The Infinite Zenith

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

Tag Archives: personal reflection

Uchiage Hanabi, Shita Kara Miru ka? Yoko Kara Miru ka? (Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?): A Review and Reflection

“Even the wisest cannot tell. For the mirror shows many things: things that were, things that are and some thins that have not yet come to pass.” —Lady Galadriel, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring

On the day of Moshimo’s local fireworks festival, Norimichi Shimada and his friends make a bet as to whether or not fireworks are flat or round when viewed from another vantage point. On the way to school, Norimichi notices Nazuna standing by the seaside, who’s found a small glass ball. Nazuna later encounters Norimichi and Yūsuke at the pool, when the two are assigned to clean up the pool deck. She challenges them to a race and makes a request of the winner. When Yūsuke wins, she asks him to meet her later, but after she returns home and hears of her mother’s remarks, she decides to run away from home. She encounters Norimichi at a local clinic and mentions to him that she was hoping that he’d win. Norimichi later runs into Nazuna’s mother, who drags her back home and causes the contents in Nazuna’s suitcase to spill out. When Yūsuke and the others arrive, Norimichi realises that Yūsuke did not meet with Nazuna and throws the glass ball at him. Subsequently, Norimichi finds himself back at the school pool, wins the race and promises to meet up with Nazuna. He finds Yūsuke in his room and manages to shake him off, taking Nazuna to the train station. Before he can board the train, Nazuna’s mother and her boyfriend arrive, separating the two, leaving Norimichi to rejoin the others. At the lighthouse, the fireworks take on a flat shape, and Norimichi later fights with Yūsuke over Nazuna. Throwing the glass ball again, Norimichi sends himself back to the point before Nazuna’s mother arrives, and this time, fends off her boyfriend, buying the pair enough time to board the train. Nazuna and Norimichi then share their thoughts for the future, and Nazuna sings as the train passes through a tunnel. However, they are spotted by Yūsuke and the others, leading them on a wild chase that leads back to the light house. Up here, Nazuna and Norimichi view the fireworks, which morph into flowers: despite the surrealness of the moment, Nazuna asks Norimichi if it is satisfactory that they are together. Before Norimichi can answer, Yūsuke arrives and pushes him off the lighthouse, leading Nazuna to fall, as well. Norimichi returns to the train, and this time, pushes Nazuna out of sight when passing the train crossing. The train continues on a track over the ocean, and enters a surreal space, seemingly inside the lighthouse itself. Norimichi and Nazuna share their final moments together and kiss while the lighthouse enclosure around them crumbles, with shards hinting at their futures littering their surroundings. Nazuna expresses her desire to meet him again, wondering what awaits them, and swims off. The next day, Norimichi is absent from their class’ roll call. This anime adaptation of the 1993 film captures the youthful approach to budding romantic feelings amongst three classmates and was released in Japan in August 2017, making use of the supernatural to drive its narrative forwards over its ninety-minute runtime.

Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?, Fireworks from here on out for brevity, is a love story at its core; as an adaptation of the 1993 iteration, its central premise is set around the idea of being able to make use of do-overs. Norimichi and Yūsuke both have feelings for Nazuna, who returns Norimichi’s feelings. The friendship between Yūsuke and Norimichi becomes increasingly strained throughout the movie’s run, and this rift continues to challenge Norimichi’s pursuit of time with Nazuna. It is through the inclusion of a glass ball capable of turning back time, through a supernatural trinket, that Norimichi is able to explore what challenges might lie in a relationship with Nazuna, and also, what outcomes might ensue if he should persist. That Norimichi requires divine intervention in the form of time travel, and moreover, multiple do-overs, in order to reach a point where he and Nazuna share a kiss, illustrates the finicky, uncertain nature of love and relationships. There are numerous what-ifs, and Fireworks seems to suggest that the way to starting and maintaining a relationship lies in a razor’s edge. Each do-over that brings Norimichi closer to Nazuna, however, comes at a price. As he works out those impediments that stand between him and Nazuna, his world becomes increasingly surreal environment. From fireworks defying the laws of physics, to the Puella Magi Madoka Magica-like world that is presented, Fireworks makes extensive use of imagery to evoke the idea that starting a relationship is a very tumultuous, phantasmagorical experience. Whether or not the events depicted on the night of fireworks actually occurred remains ambiguous, emphasising to viewers that falling in love is dream-like in nature: you have absolutely no idea of what you are doing, but it is exciting and, one way or another, it is over way too fast. What actually happened between Norimichi and Nazuna remain unexplored, leaving audiences to fill in the gaps. Norimichi and by extension, the viwer, is thus left with many unanswered questions, and having experienced what falling in love is like, is not content to merely sit on his hands. His absence at the closing of Fireworks hints at his having cut class to be with Nazuna, who, despite Norimichi’s efforts, was forced to move anyways.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Summer is my favourite time of year: the days are long and warm, inviting to adventure. Explorations come in many varieties, and love is a possibility, as well. By contrast, I feel that winter is the least romantic time of year: the miserable weather and days of seemingly eternal darkness is a dampener on the mood. For this post on Fireworks, I will feature thirty screenshots and my customary quip that thirty screenshots does not fully cover everything in this film, but nonetheless should offer a reasonable breadth for some of my thoughts on this film, which I’ve been interested in seeing since it screened in Japanese cinemas last August.

  • Feeling somewhat like Typhoon Noruda‘s Noruda, Nazuna’s character has only a limited timespan to develop over Fireworks‘ runtime. From what audiences gather, she’s not particularly sociable and doesn’t get along with her mother, but beyond this, is also counted as being quite beautiful, enough to capture Norimichi and Yūsuke’s attention. At the movie’s start, she finds a glass ball that is beautifully rendered, and while it initially looks to be of limited significance, this little device is a Chekov’s Gun that plays a nontrivial role in the events of Fireworks.

  • Miura is Norimichi and Yūsuke’s instructor. Her figure and assets draw the interest of the male students in her class, especially those of Norimichi’s friends, who wonder what her measurements are. Miura only has a minor role in Fireworks, but she is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who most will better know for her role as Garden of Words and Your Name‘s Yukari Yukino. Aside from both being instructors, Yukari and Miura also share the (perhaps unfortunate) distinction that their respective looks seem to garner unwanted attention from students. Beyond this, the two instructors are quite different: Yukari is more slender and graceful, while Miura is more active in disciplining her students and has more of a no-nonsense personality.

  • While attempting to work out what Miura’s measurements are using the inefficient brute force approach (a fancy way of saying exhaustive guessing), one of Norimichi’s friends is hit in the face with a not-so-stray volleyball, resulting in a hilarious funny face moment. I note that it is possible to probably eyeball these numbers using a variety of tricks from something like the Handbook of Geometric Topology or else use sophisticated image recognition algorithms, but the better question is, why?

  • I would almost certainly balk at the prospect of another student walking on my desk in class. After boldly asking ifMiura has a boyfriend, one of Norimichi’s friends draws Miura’s ire: of the group, he’s quite attracted to her and messes with her frequently. His escapades eventually end up with him tripping near Norimichi’s desk and landing flat on his face. The school that Norimichi attends has a very distinct architecture, being composed of two circular buildings connected by a central area.

  • Fireworks places a great deal of focus on one of the spiral staircases within the school, and interiors are also rendered with a good amount of clutter. As a result of this design choice, and the fact that some of the female students seen earlier have a well-defined figure, one can reasonably surmise that this is probably a middle and secondary school rolled into one. If this is the case, then one can similarly suppose that this town is a smaller one. Here, Nazuna hands Miura a letter from her parents mentioning her transfer out of this school.

  • Weather of this sort graced my area on Saturday, during which it felt as though the world had decided it appropriate to skip spring and jump into summer. I capitalised on the fantastic weather for the second round of Poutine Week and visited Leopold’s Tavern for their Crispy Chicken Cheesy Buffalo Dill Poutine. This poutine is as delicious as its name is long – topped with crunchy, succulent chucks of fried chicken, deep fried battered cheese curds, a rich cheese sauce and Buffalo-dill sauce, this was a very hearty and tasty creation that reminds me of the over-the-top foods served in a fair’s midway. Because the weather was pleasant, and partially to burn off some of the food energy from this poutine, we took a walk around the downtown core under pleasant skies.

  • Nazuna is quite mysterious, and all the more compelling as a character for that. She’s resting by the poolside here and lazily shares a conversation with Norimichi, before challenging him and Yūsuke to a race, on the condition that she’ll pick the winner to listen to what she has to say. In the first iteration, Norimichi injures his foot and is impeded by pain, leaving Yūsuke to win. Nazuna explains that she wants to see the fireworks with him and asks him to meet her by five.

  • Back in the classroom, Norimichi’s friends argue over what shape fireworks are. In the original Fireworks movie, everyone was in the sixth grade and close to the age of eleven. Here, the anime adaptation presents them as being somewhat older – I would hazard a guess of grade nine based on the guys’ behaviours, which corresponds with an age around fourteen. The wager of what shape fireworks are feels a little out of place in their age group, especially considering that fourteen-year-olds would be more learned and make use of resources to answer their query. The limited presence of smartphones gives Fireworks a timeless quality: the original live action film was produced in 1993, before the advent of such technologies.

  • With this being said, the choice to bring the characters’ ages up for the animated movie is probably so the anime can facilitate humour and interactions of the sort that older characters can permit, as well as so love can be explored with a greater level of detail: I cannot say this with full certainty because I’ve not seen the original 1993 Fireworks movie. While we are on the topic of things unknown, the real-world basis for Moshimo is not certain; the town’s name approximates to “if only I had”, which is a recurring theme in Fireworks, but beyond being a generic, if beautifully-rendered, seaside town, little English-language materials exist pertaining to what real world places influenced Moshimo, if any.

  • When Norimichi arrives home, he finds Yūsuke already in his room. While mobile devices do not have a significant presence in Fireworks, the presence of flat-screen televisions and a game console suggest that this incarnation of Fireworks might happen in the early 2000s. Beyond this, I do not have the know-how to pin down when precisely Fireworks is set: modern consoles can play retro games, further confounding the year. I imagine that leaving the time period ambiguous in Fireworks is a deliberate choice, giving the anime a timeless feel that acts as a callback to the original 1993 live-action film.

  • Fireworks suggest that the outcome of an event can be changed by the most trivial of details: things derail rapidly because Norimichi lost the race. Most folks will know this as the butterfly effect, where small changes in a system can have a dramatic change on the outcome (e.g. manipulating parameters of a simulation, or values of an expression). While the butterfly effect largely applies to complex systems, such as weather and quantum mechanics, it’s a popular literary device in fiction because it is a more tangible description of how small events can have unexpected consequences.

  • Because Yūsuke ended up winning the race but winds up standing Nazuna up, Norimichi runs into her at a clinic while getting his wound treated, and he is powerless to stop Nazuna’s mother from forcibly taking Nazuna home. In reality, this is where most relationships end up. While we well know that the world is not this simple, the literary device does allow for a certain message to be conveyed: in Fireworks, the narrative uses the butterfly effect to suggest that Norimichi’s feelings for Nazuna can only be returned if a very specific set of events happen, and that in the absence of a priori knowledge, one cannot make the decisions that favour an outcome where Norimichi ends up with Nazuna. It therefore stands to reason that Fireworks is suggesting that in the absence of blind luck, a relationship can be quite difficult to get of the ground.

  • Throwing the glass ball results in time reverting back to a point specified. Without any science fiction style justifications of how this actually works, like the body-switching phenomenon in Your Name, time travel in Fireworks is left unexplained because it is present to facilitate the narrative. The how is not as important as the why, so audiences must suspend their disbelief and accept that Norimichi is now able to load from a save state, as it were, because this is what allows Fireworks to make its message clear to viewers.

  • After reloading, Norimichi manages to escape from Yūsuke and takes Nazuna to the station on his bike. Knowing the successive outcomes of events in Fireworks enables Norimichi to be increasingly bold in his interactions with Nazuna. However, foreknowledge has its limitations, and he’s forced to return to improvising as best as he can to spend time with Nazuna whenever things go south. This is what prompts the page quote, which is sourced from Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring: after arriving in Lothlórien, Frodo encounters Lady Galadriel, who shows him the Mirror of Galadriel and warns him that what is seen in the mirror are merely possibilities future.

