The Infinite Zenith

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

Tag Archives: Review

Spirit- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter Part Two Review and Reflection

“And then, there’s the last ten minutes of the movie. A display so powerful it merits the price of admission, and all future admission prices.” —Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One

Taking a leaf from the Auralnauts’ “Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One”, first off, obviously, this discussion will contain spoilers. If you do not already know that Gin dies in the end, then you should leave right now. Following another training session, Sumi, Sonoko and Gin are presented with unexpected news – they assigned some vacation time, during which they spend a day together at the pool and prepare an orientation for first-year elementary students. Although going overboard with their daily calisthenics routine and landing themselves in hot water, the girls have fun with their presentation, coming to deeply treasure their time spent together. Sumi and Sonoko also meet Gin’s parents for the first time during their break. When term resumes, the girls share a productive day at their school’s training camp, promising that there will be many more treasured memories in the days coming. When the camp concludes, a pair of Vertices appear. In the fierce fighting, Sumi and Sonoko are knocked out of combat. Gin promises to deal with the Vertices on her own, and, spurred on by her own determination to share a future with her friends, manages to defeat both. However, in the process, she sustains grievous wounds and succumbs to her injuries. Grief-stricken at their friend’s sudden departure, Sonoko and Sumi dissolve into tears. This is the short of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act, the turning point where Gin’s friendship with Sonoko and Sumi is cut short; to see the dramatic contrast in the second act’s first and second halves was quite jarring even though it was quite apparent as to what would be happening when the Vertex did finally appear.

The idea of presenting an episode of contrasts is not a novel one – in portraying the characters’ ordinary lives and everyday activities, audiences have a chance to see what extraordinary individuals might do outside of their duties. To see them in normalcy, going about their business and sharing precious memories together reinforces the notion that everyone is human, each with their own experiences that give them drive. Consequently, when audiences have seen for themselves how far each of Sumi, Sonoko and Gin come to know one another, as well as the strength of their friendship, the death of a character is intended to evoke some level of response in viewers: empathy, the ability to understand another being’s emotions, is a cognitive function that evolved in social animals. Writers utilise it to convey a particular mood strongly, and in the case of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act, to develop a friendship in such detail (Washio Sumi Chapter’s second acts open up in a light-hearted, even irreverent, tone), only for Gin to be killed during combat, is intended to convey to audiences the extent of the loss that Sonoko and Sumi feel. Friendship, something that takes a considerable amount of effort and time to cultivate, can be destroyed in an instant by external forces. Effective in emphasising this point as its main message, Act Two of Washio Sumi Chapter has raised the stakes for its final part; to be a hero previously meant accepting the risk of personal injury in the line of defending their world. In death, Gin shows the hazards of this duty, and if the documentation holds true, her death serves as the catalyst for changes the Taisha make to their Hero system. The final act of Washio Sumi Chapter will presumably deal with this, along with how Sumi and Sonoko take the loss of a dear friend.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post on Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second part will have thirty screenshots such that there is sufficient room to properly discuss things. Irreverent, whimsical and quite unlike anything Yūki Yūna is a Hero veterans expect, the first part of this movie was immensely cheerful, almost to a fault. When their instructors announce the girls are to have some downtime in preparation for their future operations, Sonoko comes to pick up Sumi, where they subsequently listen to music together, and even the normally collected Sumi begins singing along to the music in her own manner.

  • The sheer number of facets to Sumi’s personality drives the comedy in the movie’s first half: after donning some of the dresses in the style that Sumi is fond of, Gin finds herself being photographed mercilessly, leading her to pout. Sumi’s nose explodes with a shower of blood; this was a rather unexpected reaction. Apparently, the nosebleed is an indicator that the character suffering from one is visually stimulated in some manner. While our blood pressure does elevate in the presence of something that excites us, there is no scientific basis for such a reaction happening.

  • Conversely, Sumi becomes quite bashful when asked to wear a Western-style dress. The tables have turned, and Gin photographs herself with Sumi. The scene cuts away to Sumi purifying herself at home later in the evening, who remarks that she’s failed as a Yamato Nadeshiko; this phrase refers to an abstraction of what is considered to be the proper Japanese lady, both dignified, graceful and beautiful, but also resolved and responsible in disposition. The second chapter of Washio Sumi Chapter presents Sumi as a personification of almost all things Japanese.

  • It turns out that Sonoko is an author who spends her spare time working on novels, and longs to write one about her friends. Sonoko’s existing works are well-received, and when Sumi, motivated, tries to write her own history texts, finds herself assailed by online critics. Here, the girls share a moment after drawing on the whiteboard: Sumi’s rendition of the Zuikaku is visible on the blackboard in the background. Like the Nagato, the Zuikaku survived most of the Second World War and was only sunk at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1945.

  • When Sonoko receives a love letter, Gin and Sumi’s reactions simply must be watched to be believed. Fearing curses, Sumi procures a large number of shide (paper streamers) to purify and bless Sonoko, but as it turns out, the letter is actually from a female admirer. Sumi herself later receives a letter, asking her to “bring it down”. Angered by the letter, Sumi promptly burns it while chanting ominously.

  • While Sumi’s warm-up exercises may seem excessive to Gin and Sonoko, there is a good reason for stretching before swimming: the motions of swimming cause the muscles to contract in ways the body may not be accustomed to. Cramps result when the body attempts to rectify this, resulting in pain. Warming up increases circulation that allow the muscles to prepare for the motions ahead, and in other anime, such as Girls und Panzer during one of the OVAs, cramps do indeed occur when the first years hop into the water, forcing the student council to save them.

  • As a worthy precursor to Yūna’s Hero Club, Gin here puts on a show for the entering first year primary students in order to welcome them to their school. Anime have always skewed ages, and while only eleven, Gin, Sonoko and Sumi feel much older than their ages would otherwise suggest. As a part of their performance, the play gives way to a scripted event that Sonoko and Sumi present for the students. A highly patriotic song that screams nationalism, a part of me feels as though there is a bit of propaganda here, although chances are that it’s done primarily for comedic purposes.

  • While I have a moderate understanding of Japanese history, I am not intrinsically familiar with this particular dress style, which brings to mind the likes of Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi. If and when I’m asked about my own sense of national pride, I am Canadian, and the things that I like most about the True North is our multiculturalism, politeness, majestic wilderness, hockey and maple syrup. With that being said, I also greatly respect my heritage: of Cantonese descent, I carry with me a hybrid of Western and traditional values. Back in Washio Sumi Chapter, the performance that Sumi and Sonoko perform land them in hot water.

  • Scattered intermittently through Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second part’s first act are Sonoko’s dreams, which are surreal and somewhat uncanny to behold. Here, Sonoko comes to after dreaming that she’s now banned from eating Udon as punishment for having overdone their orientation presentation. Upon waking up, her friends reassure her, and audiences are left to wonder if they were really disciplined for their performance.

  • On a pleasant day, the girls get together to hang out: it is here that Sumi and Sonoko meet with Gin’s parents and family formally (the events in the previous movie do not count, as Sumi and Sonoko had followed Gin without permission). Gin has remarked that one of her own personal goals is to become a good bride, owing to her love of looking after others and ensuring their happiness. When she jokingly remarks that Sumi could be a bit of a difficult girl for whomever chooses to marry her, she also says that perhaps it would take someone like her to look after Sumi.

  • Having spent all night writing and binding their class activity guides, Sumi presents them to Sonoko and Gin, noting that she’s also given them an electronic version. The size of the volumes are unrealistic: the printing company at campus has a hard limit on the number of pages they bind into a volume, and something with this many pages (I estimate around 600 to 700 assuming the same thickness of paper as used in my thesis). With that being said, I’ve got no idea what the rock-like object Sumi holding is.

  • Events of the training camp proceed nominally as the girls complete their exercises. Gin and Sumi complete theirs with flair, and it is Sonoko who grows pensive. However, with some encouragement, she manages to finish the course and is petted by Gin. Feeling left out, Sumi endearingly forces her way between the two and is petted in return. I certainly was not expecting this from Sumi, but it demonstrates her desire to be a part of the friendship that all three of them share.

  • On a high from the day’s activities, Gin falls from a climbing apparatus when her grip falters. The events’ possible inclusion as a bit of foreshadowing notwithstanding, Gin promises to take it down a peg when Sonoko and Sumi express concern, but when the girls begin cooking lunch for the others, she quickly returns to her usual cheerful self. Grilling meats and vegetables on skewers is a longtime staple featured in anime, associated with summer: the searing of meat always seems to produce a distinct flavour that is remarkable. This flavour comes from concurrent Milliard reactions, which create aromatic rings in the constituent molecules that make up the meat.

  • Sumi and Sonoko take on simplified eyes when the former notices an Allomyrina dichotoma (common name Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle) on her shoulder. Distributed in Japan, Taiwan and Eastern China, these beetles are popular in Japan as pets. Sonoko seems unbothered, whereas Sumi is not particularly fond of insects, and sees Sonoko as being covered with the beetles. Pleasant is the weather in Washio Sumi Chapter a far cry from the skies around my city, where it seems spring has not fully ignited yet – trees are only beginning to bud, and a cold overcast sky dominates the area. While I lament the poor weather ahead in the forecast, the skies today became sunny and pleasant just in time for me to partake in this year’s Poutine Week challenge. A charity programme in which a participating restaurant will donate a meal to someone in need for every poutine sold, Poutine Week happens every April.

  • The girls’ instructor here struggles to eat a green pepper. I’m not a picky eater by any definition and love trying new dishes out. High on the list of things I like are exotic poutines: for Poutine Week this year, I visited the Midtown Café to enjoy the Philadelphia Cheese Steak poutine – a classy poutine decked out in roasted cuts of beef, beef demi-glace, sautéed onions and marinated chilies drizzled in a horseradish aioli, garnished with mustard microgreens, this is perhaps one of the most fancy poutines I’ve ever had. The heavier flavours of the demi-glace, fries, cheese kurds and beef were offset by the bite the chilies provided, and there was a bit of a kick coming from the aioli that gave the poutine a very complex flavour.

  • After lunch, we went back to the office space to host a small 007 GoldenEye Source LAN party. This was immensely entertaining, and after warming up with some TDM hosted locally, we hopped onto a public server whose main game mode was gun master. Aside from some colourful language from other players, we had a fantastic time. The clouds returned in force by the time I returned home, and the rain began falling as the evening set in. Back in Washio Sumi Chapter, the girls take a break atop the bell tower, having completed their assignment for the training camp. Up until this point, there are no Vertex, and Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act presents the precious moments that Sumi, Sonoko and Gin spend together.

