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Suzume no Tojimari: A Reflection on the Preview and Remarks on Expectation Management

“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.” –Kim Collins

Suzume Iwato is a high school girl who lives in a small town in Kyūshū. After a harrowing dream one morning, she sets off for school, only to encounter a young man along the way. He explains that he’s looking for ruins, and Suzume points him towards an abandoned hot springs town located over the next valley. Intrigued by the man’s presence, Suzume decides to cut class and explore the ruins. Here, she finds a mysterious door that seemingly leads to a vast field under a star-filled sky. After opening it and becoming frustrated by her inability to pass through, Suzume encounters a stone cat that unexpectedly comes to life, and decides that this is enough adventure for one day. She returns to class just in time for lunch, but after a minor earthquake hits, Suzume is shocked to see what appears to be smoke from a fire. Perturbed that none of her classmates seem to be able to see the smoke, she decides to head back to the ruins. Here, she finds the man attempting to close the door: a malevolent energy is pouring through it, resisting his attempts to shut it. Suzume lends the man her strength, and this gives him enough time to summon a key that locks the door. This is about the gist of what happens in the first twelve minutes of Makoto Shinkai’s latest movie, which follows Suzume and the traveller, Sōta Munakata, as they travel across Japan to seal off the doors that appear across the nation, setting off a string of disasters. Along the way, Suzume’s experiences drive her own growth, giving her the strength for her to be herself. Suzume no Tojimari‘s themes appear to lie in managing the aftermath of calamity and how a human connection is instrumental in this process, similarly to how Your Name and Weathering With You had both incorporated a natural disaster piece into its story. However, standing in stark contrast with its predecessors, which were set in Tokyo, Suzume no Tojimari‘s setting is in southern Japan.

The change in location represents a shift in atmosphere, and in conjunction with the character design and a more visceral portrayal of the supernatural, Suzume no Tojimari appears to lean more towards the aesthetic that Children Who Chase Lost Voices took; Shinkai’s 2011 film had portrayed Asuna’s journey to Agartha, where she had learnt more about accepting death in a fantastical world that, while majestic, was also quite empty and devoid of life. In this way, Children Who Chase Lost Voices spoke to the price that defying the natural order commanded in a ambitious and visually stunning tale. Subsequently, Shinkai returned his stories into the real world, and while supernatural elements are present to subtly move the needle, his films following Children Who Chase Lost Voices have been decidedly more grounded in reality, establishing this by using a familiar environment in Tokyo to convey that the characters’ experiences came first and foremost. While this was especially effective in The Garden of Words and Your Name, by Weathering With You, the approach felt comparatively derivative. The choice to set Suzume no Tojimari in a rural setting thus creates the exciting possibility that Shinkai is once again testing new waters in his latest film; Suzume no Tojimari is stated to portray a journey around Japan, and in this way, this allows the art team to really showcase a variety of places and utilise them to convey emotions and thoughts in ways that Tokyo alone cannot. Consequently, there is much excitement in Suzume no Tojimari: incorporating learnings and successful approaches (i.e. a fantastical setting) from Children Who Chase Lost Voices into a story that has aspects from Your Name (older characters with more agency and a wider range of settings, with a moving story of separation and reunion) could produce a film that stands out from its predecessors.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Suzume no Tojimari began production in early 2020, and while production remained relatively in impacted by the global health crisis, the pandemic’s effect on society was integrated into the movie, which begins with Suzume experiencing a very visceral nightmare. From what the opening shows, Suzume lost her mother and is living with her aunt. The sharp contrast between the dream world and Suzume’s everyday life is pronounced, bringing to mind the opening scenes of Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness. With Multiverse of Madness as precedence, it becomes clear that the post-apocalyptic world Suzume dreams about will feature prominently.

  • For the time being, this preview portrays the normalcy in Suzume’s world: it is remarkably difficult to gauge a character from just a few minutes on screen, but she feels like a more confident version of Mitsuha whose life is unremarkable. On this morning, she rides her bike down to school with a smile on her face, and the road leading down this path offers a stunning view of the ocean. Her usual routine is interrupted when she spots a fellow on the road, and when she stops to speak to him, he explains that he’s looking for some ruins. The preview never names him, but he’s Sōta Munakata and bears a resemblance to Children Who Chase Lost Voices‘ Shun.

  • I’ve always felt that, of Shinkai’s movies, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is one of his most underappreciated films. While this movie represents a major departure from his usual style, it was able to convey its messages in an effective manner. Two common misconceptions surrounding Shinkai’s movies are that they’re at their best when endings are ambiguous and open, and that his films all suggest that loneliness is an inevitable part of life, and one can, at most, only hope to cope with it. These misconceptions stems from Anime News Network declaring that Five Centimetres per Second was about unrequited love and loneliness being “realistically” portrayed, since it had coincidentally lined up with their own writers’ belief that no amount of effort led to happiness.

  • Misconceptions like these are why I continue to say that people shouldn’t place so much stock in Anime News Network’s opinions of things; Shinkai’s stories, while scaled up to be more fantastical and dramatic, ultimately speak to lessons applicable in everyday life, and for better or worse, Anime News Network’s writers don’t exactly have the best track record of picking up on these elements. Thus, when Anime News Network publishes their Suzume no Tojimari review in the next few days, it goes without saying that it should most definitely be not taken at face value because the reviewer is unlikely to be actively looking out for Shinkai’s intentions.

  • I concede that any work of fiction is open to interpretation, but at least for me, it’s always important to understand the author’s intentions behind their work. When a reviewer decides their interpretation of a work supersedes even that of the author’s, and they’re writing to a publication that’s considered as reputable, this can have the potential to negatively impact a work for a long time after its screening. Returning to the example with Five Centimetres per Second, Anime News Network’s interpretations were copy-pasted to Wikipedia, claiming the film was about how people are powerless to shape their circumstances and must endure loneliness and separation as a result. Since Wikipedia is widely read, this became the de facto interpretation people accept of the film.

  • The companion novel and side stories both clarify that the problem Takaki faced was because he felt like everything was always outside his control, from him being forced to separate with Akari, to how his first job had punishing deadlines and occasionally, how management made his tasks more difficult. After he quits his first software job and goes freelance, he’s at peace: he’s most certainly not pining for Akari, but rather, was frustrated by a lack of agency. So, when he does the walk and thinks he encounters Akari again, he’s happy because he was able to fulfil his old promise and he knows it’s his call to now turn around and keep moving on in his life.

  • Because Shinkai clarifies his position through the companion novel and side stories, one can easily work out that Five Centimetres per Second does have a happy ending; it’s not a “happily ever after”, but for viewers, knowing that Takaki has found the agency in his life to take charge is an encouraging thought. Shinkai’s later movies follow a similar pattern; his characters might experience loneliness, but the idea that Shinkai wants to say that loneliness is all-consuming and final is untrue. Indeed, Your Name and Weathering With You both have happy endings, and assuming this trend holds true, Suzume no Tojimari will likely end on a similarly positive note.

  • Intrigued by the young man she’s met, Suzume ends up heading back up the hill for an abandoned onsen village. She runs into one of the buildings, and ends up calling out for the young man, only to wonder what on earth she’s doing. I don’t think Mitsuha ever wore such an expression on her face in Your Name; when Taki was inhabiting her body, Mitsuha became more expressive and bold, but as herself, Mitsuha was a bit more reserved. Strong, confident characters are a recent element in Shinkai’s movies, and I’ve found his works to be all the more enjoyable for it; his earliest works rendered female characters as sublime, abstract beings.

  • Until recently, the mysterious door in a derelict building was the only bit of imagery viewers had surrounding Suzume no Tojimari. Doors have been used extensively in literature to represent a transition, or a passage from one world to the next. More optimistic works have doors symbolising choice, while in a more restrictive scenario, doors also denote exclusion or boundaries. It’s still a little early to do an in-depth look at things, but the supernatural nature of these doors, coupled with the fact that they’re gateways to other worlds, and the fact that a malevolent energy originates from these worlds, I would hazard a guess that Shinkai is using doors to visually denote boundaries.

  • Owing to how they’re presented in Suzume no Tojimari, doors probably would suggest that Shinkai sees disaster as something that seems like it “only happens to someone else”, but once the boundaries are broken, and one finds themselves on the doorstep of calamity (pun intended), it can become remarkably difficult to prevent a bad situation from worsening. The first twelve minutes of Suzume no Tojimari speak to this process. When Suzume opens the door for the first time, she’s curious about the world the doorway seemingly leads to, for it is the same place she’d dreamt of earlier that day.

  • However, the door doesn’t allow her to pass through it, regardless of her efforts. When people read about disasters, it is similarly difficult to appreciate just how devastating and far-reaching the consequences are. Because these impacts can seem quite far removed from one’s everyday life, it’s easy to forget about them and go on with one’s life. Suzume ends up leaving the door open when she leaves the spot, confused both by the unusual phenomenon and a stone cat that unexpectedly appears and transmogrifies into a living form when Suzume picks it up.

  • As an experienced writer and producer, Shinkai doesn’t introduce elements unless they’re going to serve a purpose later down the line. After Suzume notices the stone statue at her feet and picks it up, she finds that it’s extremely cold to the touch, but it thaws in her hands shortly after and even comes to life. Cats and beings similar to cats are a common aspect of Shinkai’s works. Shinkai uses cats to act as guardians of sorts: She and Her Cat‘s Chobi falls in love with his owner and does his utmost to look after her, while in Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Mimi guides Asuna through Agartha until his life expires.

  • It therefore stands to reason that the cat-like being Suzume finds here in Suzume no Tojimari will serve a similar role, although on their first meeting, Suzume is completely shocked and chucks it away in terror. As Shinkai’s films evolved, I’ve found that his female leads have become much more expressive and multi-dimensional. Mitsuha wore a far greater range of facial expressions and had more emotions than Five Centimetres per Second‘s Akari, and these characters become much more human as a result, making it easier to connect to their experiences.

  • When the scene pulls back to a wider shot of the door, the real-time lighting effects can be seen, and I find myself wondering if Shinkai’s team is using real-time ray-tracing in their animation to pull off some tricks, or if everything is done either by hand, or older rendering techniques; using ray-tracing would help in cutting down some work for 3D scenes, since things like shadows and light interactions with different surfaces would be handled by the computer in real time. For viewers, since everything ends up being a video, it is fortunate that all one needs is a decent video decoder to play back the result: I can only imagine the sort of discontent in the anime community if the requirements for watching a home release copy of Suzume no Tojimari was an RTX 3060 or 6600XT.

  • After an eventful morning, Suzume finally shows up at school. Seeing her interact with her friends shows that, like Taki and Mitsuha, Suzume has people in her corner, standing in contrast with Hodaka, who was a runaway and arrived in Tokyo alone. However, when Suzume spots something unusual outside, and her friends fail to see anything out of the ordinary, her friends begin to wonder if she’s alright. I imagine that interacting with the phenomenon may have made her aware of the impending disaster, and with the phenomenon becoming more prominent by the minute, Suzume runs off.

  • Suzume no Tojimari‘s soundtrack is jointly composed by RADWIMPS and Kazuma Jinnouchi: the latter had previously worked on the music in Ghost in the ShellRWBY and Star Wars: Visions. RADWIMPS’ compositions resemble the music they’d previously provided for Your Name and Weathering With You, whereas Jinnouchi’s pieces sound like they’d belong in a historical drama and at times, have aural elements that evoke memories of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. The contrast between the two styles creates a much richer collection of incidental music, capturing a wide range of emotions and feelings accompanying each scene.

  • The effects here in Suzume no Tojimari remind me a great deal of Agame from Misaki no Mayoiga; in that film there’d been a mythological component that was built out into the story, but it always did feel like a tangential piece until near the film’s climax. Here in Suzume no Tojimari, the idea of a supernatural force triggering calamities is introduced right out of the gates to emphasise that it has a much larger role here. However, without a bit more context, I would prefer to see how Suzume no Tojimari unfolds, rather than speculate on things made on assumptions drawn from this preview.

  • Upon returning to the abandoned structure at the heart of the old onsen village, Suzume finds Sōta there, doing his utmost to close the door that had opened. The moment is a perilous one and speaks to the stakes within this film; Your Name and Weathering With You had progressed more slowly, but Children Who Chase Lost Voices had Asuna experience danger early on in the film after she meets Shin and ends up coming face to face with a paramilitary force tasked with finding the entrance to Agartha. Because of how things have unfolded in Suzume no Tojimari‘s first twelve minutes, I am going to guess that Suzume no Tojimari will resemble Children Who Chase Lost Voices in some way.

  • Because I only have twelve minutes of insight, it’s hard to say whether or not Suzume no Tojimari will make extensive use of Japanese mythology. I’ve long felt that such aspects should only be present to enhance the viewer’s experience, and for folks who don’t have familiarity with these areas, a given work shouldn’t punish them. Not everyone agrees with this: AnimeSuki’s Verso Sciolto, for instance, believed that a deep knowledge of Japanese mythology, folklore and culture were needed to enjoy Shinkai’s movies, but ended up being wrong on all counts.

  • Owing to Shinkai’s past successes, I would imagine that publishers will want to keep Suzume no Tojimari in theatres for as long as possible. Both Your Name and Weathering With You saw their respective home releases come out a full eleven months after their theatrical première, so the next time I write about this film will be in October of next year. The twelve minute preview represents about ten percent of Suzume no Tojimari‘s full runtime, and while it, fortuitously, does not spoil any events late into the movie, acts as a fantastic way to give prospective viewers a glimpse of what’s upcoming and establish what’s about to go down. Readers have my word that I will, to the best of my ability, return to right about this movie once the home release becomes available.