  • At the train station, Nazuna explains to Norimichi her circumstances; because of difficulties at home, she’s running away, and having brought Norimichi along, counts it as eloping, feeling it to be more mature than merely running away. It turns out that her mother also eloped previously, and Nazuna wonders if it’s in her blood to handle challenges in this manner. When Norimichi wonders where they’ll go, Nazuna considers Tokyo. She imagines herself taking a job at a convenience store or in the more shady side of things to make ends meet.

  • To throw off any potential tails, Nazuna switches into a white dress. The colour is long associated with purity and a blank slate: Nazuna dons one, mirroring her longing for a new start. When Norimichi wonders how Nazuna will find work, given that she’s under the age requirements, Nazuna remarks that she could probably pass for sixteen. The ages of the characters in Fireworks have been ambiguous: on one hand, the characters are clearly not eleven as in the original Fireworks, but they don’t seem mature enough to be high school students, either. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that Norimichi and Nazuna are around fourteen.

  • Norimichi’s first attempt to board the train fails when Nazuna is taken away, and after he resets things again, he manages to fend off Nazuna’s mother’s boyfriend, buying the two enough time to board. Afforded some quiet, Norimichi and Nazuna share a conversation before the latter begins performing Ruriiro No Chikyu (瑠璃色の地球), one of Seiko Matsuda’s songs. Matsuda is a well-known pop singer in Japan and began her career in the 80s: this period has some of the greatest Cantonese pop artists of all time, and Matsuda’s songs sound like the best Canto-pop songs of the day. I know Matsuda best for her performance of Taisetsu na Anata (大切なあなた), which was covered by Vivian Lai in the song 陽光路上 (jyutping joeng4 gwong1 lou6 soeng5).

  • Because it is possible that none of the events past Norimichi throwing the glass ball actually occurred, Fireworks hints at the idea that in love and relationships, especially surrounding  a first love, is a world of “what-ifs”. When a relationship fails or never makes it past the first stage, minds often become consumed with these hypothetical “what-ifs”. Relationship advice usually entails “let go of the past, make the most of the present and pursue the future”; I usually find relationship advice to require a personalised approach, but here is some advice that I feel is effective. What was once lost usually cannot be regained, so the advice is really telling people that there usually are other opportunities out there, and if one’s eyes are facing the past, they cannot enjoy the present or see future opportunity.

  • If I were to do a review based purely on the scenes that are firmly set in reality, however, then this post would probably have been published a few days ago and have only ten screenshots. However, to ignore the other parts of the film would result in a disappointingly short discussion. In this particular iteration, Norimichi and Nazuna are spotted by both Nazuna’s mother and Norimichi’s friends, who give chase. The pair manage to evade their pursuers and reach the old lighthouse, where they stop to view the fireworks and catch their breath.

  • Despite the bet about what shape fireworks are figuring prominently in Fireworks‘ synopsis elsewhere, as well as forming the basis for the story’s title, actual fireworks do not figure very prominently in the film. The fireworks displays that are seen in Fireworks from the lighthouse take on very unusual properties, exploding in a disk or else dispersing pedal-like sparks. The final display is seen underwater. The disconnect in the title is intended to represent the split in interests: Norimichi can either spend time with his friends or Nazuna, but not both, and because it is with his friends that the fireworks become relevant, the relatively few moments with normal-looking fireworks is likely indicative of where Norimichi’s heart lies.

  • Norimichi is aware that what he’s seeing is not reality, evidenced through the unusual fireworks patterns, and Nazuna replies that reality or not, as long as she’s with him, it matters not. While a highly romantic thought, it’s also likely the result of Norimichi’s thoughts, rather than anything the real Nazuna might say. In our imaginations, people become what we imagine them to be, and it is only in the mind’s eye where the most romantic, or even forbidden, thoughts might manifest. Reality is harsher, and when the magic of a relationship’s start wears off, whether or not that relationship will endure is determined by a multitude of factors, including trust, commitment, faithfulness and loyalty. At the risk of stepping on many toes, I feel that the strongest relationships are not necessarily those with the most romantic moments, but the ones where two partners continue to find ways of working together to get through difficult times and enjoying the good times together.

  • When Norimichi is pushed off the lighthouse, he loads another save state (the fourth, I believe) and returns on board the train. This time, he pushes Nazuna out of sight, ending up on top of her and sparing them the trouble of being spotted. This sets in motion the final phase of the movie: it’s taken a fair number of attempts for Norimichi to really be alone with Nazuna. As the train they’re on continues travelling, it switches tracks and begins passing over the ocean itself as evening sets in, creating a beautiful and surreal setting.

  • As the train travels over the ocean under the violet hour, the scene evokes a very viseral representation of what love is like: ethereally blissful, but also uncertain in that no one really knows where the train will stop next.  When the train reaches its destination, Norimichi and Nazuna disembark to find themselves in a world covered by a vast dome, seemingly inside the lighthouse’s light fixture itself. Fireworks has done much to set up the events leading up to Norimichi and Nazuna finding themselves in a space where they are assured of some solitude, and if it was not visible earlier, then there is no doubt by now that the movie has stepped into the realm of the hypothetical.

  • While Nazuna might be fourteen, Fireworks renders her character in a manner such that she appears older than she is. After reaching the ocean’s edge and inviting Norimichi to join her, Nazuna begins stripping down into a lighter gown before entering the water. She looks several years older in this moment, smiling at Norimichi in an almost seductive manner. Norimichi eventually relents and joins here. Meanwhile, on the shore opposite, the fireworks technician manages to come across the glass ball, and while drunk, loads it into the fireworks apparatus and fires it off, shattering the done surrounding their world.

  • In the film’s final moments, Nazuna and Norimichi see visions of the future in the glass shards that fall to the surface. These visions illustrate all that could’ve been: because the future is always in motion, it is very tricky to pin down what will occur. Yūsuke, for instance, sees that if he’d simply chosen to go with Nazuna, he would’ve had a memorable time with her and this could’ve led to something more. However, because he chose to remain with the status quo, nothing ever occurred. Similarly, Norimichi sees a vision of him and Nazuna kissing while overlooking Tokyo Bay.

  • One might even say that the complex system that is human society can result in any number of possibilities. Because human interactions are turbulent and chaotic, it can be nigh-impossible to predict the long-term outcomes merely from a snapshot in a moment. Fireworks acts as a bit of a snapshot; it presents parts of the story and leaves the others out to remind audiences of this reality. As Grand Admiral Thrawn might put it, Fireworks is very artistically done – it takes a bit of thinking to really figure out why the movie is presented in the manner that it is, but behind all of the visual metaphors, symbols and motifs, the message underlying everything is straightforwards.

  • At the film’s climax, Norimichi and Nazuna kiss while underwater, before Nazuna heads off, mirroring her departure. In reality, it is clear that Norimichi did not really have any ability to stop Nazuna from leaving, and that Nazuna’s desire to elope was more of a whim. While perhaps thought of as being quite romantic, kissing underwater is quite impractical: besides the small matter of breathing and the elevated heart rate when one is in such a moment, some people (like myself) also find it painful to open their eyes underwater, making aiming a rather challenging task.

  • I’ve not mentioned the incidental music in Fireworks thus far – the soundtrack to Fireworks is quite varied, from melodic and emotional pieces right down to the mood-setting pieces that play whenever Norimichi’s friends are around. It goes without saying that I prefer the string and piano pieces in the soundtrack. A quick glance at the box office numbers shows that Fireworks did modestly well at the box office, with a gross of 26 million internationally, and grossed 4.2 million within three days of its première, becoming the best-performing Shaft film thus far.

  • At the end of the day, I found this movie quite fun to watch, and I think of it similarly to what I thought of Hirune Hime. Today marks the final day of April, and so, this is going to be my last post for April, as well. We’re now moving into May, a time when spring really kicks into high gear. Looking ahead, I don’t have any posts in mind aside from the scheduled talks about Amanchu! Advance, so May and June will be a bit of a free-for-all with respect to what I write about. Having said this, however, Battlefield 1 and The Division both have some exciting things upcoming, so the reduced number of anime posts might not be such a bad thing.

In reality, fireworks are simply explosions and will always explode in a spherical pattern. Variations in air turbulence, density and pressure may affect the rate of an explosion’s movement in a direction, but the end shape is a sphere. To create shapes in fireworks, pyrotechnicians running the show will have previously packed the fireworks with pieces of cardboard having the desired shape, often in multiples, to ensure that the fireworks can explode with the required effect and give the same view from a range of angles. As a result, fireworks will be round from almost any perspective, certainly not flat as some of the boys in Fireworks suggest. Deviance from this outcome is indicative of a universe where the laws of physics no longer apply, and in Fireworks, the visuals are done with a very high quality, enough to convince audiences of an unreal reality. While inconsistent in some places, Fireworks is a very stunning anime. From the details of the mirror inside the lighthouse, to the play of light in the glass ball, and water effects in the pool, Fireworks captivates its viewers with its exceptional artwork and lighting. While not directly pertinent to the narrative, Fireworks‘ use of high-detail moments provide a pause in the story, encouraging viewers to consider what has already occurred, before things move on to the next scene. The sum of these elements come together to create a film that excels technically and also provides an engaging, if simple, story for viewers, making extensive use of visual elements to reiterate the notion that love is tumultuous and chaotic. Overall, I would give this movie a recommendation: while nothing world-changing and somewhat ambiguous, it’s nonetheless a fun interpretation of what young love must feel like, putting into not words, but pictures, the feelings associated with striking up the courage to be with someone special.

An Introspection At A Million Views: Reaching A New Milestone

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.” –Brian Clark

The Infinite Mirai is roughly six-and-a-half years old now, and it is at this point where I’ve crossed the million-view threshold. Seeing this number on the all-time views metric leads me to reflect on what this means: a million of anything can be either a lot or a little depending on one’s perspective. A million milliliters of water would weigh a million grams (a thousand kilograms). A computer display with the resolution 1280 by 800 would have 1024000 pixels, and a million one-dollar USD bills would weigh a thousand kilograms (USD bills weigh one gram). It would take 11.57 days to count to a million if one incremented once every second. This is where the Infinite Mirai currently stands, and this milestone is the culmination of the readers’ continued interest – it is no exaggeration to say that readers are the singular reason why the Infinite Mirai has a million views, and consequently, it makes sense to give my thanks to all of you for having helped this blog reach such a milestone. Taking a leaf from TheRadBrad’s page, you’re the best readers ever, so thank you – I know you’ll probably get sick of me saying it, but thank you for giving me the inspiration to watch and write about things for you guys. It means a great deal to me, and without you, this blog would probably not be what it is now. There’s quite a bit of road that was covered to reaching a million views, and this post represents a break in tradition from what I usually do.

  • Every time I did a milestone post, I said that I might quit. Six-and-a-half years in, I think that it’s safe to say that this blog is likely to stick around in its current incarnation, using the methods that I’ve found that work well enough for me. Over the past year, I find that I’ve been a lot closer to parts of the WordPress anime blogging community, and it’s been a fun experience to interact with other WordPress bloggers, all of whom have their own strong points, struggles and experiences with both life and anime.

Up until now, I have not particularly been keen on sharing my site metrics, nor have I given any suggestions and learnings I’ve accumulated to other bloggers. The reason for the former is simply because my traffic does not and should not impact what I do: while professionals bloggers need to be mindful of their visitor count for good reason, I blog as a hobby, and as such, it matters little if my posts reach ten people or ten thousand people. As for advice, I’ve long felt that in the population of casual bloggers, the number of ways to run an operation equals the number of members in that population. In other words, speak to ten bloggers and you’ll likely get eleven different approaches, all of which are functional. However, with this million views milestone, I’m breaking the tradition: first, all readers now know that a million pages have been viewed in some capacity, and basic arithmetic means that I get around 416 visitors a day. There are a total of 943 posts excluding this one, so each post averages 1060 views. Of course, these numbers are quite skewed – my earliest posts are not visible on search engines, and since I started my blog in October 2011, the years 2011 and 2012 are characterised by a very low visitor count, corresponding to my not using this blog to its full capacity until 2013. Looking through the archives will show just how different my style is now, compared to what it was when I first started. As an aside, I was secretly hoping that I would reach the thousand-post milestone close to when I reached a million page views, but as I’m still some sixty six posts out, that certainly won’t happen now. Having now dealt with the hard numbers about the Infinite Mirai, I move to the next topic which has hitherto not been covered here: any learnings that I’ve accrued over the past six-and-a-half years.

