The Infinite Zenith

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Terrible Anime Challenge: Asking Questions of the Stars in Hensuki

“I hate to break it to you, but what people call ‘love’ is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard, Morty, then it slowly fades, leaving you stranded in a failing marriage. I did it. Your parents are gonna do it. Break the cycle, rise above, Focus on science.” –Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

When high school student Keiki Kiryū finds a love letter and a pair of pantsu accompanying it one day following his calligraphy club activities, he enlists the help of his best friend, Shōma Akiyama, to determine who this might be. As Keiki works through the clues based on the timing of who happened to be in the club room at the time, he deduces that the pool of candidates must be limited – senior Sayuki Tokihara, the assistant librarian Yuika Koga, Nao Manjō or student council vice president Ayano Fujimoto. Intending to find the girl behind the love letter, Keiki spends more time with each of Sayuki, Yuika, Nao and Ayano, only to learn that each possesses a unique perversion that makes them quite unappealing. When Keiki runs afoul of third year Koharu Ōtori, he decides to help her become closer to Shōma and ends up finding her to be helpful in seeking out the girl behind the unknown letter: with help from Shōma and Koharu, Keiki ultimately eliminates Ayano, Nao, Yuika and Sayuki as candidates. It turns out that Keiki’s younger sister, Mizuha, had sent the letter, having long been in love with him: she had been adopted after her own parents’ passing, and while Keiki’s regarded her as a sibling, she’d always seen him as something more. While Keiki struggles to accept Mizuha’s feelings, the two do reach a resolution at the series’ end. This is Kawaikereba Hentai demo Suki ni Natte Kuremasuka? (English title Are You Willing to Fall in Love with a Pervert, as Long as She’s Cute?) or Hensuki for brevity, an anime that had aired during the summer. Hensuki‘s outlandish and deviant premise means that one would be hard-pressed to find instructive discourse on the series: discussions elsewhere have drawn dubious references to Japanese law and psychology to make sense of the character’s actions, and end up yielding little in the way of a useful outcome relevant to Hensuki – while I suppose that some viewers go to great lengths to use intellectualism as a cover for some of the series that they watch, it should be evident that requisite knowledge of psychology and law are strictly not needed to figure out what Hensuki was aiming to accomplish with its raunchy story.

At its core, Hensuki draws upon hyperbole to present the idea that falling in love is unpredictable and commands its own price: Keiki is presented as being quite interested in pursuing a relationship with someone, and actively dreams of a romantic experience, so when he receives the initial love letter, he is ecstatic. However, as he delves into figuring out who’d sent the letter, he comes to understand more about Sayuki, Yuika and Nao: Keiki is also subject to each of the girls’ unique and terrifying whims. Sayuki desires nothing more than to be treated as a pet, while Yuika aims to dominate Keiki. Nao has no interest in a relationship and is head-over-heels about yaoi. Spending time with each exacts a toll on the hapless Keiki, who desires nothing more than a storybook romance with an ordinary girl. Hensuki thus acts as a bit of a cautionary tale about relationships, warning viewers to be mindful of what they wish for. In Keiki’s case, Saiyuki, Yuika and Nao are rather more than he’d initially expected, bringing with them their own unique perversions that they expect him to fulfil, and while each of their tendencies are greatly exaggerated, it does act as a rather colourful representation of the idea that entering a relationship extends beyond displays of affection and courtship: one must also be prepared to accept eccentricities about their partner. Keiki ultimately decides that the extremities that Nao, Sayuki and Yuika command simply isn’t worth it, and he laments having spent an entire summer single despite the female attention on him. Hensuki ultimately conveys these learnings through comedy: as viewers watch Keiki suffer, the message becomes quite apparent.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While Hensuki has its shock moments, the central premise of Keiki trying to work out who was responsible for the unknown love letter proved to be engaging enough for me to watch this series at a reasonably smart pace. Keiki’s initial attempts in figuring out this mysterious party’s identity gives Hensuki a bit of a thriller vibe, and the entire crux  of the series is focused on the sorts of discoveries and experience Keiki has after it is shown that members of the Calligraphy Club have feelings for him to varying extents.

  • Keiki’s reaction of shock and disgust whenever Sayuki and Yuika force themselves on him is perhaps more of a plausible reaction: reserving physical intimacy for a much closer relationship is a sacrosanct component of relationships, and how forward Sayuki and Yuika are with Keiki ends up creating him much discomfort. Sayuki is a masochist of sorts and longs to be treated as a pet. She knows that her ample bust is something that Keiki is partial to and constantly exploits this whenever competing with Yuika for Keiki’s attention.

  • In the Terrible Anime Challenge schema, Hensuki fits under the “it was enjoyable, contrary to expectations” category: this series certainly is not going to be for everyone, and there are some moments that certainly can be a bit over the top. With this in mind, simply because I got a few good laughs and a good message out of Hensuki does not mean others will share this experience. However, this is no reason to bring in an incomplete knowledge of the belief–desire–intention model to figure out the character’s end goals, as everyone’s objective is simple enough: get close enough to Keiki to satisfy their own goal functions.

  • Since Yuika might not have the same figure as Sayuki, she resorts to even more direct methods of forcing Keiki to have eyes for none other than herself: after Keiki takes her on a proper date to see if she’s the person behind the love letter, Yuika manages to corner him at school, and then forces him to eat pantsu, causing him to pass out. Sayuki is voiced by Ayana Taketatsu (K-On!‘s very own Azusa Nakano, Fū Sawatari of Tamayura, Oreimo‘s Kirino Kōsaka, Ayana Taketatsu from Kiss X Sis, and even Hotaru Shidare from Dagashi Kashi), while Yuika is voiced by Rina Hidaka (Rinon from Ano Natsu de MatteruKantai Collection‘s Kisaragi and Ako Tamaki from And You Thought There Is Never a Girl Online?).

  • While Nao seems the most normal of everyone in the calligraphy club, it turns out that she’s into yaoi and wants to get closer to Keiki purely so she can gain new story ideas for her work, which has Shōma and Keiki as the lead characters for a manga. Despite being disinterested in a relationship, she is quite attuned to pushing Keiki’s buttons and initially, in the absence of knowledge surrounding Nao’s interests, viewers do initially believe that Nao could be a viable candidate. Iori Nomizu plays Nao: besides her role as Upotte!‘s Funco, I’m not familiar with her other roles.

  • Sayuki and Yuika use Nao’s work to extort attention from Keiki, intending to show it to Mizuha and ruin her opinion of him should he fail to comply with their absurd requests. While Keiki appears to have average willpower and abstains from doing anything too questionable unless he’s cornered, he greatly cherishes his role as older brother for Mizuha and fears that she might be corrupted by the others’ actions.

  • While contemplating the order of events at the calligraphy club’s room, Keiki saves student council vice president Ayano Fujimoto from falling off the stairs, and she quickly takes an interest to him, luring him into the student council room and crafting an atmosphere that leads Keiki to fall asleep so she can collect his scent. The characters of Hensuki are intentionally exaggerated to make clear the point that relationships have their pluses and minuses.

  • One of the leading complaints about Hensuki outside of its setup was the suggestion that the art and animation here are substandard compared to other series. While Hensuki uses simpler artwork than other series, there are no moments that are so blatantly poor that they come to mind. While the quality of animation and artwork do impact my thoughts on a series, I am not going into each and every work expecting a Makoto Shinkai or Kyoto Animation level experience. As long as things are sufficiently smooth and consistent as not to distract from the characters and their experiences, this aspect earns a pass from me.

  • I find criticisms of Hensuki in the community unconvincing, with some folk enforcing their own perspectives on what a proper relationship should look like and then dismissed Hensuki as implausible or even as a form of wish fulfilment. While analysing the individual episodes yielded little more than “could have, should have” suggestions towards what Keiki should do in his situation and critiquing the story for being a “cop out”, my own approach means that I tend to look at the series from a wider perspective. Rather that studying Keiki and the others’ actions, it is the sum of all character interactions over the course of the series that matter: this lead me to a different conclusion about what message Hensuki aims to present.

  • Overall, I would say that of everyone in Hensuki that isn’t Mizuha, Sayuki is probably the individual who would be most easy to accept and tolerate as far as her preferences go. Nao’s focus on yaoi means that pursuit of anything there wouldn’t be particularly fruitful, and Yuika’s tendencies border on the realm of nightmarish. The post title comes from a line in Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King when Gandalf speaks of the decline of Gondor. Asking questions of the stars can be taken to mean astrology, a pseudoscience that supposes future outcomes can be foretold by astronomical patterns and is known for its wildly inaccurate outcomes.

  • Astrology does have one legitimate stake in history: interest in tracking stellar and planetary motions formed the basis for astronomy and led to developments such as Kepler’s Laws and Newton’s Theory of Gravitation, the outcomes of which can be found in the form of six lunar landers on the lunar surface. Because Mizuha and Keiki are often seen watching a television channel programme that does horoscopes, it seemed appropriate that, in conjunction with the task Keiki is presented with, the sense of uncertainty he encounters does seem like he’s relying on something as unreliable as astrology to figure out who the unknown sender of the love letter was.

  • Conversely, the page quote is sourced from Rick and Morty, and while it may not look it at first glance, it does appear that the theme in Hensuki, considering all of the trouble Keiki goes through for the want of spending his days together with someone ordinary, is that relationships aren’t always as they appear. When things work well, they work really well, but when things go south, they can get ugly very quickly. Rick certainly seems to believe this: despite having conquered every unknown and every challenge known to infinite realities and timelines, love is something that even Rick does not fully understand or have control over.

  • When Ayano receives a free day pass to the municipal pool, she is unable to go. Ayano thus gives the ticket to Keiki, who invites everyone and plans to unveil who had written the original love letter. He provides commentary on everyone’s swimsuits, and is particularly impressed with Mizuha, whose figure is surprisingly, only second to Sayuki’s. Mizuha’s been largely a background character up until the final segments of Hensuki, offering support to Keiki where needed, but otherwise had more of a quiet role. Mizuha is voiced by Kaede Hondo, whom I know best as Urara Meirocho‘s Kon Tatsumi, Koyume Koizuka from Comic Girls and Iroduku‘s Kohaku Tsukishiro.

