The Infinite Zenith

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Hello World: An Anime Movie Review and Reflection

“Reality is often disappointing. That is, it was. Now…reality can be whatever I want.” –Thanos, The Avengers: Infinity War

Naomi Katagaki is a high school student with a fondness for books and an indecisive disposition. While returning home from school one day, a crow snatches a book clean from his hands, and he gives chase. The crow brings him to Fushimi Inari-taisha, where he encounters a mysterious man who claims to be from the future. It turns out this man is none other than Naomi from ten years later; the Japanese government had been working on a massive archival project to preserve the past by means of drones and store them into the Alltale, a special machine with unlimited storage capacity. The older Naomi explains that his objective is to alter the recorded past and save one Ruri Ichigyō, Naomi’s classmate. As it turns out, Naomi had fallen in love with her, but before they began their relationship, she was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. Because his current avatar has no physical presence, the older Naomi also gives his younger self a special glove with the power to alter reality and create simple materials at will, tasking Naomi with altering the course of his future. Guided by the older Naomi, Naomi sets in motion the events that lead him to fall in love with Ruri. On the night Ruri was to be hit by lightning, Naomi manages to save her, but his older self whisks Ruri away. His actions cause Alltale’s internal system to react: thousands of guards begin appearing to remove the disturbance and restore stability. Back in the real world, Naomi attempts to revive Ruri, but when the guards show up, he realises that he’s in a nested simulation. Naomi’s younger self appears and saves them; they must return Ruri to her original world. The guards begin aggregating as a massive being intent on destroying Naomi as the Alltale enters an error state, and while Ruri manages to enter a portal that sends her back, Naomi’s older self is grievously injured in the process. He reveals a desire to have seen Ruri smile one last time before dying, and the technicians operating Alltale finally manage to reboot the system. Naomi and Ruri return to a restored version of their world, and in the real world, Naomi awakens: as it turns out, his actions allowed him to save Ruri but also left him in a coma. Ruri end up using the same method to save him, and the two tearfully embrace. This is Hello World, a film with a runtime of a hundred minutes that released in September of last year.

For software developers and programmers alike, “Hello, world!” is the first program that every student writes when picking up a new language. Usage of this program as the most basic example was first recorded in a textbook on the C programming language in 1978, although some textbooks suggest that the first instance of “Hello, world!” being written in a program dates back to BCPL in 1967. The phrase, an integral part of software engineer, computer science and programming, is immediately familiar to those involved with technology, and despite its simplicity, is a gateway into worlds of infinite possibility and complexity. This is what gives Hello World its name, and it is therefore unsurprising that the film places such an emphasis on the possibility, but also limitations, of technology and software. In Hello World, the Alltale is presented as a fantastical piece of technology with an unlimited storage capacity achieved through unknown means, and given this power, the government has decided to embark on an ambitious project to archive Kyoto in its entirety, right down to the memories that people have. Such a tool would be immeasurably valuable for historians and anthropologists, but protagonist Naomi has a much more personal and sentimental use of the Alltale’s capabilities: to retrieve the data representing the memories that his love had and transfer it back into her body, intending on picking up where they’d left off. While a romantic gesture, Naomi also introduces instability into the Alltale system, rendering his mission a fool’s errand. It isn’t so simple to enter even a simulated world to alter it, and the world rejects his actions. Through his experiences, the older Naomi realises that a smile was enough, and ultimately “sacrifices” himself to ensure his younger self’s path to the future. Through Hello World, it is therefore suggested that even with technology as evolved as the Alltale, the past is indelible and immutable: some things just cannot be fixed regardless of how powerful the technology is for it. However, Hello World does not end on such a pessimistic note: in its ending, the film also seems to suggest that while advancing technologies do not offer an immediate solution at a given time, there is also merit in patience. Problems that cannot be addressed with current technology might be trivially solved as said technology evolves and improves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hello World‘s been on my list of things to watch since September last year, and if memory serves, the BDs came out back in April, when things were a little hectic for me. I’ve finally had the chance to watch it now, and right out of the gates, I was blown away by the visuals: the movie is produced by Graphinica, whom I know best for their 2014 film, Expelled from Paradise. Set in Kyoto, Hello World gives Kyoto Animation a run for their money when it comes to the quality of their artwork and their portrayal of Kyoto: stills of the city in Hello World look life-like.

  • Ever fond of books, Naomi is rarely seen without one in hand. This is a rarity, especially in 2027: Hello World suggests that seven years from now, the world is still largely as we know it, although subtle improvements in technology will have inevitably occurred. Even in the present, there are far fewer people reading books, and I especially lament the fact that my local branch library has a weak selection of books. All of the books worth getting are found at the central branch library, and it’s a bit out of the way for me.

  • The first sign that Naomi’s world is not what it seems is when red aurora appear in the skies, and a crow suddenly appears, stealing a book right out of Naomi’s hands and leading him to Fushimi Inari-taisha. The original description for Hello World was a vague “a man travels back in time to relive his time as a high school decision and rectify a past mistake”, but having now seen the whole of the movie, I feel this description to be an inaccurate description of the movie.

  • For one, Naomi is not “time travelling” in a traditional sense, but rather, he’s entered a simulated environment at a very specific time with the goal of guiding his simulated self towards a particular outcome with the intent of altering it. Here at Fushimi Inari-taisha, Naomi finally recovers his book, and comes face-to-face with a mysterious figure. Fushimi Inari-taisha is a famous shrine located in Kyoto, and while I never had the chance to visit during 2017, it is regarded as one of the most famous destinations in Japan to visit.

  • As it turns out, Naomi’s older self cannot interact with the simulated world, and so, he has the younger Naomi acting as his agent of sorts. Initially, the younger Naomi is reluctant to place trust in his older self, counting him a nuisance for interrupting his free time. At this point in Hello World, Naomi is very much an introvert who prefers books to company, and even when his classmates invite him out to an event, he declines. Naomi’s seen reading a book on how to be more decisive; by comparison, his older self is more confident and self-assured.

  • Both Naomi swing by the Kamo River’s Turtle Stepping stones, a local attraction in Kyoto that became quite famous when K-On! portrays Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi here during the first season’s opening sequence. To demonstrate that he really possesses knowledge of the future, Naomi forecasts that his younger self will be struck by a drone here, but this leads to the question of whether or not Naomi’s younger self is struck because the older Naomi brought him here. In the closed loop model of time travel, it is suggested that what happens in the present occurs because of an action in the past that resulted in the outcomes of the future.

  • In this regard, Hello World can offer the same kind of conversation about time travel that works as varied as Iroduku: The World in Colours and The Avengers: Endgame lend themselves to, although Hello World also has one other key component in its story: the older Naomi reveals that his reason for returning is to ostensibly help his younger self get a girlfriend. In exploring a more familiar topic, the movie also is able to present some humourous moments to lighten things up and also present yet another angle on what impact a first love can have.

  • Initially, Naomi finds it difficult to believe that Ruri could be his girlfriend: cold, unsociable and decisive, he feels that getting closer to Ruri could result in him getting hurt physically and believes that another classmate, Misuzu Kadenokōji, would be more along the lines of he’s interested in. Of course, relationships progress in unforeseeable ways, and one of the more enjoyable aspects of Hello World is watching how Naomi does, in time, come to appreciate Ruri.

  • The composition of this moment brings to mind the aesthetic seen in Angel Beats!, where sunsets were often used to frame more introspective or melancholy moments. Naomi’s older self explains that he’d fallen for Ruri and had intended to pursue a relationship with her, but an unfortunate incident meant that Naomi and Ruri would never get around to properly dating. When the older Naomi sees Ruri in the library for the first time, it probably marks the first time he’s seen her in any reality, and his eyes fill with tears at being able to see a sight he’d figured was otherwise not possible.

  • After the younger Naomi understands the terms of what’s being asked of him, he consents to help out: to assist him in being able to interact with the simulated reality, the older Naomi gives the younger Naomi a glove called “God’s Hand”. It manifests as a shape-shifting crow, and the older Naomi sees it as a powerful tool for manipulating the world. Owing to its functions, I prefer calling it the Infinity Gauntlet with only the Reality Stone attached to it.

  • This is what lends itself to the page quote, although unlike Thanos, who primarily uses the Reality Stone to create and dispel illusions, the God Hand can be used to alter data in the world to create new materials from nothing. However, even this has limited applicability initially: Naomi’s first step is to get closer to Ruri, and armed with the older Naomi’s knowledge of what happens with a great precision, all he needs to do is follow the instructions given out in a diary that meticulously chronicles Naomi’s experiences.

  • The diary supposes that Naomi must first drop the book he’s holding, and then retrieve it. In classic anime style, he finds his face in Ruri’s rear, causing her to slap him the moment they disembark. This occurrence is a cliché in anime and has been done to death in virtually every series: the outcomes are inevitable; in Hello World, it occurs to create the first opportunity for conversation, and after Naomi apologises more formally the day after, Ruri reciprocates, feeling her own reaction to be excessive. Thus, with the ice between Ruri and Naomi broken, things begin accelerating.

  • Hello World has a similar feeling to Makoto Shinkai’s movies in that once things pick up, a male pop band begins performing. This is handled by Official Hige Dandism, whose vocals and style bring to mind the likes of Radwimps, who did the music for both Your Name and Weathering with You. The music in Hello World is varied, featuring a range of incidental pieces that range from relaxing to mysterious, capturing emotions surrounding the more tender moments, as well as creating a sense of intrigue surrounding the Alltale system.

  • The reason why the older Naomi pushes Naomi to learn how to wield the power of the Infinity Gauntlet and its Reality Stone is so that when the moment calls for it, he can summon something that will save Ruri. Initially, Naomi is unable to conjure anything simpler than a sphere, but with practise, he is able to begin creating iron and gold. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Reality Stone could be used to create illusions on a universal scale. Malekith had intended to shroud the galaxy in darkness in Thor: Dark World, but when Thanos takes the stone, he is able to wield the stone in a way as to create illusions so realistic, people could interact with them.

  • It turns out that Ruri’s got a bit of vertigo: she feels faint after realising how high up she is while placing books back on the shelves. Naomi ends up breaking her fall, and the two become even closer in the process. Despite being a consequence of meddling from his future self, Naomi and Ruri’s relationship progresses about as naturally as can be expected, and it was interesting to see how chemistry between the two proceed – while it might be the older Naomi guiding things, the execution is up to the younger Naomi.

  • The library interior really shows the level of detail portrayed in Hello World: the shelves are filled with a variety of books, but everything is well-organised. Hello World has an incredible artwork for both interiors and exteriors, although I do not find that the style is similar to Makoto Shinkai’s – Shinkai’s interiors are filled with clutter, and in fact, clean, well-kept interiors are a style more similar with the aesthetics that P.A. Works is known for.

  • Admittedly, I’ve not been following P.A. Works’ latest projects: after Iroduku: The World in Colours, their more recent works have not had the same magic, and I’ve long felt that P.A. Works’ best series are either set in the workplace or have a coming-of-age component to them. Back in Hello World, Naomi and the library team begin preparing an exhibit for their school event. Naomi’s become more confident and decisive, contributing more actively in activities than he had previously.

  • I think Hello World is probably one of the fastest instances where I watched a movie and then proceeded to write about it: I’d finished the movie on Canada Day, a time of year that I traditionally spend out in the nearby National Parks. Last year, I was in the province over, taking a stroll along a lavender field by one of the most well-known lakes of the area. However, with the global health crisis, it felt more prudent to take the day and rest at home. I started the movie in the morning and finished after lunch (crispy noodles with seafood, yin yang fried rice, beef chow fun and Chinese-style fried chicken wings).

  • While the weather had been unexpectedly pleasant, in a move reminiscent of the Canada Day of seven years ago, I ended up spending most of the day gaming. This time around, rather than Vindictus, I began taking on The Division 2‘s Warlords of New York expansion. I will be explaining what led to my decision on that in a future post, when I go through the Episode Three content to The Division 2, and for now, I’ll return the focus to Hello World, where Ruri reveals that her family has a large collection of books.

  • Ruri’s got so many books that the pair end up using a large cart to transport them all, and along the way, they break along the riverside. Here, Ruri reveals that she’s a fan of adventure books, where people overcome seemingly-insurmountable odds to achieve their goals, and Naomi admits he’s a fan of science fiction because it gives him hope, that an everyman can achieve great things in fantastical worlds. I believe it is here where Naomi realises he’s in love with Ruri owing to the timing of the wind and use of lighting.

  • Like Naomi, I read most everything, from science fiction and high fantasy, to techno-thrillers and mysteries. I have a particular interest in techno-thrillers because of how those books utilise technology to build up a story, going into great details about how things work. In these stories, characters are portrayed as being tightly integrated with the techniques and equipment they use, and as such, are bound to whatever constraints that exist. It creates for situations where the characters must be flexible and creative to overcome their adversity, such as how in The Hunt for Red October, Petty Officer Jones devises a new way to track the Red October using software.

  • Besides techno-thrillers, I’m rather fond of science fiction novels. Science fiction is, strictly speaking, a form of speculative fiction that deals specifically with the implications of technology and science on a society and individuals. Seeing authors devise radical new technology to show its impact on people is the main appeal of science fiction, and it’s been interesting to see how science and technology of the real world parallel those of fiction. While some things have proven to be impractical or superceded, others are much more plausible. The use of ubiquitous drones to survey a landscape for preservation and archiving as seen in Hello World is within the realm of possibility, being a scaled-up version of Google Maps and its ability to show a location at different points in time.

  • Thanks to the books, Ruri and Naomi’s classmates are pleased with their day’s work, confident that their event will be a success. However, a stray banner placed too closely to the lamp catches fire and reduces the books to ashes. While no one is hurt, the unexpected turn of events jeopordises the probability of Naomi and Ruri getting closer together. Against the older Naomi’s suggestion, Naomi decides to use the power of the Infinity Gauntlet to reconstruct the books: the contained past knowledge allows him to recreate the books that were lost without having read them.

  • Owing to the powers of the Alltale system, it becomes clear that information about the state of the entire system can be retained. If I had to guess, the Alltale system might have infinite storage capacity, but to be constantly backing up the world would represent a flow of information that the Alltale cannot keep up with. As a result, my speculation would be that Alltale works similarly to version control, in which the state of an object is stored in chunks, and modifications are made to these chunks over time. Since the books existed at some point with a certain state, it then becomes possible for Naomi to reconstruct lost entities in the simulated world by bringing different revisions together. Thanos does something similar with the Mind Stone using the Time Stone in Infinity War, and I’m betting that the Infinity Stones operate on a similar basis.

  • Thanks to Naomi’s efforts, the book fair is a success, and Misuzu pulls Ruri in to help out, as well. While the older Naomi clearly states that Ruri is the love of his life, there are subtle signs that Misuzu herself had also been interested in Naomi: she’s seen spying on Naomi and Ruri in the library with a jealous look on her face at a few points. However, as Ruri and Naomi grow closer, Misuzu appears quite okay with this: she and Ruri have become friends in the time since the movie began, and the fact that Misuzu is able to convince Ruri to don a færietale-like costume speaks volumes to this.

  • Naomi had exerted himself to restore the books end ended up missing most of the day’s events. Ruri explains that the event was successful thanks to him, and under the warm light at day’s end, Naomi makes his kokohaku to Ruri. She returns his feelings and agrees to date him. It’s a touching moment, set under the pink light of an evening. While most evenings are portrayed with red, orange and gold accents, the addition of pinks and violets creates a more nostalgic, wistful sense. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan utilised similar lighting to convey a gentle environment and emphasise that Yuki’s journey to get closer to Kyon was going to be a nostalgic, peaceful experience.

  • When the date that Ruri was supposed to be struck by lightning comes, both the older and younger Naomi make the necessary preparations: originally, Naomi had invited her out to the summer festival, so the first stage is to hold off on the invitation and not give the weather a chance to do its thing. However, the mysterious looking kitsune guards begin appearing in large numbers, intent on ensuring the events of this reality proceed as written in history to ensure the Alltale’s stability.

  • As such, when Naomi intervenes, the system forcibly transports Ruri from her bedroom to the bridge where the lightning strike happens, moments before charges in the air reach a critical point. The impact of large electrical currents on the body are highly detrimental – since the body uses potential differences to control muscle contraction, large currents can cause cardiac and respiratory failure. Victims of lightning strikes also lose consciousness after a strike: this is the fate that Ruri suffered, and Naomi’s older self had sought to change this.

  • In the end, Naomi summons a black hole to absorb the lightning and kitsune guards, changing the archived data in the Alltale. It takes him great effort to do so, standing in contrast with Thanos, who created a black hole without much effort in Infinity War during a fight against Doctor Strange, who ended up dispelling the black hole with a spell and transforms it into butterflies. While the contexts are dramatically different, the stakes are similar, and it was as gripping to watch Naomi use every fibre of his concentration to save Ruri, much as it was thrilling to watch the Avengers and Guardians square off against Thanos on Titan.

  • In the aftermath, Naomi and Ruri prepare to share a kiss. Before they do, the older Naomi extracts Ruri: it turns out his objective had been to use the inference engine in the Alltale to capture Ruri’s feelings at their apex, and then use this data to restore the real Ruri’s memories. Naomi and Ruri are thus separated, and the younger Naomi is left without the Infinity Gauntlet. Because the Alltale had been forcibly altered, the system begins unravelling as instability builds up, and the internal fail-safes go into overdrive attempting to restore everything.

  • As Hello World enters its final act, the distinction between world is lost, and it’s easy to get lost. It is revealed that after losing Ruri to the storm, Naomi joined the Alltale programme as a researcher and began working his way from an undergraduate summer research student to a full member of the team. During this time, Naomi investigated all possible means of entering the Alltale system to accomplish his aims. During this time, Naomi’s experiments placed an increasingly high burden on his body: he is scarred and left with a limp as a result of attempting to link his mind to Alltale.

  • I believe first heard about Hello World late in 2018: the film had caught my eye both for its title and premise. The title is, after all, the first program any learner of a new programming language, and the premise itself had been curious. However, the film itself is quite unrelated to any programming language and the title was probably chosen because of the phrase’s relation to technology. Similarly, while the premise had supposed that Naomi would time travel to rectify a past regret, the film takes a different approach in executing this premise. This is why reading even previews of a film can yield unexpected results.