  • This is what things look like from my dashboard. Rudimentary statistics from my site are shown here, and I share a few interesting points: compared with the remainder of the community, my site has a much smaller number of followers, fewer comments and fewer likes. While I cannot say anything definitive about traffic for other blogs that I enjoy reading, the Infinite Mirai enjoys relatively consistent viewership coming from social media, Reddit and other platforms, as well as a high search engine visibility (try doing a search on Google for “Kantai Collection” and “Frostbite Engine”).

The list of things I’ve seen both professional bloggers and fellow anime bloggers present is a large one: suggestions have included tips for extending one’s presence and promotion, how to maintain consistency in one’s content, what sorts of topics to cover in anime reviews, and even how to pick a suitable layout for one’s blog. I’m going to say this openly: none of this matters unless one is writing for a professional blog, where search engine optimisation and inbound traffic corresponds with advertisement revenue, which keeps the lights on. For non-professional blogs, I have a very simple credos: be yourself. Traffic is not the end-all for us, and the joys of blogging are community building; it is a joy to be able to talk with other individuals sharing similar interests, and the close-knit nature of anime blogging in this age means that differing perspectives are eye-openers, instructive, rather than fuel for flame wars. With this in mind, one might then ask, if I’ve not followed any particular approach that both professional and casual bloggers advocate, then why is the Infinite Mirai as visible as it is? After all, searches for certain keywords will find the Infinite Mirai at or near the top of Google searches. Some folks have even remarked that my blog appears almost everywhere in searches related to slice-of-life and military-moé. The answer to this is that I’ve been unknowingly doing a form of search engine optimisation: I take a very unusual approach to my anime and gaming discussions, comparing things that seemingly cannot (or should not) be compared (e.g. comparing Les Stroud’s survival tips with what is seen in Yuru Camp△). I also dabble in conversion of Japanese information into English articles, write about games and reference various shows that I watch, and in general, approach things differently enough so that search engines can find the content, and that people end up finding what they sought when encountering my content. This is how I roll, but it wasn’t how I always rolled: it takes time for bloggers to find their structure and workflow, so when I say “be yourself”, I refer to finding a workflow that one should enjoy using, and then applying their own take on things. This is what keeps blogging enjoyable for me, and the reason why I’ve stuck around for a non-trivial period of time.

  • So, on a quiet April evening, where the winter weather has finally given way to the warmth of spring, I pass a milestone that, like my all-exotic loadout from The Division, I never really expected to reach. From what I’ve heard, this blog’s contents have been somewhat useful and mostly enjoyable for readers, so I’m very happy to have been able to positively impact a number of individuals out there. It is my belief that positivity is a choice, and in a world where negativity can be overwhelming, I aim to bring a piece of happiness into whatever it is that I do. Blogging is no different, and as such, I find that the best way to enjoy entertainment is to be open-minded; while some folks prefer the challenge of assessing what they don’t like, for me, life is too short to be doing this unless one is doing so in a professional capacity, so I stick with reflecting on what I like. Having said this, what would you, the readers, like to see from me in the future?

The lingering question for readers then becomes what will the future have in store for the Infinite Mirai. I’m not sure whether or not the Infinite Mirai will be around long enough to hit the two or ten million view mark, and on that note, I’m similarly uncertain as to whether or not I will reach the two or five thousand post mark. With that being said, there are some things that are a bit more certain. This blog has proven to be unexpectedly resilient, and I’ve said this previously – I will keep the party going here until there’s a suitable endpoint for this blog. In the meantime, readers can expect more of the same from me: unusual, unorthodox and unconventional approaches to talking about anime. I will continue approaching shows from a high level and exploring who a given show is for, as well as what aspects about people the show is trying to present. I will continue referencing the obscure or unusual, and I will continue to have a good ol’e time with those who participate in discussions. As for fellow bloggers who have begun their journey, I will note that the million views milestone is merely a part of the journey, and would encourage them to stick around; by the time one’s blog reaches a million views, they will have encountered a host of interesting individuals and ideas, and have created content that’s likely helped someone, somewhere with their own endeavours. In the meantime, I would like to thank all of the visitors and fellow bloggers alike for having done so much to inspire and motivate me to continue writing, to the point where a milestone I once thought unreachable is now something that is very much a reality. ありがとう!

Wolfire Overgrowth: Review and Reflection

“At my last job, the tools had no Ctrl-Z, so I learned to be perfect on first try.” —Aubrey Serr, Wolfire Team

Set after the events of Lagaru, Overgrowth follows Turner after he defeated the alpha wolf and the corrupt monarch, Hickory, avenging the death of his family. Since then, he has wandered Lugaru seeking a new purpose. After bandits begin ravaging the island, Turner decides to investigate and help dispossessed find a new home in a mythical island in the sky. Turner reluctantly help those in need, finding himself entangled in a much deeper conflict involving slavery. Fighting his way through frigid glaciers and distant swamps, Turner is captured by the cats and proves his combat prowess in the arena, before killing off the leader of the cats. Turner eventually reaches the island and after ascending its sheer walls, reaches the top, where he kills its leaders. No longer denied homes, the rabbits aiding Turner find a new home, and Turner himself sets off, continuing to seek his purpose. This is Overgrowth‘s main campaign; clocking in at around four hours, it’s concise and accompanied by a remastered version of Lagaru, Overgrowth‘s predecessor. The game’s defining feature is that its development started around a decade ago, and in its finished form, the title very much feels like a demonstration of Wolfire’s Phoenix Engine, which is a technically impressive system; the main campaign showcases the different physics aspects available in Overgrowth, as well as a highly-evolved combat system. However, with only a pair of short campaigns and a few modes beyond this, Overgrowth comes across as being much more limited in content.

Overall, the combat and parkour system in Overgrowth are the game’s greatest strengths. The context-based fighting system is quick to learn but has a remarkably high skill ceiling: like Receiver, Overgrowth is very punishing. As Turner, players are able to hold their own on skill, but brute force will quickly result in death. Overgrowth‘s campaign rewards players who strategically make use of the environment to survive, as well as those who’ve taken the time to learn the fighting system. Consequently, every successful kill in the campaign is a satisfying one, and the game reinforces this by slowing things down on each kill. It is incredibly satisfying to survive a fight against large groups of opponents, whether they be other rabbits, rats, dogs, cats or the nigh-unstoppable wolves. Each of the different opponent types require a unique approach: Turner can stand toe-to-toe with other rabbits and rats, but cats, dogs and wolves involve strategy in order for Turner to survive. Turner can also make use of weapons to bolster his survivability in a fight, and against superior opponents, the terrain becomes an ally, as well – I’ve won most fights against wolves simply by kicking them off ledges. Similarly, Overgrowth has a particular emphasis on navigating vertical landscape features to reach a destination. While the controls are a bit challenging, once mastered, players can scale sheer walls and jump across vast distances. It is as satisfying to climb to the top of a structure as it is to survive a fight, and on both counts, Overgrowth‘s central features are well-implemented. With a narrative tying things together, it was superbly enjoyable to see the game exit the beta stage and become a full-fledged, if somewhat short, title that could form the basis for a much more content-rich game: it’s clear that the Phoenix Engine is quite powerful, and with the basics finished, I would like to see Wolfire use this engine to its full potential with a game that has a more detailed story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been just a little less than four years since I bought Overgrowth during a Steam Sale while the game was still in its alpha stages: I experimented with the game only briefly and did not have too much to say about it, but now that Overgrowth is technically finished, with two campaigns, the game’s worth returning to, and returning for the first time since 2014, I’m impressed with the lighting effects and visuals.

  • While Overgrowth‘s textures are a bit dated and the lower polygon count is visible, the lighting effects and sense of scale in the maps have seen considerable improvements since the early days of the alpha. Missions in Overgrowth‘s campaign are usually broken up into two types: ascension and combat. Ascension missions involve parkour to reach the top of a map, and combat missions entail fighting a large number of enemy combatants.

  • As a rabbit, Turner can jump great distances, an ability that is useful for both parkour and combat as a defensive tactic; being able to escape swarms of enemies is especially important, since Overgrowth lacks a HUD: Turner will go down every quickly to large numbers of enemies, and against certain kinds of enemies, will die in a single blow. Thus, a large part of the gameplay is picking one’s engagements wisely and making use of the environment to assist in combat.

  • In conjunction with punches, kicks and blocks, Turner can silently dispatch enemies by means of stealth take downs to avoid alerting nearby enemies. The AI in Overgrowth has been meticulously designed and will begin investigating if players are not careful in their approach: once combat breaks out, all stealth goes out the window, and fighting multiple opponents simultaneously is difficult, so like most stealth games, if one can commit to not being spotted, missions in Overgrowth become much more straightforwards to complete.

  • Weapons in Overgrowth come in two varieties: two handed weapons that deal massive damage at the expense of mobility, and one-handed weapons that can be employed very quickly. Weapons can be thrown, although the AI will pick up any missed weapons and use them against Turner, block them with weapons of their own or even throw them back. When used properly, weapons can one-shot most opponents.

  • A Chinese-style junk is visible at this port city: Turner visits a vast range of locations in his travels, and while Overgrowth‘s narrative is constrained by a lack of cohesiveness, it does allow players to see a variety of locations. Wolfire only has four employees, all of whom have backgrounds in programming, development and 3D modelling: Overgrowth is by far their largest title, and so, it is understandable that Overgrowth does not have a more powerful story or voice acting.

  • Water effects in Overgrowth are impressive, but there’s no opportunity to go swimming in Overgrowth: if Turner falls into deep water, he will die instantly. Overgrowth states that rabbits cannot swim to explain this mechanic: while rabbits can in fact swim to escape dangers, this is an action they are absolutely not fond of, since they become waterlogged very quickly. The resulting cold and panic can lead to drowning, and since rabbits can be literally scared to death by a shocking change in conditions (by the way, this is the correct way of using ‘literally’ in a sentence), rabbits avoid swimming where possible.

  • With a pair of swords in hand, I effortlessly decimate all of the crew on board the junk, including the boss that comes out. Blood effects and ragdolls in Overgrowth are fun, adding satisfaction to finishing each fight. Besides swords and knives, spears and staffs are also available. Weapons can be sheathed when not in use, and there are occasions where it’s better not to have weapons drawn, since they can be knocked from one’s hands during the heat of combat.

  • Besides other rabbits and mice, Turner will also encounter dogs, cats and wolves in Overgrowth. Having weapons allows Turner to even the odds out somewhat, but Wolves, being the most powerful animal in the game, can absolutely tear Turner apart. Getting up here from the ocean was no cakewalk, involving all of my resourcefulness to find spots on the shear walls to parkour up. I ended up beating the wolf by using the jump kick, an overpowered move that propels enemies back, and kicked it off a ledge.

  • The jump kick is a fantastic move for creating space and dealing massive damage to enemies, but because it propels Turner back a large distance, as well, there are risks to using it. Wolfire has since patched Overgrowth so that AI will respond more effectively towards jump kicks by evading: it proved incredibly effective against wolves, who could be insta-killed if they were kicked over ledges and fell great distances.

  • I spent a portion of Christmas Day and Boxing Day playing Overgrowth; the cold, snowy environments perfectly capture the feel of a frigid Canadian winter, and I recall the many attempts it took to sneak past the dogs and lure them into single combat. I eventually managed to best them, and savoured the victory: if there’s anything Overgrowth excels at, it’s creating a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment with each fight won.

