The Infinite Zenith

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Nekopara Extra OVA Review and Reflection

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” ―Friedrich Nietzsche

Set a half-year prior to the events of Nekopara‘s first OVA, Nekopara Extra depicts Chocola and Vanilla’s introduction to the Minaduki household and how, despite the other Nekos’ warm reception, struggle to fit in until Kashou reassures them one evening. Later, Kashou, Shigure and the Nekos celebrate Christmas, during which Kashou makes a delicious dinner for everyone to share and also plays the role of Santa. With the Nekos enjoying the evening immensely, Kashou agrees to make their Christmas parties a yearly tradition. This second Nekopara OVA was released to Steam in July this year and, like its predecessor before it, is an animated adaptation of the Nekopara visual novels, which follows Chocola and Vanilla’s life as kittens as they adjust to life with the Minadukis. The Nekopara Extra OVA is simple, succinct and represents twenty minutes of amusement.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It has been quite some time since I’ve written a post this short: with only ten images and three hundred something words, this Nekopara post was written so I could say I’ve covered the second of the Nekopara OVAs, and because I’ve got a special milestone coming out in very short order that involves reaching a certain number of posts; the nature of this post will make itself apparent soon enough.

  • The first half of the Nekopara Extra OVA can be summed up to “Chocola and Vanilla struggle to get used to their new life”. Right from the start, it’s clear that the other Nekos are friendly and amicable, getting along with the new kittens straight away. I’ve mentioned previously that it’s a bad idea to give cats milk since they’re lactose intolerant, but because Chocola and Vanilla are cat-like, we will suppose that their digestive systems are also more human-like.

  • Kashou’s kindness towards Chocola and Vanilla are the reason why they cling to him by the events of Nekopara. Last I wrote about Nekopara, I made no mention of the title and realised that I did not really have an explanation for the etymology, but it turns out that Nekopara is really just a portmanteau of neko and “paradise”. Given the light, fluffy nature of the OVAs, this seems a fitting title.

  • I’m not sure how many of my readers are big on visual novels, and of those who are, I’m certain that the number of folks who’ve played Nekopara would be even fewer in number. On the off-chance that I do have some Nekopara fans in the wings, I’m curious to know what the game’s draw is and which aspects (the physics slider does not count) makes the game worth buying.

  • For me, the Nekopara OVAs represent simple escapism: there’s nothing terribly thought-provoking about the anime, but there’s nothing wrong with this. The strength of the OVAs lie in their ability to create a very gentle atmosphere, and I am glad that the Nekopara Extra OVA does away with anything risqué. I’ve heard that the games go the whole nine yards with this content, although I’ve long felt the aesthetics and atmosphere in Nekopara to be less suited for this sort of thing.

  • High on the list of things I enjoy about Christmas Day is simply being able to relax and not do anything. Of late, being able to relax in this fashion has been incredibly rare, and over the past weekend, I took a much-needed breather out to the salmon runs a province over. Being able to go on a road trip and relax was most welcoming, especially with how pleasant the weather was. After crossing over the Alberta-BC border, the moody grey skies gave way to blue, and the temperatures warmed. By the time we reached the Adams River Sockeye Run, it was later in the afternoon, but salmon were moving upriver at a steady pace. There was a bit of glare, so I don’t have good photographs to show, but the spectacle was one to behold.

  • The day ended in Vernon, and next morning, we stopped by D Dutchman Dairy near Sicamous, where I enjoyed a maple ice cream (no photographs, as it was so good, I finished it before remembering to photograph it) in an open field beside the dairy shop before taking off for Revelstoke, a quiet town in the middle of the mountains where we stopped for lunch. The final destination was Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park: I’ve never actually been there before until now, having skipped it the last time I was in Yoho because crowd sizes made it impossible to find parking. This time, however, Emerald Lake was deserted, and the lake itself was mirror-smooth.

  • Being offline and away from a computer proved to be exactly what I needed, and at present, it’s back to the grind. The current project is almost over now, and once finished, I’m considering a change of scenery. There are a lot of unknowns here, so I won’t go into too much details, but I think it will be a good chance for professional development. This may have an impact on my blogging, but I think that once things settle down there, blogging will resume in some capacity.

  • The events of the Nekopara Extra OVA culminate with the result that the Minadukis develop a new Christmas tradition of spending time together with the family Nekos. It’s a touching end to an OVA that largely has no conflicts, and the OVA itself is well-suited for a quieter day.

  • In retrospect, I likely should have watched this during Christmas, the Nekopara Extra OVA was light enough so that a shorter post was sufficient, and truthfully, there isn’t too much to talk here. So, I suppose that for the Christmas season, I will likely take a look at something else. In the meantime, I am going to be writing about Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara, and ahead of a certain milestone, I am going to do another post on The Division: after the past few Global Events, where I’ve completed my six piece Classified Striker’s Battlegear set and got a Bullfrog with solid talents.

Described as a heartfelt comedy, reception to Nekopara‘s OVAs is quite varied; folks who’ve played the game will either enjoy the Nekopara OVAs for bringing the game to life, or else count it as being an inadequate adaptation. On my end, having never played the games myself, the Nekopara OVAs are not something that particularly inspire me to pick the games up: we recall that my interest in games are driven by immersion and strength of gameplay, and while Nekopara‘s supposed to have a physics setting, this alone is hardly an adequate reason to try the game out. With this being said, the OVAs nonetheless remain a moderately amusing way to spend twenty minutes: for a pair of OVAs inspired by games and made possible with kick-starter funds, the animation and voice acting in the Nekopara OVAs is of a solid quality: Nekopara Extra OVA might be shorter than the first, but the quality remains generally high and provides a bit of additional narrative for folks wondering about the Nekopara universe.

Underworld- Sword Art Online: Alicization First Episode Review, Future Directions, and Brief Parallels Between Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya and John Patrick “Jack” Ryan

“Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?” —Morpheus, The Matrix

Kirito is recruited to test the development of a new technology known as the Soul Translator (STR) system, an interface that directly interacts with the neurological impulses within the brain to create a dream-like sequence. In his time using the device, Kirito befriends Alice in a fantasy world, but after venturing out of bounds after their search for ice takes them into a deep cave, Alice is taken away for execution. Meanwhile, Sinon asks Kirito to help her with another Bullet of Bullets Tournament in Gun Gale Online, after they confront a team whose modus operandi is killing other players. While he listens to Sinon’s request, Kirito reveals to Asuna he’s been working on an experimental new full-dive system several orders of magnitude more sophisticated than any previous technology. He later expresses to Asuna a desire to go overseas to study North American technologies, and encounters Jonny Black, the remaining Death Gun member who was never apprehended. Despite his attempts to fend off Black, Kirito is stabbed with an injector containing succinylcholine. Thus, Sword Art Online‘s third season, Alicization for brevity, has begun: unusual in its opening, and unusual for having four cours’ worth of episodes, Alicization is the next great journey for the Sword Art Online franchise. Out of the gates, Alicization wastes no time in setting up the new environment and new stakes. I’ve long regarded Sword Art Online with a mixture of engagement and disappointment: on one hand, the character development is lacking and outrageous, but on the other hand, world-building and storytelling are solid. Having followed Sword Art Online since its first season, some interesting patterns are also beginning to emerge from this series, especially with respect to Kirito, a bit of a controversial character at the centre of virtually all discussions on Sword Art Online.

Originally a Sword Art Online beta participant, Kirito became known for his past experience after the SAO incident began, and sought constantly to prove himself. Kirito’s singular determination and persistence, in conjunction with a deep-seated desire to help those around him and prevent deaths where he could help it, eventually led him to defeat Sword Art Online’s lead developer and creator. With his involvement, the Japanese government begin involving him in solving a variety of crimes surrounding the VR technology. Through Kirito’s adventures, his uncanny ability to amass female companions and develop limit-breaking skills from raw emotions have made him somewhat of a dull character; many count Kirito to be a clueless young man who stumbled into incredible fortune, as Tom Clancy might put it. Infallible, firmly determined to do what is right and look out for those around him, Kirito does indeed resemble Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the central character to Clancy’s early novels. Born in Baltimore, Ryan majored in economics and minored in history before joining the Marines, where he was injured in a helicopter crash. Leaving the Marines, Ryan becomes a stockbroker and makes several million on Wall Street before enrolling in a PhD. While in England, Ryan saves the Royal Family from a terrorist attack and is knighted. His abilities lead him to become a consultant for the CIA, and Admiral James Greer, noticing Ryan’s accomplishments, offer him a position at the CIA. Ryan is promoted and later, Ryan reluctantly accepts the post of Vice-President. When a plane crash caused by a Japanese airline pilot kills most of the administration, Ryan is made the President of the United States. Clancy originally created Ryan as an every-man, and from an external perspective, it is true that Ryan stumbles into incredible fortune. Like Reki Kawahara’s Kirito, Ryan is competent, but is otherwise an ordinary man dedicated to doing what’s right. Circumstances come, time and time again, that force both Kirito and Ryan to step their game up. Rising to the occasion each time, both become well-known in their own worlds, with Ryan taking on the presidency twice, and Kirito becoming regarded as an asset in the controversies surrounding VR technology. Clancy uses Ryan to voice his own opinions on the political landscape, creating a character whose position of power allows Clancy to, in effect, write out his thoughts on what a government should do. Kawahara likely wrote Kirito with a similar idea in mind, that as Kirito continued progressing, his experiences would similarly make him suitable for providing a means for Kawahara to express his thoughts on where VR technologies are moving, and their subsequent impact on society.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Sword Art Online was wreathed in controversy from the day it began, and was polarising the day it began. At the start of Alicization (IPA aˈliˈzāSH(ə)n rather than aˈliˈkāSH(ə)n as I originally imagined), however, Kirito’s traits are nowhere to be seen. Curious and and somewhat chivalrous, Kirito appears to behave as any child would, working on his assignments, messing around with Eugeo and enjoying Alice’s baking.