  • Despite technically not being able to leave his space on account of being a mere record, Naomi’s younger self manages to do so anyways, suggesting that the older Naomi is himself still in a simulation. This brings to mind the Rick and Morty episode M. Night Shaym-Aliens, where aliens have captured Rick and placed him in a simulated reality to learn of his formula for concentrated dark matter. Rick and Morty employed the idea of a nested simulation for comedic purposes, but in Hello World, it creates doubt in the viewer as to what’s real and what isn’t.

  • This forces the viewer to ground themselves to the one constant in Hello World: Naomi’s feelings for Ruri never waver, and this is what gives both Naomi and the viewer focus. As the system loses control, it spawns increasingly deadly mechanisms to combat Naomi: the kitsune guards representing the system eventually mutate into a massive monstrosity hellbent on destroying Ruri and Naomi. A thrilling chase results, and both Naomis realise the importance of getting Ruri back to her original world.

  • The last anime movie that left me with a handful of questions after I finished was probably 2018’s Fireworks, which similarly created ambiguity in what had occurred. Such anime films can be frustrating to watch at first glance, but they also provide enjoyment for those who prefer their films to be driven by spectacle. In the case of Hello World, once the older Naomi sacrifices himself to save the younger Naomi, the irregularity in the system is removed, and a subsequent restart of the Alltale system creates a new world, free of defects, that the simulated Naomi and Ruri can return to.

  • Naomi and Ruri’s high school incarnations are given a new chance to explore their relationship further: as a new day dawns on their world, it’s all optimism and rainbows for the two’s future. However, this is muted by the fact that viewers now know that this Naomi and Ruri are in a simulated reality, and while the younger Naomi’s definitely earned his ending, this seemingly comes at a cost to the older Naomi and Ruri in the real world, leaving audiences feeling as though something’s missing. Fortunately for viewers, the film’s not quite done yet.

  • Viewers are treated to another spectacular view of Kyoto as Hello World draws to a close. A rainbow can be seen in the distance: this hallmark of a storm reaching its end brings to mind the storm that swept through my area during the afternoon earlier today. It’s a quiet, calm evening now, and after sitting down to a dinner of herb-and-spice fried chicken, I spent the remainder of the day in World of Warcraft. Besides Warlords of New York, I’ve also picked up World of Warcraft about a week ago, playing the Starter Edition to relive some old adventures I had on a friend’s private server years back. I’ll be writing about these experiences in the future, and for now, all I’ll say is that playing through World of Warcraft‘s opening missions is surprisingly cathartic: even with the Starter Edition capping me at level 20, there’s actually quite a bit one can do with respect to exploration.

  • While the high school incarnations of Naomi and Ruri have their happy ending, Hello World concludes with Naomi waking up in “the real world” after Ruri transfers a copy of his old memories into his body successfully, to the joy of observing scientists. The Ruri of the present day sports a different hair style and glasses: compared to her high school self, she looks a lot less like Hibike! Euphonium‘s Reina, and projects a much friendlier aura. Doing from this alone, meeting Naomi probably wrought changes in her life, and her smile here is beautiful, speaking volumes about her joy and relief at having Naomi back with her.

  • It turns out that Naomi was successful in restoring Ruri’s memories, and in turn, Ruri was somehow able to bring him back from the brink: presumably, after Naomi sacrifices himself to save his simulated incarnation, he very nearly dies in the real world, but with the Alltale providing a backup of his memories and experiences, Ruri is able to utilise this to save him. The two embrace tearfully, bringing to mind Futurama‘s The Sting. I hope that with this post, I’ve offered some helpful thoughts in Hello World: discussions of the film elsewhere have been very limited; most viewers enjoyed the film but also found the ending a little confusing.

  • Overall, Hello World earns an A- (3.7 of 4.0, or 8.5 of 10) for me: the movie had an interesting premise and relevant themes to the limitations of technology, as well as an endearing love story and some of the most eye-catching art and animation I’ve seen in a non-Makoto Shinkai work. While the explanation of the different realms and how the Alltale works is lacking in some places, and the ending can come across as being confusing for viewers, the positives outweigh the negatives in Hello World. This is a film I can recommend to most viewers, especially those with a fondness for interesting animation and art. With Hello World in the books, I will be turning my attention towards A Whisker Away as the next film I write about. As we’ve now entered July, the summer season has kicked off, as well; once more of the episodes begin airing, I’ll have a clearer picture as to what I’ll be writing about, but I can say to readers that my next post is going to be an interesting one, being a collaboration.

Admittedly, while an engaging and touching film, Hello World also can be somewhat tricky to follow at times once the idea of a nested reality is presented: resulting from the fact that the Alltale has infinite storage, this means that something like the infinite regress problem is possible, and that there would be an infinite number of Naomis and Ruris, all of whom can exist concurrently in their own respective instances of the simulation. Notions of infinity create an ontological quandary, since infinity is, by definition, undefined. The implications of the Alltale in Hello World would doubtlessly create for interesting conversations surrounding the nature and limitations of simulated environments, determinism and free will in said environments and other topics, similarly to how the Matrix drove curious discussions about the nature of existence. Like the Matrix, the complexity of topics is such that there is not just one single theme within Hello World, and consequently, I am rather surprised that discussions of the movie are not more extensive. Beyond its thematic elements, Hello World is also a technical marvel of a movie, featuring very strong artwork and animation. With incredibly detailed renderings of landscapes and interiors alike, fluid character animation and the inclusion of different art styles to hint at the nature of the different environments Naomi goes through, Hello World pushes the envelope for what can be done within an animated medium. Hello World is, in short, a thrill to watch; the film may not be as straightforward as the average anime series, but Hello World has plenty of merit that makes it a worthwhile experience.

Nekopara: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat.” –Tay Hohoff

Kashou Minaduki is a young man who owns and runs La Soleil, a patisserie specialising in western confectioneries. When he first opened the shop, his two Nekos, Chocola and Vanilla, accompanied him in two boxes. Since then, Kashou’s been running La Soleil with their help, along with the other family Nekos, Azuki, Maple, Cinnamon and Coconut. When Chocola finds a stray kitten one day, she decides to take her in after Kashou approves. This is about the sum of Nekopara‘s 2020 anime adaptation, which was produced by Felix Films. Lacking a unifying, cohesive storyline, the anime instead presents twelve episodes of time in fleshing out the world of Nekopara, showcasing a gentle existence in a world bereft of the challenges and conflicts of the real world. Nekopara is particularly relaxing, heart-warming and fun in its anime incarnation, as Chocola and Vanilla do their best to make the new kitten, Cacao, feel at home with everyone else. While not particularly impressive from a narrative or character growth perspective, Nekopara‘s anime series excels in world-building, showcasing how the presence of the Nekos is woven in with everyday life in a world that is otherwise similar to our own, and in particular, how Cacao slowly warms up to Chocola, Vanilla and the other Nekos in the Minaduki household. I found Nekopara to be quite enjoyable as a full-fledged series for how it was able to integrate Cacao into Chocola and Vanilla’s life, although admittedly, the lack of a cohesive story and the resultant themes means that Nekopara is a bit of an unusual anime that may not be suitable for everyone: those looking for a message about the human condition or life lessons will be disappointed.

The world-building aspect of Nekopara lies at the forefront of the series’ appeal: beyond the superficialities of the Neko themselves, Nekopara explores a world where cats with human characteristics have become so tightly integrated with society that they are treated as more than just pets, but full-fledged members of the family. Regulations are in place to keep Nekos safe and out of trouble: the Bell Licensing exams are a big deal for each Neko, allowing them to go about without a human to supervise them, and the Nekos themselves are treated as being capable enough of helping people about (for instance, Chocola and Vanilla are employees at La Soleil along with each of Azuki, Coconut, Cinnamon and Maple), while at once retaining a child-like disposition that is reminiscent of how pets can bring joys into one’s life. In this regard, Nekopara constructs a paradise of sorts for cat-lovers, providing one interpretation of what the world could be like were cats to be given a more human-like form and near-human intelligence. In particular, Nekopara gives one answer to the long-asked question of what our lives would be like if our pets could converse with us in a human language: through the Neko, it is suggested is that talking pets would yield a more troublesome, but also colourful dynamic between pets and their owners that could be quite fun in its own right.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve known of Nekopara since the original games were released to Steam during my first year of graduate school, having first came across them during the Steam Summer Sales and wondering whether or not the game would be worth my while. The visual novels are surprising sophisticated and even feature a physics engine, but ultimately, despite developing a mild curiosity, I never did end up picking the games up: at present, considering the size of my backlog, which includes Grand Theft Auto VMass Effect 2 and a host of complementary games I picked up over the years, I don’t think I’ll have a need to pick up anything else for the foreseeable future.

  • While I’ve not ever played the Nekopara visual novels, I have watched and written about both OVAs. The first OVA released in December 2017 and portrays the events of the first volume, from how Chocola and Vanilla accompanies Kashou to La Soleil as he moves. While Kashou was initially reluctant, seeing Chocola and Vanilla’s determination to be with him prompts him to change his mind. Chocola and Vanilla begin living with Kashou, earn their bells and eventually haul the remaining of the Minaduki Neko to help out at La Soleil, as well.

  • Compared to the OVAs, the Nekopara anime has a slightly cleaner animation style: the lines defining the characters are much lighter and less noticeable. In this way, the OVAs actually resemble the game’s art style more closely than the anime, although beyond differences in art aside, everyone’s traits remain the same. I believe that Nekopara‘s anime has a different set of voice actors and actresses for some of the characters.

  • The anime’s core is focused around the introduction of Cacao, a stray cat that Chocola notices early in the series and eventually convinces Kashou to allow her to look after. The other nekos name Cacao after the seeds from the tropical plant that chocolate is derived from; I’m guessing that they call Cacao thus, rather than Cocoa, simply because Cocoa would be phonetically similar to Chocola. While Cacao initially acts more cat-like than human-like, she learns quickly as Nekopara progresses.

  • While I found Nekopara to be enjoyable on its own merits, not everyone will share this particular view: that Nekopara found itself in the crosshairs of yet another Anime News Network-created controversy was surprising to learn. When Nekopara began airing, Anime News Network critics Nick Creamer, James Beckett, Theron Martin, and Rebecca Silverman each decried Nekopara as being offensive by contemporary standards.

  • Creamer claims that Nekopara presents a co-called “nightmarish reality” and its themes are supposed to be dystopian in nature, dealing with “power dynamics”, while Silverman asserts that Nekopara is meant to remove consent as a constraint and pander to the viewers’ interests. These perspectives typified Anime News Network’s ability to create controversy where there is none, using nothing more than a handful of notes sourced from introductory undergraduate courses and a thesaurus.

  • Admittedly, when word of Anime News Network’s initial impressions of Nekopara reached me, I became curious to see if the series had been as dreadful as their critics suggested. After watching the first episode for myself, it became clear that the “dystopia” Creamer had so aggressively pushed was nowhere to be found. It’s not the first time that Anime News Network has completely misrepresented a work – it is a badly-kept secret that most of their writers cherish an ambition to one day write for The New York Times or The Guardian, and attempt to emulate this style by allowing personal beliefs and politics to seep into their writing. As a result, their reviews end up being useless for anyone looking to gain a measure of a given series.

  • The practise of using pseudo-academic jargon in pushing a weak opinion is not new: Behind The Nihon Review used these tricks a decade earlier to “persuade” readers that K-On! was similarly unwatchable, and in Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin indicates to Hobbes that “writing can [become] an intimidating and impenetrable fog”, as weak arguments and poor reasoning could essentially be concealed behind a veneer of complex writing. This is not the purpose of legitimate academic writing, so I’ve come to define pseudo-academic writing as the practise of abusing junior psychology and philosophy principles to make one sound more impressive and knowledgeable than they are.

  • Having established that Anime News Network is no more sophisticated than an unskilled blogger, I’ll leave it to readers to make their own decisions about whether or not a given anime is worth their while. Back in Nekopara, when Kashou appears distracted one day, Chocola and Vanilla decide to go out and help promote La Soleil more actively. However, Cacao ends up getting lost as a result, but the easygoing nature of Nekopara means that Cacao’s small adventure results in her making a new friend in Chiyo, a young girl who looks no older than Cacao. Cacao ends up saving Chiyo from a murder of crows, and Chiyo brings Cacao back to La Soleil, where Chocola and Vanilla learn that Kashou had been stumped about his summer offerings.

  • During one particularly stormy evening, the Minaduki Nekos are home on their own while Shigure is out with some fellow Neko owners. The power unexpectedly goes out, and the Nekos resort to telling one another stories until Shigure returns home. Shigure, Kashou’s younger sister, is a fan of Nekos and typically can be seen holding a DSLR camera, attempting to photograph everything that goes on among the Nekos. Sporting a friendly and cheerful disposition, only a few things ever get her down, such as when the Nekos end up sleeping alone one night because of the heat, leaving Shigure unhappy. This is sorted out after the Nekos

  • Food is rendered surprisingly well in Nekopara, and I’m especially fond of the details paid to the fish that Vanilla and Chocola enjoy for dinner. Admittedly, the food aspects of Nekopara are something I enjoy about the series, and in general, anime food always puts a smile on my face. Being able to enjoy different foods is high on the list of things I enjoy doing: just earlier, I enjoyed a homemade burger of a familiar recipe, but this time, with a small twist taking the form of Sriracha-Mayonnaise sauce, which gave the burger a subtle kick and really brought out the flavour in the fresh lettuce and tomatoes that were in the burger.

  • Aside from Cacao’s everyday life with Chocola, Vanilla and the others, the other Minaduki Nekos also have their day in the limelight: Azuki and Coconut’s constant rivalry are addressed in an episode, as are Maple’s aspirations to become a singer. Each of the Nekos have their own distinct personality, making them quite easy to differentiate from one another, and it was fun to see how everyone bounces off one another. More so than the OVAs, the TV series allows for Azuki, Maple, Cinnamon and Coconut’s lives to be seen: the TV series shows that their constant clashes aside, Azuki and Coconuts very much care for one another, and Maple’s singing is competition worthy, although she lacks confidence and is grateful for Cinnamon’s support.

  • Some folks have counted Nekopara to be similar to GochiUsa or Blend S: this comparison is likely a consequence of the combination of slice-of-life elements with unique characters and the café environment. As a bit of a slice-of-life connoisseur myself, I feel that Nekopara does not hold a candle to the likes of Gochiusa as far as atmosphere and depth of story goes: GochiUsa is a bit of an outlier as a slice-of-life series owing to the combination of things it does exceptionally well.

  • After passing the exam to renew their bells, Shigure takes Vanilla and Chocola out to Kaminarimon and a kaiten sushi restaurant before exploring a variety of cafés in the area to gain inspiration for La Soleil. Seeing Shigure, Chocola, Vanilla and Cacao out and about in Nekopara‘s shows that in the TV series, there are more people around. This gives the world a more populated sense compared to the OVA and visual novels, which feel emptier by comparison.

  • This design choice is important in helping to create a more immersive world: whereas the OVA and visual novels seem emptier, which places emphasis on Kashou, Chocola and Vanilla, the TV series indicates that Nekos are an integral part of their world. As such, the full adaptation of Nekopara feels a lot warmer than the OVAs do. I recall one of my readers asking if I had any plans to watch Nekopara, and at the time, I’d seen one episode. I remarked that this was a series I intended to check out, but it wasn’t until recently I’d had the time to do so.

  • For me, Nekopara is a simple series that presents one view of what life might be like if cats could be given human traits and communicate with people more freely. However, this hasn’t stopped some people from delving deeply into whether or not the laws within the world of Nekopara treat cats more similarly to humans or pets, and what awaits the Neko that do not find a family. More negative minds suggest that there might be the equivalent of animal shelters or even euthanisation, but I’ll immediately shoot this idea down: Nekopara is so-named, being an portmanteau of the words Neko and paradise. This world is, in short, designed to be a paradise for Nekos, and therefore, we can suppose that Nekos are well-taken care of.

  • Towards the end of Nekopara‘s anime, Cacao has a sleepover at Chiyo’s place and sees a portrait Chiyo had made for her mother. Realising what Chocola and Vanilla mean to her, Cacao decides to do something similar, but feels that the impact needs to be more of a surprise. To this end, Cacao hides in a box while making this, and since Chocola and Vanilla have no idea what’s going on, attempt to smoke her out. Nothing is successful, worrying the two, but concern turns to relief and then joy when Cacao reads back her letter of thanks.

  • I found the artwork of Nekopara to be of a high standard: character animation is fluid, artwork is consistent, and the background art is solid. The heat of summer is similarly captured when the Minadukis and their Nekos visit the beach through a brilliantly blue sky. The original OVAs were done by Felix Film, who repraise their role as producers for the anime series. Founded in 2014, Felix Film appears to be involved in animating visual novel adaptations, having done the work for A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd, and they are slated to produce Otherside Picnic, as well.

  • With summer in full swing, Shigure and Kahou bring the Neko to the beach for classic summer activities, but when Cacao wanders off on her inflatable dolphin, she needs saving. A girl ends up saving Cacao, and in gratitude, the Nekos decide to swing by the shop this girl works at. They are impressed with the food, and decide to help out when they see how empty the place is, bringing a large number of customers, eventually helping them to acquire a Neko of their own to help with business.

  • Altogether, Nekopara is a B+ (3.0 of 4.0, or 7.5 of 10): it’s a fun series with engaging characters whose interactions are simultaneously heartwarming and fun, bringing joy as pets would in the real world. While doing nothing particularly revolutionary or novel in its run, the anime further brings the Nekopara world to life. While the visual novels might have more lurid content, the anime is surprisingly tame, making it a suitable gateway for folks who are interested in taking look at the Nekopara universe. With this post in the books, we’re also nearing the end of June on short order. I was able to get into the Halo 3 flighting and have some thoughts to share on that, and once July rolls around, my priority will be writing about Hello World, as well as Sketchbook and the last Year One content for The Division 2.

