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Nordlys: Reflections on the Battlefield V Campaign

“I’ve always found your country to be beautiful…and unsettling. When I came here as a child, they told me stories of creatures and monsters in the woods” —Lieutenant Weber

Lieutenant Weber interrogates Astrid Bjørnstad about the location of resistance fighters. Outside, in the snowy and frigid forests of Norway, Solveig Fia Bjørnstad prepares to infiltrate Vemork Hydroelectric Plant and cripple the German effort to produce heavy water, a component in the refinement of fissable materials for nuclear weapons. Sneaking through the valleys and forests by night, Solveig rescues Astrid and recovers a document. The two are captured, and Astrid pushes Solveig off a bridge to ensure she can continue the mission. Solveig fights hypothermia to reach a dead drop, and before succumbing to the elements, managing to find a cabin and eliminating the lone German soldier inside. The next morning, she reads a letter from Astrid, and makes her way to a portside town where Germans are storing their heavy water shipments. Her actions alert Germans to her presence, and they evacuate with the last remaining shipment. Solveig gives chase, but a U-Boat appears. Astrid attempts to destroy the heavy water with a stick grenade, sinking the U-Boat in the process and the Germans surround Solveig, leaving her to an unknown fate. Nordlys (Norwegian for “Northern Lights”) details the Norwegian heavy water sabotage operations conducted by saboteurs between 1940 and 1943 to prevent the Germans from acquiring the heavy water needed to manufacture nuclear weapons. While modern perspectives find that the heavy water produced at Vemork Hydroelectric Plant had a very low purity and would have unlikely been useful, the bravery of the resistance members involved in the sabotage are recorded. The prospect of Nazi Germany in possession of nuclear weapons was a sobering one, and the Allies made an active effort to cripple the German heavy water programme. By February 1943, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Norwegian operatives managed to destroy the production facility. In conjunction with Allied bombing raids, the Germans ceased operations at the site, and the Norwegian heavy water sabotage programme is presently counted as one of the most successful sabotage operations during the Second World War.

Prominently a stealth mission, Nordlys is also perhaps the most visually spectacular, beautiful War Story available in Battlefield V. The bite of a winter’s night is offset by the presence of hauntingly stunning Aurora Borealis adjourning the skies. Slipping through the woods like a ghost, it is easy to see how Norway can seem unsettling: the land is remote, desolate but beautiful, and it attests to the sense of unease both sides of the war would have faced in their efforts to come out victorious. While the Germans may view the Norwegian resistance as monsters in the forests, their own determination to create a technological terror is also akin to opening Pandora’s Box. Even though players see things from Solveig’s perspective and conclude that she’s no monster, creating this sense of uncertainty adds to the sense that in war, both sides have their fears and objectives. Battlefield V mentions that humanising one’s enemies is a surest way to lose the war, , and similar to Battlefield 1, suggests that if we could humanise our enemies, war might not be as vicious or commonplace. Compared to the likes of the Normandy Beach landings or the operation to capture Berlin, heroics such as those undertaken by Norwegian resistance members have largely been forgotten. By taking players into the frozen landscapes of Norway, Battlefield V‘s War Stories both serve to remind players that bravery can definitely take all forms, are motivated by reasons distinct to different individuals and that World War Two was a global conflict, leaving even the most isolated parts of the world untouched. From a game-play perspective, this means fighting a war somewhere faraway from the familiar operations, allowing players to explore locales that most World War Two games don’t visit and seeing how powerful the Frostbite Engine is.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Stealth is ostensibly encouraged in Nordlys – Solveig is equipped with throwing knives that are one-hit kills and totally silent, but have massive drop and thus, take some skill to use. There are numerous paths in the first act, allowing Solveig to sneak past patrols undetected, although there are also some seemingly contradictory challenges. As with Under no Flag, these challenges are designed to encourage multiple playthroughs, and when I return, I will doubtlessly be on easy difficulty to blow through things faster.

  • Players who sneak under the bridge using the lower deck will be rewarded with a suppressed M1911. Suppressed weapons are unavailable in the multiplayer at present: earlier Battlefield titles gave suppressed weapons unique attributes to mix up gameplay, but this has gone away since Battlefield 1. In the campaign, however, they remain useful, and the M1911 allows me to run the James Bond loadout, giving me one more option for dealing with lone guards.

  • While the forests of the True North Strong™ are about majesty and beauty for me, the taiga of the Nordic countries and Siberia are a bit more haunting. Despite the knowledge that I am playing as one of the “monsters in the woods”, the cold, lonely forests of Norway seem quite uninviting here, and passing through a German camp, the fires add an inviting warmth to an otherwise cold-feeling level.

  • The Aurora Borealis in Nordlys are perhaps the most impressive I’ve seen in any video game, even besting those seen in The Eldar Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s been nearly six years since I picked up Skyrim on a sale, and while I had a great deal of fun in the game, my library has since expanded considerably, so I was finding less time to go through Skyrim. However, I did unlock the Clear Skies Dragon Shout, which allowed me to spawn Aurora Borealis at will during the night. The graphics of Battlefield V are even more impressive, and as I make my way to the hydroelectric plant, the beauty of the aurora are apparent.

  • Aurora are commonly green, a consequence of solar particles interacting with oxygen molecules at an altitude of 240 kilometres. Blue and red aurora come from interactions with nitrogen molecules at different altitudes. Here, I make my way into the facility: having blown the stealth challenge, I decided to go loud for the remainder of the mission. Solveig encounters numerous weapons during the mission, and I went with a combination of single-action rifles, the suppressed M1911 and the FG-42 en route to the plant.

  • In reality, the Vemork Hydroelectric Plant is located outside of Rjukan in Norway, was opened in 1911 and was the world’s largest power plant, producing an output of 108 MW. It produced heavy water from 1934 until 1971, after which it was closed. A new power plant replaced it, and the old site became a museum in 1988, detailing the Norwegian Heavy Water Sabotage programme. When Solveig is running through it, heavy water production is going full force.

  • Sneaking through an empty building, with a suppressed pistol, by night, during the winter, reminds me of 007 Nightfire‘s The Exchange. Since Nightfire, shooters have come a very long way, although Nightfire holds a special place in my books for being the first FPS I’d owned: during Christmas, I used to play various 007 games on my cousin’s Nintendo 64 and GameCube, coming to associate Christmas with the atmospherics in a James Bond shooter. I would tend to say that of the James Bond shooters, Nightfire is probably the most polished, with an engaging campaign and fun multiplayer.

  • One of my longstanding dreams is to travel to historic World War Two sites in Europe: the Vemork Hydroelectric Plant is probably far removed from what might be considered accessible, so I’m probably not to walk through the same halls that Solveig have walked through. There’s a charm about Germany and Austria, so I’m thinking that in the future, my first vacation to Europe will be riding a train through the mountains of Austria and visiting timber-framed German villages. My German is completely gone now – despite having taken German during all three years of my high school, I’ve not once used the language since university.

  • In fact, I would tend to think that I am more proficient now in Japanese than I am in German. If I should choose to visit, I think revisiting some of the basics would be useful. Back in Battlefield V, I managed to reach Astrid, and knowing that the remainder of the mission is a protracted firefight, I found myself a Bren gun. This is Perrine’s weapon of choice in Strike Witches, and is suited for use against the hordes of German soldiers that appear: the single-action rifles are a bit too slow for close quarters. In the multiplayer, the Bren’s biggest disadvantage is its magazine, which is highly obstructive: I’ve not run the Bren with any frequency.

  • The FG-42 is another solid weapon: of the light machine guns, the KE-7, Bren and FG-42 handle most like assault rifles. During the days of the beta, the FG-42, when fully upgraded, was considered the best LMG available. At present, it’s a reliable firearm that is balanced and satisfying to use, and I usually roll with either the Nydar Sight or 3x optics: iron sights have never really worked well for me in Battlefield, so I avoid them where possible.

  • The darkest part of the Nordlys mission is the second act, where Selvig must deliver a dead drop during a raging blizzard. She has access to the M30 Drilling, but there is no option to use the rifle barrel as far as I am aware: I’ve not found any rifle cartridges, and in the campaign, the M30 seems to be a double barreled shotgun only. Hypothermia is a part of the game mechanics here, and Solveig must stop to warm up by the fires periodically to avoid freezing to death. This is an element that was last seen in Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s Snowblind mission, which sees Marlowe separated from his squad, following with his making his way down the mountain during a massive blizzard.

  • On the topic of bitterly cold, snowy weather, a cold wave has struck my area. At the time of writing, it’s been sixteen straight days of -20ºC (-4ºF), with windchills reaching upwards of -40ºC (-40ºF) and yesterday evening, a fierce snowfall hit the area, reducing visibility and making roads dangerous. It grows tiresome to have to go out to weather so cold it bites at any exposed skin, but forecasts show that the cold might be reaching an end.

