The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: reflections

Nekopara: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat.” –Tay Hohoff

Kashou Minaduki is a young man who owns and runs La Soleil, a patisserie specialising in western confectioneries. When he first opened the shop, his two Nekos, Chocola and Vanilla, accompanied him in two boxes. Since then, Kashou’s been running La Soleil with their help, along with the other family Nekos, Azuki, Maple, Cinnamon and Coconut. When Chocola finds a stray kitten one day, she decides to take her in after Kashou approves. This is about the sum of Nekopara‘s 2020 anime adaptation, which was produced by Felix Films. Lacking a unifying, cohesive storyline, the anime instead presents twelve episodes of time in fleshing out the world of Nekopara, showcasing a gentle existence in a world bereft of the challenges and conflicts of the real world. Nekopara is particularly relaxing, heart-warming and fun in its anime incarnation, as Chocola and Vanilla do their best to make the new kitten, Cacao, feel at home with everyone else. While not particularly impressive from a narrative or character growth perspective, Nekopara‘s anime series excels in world-building, showcasing how the presence of the Nekos is woven in with everyday life in a world that is otherwise similar to our own, and in particular, how Cacao slowly warms up to Chocola, Vanilla and the other Nekos in the Minaduki household. I found Nekopara to be quite enjoyable as a full-fledged series for how it was able to integrate Cacao into Chocola and Vanilla’s life, although admittedly, the lack of a cohesive story and the resultant themes means that Nekopara is a bit of an unusual anime that may not be suitable for everyone: those looking for a message about the human condition or life lessons will be disappointed.

The world-building aspect of Nekopara lies at the forefront of the series’ appeal: beyond the superficialities of the Neko themselves, Nekopara explores a world where cats with human characteristics have become so tightly integrated with society that they are treated as more than just pets, but full-fledged members of the family. Regulations are in place to keep Nekos safe and out of trouble: the Bell Licensing exams are a big deal for each Neko, allowing them to go about without a human to supervise them, and the Nekos themselves are treated as being capable enough of helping people about (for instance, Chocola and Vanilla are employees at La Soleil along with each of Azuki, Coconut, Cinnamon and Maple), while at once retaining a child-like disposition that is reminiscent of how pets can bring joys into one’s life. In this regard, Nekopara constructs a paradise of sorts for cat-lovers, providing one interpretation of what the world could be like were cats to be given a more human-like form and near-human intelligence. In particular, Nekopara gives one answer to the long-asked question of what our lives would be like if our pets could converse with us in a human language: through the Neko, it is suggested is that talking pets would yield a more troublesome, but also colourful dynamic between pets and their owners that could be quite fun in its own right.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve known of Nekopara since the original games were released to Steam during my first year of graduate school, having first came across them during the Steam Summer Sales and wondering whether or not the game would be worth my while. The visual novels are surprising sophisticated and even feature a physics engine, but ultimately, despite developing a mild curiosity, I never did end up picking the games up: at present, considering the size of my backlog, which includes Grand Theft Auto VMass Effect 2 and a host of complementary games I picked up over the years, I don’t think I’ll have a need to pick up anything else for the foreseeable future.

  • While I’ve not ever played the Nekopara visual novels, I have watched and written about both OVAs. The first OVA released in December 2017 and portrays the events of the first volume, from how Chocola and Vanilla accompanies Kashou to La Soleil as he moves. While Kashou was initially reluctant, seeing Chocola and Vanilla’s determination to be with him prompts him to change his mind. Chocola and Vanilla begin living with Kashou, earn their bells and eventually haul the remaining of the Minaduki Neko to help out at La Soleil, as well.

  • Compared to the OVAs, the Nekopara anime has a slightly cleaner animation style: the lines defining the characters are much lighter and less noticeable. In this way, the OVAs actually resemble the game’s art style more closely than the anime, although beyond differences in art aside, everyone’s traits remain the same. I believe that Nekopara‘s anime has a different set of voice actors and actresses for some of the characters.

  • The anime’s core is focused around the introduction of Cacao, a stray cat that Chocola notices early in the series and eventually convinces Kashou to allow her to look after. The other nekos name Cacao after the seeds from the tropical plant that chocolate is derived from; I’m guessing that they call Cacao thus, rather than Cocoa, simply because Cocoa would be phonetically similar to Chocola. While Cacao initially acts more cat-like than human-like, she learns quickly as Nekopara progresses.

  • While I found Nekopara to be enjoyable on its own merits, not everyone will share this particular view: that Nekopara found itself in the crosshairs of yet another Anime News Network-created controversy was surprising to learn. When Nekopara began airing, Anime News Network critics Nick Creamer, James Beckett, Theron Martin, and Rebecca Silverman each decried Nekopara as being offensive by contemporary standards.

  • Creamer claims that Nekopara presents a co-called “nightmarish reality” and its themes are supposed to be dystopian in nature, dealing with “power dynamics”, while Silverman asserts that Nekopara is meant to remove consent as a constraint and pander to the viewers’ interests. These perspectives typified Anime News Network’s ability to create controversy where there is none, using nothing more than a handful of notes sourced from introductory undergraduate courses and a thesaurus.

  • Admittedly, when word of Anime News Network’s initial impressions of Nekopara reached me, I became curious to see if the series had been as dreadful as their critics suggested. After watching the first episode for myself, it became clear that the “dystopia” Creamer had so aggressively pushed was nowhere to be found. It’s not the first time that Anime News Network has completely misrepresented a work – it is a badly-kept secret that most of their writers cherish an ambition to one day write for The New York Times or The Guardian, and attempt to emulate this style by allowing personal beliefs and politics to seep into their writing. As a result, their reviews end up being useless for anyone looking to gain a measure of a given series.

  • The practise of using pseudo-academic jargon in pushing a weak opinion is not new: Behind The Nihon Review used these tricks a decade earlier to “persuade” readers that K-On! was similarly unwatchable, and in Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin indicates to Hobbes that “writing can [become] an intimidating and impenetrable fog”, as weak arguments and poor reasoning could essentially be concealed behind a veneer of complex writing. This is not the purpose of legitimate academic writing, so I’ve come to define pseudo-academic writing as the practise of abusing junior psychology and philosophy principles to make one sound more impressive and knowledgeable than they are.

  • Having established that Anime News Network is no more sophisticated than an unskilled blogger, I’ll leave it to readers to make their own decisions about whether or not a given anime is worth their while. Back in Nekopara, when Kashou appears distracted one day, Chocola and Vanilla decide to go out and help promote La Soleil more actively. However, Cacao ends up getting lost as a result, but the easygoing nature of Nekopara means that Cacao’s small adventure results in her making a new friend in Chiyo, a young girl who looks no older than Cacao. Cacao ends up saving Chiyo from a murder of crows, and Chiyo brings Cacao back to La Soleil, where Chocola and Vanilla learn that Kashou had been stumped about his summer offerings.

  • During one particularly stormy evening, the Minaduki Nekos are home on their own while Shigure is out with some fellow Neko owners. The power unexpectedly goes out, and the Nekos resort to telling one another stories until Shigure returns home. Shigure, Kashou’s younger sister, is a fan of Nekos and typically can be seen holding a DSLR camera, attempting to photograph everything that goes on among the Nekos. Sporting a friendly and cheerful disposition, only a few things ever get her down, such as when the Nekos end up sleeping alone one night because of the heat, leaving Shigure unhappy. This is sorted out after the Nekos

  • Food is rendered surprisingly well in Nekopara, and I’m especially fond of the details paid to the fish that Vanilla and Chocola enjoy for dinner. Admittedly, the food aspects of Nekopara are something I enjoy about the series, and in general, anime food always puts a smile on my face. Being able to enjoy different foods is high on the list of things I enjoy doing: just earlier, I enjoyed a homemade burger of a familiar recipe, but this time, with a small twist taking the form of Sriracha-Mayonnaise sauce, which gave the burger a subtle kick and really brought out the flavour in the fresh lettuce and tomatoes that were in the burger.

  • Aside from Cacao’s everyday life with Chocola, Vanilla and the others, the other Minaduki Nekos also have their day in the limelight: Azuki and Coconut’s constant rivalry are addressed in an episode, as are Maple’s aspirations to become a singer. Each of the Nekos have their own distinct personality, making them quite easy to differentiate from one another, and it was fun to see how everyone bounces off one another. More so than the OVAs, the TV series allows for Azuki, Maple, Cinnamon and Coconut’s lives to be seen: the TV series shows that their constant clashes aside, Azuki and Coconuts very much care for one another, and Maple’s singing is competition worthy, although she lacks confidence and is grateful for Cinnamon’s support.

  • Some folks have counted Nekopara to be similar to GochiUsa or Blend S: this comparison is likely a consequence of the combination of slice-of-life elements with unique characters and the café environment. As a bit of a slice-of-life connoisseur myself, I feel that Nekopara does not hold a candle to the likes of Gochiusa as far as atmosphere and depth of story goes: GochiUsa is a bit of an outlier as a slice-of-life series owing to the combination of things it does exceptionally well.

  • After passing the exam to renew their bells, Shigure takes Vanilla and Chocola out to Kaminarimon and a kaiten sushi restaurant before exploring a variety of cafés in the area to gain inspiration for La Soleil. Seeing Shigure, Chocola, Vanilla and Cacao out and about in Nekopara‘s shows that in the TV series, there are more people around. This gives the world a more populated sense compared to the OVA and visual novels, which feel emptier by comparison.

  • This design choice is important in helping to create a more immersive world: whereas the OVA and visual novels seem emptier, which places emphasis on Kashou, Chocola and Vanilla, the TV series indicates that Nekos are an integral part of their world. As such, the full adaptation of Nekopara feels a lot warmer than the OVAs do. I recall one of my readers asking if I had any plans to watch Nekopara, and at the time, I’d seen one episode. I remarked that this was a series I intended to check out, but it wasn’t until recently I’d had the time to do so.

  • For me, Nekopara is a simple series that presents one view of what life might be like if cats could be given human traits and communicate with people more freely. However, this hasn’t stopped some people from delving deeply into whether or not the laws within the world of Nekopara treat cats more similarly to humans or pets, and what awaits the Neko that do not find a family. More negative minds suggest that there might be the equivalent of animal shelters or even euthanisation, but I’ll immediately shoot this idea down: Nekopara is so-named, being an portmanteau of the words Neko and paradise. This world is, in short, designed to be a paradise for Nekos, and therefore, we can suppose that Nekos are well-taken care of.

  • Towards the end of Nekopara‘s anime, Cacao has a sleepover at Chiyo’s place and sees a portrait Chiyo had made for her mother. Realising what Chocola and Vanilla mean to her, Cacao decides to do something similar, but feels that the impact needs to be more of a surprise. To this end, Cacao hides in a box while making this, and since Chocola and Vanilla have no idea what’s going on, attempt to smoke her out. Nothing is successful, worrying the two, but concern turns to relief and then joy when Cacao reads back her letter of thanks.

  • I found the artwork of Nekopara to be of a high standard: character animation is fluid, artwork is consistent, and the background art is solid. The heat of summer is similarly captured when the Minadukis and their Nekos visit the beach through a brilliantly blue sky. The original OVAs were done by Felix Film, who repraise their role as producers for the anime series. Founded in 2014, Felix Film appears to be involved in animating visual novel adaptations, having done the work for A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd, and they are slated to produce Otherside Picnic, as well.

  • With summer in full swing, Shigure and Kahou bring the Neko to the beach for classic summer activities, but when Cacao wanders off on her inflatable dolphin, she needs saving. A girl ends up saving Cacao, and in gratitude, the Nekos decide to swing by the shop this girl works at. They are impressed with the food, and decide to help out when they see how empty the place is, bringing a large number of customers, eventually helping them to acquire a Neko of their own to help with business.

  • Altogether, Nekopara is a B+ (3.0 of 4.0, or 7.5 of 10): it’s a fun series with engaging characters whose interactions are simultaneously heartwarming and fun, bringing joy as pets would in the real world. While doing nothing particularly revolutionary or novel in its run, the anime further brings the Nekopara world to life. While the visual novels might have more lurid content, the anime is surprisingly tame, making it a suitable gateway for folks who are interested in taking look at the Nekopara universe. With this post in the books, we’re also nearing the end of June on short order. I was able to get into the Halo 3 flighting and have some thoughts to share on that, and once July rolls around, my priority will be writing about Hello World, as well as Sketchbook and the last Year One content for The Division 2.

Being an animated adaptation of a visual novel, one inevitable question surrounding Nekopara is whether or not it is sufficient to motivate viewers who’ve not played the visual novels to pick it up. While enjoyable through and through, Nekopara‘s anime adaptation has not convinced me to give the visual novels a go: having already showcased the central interactions amongst the Neko and the Minadukis, Nekopara‘s anime instead gives viewers an alternate means of experiencing Nekopara, portraying the Neko and their daily adventures together While Nekopara will doubtlessly appeal to some viewers more than others, (e.g. folks who are looking for something with a more tangible theme may not find Nekopara worthwhile), the full-length anime represents an innocuous portrayal of life with Nekos intended to elicit a few laughs and create gentle moments amongst the Nekos. Nekopara is by no means a work of art rivalling the likes of Tolstoy or Dickens in impact, but as a relaxing bit of entertainment, Nekopara does succeed; the self-contained episodes were rather fun to watch, and I’m glad to have gone through this series with an open mind. Looking ahead into the future, I’m not sure if we’ll see a continuation of Nekopara in the form of a second season: while the series is quite popular, this is largely dependent on the sales of the home media. Having said this, I wouldn’t have any objections to giving any sort of continuation a go.

Tenki no Ko (Weathering With You): A Review and Reflection on Makoto Shinkai’s 2019 Film

“I always say: in survival, I’m either dealing with bad weather, or preparing for it.” –Les Stroud, Suvivorman

Tenki no Ko (天気の子, literally “Children of the Weather” and English name Weathering With You) is Makoto Shinkai’s sixth feature-length film that premièred in Japan on July 19, 2019. Shinkai is described to have seen a towering cumulonimbus cloud over Tokyo in late August, shortly after Your Name‘s screenings began in 2016, and began wondering to himself, “what if the cloud tops were an island?”. This materialised into the inspiration for Weathering With You, a film that ultimately grossed 226.16 million CAD internationally and won several awards, including Anime of the Year at the 43rd Japan Academy Film Prize, as well as being nominated for several other awards. At its core, Weathering With You follows Hodaka Morishima, a high school student who runs away from home and finds himself in Tokyo. During a freak down-burst on a ferry that threatens to wash him overboard, he is saved by Keisuke Suga, who gives him a business card. After arriving in Tokyo, Hodaka struggles to find work and support himself. Amidst the seedier parts of Tokyo, he finds a discarded Makarov PM pistol, and one day, encounters Hina Amano at a McDonald’s, who pities him and gives him a meal on the house. With his funds dwindling, he decides to take up Keisuke’s offer and arrives at the address on the business card. After meeting Natsumi, Keisuke’s niece, he is offered a job and explores urban legends as a part of his job to write magazines articles. One excursion has Natsumi and Hodaka learn of the weather maiden, an individual blessed with the power to manipulate the skies. Settling into life as an assistant, Hodaka encounters Hina in the company and attempts to rescue her, eventually discharging the side-arm he found to scare them off. He and Hina escape, and here, Hina reveals an unusual ability to clear the skies of rain that came after she crossed a torii on the rooftop of an abandoned high-rise. Realising that Tokyo’s been raining non-stop, he proposes starting a business to utilise Hina’s powers to help those around them, and they become an overnight success, participating in events from weddings and sports meets to creating a miracle for Tokyo’s Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival.

However, after spotting footage of Hodaka on a pole-mounted CCTV, the Tokyo police become interested in the pistol that Hodaka found and begin searching for him. Keisuke distances himself from Hodaka and fires him, but not without telling him to look after himself. After evading beat cops, Hodaka, Hina and her younger brother, Nagi, overnight in a hotel, where Hina reveals use of her power comes at a cost, and that she must sacrifice herself entirely to restore balance to Tokyo’s unusual weather. Despite Hodaka’s promise to protect her, Hina disappears the next morning, and Hodaka is arrested. He manages to escape custody, and with Natsumi’s help, arrives at the derelict building and attempts to reach the torii, but runs into Keisuke. While he had intended to talk sense into Hodaka, he realises the strength of Hodaka’s feelings for Hina and helps him to escape the police. Upon reaching the torii, he is whisked into the skies and manages to save Hina, convincing her to live for her own happiness. In the aftermath, he is arrested and sent back home. Over Tokyo, the skies continue to rain, flooding the city and forcing its inhabitants to move. Three years later, Hodaka returns to Tokyo after graduating and his probation ends. He meets with Keisuke, who is now running a more reputable publishing firm and encourages him to follow his heart. On a bridge overlooking the submerged Tokyo, Hodaka reunites with Hina and promises that things will be okay from here on out. With a run-time of one hour and fifty-two minutes (six minutes more than Your Name), Weathering With You had found itself in the shadows of its predecessor and ultimately, continues in dealing with Shinkai’s themes of love, separation and reunion, as well as the forces of nature that bring people together and drive them apart. Whereas Your Name utilised catastrophe as its motivator, Weathering With You, true to its title, employs the phenomenon of weather to present new themes alongside familiar ones.