Being an animated adaptation of a visual novel, one inevitable question surrounding Nekopara is whether or not it is sufficient to motivate viewers who’ve not played the visual novels to pick it up. While enjoyable through and through, Nekopara‘s anime adaptation has not convinced me to give the visual novels a go: having already showcased the central interactions amongst the Neko and the Minadukis, Nekopara‘s anime instead gives viewers an alternate means of experiencing Nekopara, portraying the Neko and their daily adventures together While Nekopara will doubtlessly appeal to some viewers more than others, (e.g. folks who are looking for something with a more tangible theme may not find Nekopara worthwhile), the full-length anime represents an innocuous portrayal of life with Nekos intended to elicit a few laughs and create gentle moments amongst the Nekos. Nekopara is by no means a work of art rivalling the likes of Tolstoy or Dickens in impact, but as a relaxing bit of entertainment, Nekopara does succeed; the self-contained episodes were rather fun to watch, and I’m glad to have gone through this series with an open mind. Looking ahead into the future, I’m not sure if we’ll see a continuation of Nekopara in the form of a second season: while the series is quite popular, this is largely dependent on the sales of the home media. Having said this, I wouldn’t have any objections to giving any sort of continuation a go.

The Otafest Answer: Discovering Fun and Camaraderie in Exploration Through The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

“If there’s really that many people in the world, then there had to be someone who wasn’t ordinary. There had to be someone who was living an interesting life. There just had to be. Why wasn’t I that person?” –Haruhi Suzumiya

Upon entering high school, Kyon’s dreams of living out a normal life are dashed when he meets the eccentric and seemingly-cold Haruhi Suzumiya, a girl known for her escapades during middle school and a bold introduction on the first day of class. Against his better judgement, he speaks with Haruhi and learns that she’s intent on finding aliens, time travellers and espers to have fun with. Haruhi takes Kyon’s suggestion to start her own club seriously and ends up building the SOS Brigade, hauling in fellow students Yuki Nagato, Mikuru Asahina and Itsuki Koizumi. Haruhi turns out to be far more energetic than Kyon anticipated, and he finds himself being hauled off on various odds and ends at her whim. Each of Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki separately approach Kyon and reveal that Haruhi is of note to the factions they represent, and that it is in everyone’s interest to keep Haruhi entertained. Thus, the SOS Brigade set off in search of mystery, from investigating the disappearance of a fellow student to solving a locked room mystery on a summer island, and also making the most of their youth, whether it be playing baseball, living life to the limits during the summer or putting a home-made film together for the cultural festival. While Kyon begrudgingly accompanies Haruhi, who seems constantly gripes about his lack of spirit, the two are actually perfect complements to one another: she is brimming with energy and life, with grand visions about what she wants from the world, and he is a pragmatist, trying to do what it takes to bring peace and quiet back into his world. Together, Kyon and Haruhi come to represent how polar opposites can fit one another so well; Haruhi brings colour and adventure into Kyon’s life, and Kyon finds ways of scaling back Haruhi’s dreams such that they can be realised to capture her fancy. The interplay between Kyon and Haruhi forms the heart of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, a light novel by Nagaru Tanigawa that was adapted into an anime by Kyoto Animation in 2006 and rebroadcast in 2009 with additional episodes as a part of the second season. During its run, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya proved wildly successful, and is counted as one of the most influential anime of the 2000s.

At the series’ beginning, Kyon resembles Bilbo Baggins, an average hobbit from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, who is content to live a quiet life of routine and comfort. This world is a monochrome one, unremarkable and familiar. Haruhi changes this completely, throwing Kyon’s world into one of adventure and exploration, driven by the unstoppable, manic Haruhi. Haruhi thus acts as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s catalyst for disruption: much as how Gandalf “persuades” Bilbo to accompany Thorin and his company to reconquer the Erebor from the clutches of the fire-drake Smaug. Reluctant to play his role as a burglar, Bilbo considers adventures as being “nasty things [that]…make you late for dinner”, but nonetheless finds himself rising to the occasion. Kyon feels similarly about Haruhi, with her zany schemes and desires disrupting the peace, but in spite of this, finds himself entangled in her yearnings for excitement: as it turns out, Kyon had been the one to set Haruhi down her path, first by convincing her to become a North High student and then in the present day, inspiring her to form the SOS Brigade. In this way, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya supposes that even in the most peace-loving of folk, there lies a drive for adventure, and that the right person in the right place, at the right time, can set in motion many unforeseeable events. For his troubles, Bilbo manages to help Thorin take Erebor back, visiting places as varied as Rivendell, Laketown and the mountains before coming face-to-face with Smaug himself. Similarly, Kyon is exposed to the very entities that Haruhi had been seeking out, being very nearly knifed by a rogue Ryouko Asakura before Yuki saves him, witnessing Itsuki battle the Celestials and travelling in time with Mikuru to set in motion the very events that lead to his adventures. Through the majestic and the perilous, both Kyon and Bilbo gain a considerable amount of life experience from their adventures that helps them to both appreciate the wider world beyond themselves, and further appreciate what they have as being irreplaceable, invaluable. The positives brought on by adventure are shown as vividly in Nagaru Tanigawa’s The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya as J.R.R. Tolkein had portrayed through The Hobbit, suggesting that extraordinary experiences drives people to be more open-minded and concurrently, grateful for their blessings. Among anime fans, this adventure would manifest as a desire to really share their enjoyment of their hobby with the wider world, in turn shaping anime conventions like Otafest in the years to come.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Admittedly, it feels a little strange to write about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya after finishing The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, but for completeness’ sake, I’ve decided to return and write about what was, in 2006, the biggest icon of the year. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya became a cultural phenomenon for anime fans both in and outside of Japan: the series’ success is largely owing to the fact that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has something for everyone: my best friend likens it to a buffet at one of the local places in town, which features a wide selection of everything from prime rib and snow crab to various Chinese-style stir-fry dishes, fried meats, seafood, noodles, rice and salads: at such buffets, one could pick anything of their choice and have an excellent time.

  • With the current circumstances, going to a buffet is not the wisest idea, but with some places opened, it is possible to enjoy cuisine from the local Cantonese restaurant – this past weekend, I enjoyed sweet-and-sour pork, golden crispy salted egg-yolk prawns, Chinese broccoli with satay beef and deep fried oysters as the summer solstice brought with it brilliant blue skies and warm weather suited for 10-kilometre walks. Right out of the gates, Kyon is the architect of his own fortune: despite his grumblings, he is directly responsible for inspiring Haruhi to create the SOS Brigade (full name “Spreading Excitement All Over the World with Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade”) and bringing about the curious characters that come to his life. This becomes a recurring theme in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where Kyon sets in motion events that he appears to be dissatisfied with, but ends up going with it.

  • Haurhi’s brazen efforts to make the SOS Bridage a reality become most apparent when she extorts a new-model computer from the Computing Research Club. This particular moment was my first exposure to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: one of my friends had brought it in to the anime club and declared it to be one of the funniest moments he’d ever seen in an anime. My best friend immediately hopped on the series and found it immensely enjoyable, but I myself had been weary to watch The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, given that all I’d heard about it were the memes and comedy: at the time, I was just getting started on anime. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I’d entered university, that I decided to check the series out – I would do so shortly after wrapping up my second year and ended up finishing the series just before a vacation to the Eastern Seaboard in July.

  • Yuki is the first to reveal her station to Kyon: her explanations are prima facie far-fetched, and like Kyon, viewers cannot help but wonder if what Yuki’s saying has any merit. Yuki is voiced by Minori Chihara (Kaori Nakaseko of Hibike! Euphonium and Erica Brown from Violet Evergarden), while Tomokazu Sugita voices Kyon (Kanon‘s Yuuichi Aizawa). Stoic and reserved, Yuki fulfils the alien archetype that Haruhi seeks: she’s a member of an organisation known as Data Integration Thought Entity, who is interested in Haruhi for having created a “data explosion” that is supposed to accelerate humanity’s evolution. The precise nature of this data is never specified, although I will admit that its composition weighed on me even as I completed my courses on databases and data mining.

  • On the SOS Brigade’s first outing, Haruhi decides to draw lots to see how the groups are dispersed. On the first draw, Kyon ends up with Mikuru, a time traveller voiced by Yūko Gotō (Junko Kaname from Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Azur Lane‘s HMS Edinburgh). She explains that most of her duties are classified, and warns Kyon not to get too close to her. By the afternoon, Kyon ends up with Yuki and takes her to the local library. While Yuki only remarks she’s “moderately” into books, she practically drifts away to the nearest shelf in happiness. The library is modelled after Nishinomiya City Central Library, which, curiously enough, resembles the library in my area. I’ve not been to a library in quite some time: with the trends towards electronic media, libraries have become less well stocked, and I’ve taken to buying the books I enjoyed borrowing a decade ago.

  • At this point in time, Itsuki also joined the SOS Brigade and introduces himself as an esper. Kyon similarly has trouble believing the three, and still prefers to spend his days in peace, playing shogi and chess against Itsuki while enjoying the tea that Mikuru brews for them.  Kyon’s wish of the peaceful are satisfied by these ordinary days where nothing happens to the SOS Brigade, and while Haruhi occasionally livens things up by forcing Mikuru into various costumes, nothing out of the ordinary happens.

  • However, when classmate Asakura decides to murder Kyon to see Haruhi’s reaction, Yuki intervenes, and Kyon realises that Yuki wasn’t joking. Kyon is therefore thrust into an unbelievable situation, and is forced to accept that, given Yuki was telling the truth, Mikuru and Itsuki must also be telling the truth about their station. Kyon will go on an adventure with them that proves beyond any doubt that the aliens, time-travellers and espers Haruhi so wishes to meet, in fact, exist, and moreover, have all converged on Kyon.

  • The universal appeal of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya comes from the fact that the series presented a world where the extraordinary co-existed with the mundane. For most of its viewers, students at the time of airing, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya showed the possibility of adventure, and having a fulfilling high school experience, was a matter of perspective: Haruhi believes that if the fun things won’t come to her, then she’ll find a way to make things fun on her own. Anime fans were similarly inspired and began looking to make their world more entertaining: as Haruhi livened up Kyon’s world, Haruhi would also liven up the world of the anime’s viewers.

  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would shape the anime convention experience as Lucky☆Star did after it: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s universal appeal meant that fans of all genres were brought together by the series. Regardless of whether or not one preferred slice-of-life, science fiction, philosophy or comedy, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had something for everyone, and this was universally expressed by the Hare Hare Yukai dance. The anime would perceptibly impact anime conventions for years to come, as hosts and attendees alike began expressing their enjoyment of their series in increasingly intricate and exciting ways.

  • It turns out that Haruhi’s desire to stand out and be unique stemmed from attending a baseball game, where she was but one in a crowd of fifty thousand and saw for herself how large the world was. From there on out, Haruhi realised the mundane nature of her world and sought to make it unique: that she shared these thoughts with Kyon this early on suggests that she sees him differently than everyone else. Haruhi and Kyon never become a couple in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but even early on, it becomes apparent that the two complement the other very well.

  • Mikuru somewhat resembles CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa in appearance; coming a full year before CLANNAD, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would come to influence many of the design choices in CLANNAD, from the use of lighting and colour, to camera placement and framing to convey specific moods. Throughout the series, Kyon expresses his fondness for Mikuru, and after an incident where Haruhi obtained a pile of photographs of Mikuru, Kyon decides to quietly archive the folder instead. Mikuru notices the folder and becomes curious, but before anything else goes down, Haruhi arrives.

  • When Itsuki shows Kyon his esper powers, he remarks that his duty, along with others like him, is to contain “closed space” and “celestials”, monstrous beings that mirror Haruhi’s frustrations with the real world. It turns out that Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki had foreseen a time where Haruhi would attempt to rebuild the world: one evening, Kyon awakens to find himself with Haruhi, on the deserted school grounds in closed space. Haruhi is enthralled to see a sight so unusual, but Kyon, recalling advice from Yuki and Mikuru, decides to kiss Haruhi. The next morning, he and Haruhi both turns out to have had the same nightmare. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya excels at suggesting some of the more outrageous events in the series can be explained away, leaving it ambiguous as to whether or not something really happened.

  • For The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s fans, the Japanese festival, Tanabata, is of special significance: the real festival is a celebration of the meeting of deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, and Haruhi sees it as a time to make her wishes known to the respective corresponding stars, Vega and Altair. Despite the community’s decision to celebrate Tanabata alongside Haruhi, I’ve noticed that no one’s ever offered an explanation of why Tanabata is so important to the storyline of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: most discussions only can agree the significance of Tanabata as the time when Haruhi and Kyon meet for the first time.

  • The anime community of 2006 didn’t have me around, though: the reason why Tanigawa chose Tanabata as the time for Haruhi’s meeting with Kyon is deliberately to mirror the legend that drives Tanabata: there is a certain romance in two deities that cannot meet except under specific conditions, and the custom of wish-writing indicates that Kyon and Haruhi are meant to be parallels of Hikoboshi and Orihime. Tanigawa’s focus on Tanabata three years ago, then, is to show that, for better or worse, people can be connected by circumstances that appear beyond comprehension.

  • Because of Kyon’s frequent references to historical figures and the series’ enjoyment of technical jargon, a small subset of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s fans felt the series to be a philosophical masterpiece. Kyon only mentions these in the passing to compare his situation to an equivalent, and most of the philosophical or historical elements have no impact on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s theme, so it is not strictly necessary to have an extensive background on these disciplines to enjoy the show. The inclusion of such elements into The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and the attendant impact it had on the more academically-minded fans (or perhaps, those who want to flex their smarts) meant that these viewers were right at home with the show, alongside mystery, comedy, science-fiction and slice-of-life fans.

  • While the SOS Brigade is more often seen going on fabulous adventures rather than finding and solving mysteries, there are several cases where Haruhi is met with a mystery to solve; one Emiri Kimidori arrives one day, seeking the SOS Brigade’s help in locating her boyfriend, the Computing Research club’s president, who has been missing for a while. Emiri only makes this appearance in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but in the original novels, she is in the same faction as Yuki.

  • As it turns out, the president’s disappearance is attributed to the irregularities accumulating in the SOS Brigade’s website; Haruhi’s subconsciously imparted unusual properties on it, causing those who visit to be whisked away into a parallel dimension. After Haruhi leaves, the remainder of the SOS Brigade get to work and save the president, after which Yuki modifies Haruhi’s logo to prevent future trouble and explains that Haruhi’s abilities can create troublesome events.

  • Itsuki and his Agency view Haruhi as a god of sorts, being able to freely create and destroy the known universe at will. In order to keep Haruhi entertained during the summer, he and his colleagues prepare a special event for Haruhi, which entails travelling to a remote island and staging a murder mystery here. When The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had been airing, Itsuki’s revelation that Haruhi might’ve been a god given human form resulted in the creation of a pseudo-religion known as “Haruhiism”, of which the core tenant is to have fun and accept things as they are, since they are the “will” of Haruhi.

  • Haruhiism is not a religion that is officially recognised, to the disappointment of the series’ most ardent of fans, although that did not stop them from celebrating the series. The most prominent example of the community’s devotion lay in what would become known as “The Haruhiism Time Capsule Project”, which aimed to submit images to Yahoo’s 2006 Time Capsule Project. This was ultimately a failure, as the time capsule was never reopened per Yahoo’s original terms. While Haruhiism captured the fancy of many, Itsuki believes that this is simply the views that the Agency shares, and that others see Haruhi differently. It exemplifies The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s appeal in that it was able to accommodate so many viewpoints even in-universe, and as such, Haruhi fans were free to interpret the show however they saw fit. Because there are so many ways to enjoy the series, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s appeal would ultimately lie with the exceptional execution that Kyoto Animation had poured into bringing the series to life.

  • From my perspective, it was ultimately Kyoto Animation’s excellence that made The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya such a success: Tanigawa’s light novels remain unfinished to this day the same way Half-Life 3 is unfinished, a consequence of the fact that once Kyon and Haruhi established the thematic elements, the series only needed to continue explore the universe further; themes and character growth stagnated, which could have made it difficult to create a satisfying conclusion. Indeed, following The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, there’s been no continuation of the series in an animated format: Kyoto Animation believes the series has done its job in promoting the light novels and closing off on a satisfying note, as Kyon’s shown to have accepted a world with Haruhi in it.

  • While The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’s first season was a universally-praised smash hit, the second season made decisions that saw a cooler reception. The infamous Endless Eight arc, consisting of eight episodes portraying a two-week span of summer vacation, marked the first time Kyoto Animation had ever been at the centre of a controversy; many fans of the series and studio expressed their disgust and disappointment with such a decision. More vehement fans boycotted the studio and destroyed their merchandise in protest during Endless Eight’s run; the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was further compounded by complaints that Haruhi resembled K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa, diminishing some viewers’ enjoyment of the series.

  • While The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya showed how a series could bring the anime community together, Endless Eight highlighted the worst excesses of the same community. Detractors of the arc called Kyoto Animation “lazy” and “unoriginal”, amongst other things that are not quite as presentable. The reality is that Kyoto Animation has always been at the cutting edge of conveying emotions through animation, and each episode in the Endless Eight series actually features subtle differences, being animated completely from scratch. The point of pushing viewers through two months of the same story was to really drive home to viewers the sense of hopelessness that Yuki experiences in this time: the weariness she develops as a result of recalling each and every second of the two weeks through the 15532 iterations, would set in motion the events of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

  • In the end, Kyon ends up breaking the loop by convincing Haruhi that his summer can’t finish until he’s done the homework he’s put off. This turns out to be what breaks the loop, and a similar concept would later be applied to Aobuta when Sakuta briefly dates Tomoe and she ends up falling in love with him, wishing their time together would never end. Aobuta, having a shorter runtime and lacking Kyoto Animation’s experimental mindset, would execute its loop differently to avoid the same negativity that befell Kyoto Animation. While Endless Eight remains contentious to this day, I find the reactions surrounding Kyoto Animation’s decision to be disproportionate and callow.

  • Once Endless Eight is done, the next arc deals with the SOS Brigade making an independent film for their school’s culture festival after Haruhi and Kyon’s class do a measly survey. By this point in time, the SOS Brigade’s Club Room has become populated with clutter from their various activities: various costumes Haruhi forces Mikuru to year, appliances for preparing tea, and various board games. The SOS Brigade’s film would put Kyon’s patience with Haruhi to the ultimate test.

  • The sort of energy that Haruhi projects when she’s happy brings to mind the atmosphere surrounding an anime convention like Otafest, and for most anime fans, anime conventions represent a chance to be immersed in an environment where their interests are celebrated. On a typical day, the average anime fan partakes in their hobby on their own, so events like Otafest, in bringing fans together, have a very uplifting feeling. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya reveals that Haruhi is perhaps a bit of an otaku herself, being quite versed in the moé aesthetic. To most anime fans, Haruhi’s appeal lies in the fact that she’s always on the hunt for something fun to do, bringing excitement into wherever she goes.

