The Infinite Zenith

Victory costs. Every time, you pay a little more.

Backstory and thoughts

Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) is one of the most well-known anime studios around, and was founded in 1981. Although KyoAni has only produced seven original series since their inception, they have contributed significantly to the production of several extremely well-known anime, with K-On and Suzumiya Haruhi no Yaatsu among some of the titles that they have produced. KyoAni products are of a fairly high quality (especially with respect to artwork and animation) and tend to focus on slice-of-life related elements. My interest in their works was piqued by a rather unusual source: an Otafest panel during 2010. After a bit of digging around the material a YouTube user posted, I decided to pick up Lucky Star. I would not be disappointed, as evidenced by the content of this page...

 

KyoAni produces anime that are oftentimes polarising in the anime community, especially with respect to the moé design of the characters. However, I consider myself to be separate from these communities, and as such, their opinions have little weight in figuring what I watch and don't watch. It's almost impossible to get a good assessment of the anime produced by KyoAni; regardless of whether that review came from a respected site or a more less well-known one, there is undoubtedly a certain degree of polarization; people either love their anime or hate it for their own reasons. However, the nature of the community should hardly be a factor in deciding the worth of an anime. I've mentioned this before, but I didn't show up to shamelessly praise or brutally stomp on a series: if it's here, I enjoyed it, and I'll be pointing out why I enjoyed it. From a personal standpoint, KyoAni anime are highly enjoyable to watch for character interactions and the animation quality itself. Simple and fun to watch, these series exemplify how light-hearted anime lacking a strong central story can nonetheless be extremely entertaining.

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CLANNAD

Okazaki Tomoya is a delinquent who finds life dull and believes he'll never amount to anything. Along with his friend Sunohara, he skips school and plans to waste his high school days away. One day while walking to school, Tomoya passes a young girl muttering quietly to herself. Without warning she exclaims "Anpan!" (a popular Japanese food) which catches Tomoya's attention. He soon discovers the girl's name is Furukawa Nagisa and that she exclaims things she likes in order to motivate herself. Nagisa claims they are now friends, but Tomoya walks away passing the encounter off as nothing.

Okazaki Tomoya is a delinquent who finds life dull and believes he'll never amount to anything. Along with his friend Sunohara, he skips school and plans to waste his high school days away.

One day while walking to school, Tomoya passes a young girl muttering quietly to herself. Without warning she exclaims "Anpan!" (a popular Japanese food) which catches Tomoya's attention. He soon discovers the girl's name is Furukawa Nagisa and that she exclaims things she likes in order to motivate herself. Nagisa claims they are now friends, but Tomoya walks away, passing the encounter off as nothing.

However, Tomoya finds he is noticing Nagisa more and more around school. Eventually he concedes and befriends her. Tomoya learns Nagisa has been held back a year due to a severe illness and that her dream is to revive the school's drama club. Claiming he has nothing better to do, he decides to help her achieve this goal along with the help of four other girls. As Tomoya spends more time with the girls, he learns more about them and their problems. As he attempts to help each girl overcome her respective obstacle, he begins to realise life isn't as dull as he once thought. 

CLANNAD- Personal Opinion

CLANNAD typically refers to the first of the two seasons produced by KyoAni. From hearing that producer alone, I find it unnecessary to review the visuals and music. Instead, this discussion will concern some elements found within CLANNAD that are worthwhile for those seeking an engaging drama. CLANNAD is broken up into two seasons: I will refer to the first simply as CLANNAD in my discussions. The first of the seasons is an introduction to the intricacies and depth that is found within the original visual novel and as such, focusses on character developement. It is titled after an interpretation of the Irish phrase 'clannad', which refers to family and friends. This forms the central foundation for both CLANNAD and its successor, CLANNAD After Story. Whereas the latter is family-driven, the first season is predominantly driven by the role of friends in an individual's live, and in particular, how friends can help individuals through a particularly difficult point in their lives. The family is the basic unit in society, being the closest form of interpersonal relationship amongst individuals. This is hardly surprising, since these are the people that one spends a vast majority of their lives with. It naturally follows that families provide support and assistance for individuals during difficult times; CLANNAD takes this premise and presents things from the perspective of an individual who lacks these connections.

Tomoya Okazaki is the individual in question, and is also the protagonist of the series. Tomoya has been labeled a delinquent, or a young person who defies authority due to his non-committal attitude towards school and general apathy towards living life; at the beginning of the story, he even hates the city he has lived in all his life where CLANNAD is set. He is very straightforward in his comments to others and will not hesitate to speak his mind, even if he comes off as rude during such times. Despite this, Tomoya is very loyal to his friends, and has been known to dedicate himself for those around him in need of help or support. He generally has a selfless personality and does not ask much from others in return for what he does for them. The anime was originally inspired by the visual novel, and as such, has distinct visual novel elements, especially with respect to the plot development. CLANNAD is told in a number of arcs; individual arcs focus on a specific character and their family central problems. As the story progresses, Tomoya and Nagisa helps that individual identify their problem and find means of solving it. These events allow Tomoya to appreciate the significance of personal bonds, while Nagisa develops a greater degree of courage. These interactions draw Tomoya and Nagisa closer with the other characters, eventually leading them to become friends. Each of these arcs are cleanly executed and resolved in a relatable fashion. While the arcs do not have any particularly profound elements, they are developed in such a way as to give them emotional weight and rationalise their significance to the story.

  • The CLANNAD anime was originally released by KyoAni in 2007. During that time, the anime was played in 480p on air, and so, did not appear anywhere near as glorious as it does here. Back in 2007, Gundam 00 was the only anime I was remotely interested in, but recently, the combination of curiosity and hardware has made it permissible to try and watch this series. Random Curiosity provides some of the only reasonable screenshots online for CLANNAD, but due to technical issues, they were never able to supply 720p images. I've stepped up to the plate here and have picked up a 720p version of CLANNAD.

  • CLANNAD initially is presented like a visual novel, although one is sitting back and watching it rather than playing it. Fuko's arc is one of the first side stories that are presented: while Tomoya's overall objective in this season is to help Nagisa restore the drama club, Tomoya also goes out of his way to help others: the number of people that Tomoya encounters is extensive and in the process of helping them, he gains several close friends in the process.

 

  • Tomoya, Fuko and Nagisa celebrate Kouko's pre-wedding at the high school by night. The next morning, only Nagisa and Tomoya remain. The wedding itself is ultimately hugely successful and ends off Fuko's arc. Even though Fuko is presenting as an immature character, her story is quite sad, as well, making this scene all the more poignant. There's simply so much in CLANNAD that it is remarkably difficult to choose just a handful of screenshots to represent the entire series. This is true in that the events occurring are quite intricate. Moreover, the settings are beautiful, as is typical of a KyoAni production.

 

  • In order from left to right, Kyou Fujibayashi, Tomoya Okazaki, Kotomi Ichinose, Nagisa Furukawa and Ryou Fujibayashi. Kotomi's arc is the second part of CLANNAD and focuses on her past friendship with Tomoya, as well as her final words to her parents before the latter's plane crash. CLANNAD is not a cheerful anime of the same mood as K-On! in that the show is plot driven. Despite the decidedly overwhelming ratio of female-to-male characters, this does not have any negative effect on the plot progression.

 

  • The Girl in the Imaginary World is a recurring theme across CLANNAD and CLANNAD After Story. The girl is left alone in a world devoid of any life and builds a robot out of scrap to accompany her. Each cell in these scenes are unique, giving rise to the super-fluid and clear movements the characters exhibit. CLANNAD must really be watched in HD in order for the quality to be appreciated.
  • CLANNAD ends on an incredible note, with Tomoya declaring his love for Nagisa after a successful show Nagisa puts on concerning the Girl from the Imaginary World. It is possible to leave CLANNAD off at that and walk away with a sense of a good story, but that's like finishing life at high school. For all readers, all After Story images are below, along with a separate review for After Story.

CLANNAD After Story- Personal Opinion

CLANNAD After Story is an instance where the sequel turns out to surpass and outperform everything that its successor had already excelled at. Reviews out there score After Story as a masterpiece, and for good reason: After Story is a subtle reminder to be thankful for the countless blessings that one encounters in life, and that there is hope even when all lights fade. Whereas CLANNAD is about the role of friendship as a support measure and their significance, After Story is predominantly about family, ranging from the defining moments to the simpler, subtle details one encounters in their day-to-day experiences. In order to direct the story along this path, After Story does something none of the anime I've previously seen do: it depicts Tomoya's life following high school and his passage from being a student to a member of society. Following graduation, Tomoya initially works at the Furakawa's bakery and later becomes an electrician. His marriage to Nagisa and the trials the two go through are consistent with reality: rather than simply making things work out like in a classic fairy tail, After Story directs the plot in a direction to drive home the point that life is not sunshine and rainbows. Over the years that follow, viewers see Tomoya doing his utmost to overcome his problems, and when he finds himself incapable, others take the helm. After Story is abtly named, being the continuation of a story following the original story.

