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Sakura Quest: Review and Reflections at the Halfway Point

“Today, I’m going to outline a plan for Manoyama’s economic revival – it is a bold, ambitious, forward-looking plan to massively increase jobs, wages, incomes and opportunities for the people of our country. If we lower our taxes, remove destructive regulations, unleash the vast treasure of Manoyama’s energy, and negotiate trade deals that put Manoyama First, then there is no limit to the number of jobs we can create and the amount of prosperity we can unleash. Manoyama will truly be the greatest place in the world to invest, hire, grow and to create new jobs, new technologies, and entire new industries. Instead of driving jobs and wealth away, Manoyama will become the world’s great magnet for innovation and job creation.” –Excerpt from a speech delivered at the Manoyama Tourism Board

Resolved to improve Manoyama in whatever way she can in her role as the town’s “Queen”, Yoshino begins exploring the region’s specialities, including wood carving and sōmen. Her endeavours and visions are bold – even though the tourist board cannot fund Yoshino’s ideas, they begin making progress slowly: traditional wood carvings from native artisans are installed at the train station, impressing visitors, and a local cooking festival ends successfully. A film crew also scouts out Manoyama as a viable filming location, recruiting the tourism board and locals to assist. Their plans to burn down an abandoned home are met with resistance from Shiori, who reveals that the home is special to her, and the shoot also reveals that Maki had lost her passion in acting. Later, the tourism boards hosts a romance tour of Manoyama for the Community Club, taking them around Manoyama. Ruriko finds herself envious of Yoshino’s resolve and spirit. While Ruriko is embarrassed to participate in the Manoyama dance, Yoshino has taken the courage to learn it. Ruriko later falls ill, and comes across an alternative interpretation of Manoyama’s legend of the dragon while resting away from her duties. When she learns that Manoyama was originally about being open to outsiders, she performs her the dragon song on the final day of the tour. Though it all, Yoshino herself still resents normalcy, as well as her own role in things: when a reality show is filmed in Manoyama, Yoshino finds herself questioning her goals. Even so, she continues to do her utmost in making the tourism board’s initiatives successful, helping the television studio organise a major concert.

Sakura Quest has covered a substantial amount of territory at the halfway point. With twenty-five episodes, there remains another half to go – insofar, Sakura Quest has done a phenomenal job of bringing Manoyama and its characters to life. Whether it be the struggles and doubts each of the characters face, or the realities surrounding social trends in rural Japan, details are elaborated upon to give the town and its people dimensionality. Challenges surrounding Maki’s past with acting, Saenai’s doubts about whether or not Manoyama was her running away from her problems, or Ruriko’s isolation with the community are vividly detailed: flawed and very much human, each of the characters’ attributes come into play and slowly shift through Yoshino’s influence. Despite being an outsider herself, Yoshino also begins feeling more connected to the town of Manoyama, despite having only visited briefly during her childhood – being in this quiet and close-knit community brings about a change in her perspectives that is quite noticeable from her outlooks at Sakura Quest‘s onset, and by the halfway point, it becomes apparent that the synergy between Yoshino and the others have indeed had an impact on Manoyama. With the characters established, Sakura Quest is set to continue with detailing the tourism board’s quest to Make Manoyama Great Again℠, and I look forwards to seeing what Yoshino has in mind for the future.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Sakura Quest covers a considerable amount of turf during its first half: story arcs are typically contained within the span of two episodes, depicting a combination of both the main cast’s internal struggles as well as the tourism board’s difficulties in engaging the town. One of the first challenges Yoshino faces in her role as Queen is to figure out how to raise awareness for Manoyama’s wood carving sector. While innovative, the town’s more conservative Board of Merchants and wood carvers immediately take a disliking to Yoshino’s ideas, feeling them disrespectful towards tradition.

  • Feeling that she’s been running away from problem after problem, Sanae no longer feels motivated to help Yoshino, distancing herself from their duties. However, Yoshino manages to motivate her: even if people can be replaced, individuals each apply their own unique touch to a challenge to create their solutions, so efforts are not for naught. Consequently, Sanae’s interest in Manoyama is re-kindled, and she suggests a scaled-back version of Yoshino’s plan to elevate the visibility of Manoyama’s artisans, decorating the train station with work that impresses visitors.

  • Now that we are fifty percent into Sakura Quest, it is quite apparent that Yoshino does not have anywhere nearly as many funny face moments as her opposite number in Shirobako: Aoi Miyamori is a character I remember well for her exaggerated facial expressions. By comparison, Yoshino is more dialled back, and while highly enthusiastic about her duties, is less prone to overexcitement or stress than Aoi, even if her goals put her directly in conflict with the Board of Merchants, the folks who coordinate the businesses in the area.

  • The inaka are beautifully portrayed in Sakura Quest: intricate and remarkably well-done, Sakura Quest captures the countryside. While the cities (Tokyo especially) are a hotbed for economic activity and opportunity, the countryside of Japan has fallen by the wayside, seeing a general decline in population as youth migrate to the cities for better education and employment prospects. However, during my travels to Japan, I found the inaka to be much more enjoyable than the cities, feeling a lot more expressive of Japanese culture than the cities. In some translations, the inaka is represented as “the sticks”, a British expression for rural in reference to living amongst the trees (i.e. sticks).

  • After Sanae’s doubts are resolved, it’s Maki’s turn to have her background explored. A former actress capable of handling a variety of tasks, she refuses to play the role of a stand-in, feeling that she lacks the proper determination to be a proper actress. She rebuffs Yoshino’s request, leaving her with more work, but after a conversation with Sanae and helping coach Ririko with a role, slowly begins to rediscover her passion. When she stumbles across an old class video her father took of her class play, she rediscovers her love for acting.

  • After the director decides to use an abandoned house for filming, Shiori puts up a surprising amount of resistance, concealing the fact that she’d acquired permission from the house’s owners to torch it. It turns out that the house has sentimental value for Shiori, who’d spent a great deal of time there during her childhood. It is also explained that abandonments, haikyo, result from the cost of demolitions making removal of older buildings unviable. Often, buildings are left to decay where they are, creating these modern ruins. When Yoshino steps up to the plate and confronts Shiori about the situation, Shiori comes to understand that the decision is not for her to make.

  • Sakura Quest is the first P.A. Works anime I’ve given a review to since Shirobako – while I’ve watched both Charlotte and Kuromukuro, and found enjoyment in both to some extent, they did not prove to be shows that I could easily write about: thematic elements were tricky to determine, and the plot progression for both anime were inconsistent, making it difficult for me to ascertain what the anime’s main messages were. Comedy and slice-of-life dramas are P.A. Works’ specialities: their down-to-earth stories about everyday people are usually much more compelling than their science fiction or fantasy offerings (Angel Beats! and Nagi no Asukara are the exceptions).

  • By the episode’s final moments, Maki’s love of acting is reignited, and she agrees to stand in for Moe. Here, she prepares for a scene where she will dive into the burning remains of the home, and the entire event proceeds without a hitch. Later, one of the film staff thanks Shiori, who’s come to understand that allowing the house to be destroyed does not mean that her memories of it will be lost forever; instead, in its final moments, this derelict house allows Shiori to gain yet another treasured moment.

  • Just because Yoshino might not make funny faces does not mean that other characters do not – Maki tries to tug a beer from Yoshino, only to find that Yoshino’s maintaining a death grip on said beer despite having fallen a sleep. One of the things that I found a bit unusual in Japan (and Hong Kong) is the fact that alcohol is sold in the open at supermarkets, right beside conventional drinks. Back home, we have liquor depots and dedicated stores for selling alcohol.

  • Food is lovingly illustrated in Sakura Quest to the point where other viewers have suggested that some episodes should be watched on a full stomach, lest one desire food mid-episode. Today marks the start of the last weekend in June: this month’s disappeared, and it’s now been more than a month since I returned from Japan. Things have been incredibly busy with work, especially with our project migration to a new framework that’s taken longer than I anticipated, so I’m immensely happy that it’s the weekend. While I spent a bit of today helping with adding some features ahead of Monday, things were also relaxing enough so that I could play enough Battlefield 1 to unlock the Lebel Model 1886 and go out to the Café 100 for dinner, where I ordered the Hong Kong-style chicken steak.

  • While I’ll respond that Shiori is my favourite of the characters in Sakura Quest, with Yoshino coming in a close second, all of the main characters are likeable. Presenting realistic characters simply means giving them a range of traits, both positive and negative, and allowing these interactions to drive things – these elements mean the characters are believable, and consequently, audiences tend to care more for them, developing an interest to see what events will await them. By comparison, dull, jejune characters are blatantly overpowered, have little difficulty in accomplishing their objectives and constantly struggle from their own internal sense of inadequacy without any well-defined reason (this is the main reason I’m not particularly fond of Sword Art Online‘s Kazuto Kirigaya).

  • Celebrating Sayuri’s moving out to become a nurse, Shiori and her family encounter Kumano, an old friend of Sayuri’s from high school who trained in France as a chef and intends to inherit the family restaurant. He has long held feelings for Shiori’s older sister, Sayuri, but owing to a miscommunication, neither was able to make their feelings open to one another. In spite of this, his dedication is commendable: his original intent to study French cuisine was because Sayuri greatly enjoyed French toast.

  • Shiori’s response to Kumano’s French Toast speaks volumes as to its quality. Sakura Quest states that French Toast is not French in origin – P.A. Works has plainly done their homework, and the combination of soaking bread in egg before frying it with milk has been around since the fifth century, being of Roman origin. The French take on this dish is called pain perdue (lit. “lost bread”), after the idea of making tough or stale bread more palatable by frying it in egg, and both England and Germany have their own variations on this dish. The modern incarnation of French toast is actually a bit of a misnomer: similar to French Fries, they are a food item popularised by arrival of French immigrants in North America, hence the nomenclature.

