The Infinite Zenith

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Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – A Reflection After The First Half

“What would you do if you know you could not fail?” –Eleanor Roosevelt

As Suletta settles in to life at the Asticassia School of Technology, she continues to try and fill her list of things she’d like to do. Suletta eventually befriends Earth House, and after making a name for herself upon defeating both Guel Jeturk and Elan Ceres with the Aerial. The Aerial’s performance eventually catches notice of the Benerit Group, who move to confiscate the Aerial owing to its status as an illegal Gundam. Miorine ends up making a bold proposal during the Incubation Party – to form a company with the aim of purposing the GUND Format for safer applications. Lady Prospera makes an appearance, and while Miorine ends up securing funding for such a company from her father, Prospera informs Suletta that Aerial is technically a Gundam. Miorine kicks her company, Gund-Arm Incorporated, off, and determines that medical applications of the GUND Format will most likely succeed – she’s discovered that this is what the technology had originally been used for, and remaining faithful to the original applications would allow the public to learn the benefits of the GUND Format prior to its usage in military systems. Although Gund-Arm Inc. is successful in building their prototype, Suletta becomes distant when she begins to feel that Miorine is ignoring her. Meanwhile, Shaddiq’s interest in the Aerial leads him to try and duel for it: Suletta and Earth House manage to beat him, but in the aftermath, Shaddiq contacts an Earth-based terror group, Dawn of Fold, to assassinate Delling after learning that Vim and Sarius intend to take over the Benerit Group. In order to demo their prototype to stakeholders, Earth House and Miorine head over to Plant Quetta in order to pick up the Aerial, and along the way, Miorine and Suletta reconcile. However, Dawn of Fold choose this as the location and time to execute their attack. Delling is gravely injured in the process, Guel accidentally kills Vim, who had sortied to fend off Dawn of Fold, and ultimately, Suletta ends up fighting Dawn of Fold’s Gundams before the defensive fleet arrives, forcing Dawn of Fold to retreat. Suletta ends up locating Miorine, killing a lone terrorist in the process and frightening Miorine. This is where The Witch from Mercury sits after its first half has concluded – while the series had initially given the impression that it would be a Gundam series with elements from Revolutionary Girl Utena, which similarly had an emphasis on the “battle high school” elements, the moment Dawn of Fold appear and strike at Plant Quetta, it becomes apparent that The Witch from Mercury is decisively Gundam as concepts of right and wrong, the nature of warfare and the dangers of new technologies swiftly return.

The use of Utena elements in The Witch from Mercury is a particularly innovative means of storytelling: for most of The Witch from Mercury‘s first half, traditional elements associated with the “battle high school” genre are seen, with youth slugging it out in arenas while enjoying their halcyon days and jousting for dominance both within their cliques and for social supremacy. Discussions for these sorts of shows gravitate towards analysing character traits and interpersonal dynamics as people strive to figure out how duels and story progression may unfold based on how characters act around others, and their internal thoughts. However, all of this falls away once Dawn of Fold begin their attack; this has far-reaching consequences on the remainder of The Witch from Mercury and reiterate the idea that reality is dramatically different than the environment that schools provide their students with. This is where The Witch from Mercury‘s genius is – up until now, Miorine’s world had been defined by a rocky relationship with her father, and a chance to earn his approval through Gund-Arm Inc. Guel had similarly wanted to maintain his status and restore his honour through duels, and Suletta herself yearns for a fun-filled life with classmates. Disagreements between students are settled in a structured and relatively safe manner, and students are more concerned with things typical of youth, whether it be coursework or social status. However, in reality, all of these assumptions evaporate; schools abstract out many of the difficulties in reality to instruct on a concept, and while one may perform well in a classroom or arena, reality is different because it will introduce situations where there are multiple, often conflicting variables. In The Witch from Mercury, for instance, duels at the Asticassia School of Technology are initiated by pilots who know one another, and battles end when the v-fin on an opponent’s mobile suit is destroyed. In actual combat, the only rule is to survive. Enemy combatants won’t have a full-fledged knowledge of one another’s capabilities, and instinct matters as much as skill and one’s machine. All notions of honour and fairness quickly disappear; while in a duel, pilots don’t aim for their opponents’ cockpits, a live combat situation demands one must be prepared to shoot to kill. Suletta seems to adapt quickly to this, allowing her to save Miorine in the final moments to The Witch from Mercury‘s first half, but at the same time, Miorine, being completely unaccustomed to the harshness of reality (and the fact that had Suletta not acted, she and Delling would be corpses), panics in response to Suletta’s actions. By having a terror attack force Suletta’s hand, viewers are reminded of the fact that the real world isn’t as black and white as textbooks make things out to be, and similarly, Guel’s accidentally slaying Vim in combat following a misunderstanding shows how things won’t always be cut and dried. In this way, The Witch from Mercury shows that there is a dramatic difference between school and real life. In the latter, the horrors of warfare leave none unscathed, and that extraordinary situations may demand people act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise consider. Similarly, one’s identity and beliefs matter little once the bullets and beams start flying – who one believes themselves to be is irrelevant next to how one acts; the choices that on Suletta, Miorine and the others make will will doubtlessly have far-reaching consequences as The Witch from Mercury enters its second half, and excitement mounts to see what exactly goes down now.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before delving any further into this post, I will remark that I had been following The Witch from Mercury with regularity since its airing, even if I haven’t otherwise been writing about it. Gundam series are inherently difficult to write for in an episodic fashion because episodes only show more pivotal moments, and it is the sum of narrative progression over several episodes where one begins gaining an idea of what a given series aims to convey. Here in The Witch from Mercury, the first half is almost entirely set at school and apparently deals with business, with a side of duels.

  • However, in the first half’s final moments, The Witch from Mercury completely blows away everything from earlier and sets the expectations for what’s possible. Admittedly, the use of war machines in settling what are otherwise petty squabbles between students felt immature, a waste of the vast potential behind mobile suits, and in particular, Gundams. Here, Suletta fights Guel, who’s rocking the MD-0064 Darilbalde from Jeturk Industries. These mobile suits seem to emphasise close-quarters combat, and the Darilbalde comes equipped with an AI that helps a pilot react to changing situations on the battlefield.

  • I found that the duels in The Witch from Mercury limits the show’s ability to showcase a mobile suit’s combat capability – students might be going all-out in a duel, but parameters are turned down so pilots don’t vapourise one another or damage their school grounds. In this way, seeing the result of a duel, while impactful for the students, don’t give viewers an accurate look at what the mobile suits can really do, or the greater implications of one’s actions. The Witch from Mercury is not impressive in its earlier episodes for this reason, but on the flipside, the reason why the mobile suits are given less emphasis is to give the characters more shine time. Suletta initially feels like the most unlikely Gundam pilot with smiles and mannerisms more befitting of the lead character in a slice-of-life anime, but this also endears her to viewers.

  • The first bit of The Witch from Mercury also gives viewers a glimpse of the discrimination and mutual dislike between Earthians and Spacians (basically the Earthnoids and Spacenoids from the Universal Century). Among the students, this sort of dislike manifests as sabotage of other student’s work, disparaging comments and the like. Miorine tends to take the high road and avoids involving herself in these things – she prefers to focus on her garden, and while other Spacians make life difficult for the Earthians, she handles things with maturity; during one drill, she continues to walk Suletta through things until the latter passes in spite of some other students’ actions.

  • For now, I’ve not bothered learning all of the different factions that exist at Asticassia School of Technology, and instead, I’m mainly interested in Earth House because they represent Earthians, whereas the remaining students are Spacians. Because the conflict between these two groups define Gundam series (such as the Universal Century’s Spacenoids and Earthnoids, or Cosmic Era’s Coordinators and Naturals), seeing how the conflict is portrayed gives insight into how extensive conflicts are. In the environment of a school, things seem restricted to bullying, but later down the line, news clips also show that the divide is much more severe than The Witch from Mercury initially shows.

  • The Aerial’s performance, a product of the GUND Format, is prohibited technology, and from what The Witch from Mercury has shown viewers so far, it allows for the mind to interface with hardware more readily. In practise, the Permet System is most similar to the Pyschoframe from the Universal Century with one important caveat – it only converts thoughts into motion and cannot otherwise create extraordinary phenomenon. Use of the Psychoframe in Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Narrative had made it so that mobile suits could perform otherworldly feats, such as travelling at speeds faster than that of light, and even turning time back.

  • With the GUND format, it would appear that here in The Witch from Mercury, the definition of a Gundam-type machine is that any mobile suit capable of using the GUND format is counted as such. Suletta had spent most of the series convinced that the Aerial was not a Gundam and that she just was attunemed to its systems. The definition of what makes a Gundam varies from series to series: Universal Century Gundams are powerful mobile suits with a special kind of armour that make them quite resilient to damage, and in the Cosmic Era, Gundams have a special OS. On the other hand, Anno Domini’s Gundams are equipped with GN Drives, which offer nearly limitless energy.

  • Gundam-type mobile suits in The Witch from Mercury are especially powerful because they allow pilots to run remote weapons, but duels have shown that mobile suits also equip counters for them. Peil Technologies’ FP/A-77 Gundam Pharact uses the same technology as the Aerial, and some mobile suits have jammers that prevent the GUND format from working. This renders the mobile suits balanced against one another, a sharp contrast with how Gundam 00 had presented its lead machines. The GN Drives in Anno Domini were said to be up to twenty years more advanced than anything the rest of the world had, and for the first half of Gundam 00‘s first season, Celestial Being carried out armed interventions without any resistance.

  • On the other hand, Gundam SEED had Gundams be constrained by their battery life, which forced pilots to use them strategically. Kira had to work within the Strike’s operational time until he became responsible enough of a pilot to utilise the Freedom, whose internal reactor gave it a limitless operational time and increased performance over conventional mobile suits. In every Gundam series, the mobile suits themselves speak to the pilot’s intentions and aims. The Freedom represents Kira’s maturation as a pilot and gives him the power he needs to fight on his terms, while in Gundam 00, the Gundams symbolise a tool for opening a path to the future. Here in The Witch from Mercury, Suletta’s Aerial appears to represent family and protecting what’s important to oneself.

  • With this being said, it’s still a little early to say if this holds true, but what is known is that Suletta has a perfect record with the Aerial. When Elan decides to challenge Suletta to a duel, he does so with the aim of securing the Aerial for Peil Technologies to study. The corporations of The Witch from Mercury are competitors even though the operate under the Benerit Group, and this is what motivates corporations to use any means necessary to gain the leg up. Having had limited social interactions, Suletta assumes that Elan wants to be friends with her, and while she makes an admirable attempt to do so, corporate interference means that the Elan Suletta knows ends up being discarded.

  • The “profits ahead of everything” mindset in The Witch from Mercury is a criticism of contemporary views on capitalism: companies out there have increasingly put profit over all else. What’s seen in The Witch from Mercury might be an exaggeration, but it does speak to how such a world can rapidly devolve if corporations are allowed to operate outside regulation and government oversight – pursuit of quarterly growth means that people are inevitably sacrificed. Elan’s fate is a tragedy in this sense; the relative seamlessness of his replacement by another iteration speaks to how little regard there is for his well-being, and Suletta’s efforts come up to naught.

  • While a majority of the community seems to be quite interested in the possibility for a yuri relationship here in The Witch from Mercury, I’ve chosen to skate over this because for me, the core of any Gundam series is the complex interplay between man and machine. How the Gundams are used, and how their pilots respond to warfare inevitably drive the story, and while romance plays an ancillary role in how characters may act in a given moment, the type of relationship doesn’t matter. Instead, other elements in The Witch from Mercury take centre stage, and I find these aspects to be significantly more noteworthy.

  • During a start-up gala, Miorine ends up making a proposal to both show up her father and save Suletta’s Gundam: given the Cathedra Agreement’s terms, a weapon that kills its operators is unfit for use, and the Gundams have done this. However, Miorine demands that the underlying technology be investigated further before it should be dismissed, and to this end, she suggests the Gund-Arm Inc as a company for proving that the GUND Format is safe to use. Surprisingly, Delling ends up acting as an angel investor, and his actions give the other investors confidence to follow suit, giving Miorine 240 billion dollars of starting capital.

  • In the aftermath, Lady Prospera congratulates Miorine and clarifies that the Aerial is in fact, a Gundam. I’ve never actually seen a Gundam series deal with start-ups before, so this was actually a refreshing approach to the story. For the next few months, Miorine sets about trying to prove her concept, and upon reviewing enough videos, learns that the GUND format was actually once intended for use in medicine. Because medicine is the study of human health and healing, it is universally regarded as a benevolent field, and associated discoveries always draw interest in their applications.

  • The early days of Gund-Arm Inc. brings to mind the humble beginnings that start-ups usually go through, reminding me of when I had worked for my first startup. The excitement is real, and Miorine’s natural talent for leadership means that under her, the Earth House members begin trying to figure out what their value proposition will be in earnest. However, Shaddiq develops an interest in Gund-Arm, believing the Benerit Group will benefit from the study of the GUND Format. His efforts to take control of the company fails thanks to Miorine’s iron resolve, and Shaddiq eventually resorts to altering school regulations in classic Utena-style student council meddling to shut things down with the hopes that Miorine will transfer everything to him to keep Gund-Arm alive.

  • I’d been worried that The Witch from Mercury would derive more elements from Utena than Gundam when things started out. Utena is counted as a classic for its surreal imagery and encouraging themes: viewers agree that Utena is about accepting one’s identity and learning how to deal with internal conflict. Although well-suited for describing a youth’s journey of self-discovery, Gundam‘s dealings with the real world beyond school means that Utena‘s themes are better suited as a starting point here in The Witch from Mercury. Since Gundam series have long shown how people change and respond to drastic things like warfare, characters are usually thrown onto the battlefield and pushed into a situation that draws out their best (or worst).

