The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: summer

An end of summer reflection: On pleasant weather and the dog days of summer in Yuyushiki

“August has passed, and yet summer continues by force to grow days. They sprout secretly between the chapters of the year, covertly included between its pages.” —Jonathan Safran Foer

While Yuyushiki is primarily about Yuzuko, Yui and Yukari’s time in their high school’s data processing club, one of the aspects that is often passed over during discussions of Yuyushiki is its depictions of the summer season. Throughout Yuyushiki, the lighting and colours are typically of a moderate intensity and saturation to convey a gentle mood throughout the anime as Yui and the others go about their everyday lives in the data processing club, looking up uncommon topics and having enjoyable discussions about the things they learn during their time in the club. However, when the hottest days of the year arrive and classes are no longer in session, the atmosphere in Yuyushiki takes on a different tone. Summer skies are of a a dazzling blue hue, with the landscapes fading away closer to the ground, where moving air creates a sense of heat. The brightness of the landscape reinforces the sun’s intensity to accentuate the hot days of summer, and to complete the presentation, the sound of cicadas are openly heard. In spite of the simpler artwork of Yuyushiki, it’s quite evident that summer is in the air. There’s a palatable sense of excitement at the unlimited possibilities conferred in a season characterised by long days and pleasant weather; all of these feelings are captured in Yuyushiki to give the sense that this is really an anime to be watched during the summer, and from a personal perspective, the summers of Yuyushiki remain the most vivid in my memories of this anime, despite the fact that only two of Yuyushiki‘s original twelve episodes were actually set during the summer itself.

  • One of the things about Yuyushiki that took some getting used to were the unusual facial expressions. They’re very much a part of Yuyushiki now and are a fantastic visual indicator that a character is feeling exasperated, mischievous or confused. Close inspection of this image finds Yui rendered in rather higher detail in some parts than others, while background characters remain quite two dimensional.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this, but Yui is my favourite of the main characters. I’ve not actually been to a pool in the summer for quite some time now; while I have basic knowledge of swimming and could probably survive in water, but I’m generally not fond of pools, owing to the smell of chlorine, which lingers for a while after leaving the pool. Even the unseasonably high temperatures of this summer have not been sufficient to motivate me to visit the local pool: the most I’ve done this summer to cool off on a hot day was to buy a Pepsi-flavoured slush by evening.

  • The hot summer weather of this image evokes memories of a quiet neighbourhood following the aftermath of the Great Flood of 2013: on Canada Day, the weather had been most beautiful, and I spent the day at home in the cool, playing Tribes Ascend and Vindictus after stepping out to a nearby Dairy Queen for a burger. Quiet summer days of this sort can induce a melancholy if one’s schedule is not filled, but in the time that’s passed, I have come to appreciate a quiet summer afternoon to myself, if only for the fact that I now only experience thus on weekends.

  • Most of my summer activities this year involve hiking in the mountains: during the course of the summer, I made three trips out to the National Parks, compliments of the free Park Pass. The first trip of the summer was out to Yoho National Park, then I visited the Vermillion Lakes and had dinner at Melissa’s Missteak in Banff, and more recently, hiked to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive. It’s been fantastic, and into the autumn, there are plans to visit the mountains again provided the weather is favourable.

  • Besides going into the mountains, I’ve also enjoyed our equivalent of a summer festival in the Calgary Stampede, attended the GlobalFest 2017 fireworks finale show and watched Dunkirk. The weather this summer has also been quite conducive to eating watermelon and corn on the cob: we’ve had one watermelon a week since July and nothing defeats the summer heat quite like a chilled cut of watermelon. Other notable summer activities include enjoying a vast BBQ dinner at Big T’s.

  • The only real downside about this summer was the fact that, the beautiful weather that has given so much opportunity to spend time outside and the associated heat also means that conditions were ideal for wildfires. To our neighbour in the West, vast fires having been burning since July, and at least twenty days have seen smokey skies. According to old weather records, the last time my city was covered by this much smoke, it was 1969. The smoke’s wrecked havoc on my lungs, and just last night, I awoken to a face full of smoke.