  • When the Vertex do arrive, however, this instalment of Washio Sumi Chapter takes on a much grimmer tone. There is actually quite a bit to consider during the combat, which makes up the last ten minutes of the instalment and led indirectly to the page quote sourced from the Auralnauts video “Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One”. As will become apparent, the final ten minutes of this episode of Washio Sumi Chapter is a moving display. Viewers are treated once more to the full transformation sequence. While Sumi’s segment is most pleasing to the eye, Gin’s is pleasing to the ear: perhaps I might be one of the only viewers out there who enjoyed listening to Gin’s small grunts as she swings her blades around in preparation for combat.

  • As the fighting begins, the girls learn that they are taking on a pair of Vertices, but the situation worsens when a third appears. Taking their learnings, Sumi stays back to provide covering fire while Gin and Sonoko engage each Vertex at close quarters. Sumi’s aim is true; both Gin and Sonoko land hits against the Vertex, but they soon unleash a powerful counterattack. Sumi and Gin take cover under Sonoko’s umbrella to weather out the storm of missiles the Vertex launch, but are swatted by a scorpion-like tail.

  • The impact is so ferocious that Sonoko and Sumi suffer internal injuries, taking them out of the fight. The girls had previously left combat with minor scratches and bruises, and earlier in this act, Sumi experiences a furious nosebleed when seeing Gin in a dress, but the comedy and slapstick vanishes: the injuries and damage here are very real. A closer inspection of this post will find that almost half of the screenshots deal with their fight against the Vertex; the proportion of combat time to time spent depicting the girls’ everyday lives is a deliberate choice, setting the stage for the message that this second episode aims to convey, and goes to show that friendships, constructed lovingly over a period of time, can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

  • With the destruction of the Shinju an unacceptable alternative, Gin is forced to engage the Vertex on her own when she sees the state that Sonoko and Sumi are in. The Vertex seen in Washio Sumi Chapter do not appear to have a core as did the ones seen in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and fall after sustaining enough damage. Given this change, it stands to reason that the Vertex appear to be constructs that arise from aberrations in their world, which, in conjunction with how the second act’s opening is presented, gives credence to the notion that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is set in a simulated reality.

  • Promising to fight in their steed and return to them, Gin sets off against overwhelming odds. It’s the last time audiences see Gin smile, and from here on out, it’s all business. Earlier, Gin had promised her brother that she would return to give him a souvenir from her trip, and this is the bit of foreshadowing that hints at her eventual fate. Still in reasonable shape, and with her blades doubling as shields, she takes off with the intent of taking out both Vertices and fulfilling her promise.

  • The differences in scale here simultaneously serve to suggest the odds that Gin is going up against, as well as her own persistence. Abstract entities that are dubbed “Ugly”, “Admiral Aimbot” and “Walrus Face”, the Vertex are described in the opening narration as being the “Pinnacles” of something, a rather ironic description considering the dangers they pose to the Shinju. A point worth bringing up here, is that Vertices in plural will invariably be brought up as Yūki Yūna is a Hero progresses: while Vertex in plural can be spelt as “vertexes”, “vertices” is the much more widely-used variation, hence my choosing to spell it in this manner. Having said this, “vertexes” might be more appropriate in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, considering their unusual nature.

  • Despite having closed the distance between herself and the Vertex in order to enter melee range, Gin is punctured by the energy-like projectiles that leave large holes in her body. The damage she sustains does little to stop her: she manages to shear off the tail from one of the Vertices and slashes a hole in another with her blades. However, the onslaught is simply too much for one individual to negotiate: projectiles punch through her foot and other parts of her body, knocking her down.

  • Absolutely refusing to give up, Gin feels that her spirit, love for her family and friends, and a determination to fulfil her promises to each, makes her stronger than her opponents. This is the basis for the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s name. However, unlike typical stories where willpower and love for those important to one triumph totally, Gin’s efforts end with her death, whose sacrifice is total as she fights to fulfil her duty to the Shunju and people in her life.

  • Gin’s defeat and passing is a plausible outcome for her situation, or, as some might say, “realistic”, similar to how it was implausible for the Calgary Flames to defeat the Anaheim Ducks during the playoffs. While I am a fan of plausible outcomes and to a lesser extent, realism, I feel that these elements should not impede the presentation of a narrative’s thematic elements. There are cases where realism is favoured over consistency, leading a work of fiction to feel jarring on the virtue that the events of a finale are not in keeping with the message the work aimed to make clear. In the case of Washio Sumi Chapter, Gin’s death is necessary to advance things, rather than being included for drama’s sake.

  • Here, Gin pushes one final charge that will deal a killing blow to the Vertex, at the expense of her own life. I contend that dark themes and events are similarly related to realism, that realism is not positively correlated with darkness, and it is folly to think that a darker story is automatically more thought provoking. The best stories accomplish several things: they lead us to challenge our own views of the world, vividly experience things that would otherwise be quite unlikely or dangerous, and/or inspire us in some way. Fiction need not be nihilistic and dark to accomplish this, and in the excess, can cause a work to come across as being quite superficial in quality. Madoka Magica and Yūki Yūna is a Hero feature such elements to varying extents, but their success in moving an audience comes because viewers care for the characters rather than because the characters are made to suffer for the sake of drama.

  • This is the sight that Sonoko and Sumi are presented with when they come to and reach Gin. Her weapons lying on the battlefield, and standing totally still, the two are initially relieved that Gin is still apparently in one piece. It was mentioned earlier that the girls’ hero outfits provide some degree of protection against the Vertex’s assault, and this does seem to hold true: no one’s had their internal organs blown out or their entire body bifrucated as in Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan as of yet despite the terrifying power the Vertex can wield.

  • In the eerie still, Sumi and Sonoko soon realise that Gin’s right arm is missing. Unlike Imran Zakhaev, who survived the loss of his arm despite the blood loss and resulting shock, the damage done to Gin is beyond survival. It is here that Sumi and Sonoko’s fears come to pass. The injuries shown openly on screen might be too much to show on television; if the televised broadcast of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is going to censor the blood and carnage, however, it might also lessen the impact of this moment.

  • Sonoko and Sumi let out wrenching sobs in light of the loss of their best friend that match the impact imparted by Hikari back during the days of Brave Witches and then some. The film draws to a close here, leaving audiences with a preview of what the final act of Washio Sumi Chapter entails. Moving into the finale, I am hoping for further details on the Vertex: it is difficult to consider Yūku Yūna is a Hero without them, and knowing about their beliefs, desires and intentions will add weight to the Heroes’ fight against the Vertex.

  • Before I wrap things up, for those wondering, I’ve been around the block long enough to be blunted towards tears: although quite moving, I did not shed any tears, much less several individual tears, at the episode’s conclusion. Thus ends another post on Washio Sumi Chapter. I will be returning to write about the final act in July, and for the present, note that discussion on the Washio Sumi Chapter has been surprisingly minimal. This will likely change in the near future once Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second season is aired, but for now, the quiet isn’t such a bad thing.

In spite of the opening narration redacting some elements about the Vertex and Taisha, the information that is provided seems to align with the idea that this Yūki Yūna is a Hero occurs within a simulated reality: the Vertex are suggested to be anomalies within the system, and the Heroes would therefore serve as a sort of anti-virus or anti-malware platform for defending the Shinju, the operating system, from threats arising within the programming. The spontaneous creation of Vertex as an antagonist hints at instability in the system, and there is a limit to what speculation can accomplish: there’s still quite a bit of background about Yūki Yūna is a Hero that audiences are not privy to. While not presenting the complete picture, having these dialogues and fragments of information is infinitely preferable to the absence of exposition. Until more documentation becomes available to support or refute my guesses, I will continue to go with the idea that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is the mahou shoujo take on The Matrix. With the second act of Washio Sumi Chapter in the books, the stage is now set for the final movie, which is set for release on July 8. I am very curious to see the intermediate story between Sumi’s transition to Mimori, as well as the difficult path that Sonoko chooses to defend her world. Yūki Yūna is a Hero might have been met with a lukewarm reception at best for dropping viewers into the middle of things, but the Washio Sumi Chapter films have been a modest attempt at addressing the background behind this world so far. If the third movie can explain more about the Taisha and Vertices’ respective natures, and the Hero Chapter of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second season can explore how Yūna’s team handles their knowledge following the events of the first season, the world presented in Yūki Yūna is a Hero will feel more complete, and the girls’ actions, more consistent.

Sakura Quest: Review and Impressions After Three

“I felt the need to be more open and expressive of my feelings, not just about the hills and the countryside, but about the daily life.” –Donald Hall

Faced with the challenges of finding full-time employment as her graduation draws near, Yoshino Koharu finds herself offered with an unusual position: to become the Queen of Manoyama, a small town in rural Japan far removed from Tokyo, to promote tourism to the area. While this offer turns out to have been made on the basis of mistaken identity, Yoshino learns that Manoyama was the town where one of her fondest memories of being crowned were made: she nonetheless is displeased with prospects of staying for a year, attempting the impossible task of selling a thousand boxes of manjū on the condition that she be released from her contract on success. Despite failing, she draws upon her resources and know-how to try and bolster sales with the friendly Shiori Shinomiya, Ririko Oribe (Shiori’s friend with a profund knowledge of the occult), ammeter actor Maki Midorikawa and the web developer Sanae Kōzuki, becoming closer to them in the process. Later, during a televised competition to promote Manoyama, Yoshino realises that, following her attempts to learn more about the town and its residents, she genuinely wants to make a difference, and to Ushimatsu Kadota, head of Manoyama’s Tourism Board, she agrees to stay the year and help out on the condition of being able to work with Shiori, Sanae, Maki and Ririko. I am all smiles when watching Sakura Quest, and there is little doubt in my mind that this is going to be one of the strongest anime on my table for this season: wielding both sincerity and comedy, Sakura Quest is a reminder that P.A. Works is at their finest when they work with original anime set in the real world to showcase the trials and tribulations of people. Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari and Shirobako were each excellent works, firmly about challenges and adversity in life, as well as making the most of what one is dealt to ultimately craft a highly compelling story whose characters audiences can empathise with.