  • By portraying how a familiar world could nonetheless be exciting, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would raise the bar for series set in the real world and have an impact on numerous series in years upcoming. At the time, series like Death NoteCode GeassErgo ProxyNegima! and Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple were counted as some of the most enjoyable series of the day. The anime club of my old secondary school certainly seemed to think so, as well; we used to watch these shows during lunch hour. In these early days, I was mildly interested in these series, and it was mainly my best friend’s interest in Gundam 00 that sent me down the path of being an anime fan. In subsequent years, my preferences would diverge wildly from what most of my friends enjoyed: as my second year of university ended, I became very fond of slice-of-life series for their cathartic effects.

  • Haruhi’s movie lacks a script and theme, being a mish-mash of random moments held together by Mikuru. Without any clear direction of where she’s going, Haruhi’s film offers insight into her world, where things simply happen as they happen. Kyon ends up being the “everything” for the movie, handling everything from filming to editing. Things quickly take a turn for the dangerous when Haruhi subconsciously allows for Mikuru to fire a coherent, amplified stream of photons from here contact during filming. Yuki steps in to save Kyon from being lobotomised.

  • Unaware of what’s going on, Haruhi shrugs off the improvised scenes and decides to change the combat sequences out for romance. This arc is when the nature of Haruhi’s power manifests the most strongly, and although she only makes minor changes to the world, fans have conjectured that Haruhi could square off against other beings like Devil Homura or Thanos. A great many of these “versus” battles, however, depend on what are colloquially referred to as “feats” (i.e. quantifiable displays of a character’s abilities) in order to work. Haruhi’s powers are, in this case, more similar to Gandalf’s in that most of them are abstract and not shown at their fullest.

  • I’ve found that there are a surprising number of parallels between The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings: both series deal with an every-man who is thrust into adventure and finds that they wear their duties well, powerful beings whose abilities are abstract, and a world that is familiar, yet not quite our own. This is what motivates my comparison between Kyon and Bilbo Baggins. Here, Tsuruya laughs at the thought of needing to chuck Mikuru into putrid pond water for filming.  Tsuruya is Mikuru’s best friend, and makes an appearance: energetic and easygoing, Tsuruya finds most everything funny. Her family is said to have ties with Itsuki’s agency and despite being quite air-headed, is aware of Haruhi’s nature, actively choosing not to disclose this to Kyon and the others.

  • The filming of The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina was not without its tensions, and things reach a boiling point after Haruhi spikes Mikuru’s drink and asks her to kiss Itsuki. Pushed beyond endurance, Kyon prepares to strike Haruhi, feeling that if he doesn’t discipline her now, she’ll continue to be unaware of the consequences of her actions and cause trouble for herself, as well as those around her. This moment marks a turning point in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; up until now, Kyon had always kept Haruhi in check by speaking with her. Haruhi herself is surprised by this, having believed that Kyon would always be there for her, and in the aftermath, filming for that day comes to a halt. Itsuki pulls Kyon aside and reminds him of his responsibility to Haruhi.

  • When Kyon hears Taniguchi bad-mouthing Haruhi’s independent film, he expresses annoyance. In actuality, Kyon here has heard someone voicing his own doubts, and realises just how immature the complaints sound. He comes around and feels that Haruhi should be commended for at least having taken the initiative to do something for the culture festival; just to spite the naysayers, Kyon aims to see the film through. However, since their disagreement from earlier, Kyon must first reconcile with Haruhi. It’s a tense few moments, but when Kyon does apologise and resolves to make the film a success, Haruhi’s spirits immediately are rekindled.

  • With the strange events continuing, such as cherry trees coming into full bloom during the summer, Kyon struggles to determine how to nudge Haruhi into restoring the world to normal. After a conversation with Itsuki, Kyon appears to have found the answer: he asks Haruhi to put a disclaimer at the end of the movie. Filming finishes without too much difficulty, and Kyon spends the night editing the clips together with Haruhi. Despite falling asleep during editing, Kyon wakes up to find the movie finished. It was quite rewarding to see the SOS Brigade’s project reach completion; Kyon’s role in things is a constant reminder that his sarcasm and griping manner notwithstanding, he genuinely does care about Haruhi and enjoys the adventures she brings into his life.

  • While The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya itself shows that the filming process was evidently a difficult one, especially for Mikuru and Kyon, the end result is unexpectedly good. Subtle details shown in the movie itself, which aired as a part of the first season, are present, and despite how turbulent the filming was, the resultant was of a strong quality. The movie itself shows Kyoto Animation’s excellent craft even at this point on: for me, they began to develop their current style as a result of learnings from both Kanon and The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaThrilled at how the movie turned out, Haruhi declares the project well done: while Kyon is exasperated, from a third party perspective, I consider the film to be every bit as good as Haruhi feels it to be.

  • North High’s Culture Festival finally comes to, and Kyon spends the day exploring: after visiting Mikuru and Tsuruya’s yakisoba stand, he checks out various displays, including Yuki and Itsuki, before crashing at the gym, where various bands are performing. Kyon is shocked to see Haruhi on stage performing: Aya Hirano ends up emceeing for the concert and sings “God Knows”, as well as “Lost my Music”. Of the two songs, I’m particularly fond of “Lost my Music” – its lyrics mirror Haruhi’s feelings for Kyon. The culture festival represented a chance to see a different side of Haruhi, and it is here that I found my answer for the questions I had surrounding Otafest.

  • The reason why Otafest retains its distinct atmosphere, even a decade after Michelle Ruff and Todd Haberkorn’s attendance as special guests, lies largely in the impact The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had on the anime community. In particular, Haruhi’s energy and enthusiasm has come to symbolise the very positivity that fans go towards expressing love for their hobby. Further to this, I imagine that a handful of people also fancy finding the SOS Brigade in their life amidst this positivity: whether it is something brimming with life, dependably present or adorable to a fault, this would be someone special who really brings colour to their world, complementing their existence and giving it a higher purpose.

  • When the band members come to thank Haruhi for having helped out, Haruhi is uncharacteristically quiet and greets their appreciation with a hesitant smile. Her mood, however, grows reserved, and Kyon is quick to deduce that Haruhi was so used to doing things for herself that she’d become quite unaccustomed to meeting a situation where someone was grateful for her help. In the aftermath, Haruhi explains that after hearing their story, she felt duty-bound to help out, hating the thought of seeing the band’s efforts go to waste. This growth shows another side to Haruhi and shows that during the course of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (especially following the filming of their movie), she’s also matured.

  • After Kyon finds Haruhi resting outside, she wonders what’s his deal and throws grass at him, only for the wind to carry it back into her face resulting in an adorable moment. The culture festival gives viewers a chance to see a side of Haruhi that is rarely presented; and it was here that it becomes apparent that Haruhi and Kyon could be a couple. One element in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya that I’ve not mentioned until now is the soundtrack: the incidental music to the TV series was never released as standalone albums, but instead, were packaged with special CDs. With pieces for conveying atmospheres ranging from everyday to extraordinary, from mysterious to wistful, the soundtrack to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya complements the series nicely. The music in the series is best captured in The Symphony of Haruhi Suzumiya, in whcih the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra really brings to life series’ grandeur and scale through music.

  • Towards the endgame, the SOS Brigade accept a challenge from the Computing Research club with new hardware as the bet: having been humiliated by Haruhi earlier, their president decides to take back their machine. The wager: if SOS Brigade can beat them in a game they’d created, the Computing Research Club will give them new laptops, otherwise, they will get to retrieve the machine Haruhi had relieved them of. Initially, the match goes poorly, but once Yuki discovers the Computing Research club is cheating, she injects code into the server that levels out the playing field, allowing the SOS Bridage to mount a comeback. Seeing how happy Yuki was prompts Kyon to allow Yuki to spend time with the Computing Research club. At Tango-Victor-Tango, the site’s users once asserted that Yuki is using syntactically correct C code and her incantations in the anime are complex SQL commands. Some time ago, I did a post demonstrating that the former is not entirely true, and in the anime, Yuki’s speech is not of any known language: the light novels use only primitive SQL queries (no table joining is done, for instance) rather than the complex ones as Tango-Victor-Tango asserts.

  • The final episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a breather episode original to the anime. It bridges the gap between the series and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and is a relaxing depiction of what the typical day in the SOS Brigade is like when there are no major adventures going on. Kyon picks up a new space heater, plays games with Itsuki and eventually falls asleep. He awakens to find a pair of cardigans draped over his shoulders: Haruhi and Yuki are implied to have left them, hinting at the feelings that both have for him. While with Haruhi, it’s evident, it would be a bit of a surprise. The developing emotions Yuki has sets in motion the events of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and also motivates the spin-off series, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. I stand amongst the minority of people who enjoyed the latter.

  • As winter begins setting in, Haruhi and Kyon share an umbrella while walking home together: Haruhi is feeling particularly playful and in good spirits. Overall, having revisited The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, it becomes clear that while the series may no longer be as well-remembered as it was a decade ago, Kyoto Animation’s superb adaptation of it has left a considerable impact on anime in general; The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s standing point was being able to appeal to all manners of audience, and even now, there are few anime that have such a broad impact on the anime community, in such a positive manner. This brings my post on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to a close: I deliberately chose to time the post for today because it is of a special significance for one of my friends. However, today also marks the beginning of Apple’s WWDC 2020: the most exciting updates for me lie with MacOS Big Sur, which is set to feature a substantial update to the UI, as well as iOS 14, which introduces a Windows Phone-style live tiles UI to the home screen.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s success and appeal came from a unique combination of having a fantasy world accommodating exciting adventures melded with a more familiar world that allow for calmer moments of self-discovery, a cast of unique and memorable characters whose interactions with one another simultaneously brought about humour and a compelling narrative, combined with Kyoto Animation’s excellence in animation, artwork and aural elements. From life lessons to philosophical quandaries, from visually impressive sequences to catchy music, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had something for everyone in the anime community: the series was universally acclaimed, being praised on almost all fronts, and this stems from the fact that the anime hit enough of the right notes with enough of the readers, all of whom were brought together by Haruhi’s boldness, Kyon’s sardonic wit, and an equally interesting cast that served to build the universe out, drive comedic moments forward and explain just enough of what Kyon was experiencing to keep viewers guessing without frustrating them. Combined with the rather audacious claim that Haruhi was a god, and the infamous Hare Hare Yukai dance, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya immediately took off, capturing the interest of anime fans broad backgrounds and unifying them in a shared love for the series, rather similarly to how Haruhi brought together Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki along with Kyon to brighten things up considerably. This sense of commonality is nowhere more apparent than amongst the fans of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: shortly after the series aired, the internet became flooded with unending memes from the anime, and the Hare Hare Yukai dance became a staple at anime conventions, summarising the entire energy and atmosphere of a gathering of people united by a shared interest in a few minutes of music and choreography. Few series have done so much to bring anime fans together so effectively, and it is in the synergy between all of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s elements that created such a positive outcome for fans. Far more than the novels themselves, Kyoto Animation’s masterful execution of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya left a massive impact on the anime community and would come to play a non-trivial role in cementing Kyoto Animation’s reputation as a top-tier anime studio with a commendable dedication to quality.

Tenki no Ko (Weathering With You): A Review and Reflection on Makoto Shinkai’s 2019 Film

“I always say: in survival, I’m either dealing with bad weather, or preparing for it.” –Les Stroud, Suvivorman

Tenki no Ko (天気の子, literally “Children of the Weather” and English name Weathering With You) is Makoto Shinkai’s sixth feature-length film that premièred in Japan on July 19, 2019. Shinkai is described to have seen a towering cumulonimbus cloud over Tokyo in late August, shortly after Your Name‘s screenings began in 2016, and began wondering to himself, “what if the cloud tops were an island?”. This materialised into the inspiration for Weathering With You, a film that ultimately grossed 226.16 million CAD internationally and won several awards, including Anime of the Year at the 43rd Japan Academy Film Prize, as well as being nominated for several other awards. At its core, Weathering With You follows Hodaka Morishima, a high school student who runs away from home and finds himself in Tokyo. During a freak down-burst on a ferry that threatens to wash him overboard, he is saved by Keisuke Suga, who gives him a business card. After arriving in Tokyo, Hodaka struggles to find work and support himself. Amidst the seedier parts of Tokyo, he finds a discarded Makarov PM pistol, and one day, encounters Hina Amano at a McDonald’s, who pities him and gives him a meal on the house. With his funds dwindling, he decides to take up Keisuke’s offer and arrives at the address on the business card. After meeting Natsumi, Keisuke’s niece, he is offered a job and explores urban legends as a part of his job to write magazines articles. One excursion has Natsumi and Hodaka learn of the weather maiden, an individual blessed with the power to manipulate the skies. Settling into life as an assistant, Hodaka encounters Hina in the company and attempts to rescue her, eventually discharging the side-arm he found to scare them off. He and Hina escape, and here, Hina reveals an unusual ability to clear the skies of rain that came after she crossed a torii on the rooftop of an abandoned high-rise. Realising that Tokyo’s been raining non-stop, he proposes starting a business to utilise Hina’s powers to help those around them, and they become an overnight success, participating in events from weddings and sports meets to creating a miracle for Tokyo’s Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival.

However, after spotting footage of Hodaka on a pole-mounted CCTV, the Tokyo police become interested in the pistol that Hodaka found and begin searching for him. Keisuke distances himself from Hodaka and fires him, but not without telling him to look after himself. After evading beat cops, Hodaka, Hina and her younger brother, Nagi, overnight in a hotel, where Hina reveals use of her power comes at a cost, and that she must sacrifice herself entirely to restore balance to Tokyo’s unusual weather. Despite Hodaka’s promise to protect her, Hina disappears the next morning, and Hodaka is arrested. He manages to escape custody, and with Natsumi’s help, arrives at the derelict building and attempts to reach the torii, but runs into Keisuke. While he had intended to talk sense into Hodaka, he realises the strength of Hodaka’s feelings for Hina and helps him to escape the police. Upon reaching the torii, he is whisked into the skies and manages to save Hina, convincing her to live for her own happiness. In the aftermath, he is arrested and sent back home. Over Tokyo, the skies continue to rain, flooding the city and forcing its inhabitants to move. Three years later, Hodaka returns to Tokyo after graduating and his probation ends. He meets with Keisuke, who is now running a more reputable publishing firm and encourages him to follow his heart. On a bridge overlooking the submerged Tokyo, Hodaka reunites with Hina and promises that things will be okay from here on out. With a run-time of one hour and fifty-two minutes (six minutes more than Your Name), Weathering With You had found itself in the shadows of its predecessor and ultimately, continues in dealing with Shinkai’s themes of love, separation and reunion, as well as the forces of nature that bring people together and drive them apart. Whereas Your Name utilised catastrophe as its motivator, Weathering With You, true to its title, employs the phenomenon of weather to present new themes alongside familiar ones.

Major Themes in the movie

While Weathering with You has a distinct weather motif, the notion of taking responsibility for one’s actions lies at the heart of the film; in the beginning, overwhelmed by his circumstances, Hodaka decides to run away from home and is bound for Tokyo. In his situation, he feels unable to take control and therefore, responds in the only way he can. Upon arriving in Tokyo, Hodaka initially expresses an unwillingness to take responsibility for anything because he seems to be on the back-foot all of the time. When his funds run out and it seems as though there’s no other way, however, after Hodaka meets Hina for the first time, her warmth and kindness instigates a change in him. He begins to take the initiative, and seeks out Keisuke to better his situation. In shouldering more responsibility, Hodaka begins to mature, although he remains brash, impulsive and hot-headed: this is how he formally meets Hina. The journey that Hodaka and Hina take together is one of ups and downs, giving the two great happiness as well as challenges. Over time, Hodaka’s feelings towards Hina manifests as love, and from here, Hodaka’s actions begin shifting; he starts acting in her interests, and while he might initially be seen as shirking responsibility for his actions, such as when he runs away from the police station after his capture, he is actually acting for another reason. Once he recovers Hina from the heavens, Hodaka stops running away: he is ultimately arrested, tried and returned home, but promises to uphold his promise to Hina. After his graduation, he ends up keeping true to his word, and taking responsibility for the consequences of his action, returns to Tokyo to find Hina and fulfil his promise of being with her. Weathering with You presents a tale of responsibility and how one may uphold their word, as well as what sacrifices are necessary; in this film, Makoto Shinkai suggests that if one’s word is worth keeping, then one should keep it even if there is another cost incurred. Hodaka’s time in Tokyo pushes him to learn the meaning of responsibility, and it turns out that love is a powerful instructor; in order for Hodaka to have found happiness with Hina, he would’ve necessarily needed to stop running from his problems and face them. In returning to Tokyo, speaking with Keisuke and finding Hina, audiences are assured that Hodaka has evidently matured, understands what it means to own his actions, and ultimately, is better prepared to support and love Hina than he was when they had first met, no matter what the weather might be.

Les Stroud describes the weather as being the single most dangerous factor in survival, with extremities negatively affecting one’s survival and drastically introducing challenges. In Weathering With You, Makoto Shinkai presents the weather as a natural phenomenon whose impact is less tangible; rainy skies are associated with separation, melancholy and lethargy, seen when Keisuke laments being unable to see his daughter owing to rainy weather, as well as causing the interruption or fouling of events as varied as weddings, sports meets and fireworks events. By comparison, clear weather is a time of happiness, togetherness and adventure. Under good weather, people spend more time together and create more memories together. Hina’s power, then, is a symbol of hope for Tokyo’s residents, who are inundated with rainy weather, wherein the dampness appears to seep into one’s very bones and saps people of their happiness. However, Hina’s power comes with a terrible cost, consuming her own life energy and rendering her increasingly transparent. As she strives for the happiness of others, this comes at great expense to herself. This is the primary conflict in Weathering With You that Hina must deal with; having lived a life without clear purpose or direction, when she is given a chance to impact the lives of others in a meaningful way at a personal cost, which decision she should take becomes muddled. On one hand, meeting Hodaka and spreading happiness through her power has made her happy, but on the other hand, having begun to fall in love with him, Hina appreciates that being with him means not interfering with the weather further. In creating this conundrum for Hina, Shinkai suggests in natural systems like the weather, interference usually carries a cost. Shinkai indicates that things like the weather are immensely complex, in comparing the weather patterns to the work of deities, and for humans to impose their will on these systems only ever yields a short term result. The sunshine that Hina brings is not long-lived, and the rain inevitably returns, stronger than before. The devastation wrought on Tokyo, then, as a result of Hina’s actions, shows that even if it were possible to intervene in natural phenomenon, to do so extracts a toll on those who do not fully understand the nuances of the system they intend to alter.

