The Infinite Zenith

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A Luminous Witches PV- Introducing The Allied Air Force Aviation Magic Band

“Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch.” –Debasish Mridha

Unlike the various Joint Fighter Wings, The Music Squadron are a group of Witches whose role is to provide a morale booster to those in areas afflicted by the Human-Neuroi War. Rather than taking to the skies with machine guns and destroying the Neuroi in aerial combat, the Music Squadron travel around, giving live concerts to people to protect their smiles through the power of music. Of course, when they’re not travelling around Europe and performing, they’re also dealing with the publicity that surrounds being idols: when Lyudmila acquire a camera, they struggle to take proper pictures of one another. A handful of the Witches do seem to have a natural affinity for the limelight, including Aila and Éléonore, who strike various poses, and Sylvie, who feels at home with photo shoots. However, when the girls transform into their performance outfits, pandemonium ensues, ruining their group photo. The Music Squadron made their first animated debut in a short four-minute preview video that was released back in December 2020, and later this year, they’re supposed to get their own dedicated series, Luminous Witches. Very little has been announced insofar, and at the time of writing, it is not known when Luminous Witches will begin airing – I am guessing that we could see this series air during either the summer or fall season of this year.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After the behemoth that was Jon’s Creator Showcase, this post on Luminous Witches is partially to show that yes, I am capable of writing short form posts, too. Here, Virginia, Lyudmila and Shibuya check out the camera, an apparatus which Shibuya believes will capture one’s soul if misused. Photographic have existed since 1825, when Joseph Nicéphore Niépce successfully captured an image using a pewter plate coated with bitumen. By the events of Luminous Witches, 35 mm film would’ve been common, and the existence of cameras would be common knowledge.

  • It did therefore strike me as a bit strange that the Witches would be unfamiliar with cameras, and here, Maria, Manaia and Sylvie join the party. Luminous Witches has a sizeable cast, and while a long time ago, this would’ve proven intimidating, these days, larger casts are no problem: it took me a few episodes to properly learn everyone’s name in Brave Witches and so, here in Luminous Witches, I’m sure I’ll be able to do the same once Luminous Witches actually starts airing.

  • Because the character archetypes in Magic Squadron seem to have parallels with members of the 501st and 502nd, I immediately felt at home when this preview video began running. When the girls try to photograph Manaia, they are unsuccessful because Manaia isn’t able to keep still. Here, Eleonore is seen holding a flashbulb: while cameras have been around for at least a century by the events of Luminous Witches, the flash bulb is a newer innovation: the earliest flash bulbs were German in origin and date back to 1929, using oxygen gas and a magnesium filament; the resulting reaction created a sufficiently bright light to illuminate a scene, but the intensity would also mean flash bulbs were single-use.

  • In the short five-minute runtime, the Luminous Witches PV has a more laid-back feel compared to the more serious moments of combat. Magic Squadron doesn’t actively participate in combat, and I did initially wonder about the feasibility of leaving an entire squadron of Witches to act as musicians and singers in a war where humanity would presumably require all active Witches to be at its most effective. Having said this, Strike Witches has been pushing to convey the idea that there is no small role in war, and much as how there are no small roles in performing arts, Luminous Witches is likely to be a story about preserving hope.

  • I believe that Luminous Witches will focus on Virginia as the protagonist: hailing from Britannia, same as Lynette, Virginia is Magic Squadron’s composer, being responsible for arranging both vocal and instrumental music for their songs. Her best friend is Shibuya, who comes from Fuso and bears many similarities to Lynette (both in manner and appearance). While a five-minute PV does not fully show everyone’s attributes, even in this short runtime, one has a reasonable idea of everyone’s traits: Eleonore is a Gallian Witch who is very frank about things, Aila acts as an older sister for the others, and Manaia is like Francesca, being energetic and excitable. Maria, being from Karlsland, is rigid and disciplined, similar to Gertrude and Minna.

  • Mid-session, Joanna finally shows up; it turns out she’d been in the middle of an art project of sorts, and is covered in paint. Coming from Liberion, Joanna designed the logos for everyone in Magic Squadron, and she’s the same age as Francesca. One thing that I noticed in Luminous Witches‘ PV was the prevalence of every Witch’s familiar: these small, supernatural animals are often paired with a Witch to act as an attendant of sorts. Strike Witches and Brave Witches completely dispensed with these elements, preferring to focus on the Witches themselves. If Luminous Witches continues to depict familiars as the PV did, it could be a first for the series.

  • After a transformation sequence rivalling those of a magical girls anime, Magic Squadron is finally ready for a group photo. Their stage outfits are quite nice, striking a balance between the Witches’ military backgrounds and possessing the glitz that is most associated with idols. While I possess a reputation indicating a propensity for any anime with the moé aesthetic, I’m admittedly not particularly versed in idol anime: shows like Idolm@ster and Love Live! are probably the first that come to mind, dealing with the daily lives, triumphs and tribulations of those involved in the entertainment industry.