With this in mind, the first half to After Story is structured similarly to CLANNAD in that it is still set in high school. It is nothing spectacular- it is precisely becuase of this gradual transition into adulthood that Tomoya's experiences become more human and easier to relate to. There is one particular point about Tomoya's character that is worth mentioning: his willingness to accept his shortcomings and continue taking care of Ushio is perhaps the most poignant and significant action within After Story, by far being more significant than any death, break-up or backstory for one reason alone. Tomoya demonstrates exemplary responsibility by admiting his faults and making the decision to set things right; while he and Ushio are initially distant, Tomoya comes to realise what it means to be a father. Thus, he is simutaneously able to come to terms with his own father and also accepts gratefully the responsibility of being a good father to Ushio. Tomoya does indeed neglect to take care of Ushio early on, but his desire to do so after they reunite is the key point: this is the responsibility that all parents should uphold. This is the single most profound standing point in CLANNAD After Story and alone makes the sequel worth watching; other viewers have found CLANNAD After Story to be a life changing experience, being similar to an epithany of sorts. While I myself cannot consider this to hold true for anything I watch, such recollections bear testament to the kind of emotions that a sufficiently well-made anime can invoke in its users.

  • CLANNAD After Story resumes where the first season left off: by this point in time, Nagisa and Tomoya are dating. There are three major arcs in After Story: the first concerns Youhei Sunohara and his sister Mei, the second is about Misae's past love with Katsuki, and the final story is Yukine's resolution of a long-standing rivalry between the city's two major gangs. These stories are unique in their own right and distinctly have a similar feel to the first season.

  • With those similarities in mind, it is not difficult to see that After Story is a gradual transition from the relatively carefree period of high school to the more challenging stage called adulthood. After he graduates from high school, Tomoya works briefly as a clerk for the Furukawas before taking up a job as an electrician with Yusuke. During this period, he learns of Yusuke's past, and continues to learn his trade to bring home the bacon. Nagisa's graduation concludes the high school side of things: she marries Tomoya and the two decide to have a child. 

  • CLANNAD is perhaps one of the only anime out there that seamlessly integrates comedy, such as Nagisa getting wasted by a single sip of sake and her subsequent actions, and drama that is poignant yet realistic all within the span of one episode. CLANNAD was one of those anime where I found myself watching multiple episodes on end, cycling to the next episode after the current one had ended. I can only image what it must've been like in 2007, to be awaiting the next week's episodes after the current one had ended on a cliffhanger.

  • The entire relevant cast is here, so I'm going to go ahead and name all the characters. From Left to right, from back to front, we have Misae, Tomoyo, Ryou, Aiko, Tomoya, Yukine, Kyou, Nagisa, Kotomi and Youhei. There are a lot of characters to keep track of in CLANNAD: the fact that I'm able to name all of them and spell their names correctly is somewhat ironic, given that I have trouble remembering names in reality.

  • The second half of After Story is stated as "effectively builds up and delivers its emotional appeal, reinforces the series' central theme (i.e. the importance of family), and peaks visually," and concluding that "only the most cynical of souls will avoid shedding at least a few tears at certain points" by Anime News Network. This pretty much sums up all of the viewer's perspectives about the anime. From this statement, we have the claim that those who don't cry have cynical souls. Therefore, it follows that I'm not cynical.

  • No review is complete without discussion about Ushio, Tomoya and Nagisa's daughter. After giving birth to her, Nagisa dies. This deeply saddened Tomoya to the point where he gave up raising Ushio and left her to the care of Akio and Sanae. Tomoya resorted to alcohol and cigarettes to ease depression. Five years later, Sanae arranged a trip for Tomoya and Ushio in hope that they will be together again. During the trip, Tomoya met his grandmother, Shino, and learnt about his father's past, as well as the sacrifices he made for Tomoya, which leads him to regret his actions. This led Tomoya to raise Ushio and acknowledge Naoyuki as his father. Shortly after Tomoya sets things right, Ushio is stricken with the same disease as Nagisa. Despite the efforts and sacrifices of Tomoya, Akio, and Sanae, Ushio's fever never subsides but worsens. In the coming winter, being filled with desperation of wanting to do anything for Ushio, Tomoya brings her for a trip, but she falls unconscious and dies shortly thereafter along with her father who succumbed to his grief. Ushio is then revealed to be the girl in the illusionary world of her parents dreams. At the end of the anime, Tomoya's past acts of kindness restores everything, allowing Ushio to live happily with her parents; she does not suffer from her mother's sickness at the ending.

  • Aside from the overarching theme of family, CLANNAD also gives not-so-subtle overtones about kindness in general. The Cantonese have a saying, "好心得好報", that is roughly equivalent to the Western phrase "what goes around comes around". The ending is perhaps the only point of contention for CLANNAD fans. I have my own interpretation of the ending that is rather more consistent with what is observed, although not everyone may accept this as fact. I see the ending as the path taken in reality: during Ushio's birth, Tomoya's stress causes him to temporarily lose consciousness and succumb to a similar kind of vision he experienced when Misae was recounting her own story. Individuals in dream sequences in reality often experience between several hours to several days worth of events in a span as little as ten minutes: coupled with the town's supernatural background, it is possible that this was stretched further. Thus, in the anime, Nagisa and Ushio's deaths can be considered frightening visions of the future. These intense emotions incurred during the dream-sequence are imparted in Ushio, who is left with traces of these emotions as memory. This is a possibility only in the anime: Nagisa and Ushio will be lost if the player cannot complete the game objectives in the visual novel.
  • Those who've stuck it out and watched all 49 episodes of CLANNAD (44 episodes plus five OVAs) can attest to the fact that CLANNAD and CLANNAD After Story is considered one of the best anime of all time for good reason. For those who have yet to watch the series, or are reading this review and wondering whether or not the series is worthwhile, I can summarise my entire discussion as follows: watch it. Sure, it's 49 episodes, and sure, all of this will require 20 GB of hard disk space if one choose to download it in the minimum quality of 720p (about 2 hours and 20 minutes to download at a steady 2.5 MB/s), but it is entirely worthwhile. The innumerable positive reviews out there can't be all wrong.

Kanon

As a young child, Aizawa Yuuichi had often visited his cousin in the city. However, something drastic happened to keep him away for seven long years. Now, Yuuichi returns, his memories of those days are simply gone. Settling into the wintry town, Yuuichi comes across several young girls, all of whom are connected to his past. As he befriends them and continues to interact with them, the long forgotten memories from his childhood begin to resurface.

As a young child, Aizawa Yuuichi had often visited his cousin in the city. However, something drastic happened to keep him away for seven long years. Now, Yuuichi returns, his memories of those days are simply gone. Settling into the wintry town, Yuuichi comes across several young girls, all of whom are connected to his past. As he befriends them and continues to interact with them, the long forgotten memories from his childhood begin to resurface.
As a young child, Aizawa Yuuichi had often visited his cousin in the city. A friendly and outgoing character, something drastic happened to keep him away for seven long years. Now, Yuuichi returns, his memories of those days are simply gone. Settling into the wintry town, Yuuichi comes across several young girls, all of whom are connected to his past. As he befriends them and continues to interact with them, the long forgotten memories from his childhood begin to resurface. Yuichi Aizawa is the main protagonist of Kanon.
 
Personal Opinion
 
Kanon was released in 2006 and pre-dates most of my history with anime. However, that is not to say that Kanon is not worthwhile because quite frankly, any claims that Kanon disappoints in any way, shape or form can easily be dispelled by simply watching it. Similar to CLANNAD, Kanon was originally a visual novel and as such, the plot progression makes Kanon feels distinctly like a visual novel where I am permitted to sit back and enjoy things as they happen. Kanon excels at presenting its story, elaborating on all of the characters with sufficient depth such that viewers sympathise with them at all points in the story. Underlying all these seemingly unrelated character are their commonalities in having a distinct, unique favoruite food: Ayu (taiyaki), Nayuki (strawberries), Makoto (nikuman), Shiori (ice cream), and Mai (gyudon). These aspects bring the characters to life and signify the value of the simple things, an idea that probably extends to the other thematic element, namely, amnesia. In Kanon, the amnesia is seemingly induced by supernatural factors and drives the plot: as the protagonist, Yuuichi, gets to know each of the girls better, he begins to understand the circumstances that led to the world as he would find it upon moving back into this town. The intrinsic elements in Kanon were accentuated by KyoAni's re-adaptation, and in doing so, led to the production of perhaps one of the most memoriable anime of the decade. Kanon is ultimately a solid, well-crafted anime about experience and reality, as Yuuichi comes to terms with his past through his experiences in the present through self-contained story arcs involving each of the different heroines. As for the glaring bit of deus ex machina in the anime's finale, that may be overlooked owing to the supernatural aspects present within the anime.
 
 
  • Ayu is the main heroine in Kanon; Yuuichi meets her on the day after he moves to the city depicted in the game. As the story progresses, Yuuichi discovers that she is trying to find something she lost, but she cannot remember what it is; Yuuichi tries to help her in her search, but with no initial success. One of her most defining characteristics is the repeated utterance of her catch phrase uguu (うぐぅ) which she mutters as an expression of various negative emotions such as frustration, anger, and fear.
 