While the strength of Suzume no Tojimari‘s thematic elements and character growth remains to be seen (a twelve minute trailer isn’t enough to gain a measure of how well-written and cohesive the narrative is), the preview also shows that Shinkai’s craft remains impressive. Water remains a central motif in Shinkai’s films, and right out of the gates, is used to create a sense of surrealism, as well as showcase the improvements in real-time reflections. Ruins and abandonments provide a chance to illustrate overgrowth and decay of human constructs in vivid detail, in addition to demonstrating illumination effects like volumetric lighting and dynamic shadows. Shinkai’s films have developed a reputation for being visual spectacles that stand among some of the finest in the industry, and as the technology improves with his studio’s craft, Shinkai will be able to do more. The visual fidelity in his films is one of the main reasons why I’m so keen on Shinkai exploring a greater range of settings: having already established that Tokyo looks amazing with The Garden of Words, Your Name and Weathering With You, I’ve long been curious to see how other regions of Japan (and potentially, the world) would look if given the Makoto Shinkai treatment. The ceiling remains limitless, and on this note, it would be fantastic for Shinkai to return to the science fiction and thriller genres in a future work, as well. In the meantime, with Suzume no Tojimari‘s theatrical première in Japan, I expect that the film will see an international release in the new year. I do not anticipate watching it in local theatres owing to the fact that nine out of ten times, the screenings will be scheduled in way that’s inconvenient for myself, but once the home releases become available, I will definitely make an effort to watch the film and share my thoughts on it. This is estimated to be eleven months away, so in the meantime, I will be turning my attention to another anime film that recently released.

Growing Sunny, Crying and Sometimes Singing: Revisiting the Conclusion of Tari Tari a Decade Later and The Legacy A Celebration of Multidisciplinary Approaches Imparted on P.A. Works

“That’s the key to new and good ideas; they come from having a very broad and multidisciplinary range of interests.” –Robin Chase

While Tari Tari had opened with uncertain aims, by its finale, this series had delivered a moving story of how a disparate group would come together and, using their unique backgrounds and experiences, help one another out of their problems before rallying their entire school together to perform one final swan song, in the form of a play with live music from the choir, before it closes down ahead of a plan to redevelop the area. Although Tari Tari had seemingly been about everything and nothing, this aspect of it proved to be the anime’s greatest asset – each of Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro came in with different skills and perspectives, but despite seemingly lacking a shared set of interests, they come to realise the worth of their time spent together and cherish the memories they make, using these experiences to forge onwards into an uncertain future. In this way, Tari Tari was a celebration of being multidisciplinary; the final performance comes about precisely because everyone was able to bring something distinct to the table. Wakana’s background in music and a desire to bring her mother’s old song to life allows her to write the play’s music. Konatsu’s optimism and enthusiasm keeps her friends moving forward even when everyone seems mired in their own problems. Atsuhiro similarly desires to do something grand for a friend back home and ends up contributing the props with Taichi, while Sawa uses her connections to bring as many people as possible to make the show one to remember. None of this would’ve been possible had the characters not opened up to one another – when Tari Tari concluded, the series’ emphasis on music had spoken to the idea that music transcends background, belief, intents and desires to unify people. The series showed how people who are outwardly different can share more in common than they had imagined, and that by opening people up to this fact, music can set people down a rewarding path they’d never experienced. Seeing Wakana come to terms with her mother’s death, and Sawa fighting her hardest to again admittance to an equestrian school reminds viewers that everyone has their own struggles, but when they open up and help one another out, seemingly insurmountable problems are overcome. However, Tari Tari also marked the first time P.A. Works explored the multidisciplinary mindset. Rather than have each of Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro be members of the choral club, Tari Tari gave everyone a unique background and has them come together in the unusually-named Choir-and-Sometimes-Badminton Club. Such a setup would, on paper, seem conducive towards lack of a cohesive direction, but the club ends up exceeding expectations in its achievements precisely because, given that Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro all contribute different things to the swan song that leaves their entire graduating class with life-long memories.

In its execution, Tari Tari would ultimately set the precedence for P.A. Works’ future anime to a nontrivial extent. Despite possessing a less focused story than its predecessor, Hanasaku Iroha, and having a shorter runtime, Tari Tari had demonstrated that even with the short format and a narrative that progressed much more quickly, it remained possible to tell a highly compelling story with engaging, relatable characters. This approach would return in Sakura Quest, which similarly had a group of individuals with distinct skillsets and backgrounds unite in a quest to bolster tourism in a remote rural town, and again in The World in Colours, where magic and photography combine together to allow Hitomi and her grandmother, Kohaku, to connect more closely and help Hitomi to regain the colours in her world. Similarly, in The Aquatope on White Sand, Kukuru and Fūka both end their stories quite far from their first steps. Fūka began her journey as a failed idol who sought refuge by working in an aquarium, but her experience in entertainment allows her to bring a very unique skillset to become a talented attendant. Kukuru had spent her entire life enraptured by marine life and longed to be an attendant, but at Tingarla, she discovers that her attempts to keep Gama Gama open means, when she puts her mind to it, she is able to excel in marketing, as well. Tari Tari established that stories celebrating the multidisciplinary approach can be exceptionally moving regardless of the context – in time, viewers will come to root for the characters because seeing their stories and grit proves inspiring, regardless of whether the characters’ goals are to embrace magic, bring tourism and life back to a small town or promote a newly-opened aquarium. In promoting the multidisciplinary approach to life, P.A. Works is seeking to remind viewers of its increasing relevance in all facets of life – combining seemingly unrelated fields confers numerous advantages in both academia and industry because it provides a more holistic view of a problem, and this in turn allows one to draw upon knowledge from different areas to identify and implement effective, innovative solutions. Through their stories, P.A. Works celebrates methods that encourage people to adopt a broader mindset towards the challenges in their lives, and from a storytelling perspective, it creates for plots in which one is always kept on the edge of the seat by what’s about to happen next.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • By Tari Tari‘s end, everyone’s undergone a considerable amount of growth. Konatsu is more mindful of those around her, while Wakana has rediscovered music, and Sawa similarly realises that she can count on people in her corner to help out. It was a rewarding journey to follow, and thirteen episodes later, Tari Tari shows that even with the shorter format, P.A. Works could still deliver a fantastic story by ensuring that no moment is wasted. In this way, Tari Tari is all steak on top of its sizzle. Towards the series’ end, the land the students’ school stands on us purchased by a land developer, forcing term to close early.

  • Although the developers had tried to buy the principal out, in the end, the principal decides his students’ memories are worth more than whatever bonus they’re prepared to offer him. Forgoing the bonus, he authorises the final performance to proceed even as a heavy rainfall hammers Enoshima. One detail in Tari Tari I’ve always found especially impressive was the use of reflections to convey the idea of wetness on the ground whenever it rains, and here the characters’ reflections can plainly be seen. Tari Tari aired during a time when NVIDIA’s Kepler series first hit the market: this was well before real-time ray-tracing became mainstream, and a part of me does wonder if real-time ray-tracing could be applied towards anime.

  • Instructor Naoko had been a minor antagonist of sorts early in Tari Tari: she was strongly opposed to Konatsu starting her own choral club and seemed quite intent on ensuring that Konatsu would not sing, but as Tari Tari wore on, it became clear that Naoko saw a bit of Wakana’s mother, Mahiru, in Konatsu: when she was still alive, Mahiru had been a free spirit who was both knowledgeable about musical theory and saw music as an avenue for having fun. Over time, seeing Wakana come around helps Naoko to accept her best friend’s passing.

  • Thus, on the day of the performance, Naoko has no qualms in backing the principal’s decision to allow the performance to continue, and she even helps organise the choral club and band’s participation. The rainy weather on this morning had acted as something of a dampener, accentuating the feeling of unease, but once everyone gathers, even rain cannot douse their spirits. The Choir-and-Sometimes-Badminton Club thus initiate preparations ahead of their presentation while other students and parents begin assembling to watch the show.

  • Although Konatsu had initially appeared to be a Ohana Matsumae knockoff, over the course of Tari Tari, she would come to gain development of her own. Like Ohana, Konatsu is optimistic to a fault and is very forceful about what she wants, but this initially gets her in trouble with those around her. Konatsu gradually learns to dial it back and think before jumping into a situation, but is also given a chance to be her usual self upon learning the school is closing; her blunt and direct approach is needed in a time where speed is essential in ensuring everything is ready, inspiring even her former choral club classmates to contribute.

  • As the morning transitions into the afternoon, the rain begins letting up, and some of the students start showing up to check out the performance. Enoshima Sea Candle can be seen in the background: the events of Tari Tari are set in Fujisawa, and the area’s picturesque landscape has made it a popular choice for being the setting in a given anime. However, of all the incarnations I’ve seen so far, Tari Tari‘s portrayal of Fujisawa and Enoshima remains the best: even though this is one of P.A. Works’ earlier titles, Tari Tari‘s visuals are gorgeous.

  • The musical finally begins: this had originally been Konatsu’s idea as their school geared up for their annual culture festival, but when the developers purchased the land and accelerated their plans to begin construction, all school events were cancelled. Refusing to give up, Konatsu and her friends ended up pushing ahead even without permission; help from Wakana is ultimately what gives everyone the resolve to continue. Wakana had begun her journey in Tari Tari with the intent of quitting music and leaving her regrets behind: shortly before her mother had passed away, Wakana had been short with her, and since then, she’d felt guilty about not spending more time with her. Abandoning music was her original way of leaving the pain behind, but through Konatsu and Sawa, Wakana realises the way forward is to embrace what her mother had loved.

  • The energy and determination in the Choir-and-Sometimes-Badmonton Club exude eventually convinces their classmates to help out; because their school was slated to close so suddenly, the students realise that this represents a final chance of sorts to participate in a swan song to their high school memories. In this way, the club is able persuade both their fellow students and neighbourhood to show up. The sort of outcome in Tari Tari brought to mind memories of my first-ever journal publication: it had been abandoned when term picked up, but after the MCAT, I found myself with more time than I’d known what to do with.

  • Working on the paper with my colleagues was my way of filling that time and doing something with the remainder of my summer. In the end, we were able to complete the paper ahead of the deadline, and when I asked my colleagues if they wanted to be first author, both agreed that since I ended up spearheading the project and bringing it back to life, I had earned that particular honour. Like the musical Konatsu had wanted to perform, publishing this paper was a bit of a last minute thing, and while it did mean I spent three weeks not working on starting my thesis project, the paper actually would accelerate my thesis work by giving me the inspiration I needed to design the project.

  • Hikari no Senritsu is a recurring theme in Tari Tari: the song was originally written by Mahiru, and Wakana later adapts it into a version that the Choir-and-Sometimes-Badminton Club perform for their finale. As the group breaks into song, the clouds begin dispersing, with shafts of light illuminating the performers right as they hit their stride. While short, Tari Tari‘s journey and its parallels with my undergraduate paper led me to count this as a masterpiece, showing what’s possible when hearts and minds align.

  • During the finale, scenes cut to the audience enjoying the show immensely: Sawa’s father is especially enthusiastic, having brought both a video camera and DSLR camera to capture his daughter’s accomplishments. For Sawa, Tari Tari saw her as a friendly girl who generally gets along with people, but struggled with her rejected equestrian school application because she’d been too tall to qualify. Although Sawa’s father had considered her aspirations as being a game rather than a legitimate occupation, he would come around and see how serious Sawa had been. Despite his gruff nature, Sawa’s father genuinely cares for her.

  • Taichi and Atsuhiro ended up receiving some development: although failing to perform well at a tournament, Taichi resolves to give it everything he’s got, while Atsuhiro’s preoccupation with a friend back in Austria leads him to double down and do what he can here in Japan for his friend’s sake. Everyone’s stories converge on this one moment, and seeing everyone singing so gracefully together, one would be forgiven if they imagined Konatsu, Sawa, Wakana, Taichi and Atsuhiro to be members of their school’s choral club.

  • Tari Tari‘s final performance was so moving that amongst the anime community, the series was universally acclaimed. Random Curiosity wrote that it was almost criminal as to how the expectations for this series was so low early on, especially when Tari Tari went out of its way to make itself stand out from its predecessor, and other fans felt that the series had been so decisive and satisfying that it exceeded expectations. Despite being a little-known series, Tari Tari‘s sincerity and focus impressed most viewers. In fact, to the best of my recollections, only THEM Anime Reviews had anything negative to say about Tari Tari, calling it a series ” full of platitudes and melodrama but lacking in most other respects”, and that “music anime out there in which the actual music is much, much better, and dramas in which the trials and tribulations the characters face are far less contrived-seeming”. I strongly disagree with this assessment because it is superficial and fails to understand why drama is present in Tari Tari.

  • THEM Anime Reviews’ writer missed the point of the series (namely, that music transcends certain barriers, that one needs to allow themselves to open up in order to get past problems they can’t individually handle, and that sometimes, situations arise that require people possessing skills from a range of backgrounds). The series isn’t “a lot of artificial drama being thrown in to make the journey to that performance seem significant”, and instead, Tari Tari sought to show how being multidisciplinary is the key to overcoming life’s problems. In this area, Tari Tari is successful, and I’ve found that, especially where P.A. Works’ anime are concerned, the most critical views often come from those who have not experienced the sorts of messages a given anime sought to convey.

  • As the performance draws to a close, the camera pulls out, showing the number of people that have shown up to see the show, as well as the size of the choral club. By this point in time, the clouds have begun giving way to a clear day, acting as a metaphor for how times of difficulty will always pass. It is evident that this final show was a resounding success, and with this particular goal satisfied, Wakana, Sawa, Konatsu, Taichi and Atsuhiro turn their attention towards their future aspirations. I still vividly recall entering my thesis year as Tari Tari geared up for its finale.

  • A week after term started, I got my MCAT results back, and with a great weight lifted off my chest, I focused my entire effort towards the thesis project. After sitting down with my supervisor and asking about whether or not it would be feasible to extend my old renal model from two summers earlier, we hashed out a project that could show off the lab’s in-house game engine. I’d worked with this game engine for two years at that point and was quite familiar with its strengths and limitations, so when it came time to present my project proposal, I was completely confident that I could answer any question about the system, its implications and constraints.

  • The thesis project took up two of the five slots in each semester, so I had three remaining courses to fill. I decided to take easier options so I could focus on the project: in science fiction literature and genomics, I excelled. These courses were largely based on reading and writing papers, something I’d been reasonably confident in doing at that point. The other course I had begun taking was iOS programming. I would end up working on a game, and while that project was unimpressive, it did kick-start my interest in mobile development. Until graduate school, this was the easiest term I’d taken, allowing me plenty of time to work on my thesis project.

  • Looking back, my undergraduate thesis was also quite unremarkable: I’d already had an impressive model of agent-based flow by then, so the project itself entailed writing a mathematical modelling layer over top and then synchronising a visual representation of several nephrons working together in parallel to the model’s outputs, before making use of the game engine’s world space to illustrate the different scales. I would’ve liked to have explored more complex processes, such as self-assembly. However, my supervisor and invigilators were satisfied with the level of complexity in my project.