  • The only idol anime I’ve ever really gotten into was Wake Up, Girls!, which I picked up out of curiosity and became very into for the story it told. I do have Love Live: School Idol Project on my to-watch list, but after how busy February was, I intend to spend the remainder of March tending to the things I’ve left alone. It was around here that Virginia’s role as Luminous Witches‘ central character became clear: she’s stands at the centre of the photo, and she was also the first character viewers see in the PV.

  • An accident causes everyone’s familiars to suddenly reappear, spoiling the group photo and bringing the PV to an end. While the animation and artwork quality in the PV are not to the same level as what I’m accustomed to in Strike Witches or Brave Witches, it does a satisfactory job of giving an idea of what Luminous Witches will feel like. While there’s no airing date for this series yet, I am rather looking forwards to checking out a completely different side to the Strike Witches universe.

Luminous Witches will detail a completely different side of the Human-Neuroi War; up until now, we had largely followed the adventures of the Witches who’ve made a considerable difference at the front lines. However, the other aspects of the Strike Witches universe have not always been fully explored – Luminous Witches presents a chance to portray other parts of a world that viewers rarely get to see. The focus on a more light-hearted, musical side of the Strike Witches universe (without venturing into the realm of an open parody like the Take Off! series) could offer insight into the importance of support: while it is often the case that we only see the faces of those on the frontlines as the heroes, the reality is that all accomplishments were the consequence of a team effort. The Apollo 11 mission, for instance, was backed by no fewer than four hundred thousand scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff that made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic lunar landing successful. As such, to see the Music Squadron in action in Luminous Witches will represent an enjoyable change of pace, bringing idol music into the world of Strike Witches. I know a few folks who will be quite enthusiastic about Luminous Witches, as it combines the idol and military-moé genres. Given the extent of world building in Strike Witches, I imagine that Luminous Witches will be something that I’ll find enjoyable, as well.

Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM: Remarks on A Third Season in That Wood-Framed Town

“I think perfect objectivity is an unrealistic goal; fairness, however, is not.” –Michael Pollan

The return of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? is doubtlessly welcome news: the third season will be titled BLOOM and be a direct continuation of the second season, with the episodes airing in October 2020. With the announcement of season three to GochiUsa (BLOOM for brevity from here on out), the series is venturing into territory seldom tread by Manga Time Kirara adaptations. BLOOM illustrates the high popularity of GochiUsa, and season three is set to adapt the fifth volume, plus chapters from the sixth volume, as well. This is territory that Manga Time Kirara series rarely ventures into: K-On! and Kiniro Mosaic, despite their popularity, has only had two seasons so far, and while there is sufficient material for a third season for both series, neither series did end up getting a third season. K-On! eventually received a movie featuring an all-new storyline as a sendoff for the series, and Kiniro Mosaic is set to receive a movie, as well. While movies are excellent in capturing stories at a much larger scale, as K-On! The Movie demonstrates, films also have their limitations, forcing the narrative to follow a more linear and structured progression to fit within the movie’s runtime. Conversely, the episodic nature of a TV series provides a considerable amount of freedom, and this is the sort of freedom that is appropriate for a series like GochiUsa, whose core appeal lies in its ability to depict snapshots in each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo’s daily lives. Being one part adorable, and one part touching story about the wonders of friendship, GochiUsa has seen success as a combination of its fantastical setting and captivating characters. With a third full season, BLOOM is given the time and space it needs to bring the fifth and sixth volumes of manga to life.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The announcement for GochiUsa BLOOM was made a few weeks back, and it gives a concrete launch date for the third season: October 2020. This means that the first episode will probably be aired closer to Canadian Thanksgiving, just as season two did back in 2015. I’ve already gone over what arcs and volumes BLOOM will adapt during my old talk on Sing For You back during the previous Thanksgiving, and it should be the case that BLOOM will pick up during the summer months.

  • From there, the seasons will return us back to autumn and winter, bringing things full circle once more. It speaks volumes to how rapidly the quality in GochiUsa‘s run improved with time: the first season was an introduction to the town and the characters, and the second season capitalised on the viewer’s familiarity with the characters to give them more opportunities to spend time with one another in different circumstances, creating gentle humour that helped everyone grow, as well. By Dear My Sister and Sing For You, the impact of Cocoa’s arrival in town become very apparent, especially for Chino.

  • BLOOM looks to take the series in a direction the series had not previously explored; while the school setting is a staple of Manga Time Kirara series, GochiUsa has spent surprisingly little time in school, preferring to portray the characters on out-of-school activities. One of the biggest things the series needs to answer, then, is how Cocoa and Chiya are as students, specifically in relation to how they impact their classmates; we’ve seen the two amongst their friends outside of classes, and BLOOM will take everyone back to school for at least a few episodes as Cocoa and Chiya take on a bigger role in helping their culture festival preparations out.