  • While it is important to find and accept oneself, and a school environment is oftentimes suited for this because it abstracts out many complexities of reality, what matters in life beyond school is how one acts, and what motivates one’s choice. The Witch from Mercury therefore has the chance to build upon this and separate itself from Utena: I would argue that one does not truly understand themselves until they’ve been put in a situation where they’re compelled to make a difficult decision using their existing experiences and whatever knowledge and facts are available to them. The arena, being a contained environment, simply cannot offer this, and so, even when Shaddiq challenges Miorine to a six-on-six duel for Gund-Arm Inc., the stakes aren’t too high for this reason (and I remark that having people comment on the course of a battle diminishes the weight behind the combatant’s actions).

  • Shaddiq himself wants Gund-Arm, but his lackeys from Grassley House only seek to prove their superiority to Earth House. Conversely, Earth House, Miorine and Suletta are fighting to protect that which is dear to them, and in their arrogance, Grassley’s pilots underestimate Earth House. Even though Suletta is eventually boxed into a corner, a well-placed shot from Chuatury brings the match to a close. The outcome of this duel was never in the question because at this point in The Witch from Mercury, Gund-Arm Inc. hasn’t even built anything of note yet, so the story must proceed in a way as to allow for some tension as the company gets further along with its development.

  • Of all the groups at the Asticassia School of Technology, I am most fond of Earth House because Chuatury, Nika and the others feel the most authentic, down-to-earth, standing in contrast with the arrogant and conceited members from the other, wealthier houses. In past Gundam series, whether or not viewers aligned themselves with the Earthnoids or Spacenoids depended greatly on the series. I found that in the Universal Century, the EFSF are more sympathetic than Zeon, and similarly, ZAFT was easier to root for than LOGOS. In Gundam 00, however, it’s Celestial Being versus the world, so rooting for Setsuna and his team of Gundam Meisters was the obvious choice. Of course, in classic Gundam fashion, not all Earthians are agreeable, and not all of the Spacians are arrogant in The Witch from Mercury.

  • The prosthetic legs that Gund-Arm Inc. develop under Miorine’s leadership is a solid prototype that shows that the concept of using the GUND Format is viable, and during a test run, Suletta proves that their first draft is able to secure various medical certifications. Unlike Theranos’ Edison machines, Gund-Arm Inc. actually has a prototype that Miorine is willing to show to authorities; while Miorine briefly gave off Elizabeth Holmes vibes early in Gund-Arm Inc.’s history, the gap between Gund-Arm Inc. and Thernaos is massive: Miorine isn’t motivated by anything beyond a desire to show the Gundam as a safe, legal technology and stick it to Delling. However, with a good team in her corner, progress is made within the space of two months.

  • Suletta is, for the lack of a better word, adorable – she’s unlike Gundam pilots that come before her. Previous Gundam pilots have varied greatly: Amuro Ray and Kira Yamato both were civilians who eventually accepted their duty and found a way to fight for what mattered without inflicting wanton destruction, and Setsuna F. Seiei came to realise that there was more to his life than being a soldier. However, each of these earlier characters took time to become the pilots they’re best known as, and it is appropriate to give Suletta this same opportunity. With this being said, Suletta’s resemblance to the average military moé protagonist is what makes her unique, and one hopes that the battlefield won’t change her into a Heero Yuy or Setsuna F. Seiei.

  • As The Witch from Mercury progressed, I got the distinct feeling that Delling, despite his Darwinist viewpoints and cold treatment of Miorine, was someone who is distant with his daughter because of something that happened in his past. He acknowledges Miorine’s successes and indicates that as long as she can continue to maintain her course, he’ll keep backing Gund-Arm Inc. The Gundam wikia at present lists him as the main antagonist of The Witch from Mercury, but traditionally, Gundam series have always introduced the actual antagonists later on – Gundam 00, for instance, didn’t unveil Ribbons Almark as the true antagonist until the final episode of the first season. After Alejandro Corner is defeated, Ribbons comments on how everything’s fallen into place and that he’ll inherit the world Ribbons created.

  • I imagine that the real antagonist will be made known in due course, and if anything, I feel that Grassley could be the real foe: following his own failures, Shaddiq hires a group of Earth-based terrorists with the aim of shaking things up and securing his own position amongst the Benerit Group. Shaddiq is motivated by a desire to prove himself, and the constant power struggle amongst members of the Benerit Group means that greed could be a motivating factor. Of course, with how Gundam series unfold, I expect to be surprised as things unfold. Here, members of the Dawn of Fold discuss their latest assignment, which sets in motion The Witch from Mercury‘s rising action: as soon as Dawn of Fold are introduced, The Witch from Mercury finally begins to feel like a full-fledged Gundam series.

  • On paper, multiple sparring corporations had the potential to create some complex conflicts and provide writers with a chance to portray the dangers of unregulated capitalism, as well as corporate interference with democratic systems. While this is a topic that is often ignored, the Universal Century’s Anaheim Electronics and Luio & Co. both played instrumental roles in supplying arms and armour to both the EFSF and Zeon alike, as well as engineering under-the-table deals to provide both sides with increasingly lethal weapons with the aim of prolonging the conflict between the Federation and Spacenoids for maximum profits.

  • The Benerit Group and its internal conflicts would have represented a great way of showing another side to things, and in The Witch from Mercury, glimpses into these elements are shown from time to time. However, most of the first half was devoted to building up the characters, and over the course ten episodes, Suletta and Miorine both receive solid development to establish their traits. Suletta is still quite unsure of herself, and after a full episode of miscommunication, Miorine finally confronts Suletta and reassures her that she matters. Once the character growth is firmly established, The Witch from Mercury can finally step towards that which makes Gundam so enjoyable.

  • The halfway point of a given Gundam series is when things tend to get exciting: in Gundam SEED, the Archangel suddenly find themselves under fire from both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT after arriving in Alaska, while in Gundam 00, the world lures Celestial Being into the Taklamakan Desert in a massive operation to capture their Gundams, which in turn led to the Throne Gundams appearing. Here The Witch from Mercury, once Dawn of Fold appear, they bring the Lfrith Ur and Thorn to the party. These Gundams are based off the Lfrith, which was developed into the Aerial, and far outstrip any of the mobile suits that Jeturk and Peil produce.

  • Dawn of Fold’s Gundam pilots, Sophie Pulone and Norea Du Noc, are polar opposites in temperament. Sophie is brash and impulsive, while Norea is more reserved and focused. Despite differing personalities, the pair get along well enough, even if Sophie’s nature occasionally jeopardises missions. I imagine Sophie and Norea’s names are references to Gundam 00: Sophie’s family name is similar to the GNY-004 Plutone, predecessor to the GN-005 Virtue, and Norea’s name might be a callback to Sumeragi Lee Noriega, Celestial Being’s tactician and the de facto captain of the Ptolemios. Once Norea and Sophie start firing on Plant Quetta, prompting an evacuation.

  • While evacuating, Miorine runs into Delling; she’s surprised he’s here, and even more so when he asks her to accompany them. With this, The Witch from Mercury suddenly begins to feel a great deal like Gundam Unicorn: in the first episode, during a transfer to hand off Laplace’s Box and the Unicorn Gundam, the Sleeves (Zeon Remnants) attempt to infiltrate and capture the Gundam for themselves. Students find themselves among the carnage, and like Gundam Unicorn, The Witch from Mercury also portrays the belligerent forces as dealing collateral damage to their surroundings.

  • Earth House’s response to the unexpected incident is a natural one, and everyone wonders if they’ll make it out, especially as the Dawn of Fold Gundams begin firing on the docks. Norea makes to neutralise all of the vessels present, but at the last second, notices a light signal from one of the ships. It turns out Nika was able to transmit something that saves them, and the implications of this are that she knows something about Dawn of Fold. Beyond this, viewers will have to wait for The Witch from Mercury‘s second half to learn more.

  • Meanwhile, both Vim and Guel have sortied with the aim of taking out Dawn of Fold’s other machines. Unbeknownst to each other, they end up clashing when assuming the other is a hostile, and Guel inadvertently kills Vim. There is a degree of dramatic irony in this scene, and viewers are now reminded of the fact that in warfare, many things cease to matter. Guel had spent much of The Witch from Mercury as the punching bag, losing status and prestige after Suletta had defeated him. All of this feels trivial now; while Guel probably disliked Vim to some extent, no part of him had wished for this outcome.

  • Female pilots that aren’t sound of mind are a longstanding element in Gundam series – from Louise Halevy and Quess Paraya, to Nena Trinity and Stella Loussier, the Gundam franchise is littered with pilots that deserve pity more than dislike. In this knowledge, I have a feeling that Sophie probably has a background that contributed to her becoming the person she is presently. Sophie has the same temperament as Nena, but in terms of story, is doing what Marida Cruz had done at the beginning of Gundam Unicorn.

  • Dawn of Fold fighters enter Plant Quetta’s interior and prepare to slaughter all in their path, but Lady Prospera guns them down, saving Suletta in the process. She explains that in this moment, acting allows her to save Suletta. The line “gain one by running away, gain two by stepping forward” is reiterated at several points in The Witch from Mercury, and this mindset is ultimately what led me to suggest that The Witch from Mercury is building on top of elements from Utena: knowing yourself is only the stepping stone, and it is ultimately how one acts that defines them. Suletta has always thought about this line, and even when frightened or confused, tries to act with the aim of bettering her current situation.

  • Much as how Banagher uses the Unicorn after Cardeas Vist entrusts the Gundam to him before perishing, encouraged by her mother’s words, Suletta sorties in the Aerial. The entire sequence was a homage to Banagher’s first sortie as the Unicorn’s pilot: after activating the Unicorn, he uses it to drive the Kshatriya out of Industrial Seven. In The Witch from Mercury, Suletta uses the Aerial to push the Ur out of Plant Quetta. Out in space, the two Gundams separate and clash with their beam sabres, similarly to how the Unicorn draws its swords after the NT-D kicks in.

  • The fact that Dawn of Fold have access to Gundams brought to mind Hathaway’s Flash; traditionally, a Gundam is a mobile suit that comes to represent something more than just warfare, and so, when terrorist factions gain access to them, this sullies the notion of what a Gundam is meant to symbolise. Looking back, both Gundam SEED and Gundam 00 had done this: Cosmic Era Gundams are any mobile suit with a special kind of OS, while in Anno Domini, Gundam-types possess a GN Drive and a specific head design. The mobile suits thus become secondary to the beliefs that their pilots hold, and indeed, this was a secondary story in 00: once the world begins to gain access to GN Drives, Setsuna must re-evaluate what Gundam means to him.

  • With this as precedence, what Suletta ends up doing as the Aerial’s pilot will shape its image and legacy within The Witch from Mercury: while the arena-style duels haven’t been able to convey this, throwing Suletta and the Aerial onto the battlefield will. One aspect I’ve not yet covered in my discussion too deeply is the Aerial itself. So far, Suletta has had a pretty solid performance with it, and looking at the Aerial’s GUND Format and GUND Bits, it feels decidedly like a combination of the 00 Qan[T] and its Sword Bits from Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer, which could assemble into a large sword, with a plausible version of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam’s psycoframe, and as a result of the GUND Bits being able to configure themselves into a rifle or shield, the Aerial has the GAT-X105 Strike’s versatility.

  • This combination of functionality makes the Aerial a contender, and in discussions where fans compare what different Gundams can do, I would hold that the Aerial is an excellent suit capable of performing well both against individually powerful units and groups of mass production units from other universes (in fact, it would probably give even the 00 Raiser and Freedom some trouble). To keep things balanced, The Witch From Mercury has jammers for the GUND Format, and this means that as a pilot, Suletta would have room to improve and maximise what she can do with the Aerial. Here, after Suletta uses her GUND bits to form a powerful rifle and forces both the Ur and Thorn to make distance, Plant Quetta’s defensive fleet finally arrives, forcing Dawn of Fold to retreat.

  • Although Delling is still alive as far as Dawn of Fold can tell, a single terrorist manages to survive. Before he can do any damage to the already-injured Delling, Suletta arrives and pulverises him with the Aerial, turning a former human being into a pile of blood, flesh and bone. In the aftermath, Suletta is all smiles, since she’s just rescued Miorine, but all Miorine sees is a blood-splattered Suletta. Graphic violence is not foreign to Gundam, speaking to the horrors of warfare; Gundam SEED had shown in vivid detail what happened when people were hit with the Cyclops System and GENESIS weapon, while Cucuruz Doan’s Island had Amuro trample a Black Tri-Star pilot with the RX-78 II.

  • In the case of Cucuruz Doan’s Island, Amuro’s expression had been one of regret and revulsion – he clearly did not wish to kill the Black Tri-Star pilot, but the moment had demanded it. Suletta, on the other hand, sees things quite differently, a consequence of realising that saving Miorine is more important than trying to sort out the terrorist with a non-lethal approach. The community’s been quite divided as to whether or not this moment breaks Suletta’s character. On my end, I find that it’s appropriate because an indecisive Gundam pilot tends to be ineffective; Gundam series often portray a pilot who’s reluctant to fight, but once they find their resolve, they go on to contribute towards protecting what is dear to them. Here at The Witch from Mercury‘s halfway point, my main remarks are that the series has laid down the groundwork for what could be an excellent series.

  • If The Witch from Mercury decides to focus on warfare and its implications in the context of corporations and their actions, this series will meet expectations and be enjoyable. If the series wishes to return to the school environment and fall back on exploring identity over actions and their consequences, The Witch from Mercury will become a disappointment. Innovation and trying to tell a story in a different way is an admirable pursuit, but in a given story, what makes for a worthwhile experience is whether or not something can leave viewers with a definitive message to walk away with. For the present, my thoughts on The Witch from Mercury‘s first half draw to a close. The second half is set to continue in April, and I’ll be following this one with interest. While the break does break the momentum up (Gundam series typically ramps things up after its halfway point), it also gives viewers a chance to pause and reflect on what’s happening.

