The Infinite Zenith

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

Tag Archives: Review

K-On! The Movie (Eiga Keion!): A Review, Recommendation and Revisitation after Seven Years

We’re buddies from here on out!
Pictures of us together,
Our matching keychains
Will shine on forever
And always, we thank you for your smile

—Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!

With its theatrical première seven years previously, K-On! The Movie has aged very gracefully from both a thematic and technical standpoint. The film follows Houkago Tea Time shortly following their acceptance to university. With their time in high school drawing to a close, the girls attempt to come up with a suitable farewell gift for Azusa, who had been a vital member of their light music club. Feeling it best to be a surprise, they try to keep this from Azusa. When word nearly gets out, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi wind up fabricating that their “secret” is a graduation trip. The girls decide on London; after arranging for their flight and accommodations, the girls arrive in London and sightsee, before performing at a Japanese pop culture fair. Upon their return home, the girls perform for their classmates and finalise their song for Asuza. Simple, sincere and honest, K-On! The Movie represented a swan song for the K-On! franchise’s animated adaptation, making the extent of Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi’s gratitude towards Azusa tangible: K-On! The Movie is a journey to say “Thank You”, and as Yui and the others discover, while their moments spent together might be finite, the treasured memories resulting from these everyday moments are infinitely valuable. Ultimately, representing the sum of these feelings is done by means of a song; music is universally regarded as being able to convey emotions, thoughts and ideas across linguistic and cultural barriers, and so, it is only appropriate that the girls decide to make a song for Azusa. However, Yui and the others initially struggle to find the right words for their song. It is serendipitous that a fib, done to keep Azusa from knowing about her graduation gift, sends the girls to London. During this trip, Azusa undertakes the role of a planner. She handles the logistics to ensure that everyone can visit their destinations of choice and on top of this, fit their travels so that they can honour a commitment to perform at a festival. At the top of her game in both keeping things organised, and looking out for Yui, Azusa is exhausted at the end of their travels.

Once they agree to writing a song, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi set about composing the lyrics for it. When they begin to draft the lyrics, they come to realise how integral Azusa has been to Houkago Tea Time, a veritable angel for the club. This is the birth of Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! (Touched by an Angel), an earnest song whose direct lyrics convey how everyone feels about Azusa. Because everyone’s spent so much time together, Azusa’s presence in Houkago Tea Time is very nearly taken for granted. It takes a trip to London for Yui and the others to discover anew what Azusa has done for everyone: from planning out the trip and fitting their itinerary to everyone’s satisfaction, to keeping an eye on the scatter-minded Yui, Azusa’s actions during the London trip act as the catalyst that reminds everyone of how her presence in the Light Music Club has helped everyone grow. Azusa is also evidently selfless, worrying about others ahead of herself: when the others notice her slowing down in the Underground, Azusa mentions that her new shoes are somewhat uncomfortable. She insists it’s fine, but Yui figures they can buy new shoes for her. Because of Houkago Tea Time’s easygoing approach to things, this detour into an adventure of sorts at Camden. However, K-On! The Movie is not an anime about travel; sightseeing is condensed into a montage, and greater emphasis is placed on the girls’ everyday moments together. Subtle, seemingly trivial moments are given more screen time than visiting the London Eye, or David Bowie’s House, reminding viewers that Houkago Tea Time is about its members, not where they go. While it is likely that any destination would have accomplished the same, visiting London, the birthplace of many famous musicians whose style have influenced the Light Music Club’s music, proved to be an appropriate choice that also sets the stage for the girls to compose their song for Azusa, showing that London had a role in inspiring Yui and the others.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This revisitation can be seen as an exercise in nostalgia: I was primarily curious to see what a review on K-On! The Movie might look like were I to return to it again, with at least six years more of accumulated experience. I’ve previously written about K-On! The Movie and explored some of the aspects that made it worthwhile to watch; because the film was released in December, the time seemed appropriate for me to watch the film again. In particular, the opening song, Ichiban Ippai (Full of Number Ones), has a very Christmas-like quality to it.

  • On watching the film in full for the first time in a few years, I’ve come to pick up a few things that I missed earlier, and in conjunction with a keener eye for subtleties, this post is the result; my conclusion about the film’s central theme is a little more specific now, with a focus on Yui and the others crafting a memorable farewell gift for Azusa in gratitude for her participation in Houkago Tea Time. My earlier reviews focused on friendship at a much higher level, and looking back, I think that this review captures the reason for why I enjoyed the movie a shade more effectively than the earlier reviews.

  • Gratitude is the first and foremost theme in K-On! The Movie, with everything else being an ancillary aspect that augments the film’s strengths. The movie, then, succeeds in conveying the sort of scale that Naoko Yamada desired for viewers, showing the extent of everyone’s appreciation towards Azusa. This underlines Azusa’s impact on Houkago Tea Time, and so, when one returns to the televised series, all of those subtle moments suddenly become more meaningful, and more valuable.

  • The movie’s original première on December 3, 2011 is now a distant memory. I vaguely recall concluding my introductory Japanese class and finalising my term paper on the role of a protein in iron transport for bacteria. At the time, I was focused on simply surviving that semester and save my GPA, which had taken a dive after my second year, and for most of the winter term, I was similarly focused on maintaining passable grades in biochemistry and and cell and molecular biology. I exited that term on a stronger note, and with my final exams in the books, I learned that the movie would release on July 18.

  • I had decided to take the MCAT earlier that year, and this represented a major commitment from my part. From the film’s home release announcement to the day of release, time passed in the blink of an eye. K-On! The Movie was well-timed, and the day I watched it, I had spent the morning going through a full-length exam. The movie’s first forty minutes are still in Japan, and it provided plenty of time to establish the witherto’s and whyfor’s of how Houkago Tea Time end up travelling to London.

  • With its slow pacing, K-On! The Movie is very relaxing: as it turns out, Houkago Tea Time ends up overhearing classmates discuss a graduation trip and then, while focused on their own goal of gifting something special for Azusa, hide their plans by saying they’re also doing a graduation trip. This turn of events is precisely the way things Houkago Tea Time rolls, although it is notable that even while planning for the trip takes precedence, Yui’s mind never strays far from their original goal of figuring out how they can give Azusa a memorable gift.

  • Throughout the film, Yui’s determination to figure out something and efforts to maintain secrecy lead Azusa to wonder if something is amiss. If she did suspect something, things are quickly shunted aside when the girls’ plan to visit London become realised. Here, Azusa takes on the role of a tour guide, planning and coordinating itineraries for the others. The joys and drawbacks of travelling are presented in K-On! The Movie to the girls: while K-On! has long favoured gentle escapism, the movie adds an additional dimension of realism to its story through linguistic differences and challenges associated with travelling, such as the girls trying to figure out which Hotel Ibis their booking was for or when Mio’s luggage is seemingly misplaced.

  • For the most part, K-On! The Movie was very well-received, with praises being given towards the direction, sincerity and ability of the film to remain true to the atmosphere in the TV series, while at the same time, capitalising on the movie format to do something that could not have been done in a TV series. Criticisms of the film are very rare – I can count the number of the film’s detractors on one hand, and most of the gripes centered on the film’s relatively limited focus on travel, portrayal of London citizens and gripes that the film was protracted in presenting its story.

  • For the most part, my travels have never put me at a linguistic disadvantage because I can get by well enough with English, Cantonese and Mandarin in the places I visit. When I visited Laval in France for the first time for a conference, I had trouble getting around because I could not speak a word of French. Seeing Mugi and Azusa struggle with English might’ve been amusing when I first watched this, but after the humbling experience in France, I took on a newfound appreciation for all of the languages around the world. When the girls reach London City’s Hotel Ibis, it is thanks to Mio who is able to interpret things and set the girls on track for their hotel in Earls Court.

  • Skyfall was screened in November 2012, a few months after K-On! The Movie’s home release and nearly a year after its original screening in Japan. The only commonalities the two films share are that they have scenes set in London, including the Underground. While Yui and the others use the Underground to reach Earls Court, Skyfall saw James Bond pursue Raoul Silva through the Underground after he escapes MI6 custody.

  • On their first day in London, Yui and the others have a busy one as they try to make their way to their hotel. It’s misadventure after misadventure, but in spite of these inconveniences, everyone takes things in stride, going to Camden to buy Azusa new shoes, casually enjoying the Underground and, when trying to grab dinner, end up playing an impromptu performance on account of being mistaken for a band.

  • In spite of their surprise at being asked to perform, Houkago Tea Time’s showing is impressive. While it seems a little strange the girls travel with their instruments, the last several times I boarded a plane, it was with a laptop or iPad in tow, as I was either set to give a conference presentation or be involved in work. Carrying additional gear while travelling is a pain when one is alone, but with others, it’s much easier – one can simply ask their companions to look after their belongings.

  • Movies typically are scaled-up TV episodes, with superior visuals and music accompanying it; K-On! The Movie is no different, feeling distinctly like an extended episode. I particularly loved the soundtrack, which features both the motifs of the TV series and new incidental pieces that gave a bit of atmosphere to where Houkago Tea Time was while at the same time, reminding viewers that it’s still K-On!.

  • K-On! The Movie depicts London with incredible faithfulness, and perusing the official movie artbook, the precise locations of where the girls visit are given. Abbey Crossing, David Bowie’s House, West Brompton, and many other areas are on the list of places that Yui and the others visit. Their travels are set to the upbeat, energetic Unmei wa Endless! (Fate is Endless!) in a montage that highlights the girls enjoying themselves in London in their own unique manner.

  • The montage in K-On! The Movie is ideal for showing that while in London, Yui and the others have an amazing time sightseeing: the tempo would suggest that the girls’ experience is very dream like, hectic and dynamic, reminder viewers that when they are having fun, time flies. Vacations often seem to go by in a blur, and so, a montage is a very visceral way to capture this feeling. In condensing out the travel and sightseeing, the montage creates the impression that K-On! The Movie is not about London, but at the same time, it also allows the focus to remain on the girls’ aim of working out their gift for Azusa.

  • London, Japan and Hong Kong share the commonality in that they have left-hand traffic, an artefact dating back to the Roman Empire; right-hand traffic is the result of French standardisation, while Americans used right-hand traffic out of convenience for wagon operators. For Yui and the others, traffic in London would be identical to that of Japan’s, but when they encounter a “Look Right” labels on the road, they conform. These labels are also found in Hong Kong, as well: for folks like myself, they are very useful, since I instinctively look left before crossing most streets.

  • I’ve long held that the best way to truly experience a culture is to experience their food, and so, when I was in Japan, having the chance to enjoy snow crab, Kobe beef, okonomiyakiomurice and ramen was high on the highlights of my trip. In K-On! The Movie, the girls end up stopping at The Troubadour on 263–267 Old Brompton Road in Earls Court. Opened in 1954, The Troubador was a coffeehouse that has since become a café, bar and restaurant. Catching Yui’s eye early in their tour of London, the girls have breakfast here. Their Eggs Benedict is shown: it costs £9.95 (roughly 16.88 CAD with exchange rates).

  • Despite her initial reservations about all things with angular velocity, Mio is convinced to go on the London Eye. With a height of 135 metres, it is more than double the size of Hong Kong’s Observation Wheel and during K-On! The Movie, was the highest public viewing point in London. Since the movie’s release in 2011 (and the home release in 2012), The Shard opened and now offers London’s highest observation deck.