  • With the arrival of summer (a distant concept at the time of writing), it’ll be interesting to see how Cocoa and the others devise solutions of keeping cool. The basic Rabbit House uniform looks like it is better suited for any month that isn’t summer, and Cocoa has previously expressed an interest in making alternate uniforms for Rabbit House before. If memory serves, Cocoa is wearing the same yukata here as she did in Dear My Sister, whereas Rize and Chino sport one of a different design.

  • GochiUsa makes extensive use of funny faces to convey the ludicrousness of a moment or intensity of emotion, and over the course of the previous two seasons, viewers have had the chance to see characters act in different ways that might be seen as contrary to their usual selves. BLOOM looks to feature even expressiveness in its characters: I’ve never seen Rize sport such an expression before, and here, she’s reacting to an episode of Phantom Thief Lapin after the girls decide to do a Netflix party. Rize eventually gets into things to an unexpected extent, showing yet another side to her character.

  • I won’t discuss too much of season three as far as specifics go; besides having already made an estimate of what will happen in the Sing For You post, knowing what happens is actually not as critical as seeing how BLOOM will play out. For folks who’ve already read the manga, what matters more in an anime adaptation is whether or not the latter can bring the former to life. Since anime has the additional advantage of sound and motion, it can bring out the emotional tenour and mood of a given moment to accentuate the authors’ intents even more effectively when done right.

  • GochiUsa has traditionally excelled in this category: the manga is a joy to read, but watching the voice actors, animators, artists and sound engineers give the series life as an anime is to experience GochiUsa in dimension even the manga cannot capture. This was the mindset I had going into The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: I’d already read enough of the manga to know what was happening, and so, I assessed that series based on how well it brought the anime to life as I wrote about it, leaving my overall impressions of the original manga for the finale.

  • As I recall, I was one of the few people who thought positively of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: I already rather enjoyed the base story shown in the manga, and the anime improved over time with respect to its technical aspects. GochiUsa does not have that same problem, being almost universally acclaimed by readers and viewers alike. It is difficult to gauge what makes slice-of-life work (or fail) for different people, but for me, the strong point in GochiUsa is its setting. The wood-framed town creates a unique atmosphere that sets Cocoa, Chino and the others in a relaxing, yet unique world where adventures, large and small, can be found around every corner, if one seeks it.

  • Encourage Films (of Isekai Cheat Magician fame) is to take over from Production dóA for BLOOM, and if the preview trailers are done by them, then I have no doubts the third season will at least match the quality of those seen in Dear My Sister and Sing For You. I admit that I am very excited to be writing about GochiUsa again: slice-of-life can be tricky to write for, and when GochiUsa‘s second season aired five years ago, no blog picked it up for the simple reason that their authors were unaccustomed to writing about series where nothing dramatic, part of a larger narrative, happens.

  • Conversely, because I approach anime like GochiUsa from a less conventional approach, I ended up finding ways to convey what each episode contributed to the series and what I was thinking as things progressed. It turned out to be most enjoyable, and I hope that folks do have a chance to give BLOOM a shot once it begins airing this Thanksgiving. I intend to write about BLOOM on an episodic basis once October rolls around, and with this, my final post for March draws to a close. Coming up next will be a talk on Hibike! Euphonium: Chikai no Finale. I’ve been waiting for this one since last April, and a year later, I finally have a chance to share my thoughts on the next installment to Kumiko’s story, as well as address a few lingering questions left over from the Liz and the Blue Bird days. I aim to have that post out for April, and then wrap up Magia Record, alongside my thoughts for KonoSuba‘s first season.

It is therefore wonderful to hear that GochiUsa will be adapted into a third season. However, even for a self-proclaimed slice-of-life connoisseur like myself, someone who greatly enjoys slice-of-life series for the relaxing and enchanting atmosphere they bring to the table, expectations for this series are going to be quite high, and BLOOM will need to work especially hard to continue keeping fans engaged, given that the second season and specials continued to raise the bar for what could be explored and portrayed in this world. In short, BLOOM needs to do something new. Fortunately, it looks like the fifth and sixth volumes have some tricks up their sleeve: we’ve only ever explored a small segment of the GochiUsa world, and similarly, focus has been predominantly on the main cast. Looking ahead, Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates will play a larger role than in previous seasons, and similarly, the different seasons will allow for Cocoa, Chino and company to see different events and festivities around town that were not previously shown. The significance for showing new events and new faces in a familiar setting is two-fold: the wood-framed town that Cocoa’s spent more than a year in now feels more life-like than ever, and this in turn accentuates the themes that GochiUsa emphasise. Consequently, BLOOM is going to have large shoes to fill, and this time, with Encourage Films taking the helm from Production dóA, one must also have a little bit of leniency as a new studio works on a series with a very-defined aesthetic and established reputation. This means there will need to be at least one pair of eyes on things to ensure that BLOOM is fairly, and justly presented – my eyes. I am looking forwards to writing about GochiUsa BLOOM on an episodic basis come October, and I am especially curious to see if it is possible for me to simultaneously write for two series in an episodic fashion; Strike Witches‘ third season, Road to Berlin, is also airing come October 2020.