  • It’s actually somewhat surprising to note that as I’ve enjoyed this summer to quite an extent considering my busy schedule: work’s been an uphill climb since I returned from Japan, and I fully appreciate weekends now that I’ve finished university for good. Back in Yuyushiki, Yuzuko, Yui and Yukari make for the beach. There are precisely two episodes set during the summer: the first has the girls going to a pool and spending time at Yui’s house under the air conditioning, while the second is the finale, which sees Yui and the others visiting the beach.

  • In these moments, Yuyushiki conveys the sort of carefreeness associated with summer; even I feel the effects of pleasant weather on Fridays leading into a weekend, and productivity typically declines by a small margin when the day grows late. The images above illustrate the sort of skies in Yuyushiki that so effectually capture the summer feeling despite the minimalist art in Yuyushiki – other anime, including The Garden of Words, CLANNAD, Non Non Biyori and Ano Natsu de Matteru, are rather more detailed with respect to foliage and environment details to convey a sense of warmth and brightness.

  • Unless I’m mistaken, Yuyushiki‘s manga is still running: it’s been four years since the anime’s original run, and there’s likely quite a bit of material that could be adapted into anime form. Having said this, Yuyushiki‘s premise is remarkably basic, even for a Kirara-kei anime; while I’d likely watch a continuation, there’s no guarantee that there is a market for more Yuyushiki.

  • It feels appropriate to conclude this post with an image of Yuzuko, Yui and Yukari walking home after their day at the beach under a sunset. As summer turns to autumn, days begin shortening, and winter will be upon us once again. No longer do I mind the end of a season so greatly loved, knowing that it light return once again.

It’s been some four years since I’ve watched Yuyushiki, and the fact that the summer episodes remain quite memorable is a powerful testament to the effectiveness that the use of visual and aural elements can have in shaping the viewer’s recollections of an anime, and in retrospect, some of Yuyushiki‘s best moments are set during the long days of summer, when Yui, Yuzuko and Yukari capitalise on the weather to create their own memories. The fantastically agreeable weather also brings to mind the events of my own summer. While I’m no longer a student and therefore have no summer vacations, this has not diminished my enjoyment of the season. Owing to a high pressure system in the area, the whole of this summer has been sunny and hot: from the various hikes I’ve taken, to the quiet days spent at the local library or bookstore, from the journeys out into the mountains to watching a partial eclipse happen, this summer certainly has been enjoyable. Today is the last day of August, and with it, we march into a season where students begin returning to classes. For me, this means the gradual cooling of things, the transition of the landscape from verdant to gold, and traffic jams. In my Tamayura: More Aggressive review four years ago, I reviled this, saying that it was a return to “that most hated of seasons”; looking back on my old words, it’s a bit of a surprise to learn that my outlooks on things have changed considerably since then. Autumn is a beautiful season, with its own merits that make it worthwhile, and I imagine that this shift of heart perhaps is a sign that I’m growing older. Furthermore, contrary to my assertions four years earlier, I’ve not completely forgotten Yuyushiki, and that in itself is an indicator that the anime was worthwhile to watch.

