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Regardless, Adolescence Doesn’t End, and Youth Continues On: Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru Kan OVA Review and Reflection

“It’s wicked to throw away so many good gifts because you can’t have the one you want.” –Louisa May Alcott

Some time after the prom, Hachiman and the remainder of the Service Club are unwinding. Komachi has become a student at the same secondary school and hangs out with them, and while Iroha is irate that the prom has given the student council no shortage of trouble with their budget, Hachiman has a dinner appointment with Yukino’s mother and sister. Yukino reassures Hachiman that the venue is casual, so a school uniform will be acceptable, but Komachi has the foresight of bringing a necktie along, just in case. During the dinner, Hachiman’s candid and blunt answers to the questions that Yukino’s mother impresses her, but when he hesitates in answering Haruno’s question about whether he and Yukino are dating, he unintentionally hurts Yukino in the process. Quite separately, Yui, Iroha and Komachi go out, and it turns out that Yui’s still got lingering feelings for Hachiman. During their conversation, Yui decides to stick it out and see if any chances present themselves in the future. After the seemingly disastrous evening that leaves Hachiman and Yukino dejected, Yui ends up asking Hachiman for a date of sorts. The two visit an aquarium, and Yui later admits that she still loves Hachiman, flaws and all. The next day, Hachiman picks up some sweets at Komachi’s behest as an apology to Yukino; Yukino states that actions like these are necessary the next time he and her mother will meet, and after Yukino hands out the sweets, she’s surprised when Yui takes a bite of the one she’s holding. Yui explains that she’s not given up yet, and that Yukino had better be prepared to fight to keep what’s hers. When the new club advisor arrives, the Service Club members arise to greet them. This is the Oregairu Kan OVA that accompanies the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch game; being a sequel to the third season of Oregairu, it portrays life in the Service Club following the new status quo that was established after Yukino returns Hachiman’s feelings, and beyond representing a chance to simply see all of the characters again, the Oregairu Kan OVA also takes opportunity of this time to show how much of a positive influence Komachi’s been on her older brother: now a student at Sōbu High School, Komachi is able to directly offer advice to Hachiman and also pushes Yui along. From having the foresight of bringing a necktie for Hachiman, to compelling Hachiman into buying sweets as an apology for having being tactless during a meeting with Yukino’s mother, it’s clear that now that Hachiman has accepted youth and all that it entails, he is making missteps, but fortunately, still has someone in his corner to guide him along as he explores new directions as a result of his nascent relationship with Yukino. In this way, the Oregairu Kan OVA gives viewers additional reassurance that he will have support moving into the future.

Within the Oregairu Kan OVA, the question of how Yui handles Hachiman’s decision is also shown. Yui had spent much of Oregairu trying to win over Hachiman, but Hachiman had initially turned her down, believing that Yui had misunderstood her feelings of gratitude towards him for saving her dog to be romantic interest. Since then, Yui has continued to persist, only to slowly realise that Hachiman had fallen in love with Yukino, and by the end of Oregairu Kan, she reluctantly accepts this outcome. In the OVA, however, Yui continues to hang out with Hachiman as a result of her request for the Service Club, and she ultimately reveals her game plan: if Yukino should ever reach a point where she and Hachiman are no longer viable, Yui intends to swoop in. Although there is a certain romance in this mode of thinking, and it is something that seems to keep Yui’s spirits up, Oregairu Kan‘s OVA also indicates that Yui is likely doomed to failure and disappointment if she persists down this road; Yukino’s feelings for Hachiman are such that she can forgive him for his mistakes, and with Komachi guiding her older brother so he acts accordingly, Hachiman’s clearly in good hands. The relationships in Oregairu have been a point of contention since the series’ beginning, with some people feeling that Yui was suited for Hachiman, and other suggesting that Yui was a home-wrecker. From a narrative standpoint, Yukino and Hachiman are the ideal couple simply because it is Yukino that imparts positive change in Hachiman. Yui, in spite of her personality, never does the same for Hachiman. For Yui, it will doubtless be difficult to let go of Hachiman and cling onto the hope that she still has a chance yet: the writing has long been on the wall, and denying the truth will only make the outcome more difficult. However, it’s not all pessimism, either; with Komachi a regular member of the Service Club, and Iroha’s frequent visits, having two reliable individuals to communicate with on a regular basis may also help Yui to find her footing and eventually move on; I do not doubt that someone of Yui’s temperament will remain eternally unlucky in finding love, and with the right encouragement, Oregairu Kan hints at how, because she has legitimate friends now, there will probably come a point where she will be able to find her own happiness, as well: unlike the original clique Yui previously hung out with, she’s now in the company of people who genuinely care for her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before I delve further into my own thoughts of the Oregairu Kan OVA, I will remark briefly that of the discussions I’ve seen, I have the distinct impression that the negativity surrounding the OVA comes from taking things at face value and misunderstanding that Yui’s feelings are still fresh; it is unreasonable to expect her to have gotten over losing Hachiman so quickly. One does need to read between the lines in order to see what the OVA says about Yui, and while I concede this can be hard to spot, the OVA does do a clear job of explaining why Yui will eventually make peace with what’s happened.

  • When Oregairu Kan concluded back in September 2020, I found myself immensely satisfied with the series’ outcomes: for me, the central aim had never been about who Hachiman would end up with, but rather, how his interactions with classmates, catalysed by Yukino and Yui, would push him in a direction where he would come to enjoy his youth, in spite of himself. This change in his perspective is central to Oregairu, and since the series presented this change as a positive, the outcome for Hachiman winds up being a satisfying one.

  • By the Oregairu Kan OVA, Komachi’s become a student at Sōbu High School, and she’s settled into life as a member of the Service Club to the point where she gets along well with everyone. When Komachi brings up cats, Yukino suddenly becomes very interested to see the photo, and this somehow ends up with Yukino petting Komachi. Komachi’s friendliness with the other members of Hachiman’s social circle, coupled with her social sense and willingness to guide Hachiman, means she’s able to get along with the others well. The fact that the OVA establishes this so early on is meant to show that, between his sister’s presence and own experiences, Hachiman’s future is going to be a little less hectic than it’d been previously.

  • While Oregairu is ultimately a positive series that shows how social interaction can improve one’s outlook on life and help them to open up to other people around them, there is a longstanding misconception that Oregairu is a psychological and sociological study of Japanese youth. This misconception originates from one “KirtZJ”, who believed that Oregairu was “some type of social, psychological genre” because it shows “the ability of teens forming social groups as a means of protection and sense of worth”. I disagree with this assessment because social structures and identity are not unique to Oregairu – any time a story involves more than two persons, social interactions are present.

  • Because of KirtZJ’s misunderstanding, the Wikipedia episode summaries for the first two seasons gives the impression that Oregairu is an impenetrable fog to anyone outside of sociology. The reality is more friendly: there is nothing intrinsically academic or inaccessible about Oregairu. This is because Oregairu is intended to act as a commentary on sociological models, rather than a case study; Hachiman’s journey is characterised by his own internal assumptions slowly being proven wrong over time as he interacts with others. As his time with the Service Club continues, it becomes clear to him that there is decreasing merit in what he’d once thought, and this change leads him to turn around and accept youth more wholeheartedly.

  • Consequently, academic models of things as varied as shunning, group cohesion and social judgement theory cannot be used to reliably analyse Hachiman’s choice of actions; while Hachiman originally believes that he is able to observe people and make decisions accordingly, his decisions occasionally have unintended side effects, and club advisor Shizuka wished that he would also think of himself before actioning something. As Oregairu continued, the people around him eventually persuade Hachiman to solve problems in a more tactful way, and along the way, Hachiman would develop a stronger bond with his peers, one where he would try to consider the consequences of a choice before acting. When conveyed in this fashion, Oregairu isn’t overwhelmingly complex or challenging at all from a thematic perspective.

  • The appropriate course of action here would be to remove all of the internal links in Wikipedia’s Oregairu episode summaries to their corresponding sociological and psychological articles, rendering the episode summaries easier to understand. While this would doubtlessly benefit readers, I imagine that such an action would be met with fierce resistance – even today, some folks still believe that anime only has legitimacy when one can ascribe academic principles to its story or characters. I’ve long heard from readers who disagree with this as I do, and as such, I occasionally find myself curious to hear from folks who believe otherwise, that academia should necessarily be present in discussions about a given show. Back in Oregairu Kan‘s OVA, Komachi clings to Iroha, who’s trying to leave and get some work done: Komachi is worried that Hachiman might ditch his upcoming date with Yukino, which entails meeting her mother in a more formal setting.

  • Iroha, on the other hand, is concerned that, since Hachiman tends to be quite blunt, he may get into a verbal altercation, but Yui is confident that at worst, things will simply become awkward between the two. The fact that Yui knows Hachiman and Yukino so well impresses Iroha and Komachi, who remark that she’s practically a goddess in this regard. During this whole scene, it was quite nostalgic to see Nao Tōyama (Yui), Ayane Sakura (Iroha) and Aoi Yūki (Komachi) present: Oregairu has an all-star cast, and while I didn’t really appreciate this back when I first started, years of watching anime has meant that over time, I’ve picked up my own personal favourites.

  • Oregairu had marked the first time I saw Takuya Eguchi (Loid Forger) and Saori Hayami (Yor Forger) together in lead roles. Because of the choice of casting, I can imagine that for Eguchi and Hayami, it’d be just like old times when it comes to voicing Spy × Family‘s lead characters: Loid and Yor play the role of a married coupled with the intention of enrolling Anya into the Eden Academy for Operation Strix in Spy × Family, and the chemistry between Eguchi and Hayami was spot on. Both Hachiman and Loid are logical, capable people, and Eguchi performs both exceedingly well, conveying an air of cool detachment in these roles.

  • On the other hand, Hayami’s range is shown in how differently she plays Yukino and Yor: Yor is a badass assassin on the job, but otherwise is as adorable as GochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain in her everyday role as Anya’s mother. The sharply contrasting roles allow Hayami to experiment with different character types, and she plays all of these roles with confidence, breathing life to her characters. Here, when Yukino helps Hachiman to tie his tie, my eyes see Hachiman and Yukino, but my ears hear Loid and Yor. Of course, being a master of disguise, I imagine that Loid wouldn’t need any help in getting his ties done correctly, and here, I remark that, although I’ve had little opportunity to tie ties in the past while, the half-Windsor knot that I learnt from my parents still comes quite readily to me.

  • The fact that Yui’s still a little dejected after Hachiman begins dating Yukino was only natural. Iroha and Komachi end up having a spirited conversation about what they’d do in Yui’s place, and while their suggestions are more whimsical than helpful, Yui does spot that she could still come in and take back Hachiman if Yukino’s heart ever wavers. This moment paints Yui in a poor light to her detractors, and for me, while it’s clear that Yui still doesn’t have a strong sense of identity (since she’s so easily influenced), recalling that Komachi and Iroha are in her corner, one can also suppose that the two could similarly influence Yui in a positive manner, encouraging her to find her own path anew.

  • I couldn’t help but smile after Yukino had remarked they were going to a “casual” restaurant, only to see Hachiman react in shock at all of the silverware on the table. This scene parallels a moment in James Cameron’s 1997 film, Titanic, where Jack Dawson is being introduced to high society and finds himself surprised by the cutlery. I picked up the knowhow for handling formal dinners from my parents: one always starts from the outside and works their way inward. The knife above the plate is typically for butter, and depending on the meal, a spoon may also be present, being intended for dessert or a cheese course. In this way, one can quickly work out how many courses there are to a meal, as well.

  • During the course of the dinner conversation, Hachiman says a few things that irritate Yukino enough for her to kick him from underneath the table, but Yukino’s mother and Haruno seem to take things in stride. In these situations, I am more inclined to treat it like an interview and pick my words accordingly, as well as using pauses and breaks accordingly. Hachiman, on the other hand, walks in with a very casual attitude, and later, when asked about things, he replies it’s because Yukino’s mother feels so much alike that he can’t help but converse with her the same way he usually does with Yukino. While this is disrespectful to some extent, a bit of extrapolation also finds that this might be a form of flattery: Hachiman is suggesting that he is comfortable around Yukino.

  • While seeing the relationship between Yukino and Hachiman was quite amusing (Hachiman clearly has a long way to go before he can demonstrate himself as worthy partner for Yukino, but Yukino loves him enough to accept his flaws and give him the time to improve), the Oregairu Kan OVA was also a little more sobering where Yui was concerned. I hold that Yui’s way of managing her own feelings is quite normal; even after one realises their crush is unlikely to reciprocate their feelings and is seeing someone else, there is a natural inclination to hope that things could be different. Rather than pressuring Yui to drop it, Iroha and Komachi take on a more supportive approach – Yui’s feelings are still quite hurt right now, and while there will be a time to push her into finding something else, it is still too early for that at this point.

  • In the end, although Hachiman appears to have survived Yukino’s mother’s questions, he unintentionally embarrasses Yukino when he replies to Haruno’s question of whether or not they’re dating with a noncommittal and nervous “are we?”. Yukino’s mother defuses the situation, but Yukino is hurt since Hachiman has not shown any commitment to her. I am reminded of a tip I picked up for interviews: “always answer decisively”. In this case, by showing hesitancy, Hachiman indicates to Yukino that he might not be interested, whereas if he were more confident and answered with a decisive “yes, we are dating”, then he’d show Yukino that he was wholly committed to her. In this moment, I thought back to something my parents had strove to instil in me; I can’t fault Hachiman for answering in the way he does, since I would’ve probably done the same, and a part of me also knows that Hachiman is still green here.

  • In the aftermath, Yukino ends up being quite distant towards Hachiman, who feels like he’s blown his chance with Yukino. Yukino leaves to tend to a few things, and Hachiman decides to head home. Luckily for Hachiman, Komachi is remarkably perceptive, and she is able to give him the right advice: Hachiman clearly knows he must apologise to Yukino but doesn’t quite know how to go about doing so, so Komachi helps him reach a suitable answer. Moments like these are a callback to Hachiman’s old ways; he has a rough idea of what needs to be done, but his assumptions mean that his methods might not always be correct.

  • By leaning on others, Hachiman grows and matures. Of course, his growth isn’t going to be perfect, and the Oregairu Kan OVA shows that there are cases where he may still misstep. Mistakes are a natural part of learning, and it is with support and advice from others that one goes from misstepping often, to making fewer missteps. This is what I like about Oregairu: its honest portrayal of its characters mean that people who’ve experienced similar things as Hachiman and the others can relate to how they feel in a given moment. Hachiman decides to settle on getting Yukino some specialty cookies from a place in Chiba, the students’ equivalent of apology flowers, but before he and Komachi can head off, Yui appears.

  • Under most circumstances, the choice would be clear to take off and tend to Yukino, but Komachi’s spotted something here. She knows that Yui would, if given the chance, still try to steal Hachiman from Yukino, and so, rather than allowing these thoughts to linger, letting Yui hash things out with Hachiman seemed more appropriate. Thinking on one’s feet like this is what makes Komachi such an asset, and even though she’s a fellow junior classmates only in the Oregairu Kan OVA, her impact on the Service Club is so strongly felt that it feels as though, were she present earlier, Hachiman’s growth would be accelerated to the point where everything could’ve been resolved in as few as six episodes. At the same time, this also gave me the impression that having Komachi present means that Hachiman and the others will always have a reliable source of support in their presence.