  • While the Tourism board’s plan to host a cooking special event conflicted with the Merchant Board’s event, Shiori takes control of the situation and strikes a compromise that allows both events to proceed: the cooking competition will be to make the best sōmen dish, which is a Manoyama special. It typifies Shiori’s resourcefulness when the situation demands it, and she’s the first person that Yoshino turns to whenever questions about Manoyama and its background arise.

  • While Shiori works out the details to ensure the event’s success, Yoshino works behind the scenes to get a special display ready: a mechanised nagashi-sõmen game where the goal is to catch and eat noodles as quickly as possible to maximise score. It’s a little messy, as Yoshino finds out, but the exhibition turns out to be a success, drawing the children’s interest. Yoshino is open to making use of new technologies into reviving Manoyama traditions, and while this initially puts her at odds with the townspeople, this new perspective also offers Manoyama something new.

  • Shiori and Sayuri are both rather clumsy at times: when their mother remarks that Shiori’s fear over the festival date is a trait her sister shares, Shiori realises that Sayuri must’ve missed Kumano for the same reason. She sets in motion the events that allow Sayuri and Kumano to meet again at the Chubacabra Palace, bringing their story to a solid conclusion and also allowing the two to make their feelings open to one another. One wishes reality would allow for such neat resolution, but more often that not, this is not the case.

  • With the festivals over, Yoshino makes Shiori a “Minister of Mediation” for her role in talking things through to ensure that all parties are reasonably satisfied with arrangements.

  • The Manoyama romantic tour programme turns out to be yet another story arc filled with a fine balance of comedy and mystery: comedy arises with the community club’s members putting the moves on to impress the ladies who arrive for the tour, and despite their reduced numbers, Yoshino and the others do their best to ensure the events are successful. It is here that the Manoyama dance and its origins are revealed: like the Legend of the Fire Maidens in Sora no Woto, there are two different versions of the story behind Manoyama’s dragon.

  • The men and women participating in the tour are in their middle ages: travelling around to meet people is a rather interesting concept. One observation thrown around amongst folks of my generation, the millennials, is that it is more difficult to find meaningful courtship relative to previous generations – commitment and trust is weaker than it has been for numerous reasons, but I personally think that it’s a lack of maturity for the most part. Once folks become a bit older, they will have a more well-defined notion of what they want, and by extension, more realistic expectations of what a relationship entails.

  • The Manoyama dance is an area tradition that all Manoyama girls learn. Ririko’s shyness precludes her from participating, and as a child, she’s withdrawn, spending very little time with her peers during school. Her interests are in the occult and supernatural: things like extraterrestrials, spirits and cryptids are right up her alley. Despite this, she slowly opens up as she spends more time with Yoshino and the others. By comparison, Yoshino is very much willing to learn and experience new things, picking up the Manoyama dance well enough to perform it for their guests.

  • Noticably absent from the proceedings is Ririko: similar to how Sanae, Maki and Shiori have seen exploration with the wood carving, film-making and cuisine arcs, respectively, the romantic tour arc places emphasis on Ririko. Reserved, shy and stoic, she lives with her grandmother after her father left for work overseas following divorce with Ririko’s mother, an outsider. This explains her grandmother’s mistrust for Yoshino and also explains why she’s cold towards the Tourism Board’s activities. Walking home alone under a thunderstorm, she catches a cold and is resting for much of the subsequent episode.

  • Alexandre Cena Davis Celibidache, known by his metonymy as “Mr. Sandal”, is a wanderer with blonde hair and who speaks with a very laid-back manner, dropping by to offer deep and mysterious insights whenever Yoshino or the others are wondering what their next move is. Voiced by Vinay Murthy, Alexandre’s Japanese is slower, more broken and accented, hinting at his foreign background: he also speaks English quite well. His story is that his grandparents were Manoyama natives, and despite his wandering nature, he is a skillful artist familiar with Manoyama’s history.

  • The climbing wall and tower overlooking Manoyama offers a fantastic view of the area. This moment in Sakura Quest offers yet another reason why I continue to watch anime after all this time: the attraction of skies of deepest blue and vast landscapes of mountains, plains and forests have long held my attention. I have not seen any cartoons of Western animation that go to quite the same lengths to render these landscapes: in FuturamaRick and Morty and Adventure Time, skies are usually a solid blue colour on clear days.

  • Yoshino finds Ririko at a local temple after the latter sneaks out to the library while she’s supposed to be recovering from her cold. It is here that Yoshino learns the alternative interpretation of the myth, and in an emotional moment, Ririko and Yoshino shed tears as they open up to one another. This brings about a change in Ririko: while her grandmother is long-weary of Yoshino and the others for their perceived tendency to disturb the peace, Yoshino sees this as a chance to show that the Tourism Board is not selfishly absorbed in their own machinations. Thus, she invites Ririko’s grandmother to the finale of the romance tour.

  • The surprise is that Ririko performs the Dragon song; while she whiles away her days on the internet and is not employed owing to her withdrawn nature, Yoshino manages to bring out the best in her, allowing her to take the first step towards changing. Ririko is voiced by Chiemi Tanaka, a newcomer in voice acting whose only previous role was as Sansha Sanyou‘s Sasame Tsuji, but Sakura Quest shows that Tanaka has a beautiful singing voice. Her rendition of the Dragon song is incredibly moving, to the point where it would be an insult should it not be included in the soundtrack or one of the character albums. The anime’s opening and ending albums have been available since June 7.

  • I take a brief detour to note that in its current form, the slogan “Make Manoyama Great Again℠”, is attributable to a design that I alone have created. It’s an uncommon enough slogan so that a cursory search for it will not yield too many results – one may find other usages before my first post on Sakura Quest, but since that post, folks on image-boards have taken to using the slogan more widely. The page quote is an adaptation of the current POTUS’ economic speech at the New York Economy Club back during September 2016, modified to work with what is in effect, what the Tourism board is trying to do with Manoyama.

  • The pressure of a reality film crew filming the Tourism Board’s daily routine causes Yoshino and Shiori to speak strangely, with Yoshino finally cracking up under the pressure. It takes a certain degree of control to ignore the camera and proceed normally, and while I’ve done several appearances on local television for news segments featuring my old research lab, as well as being comfortable in speaking in front of audiences, I’m not entirely sure I am cut out for live-streaming my Battlefield 1 and other gaming endeavours on Twitch.

  • Yoshino’s personal peeve of being “normal” is mirrored in her appearance – she’s the only character to have a distinct hair colour, and her uncommon way of thinking is what’s precipitated all of the events in Sakura Quest insofar, to the point where even Ushimatsu praises her. The definition of “normal” is the point of contention in Christopher Boorse’ definition of health, which states that “health is the absence of disease defined by a statistical normality”. My classmates still repress a shudder when the name Boorse is brought up despite the six years that have elapsed since we read the original 1977 paper: we argue that health is an incredibly complex topic and extends well beyond the state of being free of disease. Further to this, health as a human construct is intrinsically value-laden: by Boorse’s definition, if a large portion of humanity were to be afflicted by a condition such as blindness, then being blind would still constitute as “healthy”, since it is typical that most folks cannot see in this hypothetical population. Conversely, a value-laden approach would tell us that this population has an endemic condition impairing their quality of life.

  • I’m not here to continue discussing the definition of health: I exited the course with a decent mark and we’ll leave it to the medical specialists to discuss what health is. Returning things to Sakura Quest, the reality show is compounded by the appearance of a famous band, which promises to bring in a large number of visitors into the Manoyama region. While exciting, the logistics prove to be a rogue element, since the producers continue to assure Yoshino and the others that everything is under control. The outcome of this will be left for the upcoming episode.

  • Yoshino, Maki and Sanae are surprised at the unexpectedly large turnout for their concert. The twelfth episode comes to an end here, and looking ahead, I imagine that Sakura Quest is building up towards Yoshino’s inevitable departure once her year-long contract expires. Regardless of what the outcome will be, Yoshino will have gained a considerable amount of experience working in Manoyama by this point: staying in Manoyama and calling it home, or else returning to Tokyo with a competitive set of skills are both possibilities, and I look forwards to seeing the journey that Yoshino will have in reaching this milestone in Sakura Quest‘s second half.

It should not be surprising that I am enjoying Sakura Quest the most out of any of the anime this season. With its character development, stunning artwork and a highly relatable narrative, Sakura Quest represents a triumphant return of P.A. Works – with the exception of Angel Beats! and Nagi no Asukara, I’ve long felt their work and slice-of-life anime to be the strongest. Incorporating genuine social issues into the narrative is also a fantastic touch that elevates the anime’s authenticity: whether it be the community dynamics of a smaller town overarching in the anime or something as simple as why haikyo come about, Sakura Quest is faithful towards occurrences in the real world. This is something that Shirobako and Hanasaku Iroha excelled in depicting. Sakura Quest is following its predecessors in execution, and it’s difficult to find any strikes against this anime – even the more critical of viewers are enjoying Sakura Quest. Each episode has been enjoyable to watch thus far, and having passed the halfway point, Sakura Quest appears on track in its the quest to continue captivating its viewers. With its honest but colourful depiction, it might be more appropriate to consider not whether or not Yoshino and her colleagues can Make Manoyama Great Again℠, but rather, the route that they take to get there and what changes Yoshino’s time in Manoyama will have on her, those around her and the town as a whole.

