Ao No Kanata No Four Rhythm
August 21, 2016
If human had shoes that could fly, imagine the endless possibilities and experiences that we would be having right now. Lots of fun. Lots of excitement. Lots of accidents. Lots of mishaps. Lots of fatalities… Yeah… If we humans can’t even properly drive on the road without being huge idiots, what more flying? Anyway we aren’t here to talk about the bad stuffs on what if humans could fly. And if Nike ever made shoes that could really fly, they would of course have made a sport out of it. Too bad you won’t find Nike sponsoring such shoes in Ao No Kanata No Four Rhythm. This series is basically a sports genre with sci-fi elements in it. You put on your shoes that allow you to fly and go play some air game which is what this series revolves around. And of course being a sports genre, you would have expected one of the two: 1) A newcomer into the sport who impresses everyone with her exceptional talents in the sport despite playing for the first time with no prior experience; 2) The tale of the underdog team who will rise up against favourite teams and beat the odds. This series has both. That being said, we all know how the plot will progress, right?
Masaya Hinata helps new transfer student Asuka Kurashina to find her lost house keys. Ditzy girl has been complaining so loud about it of course anybody would stop to help. After finding it, Asuka is surprised to see Misaki Tobisawa flying by. She is Masaya’s friend and classmate at Kunahama Institute. They have to rush to school or else they will feel the embarrassing wrath of their strict homeroom teacher, Aoi Kagami. It is cool that they could fly to school but why the heck do they have to run up the slope into school?! Can’t they just fly in?! Who made this stupid rule?! Anyway they made it in time. As expected, Asuka ends up in the same class as Masaya and Misaki. Since she is annoyingly friendly with them, Kagami makes them her instructor. Misaki acts differently like as though she has a split personality. As explained by fellow classmate, Madoka Aoyagi, due to her low blood pressure, she acts different in the mornings and afternoons. Completing the group is Mashiro Arisaka. Self-proclaimed slave and yuri lover wannabe for Misaki. Read: Another b*tch character. As a newbie, they teach Asuka how to fly with the Grav-Shoes. Of course as a noob she fails badly that it is pathetic. That is why she pleads for Masaya to be stricter and use Spartan techniques. Sure she can handle it? I know it is to help her learn faster but doesn’t that make her sound like a masochist? After a hard day of training, she returns to her room. Masaya didn’t think he got a new neighbour. Oh, it’s Asuka. And she is just changing in her undies! Cue for scream…
Another day of pathetic training… How long will it take before she can decently fly? On the way back, she sees Madoka’s brother, Shion being defeated by Reiko Satouin in a Flying Circus (FC) (some sort of flying sport which is the theme of this series). Asuka misinterprets their school name will be changed so she confronts her to challenge her in FC. Oh, did you know that Takafuji Academy that Reiko is from is the powerhouse of FC? Yet, Asuka is being honest with her noob skills that you wonder if she is making an insult or can be taken seriously. And so for the sake of us viewers too, Asuka is explained how the game works. Within a ring, you either touch your opponent’s back or touch buoys in order to score points. The one scoring the most points in the allotted time wins. Simple, right? Reiko sets a handicap for her and even shortens the game play. Of course as it starts, Asuka can’t even move and it’s like she’s making a fool out of herself while Reiko zooms past her competitor and scoring points with ease. Masaya takes over Misaki as Second (ground coach) and relays instructions on what to do. It looked like it worked but Reiko is a veteran and dodges it. Just when everything seems to just fail for Asuka, she remembers something of her past then she powers up like as though she activated her hidden talent to score a point by touching Reiko’s back with an air kick turn.
