parts of the plant’s interior goes dark as wiring is severed, and walls begin crumbling. Injured technicians begin vomiting and suffer from nausea, while those who can stand desperately try to save their coworkers. Firemen sent to the scene remain unaware of the disaster’s true nature and are exposed to radiation from graphite channels that housed the fuel rods. The radiation emitting from exposed reactor becomes this invisible foe haunting the Ukraine landscape, indiscriminately damaging the cells of those in the area. Through the use of darkness and chaos, the interior of the power plant is transformed into a setting of horror and suspense. In this manner, Chernobyl effectively utilises horror elements to capture the idea that mankind’s worst enemy lies not with chainsaw-swinging madmen, disaster harbingers like the Mothman or vengeful spirits, but come from our own hubris and the costs of lies. These man-made monsters can be every bit as terrifying as those that are fashioned from folklore and fiction: radiation creeps up on its victims, who are powerless to evade and overcome it. The suspense and horror are lessened as Chernobyl progresses as Legasov and Shcherbina work out a containment and cleanup plan, although the ever-present threat of radiation hangs over the heads of those who venture into the affected areas.

“Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.” –Valeri Legasov, Chernobyl

While Shcherbina directs the cleanup and containment efforts, Legasov and Khomyuk’s pursuit of the cause of the disaster leads them to the understanding that the RBMK type eactor used the Chernobyl plant had several intrinsic flaws. These flaws were redacted, and in conjunction with the arrogance of deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, resulted in the willful decision to bypass normal safety procedures. The reactor core, suffering from xenon poisoning as a result of having been run at a lower power level, began stalling, and Dyatlov ordered the power raised. However, when the power suddenly spiked, technician Akimov initiated an emergency shut-down. The graphite-tipped control rods would actually increase power, overwhelming the reactor and blowing the lid off, allowing oxygen to come into contact with the super-heated fuel rods, triggering a fire and explosion. Legasov recounts these discoveries to a Soviet court with a bitter finality, remarking that the sum of the design flaws, and Dyatlov’s disregard for protocol for the sake of his personal gain resulted in the disaster. In short, lies created the RMBK reactor’s flaws, and lies resulted in the disaster. Legasov’s biting remarks about the cost of lies at Chernobyl are vividly portrayed as the aftermath of the disaster: the rupture of a reactor and release of radioactive materials into the atmosphere, contamination of thousands of square kilometres of land, and necessitated the mobilisation of a large amount of resources, both human and material, to contain it. The liquidators, miners, fire-fighters and others who worked tireless to prevent the catastrophe from expanding were only met with health issues or even death, despite their efforts. Vast tracts of land remain uninhabitable to this day. Through its imagery, Chernobyl shows the human cost of the disaster, the results that occur when individuals allow complacency and their own egos to drive their decisions. It is therefore especially poignant when one considers Legasov’s suicide at Chernobyl‘s beginning: despite all of the good he did, all of the expertise he had and the chance to work with Shcherbina, a party official who came to respect Legasov for his actions, none of it would amount to anything in the end, as society would prefer to live with its lies rather than address the truth.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Chernobyl‘s opening is as brutal as it is chilling; after Legasov records his thoughts on the situation onto cassette tapes, he hangs himself. Legasov is shown as committing suicide precisely two years after the explosion, whereas in reality, Legasov committed suicide a few days after the fact. The introduction sets the tone for the remainder of the series, a grim portrayal of the odds that Legasov, Shcherbina and Khomyuk were up against in trying to contain the disaster and prevent another occurrence.

  • Long, narrow, dimly-lit corridors are a staple of horror movies. Koji Suzuki’s Dark Water and Ju-On use dark hallways to juxtapose the idea that despite the long sight-lines, darkness obscures an unknown and unseen terror. In Chernobyl, in the minutes after the reactor explodes, it is complete chaos as technicians find themselves in a damaged facility and Dyatlov openly denying that the RBMK reactor could explode. There are no onyrō here, but the terror of radiation and a facility whose structure has been compromised by the explosion.

  • The first episode creates a sense of dread and suspense that matches any horror movie, although the enemy here is radiation and lies, so there are no jump scares. The atmosphere was so heavy that it was tangible to me when I first watched the scene: from staff trying to rescue one another, to firefighters, the sense of unease and doubt comes from the fact that no one’s really sure what just went down.

  • By morning, a radioactive plume is hanging over the power plant, a result of the fires now burning thanks to the high temperatures generated by the fuel rods. The strikingly calm morning is contrasted with the disaster, and after one episode, I found myself hooked. The series released while I was attending F8, and I ended up watching it on Saturday evenings, one episode at a time, during May and June, until I finished the series.