Major Themes in the movie

While Weathering with You has a distinct weather motif, the notion of taking responsibility for one’s actions lies at the heart of the film; in the beginning, overwhelmed by his circumstances, Hodaka decides to run away from home and is bound for Tokyo. In his situation, he feels unable to take control and therefore, responds in the only way he can. Upon arriving in Tokyo, Hodaka initially expresses an unwillingness to take responsibility for anything because he seems to be on the back-foot all of the time. When his funds run out and it seems as though there’s no other way, however, after Hodaka meets Hina for the first time, her warmth and kindness instigates a change in him. He begins to take the initiative, and seeks out Keisuke to better his situation. In shouldering more responsibility, Hodaka begins to mature, although he remains brash, impulsive and hot-headed: this is how he formally meets Hina. The journey that Hodaka and Hina take together is one of ups and downs, giving the two great happiness as well as challenges. Over time, Hodaka’s feelings towards Hina manifests as love, and from here, Hodaka’s actions begin shifting; he starts acting in her interests, and while he might initially be seen as shirking responsibility for his actions, such as when he runs away from the police station after his capture, he is actually acting for another reason. Once he recovers Hina from the heavens, Hodaka stops running away: he is ultimately arrested, tried and returned home, but promises to uphold his promise to Hina. After his graduation, he ends up keeping true to his word, and taking responsibility for the consequences of his action, returns to Tokyo to find Hina and fulfil his promise of being with her. Weathering with You presents a tale of responsibility and how one may uphold their word, as well as what sacrifices are necessary; in this film, Makoto Shinkai suggests that if one’s word is worth keeping, then one should keep it even if there is another cost incurred. Hodaka’s time in Tokyo pushes him to learn the meaning of responsibility, and it turns out that love is a powerful instructor; in order for Hodaka to have found happiness with Hina, he would’ve necessarily needed to stop running from his problems and face them. In returning to Tokyo, speaking with Keisuke and finding Hina, audiences are assured that Hodaka has evidently matured, understands what it means to own his actions, and ultimately, is better prepared to support and love Hina than he was when they had first met, no matter what the weather might be.

Les Stroud describes the weather as being the single most dangerous factor in survival, with extremities negatively affecting one’s survival and drastically introducing challenges. In Weathering With You, Makoto Shinkai presents the weather as a natural phenomenon whose impact is less tangible; rainy skies are associated with separation, melancholy and lethargy, seen when Keisuke laments being unable to see his daughter owing to rainy weather, as well as causing the interruption or fouling of events as varied as weddings, sports meets and fireworks events. By comparison, clear weather is a time of happiness, togetherness and adventure. Under good weather, people spend more time together and create more memories together. Hina’s power, then, is a symbol of hope for Tokyo’s residents, who are inundated with rainy weather, wherein the dampness appears to seep into one’s very bones and saps people of their happiness. However, Hina’s power comes with a terrible cost, consuming her own life energy and rendering her increasingly transparent. As she strives for the happiness of others, this comes at great expense to herself. This is the primary conflict in Weathering With You that Hina must deal with; having lived a life without clear purpose or direction, when she is given a chance to impact the lives of others in a meaningful way at a personal cost, which decision she should take becomes muddled. On one hand, meeting Hodaka and spreading happiness through her power has made her happy, but on the other hand, having begun to fall in love with him, Hina appreciates that being with him means not interfering with the weather further. In creating this conundrum for Hina, Shinkai suggests in natural systems like the weather, interference usually carries a cost. Shinkai indicates that things like the weather are immensely complex, in comparing the weather patterns to the work of deities, and for humans to impose their will on these systems only ever yields a short term result. The sunshine that Hina brings is not long-lived, and the rain inevitably returns, stronger than before. The devastation wrought on Tokyo, then, as a result of Hina’s actions, shows that even if it were possible to intervene in natural phenomenon, to do so extracts a toll on those who do not fully understand the nuances of the system they intend to alter.

However, while Shinkai indicates that the weather is phenomenon that humanity must learn to live with, he also suggests that as a species, we are remarkably resilient, constantly striving to better a situation. This is what Hodaka represents in Weathering With You; the deck is constantly stacked against him, but he survives and always seeks a way to better his circumstances. After arriving in Tokyo, he transitions from one spot to another in search of opportunity, bringing him to his fateful meeting with Hina. When he accepts a job with Keisuke’s publishing company, his situation improve enough to where he is able to meet Hina again. Captivated by Hina, Hodaka ends up moving heaven and earth to be with her: his devotion borders on foolishness, and so strong are his feelings that he is willing to run afoul of the law and systems far beyond his comprehension to be with her, whether they be natural or man-made. Driven by his unwavering desire to be with Hina, Hodaka’s determination and persistence is a representation of how powerful love is: he comes to personify the human spirit and how far people are willing to go for one another and their own survival. The film scales this up towards its ending; even as Tokyo begins flooding from ceaseless rain, the citizens’ own resilience leads them to continue living even as a familiar livelihood is disrupted and submerged by unfeeling flood waters. Although people may go through trials and tribulation, their innate desires to survive win out: necessity has driven some of humanity’s greatest innovation and stories of courage, resilience. Altogether, through Weathering with You, Shinkai suggests to the viewer that even when confronted with the unknown, the bonds that connect people are stronger still, and in the end, people will find a way to make it, whatever it takes. As Weathering with You draws to a close, Hodaka and Hina’s reunion marks the beginnings of a new path, one where each will have the other to support and be supported by as the walk their future together.

Personal thoughts on the movie

With its conclusive ending, Weathering with You is a satisfying film to watch, featuring a combination of heartfelt moments, portrayals of everyday life and enthralling action sequences that come together for a big finish. However, it becomes clear that Weathering with You has also inherited much from its predecessor; a star-crossed love story backed by supernatural phenomenon also was at the core of 2016’s Your Name, and both movies utilise the extraordinary to demonstrate the strength of love. Your Name was a powerhouse performance because every action Taki and Mitsuha took in the film served to help them come together during the climax. By comparison, Weathering with You is missing that same coherence in a few areas: the movie is very busy in places as Hodaka struggles to make ends meet, winds up in the seedier parts of Tokyo and comes across a Makarov pistol. This pistol ends up setting in motion events that, while conferring an opportunity for Shinkai to incorporate a vehicle chase, also added nothing substantial to the film’s central message. The presence of social workers and police officers seeking a runaway after Hodaka’s parents reported their child missing would have provided enough of a motivator for Hodaka’s actions towards Weathering with You‘s climax; giving Hodaka a pistol did very little to make his feelings more apparent than it had already been. Similarly, folklore in Your Name ended up giving viewers a unifying element towards understanding how Mitsuha and Taki could transcend the laws of space and time to meet, but in Weathering with You, the inclusion of folklore merely creates a rudimentary mechanism to bolster Hodaka’s urgency in finding Hina after she vanishes. The sum of Weathering with You‘s plot appears to have been Makoto Shinkai’s effort to create a new story without venturing outside of the design choices that had made Your Name immensely successful, treading on very familiar territory. These are ultimately trifling complaints: while perhaps not the powerhouse experience that Your name might be, Weathering with You remains a highly enjoyable movie, standing of its own merits for the strength of its execution.

In every successive film, Makoto Shinkai manages to raise the bar higher for what sort of visuals are seen, and with weather at its core, Weathering with You is a visual spectacle surpassing any of his earlier films. Rain is rendered even more vividly than in Garden of Words, with the motion of individual raindrops being animated. Interiors are intricately depicted, cluttered with everyday items that convey a lived-in sense. Landscape shots and camera effects are more ambitious than before, making use of 3D rendering to present Tokyo in ways the previous films had not: the fireworks festival brought Weathering with You‘s Tokyo to life in a way that earlier films did not, even featuring real-time reflections of the fireworks on the skyscraper windows, and the dynamics of the vehicular chase similarly shows refinement in Shinkai’s craft. In short, Weathering with You represents a progression of the animation and artwork seen in Your Name, and Shinkai’s new story allows the film to portray a side of Tokyo that is lesser seen: the seedy and derelict side of Tokyo is shown, mirroring on how in Japan’s rapid growth and development, some areas were left behind, to be washed away by rain waters. There is a melancholy in seeing the abandoned building that houses the torii Hina found, and throughout Weathering with You, the use of moody, grey lighting suggests that Tokyo is not the destination that it appears to be on an ordinary day. However, when light breaks through the clouds and illuminates the world’s largest city in a wash of warm, golden light, the magic of Tokyo becomes more apparent. The shifting portrayal of Tokyo in Makoto Shinkai’s films show the city as a monolith of activity, a place of great contrasts, of excesses and decay, as well as of beauty and meaning, all of which lie in its people, rather than its buildings: having honed his craft in his previous films, Weathering with You represents further into insight into how Shinkai feels about Tokyo. When Tokyo is flooded by ceaseless rain, its citizens endure, and continue finding ways of making things work; Shinkai therefore indicates, through Weathering with You, that buildings can be rebuilt, and livelihoods restored so as long as people are together.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Weathering with You opens with Hina finding the mysterious torii gate after noticing a beam of sun illuminating it while with her mother at the hospital. When she walks through the gate, she finds herself whisked into the skies above. Unlike my post for Your Name, I’ve decided to host my images in a typical fashion owing to storage constraints. However, the screenshots should still be quite sharp and capture all of the details in the movie nicely: this time around, I’ve got eighty screenshots (down from Your Name‘s one hundred even), curated from a total of three hundred and sixty, making this first and only proper collection of screenshots around on the internet.

  • Weathering with You begins formally with Hodaka on board a ferry bound for Tokyo. The film does not disclose much about his background, beyond the fact that he was dissatisfied with his old life to the point where he felt running away from home was his best bet. The bandages on his face, in conjunction with his unhappiness about his home, suggest that he suffered from physical abuse. However, Hodaka cannot help but marvel at the gathering storm while riding the ferry: a massive rainfall suddenly inundates him, and an unexpected downburst threatens to wash him overboard.

  • The storm disappears as quickly as it appeared, and Hodaka finds himself being saved by one Keisuke Suga. In gratitude, Hodaka treats Keisuke to lunch, and is coerced into buying Keisuke a beer, as well. Keisuke appears to be a bit of a shady character – his eyes lack the detail and dimensions that are typical to trustworthy characters, and so, viewers cannot help but be a little mistrusting of him when he is first introduced. Before we delve further into Weathering with You, it’s appropriate to explain the page quote: I normally reserve Survivorman quotes for Yuru Camp△, but owing to how Les Stroud describes the weather, I figured his remarks on weather are well-suited for opening a talk about a movie with a substantial weather motif.

  • After the ferry pulls into Tokyo harbour and docks, Keisuke and Hodaka part ways, but not before Keisuke leaves him with a business card. In this post, I’ve avoided recycling images that I used for my post about my plans to write aboutWeathering with You, drafted shortly after the film’s announcement: my expectations back then were to see how well the film utilised Hina’s powers and tie that in with an overarching theme. Beyond that, I had no other knowledge of the film, and when it released to Japanese theatres on July 19, 2019, I hadn’t even made any remarks about missing out on things.

  • Because Hodaka was able to survive for a short while before his funds dwindled, it stands to reason that he comes from a moderately wealthy background, enough for him to have withdrawn enough of his personal funds to buy time and attempt to find a job. Hodaka’s journey takes him to a seedier side of Tokyo that Shinkai had hitherto not explored in his movies, and in this side of Tokyo, questionable nightclubs and gambling parlours are portrayed. It reminds me of the side of Tokyo that Natasha Romanoff found Clint Barton in during the events of The Avengers: Endgame, although unlike Barton, Hodaka is no fighter, and can only escape from confrontations.

  • After taking refuge from the rain in front of one such night club, the establishment’s owner notices Hodaka and roughs him up. While beautifully rendered from a distance, close-up, Shinkai also chooses to portray a grittier, rougher side of Tokyo in Weathering with You to show the idea of resilience, a recurring theme in this movie. Hodaka ends up being knocked onto the streets along side a recycling container, and in it, he finds a Makarov PM. Feeling it to be a toy, he takes it with him and winds up at a McDonald’s, but having run his funds dry, can only order a drink.

  • At the McDonald’s, one of the staff takes pity on Hodaka and makes him a Big Mac on the house. Hodaka describes it as the best dinner he had since arriving in Tokyo, and while the moment conveys a combination of despair and hopelessness, it also foreshadows subsequent events: the staff is none other than Hina Amano, and upon their fateful meeting, he feels the warmth in her actions, which extends into the burger itself. In Five Centimetres per Second, Makoto Shinkai had used a stand-in for McDonald’s, but of late, having seen international recognition, Shinkai’s been able to use some real world brands openly in Weathering with You. Details paid to the Big Mac and its box are remarkable, and the box looks identical to the ones at the local McDonald’s.

  • I’m certain that, with a bit of patience and generous use of Wander in the Oculus Quest, I’d be able to find all of the locations shown in Weathering with You – for Your Name, I ended up using a bit of photogrammetry techniques to locate Taki’s apartment in an exercise that proved immensely enjoyable. The locations of Weathering with You are a bit more inconspicuous, and on first glance, would be trickier to find. However, knowing that Shinkai incorporates great amounts of details into his film, using the address on Keisuke’s business card and the Google Maps app on Hodaka’s phone means that one could find Keisuke’s home/office reasonably effortlessly.

  • Of course, doing so is not advised, as it is impolite to hassle a private residence. Regaining his energy and spirits from the Big Mac and Hina’s kindness, Hodaka decides to follow his lead and visit Keisuke. Ever since he arrived in Tokyo, it’s been raining nonstop: much as how previous films used weather as a metaphor for feelings within the protagonists’ hearts, Weathering with You‘s use of rain shows that at this point, Hodaka is very much in a melancholy and despairing. However, a simple gesture from Hina is enough to send Hodaka down a different path, and he decides to take a look at Keisuke’s offer.

  • Upon arriving at the address on Keisuke’s business card and entering, he finds himself face to face to a sleeping woman in her twenties. Being a teen, Hodaka cannot help but stare at her chest as she sleeps, and when she awakens to find him there, the woman’s first act is to tease Hodaka about it. It’s curious to see Shinkai incorporate more of these aspects into his movies (Your Name had Taki feeling up Mitsuha when he’d inhabited her body). Shinkai’s earliest films had female protagonists as pure as driven snow, perfect abstractions of what romance and love entailed, but over the years, females in his works became more human, with their own flaws and unique features.

  • It turns out that the sleeping woman is Natsumi, and while she’s not the female lead of Weathering with You, she’s certainly not one-dimensional, as this screenshot can attest. After Natsumi introduces herself, Keisuke finally arrives and lays out the terms of the job he has in mind for Hodaka. While Hodaka is initially reluctant, Keisuke notes that Hodaka’s job will also cover lodging and meals, prompting him to reconsider. As it turns out, the job Keisuke has in mind is akin to that of an intern: his job description entails organising meetings, proofreading, writing and helping out with housework.

  • Interior clutter has always been a major feature in Makoto Shinkai’s movies, giving a very lived-in sense: in Weathering with You, details in Keisuke’s home/office, from scattered papers and unwashed cups, give insight to Keisuke’s life. Looking at the placement and organisation of everyday objects in a scene brings interiors to life, and in most anime, this detail is eschewed for ease of animation: looking after that many assets would be immensely difficult, and it speaks the technical skill of Comix Wave Films that they are able to render this. The only other studios that place such effort into interiors are Studio Ghibli, Kyoto Animation and P.A. Works.

  • Hodaka’s first test is to accompany Natsumi to speak with a fortune teller, who presents the story of so-called “Sunshine Girls”, alongside “Rain Girls” whose presence can impact the weather, and this early into Weathering with You, the fortune teller already gives viewers one of the film’s main themes: if you mess with nature, it tends to mess back. My main goal in consuming any work of fiction is to see what I can learn from it (and by extension, the author’s intentions), so if I walk away from something with a quantum of an idea of what the author wanted to convey, I end up satisfied.

  • Once Hodaka begins settling into his new routine, Radwimps’ Kaze-tachi no Koe (“Voices of the Wind”) begins playing. Repraising their role from Your Name as Weathering with You‘s composers, Radwimps delivers an aural experience that elicits memories of Your Name. Voices of the Wind is an upbeat piece whose rhythm mirrors the newfound routine in Hodaka’s life, and their remaining vocal pieces are well-adjusted. The instrumental pieces of Weathering with You create a sense of melancholy and longing that fits well with Shinkai’s themes of separation and distance, as well as the supernatural feeling that arises at critical moments in the story.

  • Besides McDonald’s, Tenki no Ko also showcases Apple products in prominence: Hodaka is seen using an iPhone 8 and a 2017 MacBook Pro, and Natsumi runs an iPad. That Weathering with You is able to use real-world products is a sign of how far Makoto Shinkai has come in terms of recognition, for large companies like Yahoo!, Apple and McDonald’s to allow their products to be rendered in such detail. Since Your Name, Apple has reached iOS 13 from iOS 10, and their Flat UI has been around since 2013’s iOS 7. Since then, iOS has not changed too much in appearance, and I remark that I’m very fond of the Flat UI, which replaces the Skeuomorphism aesthetic that iOS 6 and earlier used.

  • Weathering with You‘s use of supernatural differs from that of Your Name‘s in that whereas the latter employed it purely as a study of regional folklore, Weathering with You mixes it with urban legends that high school girls are familiar with. Old and new collide in Weathering with You in a way that Shinkai’s previous films do not depict, and this hints at Shinkai’s thoughts on advancing technologies and beliefs: the interweaving of old and new suggest in Weathering with You indicates that while Shinkai respects the old ways and uses them when appropriate, he also believes that if the new offers a tangible benefit to something, then it should be tested and utilised, as well.

  • Aside from high school students attuned to rumours and urban legends, as well as practitioners of the occult, Natsumi and Hodaka also speak with meteorologists and experts. While some turn them away, seeing the supernatural as a waste of time, others eagerly speak with them, as they’ve also spotted the unusual phenomenon manifesting in Weathering with You: raindrops occasionally flop about and swim as fish do, and there have been several instances of large bodies of water taking the form of whales. Unfortunately, my understanding of the symbolism here is not terribly extensive, and I can’t offer more on what the cloud fish and whales mean beyond the suggestion that the clouds are supposed to represent a world that has not been extensively studied.

