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Higurashi GOU: Whole-Series Review and Reflection, A Return to Hinamizawa

“This is how things are now! You and me, trapped in this moment, endlessly.”
“Then you will spend eternity dying!”

– Doctor Strange and Dormammu, Doctor Strange

Keiichi Maebara moves to a remote mountain village in 1983 and discovers that this seemingly sleepy village conceals a dark secret that has consistently claimed the life of one individual and resulted in the disappearance of another every year during the town’s Cotton-Drifting Festival. At least, this is what Higurashi was originally about: 2020’s Higurashi GOU was quite unexpected and surprising given that KAI had satisfactorily answered all of the questions that Higurashi had raised. Thus, when GOU began airing, the first half of the season felt to be an incomplete retreading of the original Higurashi, as different arcs saw Keiichi and Mion succumb to madness. However, as the story progresses, Rika begins to realise that something is off: having broken the cursed cycle, she finds herself suffering tragedies anew. Rike learns that the culprit is none other than Satoko; after defeating the Yamainu and revealing there never was Oyashiro-sama’s curse, she decides to pursue a future at St. Lucia’s, a prestigious academy for young women. It turns out that Satoko had joined Rika on her journey, but, lacking the academics and social skills to fit in, became increasingly withdrawn. When Keiichi, Rena and Mion invite her and Rika back to Hinamizawa, Satoko begins to long for the days of old and decides to take a walk around, eventually reaching the old storehouse holding the statue of Oyashiro-sama. When she comes into contact with a piece of the statue, she is transported into a void and comes face-to-face with the entity that consents to be known as Eua. Here, Satoko gains the same power Rika has, and vows to do whatever it takes to stop Rika from leaving Hinamizawa, even if it means endlessly killing her best friend to utterly smash her resilence. Satoko’s constant resetting of time begins to be felt across different realities: her uncle, Teppei, begins to realise the horrors he subjected Satoko to and makes amends, while Miyo follows a feeling in her heart and learns her adoptive grandfather had intended her to live a happy life. Miyo decides to stand down from her research, but Satoko capitalises on the moment and takes possession of a vial of agent H-173, promising Eua that Hinamizawa’s fate is now hers to control. From shaky beginnings to a shocking middle and gripping ending, GOU thus sets the stage for the upcoming SOTSU by posing the questions that had allowed Higurashi to be so successful. Despite treading on familiar ground, GOU thus manages to reignite interest in Higurashi and creates a compelling story to follow.

Despite being a question arc, in which the story is only partially told from several viewpoints to pique the viewer’s curiosity and set the table for the big reveal, GOU nonetheless establishes that Higurashi has returned to demonstrate that the notion of a happy ending is only thus from a certain point of view. The outcome of KAI had decisively finished off Higurashi and ostensibly eliminated any chance that evil could rise where it was once buried, but in GOU, this is precisely what happens anyways. In fact, GOU ends up being even more brutal than its predecessor: the instrument of Rika’s suffering is none other than Satoko, and during a particularly horrific episode where Satoko had sawn Rika in half with the ritual hoe, it becomes clear that KAI left Satoko’s wishes unattended; it was Rika who’d defeated her fate to create a path for her future, and nowhere else in GOU was Satoko’s longing more pronounced. While seemingly gratuitous and unnecessary, the reason for such an outcome would later be explored as Satoko found herself increasingly shut out from Rika’s world after the pair had gained admittance to St. Lucia. Melancholy turns to pure hatred, speaking yet again to the horrors that lay dormant. Higurashi had nailed this particular concept, only to demonstrate that despair can be beaten back through hope in KAI. However, with Satoko seemingly holding all of the cards as we leave GOU, it becomes clear that the renewed Higurashi has something else in mind for viewers. GOU had appeared to suggest that an unwillingness to change is an instrument of suffering, causing people to cling to the past, but so far, GOU depicts Satoko as having no remorse, and understanding Rika’s determination only increases her own twisted desire to destroy Rika utterly. The extreme lengths Satoko has gone to in doing a deal with the devil, and the disregard for those around her so long as she achieves her ends, has not been met with a response in equal and opposite manner just yet, but such a path can only be self-destructive: I therefore expect that the upcoming SOTSU will aim to demonstrate the cost of reactionary behaviours, and potentially, how even the foulest and despairing minds can yet be redeemed.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It feels a little strange to be back in Hinamizawa again after six years: as my story goes, I had a friend who had been quite interested to hear my thoughts about it, and so, I kicked off the series in the knowledge that I had also been watching GochiUsa, as well as working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain on the side. While graphic violence has never been something that I do well with, especially in anime, it turns out that Higurashi‘s art style wasn’t of the disturbing sort. So, I shot through the series, found it superbly enjoyable, but also found myself at a loss for words: back in those days, I wasn’t too effective with condensing out an entire series’ worth of thoughts into a single post.

  • Thus, the first I’d ever talked about Higurashi here was with Dewbond, a peer blogger with a keen eye for character dynamics and the importance of certain events on a story’s overall messages. Higurashi had left a trail of questions in its wake, but by the second season, KAI, it became clear that Higurashi had been stressing the importance of winning hearts and mind; the tragedies of Hinamizawa are averted when characters learn to forgive past evils and accept one another, as well as demonstrating the patience to hear even one’s foes out in conversation.

  • As Dewbond and I mentioned in our collaborations, the Black Ops approach would probably result in total devastation: the reason there is such a disparity between Call of Duty Black Ops and Higurashi, despite both sharing in common ordinary men and women trying to do good in a world entangled in ancient conspiracies and shadowy actors manipulating things from behind the scenes is simply because of their respective genres. Higurashi is about speaking to players, of making good decisions in the shoes of an ordinary person whose small actions can have a massive difference, and Black Ops is a first-person shooter whose entertainment value comes precisely from blowing stuff up.

  • GOU‘s portrayal of Hinamizawa brings the place to life with updated visuals. Modelled after Gifu’s Shirakawa, this remote mountain village has a population of two thousand and is host to a unique set of beliefs, with Oyashiro-sama’s curse being the chief of them. With mysterious disappearances and unexplained murders darkening the area, the village was host to the dam conflict, during which villagers succeeded in convincing the government to withdraw approval to construct a hydroelectric dam in the area.

  • Classic elements like outrageous club activities, Rika’s nipaa and mii, and Satoko’s trademark ojou-sama laugh all return in GOU: when the series began, it initially felt like a reboot of the original Higurashi and GOU. Familiar elements are presented, along with a lingering sense of mystery and multiple, distinct timelines that sees characters make mistakes and end up committing murder or walking towards their own destruction. However, GOU also had characters demonstrate a vague awareness of the past, as well, akin to what had happened in KAI.

  • One of the most memorable events in Higurashi and KAI was when Keiichi gives a doll he’d won at games day to Mion rather than Rena. Originally, this was intended to signify that Keiichi does see Mion as a girl and staves off the outcome where her twin, Shion, succumbs to Hinamizawa Syndrome. A recurring theme in KAI was how small differences in the choices people make can have a knock-on effect on things, and moreover, that if given the choice, people generally would choose to pursue acts that they know will help those around them.

  • Angel Mort makes a return in GOU: Keiichi initially believes Mion to be working here, but it turns out to be her twin, Shion. This initially created no shortage of confusion in me during the original series; the pair are tricky to differentiate from one another on the virtue of appearances alone, and instead, it is subtle differences in their personalities that allow one to tell Mion and Shion apart. Mion, despite her tough-talking exterior, is shy and girly at heart, while Shion’s girly personality is a façade masking her violent and unstable traits.

  • Detective Kuraudo Ōishi is seen throughout Higurashi, and while he initially appears to be a hostile member of the law enforcement, it turns out his interest in Hinamizawa stems from the death of a friend here and is search for justice. His direct and forward methods leave Hinamizawa’s residents thinking poorly of him, and his words can often imply that he’s no friend of Keiichi’s, but in most arcs, Ōishi is an ally, looking out for the characters and helping them to achieve their goals.

  • The frequent resets in GOU betrayed nothing about where the series was headed, but once the series ventures into Satoko’s arc, it becomes clear that something’s off: in KAI, Keiichi leads a titanic effort to get the local government to recognise that Satoko has trouble at home with her uncle, Teppei, and in the end, manage to free Satoko from his clutches. GOU revisits this route in vivid detail, showing that Keiichi takes a very similar route that had originally worked well: he even manages to convince Shion to stand down, feeling that if they were to off him, something worse might happen.

  • Convincing child services to support Satoko was an integral part of KAI to show how Keiichi could affect positive change, but in GOU, Satoko’s older brother, Satoshi, is completely absent from the proceedings. Despite doing his best to protect Satoko, Satoshi ended up succumbing to Hinamizawa Syndrome and is currently held at the Irie Clinic, with doctor Kyosuke Irie working tirelessly to cure him and redeem himself from his past misdeeds. Like Satoshi, Kyosuke only shows up briefly in GOU, and only serves to encourage Keiichi on his quest to free Satoko of Teppei’s abuse.

  • Despite the success Keiichi has in liberating Satoko from Teppei, GOU ultimately took an unexpected turn when Teppei ambushes Keiichi after he walks Satoko home. While Keiichi is initially caught unawares, he manages to fend off Teppei and kills him, but passes out in the process. Later, it turns out that Ōishi himself succumbed to Hinamizawa syndrome and opened fire on the festival-goers with his service revolver, killing Rika, Satoko, Mion and Shion. This handily undoes everything that was accomplished in KAI and is the turning point in GOU where it becomes clear that there is something affecting the timeline, forcing Rika to suffer anew.

  • Whereas GOU had not particularly impressed up until this point, the series decides to then take viewers for a shock-filled ride. Many began wondering what GOU had intended to accomplish with this, as the sudden increase in violence wouldn’t likely be enough to compel one to approach the series with renewed interest when the series’ direction had not appeared clear. This is one of the reasons why I elected not to write about the series while it was airing – Higurashi is a series that is always filled with surprises, and my impressions at any given moment may not be a fair assessment of things, especially when the context isn’t known yet.

  • As it was, I sat through a full episode of Rika getting killed off in gruesome ways, some of which have been described by others as “torture porn”. As Rika’s resolve weakens, she decides that if she can’t get to a desirable ending in five attempts, she’ll use the shard of an ancient sword to take her own life. Hanyū, who’d been assisting Rika all this time, is beginning to fade, and without her support, Rika begins to wonder if there is anything left in her world worth fighting for.

  • Most infamous of all was when Rika reawakens in a world where Satoko is the one to end up killing Rika: after using a ceremonial implement to cut Rika in half, Satoko administers a high dosage of painkillers and explains to Rika that her actions led to this moment. Without any context, only questions linger: what led up to such a moment, and what could drive Satoko to do this? As painful as it was to continue watching, the enormity of what happens here ultimately has an important role in setting up the remainder of GOU: it is in the series final acts that things really begin to take on an interesting turn.