An Early-Access Preview of Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?- Dear My Sister

“Home, more than anything, means warmth and bed.” —Vivienne Westwood

Announced a year and a half ago, Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka? (GochiUsa for brevity) was to receive special episode taking the form of an OVA, titled Dear My Sister. Originally intended to release back in May of this year, the OVA was delayed and at present, is set to screen in over forty Japanese theatres come November 11. The cast who performed in GochiUsa‘s earlier television anime will return to reprise their roles in this OVA, but rather than White Fox, who handled the animation of the first and second seasons, the studio Production doA will step up to the plate for Dear My Sister. A newcomer with no other titles underneath their belt, it will be interesting to see whether or not Production doA will execute Dear My Sister with the same warmth and sincerity that White Fox had successfully captured in the anime’s televised run. Besides the OVA itself, the theme song will also release on November 11, while a character album will release this month ahead of the screenings. The latest trend does appear to be that specials for Manga Time Kirara anime are to be screened theatrically before being sold as home releases at a later time – Kiniro Mosiac‘s special, Pretty Days, only became available four months after the theatrical release, and being of a similar ilk, it is not unreasonable to imagine that Dear My Sister will only accessible to the world at large come March 2018, a considerable distance away from the present. I remark here that this post is structured similarly to my earlier preview posts, and below the twenty screenshots below, there will be a bit of an outline (constituting as spoilers) for what Dear My Sister will entail.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Two years ago, it was a pleasant Saturday morning, and I watched the opening episode to GochiUsa‘s second season before putting out a post about it in record time. I subsequently spent the rest of the day playing the Star Wars Battlefront open beta, and opened my journey in Crysis 3 after Thanksgiving Dinner. Four episodes into GochiUsa‘s second season, I did an episodic review, having decided that this was an anime that offered enough to talk about each and every episode. While not quite CLANNAD, GochiUsa has its own unique charms that make it an incredibly heartwarming anime to watch.

  • I have the internet’s first and most comprehensive set of high resolution screenshots with this post: the lower resolution images on Pintrest and Tumblr have nothing against the quality here. It goes without saying that the trailer and manga will give away the entire narrative to Dear My Sister, so this post is essentially one large spoiler. To take a page from Kylo Ren, if you do not already know that Dear My Sister is set in the summer and deals with fireworks, then you should leave right now. Here, Cocoa and Chiya share a tearful farewell: despite leaving for only a week, Cocoa remarks that she’ll never forget the time she’s spent with everyone. The emotional tenour of the moment leads Maya and Megu to assume that Cocoa’s leaving for good.

  • For long-time readers of this blog, it’s no secret that I am very fond of rabbits. For me, watching GochiUsa is functionally identical to watching videos of baby bunnies frolicking about, relaxing and otherwise, doing things that baby bunnies do best. Since the availability of the home release to Dear My Sister won’t be known for a while, I imagine that the videos I linked do will have to suffice for the present. Dear My Sister skips over the first and second chapters of volume five, which sees the girls work on summer uniforms to seek relief from the summer heat and attempt a test of courage.

  • In Cocoa’s absence, Rize decides to whip Maya, Chino and Megu into shape. Rize’s fiery spirit causes Chino to recall Rize’s first days at Rabbit House. Beyond her tough exterior, Chino learns that Rize is friendly and approacheable. The third chapter also reveals that, if people think I am big on Tom Clancy, Battlefield and the like, I remark that I’ve got nothing on Rize. Her character seems to be tailored towards folks like myself as far as interests go.

  • Because GochiUsa is known for scrambling the order of things, there are some scenes seen in the Dear My Sister trailer that I cannot immediately place. When I did the preview for season two based on the manga some years back, I hit some of the stories covered and missed the others. As a result, knowing the manga, while yielding spoilers, won’t mean that one won’t be pleasantly surprised when watching Dear My Sister for the first time.

  • Maya and Megu are two of Chino’s friends from middle school; after meeting out of a curiosity when Chino mentions her wish to be a barista, they’ve since grown close with one another. Maya and Megu perfectly complement one another in terms of personality, and while their presence in the first season is limited, they appear with a greater frequency in season two, joining Cocoa and the others in their adventures.

  • A joke from GochiUsa‘s first season (corresponding with the manga’s third volume) makes a return: immediately after Cocoa leaves, Chino finds herself making iced cocoas, a nod to when Chino similarly became “Cocoa-sick” after Cocoa left to study with Chiya and Sharo, Chino similarly made a bunch of milk cocoas. It’s something that Chino is likely unwilling to openly to admit to the others, that in the absence of Cocoa, she misses the warmth and energy that Cocoa brings in.