  • Thus, while Komachi takes off to buy the apology gift for Yukino, Yui and Hachiman go on a date of sorts, allowing Yui to share some time with Hachiman and work up the courage to speak her mind. In Oregairu Kan, I believe that, after the signs became apparent, Yui had simply given up and never gave voice to her feelings, so it was logical for this OVA to deal with things in a more conclusive manner. Here, I remark that, although Yui is all smiles, the pain she feels at losing Hachiman is still quite noticeable, creating a sort of juxtaposition between Yui’s outward appearance and the situation at hand.

  • The choice of date Yui picks out, an aquarium, stands in stark contrast with the formal dinner that Yukino had taken Hachiman to, speaking to the differences between Yukino and Yui’s backgrounds. Although this afternoon does have the same feeling as a date, the choice of exhibits the two check out were also carefully chosen to act as a metaphor for how Yui feels; at one point, the pair head out to check out the touch pools, and upon feeling the course skin of a shark, Hachiman comments on how he agrees with the sentiment that sometimes, words alone don’t adequately describe something.

  • While this “date” proceeds nominally, there are moments where it’s clear that Yui knows that things won’t last – Yui and Hachiman eventually wind up at the penguin enclosure, and here, Yui reads a sign that indicates how Cape Penguins remain together until their deaths. Seeing this sign fills Yui with a feeling of longing, and this is something that Hachiman notices. As the afternoon turns to evening, Yui chooses this moment to lay how she feels about the current status quo out in the open: she’s still very much in love with Hachiman, flaws and all, and is frustrated at the way he and Yukino have done things. Although Hachiman tries to find the right words to console her, they won’t come, and Yui remarks it’s fine, that she’s not going to stand down until it’s clear that her race is run.

  • Traditional love stories would indicate that there is romanticism in Yui’s approach, but from a practical standpoint, holding onto lost love also prevents one from being open to new opportunity around them. This is what motivates the page quote: the size of the world means that, even if Yui can’t be with Hachiman, there are numerous others out there who might be able to help Yui find happiness anew. By constantly thinking about Hachiman, Yui is not only denying herself this possibility, but she could also be shutting out people who are suited for her. This is merely one outcome, and I am hard-pressed to believe that this would be how things unfold: Oregairu Kan‘s OVA shows that one way or another, Yui will eventually be spurred on in a new direction.

  • This ultimately got me thinking: given Yui’s disposition and background, what kind of individual would be suited for her? Yui is someone who tends to be cheerful and spirited, but also tends to try and fit into a situation. As a result, she doesn’t speak her mind often, and this means that she would clash with Hachiman from a personality perspective – Hachiman also struggles to be upfront about how he feels. Conversely, Yukino has no problem being direct when appropriate, and this is ultimately why Yukino is able to force Hachiman to grow. On the other hand, Yui would be unable to drive this same change in Hachiman owing to her more agreeable manner. Oregairu had shot down any possibility of Yui ending up with Hachiman, and despite her own efforts, it should be quite plain that she never had a fighting chance.

  • For Yui, her ideal partner is someone with a very firm sense of identity and is secure in who they are. Such an individual might not always be the most communicative and prefer shouldering problems on their own, but they would be sensitive, kind and caring. The reason why these traits suit Yui is because she’s unsure of herself, and someone who is simultaneously compassionate and confident would create a sense of comfort, encouraging Yui to be herself and setting her best foot forward. Knowing that this individual wouldn’t judge her, and would always be solidly, reliably present to support her, Yui would grow in new ways. Hachiman meets most of these criteria, but his weakness is an unwillingness to confront his true feelings because he’s not secure in himself, and since Yui is similar, she would benefit from someone who is more comfortable with who they are, so that she can be comfortable in opening up to them.

  • Someone like Yui would be able to bring much joy and spirit into the life of someone who’s accustomed to routine – Yui is quite spontaneous and fun-loving, and she could help to bring her partner out of their shell, in time allowing them to enjoy living in the moment a little more. This is ultimately the reason why I favour Yui even though from a narrative standpoint, Yukino was better suited for Hachiman; someone with Yui’s traits would be the sort of person I could see myself falling love with. I’m very strict, disciplined and value reliability above all else, but at the same time, this also means that I don’t actively seek out spontaneity. I also tend to solve problems on my own because I have reasonable faith in my ability to get things done, and since I prefer not troubling others.

  • Although I am aware of my shortcomings and strive to improve, having someone like Yui in my corner would probably accelerate that process. I am drawing conclusions based on what is seen in Oregairu, and I appreciate that in reality, relationships have enough moving parts so that it’s easy to consider what would could do on paper, but then when the chips are down, it boils down to a matter of experience and social know-how. With this being said, such exercises are always fun, as they allow me to explore different territories from a more personal, subjective standpoint.

  • Although I do not know the precise English word for it (despite English being my working language), in Cantonese, Komachi’s social know-how is informally called “識 do” (jyutping sik1 do), literally “knowing (how to) do (something)”. It is characterised by a knowledge of how to respond to a social situation and act in a manner that is respectful and tactful. For having hurt Yukino, Komachi knows that an apology must be on order, and that this apology must be reinforced by a gift, rather than just the use of words. Despite being younger than Hachiman, Komachi has excellent emotional intelligence.

  • “識 do” isn’t a skill that can be acquired overnight, but rather, it comes as the result of experience and making mistakes, then knowing how to do better next time. When I reflect on my own actions in the past, there are a multitude of things that I certainly could’ve done better. The irony, of course, is that now that I know how to handle things appropriately, there is no opportunity for doing so. Once tensions between Yukino and Hachiman defuse, things in the Service Club liven up again as Yukino passes out the sweets. This is where Yui shows that she’s not quite ready to give up on Hachiman yet.

  • Stealing a bite of the biscuit that Yukino is holding shows that Yui is, at least for now, not admitting defeat. While seemingly immature, I continue to maintain that it does take a bit of maturity and life experience to see why it was important to show this – Yui’s actions here will likely spur Yukino to put in a fuller effort in keeping Hachiman, and thanks to support from Komachi and Iroha, Yui will gradually accept things and move on. Accentuating this is the fact that, after Yui gives her thoughts to Yukino, Iroha and Komachi immediately step in and break up the mood with their banter. Although subtle, it is sufficient to show how they’re ready to ensure that Yui doesn’t wander down a difficult path, and this allows the OVA to conclude on a good note.

  • Once the club instructor returns, the OVA draws to a close, and with this, I’ve once again completed my journey Oregairu. It is surprising that almost three years have elapsed since Oregairu Kan finished airing, and the series originally began running in 2015. Over the past eight years, Oregairu has walked viewers through a touching story about how a change in perspective can help people to learn and mature, and along the way, perhaps even discover love. I expect that, barring another surprise, the Oregairu Kan OVA will be the last time I write about Oregairu, unless either readers express an interest in my revisiting Oregairu Zoku and its OVAs, or if the anime receives a surprise continuation.

An epilogue OVA for Oregairu was quite unexpected – when the third season concluded back in September 2020, it had done so in a decisive manner. Hachiman and Yukino begin going out after an awkward but sincere kokuhaku, and Yui accepts that she’s lost, even though her feelings for Hachiman continue to linger. Hachiman himself has changed wholly, believing youth is enjoyable after all. In this way, the Oregairu Kan OVA was not strictly necessary to fill in any holes within the story. However, I will not begrudge the existence of a continuation that reaffirms a few more things that the original series had left implicit, and with the Oregairu Kan OVA in the books, one can definitively say that Oregairu‘s events leaves each of Hachiman, Yukino and Yui in a better place than they’d been when the series started – in particular, while Yui is not explicitly shown as having made peace with what’s happened, seeing her conversations with Komachi and Iroha clarify that, unlike the superficial connections she had while she’d been in Yumiko’s clique, she now has genuine friendship with people who will be there for her when thing get tricky. While Yui’s lingering feelings prima facie appear unhealthy, it’s only been a short amount of time since the events of Oregairu Kan, and therefore, it is unreasonable to expect Yui to have gotten over her old feelings so quickly. The process requires more time than the few weeks that have passed, and so, the Oregairu Kan OVA instead chooses to portray how Komachi and Iroha have both settled into life with the Service Club. In this short time, Yui’s still hurt by the knowledge she likely won’t be with Hachiman as she would’ve liked, but at the same time, Yui’s own growth therefore becomes more implicit, a possibility that becomes more likely when one considers how the two are willing to talk things over with her. In particular, Komachi, as supportive as she is of her brother’s relationship with Yukino, also cares about Yui and knows how to help her out, as well. With this, I expect Oregairu to be completely finished at this point: short of the decision to adapt anything from the original light novels that was condensed out or omitted, Oregairu‘s animated adaptation has told a satisfactory story of Hachiman’s journey towards gaining a new outlook on youth and performed well enough to promote interest in the light novels, so from a functional standpoint, the anime has fulfilled its objectives in whole.

Uma Musume Pretty Derby OVA: Road To The Top Review and Reflection

“It’s horse racing. If you can’t beat him one way, try to win another way.” –Bob Baffert

Narita Top Road is a horse girl who shows great promise as a racer, but because of misfortunes on the race track, hasn’t won any major titles yet. She’s excited to run in the Satsuki Sho for a Triple Crown title and, seeing her excitement, Narita Top Road’s trainer agrees to register her even though she’ll be squaring off against Admire Vega again. After classes, Narita Top Road has a chance to speak with Admire Vega and indicates that the latter’s running is what inspired her, although Admire Vega appears to regard Narita Top Road coldly. In a flashback, Narita Top Road’s trainer recalls how while she lacked finesse as a young racer, she’d also shown promise and therefore, agreed to train her. During the first race of the Satsuki Sho, Narita Top Road and Admire Vega face off against TM Opera O, a boisterous horse girl who ends up winning the race and leaving Narita Top Road feeling as though she’d let her trainer down. After this shock wears off, Narita Top Road continues training. Quite separately, Admire Vega pushes herself to win the next race; it turns out that her sister’s passed away and had donated her heart to Admire Vega, so she now desires to succeed for her sister. The next race in the Satsuki Sho is on a straight course, which is Narita Top Road’s strength, and while she manages to maintain a lead over TM Opera O, Admire Vega, spurred on by thoughts of her sister, manages to overtake Narita Top Road, dealing her a crushing defeat. In the aftermath, Narita Top Road accompanies her friends on a training camp. Her trainer asks her to regroup by having her coach some younger horse girls, and later, Narita Top Road reveals her biggest fear in a race now is letting down those who support her. Her trainer replies that her fans support her precisely because there’s no quit in her, and while she later loses another race, Narita Top Road decides to keep trying anyways. During the final race of the Satsuki Sho, Narita Top Road manages to take first place and treating everyone supporting her to a fine performance along the way. This is the latest series of OVAs for Uma Musume Pretty Derby: titled Road To The Top, this short series streamed online back in April and provides yet another glimpse into how expansive the world of Uma Musume Pretty Derby is.

Like its predecessors, Road To The Top emphasises how each and every horse girl in Uma Musume Pretty Derby has their own reasons for running, and how, provided that all other things are held constant (such as training and skill), what determines the outcome of a race boils purely down to what drives each individual horse girl in that moment, and split second decisions made during the course of a race itself, which in turn are related to what the story in Uma Musume Pretty Derby is intended to convey. Here in Road To The Top, the focus is on Narita Top Road. Unlike TM Opera O, who’s racing for the thrill of victory, or Admire Vega, who’s racing for her late sister, Narita Top Road is racing for those who’ve made it possible for her to come this far, whether it be her trainer or her fans, who’ve come to adore her never-give-up attitude. While Admire Vega’s story is also a poignant one, and her motivation is powerful, Road To The Top also portrays her as being completely alone. She camps on academy grounds rather than sleeps in the dormitories, and whereas Narita Top Road is fond of hanging out with other horse girls (she’s frequently seen with Rice Shower and Haru Urara), Admire Vega seems to shun company, even when Narita Top Road attempts to express her gratitude for being able to compete on the same arena as someone of Admire Vega’s calibre. In this way, Road To The Top seems to speak to the fact that no horse girl is an island, and how important it is to be able to fight for those in the present. By giving each of TM Opera O, Admire Vega and Narita Top Road a win here in Road To The Top, Uma Musume Pretty Derby shows how important it is to have an eye for potential and invest in this possibility: although Narita Top Road is not exceptionally skilled or uncommonly talented, her persistence and desire to express thanks to those who support her is what ultimately gives her the ability to compete and stand alongside horse girls like Admire Vega and TM Opera O. Here in Road To The Top, Narita Top Road’s story is mirrored in the title (it is a story of Narita Top Road’s road to the top), and even in spite of the fact that Narita Top Road would eventually find her victory, one way or another, Road To The Top still finds a way fo keeping things suspenseful and exciting every step of the way.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Over the past three years, readers will have noticed that I’ve become a fan of Uma Musume Pretty Derby and along the way, I’ve written my share of posts about a series that certainly surprised me in a pleasant way. The Road To The Top has Narita Top Road as its lead, and this particular Horse Girl reminds me a great deal of Lycoris Recoil‘s Chisato Nishikigi and RDG: Red Data Girl‘s Mayura Sōda. Narita Top Road is voiced by Kanna Nakamura, and here in The Road To The Top, she plays the spirited horse girl who, despite her occasional doubts, still manages to find it in her to befriend those around her.

  • Although P.A. Works and Studio Kai have helmed Uma Musume Pretty Derby‘s first and second seasons, respectively, and different studios handled Umayon! and Uma YuruThe Road To The Top is produced by CygamePictures, Cygame’s in-house production studio. The Road To The Top lacks the same finesse and polish that were present in the earlier titles – facial expressions are inconsistent at times, and the artwork is slightly less detailed than it had been previously. However, visuals alone do not make an anime, and The Road To The Top does stand of its own merits.

  • I was a little surprised that The Road To The Top would be a four-episode OVA, but having now completed things, I’m glad the series had the time that it did to flesh things out. Even thought there isn’t the same amount of time to fully flesh out all of the details among the characters, there is enough space to provide a satisfactory amount of exposition behind everyone. Right out of the gates, it’s clear that Narita Top Road is quite cheerful and does her best to get along with everyone, even the aloof and distant Admire Vega.

  • The other major player in The Road To The Top is TM Opera O, a confident and somewhat vain horse girl with a taste for theatrics. TM Opera O reminds me a great deal of Brave Witches‘ Waltrud Krupinski in both manner and appearance – both TM Opera O and Waltrud talk big game but also have what it takes to back up their words. During the first big race of The Road To The Top, it is TM Opera O who ends up taking the win. Throughout these OVAs, it becomes clear that while Narita Top Road is a skilled horse girl, she actually had humble beginnings, and the OVAs establish that she still has a few missteps, even during training.

  • The races in The Road To The Top are similar to those seen in the remainder of Uma Musume Pretty Derby with respect to quality goes – from wide-angle shots that show the entire group of racers, to close-ups that highlight the facial expressions of each individual horse girl, Uma Musume Pretty Derby does its best to ensure that all parts of a race are captured. I hold that more variety in camera angle, using panning and over-the-shoulder, or top-down shots (akin to what was seen in John Wick: Chapter 4) would be a nice way of livening up the races even further.

