The Infinite Zenith

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PuraOre! Pride of Orange: Review and Impressions After Three

Me work hard five days a week, sweeping garbage from the street
Come home not want book to read, not ’nuff pictures for me see
Sit right down in favourite chair, wearing only underwear
Favourite night is Saturday night, ’cause me can watch hockey fights
Me Like Hockey!

–Arrogant Worms, Me Like Hockey

When the Crochet Club’s members, Manaka, Ayaka, Mami and Kaoruko learn of ice hockey lessons being held at the local arena, they decide to check it out. They are surprised that their instructor, Yōko, seems to be tasking them with dance moves as well, but when they get onto the ice, they are impressed with how exciting the experience is. Along the way, Manaka, Ayaka, Mami and Kaoruko meet Riko and Naomi, two former ice hockey players who are getting back into things at Riko’s insistence. After a thrilling first class, Manaka and her friends decide to come back, and the next weekend, after helping with a filming session at the Mizusawa’s ryōkan, the TV crew swing by the arena, as well. However, Mami is a little disheartened after their second session: she’s transferring away during the next term. Once her friends learn of this, Manaka suggests that they give Mami one final parting gift, in the form of a hockey game against a local team. After training for this day, Manaka and her team are annihilated 9-1 (Manaka manages to score in the game’s final moments), but have a great time. On the day of Mami’s departure, everyone sees her off, and although Manaka is noticeably absent, she ends up riding out to bid Mami a farewell. This is PuraOre! Pride of Orange (PuraOre! from here on out for brevity): this anime comes as a bit of a pleasant surprise for hockey fans, presenting an introduction to the sport of ice hockey, which is a minor sport in Japan compared to baseball and soccer. PuraOre! is produced by CAAnimation and C2C; the latter had been involved with Hitori Bocchi and Harukana Receive, both of which were solid series from a technical standpoint. In particular, Harukana Receive had been particularly good with its art and animation throughout the series, and this sets a positive precedence for the hockey that viewers will see as PuraOre! continues. However, for the time being, despite being a hockey anime, PuraOre! has placed more emphasis on character growth as opposed to the sport itself.

The approach in PuraOre! is appropriate for viewers who are newer to hockey: much as series like K-On!, Yama no Susume, Yuru Camp△, Koisuru Asteroid and Houkago Teibou Nisshi had done before, PuraOre! has elected to set the table and establish the friendship between Manaka, Ayaka, Mami and Kaoruko, as well as the fact that Naomi and Riko had previously played ice hockey. This is a deliberate choice to allow viewers the chance to see how their stories began, and show how everyone is off the ice. For hockey fans familiar with things like the National Hockey League or Team Canada, PuraOre! is going to come across as being very slowly-paced, to the point of raising the question of whether or not this is an anime about ice hockey, or an anime with ice hockey as an aside: compared to the fast-paced plays of the NHL, or the unrivaled joy of watching Canadian teams take home gold on the world stage, PuraOre! portrays a group and their humble beginnings. Manaka and her friends can skate, but this is about the extent of their experience on the ice, and in their first game against another team, Manaka and her teammates barely even skate to create openings. Seeing things begin at the very beginning means accepting, and embracing the fact that Manaka and her friends aren’t going to have any special plays, will fan on shots and miscommunicate: this is actually a part of PuraOre!‘s charm, since it gives newcomers a chance to pick up ice hockey’s rules and terminology. While I’m somewhat familiar with ice hockey, having become a fan ever since Jerome Iginla and the Calgary Flames went on a spectacular Stanley Cup run during the 2003-2004 season, it is understandable that PuraOre! is progressing so slowly: Harukana Receive had done the same thing by introducing viewers to beach volleyball with Haruka and Kanata playing against Narumi and Ayasa, before introducing new characters to help them improve as players. PuraOre! is set on a similar trajectory, and with Yū Kiyose joining Manaka and the others, things are also looking to pick up.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Japan’s women’s national ice hockey team is the team that represents them at all international events, and in the IIHF, they are currently ranked sixth: ice hockey might be a minor sport in Japan, but their team still plays solid hockey. With this being said, the choice to show Manaka and the Dream Monkeys beating Team Canada is a bit of symbolism: Canada is known for ice hockey and for producing some of the greatest players around (e.g. Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid come to mind), so to see Japan overcoming Canada in a game was PuraOre!‘s way of showing how far Manaka and her team had come.

  • When PuraOre! began, I wondered if this would be a series that I could blog in an episodic fashion. After the first episode concluded, it felt more appropriate to write for this series in my usual manner: episodic posting is quite demanding when done correctly, and requires a blogger to continuously piece together where a series is going while keeping the big picture in mind. For me, unless a series is one I’m inherently familiar with or consistently offers new material to consider, I find it’s much better to write about things periodically.

  • A large portion of the first episode is spent in the crochet club’s room, but once Manaka and her friends hit the local arena, the hockey piece to PuraOre! begins. Manaka’s expression says it all here, and so far, her personality traits are an amalgamation of K-On!‘s Yui, GochiUsa‘s Cocoa and Koisuru Asteroid‘s Mira: she’s endlessly cheerful and optimistic. Conversely, her younger sister, Ayaka, is similar to Azusa and Chino. Familiar archetypes are often a problem for folks, but I’ve long held that this is to the anime’s advantage: rather than worrying about setting up individual characters, it frees up writers to focus on interpersonal dynamics and storytelling.

  • The Dream Monkey’s mascot greets Manaka and her friends upon their arrival, and Yōko also introduces herself. Yōko is a bit of a boisterous and dramatic individual, bringing to mind Wake Up, Girls‘ very own Junko Tange. However, whereas Junko is voiced by Noriko Hidaka, Yōko is voiced by Mikako Komatsu (Jan from Tari Tari, Miuna of Nagi no Asukara, The Aquatope on White Sand‘s Kaoru, Saki from Girls und Panzer and Momoko from Magia Record). The younger girls are all played by newer voice actresses that I’m not terribly familiar with. On the topic of mascots, if and when I’m asked, Harvey the Hound is my favourite NHL mascot bar none.

  • Once introductions are done, the girls get to their first session. Here, Yōko starts the class with stretching drills, which are almost immediately spotted as being dance moves in all but name, hinting at the fact that there is more to their version of ice hockey than putting pucks on net and teamwork. After stretching concludes, it’s time for the main event: Manaka and the others head off to get changed for their first experience on ice.

  • Unlike Manaka and her friends, Riko (left) and Naomi (right) have prior hockey experience, so being here is a return to the ice for them. The others marvel at the equipment, and Yōko’s assistant, Sō, remarks that while hockey is a very physical sport, body checking is prohibited under their rules. Generally speaking, a check is a technique for separating an opposing player from the puck, and while the NHL allows for body checks on players with the puck, under IIHF rules for women’s hockey, such a hit is illegal and would be punished by a minor penalty. Instead, there are other modes (e.g. poke checks and stick checks) which are used to interfere with the opponent’s possession.

  • For now, checking is above the girls’ skill levels: their initial exercise is to get a feel for skating around on the ice. Fortunately, PuraOre! establishes that everyone’s taken skating lessons previously and are therefore able to move around on the ice without problem. This takes away the need to train everyone from zero and allows the story to push forward a little more quickly. Harukana Receive had done something similar: while Haruka is a novice in beach volleyball, she is very athletic and is familiar with volleyball, allowing her to pick things up more smoothly.

  • Once the basics are in place, Yōko sets the girls up with their sticks so they can begin passing drills. The experience excites and impresses Manaka, who’s smitten with ice hockey and becomes enthusiastic to continue on with the lessons, which happen weekly. Back at the Crochet Club, Manaka can be seen perusing a book on ice hockey when the others are doing club activities. The sharp contrast between the two activities is likely a visual means of conveying to viewers how far Manaka and the others have to go before they’re ready to play at a more competitive level.

  • As it turns out, after Naomi lost interest and switched over to figure skating, Riko followed suit, feeling that she wouldn’t be able to continue on her own. This is probably a sign that despite her cheerful demenour, Riko is the sort of individual who isn’t very confident and worries about losing people around her. It’s certainly not a fair assessment to belittle Riko for it, as some have chosen to do: the characters of PuraOre! are middle school students, a time when social interactions are very important. I am of the mind that, especially as viewers with a bit more life experience, it would actually be quite immature to judge anime characters for the decisions that they make.

  • Instead, my approach towards a given anime is to make an honest attempt at understanding why characters make the decisions that they do, and determine how this fits into the overall themes. Complaining about minutiae, especially this early in the game, contributes nothing to discussions. Here, Manaka and her friends prepare to introduce the TV crew to the family ryōkan. The shoot goes very well, and the TV crew even agree to go check out the local arena when the girls head for practise. Yōko is thrilled with this, and despite her antics, she does offer some inspiring words on what makes ice hockey worthwhile.

  • However, things quickly go south when Mami reveals she’s set to transfer away, leaving Manaka devastated. Something similar had happened in Koisuru Asteroid, although there, Ao ended up managing to negotiate an alternate arrangement that allowed her to stay with Mira. Conversely, in PuraOre!, Mami’s departure is inevitable, and once the initial shock wears off, Manaka, Ayaka and Kaoruko decide that Mami should spend one more memorable moment with everyone: playing their first-ever match against another team.

  • Meanwhile, Riko manages to convince Naomi to pick up ice hockey anew by treating her to sweets at the local confectionary store. Insofar, while bits and pieces of her and Riko’s story have been presented, I imagine that there is more to things. Traditionally, anime present the idea that it is only be through being forward about one’s feelings that certain conflicts are resolved, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if those elements return later. For now, Riko’s managed to get Naomi back into things, enough to have

  • With Manaka, Ayaka, Kaoruko, Riko, Naomi and Mami, there’s enough people for Yōko to begin assigning positions. She’s just as excited about the match as the girls are, but for Yōko, being able to revive interest in ice hockey and promote the sport in her own manner seems to be her goal. In the end, Kaoruko becomes the goaltender, Mami and Manaka play as wingers (offensive players who score goals or make plays that lead to goals), and Ayaka and Naomi take defensive positions. With her experience, Riko is assigned the centre, who can cover more ice than the left or right wing and create plays by passing: in fact, a centre is more defense oriented than the wingers because of their flexibility.