  • I’ll admit that writing this post was difficult: The Witch from Mercury is quite unconventional in its execution, and while things were quite slow to start, once the series hits its stride, it has its moments. It took me some time to figure out which topics The Witch from Mercury were the most noteworthy, and this is why my thoughts on the series comes out nearly a month after the first half concluded. I remark that not everyone is going to agree with how I approach things or the conclusions I reach, but at the same time, I’m also not going to agree with the notion that using a Revolutionary Girl Utena setup in Gundam makes the series more revolutionary, either. A revolutionary Gundam series explores the implications of technology, warfare and society in different ways, and here in The Witch from Mercury, the corporate piece, coupled with how novel technology is presented, is what’s innovative and in turn, holding my interest.

With The Witch from Mercury raising the stakes, elements from past Gundam series return. Gundam has always raised the question of whether or not taking a life is justified, and different Gundam series handle things differently. Gundam SEED, for instance, has Kira learning how to shoot precisely enough to take an enemy pilot out of the fight without harming them, and in Mobile Suit Gundam, Amuro reluctantly accepts that taking a life is a necessary evil in war. He shoots to kill where needed but otherwise doesn’t go out of his way to kill his foes. Similarly, Celestial Being’s Gundam Meisters typically aim to disable rather than kill unless circumstances force them to do so otherwise. The gap between right and wrong is a narrow one, and over the years, Gundam series suggest that the answer to this question is situational. At the same time, the series also reminds viewers that passing judgement may not always be feasible: although Suletta probably will have a difficult time explaining things to Miorine once The Witch from Mercury resumes, the fact is that the blurring boundaries between right and wrong, and making decisions that are consistent with one’s beliefs will be a core part of this Gundam series, as it has with previous instalments. Learning to set aside one’s judgement of others, and instead, focusing on doing what one can, is a core part of the Gundam franchise. Although The Witch from Mercury is slower than its predecessors to reach this point, the fact that the series is beginning to step up and expose both Suletta and Miorine to the horrors and desolation of warfare means that the second half is going to be an interesting journey to follow. Beyond stepping into the realm of what makes Gundam stories so engaging, The Witch from Mercury also has begun to hint at how mobile suit combat looks. Until Dawn of Fold’s appearance, the arena environment greatly limited what the mobile suits in this universe could do, but outside of the constraints that is school, viewers are given a chance to see what mobile suits can do. The combat sequences outside of the duels are of a respectable quality, and as the conflict extends well beyond the boundaries of Asticassia School of Technology, optimism for thrilling, well-animated mobile suit combat scenes is not misplaced. Changes to anime production in the present means that viewers won’t be continuing with things until the spring, and while this may dampen some of the momentum the first half had built up, if The Witch from Mercury can present a meaningful message about how there is merit in doing what one can by learning and adapting to the moment (versus clinging to things like the past, social status and the like), the series will make for an excellent addition to the Gundam franchise. At this point in time, however, it’s anybody’s guess as to how things will unfold, and this means that entering The Witch from Mercury‘s second half, one will need to enter with an open mind.

Bofuri 2: Review and Reflection After Three

“The beast’s hide is too thick to be pierced from the outside. I must cut through it from the inside!” –Drax The Destroyer, Guardians of the Galaxy 2

With Christmas Break over, the Maple Tree guild work towards clearing the fourth world. Maple herself is out with a cold, so she ends up resting. After she recovers, she returns to New World Online (NWO) and solos the boss while helping Frederica’s party; while she’d previously ended up fighting another named elite, Maple ends up with yet another powerful skill. She later meets up with Yui and May and help them defeat a named elite gaining access to the sixth level. This horror-themed space overwhelms Sally, who’s too frightened to even set foot in the world, and Maple decides to accompany Sally when the latter expresses a want for some loot from a haunted house landmark. Although they end up failing, Maple will later return and solo the haunted house. While Sally explores other levels, Maple hangs out with Mii; after they defeat foes giving Mii some trouble, the pair hang out at a café, where Mii wishes she could be herself in-game. Later, the developers start another in-game event, and despite the challenge specifically surrounding the instance Maple and Sally are given, the pair manage to clear three floors within the tower despite initially struggling with foes that were custom-made to give Maple a tough time. This is where Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu‘s second season (Bofuri 2 from here on out for brevity) lands after three episodes. After doing a special pre-airing prior to Christmas, Bofuri is set to continue on in the same manner as its predecessor, following the RPG novice Kaede Honjō (Maple), and her best friend, Risa Shiromine (Sally) as they explore NWO and its unusual mechanics. Along the way, thanks to Maple’s near-total absence of knowledge surrounding gaming, and her propensity to go with what works, she ends up having a wonderful time in the game, frustrating the developers, who appear to be at their wits’ end when it comes to handling Maple and her now-infamous guild.

After the first season had ended, I concluded that Bofuri had been an excellent example of an unusual optimisation solution in some multi-agent systems: in the typical RPG, players pick from a wide range of statistics to build characters suited for their class and play-style. Because Maple had lacked any gaming knowledge, she maximises her defensive capabilities and instead, draws upon a very unusual set of skills to advance her experience, and in the process, she ends up having a fantastic time. The lessons seen in Bofuri (and doubtlessly, Bofuri 2) is a simple one: having a varied skill set and an open mind leads to a good experience. This particular theme is general enough such that it could apply to all walks of life, and mirrors the easygoing tone in Bofuri; NWO isn’t a death-game like Sword Art Online, the competition between the different guilds are friendly, and Maple has a tendency to befriend those she meets. In the absence of high stakes and interpersonal drama, Bofuri isn’t going to tell any inspirational stories, nor is it likely to change my worldviews on a given subject. However, the series is relaxing and fun: a part of the enjoyment stems purely from seeing what outrageous solutions Maple applies towards a given problem, and watching the developers squirm as they realise nothing they propose is working. Not every series needs to compel viewers to think, and Bofuri is an excellent example of how important it is to simply focus on having fun every so often: Maple herself isn’t worried about the in-game meta or about playing the game a certain way, and as a result, she is able to have extraordinary experiences. While this means I won’t be discussing the series’ themes and their implications as I am wont to doing, as a bit of a gamer myself, I do relate to the idea of purely having fun in a game without concern for playing something “the way it’s meant to be played”.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As it turns out, the Japan-themed world in NWO was only one step of the journey, and by the time Maple has a chance to play through things following Christmas, her friends have already cleared it and are exploring higher level spaces. One thing I’ve never understood about Japanese games is why open levels are referred to as “floors”: in older RPGs where the setting is a dungeon or large building, floors make sense, but when it comes to wide open spaces, the nomenclature is misleading. Calling them “worlds” or “levels” is more appropriate a descriptor.

  • All of the RPG games I play are completely open-world, being set in large maps subdivided into large biomes, and there’s no need to clear a boss fight in order to enter new biomes. In World of Warcraft, regions do have a level requirement to dissuade low-level players from rushing ahead, and Skyrim is completely open for players to explore, as enemy difficultly scales with the player level. Japanese games are built on different philosophies than Western games, and while elements from the former have strongly influenced the latter, cultural differences result in dramatically different experiences.

  • For me, both games have their merits (I’ve found things like Valkyria Chronicles and Street Fighter just as engaging as Sim City and Battlefield), but on the whole, I generally prefer games that don’t demand a large time investment in them. The idea of spending hours upon hours levelling up and picking up usable gear isn’t something that appeals to me, and so, when games take a fair approach towards things (anything worth earning should take some effort, but not demand more effort than work), I find myself more inclined to enjoy things.

  • From what I’ve seen of NWO throughout Bofuri, the game’s biggest draw seems to be a dynamic skill system that allows players to pick up any skill and use them in conjunction with one another. Maple uses them in unorthodox ways to trivially solve most of the challenges she encounters, and I am reminded of the classic game, Magicka, a satirical game that allows players to combine magic in different ways to solve puzzles. Most RPGs don’t allow players to combine skills in an unusual manner (for instance, a World of Warcraft mage can’t use spells to bring the dead back to life, and shamans can’t use powerful frost spells to control crowds) with the aim of preserving balance.

  • Maple’s first adventure after returning to NWO from a cold is to solo the boss in the Japanese level, and then she joins her friends in the subsequent world to mop the next boss. Her overwhelming power leads the others to wonder if there’s anything left to do, and I am left to feel that Maple is similar in Donnie Yen’s portrayal of Ip Man in Ip Man – Yen’s Ip Man always finds a way of winning the most important fights and tends to draw in fights of lesser significance. While an indestructible protagonist is generally counted as being dull to watch because there’s no struggle and payoff, stories can still make such characters work.

  • This happens when the protagonist is made to learn that power isn’t going to be the answer. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is a fine example of this – although Yuna is exceptionally powerful, she finds that jumping into the middle of a problem and solving it with her fists or magic won’t cut it all the time, and in doing so, she slowly learns to listen to the world’s inhabitants. Here in Bofuri, it appears that Maple’s state in the game is such that she’s able to purely focus on having fun, but I do find myself wondering if the story is set to go further than this.

  • Bofuri‘s ability to vividly render every region is impressive: Silver Link has spared no expense in making sure every world is vividly rendered and packed with detail. The animation and artwork in Bofuri is of an excellent standard, and this shouldn’t be too surprising – Silver Link has an impressive repertoire, ranging from Non Non Biyori and Brave Witches to Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow and Kokoro Connect, and most of their shows have been well-presented.

  • The sixth world, a horror-themed space, might hint at what’s upcoming in Bofuri 2 – although Sally is a remarkable player who built her character around agility and has a reputation similar to Maple’s, her fear of all things horror means that she’s left conflicted as to whether or not she wants to play on. On one hand, Sally doesn’t do well with ghost stories, but on the other hand, she’s tempted by some excellent gear that’s said to drop in this region.

  • Using game spaces to help characters grow as individuals wouldn’t be a bad idea, and having spent the whole of the first season showing how Maple’s able to visit all sorts of spaces without worrying about being defeated, it would be nice if Maple could spend more time with her friends and help them with various in-game objectives, in time, coming to learn more about their real-world traits and potentially using the game to help them overcome an individual shortcoming. In the present, Maple agrees to accompany Sally into a haunted house where some interesting gear is set to drop.

  • If I had to guess, once players acquire a skill in NWO, the skill’s performance probably scales as one levels up. This would allow Maple to continuously use her old skills in higher levels without worrying about them becoming obsolete. The Division and The Division 2 had a similar mechanic in play, allowing seeker mines, explosive drones and remote turrets to do more base damage as one levelled up, so that they would remain useful as one hit the endgame. By using her Machine God ability, Maple carries Sally through the haunted house, both literally and figuratively.

  • Maple’s firepower actually does tangible damage to whatever ghosts are in this world, and as such, it stands to reason that, had Sally simply stood her ground and fought back, she’d be able to hold her own. However, since her fear of ghosts and spirits surpasses her confidence in NWO, she ends up being ineffectual during the exploration. I recall a similar scene in Metro: Last Light, where during the mission to save Pavel, Artyom has a frightening vision where hands of the damned protruded from the walls while he follows the Dark One. Back then, I only had a GTX 660, but I was still able to run the game at high settings and maintain 60 FPS with the 1080p resolution.

  • When Sally gets separated from Maple, her ensuring reaction is adorable. This was a somewhat unexpected side to her character, and although I vaguely remember Sally being uncomfortable with ghost stories and the like, seeing moments like these really accentuate her dislikes. Admittedly, it was also quite amusing to see the otherwise cool-and-collected Sally reacting in such a manner. In the end, she does manage to link up with Maple, who uses her latest ability to give Sally a chance to regroup, and when some other adventurers enter the house, they draw the spirits off the pair, allowing Sally and Maple to escape.

  • Sally’s original quest of gaining some new items ends up unsuccessful, but for their troubles, she and Maple both gain access to a new skill. While I’ve never had an experience quite like Sally’s in a game before, I have had times where I entered a mission thinking I had what it took to complete it, only to get stomped. This most often happens in games like The Division – after I completed my six-piece Classified Striker’s set, I foolishly thought I was capable of handling Incursions solo and found myself hopelessly outmatched; this activity had been scaled for four players with good gear. Similarly, in The Division 2, I’d imagined that the Hunter’s Fury would be an asset when I tried to solo the raids, but during the airport level, I couldn’t even make it off the tarmac into the terminal.

  • As a predominantly solo player, I definitely wouldn’t make it very far in NWO unless I managed to make a Maple-like build. Back in Bofuri, after logging out, Sally is surprised to find her home empty; her parents are working late, and she’s still a little jittery following the excitement of having just escaped a haunted house. The real world is rarely shown in Bofuri, but I am fond of its portrayal, since it does remind viewers that this series isn’t an isekai, strictly speaking, and as a result, the stakes are much lower. A few months ago, I would’ve been a little envious of Sally’s home setup, but post move, I’ve put together a setup of my own that has suited my needs.

  • Luckily for Sally, Maple’s on hand to talk her through things. Moments like these speak to what’s really important in gaming, and while Bofuri doesn’t have the same high stakes as the typical isekai or something like Sword Art Online would, the change of pacing makes this a relaxing series to follow. Understanding this about Bofuri means managing my expectations accordingly: I’m not here looking for a world-class, life-changing tale, but instead, it’s sufficient to see characters learn and grow alongside one another in a world where the only aim is to have a good time, something that many streamers and gamers in the present seem to have forgotten.

  • In the end, Maple ends up soloing the haunted house and secures all of the stuff that Sally had been looking for. In the time that has passed between Bofuri and Bofuri 2, I’ve managed to finish The Division 2 fully – seeing the excitement in Bofuri 2 about loot brings back memories of when I’d spent my downtime after work running through Washington D.C. doing various things for exotics. In The Division, I ended up joining random groups in order to complete legendary missions, but with the presence of exotic crates in The Division 2, I was able to amass a reasonably extensive collection of exotics without needing to play the toughest content.