Based on the handicap rules, it is Asuka’s win since she was able to get a point. Everyone is amazed at her skill because an air kick turn is very hard to pull off. Before Shion starts getting emotional about their victory, better run away while you can. News about Asuka’s win spread like wildfire and even though it was just an unofficial match, it is still like David beating Goliath. Madoka is so impressed as she tries to scout Asuka, Misaki and Mashiro to join her FC club that only she and Shion are part of. Asuka eagerly joins because of the free drinks? Misaki joins perhaps to rekindle her love for the sport she retired from. Mashiro? Wherever Misaki goes, she goes. So the clubroom is some dirty abandoned bus? Since Asuka has joined the club, Masaya doesn’t have to be her instructor anymore. But why the sad face? Deja vu again when Masaya returns home and sees Asuka changing. Cue for screaming. Doesn’t she know how to use curtains? The newbies train on their first day but since they tire out easily, it is suggested they get some competitive gear. Madoka as the manager takes them to a store to shop for their gear. I wonder how this little shop assistant girl, Minamo is going to sell the products when she is so shy and hiding behind mannequins while explaining things. Eventually they get the gears they want. Next day, Misaki wants a duel with Asuka because she and everybody else want to see her air kick turn again. Shion becomes Misaki’s Second and since Masaya was passing by, Kagami makes him Asuka’s coach. The match starts as Misaki furiously racks up the points and Asuka displaying her usual klutz. When it is time for her to do the air turn kick, seems she falters. This has others think it was just beginner’s luck. Misaki continues to add up to her points tally by repetitively touching Asuka’s back. By the time Asuka is able to get all that motivation to fight back and get a point, time is over. Misaki wins 9-0. Asuka is of course sad about her loss and wants Masaya to stay as her Second. Okay. At least till the summer tournament. Kagami then calls the Takafuji side that since they have enough members now, she would love to hold a joint training camp.
We skip the training of the joint camp so we can have some bathing fanservice! Oh yeah. Why waste time? Misaki becomes the first victim of Reiko’s back washing. We’ll leave it up to your imagine how she got screwed. Masaya meets Takafuji’s captain, Kazunari Shindou. He mentions about his dream of playing a certain someone he idolized in FC but that person faded away from the spotlight. He requests Masaya for a match but is turned down because he doesn’t play FC anymore. Shindou wonders why he came back to the sport again. Is it because of Asuka’s air turn kick? On the last day of the camp, we have practice matches for the representatives. Asuka goes up against Rika Ichinose. Shindou is a bit disappointed because he wanted to face Asuka and see her air turn kick. Despite Asuka improved a lot, she still has a lot more for improvement as Rika gives her the run around with her yoyo and zigzag tactics. When Rika is going to touch Asuka’s back, Asuka does her amazing air kick turn to touch hers. It was a good game despite Asuka lost 1-6. Next match is Mashiro against Reiko. Mashiro is already so scared shivering in her pants facing her that the producers didn’t even bother to show her match! Really. You want to watch how she lost 0-20!!! Finally it is Misaki up against Shindou. As expected, Shindou is freaking fast like Sonic. He is not the reigning world champion for nothing. He could have continued to use his speed to rack up points but I guess he got a little bored and tries to provoke Misaki. Masaya knows this tactic to rouse her up and not be baited to fall for it. But it is kinda hard when you have a guy who is as cocky. Masaya even had to cut her an udon buffet deal just so that she could listen to his instructions of focusing on defence instead of attacking. The rest of the match descends into one big game of tag with Misaki being able to keep up with Shindou. All that paid off when Misaki is able to touch his back once although in the end Shindou wins 4-1. If you’re wondering why Shion didn’t participate when he was supposed to, he was floored by stomach ache. Ate too much during the camp, didn’t he?
How the f*ck can Mashiro concentrate on he studies for the make-up test when fellow classmate Minori Hosaka is giving commentary all the way!!! In exchange for her aid to help her study. Minori gets to interview the FC club. Man, this woman never stops talking!!! With Asuka and Misaki improving a lot, this makes Mashiro worry that she will be left behind. Can she imagine a life without Misaki? No way!!! So desperate she is that she tries to practice alone one night but bumps into Rika and accidentally challenges her to a match. After hearing her out, Rika agrees to train her the basics. Mashiro diligently studies under her. In exchange for her kindness, she gets free udon meals from Mashiro’s parents who run such store. Heck, even mom wants Rika to be her daughter!!! Mashiro’s skills improved and though they are just the basics, tournament matches are another story. At the end of their unofficial training, they form a friendship as well as some sort of alliance. When Mashiro enters a practice match with Asuka, everyone is stunned to see how vastly she has improved. Even more surprising is how Mashiro has decided to go with the speeder style instead of the fighter style she wanted. Asuka continues to be a klutz and even gets distracted by Mashiro’s bluff. Needless to say, the latter won 4-0. At night when Asuka is about the fly home, she is startled by a message from her mom that she drops her handphone. Luckily a girl, Saki Inui was fast enough to swoop down and save it. Asuka is glad there are such nice people on this island. That monotonous cold face is friendly?