However, while Shinkai indicates that the weather is phenomenon that humanity must learn to live with, he also suggests that as a species, we are remarkably resilient, constantly striving to better a situation. This is what Hodaka represents in Weathering With You; the deck is constantly stacked against him, but he survives and always seeks a way to better his circumstances. After arriving in Tokyo, he transitions from one spot to another in search of opportunity, bringing him to his fateful meeting with Hina. When he accepts a job with Keisuke’s publishing company, his situation improve enough to where he is able to meet Hina again. Captivated by Hina, Hodaka ends up moving heaven and earth to be with her: his devotion borders on foolishness, and so strong are his feelings that he is willing to run afoul of the law and systems far beyond his comprehension to be with her, whether they be natural or man-made. Driven by his unwavering desire to be with Hina, Hodaka’s determination and persistence is a representation of how powerful love is: he comes to personify the human spirit and how far people are willing to go for one another and their own survival. The film scales this up towards its ending; even as Tokyo begins flooding from ceaseless rain, the citizens’ own resilience leads them to continue living even as a familiar livelihood is disrupted and submerged by unfeeling flood waters. Although people may go through trials and tribulation, their innate desires to survive win out: necessity has driven some of humanity’s greatest innovation and stories of courage, resilience. Altogether, through Weathering with You, Shinkai suggests to the viewer that even when confronted with the unknown, the bonds that connect people are stronger still, and in the end, people will find a way to make it, whatever it takes. As Weathering with You draws to a close, Hodaka and Hina’s reunion marks the beginnings of a new path, one where each will have the other to support and be supported by as the walk their future together.

Personal thoughts on the movie

With its conclusive ending, Weathering with You is a satisfying film to watch, featuring a combination of heartfelt moments, portrayals of everyday life and enthralling action sequences that come together for a big finish. However, it becomes clear that Weathering with You has also inherited much from its predecessor; a star-crossed love story backed by supernatural phenomenon also was at the core of 2016’s Your Name, and both movies utilise the extraordinary to demonstrate the strength of love. Your Name was a powerhouse performance because every action Taki and Mitsuha took in the film served to help them come together during the climax. By comparison, Weathering with You is missing that same coherence in a few areas: the movie is very busy in places as Hodaka struggles to make ends meet, winds up in the seedier parts of Tokyo and comes across a Makarov pistol. This pistol ends up setting in motion events that, while conferring an opportunity for Shinkai to incorporate a vehicle chase, also added nothing substantial to the film’s central message. The presence of social workers and police officers seeking a runaway after Hodaka’s parents reported their child missing would have provided enough of a motivator for Hodaka’s actions towards Weathering with You‘s climax; giving Hodaka a pistol did very little to make his feelings more apparent than it had already been. Similarly, folklore in Your Name ended up giving viewers a unifying element towards understanding how Mitsuha and Taki could transcend the laws of space and time to meet, but in Weathering with You, the inclusion of folklore merely creates a rudimentary mechanism to bolster Hodaka’s urgency in finding Hina after she vanishes. The sum of Weathering with You‘s plot appears to have been Makoto Shinkai’s effort to create a new story without venturing outside of the design choices that had made Your Name immensely successful, treading on very familiar territory. These are ultimately trifling complaints: while perhaps not the powerhouse experience that Your name might be, Weathering with You remains a highly enjoyable movie, standing of its own merits for the strength of its execution.

In every successive film, Makoto Shinkai manages to raise the bar higher for what sort of visuals are seen, and with weather at its core, Weathering with You is a visual spectacle surpassing any of his earlier films. Rain is rendered even more vividly than in Garden of Words, with the motion of individual raindrops being animated. Interiors are intricately depicted, cluttered with everyday items that convey a lived-in sense. Landscape shots and camera effects are more ambitious than before, making use of 3D rendering to present Tokyo in ways the previous films had not: the fireworks festival brought Weathering with You‘s Tokyo to life in a way that earlier films did not, even featuring real-time reflections of the fireworks on the skyscraper windows, and the dynamics of the vehicular chase similarly shows refinement in Shinkai’s craft. In short, Weathering with You represents a progression of the animation and artwork seen in Your Name, and Shinkai’s new story allows the film to portray a side of Tokyo that is lesser seen: the seedy and derelict side of Tokyo is shown, mirroring on how in Japan’s rapid growth and development, some areas were left behind, to be washed away by rain waters. There is a melancholy in seeing the abandoned building that houses the torii Hina found, and throughout Weathering with You, the use of moody, grey lighting suggests that Tokyo is not the destination that it appears to be on an ordinary day. However, when light breaks through the clouds and illuminates the world’s largest city in a wash of warm, golden light, the magic of Tokyo becomes more apparent. The shifting portrayal of Tokyo in Makoto Shinkai’s films show the city as a monolith of activity, a place of great contrasts, of excesses and decay, as well as of beauty and meaning, all of which lie in its people, rather than its buildings: having honed his craft in his previous films, Weathering with You represents further into insight into how Shinkai feels about Tokyo. When Tokyo is flooded by ceaseless rain, its citizens endure, and continue finding ways of making things work; Shinkai therefore indicates, through Weathering with You, that buildings can be rebuilt, and livelihoods restored so as long as people are together.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Weathering with You opens with Hina finding the mysterious torii gate after noticing a beam of sun illuminating it while with her mother at the hospital. When she walks through the gate, she finds herself whisked into the skies above. Unlike my post for Your Name, I’ve decided to host my images in a typical fashion owing to storage constraints. However, the screenshots should still be quite sharp and capture all of the details in the movie nicely: this time around, I’ve got eighty screenshots (down from Your Name‘s one hundred even), curated from a total of three hundred and sixty, making this first and only proper collection of screenshots around on the internet.

  • Weathering with You begins formally with Hodaka on board a ferry bound for Tokyo. The film does not disclose much about his background, beyond the fact that he was dissatisfied with his old life to the point where he felt running away from home was his best bet. The bandages on his face, in conjunction with his unhappiness about his home, suggest that he suffered from physical abuse. However, Hodaka cannot help but marvel at the gathering storm while riding the ferry: a massive rainfall suddenly inundates him, and an unexpected downburst threatens to wash him overboard.

  • The storm disappears as quickly as it appeared, and Hodaka finds himself being saved by one Keisuke Suga. In gratitude, Hodaka treats Keisuke to lunch, and is coerced into buying Keisuke a beer, as well. Keisuke appears to be a bit of a shady character – his eyes lack the detail and dimensions that are typical to trustworthy characters, and so, viewers cannot help but be a little mistrusting of him when he is first introduced. Before we delve further into Weathering with You, it’s appropriate to explain the page quote: I normally reserve Survivorman quotes for Yuru Camp△, but owing to how Les Stroud describes the weather, I figured his remarks on weather are well-suited for opening a talk about a movie with a substantial weather motif.

  • After the ferry pulls into Tokyo harbour and docks, Keisuke and Hodaka part ways, but not before Keisuke leaves him with a business card. In this post, I’ve avoided recycling images that I used for my post about my plans to write aboutWeathering with You, drafted shortly after the film’s announcement: my expectations back then were to see how well the film utilised Hina’s powers and tie that in with an overarching theme. Beyond that, I had no other knowledge of the film, and when it released to Japanese theatres on July 19, 2019, I hadn’t even made any remarks about missing out on things.

  • Because Hodaka was able to survive for a short while before his funds dwindled, it stands to reason that he comes from a moderately wealthy background, enough for him to have withdrawn enough of his personal funds to buy time and attempt to find a job. Hodaka’s journey takes him to a seedier side of Tokyo that Shinkai had hitherto not explored in his movies, and in this side of Tokyo, questionable nightclubs and gambling parlours are portrayed. It reminds me of the side of Tokyo that Natasha Romanoff found Clint Barton in during the events of The Avengers: Endgame, although unlike Barton, Hodaka is no fighter, and can only escape from confrontations.

  • After taking refuge from the rain in front of one such night club, the establishment’s owner notices Hodaka and roughs him up. While beautifully rendered from a distance, close-up, Shinkai also chooses to portray a grittier, rougher side of Tokyo in Weathering with You to show the idea of resilience, a recurring theme in this movie. Hodaka ends up being knocked onto the streets along side a recycling container, and in it, he finds a Makarov PM. Feeling it to be a toy, he takes it with him and winds up at a McDonald’s, but having run his funds dry, can only order a drink.

  • At the McDonald’s, one of the staff takes pity on Hodaka and makes him a Big Mac on the house. Hodaka describes it as the best dinner he had since arriving in Tokyo, and while the moment conveys a combination of despair and hopelessness, it also foreshadows subsequent events: the staff is none other than Hina Amano, and upon their fateful meeting, he feels the warmth in her actions, which extends into the burger itself. In Five Centimetres per Second, Makoto Shinkai had used a stand-in for McDonald’s, but of late, having seen international recognition, Shinkai’s been able to use some real world brands openly in Weathering with You. Details paid to the Big Mac and its box are remarkable, and the box looks identical to the ones at the local McDonald’s.

  • I’m certain that, with a bit of patience and generous use of Wander in the Oculus Quest, I’d be able to find all of the locations shown in Weathering with You – for Your Name, I ended up using a bit of photogrammetry techniques to locate Taki’s apartment in an exercise that proved immensely enjoyable. The locations of Weathering with You are a bit more inconspicuous, and on first glance, would be trickier to find. However, knowing that Shinkai incorporates great amounts of details into his film, using the address on Keisuke’s business card and the Google Maps app on Hodaka’s phone means that one could find Keisuke’s home/office reasonably effortlessly.

  • Of course, doing so is not advised, as it is impolite to hassle a private residence. Regaining his energy and spirits from the Big Mac and Hina’s kindness, Hodaka decides to follow his lead and visit Keisuke. Ever since he arrived in Tokyo, it’s been raining nonstop: much as how previous films used weather as a metaphor for feelings within the protagonists’ hearts, Weathering with You‘s use of rain shows that at this point, Hodaka is very much in a melancholy and despairing. However, a simple gesture from Hina is enough to send Hodaka down a different path, and he decides to take a look at Keisuke’s offer.

  • Upon arriving at the address on Keisuke’s business card and entering, he finds himself face to face to a sleeping woman in her twenties. Being a teen, Hodaka cannot help but stare at her chest as she sleeps, and when she awakens to find him there, the woman’s first act is to tease Hodaka about it. It’s curious to see Shinkai incorporate more of these aspects into his movies (Your Name had Taki feeling up Mitsuha when he’d inhabited her body). Shinkai’s earliest films had female protagonists as pure as driven snow, perfect abstractions of what romance and love entailed, but over the years, females in his works became more human, with their own flaws and unique features.

  • It turns out that the sleeping woman is Natsumi, and while she’s not the female lead of Weathering with You, she’s certainly not one-dimensional, as this screenshot can attest. After Natsumi introduces herself, Keisuke finally arrives and lays out the terms of the job he has in mind for Hodaka. While Hodaka is initially reluctant, Keisuke notes that Hodaka’s job will also cover lodging and meals, prompting him to reconsider. As it turns out, the job Keisuke has in mind is akin to that of an intern: his job description entails organising meetings, proofreading, writing and helping out with housework.

  • Interior clutter has always been a major feature in Makoto Shinkai’s movies, giving a very lived-in sense: in Weathering with You, details in Keisuke’s home/office, from scattered papers and unwashed cups, give insight to Keisuke’s life. Looking at the placement and organisation of everyday objects in a scene brings interiors to life, and in most anime, this detail is eschewed for ease of animation: looking after that many assets would be immensely difficult, and it speaks the technical skill of Comix Wave Films that they are able to render this. The only other studios that place such effort into interiors are Studio Ghibli, Kyoto Animation and P.A. Works.

  • Hodaka’s first test is to accompany Natsumi to speak with a fortune teller, who presents the story of so-called “Sunshine Girls”, alongside “Rain Girls” whose presence can impact the weather, and this early into Weathering with You, the fortune teller already gives viewers one of the film’s main themes: if you mess with nature, it tends to mess back. My main goal in consuming any work of fiction is to see what I can learn from it (and by extension, the author’s intentions), so if I walk away from something with a quantum of an idea of what the author wanted to convey, I end up satisfied.

  • Once Hodaka begins settling into his new routine, Radwimps’ Kaze-tachi no Koe (“Voices of the Wind”) begins playing. Repraising their role from Your Name as Weathering with You‘s composers, Radwimps delivers an aural experience that elicits memories of Your Name. Voices of the Wind is an upbeat piece whose rhythm mirrors the newfound routine in Hodaka’s life, and their remaining vocal pieces are well-adjusted. The instrumental pieces of Weathering with You create a sense of melancholy and longing that fits well with Shinkai’s themes of separation and distance, as well as the supernatural feeling that arises at critical moments in the story.

  • Besides McDonald’s, Tenki no Ko also showcases Apple products in prominence: Hodaka is seen using an iPhone 8 and a 2017 MacBook Pro, and Natsumi runs an iPad. That Weathering with You is able to use real-world products is a sign of how far Makoto Shinkai has come in terms of recognition, for large companies like Yahoo!, Apple and McDonald’s to allow their products to be rendered in such detail. Since Your Name, Apple has reached iOS 13 from iOS 10, and their Flat UI has been around since 2013’s iOS 7. Since then, iOS has not changed too much in appearance, and I remark that I’m very fond of the Flat UI, which replaces the Skeuomorphism aesthetic that iOS 6 and earlier used.

  • Weathering with You‘s use of supernatural differs from that of Your Name‘s in that whereas the latter employed it purely as a study of regional folklore, Weathering with You mixes it with urban legends that high school girls are familiar with. Old and new collide in Weathering with You in a way that Shinkai’s previous films do not depict, and this hints at Shinkai’s thoughts on advancing technologies and beliefs: the interweaving of old and new suggest in Weathering with You indicates that while Shinkai respects the old ways and uses them when appropriate, he also believes that if the new offers a tangible benefit to something, then it should be tested and utilised, as well.

  • Aside from high school students attuned to rumours and urban legends, as well as practitioners of the occult, Natsumi and Hodaka also speak with meteorologists and experts. While some turn them away, seeing the supernatural as a waste of time, others eagerly speak with them, as they’ve also spotted the unusual phenomenon manifesting in Weathering with You: raindrops occasionally flop about and swim as fish do, and there have been several instances of large bodies of water taking the form of whales. Unfortunately, my understanding of the symbolism here is not terribly extensive, and I can’t offer more on what the cloud fish and whales mean beyond the suggestion that the clouds are supposed to represent a world that has not been extensively studied.

  • One subtle detail that I really enjoyed was watching Hodaka slowly become better as an article writer: Keisuke had been satisfied with his initial writing but counts him as a slow writer, and while he reviewers Hodaka’s work here, he critiques one of Hodaka’s passages before noting that Hodaka’s done well in another section. While seemingly minor, this moment shows that despite his gruff appearance and the occult focus of his publishing business, Keisuke is someone that Hodaka can look to as a mentor figure. For the audiences, this is reassuring, reminding viewers that Keisuke can be trusted.

  • While out one day, Hodaka runs into Hina again, who is trying to discuss terms of some job with two shady-looking characters. Without really thinking things through, he pulls Hina away and they run off, but the two catch up to Hodaka and begin kicking his face in. Hodaka ends up drawing the Makarov and fires it, scaring the two off, but also earning himself admonishment from Hina. The Makarov pistol is named after designer Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, who designed it to be a compact pistol with low recoil without compromising stopping power. It entered service in 1951, and anime fans will know it for being the gun that Shino “Sinon” Asada fears during Sword Art Online‘s Phantom Bullet arc. Owing to its Soviet origins and use by the Eastern Bloc, the weapon does seem to exude an aura of menace and well-chosen to be the antagonist’s firearm in anime.

  • Hodaka discards the gun and ends up having a proper conversation with Hina to know her better, after both have a chance to clear their heads. They head to the roof where the torii is, and Hina demonstrates her power to clear the skies. It turns out that this power is strictly for clearing the skies, and unlike The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s “Clear Skies” shout, cannot make aurora borealis manifest. In Weathering with You, the first bit of sun is a magic moment for Hodaka. Most promotional images for the film feature the clearing skies by the torii on the rooftop and the cloud-top islands, and while Weathering with You does not have an iconic element as did Your Name in terms of imagery, the imagery associated with Weathering with You remains distinct.

  • While the phenomenon of a Sunshine Girl had been relegated to the realm of myth and rumour, Hodaka’s encounter with Hina changes his world permanently. Here on the rooftops, Hina and Hodaka are removed from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, as well as the world’s worries. The tranquility and peace that Hodaka shares with Hina here marks a turning point in Weathering with You, being the first time that sunshine is properly seen in the movie, and with it, the first time that Hodaka sees a reason for being here in Tokyo.

  • Reports of animals manifesting in the water begin making their way across social media platforms like Instagram, and Hodaka’s mind is on capitalising the excitement to publish a few more articles that could draw in readers, and with them, the coin. Natsumi’s exact relationship to Keisuke is never explored early on, and this leaves a bit of a mystery to her from Hodaka’s perspective; he is shocked to learn that she’s more of a part-timer with Keisuke’s company, and prior to heading out for a day’s worth of interviews, she looks through some of the phenomenon with Hodaka, but ends up disappointed that Hodaka’s thinking more about the increased profits from increased readership.

  • Keisuke, meanwhile, has other troubles of his own; after his wife died, their daughter went to live with her grandparents, and Keisuke finds it difficult to spend time with her daughter. At Minori Cafe in Ginza’s Mitsukoshi Department Store, he meets with his mother-in-law, who is adamant about keeping Keisuke from seeing his daughter owing to the fact that he smokes and the poor weather makes it difficult to be outside, which would alleviate her asthma. Keisuke’s mother-in-law recalls a time when the weather was more agreeable and laments that contemporary children are less inclined to explore the outdoors owing to extremities of weather, although the reality is that kids of this age are glued to their tablets and phones.