  • The girls rest here near The Royal Menagerie on the west end of the Tower of London, a major landmark that has variously been used as a mint, armoury and presently, the home of the Crown Jewels. Adjacent to the Tower of London is a modern office block and fish and chips shops. While it would be a tight schedule, the girls’ tour is possible to carry out within the course of a day. To really take in the sights and sounds, however, I would imagine that two to three full days is more appropriate.

  • Ritsu and the others run into Love Crisis following their performance at the sushi restaurant, and are invited to perform at a Japanese Culture Fair. The girls agree to the performance even though the timing will be a bit tight, and when Azusa hesitates, the others reassure her that it’ll be fine. Because they are to be performing in front of an English audience, Yui and the others feel it might be useful to translate some of their songs to English. Strictly speaking, preserving the meaning is of a lesser challenge than finding the words with the correct syllables to match the melody.

  • The Ibis at Earl’s Court, while being a bit more dated, has attentive staff and is situated in a good location, being close to public transit. By comparison, the Ibis London City is located a stone’s throw to the London city centre and the Tower of London. The choice to have the girls book lodgings at Earl’s Court, in a comparatively quieter part of London, allows the film to also show Yui and the others spending downtime together while not sightseeing. Here, they begin working on translating their songs for their performance at the Japanese culture fair.

  • The performance itself is set at the Jubilee Gardens adjacent to the River Thames and London Eye. The introduction into the culture festival features a sweeping panorama over the area, taking viewers through the spokes on the London Eye. It’s one of the more impressive visuals in K-On! The Movie and really shows that this is no mere extended episode: I’m particularly fond of movies because they provide the opportunity to use visuals not seen in TV series. Here, the girls react in surprise that Sawako has shown up.

  • During their performance, Yui is spurred on by a baby in the crowd and plays with more energy as the concert progresses, even improvising lyrics into Gohan wa Okazu. Whether or not Houkago Teatime plays for the people they know or not, this has very little bearing on the enthusiasm and energy the girls put into their song. Personal or not, each performance is spirited conveys that Houkago Tea Time’s music is universally moving, whether they are playing for a crowd of folks in London, or for Azusa as a thank you gift.

  • It turns out that as a place to have a graduation trip, there is no better option than London, England: Houkago Tea Time’s style draws inspiration from British artists, and the songs produced for K-On! have a mass appeal for their simplicity, earnest and charm found from the saccharine nature of the lyrics. After the concert draws to a close, the girls depart home for Japan, with Azusa falling asleep immediately from exhaustion. A snowfall begins in London, bringing the girls’ trip to a peaceful close.

  • Back in Japan, Ritsu and the others attempt to convince Sawako to give them permission to host a farewell concert for their classmates. To her colleagues and other students, Sawako presents herself as professional and caring, attempting to distance herself from her Death Devil days, but in front of Houkago Tea Time, she’s less motivated and occasionally partakes in actions that are of dubious legality. At the end of the day, however, Sawako does care deeply for her students, and so, decides to allow the concert.

  • One of the other teachers is opposed to the idea of a concert and on the morning things kick off, Sawako does her utmost to keep him from finding out. While unsuccessful, this instructor does not seem to mind Houkago Tea Time quite as much, suggesting that Sawako’s Death Devil band were rowdier back in the day to the point of being a nuisance.

  • Compared to the more colourful segments in K-On! The Movie, the final segments depicting the girls drafting out their song for Azusa are much more faded, almost melancholy, in nature, hinting that all things must come to an end. Kyoto Animation has long utilised colour to make the emotional tenour of a scene clear in their drama series; from CLANNAD to Violet Evergarden, time of day, saturation and the choice of palette are all used to great effect. Traditionally, comedies have seen a lesser dependence on colour and lighting, so for these effects to appear in K-On! show that the series has matured.

  • The K-On! The Movie‘s home release was only twenty four days from the day of my MCAT, and one of the dangers about this was that reviewing the movie so close to the MCAT might’ve taken my focus from the exam. In the end, watching the movie and writing about it was very cathartic, and I found myself lost in each moment: seeing Mio and the others sprint across the school rooftop with a carefree spirit was a light moment that really captured what K-On! was about. The movie helped me relax, and in conjunction with support from friends, some time management skills and the usual efforts of studying, I ended up finishing the exam strong.

  • Audiences thus come to learn how Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! came about. This is the song that got me into K-On!, and curious to know how the series reached its culmination, I stepped back and watched everything from episode one.  With this modernised talk on K-On! The Movie very nearly finished, I note that it was very enjoyable to go back and rewatch this film under different circumstances, then write about it with a new perspective and style.

  • Like a good wine, K-On! The Movie improved with age. My original score for the movie was a nine of ten, an A grade. However, revisiting the movie and seeing all of the subtleties in the film, coupled with recalling watching the film to unwind from studying for the MCAT, led me to realise that this film had a very tangible positive impact on me. Consequently, I am going to return now and give the film a perfect ten of ten, a masterpiece: for a story of pure joy that was successful in helping me regroup, and for being every bit as enjoyable as it was seven years ago, K-On! The Movie had a real impact on me.

With crisp animation, attention paid to details, a solid aural component and a gentle soundtrack, K-On! The Movie is executed masterfully to bring this story of gratitude to life for viewers. Its staying power and timeless quality comes from a story that is immediately relatable: many viewers have doubtlessly wondered how to best express thanks for those who have helped them through so much, and more often than not, found that simple gestures of appreciation can often be the most meaningful. Naoko Yamada mentioned in an interview that one of the challenges about K-On! The Movie was trying to scale it up to fit the silver screen. This challenge is mirrored in the film, where Yui wonders how to create a gift of appropriate scale to show everyone’s appreciation for Azusa; in the end, just as how the girls decide on a gift that is appropriately scaled, Yamada’s film ends up covering a very focused portrayal of Houkago Tea Time that works well with the silver screen: less is more, and by focusing on a single thing, the movie ends up being very clear and concise in conveying its theme. A major part of K-On!‘s original strength was instilling a sense of appreciation for the everyday, mundane things in life; the film’s success in scaling things up is from its ability to take something as simple as finding a gift to express thanks and then meticulously detailing how this gift matured over time into the final product viewers know as Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!. K-On! The Movie remains as relevant today as it did when it first premièred seven years ago: even for those who have never seen K-On!‘s televised series, the movie is self-contained and the themes stand independently of a priori knowledge. After all this time, I have no difficulty in recommending K-On! The Movie to interested viewers; the film is every bit as enjoyable and meaningful as it was seven years previously.

Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (The World in Colours): Review and Reflection at the ¾ mark

“Pain’s an old friend.” —Steven Strange, Doctor Strange

Hitomi’s ability to see in colour is short-lived, and her world reverts to a monochromatic one. Kurumi begins preparations for her entrance exams into post-secondary, and with both her and Shō graduating, the Magic-Photography-Arts Club begin transitioning to a new leader. Asagi is selected for this role and is tasked with organising the club’s summer camp event. While studying at the park, Kurumi’s older sister comes to pick her up and encourages Karumi to choose the future she desires. During the summer camp, the Magic-Photography-Arts Club’s members partake in photography, and Chigusa expresses a want to take a melancholy image from the Megami Bridge. Kurumi shares with Hitomi her doubts for the future, saying that she isn’t particularly passionate about anything in particular. Later in the evening, the club misses the last ferry, but are treated with a beautiful nightscape of Nagasaki. When Hitomi reveals to Kohaku that her colour vision briefly manifested, Kohaku begins to wonder if there’s something about Yuito that could help her out. After conducting a series of experiments, Kohaku is unsuccessful and also begins delving into time magic, feeling that she’ll need to master it if she is to send Hitomi back sixty years later. She is able to briefly bring a rose back to life and restore Asagi’s camera, but her magic’s effects are short-lived. However, as Hitomi begins settling into life at the Magic-Photography-Arts Club, Kohaku wonders if it’s a good idea to send her back into the future, now that Hitomi’s made friends she can confide in. In particular, Shō has developed feelings for Hitomi, and asks her to join him in a photography session. He later attempts to make his feelings known to her, but Hitomi panics and runs off. After advice from both Kohaku and Asagi, Hitomi expresses that she does not see Shō in a romantic manner. Meanwhile, Asagi is devastated to learn that Shō’s eyes have been on someone else after all this time.

Although everyday life remains at the forefront of The World in Colours, it was only a matter of time before lingering matters of magic and romance would begin making their presence felt. With Hitomi now much more expressive and comfortable around her friends, a new status quo has been established. Because nothing lasts indefinitely, and all moments, both good and bad, are finite, The World in Colours begins to explore the topics that have naturally and gradually begun to appear in The World in Colours. The matter of sending Hitomi back into the future is the first of these elements; as a forward-thinking mage, Kohaku is always seeking to expand and better her craft. Time magic proves immensely complex, and while she takes up studying it to help Hitomi, her resolve is diminished when she sees how close Hitomi’s become with everyone, coming to understand that magic cannot bring about happiness per se, but rather, the intent and circumstance of its application. Kohaku realises that she cannot simply use magic to create fabrications. However, even the things that arise naturally can be disrupted: as a result of their time together, Shō begins to connect with Hitomi and develops feelings for her. Although there is nothing forcible about his approach, things nonetheless fail simply because Hitomi does not view Shō in a romantic light. Magic or not, this is the reality of things, and in the aftermath of his unsuccessful kokuhaku, there will be a bit of a distance amongst the Magic-Photography-Arts Club’s members that even Kohaku and her magic will be hard-pressed to solve: Kohaku understands that magic is not the end all, and will likely be conflicted in choosing whether or not she can apply it as a solution to help her friends.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Like Tari Tari, questions of the future are never too far from the forefront of the characters’ thoughts. While a well-tread path for any work concerning youth, to the point of exhaustion for some, coming-of-age stories continue to endure because they remind us of the halcyon days of our youth, when our concerns primarily focused around our studies and relationships. While without the same freedoms of adulthood, youth entails a different sort of freedom, as they needn’t deal with matters such as looking after bills and dependents.

  • For me, the joy of these coming-of-age stories stem from seeing the different journeys everyone takes towards their own futures. This forms the basis for my interest in slice-of-life stories, and seeing how folks deal with problems in fiction is to gain insight into what authors themselves have experienced, or else what the authors feel is an appropriate approach towards handling the challenges in life.

  • A pâtissier, Kurumi’s older sister deviated against their parents’ wishes, but with application of effort and perseverance, has come to make considerable in her career. A major part of growing up is to ascertain precisely what one would do with their life, and at Kurumi’s age, I remained undecided. I ended up doing a health sciences degree that was essentially a double major in biological sciences and computer science. I’m still not sure whether or not my indecision as a high school student has any sort of impact on my current career choices and skill set, but I can say that with enough effort, one could make their decisions work out in a reasonable manner.

  • On the day of their camping trip, the skies are pleasant, and under Asagi’s direction, camp is off to a fine start. Kurumi and Chigusa share a conversation here about her future plans; the two are often seen teasing one another, and here, Kurumi decides to ask Chigusa to help with the cooking because he’s proficient with it. The course of their conversation shows that Kurumi feels as though she’s living in her sister’s shadow.