  • After a day spent frolicking about at the municipal pool, the girls are enrolled into a kokuhaku competition that sees Sayuki, Yuika, Nao and Mizuha compete in. Each of the girls end up presenting a confession that mirrors their own reasons for being interested in Keiki, but ultimately, it is Mizuha who wins. This foreshadows who the love letter’s sender was, and as it turns out, Keiki already had an idea of who it is going into the penultimate episode.

  • Mizuha is revealed to be Keiki’s secret suitor: having spent most of the series watching from afar and offering him advice on how to best get along with Yuika, Sayuki and Nao, Mizuha herself had housed feelings for Keiki for most of her life. She and Keiki are not related; after her parents had died from unknown causes, she was adopted into Keiki’s family. Keiki had always viewed her as a sister, and even after recalling this fact, his view on Mizuha has not changed at all.

  • Hensuki‘s remaining episode is spent dealing with this revelation, and up until now, Hensuki had been proceeding at a smart pace. I admit that this took me by surprise: Mizuha being quite unrelated to Keiki came completely out of left field, and for me, is an instance of what is called cutting the Gordian Knot. Hensuki had created a love tesseract that immobilised Keiki: between Sayuki, Yuika, Nao and Ayano, Keiki is troubled by their perversions, but they each intend to seduce him and have him for themselves. By having Mizuha be the suitor, this defied all expectations.

  • Keiki’s reaction to Mizuha’s romantic feelings for him has him becoming lethargic and confused. He eventually gets caught in the rain and develops a cold after leaving home to gather his thoughts, and eventually succumbs to his cold, forcing him to return home. Sayuki and Yuika come to visit him and end up sparring with one another: while it is completely off-mission, it seems that Yuika’s desire to dominate others would actually mesh well with Sayuki’s desire to be dominated. Keiki eventually comes to terms with Mizuha and the two resume their lives as siblings, although Mizuha’s flirting becomes more brazen.

  • Overall, for having a surprisingly relevant theme wrapped with a seemingly frivolous premise, and for the amount of hilarity I got from watching Keiki suffer at the hands of Sayuki and Yuika, Hensuki earns a solid B-, a 7.0 of 10 or 2.7 of 4.0. I entered Hensuki with the singular aim of watching Sayuki mess with Keiki in the way that only she can, but ended up with a quasi-whodunit mystery that also had an unexpected message about relationships and a twist I didn’t see coming. I appreciate that everyone won’t see this series the same way, so it’s more than acceptable if there are folks who didn’t like Hensuki.

  • Of everyone, Mizuha looks the most normal, being soft-spoken and having skill with housework, but perhaps unsurprisingly, she has a”thing”: exhibitionism. Outwardly resembling a more voluptuous Miho Nishizumi and having a voice reminiscent of SaeKano‘s Megumi Katō, Mizuha was the last person I’d expect to be the letter’s sender, and Keiki refuses to see her as a romantic partner as Hensuki draws to a close. With this, my post on Hensuki draws to a close, and I hope that this will partially make up for my lack of content over the past few weeks. With the delay in Hibike! Euphonium: Chikai no Finale, I actually have no more conventional posts scheduled for this month beyond the halfway point impressions for Kandagawa Jet Girls, so one of my challenges will be to find stuff to write about and not spend all of my available free time in Battlefield V.

The question of who the unknown suitor is ends up being a lingering question throughout Hensuki, and after numerous red herrings and Chekov Guns that distract and foreshadow the suitor’s identity, after much comedy viewers share at Keiki’s expense, Hensuki reveals that this suitor is none other than Mizuha. This ramifications of this outcome are irrelevant, but its impact on the story simply serves to show that one does indeed miss the forest for the trees: this outcome was completely unexpected, and Keiki notes as much, having decided that the odds of Mizuha sending the letter were zero. Hensuki thus ended up being a bit of a surprise to watch, and while it might be a bit of a depraved series to watch, Hensuki manages to command a certain amount of curiosity that Keiki experiences as he works towards figuring out the love letter’s sender. In conjunction with some moments that are truly outrageous (Yuiki forcing her pantsu into Keiki’s mouth, to name one), Hensuki ends up being a romance-comedy-thriller that gives viewers reason to stick around. Underneath its perversions is a surprisingly relevant and straightforward theme, and ultimately, Hensuki did turn out to be modestly engaging: folks looking for a good laugh from Keiki’s misfortunes might find Hensuki to be a worthwhile title, although for most viewers, Hensuki isn’t going to be particularly meaningful to watch. Irrespective of whether one chooses to watch Hensuki or not, one thing should be abundantly clear: endlessly psychoanalysing the characters to predict their actions and intents is a Sisyphean task, clouding one’s perspective from the broader narrative. I’ve stated this before, but it is worth reiterating that the reductionist approach’s limitations are quite evident in the realm of anime: knowing how a character reacts to certain stimuli is completely insufficient towards working out what a story’s aims are. Hensuki is ultimately something simple that can elicit a few laughs with its straightforward theme, and folks looking to give this one a go should at least know they are not obligated to have a professional understanding of psychology to enjoy this one.

Terrible Anime Challenge: An Etymological Examination of Style in Blend S

“What’s your shtoyle?”
“My style? You could call it the art of fighting without fighting.”

–Parsons and Lee, Enter The Dragon

In order to provide funds for her desire of studying abroad, Maika Sakuranomiya decides to take on a part time job. She is turned away from several places owing to her sadistic-looking smile, but a chance encounter with Dino, an Italian fellow who runs Café Stile, results in her working at this unique café whose staff take on character archetypes from anime. Here, she meets Kaho Hinata, a bubbly and friendly waitress who is fond of video games and has a tsundere role, Mafuyu Hoshikawa, whose role as an energetic younger sister conceals a stoic personality, and chef Kōyō Akizuki. While Maika initially has trouble adjusting to customer service and consciously strives improves her smile, her unintentional lapses into sadism is a hit with customers. All the while, Dino deals with his crush on Maika, who is blissfully unaware of his feelings for her, and his attempts to get closer to Maika usually end up backfiring. Together, Blend S presents a wonderfully light-hearted, hilarious story of life at Café Stile and Maika’s becoming closer to the team there as she is joined by doujin writer and older sister figure Miu Amano, as well as the cross-dressing Hideri Kanzaki, who aspires to be an idol. Being outwardly an amalgamation of key moments in Maika’s time at Café Stile, Blend S shows that there is a place for everyone, and that in the right company, one can nonetheless find acceptance and worth. Maika might unintentionally be sadistic in appearance, but her heart is genuine and kind, so being able to show her true self at Café Stile helps her grow and, while working towards her dreams of studying abroad, also experience a different sort of journey that broadens her worldview.

While Blend S might be a Manga Time Kirara adaptation, its premise and employment of darker humour led some to folks to decide that a better understanding of Machiavellianism (a personality trait that gauges one’s willingness to manipulate others, be emotionally cold and indifferent to others) was mandatory towards understanding the series. Maika’s unique personality left some wondering whether or not her actions were deliberate or accidental. Maika’s treatment of Café Stile’s customers ventures into realm of torture: she verbally denigrates those who visit, and even waterboards a customer, and so, it seemed logical to delve into personality psychology to figure out how Maika fit into things. As it turns out, Maika’s actions, and those of Café Stile’s other staff, are simply optimised for humour. Maika is merely a naïveté in the ways of the world, and her well-meaning intentions to helping improve customer experience backfires in her eyes whenever she makes a mistake. While Maika may be disheartened, her customers appear to enjoy her service the point of returning to Café Stile for the experience. Consequently, because Maika is intrinsically kind and wants to be effective in her role, Maika would likely score low on the Mach IV survey (which gauges Machiavellianism) – her sadism traits are purely intended for humour rather than for harm, and as such, discussions on Machiavellianism do not particularly apply to Blend S, where the humour and setup is consistent with that of a Manga Time Kirara series, through and through; this allows one to enjoy Blend S as one would something like GochiUsa or Kiniro Mosaic.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As long as there are anime that I procrastinate in watching, there will be material for the Terrible Anime Challenge series: Blend S originally aired two years ago alongside Kino no Tabi and Girls’ Last TourYūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter and Wake Up Girls! Shin Shou. I was already flooded with shows at the time and while Blend S looked up my alley, I never got around to watching the series. When the fall season ended, Yuru Camp△ and Slow Start kicked in. It was only when I gave Yuri Kuma Arashi a whirl that I found the time to pick up Blend S, and here we are.

  • On the categorisation of Terrible Anime Challenge shows, Blend S is a series that meets expectations of being an enjoyable slice-of-life series. Neither great nor terrible, Blend S‘ strength lies in the contrasting personalities amongst the characters, both between one another and the differences between their role at Café Stile and their usual selves. It’s a series that I can recommend to Manga Time Kirara and comedy fans. Conversely, Blend S is not for folks who prefer clearly defined stories, and I further remark that anyone looking for an intellectual journey would be disappointed.

  • One of the comedic aspects of Blend S comes from Maika’s unintentional mistreatment of customers despite her efforts to give them a good experience. Far from dissuading them from returning, some customers have become fond of the sadism that Maika brings to the table. Over time, Maika becomes acclimatised to her role, and it turns out that the level of sadism from Maika we’ve normally seen can actually be ramped up several notches, resulting in server who’d likely be bad for business.

  • When a customer drops an R-rated doujin, the staff struggle to find its owner and learn that it belongs to Miu, an older patron who resembles GochiUsa‘s Blue Mountain in manner and style. Kaho becomes deeply embarrassed when reading it and reacts strongly to the ideas that Miu has. Kaho herself is an amalgamation of GochiUsa‘s Rize and Himouto‘s Umaru, being very fond of games while at once retaining a cheerful personality. Mafuyu reminds me of Sansha San’yō‘s Shino Sonobe. With its colourful cast, there are no dull moments in Blend S, a series that further has the distinction of two male leads.