  • In the end, I had a great time with my project, and while things do seem unsophisticated a decade later, I nonetheless found a fantastic experience in going through the thesis project. A decade after starting this project, I’m now a half-year into living at the new place, and I feel quite settled in now. Looking back at some of the posts I wrote shortly after the move, I did end up capitalising on the amenities: over the summer, I’ve had a chance to enjoy sushi twice from the nearby Japanese restaurant, spent an afternoon working out of a Starbucks with a fruit juice in hand, and even was able to pick up an RTX 3060 Ti during a flash sale after work.

  • Summer had been a fantastic time this year, and while I’m a little sad to see my favourite times of year draw to a close, the Autumnal Equinox was two days ago, bringing with it comfortably brisk days that are still pleasant. The leaves have taken a little longer to yellow this year than they have in previous years, but I welcome the fact that we’re no longer getting heat warnings. In fact, for the first time in a while, I’m rather looking forwards to the winter, as well. In previous years, winters meant negotiating icy roads and shovelling out after a snowfall while wind-chill drops the thermometer down to -40°C for up to two weeks at a time, but it also blankets the landscape in white and invites the sipping of a hot chocolate while curled up in one’s favourite easy chair with a book and blanket in hand.

  • Tari Tari‘s epilogue was satisfying, but also left quite a bit ambiguous: in particular, the outcome of Taichi’s kokuhaku to Sawa is left unknown. This question has lingered on my mind for the past decade, and while Tari Tari ~Mebaitari Terashitari Yappari Tokidoki Utattari~ (Tari Tari ~Budding, Shining, and Sometimes Singing~), a sequel novel set a decade after the original’s events, was released back in July 2018, interest in this has been sufficiently low so that even a synopsis for the novel’s premise doesn’t exist. I can say that in ten years, a lot can change: ten years after I graduate high school, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting Japan, finished my graduate degree and was working with my first start-up.

  • This year marks the ten year anniversary to Tari Tari: I’d been a student a decade earlier, gearing up for my undergraduate thesis defense. A full ten years later, I’ve become a senior iOS developer and homeowner. In spite of everything that has happened, the fact that I still remember Tari Tari as fondly now as I did when the series finished airing back in 2012 speaks volumes to how much this anime got right. The amount of stuff that can happen in a decade is staggering, and this is one of the biggest reasons why being unable to read Tari Tari ~Mebaitari Terashitari Yappari Tokidoki Utattari~ is so excruciatingly painful: I’ve been longing to see how Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro are doing.

  • However, because most people in reality tend to be honest, hard-working and sincere, most people tend to find a path for themselves over time. Applying this to Tari Tari would suggest that everyone must be well, having had ten years to broaden their horizons, grow their skillsets and improve their ability to empathise with one another. Because of how much can happen in ten years, a part of me also feels that Taichi’s feelings for Sawa could wane over time as he pursues his own passions. As romantic and touching as it would be for the pair to retain their feelings after all this time, people do drift apart over time, especially since Sawa had been heading overseas to follow her dreams of becoming a jockey.

  • Regardless of what actually happens in the sequel novel, I would be more than happy to read it. At the time of writing, I don’t believe the novel’s even available for purchase at my usual avenues: if it were, I’d have no qualms in picking it up because in this day and age, ML and computer vision is sufficiently advanced so that I could simply take my phone, image the text and get a real-time translation. With iOS 16, I can then extract the text from my image and then convert it into strings that I can open in a text editor, where I could edit and improve passages. In this way, I feel that I could translate the novel for myself without much difficulty.

  • I’ve always wanted to feature the moment where Sawa begins singing alongside her friends and opens the window in her dormitory: I’ve written about Tari Tari quite extensively over the years, but never was able to feature this moment previously. There’s a sort of joy about Sawa doing this that captures the sort of excitement that accompanies the uncertainty of stepping into the future. I believe it is this scene of Sawa opening the window with a smile on her face that I would later comment on in RPG Real Estate, when Kotone does the same while checking out a prospective property.

  • I imagine that seeing Wakana take up music again encourages Naoko to spend more time mentoring her. Naoko had always found Mahiru’s approach to music admirable, but one she could never take up, and when she died, it was probably the case that Naoko handled her grief by distancing herself from music as a source of joy. However, when Wakana comes to terms with her mother’s death and approaches to music, to Naoko, Wakana has inherited her mother’s joyful spirit, as well. Mahiru might no longer be around, but mentoring Wakana allows Naoko to keep supporting her best friend.

  • Meanwhile, Tari Tari‘s epilogue shows Konatsu as meeting two other girls that seem quite friendly: although Konatsu has known Taichi and Sawa for a long time, such a moment shows that Konatsu can find her own path forward, as well. Small details like these can speak volumes about how characters are doing, and I’ve noticed that since Tari Tari, P.A. Works is a studio that has excelled in finding a way of saying goodbye to its series. Although making up only a short amount of the finale’s runtime, these short scenes provide a satisfactory amount of insight into how everyone’s doing.

  • On account of yesterday marking the half-year anniversary since moving day, we treated the family to the famous fried chicken from the Japanese restaurant across the way; they’ve been running a promotion on their in-house ginger-garlic karaage, which is going for a dollar a piece. In this way, we were able to have a wonderful dinner commemorating six months at the new place for fifteen dollars, a fantastic deal: the chicken is expertly fried, being crunchy outside but retaining succulent and tender meat. The Japanese restaurant is suggesting they’ll be introducing new flavours in the future, which is exciting: I’m curious to see what other flavours the chefs have coming.

  • With this, my reminiscence of Tari Tari comes to a close. I’ve written about the series with some frequency over the past decade, speaking to the strengths of this series: despite the time that has passed, the fact that Tari Tari‘s lessons now remain as applicable as they did back in 2012 is a key indicator to how well everything here was thought out. After Tari Tari ended, P.A. Works would swing between creating smash-hits like Shirobako and Nagi no Asukara, alongside failures like RDG Red Data Girl and Glasslip. Over the years, however, learnings from Tari Tari have meant that P.A. Works’ coming-of-age and workplace anime tend to be quite consistent: Sakura QuestThe World in Colours and The Aquatope on White Sand all carry over the multidisciplinary approach that Tari Tari pioneered.

When Tari Tari concluded, I was three weeks into my thesis year. Impressed with how well Tari Tari had presented its messages, I entered my thesis project with enthusiasm – this year marked the first time since secondary school that I was confident in my ability to perform. In the Health Sciences programme, students complete a thesis project to round out their degree, and three weeks into term, our goal had been to present a project proposal in front of the course coordinator and classmates. Unlike my classmates, who had a four month head start on their projects, I entered September with only a rough idea of what my thesis would entail. However, in the time between the start of term and the proposal presentation date, I had managed to draw on my previous experiences in my lab to design a novel project of my own – having just published my first paper about our lab’s in-house game engine and its flexibility, I decided to extend the work I’d began two years earlier on agent-based renal flow and build it into a multi-scale system that combined mathematical modelling with agent-based approaches. Much as how Tari Tari and its successors encouraged combining approaches from a variety of disciplines to build a magnum opus, I drew on my knowledge of biology and software to suggest how component-based modelling would confer enough flexibility to build anything, with a renal system being an example of a complex system worth visualising. On the day of the presentation, I remember delivering my proposal and smoothly answered questions: in that moment, it felt as though I were selling a start-up’s groundbreaking new idea to VCs rather than outlining a health sciences project to professors. Speaking in front of experts is an intimidating experience, but for me, it dawned on me that where software and simulations were concerned, the cards were in my hand. It was here that I began seeing Tari Tari in a new light – Tari Tari isn’t merely a series about music’s ability to convey messages that transcend linguistic and cultural borders, and the importance of opening oneself up to others around them, but also how important it is to be able to bring in knowledge from other areas in order to improve one’s own problem-solving ability and resilience. P.A. Works has certainly taken this message to heart: following Tari Tari, anime like Sakura Quest, The World in Colours and The Aquatope on White Sand all integrate multidisciplinary approaches elegantly into their stories to create a compelling anime, and the fact that even a decade later, workplace and coming-of-age stories from P.A. Works that employ this style have continued to impress.

Staying Behind!- Appreciating Quieter Moments, and How A Rainy Afternoon Foreshadowed K-On!’s Future Directions

“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favourite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice.” –Joseph B. Wirthlin

After Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi leave for their class trip to Kyoto, Ui notices that Yui had left her camera behind. At school, she speaks with Azusa, who wishes that like Jun’s Jazz Club, the Light Music Club would take things a little more seriously. Jun is thrilled that a large chocolate bun is available for purchase, and later, Azusa and Jun decide to spend the night with Ui. Since there’s no Light Music Club, Ui and Azusa accompany Jun to the Jazz Club, where Azusa helps two junior students to improve their technique. During the evening, Jun and Azusa arrive at Ui’s place, and they share a scrumptious dinner. Jun falls asleep almost immediately, leaving Azusa and Ui to chat. They decide to visit the zoo in the morning, but the next day, showers blanket the area, forcing the three to cancel their plans. Although Jun and Azusa grow bored (Jun had been hoping Yui might have the volume of the manga she’d been reading), they end up swinging by the batting centre, where Ui wins a large stuffed turtle for hitting a grand slam. Seeing the turtle reminds Azusa of how she had promised to feed Ton-chan, and the three head back to school. Here, Jun finds the missing manga volume, and the three play a song together as the day draws to a close. When Yui and the others return, they give her a keychain souvenir, a part of a set that spells out “けいおんぶ”. This fifth episode to K-On!! is an anime original: the manga focused on Yui and the others’ trip to Kyoto, omitting what Azusa and the others were up to. Conversely, in K-On!!, director Naoko Yamada took the time to flesh things out – the fifth episode is, even by K-On!! standards, exceptionally laid-back and easygoing. Ordinarily, such a direction is frowned upon, and series are often criticised for filling episodes with content that has not occurred in the manga. In the case of K-On!!, Yamada masterfully uses the additional time during the second season’s extended, twenty-four episode run to create a deeper connection among the characters. An additional sense of depth behind Ui, Azusa and Jun’s friendship is conveyed, indicating that even after Yui and the others graduate, Azusa still has friends in her corner. This particular aspect actually becomes a vital bit of foreshadowing for what would eventually unfold in K-On! – when Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi graduate, Azusa takes the reigns and ends up running the Light Music Club as its president.

Although Azusa had initially been hesitant about the role and strove to run the club as how she envisioned a president should act, she would quickly fall back on old habits, consistent with how she saw Ritsu running things. Her journey is eased by the fact that she has Jun and Ui in her corner; K-On!!‘s fifth episode had shown that there is enough chemistry between Azusa, Ui and Jun to continue driving the show. As a rainy afternoon progresses, the three end up playing their first song together – Jun and Azusa already have some experience, while Ui is a quick study and has actually helped Yui practise, too. In this way, this episode indicates that among her friends, Azusa already knows of two people who have a modicum of skill as musicians. Indeed, when Azusa does take over the Light Music Club, Ui and Jun immediately join. Having familiar faces gives Azusa the drive and encouragement she needs to continue running the show, and in time, Azusa does end up successfully rebuilding the Light Music Club in K-On! High School – she picks up Sumire Saitō, Tsumugi’s cousin, who ends up taking on drums, and Nao Okuda becomes their songwriter. Azusa’s Light Music Club is a little more dedicated than she’d known it under Ritsu and Yui, but she quickly finds that there are merits to Yui and Ritsu’s approach, too. In this side story in K-On!!, the sort of dynamics between Azusa, Ui and Jun are closer to Azusa’s ideal: things are a bit more focused, but there is still plenty of time to take things at one’s own pace and live in the moment. Indeed, the atmosphere and tone of this episode closely mirrors that of K-On! High School; this manga sequel shows Azusa’s side of the story and was released in 2012, a full two years after the fifth K-On!! episode aired. It is possible that author Kakifly drew some inspiration from Yamada’s interpretation of K-On!, taking this concept and applying it to create a full-fledged story that underlies how in time, people tend to take after their predecessors and apply their own unique spin to things to result in a novel experience that ends up creating the precedence for the next generation to build upon.

Besides foreshadowing the events of K-On! High School long before there had been any news of a sequel to the manga, K-On!!‘s fifth episode also provided hints as to how Yamada would handle K-On! The Movie. In the manga, Yui and the others buy a guitar pick from Kyoto for Azusa. However, the anime chose to portray the girls as picking up keychains in a set that, when put together, spell “けいおんぶ”. These matching keychains become a symbol of how everyone’s unique, but when together, they’re part of a greater whole. Although it’s not a gift that’s unique to Kyoto, it comes to show that for Yui, Mio, Ritsu, Tsumugi and Azusa, where they go is irrelevant – everything is meaningful and memorable when together. In this way, Yamada takes what Kakifly had created and adds to it another dimension. Although the second season follows in its predecessor’s footsteps, it is easy to spot that Yamada had become genuinely invested in showing a side of K-On! that the manga did not convey. The movie would be born as a result of this, being a heartfelt journey from the senior girls say thank to their youngest and most determined member for everything she’d contributed to their friendship and the Light Music Club. Giving Yamada the creative freedom to write in the moments between the larger, more boisterous experiences represents an opportunity to show how K-On! can be introspective and thoughtful, and as a result, Yamada spotted that, while K-On! might’ve originally been a comedy that Kakifly had written to present a topic he was familiar with (pop music) in a high school setting, there had been considerable depth that otherwise wouldn’t be explored in the printed medium. Through the anime, K-On! became more, and these aspects is why the series achieved the success that it did: K-On!‘s anime adaptation is respectful of the original manga, while at the same time, adding more to the story and accentuating Kakifly’s themes of friendship, gratitude and appreciation in a compelling, meaningful manner. It is therefore fair to say that allowing Yamada a degree of freedom in adding her own interpretation to K-On! eventually resulted in K-On! The Movie being produced, finally providing Yamada a space in which to really express what K-On! and its characters would mean to her, over time. The end result speaks for itself: K-On! The Movie is touching, sincere and moving, acting as a swan song to a series that had meant so much, to so many, and in retrospect, it is impressive to see that even early in K-On!!‘s run, bits and pieces of what would appear in both K-On! High School and K-On! The Movie would appear.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Ten years ago to this day, I was sitting at my desk in the cool of the lower floor, absent-mindedly reviewing verbal reasoning drills. It’d been a sunny day, and ordinarily, I’d be hard at work doing revisions for the MCAT. However, on this day, I had been quite distracted because K-On! The Movie was set to release, and I’d been waiting for my copy to arrive. By this point in the summer, I’d become a little more confident about the exam: I was consistently scoring above 30 in practise drills, and every week, I would do full-length exams by morning before taking the afternoon off.