  • Skiing is a part of several sections in Nordlys, and Solveig can use this to quickly surprise enemies. One challenge entails killing an enemy with a throwing knife while skiing, and to cheese this assignment, I simply equipped the skiis and then threw a knife at an enemy. After the long dark of the night, return of light into Nordlys’ final act was very welcome, and the Norwegian village here looks like it comes fresh out of a Christmas card.

  • Like Under no Flag and Bad Company 2‘s Sangre del Toro mission, the final act of Nordlys gives players the freedom to visit three sites and destroy their targets in any order. Stealth is again a part of the gameplay, but at this point, since players will be causing explosions anyways, I figured that there was little point to staying quiet.

  • During my original playthrough, I was intending to complete the challenge of disabling all alarms, but I might’ve missed one, as the challenge didn’t unlock. On the topic of unlocking things, Battlefield V‘s latest Tides of War assignment is unfeasible owing to how strict the conditions are, making it an unreasonable use of time to try and unlock the Stug IV. I will likely end up buying the tank with company coin later – it is not worth the frustration to try and get the remaining kills: I spent two consecutive hours without any progress, and that time is better spent doing something else.

  • Nowhere else in Battlefield V‘s War Stories are the skies this clear and this deep a blue: Nordlys has definitely captured the feeling of a winter’s morning with its skies. At this time of year back home, the days have begun lengthening again, and the skies are brighter by mid-day. During the shortest days of the year during late December and early January, the sun is very low in the sky, and there is a faint hint of gold in sunlight even when it’s noon.

  • I would suppose that, since I’m in Norway, this is the closest players have to experiencing Les Stroud’s Survivorman Ten Days specials, which aired in 2012. For the Norway special, Stroud started in a remote backcountry road in a broken-down vehicle, then attempts to make his way to more hospitable surroundings. He finds hunters’ cabins and deer remains, making deer soup while a blizzard rages away. Afterwards, his decision to descend the mountains into the valley below leads him to find homes along the coasts of a fjord. I remember that episode best for having a chilling time lapse while Stroud describes the dreams he has while sleeping after his first meal in a while, having watched it in between studying for the MCAT.

  • Here, as I make my way to a cliffside bunker where heavy water shipments are held, I walk along a highway adjacent to the water’s edge. This area reminds me of the roads along the lakes of Interior BC; a few months ago, I was out here for the salmon run; the skies were deep blue and trees were turning yellow as autumn was setting in. I imagine that, in the deep winter, some of these highways would be quite difficult to traverse, as they are covered in snow.

  • I’ve heard a non-trivial amount of controversy surrounding DICE’s decision to use Solveig in place of a male commando unit in Nordlys floating around on the ‘net. For me, playing as Solveig did not change my gameplay experience in any way, so I’ve got no complaints whatsoever. It seems that, following the culture war surrounding games and games journalism in 2014, the community has become only more vociferous at perceived “threats” to games: my own thoughts are that, so as long as game mechanics do not become negatively affected (i.e. as long as we’re not stuck playing games made in the Twine Engine, or by those who only have the vaguest ideas about how Unreal 3 works), I’m not terribly worried.

  • Back in Nordlys, I reach the end of a mission, where a mid-day snowstorm transforms the skies into the sort of miserable grey that has dominated the weather in my area for the past few days. There’s some cover here amongst the equipment, and it is prudent to make use of it while returning fire on the German soldiers. The mission ends here, and while Solveig’s fate is unknown, what is known is that the resistance’s efforts will have a tangible effect on Norway. I will be writing about the Tirailleur mission for Battlefield V, but before then, Ace Combat 7 is the next game I will be writing about. My experiences in it are nothing but positive, and I do wish to do this talk justice.

Granted, the War Stories of Battlefield V, in skipping the best-known campaigns of World War Two, have left players largely disappointed that DICE did not showcase a proper Normandy Landing or capture of Iwo Jima in Frostbite: such a mission would have almost certainly blown away all contemporary World War Two games and allow players to experience famous moments with the latest technological developments. For me, the campaign is a secondary aspect to Battlefield V; previous titles also had campaigns, but the bread-and-butter of the games are largely in their multiplayer components. Having said this, I do enjoy the quiet that campaigns offer to players, allowing one to explore stories and places that are otherwise absent in multiplayer. Missions such as Nordlys showcase how modern game engines can be used in conjunction with solid cinematics and voice-acting to create a captivating, immersive atmosphere that, while perhaps lacking the spectacle of multiplayer, act as an enjoyable experience for those looking to experience a story in an interactive, visual format. The sense of dread, uncertainty and doubt, intermingled with the beautiful landscapes and skies of Norway were very compelling, and despite my lack of prowess with stealth missions, Nordlys is my favourite War Story in Battlefield V. Given the time, I would very much like to go back and do a full exploration of the level to collect all of the hidden letters and finish the challenges, which would also unlock Solveig’s knife for use in multiplayer.

Under No Flag: Reflections on the Battlefield V Campaign

“This is war, son. We fight one battle, then we fight another one until it’s done.” –George Mason

Billy Bridger is a criminal who has been incarcerated for arson, armed robbery and illegal use of explosives. Officer George Mason, however, offers Bridger a position in the Special Boat Service. Although Bridger initially refuses, he eventually relents and is tasked with destroying German aircraft in Africa. On his first assignment, Bridger’s special explosives fail to detonate, and he is forced to destroy the aircraft using anti-air emplacements. Mason is injured, and Bridger makes off to find first aid supplies while destroying the remaining German equipment that he encounters. However, when he radios for support, he inadvertently alerts German forces to their position. Mason encourages Bridger to fight on, and, using the equipment available to them, the two fend off an onslaught of German soldiers and armour long enough for the British fleet to respond: friendly forces clear out the remaining German forces and evacuate the pair. Bridger and Mason later prepare to attack Greece. While Billy Bridger and George Mason are almost certainly fictional, the Special Boat Service (SBS) are real, being the amphibious equivalent of the renowned Special Air Service (SAS). Founded in 1940 by Roger Courtney, who infiltrated a ship with a kayak to convince Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes and Admiral Theodore Hallett that using kayaks for infiltration was viable, the SBS went on to conduct various raids during the Second World War. The SBS became a part of the United Kingdom Special Forces in 1987 and, with a specialisation in maritime counter-terrorism, have since participated in a range of operations from Afghanistan, to Sierra Leone.

While labelled as the fourth mission in Battlefield V‘s campaign, I played Under No Flag second: set in the fields of Africa, this was my first experience with the campaign and also proved to be unexpectedly enjoyable. Although I had originally counted Battlefield V‘s campaigns as something to get through, these feelings were quickly dispelled upon entering the coasts of Africa under a storm. Upon finishing this war story, it turns out there was also a lesson to be learned: Under No Flag suggests to its players that an individual’s worth is not determined by what skills they possess, but what they apply these skills towards. When Bridger begins his mission, he is ill-equipped for completing objectives and setting aside his ego, but as he works with Mason, he comes apply his skills for explosives and causing chaos towards disrupting German forces, rather than petty theft and assault. By the time the German forces mount their onslaught on the pair, Bridger has become more accepting of Mason, having gone through the lengths to find him first aid. While war is doubtlessly terrifying, it also can bring out the best in some: given the circumstances, Bridger becomes more selfless than before, channeling his experience towards fighting for his country rather than for his own gain. The story shows that from its humble origins, the SBS has since evolved to cultivate some of the very best, being the British equivalent to the equally renowned Navy SEALs.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Battlefield V‘s campaign looks gorgeous, even more so than Battlefield 1‘s – DICE has truly outdone themselves with the visuals here. When I first stepped into the campaign late during November, I was absolutely blown away by how detailed and crisp everything looked. Here, I am armed with the De Lisle Carbine, which has an integral suppressor and when combined with subsonic ammunition, is counted as one of the quietest weapons ever made. As I was new to the campaign, I did not know of the weapon’s properties, and swapped it out for a suppressed Kar 98k.

  • My dreams of reaching the enemy hangar undetected was soon dashed owing to a lack of patience, and I resorted to the old standby of shooting up anything that moved. Had I made more liberal use of the De Lisle, I might’ve been able to complete the challenge more easily: the De Lisle would be great for closer range encounters, while the Kar 98k would work best at long ranges, where I can pick off lone targets.

  • Besides the De Lisle, players also have access to the M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun. This weapon is the last to be unlocked for the medic class, and is counted as one of the better submachine guns with its rate of fire. Because it is not fitted with a suppressor, the Thompson would be ideally suited in those situations where one is compromised; the weapon has excellent hipfire.

  • Upon reaching the hangar, Bridger places his “special” explosives on the Stuka aircraft. However, they fail to detonate. This moment is meant to show that Bridger’s old arrogance won’t always apply in a military scenario, and that in the armed forces, people use standardised equipment for the simple reason that it’s tried-and-true: having extensively read about military equipment, I’ve seen numerous prototypes and concepts that never saw mass production for standard issue. Because the armed forces is about getting in, getting the job done and getting out alive, only the best equipment that meets specifications are selected for use.

