The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: personal reflection

Five years since the MCAT: A Personal Reflection

“You’ll do really good you know, I’ll pray for your success! But you got it. Tell me how it goes after, and go buy something sweet afterwards! You should reward yourself with something yummyy~” —Ab imo pectore

As the title states, five years have now elapsed since I took the MCAT, and in the time that has passed, quite a bit has changed. For one, the AAMC has revised their exam such that there are now five sections, taking a total of seven-and-a-half hours to complete, compared to the 1994-2014 version of the exam: the computerised variant in 2007 could be finished in around five hours. In this time, my old MCAT expired, meaning that if I were to still retain any aspirations for a Medical Doctor degree, I would need to face down the new MCAT. This is something I’m unlikely to do, but at this five-year mark, the impact of taking an MCAT and the associated preparation for the exam remains a very profound one for me. There are bits and pieces of these recollections in the blog, especially in the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare posts, and the short of it is that I spent three months of my summer in 2012 preparing for the exam, spending many a summer day poring over textbooks and review material, occasionally stopping by the medical campus to review with friends who had previously taken the exam and were gracious enough to offer assistance, or else whiled away short breaks in the library, watching anime on an iPad during mornings before my MCAT preparation courses. Through the combination of sheer willpower, unending support from my friends and a bit of luck, I left my exam feeling as though a large weight were lifted from me: under the golden light of an evening sun, I stepped out for dinner at a Chinese-style bistro and greatly enjoyed this despite it not being something sweet as one of my friends recommended. I then proceeded to sleep the best sleep I’d slept all summer. Now, the summer lay ahead, and I spent the remainder on it working on my first-ever publication, as well as shoring up my old renal model in preparation for my final year in the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme.

  • Besides long days spent studying for exams, one of the most vivid memories I have of 2012 was the fact that, owing to a frayed cable coming into the house, my broadband internet connection intermittently disconnected that summer, making doing full-length practise exams at home impossible. I recall a memorable July morning that I spent doing a practise exam and finished, scoring a 30T on it, right before the internet cut out. After lunch, I watched Survivorman and took the day easy. The connection eventually became so problemmatic that I did my final full-length exam on campus, using my lab’s Mac Pro, during one afternoon, before heading out to dinner at Bobby Chao’s with family. Here, I scored the 33T, and entering the exam, I was feeling much more confident.

  • This is a screenshot of my exam results. With encouragement from a friend, I walked into the exam a little nervous, but striving to do my best. Said friend’s constant, upbeat encouragement and support gave me a huge sense of comfort, and when my exam results came out, I was pleasantly surprised. However, as my undergraduate thesis wore on, I wondered if medicine would really be the best career path for me, and so, I took another year to figure that out while my friend took an exchange program in Japan. Our paths diverged here – they were broadening their horizons and chasing their dreams in Japan while I busied myself with learning more about software and learning to appreciate my home town more.

  • While we have gone our separate ways, it is appropriate to thank this individual once more: looking back, these experiences have also been integral in shaping who I am. Perhaps in the future, there’ll be a chance to do things over again properly. For now, this brings my reminiscences very nearly to a close: I do not think I will mention the MCAT again as it fades into memories past. I assure readers that future posts will return to the realm of the subjects I am wont to dealing with; this unusual segue is the consequence of the five-year mark passing on my MCAT, the point where scores usually expire.

A month later, my results arrived; I have previously not mentioned my scores at this blog, but with my scores expired, there is no harm in revealing them now. On my MCAT, I scored a 35T (the true score is likely between 33 and 37, inclusive), having managed to squeak by in verbal reasoning with a 10. The AAMC conversion estimates that of the people taking the exam, only four percent scored above me, and in today’s standards, a 35T approximates to a 517. Five years after the MCAT, my score has largely become a number now, with limited applicability except perhaps acting as a conversation topic for dinner parties. While the exam score itself may not hold a particularly great deal of importance, the experiences leading up to the MCAT and the attendant learnings would forever change the way I approach challenges. The summer also led to a first for me: I liken it to a variant of Tsuki ga Kirei where things don’t work quite so nicely, but as that story’s already been recounted in full previously, I won’t detail it too much further. While undoubtedly painful, I do not regret that things happened; it was reassuring to have someone provide support and encouragement during the MCAT, and although our paths have separated, I’ve not forgotten what they’ve done to help me. While the MCAT may initially appear to have been quite unnecessary, considering my eventual directions and the costs associated with preparing for the exam, in retrospect, this was an exam where the experiences conferred were those that proved to be quite helpful, whether it be learning how to read and problem-solve efficiently or how to handle stress. These learnings would subsequently allow me to wrap up my undergraduate and graduate programmes on a high note, contributing to how I approach problem-solving even today.

Sakura Quest: Impressions and Review at the ¾ Mark

“They will break upon Warayiba like water on rock. Manoyama’s leaders will cut infrastructure and bureaucratise processes, we’ve seen it before. Bus routes can be reestablished. Traditions archived. Within these walls, we will outlast them.” –Théoden King, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

In the aftermath of the Founding Festival, Yoshino learns that their efforts have yielded very little by ways of generating interest in Manoyama, and despairing, she returns home for a vacation, meeting up with her family and friends. While attending the local festival, she realises that home is a place to return to, and revitalised, she returns to Manoyama with renewed spirit. Meanwhile, Sanae and Ririko have been working on a programme to bolster tourism numbers by turning unused residences into Bed and Breakfasts, enticing Spanish cryptid hunters to visit. Manoyama also begins draining Sakura pond to manage bass populations, attracting visitors. Ushimatsu grows troubled by the event and very nearly drowns after jumping in upon spotting something. He is hospitalised, and it turns out that five decades earlier, he, Chitose and Doku were friends in a band planning to go to Tokyo for post-secondary, but on the day of Manoyama’s Mizuchi festival, his actions led to the event being cancelled and eventually forgotten. Yoshino, recalling the effect of her hometown’s festival, feels that restoring the Mizuchi festival is a step in bringing people back to Manoyama, being a place they can return to. In order to formally do so, she and the tourism board must recover three sacred treasures. Consulting with a local anthropology professor living in Warayiba, Yoshino learns that at least one of the artefacts is in a warehouse. When it is revealed that the bus route will stop servicing the area, Sanae decides to teach the elderly how to use tablets and the internet, with the aim of connecting them and reduce their reliance on the bus routes, while simultaneously crowd-sourcing their efforts to find the treasure. Armed with their new-found knowledge of the internet, the elderly people of Warayiba cede from Manoyama in order to raise awareness of their challenges. Yoshino learns that the professor also took advantage of the situation to help digitise the way of life in Warayiba, preserving it, while Sanae helps develop a website for helping make shuttle bus reservations, helping the locals travel about more easily. Moved by the changes, the professor gives Yoshino the location of one of the treasures before passing away.

By this point in Sakura Quest, the development of the narrative has exceeded all expectations; from Yoshino’s understanding of what makes a place worth returning to, to the efforts that she and the others commit towards solving regional problems while in pursuit of a larger goal, Sakura Quest seamlessly weaves all of the events together in an insightful manner that provides a glimpse into the challenges that Japan faces with its aging rural population. Moreover, while the bigger picture is always in the back of the Yoshino and the others’ minds, they nonetheless demonstrate exemplary commitment in putting an effort into making a positive difference for people living in both Manoyama and Warayiba. This attention to detail without losing sight of the grand scheme is mirrored in Sakura Quest, which strikes a fine balance in illustrating subtleties and illuminating the story’s eventual goal. From the unique adaptations Warayiba’s folks have taken to survive in the mountains, to the consequences of anonymity on the internet, Sakura Quest portrays elements with an exceptional degree of realism to the extent that the anime is more than immersive – it is instructive, reminding audiences that people everywhere have developed very unique adaptations in their lifestyles that allow them to survive in a range of climates and geographies. Simply, Sakura Quest is a wonderful example of anthropology in a fictional setting that reminds audiences of how much culture and values stand to be forgotten if an honest effort is not made to respect these traditions and long-standing ideas, especially in a country such as Japan, where the countryside continues to depopulate as youth move into the cities in search of new opportunity.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • No words will be minced in this post – I have not been this impressed with an anime since CLANNAD: After Story. Thus, at the half-way point between the half-way point and the ending, I return to provide some additional thoughts on what I feel about Sakura Quest. Discussion opens with a view from Yoshino’s bedroom window, overlooking her hometown. The harbour is visible, overlooking the endless expanse of ocean underneath a morning sky and it is a fantastic view, capturing flawlessly the image in my mind’s eye of a beautiful Japanese summer.

  • Because there is so much to discuss, I will feature thirty images in this post and provide thirty corresponding figure captions, opening with some scenery around Yoshino’s home. After a terrifying nightmare where she finds herself being tied to a pole and effectively “stoned” by manjū for her failures, Yoshino reawakens at home. The change of scenery, and opportunity to catch up with old friends provides Yoshino with a newfound perspective on things after she feels her efforts have amounted to nothing in bringing Manoyama back.

  • That Yoshino feels this way about Manoyama demonstrates that she has grown to care for the town, extending beyond her initial obligations to help out as a part of her original contract. It’s quite touching to see her developing a connection to a small town of the sort she was trying to escape while in Tokyo, and during times such as these, taking a step back is a reasonable course of action. She wheels her bike down a slope here, with the local scenery in her hometown visible.

  • Yesterday and today have conveyed a sense of déjà vu; just like the last time I wrote about Sakura Quest, I stepped out for dinner at a Hong Kong-style bistro nearby tonight, as well. This time, I ordered the “American style mixed grill”, which features grilled chicken, pork chop, beef and ham in addition to corn on the cob and fries with a side of fried rice: these sizzling steaks are cooked on a hot metal plate and gain their name from the sizzle resulting from pouring a sauce, usually black pepper, onto the meats. They are popular in Hong Kong, and are absolutely delicious: to have an authentic taste of this at home is such a treat.

  • Ririko and Sanae count Manoyama as home: while everyone else has departed for their vacations, they stay behind to continue brainstorming on how they can elevate interest in Manoyama. With her experiences following the torching of an abandoned residence, Sanae proposes converting other unoccupied buildings in Manoyama into Bed and Breakfast establishments. While viable, there are regulations and guidelines that must be followed: the process is an investment, as older buildings will need renovations and updates to ensure they fall within regulations. In my province, for instance, all potential Bed and Breakfast owners must apply for a business license and conform to the terms established in this document.

  • Sanae meets up with her friends in Tokyo over drinks and dinner at a ritzy restaurant – they note that since moving to Manoyama, she’s become much more confident and decisive during discussions of the challenges they each face at work. Of all the characters working with the tourism board, I relate most closely with Sanae, who similarly has a technology background and works in a highly-paced environment. Her other assets include possessing attributes that make her the butt of some jokes. I’ve previously mentioned that all of the characters are likeable and relatable in their own manner: this is one of the great strengths of Sakura Quest.

  • Moe and Maki spend time with one another at a local pub with beers and grilled foods in hand. Moe believes that Maki is a capable actress and, after inviting her to a play she’s performing in, suggests that Maki attend a workshop hosted by a famous director with the hope of re-lighting her passion in acting. Difficulties in a profession can lead individuals to outwardly lose their love for it, and as Moe understands, it sometimes just takes a little encouragement for people to re-discover a passion.

  • There aren’t any festivals in my area quite with the same atmosphere as a Japanese-style summer festival, but the closest we have is the Calgary Stampede. However, even with the Stampede over, there’s still GlobalFest Calgary, a cultural festival characterised by its fireworks. There’s no shortage of summer-y things to do – just yesterday, I decided to make the most of the summer weather and bought a slush at a nearby convenience store. Summer is the time for enjoying frozen desserts, and it was refreshing to savour a slush while running around in Battlefield 1‘s conquest, kicking ads and taking names. 

  • It turns out that Yoshino has a younger sister, Nagisa, who is in high school. Her parents share a story about how her father managed to convince her mother to stay in their home town, while Nagisa’s presence mirrors the carefree time that being a student entails, standing in contrast with Yoshino, who is working and therefore, subject to the attendent stresses. These conversations with the people closest to her have a considerable impact on her outlook, and emboldened by the prospect of her family visiting Manoyama, Yoshino regains her sense of determination to Make Manoyama Great Again℠.

  • The composition of this view overlooking their town, with the gentle orange light of the lanterns in the foreground and Yoshino preparing to try some Japanese-style grilled squid, is quite magical. This is why I’ve had quite a bit to say about the fourteenth episode alone; it marks the turning point in Sakura Quest where Yoshino has a solid motivation to improve Manoyama beyond satisfying her own ego. Of course, it’s not all fun and games when she returns: in the time that she’s been gone, a Mexican…armada shows up, with shirts made with in…incorrect kanji.

  • I may have lapsed into a bit of a Rick and Morty moment there, but I was not lying about the Spanish tourists who show up in Manoyama: cryptid hunters interested in the Chupacabra pay the town a visit, and despite the language barrier, they settle in quickly, befriending the locals and enjoying the atmosphere in the area. Ririko and one of the female travellers exchange contract information owing to their shared interests in cryptids, promising to meet again and perhaps even travel the world together.

  • Rural sunsets in anime are always depicted in stunning detail; for all of is more uncommon content, Yosuga no Sora is one such instance, making use of golds and oranges to create a sense of longing characters face by covering the landscape in a warm light. By summer, the longer-wavelength lights usually appear later in the day, leading to golden sunsets, but in winter, the lower elevation means that even afternoon light has an evening-like quality to it.

  • As Sakura Pond is being drained, Ushimatsu begins to behave contrary to his usual self, staring into the slowly-draining Sakura Pond with Doku, one of his long-time friends. I imagine that this is the locale that gives Sakura Quest its name. A question that is often posed is what separates a pond from a lake, and the answer is the depth: a lake is sufficiently deep so that sunlight does not reach all the way to the bottom, and also has distinct layers separated by temperature. Ponds are shallower; sunlight can reach the bottom and they lack the temperature stratification, so in some places, ponds can freeze solid.

  • By nightfall, something prompts Ushuimatsu to swim out into the pond, although he’s unable to swim effectively and ultimately, Sandal jumps into the water to rescue him. A transient character with an air of mystery about him, his combination of enigmatic words and somewhat broken Japanese makes him an entertaining character to have around, although there are also occasions where he lends his wisdom to Yoshino and the others.

  • After succumbing to fever, Ushimatsu is hospitalised, and the draining of Sakura Pond continues. It turns out that Chitose and Ushimatsu were close friends during high school. Disgusted with the lack of opportunity in Manoyama even fifty years previously, Chitose, Doku and Ushimatsu planned to leave Manoyama and pursue a career in Tokyo. However, at the last moment, Ushimatsu backed out, deciding that he would stay behind to try and make a difference. He ended up toppling a float that was a integral part of the Mizuchi Festival, leading to its cancellation, and the float ends up being a source of shame for Ushimatsu, explaining his actions.

  • During her youth, Chitose looks like a more energetic, outgoing Ririko. The smile on her face as she considers the prospect of ditching Manoyama is a world apart from her current scowl; she’s quite a different person as a result of the events that have happened in her life since, and Ushimatsu’s actions presumably led their friendship to decay, explaining why she and Ushimatsu do not get along so well.

