The Infinite Zenith

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Courting Hope: Revisiting Kyou and Tomoyo’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“If the results come true, it’s as if there’s only one future. If it fails, we can think that other futures exist…I want to believe that in our future, there are many possibilities waiting.” –Kyou Fujibayashi

With the drama club acquiring the requisite number of members, Tomoya and Nagisa focus next on securing a club advisor, but when they speak with Toshio Koumura, they learn that he’s already the advisor of the choral club. Nagisa decides to stand down after she discovers a letter warning her to back off, and Tomoya decides to visit Yukine. Youhei believes that a basketball game where Tomoya is victorious could get the choral Club to reconsider, but Tomoya refuses. When Youhei’s sister, Mei visits, she worries for him and cleans up his room. As she cannot stay with him, she lodges with the Furukawas, and later, Tomoya agrees to the basketball game. Kyou decides to participate, as well, and the choral Club are brought in to watch. Tomoya’s team is off to a strong start against their rookies, but the basketball team decides to switch in their starting line, who even the scores out. Tomoya manages to score the final basket when he is spurred on by Nagisa, and the choral club consents to share their advisor with them. The Student Council intervenes and states that such an arrangement is prohibited, and later, Nagisa collapses in school, forcing her to rest at home. In this time, Kyou tries to bring Tomoya closer to Ryou and ends up trapped in the equipment storage room with him. Later, Tomoya decides that, if Tomoyo were to become president of the Student Council, the drama club’s fate could be turned around. When he speaks to her after class one day, some thugs appear with the intent of fighting her; to prevent her chances from being jeopardised, Tomoya takes the blame and is suspended. Tomoyo, Kyou, Ryou and Kotomi visit him, and when he returns, he decides that the best way to help Tomoyo is to have her help out with various sports clubs. Tomoya learns of Tomoyo’s reason to become president; she wishes to preserve the sakura trees on the walk to school as a promise to her brother. Nagisa returns to classes and watches a tennis game with Tomoya: Tomoyo is participating, and during the match, Tomoya inadvertently shows his devotion to Nagisa when a stray ball strikes her. Kyou and Ryou are heartbroken with this revelation.

Initially starting his journey out of a selfish desire to stave off boredom during his monotonous days, Tomoya’s quest to revive the drama club sees him investing a considerable amount of effort into making things work. As CLANNAD progresses through its next arc, the source of his determination and persistence begins to shift: evident in Kotomi’s arc, Tomoya is driven by intrigue and a sense of duty to do right by those around him. When he finds himself making a basket during a match after hearing Nagisa’s voice, he begins to develop a greater interest in Nagisa, whom he has regarded as a friend until now. The two seemingly complement one another, and Nagisa’s absence further accentuates this sense of mystery. Tomoya begins to wonder how he feels about her, and while she remains at home, he sets about doing what he can for her. When Tomoya seeks Tomoyo to help out with resurrecting the drama club, he puts his fullest efforts into working out ways of boosting Tomoyo’s reputation amongst the students. He learns from Tomoyo that she wanted to save the sakura trees for her family’s sake, and here, it is significant that he learns of this late in the game: this is intentionally done to show that Tomoya’s efforts are entirely driven by Nagisa, rather than purely by a desire to help and drive off monotony. The extent of his efforts remain strong even without Tomoyo’s exposition to really illustrate who his efforts are for. In this arc’s final moments, where instinct kicks in during the tennis match, what Kyou and Tomoyo have suspected is confirmed: Tomoya’s fallen in love with Nagisa.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Toshio Koumura is an older instructor at Hikarizaka Private High School. Behind his understanding demeanor lies exceptional wisdom and experience: as a teacher, he is able to motivate even the most disinterested students into turning their lives around and is credited with turning unruly students into people who care about the world around them. At Hikarizaka, he acted as the drama club’s advisor previously, and noticing that Tomoya and Youhei seemed unusual, guided the two along a better path from behind the scenes.

  • A conflict arises when Nagisa learns that Koumura is already acting as advisor to the choral club; Rie Nishina vehemently opposes the proposal to share Koumura between the two clubs. It turns out that Rie was once a talented violinist who had suffered an accident that left her unable to properly grip a violin. With her hopes of performing abroad dashed, she fell into a depression, but Koumura encouraged her to find another path in singing. Since then, she’s helmed the choral club and has rediscovered her happiness, so when Tomoya and the others ask her to consider sharing Koumura’s time, her best friend feels that Tomoya is threatening to take away the dream that Rie had worked so hard to reassemble.

  • Nagisa has a difficult time believing that Rie and her friends could be behind the note left in her desk; ever willing to see the best in everyone, Nagisa is kind to a fault, and in CLANNAD, a different side of her personality begins appearing late in the game. Although normally quiet and reserved, Nagisa can become quite animated and determined when the situation calls for it.

  • When Youhei manages to call out Sugisaka, Rie’s friend responsible for the note, Nagisa steps between the two to defuse an impending physical beating and promises to listen to whatever Sugisaka says. It is here that Rie’s story is made known: Youhei dismisses it as a call for sympathy, but Nagisa is visibly moved and agrees to stand down, leaving Youhei frustrated. Youhei’s remarks, seemingly tactless, mirror the audience’s perspectives that many of CLANNAD‘s moments come from characters with uncommonly difficult or even tragic backgrounds.

  • Tomoya explains to Nagisa that Youhei’s strong reaction to her decision in standing down is a consequence of his own past: he was formerly a soccer player who was forced to quit after fighting with a senior. Recalling Tomoya’s background, Nagisa begins crying, and Tomoya comforts her, feeling it the right thing to do. The golden light of the early evening and volumetric lighting suggests to audiences that Tomoya is touched by how selfless Nagisa is, marking the beginning of his interest in her, but before anything can happen, Kyou shows up and tears Tomoya a new one for having allowed Nagisa to stand down.

  • When Youhei suggests taking the fight to the choral club, Tomoya mentions that the act would further sadden Nagisa: it’s another subtle sign that he’s concerned for her. Youhei decides to slack off, but Tomoya takes him to the reference room, where Yukine suggests a basketball game, and later, runs into Tomoyo, who is accosted by members of the judo club. He extricates her from the situation, and earns Tomoyo’s thanks. In the process, this incident is what allows Tomoya to devise his solution later, having heard from Tomoyo her goals of running for the Student Council presidency.

  • In a bold move, Tomoya takes Nagisa by the hand and brings her outside of campus to evade Youhei, who is quite enthusiastic about the idea of a basketball game to turn the choral club around. When Youhei catches up, Nagisa lies that she’s seeing Tomoya, hence their need for space. It’s noteworthy that this is the first thing that comes to her mind; she’s willing to risk embarrassment to cover for Tomoya. Once Tomoya gets over his initial shock, written all over his face, he is happy that Nagisa is willing to go to these lengths for him. In the awkward silence following, both Tomoya and Nagisa wonder how to best react, showing that the feelings are probably mutual, even if both are too bashful to be forward at this point in time.

  • Things are interrupted when Mei, Youhei’s younger sister, shows up to visit. Mei plays a much larger role in CLANNAD ~After Story~; in CLANNAD, she visits for a few days to check up on Youhei, whom she considers as a bit of a rogue element. After gifting him something he does not need, Mei helps him clear up his room. However, because of the dormitory rules, Mei cannot lodge with Youhei, so the Furukawas agree to have her stay over.

  • Source documents indicate that Nagisa was born in 1984, and Tomoya in 1985. In 1984, the MacIntosh computer was release to the market, and the Sino-British Joint Declaration was announced to outline what would happen when Hong Kong would be handed back to China in 1997. A year later, Calvin and Hobbes began running in newspapers, and Mikhail Gorbachev replaced Konstantin Chernenko as the leader of the Soviet Union. While the Furukawas share dinner with Tomoya and Mei, a glance around the Furukawa’s home suggest that the anime is set in an older time: the dates are closer to the start of the new millenium – mobile phones have yet to be common, and televisions are still of the old CRT type.

  • In a previous comment, I remark that Valentines’ Day is something I am largely neutral about. Last year, I wrote a thought experiment wondering what a hypothetical date with someone like Nagisa would be like, and concluded that it would be possible to make things work. I had planned on doing a similar talk about Miho Nishizumi, but as her Meyer-Briggs personality type is similarly consistent with Nagisa’s, such a talk would have been exceptionally boring, differing only on what a date with Miho might entail. I would lean towards a museum, and given my choices, I suppose it speaks volumes about the sort of personality I’m drawn to. It’s a bit of a surprise as to just how quickly a year’s elapsed: during that thought experiment, I also announced that I would be revisiting CLANNAD. With this series of post very nearly in the books, I look ahead to next year and wonder about how ~After Story~ should best be handled, provided that I’ve still time to write about it.

  • Kyou and Tomoya take great fun in trolling the living daylights out of Youhei when they discuss the organisational structure of their team of three; Kyou mentions the master-slave dynamic, and I’m certain she’s not referring to the cooperation concept that I implemented for a multi-agent rescue robot simulation for my project. The scene is meant to indicate that Tomoya gets along with Kyou rather nicely: for their differences, they share a similar sense of humour, and while Kyou does her best to set Tomoya up with Ryou, she comes to see Tomoya as someone she can count on, a far cry from her initial distaste in him.

  • The confrontation between Kyou and Tomoyo is hilarious – it’s the first time the two clash, and while there’s no physical violence, it’s amusing to see Kyou outmaneuvered when Tomoyo implies that Kyou might have feelings for Tomoya. It is during this arc that Kyou begins trying to put Tomoya into more situations with Ryou, with the aim of helping Ryou bolster her confidence, and as she spends more time with the two, Kyou herself begins to realise she’s in love with Tomoya. The outcome of this is covered quite separately in an OVA, and in CLANNAD proper, is addressed at the appropriate time. Similarly, Tomoya’s efforts in helping Tomoyo secure presidency of the student council leads her to see him differently, and this is also covered in an OVA.

  • When Tomoya, Youhei and Kyou begin making the junior players look bad, the basketball team bring their top line into play. The equivalent of bringing an NHL team’s first line to bear against junior players, it’s deliberately unfair, done to preserve the basketball team’s integrity, and their skill quickly evens things out. When the score reaches a tie, Tomoya manages to make a shot despite his bad shoulder after hearing Nagisa’s voice, allowing his team to take the win. This is yet another sign that Nagisa is Tomoya’s special person; I am reminded of my MCAT and the encouraging conversations I had prior to my exam. In the years following, I’ve since counted entirely on my own skill and experience to carry the day: there’s no one in my corner offering this sort of encouragement, so I fall back on myself to get by.

  • In the aftermath of the match, the basketball team captain compliments Tomoya on his hand-eye coordination and remarks that even with his injury, he might still be valuable as an asset. It seems, however, that this particular competition was unsanctioned, and when an instructor finds them, the players and entire audience make a break for it. Later, Mei remarks that in spite of Youhei’s minimal contributions to the game, she nonetheless respects him for having put forth the effort. She departs on a high note.