  • Located deep in the mountains, the Hot Bakery is also Cocoa’s home. There is something particularly charming, even romantic, about a good eatery in a rural or small town setting, and one of the directions that GochiUsa has yet to take in its manga is to have Chino and the others visit the Hot Bakery.

  • Back home, Cocoa’s mother and Mocha both notice a degree of change in Cocoa; this stems from her spending time with the disciplined and focused Rize, Sharo’s unparalleled eye for sales in the name of saving money, and Chiya’s uncommon way of thinking. Friends certainly can have an impact on one another, bringing to mind cases where couples begin resembling one another in terms of facial expressions over time, and when dogs look like their owner.

  • In Chinese, bread is given as “麵包” (pinyin “miàn bāo”), which translates literally to “flour package”, describing the fact that bread minimally is a small parcel of flour and water cooked together to form a cohesive unit. The Japanese word for bread is “パン” (romanised “pan”) after the French pain. In English, “bread” is derived from Germanic languages, referring to the shape of baked bread as a unit or morsel, similar to the Chinese descriptor.

  • Mocha was a welcome addition to the cast in the second season, creating new dynamics amongst the existing characters that proved most enjoyable to watch. Some folks feel Mocha’s presence to overshadow the other characters, and while this is perhaps an exaggeration, the anime became noticeably quieter after Mocha returns home. I vividly recall the seventh episode of GochiUsa, released the same date that Girls und Panzer: Der Film premiered in Japanese theatres. The weather was pleasant, and I spent the morning shopping for deals at a nearby M&M Food Market.

  • If the trailers were indeed produced by Production doA, the art style has remained quite consistent from White Fox’s: here, Chino is not particularly enjoying the protracted farewells and asks Cocoa to set off with more expedience when Cocoa delays, asking the others to look after Chino for her. This frame is almost identical to the original manga, and having seen the trailer, I’m reasonably confident of Production doA’s ability to execute. One of the possible reasons why Dear My Sister was delayed could be the unexpected change in studios.

  • After recieving a request to make a delivery, Cocoa decides to take her bike, as town is a ways away. However, while Cocoa’s learned to ride a bike, Mocha’s taken things one step further and has gotten her introductory operator’s license, allowing her to drive a moped around. Essentially bikes with small engines, the requirements to operate one are not steep. Apparently, the naming is a portmanteau of “motor velocipede”, although I somehow always read it as the past tense of “mope”.

  • I don’t think Megu and Maya sharing a bath with Chino occurs within the same chapter, but the animated adaptation of GochiUsa has always presented a coherent, enjoyable flow of events despite the liberties it takes. The page quote deals with home this time: while the official GochiUsa website gives the plot as dealing with Chino asking her friends to watch the summer fireworks with her, the trailer suggests that Dear My Sister is going to be about more than just the fireworks, rather similar to how Pretty Days ended up being about more than Shinobu working hard to finish all of her tasks ahead of their class play at the school cultural festival.

  • The manga reveals that everyone’s gotten Cocoa-sick to some extent: Sharo starts speaking in a highly flowery, optimistic manner while meeting up with Rize, Chiya begins naming various food items after Cocoa, and Rize herself loses her cool after smiling the warmest smile ever, outright begging Cocoa to come back. One of the main themes of the second season was just how much of an impact Cocoa’s had on those around her, and even if it’s not quite the same as Yoshino Koharu had on Manoyama in Sakura, the second season’s strength really lay in illustrating the magic that a single individual can have.

  • In light of troubling events around the world as of late, I think that it’s important that people never lose sight of what’s important, doing what’s right for others and taking the time to step back and relax in a manner appropriate for them. This is the reason that I am particularly fond of GochiUsa and anime of its class: it helps me relax and take my mind off challenges from the real world: anime that engages too many neurons are not my cup of tea despite their narrative and technical excellence, and I further consider it a folly to take relaxing anime such as these too seriously.

  • One of the questions I’ve seen floating around on Reddit is the unusual syntax of “Dear My Sister”: in English, referring to one’s beloved takes the form “My Dear Sister”, but in this case, the title is intended to denote “Dear, My Sister”: the OVA is intended to act as a letter of sorts, and while the trailers do not show this, it is possible that the OVA could be presented in such a format. Armed with the manga and using Pretty Days as a precedent,

  • While modelled after Colmar, France, the town in GochiUsa also derives elements from Hungary from an architectural perspective, while elements of Japanese and German culture are quite prevalent, as well. To the best of my knowledge, Colmar does have a summer music festival, Festival international de musique classique de Colmar, but it’s not structured in the same manner as Japanese summer festivals – as per its name, the Colmar festival is a classical music festival. The town in GochiUsa is the ultimate combination of cultures, and it is with a mark of pride that I can say that I live somewhere where such cultural diversity is a given.