Hanasaku Iroha dealt with Ohana learning about the worth of hard work and dealing with her feelings for her friend, Kō, Tari Tari follows a group of friends seeking to create an opus magnum before their halcyon days in high school draw to a close, and Shirobako sees Aoi Miyamori settle into her job as a production assistant at an anime studio, being later promoted to production manager as she discovers her own talents in the position. Each of these anime were highly engaging, and in Sakura Quest, P.A. Works’ talent for depicting real-world stories continues. Yoshino’s predicament in trying to help Ushimatsu drive tourism to Manoyama parallels the struggles that towns in Japan’s inaka, or rural Japan, face: their populations aging, and with youth like Yoshino being drawn to the city for its greater opportunity, populations in the inaka are declining along with economic prospects. However, in some places, settlements and towns in the inaka are making a resurgence, brought on by the people’s desires to escape the manic pace of the city or as a result of increased promotional efforts. This social issue is captured in Sakura Quest, and despite a healthy dose of comedy present, Sakura Quest is very open about the challenges that inaka communities, such as the fictional Manoyama, face in their futures. Consequently, Sakura Quest‘s upcoming depiction of Yoshino’s journeys with her newfound friends in Manoyama will certainly be one that is as much about her own personal discovery as it is about how a group of friends can indeed make a difference in a a part of Japan that seems stubbornly set in its ways even in the face of decline.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I will mention this again later: Sakura Quest has twenty five episodes in the works, meaning that I will be returning at some intervals to discuss how the anime is progressing. I also open with the remark that I’m up to speed with Sakura Quest, and that of the numerous discussions I’ve seen so far, none have delved into the societal elements of Japan that drive the narrative of Sakura Quest. Population aging and decline is a very real issue facing the countryside, and programs incentivising citizens to move to or stay in the countryside definitely exist.

  • Yoshino Koharu is Sakura Quest‘s Aoi Miyamori, the reluctant hero who finds herself thrown into situations she’s initially uncomfortable with handling. Yoshino is voiced by Ayaka Nanase, a relatively new voice actor for whom this is her first leading role. After arriving in Manoyama, Yoshino is greeted by the tourism board, who immediately note that she’s not the person they’re expecting. In a bit of dark irony, the individual they were expecting had died some years back, and consequently, they’re ready to see if Yoshino might be a fit.

  • The interior of the Manoyama Tourism Board’s office will undoubtly be a location that audiences can expect to see more of in the upcoming episodes, being their base of operations. Its depiction in high detail here complete with one of the employees playing Go on their laptop, is a reminder of the level of quality that P.A. Works places into its anime. In general, their anime strike a balance between highly intricate and organisation in its environments that create a detailed, yet clean setting.

  • Shiori is a Manoyama native roughly around Yoshino’s age. Being friendly and kind, she’s a member of the tourism board with a genuine interest in bolstering tourism around the Manoyama area and is extremely knowledgeable about the region. Shiori is voiced by Reina Ueda, whom I’ve seen previously as Kuromukuro‘s Sophie Noelle and Shizune Takatsuki of Infinite Stratos². I finished Kuromukuro in December, some three months after it finished airing, and the reason why I never did write a review for it was because I had mixed feelings about it after the conclusion.

  • After Yoshino accepts her position, she has dinner with some of the more senior members of the Tourism Board. While food and drink is partaken, I take advantage of the moment to steal a cursory glance at my archive for this month: I’ve got a fair number of gaming posts out as a result of having pushed through Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered. I’ve still yet to actually write about Titanfall 2: the past while’s been busy in real life, and yesterday, I returned to the CYSF as a judge. After a light pastry and apple juice, I stepped out into the fair to begin my adjudication of the student’s projects.

  • The last science fair I participated in was eleven years ago; it was a rainy day, and I’d struggled to get my trifold to the exhibition venue. My project, outlining the implications of genetics research, went reasonably well, earning me a bronze medal and a small cash prize: looking back, it was a fun experience. Presently, it was an equally fun and meaningful experience to approach the science fair from the judge’s perspective, encouraging young minds to explore science. Back in Sakura Quest, Yoshino meets Maki for the first time, who irritates her to no end with her abuse of the word “normal” (普通, futsū).

  • If time permits, I may go back and continue to judge science fairs as a volunteer. For the present, I return my attention to Sakura Quest and share with the reader a cruel laugh at Yoshino’s expense: she learns that her contract is to be a year rather than a day, choosing to flee for her life rather than honour it. However, Manoyama’s remoteness makes escape next to impossible – the train station is closed. It brings to mind the gulag of the Kolyma region; these were sufficiently isolated and located in frigid lands such that escaping was pointless, as escapees would simply freeze to death.

  • P.A. Works might be known for a variety of things, but for me, I know them best for their exceptional “funny faces”: Shirobako featured Aoi wearing a variety of hilarious expressions, and one of my goals this season for Sakura Quest will be to capture as many funny faces as I can in the reviews that I do for this series. So far, it’s been pretty disciplined, but I’m hoping that we see Yoshino with some Aoi Miyamori-level facial expressions soon. Here, Yoshino flees after a “Chupacabra” appears. Refusing to use a special sword to dramatically take it out, Yoshino winds up injuring Ushimatsu instead.

  • A thousand boxes of manjū are delivered in error, and Ushimatsu decides that Yoshino is free to go if she can sell of all thousand boxes within a week before their “best before” date. This is a Sisyphean task: Manoyama’s entire population is around fifty thousand, and Ushimatsu pegs it a test of Yoshino’s resolve. Her initial efforts are unsuccessful, and she decides to figure out a means of marketing their presence to the locals, recruiting the local web developer and blogger Sanae to help.

  • Demonstrating her knack for creative solutions, Yoshino suggests that they try to capitalise on the chupacabra sightings in the area to create a sense of intrigue around the manjū; they speak with Ririko here to learn more. Sakura Quest spells the chapacabra as “chupakaura”, the katakana form for the cryptid. Life in the inaka is said to be remarkably quiet, and outside of work, there is not too much to do. Surprisingly, life in suburban Canada without a vehicle is rather similar – folks suggest picking up a good hobby, and armed with a powerful internet connection and a sense of adventure, I would imagine that, besides a significantly longer commute, my life in the inaka would probably not be too different than it is now: I would spend weekends exploring the countryside via hikes on days with pleasant weather and game or write if the conditions is unfavourable.

  • Yoshino’s resourcefulness drew me into Sakura Quest, and it is quite clear that despite her numerous rejection from jobs in Tokyo, she has a unique skillset as a result of her studies in Tokyo. Simply because companies might not count her as being a qualified candidate does not mean that Yoshino lacks skills, and it is reasonable to imagine that her experiences in Manoyama change her in appreciable ways, either setting her up to stay in the countryside or equipping her with marketable skills in order to gain an offer.

  • With sales of the manjū doing quite poorly even after a few days, Yoshino further resolves to create a short movie to capture the novelty around them, hoping to motivate sales. Even this proves unsuccessful, but the exercise accomplishes several important functions, such as bringing Yoshino, Ririko, Sanae and Maki closer to one another. It is often through failure that critical learnings are attained, and the value of these learnings can become much more valuable than the success itself. It is around the events of the second episode where Sakura Quest truly begins shining, providing viewers with an iron-clad incentive to continue enjoying this anime.

  • Although dejected, Yoshino tries a manjū, learns that it is exceptionally good, and suddenly realises that her time with the others has been an enjoyable one. They decide to stick together long enough for Yoshino to check out the sakura blossoms in the area one week from this point: fate itself continues to draw Yoshino back to Manoyama, and despite her reluctance, Yoshino slowly will come to appreciate the different features and pacing of the inaka. While I speak as though there is source material, Sakura Quest is an original anime; my speculations (and confident delivery of such) is motivated by my familiarity with outcomes in such narratives. Knowing what happens, however, is not where the fun lies – the real enjoyment comes from watching how a narrative’s events progress.

  • It typically takes me some time to become acclimitised to all of the characters and their names, but in the case of Sakura Quest, I’ve become familiarised with all of the major characters at the third episode mark; there’s no need for me to look at an external reference in order to determine how to spell their names or identify who they are. This is a solid start to Sakura Quest in the exposition component, introducing enough characters to get things started without overwhleming the viewers.

  • Shiori and Yoshino meet Maki’s brother, who is trying to convince her to return home. On top of being easy to remember, the characters of Sakura Quest are (perhaps with the exception of the cold townspeople) immediately likeable – this presentation seems to suggest that the anime will be about the tourism board trying to rally the town behind them to Make Manoyama Great Again℠. While long associated with the presidential campaign of 2016, the phrase “Make America Great Again℠” originates with Ronald Regan’s campaign in 1980.

  • Despite being the Queen of Manoyama, Yoshino realises that she has very limited background on Manoyama and its people. Here, she’s preparing for a televised interview about Manoyama, and promptly botches it despite support from Shiori. Ever-supportive and cheerful, Shiori and Yoshino get along remarkably well: Shiori is the first to begin supporting and encouraging, Yoshino, who finds her own feet with the conclusion of the third episode’s events.

  • While idealists have grand visions in their minds about bringing about change, the largest impediment to change is the fact that for the most part, people are unaccustomed to change and prefer the status quo. This is why disruptive forces, such as new technologies, often do not take off until on particular approach to the technology catches on for its convenience and ease of use. The smartphone is a fantastic example of this: the IBM Simon Personal Communicator was the first-ever smartphone, being able to make calls and receive emails. Introduced in 1992 and retailing for 1099 USD, the device had a touch screen. However, these devices remained uncommon and largely used by businesses until 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone. The concept of a device that could do mobile computing in conjunction with acting as a phone was nothing new by that point, but Apple succeeded in creating a smooth, enjoyable user experience that subsequently changed the face of electronic communications forever.

  • It would be quite unrealistic (and unfair) to expect Yoshino to streamline a concept or process in order to revitalise Manoyama’s economy, but to see what she makes of her situation is what will make Sakura Quest fun to watch. When a costume mishap leads to #TeamManoyama nearly missing their allocated time slot in a competition, Yoshino steps in and orders for them to combine the two costumes, then proceeds to deliver a heartfelt speech that, while not scoring any points with the judges, conveys her own conviction in helping Make Manoyama Great Again℠.

  • While on hanami with the others, Yoshino comes to realise that she’s found four fantastic friends in Manoyama. She comes to a conclusion, making a request to Ushimatsu to work with them, and her decision thus sparks the remainder of the story that will be presented in the upcoming weeks. I’ve always been fond of origin stories, and seeing how things begin – Sakura Quest is no exception, and I look forwards to seeing how things proceed in this twenty-five episode anime. The opening and ending songs, Morning Glory and Freesia, respectively, are set to release in May 17. Overall, the visuals and direction in Sakura Quest have been solid, but the soundtrack’s been a bit lower-key so far.