  • It therefore seems especially jarring to switch over to a scene of ordinary summer fun in the rivers of Hinamizawa moments later; Rika’s curse means she is doomed to repeat suffering eternally, and the Rika here seems utterly defeated, playing the part of a beaten individual resigned to the sanctuary of idle days in a remote mountain town. This is a dramatic departure from the Rika we’d previously known, whose resolve had been so great she was willing to spend the equivalent of centuries living those same weeks over and over again in the hope for a better future.

  • There’s an uneasy feeling as GOU enters its endgame – while tragedies are seemingly averted, viewers are surprised again when Satoko draws a sidearm on Rika. While Rika retains her memories of her previous loops, that Satoko appears to have knowledge of what’s happening becomes a bit of a surprise. This outcome sets in motion the final story of GOU, and it is a thrilling one once the pieces fall into place.

  • GOU thus sends viewers back to the point where Miyo is apprehended once more, and this time, it really does seem like Rika is able to continue on and embrace the future she had been cruelly denied earlier. KAI had ended here on the note that Rika was free to follow whatever her aspirations had been, so this would mark the first time I’ve seen life in Hinamizawa after 1983.

  • Rika and Satoko thus enter middle school in 1984, a year when the Soviet Union and her allies boycotted the 1984 Summer Games. While Satoko is content to live life out as she and the others had previously, Rika begins turning her attention towards gaining admittance at St. Lucia, a school that makes ladies out of young woman. Unable to bear the thought of being separated from Rika, Sotoko reluctantly follows suit even as Keiichi and Rena continue to run the club that Mion left behind.

  • After a gruelling effort, Satoko manages to pass the entrance exams, but rapidly finds herself falling behind in academics, as well as feeling the culture at St. Lucia’s to be too formal and stuffy for her liking. Despite doing her best, Satoko feels as though Rika is leaving her behind in the past, and resentment grows. The gap between Satoko and Rika’s experiences at St. Lucia is indicative of what the difference between people are when they do something by choice, and those who do something because they have no choice.

  • Had Satoko chosen to accept that Rika and her futures diverged, the events of GOU would not occur, and that would correspondingly mean there’d be no SOTSU, either; in real life, people often have guidance as to how they should best handle challenges and difficult decisions such as these, but where common sense and reason may have an influence in reality, stories are written to accommodate the story, and as such, characters act in a way that drives the narrative forwards. Satoko’s choice is therefore logical in the context of Higurashi even if it may seem foolish in reality.

  • Satoko’s story really takes off after she and Rika receive an invitation to hang with the old crew in Hinamizawa for old time’s sake, their afternoon is spent retreading old club traditions with Mion, Keiichi and Rena, who are now post secondary students. While times have changed quite a bit, everyone’s still more or less who they were before they’d left, creating an old sense of nostalgia reminiscent whenever I gather with old friends for raclette or other events. By this point in time, Mion’s obtained her operator’s license and is able to transport everyone around without trouble.

  • Despite the time that’s passed, some things have evidently not changed: beyond Mion’s love for classic club activities, Rena retains her love for all things kawai and practically bulldozes Keiichi and Satoko into the ground in her haste to hug her. With the catching up over on short order, it’s back to classic club activities again with the same familiar rules and penalties. These moments evoke memories in Satoko and make her yearn for the world to be perpetually trapped in the June of 1983, where all seemed possible. However, resisting change is something that brings upon suffering to varying extents; Satoko’s wish of keeping things as they were have a significant impact on the remainder of GOU.

  • While I started my Higurashi journey with a fondness for Rena (bonus points for the fact that Mai Nakahara also voices CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa), time has led me to appreciate Mion greatly: despite her boisterous nature and a love of creative punishments, Mion is also fiercely loyal to those around her. With an indefatigable resolve and spirit, Mion is the only member of the main group to never fire a shot in anger. In short, she acts as a constant throughout Higurashi, being the energetic club president leader who looks out for her friends while at the same time, embodying the themes that Higurashi strives to convey.

  • After the day’s activities end, Mion and the others end up swinging by Angel Mort for dinner, but Satoko uncharacteristically declines, wishing to tread along familiar paths in Hinamizawa. She discovers that the village itself is changing when seeing that Rika’s old house has collapsed from snow load, and when following an instinctive feeling to return to the temple storehouse housing Oyashiro-sama’s statue, Satoko suddenly finds herself transported into a void known as the Sea of Fragments. Here, an enigmatic being greets her and grants her the power to live in loops, feeling Satoko to be an interesting character. She later accepts the name Eua and walks Satoko through the details, helping viewers to fill in gaps in the process.

  • Thus, Satoko’s effort to stave off the future where Rika leaves for St. Lucia begins. However, to her frustration, nothing works on Rika: Eua explains that Rika was no stranger to pain, and as such, her determination to escape tragedy had resulted in the fabric of reality reflecting this. It would thus be very difficult for Satoko to find the outcome that she desires: despite imbibing the memories that Rika retained, Satoko is unsuccessful in all of her attempts and winds up committing suicide to gain a fresh start on multiple occasions.

  • Satoko’s frustration becomes increasingly apparent with each failed attempt, and one can quickly see how GOU‘s most horrific moment came to fruition: on one of the particularly bad timelines, Satoko’s emotions get the better of her, and she presumably cuts Rika in half before committing suicide again. GOU‘s final act speaks to the dangers of clinging to the past, and while a traditional story would go the route of telling how this negatively impacts the individual, Higurashi boldly chooses to show how much damage can occur when misguided individuals are given the power to affect their fate, but understand little of what this power actually entails.

  • Indeed, while Satoko herself certainly hasn’t been made to learn any lessons yet from her actions, her constant resets are beginning to affect the world, to the point where other individuals are beginning to recall memories from alternate timelines. Much as a database lacking normalisation would have many redundant entries, which slows down search and insert operations, the accumulated memories (i.e. data) Satoko’s created appears to be breeding instability in her timeline. As of GOU, no ill effects are noticed yet, but if other works of fiction (including the new MCU mini-series, Loki) are anything to go by, the increasing instability will demand correction in the form of what could be a violent return to equilibrium: for one, I doubt Eua can be bargained with.

  • One of the things GOU absolutely succeeded with was showing how even the most irredeemable individuals, if given a second chance, might be able to accept their mistakes and make amends. Teppei had been presented as a wholly detestable character, but towards the end of GOU, after recalling his own sufferings and the pain he’s caused, he attempts to reconcile with Satoko, who is shocked that such a thing could happen. In any other timeline, this would be a pivotal moment that accentuates Higurashi‘s themes, but Satoko seems to be intent on turning even this to her advantage; in a manner of speaking, Satoko has become a greater evil than Teppei and even the Hinamizawa Syndrome itself.

  • If I had to guess, Eua would probably be most similar to Death Note‘s Ryuk, who dropped his Death Note in the human world out of boredom. Eua similarly has no concern for Satoko’s well-being and only facilitates her actions because she deems them interesting. Assuming this to be the case, Satoko’s fate would be doomed to be similar to that of Light’s, and it would take a titanic effort from Rika and the others to bring Satoko back from the precipice. This is merely speculation from my end for the present: with SOTSU only a few weeks away, I’m curious to see where things will head. Having said this, Higurashi‘s always been an unpredictable series, and as such, I am not particularly invested in any of my own personal theories: as long as things are compelling, I’ll be happy.

  • The stakes are amplified by the fact that Satoko is exploiting Miyo’s change of heart to steal a vial of H-173, which is a chemical agent that induces the same symptoms from Hinamizawa Syndrome. Declaring that she’s now able to dictate when tragedy strikes, Satoko sets off with the determination of obtaining what she feels she is owed, no matter how much suffering occurs. That each timeline is a proper reality in its own right speaks volumes to how callous Satoko’s become: loops had simply made Rika more resilient and understanding of things like kindness, but Satoko’s become more selfish and stubborn. Where these opposing forces meet will doubtlessly form the bulk of SOTSU‘s story.

Higurashi GOU is, like Black Ops: Cold War, something that didn’t necessarily need to be made, but now that it exists, serves as a powerful and enjoyable instalment in their respective franchises, further developing and expanding out their worlds further and giving them a fresh coat of paint. The new character designs in GOU aren’t particularly distracting or jarring, and the updated background artwork is solid. Kenji Kawai returns to score GOU‘s soundtrack and as usual, excels in creating atmosphere for both ordinary and horrifying moments. The story, despite starting off slowly, accelerates wildly towards the end; familiar events and outcomes are gradually displaced by the presence of something much more sinister, and GOU absolutely delivers a stunning reason to give the continuation a go; in the knowledge of what’d been established in Higurashi, and then how things reached a resolution in KAI, GOU shows that there remains a ways to go yet before a new equilibrium can be established. The journey will doubtlessly be a part of SOTSU, and if the trailer is anything to go by, SOTSU will not be pulling any punches at all. I appreciate that some viewers did find the violence to be more brazen than anything seen previously in Higurashi, where things were more implicit, but shock factor aside, the choice to portray things directly is meant to suggest that Higurashi and KAI, being Rika’s stories, had been about the fear that lies within her heart. The open portrayals of violence in GOU, on the other hand, mirror how Satoko is more direct and forward than Rika, acting rashly without thinking things through. It’s a clever bit of a contrast to indicate that GOU is Satoko’s story, and my only remarks here are that, as long as I’m not made to watch heads being mangled in SOTSU, I will accept the more explicit violence as a part of GOU and SOTSU‘s storytelling. With this post in the books, I think that at some point, it’ll probably be prudent to invite Dewbond back – as I’ve demonstrated, my thoughts on Higurashi are feeble at best and lean quite heavily on my making remarks about the series’ unusual connection to the Black Ops series. Having an extra set of eyes on things means being able to really delve into how GOU turned around from being a middle-of-the-road experience to something I’ve become quite excited to check out.

