Haikyuu!! — Growing Together Through Challenge & Failure | OWLS “Squad”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, you might be new to this place. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, and welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s third monthly topic for 2018, “Squad,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard review of Haikyuu!! season one into this look at friendship and how, exactly, teamwork makes the dream work.

Although some people may like to be alone at times, we all have that one special friend or a squad of friends who we kick it and have some good laughs and fun with. However, there are friendships that don’t last a lifetime, and usually, they end due to a falling out or a misunderstanding. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring some of the best friendships in anime and pop culture, as well as the friendships that ended suddenly. We will talk about what a true friendship means to us, what we learned about ourselves and others through broken friendships, and our definitions of a “good friend.”

To uphold this OWLS favorite, I will be carrying the Haikyuu!! torch for this month’s tour! Though I’m not as passionate about this franchise as some of us are, I do hope I can contribute something of my own to the countless amazing posts out there. Thanks Lyn (and Lita) for the prompt!

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A brief spoiler-free discussion on the 25-episode spring 2014 anime “Haikyuu!!,” localized as “Haikyu!!,” produced by Production I.G, directed by Susumu Mitsunaka, and based on Haruichi Furudate’s popular shounen manga of the same name.

Rivals off the Court, Teammates on It

Shouyou Hinata began volleyball small and to this day remains one of the shortest players anyone has ever come across. Inspiration hit the loud lil’ guy when watching a volleyball ace nicknamed the “Little Giant” take the court by storm, and soon after, Hinata formed his own volleyball club in middle school. Brutal defeat in his team’s very first tournament by Tobio “King of the Court” Kageyama crushed motivations to continue the fight, though. In that moment, Hinata vowed to surpass Kageyama, but upon joining Karasuno High School’s volleyball team, Hinata found himself facing his “sworn rival” as a new fellow teammate.

Despite his unusually high stamina and powerful jumps, Hinata’s short stature gives him a bit of a hard time when it comes to finding the right role to play. Surprisingly, Kageyama, the “genius setter” himself, also struggles with teamwork issues, and only by learning to work together will Karasuno stand a chance against the fierce competition. Excellently balancing the emotional weight of sports drama with lighthearted comedy, Haikyuu!! supports two determined athletes and their endeavor to settle a heated rivalry in order to reignite their team’s once-legendary status.

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Karasuno: The Crow Flies Again

Haikyuu!!‘s first season leads us through a handful of major games set up like little arcs just like any shounen series would. On the surface, it feels like one of those “This is how I became the strongest in the world” series, and in part, that’s not the wrong impression. Beyond Hinata’s constant screaming and boundless excitement lie more interesting subplots, however, such as finding the motivation to play, understanding that loss is prevalent in the path to success, and the ever-constant conflict between upper and lowerclassmen. The series, much like the volleyball players, never sits on one of these themes for too long. Once a character’s lesson has been taught, the momentum bounces across the court to quickly become another teammate’s chance ball!

As previously mentioned, this underdog story appreciates a variety of themes crucial to the personal growth of not only oneself, but an entire team. With every demoralizing insult and crushing defeat, the need for vengeance—to prove that Karasuno will fly again—snowballs into unstoppable enthusiasm for the 12 boys (and their rugged coach, squirrelly faculty advisor, and goddess of a manager). I mean, just imagine it: Back in the day, you were THE top dogs, the ones that everyone aspired to be! And now that you’re finally able to give back to that team that gave you so much to begin with, you find yourself continuing to face loss after devastating loss. 

“To overcome difficulties, you need effort, endurance, and sacrifices.” — Ittetsu Takeda, faculty advisor

As such, it is redemption that pulls the clumsy Karasuno along, but they will fail to earn the respect (and awe) of other teams unless they dig deep within themselves and learn exactly what makes each other tick. Achieving perfected, harmonious unity comes only through knowing your friends better than you know yourself. Unless some of its more reserved members start opening up to each other, I’m afraid Karasuno will only make it so far in the seasons to come.