Reflections on the 2017 Summer Solstice

“I am a summer person.” —Elin Hilderbrand

The longest day of the year visits the world today: it’s the first day of summer, and while the light is welcomed, today is forecast to be a little cooler, with a projected high of 18°C. We thus enter the most favourable time of year, when the skies are pleasant and the air comfortable, conducive for hiking along the river in the mountains or unwinding with a novel and cold beverage in hand. A year ago today, I was gearing up for my graduate thesis defense, and while I was feeling quite confident that things would go well, there was also a healthy bit of nervousness. When the defense ended, I was most relieved, having passed, and with that, a new chapter on life began for me. I was set to begin work, but before that, I attended the ALIFE XV Conference in Cancún. Since then, I’ve been working: time has passed in the blink of an eye, and we’re stepping into another summer. While the days of summer research have long passed, and I’m busy all weekdays, this has done little to diminish my plans for the summer. I’ve yet to capitalise on the complementary parks pass that I received as a part of the celebrations for Canada’s 150th Anniversary; on my list of places in the nearby National Parks to explore include Takakkaw Falls and Peyto Lake of the Canadian Rockies. Closer to home, walking around parks in the neighbourhood and ending with shaved ice is also a simple but pleasant way to enjoy the summer. Finally, the long days of summer also afford me time to return to my old hobbies of sketching and reading. It’s a far cry from last year, when I spent all of my walking moments preparing for the thesis: without this occupying my every thought, free time is finally, for the lack of a better word, free. Of course, today is a Wednesday, so I will be heading off for work once this post is done: the weather may be warm, but iOS apps won’t implement or test themselves.

  • The vast blue skies and long, warm days of summer are a blessing, a far fry from winter days where it is forty below. It is a time of adventure, both large and small, and for appreciating the small things. While it’s my favourite time of year, summer melancholy is very much a real thing — it is caused by a longing for something (or someone) and a regret that opportunity gives way to routine. It’s an unpleasant experience, but one that can be surmounted by a willingness to appreciate the small things, whether it be a particularly beautiful sunset or a chance to enjoy a cold drink under sunny skies following a walk. Of course, there’s also the Steam Summer Sale to look forwards to: I’m eyeing Ori and the Blind Forest, Poker Night at the Inventory 2 and the legendary Stay! Stay! Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

  • Because I travelled in May, a time where temperatures remain comfortable in both Japan and Hong Kong, I have the whole summer free to enjoy the pleasant air in and around my city, as opposed to burning alive in the heat of a Tokyo or Hong Kong summer. I used to wonder what it would be like to live in the inaka, but ever since my travels, I’ve realised that the quiet suburban parks of Canada are about as peaceful as the rural parts of Japan. A day well spent is one that need not necessarily involve my overly-large Steam library — one spent out in the sunshine of a nearby park is surprisingly similar to walking in the inaka and is remarkably cathartic.

In my summer solstice post for last year, I mentioned that Your Name was something on my radar. Originally, I had been anticipating a release pattern similar to that of The Garden of Words, but this was plainly not the case. As such, my review and discussion for it will come out in late July. With Your Name in mind, the future of this blog finally enters the discussion: because this blog has proved surprisingly resilient against matters of scheduling, the only thing I can say with any confidence is that blog posts will be written as I find the time to do so. Sometimes, there will be more time, and other times, there will not be any time. However, I am not packing it in any time soon: besides Your Name, Koe no Katachi, Kono Sekai no Ktasumi ni, Kantai Collection: The Movie, Gundam Origin and Girls und Panzer: Final Chapter remain on my stack of anime to write about. In addition, Battlefield 1 has proven to be one incredible adventure, and I will be looking to continue telling my stories as walk the path to rank 110 (hitting the level cap has been something I’d never done before), and finally, with several new games on the horizon, there will be material to write about, as well. This blog’s continued existence is also largely thanks to you, the readers: knowing that folks are enjoying the discussion and content here is more than sufficient a motivation to write. Having said this, two more posts will be coming out later today: I will be looking at Metro: Exodus and revisit The Garden of Words with a renewed perspective.

Another first day of Summer: The eve of a graduate defense and a personal reflection

“Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds.” —Regina Brett

Today marks the first day of summer in 2016; this year, the summer solstice coincides with a full moon, the first time this has aligned over the past fourty-nine years, and the next time there will be such an event, it will be 2062. The weather today was quite pleasant, reaching a high of 24°C, and apart from a short bit of cloud cover during the afternoon, the weather remained sunny the entire day. Summer is my absolute favourite time of year, when days are long and the sun rises before even I do. It’s a time for taking in the warm air, and for sipping a cool beverage after mowing the grass. In any previous summer, solstice is merely another day on the calendar, but this year, there’s but a single week left before I’m set to defend. I’ve been rehearsing every day for the last two weeks, and I cannot help but be nervous, despite knowing that this is a project I have been working on for the past two-and-a-half years (and as such, should know the inner machinations of quite intimately). However, at the same time, I’m feeling reasonably ready for the defense presentation and following question period/discussion. I’ve not felt this nervous about an exam since my MCAT of summer 2012, but this time, it’s somewhat reassuring to know that unlike last time, I’ve got home field advantage. All that’s left to do now is to deliver a good rehearsal presentation and be confident in giving a good fifteen minute talk during the defense itself.