  • By the morning of the 19th, my copy of the film had arrived, and I decided to take a rare day off from MCAT revisions so I could sit down and enjoy the movie. Right out of the gates, I was impressed: the film had felt like the TV series had, but as Yui and the others began discussing how to be proper seniors for Azusa, and their discussions ended up transforming into a graduation trip, the film really began to shine on the silver screen. After the film ended, I ended up writing a series of posts about my initial impressions on my old website and here.

  • What had stood out about K-On! The Movie had been a lingering sense of melancholy that permeated the entire movie, and it wasn’t until a decade later that I ended up putting into words what this was: it’s Mono no Aware, wistfulness that results from being aware of transience. The movie had conveyed this because even though the characters are living in the moment, we viewers would know that this time was finite. These thoughts would lead me to revisit K-On! and K-On!! again, and in doing so, I would revisit the second season’s fifth episode anew.

  • This episode, titled “Staying Behind!”, prima facie appears to be little more than a glimpse of the two days in which Yui and the others are out on their class trip, leaving Azusa, Jun and Ui to go about things without their rowdy seniors to liven things up. However, in showing how things are in Yui et al.’s absence, K-On!! suggests that things could still be quite lively in their own right. After Azusa begins contemplating what her ideal senpai is like, the scene changes over to the lunch line, where Jun is able to pick up a chocolate baguette.

  • One unintentional side effect of this episode was that it made me fonder of Jun – a bassist in the Jazz Club, Jun is friends with Azusa and Ui from middle school, but after entering high school, joined the Jazz Club after being inspired by one of their performers, and had found the Light Music Club a little off-putting. Boisterous and easygoing, Jun ends up joining the Light Music Club in her final year, and while she’d previously been jealous of the adventures Azusa gets to embark on, she will have a chance to experience remarkable things for herself, too.

  • This episode thus shows that, even without Yui or Mio, K-On! was more than capable of carrying the show with its secondary characters – Ui and Azusa are full-fledged characters, and Jun begins to get increasing screentime as she becomes more important. The K-On! High School manga would ultimately show that Azusa and her leadership of the Light Music Club is just as successful as the times she would come to cherish, and considering that the manga sequels were published after K-On!! aired, this is especially impressive; it is plain that some things in the TV series would go back and inspire the manga.

  • I am only afforded this bit of insight because I am writing about K-On! after everything was released; the English-language translations of K-On! College and K-On! High School was available in October 2013. I ended up buying all of the volumes, and recall how of all the volumes, the second had given me the most trouble since none of the local stores had it in stock. I would finally order it online to complete the collection, and since then, all six K-On! volumes have graced my shelves. Here, after Ui and the others head to Yui’s classroom to retrieve something, Ui becomes visibly saddened by the prospect of Yui being absent, and she begins tearing up, leading Azusa and Jun to suggest a sleepover to keep her company.

  • Subtle hints in this episode foreshadow Azusa’s initial troubles with running the Light Music Club – while a skilled musician surpassing Yui in technical skill, Azusa is more by-the-book and would prefer to run a tight ship, but at the same time, she’s also a little shy and unaccustomed to leading. When waiting for Jun to fetch her bass, Azusa and Ui run into a pair of first-years. Ui is immediately able to take the initiative and helps introduce the two, suggesting how even though Azusa’s task of rebuilding the Light Music Club is a daunting one, she has excellent people in her corner.

  • Once the initial hurdles are overcome, Azusa becomes more comfortable in providing knowledge to the first years. This exact same set up is seen in K-On! High School – Ui and Jun both accompany Azusa, and while the Light Music Club initially comes under risk of being abolished a second time, they manage to pick up Sumire Saitō and Nao Okuda to make the minimum number of members. Azusa stumbles initially, but support from her fellow club members and Sawako gives Azusa the confidence she needs to run the Light Music Club. Ironically, when she’s in the moment, Azusa tends to act like Yui does; during one concert, she lapses and forgets that the Light Music Club has never played Fuwa Fuwa Time before.

  • K-On!! shows nothing quite so dramatic, but once Azusa warms up, she’s able to offer pointers to the first-years, who are struggling with a passage in their performance: the stretching exercise she does is a familiar one, and some folks had found similarities between the exercise and the iconic Vulcan salute, which was popularised by Star Trek and has its origins in Jewish traditions. While I’m not too versed with Star Trek, I’ve long found the fanbase surrounding the series fascinating: Star Trek fans have learnt Klingon as a language, cosplay extensively and even travel to Vulcan, Alberta, to visit their Star Trek convention (called Spock Days).

  • As amusing as it might be to bring up the Vulcan salute in a K-On! talk, the tendency of the old K-On! fanbase to focus on these small details and repeat them ad nauseum, until they became memes, may have contributed to the disapproval that some segments of the community expressed towards the series. Looking at some of the contemporary discussions surrounding K-On!, I’ve not found anything quite like my own talks about the series, in that many reviewers focused on reactions rather than implications. There’s only so many times one can say K-On! is cute or adorable before it gets wearing, and this may have given the impression that K-On! was a shallow and superficial series even to fans.

  • Although on the surface, K-On! is a “cute girls doing cute things” series, there is a significant amount of depth that goes into each moment. Those who had greatly disliked the series or only reacted to things were unlikely to have noticed these elements. For instance, earlier, I had mentioned that K-On! The Movie conveys a sense of Mono no Aware through its runtime. While I hit the points that this speaks to a part of life, I realised that I forgot to account for why Yamada would add such a theme. T turns out that K-On! The Movie represents a swan song, a send-off to the series. This is a franchise that has been with the staff for four years, and it is understandable they’d be sad to see it conclude.

  • To this end, Yamada decided to allow the entire staff’s feelings to permeate the movie, so viewers could also feel what the staff were feeling. In this, they’ve succeeded, and K-On! The Movie ends up surprising viewers with depth that is much greater than what is initially visible. All of the episodes in K-On!! similarly possesses minor nuances that extend what is initially visible, but Staying Behind especially stands out because it was able to foreshadow both K-On! High School and K-On! The Movie so well. However, this is masterfully presented, being a subtle part of the episode, and the end result is an episode that is relaxing and cathartic, even more so than the other episodes. If I had to draw a comparison, this is equivalent to a Rin-centric episode of Yuru Camp△.

  • I imagine that Ui tends to cook a large amount because she’s basing portions on Yui’s appetite, and so, when Azusa and Jun show up, they immediately comment on how much food has been made. Between this, plus the sushi Azusa’s brought, and Jun’s donuts, dinner is a hearty affair. On the topic of epic meals, my summer food quest continued during the weekend when I returned to a local katsu joint with family and friends. I’ve been yearning for a good fried shrimp dish for a while, and while a mix-up resulted in my ebi curry losing all of its garnishes, the ebi curry turned out to be quite tasty (and my iPhone Xʀ graciously captured the deliciously fluffy and crispy fried shrimp with superb clarity).

  • I subsequently drove down to the local IKEA to help pick up a new shelf, and then dropped by a BestBuy. Originally, I had intended on picking up a Lightning-to-aux cable, but after a store attendant helped me to find them, I immediately spotted BlueTooth FM transmitters going for the same price. After thinking it over, I determined that not every car I drive will have an aux cable port, but every car will have an FM receiver. Throughout the day, things remained extremely hot, and this made me doubly appreciative of the fact that the new place has air conditioning. I would then spend the Sunday tending to housework and helping to put the new shelf together.

  • Although dinner is hearty, Azusa has a second wind and decides to try one of the donuts Jun’s brought with the Super All Star package. Azusa notices that all of the donuts have a third taken out of them, and Jun says it’s her way of trying all of them out, by way of explanation. One imagines that had Jun probably cut all of them with a knife, and this action is a very subtle indicator of Jun’s personality: she can be quite creative in how she goes about trying new things out, and while she may have joined the Jazz Club, being open to new experiences (as the donuts indicate) means she has no trouble joining Azusa and Ui later on.

  • Throughout this fifth episode, which occurs in parallel with the fourth episode’s events, Azusa and Ui gain glimpses into the Kyoto class trip. When K-On!‘s manga was published, Japan had been well ahead of the Western world in terms of feature phones; although only limited to grainy, low-resolution cameras, one could still take and send photos with them. It is by this means that Yui relays photos back to Azusa and the others despite having forgotten her camera. Here, Azusa and Ui smile at a photo of the pillow fight that had happened while Yui and the others were in Kyoto.

  • Unlike the rowdy Ritsu and Yui, Jun immediately hits the hay, leaving Azusa and Ui to stay up a little. Perhaps speaking to the influence the Light Music Club has had on her, Azusa wonders why Jun isn’t staying up more, but the ever-accommodating Ui decides to remain with Azusa and chat for a bit. Subtle things like these simultaneously show the similarities and differences in atmosphere between Houkago Tea Time and Wakaba Girls, and while things would not have been apparent when K-On!! was airing, it is only returning to the series later that really allows one to appreciate these details.

  • It suddenly hits me that, a decade earlier, the MCAT had been so consuming that I missed the “Light Up The City” Centennial Fireworks, which I’m told was the fireworks show of the century in Calgary, far surpassing even GlobalFest’s fireworks shows. However, in subsequent years, I would have the opportunity to see Hong Kong’s legendary New Year’s Eve fireworks in person, and after watching footage of the Light Up The City event, I can conclude that the fireworks shows here are miniscule compared to the world’s most impressive showings.

  • The Stampede’s Grandstand Show fireworks are more modest by comparison, but a major part of the enjoyment lies in heading out into the night and then enjoying the view at Scotsman’s Hill before the fireworks finale starts at the Grandstand. It suddenly hits me that cameras have advanced significantly since I began watching these shows, and using my iPhone, I had no trouble with either the night photography of the Stampede Grounds, or the fireworks themselves. More so than the fireworks show, these evenings are fun simply because they represent a break from routine, and it was nice to attend my first fireworks show in over three years.

  • The next morning, Azusa, Jun and Ui awaken to rain, and Jun reveals that her hair becomes unruly on humid days. The rain immediately puts a stopper to the girls’ plans to go to the zoo, something that Azusa had wised to do on account of seeing how much fun Yui and the others are having. Rain has long been associated with boredom, and many a work of fiction have portrayed rainy days as being impediments to adventure, I actually love rainy days because they’re cool and comfortable. When it rains heavily, the sound of rainfall is comforting, while when it’s raining lightly, it is refreshing to be out and about.

  • Longtime readers will be familiar with my shifting weather preferences – I love perfectly sunny days, and enjoy completely overcast (and cool), or rainy days. However, I am not fond of days with cirrus or stratus clouds covering a majority of the sky because they scatter light and causes my photos to be washed out if I’m out and about. An experienced photographer might be able to make such days appear pleasant, but I lack that skill set and would prefer my outdoor adventures to take place under clear days. Similarly, smokey days completely defeat the purpose of going out and about, obscuring the landscape and sky alike.

  • On a rainy day, I tend to stay in and read books, or game if there’s no housework to tend to. There are a few things to do in Calgary on rainy days, with favourite suggestions being to hit the local malls, visit the Glenbow Museum or check out the recreation centres. Seeing this episode of K-On!! reminds me of the fact that there are many places in the city that are worth revisiting, and in the knowledge that I have a large number of vacation days left in the year, I would probably find it enjoyable to take a few days off here and there; depending on the weather, checking out local attractions or visiting trails just a short ways outside of town would be nice.

  • While we do have a batting centre here at home, I’ve never been a talented athlete in ball sorts, and therefore, would probably not perform particularly well. Jun promptly gives up after expending her quota of balls, but to everyone’s surprise, Ui is able to hit a home run after overhearing a father giving his son some pointers on how to nail the ball. Ui has been presented as being uncommonly talented at picking up new skills, and this makes her ideally suited for joining the Light Music Club. She spends two of her three years of high school without any club activities because she greatly enjoys looking after Yui.

  • With Yui at university, Ui suddenly found herself with an abundance of free time, and is able to pick up the guitar as Yui did. Ui proves to be a ways more competent, remembering all of her chords without sacrificing her studies, and while this might be seen as unrealistic, Ui’s competence becomes important in allowing Azusa the assurance that her peers are solidly dependable, allowing K-On! High School to focus almost entirely on the two new members.

  • For her troubles, Ui wins a massive stuffed turtle, and this reminds Azusa that she’s forgotten something important. Early on, Yui sends Azusa a message reminding her to feed Ton-chan, and while Azusa sees herself as being similar to Mio, being dependable and mature, she also has moments where she becomes forgetful. However, it is thanks to Ui and Jun that Azusa is able to grow, and here, upon spotting her original promise, Azusa and the others immediately return to school.

  • K-On! is now over ten years old, but the story itself is timeless, and even today, Toyosato Elementary School continues to host K-On! related events; birthday parties for the characters have been held here each and every year for the past decade. However, I was a little surprised that there hasn’t been more news surrounding K-On! The Movie‘s ten year anniversary. Ano Natsu de Matteru and AnoHana both received new key visuals to commemorate ten years, and considering how successful K-On!‘s been, it seemed reasonable to suppose that there would be some sort of recognition of this milestone.

  • However, the quiet coming and going of K-On! The Movie‘s tenth anniversary does have its merit – while K-On! was nearly universally acclaimed during its run, there had been a handful of vocal detractors who made it their mission to dissuade people from enjoying this show. Among some subsets of the community, it was in vogue to hate the series, but despite a full decade having elapsed since then, many of the detractors have continued to cling onto the belief that the series is not worth consideration. I’ve never really understood this mode of thinking, as I’ve long held people should always feel free to watch and enjoy whatever they choose without worrying about what’s popular or what the consensus is. K-On! was never “harming the industry” as some have claimed, and those who felt otherwise never provided sufficient the evidence to back up this statement.