  • Sayuri Kurata and Mai Kawasumi at their high school's winter ball. Sayuri is the daughter of a wealthy family, and always tries to smile and help others. Sayuri cares very deeply about Mai, as it shows since they not only hang out together constantly, but Sayuri will get worried if Mai is in trouble; she also never forgets Mai's birthday. Sayuri, as with Ayu and Makoto, has a quirk; when she laughs, she voices a distinct ahaha. Sayuri always addresses herself in the third person due to an event in her past. Mai is a third-year student of the same high school that Yuichi goes to. Yuichi eventually starts bringing her dinner at the school while she is fighting and during these times Mai begins to warm up to Yuichi. Mai's idiosyncrasy is her unwillingness to carry on a conversation or even to merely utter the meekest of responses when addressed. Due to this, and her reputation as someone who causes trouble, she is most often avoided when at school, and is talked about behind her back.

  • Shiori Misaka is a first-year student who has suffered from an illness since birth. Her affliction has caused her to become very physically weak, and is almost always absent from school because of it. She loves drama and is always inventing reasons for things that happen in her life, but the real-life drama of a sister who denies her and a life threatened by illness is encroaching on her. Sick as she is, Shiori thinks nothing of sitting outside the school for hours on end while eating ice cream in the middle of winter, despite Yuichi telling her several times to go home and rest. A week before Shiori's birthday, she gets permission from her doctor to attend school for a week just like a normal student. Even after getting the chance to go to school for a week, Kaori still avoids Shiori as much as she can, not wanting to have to experience the pain that Shiori's death will bring if she ends up dying. After a kiss between the two, Shiori falls unconscious in Yuichi's arms; in the 2006 anime series, she leaves to get a drink and disappears. After this point, Shiori is taken back to the hospital and Kaori does not come to school during this time. At the end of the story, Shiori miraculously heals and is not in danger of dying any more. She confesses to Yuichi in tears that she never wanted to die, and that she was only trying to be strong during those difficult times.

  • Nayuki Minase is Yuichi's cousin and adores strawberry sundaes. Nayuki is a heavy sleeper, which has led her to collect dozens of alarm clocks; they do not work on her, but instead wake Yuichi every morning. Since she has such trouble waking up, she is always running for school and is in fact the school's star runner because of this. Similarly, she became the captain of the school's female track team despite being in her second year. She takes a long time to get up in the morning and will pass out several times in the morning, even while standing, before completely waking up. Despite her attempts to stay conscious, she still tends to fall asleep a lot in class.
  • Makoto is a young girl who is afflicted by severe amnesia of a supernatural origina. Makoto has a mischievous personality, which leads to her performing various pranks. These are done exclusively on Yuichi because of her strong dislike for him, something she constantly reaffirms. As time passes and Makoto begins to feel more as a member of the Minase family rather than a stranger, she honestly grows to like Yuichi, effectively looking beyond her latent distaste for him. She feels sad that pets sometimes are abandoned when their owners cannot take care of them. Due to this attitude, it takes her a while to warm up to a stray cat she finds halfway through her story which Yuichi later names Piro. Makoto is shown to love Piro very much and often carries the cat around on her head. Makoto is in fact, a fox that Yuichi found ten years ago on Monomi Hill.  At the end of summer break, Yuichi takes the fox back to the hill, and he runs away soon after releasing her, leading her to be angry with Yuichi. With her desire to see Yuichi being so strong, her wish was granted at the cost of her memories and later her life. The two later reunite after the fox transforms into Makoto near the start of Kanon.

  • Now that I've introduced all of the major players in the game, it becomes immediately apparent that Kanon is a complex, multi-layered story. Owing to practical issues, I was not able to get a single screenshot with all the characters together, perhaps marking the first time I haven't been able to do so for a slice-of-life anime.
  • This may as well be my room minus the table in the middle of the room and the small pot plant beside the bed. The stereo to the left is quite similar to my own, except mine is black and possesses a dock for iPods. Music plays a major role in Kanon, with the anime itself named after Pachebel In D. All of the episodes in the KyoAni version involve some sort musical terminology.

  • From left to right, Nayuki, Jun Kitagawa, Kaori Misaka and Yuuichi. Jun is distinctly reminiscent of Sunohara from CLANNAD in appearance and manner, befriending Yuuichi near the start of the series.

  • Yuuichi's daily routine is a curious one: he starts the day with Nayuki, hangs out with Mai and Sayuri or Shiori during lunch, and encounters Ayu at the end of the day. I was particularly impressed with the level of detail that went into the conception of each of the character's backstory, and perhaps rightly, the decision to gradually reveal Yuuichi's own past adds to the strength inherent in Kanon's plot execution. 

  • Despite being Canadian and thus, occasionally citing that -16 Celsius in the absence of wind chill to be comfortable, I dislike winter to some extent owing to the grey and cloudy skies my area is typically under. That said, having watched Kanon, I appreciate winter a little more: the entirety of the anime is set during winter and gives the anime a more distant, melancholic feel to it compared to CLANNAD and CLANNAD After Story.
 
  • Kanon never really struck me as a love story as much as it was a story about coming to terms with the past through making meaningful things happen in the present. This theme is embodied by Yuuichi and Ayu's relationship. Seven years before the story begins, Ayu had fallen out of a tree and hit her head on the last day Yuichi was going to be in town. At first, he believes she died, but Akiko reveals she is in the hospital and has been in a coma for the past seven years. The Ayu Yuichi has been meeting in town is actually an astral projection of herself. In an epilogue, she breaks out of her coma, and gets her hair inadvertently cut too short when she goes to a barber shop, leading him to comment as he did before how much she looks like a boy.

  • Kanon is the precursor to CLANNAD and thus, it can be said that CLANNAD possesses some elements from Kanon, specifically, an emotional story set in a beautiful location of thematic significance. I had picked up Kanon after finishing CLANNAD and found it to be on par with CLANNAD in terms of quality. The advantage to watching Kanon nearly six years after its release gives me one distinct advantage: it took merely two hours to get 9.71 GB of 720p anime. If the anime looked beautiful back in 2006 in 480p, it has been surpassed by the HD version.

K-On!

During Yui Hirasawa's first year in high school, she searches eagerly for a club to join. At the same time, Ritsu Tainaka, a drummer, and her friend Mio Akiyama, a bassist, are desperately trying to save the school's light music club, which is about to be disbanded due to lack of members. They manage to recruit Tsumugi Kotobuki to play the keyboard, meaning they only need one more member to get the club running again. Yui joins, thinking it will be an easy experience for her to play the castanets, the only instrument she knows. However, the other members think their new addition is actually a guitar prodigy. When the final year of high school rolls around for Yui Hirasawa (guitar), Ritsu Tainaka (drums), Mio Akiyama (bass), and Tsumugi Kotobuki (keyboard), together with their junior member Azusa Nakano (guitar), they spend their days after school in the music room enjoying tea and sweets, and practicing music. Amidst band practice, preparations for the new student orientation performance, scouting for new members, and student responsibilities they still have time for "After School Tea Time".

Personal Opinion

One of the most noticeable aspects of K-On! that is perhaps an unexpected factor was the degree of character development each of these individuals received. Each character begins with the classic archetypes, but as the series progresses, each gradually acquires uniquely-defining traits. When coupled with the series' depiction of friendship, the subtle and dynamic nature means that the particularly emotional scenes are far more effective without relying on excessive drama. In general, the art in the series adds an additional degree of depth to the series, and while the cinematography is at times limited (i.e. animating the more intricate details of the girls playing their instruments), the methods nonetheless give rise to a sense of creativity when we consider how camera angles are used to depict the various moments. Despite being a well-done anime series, there exist many individuals who dislike this series owing to its premise. I full well understand that K-On! is a moé series, which simply means that particular emphasis is paid to making the characters appear more endearing to the audiences. While K-On! does take this to new heights, this factor alone is simply a style of storytelling and insufficient to make the series unwatchable. K-On! stands exceedingly well on its own merits, although not every individual out there shares this perspective. As a bioinformatian who is dealing with algorithms and gene sequencing problems on a daily basis, it is refreshing to be able to watch an anime that puts a smile on my face.

 

  • K-On! is a unique anime series focussed on music: it is appropriate that I came across this series while looking for worthwhile anime music to complement my library. The storyline of K-On! centres around a high school's light music band, and their experiences together, especially with respect to the girls' time together. In this sense, the anime is about how individuals can create memories of their times together more than the music. The first season is the shorter half, focussing on how a band forms and how the characters grow as time progresses. The second season is a full-fledged series and concerns the matters of separation as high school ends and everyone begins to find their own purpose in the world. 
  • The story of how I came to know and enjoy K-On! is a rather curious one. I originally found out about K-On! through a chance search on YouTube for Gundam 00 parodies. I subsequently went and downloaded all of the inset songs, which triggered my curiosity for the series when I wanted to understand the context behind the music. This is, of course, consistent with how I attain much of my anime: I always end up downloading the music first, being inspired by the music, and then downloading the series.