Feast: The Fortress at War- Sora no Woto OVA 1 Review and Reflection

“An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.” —Ernest Hemingway

On a hot summer’s day, the 1121st prepare for an afternoon barbecue. When Kanata and Yumina’s suspicions about the Clocktower Fortress’ source of income threatens to expose their calvados operation, Filicia decides that a contest is in order to determine whether the truth should be disclosed. She covertly spikes everyone’s tea with their in-house alcohol, and the stakes are that, if Kanata and her team should prevail during a mock combat exercise with water pistols, she will explain what is going on. The buzz from the alcohol causes everyone to develop higher spirits, and when Noël unveils a powerful water Gatling-gun, the battle shifts to Kanata’s favour. She manages to corner Rio inside the distillery and defeats her. Later, Kanata agrees to keep the distillery a secret and spends the night with an increasingly drunk 1121st, who take an uncommon interest in Kureha. By the next morning, in the throes of a vicious hangover, Filicia, Rio, Noël and Kanata struggle in the aftermath of their indulgence, while Kureha tearfully records the events of the previous evening and laments her inability to forget what’s occurred. Included with the fourth home release volume, the first of the Sora no Woto OVAs is set between the seventh and eighth episode: in the interim between the sixth and eighth episode, Kanata has enigmatically come into the knowledge of the 1121st’s secret distillery. While the natural progression is not particularly tricky to work out, fans nonetheless counted this as being worth speculating about. The first OVA thus brings some light to this, answering the question of what occurred and also showcasing some good-natured misadventures resulting from the girls enjoying too much alcohol.

Released quite separately from the televised release, OVAs are able to be a bit more overt and brazen with their depictions of events in an anime. While raising some thought-provoking questions, as well as striking a balance between drama and comedy, Sora no Woto‘s televised run remained quite focused on thematic elements owing to the fact that there were only twelve episodes to adequately explore the unique world Sora no Woto was set in. The characters remain quite consistent in manner and personality even if they do mature over the anime’s run, and so, in this Sora no Woto OVA, it was quite surprising, not to mention hilarious, to see the different characters under the influence of alcohol. A world apart from their usual selves, the alcohol leads the characters to act in over-the-top, melodramatic ways quite unlike that of their usual selves. The OVA ends up being a non-stop comedic ride; while simple in premise and contributing little towards the world-building that Sora no Woto is known for, it nonetheless offers the characters yet another dimension to their personality. From its open depiction of underage alcohol consumption to the implications that Kureha was desecrated by the others, Sora no Woto plainly capitalised on the OVA format to present an episode that offers another perspective on the characters which would not have likely been approved for broadcast on television. In the freedoms offered by the OVA format, however, viewers are treated to some nice laughs.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I had done a discussion of the first Sora no Woto OVA some five-and-a-half years previously, and in my Sora no Woto discussions earlier this year, I wondered if it would be worthwhile to go back and do another talk on the OVAs, since I’d already covered them. Looking back, I will be covering the OVA both for completeness’ sake, as well as because the insights I have on the different OVAs have changed somewhat since my initial posts. To ensure that these posts remain fresh and avoid venturing into dank territory, I’ve gone with a completely different set of screenshots; none of the images I have here are duplicates from the original post.

  • While it’s only for the briefest of moments, and not shown anywhere else on the ‘net, the “feast” component of this OVA refers to the pile of steaks that the Clocktower Maidens are grilling for lunch, bringing to mind the Chinese-style dinner buffet I attended last Saturday to help out at. Besides the usual suspects at Chinese buffets (sweet and sour pork, ginger beef, lemon chicken, fried chicken, fried shrimp, fried noodles, basa in garlic sauce, roast potatoes, a variety of vegetables and the like), this particular place has a different spin on the carving station: prime rib is grilled on demand, and tastes quite nice.

  • In my original post, I had a picture of Noël pressing a plate against Shuko, who’s taken an interest in the steaks being grilled. This is that same moment from another perspective, where Yumina reacts negatively to Kureha’s use of Calvados as a cooking wine. She begins to wonder where the 1121st get their alcohol from, and it takes Kureha some effort to deny that they are participating in anything illegal.

  • Elsewhere, a curious Kanata begins wondering what could be on Rio’s mind when she fetches Rio for lunch. This moment features several funny faces from Rio, none of which I’ve featured here. Rio’s behaviours here is most telling that she is unnerved, even though Kanata has made no mention of wondering what’s behind the door she’s watching to any capacity. Instead, her curiosity is piqued by Rio’s insistence that there’s nothing here worth looking at.

  • Befitting of the OVA’s light-hearted mood, the weather remains sunny and warm, befitting of a lazy day well into the summer season. Because weather has played such a substantial role in Sora no Woto, it is possible to very quickly ascertain what moods the characters will experience based on the sky conditions and lighting. This is one of the greatest strengths in Sora no Woto, and the lessons derived from the anime have been applied elsewhere to great effect.

  • Tea is commonly drunk with Chinese and Japanese meals: some kinds of tea can help with digestion, and so, after the steaks have been enjoyed and their plates cleared, Filicia brings out some tea. Immediately upon trying it, the girls become enamored with it: Filicia only mentions that it’s a “special” brew. With Calvados in it, I imagine that the tea would have a bit of a sweet, apple-y taste to it. It certainly would not go well with my preferred tea, Tieguanyin (鐵觀音): with its leafy taste, this oolong tea is something I ask for whenever I go to a Chinese restaurant and is well-suited for aiding digestion. During my trip to Hong Kong, family members there seem to prefer pu’er tea (普洱茶).

  • The alcohol’s effects begin kicking in, and Filicia’s suggestion to have a mock training exercise is initiated, with the victors’ terms being met. In this case, Rio agrees to disclose the truth about what’s happening with the Calvados. The teams are Rio, Kureha and Filicia on one side, working to keep thing secret, and in Kanata’s corner are Yumina and Noël, who aim to win and find out what’s going on. Playing elimination, a team wins when all of its members are taken out, by means of dyed water to make it immediately apparent who’s been hit.

  • Thus begins the elimination match, bringing to mind some of my misadventures in Battlefield 1. During the last weekend, I played several poor matches of domination and was utterly defeated, but the next day, I returned to play my usual conquest; I favoured the medic this time, making use of my syringe and health kits to heal teammates. Although I did not focus on kills as much as playing my intended role, I nonetheless made MVP with a paltry thirteen kills. During that same match, I also unlocked the second tier of the Royal Order of the Stag medal.

  • I subsequently grinded TDM modes until I secured a pair of victories, allowing me to earn my first-ever medal of Battlefield 1. It’s about time, too, having been some eight months since I bought the game. Back in Sora no Woto, Noël’s broken off from the others to retrieve a special surprise to aid their team’s victory. During their time together, Yumina and Kanata share a conversation, with Yumina mentioning that she’s from a far removed part of the country where things were quiet.

  • While the terrain in and around Seize is filled with sandstone cliffs, Yumina is from a part of Helvetia with more mountains and hills. The landscapes of Sora no Woto are beautiful and contributed greatly to my decision of picking up and following the anime – even if some may consider it a superficial way of determining whether or not a particular show is worth watching, a part of what influences the list of shows I watch in a given in a season is where the story is set. Alternative worlds such as that seen in Sora no Woto or Break Blade have long captured my interests.

  • Despite technically being superior marksmen, having trained for longer, Filicia and Rio run into Noël’s ambush and very nearly allows her to score an Ace (killing all enemies on the opposing team on your own). Kureha is at a bit of a disadvantage here, fulfilling the role of a support class while Rio and Filicia play assault. While they manage to evade, Noël and the others go after them, utilising their superior firepower to press the initiative. Noël’s look of anticipation is priceless, and it is one of the few times in the series audiences get to see her genuinely excited about something, even if it is under the influence.

  • Under heavy fire, Filicia is eliminated from the match shortly after Rio resolves that they will fight. The siege vehicle Noël devised requires three operators: one to carry the water and one to act as a source of propulsion. In exchange for its firepower, it is slow and cumbersome. Inspection of the dyed water shows that the girls are using similar water to the kind that is present at Seize’s Water Festival.

  • In retaliation, Rio returns fire and manages to eliminate both Noël and Yumina after their siege vehicle runs out of water. Kanata subsequently pursues them, leaving the others to on the ground under a pleasant summer sun. Lacking a weapon herself, Kureha can only watch the match progress. Sora no Woto‘s first OVA is set entirely on the Clocktower Fortress grounds: despite the lack of other locales, the episode remains quite exciting and even showcases some parts of the fortress previously unseen. It typifies the slice-of-life genre to have a relatively small number of settings in exchange for additional emphasis on character development.

  • Cornered in the bowels of the Clocktower Fortress’ secret distillery, Rio and Kanata find themselves in a standoff. Rio explains the truth to Kanata about the purpose of their project, that it is to enrich their own pocketbooks and has allowed them to live more comfortably than otherwise possible. After additional exchanges of dialogue, Kanata and Rio open fire on one another, with Kanata winning the duel.

  • Later, the 1121st take a trip to their on-site onsen to bathe off the aftereffects of their drinking. While partaking in alcohol and bathing in an onsen have been shown in a non-trivial number of anime, it is actually not advisable to take hot baths while under the effects of alcohol, since the combination of impaired judgement and increased circulation in conjunction with increased heat can make one lose quite a bit of water through perspiration.

  • Ever since a particularly memorable Christmas party during my final undergraduate year with the Health Sciences programme, I’ve not been able to partake quite as much as folks of a similar build and constitution to myself, so for the most part, I do not drink alcohol. Kureha is seemingly immune to the effects of alcohol and does not suffer from hangovers or the loss of memory. This is purely a genetic trait: I tend to get headaches, while other folks get stomach aches, although like Kureha, I tend to remember what happens even when I’m a bit fuzzy.

  • Not much is left to the imagination as to what Filicia, Kanata and even Yumina do to Kureha, although it appears that by the next morning, everyone save Kanata has forgotten everything, bearing only hangovers as the single indicator that they’d had such a wild evening previously. While done for laugh’s sake in Sora no Woto, such actions during war were certainly much more brutal and sobering  in nature, bringing to mind Timothy Findley’s depiction of rape in The Wars, illustrating that war takes away from people totally, including privacy and all that is sacred.