  • With his objective of destroying the aircraft still standing, Bridger commandeers a Flak 38 anti-air gun and begins firing at the aircraft in the air. The Flak 38 represents a considerable improvement from the QF 1-pounder seen in Battlefield 1, firing 20 mm rounds with a higher muzzle velocity. These emplacements are stationary but can be towed in multiplayer, and here, I managed to down all of the aircraft without sustaining damage to unlock one of the challenges.

  • The last time I had a truly open Battlefield campaign mission was Bad Company 2‘s Sangre del Toro, which I vividly remember having reached after Otafest 2013. After coming home from my first-ever anime convention, I was exhausted and kicked back with some Bad Company 2, going from broadcast station to broadcast station to triangulate the location of a long-lost cargo ship containing something of value. In that mission, players could visit the three broadcast stations in any order, giving it an incredibly open feeling.

  • If I had to be honest, my first-ever convention was somewhat of a disappointment: there wasn’t very much merchandise to buy, and I wasn’t familiar with any of the special guests. A year later, I went back, and with a much more well-organised plan for what events to hit, I managed to get a rare convention pin (of which there are only 100 of), get autographs from special guests such as Yū Asakawa (Azumanga Daioh‘s Sakaki and Norimi Kawaguchi of K-On!), bought the Gundam model I was looking for and visited their Maid Café. I never particularly enjoy attending panels, so during the intermissions between events of interest, I returned to my lab to watch Rick and Morty.

  • I’m not sure if I have any inclination to visit additional anime conventions in the future as an attendee: while it’s nice to see the presence of other fans around, I’m no cosplayer and would much rather spend a day hiking in the mountains or sipping a caffe mocha while browsing through books.

  • Back in Battlefield V, I manage to destroy an objective spectacularly with explosives. Sneaking around the town was fun, and this act gave the impression of the open-ended approach that DICE had previously advertised would be a part of the Battlefield campaigns moving forward. They had announced this for Battlefield 4, but the campaign there still felt exceedingly linear. By Battlefield 1, campaigns had finally reached the level I was expecting: both 1 and play considerably more differently than the Battlefield campaigns of old.

  • Of the old campaigns, Bad Company 2 had the best narrative. Battlefield 3 had the best gameplay diversity and overall atmosphere. Battlefield 4 was a little weaker but still fun, while Hardline had the best customisation options for weapons. Folks have long wondered by Bad Company is not getting any continuation, and DICE has replied that it’s tough to pin down what made Bad Company 2 so enjoyable for so many. For me, it was the combination of a balanced multiplayer and reasonably deep progression system, coupled with an unforgettable campaign whose ludicrous story was matched with hilarious, entertaining characters.

  • After blasting everything in town, I headed off to get the first aid kit for Mason and stopped on a bluff overlooking the comms station below. I was astounded at how sharp and photorealistic everything looked here: this was the moment where I realised that Battlefield V‘s campaign was not simply something to get through, and from here on out, I decided to slow down and appreciate the campaign more.

  • Airfields and deserts invariably remind me of action films from the 1970s with a desert setting, and here, a faint haze can be seen on the horizon. The combined effect was quite pleasant, and I made my way through the second act with a suppressed rifle and StG 44: since Battlefield Hardline, campaigns have placed a much greater emphasis on stealth over straight-up firefights. I miss the older campaigns where going loud was encouraged, and overall, while the new campaigns are impressive (Battlefield 1 and V have definitely been fun), they don’t have quite the same magic as Battlefield 3 or Bad Company 2.

  • For me, a good Bad Company 3 would have the visual fidelity and movement system of Battlefield V, the TTK/TTD, map design, progression system and unlock system of Battlefield 3 and a campaign dominated by the likes of Marlowe, Sweetwater, Haggard and Redford. Looking back, Battlefield 3 was probably my favourite Battlefield: I’ve spent the most time in Battlefield 3 and greatly enjoyed its mechanics. The game is a little dated now, but it still handles very well.

  • On my first run, I was not aware that one could steal one of the aircraft parked here and use it to effortlessly torch everything down below. I thus resorted to a stealth-focused run where I used the Lewes bombs to destroy everything. Using diesel oil and Nobel 808 plastic explosive, these bombs were easy to carry and highly effective against parked aircraft. Despite their unreliable fuses, they were used for their power.

  • The StG 44 rifle was the premiere weapon during the Battlefield V alpha and beta stages: hard-hitting, accurate and versatile, the weapon was a good all-around choice that allowed players to handle threats reliably at most ranges. Since then, the weapon’s multiplayer incarnation has been nerfed: it has very high recoil and will not trade blows with the Sturmgewehr 1-5. The best way to use this weapon is in between the Sturmgewehr 1-5 and Ribeyrolleys’ ranges: it fires faster than the former and deals more damage at range compared to the former.

  • The final act to Under no Flag is an onslaught battle where stealth is irrelevant and where the object of the game is to defend an area against hordes of Nazi soldiers. I found that a rifle and LMG was sufficient to hold off the enemies at reasonable ranges. Vehicles will show up, so it’s also imperative to have good anti-armour options. A combination of Panzerfausts and use of the Pak 40 should be sufficient to deal with the tanks that show up later.

  • I’ve gotten far enough into the multiplayer at this point that I’ve gotten all of the specialisations for the MG-34. In the campaign, this weapon is superbly effective as-is, being able to decimate entire groups of enemies before one needs to reload: between this and a self-loading rifle, picking off enemies swarming up to Bridger’s position was not a particularly difficult challenge.

  • While the Bren is an iconic gun, I’m finding that I’ve not run with it much in the multiplayer. The reduced options for melee weapons means that running authentic Strike Witches loadouts is actually harder than it was in Battlefield 1: there’s no Bowie Knife, BAR or sabre as of yet, and I’m still a short ways from unlocking the MG-42.

  • Of all the missions, Under no Flag is the least inspired of Battlefield V‘s campaign mission, and it was still quite fun; this is saying something. While more veteran players count the campaign as dull, I personally enjoyed playing through it. Elsewhere, such as at Tango Victor Tango, criticisms of Battlefield V have been much more vociferous – those with the time, but not the hardware to actually play the game, have spent their days mindlessly agreeing amongst themselves that Battlefield V is a “dead” game and that DICE deserves their reduced sales numbers for how they conducted their marketing program.

  • I couldn’t care less about things like “community backlash”, and it must be a miserable experience to only have enough computer hardware for commenting on Tango-Victor-Tango, Reddit or Twitter, rather than being able to experience things for oneself. Back on this corner of the internet, I admit that Under No Flag was the most difficult campaign mission to write for, and with this in the books, I am moving to Battlefield V‘s other missions. Nordlys is my favourite mission, and the reasons for this will become apparent in the post where I recount my experiences with it.

The first mission proper of the Battlefield V campaign that I experienced, Under No Flag introduces a combination of stealth elements, multi-directional approaches for completing level objectives and an incentive to complete objectives for the sake of unlocking a special melee weapon for use in multiplayer. This mission sets the precedence for how Battlefield’s campaigns have evolved: from the highly linear and set-piece driven missions of earlier titles, Battlefield campaigns of late have incorporated stealth and exploration as a means of encouraging replay. In the second act of Under No Flag, players have the option of sneaking into an airfield to plant bombs on targets, but the mission also provides a challenge of stealing a plane and using this to destroy the targets. In order to get to that special melee weapon, I will, at some point, need to return to the campaign again and go through each mission to wrap up the challenges and find every letter in each level. While there’s a spate of titles that I’ve got to go through and enjoy, the visuals and audio of Battlefield V are unparalleled: there is plenty of incentive to go back through each mission again and experience it in a slightly different manner, once I find the time to do so.