  • As it stands, being able to revisit K-On! The Movie (and K-On! in general) in an unostentatious manner has proven to be most relaxing – a decade earlier, I made the mistake of involving myself in trying to refute claims from Behind the Nihon Review’s Reckoner that K-On! The Movie was “disingenuous” and “false advertising” at AnimeSuki after others began agreeing with these claims. In those days, the AnimeSuki community placed a great deal of emphasis on their reputation system, and for challenging opinions held by Reckoner, who’d been a well-regarded member, Reckoner used his considerable influence to neg-rep me into oblivion. This is equivalent to today’s downvotes, having the effect of getting me shadow-banned for a time. After I voiced concerns about the reputation system’s abuses to the administrators, the system was scrapped a few months later.

  • In the years following the reputation system’s removal, I would go on to enjoy productive and constructive conversation with members like Ernietheracefan, WildGoose and Flower. However, I’d long wished that I was able to continue refuting Reckoner more fully, and made a larger effort towards convincing those who had agreed with Reckoner to at least reconsider (or provide a justification of why they were willing to redact their own enjoyment of the movie in deference to Reckoner). I ended up standing down because I felt Reckoner wasn’t so important that he was worth losing the MCAT for, but in retrospect, I’d already been more than ready to take the exam on, so I do regret not taking the fight to Reckoner. In later years, I would learn that Reckoner hadn’t posted contrarian opinions of K-On! to create discussion, but rather, to cause discord and enmity, driving traffic to Behind the Nihon Review and elevate their status.

  • In the end, while no disciplinary action was taken against Reckoner despite his obvious violation of forum rules (i.e. abusing the reputation system), in an act of providence, Behind the Nihon Review’s domain was suspended after the owner failed to pay the hosting fees back in 2020. The fact that I’m still here, and that Behind the Nihon Review is gone, speaks volumes to whose approach to anime is more appropriate – although I normally don’t criticise other blogs for their approach, Behind the Nihon Review is one of the rare exceptions, and I’m glad that they’re no longer around to create artificial conflict. Back in K-On!!, after Azusa feeds Ton-chan, Jun finds the volume of the manga she’d been looking for, but with the rain persisting into the afternoon, everyone finds themselves bored, at least until Jun suggests they play music together. No one else is around, and there are no classes or students to disturb.

  • This moment thus marks the first time Jun, Azusa and Ui have played together. It’s a pivotal moment in K-On!!, and it sets the stage for what happens in K-On! High School. As the girls play through a simpler but still enjoyable song, a golden warmth fills the music room, and when they finish, the sun finally breaks through the clouds, almost as though the heavens had heard the girls’ performance and decided applaud their efforts. Moments like these really highlight how peaceful the world of K-On! really is, and while excitement and humour had come to define K-On!, in retrospect, a quieter and more reflective series, akin to Tamayura, would also work.

  • Thus, what had otherwise been a dull, unremarkable day turns into something superbly memorable. This is significant because it shows how even without Yui and the others, Azusa is able to carry things on her own, and moreover, it is with Jun and Ui that things become magical.  K-On! High School deals precisely with this matter, and with due respect, K-On! High School is actually the stronger of the two sequels. As fun as Yui and her group are, there’s a certain magic and inspiration in seeing Azusa continuing things on in her senpai‘s steed, as this shows how there’s something wonderful each and every generation.

  • The sun’s return is coincident with Azusa, Ui and Jun recieving a message from Yui and the others; the juniors and seniors might be separated physically, but their hearts remain connected. This approach is utilised to great effect in Yuru Camp△ , where Nadeshiko and Rin share an experience together on several occasions despite being apart. This is something that helps Rin to warm up to Nadeshiko, and their respective applications in K-On! and Yuru Camp△ parallel the sophistication of mobile technology. In K-On!‘s time, feature phones were relatively limited, so communications were more infrequent. By Yuru Camp△ , smartphones have become ubiquitous, and this allows Rin and Nadeshiko to communicate both more frequently, and in a more visual means.

  • In K-On!!, an episode without Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi did come across as being extremely quiet, and in this way, the episode stands out from other episodes. In particular, Yui et al.’s time in Kyoto is extremely rowdy and rambunctious – the sharp contrast between the two is meant to highlight the differences between Yui and Azusa. The contemplative pacing in this episode is reminiscent of Rin’s solo adventures in Yuru Camp△, whereas the noisier, fun-filled time Yui and the others spends in Kyoto would be equivalent to Nadeshiko and the Outdoor Activities Club’s group excursions. With the day at an end, Jun, Ui and Azusa prepare to part ways – Jun’s still engrossed with her manga, and Azusa reminds her not to miss her stop.

  • Seeing the precise moments where Azusa and Yui’s days intersect was an especially clever touch on Yamada’s part: here, Azusa receives a call from Yui, whose entire group had become lost. Mio’s voice can be heard in the background, asking what calling Azusa would accomplish. It’s a bit of a surprise for Azusa, but Ui is glad to hear Yui’s choice. With the technology available in 2010, Azusa is unlikely to have been able to do anything, but today, it’s possible to send one’s location to a trusted contrast and then utilise a map to help the others navigate back (assuming that Yui and the others didn’t already have a good map app). The comparatively primitive technology of the era lends itself to a much slower pacing consistent with what K-On! is about, and it is not lost on me that today, sophisticated smartphones and apps mean problems of a decade earlier could now be trivially solved.

  • The next day, classes resume, and Azusa braces herself for her senior’s return. Azusa had thought that, with how carefree her seniors are, they might forget a souvenir for her. At this point in the episode, the atmosphere returns to the high-energy tenour that K-On! is known for; unlike Jun and Ui’s presence, which exudes a cathartic feeling, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Tsumugi bring with them spirit and comedy. Kakifly’s manga focuses entirely on Yui and her crew, so seeing another side of K-On! in this fifth episode provides a unique, memorable experience.

  • Yui hauls Azusa back to the Light Music Club, where she and the others have a surprise for her. This surprise turns out to be matching keychains of a set – it’s about as far removed from Kyoto as one can imagine, but in retrospect, the keychains are well-chosen and represent how the Light Music Club operates. As the me of a decade earlier stated, “everything is special if the group of individuals one is with is specialregardless of what one is doing“. The keychains represent this; the gift might not represent Kyoto, but it represents Houkago Tea Time in full.

  • Seeing the girls together in the Light Music Club’s clubroom is an iconic part of K-On!, and K-On! The Movie opens in this manner. The choice to have the film spend so much time in Japan was a reminder that this movie was never about London; the class trip had come about as a happy accident, and the entire focus of the film was showing the sorts of adventures that followed during a journey to say thank you. Of course, once the girls do hit London, they approach their travels as they did in Kyoto – everything is at their own pace, in iconic Houkago Tea Time style.

  • A great deal of time has passed between when K-On! The Movie‘s home released became available and the present day. In these past ten years, I’ve wrapped up two degrees, accrued six years of industry experience, and bought a house. I’ve travelled to Japan for myself, presented at academic conferences, attended a tech conference and became a nidan. Even after all this, K-On! still holds a special place in my heart, and this speaks to how enduring the series has been in my heart – this is a series that helped me to stave off probation in my second year, and during 2012, the film’s release gave me something else to look forward to as I hurtled towards the MCAT. For me, K-On! is a masterpiece because it was able to change my life in such a tangible manner, and this is why even now, I continue to revisit the series – writing about K-On! allows me to reflect on a series that has given me so much, and also share this experience with readers.

A full decade has now elapsed since K-On! The Movie‘s home release became available. I vividly recall the summer of 2012 well – at this point in July, my MCAT preparation course was rapidly drawing to a close, and I admit that excitement over being able to watch K-On! The Movie had left me quite unable to focus on anything else. Within two days of the film’s release, I was able to watch and get a review of the movie written out. However, these early reviews do not capture everything there is to say about the film, and over the years, I would come to revisit the movie annually. Each time I re-watched the film, I ended up with a far richer and more comprehensive experience than I had before. Having long approached the film as a thank you gift for Azusa, I would soon come to appreciate that the film was also conveying the sense of melancholy that arises as one milestone draws to a close, but it is precisely because things are transient that gives it value. Spotting that K-On! The Movie captures the Japanese concept of Mono no Aware speaks volumes to how much thought went into its writing. Things like this meant that for me, watching K-On! The Movie has become an annual tradition, and the film impresses regardless of how many times I revisit it, speaking to its excellent quality. Having now seen what K-On! The Movie‘s achievements are, revisiting the whole of K-On!, K-On!! and the manga become especially enjoyable, knowing that they possess all of these elements which would subsequently be extracted and utilised to create one final, immeasurably moving swan song for a series that has continued to impact and influence people well into the present. Slice-of-life series focused on everyday messages of appreciation and gratitude continue to be produced, and some musicians have attributed K-On! as being an influence in their choice of career. The town of Toyosato in Shiga Prefecture still enjoys visitors who’ve come to check out the former Toyosato Elementary School, which influenced the school in K-On!. K-On!‘s legacy cannot be understated, and it speaks to the series’ excellence that some of K-On!‘s greatest achievements when, even something as seemingly inconsequential as an episode dedicated purely to Azusa, Ui and Jun’s experiences while Yui and the others are on their class trip is able to foreshadow and hint at the directions K-On! was headed.

Running and Inviting: Revisiting the Beginning of Tari Tari a Decade Later and the Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club’s Influence On a Journal Publication

“Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” –Joshua Marine

When Tari Tari was announced, beyond a key visual of three characters who greatly resembled their counterparts from Hanasaku Iroha, there had been very little information surrounding what this series would deal with. After the first episode concluded, it became clear enough that Tari Tari would be musically themed; viewers are introduced to Konatsu Matsumoto, a disgraced member of the choir club who wants to sing for her own enjoyment and Wakana Sakai, who is transferring out of the music program in a bid to move on after her mother’s passing. Tari Tari would ultimately detail how these two conflicting paths would reconcile, and how seeing Konatsu’s earnest efforts towards pursuing an interest would remind Wakana of how her own mother had approached music, as well. This would lead Wakana to come to terms with her past and in doing so, help Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro create something meaningful as their school sends off their final cohort of graduates ahead of a redevelopment project. Uplifting and inspiring, Tari Tari indicates that when people stumble, it is support from others that help them to find their way again. Unlike other series, Tari Tari has a very intense pacing: Wakana comes to terms with her mother’s death mid-series, and uses her newfound enjoyment of music to both help Konatsu leave a legacy behind as their school closes, as well as Sawa to find her way again when she begins to lose hope after being rejected from an equestrian program. Much as how Sawa and Konatsu had tried to help Wakana, Wakana is able to grow and return the favour to her friends in a big way. The first episode of Tari Tari, however, betrays none of this to viewers: at the end of the first episode, viewers were only introduced to the characters, creating a sense of intrigue as to how the series would unfold. First impressions in anime are important, and Tari Tari certainly captured my interest during a time when, having finished my physics course, I became wholly focused on preparing for the MCAT. Each and every week, I had a new episode of Tari Tari to look forwards to, and seeing how the series showed a group of individuals putting in the effort to make something bigger than themselves would have another, unforeseen impact on what I ended up doing after the MCAT concluded.

A half-year before Tari Tari began airing, one of my colleagues had suggested the idea of submitting a paper to an undergraduate journal about the versatility of our lab’s in-house game engine in visualising and interacting with biological processes. After classes ended, we would spend time drafting notes on what the paper would deal with in the student lounge on the medical campus. Halfway into the winter term, however, the coursework began picking up – I was struggling with biochemistry and needed to keep up with cell and molecular biology, while my friends similarly became busy with their own studies. The paper became forgotten as a result. When my MCAT finished, I had three weeks left in the summer left to me. By this point in time, Sawa had recovered her own determination after overhearing her father vouching for her while on the phone with an admissions officer from the equestrian institute she’d applied to. Together with encouragement from Wakana, Konatsu, Taichi and Atsuhiro, Sawa returns to school to help her friends convince the music instructor they should be allowed to perform at the culture festival. In the last hour, everyone had pulled through and set the groundwork for realising their wish of doing something together. Although three weeks was not a lot of time, my summer schedule had been quite open. I therefore approached two of my other colleagues who’d been interested in the paper, and they readily agreed to continue with the paper, being more than happy to refine their notes into passages. In the space of two weeks, I worked on the paper and transformed a set of notes into a full-fledged publication. My peers were pleased, but to my surprise, my supervisor was also impressed. A few revisions later, we had a complete first draft ready for submission. Both my colleagues had suggested that I take the first author position, having spearheaded the paper; while I am not one for ceremony, it suddenly dawned on me that a desire to do more with my summer beyond just the MCAT had left me with an experience not unlike that of Tari Tari. Having now written our first-ever publications in a journal, I became curious to see how Tari Tari would conclude, and the ending, which aired as my undergraduate thesis project was under way, was every bit as heartwarming and satisfying to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Tari Tari caught my eye because I had greatly enjoyed Hanasaku Iroha: at the time, I would’ve still been a novice to anime, and had picked my series based on their similarities to shows I’d previously watched. At first glance, the character designs in Tari Tari were very familiar and had clear counterparts in Hanasaku Iroha: Wakana is Minko, Konatsu is Ohana and Sawa is Nako. However, while there are some overlaps in terms of personality, I would quickly find that Sawa is more confident and foward, while Wakana lacks Minko’s bite. Konatsu, while energetic, lacks the same stubbornness seen in Ohana.

  • The music in Tari Tari is top-tier: Shirō Hamaguchi is the composer for the anime’s soundtrack, and the series’ leitmotif, Kokoro no Senritsu, was such an iconic song that I felt compelled to watch this series on the virtue of listening to the music alone. As it turns out, Hamaguchi has a very extensive resume to his name, having previously composed the music to Ah! My Goddess, and later, would score the soundtracks for Shirobako and Girls und Panzer. Hints of Ah! My Goddess and Girls und Panzer can indeed be heard in Shirobako‘s music. However, Hamaguchi is a versatile composer, unlike Kenji Kawai or Hiroyuki Sawanoo, whose style makes them immediately recognisable.

  • In its opening moments, Tari Tari gives all of the main characters some shine time so their personalities can be established; unlike Hanasaku Iroha, which had two cours of time to work with, Tari Tari only has thirteen episodes. This meant that there is a lot less time to develop nuances, and I found that compared to the previous anime I watched, such as Ah! My GoddessAzumanga DaiohGundam 00 and Real Drive, things were a lot more condensed. The early 2010s were a time when anime studios were transitioning away from two cour series so they could work on a wider range of projects, and today, one cour series are more common than they had previously been.