  • The next morning, Filicia, Kanata and Rio see Yumina off. Having forgotten the events of the previous evening, Kanata and Filicia are in fine spirits, seemingly over their hangovers, while Rio is still a bit worn from the previous evening. The same dilation of blood vessels is responsible for the headaches, and can cause stomach irritation, as well. I’m actually not too sure what the biological utility of drinking is, owing to all of the adverse effects it has on the body. While social science may suggest a social function, I sometimes wonder if wings and Irish potato nachos are equally as effective at bringing people together.

  • Noël, on the other hand, is reeling from a debilitating headache. This is the hangover I experienced after the Christmas party and a mere three drinks: I woke up with my head feeling as though a drum was beating against my cranium. I staggered awake, drank several glasses of water and tried to ignore the headache by playing Halo: Combat Evolved. Fortunately, the headache had abated by the afternoon, and since then, I’ve been more cautious with drinking — my last drink in Cancùn, a lemon daiquiri, while not giving me a headache, did make me immensely sleepy.

  • Whatever sort of defiling that Kanata, Yumina and Filicia did to Kureha was apparently so traumatic that she breaks out in tears when forced to recall it. If I were to surmise what happened to any level of detail, this blog would likely be reported for family-unfriendly content. So, I leave it up to the readers to imagine the fire (and in a rare exception to my usually-lax commenting rules, I will excise any comments that go too far). With the first of the OVAs in the books, I will return to write about the second OVA in September to coincide with its release date seven years ago.

At the time of its release seven years ago, I was quite unaware of Sora no Woto and was engaged in summer research at the university, working on a model of blood flow and oxygenation within the lab’s in-house game engine. I had returned from a day trip with the lab out to the mountains, and my project had been progressing smoothly, and I was gearing up to go on vacation to China (Beijing, Shanghai, Hanzgzhou and Suzhou). I’m not quite sure how I came across Sora no Woto, but it is likely that I found the anime while looking for recommendations of shows similar to K-On!: a year later, I came across Sora no Woto and found myself blown away with the overall quality and enjoyment factor the anime provided. I’ve an older review of the episode here that dates back to January 2012, a few months after I finished Sora no Woto. In the five-and-a-half years that has elapsed since then, my blog and writing style have both undergone a dramatic change in style. However, looking through the older post, it’s quite clear that my enjoyment of Sora no Woto‘s first OVA has not changed. The second of the OVAs would not be released for another three months at that point, and while it seemed a long wait for contemporary reviewers, my coming across Sora no Woto after it finished airing allowed me to continue watching the OVAs uninterrupted.

Kouko Nosa in a Pinch!?- High School Fleet (Hai-Furi) OVA Part Two Review and Reflection

“‘…and the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home.’ Christopher Columbus.”
“Welcome to the New World, Captain.”

— Captain Ramius and Jack Ryan, The Hunt For Red October

After relaying her concerns to Mashiro and Akeno, Kouko is tasked with gathering everyone in the Harekaze class for a general assembly. Rather than idling while waiting for the deadline, Kouko decides to initiate a petition to save the Harekaze, and sets out to find her classmates at their usual hangouts. From the conversations shared by the various classmates, all of the students are troubled by their purported situation and sign onto Kouko’s petition, which also doubles to restore her spirits. On the day before their sealed orders can be opened, the Harekaze’s crew put on a festival with the hope of raising more awareness to the cause with help from Moeka and Wilhelmina’s fellow classmates. Despite a slow start, the festival sees a large number of attendees who sign onto the petition. Their event is successful, with their petition gathering a large number of signatures, and on the morning the students are permitted to open their orders, the Harekaze’s crew learn that they are to remain together under Akeno’s command, operating the Okikaze, a new vessel outfitted with operational gear from the Harekaze. Principal Munetani remarks to Akeno that the vessel can be re-designated the Harekaze, and with their new home in order, Akeno sets sail on their next adventure together with her classmates. Thus, the second of the Hai-Furi OVAs comes to a close, wrapping up in a manner that was quite welcomed even if it was foreseeable.

In spite of the melancholy ending of its precursor, the second of the Hai-Furi OVAs manages to maintain a very cheerful atmosphere. Kouko’s fears from the previous OVA turned out to have been from confirmation bias, and my speculation turned out quite close to the actual events — I had suggested that teamwork could make up a large portion of the second OVA and would result in the crew working towards bringing back the Harekaze by repairing the original vessel. Although not true in its entirety (the original Harekaze is destined to be scrapped), the Harekaze is reborn and brought back in a manner of speaking. The events of the OVA continue to build on the thematic aspects seen in the TV series, and serve a twofold purpose. The strength of the bonds amongst the Harekaze’s crew allow them to now function quite cohesively, and their faith in Akeno as a captain only serves to augment their capability. Far from being the ship that was home to the misfits, the Harekaze’s students have proven time and time again that they can pull through together to get the job done. This is not diminished even with the revelation that the Harekaze’s crew would not be disbanded: the implications were that, petition or not, their exemplary actions are worthy of praise and noticed by their command. There was never any threat or risk that they would be disbanded; how the girls responded to circulating rumours merely serves to reiterate the points raised in Hai-Furi‘s original run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve been noticing a great deal of inbound searches for the second Hai-Furi OVA, so as stipulated, here I am writing the discussion for the second Hai-Furi OVA. Like the previous Hai-Furi OVA post, I will feature thirty screenshots fresh from the OVA, which released on BD on May 24. Despite Kouko’s entering the OVA with a subdued mood, it appears that a combination of a night’s sleep and a conversation with Mashiro, who promises to inform Akeno, lightens her up sufficiently so that she’s back up to her usual self.

  • Still inundated with paperwork, Akeno is given an update, and Mashiro reluctantly decides to help her finish. Armed with fresh resolve, she begins filling out the smaller forms at a faster pace. It’s been a shade under a week since I flew back home from Hong Kong now, and while time has resumed moving at breakneck pace since I returned to work, I was quite happy to take the vacation that I did; time flowed a little more slowly, allowing me to really enjoy the moment and take in the sights and sounds of a world away from home.

  • With a few days left until their sealed orders can be opened, Kouko shares a bold plan with Megumi and Tsugumi, intending to create a petition to convey the feelings that she and her classmates have regarding the Harekaze. Kouko references Tōgō’s actions from the Battle of Tsushima, where he ordered his fleet into a U-turn to take the same course as the Russian vessels they were engaging, at the same time preventing the Russians from launching broadside volleys. While the Japanese fleet sustained hits from the Russian ships, the Japanese gunners returned fire, hammering the Russian ships and managed to sink the Oslyabya, a Russian vessel.

  • At Tsushima, the Russians lost all of the battleships and suffered a loss that was quite shocking to the rest of the world. Kouko is referring to this battle here, to continue with a difficult course owing to the long-term outcome, and sets in motion the idea of a petition to save the Harekaze. The Battle of Tsushima was the turning point in the Russo-Japanese war and reaffirmed to the British that large caliber weapons would be instrumental to naval combat. This way of thinking precipitated the creation of larger battleships, and the belief in the battleship’s might endured until the Second World War.

  • I note that searching for the “Tougou Turn” as it appears is not too instructive: it turns up some music videos. Conversely, using “Tōgō” in place of “Tougou” brings up the Battle of Tsushima, which is more relevant to the discussion at hand. The gunnery team is initially open to the idea of a transfer to a different ship, relishing the idea of firing more powerful weapons, but their friendship with one another draw them back, coupled with the prospect of giving up having Akeno as a captain, lead them to reconsider. They sign Kouko’s petition.

  • A visit to the engineers results in additional signatures being added to Kouko’s petition. I’ve seen several forms of spelling for the character names around the ‘net – each character has a nickname, as well, and most venues for anime discussion prefer the nicknames because they are faster to type. Kouko is thus referred to as Coco. Having said this, I prefer referring to the characters by their given name: this did lead to some challenges earlier on, where I was mixing up Shima and Tama to be different people.

  • Elsewhere, Shima and Mei continue on with their own game. While Mei has consistently schooled Shima during the previous OVA and appears to be dominating the game here, Shima manages to turn the tables on her in a hilarious moment. I’m not sure if this was a budgetary constraint or a stylistic choice, but some of the backgrounds in the Hai-Furi OVAs appear to be done in the style of a watercolour painting. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this, it does appear a little out of place compared with the other backgrounds, which are more consistent in style.

  • While signing a petition certainly won’t alter one’s physical appearance or likely improve their grades, Kouko manages to inspire the Navigation team to sign the petition. They had been the most visibly shaken by the news in the previous episode: it took all of Kouko’s willpower to assuage their fears without bursting into tears herself, but here, the total of Kouko’s dialogue, music and lighting seem to be insinuating to audiences that their so-called dissolution might not be what it appears, and for a supposedly-serious situation, the Hai-Furi OVA’s second half is surprisingly laid-back in emotional tenour.

  • High spirits in spite of what appears to be sobering news dominates the second Hai-Furi OVA’s first half. In the time since the first half aired, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Hai-Furi official Twitter, where build-up to the OVAs have been presented every so often. Since the OVA aired, their channel has gone quiet, and I remark that discussions surrounding both OVAs have been surprisingly minimal, with only one claim that stands out: that the first OVA was “…probably weaker than any other episode of the main series”. Such remarks can only come from a mindset that OVAs are generally frivolous, and such a belief is incorrect especially for things like Girls und Panzer and Hai-Furi.

  • The rationale for my position, that OVAs can be enjoyable and offer insights into characters, is that OVAs that are light-hearted relative to their TV counterparts provide opportunity to explore another side of the characters to more fully flesh them out. Seeing characters out of their duties and observing their interactions in a more relaxed environment, if done properly (which Hai-Furi has) can also serve to reinforce thematic elements in a show. It is for this reason that I am so fond of OVAs, and here, the navigation team continue on their photoshoot with Machiko as their subject, although their ploy to draw the crowd’s interest is unsuccessful, prompting Kouko to move on.