  • While trying to seek out ice to keep their food from spoiling, the turn of events change their world forever. The great advantage of Sword Art Online is that there is opportunity to depict a variety of settings, and with A-1 Pictures driving the show, audiences are treated to visually pleasing environments and animation. Compared to 3Hz’s presentation of Alternative, A-1’s world is brighter, more crisply animated and more immersive.

  • If and when I am asked about Sword Art Online, I’ll say that if Sword Art Online aside from Kirito’s unparalleled tendency to become involved in outrageous situations and implausible backstories for characters, then the series otherwise did a reasonable job of create a compelling environment to explore the prevalence of virtual technologies and the impact on social sub-systems in a society.

  • Now that I understand why Kirito is written in this manner, and see his similarities to Jack Ryan, my antipathy for Kirito diminishes slightly. At the end of the day, I think maturity is the deciding factor here: Kirito was originally immature and prone to moping around, while Jack Ryan’s sense of duty means that he will enter situations that he may not agree with and still do what is right. Consequently, if I were to offer a suggestion into Sword Art Online, it would have been to make Kirito a ways older, as a university student, and then have him meet male and female gamers along the way. Similarly, I could come around if Kirito’s decisions in Alicization are consistently more rational and mature, more befitting those of a man than a boy.

  • The world inside the STR is said to be many orders of magnitude more sophisticated than anything seen previously, and a bit of digging around finds that this system directly interfaces with the neurons of the brain to create dream-like experiences. Reading the summaries in writing makes it difficult to appreciate what is going on, and whatever other faults there might be in Sword Art Online, A-1’s execution means that these stories become much more approachable.

  • Alicization has number of references to Lewis Carrol’s “Alice in Wonderland”. Written in 1865, the story’s nonsensical premise and use of logic makes it a popular work to allude to in both software and science fiction. Originally intended to be a parody of Victorian culture, the story has since been used to represent flights of fancy. I’ve never read the story in full for myself, and so, will not likely fully appreciate all of the references made to it, but some are common enough so that it’s clear when something is being said in allusion to “Alice in Wonderland”.

  • When Alice’s accidental contact with the Dark World is discovered, she is arrested and set to be executed. Lacking any of his abilities elsewhere, Kirito is powerless to stop the knight from taking off. Like any nightmare, Kirito soon wakes up shortly after, only with tears in his eyes and very little memory of what’s happened. Sword Art Online is set in 2022, and by the events of Alicization, it is 2027; originally airing in 2012, I wondered if the resurgence in consumer-grade VR technologies would begin with the Oculus Rift.

  • While we’ve made considerable strides in GPUs and power supplies, technical limitations still limit VR from being as robust as they are in Sword Art Online. Convenience is still the main issue, given that the need to set up motion sensors, connective cables and necessity of having a powerful desktop to render the images in 3D make VR setups one that require considerable expense and space. It is unlikely that real-world VR will reach the same prevalence as seen in Sword Art Online by 2022, but I hesitate to say “never reach that point” because technology is always marching ahead, and some things once thought to be impossible, such as virtual assistants, are now becoming increasingly commonplace.

  • Folks complaining about customisation in things like Battlefield V should probably hold their tongues: the customisation seen in GGO is far beyond anything DICE is likely to implement into Battlefield games, and in such games, it is most fair to implement a system where armour and protection in gear be inversely proportional with movement speed and agility. Simply put, players wearing Sinon’s loadout would be quite fast, but at the expense of durability.

  • Liz’s in-game appearance resembles that of Sakura Quest‘s Yoshino Koharu, but beyond their outward characteristics, are completely different. Liz is voiced by Ayahi Takagaki, whereas Yoshino is voiced by Ayaka Nanase. She uses a Mossberg shotgun here against their unknown assailants, and admittedly, her choice of customisations is rather more appropriate than that of Sinon’s.

  • Silica mans the mounted machine gun here and lays down suppressive fire. It’s been a while since the likes of GGO has graced this blog, and unlike Alternative‘s Squad Jam, Bullet of Bullets (itself named after “King of Kings”) has a different rule set. Battle royale was the focus of Sword Art Online II‘s first half, and in reality, the basis for the battle royale shooter was inspired by the DayZ mod for Arma II. In 2013, Brendan Greene subsequently took this concept and further modified it in his own DayZ mod, drawing inspiration from Battle Royale, a Japanese film.

  • Since then, the concept had widely taken off: proponents cite the excitement and unknown as the biggest thrill of this genre, while folks like me, lacking patience, would prefer more traditional shooters. With battle royale games becoming increasingly commonplace, giants like Activision and DICE have taken notice: Black Ops IV and Battlefield V have their own battle royale modes.

  • To make it clear, I’m not in the camp that hates the mere concept of Sword Art Online, nor am I in the camp that believes Sword Art Online to be flawless and incomparable. Instead, I see the series as a reasonably entertaining one, with its strengths and weaknesses. Of late, word has reached my ear that folks are taking Alicization as a chance to drive up their own visibility: apparently, hating on this series is what’s trendy right now. Both aware of the flaws in this series and of what it does well, my assessment of Alicization will be determined by the enjoyability factor. I can enjoy and recommend this series even if there are things I did not like, for instance.

  • Sinon attempts to recruit Kirito to help her in the next Bullet of Bullets, which he accepts. One aspect of Sword Art Online that I found completely unnecessary were the implausible stories some characters had. Sinon is an example of this: having picked up a pistol and killed a bank robber as a child, she developed a fear for handguns. When GGO was introduced, she played the game with the aim of overcoming her fear. Having Sinon play the hero was strictly unnecessary: had she witnessed a firearm go off in her childhood, the effects would have been similar to drive the story forwards without need for this additional drama.

  • If Kirito is Jack Ryan, then it makes sense to see Asuna as Caroline “Cathy” Muller-Ryan, Ryan’s wife. Both Cathy and Asuna are sensible, smart and concerned whenever their respective partner puts himself in the path of danger while on duty. Asuna worries about Kirito’s health, and Cathy grows suspicious, before concerned, after Ryan reveals that he’s doing fieldwork for the CIA. I’m certain that had the technology existed in reality, Cathy would likely track Ryan’s health the same way Asuna does for Kirito.

  • Kirito explains the concept behind the STR system to Asuna and Sinon here, stating that photons inside the microtubules of the body carry the soul. This is a reference to the orchestrated objective reduction theory, which supposes that the quantum vibrations in microtubules are somehow responsible for consciousness. While I appreciate that Alicization is science fiction, this is wrong: microtubules are part of the cytoskeleton, participating in maintaining cell shape and transportation by providing a pathway for motor proteins traverse. Thanks to dynamic instability, the tubulin monomers that make up microtubules can assemble and disassemble rapidly in response to conditions within the cell: dynamic instability and other cellular conditions would make microtubules ill-suited for storing information; by Kirito’s account, if we held this to be true, every time the microtubule disassembled, the photons would escape, causing information loss.

  • We’re at the end of the Thanksgiving Long Weekend, a time to mostly relax and capitalise on the pleasant weather. After a month of non-stop cloud cover, things have finally cleared up, giving rise to the beautiful autumn skies I know the area for. The trees did not yellow quite as nicely this year on account of the unpleasant weather: most of the leaves are still green or else went straight to brown, but otherwise, it was very pleasant. Weather or no, however, Thanksgiving dinner was as pleasant as always: after an afternoon of cooking, things were ready to be enjoyedBesides turkey, we also had ham, cheese prawns and mashed potatoes of a home-made recipe. As well, the turkey turned out well: by cooking the it with brine and adding carrots, onions and parsley to the interior, the cooking forces moisture into the turkey.

  • Kirito expresses a desire to study VR over in the United States: the US is indeed the forefront of VR technology at present, and is also home to some of the world’s most advanced software and hardware groups. Asuna supports his decision and resolves to be by his side: at this point in Sword Art Online, I’m glad that it is established that Kirito and Asuna are meant to be together, and once the love tesseract plaguing Sword Art Online was solved, the series could finally explore more interesting ground. Of everyone, Asuna is the most similar to Cathy Ryan, so I figure that she’s the most suitable to be with Kirito.

  • Kirito and Asuna run into Johnny Black, a member of Laughing Coffin who would later develop an addiction to murder and participated in the Death Gun incident. When Kirito confronts him, Black stabs Kirito with succinylcholine: in Tom Clancy’s The Teeth of the Tiger and Dead or Alive, the Campus employs it as an agent to dispose of enemies. Clancy and other fiction writers characterise it as the ideal murder weapon: it acts quickly, relaxing muscles to the point of shutting down the heart and starving the brain of oxygen. Furthermore, succinylcholine metabolises into succinic acid, amongst other things, which is not something routinely looked for unless one was suspecting a murder with this compound.