  • On his first day of classes, Atsuhiro transferred into the same class as Sawa, Konatsu, Wakana and Taichi. Atsuhiro’s commonly known as “Wein” because he’s from Vienna, and while he’s unfamiliar with Japanese customs, speaks Japanese well enough. Tari Tari chooses to have him framed in a way as to face the school by morning to reinforce the idea that he’s new around these parts, and while originally, I had the least to say about Atsuhiro, it turns out he fulfills an important role: he acts as a surrogate for the viewer, who’s effectively dropped into things. Atsuhiro, like viewers, are unfamiliar with everything that’s going on around in Tari Tari, but over time, would come to get to know Wakana and her group better.

  • Even today, the visual details in Tari Tari are impressive: True Tears had been unremarkable, but from Angel Beats! onward, P.A. Work directed a great deal of effort into their lighting effects. Scenes end up becoming much more vibrant, and reflections are used to great effect. Here, one can see subtle reflections in the gymnasium’s wooden floor, and throughout the remainder of Tari Tari, reflections are utilised to make environments pop more. In giving spaces a shiny and reflective character, P.A. Works’ locations convey a sense of cleanliness.

  • While Wakana might not be friends with Sawa and Konatsu per se at the beginning of Tari Tari, everyone does appear to know one another well enough to share a conversation. Wakana is voiced by Ayahi Takagaki, whom I know best as Gundam 00‘s Feldt Grace, True Tears‘ Noe Isurugi and Honoka Ishikawa of Non Non Biyori. Now that I think about it, Wakana has the same voice as Honoka, so I’m actually a little surprised I didn’t notice this earlier. There’s a slightly childish trait about Takagaki’s voice in portraying Wakana and Honoka that makes both characters quite endearing. I’m not too familiar with Asami Seto’s roles, but I know Saori Hayami (Sawa) best as GochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain, Yuzuki Shiraishi of A Place Further Than The Universe and Oregairu‘s Yukino Yukinoshita. Hayami is playing Ruby Rose in RWBY: Ice Queendom, as well.

  • Instructor Tomoko Takahashi is set to go on maternity leave at Tari Tari‘s beginning: this decision was made to emphasise to viewers that they are dropped into the story at a time of great change. Tari Tari would ultimately convey many themes, but at the heart of this anime is the idea that people always have the chance to count on one another and overcome obstacles that are too great for one to handle individually. This theme is a very popular one because it mirrors human society: our greatest achievements come as a consequence of teamwork and collaboration.

  • At Tari Tari‘s beginning, Konatsu struggles with music. She loves singing greatly, but ever since an incident which saw her fail spectacularly, she was demoted from an active role. She tries to convince the Vice Principal to reconsider reinstating her, but she is unsuccessful: the Vice Principal, Naoko Takakura, believes that one must approach music with finesse and precision. This behaviour foreshadows her own past friendship with Wakana’s mother, who had been very free-spirited and felt the best music came when people were free to be themselves. To dull the pain of Wakana’s mother’s passing, Naoko takes a very serious and no-nonsense approach to music.

  • Since the Hanasaku Iroha days, P.A. Works has been very fond of adding what I call “funny faces” to their anime. Said funny faces are usually a particularly strong reaction to something, and while some folks felt they break immersion, I’ve always found that funny faces really show how characters are feeling in ways that words and actions alone cannot. Funny faces reached their height in Shirobako, where Aoi Miyamori would sport a myriad of expressions in response to frustrations she encounters while on the job. Subsequent works, like The World In Colours, dispensed with this completely, but more recently, The Aquatope on White Sand brought funny faces back.

  • P.A. Works has gone through a lot over the past decade, and while they don’t always produce works I’m interested in watching, I’ve found that their coming-of-age and workplace are their strongest series, telling a very convincing and authentic tale of growth and self-discovery. This is a matter of personal preference: I happen to enjoy anime set in the real world, dealing with people and their problems. With this in mind, not every individual will share this perspective, and this is perfectly fine. However, over the past ten years, I’ve noticed people hating on P.A. Works to an unnecessary extent: AnimeSuki even has their own dedicated thread for criticising and tearing down the studio for everything they’ve produced after Hanasaku Iroha.

  • Things eventually reached a point where people regard True Tears and Shirobako as the only works of note P.A. Works has produced, with every else being an abject failure. After taking a closer look, it turns out some of AnimeSuki’s members, especially one Pocari Sweat, popularised the intense vitriol that arises whenever the name Mari Okada comes up. It is one thing to watch an anime all the way through and then do a reasoned breakdown of why it failed for an individual, but it is quite another to broadly dismiss a work simply because Mari Okada’s name appears as the series’ director.

  • Although I get that people have certain directors they dislike (Pocari Sweat’s hatred of Mari Okada is equivalent to people who do not watch Michael Bay films because of their hectic cutting and emphasis on special effects over substance), to have maintained this level of hatred for over a decade is unhealthy. I personally assess series based purely on its own merits and generally couldn’t care less about who’s directing it. While directors do have a signature style (e.g. Christopher Nolan’s films are very contemplative) that impact how a story unfolds, the worth of a work is based on how themes come together with other things like acting, visuals and flow.

  • Tari Tari was directed by Masakazu Hashimoto, who had previously worked on storyboards for Hanasaku Iroha and Angel Beats!, and as such, has a more subtle feel about it (whereas Mari Okada would’ve been a little more blunt about things). In a series about finding one’s path, this approach ends up being a ways more appropriate – there is some drama in Tari Tari, on account of the series being a coming-of-age story towards the end of secondary school, but things are resolved in a satisfying and conclusive manner.

  • As memory serves, I actually didn’t watch Tari Tari on its original airing date: a decade earlier, I’d been enjoying a day out in the mountains on a well-deserved break from studying for the MCAT, and ended up writing about the first episode on the second of July. Fast forward ten years, and the mountains have now become a very crowded destination owing to the fact that National Parks having free admissions on Canada Day is now common knowledge. This year, I ended up taking the family out over to the Badlands to check out the Atlas Coal Mine, after making a promise to my parents that we’d do a mine tour some five years earlier.

  • Tari Tari is a series I consider to be underappreciated in the anime community; despite its short length, this was a series that captured, with full sincerity, what it feels like to take the initiative and make the most of something. Although perhaps seen as annoying those around her, Konatsu’s spirit means that she’s ultimately able to bring Wakana out of her shell, and in doing so, Konatsu indirectly helps Sawa out, as well. Tari Tari betrays none of this in its first episode, but the combination of likeable characters and visually appealing visuals meant that I had no trouble becoming invested in Tari Tari as my summer wore on.

  • From here on out, my focus was singularly directed towards the MCAT. Tari Tari and Kokoro Connect gave me something to look forward to weekly, while my day-to-day schedule was spent studying extensively in mornings and afternoons. On days where I had my MCAT preparation course, I would usually linger on campus until around two in the afternoon before returning home. After five, I would put the brakes on studying and kicked back by spending most of my time in Team Fortress 2. My friend also introduced me to MicroVolts, which proved to be a fun third person arena shooter until the servers shut down

  • Without a physics course to also focus on, my days developed a pattern, and over the course of the summer, my practises MCAT scores climbed. From a score of 14 on my first-ever full length, I would rise to a 27 by the time Tari Tari reached its third episode, and by the time Wakana’s love of music returns to her at Tari Tari‘s halfway point, I scored a 33 on my last full-length practise exam. Emboldened, I finally felt ready to square off against the MCAT, and in the aftermath of the exam, I saw myself with nearly three full weeks of break left. Seeing the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club work tirelessly to put something together for their school festival inspired me to pick up the journal publication, which my colleagues had started but left unfinished.

  • Much as how Konatsu was able to start things with her spirit and have the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club send their school off in a bang, my efforts were met with a successful publication. I entered my undergraduate thesis year filled to the brim with confidence, and while the MCAT score would remain little more than a curious topic for dinner conversation, the learnings that I picked up from the summer of a decade earlier have remained relevant right up to the present. Similarly, Tari Tari has aged very gracefully: despite being ten years old, the anime’s themes are still applicable, and the artwork itself looks gorgeous. It’s certainly worth a watch, representing a very optimistic tale of how great things can manifest when one opens their heart to those around them.

Although I was effectively four months behind on my undergraduate thesis work (I effectively spent the entire summer at my desk studying for various exams while my peers were laying down the foundations to their thesis project), working on the paper led me to realise that, because of how modular and flexible the game engine was, I already had my project. Within the space of two weeks, I had drafted out a complete proposal of what my own undergraduate thesis would be, and after my first week of term ended, I finished building a prototype proof-of-concept as a part of my proposal; in effect, I made up for three month’s worth of time lost in the space of a week. This was made possible by the fact that I’d known the game engine so well, as well as seeing what is possible when one is sufficiently motivated through Tari Tari. In Tari Tari, the narrative progresses very rapidly because the characters don’t dawdle: they either know exactly what their goals are and will not hesitate to act in a way as to pursue them, or, when they do stumble, people in their corner help to pick them back up. I would ultimately give my proposal presentation in front of my entire graduating class, and the project was given approval to proceed, right as Wakana and her friends put on a successful final musical performance before their school closed. In this way, Tari Tari would become a masterpiece for me. I would encounter some difficulty in finding the right words for praising this series, but in subsequent years, it would become clear that Tari Tari was a series that left a nontrivial impact on my life. While the series did receive an OVA with its ultimate collector’s addition, along with a sequel novel set ten years after everyone graduated, Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro’s futures generally remain unknown to overseas fans of the series. However, if my outcomes are a reasonable precedence, it would be reasonable to suggest that, while the path may not have been the smoothest, everyone’s found their way as adults – this is an encouraging thought, but a part of me wishes to read the novel for myself because, despite Tari Tari having concluded in a very decisive manner, I’ve long wondered if Taichi ever was able to pursue a relationship with Sawa.

Revisiting Girls und Panzer: Celebrating Ooarai’s Victory and Future Directions At The Finale

“It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.” –Sun Tzu

Despite Anteater team’s early exit, they wish Miho the best of luck: Miho directs the remaining Ooarai forces to a hill and they prepare to dig in, using smoke to cover their advance. Maho orders her tanks to hold their fire, and by the time the smoke clears, Ooarai have set up. Having allowed Turtle team and their Hetzer to linger behind, Miho exchanges fire with Black Forest. Although they are outgunned, Turtle team appears and creates enough chaos for Miho to head back down the hill. Miho decides to push fight things out in an urban region, but along the way, Rabbit team’s tank stalls while crossing a river. With Black Forest’s tanks approaching from the rear, Miho makes the call to rescue Rabbit team – she hops over to their M3 with a cable and hitches it to the remaining tanks, who are able to pull Rabbit team out of the water. Their engine restarts to general relief, and Ooarai arrives at the urban centre. Here, they find themselves face-to-face with the Panzer VIII Maus, which quickly disables Mallard team and Hippo team. Feeling that the Maus will continue to be a problem if not dealt with, Miho asks Turtle team to ram the Maus with their Hetzer, while Duck team blocks its turret from rotating. With a carefully placed shot from Hana to the Maus’ engine block, Ooarai takes it out of the game. The Hetzer malfunctions, having taken a beating in the process, and the Student Council pray for Miho’s success. Miho manages to lure the remaining Black Forest tanks into the city streets. Rabbit team and Duck team disperse to draw Black Forest’s tanks off them, successfully disabling several of their tank destroyers, while Miho herself prepares to head off into the high school for a one-on-one with Maho. In a tense showdown, Miho decides to chance everything on the move that had failed against Darjeeling. This time, with everything on the line, Anko team lands a hit squarely to the engine block of Maho’s Tiger I, bringing the finals to an end. After addressing Ooarai and thanking them, Miho heads off to meet Maho, who congratulates Miho on her victory. Erika promises that they’ll meet in Panzerfahren again. Maho is pleased that Miho’s found her way, and in the stands, Shiho gently applauds Miho. The victorious Panzerfahren team later ride through Ooarai in a parade, and the girls promise to unwind in the onsen before riding out on their tanks again. This brings Girls und Panzer‘s TV series to its satisfying conclusion, demonstrating how through unparalleled camaraderie and acceptance from her classmates, Miho’s come to find her own Way of the Tank and proving, beyond any reasonable doubt, that there is room for compassion and empathy in Panzerfahren and reality.

Ooarai’s victory over Black Forest is an integral part of Girls und Panzer; it is a show of how far Miho has come since she made the decision to pick the sport up again, how under her command, Ooarai galvinised itself into fighting for both their futures together and for a commander who plainly shows that she cares about everyone around her. From a narrative standpoint, Ooarai has done everything correctly, and Girls und Panzer had laid down all of the groundwork needed to create a satisfying victory. The sum of Miho’s learnings through her time with the accepting and open-mindedness among her new teammates gives her the courage to lead everyone into battle, and at the same time, treating teammates and opponents alike with compassion is why Ooarai wins every match it has participated in vis-à-vis making friends of opponents. This is a team that deserves its victory because it champions sportsmanship, respectfulness and humility, and together with the fact that everyone is now fighting not for the sake of victory, but for the chance to forge a future together with one another, their spirit is indefatigable. Even a Maus is not enough to shake them from this; once the shock of its appearance wears off, Miho manages to regroup her team and spur them on with a bold plan of taking it out using the hardware they have available to them. Spotting the ingenuity that Miho brings with her into each battle, each of Ooarai’s groups eventually develop a style of their own, too. The Student Council enjoy sneaking up on foes and surprising them at close quarters, while the Volleyball Club use their speed to lure opponents out. The history buffs capitalise on their StuG III’s low profile to snipe foes without being seen, and the first years begin to mind their surroundings and use this to their advantage. As the girls participate in Panzerfahren, they develop a very strong understanding of their preferred styles, as well as a profound connection with their tank’s strengths and weaknesses. Because Ooarai’s entire loadout consists of different tanks, this allows them to fight in highly flexible and creative ways. Adaptiveness is what gives Ooarai such an advantage over their opponents, and with each group having found their own Way of the Tank, in conjunction with the shared goal of saving their school, Ooarai is placed in a position where their victory is deserved: being pushed into a corner prompts everyone to fight harder for one another’s sake, and in this moment, Ooarai wanted to win more badly than Black Forest did as a consequence of their circumstance, which brought out the best in every team. While Ooarai’s win might prima facie appear to be clichéd, a tale of the underdog prevailing in the face of overwhelmingly unfavourable odds, the reality is that this is a team that has sweated, cried and bled for their victory, by placing their faith in, and doing what they can for one another.

