The Infinite Zenith

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

Tag Archives: Weather

A Reflection on Winter Solstice 2017

“While I relish our warm months, winter forms our character and brings out our best.” –Tom Allen

Today is the shortest day of the year for folks in the Northern Hemisphere, marking the beginning of winter, the one season that Canada is best known for. A fresh snowfall has blanketed the area in a quiet covering of white, obscuring the landscape and giving the world a semblance to that of a blank canvas, ripe for exploration. Even though I’m not particularly fond of winter for its long hours of darkness and bitter cold, there is nonetheless a beauty to this season that makes it one that has its own merits. It’s a sign of my age that I’ve begun regarding winter in a new manner: I still vividly recall remarking that I had a deep-seated dislike of winter, but as I’ve collected the years, I’ve come to accept the positives there is in this season. For one, there is no other time of year better suited for making a hot chocolate and reading a good book while snow is falling outside. On Sunday, I celebrated the Dōngzhì Festival (冬至, jyutping dung1 zi3) with family: each of the chicken, crispy roast pork, shrimps and 東菇 have a symbolic meaning corresponding with good luck, so a traditional meal will feature these dishes. With winter now upon us, the days begin lengthening once again, although in Canada, the heart of winter only really begins in January, after the Christmas decorations are stowed away and folks begin returning to routine.

  • To give an idea of how long I’ve been around for, this is my nine hundredth post. This year, autumn’s been remarkably mild, and it’s actually felt like spring for much of the year. It’s only been in the past few days where the weather’s been more seasonal, and with the recent snowfall, it’s finally beginning to feel like Christmas outside. Christmas is fast approaching: work, however busy it has been, is winding down for the year, and I’m looking forwards to unwinding a little during the break upcoming. If the weather permits, I might close the year off with a trip into the mountains and soak in our equivalent of the onsen in Banff, but for now, on my horizons are a hockey game, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and a variety of other activities.

I’ve typically done blogging awards during the Winter Solstice, but this year, I’m mixing things up a little. For one, I’ve been relatively inactive in the anime blogging community. The reason for this is simple enough: after work, I’m now less inclined to write and prefer relaxing, so my blogging output this year has not been of the same quality as the content I’ve previously written. Site readership has correspondingly seen a decline, and unlike other bloggers out there, who’ve either superior dedication to their craft or multiple authors (or both), I’m finding it more difficult to keep up: after a day of implementing software, designing things, writing unit tests or sitting through meetings, it’s a challenge to summon the motivation to write when one would rather sit down and close one’s eyes, so I admit that the posts I’ve written this year certainly aren’t my best. There are days where I feel as though I’m reaching the upper limits for hard work can do. I am curious to hear what you, the reader, make of all this. How would you handle stress and motivate yourself when things get tough? Finally, I’d like to thank all of you, the readers, for sticking around and contributing to the discussions: it is quite certain that I would not be finding the motivation to write were it not for insightful remarks that you’ve provided. I am not quite ready to call it quits yet for the present, and folks who were doubtlessly hoping I pack it up will need to be a bit more patient – I am going to continue running this blog until Girls und Panzer: Das Finale comes to a close.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflections on the 2017 Summer Solstice

“I am a summer person.” —Elin Hilderbrand

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

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

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

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

More site awards on a Winter Solstice and the arrival of the 2016 winter season

“He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.” —John Burroughs

At my latitude today, there’s only seven hours fifty-four minutes and eighteen seconds worth of daylight; we get nearly double that during the summer months, and unsurprisingly, the shortest day of year marks the Winter Solstice for this year. Winter descends upon us, a season characterised by cold mornings, ice crystals and much cursing while trying to negotiate transportation systems en route to work. However, in equal measure, there’s the opportunity to sip cocoas, hike a hill after a fresh snowfall and those odd days when adiabatic warming results from föhn winds coming out from the West, bringing unexpected warmth to frigid days. The Winter Solstice corresponds with the Chinese Dongzhi (冬至) festival, which appears to have crept up on me this year in comparison with last year. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that the days have been a blur since I began working; Christmas will be upon us in mere days, and by this point in the game, I’m done Christmas shopping for the family. Hence, I look forwards to enjoying the Christmas holidays. I don’t have a Master Grade Gundam model to build this year, but I do have a lot of books to read (among them, A Sky Longing for Memories: The Art of Makoto Shinkai and Calvin and Hobbes: It’s a Magical World), plus a pile of games that I’d like to mess around with (including Battlefield 1, Deus Ex: Mankind DividedHalo Combat Evolved and Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader).

This post, however, is not entirely a report on Winter Solstice or what I plan to do with my winter holidays (à la a typical primary school assignment): as per its title, I have one other matter to deal with. Every so often, this blog is nominated for blog awards, and these pay-it-forward exercises are a fine opportunity to both answer questions from other bloggers that normally are not widely discussed, as well as figure out which blogs out there merit reading because they do something unique. This year, the blog was nominated for three separate awards by two different bloggers. I’ve gotten a second Sunshine Award from Yahari Bento, and from Crystal of Hooray for Something, I score a double kill with the Blogger Recognition and Unique Blogger Awards. I will first thank these two bloggers for their nomination, and secondly, remark that I have been horrendous when it comes to completing these posts in a timely fashion. This time, things are slightly different: I’ve gone ahead and completed the questions as stipulated by the awards, giving them their own separate pages. To access the pages for either award from anywhere in the site, the awards on this blog are tucked away under the “About Infinite Zenith” tab: hovering over the tab with one’s cursor with bring out a drop-down menu of all the blog awards I’ve got so far. With the bulk of the heavy lifting done, I will pick out five blogs each for the Blogger Recognition and Unique Blogger Award; I’ll deal with the Sunshine Award quite separately. Naturally, there are no obligations to complete these awards.

Unique Blogger Award

Blogger Recognition Award

Both awards ask for the recipient to thank the individual who nominated them. For folks looking at the Blogger Recognition Award, I believe this one is simple: provide a story of how your blog started and offer some advice for new bloggers. The Unique Blogger award leaves the floor open to the recipient for three questions, and I exercise that liberty here. If you choose to take on the Unique Blogger Award, here are your questions:

  1. Suppose you were offered a dream vacation to any destination in the world. Where would you go, and what factors generally drive where you decide you’d wish to go for vacations?
  2. The world is a remarkably cold and unfriendly place. What is a belief or idea that you hold that allows you to get out of bed each morning and face the world as best as you can?
  3. What was one anime that you’ve watched that left a non-trivial impact on your life, whether it be the way you interact with people, approach a problem or view the world?

I actually got off pretty easy from Crystal, whose questions were pretty straightforward to answer, but for my nominees, you will have no such luck. In the meantime, being inundated with other things, such as the Brave Witches discussion for the eleventh episode I’m scheduled to complete shortly, I will do as I’ve done last year. I will take a rain check on the actual task of writing the award pages themselves and redirect my attention back to the matter of the Brave Witches review.

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

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

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

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

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

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