The summer tournament is here. Asuka and Shion are so excited that they act like monkeys. Public nuisance? While looking at the board for their match line-ups, Mashiro meets her childhood friend-cum-rival, Arika Okoza from Shitou Suisan. Her senior, Mayu Ganeko ‘punishes’ her for her lack of etiquette before others by getting yuri with each other. As expected, Minori becomes the commentator for the entire event. She’s got lots of energy in her mouth… You can’t blame Mashiro for being nervous because her fist round opponent is Reiko! Remember the last time, right? It is time to see whether her training pays off. Mashiro makes a good start, surprising Reiko. But as the game progresses, Reiko makes a comeback and wins 7-2. Despite the loss, everyone is proud of Mashiro’s improved skill. Next is Misaki against Rika. I’m sure Mashiro is torn to support which but she’ll support both anyway. Misaki wins 5-1. For the first time we get to see Shion in action. He takes on Saki from Kairyo Academy. Masaya cautions him as he has no data on her. He learns from Saki’s Second, Irina Avalon about Saki playing FC in England where FC was conceived. That must say a lot, right? Good or bad thing, we won’t see the full match because we already know Shion would lose right from the start when Saki zooms faster than him. In fact, he lost 1-22!!! I know he wants to forget that… Masaya notices Saki’s different Grav-Shoes. Irina says they are Avalon Grav-Shoes and her father makes them. It is now Asuka’s turn against Arika. The latter makes a good start at first and as expected, you’ll know Asuka will pull off something, right? She shocks everybody by doing an air kick turn while in tailspin. That turned the tables as Asuka goes on to win by a narrow margin 4-3.
Asuka is just fresh from defeating her second round opponent who looks like a typical anime witch character that we couldn’t care less about. The main highlight of the second round matches is Misaki versus Shindou. Misaki is expecting a good dogfight with him but Shindou zooms past her to rake in the points. Misaki puts her trust in Masaya to give her instructions to counter Shindou’s speed. It did pay off with her stealing a point but Shindou just uses it as acceleration and boost to grab his next point. When Misaki uses her air kick turn to touch his back, she becomes very much motivated to win this but time is over. Aww, shucks. Shindou wins 5-3. We skip all other matches to go to the third round because this is where Asuka will face off with Shindou. As usual, Shindou starts off good and fast. Asuka keeps a close tab in tailing him. Shindou pulls off super pro tactics like cobra and suicide to stun everybody and increase his points tally. When Asuka pulls off her signature air kick turn, Shindou uses that with a vertical air kick turn. But the most surprising move came when Asuka did her air kick turn again to score a point. And then again. And again. AND AGAIN!!! OMG! Five consecutive air kick turns to even the score with Shindou???!!! This makes Shindou who is already so freaking serious to be even more freaking serious. What’s the difference? You see his ‘mad’ face. Because he always fights in a cool and composed manner, having him fight this way means the opponent has pushed him to the ropes. A couple of beat downs till Shindou wins it 6-4. And that completes Kunahama’s wipe out from the tournament. Everyone is ecstatic with such enjoyable game play except for Misaki who has been in shock ever since. Shindou never go all out against her because she wasn’t that good?
We see Saki brushing off Mayu to enter the finals to face off with Shindou. In the mean time, Asuka has got lots of fans hogging around her thanks to her air kick turn move… Back to the match, both are equally matched when it slowly starts to become obvious that Shindou is having a hard time. Then it dawned to everyone else that Saki’s purpose is not to score points but to dominate over her opponent. Yup, Shindou’s mad face coming up so early in the match proves it so. Whatever tricks Shindou pulls off, Saki will always be faster and a step ahead. Game is set in Saki’s favour 3-2. This shock win leaves Misaki shock as well because she was brushing off her defeat and putting all her hopes in supporting Shindou as the best player, only to come to crashing into a brick wall. Even more shocking, Misaki sees Asuka beaming with smiles as the latter has enjoyed watching the match. Because of this, Misaki falls into depression and doesn’t take part in her club’s BBQ party in which Shion announces his captaincy over to Madoka (since she volunteered). We see Irina confronting Kagami about their ‘beautiful’ dominating play called birdcage. Apparently it was a move that Kagami once used too when she was an FC player but ‘sealed’ it to avoid the game from killing itself. More gloominess for Misaki as she goes out to town alone. She hears news of Shindou’s shock loss to a newcomer which could tarnish his reputation. When she bumps into him, he looks fine but with a tad of sadness although it is no big deal. What Shindou was afraid of is the fear of losing something he enjoyed, that was why he was desperate in the finals. That match made him realize FC is a sport in which any play style could stop being effective at any moment. If the fun in FC stops, he’ll quit. This pep talk leaves Misaki even gloomier. Yeah, she carries it over to the new term where our Kunahama FC club members are in for the first shock of the term: Misaki tenders her resignation letter.