  • My days as a student have not faded entirely into oblivion yet, and so, I vividly remember the sort of personality the anthropology professor brings to the table when Yoshino and the others visit to ask about one of the Sacred Treasure’s whereabouts, giving them a challenge in the process of figuring out how to find it and also asking of them what their definition of home is, explaining that while he did not intend to live in Manoyama, circumstances have led him to develop an interest and reason to stay despite the area’s declining population and services, such as the proposed cancellation of a bus route out to Warayiba.

  • The challenge of finding the treasure prompts Sanae to bring her own skills to bear: she sets the seniors up tablets and introduces them to the internet such that they can remain in touch with one another more easily. As the seniors learn this technology, some aspects of the internet, such as anonymity bringing out hostilities amongst individuals, are accurately captured. Fortunately, these misunderstandings are quickly reconciled. However, Yoshino and Sanae appear a bit embarrassed at what the seniors do, as they live stream seemingly mundane or trivial everyday components of their lives.

  • Takamizawa and Erika trade verbal blows when the latter suggests that self-driving vehicles could render bus drivers obsolete in a very short period of time. The incorporation of advances in technology and their effects on society are a major focus of Sakura Quest‘s seventeenth and eighteenth episode. Advancement of technology, automation and machine learning are inevitable, and ultimately, it’s up to people to keep in touch with the progress or risk being left behind: even though I’m a part of the group that grew up with advancing technology, things are moving so rapidly that even someone like myself feels it to be a bewilderingly fast progression.

  • My own quest to capture as many of Yoshino’s funny faces continues, although by this point in Sakura Quest, it is becoming apparent that such moments are both uncommon relative to the number of funny faces seen from Aoi Miyamori of Shirobako, and nowhere near as exaggerated as those seen in Shirobako. Here, Yoshino reacts to the prospect of being a hostage for the professor and Warayiba’s elderly, but she ends up helping them, feeling compelled to assist in their goals after Warayiba’s residents announce their intention to break off from the Manoyama jurisdiction. The page quote, then, is inspired by their actions, walling up and making a bit of a ruckus to draw attention from the world.

  • The seniors ultimately capitalise on their newfound knowledge of streaming and capture technologies to digitally archive subtleties about their learnings in Warayiba, whether it be preparing a particular dish or their work. Here, Yoshio, Shiori and Ririko follow some elderly ladies during a hunt for mushrooms: while they can’t tell poisonous mushrooms from edible ones, the seniors can, reflecting on how a lifetime of living in the area has imparted on them knowledge that best suits their survival.

  • Using the mechanised exoskeletons that Doku’s constructed, Warayiba residents prepare sidings to help deflect snow and prevent it from amassing on walls. It is such a nice touch that Doku’s exoskeletons are still being used at this point in the game; it’s a strong reminder that Sakura Quest pays attention to the details without losing sight of the bigger context. While Manoyama’s precise location is never disclosed, being similar to the location of Springfield of The Simpsons or where Calvin and Hobbes occurs, the mention of snow narrows down the locations by a small margin, as does knowledge of how long it’d take to get to Tokyo.

  • Inspection of annual snowfall maps narrows Manoyama’s location to Toyama, Nagano, Niigata, Yamagata and Akita. If memory serves, it takes around three hours to get to Tokyo by train from Manoyama, so Toyama or Niigata seem to be likely candidates for Manoyama’s setting. Of course, I imagine that once Sakura Quest finishes airing, supplementary materials will detail which parts of Japan inspired Manoyama; it will be interesting to see how close or how far off I was in my predictions.

  • One of the details that I really enjoyed in Sakura Quest‘s eighteenth episode was the explanation for the lanterns that Warayiba’s residence place in front of their homes by evening. A lit lantern indicates the occupant is safe, showing neighbours that things are normal at a particular household. It’s a sign that people of this area, then, are very closely knit: harsh climates and terrain typically motivate a region’s occupants to work together and survive, hence the strong sense of community.

  • Sanae’s conversations with the professor eventually lead her to devise a solution for the bus route challenge: she builds a web app that allows users to book shuttle rides that pick them up right at their doorstep and drops them off at their destination. Takamizawa agrees this pilot project, remarking that the web has made it feasible to do a direct-to-door service, since the web server handles the role of a receptionist. Without another employee on the payroll, such a program becomes more feasible from a financial perspective, finally allowing it to come to fruition.

  • Although insecure and worried about this prospect sufficiently to pick a fight with a child, Takamizawa eventually does as reasonably expected and embraces technology, resolving to do his best until his time has come. Yoshino is quite excited about the prospects of a such a program, feeling that it’s the solution that the professor was seeking from the folks in Manoyama. It’s a pleasant outcome for the professor and area residents; the former admits that he had no intention of actually following through and intended the exercise to raise awareness of the challenges Warayiba faces.

  • Yoshino and the others, then, have exceeded expectations through their actions in helping out, showing that the Tourism Board’s efforts to help Manoyama have not been in vain. With this incredible surge of momentum, audiences exit the eighteenth episode feeling fantastic: it’s the ending that Yoshino and the others deserve, having worked so hard towards making reality the solutions that can beginning addressing some of Warayiba’s difficulties.

  • However, the professor passes away from old age as the episode draws to a close. Unexpected, and a bit saddening, it puts a bit of a dampener on the episode. Nonetheless, in his passing, the professor departs with the knowledge that he was able to learn enough and make a difference, raising awareness of the lifestyles and tribulations faced by residents living in rural areas.  His final act is fulfilling his promise: he lets Yoshino know of one of the Treasures’ locations, and after paying their respects, the Tourism Board make use of the new shuttle programme to bring this immense artefact back into Manoyama.

  • Yoshino wilts when she sees the first Treasure, a large spear. Sakura Quest is enjoyable for a different set of reasons than Shirobako, having an incredible diversity in artwork and also being a little more unconventional compared to the down-to-earth aspects of Shirobako. My earlier remarks on these work/drama productions on P.A. Works being their most enjoyable continues to stand as the eighteenth episode draws to a close, and I will be returning at the penultimate episode to offer some remarks on where Sakura Quest is in the future. For now, the next major posts on the horizon will deal with Łupków Pass of Battlefield 1, and the upcoming Brave Witches OVA.

As a consequence of the directions Sakura Quest has taken as of late, Sakura Quest has proven to be something that continues to exceed expectations each passing episodes. While seemingly about Yoshino’s experiences in Manoyama, Sakura Quest has developed into something far greater than any one individual. Eighteen episodes into Sakura Quest, it becomes clear that Yoshino and the others are banking on restoration of the Mizuchi Festival to help Manoyama stand out on the map. The journey towards accomplishing this goal will certainly take Yoshino and the Tourism Board on further adventures (and misadventures) in the manner that P.A. Works has become so adept at wielding: the masterful combination of the comedic and dramatic come together to really bring Manoyama and its residents to life. I find myself asking how Sakura Quest manages to impress, and I answer myself that the sum of its elements in conjunction create a highly complex world, bringing together the detail-oriented facets of Shirobako and the premise of revitalising a small town premise from Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita. Not quite as ordinary as Shirobako or light-hearted as Locodol, Sakura Quest incorporates the strongest elements of both to yield an anime that’s offered no shortage of entertainment and material for discussion. With all of these aspects in mind, I am greatly interested in seeing what journey awaits Yoshino and the Tourism Board as they strive to bring back the Mizuchi Festival and make a tangible difference for a small town.

Is The Order a Giant Walkthrough Brain?: On the use of setting to immerse users in virtual spaces

“An author knows his landscape best; he can stand around, smell the wind, get a feel for his place.” ―Tony Hillerman

The construction of neurosurgeon Joseph Bogen’s “Modest Proposal” for a Giant Walkthrough Brain museum into a special performance that was one part musical and one part science lecture during 2014 represented a pivotal milestone for game engine environments: built for the Beakerhead 2014 performances, the Giant Walkthrough Brain utilised the Unity game engine to present a virtual space that augmented Jay Ingram and his band’s performance. By providing 3D visualisations of the locations within the brain, audiences immediately connected with the different areas of the brain and their attendant stories, following figures in brain history ranging from Phineas Gage to Auguste Deter. By all counts, the Giant Walkthrough Brain was an absolute success. From Jay Ingram’s first performance at the Banff Center in July, to the flagship showings at Beakerhead and several subsequent performances, The Giant Walkthrough Brain opened to a sold-out audience. The software infrastructure designed for The Giant Walkthrough Brain would be utilised extensively in one of my colleague’s Master’s project, and principles would later be adopted towards my own thesis work. There is no denying that The Giant Walkthrough Brain has had an impact on a great number of individuals: it is a powerful example of applying computer science in a community setting through presenting scientific talks in an approachable manner. What is perhaps surprising, then, is that some of the design elements of The Giant Walkthrough Brain parallel those found in 2014’s Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? (GochiUsa for brevity). While a seemingly far-fetched comparison, there remains the fact that I directed the design development of the application and navigation tools that would eventually become integral towards building a virtual world that helped to guide audiences on a journey of discovery.

The element from GochiUsa that made its way into the Giant Walkthrough Brain that these two unrelated works share is the attention paid to details. In GochiUsa, I noted that the first season’s charm was primarily in its exceptional setting: the town Cocoa finds lodging and friendship in is modelled after Colmar of France, and the animators had taken great pains to ensure that the cityscapes were authentic. From the design of timber-frame buildings to cobblestone streets and gas lamps, the town of GochiUsa presents an idyllic environment for Cocoa and the others to explore. It creates a sense of immersion and uniqueness that really draws in viewers; in fact, the first season proved quite distinct from any slice-of-life anime I’d previously watched, and in retrospect, it is not unreasonable to say that the town in GochiUsa‘s first season was a living, breathing entity as prominent as any of the characters. It is not until the second season that the characters begin coming into the spotlight to present a tangible narrative, and consequently, when I finished watching GochiUsa, I began looking at the architectural and design elements that made the first season such a pleasure to watch and applied the principals towards displaying 3D spaces of a virtual brain. GochiUsa succeeded because of its commitment to a consistently authentic environment, and so, I strove to ensure that the tools and logic implemented into the Giant Walkthrough Brain was similarly consistent in creating an authentic guided museum tour. The pre-set paths were carefully placed to give the sense of walking along a walkway or taking an elevator. Transitions between different scales were scripted, reducing the abruptness of moving from the brain into a synapse where neurotransmitters could be seen. A minimap provided audiences with constant context of where in the brain a story happened, and I used Unity Pro’s powerful functions to construct a system that allowed The Giant Walkthrough Brain to double as a slideshow for both images and video. Much like how GochiUsa creates a compelling European town’s historical district, the end result for The Giant Walkthrough Brain was a visualisation tool that really enabled audiences to feel as though they were moving through a vast brain museum that Joseph Bogen had envisioned fifty years previously: seven consecutive sell-out performances speaks volumes about as to whether or not the learnings from GochiUsa were successfully applied to The Giant Walkthrough Brain.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been quite some time since I’ve written about GochiUsa, and three years now separates the present from when I started work on The Giant Walkthrough Brain. In my original post on GochiUsa, I did not discuss any major themes in the first season because quite frankly, there were no central messages or ideas the anime conveyed. This is not a bad thing by any stretch: what I found was a fantastic slice-of-life anime whose use of setting set it far apart from any shows in the genre that I’d previously seen. While conceptually similar to other anime of its type, the exquisite setting is ultimately what set GochiUsa apart.

  • One of the aspects about GochiUsa‘s first season is that unnecessary exposure is a lot more commonplace than the second season, and Cocoa’s first encounter with Rize is with the latter in her undergarments. She claims to be hiding from an unfamiliar individual, and the gun she’s wielding is a model Glock 17. Whether or not it was a real weapon was one of the biggest topics of discussion in the first season: if we go by French gun laws, Rize is wielding a model gun. While it is legal to own a weapon chambered for the 9 x 19mm Parabellum cartridge provided that the weapon’s magazine does not exceed 20 rounds, the wielder must be at least eighteen.

  • It may come as a surprise for folks that GochiUsa does have a few Hinako Note-like moments, such as when Rize images herself in a revealing outfit complete with mammary oscillation and subsequently is embarrassed by the thought. Revisiting GochiUsa means being able to look back on the different moments that characterised the first season, and finding more entertaining frames, such as this one. For the purposes of this post, I have thirty screenshots, each chosen to be different than those of my first discussion from three years ago.

  • Rize and Cocoa run into one another with increasing frequency when Cocoa tries to make her way to school, leading Rize to wonder if she’s entered the multiverse of Rick and Morty. During their respective commutes, the streets of the town are shown in loving detail, and it became quite obvious that the town itself was as much of a character as each of Cocoa, Rize and Chino.

  • The moment that Chiya and Cocoa meet for the first time is adorable, as Chiya is trying to entice some wild rabbits with chestnut Yōkan, and Cocoa is cuddling with the rabbits hanging about. A couple of lop-eared rabbits can be seen in the upper center part of the image, and after learning that classes don’t start for another day, Cocoa and Chiya strike up a fast friendship. of everyone, Cocoa grows closest with Chiya the quickest, since they share similar outlooks on life.

  • Cocoa describes herself as having very little talents to speak of, but is reasonably skillful as a baker and has an eye for mental mathematics. With her newfound friend, Chiya, Cocoa, Chino and Rize spend a day baking bread and enjoying the results. Bread is said to be the only thing Cocoa can prepare properly, and while we’ve not seen her prepare other food items, one can surmise that she’s not exactly incapable to the point of creating lethal dishes.

  • Although refined and seemingly of regal background, Sharo is actually quite poor, living in a small wooden shack beside Chiya. Her being honest to the others about her background forms her internal conflict for a portion of GochiUsa, and when she finally comes forwards with the truth, it turns out that Rize and the others don’t mind at all, showing that everyone is friends with one another because they choose to be.

  • Here, Cocoa watches as the herbal tea leaves are steeped at the Fleur Lupin, French for “Flower Rabbit”, on invitation from Sharo. All of the cafés the girls work at have some relation with rabbits: “Rabbit House” is rather plain to spot, while Chiya’s Ama Usa An (甘兎庵) approximates to “Sweet Rabbit Cabin”. Throughout the town, rabbits can be seen this way and that: in my town, there aren’t any rabbits, but plenty of snowshoe hares (L. Americanus) roaming the streets, and it takes great care to ensure I don’t hit any while driving about.

  • While the town’s idyllic setting and older architecture in GochiUsa seemingly suggests a world set in an earlier time before the rise of modern technology, but the characters’ use of phones plants their time period as being similar to ours. Cocoa uses the Fujitsu F-01C, a feature phone that dates back to 2010, while Chino uses the Sony Xperia SP, a mid-range smartphone. Chiya rolls with the  Sharp Aquos Phone SL, a phone in the same class as Cocoa’s, while Sharo rocks a Honey Bee 201K, a rudimentary Android Smartphone. Rize has an iPhone 5, the most expensive of the lot and a device that can still hold its own even five year after its release.

  • Here, Chino and Sharo are shopping at a local supermarket. While I did an episodic review for GochiUsa‘s second season, this exercise came out of the blue when I realised that there was quite a bit to discuss and talk about during the second season. The result was my first-ever attempt at episodic reviews, and while immensely fun, it was only possible because my thesis project was progressing at an acceptable pace. Looking back, I’m actually not too sure if I would have been able to do a talk on GochiUsa‘s first season back during 2014, if only for the fact that most of my time was spent working on The Giant Walkthrough Brain.

