The Infinite Zenith

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Slow Loop: Review and Impressions After Three

“We never lose our loved ones. They accompany us; they don’t disappear from our lives. We are merely in different rooms.” –Paulo Coelho

On the first day of school, Koharu is disappointed to learn that she and Hiyori are going to be in different classes, while Hiyori is relieved she’s in the same class as Koi, a friend she’d known since pre-school. After classes end, Hiyori takes Koharu to the fishing shop Koi’s family owns, and picks up an all-in-one fishing kit here. The two later visit a lighthouse that Hiyori’s father had once taken her to, and here, Hiyori gifts the all-in-one fishing kit to Koharu. To get Koharu up to speed with fly fishing, Hiyori arranges for a fishing trip with Koi and her father: the latter is very fond of fishing to the point of occasionally forgetting about his family, and while Koharu is unable to catch anything, she is able to speak to Koi and encourages her to look out for Hiyori in her own way. Later, Hiyori learns that Koharu had lost her mother and younger brother in an accident, and despite having lived with one another for a few weeks, Koharu is a little distant with Hiyori’s mother. To this end, Koharu suggest going on a camping trip together with Koi’s family, too. Here, Hiyori realises that fishing of late’s been considerably more enjoyable, but struggles to find the words to thank Koharu, while Koharu catches her first-ever fish and savours it, before helping out with dinner. During the meal preparations, Koharu finds that she’s able to speak with Hiyori’s mother quite naturally, and Hiyori makes an attempt to know Koharu’s father better, as well. As the evening comes to a close, Koharu and Hiyori stargaze together. When Hiyori wonders if her father would recognise her as she is know, Koharu replies that so long as she smiles, things will be fine. Koharu herself grows excited about the prospect of returning to their campsite in the autumn, when the foliage is painted in hues of oranges and yellows. Here at Slow Loop‘s third episode, it is apparent that family will form the focus of this latest Manga Time Kirara adaptation, with fishing being a secondary aspect that gives the characters common ground to build shared experiences and memories from.

Both the second and third episodes provide exposition into how each of Koharu and Hiyori handled loss; Hiyori sought to understand her father better by continuing to fish, while Koharu pushes herself to be more outgoing and bring joy into the lives of those around her to the best of her ability. When these opposites meet, the end result is a sort of synergy: Hiyori is able to appreciate her father’s hobby more fully, while Koharu ends up being able to share her energy with someone. Unlike Tamayura, which presented things in a much slower and measured manner, Slow Loop‘s portrayal is considerably more spirited in nature; different people respond to loss and grief differently, and Slow Loop sets itself apart by showing viewers both the fact that people are quite resilient, but it is together that one is able to really take those difficult steps forward. The fact that Hiyori and Koharu share quite a bit in common (regarding their backgrounds) means that both are well-placed to help one another out, and I imagine that it is possible that there will come a point in Slow Loop where Hiyori will need to step up and encourage Koharu, as well. The idea of being there for one another, in both good times and the bad, is what makes a family: Koi makes this abundantly clear by saying that what a family outwardly appears to be isn’t the whole picture, and while Slow Loop‘s been quite gentle insofar, Koi’s remarks means that there will be points where Koharu and Hiyori encounter challenges, or even clash. However, in typical Manga Time Kirara spirit, whether it be through introspection or support from others (usually, a combination of both), the relationship that Koharu and Hiyori will come out all the stronger. With these directions in mind, Slow Loop has proven to be unexpectedly mature in its portrayal, and at this point in time, it is evident the series has what it takes to differentiate itself from its precursors.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Although Koharu isn’t in Hiyori’s class, she manages to hit it off with her classmates almost immediately. Hiyori, on the other hand, is glad to have ended up in the same class as her friend, Koi. The dramatic contrast in Hiyori and Koharu’s personalities are mirrored in their classroom arrangements; Koharu has no trouble with new people and appears to fit right in, while Hiyori is given a quieter setting where she’s able to be reassured by the fact she’s with someone she knows. After their first day of class, Hiyori decides to take Koharu around to some of the places she frequents.

  • As the daughter of a fishing fanatic, Koi works at a fishing store and is familiar with all of the gear that Hiyori could require in-field. Koi’s known Hiyori since pre-school, and consequently, Koi understands her quite well. Koi is voiced by Tomomi Mineuchi (Eiko Tokura of Slow Start Ilulu from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid,  and GochiUsa‘s Kano), although in appearance and personality, she’s similar to Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s Remon Yamano or perhaps Please Teacher!‘s Ichigo Monino: all characters have a quiet but somewhat mischievous disposition.

  • Viewers are given an introduction to the different types of lures: Koi classifies them into four groups (dry, nymphs, wet and streamers) based on the type of organism they’re supposed to mimic and correspondingly, the type of fish they’re intended to catch. Most guides I’ve found on a cursory search give three distinct categories, omitting the wet lure. Wet lures are stated to be a hybrid between streamers and nymphs: they float in the water, whereas dry lures sit on top of the water.

  • Although Koi’s name is evocative of the koi, a kind of Amur Carp, she explains that the kanji for her name is actually written as love (恋): it turns out on the day of her birth, her father had rushed off to fish, leaving her mother to give birth. Koi’s father is portrayed as being obsessed with fishing, and he often leaves Koi to run the store while he runs off to fish after her classes end for the day. This sort of behaviour has given some viewers trouble by making the show “unrealistic”, but for me, exaggerated traits are a signature part of Manga Time Kirara series.

  • The goal of characters like Koi and her father are to remind viewers that this is a world where both Koharu and Hiyori have experienced people in their corner. Since we are early in the series, the worth of people like Koi’s father won’t be immediately apparent, but as Slow Loop wears on, the additional expertise will become valuable. It turns out that Hiyori had wanted to pick up a special all-in-one fly fishing lure kit. The close interactions between Koi and Hiyori is such that Koi has a special name for Hiyori: “Yamahi”. This came from the fact there were two Yamakawas back during pre-school.

  • This revelation imparts a bit of jealousy in Koharu, who becomes a bit pouty after learning of this fact. Koharu continues to give off Cocoa vibes in Slow Loop, and like Cocoa, Koharu’s mood is quick to change: all jealousy evaporates when Hiyori reveals that she’d had one more destination in mind for their time together: a spot that she and her father had once visited together. Along the way, Koharu remarks on how it’s so nice that the ocean is within a stone’s throw. Koharu’s love for the ocean brings to mind Aoi and Chiaki’s response to the fact that Rin was sending so many ocean photos back to everyone in Yuru Camp△ – the ocean is especially beautiful to those who live in landlocked areas.

  • Different anime utilise different approaches when it comes to how they portray characters relative to their environments. Anime with simple backgrounds and characters that stand out indicate to viewers that the characters are the focus, while anime where the backgrounds are richly detailed remind viewers that the setting is also important; in offering something unique for the characters (such as the ocean’s bounty, or untamed natural beauty) to the extent where it can be considered a character in its own right. This was the case in anime like Yuru Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi. Here in Slow Loop, the latter seems to hold true.

  • Because the background is portrayed as being quite vibrant, it is significant to the story. I had indicated a few weeks earlier that that Slow Loop was set in Kanagawa: upon spotting this lighthouse, I turned my location hunting skills to use and did a query for all of the lighthouses in Kanagawa. This quickly allowed me to narrow the setting to Yokosuka, as this particular lighthouse is Kannonzaki Lighthouse. While not quite rural (Yokosuka has a population of 409 hundred thousand as of 2017), there is a corner of the city near the lighthouse that is a little less built-up. Knowing that Hiyori and Koharu live within walking distance of Kannonzaki Lighthouse makes location-hunting a little easier, and I just might return to do such a post in the future if Slow Loop presents enough places of interest.

  • It turns out that the all-in-one lure kit Hiyori bought was for Koharu, as a way of really welcoming her into the family and further kindle her interest in fly fishing. With her excitement still in full swing, Koharu accepts a chance to go fly fishing with Hiyori, Koi and her father. Koi’s father is all too happy to accept the chance to go out and fish, although Koi herself is less enthused by the excursion.

  • On the day of the fishing trip, Koi comes with an umbrella and is content to sit things out while her father, Hiyori and Koharu fish. It suddenly strikes me that Koharu’s got a very adorable-looking hat: it’s reminiscent of a lop-eared bunny, and coupled with the chibi art style, really accentuates the fact that Slow Loop, no matter how serious conversations might get, at the end of the day, such series are about finding the joys in life and putting a smile on viewers’ face.

  • Chibi moments like these serve to give every character more personality, and Slow Loop has utilised the transition between its normal art and chibi art to really convey how someone feels in a moment. Koharu is raring to get the party started; although she’s quite motivated and determined, poor form as a result of her still being new to fly fishing means she gets nothing.

  • On the other hand, with her experience, Hiyori begins picking fish up almost immediately. When Koharu finds herself skunked by the fly fishing, she stops to take a break and starts up a conversation with Koi. As it turns out, Koi had been worried about Hiyori ever since Hiyori’s father had passed away, but never felt it was her place to support and encourage Hiyori. Seeing Koharu come in so casually and lifting Hiyori’s spirits makes Koi wish that she’d done more for Hiyori.

  • While Koi had been doing her best to be considerate, Koharu has no such context and is therefore able to act without treading around eggshells. Seeing the change in Hiyori once Koharu shows up is ultimately encouraging for Koi, who is able to take a step forwards, as well. To accentuate this, once Koi comes to realise that she can still be there for Hiyori in her own way, similarly to how Koharu’s brightened Hiyori’s world up, she puts her umbrella away and steps out of the shadows, into the light.

  • This sort of thing was common in Tamayura, where Fū’s friends worry about whether or not the smallest thing could cause Fū grief in the beginning. However, the combination of Fū’s own open-mindedness and her friends’ unwavering support means that Fū is able to not only stand of her own accord, but flourish, too. Slow Loop does seem to be going in this direction; because of the positive energy Koharu brings to the table, Hiyori’s become excited at having a fishing partner, someone to share in her (and by extension, her father’s) love of the ocean.

  • By having Koi come to see how Hiyori’s begun taking those same steps that Fū had, Slow Loop both sets in motion Hiyori’s growth, as well as removing one more obstacle that keeps Koi from being her true self. In a Manga Time Kirara series, this means that Koi will likely become more expressive, resulting in interactions between herself, Hiyori and Koharu that are more consistent with the gentle, fluffy and humourous tone that Manga Time Kirara works are best known for.

  • The biggest surprise in Slow Loop so far was learning that Koharu’s background is at least as tragic as that of Hiyori’s, but in spite of this, she’s able to put on a smile and brighten up Hiyori’s day anyways. I expect that this will be something left for future episodes: for now, Hiyori’s the person who’s growing, and as Hiyori becomes increasingly able to stand of her own accord, she’d be able to support Koharu on the days where she’s not at the top of her game. For now, however, Koharu is all smiles, and she’s able to reminisce about her family without becoming saddened.

  • Koharu understands that the process isn’t going to take place overnight, but because there’s a distance between herself and Hiyori’s mother, she longs to close that distance over time. Like Sayomi and Nadeshiko, Koharu believes that adventure is the key to this, and ends up booking a fishing/camping trip. Koi and her family are also invited, but Koi’s a little befuddled as to why they’re to partake even when they’re not family. However, Koi’s father immediately jumps on the chance, seeing it as another chance to go fishing.

  • Slow Loop‘s use of familiar elements initially can come across as being derivative, but the activity isn’t the star of the show here; even assuming this was to be the case, my discussions would veer towards the differences in how Slow Loop and Houkago Teibou Nisshi portray fishing; one key difference is that Houkago Teibou Nisshi purely has the girls fishing from the breakwater (shore fishing), and Slow Loop portrays boat fishing. For now, however, Hiyori must first get the boat into the water, and while she’s done it before, it was adorable to see her struggle with Koharu in the boat.

  • In the end, the pair end up over the lake despite Koharu’s inexperience with rowing. Boat fishing offers numerous advantages over fishing from land: for one, range is improved, and one can hit spots that are otherwise inaccessible on land. However, fishing from the shore has less setup and teardown. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina and the Breakwater Club fish from the shore exclusively because their home, Sashiki, is a fishing town: there’d be a lot of commercial boats on the water, making it difficult for the Breakwater Club to head out into open water. Conversely, Slow Loop has Hiyori and Koharu do a combination of both kinds of fishing, acting as a metaphor for how different approaches and tools both have their pluses and minuses.

  • While Hiyori and Koharu enjoy lunch, Hiyori (somewhat insensitively) brings up fishing superstitions that leave Koharu disappointed. Here, I will note that insofar, discussions on Slow Loop have been fairly limited: the larger blogs I visit don’t appear to be writing about this series. While I normally welcome discussions, especially for the hotter series, slice-of-life anime are something I’d prefer to watch in a vacuum: I’ve never received a satisfactory answer as to why people take these anime so seriously, and discussions inevitably devolve into attempts to psychoanalyse even the most minor of actions the characters take.