  • With all of the things happening in the near future, with the thesis defense and conference in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the next few weeks will be remarkably busy. After I return in July, I’ll begin working full time, but I’ll still try to make the most of the excellent summer weather and be outside more often on weekends, now that I’ve no longer papers to write or assignments to grade. I also resolve to continue on the Adam Richman food challenges (i.e. exploring my city to try interesting food places).

  • The images for this post were chosen for capturing what summer feels like: timeless and beautiful. It’s been quite some time since I’ve done a double-feature in one day: this was rather more common during 2012 and 2013 when posts were shorter and easier to write. With that being said, I’ve gradually moved towards longer posts because they provide more opportunity to interact with the readers and have good discussion. I’ll take this opportunity to thank all of you, whether you’ve reached this site from Google, Reddit, Facebook, WordPress: your support have given me the inspiration to continue writing.

As I am wont to do in these personal reflection posts, I will also outline the future of this blog rather briefly. I’ve stated on numerous occasions that my blogging frequency would decline as graduate school progressed, and inexplicably, I’ve somehow managed to continue writing about the anime and games I’ve experienced thus far. There’s a definitive pull about blogging that’s resulted in my returning to showcase these experiences even in the face of conference paper and deliverable deadlines; this is probably what’s kept the blog going even as things change on my end. So, looking ahead into a post-Master’s world, while I cannot guarantee that I’ll continue to blog to quite the same extent that I have up until now, I will continue to keep this blog so as long as there are things to write about. In the immediate future, after Hai-Furi is done, I will also push out talks for Flying Witch and Kuromukuro. The final Tamayura: Graduation Photo movie review will also come out before the month is out, while the review for the final Aria The Avvenire OVA will be written somewhere in July. Finally, the Makoto Shinkai film, Kimi no na wa, is also on my radar. Beyond this, I’ll take things one step at a time.

Taking care of business: Blogging awards and an end-of-summer reflection

“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.” —Helen Hunt Jackson

The timing of this post could not be better, as I have a special topics discussion that is worthy of being the six-hundredth post. After some two months of hardcore procrastination, and then a day’s struggle, I finally finished the pages corresponding to the two blogging awards this here blog was nominated for back during June 2015 and January 2014. The two awards were both offered by Ninetybeats of Ninety’s Blog: both (The ABC Award and Sunshine Award) can be accessed at their respective pages. Now that I’ve completed these, I can at last check two more things off the list of things I needed to do before the summer formally concluded. This summer has been quite the adventure on all fronts. After my first year of graduate studies closed off, I entered the summer with a mission: to completely port my simulator from Unity into Unreal, then capitalise on the powers of the Unreal Engine to build a standalone model. Through the course of the summer, the key differences between Unity and Unreal were learnt, and while the Unreal Engine is superior for almost everything, Unity does seem to have better support for virtual reality implements (such as the Oculus Rift headset and the CAVE) for the present. Thus, leaving the summer, I have a functional simulation in Unreal that is capable of illustrating how biological processes can be represented by similar functions and rearranged in different fashions to yield different pathways, as well as a Unity version of the project to visualise the system in VR environments (but lacking the implementation for the biological behaviours). Looking beyond the summer, I’ll have to consider user studies, publications and begin writing the thesis paper itself, but looking back, it’s been an Unreal learning experience: besides the game engines, I also picked up both Autodesk Maya and Adobe Photoshop to construct different aspects for my project.