  • Despite losing the first of the Satsuki Sho races, Narita Top Road retains a loyal collection of supporters who greatly enjoy her racing. Narita Top Road doesn’t have the same natural talent that Special Week had, or the tragedy that struck Tokai Teio, but what makes her standout is her never-give-up attitude. This is something that Narita Top Road struggles with in The Road To The Top – viewers would be confident that she will find a way to win eventually, but per the OVA’s naming, there is a journey to get to this point.

  • Having seen both seasons and the OVAs, I am familiar with both Haru Urara (a cheerful horse girl whose lack of victories is offset by her ability to brighten a room up) and Rice Shower (a reluctant horse girl has a track record of dethroning other horse girls from achieving records on occasion). Both play a more minor role here in The Road To The Top, but it becomes clear that Narita Top Road does have some close friends in her corner.

  • A long time ago, I had a classmate in the year below mine who bore a similar manner to TM Opera O, and we got along just fine. Said classmate was very knowledgable about bioinformatics, spoke very politely, but also had a very grandiose way of addressing people and ideas. I got the distinct feeling that this classmate was very passionate about the material, and he had a knack for conveying ideas in a manner that excited those around him without ever coming across as arrogant. I rather enjoy the company of people like these, and in the case of The Road To The Top, TM Opera O’s presence serves as a foil to Admire Vega, who’s all gloom and wholly focused on her own internal goals.

  • Through their portrayal of characters, it appears that Uma Musume Pretty Derby treats the stoic, quiet horse girls as being mildly antagonistic – even though racing is a competitive sport, Uma Musume Pretty Derby takes care to show that the horse girls demonstrate good sportsmanship for the most part, and even the horse girls who don’t communicate much are fighting for reasons as valid as those of the more expressive horse girls. Thus, even though Admire Vega seems quite cold and unreceptive towards Narita Top Road’s friendship, it’s hard to hold this against her, and I found myself wishing that here in The Road To The Top, there had been a chance for Admire Vega to eventually open up.

  • During the second of the Satsuki Sho races, TM Opera O takes a lead towards the final leg of the race, but since long straights are Narita Top Road’s speciality, she ends up pulling ahead. In Uma Musume Pretty Derby, each horse girl is shown as having certain kinds of races they tend to excel in and therefore favour, but in each series, upset victories occur when a horse girl loses in a type of race they were the favourite to win in. While this is a common storytelling technique in Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and therefore one I’ve come to expect, it doesn’t take away from the emotional impact in any way.

  • Admire Vega ends up taking the second of the Satsuki Sho race: she runs purely for the memory of her sister, who had donated her heart to Admire Vega. In a longer series, Admire Vega’s reasons for running would be better explored, and this would allow Narita Top Road to get to know her rival and role model a little better. The Road To The Top establishes that Narita Top Road admires Admire Vega and had sought to improve to the point where she could one day race against her on the track. Given Narita Top Road’s trainer’s remarks, she’d come a very long way from the days of when she started out, and the very fact she’s now at the Satsuki Sho, squaring off against TM Opera O and Admire Vega, is an achievement in and of itself.

  • However, this doesn’t stop the sting of defeat from being any more painful – after losing this race by a thin margin, Narita Top Road loses her composure and is now struck with the thought of what will happen if her best isn’t nearly good enough. The timing of things is something that ends up helping Narita Top Right; almost right after the second race, the horse girls are set to go on a training camp, and it is here that Narita Top Road is given a chance to regroup and see things from a fresh perspective. Although it was tough to see Narita Top Road on the verge of tears, it was quite clear that she was going to stumble before seeing any victory.

  • When it comes to problem solving, taking a step back and returning to a problem after a break is a successful approach. This is why as one gets older, problems no longer seem quite so insurmountable; someone with experience knows that no problem is unsolvable, and even if one approach is not feasible, alternate solutions exist. Recently, I was tasked with sorting out a web application’s CSS to improve visibility, and although I’d spent almost a week trying to hunt the code down (JavaScript is, unlike most Object Oriented Languages, an incomprehensible mess and should be retired immediately), I had no solutions. During one stand-up, I was explaining this, when one of the other team members mentioned we had other ways of expressing state to users. Inspired, I decided to try another solution, and this worked well enough that I decided to go with it.

  • Although Narita Top Road had fully intended to spend the training camp practising, her trainer pulls her aside and tasks her with coaching some younger horse girls. After walking them through the basics, the horse girls ask Narita Top Road to show them her technique, and while Narita Top Road might not be the fastest or most impressive horse girl around, she impresses them nonetheless. I remember an old memory of when I was helping to teach a karate class, and one of the students had been quite unruly, so the instructor for the class pulled the student aside and asked me to demonstrate a kata for him. After I finished, the student was paying attention and following the instructor much more intently, evidently excited by what learning the basics could lead to.

  • Moments like these are always welcome in anime because they parallel the reality of how being given a chance to teach and impart knowledge unto others also helps one to understand something a little better. During the day, Narita Top Road’s old worries are set aside as she trains the younger horse girls and does her best to encourage them and smile for their sakes. Of course, when the day is done, and Narita Top Road meets up with her trainer, she reveals that something has been bugging her – if her best isn’t good enough, where does this leave her? This is a longstanding question that people ask, and the trainer’s answer is simple: Narita Top Road’s greatest asset isn’t her innate talent, but rather, her perseverance.

  • Despite having come a long way, Narita Top Road worries about letting down everyone who’s been supporting her – it becomes clear that Narita Top Road doesn’t race for herself, but rather, for those around her, from fellow horse girls and her fans, to her trainer. The choice to have TM Opera O and Admire Vega as Narita Top Road’s rivals is fitting because they act as a foil to her; both race for themselves, and while they are remarkably skilled racers in their own right, the idea in The Road To The Top is that someone who fights for something bigger than themselves will want a win enough to make it a reality. Before this can happen, though, Narita Top Road still has a few hurdles to overcome.

  • However, at the end of the training camp, Narita Top Road is invited to an event with her fellow horse girls; the whole neighbourhood’s come out to cheer her on, and while Narita Top Road is a little embarrassed, she hears out the others and soon finds herself partaking in the festivities, enjoying the grilled carrots that are part of the evening’s spread. Food’s always been an integral part of Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and the horse girls are, without exception, fond of eating everything from carrots, to ramen and sweets; in fact, the promise of sweets was how Team Spica’s trainer managed to persuade the others to train harder.

  • Longtime readers are familiar with the fact that I’m very fond of enjoying various foods, and all too often, I’ve found that there are local places that fall under the radar. This past weekend, I sat down to dinner from two such places. On Saturday, I had been volunteering to shoot a video at an event where the premiere of Alberta was speaking and ended up swinging by a Japanese restaurant by the university, where I enjoyed their takoyaki and curry katsu don – this dinner out had been unexpected, and having spent the previous weekend indulging, I figured something simple, home-like would be appropriate. Then, on Sunday night, my parents became curious to try out a place called Chicken On The Way, a Calgary institution that dates back to 1957 and lays claim to the title of “Best Fried Chicken and Corn Fritters in the city”.

  • Having now tried their fried chicken, thick-cut fries and corn fritters (which go extremely well with maple syrup), I believe that Chicken On The Way absolutely lives up to their reputation. Even the chicken breast was juicy and flavourful, and their corn fritters brought to mind the tastes of a fairground midway. Excellent food becomes something to savour in the moment, and something to look forwards to – as a bit of a gastronomer, I’ve come to add travelling about and trying different foods out to my list of hobbies. Back in The Road To The Top, after the training camp concludes, Narita Top Road ends up running and losing in another race.

  • The latest results disappoint Narita Top Road and leaves her deep in thought, so much that she forgets to take her drink from the vending machine. When TM Opera O shows up, Narita Top Road is shocked, and her tail stands up in surprise. Small details like these act to defuse the tension in a moment, and seeing Narita Top Road’s surprise face was quite funny – even though P.A. Works (a studio known for their funny faces) is no longer helming Uma Musume Pretty Derby, the character designs have remained fairly consistent. Some folks have complained about how the animation quality appears to have dropped between the first and second season, but if this is the case, I’ve not noticed.

  • On the other hand, things in The Road To The Top do look a smidgen rougher than the previous two seasons. I do not hold this against The Road To The Top, since it is an ONA, an anime made for web broadcast, and overall, this series still remains engaging for its characters. Here, running into TM Opera O shakes Narita Top Road from her reverie, and the former’s pompous manner ends up breathing some life back into her. It’s almost impossible to dislike TM Opera O, and having a character like her around helps bring Narita Top Road back to form.

  • To this end, Narita Top Road speaks with her trainer and asks him to let her race in the manner of her choosing. From a viewer’s perspective, it’s quite difficult to actually get a bead on the different horse girls’ different styles unless the racers’ thoughts, and additional commentary from spectators are present. However, a priori knowledge of horse racing isn’t necessary to enjoy Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and in-show, there are plenty of cues to keep viewers informed of what’s happening. Here, I would expect that, by asking her trainer to let her run with an approach different than what she’d previously done, she also hints at the fact that she’s become confident enough to use her own methods.

  • Narita Top Road’s optimism and friendliness is ultimately what makes her so easy to root for – even though both Admire Vega and TM Opera O have beaten her in races, Narita Top Road continues to demonstrate utmost respect for her rivals, citing that they’re the reason she was able to advance and improve. One aspect of The Road To The Top that I would’ve liked to see was having Admire Vega open up to Narita Top Road. This would’ve helped to accentuate the fact that, even though horse girls race for their own reasons, they can still share in one another’s company and, when things get tough, there is always someone to talk to. However, owing to constraints with the runtime, this ultimately did not happen.

  • As the final race of the Satsuki Sho, Narita Top Road is prepared to give it her all, run in the way she feels to be most natural and at the very least, put up a good showing for all of her fans in the stands. Throughout Uma Musume Pretty Derby, races are thrilling events that draw considerable crowds, and the energy of a moment is quite tangible. For the horse girls, however, all they are worried about now is giving their best, and while Narita Top Road is a little nervous, a quick tap to the rear shakes her out of her doubts. For this post, I originally was planning to make it an extended post, but readers will have noticed that this month, posts have been longer on average.

  • There’s always a great deal of moments in a given work that are worth covering, but at the same time, I also appreciate that readers would prefer more concise posts. As a blogger, striking a balance between the two is something that isn’t an easy task: on one hand, I strive to ensure posts capture my most important thoughts without stretching out and causing readers to lose interest, but at the same time, posts must also be long enough to let me walk through the reasoning and evidence that drives my conclusions. Summary and reaction posts are, at least for me, inadequate, and I do not find any value in reading blogs who do little more than cheering the characters on because they don’t offer me with a different perspective on what’s happening.

  • Midway through this final race, the spirit of Admire Vega’s sister manifests, and unexpectedly, Admire Vega finds herself slowing down in the race. It turns out that she’s also suffering from an injury of sorts, one that isn’t acute enough to prevent her from running now, but will someday end her ability to competitively race. The spirit of Admire Vega’s sister suggests that just being able to see her run is enough, and I would imagine that in this moment, Admire Vega realises that if she pushes herself in a bid to win, her career will end here and now. Subconsciously, self-preservation kicks in, and Admire Vega is no longer able to put her all into this race.

  • In this way, Admire Vega must give up this race so she can properly fulfil her sister’s wishes – the idea of winning being secondary simply enjoy running is a recurring theme in Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and the fact that Uma Musume Pretty Derby is able to do more with things in the anime format speaks volumes to how significant it is to have a good team of writers on board. By creating stories that help viewers to connect to the characters, the anime becomes an excellent starting point for encouraging viewers to potentially pick up the game, as well. In my case, if Uma Musume Pretty Derby ever becomes available, I’m going to build my team around Special Week.

  • With Admire Vega out of the running for first place, the last of the Satsuko Sho races comes down to Narita Top Road and TM Opera O, and to no one’s surprise, Narita Top Road takes the title. With this, each of Narita Top Road, TM Opera O and Admire Vega have one win each: the three are worthy rivals for one another, and in the aftermath, Narita Top Road is overcome with emotion at being able to finally show her trainer, fellow horse girls and supporters that their efforts contributed to this moment. One final show awaits viewers – it just wouldn’t be Uma Musume Pretty Derby if The Road To The Top didn’t feature at least one victory concert. Narita Top Road performs as the centre, accompanied by Admire Vega and TM Opera O.

  • With this post, I’m done The Road To The Top in full, and I very much look forwards to the third season. When it was announced, Uma Musume Pretty Derby‘s third season was only stated to release in 2023, and at present, we’re about to enter the summer season. This leaves fall 2023 as the only season for Uma Musume Pretty Derby to air in; assuming this to be the case, it means that this series will air alongside Hoshikuzu Telepath and Spy × Family‘s second season, both of which are shows I am looking forwards to watching. I remain hopeful that said third season will materialise, since by this point in time, I’ve become enough of an Uma Musume Pretty Derby fan to say that I would be interested in playing the mobile game should it become available on the North American App Store.

  • The final concert is lovingly animated and quite enjoyable to watch. Uma Musume Pretty Derby‘s approach works because the series has lovable characters, so when combined with generally solid technical elements and an opportunity for the voice actresses to sing, the combination produces a winning combination that accounts for the franchise’s continued success – positive reception means media are selling, and this indicates a continued interest in the series that allows for continuations to be produced. For now, though, there’s still a ways to the fall season, and that means my eyes return to the present: the blog continues to be an active place, and in the immediate future, I’ve got a talk on the Oregairu OVA lined up, along with a special topics discussion on Crysis: Remastered.