  • While the radioactive smoke reaches ominously towards Pripyat, the forests below begin dying off. This is a reference to the Red Forest, a ten square kilometre area of pine trees that absorbed much radiation in the aftermath of the disaster and turned a ginger colour before dying. The forest has since been bulldozed and buried, but the soil above remains one of the most contaminated areas in the exclusion zone.

  • In Minsk, Belarus, scientist Ulana Khomyuk observes an unusually high amount of radiation and initially assumes it to be a nearby leak, but upon hearing it could be Chernobyl and realising communications have been lost, she resolves to get into the field herself. Khomyuk was not a real person, but instead, represents the scientists who were involved in the investigation surrounding the disaster.

  • The scene of the medical staff dumping the irradiated clothing of firefighters and first responders to the hospital basement depicts the chaos nurses had in treating those who were affected by radiation poisoning. While the official protocol was to wash down and dress the victims in new clothing, the affected were taken into the building, and their clothing was removed, discarded into rooms in the basement where they continue to lie today. Urban explorers usually dare not venture into the basement, since the clothes are still highly radioactive.

  • One aspect of Chernobyl that I greatly enjoyed was the changing dynamic between Legasov and Shcherbina. Shcherbina, a party official. Initially, Shcherbina starts out mistrustful of Legasov and regards him as expendable, even threatening to order him shot if the pilot does not fly over the exposed reactor, but Legasov’s commitment to the truth and knowledge impresses him. Over time, Shcherbina develops a professional respect for Legasov, vouching for him and offering him advice.

  • With my assignment in Denver and Winnipeg last year, I empathise with Legasov. Being sent with a unique skillset somewhere to manage a crisis, with few friends and numerous opponents, was not an enjoyable experience. Like Legasov remarks, for all the good that was done, people will continue to only focus on the damage and forget about the unsung heroes that preventing things from becoming much worse. In my case, the app that I deployed to the App Store is still there, although it has not been updated in more than a year.

  • Legasov lodges at the Polissya Hotel: it is one of the tallest buildings in Pripyat and was built to accommodate visitors to the power plant. I know the hotel best for being featured in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s most famous missions, where Price and MacMillan sneak through the fields surrounding Pripyat to use the hotel as a vantage point for assassinating Zakhaev. These missions remain two of the most memorable for me in any first person shooter, right alongside Halo: Combat Evolved‘s “Silent Cartographer”, “We Don’t Go To Ravenholm” of Half-Life 2 and the original DOOM‘s first mission.

  • Legasov’s plan begins moving into action as helicopters begin dropping a sand-boron mixture onto the fire. This mixture is deemed a temporary solution: boron absorbs neutrons and the sand acts as a fire retardant. While there was indeed a helicopter crash at Chernobyl, it was not from radioactive fumes overwhelming the helicopter pilots. Chernobyl is authentic, but not realistic in the series: the series takes creative liberties in order to tie some events together better to fit the story and theme, and so, cannot be said to be an entirely faithful account of all events. The sand and boron, for instance, actually never made it into the reactor and therefore had a negligible impact in impeding the fire.

  • While some may hold this as a fault against Chernobyl, I personally don’t have any qualms with deviation from reality. Here, a woman looks on as bus after bus (after bus) drives by, heading towards Pripyat with the aim of evacuating its residents. Pripyat was originally a town of around fifty thousand people, built to accommodate the Chernobyl plant’s workers, technicians and engineers, as well as support staff and their families. Compared to most Soviet cities, Pripyat was well-appointed, with restaurants, culture centres, and an aquatic centre, amongst other things.

  • A day after the disaster, Pripyat was completely evacuated as a precaution. Residents were told they would be returning home soon, and as such, they left most of their belongings behind. Today, Pripyat stands empty, a ghost town that nature has begun reclaiming. The deserted town is popular amongst tourists, and while the radiation here is largely not of concern, there are pockets that could pose health risks for visitors.

  • Legasov’s strongest trait in Chernobyl is an unwavering desire to do his job well and respect the truth: while the Soviet party members and Mikhail Gorbachev himself are shown as preferring false hope to the truth, Legasov plows forwards with his assessments and proposals of containment, as well as openly pointing out the risks of inaction. He and Khomyuk report on the potential for a massive steam explosion to occur should the molten reactor come into contact with the water that has seeped into the basement.

  • Thus begins one of the most terrifying moments in Chernobyl: three men volunteer to enter the flooded, highly-radioactive basement and open the sluice gate that will let the water drain outside and be pumped away. Wading into a pitch-black, partially-flooded corridor, the men’s dosimeters begin emitting an overwhelming amount of noise, signalling to viewers just how radioactive it is down there. As the push onwards, the intense radiation causes their flashlights to fail. There are no spectres or monsters down here, but it was nonetheless a terrifying moment. In the end, however, they do manage to get the gates opened, and return to the surface alive.