  • Far from reading between the lines, such discussions invariably miss the big-picture message the work was originally intended to go for. Attempts to bring topics like philosophy and psychology into Manga Time Kirara works is therefore of limited value at best, and I’ve found that characters’ interactions and intentions in these series should be taken at face value. Here, a sudden rainfall forces Koharu and Hiyori to take cover under some branches by the shore. Hiyori thinks to herself that of late, thanks to Koharu’s presence, fishing has become much more enjoyable: it’d taken Rin two full seasons of Yuru Camp△ to appreciate this, so to see Slow Loop not-so-slowly convey this to viewers is a clear indicator of where this series intends to go.

  • Although Hiyori isn’t quite able to openly thank Koharu yet, the weather unexpectedly becomes pleasant again, and while Hiyori suggests returning to shore, she spots a few fish underneath the water. She seizes the moment and asks Koharu to ready her line while she prepares a lure. Earlier, Koi had set the condition that in order to partake in dinner with the others, each of Hiyori and Koharu needed to catch something. For Hiyori, this isn’t a problem, but Koharu is still a novice who has yet to catch anything. Feeling like she should return the favour to Koharu, Hiyori swiftly gears up.

  • In the end, Koharu is able to catch her first fish, following suggestions from Hiyori. This is a milestone moment for Koharu, who can now be said to be hooked on fly fishing. Unlike Hina, who’d outright fainted at the prospect of having to gut and clean a fresh catch, Koharu is much more accepting of the process, and again, this is an aspect to Slow Loop that differentiates it from other series of its lineage. It takes no small measure of subtlety to really appreciate slice-of-life series; for those unfamiliar with the genre, all slice-of-life series feel similar and are about “nothing”.

  • This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it does take a bit of open-mindedness to be open to what slice-of-life series are intended to convey. This is the reason why I am such a staunch defender of slice-of-life anime: these aren’t series that can be graded on conventional metrics, and their worth comes from whether or not they are able to present a meaningful message about life itself. Back in Slow Loop,. Koharu wonders if this fish’s experience is akin to being burnt at the stake. For a fluffy and cheerful individual, Koharu certainly has no qualms about speaking her mind, and this has led some to wonder if she’s quick to antagonise those around her for this.

  • I’d counter that in Manga Time Kirara series, character traits are exaggerated for comedy’s sake. If it is indeed necessary to explore this side of Koharu’s character later, then I will consider Koharu’s loose lips later on. Like the Breakwater Club’s doctrine in Houkago Teibou Nisshi (“eat what you catch”), Hiyori observes the idea that one should eat their catch to appreciate what goes into it. There’s a barbeque facility at the camp site, making it easy for Koharu to prepare her fish and eat it, as she says, as one would in a manga. The technique of eating fish this way is known as shioyaki, a practise that has been along for a very long time.

  • By evening, the families prepare to set up a hearty dinner. Thanks to Koharu, an acqua pazza soon takes shape. With the rainbow trout salted and grilled shioyaki-style, Koharu adds Manila clams and cherry tomatoes. Once the flavours get to know one another, the dish is done. The fact that Koharu is so knowledgable about cooking impresses Hiyori’s mother, who comments that Hiyori’s father had always been the cook, and after his passing, they’d gotten by on convenience store meals. In no time at all, cooking allows Hiyori’s mother and Koharu to bond.

  • The portrayal of camping in Slow Loop brings back memories of last year’s Yuru Camp△ 2: at this time last year, the third episode had just aired. Rin spent the day with Nadeshiko in Hamamatsu and explained her reasons for enjoying solo camping – Yuru Camp△ is one of those series where every episode offered something distinct to talk about, and I did episodic discussions for the second season during its airing. For Slow Loop, I’ve elected to write about it with my usual frequency (every three episodes). While World’s End Harem has proven interesting, the setup means that I might write a single post about it once it’s over – there’s a lot of moving parts right now with this one. On the other hand, Girls’ Frontline has been a bit of a disappointment insofar; the series has not established its characters well yet, and I’m not sure where this series intends to go.

  • Back in Slow Loop, seeing Koharu taking the initiative spurs Hiyori to do the same, and here, she offers a bowl of acqua pazza to Koharu’s father. After dinner’s done, Hiyori and Koharu decide to go star-gazing, where, away from the city lights, they’re able to spot Ursa Major in all of its glory, plus the Milky Way itself. While a stunning sight to behold, one reminiscent of how Ao and Mira had met in Koisuru Asteroid, a quick look around light pollution charts around Japan suggests that such gorgeous skies would be outside the realm of possibility nearest the larger cities.

  • It is under the vast night sky where Koharu explains how she’s able to put one foot in front of the other despite what’d happened in her past: keep smiling, because even though those around her might be gone, they’ll still be able to remember her smile from the other side. What Koharu means that her mother, and Hiyori’s father, would’ve wanted them to keep on moving forwards in their lives, to keep finding things to smiling about (i.e. make new memories). This is the sort of thing that Tamayura had particularly excelled at, and with Koi joining the group, I’m rather curious to see when Ichika, Futaba, Aiko, Niji and Tora enter the picture. In the meantime, speaking of enjoying family time, we’ve just picked up some Southern Fried Chicken and fries, and I’ve not sat down to a dinner of this sort since the New Year began, so it’s time to go ahead and enjoy this to the fullest extent possible on this unexpectedly warm but blustery winter’s night.

With this being said, Slow Loop‘s incorporation of elements from other slice-of-life series, like Houkago Teibou Nishi, Yuru Camp△, Tamayura and Koisuru Asteroid means presenting to viewers a familiar experience. Whether or not this is a bad thing will depend on the individual: amongst the community, some folks contend that if something is “generic”, it counts as a strike against a given work. For me, this isn’t ever a problem: treading on previously explored territory allows an anime to quickly establish its premise, and this in turn provides more time to focus on what the work intended to convey. In other words, whether or not a work contains derivative elements is irrelevant to me: what matters is how well said work can deliver a relevant, meaningful message. Here in Slow Loop, Hiyori and Koharu’s dynamic had previously been seen in Yuru Camp△‘s Rin and Nadeshiko, while the events forming the backdrop for Slow Loop‘s story is similar to Tamayura‘s. Hence, viewers can reasonably expect that Slow Loop would be a story of opposite personalities coming together to drive individual growth. However, because the setup is quite distinct from those of Yuru Camp△ and Tamayura, Slow Loop provides an opportunity to show something neither of these works focused on: how the combination of Koharu’s cheerful, happy-go-lucky personality and Hiyori’s introspective, quiet traits complement the other in a way as to allow both characters to come to terms with their losses, support one another and ultimately, step forward together. I’ll admit that this was something I wasn’t expecting from Slow Loop based on its synopsis alone, but now that we’ve seen three episodes, I am looking forwards to seeing how this anime explores more challenging topics about handling loss and grief while at the same time, continuing to remind viewers to be appreciative of the smaller things in life, like sharing a meal with loved ones.

Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War- At the Halfway Point

“Amidst the eternal waves of time, From a ripple of change shall the storm rise, Out of the abyss peer the eyes of a demon, Behold the Razgriz, its wings of black sheath!” –Razgriz Poem, Part One

In 2010, an unidentified spy plane appears near Sand Island, prompting Wardog squadron to scramble. Rookie pilot, Blaze, accompanies Captain Jack Bartlett and two other trainees, Kei Nagase and Alvin H. Davenport into the air to intercept the plane, which unexpectedly calls for support. Although they are successful in repelling the attackers, a second spy plane shows up three days later, forcing Wardog squadron to scramble yet again. During the combat, Bartlett is shot down and declared missing. On the same day, Yuktobania declares war on Osea. Wardog squadron is sent to defend the Osean fleet, before returning to Sand Island. Hans Grimm joins Wardog squadron, and Blaze’s actions lead him to become promoted to Wardog’s flight lead. Wardog escorts the Kestrel and two other carriers, but an attack from the Yuktobanian submarine, Scinfaxi, destroys the other aircraft carriers and most of the air forces with burst missiles. This turn of events prompts Osea to accelerate the installation of a laser module on the Arkbird, a low-orbiting space craft originally intended to be utilised as a testbed for aeronautical technologies and space exploration. Yuktobanian forces launch an attack on the facility, but Wardog manages to repel them. When the Scinfaxi attacks Sand Island, the Arkbird’s support allows the defenders to focus on the Scinfaxi, and despite severe losses from the last of the burst missiles, Wardog squadron sinks the Scinfaxi. To prevent the war from escalating, Osean president Vincent Harling makes his way over to a secret peace summit with the Yuktobanian government. Although the aircraft carrying Harling comes under fire, Wardog defends him. The Osean army prepares for a massive amphibious operation against Yuktobania, and with Wardog’s assistance, deal the Yuktobanian army a defeat by destroying their bunkers and capturing their fortress. Wardog pursues the withdrawing Yuktobanian forces, and while they are able to shoot down their transport aircraft, Wardog is made the scapegoat after a terrorist attack at a Yuktobanian university kills civilians. This leads Yuktobania to launch a massive attack on the Osean capital, Oured, and on Bana City. Wardog is in Oured while awaiting a disciplinary hearing, but the unexpected attack forces them to take to the skies and engage the Yuktobanian air force. They manage to defend the airport and minimise damage to the city. To prove their innocence, Wardog next takes an assignment to destroy a Yuktobanian ammunition depot and successfully complete their task. Later, a ballistic missile attack reveals that Yuktobania has another Scinfaxi-class submarine, the Hrimfaxi. Travelling to the far north, Wardog engages and destroys the Hrimfaxi, earning them the nickname of Razgriz. Later, when Wardog is set to support the extraction of Osean POWs, Nagase is shot down, and command decides to wait until the next morning to pick her up from behind enemy line. To their surprise, when Nagase is located, she’d actually managed to turn the tables on the Yuktobanian forces sent to capture her.

Right out of the gates, my immediate impressions of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (The Unsung War from here on out for brevity) are overwhelmingly positive. The flight controls are smooth and responsive, allowing me to direct my plane towards any target and participate in most dogfights with confidence: after beating the first few missions, I became at home with how things handled. However, it also became clear that unlike Skies Unknown, the fact that The Unsung War dates back to an older time means that some mechanics were simplified from what I’d been accustomed to. For one, enemy planes cannot equip countermeasures. In Skies Unknown, enemy pilots could sometimes put flares out if a missile would impact, but here, one needn’t worry about flares. Similarly, clouds were utilised to act as cover in Skies Unknown, and planes could ice up if they spent extended periods inside cloud cover while attempting to break an enemy lock. Moreover, laser weapons would fail to function if a target was behind a cloud. The Unsung War has none of these elements, and this actually simplifies things for players, who can focus purely on the mission at hand. Missiles are consistently useful; they can reliably hit targets between 2500 and 5000 feet, and one can chain kills in succession by rapidly switching between targets. Like Skies Unknown, having gotten through half of the missions in the campaign, I am now quite confident that my flying is sufficient for me to be successful in The Unsung War‘s second half. With a good understanding of The Unsung War‘s control scheme now that I’ve fifteen missions under my belt, one more remark that I will add is that being able to play The Unsung War has furthered my appreciation for Skies Unknown, as well. It is clear that The Unsung War had pioneered the sort of creativity that returned in Skies Unknown. Missions with special mechanics (such as phony radar contacts, flying down a narrow, specific course and special bombing runs) help to keep things novel and challenging. In this way, Skies Unknown ends up being the developers’, Project Aces’, way of thanking players for having waited this long for Ace Combat‘s return to form after almost a decade of spinoffs which lacked the original series’ finesse and staying power. The success that Skies Unknown enjoyed is also a testament to the extensive list of things that The Unsung War did particularly well in: numerous elements from The Unsung War made their way to Skies Unknown, demonstrating that this classic evidently still holds up to more modern games where mechanics and narrative are concerned.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My first exposure to Ace Combat was sixteen years ago: it was the middle of the summer, and back then, the local public libraries had a wonderful selection of books. There wasn’t anything quite like it nowadays, but previously, libraries had books on every conceivable topic of interest, from Reader’s Digest’s Treasures of China, to Smithsonian’s Universe: The Definitive Visual Guide. There was even a small section with video game strategy guides, and as luck would have it, the newly-opened local branch happened to have guides for a handful of games I’d been curious about, including Halo 2.

  • On that day, I found a copy of Brady Games’ Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, and upon perusing it, I was captured by the extensive aircraft listings. The strategy guide had been intriguing enough for me to check it out for the two weeks, and reading through it, I found myself wishing that I had a copy of The Unsung War for my PlayStation 2, which was a brand-new console at the time. Upon arriving home, I sat down and began reading through the strategy guide, which had detailed a rich world beyond imagination. Over the years, I would check The Unsung War‘s strategy guide out a few more times, but as I moved into secondary school and stopped going to the library, Ace Combat began falling to the back of my mind.