Mystery Camp: Yuru Camp△ 2 OVA Review and Reflection

“Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise.” –Julia Cameron

Aoi recounts three vignettes surrounding camping to viewers. The first segment has her and Nadeshiko using a handy app to rent camping gear, only to learn that they’re missing Chikai for their trip and therefore, decide to rent a Chiaki-in-a-box, too. Later, Nadeshiko’s solo camping takes her to a horrifying camp where her days consist of working in a factory, subsisting on meagre rations, burning hazardous chemicals for warmth and sleeping in a cardboard box. Later, Rin and Nadeshiko roast some marshmallows, and although Nadeshiko begins thinking of all the different recipes she could make with s’mores, the roasted marshmallows Rin gives her turn out quite unlike what she’d been expecting. Aoi wonders if any of the stories she’d just told could be really counted as camping. This is Mystery Camp, the first of the Yuru Camp△ 2 OVAs that accompanied the second BD collection. The first season’s OVAs were imaginative and fun, being both supplementary materials to the series and sending the characters on adventures that would otherwise be counted as unrelated. Here in Mystery Camp, the trend continues, capitalising on Aki Toyosaki’s excellent voice acting to deliver Aoi’s lies in a compelling manner. The three stories are unlikely to be considered canon in any way, but instead, serve to act as what-if segments that allows the studios to put the characters in unusual situations in the name of comedy. However, unlike the previous season’s OVAs, which were denoted as a part of Heya Camp△, this OVA lives up to its name as Mystery Camp: there’s not a context for Aoi’s stories, leaving viewers to wonder if said tales really went down or not.

The middle act, which sees Nadeshiko coming across a work camp, was probably the most heart-wrenching of the stories: the reason why it’s so effective is because Yuru Camp△ unfailingly puts Nadeshiko in gentle, easygoing scenarios where she is able to learn and relax, and where any challenge is overcome with creativity. As such, when Nadeshiko enters a work camp instead, traditional camping activities are replaced by something considerably more grim. Seeing Nadeshiko will herself through everything becomes particularly saddening, and while she’s doing her best to hold together, nowhere else in Yuru Camp△ do we ever see Nadesiko look so defeated. Consequently, viewers would be relieved to know that such things don’t actually happen to Nadeshiko as this OVA draws to a close. I appreciate that something similar was done during the first season, when Aoi spent an entire OVA lying to Nadeshiko, even getting everyone to pretend to be Rin and causing Nadeshiko to question reality itself. Because it’s so adorable to see Nadeshiko in this manner, I expect that this OVA was a chance to have Aoi continue on with her tall tales and perhaps drive up the feeling of pity for Nadeshiko, who otherwise has a very happy-go-lucky experience in Yuru Camp△.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Aoi’s pranks are at best, hilarious, and at worst, mean-spirited. This is greatly augmented by the fact that Aki Toyosaki’s delivery of Aoi’s lines is done with a gentle and soft kansai-ben: with her voice, it’s almost impossible for Nadeshiko to tell when Aoi is lying, and this has resulted in a great many jokes throughout Yuru Camp△. I’ve long found Aoi to be an amalgamation of K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa and Tsumugi Kotobuki: Toyosaki’s voice and Tsumugi’s eyebrows make Aoi quite standout in terms of appearance, although I imagine that Aoi’s other attributes make her notable.

  • The first of the stories indicates that while Nadeshiko and Aoi had made use of a rental service to swiftly get gear delivered to them for their latest winter camping excursion, they’d forgotten to bring Chiaki along with them. No camping trip would be complete without Chiaki, so they decide to rent one, too. This is a hilarious oversight that wouldn’t otherwise happen in Yuru Camp△: of the Outdoor Activities Club members, Chiaki is the most rambunctious of the bunch, and sooner or later, it should have dawned on Aoi and Nadeshiko that they were missing their club president.

  • As far as camping gear goes, Aoi and Nadeshiko have brought almost everything of note in this vignette, from the standard tents and sleeping bags, to chairs, campfire stand and cookware: one of the biggest joys of the series was watching everyone in the Outdoor Activities Club grow; as everyone became more familiar with camping and its implements, they were able to tailor their experiences to their liking. Over the second season, Nadeshiko, Aoi and Chiaki begin buying gear to fit their own style, rather than simply following Rin’s setup. This is a pleasant indicator that everyone’s learning their own style of doing things.

  • Mystery Camp is the first of the Yuru Camp△ 2 OVAs to be released, accompanying the second Blu Ray set which had become available back on May 26. I’d been rather looking forwards to the OVAs, and while my enthusiasm is shared by other fans of the series, I cannot say that I am surprised by the fact that there isn’t more discussion about the OVAs, since it’d just come out (at the time of writing, I think this is the only discussion around for the OVA). I’d originally planned on watching the OVA at a later time, but the realisation that I’d otherwise have a tad too many Cold War posts out in rapid succession led me to change things up.

  • This weekend, it was to thundering skies I’d waken up to, and with this first thunderstorm of the year, I also caught wind that there’d been a small tornado south of the city. The thunderstorms began in the morning, paused briefly during the afternoon and then returned in full force during the evening before ceasing again. I was fortunate that it was during the respite that my haircut had been scheduled: the skies relented long enough for me to finish, and after I returned home, it hailed and rained briefly. Today, while the skies were quite moody, but much of the day remained reasonably dry even though the clouds overhead gave every impression that a storm was going to happen.

  • We did get some rainfall towards the end of the day, and while the sun did appear briefly, it’s overcast again now. Back in Mystery Camp, the second of Aoi’s stories is the highlight; Nadeshiko is geared up for another solo camping trip, but upon reaching the campsite she’d made the reservation for, she’s shocked to find it to be quite unlike anywhere she and the others had previously camped at. Noxious fumes emanate from the site, a far cry from the pleasant mountain air that Nadeshiko had come to expect from camp sites she’d previously utilised.

  • It soon becomes clear that this camp is no ordinary camp: it is a barren field of concrete, pole-mounted CCTV cameras, electric fences and smokestacks. Up until now, Yuru Camp△ had always been about displaying the splendor of nature in all its glory, so to see something so industrial and unnatural was jarring, most unlike the aesthetic that Yuru Camp△ is known for. A drone greets Nadeshiko at the gates, and she reluctantly walks towards the central tower to check in.

  • A row of androids greet Nadeshiko once she arrives: the cold, monochrome environment is quite uninviting, and the absence of other humans creates a sense of unease. A major part of Nadeshiko’s enjoyment of her solo camping adventures came from being able to explore on her own and meet new people in the process, so to completely strip this away would be to take away the very thing that Nadeshiko most enjoys doing.

  • As soon as Nadeshiko’s checked in, she is relieved of her camping gear, given a drab garb and is assigned menial labour as part of camp activities. The look on Nadeshiko’s face is heartbreaking, and she assembles what appears to be an inexpensive plastic toy on the production lines. Because anime are often limited by how they convey emotions, certain cues are retained here – Nadeshiko’s eyebrows speak volumes to how disheartened she is with camp activities. Slice-of-life anime usually feature eyebrows in three distinct styles: ordinary round eyebrows for a neutral or happy expression, v-shaped eyebrows for anger, determination or surprise, and finally, reverse-v-shaped eyebrows for sadness, melancholy or mortification.

  • To emphasise things, Nadeshiko’s eyebrows can be seen through her cap, and of the people at camp, she’s the only person with her eyebrows visible. The moment the camera pulls back out and shows other individuals on the same production lines, it becomes clear that Nadeshiko’s checked into a labour camp. Such a topic is no joke, and it was therefore surprising that Yuru Camp△ opted to use this as one of Aoi’s stories. This can potentially be seen as being insensitive, although in good faith to the writers, I will suppose they’d intended to show the dramatic difference in what “camping” entails through Nadeshiko’s sorrow.

  • The moment that really hit hard was watching Nadeshiko down camp rations in an empty room whilst sitting on a folding chair – this is so far removed from the joyful meals she’s enjoyed while camping that one cannot help but feel an inclination to offer Nadeshiko a good nabe and perhaps a hug. One clever touch about this segment was that, as Nadeshiko’s day progresses, things become increasingly monochrome. The only detail that suggests to me this camp is more in line with Futurama‘s Spa 5 labour camp (and therefore, that Aoi’s story is meant to be taken lightly) was that when Nadeshiko is given a pile of solid fuel to burn for heat, she’s at least given a gas mask to keep her from succumbing to the fumes.

  • While burning these chemicals, Nadeshiko sadly notes that there’s no warmth in the fire. whatsoever. With the day over, a dejected Nadeshiko prepares to turn in, the colour fully stricken from her world. The aesthetics here brought to mind the likes of Girls’ Last Tour, an anime set in a post-apocalyptic world filled with engineering marvels whose purpose were lost to time. Such settings inevitably create a sense of melancholy, and while Yuru Camp△ might not deal in things like finding purpose in a world inherently lacking meaning or similar, there is no denying that when the moment calls for it, the series can create very compelling aesthetics that evoke certain emotions.

  • After spotting a cardboard box, Nadeshiko prepares to turn in for the night with naught more than the box as bedding, remarking it’s at least a little warm and wonders where she’ll end up upon waking up. This segment reminded me of Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales, during which he remarked that his fellow gulag prisoners lived moment to moment and whose sole joy in the day was determined by if their soup was thick or not. If Yuru Camp△ ever creates a vignette similar to this again, there is no guarantee that I will be able to keep my composure: this was one of the saddest things I’ve seen in a while, and I think that I’ll need to remedy this by watching Nadeshiko experimenting with fire-roasted vegetables again, to convince myself this is only an OVA at the end of the day.

  • I’m always fond of such dinners, since they represent a nice change of pace, and because driving out to the Chinese restaurant is admittedly fun. Hot food on a cooler evening is especially welcome, and with things looking up locally, I am hoping that we’ll be able to return to restaurants, movie theatres and fitness facilities soon. Over dinner, the conversation topic turned to what we’d like to do once things reopen, and while dining out is high on the list, one activity that came up was a potential trip out to the province over: we have our own hot springs here at home, and a year ago, I’d set up an itinerary for such a potential trip before the health crisis put those plans on hold.

  • Excited at the prospect of marshmallows, Nadeshiko wonders if s’mores could be made into other things like a spread for toast, tarts or even in ice pops. Because s’mores are just graham cracker, melted marshmallow and chocolate, their colour and flavour can be easily replicated and previously, anything with these combination of ingredients are marketed as having the same great taste of s’mores, only without the need for a campfire. I imagine that basic s’mores could hypothetically be used as a spread on toast, and that would result in a relatively tasty and easy treat to whip up.

  • Similarly, if one were to go for the pre-made route, smokes could be made into tarts, too, with the crust standing in for the graham crackers. However, I imagine s’more ice cream popsicle would be a little trickier to make, and one wonders if this is something worthy of Binging with Babish. Of course, if Binging with Babish were to do foods from Yuru Camp△, the ajillo from the Izu trip would probably be more interesting to make. Back in Mystery Camp, Rin finally remarks that things are ready to eat and hands one over to Nadeshiko, who is brimming with joy about this camping confectionary.