Mirai no Mirai: A Review and Full Recommendation

“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring – quite often the hard way.” –Pamela Dugdale

Accustomed to being showered with love and adoration, Kun is a four year old boy who lives in Isogo-ku,Yokohama, spending his days with Yuuko (the family dog) and his train sets. When his parents welcome Mirai into the family, Kun grows jealous of the attention his baby sister is receiving. After one tantrum, Kun runs into the courtyard and finds himself face to face with Yuuko in human form: he learns that Yuuko has been left behind somewhat ever since he was born, and subsequently passes along to his parents that Yuuko should be better treated. Each of the more substantial tantrums that Kun throws activates the tree in the courtyard that sends him to another time. He comes face-to-face with a middle school-aged Mirai, who warns him about mistreating her and enlists his help in putting away dolls the family has set up for Girls’ Day. Kun also is transported back in time to when his mother was around four after refusing to put his toys away and learns that she too was scolded for making a mess of things. After Kun’s father focuses his attention on a crying Mirai at the park while they were originally set to help Kun learn to ride a bike, Kun grows angry and runs off. Here, the tree in the courtyard transports him to his great-grandfather’s workshop. His great-grandfather suggests to him that the key to overcoming fear on any vehicle is to look ahead. Later at the park, Kun manages to learn how to ride a bike on his own. When the family prepares to go for a trip, Kun refuses since his favourite pants are unavailable. He is seemingly left behind, finds himself at a train station and boards a train despite an older boy’s warnings. Arriving at a vast station, he grows fearful and tries to find his parents, but the attendant remarks that without verification to his identity, he is unable to help and sends Kun to a train that sends him to Lonely Land. Seeing the baby Mirai about to board the train, he acknowledges his identity as Mirai’s older brother, having refused to do so until now, and the older Mirai retrieves him. She then takes him on a journey through the family history, and when Kun returns to the present, he decides that the pants suddenly don’t matter so much anymore, cheerfully joining his parents and Mirai for their day trip. Mirai no Mirai (literally “Mirai of the Future”) is a film that released in July 2018 and is notable amongst the 2018 anime films for being the first anime film that is not from Studio Ghibli to receive a nomination as Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.

Running for an hour and forty minutes, Mirai no Mirai is a fanciful and vivid tale of discovery, acceptance and understanding. In particular, this is a film that all older siblings will connect to: the arrival of a new sibling in a family and the shift in attention is an occurrence that all older siblings must go through, and the feelings of jealousy, resentment and loneliness are universal regardless of one’s culture. Children’s media, such as Arthur and The Berenstain Bears each have their own portrayals of this topic, presenting the transition and gradual acceptance of a new sibling in families as a journey. In Arthur, D.W. comes to accept Kate as her sister after running away but realising that Kate needs an older sister to show her the things that only sisters get. The Berenstain Bears‘ Sister is shown a family video of her as a baby and learns that every baby is given a great deal of attention, coming to terms with how her new sister, Honey, is an integral part of the Bear Family. Both presentations are very down-to-earth, and Mirai no Mirai stands out in applying these lessons with a twist: the film utilises bold visuals to express the tumultuous thoughts in one’s mind during childhood. Whether its a bustling train station or luxuriant garden, Kun’s lessons seem come from within: his own discoveries act as the lessons that push him towards accepting Mirai and his parents. The generous use of these flights of fancy indicate that children are very complex and capable of finding their own answers; whether it be Arthur, The Berenstain Bears or Mirai no Mirai, no adult explicitly explains why babies draw attention away from the older sibling. Instead, the older sibling, through their experiences and observations, comes to terms with things on their own. It’s a journey that has a bit of mystery to it: children are observant and bright, but may have trouble articulating their thoughts, and so, with its imagery, Mirai no Mirai aims to both show how remarkable families are, as well as make tangible something that we otherwise might take for granted. It is a story of the extraordinary amidst the ordinary, and so, Mirai no Mirai is very enjoyable to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Mirai no Mirai is set in Isogo Ward of Yokohama, the largest individual city in Japan by population (with 3.7 million people). Attesting to the film’s incredible visuals, the ward and Yokohama’s downtown area are faithfully reproduced, to the point where it was a trivial exercise to find this spot using Google Maps. The view zooms in on Kun’s house: because his father is an architect, they live in a rather unusual house on a narrow lot, with a courtyard and lone tree visible. This post will have thirty screenshots, and I note that thirty is not enough of a space to cover off everything.

  • Kun and Mirai are the only named human characters in Mirai no Mirai: their parents are only known as “mom” and “dad”, reminiscent of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. Watterson explains that their names aren’t needed because from Calvin’s point of view, his parents are mom and dad. Similarly, in Mirai no Mirai, Kun’s parents are only referred to as such because the film is told from his perspective. Kun is a play on the honourific for boys, and is equivalent to The Berenstain Bears‘ Brother Bear, who was known as Small Bear before Sister was born. One wonders how names work in Bear Country, and curiously enough, everyone else has standard names.

  • Kun’s mother is an executive of an unnamed company: the couple leads a busy life that only becomes more hectic as they raise two children, and this chaos is conveyed to viewers right from the start. I’m sure that parents will immediately connect with this; Mirai no Mirai‘s portrayal of a baby and four-year-old child as being tricky to look after has its basis in reality. I’m told that when I was four, my curiosity made me a bloody nightmare to deal with. Up until I was seven, I was constantly in trouble for going out of bounds and doing who-knows-what. My second year primary instructor wondered if I could channel this towards reading, and instead of exploring the world physically, I took to counting on books to sate this curiosity. The “me” of the present day is a consequence of this.

  • Kun experiences a mixture of curiosity at the new baby and also jealousy that attention has now left him. On several instances, he causes Mirai to cry, landing him in hot water. This is one of the hazards about having two children very closely together. While some rivalry might exist if there’s a three to four year gap, the older child is generally more independent and therefore is less prone to jealousy. In the case of Mirai no Mirai, it would appear that Kun’s jealousy is more consistent with a two year gap; his age is presumably chosen so that we have a protagonist with more independence and a larger vocabulary, as well as the attendant personality. It’s not particularly implausible, and Kun is described as being somewhat spoiled.

  • Whenever Kun gets into trouble, the tree in their courtyard begins glowing, and he is taken into an alternate world. Initially, I was not sure of who the scruffy-looking man was, but when he introduces himself as a former prince, the only individual that came to mind was Yuuko, who would’ve been previously the only individual Kun’s mother and father would have looked after. Flights of fancy in Mirai no Mirai, such as Kun becoming a dog after stealing Yuuko’s tail, give the film a more fantastical feeling that elicits a sense of magic in how children might approach the world.

  • Now that I’ve made the Calvin and Hobbes comparison, it does feel like the case that Kun’s mother and father are parallels of Calvin’s mother and father in terms of appearance. Both Calvin and Kun’s father have black hair and glasses, while Calvin and Kun’s mother both have brown hair. The similarities end here: Calvin’s mother is a stay-at-home parent, while Calvin’s father is a patent attorney. I’ve long been a fan of Calvin and Hobbes, and having gotten one of the special collections for a birthday years ago, I gained a unique insight into how Bill Watterson created his comics.

  • Mirai is voiced by Haru Kuroki, and as a baby, Kaede Hondo provides her voice. While I’ve not seen Kuroki’s other works, Hondo has also been Comic Girls‘ Koyume Koizuka and Kohaku Tsukishiro of The World in Colours. Despite the film being named for Mirai, Kun’s development forms the bulk of the story, and I am left wishing that Mirai had a more substantial role. However, it seems that rather than being a direct source of guidance for Kun, Mirai acts more to nudge him along and help him make his own discoveries.

  • At dinner with Kun’s grandparents, his parents discuss how their great-grandparents met. It’s a nostalgic story: the great-grandfather was a mechanic who was injured during the Second World War and convinced the great-grandmother to a foot race; she stipulates that if he can best her, then he may have her hand in marriage. Moments like these show that in every family, there is a great deal of history in the past, of triumphs and trials.

  • Taking care of the housework when one is accustomed to working with a keyboard is definitely a bit of a change: Kun and Mirai’s father is shown to struggle initially, leaving him quite unable to have any time left for Kun. Closeups of his work are shown, and he runs a MacBook Pro: most anime have a pear rather than an apple to indicate an Apple computer. From my end, I treat housework as almost a break of sorts: my mind wanders while I vacuum, iron or cook to some extent.

  • After Kun puts crackers on a sleeping Mirai’s face out of boredom, he is whisked away into a tropical conservatory, coming face-to-face with an older Mirai. She’s come from the future with the aim of getting their father to put the dolls away, citing that each day they’re not properly stowed is another year her marriage will be delayed. There are a great many superstitions in East Asian cultures: attesting to this is that each year, my parents explain to me a superstition about Chinese New Year that I did not know previously.

  • Mirai and Yuuko manage to get everything put away without their father noticing, and Kun helps by providing a distraction. Later, when their mother returns, Kun remarks that he’d helped out, befuddling their father, who’s unsure as to how everything managed to work out. The events of Mirai no Mirai are quite implausible, but they provide a very solid visual representation of how children might see the world. I am inclined to believe that these highly vivid sequences are a highly stylised metaphor.

  • Mirai resembles Mitsuha of Your Name to some extent. Originally, my expectations entering Mirai no Mirai was that Mirai’s older self would have a much more substantial role in the film than what I eventually experienced. However, from a thematic perspective, this makes sense: the future Mirai is more of a guide who helps Kun make his own discoveries. In this way, Mirai no Mirai strongly suggests that self-discovery is a major part of growing up, and that some things can’t be taught.