  • One subtle detail that I really enjoyed was watching Hodaka slowly become better as an article writer: Keisuke had been satisfied with his initial writing but counts him as a slow writer, and while he reviewers Hodaka’s work here, he critiques one of Hodaka’s passages before noting that Hodaka’s done well in another section. While seemingly minor, this moment shows that despite his gruff appearance and the occult focus of his publishing business, Keisuke is someone that Hodaka can look to as a mentor figure. For the audiences, this is reassuring, reminding viewers that Keisuke can be trusted.

  • While out one day, Hodaka runs into Hina again, who is trying to discuss terms of some job with two shady-looking characters. Without really thinking things through, he pulls Hina away and they run off, but the two catch up to Hodaka and begin kicking his face in. Hodaka ends up drawing the Makarov and fires it, scaring the two off, but also earning himself admonishment from Hina. The Makarov pistol is named after designer Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, who designed it to be a compact pistol with low recoil without compromising stopping power. It entered service in 1951, and anime fans will know it for being the gun that Shino “Sinon” Asada fears during Sword Art Online‘s Phantom Bullet arc. Owing to its Soviet origins and use by the Eastern Bloc, the weapon does seem to exude an aura of menace and well-chosen to be the antagonist’s firearm in anime.

  • Hodaka discards the gun and ends up having a proper conversation with Hina to know her better, after both have a chance to clear their heads. They head to the roof where the torii is, and Hina demonstrates her power to clear the skies. It turns out that this power is strictly for clearing the skies, and unlike The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s “Clear Skies” shout, cannot make aurora borealis manifest. In Weathering with You, the first bit of sun is a magic moment for Hodaka. Most promotional images for the film feature the clearing skies by the torii on the rooftop and the cloud-top islands, and while Weathering with You does not have an iconic element as did Your Name in terms of imagery, the imagery associated with Weathering with You remains distinct.

  • While the phenomenon of a Sunshine Girl had been relegated to the realm of myth and rumour, Hodaka’s encounter with Hina changes his world permanently. Here on the rooftops, Hina and Hodaka are removed from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, as well as the world’s worries. The tranquility and peace that Hodaka shares with Hina here marks a turning point in Weathering with You, being the first time that sunshine is properly seen in the movie, and with it, the first time that Hodaka sees a reason for being here in Tokyo.

  • Reports of animals manifesting in the water begin making their way across social media platforms like Instagram, and Hodaka’s mind is on capitalising the excitement to publish a few more articles that could draw in readers, and with them, the coin. Natsumi’s exact relationship to Keisuke is never explored early on, and this leaves a bit of a mystery to her from Hodaka’s perspective; he is shocked to learn that she’s more of a part-timer with Keisuke’s company, and prior to heading out for a day’s worth of interviews, she looks through some of the phenomenon with Hodaka, but ends up disappointed that Hodaka’s thinking more about the increased profits from increased readership.

  • Keisuke, meanwhile, has other troubles of his own; after his wife died, their daughter went to live with her grandparents, and Keisuke finds it difficult to spend time with her daughter. At Minori Cafe in Ginza’s Mitsukoshi Department Store, he meets with his mother-in-law, who is adamant about keeping Keisuke from seeing his daughter owing to the fact that he smokes and the poor weather makes it difficult to be outside, which would alleviate her asthma. Keisuke’s mother-in-law recalls a time when the weather was more agreeable and laments that contemporary children are less inclined to explore the outdoors owing to extremities of weather, although the reality is that kids of this age are glued to their tablets and phones.

  • When I was in Japan three years earlier, I passed by the famous Wako Department Store in Ginza: I best remember its distinct Seiko Watch Face from the movie King Kong vs. Godzilla. After spending the morning at the Imperial gardens and a shrine, I’d arrived in Ginza for a delicious beef nabe lunch at a restaurant whose location I can’t remember, and subsequently browsed around the shops in the area before heading off for the banks of the Sumida River to check out the Tokyo Skytree and Sugamo Jizodori Shopping Street a ways over. The day ended at Heritage Resort in Saitama, where I sat down to a magnificent dinner of Kobe beef and sashimi before soaking at the hotel’s onsen.

  • There is a lot of exploration in Tokyo, and while I’d only spent a day there during my trip, I appreciate that one could spend a few months there and still not see everything worth seeing (although I note I’ve been in Calgary since time immemorial and there are things back home I don’t know about). Back in Weathering with You, upon seeing Hina’s power to clear the skies with his own eyes, Hodaka begins to develop an idea – aside from a few minutes of good weather, Weathering with You has been very rainy insofar, and Hodaka begins to feel that the mood of people is invariably tied to the weather, with rain signifying depression, melancholy and lack of energy. Sunshine occupies the opposite end of the spectrum, filling people with motivation, determination and joy. He contemplates the idea of using Hina’s powers to deliver hope for cash, and decides to float the idea to Hina.

  • Hina invites Hodaka over, who suddenly realises that this is the first time he’s ever been over to a girl’s house on his own. Hodaka hesitates briefly, but Hina has no qualms about having him over. As it turns out, Hina’s been living with her younger brother, Nagi. Ever since their mother passed away about a year ago, Hina’s been working to support the two, and this was roughly when Hina discovered the torii on top of the abandoned building. Hina’s situation is a tragic one, and despite the challenges she’s faced, she does her best to be optimistic about things, even going to extraordinary lengths like working at a night club despite being under-aged in order to make ends meet.

  • Because of her situation, Hina’s developed a rather unusual sense of cooking, incorporating instant ramen and potato chips into her recipe for fried rice. I am strongly reminded of a similar moment in The Garden of Words when Yukari cooks for Takai after the two retreat to her apartment during a sudden downpour. Both The Garden of Words and Weathering with You feature rain at its centrepiece, and while Hodoka and Takai have different thoughts on the rain, in both movies, the rain plays an instrumental role in bringing people together. When I first watched The Garden of Words, a major flood shut down my area, and now, watching a similar scene in Weathering with You, I am reminded of working from home some seven years ago in a similar fashion.

  • While Hina and Hodaka share a lunch of fried rice and a fried chicken salad, I look back on some meals that’ve put a smile on my face. With restaurants slowly beginning to re-open, I’ve been able to enjoy a combination of restaurant food and home cooking: over the past weekend, I’ve had herb-and-spice fried chicken and fries with southern-style gravy and a delicious sirloin burger topped with onion crisps with a side of crinkle-cut fries. Looking forwards to a good meal is a massive morale booster, and unlike seven years ago, where the Great Flood caused me to fall into a melancholy, I’ve been more proactive in keeping my spirits up. Being able to enjoy a meal is high on my list of things to do during times like these, and the warmth and normalcy of such moments in Makoto Shinkai’s films suggests that he believe something similar.

  • After a day’s effort, Hodaka and Hina spin up a website that allows visitors to make requests for good weather. When Nagi arrives home, he’s unimpressed with Hodaka’s presence, and Hodaka recognises Nagi as the elementary school student who seemed to be rather popular with the ladies. I’m guessing that Hodaka and Hina are using a cloud service to run their website and are rocking a noSQL database to hold their requests, which would be simple entities containing a date, requestor name, email and description of the task, easily retrieved by date of request. Then it’s up to Hodaka and Hina to travel to the customer and fulfil their request for good weather. Nagi is initially skeptical, and even more so when he’s made to wear a teru teru bozū costume.

  • Hina, Hodaka and Nagi’s first assignment comes at a flea market, whose organisers worry that attendance and business will be poor on account of the rain dissuading customers from visiting. Initially, the organisers are skeptical that anything could happen: being able to control the weather is something that only exists in the realm of fiction, involving powerful technologies like those the Forerunners employed on Halo, or through extraordinary means like the Infinity Stones. However, when Hina wishes for it, a break appears in the clouds, bathing the land with sunlight. The flee market’s organisers are absolutely thrilled, and Nagi realises that Hodaka and Hina are onto something, no longer reluctant to head out as a teru teru bozū.

  • As the clouds give way to blue sky, the music swells to a crescendo of joy and optimism. While I had been a little skeptical of Radwimps upon hearing their role as the composers for Your Name‘s soundtrack, I ate my words after seeing the movie, and by Weathering with You, I was thoroughly impressed with their musical performance. The music of Weathering with You is memorable in its own right, creating a different aural aesthetic than that of Your Name‘s; Your Name‘s music was deliberately hesitant in places to mirror the confusion in Mitsuha and Taki surrounding both their scenario and their feelings for one another, but in Weathering with You, the sound is bolder and more purposeful, showing Hodaka and Hina both as being strong-willed.

  • After their success at the flea market, word begins to spread: Hina and Hodaka find themselves busy, fulfilling requests from those who’ve placed them on their website. Tōko Miura’s “Festival” accompanies the montage depicting the various venues Hina and Hodaka are asked to bring sunshine to: this highly upbeat, energetic song offers a break from Radwimps’ own performances, creating a refreshing break in the movie that creates an aural representation of what sunshine sounds like. The spirit and pacing in “Festival” sounds like a song that speaks to the halcyon days of high school, a time for youth to partake in exploration and discovery without the obligations of adulthood.

  • In Weathering with You, Hodaka provides a narration over the montage: as he, Hina and Nagi brighten up weddings, Comiket, and school activities with Hina’s power, he contemplates how happy the sun makes people, washing the land in light and warmth that signifies hope and possibility. Hodaka is at his happiest up to this point in the film: having a purpose to work for and being with Hina, who can be seen as a personification of sunlight, Hodaka believes that sunny weather even helps people to fall in love with those around them more quickly, foreshadowing his own feelings for Hina.

  • Hodaka’s monologue captures the general feeling people have regarding good weather: love for good weather is universal, and there’s a scientific reason as to why this is the case. It turns out that exposure to sunshine triggers the production of serotonin in the brain, as well as catalysing the production of vitamin D. Serotonin is a chemical that is involved in a range of processes and contributes to regulation of sleep, digestion and mood, while Vitamin D is involved in calcium absorption, cell proliferation and regulating the immune response. In helping the body to produce these chemicals, sunlight is a critical part of well-being – there is a physiological piece in why sunshine and well-being are correlated.

  • For me, my mood fouls the quickest at the sight of an overcast sky or snowfall, but rainfall doesn’t bother me at all. There’s a scientific reason for this, as well: the sound of rainfall is a consistent sound that helps the mind to relax, stimulating enough of the auditory cortex to promote some activity without excessive stimulation that we perceive as noise. While research has found that extensive periods of bad or good weather cannot be positively correlated with changes in mood, the fact is that weather patterns do have a tangible impact on people; these might be subtle on their own, but can add up to create a noticeable impact on one’s health and well-being.

  • Eventually, Hina and Hodaka become renowned enough to be called in for their biggest assignment yet: ceaseless rainfall threatens the Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival, one of the biggest fireworks events in central Tokyo. Centred around the Yoyogi area, the festival has its origins in the 1980s, and each year in August, up to twelve thousand individual fireworks are used during the event. Most shows begin at 7:30 PM: unlike somewhere like Calgary, where the high latitude means that the skies don’t darken until 11:00 PM local time, Tokyo’s got a much more consistent day/night cycle, allowing for earlier performances.

  • Hodaka appears as a VIP, alongside the event’s organisers: they briefly catch a glimpse of Hina looking rather sharp in a yukata before heading off to the rooftops of the Roppongi Hills tower, a mixed-use high-rise with a maximum height of 238 metres that was built in 2003. It’s a tense moment, as the event’s organisers wait in anticipation of Hina using her magic to clear the skies. Hina begins her prayer, and moments later, the clouds dissipate, bathing the land in an orange glow from the day’s last light.

  • This moment was a truly magical one, and the music swells into a chorus as the details of Tokyo are thrown into sharp relief. From the northwest corner of Roppongi Hills, the skyscrapers of Shinjuku, some 4.5 kilometres away, can be seen, and the Meiji Jingu Gaien park where the fireworks event is hosted, is somewhere below on the right hand side of the image. Makoto Shinkai’s portrayals of Tokyo have always been spectacular, but the sunset in Weathering with You really hits home as to just how far the techniques have improved.

  • I had originally been planning on doing my first hike of the year this past weekend. This excursion would’ve likely entailed of a simpler trail that cuts through a beautiful canyon, followed by lunch at my favourite poutine restaurant on this side of the world. With the current world health crisis contained for now, it would have been tempting to go do a day trip to the mountains, but in the interest of safety, I’ve elected to shelve such an excursion until a later date, and instead, with the recent bit of spring weather we’ve finally had, I decided to walk the local parks instead. While it may not be a mountain trail, the parks in my area are beautiful and most certainly enjoyable to walk in: I was lucky enough to see cherry trees in full blossom.

  • Short of visiting Japan and watching the Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival in person, it is no joke when I say that watching Weathering with You‘s presentation of it is the next best thing. The movie makes use of CGI to present a flyover of the area while the fireworks show is on, sending viewers through the fireworks itself, and it is here that the observant viewer will notice real-time reflections of the fireworks appearing on the windows of the buildings below. The entire scene, from the buildings to the fireworks, is rendered in 3D, and this is probably the most impressive application of CG in any anime movie to date.

  • The festival’s attendees are thrilled to be enjoying the fireworks on a clear night, with spectators watching at the Meiji-Jingu park, and Nagi hanging out with one of his lady friends at a festival. Up on Roppongi’s rooftops, Hina and Hodaka share a private moment together, marveling the fireworks together. Hina finally feels that she’s found a purpose to life beyond just surviving, and it is here that Hodaka begins to realise he’s falling in love with Hina, driven both by the magical atmosphere conferred by the fireworks and Hina’s dazzling personality.

  • The Obon Festival brings Hina and Hodaka to the Tachibana family, who’s made a request: Fumi Tachibana, figures that sunnier weather will help her husband’s spirit to navigate back properly. Obon has been a Japanese custom for at least half a millennium, and is a means of honouring the spirits of the deceased: offerings are laid out for them, as they are said to return during the time of the festival. Taki makes a cameo appearance here, watching as Hina and Hodaka help with rites. Cameos only began with Your Name, which featured the return of Yukari Yukino from The Garden of Words, and it stands to reason that Makoto Shinkai’s next film will likely feature Hina and Hodaka in some way.

  • Whereas folklore and regional beliefs feel more tangential to Weathering with You, they were a central part of Your Name: Shinkai crafted an entire set of local rituals and myths for the film based on Japanese folklore to bring Mitsuha’s world to life and create credibility for the extraordinary experiences she shared with Taki. This ended up being a point of contention when one “Verso Sciolto” argued that one needed at least his level of understanding to properly enjoy every detail in Your Name. Verso Sciolto’s presence reached Anime News Network, MyAnimeList and even AnimeSuki, where he wrote pedantic, purple-prose filled paragraphs explaining why his interpretations of Your NameLiz and the Blue Bird and Chihayafuru were the only ones worth considering even though his interpretations all missed their mark entirely.

  • Verso Sciolto fancied himself a lecturer, but eventually ended up being banned from each and every anime forum of note, for being uncommonly persistent in pushing views of anime that were egregiously wrong. This is by no means a loss, and I admit that it is nice to be able to discuss Weathering with You without being told that my lack of background in Japanese literature and folklore leaves me ill-equipped to talk about the film. Back in Weathering with You, Keisuke and Natsumi visit an elderly man familiar with the myth of the Sunshine Maidens. He explains that their power comes at a cost, and that eventually, must be sacrificed to the gods to maintain the natural order of things.

  • It turns out that the police are interested in Hodaka’s whereabouts after he illegally discharged the Makarov, and two officers end up catching up to the fellow that had come into contact with Hodaka. He initially attempts to escape, under the impression they’re here to bust him for attempting to hire Hina, but it turns out they’re looking for information. Firearms in Japan are tightly regulated: aside from air rifles and shotguns, firearms are strictly prohibited in Japan. A law passed in 1958 simply states that no citizen may possess firearms or swords, and individuals who decide to have a shotgun or air rifle consent to random police checks, as well as undergo a series of stringent exams and inspections. As such, Hodaka’s possession of a Makarov is a crime, and it is unsurprising that the police are so intent on finding him before anything serious happens.

  • With Hina’s birthday coming up, Hodaka decides to get her something, but struggles to find a proper answer. Hodaka is frequently seen posting to Yahoo! Answers for suggestions, and while other services have largely displaced Yahoo!, in Japan, they still remain quite popular. Eventually, he decides to ask Nagi, who replies that, since Hina’s been doing her best to look after him, he’d be happy to have Hina live more like an ordinary teenage girl would; a ring seems suitable for this, Nagi concludes, having deduced that Hodaka’s in love with Hina. Despite his age, Nagi is very well-versed in what the ladies like, prompting Hodaka to refer to him as senpai.

  • Hodaka ends up checking out a Lumine Store and picks up a ring for Hina from MocA. These department stores are located near major train stations in Japan, capitalising on the large crowd volumes of these transport hubs to provide commuters and visitors with shopping and dining options. The ring costs 3400 Yen, about 43 CAD at the time of writing, and Hodaka wonders if it will be something Hina likes: the clerk replies that his feelings will reach her, as it is evident in how dedicated he is. Here, Miki Okudera, Taki’s senior from his old part-time job, can be seen in the background.

  • Weathering with You is filled with cameo appearances, and the clerk is none other than Your Name‘s very own Mitsuha Miyamizu. It is great to see Mitsuha doing well: she’s now working in Tokyo and, assuming that she’s the same Mitsuha of Your Name, finally able to live somewhere brimming with activity and excitement as she’d yearned for as a teen. Wearing a warm smile, she reassures that Hodaka’s feelings will reach his recipients, and she suggests that she would be very happy if someone had spent that effort for her. Besides Taki, Mitsuha and Miki, Tesshi and Sayaka also make an appearance in Weathering with You, along with an older Yotsuha and some of her classmates.

  • Hina and Hodaka have one final assignment: Keisuke’s requested their services to create a beautiful day during which he can spend time with his daughter: Keisuke’s mother-in-law would only permit him to spend time with his daughter if it’s outdoors, but owing to the frequent rain, this has not been possible until now. Even though it’s only for an afternoon, this means the world to Keisuke. Nagi gets along with Keisuke’s daughter well, and Keisuke is content in watching this peaceful scene unfold at Shiba Park: Zojoji Temple is visible here a ways past the field where Nagi and Keisuke’s daughter are hanging out.