  • I’ve lost count of how many shows I’ve seen that featured grilled meats and vegetables now: pre-made skewers can be found at the local supermarket and would only require a grill to prepare fully. The weather around my side of the world is only really conducive for barbecue for a few short months of the year, with the remainder being too cold and snowy for such activities, but I’ve long learned to figure out ways of keeping warm and also, to enjoy what is around me. Today, I volunteered to be a judge at my dōjō‘s kata tournament, watching younger students showcase their kata, and it was a remarkably fun learning experience for me, as I sought to look for the details that I count a part of a good kata.

  • While the circumstances are indubitably different, I relate to Kurumi’s situation: she feels left behind by her friends, each of whom have become very focused about their futures. Of my friends, I often feel that I am floundering about, lacking the drive to take charge and improve my situation. In the past two months, I realised that I needed a job change. Because of my unusual background, my data structures and algorithm skills were weaker, so I returned to my books and implemented common data structures like binary search trees and hash tables in Swift, all the while touching up on design patterns and interviewing essentials.

  • This is why my posting for the last month has dropped off: I’ve been consumed with the job search process. We’ve now entered December, and I’ll be starting a new position in a week. What this means for this blog is that I will continue to write as I have (i.e. whenever I find the time to do so, when there are things to talk about). The reason why I relate this story is because life is filled with unknowns, and with this in mind, one cannot begrudge Kurumi for being a little uncertain about her future.

  • Kohaku, on the other hand, is confident about her future. The World in Colours presents mages as being a profession that, despite seemingly being far removed from other occupations, is one that requires an inquisitive mindset and entrepreneurial skills. Kohaku certainly has enough of both attributes to spare, and here, she remarks that she’d love to be able to capture the feelings of this moment and then relive it again in the future.

  • Realising the hour is late, and the ferry is approaching, Chigusa and the others run out onto Megami Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge that was finished in 2005 and has a span of 280 metres. They miss the ferry, and Chigusa’s efforts to capture a melancholy image of a girl looking over the harbour is lost. However, the Magic-Photography-Art Club share yet another memorable moment together, and gazing out over the harbour, everyone is treated to another spectacular view of Nagasaki.

  • In contrast with the view from the school rooftop, this particular cityscape is more colourful and has a richer palette. In particular, the inclusion of purples, oranges and yellows create a warmer colour that could signify Hitomi’s increasing closeness to everyone else in the Magic-Photography-Art Club. Fewer stars are visible in this sky, as well. Despite only seeing a monochromatic view here, Hitomi is curious to learn of what everyone else thinks of the cityscape here.

  • Questions of who Hitomi’s grandfather (and therefore, Kohaku’s husband) is have long troubled discussions of The World in Colours, with some speculating that the clerk at this bookstore might be the individual in question. That Kohaku never seems to be concerned about things indicates to me that who she meets is not of great relevance to The World in Colours in the same way that causality and paradoxes arising from time travel are not particularly important to The World in Colours.

  • Back at the clubroom, images from their photo shoots are collected and digitally enhanced. In particular, Hitomi’s photography has begun improving, as she is finding ways to use lighting and subjects to create a more compelling shot. These improvements impress Shō, who begins developing feelings for Hitomi upon seeing her seize the initiative. Besides having an easygoing demeanour and serious aspiration for a career in professional photography, not much about Shō is known.

  • When Kohaku learns that Hitomi’s colour vision faded, she’s intrigued to learn what might’ve brought it back, and that given Hitomi’s unconscious use of magic, believes that Hitomi might have experienced something strong enough for her to begin fighting the effects of this spell. Once Hitomi mentions Yuito as being present when her colour vision returned, Kohaku decides to use this as the starting point to see if Yuito himself might be sufficient to instigate a response from Hitomi.

  • All of Kohaku’s experiments end up being inconclusive – Shō and Kurumi walk in on Yuito and Hitomi amidst one of Kohaku’s tests. Par the course for a club activity, the Magic-Photography-Art Club’s activities are set after classes, late in the day when the sky grows a golden colour and shadows lengthen. Sunset in Nagasaki is around 17:14 JST during the winter and 19:32 JST by summer: ideally placed to coincide with the club activities, the colours of sunrise create a melancholy feeling of ending as the light fades away.

  • I’ve not been to a library with a decent selection of books for upwards of a decade: with the rise of tablets and e-Readers, physical books have been on the decline in my area. Commonly used as study spaces for their quiet, the one thing about libraries that have not changed is the presence of students who capitalise on their environment to study, and here, Kohaku decides to setup a situation designed to increase Hitomi’s heart rate, in the hopes of seeing Hitomi’s colour vision come back. Despite her use of magic to accelerate the process, Kohaku only succeeds in irritating Hitomi.

  • Kohaku believes that she’ll need to be able to send Hitomi back into the future and also, must learn time magic if she is able to send Hitomi back in the first place. She begins practising time magic, using it in a limited capacity to bring a wilted rose back to life and reverse the flow of sand grains in a timer. Time magic is seen in Harry Potter with the Time-Turners, and their usage is restricted to prevent temporal paradoxes. Similarly, when the Time Stone was first introduced in Doctor Strange, it is explained that Agamotto, the first wielder of the stone, forbade Masters of the Mystic Arts from using the Time Stone directly for fear that it would disrupt the natural order.

  • Owing to the casual nature of magic in The World in Colours, no such equivalents exist, and moreover, it would appear that Kohaku is breaking into new grounds with her magic. In between her experiments, Kohaku spends time with the club, who are out on another outing around the area. In particular, Hitomi has really come to appreciate the time she’s spending with the others and has begun expanding the range of subjects for her photography, desiring to capture these memories forever.

  • After Shō overhears Hitomi and Kohaku discussing Hitomi’s eventual need to return to the future, he becomes more worried about being able to be with her, and quite separately, Asagi is not certain whether or not she can overcome her doubts to make her feelings known to Shō. Before anything can occur, Kohaku uses magic to bring a group of cats together for the club’s photography.

  • Much as how the Time Stone can be used to locally revert time, Kohaku uses her magic to restore Asagi’s camera. Her magic is still unlearned at this point in time, and she cannot use magic as effectively as Dr. Strange or Thanos, with the latter utilising the Time Stone to reassemble the Mind Stone after Wanda Maximoff destroyed it at Vision’s request. However, Kohaku is initially unaware of this, and only learns that her skill with time magic is limited when she gets home, when her grandmother remarks that the rose is wilted again.

  • While running across an overpass, a bit of the scenery in Nagasaki can be seen. The World in Colours definitely captures Nagasaki’s reputation as having one of the best night views in all of Japan, standing alongside Kobe and Hakodate. Occasionally venturing into the realm of photorealism, P.A. Works’ series are always a visual treat to watch; if I were to roll this part of The World in Colours a few frames back, one would not immediately be able to tell whether or not this was a photograph or not.

  • Kohaku is normally confident and forward, but when her magic fails, she becomes taken aback. Realising that Asagi’s camera may have suffered the same fate as the rose, she rushes out into the night to confirm that this is indeed the case: Kohaku’s greatest fear is letting people down with her magic. Kohaku and Dr. Strange therefore share similar perspectives, looking out for others and constantly striving to learn more about the magic that they respectively possess.

  • While sharing their photographs from the previous day, and seeing that Hitomi’s found herself at home among the Magic-Photography-Art Club, Kohaku feels that using her magic alone might not be sufficient to bring happiness to others: while she’d been working on time magic, she suddenly finds herself at a juncture. Seeing a more pensive Kohaku shows that even the most confident of individuals may occasionally have their doubts, improving her plausibility as a character.

  • Hitomi’s dislike for magic appears to have diminished over time, and she’s seen helping around the shop without much resistance. The ninth episode predominantly deals with the impact she’s had on the Magic-Photography-Art Club, especially on Shō, who’d found himself drawn to Hitomi’s persistence and mystique. When hearing about Hitomi’s plans, Kohaku is supportive, but also surprised, having long felt that Yuito would be the person Hitomi would find to be most interesting.

  • Shō decides to take Hitomi out for a photography session, something that is a date in all but name. Taking her around more scenic spots in Nagasaki, Chigusa and Kurumi run into Shō and Hitomi from a distance and decide not to meet them. Although they don’t feel the two spending time together to be a date, Kurumi feels it’s better if news of this did not reach Asagi’s ears. A love triangle has developed in The World in Colours, one involving multiple actors, and while I’m curious to see how things will turn out, others have been more hasty to conclude that this turn of events is “bland”.

  • I never take anyone who uses the word “bland” seriously, primarily because it’s a stock term indicative of a lazy thought process. In the case of The World in Colours, I further counter-argue that the unique presence of magic in conjunction with a love triangle could have some interesting implications on the story, especially with respect to how the challenges are resolved. Magic cannot be wantonly used to rectify things, but it could also lead to the development of a more stable solution in the long-term if used correctly. In addition, The World in Colours remains very concrete about what it intends to present to audiences: there is no need for the unlearned to step in and convince others of an untrue theme as some had done for Glasslip.

  • Shō’s kokuhaku is timed at the end of the day; having spent it building things up, he decides now is the time to see if Hitomi will reciprocate his feelings. Taken aback, Hitomi runs off into the night, leaving Shō uncertain as to what just occurred. The outcome of this particular love confession is not particularly surprising, and is what motivates the page quote: rejections and their attendant pain are familiar to me, and so, I know precisely how Shō feels here. In my case, I was not afforded the pleasantries of a direct and courteous rejection as Shō was.

  • The next day, Hitomi is thoroughly depressed, feeling that with her circumstances, she isn’t someone who could deserve a relationship. Kohaku’s first recommendation is to discuss things elsewhere, having drawn the attention of their fellow classmates, including a few guys who immediately burst into tears after learning Hitomi might not be the most eligible bachelorette anymore.

  • When Hitomi asks Kohaku about her situation, Kohaku remarks she’s unsure as to what to do here, having never dealt with a kokuhaku before. While Kohaku is my favourite character of everyone, it’s not difficult to see her as being unapproachable, given her boisterous and outgoing manner. The choice to deliberately present Kohaku as a free spirit who is not committed to or concerned with relationships at this stage in her life is deliberate, so as not to create any expectations for who is to eventually become her husband and Hitomi’s grandfather.

  • Hitomi seeks Asagi’s counsel, and ultimately resolves to at least give Shō a truthful answer. However, Hitomi unwittingly has a picture of a special spot on her camera, revealing to Asagi that Shō’s got feelings for Hitomi. Putting two and two together, Asagi is devastated. Relationships are a desperately tricky topic, and I find that the most mature perspectives on relationships are from those who take a more open-minded approach to things, who accept that there are pluses and minuses, winners and losers.

  • When Hitomi turns Shō down, he takes it stoically and expresses a desire to remain friends. After Hitomi leaves, he allows frustration to flow through him and vents on the rooftops, to the surprise of a woodwinds and brass club practising. Moving into The World in Colours‘ final quarter, much needs to be resolved as things pick up. I’m looking forwards to this: depending on how The World in Colours unfolds, I will have at least one, and at most two more posts about this series. These posts are still a ways off, and now that we’re into December, a few things need to be clarified. First, my schedule is still a little hectic, but as it will stablise, my resolve to write for this blog has returned. I have a few posts planned out between now and when The World in Colours‘ finale airs, including a revisitation of K-On! The MovieCLANNAD ~After Story~ and a pair of posts on Little Forest.