  • This changed when I came upon a link to The Unsung War‘s soundtrack during the early winter semester of my second year in university. The music was exceptional, far beyond anything available to games of The Unsung War‘s era, and instead of studying for organic chemistry, I remember spending an afternoon reading about The Unsung War‘s missions, aircraft and superweapons. At the time, I wished that I’d bought The Unsung War back when copies were still being sold at local gaming stores, but I resigned myself to watching YouTube playthroughs and reading about things, believing there wouldn’t be a chance to ever go through this game for myself.

  • All of this changed recently, and I was able to acquire a copy of Ace Combat 5: this is something that I’d long given up hope for and thought to be impossible until now. However, with a functional copy, I’ve been able to step into the world of The Unsung War for myself for the first time since checking out the strategy guide from the library sixteen years earlier. I don’t recall every detail in that strategy guide, except for the fact that Nagase gets shot down at some point, that the Arkbird plays a major role in The Unsung War‘s story and that the best missions are in the game’s second half.

  • In order to reach the second half, I needed to become familiar with the controls anew, and then beat the first half of the game. Fortunately for me, The Unsung War handles very well, and I have no trouble in getting the aircraft to go where I need it to go. Things aren’t quite as smooth as they are in Skies Unknown, the consequence of Skies Unknown being some fifteen years newer, but overall, the controls are as responsive as can be reasonably expected. After I acclimatised to the controls and had the chance to fly a few sorties, my confidence increased.

  • After repelling spy aircraft from the skies over Sand Island, Wardog is sent to assist the Kestrel, an Osean aircraft carrier that served in the Belkan War. The goal here is to fend off enemy aircraft while the Kestrel heads for open water, and the level marks the first time players get to fight over a populated area. The graphics have aged quite gracefully, and while smaller buildings are just textures on the ground, simple structures do have some height to them. Despite being far simpler than the visuals in Skies Unknown, where every building has height, the visuals still hold up quite nicely.

  • Initially, Wardog will only have access to the F-5E Tiger II, a supersonic light fighter designed by Northrop. Despite being less renowned than its larger and heavier cousin, the F-4 Phantom, the F-5 did have a strong service record, being utilised in the Vietnam War, and it was thought to be similar in the MiG-21 in terms of air performance. In fact, the F-5 was adopted as the aircraft to stand in for MiG-21s during air combat training, and it was found that in the hands of a good pilot, an F-5 could give both the newer F-14 and F-15 trouble.

  • In The Unsung War, the F-5E carries twelve unguided bombs to go with its missile payload, making it a fair all-around aircraft for beginners. The missiles of Ace Combat is one of the series’ defining features: players will carry a prodigious amount of missiles with them into combat, and while these missiles are either the AIM-9 Sidewinder (when using an American aircraft) or the Russian Vympel R-60, which are heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles in reality, Ace Combat allows the standard missiles to lock onto both air and ground targets alike.

  • I’d grown accustomed to missiles acquiring a lock at around two thousand metres in Skies Unknown, so it was a little jarring to see them acquire targets at five thousand in The Unsung War. However, as it turns out, I’d left the units on Imperial for my run. The Unsung War does allow players to freely switch between Imperial and Metric units: using Imperial units, speed is measured in miles per hour, while distances and altitudes are measured in feet. I normally have difficulty with miles, since they’re an arbitrary measure (kilometres is more natural for me), but feet is something I’m okay with, since I approximate one metre as about three feet.

  • Given that missiles lock on at around two thousand metres in Skies Unknown, I’d say they actually have a longer distance than they do in The Unsung War. However, owing to the way the older Ace Combat games work, missiles do tend to be quite reliable between three and four thousand feet, and it’s possible to fire off two missiles in rapid succession, switch over to another target, and watch as the system displays to players that their target was destroyed. This was something that became an integral part of older Ace Combat games, so when I entered the franchise for the first time through Assault Horizon, I was disappointed that dogfight mode was needed to shoot down a larger number of foes.

  • Skies Unknown marked a true return to classic game mechanics, and it became possible to once again fire off missiles at one target and switch over to the next without worrying about whether or not one’s shots would find their mark. Playing through The Unsung War, it becomes clear that many elements from an old classic would make their way into the latest instalment, and in this way, my appreciation of Skies Unknown increased. Back in The Unsung War, I continue to fly the venerable F-5E into combat. It’s one of the weaker aircraft of the game, but in the beginning, this doesn’t matter too much: the game doesn’t throw insanely mobile or large numbers of foes at the player.

  • This is fortunate, since unguided bombs, the F-5E’s special weapon, don’t have any application in missions where the combat is primarily anti-air. Special weapons have long been a feature in Ace Combat, and in The Unsung War, different aircraft will be granted different special weapons. These weapons are more powerful than the standard missile and have different capabilities, whether it be locking onto multiple targets simultaneously or tracking them with a much greater accuracy than standard missiles. Iron bombs are about as basic as it gets and simply free-fall towards their target, dealing slightly more damage than the missiles would.

  • All aircraft in Ace Combat will automatically display a gun reticule when within two thousand feet of a target. At these ranges, missiles become useless. The documentation incorrectly calls the gun a “machine gun” – this is a misnomer, since a machine gun is an automatic weapon firing rifle cartridges. The guns aircraft carry are correctly called “auto-cannon” since they fire rounds of 20 mm or larger. On lower difficulties, the gun has unlimited ammunition, making it a great way of conserving missiles when engaging targets that are too close for missiles, or stationary ground targets.

  • The mission to defend the mass driver from a Yuktobanian attack brought back memories of the mission to protect Tyler Island and destroy cargo launched from the mass driver, as well as the mission after Trigger is transferred to the penal unit and sent up to protect a phoney airbase from Erusean forces in Skies Unknown. The setting here reminds me of the former, and this mission actually did give me some trouble when I first played it, since I was having trouble finding all of the tanks attacking the launch facility.

  • One of the most notable aspect of this mission was the soundtrack: up until now, the music in The Unsung War had been pretty bog-standard, but the moment the Yuktobanian forces show up with their tanks, a flute-like instrument is added to the incidental music, creating a summertime feeling that spells melancholy and wistfulness that reminds me a great deal of KyoAni’s AIR, a 2005 anime that adapted Jun Maeda’s visual novel of the same name, about a travelling showman whose aim is to find the enigmatic “girl in the sky” by summer. The Japanese have long excelled at creating collective nostalgia in their works. Collective nostalgia refers to a nostalgia for something one has never experienced, and in particular, their music is able to do this with great frequency.

  • Once all of the tanks are destroyed, the Yuktobanian forces will launch cruise missiles in a bid to destroy the mass driver. Conventional cruise missiles are subsonic and can be intercepted, but their advantage is accuracy: cruise missiles are highly accurate and can be considered as unmanned aircraft with an explosive payload intended for a single use. The Yuktobanians are counting on their numbers to destroy the mass driver, and missiles come from all directions – if the mass driver takes too much damage, the mission will end in failure.

  • It took me a few tries to get things right for this mission, which is why it reminded me of the mission in Skies Unknown to defend the false base from Erusean bombers: it would’ve been three years ago, at around this time of year, that I’d gotten to that mission, and after getting stomped by the mission, I ended up taking a short break from things before having another go at it. This time around, I was able to push forwards, and beating this mission showed me that I was ready for whatever lay ahead in The Unsung War.

  • Once the Oseans successfully outfit the Arkbird with the laser module, its power becomes apparent: the Yuktobanian navy deploys the Scinfaxi, a nuclear-powered submarine that served as a combined underwater carrier and ballistic missile platform. With a length of three hundred metres, the Scinfaxi-class submarines are double the length of the Russian Typhoon-class, and were capable of firing the highly lethal burst missiles, which have multiple warheads that scatter over a wide area before detonating. In Ace Combat games, burst missiles are used an area denial measure by forcing players to abandon their current target and reach a safe altitude.

  • Use of burst missiles annihilates entire squadrons, but with the Arkbird in Osea’s corner, several burst missiles are shot down before they have a chance to detonate. Wardog is then tasked with destroying the Scinfaxi. While sporting impressing specs, the Scinfaxi is actually a relatively slow moving and easy target to eliminate: several attack runs will destroy its weapons, weakening enough so that it can be sunk. I ended up using the iron bombs here to get a feel for things, and their area of effect damage proved helpful in destroying several targets at once.

  • It goes without saying that the Scinfaxi is nowhere nearly as treacherous as the Alicorn: the Scinfaxi cannot submerge and only has limited anti-air defense capabilities, so it was simple enough to simply make a few attack runs and sink it. This is the first super-weapon Wardog sinks in The Unsung War, and I was surprised that players would be involved with destroying a Yuktobanian super-submarine so early in the game. This is meant to show that Wardog squadron means business, and also tangibly indicate to players that their roles in this war are essential.

  • Having gone through a few missions with the basic F-5E, I picked up the F/A-18C, which was a minor upgrade over the F-5E in terms of anti-air performance and has better mobility and speed overall. The F/A-18 is a multi-role aircraft that the Canadian air force employs, and here, I flew a familiar mission: use of the yaw controls to stay out of a radar net being employed on the ground. Between these and canyon missions, I’ve found that if one can handle manoeuvre missions in Ace Combat, they’re more than ready to deal with more challenging missions.

  • The aim of this mission is to defend a transport after guiding it past the anti-air defenses, but almost immediately, enemy fighters will show up. The object here is to protect the transport and keep fighters off it: allowing attackers to deal enough damage to the transport will result in the mission ending. For my run, I stuck close to the transport and fired on any foe that got too close. It turns out President Harling is on board this transport, and he’s en route to peace negotiations with the Yuktobanians. Standing in for Russia, Yuktobania is the main foe players engage in The Unsung War, but remarks from Grimm and Nagase both suggest that there’s no real ill-will towards them.

  • During the chaos, the transport takes enough damage so that it needs to land, and Wardog is tasked with destroying a few windmills in the plane’s path. Once this is done, the mission will draw to a close. The 8492nd Squadron will then secure Harling, but he subsequently goes missing, foreshadowing the 8492nd’s affiliations. Although war is brewing, players cannot help but wonder if the Yuktobanians are the true enemy at this stage. As things escalate, however, these thoughts are pushed out of both Wardog and the players’ minds.

  • Osean forces launch a full-scale invasion of Yuktobania in retaliation for their actions at Bastok Peninsula, and Wardog is sent out to assist an amphibious assault on the Yuktobanian coast on an overcast day. The weather in The Unsung War is definitely capable of conveying a very specific mood; modern games are nearly photorealistic, and this leaves very little to the imagination, but with older games, just enough of a visual is provided such that the mind will fill the rest in, and this accentuates the atmosphere somewhat.

  • The goal of this mission is simply to neutralise the bunkers on the ground and support the advancing Osean forces. There are very few air targets to speak of, so equipping aircraft that are primarily focused on anti-ground operations will be helpful. Since I’m running the F/A-18C here, I’m running with the AGM-84 Harpoon. The LASM (Large Anti-Ship Missile) actually proved a viable option against the heavily fortified bunkers. Normally, anti-ship missiles are most effective against ships since they have long ranges and high damage against individual targets. However, because of their flat trajectories, they are less useful in ground operations.

  • After Yuktobania organises a retreat in response to the fierce Osean attack, Wardog is sent to deal with escaping transports. This mission is complicated by the fact that Yuktobanian forces are using E-767 jammers, which confound the radar and give the impression that there are more targets than there actually are. The key to this mission is to close the distance and engage targets after visually confirming their presence, as well as focusing on the jamming aircraft themselves. During the course of this mission, radio chatter indicates that an Osean squadron has just bombed out a Yuktobanian university, and Wardog is held accountable, since officially, there is no 8492nd squadron.

  • Players will be powerless to do anything about this outcome, but earlier in the mission, can make a decision that determines whether they are sent to Apito International Airport on Oured Bay, or Bana City. Chopper will ask players if they’d heard a certain song: if players answer yes, their mission is Apito International Airport. I ended up picking “yes”, which sent me over to Apito International Airport to defend it against attacking Yuktobanian forces. The first phase of this mission was to shoot down all attacking Yuktobanian aircraft by night, while the second part entails destroying Yuktobanian tanks that had snuck in via transport aircraft disguised as civilian vehicles.