  • GochiUsa‘s first season features numerous locations in town that showcase the area’s unique architecture: this is the local library that Chino and the others visit to study, as well as to find a book Chino’s been seeking. The diversity of locations in GochiUsa is nothing short of impressive, as are the details taken to render all of the structures: close inspection of this image will find that reflections of the sky are seen.

  • Rize and Chino share a short conversation about the latter’s doubts about performing well during a badminton mini-tournament at her school. It would appear that Chino is not particularly athletic and skillful with arts, as seen in her reservations about performing and drawing, but given her character, it stands to reason she’s pretty studious.

  • This is another instance of the beautiful architecture seen in GochiUsa: Cocoa and Chino overlook a ramp, and Cocoa contemplates the joys of having a bike here, while Chino’s imagination is rather more gloomy in outlook. As far as content goes, GochiUsa‘s first season has enough to talk about so that I could probably have done an episodic review if asked to revisit it, but my schedule in the three years since the first season has only become busier.

  • There’s a right way to pick up rabbits: they are quite fragile and start easily, so most suggestions involve gently using both hands to reduce the risk of frightening and injuring the rabbit. The preferred method is to place a hand underneath their chest and then gently lift their hindquarters, while here, Cocoa’s method is used for moving a rabbit short distances – their heads should always be above their hindquarters. That the rabbits of GochiUsa do not mind being picked up suggest they are very much acclimatised to a human presence; in general, rabbits do not like being picked up.

  • When I was working on The Giant Walkthrough Brain, I would watch GochiUsa during lunch hour, and this scene of Rize making a heart stands out to me – I still vividly remember watching this in a windowless player in iTunes while Unity and Monodevelop were open underneath. By this point in the summer, I had become quite comfortable with the Unity Engine and C#, having created the prototypes of almost all of the systems that we would utilise for The Giant Walkthrough Brain. The project was progressing very smoothly until a request came in to incorporate a slideshow with movies: back then, Unity could only handle static images in its free incarnation.

  • I ultimately received permission to upgrade to Unity Pro, and promptly implemented the movie playback functionality. Returning back to GochiUsa, Sharo has leporiphobia, a fear of rabbits, and befriended Rize after she’d saved Sharo from feral rabbits. Here, the rabbit who would later become known as Chuck Norris Wild Geese is resting on Sharo’s café’s fliers, causing her to beg for mercy. Rize arrives to help shoo the rabbit away.

  • Cocoa presents Sharo with a baby bunny to see if Sharo can lessen her fears slightly. Rize’s dome is just visible in this image: she’s still recoiling after a bug lands on her. Strictly speaking, the rabbit in this image is probably three to four weeks old: they’re small enough to rest comfortably on one’s palm, attesting to how small young rabbits are. My friend had two rabbits once, and when I’d met the first, she was roughly this size, but grew to full size in no time at all.

  • While imagining herself under the effects of coffee, Rize fires a Barrett M82A3 anti-materiel rifle. A recoil-operated, semi-automatic rifle firing 50-calibre rounds, the weapon is immediately recognisable by its distinct muzzle brake. There are bullpup versions of the M82, but the magazine of the rifle here has a conventional placement. Rize’s firing rate and stance suggests a semi-automatic firing mode: the M95 looks quite similar but is a bolt-action rifle.

  • If memory serves, I do not think it ever rained in GochiUsa during the second season. Weather remains generally pleasant in all of the episodes. By comparison, season one has a bit more diversity in weather, ranging from snowfall to rain. One detail that is subtly present in GochiUsa is the fact that the ground becomes increasingly reflective as the showers continue – this was done previously in Tari Tari, and is a subtle but clever touch, indicating that more water has fallen during the course of the showers.

  • Besides a library and swimming pool, GochiUsa‘s first season also brings Cocoa et al. to a movie theatre, where they watch “The Barista who Turned into a Rabbit”, a film adaptation of Aoyama’s novel. The older architectural choices of the theatre fit in with the timber-framed buildings in town, and also brings to mind some of the LEGO models of modular town buildings.

  • Regardless of where one goes in GochiUsa, timber-framed buildings dominate the architectural scene. The styles seen in GochiUsa are derived off those seen in the Alsace region, which have a strong German influence. Such buildings can be constructed relatively quickly, and the framing itself accommodates flexibility of interior walls and doors. However, preserving timber-framed building can be tricky, as the buildings may undergo deformations that make them difficult to maintain, and the wood itself can become infested with fungi, moulds or other pests.

  • Chino runs into Aoyama here after the latter misplaced her fountain pen and loses the motivation to continue writing. She subsequently takes up a post at Rabbit House as an interim job and provides advice for customers. In the background here, the leaves are taking on yellow-gold hues as autumn sets in, giving the town a new feeling. While most of the season is set in spring and summer, the arrival of autumn and winter adds additional depth to the anime: the second season is set during spring and summer, with only the first episode really being winter.

  • While this image without any context would not make much sense, Cocoa is helping Chino look for Aoyama’s fountain pen by evening. The warm orange glow is indicative of an autumn’s evening, when the air is cool and the days slowly grow short. Cocoa grows distracted chasing rabbits, but Tippy locates the pen. Numerous sources state that Cocoa is implied to be the reason why Chino’s grandfather’s spirit inhabit Tippy’s body, suggesting a supernatural cause not unlike that of Your Name, but beyond this, everything else in GochiUsa is quite ordinary.

  • The customers at the Ama Usa An seem bewildered as Chiya and Coca dance about in delight, underlining their friendship. I certainly would have no objection to seeing this happen at a sweets shop, myself, but owing to the culture here, such a display, however adorable it may be, would be very unlikely to witness. While Rabbit House employees, Cocoa, Rize and Chino have worked at Ama Usa An and Fleur Lupin to some capacity: Rize did so to earn some extra money to purchase a Father’s Day gift, while Chino does so as a part of her school’s curriculum.

  • In a stroke of luck, the artbook for GochiUsa‘s first season was restocked, and I hastened to order it online before stocks depleted once more. As with the second season’s instalment, the artbook is beautiful, filled with artwork of the different locations and even photographs of Colmar itself. Both artbooks are perfect companions for the anime, essential for all fans of the anime. They cost 2500 Yen apiece before shipping, but provide insights into the anime that genuinely demonstrates how much effort went into creating the world that Cocoa and the others live in.

  • I’ve chosen to skip over the Christmas episode of GochiUsa, having done a whole post on it two Christmases ago, but in this talk, I’ve also included some winter screenshots of the town covered in a light dusting of snow. Rolling through episodes one per day, every lunch hour, I finished GochiUsa on very short order and found an anime whose world was simply magical. It was influences from GochiUsa and its immersion that led me to translate Jay Ingram’s script into a more fluid adventure through the virtual brain: I wished for The Giant Walkthrough Brain amaze and immerse audiences the same way GochiUsa had done for me. Thus, the incarnation that went into the Banff Center Show was a modification that I made after deciding to take audiences through a more interesting route, and during a demonstration to Jay, he and my supervisor approved of it, making a minor request to time the route with the script.

  • In the end, The Giant Walkthrough Brain ended up being a great success: during our first showing, the power had gone out. There was a thunderstorm in Banff that evening, which was surprising considering that it was clear skies when we had sat down to dinner in the Banff Center’s canteen, a modern area with large glass windows that provide a beautiful view of the Bow River valley. Fortunately, the fact that The Giant Walkthrough Brain had been optimised to run on a 2013 MacBook Pro laptop, paired with Jay Ingram’s exceptional improvisational skills, meant the show progressed very smoothly.

  • Back in GochiUsa, Cocoa, Maya and Megu walk into the sunset after Cocoa helps them learn more about local cafés (even as her wallet takes a few hits) during the finale episode. After the Banff Center performance, I spent the August of three years ago further refining The Giant Walkthrough Brain. One of the biggest concerns I had was the fact that our next venue, the Telus Spark Science Center and its dome theatre, could present problems for our projection, but after learning the requirements were to accommodate a flat projection, the month was dedicated towards tuning the model, as well as adding new features and visuals. The Beakerhead shows were a massive success, selling out fully both nights.

  • Unlike Hinako’s friends, who totally prank her while she’s sick, Cocoa’s friends genuinely care for her when she catches a cold. We’re nearing the end of this post, and I’ll take a moment to say that, for folks who are curious, I am following Rick and Morty, and the third season’s second episode is bloody phenomenal, being hilarious and dark, as per Rick’s promise in his opening rant about their adventures. The biggest joy about Rick and Morty is its unique combination of over-the-top black comedy with quasi-scientific concepts that invite discussion; it’s similar to Futurama in a sense, but with a bit looser feel to it, and much more gratuitous violence. Unlike GochiUsaRick and Morty is certainly not for everyone.

  • While some folks consider the ending a little unusual, having Chino step into a snowy night to find medicine for Cocoa shows that despite her cold attitude towards Cocoa, she does care for her. It’s a subtle character growth that is further explored in the second season, and with this, my revisitation of GochiUsa comes to a close. Some posts upcoming in August, which is looking to be a much quieter month after the excitement that was Your Name, will be a talk on the Amanchu! OVA, and the Brave Witches OVA. Because of the unexpected depth and enjoyment Sakura Quest has provided after eighteen episodes, I will also be visiting this very shortly. Finally, Battlefield 1‘s Łupków Pass map will be released later this month in advance of In The Name of The Tsar, and having tried the map in CTE, I’m looking forwards to seeing how it will play out.

I originally concluded GochiUsa‘s first season was enjoyable for its portrayal of a calm, cheerful life in a European-style town but otherwise had very little to say about the characters and their experiences. In GochiUsa‘s first season, the setting ended up being the star of the show – it was not until the second season where the characters really began to shine. However, as the star of the first season, GochiUsa‘s intricate, consistently high-quality and authentic setting contributes substantially to the immersion that the first season was able to confer. As a slice-of-life anime, this set GochiUsa far apart from other shows of this genre that I’d seen previously, and it continued to hold my interest long after I finished the final episode a month before The Giant Walkthrough Brain’s opening night at the Banff Centre. The reason why GochiUsa is so successful is because its first season was able to capture the feeling of an old town consistently to create a place that is inviting and friendly. The Giant Walkthrough Brain likewise makes use of visuals in order to create a very specific image of the brain to maintain the audience’s attention. By fully capitalising on the visual elements to evoke a particular feeling or impression, both The Giant Walkthrough Brain and GochiUsa make the most of their respective formats to immerse audiences into another world – it is this immersion that my old supervisor aims to capture in biological visualisations, although I would imagine that Jay Ingram, his band, my colleagues and supervisor would be a bit surprised to learn that some of the design choices I imparted into The Giant Walkthrough Brain come from an anime with bunnies. I say surprised, but not displeased; these are very open-minded people, and I was able to cite Rick and Morty in my thesis, after all.

Kimi no Na wa (Your Name): A Review and Full Recommendation on Makoto Shinkai’s 2016 Film

“Love isn’t something that we invented. It’s observable. Powerful. It has to mean something. Maybe it means something more, something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artefact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.” —Dr. Amelia Brand, Interstellar

Premièred in late August 2016, Kimi no Na wa (English title “Your Name“, which will be used for the remainder of this discussion) is Makoto Shinkai’s latest feature film, being his fifth full-length feature. It is adapted from his novel; since its release, Your Name has been widely praised for its narrative and visuals — the film has received universal acclaim, and its box office numbers have been nothing short of impressive. As of July 4, the film has grossed a total of at least 444 million CAD, and with audiences praising Your Name to an almost improbable extent, it is worth taking a look at the film that has caused such a commotion amongst the community. At the movie’s core is a seemingly unassuming premise: Mitsuha Miyamizu is a girl living in the rural community of Itomori who is greatly dissatisfied with her life, her father and her role in the community as a shrine maiden. Long yearning to be a handsome guy in the city, Mitsuha begins to experience an unusual phenomenon of switching into Taki Tachibana’s life. A high school student living in Tokyo, Taki works part time at an Italian restaurant and holds a crush on Miki Okudera, one of his seniors. Taki realises that he is switching out with a girl living in rural Japan, and as the two begin acclimatising to the phenomenon, they begin intervening in the other’s life — Taki presents Mitsuha as being more bold and open, bolstering her popularity amongst her peers, while Mitsuha is able to help Taki become closer to Miki, managing to ask her out on a date. The phenomenon ceases as quickly as it came, but, his sense of curiosity piqued, Taki decides to travel to the Itomori region and visit Mitsuha in person.

Taki’s trek proves unsuccessful and unearths a bizarre truth: the area had been obliterated three years previously when a fragment of a comet impacted with the surface. Refusing to give up, Taki manages to find the kuchikamizake that Mitsuha had made as an offering: he finds himself as Mitsuha and sets out with the goal of saving the citizens, enlisting Mitsuha’s friends to create a diversion in order to force an evacuation, while Mitsuha, now as Taki, heads towards the shrine on the mountain on the feeling that she might find Taki there. At the mountain’s summit under the evening skies, Taki and Mitsuha manage to meet for the first time and promise to recall one another’s names, but their memories of one another begin fading: Mitsuha is only left with Taki’s message that he’d fallen in love with her. While unable to stop the comet fragment from destroying Itomori, Mitsuha manages to convince her father to aid her in evacuating the region. Eight years later, Taki has graduated from university and is struggling to find work, all the while haunted by vague memories connecte to Itomori. One day, Taki disembarks from a train to find a woman who seems familiar; she seems to feel the same way about Taki, and meeting at a flight of steps, Mitsuha and Taki ask for one another’s respective name. Your Name represents a return to the fantastical from Shinkai’s earlier The Garden of Words (2013) and Five Centimeters per Second (2007), making use of the supernatural to present a very specific set of ideas in his film — while their inclusion is noticeable, fantasy elements never overwhelm Your Name, instead, being finely woven into the narrative to subtly hint at the complexities of human emotions.

Major themes in the movie

At the core of Your Name is the exploration of human emotions and their incredible sophistication; the brain is often touted as being the most sophisticated machine in the known universe, and presently, it is still unknown how things like memories and emotions operate at the bio-molecular level. While science has yet to yield more insight into this particular mystery, authors of fiction definitely appreciate this complexity; the inclusion of phenomenon such as body-swapping is meant to overcome constraints in reality to see how people may respond when presented with extraordinary circumstances that allow them to experience the world from a different perspective. In the beginning, Taki and Mitsuha’s exchanges are characterised by a strong sense of curiosity. While initially dismissing these as dreams, the persuasiveness of the body switches eventually drives Taki to try and meet Mitsuha, to confirm that his experiences are real. Curiosity soon gives way to understanding one another as they continue living life from the others’ perspective, and even after the first set of phenomenon ceases, the memories and emotions imparted continue to linger. In fact, they are sufficiently strong that Taki decides to take action, trying to reach Itomori. When he arrives, the strength of his desire to understand overcomes spatial and temporal boundaries, allowing him to meet Mitsuha in person for the first time. Similarly, even after his memories of Mitsuha fade from his life, Taki is left with a sense of longing. This is a consequence of having reached mutual understanding with her through their shared experiences — despite never saying so, the two become as close as lovers, as each knows what the other’s feelings and thoughts are. It is therefore unsurprising that, having gone through so much, Taki and Mitsuha understand one another as though they were the other: these feelings are strong and continue to persist over space and time. In his portrayal of Taki and Mitsuha, Shinkai aims to portray love as being an immensely strong emotion, being able to endure and bring people together even against the very laws that govern time and space.