  • My old Hunter’s Fury gear set, paired with the Chatterbox and Ninja Bike kneepads, allow me to trivially beat missions in PvE – the fact I get health and armour back on each kill, coupled with the fact that every kill also returns a third of my ammunition, and the Chatterbox’s ability to increase its firing rate when near enemies, renders this the perfect setup for PvE. On the other hand, against individually strong opponents, the Hunter’s Fury loadout I have now is quite ineffective. My approach towards The Division 2 was partly inspired by Bofuri, and since I have no intention of playing PvP or the game’s tougher content, things work out well enough for me.

  • The main reason why I’ve not returned to The Division 2 since finishing the Faye Lau manhunt had been because for most of 2021 and 2022, the game went on a bit of a hiatus as no new content was added. Ubisoft had launched a roadmap indicating that new content would be added, along with a new free-to-play title, but having felt I’d gotten my money’s worth from The Division 2, I ended up moving on. Back in Bofuri, after receiving a request from Mii, Maple joins her and uses her newfound defensive buffs to give Mii a chance to use her powerful, but slow-to-deploy AoE skill. This particular spell brings to mind Megumin’s ex~PLOSION~!, which similarly was damaging but was stymied by a high magic requirement and long charge time.

  • On the topic of Megumin, it turns out that next season, Konosuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World is going to be released. This spinoff will deal with Megumin and show her life prior to meeting Kazuma, and I’m rather looking forwards to seeing how things turn out. During the start of the global health crisis back in early 2020, I found myself with an abundance of time at home, so I spent most of it powering through anime I hadn’t had time to watch. Konosuba was one of them, and in this series, I found comedy of a consistently good quality. Besides KonosubaKuma Kuma Kuma Bear is also going to get a second season.

  • While I don’t typically watch or write about isekai anime, there are a few series that do catch my interest from time to time – I prefer to watch the more relaxed and comical series over the serious ones. Back in Bofuri, Mii and Maple swing by an in-game café following their adventure, and the conversation switches over to something on Mii’s mind; she’s been wanting to be herself, but obligations to her guild means she must maintain a more serious persona. Hanging out with Maple allows her to relax and show her true self, and I am hoping that at some point, seeing Maple doing what she does best will also help Mii to relax around others.

  • When conversation turns to hanging out with folks one otherwise normally wouldn’t, I am reminded of how slice-of-life anime are able utilise their casts and have different characters interact with one another, in turn creating new experiences that may differ in tone and outcomes compared to what is seen with the lead characters. GochiUsa had done an especially good job with this: while Cocoa and Chino carry most of the show in earlier seasons, later on, episodes give the other characters a chance to shine. Episodes of Bofuri around other characters in the Maple Tree guild, or even the other guilds, could act as a fun way of showcasing more of NWO.

  • Bofuri is wasting no time on pushing ahead – by the game’s seventh major event, Maple and her friends are fully ready to take things on. This time around, rather than a large-scale event involving multiple guilds, small groups must take on instanced areas. The idea of an “instance” originates from World of Warcraft, where small groups were given their private copy of a dungeon to take on. The term itself comes from Object-Oriented Programming, where an instance of an object is a occurrence of an object that can be acted upon. The easiest way to describe this is with physical entities: supposing that Person is a class describing people, then Maple would be an instance of the Person class. The term stuck, and since then, private dungeons have been referred to as instances.

  • Maple and Sally end up taking on their instance together, but unbeknownst to them, the developers have altered theirs so the pair end up with far tougher foes than necessary. As Maple and Sally destroy their opponents, the developers watch in horror; nothing they have seem to work. However, their conversations also suggest that these foes were designed to be challenging, but not unbeatable. The problem NWO’s developers have stem from a fundamental design problem in their game: caps to skill power and statistics, coupled with limiting what combination of skills can be equipped and earned, would’ve eliminated most of their headaches.

  • Game balance is eschewed in Bofuri precisely to accommodate Maple’s outrageous adventures, and as such, the developers find themselves on the backfoot. Battlefield 2042 had suffered from this – originally, the class system was abolished, and this reduced the incentive for teamwork. The reintroduction of classes is intended to ensure that players are locked to a specific role, increasing the need to work as a team. Here, Maple equips her Wooly skill: this one is one of my favourites because Maple’s response to using it is always adorable. While outwardly envelopes Maple in wool, she is able to utilise it in a creative way.

  • Writing for Bofuri is admittedly a bit of a challenge: since the anime’s objective is simply present a fun experience, there isn’t much to do in the way of speculation, either. As such, Bofuri is one of those series where it’s easiest to kick back and watch things as they unfold. With this in mind, while I’m writing about both Bofuri and Mō Ippon! in the same manner, the latter does provide more opportunity for the sort of discussion I’m partial to; I’m not sure how many readers here follow my references to games, for instance.

  • Back in Bofuri, upon fighting their first foe, Maple and Sally initially have a tough time damaging its exterior. Once they spot that the monster’s mouth might be a weak spot, Maple decides to cut it up from within. This is the inspiration for the page quote, sourced from Guardians of the Galaxy 2, during the opening fight against a multi-dimensional monster known as the Abilisk. When Drax determines that the only way to deal damage to it is from the inside, both Gamora and Peter Quill are perplexed, since skin is supposedly the same thickness from the outside as it is from within. However, there is merit in Drax’s argument – the fleshy interior is probably not as tough as the exterior, so more damage can be done.

  • In this way, Maple and Sally conquer the first floor without too much trouble and move onto the second, where they fight a foe that takes the form of a large book and utilises Maple’s own skills against them, while at the same, preventing Maple from using any skills it’s taken. This enemy is actually pretty cleverly designed and brings to mind the likes of Aaron Keener, who had access to the same plethora of skills as the player’s Agent. Against Keener, I found the best way to handle him was to continuously push the offensive – staying behind cover isn’t too effective, and I found that it was by getting up close and personal that let me do effective damange.

  • The visual quality in the second floor’s fight is degraded somewhat, as the character models become more blocky in terms of appearance. The darkness in the room somewhat masks this, but it was still noticeable. Silver Link generally has a solid history of producing visually consistent works, but there have been cases where things have seen slippage (such as 2016’s Brave Witches). However, if their record is anything to go by, Bofuri 2 shouldn’t see any delays to its schedule: it is possible that some shortcuts were taken to ensure that episodes aired in a timely fashion.

  • The fight against the second floor’s boss ends with Sally using her speed to overcome it, and the two advance to the third floor, which is controlled by an elemental golem. Initially, the environment resembles World of Warcraft‘s Molten Core, but after Sally begins using cold spells against it, the golem switches over to cold-based attacks. Maple ends up using her Atrocity form and consumes the golem, defeating it instantly and giving the developers more headaches. At this point in time, it almost feels like Maple and Sally would be better served as play-testers brought on before a game ever hit alpha stage: their unconventional play-styles would expose problem areas of a game that can then be fixed.

  • Having said this, with the way Maple plays, one might be inclined to consider fool-proofing certain things, and this approach towards development does have its detriments. One longstanding axiom in software development is that users will always find ways of breaking something no matter how well-guarded something will be. For NWO’s developers, it may not be a meaningful exercise to keep up with Maple, so here in Bofuri 2, I am curious to see how they react as the story continues. Viewers will likely have an excellent ride ahead, and I look forwards to seeing what the second season will present. In the meantime, it’s time to call it an evening: I’ve returned from my first dinner out with the extended family to celebrate the Chinese New Year, and after an exquisite menu, which included a whole steamed fish and fresh lobster, I’m inclined to do as Maple does and enjoy some time in a game.

The ability to play a game in any manner of one’s choosing is a topic of debate amongst those who partake in video games. On one hand, game mechanics may lead to certain tactics being more effective than others, and in PvP environments, this can result in heated exchanges regarding whether or not said tactics are fair. For instance, the practise of camping in a first person shooter is regarded as dishonourable because it gives the camper an advantage over their foes. By staying in one spot and remaining hidden, one can defeat unsuspecting foes with ease. There is, however, one legitimate use of camping: if one has just exited a firefight and needs to regenerate their health, it is perfectly acceptable to hide behind cover or somewhere safe while awaiting recovery. If one is ambushed in the process, there’s nothing unethical about defending oneself. In PvE games, play-styles are irrelevant, and one can choose to have fun in any manner of their choosing. The whole point of gaming is to have a good time, and this is why for me, single-player experiences are my preference. I can do something in my own manner of choosing, in an environment where my mistakes won’t harm any teammates or allies. Similarly, when I play PvP experiences now, I enter a match without any expectations: the goal isn’t to help my team win or maintain a positive KDR, but rather, to have a blast, and I’ve found that when approaching games with this mindset, I tend to do better and have a better time of things along the way. Bofuri celebrates this approach towards gaming. With all of the streamers out there trying to engage their audiences by using meta loadouts and strategies exclusively, as well as viewers who try to emulate them, the spirit of video games is somewhat diminished, so Bofuri acts as an amusing counterargument for this in suggesting that even using the so-called “off meta” methods and equipment can still be viable so long as one has an open mind, and above all else, a willingness to have fun in the process.

Kaginado: Reflections After The Second Half and Welcoming The Year of The Rabbit

“I don’t think it’s possible to have a sense of tragedy without having a sense of humor.” –Christopher Hitchens

After Yuri and the SSS arrive at the school festival, she announces her intention to destroy this world and its god, feeling that the idyllic life here must be a ruse. To this end, Yuri tasks her force with capturing mascots from the other storylines to force the god’s appearance. Later, Yuri tries to hijack the buses taking the others to a summer trip, but when Yuzuru develops trauma from being within a tunnel, the SSS’ ploy fails, leading them to be buried in the beach as punishment. Back at school, Yuri next tries to put on a concert, confident that god will show up if they create some noise. Over time, the SSS begin settling into life with the other characters, and Yuri herself becomes excited about the student council president elections, feeling she can become god-like in the role. When the nail-biting election campaign begins, countless candidates join, and Yuri decides to sabotage the votes in her favour. For her actions, Yuri is thrown into solitary confinement, and meets Ayu, who’s confined for having stolen taiyaki. On the day of the election, it turns out that votes were evenly distributed, and when Ayu arrives, the other students pursue her so she can vote and break the tie. After elections end, the characters reflect on how being together has helped them to gain a better understanding of one another. The show thus draws to a close, and while Ushio is sad to see things end, planetarium attendant Yumemi reassures her that the show will continue so long as she remembers it. Nagisa and Tomoya arrive and pick up Ushio, while the Junker thanks Yumemi for another excellent performance before the pair set about preparing the planetarium for the next showing of Kaginado. With this, Kaginado‘s second half draws to a close, and with it, a wonderful parody of the worlds within Key’s impressive compendium is done. Kaginado was a part of the twenty-first anniversary project, and as a crossover, this series of shorts wound up being a very gentle and entertaining way of celebrating Key’s most iconic characters in a respectful, but cheerful manner: Key’s visual novels have a reputation for bringing tears to the player’s eyes, and anime adaptations have been similarly touted for their emotional impact, so being able to see the characters bounce off one another and parody their own past experiences shows that, while Key may excel at poignant stories, their writers also have a sense of humour.

The highlight of Kaginado‘s second half lies with the introductio of characters from Angel Beats!. After Kaede, Yuri, Yuzuru and the SSS join the party, Kaginado becomes even livelier as Yuri and the SSS do their utmost to cause a disturbance such that Yuri may draw out the world’s god so she can have a throwdown with them. To this end, the SSS embark on the same activities they had originally carried out within Angel Beats!, and while Yuri is certainly trying to take her work seriously, the fact that Kagonado is a parody with no regard for emotional tenour means that unexpected events thwart her every attempt. Kaginado shows how Yuri’s original plan within Angel Beats!, despite being motivated by rightous feelings of resentment and a desire for vengence, was ultimately one that couldn’t succeed. Angel Beats! would ultimately have Yuzuru approaching things with heart rather than bullets, leading the characters to make peace with their pasts, and here in Kaginado, Yuri similarly fails as those around her begin accepting the outlandish would that is Kaginado. That Angel Beats! premise works with both a dramatic and comedic environment speaks to how there are cases where how a story unfolds is dependent on the author’s intentions. Since Angel Beats! had been meant to pull at the viewer’s heartstrings and create a story of making a sincere effort to make peace with one’s past, things were more serious as Yuruzu strove to understand the world he found himself in. On the other hand, Kaginado is simply meant to parody these stories and give them a humourous twist. Yuri’s plans seem out-of-place, ill-conceived and unnecessary. However, despite the gap on intentions, the outcomes end up being the same after Yuri realises that within the other worlds, there were other characters who share her feelings. By hanging out with Kyou, Nayuki, Komari and Kotori, Yuri realises there is worth in this world, and ultimately decides to live life to the fullest, while at the same time, choosing a path most consistent with her desires. Because of the implications that Kaginado brings to the table, the parody series also reflects on the strength of the writing in Angel Beats!, a series that, after over a decade, still remains immensely enjoyable to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about Kaginado was near the end of August, and back then, my original plan had been to watch the second half shortly after: Kaginado‘s second half had begun airing during the spring of 2022, shortly after my move, and I had been settling in then, leaving little time for my other pursuits. Once things had settled down during the summer, I began watching Kaginado, but my usual propensity for procrastination meant that once I’d finished the first half, I found little time to continue as the fall season began, and Yama no Susume: Next Summit kicked off.

  • However, within moments of starting Kaginado‘s second half, it immediately returned to me as to why I found the first half so enjoyable. The characters in Kaginado are largely faithful to their portrayals in their respective series, but additionally possess a modicum of awareness about how they were treated. This drives some of the humour; watching Ryou hand Botan to Ooyama, seemingly in order to spite Kyou, only for Ryou to betray Ooyama and alert Kyou to Botan’s position, was hilarious.