  • Even though The Unsung War is eighteen years old, I remain impressed with how gracefully the visuals have aged, and fighting urban operations accentuates this fact. Oured below looks like a proper city despite using two-dimensional textures for low-rise buildings. High rises are still rendered with 3D structures, and while these are quite simple, especially compared to what was used in Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation and all subsequent games, The Unsung War represented a dramatic jump from what was seen in Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies. While I’ve long read about the Ace Combat universe, from a practical standpoint, I’m not an Ace Combat veteran by any means (in fact, I don’t even know what this manoeuvre is called or how to perform it).

  • My first in-game experience Ace Combat was 2013’s Assault Horizon, and I subsequently had the opportunity to play Ace Combat properly on PC through 2019’s Skies Unknown. To keep up with the lore and read up on different aircraft, and their efficacy in various missions, I turn to both online resources and YouTube videos. Ace Combat Fan is my go-to resource; his content is actually how my interest in The Unsung War was piqued, being uploaded to YouTube back during a time when there were no other videos. Beyond full play-throughs of older Ace Combat titles, Ace Combat Fan also has a variety of videos on how to fly, benchmarking different aircrafts and their weapons, and even full collections of the music throughout Ace Combat.

  • I respect this level of devotion from Ace Combat Fan: were it not for people like this uploading gameplay to YouTube, the only thing I’d have of The Unsung War would be memories from reading a strategy guide. One of my best friends has expressed an interest in trying The Unsung War for himself, as well, and he’d actually been in a similar position to myself; both of us have seen the YouTube videos and read extensively about the lore, but thanks to Ace Combat games being unavailable on PC until recently, we’ve never had a chance to otherwise try the games for ourselves.

  • Altogether, I greatly enjoyed this night mission and its aesthetics. At some point in the future, I’m going to have to return and take on its sister mission, which is set in the university town of Bana City. The Unsung War‘s branching missions add variety to things, and this also provides an incentive to replay missions: hidden hangars allow players to acquire parts for the legendary Falken. This is something that Skies Unknown was lacking. However, while alternate mission routes would’ve been great, overall, missions in Skies Unknown feel a ways larger, whereas here in The Unsung War, missions feel a bit shorter to complete.

  • After successfully repelling the Yuktobanian attack, Wardog is next sent out to a munitions depot. The object here is simply destroying everything before the time runs out, and while there’s a catch (the munitions sites are located inside tunnels that can only be hit from certain angles), the mission itself was quite straightforward. This level also contains a hidden hangar for the ADF-01 Falken, a super-plane that was first seen in Ace Combat 2. In Skies Unknown, players who bought the Year One Pass would acquire this legendary aircraft for free; in The Unsung War, players must replay several missions in order to destroy the hangars, although luckily, the hangars can be destroyed on lower difficulties in Free Mission mode.

  • For this playthough, I will not be flying the Falken: although I do have it unlocked, I plan on presenting things as people would’ve seen it for the first time, and here, I begin the operation to take down the Hrimfaxi, the second of the Scinfaxi-class submarines. The mission is set in the Arctic ice floes, and unlike the encounter with the Scinfaxi, this mission sees the Hrimfaxi diving and surfacing repeatedly to launch its drones against Wardog squadron. It is here that the F/A-18’s anti-ship missiles really shine, and after locating the Hrimfaxi, the goal is simple: to put it on the bottom of the ocean floor.

  • The Hrimfaxi’s captain has access to a wide range of anti-air weapons, and burst missiles will periodically be used. I ended up using the anti-ship missiles to disable the weapons on its surface, and once all of its weapons are disabled, the targetting system will indicate that the Hrimfaxi’s super-structure is the final thing to take down. I absolutely loved this mission for its aesthetics, and as I found with Skies Unknown, every mission in The Unsung War brings something new to the table.

  • The feat that Wardog accomplishes here earns them the moniker Razgriz, the name of a mythological deity of great power unique to Strangereal. Its traits make it similar to that of the Valkyries from Norse Mythology, and The Unsung War creates a very comprehensive collection of lore in its story surrounding the Razgriz, indicating that the pilots of Osea are likened to a mythological being whose existence was misunderstood, but ultimately, was a benevolent presence. Sora no Woto ultimately utilised similar elements from The Unsung War for its backstory, and a cursory search finds that no one’s drawn the conclusion until now.

  • As it stands, my coming upon The Unsung War should be a boon to the Sora no Woto community; I’m not too fond of grandstanding, but I will say that my approach towards anime means that I offer insights that often greatly augment one’s enjoyment of a series. In this case, assuming that the Fire Maidens and winged dæmons of Sora no Woto are based off the Razgriz, it is possible to say that the events of Sora no Woto parallel Wardog squadron’s reputation in The Unsung War. The 1121st are initially revealed as protectors of Seize, come to be seen as traitors when Colonel Hopkins takes charge, but ultimately demonstrate themselves to be saviours by stopping an all-out war between Helvetia and the Roman Empire.

  • While the mythology in both Sora no Woto and The Unsung War likely were derived from real-world stories, commonalities meant that spotting the connection between Razgriz and Sora no Woto‘s angels meant that one could’ve predicted, with high confidence, how the anime would’ve ended. From what I’ve seen, this connection was never drawn. Back in The Unsung War proper, I’ve embarked on the mission to rescue Osean prisoners of war from Glubina, a snowy and mountainous region of Yuktobania reminiscent of Siberia.

  • The operation is dependent on Wardog providing cover for the Sea Goblin helicopter team, and in the end, they are successful. During the operation, Nagase begins to believe that Bartlett might be amongst those being rescued, and becomes sufficiently distracted that she is shot down. Although she is able to bail, when one of the helicopters attempts to rescue her, the poor visibility causes it to crash, forcing the retrieval to be postponed until the next morning. The next mission deals with Nagase’s recovery, and utilises a signal system to guide players to the spot where Nagase is.

  • This system was reapplied to the hunt for the Alicon in The Unsung War‘s DLC missions, and having had familiarity with how that worked, I had no trouble in finding Nagase. For the final two missions in The Unsung War‘s first half, I’m rocking the F-15C. This air superiority fighter boasts solid all-around stats for air-to-air combat and equips the semi-active air-to-air missile, which is a long-range radar-guided missile best suited for engagements at range.

  • Once Nagase is rescued, the mission draws to a close, and with this, I’m now halfway through The Unsung War. Even though we’re just getting into the game’s best parts, I was thoroughly impressed with the sheer variety there is in The Unsung War, and at this halfway point, I’ve already seen the destruction of two superweapons in the Scinfaxi-class submarine. Coupled with the fact that the game takes players from the remote Taiga characteristic of Siberia, to the heart of Oured, and everywhere in between, The Unsung War has been a blast. I am very much look forwards to finishing The Unsung War, and for the time being, I should be on track to wrapping this game up before the month is over.

At The Unsung War‘s halfway point, I now appreciate why The Unsung War is considered one of the best in the franchise: besides solid gameplay, the story has proven to be very captivating. Mission briefings and banter between pilots and command are an immersive mode of exploring the story, explaining to players very clearly what their goals are, what’s at stake, and what their accomplishments are in the grand scheme of things. It is clear that war is brewing between two superpowers, but neither superpower seems to desire open conflict, and some of the Ace Combat world’s most devastating war machines are brought out to bear. In The Unsung War‘s first half, players already get to sink two of Yuktobania’s most powerful weapons, the Scinfaxi-class submarines. The Arkbird is unveiled, both as a symbol of peace that Kei idolises, and as Osea’s latest superweapon. The stakes of an all-out war prompt players to take to the skies and do what they can, providing incentive to keep pushing forwards such that they can see what happens next. The combination of world-building and exposition through events that players experience allows The Unsung War to add depth to the Strangereal universe in a then-unprecedented scale, giving the Ace Combat world a much more immersive feel to things than previous titles had done, and it is for this reason that even now, The Unsung War remains a fan-favourite. In fact, a part of me wishes that this game would be given a full remaster: when Skies Unknown released, PlayStation owners also gained access to an HD version of The Unsung War, but beyond this, it would be great to have a standalone version of The Unsung War on PC. I have heard that a new Ace Combat is in development, and beyond the fact that it will be built using Unreal Engine 5, not much more about this project is known. For me, I’d definitely love to see a return to Belka and Osea as seen in The Unsung War: these areas of the Ace Combat universe are iconic, and certainly worthy of being remastered with all of the improvements available to both computer graphics and hardware available today. In the meantime, I’ve got another whole half of The Unsung War to experience, and if my memory isn’t mistaken, this is the half of the game to look forwards to (which is saying something, considering how consistently enjoyable the first half has been).

Elf Yamada’s Love Song and Sagiri Izumi’s First Kiss: Eromanga Sensei OVA Review and Reflection

“I saw that you were perfect, and so I loved you. Then I saw that you were not perfect and I loved you even more.” –Angelita Lim

Masamune, Hana and Kunimitsu attend a celebratory event for Emily to thank those who’d supported her: Emily’s work was adapted into an anime. After Emily persuades Masamune to help her change into a new dress during the event, Emily’s brother and mother both show up. Emily’s mother disapproves of Masamune on the basis that he appears to be corrupting her, even though the reality was that Emily was the one who had made it look as though she were dating Masamune. Upon learning her mother is here to bring her home, the pair clash, and Emily storms off in anger. However, with a suggestion from Masamune, she ends up performing a musical during her speech at the event, convincing her mother to let her live on her own terms, and after the celebration wraps up, Emily and Masamune share a moment together after Emily makes her feelings known to him. Later, Masamune catches a cold after visiting Emily, and is unable to submit his manuscript ahead of a deadline. Sagiri decides to look after him. To this end, she sets foot outside of her room to fetch medicine for Masamune, do some housework and even manages to answer the door when Megumi and Tomoe show up. However, when Hana shows up and tries to break in, Sagiri confiscates the poster Hana had wished to give him. Sagiri ends up falling asleep and dreams about the past, but upon waking up, she gives Masamune a quick kiss before making him dinner. Masamune thanks Sagiri, noting her cooking is quite good, but Sagiri ends up catching Masamune’s cold. Masamune helps her out so she can rest and indicates he’s looking forwards to her recovery so that they can continue working together. The two Eromanga Sensei OVAs came out two years after the original series had aired, releasing on January 16, 2019, and while they do not advance the story in a significant way, nonetheless provides an opportunity for characters to break the status quo in ways that they were not seen doing in Eromanga Sensei proper.

In Eromanga Sensei, the death of Sagiri’s mother caused her to become withdrawn, but as Masamune becomes closer with Emily and Hana, rival authors and rivals for his affection, Sagiri also began stepping out of her shell. Similarly, Masamune himself had suffered the loss of a parent, as well, and turned to writing as a way of finding happiness anew. The journey seen throughout Eromanga Sensei had been about finding new happiness together through a shared pursuit, although the anime also ended up being a very gentle, cozy portrayal of this. At the end of Eromanga Sensei, beyond Masamune and Sagiri’s worlds becoming a ways more colourful, and rowdier, things nonetheless were preserved in a sort of status quo: Masamune is uncertain of the feelings he has for Sagiri, and while Sagiri has certainly accepted him and his friends, she still rarely ventured out of her room – instead, she usually accepts visitors instead and only attends events if Masamune streams it to her via Skype. This is where the Eromanga Sensei‘s OVAs excel. Masamune is given a chance to explore his feeling a little more freely after seeing Emily’s best side, and Sagiri’s concern for Masamune is sufficient for her to venture out of her room, culminating in her gaining the resolve to cook for him after he falls ill. These episodes do much to show that the events of Eromanga Sensei did much to nudge both characters forward and adds a minor degree of closure to a series that, while amusing, didn’t otherwise do much to move the needle during its original run. In this way, the OVAs are welcome additions to Eromanga Sensei: unlike most OVAs, which capitalise on looser restrictions to go all-out on titillation, the Eromanga Sensei OVAs instead opts to present more tender moments between the characters.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • According to the blog’s archives, the last time I wrote about Eromanga Sensei was back in April 2018. Back then, I approached this anime from the mental health perspective; the anime did give every impression that it would be ecchi oriented, and while a few episodes did indeed present viewers with this in abundance, I never felt it to be so blatant that it detracted from the anime. With this in mind, Eromanaga Sensei stands in the shadow of its predecessor; compared to OreImoEromanga Sensei felt a lot more muted and subdued.

  • Because it’s been almost four years since I last watched Eromanga Sensei, I’ve largely forgotten most of the events, and needed to do a quick refresher on things to get re-acquainted with the story. I had originally intended to watch and write about the OVAs when they’d come out in January three years earlier. At the time, there would’ve only been an eight-month gap between my finishing Eromanga Sensei and the OVAs, so I would’ve probably gotten back into the swing of things more quickly. I believe the reason why I ended up failing to do so was because after watching First Man, my interest in anime suddenly waned.