  • Both Hina and Natsumi wear identical looks of disgust on their faces when word gets out that Hodaka had assumed Keisuke and Natsumi were a couple, when they are in fact, uncle and niece. This scene of normalcy underlies what each of Keisuke, Hina and Hodaka have been longing for – spending time with people they care about. While Makoto Shinkai has explored themes of romantic love in his movies, Weathering with You also begins to touch upon family, as well, showing how the connection between families pushes people towards actions, both great and dubious, to preserve and defend what is important to them.

  • I’ve chosen to render Tenki no Ko with its official title, Weathering with You, simply for the ease of searching. The English translation of Tenki no Ko is often given as “Child of the weather”, which I would only give partial credit for: while it is true that Japanese does not always give an indicator of singular or plural, and the child in Weathering with You is Hina owing to her connection with the skies, I argue that “Children of the Weather” is more appropriate for the film since it’s about children in plural (Hodaka, as well as Hina). The English title is not a 1:1 translation, but is a very clever play on words, addressing both the film’s weather motif and the idea that “weathering” can be interpreted as “making it together with” that speaks to the movie’s themes of resilience.

  • Hodaka decides to accompany Hina back, feeling that the time has come for him to give her the ring ahead of her birthday. Both she and Hodaka have feelings they wish to convey, but before they can speak, Hina seemingly vanishes after a gust of wind whips through the area; she’s light enough to be carried into the air now, and while she’s unharmed, it turns out that as a result of wielding her power, Hina’s given up much of her life force and begins losing her physical form.

  • In a flashback, Hina reveals that she developed the power to clear the skies with a prayer about a year ago. How this came to be is never specified, and viewers are meant to take this as a part of the supernatural piece of Weathering with You: in Makoto Shinkai’s movies involving the supernatural, the reason behind why something happens is always secondary to the consequences of a phenomenon to remind viewers that sometimes, how people handle adversity and the unknown matters more than what caused it to begin with.

  • At Hina’s place, the police come calling and ask if she’s come into contact with Hodaka. She denies knowing anything and the police leave; Hodaka prepares to head back over to Keisuke’s place, but it turns out the police have also spoken to him. Keisuke reveals that he intends to file for full custody of his daughter: like Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, family causes Keisuke to realise what’s important to him, and unfortunately for Hodaka, it means that Keisuke will distance himself from him now that it’s known Hodaka is wanted for unlawful possession of a firearm. In Endgame, family is what initially dissuades Stark from seriously investigating Scott Lang’s plan for a time heist.

  • With Keisuke firing him, Hodaka returns to Hina, who intends on running away and disappearing: she’s learnt that social services will be taking custody of Nagi, and unwilling to entertain the notion of being separated from her only family, the three decide to head off. This isn’t an easy task: the weather’s taken a turn for the worse, and the typhoon that’s passed into the area has now chilled the area sufficiently for it to start snowing, an unprecedented occurrence. From orbit, the size of the typhoon is apparent: it rivals 1979’s super-typhoon Tip, which is known for being the largest typhoon recorded (2220 kilomatres across) and having the lowest recorded pressure on Earth (87.0 kPA, against an average pressure of 101.3 kPA).

  • With police on the streets to keep order as the incoming typhoon prompts an evacuation order, Hodaka, Hina and Nagi run into trouble when officers suspect them of being runaways, and attempt to ask for their identification. One aspect of Hodaka’s character that I found curious was his tendency to try an escape every unfavourable situation he’s in: it speaks volumes about his own background and how his story in Weathering with You started with him running away from home.

  • When it looks like Hodaka’s options run out, Hina uses Force lightning a prayer to summon lightning that destroys a nearby truck, starting a fire that prompts the police to look after. In the chaos, Hodaka and the others escape. Lacking any identification, most hotels turn the trio away even though Hodaka has the cash to pay for the night: most hotels require that individuals provide proof of identification (e.g. a passport or operator’s license) before accepting a transaction. However, Hodaka eventually does manage to find a hotel that will allow them to stay for the night.

  • Concern gives way to relief, and after taking a bath, everyone sets about preparing a meal with the food from the in-room bar. After dinner, Hodaka and Nagi partake in some karaoke. With the bliss the three share together, Hodaka feels that as long as they have one another, they’ll somehow find a way to make things work. There’s a desperation in his inner monologue, praying with all of his resolve that things can work out; in his heart, Hodaka probably knows that things won’t last forever.

  • Once Nagi is asleep, the time has finally come for Hodaka to give Hina her birthday gift. By this point in Weathering with You, Hina’s become increasingly incorporeal, but her sense of humour remains: she gently teases Hodaka for staring at her, even as he dissolves into tears, worried that their time together will be cut short. Makoto Shinkai’s older films were well-known for presenting separation without resolution, mirroring how people part ways and never reunite owing to circumstances in their lives under ordinary conditions, creating a highly poignant outcome that left viewers wondering if his characters would find happiness.

  • The ring that Hodaka gifts to Hina can be seen as a promise ring, signifying his intent to commit and also to keep his word about keeping everyone together. However, the next morning, Hina has vanished, and moreover, the police have arrived to take custody of Nagi, as well as arrest Hodaka for possession of a weapon and illegally discharging a firearm. The storm has ceased entirely, and the entire landscape is covered in a washed-out light that seems unnatural.

  • Lighting plays a major role in Makoto Shinkai’s films, playing on universal emotions and feelings to convey a particular idea. The bright light washes out detail in the cityscape to create the sense that with Hina’s disappearance, Hodaka is stupefied and unable to think of anything else; his surroundings lose their colour in the process, and his world takes a further blow when he overhears that Hina had lied about her age, being in fact, younger than he is. After arriving at the police station, Hodaka manages to escape again before he can be interrogated. Unlawful as Hodaka’s actions are, one cannot help but admire his tenacity.

  • Natsumi comes soaring to the rescue on her moped, whisking Hodaka away before the police can catch up to him. The world takes on a renewed colour as Hodaka regains his determination to seek out Hina, and he believes that torii on the abandoned building must be a gateway into the heavens where Hina is held. Natsumi demonstrates an uncommon degree of skill in outmanoeuvring her pursuers, weaving between traffic and narrow spaces to throw off police cruisers.

  • Natsumi is plainly enjoying the thrill of the chase: she even remarks that she might be born to ride. In escaping the police station, Hodaka might be seen as running away again, but it is at this point in Weathering with You that things begin flipping around: while Hodaka is escaping the police, he’s also simultaneously trying to reach Hina and fulfil his word, a form of taking responsibility. The blurring of boundaries at the film’s climax shows that the gap between right and wrong is not always apparent, and it is the case that the world is not as black-and-white as we’d like it to be.

  • Natsumi’s ride comes to an end when she drives her moped into waist-deep water. Her Honda Cub ceases to work, with its main engine filled with water: it’s up to Hodaka to get to Hina. His heart tells him that she’s somewhere in the skies, and recalling her story about the torii being a portal of sorts, deduces that this is his destination. Shinkai’s especially fond of portraying the Honda Cub line of mopeds in his films owing to their reliability and track record: Takaki and Kanae both rode these mopeds in Five Centimeters per Second, and similarly, Katsuhiko Teshigawara uses one in Your Name. Unlike Yamaha’s Tricity, the Honda Cub is a venerable bike with a long history dating back to 1958, when it was first produced.

  • As Hodaka runs off towards the derelict building and its gateway to another world across the unused rail tracks, he draws the attention of both the crews working to bring Tokyo’s trains back online, as well as bemused spectators on the streets below. Trains figure prominently as symbols in Makoto Shinkai’s movies, being used as the means of connecting distant people together. Having Hodaka run on the inactive rail lines, then, is to signify that the limitations of a system notwithstanding, he intends to reach Hina at all costs.

  • A cumulonimbus is visible over the abandoned building: we’re now on the first day of June, and summer is a mere twenty-one days away, but during the weekend a few nights earlier, we had our first thunderstorm of the year: an smaller but still severe storm had passed just north of the city, and I watched as cloud-to-cloud lightning silently lit up the evening sky. Unbeknownst to me, some three hundred kilometres to the west was a band of thunderstorms that were moving eastward. By 3 AM, these storms reached my city and began pounding us with lightning and thunder. I was awakened by the thunder, glanced outside and decided to fall back asleep, recalling a time when I’d been younger and said thunderstorms would keep me up all night in excitement.

  • Upon arriving at the derelict building, Hodaka finds many of its floors have collapsed from the storm; reaching the torii is going to be a challenge, further complicated by Keisuke’s arrival. Keisuke implores Hodaka to take responsibility for his actions and turn himself in, failing to realise the reason why Hodaka is so determined to keep going is for Hina. Hodaka recovers the Makarov and points it at Keisuke: he discharges it into the air, and the police finally close in on the building, surrounding Hodaka. The Tokyo police are seen using the New Nambu M60, a revolver chambered for the .380 round that’s been in production since 1961 by Shin-Chuō Industries. When Keisuke realises that Hodaka’s love for Hina parallels that of his for his wife, Asuka Mamiya, he tackles the nearest officer, creating enough space for Hodaka to escape.

  • Hodaka reaches the rooftop torii and finds himself whisked to the upper edge of the troposphere: the average cumulonimbus reaches twelve kilometres up, flattening out at their upper extremities thanks to wind shear. The turbulent winds create a separation of charge, resulting in an electric field that is favourable for cloud-to-cloud lightning. Owing to the instability that creates them, thunderstorms typically result from these clouds, although in Weathering with You, the flattened cumulonimbus top resembles an island in the sky. Besides the rooftop torii, this unusual sight forms the bulk of the marketing materials for Weathering with You.

  • It is in the grassy tops of the cumulonimbus that Hodaka manages to find the sleeping Hina. He calls out to Hina, who awakens: as the currents up here increase, it becomes trickier to reach her. At the last second, Hina leaps into the air and takes a hold of Hodaka’s hand. The two are plunged into the interior of the cumulonimbus cloud, where the turbulence separates the two briefly. Here, Hodaka declares that he doesn’t care if the weather’s foul; a world without Hina is meaningless to him. It’s a touching gesture, and when the two fall from the lower reaches of the cumulonimbus cloud, Hodaka manages to grab onto Hina once more.

  • Shortly after the BD for Weathering with You released, Makoto Shinkai posted a Tweet comparing the theatrical version to the BD version, and it turns out there’s an error in the former: the low-level clouds and their shadows are completely absent. Shinkai remarked that this would make the theatrical cut more “valuable”, unique: the difference doesn’t negatively affect those who saw the theatre version in any way, and reminds me of a similar situation where the home release of Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer made some changes to the scenes, most noticeably, how the 00 Raiser launches en route towards intercepting a supposedly destroyed object that’s reappeared.

  • Hodaka wishes that Hina will now begin to live for herself; having spent so much of her life living for others’ happiness, Hina’s neglected to consider what she wants for herself. Hodaka acts as the agent of change here, prompting Hina to stay. The two plummet to the surface together, hand-in-hand, and moments later, find themselves lying at the foot of the torii still holding hands. The sunny weather has disappeared, replaced by a torrential rain.

  • It suddenly strikes me that Makoto Shinkai’s novelisation of Weathering with You is probably a valuable companion to the film, as it would be able to explore the inner thoughts that the characters have to a greater extent than in the movie itself. I found this to be true for Five Centimetres per Second, where the companion side-stories offered a considerable amount of insight into what Takaki had been feeling, and provided a decisive answer for the decade-old question of whether or not Takaki found happiness (he does). Similarly, Your Name‘s side story provides great detail into explaining the body-switching phenomenon from Taki’s perspective and also helps to flesh out the Miyamizu family’s history, making Toshiki a more sympathetic character than he had appeared in the film. I’ve not read Weathering with You‘s novelisation yet, but I imagine that it would help to clear out the handful of questions that I have exiting Weathering with You.

  • After his arrest, Hodaka is put on probation and sent back home to Kozushima, a small island some 172 kilometres from Tokyo. Here, he graduates from high school. Two of his classmates are curious to know what happened, and Hodaka initially misinterprets this as a kokuhaku. In the aftermath, Hodaka ends up returning to Tokyo, finding the city flooded from three straight years of non-stop rain. Its impacts on Tokyo are dramatic, and writers with a far broader audience than myself have asserted that Weathering with You‘s central theme lies in the topic of climate change, how the film is a call to action and a grim warning to what awaits humanity if we should continue down our current path. However, in Fujinkōron’s interview with Makoto Shinkai, Shinkai states that:

People say that humans are destroying nature for the sake of their own conveniences, and I agree with that. And yet, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t hesitate to turn on the air conditioning in my room when it’s hot. Climate change is a large-scale phenomenon with an unimaginable scope, but there’s not much a person can do about it on an individual level. Even so, my actions as a single person have a definite effect on the environment. It may feel like something that’s out of your realm of responsibility, but it absolutely isn’t. I made the film while thinking about how to deal with that problem through the framework of entertainment.

  • While weather patterns to the tune of what’s seen in Weathering with You seem a little outlandish, the fact is that the world has been trending towards greater extremities of late, and given the delicate balance of many ecosystems, shifting climate patterns will have massive knock-on effects around the globe. With this in mind, it is erroneous to declare that Weathering with You is an Aesop on climate change, or was intended to be a political statement. The persistent belief that all art is intrinsically political is a flawed belief; in the case of Weathering with You, imposing this viewpoints onto the movie is to be disingenuous towards Shinkai’s intentions for the film to speak of more human themes; even against adversity, people are resilient and will find ways to adapt and improve their situation. Just as Hina and Hodaka had done against the unforgiving backdrop of Tokyo, Tokyo’s citizens find ways to survive even as rain hammers the flood-beleaguered city.

  • Writing the post for Weathering with You was not an easy task: besides coming late to a field saturated with reviews having a distinct political slant, there were also the assertions, at the usual places, that the film’s direction and execution should be considered a “let down” when compared to Your Name. I counter-argue that Weathering with You has its own merits in creating a compelling story of responsibility and resilience, two themes that I’ve noticed are absent from all discussion. The themes in Weathering with You are rooted in optimism, that the belief humanity can adapt, improve and thrive, and speak positively of Shinkai’s world-view – he indicates through the film that people can learn to take responsibility for their actions at the individual level, and at a society level, people will find ways to survive.

  • I’ve long felt the contemporary attitudes towards climate change to be misguided, being motivated by politics and appearances rather than legitimate improvement for all of humanity: society’s propensity to divert funding and media coverage to activists, from researchers and experts who are developing greener technologies and systems, speaks volumes to the current society’s lack of sensibility and adversity towards hard work. It takes genuine effort and passion to learn about how complex systems function and then cultivate the expertise needed for synthesising novel solutions, but it takes no skill to make angry speeches and rally people to support extreme, but ineffectual actions with potentially devastating consequences.

  • While politicians waste taxpayer money towards propping up activist figures over supporting legitimate experts and professionals, I’ll continue to pay no mind to the activists and do my own part in keeping the planet healthier. Doing things like walking and using mass transit, recycling and composting, buying less stuff, turning the lights off in unoccupied rooms and other actions that might be small, but within my ability to carry out – these small actions are how I commit to ecological responsibility, and I count them as being considerably more valuable than telling others how they ought to live their lives.

  • In having Hodaka return to Tokyo and doing his best to make things right, Weathering with You demonstrates that the older Hodaka has come to understand what taking responsibility for his actions means. This is an overarching theme in Weathering with You that, while only visible once Hodaka speaks with Keisuke, is one that nonetheless is an important message to walk away with. These messages are conveniently skated over by those who purport to support ecological responsibility, but whose words are ultimately empty, and whose actions more detrimental to the world than those they seek to lecture.

  • When Hodaka encounters Hina, she’s seen making a prayer for fair weather. Hodaka calls out to her, and the sun appears. Thrilled, Hina warmly embraces Hodaka, and he promises that from now on, things are going to be okay. Indeed, Hodaka ends up entering post-secondary and subsequently takes a new job at Keisuke’s company. With the maturity and stability of someone who’s clearly learned from his experiences, audiences can conclude that Hodaka is able to keep his word to Hina, and that their happy ending is a deserved one. This post and its twelve thousand two hundred and fifty-four words is now very nearly in the books, kicking June off in style, but I admit that this much writing in the past while has been a bit wearing. I would like to take the first bit of June to unwind and take it easy.

  • Overall, Weathering with You succeeds in capturing the magic that is Makoto Shinkai, presenting a captivating story of resilience and determination that concludes decisively. While Weathering with You can come across as a bit busy in some areas, the movie ultimately succeeds in telling a cohesive and compelling coming-of-age story, accelerated by the presence of the supernatural. As such, Weathering with You earns an A (4.0 of 4.0, or 9 of 10): whatever flaws there are in the film are overshadowed by characters with an engaging story and Makoto Shinkai’s continued commitment to technical excellence within the film’s visuals and aural components. Like Your NameWeathering with You is a film I hope that all of my readers will have the chance to check out for themselves.