  • The page quote comes from Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon, when a man decides to bully the others on board a ship. When he faces off against Lee, Lee manages to win the fight without lifting a finger, citing his style as “fighting without fighting”. It is a play on Sun Tzu’s remark that the greatest victory is achieved without fighting – by outwitting the man, Lee shows that martial arts is about more than just fists, it is a matter of discipline and creative thinking. Café Stile certainly has no shortage of shtoyle, and while Stile itself refers to a small passage consisting of steps, I imagine that Café Stile itself is merely a deliberate misspelling of style for shtoyle points.

  • With respect to Blend S, I have definitely been fighting without fighting – while the folks who believe themselves to be more intellectual have pored hours into trying to figure out whether or not Blend S possesses the characteristics of a Manga Time Kirara series, I came in much later with the goal of merely enjoying the series as it was. Rather than arguing with individuals who intend to lecture rather than learn, I’d rather wait them out and then counter their points once a series has concluded, when I have the big picture. It should therefore be no surprise that after finishing the series, Jungian archetypes and Machiavellianism do not figure at all in my discussions beyond me doing a beat-down on why it shouldn’t figure in discussions.

  • I have stated this previously, but my main reason for not involving psychology and philosophy in anime is because most of the principles that fans gravitate towards have in fact, been discredited or else have not been properly applied to the series. A work that requires functional knowledge of these elements must have a good reason for incorporating them, and while a series with a particular theme or story may find these more complex elements useful, they invariably have little relevance in slice-of-life series, where the goal is simply to share a few laughs and watch characters develop.

  • Instead, more nuanced and enjoyable discussion on slice-of-life series stems from understanding what different characters get out of their experiences, and then relating these to one’s own experiences and values are. The successful slice-of-life anime will allow a viewer to reflect on their prior knowledge, and even add additional perspectives on how one may approach life. My thoughts are likely considered heretical by some: I find that those who attempt to inject philosophy, psychology or politics into something as simple and harmless as Blend S usually are those who reject life’s lessons.

  • While Blend S might deal with Maika’s life at Café Stile, the team is shown in settings commonly seen in other slice-of-life series set in a high school environment. When the summer rolls around, after Dino takes Maika shopping for a new swimsuit, the staff decide to host a river-side barbeque and then visit the beach. It is here that Kōichi’s embarrassment whenever gazing upon Kaho’s ample bust becomes apparent, and he later develops a pronounced overreaction whenever Kaho is around.

  • If I had to single out one moment in Blend S that made the series worthwhile, it would be when Dino decides to transform the entire café into a jungle setting. The foliage is so dense that Maika gets lost in here, and Mafuyu takes on the roll of an energetic imouto dressed as a monkey. The visual humour is top-notch and hilarious, but also remarkably well-balanced. When the staff begin experiencing challenges with the artificial jungle, Dino decides to restore the café to its former glory.

  • For some, the most controversial moment of Blend S involves Hideri, a new hire who fulfils the idol archetype. Despite dressing like a lady, Hideri is actually a guy, leading to endless, cyclic speculation on his orientation and whatnot. Because Blend S doesn’t focus on the other characters’ acceptance of him, this is shown to be a given, leaving the series to instead portray the humour that accompanies such a character. I’ve never gotten the whole fuss with such characters: if they are well-written into and contribute to a series as Hideri does, I have no issues. I similarly have no qualms about individuals of all sorts in real life: I judge and respect people based on not who they are, but what they do.

  • Maika has an older sister and older brother, both of whom dote on Maika and worry that she’s got no friends. When they learn that Maika’s working at Café Stile, Maika’s older sister decides to swing by for a visit. While her older siblings can be somewhat intimidating, Maika herself can frighten them into standing down. Such setups in reality would not be accepted as normal, but the realm of fiction allows for outrageous situations to be presented in a lighter fashion.

  • Once Maika’s settled into her position at Café Stile and becomes more comfortable with serving customers, Blend S takes time to explore the other characters’ interactions. Kaho and Mafuyu is one such combination: when Kaho fails an exam, Mafuyu agrees to tutor her, and over the course of an episode, Kaho manages to learn the ropes and succeeds on her replacement exam. All of the characters in Blend S are likeable, and while I had entered the series wondering if this was going to be untrue, this was, to my pleasure, not a problem at all.

  • One wonders what my beef with Jungian and Freudian principles are: I have no issue with studying derelict or discredited theories, since they are the stepping stones towards contemporary knowledge. The theory of spontaneous generation and a geocentric model of the universe are such examples, and I have no qualms with the origins of their theories. The problem lies in the application of such theories within trying to enjoy fiction, and when folks telling others that characters and their interactions should be interpreted a certain way using an outdated theory that sounds intimidating, I cannot say I am fond of this behaviour.

  • Towards the end of the series, the relationship between Dino and Maika are explored in more depth: having long been shown to be head-over-heels for Maika, Dino’s efforts to be closer to her inevitably end up in failure, partially a consequence of his own ineptitude and thanks to intervention from Mafuyu. When the two are permitted a moment to themselves, they get along swimmingly: when visiting a dog park with owner (a dog that Dino ends up adopting), others assume Maika and Dino to be a couple.

  • Because this is a Terrible Anime Challenge post, it means I get a bit of liberty with respect to choosing what screenshots I feature, and I think by this point in time, even though I’d not mentioned it explicitly, Kaho is my favourite character for many reasons. Readers who’ve seen my earlier Terrible Anime Challenge posts may have noticed that all posts in this series have rather long or unusual titles. For Blend S, the title comes from one individual who demanded an etymological examination of whether or not we should refer to Blend S (originally ブレンド・S in katakana) with a hyphen simply because Crunchyroll did so.

  • Focusing on these details is foolish to the point of hilarity, and talking about this sort of thing is unproductive: arguing about pointless semantics detracts from one’s enjoyment of a given show. Similarly, I don’t particularly care that Blend S is etymologically derived from the pun between a brand of coffee some shops blend and “Do-S” (which supposedly means DoSadism): knowing that adds nothing of value to one’s enjoyment of the show, and yields no insight about the themes of Blend S. Good discussion is about being inclusive, not about dropping random details to show the depth of one’s knowledge.

  • As such, when such serious discussions were conducted surrounding Blend S, I wondered if I would enjoy this series, since my own knowledge on Japanese products and colloquialisms are certainly not that extensive: I can tell the difference between genuine maple syrup and normal pancake syrup, as well as different varieties of TimBits, but I am not familiar with things in Japan to the same extent. Time and time again, the answer I get from simply watching a show is clear: the sciolists don’t possess more knowledge that are necessary to enjoying a show.

  • Towards the end of Blend S, the Café Stile crew go on a team vacation to the mountains for skiing. Here, Dino attempts a kokuhaku on Maika while teaching her to ski, but ends up failing in a hilarious manner. While anime is often filled with implausibility, challenging these elements results in disappointment: the whole point of fiction is to abstract out systems and removing some constraints of the real world so specific ideas can be explored. Blend S is no exception, and while not particularly noteworthy, good comedy carries the series through from a strong start to a satisfying finish.

  • Overall, Blend S scores a solid B+ from me (3.3 of 4.0, or 8 out of 10) for being able to consistently create humour with its unique setup. With Blend S now in the books, I’m just in time for the entry into November. While I am officially supposed to hold the announcement, the release of Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre content has prompted me to move my schedule up. My announcement is that I am going to be hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase for the month of November. I’ll have more details on this come the first, and in the meantime, I will be enjoying Iwo Jima and Pacific Storm thoroughly.

Having established that a working knowledge of personality psychology is not required to optimally enjoy Blend S, the next item to attend to is what makes Blend S so enjoyable. At the heart of Blend S lies a cast of characters whose job at a cosplay café requires they adapt a different personality than their usual selves, and this aspect is deployed in a spectacular manner to create humour. Maika might be sweet and kindhearted, but as a server, her sadistic tendencies rivals those of outlandish villains seen in other series. Kaho is excellent with the tsundere personality, but beyond this is a cheerful and approachable manner. Mafuyu’s imouto personality fits her appearance more so than her usual mien, that of a jaded and quiet college student. Hideri might be an idol concerned with all things cute, but when flustered, he reverts to a boyish mindset. Despite conveying the air of an older sister while working, Miu makes Blue Mountain look like a rank amateur when it comes to lewding characters for story ideas. The sum of these dynamics means that Blend S never has a dull moment, and all of this is in conjunction with Dino’s genuine, but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to court Maika. Blend S consistently maintains its comedy, resulting in a show that is sure to amuse. While Blend S may lack a single theme that drives its events, and is average from an audio-visual perspective, the setup at Café Stile means that the characters and their interactions are the series’ biggest draw. One only need to sit back while everyone bounces off one another to enjoy Blend S, and so, for the folks who figured that a more serious discussion involving psychology was needed to get the most out of things, I take a leaf from Bruce Lee’s playbook and suggest that that they don’t waste themselves.

Worst Anime Challenge? How to Have Fun in Yurikuma Arashi, or, A Response To Invalid Methodologies In Existing Discussions

“You could not live with your own failure, and where did that bring you? Back to me. I thought by simplifying half of the symbolism from Yurikuma Arashi discussions, the other half would thrive, but you’ve shown me that’s impossible. As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist.”
“Yep. We’re all kinds of stubborn.”
“I’m thankful, because now, I know what I must do. I will shred Yurikuma Arashi down to its last pixel, and then, with the symbols you’ve collected for me, create a new discussion teeming with value that knows not what it has lost, but only what it has been given. A meaningful discussion.”
“Born out of lies.”
“They’ll never know it, because you won’t be alive to tell them.”