  • The pressures of the containment and investigation take their tolls on both Legasov and Shcherbina: Legasov in particular is under KGB surveillance, since his role in disaster management puts him in contact with secrets surrounding the RBMK reactor. While Chernobyl is a brilliant drama, the creative liberties the series takes are not representative of a late 1980s Soviet Union – Shcherbina did not have the authority to order Legasov shot, for instance.

  • Besides Legasov, Khomyuk and Shcherbina, the story of Ignatenko’s wife is also told. After Ignatenko is exposed to a high dose of radiation, he is hospitalised and sent to a facility in Moscow for care, but soon dies. His pregnant wife comes into contact with him and loses her child shortly after: while she felt that this might have been from exposure to Ignatenko, this could not have been the cause of the child’s death, since those exposed to radiation are not necessarily radioactive.

  • The soundtrack in Chernobyl adds much to the already-exceptional atmosphere: composed by Icelandic musician Hildur Guðnadóttir, the soundtrack makes use of actual sounds from a nuclear power plant to create an incredibly unsettling tenour, giving a tangible sense of what the radiation and uncertainty feels like. Guðnadóttir’s work is genius, and for her exceptional work, she was nominated for an Emmy. She also scored the incidental music to The Joker.

  • Khomyuk’s efforts to find the truth sees her interviewing Akimov, Toptunov and Dyatlov: the former two tell a consistent story as the other engineers who were in the control room on the night of the explosion, but Dyatlov is uncooperative and belligerent. The real Dyatlov was perhaps as unpleasant as the Chernobyl portrayal, and he allegedly did threaten subordinates with dismissal if they did not carry out his orders. Dyatlov was ultimately sentenced to ten years in prison and was released after three, dying of heart failure from exposure to radiation.

  • When rovers deployed to clear the roof of its radioactive debris fail, human cleaners are forced to hit the roof and manually remove the rubble. They are afforded only 90 seconds of work time before they are swapped out, and after an ardous effort, manage to clear the rooftops. A Sarcophagus was constructed to temporarily entomb the structure and prevent wind from dispersing the contaminants, but this structure was only intended to last three decades. In 1996, it was found the Sarcophagus was beyond repair, and two years later, the New Safe Confinement project was approved. This engineering marvel was not designed to just cover the site, but also has a pair of cranes that allow for the destroyed reactor to be dismantled. Construction on the project began in 2010 and finished last year, in 2018.

  • One of the conflicts in Chernobyl is Legasov’s loyalty to his discipline pitted against his loyalty to the party. When he is sent to Vienna, he initially lies about Chernobyl and gives the impression that the other RBMK reactors remain safe to operate. However, Khomyuk, having gone to great lengths to figure out what happened at Chernobyl, implores Legasov to be truthful during the Chernobyl trial.

  • Chernobyl makes extensive use of imagery to show the scope and scale of the disaster: while the radiation is invisible, its impact can still be tangibly felt. The fields of abandoned vehicles near Pripyat are a striking example: these were vehicles that were deployed to help with containment operations, and after the disaster was deemed under control, they were left in the fields owing to their high radioactivity. The derelict vehicles remain there to this day, where more intrepid visitors have since visited. Following the release of Chernobyl, foreign interest in the area increased, and with it, tourists who desired to walk through Pripyat and see the abandoned town for themselves.

  • Chernobyl is an excellent series, but despite its grim theme and horror-like presentation, the more irreverent folks have taken to discussing the series in terms of internet memes, a reductionist approach that strips the series of its weight and meaning. Chernobyl deals with a complex topic, and isolating the mini-series into individual quotes taken out of context means that the themes of truth are lost in the process. In general, I am not fond of internet memes for this reason, since it stands contrary to my synthesis-driven, big-picture approach towards things.

  • The fifth and final episode of Chernobyl reveals that owing to power requirements in Kiev, the Chernobyl plant was run at half-capacity to provide energy while at the same time, preparing the reactor for Dyatlov’s safety test, where he would attempt to power the backup systems using the reactor’s residual energy. However, running the reactor at reduced capacity introduced an excess of xenon, which is a neutron moderator. The technicians struggled to control the power for the test, causing an impatient Dyatlov to order the others to raise the power at any cost.

  • In the end, the sum of Dyatlov’s arrogance, and the fact that the technicians were not aware of the impact of graphite-tipped control rods, would bring about disaster. The latter was the consequence of lies, of the Soviet government suppressing the flaws inherent in the original RBMK designs. The debt that Legasov refers to is that the science behind the explosion is unyielding, irrespective of the operator’s emotions and personal opinions. Thus, to ignore it is to create a situation that becomes increasingly difficult to manage, until the point where, emotions and opinions or not, the events that science states to occur will in fact happen.