  • In fact, looking back at the archives, the only anime I wrote around during that timeframe was CLANNAD and Endro. Most of my extra time was spent in The Division, Battlefield V and Ace Combat 7. Once I’d settled into my games, and the afterglow from First Man wore off, I eased my way back into anime; I ended up watching Domestic Kanojo in April, and together with 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, I found myself returning to my usual patterns. By then, however, thoughts of Eromanga Sensei had left my mind, and it wasn’t until recently, when I was going through my unwatched anime, that I found this Eromanga Sensei with two episodes left incomplete.

  • Entering the first of the Eromanga Sensei OVAs, I had no idea what to expect, but after seeing Emily persuade Masamune into helping her change dresses, and watching Emily attempt to evade her mother’s questions about what she’d been sending back home, memories did return to me: both Hana and Emily had been into Masamune, but Masamune had promptly shot down Hana. This left the floor open to Emily, who’d been very forward about how she feels about him: over the course of Eromanga Sensei, she spent a great deal of time with Masamune and fell in love with him more as a result.

  • These feelings lead to a disagreement between Emily and her mother, who feels that Masamune might not be the right person for her. Recalling how devoted her mother had been to her father, Emily storms off. One visual aspect that stands out is the fact that everyone in the Granger family appears to have an exaggerated form of Stahl’s Ear, a condition where there’s an additional cartilage layer that pushes the ear out and gives it a pointed shape. This appearance is what leads Emily to take the pseudonyms “Elf”, and Emily’s older brother brings to mind the likes of Thranduil from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

  • Because Masamune is kind by nature, he hears out Emily and suggest that she simply be forward with things. Unlike OreImo‘s Kyōsuke, who was persuaded to be more mundane by childhood friend Minami, Masamune is a ways more motivated, having turned to writing to get past feelings of grief and loss when his mother had passed away. The gaps in Kyōsuke and Masamune’s personalities mean that Eromanga Sensei and Oreimo  have a dramatically different atmosphere about them – on one hand, the characters in Eromanga Sensei are more likeable, but this also means that there’s less drama, and correspondingly, less of a chance to watch the characters manage their feelings.

  • When the time for Emily’s speech arrives, she saunters onto the stage and discards the speech she’d written for the event, choosing to improvise instead. It turns out she’s decided to use the moment to properly convey how she feels to her mother, and after thanking everyone for supporting her all this way, she breaks out into song. Both of the Eromanga Sensei OVAs involve a musical performance from the female lead, livening them up considerably and giving both Akane Fujita (Sagiri) and Minami Takahashi (Emily) a chance to shine. I’m familiar with Minami’s roles as Kanna of Harukana Receive, El Condor Pasa from Uma Musume Pretty Derby, Lucoa from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and Machikado Mazoku‘s Lilith

  • I was all smiles during this musical performance, which sees even the security detail joining in with Emily as she sings her heart out. In the end, Emily’s mother is convinced that she’s being sincere about how she feels regarding Masamune, and consents to let her stay in Japan. Being an OVA, Emily’s story here is a satisfying and self-contained event which gives her an outcome that she’d long been hoping for – after the event concludes, she and Masamune share a private moment together, where Emily openly admits her feelings for Masamune. The question of who should initiate the kokuhaku is a topic of no small debate, and this is one of those scenarios where I’ll not that there isn’t a right answer.

  • There’s actually a lot of conflicting advice out there for how to kick things up a notch: some say to pull the trigger ASAP, while other people say to let things occur naturally. I myself have familiarity with five ways of how not to do it – if I were to liken things to a sniper, then on two cases, I waited too long, while the other three times, I pulled the trigger a little too early but missed. Dating is like a bolt-action rifle: there’s a finesse about it that takes time to learn, and every shot counts. Unlike a semi-automatic marksman rifle, there’s a delay between shots, since it takes time to chamber a new round into the barrel. One of these days, I’ll get it right, and I take consolation in people who a lot wiser than myself – dating and relationships is supposed to be like a parking lot. The parking lot will often be near full half the time, and it’s going to be a pain in the ass to find a space, but all one needs is one space.

  • With this in mind, I felt a great deal of warmth at watching this kokuhaku between Emily and Masamune: anime are often namby-pamby about who the male lead ends up with when there are multiple women in his life, and this leaves viewers with a feeling of hollowness. Overall, while I was a fan of Hana and felt Sagiri to work less well for Masamune, I do agree with the sentiment that Emily is probably the best person for Masamune. As such, this Eromanga Sensei OVA ended up delivering a conclusion that wound up being quite satisfying for me.

  • Whereas the first of the OVAs saw a fancy event, the second is a ways more mundane and has Sagiri looking after Masamune when he falls ill following a visit to Emily’s place. However, in this second OVA, the extent of Sagiri’s growth is shown; whereas she was shy, withdrawn and quite unable to do even the basics without Masamune’s help, here, Sagiri does her best to look after Masamune. There was always a lingering tension, since we’d not seen Sagiri do anything resembling housework until now.

  • However, there are many things that occur off-screen, and it is reasonable to suppose that Sagiri’s opening up to people around her also gives her more confidence to act. This is something that I am accepting of in anime: it is impractical to show every moment where characters are going about their business. However, not everyone follows this approach, and in shows where characters are able to perform far better than is expected given what is shown, some viewers count it as undeserving or implausible. K-On! was subject to this back in the day: Yui and the others are seen drinking tea and eating cake more often than they practise, but still manage to put on professional-grade performances at school concerts.

  • Much as how not every detail behind how Houkago Teatime operate is shown, not every last moment in Sagiri’s life is shown; instead, viewers must infer that it is with the presence of others that she slowly becomes able to find the strength to do things she wasn’t able to do before. Sagiri’s disposition means that she reminds me somewhat of GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, and here, she wonders why Masamune doesn’t have any instant food on hand after deciding she’s not skilled enough to cook for him, and that ordering delivery would mean needing to handle the delivery person.

  • When Megumi and Tomoe come to visit, Sagiri is adamant about not letting anyone in. However, she does consent to hear them out upon learning that Tomoe’s swung by to deliver some assignments and a new book that Masamune had ordered. Of everyone, Tomoe is probably my favourite character; she has a good eye for books and is able to spot what might interest Masamune immediately. On the other hand, Megumi shows up for kicks, and the only reason why Sagiri doesn’t turf her is because Tomoe is around.

  • In any other post, I probably wouldn’t have consumed a dedicated screenshot for this moment: it turns out that Tomoe also has dropped off the latest volume of 86 EIGHTY-SIX for Masamune, and moreover, Sagiri’s taken an interest in this series. Back in 2019, five volumes of 86 EIGHTY-SIX had been released, and the fact that Eromanga Sensei was able to freely show it in such vivid detail, in retrospect, foreshadowed A-1 Pictures’ eventual adaptation of the series: both Eromanga Sensei and 86 EIGHTY-SIX are published by Dengeki Bunko, so there was no issue in referencing another work.

  • On the topic of 86 EIGHTY-SIX, I have plans to write about it once I’ve finished catching up to the twenty-first episode so I can cover off how I’ve felt about this second season. The final episodes will release in March, and I’ll write about themes then, but for now, it’s a good opportunity to write about some smaller aspects that have worked well for me so far. Back in Eromanga Sensei, whereas Sagiri had been thrilled about 86 EIGHTY-SIX, she’s less-than-impressed when Hana shows up and tries to break in, then attempts to give something to Masamune in an attempt to cheer him up. Earlier, Hana and Ayame share a conversation with Masamune after he calls in sick; Ayame is okay with moving his deadline up, while Hana immediately demands to know that he’s alright.

  • After dreaming about the past, Sagiri steals a kiss from Masamune, who’s still sleeping. This moment lends itself to the second OVA’s title, conveying a moment of tenderness. Throughout Eromanga Sensei, it is suggested that Sagiri is frustrated that Masamune does not return her feelings – for Masamune, he’s come to see Sagiri as a sister, and his only link to family. The setup in Eromanga Sensei had long been conducive for discussion of the importance of human connection, and in practise, the series is never a melancholy one – Masamune has plenty of people in his corner to support him, and in this way, he is able to support Sagiri, too.

  • To see Sagiri break out of her comfort zone and cook something for Masamune was a turning point in Sagiri’s character development: while she had doubtlessly grown throughout the course of Eromanga Sensei, this moment makes it clear that she’s beginning to see a world beyond the one she’d confined herself to since her mother had passed away. While Sagiri struggles with some of the cooking (she makes a small mess of things in a few places and here, leaves the water running), she perseveres, and for her troubles, she ends up successfully making an omurice for Masamune.

  • After a full day’s rest, Masamune’s fever has gone down, and he finds Sagiri’s cooking to be quite good. In a bit of irony, since she’d spent the full day with Masamune, Sagiri’s picked up the bug from him. However, Masamune is well enough now to look after her, and Sagiri bashfully thanks him for all he does; while she’s not too good with expressing her feelings throughout Eromanga Sensei, this moment indicates to viewers that the Sagiri here has come a very long way from when Masamune was trying to coax her out of her room, and steps like these will eventually quicken, allowing her to return to classes. For Masamune, he looks forward to working with Sagiri on whatever projects they have next, bringing the OVA to a close.

  • The Eromanga Sensei OVAs were a fun addition to the series, and according to my old post, I’d given the series a C+ after finishing: while it was satisfactory to watch, it wasn’t particularly novel, nor did it compel me to anticipate each upcoming episode with bated breath. Having said this, I am glad to have finally wrapped up the OVAs, which added a bit to both Emily and Sagiri’s characters in a positive manner, although with these OVAs in the books, I do not imagine that we will be getting any sort of continuation of this series in the future; it has been five years since the original series aired, and three years since the OVAs. Fortunately, things wraps up on a sufficiently conclusive manner so that a continuation is not strictly necessary.

The fact that I’m writing about the Eromanga Sensei OVAs a full three years after their release shows the extent to which I procrastinate when it comes to anime. To put things in perspective, I first wrote about Eromanga Sensei back in 2018 for a Terrible Anime Challenge post, and the anime itself had actually began airing during the spring of 2017; I was gearing up for my Japan trip back then, and had been avidly following P.A. Works’ Sakura Quest. When I finished my journey through Eromanga Sensei, it was about a year after the series had finished airing. I’d heard about the OVAs, and had been curious to see what they entailed, but circumstance led me to put them off. With both OVAs in the books, I can finally say, after some four years, that I’ve finished Eromanga Sensei to the maximum extent possible – while this was never a series that would change my world view or move me as other anime had, there’d been a gentle and easygoing aesthetic about Eromanga Sensei that made it stand apart from author Tsukasa Fushimi’s previous work, OreImo. Unlike the bolder and more well-known OreImo, Eromanga Sensei is a little more subdued and muted in comparison, lacking its predecessor’s notoriety and a story that pushed the boundaries for its portrayal of social norms. Instead, I ended up finding Eromanga Sensei to be an interesting portrayal of how creative focus is a viable, and healthy outlet for managing mental health issues like depression: both Sagiri and Masamune turn to creative work in order to channel their feelings, and in doing so, their worlds become more colourful for it. By sheer coincidence, their approaches bring them closer together in a way that they couldn’t have foreseen, accelerating their ability to rediscover happiness. While certainly not revolutionary by any means, Eromanga Sensei still ended up being a satisfactory experience, and watching the OVAs reminded me of the fact that each of the characters did have their unique charms which, together, made them a fun group to be around.

Halo Infinite: The Spire and Pelican Down at the Halfway Point

“We all fail. We all make mistakes. It’s what makes us human.” –Master Chief

Upon entering the Conservatory and fighting through the Banished forces within, Master Chief and The Weapon encounter Despondent Pyre, Zeta Halo’s Monitor. Despondent Pyre is destroyed whilst warning Master Chief of a new threat that Zeta Halo holds, and Master Chief encounters the Harbinger shortly after. She explains that her people, the Endless, were incarcerated on Zeta Halo, and the Banished have been working to rebuild a facility that will liberate them. Along the way, they are assisted by Adjutant Resolution, but upon learning that the Master Chief’s goal is to destroy Zeta Halo, outfits himself with a Sentinel battle mech and attempts to stop the Master Chief, who ultimately destroys his armour. After Master Chief deactivates the spire, it begins to collapse, and while he manages to escape thanks to Esparza’s arrival, their Pelican is shot down. Frustrated, Esparza expresses his want to escape by locating a functional slip-space drive. Master Chief reassures Esparza and promises that after he deals with the Banished anti-aircraft guns, they’ll look for a slip-space drive together. After the guns are disabled, Esparza reveals that all of the slip-space drives are non-operational, and moreover, he’s actually not a pilot: during the battle on board the Infinity, panic took him, and he stole a Pelican. Master Chief confides in Esparza that he was unable to stop Cortana, and the pair set off to destroy the remaining spires on Zeta Halo to stop its reconstruction. Having now spent an additional six hours since I last wrote about Halo Infinite, I am now a ways further into the campaign, and at the time of writing, I’ve now captured all of the forward operating bases. In addition, I’ve taken down all but one of the high value targets, and I’ve unlocked enough Valour points so that I’m able to call in the AV-49 Wasp, a UNSC VTOL that, alongside the Banished Banshee, allows for unparalleled ease of exploring Zeta Halo’s surface. Having access to the Wasp means one thing becomes apparent: before I continue on with the remainder of the campaign missions, it’s time to finish gathering Spartan Cores and Mjolnir cosmetics now that I’m able to freely fly around Zeta Halo.