The fact that Ooarai advanced through the entirety of the national tournament undefeated does raise an interesting question: what would it take to best Miho and her scrappy teammates in a Panzerfahren battle? With their motley collection of tanks, and a style that is as fluid as water itself, Ooarai fights in a way to maximise chaos, utilising the environment to their advantage and creating scenarios where they can employ divide-and-conquer tactics, breaking up enemy formations and defeating tanks individually. This typically entails drawing foes into close-quarters environments and then allowing tanks to engage foes independently using the methods best suited for the tank and its operators, or otherwise using their own flag tank as bait and setting up scenarios that allow them to finish things off in a decisive, unexpected stroke. Ooarai’s style is succinctly described as a lack of style, and for foes accustomed to entire schools employing a single set of tactics, Ooarai becomes incredibly frustrating to beat – tank crews are trained to act in a coordinated and disciplined manner on the assumption that enemies fight a particular way, so when faced with Ooarai, which frequently uses unorthodox tactics to deceive their foes, it becomes very difficult to overcome a team that is creatively adapting to whatever scenarios one has planned for. However, there is a way to defeat Ooarai nonetheless: because Miho and her teammates are now accustomed to drawing foes in and separating them, understanding that Miho prefers close quarters means not taking their bait. A team could use lighter tanks to employ hit-and-fade tactics from seemingly random directions to confuse Ooarai, and then slowly push them into a kill zone where tanks with longer-range weapons can be utilised. Similarly, knowing Ooarai’s preference for divide-and-conquer means keeping one’s tanks together in small groups to defend against rushes from Ooarai. A combination of light tanks and medium tanks, coupled with one or two heavy tanks, and a small number of tank destroyers would therefore be the best setup against Ooarai. Because Ooarai’s setup is weaker at long-range combat, defeating them would entail thinning out some of their numbers at the very beginning, before Miho can organise a divide-and-conquer strategy, and then as the match does push into close quarters, keeping tanks together in groups of three while at the same time, maintaining mobility and repositioning to constantly ensure Ooarai’s tanks do not box one in to a trap. Miho is definitely not unbeatable by any stretch, although schools would need to be willing to use tricks of their own to gain the upper hand over Ooarai, and this is a direction that Girls und Panzer has indeed taken, through both Der Film and Das Finale, to ensure that battles remain engaging. When opponents also employ deception and mix things up, as Miho is wont to doing, matches become more thrilling to watch because even though the outcome is preordained, it forces Ooarai to really work for their wins, creating situations that are even more compelling and engaging.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Unlike the viewers of 2012, #AniTwitWatches is fortunate in that we’ve got all of the episodes available to us right out of the gates. Girls und Panzer‘s final two episodes aired three months after the tenth episode, and it was here that the series really kicked things up a notch. The general consensus amongst contemporary viewers, and unanimously amongst the folks I spoke with, that Ooarai had done everything conceivable as to deserve their win against a team whose reputation is fearsome, and whose equipment seems overwhelmingly powerful. As such, when I approached the final two episodes, my expectations were that Ooarai would win, but the battle for it would be unlike any other that Miho and her teammates had previously faced. This approach is typical to Girls und Panzer, and the nearest equivalent I can think of is Ip Man (as well as its sequels): the titular Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is never shown as losing, and at worst, only will draw with opponents.

  • An unbeatable protagonist works in fiction when the story deals with another facet to their character that sees advancement. For Ip Man, Ip Man is shown as navigating challenges surrounding family and community life as his circumstances change. Similarly, Girls und Panzer‘s focus is on Miho rediscovering herself. Her skill in Panzerfahren is never a concern because it was never the core of the series, and consequently, Ooarai winning would represent more than a mere Cinderella Story: it is a tangible, definitive show of how Miho’s embraced her own style enough to lead an entire team to the top. to see Ooarai take the championship was centred around the fact that Miho had not done enough to earn her victory. However, what counts as “enough” is a subjective measure, and in the context of Girls und Panzer, I counter-argue that Miho has contributed greatly to Ooarai’s Panzerfahren. She is selfless and hard-working, doing everything she can to ensure everyone’s success. She takes responsibility for her actions and looks after those around her.

  • After Miho organises her forces on the hill and sends Black Forest into disarray, some folks began to feel that the school as a whole was overrated, a paper tiger. However, I would counter-argue that Black Forest’s performance against Ooarai is a show of when their strategy can be made to fail. Rather than supposing that Black Forest is deficient, Kay puts it best: Black Forest folds when things begin going in a way they’ve never trained for. At the start of this match, initiative rests purely with Black Forest, but after Turtle team use their Hetzer to create a distraction, Black Forests’ crews become so surprised at the fact that no one’s ever driven a smaller tank besides theirs to stay out of fire, that they lose composure and begin to panic. This allows Miho’s team to escape: while it does make Black Forest look incompetent, the fact is that previously, other schools simply attempted to match forces with Black Forest, and since Black Forest has tougher tanks, they simply came out on top.

  • Ooarai’s unorthodox tactics creates frustration, and this is ultimately why Black Forest is thrown into disarray. Miho’s intention here isn’t to fight them, since in open fields, Black Forests’ tanks still have the advantage. Instead, with the distraction the Student Council have created, Miho leads all of her tanks back down towards a town, making use of confusion and smoke to mask their escape. Whereas other schools seem reluctant to use smoke, Ooarai utilises it liberally to their advantage: this trait is decidedly ninja-like, and as Christopher Nolan’s Ra’s al Ghul remarks, theatricality and deception are powerful agents, making a single individual feel like ten, and making ten feel like a hundred. Now that I think about it, Ooarai’s tactics resembles those of ninjutsu, counting on a combination of patience and agility to overcome opponents. To the uninitiated, Ooarai is a frustrating opponent to fight because they never go in for a head-on confrontation, which is where schools with superior equipment would fare better in.

  • Similarly, because Ooarai runs a motley collection of tanks, each with different properties, other schools cannot simply adopt a generalised set of tactics. For instance, Saunders fielded M4 Shermans exclusively, which means that knowing their armour properties, and their own tanks’ capabilities, would allow another school to devise an optimal style of engaging them. Ooarai’s light tanks can be taken out of the fight in a single shot, but they are highly mobile, and while one is focused on fighting something like the Type 89 or Char B1 Bis, one leaves themselves vulnerable to an ambush from the Panzer IV, StuG III or Porsche Tiger. Here, one of the mechanical club’s members fix the fickle engine on the Porsche Tiger, which begins smoking mid-combat.

  • Having largely sat the flame wars at AnimeSuki during the day, by the time Girls und Panzer‘s final two episodes aired, I was largely finished my thesis project and had been quite ready to defend. This project had been a multi-scale model of the renal system, and I was aiming to show how using a common environment would allow for system state to be stored while transitioning between different granularities. While the idea of a singleton is counted as an anti-pattern in software engineering, it is useful to create a single environment when it comes to multi-scale spaces, and with my project, I demonstrated that some patterns in software engineering may not always be practical in every circumstance: using a singleton to store state values allowed my model to compute system-wide values, and then these values would influence how my agent-based model behaved at lower levels. Transitioning between the levels was seamless, because the values were being computed in a shared environment, and in the end, this project formed the basis for my graduate thesis: using similar principles, I built a much more sophisticated model of a cell, even simulating tubule assembly and disassembly in response to environmental factors.

  • Watching Girls und Panzer helped me to unwind after days spent writing my paper and keeping up with my other courses (databases, statistics and software engineering), and the series gave me much to smile about. Here, Erika throws a tantrum after her frustrations reach a boiling point when the tracks to her Tiger II become dislodged. The me of nine years earlier enjoyed a cruel laugh at Erika’s expense, but the me of the present understands that Erika had an abrasive personality, because her loneliness led her to constantly want to prove herself to Maho and earn Maho’s praise. The nine year gap between my initial experience and the present has meant that I’ve become a little more understanding of why stories unfold the way that they do, and it is for this reason that I hold the belief that it is unnecessary, and inappropriate, to become impatient with fictional characters.

  • The idea that fictional high school students need to be held to the same standard as adults, trained professionals or experts in their field, is absolutely ludicrous: we don’t expect high school students in reality to produce the same level of work or possess the same level of understanding as someone who’s been in a discipline for years, or even decades. During the science fair I adjudicated earlier this month, the instructions had plainly been to offer constructive feedback and appreciate that these are high school students with a keen interest in a topic. As such, while some projects had clear design flaws or a misunderstanding of limitations, my job wasn’t to pick this apart, but rather, to point it out and make helpful suggestions. If a student acknowledges this, then they’ve demonstrated satisfactory understanding of their experiments and its outcomes. This science fair was for one of the city’s most prestigious private academies, and while there will be another city-wide science fair later this month, I’ll have to sit this out on account of my moving.

  • Applying the same logic to Girls und Panzer makes things all the more enjoyable: we are dealing with students who are aged anywhere from 14 to 18 – while bright and capable, they’re not anywhere nearly as experienced as an expert or professional, so one has to allow for the fact that sometimes, mistakes will occur. With this being said, high school students are also capable of innovation, considering resourceful and creative manners to problems that professionals might dismiss. Thus, when they get things right, high school students can impress, as well: here in Girls und Panzer, Miho decisively shows that she’s committed to her approach towards Panzerfahren, and when Rabbit team’s M3 stalls, her decision is to rescue them, no questions asked. She asks her teammates to provide covering fire so the rescue doesn’t jeopardise things, and banks on the fact that saving the M3 gives everyone the best chance they have of winning.

  • One thing I did notice during the original run was how an anonymous 2chan user claimed that Miho’s jump to reach Mallard Team’s Char B1 Bis from her Panzer IV required a horizontal distance of 5.17 metres. However, this individual’s methodology was completely off the mark, since they measured Miho’s height and horizontal distance based on frames. Inspection of an earlier frame finds that the Panzer IV is parked about 1.8 metres from the Char B1 Bis. My conclusion here is simple: 2chan’s users made a faulty observation, worked with a false assumption, employed inconsistent methodologies and therefore got an invalid conclusion. This is typical of message boards, and the reality of the moment was that ACTAS chose to show the sort of person Miho was through a bit of visual exaggeration. Even if Miho had jumped 5.17 metres, Galina Chistyakova holds the world record of 7.52 metres. Missteps (and the insistence that these aren’t missteps) like these are precisely the reason why, to this day, I do not count message boards like 2chan as having anything approaching credible information.

  • After Rabbit team nears the riverbanks, their engine comes back to life. Saori is overjoyed, and this moment, while considerably less perilous than Miho’s rescue of the stricken Panzer III, reiterates to viewers that Miho will continue being herself. In fact, choosing not to rescue Rabbit team would contradict what Miho had stood for: she wants to pursue Panzerfahren in her own way, and sacrificing a team to save the school, while seemingly the “right” thing to do, actually may have unforeseen consequences. Ooarai’s limited tank count means that every working tank is valuable, and needlessly throwing tanks away could very well come back to cost Ooarai later.

  • While Maho’s accustomed to Miho’s antics and orders her tanks forward, Erika impatiently expresses a want to crush Ooarai underfoot. Maho rocks the Tiger I, the quintessential German heavy tank of World War Two, while Erika’s team operates the Tiger II, which fits a sloped turret on the Tiger chassis and equips the KwK 43, which could defeat up to 304 mm of RHAe at ranges of 100 metres or less. Despite their firepower, the combination of comparatively inaccurate gunners and the fact that Ooarai’s tanks are comparatively small means that the 88 mm shells Black Forests lobs are ineffectual: beyond Anteater team, Ooarai still has seven of their eight tanks available to them.

  • Upon reaching a narrow stone bridge, Ooarai crosses it to reach the urban area: Miho’s feeling that it’s easier if they settle things in a CQC environment, and to buy themselves more time, the mechanical club manages to do a “wheelie” with their Porsche Tiger, destroying the bridge and forcing Black Forest to take the long way around. This stunt reminded me of a scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin manage to board the Bucklebury Ferry to cross the Brandywine river ahead of the Black Riders, in turn forcing the Nazgûl to cross at Brandywine Bridge some twenty miles (32 kilometres) to the north. With a total distance of 40 miles to cover, and with the average horse capable of sustaining a speed of around 30 miles per hour, taking the ferry gives Frodo and company a one hour and twenty minute head start over their pursuers.

  • No such metrics are presented in Girls und Panzer, but with Black Forest’s main force now behind them, Miho focuses on organising her tanks urban warfare using the time available to her. However, in the narrow streets lined with Khrushchyovka-like apartments, Ooarai suddenly spots a lone Panzer III and orders her tanks after it, hoping to neutralise it before it can radio back to Maho’s main forces and give away their position. Here, viewers and Ooarai alike are dealt their biggest surprise in the whole of Girls und Panzer: the Panzer VIII Maus, which was the largest heavy tank ever built. With a maximum armour thickness of 220 mm in the front, and a minimum of 150 mm of armour in the back, the Maus could withstand everything Ooarai had to throw at it: even the Porsch Tiger’s KwK 36 could only penetrate 219 mm of armour at under 100 metres, and this was assuming it was using PzGr. 40 rounds.

  • Armed with a 128 mm KwK 44, the Maus could trivially deal with any Allied tank: its 28.3 kilogram armour-piercing shells could punch through 312 mm of armour at ranges of up to half a kilometre. When faced with a Maus, Ooarai stands no chance in a head-on confrontation, and swiftly lose two tanks (the Char B1 Bis and StuG III) here. Attempts to take the Maus on fails: nothing in Ooarai’s arsenal would have been able to even scratch it from the front. Had the Maus been deployed on the battlefield, it is likely that Allied forces would’ve withdrawn their forces from the area and called in an airstrike to deal with these behemoths, which were designed as breakthrough tanks. However, despite their immense armour and firepower, the Maus has several key weaknesses. Its heavy armour rendered it extremely heavy (188 tonnes), and this left it incredibly slow; the Maus could only reach a maximum speed of 20 km/h.