  • When I was in Japan three years earlier, I passed by the famous Wako Department Store in Ginza: I best remember its distinct Seiko Watch Face from the movie King Kong vs. Godzilla. After spending the morning at the Imperial gardens and a shrine, I’d arrived in Ginza for a delicious beef nabe lunch at a restaurant whose location I can’t remember, and subsequently browsed around the shops in the area before heading off for the banks of the Sumida River to check out the Tokyo Skytree and Sugamo Jizodori Shopping Street a ways over. The day ended at Heritage Resort in Saitama, where I sat down to a magnificent dinner of Kobe beef and sashimi before soaking at the hotel’s onsen.

  • There is a lot of exploration in Tokyo, and while I’d only spent a day there during my trip, I appreciate that one could spend a few months there and still not see everything worth seeing (although I note I’ve been in Calgary since time immemorial and there are things back home I don’t know about). Back in Weathering with You, upon seeing Hina’s power to clear the skies with his own eyes, Hodaka begins to develop an idea – aside from a few minutes of good weather, Weathering with You has been very rainy insofar, and Hodaka begins to feel that the mood of people is invariably tied to the weather, with rain signifying depression, melancholy and lack of energy. Sunshine occupies the opposite end of the spectrum, filling people with motivation, determination and joy. He contemplates the idea of using Hina’s powers to deliver hope for cash, and decides to float the idea to Hina.

  • Hina invites Hodaka over, who suddenly realises that this is the first time he’s ever been over to a girl’s house on his own. Hodaka hesitates briefly, but Hina has no qualms about having him over. As it turns out, Hina’s been living with her younger brother, Nagi. Ever since their mother passed away about a year ago, Hina’s been working to support the two, and this was roughly when Hina discovered the torii on top of the abandoned building. Hina’s situation is a tragic one, and despite the challenges she’s faced, she does her best to be optimistic about things, even going to extraordinary lengths like working at a night club despite being under-aged in order to make ends meet.

  • Because of her situation, Hina’s developed a rather unusual sense of cooking, incorporating instant ramen and potato chips into her recipe for fried rice. I am strongly reminded of a similar moment in The Garden of Words when Yukari cooks for Takai after the two retreat to her apartment during a sudden downpour. Both The Garden of Words and Weathering with You feature rain at its centrepiece, and while Hodoka and Takai have different thoughts on the rain, in both movies, the rain plays an instrumental role in bringing people together. When I first watched The Garden of Words, a major flood shut down my area, and now, watching a similar scene in Weathering with You, I am reminded of working from home some seven years ago in a similar fashion.

  • While Hina and Hodaka share a lunch of fried rice and a fried chicken salad, I look back on some meals that’ve put a smile on my face. With restaurants slowly beginning to re-open, I’ve been able to enjoy a combination of restaurant food and home cooking: over the past weekend, I’ve had herb-and-spice fried chicken and fries with southern-style gravy and a delicious sirloin burger topped with onion crisps with a side of crinkle-cut fries. Looking forwards to a good meal is a massive morale booster, and unlike seven years ago, where the Great Flood caused me to fall into a melancholy, I’ve been more proactive in keeping my spirits up. Being able to enjoy a meal is high on my list of things to do during times like these, and the warmth and normalcy of such moments in Makoto Shinkai’s films suggests that he believe something similar.

  • After a day’s effort, Hodaka and Hina spin up a website that allows visitors to make requests for good weather. When Nagi arrives home, he’s unimpressed with Hodaka’s presence, and Hodaka recognises Nagi as the elementary school student who seemed to be rather popular with the ladies. I’m guessing that Hodaka and Hina are using a cloud service to run their website and are rocking a noSQL database to hold their requests, which would be simple entities containing a date, requestor name, email and description of the task, easily retrieved by date of request. Then it’s up to Hodaka and Hina to travel to the customer and fulfil their request for good weather. Nagi is initially skeptical, and even more so when he’s made to wear a teru teru bozū costume.

  • Hina, Hodaka and Nagi’s first assignment comes at a flea market, whose organisers worry that attendance and business will be poor on account of the rain dissuading customers from visiting. Initially, the organisers are skeptical that anything could happen: being able to control the weather is something that only exists in the realm of fiction, involving powerful technologies like those the Forerunners employed on Halo, or through extraordinary means like the Infinity Stones. However, when Hina wishes for it, a break appears in the clouds, bathing the land with sunlight. The flee market’s organisers are absolutely thrilled, and Nagi realises that Hodaka and Hina are onto something, no longer reluctant to head out as a teru teru bozū.

  • As the clouds give way to blue sky, the music swells to a crescendo of joy and optimism. While I had been a little skeptical of Radwimps upon hearing their role as the composers for Your Name‘s soundtrack, I ate my words after seeing the movie, and by Weathering with You, I was thoroughly impressed with their musical performance. The music of Weathering with You is memorable in its own right, creating a different aural aesthetic than that of Your Name‘s; Your Name‘s music was deliberately hesitant in places to mirror the confusion in Mitsuha and Taki surrounding both their scenario and their feelings for one another, but in Weathering with You, the sound is bolder and more purposeful, showing Hodaka and Hina both as being strong-willed.

  • After their success at the flea market, word begins to spread: Hina and Hodaka find themselves busy, fulfilling requests from those who’ve placed them on their website. Tōko Miura’s “Festival” accompanies the montage depicting the various venues Hina and Hodaka are asked to bring sunshine to: this highly upbeat, energetic song offers a break from Radwimps’ own performances, creating a refreshing break in the movie that creates an aural representation of what sunshine sounds like. The spirit and pacing in “Festival” sounds like a song that speaks to the halcyon days of high school, a time for youth to partake in exploration and discovery without the obligations of adulthood.

  • In Weathering with You, Hodaka provides a narration over the montage: as he, Hina and Nagi brighten up weddings, Comiket, and school activities with Hina’s power, he contemplates how happy the sun makes people, washing the land in light and warmth that signifies hope and possibility. Hodaka is at his happiest up to this point in the film: having a purpose to work for and being with Hina, who can be seen as a personification of sunlight, Hodaka believes that sunny weather even helps people to fall in love with those around them more quickly, foreshadowing his own feelings for Hina.

  • Hodaka’s monologue captures the general feeling people have regarding good weather: love for good weather is universal, and there’s a scientific reason as to why this is the case. It turns out that exposure to sunshine triggers the production of serotonin in the brain, as well as catalysing the production of vitamin D. Serotonin is a chemical that is involved in a range of processes and contributes to regulation of sleep, digestion and mood, while Vitamin D is involved in calcium absorption, cell proliferation and regulating the immune response. In helping the body to produce these chemicals, sunlight is a critical part of well-being – there is a physiological piece in why sunshine and well-being are correlated.

  • For me, my mood fouls the quickest at the sight of an overcast sky or snowfall, but rainfall doesn’t bother me at all. There’s a scientific reason for this, as well: the sound of rainfall is a consistent sound that helps the mind to relax, stimulating enough of the auditory cortex to promote some activity without excessive stimulation that we perceive as noise. While research has found that extensive periods of bad or good weather cannot be positively correlated with changes in mood, the fact is that weather patterns do have a tangible impact on people; these might be subtle on their own, but can add up to create a noticeable impact on one’s health and well-being.

  • Eventually, Hina and Hodaka become renowned enough to be called in for their biggest assignment yet: ceaseless rainfall threatens the Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival, one of the biggest fireworks events in central Tokyo. Centred around the Yoyogi area, the festival has its origins in the 1980s, and each year in August, up to twelve thousand individual fireworks are used during the event. Most shows begin at 7:30 PM: unlike somewhere like Calgary, where the high latitude means that the skies don’t darken until 11:00 PM local time, Tokyo’s got a much more consistent day/night cycle, allowing for earlier performances.

  • Hodaka appears as a VIP, alongside the event’s organisers: they briefly catch a glimpse of Hina looking rather sharp in a yukata before heading off to the rooftops of the Roppongi Hills tower, a mixed-use high-rise with a maximum height of 238 metres that was built in 2003. It’s a tense moment, as the event’s organisers wait in anticipation of Hina using her magic to clear the skies. Hina begins her prayer, and moments later, the clouds dissipate, bathing the land in an orange glow from the day’s last light.

  • This moment was a truly magical one, and the music swells into a chorus as the details of Tokyo are thrown into sharp relief. From the northwest corner of Roppongi Hills, the skyscrapers of Shinjuku, some 4.5 kilometres away, can be seen, and the Meiji Jingu Gaien park where the fireworks event is hosted, is somewhere below on the right hand side of the image. Makoto Shinkai’s portrayals of Tokyo have always been spectacular, but the sunset in Weathering with You really hits home as to just how far the techniques have improved.

  • I had originally been planning on doing my first hike of the year this past weekend. This excursion would’ve likely entailed of a simpler trail that cuts through a beautiful canyon, followed by lunch at my favourite poutine restaurant on this side of the world. With the current world health crisis contained for now, it would have been tempting to go do a day trip to the mountains, but in the interest of safety, I’ve elected to shelve such an excursion until a later date, and instead, with the recent bit of spring weather we’ve finally had, I decided to walk the local parks instead. While it may not be a mountain trail, the parks in my area are beautiful and most certainly enjoyable to walk in: I was lucky enough to see cherry trees in full blossom.

  • Short of visiting Japan and watching the Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival in person, it is no joke when I say that watching Weathering with You‘s presentation of it is the next best thing. The movie makes use of CGI to present a flyover of the area while the fireworks show is on, sending viewers through the fireworks itself, and it is here that the observant viewer will notice real-time reflections of the fireworks appearing on the windows of the buildings below. The entire scene, from the buildings to the fireworks, is rendered in 3D, and this is probably the most impressive application of CG in any anime movie to date.

  • The festival’s attendees are thrilled to be enjoying the fireworks on a clear night, with spectators watching at the Meiji-Jingu park, and Nagi hanging out with one of his lady friends at a festival. Up on Roppongi’s rooftops, Hina and Hodaka share a private moment together, marveling the fireworks together. Hina finally feels that she’s found a purpose to life beyond just surviving, and it is here that Hodaka begins to realise he’s falling in love with Hina, driven both by the magical atmosphere conferred by the fireworks and Hina’s dazzling personality.

  • The Obon Festival brings Hina and Hodaka to the Tachibana family, who’s made a request: Fumi Tachibana, figures that sunnier weather will help her husband’s spirit to navigate back properly. Obon has been a Japanese custom for at least half a millennium, and is a means of honouring the spirits of the deceased: offerings are laid out for them, as they are said to return during the time of the festival. Taki makes a cameo appearance here, watching as Hina and Hodaka help with rites. Cameos only began with Your Name, which featured the return of Yukari Yukino from The Garden of Words, and it stands to reason that Makoto Shinkai’s next film will likely feature Hina and Hodaka in some way.

  • Whereas folklore and regional beliefs feel more tangential to Weathering with You, they were a central part of Your Name: Shinkai crafted an entire set of local rituals and myths for the film based on Japanese folklore to bring Mitsuha’s world to life and create credibility for the extraordinary experiences she shared with Taki. This ended up being a point of contention when one “Verso Sciolto” argued that one needed at least his level of understanding to properly enjoy every detail in Your Name. Verso Sciolto’s presence reached Anime News Network, MyAnimeList and even AnimeSuki, where he wrote pedantic, purple-prose filled paragraphs explaining why his interpretations of Your NameLiz and the Blue Bird and Chihayafuru were the only ones worth considering even though his interpretations all missed their mark entirely.

  • Verso Sciolto fancied himself a lecturer, but eventually ended up being banned from each and every anime forum of note, for being uncommonly persistent in pushing views of anime that were egregiously wrong. This is by no means a loss, and I admit that it is nice to be able to discuss Weathering with You without being told that my lack of background in Japanese literature and folklore leaves me ill-equipped to talk about the film. Back in Weathering with You, Keisuke and Natsumi visit an elderly man familiar with the myth of the Sunshine Maidens. He explains that their power comes at a cost, and that eventually, must be sacrificed to the gods to maintain the natural order of things.

  • It turns out that the police are interested in Hodaka’s whereabouts after he illegally discharged the Makarov, and two officers end up catching up to the fellow that had come into contact with Hodaka. He initially attempts to escape, under the impression they’re here to bust him for attempting to hire Hina, but it turns out they’re looking for information. Firearms in Japan are tightly regulated: aside from air rifles and shotguns, firearms are strictly prohibited in Japan. A law passed in 1958 simply states that no citizen may possess firearms or swords, and individuals who decide to have a shotgun or air rifle consent to random police checks, as well as undergo a series of stringent exams and inspections. As such, Hodaka’s possession of a Makarov is a crime, and it is unsurprising that the police are so intent on finding him before anything serious happens.

  • With Hina’s birthday coming up, Hodaka decides to get her something, but struggles to find a proper answer. Hodaka is frequently seen posting to Yahoo! Answers for suggestions, and while other services have largely displaced Yahoo!, in Japan, they still remain quite popular. Eventually, he decides to ask Nagi, who replies that, since Hina’s been doing her best to look after him, he’d be happy to have Hina live more like an ordinary teenage girl would; a ring seems suitable for this, Nagi concludes, having deduced that Hodaka’s in love with Hina. Despite his age, Nagi is very well-versed in what the ladies like, prompting Hodaka to refer to him as senpai.

  • Hodaka ends up checking out a Lumine Store and picks up a ring for Hina from MocA. These department stores are located near major train stations in Japan, capitalising on the large crowd volumes of these transport hubs to provide commuters and visitors with shopping and dining options. The ring costs 3400 Yen, about 43 CAD at the time of writing, and Hodaka wonders if it will be something Hina likes: the clerk replies that his feelings will reach her, as it is evident in how dedicated he is. Here, Miki Okudera, Taki’s senior from his old part-time job, can be seen in the background.

  • Weathering with You is filled with cameo appearances, and the clerk is none other than Your Name‘s very own Mitsuha Miyamizu. It is great to see Mitsuha doing well: she’s now working in Tokyo and, assuming that she’s the same Mitsuha of Your Name, finally able to live somewhere brimming with activity and excitement as she’d yearned for as a teen. Wearing a warm smile, she reassures that Hodaka’s feelings will reach his recipients, and she suggests that she would be very happy if someone had spent that effort for her. Besides Taki, Mitsuha and Miki, Tesshi and Sayaka also make an appearance in Weathering with You, along with an older Yotsuha and some of her classmates.

  • Hina and Hodaka have one final assignment: Keisuke’s requested their services to create a beautiful day during which he can spend time with his daughter: Keisuke’s mother-in-law would only permit him to spend time with his daughter if it’s outdoors, but owing to the frequent rain, this has not been possible until now. Even though it’s only for an afternoon, this means the world to Keisuke. Nagi gets along with Keisuke’s daughter well, and Keisuke is content in watching this peaceful scene unfold at Shiba Park: Zojoji Temple is visible here a ways past the field where Nagi and Keisuke’s daughter are hanging out.

  • Both Hina and Natsumi wear identical looks of disgust on their faces when word gets out that Hodaka had assumed Keisuke and Natsumi were a couple, when they are in fact, uncle and niece. This scene of normalcy underlies what each of Keisuke, Hina and Hodaka have been longing for – spending time with people they care about. While Makoto Shinkai has explored themes of romantic love in his movies, Weathering with You also begins to touch upon family, as well, showing how the connection between families pushes people towards actions, both great and dubious, to preserve and defend what is important to them.

  • I’ve chosen to render Tenki no Ko with its official title, Weathering with You, simply for the ease of searching. The English translation of Tenki no Ko is often given as “Child of the weather”, which I would only give partial credit for: while it is true that Japanese does not always give an indicator of singular or plural, and the child in Weathering with You is Hina owing to her connection with the skies, I argue that “Children of the Weather” is more appropriate for the film since it’s about children in plural (Hodaka, as well as Hina). The English title is not a 1:1 translation, but is a very clever play on words, addressing both the film’s weather motif and the idea that “weathering” can be interpreted as “making it together with” that speaks to the movie’s themes of resilience.

  • Hodaka decides to accompany Hina back, feeling that the time has come for him to give her the ring ahead of her birthday. Both she and Hodaka have feelings they wish to convey, but before they can speak, Hina seemingly vanishes after a gust of wind whips through the area; she’s light enough to be carried into the air now, and while she’s unharmed, it turns out that as a result of wielding her power, Hina’s given up much of her life force and begins losing her physical form.

  • In a flashback, Hina reveals that she developed the power to clear the skies with a prayer about a year ago. How this came to be is never specified, and viewers are meant to take this as a part of the supernatural piece of Weathering with You: in Makoto Shinkai’s movies involving the supernatural, the reason behind why something happens is always secondary to the consequences of a phenomenon to remind viewers that sometimes, how people handle adversity and the unknown matters more than what caused it to begin with.

  • At Hina’s place, the police come calling and ask if she’s come into contact with Hodaka. She denies knowing anything and the police leave; Hodaka prepares to head back over to Keisuke’s place, but it turns out the police have also spoken to him. Keisuke reveals that he intends to file for full custody of his daughter: like Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, family causes Keisuke to realise what’s important to him, and unfortunately for Hodaka, it means that Keisuke will distance himself from him now that it’s known Hodaka is wanted for unlawful possession of a firearm. In Endgame, family is what initially dissuades Stark from seriously investigating Scott Lang’s plan for a time heist.

  • With Keisuke firing him, Hodaka returns to Hina, who intends on running away and disappearing: she’s learnt that social services will be taking custody of Nagi, and unwilling to entertain the notion of being separated from her only family, the three decide to head off. This isn’t an easy task: the weather’s taken a turn for the worse, and the typhoon that’s passed into the area has now chilled the area sufficiently for it to start snowing, an unprecedented occurrence. From orbit, the size of the typhoon is apparent: it rivals 1979’s super-typhoon Tip, which is known for being the largest typhoon recorded (2220 kilomatres across) and having the lowest recorded pressure on Earth (87.0 kPA, against an average pressure of 101.3 kPA).

  • With police on the streets to keep order as the incoming typhoon prompts an evacuation order, Hodaka, Hina and Nagi run into trouble when officers suspect them of being runaways, and attempt to ask for their identification. One aspect of Hodaka’s character that I found curious was his tendency to try an escape every unfavourable situation he’s in: it speaks volumes about his own background and how his story in Weathering with You started with him running away from home.