One detail that became particularly enjoyable in Halo Infinite is the presence of weapon variants, which are modified versions of common weapons that cater to a specific play style. Some of the weapon variants are straight upgrades of their common counterparts, offering improved firepower, accuracy or firing rate, while others alter the base weapon’s functionality. The Volatile Skewer I picked up is a Skewer whose projectiles are explosive, while the M41 Tracker is able to lock onto vehicles. These weapon variants offer additional variety for Halo Infinite and allow players to play according to their preferences to a much greater extent than was previously possible. The incentive for unlocking weapon variants is built right into the heart and soul of Halo Infinite: Valour Points from completing secondary objectives will give access to most UNSC weapon variants, while high value targets provide the remainder. This gives players the encouragement they need to really explore Zeta Halo (as opposed to just blasting through the story missions) and those who take the time to check out every nook and cranny of Zeta Halo will get the most out of their experience, being rewarded for their troubles in a fair manner. In this way, Halo Infinite creates a highly immersive environment that brings the Halo franchise to new heights; exploration isn’t mandatory, and it doesn’t bloat Halo Infinite‘s runtime in any way, but instead, it provides a chance to really build up Master Chief’s arsenal, abilities and a bit of the backstory behind how things are since Cortana’s actions devastated the galaxy during the events of Halo 5: Guardians. Having now reached a point where I am able to explore freely, I find that Halo Infinite has absolutely lived up to expectations, and the open-world segments of the game have allowed me to play Halo in a way that advances the franchise in an impressive new direction.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I left off in Halo Infinite, it was New Year’s Eve, and I’d just finished clearing out the Excavation Site of Banished. I’d brought with me the Gravity Hammer and Ravager used to defeat Bassus into the labyrinthine interior of the Conservatory. Almost immediately, the silence inside the Conservatory overtook me, and it hit me that I’d not been inside a Forerunner structure in quite some time.Beyond the first set of doors, I find a deceased Spartan and a new armour ability, the drop wall, which can be deployed to provide cover from one direction.

  • The drop wall provides cover from enemy fire briefly, but adds the bonus of allowing Master Chief to continue shooting through them. In a pinch, deploying a drop wall can mean the difference between life and death, and I’ve managed to extricate myself out of deadly situations by making use of the drop wall when my shields had failed. At this point in Halo Infinite, I’d already fully upgraded my Grapple Shot and shields. The improved shields aren’t normally noticeable, especially if one comes under heavy fire, but when fully upgraded, it allows one to survive things that would otherwise be instant death. I’ve found that I can now escape being stuck with plasma grenades or a sword lunge now that my shields are maxed out.

  • 343 Industries did a phenomenal job of portraying Forerunner interiors: exploring the interior of the Conservatory brought back memories of playing Halo: Combat Evolved with classic visuals, and I’m especially fond of the lighting effects. Artificial lighting inside Zeta Halo’s interior gives the impression of sunlight streaming through windows into the cavernous hallways, and in these tight quarters, I swapped off my weapons for more mundane, but practical weapons. Halo Infinite generally does a fine job of balancing the weapons, and most of them have some utility. The Mangler is great as a hard-hitting pistol, and in fact, the only weapon I’ve found to be ineffective is the Disruptor.

  • When required, I’ve found that the classic Covenant weapons are actually quite effective in a fair range of scenarios. The Needler retains its ability to super-combine and instantly kill even shielded foes, but unlike its predecessors, the Halo Infinite Needler’s projectiles no longer home quite as aggressively on targets. The exception is the Pinpoint Needler, whose projectiles are a walking cheat-code and moreover, can lock onto multiple foes at once. On the other hand, the Banished Pulse Carbine is weakly homing and can eliminate shields quickly. Combined with the fact that one can recharge its battery now, this is actually a viable weapon to have around.

  • The energy sword, an iconic Elite weapon, retains all of its classic mechanics; it is a one-hit kill on all but the toughest foes, but the lunge distance is reduced. In multiplayer, this weapon is highly sought-after as a power weapon, but in Halo Infinite‘s campaign, it is less effective owing to the fact that every kill with the sword depletes its battery by ten percent, regardless of whether or not the kill was on a Grunt or a Brute. As such, while I will use the sword where my ammunition is depleted, I generally will not pick the weapon up.

  • The Bulldog is the UNSC’s go-to close quarters weapon in Halo Infinite, and it is devastating in narrow corridors and small rooms. A single pull of the trigger will put most foes on the floor, and speaking to its firepower, even the Brutes will be seen wielding the Bulldog despite their disdain for humanity. Conversely, in the wide-open areas of Zeta Halo, the Bulldog is next to useless. However, there is a variant of the Bulldog, the Convergence Bulldog, which has a choke that reduces spread. Together with a larger magazine, this Bulldog is a longer-range option that still retains the standard Bulldog’s traits.

  • As I make my way deeper into the Conservatory, I encounter Zeta Halo’s Monitor, Despondent Pyre. Although this Monitor appears helpful and desperate to stop the entity known as the Harbinger, it is promptly destroyed. Recalling that it took a Spartan Laser to permanently kill Guilty Spark, whatever killed and dismantled Despondent Pyre must be a foe to reckon with. Shortly after this revelation, Master Chief and the Weapon come under attack from the Gasgira, informally known as Skimmers. These foes are new to Halo – they share similar traits as the Harbinger’s species and functionally, are a cross between the Drones and Grunts.

  • After escaping the ambush, Master Chief pushes further into the facility in order to track down the Harbinger, and along the way, encounters another deceased Spartan. The mystery of who is killing Spartans with such brutality remains a mystery for now, although Master Chief assures the Weapon that he’ll be able to handle whatever comes their way. Every time, the Weapon’s analysis indicates that the Spartans were cut down by an unnaturally powerful energy blade, implying that it’s probably an Elite that’s been doing this, and cutscenes have shown that there is one Elite that Escharum respects: Jega ‘Rdomnai.

  • A pair of Brutes appear, and while the Weapon wonders if they’re the Spartan killers, Master Chief replies no. At this point, I’d been short of ammunition, but luckily, there was a cache of weapons in the large hall where this fight occurs. I ended up using the Cindershot to take one of the Brutes out, then picked the Scarp cannon off his body and used its firepower to take down the remaining Brute. The Scrap Cannon is a turret that fires large spikes, and the longer the trigger is depressed, the faster it will fire. On the other hand the Cindershot is a hard light grenade launcher of Forerunner origin, and while it is quite powerful, its bouncing projectiles do take some getting used to.

  • After Master Chief confronts the Harbinger, he is promptly defeated and thrown back onto the surface of Zeta Halo. The goal next is to reach the Spire and deactivate the Ring’s reconstruction mechanism. For the time being, I took a moment to enjoy the sunset here: more so than any Halo before it, Halo Infinite takes visual effects to an entirely new level. The first trailer for Halo Infinite was announced back during June 2018, and despite its short runtime, foreshadowed a gorgeous environment. It is not lost on me that during this time period, my first startup was on its last legs. I’d been working on both a mental health questionnaire app, and a generic app for pain reporting at the time, although the lack of clients meant funds were rapidly dwindling.

  • Halo Infinite thus fell from my mind: the 2018 trailer had been an impressive tech demo, it gave almost no hints of what the story was going to be about. Halo 5: Guardians had released to general disappointment owing to its disjointed story, and left players on a massive cliffhanger that had seemed as difficult to resolve as the cliffhanger Star Wars Episode VII: The Last Jedi left viewers with. The games themselves won’t answer this directly – after Halo 5, the Infinity escapes, and Dr. Halsey managed to create a new AI that would be able to put an end to Cortana’s rampage. While this is somewhat successful, elsewhere in the galaxy, the Banished become a powerful threat. This ultimately leads to Atroix clashing with the Infinity at the beginning of Halo Infinite. There’s a great deal of lore, but using the timeframes allows 343 Industries to do a soft reset on things and focus on the most important elements: a clean story and consistently good gameplay.

  • Here, I square off against Adjutant Resolution after he goes rogue upon learning of Master Chief’s aim of destroying Zeta Halo. He dons a Sentinel suit that confers combat capabilities, but despite this suit’s firepower, there are several weak spots: shooting out the arms and central core will damage it. The fight was fairly straightforward for me, although I will note that Kotaku’s Ethan Gach struggled with the encounter. Games journalists encountering difficulty with even the most trivial of tasks in video games is not a new phenomenon, and it is no surprise that most gaming outlets have writers who would prefer to talk about things like representation and the narrative’s political statement rather than discuss things like game mechanics, map design and equipment balance. The end result is unsurprising, but for any moderately competent gamer, Adjutant Resolution will not be a challenge on normal difficulty.

  • By the time Halo Infinite‘s gameplay was shown, it was July 2020, and I had been working from home for a second startup amidst the global health crisis’ first wave. Halo Infinite had looked flatter than I’d expected, but the gameplay still looked solid. Indeed, once I reached the Pelican Down mission, the site of the 2020 E3 demo, I found that while everything looked much improved over what had been shown during the E3 demo, the gameplay was more or less identical. I had been sold on Halo Infinite after that demo – the Grapple Shot was a novel addition that revolutionises how movement in Halo worked, and the ability to reel in things like weapons and fusion coils increased the game’s pacing. Older Halo titles were very slow and clunky, having been designed for older consoles, but with advances in consoles, this is no longer a constraint.

  • I ended up walking around the valley, marvelling at all of the details here that had been first portrayed during the E3 demo. Unlike the demo, which started Master Chief off with the assault rifle and pistol, I had a Commando and Sentinel Beam from my last mission. However, I was similarly playing at sunset, and upon ascending the elevator to the first of the guns, I ended up using my drop wall to similarly stop a Brute with the Ravager, before riding it up to the Banished camp near the gun. The Halo Infinite E3 trailer is another example of where the finished product actually ends up surpassing what was shown – DOOM Eternal had previously done this, and in retrospect, I’m glad that 343 Industries ended up taking the extra year to really polish the title.

  • From the sounds of it, the core mechanics and story were already in place by the time of the E3 conference, but other aspects were not fully ready yet. An extra year ended up being the right amount of time for 343 Industries: they were able to completely improve lighting and textures with this time, and by the time Halo Infinite‘s open beta was available, the game was in a satisfactory state from a technical standpoint, more than ready to be released. The missing features, specifically co-op mode and the ability to replay missions, was somewhat disappointing; considering that Halo Infinite handles more like The Division than earlier Halo games, there is precedence for how these elements can be implemented, but on the flipside, I have heard that both functions are technically working – like the remainder of Halo Infinite, 343 isn’t releasing them until they’re confident it works as expected.

  • I ended up commandeering a Ghost and rode it up to the power core for the first AA gun. Upon reaching this area for the first time, I was treated to Escharum’s iconic speech. In addition to portraying the Brutes as a glory-seeking, but honourable species, Escharum’s first speech also acts as 343 Industry’s challenge to the players, to experience a legend in the making that will push them to their limits. Escharum’s remaining speeches aren’t quite as rousing, but they do portray the Brutes as being a much more fleshed out species than Bungie had ever done: in this area, 343 Industries has done very well, and admittedly, Escharum’s speech was actually one of the main reasons why I’d considered Halo Infinite as something to pick up shortly after launch.

  • Halo Infinite‘s Hunters are tougher than their predecessors: they’re now completely covered by armour plates, and like their predecessors, can deal as much damage as they can take. Careless players will burn through their entire ammunition supply without scratching one, so a bit of strategy is involved wherever Hunters are concerned. The easiest approach is to blast them with power weapons like the rocket launcher, or else focus fire on a specific spot to knock the armour plates off, then shoot the exposed areas. Players with vehicles can also deal damage to Hunters effectively, and making use of fusion cores in the area, in conjunction with the thrusters and grapple shot to get behind them, is also a viable trick.

  • The 2020 E3 demo portrayed Master Chief preparing to knock out one of the AA guns, but here in Halo Infinite‘s completed campaign, players will have a chance to go through all three of them. Because of the distances that separate the AA guns, walking between them can be a bit of a lengthy process. A vehicle makes all the difference here, and it is helpful to remember where one left their ride for this part of the campaign. Here, I take off in pursuit of an Elite major, whose dialogue can be seen on-screen: the enemies of Halo Infinite lack the menace they conveyed in Halo: Reach and Halo 4. In the earlier games, foes spoke their own tongues, but here in Halo Infinite, enemy dialogue is all rendered in English. Elites and Brutes have great lines, as do the Marines.