–Thanos, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, Avengers: Endgame

When bears turned against humanity following the destruction of a far-off planet, humanity constructed a massive wall to defend themselves. However, Ginko Yurishiro and Lulu Yurigasaki infiltrate this wall and masquerade as people, registering as students of Arashigaoka High, with the aim of getting closer to one Kureha Tsubaki, who’d lost her memories long ago after befriending Ginko and made the ultimate sacrifice to turn her into a human after seeing her suffering in the realm of bears. As Kureha and Ginko remember their shared past, those around them begin to oppose their friendship, regarding it with hostility. Fighting against the norms of society, Kureha and Ginko end up demonstrating the strength of their love for one another. The deities recognise the two’s love as authentic and whisks them away to an unknown location where they spend the remainder of their days in happiness, while society continues forwards. This is Yurikuma Arashi, a rather curious title directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara, known for his distinct approach in his anime. Airing in 2015, Yurikuma Arashi is ultimately about the costs of love, what potentially can be if one stays true to their conviction in one another and also the absurdity of a society accustomed to maintaining normalcy. Using vivid imagery in the form of bears, and a long-standing conflict to show how individuals on opposite ends of the spectrum still share commonality, Ikuhara illustrates that true love can manifest between most anyone regardless of station, background or appearance, being something that is both fragile and resilient like a flower. By comparison, the students of Arashigaoka High, members of the Invisible Storm, are presented as an unaccepting, closed-minded group whose xenophobic attitudes and devotion to their search of evil are ludicrous; the series is an open criticism of the inherent irrationality of intolerance and hate. While presented with a highly turbulent structure, Yurikuma Arashi ultimately shows the outcome of tolerance, acceptance and open-mindedness in society, suggesting that relationships between anyone are to be celebrated and not feared even if they are not conventional. From a technical perspective, with consistent animation, a curious setting making use of construction implements and walls to show the absurdity of keeping out the unknown, and a soundtrack that captures the tenour of Yurikuma Arashi exceedingly well, the series does manage to deliver its messages despite being riddled with idiosyncrasies and repetition that impede the narrative’s flow. At least, this is what my assessment of Yurikuma Arashi would be in a sane world – there was nothing sane about the discussion and reception in the anime community concerning Yurikuma Arashi that subsequently followed.

In a vacuum, Yurikuma Arashi tells a rather heartfelt story, albeit one that is a bit turbulent in places and a little too forwards at times, but existing discussions promoted the series as being an “intellectual fantasy” whose journey demands an uncommon knowledge of the symbols that Ikuhara uses and where the message is supposed to be obfuscated by Ikuhara’s style to the point where one should consult a friendly neighbourhood analysis to follow along. The symbolism in Yurikuma Arashi, not the characters and their interactions, are supposed to tell the story, and these obscure elements are argued to be essential to the experience. An old nemesis from my Glasslip days, Helene “Soulelle” Kolpakova, argues that the key themes in the series are about the gap between sexual and platonic romance, and how the wall is supposed to represent a separation of the two, dividing one so that it falls into the natural order and excluding the other from consideration. Through the events of Yurikuma Arashi, Kolpakova claims that the bears themselves are “beneficial to humanity”. To this end, yin-yang is argued to be critical in the series, speaking of the divide that separates chaos from order, and moreover, that Sigmund Freud’s Ego and Id are relevant to discussion. This, Kolpakova states, is essential to understand why the wall becomes a major symbol and why the Lily Court exists, to sort out whether or not one’s feelings are legitimate. Striking a balance between the Id of desire and the more rational Ego, the Super Ego is allegedly equivalent to Abraxas, a being independent of good and evil in Hermann Hesse’s Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth. This novel deals with duality and how both sides of a spectrum are necessary: Abraxas rules over the good as well as evil in the world, hence the necessity of accepting both. From Kolpakova’s perspective, the absence of this knowledge renders Yurikuma Arashi without its meaning, and so, even ahead of messages of determination in love and the absurdity of exclusion, Yurikuma Arashi is to be about duality. For the folks who have not studied the Bildungsroman literary genre, then, Yurikuma Arashi remains inaccessible, out of reach and meaningful only to a limited few. This particular brand of thinking is not unique to Kolpakova, and others have since followed suit in composing obtuse, pedantic discussions of the supposedly complex and obscure symbols of Yurikuma Arashi, with the most gratuitous being a seventeen-part talk that ends up being about nothing useful. While the sheer number of analysis pieces out there imply that Yurikuma Arashi is indeed an intellectual’s journey that remains out of the scope of what common folk must understand, this is evidently not the case. Yurikuma Arashi‘s native story, and Ikuhara’s heavy-handed use of repetition actually does the opposite, making the thematic elements quite plain even if it does interfere with the series’ delivery of said themes.

“In all my years of discussion, reviews, reflection, it was never personal. But I’ll tell you now, what I’m about to do to your stubborn, annoying little analysis, I’m gonna enjoy it: very, very much.” – Thanos, Avengers: Endgame

While it may seem that a Herculean tasks lies ahead for refuting the analysis pieces, there is actually no need for such an endeavour: each of these makes the flawed assumption that literary allusions in a given work are meant to represent, one-to-one, the the themes and ideas of the works being alluded to. Allusions are employed to encapsulate complex themes and symbols from another work with the aim of drawing a comparison and further the author’s own work. Allusions may take different forms, but are primarily done either to apply a particular context to a new situation or else is used as an opposition to a particular idea. However, allusions are never meant to be viewed as a sign that a work has completely adopted an idea from another source whole-sale. For example, in Frankenstein, Mary Shelly alludes to Prometheus, a Greek Titan who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity, his creation. He was sentenced to have his liver consumed by an eagle for his troubles, and is intended to be viewed as a symbol of intelligence. Subsequent Western Classical works viewed Prometheus to be a representation of the price of scientific progress, and Frankenstein’s monster in particular was intended to illustrate this notion. However, Frankenstein and Prometheus differ wildly: whereas Prometheus sought to help his creations, Frankenstein condemned his out of guilt and horror. This contrast is merely one instance where an author uses an allusion to rapidly establish a particular idea, but then subsequently goes on to use their own characters and setting to convey their intended message. It is then ludicrous to suppose that simply because an allusion to Freudian or Hesse’s duality might be vaguely present, the concept of Id and Ego, or themes of Demian, must necessarily be mirrored in Yurikuma Arashi. Ikuhara may use imagery from these works to establish a certain idea, but the trials that Ginko and Kureha experience tell a very different story about themes of persistence in love and resistance society offers where forbidden romances are involved. Duality is only used to motivate the theme (rather than forming the entire theme as Kolpakova suggests), and Freudian notions are far removed from what Yurikuma Arashi portrays. The premises that Kolpakova and others utilise is therefore incomplete or false, and one cannot soundly establish that the premise results in the conclusions seen; while the conclusion may or may not be true, it does nothing to prove the premise. The outcome is similar to making use of a flawed methodology in a scientific experiment that results in data that may or may not be trustworthy, invalidating the outcomes.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because this post is a bit on the wordy side, I’ll provide an elevator summary of things – existing analysis can be misleading or incomplete because they presuppose that the symbols here match up 1:1 with usage in their original context, and contrary to expectations, Yurikuma Arashi does have merits of its own independent of the “intellectual” piece. There are multiple ways of approaching Yurikima Arashi beyond a strict academic mindset, and I do not suggest drawing on any one discussion as being more or less valid than another. However, starting an argument with a false premise results in a conclusion whose truthfulness is unknowable, and in this post, I aim to show that Yurikuma Arashi is both enjoyable in the absence of an academic mindset and that most academically-styled discussions out there invariably end up committing a fallacy of incomplete evidence.

  • With that out of the way, this talk on Yurikuma Arashi is categorised as a “Terrible Anime Challenge” post, meaning I need to provide a verdict on whether or not the show met expectations or not. If I were to approach it purely as an anime, then the answer is yes, Yurikuma Arashi provided a coherent theme and story worth watching, that matches reception set by parts of the community I consider reliable. From this perspective, I would score Yurikuma Arashi a C grade (2.0 of 4.0, corresponding roughly to a 6 of 10) – not great, but not terrible, either. Conversely, if I were made to regard Yurikuma Arashi as the “intellectual fantasy”, I would not have fun because I would be unable to reach the same conclusions as those reached by the analysis in the community, and this score would drop down to an F grade.

  • What Yurikuma Arashi does well is that it sets the initial precedence that bears are supposed to be the antagonists, and that humanity are the protagonists, but then these boundaries are quickly shattered. Ginko’s forwardness with Kureha immediately shows that these initial assumptions do not hold true: if it were the simple case that bears consume humans, then Ginko would have already destroyed Kureha. The narrative in Yurikuma Arashi is linear but filled with flashbacks and recollections, which the anime helpfully makes clear is the case.

  • The exclusion rituals carried out are done so with a mindless synchronisation, and the animation itself speaks volumes about how exclusion is absurd in a society where acceptance ought to be the norm. One element that is seen frequently are prints evocative of Maurits Cornelis Escher’s prints, which are known for their repetitive mathematical patterns. Kolpakova argues that the seagull motifs (yurikamome, specifically, Chroicocephalus ridibundus) are supposed to represent the dark side of yuri, when in fact, seagulls are commonly used to signify resourcefulness. In this case, the mathematical patterns imply the determination and lengths that the Invisible Storm members will go to exclude others.

  • How did I end up having fun watching what was supposed to be a test of the limits of my powers of reasoning? I ended up watching Yurikuma Arashi with my mind on the bigger picture, with also an appreciation for the art style, use of familiar anime facial expressions and more conventional comedic approaches. Despite its highly distinct setting, unlike Puella Magi Madoka Magica, some visual traits from more light-hearted series do appear in Yurikuma Arashi, relaxing the atmosphere. Kureha ended up being a character I could get behind and learn more about, along with Ginko and Lulu – Yurikuma Arashi provides no shortage of exposition so everyone’s goals and stories are out in the open.