  • After lifting weights, I spent most of the day playing through Battlefield 1 and went for a walk to acquire the Earth Day challenge on Apple Activities. It was an overcast evening that I stepped out to for dinner; besides a special fried rice with garlic shrimps, we also had Thailand-style chicken, sweet and sour pork, a stir fry and fried fish balls. With the “after three” post for Sakura Quest in the books, I will be looking at Saekano♭ after three episodes in the near future. In addition, with Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act available now, another post for that will be rolling off the runway in the very near future. This is about it for the anime I’ve got lined up to write about in the foreseeable future – Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1 Premium are the other two posts that are on the list of things I aim to finish before April is out.

Immensely relatable right out of the gates, Sakura Quest seems an anime that audiences in my age bracket will relate with quickly: the uncertainties associated with making that transition between school and work is a frightening one, and sometimes, opportunities can arise from the most unlikely of circumstances. This is precisely what happens to Yoshino, whose career in the tourism industry begins with a mistake arising from illegible handwriting. This opening reflects on how reality itself can play out in the most unusual of ways, and for those persistent enough to stick things out, the journey can prove to be a rewarding one. With this remark, I have an inkling that I may have with reasonable accuracy, described Sakura Quest‘s main thematic element already, but like all of its predecessors, it is this journey whose worth makes the anime worth following. Sakura Quest is slated to run for twenty five episodes – such a number corresponds with an adequate time frame to really capture Yoshino’s experiences, and consequently, it would not be mistaken to surmise that Sakura Quest could be as captivating and entertaining to watch as its predecessors set in the real world.

Friends- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter Part One Review and Reflection

“Make ten men feel like a hundred.” —Cassian Andor, Rogue One

Before she met Yūna Yūki, Mimori Tōgō was known as Sumi Washio. She is assigned, with her classmates Sonoko Nogi and Gin Minowa, as heroes to defend the Shinju from the Vertex. Despite still lacking the requisite training to be effective in combat, they are pressed into an engagement with a Vertex that presents them with a considerable challenge. In the end, it is the combination of brute force and a team effort that allow them to claim their first kill. Following this battle, their instructor assigns Sonoko to be the team leader, while Sumi struggles to summon the courage to become friends with Sonoko and Gin, all the while lamenting how the other two do not seem very serious or dedicated about their roles. Successful, the group of friends take on their second vertex and only manage a narrow victory over it; their instructor decides to give the girls a training camp, where they hone their ability to coordinate as a team. While improving as heroes, Sumi notices that Gin is consistently late for school, and one day, after tailing her with Sonoko and learning that Gin seems to be drawn into helping others, the third vertex appears. Faltering when Sonoko and Gin engage it, it is with their encouragement that Sumi opens fire on the Vertex, creating an opening that allows Gin to neutralise it. Sumi realises that despite her own determination, she is likely to be holding the team back and dissolves in tears, resolving to strengthen herself. So ends the first part of the Washio Sumi Chapter, the prequel to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, which sets the stage for exploring Mimori’s background as a hero. Veterans have noted that Yūki Yūna is a Hero lacks a formal exposition, dropping viewers directly into the universe without much in the way of explanation. While Yūki Yūna is a Hero managed to present a coherent, well-defined theme, the anime’s original run in 2014 also left audiences with questions: unlike Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which thoroughly explained their universe’s mechanics, very little about the Taisha and Shinju are known even after twelve episodes.

In Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part, the focus is on Sumi’s growth as a character, learning that beliefs and attitudes are only half the battle: when the time comes, action becomes just as important, and discipline during peace time may not necessarily correspond to acting appropriately during an operation. Although Sumi tries to remind herself time and time again that her own self-reliance will mean that she’s looking after Sonoko and Gin, when taking on the Vertex in combat, Sumi freezes up and stops thinking when her mode of attack, taking the form of a magical bow, proves ineffectual. Her ranged weapons have a low travel speed and are easily disrupted by turbulence the Vertex can conjure; these limitations in combat compared to the seemingly more effectual weapons that Sonoko and Gin wield appear to weigh on her mind. Instead of seeing herself as being useful in providing long-range support for her close quarters oriented teammates, Sumi concludes that she must improve to support her friends in new ways, rather than making the most of the loadout she’s got to assist Sonoko and Gin. These elements sum up to present Sumi as being a very consistent but rigid-minded individual, constrained by her own analysis and understanding of a situation; ever interested in studying history and its lessons, Sumi’s love of knowledge is her greatest asset, but both in Washio Sumi Chapter and the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, it also becomes an impediment. Thus, right from the beginning, in establishing Mimori’s personality, audiences gain a better sense of what drives Mimori throughout much of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to the strength of Sumi’s belief in her own self-reliance, it is reasonable to suppose that the remaining parts of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s contents will deal with her gradually opening up, only to be sent back to square one as events unfold.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been around eight and a half months since I last wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and the anime itself aired between October and December in 2014. As memory serves, I was starting out on my journey as a graduate student back then; Sword Art OnlineSora no Method and Amagi Brilliant Park were the two anime I watched that season. In this post, I include thirty images of the Washio Sumi Chapter and open with the remark that Sumi Washio will be referred to as Sumi throughout this post even though she is re-christened Mimori Tōgō later on.

  • From left to right, Gin Minowa, Sumi Washio and Sonoko Nogi prepare for battle against their first Vertex. Mysterious beings whose origins are never explained and whose goals seem restricted to “destroy the Shinju”, they act as the antagonists that drive the protagonists together. One of the things that proved quite entertaining about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was that Hero duty is facilitated for by a suite of apps on the girls’ smartphones. Even in the short span since I watched Yūki Yūna is a Hero, smart phone technology has already increased in complexity: the new iPhone 7s do not have a physical home screen button and rely on Force Touch for interactions, and the iPhone 8 is expected to be even more sophisticated, leaving the iPhone 6 that I (and Taki of Your Name) wield in the dust.

  • As per tradition of any mahou shoujo anime, the girls undergo a lengthy transformation sequence when it is shown for the first time. Sumi’s sequence remains unchanged from its successor in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although when one factors into consideration that she’s only eleven here, the question of whether or not there’s any point at all in focussing the camera on her chest and posterior comes to mind. This might cross the line for some, and I’m not ready to consider the ramifications of Sumi’s transformation. However, I am quite ready to discuss her initial loadout as a hero: a magical bow that fires arrows dealing damage to the Vertex but is constrained by low projectile speed and as a result, suffers from serious projectile drop.

  • Gin is equipped with a pair of stylised blades with a rocket engine of sorts to boost her power. Confident, cheerful and easygoing, Gin prefers charging into combat with little semblence of a plan and is voiced by Yumiri Hanamori: a relative newcoming as a voice actor, I’m not familair with her other roles beyond those of Anne Hanakoizumi in Anne Happy, which I’ve yet to watch, and Remo of Garakowa: Restore the World.

  • Gentlest of the heroes but also a natural leader, Sonoko wields a trident that can transform into an umbrella-like shield during combat to cover her teammates. She is one of the longest serving heroes and loses much of her body in the fight against the Vertex as a result of activating her NT-D mankai in excess of twenty instances, later informing Yūki of the fate that awaits heroes. Sonoko is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, a veteran voice actor who’s also played Yukari Yukino of Garden of Words and Your Name.

  • Lacking any sort of combat experience, the girls improvise a plan but find themselves overwhelmed by the Vertex’s water-element attacks. The homing water bubbles overwhelm Gin, who demonstrates resourcefulness by drinking down the entire thing and remarking that while it tasted quite poor, it was a necessary move. Gin’s description suggests that the Vertex is using pure, distilled water free of any minerals: our taste receptors can pick up ions in water, giving water a minor taste, and distilled water will be unusually flat. While some folks consider distilled water the best to drink for its lack of contaminants, the lack of minerals can be detrimental to the body.

  • Ultimately, Sumi is able to shoot off one of the Vertex’s weapons, and Gin capitalises on this opening to slice-and-dice the Vertex, causing it to disintegrate and creating a phenomenon that is visualised as a shower of flowers. Gin and Sonoko celebrate their first victory together, and the world is restored. The soundtrack in Washio Sumi Chapter seems unchanged since its presentation in Yūki Yūna is a Hero: composed by Keiichi Okabe (of Nier Automata and Wake Up, Girls!), there is an ethereal quality to his performances that rival those of Yuki Kajiura, who wrote the music for Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

  • The architecture in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is less visually distinct than those seen in Madoka Magica, speaking very little about the characters’ internal feelings. Structures featuring more conventional designs, and there are no major cities with skyscrapers, although some large structures, such as the suspension bridge, have unique features that make them unlike those of the real world: here, a large ring can be seen on one of the suspension bridge towers, and a close-up of the bridge reveals small charms attached to the bridge’s cables.

  • I’m gearing up to help judge at the Calgary Youth Science Fair this Friday, and will be in attendance of an orientation tomorrow evening. Despite being done school, things have remained quite busy, engaging. My reason for helping out with the science fairs is that I’m actually quite curious to see what young minds out there are doing these days. I still recall my participation in the science fair during my second and third year of middle school: on both occasions, I did a research project and won bronze in my category. Looking back, it definitely was a fun experience, and it will be quite exciting to see things from the other side of the fence.

  • Sumi turns luminescent when Sonoko asks her to share her gelato here, after they visit a local place to celebrate their first victory and also commemorate their friendship. It’s not quite as intense as Kon of Urara Meirocho, whose entire body turns pink out of embarrassment. I’ve noted before that Kon and Mimori/Sumi strongly resemble one another, similar to how Itsuki and Nono share some similarities in appearance and manner.

  • The second vertex Sumi and the others face project a powerful windstorm that makes movement nearly impossible. The abstract designs of the spaces the Vertex and Shinju occupy in Yūki Yūna is a Hero lack the same imagery of those seen in Madoka Magica, lacking distinct features of the Witches’ labyrinths. This is because the Witches’ labyrinths are spaces the Witches create to hide in and can provide an approximation of the Witches’ former character (for Oktavia von Seckendorff, her labyrinth is characterised by a fixation on Sayaka’s crush, Kyōsuke, and his musical talents), whereas in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the heroes fight in an alternate space to minimise damage to the real world.