  • Classic elements from Angel Beats! make a return in Kaginado, with details like Yusa’s role as Yuri’s intelligence officer being faithfully brought over. Yusa’s story in Angel Beats! is that of a tragedy, but owing to Angel Beats! runtime, most of the characters’ backgrounds actually aren’t explored, and it is not lost on me that two twenty-five episode seasons would probably be required. In place of this, Angel Beats! ended up receiving a visual novel, but after the first volume was released, no more news of the project was heard.

  • Yuri’s plan to cause disruption in this world mirrors her old actions, and right out of the gates, I was reminded of the original Angel Beats! – as the story goes, I decided to pick the series up eleven years earlier because one of my friends had sent me Lia’s My Soul, Your Beats, and curiosity led me to watch Angel Beats!. After finishing Angel Beats!, I was greatly moved and proceeded to give CLANNADKanon and Air a go. Each of these series were characterised by the balance of comedy and drama, as well as an overwhelming feeling of yearning.

  • In Kaginado, the drama and tragedy is entirely discarded, leaving the entire focus on the comedy. Much of the humour is dependent on a familiarity with Key’s other works, and as such, folks who’ve not seen a handful of Key’s shows or played through the visual novels will find some of the moments in Kaginado difficult to follow. For instance, when Kaede shows up in the SSS headquarters, this is outrageous because originally, Yuri had gone to great lengths to keep Kaede at a distance, including setting traps. Here in Kaginado, Kaede is able to saunter freely into headquarters without any resistance, and playing on her love of the Sichuan dish, mapo tofu, she’s always seen with a bowl in hand.

  • Although short, every episode of Kaginado is packed to the brim with hilarious moments; when Yuri’s initial plans fail, she decides to pull something during the big class trip to the beach. Her efforts end up failing, since her SSS are not equipped to deal with people possessing extraordinary combat prowess. The unexpected moments that occur in Kaginado means there is never a dull episode, and the series utilises its new additions from Angel Beats! to great effect.

  • Kaginado‘s irreverent and whimsical presentation of elements from Angel Beats! serves to put things in perspective – although Angel Beats! had its share of comedy, a consequence of Yuzuru’s initial attempts to adjust to life in the Afterlife world, once Yuzuru began empathising with Kaede and began making efforts to make amends, the series became increasingly poignant as it became clear that every last person in the Afterlife had come in because of their own regrets, and this world had become a place for everyone to overcome said feelings of longing.

  • Moments like Yuzuru’s sacrifice in Angel Beats! are brought back in irreverent but hilarious ways, ones which do require a priori knowledge of Angel Beats!. After the bus enters a tunnel, he develops a panic attack – his original story was that in life, he’d been a bit of loser, but ended up turning his life around and aspired become a medical doctor as a promise to his sister. En route to the entrance exams, a rock slide trapped his train, and Yuzuru ended up organising a survival effort, but died from dehydration and exhaustion moments before rescuers came through. In the absence of this background, Yuzuru’s outburst would not make much sense.

  • Kaginado‘s first half had a swimsuit episode, so for kicks, the second half has a beach episode, and for good measure, both the idea of rendering the girls with a higher level of detail, and the battle between two pairs of siblings, make a return. Here in the second half, meta-humour remains present, although it is the SSS that drive most of the comedy – as punishment for their antics, they’re buried in the sand and forgotten wholly.

  • The Chinese New Year always creates an interest in horoscopes, although here, I note that people take an interest in horoscopes because they are way of comforting those who are facing uncertainty in their lives. Where tried-and-true methods fail, people look for patterns and hope in anything they can find, and astrology offers this. For instance, my own horoscope for the Year of the Rabbit is that, if I work hard and manage my finances well, I’ll have a good year. At first glance, this does sound like my financial fortunes will improve, but it is, in fact, contingent on my putting in an effort to improve things. My horoscope is therefore fully accurate, provided I take the initiative to make it so.

  • Similarly, if I receive word of incoming bad luck, it’s simply just a caution to not overdo things – receiving poor fortunes simply means that one should be more observant of their surroundings, and more mindful of themselves. Back in Kaginado, things switch over to a concert that Yuri organises; she hopes things will be noisy enough for the gods to appear. Unfortunately for Yuri, while the concert is a success, and Masami disappears after performing the ballad she always wanted to perform, the gods don’t appear, and instead, attendees are treated to Lia’s Aozora, one of her most iconic songs that was used as Air‘s ending theme.

  • Later, for no apparent reason, the characters across the different Key universes are pitted in a one-on-one against one another, and the characters in the show I watch end up winning against their opponents. Mai’s sword technique destroys her foe, while Kanna overwhelms her foe when she flies into the skies and loses all of the clothing in the process. On the other hand, when Matsushita squares off against Kotomi, I had expected Matsushita to win owing to his martial arts skill, but Kotomi cheats by breaking out her violin, which returns as a weapon of mass destruction.

  • As a callback to the first half of Kaginado, Kyou had already foreseen this happening – here she sits, with a smug little smile on her face and her pockets full of cash, ready to enjoy the show. Little details like these weren’t necessary for Kaginado, but their inclusion serves to accentuate the humour. The resulting pandemonium is befitting of a show like Kaginado, and once Kotomi’s done her beatdown on Matsushita and everyone in the stadium, judge Kaede break out her “Harmonics” guard skill in retaliation, lamenting how her mapo tofu is destroyed.

  • Later, while a pair of sleepovers are happening, the secondary characters who were shafted by their respective stories commiserate together in what is visibly a miserable time. It’s easy to laugh at them, but of everyone, I feel most pathos for Nayuki and Kyou – I’ve experienced precisely what the pair have gone through before, and it deals one’s confidence a crushing blow. One thing that I would’ve liked to see, even though this is strictly unnecessary from a storytelling perspective, was seeing how Kyou and Nayuki found their footing after losing their respective love interests.

  • On the other hand, the heroines’ get-together is set in a neatly-organised room, and the lights are on. Conversation is spirited, but once it turns out Riki isn’t a heroine (despite being voiced by the legendary Yui Horie), the others pull him aside for “research” purposes. This was one of those moments that I don’t have any background in, and as such, the moment flew over my head. However, it also suggested that perhaps now is the time to get into Little Busters.

  • Towards Kaginado‘s end, Yuri ends up deciding that she wants to take on the role of a student council president, having seen how much power the role entails. Originally, Yuri had sought the power to help those around her after losing her siblings and her own life during an armed robbery that went bad – she most regretted being unable to protect them, and since then, had sought vengeance against the god of a cruel world. Angel Beats! had left the existence of a god ambiguous and suggested that any higher powers in their world did not intervene in the world of humans, but was benevolent enough to give people a second chance.

  • Admittedly, seeing Yuri’s determination in Kaginado was adorable because of all the characters, she feels the most unable (or unwilling) to accept Kaginado‘s world – she retains all of her old resolve to destroy this world, and this comes across as being immensely out of place, leading to humour. With CLANNAD and the other characters, their comedy comes from being placed into ridiculous situations or what’s known as meta-humour, in which the characters critique or challenge the writing that created their circumstances.

  • However, even Yuri begins showing signs of desiring a normal life: after her latest tantrum, Yukine passes her a cup of tea, and Yuri loosens up a little. Here, I remark that discussions on Kaginado have been limited despite the series’ entertainment value, and this time around, I do have a guess as to why this is the case – CLANNADKanon, Air and Angel Beats! are older than a decade, and the constant stream of anime means that older titles can be forgotten. Interest in Kaginado is understandably diminished, although it’s worth reiterating that folks who have previously seen Key’s works will find Kaginado worthwhile.

  • To Yūichi, Tomoya, Yuzuru and the others, seeing their worlds collide in a hilarious way leaves them without words – as the student council president race heats up, smaller groups form as the campaign for different things, and this creates a multi-way race. Seeing this leads Yuri to employ under-handed techniques to win the election, and while Angel Beats! may have accommodated this because of the Afterlife’s unique setting, the other characters eventually intervene and chuck Yuri into solitary confinement for some self-reflection.

  • Seeing Ayu and Yuri together is something that was only possible in a crossover like Kaginado – Ayu’s here for stealing taiyaki repeatedly, and is apparently a repeat offender. This room was seen in Angel Beats!, used to confine students engaged in misconduct. It speaks volumes to how memorable Angel Beats! had been; even eleven years later, I still recall smaller details within the anime. While I’ve watched many series since then, the fact that Key adaptations still stand out speak to their staying power.

  • Although the so-called losers end up bemoaning their fate and even coughs up blood, the four of them pull their act together and try to encourage Yuri to simply do her best. Things turn around after the SSS appear, having rounded up the traitors within their ranks. Seeing this returns Yuri to her old self, and she resolves to campaign with all of her heart.

  • Going through Kaginado is a far cry from my usual anime experiences: since episodes are only four minutes each, it was possible to watch the whole of Kaginado in a single sitting, and this in turn made the series very easy to go through. Normally, I watch one or two episodes of a given series in a day, and it takes an average of two weeks for me to complete an anime if it has fully aired. While some people prefer watching their shows all at once, I’ve found that this can be an exhausting process. I personally enjoy going through things more slowly so I have time to take in something and give some thought to what I watched.

  • There is no right or wrong way of watching anime, and different people will find different processes better suited for their schedules. Back in Kaginado, after the campaigning comes to an end, and the results are in, it turns out Ayu was absent from the vote, making her Key to a tiebreaker. The entire school ends up pursuing her across Japan to secure her vote, and in the end, it looks like the new student council president’s identity is a mystery. However, with the elections over, everyday school life returns to normal for the students, who welcome the routine and enjoyment of an ordinary life.

  • Throughout all of Key’s works, it does feel that the ordinary as something to cherish is another common theme. In keeping with tradition, Kaginado also presents this, albeit in a more roundabout way as the series parodies every aspect of the works the characters featured in. Overall, because of its presentation, I count Kaginado to be an enjoyable experience that is worthwhile for anyone who is a fan of Key’s works. Since Key series tend to be emotionally charged, it is nice to see everyone interact in an environment where there is no tragedy.

  • Kaginado features six of Key’s works, and here, I’ve featured stills from the four series I’ve previously watched. At present, I feel that my next Key adaptation is going to be Little Busters; this anime is actually quite lengthy, running as long as CLANNAD did. With my schedule, assuming I start next month, I could be done by the time summer arrives. On the other hand, I’ll probably look at Rewrite at a later date; I’m still on the fence about this one owing to the more dramatic portrayal of the supernatural, but again, Kaginado has shown me there may be merit yet in keeping an open mind and giving this one a go.

  • Once Kaginado comes to a close, Ushio expresses a desire to see more of the world, and Yumemi explains that while the show’s done, it will continue living on so long as she remembers it. Kaginado was one of the projects done to celebrate Key’s twenty-first anniversary, and over the years, this developer studio had accrued a reputation for creating works of emotional impact. With their extensive history, Key continues to produce visual novels and kinetic novels (essentially digital picture books), and their company also produces their own music through Key Sounds Label.

  • With both halves of Kaginado in the books, and the appearance of Planetarian‘s Yumemi, I am reminded of the fact that while I have watched Planetarian in full some six years earlier, I never got around to watching the Planetarian movie despite having promised one of my readers I’d do so. Because it’s been so long, I don’t think said reader is around, but there probably is merit in my going through the Planetarian movie at some point in the future so I can finish things off.

  • We’re now a shade over two thirds of the way through January, and with Bofuri and Mō Ippon!‘s third episodes past, I plan on writing about them. Both series have impressed me enough to warrant a discussion. In addition, word has reached my ears that Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san‘s live-action Netflix adaptation has become available. Titled The Makanai: Cooking For the Maiko House, this series will present Kiyo and Sumire’s experiences from a different perspective and looks promising. I look forwards to writing about this along with, Lycoris Recoil and a revisit of Kokoro Connect come February.

Having now completed Kaginado, I am reminded of the fact that amongst Key’s works, I’ve yet to take a look at Little Busters! and Rewrite. The Key adaptations I’ve seen so far (Air, Kanon, CLANNAD and Angel Beats!) have been remarkable experiences, masterpieces, because of their ability to strike a balance between comedy and drama, using moments of levity to build a connection to the characters such that when tragedy struck, the impact was felt ten-fold. However, Key works have also accrued a bit of an unfair reputation amongst some viewers, who feel them to be inconsistent and incomplete. These sentiments come from the storytelling approach Key works tend to take; because Key stories are rooted in themes of longing and regret, their resolution is reached when the protagonist is able to overcome their past regrets and make peace with what’s happened. Because different protagonists have different backgrounds and regrets, it can be a little tricky to definitively tell when a resolution does occur, and this in turn creates a situation where a given story’s ending can come across as open-ended or inconclusive. However, this mode of storytelling is consistent with the idea of transience, and folks who approach Key’s works aware of this have typically found moving stories. With this in mind, Kaginado acts as encouragement for me to give Little Busters! and Rewrite their fair chance: these series have initially not drawn my interest, but seeing all of the characters here in Kaginado, having a ball of a time with folks from Air, CLANNAD, Kanon and Angel Beats! has piqued my curiosity. As such, I do see merit in taking the plunge and giving the remainder of Key’s animated adaptations their fair chance. In the meantime, today is the Chinese New Year, and I’d like to wish all readers a Happy Year of the Rabbit!