The girls confront Misaki but she is fooling around not giving any real answers. After class, they try to trap her in but she is fast enough to give them the slip! It is over when she puts on her Grav-Shoes. Asuka manages to catch up. So what is Misaki’s excuse? She can’t fly anymore. As the club members discuss about this, Masaya just says to leave her alone and not put pressure. One evening when Misaki is hanging out in town, she bumps into Masaya who tells her he knows how he feels because he once ran away from FC. He was once a talented player and was even selected for the Nationals. Of course that heavy responsible made him fear losing as he was afraid to lose the fun he had. Around that time, a beginner challenged him to a match. Masaya lost and he quit FC altogether. It was just an excuse to distance himself from FC. But after that he learnt that running far away isn’t easy. I think Irina wants to show who is superior so she lands her helicopter in Kunahama to request for a practice match. Kagami turns her down in view of how sudden everything is. But with Asuka being an eager beaver to face Saki, she jumps at the chance. Right off from the start, Saki begins her birdcage manoeuvre. No matter what tactics Masaya and Asuka employ, Saki is always there to counter it. Saki is so perfect in all her counters that everyone noticed they send Asuka flying off at the exact angles! At this rate Asuka will only be tiring herself out. Asuka tries to shake Saki off but the latter is sticking as close as a leech. Asuka tries to do her air kick turn at this proximity in hopes of surprising her. Surprised, she dodges it and even counters her attack. Asuka tries another one but her Grav-Shoes gave way as she free falls into the sea. Misaki rescues her and we can tell that Asuka is shaken in more than one ways.
Asuka seems pretty fine. She is humming the tune of her old favourite mecha anime, Zephyrion! Even in school she is quite chirpy. Or is it? But something feels off because when Asuka practises FC, it is like she forgot all her basics and is even a beginner in flying! Asuka remembers when she was young, she met a young boy and often played with him. They became good friends. He introduced her to Zephyrion. But of course one day he had to leave and so he gave her his mecha figure. Misaki talks to Asuka. The latter feels scared about confronting her weakness ever since the match with Saki. Madoka gets a shock when she receives a letter from Asuka that she is taking leave from the club. At least she isn’t quitting. It gets ominous when she doesn’t respond her messages and her mom called that she isn’t home yet. Dark rainy day. Asuka wandering around. How ominous is that? Misaki picks her up and lets her stay in her place. Since Mashiro is pretty annoying trying to flirt with Misaki (especially her deluded yuri fantasies), she kicks her out. They go through Misaki’s photo album. Asuka notes a cute little boy. Nope. That is Misaki. Such tomboy… Misaki comes clean on why she left the club. Her insecurities when she lost to Shindou made her think she didn’t go all out on him. And when Shindou went serious with Asuka and lost to Saki, it got to her. It made her feel pathetic. Next day as they head to school, Asuka requests a match with Misaki. Madoka is surprised that her leave absence is only for a day. You expecting it to be longer? Both girls take their battle to the skies and rekindle that awesome and fun feeling they had in the sport. Misaki comes to terms that she was running away because she was afraid to lose something she found herself so dedicated to. She is still scared, though. As for Asuka, she always believed the answers will be in the sky. With that, Misaki rejoins the club. The girls discuss this Zephyrion thing and Asuka tries to describe that young boy. Like a female version of Masaya? Misaki too remembers something similar that she once played FC with that kid but since it was so long ago, they brush it off.
Irina and Saki were captivated when they saw Kagami’s dazzling light. Ever since they have been trying to perfect and surpass it. Masaya has the girls in various stamina training. But even with these regimens, he knows it will not be enough to overcome birdcage. Misaki does the impossible by waking up early before the alarm clock to head for practice. But Asuka is earlier and already practising. The girls also try calibrating their Grav-Shoes but it needs some getting used to. Asuka has called Reiko and Rika to help. Fishing boat arrival + maniacal laughter = WTF?! Reiko gets the wrong idea she is here to challenge her for a rematch before the autumn tournament. The practice match goes well with Asuka levelling up a lot and Reiko doing the same to avenge Shindou’s honour. After practice, Asuka bumps into Saki at an alley playing with a stray kitten. When she tries to talk about FC and do their best for the next tournament, Saki cuts her off that their FC is nothing like theirs. Arrogance, right? Meanwhile Misaki sees Shindou to seek his help to train her on how to enjoy while being in the state of fear. Psychological training? In another practice match, everyone is stunned when Masaya personally enters the fray to teach the girls all that he’s got from his past experience. After all these years, he still hasn’t lost touch. This even motivated Kagami to join in. Yeah, all the experienced masters are pitching in to help our youngsters level up.