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Haikyuu!!‘s Unique, Competitive, Spirited Characters

I’ll start with the elephant in the room since I basically had no problems with the rest of this top-tier cast. Hinata and Kageyama are arguably the most irritating, annoying characters in the entire show—which is incredibly unfortunate given their status as male leads. These are supposed to be the two that we root for, that we want to succeed, but on more occasions than not, I was sympathizing with the other side. In their defense, even the rival teams offer compelling stories all on their own—in fact, this well-rounded attention to all of the characters is the bread and butter of Haikyuu!!—but it can be hard to cheer on the main two when Hinata is plain obnoxious and Kageyama is downright rude. By this first season’s end, I started to feel somewhat proud for how far they had come (recalling their earlier bickering and resistance to work together), and I do see myself warming up to them more in the next season.

If you’re asking me who the title of “best boy” belongs to, can I just say all of them? I mean, really:

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Daichi’s strong and steady demeanor makes him a model team captain; Sugawara’s calm, compassionate nature was LITERALLY ME back when I did sports in high school; Asahi’s aged appearance doesn’t stop him from being the biggest sweetheart (and Nervous Nellie) in the entire show. The third years will always be my favorite characters, no matter the series, but I can’t just stop here with Haikyuu!! . . .

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Nishinoya’s overwhelming charisma not only makes him a player to be feared, but also one to be loved; Tanaka’s combo of goofy + grit never fails to lighten the mood; Ennoshita has this ability to silently relate to his friends given practically any situation; Kinoshita and Narita are always there to tame Noya and Tanaka. WHEW, looking forward to find out more about these funny second years. Of course, we can’t forget about the first years . . .

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Kageyama, despite his oppressive exterior, strives to better himself by bringing out the best in his fellow teammates; Hinata’s inner strength to bounce back from defeat will always light a fire in my heart; Tsukishima AKA “best boy” candidate offers remarks that are so freakin’ snarky I just can’t, then proceeds to back up his smugness with the most wicked of feints during a match; lastly, Yamaguchi just wants to play the game everyone loves, and works long after dark hoping to one day be of use to his team.

But #squadgoals doesn’t stop there! Looking at the other teams, Nekoma’s Kenma (voiced by Yuki Kaji, my guy) seems like your average silent character, but his catlike reflexes and calculating eyes make him the heart his high school team; and yes, even the handsome and charismatic Oikawa, a master of playing to his Aoba Josai teammates’ strengths, must be hilariously restrained by his friends from egotistically going all-out”Great King” on them!

The Forces that Unite Us

Similar to the OWLS “Team” theme from last year, we all long for connection, to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves. Not often are we granted the opportunity to bond with others so closely and celebrate the things we love. So, we have to take chances, risks even, if we wish to grow together. Haikyuu!! hits on four essential elements that build strong, long-lasting friendships (all coincidentally beginning with the letter “C”), and for every time a team member attempts one of these building blocks, beautiful, timeless moments are created.

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Consideration—to experience thought and care for another

The weight of the game all rested on second-year Tanaka’s shoulders, yet again, and again, and again, Tanaka dropped the ball. There was a small moment like this during the tournament in which Hinata, a first-year, considered saying something nice or uplifting to baldy as he has always done for him. It’s not pity, it’s empathy. Hinata knows that feeling of repeated failure. When the underclassmen start supporting the upperclassmen (or at least thinking in that mindset), you can tell that the underclassman is starting to grow not only as a team player, but as a person, too.

The older we grow, there’s a tendency for superiors to think that they exclusively must be the ones to guide the young. But in a team, that is not the case. Though there is a chain of command spearheaded by the captain, teammates are EQUALS. In school, work, or any other setting concerning a group that functions together with one goal in mind, people, higher or lower, need to support each other—to consider feelings of failure and success alike and support those who need it in the heat of the moment.

Compliments—to express praise or admiration for one’s actions

Taking it the next step forward, teammates should give credit where credit is due. One’s age, ethnicity, gender, or status does not matter—nobody is above a nice compliment. This responsibility should not be limited to the captain or upperclassmen alone, either. Sugawara gives them out all the time based on how teammates are feeling that day, and that motivation pushes everyone, especially Hinata, to do their best.