The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie: An Anime Movie Review and Reflection

I know you’re scared and your pain is imperfectBut don’t you give up on yourselfI’ve heard a story, a girl, she once told meThat I would be happy again

Hold My Hand, Lady Gaga

In their final year of secondary school, Futaro and the Nakano quintuplets prepare for their school festival. Amidst the preparations, Futaro expresses that he’s fallen in love with one of them and indicates that he’ll make it known as to which of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba or Itsuki’s his feelings are for. While the school festival ends up being quite a tumultuous affair (Nino had longed for their father to visit, while Ichika grapples with the fact a visiting lecturer, Mudō, is actually the Nakano quintuplet’s biological father, and Miku grows jealous Futaro’s hanging out with another girl), with Yotsuba collapsing from exhaustion as a result of having done too much. When the festival draws to a close, the Nakanos separate and head for five different places on school grounds, asking Futaro to meet up with the one he has fallen in love with. It turns out that Futaro’s fallen in love with Yotsuba, but she turns him down, feeling unworthy of being the only one of her sisters. She recalls how she’d first met Futaro and made a promise with him, but over time, lost confidence in her ability to keep it as her sisters began moving forward at their own pace. Futaro persuades her to be honest about her feelings, and Yotsuba tearfully admits that she’d been worried about the others in spite of the fact that she reciprocates Futaro’s feelings. After confirming to Nino and Ichika that his feelings are true, Yotsuba and Futaro begin dating, and at the playground they’d previously visited, Futaro proposes to Yotsuba. Five years later, Ichika’s become a full-fledged actress, while Itsuki’s become a teacher. The meet at the cafe that Miku and Nino have opened together, and here, they help pierce Yotsuba’s ears so she can wear the earrings their late mother had gifted to them. On the day of Yotsuba and Futaro’s wedding, the five quintuplets decide to play a game and see if Futaro can tell them apart. He has no trouble in doing so, and demonstrates how over time, he came to realise that there was more to life than just studying. He correctly identifies each of the five sisters and places a wedding ring on Yotsuba’s finger. Following the wedding, Ichika, Nino, Miku and Ichika help Yotsuba and Futaro pick a honeymoon destination, although much as they had with their graduation trip, they cannot all agree on a suitable place. Futaro smiles, recalling these old times with the sisters who’ve helped to change him, and with this, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is now in the books. The film acts as the conclusion to The Quintessential Quintuplets, and during its 136 minute runtime, crams a great deal of content into things to ensure the story is wrapped up in whole.

The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is a busier movie in that it also deals with how each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki come to terms with the fact that only one of them will be with Futaro, Miku’s becoming more open about how she feels towards others, Nino’s efforts to show their father that her dreams to be a pâtissier are viable, and the motivation behind Itsuki’s desire to become a teacher. The decision to include all of these secondary elements into the film in conjunction with the feature presentation, Yotsuba coming to terms with what accepting Futaro’s feelings would mean, create a movie that characterises just how many moving parts there are where relationships are concerned. At its core, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie finally puts Futaro’s feelings into the open, and shows why of each of the siblings, he’s chosen Yotsuba. As it turns out, both he and Yotsuba had promised one another that they would study hard and become successful so they could look out for the people most dear to them. This is ultimately what pushed Futaro to excel academically, and while over the years, he’d lost sight of his original promise, reuniting with the quintuplets, and Yotsuba, helped him to remember why he’d been so focused on doing well for himself. Understanding the change Yotsuba wrought in him is why after all this time, Futaro treasures her the most strongly of everyone. On the other hand, Yotsuba hadn’t been quite as successful, and in her bid to be special, eventually saw herself as falling behind while her sisters had raced ahead, each with a clear picture of their own futures. As a result of this, Yotsuba saw herself as being unworthy of Futaro, even though the reality had been that, while perhaps not being academically inclined, she still retains the same desire to do well by those around her, and it is ultimately thanks to her promise with Futaro that set him on his present course. It takes a bit of a push to get Yotsuba to take that step forward, and in this way, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows how falling in love is one of those instances in life where it’s okay to be selfish. The complex interplay of being selfish to be with Futaro, but also being selfless and being happy for the quintuplet who ends up with him forms the bulk of the tension in The Quintessential Quintuplets. Looking back, Yotsuba marrying Futaro follows well because of the five sisters, she’s the one that put up the strongest facade to cover for her own doubts. While the other sisters all eventually developed a stronger idea of what their futures entailed, Yotsuba had slowly fallen behind even though she’d been the one to spur everyone on. To give Yotsuba a reliable, ever-present source of support therefore would allow her to move ahead in her life, as well. The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is therefore able to provide a definitive conclusion to the series; despite being a story with multiple moving parts, some of which did not receive more exploration, the film does a satisfactory job of answering most of the lingering questions I had following The Quintessential Quintuplets∬.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As memory serves, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ finished airing in April 2021, and the film premièred in Japan back during May 2022, about a year later. I originally watched The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ first season back during August 2020, after I’d become curious to check the series out, and while things began on a reasonable solid note, by the time I finished the first season, I was convinced that this was an anime worth my while. By this point in time, I’m familiar with all of the lead characters, and continue to be impressed with the all-star cast’s voice acting.

  • The film opens a ways after the class trip seen in the second season, dropping viewers right into the midst of a culture festival. In Japanese secondary education, the culture festival is a culmination of one’s social experiences, combining camaraderie with one’s class and the total experience one accrued through their club activities to create one final memory of school before one sets their sights on the future. Many anime thus place a great deal of emphasis on culture festivals because they represent a time where students are allowed to channel their efforts towards something besides their academics.

  • The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie is structured in a novel way: it is interspersed with flashbacks, and the culture festival is broken down into five distinct acts, one for each of the Nakano quintuplets. Each of these happen concurrently, giving each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki screen time as they navigate the culture festival and manage their feelings for Futaro. There are multiple overlapping stories that take place during the culture festival, and I recall writing previously that a third season of The Quintessential Quintuplets was probably necessary to adequately cover everything.

  • As it turns out, I get to stand by these old assertions – the culture festival sees Nino finally earning her father’s approval in her future plans, has Itsuki confronting doubts surrounding her reasons for becoming a teacher and sees Miku finally becoming more assertive. However, each of these stories are condensed into a vignette that shows different sides of the same three days, and as a result, there’s not a large amount of space to explore the significance of each of these stories. From what The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows, however, it is clear that Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki all have a very concrete plan for their respective futures.

  • I imagine that this is why the film was structured the way it was; each of these sub-stories are important and do help the characters to grow, but at the same time, it also hints at the fact that, despite how deeply Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki love Futaro, they also have something that they can devote every fibre of their being to. Losing Ichika isn’t enough to prevent these four from achieving their goals, so it was probably decided that these moments just needed to be shown and tied together so the film could focus on Futaro’s choice.

  • The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie has a runtime of 136 minutes, but a full one cour season would offer a minimum of 240 minutes. With double the space, there is no doubt that a third season could have given some of these side stories more emotional impact: one episode to set the stage, followed by a full episode for each of the quintuplets would’ve given sufficient time to cover the culture festival, and subsequently, the remaining six episodes could then deal with Futaro’s kokuhaku, Yotsuba’s struggle to accept it and how things get smoothed over.

  • The only logical argument I can think of for a movie format is that it would provide a single cinematic experience for viewers, acting as a swan song to The Quintessential Quintuplets. The longer runtime and extended budgets that anime movies have often allow them to tell stories at a much larger scale. However, having seen the remaining story through The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, it does feel that the movie format may not have been strictly necessary, and a third season would’ve been able to yield an equivalent emotional impact.

  • For me, I prefer television seasons over movies even though the latter often have improved production values – anime movies do not follow a consistent release pattern because Japanese distributors aim to maximise domestic profits, and it is more profitable to charge viewers exorbitant amounts for a theatrical screening than it is to make a film available on a streaming service or releasing them to disks. The end result is that films now take an average of eight months to come out, and the better a film does at the box office, the longer it’s kept in theatres. From a business standpoint, this is perfectly logical, and overseas viewers like myself have grown accustomed to waiting long periods for films to come out.

  • However, some viewers feel compelled to fly over to Japan, or even more there, so that they can be the first to watch a film, have an opinion on said film, or even spread spoilers online for e-cred. I’ve never understood this sort of behaviour: spending thousands of dollars to watch an anime film solely for the purpose of making a few Wikipedia edits, forum posts or Tweets spoiling experiences for others appears irrational. Individuals like these degrade the anime movie experience, and one of the challenges that I face is avoiding spoilers shortly after a film is released in Japan.

  • In the case of The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, I was able to avoid spoilers for the duration of the wait, and for this, I was met with a film which, while not strictly needing the silver screen format, was one that still proved to be a satisfying conclusion to the series. After the culture festival ends, the film finally enters its endgame. I’d long known that Yotsuba would end up with Futaro – when I watched the first season, I hadn’t been too concerned with spoilers and therefore, had no qualms reading ahead to see what would happen. Of course, knowing the outcomes don’t really bother me quite as much as knowing how a story reaches the point that it does.

  • Here in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, seeing how things came to be was the highlight, and while the series had done a fantastic job of leaving it ambiguous of who Futaro would choose right up until the end, as it turns out, the first season had not-so-subtly foreshadowed the outcomes. Of everyone, Ichika and Yotsuba had warmed up to Futaro the quickest, while Miku and Nino were cool towards him, and Itsuki was outright unresponsive. Looking further, The Quintessential Quintuplets had also shown Ichika as being more proactive than Yotsuba. Based on elimination, once Miku, Itsuki and Nino warmed up to Futaro, and since Ichika had always shown some interest, it follows that Yotsuba was unlike the others.

  • As it turns out, Yotsuba had been the quintuplet that had run into Futaro long ago, and it was with her that he’d made his promise. Putting two and two together allowed me to accept Yotsuba as the one for Futaro – although each of Ichika, Nino, Miku and Itsuki are suitable candidates, they lack the same promise, and one of the smaller themes in The Quintessential Quintuplets is that it’s okay to lean on one another, so it followed that Futaro would begin falling in love with the quintuplet who’d motivated him to do his best for the future. However, if Yotsuba had immediately returned Futaro’s feelings, it would rather detract from the conflict that’d been building up until now.

  • A fair amount of the conflict in The Quintessential Quintuplets stems from problems in communication, and I realise that I’m fond of saying in my posts that good communication is usually essential to managing conflict. When it comes to most problem-solving, I prefer being direct and open, but now, I understand why this isn’t always a method people are willing to take. Yotsuba loves Futaro, but she also loves her sisters and believes she isn’t worthy of Futaro. It takes a bit of nudging to get things to a point where she is confident enough to put herself first.

  • Although Futaro’s been hanging out with the Nakano quintuplets for some time, there’s an aura of awkwardness surrounding their first few dates. This isn’t unexpected, as nerves will doubtlessly be present. The pair’s first date is to a family restaurant, which is admittedly different from the old standby, the local coffee shop, and then the local library. Along the way, the others end up following to make sure everything is going along smoothly. This is a classic gag, during which concerned parties tale the newly-minted couple to see what goes down, and while a long time ago, I would have said that I’d can spot a tail on a date, I’m not quite sure I’m confident I could say this claim holds true anymore.

  • The day eventually sees Futaro and Yotsuba return to the playground where they’d previously shared a pivotal conversation. The Quintessential Quintuplets has an all-star casting, and Yotsuba is voiced by Ayane Sakura. Because I know Sakura best as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto, it’s a little difficult to shake the feeling that Futaro’s given a kokuhaku to Cocoa, and this thought similarly reminds me that I’ve been around the block long enough to know some of the key voice actresses now. This is actually how I’ve been telling the different quintuplets apart when they dress up as one another – while they may appear similar physically, their voices still sound different enough.

  • When Yotsuba propel herself from the swing, Futaro promises that if he can reach a similar distance, he’ll pose a question for her. Although he fails, Futaro decides to press forward with proposing to Yotsuba anyways, surprising her. Yotsuba is right in that Futaro bypassed basically every step in the process and remarks that doing something this way would almost certainly send someone heading for the hills, were that person not her. With this in mind, this is the only other proposal I’ve seen in an anime besides CLANAND, where Tomoya proposed to Nagisa in a similarly sudden and unromantic moment. However, like CLANNAD, the strength of the feelings are such that this matters little, and with Futaro proposing to Yotsuba, things draw to a close as the quintuplets each prepare to pursue their futures.

  • The end of 2022, and the arrival of 2023 has seen a few relaxing days: I spent the whole of New Year’s Eve tending to housework and the like so I could have New Year’s Day easy. During the evening, we had a family dinner whose centrepiece was a prime rib roast with roast cauliflower and fully-loaded mashed potatoes. We subsequently stayed up to midnight for the New Year’s countdown, the first time I’d celebrated here at the new digs, and then yesterday, after sleeping in, the day was spent at home. Earlier today, the skies were gorgeous, so I ended up taking a walk out to my favourite viewpoint in town.

  • Work resumes tomorrow, and I’m admittedly quite excited to return to my usual routine: this winter break’s been fantastic, and I’m fired up, ready to do my best. The flow of time is relentless, and days disappear in the blink of an eye. In this way, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie puts the pedal to the metal as each of Itsuki, Ichika, Nino and Miku pursue their respective futures. One of the challenges the quintuplets had faced throughout The Quintessential Quintuplets was maintaining their promise to be with one another, and I’ve found that in many anime, this is a major problem characters encounter as they part ways and pursue their goals.

  • On my end, I’ve never actually worried about this because at the end of every journey, I always had the option of keeping in touch with people I’ve become friends with. While people naturally drift apart over time, the strongest friendships find ways of enduring, and moreover, even if people do fall out of touch, sometimes, they can return into one’s life as an unexpected, pleasant surprise. Knowing that the means of keeping in touch with friends and colleagues means that a parting of ways is rarely final, but in the context of anime, I’d imagine that stories are written to accentuate how strong the bonds are between people who share experiences over time.