  • Nagisa, ever considerate of those around her, has given Tomoya (and audiences) very little insight into her background: when she falls ill for the first time in CLANNAD, audiences do not initially make too much of a deal about it, since occasional illness is a common enough occurrence. Nagisa’s absence, while seemingly insubstantial early on, imparts a noticeable change on Tomoya and his friends. He becomes sullen, while Kyou decides to spur Ryou on in pursuing a relationship with Tomoya, all the while concealing her own accumulated feelings for him. Here, Tomoya, Kyou, Ryou and Kotomi visit the Furukawas, who update them on Nagisa’s status.

  • It pains me to say that, even though I’d bought CLANNAD a year ago during a Steam Sale, I’ve yet to actually touch it. I’ve heard that the visual novel is tougher than Halo‘s Legendary difficulty, and even puts DOOM‘s ultra-nightmare setting to shame: one mistake will send Tomoya to Davy Jones’ locker. One of my readers recommends playing through CLANNAD with a guide, and I’ll probably have to do just this, since I have no intention of dying in a game that can trade blows with Wolfire’s Receiver in difficulty. The timeline for this particular endeavour will likely be when my gaming rig can no longer keep up with contemporary titles – with Far Cry 5Metro: Exodus and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown coming out this year alongside a new Battlefield title, I think that my machine’s finally met its match.

  • I’m looking at the housing market at present, so things like a new gaming rig will have to wait until things settle down, and while my current computer might not be able to run the latest and greatest, I still have a backlog I’ll need to get through, so CLANNAD will definitely be on my list of games to get into. Back in CLANNAD The Anime™, Ryou recoils in embarrassment, complete with infrared emissions and even steam, from one of Kyou’s remarks.

  • The issue of sharing an advisor with the choral club is settled, but with the arrangements in violation of school rules, Tomoya begins putting his backing behind Tomoyo’s campaign to run for the presidency of the Student Council. In exchange, she begins visiting him and Youhei each morning to encourage their punctual arrival to school, as a part of her campaign. While Youhei is constantly trying to fight her and gets his arse handed to him each time, Tomoya treats her as he does everyone else and ends up sharing meaningful conversations with her.

  • While carrying some volleyballs, Kyou runs into Tomoya after classes. Yukine had earlier shown Tomoya a charm, feeling that his feelings for someone is bothering him. It’s surprisingly specific, and it is quite telling that the first person Tomoya thinks of Nagisa. However, in her absence, Tomoya picks Kyou, feeling that the charm’s improbability means that things are unlikely to happen. His choice mirrors prevailing thoughts on the best person for Tomoya, as some find that Kyou’s fiery personality would be a good match for Tomoya’s grounded and practical mindset.

  • The charm ends up putting Kyou and Tomoya inside the storage room. Yukine refers to her spella as a charm, and under J.K. Rowling’s definitions used in Harry Potter, a charm is a spell that alters the properties of an object without changing it fundamentally. While CLANAND largely remains the realm of realistic, there are supernatural elements present to advance the story: how much of it can be accounted for by hard science and how much of it is left to the realm of magic is not particularly relevant, since the strength of CLANNAD always lie within each arc creating a compelling story that immerses audiences into whatever Tomoya is dealing with.

  • Kyou reveals her reason for bringing Ryou and Tomoya together, although she’s also flattered by the fact that Tomoya decided to think of her for the charm. There are numerous conflicting emotions here, as Kyou begins to accept that she may have feelings for Tomoya, but before anything unsuitable for CLANNAD can occur, Tomoya recalls the countercurse that nullifies the charm. He manages to stay hidden and extricates himself from one of CLANNAD‘s most amusing situations.

  • Tomoyo is confronted with a large number of ruffians, and teachers arrive to drive them off. Tomoya subsequently shoulders the blame to ensure that Tomoyo’s record is not tarnished, taking a suspension from school in the process. Tomoyo begins to see Tomoya as someone who cares about her, and she continues visiting him every morning to ensure he awakens on time. However, in the grand scheme of things, helping Tomoyo out really was a means to an end, and Tomoya’s sights are set squarely on helping Nagisa resurrect the drama club.

  • The dramatic changes between the amusing and serious in CLANNAD were one of the reasons why I enjoyed it to the extent that I did: I find that it humanises the characters so that audiences can really empathise with them. Following Tomoya’s suspension, Kyou, Ryou, Tomoyo, Kotomi and even Fuuko visits him, bearing food. What happens next is a food challenge worthy of Adam Richman. However, outside of these moments, Nagisa’s absence is taking a toll on Tomoya, who becomes more silent and grim than before. Kyou and Ryou begin to notice this, as well, and while it cast doubts on whether or not Tomoya might return Ryou’s feelings, as well as Kyou’s unrequited love, Kyou continues holding onto hope. It’s a surprisingly painful place to be, as I can attest.

  • Tomoya’s suspension concludes before Nagisa recovers, and when he returns to school, he learns that the incident has torched off rumours that are harming her chances of becoming the president for the Student Council. In response, Tomoya devises an inspired solution: having long noticed how virtually all of the athletic clubs at Hikarizaka long to recruit her, he decides to have her perform against the athletic clubs, turning her considerable strengths and skill towards something constructive to illustrate her as being a well-adjusted individual worthy of being the Student Council president.

  • Subtle imagery in this scene remind audiences that even the aloof Tomoyo has her tender moments. Stories of this class, with their multiple female characters and lone male lead, often are frustrating to watch because the male protagonist is indecisive and lacks the sort of determined personality that would make them appealing to the female leads. In contrast, CLANNAD presents Tomoya Okazaki as a kind-hearted individual who, despite his cynical views of life, can and will put forth his genuine best when asked of him. In short, he is someone who earns the affection and interest of the female characters around him.

  • As the evening sets in, Tomoyo shares with Tomoya her story: her greatest desire is to make her younger brother happy again, after he fell into a river and nearly drowned as a consequence of trying to stave off their parents’ divorce. The incident left him injured, forced Tomoyo’s parents into re-evaluating their situation, and while things appear to have reached an equilibrium, Tomoyo’s brother had a request to see the sakura blossoms. With the plans to cut them down, Tomoyo feels that her ability to honour this promise is to reach a position where she can influence the decisions of those around her to preserve the things that remind her of what family means.

  • As the evening sets in, Tomoya and Tomoyo spend a quiet moment together on the hillside. By this point in time, it’s apparent that CLANNAD sets most of its most emotionally-charged moments during the evening, when the sun is setting. Casting the landscape in golds and reds long-wavelength light serve to suggest that that evenings, long-associated with endings and unwinding, are the time when people begin relaxing. With their normal vigilance dialed back, people begin opening up, and allow others to learn more about them. It is during the evenings that Tomoya learned of Fuuko’s condition, remembers his friendship with Kotomi, watches as Nagisa yields the drama club to the choral club and hears about Tomoyo’s family: this time of day begins to create a sense of melancholy in viewers.

  • The tennis match in CLANNAD is what I consider to be the turning point of the series: after numerous hints and subtle clues, it is here that the way in which the wind is blowing becomes apparent. Tomoyo and a male tennis player begin their match, and as it increases in intensity, a stray ball hits Nagisa in the ankle. The song “Over” can be heard playing in the background: the lyrics are upbeat and cheerful, suggesting a ceaseless sense of wonder about the surrounding world, as well as the gradual ending of things. It seems to be sung from Nagisa’s perspective.

  • Instinctively blocking the tennis player’s efforts to help, Tomoya helps Nagisa to the infirmary. In this single moment, Tomoya accomplishes a triple kill, shooting down Kyou, Ryou and Tomoyo in one action. While Ryou and Kyou’s reactions make it clear that they are hurt, Tomoyo’s also feeling it. Her reaction is a bit more subtle, and she gazes up at the sky in silence. Kotomi seems largely unaffected, and she looks more concerned for Kyou and Ryou. Having experienced this before, I’m confident in saying that time will eventually heal those wounds, and that it’s definitely okay to embrace the ensuing sadness: that one feels so strongly about the loss shows that they have experienced love.

  • This outcome is what motivates my page quote: Kyou generally is optimistic and believes that there will be another way even when things fail. The outcome of Kyou and Tomoyo’s arc is that Tomoyo succeeds in becoming the Student Council president. With her position, she’s able to accomplish what she’d set out to do and save the sakura trees on the hillside road leading up to their school. As appreciation for Tomoya’s efforts, she also allows for the unique arrangement between the choral club and drama club to exist. With the drama club’s future steady, CLANNAD enters its final act as Tomoya prepares to help Nagisa realise her dreams.

A common criticism directed at narratives featuring a prominent male lead and several female leads is that the story ends up nowhere, but CLANNAD does the opposite, providing audiences with subtle hints that foreshadow which direction Tomoya takes. The love that Tomoya develops for Nagisa is a natural progression, brought on by spending time with her. His initial goal of doing something with his time besides his usual routine transforms into intrigue, and when Nagisa falls ill, he comes to appreciate her quiet and gentle company to greater heights. Never forcibly advanced by the narrative, the development of Tomoya’s feelings proceeds at a plausible pace. Once Tomoya becomes aware of his feelings, and his friends find out, the consequences are similarly portrayed in a natural manner. Tomoyo had begun showing interest in Tomoya for his resolute determination in helping her, while Kyou had been trying to suppress her own long-standing feelings for Tomoya by hooking Ryou up with him. Both see their chances with Tomoya evaporate when Tomoya stands up to look after Nagisa; it speaks volumes to how well both Kyou and Tomoyo have come to know Tomoya, as well, when they’re able to understand who Tomoya’s feelings are directed at. From this simple gesture, CLANNAD decisively settles the heading its story is moving towards. Without lingering doubts to sow the seeds for conflict, the risk for a meandering narrative is struck down. CLANNAD is able to enter its final arc at full force, with the story’s goal clearly in mind, as Tomoya deals with the greatest challenge he’s faced since meeting Nagisa for the first time.

A Theory of Everything: Revisiting Kotomi’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“The world is beautiful, even when it’s filled with sadness and tears.” –Kotomi Ichinose

With the drama club still lacking the requisite members to be formally reinstated, Tomoya speaks with Kotomi in the hopes of recruiting her to help out. In the process, he helps her become more sociable, and with Ryou, Kotomi decides to join the drama club. During one meeting, Kotomi becomes drawn to the music club’s violin performance, and when she tries to play for herself, she ends up causing those around her great distress. Hoping to help her improve, Kyou suggests that Kotomi give a live performance. While her performance is abysmal, her friends nonetheless encourage her, although Kotomi grows frightened when a mysterious man appears. Kotomi begins spending more time with her newfound friends and in classes, but one day, she witnesses an accident and becomes withdrawn. Tomoya visits her home and, finding her in a room filled with newspaper clippings, recalls his past with Kotomi: the two had met as children and spent a considerable amount of time together, but when her parents’ university research conflicted with her birthday, Kotomi resented them for not being with her. They later perished in a plane crash, and remorseful at her final words to them, Kotomi had since decided to take up her parents’ work. Tomoya decides to restore the garden in Kotomi’s backyard in the meantime. Nagisa and the others begin helping, as well; moved by this gesture, Kotomi opens up once again. During a small birthday party they host for her, the gentleman reappears and introduces himself to Tomoya and his friends. He reveals that Kotomi’s parents had been thinking about her right up until the end, and their final gift to her had travelled a considerable distance to reach her. The strength of her parents’ love allows Kotomi to reconcile with her past and embrace the future with Tomoya and the others.