Communication—to connect with others and exchange information

A true king asks for the help of his subjects—that is what sets Oikawa, “The Great King” (and even Sugawara) apart from Kageyama, the “Dictator.” Communication is key in both sports and life in general. Kageyama cannot and should not rely on Hinata’s god-like quick ability all the time; as setter, he needs to learn how to pass to teammates like Tsukishima more, and maintain an open communication line that doesn’t look so grumpy. Gradually he improves, and I’m looking forward to see just how much better he’ll get.

Challenge—to engage in competition for the betterment of oneself

Above all, nothing pushes teammates like a little friendly fire. Ultimately, friends want to surpass the challenges that other friends set for them, and this different form of support manifests in rivalries that continue to improve, shape, and make teammates stronger. Hinata swears to be the one to take Kageyama down, giving him some purpose to his play. Nishinoya wants Asahi to give his all and never feel sorry, even if fighting a losing battle. Sugawara understands his limited role thanks to Kageyama’s genius, but he always tries to observe from afar and apply reliable tricks to shake up Kageyama’s stiff repetition. Even Tsukishima and Oikawa verbally confront Kageyama to draw out the fire within themselves!

The Birth of a Real Squad

Haikyuu!! delivers exhilarating volleyball action and inspirational sportsmanship through positive vibes, overcoming failure, and teamwork. I purposefully stuck to this first season alone to highlight the beginnings of a real squad, not the end result. Why? Because it makes each of these team-building exercises all the more powerful. Take that feast scene from the end of episode 24 for instance: it is sometimes the moments of shared silence between team members that impact viewers more than dialogue ever could. The absence of dialogue here ironically speaks volumes about Karasuno’s relationships, emotions, and mutual feelings toward their latest match. Definitely my favorite hard-hitting scene from the entire season.

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At the same time, sometimes fiercely shouting our feelings out loud can be enough to convey those shared emotions with others, as show in the way Noya motivates the guys, or Kageyama and Hinata’s release of anger by blindly yelling in episode 25. These simple, even silly, moments are what bond squad members, their goals, aspirations, and frustrations alike. Karasuno still has a long way to go, but every step these crazy guys take together allows their friendships to evolve with them.

“Someone who can’t see the opponent standing right in front of him, can’t defeat the opponent that lies beyond!” — Hajime Iwaizumi, Aoba Josai vice captain

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Afterword

I’m surprised I didn’t enjoy this series more, as it’s literally everything that I should love about a good sports series all in one package. Looking at it honestly, it probably was Hinata and Kageyama’s characters that deterred my enjoyment a bit. I’ll still definitely recommend, though! To all those interested in an emotional sports comedy with a well-rounded albeit sometimes “too loud” cast, this one should be a must. Oh! And as with these OWLS posts, I didn’t even get to talk about the music and animation! I have completed the Yuuki Hayashi sports trilogy, in which this GOD composed the music for DIVE!!, Welcome to the Ballroom, and Haikyuu!!. He’s also done My Hero Academia, Death Parade, and Robotics;Notes, so yeah, total fave. I was sad when the first ED “Tenchi Gaeshi” by NICO Touches the Walls was replaced, as it was the best song IMO. Lastly, THIS is Production I.G’s powerhouse sports series, as the animation should not be missed! (Where was this quality when Ballroom was airing??)

I’m gleefully awarding Haikyuu!! season one with the “Cake” rating, a show that’s too sweet for its own good! NOW, fans of this beloved series, HIT ME UP WITH YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS FIRST SEASON OR THIS REVIEW IN THE COMMENTS (no spoilers, please)!! I’m very happy to have finally started this show, and though my “marathon” is running a bit slow, I am STOKED to watch more seasons!