Life is turbulent and chaotic, and as Kohaku has come to accept, there are no magic bullets that can singularly act as the solution to all of the challenges that one encounters in life. Instead, the answer to the problems in life must come by a different road. With this in mind, I am looking forwards to seeing the impacts of Shō’s kokuhaku and how the dynamics among the Magic-Photography-Arts Club shifts with the events from these past few episodes. Traditionally, conflict in fiction leaves the characters far stronger than when they were previously, and it is likely that what happens next will set in motion the occurrences that help Hitomi recover her colour vision. In addition, Kohaku will also likely need to deal with her own conflicts in order to help Hitomi out, as well as affirm her abilities with magic. Nine episodes into The World in Colours, I am optimistic that this series will remain focused and not delve into the realm of abstract, unexplained phenomenon: now that we are three-quarters of the way into The World in Colours, it is with conviction that I can say that this series is Tari Tari with a stronger emphasis on romance and a touch of supernatural to explore the aspects of love more viscerally, as well as to indicate that problems people encountered are not so easily solved with short cuts. The journey to the end is therefore an exciting one, and for having compelled me to sit down and watch it each and every week so far, The World in Colours has been solid insofar: I’m very much hoping The World in Colours will stick its landing in this final quarter to show that magic and everyday life can co-exist with youth who are working their hardest to figure out their place in the sun.

Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazarō (Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms): A Review and Full Recommendation

“I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone.” —Arwen

Maquia is a member of the Iorph, an ancient race of beings with uncommonly long life. They spend their days weaving Hibiol, cloths that chronicle their history. However, the peace is broken when Mezarte, a neighbouring kingdom, attacks: many Iorph are killed, and Maquia’s friend, Leilia, is taken captive. Maquia herself is tangled in the Hibiol and hauled into the skies when one of the Mezarte’s flying mounts, Renato, succumbs to disease and goes berserk. She crashes into a forest and comes across an ambushed caravan, where she finds a baby in the arms of his mother. Maquia decides to take the baby in, naming him Ariel, and travels to a village where a woman named Mido takes them in. Meanwhile, Mezarte’s Renato begin dying off, and the king attempts to hold onto power by introducing Iorph blood into their kingdom; Leilia is forced into an arranged marriage with the prince of Mezarte. When Maquia learns of this, she travels to Mezarte with Ariel to try and save Leilia. Their rescue is unsuccessful, and Maquia moves to Dorail, where she takes on a job as a waitress. Ariel becomes a young man. Struggling with his identity, he rejects Maquia as his mother and joins Mezarte’s armed forces. Ariel marries Dita, while Krim, frustrated by the turn of events, kidnaps Maquia and convinces the other nations to declare war on Mezarte. During the invasion, Maquia stumbles upon Dita and Ariel’s home, where she helps Dita deliver her child. Krim confronts Leilia and is shot in the process, bleeding out. Leilia later sees her daughter before flying off with Maquia and the last Renato. In his old age, Maquia visits an elderly Ariel, who had lived a full life, and watches as he peacefully dies. She cries for the pain of the loss, but also feels that there was happiness in equal measure. Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazarō (Let’s Decorate the Promised Flowers in the Morning of Farewells, Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms in English and Sayoasa for brevity) is a P.A. Works film that was released in February of this year in Japan, marking the first original feature-length title that Mari Okada (who’d previously worked on The Anthem of the Heart) has directed.

During its run, Sayoasa explores notions of familial bonds, love and the passage of time in a high fantasy setting, making use of the Iorph’s longevity to convey the range of experiences that one might encounter in raising a child through Maquia’s perspective. Blessed with a long lifespan, Maquia’s chief, Racine, warns her about the risks of becoming attached to those with a shorter lifespan, but in spite of this warning, Maquia chooses to take in a baby and raise him as a mother would. Although initially lacking in experience, and always prone to tears, Maquia is shown to be doing her best. From happiness to sorrow, Maquia experiences the full spectrum of emotions present in life, a far cry from the static, isolated state of being the Iorph live in. Maquia learns that outside of her old world, things are constantly changing and do not stand still as she’d previously known: in raising Ariel, Maquia comes to appreciate everything from joy to despair, and that happiness can accompany pain, as well. This is contrary to Racine’s warnings early in the film, and in its presentation, Sayoasa suggests that it is precisely the coexistence of happiness and sorrow that constitute a life well-lived. While immortality (or extended life) is often considered to be a blessing when folks are asked about it, fiction often explores the idea that doing something meaningful with the time that one is given has a greater value than spending an eternity locked in tedium. J.R.R. Tolkien briefly touches on this through Arwen, who chooses a mortal life with Aragorn. Despite knowing the sorrow that Aragon’s mortality might bring her, she accepts this. By comparison, Tolkien’s Elves are portrayed as being tragic, who have become encumbered with watching life transition to death: Tolkien describes mortality as the “Gift of Men”, that a finite life and the rest following life is not a curse. To follow one’s heart in a finite life with its sorrows and joys is the path Arwen chooses. While Maquia might be confined to the realm of a long life, she will carry her experiences with her forever – the Iorph are not immortal like Tolkien’s Elves, but Maquia’s interactions with the outside world gives her a much fuller, richer experience than the status quo that she’d lived in previously.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The Iorph’s homeland is designed to convey a sense of bygone splendour, of a once-great civilisation whose time has passed: vast crumbling structures suggest a mighty society in decline, and furthering this feeling are the Iorph themselves, who spend their days chronicling their histories in cloth without much thought towards the outside world. One of the greatest challenges I encountered for this post was cutting down the number of screenshots down to thirty: there’s so much scenery that it was difficult to pick screenshots that showcase some of the artwork in Sayoasa and those that are relevant to the narrative.

  • Maquia is an orphan and is someone who fears loneliness; the chief of their clan advises Maquia that the only way to stave off pain is to avoid seeking out attachment. While a possible answer for avoiding pain, the reality is that neither happiness nor sorrow can exist in the absence of the other. This moment indicates that the Iorph have become a passive society, choosing to avoid trouble rather than confront it. Their ways create a sense of antiquity, which in turn provides audiences with a context for Maquia and her development throughout Sayoasa.

  • Unlike Tolkien’s Elves, who remain excellent craftsmen and healers, as well as being able serve as warriors, the Ioprh seem defenseless against aggressors. When the nation of Mezarte attack, it is unsurprising that the Iorph are overwhelmed. The Mezarte bring with them dragon-like mounts called Renato: a cursory glance suggests that they are named after the Latin name “Renatus”, which is “to be born again”, and are probably named to signify the rebirth of something glorious.

  • The diseased Renato flies off into the night skies after crashing through the temple housing the Hibiol weavings. In the chaos, a distressed Maquia is hauled along for the ride. This accident sets in motion the remainder of Sayoasa, and here, one can get a sense of scale of the landscapes in Sayoasa: there are moments where things look photo-realistic, attesting to the incredible visual quality within this film.

  • When Maquia comes to, she finds an infant in a tent, and decides to take him in. My initial impressions were that this caravan was probably attacked by the Mezarte forces en route to the Iorph, but regardless of who the perpetrators were, it is the moment where Maquia meets Ariel and decides to look after him. A fair portion of Sayoasa has Maquia struggle to understand what being a mother means, although her lack of knowledge is offset by a desire to preserve life.

  • After leaving the caravan with the infant in her arms, the sun breaks over the horizon, bathing the land in a warm light. The moment is magical to Maquia, who comes to associate the scent of an infant with that of the sun. After the terror of the night, sunrise indicates a new beginning. The prominent use of of yellows and oranges in this scene creates warmth: sunrises in different contexts hold different meanings, and usually, the combination of saturation and hues serve to communicate to audiences what that sunrise is meant to evoke.

  • Wandering through the countryside, Maquia eventually finds a cottage and meets Mido, who takes them in. She eventually names the infant Ariel, a Hebrew name meaning “Lion of God”. While a male name, English-speakers have used it as a female name, as well. Mido has two other children, Lang and Deol, who initially regard Maquia and Ariel as little more than a curiosity. However, as Maquia spends more time with Mido, Lang and Deol come to regard Maquia and Ariel as family, as well.

  • The passage of time in Sayoasa is quite ambiguous: were it not for a change in setting and Ariel’s aging, it would be quite difficult to tell the passage of time. The passage of time in The Fellowship of The Ring is something that Peter Jackson modified in his adaptation, being set in a much shorter time period. Tolkien originally had Frodo set out seventeen years after Bilbo’s 111st birthday, but in the movies, Frodo leaves within weeks of the party. The condensed timeline is likely intended to convey a sense of urgency, since Tolkien’s original text had the hobbits move at a much slower pace, one that would’ve slowed the movie experience.

  • Mido admits that being a mother is largely something that one must learn through experience, and despite her own difficulties, manages to get by. This moment allows Maquia to listen to Mido’s experiences and gain from them. Mido later dyes Maquia’s hair a light brown to match Ariel’s, helping conceal her identity as an Iorph: while Helm’s inhabitants are largely neutral towards them, their remarks also suggest that the Iorph might be regarded with some mistrust, or even hostility, because of their isolation from the world.

  • The pastoral setting in and around the village of Helm is reminiscent of The Shire, a verdant and peaceful location far removed from the worries of the world. Like Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the RingsSayoasa makes extensive use of colours in the environment to clearly indicate the atmosphere. In Sayoasa, life and death are presented as natural events in life: Ariel’s first learning about death comes when the family dog passes away. Maquia is still green with respect to this, and she dissolves in tears, as well. Lang makes her promise to be stronger for Ariel’s sake.

  • Maquia is shown to care deeply for Ariel, and teaches him how to weave the Hibiol cloth, as well. Looking after Ariel, and helping out Mida, the seasons pass in this sleepy village. However, other children in the village, including Dita, find Ariel’s relationship with Maquia unusual and tease him for it. Dita later returns to apologise, but because of sudden news that Leilia is now entering an arranged marriage, Maquia leaves and heads for the capital to try and save her. She takes Ariel along, and Dita is unable to deliver her message.

  • On a vessel to the capital, Maquia encounters Krim. A male Iorph, Krim is voiced by Yūki Kaji (Hanasaku Iroha‘s Koichi Tanemura. Maquia is voiced by Manaka Iwami (Hotaru Hoshikawa in New Game!!), while Miyu Irino (Saji Crossroad of Gundam 00 and Amanchu Advance‘s Peter) provides Ariel’s voice. Some familiar names also return in Sayoasa: Racine is voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro (Strike Witches‘ Perinne H. Clostermann, Masami Iwasawa from Angel Beats! and Sword Art Online II‘s Sinon), Ai Kayano plays Leilia (Saori Takebe of Girls und Panzer, Mocha Hoto from GochiUsa and Chisaki Hiradaira from Nagi no Asukara), Dita is played by Yōko Hikasa (K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama), to name a new.

  • The capital of Mezarte is a beautiful city, resembling the Commonwealth of Athens’ capital from Break Blade. Fantastical settings in anime have always been of an exceptional calibre, and P.A. Works did a phenomenonal job in Sayoasa: it is a compliment when I say that the locations of Sayoasa are comparable to those of Peter Jackson’s Middle earth. The capital of Mezarte has the same glory as Minas Tirith, being a vast city built in a beautiful location.