  • Encountering Kaede near the harbour again, Kouko learns that Kaede was contemplating leaving briefly to attend an Opera Ball, a social event where debutantes present their eligibility for marriage. She has no plans to leave long-term, at least, not until her education is complete at age eighteen, meaning that Kouko’s assumptions in the previous episode are false. With more indicators that her concerns might not come to fruition, the overall tone in the OVA shifts subtly as Kouko continues on her quest.

  • Aspects of Kaede and her aristocratic background, represents a fine example of where an OVA is able to present aspects of characters the TV series itself is not able to. Similarly, we’ve seen very little of Tsugumi and Megumi in the series proper, so giving them a bit more screentime in the OVA allows audiences to appreciate that the Harekaze’s crew are a unique, diverse group. This is why it is not always appropriate to hastily dismiss OVAs, being the rationale for why I myself enjoy anime OVAs to the extent that I do. It is also here that I remark that Megumi looks a bit like Da Capo Second Season‘s Aisia, a magician-in-training whose resolute belief in magic being used for the good of all precipitates the events of Da Capo Second Season‘s later segments.

  • I finished watching Da Capo and Da Capo Second Season a year ago. While quite unremarkable with respect to story and concept in its anime incarnation, Da Capo and its second season did manage to nail the unusual atmosphere surrounding Hatsunejima. Similarly, I rather liked Nemu Asakura and Kotori Shirakawa. My interest in Da Capo came from me coming across a collection of CooRie songs a friend had sent me years ago, and I decided to see the anime that made use of Akatsuki ni Saku Uta as its ending song. I don’t see enough positives in Da Capo or its second season to recommend, hence the lack of a review. Back in Hai-Furi, Kouko encounter Minami, obtains her signature for their petition and learns that she enjoys the hover-board because it mimics the rise and fall of the sea.

  • The Harekaze’s crew put on a grandoise festival in order to raise awareness for their cause, and despite the amount of effort they’ve put in (even recruiting Moeka and Wilhelmina to assist), the day is off to a slow start with low attendee numbers. Disappointment reigns supreme, but things quickly turn around when Akeno shows up – the profound change in morale amongst the students is nothing short of remarkable.

  • Stepping into the open-air stage, Akeno and Moeka perform a live song that turns things around: although her role in the OVAs has been primarily restricted to dealing with paperwork while Kouko’s been out and about, she now carries with her the same presence as Miho of Girls und Panzer, as well as the great heroes from Lord of the Rings: when folks like Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli stepped onto the battlefield, characters and audiences alike knew that the situation would be well in hand as extraordinary folk went to work. The similarities between Miho and Akeno are noticeable: both are capable leaders who believe in leading by example, each motivated by an event in their past, and over time, earn the respect of their classmates with their actions.

  • Following the live concert performance, attendance at the festival skyrockets, and the Harekaze curry being sold is depleted. Other students step up to the plate and bring in supplies to make festival foods such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki, and all sorts of things, like, such as that. During my last day in Japan, at the Kansai International Airport, I had Botejyu’s seafood okonomiyaki – an authentic taste of Tamayura, it was absolutely delicious, featuring succulent prawns and cuttlefish in a flavourful batter, topped with a hearty sauce. I subsequently explored the airport’s shopping outlets and purchased the Kimi no na wa movie guide while waiting for baggage check-in to open.

  • It’s been a week since my final day in Hong Kong, which I spent shopping at Taikoo Shing Cityplaza. I came across Ian Lambot and Greg Girard “City of Darkness”, running for about 110 CAD. Tempted though I was to buy it, the book was very bulky and would have presented considerable challenges to bring in my carry-on. We stopped for lunch at a Pizza Hut at Cityplaza, ordering a Seafood pizza (scallops, prawns and pineapple toppings with a sausage-cheese crust), before continuing to explore Hong Kong University and Central. The evening was rounded out with a family dinner. At present day, a week after returning to routine, I enjoyed another family dinner at the T. Pot China Bistro much closer to home: the Cantonese cuisine back home is of the same standard of that in Hong Kong, being of an excellent quality. Elements inspired by Vietnamese, Thai and Canadian elements make their way into dishes here: our dinner tonight encompassed wonton soup, sweet and sour pork, roast crispy chicken, yi mein and shrimps in a savory sauce.

  • Back in Hai-Furi, Hiromi, Kouko and Maron admire a fireworks display rounding off their festival; despite a sluggish opening, combined efforts from everyone make the event an unqualified success. Numerous signatures are gathered as attendees visit to enjoy Akeno and Moeka’s singing, the curry and other festival foods. The effort the Harekaze’s crew places into the festival move the attendees, prompting them to sign Kouko’s petition, allowing them to accrue a large number of signatures.

  • Later that evening, Akeno, Mashiro and Kouko carry the signatures to their superior officers, resolute on illustrating that they do not wish to go separate ways with a crew that has accomplished so much during a crisis. The course of this meeting is not shown, although it is not unreasonable to suppose that their higher-ups will simply commend them on their resolve, tell them to leave the petition with them and that a decision will be reached in the morning, when everyone is finally cleared to open their sealed envelopes.

  • The skies are pleasant on this June day when everyone assembles. The atmosphere is tense as the Harekaze’s crew await the instructions allowing them to open their documents. While certainly not something I would recommend or personally do, there is a way to open adhesive-sealed envelopes in a reasonably difficult-to-trace manner. The process is quite simple and was used in Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector: place the envelope in a freezer for around an hour, and carefully cut at the interface where the sealant is with a sharp knife. Cooling makes the sealant brittle, allowing it to be cut without tearing the paper. Once the document is inspected, re-sealing the envelope is as simple as letting the envelope thaw.

  • When the order is issued, each of the Harekaze’s crew apprehensively open their letters, learning they are to be transferred to a new vessel. Seemingly confirming Kouko’s fears, it turns out that she, and everyone else present, is to be moving to the vessel Y-469. These are transfer orders as Wilhelmina had predicted, but far from what Kouko was expecting – everyone is moving together into a new vessel after the Harekaze was found to have sustained excessive damage, and as such, will be sticking together as a class. Principal Munetani and other members in command have found the Harekaze’s actions to be commendable, and impressed with their abilities as a team, permits them to stick together.

  • Kouko’s relief and happiness is written all over her expression here; it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Because the sealed envelopes had been printed and issued well before Kouko was aware of their existence, it would appear that the Harekaze’s crew were never in any risk of being separated from one another. A secondary theme in the Hai-Furi OVAs, then, is that there are occasions when fear of bad news drives individuals to worry needlessly, and that it might have been to simply wait for the news before making any decisions. With this being said, had Kouko acted as common sense might dictate, there would have been no Hai-Furi OVA to enjoy.

  • Designated Okikaze (literally “Flourishing Wind”), Akeno climbs into the bridge of the vessel Y-469 and finds Garfield Isoroku sitting on the instruments. She realises that all of the equipment is familiar, right down to the binoculars, compass, wheel and fire control systems: the other bridge crew marvel at this seeming miracle, as well, feeling as though they are reuniting with an old friend after a long separation.

  • Elsewhere on board the Y-469, the different crews make similar discoveries in that much of the Harekaze’s equipment seems to have been transferred wholesale onto the new vessel. From the engine room to navigation and everywhere in between, familiar traces of home are found. What the girls are feeling is probably best approximated with the real-world analogue of restoring a new iPad or iPhone to a backup after an accident that totals one’s older device. Thanks to iCloud backups, users can rapidly restore data and settings to new devices should they lose an older device, and in this day and age, our data’s value grows to be much more valuable than the physical device itself.

  • Mikan Irako, the Harekaze’s head cook, hugs her beloved rice cooker upon learning that it has been restored and placed in the Y-469’s galley. The rice cooker was one of the first items to be listed in the damage report, being dented during the skirmish in the first episode, and became the subject of no small discussion. I remarked that the rice cooker should still work, since its walls did not appear to be compromised, but discussions elsewhere were much lengthier. To see this reaction from Mikan is a reminder that Hai-Furi does pay attention to the details in its characters, and I smiled at this moment.

  • Outside, the weapons team admires their vessel’s 15 cm SK C/28, an upgrade from the 12.7 cm/50 Type 3 naval gun the Harekaze originally ran with. This weapon was originally fit to Fubuki-class destroyers, and on the note of Fubuki and destroyers, I’ve heard unverified rumours that KanColle: The Movie will see a home release on August 30. I felt that the anime, for all of its impressive visual effects and masterpiece of a soundtrack, did not compel me to try Kantai Collection or move me with its story. Having said that, I am still interested to see what the movie is like, and I might drop by to review this movie as time permits.

  • Back on the bridge, Principal Munetani explains that Y-469, Orikaze, was a new vessel laid down and intended to be an addition to the fleet, but in light of circumstances, they took the unfinished vessel and fitted its interior with equipment from the Harekaze. This course of action suggests that the original Harekaze’s internal structures must have sustained extensive damage beyond repair even if the hull appeared to have been damaged minimally. She allows Akeno to re-christian the Y-469 as the Harekaze, and if there is to be a continuation of Hai-Furi, I will refer to Y-469 as Harekaze II on account of all of the trials the original Harekaze went through.

  • In a cruel bit of irony, Moeka is taken aside for reprimand, having been involved with a matter she was unauthorised to deal with. One would imagine that the repercussions are not too severe in nature: its military setting and unexpected narrative direction notwithstanding, Hai-Furi is, at its best, a tale of human team spirit and cooperation. Something more severe would not be consistent with the message that Hai-Furi has aimed to send since its plot began to materialise in Hai-Furi‘s televised run.

  • In life, folks win some, and they lose some; today, Akeno and her friends win some, big time. Here, the bridge crew prepare to take the Harekaze II on a test run. This is the end of the two Hai-Furi OVAs, and my final verdict is that I enjoyed them, as they add a bit more to the characters that were not frequently seen during Hai-Furi itself. The OVAs are definitely worth watching for that reason, and a new Harekaze opens the possibility for new adventures. It seemed a shame to waste a finely-crafted world, and if Hai-Furi goes down the same route as Brave Witches, a continuation could prove worthwhile to watch.