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This concludes my March 22nd entry in the OWLS “Squad” blog tour. Shokamoka (Shokamoka’s Blog of Wonders) went right before me and stole my pick wrote about the currently airing A Place Further Than the Universe, which you can read right here (SO EXCITED FOR THIS)! Now, look out tomorrow for the one who got me hooked on this Haikyuu!! madness, Naja B. (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero), with No. 6one of my FAVORITE ANIME from when I first started (ahh, the memories) this Friday, March 23rd! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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End of March Update 4/10/16

Hello cafegoers! March was a big month for me. I finished all ongoing anime that I started way back in the winter and concluded my research over one particularly tedious project. With all slates wiped clean, it’s time to move on to bigger and better anime. But first, we must recap the cool things I finished! Onto the update!

Recently Finished:

Cowboy Bebop – We (my family) arranged a weekend solely dedicated to finishing this classic “space western.” Let’s just say we were in for a long (12 episodes) and emotional haul. The end was a bit underwhelming, yet at the same time being everything that I wanted from a show such as this. The manner in which the crew disperses towards the finale is a sort of wake-up call, like a reminder that this wasn’t the kind of story we’ve been really following. It left a depressing hole in my heart, but that’s not to say I wasn’t satisfied. More thoughts to come in a brief review!

Girls und Panzer – You might recall this lil’ title in a previous haul, but yeah, finally got around to watching it. While the dub was pretty cringy (probably the worst I’ve ever seen), I managed to love EVERY SINGLE MOMENT of this tanks-meet-chicks comedy. I marathoned it in like two or three days, actually! Review on the way!

Baccano! – Mhmm, that’s right, the mafia stopped by to tell me that my job wasn’t over. In just 16 episodes, I witnessed a ragtag chase in the back alleys of the Big Apple, the struggle for immortality by alchemists, and a chain of bloody, grisly murders aboard the continental train The Flying Pussyfoot (HAHA HE SAID PUSSY). This was one of the most confusing anime I have seen, but oh boy, does Baccano! do A LOT of things right! You can bet your sweet tuckus I’ll hit more on it in a future review!

Erased – This one kept me entertained until about the last two or three episodes. It tried – it really did – but I just found the end predictable and lackluster. The thriller vibe it upheld through the entire ride, however, was absolutely incredible. Erased was only the most-watched and reviewed show of the season, so if I do write a review, it’ll be brief like my Bebop one would be.

Dimension W – This was the greatest disappointment of the season for me. I came in expecting so much: It was the season’s only big sci-fi, FUNimation had a part in the anime’s production, and the premise was thoroughly invested in a futuristic concept. It was only natural to expect something grand to come from all of this, but the story fell so short so early on. After episode 6 or so, I lost interest. Don’t worry – I still finished it and plan to write a semi-rant/review.

Yuki Yuna is a Hero – Last but certainly not least is this seemingly innocent magical girl anime . . . Gosh, have there been any pure, fluffy magical girl anime since Madoka Magica? This one takes inspiration from its groundbreaking ‘predecessor’ by throwing all kinds of twists and turns in the typical magical girl system. As such, you can expect it to go from zero to one hundred come two-thirds into watching. I have many good (and iffy) things to say about Yuki Yuna coming soon, particularly why the show falls a tad bit short of PMMM!

Currently Watching:

One Punch Man – That’s right! Takuto finally gets around to the top hitter of last season AND possibly the best anime of 2015! Is it a man? Is it an egg? Is he bored with all things in life? Yes to all! I’m three episodes in, and so far it’s not half bad. Will I like it more than, say, Sound! Euphonium or Food Wars!? Hmm, probably not . . . but I’m very excited to see how the show will carry on without dulling its satire.

Simulcasts I plan to follow this spring:

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – HYPE HYPE HYPE ATTACK ON TITAN HYPE HYPE HYPE

Kiznaiver – It’s studio Trigger and it’s not Ninja Slayer. Need I say more?

My Hero Academia – THE REAL HYPE. Mainly watching this to know what all the buzz is.

Mayoiga – I’m a sucker for mysteries, and this one looks genuinely interesting. It also sounds sort of like a survival game, which is another trick to bait Takuto.