  • While visiting the ryōkan with Naomi and Riko, Manaka remarks that making memories is what their main goal is now: while everyone’s been training for their first matchup, their main concern is to create something noteworthy for Mami before she leaves. Here, Naomi also reveals that despite her quiet disposition, she’s also got a fondness for manga, and immediately opens up when she spots that the ryōkan has her favourite series on hand. Naomi is rather similar to Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Mimori Tōgō in this regard; both are taciturn and serious, but when the topic of their interest is brought up, they light up like a Christmas tree.

  • Ahead of their inaugural game, Ayaka and Mami unveil a banner for the Dream Monkeys. This first match is strictly a practise round, and I am reminded of Girls und Panzer, where Miho and her team have a practise match against Darjeeling and the St. Gloriana Academy. However, whereas Girls und Panzer eventually gave Miho an ironclad reason to fight for her school, and Harukana Receive is about Kanata picking herself back up and facing off against her former partner at the nationals to show she found her way, it remains to be seen whether or not PuraOre! will do the same: Manaka and her friends aren’t playing for keeps right now, so it will be interesting to see whether the stakes increase later on.

  • For a training match, the usual rules of hockey are modified: periods are shortened to ten minutes, although since Manaka’s group only has six players in total, they must play for the whole of the period without stoppage. Normally, teams are composed of a minimum of twenty players and no more than twenty-three, with at least two goaltenders. This is to allow players to play in shifts: owing to the high intensity in hockey, players will play for an average of 47 seconds before returning to the bench. For this match, the lack of additional players mean that Manaka’s team was fated to lose.

  • After the opening faceoff, the other team immediately sets about burying Manaka’s team, scoring several goals in rapid succession. Whether it was a limitation in the animation or inexperience from Manaka’s team, it appears they’re standing still. Because hockey is a high-paced sport about positioning and movement, players must skate in order to continue tracking the puck and make plays. When players stand still, this creates no such opportunity. There are cases where one should hold a position (e.g. when playing defensively during a short-handed situation), but at this point, PuraOre! has not reached that point.

  • The end result of pitting a moderately experienced group against novices results in what is colloquially referred to as a a “blowout”. There is no standardised definition for what makes a blowout, but in the NHL, the largest such game occurred in 1944 when the Detroit Red Wings buried the New York Rangers 15-0. The Calgary Flames’ worst loss occurred against the Vancouver Canucks in 1992, where we were handed a 11-0 defeat. For Manaka and the others, the overwhelming difference is demoralising, but towards the end of the game, Manaka trips after scoring on the rebound, marking her first goal in any match of the season.

  • The other team remarks that seeing Manaka and others in fine spirits after playing their first game was a little surreal, and this gives Mami one final happy memory of everyone together before she moves. On the day of, everyone’s come to see her off, although Manaka is noticeably absent from the proceedings. Manaka and Mami’s departure is a dramatic one, with the former showing up right as the train pulls away from the station.

  • Given the nature of anime, I am guessing that Mami and Manaka will end up playing one another at some point in PuraOre!: playing against former teammates can be emotionally charged, and I am reminded of the time when then-captain Mark Giordano almost got into a fight with former Calgary Flame Jerome Iginla during one game back in 2017. Being an anime, hockey fights are decisively off the table, but having Mami and Manaka playing against one another could really fire the two up in ways they’d not imagined. For now, a new player, Yū, will join the team and take Mami’s place: it’ll take a little bit of time for her to acclimatise to Manaka, Ayaka and Kaoruko, but I expect that once she settles in, the team will really be able to begin exploring new directions. In the meantime, since the 2021-2022 NHL season is live, I look forwards to seeing how the Flames perform. While we had a rough start, after yesterday’s overtime win over the Capitals,

One other aspect of note is that PuraOre! plainly written for a Japanese market: during the game shown in the series’ very opening, Manaka and the Dream Monkeys manage to score a game-winning goal against a Canadian team with mere seconds on the clock, and then in their victory celebration, they give an idol-like performance on-ice. Firstly, Canadian teams consistently beaten Japan whenever they play. Secondly, while goals are possible in a game’s dying moments, in a tie game, players will often adopt a more defensive approach and allow the clock to wind down: a sudden-death overtime setup would’ve made the moment more exciting. Finally, I’ve certainly never seen anything like this in any NHL or international game before, and this aspect was, more than likely, meant to help PuraOre! sell image albums. The approach seems a little gratuitous, but previously, Uma Musume had employed a similar approach with the horse girls and also managed to engage me with the sport of horse racing. One can’t fault PuraOre! in taking this route: most Japanese viewers aren’t likely to be as familiar with ice hockey as viewers over here, and PuraOre! does feel like it is intended to accommodate folks who are new to hockey in its earlier episodes. However, as with Uma Musume and Harukana Receive before it, once the basics are done, PuraOre! has plenty of opportunity to engage and excite viewers with its story of Manaka and her friends’ journey through ice hockey, as well as increasingly sophisticated plays and deepening feelings of camaraderie as everyone gets to know one another better. As it stands, I’m rather excited to see where PuraOre! ends up, and I will note that as a Flames fan, I will be making references to my favourite team when I continue on with this series. For now, I intend to return once the whole of PuraOre! is in the books, but if the series continues to offer a great deal of hockey to talk about, I could see myself returning periodically to offer my thoughts on things.

Yūki Yūna is a Hero: The Great Mankai Chapter- Review and Impressions After Three

“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.” –Antonio Brown

After stopping the world from being consumed by shadow and flame, Yūna and her friends resume their lives with the Hero Club and participate in helping out around town with things ranging from playing in a band, to substituting for another team in an airsoft competition. While it appears as though peace has finally been attained, Mimori and Sonoko speak on how they’d forgotten about Gin despite their promise. Later, the Taisha reach out to Mimori with another request, leaving her shocked that there remains something to do: it turns out that a special task force, called the Sentinels, are in trouble: two years earlier, Mebuki Kusunoki and Yumiko Miroku were recruited for training, but ultimately, Karin was selected to be a Hero. The other candidates ended up being assigned to the Sentinels, whose assignment is to explore the world outside the barrier and participate in restoring the universe to its former state. During their first assignment, the task force comes under attack from the Stardust, and although they repel this, several Sentinels are overwhelmed and quit their posts, leaving the group short-handed. Mebuki ends up befriending a miko, Aya Kokudo, in the process, but is dismayed to learn that Aya is to be offered as a human sacrifice to appease the Shinju. Adding insult to injury, the sapling they’d planted to restore the world must now be retrieved, as the Shinju appears to be dying, leading Mebuki to conclude that the Sentinels were expendable. Here at the third season of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, three episodes show that an new storyline is being adapted into the animated form, dealing with the aftermath of Yūna’s deeds at the end of Hero Chapter: The Great Mankai Chapter indicates that although the threat to their world has abated for now, this world a shadow of its old form, and there is a desire to bring back what was, even if it means sacrificing the lives of youth to achieve this end.

Despite this being denoted as a Yūki Yūna is a Hero series, The Great Mankai Chapter‘s first three episodes have spent a considerably amount of time on Mebuki and the Sentinels so far, as they set about trying to lay down the groundwork for rebuilding their world. The shift in focus suggests that Yūna and her team will likely become a part of helping the Sentinels accomplish their assignment without any further casualties, and perhaps help Mebuki to understand that Hero or not, people can still make a difference regardless of their station. This has been something that was very prevalent in The Great Mankai Chapter; Mebuki is very stubborn and single-minded in her approach to things, and while she is a dedicated leader devoted to whatever task she’s assigned, she also holds both herself, and those around her, to almost unreasonable standards. These traits could be why she was never selected for a Hero, and much as how it took Karin some time to adjust to life with Yūna and the Hero Club, I imagine that a major part of The Great Mankai Chapter will deal with getting Mebuki to understand that teamwork is essential in any endeavour, especially one as complex and daunting as forging into unknown territories and attempting to revive the gods’ power so they can return their world to its original glory. At least, this is the direction that appears likely given what we’ve seen of The Great Mankai Chapter thus far: one of the aspects about Yūki Yūna is a Hero that I’ve always enjoyed is how the series pulls no punches and can always find ways to surprise viewers. While The Great Mankai Chapter is, strictly speaking, not a necessary continuation, I’m always game for more Yūki Yūna is a Hero because it could roll back the curtain on the the mysteries enveloping the world that Yūna and the others live in.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was for the spin-of, Churutto, an endearing and lighthearted jaunt about the desire to craft the perfect bowl of Hero Udon, but the last time anything to do with Yūki Yūna is a Hero proper would’ve been early 2018, when I finished writing about Hero Chapter. While answering some questions I had about Yūna’s situation and resolving the problems the Heroes had been afflicted with, the series also left much unexplored, especially with respect to world-building.

  • Generally speaking, Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s strong suit lies with its characters and their experiences, but where the series falls short is exposition and development of the world Yūna and her friends live in. What I do know of their world is derived from supplementary materials, which are similar what was seen in the J.R.R. Tolkien legendarium: after the world was created, there was a clash between two factions of deities, and the Shinju, the gods sympathetic to humanity, banded together and gave humans the means to resist the Vertex. It turns out that the Vertex were created by the faction hostile to humanity. At the end of Hero Chapter, the remaining gods granted Yūna the power destroy the flames threatening the human world and perished.

  • From this, it sounds like the world’s in an even worse state than it had been before, since the gods hostile to humanity still exist. However, out of the gates, The Great Mankai Chapter opens with the heroes partying it up and living life to the fullest; nothing seems amiss, and the Hero Club is back to doing what they do best. The events of The Great Mankai Chapter are set after the events of Hero Chapter, and while Fū’s presence threw more than a few viewers off, one can suppose that the events of The Great Mankai Chapter take place perhaps only a few weeks after Hero Chapter. Here, she tucks into a plate so vast, Karin remarks that it’s unbefitting of her.

  • The easy-go-lucky events of The Great Mankai Chapter are intended to re-establish the sort of things that the Hero Club would typically do. Here, the Hero Club participates in an airsoft match against another team after the original team they were slated to play was unable to make it. Although they are initially out-played, the moment that Yūna is “downed”, Mimori goes ballistic and single-handedly causes enough destruction to allow the Hero Club to scrape a win, all the while creating a few good laughs.