It came as quite a surprise to learn that Interstellar, in a single quote, succinctly and accurately captures the main thematic element of Your Name. Love being an entity able to transcend the known laws of space and time have been explored in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, former NASA pilot Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter, Murphy (Jessica Chastain), are separated when Cooper is sent on a mission to explore habitable worlds through a wormhole to find a new home for humanity before Earth’s biosphere fails. In this journey, Cooper ends up passing over the event horizon of a black hole and enters a space with a fourth dimension, reaching a point where he is able to communicate with a past Murphy and transmit vital data allowing her to find the solutions the equations that John Brand (Michael Caine) had dedicated his life to solving. At around the film’s midpoint, John Brand’s daughter, Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) mentions that love is something seemingly with no social utility during a conversation with Cooper, and suggests that it is a force with trusting, even if it has no tangible, quantifiable form. Although Cooper initially is dismissive, inside the black hole, he finds that this holds true: his love for his daughter moves through space-time when he transmits the information allowing her to complete John Brand’s work. Similarly, the feelings that Mitsuha and Taki share over the course of their experiences are powerful, persisting long after their initial memories of one another fade. Makoto Shinkai and Christopher Nolan thus share the commonality in that they leave the precise mechanism as secondary to the presentation of this notion, emphasising that being able to experience love is far more important than the exact workings behind things.

While a wondrous aspect of being human, love is also a desperately tricky emotion to understand, leading capable folks to do things they might not otherwise partake in while in rational control of their actions. Indeed, Shinkai suggests that love is an emotion that may require external intervention in order to adequately explore, and in Your Name, this intervention takes the form of body-swapping. A commonly-employed storytelling device, body-swapping aims to present individuals with a different perspective, a literal “walking a mile in someone’s shoes”: as humans, individuals are constrained to viewing the world from a single perspective and as such, while people are generally able to empathise with others and imagine themselves in a different person’s viewpoint, it does not quite compare to actually experiencing or viewing the world as another individual. Most narratives using this element do so in order to broaden the individuals’ perspectives, and in Your Name, the phenomenon is utilised to provide an unequivocal sense that Mitsuha and Taki have walked in the others’ shoes sufficiently to know what the other is longing for. By providing the means for the two to experience life from another perspective, Shinkai pushes them to understand one another more profoundly than would be possible in reality, but even with newfound perspective conferred through a supernatural means, it takes some time for Taki and Mitsuha to acclimatise and understand one another. Over time, this sense of connection strengthens, and leaves a particularly profound impact on Taki, enough to prompt him to visit Itomori and Mitsuha.

Taki and Mitsuha’s decision to seize the initiative and seek out answers surrounding their feelings represents a welcome return to Shinkai’s usual approach: Five Centimeters per Second, long held to be the strongest of Shinkai’s films, featured a protagonist whose efforts to take charge in his life was met with resistance upon resistance, resulting in a character who gives the semblance of being unable to control the events in his life. By comparison, Taki acts on his feelings to ascertain them: he desires to learn more about Itomori and meet Mitsuha in person, arranging to travel there himself. Even when met with failure, Taki continues to persist: his journey to Mitsuha is fraught with challenges, but Taki continues to endure. In his determination, he challenges fate, trying to evacuate Itomori’s citizens with the aim of saving Mitsuha for the singular purpose of seeing her. While his efforts initially seem to be for naught, Your Name‘s ending shows that his actions ultimately prevailed. By taking the initiative to do something, rather than remaining passive and consigning himself to the flow of events, Taki sets in motion the very events that lead him to finally encounter Mitsuha properly in person. Similarly, Mitsuha is consumed with curiosity and yearning, visiting Tokyo in an attempt to find Taki even though at this point in her time, Taki does not know her. Nonetheless, the chance meeting sets the stage that ultimately drives them together. Where this goes is left open to the audiences, but given the overarching messages presented in Your Name, having taken the pains to figure out who the other is, Mitsuha and Taki will become acquainted with one another — their experiences allow them to understand one another to an extent that a relationship would certainly be within the realm of possibility.

Personal thoughts on the movie

With themes of love being a force beyond comprehension, the idea that even supernatural phenomenon can have their limits in allowing people to understand one another and fall in love, and that it is ultimately an individual’s own will to act governing the narrative in Your Name, Makoto Shinkai delivers a masterful story in this movie. It is therefore quite unsurprising that the film has been met with near-universal critical acclaim: Your Name is a tale where determination triumphs over distance and time, one that reminds audiences that not all dreams necessarily are doomed to failure or obscurity. In leaving bleaker endings behind for one that is much more optimistic in nature, Shinkai succeeds in creating a film that resonates with a much wider audience. The unique combination of Shinkai’s storytelling and art style coupled with a satisfying ending creates a memorable film; even though Your Name does come across as being a classic feel-good movie, its execution is solid on all accounts. Aside from its narrative elements, Your Name‘s incredible attention towards details further contribute to its world-class qualities, ranging from its adherence to scientific aspects even in spite of its liberal application of body-switching, to the top-tier artwork and animation that Makoto Shinkai wields to bring his stories to life with a sense of fluidity and realism that remains unparalleled.

In spite of its supernatural premise, Your Name manages to retain scientific accuracy in depicting the impact event that levels Itomori. When it was first announced that an impact event involving a comet would figure in Your Name, questions would immediately be raised: comets are usually no larger than ten kilometers in width (larger comets that have come closer than Saturn have been estimated to be twenty to sixty kilometers in diameter), but even a smaller comet with a nuclei of around eight hundred meters in diameter would create a crater around fifteen kilometers wide and impact with 50 gigatons of TNT equivalent. Thus, even an impact by a smaller comet would completely devastate Japan and have global effects. However, Your Name decides to go with a much smaller body, no larger than forty meters: as Comet Tiamat flies by the Earth, observers are treated to a large scale meteor shower, with the media reporting that the nucleus is disintegrating despite the Roche Limit not being exceeded. The release of gases from the comet’s interior has weakened its structural integrity, and as comets are composed mostly of rocky ices, the surface damage should is limited, as the objects would melt and lose much of their mass. Despite reassurances that the odds of an actual impact would be slim, a small, surviving rocky fragment of around two to five meters wide is headed for Itomori, striking the hillside and decimates the area, leaving a crater several hundred metres wide. The depicted blast is under ten kilotons, smaller than that of the first atomic bombs; obtaining figures from the novel, the object has diameter of forty meters and an impact velocity of 32 km/s. Shinkai’s novel describes the impactor as creating an 800 metre-wide crater. In Arizona, the Meteor Crater was created by a body 50 metres across, impacting at around 12.8 km/s with 10 MT of force. Meteor crater is 1.186 kilometres across, and residues show that this was likely a nickel-iron body. By comparison, the 800 metre wide crater in Your Name is consistent with a body with a much lower density, although its high impact velocity would have likely created a sizeable explosion, as well. The film depicts the body as having a diameter of no more than ten meters, which would have yielded a crater less than 400 meters across. While there are some inconsistencies, and perhaps not completely precise, it is quite clear that in Your Name, Makoto Shinkai has taken the time to research the effects of a smaller impact to craft a plausible outcome of the aftermath of the fragment’s collision with Itomori. In doing so, Your Name manages to strike a balance between the supernatural and the scientific, furthering the film’s notion of blurring boundaries to yield something novel.

Even if the scientific accuracy had not been reproduced to a reasonably good extent, the artwork and animation in Your Name is top-tier, truly world class in ever sense of the word. In fact, it is not audacious to suggest that Makoto Shinkai’s attention to detail, whether it be the reflection of light on Taki’s iPhone 6, to the visual clutter of interiors to them a lived-in feel, or the majesty of Tiamat’s tail as it passes over the planet, makes Your Name by far the most intricate, best-looking anime that audiences will have seen — graphics in Your name are truly in a league of their own, matched only by Shinkai’s earlier films and Studio Ghibli’s best works. Under the well-chosen lighting and associated effects, Shinkai capitalises on the colours and tones to vastly augment his characters’ emotions and feelings. Warmer environments and more saturated colours show the characters to be at ease or content, while colder, moodier colours convey a sense of desolation. It is under the most brilliant skies that the pivotal moments of Your Name take place, whether it be the myriad of colours that paint the sky under which Taki and Mitsuha finally set eyes on one another, or the majesty of the night sky split in two by Tiamat’s passing. In this masterful application of colour, Shinkai demonstrates that he genuinely understands how to best project his characters’ thoughts and feelings to the audience, making use of it to supplement the dialogue and aural elements within Your Name that succeed in leaving a powerful impression long after the scenes have concluded.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Your Name begins with a cold open, depicting an asteroid plunging towards the surface, but like the artbook I purchased in Osaka, I’ve decided to open things with Mitsuha beginning her day. This movie is not the longest I’ve waited for an anime movie: that title belongs to Girls und Panzer Der Film, which was announced back in 2013 and finally saw a home release in May 2016. Compared to that, Your Name was not a long wait, although the ceaseless articles from Anime News Network about the film’s reception and box office numbers made the wait feel much longer than it actually was. One of my friends remarked that he couldn’t care less about the reception: what mattered most was being able to see the film.

  • Shinkai takes a bold new direction with Your Name; the unique situation that allows Taki to possess Mitsuha’s body means that Shinkai’s characters can do what his previous characters do not, and here, Mitsuha performs a physical check to make certain that she’s back, leading Yotsuha, Mitsuha’s younger sister, to wonder whiskey-tango-foxtrot is going on here. Taking on learnings from Children who Chase lost Voices From Deep Below and The Garden of Words, Shinkai’s female leads have a much more fluid, human feel to them, whereas earlier on, his female characters feel much more ethereal in nature.

  • The interior of the Miyamizu residence is intricately detailed — this scene marks the first time that pantsu have been shown in any capacity in a Makoto Shinkai movie. Closer inspection of this moment also finds that Mitsuha’s personal effects are drawn to a very high quality. Going from this image alone, Mitsuha seems quite organised: her room is very tidy save a few spots.

  • Breakfasts in Japan are typified by their inclusion of items such as rice, fish, vegetables and an omelette; to folks outside of Japan, this can be somewhat unusual these items expected from a dinner, rather than breakfast. With this in mind, Cantonese people typically have congee with Chinese doughnut (油炸鬼), fried noodles or rice noodle rolls (腸粉) for breakfast: this comes across as different even for me (I’m Canadian-Chinese and grew up with Canadian breakfasts), as I typically have such foods during lunch.

  • Whether it be the greenery or reflections in a window, each minute of this film is a visual treat, even if it is not high-intensity from an emotional or narrative perspective. Depicting common, every-day events is critical to set a tone in anime; all stories arise as a consequence of some status quo being disrupted, so in order to understand why a story happens, it becomes important to understand what things are like prior to that disruption.

  • Before we continue further into this discussion of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, I remark that I was wondering if it would be meaningless to write a post of this scale, considering that almost all readers coming in will have seen the film. However, having read through other discussions and interpretations of the film, this review is not entirely unnecessary: for one, I can offer a completely unique perspective of the film that has not been previously explored, and second, there are full-resolution screenshots that can be utilised as wallpapers. Having established that I am not wasting my time with this discussion (and hopefully, not yours), we can proceed.

  • This Your Name post surpasses even the Girls und Panzer Der Film post as the longest post this blog hosts: the discussion features a hundred images, all of which are available for viewing in 1080p such that viewers may enjoy the exceptional artwork in the latest film from Makoto Shinkai. As with every post before this one, I accumulated a non-trivial number of images, and to give each of them figure captions would mean spending an inordinate amount of time (to the tune of twenty-five hours) getting this post out. While the internet’s most exhaustive collection of screenshots at the time of writing, it should be apparent that one hundred images is not sufficient to capture everything within the film.

  • To put things in perspective, this post has a total of 14364 words: the total encompasses everything including the figure captions and paragraphs. Such a post would have taken at least fifteen hours to construct, certainly impossible to achieve immediately after the BDs became available especially considering that I’m working, but the film was also unique in that I had a chance to see it several times previously. Armed with this knowledge and the artbook, I have put together a serviceable review within the space of three hours. I note that even though this is the largest review I’ve ever done, with a hundred screenshots (or frame-grabs, whatever you’d like to call them), I do not feel I’ve adequately captured all of the moments in the movie.

  • Mitsuha’s friends, Katsuhiko Teshigawara and Sayaka Natori, walk with her to school. Katsuhiko is skilful with construction implement and explosives, while Sayaka is a member of the school’s broadcast club and is generally quite bashful. On her way to school, Mitsuha runs into her father, the mayor of Itomori, and is reprimanded in front of her classmates for not standing straight, to her embarrassment. One of the upcoming challenges any blogger will encounter while writing about Your Name using the approach I’ve got here will be determining who’s who. I will use a simple but consistent convention in my own discussion: whenever a character is being run by the other, I will use brackets to indicate thus. So, Mitsuha (Taki) corresponds with Taki being in Mitsuha’s body, and similarly, Taki (Mitsuha) means that Mitsuha is inhabiting Taki’s body.

  • Yukari Yukino is the Japanese literature instructor in Mitsuha’s class: reprising her role from The Garden of Words, Yukari is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, whom I best know for her roles as Angel Beats! Kanade Tachibana, Nagi no Asukara‘s Manaka Mukaido and Charlotte Dunois of Infinite Stratos. Unlike some voice actors, whose voices I can discern almost immediately (Ayane Sakura, Kikou Inoue and Inori Minase, to name a few), Hanazawa’s voice talent is quite diverse; I doubled over in surprise when I found out that Yukari and Charlette Dunois share a voice actor. Here, Yukari is presenting a bit of classical poetry; while foreshadowing the film’s events, the single lines chosen are not capable of describing the entire film as some individuals have asserted.

  • Returning to Your Name, Mitsuha’s classmates regard her strangely and wonder why things seem a little off: she cannot recall any of her behaviours from the previous day and assumes that she’s been dreaming. It is only during lunch that her classmates fill her in on what happened, affirming that, while her experiences felt like a dream, the events did indeed occur. Such a revelation can only come as a surprise to Mitsuha: phenomenon such as this in reality firmly remains impossible, and it is perhaps a blessing that our consciousness is confined to a single perspective (our minds would not likely be able to handle the strains associated with multiple lives).

  • The passage of time in Your Name is depicted in a linear fashion, although the flow of time in the film’s beginning is chaotic, conveying to audiences the sense of confusion and bemusement that Taki and Mitsuha face when experiencing this phenomenon for the first time. It is initially difficult to gauge who’s who because there is no precedent for what Taki and Mitsuha’s respective personalities are; when properly executed, a narrative can drive audiences to feel exactly what the characters themselves are feeling to create a sense of immersion.

  • Mechanics behind how Makoto Shinkai uses body switching are never explained in any real capacity: the limitations and constraints associated with switching bodies, such as the preservation of knowledge and experiences, are largely left arbitrary. The largest question audiences are left wondering about is just how much of the other’s memory one has access to when their bodies are switched. From the sounds of it, spatial orientation does not seem to carry over, nor do some skills that require training, such as Mitsuha’s involvement in weaving braided cords for her shrine duties, so it’s safe to assume that it’s a complete transfer.