After the basics were established, CLANNAD became free to explore different thematic elements related to Tomoya’s story. Kotomi’s arc is the first of the stories explored, and while perhaps better known for Kotomi’s infamous and lethal performances on the violin, the arc itself provides two main contributions into CLANNAD. The first of these is illustrating the extent that Tomoya will put forth his best effort for the people close to him, and while Tomoya did contribute to helping Fuuko make Kyouko’s wedding a special one, it is not until his time with Kotomi where the depths of his concern and caring for his friends become presented. An old childhood friend, Kotomi was born to two well-known researchers on cosmology, and in his youth, Tomoya had visited the Ichinose home frequently, stopping for a spot of tea in the garden with Kotomi. In the years since, the garden has grown decrepit and overgrown with weeds. Wanting to make amends for having halted their friendship, Tomoya feels that it is his responsibility to restore the garden, symbolically restoring his friendship with Kotomi. The other element in Kotomi’s arc sets the standard for what CLANNAD defines to be what constitutes as respectable parents. Long having felt guilty for destroying her parents’ work, Kotomi had zealously pursued her studies with the aim of continuing where they left off, and while it’s revealed that Kotomi had done no such thing, the story that her guardian presents to Tomoya and the others illustrates the love that Kotomi’s parents had for her. In their final moments, they sacrificed their research in favour of their daughter’s happiness – by making the choice to put family above even society, her parents’ decision show that a true parent is someone who is always willing to put their children first. With Tomoya’s help, Kotomi comes to understand and deeply appreciate this message, while Tomoya himself also gains a better insight as to what he himself would want in a parent.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because this is the Kotomi arc, this screenshot of the thirty will feature Nagisa and Tomoya alone: Tomoya’s found himself in the path of Kyou’s scooter yet again and is knocked down, but fortunately, no major damage has occurred. CLANNAD is a universe where injuries and harm are dependent on the plot: characters can survive ludicrous amounts of damage without ill-lasting effects during moments of comedy, but when the mood turns serious, they will sustain injuries normally.

  • While Tomoya’s encounter of Kotomi in the library initially seems random, the first indicator that there’s a bit more history comes from the fact that of everyone, Kotomi is able to interact with Tomoya where she is much more bashful and quiet around other characters.

  • When meeting the boisterious and straight-shooting Kyou, Kotomi immediately hides behind Tomoya. Kotomi’s initial limitations in communication lead to some misunderstandings, and of everyone, Kyou takes the most initiative to try and bring Kotomi up to speed with everyone; although the two are off to a comically rough start, Kyou and Kotomi do get along with one another over the course of time. Their dynamics are quite fun to watch, and other folks count it as amongst the more endearing moments in CLANNAD when Kyou initially tries to hold a conversation with Kotomi.

  • I’ve always held a fondness for locations with plenty of books; during my time in middle and secondary school, I spent a considerable amount of time in the library, as my preferred place to hang out and work on various assignments. I continued to make use of library facilities during my early undergraduate career – in the quiet, sun-filled workrooms of an early morning, I reviewed for my MCAT and prepared for many a exam here. It was not until I began my undergraduate thesis that I was granted my own office space. During this time, a new library had opened on campus, and I shunned the location.

  • Initially, it was because the location was very busy and crowded, making it difficult to find space to work in; by comparison, my old office space was quiet, well-maintained and the perfect place to write software. After a botched kokuhaku during the Summer of the Flood and the revelation that she was seeing someone else a half-year later, I became adverse to seeing young couples in general. The new library was the premiere place where couples on campus went to “study”, so I pointedly avoided the library unless I was there to help give presentations on my lab’s research. Back in CLANNAD, Kyou messes with Kotomi, who is unaccustomed to Kyou’s approach in dealing with people.

  • It is really Kyou who drives the drama club forward, and her decision to join, along with Ryou, brings the total member count up to five. Despite playing an ancillary role in the drama club, her strong personality means that the other members initially have little choice but to follow in her wake: Kyou is frequently seen lecturing Nagisa, Kotomi and Ryou whenever she’s displeased with their bashfulness.

  • Besides Kotomi herself, off-hand references to the works of Steven Hawking, Brian Greene and other great physicists are what I most strongly remember in her arc. However, for most audiences, Kotomi’s abysmal violin playing is probably the most memorable element; Kotomi is blissfully unaware of her poor skills even as those in her vicinity writhe in agony, as though they were subject to the Cruciatus curse. There’s no indicator that Kotomi is deliberately playing poorly, but the Dunning–Kruger Effect could be in play here: Kotomi’s played the violin previously and is a brilliant student by all counts, but years of being out of practise means that her perception of her ability is inconsistent with her actual ability.

  • While dissimilar in appearance, Kotomi’s voice and personality does remind me somewhat of a friend who had been adrift with respect to their direction at the time, and I spent many an hour chatting with them about research, graduate studies and other related materials. Since then, they’ve managed to engage in research and was accepted into graduate school. Outside of those conversations, we talked about things in all manners, and as the flood waters receded towards days dominated by brilliant blue skies, I wondered if I was developing a bit of a nascent crush on them.

  • Under the warm light of a summer evening, Kotomi and Tomoya begin spending more time with one another as Tomoya tries to help her be more sociable. CLANNAD‘s lighting is generally used in a mundane fashion until the defecation hits the oscillation: when things get serious, lighting and colours are used to great effect in conveying what the characters feel to audiences. The universality of colours is such that I prefer using them to define the emotional tenour of a moment, as opposed to symbols – obscure symbols may have different meanings, and some anime analysis erroneously try to fit the symbol with their conclusions.

  • While Kotomi has ostensibly practised in preparation for her recital, her performance on the day of the recital proves to be abysmal, incapacitating the entire audience. Indeed, Kotomi’s violin skills would find application as acoustic weapons, which are being considered as non-lethal area-denial weapons. Such weapons are largely experimental and have also made the news of late: staff working at an American Embassy in Cuba have been reporting unusual symptoms including hearing loss and irregularities in mental ability. While investigators initially suspected acoustic weapons, they’ve since been ruled out.

  • Kotomi endures a lecture from Kyou on the basics of the Japanese manzai routine. Ryou and Nagisa’s looks of horror are priceless, as is Kotomi’s vacant stare. It would appear that Kotomi’s attempted to ask Kyou to teach her how comedy works, and here, Kyou shows that she’s quite spirited, possessing the makings of an actress. Like Zoidberg of Futurama, Kyou feels that Kotomi isn’t cut out for the part.

  • The drama club’s members, certainly en route to counting one another as friends, spend a weekend together. There’s a voice-over during this scene, so I’m not too sure what the context of Ryou and Nagisa’s embarassment are, but the voice-over itself provides a bit of foreshadowing as to what’s happening next; Kyou learns that Kotomi’s birthday is upcoming, and so, plans to give Kotomi a birthday bash worthy of remembrance.

  • After a days’ worth of searching around for a suitable birthday gift, Tomoya and the girls are unsuccessful. Tomoya reassures the others that there’s time yet to find a good gift, but notices that she’s spaced out. CLANNAD excels at making use of foreshadowing that astute viewers will catch onto, especially if they’ve played through the visual novel, and for anime-only folks such as myself, it will take a second watch-through in order to catch these minor but relevant details that contribute to the depth of each story in CLANNAD.

  • At Kyou’s insistence, Kotomi decides to prank Tomoya, whose reaction is immediately of embarrassment. According to the supplementary documentation, Kotomi’s assets are larger than anyone else in CLANNAD, and Kyou is fond of messing with her for this reason. Played purely for the audience’s amusement, it also serves as a dramatic setup for the next scene, when Nagisa learns of a vehicle accident, leading to a bit of a panic as Tomoya wonders if anyone was injured.

  • When Kotomi witnesses a vehicle accident, it induces great panic in her; up until now, Kotomi had been making great strides in interacting with those around her, so to see this happen was quite unsettling. It speaks to Mamiko Noto’s capabilities as a voice actor in being able to convey the sense of pure terror at the scene unfolding before Kotomi, adding yet another piece of the puzzle to Kotomi’s past. Besides Kotomi, Noto has also provided the voice for Sakura Quest‘s Sayuri Shinomiya (Saori’s older sister), as well as Taihō of Kantai Collection. Overwhelmed, Kotomi takes her leave, with the others left to wonder what went down.

  • The man that Kotomi had been frightened of earlier turns out to be her legal guardian, and while Tomoya is initially hostile towards him, he consents to listen to the gentleman’s story after he reveals that he is a longtime acquaintance of the Ichinoses. This fellow somewhat resembles Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight trilogy, and Kotomi’s fear of him is not because of any misdeeds he was responsible for, but rather, because she fears the possibility of bearing direct responsibility for what’s happened in the past.

  • While perhaps not quite as powerful as in Fuuko’s arc, lighting is utilised to great effect in the Kotomi arc to convey a very specific sense during a scene. The dying light of a setting sun emphasises the browns and yellows of the decaying yard surrounding the Ichinose residence, reinforcing the notion that this place has long been neglected. That Tomoya visits by sunset shows that the day is ending; given the situation, there is little he can do now but wait for another day to begin so he can properly begin working on a solution.

  • The strong crimson hues inside Kotomi’s room, filled with newspaper clippings concerning her parents, create a highly unsettling sight that conveys to viewers the emotional intensity that Kotomi feels. Here, in a room illuminated in a surreal manner, Tomoya finally recalls the nature of his relationship with Kotomi – they’d been friends in their childhood. CLANNAD transitions into a flashback to fill audiences in on what’s happened previously, and provides a vivid picture of what’s happened.

  • In 2003, Brian Greene’s 1999 book, The Elegant Universe, was adapted into a three-part documentary for NOVA that outlines his research on string theory and how it could be the solution towards reconciling Newtonian physics at the macro-scale and quantum theory underlying interactions at incredibly minute scales. I found the three-part series to be incredibly enjoyable and wondered just how close we were at the time to a theory of everything. It’s been fifteen years since I first watched The Elegant Universe, and the complexity of these systems means that there’s no satisfactory theory that can really account for everything yet.

  • Greene’s research has continued into the idea that the universe is multi-dimensional, with extra dimensions wrapped up into small structures similar to how a strand of hair might be seen as being one-dimensional from a distance. The theory of everything might not be something we can readily demonstrate to hold true at present, but with continued research into properties of the universe, it is expected that our knowledge in this area of physics will only improve. It is this that forms the name for the final episode of Kotomi’s arc in CLANNAD and by extension, this post. Back in CLANNAD, Tomoya recalls how he first met Kotomi and the time they subsequently spent in her family’s garden.

  • Kotomi became frustrated on the eve of her birthday when a conference came up for her parents; such a reaction is not unexpected of someone of her age, and when they failed to return on account of a plane crash, Kotomi felt responsible for the actions. On the assumption that the gentleman was here to take her parents’ research papers, Kotomi tried to torch them with the hope of preserving it, but has since regretted her decision. This is the reason why Kotomi is studious: she aims to atone for her actions by recovering and rediscovering the knowledge that was presumably destroyed with her parents’ deaths.