  • Visuals in Mirai no Mirai are impressive: while perhaps not quite as grand as those seen in Maquia, artwork and animation are still of a superb quality. From large-scale settings to something as simple as pancakes decked out in blueberries and strawberries, everything in Mirai no Mirai is impressive to look at. It suddenly strikes me that we’re now in February, and it’s been the coldest few days of the year so far: temperatures yesterday bottomed out at -29°C, with a windchill of -40°C. Winter has set in now, and ahead of this on Friday, a friend and I got together at one of the best barbecue places in town to catch up. Amidst conversation, I enjoyed a hearty plate of prime rib beef bones (smokey and flavourful, especially with their in-house sauce), plus a side of yam fries, fried green tomatoes and cornbread; this is something I’ve not had since the summer Your Name came out, and a good plate of smoked ribs is precisely what one needs to stay warm in the true Canadian winter.

  • I again fall back on anecdotal evidence for what I was like as a child when it came to cleaning my room. I know that this is a chore for some children, but as far as I can tell, I was always (and still are) a stickler for organisation. My younger brother found it hilarious when I dumped our toys wholesale from their containers, but we’d always clean up afterwards: I think that it was a fear for getting an earful that motivated this, but this eventually became a habit: it’s much easier to find the stuff one’s looking for if everything is nice and tidy (齐整, jyutping cai4 zing2, as I’m fond of saying).

  • Kun’s tantrum over cleaning sends him on a journey into the past, where he runs into his mother as a little girl. At this point in time, she’s fond of cats and remarks that she’d get one; she’s writing a letter and placing it into her mother’s (Kun’s grandmother) shoes, feeling that it could help her wish come across. As it’s raining, the two take off for his mother’s place, where Kun learns that his mother was once as free-spirited as he was. They proceed to make a bloody mess of things.

  • Kun’s mother sends him on his way after her mother returns, and she’s made to endure a tongue lashing. Kun later realises that his mother was once similar to him and realises she’s probably going through a great deal at present. I’ve heard that one’s shortcomings as children will manifest again in their children, which means that in the future, I should probably grit my teeth and find a way to best manage the curiosity in any child of mine.

  • Because Kun’s father is preoccupied in looking after Mirai, Kun grows angry that no one is giving him the attention to ride a bike. I’ve never been much of a physical individual as a child and did not learn how to ride a bike until I was twelve: after my brother expressed a desire to learn, I figured that I probably should, as well. On the second day of his lesson, I joined my parents and within a half hour, figured it out. After that, I took to biking around the neighbourhood during the summer, and found a profound joy in coming home exhausted after a good bike ride.

  • Running off and finding solace in the tree once more, Kun encounters his great-grandfather. His advice is to focus on something in the distance, citing that horse, bike or plane, the principles are the same. This scene is exceptionally well done, fluidly showing a post-war Yokohama as his great-grandfather knew it. Kun notices that he walks with a limp here, and the latter shrugs it off, saying that it’s something he’s come to accept. Later, it is shown that after an Allied bombing during the Second World War, his will to live drove him to swim for safety.

  • To me, biking came somewhat intuitively: I’m not sure I can explain how I learned it, except that after half an hour, I was zipping up and down the neighbourhood. I subsequently got too excited and zoomed down a hill, crashing the bike and landing in some bushes. Kun recalls his great-grandfather’s suggestion, and soon after, manages to figure out the basics. The other children are impressed and invites him to ride along with them.

  • In this moment, Mirai no Mirai‘s theme is abundantly clear: that learning is a very natural process and sometimes can occur without us even realising it. In spite of this, it’s something to be celebrated, and much as how Kun has learned to ride a bike, Kun’s father has acclimatised to taking care of Mirai, who no longer cries when he holds her. I’m told that as a baby, I largely could get along with anyone who held me, whereas my brother could only be held by my parents. The opposite seems true these days: my brother is more outgoing than I am and is more adept at taking the initiative in conversation with people, whereas I am inclined to listen more than I talk.

  • While I cannot speak for all children, I can say that I probably had a few moments like these at Kun’s age. Looking back, it’s pretty foolish, but at the time, I imagine that choice of favourite clothing did make all the difference in the world. Kun’s latest antics indicate that he acts up for attention’s sake, and my parents note that children are rather cleverer than they look: they are fond of sharing the classic story of seeing a little girl throwing a tantrum at a mall, right in the middle of a major area. The parents of that particular child were undeterred and said, “it’s cool, we’re heading off”. Realising that her show had no effect, she packed it in and ran off to join her parents, who’d diffused a situation without raising their voices, embarrassing and inconveniencing no-one.

  • The vast scale of the train station is impressive, bringing to mind the interior of fantastical locations like Platform 9 ¾ in Harry Potter. The golden tones convey a sense of warmth, a world far removed from the extreme colds of today. The weather is expected to persist into the Chinese New Year: tonight was Chinese New Year’s Eve, and I celebrated with the family. We had crispy pork, char siu, roast duck, pork leg, beef tripe, white-cut chicken abalone, pan-seared shrimps, and fat choy with winter mushroom and lettuce, closed off with a refreshing lotus root soup. Each of the items is phonetically similar to something fortuitous and chosen so that when eaten, good fortune follows.

  • Despite the older boy’s warning, Kun gets on the train and is initially awed by the sights. However, when he realises that he is lost, he seeks out an attendant. Without more identifying information (unlike database entries, people don’t exactly have primary keys or UIDs that they memorise off the top of their heads), the attendant is unable to help him and sends him down to what is more or less Hel. I recall that when I was much younger, I got lost at a mall and went to one of the people at the information desk to ask them to make an announcement for my parents to come to the information desk. To this day, my parents are still whiskey tango foxtrot about that particular incident.

  • Kun barely escapes the force pulling him into the dæmon train set to take him to Hel, and when he notices Mirai about to be pulled in, he pushes her out of the way, as well. Wishing none of this had happened, and openly declaring that he’s her older brother, Mirai vanishes before his eyes, reappearing in middle-school aged form. With the powers of flight, Mirai takes him out on a flight out into the city above, rescuing him from a terrifying fate.

  • It turns out that the tree in his family’s yard represents a record of his family’s history: the animators have gone to great lengths to create the family history in a manner reminiscent of the Tree of Life: here, I refer to the biological sciences construct that describes the evolutionary distance between all organisms. Its complexity is deliberate to suggest at the nature of family histories, and while such things might be seen as above Kun’s comprehension, I again stress the wonders in the mind of a child, and a tree is not an unintuitive way of describing family history.

  • It turns out that Kun’s great-grandmother threw the race because she reciprocated the great-grandfather’s feelings. Mirai comments on how everything that has happened now was the result of numerous small decisions coming together, and how it is important to make sure one always does their best to make these decisions so that a better path to the future is paved. During this travel, it is shown that Kun’s father was physically weak and took a while to master the bike, while his mother developed a dislike for cats after a cat killed one of the birds. Many things happen in our lives that shape who we are, and Kun comes to understand that he does have a choice here.

  • A part of growing up is taking increasing ownership and responsibility for one’s decisions and actions. As we push through our daily lives, we often forget just how far we’ve come from our days as children, and films like Mirai no Mirai, which return us to the side of childhood not characterised by rose-tinted memories, are reminders that as children, we each have our own triumphs and failures that help us learn and understand others better. I’m probably not the first blogger to say so, and I certainly won’t be the last – I have numerous flaws, as well.

  • One thing I never captured in this talk were the numerous “funny faces” various characters exhibit, whether it be from anger, stress or joy. I’ve opted to stick to more conventional moments and leave readers with experiencing the hilarity of beholding such moments for themselves. Here, an older Mirai and Kun share a short conversation, giving insight into how Kun is as a teen: he’s more reserved and distant, but given Mirai’s interactions with him, he’s also probably been a reliable older brother, as well. This is what motivates the page quote – older siblings can grow accustomed to protect and look after their younger siblings, making them quite observant and mindful of those around them.

  • The greatest strength in Mirai no Mirai is that it is able to capture the imagination of children and drive a story from the perspective of a four-year-old without losing the viewer’s interest. After his return from the latest journey, the most profound change in Kun is observed: he fully accepts Mirai as his younger sister and begins playing with her as an older brother would. This is the conflict that Mirai no Mirai resolves, and now that Kun is genuinely happy to have Mirai as his sister, the film can come to an end. One of my peers found it to be an abrupt ending, but now that I’ve crossed the finish line, I can see why Mirai no Mirai may end like this: life isn’t characterised by hard stops, but rather, a series of milestones. Mirai no Mirai shows a few notable milestones in Kun’s life that shape who he is, and accepting Mirai is a pivotal point in his life – the film is showing how he comes to reach this stage.

  • The reader who’s gone through this entire post will have learned quite a bit about myself, perhaps more than they would’ve liked or expected – this speaks to the strength of Mirai no Mirai, as it was able to evoke these memories and recollections that I might otherwise not consider in discussions about other series. With seven months between its theatrical screenings and home release, there was a bit of a wait for this movie, and I feel that the wait was worth it: it’s a solid movie that’s earned an A grade. February is a solid month for movies: I will be writing about Penguin Highway in the near future, and Non Non Biyori Vacation is coming out towards the end of the month, so I intend on writing about this in March. Finally, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown released on PC last Thursday, and it is a solid game worthy of all the praise it’s gotten: I naturally will be sharing my experiences here, as well.