 

  • The main characters (left to right): Ritsu Tainaka, Mio Akiyama, Yui Hirasawa, Nodoka Manabe and Tsumugi Kotobuki. Here, they are shown to be comparing test scores following an exam, and to everyone's surprise, Yui manages to pwn everyone else. Yui is shown to be eccentric and lazy, but she is also extremely determined. She has shown herself to be successful at whatever she puts her mind to.
  • The reason behind K-On!'s success in markets has everything to do with its presentation of the character's lives. I've read many vehement reviews (which I will not link to here) about how moé ruins anime, how K-On! lacks depth compared to other anime and so fourth. I present the counterargument that K-On! was never meant to be a deep, live changing anime. Instead, it aims to amuse the viewers; it performs admirably well in this department.
  • The gang stop at Home Depot to buy stuff for a project. I remember many years ago, I was participating in a overnight stay with my junior high's band. I was once a clarinet player, and had some skill with a trumpet. At any rate, a friend of mine bought a hat exactly like this one, and used it for the exact same purpose until a less patient classmate decided to end the light's career.
  • Yui's antics drive the comedic value behind some of the scenes in K-On!, sharply contrasting the demeanour of Ui, her younger sister. The latter is mature, skilled at various household chores and cares very deeply for Yui; Yui and Ui get along as well as any siblings can. This warm relationship forms the basis for one of my favourite songs from the series: U & I.

  • Sawako Yamanaka fulfils the role of the energetic and somewhat immature instructor. Her interactions with the students are hilarious to behold; she is a serious instructor at times and is willing to help her students out, while at other times, she is prone to the same child-like behaviours that even Mio is not immune to. One of the jokes throughout the series is her past ties to a Death Metal band; despite her best efforts to remain pure and conceal this, word of this shame always leaks out, with humorous effect.

  • Mio Akiyama is K-On!'s resident tsukkomi, being mature and strict in contrast to Ritsu. She is extremely shy and plays the bass because of her preference to not occupy the centre stage. Mio absolutely despises horror and graphic violence, being reduced to tears everytime something horrific is mentioned. Her shyness is her main limitation: despite being highly talented as a bassist, actor and student, she prefers to do things behind the scenes rather than occupying the spotlight.
  • When you render dessert items at 1080p, the results are spectacular. The band the girls participate in is called Afterschool Tea Time (放課後ティータイム), named in a hasty decision by Sawako after the girls' indecision in season one. The name is rather appropriate, as we see them enjoying a cup of tea and sweets more than they practise; this is a consequence of Mugi's parents owning a cafe, resulting in her always having desserts and tea to bring. At the ESD lab, one of the graduate researchers has a particular taste for tea: he has all the utilities required to brew speciality tea.
  • While Azumanga Daioh brings me on a trip down memory lane about high school, K-On! illustrates the kind of closeness people form when their interests are similar and they participate in an organisation with some sort of goal in mind. It follows that K-On! is a reminder of my own participation in the LINDSAY Virtual Human; whether it be coding out new tools for the simulator or hanging out with the team, these experiences form highly pleasant memories.
  • I'm currently enrolled in an introductory Japanese course as an open option, which I chose for several reasons. Aside from my desire to learn more about the language (and its usage) itself and its relation to Chinese, I felt it would be nice to have another language that I had some formal understanding of, as watching anime really doesn't constitute as experience. At any rate, I've memorised most of the hiragana, enough to romanise the characters in the image above as "Ke-i-o-n-bu". 

  

  • K-On is the Japanese translation of "Light Music", but approximates better to pop music. Hokago Tea Time (the name of their band) only plays a few songs throughout the series. When I looked at the lyrics to each of the songs, I found that they were fairly simplistic and very literal with their meaning (rather like the pop music here in North America). However, these same lyrics have a powerful meaning when one takes it in the context in which it was written: I don't mind admitting that I was in tears listening to some of their performances. As much as I try to keep an open mind, I do not believe the same applies to North American teen pop artists, which seem far more superficial and lacking any genuine emotion.

K-On! Movie

As Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi try to think of a present to give to Azusa before they graduate, they all decide to go to London for their graduation trip. Upon arriving, they end up having to give a performance at a sushi restaurant after being mistaken for Ritsu's friend's band, Love Crisis. As the girls enjoy the sights, Azusa seems to be rather cautious around Yui's odd behavior, having almost walked in on their plans before. Later, the girls are asked to do a performance for a Japanese Pop Culture Fair, where they are soon joined by Sawako, before they catch their flight back to Japan. Upon returning home, the girls perform a special live concert in their classroom. Afterwards, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi work in secret to prepare a special song for Azusa, which they present to her on the day of their graduation.

Personal Opinion 

The K-On! Movie remains one of the most anticipated movies of 2011, although for logistical reasons, also holds the distinction of being one of the more anticipated movies of 2012. This is for a good reason: the movie essentially amplifies everything that made the TV series so successful and is, for the lack of a more suitable term, awesome. The entire plot (and its execution) in the K-On! is straightforward: Hokago Tea Time go to London and write a song for Azusa. The character dynamics, coupled with everyday events like going to an airport, exploring a foreign nation and playing things by ear, lend a considerable amount of comedy to the movie. Character dynamics have formed the bulk of the plot in the conventional TV series and continues to do so; indeed, the movie feels a lot like an extended TV episode. However, movies have a greater degree of freedom in setup with respect to context. In this case, the girls set out on a trip to London, England (not London, Ontario). While this is initially done as a pretext to conceal the fact that they are trying to get a gift for Azusa, the trip becomes reality. The majority of the movie is focussed on the girls exploring various aspects of London, and returns to Japan in the final act of the movie as they finalize their graduation gift for Azusa. Thus, the movie can be seen as being broken into three distinct acts: the prelude going to London, exploration of London and finally, the preparations to give Azusa her gift. Finally, the animation deserves special mention; while viewers have come to expect high quality work from KyoAni, the K-On! Movie is animated a step above its TV counterparts, featuring more innovative camera effects in addition to the subtleties and contributes to the sense that this really is a movie and not merely a 2-hour special; with sweeping angles, viewers are treated to a sense of immersiveness that even the TV series did not evoke.

The opening act is executed in the familiar manner viewers have come to expect from K-On! and is centred around the carefree atmosphere surrounding the girls as they both struggle to decide on a suitable gift for Azusa and prepare for their trip to London. Once the logistics are setup, they arrive at the airport and immediately set about doing ordinary things with the Hokago Tea Time flair. Thus, viewers will note their own amusement at watching Yui and Ritsu mess around with the moving walkways, and Mio's overwhelming sense of awe at the sight of commercial aircraft. The flight to London is equally as enjoyable to watch, especially with respect to Yui and Azusa's attempts at wielding English. However, things really pick up once the girls arrive in London. Their limited English does not prevent them from enjoying the scenery in London to the fullest extent possible. Their travels set to a montage, some may find this scene a little rushed, reflecting on the sense of time during a vacation in a foreign nation, capturing not only the excitement and unfamiliarity surrounding travel in an overseas nation, but also how much of a blur things seem to go when one is having a good time in general. With this pacing in mind, no attention is spared to the details of the landmarks and settings the girls visit. It is clear that the K-On! movie goes to great lengths to capture these emotions and ultimately succeeds; one of the more subtle elements involves the choice to request native British English speakers to take on the role of the British citizens. In the original theatrical film, their dialogue lacked subtitles. These scenes prove easy enough to understand for native English speakers, but those unfamiliar with the language will probably be just as lost as the girls (except Mio, who demonstrates a reasonable level of skill in comprehension) as they try to talk with hotel staff and restaurant management. The language barrier sets up for an unusual turn of events: performances in London venues. Despite the context shifting so dramatically (and being somewhat unrealistic), the girls rise to the occasions magnificently and put on spectacular performances. These lapses in reality remind the audience that the movie is indeed fiction and that out-of-this-world stuff is possible. In the movie's context, it gives the girls an opportunity to perform in a foreign locale, while simultaneously reflecting how "Hokago Tea Time will always be Hokago Tea Time".

The final act returns the girls to Japan and with it, an overlap between the movie and the TV series, presenting the same events from a different angle. From the TV series, we note that Yui is running late on the day of graduation, but the reason is not explicitly stated. The movie then tells us that Yui is, in fact, trying to finalise Tenshi ni Fureta yo. From a personal standpoint, the final act is reminiscient of software development in that it shows the viewers how song development progresses, as well as how sometimes, inspiration can stem from the most unusual of places. The analogy is that people end up seeing the final product in all its glory (as well as its flaws) without seeing how the product reached its final state. In seeing Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi build this song, the extent of their feelings for Azusa become immediately clear and serves as the most natural, logical conclusion to the entire series. The K-On! Movie is ultimately successful for the same reasons that the TV series was so successful: it depicts a school trip in a polished, clean manner and accentuates the idea that the memories that an event has the potential to be arises not from the event itself, but rather, the people one participates in said event with. At this point in time, I can safely say that all the K-On! fans have already watched and enjoyed the movie, so no recommendations for them need to be made. However, the movie's plot is sufficiently standalone and focussed such that first-time anime fans might find this to be a suitable gateway into anime.

  • Representing a break from habit, this review will feature 30 images to keep the articles concise and to the point while simutanously showing off enough of the movie. The K-On! Movie was nominated for the 2011 Best Animation Award, but the title eventually went to the Ghibli production "From Up on Poppy Hill". I have yet to actually finish the movie, but from what I've seen of it insofar, it's spectacular. That said, this is a review about the K-On! Movie, so that's what I'll return my attention to. 