  • While doubtlessly not short with respect to the cool factor, arrows are a very limited weapon against the Vertex, who can deflect them without much effort. Sumi’s weapons are further constrained by the need of a charge time to be effective: they appear to deal their maximum damage only after all of the pedals in the holographic flower are lit. Charged weapons are a feature of some first person shooters (Team Fortress 2‘s snipers, the Gauss rifle’s siege mode in DOOM and the plasma railgun in Titanfall come to mind): a charge mechanic allows support players to deal massive damage in the support role, requiring patience. A good sniper hangs out in the back and targets their opponents from a distance, and it appears that Sumi does not fully understand her role on the hero team.

  • Gin’s melee weapons are oriented entirely for offense, while Sonoko’s trident suggest an intermediary role, allowing her to provide offense and defense as required. While the girls have the basic ranges and roles covered, a part of their limitation owing to their limited experience means that no one really capitalises fully on their abilities even in their second battle: as their instructor remarks, Gin’s final destruction of the second Vertex is more brute force than finesse. A team in touch with one another would see Sumi sit back from direct combat and use her ranged capabilities to provide covering fire. Sonoko would get herself and Gin close to the vertex and engage with their respective offensive weapons.

  • Following their second battle, their instructor decides that Sonoko should be the team leader; Sumi is presented as being arrogant to an extent, supposing that Sonoko was selected on virtue of background rather than skill, but nonetheless resolves to work hard and support the team as best as she can. Like Gin, I’ve never been particularly good with leadership roles and prefer to be in the passenger seat, helping a driver make decisions and provide support, although as the need arises, I can and will lead a team. This trait carries over to Battlefield and other games, where I prefer being a gunner rather than a driver.

  • Transforming her trident into a beach umbrella as a shield, their instructor’s exercise is to storm a beach, working as a team to reach a capture point without getting hit. In the beginning, the exercise is unsuccessful as each of Sonoko, Gin and Sumi act independently. However, when they work as a team as stipulated earlier, with Sumi providing covering fire from the rear and Sonoko shielding Gin long enough for her to close the distance and enter melee range, they complete their task splendidly. Besides practical training, the girls also hone their minds, busying themselves with study and even meditating, although Gin cramps up and falls over during meditation. I’m stupidly inflexible, and it takes all of my willpower to prevent my leg from cramping while I meditate.

  • After Gin tries to mess with Sumi’s assets, their instructor comes in to bring an end to things and restore the peace, promptly blowing Sumi and Gin away when she proves to be bigger…for them, resulting in the reaction here. Although Yūki Yūna is a Hero does have its serious moments, it is not devoid of comedy. Exaggerated facial expressions and reactions are present in the anime, and while there are themes of betrayal, trust and doubt as a part of the story, the overall tone is rather more optimistic than those of Madoka Magica.

  • The events of Madoka Magica were unexpected, coming out of left field and blew away audiences. If word is to be believed, it was the very learnings from Sora no Woto of the Anime no Chikara Project that were utilised in Madoka Magica to create a work that was both entertaining and surprising. The Anime no Chikara project is erroneously assumed to have been discarded after failure, and I myself assumed this to be the case until my recent Sora no Woto posts: looking into things, I learned that the program was intended to only run for a year.

  • Generally reserved, Sumi becomes rather more animated whenever history is mentioned: she wastes no time in conveying her enthusiasm for Japanese history and mentions the battleship Nagato. Constructed in 1910, modernised during the mid-1930s and serving as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s flagship for a period, the Nagato survived WWII, having seen very little in the way of direct combat and survived several attacks compared to other vessels. However, despite their intimidating looks, I myself are a much bigger fan of aircraft carriers over battleships.

  • I’m what is considered a wet blanket, since when I’m out, I tend to try and maintain a sleep pattern as close to that of home as possible so I have enough energy to get through the day’s main events, rather than staying up into the late hours of the evening. I’ve never been a night person, and typically, I get most of my work done between nine and three: in the afternoon, I grow tired, and productivity declines. This stands in stark comparison with some of my friends and coworkers, who work their best as the evening turns to night, at the expense of not being morning people.

  • After returning from their training camp, Sumi grows frustrated that Gin is late yet again, and decides to get to the bottom of things. She uses a periscope here to peer over some cover, with Sonoko in tow, learning that Gin’s propensity to help others seems to be something that can’t be helped. Very much a Japanese concept, Shikata ga nai (仕方が無い) is supposed to be the Japanese spirit of endurance, maintaining face in light of challenges; this stands in contrast with views in the West, where prevailing thought is to figure out a solution to that problem sooner rather than later (“don’t get mad, get even”).

  • Gin quickly becomes my favourite character of the Washio Sumi Chapter: ever ready to help those around her and carrying an inextinguishable spirit as a result of having to look after her siblings, she tends to help everyone along her way to school, explaining why she’s always late for school. Like Madoka Magica‘s original TV run and home release, the backgrounds of  Yūki Yūna is a Hero are quite simple and clean, compared to the more intricate backgrounds of the Madoka Magica movies.

  • The unusual setup of the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero leads me to wonder if their world is not unlike of that of The Matrix, being a highly sophisticated simulated reality. In such a world, whoever is running this simulation would have their own reasons for keeping the characters occupied (perhaps similar to how Rick has an entire world inside his battery in the Rick and Morty episode “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”), and also would account for how things freeze as the girls take the Vertex on in combat. Of course, the presence of a microverse in something like Yūki Yūna is a Hero would be one of the biggest plot twists of the century.

  • Audiences should be safe, however: for the time being, there are few indicators beyond my own enjoyment of Rick and Morty that would lead to the potential conclusion that the Yūki Yūna is a Hero universe is set inside someone’s battery. Of course, that would also open up the possibility for someone to develop a miniverse and teenyverse battery, ad infinitum. For now, we return to Washio Sumi Chapter, where the third of the Vertexes appear.

  • In spite of Sumi’s belief in her own abilities, during the third engagement, she locks up after seeing the Vertex taking flight to evade her arrows and fears for Gin. Despite facing an adversary they seemingly cannot beat, Sonoko takes charge and creates a stairwell for Sumi; the elevation allows her projectile to hit, dealing some damage. Meanwhile, Sonoko draws its attention off Gin and is blown away.

  • With its attention divided, the stage is set for Gin to exit her defensive stance and go on the offense. With her rocket-propelled blades, she annihilates the Vertex. It’s a gruelling battle, and the girls sustain a nontrivial number of scratches during the course of this engagement. In keeping with mahou shoujo tradition, the transformation sequence for this battle is much shorter than the initial one: the thrill of the first launch or transformation is always at its maximum, and subsequently, they become a bit of a drag to sit through. In Gundam, for instance, launches shorten as the series progresses, but may become lengthier if the protagonists are about to set out on a pivotal battle, either for better or worse.

  • Rather than reacting to any dangers her team was in, Sumi here laments her combat inefficiency and that she was dependent on a teammate to help her out, rather than the other way around. The whole point of teamwork is that no single person carries an unreasonable burden, and it is with teamwork that great achievements are made. This forms the basis for my page quote: inspired by Rogue One, where the Rebels rally around Cassian’s clear instructions. The end result of a good team, with a good leader, has a synergy in which the team is able to achieve more than the sum of the outputs of the individuals together.

  • With the Vertex neutralised for the present, the girls find themselves back in their ordinary world. The large suspension bridge in the background, when viewed from a particular angle, also appears to have a cable-swayed component to it that brings to mind the Tsing ma-Ting Kau bridge in Hong Kong: their combined span is around 1.4 kilometers in length. At present, Tsing Ma bridge is the world’s eleventh longest single-span suspension bridge. It was finished in 1998 and connects Hong Kong International Airport to the Hong Kong.

  • The contrast of blues and greens in Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part offset the mood after Gin and Sonoko notice Sumi weeping. The colours suggest the late summer period, a time of calm and where things are unhurried. A glance at the calendar shows that it is now exam season: I’ve been out of school for around eight months now, having formally finished at the end of August last year. It still feels a little unusual to know that it is the midst of exam season, and yet, I’ve got no exams on my plate. On some occasions, I still dream about “forgetting” to do assignments or being late for class; there is no single interpretation of what this actually means, but I do know that I do not have any assignments left for the present.

  • On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy as always, writing and testing iOS apps in Swift 3. Outside of work, I’ve been gaming and generally taking it easy: I’ve suddenly realised that my last four posts have been about games, so it’s high time I broke that streak and posted something about anime. This is how the Washio Sumi Chapter post came to be, as I was planning on writing about it later, but since there’s an opening now, I’d figure I’d take it.

  • These are the faces of two excellent teammates, and straight away, I feel as though Sonoko and Gin are as valuable as Fū, Itsuki, Karin and Mimori were to Yūna despite their having known Sumi for a shorter period of time. The second part of the Washio Sumi Chapter was released just last weekend, on April 15, and I’ll be getting around to watching that quite soon. Before that, however, I will be looking at Sakura Quest after three episodes, as well as wrapping up my journey through Titanfall 2. In the meantime, it’s time for me to kick back and see if the Flames can stave off total defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. If we’re to lose, I hope that we at least put up a good showing and go out in style.

There are three parts to Washio Sumi Chapter, and the upcoming second season of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is broken up into two parts; the first part will be a televised broadcast of the Washio Sumi Chapter, which is presently covered as theatrical releases. The second half, titled Hero Chapter, will be a proper continuation of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to this unconventional setup, it means that when the fall 2017 anime season rolls around, I will likely drop by and discuss Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter quite separately. For the time being, the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter released mid-April, and I’ve set my sights on watching this one. So far, Washio Sumi Chapter isturning out to be solid addition to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although one of the things high on my wishlist in the second season’s Hero Chapter is a bit more explanation into what the Taisha are and how the Shinju came into being, as well as what the origins of the Vertex are. Unlike Brave Witches, whose complex world-building and Witches are quite separate from the Neuroi, meaning the precise nature of their origins become a lesser concern, the Vertex and Taisha are the reason why there are heroes to begin with in Yūki Yūna is a Hero; to have the characters go through their experiences without properly equipping them with a reason to fight is to limit the series. In the meantime, I will look forwards to seeing what the remaining parts of the Washio Sumi Chapter have in store for audiences.