  • My Japanese isn’t quite strong enough to resolve what Nadeshiko had eaten, but it becomes clear that what Nadeshiko’s eating most certainly isn’t a s’more. This reminds me of a classic stunt I’d love to pull off one day using 番薯糖水 (jyutping faan1 syu2 tong4 seoi2): a sweet yam soup. The family recipe calls for Dioscorea alata, or the purple yam, a bit of ginger and rock sugar. The resulting product is sweet and delicious, but when purple yams are used, the soup itself resembles grape juice. The prank would then entail setting aside some of the soup after straining it and the making an attempt to convince people it’s grape juice.

  • Because purple yams don’t have a grape-like taste, the shock people would have when eating it would be hilarious. I approve of low-level pranks such as these because no one gets hurt, and Aoi’s stories very much fall into this category: while Nadeshiko might be quite gullible and falls for Aoi’s lies regularly, I don’t believe that Aoi ever means for her jokes to have a malicious outcome. Instead, her enjoyment of jokes and lies seem to derive from the moment of dawning comprehension that such jokes can create.

  • It should be to no one’s surprise that Aoi’s been lying through her teeth for the whole of Mystery Camp: in fact, the level of trolling here inexplicably brings to mind Higurashi GOU‘s Eua for reasons even I can’t begin putting into writing. However, it’s impossible to feel shafted, since Aoi’s elaborate lies are always so adorably crafted. The way she rolls the ですか at the end is hilarious, and with this, the first of the OVAs for Yuru Camp△ 2 draws to a close.

Altogether, despite a short runtime of only four minutes and forty-five seconds, the first of the Yuru Camp△ 2 OVAs represents an amusing addition to the series. I am aware that in general, reception to Yuru Camp△‘s OVAs have generally been nowhere near as positive as they are for the anime proper, and this is because most of the effort in the series have indeed gone towards ensuring that the episodes themselves are of a very high standard. By comparison, the OVAs can feel more slipshod, being more of an afterthought rather than an integral part of the experience: we’ve seen Yuru Camp△ at its best during the TV series, and the OVAs are instead, a chance to place familiar characters in scenarios that would otherwise not fit with the series itself, with the aim of eliciting a few laughs. Having said this, the OVAs aren’t always about humour: the first OVA had shown how Chiaki and Aoi founded the Outdoor Activities Club with the aim of sharing their love for camping with others, and more recently, Heya Camp△‘s OVA had Rin head up to Hokuto on a loaner three-wheeled moped. With the upcoming OVA being titled Travelling Shimarin, I imagine that there will be a greater focus on Rin and her explorations to some capacity; while it may not necessarily be a straight exploration episode as Heya Camp△‘s OVA was, it could be fun to see more comedy come into a (non-canon) version of Rin’s solo travels, as well. The second OVA is still a ways off, releasing in July 28, so for the time being, I’ll return my attention to the Yuru Camp△‘s live-action drama, which, despite having fallen behind in, is something I’m still enjoying immensely.

Super Cub: Review and Reflection at the ¾ mark

“Winter forms our character and brings out our best.” –Tom Allen

While their class prepare for their school’s cultural festival, Koguma and Reiko consider buying new work gloves to combat the cooling weather. Initially disinterested with helping out, they overhear their classmates speaking about how motorbikes lack the capacity to safely transport the coffee-making equipment needed for their class activities. Taking this as a challenge, Reiko and Koguma prepare their respective bikes to take the gear, further suggesting to Shii Eniwa, who’s leading the efforts, to prepare a bar in the event they are unable to get the gear back. In the end, Koguma and Reiko succeed in getting the gear. Shii expresses her appreciation by offering Koguma and Reiko coffee, as well as a desire to one day ride a Cub for herself. To get to know Reiko and Koguma better, Shii invites the two over to her family’s café, an eclectic establishment with European and American influences. After enjoying their coffee, Koguma and Reiko begin frequenting the café more frequently, and despite Shii’s embarrassment, ends up meeting both her parents. As autumn gives way to winter, Koguma and Reiko look for ways to winterise their Cubs. Shii has an unused abrasive wool sweater, and after taking it to their home economics instructor, ends up crafting it into a liner for Koguma and stockings for Reiko. With the leftover materials, Shii gets a thermos-warmer out of it. While the liner and stockings are helpful, the winter chill seeps into the bones anyways, forcing Koguma and Reiko to purchase windshields. Despite their initial reservations, the windshields allow the girls to ride their cubs for far longer than otherwise possible, filling Koguma with the optimism that the winter will be fine. Nine episodes into Super Cub, Koguma’s world has been completely transformed: through the decision to pick up the Cub that day, Koguma’s surprised that she’s now more open to people than before, and more welcoming of new experiences.

Super Cub‘s masterful use of colour has always been a fantastic component of this series – scenes become vividly coloured as Koguma makes a new discovery, or shares in a particularly happy moment. This imagery is plainly intended to decisively indicate that this is a moment worth remembering for Koguma, and of late, such moments begin to dominate the series. If colour is meant to denote noteworthiness, then the increasing presence of colour indicates that Koguma is opening up to her world, ever more willing to look forwards rather than inwards. Moreover, these colourful moments linger for longer and become increasingly indistinguishable from more ordinary moments. Altogether, while Koguma herself may not express it visibly or often, Super Cub makes it clear how she’s feeling about her life now. It is indisputable that the Super Cub has changed Koguma’s life, giving her the means to broaden her horizons both in a figurative and literal sense. The possibility that the Super Cub offers, and the attendant responsibility a vehicle demands forces Koguma out of her box, but at the same time, being a smaller vehicle, also allows Koguma to do things at her own pace. Shii’s introduction into Super Cub is a fine example of this: after impressing her and earning her gratitude, Koguma and Reiko slowly spend more time with Shii.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll open this Super Cub talk with a landscape still: the visuals of Super Cub remain of a very high standard despite not possessing the same saturation as other series typically would. At this point in time, I’ve not considered doing a location hunt for the series yet: while the series’ setting in Yamanashi is common knowledge, unlike Yuru Camp△, the emphasis here isn’t about travel per se, and Super Cub doesn’t have Koguma and Reiko go on a cross-prefecture tour with their bikes the same way Rin would. Instead, Super Cub‘s journey is inward: by exploring outwards, Koguma’s inner life is vastly improved.

  • Reiko replaces her old MD90 with the CT110, a venerable bike with a long history that possesses a four-speed transmission and 2:1 gear ratio that allows it to excel even when climbing slopes. Reiko goes with a red colour scheme to match her MD90’s, and with its distinct colouration, it is somewhat of a surprise that no one’s alluded to Char Aznable and his legendary reputation for pushing red machines to their absolute limits. The similarities between Reiko and Char end here, with the former being more interested in just pushing herself to the limits, and the latter working to exact revenge for his family’s deaths leading up to the One Year War as a result of political theatre.

  • With the culture festival fast approaching, a hint of Koguma’s life at school is hinted at; she’s quite detached from the rest of her classmates and expresses no interest in helping out, being content to be left alone. When her class runs into a challenge with picking up the parts needed for their exhibition, Koguma has no issue in leaving them to figure thing out for themselves, at least until some of her classmates comment that motorbikes are unsuitable for hauling what they need.

  • At this point, Koguma’s pride as a Cub rider is bent; she and Reiko thus set out to prove their bikes’ worth to their classmates, and after setting up the necessary rigs to carry said gear, they head off. The world takes on colour as Koguma experiences pride in showing her classmates that she and her Cub, despite their outwardly mundane, ordinary appearances, are reliable and can pull things off where needed. With their rigs set up, the assignment proves to be no sweat: Koguma carries the smaller stuff, while Reiko and her bike is purposed for hauling heavier gear.

  • While I’m hearing that most readers consider the colouration in Super Cub to be indicative of Koguma being happy, but I will only confer partial credit for this answer. The colour changes indicate any moment of note for Koguma, and the observant viewer will very quickly realise that as Super Cub progresses, these moments become increasingly common and long-lasting. This simple detail speaks volumes about how far Koguma has come since the series started, and she’s really become more attuned to finding things around her to smile about.

  • With their task done, Koguma and Reiko soon learn that their good deed, born out of a wish to say “don’t underestimate my Cub!” to their classmates, has far reaching consequences in a positive direction. The sum of Reiko and Koguma’s experiences, however, do not in any way speak to what is possible with a Cub, but rather, conveys to viewers that an open mind is what makes memories precious. This is why I have no qualms in dismissing any complaints about product placement in Super Cub: the vehicles themselves are merely catalysts for accelerating growth within the characters.

  • As a result of having made their culture festival a total success, classmate Shii ends up treating Koguma and Reiko to coffee by way of saying thank, kicking off a new friendship. When Shii expresses a desire to ride one, Reiko is gung-ho and encourages Shii, while Koguma suggests that Shii should only do so when she’s ready. My speculations from the previous post thus came to pass: as a result of having watched slice-of-life anime for almost as long as I’ve been using Xcode, there are patterns and trends I can immediately pick out now (rather similarly to how certain exceptions and errors in Xcode cause me no alarm on account of how often I see them crop up and subsequently work out solutions for).

  • This is what I find to make my thoughts on anime standout and distinct from other dedicated slice-of-life bloggers out there: rather than merely reacting to how adorbs something is, I strive to also connect a character’s experiences and discoveries with relevant analogs from real life to make clear how, and why, a given slice-of-life work is successful in what it does. I am particularly fierce about defending slice-of-life anime as a result of the community reception to them when I’d gotten into the genre; back then, people insisted that such series were killing the industry and offered nothing of intellectual value, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I’d argue that a slice-of-life faithfully and consistently saying meaningful things about life hold considerably more value than some psychological-drama or socio-political series that incorrectly use real world models to reach a faulty conclusion.

  • This wouldn’t be the case if the series’ authors had properly researched the principles ahead of time, but if not done properly, attempting to fit a story into an incorrect interpretation of a model creates inconsistency. Slice-of-life don’t deal with this, and for this, I find them to be consistently solid even if they don’t aspire to push new boundaries for storytelling. Back in Super Cub, upon returning to the classroom, Koguma sees Shii in her element and realises that Shii’s small stature notwithstanding, she is a bundle of joy as vast as the summer skies. Her class’ event is clearly a success, and the classroom is transformed into a joyful café, an environment that Shii feels completely at home in.

  • From someone as clumsy as Koguma when it comes to speaking of others, this is very high praise indeed. Shii thus becomes closer to Koguma and Reiko, even joining them for lunch. Shii is voiced by Natsumi Hioka: like Yuki Yomichi, who plays Koguma, I’m not terribly familiar with Hioka’s previous roles. In spite of her size, Shii brings a great deal of personality into Super Cub: of everyone, she most resembles the conventional anime high school girl, being energetic, cheerful and ever-accommodating.