  • After appraising Ryou, Nagisa and Kyou of the situation, Tomoya decides to restore Kotomi’s garden to its original state, and the group also takes Kotomi’s violin to a repair shop. Owing to the fact that ten years have elapsed since the original airing of Kotomi’s arc, curiosity led me to take a look and see what discussions were like back when internet speeds averaged 3 Mbps (375 kb/s) and the Kentsfield Core 2 Quad Q6600, one of the earliest affordable quad-core CPUs, had only been on the market for a year. To put things in perspective, my MacBook Pro, an early 2015 model, is armed with the i5-5257U, which is around 73 percent faster than the Q6600, and my current internet connection is twenty times faster.

  • Through his efforts, weeds are removed from the garden, and life begins to fill it once more with colour. Looking back at discussions of a decade past, folks largely agree that the Kotomi arc is quite moving and well-written. Appropriately, period discussions were focused on the emotional impact of the story, and even now, CLANNAD discussions tend to not mention any technical elements of multi-verses because, while they facilitate the story in both CLANNAD and CLANNAD ~After Story~, how they precisely work isn’t important for us viewers.

  • The reason why I’ve made no mention of Kotomi’s quote from Robert F. Young’s The Dandelion Girl is that I’ve done a separate post on the topic already, which dealt with the original short story rather than CLANNAD. In the case of CLANNAD, one can reasonably infer that Kotomi sees Tomoya as a great friend, someone who continues improving with the passage of time. She references this line because the two had read The Dandelion Girl as children and wishes for him to remember the past friendship that they once shared.

  • Some sources of documentation state that Kotomi’s only seen Tomoya as a friend in the anime, and her response when Tomoya’s feelings for Nagisa come out into the open seem to suggest that this is the case, but her choice of words and steadfast hope of meeting him blur the boundaries. When Tomoya fully recalls the full story, Kotomi is finally ready to face the her friends once again, feeling that she’s in the company of individuals who have accepted her.

  • The evening sky is presented again in great prominence, although now, reds are replaced with a gentler carnation pink to illustrate that the mood has softened. To the audience, this is meant to convey the idea that through Tomoya’s efforts, Kotomi has moved past her own inner dæmons. The next day, Kotomi returns to classes; she’s immediately greeted by her friends, who hand her a receipt for violin repairs.

  • The one remaining unresolved element in Kotomi’s arc at this point is the story dealing with her guardian. Having confirmed him to be a friend, Tomoya and the others feel that it’s time for Kotomi to learn of the whole truth about her parents. As the gentleman explains what really happened in her parents’ final moments, when they chose to save Kotomi’s gift over their paper, a warm golden light fills the room. The dominance of gold and yellow denotes that things have finally reached a resolution, and Kotomi makes peace with her past here.

  • The scene dealing with the suitcase that the Ichinoses left behind and its journey to reach Kotomi has long been subject to analysis for whether or not it added any value to CLANNAD and saw attempts by folks to decipher the different languages being used. Neither are particularly meaningful uses of time: as noted earlier, the whole point of Kotomi’s arc is to illustrate the extent to which Tomoya is willing to go for his friends, as well as a more dramatic example of the extent that good parents are willing to look after their children.

  • In short, the Kotomi arc is where precedent is set for Tomoya’s actions upcoming in CLANNAD. This brings my revisitation of the Kotomi arc to an end, and I found that, compared to the Fuuko arc, I’ve deviated a bit more from the Kotomi arc in my figure captions. Here, Kyou and the others bring Kotomi her newly-refurbished violin, and thanks to her involvement, Kotomi is able to celebrate the birthday party that her parents had once planned for her. In their stead, Tomoya and the others have planned a similarly enjoyable day for Kotomi.

  • Concerned with numbers, Tomoya asks if Kyou’s idea is a good one, and Kotomi remarks that she’s got a big garden…for you. This brings my Kotomi talk to an end, and the next CLANNAD revisitation post will cover Tomoya’s journey to help Nagisa rebuild the drama club. To do so, he hopes to help Tomoyo become student council president, feeling that it could help with the process, and invariably draws both Tomoyo’s and Kyou’s eye, leading to an interesting conflict. The gap between this post and the next will not be quite as long: the arc ended on Valentines’ Day, so this is when I will next write about CLANNAD.

Besides a powerful pair of messages with what family is and the sort of person Tomoya is, Kotomi’s arc also introduces the notion of multi-verses. One of the strengths in CLANNAD is that its portrayal of these multi-verses and the Ichinose’s research in such is given the perfect amount of detail to motivate the story, but no further. One of the issues in anime is whenever authors attempt to fit in immensely technical concepts without an inkling of the laws that govern such systems and the constraints within them. Some anime have taken to mentioning technical jargon with the aim of elevating the gravity in a scene, but in CLANNAD, details about M-theory, branes and interactions between dimensions are noticeably absent. Instead, concepts relevant to the story are presented in approachable terms: it is in one such multi-verse that the mysterious robot and girl’s story is set in. Initially, this world is of little more than a curiosity for the audiences, but as CLANNAD progressed, this alternate reality becomes much more significant towards the narrative overall. The inclusion of this element and sufficiently frequent mention of the possibility thus drive the story forwards, and opens up audiences to the idea that miracles are possible within CLANNAD: all of this is accomplished, permitting viewers to enjoy Kotomi’s story without requiring that audiences pick up Brian Greene and Steven Hawking’s publications as background material.

Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter!- Final Review and Reflections

“I believed there were three ways of making people happy. First, there were people who could make lots of people around the world happy. Then, there are people who could make those around them happy, and finally, people could make themselves happy. But now, I understand: by making others happy, we make ourselves happy.” –Mayu Shimada

With WUG’s National Tour jeopardised by the release of a new V-Idol, which is set to perform at Sendai Stadium and produce a scheduling conflict, WUG nonetheless continue to work hard in their own manner as Junko and Kouhei attempt to sort things out – the girls create mini-concerts in and around Sendai to try and generate interest in their upcoming Sendai performance, all the while continuing to work on lyrics for the song that Tasuku had given them. Miyu decides to feature an idol group she enjoys on her web show, and the girls begin considering a nation-wide Idol performance, leading Mayu to realise that idol groups can inspire one another, much like how each member of WUG had a profound impact on one another. When they present Tasuku with their completed song, “Polaris”, he agrees to give them the music, impressed with their effort and skill. However, problems continue with WUG’s final performance venue, and Mayu also finds herself trying to help Shiho find her feet. Through her advice, things eventually result in Shiho deciding to decline an offer to return to I-1 as its centre and taking up a role with her group, Next Storm. When WUG learn that they are given an open field to perform in, they immediately set about cleaning the site up and setting it up to give their audiences the best possible experience. Meanwhile, Ayumi and her friends, long having watched from the sidelines, are asked to step up and perform alongside WUG at their concert. Taking on the name Run Girls, Run!, they put their best into practise for their segment, which, despite difficulties, goes well on the day of the concert. WUG subsequently takes the stage with their performance, and across the nation, other idol groups similarly enchant their audiences. These concerts across Japan lead Tōru Shiraki to wonder why Tasuku had set in motion all this by encouraging WUG, and he replies that it’s more interesting this way. Following the concert, WUG and Run Girls, Run! continue training to bring happiness to their audiences.

As a proper sequel to Wake Up, Girls!, New Chapter!‘s main challenge was presenting the path that WUG had taken after establishing themselves; Wake Up, Girls!‘ magic lie in showing how Mayu and the others overcame the obstacles on their journey to become idols, and a considerable part of the appeal was how the girls’ persistence and determination led them to make their mark. The second season could no longer wield the same magic, as this story had already been spent in the first. While New Chapter! continues to emphasise that WUG’s strength lay in the group’s unity, the sequel simultaneously took a step in a different direction in Ayumi and Run Girls, Run! – the anime depicts a passing on of the torch from the veterans in WUG to Ayumi and her friends. Having worked hard in their own right, Run Girls Run! was born from the juniors proving their worth to their seniors and managers: they are given a chance to perform. Their journey is not littered with the challenges that Mayu and the others experienced during their start – they start on the shoulders of giants and are working with a group that has paved the way, who have already learned the basics, so they can inherit their lessons. This is not to trivialise the difficulties that Ayumi and her friends experienced – watching them reach a point where they could perform alongside WUG, speaks volumes to just how much they’ve grown over the course of New Chapter!

Beyond Run, Girls, Run!, New Chapter! also deals with the path that WUG take now that they’ve matured as a group: besides looking after juniors and helping them discover the joys that make being an idol worthwhile, they also turn their attention inwards when Tasuku presents them with a song to write. With a blank slate, the girls wonder how their experiences could feed into the song, and the fact that they encountered difficulties in writing illustrate that WUG take their work seriously. While each member of WUG now understand and depend on one another, they occasionally still have their differences, and seeing this is what leads them to realise that this is what best defines their group. With a concrete handle on what makes WUG, WUG, Mayu and the others turn this understanding into a means of promoting idols across Japan even as the V-Idol fad begins taking over. The simultaneous concerts held, in light of the V-Idol reveal, bring people together and hold their attention, as well as rekindling the novelty that human idols can bring into a performance: this is best symbolised during the final performance. When a snowstorm threatens to disrupt the hardware driving the performance, the V-Idol falters where WUG improvise. While it is perhaps a bit optimistic of New Chapter! to suppose that old-fashioned spirit and spunk can hold its own against technology, the message in New Chapter! is a warming one, reminding audiences that in spite of technological innovation, there isn’t quite a suitable substitute for the human touch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In this finale post, I have the customary thirty screenshots so that a wider range of topics may be covered. As the girls excitedly discuss their performance plans in their tour, I will diverge and address one of the elephants in the room: Tōru Shiraki and I-1 Club are completely absent from my proceedings, as are the antics of Kuniyoshi Ōta. For Kuniyoshi, his vociferous rallies do little in contributing to the themes in Wake Up, Girls!, and while intended to show that WUG has its proponents in cyberspace supporting them, I found Kuniyoshi’s inclusion in New Chapter! to be a vestigial trait remaining from the first season.

  • As for Tōru and I-1 Club, their moments in New Chapter! are present for the same reason they figured in the first season: compared to WUG, I-1 Club follows a highly structured, highly disciplined approach towards performances, and as such, lack the same human attributes as WUG. Here, WUG prepare for a photo-shoot with a photographer who had previously worked with Yoshino: the results are quite nice, fuelling WUG’s excitement in their upcoming performances.

  • Amidst ongoing concerns about ticket sales, WUG nonetheless work their hardest. Over time, Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome begin receiving rudimentary training as well. Unlike WUG, who started from almost nothing, Ayumi and her friends have a bit of a base to work from; WUG support them, and some of the trainers working with WUG are also willing to provide instruction for them. Their start is a bit smoother than WUG’s, attesting to how much of a difference having something to start from can make. Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome thus became the focus for one of the new messages that were presented in New Chapter!.

  • This moment succinctly captures what being in WUG means: a major part of the sincerity that I find in WUG is their resolute determination to see their tasks through. The group is very hands-on with respect to how they solve problems – throughout the first season, WUG persisted through remarkably difficult situations, and by the events of New Chapter!, they take problems in stride, turning negatives around and make the most of things. This theme had already been explored in full earlier, so in the second season, one of the things I was looking for was whether or not New Chapter! could introduce a new message that could only be delivered with a group that has had some experience.