  • Thirty screenshots is not enough of a space to capture every moment in Sayoasa, but in the interest of keeping the post of a manageable length, thirty screenshots is what I will have. Here, I’ve got one of the Renato, being used as a stead to carry Leilia during the day of her wedding. Krim and several other Iorph agents manage to infiltrate the processions and create a disruption, allowing Krim to take Leilia.

  • The rescue is ultimately unsuccessful: when Maquia learns Leilia is pregnant, she hesitates, and decides to leave Leilia. Maquia and Krim go their separate ways here: while Maquia consents to leave Leilia (and in doing so, represents the choice to look to the future), Krim resolves to do what he can to save Leilia. The next time they meet, Krim will remark that Maquia’s life was one of general happiness, as she was able to experience a wide range of things, whereas Leilia became confined within the Mezarte capital after her child did not appear to display any Iorph characteristics.

  • The moody industrial town of Dorail is where Maquia and Ariel settle down next. Initial struggles cause Maquia to lash out at Ariel, but the two later reconcile. Maquia takes up a job as a waitress in a tavern, while Ariel begins working in the forges. In Dorial, vast industrial machines can be seen, covering the area in eternal gloom; it’s a far cry from the blue skies of the capital, and the open spaces in Helm.

  • As he grows older, Ariel becomes increasingly embarrassed by the notion that his coworkers have of him: Maquia outwardly resembles someone who is fifteen, and with Ariel at roughly the same age, some wonder if he and Maquia have eloped or similar. While working, Maquia encounters Lang at the tavern: he’s become a soldier for Mezarte and upon meeting Maquia, they spend time catching up.

  • The monarchy in Mezarte is presented as being ineffectual and weak: the rulers seem to place an undue emphasis on power and the symbols of power, at the expense of their nation. With the Renato dying off, and Leilia failing to bear any offspring with Iorph characteristics, Mezarte’s leadship grow desperate, indicating that their hold on the world wanes while other powers rise. Details like these, while never explicitly naming the state of the world, serve to nonetheless help with world-building, and Sayoasa‘s world is as intriguing as those seen in P.A. Works’ other titles.

  • For her perceived failures, Leilia becomes locked away and forbidden from seeing her child, driving her to despair. Forgotten and abandoned, Leilia’s only question is how her daughter, Medmel, is doing. The prince of Mezarte appears powerless to do anything about her situation, mirroring the nation’s own decay over time. This brings to mind Gondor and its decline over the ages: in its quest to recruit ancient powers to preserve their rule, the monarchy in Mezarte appears no different than the rulers of Gondor, who cared more for their past than their present.

  • Maquia is devastated when Ariel announces his intention to join the armed forces. Prior to leaving, Ariel encounters Lang and laments not being able to do more for Maquia, and when the time comes, the two part on uncertain terms. Maquia is taken by Krim here to an unknown location subsequently. When other nations begin mounting an assault, Krim leaves for the royal palace, and Maquia makes her way outside. During the combat sequences, the incidental music marks a shift to the motifs that Kenji Kawai is best known for, resembling the music from Gundam 00 and Ip Man.

  • When I first began watching Sayoasa, I had no idea that Kawai would be composing the music for the film: the motifs for the Iorph and Maquia are quite unlike anything that I’d previously heard from Kawai. However, I began recognising his signature style in some of the more melancholy pieces, and by the time the fighting in Mezartes began, there was little doubt in my mind that Kawai had composed the film’s soundtrack. Krim and Leilia had once been in a relationship, and when his efforts to bring Leilia back fails, he attempts to immolate them both. Krim sustains a fatal wound subsequently,

  • The invasion of Mezarte begins with a naval bombardment. While Mezarte might be a dying empire, with a decadent and ineffective leadership, audiences nonetheless feel compelled to back their armed forces because of the personal connection: both Lang and Ariel are fighting for their lives against the invading forces. At this point, soldiers on both sides have access to single-action rifles, but the close quarters forces combatants on both sides to rely on their bayonets. The fighting and death is interspersed with scenes of Maquia helping Dita give birth after the latter goes into labour.

  • When Ariel and Dita’s child is safe, Maquia finds Ariel on the battlefield with an injury. Years of concern and regret manifest here: Ariel is genuinely sorry for having left Maquia’s side so suddenly, and addresses her as mother once more.  The two reconcile and part ways: Ariel returns home to Dita and finds their child, while Maquia frees the remaining Renato and takes to the skies.

  • Leilia gains closure when she meets Medmel. Feeling as though she’s finally found peace, she jumps off the edge of the palace, and Maquia catches her. The two fly off on the Renato back to their homeland. I note that owing to release patterns, any search for the term “Maquia” will yield results for the film first, rather than for the district in Peru’s Requena province or a family-run inn in Pontevedra, Spain. While I’m early to the party as far as bloggers go, the film’s screening in theatres around North America mean no shortage of reviews for the film are available for reading.

  • Reviewers universally found Sayoasa a generally enjoyable film. Poignant and sentimental, the film is described as being imaginative and heart-melting, praised for its exceptional visuals and critiqued for leaving some items unresolved. In a rare instance, I am largely in agreement with existing reviews for Sayoasa, although personally, I enjoyed the film enough to give it a recommendation and be more generous with my scoring – I think that the film has earned its A grade (a nine of ten) for being very captivating and immersive in spite of its flaws.

  • Now that Daylight Savings has ended, this side of the world has darkened again, and the autumn has given way from the cool, sunny days to cold and wet days. I am someone whose disposition is impacted by the weather, and weather of late has resulted in greater melancholy and lethargy, as well as declining motivation. However, there are ways of combating this – under rainy skies today, I went out for dim sum at a local restaurant that has some of the best deep-fried squid this side of the city. Good food is a phenomenal tonic for the spirit, and despite the rest of today being rainy, I was in good enough spirits to write out this post, vacuum and push further in Destiny 2, which I got for free as a part of the promotion for the Foresaken expansion.

  • Sayoasa returns Maquia to the sleepy village of Helm, where an elderly Ariel passes away peacefully after a full life. Life and death is always a very tricky topic, and death inevitably brings sadness. In Chinese culture, death is accepted as a natural part of life, not to be feared, but also is something rarely discussed for fear of bringing about ill fortune. However, for Maquia, separation is still something that she finds difficult, and so, cries for his passing and the treasured memories they shared together.

  • I still recall hearing about Sayoasa during the midsummer of last year, watching beautiful trailer and reading that director Okada intended Sayoasa to be a film about human drama, meetings and departures that audiences can relate to. Catching only glimpses of the Iorph settlement and closeups in the film, I had no idea what the movie would entail. The movie released in Japan in February and became available in July across North America, and I was avoiding all spoilers. The Blu Rays became available in late October, allowing me to finally watch and write about the film.

  • Having spent the entirety of Sayoasa portraying the bonds between Maquia and Ariel, audiences can tangibly feel the sense of loss that Maquia experiences. The weather stands in stark contrast to Maquia’s sorrow – it is the same beautiful blue skies that she and Ariel have known. The choice to have Ariel’s death come on a beautiful day is a reminder that life and death are very natural parts of reality, and that for better or worse, things do continue on.

  • This post represents a small sample of the beautiful moments in Sayoasa, and for anyone who did end up reading all the way to this point, I remark that one might have wasted their time: Sayoasa is something to be experienced, rather than read about. If you’ve not done so already, kindly stop reading this post and go check the film out. I won’t be bothered: I’m more concerned about pushing my way through Destiny 2‘s campaign and debating whether or not Battlefield V is worth getting, especially considering that the Arras map looks almost identical to this screenshot. In blog news, I’ve fully migrated the site’s screenshots now, so there’s no worry about screenshots disappearing once Flickr actions their promise to delete old photos, and looking ahead into December, besides another instalment in CLANNAD ~After Story~, I will also be writing about The World in Colours and Anima Yell, the latter of which I’ve fallen quite far behind on.

From a narrative perspective, Sayoasa deals predominantly with a direct theme, in depicting the experiences one has over the course of a lifetime, and the complexities of the world around Maquia that she is made to adapt to. There are numerous secondary stories that are told in a broken pattern; like real life, it is not possible to know of every individual’s story in full, and that our impressions of others are constrained to what we see of them. The story thus stands well enough on its own: there’s enough going on to keep viewers engaged, but not enough to overwhelm them. Maquia herself is likeable as a lead character, stumbling through things she’s unfamiliar with, but also displaying enough resilience to adapt to her circumstances. The core of Sayoasa, already enjoyable, is augmented by P.A. Works’ exceptional visuals and the musical genius of Kenji Kawai. From the structures of the Iorph homeland, to beautiful countryside around Helm, the vast capital city’s majestic structures and the industrial gloom of Dorail, every location is rendered in incredible, life-like detail. Subtle elements, from the lighting to water effects, further enhance the strength of the artwork, immersing viewers into Maquia’s world. Meanwhile, Kawai’s music creates incidental music that genuinely captures the wistfulness and sorrow that permeates Sayoasa. In this film’s soundtrack is quite different from the bombastic tones that Kawai is best known for (e.g. Gundam 00, Ip Man, Higurashi: When They Cry and the live-action Death Note movies); use of strings and harps gives Sayoasa‘s music a very distinct feeling, capturing Maquia’s feelings. However, traces of Kawai’s style can be heard in the more dramatic pieces, such as when Maquia rescues Leilia after she reunites with her daughter, or during the combat sequences. Altogether, Sayoasa is a highly entertaining film that presents a message of what makes life worth living in a highly visceral, tangible manner; this is a movie I can easily recommend for viewers.

Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (The World in Colours): Review and Reflections At The Halfway Point

“You cannot beat a river into submission; you have to surrender to its current, and use its power as your own.” –The Ancient One, Doctor Strange

Kohaku arrives back in Nagasaki from her travels abroad, and her classmates itch for her to demonstrate her magic. Kohaku asks Hitomi to aid her, creating an illusion resembling the English school she studied at. However, when Hitomi unconsciously injects her own magic into Kohaku’s spell, a steam train passes through and covers the classroom in smoke. While surprised to learn that Hitomi is her granddaughter, Kohaku nonetheless sets out to help Hitomi; she agrees to join the Photography and Arts Club, on the condition that it be rebranded as the Magic-Photograph-and-Arts Club. To give Hitomi a better sense of monochrome photography, the club decides to visit the school at night and photograph the Nagasaki cityscape. Later, Asagi is disappointed to learn that her feelings for Shō are not reciprocated when Kohaku tells her fortune, and when Yuito appears at the magic shop in search of something that might help him overcome a slump, Hitomi struggles to find something suitable. At Kohaku’s suggestion, she decides to craft her own star-sand for him. Later, Magic-Photograph-and-Arts Club gather to celebrate their status as a club, where Hitomi manages to give Yuito her star-sand. The club go on an outing for photography, and here, Hitomi manages to enter one of Yuito’s drawings, being frightened by a black figure attempting to capture the golden fish that she’d previously seen in his drawings. Upon reawakening, Hitomi tries to question Yuito about this, but he storms off. Speaking with her friends, she attempts to muster the courage to talk to him again. Hitomi and Kohaku find Yuito at Sanami Asakawa’s art exhibition. Sanami is Yuito’s senior and Yuito is seeking her counsel. When Hitomi spots Yuito, she runs off, but with encouragement from Kohaku, Yuito gives chase. He catches up to Hitomi and promises to draw something that he’ll show her when finished. Moved, Hitomi begins seeing the world in colour again.