  • Shii ends up inviting Koguma and Reiko to her family’s café, a highly unusual establishment named BEURRE. Sporting a mixture of English and American décor, BEURRE also serves Italian and German breads, but has a French name. Discussions in some places immediately suggested that the café is meant to be a stab at Japan’s stances on multiculturalism or similar, but this is almost certainly untrue given the themes in Super Cub. If anything, the café’s distinct menu and décor indicates that there are unusual but notable establishments around, and those who venture off the beaten path will be rewarded. In this case, as Koguma sips her coffee, she’s glad to have met Shii.

  • The brisk autumn weather has Koguma and Reiko in search of gear to keep themselves warm while riding. The swing by a local store to check out handlebar warmers, and Reiko is very resistant to the idea of adding them to her bike on account of their tacky appearance. Instead, she takes an interest in some airsoft guns, prompting Koguma to haul her off. Now that I think about it, Reiko’s personality reminds me of my previous company’s founder, who was similarly outgoing, knowledgeable and excited about new stuff: Reiko remarks that she’s the sort of person who only wants the best and won’t hesitate to pick up something if she’ll have a use for it later, similar to the aforementioned founder.

  • Our dynamic was quite similar to that of Koguma and Reiko’s – whereas Reiko never settles for second best and always wants to try new stuff out, Koguma is more similar to myself, being a lot more conservative with her purchases and only buying something if she’s absolutely certain it will have utility in her life. Ironically, when she comes across a small rice tin meant for camping, she immediately picks it up and, aware of her own words to Reiko moments earlier, changes her mind about how their objective today had been to pick up this rice tin.

  • Eventually, Koguma and Reiko do end up picking up the handlebar warmers, which encase the handlebars with a mitten-like enclosure to keep the wind out. As Super Cub progressed, I began seeing more of myself in Koguma. Frugal and taciturn, Koguma is probably a more exaggerated of how I am in reality: around folks I don’t know, I tend to listen more than I talk, and I speak very bluntly. Of course, experience means I’ve gotten better at conveying my thoughts without stepping on toes, and speaking in a diplomatic fashion to be both honest, but mindful of the feelings of those in the conversation, too.

  • One day, while visiting BEURRE, Shii suddenly becomes uneasy and asks Koguma and Reiko to finish soon so that they can be on their way. When Shii’s father notes that there is no such dinner rush coming, it turns out that Shii is embarrassed about her mother, who’s of European origin. I imagine her mother’s preference for European dresses is probably a bit much. Reiko and Koguma naturally don’t find anything unusual about things, indicating that both are open-minded individuals.

  • Were there to be an equivalent of BEURRE in my area, I’d have no qualms checking it out; having grown up in a country where multiculturalism is not only the norm, but embraced, I’m accustomed to seeing a Peking Duck restaurant beside a Shawarma place, with a German shop across the street. Such a café would, however, impose a unique challenge for me: I’d struggle to pick something off their menu. Here, the distinction in interior décor is immediately apparent: a line can be seen down the floor, splitting the café into the British and American side.

  • In response to Koguma and Reiko meeting her mother, Shii can only pout in classic anime fashion. Shii’s expertise with brewing coffees and cappuccinos mirrors her own aspirations: like GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, Shii aspires to be a barista one day and open a coffee shop of her own. While lacking a motorbike of her own at this point in time, Shii rides an Alex Moulton, a bike of English origin characterised by their small wheels and unique frame design.

  • When the handlebar warmers and work gloves prove inadequate, Koguma and Reiko must turn towards other means of keeping warm. Reiko is adamant about not resorting to use of a windscreen, while Koguma is more open-minded about the idea. However, owing to Reiko’s insistence, Koguma decides to explore other avenues of keeping warm while on a bike. In Yamanashi, having a car would be more than enough for a comfortable ride during the winter, but where I’m from, winters are bitterly cold, and during the coldest parts of the year, where it stays -30°C (-22°F) for up to four weeks at a time, even a car will take ten minutes to warm up to the point where the cabin is comfortable.

  • Conversely, yesterday, we hit our warmest day of the year yet; temperatures soared to 32°C (90°F), and we ended up cooling off with fresh watermelon. Compared to the extremities that characterises the arid Alberta foothills, Kofu’s temperatures aren’t quite as varied, but even then, when the thermometer hovers a few degrees above zero, the effects are noticeable: even with the caffè corretto (coffee with grappa, a brandy), the chill of a late autumn’s day is only just kept at bay. The anime is careful to warn viewers that only a small amount should be added. This marks the first time that Shii’s eaten lunch with Reiko and Koguma, but they swiftly welcome her to join them.

  • When Shii learns that Kuguma and Reiko are looking for something warm for winter, she figures she has something in mind. To speed things up, Reiko offers to take her along on her bike, but since this is Shii’s first time, she immediately feels that even at lower speeds, the world’s moving much too quickly. This isn’t a novel phenomenon: a decade earlier, forty kilometres per hour had been the speed I was most comfortable with as a new driver, but in the present day, I’m typically found at around ten kilometres per hour above the posted speed limit on major thoroughfares, save anywhere there are speed traps. A few days ago, a local law passed to fix the speed limit in residential roads lacking a median to forty kilometres per hour. I welcome this change, as it will make things safer for residents (and for the most part, residential roads are too narrow for higher speeds anyways).

  • It turns out the solution Shii has is a large wool cardigan made with a raw wool that’s only been given the minimum processing. The characters refer to it as abrasive wool, but I imagine this is a bit of wasei-eigo, since abrasive wool refers to steel wool, which is composed of stainless steel or bronze. Such a material, while a marvel of engineering and is an excellent scouring agent for cleaning tough surfaces, would naturally result in a most uncomfortable material as clothing. Conversely, the barely-processed wool cardigan proves warm enough for Koguma to accept it (I’d be happy to hear from folks familiar with tailoring to learn what the proper term is). However, no one in present company has the know-how of properly handling the cardigan, and the pressure doubles in the knowledge that it is made of a very high-grade material.

  • In the end, the girls race back to school and ask their home economics instructor to do it; she accepts since it’s to help her students, and because she’s excited about working with the wool, too. In the end, besides the liner for Koguma and stockings for Reiko, there’s enough leftover materials for Shii to get an adorable thermos cozy. The girls are all smiles, having brought new life into something that Shii otherwise would’ve only rarely had the chance to wear. It typifies Super Cub‘s messages about being creative: even on a limited budget or with constraints on resources, one can nonetheless find ways of achieving what they sought with an open mind and a willingness to adapt.

  • I again relate my story of having transformed an eight-year-old PC into a machine that will last at least another few years though a bit of elbow grease – the modifications I did to the operating system’s environment had prevented all updates and voided my EULA, and I’d hesitated to do a clean install on the virtue that I lacked the external media needed to back everything up and the original activation codes. With a bit of persistence and patience, I ended up finally making the jump from Windows 8 to Windows 10 (owing to how the update works, Windows 8.1 ended up being the shortest I’ve ever had an operating system for, totalling 15 minutes). It took a weekend to get my machine back up, but between the dramatically improved start times and the fact I’m now able to play Cold War, I am satisfied that my desktop should be okay for any DirectX 12-only titles.

  • The fact that Koguma’s jacket liner, Reiko’s stockings and Shii’s thermos cozy are made from the same source also serves as a wonderful symbol for the fact that while each of Koguma, Reiko and Shii might be different, they each share a common love for the Cub. Thus, when they look to their respective liner, stockings and cozy, the three are reminded of their friendship with one another, as well. For Koguma, the liner proves effective up to a certain point. The time has come for Reiko and Koguma to make a tough decision, and while they initially shake themselves out of it, the desire to ride their bikes even during the Yamanashi winter outweighs their original reservations.

  • The attachment Koguma and Reiko had been so reluctant to install was a windshield, which Rin had gratefully accepted from her grandfather ahead of her trip with the Outdoor Activities Club to Izu. Going from Reiko’s reactions, I would suppose that she’s displeased by the aesthetics, and this reminds me of a friend and coworker I worked with long ago – being an even bigger Apple fan than I am, he made it a point to never buy a case for his iPhones, arguing that the iPhone’s sublime aesthetics deserved to be shown in all its glory. While the iPhone is indeed an engineering and aesthetic marvel, I value utility over style and precisely make it a point to get a case whenever I upgrade.

  • In the end, Koguma and Reiko both cave and end up asking the clerk to order windshields compatible with their respective machines. I got the sense that Koguma had been interested in windshields, but simply lacked the funds to install them; it was only Reiko who opposed the idea on account of aesthetics. In the end, since Koguma goes for it and figures she could cut back on food costs, Reiko ends up picking up a windshield for her CT110, as well. Both get their windshields installed right away, in the parking lot of the shop, and in no time at all, the pair’s biked are road-ready.

  • Whereas Reiko has already been tinkering with her bikes for performance and utility, Koguma’s comparatively new to the process, but in spite of this, her Super Cub has seen several upgrades over Super Cub‘s run: after Koguma adds storage, she later changes out the engine and now, has a windshield as well. I’m no mechanic, but seeing Super Cub definitely helped me to appreciate why people are so fond of customising their vehicles and getting the absolute most of their ride. On my end, I completely lack mechanical skills to modify or upgrade a car, but being a computer enthusiast, I have no qualms about RAM and GPU installations, swapping out of hard disks and getting cooling solutions wired up. My old desktop was completely built with utility in mind, but for my next machine, I am considering a fancier case and LED lighting options, as well as dispensing with a CD drive and memory card reader in favour of additional hard drives.

  • With the windshield, Koguma realises that the bitterly cold Yamanashi breeze is no longer a concern. She pushes her Super Cub up to sixty kilometres per hour and marvels at how comfortable the ride is, recounting in a voice-over that the experience was magical, and how that day, they’d ridden long into the evening. Koguma’s world lights up and remains this way for the remainder of the episode. That these colourful moments are now more frequent and more long-lasting speaks volumes to how much Koguma’s outlook on life has changed. She remarks that her Cub has allowed her to speak up, speak with new people and do things that were previously thought to be out of reach.

  • I’ll wrap this post up with another landscape shot as Koguma rides back home under the evening skies. We are entering the last quarter of Super Cub now, and I’m excited to see where things wrap up. This time around, I’ll be doing things slightly differently – since I did not do a post for the first episode, I will return in two weeks to first write about the series leading up to the penultimate episode, and then quite separately, do a post after the finale’s aired. Having found that I can get these posts out in a timely fashion, I don’t expect that this will be too tricky to pull off. With this being said, I ask that readers be patient with me this month; I am expecting to write quite a bit about Black Ops: Cold War, since Higurashi: SOTSU begins airing in July, and Cold War‘s environments will allow me to talk about aspects of GOU in greater detail than would be appropriate for the standalone post I’ve got for GOU.