  • Like ReceiverOvergrowth is very unforgiving with its gameplay, and this is compounded by the lack of a UI; to counteract this, Overgrowth allows for near-instant respawns that put players right back into the things. This feature allows one to experiment with different approaches towards a problem until a solution is found.

  • I recall a six-on-one fight in one of the glacier missions where the ability to instantly respawn proved to be superbly useful: guards travel in pairs in this mission, and taking one out while the other is not looking is not possible. I ended up using stealth to take one out before going loud with a weapon with the other. The combat system in Overgrowth is very complex, and while easy to learn, mastering the controls is another story.

  • Turner goes from fighting in the cold glaciers to fighting in a fetid swamp. While lacking the steep drops of the glacier missions, the swamp is a dreary place that is quite easy to get lost in, and the lack of a HUD forces players to keep an eye on visual cues in the environment in order to figure out where to go next. They can be subtle, especially under low light conditions, and so, players might be forced to backtrack and explore.

  • Fighting rats in the swamps turned out to be relatively straightforwards: rats aren’t particularly challenging as a foe. Looking back, Overgrowth‘s development timeline was probably the biggest impediment the game had during its developer cycle. People wondered if the game would ever exit the alpha stage, and while the developers were constantly pushing updates, the game remained in alpha and beta stages for a few years.

  • One aspect of Overgrowth that sees very little discussion elsewhere is the game’s soundtrack. Composed by Mikko Tarmia, the music of Overgrowth is majestic, brooding and fits the game’s setting of a post-apocalyptic world. I would absolutely love to see a soundtrack, which, unfortunately, is not available for purchase at the time of writing. I recall listening to the game’s main theme frequently while writing Objective-C code, and because of our lab’s yearly excursions to Canmore, the soundtrack also reminds me of the mountains and valleys on the way leading into Banff National Park.

  • It attests to how much time has passed, now that Objective-C is being phased out in favour of Swift; when I began my time as an undergraduate researcher seven summers ago, I was a volunteer. My initial applications for funding were unsuccessful, but I decided to stick it out, since my goal was to learn, and two months in, I managed to build a simple model of blood oxygenation and deoxygenation in the lab’s custom game engine. Impressed, my supervisor switched me over to a funded programme, and I began work on a fluid flow model using agent-based approaches.

  • The mission to climb to the top of a tree and reach that glowing bucket proved to be an exercise in patience, and like the ascent to the top of a snow-covered mountain, it was immensely rewarding to actually reach the top and finish the objective. This is probably the “sense of pride and accomplishment” that all game developers want their players to experience; while the way to the top is marked by bioluminescent fungus, Overgrowth offers few other cues and suggestions, leaving players to work out how to get to the top.

  • By my second year, I managed to win the OCSS, a small scholarship for students enrolled in the Health Sciences program to do summer research. That summer, I continued on with my flow model after implementing a selectively permeable membrane system. Work on the flow model proceeded into June, and after spending many summer days tuning it, I was surprised to see my entities moving in a convoluted vessel without being stuck in the walls. I subsequently tried the algorithm out on a nephron model that we had, and it proved successful, so I spent the remainder of the summer trying to mimic renal flow and reabsorption, making use of the selectively permeable membranes in the process.

  • The camp in the swamp is such a visually impressive level with its lighting effects, and while quite difficult to nagivate, it was worth exploring every corner of this map to find the exit after all enemies had been eliminated. During this level, the intense fighting meant that I lost my weapons, but Overgrowth‘s jump kicks are overpowered to the point where they can be used if one lacks weapons. On a map with no ledges, this tactic is not a particularly dangerous one.

  • During my third summer in my undergraduate program, I did not return to the lab until August, having been entangled with the MCAT, but once that finished, I helped get a paper submission off the ground. By my fourth year, my old work with the nephrons eventually led me to build a multi-scale renal model in our lab’s in-house game engine, and I returned to this project that summer with an NSERC USRP award, building a distributed model that allowed different computers to share information with one another. In this implementation, I had one computer handle the renal calculations and the other handle cardiac functions. As they shared data, their visualisations, run locally, would be updated.

  • As we reach the end of Overgrowth‘s campaign, the levels become much more ominous in nature, featuring lavafalls and hellish environments. I fight in an arena here against increasingly difficult opponents, until at last, wolves are introduced. Wolves are terrifyingly powerful – Turner is no match for one in a straight-up fight, so I utilised hit-and-fade techniques, making use of distance to my advantage and waiting for the right moment to jump-kick a wolf into the lava below, which is an instant death. There was an occasion where I mis-timed one of my jumps and took myself out, but in the end, I managed to secure the win.

  • Turner is tasked with retrieving something whose value I cannot quite remember, but what I do remember of this mission is that it involves ascending ever-higher. It was quite the achievement to reach the top of the map and make my way back down: the way down was actually quite tricky, and even with the bioluminiscent markers helping, there were a few occasions where I overestimated how much falling damage that Turner could take.

  • Turner is later pitted against opponents of varying difficulty in another arena, and it was here that limitations in the pathfinding for some of the AI became visible. I exploited these limitations to win all of my matches, and during one match, managed to wrench a weapon from an opponent and turned things around instantly. While the organisers of the match are impressed, Turner will have none of this and proceeds to masacre all within the arena, including the cats running the event.

  • After killing off everything in sight, Turner must escape the cat’s desert city. The streets are unusually quiet, and it’s a good idea to hold onto any weapons one may have for the upcoming fight ahead: a number of cats stand between Turner and freedom, but compared to the fight in the arena, this one is relatively straightforward in nature.

  • Unlike the Wolfire Team, who continued to develop their Phoenix Engine until its reached the level of sophistication that it’s at today, our lab slowly phased out the in-house game engine once Unity made their engine freely available. While our own engine was robust, powerful and extensible, its biggest constraint was that it was not optimised; even simple simulations only ran at around 30 FPS, and more complex simulations would drop down to 10 FPS. This coincided with the arrival of The Giant Walkthrough Brain, and when I managed to build a functional prototype within two weeks, Jay Ingram and my supervisor were impressed with the engine’s capabilities. Since then, my old lab has used both Unity and Unreal.

  • While I’ve remarked that Overgrowth reminds me of Canmore and its surroundings, one should not expect to find such a structure in Canmore. This is the legendary country in the sky that was being referred to throughout Overgrowth. This is the culmination of all of the parkour and ascension skills that players have accumulated over the course of Overgrowth, and even then, climbing up here is no walk in the park. There are long jumps and tricky catches to make: any mistake will send Turner falling many metres into the water below, resulting in an instant death.

  • With the Phoenix Engine in a good state, one wonders if the Wolfire team will hire script writers and voice actors for any titles they might choose to make in the future. Since Overgrowth, I’ve not heard any news that the Wolfire team will be moving onto new projects, and from the looks of things, they will continue improving Overgrowth. In the time since I completed this game, two patches have come out to improve the AI and game performance.

  • I stop for a few moments to admire the scenery up here before continuing on. Once reaching the top, a brief fight awaits Turner. Beating down the tower’s leaders will bring an end to Overgrowth, and while the campaign was very short lived, it was quite entertaining. The fights are easily the best aspect of Overgrowth, especially with respect to how things slow down when a zone is cleared.

  • Overall, while I cannot say I recommend Overgrowth as a game, I can say that the game is a very pleasant reminder of my days as a university student. I bought the game mainly as a token of thanks for the Wolfire team, whose efforts and updates motivated me to delve further into the world of biological visualisations. With this being said, if people do not mind the shorter campaign and somewhat unoptimised performance, and they have a greater interest in all of the map tools than I did, then Overgrowth is not a particularly bad purchase, especially if on a sale; there are a host of worse ways of spending 33 CAD.

Having been in development since 2008, Overgrowth definitely feels dated with respect to its visuals, but the Wolfire team’s efforts have resulted in a superbly mature game engine that handles Overgrowth‘s fighting and parkour system well. The campaign is quite short, and it appears that the flexibility of Overgrowth‘s game engine stems from a desire for the community to create their own content. Work on this engine is why Overgrowth‘s development has spanned the greater part of a decade: I learned of Overgrowth during my first summer as an undergraduate researcher – my old research lab had developed its own game engine in-house to provide a 3D space in which to model and visualise biological systems. The lead developer on this project drew inspiration from Overgrowth‘s map editor, especially the transformation, rotation and scaling tools, to make it easier for objects to be placed in 3D space. This in-house game engine powered my thesis, and while it’s been replaced by commercially-available game engines like Unity, it formed the basis for the work that I would end up doing for my Master’s Thesis. Consequently, while Overgrowth might not be an impressive title from an entertainment perspective, there are features in Overgrowth that directly inspired the work at our lab. Improvements to our in-house game engine’s ease-of-use and navigation eventually led me to build a visualisation of the renal system at different scales, complete with a mathematical model to depict responses of my virtual renal system to various stimuli, for my undergraduate thesis. I watched the map editor demonstration and its accompanying humour eight years ago and found it deeply inspiring for my work; I ended up buying Overgrowth in its early access stage to support the development as a bit of thanks in 2013, after I had successfully defended my undergraduate thesis.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part One: Review and Reflection

“On ne passe pas.” –General Robert Nivelle

While using telemetry to search for additional tanks in the Ooarai, rumours that Momo might be held back circulate. It turns out that she was not accepted to an university; this coincides with a Winter Cup, which was re-instated in preparation for the upcoming World Cup. Aiming to leave her legacy for Miho and her juniors, Momo resolutely led the search for new tanks so Ooarai’s future was assured, and when it is mentioned that some universities accept students based on extracurricular merit, Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team decide to make Momo commander, banking on a win at the Winter Club to help her with post-secondary admissions. Miho and the others decide to descend into the bowels of Ooarai’s ship. Sodoko refers area to this as the “Johannesberg of Ooarai”, and after she’s abducted by a pair of students, Mako follows in pursuit, leading them to Bar Donozoko. Miho and her friends liberate Sodoko and explain that they’re searching for a tank, but the bar’s patrons challenge them to a series of contests. Miho’s crew come out triumphant, earning the respect of the group’s captain, Ogin. It turns out that Ogin and her friends were indebted to Momo, who saved from some expulsion some years ago, and after learning that their smoker is the tank that Miho was seeking, Bar Donozoko’s crew decide to man the tank, introducing themselves and swearing to help Momo. At the opening draw, Momo draws for the first match, which will be against BC Freedom Academy. Beyond the knowledge that BC Freedom is typically eliminated from round one, Miho remarks that nothing is known about them, prompting Yukari to perform her usual reconnaissance, learning there is a deep division that runs at BC Freedom. On the day of the match, Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team is introduced to their newest group, the Shark Team and their Mark IV. BC Freedom is late to the party, but once they arrive, the match begins. They split up, leading Momo to keep her main column together and determine where BC Freedom’s armour went. Deducing BC Freedom’s flag tank location, Ooarai advances to the suspected position to engage, but when when crossing a wooden bridge, they suddenly find themselves being shelled. Surprised at the exemplary coordination BC is exhibiting, Yukari apologises for having failed in her reconnaissance duties. With the bridge beginning to fail, Miho proposes using the Mark IV as a ramp, allowing all of Ooarai’s tanks to safely leave the bridge. BC Freedom orders a tactical retreat while Miho and her forces regroup.