  • When it looks like Hodaka’s options run out, Hina uses Force lightning a prayer to summon lightning that destroys a nearby truck, starting a fire that prompts the police to look after. In the chaos, Hodaka and the others escape. Lacking any identification, most hotels turn the trio away even though Hodaka has the cash to pay for the night: most hotels require that individuals provide proof of identification (e.g. a passport or operator’s license) before accepting a transaction. However, Hodaka eventually does manage to find a hotel that will allow them to stay for the night.

  • Concern gives way to relief, and after taking a bath, everyone sets about preparing a meal with the food from the in-room bar. After dinner, Hodaka and Nagi partake in some karaoke. With the bliss the three share together, Hodaka feels that as long as they have one another, they’ll somehow find a way to make things work. There’s a desperation in his inner monologue, praying with all of his resolve that things can work out; in his heart, Hodaka probably knows that things won’t last forever.

  • Once Nagi is asleep, the time has finally come for Hodaka to give Hina her birthday gift. By this point in Weathering with You, Hina’s become increasingly incorporeal, but her sense of humour remains: she gently teases Hodaka for staring at her, even as he dissolves into tears, worried that their time together will be cut short. Makoto Shinkai’s older films were well-known for presenting separation without resolution, mirroring how people part ways and never reunite owing to circumstances in their lives under ordinary conditions, creating a highly poignant outcome that left viewers wondering if his characters would find happiness.

  • The ring that Hodaka gifts to Hina can be seen as a promise ring, signifying his intent to commit and also to keep his word about keeping everyone together. However, the next morning, Hina has vanished, and moreover, the police have arrived to take custody of Nagi, as well as arrest Hodaka for possession of a weapon and illegally discharging a firearm. The storm has ceased entirely, and the entire landscape is covered in a washed-out light that seems unnatural.

  • Lighting plays a major role in Makoto Shinkai’s films, playing on universal emotions and feelings to convey a particular idea. The bright light washes out detail in the cityscape to create the sense that with Hina’s disappearance, Hodaka is stupefied and unable to think of anything else; his surroundings lose their colour in the process, and his world takes a further blow when he overhears that Hina had lied about her age, being in fact, younger than he is. After arriving at the police station, Hodaka manages to escape again before he can be interrogated. Unlawful as Hodaka’s actions are, one cannot help but admire his tenacity.

  • Natsumi comes soaring to the rescue on her moped, whisking Hodaka away before the police can catch up to him. The world takes on a renewed colour as Hodaka regains his determination to seek out Hina, and he believes that torii on the abandoned building must be a gateway into the heavens where Hina is held. Natsumi demonstrates an uncommon degree of skill in outmanoeuvring her pursuers, weaving between traffic and narrow spaces to throw off police cruisers.

  • Natsumi is plainly enjoying the thrill of the chase: she even remarks that she might be born to ride. In escaping the police station, Hodaka might be seen as running away again, but it is at this point in Weathering with You that things begin flipping around: while Hodaka is escaping the police, he’s also simultaneously trying to reach Hina and fulfil his word, a form of taking responsibility. The blurring of boundaries at the film’s climax shows that the gap between right and wrong is not always apparent, and it is the case that the world is not as black-and-white as we’d like it to be.

  • Natsumi’s ride comes to an end when she drives her moped into waist-deep water. Her Honda Cub ceases to work, with its main engine filled with water: it’s up to Hodaka to get to Hina. His heart tells him that she’s somewhere in the skies, and recalling her story about the torii being a portal of sorts, deduces that this is his destination. Shinkai’s especially fond of portraying the Honda Cub line of mopeds in his films owing to their reliability and track record: Takaki and Kanae both rode these mopeds in Five Centimeters per Second, and similarly, Katsuhiko Teshigawara uses one in Your Name. Unlike Yamaha’s Tricity, the Honda Cub is a venerable bike with a long history dating back to 1958, when it was first produced.

  • As Hodaka runs off towards the derelict building and its gateway to another world across the unused rail tracks, he draws the attention of both the crews working to bring Tokyo’s trains back online, as well as bemused spectators on the streets below. Trains figure prominently as symbols in Makoto Shinkai’s movies, being used as the means of connecting distant people together. Having Hodaka run on the inactive rail lines, then, is to signify that the limitations of a system notwithstanding, he intends to reach Hina at all costs.

  • A cumulonimbus is visible over the abandoned building: we’re now on the first day of June, and summer is a mere twenty-one days away, but during the weekend a few nights earlier, we had our first thunderstorm of the year: an smaller but still severe storm had passed just north of the city, and I watched as cloud-to-cloud lightning silently lit up the evening sky. Unbeknownst to me, some three hundred kilometres to the west was a band of thunderstorms that were moving eastward. By 3 AM, these storms reached my city and began pounding us with lightning and thunder. I was awakened by the thunder, glanced outside and decided to fall back asleep, recalling a time when I’d been younger and said thunderstorms would keep me up all night in excitement.

  • Upon arriving at the derelict building, Hodaka finds many of its floors have collapsed from the storm; reaching the torii is going to be a challenge, further complicated by Keisuke’s arrival. Keisuke implores Hodaka to take responsibility for his actions and turn himself in, failing to realise the reason why Hodaka is so determined to keep going is for Hina. Hodaka recovers the Makarov and points it at Keisuke: he discharges it into the air, and the police finally close in on the building, surrounding Hodaka. The Tokyo police are seen using the New Nambu M60, a revolver chambered for the .380 round that’s been in production since 1961 by Shin-Chuō Industries. When Keisuke realises that Hodaka’s love for Hina parallels that of his for his wife, Asuka Mamiya, he tackles the nearest officer, creating enough space for Hodaka to escape.

  • Hodaka reaches the rooftop torii and finds himself whisked to the upper edge of the troposphere: the average cumulonimbus reaches twelve kilometres up, flattening out at their upper extremities thanks to wind shear. The turbulent winds create a separation of charge, resulting in an electric field that is favourable for cloud-to-cloud lightning. Owing to the instability that creates them, thunderstorms typically result from these clouds, although in Weathering with You, the flattened cumulonimbus top resembles an island in the sky. Besides the rooftop torii, this unusual sight forms the bulk of the marketing materials for Weathering with You.

  • It is in the grassy tops of the cumulonimbus that Hodaka manages to find the sleeping Hina. He calls out to Hina, who awakens: as the currents up here increase, it becomes trickier to reach her. At the last second, Hina leaps into the air and takes a hold of Hodaka’s hand. The two are plunged into the interior of the cumulonimbus cloud, where the turbulence separates the two briefly. Here, Hodaka declares that he doesn’t care if the weather’s foul; a world without Hina is meaningless to him. It’s a touching gesture, and when the two fall from the lower reaches of the cumulonimbus cloud, Hodaka manages to grab onto Hina once more.

  • Shortly after the BD for Weathering with You released, Makoto Shinkai posted a Tweet comparing the theatrical version to the BD version, and it turns out there’s an error in the former: the low-level clouds and their shadows are completely absent. Shinkai remarked that this would make the theatrical cut more “valuable”, unique: the difference doesn’t negatively affect those who saw the theatre version in any way, and reminds me of a similar situation where the home release of Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer made some changes to the scenes, most noticeably, how the 00 Raiser launches en route towards intercepting a supposedly destroyed object that’s reappeared.

  • Hodaka wishes that Hina will now begin to live for herself; having spent so much of her life living for others’ happiness, Hina’s neglected to consider what she wants for herself. Hodaka acts as the agent of change here, prompting Hina to stay. The two plummet to the surface together, hand-in-hand, and moments later, find themselves lying at the foot of the torii still holding hands. The sunny weather has disappeared, replaced by a torrential rain.

  • It suddenly strikes me that Makoto Shinkai’s novelisation of Weathering with You is probably a valuable companion to the film, as it would be able to explore the inner thoughts that the characters have to a greater extent than in the movie itself. I found this to be true for Five Centimetres per Second, where the companion side-stories offered a considerable amount of insight into what Takaki had been feeling, and provided a decisive answer for the decade-old question of whether or not Takaki found happiness (he does). Similarly, Your Name‘s side story provides great detail into explaining the body-switching phenomenon from Taki’s perspective and also helps to flesh out the Miyamizu family’s history, making Toshiki a more sympathetic character than he had appeared in the film. I’ve not read Weathering with You‘s novelisation yet, but I imagine that it would help to clear out the handful of questions that I have exiting Weathering with You.

  • After his arrest, Hodaka is put on probation and sent back home to Kozushima, a small island some 172 kilometres from Tokyo. Here, he graduates from high school. Two of his classmates are curious to know what happened, and Hodaka initially misinterprets this as a kokuhaku. In the aftermath, Hodaka ends up returning to Tokyo, finding the city flooded from three straight years of non-stop rain. Its impacts on Tokyo are dramatic, and writers with a far broader audience than myself have asserted that Weathering with You‘s central theme lies in the topic of climate change, how the film is a call to action and a grim warning to what awaits humanity if we should continue down our current path. However, in Fujinkōron’s interview with Makoto Shinkai, Shinkai states that:

People say that humans are destroying nature for the sake of their own conveniences, and I agree with that. And yet, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t hesitate to turn on the air conditioning in my room when it’s hot. Climate change is a large-scale phenomenon with an unimaginable scope, but there’s not much a person can do about it on an individual level. Even so, my actions as a single person have a definite effect on the environment. It may feel like something that’s out of your realm of responsibility, but it absolutely isn’t. I made the film while thinking about how to deal with that problem through the framework of entertainment.

  • While weather patterns to the tune of what’s seen in Weathering with You seem a little outlandish, the fact is that the world has been trending towards greater extremities of late, and given the delicate balance of many ecosystems, shifting climate patterns will have massive knock-on effects around the globe. With this in mind, it is erroneous to declare that Weathering with You is an Aesop on climate change, or was intended to be a political statement. The persistent belief that all art is intrinsically political is a flawed belief; in the case of Weathering with You, imposing this viewpoints onto the movie is to be disingenuous towards Shinkai’s intentions for the film to speak of more human themes; even against adversity, people are resilient and will find ways to adapt and improve their situation. Just as Hina and Hodaka had done against the unforgiving backdrop of Tokyo, Tokyo’s citizens find ways to survive even as rain hammers the flood-beleaguered city.

  • Writing the post for Weathering with You was not an easy task: besides coming late to a field saturated with reviews having a distinct political slant, there were also the assertions, at the usual places, that the film’s direction and execution should be considered a “let down” when compared to Your Name. I counter-argue that Weathering with You has its own merits in creating a compelling story of responsibility and resilience, two themes that I’ve noticed are absent from all discussion. The themes in Weathering with You are rooted in optimism, that the belief humanity can adapt, improve and thrive, and speak positively of Shinkai’s world-view – he indicates through the film that people can learn to take responsibility for their actions at the individual level, and at a society level, people will find ways to survive.

  • I’ve long felt the contemporary attitudes towards climate change to be misguided, being motivated by politics and appearances rather than legitimate improvement for all of humanity: society’s propensity to divert funding and media coverage to activists, from researchers and experts who are developing greener technologies and systems, speaks volumes to the current society’s lack of sensibility and adversity towards hard work. It takes genuine effort and passion to learn about how complex systems function and then cultivate the expertise needed for synthesising novel solutions, but it takes no skill to make angry speeches and rally people to support extreme, but ineffectual actions with potentially devastating consequences.

  • While politicians waste taxpayer money towards propping up activist figures over supporting legitimate experts and professionals, I’ll continue to pay no mind to the activists and do my own part in keeping the planet healthier. Doing things like walking and using mass transit, recycling and composting, buying less stuff, turning the lights off in unoccupied rooms and other actions that might be small, but within my ability to carry out – these small actions are how I commit to ecological responsibility, and I count them as being considerably more valuable than telling others how they ought to live their lives.

  • In having Hodaka return to Tokyo and doing his best to make things right, Weathering with You demonstrates that the older Hodaka has come to understand what taking responsibility for his actions means. This is an overarching theme in Weathering with You that, while only visible once Hodaka speaks with Keisuke, is one that nonetheless is an important message to walk away with. These messages are conveniently skated over by those who purport to support ecological responsibility, but whose words are ultimately empty, and whose actions more detrimental to the world than those they seek to lecture.

  • When Hodaka encounters Hina, she’s seen making a prayer for fair weather. Hodaka calls out to her, and the sun appears. Thrilled, Hina warmly embraces Hodaka, and he promises that from now on, things are going to be okay. Indeed, Hodaka ends up entering post-secondary and subsequently takes a new job at Keisuke’s company. With the maturity and stability of someone who’s clearly learned from his experiences, audiences can conclude that Hodaka is able to keep his word to Hina, and that their happy ending is a deserved one. This post and its twelve thousand two hundred and fifty-four words is now very nearly in the books, kicking June off in style, but I admit that this much writing in the past while has been a bit wearing. I would like to take the first bit of June to unwind and take it easy.

  • Overall, Weathering with You succeeds in capturing the magic that is Makoto Shinkai, presenting a captivating story of resilience and determination that concludes decisively. While Weathering with You can come across as a bit busy in some areas, the movie ultimately succeeds in telling a cohesive and compelling coming-of-age story, accelerated by the presence of the supernatural. As such, Weathering with You earns an A (4.0 of 4.0, or 9 of 10): whatever flaws there are in the film are overshadowed by characters with an engaging story and Makoto Shinkai’s continued commitment to technical excellence within the film’s visuals and aural components. Like Your NameWeathering with You is a film I hope that all of my readers will have the chance to check out for themselves.

Whole-movie reflection and closing remarks

On the whole, Weathering with You is a solid film, a fine addition to Makoto Shinkai’s filmography that combines his unique sense of aesthetics with a warm (if somewhat busy) story. While Weathering with You will continue to exist in the shadows of its predecessor, the film also has enough unique elements to indicate that Shinkai’s continuing to push the boundaries for excellence in animation. Viewers will find the film will to be tread upon well-worn paths that Your Name had trail-blazed, from the journey Hodaka and Hina take, to design choices like placement of music, but in spite of this, Weathering with You still hits all of its high points to create an immersive, engaging experience during its run. With this in mind, there is a limit to how well a reiteration of familiar plot points and story mechanics will be received, and so, in the future, Makoto Shinkai will need to focus on his own visions for his work: Weathering with You is a technically superb film that managed to keep things engaging, but revisiting the same themes in a future film could prove wearing on viewers. Besides exploring different themes, one other aspect that would yield a memorable movie is to keep the narrative consistently focused on one main goal; Your Name and The Garden of Words both excelled in this area, making use of a very straightforward story to drive a considerable amount of character development. By comparison, Weathering with You was busier, and left a few plot points unresolved; these elements were actually not strictly necessary to the story and could’ve been removed without negatively impacting the themes or progression in the movie. A back-to-the-basics approach in Shinkai’s next film would therefore be especially welcome: Shinkai has always shown that he is able to do a great deal using very little as the starting point, and this is where the magic of his movies lie. For the time being, however, Weathering with You remains a film worth watching for its unparalleled visuals, another perspective on the sense that human emotions are comparable to supernatural forces for the miracles and tragedies they create, and features excellent music from Radwimps: while perhaps not appealing to as broad of a viewer-base as Your Name, folks looking for a proper Makoto Shinkai experience in Weathering with You will not be left disappointed.

The Otafest Question: Insights Into Anime Culture From An Older Era Through Lucky☆Star

“The TV show ended by saying how young people are becoming increasingly illiterate, but doesn’t browsing the Internet and blogging actually improve your literacy?” – Konata Izumi

Konata Izumi is a high school otaku who lives in Kasukabe, Saitama. A devout fan of anime and games, Konata prefers to indulge in her hobbies rather than pursue her studies, but in spite of this, always manages to get by. With her friends, twin sisters Kagami and Tsukasa Hiiragi, and the gentle but wealthy Miyuki Takara, the girls live out their high school days peacefully, from exams and sports events, to culture festivals and summer break. As the girls move into their final year of high school, the first years, Yutaka Kobayakawa, Minami Iwasaki, Hiyori Tamura and Patricia Martin, join the girls’ ranks. This is Lucky☆Star; originally a four-panel manga serialised to Comptiq from 2003, an anime adaptation was produced and ran from April to September of 2007. Author Kagami Yoshimizu originally conceived of the series as being a portrayal of ordinary high school life with a focus on the anime subculture and its members, otaku: when it was brought to life by Kyoto Animation, Lucky☆Star immediately became a smash hit despite lacking a central narrative and theme. The series presents the unique humour present in the lives of otaku, who immediately related to the circumstances that Konata experiences. Even for fans of the slice-of-life genre, Lucky☆Star comes across as being a very niche series, designed to appeal to those with familiarity surrounding the otaku subculture: there are numerous references to older series like G Gundam, as well as popular contemporary series like The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, and so, viewers begin to appreciate Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki’s presence, as they serve to help put Konata’s non sequitur thought processes in a more relatable manner. Unconventional by all regards, Lucky☆Star became a surprising success during its run. Thirteen years later, Lucky☆Star has aged gracefully, retaining its entertainment value, but the anime now also provides a glimpse into the anime community of a time immediately before Apple revolutionised the face of communications with its first iPhone.

Lucky☆Star portrays the otaku subculture as it was during the mid-2000s. This was when the internet began moving towards the level of ubiquity and robustness that we currently see but had not quite reached that point. Online discussions were becoming more commonplace, but networks had not quite reached the point where watching anime was as simple as streaming from an online service. In this time of transition, Konata swings by a local bookstore to buy manga volumes, watches her anime from television channels and, but utilises the internet for discussing the latest episode of a series, as well as learn of upcoming anime-related events and specials. Kagami, a more moderate fan, often accompanies Konata to the bookstore to check out manga and light novels available, too. It’s is a time where anime, manga and games were consumed in a different fashion, certainly one that was much slower-paced, and consequently, the different extents one could be involved with the anime subculture were more distinct. On one hand, Konata embodies the dedicated fan, an otaku who embraces the internet to keep up to date with everything related to her interests. By comparison, Kagami, while still partaking in anime, games light novels and manga of her choice, does not participate in online discussions or keep a close eye on anime-and-manga-related events. Despite the disparity in their level of engagement with fandom, and despite not always seeing eye-to-eye, Konata and Kagami are able to have real-world conversations together and participate in events together. This tangible interaction helps them to understand the other better. Kagami is able to keep up with Konata in discussions, and the two do genuinely care for one another, going to great lengths to do favours and look out for one another. Lucky☆Star suggests that the real-life dynamics between otaku who interact face-to-face have a nontrivial, positive impact on one another: this is a bit of a nostalgic trip that indicates that in spite of varied opinions about their hobby, anime fans ultimately share more similarities than differences, and that the face-to-face component is a very strong piece of fostering this sense of camaraderie.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Lucky☆Star‘s episodes features four main characters: from left to right, we’ve got Konata Izumi (Aya Hirano), Tsukasa Hiiragi (Kaori Fukuhara), Kagami Hiiragi (Erimi Katō) and Miyuki Takara (Aya Endō). Most episodes deal with their everyday lives and as such, portray mundane conversations in vivid detail: the topic of these conversations are small scale remarks about life, ranging from favourite foods to minor inconveniences, and their associated humour. Because these moments are mundane, I can’t remember what each and every conversation is about, so the figure captions in this post will deal with a separate set of topics I’d like to go over, most of which are tangentially related to Lucky☆Star.