Shii’s addition to the cast creates a newfound dynamic among the cast – Shii is utterly in awe of Koguma and Reiko’s bikes, often looking to Koguma for answers where Reiko’s tendency to joke around or exaggerate leaves her in doubt. In Super Cub, Shii’s role is denoted by her diminutive stature: Koguma is taller than Shii, and Reiko is tallest of the three. Each character’s physical presence seems to correspond with their familiarity with the Cub, with Reiko being the most relaxed and experienced, and Shii being a novice. Koguma, then, stands in the middle; she’s still a learner, but has accumulated enough experience to impart her own knowledge on Shii, where Reiko might otherwise be irreverent or joking. As such, with Super Cub entering its final quarter, the story is beginning to speak of the same themes that Non Non Biyori: Nonstop covered; the passing of the torch and how everyone begins their journey differently means that learning is an infinitely varied experience, and towards the end of Super Cub, the series’ aims will be to show the sort of positive impact Koguma herself has on others through taking up riding – learning and teaching has made Koguma’s world more colourful, and while she might’ve started out with nothing, having an open mind will make everything that she sought within reach, bringing newfound warmth and colour into her world in ways that she’d never imagined possible prior to purchasing her Super Cub.

Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!- Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“If it’s strictly comedy, I like to bring some darkness to it. If it’s strictly drama, I always like to lighten it up as well. I like to find some kind of dimension and make my characters human, so that it doesn’t feel like a sketch and feels more like a slice of life.” –Nestor Carbonell

In the aftermath of a new arrangement to help the Iron Blood and Sakura Empire better understand the Eagle Union and Royal Navy, the ship girls live and attend school together at the Azur Lane’s main base. Javelin, Laffey and Ayanami have become close friends since, and enjoy their everyday lives together, befriending Z23 in the process. Their daily activities include helping Baltimore with various club activities, manage to have a solid barbeque despite Rodney blowing up their ingredients, make chocolates with Prinz Eugen and even help Bismark work up the courage to ask Tirpitz to a dance. In these peaceful days, Javelin, Laffey and Ayanami attend a school festival, learn that Belfast is training a smaller version of herself to be a proper maid, set up an onsen with Shoukaku and Zuikaku, visit an amusement park with Yukikaze, Mutsu, and Nagato, and spend a full day trying to help a sleepy Laffey find her ideal pillow. Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! lives up to its name, being focused on the ship girls’ lives outside of their duties in combating the Siren. Similarly to Strike Witches: Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! and World Witches: Take Off!, Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! dispenses almost entirely with the questions that Azur Lane raises, and instead, capitalises on the fact that there are so many ship girls to show the sorts of misadventures everyone has in pursuit of their studies, while they partake in events around their school and even contemplate chasing the elusive commander’s heart. Such a series is invariably light-hearted, and while perhaps not offering much in the way of narrative progression, still serves an important purpose in demonstrating to viewers that military-moé series, by virtue of their characters, are about personal growth and an appreciation of time spent with others first and foremost.

By Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, what’s become clear is that the different factions have all acclimatised to life with one another. Ayanami is now very much a part of Javelin and Laffey’s lives, and with this familiarity comes the sort of comedy that can result when people get to bounce off one another. Laffey’s lethargy befuddles Ayanami, and Ayanami’s love for video games often gets in the way of things. However, in spite of these character traits, it’s clear that without labels and factions impeding them, Javelin, Laffey and Ayanami are now best of friends. This is something that the original Azur Lane sought to convey, and indeed, this was probably one of the strongest themes in the series. To see an extension of that message in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! reiterates that this is what Azur Lane had originally aimed to convey. Some events in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! really drives this point home: in the original TV series, Zuikaku had been utterly determined to defeat Enterprise in combat, pushing herself even in the knowledge that she might be sunk in the process. By Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, Zuikaku’s latest project is the installation of an outdoor bath, and she accepts Javelin, Laffey and Ayanami’s help in getting things set up, even promising the three first dibs on using the bath once they’re done. This is a dramatic departure from what was shown in the original series, and shows that beyond any doubt, the ship girls can indeed be friends where old grudges and alliances are no longer observed. In focusing on these elements of Azur Lane, Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! is able to act as a comedy, showing that despite the challenges imposed by warfare and the stresses this has on the ship girls, there are also equivalent moments of joy and idle relaxation. Azur Lane succeeds in using its spin-off to help viewers settle down after last year’s anime, creating an easygoing and comedy-filled series to remind viewers that at the end of the day, while Azur Lane might be about naval combat, the ship girls are very much human and experience the same emotions, of joy, sorrow, amusement and jealousy, as we would.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I believe it’s been a shade more than a year since I last wrote about Azur Lane: if memory serves, I found the series to be serviceable, with likeable characters and a solid soundtrack at the heart of its appeal. The production had been troubled, and like Girls und Panzer, the last two episodes were delayed for a few months. Enterprise had been at the heart of Azur Lane, but here in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, Javelin is the main character: the series opens with her showering, and every episode is centred around her, Laffey and Ayanami’s adventures.

  • Z23 soon joins their group; while she’s initially set to lead the class as an instructor of sorts, Javelin, Ayanami and Laffey end up see her more as a peer than a senior, but a role model nonetheless. Z23 is originally a part of the Iron Blood faction. The resulting group of friends is representative of each faction. Javelin is from the Royal Navy, Laffey is from the Eagle Union, Ayanami hails from the Sakura Empire, and Z23 represents the Iron Blood. It’s a clever setup that really lets Slow Ahead! to demonstrate its themes.

  • I’ve found that a lot of slice-of-life anime series, while seemingly trite and simple, are a lot more meaningful than they initially appear. Beyond their kawaii art style and focus on the frivolous, the characters’ experiences speak to various life lessons that are often worth reiterating; while anime that deal with philosophy or social issues create the most interesting discussion, said conversations can also get quite heated, especially when people of different backgrounds come to the table.

  • Understanding how to get along with people is something that folks occasionally seem to forget, and this is something that slice-of-life anime excel in speaking to. Even more so than its predecessor, Slow Ahead! has a particular emphasis on fanservice. Four episodes into the season is the beach episode, which features Rodney partaking in the Japanese tradition of watermelon-splitting using her arsenal. Ayanami’s description for the activity speaks to her reverence of Japanese culture, but she forgets to mention the most critical rule; splitting the watermelon can only be done with a stick.

  • In the end, Rodney manages to undo the damage by using her main cannons and blasting enough fish out of water for the barbeque’s main course. Slow Ahead! aired during the winter season, but because I’d been swamped (by episodic Yuru Camp△ 2 posts, and regular posts on Non Non Biyori: Nonstop), I decided to set this series aside with plans to watch and write about it shortly after the winter season concluded. However, my usual tendencies for procrastination kicked in, and this pushed Slow Ahead! back. We’re now about two thirds of the way through the spring season, and I’ve finally had the chance to give this series a go.

  • Fortunately, Slow Ahead! episodes are only eight minutes long, and that means I could finish the entire series on short order. This made it much easier to catch up and wrap things up in an efficient manner. Here, Ayanami befriends Graf Spee after their shared interests. Individual episodes of Slow Ahead! don’t do anything too dramatic or meaningful from a narrative standpoint, but they represent fun moments into the world of Azur Lane.

  • When a formal dance is held one evening, the girls help Bismarck ask Tirpitz for a dance after getting her decked out in suitable attire for the evening. Javelin feels a little out of place at these events, feeling them to be a little too stuffy for her tastes, it turns out she’s not the only one. Formidable has snuck off to a side room and finds cupcakes. Her evening suddenly takes a turn for the unfortunate when it turns out these cupcakes had been prepared for a food roulette game later, and she’d taken the one spiked with hot peppers.

  • Formidable suggests that such parties aren’t her jam, despite her possessing the manner and air of a lady herself. However, when she sits down on some boxes to rest, the boxes collapse immediately. I suppose that this would be a joke on Formidable’s mass, since Formidable displaces 23000 tonnes standard (for comparison, the Enterprise displaces 21000 tonnes at standard) – like Kantai Collection, the writers have incorporated several jokes relevant to the original ships’ properties as a bit of a callback to the real world, which navel enthusiasts would find enjoyable. Azur Lane‘s ships seem to be quite far removed from their real-world counterparts and fight more like magical girls than navel vessels, so during the original TV series, I never did focus too much on these details.

  • In my original talks on Azur Lane, I stated that St. Louis would probably be my favourite ship on account of style alone, but Formidable is a contender – aircraft carriers are the navel vessels I respect the most on account of their power and versatility. More so than battleships, aircraft carriers shaped the outcome of World War Two and greatly impact doctrine today, but as detection and anti-ship ballistic missiles become more potent, navel combat may change once again. Since Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! isn’t about the navy, I’ll probably not make too much mention of any real world equivalents here.

  • Javelin later asks Formidable to learn how to dance and fails in even the basics: Formidable notes that learning to be elegant isn’t an easy thing, and that it’s something one must commit themselves into being. The contrast between her usual self and when she gets flustered is night and day, and for the time being, Javelin’s got a long way to go. Conversely, Ayanami and Laffey are content to enjoy the fancy food being served during this ball. What Formidable says is true – she subtly hints that Javelin should strive to be herself.

  • One episode has Javelin, Ayanami and Laffey join Mikasa in cleaning the commander’s room, with Taihou attempting to leverage the situation and learn whatever she can about the commander in a bid to get closer to him. All of the ship girls in Azur Lane have a crush of sorts on the ever-absent commander, although some (Javelin and Honolulu) are more subtle about their feelings than others. Taihou’s efforts are especially brazen, and one can imagine the challenges of being the commander in such a world, if one’s charges are constantly coveting his heart where he has a job to do.

  • During the school festival, while changing into costumes for the day’s events, Ayanami, Laffey and Z23 run into Honolulu, who is reluctant to change into a yukata that St. Louis had given her on account of it being too revealing. Characters who never had substantial screen-time during Azur Lane are given a chance to for some shine time here in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, but with some 450 ships altogether, practical constraints mean that some players’ own favourite ships won’t see time in the animated adaptation.

  • While Honolulu initially feels embarrassed about her outfit, she ends up following Laffey’s lead and has fun along with the others, even scoring a prize to go on one date with the commander in a darts game, rendering the other ship girls jealous in the process. Throughout the course of Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, seeing Javelin’s character helped to elevate my fondness for her: in the game, Javelin is an elite destroyer, making her classified as roughly the same as Kantai Collection‘s Fubuki. I’ve heard that Fubuki’s character was never particularly well-received in Kantai Collection‘s anime, but I myself didn’t have issue with her.