  • In Japan, I saw folks wearing yukata while visiting the Kinkakuji. Being modelled after the Japanese Yamato Nadeshiko, Chiya is seen wearing a yukata in the Deak My Sister trailer, and it is only in the likes of something like GochiUsa where one can have a Japanese-style summer festival amidst the Alsace area. In the manga, the summer festival ended up being quite short, but the biggest advantage about the animated medium is that things like fireworks and visuals of the town under festival lighting can be rendered in exceptional detail.

  • Like the quiet Saturday morning two years ago, the weather today is looking quite pleasant, although I’ve heard reports that things could darken later on. However, unlike last time, there are several differences: first, I will be heading off to lift weights in a few moments. Further, Thanksgiving dinner will be tomorrow evening. It goes without saying that I’m absolutely excited about Dear My Sister, but unless there’s an ARIA-level miracle, I won’t be watching or writing about this for quite some time. Thus, for the present, it’s time to get this day started, and here’s to hoping I can get some good experiences out of the beta today.

Dear My Sister will cover the third to sixth chapters from the fifth volume of GochiUsa: Cocoa is leaving town and spending a week with her family out in the mountains. While Chino appears unperturbed by Cocoa’s absence, in contrast with Chiya, who visibly misses her already, Chino unconsciously expresses her longing for Cocoa. To take their mind off things, Rize tasks Chino, Maya and Megu with cleaning up Rabbit House. Chino begins reminiscing when she first met Rize, and later, they work to patch up a stuffed rabbit that Rize had given to Chino when they’d first met. Back in the mountains, Cocoa is spending quality time with her mother and older sister, Mocha. She returns to find Rabbit House a very lively place, and later, Chino asks everyone to attend the summer festival with her. Before they can do so, they must help Aoyama finish her manuscript ahead of a deadline, only for her to accidentally spill coffee on it. Even though Cocoa’s forgotten to finish her summer assignments, the girls enjoy the summer festival to their fullest, culminating with the fireworks that Chino’s wished to bring everyone together to see. This is about the scope of what I imagine Dear My Sister will cover. There are other chapters in the fifth volume that remained uncovered, and a third season is not outside the realm of possibility, as well. However, before we reach that bridge, there is quite a distance separating the present from the point where I will have an opportunity to write about Dear My Sister. As such, it is appropriate for me to step off and enjoy this Thanksgiving Long Weekend – while Thanksgiving dinner might be happening tomorrow, this time, there’s going to be cheesecake.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided- Late Impressions from the E3 Reveal

“The promise of a golden age is over!” — Viktor Marchenko

I might be late to the party, but I’m still the life of it- the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo was back in June, and has been one of the more solid ones in recent history, showcasing titles such as Star Wars Battlefront and DOOM. However, for me, the pièce de résistance was easily Edios Montreal’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the sequel to 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolutions. When I completed it last summer, Human Revolutions took the spot as my favourite game of all time. Here was a title that had a very compelling story about the implications of technology, a richly developed world and abundance of choice. Players were free to complete the game in any manner of their choosing without penalty, and the game rewarded players for exploration. These elements together formed a title that was superbly memorable and entertaining. The ending I received for completing Human Revolutions was satisfying, so it did surprise me to learn that there was a direct sequel in development. Set after Human Revolutions, Mankind Divided deals with a world where augmentations have been viewed as harmful, and augmented individuals have been segregated from the remainder of society. Adam Jensen returns as the protagonist, assigned with stopping terrorist attacks and all the while, confront the individuals responsible for guiding the world into its present state from the shadows.

From the E3 gameplay alone, I’m already anticipating Mankind Divided. The developers explain that, as with Human Revolutions, their game can be approached from a multi-path, multi-solution perspective. This allows players to approach a situation in the manner of their choosing without penalty, and also encourages exploration. The footage also shows Mankind Divided as having superb graphics. While the new graphics are a bonus, they also enhance the sense of immersion: clutter in the environment and subtle details, such as the items in a room, really give the sense that Jensen is moving through a ghetto for augmented individuals. Features to gameplay not present in Human Revolutions include improved hacking, and all-new augmentations that allow for new approaches towards a problem. Adam Jensen can now lock onto and stun four individuals using stun darts, knock electronic enemies out of the air with a hand-mounted PEPS, and even fire explosive nanoblades to engage enemies behind cover. Hacking also appears to be given an upgrade; it feels familiar enough, but there are nuances that will make it a more engaging, challenging experience. In showcasing some of these new features, the E3 demonstration does much to build my anticipation for Mankind Divided, which is set for a release somewhere in “early 2016”.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The first bit of gamplay shows that the UI’s been given a complete overhaul. It’s much cleaner and simpler than before, with key augmentations being accessible by shortcuts. There is a trove of information about Mankind Divided: it’s to be set in 2029, two years after Mankind Divided, and apparently, Adam Jensen’s found a new employer: he’s a part of Task Force 29, an Interpol Department that specialises in counterterrorism. However, Jensen does not fully trust them and occasionally leaks information to the Juggernaut Collective.