Gabriel Dropout: Whole Series Review and Reflection On Otafest The Anime

“Does evil exist, and if so, can one detect and measure it? Rhetorical question, Morty. The answer’s ‘yes, you just have to be a genius’.” —Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

It will probably come as a surprise to some that I’ve been watching Gabriel Dropout, an anime from the Winter season that I initially was not looking at, at least until I heard about the depiction of angels and dæmons within the anime. The story is quite simple: Gabriel White Tenma is the top student of her year, but despite being promising angel, she becomes a sloven recluse owing to a gaming addiction when transferred to Earth to study the human civilisation. Joining her in her everyday life (and whom she considers a nuisance for interrupting her gaming) are the dæmons Vignette and Satanichia, as well as fellow angel Raphiel. While there seems to be no central narrative in Gabriel Dropout, the anime is notable for depiction of its two angels, Gabriel and Raphael as embodying of hedonism and mischief. Similarly, the dæmons are presented in a contrary light: Vignette is responsible, focused and seldom involves herself in troublemaking, while Satanichia, for all of her bluster and short-sightedness in trying to cause chaos, is someone who comes to care for those around her. This unusual presentation is meant to illustrate that notions of traditional “good and evil” do not necessarily longer hold true – Gabriel Dropout suggests, through its satirical depiction of angels and dæmons, that good and evil cannot always be so easily separated. “Good” folks can commit evils, rather similar to how “evil” folks are capable of good. In the case of Gabriel Dropout, this contrast is purely meant to create a juxtaposition to serve as a vehicle for the anime’s humour, and amuse its viewers by means of vivid humour.

My interest in Gabriel Dropout was initially piqued by the mascots of Otafest: since 2014, the premiere anime convention of Calgary has been adding new angels to its lineup, and via Twitter, their mascot’s personalities are fleshed out. There’s June-sensei, a mature angel who served as the instructors to the others and is very fond of learning, the energetic and athletic Mio who finds herself caught between the other’s antics, the mysterious but friendly Vari, and Lorelei, who enjoys music as much as messing with Mio. The similarities that these angels have with the principle characters of Gabriel Dropout are surprising. Pre-corruption, Gabriel resembles Lorelei, and post-corruption, Gabriel’s ability to torment and mess with Satanichia is similar to the exchanges seen between Mio and Lorelei on Twitter. Similarly, Vari and Vignette are friendly but often bewildered by their friends’ frequent quarrels, while Raphiel resembles June only marginally in appearance. To watch Gabriel Dropout was really to watch a form of Otafest in anime form, with a significantly greater degree of mischief and chaos. In creating original mascots that work exceptionally well to give the Otafest convention a presence even when the event itself is not running, Otafest creates this sense of community that brings the anime convention to life, but to see the similarities in an anime really makes things more visceral. In particular, I find the commonalities between Otafest’s Mio and Satanichia to be exceptionally amusing, although folks unfamiliar with Otafest and its mascots will not find this particular passage to be too useful in determining whether or not Gabriel Dropout is something worth watching: this comes later.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • From a certain perspective, Gabriel Dropout might be considered a double case study on the detrimental effects of MMORPG-type games on one’s social circles and the importance of friends in helping one recover: at its inception, Gabriel is a highly-capable angel who arrives on Earth to further her knowledge of humanity. She’s seen helping out around the neighbourhood and even offers to give Vignette a tour of their school when learning they’ll be starting out in the new term together. Her initially kind disposition is what leads her into an MMORPG, as she longs to help people out in the video game to.

  • From left to right, we have Raphiel, Gabriel, Vignette and Satanichia. Ultimately, the humour in Gabriel Dropout does not stem from Gabriel’s general lack of respect for those around her as a result of having developed a gaming addiction, but rather, from the situations that arise when Vignette and the others have to deal with Gabriel, as well as one another. Raphiel is another angel from Heaven, whereas Vignette and Satanichia are dæmons of Hell. Their actions and beliefs often stand in stark contrast with traditional notions of good and evil: Vignette is responsible and caring all around, for instance, while Raphiel’s propensity for enjoying the suffering of others borders on the realm of unreasonable.

  • In order to continue financing her in-game purchases, Gabriel takes up a part-time position as a waitress at a neighbourhood coffee shop. The coffee shop’s master is exceptionally well-versed in all things coffee and is happiest when his house blend is praised. He finds himself bewildered at Gabriel’s seeming lack of work ethic and comprehension, but forgives her, believing her to be a foreigner. As Gabriel Dropout progresses, she continues to work there, as her want of finances beyond the stipend that Heaven provides exceeds her slothful ways.

  • The reason why Gabriel Dropout can maintain a comedic atmosphere is because there is a group of characters for Gabriel to interact with: alone, Gabriel’s situation can hardly be considered comedic, and in fact, could be indicative of a mental disorder. Such an anime would not be fun to watch by any means: it is Vignette, Satanichia and Raphiel’s dynamics both with Gabriel and amongst one another that drive the mood up, pushing Gabriel out for activities that she views as a waste of time. Her friends also give her an avenue for interaction; however parasitic this relationship might be, it causes Gabriel to seek out their companionship when it conveniences her, such as when she bothers Vignette after her air condition unit breaks down,

  • The self-proclaimed arch-devil, Satanichia often attempts stunts to humiliate Gabriel, only for them to backfire. Her evil schemes end up being a minor nuisance in general, and her happy-go-lucky attitude is quite charming to behold; here, Raphiel, Satanichia and Vignette prepare to make the most of a day at the beach. Episodes set on the beaches are a common occurrence in slice-of-life anime, often intended to provide a thinly-veiled justification for seeing characters don swimming attire. This concept, this trope, can also be seen outside of the slice-of-life genre – in military and drama settings, the beach might provide a backdrop to advance dynamics amongst the characters.

  • As per expectation, Gabriel immediately parks herself under a parasol and breaks out her laptop, completely disinterested in the amenities and activities a beach can offer. The others spend much of the episode trying to find ways to engage Gabriel, with mixed success, despite their own inexperiences. I am doubly unfamiliar with common beach activities beyond the usual hiking, frisbee, volleyball and swimming: where I’m from, the nearest beach is on the shores of an artificial lake in the southernmost reaches of my city and the nearest real beach has waters of around 22ºC. The temperatures of Cancún’s beaches can reach 29ºC in July and August, and the warm weather here brings to mind the conference of old. If memory serves, ALIFE XVI will be in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

  • After a long day’s of enjoyment, everyone is totally exhausted, leading to this tender moment here that belies very little about the contents of Gabriel Dropout. Summer activities for me tend to be predominantly biking and hiking: although quite lacking in water activities, there is much to do under the summer sun of the foothills. Besides one of the most extensive pathway systems around and presence of summer festivals, we’re only a short distance away from Banff National Park. This year, it’s Canada’s 150ᵗʰ Anniversary, and admissions to all national parks are complementary.

  • Another classic element about summer breaks as seen in anime is the ever-predictable tendency of characters to neglect their assignments until the last minute. Here, everyone’s gathered at Vignette’s place to finish their work: Raphiel and Vignette have finished, leaving Satanichia and Gabriel with work to complete. During their study session, Raphiel “accidentally” brings out a book that Angels use to exorcise Dæmons; its glow causes Satanichia to give off one of the most pitiful and adorable screams I’ve seen in any anime.

  • Tapris is a junior Angel set to begin her studies on Earth once her basic training finishes, and she grows disgusted after learning of Gabriel’s decay, accepting Satanichia’s claims as true when she boldly pronounces that she alone was responsible for destroying Gabriel. Tapris challenges Satanichia here to a game, with Raphiel enjoying things a little too much in the background. Voiced by Inori Minase, Tapris’ voice is immediately identifiable as having similar aural properties as that of Chino Kafuu’s; having familiar voice actors provide voices to new characters is always a blast to behold. Sometimes, their voices will be recognisable, while other times, the differences leave me impressed.

  • Tapris is surprised that Angels and Dæmons can be friends, learning here that Vignette is actually a Dæmon despite her kindness. Vignette’s voice actor, Saori Ōnishi, is someone I know for her performances as Saekano‘s Eriri Sawamura; she also has several minor roles in some other shows I’ve seen.

  • Satanichia is fond of purchasing items from the Hell Shopping Network, a place that allows Dæmons to acquire creepy specific old stuff that gives them powers but also fucks with them in unforeseeable ways. She’s got a revolver here that causes anyone hit with its round to laugh uncontrollably, and while she’s got every intent to use it on Gabriel, the stunt backfires: she’s hit with her own medicine and is punished by their instructor, an intimidating bald fellow who wears sunglasses wherever he goes. Visible in the background is Machiko, the class representative who finds Gabriel’s actions irrational.

  • For anyone who missed it, there was a Rick and Morty reference in the above figure caption. Season three’s finally off to a start now, and I’m only a few episodes out from wrapping up season two at this point in time. Returning to Gabriel Dropout, Machiko finds Satanichia’s art requests here unusual, but nonetheless tries her best to comply in order to keep Satanichia interested in the assignment. Machiko is voiced by Mai Fuchigami (Girls und Panzer‘s very own Miho “Miporin” Nishizumi), which was a pleasant surprise (read “it was nice to see Chino and Miho in the same show).

  • Vignette is very fond of Earth holidays and events: if her friends do anything that may disrupt these events, she will exude a threatening aura that keeps them in line very quickly. Here, the girls are partaking in Halloween, and although Satanichia does not understand how it works initially, they visit their instructor’s home during Trick or Treat, although they somehow manage to do so during the day than night, as is customary.

  • After trying to learn how to be more evil, Vignette finds herself under the weather and falls ill; Gabriel visits her  to provide her with the day’s assignments. The page quote comes from Rick and Morty, where Rick encounters the Devil selling strange antiques. He constructs a device to analyse these antiques to determine their effects on their users after concluding that evil is a metric with a quantity. In Gabriel Dropout, notions of good and evil among the Angels and Dæmons are blurred: Dæmons are capable of good acts and act mischievous, while Angels can conceal their own sinful natures behind a veneer of wholesomeness.

  • As with numerous anime before it have done, having the shapeliest figure amongst everyone means that Raphiel is subject to the most fanservice-type humour in Gabriel Dropout. Here, she spends the day in relative discomfort after realising that the day’s activities will involve a physical education exam. Raphiel is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who also plays Nagi no Asukara‘s Manaka Mukaido, Charlotte Dunois of Infinite Stratos and Yukari Yukino in Makoto Shinkai’s Garden of Words and Your Name.