The opening act of Das Finale is functionally equivalent to two standard episodes, so after forty minutes of play, Das Finale’s first instalment follows in the same manner as its predecessor; circumstance dictates the recovery of an additional tank, and a match begins to set the tone for the remainder of what is upcoming in Das Finale. Das Finale is motivated by rather different reasons than the TV series and Der Film, with more senior students considering what their futures entail. With Momo in a difficult spot, Ooarai’s students rally to help her out: all of this is only possible because of the strong bond that everyone shares. Momo has long been presented as a person who has a remarkably tender spirit despite her tough exterior, and so, Das Finale‘s choice to focus on her gives an opportunity to weave a different narrative than what viewers had seen previously from Girls und Panzer. While Das Finale also retains a familiar, tried-and-true story, there are enough novel elements to keep Das Finale fresh. The comedy of watching Ankou Team somehow manage to kick the asses of everyone at Bar Donozoko is amusing, as is Ooarai’s clever use of the Mark IV as a makeshift ramp to escape a collapsing bridge. In its execution, Das Finale‘s first act is conventional, setting the stage for what lies ahead for Ooarai and their Panzerfahren team: Girls und Panzer has traditionally excelled in depicting the journey, rather than its destination, and so, while the first part moves in a highly foreseeable manner, Das Finale introduces enough new elements while returning to the skill-based roots of the TV series to result in a highly entertaining start for Das Finale. While off to a solid start, one element to keep in mind for new-coming viewers is that Das Finale is set after Girls und Panzer and Der Film: mission-critical elements are explored in earlier instalments, so in order to fully appreciate where Das Finale is going, one should take the time to ensure they are familiar with events of both the 2012 anime and the 2015 movie. The plus side about this is that Girls und Panzer isn’t particularly long, and with the second act’s theatrical screening date unknown, there is plenty of time for interested viewers to do so.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because Das Finale is releasing six movies, it stands to reason that each movie is equivalent to two episodes. From this, I will be doing what is essentially an episodic review; each post for Das Finale will feature forty screenshots, and I will attempt to ensure a reasonable distribution of screenshots for all of the critical moments in each part, or act. We open up this discussion with Momo reacting to headlines in the school newspaper about her repeating a year while on the hunt for new tanks; of all the characters, Momo is the most prone to being depicted with what I call “funny faces”.

  • Understandably concerned for her, the entire Panzerfahren team shows up to learn the truth from Momo, who is shaken. While she and Anzu were among my least favourite of the characters when Girls und Panzer‘s first few episodes aired, they quickly earned my respect in their respect for Miho and dedication to Ooarai. A subtle sign of their commitment is that during their tank selection, they went with the Panzer 38(t), a light tank with thin armour and a weak primary armament. While they would upgrade later to the Hetzner, that the student council willingly took the weakest tank illustrates that they have faith in Miho and her abilities.

  • One of Girls und Panzer‘s great strengths was being able to adequately flesh out all of the secondary characters despite only having twelve episodes to work with. By Das Finale, Miho, Yukari, Saori, Hana and Mako’s personalities are well-established, and second to Ankou Team, Turtle Team’s members figure prominantly in Girls und Panzer. Anzu and Yuzu’s characters are relatively straightforward compared to Momo; both get into their preferred institutes and performed reasonably well in matches. As such, the choice to have Momo leading Ooarai for Das Finale is a chance for audiences to see her shine, having been given the short end of the stick in Girls und Panzer and Der Film.

  • More insight is provided on Ooarai’s school ship: during the third OVA (which I wrote about a shade more than five years ago), the school ships of the Girls und Panzer universe were presented as well-maintained, orderly facilities where girls learned practical skills. Besides the default general studies group, there are also students dedicated towards the maintaining of the ships’ basic functions. Most of these folks are well-kempt and disciplined, but Das Finale shows that the sheer size of these vessels gives rise to the slums phenomenon that plagues large urban areas, as a result of inadequate resources to maintain law enforcement in all areas.

  • The depths of the Ooarai school ship are known as “Johannesberg”, a city in South Africa affected by serious urban decay, but when I see this side of Ooarai’s school ship, it bring to mind the likes of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City and Útulek Complex in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The girls’ pensiveness is evident here, especially Miho, who’s contracted in fear. While a fearsome tank commander and strategist, on foot, Miho and her diminutive 5’2″ frame is not particularly intimidating. Miho reminds me a great deal of Slow Start‘s Hana Ichinose, whom I’ve long felt to me what Miho might be like in the absence of Panzerfahren, and seeing her body language in this side of Ooarai’s school ship definitely reinforces this.

  • After falling into a wine cellar while in pursuit of Sodoko, Miho and the others find themselves in Bar Donozoko. Unfamiliar with the setting, everyone orders something with milk in it, leading the patrons to mock them. While long seen as a drink for children, nutritional experts recommend that adults continue to drink milk because it’s got a variety of compounds that make it a healthy option, and bodybuilders consume it precisely for this reason. I admittedly prefer it over coffee, and where possible, I try to have two glasses every day.

  • Each of Yukari, Saori and Mako manage to hold their own against Bar Donozoko’s challenges: Yukari’s expertise in knots allow her to quickly unknot a rope presented to her, Saori has become very versed in communications and is able to work out the semaphore message given to her, while Mako bests Rum in a thumb war. Goaded beyond endurance, Murakami makes to kick Miho’s ass, but Miho demonstrates a hitherto unseen side to her: she dodges all of the strikes and bows in apology, lifting Murakami into he air and throwing her behind the bar. Hilarious and surprising, it seems Miho is much stronger than her slender frame suggests; besides being relevant in Panzerfahren, hip strength also has other uses.

  • Frustrated by Miho and her friends’ resilience, weapons are drawn as Bar Donozoko’s patrons prepare to escalate things. Yukari readies a M24 Stielhandgranate. While there’s no white marking or relief texture on the handle to indicate thus, I imagine it is a smoke grenade variant, since it would be outright obtuse to use an explosive grenade at this range: using it would almost certainly flatten Miho and her friends along with Bar Donozoko’s patrons. Ogin steps in and says that a drinking contest, rather than an all-out fight, seems more appropriate; she’s visibly impressed with what Miho and her friends can do.

  • Because the consumption of alcohol by minors isn’t exactly sanctioned, when the drinking contest comes, a non-alcoholic rum is used. The challenge comes from it being spicy, and I imagine that it’s likely using ghost chili extract, otherwise, the taste of rum would be defeated. Hana holds her own against Ogin, who is no novice, managing to put Ogin on the floor. While presented as a gentle and polite girl, there’s a sexy quality about Hana when she becomes more serious.

  • While bearing the characteristics of delinquents, once Ogin is aware that Miho and her friends are aiming to help Momo, Bar Donozoko’s patrons immediately become more friendly and more in line with how girls from all of the other teams are. They might be a tough-talking, rowdy bunch, but they also possess a sense of honour and respect. Ogin is voiced by Ayane Sakura, better known as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto, Akane Isshiki of VividRed Operation, Tsubaki Sawabe from Your Lie in April and Kantai Collection‘s Nagato. She reveals the location of the tank and recruits her friends to help Momo out.

  • Now that we’ve got everyone in the frame in lighting conditions that throw each character into sharp relief, from left to right, we have Murakami, Cutlass, Ogin, Rum and Flint. They respectively become the gunners, commander, driver and radio operator for the Mark IV. Momo reacts in joy to seeing them here, pleased to see them again after all this time, and that Momo once saved them from expulsion provides further insight into her as a tough-but-fair individual who is actually quite driven by emotions: of everyone in Girls und Panzer, she cries the most.

  • Glimpses of other schools can be seen during the Winter Cup’s ceremonies, including the rather interesting team just ahead of Ooarai, whose dress style is evocative of the Spanish Legion. Girls und Panzer has hinted previously that there are a very large number of schools, and that Panzerfahren is an international sport. While I wager that the series was created as a one-off, the world-building has been handled well enough so that the series is very scalable: keeping things fresh is as simple as adding more schools and ensuring that they’re properly written. I’ve mentioned this somewhere at another point in time, but to re-iterate, I’d love to see a Canadian-style team featuring all of the Canadian stereotypes.

  • Should a Canadian team be featured, I expect to see stereotypes including: a love for the winter matching Pravda’s, non-stop chatter about ice hockey (so, the girls would argue about whether some goals should be waived off for being offside mid-match), adding Maple Syrup to bloody everything and apologising for every kill, even more than Miho. Such a team would also fight with the ferocity of a beaver: mirroring our actions at Vimy Ridge. Back in Das Finale, Momo’s draw sends Ooarai into a match with BC Continuation school. Looking back on Das Finale‘s first act, while Yukari will later believe that it’s an act, the animosity at BC Academy is quite real according to supplementary materials.

  • With their opponent known, Yukari sneaks off to BC Freedom Academy and learns that the school has two distinct factions as a result of a merger. This setup is based off the divide in France during the Second World War, with the BC faction being more relaxed and easygoing than the strict, disciplined Freedom faction. The division in ideology means that brawls are common on the BC Freedom Academy school ship, and during her excursion to BC Freedom, Yukari is caught in one such fight, learning very little about their opponent beyond a seeming lack of unity. The video she presents includes a knockoff of the LucasFilm™ logo; to quote Bubblegum Tate from Futuama, “Hello, lawsuit”.

  • Yukari is distinctly woebegone after returning from her reconnaissance mission, but is in fine spirits; a school such as BC Freedom would be at a disadvantage during Panzerfahren matches owing to their division, similar to Mao Zedong’s Communists and Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists, who nominally cooperated to repel Imperial Japanese forces, but otherwise, considered one another worse enemies than they did the Japanese. The implications of BC Freedom’s factions could lead to the impression that they are a pushover, but par the course for Girls und Panzer, it’s more likely that BC Freedom has a few tricks up their sleeves.

  • Many familiar faces make a return in Das Finale‘s first act; each of the schools previously seen discuss their future directions in Panzerfahren, and audiences learn that Darjeeling plans to study in the United Kingdom, while Maho’s gone to Germany for her post-secondary education. I’ve chosen not to feature all of those moments here, since doing so would drive the screenshot and figure caption count above what I’m willing to commit to writing this post, but on the topics of time and the future, it’s been five years since Girls und Panzer first aired. A lot can happen in five years; I finished my Bachelor and Masters’ degrees, began working and I’m a ni-dan now.

  • The higher-ranked delegates and officials prepare for the match’s opening. A St. Chamond tank is visible on the table: only four hundred were manufactured, and lacking a turret of modern tanks, it nonetheless is considered as a development in armoured warfare. With a 90 HP gasoline-electric hybrid engine, the St. Chamond could reach a maximum speed of 12 kilometers per hour despite its mass, and later models were armed with a 75mm cannon. Its design made it unwieldy and unsuited for crossing trenches, but its Battlefield 1 incarnation is surprisingly fun to operate: it’s my second-most used tank after the Mark V.

  • BC Freedom Academy’s late arrival to the match leads Saori and the others to wonder if they can win by default; while Ooarai remains hopeful for such an outcome, from a narrative perspective, this approach is impossible (I formally define impossible from a mathematical perspective as “this event is not in the set of events that can occur”), as it would cause the story to end too quickly and lead to a large number of disgruntled viewers. Indeed, BC Freedom Academy arrives fashionably late to foreshadow that they are not necessarily what they seem.

  • The patrons of Bar Donozoko are made operators of the Mark IV tank that Miho and the others found in the bowels of Ooarai, giving their tank a pirate theme. The predecessor to the Mark V, which is seen in Battlefield 1, the Mark IV is the most iconic tank of World War One, being the fourth model in a line of vehicles designed to smash through fortifications and break stalemates. Battlefield 1 presents the Mark V is a superb platform for offense, and while it’s the slowest tank in the game, it’s got the best offensive options for anti-armour engagements. By the time of World War Two, the Mark V and IV would have been woefully inadequate, with its low speed, outdated armament and armour making it vulnerable to period armour. In Girls und Panzer, it is appropriate that the pirate-themed crew helm the Mark IV, whose lineage is informally referred to as “Landships” in Battlefield 1.

  • Compared against the immaculately clean uniforms of Ooarai, Oshida (closest to the viewer, blonde hair) and Andou (between Marie and Oshida) are visibly beaten up, having been seen fighting with one another on the way in. Marie displays a degree of flippancy in refusing to bow (like Gōjū-ryū, we bow to our opponents before beginning a competition), and with the formalities out of the way, the teams are off. Unbefitting of this blog and its usual manner, I remark that Miho’s seen some “character growth” since the events of the first season and movie, being a subtle sign that time is passing.

  • The faded grey skies and yellow-green terrain is a reminder that this battle is set during the winter; while the match against BC Freedom is set in a temperate grassland with some woods as cover, one cannot help but wonder if we’ll see more winter combat in later instalments of Das Finale. The setting admittedly reminds me of Battlefield 1‘s Somme Map from the Apocalypse DLC; I’ve been playing Battlefield 1 only intermittently as of late thanks to The Division running a series of global events, but while working on some community missions, I’ve seen a dramatic improvement to my performance, and have really enjoyed the upgraded SMG 08/18, which is nigh-unstoppable.