  • We recall that in Human Revolutions, combat was underwhelming in comparison to stealth. The developers state that combat’s been improved, so hopefully, that means firefights will be much more enjoyable. Similar to Crysis, it is now possible to customise weapons on the fly, and here, the developers switch to EMP pistol rounds to quietly disable a security camera.

  • Similar to the original Deus Ex, players can now receive conflicting missions and will be forced to make their decisions as to whom to trust. Boss fights will see improvements, which hopefully means that under some cases, there will be opportunities to negotiate with bosses, rather than forcing players to kill them in a straight-up fight. This was one of the few limitations in Human Revolutions, and was somewhat remedied in Director’s Cut, but it will be nice to have the full spectrum of options.

  • Several new augmentations were shown in the E3 demo: these are tesla darts that can lock onto up to four targets at once to silently stun them. Because augmentation abilities now figure greatly in the game, the notion of batteries have been dispensed with. Instead, there is a single bar for energy that gradually refills to a certain level, and consumption of certain resources can allow for the battery to recharge fully.

  • Improved spatial options are also available, allowing players to rapidly profile their environment for threats, pathways and resources. This tool could be especially useful for full stealth runs, allowing players to immediately figure out where enemies are and plot a path accordingly. However, Edios Montreal also states that a full-on combat approach will be a possibility, as well.

  • Remote hacking was one of the coolest new features to be implemented: with it, it’s possible to take control of and override elements from a distance. Successfully hacking something remotely will be intended to unlock shortcuts, allowing for stealth as Jensen bypasses heavily patrolled areas to minimise combat.

  • The ICARUS system makes a welcome return, and as with before, can be used to produce a hard landing that stuns everyone within a certain radius. It was one of the most useful augmentations in Human Revolutions, allowing Jensen to drop from heights without fear of death.

  • While there’s remote hacking, traditional hacking also makes a much welcome (and necessary) return. The new and improved hacking system sports visual improvements, but also is said to have additional tricks that make hacking more engaging and challenging. In Human Revolutions, hacking alone yielded substantial experience bonuses that made it easier to purchase praxis points for unlocking new augmentations. I wonder what augmentations will be available in Mankind Divided right off the bat, and which ones will need to be unlocked.

  • The updated graphics in Mankind Divided look amazing, featuring dynamic lighting, better textures and reflections. Human Revolutions excelled in its gameplay, so when I went through the game, the slightly older graphics were not a concern, but if Mankind Divided is able to match or surpass the story and gameplay of Human Revolution, this is going to be a title that will be remembered. Of course, if the graphics prove too much for my aging GPU, it might be time for an upgrade.

  • Most of the enemies featured in the E3 demo were themselves augmented, contrasting the unaugmented guards and soldiers that comprised much of Human Revolution‘s enemies. The presence of augmented enemies means that the possibility for combat diversity will be much greater. Some enemies have exo-skeletons, exotic weapons and unique abilities that is sure to liven up direct engagements. Given that Jensen has upgrades of his own, this could make fights more interesting, and here, the demo shows off the explosive nano-blade, which provides a means of engaging enemies behind cover.

  • According to some sources, all of the setpiece events in Mankind Divided will occur dynamically in response to the different decisions and choices that Jensen makes; nothing is scripted. Here, Jensen is using a shield that protects him from all harm for a short period: it was first showcased back during the March reveal trailer.

  • If the E3 demo is to be believed, combat will handle like a proper first person shooter now: besides the boss fights, I always felt that the combat rifle and shotgun in Human Revolutions were woefully underpowered, taking entire magazines to down a basic guard.

  • Remote turrets also make a return: here, Jensen makes use of an EMP grenade to disable it, before finishing it off with AP rounds from the combat rifle. I never did bother with the augmentation that allowed me to take control of turrets and robots, preferring to either sneak by them or using EMP grenades to stop them.

  • Being able to switch up a weapon’s attachments on the fly is going to be an immeasurably useful ability, allowing players to immediately react to different events and threats on the battlefield. Weapons customisation could very well be a large part of the game, enabling players to tailor a weapon towards their combat style, and admittedly, it will be nice to be able to swap between different sights and attachments for the different weapons.

  • Edios Montreal has stated that while the events of Human Revolution might not be entirely canon, they are planning to continue expanding this universe. There are no plans to make an MMORPG out of the franchise, but truth be told, that’s for the better. The Deus Ex franchise excelled in giving players choice and a highly immersive story, so an MMO with fetch-quests and mundane side missions could undermine the immersion.

  • While I’m ordinarily a somewhat impatient gamer and skip cutscenes, the conversation and social system in Human Revolutions marked the first time I was interested in listening carefully before making a choice. Whenever these conversations occurred, I strove to deliver responses closest to how I would personally react. Such an element contributed to Human Revolution‘s immersion, allowing me to project myself into Adam Jensen’s character, and it looks to make a return in Mankind Divided.