  • In his fight with Black, Kirito is hit with a lethal dose: unless he is put on a respirator, the next few minutes for him will be living hell, as the Emir in Dead or Alive discovers. Eventually, the Campus uses other methods beyond what they colloquially refer to as poison pens: by the events of Locked On, the drug is not utilised, and Clark only uses it for a hit on a Libyan terrorist cell in Threat Vector. This is a potent way to begin Alicization, and from what little I know of this arc, Kirito will be sent back into the STR system, where he will continue to unravel the mystery of Alice and her fate. A year’s worth of Alicization is on the table, and with so many unknowns on the table, I think the best course of action will be to sit down and simply enjoy the ride.

With this in mind, Kirito’s portrayal, as a character who stumbles into incredible fortune, has a justification from a narrative perspective; Kirito’s role in the anime becomes more relevant, providing viewers an idea of what Kawahara thinks of VR. One episode into Alicization, and the traits that define Kirito of older episodes is absent: he is more weary, more reserved and contemplative, even if he does still allow his emotions to get the better of him. His characterisation in the anime has improved over time, signifying a gradual maturity. Of course, at this point, it is still early into Alicization, so it remains to be seen as to whether or not some of the weaker aspects of Kirito’s character make a return, or if his experiences continue to shape his decisions in a rational manner. Over the next year, I imagine there will be plenty to cover and discuss. Because of the scale Alicization, however, I will not be blogging about this series with my usual frequency: Sword Art Online‘s strength is exploring details, and the big-picture materials I tend to cover usually require several episodes before there is something significant to say. Further to this, blogging with a high frequency about any series is a bit of a challenge on my end, so I would prefer not to burn out writing about Sword Art Online. Having said this, I will be watching the series and will return to offer feedback after certain milestones in this series. It would make sense, for example, to write about Alicization once the halfway point is reached, and once the finale has aired. With a year ahead, this is looking to be an interesting series, and while I might not be writing about it half as much as half of my readers might like, folks looking to pick my mind about Alicization are always free to do so here, or on Twitter, should they so choose.

The Goodbye at the End of Summer: Another Beginning For CLANNAD ~After Story~ at the Ten Year Anniversary

“Being unable to trust anything is the same as being unable to sense other people’s love.” —Yoshino Yuusuke

Summer draws swiftly to an end, and on a weekend prior to the continuing of term, Tomoya dreams about his past while watching a baseball game with Nagisa, Sanae and Akio. Akio later asks Tomoya to help him assemble a baseball team ahead of a match with a neighbouring shopping district, and while Tomoya does his best, speaking with a variety of people (including Yuusuke and Misae) with the aims of getting them to join, his mind also drifts towards the future and what it might entail. On the day of the game, Mei shows up as well to meet Yuusuke and watch the baseball game. The game is characterised by the unique brand of encouragement and antics unique to Tomoya and his friends. Despite this, Tomoya’s team takes the lead early into the game. After Nagisa is asked to step up to bat when Akio is injured by a stray bat, this lead is closed. Tomoya manages to score a game-winning run batted in (a play where a batter for making the play that allows a losing team to win) and in the aftermath, celebrates with the Furukawas. While perhaps not starting quite as profoundly as CLANNAD did in its opening, CLANNAD ~After Story~ (~After Story~ from here on out for brevity) opens to a strong start that gives viewers a chance to see the new status quo that has developed since Tomoya asked Nagisa to be his girlfriend. However, despite this change, things in ~After Story~ remain much as they have previously. Tomoya shares a warm friendship with those around him, and where the moment calls for it, can step up to the occasion for those around him. Through moments of hilarity, excitement and energy, ~After Story~ swiftly reintroduces viewers to CLANNAD and the world following the first season: characters are established, and baseball is again used as a metaphor for life events, foreshadowing that nothing is ever certain or final. Although Tomoya and his team may have given up a lead, things are never truly over until they are over. This message, so subtly touched on in the first episode, will return later, and for the present, ~After Story~ brings audiences back to those relaxing days Tomoya enjoys as a new term begins.

While relationships are commonly seen as major life events, ~After Story~ shows that for everything that’s happened, things largely remain as they did before. Tomoya might be a little closer to Nagisa than before, but the excitement and energy he feels from spending time with his friends endures, as do the moments of hilarity. Things feel very much as they did before Tomoya began realising his feelings for Nagisa, and whether it be through his exchanges with Kyou, or wisecracks whenever Tomoyo tramples Youhei, ~After Story~ makes it clear that Tomoya is still the same kind-hearted individual with a penchant for pranks as he was previously. The point that ~After Story~ makes with this portrayal is that on most days, being in a relationship is not so different than being single. There are some days where being in a relationship is count oneself as among the happiest in the world, and yet other days where a relationship feels like a shackle one is doomed to bear. This incredible range of contrast is something that ~After Story~ will explore, and consequently, it makes sense to begin in the realm of the ordinary, giving audiences a chance to gain a sense of what life is typically like for Tomoya. In contrast with the first season, however, this ordinary life is a world apart from the existence that Tomoya knew at the beginning of CLANNAD; living in the moment and looking out for those around him is the new norm, and reflecting this new Tomoya, ~After Story~‘s first episode is a vividly colourful one, filled with warm hues and inviting light. However, such things are also transient: a cooler colour fills the classroom when Tomoya wonders about his future, signalling to viewers that such moments do not last forever. The ending of youth, the ending of those summer days, comes to a close, setting the stage for what is to come in ~After Story~.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time a CLANNAD post graced this blog, it was late March, a day before the Vernal Equinox. The Nagisa arc was my favourite act of CLANNAD, and Nagisa is my favourite character of the series, as well. I’m invariably drawn to the main characters of a given series, an indicator of my own personality in that when I set out to do something, I will focus on that something with my all. The end result of this is that I tend to present satisfactory results on the central task at the expense of missing anything that was not explicitly defined in my assignment.

  • The consequence of this in something like an anime review is that I will tend to connect with and, correspondingly, write more about the central characters than I will anyone else. It leaves my particular brand of reviewing inadequate in some areas. However, in series that are sufficiently well-explored, the opportunity to look at what each character brings to the table is present, and for this, it is fun to go back through an older series and see what things can be picked up by rewatching things. In this re-entry into CLANNAD ~After Story~, I will be keeping to my usual patterns: arc discussions will have thirty, single-episode reviews like today’s will have twenty, and if the need arises, I will have larger posts for particularly special episodes.

  • Time genuinely does make fools of us all: ten years previously, I was in my final year of secondary school. My decision to take an honours program in what was essentially a double major in biological and computer sciences stemmed from the fact that I was indecisive at the time, and today, I find that my technical knowledge is nowhere as strong as it can be had I focused on a single field. On the other hand, I am afforded with a unique perspective towards problem solving – a degree leading to a side-grade isn’t so bad, and in a world where being multi-disciplinary is of increasing value, I do not feel that my undergraduate degree was a waste of time.

  • After classes, Tomoya decides to speak with electrician Yuusuke Yoshino with the aim of trying to get him on board for baseball, a man whose background remains quite unexplored at this point in CLANNAD: the only hint of his past is that he knows Kouko and has a tendency to be dramatic, making various quotes and poses. Initially reluctant to join Tomoya and his crew, Yuusuke relents after Tomoya explains that Youhei looks up to him.

  • Tomoya is a skillful liar who can turn any situation in his favour with a few tall tales; this part of his personality adds to his ability to create humour even during high-tension moments. Further accentuating the humour are the others’ reactions to his lies: Youhei evidently regards Tomoya highly, and, befitting of his slower wit, buys Tomoya’s lies easily. On the other hand, Nagisa’s naïveté and innocence she genuinely believes Tomoya.

  • Misae Sagara runs the dormitory that Youhei stays at, and insofar, she is presented as the sometimes-kindly-sometimes-violent dormitory manager. While support characters normally serve secondary roles, helping protagonists along, CLANNAD‘s length allows all characters to be explored. Besides giving their experiences more weight, this exposition also provides further insight into the world that is CLANNAD – this series’ detractors assert an undue amount of deus ex machina in its progression, but I counter that the detractors have not been paying attention. Small, subtle details (and other, not-so-subtle elements) indicate that as normal as the world of CLANNAD is, there is a substantial supernatural component, as well.

  • If I had to guess, the reason that Jun Maeda utilises the supernatural in his visual novels and stories would be because the journey that is life is a winding one with no clear future, and that the way things sometimes play out can seemingly have little explanation beyond what might be considered magic. The supernatural also allows Maeda’s characters to explore themes and experience situations that are more melancholy than what is possible in the real world, although with the success of his works, Maeda’s stories, referred to as nakige (泣きゲー, literally “crying game”), also tend to follow a very formulaic approach, opening with comedy, building up the rising action through romance, reaching a climax with tragedy and then closing with a reunion.

  • It’s been a year and a half since I purchased CLANNAD‘s visual novel on Steam, and I’ve yet to actually even open the game. My challenge with visual novels are that because they are a cross between a picture book and a novel, I cannot read as quickly as I’d like or completely utilise my mind’s eye to imagine a scene. Further to this, I’m used to reading for long periods with physical books, and staring at a screen for the equivalent amount of time is very exhausting, so as far as going through a visual novel goes, I’m going to likely need a different approach.

  • Kyoto Animation’s craft in CLANNAD yields a world that is simultaneously detailed and clean. This art style is refined by the time of Sound Euphonium and Violet Evergarden, both of which have an incredibly detailed art style rivalling those of Makoto Shinkai’s. While Kyoto Animation is known for their animation quality and artwork, not every series in their repertoire has this level of detail: shows like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Lucky Star and Nichijou utilise a much simpler art style.