Uma Musume Pretty Derby has had two full seasons of content, several spinoffs and a handful of OVAs with which to expand its world. Road To The Top adds upon this further and demonstrates that, despite the apparent predictability of the story (the lead character will always find a way of winning in accordance with what the story needs), each iteration of Uma Musume Pretty Derby still manages to remain engaging because so much effort is given towards ensuring that the different horse girls have unique motivations and desires. Seeing what drives everyone creates uniqueness in each tale: in the first season of Uma Musume Pretty Derby, Special Week had been a newcomer who wanted to race for her mother and stand alongside her idol, Silent Suzuka. The second season had Tokai Teio struggling to manage a series of injuries and fulfil a promise to race alongside her friend and rival, Mejiro McQueen. BNW’s Oath dealt with getting Biwa Hayahide, Narita Taishin and Winning Ticket back together for a race. There is no ceiling of what stories could be told among the horse girls, and so, even if Uma Musume Pretty Derby does not do anything particularly innovative, it is a fantastic show for those who wish to see their favourite horse girls in the animated format, bringing another dimension to the popular mobile game. With lovable characters and a low-stakes premise that promotes themes of effort, sportsmandship and friendship, Uma Musume Pretty Derby‘s simplicity makes it a series that can continue to expand upon the different characters available in the series and drive interest in the mobile game – I’ve heard (unverified) rumours that Cygames will be releasing an English version of the mobile game at some point in the future. There had already been faint discussions of an overseas release for Korea and China, but assuming that these rumours point to an English language release, Cygames can thank the anime adaptation of Uma Musume Pretty Derby for piquing my interest in their game. The anime’s successes in creating a compelling world and appealing characters allows the series to succeed to the point where there will be a third season of Uma Musume Pretty Derby. Moreover, said third season will air later this season and focus on Satono Diamond and Kitasan Black. Fans of Uma Musume Pretty Derby have been quite excited by this news, and the continued success of Uma Musume Pretty Derby speaks to the excellent presentation and execution of things in this franchise.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II – Reflections on Quad Feeds and the John Wick: Chapter 4 Loadout

“What can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli.” –Amor Towles

For the longest time, my impressions of Call of Duty‘s multiplayer were predominantly negative – it was a space dominated by “squeakers” (people who are, strictly speaking, too young to be playing M-rated games) and players who believed that landing 360º no-scope shots were the height of excellence. Coupled with an aging game engine, what I felt to be a lengthy progression system that demanded commitment, and close-quarters maps that bred chaos, Call of Duty‘s multiplayer did not appear to appeal to me: I had cut my teeth with the modern military shooter in Battlefield and much preferred the slower, methodical gameplay that accompanied the large-scale modes like conquest. However, these impressions were based off the aging Call of Duty titles of the late 2000s and early 2010s, a time when the Call of Duty franchise were on the backfoot. With the release of 2019’s Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward had turned things around and produced a title that was engaging, immersive and modern. By Modern Warfare II, it’s quickly become clear that my thoughts on Call of Duty‘s default multiplayer modes were off by a wide margin, and in the present, I find myself playing Modern Warfare II more frequently than I do Battlefield. The primary reasoning for this is simple. Battlefield‘s large-scale experiences require a fair block of time to properly play; on average, a match of conquest lasts around half an hour. On the other hand, a round on Shipment will run for no more than ten minutes. The shorter intervals are hugely important to folks who do not have a great deal of time on their hands – ten minute rounds mean on days where time is short, I am able to hop into a match, level up some weapons, and leave with a feeling of progress before turning my attention to other tasks. If time is something I do have more of, I can join a game of invasion and sate a desire to snipe with the game’s long-range weapons. By exploring more of Modern Warfare II‘s traditional multiplayer modes, my perspective of the Call of Duty multiplayer environment have improved considerably; games are now enjoyable to play, win or lose, and one is assured of a solid experience if they turn their global voice chat off. In this way, I’ve now sunk about 98 hours of time in Modern Warfare II and have reached Prestige 4. As a result, I’ve unlocked all of the gear, most of the game’s weapons and a sizeable collection of attachments, enough for me to begin exploring the depths of Modern Warfare II‘s gunsmith system, but at the same time, when the first season of content ended, my interest in Modern Warfare II slowly began waning. Of late, however, circumstances have motivated me to return to the multiplayer.

After watching John Wick: Chapter 4 in the theatres during the first weekend of this month, I was highly impressed by the exceptional cinematography during the sequence where Wick picks up a Genesis Arms Gen-12 semi-automatic shotgun loaded with the incendiary “Dragon’s Breath” rounds. What follows is one of the most gorgeous moments in recent film history, in which the camera takes up an overhead position and pans over the carnage as Wick single-handedly destroys an entire group of foes on his own. A thought occurred to me: Modern Warfare II‘s gunsmith system is among the most sophisticated in first-person shooters out there, and I recall seeing that shotguns did, in fact, have access to the Dragon’s Breath ammunition. However, up until now, I’d never really run with shotguns before, and in order to unlock the Dragon’s Breath rounds, I needed to get the Expedite 12 shotgun up to level 28. Fortunately, Modern Warfare II‘s “Shipment 24/7” mode is still on rotation: this close-quarters map was tailor-made for shotguns, and in the space of a few weeks, I fully finished levelling the Expedite 12 and next turned my attention towards unlocking the KV Broadside, a semi-automatic shotgun that is based off the Vepr-12 shotgun (a shotgun built around the RPK receiver). With this, and Modern Warfare II‘s extensive gunsmith system, I was soon able to build my own makeshift Genesis Arms Gen-12. T fact that Modern Warfare II provides enough flexibility for me to customise a firearm to match a weapon seen from a film was immensely enjoyable, and in my case, I found that the iconic shotgun from John Wick: Chapter 4 could be produced by modifying the KV Broadside with the XTen modified choke, Velocious 40 barrel, SZ Lonewolf optic, FT TAC-Elite stock and of course, the 12-Gauge Dragon’s Breath ammunition. Taking this shotgun into combat, I found an immensely amusing (if somewhat inconsistent weapon) that proved exceptionally fun to use. The gunsmith is where Modern Warfare II really excels, and the versatility allows one to create some highly unique weapons. With the right attachments, one could turn a light machine gun into an assault rifle, or a submachine gun into a battle rifle. While these options may not always be optimal or viable, it can make some assignments easier to complete. In this way, Modern Warfare II‘s gunsmith system is something that makes the game especially standout.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • For me, Invasion quickly became my favourite mode of Modern Warfare because it offered a sandbox-like environment for larger scale combat, where human and computer foes and allies could duke it out in a space where the stakes aren’t terribly high, and where players can rejoin the fray if they’re taken out. This makes the mode a great place to pick up a sniper rifle and get comfortable with its mechanics. Warzone 2 and DMZ provide an even larger scale experience, but the modes are more unforgiving, and correspondingly, quite unfriendly for most solo players.

  • During one match of Invasion, I managed to go on a 14-streak, which is my current personal best. I still remember that particular match – I had joined to have fun and hadn’t been focusing on anything in particular. In that same match, I walked away with 41 kills and 4 deaths, for a KDR of 10.25. I jokingly thought to myself that the skill-based match-making (SBMM) system would punish me harshly for this accomplishment, but at the same time, it did show that I was able to do well enough to enjoy Modern Warfare II. Early on, I focused on levelling the marksman rifles and sniper rifles – Invasion is the perfect place to use the longer-range options, and sniping a foe from a distance is immensely satisfying.

  • Here, I managed to land a kill at 206 meters with the Victus XMR, which had been a sniper rifle that unlocked as a part of the first season’s worth of content, and even two seasons later, the weapon is still competitive. Generally speaking, I configure my sniper and marksman rifles for improved accuracy and damage at range, as well as bullet velocity where applicable: the idea of a sniper rifle being a mid-range weapon with good ADS speed and quick rechambering is quite unnecessary, as one can bring the “Overkill” perk with them and equip a good secondary for close range engagements.

  • For a while, I also focused on levelling the Signal 50 up. The Signal 50 has a slightly faster firing rate compared to the Victus XMR at the expense of damage per shot, and players will generally find that whereas the Victus XMR excels against human opponents, situations where there are a lot of AI opponents make the Signal 50 a better choice. The Signal 50 is something I find useful as a makeshift measure for quickly dealing with killstreak vehicles – an enemy helicopter can be shot down relatively quickly if one’s got the armour-piercing rounds for the Signal 50, since the high rate of fire allows one to deal damage quickly.

  • Earlier this month, Modern Warfare II put on a special event where players could unlock trophies by playing the game, and then trophies could be redeemed for various rewards. Although I had originally intended to sit things out, intrigue about the “Venom Strike” M13B and “Nightsting” TAQ-V blueprints led me to try and see if I could unlock them before the event ended. In the end, I managed to get both of the blueprints, plus some weapon charms and calling cards. Playing this mode is actually what ended up getting me back into Modern Warfare II, and inspired me to unlock enough of the weapons so that I could re-create the John Wick: Chapter 4 Dragon’s Breath shootout.

  • The first time I got a covetted “quad feed” was actually during the Modern Warfare II beta, where a lucky break meant I was able to fill the kill feed with four consecutive kills without said kills being interrupted. I’ve heard that this is “an accomplishment to be proud of”, since getting four kills in rapid succession is a difficult ask as a result of the TTK in Modern Warfare II. In the retail game, my first quad feed came in a match of invasion when I used a stealth bomber (picked up from a supply drop) to rain explosives down a path, eliminating eight players in a single stroke. The first time I achieved this, I was also trying to pick up a supply drop, but luckily, I did manage to get another one to show that yes, I’ve achieved this feat at least once. In this post, I show off a few more quad feeds, accomplished using various means like the SAE air strike and cruise missiles.

  • With the new seasons, I think a few more Invasion maps were added to the rotation, increasing the variety that Modern Warfare II provides to players. Most of the YouTubers I’ve subscribed to play DMZ exclusively, citing the excitement of fighting hordes of AI bots and human players alike to pull out contraband weapons as being the premiere draw of the mode. On the other hand, Warzone 2 has been stated to be a bit of a disappointment for most because of noticeable bugs and a lack of incentive to continue playing on top of the Battle Royale mode becoming a monotonous one. On the other hand, DMZ has become the new mode of interest because it strikes a balance between PvE and PvP, provides a consistent stream of content to engage players. Firefights keep players guessing because one could be up against skilled human foes, or an unfair number of AI, but the thrill of successfully completing an assignment or grabbing a new contraband weapon encourages players to press on despite the threat of losing one’s equipment.

  • On paper, DMZ is an innovative implementation of The Division and its successor’s Dark Zone, one which is more accessible (one can hop right in, versus needing to pick up a large pool of gear first as is necessary in The Division), but I personally stick with more traditional mode simply because the solo DMZ experience is remarkably unforgiving – the mode doesn’t scale, and players who join with a full squad of four will face the same number of foes as they would if they joined as a solo player. The end result is that a solo player would be at a severe disadvantage even if they had put in the requisite amount of time to learn how to play effectively.

  • The solution for this is actually quite straightforward, and The Division 2 provides an example of what this might look like. Raids are an eight-player mode where two teams of four must cooperatively complete objectives against exceptionally tough opponents, and the standard mode is gruelling. In exchange, completing raids gives players access to excellent gear. To provide players with a better sense of what they’re squaring off against, The Division 2‘s raids also have an “expedition” mode which lowers the enemy difficulty and allows players to explore the maps. In this mode, the rewards are not provided. The only issue is that even on expedition mode, raids cannot be soloed: foes take so much damage that this isn’t feasible.

  • If expedition mode had removed the rewards outright and simply gave players a chance to explore the map, it would still be valuable in providing them the means of familiarising themselves with things before attempting a standard raid with other players. Modern Warfare II‘s DMZ mode would benefit from a similar approach: solo players looking to just explore Al Mazrah or Ashika Island on their own should be given the choice to do so. This mode would still provide an appropriate amount of AI bots to fight, but aside from a small amount of experience points, the mode should not contribute to one’s weapon levels or provide the same unlocks as the standard mode. This way, players would still need to play DMZ normally, but if they so chose, they’d now have a way to explore the DMZ maps.

  • Back in late December, I had been looking forwards to giving DMZ and some of the co-op modes a shot. My best friend picked up an MSI Katana GF76 laptop on a sale, and back then, Intel was doing a promotion where every eligible Intel processor was subject to a Modern Warfare II giveaway. The GF76 sports an i7-12700H and a laptop version of the RTX 3070 Ti, giving it about 90 percent the performance of my desktop machine, and with this, my best friend would’ve been able to play all of the games in the past five years without any difficulty, as well as possessing enough hardware to make it capable of running new games in the upcoming few years.

  • However, owing to a communications SNAFU between Intel and BestBuy, neither company were willing to give my best friend the access code needed to redeem a copy of Modern Warfare II. Both Intel and BestBuy insisted it was the other party that gave out the codes, and refused to help my best friend out. In this way, a month passed, and the window for the offer expired, leaving him completely (and understandably) disappointed. All it would’ve taken was for one customer support representative from BestBuy to take a few moments and get in touch with Intel to secure a code, and my best friend would’ve been on his way. Instead, both parties dragged their feet, and in the present, I’ve not been able to play any co-op or DMZ with my best friend.

  • In the months after, my best friend did end up picking up The Division 2 and Ghost Recon: Wildlands, but since he’s still getting through nearly a decade’s worth of backlogged games, especially mods, I don’t anticipate we’ll be starting any time soon. In a manner of speaking, my best friend not getting Modern Warfare II might also be seen as a blessing in disguise, preventing his backlog from growing further and giving him some time to get to much older titles, and in fact, I am looking forwards to being able to co-op with him in both The Division 2 and Wildlands. Contemporary games and their battle passes actually make gaming a little less enjoyable, since there is an obligation to stick around and unlock things, so for my best friend, unlocking enough stuff in Modern Waarfare II to make things fun would represent a bit of a slog. Here, I manage to advance the season three battle pass far enough to unlock the FJX Imperium, a sniper rifle modelled after Modern Warfare 2‘s Intervention.

  • I’ve also begun to unlock the gold weapon cameos for some of my loadouts, and here on one of the new invasion maps, I score a double kill with a gold-plated M4. Having the Union Guard made it straightforwards to start getting my weapons’ levels up so I had a decent collection of attachments, and in the present, while I don’t have all of the attachments needed to make the so-called meta setups, I do have enough attachments available to me so that I can kit weapons out to make them better suited for my play style. While I don’t particularly like the battle pass and live service model gaming publishers are using in general, games still thankfully offer enough to do for players who prefer taking things at their own pace.

  • This is ultimately what makes Modern Warfare II a shade more enjoyable than Battlefield 2042 for me at the moment: the latter’s all-out warfare modes are gorgeous and immersive, but at the same time, they also require a bit of time to play through. On the other hand, Modern Warfare II provides players with options. If I’m short on time, a few rounds on Shipment 24/7 will still be enough for me to rank a weapon up once or twice. When time is more plentiful, I can sit down to back-to-back matches or join a game of invasion. Shipment 24/7 has, together with Shoot House, proven to be the perfect way of power-levelling everything that isn’t a sniper or marksman rifle, and by dropping in for a few matches every evening, I’ve brought more weapons to their maximum level than I would’ve previously imagined possible.

  • Of course, having access to some custom weapon blueprints helps: unlocking the M13B and Victus XMR blueprints, for instance, allowed me to begin unlocking attachments for these weapons before I unlocked them, and so, even if I couldn’t run a custom version of these weapons yet, I still had their attachments available for other weapons. In this way, I’m now able to start creating more interesting weapons for my own enjoyment: players define meta loadouts for Warzone or DMZ that give players a clear advantage, but in the multiplayer, I’ve found that even the worst weapons can still be useful in some situations.

  • The KV Broadside is such an example: shotguns are extremely situational in Modern Warfare II and for most situations, are completely outclassed. In the narrow confines of Shipment, though, shotguns are devastatingly powerful weapons that can instantly delete foes with the press of a mouse button if all of one’s pellets land. For me, I found that irrespective of which shotgun I was running, having the barrel and muzzle attachments that increased the damage range and tightened pellet spread would improve handling across the board.

  • In practise, the Dragon’s Breath ammunition decreases direct damage but adds incendiary damage over time: from a practical standpoint, it is inferior to standard buckshot. However, the merits of using the Dragon’s Breath ammunition is purely for the reason it’s flashy and fun. Just like the shootout from John Wick: Chapter 4, using Dragon’s Breath turns a match on Shipment into a spectacular fireworks show, and like Wick, double-tapping is sometimes necessary to put an opponent down for good. The KV Broadside’s semiautomatic fire makes this possible, and so, while this gun might not be exactly the same as the Genesis Arms Gen-12 seen in John Wick: Chapter 4, I was able to bring it quite close. The journey to unlock the Dragon’s Breath rounds meant I got comfortable with using the Expedite 12 (itself modelled after the Benelli M4 Super 90, which Wick uses in John Wick: Chapter 2), and this helped me to reacquaint myself with a class of weapons I’ve not used frequently since my Battlefield 4 days.