  • Based on information from Duck and Leopon teams, Miho deduces that most of BC Freedom’s forces will have taken the high ground. Because the aim of a flag tank match is to kill the flag tank, the match can be concluded in a very decisive manner very quickly. Miho is seen drawing on a Magna Doodle-type device, which operates by using a magnet in the stylus to align magnetic particles. While unsophisticated compared to an iPad, Magna Doodles do not require dry-erase markers, ink or graphite, making them a powerful reusable tool that reduces the need to carry writing equipment into the field.  Miho’s choice of equipment underlie her personality: while she can seem quite childish, Miho is also remarkably practical, making use of the best tools for the task at hand.

  • Despite being quick to bark out orders under normal circumstances, Momo is unaccustomed to fulfilling the role of commander, and is seen constantly asking Miho for advice. Miho encourages Momo and provides feedback to ensure that Momo makes the calls for Ooarai that will lead to victory.

  • The artwork in Girls und Panzer‘s original run was of a high quality, but with the release of Der Film and Das Finale, the amount of detail that’s gone into landscapes and lighting effects have much improved. From crisp blades of grass on the ground to details in the trees and volumetric lighting effects, Das Finale looks and feels amazing. While the improvements are not as pronounced as the jump from Battlefield 3‘s Frostbite 2 Engine to Battlefield 4 and 1‘s Frostbite 3, subtle differences nonetheless indicate that that Actas is constantly improving the visuals to ensure they are eye-pleasing.

  • The number of World War One tanks in Das Finale‘s first chapter brings to mind DICE’s return to World War One for Battlefield 1; one of the most challenging aspects that Girls und Panzer faced following the TV series’ conclusion was designing an enemy more potent than Black Forest. Der Film was somewhat unsuccessful, falling upon an enemy that was superior in terms of equipment alone, and with Das Finale, the introduction of BC Freedom Academy has allowed the series to return to its roots in a skill-based battle over sheer spectacle alone.

  • The volleyball team move into a deserted urban area in pursuit of BC Freedom Academy’s tanks. The urban combat in Das Finale‘s first part is minimal, and they manage to locate a part of the BC Freedom armour before coming under fire. The small number of enemy armour encountered and light combat insofar serves to build the suspense. I experience the same in any shooter; when the map becomes too quiet and I’m given a great deal of resources, I prepare myself for a massive engagement.

  • While scouting ahead, Momo and Yukari locate BC Academy’s main force. Yukari is seen using the same Entfernungsmesser EM 1M R36 binoculars that she used in Der Film. They spot BC Freedom’s students playing games and relaxing on the hill. Some viewers will note that the images cannot be expanded to be viewed in greater detail: I’m treating Das Finale like an episodic review rather than a special movie review, and so, won’t give this series the silver screen review treatment.

  • While attempting to traverse a rickety wooden bridge, Miho’s forces find themselves under heavy fire from the BC Freedom Academy tanks. They begin targeting the unstable wooden support columns and manage to trap a majority of Ooarai’s armour on the bridge. A plunge in the river would spell certain doom for Ooarai here, and the situation looks quite dire for Ooarai, who have walked into a trap of sorts. It’s a bit of a callback to the second episode of the TV series, when Miho finds her tank caught on a bridge between their classmates’ tanks during training, and the first sign of trouble is optics glint that the Student Disciplinary Committee spot. This is why I do not run with high-powered optics in Battlefield 1 unless necessary: seeing scope glint prompts me to immediately take cover and find a different route, so as a sniper, I could stand to lose kills once the opposing team’s players are alerted to my presence.

  • The flag tank that BC Freedom Academy selects for the match is the Renault FT-17, a revolutionary light tank that formed as the predecessor to modern tanks. With its revolving turret, rear-mounted engine and front crew compartment, its design forms the basis for all tanks as we know them. The FT-17 was successfully deployed in 1918 against German forces, and continued to be used into World War Two, but they were completely outmatched by period armour. In Das Finale, it remains to be seen as to whether or not the FT-17 that Commander Marie is fielding is outperformed, or if it is as capable as the FT-17 seen during Battlefield 1‘s open beta, during which I managed a 20-streak with it. The FT-17 has since been re-balanced, with a lower ammunition capacity and longer self-repair time to counter the fact that it was nigh-unstoppable during the open beta.

  • Realising that this is probably the first time she’s let Miho down with her intelligence-gathering, Yukari is seen with tears in her eyes, and even with Miho’s reassurances, the fact remains that elimination could very well be imminent. BC Freedom Academy’s execution here is what motivates this page quote. French for “They shall not pass”, it’s an idiom for expressing determination, and the sustained shelling has a noticeable moral impact on Ooarai’s crews. Miho retains her calm and begins working out a solution, asking Momo to pass on the orders for the option that she’s devised.

  • When Marie realises what the Ooarai tanks are doing, she recoils in shock. Rarely seen without a cake in hand, Marie is a call-out to Marie Antoinette, a rather infamous figure who personified the ills of the old French monarchy. Marie’s cakes are likely a reference to the phrase Qu’ils mangent de la brioche, better known in English as “let them eat cake”. Commonly attributed to Antoinette, there is actually no record she said this; the misconception comes from a line in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s autobiography.

  • BC Freedom employs a hybrid style between Napoleon I’s manoeuvre warfare to disrupt the enemy, and a defensive approach inspired by the Maginot Line. While BC Freedom Academy had such a difficult time getting the different schools to cooperate, both approaches were formed into a “Marriage Approach”. It is this that Ooarai squares off against during its match, but even BC Freedom cannot anticipate the innovative methods Miho applies towards Panzerfahren.

  • In Das Finale‘s first act, BC Freedom is seen fielding the ARL 44 heavy tank, which was designed off older heavy tanks, such as the Char B1. They were intended to trade blows with the Tiger II, but saw no combat during World War Two, only making it into production in 1949. The model proved underwhelming, and only sixty were produced; their role would be fulfilled by the American M47 Patton. Besides the ARL 44, BC Freedom also uses the SOMUA S35, a cavalry tank that could fulfill both anti-personnel and anti-armour roles. Historically, the S35 proved effective in battle, but were also expensive to produce.

  • Working with Miho means an acceptance of the unorthodox; while each of the other schools (save the University team) retain a structured, well-known strategy based off their historical equivalents, Ooarai’s approach to Panzerfahren has become one of improvisation, actively attempting to understand the environment and determining how to best utilise it to gain an advantage. Through Miho’s examples, each of the tank teams have since adopted a penchant for improvisation, and it speaks volumes to Ooarai’s capacity for improvisation when using the Mark IV as a ramp to escape the stricken bridge does not qualify as one of the most outrageous things they’ve done.

  • A glance at the calendar shows that March is very nearly over, which is bewildering. This month has evaporated, and things at work are turning around as spring returns to the world. This post comes right as the winter anime season draws to a close, and after a lunch of garlic-herb breaded sole fillets with fries, I turned my attention towards getting this talk on Das Finale live: nowhere near as large as the post on Der Film, it’s nonetheless taken upwards of four hours to assemble.

  • While Das Finale predominantly makes use of incidental pieces from Girls und Panzer‘s original run and Der Film, there are some new songs that accompany the BC Freedom Academy’s moments. No news of a soundtrack has yet reached my ears, so we return to the actual combat: on the topic of aural elements, Das Finale performs much better than Der Film did. The sounds from each tank firing their main armament sounds much beefier in the former, whereas in the latter, some of the cannons sounded like a marksman rifle from Battlefield 3.

  • Seeing that the hunter has become the hunted, Marie orders all of her tanks to make a withdrawal. Inspection of the exchange of shell fire finds that Ooarai’s gunners hit a few of their marks, but deal glancing damage. The fact that both teams still have their armour suggests that the narrative is going to go in a direction where it’ll be a showdown between Ooarai and BF Freedom’s flag tank, and I wager that Momo will finally land her first kill, having spent the whole of the TV series and movie missing even the most trivial of shots.

  • Having driven off BC Freedom Academy for the present, Miho apologises for having put everyone in such a situation. Thankful everyone’s alright, she rallies her forces and states that they will regroup. Ending the first act of Das Finale on a cliff-hanger and no known release date for part two means we’re likely in for a long wait before seeing how Ooarai manages to best BC Freedom Academy. Having said this, we know now that there will be a three-month gap between theatrical screenings of Das Finale and the subsequent home release, so once the opening date for act two is known, we can reasonably estimate when the attendant home releases (and subsequent opportunity to talk about the different acts) can occur.

  • Retreating to the plains, BC Freedom Academy’s students begin singing a variation of the French song, Chant de l’Oignon (Song of the Onion). A funny-sounding song, it’s thought that the song came from Napoléon, who saw some of his soldiers adding onions to their bread and remarking on its taste. Napoléon replied that this was the taste of victory, and so, the march was born. This brings my Das Finale post for the first part to an end, and with the learnings from this writing this post, I think it’s safe to say that I will try and have Das Finale talks out within two to three days of the home release. Posts coming in the near future include a talk for Slow Start‘s finale and A Place Further Than The Universe‘s finale, but for now, it’s time to take a bit of a breather.

Consequently, with the first act of Das Finale in the books, it would not be surprising to anticipate that the remaining instalments will likely play out in a similar fashion. However, as we are only the equivalent of two episodes in, it is not appropriate to consider thematic elements that apply in Das Finale just yet; the journey is just getting started. With this being said, I will take the time now to note that I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with Girls und Panzer; a technically superb series in characterisation, animation and sound engineering, Girls und Panzer is simultaneously stymied by a production challenges and a release pattern as uncertain as that of Half-Life 3. The long release time and decision to release Das Finale as six movies rather than a weekly programme makes it superbly difficult for the narrative to retain its momentum and draw anticipation in viewers. Similarly, one of Girls und Panzer‘s greatest strengths is the incredible attention paid to depicting the tanks and their engagements in a plausible manner, but the emphasis on detail also has created unrealistic expectations for what Girls und Panzer ought to be. For me, a credible advancement of the story and presentation of entertaining, logical stages in the narrative is more critical than whether or not the tanks and their operators behave precisely as they should in the real world. This particular perspective is not shared by everyone, and there have been some interesting situations where I’ve run into folks who believe that realism is paramount, to be favoured above all other elements in a show when determining its worth. Numerous disagreements about the characters’ behaviours and actions have surfaced over the years, and it’s a bit wearing to deal with individuals who are unwilling to look past this and consider Girls und Panzer as a whole. Summing this up, I love the series for what it is, but I’m not big on its release pattern and some members of the community. Overall, as Das Finale continues, a part of me would prefer that Girls und Panzer would have concluded with the film, sparing me both the long waits and the occasional lecture on why my beliefs make me unfit to count myself as human, but on the flipside, I am reasonably confident I’ll continue to enjoy Das Finale – the opening is off to a good start, and while the second act will release at an unknown date in the future, it will invariably deal with the outcome of the match between Ooarai and BC Freedom Academy.

Two Shadows: Revisiting Nagisa’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“We didn’t give up on our dreams! We changed our dreams into your dream. That’s what parents do. That’s what family does.” —Akio Furukawa

Tomoyo signs off on the drama club’s authorisation to share advisors, and with instructor Toshio advising the club, Nagisa and the others can finally begin their preparations. However, Tomoya becomes disgruntled when his homeroom instructor visits is residence and speaks with his father about Tomoya’s future. Realising that Tomoya’s relationship with his father is rocky, Nagisa offers to have him stay with the Furukawas. Nagisa decides to perform a play she’s only vaguely familiar with, and while hunting for more clues about this play, enter a shed that houses Akio’s old performance recordings. He later explains to Tomoya that Nagisa very nearly perished as a child, and that he and Sanae have since discarded their original aspirations to ensure Nagisa’s future. At a picnic with the Furukawas, Nagisa reveals that she has feelings for Tomoya. Preparations for their play are under-way, with Kyou, Ryou, Kotomi and Youhei pitching in to work on lighting, sound, stage directions. Their rehearsal proceeds smoothly, but later, when Nagisa attempts to find a flashlight, she stumbles upon her parents’ old diaries, learning that they’d given up their careers for her sake. Falling into a melancholy, Tomoya and the others attempt to help her lighten up, but ultimately, feelings of guilt and doubt overwhelm her – on stage, Nagisa dissolves into tears. Akio and Tomoya intervene, declaring respectively that their dreams are now to see her dreams succeed; with her motivation re-kindled, Nagisa delivers a solid performance. In the aftermath, the drama club celebrates in full, and the next evening, Tomoya decides to confess his love for Nagisa, who returns his feelings under a vivid sunset in the drama club room.