  • While on a camping trip together, Karin is shocked to see that Sonoko brought a self-erecting tent, while the others had brought traditional tents so they could experience camping properly. Of everyone, Karin seems to get the most blank white eyes in response to the antics the Hero Club pull; while she’s an all-serious Hero utterly devoted to her duty, and was initially reluctant to work as a team with the others, the events of the first season and Hero Chapter changed things. Karin might not enjoy the various misadventures as much as the others, but she’s happy to be present all the same.

  • The sum of the events in the first episode led some fans to create faux posters suggesting that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is K-On!Sabagebu! and Yuru Camp△ rolled into one. This was fairly amusing, and Here, Sonoko and Yūna become unexpectedly excited when Karin brings out meat to grill for their camping dinner. By this point in time, Sonoko has become an integral part of the Hero Club, and together, the group is enjoying what Sonoko

  • While the others prepare to turn in, Fū can be seen with her face in a mathematics textbook; while she’s very much fond of club activities, she’s also doing her best to prepare for the future. Hero Chapter indicated that Fū had intended Itsuki to succeed her as the club president to help her build confidence, although since graduation has yet to come, Fū is still running the Hero Club.

  • Signifying their friendship, the Hero Club takes a group photo together by sunset. It turns out that they also have a website of sorts, where they upload the club activities’ photographs and recollections. Yūki Yūna is a Hero has enough going for it so that the series could be carried by the Hero Club going around town and doing various good deeds for the community, but that wouldn’t be in the series’ spirit: the sharp contrast between the characters’ everyday lives and the horrors they face in combat exist to create a sense of how perilous their world’s situation is.

  • While Yūna is in fine spirits now, Mimori finds herself a little disheartened: as a part of the costs incurred for using the Mankai System, she’d lost her memories of Gin Minowa, the previous Hero she’d fought alongside. I’d been quite fond of Gin, since she was confident and capable. I am a little surprised that there is very little being said about The Great Mankai Chapter: for Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Hero Chapter, the series was discussed with great fervour amongst the anime community, and like Madoka Magica, was also the subject of quite a bit of speculation.

  • These days, it appears that interest in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is lessened, although I suppose I could count this a blessing that giants like Random Curiosity are not covering this series. Of late, it feels like their quality has declined (most evidently, with their coverage of The Aquatope on White Sand, which now consists of little more than lambasting Tetsuji Suwa). If that is what readers are getting, then it is better that The Great Mankai Chapter isn’t being subject to the same treatment: here, Mimori outright asks the Taisha why they’ve come to pull her back into service despite the sacrifices they’d made earlier, implying that the events of Hero Chapter had already occurred for her here.

  • The second episode introduces Mebuki Kusunoki, a Hero candidate who was fiercely devoted to the role: her father had stated that the biggest goal in life is to make something of oneself, and to never be complicit in being used as a stepping stone for others. To this end, Mebuki is cold, distant and sure of her own ability to a fault: she is unable to recognise that there could be anyone more worthy of the Hero position than herself, and during training sessions, shows her fellow candidates absolutely no mercy.

  • Here, Mebuki speaks to another trainee, Yumiko Miroku, who comes from a family that fell from grace. In spite of this, she acts in a haughty manner and attempts to maintain the façade befitting of an ojou-sama. After being handily defeated in a training exercise, Yumiko declares herself Mebuki’s rival, but also ends up hanging out with her more. For Mebuki, the only other person in their group of note is Karin: while Mebuki appears to have better performance overall, she lacks the sort of compassion that Karin exhibits.

  • During one exercise, Karin demonstrates that she’s still kind to her fellow trainees, and after besting one during a bout, offers to help her get back up. In the end, this is the gap between Mebuki and Karin: while Karin is very focused on her duties, she cares for those around her and indicates that when the moment comes down to it, she would likely choose to save a team member over completing the mission. Conversely, Mebuki initially appears to be the person who might sacrifice her team to complete the mission, even if she’s the only person standing.

  • Unsurprisingly, when Karin is chosen to be the next Hero, Mebuki goes ballistic and makes a bit of a scene during the announcement, leading her to be dragged away, showing that she lacks the tact to lose gracefully. In the aftermath, Karin resolves to do what she can to fulfil her duties, leading her to join the Hero Club, and the remainder of the candidates are reassigned as “Sentinels”. These Sentinels are completely unrelated to the autonomous Forerunner constructs of Halo, the warrior caste of DOOM‘s Argent D’Nur or the squid-like robots in The Matrix: instead, the Sentinels (防人, Hepburn sakamori) are individuals who are tasked with exploring the world outside the barrier.

  • Outside of the barrier, Sentinels are responsible for exploration and data collection: while the Heroes had eliminated the Vertex, the assignment remains a dangerous one, and the Taisha gather everyone at what is equivalent to Utazu’s Play Park Gold Tower, an observation tower that was built in 1988 that has a height of 158 metres. It is part of a play-park that features arcades and bowling for children. In The Great Mankai Chapter, Play Park Gold Tower is used as the Sentinel’s base of operations and act as a nexus point to the barrier.

  • Even with the risks of their assignments, The Great Mankai Chapter still finds time to portray Yumiko with an expression of shock after learning that Mebuki had forgotten about her in the time that’d passed. For better or worse, this happens to me more often than I’d like – I occasionally run into people I were classmates with or mentored as a TA, and while they immediately recall who I am, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to extend them that same courtesy. The moment causes Yumiko to lose all composure, creating a bit of humour among a group of characters that has, insofar, not given viewers much to smile about.

  • It turns out that the Sentinels are to perform something called the Kunizukuri (国譲り), named after the mythological event in Japanese pre-history in which the lands of Japan were passed from the Earthly Gods to the Heavenly Gods, and eventually, the Imperial House. In the original version of the story, the Heavenly Gods desired to take control of Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni (Japan) after deciding the land to have grown corrupted, and sent their sons to investigate. These missions were met with failure, until Ōkuninushi finally allowed two messengers to take control of the land. After Ōkuninushi retreats, the messengers smash all resistance on Earth and return to the heavens to report that their mission is completed.

  • Like the original myth, the Kunizukuri in The Great Mankai Chapter is portrayed as a forceful transfer of power: the Sentinels are equipped with a combat suit that protects against the flames that linger outside the barrier, and the Sentinels themselves are armed. Sentinels with reduced combat ability are equipped with large shields to defend the ships and other Sentinels. Sentinels with modest combat abilities take on a long-range rifle that can double as a melee weapon, while the highest-ranking Sentinels lead the others and sport a distinct visor with wings on the side to denote their rank.

  • While the world outside the barrier is quiet, it is populated by the Stardust, the most basic form of the Vertex. These blob-like entities do not possess any cognitive functions, but they can combine to form more deadly Vertex: the Stardust can be thought of as the Flood’s infection form. Both are individually weak and use their numbers to overwhelm foes, but can combine. By the events of The Great Mankai Chapter, the Stardust do not combine on the first of the Sentinel’s expeditions, but speaking to the incredible power that Heroes possess, the Sentinels are only able to escape their first encounter.

  • Here, two other Sentinels can be seen alongside Yumiko (far right): to the left is Shizuku Yamabushi, who has a troubled background and developed two personalities as a coping mechanism (like Gundam 00‘s Hallelujah, she becomes violent and unpredictable when a fight begins, but otherwise, is quiet and reserved), and in the centre is Suzume Kagajō, a low-ranking Sentinel who fears combat and would rather be anywhere but the mission. The ferocity of combat reduces her to a squeaky puddle, and here, she’s reacting to having survived the group’s first fight.

  • By the third episode, the Mebuki’s group is established: from Mebuki (lower left) in a clockwise direction, we’ve got Aya, Yamabushi, Suzume, and Yumiko. While differing greatly in combat ability and disposition, this group begins to unify as a result of their duties together. I believe that The Great Mankai Chapter would be an adaptation of Kusunoki Mebuki is a Hero: this was a light novel that was released in 2017 and formed the basis for the claims that The Great Mankai Chapter is an interquel, since the story is set between the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Hero Chapter.

  • Assuming the animated adaptation is largely faithful to the original, then, what Mebuki and her team will experience here in The Great Mankai Chapter will likely lead everyone to a path where they fight alongside Yūna’s group at some point. Mebuki’s team knows of Yūna and the Hero Club: suspicious of things, Suzume ended up tailing the group on one of their outings to see what was going on, had her cover blown and ended up being invited over to tea. Since Mimori still has her wheelchair here, the events here are plainly set during Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season.

  • Because moments like these occurred with a nontrivial frequency, it is a little difficult to take the combat in Kusunoki Mebuki is a Hero seriously: subsequent excursions outside of the barrier and the encounters with the Stardust leaves Suzume in tears. Granted, the Stardust are an intimidating-looking foe whose teeth appear to be quite lethal, and moreover, they have the advantage in numbers. Against such foes, cluster munitions would be effective, but lore states that the Vertex are largely unaffected by human weapons. When they first appeared, the JMSDF were soundly defeated, with 127 mm rounds and even cruise missiles failing to turn the tide.

  • The second encounter ends up being a disaster for the team; they’d been sent out to plant a seedling for the Shinju, and this time around, are accompanied by miko Aya, whose role is to carry out the rituals needed to set in motion the world’s restoration. While the ritual appears to have gone well enough, the Sentinels come under attack, and in the aftermath, although there are no casualties thanks to Mebuki’s leadership, Sentinels begin quitting en masse after feeling that the task is overwhelming.

  • However, there was one positive to come out of this second excursion past the barrier – the remaining members on Mebuki’s team come to bond with one another more closely, and while Mebuki recuperates, the others end up creating a sort of charm that reminds her of how close everyone’s become. Difficult moments often bring people together, and it felt like at this point in The Great Mankai Chapter, Mebuki’s finally gotten her team together.

  • In particular, Aya ends up being the first to really break the ice and befriend Mebuki – when they’ve got some time off, Aya decides to hang out with her, and it is here that viewers get a glimpse of the sort of person that Mebuki really is, when the moment has no immediate obligations or duties to fulfill – it turns out that she’s actually quite like Mimori in personality, and never does anything halfway, whether it be the work or recreation.

  • Like Mimori, Mebuki has a particular fondness for all things Japan; when Aya asks where Mebuki would like to go first, they end up hitting a hobby shop. Mebuki is a big fan of Japanese castles and also enjoys building military models. After this stop, the pair head of a home hardware shop. Because The Great Mankai Chapter presented Mebuki as a bit of a hardass, seeing this side of her is important to remind viewers that like Karin and the other members of the Hero Club, at the end of the day, Heroes and Hero candidates are human.