  • It goes without saying that, while the spawns on Shipment can be terrible, and bugs with weapons not firing can be frustrating, I’ve also had great fun running around with the John Wick loadout. The same spawns that led me to die seconds after returning to the game mean that my opponents’ also experience the same, and there have been moments where I’m sure my opponents’ weapons have jammed up, letting me fire my two shots off. Overall, while perhaps not viable in modes like DMZ or Invasion, the John Wick setup still remains incredibly bombastic and fun, perfectly suited for the claustrophobic layout that is Shipment.

  • To round this post out, I score a 10-streak on Shipment, which was something I certainly didn’t think I’d do – Shipment is pure chaos, and it’s quite hard to remain alive since there are so many angles other players can come from. During this match, it did feel as though my opponents were just standing around, oblivious to my presence, and I ended up unlocking the Chopper Gunner scorestreak while running the Venom Strike M13B. I immediately hopped in and got another ten kills with it before rejoining the match. I realise this post comes out of the blue and isn’t related to my usual anime-related topics, but I figured now was a good time as any to share some of the moments I’ve had in Modern Warfare II before things get a little busier: I’ve got a talk on Uma Musume Pretty Derby: Road to the Top lined up, and then to kick June off, I plan on writing about the latest Oregairu OVA, which was released with a bundle accompanying the corresponding game for Nintendo Switch and the PS4 a few weeks earlier.

While returning to Modern Warfare II, I’ve managed to generally have a fun time of exploring the new maps, and in the process, I’ve also managed feats that I thought would be outside of my skill level – scoring kill-streaks in close quarters maps, hitting a 14-streak in Invasion or 10-streak on Shipment, and scoring the covetted “Quad-Feed” have been achievements that I once imagined to be beyond my ability. That I’ve managed these suggests that even now, I still retain a modicum of skill in first person shooters despite the dulled reflexes and diminished skill that accompany adulthood; I may no longer have the time to sit down and game quite like I did back when I was a post-secondary student, and I’m certainly nowhere nearly as skilled as the folks who make a living off their Modern Warfare and Battlefield prowess, but as far as having fun goes, I can hold my own well enough to make progress towards attachment unlocks each and every match. The new engine ensures that movement and weapon mechanics are smooth and responsive, and in fact, the only complaint I have is the fact that weapons will inexplicably jam on some occasions. This happens often enough to be noticeable, but not so often that my gameplay is diminished, and overall, I am having much more fun in the Call of Duty multiplayer environment than I had originally expected. Readers will have noticed an emerging trend, where upon revisiting something, I manage to get a more comprehensive and holistic experience than my initial impressions would have suggested. Turning off voice chat allows me to avoid the overly-vocal players in a lobby, and my reflexes remain satisfactory to help me hold my own against the 360º no-scope practitioners. If I tire of close quarters engagements, Invasion is an inviting option, but if time is short, there’s always room for a few rounds on Shipment. Modern Warfare II, being the first time I’ve played a Call of Duty multiplayer while the game was still actively supported and possessed a healthy player-base, ultimately has proven to be an enjoyable experience that is yet another reminder that sometimes, there is merit in going back and giving something its fair chance before passing judgement. The benefits of doing so are numerous, and here in Modern Warfare II, it means I was able to briefly feel like John Wick during the fourth film’s now-iconic Dragon’s Breath shootout.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: The Best Memories and Fulfilling a Promise To Revisit Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai Ten Summers Later

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.” –Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

Five years after the death of Meiko Honma, Jinta Yadomi and his friends, known to one another as the Super Peace Busters, have gone their separate ways as they struggle to come to terms with what had happened. Jinta’s become a recluse who spends his days idling, but one day, Meiko’s ghost appears to him. Although Jinta believes this to stem from the heat of summer, he soon realises that Meiko might be back to attend to unfinished business prior to her death. While his old friends are now reluctant to associate with Jinta, the return of Tetsudō sets in motion the events that push Jinta back into the world, driven by a newfound desire to help Meiko fulfil her old promise. The journey is a difficult one – Naruko, Atsumu and Chiriko each feel guilty about what had happened to Meiko and have tried to manage this in their own way, feeling that they were personally responsible for Meiko’s death, and while Jinta’s insistence that Meiko’s returned is initially met with skepticism, once Meiko begins interacting with the others and proves Jinta’s been truthful, the former friends set about doing their best trying to fulfil Meiko’s old wish, believing that she’d wanted to launch fireworks with them. To this end, Jinta ends up taking up several jobs to secure the funds needed to build a massive firework rocket, and Meiko’s family end up realising that Jinta’s efforts to fulfil the late Meiko’s wishes was a respectful one: Meiko’s younger brother, Satoshi, thanks Jinta for his efforts. Along the way, the group of friends also are forced to be more truthful about how they feel about one another, and Jinta eventually comes to wish that, ghost or not, he desires nothing more than to be with Meiko. Meiko eventually recalls her old wish – to see Jinta cry again, and one this is realised, she begins disappearing. Before she vanishes and moves onto the next life, she writes out letters as a proper farewell for her friends, wishing them all the best as they move on. Although Meiko is at peace, the five friends find their bonds rekindled, and even as they pursue their own futures, they still return to their old secret base and hang out together. Counted as one of 2011’s most moving anime series, Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (AnoHana for brevity) was created jointly by director Tatsuyuki Nagai, screenwriter Mari Okada, and character designer Masayoshi Tanaka. Dealing with matters of guilt, life and death and moving on, AnoHana is widely acclaimed for its portrayal of how a group of formerly-close friends manage to find solace and strength amongst one another even as tensions from the past linger, and how, while everyone was originally driven by their own desires, they nonetheless manage to overcome their grief and selfishness to do something that Meiko had desired all along: for everyone to become friends again. With A-1 Pictures at the helm, AnoHana is a technically superior anime, and its all-star cast of voice actors and actresses brings every scene to life, resulting in a series whose legacy endures to this day.

Although many-layered and nuanced, messages of openness lies at the heart of AnoHana. This is most evident in Meiko’s original wish, to see Jinta cry again. At the start of AnoHana, each of Jinta, Naruko, Atsumu, Chiriko and Tetsudō have distanced themselves their old feelings by engaging in unhealthy practises. Jinta withdraws into home and spends his days gaming or surfing the internet. Naruko hangs out with the flashier people in her school and gives the impression of being promiscuous. Although Atsumu has since become a hardworking, model student, he secretly crossdresses as Meiko and wanders the woods at night. Chiriko appears cold and distant, preferring to focus on her artwork. Tetsudō’s dropped out of school travelled abroad with the hope of forgetting the sight of Meiko being swept away. When these five former friends reunite, tensions run high: everyone’s been trying to forget things even though internally, everyone had loved Meiko in their own manner and wish to do right by her. Jinta’s dogged persistence, spurred on by the fact Meiko’s returned to him, pushes him to keep trying. Eventually, once Meiko demonstrates she’s indeed present by using her old diary, the hostilities begin easing back, and in the end, after launching the promised fireworks and seeing Meiko’s spirit endure, the group realise that they’ve been held back, not by memories of Meiko and her death, but by their own desires and the subsequent guilt that their selfishness had resulted in Meiko’s death. The sharp contrast between the group’s dynamics and Meiko’s apparent acceptance of everyone, coupled with her cheerful demenour, shows that Meiko hadn’t been hung up by the group’s regrets, and further to this, seeing everyone slowly getting back together as friends brings her nothing but joy. Through this time spent together (however reluctantly), this group of friends, the Super Peace Busters, do end up recovering enough of their old bonds to finally come forward; while waiting for Jinta at a shrine, Atsumu openly admits that he’d been here to help Meiko find peace only because he’d loved her and hated the thought of Jinta being given this second chance. Emotions brim over for each of Naruko, Chiriko and Tetsudō after; they admit that they too had wanted to absolve themselves of the guilt of what happened (Naruko and Chiriko even end up sparring over their unrequited love for Jinta and Atsumu). By crying it out, the Super Peace Busters end up reaching catharsis, and the moment is broken up when one of Naruko’s fake eyelashes are dislodged. At this point, the climax of AnoHana is reached: the conflict hadn’t been about Meiko, but rather, their own internal feelings of regret, and so, when everyone is able to release this, they are able to finally see Meiko’s spirit, who bids them farewell. The significance of being able to “see” Meiko thus becomes apparent: aside from Jinta, whom Meiko appeared to purely because of her old promise with his late mother, the others remain unable to see her because their problems don’t lie with Meiko. By letting go of their guilt and regret, they can face their own pasts without any doubt, leaving them free to face Meiko as their best selves. In this way, AnoHana shows that, rather than allowing one to bottle up their emotions, there is merit in crying things out (or otherwise, finding a natural, healthy means of release), and further to this, being able to do this can be made easier in the company of people one can be open with. For the Super Peace Busters, their old friendships allows them to find said catharsis and properly send Meiko off, leaving them finally free to live their lives out in full, both in Meiko’s memory, and for their own sakes.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • At the onset, viewers are dropped right into the midst of things, with Meiko’s spirit appearing to Jinta while he plays a game. No context is given, beyond Jinta’s internal thought that this must be the heat of summer getting to him. However, as AnoHana‘s story progresses, it becomes clear that Meiko has returned for a very specific reason. The anime is careful not to reveal its hand all at once, and instead, unveils things one step at a time: in the beginning, all of the characters, save Meiko, appear quite unlikeable. This is a deliberate choice to show how Meiko’s death has impacted the members of the Super Peace Busters.

  • As children, the Super Peace Busters made it their mission to break the peace by having a good time, and spent their days hanging out at their secret hideout in the woods of Chichibu, Saitama. As a child, Jinta had been extroverted and seen as the group leader the other boys followed, but after Meiko’s death, the group drifted apart as everyone blamed themselves for what happened. The original moment is shown on several occasions – when the others ask if Jinta had fallen in love with Meiko, he’d vehemently denied having any feelings for her before running off. This set in motion a series of events that resulted in Meiko falling into the nearby creek and drowning: Meiko had gone after Jinta, and Atsumu had followed, trying to convince Meiko to return his feelings.

  • When Meiko died, Naruko had felt terrible for having secretly felt relieved that Jinta appeared to not possess any feelings for Meiko, and Chiriko had similarly thought that without Meiko around, she might now stand a chance with Atsumu. Tetsudō had witnessed Meiko’s body swept up by the current and has since regretted being unable to do more than watch in horror. The resulting rift between the Super Peace Busters led everyone to go their separate ways, and everyone has gone about grappling with their guilt in their own way. Naruko sought solace in conforming with classmates, Atsumu and Chiriko both threw themselves into their studies, Tetsudō began travelling the world, and Jinta became a hikikomori. When Meiko reappears, this sets in motion the events that disrupts the old status quo.

  • In the beginning, with only Jinta able to see and interact with Meiko’s spirit, the former Super Peace Busters initially believe Jinta’s gone mad and is stuck in the past. However, the irony of this is that everyone’s been unable to move on properly – while Atsumu and Chiriko appear to have their game together, having both enrolled at an elite secondary school, even they suffer from lingering feelings of guilt and regret that manifests early on. On the other hand, Tetsudō seems more than willing to believe Jinta: although his overwhelmingly positive manner is his way of trying to dull the pain, having someone like Tetsudō in his corner helps Jinta out early on.

  • The Super Peace Busters originally met through Jinta and Meiko playing Nokémon (a stand-in for Pokémon) on their equivalents of the GameBoy; there’s no way to acquire the rarer types unless one trades for them, and a common desire to see how far they could go in the game would drive everyone together. As a child, I never did get caught up in the phenomenon of playing the game and trading with others, but at the same time, since my relatives did have a GameBoy, I ended up finishing Pokémon Red and Blue‘s campaigns, playing whenever I visited.

  • After Tetsudō, Naruko is the second to come around and reconcile with Jinta. While she puts on a tough-talking manner and appears distant from him, it turns out that she’d been in love with him even now, and willingly takes Jinta his assignments from school, even doing up her nails ahead of a visit. In the time that’s passed, Naruko appears to have no concrete identity: she hangs out with the popular girls in her year and emulates their style, similarly to how she’d imitated Meiko as a child. Once Meiko’s spirit reappears and pushes Jinta back into the real world, Naruko begins to soften up around Jinta, and while she initially doubts that Meiko’s back, being able to see Jinta again gives her a bit of hope.

  • This process kicks off when Jinta and Naruko end up spending an evening playing Nokémon together; besides rekindling their friendship, it also brings back an old memory and really sets the Super Peace Busters on their journey to help Meiko sort out the promise she’d returned to fulfil. The initial promise is not known to viewers, and admittedly, after ten years, I’d completely forgotten what it was. Jinta and Tetsudō initially assume it’s Nokémon related, but ghosts don’t typically linger in the world of the living because of a game, so it follows that there must’ve been something bigger at play.

  • While there are minor inconsistencies in the artwork here and there, AnoHana has otherwise aged quite gracefully. Chichibu is beautifully rendered, and the iconic Chichibu Bridge is featured prominently in the anime. The choice of setting in AnoHana is a consequence of the fact that screenwriter Mari Okada was born and raised here, but it is quite fitting because the small town and proximity to forest creates a feeling of isolation – being removed from the uncaring anonymity of the big city, and the endless tranquility of the satoyama creates an environment where the characters don’t have anyone to count on beyond themselves.

  • As it turns out, Jinta’s mother had been ill, and while he had been very forward and outgoing with his friends, he remained worried about his mother’s health. Over time, as Jinta brings his friends to visit, Jinta’s mother would ask Meiko to look after him, forming the basis for her promise. Readers who’ve previously watched AnoHana will have noticed here that I refer to everyone by their given names rather than their Super Peace Busters nicknames: although most people refer to Jinta as “Jintan”, Meiko as “Menma” and so forth, I always prefer referring to people by their proper names for the sake of consistency.

  • AnoHana is quite nuanced and has multiple moving parts, but in spite of this, manages to fit everything into the space of eleven episodes. The dynamics between Atsumu and Chiriko were something that I really enjoyed; the two are rarely seen together and initially share the same disdain for Jinta. There are a few moments in AnoHana where Atsumu’s female classmates openly express hostility towards Chiriko, believing that he’s interested in her, whereas in reality, Atsumu is still in love with Meiko. Atsumu is an interesting character because of everyone, he appears to have had the most success, being a top student that has the respect of others. However, this conceals a more malevolent and petty side to his character; he constantly belittles Jinta because of lingering anger that Meiko only had eyes for Jinta.

  • The fact that Chiriko would join the others ahead of Atsumu during some meet-ups serves to underline the fact that, appearances notwithstanding, he’s probably the most alone of the Super Peace Busters. While Chiriko gives a cold and detached appearance, she is actually quite caring and sensitive, feeling inadequate whenever she’s around Naruko. Seeing almost all of the Super Peace Busters back together is something that gives Meiko’s spirit happiness. Meiko often voices her disapproval whenever the others are at one another’s throats, but as a spirit, she’s unable to directly communicate with her old friends directly.