  • On the day of the baseball game, the skies are of a deep blue, giving the sense of a hot summer’s day. With Mizuho having an average high of 31ºC in August and 28ºC in September, the vivid colours of CLANNAD do much to capture the temperatures within the series. Anime typically use colour and sound to indicate heat: deep colours and the sound of cicadas indicate hot days almost universally. In western animation, heat is indicated through use of distortion effects, a faint “sizzling” sound and emphasis on the sun. Depending on the series, visual humour is also employed.

  • As it turns out, Mei is indeed a big fan of Yuusuke’s and is amazed that she is able to meet him in person; as Youhei says, such is her excitement that she immediately sets off for Mizhuho to see him in person for the baseball game. While the youth are engrossed in their own conversation, the adults share a moment together, as well: Yuusuke, Kyouko and Misae all know one another from an older age.

  • The precise stakes of this match are about the same as those of Futurama when the Globe Trotters challenge Earth to a basketball game: their leader, Bubblegum Tate, states that with no stakes or threat, the only thing on the table really is the shame of defeat. Akio believes the same: while ostensibly a friendly match between two teams, he threatens that if they should lose, Sanae’s bread will await them. While both CLANNAD and the MCU make reference to earlier instalments in their respective universes, ~After Story~ requires complete knowledge of the first season in order to be at its most effective.

  • I am not familiar with baseball in any capacity, save the fact that it is an American institution that was introduced to Japan in 1872 by professor Horace Wilson, and after a thrilling match, Japanese interest in baseball soared. Today, it is the most widely played sport in Japan, to the extent that Japanese people are surprised that baseball is just as big in the United States. While I can’t really watch baseball (the sport itself is unexciting for me), I am much more familiar with the realm of ice hockey. The 2018-2019 season starts today, and after an amusing pre-season that saw the Calgary Flames square off against the Boston Bruins in Shenzhen and Beijing, we’re going up against the Vancouver Canucks.

  • I understand that I’ve got a number of Canadian readers, and a larger number from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, at that, but unfortunately, being a Calgary native means I’m a Flames fan through and through: I look forwards to seeing if the Flames can trample the Canucks in the season opener tonight. Back in ~After Story~, Youhei butchers a play and when Kyou calls him a blight, he retorts that he’s up against a pro: Youhei is referring to Koshien Stadium, where high school players compete at the national level. When Youhei challenges Kyou to do better, she does.

  • That this game is meant to be friendly is reinforced by the fact that after Akio is injured, the other team offers to provide a replacement. Akio refuses and sends Nagisa onto the field. Her low athleticism is offset by the fact that she’s playing alongside skilled teammates, who help her out. However, their lead begins shrinking as the match progresses: Tomoya’s shoulder prevents him from hitting effectively, and when it’s Kotomi’s turn, she spends more time trying to figure out what the best play is rather than reacting on instinct and skill. She marginally hits the ball and reaches first base.

  • Several more interesting plays occur after Nagisa strikes out: Tomoyo declares she wants to hit like a girl, and Tomoya decides to try something new, keeping in mind his shoulder. However, while Nagisa might not be an athlete, she does have her moments, and later in the game, will manage to hit the ball. The baseball game retains its momentum pushing ahead, and while a real baseball game would never see the antics of ~After Story~, their presence here does much to liven a sport up that I normally would not otherwise watch.

  • The most over-the-top events belong to Yuusuke: one of his monologues befuddles the other team and also costs him a run, when he is tapped out after walking dramatically between the bases.

  • Despite his limitations, Tomoya’s strength is his resolve. The game’s become such that Tomoya must score a run batted in to win, and despite his shoulder, he is spurred on by the others. The lengthening shadows signify the day’s end, and simultaneously mirror the closing of a window. The opposing players become faceless, little more than obstructions, and driven by those he cares about, Tomoya puts his all into his final play.

  • In the aftermath, everyone celebrates. This scene stood out to me for its use of incidental music: the track “Town, Flow of Time, People” plays. Normally used during more melancholy moments, it imparts a heavier atmosphere that does not line up with the jovial, energetic mood at the Furukawa residence following the game. While subtle, it again foreshadows what is upcoming in ~After Story~, suggesting that the proverb “Sing before breakfast, cry before night” very much holds true here. It ultimately boils down to not celebrating before something is over, and while things look normal, happy now, ~After Story~ does have one helluva ride for its audience.

  • There is an equivalent phrase in Chinese, 高興太早 (jyutping gou1 hing1 taai3 zou2), which literally translates to “happy too early”. As the first episode to ~After Story~ ends, a cut of the robot in the Imaginary World and the light orbs are seen. Little more than a curiosity in the first season that formed the basis for Nagisa’s play, the Imaginary World and its inhabitants play a much more substantial role in this second season, and I will spend a bit more time detailing their relevance to the main story as ~After Story~ continues. In addition, I will need to figure out what the best way to break up the ~After Story~ posts is, and with our entry into the fall season, two shows have appeared on my radar as being worth writing about: P.A. Works’ Iroduku Sekai no Ashita kara, which is of a genre and setup that catches my interest, and the slice-of-life Anima Yell!.

As I have done for the first season’s tenth anniversary, I will be revisiting CLANNAD ~After Story~ in a similar manner as I did for CLANNAD. There are a total of twenty-two episodes in ~After Story~, and as readers have doubtlessly discovered, having me come by, week after week, to do episodic reviews is a bit of a pain in the rear – things get stale quickly, and I find it difficult to write about things on a weekly basis. So, I will be writing about ~After Story~ in arcs. However, ~After Story~ is not quite as well delineated as its predecessor; some stories are shorter than others, others are longer, and others yet serve to set the stage for ~After Story~‘s final act. I am still determining what the best way to break down ~After Story~ is for the present, but I will note that writing for this will be an interesting exercise in introspection: even more so than CLANNAD, ~After Story~ led me to re-evaluate who I was and what I was doing with my life, as well as help me understand what it was I wanted from life. It’s been over six years since I went through CLANNAD and CLANNAD ~After Story~, but the messages and ideas this particular story imparted on me have endured, attesting to the timeless character of the writing in this series. Six years is a considerable amount of time, and so, while I’ve largely forgotten what specifics about ~After Story~ that made it such a life changing experience, the opportunity to write about this series in full at the ten year anniversary means that I’ll certainly rediscover the magic that is CLANNAD ~After Story~ anew, and this time, armed with six more years of life experience, I think I can offer thoughts on things that were not possible the first time I watched CLANNAD.

And That’s Why We Choose Our Irreplaceable Partners: Harukana Receive Finale Impressions and Whole-Series Review

“They push, we push. Every once in a while, we push hard enough that the light breaks through the clouds, and the world beyond the court glimmers.” —Battlefield 1 Prologue

With the match tied, Harukana and Éclair have a furious rally; Harukana pulls ahead in scoring and ultimately, Haruka blocks Claire’s spike, scoring the final point to win the match. Although Claire and Emily congratulate Haruka and Kanata on their victory, it is a bittersweet one. While Emily comforts Claire, who expresses no regrets in having trained Haruka and Kanata, Akari passes news of Haruka and Kanata’s win over to Narumi and Ayasa: they wish Kanata to be happy with their victory and look forwards to the possibility of facing one another in the Nationals. Later, the girls take some well-earned downtime, celebrating the aftermath of the Okinawa tournament with a barbeque on the beach. Narumi calls Haruka and thanks her for having helped Kanata rediscover her love for beach volleyball. After spending the afternoon enjoying the beaches of Okinawa, Emily, Kanata and Akari give Haruka and Claire some time alone, where Claire is able to be truthful about how she feels on the outcome of their match. She is surprised that Haruka was able to block their final spike, and Haruka feels that it was having trained with Claire and Emily that gave her the confidence to block spikes. Claire places her faith in Haruka and Kanata, to win for everyone’s sake. Emily and Kanata thank Akari, feeling that were it not for her presence in the beach volleyball club, they might not otherwise have an opportunity to remain close following that titanic match. When they return to Claire and Haruka with cold drinks in hand, the girls grow fired up and resolve to continue training together in preparation for the Valkyrie Cup. This brings Harukana Receive to an end for the present, and with all twelve episodes in the books, the time has come to look back through the entire series and ascertain what messages the anime intended for audiences to take away. Simple-minded discussions might claim that Harukana Receive is intended to be “intentional homoerotism…achieved through some subtext and an ambiguous comparison of the sporting partnership in the series with romantic relationship”, but the reality is that Harukana Receive has none of this; at the end of the day, it’s a story of friendship, discovery and learning.