  • In order to drive up interest and sales, WUG begin performing in public venues; this particular endeavour comes from the girls’ own initiatives. Through these free performances, their faces and names become a bit more familiar to Sendai’s residents, and slowly, sales begin to turn around.

  • One of the main challenges WUG faced internally was coming up with lyrics for the new song that Tasuku had offered them, and while this was not presented until later in New Chapter!, the journey that WUG take towards crafting suitable lyrics formed the basis for the second new theme that New Chapter! introduces. Evidently, song-writing is no easy task, leaving each of Miyu, Mayu, Kaya, Yoshino, Nanami, Airi and Minami stumped as they try to work out lyrics that best capture the spirit of WUG.

  • When Miyu meets up with Namahagez, declaring it a “Day of Idols”, it inspires the others to spread the word and put on performances of their own to coincide with the I-1 Club performance. The Namahagez speak volumes to the sort of influence that WUG has in inspiring other units: they remained together to perform after seeing the strength in WUG’s unity. It’s been quite some time since I’ve done any mention of other idol groups, if at all, so to bring readers up to speed, the Namahagez were an amateur group who performed with a unique flair during the first season and originally inspired Miyu to continue with WUG. The group later professed a desire to call it quits, but seeing Miyu and WUG prompted them to carry on.

  • Wake Up, Girlswas originally conceived as a part of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake recovery efforts in Sendai, and while the franchise remains in the shadows of giants, its unique origins and set up has certainly made me a supporter of WUG’s efforts in reality. Imagery of the earthquake and tsunami remain unimaginably haunting. In the time since the disaster, the Sendai area is still struggling to rebuild and recover: while reconstruction is occurring, and jobs are on the rise, the region has seen a drop in population. While Wake Up, Girls! never mentions the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake directly, the lead voice actors in Wake Up, Girls! were brought together by the disaster and work hard to generate interest in Sendai with their performances, which is a contributor to the recovery effort.

  • WUG travel to Tokyo in preparation for their performances here, and Mayu takes the time to find Shiho such that they might meet properly. While Shiho continues to view Mayu as little more than a professional rival, Mayu regards Shiho in a cordial fashion and so, is willing to step up to help out when the need arises. After meeting up with Shiho to discuss her situation, Mayu manages to convince Junko to arrange a meeting between her and Tōru.

  • Mayu’s meeting with Tōru goes sideways: he is unyielding and admits that idols are meant to be perfect entertainers, whereas Mayu considers idols as human beings, first and foremost. This difference in mindset is what allows WUG to separate itself from I-1 Club: while I-1 Club may have branding behind it, WUG’s music is delivered with genuine feelings and sincerity. It is for this reason that each of WUG’s performances are distinct and memorable, and why all of their songs are so enjoyable – in-universe, I-1’s dropping sales are likely the consequence of their content being too manufactured, too derivative and clearly mass-produced.

  • While the meeting might have failed, Shiho calls Mayu and reassures Mayu that she’s alright now, having committed to sticking it out with NEXT STORM. The meeting also had unforeseen consequences when a tabloid runs a bit of what is now called “fake news”, speculating that Mayu was trying to re-join I-1 Club. It speaks volumes to just how focussed WUG are when the girls don’t even flinch to this bit of gossip. They turn their attention to their own problems, and here, I’ve got a screenshot of Junko throttling Kouhei for Tōru’s actions: she’s concerned that the news might negatively impact sales to a much greater extent than the girls themselves.

  • Kouhei manages to secure a performance venue close to Sendai Airport, and having taken a look around the area, there definitely are several empty fields that could accommodate a large crowd. Back home, the Scotia Bank Saddledome is the go-to venue for the sort of concerts that WUG might perform. I’ve never actually been to live concerts at the Saddledome before on account that my taste in music is quite far removed from the sort of thing that is performed there: the Jack Singer Concert Hall and Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium are host to the kind of music that I enjoy.

  • While Junko laments the expense of setting up the location to accommodate an audience, WUG are thrilled at the site’s size, feeling that the empty land will allow them to set up a venue that will best suit their audience. It speaks to WUG’s talents for improvisation and making the most of any moment when this is their immediate impression: adversity has definitely given the girls an adaptive mindset, and when things get tough, they simply respond by getting creative.

  • It was therefore very encouraging to see the girls scatter into the fields, plainly pleased with the setting, and as they begin clearing the field of detritus, Ayumi and her friends arrive to assist, suggesting that WUG rehearse with the time that they’ve got. Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome have come a long ways from being mere fans, and the pursuit of their dreams have led them to become closer to WUG than they’d anticipated.

  • It is through Miyu’s web show that word of a nation-wide performance from various idol groups begin materialising, and the girls feel that, in response to the V-Idol concert, traditional idol groups should deliberately perform. This initiative is the culmination of the learnings that WUG has experienced both internally and from their performances previously: that they are willing to drive disruption is a strong indicator of how far they’ve come, as well as indicating that they understand their identity by this point in time.

  • The amount of sweat and tears Ayumi and her friends have poured into helping WUG, while all the while learning the basics of performance on top of their academics, have not gone unnoticed. While most of this happens off-screen, their inextinguishable zeal to make a difference and do their best is seen in the moments that they are present, and so, wanting to give them a chance, Yoshino and the others decide that Ayumi and her friends have earned a place alongside WUG on stage during their performance.

  • Junko initially feels that the difference in experience between WUG and Ayumi’s group is such that she wouldn’t be able to justify charging for the latter’s performance: there’s a certain level of professionalism involved here. However, when the girls reveal their role in starting the Wake Up, Idol! programme, which is meant to include all idols, Junko relents and assigns them to perform as WUG’s opening act. For her objections, Junko had in fact been planning to give Ayumi and her friends their first song to perform with.

  • Their surprise in this assignment soon gives way to stress, but with WUG’s help, they begin preparing for their first ever performance. Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome become christened “Run Girls, Run!”, after the fact that they’ve always been running around to their destinations, and after setting up their introductions, their unit name sticks. It’s a nice name, and while I’ve chosen to spell their group name out in full each and every time here, if there is a continuation, I’ll likely stick with RGR.

  • On the day of their performance, Run Girls, Run! run into the oft-encountered problem of nerves, and they botch their introduction. However, with some encouragement, they regroup and properly deliver their introduction to the assembled viewers. Prior to their performance, each member of WUG give them the scrunchies they’d made earlier from their old uniforms, symbolic of their act in passing on the torch to the juniors.

  • While they’re not the main event, it was nonetheless a joy to watch Run Girls, Run! perform for the first time. Even though there are imperfections in their routine (they bump into one another, become desynchronised and mis-step), they do their best in spite of all this and impress the audience, both in-show and from my end, setting the stage for WUG’s event. It’s a far cry from the unattended first performance that WUG had in the park during winter when they first debuted.

  • As WUG take the stage and perform their best songs, from 7 Girls War to Tachiagare and 7 Senses, I’m going to share with viewers a bit of a personal story that takes me back to Wake Up, Girls! original run in 2014. This is quite unlike anything I’ve done before, and I remark that this story is why I consider Wake Up, Girls!, its movies and New Chapter! to be a masterpiece despite the highly visible technical shortcomings within the anime. For readers who take the time to actually read figure captions, there’s a bit of an interesting personal story below.

  • While I had been curious about Wake Up, Girls! during the winter 2014 anime season, a glance at my site archives shows that I was following a large number of other series at the time. I was doing open studies at the time, taking a combination of courses in preparation for either a future as a graduate student or for medical school. Mid-semester, I was having what one might consider to be a existential crisis, and amidst decisions of which direction to take, as well as grappling with matters of the heart, things were looking quite miserable at the time: my degree in bioinformatics meant I felt like I had neither enough medical knowledge to meet basic qualifications for medical school, nor did I feel as though I had enough knowledge about computer science to be an acceptable software developer.

  • During this time, I was enrolled in my supervisor’s advanced iOS programming class, and one of the highlights about this course is that there are a large number of presentations from guest speakers. The one that most resonated with me was the talk on start-up companies and what it took to make it as a start-up: my perspectives opened up, and I gained a bit of insight into the sort of mindset that entrepreneurs must have. At the time, I did not entertain thoughts of working for a start-up, feeling that it was a bit of a risk to do so (I’ve never been much of a risk-taker).

  • There’s no correlation between this particular guest lecturer’s moving presentation and my decision to pick up Wake Up, Girls!, but when I did begin watching it, I saw in WUG the sort of drive and determination, as well as the willingness to put the team ahead of the individual, that folks working at a start-up must have as a part of their character. Watching the girls mature and grow was superbly rewarding, and acted as an inspiration for me to do the same. With encouragement and support from my supervisor, I ended up going to graduate school.

  • The Giant Walkthrough Brain project was also announced shortly after Wake Up, Girls! ended, and my supervisor offered me a role in helping with the project. Having been unsuccessful in applying for summer work as a developer elsewhere, I decided to seize the opportunity and be all I could be as a software developer there. Thus, I took up Unity and learned C# on my journey to build the Giant Walkthrough Brain; late in the summer, I began watching Locodol, and in it, I realised that working under my supervisor was very similar to the environment seen in Locodol: Yukari and Nanako both work hard to accomplish their goals, but they work in a controlled environment that allows for failure while simultaneously allowing the two to grow and mature. This connection is why I enjoyed Locodol to the extent that I have.

  • If Locodol represents the environment of university, then Wake Up, Girls! is intended to depict what working in the real world is like. The comparison was very humbling, and I understood that after graduate school, I would be dealing very much with the latter. In spite of that, watching the energy and resolve of WUG proved to be a strong source of inspiration, and today, I’m working at a start-up company with the goal of leaving behind a tangible, positive impact on society with the skill set that I’ve developed over the past several years.

  • I see a bit of myself in WUG and their experiences, so from a subjective perspective, I count Wake Up, Girls! to be a masterpiece for being a positive catalyst, partially influencing the direction that I chose to take in life. It’s bloody hard work, and I admit it is scary when each and every day, I ask myself as to whether or not I’ll still have a job tomorrow. On the flipside, it’s meaningful and fulfilling work to be writing iOS apps for a purpose that will make things better for others, so as long as I can, I’m going to do just this.

  • Hence, while Wake Up, Girls! has shortcomings in each of its seasons, it’s also a bit more of a personal connection on my end, so I’ve been finding ways to enjoy this series in my own manner. For all of the complaints about the animation, there are occasionally some moments where this doesn’t matter, such as during those scenes when the girls perform. In the finale, one subtle detail that stands out in New Chapter!‘s final performance is that, in response to the cold weather, the girls’ fingertips turn a shade of pink during their concert, and their breath is visible.

  • A snowstorm begins midway through WUG’s performance, affecting electronics and even threatening the V-Idol concert. Undeterred by the malfunction in their audio equipment, the girls step into the audience area and begin dancing, showing that they’ve mastered the art of taking things in stride and improvising. This is a curious parallel to the thunderstorm that knocked out power to the Banff Center during the first-ever Giant Walkthrough Brain performance: Jay Ingram seamlessly weaved the power outage into his narrative, and audiences enjoyed the improvisation, which transitioned flawlessly back into the script once power was restored.