  • Mitsuha is a miko (shrine maiden) for the family shrine, performing a kagura dance here. Literally “God-dance”, the kagura are a ritual dance performed by shrine maidens for the Imperial court and later propagated back into the villages, telling stories of folklore or fables. They are said to have had an influence on noh and even kabuki; modern kagura are performed to pay respect to the kami at the shrine.

  • Embarrassed by the complex history surrounding the shrine and her entanglement in its politics, Mitsuha would rather have nothing to do with things, although the choice is outside her control to make. Here, she produces Kuchikamizake, a form of sake produced by chewing on rice. The resulting alcohol is a white colour and very sour; production of this sort of sake for ceremonial purposes is still carried out on some Okinawa islands.

  • The use of flat visual layers to indicate a character’s imagination is a first in any of Makoto Shinkai’s films; typically, these are seen in something like Glasslip or Girls und Panzer. Visuals tell a story very succintly, and in his earlier films, Shinkai’s characters are exceptionally articulate. They give highly poetic monologues that yield insight into their minds. In English, these sound tightly structured and highly formal, as seen in The Sky Longing For Memories.

  • While utterly hilarious to behold, watching Mitsuha shout out her displeasure about life in general, and that she wants to respawn (or reincarnate, for folks who don’t game) as a handsome Tokyo boy in her next life. While I’ve never really wished to be anyone but myself, I wonder what life would be like as someone else; to that end, if respawns are a thing (whether or not they are is not something I count as within the scope of this discussion), I would probably want to be someone with a much more relaxed, carefree outlook on life for diversity’s sake.

  • Perspectives shift to that of Taki’s. He fumbles for his iPhone, bringing to mind my iPhone 6, which has been in service for a shade more than a year now, acting as my workhorse platform for testing the apps that I am writing. I originally purchased one in 2015 November to replacing my ageing Nokia Lumia 520 in preparation for being able to test iOS apps, and since then, the iPhone 6 has been a remarkable asset: besides testing apps on a live device, the iPhone 6 has proven indispensable for my travels last year: the offline maps offered by Maps.me allowed me to navigate the streets of Laval, France, and I managed to save myself a bit of trouble by using the phone to book last-minute transportation from the Cancún International Airport to the Zona Hotelera. I’ve heard that the iPhone 8 will kick ass, but because I prefer to make my devices last, I have a feeling I’ll retire my iPhone 6 by the time the iPhone 10 comes out.

  • Taki feels as though he’s in a very strange dream, but nonetheless sets about getting ready for his day. From what is seen in Your Name, Taki lives with his father, and his mother’s whereabouts is never explicitly mentioned. In Five Centimeters per Second, Takaki’s parents were never shown on-screen, although very subtle details in the environment, such as handwritten notes from his parents, show that Takaki was loved by his family even if his parents were busy with work and thus, rarely around to spend time with him. Consequently, I imagine that inspection of seemingly trivial details in the environment may yield more insight into Taki’s family.

  • In contrast to the quiet of the Japanese countryside, Tokyo is packed with people as Taki sets off towards high school. In this scene, Shinkai captures the Chinese concept of “人山人海”: this expression, pronounced “Rén shān rén hǎi”, translates directly to “mountains (of) people, ocean (of) people” and commonly indicates a crowd of gargantuan proportions. This is an occurrence that is uncommon in my current city of a million; while I love the quiet that offers, some of my friends note that the city’s lack of night life is a major drawback.

  • The interior of Taki’s high school is ultra-modern, with large glass skylights that allow in a great deal of natural light. The buildings housing the faculty of nursing/social work and architecture on the university grounds have a a very similar design: with their large atriums, these buildings were a part of campus I rarely frequented. I took walks here during the quieter parts of the day and most often during the summer: from the top floor, one can look below to see open offices, and the area distinctly reminds me of some of the architecture seen in Portal 2.

  • Taki (Mitsuha) hangs out with his friends by lunch hour on the school rooftop: Tsukasa Fujii is in the center and expresses concern whenever Taki switches out with Mitsuha, while Shinta Takagi is an optimistic fellow who is keen on helping those around him. Here, Tsukasa’s remarks suggest that the body swapping phenomenon does not carry all of one’s memories over, explaining why Taki gets lost going to school whenever Mitsuha’s consciousness is inhabiting his body.

  • Taki (Mitsuha) expresses pure joy when visiting a café in Tokyo: the menu items are hugely expensive for her, and a cursory glance at some of the offerings (roughly 20-25 dollars for pancakes) indicates that the prices are expensive for me, too. However, under the assumption that it’s a dream, Taki (Mitsuha) finds that it’s okay and decides to indulge in afternoon tea, savouring the moment.

  • Anyone whose curiosity led them to click on the hyperlinks around in my older articles may find themselves staring at a photograph of food — ever since I bought my iPhone, I’ve grown fond of and have fallen into the habit of photographing the poutines and more casual things I’ve eaten, and it’s served to make memories of a day or event all the more vivid. Using clever flow, Shinkai captures the passage of time by depicting the plate as being finished by the time Taki (Mitsuha) removes his camera.

  • Later, Taki (Mitsuha) has trouble dealing with some difficult customers at work and is bailed out by his senior Miki Okudera, a university student whom Taki has a crush on, and who is more commonly referred to as Okudera-san or senpai in the movie owing to her seniority relative to Taki. Miki defuses the situation but her skirt is damaged by these customers in the process in an act of aggression. Miki notices here that Taki (Mitsuha) is acting contrary to his usual self: Taki is ordinarily short-tempered and likely would have told these customers to shove it, which is how Miki picks up that something seems unusual.

  • Inheriting Mitsuha’s skill with sewing, Taki (Mitsuha) repairs Miki’s dress, surprising her with an apparently hitherto undisplayed skill. I am almost certain that those close to me would notice something is off if I suddenly acquire the ability to sew: while I’ve become reasonably proficient with housekeeping skills, sewing is not on that list. As Taki, Mitsuha’s actions trigger Miki’s interest in him, a turn of events that Taki did not expect.

  • Things return to Itomori, where Sayaka remarks that Mitusha had acted quite contrary to her usual self during the previous day. Mitsuha occupies the back-most seat near the window in her class: this seat has been occupied by The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s Kyon, Tomoya Okazaki of CLANNAD and Yui Hirasawa of K-On! in other anime. Giving a sense of distance and melancholy in some cases, there is actually a practical reason why anime protagonists so often occupy the back rows — it allows for the play of light to better bring out the character’s feelings, and also reduces the number of other people that need to be rendered on screen. It’s a simple technical element, certainly not important enough to warrant an statistical study.

  • I include in this post several screenshots of room interiors and landscapes to truly capture the extent of the artwork that is present in Your Name: this is an art class at the high school in Itomori, and as per Shinkai’s strength, the room is highly cluttered and detailed. Volumetric lighting effects can be seen in this image, and because this scattering occurs as a result of dust particles in the room, it stands to reason that the art room is a dusty sort of environment.

  • When Mitsuha (Taki) boldly knocks over a desk with her leg and dares anyone to challenge her identity, her entire art class goes silent. She smiles in a mischievous, dangerous-looking fashion that is certainly not how Mitsuha would ordinarily react, and when Sayaka informs her of this, Mitsuha is bewildered that something like this could happen. This may seem a very far-fetched phenomenon from a scientific perspective, but swapping consciousness is, strictly speaking, not an impossibility. In a study by UCLA’s Martin Monti using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), it was found that consciousness is an emergent property arising from the firing of billions of neurons in the brain.

  • In order to document these events, Taki and Mitsuha take to jotting down their experiences as one another. The nature of their body-switching becomes increasingly real, allowing for some humour to arise as each intervenes in the other’s life using their experiences to drive things in a new direction. Advertised as a critical element in Your Name, body-switching was originally speculated to be utilised for comedy back when trailers for Your Name began airing. This is true to some extent, and a great deal of Your Name‘s magic actually comes utilising this feature for both the comedic and the dramatic.

  • Their looks of horror mirror one another, and the similarities in their facial morphologies (besides being hilarious) is an early, subtle hint that these two are going to be closely connected, sufficiently so that they begin interfering in the other’s life. However, to emphasise differences in their background, Taki’s initial notes to Mitsuha are made on paper, while Mitsuha recounts her experiences as Taki in his iPhone’s electronic journal. The calendar app Taki uses is strikingly similar to the interface used in CareKit, a framework I am absolutely not fond of for its inflexibility and lack of support.

  • The music in Your Name is produced by RADWIMPS, a Japanese rock band. Your Name features the greatest number of vocal pieces in any of Makoto Shinkai’s films (another first), and beyond this, one of their most impressive feats for Your Name is that, for the English dub of the movie, they’ve performed each and every one of their inset songs in English.

  • Overall, the instrumental soundtrack in Your Name is a solid one, featuring a fine balance between the ambient background songs that serve to create a lighter atmosphere, as wells the pieces that are more intensive from an emotional perspective; these tracks make extensive use of piano and string to create a moving piece that serves to further augment the psychological tenour of a moment to clearly spell out what mood or tone a particular scene is intended to convey. I’ve never been big on male Japanese rock bands, but when enlightened with what the lyrics meant, their vocal pieces proved very enjoyable to listen to.

  • Taki’s first act is touching Mitsuha’s breasts following their initial switch. You, my readers, may laugh, but I am highly doubtful that folks have that level of discipline if they had switched over to a body of the opposite gender, they would not succumb to curiosity. Numerous fictional works suggest that this is the first thing that would happen because likely, it is the first thing the author would do if they were to undergo such a transition, and because curiosity is an integral part of human nature, I suppose it is only natural to do something like this.

  • As Mitsuha and Taki become accustomed to their situation, they ascertain that the phenomenon occurs with a random frequency, only occurs when both are sleeping, and has an unknown cause. In order to preserve the integrity of the other’s physical body, neither is allowed to stare excessively at oneself in the mirror or hit the showers. Furthermore, they must learn the other’s schedules, speech patterns and not unnecessarily waste money. Finally, to track things, a detailed list of activities is to be left on each’s mobile devices so they can recall any actions. It’s surprisingly thorough and shows that both Taki and Mitsuha are doing their best to figure things out.

  • Hypothetically, using a sophisticated form of fMRI and electroencephalography (EEG), brain activity could be captured and transferred onto computers far surpassing what we presently have, then use means beyond our current technological level to upload that data into a brain in a different body. This is to say nothing of the implications that would arise from memories of one gender residing in a brain of the opposite gender: even if male and female brains are very similar structurally, subtle differences could alter their functionality (e.g. personalities, emotions), and hormonal differences would create a challenge for the individual as they adapt to their new body. Transferring minds with the frequency seen in Your Name could lead to memory loss, function impairment or even brain damage if the technology is not sufficiently advanced for the task. Owing to all of the unknowns in the brain, much less digitising its contents, I imagine that such technologies can only reach a useful state once humanity reaches the same level of technological advancement as that of Halo‘s Forerunners.

  • My application of science into the matter turns me into a wet blanket, so I close off on the note that while scientifically improbable given humanity’s technological progress, using a supernatural means of switching consciousness for a story is perfectly acceptable — at the end of the day, I’m just here for a good story, not to pick apart the feasibility of switching bodies. As time wears on, both Taki and Mitsuha become wise to the extraordinary phenomenon they are experiencing and begin recording their experiences.

  • The most entertaining scene during the montage, as far as I’m concerned, shows Mitsuha (Taki) landing a perfect shot in basketball mid-air and landing with enough force to oscillate her mammaries in the z-axis. Earlier, Mitsuha berates Taki for sitting as a guy would. This has never been seen before in a Makoto Shinkai film before, giving Your Name a much bolder sense than his earlier works, and while Shinkai capitalises on the unique situation to field moments his previous characters are not subject to, they never become excessively distracting from the main narrative.

  • Whereas Mitsuha begins bringing Taki closer to Miki with her knowledge of how a woman’s thought process works, Taki draws on his confidence to improve Mitsuha’s image at school. Despite being unaccustomed to dealing with aspects in the other’s life, Taki and Mitsuha begin imparting positive impacts on the other’s life through their actions, suggesting that sometimes, improvements in life do require another perspective. While quite impossible from a literal sense, it is certainly true from a figurative sense.

  • If someone were to switch places with me, unless they had basic knowledge of C# or Swift 4 (released with Apple’s upcoming Xcode 9), they’d likely be in for an unpleasant surprise. Similarly, I’d probably be ill-suited for whatever occupation they are in. This is why high school students are used in Your Name: given the earlier assumption that Taki and Mitsuha change places completely, the impacts, while still noticeable, would be far less detrimental. I shudder to think what would happen if I lost even a day’s worth of time at work and dealing with the consequences after coming in the next day.

  • As things progress, the different perspectives that Taki and Mitsuha bring to one another’s lives begins altering their relationships amongst other. Both critique the other for having not done such a bang-up job maintaining their own social lives and consequently, are single. Yet, Mitusha manages to elevate Miki’s interest in Taki, while Taki introduces a noticeable change in Mitsuha that leads a few guys and even a girl to give her love letters. When it comes to relationships, I’ve never made it past square one, and I do find myself wondering if things will turn around.

  • Mitsuha (Taki) and Yotsuha take hike through the mountains to visit the body of their deity. During this process, Taki learns more about the Musubi-no-kami (having nothing to do with the rice balls or Hawaiian snack of the same name), the Shinto God of love whose functional counterpart in Chinese mythology is Yuè Lǎo, who unify couples with red cords. The story has its origins in the Tang Dynasty, and Yuè Lǎo takes the form of an elderly man who appears by night.

  • Mitsuha and Yotsuha’s grandmother explain that these red cords rule the unity between people, govern the flow of time, and in the darkness, bind them. The cords are meant to symbolise the relationship between human emotion and time. This is the physical representation of the theme that I derive from Your Name — the movie is about the strength of emotions enduring through time. Consequently, it is fortunate that a particularly egregious analysis has not gained too much traction. In this “analysis”, the conclusion reached is incorrectly that the “vague yet aching sense of clinging to memory [both Mitsuha and Taki experience] underpins the entire point of [Your Name]”.

  • Upon arriving at the top of the mountain, a vast caldera is beheld with a rock at its centre. Mitsuha’s grandmother informs her and Yotsuha that this is the god’s main body, accessed by a small passageway into the underworld (Yuè Lǎo, while said to live on the moon, alternatively lives in the Chinese equivalent of Hades in some accounts) from which return to the overworld is only permissible through a sacrific. Continuing from points earlier, notions that Your Name is about a “juxtaposition of written and oral traditions, the difficulties of transmitting and interpreting each when transported to a different time and place” simply don’t apply: the supernatural phenomenon surrounding Mitsuha and Taki are not lost in time and space, but rather, endure because of the strength of the connection that the two share.

  • It is explained that the Kuchikamizake is an offering made because it contains something of great value: a bit of Mitsuha herself, in its essence. This is sufficient to appease the gods and allows for safe passage into the underworld. The scenery of the Caldera and the mythology Mitsuha’s grandmother brings to the table is reminiscent of that of Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, which was likewise set in rural Japan and also the fictional world of Agartha. The fantastical setting allowed for some wondrous scenery to be created.