  • Unfortunately for Mebuki and viewers, because of Aya’s duties as a miko, she’s later offered up as a human sacrifice with the hopes of slowing the flames while the Taisha and Sentinels retrieve the sapling they’d planted for the Shinju – the Shinju appears to be dying, and the Taisha are desperate to try any measures in order to stave off destruction. This mission angers Mebuki, who realises that contrary to her goals of becoming more than a mere footnote in history, the Taisha regard her team as expendable.

  • Rather than refuse the mission, this only serves to reinforce Mebuki’s determination to prove that she and her team are more than capable of fulfilling their assignment. Over the two episodes that Mebuki and her team have been shown, I’ve gained a better sense of who she is as an individual, and together with the task the Sentinels have in front of them, The Great Mankai Chapter is finally hitting its stride as Mebuki leads the remainder of her forces on their next assignment.

  • Thus, having passed through the first three episodes of The Great Mankai Chapter, I am rather looking forwards to seeing where this show is headed next. I imagine that with the next little while, we can expect Mebuki and her team to be at the forefront of things for the next few episodes, and then Yūna’s Hero Club will likely return to help the Kusunoki team out in their hour of need (hence the Taisha‘s imploring Mimori and the others to return to active service for one more assignment). It’s exciting times ahead that bring back memories of what had made the original Yūki Yūna is a Hero so compelling to watch.

When Hero Chapter concluded, it left numerous questions in its wake: granted, Yūna and her friends had successfully saved their world from destruction, but how the world came to reach its current state was never explored, and the nature of their world similarly remained a mystery. The Great Mankai Chapter appears to be following in its predecessor’s footsteps: there’s a new problem to sort out, and similarly to Hero Chapter, leaves many details unexplained. At present, viewers are shown that Sentinels are a group of prospective Heroes who didn’t make the cut, but still possessed enough attributes to be useful. The Taisha are attempting to begin taking back the universe from the ravages of war, but as this is a dangerous task, they have no qualms about sacrificing young women to achieve their aims. In general, Yūki Yūna is a Hero has traditionally found ways of making its primary themes clear, but on the flipside, never bothered with exposition to the extent where their world became convincing. The end result of this is that while the characters in Yūki Yūna is a Hero are always compelling, their world continues to operate on terms that viewers are not privy to: perspective is never shown from the Taisha’s perspective, and without any illustration on why they pick the course of actions that they do, the Taisha become very difficult to sympathise with. The end result of this is that viewers can immediately rally behind the main characters of a given series and root for their survival, or success, but at the end of the day, every victory is muddied by the fact that something unknown could always return and diminish the Heroes’ accomplishments. As it stands, I am interested to see if The Great Mankai Chapter addresses any of the questions left by Hero Chapter, and further to this, it appears that the possibility of Yūna’s team working with Mebuki and the Sentinels could be quite real: having long felt that Yūna’s team operated in isolation, it’ll be nice to see them fighting alongside others for a shared goal, as well.

Infinite Mirai and The Special Milestone: A Ten Year Anniversary, Reflections on Positivity, Resilience and Community

“Where do you see yourself in ten years?”

A decade is a nontrivial amount of time, and in response to this classic question, my response is always the same: I see myself becoming sufficiently versed in the systems I work with such that I have the confidence and expertise to determine how to manage teams using the same systems and deliver a product of unparalleled quality. Outside of the occupation setting, ten years is enough time for someone to finish their undergraduate education, go for graduate studies and still have enough time left over to find satisfaction in their career, reach financial stability and be at peace with who they are. When this blog began its journey on a cold October evening ten years ago, I was an undergraduate student: I’d just survived the worst year of my university career and had been on track to getting things back in order. I originally intended this blog to be for short blurbs about various bits of anime related news, to supplement my old website, but over time, it became apparent that WordPress provided features and capabilities far surpassing my old web host. During this past decade, Infinite Mirai has a total of 1377 posts and 3.5 million words (excluding this one). There’s now some 1.7 million page views, and 1.1 million unique visitors. The blog has proven resilient beyond my initial expectations: for the past five years, I’d always noted that there might come a point where I’d stop writing for this blog. Each and every time, I’ve been proven wrong. The reason for this is two-fold: firstly, writing is a form of catharsis for me. I am afforded a place to gather my thoughts, to reflect on both what I am sharing and where my life is. However, the second is by far the larger contributor to this blog remaining active even now; this is a consequence of my becoming a part of a larger community, one that encourages discussion, creative thinking and contrary opinions. Whether it be friendly commenters, the subset of amicable and civilised Twitter users or the Jon Spencer Reviews community, having a chance to speak with others and learn of their perspectives has been most insightful: it is worth writing just to kick-start discussions with people and learn of how their experiences shape how they approach something. In this way, knowing there are interested readers with a plethora of unique thoughts of their own is a powerful incentive to write, and similarly, knowing that there is even a single reader curious about what I made of something makes it worthwhile to continue running this blog. Without you, the reader, none of this would’ve been possible, so before continuing, I would like to give my heartfelt thank you to all readers who’ve stopped by, whether you’ve been around since the days I was still finding my style, or if you’ve started reading more recently. Thank you for all of your support!

At this decade anniversary to Infinite Mirai, I’ll share ten of my favourite moments for this blog below (in no particular order). Before I get to that, it is worth taking a look at the sorts of things that I do to find the motivation, and inspiration, to write: a lot of bloggers start their party, but over time, whether it be a shift in circumstance or waning interest, the blog dies out. Others continue to thrive, on virtue of having new writers replacing old ones, or similarly to myself, their main author continues to keep the blog going. Over the years, I’ve found that there are two secrets to keeping a blog running for a long time if one is the only author. The first is simply to write at one’s own pace. Many bloggers adhere to a schedule and push themselves to publish consistently, and while this is especially important for content creators, casual bloggers like myself are not bound to a schedule. As such, rather than writing a certain amount every week, I tend to just stick to my own schedule. When the material is there, I write more often. When life is busy, or there is little inspiration, I simply write less. This approach is essential to preventing burn-out, which I’ve found to be a leading reason for why authors become inactive: when there’s nothing to write about, bloggers might become antsy about putting something out and write something not to their liking. Eventually, maintaining a blog becomes more of a chore than a hobby, and the positive feedback loop can sap one of their motivation. Conversely, by writing at one’s own pace and of one’s own volition, one has the choice to write when the best ideas or arguments come to mind. The resulting post ends up becoming something to be proud of, and one can even engage the community with their best. The second secret is to be fair to both the works one writes about, and one’s readers. This fairness entails listening to what feedback one is given, and making an honest effort to understand why other people might have a different opinion of things. The resulting discussions then become amicable, measured and rooted in understanding, rather than conflict. I’ve similarly seen blogs go under because they wrote in a confrontational, hostile tone, and when the comments or feedback elsewhere were correspondingly unfriendly, these individuals would feel blogging was too challenging to continue with. Raising controversy and picking fights might be good for traffic, but it also attracts individuals who are looking for a fight, and constantly fighting internet wars grows tiresome. As surprising as it sounds, these two things (“write when you want“, and “be nice to readers“) are the secret to maintaining any blog for long periods of time without burning out.

Infinite Mirai: Top Ten Moments Countdown

  • Writing the post that put me on the map: I’d only used this blog as a place for blurbs and anime news for the first two years of its life, and consequently, traffic around these parts had been quite low. This changed one January afternoon: it’d been the start of a new term, and after spotting a 2chan post about the Ooarai School Ship’s dimensions compared to other vessels, I realised it would be fun to both render the comparison in English, as well as compare Ooarai’s School Ship to the most-talked about ship of the time: the UNSC Infinity. That particular post exploded, and the number of visitors allowed my blog to begin climbing in search engines. Over the years, the chart I’d hastily made became the de facto source for the carrier’s length, and the YouTube Channel, Metal Ball Studios, even linked to me as the source for their Watercrafts Comparison video.

  • Writing my first-ever large postGundam Unicorn was a series of personal significance because it coincided with the length of my undergraduate career, and when the sixth episode became available, I was just getting ready to complete my Honours Thesis oral defense. A year later, the finale aired, and left me with a definitive, satisfying close to the Gundam series that had accompanied me throughout university. There was a lot to cover, and the resulting post marked the first time I’d written something of that length. Unlike my old web host, which had numerous constraints, WordPress had no such limitation, and even for a post of that length, I had no trouble keeping track of things. The post for the Gundam Unicorn finale demonstrated decisively that WordPress would be my tool of choice for writing, and the resulting discussions generated also began to encourage me to engage with the community more.

  • Putting together the Sora no Woto charts: A few summers after I finished watching Sora no Woto, I embarked on a journey to remake the speculation charts with the intent of replacing the ones Tango-Victor-Tango linked to. This project allowed me to see a side of Sora no Woto that I hadn’t previously, and to my surprise, the charts were welcomed by the Sora no Woto community. It turns out that the new charts had made their way to the Sora no Woto Wikia, and their admin stated that there had been plans to replace the 4chan charts because of factual errors, but no one had the time to do so. The community ended up with cleaner and more informative charts as a result.

  • Figuring out how to use photogrammetry, Google Maps and the Oculus Quest to drive location hunts: With the current global health crisis still affecting the world, travel is off the table, and this made location hunting a difficult endeavour. However, virtual travel remains viable, a consequence of reliable and stable technology, as well as the know-how to use them. I first used photogrammetry techniques to locate Taki’s apartment for Your Name, and since then, those learnings have allowed me to have a phenomenal time of sifting through Google Maps’ Street View imagery to find spots that have appeared in anime. These exercises show just how sophisticated technology has become: when I started this blog, things like the Oculus Quest-powered location hunts wouldn’t have been possible.

  • Learning that a Japanese English studies guide used content from my GochiUsa location hunt post as an example exercise: I was browsing through the books at a local bookstore a few years ago, when my phone suddenly began lighting up with notifications. It turned out that some folks from Japan had noticed my location hunt talk on Colmar and utilised the text in that post for a Japanese English study guide. People were wondering if I’d consented to my text being used in this way, and my response was simple: I certainly had no objection and was happy that people of all kinds found my content helpful in some way. It is a little strange to see my blog’s words on a printed page, though.