 

  • Mio expresses pure joy after Ton-chan, their soft-shelled turtle, chooses London as the destination for their graduation trip. Mio remains my favourite character for her mannerisms: I think I've discussed all the characters before, but for newcomers,I suppose I'll reintroduce everyone. From left to right, we have Tsumugi Kotobuki, Ritsu Tainaka, Mio Akiyama, Yui Hirasawa and Azusa Nakano.
  • Normally, one would probably go with a tour group if it's there first time visiting a foreign nation. Then Mio's desire to visit the homes of famous British musician leads the clerk to recommend independent travel.

 

  • The K-On! Movie depicts the atmosphere surrounding vacations with superb accuracy. Ui's pragmatism shine through yet again when she helps Yui pack a variety of non-perishable food items. The wisdom of doing so comes later; I believe that as per current policy, non-perishable food items are permitted in large items. The girls also bring their instruments with them. For Air Canada, larger instruments must be checked in as checked baggage and be stored in a rigid container. Moreover, most airlines will not accept liability for damaged instruments.

 

  • Yui heads off at the break of dawn. The Hirasawas can be clearly seen in this image: I'm not particularly sure why so much commotion was raised within the community about the Hirasawas, but for the purposes of discussion, yes, they do make an appearance within the movie.

 

  • K-On! is particularly well-known for its depiction of everyday activities, bringing out the intricacies and even joys of subtle, seemingly ordinary things. After nearly 6 months since the "Plans" episode, the culmination of everyone's efforts and planning come together.
  • I remember once, on a flight from Vancouver to Beijing, the two flights were spaced six hours apart. I arrived at 0000 Pacific time, and spent several hours trying to sleep on benches in the concourse until our gate opened at 0500.
  • I believe they're travelling on a Boeing 777, a commercial wide-body jet liner that is typically used for intercontinental flights. My question for viewers is now: how much 'cute' can you stomach for the next few minutes?
  • Sunrise at thirty thousand feet is beautiful. Incidentally, a fair number of people have made queries as to why aircraft travel along a curved trajectory when making intercontinental flights. The answer is that the curvature in the route results from the projection onto a straight map: by geometry, the shortest distance is a straight line between the two destinations projected into a spherical surface. Flying in a straight line on an ordinary map would result in a greater distance travelled, increasing travel time and fuel costs. 

 

  • When I partake in trans-continental flights, I have my music with me, and will typically sleep half the distance. Flights to Beijing and Seoul typically will require 10-12 hours: assuming one is running their iPods for music most of the way, the batteries should last the duration of the flight. For sharp-eyed viewers, the aircraft's flight system miscalculates the ground speed: it is given as 953 km/h, but the screen in-show displays 592 mph. Therefore, they are either travelling at 597 mph (if we go by the Japanese display) or 947 km/h (if we go by the English text scrolling below). All of the other units are correctly converted.
  • In K-On!, things like moving walkways become objects of amusement. After retrieving their luggage and passing through customs, Mio becomes fixated on the surroundings and takes pictures of random stuff, including a sign that indicates an Airline lounge for Air Canada. Canada is mentioned in K-On!? Awesome.

 

  • I've jumped ahead a little after the girls arrive in London. At this point, the girls appear to have checked into the wrong Ibis Hotel; their reservation is for Ibis Earl's Court, but they're at the London City branch here. Here, we really get to see everyone attempt to wield the English language to clear things up, but even Mugi finds it too difficult to understand. Fortunately, Mio is able to understand everything. I recall that in the original theatres, the English dialogue was not subtitled. Just to make sure any readers who still visit this website don't miss anything, I'll be posting a screenshots post to my blog later for the London side of the trip. Some duplicate images exist, of course.

 

  • A double decker bus can be seen in the background. There is indeed a lot of stuff that happens very quickly once the girls arrive in London. For now, they must make their way to the Ibis Earl's Court, and opt to do so by the London Underground. Along the way, they purchase new shoes for Azusa. Here's another protip for travelling: bring comfortable shoes.

 

  • Language barriers in reality lead to crazy stuff going down, whether it is a mistransaction or timing error. In K-On!, it leads to being asked to play at a local sushi bar. Yui wishes to eat something, but the band gets drafted into playing music. Despite being totally confused, their performance is nonetheless impressive. However, for Yui, the sushi was a lie. The food that Ui packed earlier proves to be immensely useful.

 

  • Back in February, K-On! fans began flocking to London for the sole purpose of visiting the Troubadour Café simply because the girls visited it. The cafe itself is depicted to offer excellent fare; while some anime sites claim that visiting K-On! fans boost the local economy, this year is the London 2012 Olympics, so I'm sure that the visitors will most likely be visiting for Olympic-relevant events. Below, I've presented some of the locations that are visited during the montage.
  • Having never been to London myself, I am nonetheless impressed with the sheer amount of detail that went into each scene. Several well-known locations, such as Big Ben, the London Eye and the Tower Bridge are depicted with great realism. I was hoping that the SIS Building, home of the MI6 Agency, would be shown, as well, but sadly, the building was not shown. 
  • There are a lot of locations the girls visit in London: I have amassed a collection of scenery screenshots back at the blog. As per the usual standards of quality, all images are 1080p. The presence of screenshots I have here is precisely why I've been waiting for the DVD/BD release to post a review: most of the reviews posted by individuals immediately after the movie released possessed multiple errors. By waiting for a DVD/BD release, I can recall specific details far more readily and provide a more accurate assessment on the content within the media.
  • London Police are locally known as "Bobbies": one is depicted here, guarding the entrance to a building. This is quite similar to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who also stand unsmiling while tourists take pictures with them.
  • Abbey Road was made famous by the Beetles in their 1969 Album of the same name. In the movie, this is a "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" moment.
  • I'm almost inclined to believe that Hokago Teatime lifted their logo straight from Java. Among the more amusing points in the movie is the group walking into a cafe for High Tea, only to find out that they needed a reservation. 
  • Ritsu's face totally has "we came here to see a rock?" written all over it. The significance of this stone here is that it is more or less the same one duplicated by the Occult Club, and was used to substitute for Juliet's grave in their school's performance of Romeo and Juliet.

 

  • Hokago Tea Time perform Fuwa Fuwa Time and Gohan wa Okazu at a London Japanese Cultural Festival. The movie has four performances altogether, all of which involve such classics as Curry nochi rice and U & I. Sawako-sensei appears here to help the girls out, having flown to London using saved AirMiles. I love the sweeping camera angles used in the movie: the panning over locales give the movie a theatrical feel and is in fact reminiscent of the camera techniques used in Gundam Cnicorn.

 

  • "E.T.A. on the taxi's at least a half hour, Yamanaka Sensei." "No good. We've missed our flight for ten minutes by then." "Hokago Teatime, be advised we're almost there but we're low on fuel. You guys have three minutes before we have to leave without you, Over." The LZ is too hot" At least, this is about as close as it gets to the rush to an extraction point in K-On!. En route to the airport, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi realise the effort Azusa put in to ensuring their trip's success.
  • As everyone prepares to for the journey home to Japan, snow begins falling in London. I've casually noted that some fans would have been satisfied with the movie ending here : their claims are that the movie felt more like a protracted episode because the true ending was anticlimatic, and that the London trip felt incomplete. I offer no counterarguments, but I do find it surprising people find the time and effort to nitpick about the movie. That kind of stuff is beyond the scope of discussion: this website is to explain why people should try something, not turn people off it.
  • Back in Japan, Yui offers Nadoka any tea of her choice. The latter remarks that there must be enough tea there to last the decade. Similarly, our living room table gets covered in souvenirs upon return from vacation. The percentage of the table's surface area covered is directly proportional to the product of the time spent in the destination, and the distance of said destination.
 