  • The Garden of Words marked a return to the urban settings Shinkai masterfully created in The Place Promised In Our Early Days and Five Centimeters Per Second. These locales are absolutely stunning, but I also enjoyed the fantasy world of Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below and the science-fiction setting of Voices of a Distant Star. Consequently, while I’ve no qualms with the beautifully depicted forests, peaks and cities of Your Name, a part of me wonders if the time is appropriate for Shinkai to revisit the military/science-fiction stories that his earlier films were constructed around.

  • As the sun dips below the horizon, the day enters twilight. In standard Japanese, this is is indicated as 黄昏 (tusogare, Huáng hūn in Chinese); kawatare-doki (かはたれどき) stems from an archaic dialect form of expressing twilight. However, owing to mechanics in the Japanese language, kawatare-doki can also be written as 彼は誰時 (which is approximated as “when is the time of who he is”). The implications are that twilights are that time frame where it is neither day nor night, when time blurs, and thus, is when one is likely to experience uncommon phenomenon. As an aside, 黄昏 shares some phonetic similarity with the phrase 誰そ彼 (Daresokare).

  • These similarities in the linguistics form a poetic explanation of why the body-switching phenomenon can only occur while the other is sleeping: it’s technically occurring owing to the transition of day and night, when time itself seemingly becomes unfocused. As Grand Admiral Thrawn might say, it’s very artistically done, serving to suggest that who we are and when we are become unclear under some circumstances. It’s as much of a mystery as the feelings that endure in our hearts, and this is the truth of the thematic elements in Your Name. Thus, I strongly disagree with claims that defining the different forms of kawatare-doki and their relation to the braided cords is the entire theme of Your Name. These are merely the symbols and motifs that serve to act as a tangible indicator of what the movie’s theme is, and as such, to the aforementioned egregious analysis, I note that no credit is offered for partial answers: pointing out the symbols and saying that they are the themes in whole leads to an incomplete conclusion being draw.

  • As evening sets in, Mitsuha’s grandmother notes that Mitsuha must be dreaming; she’s aware that Taki is inhabiting her body at this point in time, but as the revelation sets in, Taki suddenly comes to back home. He learns quite suddenly that he’s set for a date with Miki, organised courtesy of Mitsuha, and rushes out the door, reaching the train station just in time to meet up with Miki. As his first date, things are a bit quiet between Taki and Miki. With little to say, Taki finds himself engrossed at a gallery depicting Itomori, and Miki puts two and two together, feeling that Taki’s fallen in love with someone else. While Taki denies this, the outcome is not particularly surprising: having flitted in and out of Mitsuha’s mind, he knows her nearly as well as she does herself.

  • I was quite fortunate to watch Your Name shortly after its original release and made a note of it in early October, to review this movie properly when it became available. The main reason why I am insistent on reviewing anime movies only after the home releases are available is motivated by two reasons: the first is a practical reason, being that I am an ardent believer that visual elements serve to augment a blog. Having screenshots allow me to properly express reactions and make a commentary of what’s happening on screen while providing a solid context for what I am discussing. I greatly enjoy drawing connections, and this is one of the reasons why quotes from Lord of the Rings, Futurama and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith made their way into this review.

  • The second reason for why I only will review an anime movie after the home release is available is out of fairness to readers. Brazenly leaving spoilers in the open and ruining the experiences for other folks interested in watching the movie is not my modus operandi. By presenting a review very shortly after the release date, this gives people a chance to watch the movie for themselves and also discuss the film to a much more interesting depth than if I alone were to be holding all of the cards.

  • Meanwhile, Mitsuha’s cut her hair, much to her friends’ surprise. It’s an old tradition arising from ancient Japanese women regarding their hair as the symbol of their womanhood. To cut it, then, it is a powerful representation of severing ties with the past and indicate the turning over of a new leaf, hence its the assumption that a girl who cuts her hair shorter must have suffered a break-up with someone. In Your Name, Mitsuha has experienced no heartbreak, but does feel different in the aftermath of her time as Taki. Again, this is not particularly surprising, since her experiences in Taki’s shoes mean she understands him second only to how well she knows herself.

  • When considered as an Oscar nominees for 2016, fans were excited: the film was counted as having a “very rightful possibility for the Best Foreign Film and Best Animated Feature for the Oscars”. Your Name ultimately did not make the list, the same fans went ballistic, denouncing the Oscars as an unsatisfactory metric for gauging a film’s quality. Oscar or no, Your Name is a fantastic film to watch, and that should be all that is relevant.

  • Subsequently, the body-switching phenomenon ceases to be, and Taki finds himself growing restless as his memories of Mitsuha gradually fade. However, unlike Takaki of Five Centimeters per Second, Taki seizes the initiative to sate his curiosity and meet up with Mitsuha in person. This singular decision is why the “vague yet aching sense to memory” can hardly be considered an overarching theme in Your Name: this conclusion fails to take into account the decisions that the characters make to explore their own feelings further. For someone who alleges to “appreciate anime with deep storylines and multi-faceted, yet very human characters”, the individual behind this analysis falls short of understanding what’s driving Your Name.

  • Curiosity soon turns to reality when Taki plans out a trip into the rural regions of Japan with the hope of finding Itomori and meeting with Mitsuha for the first time. Miki and Tsukasa accompany him on this trek out of concern for his well-being, leaving Shinta to handle Taki’s shifts at work. In spite of their efforts in speaking with folks in the Japanese countryside, their initial attempts wind up unsuccessful and no one has heard of the town that Taki seeks. In spite of this adventure turning up fruitless, Miki and Tsukasa end up having a bit of fun in enjoying area cuisine and taking in the sights outside of Tokyo.

  • During my time in Japan, I’d not ridden on any of their trains until the final day, when I was leaving Osaka for the Kansai International Airport. Other than that, a tour bus ferried me across the different parts of the nation. I am a little envious of Europe and Japan, where high population densities accommodate the infrastructure required to run cross-country trains: Canada is so vast and sparsely populated that it simply won’t be feasible to run a high speed rail from Vancouver to Halifax. In fact, such a journey lasts two weeks and starts a cost of 3200 CAD – train rides such as these are so uncommon we would count them as a vacation that evokes the journeys that pioneers made, rather than being a commonly-utilised mode of transportation.

  • After reaching a ramen shop and ordering some ramen, Taki asks the others if they’d like to turn back. However, a bit of fate in this moment gives Taki the intel he’s been seeking: his drawings turn out to be the town of Itomori, and thr ramen shop’s waitress and cook identify it as such, with the latter having grown up here. The lateness of the hour forgotten, Taki’s excitement gets the better of him and he asks for Itomori’s location. However, he learns that the entire region was annihilated three years earlier. The moment brings to mind my evening meal in Gifu, where I visited a ramen shop near my hotel and had a Pork Ramen to wrap up a fantastic day of travels.

“Mitsuha stood me up and died? I’m so angry. I mean, I’m so sad. But I’m still pretty angry. But also sad. Can I be both?” —Leela, The Late Philip J. Fry, Futurama

  • Surely enough, when Taki, Miki and Tsukasa reach Itomori, they find the town has been blown away, with a large parameter prohibiting trespassers and beyond, wreckage strewn about. The lake has a second shore formed from the impact crater, several hundred meters across. The surprise that Taki feels with this revelation is likely that of the audience’s; in keeping audiences on the edge, Your Name is very difficult predict and thus, captures the audience’s attention in full. This is an impressive accomplishment, and not all movies can pull this off: even if they do possess an exceptional execution in depicting how an outcome is reached, the outcome itself can often be derived with a bit of reasoning.  A most unusual phenomenon unfolds at the fringes of Itomori: Taki’s records of Mitsuha begin erasing themselves from his phone, and the very neurons in his brain are reorganised in a manner that fogs his memories of Mitsuha. Such an occurrence can only be counted as supernatural: there are no known mechanisms in the natural world that can simultaneously affect electronic storage or the biochemical processes within our brains. Incidentally, this memory loss takes place as the sun sets, and the skies darken; it’s a callback to the notion of kawatare-doki.

“Where is Mitsuha? Is she safe? Is she all right?”
“It seems in your haste, you let the meteor kill her.
“I…? I couldn’t have! She was alive…I felt it!”

—Darth Vader and Darth Sidious, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

  • As the hour becomes later, Taki and his friends stop at an inn to rest for the evening. However, Taki can find no rest and digs through article after article, eventually learning that Mitsuha, Sayaka and Katsuhiko were among the casualties when Itomori was incinerated in the impact. Taki is pulled in two directions: on one hand, seeing things for himself leads him to conclude that this really was a fool’s errand, and steels himself to return to Tokyo. However, when he sees the braided cords that he’d made while Mitsuha was inhabiting his body, a few neurons in his mind fire, driving his desire to continue delving into the mystery to at least gain some closure.

  • Thus, Taki thanks Miki and Tsukasa for having accompanied him thus far, asks that they return to Tokyo so as not to continue on this journey, and continues onwards alone even as a thunderstorm rages in the area. As with The Garden of Words previously, details in the rainstorm are meticulously rendered, whether it be the beads of moisture glistening on a spider’s web or the spray caused by rainfall coming in contact with the surface. Rain figured prominently in The Garden of Words, coinciding with the Great Flood of 2013. There’s been a great deal of snowfall this year in my AO, and June was quite rainy, but July’s been quite pleasant, warmer than usual: we’ve been fortunate to have had pleasant weather this year.

  • Amidst the pouring rain, Taki ascends to the summit of the mountain where the Mizumiya deity resides. Google-fu finds that this mountain is a custom variation of Aogashima Island, a volcanic island some 358 kilometers south of Tokyo. Its maximum height is 423 meters on the island’s southern edge, and it is very much an active site for volcanic activity; its last eruption in 1785 and killed around half of the island’s population. Today, the island is home to around 170 people. In Your Name, the island’s design is dramatically modified for use as a setting for a major plot point.

  • Recalling that Mitsuha’s Kuchikamizake contains a bit of her essence, Taki decides to do the unthinkable and drinks it. While it is probably consumable, that it has been left to sit under the mountain for upwards of three years in an environment conducive for the growth of moulds meant that Taki runs the risk of growing very sick when consuming it. However, for the narrative’s sake, I will set aside my inner health scientist and allow this to slide, since his actions allow things to advance.

“From her first memory to the events of yesterday, I journeyed through the past. Until at last, I saw the times that we both shared and remembered as vividly as our own. Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time. The stars wheeled overhead and every day was as long as a life age of the earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I’ve been sent back until my task is done.” —Gandalf the White, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

  • The effects of the Kuchikamizake send Taki into a journey through time and space: in this journey, he learns more about Mitsuha’s family and past; her father was a folkorist who fell deeply in love with Futaba Miyamizu, Mitsuha and Yotsuha’s mother, but following her death, became more grim and silent than before. That Your Name chooses to focus on Mitsuha’s past suggests that Taki’s past is rather more ordinary; it is presumably fate that brings his destiny with Mitsuha’s. The women of the Miyamizu family were attuned to impact events and experienced concious-swappings, but previously, no actions were taken, resulting in death and destruction: Itomori’s original lake had formed from an impact event.

  • After this blast through the past, Taki comes to as Mitsuha, gropes her out of relief and causes Yotsuha to feel that Mitsuha’s marbles have been lost. Taki seizes the initiative to try and save Itomori with the aim of preventing Mitsuha’s death, and to this end, manages to convince Sayaka and Katsuhiko to help out: Sayaka is to operate the radio broadcast system after hijacking the transmission signal, while Katsuhiko will place charges at a nearby transformer to create a diversion and small crisis in order to evacuate the area. In order to prepare for this, the three cut class, with Sayaka stepping out to purchase some snacks. Note the detail in the convenience store; from the items on the shelves to the play of light on the floor surface, every thing is intricately rendered in classic Makoto Shinkai style.

  • Likewise, the interior of the clubroom is filled with clutter to give a lived-in sense; besides photographs and flags posted to the walls, an eye examination chart of the same type seen in Sora no Woto is also visible. Mitsuha (Taki) is pleased that Katsuhiko is able to help and gets a little too close for comfort: to Taki, this is natural, but Katsuhiko is unaware of the switch. Later, when they describe their plan to Sayaka, Mitsuha (Taki) and Katsuhiko share a fist bump.

  • With the aim of convincing her father, Mitsuha (Taki) heads to the town hall and recounts her situation. However, being a strict, no-nonsense sort of individual, he’s convinced that Mitsuha is insane in the membrane and makes to call for an ambulance when she seizes him by the collar. This is Taki’s doing and is so out-of-character that Mitsuha’s father can only wonder who he’s dealing with, and Mitsuha (Taki) subsequently leaves without another word. This moment has been parodied by an artist who stylises the characters from Your Name in a manner reminiscent of those of Kiseki Himura’s Tawawa on Monday.

  • Yotsuha grows concerned about Mitsuha’s behaviours and chooses the moment to inquire as to why Mitsuha suddenly took off for Tokyo. In her monologue, Mitsuha wonders if the endeavour will be worth it and privately hopes that Taki will be glad to see her. She finds him studying for an exam, unaware that she’s meeting the Taki three years previously, and while Taki is unnerved, Mitsuha manages to give Taki her cord and name before they are separated.

  • Moments such as these unequivocally illustrate the enduring nature of human emotions, if they can persist through time and bring two people together in such a manner. This initiative, noticeably absent in Five Centimeters per Second, makes a triumphant return: while Shinkai portrays distance throughout his films as a core element, in Your Name, his deliberate and careful use of cords signify that feelings can bind people together even though temporal distance separates them. It’s a breath of fresh air, and with this in mind, Five Centimeters per Second is the outlier in his filmography with respect to his thematic elements.

  • Elsewhere, Taki (Mitsuha) has come to and stares down at the landscape below from the summit: she is horrified to learn that Itomori is no more and wonders how she is in this future. She hears Taki’s voice nearby as herself, and makes to try and find him. They pass by one another, but once the sun sets fully, under the time of transitions known as twilight, the two finally meet one another face to face for the first time.

  • In the eleven months since Your Name first screened in Japanese and select Southeast Asian theatres, my work has shifted from building Unity visualisations to designing and implementing iOS apps. Compared to my old university experiences, pacing is radically different, and on most days, I feel as though I’m getting the equivalent of a week’s worth of work done. Time simply blazes by in the blink of an eye, and each day is filled with new challenges to design solutions for – remarkably rewarding work, it’s also a full-time occupation. For Girls und Panzer Der Film, I was fortunate that the home release coincided with a weekend, but for Your Name, the film was set to release on a weeknight.

  • The hesitancy in Mitsuha’s voice captures her apprehension perfectly as she sets out to meet Taki for the first time, not knowing about the time difference that exists between the two. Mitsuha thus runs into Taki, who is studying English while on board a train to classes. He shows no sign of recognising her, and it is here that the disparity of time periods come into play. It is this element that led me to my comparison between Interstellar and Your Name; as different as the movies are in execution, their end messages ended up being surprisingly similar to one another. In a sense, Your Name can be seen as a Japanese interpretation of the idea that love can transcend space and time.

  • Because the lake and crater below are no longer visible, it becomes a challenge to tell whether Taki and Mitsuha will meet in Taki’s timeframe or Mitsuha; in fact, this creates a timeless sense that underlines the ethereal atmosphere surrounding their first meeting. It is during this time that the two finally meet one another for the first time, in a place that is in a literal sense, neither here nor there.