  • While out and about one day, Ayanami, Laffey and Javelin encounter a mini-Belfast, whom the regular Belfast is training to be a maid. The mini-Belfast is effective and motivated, even helping keep Ayanami company in her gaming adventures. When Azur Lane first aired, I was constantly getting Ayanami and Laffey mixed up, to the point of being surprised whenever Ayanami didn’t sound like Maria Naganawa. Ayanami is voiced by Yō Taichi (Princess Principal’s Dorothy). Having watched Azur Lane all the way through, this is no longer a problem for me.

  • Azur Lane had Zuikaku determined to defeat Enterprise in combat, but here in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, she’s more easygoing. When the base’s hot water supply is taken offline for repairs, she suggests setting up their own onsen and invites Laffey, Z23, Javelin and Ayanami to soak with her and Shoukaku, even enjoying tempura in the process. Having seen both Azur Lane and Kantai Collection, I prefer Azur Lane‘s Zuikaku and Kantai Collection‘s Akagi and Kaga. Curiously enough, both incarnations of Shoukaku are agreeable to me as far as aesthetics and personalities go.

  • While Kantai Collection had been strictly set in the World War Two era had limited the kan-musume to what was available during the time, the girls in Azur Lane have access to game consoles, tablets and the internet, along with modern amenities and conveniences. Here, Javelin enjoys lunch with Yukikaze, Mutsu, and Nagato at the Manjuu Land amusement park. It’s a fun-filled day for everyone, even Javelin, Mutsu and Nagato, who are blown away by the ferocity of the amusement park’s première attraction, a massive roller coaster.

  • The finale to Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! is a fanservice filled romp, during which a sleepwalking Laffey attempts to reunite with her pillow after being found in a treasure chest. Misunderstanding her, Javelin, Z23 and Ayanami spend the day trying to find her pillow, assuming that Laffey had lost her memory and would be restored if she found a stacked ship girl to hang with. Thus begins an episode of brazen fanservice, amplified by the fact that nothing seems to be working.

  • Because Laffey’s referring to an actual pillow, the ensuring chaos winds up being hilarious to watch. Admittedly, this is more along the lines of what I’d expected Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! to be about when I first heard of the series, and while the series doesn’t disappoint in this area, it becomes clear that in addition to comedy, this spin-off’s focus really is about how the different ship girls get along with one another despite their different factions. For this reason, Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! exceeded my initial expectations coming in, and I had a great deal of fun watching it.

  • With this post in the books, I’ve wrapped up my list of things to knock out before June arrived. May begin slowly, since I spent the first week getting my desktop back online after finally upgrading to Windows 10, and since then, I’ve been trying to catch up on posts: with news that Higurashi: SOTSU is happening in July and the fact I’ve begun going through Black Ops: Cold War, I figured it would be wise to clear up as many posts as I could before things get hectic. This did mean that the end of May was a bit crazy with respect to getting posts done (there’s been a post every two days for the last eleven days), but on the flipside, it means that I now have a bit more wiggle room in June: the only posts I’ve got scheduled are for Higurashi: GOU, Black Ops: Cold WarSuper CubYakunara Mug Cup mo and Higehiro.

  • Before I wrap this post up, I’ll note that the spin-off’s name is a reference to the engine order, which is issued to engineers operating a ship’s engines. “Slow ahead” is precisely what it means, reflecting on how Azur Lane‘s spin-off is meant to depict things more slowly than the usual series did. In this, Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! does live up to expectations and provides a satisfactory experience. The short format of this series, however, means that not very many discussions of the series exist, and having now seen it, it becomes clear that Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! is really meant for the folks who did enjoy the TV series and are looking for more ship girls while awaiting Kantai Collection‘s second season. Beyond the fact that it will feature Shigure as the protagonist and air somewhere in 2022, not much else is known about this series.

The events of Slow Ahead! serve to act as a precedent for what more military-moé series should seek to do in between more serious stories; this helps to dispel any misconceptions about the characters’ beliefs, desires and intents. By showing characters outside of their duties, this serves to humanise them. When the chips are down and the defecation hits the oscillation, viewers are not left scrambling over one another to draw conclusions about characters or their motivations (in the past, this has resulted in flame wars). Instead, seeing characters and how they typically are helps viewers to appreciate that their actions have at least some basis in rationality. As such, series like Girls und Panzer and High School Fleet could each do with a slice-of-life spin-off: discussions surrounding these series have oftentimes become far more heated than necessary, since some viewers are convinced that such anime are all-serious works akin to the likes of Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, Patton or Apocalypse Now, works that speak to the horrors of warfare and how individual merit and bravery in conjunction with teamwork is necessary to survive times that otherwise bring out humanity’s evil. The reality is that, were an anime intending to cover such themes, they would utilise a completely different set of characters and aesthetics. Seeing Javelin, Laffey and Ayanami doing the sorts of things that are expected of ordinary students serves to reinforce that at the end of the day, military-moé are more akin to the cute-girls-doing-cute-things genre, about discovery and exploration above all else. Here in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, seeing Ayanami getting along swimmingly with Javelin and Laffey, or Zuikaku and Shoukaku treating them cordially with an onsen experience for having helped them to set up, serves to illustrate that beyond factional differences and occasionally dissimilar combat objectives, the ship girls are more similar than unlike. This helps to put a smile on the viewers’ faces and reinforce the notion that we needn’t worry about things like the ship girls shouldering responsibilities alone or the consequences of accessing forbidden technologies, because at the end of the day, the series is more about the elements that make slice-of-life enjoyable: world-building and the ability for viewers to immerse themselves in a world that is simultaneously different from and similar to our own.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Or, Every Breath I Take Without Your Permission Raises My Self-Esteem

“They’ll just send in some special ops douchebags with pussy-ass heartbeat monitors on their guns, instead of us.” –Terrence Sweetwater, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

After university student Kazuya Kinoshita is dumped by his girlfriend, Mami Nanami, he falls into a depression and signs up for a rental girlfriend programme via smartphone app. He is assigned Chizuru Mizuhara, a kindhearted and beautiful girl, but when he realises that the date felt hollow, rates her poorly. The next date they go on, Chizuru takes Kazuya to the woodshed, but things are cut short when Kazuya learns his grandmother was hospitalised. He brings Chiruzu with him and inadverdently creates a misunderstanding in which his grandmother, and Chizuru’s grandmother, assume the pair are dating. The pair try to break things off while at the same time, remain tactful to their grandmothers, who would be heartbroken to learn that their relationship was a scam. However, things become increasingly complex when other rental girlfriends appear and begin falling for Kazuya, who’s come to genuinely fall in love with Chizuru, who took up the rental girlfriend post to better prepare for her aspiration of being an actress. This is Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-A-Girlfriend, literally “I’d like to rent a girlfriend”), an anime that aired during the summer of 2020, and whose very presence had been lambasted to Hel and back by irate viewers who found the premise outlandish, the progression implausible, and Kazuya himself was infuriatingly single-minded and dense. Based purely on the voice of internet critics, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is an anime that would, on first glance, seem consigned to failure: over the course of twelve episodes, Kazuya continues to grovel at Chiruzu’s feet, disregarding the fact that Ruka and and Sumi have fallen head over heels for him. These critics argue that Kazuya is blind to his realities, and for acting in a way they’d certainly never act in, Kanojo, Okarishimasu has therefore failed as an anime. After all, folks watch stories to get inspired, and to see how people overcome their setbacks to become stronger and better learned, but Kanojo, Okarishimasu seemingly offers none of this. Week after week, Kazuya pursues Chizuru, hoping that his persistence and sincerity might one day change her mind, all the while trying to keep the lie from breaking their grandparents’ hearts and fending off suitors who’ve become attracted to Kazuya following his acts of kindness.

Unfortunately, the picture that some of the anime community’s most well-known members paint, with their tweets and MyAnimeList reviews, would have individuals believe that, on the basis that Kazuya isn’t acting in a rational way (i.e. how’d they’d react), the series is therefore unrealistic and not meritorious of being watched. The criticism that characters act differently to how the individual might given a set of circumstances is one I’ve often seen thrown around, although this approach is one lacking validity. A work of fiction is intended to convey a particular theme, and consequently, if a given character were to respond to something in a way that was rational, or conforming with what might be considered common sense, there’d be no lesson to learn, and no theme to convey. Kazuya’s lengthy list of shortcomings and mistakes drive Kanojo, Okarishimasu, and supposing that he enters the story with a modicum of confidence and self-respect, there’d be nothing to present, and no journey to embark on. The fact that he lacks these is what gives the series a reason to present his story. It is common knowledge that giving credence to internet critics, is the quickest way towards developing an incorrect, cynical and bitter view of the world: these individuals conveniently forget that Kanojo, Okarishimasu portrays a Kazuya at the beginning of his journey, someone indecisive, weak-willed and utterly lacking in confidence, that we see. In the knowledge that this series is to continue, then, there is always the prospect of a pay-off from watching Kazuya navigate the world of relationship and slowly improve his own sense of self-worth as he chases after the sharp-tongued Chizuru: the internet critics are inevitably too hasty in their judgement, and a second season will likely show a Kazuya who is better prepared to impress Chizuru, having learnt from his earlier mistakes. While perhaps a gross exaggeration of an unwillingness to date, Kazuya’s choices after Mami dumps him is not implausible, and his confidence is shaken to the core. It therefore stands to reason that a series of (hilarious) misunderstandings to help Kazuya understand why he desires a relationship, well beyond the physical aspects.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll preface the discussion with the suggestion that, were such a service to exist in reality, I would be torn between using it and doing things the old-fashioned way. On one hand, being able to basically buy a guided tutorial on how to properly date would be great practise for when the moment comes where said experience would be helpful, but on the other hand, it’s not as though people fall into a list of procedures, and what works in one scenario may utterly fail in another. Relationships and dating requires finesse on a case-by-case basis, although I suppose that periodically shelling out the cash for this experience isn’t too different than practising one’s interviews.

  • With this in mind, I imagine that were I ever to write a mobile app for the purpose of connecting people with rental girlfriends, I likely find myself rejected by Apple’s review team for violating section 1.1.1 of their App Store Review Guidelines under objectionable content: what happens to Kazuya and Chizuru in Kanojo, Okarishimasu might be amusing for viewers, but such misfortune in real life would be very unfortunate. Further to this, my job description as an iOS developer does not entail wrecking peoples’ lives or making them unnecessarily complicated, so such an app would be outside the boundaries of what I’d consider to be ethical.

  • For this Terrible Anime Challenge post, my verdict is “the negative reception to Kanojo, Okarishimasu anime is greatly exaggerated, and while I did not see enough merits in this anime to readily recommend it to my readers, I do not agree with the vitriol that was directed at the series was necessary, either”. In other words, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu isn’t going to be the next CLANNAD (or anything approaching thus), I see no need to belittle the authors or studio for having produced the anime. I had a moderate amount of fun watching this series and have an inkling of where it’s headed. It also helps that Chizuru is voiced by Sora Amamiya (KonoSub‘s very own Aqua and Akemi Sōryūin from Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru?).