  • Escher’s famous work does suggest duality, but this is not a theme in and of itself as Kolpakova suggests. Instead, the transformation from fish to seabirds foreshadows Yurika Hakonaka’s hidden nature. Despite being a teacher at Arashigaoka, she’s actually a bear who knew Kureha’s mother and ate her out of jealousy. Similarly, the filing cabinets do not represent a cage, but instead, Yurika’s own desire to preserve that which is good. Symbols in a literary work are meant to be used to succinctly indicate a particular concept or idea, and so, while they are useful for foreshadowing or augmenting a theme, they are by no means the single element that must be examined to understand a work. It is for this reason I am not inclined to say that Kolpakova’s conclusions, or the seventeen-part analysis out there, are particularly valuable for anyone seeking an explanation of Yurikuma Arashi.

  • The main issue that I do have with Kolpakova’s psychoanalysis of Yurikuma Arashi is that the Court of Severance’ judges are supposed to represent Freudian principles of Id, Ego and Super-Ego. Sigmund Freud proposed that the human psyche had three interacting pieces that governed one’s actions, and while radical for his time, Freud’s speculations remain little more than pseudoscience on the virtue that there is no testable (and therefore, refutable) hypothesis, or any vigourous application of the scientific method, for that matter. Introductory psychology classes open with arguments refuting Freud, and his claims are regarded with the same respect as the theory of spontaneous generation, which supposed that living matter could arise from non-living matter (it is now accepted as fact that micro-organisms produce the observations).

  • Knowing that Freud’s propositions are largely incorrect and incomplete should be sufficient in discouraging folks from using them in an argument: anyone arguing for spontaneous generation would be swiftly destroyed in argument with overwhelming evidence for microorganisms and their properties. However, especially amongst the anime community, Freud remains popular for conducting any sort of “intellectual” discussion because behind the jargon, Freud’s concepts are actually very rudimentary and quick to pick up, while simultaneously being obscure enough to give the impression of being well-read. For this reason, some light novel authors (such as Nagaru Tanigawa, who wrote The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi) use fundamentals from Freud to quickly reference something.

  • While it is not the Tanigawa’s (or any author’s) intent to suggest Freud is correct, mere suggestion of an older philosophical concept, regardless of merit, causes some to gravitate towards using it in their own discussion. Kolpakova is one example, and while the Court of Severance might initially appear to be personifications of the Super-Ego, Ego and Id, the fact they reach the same conclusion every time illustrates how where love is concerned, the results are deterministic because love is irrational, and therefore, cannot properly demonstrate the interactions between the concepts Freud postulated to be true. With a false premise, claims that Freud is relevant and applicable to Yurikuma Arashi are incorrect, and I’ve long felt that folks who fall back on Freud end up accomplishing little more than indicating that they wish to appear smarter than they are.

  • If everything in Yurikuma Arashi is a symbol, then do the bullets and rifles mean anything? The answer is probably not, beyond illustrating the extent of the prejudice that the humans have against the bears. The Remington 750 Woodsmaster that Kureha and the other members of the Invisible Storm use is a semi-automatic rifle that was produced between 2006 and 2015. I expect that the Invisible Storm version of the rifle, which is outfitted with a ten-round magazine and 4x optics, is chambered for the .30-06 Springfield round, which has reliable stopping power against bears at medium ranges.

  • Contrary to the initial expectation that a profound understanding of German literature and Freudian psychology was integral to an enjoyable Yurikuma Arashi experience, I ended up finding aspects of the series enjoyable for completely different reasons. The character design and exposition gives viewers reason to back Kureha, Ginko and Lulu, while the distinct architectural elements create the same sense of distance that Puella Magi Madoka Magica was able to create. Like the isolation that Madoka, Homura and Sayaka experience from their world, Kureha is noticeably isolated from her surroundings. This allows for her interactions with Ginko and Lulu to be emphasised, while simultaneously reminding viewers that she’s very much excluded from other humans.

  • The music of Yurikuma Arashi is particularly strong: the incidental music bears some similarity with Yuki Kajirua’s compositions for Madoka Magica, and Bonjour Suzuki’s haunting, ethereal performance of the opening theme, Ano Mori de Matteru, brings a ecclesiastical quality to what’s happening in Yurikuma Arashi. This is accentuated by the church bells and prayer-like delivery of the first few lines, after which Suzuki delivers the line zutto (absolutely or always) with a seductive, sexy voice before delving into a higher-paced stanza. The music in Yurikuma Arashi is exceptionally strong, contributing to the story as well as the visuals do.

  • Ultimately, Yurikuma Arashi is an anime whose reputation precedes it – because it is described as an “intellectual fantasy”, the series drew viewers with a particular mindset to it, and their resulting response to Yurikuma Arashi gave the impression that anyone reaching a conclusion that deviated from what was established by these individuals were lacking. Ergo, the intent of this post was partly to look at some discussions out there and illustrate that they are not as airtight as their tone and style might otherwise suggest; viewers should trust their own judgement over those presented elsewhere – everyone has their own interpretation of a given work, and to suppose otherwise is counted a form of gatekeeping.

  • The so-called Wall of Severance is always seen to be under construction. As a physical barrier between humanity and bears, the wall itself is presented as being perpetually ineffectual thanks to the special portal; that it is constantly being expanded shows the ineffectiveness of intolerance. Yurikuma Arashi‘s setting design and in particular, use of the school rooftop as a significant setting, is similar to how Madoka Magica‘s similarly set Mami, Sayaka and Madoka’s conversations on the school rooftop, creating a sense of distance and isolation that forces viewers to focus on the characters.

  • While Kureha spends the first section of Yurikuma Arashi stating her hate for bears and declaring her intent to “ruin” bears (破壊, hakai, literally “destroy”), Kureha’s feelings are actually locked behind removal of her memories. Once the extent of her old friendship with Ginko is recalled, she does everything in her power to realise her feelings, even if it means pushing Ginko and Lulu away for their own safety once the Invisible Storm begin ramping up their extermination efforts – they somehow procure a particle beam weapon that is absolutely lethal against the bears.

  • The white lily is supposed to represent purity and innocence in both Western and Japanese culture, but became used as a term referring to girls love fiction in the 1970s. The contrast between the purity these flowers signify, and the decidedly more lewd aspects of love form a jarring comparison, reminding viewers that love is simultaneously pure and not pure. The flowers themselves can be eaten and in Chinese cuisine, are said to have medicinal properties: the Cantonese, for instance, add 百合 (jyutping baak3 hap6) to 木瓜糖水 (jyutping muk6 gwaa1 tong4 seoi2, a kind of papaya sweet soup), although personally, this is definitely not to my liking.

  • In the end, Kureha and Ginko’s love win out over the opposition from society: Kureha transforms into a bear and delivers unto Ginko the “promised kiss”. Yurikuma Arashi is very insistent with its terminology, which is beaten into viewers at every turn. Similarly, idiosyncrasies such as kuma shock and yuri dark appear far more often than is necessary – viewers get that something is going down, and it’s obvious even without the extra help. Enduring past these eccentricities, however, is rewarding for being able to see the outcome of Ginko and Kureha fulfilling a longstanding promise.

  • The Invisible Storm are shocked that such a phenomena could manifest, and in its aftermath, the leader hastily declares a mission success. Of the Invisible Storm, Uchiko Ai stood out to me: after the events of the finale, she begins to question the Invisible Storm and finds Konomi in a box marked “defective”, befriending her. Even more so than Kureha and Ginko’s love, the newfound friendship between Uchiko and Konomi moved me greatly. Overall, while themes of duality are present in Yurikuma Arashi as Kolpakova suggests, duality is meaningless in and of itself: Yurikuma Arashi shows that the for superficial differences, seemingly different sides of a coin are actually more similar than we realise and cannot exist without the other.

  • Because I come so late to the party, I doubt that my recommendations here, namely, to always use one’s own judgement towards a work and to be skeptical of opinions on the internet, will be regarded as being useful by anyone looking to make heads and or tails of Yurikuma Arashi at present. Shortly after Yurikuma Arashi‘s airing, the sheer volume of discussion claiming to “explain” Yurikuma Arashi that developed was unreal: anime convention panalists even hosted discussions on the series’ contributions to academia and society. It took me considerable effort to push through this series, and I only gained momentum to finish once I was halfway through, although once things picked up, I’m glad to have stuck the course this time around (I’d dropped the series three times before).

  • Because this was not a conventional post, I meandered and wandered quite a bit. Bringing things back together as we draw to the end, I personally found that in the absence of any sort of intellectual expectation, Yurikuma Arashi exceeded my initial expectations – while the repetition dulled my enjoyment somewhat, the honesty of the story, together with the sound and visual elements made it rather more fun to watch. However, I stand by my beliefs that Yurikuma Arashi does not represent a significant contribution to contemporary understanding of society or philosophy, nor does the series require an extensive appreciation of classical literature and psychology to appreciate. Watching Yurikuma Arashi demonstrates that for the most part, I can find positivity in the things that I do. The next post I have lined up for the Terrible Anime Challenge series will deal with Blend S, which I’m told is a deep psychoanalysis on work culture and is supposed to be superior to GochiUsa; those there are fighting words, and I look forwards to seeing if these lofty assertions hold true.