  • Under twilight, Mitsuha berates Taki for having groped her and being bold enough to drink the Kuchikamizake, but their conversation soon turns into a warm one — despite having never met physically, the two are as close as any friends, and after resolving to try her best to help evacuate the town, Mitsuha and Taki write their names down so they will remember after they return to their own timelines. The two revert into their original bodies after, and Mitsuha sets off to try and save Itomori’s inhabitants.

“Start the broadcast, Taki. Let’s just evacuate the damn townspeople and get back to our own time.”
“But-but won’t that change history?”
“Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I’m-My-Own-Girlfriend! Let’s get the hell out of here already! Screw history!”

— Professor Farnsworth and Fry, Roswell That Ends Well, Futurama

  • Back in town, the explosive charges that Katsuhiko have placed go off, destroying the transformers and causing a blackout in the area. Over the speakers, Sayaka begins announcing that the explosion has triggered the danger of forest fires in the region. On the ground, Mitsuha and Katsuhiko try to spread the word in an effort to get the people to leave the area. Folks are skeptical, and most choose to remain behind even though the festival’s been disrupted.

  • After Sayaka is busted, Yukari Yukino is seen among the escorts leading her away from the broadcast room. One of the questions floating around on the anime equivalent of Stack Overflow is whether or not Yukari manages to escape the disaster. My answer will not be quite as patronising as the tone adopted by the author of the accepted answer; it’s mentioned later that casualties were avoided because the town was in the midst of an evacuation drill, allowing them to leave the area before the comet fragment made earthfall.

  • While work has been busy, I’ve nonetheless found time to kick back and make the most of the time that I do have off. Last Friday, I decided to stop by my old lab and see how a colleague was doing with his degree. We shared conversations of his research, future directions and game development over dinner at Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse, where their delicious smoked ribs make for a fantastic evening meal. This time around, I ordered their Prime Rib Beef Bone dinner, which features four gargantuan smoked ribs. Accompanying the ribs were sweet potato fries, horseradish mayonnaise, fried green tomatos and cornbread. Everything was fantastic as always – the meat is flavourful and falls off the bone, and the fried green tomatoes proved quite delicious, being simultaneously refreshing and hearty. Big T’s is not just a name; their portions are massive, and while I’ve been defeated the past three times I’ve eaten here, in the perpetual struggle between man and food, I managed to finish everything to score my first-ever victory for MAN.

  • During this past weekend, I woke up at the crack of dawn to finally capitalise on the complementary Parks Pass the Canadian Government has offered: the destination was Yoho National Park a province over in British Columbia. I visited Takakkaw Falls for the first time since seeing images presented in photobooks of the Rocky Mountains ten years ago – a three hundred meter high, glacier fed waterfall, Takakkaw takes its name from Cree for “magnificent”, and magnificent, it is. There’s a short footpath that leads to the base of the waterfall, and it was well worth it to walk this trail. With few crowds and a complete sense of calm, I finally check off one of the sights in the Rocky Mountains I’ve longed to see. We also visited the Natural Bridge and drove by Emerald Lake before turning around for Canmore, but not before my vehicle’s Check Engine light came on.

  • In Tokyo, the Taki who has yet to formally meet Mitsuha marvels at the beautiful scene unfolding before his eyes. It’s been quite some time since any comets were visible in the northern hemisphere; the last one was Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, and I only have vague memories of seeing that comet for myself. As a bit of simple statistical analysis suggests that great comets are visible every twenty five to forty years in each hemisphere, and with Hale-Bopp’s perihelion was some twenty years ago, the numbers suggest we might be in range of a comet to match Tiamat in majesty.

  • In the film’s climax, Mitsuha trips en route to the town hall, and a glance at her arm reveals that Taki had written “I love you” in place of his name. The hiragana reads すきが (formally 好き): is the equivalent of the English “I like you”, to indicate an interest in starting a relationship. A much deeper form of love is expressed as 愛してる (aishiteru), although its usage is quite rare. With this in mind, the English expression “I love you” is one that holds a great deal of weight, and despite being only three syllables, is said to be exceptionally difficult to say.

“Never mind, Houston, never mind the story! Ah, it’s starting to get hot in here. OK. Alright, the way I see it, there’s only two possible outcomes. Either I make it down there in one piece and I have one hell of a story to tell, or I burn up in the next ten minutes. Either way, whichever way, no harm no foul. ‘Cuz either way, it’ll be one hell of a ride. I’m ready.” —Ryan Stone, Gravity

  • The re-entry scene in the 2013 film Gravity is probably the only movie I know that surpasses Your Name‘s comet entry with respect to visual quality and emotional impact, which is saying something: the combination of exceptional cinematography and the aural masterpiece titled “Shenzhou” create a moment that gave me the chills. Incidentally, “Shenzhou” fits rather well the moments in Your Name right before the piece of Tiamat impacts the surface. Now, if a comet come within a lunar distance to the planet and the probability aligned for a fragment to make earthfall in the near future, we would not have the means to effectively stop it from colliding with the surface with this little notice. Most of the impact avoidance strategies proposed to be effective involve long term manoeuvring of the object to alter its trajectory so it misses the planet. Short term strategies involve kinetic impact or nuclear solutions, which are more inexpensive but run the risk of turning the body into a fragmented cluster of smaller asteroids.

“Circular error probability zero. Impact with high-order detonation. Have a nice day.” —John Clark, Clear and Present Danger

  • The moment impact of the Tiamat fragment with Itomori is executed in silence, and shortly after, a tremendous blast rips through the area. While Makoto Shinkai and his team have done a fantastic job of presenting the visuals in this movie, I note that the moments following the impact demonstrate the artists’ commitment to visual fidelity — immediately after the collision, clouds are blown away by the blast wave, which faintly spreads through the area and triggers a tsunami in the lake near Itomori. Ever since watching a bit of refraction resulting from the blast wave of explosions in MythBusters, I’ve always found myself impressed at their depiction in media even though technically, the blast wave would travel at speeds exceeding that of sound and wouldn’t be visible at 24 FPS or 60 FPS: one would need a high speed camera with a minimum of 1000 FPS to capture the wave. Motoko Rich claims that the meteor impact was supposed to represent the aftermath of the Fukushima Earthquake in 2011, but this is an element that is not explored at all in Your Name, and as such, does not have any bearing on Your Name‘s thematic elements whatsoever.

  • The next morning, Taki finds himself on the top of the mountain and cannot recall why he arrived there, nor why his friends returned ahead of him. He returns to Tokyo, haunted by memories of a longing he cannot explain, and over the course of five years, has completed an undergraduate degree in architecture. Taki begins the ardous process of job hunting and is turned down everywhere he goes, while his friends fare better and have a number of job offers. The transition between university and working is immensely challenging, but once one finds their first job, the experiences and learnings are invaluable.

  • Shinkai has depicted the Tokyo skyline in his works previously, but by the time of Your Name, the subtle technical elements, such as watching the movement of trains amidst the cityscape has been improved. I remarked in an earlier review that the level of visual fidelity in Shinkai’s films has reached an upper ceiling on how detailed scenes can be; the difference between Your Name and The Garden of Words is roughly the difference between Battlefield 1 and Battlefield 4, but both successors utilise a novel execution to stand out from their predecessors.

  • In the five years that have elapsed since his trip to Itomori, Taki no longer vividly recalls the events of that day. Instead, he is left with lingering memories of what happened previously, and the knowledge that Itomori was successfully evacuated before the impact, leaving a minimum number of casualties. The dénouement of Your Name comes into play here as Taki is shown in trying to apply for work while his friends have already begun receiving offers for work. He meets up with Miki and shares a conversation with her, where she hopes he can find his happiness. A brief cut shows her with an engagement ring, and perhaps attesting to the milestone I’ve reached in age, I’ve become more attuned towards picking these things up now, although whether or not this is good or bad will be left as an exercise to the reader.

  • Shortly after Your Name was shown in Japan, an acquaintance of mine who’d seen the movie noted the song was perfectly describing their relationship and how couples will gain a great deal from watching the movie together, that “the distance and hardships now seem small compared to how much love there is…working on our dreams together, [couples] wouldn’t have it any other way”. However, I would argue that Your Name resonates deeply with folks who appreciate a good story, regardless of whether or not they are in a relationship or not, and that it would be nothing short of folly to pre-suppose that the film is intended solely for couples to enjoy.

  • My copy of the novel arrived a few months ago, and reading through it thoroughly has allowed for some insights to be conferred about both Mitsuha and Taki’s characters. In the ending remarks, Shinkai notes that the book and film complement one another, although the better experience is certainly from the film itself (for instance, the lack of a soundtrack means some emotions aren’t conveyed quite as readily). However, in providing the character’s thoughts, readers learn that Itomori Lake was once formed by another impact event, that the Miyamizu family has an uncommon history of being able to switch consciousness with another individual and that Taki manages to find employment by the time he encounters Mitsuha during the film’s end.

  • The combined insights from the novel and the powerhouse performance of Your Name means that reading and watching both is the most complete Your Name experience. I remark that purchasing the novel and having a professional translation of it was well worth the price of admissions: comparing the novel against fan translations find the latter to be inferior to the genuine article. Meanings are mangled, and subtleties are lost, whereas a professional translation allows most of the original meaning to be retained. The end result is an indispensable companion to the film.

  • Unlike Taki, who is minimally aware that he is searching for someone important in his life, I do not have that fortune. However, I would not wish to be in Taki’s situation — between having someone in my life and a starting point for my career, right now, I feel that the career is more important. I can get by without a partner, but I won’t last long in this world without a career. After sitting alone in a café, Taki overhears a conversation between Katsuhiko and Sayaka, who’ve become engaged to one another by this point in time. However, when he turns around, they’ve left. While the odds of this seem astronomically small, reality does things beyond comprehension, and even now, I’ve crossed paths with the people I’ve met years before.

  • One of the biggest challenge about writing this post is, because it deals so heavily with themes of love and strength of the heart even against space and time, I experienced a continuous, mild chest pain while writing it. I don’t normally have chest pain unless it’s from lifting weights, and are generally otherwise of a reasonably fit and healthy standard: I lift and run on a consistent basis. My curiosity got the better of me: this is the first time where a blog post has done this, and it’s not healthy to be feeling like this, so I decided to look at what was going on. As it turns out, the necessity of revisiting some old memories and emotions fire the same neurons in the brain responsible for processing physical pain.

  • The scene where Taki crosses a bridge on a snowy evening and runs into some who appears to be Mitsuha is designed with a very similar feel as seen in Five Centimeters per Second. However, rather than the moody shadows and prevalence of dark blue hues, in Your Name, the scene is better lit, with yellow sodium lights casting a different colour to break up the scene. This is intentionally done to remind audiences that Taki is not experiencing the same that Takaki had in Five Centimeters per Second. The importance of lighting cannot be understated, and misunderstanding how lighting in Five Centimeters Per Second played out is what led folks to draw the wrong conclusion about the movie.

  • Fortunately, I’ve got some training in stress management, so the pain will go away after I publish this post and busy myself with some Battlefield 1 and Far Cry 4. In Your Name, the application of time lapses is probably one of the surest indicators of how far Makoto Shinkai and his team have come since The Place Promised In Our Early Days: these scenes involve intricate lighting and dynamic shadows that must be painstakingly drawn for each position of the sun to ensure everything looks consistent. It was quite inspiring to learn that Shinkai hired graduates with a painting background rather than animators, which gave every film since The Place Promised In Our Early Days a distinct aesthetic.

  • Your Name‘s final moments appear quite similar to the short Paperman (2012), where a fellow by the name of George encounters a woman named Meg while riding a train to work. His efforts to catch her attention are to no avail, but through the power of love, fate brings the two together. Easily one of the most moving shorts I’ve seen, Paperman captures the intricacies of falling in love into a short span of six minutes, and moved one of my friends greatly: we were in a software engineering tutorial, and the TA had allowed us to watch the video near the end of semester. I imagine it would be lovely to have fate create those sorts of moments.

  • As with Gundam Unicorn‘s finale, “Over the Rainbow” and Girls und Panzer Der Film, I’ve made allusions to several different works. Among some of the works mentioned include Futurama, Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The page quote itself is sourced from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, whose relationship with Your Name has already been discovered to some extent. While some may regard the defacing of these great quotes as an insult to Your Name or their original works, I contend that they are present to lighten the mood up throughout the post.

  • At a flight of steps, a dejected-looking Taki ascends, wondering where Mitsuha had gone. Precisely here and now, Mitsuha is descending, with an equally glum expression, having lost sight of the person she’s longed to talk to and meet. This precise spot became the location of great interest amongst viewers: for those in Tokyo with a bit of extra time to explore, the nearest train stations to the flight of steps are Yotsuya Station (JR Chuuou Line) and Tokyo Metro (Marunouchi Line/ Nanboku Line).

  • That Mitsuha and Taki meet one another again after all this time is attributed to fate, but fate alone is meaningless unless acted upon. One of the issues with Five Centimeters per Second is that Takaki seems very passive, acting based on the path of least resistance and never really taking the initiative to move forward and live in the present. As such, he finds himself unable to do anything when Kanae dissolves in tears in front of him during her failed confession, and why his subsequent relationships continue disintegrating.

  • Conversely, Taki shows a considerable degree of initiative: Shinkai’s characters are strong-willed and determined, so Takaki seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Here, Taki decides to throw caution to the wind and see if this person really is Mitsuha. Turning around, he asks out loud that she seems familiar, and wonders if they’ve met before, setting in motion events that set Your Name as being a world apart from Five Centimeters per Second in terms of how decisive the outcome is.

  • There was another challenge in drafting this post — this one is rather more benign and involves screenshot collection. Some of the moments towards the end of Your Name are shown in the movie’s beginning, and the use of flashbacks means that there is the risk of using duplicate images. In order to ensure that every image is unique, I had to go through the set of screenshots I’ve picked to be in the final review and replace any duplicates. However, even in spite of this extra effort, I was able to get this post out in a timely fashion; I don’t imagine there exist a large collection of screenshots, commentary and discussion out there as of right now, although this will change very quickly once other bloggers get their heads in the game. For the next hour or so, however, this post will hold the distinction of being the most comprehensive English-language resource for Your Name to have ever graced this planet Earth.

  • Lost memories come back, and tears find their way to Mitsuha, who realises that this is the person she’s been searching for. Both long to ask one another the question that’s been on their minds for the past several years, “君の名は,” bringing the film to a close as both characters begin to explore a direction they’d given up to be impossible. The morning light and clear weather throughout the scene hints at the movie’s outcome, and with Your Name under my belt, I can decisively say that this movie is worth watching; its combination of a rewarding ending and visual effects means that Your Name is able to appeal to a very diverse group of viewers.

  • The sum of taking Shinkai’s learnings from his previous films and integrating them into a single entity, the top-tier artwork and animation and a story that combines elements from Japanese folklore and literature with modern components and real-world setting means that overall, on a letter grade system, Your Name scores a 9.5 of 10 (which corresponds to an A+ using the system my university uses). The reasoning is that, while incredibly entertaining to experience, Your Name did not change my world-view to any significant extent, which is the requirement for a perfect ten. Makoto Shinkai himself has expressed that the film is far from perfect, the combination of effective application of things taken from his previous movies packaged up into a single entity telling an immensely satisfying story means that this film is indeed worthy of its overwhelmingly positive reception. I hope that all of my readers have a chance to see this film for themselves.