Mirai no Mirai is a visceral representation of the sorts of emotion that older siblings go through with the arrival of a younger sibling. As an older sibling myself, I only have the vaguest recollection of what things would have been like: if my parents’ recollections were anything to go by, I was fairly mild (read “not anywhere as vociferous as Kun”), and I certainly cannot remember what the turning point was. What I do know is that the sort of friendship in some siblings can be very strong, and as such, stories like Mirai no Mirai are particularly moving to watch. Mirai no Mirai also deals with Kun’s father initially struggling to do housework and look after the children; his attempts at cooking and cleaning are fraught with accidents, and he’s unable to hold Mirai without her crying. As time wears on, he figures things out and becomes more proficient over time. Mirai no Mirai‘s portrayal of a husband and wife continuing to learn gives the movie additional depth and is another reminder that parenthood is a time of adjustment and discoveries for the parents, as well. It was rewarding to see Kun’s father going from bumbling through household tasks to having more competence: by the film’s end, he’s holding Mirai without any trouble. Themes of family and learning permeate Mirai no Mirai, and in conjunction with the movie’s solid visual component, it’s easy to see why the film has earned a nomination for an Oscar. Even if the film does not win (I expect that Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse will win the Best Animated Feature category), Mirai no Mirai remains an excellent film that offers a refreshing take on families as seen from the perspective of a four-year-old, and for this, I have no trouble recommending this film to readers.

A New Family’s Beginning in the Summer, Departure by a Cruel Winter’s Storm: Revisiting Tomoya and Nagisa’s Marriage in CLANNAD ~After Story~ At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Of course I’ll stay with you. No matter what happens, forever and ever.” –Nagisa Furukawa

Akio refuses to discuss with Tomoya the latter’s intent to marry Nagisa; he stipulates that Tomoya must hit a baseball in a manner that Akio finds satisfactory before he will even consider speaking with Tomoya, and so, Tomoya determinedly practises his hits. Nailing one after lengthy practise, he implores for Akio to accept his marriage to Nagisa. Nagisa graduates shortly after; in the company of her friends, she receives her diploma and marries Tomoya, taking a job as a waitress at a local family restaurant. Tomoya and Akio visit Nagisa while she is working, and fend off some customers accosting her. Later, Nagisa learns that she is pregnant and develops morning sickness, requiring that she take bedrest. Their friends visit, and Sanae hires a midwife to help deliver their child when Nagisa expresses a wish to give birth at home. Because of Nagisa’s frailty, there’s a risk that she may not make it, but both Tomoya and Nagisa decide to go ahead with the birth. Tomoya learns from Akio that after that one day where Nagisa lost consciousness while waiting in the snow for him and Sanae to return home, he carried her to a meadow and begged the gods to spare her. Akio recounts this story to reiterate the value of family and how he and Sanae will support Tomoya and Nagisa. Nagisa and Tomoya decide to name their child Ushio. By winter, Nagisa goes into labour during a fierce blizzard; conditions preclude taking Nagisa to a hospital, and so, she gives birth to Ushio at home. The combined pressure on her body from childbirth and her illness results in her death, devastating Tomoya and ending his dream of raising Ushio with Nagisa. From the highest highs to the lowest low, this arc in ~After Story~ is a difficult one to watch. Having gone through so much, this couple reaches a point where they can make a new start, raising a child and pushing on into the future, but at the last second, this is cruelly taken from Tomoya, who is now made to endure new challenges.

Weather and lighting, having long played a major role in earlier stories within CLANNAD, now come out in full force in ~After Story~. It is no surprise that the symbolism of the different seasons is utilised to its fullest effects to convey emotional tenour as Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage occurs. In spring, shortly after Nagisa graduate, she and Tomoya marry. Spring is a season characterised by new beginnings and renewal: vegetation and animal life begin returning into a warming world as days lengthen. Having finally reached one milestone in her life, Nagisa is quite ready to walk a new road with Tomoya, and their marriage in the spring reinforces that something new has bloomed. This is a time of hope and optimism, to step into the future and make the most of things. Life is at its apex in the summer, when days are longest and the weather is hot. Lengthy days fill people with energy and vigour, instilling a sense of adventure. It is here that Nagisa announces that she is pregnant; a new child represents this adventure, as raising a child is a completely new journey for couples. Filled with spirit and vitality, the summer is a time of exploration and excitement, which is mirrored in the joy Tomoya and Nagisa experience when they begin preparing to welcome their child into the world. Positive imagery abounds in the early stages of Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage: colours are vivid, and the mood light as the characters bounce off one another. However, winter sets in. With its greys and whites, winter is bleak, a time of cold and darkness. It is here that Nagisa perishes while giving birth to Ushio, unable to access medical facilities because a blizzard has rendered dangerous travelling on roads. The winter contributes to Nagisa’s death, and it becomes very clear that ~After Story~ regards winter in a negative light – winter isn’t just an ending to light and warmth or about dormancy, it is the embodiment of death and suffering, of loss and uncertainty.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Tomoya’s determination to make his point clear to Akio is such that he is willing to commit every free moment available to gearing up to make a hit. This is one of Tomoya’s strongest suits: when he feels something is worth fighting for, he will move heaven and earth to accomplish his goals. Viewers have wondered why baseball is so prominently featured in CLANNAD: besides being a national pastime in Japan, it is also symbolic, acting as a visual metaphor for effort.

  • During one Christmas celebration, Nagisa gets hammered after one sip of sake and immediately accosts Tomoya, wondering if he would find Sanae more attractive. Tomoya is cornered, leaving audiences with a good laugh. Moments such as these do much to humanise the characters: we tend to relate to people more strongly if they demonstrate a wider range of emotions, and such moments serve to make the sorrowful moments even more poignant.

  • Nagisa’s frailty becomes more apparent as ~After Story~ wears on, and she falls ill again. However, it is fortunate that Nagisa’s illness does not cause her to miss a protracted amount of class. As winter transitions into Spring, Nagisa finally graduates, having completed the requirements needed to earn her diploma.

  • Under the beautiful spring skies, Nagisa receives her diploma as sakura blossoms flutter about. The colours of this scene parallel those seen when Tomoya first met her, and the idea that spring is a time of new beginnings; with Nagisa finally done her high school education, she and Tomoya can move ahead and embrace their future together.

  • When I last watched ~After Story~ some five years ago, I was gearing up for an MCAT and had not even finished my undergraduate programme yet. Going through CLANNAD was a bit of an eye-opener – the series shows a world beyond the familiar environment of school and steps into the realm of what adulthood entails. In the full knowledge of what unfolds in CLANNAD, I can say that real life can sometimes be as unforgiving and unfair as CLANNAD. Such unknowns cannot always be easily foreseen, but now, armed with five years of additional experience, I can say that the real key to handling life’s problems is to triage, divide and conquer even when said problems adamantly refuse to take a number and queue up.

  • Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage is not depicted, and is implied to be a very simple one. One thing that I greatly respect CLANNAD for is its portrayal of love in a very clean manner. When people think weddings, expensive gowns, exquisite dinners and an exotic honeymoon usually come to mind, but ultimately marriage is the affirment that two people are committed to one another, for better or worse. Whether one takes on a fancy wedding or a simple one, the end result is a declaration of this commitment and faithfulness to one another.

  • With Tomoya and Nagisa now husband and wife, Akio is Tomoya’s father-in-law and Tomoya becomes Akio’s son-in-law. When they address one another informally, the embarrassment mounts to the point where Tomoya is reduced to banging his cranium against the wall, while Akio writhes in agony on the table. CLANNAD excels in taking ordinary moments and driving humour from them, although I’m not too sure if the equivalent in Western culture would be as funny – some jokes only work becuase they are plays on aspects unique to Japanese culture. For instance, as Taki, Mitsuha refers to herself as atashi and boku erroneously, but in English, people only say “me” or “I”, so the joke has no such equivalent.

  • After an eventful day, the newly-weds return home as husband and wife for the first time. Tomoya looks as he always does, but with her hair in a bun, Nagisa looks a ways more mature. With Tomoya and Nagisa now married, I exit the part of CLANNAD that I can speak about from personal experience; beyond this point, my remarks are largely anecdotal rather than something I’d previously experienced.

  • One thing that characterises marriage is sharing a bed, although more couples sleep apart nowadays, too. There are benefits and drawbacks to both; proponents of sharing a bed say that it encourages communication and acts as a reminder of closeness, bolstering the release of oxytocin and reduces cortisol (reduces stress), while those favouring sleeping apart cite better sleep as reasons to do so.