With this in mind, it is not the objective of this post to refute everything Kolpakova and others have stated: from a certain mindset, there could be merit in their conclusions. Instead, the goal is to note that their conclusions are not made with sound methods or a full appreciation of literary analysis, and that there is actually more to Yurikuma Arashi than just analysing the symbols and themes from older works. In fact, true literary analysis is a very broad field, and any analysis can be conducted from a variety of angles, all of which are equally valid. I typically look at a work based on its ability to speak to matters of personal growth or the implications an author has made about science and technology using their work because that is my background, while others might choose to approach from a social perspective. Others may view a work as being insightful into the political or economic state the author strives to convey, while some individuals may choose to discard the author’s intentions outright and view it from their own perspectives. This is why my own conclusions about Yurikuma Arashi should not be regarded as being the only one available, and similarly, the conclusions Kolpakova and others reach are not necessarily the only way to approach this anime (or others, for that matter). The premise that Yurikuma Arashi is an “intellectual fantasy” ultimately comes across as being more than a gimmick to sell the fact that Yurikuma Arashi is very fanciful in its use of imagery, and for the numerous flaws the series possesses, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that underneath all of the obscure symbols, sometimes-inane repetition and unsteady fæirytale-like presentation, there is a rather touching story about the strength of love and how it can prevail over prejudice. In short, one does not need an extensive understanding of philosophy or classical literature to enjoy Yurikuma Arashi. While I would not recommend this anime to readers who are accustomed to my usual realm of interests, folks who greatly enjoy the yuri genre or enjoy series with a great deal of imagery may find Yurikuma Arashi worthwhile. Finally, as to whether or not Yurikuma Arashi lives up to the question posed by this post, the answer is going to be either a relief or disappointing – P.A. Works’ Glasslip and R.D.G. Red Data Girl remain in the unfortunate throne of being the second worst and worst anime I’ve seen to date.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Turning Chaos into Compassion in Seishun Buta Yarō

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge” –Daniel J. Boorstin

When Sakuta Azusagawa meets actress Mai Sakurajima, who is clad in naught but a bunny girl outfit, he is simultaneously drawn to her and begins to wonder about the mysterious phenomenon that afflicts youth. He eventually learns that no one can see Mai, and that this is related to how people remember her. Sakuta eventually confesses his love for her in front of the entire school, burning her existence into everyone’s memories, and sets about helping those around him with their own challenges in adolescence. Sakuta helps Tomoe Koga overcome her anxiety about being accepted and pretends to date her, forcing her to come to terms with her feelings for him. He next aids Rio Futaba, the sole member of the school’s science club who believes Sakuta’s experiences have scientific backgrounds until she manifests two bodies as a result of lacking confidence in herself. Sakuta manages to rectify this, and later, helps Nodoka Toyohama, Mai’s younger half-sister who felt as though she was living under Mai’s shadows, after Nodoka switches bodies with Mai. Sakuta’s younger sister, spurred on by Sakuta, decides to set goals for herself: she suffered from memory loss as a result of the trama from being bullied and reverted to a more infantile personality. After Sakuta’s efforts to help her reach her goals, Kaede reverts to her old personality, and a distraught Sakuta regrets not being able to do more for her until a mysterious visit from Shōko helps him recover from his melancholy so that he can fully support Kaede, who feels ready to pick up her life from where they’d left off. This is Seishun Buta Yarō (literally “Young Asshole”, but officially translated as “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai”, an obvious reference to Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner and Aobuta for brevity), an adaptation of a 2014 light novel about the challenges and turbulence that youth face as they struggle to learn of their place in the world. At its core, Sakuta is portrayed as a unique protagonist, being strictly mundane in manner and appearance. Unlike other light novel protagonists, Sakuta is not uncommonly intelligent or lucky; instead, he is exceedingly kind, has a particular way with words and is exceptionally faithful. The sum of these elements creates a highly focused story where audiences are confident that Sakuta will work out a solution without creating situations that typical light novels push towards, and his genuine concern for those around him results in a protagonist who is exceedingly likeable, giving viewers incentive to follow his story and root him on as he strives to help each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede move beyond their situations.

For its exceptional presentation of what the struggles of youth may manifest as in a visceral manner, it is unsurprising that Aobuta immediately became a favourite among viewers when it aired. Aobuta has heart, capturing the problems that adolescents see in their lives and giving them memorable metaphors that really describe what being young is like; as an adult, we tend to see problems as having a rational, logical answer, but as youth, what is obvious to us may not be so apparent, creating this chaos and conflict. However, as Sakuta demonstrates, the solution lies not in a reasoned process, but through compassion: for each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede, he works to understand their situation and then determines how to help the individual in question overcome their insecurities and doubts. Aobuta shows that Hajime Kamoshida evidently has a strong grasp on how to visualise youth and their struggles in a compelling manner, and this is ultimately Aobuta‘s main draw. However, while it is sufficient to focus on the human aspects of Aobuta, Kamoshida’s inclusion of quantum theory into his work as the metaphor has given the impression that a functional knowledge of matters as varied as wave function collapse, or free will versus determinism. However, these references weaken with time within the anime, and this suggests a deliberate choice on Kamoshida’s part. Taken at face value, these are ultimately are ill representations of the phenomenon that Sakuta and the others experience and end up being a minor distraction. While poorly-applied references to quantum mechanics may have had the potential to decimate the emotional impact and strength of Aobuta‘s narrative, it speaks to Kamoshida’s understanding of the human aspects that allows Aobuta to remain immensely engaging and enjoyable. Simply, knowledge of existential philosophy and quantum theory are completely unnecessary towards finding the strengths in Aobuta, a series whose emotional and interpersonal pieces far exceeded my expectations coming in.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because this is a Terrible Anime Challenge, I won’t be discussing Aobuta in my typical manner. I open by remarking that Terrible Anime Challenge shows fall into three categories (“was as good as expected”, “did not meet expectations” or “as poor as described”): Aobuta falls squarely into the “was as good as expected” group, impressing me with its likable characters. Both Mai and Sakuta bounce off one another in reasonable and entertaining ways. Asami Setō performs Mai’s voice: I know her best from Tari Tari‘s Konatsu Miyamoto and Kinuyo Nishi of Girls und Panzer.

  • For the remainder of this post, I will be dealing with misconceptions surrounding quantum mechanics, either within Aobuta itself or from the community at large. The first deals with Schrödinger’s cat, which is a description of quantum superposition where an object may simultaneously exist in two states, and which state cannot be determined until it is observed: this is only vaguely related to Mai’s situation, which is strictly a matter of how Mai sees herself. It has nothing to do with probability, but rather, stems from Mai’s doubts about herself. she therefore feels that she has become invisible to the world, and the story then goes about presenting this in a literal fashion.

  • While I enjoy considering the applicability of real-world phenomenon in fiction, ultimately, fiction exists to tell a particular story, and so, I am not particularly fond of treating intrapersonal problems as a matter analogous with science. One particularly poorly-written case argues that Mai exists in a single reality, but with multiple states as described by Schrödinger’s cat, which is supposedly rectified by pushing her towards the probability of existing or the observer. However, this explanation, besides being a pointless exercise in verbosity, does not account for why Sakuta is able to interact with Mai normally. Before I continue, here’s a lighter moment in Aobuta where Tomoe gives Sakuta a free kick after a misunderstanding occurs while he’s en route to a date with Mai; Tomoe’s perfectly-formed arse is the butt of many of Sakuta’s jokes.

  • Schrödinger’s cat is about how something cannot be known until it is observed – it has nothing to do with probabilities, and therefore, is a completely inadequate representation of Mai’s situation. This is the limitation of attempting to analyse series early into its run: without more information, it is very easy to commit fallacies because the bigger picture is not known. Early discussions suggest that Aobuta‘s theme is that “perception defines reality…and existence, as well”, which is false in light of the events that Sakuta experiences.

  • Rio Futaba is presented as being well-read, but her metaphors are lukewarm at best and outright incorrect at worse. This is by design: being quite shy around others, it is not surprising that she’s not exactly versed with social convention, and as such, analogies she raises do not match. She dispenses with them as Aobuta progresses, which is a powerful indicator that viewers were never meant to take the quantum mechanics comparisons seriously to begin with, and therefore, there is no meaningful discussion to be had by bringing such matters to the table. By comparison, Sakuta manages to distill out enough to determine what needs to be done to help the individual in question and invariably solves the problem by compassion, rather than logic.

  • Tomoe’s situation is similarly mentioned to involve a “Laplace’s Dæmon”: after Sakuta experiences a time loop akin to that of Endless Eight, Rio suggests this as the cause. This concept supposes that the outcome of any situation is known given a sufficiently large amount of information. The original concept assumed this to mean “the position of the atoms”, but this concept has been dismissed for its inability to conform with the Laws of Thermodynamics, namely, that some processes are irreversible, so no Laplace’s Dæmon could exist to reconstruct a state at time t-1 given a set of parameters at time t.

  • Determinism is most certainly not the theme of Tomoe’s arc; this is a principle that supposes that all events exist independently of human consciousness (i.e. free will). The matter of whether or not free will exists is a topic I will not cover for the present, and in the context of Aobuta, determinism has no place in discussion because the time loop’s cause is ultimately Tomoe’s inability to let go of a certain outcome and desires to keep rolling the dice until a desirable result arises. Rather than philosophy, understanding of human nature here explains why a time loop was chosen to represent feelings of longing and regret.

  • Because humans are involved, human solutions end up being what breaks the time loop. Sakuta manages to get the truth out of Tomoe: she’s fallen in love with him and cannot bear to let go. After a heart-to-heart talk, Sakuta manages to help her accept that they can still remain friends, allowing her to remain connected with her other friends without alienating them. The same folks who asserted Schrödinger’s cat needed analysis for Mai’s arc to be understood subsequently had trouble with figuring out where the Laplace’s Dæmon could hold for Tomoe’s arc. Tomoe is voiced by Nao Tōyama (Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujo and Kantai Collection‘s Kongo).

  • When Rio’s arc arrives, and it turns out that two simultaneous versions of Rio exist, the individuals above assert that the two incarnations of Rio represent id and ego, principles from Sigmund Freud. I was wondering when Freud would appear in discussions. In this Freudian model of the psyche, id is supposed to represent the baser aspects of human nature, and then ego is a more rational element that maximises some goal function for the future and for satisfying the id. I’m not sure why anime fans generally hold Freudian concepts as being valid – some of his theories have proven to be cripplingly incomplete and catastrophically wrong, failing to account for why people act the way they do. In particular, id and ego are not credible concepts in any way given the complete lack of evidence to suggest that they hold true.

  • Instead, Rio splitting into two manifestations is much simpler explained as a character versus self conflict, made visceral by having her develop two physical selves. There is a side of Rio who wants to use her physical attributes to increase the attention people are paying to her, especially Yūma Kunimi, Sakuta’s best friend, who is dating Saki Kamisato, and another side who is content with the status quo but longs for more. Reconciling this internal struggle involves a human solution: Sakuta engineers a chance for Rio to come to terms with her feelings and has both Rios invite one another to the summer festival, merging the two personas back into one.