  • During a break in court proceedings, Shcherbina admits to Legasov that despite his position, he is no one important and expresses open respect for Legasov, while Legasov reciprocates this respect, stating that Shcherbina’s position allowed him to act and help prevent any more loss of life. While the two may have gotten off to a rocky start, their professional relationship grows steadily stronger – the two embody the idea that politics and science can not only co-exist, but also be capable of cooperation. This was rather touching aspect about Chernobyl, and while politics and science of the contemporary period seem at odds with one another, I think that in the end, trust will always be returned to those who deal in and seek facts.

  • One of my biggest dislikes are people who would go to the length of propagating a lie in order to avoid looking like a hypocrite: there is some ingrained belief in society that hypocrisy is the worst human fault of all, and that it is a sin to merely hold seemingly contradictory thoughts. In order to retain their social stock, it must therefore be acceptable to lie with the aim of appearing consistent. However, lying has worse consequences than being a hypocrite: Chernobyl shows that by allowing untruths to seep into a system, it becomes impossible to differentiate between fact and fiction.

  • At the end of the day, hypocrisy is judged by the gap between one’s actions and words, rather than different words held by an individual (as many on the internet appear to believe), and therefore, the act of calling someone a hypocrite is a logical fallacy. I have significantly more respect for those who adhere to the truth, drawing conclusions with a combination of facts and my own judgement. I won’t think poorly of someone who holds moderate, contradictory thoughts or those who change their mind on something, but to lie and distort the truth (especially with emotions) is something that is unacceptable.

  • Legasov’s explanations of what precisely went wrong in the control room and reactor on the morning of the accident ends with the reactor exploding: the first episode only shows the explosion in implicit terms, with Ignatenko seeing the explosion from the distance in his Pripyat apartment, and the aftermath shown in the reactor room. This created an incredibly powerful sense of unease that would have not been present had the explosion been shown close-up as it was in the finale. This was a solid choice, and on the whole, Chernobyl represents what is possible in terms of cinematography with respect to how changing the ordering and perspective of an event can have a clear impact on atmospherics.

  • I realise that this post on Chernobyl is probably one of the most pessimistic talks I’ve ever written, and stands in stark contrast with what I had espoused for my eighth anniversary post, no less. However, this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Chernobyl – the opposite of that is true, as I deeply enjoyed watching this series for its incredible atmospherics, solid performances and a theme that, while relevant to the disaster itself, also can be applicable to society. I strongly recommend this HBO mini-series to all of my readers: besides providing an account of the people who worked tirelessly to migitate the disaster’s effects and contain it, Chernobyl is also about as close to a horror movie as one can get without any jump scares or onryō.

Legasov’s words extend far beyond Chernobyl and speak about the bleakness of society’s current attitudes towards facts and truth. The spread of misinformation on social media means that the truth is the first casualty: from the Trump administration’s adverse reaction to facts, to the dissemination of skewed and incomplete information from the Hong Kong Anti-Extradition riots, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. Even in the workplace, lies and complacency can become a problem: I have experience with this first hand. A year ago, I was originally brought in to validate and verify the existing functionality, as well as bring a few remaining work items to completion, for a mobile application for a computational oncology company. This company had sourced its development work to a consultancy in Winnipeg, and my involvement required working with a senior application developer who was rather similar to Dyatlov in stature and style: unpleasant and arrogant, this developer would constantly inform management that the lack of progress was a problem on my end, in order to cover up his own inability to implement a functional series of endpoints for the mobile app to utilise, and justified the complex, six-step registration system as a requirement for HIPAA compliance even if it came at the expense of usability. Despite the constant delays this senior application developer created through their incompetence and blame-shifting, I managed to complete my assignment of ensuring the mobile app was functional, successfully deployed to the App Store. I went on my way, and this senior application developer was dismissed, although like Legasov’s thoughts about Dyatlov’s punishment, I feel that his penalty was far too light: said developer would later find secure employment at a large insurance firm across the way from the hotel I stayed at while working on the project. Chernobyl offers viewers a glimpse as to what lies can do, and it is terrifying to suppose that those who would spread falsehoods continue to do so for their own gain, even in the knowledge that the cost of lies renders a debt that must be paid for in blood. It is an unfortunate state of things that lies and misinformation are as rampant as they are in society, but ultimately, as Legasov states in Chernobyl‘s ending, the truth will always be around and resist all efforts to bury it. This is an encouraging thought, since it means that for all the damage lies have done, the truth will endure and have its day eventually. For my readers, then, I would therefore ask a modicum of scepticism when reading about things, as well as always exercising one’s own judgement before accepting a claim – while respect for the truth continues to erode, we nonetheless have a responsibility to observe and respect it.