Manga Time Kirara series are not known for being subtle about their themes of friendship and camaraderie. In the case of Harukana Receive, the message lies in the importance of supportive company as the motivator for progress and growth. Having lost her interest in beach volleyball from her short stature and other circumstances in her life, Kanata’s decision to leave the sport left an impact on those who looked up to her. Narumi was particularly disappointed, as the two had been partners previously, and similarly, Claire and Emily were left facing an opponent who was a shadow of her former self. When Haruka arrives, with her boundless energy and optimism, Kanata’s desire to support Haruka slowly brings her back into beach volleyball. With a partner who views the world as a place to explore and try one’s strength in, Kanata redevelops her passion for beach volleyball. This resurgence draws the attention of her old friends and rivals, and as she embraces beach volleyball again, Kanata also forms a much closer relationship with her cousin. These changes show the extent that good support can have on one’s well-being, and for Kanata, there is no one better than Haruka to brighten her day up. Similarly, when Claire and Emily are set to face off against Haruka and Kanata, the pairs set their friendship aside to face one another as opponents. Emotions run high during their match, and in its aftermath, the atmosphere is subdued, quite unlike what a victory would feel like. Haruka and Kanata may have won, but there was a price to pay. The toll extracted, however, would have been much heavier had Akari not been present. Rooting for everyone and promising that everyone’s friendship will remain intact no matter the outcome, Akari’s presence grounds both pairs and keeps them from losing sight of what is truly important: the memories and experiences they have all shared together. Because she is not in a pair, Akari brings to the beach volleyball club a new perspective on things, and this is precisely what allows Claire, Haruka, Emily and Kanata to remain on excellent terms with one another.

Placing Claire and Emily as the final opponents for Haruka and Kanata to overcome before Kanata can push ahead and keep her promise with Narumi also serves one important function: throughout Harukana Receive, Kanata’s desire to keep her promise to Narumi is a sometimes-burden, sometimes-motivator. Kanata is evidently someone who holds true to her word and expresses visible regret when she feels as though she might not be able to uphold her end of the promise. When the opportunity for keeping it presents itself, Kanata seizes it; she and Haruka make remarkable progress as a pair over the course of a year, reaching a point where they are able to play on par with the second-ranked players in all of Japan. The power of a promise as a motivator is clearly felt, and ends up being a powerful driving force for Kanata. When faced with the ultimate test of her will, Kanata shows that she is willing to do all that is necessary to keep her word, even if it means vanquishing her friends in competition. This level of determination underlies several interesting facets of Kanata’s character: besides staying true to her word, Kanata is also evidently someone who treasures those around her. Narumi might be paired with Ayasa now, but she still desires to uphold their promise to one another as friends. In an age where one’s word is often worth as little as the air it took to make it, such faithfulness to one’s promises is admirable. As Kanata discovers, there are many ways to keep one’s promises and make the most of the moment; in accepting this, Kanata is above to rediscover her old self and live in the present, finding new happiness with Haruka, Claire, Emily and Akari.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In this finale post, I’ve featured thirty screenshots, as I have done for previous finale posts. However, because I’ve spent the last three posts showcasing screenshots of beach volleyball, I am going to focus less on the final moments of the match between Harukana and Éclair. Looking back, with three straight posts of beach volleyball, it stands to reason that as far as content goes, Harukana Receive has delivered on the beach volleyball aspects as per its premise, and a year into her experiences, it is clear that both Kanata and Haruka found the answers they sought on the court underneath the vivid Okinawan sun.

  • After two episodes of play, the match finally comes to an end when Haruka blocks one of Claire’s spikes. The court quiets, and on the viewer’s mind is what Claire’s reaction will be when she faces Haruka and Kanata: it has been established that Claire has a boisterous and competitive nature, switching from being friendly and open to being dead serious in a moment’s notice. Waiting for Claire’s reaction to losing thus becomes a bit of a lengthy one.

  • While the crowd cheers for the match’s outcome, amongst the girls closest to Harukana and Éclair, there are no celebrations. Going in, Akari knew with full certainty that there would be the victor and vanquished — now that the moment for cheering on and supporting her friends have passed, she dreads seeing what will happen next. Likewise, Ai and Mai are equally as silent: Mai had been expressing support for Harukana despite her earlier dislike for Kanata, and when questioned, unconvincingly states she’s simply enthralled by the match itself.

  • If Akari, Ai and Mai were concerned, it pales in comparison to Haruka’s reaction. Her face is filled with sadness at the prospect of the emotion running through her friends’ minds, and this is mirrored in Kanata’s expression, as well. Haruka and Kanata’s reaction is a natural one, akin to two brothers playing in opposite conferences and facing down one another during a Stanley Cup final. As exhilarating as it is to win, both would always wonder how the other might react if they’d lost or won.

  • Aside from a clenched fist signifying her frustration and dejection, Claire gives no outwards sign of the loss, shrugging it off and expressing that she’s exhausted. After they shake hands, Claire rushes off to buy drinks, and the faintest trace of her voice breaking can be heard. Emily takes off after her to make certain that Claire is alright, and Akari calls Ayasa and Narumi to inform them of the outcome.

“Victory costs. Every time, you pay a little more”

– Laurence “Prophet” Barnes, Crysis 3

  • It speaks volumes to the strength of their friendship that there is no celebration following their victory; both Haruka and Kanata feel the toll of their victory, knowing that in order to win, they had no other choice but to hurt Claire and Emily. Narumi congratulates them and asks them to enjoy the moment, having understood how strongly Kanata wanted to fulfil her promise, but right now, nothing else is on Kanata and Haruka’s mind except for Claire and Emily. Every success, every victory has a cost attached to it, taking the form of a sacrifice of some sort. Whether it be a time commitment or giving up something for the sake of another, no true victory can be had without sacrifice. Prophet of Crysis 3 put it that victory costs, with each successive victory forcing one to pay more for it.

  • This was my site’s tag line for the longest time, and looking back, it’s one of my favourite quotes from any game for the simple fact that it’s a reality. Back in Harukana Receive, it seems that Claire’s had time to compose herself, and for Emily, she puts on a display of bravado. Being her sister, and knowing her better than anyone, Emily voices what’s on Claire’s mind: a part of Claire likely does regret pushing Kanata and Haruka to have progressed as far as they did, but she’s also glad to have helped create worthy opponents to spur them on.

  • A million things must be running through Claire’s mind, and Emily simply leans on her, comforting her. Harukana Receive is generally a very well-lit anime, with a bright, vivid palette in many of its scenes, so when a stark contrast between light and dark is established, it is intended to convey the emotional tenour of a moment. A similar effect was used after Narumi realised that Kanata now had someone in her life to motivate her, and here, the bright surroundings of Okinawa are forgotten as the two sisters accept that their shot at playing in the Nationals is over for the present, taking solace in one another’s company.

“Does anyone have any orange slices?” —Scott Lang, Captain America: Civil War

  • At the episode’s halfway point, the mood shifts back to the easygoing, light-hearted one that Harukana Receive utilises outside of beach volleyball. Here, Haruka and Kanata prepare to join the others for a barbeque on the beach, and I take a moment to explain the multiple page quotes. I mentioned in the talk for Harukana Receive‘s penultimate episode that I would be fielding a quote from Captain America: Civil War, and while I originally intended this to be the main page quote, Haruka’s inner monologue during their match, that she wanted to push through and see the world that was ahead of them, was surprisingly relevant.

  • Immediately, the quote from Battlefield 1‘s cinematic trailer came to mind. Likely referring to fighting hard for a better future, it fits with Harukana Receive very nicely, more so than the quote from Civil War. However, with the mood in the finale lightening at the halfway point, I figured it would be appropriate to use the quote here. After Scott Lang reverts to his normal size when Stark and Rhodes knocks him down, he asks if there are any orange slices around. His quip is meant to signify that their bout was really more of a competitive one, rather than a life-and-death one. Traditionally, orange slices were handed out at youth soccer games, so by throwing that in there, Lang reminds viewers that the fight between Rogers and Stark’s groups is not all-serious.

  • Ayasa and Narumi share a conversation about Kanata while stretching; Narumi feels that their win will now force Kanata to play with more focus and determination than before. She wonders if Kanata will be up to the challenge, but Ayasa reassures her that Kanata will uphold her end of the promise. Ayasa and Narumi are always seen to be training, showing their dedication towards their sport, as well. The price of victory in Harukana Receive is shown in more ways than one, and for me, it also suggests that there is more to the story than what we’ve seen so far.

  • I am a big fan of barbeque: during one of my trips to Denver, I stepped out to dinner at a restaurant close to my lodgings and ordered their a delicious beef rib and sausage special. Tender and succulent, the grilled taste was evident in the beef ribs, while the sausage was flavourful and juicy. There’s only really one place back home that compares to American barbeque, and that’s Big T’s. In Harukana Receive, fancy beef-and-sausage kebabs, fish, steaks and even a beer-can chicken are present during the girls’ beach barbeque party. With the emotional match over, it’s a return to the everyday experiences the girls share with one another, and although their dynamics are as spirited and joyful as they’ve always been, audiences will definitely feel that things have changed following the match. For now, the girls are free to enjoy themselves, and in the moment, the exuberant Claire I’ve come to know and love comes out in full force.

  • This is what likely comes to mind whenever Okinawa is mentioned: frolicking on the beautiful beaches and warm waters of a tropical island. While Harukana Receive might be at its conclusion for now, Non Non Biyori Vacation and its depiction of Okinawa will step up to fill that void. I’ve been longing to see this movie for quite some time, and it screened in Japan back in August. Naturally, some have flown over to Japan with the singular purpose of watching Non Non Biyori Vacation in theatres and write about how they didn’t enjoy it; as the date for the home release remains a bit of an enigma, I have no estimates of when I’ll be able to take Anime News Network’s writers to school.

  • While some have felt Akari to be a bit of an outsider, the time she’s spent with the beach volleyball club means that she’s much more comfortable and familiar with the others now, enough to be on the same wavelength as Claire; the two here are making to prank Emily and shove her into the waters of Okinawa’s beaches. As of now, we are twelve for twelve on weather in Harukana Receive; each episode is marked by pleasant weather and sunny skies.