That Hitomi recovers her ability to resolve colour again at The World in Colours‘ halfway point was somewhat unexpected, but is also unsurprising owing to P.A. Works’ propensity for advancing the narrative quickly. At this point in time, the explanation for why Yuito’s drawings alone are unique for Hitomi remain unexplored, and with her colour vision returning in full, audiences are expected to conclude that there is, without any doubt, something special about Yuito and his drawings. That she ended up in his house in the first episode, and sees her first bit of colour in his drawings, are indicators that Yuito is going to be instrumental in helping Hitomi find what she was seeking when returning to the world sixty years previously. At this point in time, however, what Hitomi is seeking has become more open-ended – I imagine that colour vision is ancillary to the root cause of why Hitomi lost her sense of colour to begin with. This root cause will doubtlessly be the underlying aspect of the episodes remaining in The World in Colours. For the time being, Kohaku’s arrival into The World in Colours has certainly given the anime new colour; forward, outgoing and a people-person, Kohaku disrupts the dynamic and creates newfound energy in the series to spur the characters forward. However, it is also shown that Kohaku is someone who is often caught up in the moment and does not stop to consider the consequences of her actions. She is, in short, the perfect foil to the reserved Hitomi, whose personality is dominated by reservation and reluctance. Much as how Kohaku pushes Hitomi out of her comfort zone, Hitomi’s slower approach to things could influence Kohaku to be more considerate before acting. With all of the major players on stage, The World in Colours has taken off, and halfway in, is providing a solid display thus far.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The visual aspect of The World in Colours are doubtlessly impressive, and present a very vivid image of Nagasaki that is as magical as the magic the Witches themselves produce. At its best, P.A. Works have created incredibly detailed worlds and environments that contribute much to the story-telling: like Kyoto Animation, CoMix Wave and Studio Ghibli, subtle details in lighting and colour are masterfully used to augment emotions conveyed by dialogue and sound.

  • Even at the halfway point, I am inclined to dismiss discussions of causality and any disruptions introduced by time travel for the simple fact that The World in Colours is not about time travel, but rather, uses time travel to accommodate the story. The World in Colours treats time travel similarly to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, which sees the time traveler explore future societies and discover that class conflicts endured, as well as how faith in progress is a hubris present in humanity. How the time machine itself works in The Time Machine is secondary to its use in fleshing out these themes, and because time travel is not used again in The World in Colour, there is little reason to write a treatise on how it works here.

  • Upon returning, Kohaku gifts her classmates tea from her travels abroad, before proceeding to demonstrate some magic. While Kohaku’s magic is very much considered to be bombastic and even destructive, her classmates have an interest in its effects and gather in anticipation. Kohaku is shown to be in control of her magic, being able to use it with proficiency and conviction; this stands in contrast with Hitomi, who has less control and like the children with magical abilities, can produce magic unconsciously.

  • The World in Colours utilises a familiar mechanic to drive Hitomi’s development: while her time with the Photography and Arts Club could have introduced changes in how she approached things, this would have been a very gradual change. Kohaku, on the other hand, has the potential to introduce changes in a shorter time frame: this is an appropriate choice considering that The World in Colours only has thirteen episodes.

  • While Hitomi’s initial adjustments to contemporary society were noticeable, the series places a lesser emphasis on her inexperience with some present-day implements. Matt Groening’s Futurama initially had Phillip Fry doing the same, but the writers knew that the “fish out of water” jokes stemming from Fry’s immersion into a society a thousand years from now were limited. While amusing, Futurama really began excelling once it began exploring the eccentricities of a future world, and in later episodes, utilise the time separation to create very meaningful and moving stories.

  • By evening, the Photography and Arts Club return to the school to photograph the cityscape from the rooftop. Present-day Nagasaki is a lot more reserved and low-key than the portrayal of its cityscape sixty years into the future, creating a gentle, quite backdrop for the club’s activities. In its use of blue lighting, the cityscape that P.A. Works crafts ends up having both a ethereal and cold feeling, creating a sense of detachment and distance. It is both beautiful and wistful.

  • One of the longstanding challenges with night photography is that the lower lighting (and corresponding number of photons impacting the CCD chips in a camera) is that images can turn out to be quite noisy or blurry. The noise comes from the CCD chip: daytime photos do not have this issue because there is enough light coming into the camera so as not to require any amplification, but when it is dark, the chip will amplify the signals, which results in noise. This can be manually tuned in better cameras, and photography guides recommend lowering the ISO and increasing exposure to improve image quality for night photography.

  • Their journey is a simple one, but Kurumi ends up being scared stiff by the prospects of their school being haunted. While the others head up top, she insists on staying behind on the ground, and Chigusa accompanies her until Kohaku uses her magic to create a “ghost” that frightens the pair through the school, allowing everyone to bet together again. The moment is peaceful, and the club activities subsequently go into full swing afterwards.

  • Hitomi manages to cast a magical train into the night sky with her magic, creating a memorable moment for the others. It is apparent in this screenshot that there are a vast number of stars in the sky, and while creating a magical moment, P.A. Works’ choice to do so also comes at the cost to realism: light pollution charts show that on the Bortle Scale, Nagasaki is a 7-8. This corresponds with a grey sky by night, and magnitude 4 stars are the faintest stars that can be seen. In my area, substantial efforts have been made to curb light pollution, and we’ve gone from a Bortle Scale of 6 back to a 5 with the installation of ground-facing LED lights.

  • When Kohaku joins the Photography and Arts Club, she rebrands it the Magic-Photography-and-Arts Club, bringing to mind the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club of Tari Tari. Themes of self-discovery also make a return, and romance is subtly present, being a natural part of the characters rather than occupying the foreground. Here, a variation of Kanagawa-oki nami ura (“The Great Wave off Kanagawa”) can be seen in the clubroom: it’s a famous, immediately-recognisable painting created by Katsushika Hokusai as a part of his Thiry-Six Views of Mt. Fuji.

  • While I’m inclined to place my faith in sciences and the concrete, I admit that there can be a bit of fun in things like fortune-telling. For instance, looking through my Chinese horoscopes for this year, it was interesting to see how much actually holds true (although the real science behind a horoscope is that it’s vague enough so everything is technically true). In The World in Colours, Kohaku tells Asagi’s fortune pertaining romance and finds that Asagi’s luck is roughly equivalent to that of mine.

  • The different varieties of Star Sand look absolutely beautiful, and I would not begrudge anyone for wanting to keep a vial of Star Sand as a gentle light source of sorts. The properties of Star Sand are such that they can capture magic for later use, and depending on what magic is placed into the sand, the effects will vary. Here, Hitomi speaks to Kohaku’s grandmother, and is asked to look after the shop, and later encounters Yuito, who is seeking a Star Sand to motivate his drawing.

  • Ever the go-getter, Kohaku suggests that Hitomi create her own Star Sand. The circular opening in their rooms here is an interesting visual representation of connectivity: Hitomi and Kohaku peek through it from time to time to communicate with one another, and the opening in the wall is meant to signify that for the two, both are always right there for one another if need be.

  • Spurred on, Hitomi ends up giving Kohaku’s suggestion a go, and burns through several batches of Star Sand before succeeding in creating the Star Sand. Hitomi’s grasp of magic and Kohaku’s suggestions to her are mirrored in the page quote: her reluctance now appears to be her biggest limitation, and while Kohaku has not formally mentored Hitomi in magic, I imagine that spending time with Kohaku and the club members will help Hitomi build the confidence she needs to embrace her magic.

  • Looking back on the calendar, I’ve actually only got one other post for November, and we’re very nearly halfway into the month. During the Remembrance Day long weekend, I took advantage of the pleasant weather to take a hike in the nearby Grassi Lakes trail, which branches into an easy and difficult path. The difficult path takes one along a cliffside with a good view of Canmore below, but at this time of year, it’s also more dangerous, since the cold weather and streams create ice patches. However, the hike was worthwhile, and the Grassi Lakes themselves are beautiful.

  • We pushed further on up a rocky area towards Whitemans Pond, and then made the difficult descent back down to the trail-head. Per our usual custom, a Montréal Smoked Meat Poutine with bacon, mushrooms and sautéed onions at 514 Poutine followed: on a cool day after a hike, a hearty and flavourful poutine with a refreshing Spruce Beer is exactly what one needs to unwind after a walk. The remainder of the afternoon was spent doing a much easier walk along the spur line trail at the heart of Canmore, before heading back home and gearing up for a raclette party. Back in The World in Colours, Asagi and Hitomi look at the food Shō has brought, including fried chicken, katsu and fries: he deliberately chose so as a courtesy to Hitomi.

  • Hitomi expresses to Kohaku that she’d like to give Yuito the Star Sand she’d made, and Kohaku creates an opening, sending the two off to pick up drinks. Asagi later speaks with Kohaku about her feelings for Shō, admitting that she wanted to help Hitomi out because it she saw a bit of herself in Hitomi. Worried that a more outgoing Hitomi might captivate Shō, Asagi is conflicted by her friendship with Hitomi and a longing to have Shō see her as more than an ordinary friend.

  • Under a swift sunset, Hitomi gives Yuito the Star Sand, and he promises to give it a go. Hitomi reveals to Yuito that his drawings are special to her, and in this moment, the colours of Nagasaki are faded away, giving the scene a dream-like quality.

  • Asagi’s doubts are reinforced when she hears Shō speak of Hitomi and worrying about her ability to adapt to life sixty years before her time. Insofar, I’ve not seen any indicators that Shō has feelings for Hitomi; his concern and actions stem from worrying about her as a friend, although Asagi’s worries about losing Shō come to the foreground. She later speaks with Kohaku, who reminds her that fortunes are not absolute.

  • For having directed Hitomi towards using the high quality Star Sand, Kohaku lands herself in hot water and is made to clean up the ruined sand, suggesting that the sand itself can reused in some conditions and likely will have a weaker effect than using good quality sand.

  • A quick glance ahead into the future shows that The World in Colours‘ soundtrack will release on February 2, 2019 and retail for 15120 Yen (176 CAD at present exchange rates). The tracklist and number of tracks is not yet known, but the soundtrack is quite compelling and adds depth to an already impressive series. On the other hand, The World in Colours‘ opening and ending songs have been released for quite some time. Haruka to Miyuki’s “17-sai” is the opening song, and Yanagi Nagi performs the ending song, “Mimei no Kimi to Hakumei no Mahō”.

  • As Yuito’s artwork takes on increasing prominence in The World in Colours, some folks are beginning to wonder if artistic symbolism might be necessary to appreciate the anime in full. I would expect that even in the absence of a complete understanding, The World in Colours should remain quite comprehensible to viewers. Hopefully, any “analysis” akin to the sort seen during the days of Glasslip will not manifest: I’m getting to be a little old to be dispelling any untruths about shows of this sort from folks who excel at little more than purple prose.