Whole-movie reflection and closing remarks

The last time I watched a Makoto Shinkai movie was The Garden of Words during the summer of 2013, ironically, while it was pouring so heavily outside that the Bow River overflowed its bank and created the worst flooding in my area in over a century. Before that was Children Who Chases Lost Voices From Deep Below during late 2011. Both movies, already of an impressive quality, have been eclipsed by Your Name from a box office and reception perspective, but the question that remains is whether or not it Your Name does anything unique from a narrative perspective that sets it apart from his earlier works. From my perspective, it is able to take the fantastical elements of Children Who Chases Lost Voices From Deep Below, open drama of The Garden of Words and the emotional aspects of Five Centimeters Per Second, incorporating them into a cohesive story whose ending is one of optimism. While Makoto Shinkai has certainly had impressive works previously, Your Name shows that Shinkai has definitely been applying lessons taken from his earlier movies and using these to further hone his craft — Your Name represents his years of experience feeding into each scene to create a compelling story. This is my answer to the question; I don’t find the film to displace any of his earlier works in terms of quality. Each of his preceding films are outstanding and merits of watching, and Your Name reflects on the accumulated learnings from these earlier movies: the end result is an outstanding movie that definitely is a meaningful one to watch. For Your Name, I give it a strong recommendation without any question — the sum of its narrative, artwork, aural and thematic aspects makes it a moving experience to watch for both existing anime fans and folks who do not count themselves as anime fans.

One Year Since The Graduate Thesis Defense: A Short Reflection

‪”I went through withdrawal when I got out of graduate school. It’s what you learn, what you think. That’s all that counts.” —Maya Lin‬

One of the perks about the University of Calgary is that graduate students, following a successful defense examination, can lay claim to a complimentary bottle of champagne (or non-alcoholic equivalent) at the Last Defense Lounge on campus, sharing in the moment with my supervisor and some of lab’s current students. I realised that the one-year anniversary of my defense would be a fine of a time as any to cash in on this, lest I waited too long and the offer expires. In the year that has passed, I have acclimatised fully to my new schedule, heading to work every morning to do work things rather than to campus for campus things, and consequently, even the events of earlier this year feel as though they were distant memories. The dramatic change in time scales exemplifies the merciless march of the clocks, and following today’s visit, I look back on my time as a graduate student and wonder whether or not there is anything particularly noteworthy about my experiences that might merit sharing. These experiences have been intermittently mentioned throughout the blog’s history and act as an interesting sort of strata for recalling what I did when: in retrospect, there was a surprising number of accumulated memories and lessons I picked up during my time as a graduate student. How do my own experiences compare with those who have walked a similar path? I now look back on two years’ worth of accumulated events and pick twenty-five of the most noteworthy lessons or experiences to discuss. The screenshots in this post were taken from Girls und Panzer: Der Film, and the reasoning for that is a simple one — ChouCho’s “Piece of Youth” was the first song that iTunes returned to me after I had arrived home, after my defense ended and I’d spent lunch with my supervisor. My friends wondered whether or not I would do anything to celebrate passing my examination, and I remarked that I would sleep it off first, then celebrate later. The imagery seen in Girls und Panzer: Der Film‘s ending, coupled with the emotional tenour of “Piece of Youth”, feel particularly fitting for such a turn of events, so for each of the twenty-five points, given in order, there will be a screenshot.

  • It makes sense to begin at the beginning: the first thing I would say to a prospective graduate student is to begin the application early and to find their supervisor ahead of time. Graduate schools see an applicant as having initiative to carry out their research if they have demonstrated that they are willing to figure out which professors carry out research that interests them, and preparing the application early also allows one to make the deadlines.

  • Second is the importance of scholarships, both with respect to being aware of which ones one is eligible for, as well as when their deadlines are. Major scholarships, coupled with a teaching assistant stipend and department funding, can allow one sufficient finances to pay for their tuition in some cases, and also make it easier to acquire equipment. I’ve applied for and accepted QEIIs in my graduate programme, as well as smaller ones, such as the Lockhart Memorial Scholarship for raising awareness for brain health using computer science in the Giant Walkthrough Brain.

  • My entry into the Master of Computer Science was actually motivated by an interest in using computers in health applications, but because my undergraduate background left me short on computer science knowledge, I saw the programme as also an opportunity to learn more about programming in general. I ended up with some skills, such as Unreal Engine and Autodesk Maya, that I’m not sure I’ll be using, but other skills, such as the capacity to learn new languages and APIs, will definitely be useful.

  • The Giant Walkthrough Brain was actually the Master’s Thesis for one of my colleagues, but my involvement in it resulted in my becoming familiar with the Unity game engine. Leading the development of core elements, I learnt the ins and outs of Unity in a week, proceeding a prototype that convinced both the lab and Jay Ingram that this tool could be used to bring another dimension to his presentation.

  • Once the summer of 2014 ended, I decided that I would do a 3D visualisation of an animal cell, using the Unity engine as the platform for visualisation. I proposed a cell model for educational purposes, built on modular components that could be organised in any number of ways to illustrate some of the cell’s internal processes in a visual, expressive manner and also allow for easier modification than some existing cell models. A graduate thesis should be reasonably well-thought out, but one should also keep their minds open to new ideas that they encounter: my original proposal when I wrote the application in 2013 was to build an interactive model of the renal system.

  • As a TA to an introductory computer science course, I conducted tutorial sections and provided supplementary exercises for students, as well as participated in the grading of assignments. Being a TA can be very time-consuming, especially if one is taking courses. I found it easier to break things down into a well-organised pattern: I would study for data mining and social network analysis on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, graded assignments on Fridays, and worked on my thesis on weekends, plus Monday. On Sundays, I would also prepare lesson plans for the tutorials.

  • Having been in the student’s shoes, the importance of having a good TA cannot be understated. For me, a good TA is someone who is willing to walk through the material with students in a manner they find comfortable, is fair about assignment grading and the students’ situations, and finally, is accessible via email. So, I strove to be the sort of TA that I would like to be taught by, and although it was hard work (on the night an assignment was due, I got emails from students outside of my section in addition to those inside), it was definitely worth it.

  • Graduate courses are often project, rather than exam driven. While I had a midterm exam in my data mining course, the final project was a term paper (I focused on motifs in the structures of nuclear proteins); every other course was driven by projects. To excel in a graduate course is to both understand and apply the material via exploration rather than memorisation: this is my favourite way to learn, but not everyone will see it in this manner. As an aside, getting a perfect GPA in graduate school is much less challenging than in undergraduate programs, but it also has much less meaning.

  • Between research, teaching, courses and applications for scholarships, plus writing journal and conference papers, graduate school is incredibly busy. I’m actually not too sure how I managed to keep this blog running, but I do know that time management, plus allocating deliberate openings on the week to relax, is immensely useful. I usually game on Friday evenings unless another event occurs, such as hanging out at a local pub or watching movies with friends, and since this is planned for, it does not impact my other schedules.

  • Apparently, blogging constitutes as a form of self-care for migitating the stresses of being a graduate student. So does lifting weights (or running). My routines most weeks was to pump iron three times a week in the mornings and then run, over the course of 90 minutes. I wake up early to do so, and a good lift leaves me awake and ready to seize the day. This routine persists well into the real world, and lifting weights continues to be a source of stress relief for me.

  • In the first year of graduate school, most students will focus on their courses and make some progress with their research. The combination of courses and TA work can make it tricky to find time for research, but picking courses related to one’s thesis project can ensure that one makes some progress even if they’re not directly working on their project. This is why I ended up taking Data Mining and Social Network Analysis (allowing me to mine for protein motifs), Multi-Agent Systems and Their Properties (formally define the entities in my models and express the rules governing their interactions more clearly) and Biological Computations (I built a microtubule visualisation using rule-based interactions in Unity). All of these courses were quite time consuming, but helped my project in some way.

  • Once courses are done, graduate students have around sixteen months to wholly work on their projects. While this seems to be a lot of time, but even in the absence of courses, sixteen months can go by in a flash. Starting the thesis paper early, such as during some days where work on the project is slower, can mitigate this: it is easiest to work on background, motivation and bibliographical aspects, since these aren’t dependent on one’s results. I started my thesis paper in July ten months before I was scheduled to defend.

  • In order to stay organised, it is immensely useful to know one’s supervisor’s schedule: besides meetings vetting ideas and providing inspiration or guidance, knowing the supervisor’s schedule and typical schedule means being able to plan around their presence efficiently and meet deadlines, especially where signatures or documentation requiring the supervisor’s input are necessary. This ultimately falls on the student to manage their time well: there is a limit to what supervisors can do in a given timeframe, and getting ahead of things means preventing undue stress.

  • While not every supervisor might be willing to do so, my supervisor also judiciously proof-read my papers and applications. I say it with pride that I count myself a capable writer, but even then, there are mistakes that I can (and will) miss: having an additional pair of eyes to look over things helped substantially. I admit that I was always nervous getting feedback, but they contributed substantially to my writing style and eliminated grammatical issues in my wording. Perhaps I should find a proofreader for this blog, too.

  • At a sufficiently advanced stage, graduate students might consider submitting their work to a conference or journal. While some venues have a page limit (sometimes, the upper limit is four pages), writing even short papers can be a highly time-consuming process. My first-ever publication for Laval took two months to complete, and it had a four page limit. The advantage about working on publications, even if they are rejected, is that one is able to gain additional material for their thesis, so working on publications at the Master’s level is not a total waste of time.

  • One of the most memorable things I experienced during my graduate program were the pair of conferences I was able to attend. It was my first time travelling overseas without family, and it was a thrilling experience, to be able to present outside of North America. Preparing for these presentations were an enjoyable and instructive process, and my old project drew interesting questions from attendees: unlike most folks, I tend to have next to no text on my slides, forcing the audience to follow me as I deliver my talk. I never read off my slides and memorise my lines ahead of the talk well enough so I can give a reasonably consistent presentation. Like Rick and Morty, I usually improv  my lines using my notes as guidance, so my rehearsal and actual presentations vary.

  • One of the challenges about presenting overseas is ensuring one has all of their audio-visual equipment in check: while the conference venue will have a projector and either an HDMI or VGA adaptor, individuals running their presentations of older MacBook Pros and iPads to bring their own adaptors to ensure that they can utilise their slides. I brought an assortment of Thunderbolt cables to Laval, and Lightning adapters for Cancún. In Cancún, folks were surprised that I walked up to the stage with an iPad and iPhone, but after hooking the adapters up, I gave my talk with the iPad as the main device, and my iPhone as the remote control (I have the Keynote app, so I used Bluetooth to remote in and control the presentation).

  • In Laval, I learned that even the relatively light weight of the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2015 model proved to be a hindered that reduced my mobility. I was travelling with a colleague, so we could look after our possessions without difficulty at train stations and airports. So, for Cancún, I decided to bring my presentation on an iPad and backed it up to my iPhone: my iPad is small enough to fit into a shoulder-carried bag, so I could take my stuff with me wherever I went.

  • For conferences, the biggest take-away message I would have is to book accommodations early: for Laval, hotels near the venue filled up quickly, leaving my colleague and I to lodge in a small hotel at the edge of town. Taking these lessons into Cancún, I was able to book a room right beside the venue. All in all, both of my conferences turned out to be incredible experiences. Being able to travel abroad in graduate school is easily one of the most memorable: after spending months preparing the paper and arranging for flights and accommodations, and a few weeks getting the presentation itself ready, there was an unparalleled sense of excitement in going somewhere else with a very clearly-defined goal in mind. My trip to Japan and Hong Kong this year felt quite different, as my aim in travelling was to unwind, rather than present on behalf of my lab and university.

  • The final suggestions I have pertain to the thesis defense itself: I can offer no tips or guidelines for what defines a good project, since that varies depending on the individual and their faculty. Here, I stress that time management is critical: my original intentions were to defend in April, but I underestimated the time-frames and required another month to finish working on my thesis, which at my university is submitted a month before the defense date. Working on just the thesis paper alone full-time is a surprisingly draining experience, and it gets especially tiring near the end, so having another project or goal to work on (e.g. job applications) becomes a very effective means of taking a break.

  • For the defense itself, the examiners will have read one’s thesis. The exam opens with a short, fifteen minute talk on one’s project. This time is to be used for hitting the highlights, results and implications; it is the easiest part of the exam, since it can be scripted. The examiners’ questions follow: while easily the trickiest part of the exam, one of my former colleagues suggested approaching it as a scientific discussion rather than an exam (it’s more relaxing this way), and I add that it’s okay to not know, but then offer an educated bit of speculation based on existing knowledge.

  • As with any other exam, arriving early, prepared is the way to go. Because the defense questions period can last for two hours, it is a good idea to bring plenty of water. Some questions invariably will surprise or immobilise examinees: in my exam, I forgot the definition of a role-based agent, for instance. Missing one or two questions is not sufficient to cause failure — I simply rolled with it, thanking the examiner for their insights, recovered and went on to pass my defence.

  • Despite having passed my defence, I was not out of the woods yet. Before one can truly finish and prepare for graduation, the final draft of the thesis paper must be submitted to the university pending revisions. This process took me a month to finish; after returning from Cancún, I spent the remainder of July finalising the paper. It took a few tries to get my submission accepted, since there remained persistent formatting issues, but once I had finished, the journey had finally come to an end. Ensuring that ones thesis has all of the proper formatting, bibliography and permissions is essential.

  • The penultimate suggestion I have for prospective graduate students is to enjoy their program; while furiously busy, it is nonetheless a highly enjoyable stage in life, offering numerous opportunities to begin exploring the limits of knowledge without the urgency that accompanies working in industry. Effective use of time means one can stay on top of their research and still have far more time than they ever did as undergraduates.

  • My final remark is that after graduate school at the Master’s level, the biggest takeaway experience is not the technical knowhow, but rather, the sum of all the skills to manage time and communicate effectively on both paper and verbally. Far more than knowing how to use Unity, Unreal and Maya, knowing how to be clear, precise and effective with time are skills that transfer into virtually all disciplines.

Beyond being an extensive reflection of my graduate studies program, the presence of Girls undo Panzer screenshots here also prompt a short discussion on Girls und Panzer: Final Chapter. This discussion is short quite simply because there has been no new information on what Final Chapter entails, beyond the fact that Ōarai Girls’ Academy closing will not be a concern, the first installment will be screened in theatres on December 9, and that there will be a total of six installments. The tagline for Final Chapter promises that this is the last of Girls und Panzer, which hopefully means that Final Chapter will provide satisfactory closure to any remaining loose ends surrounding what was unexpectedly an immensely enjoyable series. Beyond this, we venture into the realm of fan speculation, which is much less reliable. Similar to Tamayura: Graduation Photo, each chapter in this series is expected to run for around an hour each. While a remarkably entertaining series, Girls undo Panzer is also known for its protracted release schedule — Girls und Panzer: Der Film has been known since the series ended back in 2013, but my review of the film only came out thirteen months ago. In short, I started grad school and was very nearly finished by the time the movie released; if Final Chapter is intended to follow similar timelines as Graduation Photo, which released semi-annually, I will have likely bought a house before Miho and Ōarai Girls’ Academy’s ultimate fate is known.