  • The dialogue from the Jackals is passable: they’re obsessed with whatever bonus money they’ll get from a job well done, but the lines do extend on their personalities. On the other hand, the Grunts are hilarious. Halo Infinite will gently mock players for dying to Grunts with comedic lines (“I’m alive and he’s not? It’s a miracle!”). However, the best line in the entire game comes from the propaganda towers: the Grunt running the show will ask about the WiFi password (implying the Banished have WiFi), and as the Master Chief destroys more towers, the Grunt will even try to plead with Master Chief about not destroying any more towers.

  • If it turns out that Halo Infinite was delayed so they could get these Grunt lines into the game, I’d be completely okay with that. Here, I’ve finished taking out all of the AA gun right as the morning sunrise allows light to fill the valley and glint off a large hexagonal construct in the distance. Hexagonal pillars dominate the landscape of Zeta Halo, and while the folks of Reddit are struggling to understand their significance, a little lore suggests that they’re the result of reconstructing Zeta Halo’s structure. These are placed first, and then terrain and vegetation is overlaid on top of it to create a natural environment. Their jutting appearance stands in stark contrast with the wilderness and serve to remind players that the Halo rings are artificial constructs.

  • Once all three guns are destroyed, Master Chief must face Tovarus and Hyperius, two Brutes bearing the Spartan Killer moniker will appear. Fighting one boss at a time is already challenging enough, so two seems outright impossible. However, I was able to survive this fight because Hyperius enters the fight on a Brute Chopper, and boss or not, it is possible to hijack his vehicle using the Grapple Shot. I thus seized the Chopper and used it to annihilate him, as well as his entourage, before focusing fire on Tovarus. Tovarus is armed with a scrap cannon and is lethal up close, but at a range, one can dodge his attacks while returning fire.

  • In the end, I used the Skewer to drop his shields, and then whittled his health down using the battle rifle. I’m not sure if it was a bug, or luck, but Tovarus used his jetpack and took refuge in the crashed wreckage of what appears to be a UNSC ship. After reaching the platform here, he remained there for the remainder of the match, and I ended up using the drop wall to create cover while hammering him with the battle rifle. Once the Spartan Killers are dealt with, Master Chief will speak with Esparza, who admits he’s no pilot, and compared to Master Chief, he’s a failure. Master Chief demonstrates the extent of his humanity and compassion here by talking to Esparza, who regains enough of his composure to decide that he’s willing to help Master Chief achieve their goals.

  • Once the anti-air guns are down, Master Chief will turn his attention to the second spire. However, the Harbinger has locked it down, and the Weapon must recreate the data sequence from Forerunner signals in order to decrypt its code in order to override the lockdown. My gut feeling told me that this was the best time to now focus on going around the open world and collect anything of value. For me, the main goal here was simply to finish all of the outposts, take down every last high value target, acquire all of the Spartan Cores and as much Valour as I could before pushing onwards with the missions.

  • While this task can seem quite daunting, the combination of air vehicles and fast travel actually makes things a lot smoother – I simply fast travel to a forward operating base, pick out a Wasp, and in moments, I’m in the skies, flying over streams, boulders and forests to the site of interest. When the Wasp isn’t available, a Banshee will also do in a pinch. The Banshee is faster than a Wasp and can be boosted, while the Wasp has better manoeuvrability and is easier to control. Both vehicles are great for taking players from point A to point B, but the Wasp’s ability to hover, and the fact it can be freely spawned at forward operating bases, makes it the vehicle of choice for me.

  • Because completing side quests like high value targets and outposts provides access to stronger gear, Halo Infinite appears to gently guide players down a path where the focus is to reach Pelican Down first, then take some time exploring the open world, before continuing on with the actual campaign itself. Players who choose to focus on the campaign and skip the open world aspects won’t necessarily be punished for it: the armour abilities are great, but at the end of the day, Halo Infinite is a first person shooter, and that means the skill that matters most is a steady aim and a well-practised trigger finger. I don’t imagine that having boosted shields or the best possible drop wall will be too helpful against Escharum or the Harbinger of Truth if one can’t even shoot straight.

  • Moments like these are why Halo Infinite absolutely excels in its single player experience: I’d just finished off a high value target in a field of red flowers and was left with one foe, standing in the middle of the clearing. A few rounds from the battle rifle was enough to wrap this mission up, and I’ve found that it is possible to take down a lower-ranking Brute in as little as one burst if one’s aim is true. Throughout the campaign, I’ve found the battle rifle to be my go-to weapon for almost any situation: one burst will finish a Grunt and any unshielded foe, and when paired in conjunction with a faster-firing weapon like the pulse carbine, players can be ready for most situations.

  • There’s actually an achievement for reaching the highest point available to Master Chief on Zeta Halo called “Nosebleed”, and I actually ended up unlocking it while exploring around for Mjolnir lockers near forward operating base delta. The fact that players can ascend the hills and cliffs speaks volumes to what’s possible, and I will note that even on my nine-year-old desktop, the fact that Halo Infinite looks as gorgeous as it does is an impressive feat, speaking volumes to the optimisations that went into making the game run well on a variety of hardware. Being nine years old, my desktop has been with me through many things, and to be honest, I’m surprised it continues to run as well as it does. With this being said, I have noticed that the CPU heats up a lot more quickly now than it did even two years ago, even with regular cleaning.

  • As such, while nothing is set in stone just yet, I do plan on building a new PC once I’ve had the chance to settle in to my new place. With the Intel twelfth generation CPUs out now, and motherboards becoming available, I’ll probably start shopping around for parts shortly after the move, and then pick out the parts. The criteria for this machine is simple: it needs to beat out a machine with the Ryzen 9 3900X and the RTX 2070, all the while staying under 1500 CAD (prior to warranty for mission critical components and the OS itself). I’ll elaborate on why this is the minimum I am building against in a later post and return to Halo Infinite: for the last outpost, I ended up calling in a Scorpion so I could dispense an unparalleled amount of destruction using the tank’s main cannon, making the outpost trivially easy to sort out.

  • While vehicles in Halo Infinite are powerful, they’re not invincible: here, I took the Wasp on over to the Myriad, a pair of Hunters with firepower far surpassing those of ordinary Hunters. Guides suggest using a Scorpion to deal with them, and while this is the most feasible way I can think of, I ended up improvising. My original goal was to use the Wasp’s rockets to whittle them down, and while this allowed me to take down one of the Hunters, I’d sustained a little too much damage and was forced to bail. Vehicles do make it clear when they’re about to explode, so I was able to escape in time, and with Master Chief’s luck, I managed to pick a rocket launcher from a dead Brute, using it to finish off the second of the Hunters.

  • The prize for defeating what are probably the toughest of the high value targets is a Backdraft Cindershot: this variant allows the Cindershot’s projectile to break down into explosive submunitions, making it great for clearing rooms out. I stopped to admire the jaw-dropping scenery of Zeta Halo before continuing on with my quest to upgrade my abilities and open up as many options as possible before heading into the next act of Halo Infinite. Having just passed the halfway point, I’m quite excited to see where everything is headed, and knowing that I have spent the time to earn a small edge means once I do continue, I’ll have the confidence in being prepared enough for whatever lies ahead in Halo Infinite.

At this point in time, the only things I have left to do in the open world is to deal with the remaining handful of high value targets, collect enough Spartan Cores to fully upgrade all abilities, and amass as many Mjolnir cosmetic upgrades as I can. Once this is done, I will continue with finishing off the story missions of Halo Infinite and consider both the latest instalment’s contributions to the franchise, as well as what this means for Halo. So far, the game has proven to be superb in all regards. The gameplay feels responsive, crisp and fresh. Movement is smooth, and the gunplay is visceral. Moreover, Halo Infinite runs well even on my aging desktop. During my time in Halo Infinite, I only experienced one crash, and this merely sent me back to my desktop, as opposed to blue-screening my computer. The optimisations that went into Halo Infinite are impressive; the game looks amazing, but it also runs extremely well on hardware that’s almost a decade old. With a more recent configuration, Halo Infinite would likely run even better. Quite simply, the game has been worth the cost of admissions, and I anticipate that altogether, I’ll get a grand total of around thirty hours out of Halo Infinite by the time I finish the campaign missions. While the lack of an ability to replay missions or co-op with friends, something that was possible in earlier Halo games, is a noticeable omission, I now fully appreciate why 343 Industries was not able include these features during launch. Halo Infinite‘s open world is vast, and tracking player positions for a smooth co-op experience would entail additional work, while the intrinsic open world approach in Halo Infinite similarly means that additional thought would need to be given towards how to best allow players to revisit missions they’ve previously completed. There is a great deal of precedence out there (e.g. The Division, Far Cry) for how to approach this, but owing to 343’s focus on delivering the best possible experience in the base game, one cannot fault them for wanting to leave these additional features on the “would be nice to have” list: I would much prefer to have a responsive movement system and good weapon handling available now, as opposed to a scenario where Halo Infinite had shipped with co-op and replayable missions that came at the expense of core mechanics like movement and weapons.

A Very Unique Girl: Slow Loop First Episode Impressions

“The great charm of fly-fishing is that we are always learning.” –Theodore Gordon

After her father had passed away from an illness three years earlier, Hiyori Yamakawa is a little worried about her stepfather and stepsister after learning her mother is going to remarry. To assuage her worries, Hiyori decides to take her mind off things by returning to the breakwater overlooking the ocean and do some fly fishing, which her father had taught her. She ends up running into Koharu Minagi at the breakwater: it’s Koharu’s first time seeing the ocean, and she’s even come in her swimsuit, intent on going for a swim. However, in March, the waters are still too frigid, and Hiyori ends up hooking Koharu to prevent her from taking a plunge. After introductions, Hiyori invites Koharu help her catch some fish and try some sashimi; the two quickly bond despite Hiyori not being good with meeting new people. To both Hiyori and Koharu’s surprise, it turns out that they’re now step-siblings. When Hiyori becomes a little uncomfortable with things back home and heads off to the breakwater, Koharu follows her, and Hiyori ends up providing instruction on how to fly fish. In return, Koharu whips up a zukedon for Hiyori using some older fish. The night before the new school year starts, Hiyori reassures Koharu it’s completely fine for her to be sleeping in Hiyori’s father’s old room, and she also promises properly teach Koharu on how to fish. On the first day of classes, Hiyori and Koharu head for school together to kick off their new year. With the arrival of the new anime season, Slow Loop is off to a flying start; this first episode wastes no time in introducing the characters, their backgrounds and setting up the fated encounter that brings Koharu and Hiyori together as family, all the while setting the stage that comes from enjoying the ocean’s bounty in a respectful and sustainable manner, much as Houkago Teibou Nisshi did before it a few years earlier.

Slow Loop differentiates itself from Houkago Teibou Nisshi in that this time around, Hiyori is still coming to terms with her father’s passing three years ago. Fishing becomes the activity that reassures her and connects her to her father. However, until Koharu arrives in her life, fly fishing is also a pursuit that Hiyori explores alone, and she’s initially limited only to one style of fishing. With Koharu’s genuine interest in learning more, bit by bit, Hiyori is pushed out of her comfort zone, and is prompted to explore new directions, as well. The setup in Slow Loop is reminiscent of Tamayura, where Fū Sawatari moved to Takehara to better learn the town her father had grown up in, and in doing so, Fū came to connect her father more closely. Here in Slow Loop, Hiyori is taciturn and reserved, fishes with only one technique and generally has trouble interacting with others. However, Koharu’s arrival acts as a catalyst to push her forwards, too: similarly to Fū, Hiyori is someone who can take initiative on her own, but when spurred on by friends, finds that her path to recovery and discovery is greatly accelerated by the new experiences that are only possible when one opens up their hearts to those around them. In this way, Slow Loop appears to be a Manga Time Kirara-style representation of Tamayura, being a bit more colourful and spirited (in contrast with the more measured and contemplative mood of Tamayura) portrayal of how fateful encounters can set people in new directions. After one episode, Slow Loop demonstrates that it has the makings of a consistent, if familiar series, and my interest in Slow Loop will be what unique messages are presented in its blend of elements from Houkago Teibou Nisshi and Tamayura, with character traits from other Manga Time Kirara series like Koisuru Asteroid.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll kick things off with Hiyori fishing on her own at the pier; Hiyori is voiced by Rin Kusumi, a relatively new voice actress whose role in Slow Loop represents her first lead role. While it’s March when Slow Loop begins, the weather still feels considerably warmer than it is here in the Great White North thanks to the blues in both ocean and sky. Since 2022 started, the daily high hasn’t exceeded -20°C (although with wind chill, it’s closer to -40°C). Before getting too much further into this post, one of the things I’ll have to steel myself to do is not mistype Slow Loop and spell it as Slow Start, another Manga Time Kirara series I’d previously watched, enjoyed and written about. Manga Time Kirara is very much characterised by doing things slowly, methodically, a mindset that has numerous merits but, all too often, is forgotten in today’s world.