Whole-movie reflection and closing remarks

On the whole, Weathering with You is a solid film, a fine addition to Makoto Shinkai’s filmography that combines his unique sense of aesthetics with a warm (if somewhat busy) story. While Weathering with You will continue to exist in the shadows of its predecessor, the film also has enough unique elements to indicate that Shinkai’s continuing to push the boundaries for excellence in animation. Viewers will find the film will to be tread upon well-worn paths that Your Name had trail-blazed, from the journey Hodaka and Hina take, to design choices like placement of music, but in spite of this, Weathering with You still hits all of its high points to create an immersive, engaging experience during its run. With this in mind, there is a limit to how well a reiteration of familiar plot points and story mechanics will be received, and so, in the future, Makoto Shinkai will need to focus on his own visions for his work: Weathering with You is a technically superb film that managed to keep things engaging, but revisiting the same themes in a future film could prove wearing on viewers. Besides exploring different themes, one other aspect that would yield a memorable movie is to keep the narrative consistently focused on one main goal; Your Name and The Garden of Words both excelled in this area, making use of a very straightforward story to drive a considerable amount of character development. By comparison, Weathering with You was busier, and left a few plot points unresolved; these elements were actually not strictly necessary to the story and could’ve been removed without negatively impacting the themes or progression in the movie. A back-to-the-basics approach in Shinkai’s next film would therefore be especially welcome: Shinkai has always shown that he is able to do a great deal using very little as the starting point, and this is where the magic of his movies lie. For the time being, however, Weathering with You remains a film worth watching for its unparalleled visuals, another perspective on the sense that human emotions are comparable to supernatural forces for the miracles and tragedies they create, and features excellent music from Radwimps: while perhaps not appealing to as broad of a viewer-base as Your Name, folks looking for a proper Makoto Shinkai experience in Weathering with You will not be left disappointed.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Act Two OVA: Taiyaki War!

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” –Sun Tzu

Tensions at BC Freedom Academy between the Examination Class and the Escalator Class reach an all-time high after they learn they’re set to take on Ooarai; when students from the Escalator Class appear and threaten to shut down their food stalls, this prompts the Examination students to protest the Escalators’ decision to foist upon them costlier, fancier meals over simpler fare like taiyaki and yakisoba. The Escalators respond with a line of students equipped in riot gear and baguettes. Just when it appears that their mutual hatred will boil over, Marie appears and presents a unique taiyaki with a chocolate filling. Both Rena and Ruka are moved when they try this new taiyaki, realising that their foods can be fused together and still retain their original traits while being delicious and novel. Marie has effectively resolved the long-standing conflict between the two factions, but when Yukari arrives at BC Freedom Academy to recon out Ooarai’s opponent, Marie decides to put on a bit of a show. She arranges for the old conflict to be staged amongst the students around the school, and then prepares a scripted fight between Rena’s Examination classmates and Ruka’s Escalator classmates over who should act as the flag tank. Yukari sneaks closer to the fighting and captures it on tape; she eventually gets caught in the melee and comes away looking distinctly woebegone, but is immensely satisfied with her work. Meanwhile, Marie, Rena and Ruka bring their staged fights to an end, thanking everyone for their efforts and look forwards to squaring off against Ooarai in combat, having successfully given the impression that they are as disorganised and ill-prepared as they had been previously.

This special episode, released with Das Finale‘s second act, is meant to help viewers to appreciate the sort of teamwork that BC Freedom exhibited during their match with Ooarai: the entire team’s lack of cooperation had been a cleverly-manufactured ruse intended to throw off even Miho, and indeed, during Das Finale‘s first act, BC Freedom is shown to be keeping up this façade even entering the match, with Ruka and Rena sparring one another en route to the match’s venue. Thus, when BC Freedom suddenly began displaying a hitherto unexpected and impressive level of coordination amongst their tanks, Miho is in fact thrown off and drawn into a trap. It’s a very convincing bit of deception and is a reminder that reconnaissance can work both ways: because Marie had been aware of Yukari’s antics, they exercise exemplary countermeasures and all the while, never give the impression that Yukari’s been compromised. This may impact Ooarai’s willingness to fully count on Yukari’s excursions in the future. Besides showing the behind-the-scenes, the OVA also presents a simple truth: that in spite of their differences, people have more in common than they are willing to admit, and it sometimes takes finding common ground on something simple, like a confection, to help people realise this. Once BC Freedom’s students understand that the Escalators and Examination factions aren’t really so different as people despite their social status and preferences for things in life, they begin to appreciate aspects from the others’ lifestyle, coming in time to accept one another more than they had previously.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I may not have the internet’s first Das Finale Part Two talk, I have utmost confidence that this is the only talk that exists on the whole of the internet that deals with the accompanying OVA. Taiyaki War is set prior to the events of Das Finale; shortly after the merger of BC and Freedom, Rena and Ruka immediately take a vehement and vociferous disliking to one another. This divide endures: during the ceremony to draw lots on who to fight, they’re immediately at one another’s throats when they learn they’re against Ooarai, to the horror of their classmates. The rift is bad enough so that even Marie remarks that the fighting is ruining her cake.

  • Representing the common folk, the Examination students are portrayed as being ordinary in manner and possessing a love for unsophisticated, basic things. Their side of the school ship is more run down, but the students don’t seem to be in a terrible state of being: food stalls line the dirt paths on the Examination side of things, and Examination students here enjoy taiyaki, a Japanese confectionary (kanji 鯛焼き, literally “baked sea bream”) consisting of pancake batter cooked into a fish-shaped cake with a red bean paste filling. It has its origins in the Meiji Restoration and is a popular snack today, being a favourite of Kanon‘s Ayu.

  • Rena is an accomplished taiyaki baker, and her fellow classmates greatly enjoy this simple, yet delicious item. The closest equivalent to taiyaki, that I’ve tried, is a red-bean panwich: this is a homemade creation where a generous helping of red beans are spread between two mini-pancakes: I’ve never actually had taiyaki before, and had long to tried a Calgary Stampede midway fare equivalent (which had a sausage and fries filling) a few years ago, only to learn that their taiyaki mold was not operational.

  • On first glance, I personally find the Examination students more relatable: the Escalator students, being of a higher social status (and representing the French Monarchy prior to the French Revolution in the 18th century) have a much haughtier manner and routinely look down on the Examination students’ ways. I’ve not studied the French Revolution since my penultimate year of secondary school, but what I do remember is that following a series of wars that left the French monarchy in debt, they implemented a taxation scheme that placed excessive pressure on the common people, whose resentment of the nobility and Church eventually led them to violently resist.

  • While King Louis XVI was disposed of, France become plunged into extremism after Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobins created a dictatorship. Robespierre was eventually executed after his methods proved too radical in what is known as the Thermidorian Reaction, and a council known as the Directory was established. However, their corruption resulted in Napoleon Bonaparte rising to power in a coup d’état that plunged France into war with its neighbours, fuelling French nationalism and making Napoleon a hero until his defeat at the hands of the British. The British would then instal the Bourbon dynasty as France’s leaders, bringing about a period of peace.

  • In Girls und Panzer, a scaled-down form of the French Revolution can be seen with Rena leading the Examination students in a rally against the Escalators’ highly privileged lifestyles: their opposition to escargot is a parody of the stereotype that the French are fond of this dish, which involves removing the snails from their shells and then cooking them in garlic butter or red wine, then replacing the snails back into their shells. While a decidedly French dish, snails are also present in German and British cuisine, to a lesser extent.

  • The Escalators’ response is to send a team of students equipped in riot control gear and baguettes in place of batons, with the visual humour prodding fun at the misconception that French bread is notoriously tough. The baguette‘s toughness comes from its crust, and this has been parodied before in other series like Futurama, where an irate Bender is enraged at seeing his date with Flexo, causing him to attempt bending week-old French bread. While Bender is designed to be capable of bending steel girders without any problem, his arms fall off before the bread yields.

  • It suddenly strikes me that, in the absence of their blue blazer, BC Freedom’s uniforms somewhat resemble the uniforms seen in School Days, although closer inspection will find differences. Tensions reach boiling point, and the Escalator and Examination factions are ready to get physical. That both parties are willing to resort to violence indicates just deep the rift is, and in this way, the OVA explains why the school’s cooperation during their match against Ooarai was legitimate, as well as how the friendly fire incident remains plausible: while they’ve reconciled by the events of Das Finale, betrayal during a Panzerfahren match is sufficient to bring back the old grudges.

  • Marie’s timely arrival is enough to stop things temporarily, and she presents a novel solution: she’s got a new kind of taiyaki that combines the commoner’s taiyaki with the aristocratic chocolate, resulting in a new taiyaki that is quite delicious. This taiyaki shows that both the fancy and simple can co-exist, and not only that, demonstrate a synergy. The same synergy can be extended to the Examination and Escalator students; both have their strong points that make them stronger when united.

  • While chocolate-filled taiyaki is nothing new, Marie uses it to demonstrate how different things can coexist with one another: Marie is a leader of sorts at BC Freedom who commands respect from members of both factions, and so, when she praises the taste of the new taiyaki, both Rena and Ruka also try them out. It turns out Marie’s brought enough for everyone, and this singular act sets in motion the events that prompt the Examination and Escalation students to begin cooperating.

  • Marie’s solution is ultimately what creates the reconciliation in Girls und Panzer, and it is a satisfying approach that involves no force whatsoever: watching Rena and Ruka shake hands in a genuine show of understanding and goodwill was very welcoming to watch. Whereas real-world politics are nowhere nearly as easy to resolve, the underlying principles still hold true. Disagreeing parties often still share a common interest (e.g. government accountability, accessible services, fair treatment, care and concern for well-being of the environment), and aside from aligning in the means needed to get somewhere, have the same desire for a given outcome. This is why bipartisanship exists, and while many will find me naïve for thinking so, I continue to hold that cooperation and trust count for more than taking sides, moral signalling and being “right”.

  • The second half of Das Finale‘s OVA is where the real fanservice kicks in: Yukari’s secured a BC Freedom uniform and begins to do some recon. However, having anticipated this, Marie instructs the students to put on an elaborate ruse: whereas the Escalator and Examination students have largely resolved their differences by this point in time, this reconciliation appears to have gone unnoticed by the outside world, and when Yukari arrives, she finds the entire school conveniently amidst what appears to be a full-blown civil war.

  • Yukari’s reconnaissance excursions shows that she’s no John Clark or Adam Yao level operator: she’s had varying levels of successes. On her first excursion to Saunders Academy, she was burned after her alias failed to pass, and she was forced to beat a hasty exit. With Anzio, Yukari is able to act convincingly as an ordinary student and blends into the school’s street market, where she masquerades as an Anzio student more convincingly by capitalising on the festive environment to stay under cover.

  • While Yukari openly films the apparent chaos at BC Freedom, she’s unaware that her assignment was compromised from the moment she set foot on their school ship: this particular excursion probably will show Miho that reconnaissance does have its limitations, and is a fine example of Sun Tzu’s remarks on deception. While Miho exemplifies the use of Sun Tzu’s tactics, any school with a commander who is familiar with the same tenants will have some means to counter Miho; BC Freedom gains the upper hand over Ooarai precisely because they effectively used counterintelligence to deceive Miho.

  • Yukari’s methods are so brazen that I was surprised that she didn’t flinch at the fact that no one at BC Freedom seems to have any problems with someone crawling around the place with a video recorder. Such OPSEC would make Tom Clancy’s John Clark’s flinch in horror – the key to being a good operator is to act like you belong: people who act with conviction, who look like they belong, draw the least amount of attention, and crawling around on the ground with a camera is probably as far away from discreet as one could get.

  • For the present, Yukari is completely hoodwinked by the ruse and is so excited that she doesn’t mind being at the receiving end of a physical beating – the chaos at BC Freedom suggests to her that the in-fighting is so bad, there Ooarai should have no trouble beating BC Freedom. When Yukari returns to Ooarai, she relays this to Miho, who enters the match under the impression that Momo should have a bit of breathing room against an opponent who might be too busy fighting amongst themselves to fight, which explains their surprise at the match’s beginning.

  • Yukari is endearing, and I greatly enjoy watching her warm, authentic interactions throughout the series. Yukari is voiced by Ikumi Nakagami, who has roles as BanG Dream!‘s Maya Yamato and even as Rena Akinokawa from RDG: Red Data Girl. As Yukari, Nakagami presents an excitable and energetic girl who loves tanks. Save for letting Miho down, very little gets Yukari down: as the loader, she’s able to share her thoughts with Miho during combat and support her with her unparalleled knowledge.

  • Once Yukari leaves, Rena and Ruka thank one another: the girls at BC Freedom look forwards to their match with Ooarai now, and will later stage a fight en route to the match to keep the ruse up. The dynamic between the Escalator and Examination factions in Das Finale are presented as being much more reasonable than they were in Ribbon Warrior, a manga spin-off of Girls und Panzer that ended up being counted as non-canon and therefore, is not counted as providing an accurate representation of how the characters are. Overall, I’ve found that the series itself presents characters as being much friendlier and more amicable than in the manga, and so, are a much better representation of who everyone is as a whole.

  • Taiyaki War thus ends up as being another fine example of how OVAs can be used to greatly enhance series: Girls und Panzer‘s OVAs genuinely stand out for helping expand the universe further, and while one could still get a solid enjoyment of the series without watching the OVAs, being able to experience the OVAs adds a considerable amount of depth to the series. With Taiyaki War now in the books, I imagine that this will be the last I write about Girls und Panzer until Das Finale‘s third act comes out. The timing of this is excellent: Halo: CE has just released for The Master Chief collection, which means I’ll be able to now go through Halo: CE‘s campaign in full.

  • I’ve heard that the original remaster’s ability to freely switch between the updated and classic graphics was retained, so I’m especially excited to play the game again with classic visuals, which is how I best remember playing the game on PC during my time as a secondary student. At this point in time, I’ve also reached World Tier Five in The Division 2, having just cleared the Tidal Basin mission solo. As such, besides Halo: CE, I’ll also be looking to write about that experience alongside Koisuru Asteroid after the three-quarters mark this month. We’re also very nearly at the end of the winter season, so I’ll be swinging by to write about Koisuru Asteroid and Magia Record once their finales have aired at the month’s end.

One of Girls und Panzer‘s greatest strengths outside of the already masterfully-presented main series lies within their OVAs. OVAs are traditionally used as a means of fanservice, whether it be to highlight fan-favourite moments and make callbacks to earlier parts of the series, or else give the characters a chance to relax at the beach, pool or onsen in downtime away from their typical activities. Girls und Panzer utilised its OVAs to accomplish both: the first two OVAs were a thinly-veiled excuse to show the cast in swimsuits, but subsequent OVAs helped with world-building, expanding on minor plot points to show how certain outcomes were reached, and otherwise simply give characters a chance to interact with one another in moments not essential to their matches. The latter approach ultimately creates characters that have greater depth than possible through just the series itself. Whether it was Yukari and Erwin conducting recon together, or Miho doing her best to sell Alice the idea that Ooarai is a great high school to attend, OVAs in Girls und Panzer have always added something new and enjoyable to the experience: this latest OVA from Das Finale is no exception, giving viewers insight into how BC Freedom ended their open internal strife (it’s largely successful, although vestiges of old grudges still remain at times) and how Marie’s solution ends up being turned into a countermeasure against Yukari’s recon operation, leading to the events seen in the first act. Such OVAs are most welcome, and also have one exciting implication: the incredibly vast and interesting world of Girls und Panzer is so richly-built and detailed, that any number of spin-offs could be written long after Das Finale concludes, meaning that should Ooarai ever square off against Maple High School at any point in the animated format, you can bet that I will be around to write about how well that school captures the Canada Strong ™ spirit.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part Two: Review and Reflection

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” –Douglas MacArthur

Ooarai manages to break free of BC Freedom’s assault – the latter’s coordination leaves Yukari and the others shocked. However, because their team was so hastily assembled, it stood to reason that BC Freedom’s two different groups may still be prone to in-fighting, having only put on a ruse for this battle. When Saori notices that Mallard Team’s B1 Bis’ turret outwardly resembles the Souma S35’s turret, they devise a plan to set off in-fighting. While BC Freedom’s commanders initially do not take the bait, thing devolve rapidly: BC Freedom’s Soumas and ARL-44 fire upon one another, whittling their numbers down. Marie intervenes to stop the fighting, and BC Freedom’s remaining forces engage Ooarai, until a play by Ooarai’s Mark IV blocks off Marie’s FT-17, leaving Miho and Leopon team to mop things up. In the match’s aftermath, Ruka Oshida and Rena Andō speak with Azumi, their senior, while Miho and Marie share confectioneries together. After returning to Ooarai, Miho visits the Boco Theme Park with Alice, while the others prepare for the upcoming match. Fukuda from Chi-ha Tan Academy visits the Volleyball Club, who inspire her to be more fluid in her strategies. Saori visits Momo’s family while helping out in her duties as a member of the student council, and later, Ooarai learn that they are to face off against Chi-Ha Tan in their second match, which is set in the jungles. On the day of the match, Miho and Kinuyo wish one another the best. Chi-Ha Tan’s fit-and-fade strategies perplex Ooarai, and Shark team is eliminated when they attempt to counterattack during an ambush. The battle presses into the night, and Miho attempts to create a diversion by rallying around a lake. When Chi-Ha Tan’s Type 2 Ka-Mi amphibious tank appear in the lake, Kinuyo presses the advantage to strike, disabling Leopon’s Porsche Tiger. Miho pushes their forces into the jungle and forces them into a ravine. Uncharacteristically, Kinuyo orders a retreat to fight another day, before Miho can encircle them.