  • Throughout Aobuta, I’ve noticed a recurring trend in that as the series progresses, the focus on the philosophical and scientific aspects in discussions elsewhere diminishes in lockstep with the decreasing emphasis within Aobuta itself, and curiously, as these elements dissipate, so did some individual’s enjoyment. I’m not sure why some people demand convoluted narratives with quasi-academic elements in them to motivate their discussion, especially when it’s clear that such topics are not their area of expertise. While there is nothing wrong in learning about other disciplines, it is problematic if individuals asset to be authorities where they are not. This is what motivates the page quote: I’ve long felt that folks who act as though they are experts in a matter are more harmful to a discussion than those who are unfamiliar with the topic, and this is why I’m always mindful to not overstep what I know.

  • By the time Nodoka’s arc appears, even the most ardent efforts to force a scientific explanation on things prove ineffectual: in Aobuta itself, Rio speculates the body switching is some form of quantum teleportation and leaves Sakuta to work out a solution, indicating that science and philosophy are irrelevant. Nodoka’s problem manifests as body switching: resentful of Mai’s successes, Nodoka longs for her mother’s approval. She’s voiced by Maaya Uchida (GochiUsa‘s Sharo Kirima, Rui Tachibana of Domestic na Kanojo and Rei from VividRed Operation). The body switching exposes to Nodoka how difficult Mai’s job is, further increasing her dislike of Mai, whom she feels is flawless and a natural at whatever she does.

  • Nodoka is pushed over the edge after a concert Mai performs in, but when Mai reveals that she kept Nodoka’s letters to motivate herself, Nodoka comes to terms with who she is. Conscious transfer is a topic strictly consigned to the realm of science fiction: because the machinations of the mind remain poorly characterised, there is no satisfactory hypothesis for how a conscious manifests itself.

  • I join the ranks of many others before me in saying that the interactions between Mai and Sakuta are remarkably refreshing and genuine. While Sakuta has a predisposition for the lewd, at heart, he is trying to inject humour into what would otherwise be a fairly serious situation. As a protagonist, Sakuta is very likeable: unlike Oregairu‘s Hachiman, who comes across as being a smartass with no understanding of social structure, Sakuta does his best to relate those who are around him. Aobuta does outwardly resemble Oregairu, in terms of art style and its focus on youth, but Aobuta is ultimately more optimistic and better written, since Sakuta has clear motivations to help those around him.

  • This motivation stems from Sakuta’s fear of being unable to help his sister, and as it turns out, having been unable to prevent Kaede from suffering amnesia was what led to the scars on his chest. After Sakuta explains Kaede’s situation to Mai and Nodoka, Kaede decides to set goals for herself with the eventual aim of going back to school. In her state throughout Aobuta, Kaede is cheerful, somewhat dimwitted and fearful of strangers. However, the original Kaede was more reserved and taciturn: when Kaede recovers her memories, the time she’d spent with Sakuta and the others vanish from her memories.

  • While coming out from the shadows of something like OregairuAobuta stands out because it ultimately has a more optimistic tone, and Sakuta’s actions have a clear benefit for him, as well as those around him. By comparison, Oregairu‘s portrayal of Hachiman leaves him feeling like an apathetic misanthrope whose story ends up carrying no weight regardless of who his actions benefit: I am not particularly fond of Hachiman, and Oregairu‘s enjoyment factor came from his interactions with Yui and Yukino.

  • Mention of a scientific or philosophical concept does not mean a work of fiction intends to use it to advance the narrative further; in stories where the focus is purely on the human element, the gains to viewers are what characters learn from their experiences. Aobuta‘s phenomenon could be justified by constructs like the Infinity Stones, and the anime would still hold all of its weight. I would prefer that discussion focus on what the characters are doing and shown to be doing, rather than seeing people regard quantum tunneling and wave collapse as being literal representations of the emotional turbulence that youth experience.

  • One may wonder why I am so vehemently opposed to things that, for the want of a better phrase, “sound smart”. The answer to this is simple: one of the biggest aversions I have is ultracrepidarianism, referring to people who act like they know more than they do. An irritant at best, people who believe themselves to be more qualified than they are have the potential of causing real damage in society; an example is Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, who asserted a (nonexistent) link between vaccinations and autism, resulting in an increasing instance of people who hold his findings as true and refuse to vaccinate their children. Ultracrepidarians are one of the few things I do not tolerate, and while they are unlikely to have the same impact in the realm of discussion on fiction, such individuals can still be disruptive to what constitutes as good discussion.

  • In shows such as Aobuta, authentic discussion entails drawing from one’s own experiences, well-established social norms and anecdotal evidence as rationale in justifying (or renouncing) the actions that characters take. Attempting to play philosopher or psychiatrist on the characters is not beneficial, since the individual doing so does not have the same background or assumptions as the author would: I’ve mentioned before that Death of the Author is a very presumptuous way to approach media. The author’s intent matters because it allows audiences to understand a specific perspective on a work, which relates back to the society and its attendant conditions that led to the author expressing their thoughts into a narrative. Excluding this is to dispose of that context, ultimately resulting in a loss of information.

  • My final verdict on Aobuta is that it has definitely earned its praises: this is a solid A grade (9 of 10) for being able to vividly portray the human stories to each arc that Sakuta encounters. Aobuta is greatly helped by the fact that Sakuta is more optimistic and friendly, as well as acting as an amusing foil for Mai, with whom his interactions become entertaining to watch. Characters and their experiences drive the thematic elements, and while the series may incorporate elements of quantum theory into its run, Aobuta makes it clear that these elements were feebly presented precisely because the experiences of youth cannot be so readily compared to even more abstract concepts. In short, one does not need to know anything about the particle-wave duality, determinism or quantum tunneling to get the most out of Aobuta.

The inclusion of such abstract concepts in Aobuta as a deliberate choice allows Kamoshida to deal elegantly with one long-standing complaint I have about light novels: their propensity to force pedantic characters into the role of the protagonist. Aobuta has Rio embody this role as a secondary character, and when I began watching the series, I was unimpressed with her role in acting as a resource for seemingly explaining away the phenomenon that Sakuta encounters. However, progressing into Aobuta meant seeing the characters’ true personalities and nature be explored. After Rio herself experiences a manifestation of this phenomenon, her inclination to rationalise it is diminished: Kamoshida appears to suggest, through Rio’s increasingly half-hearted efforts to present Adolescent syndrome as having a scientific basis, that there simply is no effective way to compare something as nuanced and complex as human emotions during youth with thought experiments meant to deal with science. The pseudo-science is thus displaced by genuine, heartfelt moments as Sakuta helps Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede in overcoming their internal struggles. Consequently, this means that viewers have no need to consider the withertos and whyfors behind why things happen: the who and the what are much more valuable. As Aobuta progresses, Rio becomes less of an encyclopaedia and into a fully-fleshed out character. The lessons of Aobuta are that a story’s enjoyability and ability to capture an audience’s interests lies strictly and entirely within its characters, as well as their dynamics. In the complete and total absence of philosophy and science, series that deal with youth can therefore remain incredibly compelling because at its core, they are about the people and how they overcome their challenges, rather than real-world principles that demand dedicated study. Beyond its execution, Aobuta featured solid technical aspects that come together to create an anime that merits praise. Having now seen it for myself, I understand why people consider this to be a strong series, and so, I can readily recommend Aobuta, albeit with one caveat: prospective viewers should not go into Aobuta thinking quantum mechanics and philosophy are requirements, as the series has numerous merits that make it exceptionally engaging and compelling.

Valentines and Hot Springs!: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid OVA Review and Reflection

“When you have seen as much of life as I have, you will not underestimate the power of obsessive love.” –Horace Slughorn, Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince

On Valentines’ Day, Tohru is unsuccessful in giving Kobayashi chocolates spiked with a love potion. Kanna receives chocolates from her classmates and Kobayashi shares chocolates at work. Later, Kobayashi accidentally consumes the spiked chocolates from Tohru and becomes drunk. Makoto invites everyone to a hot springs; after a busy day spent relaxing and doing the sorts of things one might do at a hot springs, Tohru gives Kobayashi regular chocolates. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a unique entry among my “Terrible Anime Challenge” series in many ways – besides being an absolutely engaging and enjoyable series, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid also has an OVA that accompanied the seventh BD volume. Par the course for an OVA, it’s an opportunity to have the characters play off one another in romance, and further becomes a thinly-veiled justification to put the characters in a hot springs; traditionally, episodes such as these contribute very little to the narrative. However, this is not to say that OVAs are devoid of value, and my enjoyment of OVAs typically come from presenting characters in a much more relaxed, or even whimsical moment that shows different aspects to their personalities. In Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Fafnir is given more exposition: despite his disdain for humanity, that he goes along with customs such as Valentines’ Day and hot springs trips in reasonable accordance with Makoto indicates a degree of begrudging respect for the things that humanity does.

A mile wide and a mile deep, is how I described Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid in my original review: there was enough by way of themes in the thirteen episodes dealing with acceptance of new culture, the importance of family, shifts in perspective through immersion, not taking things for granted, et cetera, such that audiences could relate to various aspects of the show in their own manner of choosing. Without deliberately and forcibly pressing its messages, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid presents ideas through everyday events, having the characters learn and discover things naturally. All of this is encapsulated in comedy, making the characters more relatable. The OVA does the same in its shorter runtime – it is a miniaturised Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, condensing the style and sense of the entire series into a single episode and providing the unique brand of humour the series is known for. In particular, Tohru’s attempts to seduce Kobayashi using a love potion, and Kobayashi catching on was quite amusing. It should be no surprise that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid utilises its world well to set up humour, and the jokes seen in the OVA have lost none of their potency.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Twenty screenshots for a single OVA is usually the norm for a full-fledged series that I’m writing for, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is no exception. Had I done a more conventional review for this series, I would’ve likely given things a thirty-screenshot talk. Even now, I’m impressed that what looked to be a frivolous series could cover so many interesting topics adequately over so short a run.