  • In news quite unrelated to Hai-Furi, it turns out that my preorder for Your Name‘s novel incarnation, which was set for release on May 23, arrived on May 16, a full week before the release date. It speaks to Canada Post’s efficiency and just how on their game that Chapters-Indigo is for deliveries. As we move into the final few days of May, the biggest posts on the horizon will deal with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I finished the game today, and will be looking to write a final impressions post on it, plus some reflections on Modern Warfare Remastered in the new future. As for anime-related posts, the largest planned post is a revisitation of Garden of Words: it will have been four years since I watched it, and I do wish to look at this film again before diving into a full-scale discussion of Your Name come July.

The second of two OVAs is now in the books, and was an enjoyable addition to Hai-Furi. I have remarked that the outcomes are predictable; there was never any doubt that Kouko and her classmates would be separated, especially with their previous role in saving the Musashi in mind. However, I place less emphasis on the outcome and more on the journey taken, so seeing the events of this second Hai-Furi OVA unfold and progress was most entertaining. More so than the first OVA, this OVA portrays the commitment and unity shared universally amongst the Harekaze’s crew. To see them take the initiative and, within legal bounds, do what they can to save their vessel was admirable. To see the entire crew unify and undergo a dramatic improvement in morale when Akeno appears was moving — this is the mark of a good leader, to be able to single-handedly lift spirits simply by making an appearance. Viewers are given an opportunity to see Akeno sing when she performs a song for her classmates and the festival’s attendees with Moeka. With all of these elements in mind, one must wonder about what a continuation could entail; a Tweet from the official Hai-Furi Twitter account strongly hints at a future project, stating that “Planning and policies for various projects are under way. Please look forward to it”. While we’ve heard little since then, having Hai-Furi go through a more involved narrative, possibly featuring a plot to destroy the Blue Mermaids, and the Harekaze’s involvement in thwarting this scheme, could definitely be something that I would be interested to watch.

My First Time on a Company Vacation: New Game! OVA Review and Reflection

“讀萬卷書不如行萬里路” —Chinese Proverb

Despite her initial fears about skiing during a company vacation, Aoba discovers that she enjoys skiing and overcomes her fear in the process. Meanwhile, Kō becomes sick and Rin looks after her. After a speedy recovery, Kō takes to drinking and goads Umiko into a drinking contest while Aoba and Hifumi relax in the onsen. The OVA for New Game! comes as a bonus for individuals who had bought each of the six home release volumes and submitted their proof-of-purchase stubs: despite early materials strongly suggesting that this would be a hot springs episode, the actual OVA turns out to be set at a ski resort, being a faithful adaptation of the manga’s story. Despite being a bonus episode set in the aftermath of Eagle Jump’s successful release, the simple tale of how Aoba manages to find enjoyment in something that she initially is initially apprehensive about serves as the episode’s message, acting as an analogue to her experiences with taking on a new job. Though doubtful, Aoba manages to find enjoyment in a new activity because of her interactions with her co-workers, as well as with her own resolve to make the most of things. Although simplistic, it’s a fitting element for the New Game! OVA that subtly mirrors the thematic elements seen in the anime proper. Fun, relaxing and fitting for New Game!, the OVA is something for all viewers who enjoyed New Game!, although folks should not be missing out on too much should they pass over the OVA.

The contents of the New Game! OVA bring to mind my own recent experiences. Having just returned from a two-week long vacation to Japan and Hong Kong, of which a week was spent in Japan, the time is also fresh to look back on my first-ever setting foot upon the Land of the Rising Sun; I do not quite feel up to the task of writing about this fantastic vacation just yet, primarily because so much was seen, done and eaten over the past two weeks. However, I will recount the second evening in Japan, during which the itinerary saw me visit the Hotel Heritage in Kumagaya. Set just a short ways outside of Tokyo, it’s located in a quiet area with beautiful scenery, although upon arrival, darkness had already settled over the land, hiding the landscape. After checking in, we sat down to an exquisitely prepared Japanese dinner: a personal-sized nabe with rich cuts of beef, katsu with shredded cabbage, sashimi and bento, along with snow crab. This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and upon its conclusion, I soaked in the onsen. Despite living only an hour from the Banff Upper Hot Springs, I’ve never actually gone to a hot springs before, so this was a wonderful experience. I found the onsen empty upon arrival and had the bath to myself; after cleaning up, I stepped into the bath and marveled at the water’s warmth. After ten minutes, however, I began feeling light headed and exited to cool off. All in all, this was superlative, and I left with a sense of relaxation. These elements are seen in numerous anime, ranging from The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan and Urara Meirocho to K-On! and Yūki Yūna is a Hero: to have experienced the same first-hand is quite unlike merely watching from behind a screen, and it continues to impress me the extent that anime in the slice-of-life genre capture elements in Japan.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’m back, baby! It’s been a shade over twenty days since my last post, and while it may have appeared that I unceremoniously stopped writing for my blog, the truth is that I was on vacation. Superbly enjoyable, I saw, hiked and ate my way through the trip in all of its glory. I mentioned earlier that I would be writing about the second Hai-Furi OVA, but the contents of the New Game! OVA were more closely aligned with my vacation experiences, so I figured that I would do a post that was one part anime discussion and one part a short discussion on my vacation.

  • The page quote, a Chinese proverb, translates directly to “it is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books”, and my experiences in Japan definitely confirm this: it was something to watch in anime the sorts of things Japanese people do for recreation, but quite another to have actually experienced it for myself. As is the custom, this talk will feature twenty screenshots, although like the Non Non Biyori OVAs, the images are captured from a DV PAL source and so, are of a lower resolution than my usual posts. When fit into a 640 by 360 form, the fuzziness is minimised and the image quality becomes acceptable for a blog post.

  • The start of the New Game! OVA sees a raging snowstorm that blankets the land in white. I’ve seen more than my share of snow during the past winter, which had been a bitterly cold one, and in a bit of irony, a powerful low pressure system swept into Alberta today, bringing with it powerful wind gusts reaching 100 km/h and copious amounts of rain. It even snowed while I was at work. In Hong Kong, a Black Rain Advisory was issued earlier today, and news reports of waist-deep flooding in places like Shau Kei Wan have arisen.

  • Aoba savours the moment as she prepares to tuck in to breakfast. One of the things that I enjoy most about travelling and staying in larger hotels is the fact that breakfasts are quite large, featuring all manners of baked goods such as bread, croissants, muffins and pancakes, as well as eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, vegetables, fruits, cereal and yogurts. In general, having a good breakfast is essential for keeping energy up for the day, and this goes double for travelling, which can be quite exhausting on account of all the listed activities: I typically have continental breakfasts or something quick at home, since I need to roll off for work on short order.

  • However, when I travel, there is invariably the opportunity to eat what is known as an American-style breakfast: the combination of simple and complex sugars, plus proteins means being able to maintain reasonable energy throughout the day. Diverse selections available at breakfast buffets means that I will also pick fruits, as travelling means reduced availability of fresh fruits. Here at breakfast, Aoba remarks that she’s more inclined to relax at the hotel rather than go skiing with the others. Midway through breakfast, Aoba notices that Kō’s not touched her food, and it turns out she’s developed a minor fever.

  • Rin looks after Kō to ensure that the latter makes a speedy recovery, and here I am, in the aftermath of my vacation, rocking a sore throat and cough. My health remained solid through the trip, but on the flight back home across the Pacific, I noticed that I was feeling a bit drier than usual, and drinking water did little to alleviate the sand in my throat. A bit of sleep the day after proved helpful, although I’m still coughing at the time of writing. Having said that, my headache has vanished, and the jet lag seems to be abating. Being sick while on vacation is unpleasant, but Kō’s choice to rest will allow her to recover.

  • While preparing for their ski run, the art team runs into Umiko, who is outfitted in winter gear and enjoying some time practising survival game drills in the snow. Between the choice of joining Umiko or skiing, Aoba decides to bite the bullet and remain with her colleagues. I’ve only ever gone skiing once: back during January 2012, I visited the mountains with friends from the Health Sciences program. My friends plainly overestimated my ability, and after a single hour of basic training, they decided to take me out to the “beginner” hills.

  • While I managed to hold out and make it for most of the track, there was a steeper hill that I was quite unprepared to deal with. Poor technique and inexperience saw me fly down the hill; I eventually hit a bump, did a front flip and landed back-first in the snow, winded, stopping just meters from some trees. In New Game!, Aoba’s colleagues seem a little more understanding and give her a bit more time in basic training.

  • Owing to the hazards associated with flying down a slippery, snow-covered slope on two thin pieces of wood, folks tend to wear helmets when they ski where I come from, so it does come across as a bit strange that the characters of New Game! are seen without helmets whilst skiing (especially Aoba, who’s about as much of a novice at the trip’s beginning as I am now). I am content to overlook this, since in fiction, characters are not subject to the laws of physics quite as vigorously as people would in reality 😛

  • Aoba crafts a number of miniature snowmen throughout the course of the OVA, giving them numeric designations, subjecting them to “tortures” by bringing them into the warmth and sending one to Kō to wish her a speedy recovery. She’s also heard making some snow-related puns during the episode, something that Hifumi notices but fails to give comment on. This playful side of Aoba’s personality, though not commonly seen during New Game! proper, is not unexpected, given that she is still quite young.

  • Aoba’s friend, Nene, reacts to a message from Aoba while studying on campus. Closer inspection of this image shows a large number of sticky notes in Nene’s textbooks and notes — it’s a common technique to allow one quicker access to important materials, but during my time as a student, I preferred creating notes anew for finals. This was motivated by the fact that I would be forced to revisit all the materials again to distill out core concepts to build a summary, allowing me to better recall things. As it turns out, after two days, Aoba’s become rather more familiar with skiing and is able to traverse the basic slopes without much difficulty, keeping up with the others.