  • Kazuya reminds me of Rick and Morty‘s Jerry Smith, being excessively insecure and cowardly, while at the same time, being also kind-hearted and loyal to a fault. However, Jerry is only a secondary character, and his mistakes are typically contained to a given episode’s subplot. Conversely, Kazuya is the lead in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, and I’ve got my answer as to what would happen were Jerry to take a more active role in Rick and Morty. Having said this, much as I am optimistic that writers will have Kazuya undergo enough growth so Chiruzu no longer steps on him, I would hope that Rick and Morty‘s fifth season, at the very least, lessens the frequency where Jerry is made to act as the series’ punching bag: his misadventures are not funny.

  • Mami Nanami proved to be an interesting character: after chucking Kazuya for unknown reasons, she ends up developing a possessive streak a mile wide and forces her way back into his life, becoming genuinely frustrated that Kazuya seems genuinely infatuated with Chiruzu. I usually don’t take joy in watching characters suffer, but seeing Mami go yandere because of jealousy always puts a smile on my face.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu would disintigrate in the blink of an eye if Kazuya had any backbone: the reason why the series is able to create wild scenarios is because, out of concern for his and Chizuru’s grandmother, telling them the truth about their bogus relationship would be inconsolably disappointing for both, and he doesn’t have it in them to break their hearts in this fashion. Chizuru agrees to keep up with the façade for similar reasons, and while she plays her role as the girlfriend well when on duty, off-duty, she’s blunt, foul-mouthed and poor-tempered wherever Kazuya is concerned.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu certainly takes the pains of reminding viewers every so often how hot Chizuru is, to the point where Mami, herself sporting a good figure, becomes intimidated by Chizuru’s assets. With Kazuya’s personality, a part of me wonders if it would’ve been more effectual to have Kazuya fall in love with Chizuru on personality alone, since this could indicate that he was maturing past looking at a relationship as being purely for physical contact. Having different variables in play can serve to help a series make its point clear, but if too many variables exist, it becomes difficult to ascertain where a series intends to go.

  • One aspect about Kanojo, Okarishimasu that did strike me as a bit strange was the fact that the art quality would shift frequently, and inconsistently. While I understand the use of simplified, chalk-like background artwork for moments where Chizuru is kicking Kazuya’s ass, it becomes a bit more jarring when the lower-quality visuals are seen in more serious moments. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Kanojo, Okarishimasu does demonstrate that it can have above-average artwork as well – this is most noticeable during the beach episodes, where the backgrounds and skies are of a much higher standard.

  • Like any drama, trouble is amplified when Ruka joins the party. Initially, Kazuya is surprised that his friend, Shun Kuribayashi, also seemingly has a girlfriend. Kanojo, Okarishimasu presents most of the males in Kazuya’s circle as being inexperienced with relationships but eager to pursue them for their own reasons, not fully understanding that a proper relationship is built on trust and stability over flashier things – I view a partner as someone whose presence makes me an even greater, more empathetic and understanding individual, someone who I can count on and be relied upon by, whom I listen to and offer suggestions for, and someone who would listen to me and offer me advice where needed.

  • Consequently, when Kanojo, Okarishimasu presents relationships in this shallow manner, it suggests that, at least at this point in time, Kazuya and his friends are not sufficiently mature to find someone who can offer that for them. I imagine that this is why Kazuya got burned by Mami prior to the series’ beginning – Mami had not been looking for the emotional parts of things and in fact, is suggested to mess around with men for kicks. Conversely, when Ruka is introduced, and she immediately deduces that Chizuru is a rental girlfriend, things get tricky for Kazuya real fast.

  • Kazuya is put into a bit of a bind when it turns out Ruka is in love with him: despite expressing open hostility towards him after their first meeting, after Kazuya saves her from a bad fall, Ruka begins to see the real Kazuya. I appreciate that the idea of anyone falling in love with someone as indecisive and cowardly as Kazuya can seem outlandish, but at the same time, the Kazuya we see just took a beating after Mami dumped him, so it is understandable that he would feel like he’s walking on eggshells around women.

  • My choice of page quote comes from Ruka and her unique heart condition: Kazuya’s been the only person able to elevate her heart rate, and for this, Ruka suspects that Kazuya’s special to her, worthy of pursuing. Of course, the joke here is that in a relationship, one doesn’t exactly need a heartbeat monitor to determine if they’re in love or no: it’s a very specific feeling that one would know when they’d experience it – if it were not apparent, I’d also spent the past long weekend playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2: it turns out that after reinstalling my OS, I’d lost my old save files, and so, I resolved to unlock everything again. I still occasionally revisit Bad Company 2‘s campaign for nostalgia’s sake, so I figured it be nice to have all the levels unlocked for that purpose.

  • While I’d love to share my Bad Company 2 adventures anew, this is a Kanojo, Okarishimasu post, and here, after Ruka demonstrates to Kazuya and Chizuru her feelings are authentic, Chiruzu suggests that he at least spend time with Ruka to see where things go. Despite her dislike for Kazuya, Chizuru does care for his well being and promises to keep an eye on him until he can get a proper girlfriend and finally be truthful to his grandmother. This scenario, however, imposes additional challenges for Kazuya: he’s fairly confident that he’s in love with Chizuru and feels it unfair to be leading Ruka on when he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings.

  • I imagine that Chizuru wants Kazuya to first regain his confidence around women, which is why she agrees to let Ruka spend time with him: for her, the best case is that Kazuya comes to appreciate Ruka and can stand on his own two feet. Of course, what this will really do is to help Kazuya rediscover his own confidence and face Chizuru better: Kanojo, Okarishimasu has made it quite clear that there’s a long and difficult road to Chizuru, and that every step of the way, Kazuya’s determination to set things right with her will lead her to come around.

  • With this in mind, there is a limit to what persistence can do, and in reality, if the magic isn’t there, it isn’t there. Fiction is fond of suggesting that enough grit can turn things around, but this is wishful thinking: relationships have an intangible component to them that isn’t readily quantified, and it can be difficult to put this in words. Consequently, I do feel bad for Ruka: she’s genuinely in love with Kazuya, but as the story dictates, heartbreak will likely await her. Ruka is voiced by none other than Nao Tōyama, whom my readers should know as Shimarin from Yuru Camp△ and Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō, amongst other well-known roles.

  • Late in the series, Sumi Sakurasawa is introduced to Kanojo, Okarishimasu. Despite being uncommonly shy, she decides to take on the rental girlfriend job to prepare herself for a career as an idol and figures doing this would get her more comfortable with people. At Chizuru’s behest, Sumi goes on a few trial dates with Kazuya to better her skills. Their first date is fraught with challenges, including a couple of shady guys hassling her, and then Mami’s sudden arrival. In spite of Kazuya’s feeble efforts in fending them off, the sincerity of his actions convince Sumi that Kazuya’s the real deal.

  • Another familiar face from KonoSuba returns: Rie Takahashi (Megumin) voices Sumi. I also know her previous roles as Yuru Camp△‘s Ena Saitō. Altogether, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu does have a setup that could yield a worthwhile payoff later down the line, the challenge this series faced during its run is the fact that Kazuya’s growth happens very slowly: there’s no indicator that he’s more confident in himself by the series’ end, as he even ditches a date with Ruka to tail Chiruzu closer to Christmas when she hangs out with a coworker. A Kazyua coming to his own would have a little more faith in Chizuru and not do such things.

  • With everything in mind, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is very much an incomplete work, and the series would’ve likely worked better as a full-cour series spanning twenty four episodes, rather than be split into two seasons. This would’ve presented a much more complete picture than the current setup did, and while some words folks have thrown at Kanojo, Okarishimasu are unreasonably harsh, I appreciate that this series has been uncommonly frustrating owing to its pacing and Kazuya’s apparent lack of growth. However, it’s not all bad news bears for Kanojo, Okarishimasu: other viewers, likely those who empathise with Kazuya and his situation, found the series relatable.

  • As for where I sit on things, I would tend to believe that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is a series where viewers would be better served if they waited for the second season before beginning their journey, although as I’ve noted earlier, I did find some enjoyment out of this chaotic, hectic series. While I concede that this series is not for a majority of viewers who are looking for a meaningful or moving romance, the series certainly doesn’t merit the insults directed at it, either. Concerning those who feel strongly about anime opinions enough to resort to such crude means, this post’s title is representative of my response to them, in addition to acting as a metaphor for Kazuya’s journey throughout Kanojo, Okarishimasu after Mami dumped him.

  • The line is inspired by a moment from Rick and Morty‘s fourth season, during which Rick begrudgingly attends a heist movie themed convention and publicly insults a figure known for heists in-universe during a panel. When the crowd boos him, Rick responds with this gem of a line: it is a clever and hilarious stab at certain fandoms, where some of the more vocal individuals vehemently object to any opinion not in alignment with their own. In this sense, my whole blog’s existence is an insult to them, and very much like Rick, every breath that I take without their permission raises my self-esteem. Moreover, said individuals’ criticisms of the anime that I find passable or enjoyable mean nothing, for I’ve seen what makes them cheer 😛

Unsurprisingly, twelve episodes is clearly not sufficient a timeframe to properly illustrate everything: at this point in time, it remains too early to determine whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu is worth watching. On one hand, watching Kazuya’s failures is fairly challenging: he acts in a way contrary to what one would expect, but on the flipside, the fact that there will be a second season somewhere in 2022 means that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is by no means complete, and to review the series at this point would be akin to discussing a hockey game when one team is leading 4-1 after two periods of play. Much as how anything can happen in the final period (most recently, the Edmonton Oilers were handed a devastating blow when they blew a 4-1 lead against the Winnipeg Jets and lost in overtime), anime can occasionally still find ways of surprising people. Kanojo, Okarishimasu is not an exception to this rule, and while at present, I would not give the series a glowing recommendation or suggest folks watch it out of curiosity (unless one is uncommonly tolerant, or looking for a good laugh), I’m also not going to stop them from checking the series out. In an anime dominated by Kazuya’s bad decisions, there are a handful of genuinely heartwarming moments, seeing Chizuru’s foul personality outside of her duties is always hilarious, and Mami’s yandere-like traits make seeing her recoil in jealousy in response to what Kazuya does is made all the more satisfying. Whether Kanojo, Okarishimasu manages to right itself by the second season and really focus on Kazuya’s pursuit of Chizuru remains to be seen, but at this point in time, it’s still early to be passing a verdict on whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu is, in the words of the internet critics, a train-wreck. In more civilised words, whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu paints a compelling picture with its theme is something that will require further exploration, and this, for better or worse, remains a ways off.