  • It’s no surprise that at this point in time, Kobayashi has known Tohru long enough so that she immediately suspects that there’s something funny in the Valentine’s chocolates. While Tohru might be a dragon more powerful and terrible than even J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ancalagon the Black, Kobayashi always manages to rein in Tohru with naught more than a glance. During the screen capture session, I managed to obtain a hilarious frame of Tohru pulling the chocolates away from Kobayashi, declaring it to be a defective batch, after Kobayashi warns her about spiking the chocolate.

  • Misunderstandings involving Kanna are always defused quickly in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and after Riko wonders why everyone is so quick to give Kanna chocolates, Kanna asks for Riko’s chocolates, as well. Despite not receiving any chocolates in return, Kanna’s chosen approach, to eat the chocolate straight out of Riko’s hands, sends her into a bliss.

  • Back home, Kanna’s want for chocolate leads her to find the chocolate that Tohru’s hidden away. This is the chocolate spiked with love potion: chemicals that alter one’s brain chemistry to induce sexual desire certainly exist (aphrodisiacs), the love potions of fiction are liquid medicines that can induce feelings of love. J.K. Rowling writes that no artificial substance could recreate something as complex as love: her love potions only induce infatuation over short periods of time. Given Tohru’s reactions while adding love potion to the chocolate, one would suppose that she’s aware of this.

  • According to Pottermore, the countermeasure for a love potion involves, Wiggentree twigs and Gurdyroot mixed with castor oil. I’m willing to bet that magical substances in the twigs and Gurdyroot must interact in some way with the triester of glycerol and ricinoleic acid in castor oil to neutralise whatever agents are in the love potion. The love potions of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid work differently, and although some claim that the ethanol “cancelled out” the love potion, from a chemistry perspective, this is incorrect. The ethanol present would have been altered in some way (decomposition, or replacement) so that distinct ethanol properties (e.g. inducing drunkenness) would no longer be present. Instead, I’m guessing that the ethanol acted as a catalyst for another reaction with one of the ingredients Tohru added, or else was a non-player in the reaction that neutralised the love potion. Either way, it results in some comedy of the likes not previously seen in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.

  • The OVA consists of two distinct acts, with the second being set around the group’s hot springs trip. They reach the onsen by means of the shinkansen. It typifies anime for depicting various aspects of everyday life in Japan with high faithfulness, and one of the stories I frequently hear is that people often will visit Japan with the aim of recreating their anime experiences, right down to riding trains and the like. For me, riding the trains of Japan were no different than the MTR of Hong Kong, or the LRT back home.

  • When I was in Japan last year, one of my favourite experiences was indeed the onsen. While I live fairly close to the Rocky Mountains and the hot springs of Banff, the geothermal waters of our national parks are actually quite mild in temperature. By comparison, the waters of an onsen were perfect, and I melted in the warm waters of the pool. I had the place to myself that evening, and one thing I noticed was that the (female) cleaning staff seem to have no aversions to continuing their work while I changed.

  • Watching Elma enjoying her food in bliss is most relatable: according to meterologists, we’re significantly colder than seasonal, and the past three weeks that I’ve been back home were characterised by non-stop overcast misery, gloom, and snowfall. Coupled with the chilly weather, I succumbed to a cold and spent several hours of each day in the past week sleeping. Despite this, I’m still getting my work done, and I’m on the mend now. Yesterday, I stepped out for dinner under moody skies: having recovered a fair bit, I decided it was prudent to enjoy myself but not eat too much, so I had a chicken steak sizzling plate with mushroom and red-wine sauce, corn, egg-fried-rice and fries at the local bistro. Dark chicken meat is my go-to meat of choice when I’m not at my best – highly nutritious, it’s also tender and tasty.

  • I often feel that, if I had a sauna at hand, I could spend a quarter hour in there upon feeling the onset of a cold. One of the classic methods to lessen the severity of a cold that my parents employ, is to drink 盒仔茶 (jyutping hap6 zai2 caa4, known more commonly as Kam Wo Tea), a bitter herbal tea with centuries of history. I’m personally on the rocks about its efficacy in stopping a cold, since I always end up requiring a day to rest regardless of whether or not I take it, but as far as relieving a sore throat goes, Kam Wo Tea does eliminate it within a day if taken right when one feels a cold incoming.

  • One way or another, with this cold largely behind me, I’m going to return to my routine very soon. I’ve noticed that blogging output for this past month has dropped by half: things have been remarkably busy of late. With this being said, as we move into October, and the fall anime season, posts will come out at a slow and steady rate. A few shows have caught my eye and together with the continuation of my CLANNAD review at the ten year anniversary, I think that this blog will continue to endure for a little while longer.

  • All of the dragons have a noticeable bust, and because my previous Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid post did not do so, I’ll capitalise on this post to feature one of Elma. Her constant bickering with Tohru, weakness in foods and interactions with Kobayashi are fun to watch. Earlier, a short skit in the OVA shows Elma trying to make chocolates of her own, but fails to create anything to give away, as she ends up eating all of the ingredients. Far from Tolkien’s clever and cunning fire-breathers, or Rowling’s untamed beasts, the dragons of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid are much more human in nature despite their origins being both fallible and adorable.

  • Kobayashi’s decision to chill with Kanna draws ire from both Riko and Tohru, after Kobayashi wonders why all dragons manifest as attractive humans. When asked about what she looks like, the images of Kobayashi in dragon form are not particularly illuminating. It is common practise to drink cold milk after a soak in the hot springs, but during my trip to Japan, I did not bring any change with me for the vending machines, only having small bills the machines did not accept. However, I did have a bottle of cold water, and downed this in the blink of an eye, so I can attest to the refreshing properties of a cold beverage after exiting the onsen.

  • Because I was on a schedule, my next move was to hit the hay so as to be rested for the next day’s itinerary. The cast of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid have home field advantage: their vacation is the onsen, so they make use of the inn’s amenities, and play ping pong here. After a spirited match between Tohru and Elma, Riko and Kanna play a much slower match that Kobayashi enjoys watching.

  • Shouta immediately hits the hay after growing flustered upon seeing Quetzalcoatl and Elma. The same age as Riko and Kanna, Shouta is portrayed as being typical of boys his age – he is not so good with teasing, and earlier, storms off after Quetzalcoatl asks if he’s interested in a souvenir. Makoto has the sense to understand that Shouta was interested in the sword keychain and buys one for him.

  • While Riko and Kanna are fast asleep, Tohru and Kobayashi share another moment together. Compared to Kyoto Animation’s other works, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is comparatively simpler in terms of artwork; the impressive lighting and visual effects of things like Hibike! Euphonium or Violet Evergarden are absent, and the anime is more in line with the likes of Tamako Market in its design. However, the animation itself remains of a solid quality, and I imagine that Kyoto Animation carefully picks the appropriate level of detail for each anime that it does.

  • This is not to say that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has poor artwork: a look at the town by night shows that even while working in a simpler environment, Kyoto Animation nonetheless presents it in a rich, appropriate manner to best capture the emotions of a particular moment. The warm lights of the town here stand in contrast with the cool of the night, and sets the mood for a romantic exchange between Tohru and Kobayashi.

  • It turns out that Tohru had made chocolates properly for Kobayashi, and this time, Koyabashi decides that Tohru is being honest with her feelings in this exchange. Audiences will have also picked up on the differences – the Tohru trying to give the spiked chocolates away was more sly and mischievous, whereas here, Tohru exhibits the same nerves that might be seen when giving chocolates to one’s love interest.

  • Kobayashi accepts the gift and munches on the chocolates, before holding her hand out to Tohru and offering to walk back together to the inn. I realise that I am not particularly well-received in some places for my so-called refusal to address yuri in my discussion, and I’ve explained this previously – social and cultural ramifications are not quite as important for me when it comes to addressing this topic, and I only handle it if it is immediately relevant to a show. In shows where romance is present as a central part of or as a natural development in the plot, I will discuss it. However, where it is strictly used as humour (e.g. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and Harukana Receive, for instance), I will typically not go into further details.

  • It was a riot when Tohru asks Kobayashi whether or not this is the part where they breed. It’s the most open attempt from Tohru yet, and while Kobayashi is quick to shut things down, there is no exasperation or frustration. It is doubtful that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid would ever reach that level, keeping things PG and only hinting at Tohru’s want to take things up a notch for humour, but this is quite okay.

  • On the way, back, Kobayashi speaks with Makoto, thanking him for having organised the tour and feeling that with everyone together as often as they are now, they’ve become friends. It is true that since Tohru’s arrival, Kobayashi’s life has become rather more colourful and exciting: for the challenges dragons bring, they also introduce company and joy that has a nontrivial impact on Kobayashi. With this post as my last for the month, I note here that I’m now six posts away from reaching my next major milestone of one thousand posts, and that I’m opening October with a return to CLANNAD, kicking the party off with ~After Story~. Following my conclusion of the first season, I remarked that I would continue to write about CLANNAD if even one reader expressed interest.

One aspect of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid that I did not cover in great depth was the overt attraction Tohru has for Kobayashi: I do not give romantic love between female characters much consideration unless it is present in a way that affects the narrative. In the case of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, the absence of this romance would mean that notions of family and discovery would not be as straightforward. Often, the strong feelings in romance drive profound changes in individuals, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is convincing in using this as a reason for why Tohru and Kobayashi change over the course of the anime. Further to this, a lack of romance would deprive the series of its ability to convey humour: in its absence, many moments would feel much drier. With this being said, it is quite unnecessary to read too deeply into this; past discussions on romance from an academic perspective have proven to be, quite frankly, a waste of time that yielded little more than hurt feelings. I’m in the business of watching and enjoying anime, not persuading closed-minded people to stop attempting to treat every series as a work demanding literary analysis and comparison with classical Japanese, after all. We step away from this matter and note that the OVA for Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was released a shade more than a year ago, and with this OVA in the books, I imagine that this is the last time I will be writing about Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid in the foreseeable future.