  • Reaching a thousand posts and a million views in the same year: By 2018, my blog had hit two milestones that, when I started writing, never crossed my mind. In April, I saw the millionth visitor open a page, and then later that year, I published my thousandth post. Neither milestones would be impressive for a professional blog, but for me, this is a side-project, something I work on in my spare time, and seeing these numbers were more of a reminder of how long I’d been in the game for. With this being said, I have previously stated that even if I only had one reader who found my content worthwhile, I would’ve done my job as a blogger: for me, the most fun I have in blogging isn’t watching the follower count or views increase, but rather, hearing from readers who may have different things to share.

  • Reading comments from folks who found my writing useful, and learning from them when they share their own experiences and knowledge: Some of my favourite blogging moments come from reading the different comments that readers have left here over the years. I’ve had everyone from US Navy veterans to published authors, and even folks from Japan swing by, each adding their insights to the discussion. What I write is from the one perspective of the world I know (i.e. my own), so being able to see what others bring to the table is always invaluable. I always welcome a good dialogue, and that means people are free to completely disagree with what I write.

  • Publishing my first-ever collaborative post with Dewbond on Yosuga no Sora: Until last year, Infinite Mirai was a one-man show, and while I’d entertained the idea of guest-blogging at other places or inviting people over to write guest posts, this never really materialised. However, this changed when I spoke with Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime about Yosuga no Sora. I first watched this anime some seven years ago, and while I really enjoyed it, the anime covered topics that were difficult to discuss with people. Dewbond has no reservations and shows how things like love and jealousy can be covered in a mature and analytical manner. This collaborative post ended up being very enjoyable, and I’ve rather enjoyed bringing new voices over here. Folks looking to collab (or if they wish to get in touch for me to write a guest post) are always welcome to do so.

  • Becoming a part of the Jon Spencer Reviews community, participating in things like Jon’s Creator Showcase and AniTwit Watches: On the topic of collaboration and community, one of the biggest wins I’ve had with this blog was becoming a part of a community. In the last five years, user engagement has gone up, but it was only really a few years ago where I started participating in the community to a larger extent. Whether it’s hosting blog highlights to showcase the fact that the anime blogging community is thriving, or making wisecracks when I find the time to join the crew on their latest group watch, it’s fun to kick back and enjoy anime with others. This community also challenges me on the way I approach things, and encourage me to be a better blogger. For this, I am thankful.

  • Looking back through the blog and seeing how many memories I’ve made over the years: Ten years is a lot of time, and this blog accompanied me through most of my undergrad, all of my graduate studies, right through to the present. Many summers ago, I lamented that I never did anything fun, but strictly speaking, this isn’t true: I’ve travelled, tried a plethora of fun foods and done the sorts of things that I’m happiest doing. Reading through my old posts makes me count my blessings, and provides me the encouragement to always strive for a better tomorrow.

Having now shared some of my favourite Infinite Mirai moments, I’ll wrap up by thanking readers again: your support means the world to me, and has been the key contributor to keeping the lights on here. This time around, I won’t be so bold as to suggest that I intend to close off my blog at any point in the future (which, I’m sure, frustrates the living daylights out of those who do have a quarrel with my blog). However, there are certain realities that I must also address: I’m no longer a student, and there are things in my life that require my attention. For instance, I am moving house in the next little while, and therefore, will need to tend to things associated with a move. As such, I will note that with respect to the future, I still plan on blogging where I can, and readers can reasonably expect me to still swing by and write. Similarly, I will also do my best to continue engaging with the community. All of this will simply be with a reduced frequency compared to how I’ve been writing and interacting over the past few years. Sitting here now on ten years of Infinite Mirai, it suddenly strikes me as to just how much has happened in the past decade. There’s been ten different iterations of iOS, and for better or worse, social media now controls almost all discourse on most everything. Precision medicine is becoming more powerful thanks to improvements in gene sequencing, and electric vehicles are now more viable. AI is now an everyday part of our lives, from managing voice-based digital assistants to helping us hunt down similar restaurants in our area. Internet connectivity and computer storage have seen explosive growth, and smart phones went from being novel gadgets to essentials. Consequently, it would be quite exciting to keep up with this journey and see what the next decade brings with readers. I may not be the most well-known blog out there, I certainly don’t get the most comments, like or follows, and I certainly am not the most controversial, but there is one thing I am singularly proud of: I’m part of the best community, with the best fellow writers and readers. Now you know how I feel: I will be more than happy to write for all of you wonderful readers about anything, any time and anywhere.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions After Fifteen

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” –Steve Jobs

It turns out that Fūka and Kukuru are now neighbours, with Fūka having looked ahead to see where Kukuru had moved to before returning. On her first day, Fūka apologises to the director for arriving late, and is promptly assigned as an attendant, where she is to work alongside Chiyu in her duties. Meanwhile, spurred on by Fūka’s return and her determination to ace a test Chiyu tasks her with (memorise the name of all the African Penguins in their exhibit), Kukuru resolves to do her best to and set up the logistics for a behind-the-scenes tour. Despite running into some hiccoughs with the penguin exhibits (Chiyu doesn’t feel the penguins are ready to be shown, since they agitate easily and need time to adjust to their new homes). After Fūka aces the test and demonstrates to Chiyu that she’s serious about excelling in her role, she suggests that certain measures can be taken to keep the penguins happy and go ahead with this segment of the tour. On the day the behind-the-scenes tour opens, only a single family shows up. While Tetsuji is disappointed with the results, the tour had actually gone very well. Later, Tetsuji sets Kukuru up with the goal of quickly designing an exhibit, and to her surprise, approves of the proposal to exhibit sea slugs. While sea slugs are tricky to look after, Kukuru does her best in trying to put the exhibit on, driven by her own passion for aquatic life. One of the species proves especially tricky, and despite orders to go ahead despite not knowing what this species’ diet consists of, Kukuru decides to keep these sea slugs out back until they can figure things out. In the process, Kukuru clashes with Kaoru Shimabukuro, one of the more senior attendants, but once the two get their feelings into the open, it’s clear that the two have more in common than they first thought. Realising this, Kaoru invites Kukuru to check out a section of the shore in search of the food source for the remaining sea slugs, and Kukuru enthusiastically accepts. After I hastily rushed out a talk for The Aquatope on White Sand two weeks earlier, things have settled down a little now as Kukuru and Fūka begin really learning the ropes of their new positions at Tingaara, supporting one another as they had previously at Gama Gama.

While Fūka’s rapidly adjusting to the pace at Tingaara, Kukuru has had a tougher time so far – despite her undeniable passion, drive and devotion, she continues to clash with Tetsuji and other members of the staff as she struggles to delineate her personal and professional worlds. For Kukuru, marine life and aquariums are a part of her as much as it is a job, and consequently, in her eyes, every fight is her fight. However, the exchange she has with Kaoru marks a turning point of sorts in The Aquatope on White Sand; while Kaoru is able to clearly articulate her respect for the ocean and commitment to Tingaara’s success through conservation and education, at her core, she believes in the same things that Kukuru believes in. The only difference is that Kukuru is a bit more raw about how she feels, and is a ways more impulsive: aside from the disparity in how she expresses herself, Kukuru and Kaoru are more similar than unlike, and for Kukuru, spotting this means better being able to empathise with the attendants while at the same time, balancing her duties for the marketting team. Up until now, Fūka and Kai had been Kukuru’s main source of emotional support, and both have already gone above and beyond in reassuring Kukuru, looking after her and giving her a chance to regroup. To see Kukuru slowly realise that there are other people like her, working towards the same long-term goal, then, is to suggest that over time, Kukuru will be able to confidently stand of her own accord. The past two episodes have also shown that Kukuru and Tetsuji most certainly do not get along – Tetsuji is purely concerned with growth and customer retention, values that impress a board during quarterly meetings, while Kukuru is very hands-on and wants to give customers the best possible experience so they’re inclined to return and learn more about aquatic life. While the way Kukuru and Tetsuji express things is drastically different, at their core, Kukuru and Tetsuji actually do have the same objective: bring people to Tingaara so they can learn more about marine biology, and become longtime customers to keep Tingaara’s doors open. Having found common ground with Kaoru, The Aquatope on White Sand suggests that with people she can lean on, learn from and be encouraged by, Kukuru will find ways to strike a balance between reducing customer turnover and doing the hands-on work she’d loved about Gama Gama: knowing P.A. Works, Tetsuji and Kukuru will certainly come to understand one another better, in keeping with what The Aquatope on White Sand has strived to convey thus far.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Having impulsively pushed out a post a few weeks earlier, I return to the usual schedule with this week’s talk on The Aquatope on White Sand, which sees Kukuru pleasantly surprised that Fūka is her neighbour. Of everyone, Kukuru is the most honest with Fūka and confides with her that she was having second thoughts about how things turned out. However, now that Fūka’s back, Kukuru is encouraged and resolves to rise up to the challenge. When the second half of The Aquatope of White Sand was about to air, people speculated that the series was going to purely focus on Kukuru, and some even suggested they’d quit watching, here and now, if Fūka weren’t present.

  • While it is true that Fūka is integral to The Aquatope on White Sand, such a statement is indicative of people who are predisposed towards jumping to conclusions. Admittedly, this is why episodic write-ups are always a challenge: since one doesn’t have the full picture in mind, certain things within the moment may not make sense until more context is provided. Here, Akari speaks to Kukuru about Fūka and is surprised the two know one another. While Tetsuji might be about as friendly as a winter storm, The Aquatope on White Sand shows that both Akari and Karin get along with Kukuru well enough.

  • I’ve been where Kukuru was: working with the American computational oncology company put me in contact with a backend team based out of Winnipeg, and said backend team were among the most unfriendly group I’d worked with. In spite of this, I overcame my hurdles precisely by focusing on my tasks and delivering what was asked. As such, The Aquatope on White Sand‘s portrayal of how Kukuru handles Tetsuji is mostly accurate: while she may be dismayed at his unreasonable expectations and lack of empathy, she’s learning how to focus on her duties and deliver what’s asked of her.

  • Meanwhile, since Fūka has been assigned to be an attendant, Chiyu decides to test her ability to pick up new information. A part of me wondered if this was Chiyu attempting to haze Fūka, but this is likewise an unfair assessment to make: generally speaking, the attendant position is more formally an aquarist, and for the most part, people in this field must possess at least an undergraduate degree in zoology or marine biology on top of having field experience with animals and communication skills. For safety reasons, aquarists must also have certification in CPR and scuba diving. The position is a demanding one, and the average pay hovers around 30500 CAD per year in Canada.