  • Sunlight can be seen glistening on the turquoise ocean surface here, giving a tropical sense that is a world apart from the cold, foggy mists and drizzles covering my area right now. We are only two days from the Autumnal Equinox for 2018, and the weather in my region has definitely been feeling more like autumn. Strangely enough, the trees have not yet begun to yellow; by this time of year last year, most of the trees in the neighborhood and in the aspen groves nearby had already become a vivid gold. Under the deep blue autumn skies, the colour contrast is beautiful, and cooler weather at this time of year generally makes it pleasant for walks.

  • In the excitement of the moment, Akari’s forgotten to put sunscreen on, and realises the others have not done so, either. She immediately treats everyone to a lecture on the importance of protection from the sun’s rays. Intuitive for tropical locations, it may come as a surprise to some that UV radiation on an overcast day in the Canadian Rockies can be quite high; even if the sun is not shining, UV radiation penetrates cloud cover and so, application of sunscreen is necessary to protect against the radiation Akari is sensitive to.

  • Ayasa is likely running an iPhone X, as indicated by the vertical placement of the two twelve megapixel cameras on the phone’s rear. The iPhone 8 has a single twelve megapixel camera. These are Apple phones in all but name: the logo seen here placed in the same spot as where it would be placed on an iPhone X. Narumi calls Haruka to congratulate her for their win, and wonders how Kanata is doing. Haruka expresses that she’s been looking Kanata well, and Narumi thanks her for being there for Kanata, looking forwards to the day that they can face one another on the court.

  • Haruka uses an iPhone SE: with its rectangular edges, it is the smallest iPhone and with the announcement of the iPhone XS and XR, the SE is no longer being offered. Folks who use the SE have found it an attractive phone for its form factor, and I’m surprised that Apple is discontinuing the model. My iPhone 6 is still holding out okay in performance; with iOS 12, things have become a little faster than before. Last episode, I mentioned that Ayasa and Narumi still owed Haruka and Kanata ice cream. Haruka’s memory is as good as mine: she brings it up here, and Narumi promises to treat them next they meet.

  • Subtle details such as these convey to audiences that Haruka, like Kanata, is also someone who honours promises, and from the looks of it, is also someone who focuses on her goals with a powerful resolve. She mentions to Kanata here that it’s probably the first time she’s been able to take it easy since arriving in Okinawa. Real life is like this: we become wrapped up in our duties and aspirations, forgetting to take a step back every so often to enjoy the moment.

  • Many of my praises for Harukana Receive deal with the big picture aspects of the narrative: I’ve infrequently mentioned the technical elements in animation, artwork and audio in my other discussions. Overall, I’ve found that Harukana Receive has a very clean art style that is detailed enough to bring the environment to life without introducing too much visual clutter, which is important for keeping focus on the characters. Animation is generally smooth, and from a sound perspective, Harukana Receive is also solid; the aural elements are at their best during beach volleyball matches.

  • The original soundtrack to Harukana Receive is set to release on September 26, will have forty-six tracks over two disks and retail for 3456 Yen (39.70 CAD). The tracks have interesting names, being rendered in English. On the whole, the music in Harukana Receive has been suitable for the atmosphere the anime presents, although it was otherwise unremarkable. There are a few incidental pieces that capture the feeling of a tropical beach, and one track is named “Lombardo”, whom I quoted earlier in one of my reviews for Harukana Receive.

  • Emily turns the tables on Claires by slapping her posterior before taking off for drinks. Of everyone, wave propagation is portrayed with the most detail on Claire, and while I mentioned that I’m satisfied with animation for the most part in Harukana Receive, soft-body physics is something this series does not always nail. In the realm of soft-body physics, an entity with an increased Young’s modulus would be more resistant to deformation and so, bounce less. As such, I believe that oscillations seen here would be quite unrealistic for someone of Claire’s physique.

  • Claire is surprisingly adorable when bashful: with this, the number of ass-slapping moments in Harukana Receive goes up to four that I can recall of the top of my head. The count could be as high as six, but given that it’s been some time since Harukana Receive started, I can’t recall all moments with maximum clarity. While such moments might lead smaller-minded individuals to believe it is sufficient to describe Harukana Receive‘s themes as having a significant yuri component, time and time again, these moments are eclipsed. For quite some time, even Wikipedia possessed the misleading, and blatantly false, claim that subtext is a major part of Harukana Receive under the pretense of using an Anime News Network review. Just in time for the finale, it has been removed and rewritten to properly reflect on what the series is about.

  • Emily feels that without Akari, their friendship might’ve dissolved following that match. Kanata agrees: Akari’s concern for everyone has indeed forced everyone to look past their desire to win and beyond. At the end of the day, the friendship, memories and experiences that Harukana and Éclair share far outweigh the drive of competition, and while the girls become focused on their goals of winning, having Akari around also serves to remind them of the moments they’ve spent off the court. Admittedly, it does take a few jumps to reach this conclusion, but overall, I find that Akari’s presence in Harukana Receive is an appropriate one.

  • As she was truthful and open to Emily earlier, having time alone with Haruka also allows Claire to be honest with her. Relative to her match against Narumi and Kanata, Claire’s become a graceful loser; while expressing surprise that Haruka could counter her, she also acknowledges that she’d lost and places her faith in Harukana now. While they might have lost the tournament, Claire and Emily both win something much more important: the knowledge that they have been able to impart their considerable experiences and skills to Haruka and Kanata.

  • The notion of a student besting their teacher is reminiscent of The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise, a Sith Lord who was so powerful he could apparently save others from death. However, because he taught his apprentice everything he knew, his apprentice killed him in his sleep. The irony of this was that he could save others from death, but not himself. However, in Harukana Receive, while Claire and Emily did likely teach Haruka and Kanata quite a bit, they managed to retain some tricks up their sleeve during the final match that surprised Haruka and Kanata, so the comparison ends here.

  • I would liken Claire and Emily’s approach to be more akin to the Chinese fable of the cat and the tiger. In this fable, the tiger is a terrible hunter and learns from a cat. Over time, the tiger improves and plans to eat the cat, but the cat reserves one trick unknown to the tiger, using it to save himself from being eaten. From that day onward, the tiger remains a great hunter but is missing one skill that the cat possesses. I am to take it, then, that Darth Plagueis never heard of this fable before, although given what we’ve seen in Harukana Receive, Claire and Emily might be familiar with this tale.

  • For Claire and Emily, then, watching Haruka and Kanata advance further is also for their sake because it is a testament to their effectiveness as seniors and teachers. Haruka resolves to do her best with enthusiasm, and the girls begin to train again for the next great journey. With this, I am very nearly finished with the finale post for Harukana Receive — as of next week, I will have Friday evenings free again. It’s been one hell of a journey to write for Harukana Receive every week, and looking back, this was easily the toughest series I’ve ever done episodic reviews for. On top of writing about a topic where my knowledge was largely lacking, my schedule was very tumultuous, making it difficult to sit down and write for this series.

  • In the end, I think I’ve done a satisfactory job covering Harukana Receive despite my constraints. This experience also reminds me again of why episodic reviews are so challenging to write for, and in the foreseeable future, I do not think that it is in my best interest to do episodic reviews. With the summer anime season coming to an end, I might write about Cells at Work! once more should there be interest in it, and I’ve got a Terrible Anime Challenge post for Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid in the wings, as well. Beyond this, I’m going to continue with the CLANNAD Tenth Anniversary series as we enter October, dealing with ~After Story~.

  • Overall, Harukana Receive scores an A- (3.7 on a 4-point scale, or 8.5 of 10): being far more than just fanservice and slice-of-life, the anime struck a good balance between beach volleyball and life in Okinawa. Although there are many characters, some of which got less than half the exposure than they deserved, and the pacing was less consistent in places, the story and message was solid, as were the technical details of animation, artwork and sound. A part of the reason as to why I enjoyed Harukana Receive to the extent that  I did was because I never approached it as a sports anime – rather than the details of beach volleyball, my expectations were centred around character growth over time, and in this department, Harukana Receive exceeded expectations. Thus, my final Harukana Receive post in the foreseeable future comes to an end, and while it’s been an interesting ride, I’m also looking forwards to getting my Friday evening back for some Battlefield.

Harukana Receive deals with relevant matters on having supportive peers and how this can help one approach their problems in creative, novel manners; it is far from being an empty exercise in female anatomy. During its twelve episode run, Harukana Receive depicts pivotal moments in Kanata’s journey of rediscovery and regaining what was lost. Beach volleyball is an integral part of Harukana Receive, as are the more ordinary moments spent off the court. Because of the focus placed on these moments, as well as the presence of humour, Harukana Receive reminds its audience that life is not about the high-intensity moments. Everyday moments in Harukana Receive are present to humanise the characters, showing that events away from beach volleyball also have a tangible impact on the girls’ journey. Similarly, comedy, in visual and verbal form, lightens moments up and balances a situation out such that when characters encounter problems, they overcome them together. Harukana Receive never gave the impression as being that of a serious anime about beach volleyball, and the interspersion of humour, some of which occasionally takes the form of gentle teasing and flirting, is strictly present to this end. Striking this balance is why Harukana Receive is able to tell a compelling story that relaxes and captivates well when it means to. The serious moments hold weight because audiences have come to see the girls as human, with their own unique attributes and flaws, while the light-hearted moments relax and show that Haruka and the others are ordinary people with stories worth following. For this, I would give Harukana Receive a recommendation: the fanservice and occasional unfaithfulness to reality are eclipsed by the things that Harukana Receive gets correct. As such, unless one had a particularly strong aversions to watching young women playing beach volleyball, Harukana Receive is an enjoyable watch and a pleasant surprise. The source manga is still running, and with Harukana setting their sights on a National tournament, it is pretty clear that the foundations are laid for a continuation. Should sales be strong, one could reasonably expect a second season to materialise, and it would be most welcoming to see what lies ahead for Haruka and Kanata in the future.