After the drama club is restored and preparations have begun in earnest for Nagisa’s play, the central conflict of CLANNAD’s final arc (in the season) is Nagisa’s own back-story and the events that led her parents away from their dreams to be with her. In giving up their chosen professions, Akio and Sanae demonstrate the strength of their commitment to Nagisa’s well-being. A status quo was thus created, lasting until Tomoya set in motion the events to change things; by introducing the disruption, Tomoya inadvertently brings out Nagisa’s stubbornness, as well. Her kind and gentle nature is already established, and CLANNAD has already illustrated that Nagisa is willing to put others ahead of herself even when it is at her own expense. It illustrates her respect and love for those around her, although to a fault; Nagisa’s insistence seemingly prevails even when it jepordises the efforts of her friends and parents. Culminating in her bursting into tears on the day of her performance, the sum of Nagisa’s guilt and regret manifests in full. With encouragement from her parents and friends, however, she manages to summon the courage to continue. Owing to the strength of her negative emotions, it stands to reason that the connections she’s formed, and the positives, have far out-weighed the negatives. It is a powerful reminder of the impact that Tomoya has had on Nagisa’s life and world-views, that she is able to overcome her past doubts and embrace the present. In doing so, Nagisa successfully puts on her performance, marking a triumphant return of Hikarizaka Private High School’s drama club.

CLANNAD‘s final arc serves as the culmination of the experiences and learnings Tomoya has up until this point. Each of the past arc served as a primer to Nagisa’s story: because of the developing connections between Tomoya and Nagisa, Tomoya’s path to helping Nagisa make her first-ever play a success faces additional challenges. Succeeding also becomes a more personal matter for Tomoya, who has come to realise that his own persistence and resolve in helping her stems from his trying to make one final opus magnum before his time in high school ends, staving off having spent most of his days in complacent idleness. Progressing through each of Fuuko, Kotomi, Kyou and Tomoyo’s stories, Tomoya’s efforts become increasingly focused around making Nagisa successful. As he pushes towards helping each of Fuuko, Kotomi, Kyou and Tomoyo, he engages in activities he never would have considered at CLANNAD‘s beginning, and he displays aspects of his personality that make him less of an enigma, and more of a friend, to Nagisa. Over time, Tomoya and Nagisa grow to understand one another very well, having committed such a monumental effort towards restoring the drama club, and in the aftermath of a highly successful performance, both come to understand that, far beyond a friendship that’s developed along this journey, the feelings that each feel towards one another are the consequence of having spent so much time being open, genuine and trusting towards one another. It is therefore a fitting conclusion to CLANNAD‘s animated adaptation, that Tomoya and Nagisa accept one another’s feelings at the conclusion of one milestone in CLANNAD, paving the way forwards for its successor, CLANNAD ~After Story~.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • With Tomoyo’s support, the drama club gets their go-ahead to begin operations. The student council, under her leadership, has no objections to the unique arrangements that Nagisa required to restart the club, and with a critical juncture resolved, the major objective driving CLANNAD up until now has finally been settled. Before we continue too much further into this post, I note that this post is a bit special, and so, there will be forty screenshots rather than the usual thirty.

  • Wasting no time after being formally accepted as a club, the drama club immediately begin preparing for their performance, to be set during their high school’s culture festival. While its existence is only official towards CLANNAD‘s end, the drama club was really revived the day that Tomoya and Nagisa found a disused classroom, and when Tomoya encouraged Nagisa to rebuild the club in her choosing, leading her to create a Dango Daikazoku poster. I do not believe I’ve mentioned thus, but I’ve long found that だんご大家族 is somewhat phoenically similar to the Cantonese 蛋糕大家族 (jyutping: daan2 gou1 daai6 gaa1 zuk6), and so, when I began watching CLANNAD, I thought Dango referred to “cake” rather than a small dumpling more similar to mochi.

  • When things sound phonetically similar but have radically different meanings, they are counted as false friends. These can lead to some hilarious results for folks who are just learning a language – when I began learning German back during high school, one term that threw people off was “Gymnasium”: in German, it refers to an academic-focused institution (known in British English as a grammar school), but for most English-speakers, it is a place of exercise. One of the most amusing false written friends between Chinese and Japanese is 湯 (jyutping: tong1, romaji: yu): in Hanzi, it means “soup”, but the Japanese see the Kanji as “bath”. Similarly, 刀 for Chinese people is “knife” (jyutping: dou1), but the Japanese read it as “katana”, which corresponds with the Chinese character 劍 (jyutping: gim3).

  • When Chinese people go to a Japanese restaurant and order 焼肉 (jyutping: siu1 juk6), it therefore may come as a surprised that they get yakiniku beef rather than crispy skin pork. This topic could go on forever, so I return things back to CLANNAD. As the spring gives way to summer, the vivid azures of the sky begin making their way into the town, which is based off the town of Mizuho. The depiction of summers in anime has left me with a permanent impression of what a summer proper should look like, and I often feel that the long, warm days of summer is the time of year when one’s heart may begin wandering in search of adventure, accommodated by a sky that is inviting of exploration.

  • It’s quite rare to see Nagisa so motivated and determined: after Tomoya escapes an instructor who wishes to talk to him about his future, Nagisa chases him across campus and manages to exhaust Tomoya, who cannot figure out why Nagisa is doing this. She later sees him off, and does her best to make sure Tomoya does not peace out a second time. This is done purely for comedy, but the mood soon transitions once Tomoya reaches the street where his house is.

  • Tomoya’s father explains to the instructor that Tomoya’s decisions are his own, when the instructor visits to speak with him about Tomoya’s future. The dramatic contrast between the relationship Tomoya and his father share, against the dynamics of the Furukawa family, serve as a constant reminder to Tomoya about why he hates his situation and constant longing to be anywhere else. From CLANNAD alone, the backstory for Tomoya’s father is not explored; audiences do not know much about him beyond his fight with Tomoya.

  • Nagisa’s motivation and determination wilts away after Tomoya explains to her what his situation is, and what he makes of it. She subsequently invites Tomoya to stay with her until he’s settled down. Motifs associated with light make a return: Tomoya and Nagisa’s brief chase happen during the bright summer afternoon, but as the light begins fading, the mood turns more melancholy. Tomoya accepts Nagisa’s invitation, and retreats to the warmly-lit Furukawa residence, mirroring his consent to regroup and deal with things another day.

  • Against the dark of night, the Furukawa residence is very welcoming indeed. The drama playing out between Sanae and Akio here is prima facie to lighten the atmosphere for audiences, but it also foreshadows the two’s past. Akio remarks that Tomoya’s harem has evaporated with this action; by this point in time, it is evident that Tomoya and Nagisa are going to end up together. At the Furukawas’, a flute variation of Nagisa’s theme can be heard.

  • After Youhei messes around with the synthesiser and sets up some unusual scenarios with the synthesiser’s more outlandish sound options, the time has come to decide on a play, and Tomoya recalls that Nagisa had a performance in mind. While Nagisa’s vaguely got an idea of what the play entails, she’s not in possession of a script, which would make it difficult for the drama club to properly prepare. Tomoya figures that finding a copy of the script will be useful.

  • Upon arriving back at the Furukawas’, Tomoya finds the place filled with small children, one of whom kicks his ass for frightening another child. Sanae arrives and explains that she runs a private tutor program to help children study, hinting at her background. On the topic of tutors, I remark that on the maternal side of my family, every single one of my aunts is involved in education, and almost all of my cousins are likewise engaged in education.

  • Looking back on this whole CLANNAD series of posts at the ten year anniversary, it’s a little crazy to think just how much time has elapsed even since I started considering doing something for the decade that’s passed since CLANNAD originally aired. The idea was floated back in February last year when I did a simulated date with Nagisa, and a shade more than thirteen months later, we’re on the last of the CLANNAD revisitation posts.

  • Tomoya and Nagisa’s search for the script for the latter’s play leads them to hunt in the shed, where some unusual items are found. Akio dissuades them from hunting in there, and feeling that Tomoya should understand why, spends a bit of time trying to secure some space so the two may talk. They are interrupted at very nearly every turn, finally settling on the roof of the Furukawa residence. While audiences are smiling throughout this scene, especially with respect to the ludicrous image of Tomoya and Akio on the roof, the conversation soon becomes more sobering as Akio explains their past to Tomoya.

  • It turns out that Akio was once an aspiring actor, and Sanae was an instructor. Both led busy lives, and when Nagisa fell ill, they decided to leave her to rest on her own. Nagisa, being ever-concerned by those around her, had decided to stick around outside, awaiting their return in the snow. Over-exertion brought Nagisa to the brink of death, and in a fit of desperation, Akio begged the heavens to spare Nagisa’s life. Since then, both have changed their careers to ensure Nagisa’s future, and while Akio admits that they are happy with the way things are, he is concerned that learning the truth will be detrimental to Nagisa and asks him to keep it as a secret between them.

  • The Furukawas take Tomoya out on a picnic, during which Nagisa accidentally makes her feelings for Tomoya known to him. Throughout CLANNAD‘s anime adaptation, there have been subtle hints as to which way the wind has been blowing: from Fuuko’s insistence that Nagisa and Tomoya refer to one another more affectionately, to adults feeling that Nagisa and Tomoya are a couple, signs of growing feelings between the two become more overt as CLANNAD progresses. CLANNAD represents my favourite fictionalised depiction of how a relationship could start: without any common clichés seen in other series, things happen very naturally in CLANNAD.

  • Kyou leads the drama club tongue twister exercises – while Nagisa might be the president of the drama club, Kyou is the de facto leader, attesting to her take-charge and forward attitudes. The drama club makes considerable strides in getting to the point where Nagisa can perform at the school’s culture festival for the narrative’s sake. Pacing invariably quickens as a story pushes towards its climax, and it is generally seen that this causes stories to lose something in the process. However, in CLANNAD, there is no loss because the drama club has a solid base. We’ve spent the entire season showing glimpses of Nagisa preparing for the club’s reviva, so it follows that she’s able to immediately drive things ahead now that the club is operational.

  • Even five years after I’d watched CLANNAD, the progression of Tomoya and Nagisa’s relationship set the standard I’ve come to expect in fictional relationship growth. Your Lie in April and The Moon is Beautiful are the two other anime I’ve seen that matches CLANNAD with respect to the strength of how well romance unfolds. Watching powerfully-written love stories, however, comes at a great personal cost for me: long-time readers of this site will be familiar with my story about CLANNADthe MCAT and an unrequited love, so when watching these emotionally-stimulating series, I am reminded of these days long past and find myself somewhat melancholy.

  • Nagisa gears up for her performance while the remainder of the drama course looks on. Having just spent the past few days looking at Girls und Panzer ahead of Das Finale‘s first instalment, it suddenly strikes me that Nagisa can be seen as being somewhat similar to Miho Nishizumi: while it is clear that knowledge in armoured warfare and theatrics are not shared between the two, watching Nagisa and Miho interact with their respective casts finds that both have very similar personalities.

  • In general, both Miho and Nagisa are quiet reserved and shy, but in the presence of friends, become more animated. Both care greatly for those around them, to the point of putting others ahead of themselves, and oftentimes, do not easily open up to others with their concerns unless asked. Of course, once they do open up in their respective narratives, it then becomes a joy to see new sides to their personalities.