  • The behind-the-scenes tours might’ve been delayed, but now that the other departments have had a chance to catch up, Tetsuji determines that the time has come to give guests these tours; Kukuru is given the task of organising the tour and coordinating with the different departments to ensure the tours go smoothly. Fortunately, she also has Karin in her corner, although things mean that Kukuru can come across as a bit immature at times. This is, of course, a part of her growth, and folks like Karin understand what Kukuru is going through; Karin had previous work experience, and the things that cause Kukuru to melt down are going to be just another problem with a solution for her.

  • With Fūka back, the Gama Gama crew can really get together and celebrate now. Kukuru’s foul mood persists into the evening until Karin reminds her that tonight is about welcoming Fūka for the next stage of her journey. The Aquatope on White Sand makes it clear that Fūka is a tonic of sorts for Kukuru: seeing Fūka buckle down and give her best inspires her to do the same. The synergy about the two can only be thought of as how very close friends and close siblings can encourage one another. Tsukimi ends up serving this party, and the group are thoroughly impressed with the food at Ohana.

  • Fūka initially struggles to memorise all of the penguin’s names based purely on their tags and any distinct identifying traits. This brings to mind the sort of work I did for my courses during university: I recall memorising the Hiragana and Katakana for Japanese, as well as all twenty of the amino acids (along with their structures). Back then, absorbing information by brute force was my preferred way of doing things; I’ve never really been good with memory tricks or mnemonics. In industry, experience replaces memorisation: I know some systems sufficiently well to apply shared principals for novel problems.

  • Despite her initial struggles, Kukuru’s managed to get the behind-the-scenes tour organised, save for penguins. While Tetsuji is okay with skipping over the penguins for now, and Chiyu has justification for why, Kukuru believes that there is merit to adding this to the tour. Tetsuji reluctantly allows Kukuru to try, and while Chiyu still holds objections, her coworker, Maya, is more receptive to the idea. With everything that’s been shown so far, it really looks like that Tetsuji and Chiyu will be the people that Kukuru must figure out: Maya is friendly, accommodating and more than happy to help make the penguin exhibit a successful part of the behind-the-scenes tour.

  • With her exam upcoming, Fūka still has a few birds left to memorise, and it is with Kukuru’s help that she’s able to get the last few nailed down: Kukuru suggests that in order to really memorise something, Fūka must learn to stop relying on her notes and only count on them to check an answer. Being able to see the penguins for herself also helps Kukuru to understand why Chiyu had been so adamant about not running the tour with penguins: they’re still adjusting to their new home, and visitors would likely only disturb them more.

  • Seeing how Kukuru treats her friends and adversaries alike gives insight into her character as it is now. Since treating people professionally and equally is a part of maturing, this is something that Kukuru will (hopefully) have a chance to work towards. Fūka has undoubtedly been a major asset for Kukuru, helping to keep her spirits up, but their friendship is one of give-and-take: for everything Fūka has done, Kukuru is more than happy to help her out where she needs it. This dynamic is why Kukuru and Fūka had gotten along particularly well during The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half, so seeing this return for the second half means this particular theme is particularly important to the series.

  • On the day of Fūka’s exam, she aces things. It is here that Kukuru makes one final bid to have Chiyu approve of showing the penguins to visitors as a part of the behind-the-scenes tour, and after some concessions are made, Chiyu finally accepts so long as Kukuru is true to her word. When the tour does begin, Kukuru and Akari are surprised to learn that there’s only one family: Kukuru had been so busy preparing that she’s had precious little time to advertise the event. Since she is on a team, one would imagine that Tetsuji would’ve had the foresight to assign someone else to spread the word and build some excitement.

  • Despite his 牙刷刷 manner, Tetsuji is not infallible. In spite of this oversight, Tetsuji holds Kukuru accountable when it was his failure to assign someone to the task of advertising that resulted in the low turnout. As I saw it, the behind-the-scenes tour was an unqualified success, and the family that does show up come away impressed with both Tingaara’s facility and staff. While Kukuru is still learning the basics surrounding big picture decisions, when it’s time to put boots on the ground, she excels with detail-oriented tasks.

  • I don’t think I’ve mentioned this until now, but The Aquatope on White Sand had mentioned that these are African Penguins. These flightless birds are found in South Africa and primarily feed on fish found in the pelagic zone. Moreover, Fūka did mention that there was a happily-married couple: it is definitely true that African Penguins are monogamous. The choice to have African Penguins at Gama Gama and Tingaara is a logical one: unlike penguins found in Antarctica, African Penguins do inhabit cold regions and therefore, can adapt to warmer conditions quite readily compared to their Antarctica counterparts. Although it is never mentioned in The Aquatope on White Sand, African Penguins are colloquially referred to as “Jackass Penguins”, too.

  • While I count Tetsuji as 牙刷刷 (jyutping ngaa4 caat3 caat3, an obscure Cantonese slang that cannot be literally translated and whose meaning is “arrogant”), I am not going to say that I dislike his character: P.A. Works introduces difficult characters for a reason, and it would be most immature to simply develop hatred of a fictional character when said fictional character clearly has a role to play in advancing the story to some capacity. Had Tetsuji been an accommodating and understanding leader, there’d be no conflict: this might be appropriate for something like Koisuru Asteroid or Houkago Teibou Nisshi, but since interpersonal relationships, specifically, dealing with adversity and conflict management, are central to The Aquatope on White Sand, it makes no sense to put Kukuru on easy street.

  • Moreover, the lack of conflict amongst characters would mean that there’d be no chance to showcase Kukuru’s funny faces. In response to whatever Tetsuji asks of her, Kukuru can be seen rocking P.A. Works’ best funny faces since the Shirobako days, and admittedly, I miss them quite a bit; making the characters expressive allows a given series to tell viewers the emotional tenour of a moment without utilising dialogue or other audio-visual cues. Kukuru opens the fifteenth episode dissatisfied with the fact that she has to produce written reports. While they can be tedious, having a paper trail has been shown to save a lot of trouble in the long run.

  • During lunch hour, Kukuru and Fūka enjoy what appears to be shrimp tacos and fries from a local food truck. While Kukuru is so distracted she’s not enjoying her meal, a few words from Fūka gives Kukuru the spirit to slow down for the moment and tackle her latest problem from a new angle. It’s been two years since I’ve been to a food truck, and I fondly remember the days when food trucks would show up on campus with things that couldn’t be had anywhere else: from the legendary “smoked meat hash”, to fried chicken poutine and pulled pork poutine, the food trucks in my city largely contributed to my becoming a poutine connoisseur.

  • As soon as the current fourth wave dies down, I am almost certainly going to go out for poutine with my friends again. Until then, I’ll sit tight and return to The Aquatope on White Sand, where Kukuru is now spurred on to really get creative in finding ways of creating an all-new project that is intended to bring more people to Tingaara. While the assignment had initially stumped her, once she gets into the swing of things, Kukuru is unstoppable, and even works extra hours to create an array of proposals for Tetsuji to review.

  • Tetsuji is the sort of individual who perpetually seems dissatisfied, although in the end, he concedes that Kukuru’s proposal for sea slugs might have merits and approves it. There’s a host of reasons why people are like this, ranging from communication faults to insecurity. I personally give credit where it is due, and even where something might have obvious flaws, I also comment on what was done correctly, as well as what else could be done to improve things, on top of noting the reality of the situation. This approach allows me to cultivate a reputation of fairness, and then when it is necessary, I can be frank with my criticisms without people misinterpreting my intentions.

  • Karin, Akari and other staff in marketting are impressed that Kukuru managed to get something passed. Their pufferfish hats here stand in stark contrast to Tetsuji’s severe manner, and one would suppose that, under a more light-hearted leader, the marketting department at Tingaara would be a pleasant place to work. Kukuru is beginning to hit her stride and approach problems as I do: no matter how unpleasant a leader might be, I’ve found that sticking to one’s assignment and doing a well enough job so that there is no room for large criticisms is fulfilling one’s responsibilities in a satisfactory manner.

  • I’ve not seen Kukuru this happy since the earliest days of The Aquatope on White Sand: with sea slugs being the theme now, Kukuru is allowed to go out and gather species for the exhibit. It was here that The Aquatope on White Sand really begins to solidify what is possible given Kukuru’s skills. Unlike Karin or Akari, Kukuru’s knowledge of marine biology is extensive, and she is therefore able to bring ideas to the table, having an awareness of what would be required to get something implemented. For Kukuru, these sorts of assignments also put her back in her element.

  • Earlier, Eiji had spotted Kai speaking with Kukuru and conjectures that Kai’s got feelings for Kukuru. Drawing analogies to other marine organisms, who signal their desire for a mate in obvious ways, Eiji suggests that Kai be direct with Kukuru, as well. While Eiji is a stoic individual who finds marine biology more relatable than people, he’s actually turning out to be very personable, and his graduate degree allows him to put his knowledge to good use in ways not directly related to his duties. The Aquatope on White Sand has a varied cast, and like Angel Beats!Hanasaku IrohaTari Tari and countless of P.A. Works’ previous shows, this series similarly aims to slowly unveil the characters, who become more likeable as more of their story and nature is revealed to viewers.

  • A few days ago, I spotted a promotion on Twitter from the The Aquatope on White Sand‘s feed, which showed Fūka and Kukuru together with Hitomi, Kohaku, Manaka and Miuna. It turns out this is a special collaborative art exhibition to be held in Tokyo and Osaka in November 2021 and January 2022, respectively. The theme that these three anime share in common is their portrayal of the ocean: this is easy enough to spot for The Aquatope on White Sand and Nagi no Asukara, but for The World in Colours, I imagine that the “ocean” acts as a metaphor for the world within our minds.

  • With this in mind, it would appear that The Aquatope on White Sand is a project that brings the workplace piece from Hanasaku IrohaSakura Quest and Shirobako together with the ocean themes of Nagi no Asukara, and the idea that magic comes from within, which was a big part of The World in Colours: thanks to its 2-cour runtime, The Aquatope on White Sand has had plenty of time to explore a wide range of themes. Here, both Fūka and Kukuru are disappointed that the last remaining sea slugs have not been eating at all. The Aquatope on White Sand has evidently done their homework: sea slugs is a broad group of gastropods informally referred to as opisthobranchia: this is not a monophylic classification, a result of the fact that sea slugs are extremely diverse.