  • As the evening sun sets in, Aoba’s perspective on skiing has done a full one-eighty. An open mind and willingness to learn has allowed her to become sufficiently skilled in skiing to enjoy it, and it is this that forms the basis for the OVA’s theme. Typically, OVAs do not offer much in the way of an overarching idea owing to their short length, but in supplementing the events of an anime proper, they can offer additional insights into the characters’ beliefs and values. Sometimes, these insights can be quite surprising, which is why I enjoy looking at OVAs and seeing what new perspectives they can provide viewers with about characters in a given show.

  • Yun, Hajime and Aoba relax in the outdoor bath with Kō and Rin. At the Hotel Heritage, there were indoor and outdoor baths, although the outdoor bath was for mixed use and required purchase of a special swimsuit. That evening was modestly warm, certainly more comfortable than the sub-zero conditions of New Game!, but despite being of the True North Strong and correspondingly accustomed to cold, I could not bring myself to go outside out of fear that I would catch the chills. The indoor bath, on the other hand, allows for folks to bathe without any sort of bating attire.

  • I stepped into the indoor bath only after thoroughly cleaning myself; the day had, after all, included a lightning tour of Tokyo, and we’d been rained on at some points. The bath was surprisingly quiet, and save for two other fellows, I had the place to myself. Back home, I’m quite bashful about walking around without clothes despite being modestly fit (a reminder of social norms in North America), but at the onsen, those reservations disappeared pretty quickly. Any more information and this post will become R-rated, so I will leave readers with an aesthetically pleasing view of Hifumi resting in the onsen.

  • Having recovered from her cold, Kō is back in business and challenges Umiko to a drinking contest even as they order different dishes at the hotel restaurant, including sea urchin and sashimi, which Kō enjoys tremendously. While a Japanese delicacy, and a part of dinner during my stay at Hotel Heritage, I was still in the early stage of my vacation and had no intention of taking the risk, however minor, of contracting food-borne illnesses — being the wet blanket that I am, I dipped the sashimi into the nabe pot and soon had myself some cooked fish that tasted delicious, on top of giving the broth a bit of extra kick.

  • If there were to be a single image in this entire post that captures how I felt while immersed in the soothing warmth of the onsen, Aoba’s expression here would be it. The indoor bath at Hotel Heritage, compared to New Game! and most anime, differ greatly; the particle density is lower (i.e. less steam) and water details are much greater (the water is clear, having no obscuring properties). Having Frostbite or CryEngine-level visual effects in anime dealing with hot springs is typically reserved for BD releases, and with this in mind, while New Game! is certainly playing it safe in its OVA, I would not have minded seeing this OVA (and Hifumi) on ultra settings. 

  • Whil Aoba plays with a snowman and simulates killing it, Hifumi partakes in some sake. I speak strictly for myself when I say that I would not have done this; I’m already pretty bad with alcohol, and after some ten minutes of sitting in the onsen, I was beginning to feel a little light-headed. Sake would have almost certainly kicked my ass, although Hifumi is plainly enjoying hers. Closer inspection of this image finds that Aoba’s snowman has become a pile of mush from prolonged exposure to the warmth, a clever touch; I now understand why folks are depicted drinking a glass of milk after leaving the onsen. Feeling thoroughly content but a little dizzy after my soak, I took a bottle of cold water after returning to my hotel room.

  • In this post, I have taken advantage of the events of the New Game! OVA to recount one of my experiences while on my trip to Japan. Naturally, there were numerous others, and this will be the subject of a future post (most likely, soon, before I forget everything) — it was a thrilling journey, and I wish to do it justice. Here, as we near the end of the post, I remark that discussion on the New Game! OVA has been surprisingly minimal: even Tango-Victor-Tango’s self-appointed 3D modelling and computer hardware expert seems to have little to say about the OVA. Having said that, I am certain that things will change, and discussions will grow more lively, in the very near future.

  • Umiko recovers from her drunkenness rather abruptly, all the while insisting that she’s fine, after having one drink too many following Kō’s challenge to up the ante and take on something more potent. Contrary to what might be imagined, I never feel left out when I am at a social gathering and choose a soft drink over something like a beer: for one, the taste is better, and with ever-conflicting research about whether or not alcohol has health benefits or increases the risk of cancer, I think that trading in my ale for a ginger ale isn’t all that bad.

  • The New Game! OVA is in the books, and this means I’m fully back, both to work and to routine. For the folks who were hoping for my demise, I must apologise, today is not it: coming on the horizon will be a talk on the second Hai-Furi OVA, which released today, and before May draws to a close, I will be aiming to wrap up Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Koe no Katachi is also out now, and I will be watching that as I make the time to. It feels great to return, and for folks who are wondering what else my vacation entailed, I will (probably) write about it in due course.

With the OVA finished, there is a second season of New Game! in the works, set for release in the summer 2017 anime season. Continuing on with where the first season left off, four new characters will be introduced. I enjoyed New Game!‘s first season for being able to capture the eccentricities of a game company’s artistic team; the anime exceeded expectations in being able to strike a balance between humour and character growth, as well as for integrating minor details to enhance the authenticity surrounding the 3D modelling and asset creation process. While I was less pleased with some aspects of the community for taking the anime a bit more seriously than warranted (driving discussions down a drier path, debating minutiae about whether or not Eagle Jump was using Dell computers, for instance), on the whole, New Game! itself was solid, and it is a most pleasant surprise to learn that a second season would be coming out so soon. For me, the anime does not need to be realistic to succeed, and so, looking ahead to the second season, I enter with an open mind and the expectation of more humour as the four new characters interact with the existing team.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭: Review and Reflection After Three

“Interesting fun fact: Moynihan and Piece of Toast hate each other. Apparently they’ve got some real creative differences.” —Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Following their sojourn to the hotel, Tomoya and the others resume their development cycle, to typical results: Utaha and Eriri find themselves at odds again. It is revealed that their enmity with one another stems from a combination of their feelings for Tomoya, as well as their own creative differences and raison d’être for creating. In spite of these differences, both begrudgingly hold respect for one another, and back in the present day, both reluctantly agree to sign autographs for both Tomoya and Megumi. Later, Utaha asks Tomoya to spend a day with her, before presenting an alternative ending to their game. Deeply moved by the alternative ending, Tomoya finds himself at an impasse. He later meets up with Iori and Izumi; Izumi reveals that she’s throwing her weight behind Rouge en rogue with the aim of competing mano-a-mano with Eriri. Later, Tomoya tackles the problem of choosing an ending for the game, enlisting Michiru’s band-mates to help out with the grunt work of developing the software. When he looks through the finished result, he realises that the endings will not work for the game and requests a re-write, conveniently avoiding to implicitly choose between Megumi or Utaha. This is what Saekano ♭ has presented thus far after three episodes, being a combination of both amusing to watch for the back-and-forth between the characters, especially Megumi, who’s a bit more colourful than might initially be apparent. With this in mind, however, Saekano ♭ also conveys the sense that the narrative is going to take itself more seriously than in the first season: the biggest draw about Saekano was that it remained light hearted, with Tomoya’s over-the-top antics driving the humour in some areas to remind audiences that their journey is intended to be a fun one.

With the increasing threat presented by Rougu en rogue and Tomoya’s determination to make his game successful ostensibly driving him to decide on an alternative ending, the attendant conflict that may likely arise will put Blessing Software through one of its more difficult challenges yet: on top of denying Utaha a straight answer, it also means additional work that Utaha and Eriri must go through. When everything is said and done, it is quite surprising that Tomoya has maintained an attrition rate of zero with his development team. Having said this, shifting requirements and schedules are par the course in reality, and it is up to the individual to deal with these challenges as they are encountered. That Utaha, Eriri, Michiru and Megumi have stuck it out for this long despite their own differences suggests that everyone has a stake in this project, and their dedication to both their own values, plus a respect (or even unspoken feelings) for Tomoya contribute to their staying. Moving forward, the question that remains is how the internal dynamics in Blessing Software will continue to impact their development cycle and Tomoya’s goals. In addition, the biggest questions on most viewers’ minds is who Tomoya ends up with and what happens to the others with this choice: the light novels are on-going, and it will be interesting to see just how far Saekano ♭ goes. All of these points in consideration, it would be preferable if Saekano ♭ were to stick to a lighter route — striking a balance between comedy and drama would be a superior fit for Saekano ♭ compared to drama alone.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • What better way to kick off Saekano ♭ than to have Utaha and Eriri tearing at each other’s throats while Tomoya and Megumi look on? That was a rhetorical question, by the way: jokes notwithstanding, we’re now formally past the three episode mark of Saekano ♭, and in this post, I will have the twenty usual screenshots detailing elements that would not otherwise fit with the discussions above. Having said this, I do not agree that there is a deeper philosophy to the characters that is worthy of an exercise: the dynamics between Utaha and Eriri form the basis for the first episode, and despite the appearance of complexity, is ultimately a simple result of yin and yang.

  • Utaha and Eiri’s first meeting is dramatised, taking place in a stairwell by the evening’s light. Surprised that Utaha is Metronome of Love‘s author, Eriri initially cannot believe it that such a loathsome individual could generate something so moving. Later, Utaha decides to drop by Eriri’s personal studio and learns of the latter’s talents in producing artwork. The two definitely respect one another’s skills in an unspoken manner, and it is the fact that both have feelings for Tomoya that lead to their conflict.

  • This conflict manifests in the form of each trying to dismiss the others’ skill as being motivated by the wrong reasons (Utaha feels that Eriri’s artwork is an act of revenge against the world for having separated her and Tomoya’s path, while Eriri finds that Utaha’s writing is purposefully manipulating the audiences and aimed at pleasing Tomoya). These differences form the motivation for the page quote, again, sourced from Rick and Morty. This particular quote comes from the first season, where Rick explains to Morty that in the alternate dimension where their television signal is coming from, the two mentioned figures have a significant creative differences but presumably work together to create the fictionalised work featured in Rick and Morty.