  • The Nakano quintuplets realise this and pursue their futures wholeheartedly, knowing that they can always make the effort of remaining together even as their paths diverge. In this way, five years elapses in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, and the story subsequently resumes after everyone’s graduate from post-secondary. Assuming everyone was seventeen during the culture festival and following events, a five year time skip puts everyone at age twenty-two. For most people, twenty-two is when they’ve completed their post-secondary and are ready to become full-fledged members of society.

  • Not everyone’s path is quite so smooth: when I was twenty-two, I’d completed my honours degree in health science, but otherwise was uncertain of my future. I took a gap year to figure things out, ended up applying to graduate school and the rest is history. There is no single “right” way of living life or pursuing the future, and I believe that Tamayura best puts it, while everyone sets sail differently, the single most important thing is that eventually, everyone does set sail and make their own way. Seeing Itsuka, Ichika, Miku and Nino embracing their future was a reassuring sight, and one touch I liked was how Miku’s wearing her hair in a different style, suggesting that she’s become more confident.

  • One aspect of The Quintessential Quintuplets I found unexpectedly enjoyable was the soundtrack. As of The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, I began noticing the soundtrack; the music captures the sort of yearning and wistfulness surrounding the Nakano siblings and their feelings for Futaro. The film’s soundtrack was also phenomenal, swelling to an emotional crescendo whenever the moment called for it. There are more whimsical pieces of incidental music that capture comedy and light-hearted moments, but the best tracks are played in the film’s most touching scenes.

  • Five years is a nontrivial amount of time, and by the time Yotsuba and Futaro’s wedding arrives, the other quintuplets have made peace with things. They still like messing with Futaro, however, and on the day of his wedding, Futaro is met with Itsuki, Nino, Ichika, Miku and Yotsuba wearing identical hair styles and wedding dresses. They propose a challenge to him and say that he’s only of marrying Yotsuba if he can find Yotsuba amongst everyone else. Admittedly, if The Quintessential Quintuplets hadn’t introduced the visual characteristics that make each quintuplet distinct, then voices and mannerisms would be the only way to tell them apart

  • Earlier in the film, when Futaro is shown taking Miku to an aquarium and they spot a penguin show, the attendant is shown as explaining that the keepers tell penguins apart based on characteristics like their markings and mannerisms. Over time, Futaro has learnt to do the same, and this is what ultimately shows the Nakano quintuplets’ father that Futaro is worthy: Mudō had completely failed to tell Itsuki apart from Miku, and throughout The Quintessential Quintuplets, one of Futaro’s first tasks had actually been to tell everyone apart. As he became increasingly proficient in doing so, he earns the quintuplets’ begruding respect.

  • Futaro’s identifying each of the quintuplets and following up with a comment on everyone’s individual strengths and weaknesses shows just how well he knows them. In this moment, it was also a show of how, because he is able to connect at this level to each of the quintuplets, Futaro’s decision to marry Yotsuba was made based on assessing all of the facts and making the choice based on what his intentions and desires were. The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie might be rushed in some places, and some of the story elements may have been better presented in a third season rather than a film, but there is no denying that the story’s most powerful moments were still conveyed to viewers.

  • Overall, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie represents a satisfying and worthy conclusion to the series, which, when taken together, exceeded my expectations. The premise of quintuplets falling for the same person had initially been intriguing, and I had thought that little more than comedy would arise, but seeing The Quintessential Quintuplets explore each quintuplet’s motivations and backgrounds, plus their growth over time, made the story feel more life-like. This helped me to become invested in the characters, and I found myself curious to see how things would be resolved.

  • Having had a chance to listen to the film’s soundtrack, a handful of the songs ended up reminding me of Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand”, which was a single composed for Top Gun: Maverick. On The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie‘s soundtrack, “Fūtarō o shinjiru” reminded me of Maverick‘s “Talk to me, Goose” and “Penny Returns” because they share similar instruments and carry a similar tonal aesthetic. I found myself thinking more than once that “Hold My Hand” would actually be well-suited for some scenes in  The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie.

  • Seeing the entire journey in The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie shows how even more outlandish situations can be resolved over time with communication, honesty and sincerity. Futaro’s character is essential in this: being studious and devoted, he’s also decisive and commits to his choices, which eliminates ambiguity. In any given love story with multiple prospective partners, this is essential. CLANNAD had done the same: early on, even before Tomoya formally asked Nagisa out, he’d (subconsciously) made it clear that he had eyes for no one other than Nagisa, and while this deeply hurt Kyou, Tomoyo and Kotomi, the directness of things also meant the others wouldn’t be led on and hurt further, in turn allowing them to step forward and recover

  • After the wedding’s done, Futaro and Yotsuba begin looking at honeymoon destinations, and to no one’s surprise, Itsuki, Ichika, Nino and Miku also help out. The fact that everyone picks different destinations is another show that despite their similarities, everyone’s their own person, with unique traits, and in doing so, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie reminds viewers, one final time, that everyone’s found their own path. However, because the moment is overlaid with a flashback to a similar moment in secondary school, it also shows that some things don’t change, and these things can certainly be cherished.

  • This post, my first of 2023, is now in the books, and while I am looking forwards to seeing what this year will bring, I have a few final comments. The first is that I’ve been following Bocchi The Rock! and Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out! ω during the last season. I’ve completed the former over the break, and only have one more episode for the latter. I intend on writing about both before the new season’s shows hit their stride: for the winter season, only Bofuri and Mō Ippon! have my eye, and I’ll likely write about them after three episodes have aired.

I had originally entered The Quintessential Quintuplets two years ago and, after the series had established its premise, became curious to see how things would unfold. Although the idea of multiple people falling in love with the same individual (and the resulting love tesseracts that arise) is nothing new, author Negi Haruba had drafted The Quintessential Quintuplets to explore what might happen when five sisters experienced this. Although the story had originally been rejected by Haruba’s editor, after Haruba was given a chance to do a standalone manga and found the story to be well-received, The Quintessential Quintuplets took off. It’s certainly one of the more unique portrayals of love in any work I’ve seen – the lack of a familial bond means that the different suitors can completely focus on themselves. Where family is involved, the Nakanos are forced to realise that if they move forward, someone’s going to get their feelings hurt, but at the same time, if they concede, they might one left with regrets. The push-pull between this drives much of the tensions in The Quintessential Quintuplets, and seeing how over time, the girls deal with their feelings and accept the outcomes, was what made this series increasingly worthwhile. While The Quintessential Quintuplets is a little rough around the edges, it is able to capture the raw emotions surrounding falling in love, along with the idea that at the end of the day, people are at their best when they’re motivated to do something for the sake of those around them. Futaro had begun his journey with a promise to Yotsuba, and years later, fate would bring him back into contact with the Nakanos. However, despite their cold reception towards him, his perseverance and insistence in reaching his goal of having the girls perform well enough academically to pass eventually wins them over, alongside their father. Along the way, Futaro also learns that there’s more to life than just hitting the books, and he comes to appreciate the Nakano quintuplets’ company, as well. The payoff at the end of this hectic journey is meaningful, and as such, I ended up having fun watching this series to completion.

Spy × Family: Whole-Series Reflection and Remarks on Communication as a Problem-Solving Tool

“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” –Brian Tracy

After the excitement of stopping a bomb plot and gaining a new addition to the Forger family through Bond, life settles down for the Forgers. Yor attempts to improve her cooking, and Anya tries to befriend Damian by helping him in an arts and crafts project. Anya’s exams are coming up, and in a bid to help her study, Yor invites Yuri over to help her out. Worry about Anya’s performance, Loid sneaks into the school vault to replace Anya’s papers, only to run into an incompetent Ostanian operator. Although Loid manages to confuse this operator, he learns Anya ended up passing and leaves her papers, although he does revert the phoney papers this other operator had planted. Later, Anya defuses a fight between Damian and George Glooman; the latter had sought to get Damian expelled after learning the Desmonds had bought out his family’s company. Yor visits Anya’s school to bring her gym uniform, and later, Anya interviews Loid about his “occupation” as a psychiatrist, discovering a secret passage in the process. Later, Fiona visits Loid to inform him of an upcoming assignment, and Bond destroys Anya’s stuffed penguin in a fit of jealousy. After repairing the penguin, Loid helps Anya and Bond to reconcile, wishing that it’d be nice of Ostania and Westalis’ peace could be achieved in this way. It turns out that Loid’s next assignment is to participate in an underground tennis tournament in order to secure a painting that contains codes that may be instrumental in staving off war between Westalis and Ostania. Despite the tournament being crooked, Loid and Fiona manage to win, later learning that the intelligence they retrieved was of limited strategic value. When Yor becomes worried that Fiona might replace her, and Loid catches wind of this, he arranges for a date. While things go south, Loid reassures Yor that he’s not going anywhere. Becky later spends time with Anya after a misunderstanding leads her to assume that Anya wants to catch Damian’s attention, and the pair end up spending a pleasant day together, leaving Becky’s butler pleased Becky’s becoming more sociable. On the day of the Imperial Scholar gathering, Loid capitalises on Donovan’s visit to speak with him and gain a better measure of his character. In the process, Donovan acknowledges his youngest son’s achievements and subtly encourages him to keep at things. Thus ends Spy × Family‘s second half, a continually engaging and heart-warming tale that continues in the same vein as the series’ first act.

Spy × Family‘s second half is not quite as novel as the first half, spending more time on building out moments of comedy rather than advancing Operation Strix, but the events here in the second half are no less important, even if they appear prima facie to be frivolous fun rather than a well-written, balanced story to move the needle. The reason that this second half is valuable is because, in showing moments like Yor’s incompetent cooking, Damian’s desire to impress his father, and Fiona’s competition to replace Yor all serve to illustrate a valuable lesson that applies universally, both in the field of intelligence and for maintaining a healthy, happy family. Underlying almost all of the misunderstandings (and attendant comedy) in Spy × Family is communication. Although solid communication is something that almost everyone could improve in. Good communication makes feelings clear, removes ambiguity and allows others to properly respond to one’s thoughts. Yor’s concerns about Loid’s commitment to her, even though their relationship is a sham, is such an example: Yor constantly worries that she’s unworthy of Loid, but rather than sit him down, she goes to extraordinary lengths to improve her household skills. While taking a more direct approach would eliminate the comedy of seeing Yor’s efforts at learning the basics, Spy × Family also shows why being forward is so important. Similarly, Damian’s greatest desire is for his father to acknowledge him, but because his father is so busy, he rarely has the chance to speak with him. Father and son therefore feel like strangers, at least until Loid manages to create a scenario that allows Damian to be open with himself. In the process, Damian realises that his father does care about him in his own manner. Anya’s telepathic abilities similarly reinforce the notion of communication: even if Anya herself doesn’t fully understand the ramifications of the thoughts of those around her, she knows that being honest now (and perhaps getting in trouble sooner) saves one from difficulty further down the line. The contrast between Anya and the adults in her life indicate that the willingness to communicate (or lack thereof) fundamentally underlies conflict, which arises from misunderstanding or incomplete information. Assuming this to be the case, while the second half may not be quite as fresh as the first, moments here may nonetheless be essential for setting the stage for what’s upcoming.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about Spy × Family, it had been after the first three episodes to the second half had aired. After the gripping adventure that sees Bond join the Forgers, Spy × Family settles into a more relaxed pacing, and while it lacks the same spirited vigour as the first half, the comedy remains as strong as it had. Of course, comedy can only carry a series like Spy × Family so far; while I enjoyed this second act greatly, and found the first act to be stronger, I also understand that the story here is ongoing, so the intermediate moments will naturally be quieter.

  • This hasn’t stopped the second half from continuing to do an admirable job of building up the Spy × Family universe further. While Yor’s misadventures with cooking seem quite irrelevant and unrelated to Operation Strix, it establishes the fact that despite her own strengths, Yor’s weakness is a lack of confidence in things outside of her area of expertise. Because Loid is so busy with all of his other charges on top of Operation Strix, Yor’s doubts aren’t visible to him. In the context of the assignment, Loid’s overwhelmed with his assignments, but from a family perspective, it is akin to the breadwinner taking on enough work to miss a few things about the family.

  • The natural solution is to communicate, make this known to the overworked partner and help them to find a way, and indeed, Spy × Family does do this, but in the meantime, things are allowed to proceed in a way that drives humour. As a comedy, Spy × Family makes use of a wide range of jokes to liven things up, and here, after seeing a photo of the Forgers with Bond, Becky immediately develops a crush on Loid. Anya’s original intention had been to try and win Damian over, but because Damian has the typical traits of a six-year-old, he’s attempting to dissuade his mates from finding out about his own crush on Anya.

  • Spy × Family‘s second half has a reduced focus on life at Eden Academy since more emphasis is placed on some of the adventures that Loid and Yor find themselves on, so when things return to Eden Academy, one can be reasonably certain that what’s happening isn’t just for show. The outcome of this particular exercise, an arts and crafts competition, is that Anya attempts to help Damian out rather than worrying about her own project, and while the outcome appears to be underwhelming, the judges were evidently pleased enough to give Damian’s entry first prize.

  • Anya’s attempts to keep up with her peers is nothing short of impressive – the results lend credence to the suggestion that she’s younger than her classmates, but in spite of below-average academic performance and athletic ability, Anya does everything she can and is visibly disappointed when the results aren’t quite what she’d hoped for. The results of the arts and crafts competition gives a bit of an idea into Damian’s life at home, and things like these show viewers that Damian isn’t an antagonist in any way. The suggestion that all of the characters aren’t as they appear is why I maintain the stance that even Donovan can probably be reasoned with.

  • Anya’s objection to studying is balanced by her desire to do good in the world for Loid’s sake. I remember my childhood; my parents had always sat me down in the afternoon to get familiar with basic arithmetic and handwriting, and as a result, I became accustomed to spending a section of the day with homework. The prize for finishing was being able to watch my favourite programme (Arthur) after. Once I started primary school, I still did these drills, and when I began Chinese school, weekly assignments and quizzes kept me on my feet.