  • When Kukuru’s concern for these sea slugs causes her to be late for a behind-the-scenes tour, she and Chiyu almost get into another fight. Fortunately, Fūka is on hand to prevent escalation, and before the tour continues, Kukuru is content to give Chiyu a dirty look, adding another funny face to my growing collection of Kukuru moments. It typifies Fūka’s ability to resolve conflicts that nothing more happens, and I imagine that Fūka will play a role yet where Chiyu and Kukuru are concerned.

  • A close look at Kukuru’s screen finds that she’s rocking Windows 10, but the machine is evidently that of a 2017 21.5-inch iMac: this is made possible by Bootcamp, which is a software that comes with MacOS and allows one to easily partition their hard drive and dual-boot between Windows and MacOS. Back during graduate school, I ended up using Boot Camp for my thesis work: Unreal Engine and Unity ran much more smoothly with Windows than Mac, making it easier to build and run more complex 3D visualisations. I imagine that for P.A. Works, having Tingaara run MacOS Monterey would’ve run afoul of Apple, so they elected to display a genericised version of Windows instead, and here, Kukuru reacts in response to an email from the latest version of Microsoft Outlook.

  • When Kai takes a brief break from his shift, he’s surprised to see Kukuru still going at things, and brings her some salted coffee, a beverage with origins in the US Navy. It’s said that the salt came from the fact that desalination units on WWII-era ships weren’t a hundred percent effective, and some salt remained anyways. Coupled with the fact that salt takes the bitterness from a cup of joe, the tradition stuck. Kai isn’t able to express how he feels about Kukuru to her here, but he does manage to give her some stress relief, allowing her to continue on with her work.

  • Whereas Kukuru is adamant that the remaining sea slugs be properly fed, Kaoru notes that Kukuru’s idealism is interfering with their actual work and in the long term, would be more harmful to the organisms and their ecosystems; by taking organisms from their natural habitats, the aquarium has already subjected the animals to confinement, and the hope is that a few organisms will take one so the knowledge gained can be used to better preserve species in their habitats. This flies over Kukuru’s head, but realising that Kaoru respects nature as much as she does causes a change of heart. Similarly, while Kukuru might not have a post-secondary background in zoology or marine biology, Kaoru comes to see that Kukuru is no different than she is. This argument brings both Kukuru and Kaoru’s feelings out into the open, resolving one conflict.

  • In the end, Kukuru and the attendants determine that they can run the exhibit while the remaining sea slugs are held in storage until their food source can be determined. For visitors, this proves satisfactory, but Tetsuji takes Kukuru to the woodshed for this decision. As the viewers, however, we are deliberately shown that the visitors are satisfied with the exhibit, and even experience the same feelings Kukuru does about the sea slugs, finding them more adorable and interesting than repulsive and dull. I contend that for someone like Tetsuji, it would be important for him to put boots on the ground and see what the customers are saying before jumping to conclusions: understanding the customers’ feelings and desires is how an organisation improves over time.

  • One wonders how I’d deal with someone like Tetsuji, and the answer should not be too surprising. I believe that the work comes first, and as I did with the Winnipeg team, I never complained in front of them. Instead, I did precisely what was asked of me and documented everything extensively, making sure all of my bases were covered. Now that I think about it, three years earlier, we’d be getting very close to the day where I was given approval to submit the completed app to the App Store and Google Play for review. Both ended were accepted, and that brought one chapter of my life to a close. At that point, The World in Colours was also under way, and I found myself really falling in love with the world that was presented.

  • The Aquatope on White Sand has succeeded in capturing my attention for different reasons than The World in Colours, and here at the end of fifteen episode, Kukuru is all smiles after Kaoru invites her to check out a cool place on the shores of Okinawa: the bags under her eyes evaporate immediately, signifying the return of her old energy. Life at Tingaara for Kukuru is full of ups and downs, and right now, Chiyu and Tetsuji are the biggest challenges she faces. Given the themes of previous P.A. Works series, I imagine that Kukuru is no different than Ohana, Aoi or Koharu: while yes, challenges set her back and yes, there are things she doesn’t agree with, her own tenacity and enthusiasm will help her to learn the ropes and work well with the team, as well as bring her own unique set of skills to the table in a manner beneficial to Tingaara. The Aquatope on White Sand continues to impress, and I imagine that in the last quarter of the series, Tingaara will face down the sort of adversity that will force the team to unify; things like these have occurred in P.A. Works’ previous series, and it was really here that a given series’ main themes are presented.

So far, where given the opportunity, Kukuru has begun to meld what she’s learning about large-scale operations together with her own experiences in running things at a more personal level. The idea for a sea slug exhibit demonstrates how Kukuru is very driven, determined to make things work, and Tingaara’s director evidently spotted this in Kukuru – while she had longed to be an attendant, placing her in marketting allows Tingaara to have someone who knows their stuff to guide the others in creating compelling exhibits, special events and promotions to drive interest. Because Kukuru has satisfactory knowledge about marine biology, she is able to come up with exhibits that are feasible, and at the same time, really showcase what about a species or phenomenon is worth studying. Once Kukuru is allowed to do this, her old energy truly begins returning to her – it is fair to say that one can take Kukuru out of Gama Gama, but it is hardly possible to take the Gama Gama out of Kukuru. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and having now seen Kukuru acclimatise to the requirements of her position on top of bringing in her previous experience to make things work as best as she can, it is clear that The Aquatope on White Sand intends to present how people adjust to their work, make the most of things and in time, come to take on a newfound appreciation for what they’re doing. While Kukuru’s got her own challenges, the former Gama Gama staff appear to be doing their best to adjust to life at a larger aquarium. In particular, Kai appears to get along quite well with Eiji, who encourages him to be upfront with his feelings for Kukuru. Similarly, Marina and Fūka are also on friendly terms. The beginnings of new friendships (or at least, improved relationships among coworkers) is beginning to manifest – early on, Karin hears faint rumours that Gama Gama’s former staff are very tight-knit and uptight, but after fifteen episodes, this clearly isn’t the case. As Gama Gama’s old staff adjust to working with the remainder of Tingaara’s staff, new relationships are formed, as is an increased understanding and appreciation of what everyone contributes. The resulting empathy sets the stage for improving communications, and this is where The Aquatope on White Sand could become superbly exciting.

Tawawa on Monday 2: Review and Reflections After Three

“Impressive! You’ve upgraded your armour! I’VE MADE SOME UPGRADES OF MY OWN!”
“Sir, it appears that his suit can fly.”
“Duly noted.”
–Obadiah Stane, JARVIS and Tony Stark, Iron Man

On the commute to work, Ai explains to the salaryman that she’s got two buttons to give him this Monday because she and her sister had been imitating a scene out of Laputa: Castle in The Sky and totalled their shirts, before mentioning that her younger sister is beginning high school, too. Later, while the salaryman leaves home, he’s envious of a neighbour who has a loving wife; it turns out that he’s a teacher, and when one of his students fell in love with him, did what he could to conceal the fact that he returned her feelings. After she graduates, the pair are no longer teacher and student, and the teacher finally agrees to go out with her. During a business trip, the well-endowed junior employee makes no end of trouble for the senior employee, but the two manage to succeed in their trip’s aims and end up buying some sake to celebrate on return, although returning through the airport, the junior’s forgetfullness means that she leaves some keys in her pocket, setting off the metal detector and embarrassing her senior. This is Tawawa on Monday 2, a continuation of the 2016 ONA that adapted Kiseki Himura’s distinct blue-monochrome illustrations, which Himura stated as being done to encourage people in the workforce and students alike at the beginning of every week. The first season had been done by Pine Jam, but Yokohama Animation Laboratory is producing this second season, which opens off in a manner that immediately brings to mind the first: the shorts are snapshots into Ai et al.’s everyday experiences. Through these gentle interactions, the unusual combination of humour and mild embarrassment creates a sense of catharsis that clears the mind and ostensibly adds a spring to one’s step, letting them face a new week with vigour. I can speak to the efficacy of what Himura proposes from personal experience, and it is clear, from both the fact that Himura has continued drawing Tawawa on Monday to the present, as well as the fact that there is a second animated series, others also concur with this sentiment.

While Tawawa on Monday primarily deals with those inevitable moments of embarrassment that are simultaneously tender and heartwarming, there are some stories that are particularly well done (especially considering the short length of each episode). In Tawawa on Monday 2, the second episode serves as this example: a student’s feelings for her teacher lingered for the full three years she was in high school, and this teacher managed to maintain his sense of professionalism about him, doing his best to keep that distance and stopping his own feelings from getting the better of him despite how forward this student is. In the end, once the two are no longer teacher and student, the teacher is able to be truthful about how he feels, and indeed, the two end up getting married. There has always been something about this kind of love that I’ve always found immeasurably touching; while people might know one another for long periods of time, they may not always interact with and learn more about one another, or are otherwise constrained by circumstance. Tawawa on Monday had a similar story, where a salary man encounters a girl from his old high school years later; she now works at the local convenience store, and while she had a crush on him back then, he never really noticed. The feelings of yearning for what could have been permeate these stories, and really creates this feeling of emptiness about the characters who never noticed those around them. I particularly relate to this; hindsight is flawless, after all, and looking back, I may (or may not) have left a small pile of broken hearts in my wake as I strove to pursue my career and professional development without stopping to consider the feelings of those around me. If and when I’m asked about what I’d do provided a second chance, I would not be so foolish and take things up this time around; my circumstances now are rather different, and I now have the time (and resources) to do the sorts of things I couldn’t previously.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Since I opened with Ai’s smile when I first wrote about Tawawa on Monday, I’ll do the same for this introductory post to Tawawa on Monday 2. I remember that when I first heard of Kiseki Himura’s illustrations, I struggled to understand what たわわ meant. It turns out this is a bit of slang for someone who’s got a lot out front. I’ll also get this off my chest before delving further into discussions of  Tawawa on Monday 2Tawawa reminds me a great deal of Wawanesa Insurance, a Winnipeg-based mutual insurance firm named after an unincorporated community in Manitoba with a population of 594 as if 2016.