  • We are treated to Hokago Tea Time performing one final set of songs for their graduating class. Among the songs performed is "Samidare 20 Love", a song about rain. Contrasting the relatively low concert-to-goofing-off-in-general ratio of the regular TV series, the movie has a lot more music to it. This partially contributes to my justification for the claim that those new to K-On! will still enjoy the movie.
  • I feel that the performance of songs in the movie have a distinct order of intimateness, with each performance superseding the previous one: we begin with the girls performing a highly impersonal song from Death Devil, then play an improvised song at the sushi bar out of a miscommunication. The third performance we see is intentional and has the largest audience, representing the climax. The performance is done for their classmates, with whom they've been together with for the year and almost the entire cast of the series present.Finally, the last the final one of course, was the seniors' present for Azusa. 
  • When the movie was first shown in theatres, I had the opportunity to it check out. In the theatre, the audience consisted of a diverse demographic, ranging from young and old couples, schoolgirls, and families bringing kids and grandparents. These observations strengthen the argument that anime is not solely for anime fans: in fact, the K-On! Movie is something I would recommend as suitable for all audiences.
  • I find that the music in K-On! is generally more meaningful and more heartfelt than the music produced by certain North American artists of a similar age, whose names shall not be mentioned here lest Google indexes it. Granted, we have professional song writers working on the music in K-On!, whereas the two artists I'm referencing write their own material, but there's something inherent in the K-On! music that differentiates it from the latter. Seeing the song-writing process behind Tenshi ni Fureta yo! reminds the viewers how the best songs are written from the bottom of the heart, not about how some girl is more effective than Starbucks at raising one's mental awareness or violating driving regulations before the weekend.
  • The movie wraps up with Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi performing Tenshi ni Fureta yo! for Azusa. This time, we are treated to everything concerning how the song was written; from what is seen, it is clear that everyone sunk in a considerable amount of effort into making an emotional song about their feelings for Azusa. Whereas in the anime, the song was merely played, viewers now get a sense of how the song came together. With these final touches, viewers left the theatres happy. The movie is genuinely a worthwhile experience for most anyone, anime fan or not: all that is needed is an open mind and the ability to read subtitles. I've been asked before as to why the review does not give out a numerical value as to what I thought of the movie. I abstain from giving numbers because that implies I have a system for deciding how much I enjoyed something. Given that I either enjoy something, enjoy it greatly or not at all, a quantitative rating system is quite unnecessary for my purposes. I have a tendency to be eloquent; if it wasn't clear now, the K-On! Movie is something I greatly enjoyed, right up there with the Haruhi movie, Gundam UC and Five Centimetres per Second.

Lucky Star

Lucky Star portrays the lives of several school girls attending a Japanese high school with a very loose, humourous tone. The main heroine is Konata Izumi, an athletic and intelligent girl who, despite these attributes, is not in a sports club, and her grades remain low. Her laziness at school is due to her love for anime and video games; she is not interested in much else.

Personal Opinion

Lucky Star is Azumanga Daioh kicked up a notch; from the way the episodes are written, the show seems to be a strong parody of otaku in general. The main appeal from the show comes from the innumerable anime and game references that Konata make throughout the show, as well as the parodies of how over-the-top anime can be at times. Lucky Star runs with the premise behind other slice-of-life anime, although in the case of Lucky Star, there is absolutely no plot whatsoever, with episodes broken down into two sections. The main section focusses on the lives of the main characters, while the second section is the Lucky Channel. Unlike other slice-of-life anime, the references and humour in Lucky Star derive off conversations and character interactions. In particular, the dynamics between Konata and Kagami drive a great deal of the humour behind the events; their interactions greatly resemble those between Tomo (Konata) and Yomi (Kagami). The other aspect about Lucky Star that is worth mentioning is the attention to subtle details; a sharp-eyed viewer will notice that Tsukasa's hair ribbon will spring up if she's happy, wilt if she's sad and spikes when she's shocked. Altogether, Lucky Star is a rewarding and enjoyable experience for anime fans, although those new to anime will likely not derive the same feelings from the same moments.

 

  • The four main characters from left to right: Miyuki Takata (the Yamato Nadeshiko), Kagami Hiiragi (Tsukkomi), Tsukasa Hiiragi (Moe), and Konata Izumi (Boke). They fill in all the roles required for the story and their interactions and conversations can be interesting to listen to, much like how the observer may regard BHSc Students when hearing pieces of our conversations. Lucky Star may initially seem derivative and mundane. In a sense, this is the reality, as there isn't really much one can write about with respect to the life of a high school student.

  • The main novelty about Lucky Star is the sheer number of references to video games and anime, especially Street Fighter and MMORPGs like WoW. I was particularly amused by the fact that their teacher also plays an MMORPG as a mage and parties with Konata. Here, Kagami gets her rear handed to her by Konata in a game of knowledge (and before that, every genre imaginable to mankind). As they put it in South Park, how do you defeat that which has no life?

  • Konata in a Suzimiya Haruhi uniform while on a shift in a costume-themed cafe. Mention of other series, such as Suzimiya Haruhi, Cromartie High school et al. indicates that this is an anime for individuals with some base in anime. It's certainly not for everyone as an introduction to anime, although anime fans will find this series to be amusing and unique in its own right. As for Cantonese speakers, this particular scene was coupled with McDull and is quite possibly one of the best videos out there.
 
  • Lucky Star is at its finest when its portraying the humour present in everyday life in such a manner that it is universally understood, despite the jokes coming from a different culture and context. While Lucky Star is nothing unique or spectacular, it excels at being a compilation of events in a group of friends' daily lives that transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries with something that most anyone can appreciate. 
  • Lucky Star's popularity extends into the real world: there is no better example than the Washinomiya Shrine. Following the publication of its location in Newtype Magazine in August 2007, the location was flooded by anime fans trying to replicate scenes from the anime, cosplayers wandering around, and prayer plaques ridden with anime drawings and unusual prayers like "Konata is my wife". In addition, the extreme popularity of Lucky Star meant that products branded with its characters have been successful on the market and has been described by the Wall Street Journal to have a positive impact on the Japanese economy since their economic downturn in the 1900s.

 

Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu

Introduction


On the first day of high school a beautiful girl named Haruhi Suzumiya introduces herself as having "no interest in ordinary humans". She asks for any aliens, time travelers, sliders or espers to join her. Watching her weird behaviour is Kyon who sits in front of Haruhi and is the only person who talks to her. When Kyon comments about Haruhi's joining every club in school and then quitting he unwittingly gives Haruhi an idea to start her own after school club. Thereafter Kyon and several others find themselves dragged, literally, into the Save our world by Overloading it with fun Suzumiya Haruhi's Brigade (the S.O.S. Brigade for short). 

Personal Opinion


It's almost impossible to get a good assessment of this anime when one is 

seeking one online; regardless of whether that review came from a 

respected site or a more less well-known one, there is undoubtedly a 

certain degree of polarization; people either love this anime or hate it for 

their own reasons. However, the nature of the community should hardly be 

a factor in deciding the worth of an anime. I've mentioned this before, but I 

didn't show up to shamelessly praise or brutally stomp on a series: if it's 

here, I enjoyed it, and I'll be pointing out why I enjoyed it. 

Suzumiya Haruhi 

is an unusual and innovative anime, especially with respect to the 

structure of the plot and how events occur. The series will swing between 

science fiction and slice-of-life at the drop of a hat, allowing for the 

supernatural to be juxtaposed with the mundane- it is this that drives the 

central element of the story, and the character developments that 

accompany it. For me, the thing that stood out about this series was 

Haruhi's nature and how it affects the growth of other characters. I will not 

discuss the other aspects, as everything interesting about this anime 

could probably comfortably occupy a small book. As the title character, 

Suzumiya Haruhi's personality and goals are driven by the polar opposites 

to those of Kyon: she desires excitement, and goes to great lengths to 

create excitement. In fact, Kyon aside, each of the Brigade members are 

present to ensure that Haruhi does not become sufficiently bored, lest 

terrible things happen. The implications are that Haruhi is a god of some 

kind, but again, this is merely one perspective. I find that this analogy is a 

rather clever one on KyoAni's part, for if Haruhi were bored, in a sense, 

the world that they reside in would end due to a lack of marketing value. If 

there is nothing to watch, then the audiences would doubtlessly seek 

greener pastures, thus taking the series with it. Fortunately, the S.O.S 

Brigade are successful at keeping Haruhi (and the audience) entertained 

with their activities. There is a more sci-fi-esque side to the series, 

concerning alternate realities and their relation to Haruhi's mood. Haruhi, 

though she desires the extraordinary, is typically stuck with the mundane. 

Conversely, Kyon initially only wishes to be ordinary, but is thrown into 

supernatural events. His experiences motivate him to be more open 

minded and ultimately draw Haruhi and Kyon closer together, which would 

explain why he is in the S.O.S Brigade despite lacking any notable 

abilities. I feel compelled to say that Kyon's presence is likely a 

consequence of Haruhi's own feelings, but that matter is a rather 

troublesome. When all is considered, the turbulent and amusing events in 

Suzumiya Haruhi drive character growth, which, in the end, makes it an 

incredibly entertaining series to watch.


Suzumiya Haruhi 

is an unusual and innovative anime, especially with respect to the 

structure of the plot and how events occur. The series will swing between 

science fiction and slice-of-life at the drop of a hat, allowing for the 

supernatural to be juxtaposed with the mundane- it is this that drives the 

central element of the story, and the character developments that 

accompany it. For me, the thing that stood out about this series was 

Haruhi's nature and how it affects the growth of other characters. I will not 

discuss the other aspects, as everything interesting about this anime 

could probably comfortably occupy a small book. As the title character, 

Suzumiya Haruhi's personality and goals are driven by the polar opposites 

to those of Kyon: she desires excitement, and goes to great lengths to 

create excitement. In fact, Kyon aside, each of the Brigade members are 

present to ensure that Haruhi does not become sufficiently bored, lest 

terrible things happen. The implications are that Haruhi is a god of some 

kind, but again, this is merely one perspective. I find that this analogy is a 

rather clever one on KyoAni's part, for if Haruhi were bored, in a sense, 

the world that they reside in would end due to a lack of marketing value. If 

there is nothing to watch, then the audiences would doubtlessly seek 

greener pastures, thus taking the series with it. Fortunately, the S.O.S 

Brigade are successful at keeping Haruhi (and the audience) entertained 

with their activities. There is a more sci-fi-esque side to the series, 

concerning alternate realities and their relation to Haruhi's mood. Haruhi, 

though she desires the extraordinary, is typically stuck with the mundane. 