A full two years after Das Finale‘s first part released, the second instalment finally arrives, carrying on in the intensity and emotional tenour of the first. The large gaps between the first and second part does not speak well to the release patterns: assuming an average of two years between BD releases, and four parts remaining, it will take eight more years for parts three through six to get a home release, and viewers will see part six in 2028, a mere two years from yet another new decade. This release pattern is untenable on paper, and exceeds the time between the present and when Girls und Panzer first aired. However, this is the worst-case, and if fortunes hold, the remaining instalments will be released more closely together. Even assuming the worst case, if the second act of Das Finale is anything to go by, the quality of Das Finale will be incredible, commanding excitement and immersion throughout the entire course of its run. Between the thrilling conclusion of the fight between Ooarai and the spell-binding duel between a school who’s learned a few things from their time with Ooarai, there is no shortage of excitement in Das Finale‘s second act. Aside from the combat sequences, everyday moments, such as Miho sharing an evening with Alice at the Boco amusement park, Fukuda’s dinner with the volleyball club, or Saori visiting Momo’s family for the first time, Das Finale continues in the tradition of its predecessors, striking a fine balance between Panzerfahren and the idea that its participants are ordinary (albeit interesting) people. Girls und Panzer traditionally excels in this area, and Das Finale is no exception. Besides offering this masterful presentation, Das Finale also has a clever call-back to the original TV series: when Shark Team get annihilated from having a flag and decide to not carry one in the future, the Hippo team recall back when they’d decked out their StuG III and the associated consequences of making themselves too conspicuous. All of this together with visuals rivaling Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai’s works and sound engineering that stands out creates a film whose quality is such that it (almost) justifies the unreal wait time between instalments.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I won’t be able to lay claim to having the first discussion of Das Finale‘s second part on the internet at this stage (I believe fellow blogger and Girls und Panzer fan, Jusuchin, holds that coveted spot), I can still bring to the table a unique and hopefully, interesting set of thoughts on things. This post, like my previous talk on Das Finale‘s first act, will feature forty screenshots that I hope will adequately cover the events within this long-awaited second instalment.

  • Last we left off, Ooarai and BC Freedom found themselves regrouping after the latter attempted an ambush at the bridge. Miho manages to extricate all of her forces without sustaining any casualties, and decides to resort to another play to take on BC Freedom, whose arsenal is impressive and whose level of cooperation was unexpected. While her other forces keep watch at the bocage (a woodland and pasture mixture characteristic of parts of Europe like France, England and Ireland), Marie herself stops to enjoy more sweets in a manner reminiscent of Snoopy from the Charlie Brown episode, “You’re a Great Sport, Charlie Brown”.

  • While initially dismissing the friendly fire as being nothing more than being a bit of friendly jousting, Marie soon realises that Ruka and Rena are duking it out for real. In the melee, BC Freedom loses a substantial number of their forces to friendly fire. Mallard Team is expressly forbidden from dealing any damage in their ruse, but initially creates enough chaos for BC Freedom to begin engaging one another: the Soumas have superior manoeuvrability and can close the gap quickly to disable the ARL-44s, while the ARL-44 and their 90 mm SA mle. 1945 make short work of any Souma.

  • Rena and Ruka quickly realise they’ve been had when they spot Mallard Team’s Char B1 Bis taking pot shots at them. They promptly and profusely apologise to one another and, under Marie’s command, begin engaging Ooarai’s forces anew with their remaining tanks. While the blue-on-blue has not decimated all of BC Freedom’s armour, it puts the initiative back in Ooarai’s camp: Miho’s forces give chase while BC Freedom move to protect Marie’s FT-17.

  • In Battlefield 1, the FT-17 was ridiculously overpowered during the open beta, where I got a 21-streak with the close support variant, and then it was subsequently toned down, with a coaxial machine gun replacing the canister shells, and the self-repair was reduced in efficacy. Overall, I did not prefer using the close support package for most situations – the Howitzer variant, on the other hand, was much more entertaining to run: the 75 mm cannon made it lethal against other tanks and took skill to use, while the HMG made it capable of engaging infantry at all ranges. The Howitzer was only limited by its limited turret rotation, which meant one needed to be mindful of players trying to attack from behind.

  • In the ensuing tank battle, both Ooarai and BC Freedom lose several of their units as they push through the bocage. Admittled, the terrain of the area favours BC Freedom and is the sort of landscape that is featured in Battlefield V‘s Arras, one of the original maps that came with the game’s launch. Arras is a fun map for armoured combat, and features vivid fields of yellow flowers, although in its current state, Battlefield V does not have any French armour: a share more than a year after its launch, Battlefield V only has the German, British, American and Japanese factions.

  • In the end, Shark Team’s Mark IV cuts off Marie’s FT-17, who is in hot pursuit of Turtle Team’s Hetzer. With its 37 mm main gun, the FT-17 would not have had any chance to deal any damage to the Hetzer save for exceptional circumstances. Surrounded, Marie resigns herself to defeat and takes a tender bite of cake before Anko and Leopon team fire on her to bring the match to a close.

  • It turns out that Azumi had been an alumni of BC Freedom, and both Rena and Ruka admired her. Azumi assures them that training together will help them improve further and put on a more impressive showing in future years; the match against Ooarai shows that Rena and Ruka, representing the Examination and Escalator factions of their school, could set aside their differences and cooperate, so it would not be inconceivable that seeing their Panzerfahren team work together would slowly cause the rivalries at BC Freedom to lessen over time.

  • Post-game, Marie treats Ooarai to French-style pâtisserie: while the girls might be tankers on the battlefield, off the battlefield, everyone has their own unique points, interests and eccentricities. Marie, being an embodiment of France’s Marie Antoinette, loves cakes and is rarely seen without one in hand. Despite her mannerisms, Marie is just as good of a sport as Darjeeling, Kay, Katyusha and Maho: sportsmanship is a major part of Girls und Panzer, and for me, irrespective of how heated matches can get, everyone understands the importance of winning and losing gracefully, taking a loss as a lesson on what to improve on next time.

  • In Das Finale, Ooarai is presented with a noticeably greater level of detail than in earlier instalments: the visual quality of Das Finale surpasses even that of Der Film, which is itself superior to the original series from an art and animation standpoint. Every aspect of Das Finale‘s visual component is impressive, and this is why I’ve opted to expend a screenshot to illustrate this: by comparison, Girls und Panzer‘s first season looks a little flat and drab by comparison, but this isn’t saying a whole lot, since the original TV series has aged gracefully and still looks solid.

  • When Girls und Panzer first began aired, I was never too big on Momo’s character simply because besides being the strict, no-nonsense member of the student council, and her penchant to miss shots even from extreme close ranges, she did not have a more human side to her. Her tough exterior, however, was shown to be hiding a very sensitive and caring personality: Momo is very prone to tears, very worried about those around her. This is why she had become so fixated on winning in the original series, and a glimpse of her true character was seen in Girls und Panzer‘s finale, before being brought out to bear during Der Film.

  • Miho is noticeably absent from the proceedings after returning to Ooarai: Saori, Hana, Yukari and Mako enjoy crepes in the brisk air, and Mako is visibly freezing, stating that she’d stuck around only to enjoy the ocean breeze. When Yukari suggests enjoying some red bean soup, Mako jumps at the opportunity. In Japan, お汁粉 (Hepburn oshiruko) is typically served with mochi, and its Cantonese variant 紅豆沙 (jyutping hung4 dau2 saa1, “red bean soup”), has the red beans mixed with tapioca, coconut milk, and purple rice. For me, this is the true form of red bean soup: it is a wonderful desert, and I typically see it as the conclusion to a Cantonese dinners.

  • Miho and Alice have gone on ahead to the Boco Amusement Park, which has been restored to its former glory. After watching a 4D-max movie told from Boco’s perspective, where Boco almost wins a fight from luck but loses to his last opponent, Alice and Miho take a ride on a roller-coaster of sorts. During their ride, Boco is fried by a stray bolt of lightning (likely a part of the ride), surprising both Miho and Alice. Miho’s expression here is a mixture of pity and shock: it’s not everyday viewers get to see Miho with a wider range of facial expressions, and it looks like when she’s relaxed, Miho is a bit more expressive.

  • Towards the end of their day, Miho and Alice share Boco-themed burgers. Alice is searching for a new school to attend, and intends to face Miho again in Panzerfahren one day. It suddenly strikes me that the last time I wrote about Das Finale, there had been a 10-minute preview, and during that weekend, I made a homemade double grass-fed beef patty burger with cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed onions and mushrooms, topped with a fried egg. This was probably the most delicious thing I’ve made, and it tasted like heaven on earth. The receipe sautéed onions and mushrooms I used ended up being a good standby for the later burgers I would make. That week, I had a rare bit of time off and so, I took the time to walk the Big Hill Springs Provincial Park: it was a relaxing walk on account of the fact that it was a Thursday afternoon, and I practically had the entire trail to myself, from the hillside overlooking the area, to the waterfall part-way up the trail.

  • Fukuda of Chi-Ha Tan is a character who’s grown on me: this shy and reserved first year student who gradually develops more confidence as she spends time with Ooarai. While anxious to prove herself on the battlefield, Fukuda is also weary of her classmates’ love for 突撃 (Hepburn totsugeki, literally “charging attack”). This strategy has previously caused Chi-Ha Tan no small amount of trouble, since their loadout, consisting of Japanese tanks, are ill-suited for frontal assaults on schools with more heavily armed and armoured tanks.

  • Of everyone on Ooarai’s team, Fukuda is the most fond of the volleyball team: they share たらし焼き (Hepburn tarashi-yaki), a kind of grilled dough that is enjoyed as a snack for farmers, as Fukuda asks Duck Team for advice in their upcoming battles. The volleyball club comments on the tarashi-yaki and note that there’s no one way of eating it: Fukuda realises that this flexible, adaptive way of thinking could also apply to Panzerfahren, and inspired from this visit, Fukuda leaves with an idea of what new strategies she’d like Chi-Ha Tan to employ.

  • As Saori transitions into more duties as a member of the student council, she begins running more errands with Momo, who explains that the student council’s diligence is what keeps Ooarai functional as a school. Saori has more novel, contemporary ideas about how the student council can send communiqués out, but Momo rejects these suggestions. When they arrive at the printers’, it turns out that this is also Momo’s home, and that her parents run a printing shop.

  • Momo has at five younger siblings, and does her best to look after them, even though she states it’s difficult to focus on her studies with how rowdy things can get. Shortly after the movie released last June, Momo’s siblings were the only point of discussion at an anime forum I read. With the second part out, I imagine that discussions will be a ways more exciting than the size of Momo’s family very soon. Momo’s lack of admission offers to a post-secondary is what prompted Miho to make her commander for Das Finale: the stakes are lower, but this works to Das Finale‘s advantage in that without artificially inflating Ooarai’s urgency to win, it gives everyone a chance to fight for reasons beyond saving their school.

  • I’ve elected not to show the montage of St. Glorianna, Saunders, Pravda and Black Forest mopping floor with their opponents: with the matches in full swing, it turns out that Ooarai is set to face Chi-Ha Tan in the next match, and while the girls are initially excited because their opponent is known for charging into situations without much thought, Miho cautions everyone to be mindful: overconfidence had led them into a trap against BC Freedom, and Miho believes that it is possible that Chi-Ha Tan has something else up their sleeves.

  • Traditionally, I’ve never really featured any screenshots of the spectators watching the matches, but I’ve opted to make an exception this time around just to illustrate how much attention is paid to even scenes like this. Among those visible in the crowd, besides Ooarai, BC Freedom and Chi-Ha Tan’s students, are Hana’s mother and Shinzaburo, plus Yukari’s parents. No two faces are alike, and it’s impressive to see this level of detail in scenes that don’t linger for more than a few seconds.

  • Ooarai and Chi-Ha Tan marks the first time in Girls und Panzer where Miho squares off against an opponent who’s fought alongside her as an ally and is aware of her style. Their pre-match is marked by some of the most selfless and honourable displays of sportsmanship: both Miho and Kinuyo wish one another the best and promise to fight for their victories honourably. It was very encouraging to see this conversation, and immediately, it would be clear that a thrilling, captivating match would await viewers. The promise Miho and Kinuyo make prior to the match is what motivates the page quote: both Ooarai and Chi-Ha Tan have their own reasons for winning.

  • Chi-Ha Tan fields the Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tank and Type 97 Chi-Ha: the Type 95 is equivalent to the M3 Stuart in role, being intended as an anti-infantry tank, while the Type 97 was also built for infantry support. The Type 95 had a maximum speed of 45 km/h, and was an excellent tank at the time of its initial production in 1935, while the Type 97 became the most widely-produced Japanese medium tank of World War II. Neither tank could quite perform against their counterparts in the American Army, lacking the armour and firepower to be effective, but in the jungles of Southeast Asia, they proved effective, surprising the British forces, who were not expecting tanks.

  • What I colloquially call “funny faces” make an appearance in Das Finale‘s second act: besides Ruka’s expression after Marie chastises her, Ogin’s expression of shock is hilarious to behold. This stems from the desecration of her pirate flag from tracer rounds the Chi-Ha Tan tanks fire to mark Ooarai’s position. In anger, Ogin orders her crew to retaliate, but the Mark IV proves inadequate and is disabled. The History buffs recall a similar incident during their first match against St. Glorianna, and Ogin decides in the future, they’ll have to carry their flags within their hearts into battle.

  • In the match’s opening moments, Chi-Ha Tan hits Ooarai with a form of combat the school had previously not utilised: rather than blindly charging into their enemies, Chi-Ha Tan, on Fukuda’s suggestion, uses hit-and-fade tactics, turning their guns on Ooarai’s armour to get their attention, but then disappearing back into the thick of the jungle before Ooarai can return fire, resulting in a much more dynamic match. That Kinuyo has accepted Fukuda’s suggestions indicates that Kinuyo is open-minded, and early in the match, uses the new strategy to great effect.

  • Besides having lost the first tank of the match, the unique combination of Chi-Ha Tan’s hit-and-fade tactics, coupled with the heat and humidity of the jungle begins getting to Ooarai’s tankers, who grow frustrated with their inability to mount an effective counteroffensive. Miho manages to reign back in her tanks, who were on the verge of launching a blind rush in an attempt to find their opponent: without a plan, charging into the jungle would be an unwise decision, and actions taken in anger usually do not end well.

  • The unexpected behaviour from Chi-Ha Tan surprises Ooarai, and Miho realises that their original plans are unlikely to be viable now. She decides to take the fight to a nearby lake instead by luring Chi-Ha Tan there, rather than attempting to take an elevated position and snipe Chi-Ha Tan as they employed their charging tactics as intended. The weather has shifted, and par the course for a jungle map, rain begins falling. While moving to their next position, Mallard team becomes stuck in the mud, and it speaks to Miho’s growth that she delegates the task of rescue to Leopon Team without leaving the Panzer IV herself. However, the mud proves too much even for the Motor Club’s modified Porsche Tiger, and ultimately, Mako uses the Panzer IV to push Mallard Team out of the mud.

  • The Chi-Ha Tan tanks feel right at home in the depths of the jungle, which bears a striking resemblance in terms of atmospherics to Battlefield V‘s Solomon Islands map. At this point in Battlefield V, the Pacific Content has single-handedly brought the game to a new level of enjoyment, and it was immensely fun to be able to roll with Chi-Ha Tan’s Type 97 tanks. In its base form, the configuration that Kinuyo runs with, the Type 97 is faster but less effective in combat compared to the M4 Sherman, but with the right upgrades, the Type 97 can be reconfigured into the Type 3 Chi-Nu, which features the Type 3 75 mm gun. With this, the Type 97 can go toe-to-toe with the M4s.

  • As evening sets in, Ooarai’s forces prepare to have dinner. The battle has, so far, fallen into one of attrition, and so, Ooarai decides to take it easy for the time being. During times of difficulty, having a good meal to look forwards to can be a massive morale booster, and this is one of my preferred ways of getting through trying times. This past little while’s been tough, and so, a Saturday evening dinner of Caesar salad, fried chicken and fries, washed down with soda, proved to be most relaxing: a snowfall is now making its way through the area, and it’s nice to have a little bit of downtime.

  • Hana dozing off and then swiftly reawakening proved to be one of the more endearing moments of Das Finale‘s second act; despite being the most refined of Anko Team’s members, Hana is occasionally prone to moments that remind viewers she’s an ordinary girl, just like everyone else. Originally, Hana was Anko’s driver, but she was turned on after feeling the Kwk 40’s powerful report, and switched over to being Anko’s gunner after taking an immediate liking to the sense of force associated with being the gunner. She proves to be a skillful gunner, nailing shots with unerring accuracy when the moment calls for it.

  • While Hana had drifted off, Mako finds herself wide awake and fully alert during the night, claiming the night to be like an old friend. Miho and the others originally found Mako sleeping in a field while they’d had their first-ever practise, and Saori had known Mako since childhood. To keep her safe during the exercise, they brought her on board, and when Hana was knocked out, Mako took over as driver and proved to be proficient. Altogether, Anko team has the highest survival rate out of anyone at Ooarai: their capabilities as a team are immediately apparent, unlike Battlefield, where one person controls all aspects of a tank, it takes a minimum of four people to properly run the Panzer IV.

  • An unusual object appears in the lake, and this turns out to be the Type 2 Ka-Mi, an amphibious tank that Chi-Ha Tan had as their “surprise”. Based off the Type 95, the Ka-Mi was designed for beach landings and possessed one Type 1 37 mm main cannon, as well as a Type 97 coaxial machine gun. The Ka-Mi gives Ooarai no shortage of headaches, being able to traverse waters and stay out of range of Ooarai’s guns, while simultaneously providing enough of a distraction for Chi-Ha Tan’s main force to get into place.

  • It is no surprise that this is exactly what I use the Ka-Mi for in Battlefield V: being able to traverse open water means being able to get a good flank on the enemy. Against infantry, the Ka-Mi is immensely effective, to the point where I’ve gone on a 34-streak with it, and even if the Ka-Mi is vulnerable to medium tanks and anti-tank weaponry, being able to flank effectively and draw the other team’s attention means being able to buy my own team some space while defending an objective. Battlefield V‘s American counterpart to the Ka-Mi is the LVT, which is equally effective in its function.

  • While Kinuyo has the support of her other Type 97s and 95s, individually, the base Type 97 is quite weak in Battlefield V, and it is very clear that attempting a totsugeki on enemies with it is to waste a tank needlessly. However, when used correctly, even the base Type 97 can be effective: early on in the Pacific Chapter, when I started out with the entry-level Type 97, I enjoyed successes with it by sticking to an anti-infantry and anti-transport role. Once upgraded, however, it became much easier to square off against the M4 Shermans.