  • 2020’s Houkago Teibou Nisshi proved to be superbly enjoyable, providing a combination of fishing information and slice-of-life antics in conjunction with messages of being respectful to marine ecology by not overfishing and not leaving any garbage after one’s finished. When Slow Loop was announced, I was admittedly curious: this one appeared to be more character driven than experience driven (such as Houkago Teibou Nisshi) owing to its premise, and as such, entering the first episode, I had no idea what to expect.

  • After Koharu chucks her clothes and prepares to dive into the ocean, Hiyori uses her line to catch Koharu’s attention. The latter ends up falling on her back and comes face-to-face with Hiyori, who blushes furiously. Koharu’s energy and enthusiasm brings to mind the likeness of Cocoa, Mira and Nadeshiko, all of whom have cheerful, extroverted and easy-go-lucky personalities. In appearance, Koharu is reminiscent of Blend S‘ Kaho, who was quite well-endowed and often wore her hair in twintails as a part of her work outfit. Koharu is voiced by Natsumi Hioka, whom I know best as Mitsuboshi Colours‘ Kotoha and Shii Eniwa from Super Cub.

  • The initial meeting between Koharu and Hiyori feels somewhat like the meeting between Nadeshiko and Rin during Yuru Camp△‘s first season: a happenstance occurrence that sets in motion the events for the remainder of the series. Such fateful encounters are a common literary device in Manga Time Kirara series, showing how friendships can come from the most unlikely of moments. Because of how Manga Time Kirara series are structured, they share many elements in common: folks looking for an all-new experience won’t find them with adaptations from Manga Time Kirara.

  • Instead, the joy in these series stems from their portrayal of how every journey is different, and therefore, worthwhile. After Hiyori shares some tea with Koharu, she invites Koharu to help her fish: while she casts her line, Koharu is to take the net and scoop the fish up. Even this early on, there’s a bit of chemistry between the two: like Nadeshiko and Rin, Mira and Ao, and Cocoa and Chino, the sharp contrast between Hiyori and Koharu’s personalities inevitably mean that the two will complement one another very well.

  • Right out of the gates, Slow Loop has Hiyori fishing for rockfish (Hepburn mebaru), which are of the genus Sebastes. There are 109 recognised species in this genre, and like Houkago Teibou Nisshi, the rockfish is portrayed as possessing poisonous spines that must be removed prior to consumption. This is done to show that Hiyori is no novice when it comes to fishing, but also shows how centuries of aquatic expertise means that humanity has learnt to make the most of what nature provides. Houkago Teibou Nisshi did the same, but in later episodes, once Hina had become more accustomed to fishing.

  • Looking back on the past few years, one of the most noticeable changes to my dietary preferences are that I now am a ways more comfortable eating raw fish than I’d been previously. I attribute this change to both Survivorman, as well as anime like Yuru Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which led me to become more open-minded about trying things. There’s a flavour and texture about sashimi and nigiri that is particularly appealing. Having said this, I still prefer my fish cooked thoroughly as a result of my background: 魚生 (jyutping yu4 saang1, literally “raw fish”) isn’t a popular part of Cantonese cuisine, and my favourite fish dishes usually see the fish steamed, then seasoned with a dash of soy sauce, ginger and scallion.

  • In moderation, though, raw fish is delicious, and after Hiyori prepares the fish, Koharu is immediately blown away by how fresh everything tastes. I believe that saltwater fish are slightly safer for raw consumption compared to freshwater fish, although in general, fish intended for use in sushi (nigiri) or sashimi is generally frozen first to kill any parasites: freezing causes ice crystals to form in the parasites’ cells, eventually rupturing them. It is not lost on me that the character designs in Slow Loop have a very GochiUsa-like feel to them.

  • As the sun begins setting, Hoyori remarks that she’s got to take off soon, since her mother’s getting remarried and they’re going to meet her future step-father, as well as his child. The moment Hoyori says this, it becomes clear that Koharu would say the same: that her father is getting remarried to someone who’s got a child, as well. This sort of thing might be seen as highly unrealistic, especially from a probability perspective, but such happenstance events are deliberate in stories to really drive home the idea that things like fateful encounters can exist and have a nontrivial impact on one’s life.

  • For me, predictability has never been an issue in anime for the same reason it’s never been an issue for whenever I watch Western films or television shows. This is because stories are intended to serve a specific function, whether it be to inform, persuade or entertain. As such, my goals when consuming a work is to determine what message the author has for me, and then, how well the journey towards those messages were portrayed. In Slow Loop, for instance, Maiko Uchino aims to present the idea of how being open-minded creates new experiences that help individuals to accept past losses, so now that Koharu and Hiyori are, in effect, sisters, what I am looking for most is to see how fishing and cooking will come together for the two, and what experiences they have together as a result.

  • With this being said, it is very reductionist to suppose that Slow Loop is purely about “found family in a group of misfits”, as one of Random Curiosity’s writers puts it: there’s more of a Tamayura-like vibe in Slow Loop in that both series presents the idea of becoming passionate and skilled about something as a means of better learning about loved ones who are no longer present. I will remark that it does take a certain mindset to write about slice-of-life series in a manner that’s interesting and meaningful for readers; reacting to things that occur isn’t something I find particularly valuable. Here, Hiyori recalls how her father’s old office is now Koharu’s room, and although Koharu’s father spots that this is bothering Hiyori somewhat, Hiyori herself is more conflicted than disapproving.

  • This is because the room would’ve represented her existing memories of her father; having Koharu move in would mean displacing those memories. On the flipside, however, having Koharu move in also means that while the present is displacing the past, the memories still remain. In this way, it’s a bit of a visual metaphor for having Hiyori take a step forward. After noticing Hiyori’s gone out, Koharu follows suit, and decides that now would be a great time to learn how to fly fish. Hiyori is a little befuddled by Koharu’s actions, wondering if she’s doing this to take her mind off things, or if she’s just curious. Past experience says that it’s likely a combination of both: characters like Koharu, Cocoa and Mira seem attuned to how those around them feel, and intuitively act in a way as to help them out.

  • While Hiyori notes that this day is windier than when they’d met, Koharu indicates that she’s like to at least try her hand at casting. Moments like these bring out Hiyori’s true self, and she immediately delves into the technical aspects of how to properly cast a fly fishing rod. The terminology overwhelms Koharu, but when Hiyori switches over to layman’s terms, Koharu comes around and begins to understand what Hiyori is getting at. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina suffers from a similar problem. As a beginner, she asks Makoto to help her out, but Makoto’s experience means she uses terms Hina is unfamiliar with. Conversely, Yūki’s explanations are far simpler, and in no time at all, Hina’s up and running. Being able to convey complex ideas to a novice is a mark of skill, and here in Slow Loop, having Hiyori being comfortable with both simplifies things somewhat for Koharu.

  • While Hiyori begins to wonder if Koharu’s wanting to learn fly fishing solely to take her mind off things back home, it turns out that Koharu had really just been about the fly fishing. However, this does give Hiyori a chance to clear her head, and seeing Koharu’s energy leads her to open up a little more – as they head home, Hiyori becomes comfortable calling Koharu by name, and learns that Koharu is two months older than she is.

  • For the time being, Slow Loop has made only the briefest of mentions regarding where its events take place: based on the name of the high school that Hiyori and Koharu attend, it’s somewhere in a hillier, coastal region of Kanagawa. This is speculative, of course, and I do wonder if a bit more information will be given with respect to where Slow Loop occurs come later episodes; I’d previously done a location hunt for Houkago Teibou Nisshi that wound up being very enjoyable, and it’d be phenomenal to bring the Oculus Quest back out of storage for another location hunt.

  • Although they didn’t catch anything, Koharu admits that she’d wanted to get at some fresh fish so she can cook: it turns out that Koharu is a skilled cook, and when Hiyori admits they have more fish than they know what to do with, including fish that’s no longer quite as optimal for sashimi, Koharu indicate she’s got a recipe up her sleeve that’s worth trying out. The difference in skills that each of Koharu and Hiyori possess creates a scenario where Hiyori will teach Koharu fishing, and over time, Koharu will impart her cooking knowledge on Hiyori, as well. The interplay between two different, but complementary skills will similarly help both to grow: as it turns out, Koharu’s not much of an outdoors person since she was afflicted with asthma when she was younger.

  • The recipe that Koharu has in mind isn’t particularly challenging: it’s a zukedon (marinated tuna bowl) that is prepared by adding equal measures of soy sauce, dashi and mirin to the fish, then throwing in some ground sesame seeds, adding this onto the rice and then topping with scallions to finish things off. Donburi is similar to the Cantonese 碟頭飯 (jyutping dip6 tau4 faan6, “topping on rice”), a simple dish with meat served on rice, and while there are countless varieties, my favourite is chicken curry or char sui with choy sum. Rice is incredibly versatile, and for dinner yesterday evening, I ended up having Hamamatsu-style unagi on rice. This eel was incredibly rich in flavour, being both savoury and piscine, and I now appreciate why Rin was overjoyed to try eel while with Nadeshiko during their time in Hamamatsu.

  • In the end, the resulting zukedon is delicious – Hiyori notes that it’s a little different than the ones her father used to make, and the ensuing conversation has Koharu shocked to learn that some fishes are actually at their best a few days after they’re caught. I have noticed that discussions elsewhere are very focused on Hiyori accepting her family name being changed from Yamakawa to Minagi, but this aspect is ultimately inconsequential – Hiyori herself is the sort of person who rolls with the punches and does her best to be accommodating; while Koharu and her father moving in is a big change, she’s not too bothered and even remarks shikata ga nai (仕方がない), a saying associated with accepting adversity in a dignified manner. Incidentally, the Chinese have a similar saying, 冇辦法 (jyutping mou5 baan6 faat3, literally “no other way”).

  • The reason why I’m less concerned about Hiyori accepting the family name change, despite its ties to her father, is because accepting this change equates to accepting the future, which in turn opens the anime to explore what lies ahead. Hiyori’s father remains important to her, but Koharu is the present and the future; I do not doubt that Hiyori’s father would’ve wanted her to find her own happiness anew, much as how Fū did indeed find her own way in Tamayura. As it was, Hiyori’s already looking forwards to figuring out some new fishing techniques that might be helpful for Koharu, whose enthusiasm to learn evokes a very Shimarin-like response from Hiyori, and this signifies that focusing on the minutiae is not too beneficial in a series like Slow Loop.

  • On the first day of term, Koharu gently pulls Hiyori forwards and hopes they’ll be in the same class together. Thus begins Slow Loop, and with the first of the anime now off to a fine start, I’ll remark here that I have plans to return and write about Slow Loop on a quarterly basis: discussion on shows like these are uncommon, and on some occasion, folks deem it necessary to bring in various aspects of psychology or sociology into such series where it is not needed. Manga Time Kirara series are, by definition, easygoing and approachable, so that a wide range of people can enjoy them: I hope to be able to convey this enjoyment as I journey through this one. Besides Slow Loop, I am also watching Girls’ Frontline and Shuumatsu no Harem this season. Once I have a measure of how these two shows are doing, I’ll make a more concrete decision as to whether or not I will be writing about them.

Before we delve too deeply into Slow Loop as more episodes air, it is logical to briefly mention the etymology behind this series’ title. Slow Loop‘s title is derived from a step during casting, during which one casts backwards, causing the line to form a loop. As Hiyori explains, casting forward and backward without dropping the fly into the water is called false casting. During this time, a loop is retained in the line: this process is done in preparation for the act of casting a line fully, and so, a “slow” loop therefore refers to the idea of taking as much time as needed to become ready for the next step forward. Slow Loop is appropriately named, and speaks to how for Hiyori, the path to acceptance and of thriving is one that she should take at her own pace. This is reminiscent of the advice that Maon’s father had given to Kanae in Tamayura ~More Aggressive~, when he’d suggested that everyone eventually casts off from the harbour, even though everyone does so only when they’re ready. As such, moving into Slow Loop‘s main story, it is evident that this is an anime that will combine the topic of fishing with self-discovery and acceptance while adding the Manga Time Kirara traits of adorable characters, bad jokes and warmth. On paper, this is a solid combination, so it goes without saying that Slow Loop is a series I am going to enjoy watching this season. Given the remarkably enjoyable experience Houkago Teibou Nisshi had imparted, and the unparalleled lessons seen in Tamayura, I am not holding Slow Loop to those same expectations – instead, the value in Slow Loop will come from how the story differentiates itself from those of its precursors.