  • If memory serves, Sakura Quest was as detailed and pleasing to the eyes to watch as The World in Colours, as was Hanasaku IrohaTari Tari, Nagi no Asukara and Angel Beats!. It suddenly strikes me that I’ve never actually done a proper review of Angel Beats! before, and when I stop to consider where this blog is headed for the future, a future that will likely see me rolling back posting frequency, I think it makes sense for me to go back and write about those series that really set the standard for what I’ve come to look for in series that I watch.

  • It was quite fun to see the Magic-Photography-and-Arts Club go on an excursion where they dress up in Victorian-style outfits for the camera. The whole club enjoys their outing, and it’s a chance to simply watch the club amidst their activities. A part of the joy in these clubs with more than one focus is that there’s always something new to be exploring. In my experience, being multidisciplinary means being able to apply problem-solving methodologies from one discipline into another to create novel, and sometimes even more effective solutions. In the case of anime, it means there is never a dull moment.

  • Asagi later returns to her preferred subjects for photography after the group disperses and pursues their own activities. Looking ahead into The World in Colour, I anticipate that while this series will not be quite as sincere as Tari Tari or as relatable as Sakura Quest, it will continue to strike that balance between the fantastical and ordinary, and in doing so, succeed in telling its story. In retrospect, Glasslip‘s limitation was not exploring and making use of the glass beads in a greater capacity: the penultimate episode’s focus on an alternate reality should have been replaced by a full episode dealing with the glass beads much earlier in the season to motivate their significance.

  • Hitomi finds Yuito drawing again, and this time, she manages to enter his drawing: a richly-coloured world that slowly transitions from a fantastical cityscape to a barren desert. Hitomi wonders what the meaning of the black shadow is, and when she recounts her thoughts to Yuito, Yuito grows angry and leaves, feeling that she is intruding into something private. Later that evening, a rainfall covers the area, mirroring the mood that Hitomi is in. I found the visuals to be very impressive. Whether it be the lens flare or reflection of light from wet surfaces, P.A. Works’ rainy scenes are particularly well done, having a photo-realistic quality to them.

  • While Hitomi is now saddened that Yuito is unhappy with her, Kohaku sees it differently; she tells Hitomi that fighting with friends is a natural occurrence and imagines that the two will patch things up in no time at all.  Kohaku astutely likens life to being like a hedgehog: these mammals are covered with defensive spines to prevent predation, and as pets, they can be tricky to care for. Kohaku mentions that they inadvertently hurt those who care for them, but this won’t change the fact that their owners love them.

  • Sanami Asakawa is Yuito’s senior, someone that Yuito looks up to and likely was someone who inspired Yuito to take up drawing. Lacking the inspiration to continue his own drawings, Yuito seeks her help to see what motivates her, and Sanami mentions that she’s nervous about the future, drawing only to stay focused. I know this feeling very well, and remark that some days, it commands one’s full efforts to take things one step at a time because of how uncertain the future is.

  • Upon seeing Hitomi, Yuito takes off after her, promising to draw something to show her. In this instant, Hitomi finally begins resolving the world in colour again. I’ve seen very little discussion on The World in Colours out there, and of those few, at least one has hastily concluded that the return of colour is meant to indicate that Hitomi is falling in love with Yuito. While it is the case that colour is used as a framing device, there is very little to otherwise suggest this is the case for now.

  • While I was doing my utmost to remain optimistic about Glasslip when its halfway point was reached, The World in Colour has had no trouble keeping me engaged and positive. For my readers, who’ve doubtlessly noticed the low post count here, things have been a little rough on my end to be scheduling posts with the same frequency that I once had, so I’m going to roll back my blogging so that I’ll write when I have the time to. With this being said, I am going to be writing about Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazarō, “Let’s Decorate the Promised Flowers in the Morning of Farewells” in English and Sayoasa for brevity) in full before November is out.

The World in Colours is another installment in a long line of titles from P.A. Works that inherit elements from its predecessors. In this case, The World in Colours draws from Tari Tari’s focus on the desire to discover oneself during a busy youth, and uses magic in a much more open manner than Glasslip, to accommodate its narrative. Having more visceral magic works to The World in Colours‘ favour – rather than standing in as a sometimes-obscure symbol of various meanings, the magic acts as a tool for influencing the narrative, both providing the unique setup that sent Hitomi back six decades, and also in driving the humour and drama within the series. Magic is regarded as just another discipline in The World in Colours, and so, while the precise nature of what Hitomi seeks might not have been explored yet, I could hazard a guess that The World in Colours is meant to tell a story of discovery and appreciation for one’s background, attained by way of a life-changing adventure with good company. Whether or not this holds true after all thirteen episodes is up for discussion; as more episodes are aired, the directions The World in Colours will take will become clearer. For the present, what is immediately clear is that The World in Colours has put up a top-tier visual and aural performance, adding additional incentive to keep up with and watch what is turning out to be an excellent offering: in more common terms, I showed up for the artwork and stayed for the story.

Walking Towards the Future, Discovering the Past: Revisiting Youhei and Misae’s Arcs in CLANNAD ~After Story~ At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Do not lose to the obstacles that you will meet in the future.” –Tomoya Okazaki

When Mei decides to stick around after Youhei shows no sign of having a concrete course of action following high school, Youhei attempts to find someone to pose as his girlfriend so Mei will stop worrying about him. He is unsuccessful until Sanae decides to help out, presenting herself as Nagisa’s sister. Sanae’s gentle and reliable demeanour causes Mei to continue worrying, and she reveals to Tomoya that the Youhei she remembers was once dependable and caring of those around her. She attempts to go out with Tomoya to draw old Youhei’s old nature, although Youhei seemingly remains unmoved. Youhei begins to withdraw from the others, and Tomoya learns that Youhei was once a soccer player who quit after hazing from more senior players. Mei wishes for Youhei to rejoin and agrees to pick up stray soccer balls as a result, but finds herself bullied by the soccer team. Youhei and Tomoya begin fighting the soccer team, causing their members to disperse. Emotions boil over – Youhei and Tomoya slug it out, stopping when Mei and Nagisa intervene. In the aftermath, Tomoya and Youhei, upon seeing their respective battered visages, recall how they’d first met and share a good laugh. Youhei is terrified to learn that Sanae is actually Nagisa’s mother, and flees from a violent Akio. Mei returns home, while Tomoya and Nagisa continue to spend time with Youhei. Autumn sets in, and with it, the Autumn Festival: while speaking with Misae, Tomoya dozes off. He learns that Misae met an unusual boy, Katsuki Shima, in her final year of high school. Despite being annoyed by his presence initially, Misae comes to spend more time with him after her heart is broken upon learning her crush has a girlfriend already. With his earnest attitude, Misae begins falling in love with him and invites him to the autumn festival. However, Katsuki learnt earlier that his existence is owed to the original Katsuki’s wish to be with Misae. On the night of the festival, Misae admits that she’s in love with Katsuki, and he dissolves into tears, knowing he won’t be able to fulfil his promise to her. Tomoya awakens, and attends the autumn festival. They run into Misae here, and Tomoya recounts Katsuki’s story to Misae, who realises that Katsuki is still with her after all this time.

By pushing Tomoya into considering his friends’ future and the pasts of those senior to him, ~After Story~ provides audiences with greater insight into the directions that Tomoya must take as time passes. In having him resort to putting on a façade to drive Youhei forwards, and eventually physically fighting him, Tomoya shows that while he prefers indirect action to motivate people, he is not afraid to get his hands dirty and be direct. A real friend is someone who is open and honest, even when what they say is not pleasant to listen to. A real friend similarly can listen to this and come away stronger for it. Thus, when Tomoya encourages Youhei to find focus in his future, the resulting fight and resolution does eventually have an impact on Youhei. In the immediate future, Youhei remains the source of comic relief, but subtle changes can be seen, as well. Besides the future, the past is also explored: listening to Katsuki’s story and recounting things to Misae shows that Tomoya is perceptive. He sees commonalities between the lessons and experiences of his seniors, and those of his own experiences. In this case, Tomoya understands what falling in love is like and the strength of these feelings, as well as what can happen when these feelings go unacknowledged. Acting on what he feels is right, Tomoya is able to help Misae attain closure when he learns Misae’s cat is actually Katsuki; in doing so, Tomoya also shows that he is aware of Kyou and Tomoyo’s feelings for him to some extent, further illustrating that despite his appearances, Tomoya is a complex, multi-dimensional character whose experiences, especially with Nagisa, have begin bringing back the side of him that genuinely represents his personality and beliefs. While seemingly unrelated to the main events in ~After Story~, Youhei and Misae’s stories serve to give Tomoya a chance to interact in a context where romance is not a possible outcome. His experiences in both show that regardless of who it is at the receiving end, Tomoya is ready to listen or fight his way to a solution.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I deal with Flickr’s upcoming plan to eliminate half the life in the universe everything except my thousand newest images, I still have a few posts that I can continue using Flickr for, such as this post for ~After Story~. Readers looking through my older posts may find the images to be a bit fuzzier than they were before: this was because I used a tool to quickly resize images and publish them to Imgur for hosting. Once I’m done the migration, I’ll consider different avenues or methods to host new screenshots.

  • It’s been a while since I’ve written about ~After Story~, and last we left off, Tomoya had won a baseball game. Immediately, ~After Story~‘s first episode gaves off a melancholy vibe, and in doing so, sets the expectation that Youhei’s backstory has a similar weight as that of anyone else’s, even if he is the comic relief character. However, like CLANNAD has done previously, things open up with a humourous tone, allowing audiences to laugh as Youhei gets bested by his circumstances at every turn. Here, he runs afoul of Kyou after trying to get Ryou to pose as his girlfriend.

  • Ahead of Mei’s appearance, Youhei decides to find someone willing to pose as his girlfriend in a bid to convince Mei that all is well with the world. There are some that posit one has their game together if they are in a relationship; while it is true that a relationship can be indicative of maturity (it takes maturity to reach compromises, solve problems and work together), a hastily thrown-together relationship of the sort that Youhei is looking for here will lack the elements of a real relationship, and as such, audiences are left to wonder if Mei will see through Youhei’s ruse.

  • Making only brief appearances until now, Mei is the opposite of Youhei, being motivated, determined and attuned to the environment around her. Mei is voiced by Yukari Tamura, whom I know for her roles as Onegai Teacher‘s Ichigo Morino, Mai Kawasumi of Kanon, Remon Yamano from Ano Natsu de MatteruKiniro Mosaic‘s Isami Omiya and Rika Furude in Higurashi When They Cry (yes, I watched Higurashi some years ago). It’s stated that the Sunohara family resides in the inaka, so Mei’s travelling to visit Youhei is a big deal.

  • Sanae agrees to pose as Youhei’s “girlfriend”, and a part of the dramatic irony is wondering how long the ruse can be kept before Mei suspects something; after all, she’s very observant. However, for the most part, Mei seems unaware of anything out of the ordinary, attesting to Sanae’s ability to sell it and play the role of Nagisa’s “older sister”. I’m not sure how easy or hard it is to spot these things in real life, but in Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector, NOC Adam Yao is described as being able to play a second role convincingly to allay suspicion from those who would tail him.