  • During this segment of the match, Chi-Ha Tan has consistently held the initiative, engaging Ooarai at their convenience and disappearing as needed to conserve on their numbers. This tactic allows them to wear down Ooarai, and following the distraction the Ka-Mi have created, Kinuyo continues to push the initiative and attack. In the ensuing exchange, Ooarai loses a handful of their tanks: Mallard team and Leopon team are disabled following sustained fire while attempting to keep Duck Team’s Hetzer safe from enemy fire.

  • Chi-Ha Tan’s plan is bold, but in the crossfire, one of their tanks is also disabled. One aspect that I’ve noticed in Das Finale is the sound engineering, which creates a different experience than did the sound from the original Girls und Panzer. Because of the acoustics, it feels as though a shell was passing in front of one’s faces, voices sound as though come from a distinct direction, and distant sounds are muffled. All of this comes together to create a much richer, multi-dimensional sound that adds to Das Finale‘s immersion.

  • All told, watching Ooarai exchange with Chi-Ha Tan in the jungles was practically experiencing Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre in Girls und Panzer, especially the Solomon Islands map, which came out around a month ago. I very much enjoyed the experience on Solomon Islands, and in general, aside from the 5.2 patch that saw TTK be detrimentally modified, the Pacific Theatre update for Battlefield V proved to be a much-needed addition to the game. The 6.2 update is supposed to bring the game back to a near-5.0 state while at once ensuring that weapons have a specific role (but ensuring that skilled players can use their weapons more effectively outside of their optimal range).

  • While it looks like Ooarai is pursuing Chi-Ha Tan into the jungle, it turns out Miho’s deliberately pushing them towards a narrow ditch, and the entirety of Chi-Ha Tan’s forces wind up in here. Despite having what appears to be the perfect opportunity to finish things here and now, Ooarai’s accuracy in close quarters is not so hot, and they miss most of their shots. Realising that they’re fish in a barrel, Kinuyo does the unexpected, and for the first time, orders a tactical retreat before Ooarai can prepare a powerful strike.

  • While her teammates are initially shocked at the order, Kinuyo reasons that it’s better to live to fight another day than lose needlessly in a poor position. Fukuda is impressed that Kinuyo is adapting, and Chi-Ha Tan’s tankers quickly rally, preparing for a retreat. Up until now, they’ve been using various forms of charges (really just named in curious ways) to motivate everyone, but this marks the first time they’ve used a retreat.

  • I’m very nearly done with this post, and the one thing I’ve not mentioned yet is the number of appropriate songs each school sings during their battles or as a part of their theme. On top of everything else that Girls und Panzer does well, the inclusion of well-known songs transforms the show into a minor musical of sorts, giving the series further depth. With Chi-Ha Tan in full retreat, Miho seizes initiative and orders her tanks to give pursuit, even in the knowledge that Chi-Ha Tan has faster armour.

  • Kinuyo heads into the moonlight as the second part draws to a close, and with this, my own reflections of Das Finale‘s second act comes to a close, as well. Knowing that the third act could potentially be a 2022 release is infuriating, but this is the reality of things: overseas folks like myself will simply have to wait before the outcome of the match between Ooarai and Chi-Ha Tan is decided, although like every fight involving Donnie Yen’s Ip Man, I imagine that Ooarai will come out of this match victorious, otherwise, Das Finale might as well draw to a close. As such, it is evident that Miho will win, but the thrill will be in watching how Ooarai manages to earn their victory. I am, in short, greatly anticipating the third act, although it should be clear that I have no intention of burning money to fly to Japan for the sole purpose of seeing it ahead of everyone else: half the fun in Girls und Panzer is being able to talk about it with others, after all.

The outcome between BC Freedom and Ooarai had been preordained – the series would’ve ended here and now had Marie won, and it was only a question of who would score the winning kill. Contrary to my initial prediction that Momo would get the kill, Shark team proves instrumental in this victory, preventing Marie’s FT-17 from escaping and allowing Ooarai’s Panzer IV and Porsche Tiger to end the match. As expected of Girls und Panzer, the post-match is a show of sportsmanship and friendship, which was quite touching: while Marie might be a bit haughty and not one to stand on ceremony, she never displays open contempt for her opponent and is a graceful loser, promising Miho a thrilling rematch someday. The biggest surprise in the second act, however, is the opening phase of the match against Chi-Ha Tan. Encouraged by the Volleyball Club, Fukuda brings back to Kinuyo a host of new strategies for their match against Ooarai. They successfully capitalise on their Type 97s and 95s high mobility to frustrate Ooarai, employing hit-and-fade to create a constant sense of unease for Ooarai’s tankers. While their tanks may not be the most powerful, clever use of their armour’s strengths, and the terrain, allow Fukuda to contribute towards keeping most of their tanks active when traditionally, charging blindly at their enemy has cost them. Das Finale continues to find ways of making each Panzerfahren match exciting, and two acts in, it is apparent that strategy has returned to the series’ forefront over the pure spectacle of the film, bringing the series back in line with its origins. It speaks to Das Finale‘s strengths that even after a two-year gap between the home release, the series has lost none of its momentum, and with the second act in the books, I don’t doubt that the third act will continue to impress. The only question remains – will viewers be subjected to another two year wait for the next part, and if so, will long wait times dampen the momentum and excitement that Das Finale has cultivated insofar?

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Girls und Panzer, Understanding Success On the Intersection Between Friendship, Sportsmanship, Self-Discovery and Technical Excellence

“Cheer up, and let’s do this. We’ve all decided we were going to do this together, that we were going to fight until the end, and never surrender.” –Miho Nishizumi

After a disastrous outcome at the previous year’s Panzerfahren tournament, Miho Nishizumi transfers to Ooarai Girls’ Academy, where she hopes for a fresh start. She befriends Saori Takebe and Hana Isuzu, but inevitably finds herself being recruited to the newly-restarted Panzerfahren team. While Miho is initially hesitant, her previous experience and innate qualities as a leader inspires her fellow team-mates. Saori later manages to convince Mako Reizei to join, as well. After a mock battle with St. Glorianna’s Academy, their leader, Darjeeling, wishes Miho the best, and Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team begin their journey in the current Panzerfahren tournament. They topple Saunders University in the first round and become friends with Kay, Saunder’s commander. Between training and securing new parts for their tanks, Miho also comes to know her classmates better, seeing each of their interests and unique traits. She reveals to her friends that she’d quit Panzerfahren because of her failure to secure a victory the previous year, as a result of her decision to leave her tank and rescue a classmate, whose tank had fallen into a river during the final match. This led to a rift between Miho and her mother, Shiho, who felt Miho had not lived up to the family name. Ooarai later defeats Anzio in battle and faces off against Pravda. While the cold conditions initially work against Ooarai, and Pravda surrounds them, Miho accepts a temporary ceasefire so she can send Erwin and Yukari out for recon. They come back with a report on Pravda’s positions and exploit this to earn a victory, along with Katyusha’s respect. Here, Momo and Anzu reveal that there was a reason for Ooarai’s participation in Panzerfahren: from a lack of funds, their school was to be shut down, and they needed a game-changer to convince the school board to let their school remain open. Thus, victory became all-important, and going into the final round, Miho is fighting not just for herself or her friends, but the fate of the school she’s come to call home. It is a difficult battle: against her old school, Black Forest, Miho finds that her tanks are outmatched by Black Forest’s sheer power, but with a few novel approaches, Ooarai begins levelling things out, leaving Miho and her older sister, Maho, to duel it out. Miho comes out victorious, and Maho expresses relief that Miho’s found her own way again, while Shiho looks on, pleased with Miho’s tenacity. This is Girls und Panzer, one of the most iconic anime of the 2010s: despite being plagued by production issues and possessing what initially appeared to be a weak premise suited for little more than fanservice, Girls und Panzer‘s historic run in 2012 and 2013 led the series to unexpected success that defied all expectations.

At its core, Girls und Panzer speaks to the importance of friendship and support in helping individuals overcome their own doubts and fears. Miho begins her journey uncertain, having lost her way from a defeat that, in the Nishizumi Creed, was untenable. She transferred to Ooarai with the hope of escaping Panzerfahren and living an ordinary life. However, when circumstance pushes Miho to take up the duty of a Panzerfahren commander, it is with the support of her friends that allow her to make this transition. Initially, it is warmth from Saori and Hana that gives Miho the courage to step back into a tank. Over time, as Miho leads Ooarai to victory time and time again with her kindness, compassion and empathy, she earns the admiration, respect and trust from those who fight alongside her: Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team rallies behind Miho, placing their faith in her to create opportunity and pursue success even where hope is slim. This support is what pushes Miho to fight for them; as a result of this mutualistic dynamic, Ooarai ultimately is able to save their school, and Miho rediscovers what Panzerfahren is about. The key distinction in Miho’s newfound approach to Panzerfahren over her original techniques stems from her own genteel character, in addition to concern for the well-being of those around her. Miho embodies Sun Tzu’s terms of a great leader from Art of War, being a commander who is tough but fair, compassionate yet resolute. By caring for those under her command, and setting them straight without being impatient, Miho creates a team who is willing to fight to the ends of the earth with her. This kindness is a component of the friendship themes in Girls und Panzer; Miho’s personal style, in integrating adaptivity, sportsmanship and compassion, not only helps unite Ooarai, but also inspires the rival teams that she ends up meeting in battle. Darjeeling, Kay, Katyusha and even Maho come to appreciate Miho’s choices, in time, supporting Ooarai in their journey to victory.

While the themes in Girls und Panzer are nothing novel, the success story Girls und Panzer found comes from the consequence of the series excelling with the integration of feel-good themes together with a compelling level of technical excellence in Panzerfahren itself. Girls und Panzer meticulously researched World War Two-era armour to a level of accuracy that is comparable to Tom Clancy’s, and as such, allows the series to define very specific rules and constraints for Panzerfahren. Armour and projectile properties, tank movement characteristics and operational procedures are all explored in detail, faithful to their real-world counterparts. The sum of this level of technical detail allows Girls und Panzer to create highly-nuanced discussions on armour doctrine and tactics. For instance, knowing the attributes of the Panzer IV Ausf. H’s 7.5 cm Pak 40 and the significance of the armoured skirt allows one to comment on Miho’s odds in squaring off against Maho’s Tiger I: there is both fact and historical precedence to guide discussion and speculation on what could happen in a battle. However, while Girls und Panzer draws heavily on real-world details, the anime does not make them mandatory for enjoyment; in the total absence of any knowledge about World War Two armour, one could still have a complete, satisfying experience with Girls und Panzer. This is what sets Girls und Panzer apart from similar series of its time: the anime stands solidly on its own with the virtue of a strong cast, a simple but well-presented theme and a superb audio-visual presentation, but also invests enough into the details to really captivate viewers with existing knowledge of armoured warfare. There is something in Girls und Panzer for everyone, and regardless of one’s background, there is something to enjoy in this series.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If Girls und Panzer is nearly seven years old, and I’ve written about the series to death before, what would drive me to revisit the series, one asks? The answer is actually two-fold: the first is that in the seven years between now and when Girls und Panzer finished airing, my writing style has shifted somewhat, and I feel that now, it is a bit easier for me to articulate what makes the series so enjoyable for me, as well as why the series has not lost any of its charm since its original run in 2012-2013. The second reason is a bit more insidious – I’ve deliberately timed this post to coincide with Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s second movie’s home release.

  • I will be writing about Das Finale‘s second film very soon and strive to have the ‘net’s first and most comprehensive discussion. Until then, this revisitation of Girls und Panzer will provide readers with a rough idea of why after all this time, I’m still writing about Girls und Panzer. The anime begins with Miho transferring to Ooarai, and quickly befriending the warm Saori Takebe and composed Hana Isuzu. Out of the gates, they help her get used to life in school; although Miho still has difficulty in participating in Panzerfahren, Saori and Hana’s friendship steels Miho’s resolve.

  • Even this early on, Girls und Panzer did a phenomenal job of foreshadowing. Girls und Panzer had originally been expected to be a joke, a fanservice-laden series with no meaningful message, and so, when its run was underway, viewers were shocked as to just how well-written and detailed things were. From things like characterisation, to details behind each tank, everything in the series was of a quality that far exceeded initial expectations, although Girls und Panzer made it clear that knowledge of armoured warfare notwithstanding, anyone could go in and have a good time.

  • Initially, once Miho decides to take up Panzerfahren again, Ooarai forms a Panzerfahren team and go on a hunt for tanks to use. A long time ago, Ooarai had been a school known for its Panzerfahren, but the program eventually was shut down, and tanks were left around the school ship. In Japanese, the girls refer to the art of operating tanks as 戦車道 (Hepburn sensha-dō, literally “way of the tank”), and Panzerfahren is a compound word derived off the German Panzer (tank) and fahren (“to go”). In my context, Panzerfahren is approximated as “tank riding”, and English translations peg sensha-dō as “tankery”, which is admittedly strange-sounding, so Panzerfahren stuck with me.

  • After a day’s efforts, the girls find a 38 (t), StuG III, M3 Lee and a Type 98B in addition to the Panzer IV Ausf. D. Thus, five teams are formed: Miho joins Anglerfish with the Panzer IV, while the student council take the 38(t). The history fanatics take the StuG III, the first years take the M3, and the Type 98B are given to the volleyball club. Of these tanks, Battlefield V has the Panzer IV and 38(t): the former is an excellent all-around tank that plays well with Miho’s adaptability, while the student council’s decision to 38(t) suggests at their faith in Miho even this early in the game – the 38(t) is a light tank with a weak gun, and in Battlefield V, it is completely ill-suited for anything other than anti-infantry combat. Even then, a few well-placed Panzerfaust rounds will melt the 38(t).

  • During their first practise match, Miho operates the radio, Saori takes on the role of the commander, while Yukari acts as the gunner, and Hana drives. Mid-match, Hana is knocked out from an impact, and the girls look to be demolished until a chance encounter with Mako Reizei, who promptly picks up on driving the Panzer IV. With Miho’s instructions keeping them focused, the Panzer IV manages to knock out the other Ooarai tanks despite being stuck on a rickety bridge, and the first years fall into a panic, de-tracking their tank in a desperate bid to escape. This early match is a far cry from the scope and scale of later matches, but was critical to show viewers that a proper team must similarly have a proper leader, and at the smaller scale, every tank must also be properly operated.

  • After the practise match, the girls begin to deck out their tanks to fit their own personalities. It is assumed that at this point, each team has begun learning the essentials of their own tanks, while at once training to master the basics, such as compensating for gravity when firing, how to move so as to minimise the tank’s profile and maximise the amount of armour pointed at the enemy to reduce damage. While Miho ends up leaving the Panzer IV in its default colours (to Saori’s disappointment), the first-years paint their tank bright pink, and the history buffs make their tank a walking war museum. The student council’s customisation is the most ostentatious: they opt to go for a brilliant gold finish.

  • Battlefield V‘s tank customisation is practically non-existent, but in Battlefield 1, it was indeed possible to deck one’s tank out with a gold finish, exactly as the student council had done. Upon seeing the results, Yukari is scandalised – being an expert in all things armour, Yukari loves tanks and became saddened to see armoured vehicles being desecrated. Miho finds things hilarious, and although she’s accustomed to properly camouflaged tanks, she allows her classmates this customisation so that they feel at home with her. There is one other unspoken reason: Miho is the sort of person who prefers experience to speak for itself, and letting the volleyball team, history buffs and first years to learn of the consequences of bling on a tank on the battlefield would be far more effective than if she’d lectured them herself.

  • Giving people the freedom to explore and learn is oftentimes a more effective teacher: sometimes, it takes making mistakes in a risk-free environment to really drive a lesson home, and sweating out in training beats bleeding out in war. During training, Miho drills the others on basics like manoeuvre and firing techniques, and I’m particularly fond of interior shots of the tanks themselves. Besides showing the claustrophobic space inside (and Miho’s thighs when we’re talking about the Panzer IV’s interior), interior shots really go to illustrate how sophisticated the art and animation in Girls und Panzer is; the reflection from the optics Hana is looking through is reflected on her shoulder.

  • Once Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team is assembled, Anzu, student council president, arranges for a training match against St. Glorianna. At this point, Miho is asked to be the commander for the whole of Ooarai, which she accepts, and the roles for the Panzer IV are also determined: Mako is to be the driver, Saori takes on the radio operator role, Yukari becomes the loader, Hana is the gunner, and Miho is the commander. Miho’s crew becomes considerably more effectual once everyone settles into a role suited for their personalities, and the first friendly bout between two schools takes place.

  • Against St. Glorianna, Miho fields her variety of tanks against Darjeeling’s Churchill Mk. VII and the Matilda A12 Mk. II. The Matilda’s the predecessor to the Valentine Mk. VIII that I’ve operated in Battlefield V: the Valentine has slightly lighter armour and a slightly reduced top speed compared to the Matilda, but could be produced more inexpensively and quickly. I favour the Valentine for its balance in gameplay and never had much success with the Churchill.

  • The first match with Darjeeling’s crew is set in the streets of Ooarai, a coastal town in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture. The town is counted as one of the dullest, most unremarkable places in Japan to be, but this was before Girls und Panzer changed that. Here, Miho drives past the Ooarai Marine Tower, and during their first battle, many familiar locations around Ooarai are depicted. I’ve covered this in great detail in an earlier post, and note that since Girls und Panzer, the town has seen an increase in tourism.

  • While Miho effectively solos the whole of St. Glorianna’s team and disables all of their Matildas, the Panzer IV Ausf. D’s 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 is completely inadequate to punch through the Churchill’s armour. At ranges of under 100 metres, the main gun on the Ausf. D could only penetrate the equivalent of 41 mm of armour, and the Churchill Mk. VII has a minimum armour thickness of 51 mm in its rear, with the turret front and hull having a maximum of 152 mm of armour, while the sides possess 95 mm of armour.  Simply put, Miho would have had no way to defeat Darjeeling on her own: the StuG III that the history team fielded had already been knocked out of the fight by this point.