  • Because of the Maus’ low mobility, one can readily surmise that Maho had foreseen that Miho would try to draw combat into the close quarters of an urban area, and therefore, placed the Maus here so that Ooarai’s tanks could be eliminated. In this fight, Maho’s advantage is not only in numbers; she knows how Miho will likely respond to things and plan accordingly. Thus, when the match begins, Miho is only aware of the fact that Black Forest is fielding Tiger Is, Tiger IIs, Jagdpanthers and other, better known Wehrmacht tanks. The Maus comes as a surprise even to her, and I imagine this tank had been a recent acquisition. While Black Forest gives the impression of depending on overwhelming firepower to win the day, I will note that Maho is able to set up situations so that these slower tanks do not become a liability, and moreover, the fact is that Black Forest does have several Panzer IIIs in their inventory, which means, at least in theory, Black Forest is able to counter Ooarai where speed and mobility are concerned.

  • Wild Goose suggested to the AnimeSuki community, in jest, that it would take an M1A2 Abrams to defeat a Maus, but this would, strictly speaking, be overkill: the Abrams’ greatest advantage over the Maus is its mobility, and spotting this, Miho decides that they must take out the Maus here and now, otherwise, they’ll be put at a disadvantage. The Panzer III accompanying the Maus is swiftly destroyed, and when Saori comments on the Maus’ extreme dimensions as resembling a tank stacked on another tank, Miho gains a stroke of inspiration. She asks Turtle team and Duck team to assist in a bold tactic: Turtle team and their Hetzer will act as a makeshift ramp to jam the Maus in place, while Duck team drives onto the Maus and prevents its turret from rotating.

  • In previous Girls und Panzer discussions, I’ve never really featured the volleyball club too much, and while their Type 89’s primary armament was intended for anti-infantry combat rather than anti-tank combat, this team nonetheless remains plucky, utilising their Type 89’s mobility to Ooarai’s advantage. Of the volleyball club’s members, I’m the most fond of Taeko Kondō (front right), who has a friendly personality and acts as Duck team’s radio operator. She’s not quite as hot-blooded as commander Noriko Isobe or gunner Akebi Sasaki, who try to push against their Type 89’s walls while Anko team makes a single, well-placed shot to the Maus’ engine block.

  • This takes the Maus out of the game, impressing the spectators and prompting Darjeeling to remark that this is something that St. Gloriana may find merit in trying, too. For schools like Pravda, however, this is quite unnecessary: Katyusha has access to the KV-2 and its M1938 (M-10) 152 mm howitzer, whose 40 kilogram armour-piercing projectiles could punch through 800 mm of concrete. Even a modern tank would likely be mission-killed by a direct hit, and definitely rattled by such an impact, but on the flip-side, the KV-2’s armour was relatively thin (a maximum of 110 mm): although quite protected against early German tanks, the Pak 40 would easily get through it. Contemporary tanks could simply out-manoeuvre it and count on modern shells to one-shot a KV-2. Since Ooarai lacked any direct means against the Maus, Miho resorts to indirect means of taking it out.

  • Ooarai’s success comes at a cost: the Hetzer’s on-board computer determines that having a Maus and Type 89 sitting on top of it would be detrimental, and the Student Council’s tank bites the dust moments after they make to rejoin Miho. They’ve done well to make it this far; the Hetzer upgrade has really allowed Anzu to play to her strengths – throughout Girls und Panzer, Momo continued to miss shots, even at ranges close enough for contact shots, and against stationary targets. As Turtle team continued to train, Anzu would swap places with Momo. This was highly effective against Pravda, where Anzu had used the 38(t)’s 37 mm gun to blow tracks off heavier enemy tanks and score mobility kills, buying Miho time to set things up. With the Student Council out of play, Ooarai is down to their last four tanks.

  • Amidst the narrow, winding city streets, Rabbit team shows extraordinary ingenuity in their duel against Black Forest’s tank destroyers: in saving the first years, Miho allows them to really find their own way and draw fire away from her flag tank. Inspired by the film Kelly’s Heroes, the first years use the environment to their advantage and, while the Elefant cannot easily turn here, manage to flank it. Although its armour is too thick for conventional assault, Saki suggests hitting the hatch the Elefant uses to discard spent shell casings, taking the Elefant out of the fight. Later, Rabbit team even defeats the Jagdtiger, the heaviest tank the Germans had mass produced. Essentially a smaller Maus, the Jagdtiger also carried the KwK 44: rather than directly trading blows with it, the first years count on the fact the Jagdtiger crew is fixated on defeating them and fails to mind their surroundings. While the Jagdtiger does get a finishing shot off, it tumbles into a dry canal and snaps its barrel off in the process.

  • In a final act of defiance, Leopon team parks their Porsche Tiger in front of the school gates, preventing Erika and the other Black Forest tanks from backing up Maho. In a titanic one-on-one duel, Miho and Maho find themselves evenly matched against one another, unable to decisively deal the other a killing blow. While Miho and Maho fight it out, Duck team had been drawing the remainder of Black Forest’s tanks away from Miho to give her a chance to win, but they are destroyed by the pursuing forces. Despite Ooarai’s resilience, a prolonged battle would turn against Miho very quickly, hence her decision to attempt a mano-a-mano battle. Some argued that Miho’s strategy was “ruthless”, entailing sacrificing her entire team for a one-on-one, but this was more of a decision made on the basis that Ooarai never had the resources to go toe-to-toe against Black Forest in a direct confrontation: the whole point had always been about what Miho’s teammates were willing to do for her, after everything she’d put down on the line for them.

  • Whether or not Maho’s teammates care about their school, or Maho herself, is ultimately irrelevant to the discussion because this is a story about Ooarai, not Black Forest – from Ooarai’s perspective, and therefore, the perspective ACTAS wanted viewers to focus on, what matters is that Miho has done a satisfactory job of rallying her teammates to the task at hand, against an intimidating foe. Assumptions about Black Forest don’t hold any significance because their role is simply to serve as a powerful opponent standing between Ooarai and their goal of saving their school. The story has no need to establish them further than this: it is therefore counterproductive to consider whether or not they were competent or lived up to their reputation. As it was, Girls und Panzer had done a fantastic job of guiding viewers through what its aims were – when an anime makes its themes as plain as day, the goal in the end is ultimately entertainment, and in this capacity, Girls und Panzer indubitably succeeds.

  • In the weeks after Girls und Panzer ended, some spent a nontrivial amount of time attempting to defend claims that Miho had not earned her victory because Black Forest appeared as though they were forcibly nerfed. My final remarks on this are simple: this is plainly not the case, since Black Forest still had the advantage of numbers by the time Miho and Maho were duelling, with all of Ooarai’s other tanks immobilised. The chaos Ooarai had wrought ultimately succeeded in buying them time to set up a one-on-one battle, which Miho had bet everything on. Similarly, Maho’s duel with Miho reveals that both sisters are competent commanders: Maho is a shade more skilful overall, while Miho’s crew is a shade more devoted. Black Forest was not rendered incompetent for the sake of the story as was claimed, and the final outcome is ultimately plausible: Panzerfahren matches are very fluid, and while schools may have their styles, matches always descend into chaos in close quarters, which is why flag tank matches are counted as being the most exciting to watch in-universe.

  • When it became clear that Ooarai losing would’ve contradicted Girls und Panzer‘s themes, these individuals contended that the most “realistic” ending given Black Forest’s advantage should have been to have them lose, but for the board of directors at MEXT to recognise Ooarai as having potential and allowing them to remain open anyways. Such an ending actually fails to convey the themes that Girls und Panzer were going for: I’d previously defined “victory” as achieving one’s aims. Miho had stated herself that their goal was to take Ooarai all the way to the championship title, and anything less would show that Miho had failed to fulfil her word to her fellow teammates. On this token, allowing Ooarai to remain open despite their losing would satisfy another theme (i.e. “things work out in unexpected ways in life, but as long as one works hard, things may favour them in the long run”), but this was not Girls und Panzer‘s initial objective, which was to show how people can find their own way and achieve excellence in the company of accepting, open-minded people. By this point in time, I’ve said everything I’ve felt to be relevant regarding the old arguments accompanying Girls und Panzer‘s original run.

  • While it is immature of me to be concerned with anime opinions dating back nine years, I’ve long wished to express these thoughts – back then, I deemed it imprudent to waste time on arguing with shallow, stubborn individuals, and for my patience, I did very well in the things that mattered (I made the Dean’s List that year and was offered an NSERC USRA, for instance). A part of me had always wanted to speak up, but I never had the chance: by the time I was done with my undergraduate project, the community had moved on to fighting over other anime, and my thoughts were completely ignored. I’ve never had the opportunity for feedback until this #AniTwitWatches changed that, which finally allowed me a chance to learn more about some of Girls und Panzer‘s most controversial topics. Besides learning more about what others think of said moments, this revisit allowed me to formulate more articulate arguments to counter some of what I thought to be the most gratuitous claims against Girls und Panzer – in many ways, one can consider these revisit posts to be posts I’ve been drafting in my mind for the past nine years, only becoming reality in the present day.

  • At the end of the day, Black Forest gracefully accepts their defeat at Ooarai’s hands; Maho and Miho reconcile as fellow commanders, and this moment had left me impressed. It is clear that Black Forest was never meant to be a heartless, ruthless school focused on the single-minded pursuit of victory. Positivity is a major part of Girls und Panzer, and through this #AniTwitWatches with the community, it becomes clear that humility and compassion are plainly to be celebrated. My own enjoyment of the series and its finale was very positive – after the series concluded, I submitted my written thesis and steeled myself for the oral defence. Because this was so long ago, I only remember that during that oral exam, I remained in control the entire time, presenting my work, answering questions, acknowledging improvements and showcasing the implications of this project, without any trouble.

  • The outcome of Ooarai’s victory is complete in the sense that Maho and even Erika don’t feel particularly bothered by what happened: Maho’s proud that Miho’s found her own way, and I would imagine that Erika’s happy to have fought a Miho fighting her hardest. We recall that Maho had embraced the Nishizumi Style and its path so Miho could pursue her own future, while Erika’s hatred of Miho stems from a past match against her where Miho had held back to let Erika win. Knowing this history helps to account for why Maho and Erika were the final opponents for Miho; while not antagonistic in and of themselves, they do represent the part of Miho’s past that she’d been seeking to run away from. In standing her ground in battle against Maho and Erika, Miho proves to both that she’s matured, able to take responsibility and do what is expected of her, which makes Maho proud, and shows Erika that Miho respects her as an opponent and as a person.

  • Questions of what exactly the Nishizumi Style is have lingered since Girls und Panzer ended, and I imagine that it was originally left as an exercise to the viewers, similarly to how some things in Rick and Morty are left unexplained (such as the precise problem with the Cob World: Rick’s reaction itself is the joke). If, and when I am asked about the Nishizumi Style, it is the practise of being organised and always advancing in a measured, disciplined fashion. During the match against Ooarai, Maho’s tanks never once retreat or fall back. However, while Shiho may not find Miho a successor to the family traditions, she accepts that her daughter is impressive in her own right, as well. The show of Shiho applauding Miho’s victory was meant to indicate that, had Miho sought out her mother in conversation here, she might’ve gotten something meaningful out of things. Leaving this unattended left the one small hole in an otherwise masterpiece-level experience.

  • With Miho victorious, and Ooarai’s future secure for the present, Girls und Panzer draws to a close. The me of nine years earlier did not know that we would be receiving a continuation in the form of Der Film and Das Finale, along with three more OVAs on top of the six that were bundled with the original series. I do feel that Girls und Panzer could have ended here; save for Miho having a proper heart-to-heart talk with Shiho, every other detail in the series had been attended to in a decisive, satisfactory manner. When Girls und Panzer ended, I wrapped up my undergraduate thesis defense and entered my summer. Despite having been offered an NSERC USRA and gearing up to build a peer-to-peer module for simulating multiple concurrent processes, I was also treading into uncertain grounds, at the crossroads between medical school and graduate school. The summer would also see to the largest flood to afflict my area in over a century, and said flood brought with it a melancholy I’d never experienced before. However, this is going to be a story for another time: this year marks the ten year anniversary to Girls und Panzer‘s release, and I’ve got one more idea of a post to celebrate this milestone.

With my fourth rewatch of Girls und Panzer now concluded, I would like to first thank the #AniTwitWatches community again for both voting for this series, as well as accompanying both myself and one another through this journey. The inevitable question of what lay ahead for Girls und Panzer would have doubtlessly been on the minds of everyone who’d just finished the series. Girls und Panzer had concluded in a decisive, definitive and satisfying manner; Ooarai had been saved and Miho had found her own Way of the Tank, which paved the way for a future where Miho could continue to train alongside her friends at a school she’s come to hold very dear. Had Girls und Panzer ended here, the story would’ve closed off in a good place, leaving the viewers’ imagination and creativity to fill in any gaps, with the question of whether or not Miho could reconcile with Shiho being one of the larger questions Girls und Panzer had left unanswered. However, viewers were almost immediately assured that ACTAS would be producing new Girls und Panzer content after the series ended: the match against Anzio had been regarded as a hole in the series, and with some viewers jumping to the conclusion that Anchovy was unsportsmanlike, an OVA was needed to indicate this wasn’t true to any capacity. The Anzio OVA thus brought additional depth to Girls und Panzer. Six more OVAs were also released along with the series, giving the characters some downtime, showing a few behind-the-scenes moments and giving viewers a modicum of insight into the world that is Girls und Panzer. It was therefore to general surprise that a movie would be made: Girls und Panzer Der Film would essentially take the events of Girls und Panzer and scale it up for the silver screen. While perhaps not adding anything novel to the themes and messages of Girls und Panzer, Der Film represents what was possible in Panzerfahren matches and was well-received. However, things didn’t stop here: ACTAS announced that another series, Das Finale, would be set after Der Film. Das Finale remains true to the approach that had been so successful for Girls und Panzer: it is written around the premise of securing another championship title so Momo can gain admittance to a post-secondary of her choice. Despite its unconventional release schedule, Das Finale represents a chance for Girls und Panzer to wrap up Miho’s story, as well – besides passing on the torch to the other students so Ooarai can continue to be successful, Miho still has yet to properly have a face-to-face conversation with Shiho. The hope is that Das Finale, per its name, concludes Miho’s story: I am of the mind that doing this would be the surest sign that Miho has overcome her old fears and now sports the confidence to move onwards. In the meantime, it is with some surprise I note that it has now been nine years since I watched Girls und Panzer. In that time, I’ve since earned graduate degree in computer science and have the minimal amount of both professional and life experience to conclude that Girls und Panzer‘s themes of sportsmanship, teamwork, compassion and empathy do indeed hold relevance in the real world, whereas dispassionate, cold and ruthless mindsets only result in isolation, disappointment and failure.