Any Sword Art Online fans out there? I wrote this humongous five-part comprehensive analysis over the first season’s second half, “Fairy Dance.” CLICK HERE for the series! Be warned, it’s quite wordy, but it’s so far THE hardest thing I’ve ever written for this blog. I had a blast writing all of it, and I encourage you to check it out if you’ve enjoyed my musings thus far!

Now that the “Fairy Dance” analysis is out of the way, I’ve been slowly working on a lot of new projects behind the scenes. Some involve just tackling new simulcasts, some just checking on previous popular shows, and some are secret. More to come on those later, hyuk-hyuk-hyuk.

I had the time of my life at Naka-Kon 2016! Click here for more!

I’ll also be testing out some new review formats, so be on the lookout for your favorite one and let me know! I normally clock in with 1,000 to 1,400 words per review, but I’d like to try writing these next few in under 900. Partial reasoning for this cut is to practice my wording, but another comes from the fact that most bloggers (and readers) prefer shorter posts. It’s rare to come across a person who enjoys 5,000+ words of analysis 🙂 so I want to try shorter, more meaningful posts! I’m sure we all know the struggles.

So yeah, that’s about it. I’ve been busy with music and academic competitions these past several weeks (studying, practicing, studying). As you can see, I have no problem fitting in time to watch anime. It’s just hard to get around to writing about it, publishing a post, reading other posts, commenting, then replying to everything – WAH! But I enjoy reading from you guys, and I definitely get motivational-boosters from reading the comments you leave. 😀

In other news, it’s getting much warmer here . . . so much so that some afternoons are unbearable, ugh. Why can’t we get more rain?? I’ll be up all night drafting reviews for the many shows that I want to talk about, so I better end things here. What shows did you recently complete that knocked your socks off? Y’all have a pleasant week, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Adventures at Naka-Kon 2015 – My First Anime Convention!

For those who didn’t know, during March 13-15, I traveled to Overland Park, KS for Naka-Kon 2015. One month later, I am finally going to talk about it (whoops, gomennasai)! I had only heard rumors and watched videos about going to anime conventions – and now I was actually going to one! It felt like a crazy dream! Please enjoy my trip story ~

After purchasing passes, it was a long five-month wait of cosplay decision-making and Ebay searching, but I made out with a  Tennouzu First High School Uniform, otherwise known as Shu Ouma’s uniform from Guilty Crown. I chose Shu because to me, he is a relatable guy and one of my favorite anime characters.

Naka-Kon greeted us with rainbow hair, mobs of people, and the subtle hint of body odor, but I’ll never forget the many smiling faces. Everyone was so chill – it was awesome! I was standing in a room full of true friends, and I didn’t even have to know the names of anyone. We all loved anime and games, and that’s all that mattered.

The Sharaton Hotel Staff were also cool people. We thought our passes were day passes only, but the people at the front desk said they were for the whole weekend, and that we could stay another night if we needed to. We did. Also, they kept handing out free snacks to con-goers, and these weren’t just like “one cookie per person” scenarios – they were $1.00-sized free handouts that never ended. Like everyone else, my sister grabbed 6 packages of cookies and kept them until we were hungry mwahhahh!

My favorite event from the con was the first one we went to which, bright and early, was a Micah Solusod panel. I actually got to talk to Touma freakin’ Kamijou!! Taking questions from the few people that were there (cause it was very, very early), I bravely raised my hand and asked him “What is your favorite season in the Raildex franchise?” He not only answered [correctly] Railgun S, but he even specified his favorite scene [one of mine as well] which was the fight between Accelerator and Misaka with Touma. I’ll never forget his kind words.

Now, being the prepared person that I am, I googled what voice actors and guests would be there for signings so that I could grab my merch. Micah Solusod signed my LE A Certain Magical Index while my brother snagged the DVD case inside just so that he could have something signed, too. Nice 🙂 Micah was awesome – one of my new favorite VAs – and has encouraged me to watch the infamous Soul Eater, of which I am currently 36 episodes into.