Conversely, Kyon initially only wishes to be ordinary, but is thrown into 

supernatural events. His experiences motivate him to be more open 

minded and ultimately draw Haruhi and Kyon closer together, which would 

explain why he is in the S.O.S Brigade despite lacking any notable 

abilities. I feel compelled to say that Kyon's presence is likely a 

consequence of Haruhi's own feelings, but that matter is a rather 

troublesome. When all is considered, the turbulent and amusing events in 

Suzumiya Haruhi drive character growth, which, in the end, makes it an 

incredibly entertaining series to watch.

Suzumiya Haruhi is an unusual and innovative anime, especially with respect to the structure of the plot and how events occur. The series will swing between science fiction and slice-of-life at the drop of a hat, allowing for the supernatural to be juxtaposed with the mundane- it is this that drives the central element of the story, and the character developments that accompany it. For me, the thing that stood out about this series was Haruhi's nature and how it affects the growth of other characters. I will not discuss the other aspects, as everything interesting about this anime could probably comfortably occupy a small book. As the title character, Suzumiya Haruhi's personality and goals are driven by the polar opposites to those of Kyon: she desires excitement, and goes to great lengths to create excitement. In fact, Kyon aside, each of the Brigade members are present to ensure that Haruhi does not become sufficiently bored, lest terrible things happen. The implications are that Haruhi is a god of some kind, but again, this is merely one perspective. I find that this analogy is a rather clever one on KyoAni's part, for if Haruhi were bored, in a sense, the world that they reside in would end due to a lack of marketing value. If there is nothing to watch, then the audiences would doubtlessly seek greener pastures, thus taking the series with it. Fortunately, the S.O.S Brigade are successful at keeping Haruhi (and the audience) entertained with their activities. There is a more sci-fi-esque side to the series, concerning alternate realities and their relation to Haruhi's mood. Haruhi, though she desires the extraordinary, is typically stuck with the mundane. Conversely, Kyon initially only wishes to be ordinary, but is thrown into supernatural events. His experiences motivate him to be more open minded and ultimately draw Haruhi and Kyon closer together, which would explain why he is in the S.O.S Brigade despite lacking any notable abilities. I feel compelled to say that Kyon's presence is likely a consequence of Haruhi's own feelings, but that matter is a rather troublesome. When all is considered, the turbulent and amusing events in Suzumiya Haruhi drive character growth, which, in the end, makes it an incredibly entertaining series to watch.

 

  • Haruhi defies the classic definition of most character archetypes, being persistent and confident but also possessing tsundere-like traits. Depending on the day, she can be energetic or bored, which in turn leads to her mannerisms. It is Kyon who is responsible for suggesting that she starts her own club, so it could be said that Kyon inadvertently hoists his own petard, although the results are more entertaining.

  • Having successfully extorted (I prefer extortion: the 'x' makes it sound cool) a computer from the Computer Society, Haruhi wastes no time in ordering Kyon to build her a website. While Haruhi appears to superficially be a selfish and demanding character, her personality suggests that she only asks for the completion of tasks from those that she trusts. When you consider that Kyon ends up being the only person tasked with random chores, the implications are that Haruhi trusts Kyon more than any other of the brigade members.

 

  • The S.O.S. Brigade and Kyon's younger sister celebrates their victory in a baseball game. All of the episodes are a fine balance between comedy and drama, with science fiction and slice of life elements tossed in. Much as how I myself am competent in a wide range of things but am not exceptional at any, none of the strongly defining traits of the aforementioned genres are strongly present in Suzumiya Haruhi, but the anime is a highly enjoyable blend of elements from all of these genres.
  • I'll break out of my 'minimize fanservice in my posts' routine to post this particular one of Mikuru being forcibly changed by Haruhi. Fanservice and comedy aside, Suzumiya Haruhi ultimately possesses numerous references to post-secondary topics. Interestingly enough, I've come across these topics both when I'm reading for course material and personal interest; a close look reveals that the OP sequence contains cyclohexane line drawings, Planck's constant, the Drake equation, both the time-dependent and stationary Schrödinger equations, Hubble's law, the definition of information entropy and the theory of relativity, amongst other things. Furthermore, my exposure to computer programming and information systems have allowed me to understand some of the subtle references to computer sciences. For instance, Yuki's use of the C language and CMD operation is syntactically and logically correct, compiling without any problems. Similarly, Yuki's incantations are actually SQL commands. With that in mind, there's little wonder about why so many undergraduate and graduate students enjoy shows with these topics hidden as easter eggs.

  • Asahina Mikuru, Suzumiya Haruhi and Nagato Yuki buying Yakuta for a summer festival, as per the tradition present practically all anime about high school girls. Following the conclusion of the first season, a second season was released and placed all of the episodes in chronological order. The infamous "Endless Eight" arc was implemented, alongside the production of Haruhi's "The Adventures of Asahina Mikuru". The 35000 iterations of a two week period condensed into eight episodes led to much discontent from the fans; while it was amusing to watch the S.O.S. Brigade relax during their summer break, I feel that the same effect may have been successfully conveyed across two episodes; perhaps Yuki might have been able to terminate the loop earlier with a break command.

  • Yuki plays an alien in Haruhi's movie; her costume is emulated in the Lucky Star OVA by Konata; because Haruhi's voice actor, Aya Hirano, also voices Konata, Lucky Star is filled with Haruhi shoutouts. Suzumiya Haruhi ultimately presents itself as an anime about everything and nothing, with its plots and characters going everywhere. I was initially hesitant to watch this anime, but my curiosity was eventually piqued by Lucky Star, and as such, I decided to take up all the episodes. I can say that I do not regret the decision; having thoroughly enjoyed the series, I feel that the anime itself is best suited for individuals who wish to see something different.

Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu

It is mid-december, and SOS Brigade chief Haruhi Suzumiya announces that the Brigade is going to hold a Christmas party in their clubroom, with Japanese hotpot for dinner. The brigade members Kyon, Yuki Nagato, Mikuru Asahina and Itsuki Koizumi start preparing everything for the party, such as costumes and decorations. But a couple of days later, Kyon arrives at school only to find that Haruhi is missing. Not only that, but Mikuru claims she has never known Kyon before, Koizumi is also missing, and Yuki has become the sole member of the literature club. The SOS Brigade seems to have never existed, nor has Haruhi Suzumiya. No one in the school has ever heard about her… except for Kyon.

Personal Opinion

Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu (which I will refer to as 'Disappearance' from this point for the sake of convienence) is, quite simply put, a masterpiece. Every aspect, from the plot's focus on the character's response to a changed world, to the animation and music, is seamlessly woven together to form a film that excels in every respect. The film lasts about 2 hours and 41 minutes, which gives us plenty of time to explore Nagato's more human side, something which manifests as a shy girl who has feelings for Kyon, as well as Kyon's attempts to come to terms with himself and ultimately take responsibility for his decisions. While the Nagato side was brilliantly executed, Kyon's plot convinced me that Disappearance was everything that makes a movie worth watching; watching Kyon interact in a world he had always desired since meeting Haruhi, and his subsequent rejection of a normal world in favour of the one he had grown accustomed to, is most telling of how he had changed since meeting Haruhi and forming the SOS Brigade with her. Kyon's choice of a unique world over a mundane one is reminiscient of Neo's choice in the Matrix. In both cases, the protagonists choose a path that yields more enlightenment, but also forces more responsibility on the indiviudal. It is choice that drives us and defines us- in Kyon's case, we know that he has come to truely appreciate being a member of the SOS Brigade and is willing to enschew the ordinary simply to be with the people he feels closest to. For me, this aspect finally convinced me of the sheer depth of story in Disappearance, which, coupled with the integration of time travel, ultimately created a powerful story.

With its clever use of scene direction, clever camera angles, and matching the intricacies of references and foreshadowing, a clever viewer will fit all of the pieces together and gain insights into sides of the story that are overlooked by a passerby. Long story short, the movie is an exemplary masterpiece of Tanigawa Nagaru's skill in weaving such an intricate story, raising the bar for how storytelling techniques may be wielded to their fullest potential. I remember getting into Suzumiya Haruhi out of curiosity (from Lucky Star's references to it), but having seen the movie, I can say that this is a series I now have great respect for. 

 

  • The prologue lasts nearly 20 minutes, introducing viewers to Haruhi's enthusiasm for a Christmas Hot pot party inside the clubroom. Kyon's response to it is typical of his demeanour; he remains exasperated by Haruhi's decision. This manner is important to note.

 

  • Following the events of December 18, Kyon finds himself in a radically different world, one where Haruhi and Itsuki Koizumi are missing, Ryoko Asakura has returned, Mikuru Asahina does not recognize him and Yuki Nagato is an ordinary human. Kyon is unable to cope with these changes; with the memories of the original world still in his mind, he appears to be quite insane compared to some of the other characters, but given what he has done through, his response might be considered a minimal one, despite him being far more aggressive here than in his previous universe.