  • Meiko’s naïveté means that she retains a child-like view of the world, and when Atsumu mentions that he too can interact with Meiko, the real Meiko becomes curious to meet this version of herself. Meiko is voiced by Ai Kayano, whom I best know for playing older-sister archetypes (e.g. GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto and Saori Takebe of Girls und Panzer). AnoHana has an all-star cast – Naruko is voiced by Haruka Tomatsu (Asuna Yūki of Sword Art OnlineGundam 00‘s Milena Vasti and Iris Canary from Violet Evergarden), and Saori Hayami plays Chiriko (a handful of Hayami’s roles include Yukino Yukinoshita of OregairuGochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain and Spy × Family‘s Yor Forger).

  • Although Chiriko had shown signs of wanting to help Meiko find peace previously, this becomes more concrete once she swings by and indicates to Jinta that she’s seeking a favour of sorts. Seeing Chiriko sharing a cordial conversation with Jinta indicated that she didn’t harbour any dislike towards Jinta, and as it turns out, Chiriko’s favour also suggests that she wants to take Atsumu out of the past: she’d long suspected that Atsumu had been donning a white dress and wandering the woods at night. Despite his aloof and arrogant manner, it becomes plain that he’s suffering just like the others, and resorted to handling his emotions in this way.

  • Thus, when the truth comes out, the extent of Atsumu’s guilt becomes clear – despite his words, he’s just as trapped by the past as Jinta is. In AnoHana, the absence of a guiding figure, such as a responsible adult, leaves the characters to deal with their problems on their own. Jinta’s father, while easy-going and amicable, doesn’t seem to have any solutions for his situation and prefers to leave Jinta to his own devices. Meiko’s mother is so distraught that she forgets that she has a son, and Naruko’s mother seems unaware of what she’s going through. Similarly, Tetsudō, Atsumu and Chiriko’s parents are largely absent, and so, there’s no source of support.

  • Although she may appear calm and composed, not likely to give in to emotion as easily as the others, Chiriko is also strongly impacted by Meiko’s death. After Jinta had run off, and Meiko had gone after him, Atsumu had gone after Meiko, intent on a kokuhaku, but when Meiko says she wants to bring Jinta back first, Atsumu saw this to mean that he’d already lost. Atsumu had brought a hairclip that day, intent on gifting it to Meiko, but chucked it away in anger when he’d apparently been rejected. Since then, Chiriko had held onto the hairpin Atsumu had discarded and still wears it when alone, showing that even she has not gotten past what had happened.

  • The depth of the writing in AnoHana is such that there is a plausible justification for why the characters act the way they do, and this is why the series’ characters, who prima facie appear quite unpleasant to one another, are worth rooting for. Along the way, their journey of recovery is a bumpy one, and numerous hurdles and setbacks appear, many of which also lead to the shedding of tears. Looking back, this was probably the main reason why I found it so difficult to write about AnoHana when I finished watching it a decade earlier.

  • A year later, I ended up watching AnoHana The Movie, and with the new perspective offered by the characters, I was able to put together a more coherent discussion. The reason why AnoHana The Movie was easier to write for was because, since the characters had a year’s of time to reflect on things, they were able to reflect on old experiences with a newfound maturity. The raw emotional edge of the original AnoHana is exchanged for a contemplative look at things, and so, this made it easier for me to focus on what AnoHana had sought to do, in turn allowing me to put my thoughts on paper.

  • The tradeoff about drawing themes from the movie, then, is that the rawness present in the original AnoHana is blunted: without any additional perspectives, the emotions that the Super Peace Busters go through hits viewers hard for when viewed for the first time, and this helps viewers to really feel the torment and guilt everyone has undergone since Meiko’s death. Here, Jinta, Naruko and Tetsudō prepare to read Meiko’s old diary, which they’d picked up while visiting the Honma family; Meiko’s mother had given it to them, and since then, the three promised that they’d only read it together. While the diary seems quite unremarkable, an entry from Meiko reveals something surprising. It turns out Meiko had wanted to make and launch fireworks with her friends.

  • Feeling this might be the promise, Jinta puts in his fullest effort to make this fireworks show a reality, taking on two part-time positions (one at the store Naruko works at, and another as a construction worker) to secure the funds needed for materials and labour. A local fireworks maker agrees to the project, and together with the thought of being able to fulfil Meiko’s promise, Jinta slowly begins returning to the world. AnoHana provides a very optimistic message about recovering grief and accepting a loss – it is on his own initiative that Jinta stops being a hikikomori, and by working for something tangible, he begins returning to society. Jinta does have some trouble returning to school, but this is more of a consequence of his own doubts, rather than his fear of others or concerns about being judged.

  • Earlier in AnoHana, Meiko had tried created the steamed buns that Jinta’s mother had been fond of making when she’d been still healthy, and found herself unsuccessful. When Chiriko had stopped by and given Jinta a few pointers, Meiko had evidently taken the advice to heart, and her latest batch of buns, in Jinta’s words, “taste precisely like his mother’s”. The moment gives Jinta a chance to recall an old memory; from what AnoHana portrays, Jinta had been on good terms with his mother and hated the fact that she was hospitalised. Spotting this, Jinta’s mother would ask Meiko to look after him, and even in death, Meiko’s been able to set in motion the events that ultimately help Jinta to recover.

  • Meiko’s mother represents the individual who lacks the support to move ahead: while the Super Peace Busters push towards their fireworks project, she ends up convincing the fireworks maker to stand down. Undeterred, the Super Peace Busters visit the Honma family and learn that Meiko’s mother is filled with resentment that everyone else has grown up whereas her daughter will never know what lay ahead in her life. The others are unable to find words to answer, and even now, I would be hard-pressed to provide a suitable response to what Meiko’s mother says. With this being said, I hold a very specific set of views regarding life and death: I believe that those who live should conduct themselves in a manner as to honour the deceased.

  • This is because, while people all have their own thoughts on what happens to the consciousness after death, the reality is that this is unknowable. However, one’s own life has factors that are known, and it is therefore in one’s interest to continue living adjacent to being respectful towards the deceased. This is what prompts the page quote – after a loss, one won’t be the same, and one should allow themselves the time to grieve, but at the same time, one should also remain open to any opportunity to recover. This isn’t something that Jinta and the others have been able to do just yet; old feelings linger, and this takes its toll on everyone.

  • For Naruko and Chiriko, the impacts are most strongly felt because Jinta and Atsumu had both fallen in love with Meiko, leaving the former in the dust, and with Meiko’s death, both had believed that it was only now they might have a chance with their respective crushes. The reasons why Jinta and Atsumu hold onto their old feelings is a complex one, born out of regret and guilt, and again, AnoHana presents viewers with a situation that cannot be easily judged. Because of all the moving parts in AnoHana, one cannot begrudge the characters for acting in the way they do, and one might even make the case that criticisms of the writing direction here are not necessarily valid, since Okada had meant to create a scenario to accommodate a specific set of themes.

  • Frustrations end up reaching boiling point for Atsumu, who believes himself worthier of Meiko’s presence, and at one point, he comes close to punching Jinta’s lights out. In this moment, Meiko intervenes and uses her old diary to communicate with the others. Having counted on Jinta’s word up until now, the Super Peace Busters had trouble accepting Meiko’s return. This sense of disbelief turns to surprise when Jinta invites everyone to his place to try the steamed buns Meiko’s made – to the others, the buns seemingly serve themselves and move of their own accord.

  • For the viewer’s benefit, Meiko is always visible, but it would’ve been an interesting to see at least a handful of moments with Meiko hidden away to viewers. Meiko’s presence in the world is still felt: her embrace has a tangible feeling that leaves those she embraces feeling as though the air’s become heavier. With this, any doubt that Atsumu and the others harboured about Jinta being deluded and unable to let go evaporate. Atsumu remains resentful of Jinta, but even he consents to finally help out with the fireworks project – he and Chiriko end up appealing to Meiko’s father directly.

  • While Meiko’s father had appeared quite cold and unyielding, seeing the state of Meiko’s mother suggests that he’s exasperated by her inability to move on. Meiko’s death had shaken the whole family up, and in the absence of any external assistance (e.g. counselling), the family’s been left in a difficult position. I would imagine that for Meiko’s father, seeing her old friends going to these lengths to honour Meiko gives him a push to forgive himself and his wife. There are some unresolved details in AnoHana that AnoHana The Movie addresses, and considering that I’d forgotten almost all of the details during this rewatch to the point where it felt as though I were watching this series with no a priori knowledge, I think it might be a worthwhile exercise to rewatch AnoHana The Movie, as well.

  • One of the things that surprised me during this rewatch was the fact that Atsumu asks out Naruko; this had hit me out of the blue, and the dialogue suggests that Atsumu is drawn to Naruko because she knows the feeling of unrequited love and felt secondary to Meiko, similarly to how he himself always felt inadequate in comparison to Jinta. Chiriko overhears this conversation and is devastated. In many works of fiction, characters find it extremely difficult to be upfront about their feelings for fear of hurting others or disrupting the status quo, but at the same time, it is the case that shooting straight and being open means eliminating the uncertainty. Once how an individual feels is known, it becomes possible to respond accordingly. In this case, one must credit Naruko for having the courage to openly state she’s in love with Jinta.

  • The evening prior to the rocket launch, Atsumu wants Jinta to re-enact the original moment that had led to Meiko’s death. In the time that’s passed, Jinta’s become a bit more mature and openly says that yes, he’s still in love with Meiko. His original answer was obscured, but to the other Super Peace Busters, they believe that things haven’t changed since then. The party disperses after – Naruko and Chiriko both share in their sorrow that the people they love don’t return their feelings. Meanwhile, Jinta and Meiko return home, and when Jinta asks Meiko what she makes of things, she replies that she loves the members of the Super Peace Busters dearly.

  • It turns out that, in speaking to Jinta’s mother, Meiko had learnt about reincarnation and after her death, her spirit had looked forward to a new life. However, before Meiko could reach this, she wanted to tend to one final promise to Jinta’s mother, which is why she appears to Jinta specifically. This old promise has nothing to do with the fireworks, which ends up being a very expensive red herring for the Super Peace Busters, but without any other leads, they operate under the belief that setting off the fireworks would help Meiko achieve peace. Looking back, this was probably a bit of a shallower wish – AnoHana frequently alludes to the fact that Meiko is selfless, and in their haste to “help” Meiko, they completely forgot this central aspect to her character.

  • On the day of the fireworks launch, Jinta begins to have second thoughts about fulfilling Meiko’s promise – he’s grown accustomed to her presence, and having her around is akin to being given a second chance with her. However, when the fireworks launches and detonates, releasing its payload of coloured smoke and flame, Meiko’s spirit endures. In this moment, it does feel as though all of the Super Peace Buster’s efforts have been for naught, and the group later believes that it was a consequence of their intentions being selfish: no one had genuinely wanted to help Meiko for her sake, but rather, because they had wanted her to rest peacefully so they could pursue their own relationships.

  • Viewers thus have access to a bit of dramatic irony – Meiko later returns to the Yadomi residence and begins fading, indicating that the Super Peace Busters had miscalculated. The surest sign that AnoHana gives to viewers that the fireworks had not been Meiko’s wish was actually in the fact that the launch happens in the penultimate episode. The moment the launch was confirmed for the tenth episode, and in the knowledge that there are eleven episodes, it would become clear that AnoHana wasn’t quite done just yet, and this was meant to show how difficult it is to guess people’s intentions.

  • While tears are never too far off in AnoHana, I found that the scene at the shrine was probably the most touching part of this entire series. Having spent most of the series composed and collected, seeing Chiriko lose her cool showed how hard she’d been trying to compartmentalise things and move on. This is ultimately what leaves the entire crew to break out in tears and openly admit what’d been bothering them for the past five years. I felt that everything in AnoHana, starting with Meiko’s reappearance and Jinta’s reuniting the Super Peace Busters, was leading up to this single moment. Over time, the members rediscover their old friendships, brought together by a shared objective, and in doing so, the old sense of trust and loyalty becomes reestablished.

  • Eleven episodes later, the Super Peace Busters have become close enough to one another so that they can openly cry in front of one another and be upfront about what they feel. The sorrow in the moment is suddenly broken when Atsumu notices that one of Naruko’s fake eyelashes has become dislodged, and he laughs uncontrollably. This is something that is commonplace with children, and if I had to guess, it’s because the release of chemicals in the brain make all emotions heightened. Once the Super Peace Busters have a chance to laugh things out, they count on Jinta to bring Meiko back to their Secret Base one last time.

  • It had been a rough road to reach this point, but by now, it is plain that Jinta has everyone’s confidence again, and seeing Atsumu address Jinta by his old moniker, makes it clear that he’s found newfound respect for Jinta. In this way, he’s no longer trapped by his past, and this also means that Chiriko now has a legitimate chance with him. In a way, Atsumu’s resentment towards Jinta was tightly coupled with his love for Meiko, so when Atsumu lets go of his dislike for Jinta, he’s also allowing his love for Meiko to pass in favour of what’s in the present.

  • AnoHana had led viewers on a bit of a wild goose chase that concludes in a definitive and satisfying manner: the series expertly conceals things and only reveals as much as is necessary, and while the me of a decade earlier found it difficult to put things into words, in the present, I return to find a very heartfelt and genuine series that speaks to the strength of friendship: the Super Peace Busters of the present were able to overcome their guilt and regret together. The finale to AnoHana would lay out the remainder of the details, and tying everything together fully explains the reasoning behind why the story unfolded in the manner that it did.

  • The combination of captivating storytelling and characters viewers warm up to, coupled with an unparalleled and moving message, means that I have no qualms counting AnoHana a masterpiece. My standard for what makes a masterpiece is as simple as it is unique to me – any work that either 1) changes my worldview or 2) makes me cry as a result of its execution will automatically qualify because it hit enough of the right notes and executed things well enough for me to feel very strongly about something. As memory serves, only one other anime I’ve seen has a similar level of emotional impact: 2007’s CLANNAD and its 2008 sequel, CLANNAD ~After Story~.

  • Because Meiko’s wish was fulfiled, she begins to lose presence in this world: Jinta finds her on her side back home and resolves to carry her to the Secret Base, but by the time he arrives, Meiko’s presence is so diminished that she can only manifest as a voice. She makes it into a game of hide-and-seek, using the time to write out letters for everyone before coming to rest in a nearby clearing. Desperate to find Meiko, the Super Peace Busters head into the forest and ultimately find a pile of letters here. With a child-like innocence, Meiko’s words release any lingering doubts the others had prior to her departure; for each of Naruko, Tetsudō, Atsumu and Chiriko, the letters are the surest sign that Meiko’s forgiven all of them, and there’s nothing to be feeling guilt or regret about.

  • The fact that Meiko becomes visible to everyone in AnoHana‘s final moments shows that the Super Peace Busters have reached a point where they’ve forgiven one another, and themselves, and in doing so, they’ve earned the right to see Meiko’s spirit in person. It’s a fitting ending to what was a very raw, emotional and tumultuous journey here in AnoHana, and once Meiko vanishes for good, the others return with a new outlook on life. Naruko and Jinta are on openly friendly terms, and Jinta returns to school. Tetsudō resumes his studies, while Chiriko and Atsumu become closer together.