  • While we are on the topic of Your Name, the movie released in North America on Friday to the general pleasure of the viewers here. However, this means little to me, as what I need is for the Blu-Rays to come out so I can acquire screenshots for my review. Back in Gabriel Dropout, Raphiel is forced to experience a failure of equipment when Satanichia begins dominating all of the athletic events, fearing that success here will get to Satanichia’s head. Satanichia’s mirror in Otafest Mio is similarly capable in all sports, only fearing academic subjects. In the meantime, Vignette attempts to motivate Gabriel by means of a bribe: if Gabriel participates in the day’s events, Vignette promises to treat her to a sukiyaki dinner.

  • There’s something immensely enjoyable about watching Satanichia’s antics unfold: she and Vignette do a mock interview with their instructor, and despite Vignette’s apprehension, she manages to perform quite well. On the other hand, Satanichia fails despite her confidence, having obtained faulty information from a book she’s purchased.

  • I personally found that the best moments in Gabriel Dropout come from Raphiel’s sadistic nature making it difficult for Satanichia to know when to trust her: here, Raphiel decides to share an umbrella with her, but Satanichia fears being betrayed at any given point, having been mistreated by Raphiel so extensively. It is sufficient to imagine that Raphiel experiences an intense surge of dopamine when she’s messing with Satanichia, but in this instance, tables are turned when the rain stops and Satanichia finds a frog – it turns out that Raphiel has ranidaphobia.

  • Vignette and Raphiel do their utmost to host a Christmas party without Satanichia realising that the entire concept of Christmas is built around the birth of Jesus Christ (the knowledge of thus would lead Satanichia to defile the holiday). After several near-misses, the party proceeds without a hitch. An observant reader will note that although this anime is called Gabriel Dropout, Gabriel herself only appears in 53.33̅ percent of the screenshots here.

  • This is actually a consequence of Gabriel Dropout being quite entertaining independently of Gabriel’s tendencies: she’s actually got a minimal presence, and humour surrounding her alone is not particularly noteworthy. Instead, it is Satanichia and Raphiel who make the show stand out with their antics, while Vignette acts as the voice of reason who tries to keep everything in check. I’ve now lost count of how many instances I’ve watched a Christmas episode of anime away from Christmas: it is not jarring to watch Christmas episodes away from Christmas, but every time I see an episode, my mind will wander and note the days to Christmas. In the case of Gabriel Dropout, when I reached this episode, there was nine months and nineteen days to Christmas.

  • Christmas is not on my mind at present, being eight months and sixteen days away: summer needs to arrive, and with it, a host of activities, especially considering the complementary National Parks Pass on account of it being Canada’s 150ᵗʰ Anniversary. Returning to Gabriel Dropout, the girls visit a local shrine to welcome the New Year; after Gabriel gets hammered by amazake, she takes flight and surprises the shrine’s patrons. The girls later return to Heaven and Hell to report on their progress, with Gabriel trying to smuggle her electronic entertainment devices past Heaven’s security.

  • While Raphiel greatly enjoys harassing Satanichia, she’s also quite wise to any sort of harassment from her own butler, whose efforts to see Raphiel naked are brazen and end in failure. Owing to space constraints in this post, I’ve not shown Satanichia spending time with her family, who is as unique as she in terms of personality (save her brother), and similarly, Vignette’s misadventures with her pet are not present here.

  • For their progress report, Gabriel manages to pass off her gaming adventures as achievements. Such a list should clearly be implausible; it brings to mind the antics of a rather infamous personality online. A former major player in influencing the Japanese line of tanks in World of Tanks and also responsible for starting a major flame war at AnimeSuki, this individual was purportedly a graduate from both Tokyo and Yonsei university, worked in a senior position at a major company owned by their relatives, was sufficiently financially independent as to be able invest ten million without batting an eyelash and a distant relative of current Japanese emperor.

  • The probability of someone satisfying all of these criteria is very unlikely; their ban from AnimeSuki and the general decline in the community’s interest in World of Tanks suggests that far from being the oujo-sama they purported to be, they’ve been found out. The moral of this is that lies don’t last under scrutiny. Gabriel will discover this in a very painful fashion at the end of Gabriel Dropout, but we return to the point in time where Satanichia takes in the very same dog who’s been persistently stealing her coveted melon bread in almost every episode after she learns it’s a stray whose fate will be to spend eternity in a city pound.

  • Satanichia’s determination in finding lodgings that will accept pets sends her on a difficult, heartwarming but also extraneous journey across Japan: it is only Raphiel’s sick mind that allows Vignette and the others to locate Satanichia – Raphiel had installed a real-time GPS app onto Satanichia’s phone. In the end, Gabriel convinces the apartment’s owner, the owner of the coffee shop that she works at, to make an exception for Satanichia. Such an action would have been unsurprising for the old Gabriel, but it is quite welcoming to see Gabriel perform acts of kindness.

  • Determined to save Gabriel, Tapris yearns to learn more about computers in order to figure out what she can do with Gabriel to lessen the latter’s time spent on them. Being an Angel, Tapris is unfamiliar with computers, but ultimately, picks up C, Java and PHP. These are wonderful skills: familiarity in with an object-oriented programming language some form of scripting are skills almost universally required for developers, although for Tapris, they will prove next to useless in helping her bring Gabriel away from her MMO addiction.

  • Tapris is invited to a takoyaki party with Vignette and the others: while the others botch their cooking process and produce terrible takoyaki, Vignette fares better, producing quality takoyaki that is delicious. By the time Satanichia arrives, the first batch is done and over with. While Gabriel Dropout could direct humour in a more painful fashion and have Satanichia suffer by arriving much too late to the party, instead, the anime has Vignette asking Satanichia to be patient as they make more. Comedy that depends on excessive suffering to carry a joke (SpongeBob SquarePants and Family Guy are two instances where a character’s suffering fails to be amusing because it is inordinate) does not fly well with me; one of Gabriel Dropout‘s strengths is that it knows where to draw the line.

  • The lessons about lies and delusions that I feel the individual above could deal with are illustrated in the finale: Gabriel’s older sister, Zelel, appears. One of the most accomplished and powerful angels around, Gabriel fears that Zelel will eliminate the Earth as the Death Star did to Alderaan, and so, puts on an act. Zelel sees through this and subjects Gabriel to punishment so intense, it cannot be shown on screen. The resultant Gabriel seemingly returns to her former state, but her friends find the fallen Gabriel more comforting. In a barrier isolating them from space-time, Gabriel informs her friends of the truth: she’s been faking her restoration to get Zelel off her back.

  • This ruse fails, but Gabriel’s lies about friendship prompt Zelel to give Gabriel a second chance on Earth, on the condition that she personally supervises Gabriel. However, Satanichia’s dog frightens her off, and Gabriel can continue her hedonistic life in peace. The lies that Gabriel are forced to come up with do not withstand scrutiny, and a part of the humour of Gabriel Dropout is watching her try to conceal all of this from her family and Heaven. While presented in a comedic, light-hearted manner in Gabriel Dropout, another lesson the anime conveys is that lies are inherently unsustainable, and it is for this reason that folks aggrandising their reality often find themselves dismissed as others catch on.

  • This rather unconventional post is finally done, and with it, I’ve concluded writing about all of the winter 2016 anime that I watched weekly. Admittedly, this post was somewhat difficult to write for, but it’s finished now. On the whole, Gabriel Dropout would probably score a B- (seven points of ten): fun in its own right and using its characters as effectively given their station, the anime can evoke some laughs, although beyond this, Gabriel Dropout does nothing particularly standout in its execution (e.g. narrative, emotional impact, visuals or audio). With this being said, I primarily watched this to see if it really could be counted as “Otafest The Anime”, and with the anime under my belt, I can say that it does capture that spirit reasonably well. Coming up in the very near-future: more Titanfall 2, now that I’m halfway through the campaign.

Overall, I’m largely neutral about Gabriel Dropout: it was modestly entertaining to watch mainly because of how closely the characters’ personalities are to their Otafest incarnations, but beyond this, the setting and basis of Gabriel Dropout is nothing novel, making use of a well-tread approach as the grounds to create a space for conflicting personalities to interact and drive the anime’s humour. The anime is best suited for folks seeking humour amongst a disparate group of friends and the ensuing pandemonium that can result when angels and dæmons bounce off one another, Similarly, for the folks who do know Otafest and its mascots, it will be very entertaining to watch how similar their animated incarnations are relative to the sort of things seen in social media. The character dynamics in Gabriel Dropout largely drive the anime’s entertainment factor – individually, each character is unremarkable, but the sum of their interactions creates a sort of synergy that gives the show a distinct brand of humour even if its other components are derivative. Of course, the real question that arises is: what do the writers of Otafest lore and organisers of Otafest have to make of all this?

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭: Fan Service of Love and Pure Heart Review and Reflection

做個好漢子、每天要自強。
熱血男子、熱勝红日光!
林子祥, 男兒當自強

Eriri and Megumi book accommodations at a hotel with Utaha’s help in order to help design artwork for their game further, but their efforts decay as Izumi and Michiru show up. After being subjected to various incidents up on the pool deck, Tomoya tries to take off by evening, but Utaha manages to haul him off with the intent of spending the evening alone with him. These plans are foiled, and Michiru shows off the music she’s composed for their game so far. Later, Megumi and Tomoya share a moment together, promising to continue working on their game in order to make it a success. This pre-season episode marks the beginning to Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ (read “Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata Flat“, Saekano ♭ for brevity), a series that follows aspiring doujin game developer-to be Tomoya Aki and his raggedy-ass team as they aim to release a full-fledged visual novel in time for the upcoming Comiket event. While excelling at nothing in particular, Saekano’s first season remains memorable for its self-referential humour and array of unfortunate events that befall Tomoya as Utaha, Eriri and Michiru vie for his heart even as they strive to put their best into the development work and complete their game ahead of their deadline.