  • In order to defeat the Churchill at this point in Ooarai’s career, Miho would’ve needed to keep the StuG III and its Kwk 40 L/48 alive for longer: at under 100 metres, this 75 mm gun would have penetrated a maximum of 143 mm of armour, so attacking from the sides or rear would’ve been sufficient. Miho does indeed end up losing, and it shows that this early on, Ooarai still needs to improve as a team. As a consequence for losing, Miho and the others must do the dreaded “Anglerfish Dance”, and I’ll feature Miho doing the dance for no discernible reason beyond the aesthetic properties of this moment.

  • Miho, Yukari, Saori, Hana and Mako end up visiting a tank-themed sweets cafe that serves cakes in the shape of tanks, and here, they run into Miho’s older sister, Maho, and her best lieutenant, Erika Itsumi. While Maho is presented as being cold and reserved, this belies a friendly and warm personality; she cares greatly for Miho and worries about her. Erika, on the other hand, is more disparaging towards Miho, holding a grudge that Miho’s actions the previous year had cost them a victory. The choice to introduce Erika here was probably meant to show that Miho and Maho are very similar. Rather like how Erika greatly respects Maho, Yukari will go to the ends of the earth for Miho and stands up to defend her. Early on in Girls und Panzer, the similarity between the two siblings are not immediately apparent, but even here, care was taken to subtly indicate that Miho and Maho are definitely sisters despite outward differences.

  • In preparation for their first round against Saunders, besides training to improve their teamwork and coordination, the girls also repaint their tanks to standard camouflage to avoid sticking out on the battlefield. Because Miho’s been out of her game for a little while, Yukari decides to assist and sets off on a reconnaissance mission to Saunders to learn more about her opponents. Yukari’s first time is marked with inadequate fieldcraft, and she’s quickly discovered. Reconnaissance is a legal part of Panzerfahren, and despite being compromised, Yukari learns of the loadout and disposition of their first opponent.

  • To Yukari, befriending Miho, Saori, Hana and Mako marks a major point in her life: she explains that until now, she’d never really met anyone that shared her love for armoured warfare and all of the accompanying elements. With a profound interest and knowledge in tanks, Yukari is aware of survival tactics and equipment in addition to the properties of different armoured vehicles. While she may be a loader in Panzerfahren, Yukari offers Miho suggestions and in time, also becomes a capable reconnaissance unit able to gather intelligence and get out without being compromised.

  • If there were a single screenshot that could capture the magic of Girls und Panzer, this would be it: I remark that in retrospect, Girls und Panzer is a series that I could’ve easily written episodic reviews for. Each episode advances the story in a meaningful way, and each episode features plenty of material to walk about from a hardware and physics perspective. However, in the interest of keeping things as concise as I can for a Masterpiece Anime Showcase, I’ve elected to stick to forty screenshots, and as such, will not fully represent all of the moments within this series.

  • The match against Saunders allows Ooarai to experience both sides of Panzerfahren: Saunders, reflecting on the American way, has an incredible access to resources, and during the match, Alisa uses a special balloon to intercept Ooarai’s radio communications, giving them a seemingly-supernatural edge. Miho realises this and switches her team over to SMS, while providing false information to send Saunders’ tanks into traps. When Kay discovers this, she stands down her tanks to match Ooarai’s number in the name of fairness.

  • With the equipment gap closed, the battle between Ooarai and Saunders becomes one of pure skill. After locating the Saunders flag tank in pursuit of Ooarai’s flag tank, Mako parks the Panzer IV so Hana can make the shot. Saunders’ top sniper, Naomi, prepares to fire and interrupt Hana, but a steady aim allows Hana to fire moments before they re disabled. The resulting shot disables Saunders’ flag tank, bringing the match to an end. Panzerfahren matches in Girls und Panzer come in two varieties so far: elimination is decided based on who runs out of tanks first, while the VIP game type involves protecting the flag tank, wherein losing the flag tank causes a team to lose the match regardless of their remaining numbers.

  • While Darjeeling had the composure and grace to thank Miho for a match well-played, it isn’t until Ooarai’s victory over Saunders where themes of sportsmanship really come into play in Girls und Panzer. Kay personally thanks Miho for a great match and notes that victory is only meaningful if achieved in a fair, honest manner. Sportsmanship is one of my favourite aspects of Girls und Panzer, creating a very warm and inviting environment that contributes to the anime’s universal appeal, and for this, Kay very quickly became one of my favourite characters outside of Ooarai for embodying the boisterous, hard-working and bold spirit that represents the best traits of the United States.

  • At Girls und Panzer‘s halfway point, Miho opens up as to why she was initially against taking Panzerfahren, and at AnimeSuki, an anime forum I occasionally peruse, this led to a flame war on whether or not Miho’s actions were justified. While most people (myself included) agree that Miho made the right decision in saving her classmate even at the cost of the match, one Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi and willx argued that Miho was better served leaving her classmate to certain danger for the sake of winning. This resulted in a week-long festival of ad hominem attacks, self-aggrandisement and mudslinging between the two parties.

  • Sumeragi was eventually banned from AnimeSuki, and since then, discussions there on Girls und Panzer have been more reasoned and peaceable: thou shall not be missed. Sumeragi was wrong about pretty much everything related to Girls und Panzer‘s themes despite being a so-called “expert” on all things related to armoured warfare, and in retrospect, my decision not take Sumeragi and willx to school proved a good one. This allowed me to finish my undergraduate thesis on time and enjoy the final two episodes without worrying about remaining edits or other work. Back in Girls und Panzer, viewers are introduced to Pravda, a Soviet-themed school whose commander diminutive stature is matched by a big and confident personality: having never heard of Ooarai before, Katyusha  is confident she’ll be able to mop floor with Miho and then take a shot at beating Black Forest.

  • If and when I’m asked, Miho is my favourite anime character of the 2010s: she possesses all of the traits that I respect in people, being fiercely loyal and optimistic even in the face of overwhelming odds. Polite, soft-spoken and shy, Miho is a very human character whose growth comes as a result of the time she spends at Ooarai; her doubts are slowly displaced by confidence as she continues to fight for those important to her. As an side, the fact that Miho’s specs are 82-56-84 increases her appeal, although given the nature of this post, that is neither here nor there.

  • During the match against Pravda, overconfidence causes Ooarai’s tanks to step into Katyusha’s trap, and they find themselves encircled at the church. Katyusha, doubtful Ooarai will put up much of a fight, decides to offer them a surrender instead. The girls quickly become demoralised from the cold and the situation, and it is here, in the darkest hour, that Anzu, Momo and Yuzu explain the truth: that Ooarai will shut down unless they can win the Panzerfahren tournament to prove the school is still relevant. Spurred on, Miho uses the lull to send Yukari, Erwin, Mako and Midoriko out on reconnaissance, before doing the Anglerfish dance herself to raise everyone’s spirits.

  • For a Girls und Panzer post, the observant reader will note that I’ve got very little in the way of actual screenshots from the combat sequences: this post was written with the characters and themes in mind, rather than the tanks, but I’ve also included a few pivotal moments, such as Miho making use of the StuG III’s low profile to do what I personally would count as the height of dishonesty in Battlefield V: camping is despicable, and in Katyusha’s place, since I don’t underestimate opponents, I would’ve opted to slag Ooarai instead. However, in Girls und Panzer, we are cheering for Ooarai, so I’ll concede that camping with a StuG III is technically not the worst thing one could do in Panzerfahren.

  • Between Miho dancing the Anglerfish Dance and Katyusha properly thanking Miho for a good match, expressing that she’s impressed with Miho, the Ooarai victory over Pravda was my magic moment to Girls und Panzer. Up until now, the series had been engaging in its own right, but after this episode, I was thoroughly convinced that I was watching a masterpiece unfolding before my eyes. It was therefore something of a shock to learn that Girls und Panzer would experience an intermission, as the series had run into difficulties in production.

  • I thus busied myself with mastering principles of software engineering and preparations of my undergraduate thesis while waiting for Girls und Panzer to catch up: the difficulties that Girls und Panzer experienced brought to mind the Project management triangle (if you do something quickly and cheaply, it’ll not be good; if you do something quickly and well, it’ll not be cheap; if you do something cheaply and well, it’ll not be quick), and in Girls und Panzer, I remarked that given the quality of the series, I was okay with ACTAS sacrificing “quick” to ensure the series was good. I would not be disappointed.

  • Towards the end of Girls und Panzer, lingering questions of family are addressed: Mako and her grandmother come to an understanding, as does Hana and her mother. Yukari and her parents are on excellent terms, and Miho is a bit envious of their relationship compared to the strained relationship between her and Shiho, her mother. On the final night before the final match against Black Forest, Miho and her friends share a tonkatsu dinner; all of the Ooarai Panzerfahren members have tonkatsu to some capacity to show their unity and resolve. With its origins in the 19th century, tonkatsu is a deep-fried pork cutlet and usually served with a special sauce, and it is an excellent dish that is very hearty.

  • On the day of the final match, Miho faces against the toughest opponents that she’ll encounter in the Panzerfahren tournament: Black Forest (Kuromorimine in Japanese, I’ve deliberately gone with the English spelling since it’s faster for me to type) is known for respect for discipline, order and structure, which are Prussian values. Driven purely by victory, Black Forest is not particularly on good terms with the other schools, and their doctrine is one of superior firepower and force, based on Shiho’s own interpretation of the Nishizumi Style. Entering the final battle, the outcome of the match was a foregone one for me; having studied Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the pure Nishizumi Style is stymied by rigidity and an inflexibility that, on paper, would prove vulnerable to a flexible, adaptive doctrine.

  • As it turns out, the classmate Miho ended up saving was grateful that she’d done so. This simple moment decisively cleared up the long-standing argument from AnimeSuki: Girls und Panzer had been so focused on themes of friendship and sportsman-like conduct that this response was the only one consistent with everything the series had built up. It is here that Girls und Panzer showed that despite the cold, impersonal interpretation of the Nishizumi style that Black Forest practises, their students are still human, able to accept and understand things like respect, integrity and compassion.

  • Besides Sun Tzu, the fact that I’ve been a practitioner of Gōjū-ryū (literally “hard-soft style”) for upwards of two decades also impacted my perspective of Miho’s Panzerfahren style. Our school’s original founder, Chōjun Miyagi, embraced the idea that the hard (linear strikes) and soft (circular, open-handed techniques) was not just applicable to martial arts, but to life itself. Arguing that switching between the two would allow one “to deal effectively with the fluctuations of life”; in other words, success comes from adaptability and flexibility. Black Forest, on the other hand, would be over-reliant on the hard, and therefore, lack the adaptability for success. As such, while Ooarai is understandably nervous about their final match with Black Forest owing to the latter’s fearsome reputation, Black Forest’s might is not as insurmountable as one might think.

  • In retrospect, the heavy tanks of Black Forest, suited for engaging equivalently armoured tanks or larger numbers of technically inferior tanks, were immediately at a disadvantage in their fight against Ooarai, whose motley-looking arsenal of light, medium and heavy tanks reflect on Miho’s ability to improvise and adapt. It speaks volumes to the quality of writing in Girls und Panzer that despite having a very clear outcome based purely on precedence set both in military strategy and life lessons, the anime would nonetheless keep viewers on the edge of the seats for every minute of every battle. There is only one other franchise that has successfully conveyed its themes and captured the viewers’ excitement despite having a protagonist that can do no wrong, and that is Ip Man.

  • In order to reinforce the idea that Miho’s “nobody gets left behind” mindset is both honourable and appropriate, after creating chaos amongst Black Forests’ armour, Miho leads her units across a river, and Rabbit Team’s M3 becomes stuck in the river even as Black Forest is in hot pursuit. While Rabbit Team implore Miho to leave them, Miho refuses and personally directs the efforts to free their tank. For her efforts, Miho is rewarded when Rabbit Team go on to knock out a Jagdpanther, whose powerful 128 mm main gun would’ve almost certainly caused trouble for Ooarai. Miho’s fierce and unyielding loyalty, for better or worse, is one of her defining traits, and in a broader interpretation of the Nishizumi Style, this unwavering dedication to what she believes in means that Miho has indeed made use of Shiho’s teachings, albeit in a very indirect fashion.

  • Despite the dramatic differences in setting and context, Ip Man‘s titular character shares a great deal in common with Miho. Both are proficient in their chosen martial art to a near-supernatural level, and believe that the style matters less than one’s on commitment to what they respectively believe in. Neither are invincible, but instead, Donnie Yen’s Ip Man and Miho both are polite, respectful, observant, finding victory from a combination of uncommon resilience and creativity. Consequently, when it comes to Girls und Panzer and Ip Man, excitement comes not from the outcome of a battle, but rather, how the respective series’ protagonist finds a way to win. I recently had a chance to watch Ip Man 4: The Finale, and thoroughly enjoyed the movie; it was no secret that Donnie Yen’s Ip Man would best Scott Adkins’ Barton Geddes, but against Geddes’ overwhelming power and technique, Ip Man ends up using pressure points to bring the tough-talking, hard hitting Gunnery Sergeant to his knees in Ip Man 4‘s riveting final fight.

  • There was never any doubt that Ip Man would win, but the fight gave both Yen and Adkins a chance to shine. Similarly, in the fight against Black Forest in Girls und Panzer, while Miho was certain to win, the final fight featured plenty of surprises, such as the super-heavy tank, Panzer VIII Maus. Only two prototype mockups were ever built, and for their extreme firepower and durability, such tanks would have proven impractical as the world began moving towards the main battle tank, a combination of powerful engines and main guns, as well as improved armour technology, that gave medium tanks the mobility of a lighter tank and the firepower and armour of a heavy tank. In Ooarai’s arsenal, nothing conventional would’ve been effective, so Miho decides to cook up a clever scheme for defeating the Maus: success rallies Ooarai and sets Miho on course for a one-on-one showdown with Maho.

  • In an evenly-matched one-on-one, Miho narrowly comes up on top: having upgraded to the Panzer IV Ausf. H with a Kwk 40/L43, Miho had more than enough firepower to deal with a Tiger I from under 100 metres. With the ability to penetrate up to 133 mm of armour at close range, and the fact that the Tiger I’s maximum armour thickness is120 mm, this upgrade proves instrumental in helping Miho secure the win for Ooarai. Even without knowing this, however, the outcome of Girls und Panzer nonetheless remained quite evident. This was in fact, the key strength in Girls und Panzer: having knowledge of the tanks’ properties is helpful but will not diminish enjoyment of the series – viewers can have a full experience of the series irrespective of whether or not they have any a priori knowledge about World War Two tanks.

  • Ooarai’s victory is well-deserved, and acts as a definitive ending to Girls und Panzer. Here, Girls und Panzer could have ended on a high note even if no movie and film series had ever been announced: the original TV series is a self-contained experience that got every detail correct. Seven years later, Girls und Panzer looks as sharp as any contemporary anime when it comes to visuals (a few areas do appear more simplistic, and watching Das Finale gives one a good idea of how the art has improved since 2012-2013), and the soundtrack is of a top tier, featuring a combination of tense battle music, classic marches and gentle slice-of-life pieces that capture Miho’s journey of rediscovery.

  • With the additional seven years of life experience since Girls und Panzer‘s conclusion, I find that Miho and Shiho’s portrayal in the original series to an incomplete and somewhat unfair one, as it does not adequately represent them as people. This is a consequence of the series’ short run-time of only twelve episodes, but at the end of the championship, Maho praises Miho for having found her own way, and even Erika remarks that she’s looking forwards to challenging Miho again. As icing on the cake, a proud Shiho looks on and applauds her youngest daughter for her achievement. As it turns out, Maho dotes on Miho and is similarly selfless, having set herself down a rigid path to uphold the family name, and despite her strict, no-nonsense demeanor, Shiho cares deeply for her daughters as well, going to respectable lengths to look after both Miho and Maho.

  • At its core, Girls und Panzer creates a very warm and optimistic story of growth, discovery, and friendship masterfully woven with armoured warfare. By approaching the anime with an optimistic and open mind, people found in Girls und Panzer a series that was enjoyable for a variety of reasons. Since Girls und Panzer, no other series has had quite the same magic as Girls und PanzerHai-Furi was one series that had a very similar premise and was superbly enjoyable, but Girls und Panzer continues to hold a special place in my heart even seven years later, attesting to just how well-done the series is.

Girls und Panzer was initially a series I had decided to watch on the basis of its premise: entering, I had very low expectations and had purely intended to watch, and write about it, so that I could dispel complaints and criticisms that may have arisen. However, when the anime began airing during the autumn of 2012, I was up to my eyeballs in trying to keep up with my undergraduate thesis project, and the series fell to the back of my mind. However, news of production delays, and seeing a video of Miho motivating her classmates with the Anko Dance during the match against Pravda drive me to watch Girls und Panzer in earnest. I thus pushed through the series, reached the tenth episode, and found myself in anticipation of the remaining two episodes, whose release dates coincided with the wrapping-up of my undergraduate thesis. This was a stressful time, and while I had been very confident about the strength of my project (a multi-scale model of renal flow using a hybrid model), the work it took to get my project was substantial. Watching Girls und Panzer helped me to both relax and focus: seeing Miho’s resolve under stress was a bit of inspiration, and it hit me: if Girls und Panzer could stick its landing, then I would, as well. I thus finished Girls und Panzer, found a series that beat all expectations, and then went into my undergraduate defense with a similar mindset. I ended up finishing my undergraduate programme on a high note, and since then, Girls und Panzer had rekindled my interest in armoured warfare. For having accompanied me through my undergraduate thesis and then continuing to shape my expectations of what defines a good anime (accessibility in appealing to a diverse audience, and a meaningful story), I count the original run of Girls und Panzer a masterpiece that has aged remarkably well: seven years after its original run, the series still looks and feels amazing, and it is no joke when I say that anyone who’s not seen Girls und Panzer is missing out on what is perhaps one of the most outstanding and quintessential anime of the 2010s.