  • Because Wake Up, Girls! has a bit more of a personal connection for me, I offer no verdict or final score in New Chapter! because I’ve got my predispositions and biases: I found New Chapter! to be superbly enjoyable even if it was rushed, and sincere even when the animation is not satisfactory. With this, my discussions on New Chapter! draw to a close, and looking ahead to the future, I feel that Wake Up, Girls! has accomplished its initial goals, in both the anime and for the cast providing the voices. The story’s come to a reasonable stopping point: that the final scene depicts a board with the words that “this story is only the beginning” might hint at a continuation, but it also can be seen as saying that WUG’s actions have set in motion many beginnings for many people, bringing happiness to others as Mayu has described.

No discussion of Wake Up, Girls! can be complete without some mention of the visuals, and while it is quite easy to note that Millepensee’s execution of New Chapter! is amateur compared to even that of their predecessors, New Chapter! nonetheless manages to retain the spirit and messages conveyed as effectively as Wake Up, Girls! did during its first season. A solid performance from each of the cast continues to engage viewers even where the visual elements are sub-optimal, and similarly, the sincerity of the narrative offsets the uneven, rough pacing of the story throughout New Chapter!. In a manner of speaking, the execution of Wake Up, Girls! has always been similar to the experiences WUG encountered: although their performances and approach might lack finesse, each of Mayu, Yoshino, Miyu, Kaya, Airi, Nanami and Minami genuinely put forth their best efforts for their audiences. Likewise, the sincerity is evident in the voice actors’ performances for their characters. Wake Up, Girls! is unlikely to become a powerhouse comparable to juggernauts like Love Live! and IdolM@ster, similar to how WUG and I-1 remain in different leagues, but as far as sincerity and honesty goes, there is a certain joy in Wake Up, Girls! that makes the series enjoyable even in light of all of the technical limitations present within. The sequel, New Chapter!, is no different, inheriting the same characteristics as its predecessor; while it’s got the same faults, New Chapter! also manages to continue doing the things that made the first season enjoyable and provided new aspects to illustrate what ultimately was beyond the bottom for WUG.

​Only You Can Make Me Happy- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter Finale Review and Reflections

“We reached for the moon,
We conquered the stars
We cried for the tears of yesterday,
Still strong to the end
‘Til we’ll meet again,
Remember the glory of the brave”

Judgement DayDragonForce

​Karin, Itsuki and Sonoko begin engaging the new enemy, sustaining heavy damage during the combat, while Fū and Mimori push their way towards the Shinju to save Yūna. At the heart of the Shinju, Mimori finds a partially-assimilated Yūna and pleads with her to be truthful about her feelings. Setting aside her deep-seated beliefs about what being a Hero means, Yūna lets Mimori know of how she really feels about all things, confessing that she wants to live and spend her days with friends. When Yūna voices a willingness to accept help from Mimori, the forces inside the Shinju project a force field that separates Mimori from Yūna. However, in the darkest hour, the spirits of long-deceased Heroes appear and lend Mimori the strength to punch through the barrier. Moved by Mimori’s plight and understanding the human desire to move forward independently of Celestial intervention and assistance, the Shinju transfers its powers over to Yūna, who wields it in a titanic effort to extinguish the flames consuming their world. Spent, the Shinju fades away, and humanity is left to make its place in the universe without any of the Gods’ protection. Liberated from their duties to the Shinju, Yūna and her friends are free to live their lives out normally: Fū is admitted to her high school of choice, and Itsuki is made president of the Hero Club, with Yūna, Mimori, Karin and Sonoko going back to enjoying their everyday lives as members of the Hero Club, serving their world as they’d always done. This marks the end of the short-lived but intensely-written Hero Chapter, which concluded with a bang: Hero Chapter was the candle that lasted half as long but burned twice as brightly, bringing a decisive end to the Yūki Yūna universe as Yūna and her friends can finally have ordinary lives without the ever-present threat of celestial powers snuffing them out of existence.

For all of the tribulations and suffering that Yūna and her friends go through during the course of Hero Chapter, the end solution ended up being one that was out in the open: while the Shinju has been assumed to be a benevolent, if unreasonable entity, it turns out that all that was needed to alter the Shinju‘s perspective, to break out of the ceaseless cycle of sacrifice and death was an impassioned statement vouching for the strength of humanity. Mimori and the spirits of Heroes long gone place their faith in Yūna and in doing so, demonstrate that humanity is quite capable of standing for and defending itself. In doing so, Hero Chapter then suggests that dramatic examples are necessary to overcome systems built on tradition and conservative principles. This is certainly the case in innovation, where disruption caused by new technologies and methods forces disciplines to re-evaluate their relevance in a system that is rapidly evolving. The sum of the Heroes’ actions, from the earliest of Heroes right up to Yūna and her friends show the Shinju that its presence and the costs of its help are not what humanity needs: it is with considerable effort that the Shinju is persuaded, and in the aftermath, Yūna manages to yet again achieve her goals of both being with her friends, as well as looking out for the world around her. While the ending comes across as being the consequence of deus ex machina, the reasoning behind it is not without merit: it’s the ending that Yūna and her friends deserve. During the course of the finale, it was also welcoming to see Yūna openly admit that she is willing to depend on others; under duress in her situation, Yūna finally manages to express this to Mimori, showing that yet again, a dramatic scenario will force individuals to be honest with themselves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In this discussion, I’ve got thirty images as opposed to the standard twenty seen previously for the Hero Chapter posts owing to the fact that there’s a bit of territory to cover, and we open with the remark that it’s been two weeks since episode five aired. A bit of a brief refresher, then, is in order: Yūna consented to the Shinkon ceremony earlier while her friends square off against a massive enemy unlike anything they’d seen previously and as the finale starts, members of the Taisha begin dissolving into sand, becoming One with the Force as Yūna’s Shinkon continues.

  • Elsewhere, Karin and the others have transformed into their Hero forms. Karin immediately engages her Mankai system, declaring that she’ll take a leaf from DragonForce’s album and go on an once-in-a-lifetime inhumane rampage. However, she’s immediately overwhelmed with fire from the unknown enemy, sustaining massive wounds to her body: her shields have failed, and Karin wonders if it’s action from the unknown enemy, as well.

  • Karin’s remarks that she’s still got her Mankai in reserve answers a long-standing question about how the upgraded system works: it turns out that the system is non-regenerating. Here, Fū agrees to leave Itsuki responsible for supporting Karin, and subsequently, Fū departs with Mimori with the goal of reaching Yūna. While Itsuki has always been presented as a shy, more fragile character, when the chips are down, she’s also capable of holding her own against opponents as anyone else in the Hero Club: this moment illustrates that Fū’s got more faith in Itsuki now.

  • Besides Sonoko, Mimori’s Mankai system confers access to a large vessel that is immensely useful for traversing great distances. Since Sonoko expended her Mankai earlier, it’s now up to Mimori to provide transportation for her and Fū.

  • Despite her best efforts, Karin is overwhelmed against the firepower brought to bear against her. By this point in Hero Chapter, I’ve come to accept that short of looking through the supplementary materials, I’m likely not going to gain any insight into just what kind of world that Yūna and the others live in: the sum of the events in Hero Chapter summarily invalidates the idea that the girls’ world is a simulated reality or a world contained in another world as per Rick and Morty‘s teenyverse.

  • Sonoko arrives to help Karin out before the latter is skewered by incoming fire. On the whole, Sonoko’s presence in Hero Chapter was a welcome one: her personality is a cross between that of Yūna’s and Mimori’s, and with her previous experiences, she’s instrumental in helping the others overcome the challenges that have been sent their way ever since Yūna became cursed.

  • When the fighting intensifies, even Sonoko cannot provide any long-term assistance for Karin, but Itsuki arrives to further help the two out. This is the second major combat sequence of Hero Chapter, and it would appear that the modifications to the Mankai and Hero System were done with the narrative in mind: sustained combat would have caused Mimori and the others to expend their energy at a rate not conducive towards their survival, and the limited use systems imply that the Taisha were preparing for eventual calamity.

  • When an opening appears, allowing the infection form-like Vertex to enter the fray, Mimori makes use of the firepower conferred by her Mankai mode to punch a hole towards Yūna’s position at the heart of the Shinju. The combat sequences of Hero Chapter are fewer than in Washio Sumi Chapter, but fortunately, their infrequency has not translated to a reduction in quality: Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s combat sequences have always been remarkably colourful.

  • One aspect of Hero Chapter that has similarly remained consistent in quality with its predecessors in both Washio Sumi Chapter and Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season is the music: it’s quite distinct in tone compared to Yuki Kajiura’s compositions for Puella Magi Madoka Magica despite simultaneously feeling similar, and one of the aspects of the soundtrack that caught my eye was the unusual naming convention in some of the songs, which make use of symbols. The music is very enjoyable, and Hero Chapter‘s soundtrack is set for release quite some time from now – May 30, 2018 is when it becomes available.

  • With the infection form-type threatening their mission, Mimori and Fū prepare to abandon ship, hopping overboard and closing the remaining distance on foot. Prior to discarding the vessel, Mimori overloads its power supply with the goal of taking out as many Vertex as possible in the process – she salutes her craft for its service in its final moments.

  • With the final path to Yūna blocked by vast walls, Fū engages her Mankai; her broadsword takes on gargantuan dimensions, and she uses it to create a hole in the wall, allowing Mimori to go on ahead. The final battle of Hero Chapter brings to mind elements seen in Gundam 00 Awakening of the Trailblazer, with each of the Gundams working towards clearing a path for Setsuna and the 00 Qan[T] to reach the ELS core. Awakening of the Trailblazer has been out for six years now, and back during 2011, made the list as the best anime movie of 2011 at Random Curiosity. This year, the coveted title of best anime movie of 2017 belongs to Makoto Shinkai’s Kimi no na wa.

  • I voted for Kimi no na wa, along with Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni. Both films had their merits, and while the latter didn’t make it, I personally felt it to be more deserving of the title on account of the film’s messages about resolve and making the most of things, even if the visuals in the former are several orders of magnitude more impressive. Back in Hero Chapter, Mimori’s made it to the heart of the Shinju where Yūna is. I’ll take a short moment to note that compared to the likes of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season and even Washio Sumi Chapter, the unnecessary camera focus on Mimori’s body were reduced.

  • However frivolous (not to mention somewhat inappropriate) those moments were, they served one purpose – reminding viewers that Yūki Yūna is a Hero was not meant to be as serious or severe as Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Thus, the total absence of gratuitous mammary and posterior focus on Mimori reinforced the notion that Hero Chapter was all business. Here, Mimori’s finally managed to convince Yūna to be open with her feelings, and tears begin flowing freely as Yūna admits she’s gone in over her head.

  • Yūna and Mimori reach for one another, but before the two can take a hold of one another, a force field materialises, separating them. Having committed to the Shinkon earlier, the procedure is set to continue regardless of how Yūna feels, and Mimori’s body begins crystallising. She crumbles to the ground, defeated. However, when it seems all hope is lost, the Force Ghost of Gin Minowa appears, lending her strength to Mimori.