As its predecessor had before it, Saekano ♭ opens the season with a prelude set midway into the season and development cycle, presenting an episode that establishes the dynamics amongst the individuals of Blessing Software. As unrealistic as these interactions are, watching Tomoya try to worm his way out of difficult situations with the more assertive ladies in his group is remarkably entertaining. With this in mind, this is probably the strongest point about Saekano; the previous season depicted a team coming together against their own initial assumptions, working towards a shared goal. However, Saekano as a whole chose to abstract out the game development component: Blessing Software only has two dedicated developers, with Tomoya himself running the Visual Novel Engine and Megumi learning the software to be of assistance. Utaha, Eriri and Michiru are involved in the other aspects of the game. I was initially curious to see how software development would figure in Saekano, hence my picking it up but the first season made it clear that this aspect would be secondary to the elements over top, namely, the narrative, artwork and audio aspects. It’s an interesting (and not misplaced) perspective on games, suggesting that cutting edge engines, the latest rendering techniques and proper software practises alone do not make a game (as both DICE and Activision are discovering as of late). Ultimately, I chose to continue watching Saekano because the events the characters finding themselves in proved to be quite entertaining, offering a different (although not revolutionary) take to a genre that has been saturated with clichés.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I open the figure captions with a lame joke: Battlefield 1‘s Sinai Desert should be called the Saenai Desert (explanation: さえない directly translates to “dull” or “unremarkable”). Lame Battlefield 1 jokes aside, it feels fantastic to be working on a post with twenty screenshots rather than thirty: twenty has been the standard here for quite some time, and represents a fine balance between having enough screenshots to make the post a bit more substantial, without taking too much time to complete. Here, Eriri, Megumi, Michiru and Utaha take things easy while Tomoya is hanging out in the background, trying to come up with means of capturing a particular mood in his game without distractions.

  • The last time I wrote about Saekano was back in 2015; the first episode released during January, right after I returned home from my vacation in Taiwan. I managed to get the first episode’s talk out nearly a month later, and at the time, was experimenting with a new posting format that has since been applied to all the posts I do. The reason why there’s a Saekano post at all for the zeroth episode is for two reasons: the first is that I forgot Saekano has a bit of an unusual release pattern, and the second is my site metrics showing a large number of searches for fanservice and Saekano.

  • Hence, I decided to push this post out so that individuals doing searches for Saekano‘s latest material would not be disappointed: this post has one of the highest ratio of fanservice-to-standard images. There is a bit of an irony in the choice of page quote: it’s taken from George Lam’s “A Man Should Strengthen Himself”, a famous song based off the Chinese folk song On the General’s Orders (將軍令) that became associated with martial artist Wong Fei-Hung owing to their usage in movies featuring him. It’s completely irrelevant to the comings and goings in this episode, but the song’s been stuck in my head for the entire day, ever since I finished implementation of a feature at work and the song came up on my playlist.

  • At Tomoya’s house, Megumi and Eriri discuss a swimsuit scene in their game as requiring some proper inspiration, hence their decision to visit a pool. Eriri insists that it’s to properly capture the effects required to make the scene stand out, and it appears that of everyone, Eriri seems to get along best with Megumi. In the background, a poster for Ao no Kanata Four Rhythm, which ran last year during the winter 2016 anime season, is visible.

  • The entire first half of this episode is fanservice, and were I to feature all of the screenshots acquired during this episode’s run, there’d be a total of seventy-two, which would require upwards of six hours to properly caption: while it may be entertaining for the readers, I remark that finding something informative, witty or useful to say while the entire screenshot is a closeup of anatomy is not something I’m particularly skillful at. Then again, I could always fall back on talking about things that are completely unrelated, such as when it is appropriate to use inheritance against composition in software, and why inheritance is not always the best way to ensure re-usability of code.

  • I imagine that Tomoya most certainly is not enjoying this, to be physically dominated by his cousin at almost every turn they meet. There is a bit of irony in how easily he’s wiped out, standing in stark contrast with the lyrics of George Lam’s song, which states that to be a man is to continue training to become stronger and become as hot as the sun itself. It’s definitely vivid imagery, and from the looks of things, Tomoya does not lift weights or partake in much exercise to speak of. Given the choice of camera angles, it’s quite plain that Michiru enjoys every second of doing this to Tomoya.

  • Izumi, a middle school student, is also invited, appearing unexpectedly much to Eriri’s displeasure, and on the low-coefficient-of-friction floors of the pool, she knocks him flat in a hug, also knocking him out in the process. Earlier, Eriri describes the image she’s trying to capture of the female form, and the visuals depict Izumi, who’s less flat than Eriri in a literal sense. Ever since the events of Saekano‘s first season, there’s been something of a rivalry between Eriri and Izumi to see who’s the superior artist.

  • From a personal standpoint, I’m a Megumi fan through and through: despite being the most unremarkable of the girls amongst Tomoya’s development team, her quiet personality and straightforward remarks also means she’s the best complement for the loud, energetic Tomoya. Further, to trounce remarks that Megumi’s figure is merely “average”, I present this image and the image below as counterarguments.

  • Here, Izumi and Eriri react as Utaha moves in to give Tomoya “CPR” following his being rendered unconscious. Of the girls, Utaha is the most brazen in her advances, leading to much disgust from Eriri. Eriri herself tries to get close to Tomoya by reminding him of the old memories they share together, and Michiru justifies their own closeness with the fact they’re cousins. These three get quite jealous where Tomoya is concerned. Conversely, Megumi only seems mildly interested in all of this.

  • After Tomoya comes to, the team assembles in a lounge to decide the evening’s plans. Tomoya attempts to peace out, with Michiru and Eriri mentioning to Izumi that his presence could make things more interesting. He takes off, but a phone call from Utaha sends him back. Saekano is now very much a B- in my books (7.0 of ten points: my old “recommendation” becomes a “weak recommendation” with the passage of time), primarily because things meandered at times even with the central motivation of making a game. However, one of the reasons why I stuck around was because I see shadows of myself in Tomoya.

  • In appearances, one might say that Tomoya is a splitting image of myself (albeit a less fit version), but in spirit, Tomoya shares my sense of determination and work ethic, being someone who gives everything they’ve got to whatever task they undertake and making to look after those around them. With this in mind, folks like myself are reasonably common in personality, so it’s not too much of a stretch that there there could be a highly fictionalised version of myself in an anime. Unlike Tomoya, I tend to stay on mission when I’m working on something, preferring to take breaks and indulge in distractions at pre-set times.

  • The visuals in Saekano are above average: not anywhere as detailed as some of the most stunning anime out there, the environments and settings are nonetheless crafted with a reasonable level of quality. Here, Eriri and Megumi stop to admire the cityscape by nightfall: this opening pre-season episode features several stills of the hotel and its surroundings, beautifully illuminated by colourful night lighting.

  • I’ll leave readers a pleasant look uprange of Michiru while I look through my site’s archives. Saekano‘s first season drew to a close back in March, and I followed up a few days later with a look at the whole season early April. During this time, I was very much up to my eyeballs in building a multi-agent rescue robot simulation, and was contemplating the transition of my thesis project from Unity to Unreal. Looking back, it’s a little surprising as to how much time has passed by: Saekano ♭ was announced back in May 2015, and was originally slated for Fall 2016.

  • However, Saekano♭ultimately would release two seasons after the original slated time: the shot of the girls in their hotel room here brings to mind my travels a year ago to Laval and later, Cancún, for a pair of conferences. In the time between Saekano and Saekano♭, I’ve transitioned from university to society, published three more papers and continue to wonder how much faster time will get. With this being said, the entire season of Saekano♭ is ahead of us. Looking into the future, I plan on following the same format as I did for the first season, with a post after three episodes and one more when the season’s concluded.

  • The urgent business that Utaha calls Tomoya back for is a quiet, one-to-one meeting that ultimately allows her some alone time with him. In the previous season, she went as far as to stage a photograph of the two in a manner as to imply the two had a memorable evening together, mostly frustrating Eriri. I remark that, while Saekano does not appear to have aged gracefully, I will nonetheless be entering Saekano♭ with an open mind – software conventions will not be considered as a component to be assessed for this season now that I know what to reasonably expect.

  • While Utaha insists they are toasting with ginger ale, Tomoya remains suspicious owing to her previous track record of messing with him. Although family, friends and co-workers understand my status as a teetotaler on account of my genetic dispositions, my friends and co-workers will occasionally wonder what would happen if I imbibed alcohol. The answer is that I will talk more more vividly, then develop a headache and fall asleep. There isn’t anything beyond this, so as to what kind of drunk I am, the answer is “none”.

  • Despite presenting a cool, detached demenour about her as befitting of her exceptional academic skills on top of her abilities as a writer, there are moments when Utaha loses her composure. Of the characters, she’s second in my books as far as “most interesting character” goes owing to just how direct she is with Tomoya: here, she’s trying to wrest Tomoya’s phone from him, plainly indignant that her plans of keeping Tomoya to herself have been thwarted.

  • The source of the interruption is a valid one: Michiru reveals that she’s composed ten of the background songs for the game, creating something well-written that evokes similar imagery in Eriri, Utaha and Tomoya. A good song can bring to mind very vivid images, and a song that lead several individuals to think of the same thing is one that has been honed well. I am a very big fan of soundtracks for the emotional tenour they convey, and as such, greatly enjoy listening to film and video game music.

  • While Megumi notes that she does not see Tomoya in that light here, the light novels eventually follow the same path that I speculated would follow logically given the events of Saekano: Tomoya gradually develops feelings for her, seeing her as someone who’s been with him through many dangers. Similarly, in spite of his eccentricities, Tomoya is genuinely kind and considerate of those around him – it is this side of him that Megumi finds herself drawn to.

  • Similar to the pre-season fanservice episode of Saekano, I’ve chosen to conclude this talk on Saekano♭‘s pre-season opener with Megumi smiling and promising to help Tomoya out, even though the episode ends with Eriri and Izumi openly making their rivalries known to one another in a hilarious fashion. As this post comes out of the blue, we will return to the scheduled programming: the upcoming post will deal with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered now that I’ve finished the second act, and I still need to wrap up the talk on Gabriel Dropout.

Hence, looking forwards into what Saekano♭ will offer, I imagine that the continuation will be more of the same as the first season, although there will be an opportunity to craft new situations as Tomoya finds the deadline nearing. With this in mind, the rewards of game development are plainly secondary in Saekano: the main draw of this anime stems from Tomoya and his unique group of developers that have become closer as friends, even if they do bounce off one another more often than not. This invariably leads to the question of whether or not Tomoya will end up in a relationship with any one of the female leads; typically, writers tend to avoid this in order to avoid drawing negative reactions. However, protracting this causes the story to drag out, and further results in interactions that come across as static, unnatural. Hence, it will be interesting to see whether or not Saekano♭ will take things in a new direction within the span of this season and have him enter a relationship with Megumi (minimally, becoming closer to her than the others), or if the status quo will be preserved. I look forwards to seeing what happens in Saekano♭ as things progress: even if nothing substantial comes out of it, minimally, there will likely be opportunities to see Utaha and Michiru mess with Tomoya in ways that could never occur in reality.