  • The observant reader will likely have noticed that on this day in May ten years ago, I wrote out my first episode impressions of AnoHana, and then in 2014, I returned to write about AnoHana The Movie; while the series’ song, Secret Base, speaks to reuniting ten Augusts into the future, the timing of when I originally watched AnoHana means that for me, May was the most suitable time of year to reflect on my thoughts of this series. Readers are free to give my old posts a read and see how this blog ran a decade earlier, although I won’t fault anyone for thinking that the me of a decade earlier had considerably less finesse and consistency when it came to writing. It suddenly hits me that one of my old readers and former bloggers had been interested to see what I thought of AnoHana, and I feel a twinge of regret knowing that it took me ten years to put this post out.

  • Perhaps next year, on the tenth anniversary to my watching AnoHana The Movie, I will revisit the film and see if I gain anything new from another watch. For the present, however, this post is in the books, and for the month of May, I’ve got two more posts scheduled. I will be writing about my thoughts on Modern Warfare II‘s multiplayer mode now that I’ve had a chance to unlock everything of note and hit the prestige ranks; in previous years, I scorned Call of Duty for its player base and aging game engine, but my experiences recently have shown these thoughts were not necessarily correct. In addition, I’ve also begun watching the Uma Musume Pretty Derby: Road to the Top OVAs, and I imagine at least one of my readers have been curious to see what I make of where the Uma Musume Pretty Derby franchise is headed ahead of an upcoming third season.

One of the key elements of AnoHana that has been polarising, despite the anime’s generally positive reception, is how tears are never too far off. When used sparingly, and in the appropriate moment, tears convey to viewers the emotional enormity. When tears permeate every moment, the impact might therefore be diminished – AnoHana may even come across as being melodramatic, making mountains of molehills and ultimately, taking away from the moments that are really supposed to hit hard. This is, however, one perspective of things, and in its execution, the fact that every episode is so emotionally charged hints at how difficult of a journey things were for the Super Peace Busters: every moment and memory with Meiko is a painful one because it’s a reminder of what was lost, and the regret of not being able to do something differently that may have yielded another outcome. By featuring tears in such prominence, AnoHana indicates that the entire process is fraught with difficulty, and that tears are a necessary part of the healing process. That viewers report feeling the emotions almost as vividly as the characters do, then, simply speaks to how well-executed every moment is, and this aspect of AnoHana ends up being one of its defining traits. In the end, AnoHana does tell a captivating tale of recovery and facing down against one’s own dæmons, featuring a colourful cast of characters whose journey towards finding peace with the past is one that demands a modicum of patience from viewers, and rewards this with an especially moving message. Further speaking to the strength of AnoHana, this series has aged remarkably well – even a full ten years after I began my journey, the anime remains every bit as impactful and touching as I remember. As a bit of an aside, I had watched AnoHana a decade ago, but for reasons I cannot fully recall, I never did get around to writing about this anime in my typical fashion shortly after finishing. I did end up returning a year later to write about the film a year later, citing the series’ biggest strength as giving each member of the Super Peace Busters a shot at individual growth and indicating that it’d taken some time for me to compose my thoughts on things. Curiously enough, reading through this older post finds that many of my thoughts have not shifted dramatically even despite an additional ten years under the belt; this speaks to the strength of AnoHana‘s writing. However, I believe that here, I’ve finally managed to better articulate what I felt AnoHana to convey during its run, and for this reason, I’m glad to have taken a chance to go back and give AnoHana a revisit. Much has changed in the past ten years, but AnoHana has aged very gracefully, providing viewers with an experience that remains quite remarkable.

Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku: Remarks on Responsible Budgetting as an Anime Fan and An Introspection on Twenty-Five Years of Otafest

“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” –Warren Buffett

While watching television, sisters Hikage and Hinata Miyakawa converse about how difficult it is to drop a great deal of money on food, only for Hikage to complain about how Hinata’s otaku propensities cause them to always be short of funds every month. Later, after Hikage tearfully admits to having accidentally tossed one of Hinata’s dōjins, Hinata ends up buying a new copy to replace it at the expense of their food budget, to Hikage’s chagrin. Thus begins Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku (“The Miyakawa Family’s Hunger”), a spin-off of Lucky☆Star that is also written by Kagami Yoshimizu and follows the Miyakawas as they navigate a challenging life that comes about as a result of Hinata’s compulsive spending on otaku goods, causing their family to become impoverished. An animated adaptation of Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku aired in 2013, portraying the challenges Hikage faces. As a result of the low funds, Hikage is shown to be very resourceful and knows how to make the most of the food she has available to her, but at the same time, her desires are very simple – to her, nothing is more important than being able to put meat on the dinner table. Throughout Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku, the primary conflict between Hikage and Hinata lies in how money should be spent: Hikage believes that it should be used for necessities and otherwise saved, but Hinata’s interests and seemingly irrational desires cause the family finances to constantly be squandered, creating situations where Hikage looks towards others for improving the family finances, whether it’s asking her instructor, Kazuhiko Ōsawa, for suggestions, trying to take advantage of supermarket sales where possible and even buying lottery tickets with the hope of scoring some money. Although Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku possesses the same art style and comedic premise as its predecessor, Lucky☆Star, utilising situational and dramatic irony resulting from Hinata’s spending in evoke humour and pity, there is no denying that Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku is a bit more grim than Lucky☆Star. The Miyakawa family’s poverty parallels difficulties that people face as a result of the increased cost of living. Inflation drives up the price of necessities, from food to gas, and wages have not increased to match inflation, creating a situation where one gets less out of their dollar. Since it’s not feasible to get by without the necessities, people have looked towards more thrifty and financially prudent habits, from dining out less, to keeping an eye on sales at supermarkets, finding creative ways of sprucing up dinner with more cost-effective ingredients or even growing their own vegetables. The disciplined and resourceful have found that being more mindful of one’s budget has allowed for some folks to save a bit more, speaking to how a bit of creativity can help people out.

The same can’t be said for Hinata, whose fiscal irresponsibility is the cause of the Miyakawa’s suffering: although she tries to justify her expenses to Hikage, these excuses are remarkably feeble. Although I am familiar with the collector’s mindset, practicality trumps all else – as nice as it is to have limited edition anime merchandise, often times, these items are little more than collector’s items that do little more than sit in a shelf or stowed in a box somewhere, even if they do have utility value. For instance, when Hinata purchases anime-themed stationary or clothing, those purchases are consigned to remain in storage and never fulfil their purpose as an article of clothing or stationary. Hikage is, quite understandably, unable to understand why this is the case – a notebook is a notebook, irrespective of whose visage graces it, and being unable to use it normally results in something that is deprived of any utility. In this way, Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku ends up speaking to the consequences of being a devout otaku; it is one thing to watch anime and play games, but when one ventures into the realm of merchandise, expenses can skyrocket. This is because corporations know that customers are willing to pay top dollar for themed merchandise, which are Veblen goods that collectors take pride in possessing (owing to their perceived value and rarity). While there is nothing wrong with occasionally buying anime-related merchandise, Hinata does so at the expense of her sister’s well-being, and as a result, Hikage’s indignation with her is warranted – Hinata’s job at a local otaku store is enough for her to buy anime merchandise at a whim, and considering the price of these items, it is clear that she could afford to buy properly nutritious food for Hikage. The gap between Hikage’s conventional thinking and Hinata’s unusual logic is one of the reasons why the otaku subculture remains quite difficult to understand: given the choice, most people would rather put a few hundred extra dollars towards eating a better-balanced diet and saving for a rainy day. With this being said, there is such a thing as moderation, and although this was never seen in Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku‘s animated run, a meaningful story development would be seeing Hinata balancing her own interest with Hikage’s well-being; with the right budget, one can ensure they eat well and properly look after their financial obligations, save for a rainy day and put an amount into a retirement savings account, and still have enough left over for the periodic treat. Seeing this would have been a rewarding part of following Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku, but for the present, seeing Hinata try to do right by Hikage, as seen in the final vignette, where Hinata cooks a tofu steak for Hikage. Although this might not be a steak that Hikage dreams of eating, the gesture from Hinata means the world to her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Although Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku possesses the same art style and character designs as Lucky☆Star, it was produced as a collaboration between Ordet (Wake Up, Girls!) and Encourage Films (GochiUsa BLOOM). There is a bit of a story behind Ordet: it was founded in 2007 by Yutaka Yamamoto after he was dismissed from Kyoto Animation, but by 2016, Yamamoto was also fired from Ordet. Yamamoto himself has a colourful history that leads him to be quite reviled in the anime community. For me, I care little for his incendiary attitudes and judge him purely on the merits of his work: while some of Yamamoto’s works are an incomprehensible fog (Fractale comes to mind), things like Hakubo and Wake Up, Girls! were satisfactory.

  • Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku bears all of the hallmarks of its predecessor, and it feels distinctly like a Kyoto Animation production: the same visual style is present in Lucky☆Star would ultimately be reused in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Kyoto Animation is best known for their incredible production values, vividly bringing worlds to life, but even in series where the visuals are simpler, the studio nonetheless has done an excellent job of ensuring things are fluidly animated. Ordet originally had some staff from Kyoto Animation on board, and this is probably why the aesthetics in Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku are familiar.

  • Right out of the gates, it is evident that Hinata is an otaku with an unhealthy habit of buying merchandise on impulse. Unlike Konata, who is a bit more detail-oriented and only buys what she’s absolutely a fan of, Hinata seems to spring on everything she comes across, and this puts a great strain on the Miyakawa finances, in turn causing Hikage to suffer unnecessarily from lack of food. However, while Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku describes the Miyakawas as being poor, they still have a home to live in, and despite struggling, still appear to be able to make ends meet minimally.

  • Further to this, there’s no sign that Hinata is in any sort of consumer debt, so if one supposes they live in the family home (and the mortgage has been fully paid off), then it means that, while perhaps not having a great deal of savings, the Miyakawas can still get by. This in turn lightens the mood up; since the characters aren’t in any serious trouble, it’s possible to relax and allow the show’s antics to unfold. When taken to its logical conclusion, Hinata’s habits can be quite harmful, but in the context of Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku, it appears that on her income, Hinata just cuts corners on essentials so she can satisfy her otaku desires rather than omitting it outright.

  • Kazuhiko Ōsawa is Hikage’s primary four instructor, and while he presents as a competent teacher who looks after his students well, students do not always find his advice useful. Watching all of the characters bounce off one another in Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku was no different than Lucky☆Star: like Lucky☆Star, Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku isn’t going to be an award-winning story about the human condition, but instead, acts as another gentle way of poking fun at the otaku subculture.

  • During its run between April and June 2013, Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku consisted of ten short segments that aired weekly, each running for about four minutes. This series is not dependent on a priori knowledge of Lucky☆Star, but its niche topics and narrower focus meant that some viewers, who were fans of Lucky☆Star, found the jokes dull and unremarkable because of its simple premise. The setup in Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku does suggest the series might be unsuited for full-length series, but at the same time, with a bit of creativity, it may have been possible to do a little more.

  • A meaningful narrative can be written around Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku‘s premise: in the Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku viewers got, both Hikage and Hinata are static characters. Their personalities do not change, and no major disturbance happens that forces them to learn and grow, as is the case for most stories. While this is commonplace in comedies (Konata and Kagami don’t change in Lucky☆Star, and similarly, all of the characters in Joshiraku remain the same throughout the series), there is a chance here in Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku to show how Hikage’s unconditional love for her sister and constant desires to see Hinata be more financially responsible may eventually, in conjunction with a disruptive experience, help Hinata to change for the better.

  • All of this, of course, assumes that Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku was intended to be more than just a series of comedic shorts. In its current form, Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku is still engaging and fun to watch. For anime fans of 2013, watching four-minute episodes each week would’ve been a fair way to pass the time, but for me, watching Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku in the present meant blocking out some forty minutes and then going through all of the episodes all at once. Here, while Hikage looks at lottery numbers, a Miku Hatsune figurine can be seen in the background.

  • At some level, I do understand Hinata’s desire to buy otaku merchandise and simply enjoy the state of having something, but at the same time, certain objects, like notebooks, pencils, keychains and the like all have utility value, and it feels wasteful to not put them to good use. When I was a university student, I bought a few K-On! and Girls und Panzer keychains, but those sit in a box. I occasionally took them out of the box to appreciate them, but they feel a little too nice to use. Realising this, I don’t really buy anime merchandise, save artbooks: since they’re books, their utility is to be read, and this makes them a little more practical.

  • On the other hand, when some relatives bought me limited-edition Gundam t-shirts from Japan, I simply wore them because that’s a shirt’s intended function. The struggle between utility and keeping something in mint condition is quite real, so I would hold that moderation is the answer. Having a few collectible items isn’t unwise, but Hinata’s practises are overkill. This is ultimately what causes most of the comedy in Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku: viewers cannot help but pity Hikage for her situation, as well as admire how she’s able to come up with creative solutions of getting more out of what she already has.

  • Thus, despite her temperamental and touchy nature, Hikage still comes across as being adorable. Besides her everyday life with Hinata at home, Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku also depicts Hikage’s experiences at school. She gets along reasonably well with her classmates, and like Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa and Mikyuki had in Lucky☆Star, she shares similarly mundane, ordinary conversations with her closest friends. Unsurprisingly, Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku also presents her friends as having distinct hair colours: Erika has blonde hair, and Yukina has green hair.

  • Daisuke occasionally joins in on the conversations, and while he’s fond of poking fun at Hikage’s financial situation, I got the impression that he’s not malicious about it. Hikage seems to take things in stride, and here, when Daisuke laughs about how it’s unlikely for Hikage to have played the latest games, Hikage ruefully thinks to herself that she actually has, because of the fact that Hinata’s keeping up with the Joneses at great expense. Later in this episode, Hikage gets into a fistfight with an unseen classmate after some money goes missing, and when she explains herself to Hinata, it turns out that Hikage hates people who are wasteful or deceptive about money, especially when there are people in the world who aren’t as well off.

  • Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku is written in a way that emphasises comedy above all else, and for most viewers, the nature of this humour determines whether or not this series was enjoyable. From this point of view, I’d expect that a moderate fan, someone who enjoys Japanese media but isn’t wholly consumed by their hobby, would gain the most entertainment from things: Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku pokes fun at the more devout otaku, so some background in the subculture is helpful, but at the same time, someone who does subscribe to Hinata’s way of thinking may feel the anime is unnecessarily harsh.

  • I would be considered a moderate as far as enjoying Japanese media goes; while I write extensively about anime here, I also lift weights, hike, game, partake in gastronomy, amateur photography, and do martial arts. I cannot say I excel in any of my hobbies (I’m an inferior writer to most dedicated bloggers, I’m only an intermediate lifter, and I’m terrible in most competitive games, for instance), but these activities all represent a different way to unwind from my daily routine of software development. Thus, while I don’t always keep up with the latest anime or have the largest merchandise collection, I find that watching and writing about anime is one of the many activities I enjoy.

  • Of late, I’ve found that volunteering is also something I enjoy doing; lending my time to helping out with events as varied as science fairs, anime conventions and most recently, the local photography club, has proven to be a fulfilling activity that allows me to simultaneously learn something new, partake in an activity I enjoy and give back to the community. Over this past long weekend, I’ve been out and about doing precisely this: after nearly three years of spending the Victoria Day long weekend at home, it’s been exhilarating to be back out and about, and to the observer, I may even appear to have gone overboard this time around.