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After him, I got to meet with Matthew Mercer who signed the mini-poster that came with the Fate/Zero Complete 1st Season DVD as Kiritsugu Emiya. This guy was so chill compared to Micah, who was a little antsy guy walking all around! He was super nice and talked with me for a bit. When we came back later so that my brother could have his new wall scroll signed, I asked what he would say as Levi to Eren, and he wrote it down for me. (That’s just our little secret, tho :3)

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(a little subject/verb agreement problem there, but when you’re Saber’s master and an ace with the guns, I won’t complain :D)

Next was a special man. Greg Ayres voices Negi from Negima!? – the first anime I had ever seen back in 2012. His roles like Taichi Yaegashi from Kokoro Connect and Shion from No.6 are for some reason very inspirational to me. He was shocked to see my old Negima! Complete Series Collection, and we talked for a bit about the character Negi and a few of his new roles, including Makoto Isshiki from Chu-2! He’s a legend in my book, and I was most glad I could meet him!

Negi Final

My last signing was a bit of a pain. You see, in all three lines we waited for about 30 minutes to guarantee spots in the front – which we got. The signs were misleading, and everyone from the supposed Patrick Seitz line was in the wrong place. When we moved over to the right line, we were dead last, with only a few stragglers who joined later. 2-3 hours later after bonding with everyone in my part of the line, I got to meet the John Titor from Steins;Gate, one of my all-time favorite anime. Though our chat was brief, the line of friendship was rewarding, and I actually feel like had leveled-up or something! LOL

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Last thing to mention was the dealer’s room and the artist alley, which was mixed together and overflowing with anime goodness! There was literally so much stuff that I wanted – that I had searched for on YouTube, Ebay and Amazon – that were now within my grasp: Nendoroids, Figmas, manga, DVDs and Blu-Rays . . . Unfortunately, I only had $70.00 saved up, which don’t get me wrong, is still a great amount of spending money, but like anything more money would have been better. Here’s what I walked away with:

GGOAldnoah FINALPINS FINAL

The striking Sword Art Online “Gun Gale Online” print, the beautiful ALDNOAH.ZERO print, and the cute Akatsuki, Shiroe, and Hange pins were done up by Cindy C. (cindiq.deviantart.com). I purchased these because I enjoyed the bright color palettes used, the neat backgrounds, and most of all the style the faces were drawn in. I originally only bought the Akatsuki pin, but the girl remembered me from the previous day and let me pick up the other two for a discount. Nice!

Steins GateNGNL

This Steins;Gate and No Game No Life “Human Potential” prints were designed by Cheng (Lily) Li (lilythescorpio.deviantart.com). I decided to buy these because I really like the soft pastel texture, the creative design, and the bright colors. They both compliment their respective show quite well.

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I picked up these two wall scrolls because a) I’ve always wanted one and b) I love the art. They’re just the main posters you could find through an image search, but I think the fabric material and the giant size blend better in my room. Gosh, Aincrad looks soo cool and the Madoka Magica scroll is just a spectacle to behold! They both remind me of the incredible journeys I had with each anime.

Saori

Last but certainly not least is this the famous otaku Saori “Bajeena” from Oreimo, one of my favorite characters from the series. She was only $5.00 and looks great on my anime shelf. I especially love the fact that behind her swirl glasses, you can see her blue-green eyes. Subtle yet well-worth-it effect!

Of course I took many, many, many pictures with different cosplayers who were amazing! One guy cosplaying as Shiroe from Log Horizon let me take a picture with him and let me sign a real scroll, signifying that I was a part of the “Log Horizon Guild!” Just knowing that I among the few other names were part of his guild . . . that was one of the best moments!

Going to Naka-Kon 2015 with my family not only opened me up to the anime community but also to the world. I got to briefly meet with so many interesting people – I only wish that I had never left!! But boy was I tired by the end. Comment below what your first convention experience was like, because the one word to describe mine was “unforgettable.” Thanks so much for reading and thank you to all who made Naka-Kon such a great, fun time! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host