  • The HUD in Mankind Divided no longer has a golden-yellow finish, and also dispenses with the MMO-style inventory displays. While the weapon status and health/energy displays are still in their usual sports, the mini-map’s been moved into the upper right hand corner, and the lower left hand corner is now dominated by a display for augmentation shortcuts. It appears that augmentations will replace items as the elements in the game, although one would imagine that collecting things could still be important.

  • The amount of detail in the environments is quite stunning, and it’s sections like these that lead me to wonder whether or not my aging rig can still run it. As the demo showcases what would happen should Jensen fail the conversation, much combat ensues. The weapons sound much more powerful, and feel like they could actually cause some damage now. If this is indeed the case, then Mankind Divided will merit at minimum two playthroughs, one each for the combat and stealth.

  • This short demo has not given too much of the story away, but in the trailers, several characters make an appearance, including Victor Marchenko and a mysterious augmented youth responsible for a terrorist attack. The story is set in the Czech Republic, and much of the E3 demo is set in a decrepit area reminiscent of the Kowloon Walled City, a lawless settlement in Hong Kong that neither Britain nor China wanted to claim responsibility for. The ghetto showcased in Mankind Divided is composed of shops lining the streets and temporary housing units are stacked on one another, reaching upwards toward the sky to create a very claustrophobic atmosphere similar to that of the Kowloon Walled City.

  • Michael McCann will return to compose Mankind Divided‘s music: the trailer already features a fantastic piece that captures the dark, brooding feel of the Human Revolutions universe, and with the game set to come out in early 2016, I’m über-excited about this title’s release. In the meantime, there’s still plenty to do (read “Metro 2033 ReduxDead Core and Sakura Angels still need to be completed”), so for the present, my initial impressions of Mankind Divided have come to an end.

Because of my overwhelmingly positive experience with Human Revolutions, I am considering pre-ordering Mankind Divided. The decision to pre-order a title does not come lightly, and my typical modus operandi is to wait until a sale before picking up a new title. This way, I have time to determine whether a title is worth my while, and the savings are quite good. However, Mankind Divided appears to be a completely different beast: if the E3 demo is anything to go by, Edios Montreal has shown that Mankind Divided will be the a finely-crafted combination of story, gameplay and visuals. Most titles in the present age excel with two elements at the expense of a third, but Mankind Divided appears to have all three in abundance. These elements mean that the cost of pre-ordering would be offset by a title whose value justifies the launch price: fully exploring this game’s areas and playing through twice (once for stealth and once for combat) could yield some 70 hours of gameplay if the campaign was as long as that of Human Revolutions, a reasonable amount of gametime for a title costing an anticipated 70 CAD. Of course, it’ll be on me to finish my not-impossible Steam backlog before Mankind Divided‘s launch date is announced, before I’ll make a concrete decision.

A Trip to London, England, K-On! Style! Preview

It has been precisely a year since the K-On! Movie first premièred in Japanese theatres, and although discussions concerning the movie (and the corresponding genre) has cooled down considerably, the movie’s design and nature has lent itself to a diverse range of topics, including the planning of a hypothetical trip to London from curious fans. This was certainly the case on an anime forum, where an inquisitive member began a thread that would focus on the planning and logistics behind such a trip. Unfortunately, discussions ceased before the thread could pick up momentum, and presently, we are left with a mere 12 posts of information.

  • I’ve noted my disappointment, numerous times, that the MI6 Headquarters (the SIS building), was absent in the K-On! Movie. That said, it will be a location that I will include into the simulated trip. Casually note that this post is about the real world and thus, has dispensed with any images related to the K-On!

In the spirit of that thread (and perhaps out of curiosity), I have decided to undertake a thought experiments of sorts and design a hypothetical trip to London, England. I will direct my focus at recreating a trip that approximates some of the destinations the Houkago Tea Time girls visit to the best of my ability. The post will consider all logistical elements, but will also make certain assumptions to ensure that such a trip is feasible within the outlined parameters, primarily, budget and time. These will be important to ensure that this thought experiment remains plausible.

  • These skyscrapers belong to the Canary Wharf, a major business district located in Tower Hamlets, London, United Kingdom. It is one of London’s two main financial centres – along with the traditional City of London – and contains many of the UK’s tallest buildings, including the second-tallest, One Canada Square. These locations were not visited or depicted in the K-On! Movie.

Owing to time constraints, I will aim to prepare the posts for a simultaneous release somewhere near the end of December, before the new year is upon us. This mini-series will be broken up into six different categories for ease-of-access. I will first discuss preliminary considerations concerning the trip’s logistics, such as budget, duration and assumptions that will be made for calculation purposes. The next part will focus on transportation and accommodations, two essential elements to travelling abroad. The subsequent three parts will represent the three days spent in London (directly reflecting the amount of time spent by the girls), and at the end, I will have a post game report of sorts discussing my own opinions of the hypothetical trip I’ve assembled, as well as its feasibility. Finally, comments have been left open to allow for suggestions and feedback.