  • That’s because, besides volunteering for Otafest, I also spent Saturday morning out at a walkathon fundraising event: the photography club has helped the walkathon organisers with photography in the past, and since I joined, I’ve become the videographer of sorts, allowing for video to also be produced. I’m still very much a novice in this role, but having picked up a DJI Osmo 6, I’ve slowly started to familiarise myself with the gear and techniques. My long weekend began with a day off on Friday – I woke up at the crack of dawn to deal with the laundry and headed out bright and early to walk around the convention before my shifts began.

  • My first stop was the exhibitor’s hall: while I typically order anime merchandise online, seeing all of the merchants and their wares makes it easier to pick something up. I spent about an hour browsing around the different vendors and wound up purchasing a Fūka Miyazawa Nendoroid. My best friend was also in attendance, and shortly after, I got a message indicating he was interested in meeting up. Said friend had decided to come this year to speak with Gunpla modellers, and in previous years, one of the local clubs had come to speak with visitors about painting Gundam models. Although they were not in attendance this year, my best friend still capitalised on the opportunity to hang out.

  • We subsequently stopped by an Irish Pub a little further along Steven Avenue for lunch. Although the morning had been a smokey one, by noon, most of the smoke had cleared, and so, we were given patio seating. Here, I ordered their bangers and mash, a delightful British dish with sausages and mashed potatoes doused in gravy. After eating under clear skies, I set off for my first pair of shifts (three hours each, for a total of six hours). This year, as a part of policy enforcement, my roles were to patrol the venue and ensure all cosplay props had been properly checked, as well as keeping the peace and answering any questions people had.

  • It’s a far cry from my previous role in the programming assistance position four years ago, where I’d been stationed outside of the panel rooms to help manage lines and (if needed), help panelists with their AV equipment: rather than staying in one place for three hours, policy enforcement volunteers have the opportunity to visit all corners of the venue, and this proved quite fun. In this way, my first day passed quite quickly, and nothing particularly noteworthy happened during my shifts, although after six hours, I was rendered quite exhausted. After checking out, I met back up with my best friend, who’d found a panel on improv comedy he particularly enjoyed, and we left the venue for a restaurant in a quiet park just to the north. A fried chicken ramen rounded out the day, and I returned home shortly after.

  • The next morning, I was scheduled to shoot videos at an event for the Chinese community walkathon at the Chinese Cultural Centre and so, I headed back downtown with only five and a half hours of sleep, as well as a mild headache. In spite of this, the filming went reasonably well, and I was able to capture footage of all of my assignments, as well as some of the walkers beginning their route. The smoke had returned, and I found myself hoping it could clear, making it easier for the participants. I also had been tasked with filming the performances, so after the attendees had all begin, I returned to the Cultural Centre and began recharging my phone ahead of the performances. This part had proved unexpectedly hard on my shoulders, and I resolved, there and then, to buy a new tripod ahead of my next filming event. Reviewing the video, most of the footage came out okay, so I hope the event organisers will be able to make use of the video I shot.

  • Once this event wrapped up, I headed to the convention centre to begin my next set of shifts for Otafest. In pure coincidence, I ran into my best friend, and after switching out my videography gear for Otafest gear, I decided to swing by the exhibitor hall one more time. A pair of Nendoroids had caught my eye, but in the interest of keeping within my budget, I decided it was prudent to only buy one – I’d been eyeing the Anya Forger Nendoroid, but there was also one of Megumin, as well. With advice from my best friend (Megumin is a bit more iconic, and being an older Nendoroid may make it harder to buy in the future), I had my answer: I would buy the Megumin Nendoroid.

  • My best friend had also been interested to attend another comedy-related panel and had wondered if this would affect dinner and transportation plans, so I reassured him that we more or less had unlimited flexibility – since Otafest only comes once a year (and we can hang out at our leisure), he should check the panel out. I thus began my next set of shifts, helped the exhibitor hall in closing down and escorted a few more patrons to their destinations. During my shift, a ceiling tile had come down and hit an unsuspecting patron. It was most fortunate that the patron was unharmed, and was even laughing about things in the minutes after. Medical staff on-site ascertained he was fine, and the section of the hallway was briefly cordoned off.

  • Yesterday, my last set of shifts began. In previous years, I always sat out Sundays as an attendee simply because I’d already seen everything I wished to see, and consequently, I never did attend the closing ceremonies. Because my shifts this year extended into the evening, however, I was able to see the crowd build-up leading into the closing ceremony, and as a part of my duties, I helped manage the lines and point folks in the right direction, as well as cordoning off a section of the event hall so people wouldn’t camp in certain places. Once the closing ceremony began, the policy team lead determined that there probably wouldn’t be a need for the remaining volunteers to stick around, and we were free to go. Since I was much earlier than expected, many restaurants were still open, and I wrapped up the day with a piping-hot and flavourful ebi-don with prawns fresh from the fryer.

  • With this, my time at Otafest 2023 draws to a close, and altogether, this was a remarkable event that was a worthy way of celebrating twenty-five years. Questions inevitably abound of whether or not I’ll be returning to help out next year, and for the present, nothing is written in stone, so for now, I’ll unwind in the aftermath of what was a successful anime convention and return the conversation to Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku, where Hinata is seen buying a cake at a café while Konata, Tsukasa and Kagami can be seen conversing in the background. Although Lucky☆Star‘s main cast are featured prominently in the opening sequence, they only make cameo appearances throughout Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku.

  • Back home, Hikage reveals that she’d spent most of the day preparing a special dinner for Hinata on account of it being her birthday. Hinata herself had forgotten and felt that she’d been buying a cake for kicks, and steels herself for another lecture from Hikage, but Hikage interprets this as desert to round things out. In the aftermath of Otafest, it turns out there are more folks who think along Hinata’s lines than I’d known, and in fact, during conversation with some of the other volunteers in policy management, they were surprised I limited myself to “only” two Nendoroids. I joked that having a mortgage to deal with really puts the brakes on things, and in reality, I also needed to budget well, since there were a few other things I needed to pick up (e.g. a new shelf for clothes and a tripod to improve my videography)

  • I don’t begrudge people for lightening up during Calgary’s biggest Japanese popular culture event – if one generally manages their money well, then it’s perfectly okay to spend a little more (again, within reason) during special events like Otafest. I did hear of my fellow volunteers spending hundreds of dollars, and even wondering if they’d hit their credit card’s limit: to help keep myself away from the red, I decided that I would bring in a pre-determined amount of cash, and once that pool was gone, I was done. This makes it much easier to know how much I’ve spent and how much I’ve left; coupled with my approach of picking up stuff only from the series I wholly adore, it becomes much easier to keep a check on spending.

  • There’s a lot of financial tricks for balancing one’s interest with ensuring one has enough funds for a rainy day, but the two most tried-and-true approaches I use are to only buy merchandise from franchises that have tangibly impacted me in some way, and then for certain kinds of merchandise, if I still want something after a time period, then I’ll know I can get it. In the case of Nendoroids, I’ve been curious about them since I saw the K-On! ones in 2011, but their price tag was always a little dissuading. Considering the amount of time that’s passed, since I still figured it’d be nice to have a Nendoroid (or two), I decided to pull the trigger during Otafest.

  • One cannot help but feel pathos for Hikage whenever things transpire in a way that make it more difficult for her to get by – although Hikage is not adorable in a traditional sense owing to her blunt mannerisms, she’s actually quite endearing in her own way. Cuteness is something with a bit of science behind it, and while experts universally agree that certain aesthetic traits create a strong response in most people, I’ve also found that moments of pity can do the same thing (my heart always melts when a baby scrunches up their face in response to teasing).

  • One day, Hikage tries to pick up bean sprouts when they’re on sale, only to learn that they’ve all been sold out. This sort of phenomenon is one I’ve not experienced at the supermarket before – every week, prior to going grocery shopping, I always look through the flyers to see if there’s anything in discount, and then if so, I plan my meals around those items. However, discounted items are never so popular they sell out before I arrive, and so, I’ve been fortunate to never experience what Hikage’s seeing here. The cost of groceries is no joke, and I’ve watched as food prices steadily increased over the past year and a half; even when some supermarkets claim their prices are frozen, they get around this by giving reduced portions and quantities.

  • As it turns out, Kazuhiko had ended up buying some bean sprouts and fried them with meat, causing Hikage to shun him. While Hikage is quite touchy about money, it suddenly hits me that the Miyakawas aren’t so impoverished that Hikage is actually going hungry, and from the looks of it, Hinata is still able to pay for utilities and cable. Further to this, Hinata and Hikage, at the minimum, have a place to live and do not have the additional costs associated with rent or a mortgage. It appears that in Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku, Hinata simply cuts corners when it comes to food so she can fuel her otaku hobby, and this is the source of Hikage’s suffering.

  • Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku uses pity (similar to Anne Happy and Bocchi The Rock!) to drive some of its humour. Anime of this sort are almost always written in such a way so that the scenarios don’t outright put the characters in a perilous situation, and so, viewers can laugh at their situations in the knowledge that the characters won’t come to any harm. Here, Hikage creates an improvised dish with leftover ingredients, and upon hearing Hinata’s praise, remarks that if Hinata would simply buy food and save her money, this situation wouldn’t happen.

  • Towards the ends of Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku, Hikage briefly takes in a stray cat, and while she does enjoy its company, she also wonders if the cat will be able to find a new home since Hinata may not be willing to take on a pet. Raising a cat, at least in Canada, is estimated to cost about 1300 dollars a year (or 108.33 per month). This cost entails veterinarian bills, food and other provisions. However, since this is a stray, Hikage and Hinata would also need to get the cat registered, licensed and given an initial checkup to ensure it’s healthy. This can range anywhere from 960 to 2000 CAD, and considering the Miyakawa’s situation, this isn’t advisable.

  • In a heart-melting moment, Hinata believes that Hikage is going to eat the stray cat and forbids them from having one, although this turns out to be a misunderstanding. The scene reminded me of why Megumin prefers to keep Chomusuke with her at all times, rather than at home, where she believes Komekko may actually end up eating him. This thought is simultaneously hilarious and terrifying, bringing to mind a story my grandparents told about how some people did in fact carve up stray cats as dinner during tougher times. Since then, legislature has been passed, making it illegal to consume cats: violations of this are subject to six months in prison and/or a fine of no less than five thousand Hong Kong dollars.

  • In the end, Hikage is unable to keep the stray, and Daisuke reluctantly agrees to take the cat in at Hikage, Erika and Yukina’s behest. However, he reveals in an inner monologue that he actually doens’t have permission and now needs to beg for it so he can save face in front of Hikage. With this, we enter the final moments of Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku and Victoria Day Long Weekend’s final hours. After a full three days of Otafest, I had originally intended on taking today as a day to remain at home and do nothing. However, after a morning spent doing some housework and processing the videos I shot from the walkathon for upload, I ended up swinging by the IKEA to pick up a new shelf for my bedroom.

  • The latter part of the day was spent building the self and moving stuff over to it: with this, I will have more storage for clothing, allowing my room to be a little less cluttered (and also leaving me with a bit of space for my new Nendoroids). Back in Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku, after Erika turns down Kazuhiko’s efforts to hear out her problems, he finds himself dejected. This is a recurring joke in Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku, where the other instructor, Marina, ends up giving Kazuhiko some reassurance. Marina’s presence in Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku is limited, but her manner is similar to GochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain and ARIA‘s Alicia.

  • In the end, although Hinata’s habits don’t change, viewers are still treated to a heartwarming moment where Hikage dreams of having steak, only to wake up and finds herself chewing on her blanket. However, upon waking up for real, Hikage finds that Hinata’s whipping up a Hamburger Steak, albeit one made of tofu. Although it might not be real meat, the gesture alone is touching for Hikage, who enjoys breakfast. In spite of Hinata’s outwardly self-centred mannerisms, she still cares greatly about about Hikage.

  • Tofu is a nutritionally valid alternative to meat, offering similar levels of protein without the same levels of sodium; while folks may count it as being less tasty and prefer things like Beyond Meat, the reality is that to achieve a similar taste as real meat, Beyond Meat and similar products have extremely high levels of sodium – any health benefits offered by meat alternatives may be offset by their sodium levels. At the end of the day, tofu is still a healthy alternative, and one can reason that Hinata likely knows how to ensure Hikage eats well enough, and then meat becomes an occasional treat.

  • In this way, I finally cross the finish line for Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku a decade after its airing, and I found it to be a rather enjoyable series of shorts that provides another portrayal of the otaku culture. In its negatives, Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku suggests that otaku are fiscally irresponsible people who prioritise the wrong things, but at the same time, this spin-off also suggests that otaku can be resourceful people who can find creative means of balancing their interests with other aspects of their lives. Despite Hikage’s disapproval of Hinata’s practises, the two clearly love one another.

  • With this post and the Victoria Day long weekend in the books, it will be a return to routine. The preparations leading up to Otafest and the busy nature of this long weekend has meant that I spent less time on this blog than I usually would, but with the local anime convention in the books, I resume my regularly scheduled programming. I have a talk on AnoHana lined up for the near future: ten years earlier, I began watching this series, but I always found it difficult to write about. In the present, I am curious to see whether or not a decade’s worth of life experiences will change this and allow me to better articulate my thoughts on this nuanced and moving series.

Having just finished the past long weekend volunteering at Otafest, the local anime convention, the topic of financial responsibility as an anime fan is an appropriate topic to consider: as tempting as it is to spend and buy things that catch my eye, budgeting and planning ahead makes it much easier to reign in spending and at the same time, still walk away with a great experience without feeling like one’s spent too much later on. Life is a game of moderation, and there is a fine balance one must maintain. If one is so tight-fisted as to never spend on their interest and hobby, existence becomes very colourless and dull. On the other hand, frivolously spending one’s income is irresponsible and will result in difficulties tending to one’s financial obligations. Unsurprisingly, there is a happy medium here: if, after all the books are balanced, the bills are paid and a sum is sent into a savings account for the future, one still has a bit of extra left over, then there is no harm in indulging every so often. Thus, while Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku initially appears to be merely a Lucky☆Star spinoff motivated by comedy, it turns out that the setup also acts as an effective means of conveying a thoughtful remark about the otaku subculture: it’s okay to be invested into a franchise, but one must also be mindful of those around them. Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku‘s approach is significantly gentler, using humour to convey this message – when a given work softens up a message by using hyperbole and situational irony to convey the consequences of certain mindsets, rather than directly preaching a given idea, viewers are more receptive to the message because they are able to take the theme and then apply it to their own context. By having Hinata’s outrageous actions impact Hikage in a manner that is more pitiful than harmful, viewers can draw their own conclusions about what the consequences of mismanaging money are. There doesn’t appear to be a better setting than Yoshimizu’s Lucky☆Star universe to sell this idea: although otaku being highly passionate and devoted to their interests is something to be celebrated, a modicum of moderation must also be observed so one can partake in a hobby in a healthy and sustainable manner. In the end, Miyakawa-ke no Kūfuku hints at how, despite her otaku interests, Hinata greatly cares about Hikage, and similarly, while Hikage finds herself exasperated by Hinata’s lack of money sense, she’s aware that Hinata genuinely cares about her, too.