Captain America: Civil War, On Striking A Balance Between Focus and Comedy, and Parallels In Harukana Receive

“If we sign these, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go, and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.”
“If we don’t do this now, it’s gonna be done to us later. That’s a fact. That won’t be pretty.”

–Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, Captain America: Civil War

2016’s Captain America: Civil War (Civil War for brevity) is the thirteenth movie and the first part of phase three, dealing with Steve Rogers and Tony Stark as they become divided after the Avenger’s actions at Sokovia and the events of Age of Ultron. Collateral destruction prompts the United Nations to pass the Sokovia Accords, which places the Avengers under UN management. After seeing the destruction that he feels responsible for, Stark agrees to the Accords, feeling that it would be useful to have government oversight, while Steve Rogers believes in his own judgement, having grown disillusioned with authority after his experiences with SHIELD and a mission that sees Natasha Romanov sneak off to accomplish a secondary mission. Prior to the conference to ratify the Accords, Helmut Zemo activates Bucky Barnes, who appears and bombs the conference, killing T’Challa’s father, the King of Wakanda. Barnes is brought in, along with Rogers, T’Challa and Sam Wilson, but Barnes manages to escape. They prepare to apprehend Zemo, but are declared Rogue; Stark assembles a team to take Rogers in, although Rogers manages to escape with Barnes. Arriving at a remote Hydra facility in Siberia, Barnes and Rogers learns that Stark followed them, seeking a truce, but when he learns that Barnes had killed his parents and Rogers withheld this from him, he engages them in combat. T’Challa also appears, confronting Zemo, who lost his family in Sokovia and sought revenge against the Avengers: stopping Zemo from committing suicide, T’Challa captures him. Civil War was one of the biggest movies of 2016, and in keeping with films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a highly engaging film that packages thrilling combat sequences, top-notch humour and a meaningful theme into one experience. Marvel Cinematic Universe films typically manage to strike a balance between the serious and humourous: there are plenty of moments worth reflecting on, but frequent jokes remind audiences that the films are intended to be fun, first and foremost.

The balance is something that Manga Time Kirara anime similarly capture to showcase that life is a very dynamic, varied experience: the latest manga to be adapted into an anime is Harukana Receive, and similar to its ilk, Harukana Receive has strong messages of sportsmanship, friendship and personal growth. Comedy is present to create a light-hearted, easygoing atmosphere, reminding viewers that the anime is not meant to be taken entirely seriously. Similar to Civil War, jokes are placed in Harukana Receive to break up serious moments – besides creating breaks in emotionally tense moments, humour also humanises all of the characters, making them more relatable. In Civil War, the crux of the conflict is a simple but effective one, presenting a juxtaposition between regulation and doing what one feels to be right. Both Stark and Rogers’ perspective have their merits, and which perspective is more appropriate will largely depend on one’s experiences and beliefs: some people gravitate towards having other bodies creating rules one can be held accountable to, while others will put faith in their own judgement. Neither extreme is viable, and this is the point that Civil War aims to make. However, in spite of these serious matters, however, Civil War also has its share of comedy, and nowhere is this more apparent than the airport scene – beside’s Scott Lang’s hilarious transformation and Peter Parker’s quips during battle, various moments break the emotional intensity of this battle and turns it into a competitive bout between teammates. However, just because Civil War has humour does not mean it cannot be serious: the final battle between Stark, Rogers and Barnes is an emotionally charged one, with Stark trying to avenge his parents while Rogers strives to defend his best friend. All parties have their reasons for fighting, and it’s a suspenseful fight, far removed from the hilarious and competition-like airport fight. In being able to balance both the serious moments, Civil War demonstrates that films can succeed in saying something interesting even if comedy is visibly present, and need not be all-serious in order to entertain viewers.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before readers tear me a new one, I note that this post was really born of a positive response from my Twitter readers to see if I could take two prima facie completely unrelated matters and see if I can say something about how they might relate. In other words, this exercise is to see how well I can bullshit, and whether or not I’ve succeeded, I leave it to the reader to decide. It’s been a while since I’ve done a talk with screenshots from a live-action movie, and immediately, I recall why this is the case: motion blur makes it tricky to capture the best moments in stills, unlike anime, which are easier to write for. I’ve been itching to do a talk on Civil War for quite some time, having first heard that it was a fun film. This talk, however, is not a review for Civil War: I deal primarily with how humour in Civil War increases the strength of the narrative, rather than detracts from it.

  • The same holds true for Harukana Receive: I’ve long felt that people are taking the show far too seriously. Yes, there is a major character growth component, but when people, ostensibly adults with a nontrivial amount of life experience, being talking down on fictional characters, I invariably wonder what about shows like Harukana Receive (or most anything to do with Manga Time Kirara) merit rigourous analysis. I am open to hearing reasons advocating this position in the comments below.

  • My first experience with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was in 2012, with The Avengers. My first impressions were that it was a fun film, although at the time, having not seen Thor, I felt Loki’s motivations to be a little lacking. I’ve since gone back and watched all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and my appreciation for The Avengers has increased, now that I understand both Loki’s reasons for leading the Chitarui to Earth and how this sets in motion the events leading up to Infinity War.

  • 2012 also saw The Dark Knight Rises screened in theatres: Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is far removed from the comedic, colourful nature of the MCU, being much more grounded, focused on psychology and fundamental conflicts of the mind. Themes of recovery are central in the film, and while having the most outlandish narrative of the Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises still remains faithful to the atmosphere and setting of Nolan’s earlier Batman films.

  • After watching the Dark Knight trilogy and The Avengers, I decided to give Iron Man 3 a whirl and was immediately disappointed: the villians were weakly motivated, and the extremis seemed quite unrealistic. However, on my run through the MCU, which I started after watching Infinity War, my second impressions of Iron Man 3 were much more positive.

  • One recurring element I’ve come to love about the MCU is its colourful cast of superheroes: the number of films shows that the MCU is serious about giving their heroes proper exposure, and so, while the films might be enjoyable on their own, watching all of them and seeing where the different pieces come together is where the real joys are. Here, T’Challa fights Barnes on the rooftops following a pursuit: T’Challa holds Barnes responsible for his father’s death, but since the events of The Winter Soldier, Barnes has been struggling to get past his programming.

  • Because every character in the MCU has a detailed background, watching some of the films out of order mean that references to earlier films might be missed. However, one strength about the MCU is that even standalone, the films are quite enjoyable in their own right; right up until Infinity War, I had watched only a handful of the MCU films. The question of whether or not I review the others will strictly be a matter of reader choice: I’ve heard that folks prefer my anime discussions over every other kind of talk I have.

  • If this were to be a conventional review of Civil War, I would have taken additional time to explore all of the different scenes, and perhaps make a few witty quips about them in my usual manner. I would further go on to give the film a strong recommendation, because the film deals with interesting topics, has many entertaining moments that vary from keeping one on the edge of their seat, to those that are downright hilarious.

  • For the record, the only thing that was CGI in this scene was the background. The rest of it is all real, including Chris Evan’s arms. I imagine that, for some of my readers, who have grown weary of me posting various screenshots of Haruka and Kanata doing various things, from a variety of angles, on a beach volleyball court, this moment comes as a bit of a respite. Those who watched this film could not stop marveling at this moment, which has become quite iconic in its own right, to an even greater extent than what Harukana Receive has.

  • I’ve heard that Natasha Romanoff will be getting a movie of her own in 2020: this is going to be a welcome one to see, and I’m betting it will occur prior to the events of Infinity War. In The Avengers, it was stated that she was an assassin prior to working under SHIELD, and made her share of mistakes. With an interesting background and Scarlett Johansson’s excellent portrayal of Romanoff , I am excited to see where this one goes.

  • Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker in Civil War‘s presentation is the best I’ve seen; this incarnation of Parker is an energetic, excitable and naïve one, whose lack of experienced is offset by his enthusiasm and propensity to make random various jokes even mid-battle. He is so wordy that Sam Wilson asks if Peter’s ever been in a real fight before, and at the airport, manages to fight both Barnes and Wilson to a standstill.

  • So, here we are at last, the infamous airport scene, featuring #TeamCap. Shortly after Girls und Panzer Der Film came out, I supposed that it must’ve been similar to Civil War for being a bombastic summer film that was big on scale and effects even if the plot was a little lighter. At the time, I’d not seen Civil War yet, and in retrospect, Civil War offers its characters a much more substantial reason for fighting compared to Girls und Panzer Der Film: highly enjoyable the film was, repeating the notion of Ooarai closing a second time was quite jejune.