  • When Mei sees Sanae, she worries that Sanae is the sort of person to dote on Youhei and inhibit his growth. One of the things that CLANNAD excels at over its predecessor, Kanon, is that even the comic relief character has a worthy backstory: Kanon‘s equivalent of Youhei, Jun Kitagawa, is relegated to a minor role and does not gain much development. In many ways, CLANNAD feels like the successor to Kanon, utilising very similar elements to tell a much more nuanced, compelling story by applying all of the learnings from Kanon.

  • While on their “date”, Mei calls Tomoya “onii-chan“, sending a chill up his spine. While used typically amongst siblings, women will occasionally use it to refer to older men in an endearing fashion, and given the application of honourifics in Japan, this is typically used only amongst people who are close, hence the embarrassment factor. Here, Mei manages to evoke an expression I don’t think we’ve seen from Tomoya up until this point in CLANNAD.

  • Kyou, Ryou and Kotomi run into Tomoya while he’s under the influence of Mei’s onii-chan, and the three run off in terror. The joy of the moment is quickly lost, but it is typical of CLANAND to create these one-off moments that lighten the mood up. Subsequently, Tomoya and Mei do the things that one might do on a date; Mei acts more akin to a younger sister than a date, and in retrospect, her mischievous mannerisms bring to mind those of GochiUsa‘s Maya. Such characters previously were not particularly noteworthy for me, but since GochiUsa, this feeling has dissipated, and I do find it fun to see what kind of dynamics that such characters bring to the table.

  • Exemplary use of lighting in CLANNAD continues into ~After Story~: when Mei reveals to Tomoya and Nagisa Youhei’s past as a soccer player, the lengthening shadows create a sense of hopelessness and distance. Application of colour in CLANNAD allows Kyoto Animation to convey emotions and feelings that dialogue and aural cues alone cannot, and with this in mind, Kyoto Animation does tend to rely more heavily on lighting in drama than in comedies: series like Violet Evergarden and Sound Euphonium similarly use time of day and weather patterns to accentuate a mood, while more comedic works like Amagi Brilliant Park and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid tend to go with facial expressions to convey comedy.

  • Eventually, the decision is reached, that Youhei might need to rejoin the Soccer Team. It’s admittedly a short-sighted solution to a much bigger problem, and while we are a society that holds quitting is for losers, there does come a point where one can only endure so much before it becomes a better choice to seek different avenues. I would tend to argue that Youhei’s solution would not be to rediscover his interest in soccer, but to find another path to walk with conviction.

  • ~After Story~ paints this in a very blunt manner: the Soccer Club evidently does not want Youhei back, and they make it clear by setting a Sisyphean task for Mei. Seeing enough, Tomoya confronts the club’s leader, and when they begin bullying Mei openly, he makes to fight them. In CLANNAD, hostile characters have deliberately small, narrow eyes that make them immediately detestable. One admires Tomoya’s restraint in not engaging them immediately on the basis of appearances alone.

  • Youhei appears at the last, last second and opens the fight after the Soccer Club members begin bullying Mei physically. While often at the receiving end of a beating, Youhei and Tomoya manages to fend off the entire soccer team, causing them members to flee. The mechanics in CLANNAD are very inconsistent; Tomoyo can defeat entire gangs on her own, and Kyou’s capable of throwing books that punch through concrete, while Youhei can survive encounters with both without lasting damage. However, against the likes of the soccer club, real damage is caused.

  • The sense of melancholy at day’s end gives way to a rain shower: the dark skies and heavy rain mirrors the grim mood that Tomoya and Youhei both feel. Exhausted from their fight with the Soccer Club earlier, Tomoya and Youhei’s own fight shows their exhaustion, with each punch and throw exposing just how physically tired both combatants are at this point in time. However, driven on by their feelings, and sense of what is right, they exchange blows until Mei and Nagisa implore them to stop.

  • While seemingly pointless, Tomoya and Youhei’s fight serve to show the other the conviction each has in their respective beliefs, as well as the absurdity of their choices. While no more words are to be had here, it is implicit that Tomoya and Youhei come to an understanding here on both what needs to happen as the move ahead. They leave the soccer field battered and bruised, in the company of those who care about them.

  • The next day, under beautiful skies, Tomoya and Youhei realise the comedy of their situation and burst out laughing. Summed with their tacit agreement from the day before, it’s clear they’ve made up. The weather reflects this in full, and as the two share a laugh, Nagisa, Kotomi, Kyou and Ryou show up, clearly puzzled as to what’s going on. Much as how friendships between women can be a bit of an enigma for men, the way men interact with one another can similarly be confusing for women, as well.

  • To make it absolutely clear that a new status quo is reached, the question on everyone’s mind, of whether or not Youhei ever learns that Sanae is actually Nagisa’s mother, is answered at the end of Youhei’s arc. It is absolutely hilarious, resulting in Akio chasing down Youhei for having messed with his wife. Nagisa and Sanae are shocked, while Tomoya is busy laughing at Youhei’s predicament. With this, Youhei’s arc comes to an end, affirming Tomoya and Youhei’s friendship to audiences.

  • While it is important to look ahead and plot one’s course for the future, there are lessons from the past that can also be relevant. The contrast between future and past foreshadow the role that both will have in Tomoya’s life later down the line, but at present, these stories primarily serve to illustrate the way Tomoya handles his challenges and also further the sense of depth and connection present in CLANNAD that makes this series particularly memorable and timeless.

  • Before delving any further, Misae’s arc and story with Katsuki is entirely told in a dream, being detailed enough so that one could reasonably surmise that it is faithful to what Misae experienced. This story is recounted to Tomoya while he dozes off at Misae’s place, and because of how time perception in dreams work (as well as just how limited our understanding of dreams generally is), it is not implausible that Tomoya would have heard the entire story over the course of a 10-15 minute span.

  • Katsuki’s involvement is simple: he appears out of the blue to grant Misae one wish in exchange for having helped restore his spirits some years before, while he was recuperating in the hospital. Misae sees him as little more than a nuisance: when he learns that Misae holds feelings for one Igarashi, he tries to help her advance things along in fulfilment of his promise to her. However, Katsuki’s naïveté works against him.

  • Misae is this generation’s Kyou and Tomoyo rolled into one, having a bit of a temper and is quick to violence whenever annoyed. She also happens to be the student council president, and is best known for managing to encourage perfect attendance for a full week amongst her students. This similarity is likely deliberate, showing that while things change, there are also things that remain quite similar. I imagine that this is one of the things that teachers will appreciate – having taught cohort after cohort of students, similarities between different students will become apparent.

  • At Katsuki’s insistence, Misae attempts a kokuhaku to Igarashi, only to learn he already has a girlfriend. While she’s heartbroken, Katsuki is inconsolable, feeling that it is his fault for having brought pain to Misae. It takes a bit of convincing for Katsuki to lighten up, and it is also here that Misae opens up to Katsuki. While the day is ending, the colours of the scene are also richer, more saturated; audiences are left with the sense that even though something is ending, something new is beginning, as well.

  • Misae’s feelings for Katsuki emerge as the two spend more time together; while he might not be forward and confident, his gentle and kind mannerisms are his strong points. Fiction often has a second love be successful, and I know of a few stories in reality where folks became happy couples after one or both suffered recent heartbreak. I’m happy that people can find their promised people in this manner, but for me, romance and the prospect of finding someone special remains consigned to the realm of fiction. Since that event of four years previously, things simply have not been working.

  • One day, while waiting for Misae to finish her duties, Katsuki runs into Misae’s friends. They decide to pull off some fieldcraft with the aim of allowing Katsuki to see Misae while she’s on her student council work, and the result is quite amusing; he manages to pull off the disguise effectively and fools most everyone, save Misae.

  • ~After Story~ continues making use of blood reds and oranges in an environment filled with shadows to signify a particularly foreboding or difficult moment. One could guess what will happen even without dialogue owing to the colours. Here, Misae’s friends take him back home after he confesses to forgetting where he lived, and learn that Katsuki Shima had been deceased for quite some time. Katsuki learns here that the original was a young boy who’d died, and that the boy’s feelings had been strong enough to manifest in human form to pay back Katsuki’s gratitude to Misae.

  • Because the blacks and reds give way to a gentler palette of evening colours, viewers immediately feel a sense that the revelation, while shocking in the moment, is something that isn’t meant to be taken as a game-ender. Misae’s friends attempt to reassure Katsuki here, and audiences familiar with Kanon will be reminded of Makoto’s arc, where Yuuichi similarly remembers that he’d once befriended a fox whose gratitude was strong enough to manifest in a human form for a time. This is a recurring theme, and suggests that Maeda considers love to transcend species, being something that is quite wonderful.

  • On the night of the autumn festival, Misae and Katsuki share a moment together: by now, Misae is in love with Katsuki, but Katsuki regrets being unable to reciprocate her feelings. Despite her promise to be with him forever, the magic that allowed him to retain a human form expires, and Katsuki vanishes. In spite of him returning to his original form, Katsuki’s feelings remain, and he manages to find Misae once again. From Misae’s perspective, it would be fate that the stray cat she encountered happens to be Katsuki.

  • I’ve long heard that the things one experiences in life, and the reason why they happen, remain an enigma. Supposedly, this is why some people go through many occupations and prospective partners before finding the right ones for them, while others seem to make their first choices work out of the gates. Fate and free will has long been a subject of debate, and with my experiences, I find that reality will present individuals with both. Others have characterised the relationship between free will and fate as being one where neither can exist without the other: fate creates a decision, and free will is consciously choosing which decision to take.

  • While it’s subtle, I wonder if Nagisa and Tomoya being together at the autumn festival could qualify as foreshadowing of what is to come; after all, Katsuki and Misae were separated here, reuniting again later. Tomoya decides to tell Misae of what his dream showed him and helps Misae reach closure at the very same festival where she discovered her love for Katsuki.

  • ~After Story~‘s opening arcs take a very similar approach as CLANNAD, although the focus has shifted towards world-building. Supernatural elements and everyday elements are explored to further humanise the characters – Maeda’s use of the supernatural is intended to provide a tangible explanation for why things in life happen the way that they do, attesting to how complex and mysterious life is. With these two arcs over, the next stage in ~After Story~ will deal with the balls of light and the world outside of school.

Besides building out Tomoya’s character further, ~After Story~ capitalises on its earlier episodes to further develop the other characters and the universe to build a truly well-thought out, captivating world. From a narrative perspective, having Tomoya deal with Youhei and reigniting Youhei’s motivation shows the strength of their friendship. Audiences now understand why Youhei and Tomoya remain friends in spite of Youhei’s flippant attitude and Tomoya’s penchant for pranking Youhei: their friendship holds weight after what audiences have seen, and we thus come to appreciate that in spite of the comedic, even idiotic interactions between the two, the reality is that Tomoya and Youhei do support one another when the moment calls for it. Similarly, exploring Misae’s story and introducing an element reminiscent of Makoto’s arc in Kanon reinforce that there is a supernatural component in CLANNAD. While the supernatural had always been subtly present in CLANNAD (and in Fuuki’s arc, not-so-subtle), that it is making a more noticeable appearance now means that there are forces at work in CLANNAD that should not be so quickly dismissed. The sum of these two stories in ~After Story~ thus act to set the expectation that every story Tomoya experiences have weight, and that it is the sum of his actions, in conjunction with the supernatural aspects of his world, that will come to impact and shape his future.