  • Because of how I process information, I sometimes mistakenly refer to Wawanesa Insurance as Tawawa Insurance. After meeting with the salaryman on the train, Ai recounts how on the weekend, she got into a bit of a flexing contest with her younger sister, who, while pretty stacked, loses out to Ai. I’d never thought I’d see the ripped-shirt contest from Laputa: Castle in The Sky in something like Tawawa on Monday, and especially not in this format. For this post, I had originally decided to go with a quote from Steven Chow’s Forbidden City Cop, but my written Cantonese isn’t of a level where I could quote Chow’s character for the relevant scene, so I’ve fallen back on an old classic from the MCU, referring to how Ai’s bustier than she had previously been.

  • Ai’s mother subsequently remarks that it’s on her to mend her own shirts after this performance. This post admittedly comes out of the blue: I hadn’t been intending to write anything today, since yesterday, I spent a nontrivial amount of time on the Battlefield 2042 open beta discussion. I slept in a little today, spent the morning reading through manga, and then sat down to a delicious homemade burger. As the afternoon progressed, however, I did notice that my old Tawawa on Monday post was rapidly climbing in views.

  • I thus decided to shoot through the first three episodes to gain a measure of what they were about and write about the series; it is clear that there is interest in Tawawa on Monday 2, and I’d figured that this was likely what people are popping in to read about: for the most part, I write according to my own schedule, but if the metrics suggest a demand for something, I have no problems obliging and providing readers with what they seek. Formerly a first year, Ai is now a second year, and is seen looking over the classroom assignments before her friend shows up and cops a feel, causing all of the people in the surroundings to blush and stare.

  • The character designs are noticeably different now that Yokohama Animation Laboratory has taken over from Pine Lab: while the contents and atmosphere remain the same, it does feel like that Yokohama Animation Laboratory is still finding their feet with respect to how the characters look. At the time of writing, I prefer the designs from the first season more, but I imagine that as this series continues, I’ll acclimatise all the same.

  • The precise relationship between the salaryman and Ai is never explicitly defined, and in fact, the salaryman’s eyes are never shown, either. This was a deliberate choice, so viewers could imagine themselves in the salaryman’s place, and is a decision that brings to mind the reason why most first-person shooter protagonists (e.g. Half-Life 2Halo and DOOM) are unspeaking: it’s so the player can better immerse themselves in the world. In Tawawa on Monday, the salaryman is a stand-in for us viewers whenever it’s Ai’s turn for a story, but there are other stories featuring different characters.

  • The second episode is such a story, following a high school girl’s determined  one-sided crush on a male teacher. This sort of thing is more common than I imagined, and I certainly wasn’t immune to this, either, having developed a bit of a crush on my first-year science instructor and yearbook club advisor. Before readers go off and imagine anything, nothing happened. I did go out of my way to put in extra effort and do well in those classes, but that’s about it. While the ceaseless flow of events in life meant I probably would’ve forgotten these things, I still have the awards for that science class and yearbook hanging around to remind me.

  • The time for dealing out or receiving a kokuhaku in a classroom as the sunset is long past now, and I suppose the only way to have such an experience will be in my dreams or respawns. With this being said, realising one were in love with someone else all along isn’t bad, either. I’ve not experienced love in the sense that poets, writers and singers have expressed, but compared to the me who wrote about Tawawa on Monday five years earlier, I think I’ve got a better measure of what I’d like out of a relationship. Besides the trust, faithfulness, openness and cooperation, one thing I greatly value is someone who can be full of pleasant surprises.

  • One of my favourite songs, Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes, speaks precisely to the sort of love I seek. In this song, Holmes speaks of a man who’d grown to find his lady unremarkable and dull, so he ends up writing an ad in the paper’s classified section describing what he’s looking for next. To his surprise, the man ends up getting a hit, and with a twinge of guilt, goes off to meet the woman who answered his ad. When he gets to the café, he is blown away by the fact that the lady meeting him happens to be his current partner.

  • Although the song sounds like it could be encouraging infidelity, the actual point of the song is to show that the people we fall in love with can find a way to surprise us even years later. The man and woman in the song have their love rekindled, surprised that there had been a side of their partner they never knew about. Whenever this song comes on the radio, I always have a smile on my face, and as a bonus, this song featured in The Guardians of the Galaxy. Having done what I’ve done, and seen what I’ve seen, nothing brings me more joy than falling in love with something all over again, and it is such an encouraging thought that all it takes is a change of perspective to experience this anew.

  • Robert F. Young’s short story, The Dandelion Girl, is another example of such love. With a bit of help from time travel, the married protagonist falls in love with a younger girl who turns out to be his current wife. Discovering new things about the familiar is something I am very much fond of: whether it be finding a new footpath in a park I’ve visited since childhood, or learning that an old game of mine has AI bots, thus allowing it to be played now even though the servers are offline, it’s always a thrill to rediscover things as though it were my first time. This part of me has carried over to what I look for in a relationship, although it’s not a must-have.

  • For the high school girl, there is a melancholy as the episode indicates how her feelings for her teacher never waver throughout all of high school: she had promised to conquer his heart before graduating, and despite her efforts, which range from trying to seduce him the same way Sayu had tried in Higehiro, to suggesting that she wants to go out with someone else in order to elicit a reaction, nothing seems to be effective. Even after the graduation ceremony, the teacher appears to have steeled his heart and walk a future without her, despite signs that he has come to reciprocate her feelings.

  • It’s a bit of a tearful moment for both the teacher and former student after the latter learns that he had indeed reciprocated her feelings, but otherwise never exhibited any sign of interest out of professionalism. Fiction oftentimes speaks to the idea that miracles can happen, even against established rules, so it is refreshing whenever something like Tawawa on Monday shows how happy endings can be found without violating any laws (although I imagine folks who are sticklers about things adhering to reality are left disappointed because this deprives them of something they can complain about).

  • For comedy’s sake, it turns out the former student also recorded the teacher returning her feelings as a bit of a momento. Anime often poses the question of whether or not someone is worth dating even if they’ve got a few eccentricities about them, and my personal answer to this question is an old standby: “it depends”, and then, within moderation. Hensuki is such an anime, and overall, I’m a Sayuri fan first and foremost, with Mizuha taking second place. Of everyone, Sayuri and Mizuha’s respective things are not troublesome at all (especially compared to Yuika). Of course, answering the question at all gives insight into the sort of person I am, and I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader, as to whether or not one’s opinion of me changed.

  • The third episode focuses on a senior salaryman and his energetic, but sometimes careless junior as they go on a business trip to pitch something for their company. I’ve not been to an airport for two-and-a-half years now; the last time would’ve been when I went to F8 2019, and passing through US Customs is probably the trickiest part of my travels. Watching people going about their business normally in things like anime is admittedly a little weird, and unfortunately, it looks like for the present, normalcy is still a ways away in reality.

  • In any series where ecchi elements are present, I’d have to resort to using animated GIFs to fully portray what’s happening on screen. This is something I’ve never considered doing over the course of my blog’s run, since animated GIFs are bandwidth intensive, distracting, and quite frankly, annoying – repetition has never been witty for me. As they say, a joke is never as funny the second time one hears it, and the reason for this is because an effective joke depends on timing and context. This is why I despise memes and never use GIFs as a response to something someone might say: it’s a sign of respect to reply properly.

  • After boarding their flight, a flight attendant asks if the senior and junior need any help stowing their luggage, but struggles with the latch. The ensuing hassle eventually leads the senior to step in and secure things himself. A part of the humour here comes from watching the senior worker’s expressions while things are going down: even though the men in Tawawa on Monday are presented without any eyes, they are still quite expressive, at least, enough for us viewers to pickup on what’s going on.

  • Tawawa on Monday 2 appears to have improved the background art compared to its predecessor, and after a successful presentation, both junior and senior alike decide it’s time to go ahead and celebrate with a drink or two. In the event such occasions come up, I typically order whatever non-alcoholic options are available. While fiction would suggest that I’m a wet blanket, it turns out that the variety of non-alcoholic options out there is mind-boggling. There are non-alcoholic beers and wines, on top of soft drinks, juices and the like, to the point where I could grab a ginger beer and still partake without getting hammered. My personal disinclination to drink isn’t on any moral grounds: I light up like a Christmas tree and then fall asleep if I’ve had one too many.

  • Unfortunately for the junior office lady, after she comes out of the shower with naught but a towel wrapped around her, the senior worker suddenly loses all inclination to go out, and the next day, he ends up buying a bottle of alcohol for her in place of things. The topic of office romances is one that poses challenges for companies, since it creates tension among coworkers, lowers productivity and in the worst case, create nightmares for human resource. In the realm of fiction, office romances are employed almost entirely for comedy. Tawawa on Monday, being fiction, falls squarely into the realm of comedy.

  • Upon returning through a security checkpoint, the junior’s forgotten about her keys again, and here, I’ll pointlessly reminisce about the fact that, for the past year, I’d been wondering what one of the keys on my key ring were for. As it turns out, this “mystery” key is for my dōjō. With this post in the books, I think that folks coming here for Tawawa on Monday 2-related discussions will have finally have something to read, and now that this unexpected post is in the books, I’ll return next time with a scheduled post for The Aquatope on White Sand.

While Tawawa on Monday has never been the most world-changing or insightful series about relationships, life lessons or the human condition, their ability to endure is a consequence of speaking to people’s desires to love and be loved, to experience warmth and a sense of belonging. Tawawa on Monday‘s first season had aired in late 2016, and I wrote about the series briefly in early 2017; the fact that a second season is running now, five full years after the first, speaks to the fact that this out-of-the-way series is doing well enough to warrant a continuation. I rather enjoyed the first season, and Tawawa on Monday 2 is off to a solid start. The characters here look a little different than their 2016 counterparts, a consequence of Yokohama Animation Laboratory taking over for Pine Jam, but other than that, it does feel as though I never left: Tawawa on Monday 2 is looking quite enjoyable, and I am curious to see what sorts of experiences that the salaryman, senior employee and others will have throughout this series run. It should be clear that nothing crazy happens in Tawawa on Monday, and a part of the magic in this series is precisely because it teases what could happen, rather than outright depicting it. I will note here that I’d originally been planning to write about Tawawa on Monday 2 after the whole series had finished airing later this year, but I do pay attention to my site metrics, and it appears that there’s been a considerable uptick in interest for my old Tawawa on Monday posts. Thus, for the readers’ sake, I’ve opted to write about this series earlier than scheduled so folks have a chance to hear about what my thoughts on this continuation are.