 

  • Viewers universally agree that Yuki's heretofore unbidden emotions and feelings for Kyon are one of the strongest aspects of the story. When you consider that Yuki possesses capabilities second only to Haruhi, and that she has been lacking a prevalent role in the TV series, the movie can be seen as a logical extension to this component.

 

  • Kyon forces information from Taniguchi about the whereabouts of Suzumiya Haruhi while Suzumiya Haruhi no Tegakari plays in the background. This track is one of many orchestral pieces that grace Disappearance, in addition to setting up the mood and feeling of each scene, the choice to use orchestral elements over traditional background music compositions give the movie a far more mature feel to it, something which I welcome.

 

  • Kyon eventually finds Haruhi, who wastes no time in wasting him until the former reveals his identity as John Smith. Convinced that Kyon is giving a consistent account of his events, she helps Kyon gather the 'keys' required by Yuki's program to help him restore the world.

 

  • With the members of the SOS Brigade gathered, Kyon declines Yuki's desire to have him join the Literature Club. I had read the light novel on my iPad at a friend's place just before a LAN Party (the same one that saw to a massive thunderstorm that trigged some crazy flooding), and was impressed by how well the movie aligns with the events of the novel.

 

  • I've found that the alternate universe Kyon finds himself in to be a grey, dreary one, reflecting on how Kyon feels about his original world. Once activated, Kyon returns to the Tanabata festival three years ago, where he had previously helped a younger Haruhi inscribe glyphs on the school field. The name "John Smith" proves to be a pivotal one, driving the story forward. After meeting up with the future Mikuru, Kyon proceeds to Yuki's apartment. 

 

  • Yuki reveals that anomalies in her behaviour were a by-product of her emotions. When I hear of this, my mind returns to the idea of emergence again: despite being designed to be a dedicated data terminal for the Data Integration Thought Entity, her experiences with Yuki led to new data connections being formed, in a manner not too dissimilar to AI. For me, observing Yuki mentioning this made me immensely grateful to be studying and working for a lab that focusses on emergent behaviours. Yuki gives the solution to be thus: inject a program into the alternate Yuki to prevent this change. In my experiences, a lot of anime have mentioned program injection. I've seen programs being executed and pipelined, but never heard injection in any of my texts. I would suppose that this is akin to a delivery method, where a program executes itself on reaching the appropriate destination.

 

  • The problem is choice. It always is a matter of choice. When Kyon is confronted with his inner daemon, he finally comes to terms with what has been driving his decisions. Kyon's doubt in his actions is represented by this daemon, who confronts him with the unanswered questions that stem from the bottom of his heart, and ultimately, by declaring the answer to be obvious, has established his faith in Haruhi.

 

  • Asakura decides to end Kyon's career when the latter tries to shoot Yuki. It appears that, despite being a kind, caring type of character, she has retained her psychotic tendencies. Only this time, Yuki doesn't have the opportunity to step in and intervene. Kyon's death marks a turning point in the continuum; in his final moments, Mikuru and another Kyon are seen telling him to hold onto life.

 

  • Kyon finds himself in a hospital several days later. Koizumi tells him that he fell down the stairs and lapsed into a coma, and that Haruhi has been with him the entire time. I was reminded strongly of The Sting from Futurama, except this time, the roles have switched somewhat, and the events that comprise the movie do in fact occur, although their reality is left open to interpretation. This scene also reminds us that, despite their interactions, Kyon and Haruhi reciprocate on each other's (unspoken) feelings for each other. 

  

  • Haruhi certainly has a unique way of expressing her relief that Kyon is alright, and for once, Kyon is okay with the happy-go-lucky Haruhi; this change is most evident in the fact that he makes no aside remark about having to play the role of Rudolph and treat the entire SOS Brigade at a cafe.

  

  • When Yuki mentions to Kyon how the Data Integration Thought Entity would punish her for her actions, Kyon tells her to let them know that if they ever do, he can tell Haruhi about him being John Smith and have her alter reality so the Data Integration Thought Entity would cease to exist. Such a course of action takes courage, and exemplifies how Kyon's experiences have changed him; he is far more decisive now and is willing to challenge supernatural forces to preserve his world. 

 

  • Life basically returns to normal on the 24th of December. For the inquisitive mind, the increased number of screenshots results from the fact that this is a movie. Longer media require more content to describe, and I feel that Disappearance is one of those things that definitely require more than five pictures to describe.

  

  • With a smile on his face, Kyon enters the clubroom in anticipation of Haruhi's cooking, which as flooded the hallway with a pleasant aroma. Despite there still being the small matter of travelling back in time once more to save himself and the world, he feels that there is nonetheless time to do so. Disappearance shares many similarities to the Gundam 00 Movie in the sense that both movies take place after the TV series and require a bit of background knowledge to fully enjoy. Together, these two movies are the true masterpieces of 2010, and have contributed to my re-ignited interest in anime, which was waning when I began my post-secondary education.

Tamako Market

Tamako knows just about everything there is to know about mochi, the traditional Japanese dessert treats. When she's not attending her first year of high school, she even invents new flavors and varieties for Tama-ya, her family's mochi shop. School and growing up, on the other hand, are some things that she's still trying to find the right recipe for. But with the help of her best friends Kanna and Midori, two girls whose parents run businesses in the same shopping district, Tamako's determined to make the best of things. It's complicated though, especially when it comes to emotions and her relationship with her best boy friend Mochizou, whose family runs a rival mochi shop. And lately, Midori's been feeling a little odd about her feelings towards Tamako as well. And what's with up with that strange bird fluttering around, the one that speaks fluent Japanese? It's all very mysterious and overwhelming, but at least Tamako always has one thing she can count on: No matter if your day's been good or bad, there's certain to be something sugary and delicious waiting at the end of every adventure whenever you take a walk through Tamako Market!

Personal Opinion

Tamako Market ends up being a simple anime about life in a local market that brings one unique element to the table: an anthropomorphic bird, Dera, that does much to add to the comedy behind the series. This single element lends itself to all kinds of amusement, whether it be Dera’s adherence to his homeland’s customs or the consequences of a diet, making each episode a riot as far as Dera is concerned. The series began as a simple slice-of-life anime about everyday life in the market district (and Dera's misadventures here), but the narrative shifts suddenly as the series progresses episodes, introducing elements that would have warranted exploration in greater detail: Tamako’s announcement and dismissal as a potential bride was an element that did not appear to contribute to the story overall, being presented far too quickly to have any appreciable effect. However, this is not a significant concern- as a whole, Tamako Market does an outstanding job of selling itself as a story about the daily life of Usagiyama market’s shopkeepers and their families, and perhaps more visibily, how the close-knit environment here allows them to maintain balance in their life even as extraordinary events occur. Thus, even as foreign characters arrive and change Tamako's life, Tamako is able integrate everyone, whether it be Dera or Choi, into their community. This simple, warm environment allows the anime to excel at invoking a sense of happiness and nostalgia in its viewers, even if the story does end up getting the short straw in the end. With beautiful visuals, as well as music that reflects on the atmosphere surrounding Tamako's daily life and the Usagiyama market's laid-back atmosphere, Tamako Market might be better classified as a healing anime in the same vein as Tamayura: both anime ultimately present these relaxing, nostalgic environments that simply allow one to relax at day's end. 

  • Dera is a pompous anthropomorphic bird used to assist Choi in her fortune-telling. His arrival in Usagiyama changes the shopkeepers' lives forever, with his presence livening up the entire anime. I was initially apprehensive about such a character being introduced to the show, but when all is said and done, I would claim that Dera's presence, mannerisms and personality do much to really give Tamako Market a refreshing new take on the slice-of-life genre. The comedic effects are purely for us, the audience's, benefit, as Dera does get his share of punishment for some of his actions.

  • From left to right, we have Anko Kitashirakawa, Tamako Kitashirakawa, Midori Tokiawa and Kanna Mikano. Shiori Asagiri is not present here. Each character has their own defining character, whether it be Anko's resemblance to Azusa or Kanna's unique speech mannerisms. Similarly, each of the shopkeepers in Usagiyama is unique and manage a shop with different wares, giving the series a very diverse, yet close-knit, feeling.

  • Case in point: I'm not going to try and name everyone; that is a challenge I do not feel up to at the time of writing. Tamako Market has several smaller events, such as preparations for festivals and market events, giving small milestones for the characters to work towards.

  • Choi is a fortune teller from the southern island that Dera comes from who is sent to check up on Dera and help him search for a bride for the Prince. She ends up staying with Tamako until Dera's communication function can be fixed. She believes that Tamako is the Prince's bride due to a mark on her neck. It is hinted that she has feelings for the Prince. Despite this, she is very diligent in her search for the Prince's bride.

  • Tamako is a member of baton club with her friends, Kanna and Midori. Their performance is a solid one, aided by sharp costumes (courtesy of Choi) and a spectacular finale thanks to Dera. At the end of the series, while Mochizou's feelings are never requited and the whole business with Tamako as Mecha's bride fades into obscurity, we note that the series does its best to bring back the status quo that was observed in the beginning, driving home to viewers just how friendly the environment around Usagiyama market really is.

Infinite Zenith