  • Back outside, Sonoko, Itsuki and Karin notice the unusual phenomenon occurring inside the Shinju. Here, I will take a moment to explain the choice of page quote for Hero Chapter‘s finale: it’s sourced from the song “Judgement Day” from DragonForce’s latest album, “Reaching into Infinity”, which released back in May of 2017. “Judgement Day” is typical of DragonForce’s repertoire, featuring fast rhythms and speaks to notions of courage against overwhelming odds. In the song, the heroes are faced with a challenge that truly tests them,  but they nonetheless carry on in true DragonForce fashion, beating their goals and remembering the achievements of those before them.

  • This same spirit is present in Hero Chapter‘s finale, and its lyrics seem to capture in full the journey that Hero Chapter has portrayed. Overall, “Reaching into Infinity” has been counted as one of DragonForce’s best albums right behind their previous album “Maximum Overload”, and I greatly enjoy their music as a whole. With the spirits of countless Heroes before her time present, the barrier decomposes, allowing Mimori to finally reach Yūna.

  • Mimori and Yūna share a tearful embrace as the two are properly reunited for the first time in Hero Chapter, and while Yūna cries for the world that she feels is lost, a new phenomenon takes place – a warm golden light envelops her and Yūna. No words are necessary here: the sensations alone conveys to the girls the Shinju‘s thoughts, and it is evidently moved by the girls’ conviction in the strength of humanity.

  • In its final act, the Shinju transfers its native power into Yūna, who is transformed into a new Hero: while it’s not totally clear that this has happened, Yūna’s complete heterochromia suggests that her body is housing two entities, that of her native spirit and that of the Shinju‘s. Six orbs are also present: one for each of the active Heroes. The reason why this is possible for Yūna is owing to her lineage; she’s got a unique connection to the Gods themselves and so, is able to accommodate for this unique setup where it would have been impossible with other Heroes.

  • In this Hero form, Yūna brings to mind the 00 Qan[T], which was similarly featured only briefly in Awakening of the Trailblazer and capable of prodigious power. Setsuna did not use the 00 Qan[T]’s combat capabilities to the fullest extent during the final engagement with the ELS, and managed to negotiate with them instead to bring about an end to hostilities. On the other hand, Yūna makes use of her newfound powers to defeat the massive Independence Day-type entity. Support from her friends lights the orbs following her, and Yūna is able to project a powerful shield capable of repelling the heavy laser fire in the shape of five flowers, reminiscent of both the flower in Gundam 00 and the psycofield seen in Gundam Unicorn‘s finale when Banagher and Riddhe are stopping the Gryps II Colony laser from incinerating the Snail.

  • Serving a symbolic role in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, flowers are ubiquitous throughout the series, with the soundtrack and vocal songs referencing flowers. The girls’ Hero modes also predominantly feature flower imagery. I’m not a floral designer or botanist by trade – I can only imagine what an expert might have to say about what story and ideas the flowers of Yūki Yūna is a Hero can tell viewers. With this being said, flowers generally are associated with a beauty and a hidden resilience despite their seeming fragility. After a hailstorm pounds them into the ground, I’ve seen flowers recover and continue to bloom as though nothing has happened.

  • That flowers are so prominent in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is meant to remind audiences that the Heroes are like flowers: beneath their delicate-looking appearances lies remarkable endurance and resolve. With the last of the Shinju‘s power and encouragement from her friends, Yūna reaches the core of the enemy and smashes it into oblivion with her fists. The subsequent destruction also quenches the flames burning at the world and destroys the other deities, as well: the effort completely expends the Shinju‘s life force and it fades from existence.

  • When I first finished watching the finale, I was at a loss for words and thought to myself that The Last Jedi made more sense. Now that I’ve had a chance to rewatch the episode and look through everything again, coupled with drawing some conclusions based on the more subtle details and my previous experiences with fiction in general, I think that I’ve reached a fairer conclusion that has at the minimum, allowed me to write out this post.

  • The Heroes reawaken to find themselves in the real world, similarly to how Mimori and Sonoko had previously lain in grass plains with Gin beside the Great Bridge after slaying a Vertex during the events of Washio Sumi Chapter. Yūna immediately bursts into tears, as Mimori once did, and her friends similarly grow concerned, fearing she’s injured in some way. But as it turns out, Yūna is still torn up about all of the things that have happened as of late, especially her treatment of Karin. Realising that the old Yūna is back, Fū, Itsuki, Mimori, Karin and Sonoko smile.

  • The observant viewer will note that all of the Heroes’ phones have suffered crack screens. The design of the home button and device shape overall, coupled with the fact that Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season was released in 2014 autumn (so, shortly after the Giant Walkthrough Brain‘s presentation at Beakerhead 2014) means that the smartphones the girls have is an iPhone 5. The iPhone 5s would have been more current, but was also the first phone to feature TouchID, which would not have the square icon on the home button as seen here, possibly indicating that for their power, the Taisha are also a bit more frugal with their finances. While the iPhone 5 was one of the most durable iPhones of its time, the destruction of the Heroes’ phones symbolise the idea that their services are no longer required.

  • The blue crow that originally guided Yūna out of the void flies off, suggesting that it returned to help Yūna out one more time before moving on. The vivid blue skies seen towards Hero Chapter‘s end are another indicator that normalcy has returned for Yūna and her friends. Back when Washio Sumi Chapter ended, I remarked that the skies seemed a bit faded, which were indicative of the sort of events that would unfold during Yūki Yūna is a Hero.

  • Their goal accomplished, Mimori and Sonoko stop by to pay their respects at Gin’s grave. The site of the memorial and the nearby bridge are based off of the Marine Dome Amphitheatre in Seto Ohashi Memorial Park, located adjacent to the Great Seto Bridge that links Kagawa to Okayama with its 13.1 kilometre-long span. The town that Yūna and her friends live in, then, is Sakaide in the Kagawa prefecture, and at long last, Sonoko’s remarks about “Kagawa Life” finally make sense: she wants to enjoy the sights and sounds of home to the fullest extent possible.

  • Owing to the emotional intensity surrounding Washio Sumi Chapter and Hero Chapter, I did not give much thought into the location of various landmarks, but with the finale here, the time was ripe to change that. The real Marine Dome naturally does not have any of the tombstones seen in Hero Chapter, and here, Aki is seen mourning Gin from the shadows, showing that she also cared for Gin despite her roles within the Taisha. Unlike other members of the Taisha, she does not become One with the Force.

  • As normalcy settles back into Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the Hero Club returns to doing what it does best, serving the community. Without the gods, humanity is thus responsible for its own fate, and I remark that while our empathy for others, coupled with our ego regarding our place in the universe, might mean that we tend to view anything threatening our species as evil, the truth is that the universe is quite indifferent to what happens to us: a gamma-ray burst could neutralise our species tomorrow and any surviving life on the planet would simply re-colonise it.

  • The Hero Club’s tenants have also been updated to include the clause “無理せず自分も幸せであること” (romaji “muri sezu jibun mo shiawase de aru koto“), which I approximate as “Be happy without asking of yourself the impossible”. It indicates that Yūna has learned that happiness shouldn’t be faked for her friends’ sake, and that happiness isn’t attained by pushing oneself too hard. Fū manages to make it into her preferred high school, and swaggers about, while Itsuki is made president of the Hero Club. The girls finally begin stepping into the future, and the use of visual humour in this scene serves to remind audiences that happiness in an ordinary life is finally attained.

  • Overall, my verdict for Hero Chapter is a B grade, corresponding with a numerical value of 7.5 of 10. I was disappointed that world-building would be left to supplementary materials, and that execution was quite rushed: the series would have benefitted from a full twelve episodes or movie. With this being said, the ending does follow from what’s happened now that I’ve had a chance to sleep on things, and ultimately, this the ending that Yūna and her friends deserve, even if it might not be one that the audiences need. Thus, my talks on Hero Chapter draw to a close, and the only remaining talk I have for anime from the previous season is for Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter!. Moving into the future, Yuru Camp△ and Slow Start are on my radar of shows to write about, along with Violet Evergarden.

The end results of Hero Chapter appear to suggest that all the events within the Yūki Yūna is a Hero universe could have been averted had common sense prevailed; while the most practical solution the Shinju could have taken would be to observe and listen more carefully to understand what human desires might entail, this particular action would also have deprived audiences of the anime and its associated works. Overall, Hero Chapter‘s turbulent execution slowly smooths out once the solution is reached, and the journey there was a modestly enjoyable one despite inconsistencies in pacing within the narrative. This is a consequence of Hero Chapter‘s short length, and admittedly, working out the thematic elements during Hero Chapter‘s run was a non-trivial task. In the end, Hero Chapter strives to show the strength of the human spirit and our ceaseless drive for self-determination. My final verdict is that I would not recommend Hero Chapter to newcomers unfamiliar with Yūki Yūna is a Hero on the virtue that there is a considerable amount of a priori knowledge one must have on the series to fully appreciate the events and actions within the anime. Conversely, folks who have some background on Yūki Yūna is a Hero will find this a modestly satisfying conclusion to the events following season one; while perhaps falling back on derivative storytelling techniques, the final result is decisive and one that the characters have earned. Retaining the aural and visual fidelity of its predecessors, Hero Chapter is of a high quality, and while I’m certain that discussions about the minutiae surrounding Hero Chapter will continue for quite some time, I’m more than happy to conclude my own discussion in spite of the numerous shortcomings in Hero Chapter, especially with respect to world-building and pacing. Having said this, Hero Chapter nonetheless offers a more concrete bit of closure for the magical girls who’ve suffered more than their share’s worth for the sake of their world, which makes it worthwhile in my books.

Nekopara OVA Review and Reflection

“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a function.” –Garrison Keillor

While unpacking in his new confectionery shop, La Soleil, Kashou Minaduki learns that Chocola and Vanilla, two of his family’s Nekos, have stowed away with him. Kashou is initially unwilling to let the two stay, but later relents and allows the two to remain with him upon seeing their determination. Kashou’s younger sister, Shigure, later visits with the other Nekos and remarks that for Chocola and Vanilla to work at La Soleil, Chocola and Vanilla will require a permit exam. Despite their initial difficulties, the two pass their exams, leading Kashou to bring Chocola and Vanilla to an amusement park and aquarium in celebration. When Kashou develops a fever from exhaustion later, Chocola and Vanilla try to reach a doctor’s clinic but forget to bring their bells with them. Kashou arrives and manages to sort things out before the authorities take them away. Later, Shigure decides to bring in the other Nekos to help out with work at La Soleil. With its origins in a series of visual novels, Nekopara‘s OVA was first announced in July 2016 in a crowd-funded project. Interest in an OVA became apparent when the crowd-funding campaign reached its goal within a day of launch, and the OVA itself was completed in November 2017. The OVA was scheduled for release on Boxing Day. During its fifty-minute run, the Nekopara OVA covers the first chapter of the visual novel (there are four in total), and for folks who’ve played through the game, one of the strongest aspects about the OVA is how faithful it is to the original.