  • Of everyone, Kagami and Konata have the most screen-time. Despite the dramatic difference in their personality, which is reflected in the fact they’re prodding fun at the other half the time, the two are more similar than they’d care to admit. Konata might be lazy and unmotivated unless anime, manga and games are brought up, but she holds out well enough in school. Kagami is motivated and determined, performing well in school, but in her downtime, she has the same hobbies as Konata.

  • The flat, simplistic style of Lucky☆Star means that, curiously enough, the anime has aged remarkably well: Kyoto Animation produced Lucky☆Star in 2007, and the manga itself began running in 2003. Portraying the sensibilities and styles of a much older world, Lucky☆Star‘s unique aesthetic, and Kyoto Animation’s technical skill in capturing this style, means that even today, the anime doesn’t look particularly dated. While Lucky☆Star might not be Kyoto Animation’s most impressive production from a visual standpoint, they did an excellent job of bringing the manga to life.

  • Lucky☆Star is quite unlike any series that I’ve previously watched in the sense that, over its run, there is no long-term goal, and the characters do not develop in a more traditional sense: Konata remains lazy, Miyuki is consistently moé, Tsukasa stays air-headed, and Kagami’s tsundere mannerisms persist throughout the series’ entire run. This is a deliberate choice, as static, flat characters provide reliable and consistent comedy. While the characters themselves do not change, Lucky☆Star does take some time to present everyone in different contexts to show that everyone does have more to them than their mannerisms when everyone is together.

  • Because Lucky☆Star is “an anime about nothing”, the longstanding assertion, that “Lucky☆Star is anime Seinfeld“, has endured over the years. This holds water prima facie: both series have mundane conversations, superficial conflict and cast of characters with unique dispositions. However, this is where the similarities end: whereas Lucky☆Star and Seinfeld share in common the goal of conveying humour, both series go about doing so in a completely different manner. Seinfeld‘s characters are unlikable by design, and so, the comedy surrounding them stems from the situational irony of what they do and experience on-screen.

  • By comparison, Lucky☆Star uses non-sequitur humour, gags and a parody of the otaku subculture to drive its humour. The characters of Lucky☆Star are more likeable, so the viewer’s source of humour comes from laughing with the characters. Seinfeld‘s characters are created such that viewers laugh at them whenever something comedic happens. This fundamental difference means that the claim, “Lucky☆Star is anime Seinfeld“, does not hold. To further build on this point, Seinfeld is not about nothing, and episodes there have a self-contained plot: Lucky☆Star, on the other hand, simply shows various, everyday experiences that Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki go through.

  • I believe that this comparison has its origins at Victor-Tango-Victor, where there appeared to be enough commonalities such that some folks figured they could create a new meme from it, and this was something that gained enough momentum to be applied to Azumanga Daioh. The exact origin of who precisely began this meme is lost to time, but the notion that any slice-of-life anime is a Japanese version of Seinfeld with high school girls erroneously endures to this day. In fact, the meme has inappropriately set the expectation that all slice-of-life anime necessarily must be funny in order to be worth watching.

  • Whether or not a slice-of-life anime should be judged for its comedic value depends largely on the author’s intention. Granted, many four-panel series utilise their format to set up a punchline and tell quick stories, but what some folks have missed is that over time, some four-panel manga (and their anime adaptations) do wrap up. Azumanga Daioh was humourous because the premise of an elementary student being bumped up to high school creates unique scenarios, but it also dealt with the ending of high school, and in retrospect, all of the experiences leading up to graduation suddenly become more than just comedy. As it stands, humour is only one part of how good a slice-of-life series is, and looking at nothing more than whether or not a series is laugh-out-loud funny is to approach slice-of-life with a very closed mind.

  • On the other hand, because Lucky☆Star is built around gags, non-sequiturs and other forms of humour, whether or not the series succeeded in its delivery is dependent on whether or not the viewer finds it funny. This is why Lucky☆Star‘s reception is so varied: folks unfamiliar with otaku or the style of humour in the series will not enjoy things as much as those who do enjoy the series’ style and/or have background in the anime subculture. There isn’t a right or wrong way of watching Lucky☆Star, and one’s own enjoyment of the series will largely depend on the individual and the extent they relate to otaku subculture.

  • My favourite moment in Lucky☆Star involves a door and static electricity: after Kagami, Tsukasa and Miyuki get shocked, Kagami shouts out “no!” when Kanata reaches for the door, only for Kanata to reply “yes” and then open the door without getting shocked. The joke flows well, incorporates a bit of English into the scene for additional laughs, and also sets up a conversation that follows into a moment that takes the joke further with Konata’s father. With static electricity, I find that susceptibility might be related to how one walks, rather than though one’s hobby as Kagamin suggests; a certain gait makes it more likely to pick up an accumulation of negative charge.

  • In 2007, otaku culture was something that still remained relatively unknown: the word otaku (おたく) is a word that the Japanese use to refer to an individual with a very distinct set of interests (equivalent to “geek” in North American English). Originally derived from the word for referring to someone’s house (お宅), columnist Ansaku Shibahara ended up popularising its colloquial usage, after seeing the original usage of otaku amongst those with a predisposition towards social awkwardness. Thus, Shibahara chose the phrase to light-heartedly refer to unpleasant fans, and almost immediately, otaku had a negative association from murders in the late 1980s.

  • English usage of the term otaku came with the 1988 release of Gunbuster (parodied as “Bun Guster” in Lucky☆Star), and while it bears some negativity, modern usage of the term refers to the general community of anime fans, and more broadly, anyone with an interest in Japanese popular culture. As it stands, Lucky☆Star‘s various anime references and the like present otaku as simply dedicated fans of anime and manga with eccentricities; over time, negativity surrounding the term has lessened somewhat, and more people in Japan now count themselves as an otaku of something.

  • Konata embodies the stereotypical traits of an otaku: utterly obsessed with anime, manga, games, merchandise and special events like Comiket, Konata goes to incredible lengths to enjoy her hobby. Her mind is so focused that she makes otaku references in everyday conversation, much to Kagami’s annoyance. However, as a person, Konata is on the whole, easygoing and likeable: otaku have previously been counted as being unsociable, but in Konata’s case, she will hang out with her friends and those around her when the moment calls for it, even if she would otherwise rather spend her time watching anime, reading manga or going through some visual novel.

  • I count myself as being closer to Kagami in how deep into the anime and games fandom I am, and there are some dedicated otaku out there whose devotion to their hobby blow my mind. With this being said, the anime communities that I am aware of, or actively participate in, are among the most inviting and friendly: beyond the community of anime bloggers and the group I follow on Twitter, courtesy Jon Spencer Reviews, Dewbond, Moyatorium, Crow’s Anime World and countless others, I also am a semi-active participant in the local anime community, having both attended and volunteered at the area’s premiere anime convention, Otafest.

  • Curiously enough, were it not for Lucky☆Star, it is actually unlikely I would still be an anime fan, and therefore, would not have visited the local anime convention. The story is that after Gundam 00 ended, I became busy with acclimatising to life as a university student, and in order to keep up with coursework, I didn’t watch anime at all. However, I ran into an interesting fellow in my discrete math class and ended up befriending him. It turned out that he was a fan of Kyoto Animation’s works, and an avid gamer himself, but unlike me and my lack of creativity, he also made YouTube mashups of his favourite series (Team Fortress 2, K-On!, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi and Lucky☆Star).

  • Ten years ago would’ve marked the first time he’d visited Otafest: Otafest 2010 was unique in that it was the first time voice actress Michelle Ruff (Yuki Nagato of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi) was a special guest, and my friend was very excited about being able to get her autograph. However, on the day of the Q & A panel, he’d forgotten to bring his camera, and therefore did not have a chance to film it. Back then, Otafest was held on university grounds, and in the months subsequent, he returned to campus to film re-enactments of the Q & A panel. During this time of year, with classes over, the university is much quieter, allowing for this to be a relatively easy task.

  • I came across his videos during the mid-summer, when I had been a ways into my summer research, and my interest in both the anime depicted, and Otafest itself, was piqued. That summer, I picked up Real Drive, which rekindled my interest in anime beyond Gundam 00. After Awakening of the Trailblazer came out in December, I decided to give the two series that had featured prominently in my friend’s mashups a go: Lucky☆Star and The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. Lucky☆Star felt like it had a lower barrier of entry, and so I began watching that first. In retrospect, this was the better decision, since that winter semester turned out to be the toughest that I’d faced yet. In the end, I ended up finishing Lucky☆Star and transitioned over to K-On!, which, in conjunction with studying with my friends, helped me to survive that term.

  • The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi is frequently referenced in Lucky☆Star: aside from the fact that Konata and Haruhi are both voiced by Aya Hirano, Lucky☆Star is also produced by Kyoto Animation. This entry into Kyoto Animation’s works would eventually result in my checking out CLANNAD and Kanon, which respectively accompanied me through the MCAT and early stages of my undergraduate thesis. While my friend probably doesn’t know this, his Otafest vlogs ended up having a notable impact on my trajectory: after going through both Lucky☆Star and The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi a year after discovering his videos, I realised that easygoing slice-of-life series and Kyoto Animation’s works were my party, perfectly suited for reducing stress.

  • My friend would later bring a camera to subsequent events and present the more interesting moments of Otafest in vlogs; these ended up leading me to consider checking things out, and a few years later, I ended up inviting a few friends to Otafest. The first year was a bit of a gong-show, but a year later, superior coordination and knowledge allowed me to line everything up, and I coordinated a group of eight to visit the premiere attractions that year: Yū Asakawa was in attendance, and enough of my friends were excited to be interested in going. In order to make it worthwhile for everyone, I also decided to make reservations for the immensely popular Maid Café, best known for its combination of providing tea in conjunction with a live performance. That Otafest ended up being a superb event, and all of my friends left with an overwhelmingly positive experience, plus Asakawa’s autograph.

  • As Lucky☆Star wears on, additional characters join the main cast: Minami, Yutaka, Patricia and Hiyori are first year students that join later in the series, and like the interactions with Konata’s party, Yutaka’s group is similarly varied and eccentric. Because Lucky☆Star‘s setup as a four-panel manga is timeless, the series has aged very gracefully overall: the manga is ongoing, and the latest chapters are relatable, current. The anime’s place in the sun thus becomes unique: because it wrapped up in 2007, it is, in effect, a snapshot into the anime community of the early-to-mid 2000s.

  • To be an otaku in Japan, during the early 2000s, then, was to enjoy things at a much slower rate than we currently know it. Konata and Kagami browse through manga and light novels at the bookstore, catch anime on TV, and go to specialty shops to purchase games and merchandise. Before high-quality streaming services and internet delivery had not been prevalent, fans could take the time to really stop and appreciate a work: in the present day, ubiquitous internet makes it possible to keep up with a near-infinite pool of anime and order things in the comfort of one’s home.

  • Lucky☆Star thus evokes a sense of nostalgia for the older anime community and its means when watched. While the world of visiting a store for merchandise and watching an anime on TV is far removed from how overseas fans partake in the hobby, there is, in fact, one way to experience the anime subculture with a very high degree of immersion and authenticity, as Konata and Kagami know it. This is by attending an anime convention like Otafest, where physically being around folks with similar interests, anime panels and screenings, cosplayers and merchants really forces one to slow down and take it all in.

  • In a manner of speaking, then, one could simultaneously say that Lucky☆Star allows one to enjoy a scaled-back anime convention atmosphere, and that to experience the anime subculture to the same extent as Konata and Kagami, as Lucky☆Star portrays it, one only needs to attend their local anime convention. This year, Otafest (and undoubtedly, many other anime conventions) was cancelled owing to the world health crisis, and while members of the community were disappointed, people also understand the importance of the measures taken to ensure everyone’s safety. The remark, that there’s a little bit of anime convention in all fans, holds true: people continued to channel the positive energy associated with Otafest, expressing a promise to attend in 2021.

  • While most of Lucky☆Star is set in Saitama, one memorable episode has Konata and her friends on a class trip to the Kyoto area, where they visit locations like Nara Park and Ginkakuji before their final day allows everyone to explore freely. During my visit to Kyoto three years ago, Kinkakuji was the prime attraction of the morning, and despite it being a rainy day, the temple itself looked amazing anyways. I ended up enjoying a macha ice cream while strolling the park and got a few photographs of the Kinkakuji from precisely the spot where Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi took their group photo in K-On!! despite the crowds. After having shabu-shabu for lunch at Torihasa near Maruyama Park, it was off to Nara Park and Osaka.

  • It turns out that the deer at Nara Park are as forward as shown in Lucky☆Star: I saw a deer snatch and eat a pamphlet from another visitor who had been feeding the deer but ran out of the deer crackers. During the course of the trip, Kagami receives what appears to be a love letter from a male classmate and becomes contemplative, wondering what’s happening. She’s so lost in thought that Konata’s usual antics do not elicit a response, but it turns out the boy had been looking to ask Kagami for a favour, and in the aftermath, Kagami is embarrassed beyond words.

  • Konata uses their free day to visit Kyoto Animation’s offices around the Kyoto area, including their head office and second studio in Uji. Having meticulously planned out their excursion, Konata is able to take everyone to these seemingly-ordinary locations without any trouble, and remarks that to avoid disturbing the staff, they’ll just remain outside. Kyoto Animation is known for being a top-tier animation studio, with salaried employees who are encouraged to focus on quality of their key frames, and as such, developed a reputation as a prestigious studio to work for. However, Kyoto Animation has seen their share of In July 2009, an arsonist doused himself in gasoline and lit the first studio on fire. This tragedy killed 36 and injured an additional 34: while the suspect was arrested, no criminal charges have been formally pressed, and Kyoto Animation has since set their efforts to rebuilding, aided by help from a dedicated and caring community as well as the Japanese government.

  • Lucky☆Star‘s soundtrack was never released in album format, and was instead, bundled with the DVD volumes: this is often the method taken for series that are geared towards the more dedicated of fans. The music itself in Lucky☆Star is remarkably varied: from parodies of action series and games, to tunes evocative of humour, and everyday slice-of-life pieces, music in Lucky☆Star is of a reasonably high quality. My favourite pieces are the slice-of-life pieces such as “Minami’s Theme” and “Ran Ran Da Yo”. One of the best uses of the soundtrack in Lucky☆Star to convey humour occurs when the music goes out of tune in response to an action on-screen.

  • One aspect of Lucky☆Star that I deliberately have not covered is the Lucky☆Channel segment that wraps up every episode. While driven by humour, I’ve never found it to be too enjoyable. From a personal standpoint, I found Akira Kogami a lot less likable than the main cast; she sports a friendly and energetic façade that quickly gives way to antipathy about most everything. Before this post wraps up, I should also justify the choice of page quote: it is chosen for the fact that there is truth in Konata’s claim, and that personally, my entry into anime blogging correlated with my improved confidence in writing. At least, this mostly holds true: while bloggers are among the best company I’ve kept, those who browse the internet will find that one-liners and memes have displaced proper discussion in some places.

  • As Lucky☆Star neared the end of its run, Patricia feels it appropriate for everyone to do a cheerleading routine during the school’s cultural festival on top of their class’ activities. It’s a tall order and initially starts off roughly, but things materialise once Konata is bribed and manages to convince the reluctant Kagami to participate. This moment allows all of the core characters of Lucky☆Star to be shown on screen at once: from left to right, z-ordering independent, we have Hiyori, Kagami, Konata, Tsukasa, Patricia, Misao, Yutaka, Ayano, Minami and Miyuki.

  • Lucky☆Channel notwithstanding, Lucky☆Star is an entertaining anime, and while its jokes might not be for everyone, there is a certain charm to the series for being able to bring out nostalgia for a different time, for when things were slower-paced and simpler in some ways. With this post in the books, my next talk is going to be for Halo 2‘s campaign: I ended up beating the campaign in record time on account of both knowing the missions well and a desire to get to playing the multiplayer. This Halo 2 post will mark the final post of May; as it is a rather lengthy one that will take a bit of time to wrap up, I wish to give it proper attention. Further to this, owing to the global health crisis, the city-wide science fair I was originally set to volunteer as a judge at moved to an online format, and at the time of writing, I’ve just wrapped up assessing all of the health projects. Most of them are impressive, and I will aim to take a look at the remaining technology projects before finalising my submission.

Through Lucky☆Star, one gains a modicum of insight into the world of anime culture prior to the propagation of broadband internet and smartphones: the anime community would’ve been a bit more tightly-knit, and this closeness would have extended into the real world. While this closeness is diminishing, as more anime fans move their interests into virtual space, there are some events and venues that still channel the atmosphere surrounding the anime subculture as seen in Lucky☆Star: the anime convention is one such event, bringing fans together to celebrate their hobby. From browsing through the manga, anime and merchandise in the vendors hall, to seeing cosplayers and the immense amount of effort they put into their costumes, as well as the more dedicated panels that showcase how to paint plastic models and specialty features like a Maid Café, the sort of world that Konata and Kagami experienced in Lucky☆Star are, for a few days of the year, brought to life by the efforts of dedicated and committed convention staff. Specialty shops that sell anime and manga along with Japanese merchandise, also create this feeling at a smaller scale, and for the intrepid, a visit to Akihabara will show that the anime subculture, as Lucky☆Star presents it, is still very much alive. Of course, anime conventions don’t happen every day, and trips to Japan can be prohibitively costly, so it is unsurprising that, despite lacking a cohesive narrative and central theme, Lucky☆Star has endured after all this time: its charms come from illustrating the anime community from an older time, and the nostalgia surrounding this period is something that viewers may find worthwhile in revisiting.