  • Tomoya and Naigsa’s marriage is presented as being another stage in life, filled with the joyous, mundane and challenging: it is a broad spectrum of experiences that allows ~After Story~ to captivate audiences. Even if the series does come across as being more melodramatic in some moments, when everything is said and done, CLANNAD stands head and shoulders above most anime for its sincere portrayal of life, both in terms of the lowest of lows, highest of highs and the everyday moments folk tend to take for granted.

  • Tomoya recounts the legend of the light orbs, which are said to represent people’s wishes and manifest when people do something benevolent. Tomoya asks if Nagisa would wish for anything, and she replies that she’d like a child. Even from this perspective, both are blushing furiously, and no more is said of the matter for the time being. Having children is a major commitment and investment for any couple; it is unsurprising that whether or not to have a child can be a very difficult discussion to have for a couple. As I’ve noted earlier, this is something I’m completely out of my depth in; beyond stating that I would be quite happy to have a child, I will also say no more of the matter.

  • To step away from a difficult topic, ~After Story~ cleverly transitions to Tomoya and Akio dropping by the family restaurant that Nagisa works at. This particular unfolding of events represents a masterful use of flow to mimic what happens when uncomfortable topics are brought up; the anime does not yet wish to disclose what Tomoya’s response is, so it immediately pushes audiences to a scene of comedy with Akio at the helm with the intent on having them smile and laugh, while the question of whether or not Tomoya will agree with Nagisa’s wish being put on the back-burner for now.

  • After Tomoya orders a parfait worthy of Adam Richman, two guys enter the restaurant and accost Nagisa. Without use of force, Tomoya and Akio manage to drive off these two ruffians, but then the manager asks to speak with Tomoya and Akio. Akio bolts, but as it turns out, the manager is very understanding of the situation and remarks that Nagisa is a hard worker who does her job well. During this excursion, Akio’s brought a camera and manages to capture an inordinate number of shots, citing the uniforms as being a motivator. From my perspective, those uniforms seem quite impractical despite being stylish: at restaurants I frequent, staff wear something more practical to move around in.

  • Although the Okazaki family might live in an older apartment, their regarding it as a home becomes more apparent with the passage of time following their marriage – Tomoya and Nagisa keep their quarters clean, gradually acquire more furnishings that make the apartment really feel like home. From the notes on the refrigerator, to a kettle boiling on the stove and a water filter, the changes in their home are subtle but notable indicators that Nagisa and Tomoya are settling into their new lives.

  • Like real life, urgent and important matters are not so easily dismissed, and it turns out that Tomoya and Nagisa did end up making love: while Tomoya and Akio look through the pile of photographs, Nagisa tests positive on a pregnancy test. These work by picking agents that react to human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) to produce a pigment; while reliable, there are cases where interference from other chemicals or circumstances can create false positives. In ~After Story~, we accept that the test results are a true positive so the story can proceed.

  • Akio is simultaneously disgusted and impressed that Nagisa is pregnant (with the not-so-subtle implication that Tomoya needed to get down with Nagisa freshly baked into his mind) – he is torn between congratulating and throttling Tomoya, while Nagisa looks on in pure embarrassment. This marks the beginning of another stage in life for the Okazaki family: through everything thus far, Akio and Sanae have been present at each step for the young couple, offering support, guidance and humour.

  • It is not lost on me that it’s been six-and-a-half years since I last watched CLANNAD in full, and in that time, I’ve passed through several milestones in life, but meeting someone special has not been one of them. The reality is that I am becoming old: most folks at my age are married, and here I am, with only the faintest idea of how to begin meeting those people who might be willing to tolerate or accept my numerous limitations and eccentricities. While it’s fine to enjoy my current liberty, I would eventually like to meet someone, settle down and the other things that come with family.

  • With Nagisa expecting a child, a midwife is hired help out with the process. Yagi fulfils this role: her appearance conveys experience and professionalism, providing the young couple with reassurance that stands in contrasts with the risks of birth. CLANNAD has placed numerous obstacles down in front of Tomoya and Nagisa: even after all of their efforts, delivering their child is not expected to be an easy task. The profession is a regulated one: in Japan, midwives must pass a certification exam, and Canadian midwives hold a medical license.

  • Some series portray marriage as the end-goal, a destination to be reached, rather than a milestone. Love Hina is one such example, with Keitaro’s efforts to gain admission to The University of Tokyo and marry the girl he’d made the promise to years previously as the core narrative. Being a romance comedy, Love Hina is a world apart from the likes of CLANNAD and admittedly, represents a genre that I’ve not viewed too many series from. Here, we have another beautiful screenshot capturing the details present in ~After Story~; elements in the environment give a sense of hope, with the choice of colours creating an optimistic feeling even as news becomes increasingly difficult.

  • Because of Nagisa’s health, Sanae expresses to Tomoya her concerns about Nagisa’s decision. In spite of this, she leaves the decision to Nagisa and Tomoya, respecting their choices. Nagisa decides to proceed, a flash of her old resilience and stubbornness coming through. Assessing risk in the situation and then making a decision with the knowledge available brings to mind the sequence in Apollo 13, where Flight Director Gene Kranz ordered a circumlunar option over the direct abort because of uncertainties surrounding whether the command module’s main engines could still be safely used. While a free-return trajectory would take longer, it gave ground crews more time to assess the situation and not subject the command module’s crew to risk of explosion from a faulty engine.

  • Akio expresses frustration at the destruction of a wooded area at will be developed into subdivisions and retail. Change is one of the themes that are a part of CLANNAD – the series suggests that change is inevitable save for family, the one absolute pillar of support and love that individuals need to get through challenges. It is hinted that changes to the landscape are correlated with Nagisa’s illness, and Akio explains to Tomoya what happened that fateful day – it appears that in exchange for Nagisa’s life, her very life-force is bound to the world such that changes will disrupt her health.

  • By binding Nagisa’s health to the presence of natural spaces, ~After Story~ subtly mirrors J.R.R. Tolkien’s lament for the loss of natural areas as people continued to industrialise: as the town in CLANNAD grows, forests and meadows are covered over to make way for developments, and the land that once held a magic suddenly becomes mundane, unremarkable. Tolkien viewed the desecration of nature as an evil, and this theme is prevalent in his works: Mordor and Isengard, as well as the Scouring of The Shire represent this. In ~After Story~, the loss of nature has a more subtle but present impact on Nagisa, foreshadowing her fate.

  • In a tender moment, Tomoya and Nagisa decide that their child’s name is to be Ushio. Ushio (汐, jyutping zik6, “tide”) was chosen to share the same radical氵(representing 水, derived from the Oracle bone script for the shape of a river) as Nagisa’s (渚, jyutping zyu2, “beach”). The choice of naming is deliberate: Ushio is meant to represent the waves on a beach, connecting her to her mother. I share a personal story here: per my parents’ recollection, when I was born, I was premature and therefore, my parents did not yet have a name for me in either English or Chinese.

  • As another Christmas nears, the Okazaki family prepare for Ushio’s arrival. The passage of time is relentless, and as ~After Story~ wears on, time intervals widen. While time may have seemed constant during Nagisa and Tomoya’s time as high school students, things suddenly pick up after both graduate, begin working, get married and gear up to welcome Ushio into the world. This is precisely the feeling I’ve been getting since I’ve graduated: days blaze by in the blink of an eye, and time seems to be accelerating as I grow older.

  • After Christmas, old friends show up in town to visit the Okazakis for the New Year. Time has evidently been kind to everyone: Kyou, Ryou, Kotomi and Youhei have not aged a day since we last saw them, and everyone’s doing well. With everyone together, it’s like old times again as conversation begins. Of note is Youhei, who is sporting his natural hair colour: he’d dyed it blonde as a student, and returning to his original hair colour seems to signify that he’s gotten his game together. Tomoyo is noticeably absent from the events, but she’s sent a card and appears to be doing well.

  • After the small talk, Youhei wonders what Tomoya must be feeling to be a father, and Tomoya’s response, that he’s really still not thinking about it, seems to be the norm. I’ve long felt that my parents simply had their game together and knew precisely how to be parents, but it sounds like for most families, parenthood is a learning experience, as well. In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin’s parents remark that they’re essentially ad libbing parenthood: Kyou and the others feel that Nagisa and Tomoya are pulling ahead in life, as they have a home and family now, but everyone is also focused on their own futures, too. While their gathering is a warm one, the anime uses the incidental piece “Snow field” as background music, foreshadowing what’s to come.

  • Kotomi suggests the existence of parallel universes and alternate dimensions, supporting Ryou’s remark that life is mysterious. In Steven Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell, the notion of branes are used to describe the existence of other dimensions, and that the reality we are familiar with is merely one of these branes (with higher dimensions being such that we cannot perceive them). This foreshadowing also seems to indicate ~After Story~‘s eventual outcome, but back in the present, the presence of low saturation and washed-out lighting, plus overcast skies, indicate that things are about to become more difficult.