  • The balance between their animosity and respect is what prevents Blessing Software from outright disintegrating; the first episode draws to an end with Tomoya and Megumi requesting autographed works from both Utaha and Eriri. Despite her quiet nature, Megumi has a very sharp tongue and will not hesitate to speak her mind when required, adding an edge to her character that is quite far removed from how she was presented during Saekano‘s first several episodes – one of the elements that is making Saekano ♭ worthwhile is to see different aspects of Megumi’s character.

  • With the game’s full script finished, Utaha asks to spend time with Tomoya in what is a date in all but name. They spend some time at a bookstore on their first stop; I am quite fond of bookstores, doubly so now that the public libraries in my area appear to have diminished with respect to the number of interesting books they have that are worth checking out. On several weekends, I’ve found myself visiting the local bookstores, which have a solid selection of books that I can lose myself in. I’ve long enjoyed reading, and this is only matched by my enjoyment of writing, although unlike Utaha, I’m better suited to writing discussions rather than fiction.

  • Eriri, ever-jealous that Tomoya is spending so much time with Utaha, decides to tail them and pulls Megumi into things. Here, they unwind at a café following a movie that was so moving, it led Eriri to tears. It takes considerable effort to make mine eyes water: Ah! My Goddess The Movie, Chobits and Inside Out are the only titles to have done so. When Marnie Was There did the same, but it counts not because I was on a flight to Cancún last year; apparently, the lessening of psychological stressors, coupled with the realisation that this was my first ever time travelling completely alone, and the stimulus in the form of a movie culminated in my shedding a single tear, followed by several more individual tears, during my flight.

  • Utaha reveals that she’s to attend post-secondary quite far from here, which would invariably lead to the end of Blessing Software as they now lack a writer. Her choice of words and delivery serve to probe Tomoya to see where is genuine feelings lie, being very direct, stand in sharp contrast with how someone disinterested might respond and, were it not apparent previously, makes it clear that she’s interested in Tomoya.

  • If one ever were to require counter-surveillance measures to throw off a persistent tail, they need not fancy field-craft or evasion techniques. All one really needs is Megumi Katō, who’s well aware of Eriri’s intentions and cleverly becomes distracted along the way, throwing them further and further off mission. Here, Megumi manages to convince Eriri to try out clothing at a retailer, and even openly remarks that their actions might be considered those of a stalker if they were to continue. Of the girls in the group, Megumi seems the best suited for dealing with Eriri, and the two have become friends over the course of the first season.

  • Understanding that Tomoya is indecisive and lacks the will to do what is necessary where romance is concerned, as were his counterparts in almost all other anime of Saekano‘s category, Utaha decides to make Tomoya’s decision on his behalf by means of a subtle choice: he can either pick the new ending and implicitly show his desire to be with her, leading her to choose a nearby university for her studies, or he can choose the original ending, showing that he prefers Megumi. In order to make a fresh start, Utaha would then attend a faraway university. The moment is quite clear about how Utaha feels, but Tomoya seems quite unaware of the decision’s implications.

  • No game has ever made me cry before. While seemingly a mark of my own imperturbability, the truth is that my game library largely consists of first person shooters, puzzle games and simulators. It is perhaps the constant exposure to death in fiction that I never felt much in the way of strong emotion when Harry Potter‘s Sirius Black or Dumbledore died, nor did I react substantially to the death of various characters in anime. My tears usually arise as a result of watching characters reach profound understanding as a result of their experiences, so deaths in fiction alone do not elicit much from me.

  • After they enter his house, Megumi and Eriri find Tomoya blubbering in front of his computer. She’s beating him with her twin-tails here out of frustration – it’s an aspect of her personality that can be seen in Saekano‘s first season, and she’s often rendered with some amusing facial expressions whenever flustered.

  • A highly dramatic meeting with Rouge en Rogue’s staff, the siblings Iori and Izumi, leads Tomoya to wonder what kind of competition that Blessing is going up against in the Winter Comiket. From the words exchanged, it seems that Rouge en Rogue is further ahead in development than Tomoya’s crew, and it is here that Izumi’s rivalry with Eriri comes out in full force after the more lighthearted presentation during the season opener. Things blow over in a one-on-one fight that sees Eriri exchange blows with Izumi.

  • Utaha and Megumi share a conversation here, with Utaha all but declaring that Megumi should stand down. Her minimal but reliable presence in Saekano means that Megumi would fulfil the role of a support character who assists and enables the main characters on their activities, but Saekano ♭ presents her as being much more multi-faceted than viewers are initially allowed to see. This chance meeting unearths yet another side to her character.

  • That Megumi is so intently pursuing the script suggests that she’s picked up on Utaha’s feelings for him, as well as her own doubts in what would happen if Utaha actually reached home base. Unsure of whether or not this would be good, Megumi seizes the initiative and suggests to Tomoya that he ought to implement both endings to see which one would move him the most, sufficiently to make it into their final product as an ending. Despite her quiet demenour, Megumi has always shown very subtle signs of accepting Tomoya for who he is beyond his hobbies and interests, valuing the determination and spirit underneath; while she’s stated that she’s not interested in a relationship with him, the things that she likes about him also happen to be the foundations that a meaningful relationship is built upon.

  • I’ve heard that Tomoya simply shifts his mind elsewhere whenever Michiru kicks his ass in suggestive ways, as opposed to being completely ignorant or unaware of the implications. One of the disadvantages for readers who are interested in seeing my views on Saekano ♭ will be that, in each post, there should be at least one image of Michiru doing funny things to Tomoya simply because 1) these moments can be fun to write for and 2) at least some readers are probably wondering what I think of said moments.

  • Tomoya asks Michiru for a favour, bringing her band mates to assist with hastily implementing the new route in the game. Apparently, everyone has some background in computers, although from the subtitled descriptions, no one has (or can be reasonably expected to have) familiarity with scripting languages or the fundamentals of programming. With their reluctant help, the project is under way, with the girls running into difficulties in both the scripting logic and common computer errors such as a non-responsive program. On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy with work, doing as much as I can before I leave for a two-week vacation: this is the big event I’ve alluded to vaguely in earlier posts: I am going to Japan in early May and visiting Hong Kong after. Consequently, I’ve been going pedal to the metal with my iOS development work.

  • Even hardcore programming merits a break of sorts: the break took the form of poutine, motivated by the fact that tomorrow marks the end of Poutine Week. Excitement had built around the office for a second poutine day since Sunday, so we had planned to visit another nearby restaurant participating in Poutine Week. The Kensington Pub was our destination, offering a creation dubbed “KP Yolo Fries”. This poutine featured their house fries are covered with a uniquely-flavoured cheese-gravy of double smoked cheddar and Whistler Black Tusk Ale, with succulent chunks of ham hock on top and a side of horseradish aioli. A hearty lunch, this poutine reminds me distinctly of well-made macaroni and cheese. I enjoyed it thoroughly for the rich flavours and the tang the aioli offers — it was most welcoming to know that the proceeds will be going towards the Mealshare organisation, and with this, my Poutine Week participation doubles from last year. 

  • The coding party also shows that Megumi, for all of her other positive attributes, has a sharp eye and at this point, a reasonable knowledge of the scripting language, enough to debug something that Tomoya’s missed. This is, incidentally, a common way that bugs are detected: a peer or coworker might be able to find the logic errors that we miss. Back in Saekano ♭, it is always pleasant to see Megumi supporting Tomoya in whatever ways possible – she’s a true jack-of-all-trades, being able to help technically, support the others and handle the other characters whenever they fly off the handle.

  • I’ll conclude the coding party with a rather pleasant image of Michiru dozing off. After a full weekend’s efforts, Tomoya and the others succeed in implementing a full version of the ending. He reaches the conclusion that neither ending are appropriate for release, suggesting that by the events of Saekano♭, he’s slowly beginning to understand the perspective of a creator rather than that of a consumer. This shift is a profound one and is something that software developers face: designing, implementing, testing and deploying software is significantly more involved than merely being an end-user who might have suggestions for improving the app.

  • The third episode leaves Utaha’s reaction unknown, meaning it will be in the upcoming week that audiences learn of what will happen as a consequence of Tomoya’s decision. With this final figure caption finished, I also wrap up the Saekano♭ after-three talk. Rounding out April will be a talk on Titanfall 2, and as we enter May, things will probably slow down a little until my vacation is over, and I get back into the flow of things.

The intensity of Saekano ♭ has certainly picked up, and with three episodes in the books, Saekano ♭ has certainly drawn my attention and leads me to wonder where things will go. I’ve received suggestions to check out the light novels for myself, but there is a caveat: when translated into English, the flow of the narrative in the light novels seem choppy, disorganised compared to novels written natively in English. Consequently, I find it much more difficult to read light novels than standard novels, and the Saekano novels look to be a bit of a challenge. This is not to say that light novels are poor, but rather, that their style makes them a little less immersive for me. Hence, when I am watching the anime adaptation of Saekano, I am coming in with limited previous background and knowledge. With this in mind, my expectations are that Saekano ♭ follows through with the situations that Tomoya finds himself facing: either he finds a plausible way to address his problems, or else he must fail in a manner befitting of his experience and personality. It will be interesting to see where exactly Saekano ♭ goes in this season, and if things proceed in a credible fashion, Saekano ♭ could prove to be quite amusing to watch. As a closing remark, I will not be looking through the more technical aspects of making a game, besides noting that visual novels, being text-based branching game with scripted sequences, are nowhere near as complex as even a basic app that uses REST API calls in its implementation. If I can use ResearchKit to build full-functioned, complex branching questionnaires and store that data within a few hours, Tomoya should have been able to finish his assignment independently without any assistance over a weekend.