  • A successful dress rehearsal, followed by a near-catastrophic failure, is a staple in fiction, and whenever performances are involved, my inclination is to wait for the progression of events that see a performance threatened. This particular pattern became visible to me only as a consequence of having watched numerous shows since then, including Anthem of the Heart, which was a fantastic film. Similar to CLANNAD in some regards, it was centered around the impact that words can have. In its narrative, disparate individuals came together to put a play together through song that would convey their feelings and in doing so, allowed them to take a step forwards.

  • Now that I think about it, it is a bit strange to be dropping into a talk in CLANNAD mere days before Girls und Panzer: Das Finale will available for viewing; leafing through my earlier posts, it’s clear that Girls und Panzer and CLANNAD require a completely different mindset to write about, and both anime are detailed enough so that one could create a dedicated blog for each respective series alone, and there’d still be enough content to keep it going for a few years. Girls und Panzer requires that I dive into military history and interest in weapons, but CLANNAD necessitates I take a step back and consider my experiences with love, life and everything in between.

  • I count myself incredibly thankful that in reality, there is not a need to introduce additional drama or impediments on the eve of something major. While Nagisa’s want for a flashlight eventually leads her to learn the truth about her parents and their old dreams, I spent the week leading up to the MCAT relaxing and doing nothing in general. On the day of the exam, stress, brought on by a server failure at the examination site and a malfunctioning HVAC system dumping too much heat into the building resulted in my developing stomach problems. Between the physical sciences section and verbal reasoning, I sought out the countermeasures and wrote the remainder of the exam without too much difficulty.

  • After learning about her parents’ sacrifice for her sake, the mood transforms to that of melancholy, and the colours, an overcast grey washing out colour in the environments, serves to reinforce this. Weather and lighting patterns in CLANNAD are now well-established in helping set the atmosphere, and so, viewers will have become quite accustomed to using visual cues, such as colour and time of day, in order to gauge a situation even when the dialogue might imply a situation is better than it is. I do not believe there is another Kyoto Animation title out there that has made such masterful use of environment cues to capture how the characters feel since CLANNAD.

  • It speaks volumes to how close the drama club’s members have become since the start of CLANNAD, as Kyou and the others quickly determine that Nagisa is not her usual self. Ever-mindful of Nagisa, Tomoya tactfully explains that she’s simply nervous about the presentation, steering the conversation away from Nagisa’s learnings from the previous evening and lessening the stress on her. He is careful to give just enough information to Youhei to keep him in the loop without overstepping; Youhei might be lacking in some areas, but he is also loyal, respecting Tomoya’s decisions.

  • Tomoya takes Nagisa around the Culture Festival with the goal of taking her mind off things, and while Nagisa does her best to enjoy things, she’s unable to shake feelings of guilt. The school’s interior, normally of a lighter colour, take on a grey colour, with only the characters being rendered as they normally are to constantly convey to viewers that despite Tomoya’s efforts, things will need to worsen before they get better.

  • After losing sight of Tomoya, Nagisa makes her way to the reference room, where she finds Yukine and asks to see the school’s old drama performances. Finding Akio’s old performances and the passion with which he delivered his performances, Nagisa falls into a melancholy; the old videos seem to reinforce the idea of just how much of an impact that Nagisa’s had in Akio and Sanae’s dreams, and when Tomoya finds her at the reference room, he wordlessly accompanies her to the stage to help her get set up.

  • Nagisa is voiced by Mai Nakahara, (Rena Ryūgū of Higurashi When They Cry, Hai-Furi‘s Mashimo Munetani, Saki‘s Teru Miyanaga and Haruno Yukinoshita of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU); of her roles, Nakahara’s performance as Rena is probably one of her most memorable. Rena is Higurashi‘s signature character, and while normally similar to Nagisa in personality, save for an insatiable desire to take adorable things home, she also has a violent streak comparable to that of B.J. Blazkowicz’s. Here, with her dull eyes and lack of energy, Nagisa reminds me somewhat of Rena, but being CLANNAD, there’s no chance of a bath of blood occurring.

  • The moment has finally come for the drama club’s effort, the culmination of a season’s worth of efforts, to be known. Nagisa stands alone on the stage, but when recollections of her father’s performance enter her mind, doubt and guilt kick in. This scene, even more so than watching Kyou, Ryou and Tomoyo learn of Tomoya’s feelings for Nagisa, is the hardest-hitting point in CLANNAD. While billed as an anime that can make grown men cry, CLANNAD‘s first season is more focused on establishment. As such, no tears were shed while watching through the first season.

  • The sum of Nagisa’s doubts overwhelm her, and with the play threatened, Tomoya prepares to shut things down. Before he can, Akio arrives and declares that Nagisa’s done nothing wrong, and that as her parents, their dreams were ultimately to see her happy. Tomoya chimes in, as well, reminding Nagisa that living in the present is what made her stand out to him and made everything possible. Realising that the past has no bearing on her now, and accepting that her parents’ dreams never really vanished, Nagisa regroups and prepares to deliver her play as planned in CLANNAD‘s climax.

  • Nagisa’s put in a great deal of practise, far more than CLANNAD‘s illustrated; even after crying her eyes out, she continues into the play’s introduction without missing a beat, and as she presents the story of the Girl in The Illusionary World, the scene changes. Audiences have seen this Illusionary World on several occasions before: in a world with only a girl and an animated robot as its inhabitants, this space consists of endless fields of brown grass, signifying the end of all life, and in spite of its desolation, the play seems to deal with hope. The significance of the Illusionary World in the context of CLANNAD is restricted to Nagisa’s play, which is why I’ve not given too much focus on it: it is in CLANNAD ~After Story~ where the Illusionary World has a more significant role to play.

  • The animation style in the Illusionary World is different than that of CLANNAD‘s, being more fluid and ethereal in nature. I’ve heard folks from Tango-Victor-Tango claim that these sequences are animated in 60 FPS, but having run tests on the Illusionary World scenes, I can say that this is not the case. These scenes are 24 FPS, same as everywhere else in the anime, with the effects being accomplished by animation techniques that I am not too familiar with.

  • As evening sets in, Nagisa and Tomoya discuss the play. Tomoya feels it is unusual that Nagisa chose to end with “Dango Daikazoku”, but she feels that it is an appropriate song. While seemingly out of place, considering who the Girl in the Imaginary World is supposed to represent, the choice of song is actually a well-chosen one. It was under similar skies that I walked out of my MCAT some five-and-a-half years ago now, and while I was given the recommendation to have something sweet, I went for a hearty dinner instead before proceeding to sleep the best sleep I’d slept all summer.

  • In the aftermath of the play, the drama club celebrate in full. It’s a joyous event, and I definitely know the rush of finishing a milestone successfully: in the end, my MCAT earned the equivalent of today’s 517, which is considered to be a pretty solid score. My aspirations eventually shifted from medicine to software, and I actually ended up doing what is commonly known as a gap year while trying to figure out my path. Looking back, the MCAT imparted on me some lifelong experiences, both good and bad.

  • One can imagine that Tomoya and Nagisa are dancing in front of a bonfire, as is customary for some high schools in the wake of another excellent culture festival. Youhei’s stuck dancing with Mei here, and throughout CLANNAD, his role is primarily that of comic relief. He does have his serious moments, however, and one would look no further than CLANNAD ~After Story~ for these stories.

  • The question then becomes whether or not I have any plans on writing about ~After Story~: while I say it’s a bit early to be considering this, the fact remains is that time is very unforgiving. October 3, 2018 is “merely” a half-year away, and so, it’s probably not too early to entertain the possibility of writing about what I found to be CLANNAD‘s stronger half. This is saying something, considering how greatly I enjoyed the first half.

  • I think that whether or not I write for ~After Story~ will be determined by a very simple test: reader interest. I hold you, the reader, in very high regards because of the feedback and conversations that can result. As Tomoya steels himself for the greatest challenge he’s faced in all of CLANNAD thus far, I will note that as long as there is even one reader who will enjoy reading about ~After Story~, then I will write about it with the same detail and rigour as I have for CLANNAD once the ten year anniversary arrives for it.

  • As this post draws to a close, I will share another anecdote for readers that I do not believe I’ve mentioned yet. A summer after I wrote the MCAT, I began feeling drawn to the individual who’d supported me through the journey and who had continued to encourage me while I was working on my undergraduate honours thesis. Both our summers were busy, and the Great Flood of 2013 prevented us from meeting up in person. I had planned to ask her out at the top floor of a spot on campus with a fantastic view of the mountains. However, no opportunity presented itself. As the days began lengthening, I felt as though the window was closing to see where things went.

  • On the morning before I was set to leave on a vacation, I decided to walk the same path as Tomoya did. I figured that, having conqured my honours degree and an MCAT, asking someone out should be a bloody cakewalk, right? As it turns out, the MCAT and undergraduate defense had been easier than this, and my heart was racing away. In the five years that has elapsed, I’ve not forgotten the response I received:

That’s very kind of you to say I’m interesting (when really.. I’m not haha) but the thought although the gesture wasn’t done is very sweet. Well, I apologize I wasn’t able to see you before I go. Perhaps asking again when I come back will be better? 🙂

  • There was no opportunity to ask again; being separated by distance and introducing another fellow into the picture tends to do that. If Tomoya had experienced what I did, CLANNAD would end right here, right now, and that wouldn’t make for a very interesting narrative. Fortunately, in fiction, there can be happy endings, and so, considering everything that Tomoya and Nagisa have gone through during the course of CLANNAD, it is very natural that they end up accepting one another’s feelings.

  • Given my advanced age now, I imagine that being able to ask out someone special in a classroom is probably well outside of my reach now. When I first watched CLANNAD, I had yet to experience precisely this, and so, when I return now to provide my thoughts on Tomoya’s kokuhaku, I can offer a bit more insight into things. The brilliant light of dusk casts a multi-coloured spectrum in the room: unlike every other evening shot, when Tomoya asks Nagisa out, the rich, warm lighting suggests the beginning of things, rather than the end. The hesitation, doubt and resolve in Tomoya’s voice is also remarkably well-done. With Nagisa accepting Tomoya’s feelings, CLANNAD‘s first season draws to a close.

  • It would be unfair to give CLANNAD‘s first season a numerical and letter grade score in the knowledge that it is really the first half of a whole, and so, I’ll conclude this talk with a screenshot of Tomoya and Nagisa’s names on the blackboard. With this final post for CLANNAD‘s first season in the books, let me know down below whether or not this you’d like to see more of these CLANNAD posts, what you’d like to see from future CLANNAD posts if the existing ones were worth reading about, and finally, for both the ladies and gentlemen amongst our readers, if you’d ended up rejecting someone, what advice would you have for them? The last one’s a bit of a tall order, so I’m not expecting an answer for that. In the meantime, it’s time to turn my sights to the future: upcoming posts are Yuru Camp△Slow Start, and A Place Further Than The Universe‘s finales. Early in April, I’ll also see if I can write about The Division and Overgrowth.

CLANNAD‘s first season, through the sum of its events and outcomes, is intended to set the stage for CLANNAD ~After Story~ by presenting the theme of family. During its run, Tomoya learns more about and influences the Ibuki, Ichinose, Sakagami, Fujibayashi and Furukawas; each of the families have their own standing points and challenges. This was an intentional decision from the writers; as Tomoya goes through each arc, he gains insight into what other families are like. While it does not help him reconcile his relationship with his father in CLANAND’s first act, Tomoya begins to form an idea of what he desires to have in a family. By the conclusion of this first act, Tomoya’s journey is really just getting started here: with Nagisa, he begins walking on the path towards a family of his own, and its attendant responsibilities. This sets in motion the events of CLANNAD ~After Story~, and also brings what was a six-month series to a conclusion for the present. The masterful balance between the comedic and dramatic, strong characters, even pacing and a top-tier execution from Kyoto Animation allows CLANNAD to entertain and move audiences even to this day. The anime is timeless, as are its messages, and even though it might be a decade since CLANNAD first began airing, Kyoto Animation’s presentation of CLANNAD is so masterfully done that from a technical standpoint, the anime still stands up against modern animation marvels. It should be no surprise that I greatly enjoyed CLANNAD: on its own, CLANNAD‘s first season earns a strong recommendation.