  • Unlike last year, where I tied a summer’s end reflection with Infinite Stratos, this year’s talk is a little shorter. Besides enjoying some epic ribs and chili-cheese fries in May, I was still learning the ins and outs of the Unreal Engine. The engine’s nuances meant I was often getting stuck, so I took frequent strolls around campus to clear my head. By around mid-May, the cherry trees on campus come into bloom, and although it’s not as spectacular as the cherry blossoms of Washington D.C. or Vancouver, it is nonetheless quite pleasant to be able to partake in hanami (sans Sakura Mochi) on campus.

  • June saw numerous evenings out, to Pie Cloud for a steak pie and to Kensington Pub for their Reuben sandwich, while July was poutine and Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich month (the latter of which I drove out to a mountain town for), thereby fulfilling one of my summer goals of trying such a sandwich. In conversation with some friends, they suggested that graduate studies is a time where one must consciously make an effort to find time and relax, whereas with undergraduate studies, free time seems more available. While graduate school does seem less hectic compared to undergrad, free time eventually fills itself with activities such grading assignments and literature search even when one is on “break”.

  • Consequently, over the past year, I’ve learnt to enjoy the simpler things in life, whether it’s a poutine enjoyed under the summer sun at a bustling inner city mall, seeing a morning rainbow by sunrise before leaving for work or glimpsing a super-moon peek from behind a mountain by nightfall. It’s been ten years since the Alberta 2005 Centennial, and things have come quite a long way since then: ten years ago, I helped my parents build new furniture and was driven for a trip to the mountains. Ten years later, I’m building furniture for them and drive them out for a day in the mountains.

  • I still have the commemorative medallion awarded to students back during 2005, and still recall the fireworks that marked the celebration of our province’s 100th birthday. Today, a decade later, I tested my project within the CAVE and found the configuration that allows my project to work with a wireless gamepad. It’s quite exciting (and terrifying) to consider what the next ten years will entail, but for the present, my focus will be to finish this degree and begin my career. Regular programming resumes tomorrow, where I publish a talk about Non Non Biyori after nine.

Beyond my graduate thesis and research, Summer 2015 has felt like an amalgamation of every summer that’s come before this one, culminating with a day trip to the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park last Saturday. Smoke from forest fires in Washington had blanketed the area, but a shift in the weather meant the skies were clear on Saturday when we set out. The drive up along the Icefields Parkway was quite relaxing (despite my getting stuck behind a pair of RVs), and we’d reach the Icefields Center by noon, just in time for lunch. The weather in the Icefields is understandably unstable: after lunch had ended, the skies were clear as we took in the sights around the Athabasca Glacier, but in the short span of an hour, rain clouds had rolled in. By the time we boarded a bus taking us to the Skywalk, there was a light drizzle. Thankfully, this did not dampen things too much, and the Skywalk turned out to be quite spectacular: opened just last year, the Skywalk is built along a cliff face that ends in a glass-floored walkway above a 280-meter drop. Under moody, grey skies, the atmosphere at the Skywalk evoked memories of Taroko National Park in Hualien, Taiwan. We spent a good ninety minutes at the Skywalk, and returned to the Icefields Centre in time for the last screening of Through Ice and Time, a local production. Unfortunately, the weather’s patience ended here, and thus began a downpour of gargantuan proportion that made the initial portion of the drive back to Banff a fair challenge. By the time we’d arrived at Banff, the weather relented, and the decision was reached to have dinner at Melissa’s Missteak. This is one of Banff’s oldest steak houses, and has traditional décor that was very welcoming. I ordered the rib-eye steak with a garden salad, seasonal vegetables and a baked potato; grilled to a medium rare, this steak was flavourful and juicy. An evening stroll down Banff Avenue followed, and before leaving, we noticed a super moon rising above the mountains over the mountain town. Here, Summer 2015 draws to a close: the days begin shortening now, and my second year of graduate school will begin in less than a week: it’s time to buckle down and work hard.