  • In February, Tokyo averages around 5 centimetres of snow. A snowfall of this level is quite rare, and in ~After Story~, shuts down enough of the roads so Nagisa cannot be taken to a hospital, right as she goes into labour. I’ve long hated snow, and I still do: despite blanketing the landscape in a gentle white blanket and covering familiar features to create a wonderland of sorts, but it also disrupts transportation. In literature, snow represents mortality, indiscriminately covering everything as mortality affects all life, and visually, snow is used to visually denote hardship, suffering and desolation.

  • With no other options available, Yagi prepares to help deliver Ushio at home. It is an agonising day for Tomoya, who never leaves Nagisa’s side: time seems to slow to a crawl for him as Nagisa writhes in pain. Finally, at one in the morning, Ushio is born, and Tomoya is elated: the worst seems over for Nagisa, and she is able to gaze upon Ushio with her own eyes for the first time. The page quote is chosen from a promise Nagisa makes to Tomoya, but shortly after giving birth to Ushio, Nagisa perishes from the toll on her body. Audiences are left to pick up the pieces with Tomoya, whose dreams for starting a family are decimated: in this moment, the world around Tomoya vanishes.

  • With this post in the books, I will be returning next month to write about a world five years later, and how Ushio returns to Tomoya’s life in a big way that helps him finally come to terms with everything he’s experienced. Ushio’s arc in ~After Story~ is what made CLANNAD a masterpiece in my books, and upon watching it for the first time, I had no words to describe how moving and meaningful it was.  In my next post, I will be articulating why Ushio’s arc was so powerful; covering so much ground in such a short time, Ushio’s arc is directly responsible for giving ~After Story~ the impact that it did, and I wish to do it justice.

As ~After Story~ steps away from clearly-defined arcs and delves into Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage, the series enters a realm that is exceedingly difficult to write for. Marriage is a completely different world for people, and there are so many aspects to consider that CLANNAD would doubtlessly have needed another twenty episodes to adequately portray it faithfully. Instead, ~After Story~ masterfully utilises imagery and the symbolism inherent to the seasons themselves to concisely and succinctly convey to audiences the emotions and feelings, the unspoken things that can happen in marriage. CLANNAD has long made use of weather and lighting to convey emotions in a moment; the seasons themselves take on a much more substantial role in ~After Story~ to further communicate the atmosphere of a given moment to viewers. Spring is about new beginnings, summer is a time to explore what a new family entails, and winter is viewed as a season to be hated, bringing death and suffering to those caught in its frigid confines. Viewers can tangibly feel the cold as Nagisa succumbs, and are made to understand just how devastating this is for Tomoya, having seen every step in the journey he has taken, and the efforts he has made towards building a future for Nagisa and Ushio. While it seems unnecessarily cruel to put Tomoya in such a situation, Nagisa’s death has a critical role to play for Tomoya; he’s spent much of ~After Story~ forging ahead into the future. It is therefore clear that his intentions is to forget his past, but this loss now forces Tomoya to look inwards: winter is also a time of self-reflection, and light eventually returns to the world ~After Story~ takes this route to remind audiences that, unless one is able to make peace with their past, there is no future to pursue. Thus, Nagisa’s death is necessary to pull Tomoya back and force him to understand his past. There is no other easy way of putting this, even if it is callous to suggest such a thing – beyond this suffering, there is more that ~After Story~ strives to convey to readers.

My Country Calling: Reflections on the Battlefield V Campaign

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love

— I Vow to Thee, My Country

A century ago, World War One had been over for a few months, and the League of Nations, precursor to the present-day United Nations, was founded. However, with its weak membership and inability to prevent the Second World War, the League of Nations was ultimately unsuccessful, and after some two decades of an uneasy peace, Hitler’s Third Reich began its invasion of Poland, marking the opening to a second global conflict. DICE chooses to explore the hidden conflicts of World War Two in Battlefield V, and its campaign similarly reflects on the battles and achievements undertaken by those far removed from the Beaches of Normandy, Dunkirk, Northern Africa and in the Pacific Islands: like Battlefield 1, Battlefield V‘s campaign is broken up into war stories that portray different perspectives in the Second World War, and this particular mission is unique in that it is shown to all individuals before they can enter Battlefield V proper, taking players on a journey to a variety of locations across Battlefield V as a bit of a prelude into the game proper.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Battlefield V‘s campaign is short, focused and intended as a warm-up act for the multiplayer; the prologue mission is mandatory, and while it is beautifully-made, lacks the same intensity and desolation seen in Battlefield 1‘s first mission. The first segment players experience is a night raid on Narvik in 1940, during which British forces landed here with the aim of capturing the town for its strategic value in accessing iron ore.

  • While the British ultimately smashed the German fleet and took the town, the Allied forces would soon pull their forces out to deal with German forces in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France. This quick invasion and withdraws meant that the fronts on Norway are often forgotten in the grand scheme of things. The bridge soldiers cross here is a central location in the Narvik map, serving to house the bravo and delta points on conquest.

  • Players experience armoured warfare from Peter Müller’s perspective in the prologue’s second act. Müller operates a Tiger I here, but the Siege of Tobruk occurred in 1941, and the Tiger I did not enter service until 1942. Furthermore, Müller mentions fighting American forces here, when the Americans did not enter the War until December 1941 after Pearl Harbour. I’m not too sure if this was an oversight or not; while Battlefield has traditionally been authentic in its campaigns, it has taken some creative liberties here and there.

  • I will have a chance to operate a Tiger I in the ruined streets of Berlin in the final stages of the war during The Last Tiger mission later down the line, and historical accuracy notwithstanding, the chance to operate a Tiger I the way it’s meant to be operated, within the Frostbite Engine ended up being a fun experience.

  • The reason why I decided to come back and write about Battlefield V‘s campaign is because the missions themselves are each stunningly beautiful, and in addition to this, also have unique themes to each that I can write about. The prologue is the only real exception, and so, this post is present for completeness, but is otherwise shorter than the others will be. I’ll be writing about each mission as I find the time to over the next few months.

  • While sniping here, the players get blasted by a Bf 109. Overall, sniping in Battlefield V requires a ways more skill than it did in Battlefield 1 for the multiplayer, but the level of difficulty in the campaign remains largely unchanged. I generally prefer weapons with some sort of sights or optics in the multiplayer, since that makes them considerably easier to use, but in the campaigns, weaker AI means that running iron sight weapons isn’t too bad.

  • While it’s only for a few brief moments, players actually get to take the helm of a Bf 109 and freely fly through the skies, engaging British bombers and fighters. Of the missions in the prologue, this segment is the most exciting and fun to play. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a staple of the Luftwaffe known for its sophistication and performance, and owing to its versatile air-frame, was adapted into a range of different roles.

  • I considered Battlefield 1‘s campaign a bit of a protracted tutorial of sorts for the multiplayer, giving players access to enough experiences so that they could be somewhat familiar with the mechanics of multiplayer. The same can be said to hold true for Battlefield V‘s campaign, which I ended up finding to have the most open-ended options one could take towards completing their missions.

  • The last segment of the prologue is set in the Netherlands, set from the perspective of a soldier fighting through the Battle of Nijmegen. In spite of the losses, the Allies would prevail here. I do not believe that the Germans ever used a V-1 here: the V-1s were primarily intended to target the British islands, but as the war turned against the Axis powers, they also used them to strike targets of strategic value, such as airfields, in Belgium and the Netherlands.

  • With the prologue over, I immediately headed over to the multiplayer and began ranking up my soldiers, preferring to play the campaign missions through once The Last Tiger had released. Similar to Battlefield 4, there is incentive to play the campaign through in its entirety because of the special melee weapons and tank skin one can get for going through each mission and doing it to completion. With this introductory post finished, I will be going through each of the missions as I have done for previous iterations of Battlefield.

Each of the snapshots in Battlefield V‘s first mission are set in a different year of the Second World War: the Raid of Narvik Dock is from 1940, while tank commander Peter Müller’s experiences in 1941 are shown at Tobruk. In 1942, Senegalese Free French Forces at Kasserine Pass take position over a bridge to provide sniper fire, but are killed when a Bf 109 strafes them. Over 1943 Hamburg, a Luftwaffe pilot engages British Blenheim bombers to defend the city but are shot down, and in 1944, British soldiers defend a position by Nijmegen Bridge, succumbing to advancing German forces when a V-1 rocket hits the area. Unlike Battlefield 1‘s prologue mission, which switched between various perspectives of soldiers on the same battlefield, Battlefield V‘s opening shows that the game’s focus has changed from that of Battlefield 1: the older of the games sought to capture the grittiness and grimness of warfare, emphasising the loss of life and despair seen in the Great War. The newer instalment, on the other hand, shows the extent and scale of the Second World War: this much is apparent in the opening mission of the campaign, and the scope of World War Two is visible in the choice of maps and the Tides of War for multiplayer, as well. Presumably, this scale is meant to warm players up to the different content that Tides of War will provide.