At its core, Nekopara‘s OVA presents a gentle, heart-warming story about Kashou’s gradual acceptance of his Nekos in life at his confectionery shop and the misadventures that they share, along with their more tender moments. The OVA, and Nekopara itself, brings to mind the sort of antics seen in the animated series Nyanko Days. In both, anthropomorphic cats are present, with human-like traits and intellectual capacity. The similarities end here – whereas Nyanko Days is purely about the everyday lives of Yūko’s cats and features tiny Nyanko, the Neko of Nekopara are more similar to humans in stature to accommodate for the sort of narrative that Nekopara presents. With this in mind, the OVA is more family-friendly than the visual novel and therefore, more similar to Nyanko Days than its visual novel incarnation, preferring to focus on the adorable and amusing rather than the risque. However, because there is a male protagonist and human-like Nekos, as opposed to the kitten-like Nyanko, the OVA opens the floor to conventional jokes surrounding misunderstandings that are usually seen in romance-comedy anime. With this in mind, the OVA can be seen as either a fine addition into the Nekopara franchise for current fans of the visual novels, as well as being a bit of a barometer for the undecided to determine whether or not the Nekopara games are within the scope of their interests.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I suppose it would be fair to open with the remark that I’ve never actually seen “Neko” being used in plural as I have: in Japanese, we would probably say 猫たち (neko-tachi) to refer to cats in plural.  However, in this post, I will use it to refer to the cat-girls in plural for convenience’s sake. I’m not sure how exactly Nekos work from a evolutionary and biological perspective; they are human-like in anatomy save for their ears and tails, possess intelligence comparable to that of children and are omnivorous, but otherwise, their minds are cat-like. However, the documentation states that interbreeding between humans and Nekos are not possible, which technically should mean that Nekopara should be family-friendly through and through.

  • The protagonist, Kashou Minaduki, is a pâtissier who comes from a family of Japanese chefs and is distant with his parents for his interests. Resembling Itsuki Koizumi of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, Kashou is the generic protagonist and is unremarkable. Chocola is the first of the Nekos seen in Nekopara: she is the more energetic and outgoing compared to her twin, Vanilla. The two Nekos are the youngest the Minaduki family has: Kashou and his sister found them around nine months ago, and they have been caring for the Nekos ever since.

  • One aspect about Nekopara‘s game form is that it makes use of 3D animated characters, in contrast to static 2D characters of traditional visual novels. As a result, there’s a slider for altering the modulus of rigidity in the game, which is utterly pointless: I bet that in Nekopara, elasticity is a pre-rendered animation rather than involving real-time physics calculations, so changing the settings with the aim of stress-testing a computer set up isn’t even worth it. With this in mind, if I should ever decide to buy Nekopara, I’m going to set the modulus of rigidity to zero: Chocola and Vanilla don’t exactly require any other setting, and soft-body dynamics is computationally expensive.

  • A miscommunication results in the delivery of additional hardware to La Soleil, and while a Herculean task seemingly awaits Kashou, Chocola and Vanilla lend their skills towards sorting out the boxes to find the ones containing Kashou’s orders in an efficient manner, leading to much happiness from the delivery lady.

  • While Kashou is initially not keen on keeping Chocola and Vanilla around, Chocola up front lets Kashou know that he means a great deal to both of them, recalling a story where he looked after the two and brought them to the hospital after the two fell ill from a combination of stress, cold and a weakened constitution. In a moving display of kindness that Kashou counts as common sense, Chocola and Vanilla would recover and became quite fond of Kashou, to the point of following him when he moves out to open La Soleil. It takes some negotiations, but Kashou eventually relents and allows the two to live with him.

  • Kashou reluctantly agrees to let Vanilla and Chocola help him out at La Soleil. They run into a strangely-attired customer later revealed to be Kashou’s younger sister. A capable Neko owner and elegant in her own manner, Shigure is responsible for training the family’s Nekos. In the OVA, she’s quite ordinary, although in the visual novel, it’s said that she holds unrequited feelings for Kashou, which doesn’t appear to be a rational narrative device considering what Nekopara is about.

  • From left to right, the other Nekos in Nekopara are Maple, Cinnamon, Azuki and Coconut (Shigure is in the middle, wearing the kamino). Each of the cats sports a bell that signifies their qualification to hold what Nekopara calls an “Independent Action Permit” (abbreviated IAP for short and not to be confused with the shorthand for “In App Purchase”), which allows a Neko to travel alone without human supervision. In order to have Chocola and Vanilla helping out at La Soleil, the two must also pass an examination to hold an IAP.

  • Nekos have a modified digestive system that allow them to enjoy cakes and tea along with food more consistent with what cats should be given. It should go without saying that Nekopara is the last place on earth one should go to learn about cats – cats have no sweet receptors and won’t enjoy sweets the same way humans would. Further, the presence of dairy products in cake can be cause digestive issues for cats, and theobromine in chocolate can be lethal. Of course, this would result in a dull visual novel.

  • Cinammon (to the right) is the third oldest of the Nekos and here, is seen giving Vanilla a crash course on flowers, somehow becoming turned on at the thought of reproduction. It brings to mind the jokes that I sat through as a high school student in biology, where my instructor remarked that only an ineffective instructor would be distracted by reproductive biology and said that from scientific perspective, there should be nothing particularly embarrassing as to how life works. Having said this, while I’m not particularly bothered by what would be considered indecent, there is a limit to what I can and can’t show on this blog in order to maintain the PG-13 rating.

  • N. cataria has a profound effect on Chocola and Vanilla, who are affected by the nepetalactone present. The compound, a two-ringed, ten carbon molecule, produces a relaxing effect in cats in conjunction with sleepiness and drooling. Nepetalactone has no impact on humans owing to physiological differences, so it stands to reason that Nekos likely have a different nervous system composition than humans despite their physical similarities. Curiously enough, nepetalactone doesn’t seem to affect a third of all cats, and this is apparently not Mendelian trait.

  • I have a feeling that the sustained application of science will outright ruin Nekopara: the origins of Nekos and the implications on technological levels in society would probably cause readers to count me a non-team player, a wet blanket. This is because if we could genetically engineer a species with human and cat-like traits as having near-human intelligence, it would imply that our medical knowledge is remarkably sophisticated. This would then raise the question of why things like FTL and fusion are not present in Nekopara. Hereafter, I’m going to do my best not to mention scientific elements in too much more details from here on out and return things to the OVA, where Chocola and Vanilla are shown to have successfully passed their IAP exam.

  • As a celebration, Kashou takes Chocola and Vanilla to an amusement park, which Chocola has expressed an interest in visiting. Most apparent in this scene is the level of detail and intricacy in both Chocola and Vanilla’s dresses. At the time of writing, the Nekopara OVA is only available on Steam to the wider world and retails for 34 CAD, which is only slightly less than the Nekopara bundle, which costs 36 CAD in the absence of a sale (for a scant 18 CAD, one can buy all four volumes of Nekopara on Steam during a sale).

  • Today’s been a bit of a more festive one: I spent most of it at a New Year’s Eve brunch. After driving the treacherous roads to get there, I settled down to the warmth of home-made Eggs Benedict, turkey bacon, potato pancakes and hash browns, plus the most impressive array of cookies, Nanamo Bars and other sweets I’ve seen in a while. Conversation during this brunch lasted into the late afternoon, during which the weather remained incredibly frigid (-29°C before windchill).

  • Once I got back home, it was very nearly evening, and I arrived just in time for my family’s annual 火鍋 (jyutping fo2 wo1, better known as “hot pot”, and folks familiar with anime will refer to it as nabe even though the Chinese version isn’t really thus). The combination of a warm soup with beef, lamb, chicken, shrimp, fresh scallops, squid, fish ballsbak choy, cabbage and lettuce, plus yi mein, is the perfect ward for the cold winter’s evening, and with dinner now done, it’s time to watch as the final hours of 2017 draw to a close.

  • After their outing to the aquarium, Kashou develops a fever that greatly concerns Chocola and Vanilla. Their understanding of human health being limited, they attempt to call for medical assistance upon seeing Kashou’s state, as opposed to letting him sleep it off. Typically, bed rest and hydration is the best initial means of dealing with a fever – medical attention is sought if the fever is very severe or persistent. After Kashou falls asleep, Chocola and Vanilla head into the night to reach a clinic.

  • While Nekopara may not have Makoto Shinkai or Kyoto Animation level visuals, the simple, clean artwork works in the OVA’s favour. I took a quick glance at the Steam system requirements for Nekopara‘s OVA, and they’re identical to K-On! The Movie, which is also available on Steam. The act of streaming videos is not a particularly demanding task: any dual core CPU, 2 GB of RAM, 500 MB of space (presumably to act as a cache) and a 12 Mbps connection will be sufficient for enjoying anime from Steam.

  • Shigure and the remaining Nekos decide to join the ranks of employees at La Soleil, much to Kashou’s surprise. This sets in motion the whacky antics that are seen in the remainder of Nekopara, and given the setup, I imagine that the OVA was largely intended to be a bit of promotion for newcomers such as myself as much as it is intended to entertain current fans of the game.

  • With the entire family of Nekos geared up and ready to help, the stage is set for later volumes of Nekopara, which deal with the antics surrounding Kashou as he acclimatises to Nekos working at his confectionary shop. As a kinetic novel, Nekopara has no branching decisions and can be seen as an electronic story of sorts. In a manner of speaking, the OVA and game are different interpretations of the same story, and if the OVA had been more extensive, I would likely prefer watching the OVA to playing the game.

  • From the perspective of those who’ve played Nekopara and subsequently watched the OVA, the OVA seems to have done a passable job of bringing Nekopara to life in the anime format. While not perfect, these individuals have found it entertaining. From my perspective, which is that of someone who’s seen the OVA and are wondering about the game, I think that the OVA could inspire some to pick up all four volumes of Nekopara and give things a whirl to see what happens at La Soleil after all of the Nekos come on board. However, for me, I have my own reasons for not buying Nekopara: for one, I feel that my Steam library has hit saturation, and there are simply no more games that I’m keen on checking out for the present.

  • The exterior of La Soleil is simple and clean, set in front of a backdrop of skyscrapers. It’s well designed and aesthetically pleasing, so I figured I would feature at least one screenshot of it during this discussion, which now comes to an end. This is my final talk for 2017, and I am going to spend the remaining few hours of the year taking it easy. Upcoming posts to kick off 2018 will include Wolfenstein II‘s Uberkommando and Episode Zero talks, the final impressions for Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! and the final episode of Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter. I also have plans to write about Violet EvergardenYuru Camp and Slow Start in the upcoming season.

One of the more interesting elements in the OVA that the world that Kashou inhabits feels much more lively relative to the visual novel. This aspect is likely by design – in the visual novel, the absence of other inhabitants save mission-critical characters places greater emphasis on Kashou and his Nekos, as well as reducing the amount of resources spent drawing extras. However, the animated format has additional background characters to give the sense that there is a world beyond the characters players interact with. This is one of the strengths of the animated format confers for adapting visual novels: the worlds that characters live in can be made to feel a bit more alive. The OVA certainly has done a solid job of bringing Kashou’s world to life: while nothing groundbreaking or remarkable, the visual quality and artwork in the Nekopara are of a high standard, as are the aural elements. Overall, the Nekopara OVA succinctly captures the basics of Nekopara in a modestly entertaining fashion, and here, I remark that while the OVA was fun to watch, I’m not too sure if I will be adding Nekopara to a Steam library whose existing titles include DOOM, Half-Life 2 and Far Cry 4 in the foreseeable future: I prefer my games to involve über-micro, after all.