  • In the other corner is #TeamIronMan. It’s quite impressive as to how much detailed is paid to the progression of the Iron Man suits throughout the MCU: slow to don and somewhat clumsy early on, each iteration has improved to the point that by Infinity War, Stark’s suit uses nanotechnology to pull off some extraordinary feats. One of the things I’ve come to coherently spell out, through watching MCU films, is that not everything has to be entirely logical or through-provoking to be good.

  • The airport fights has some of the best humour in the MCU outside of Thor Ragnarok and the Guardians of the Galaxy films: while fighting one another, Romanoff asks Barton if they’ll still be friends after all this, to which he responds that it depends on how hard she hits him. The dynamic between Romanoff and Barton has always been a good one to watch: while lacking the superhuman abilities of their peers, both are highly trained combatants whose fights with one another are as intense as their friendship is deep.

  • The point of this post, was really to spell out that just because a show has prominent comedic elements and then switches over to a serious mood, does not mean that the comedic parts were in any way unnecessary or pointless. I’ve never really understood why darker or serious is better, especially in the context of shows like Harukana Receive: the whole point of the lighthearted moments in anime are largely to show audiences that the everyday moments are as important to personal growth as the moments doing more focused things.

  • So, by drawing the comparison between Civil War and Harukana Receive, I aim to show how despite the vast differences in themes, narrative, setting and conflicts, that both works uses humour to remind audiences that their characters are human, not wholly focused on their objectives and goals at the expense of others. Because the work itself makes this clear, then I find that it is unwise to adopt an all-serious stance as far as discussing the work goes. This is why I’ve found discussion on Kanata’s use of pokies, or whether or not high-fives occur in beach volleyball after every point, to be an utter waste of time.

  • When Lang uses the Antman suit to grow to gargantuan proportions, an irate Stark asks if anyone on his side has any abilities they’d like to make use of now. Even during such moments, the MCU reminds viewers to just accept things as they happen: Stark’s first reaction when seeing the Chitauri army in The Avengers was “seeing, still working on believing”. The whole point of fiction is to create a compelling story, and I am more than willing to accept liberties taken provided that they advance the story. With this being said, everyone may approach fiction differently.

  • When I was watching the airport fight in Civil War, I was all smiles; more than a deadly-serious battle, the mood was that of a competition of sorts. The characters constantly make use of disabling, non-lethal moves during the fight, as their goal is to impede rather than harm: the whole airport fight occurs because Stark is trying to stop Rogers from taking off and pursuing a mission of his own.

  • During the course of the battle, it is mentioned that in order to win this fight, some will have to lose. Those on Rogers’ side are buying enough time for Rogers and Barnes to fly out, choosing to stay behind. The stakes are never far from the forefront of discussion even during the airport fight, but in spite of the comedy, or perhaps because of it, the scene has quickly become my favourite: in particular, Parker’s quips during battle, ranging from his conversation with Rogers, to suggesting using a move from The Empire Strikes Back to disable Lang, served to lighten the mood considerably.

  • Anime often faithfully replicate real-world locations, and impressed viewers travel to these locations to walk the same paths as seen in their shows. The airport fight of Civil War was filmed at Germany’s Leipzig/Halle Airport, which is Germany’s thirteenth largest and handled 2.3 million passengers in 2017. Filming at the airport was a challenge; crews described going through security, getting a small section of tarmac to work with and was permitted to shut down one terminal during filming. In conjunction with solid directing and high-tech camera set ups, plus plenty of effort from actors and crews, there is no denying the results were worth it.

  • The airport fight is fun and games until Rhodes takes a hit and injures his legs in a fall, rendering him a paraplegic. The mood in Civil War shifts here to a darker one, rather similar to how Harukana Receive‘s mood becomes much more intense once Harukana face Éclair. It is actually a little surprising to be drawing parallels between Civil War and Harukana Receive, but given expectations that Harukana Receive faithfully depict beach volleyball, I feel it necessary to bring in one of the MCU’s strongest instalments as an example of why Harukana Receive should not be treated as requiring strict adherence to beach volleyball rules and mechanics of the real world.

  • Civil War was described by critics as being best suited for MCU fans, and the film’s success comes from not trying to be something it is not. This is an appropriate assessment: the motivations that drive the film might permit for interesting conversation, but at the end of the day, the film is intended to entertain, rather than instruct. This is also why Girls und Panzer Der Film ended up being so enjoyable: both Girls und Panzer Der Film and Civil War use a weak rationale to drive the conflict seen in the film, and the conflict itself ends up being captivating to watch.

  • This entire post has consisted of me saying one controversial thing after another, so I’ll add oil to the fire with the following remark: since my experiences with anime viewers who demand for intellectually stimulating series during the days of the K-On! Movie, I’ve felt that those who hold such expectations are likely those who feel a need to justify their interests to others.

  • The climatic battle of Civil War is a no-nonsense fight to the death after Stark learns of how his parents died. Furious that Rogers withheld this from him, he engages the two in a battle and abjectly refuses to stand down. Driven by pure emotion, he brawls on with the aim of avenging his parents. Against Rogers, however, he utilises a variety of non-lethal means to keep him out of the fight.

  • While somewhat disjointed if taken as a standalone film, Civil War‘s contributions in the MCU are much more substantial when considered in conjunction with the other films. By this point in time, Rogers has become much more disillusioned with regulatory systems and organisations, having seen the truth that SHIELD was really another iteration of HYDRA. No longer trusting organisations, he prefers to count on his own judgement. By comparison, Stark’s arrogant and independent mannerisms gradually give way to understanding that he is responsible for his actions and that the universe is much bigger than himself. His fear of the unknown led him to create Ultron, but when this backfired, Stark realises that it would be useful to have someone oversee them to prevent disaster.

  • Changing character traits over time is the great strength about the MCU, and over time, some of the antagonists fighting the protagonists turn around and join the Avengers. Character development is one of the main reasons why I partake in fiction: watching people learn and grow over time, and seeing the applicability towards reality is something I’ve long enjoyed.

  • Ever since The Avengers, folks have wondered what it would be like if Captain America went up against Iron Man following a buildup of tensions on board SHIELD’s heli-carrier. Civil War is the logical culmination of the conflict between the two: anger and his suits’ technological capabilities allow Stark to dictate the pace of the battle early on, but Rogers’ determination to save his friend proves stronger. As the battle wears on, Rogers gains the upper hand over Stark.

  • Helmut Zemo is the real antagonist of Civil War, seeking revenge against the Avengers for allowing his family to die during the Sokovia incident. With the Avengers in disarray, he prepares to commit suicide, but T’Challa stops him. Zemo’s motivations are quite weak and drive the events of Civil War about as well as Ooarai closing a second time, but the events of both Civil War and Girls und Panzer Der Film are well-executed and engaging. Looking back, I find that this comparison, between Civil War and Girls und Panzer, also holds true.

  • Robert Downey Jr. perfectly captures the fear going through Stark as Rogers pummels him; Rogers does not kill Stark, and Stark is fully aware of this, as well as what he’d come close to doing. With his arc reactor disabled, the fight comes to an end. Rogers and Barnes prepares to leave. The events of Civil War separate the Avengers, and by the time of Infinity War, Stark and Rogers have yet to reconcile in person, although Stark does understand the importance of Rogers and asks Bruce Banner to contact him, before going after one of Thanos’ Q-ships.

  • Barnes is later seen at a Wakandan facility undergoing de-programming. In Infinity War, he is firmly in the good guys’ camp again. Here, I apologise to readers looking for a full review of Civil War: this post cannot be considered to be a review of the movie, but rather, an exploratory piece on how the things that made Civil War enjoyable can also be applied to something like Harukana Receive. The timing of this post is deliberate, coming out ahead of the finale: there is a reason to why I’ve not expected, and will not be expecting, a more serious focus on beach volleyball and psychology from Harukana Receive.

In Harukana Receive, the stakes and environment are radically different than those of Civil War, but the presence of humour serves a similar purpose: breaking up the serious moments to humanise the characters. Harukana Receive may have beach volleyball in the foreground, but its goal is to portray matters of friendship, sportsmanship and self-discovery rather than specifics behind psychology and beach volleyball. Light-hearted moments are present in Harukana Receive because the series is about people, rather than sport, the same way that Civil War is about a disparate group of people and their conviction in opposite systems, rather than being a thriller akin to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. Dark Knight is a fine example of a film that is very serious and humanises Bruce Wayne by forcing him to struggle with difficult decisions in his pursuit of the Joker, and while Civil War takes a very different approach towards presenting conflict, it remains successful. Similarly, Harukana Receive can tell a strong story without a focus on drama and technical detail: the more ordinary experiences that slowly help the characters mature, and the current match between Éclaire and Harukana is meant to be viewed as less of a beach volleyball match, and more of a contest of the wills, one that would hold the same emotional weight if the mode of competition were to be different. Consequently, it is quite disappointing that there is an insistence that Harukana Receive must be treated as a sports series, and subsequent discussion focuses entirely on the plausibility, mechanics and adherence to rules behind what is seen in Harukana receive. Approaching Harukana Receive as a sports series is akin to entering Civil War with the expectation that it covers themes the same way Dark Knight did will invariably leads to disappointment: at its heart, Harukana Receive is ultimately about people, rather than the sport, and the presence of comedy serves to reinforce this notion strongly, akin to how light-hearted moments humanise the characters in Civil War and strengthens the weight of their conflict to enhance the film’s impact on audiences without strictly following the all-serious approach seen in the equally thought-provoking and thrilling Dark Knight.