  • Since I got a thrill from scoring perfect, this mindset ended up carrying over to how I studied in the future, and eventually impacted everything I do: if I put in my best effort, then I can be proud of the results. I imagine that while a child’s willingness to study is an individual disposition, parents can cultivate habits early, and one thing I did like about Spy × Family was how Anya became keener to study after Loid decided to put mathematics problems in the context of her favourite show. Yuri’s methods, on the other hand, leave Anya exhausted, and she ends up wondering what grammar is.

  • When I was a student, I always struggled to convey to my parents that I got a grade of anything less than 90, even though the reality was that, so long as it was clear I put in an effort to learn the material, I was fine. Anya, on the other hand, is honest about things, even when she knows Loid will be disappointed with her performance. Loid’s concern might be about Operation Strix, but is response to Anya is equivalent to that of a father. Earlier, he runs into the incompetent “Daybreak”, who’s also trying to do the ol’ switcheroo with Damian’s papers. Loid foils this and decides Anya’s performance doesn’t need any modifications.

  • The notion of “mom rushing to school to give her child something they’d forgotten” is a classic story – Bill Watterson did this in Calvin and Hobbes with similarly hilarious results, and in a commentary, reported that “a lot of experience fed into every panel” to convey the chaos and dramatic irony. In Spy × Family, since Yor is an assassin with superhuman strength and agility, and Anya is a telepath, Yor’s efforts to bring something she’d forgotten is spruced up with these abilities to create comedy in a way that only Spy × Family could, and in the end, despite a few near-misses, ends up getting Anya her gym uniform, only to learn Anya doesn’t have physical education on this day.

  • When Anya is given an assignment to interview her parents for their work, Anya initially considers asking Yor, but recalling that Yor’s an assassin, decides Loid might be easier. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever attended a “bring your child to work” day with my parents, but I did have a fair idea of what my parents did in their careers. As a psychologist, Loid is highly competent: this position is actually quite suited for someone who works in intelligence. Per Tom Clancy’s novels, intelligence gathering often works best when one can get inside their target’s minds and learn what they know without being seen, similarly to how a psychologist must understand their patients and determine the best way to help them.

  • The best spies don’t carry a Walther PPK or ask for vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred) – they may look like one’s best friends and will blend in seamlessly with the crowd. This aspect of Spy × Family was especially respectable, since it shows that the author is well aware of actual fieldcraft in addition to tropes from spy fiction like James Bond. If James Bond had been written realistically, it would be mind-numbingly boring; the typical intelligence officer nowadays sits in an office, sifting through emails, papers and communiqués gathered through human means (HUMINT) or intercepted communications (SIGINT).

  • While tending to some things, Loid decides to leave Anya on her own to do a simple psychological test, and she ends up finding a secret passage in the room, leading to some hilarious antics in which several experts discussing ghosts ends up becoming believers after Anya gets stuck in the ductwork. Anya manages to escape and hastily throws something together that leads Loid to wonder what in the world is going on in Anya’s mind. It speaks volumes to Loid’s cover that he’s able to respond as a professional would.

  • Anya is, for me, the highlight of Spy × Family: she behaves consistently with a child of her age. In most works of fiction, children are often portrayed as being more mature than their age in order to accommodate certain experiences. Marc Brown’s Arthur is one such example: D.W. is four (five in later seasons), but she displays uncommon maturity and inquisitiveness, whereas Arthur and his friends are eight (nine in later episodes), but deal with things that middle school students might concern themselves with. Here, Anya gives her report on Loid’s profession, and while she ends up giving up more information about his spy work than his hospital work, the report is somewhat unintelligible. However, this is, again, an impressive feat on Anya’s part – at age four, I only had the faintest idea of what my parents did.

  • As WISE’s top operator, Loid takes on an insane amount of work, and it does lead to the question of how things are structured here, if other operators couldn’t be called in for some of the roles that Loid must take on. In Ian Flemming’s James Bond, MI6 has at least nine Double-O agents (seen in Thunderball), and Bond occasionally is threatened with a replacement whenever he oversteps on an assignment, suggesting that each of them are at least competent, although the other Double-O agents presumably keep a lower profile and do not find themselves in the same situations 007 is in. This allows Bond to focus on his assignments without worrying about being recalled for something more urgent.

  • When Fiona is introduced, Spy × Family takes on a new dynamic as the ersatz marriage between Loid and Yor becomes thrown into the spotlight. Fiona believes that she is the better candidate for the position and would’ve been happy to take on the role – in fact, she’s infatuated with Loid and wishes for nothing more than to get closer to him, believing Yor unworthy for even a fake relationship. As another WISE operator who learned the craft under Loid’s tutelege, Fiona is an expert in concealing her emotions, but her inner monologues suggest an obsession with Loid to an unhealthy extent.

  • Because Fiona has compartmentalised her emotions totally from her duties, she acts in a way to optimise for results, and she thinks to herself that were she driving, Anya would already have earnt her eight Stella. However, upon spotting the methods Fiona would use, Anya immediately reacts and feels that Yor is the better mother. Moments like these are instrumental in showing Tatsuya Endō’s thoughts on parenting – while discipline is essential, there is a balance. Things like empathy and compassion are also essential. As a parent for Anya, Fiona’s methods would probably backfire.

  • Here, Anya hugs Yor in the most adorable way to express that Yor’s her only mother figure now. The moment is a show to Fiona that, where Operation Strix is concerned, Loid’s not likely to change his mind any time soon. One of the interesting points about Operation Strix is that while there’s a timeline of sorts, and Loid had considered using more underhanded means of getting Anya to become an Imperial Scholar, over time, he’s been content to let Anya operate at her own pace. In this way, while Anya might not be producing swift results that Fiona had been hoping for, she is beginning to recover some reputation after she’d punched Damian’s lights out. For taking this path, one can surmise that Loid is, whether he would openly admit it or not, enjoying the sense of normalcy parts of his assignment brings him.

  • Second only to Loid meeting Donovan for the first time, Bond destroying Anya’s stuffed penguin in a fit of jealousy, and the Forger’s response to things after, was Spy × Family‘s best moment. Besides being absurdly adorable, the moment signifies how strong Anya’s bonds are with Loid – Loid offers to buy her a new penguin, but Anya insists this one is special because it’s the first stuffed animal Loid got her. People attach a lot of importance to certain objects, and this is why some adults may hang onto their stuffed animals. I myself have a stuffed bear my parents bought for me while I was in Alaska years and years earlier.

  • Anya’s reaction to Bond was quite amusing, but also a little heartbreaking. As adults do, Loid and Yor go about trying to restore the peace, but when Yor tries her hand at fixing the stuffed penguin, she only mangles it further. In the end, it takes the combined effort from Yor and Loid to save the penguin. Loid and Yor may only be pretend parents for Operation Strix, but moments like these really accentuate how even thought things might be an act, the three have definitely become as close as any real families would. Bond also demonstrates human-level emotional acuity – in the moment, he may have been angry about the stuffed penguin taking Anya’s attention, but he subsequently expresses remorse for his actions.

  • To reconcile with Anya, Bond brings her some of her favourite peanuts, and with the stuffed penguin fixed, Anya decides that she accepts Bond’s apology. Conflicts like these may prima facie appear to be trivial, but misunderstandings like these scale up into open warfare between nations. Solving conflicts and communicating at the individual level, then, scales up into an increased willingness to talk things out. While some may feel that this is an overly optimistic world view, I believe that warfare in general is something that holds our species back – there are a lot of brilliant minds on the planet, and one can only imagine the advances we’d achieve if we set aside our differences and cooperated.

  • Loid’s comments, about wishing that the differences between Ostania and Westalis could resolved as easily as Anya and Bond reconciling, definitely hold true in the real world, and I always find my heart melting when I see children forgiving one another for past slights, then proceed to get along as any friends with in the next moment. These parts of Spy × Family make the series worthwhile, and when taken with the more outlandish or compelling stories, contribute to why this anime is especially enjoyable for me. Having said this, Spy × Family has generally received positive reaction because different viewers are finding different things to connect with.

  • The underground tennis segments, for instance, excited viewers because it was a chance to see some of the outrageous things that can only happen in an anime. For me, these episodes ended too quickly, and I found myself on the edge of my seat in anticipation of how the match would end up. Cloverworks did a solid job with the animation, and I was reminded of the more zany anime from the early 2000s, like Love Hina, which had a similarly wild and varied story. Spy × Family can be seen as a callback to some of these earlier shows, which were extremely creative and, despite coming across as being over-the-top, also told great stories.

  • After spotting that Yor’s been worried about their relationship, Loid decides to take Yor on a date of sorts after asking Franky to look after Anya. Here, Loid attempts to smooth things over and show Yor that she’s got nothing to worry about. However, Yor ends up downing an entire bottle of scotch after her imagination kicks into overdrive, and when Loid comes on a little too strong, an inebriated Yor kicks him in the chin, knocking him out. It suddenly hits me that Spy × Family‘s portrayal of the dating process isn’t too far removed from reality. In the beginning, it’s all about initial impressions and getting a feel for things. Over time, as people get to know one another better, they become truer to themselves, and have a better measure of their feelings.

  • Spy × Family still has yet to reach this point, but it is clear that for better or worse, by being in a pretend couple, both Yor and Loid are able to simultaneously learn more about one another, as well as experience what their lives might be like under ordinary circumstances. Although this relationship is a sham, countless viewers are rooting for the pair because of the fact that things are progressing in a very natural manner. The matter of what happens when Yor and Loid learn of their respective “partner”‘s identity will probably require a bit of time and space to work out, but given how Spy × Family‘s progressed thus far, I imagine that their closeness will win out.

  • As a bit of an aside, Loid is voiced by Takuya Eguchi; he previously played Oregairu‘s Hikigaya Hachiman. In the knowledge that Saori Hayami plays Yor, and Hayami had previously voiced Yukino Yukinoshita, it hits me that Oregairu‘s outcome might just be possible in Spy × Family, and the choice of voice actors/actresses for their respective roles could be a fantastic bit of foreshadowing as to how the manga might proceed. Time will tell whether or not this occurs, and while the practise of shipping isn’t one I engage in here, I do not mind admitting that Yor and Loid, despite their backgrounds, are surprisingly compatible.

  • Becky Blackbell is one of Anya’s classmates who had witnessed the infamous punch earlier and, rather than distancing herself from Anya, grew closer to her as a result. Whereas Anya still resembles a four-year-old, Becky is a ways more mature and genuinely enjoys Anya’s company. When Becky suspects Anya’s in love with Damian (a misunderstanding at this point), she takes Anya shopping to up her wardrobe. The day ends up being fun for Anya, and the pair wind up with matching keychains. The Blackbells are a very prominent family, and Becky’s butler remarks that being with Anya has opened Becky up towards being kinder to others – flashbacks reveal Becky as being quite stuck up and unwilling to mingle with commoners, but Anya has changed this.

  • For Loid, Anya’s friendship with Becky could be advantageous for Operation Strix, since her father is the CEO of a major manufacturer for the armed forces. Enrolling Anya in Eden to get closer to Donovan notwithstanding, the natural friendships that Anya develop over time with her classmates could also be of help, but for Anya and Becky, they see one another purely as friends, speaking to the innocence and simplicity of the world of children.

  • While Anya is quite naïve owing to her being younger than the other students, she does have some maturity; when she spots Damian worrying about meeting with his father, she approaches Damian and his friends and voices that he should be a little more forward about things. Damian is reluctant to take her advice in front of his friends, but a part of him also realises that Anya’s probably right, and so, he decides to take a chance. Loid is watching the whole thing go down and ends up feeling proud of Anya. He ends up crafting a scenario that lets him run into Donovan.

  • The conversation Donovan and Loid share is an illuminating one, and suggests that Donovan’s own experiences leave him wary of understanding. Loid masterfully manoeuvres the entire conversation and gains a modicum of insight into Donovan’s brand of thinking, but at the same time, also helps Damian by bringing his accomplishments to Donovan’s attention. The finale stands as my favourite moment in Spy × Family for this reason: viewers finally see Loid meeting Donovan for the first time, and given how Damian’s been presented, it stands to reason that over time, even Donovan might be persuaded to approach Westalis differently. For now, though, Spy × Family‘s first season draws to a close, and with news of both a film and second season upcoming, I’m excited to see where things go.

The choice to give Anya telepathy therefore speaks to the innocence and honesty in children. In this area, Spy × Family shows that at the individual level, it is important to communicate with openness. This is the sort of thing that helps a family to get through difficult times and work out problems together. Loid practises this with Yor, and despite Fiona’s arrival, he manages to convey this to Yor. While one could chalk this up to his fieldcraft, there is no denying that sincerity is essential to clear up any misunderstandings. Seeing how Yor, Loid and Anya work out their problems, and seeing the contrasts with the Desmond family, thus offers insight into how Loid might end up persuading Donovan later down the line. Donovan’s outlook towards his youngest son and remarks to Loid speak to someone who’s not confident in communicating with others. Rather than sitting down at the table and trying to make sense of why his opponents are acting a certain way, Donovan believes that direct action yields more definitive results, even if the consequences of said actions may trigger retaliation later down the line. If Donovan could be persuaded to see the value of communication, open war between Ostania and Westalis could be averted, and in its finale, Spy × Family suggests that this change starts at the family level. In this way, Spy × Family‘s second half represents a satisfying beginning to things, crafting a vivid world and laying down the foundations for how Loid will handle Operation Strix alongside Anya and Yor. Of course, there is still quite a ways to go, and while it is established that Spy × Family excels with its comedy, where the series shines the brightest is in those quieter moments where Loid, in spite of himself, begins to believe in the sort of positivity and optimism he strives to convey for Anya’s sake, genuinely feeling that the values he espouses in his role as Loid Forger might have some staying power once Operation Strix is completed.