The autumn tournament is here and you bet Irina and Saki are going to show the world their beautiful and superior play by winning 2 tournaments in a row. We’ll see about that. We skip first round matches because there isn’t anybody worthy to watch so in the second round, Mashiro takes on Rika in a closely contested match that has Mashiro narrowly beating Rika 4-3. Although it is sad she lost in the next round. Too bad Reiko couldn’t get her revenge and lost to Saki. By now Irina and Saki must be the most hated duo ever in the series because at the end of the day, they rub it in by telling how everyone is exhausted but not Saki who didn’t even have to work a sweat. Otherwise Saki will not be able to show the world a perfect victory. Even before the next match in which Saki is supposed to face Misaki, Irina cockily tells them off how they will be silenced once the match begins. The gang knows better than to give in to her provocations and use it as motivation to spur them on. It is better than Mashiro dressing up like a fan idol to cheer for Misaki… Asuka beats Mayu in the semi-finals 6-2. Misaki and Saki’s match begins and right from the start it is obvious Saki is going to do her birdcage move. Misaki isn’t cowed and tries various ways to get into a dogfight with her. She even tries flying upside down to protect her back despite flying this way is difficult. When Saki has a moment of hesitation, Misaki uses her cobra move to spring an attack and touch Saki’s back. A point earned. No more perfect victory. Irina is irked at this unsightly play. When Misaki challenges her that she has given everything she’s got, Saki could feel some passionate burning within her heart. She feels she wants to beat her. Thus Saki apologizes she can’t play along with Irina’s plans. Saki moves on her own and is quite a good dogfighter. She makes a comeback to defeat Misaki narrowly 3-2. Though Misaki is sad that she couldn’t best Saki, it isn’t as bitter as what Irina is feeling because it is the ugliest victory she has ever seen. So a victory is not a victory for her?
Before the finals begin, Irina warns Saki to fly with grace and silence her opponent. No buts about it. As expected, Saki isn’t being friendly with Asuka who hopes to have a good game with her. Asuka for once dominates when the match begins. She takes the lead until Irina tells Saki to turn off the balancer of her Grav-Shoes. In short, it is a good and bad thing but it brings out its utmost potential. Saki is able to catch up and tie the points with Asuka. Then there is some sort of aerial beat down on Asuka. It could have been endless had not regulation time ended. Saki’s powerful stunning display has silenced the crowd and this is perhaps what Irina wants. As the match ends in a tie, there will be an extra time after a 10 minutes break. Everyone is worried that Asuka has no more stamina after that beat down but surprisingly Asuka finds this match fun (I hope she isn’t a masochist) and wants to keep flying with her. She requests her balancer to be taken off too. Irina brags to Kagami about their perfect and beautiful symphony that silenced the crowd. Kagami replies that is just fear. Because it would be meaningless if the game doesn’t live up to its circus name of entertaining the crowd. As extra time begins, Asuka quickly crashes into the sea. But that is just a prelude so that she could power up and fly with Saki without balancers. Asuka’s power up stuns the crowd to new heights as she regains her points lead. When the girls face off again, Saki has this burning passion in her heart like the last time. For the first time, we see Saki smile! Yup, she’s going to have a blast with Asuka. Now Irina is the only one being a b*tch herself. Saki goes on the offensive to level the points again. They start chasing each other until they become… A giant ball of glowing light?! But it is so beautiful that even Irina succumbs to admit how beautiful it is. Extra time has ended and the match goes into sudden death. Whoever scores the next point first wins. When it seems Asuka’s Grav-Shoes gave way and Saki going to tag her back, with the power of her will (and main character BS), Asuka powers back up and turns fast enough (like as though time has stopped) to touch Saki’s back and win it. The first person to rush to hug the new champion is Misaki. To show that Irina still has a heart, she apologizes to Kagami of her wrong ways. She did it because she wanted Kagami’s approval. Well, damn. Now we can’t hate her entirely ;p. Kagami also admitted she did make some mistakes but now she knows she played an important role in the evolution of FC. End clips show nothing much except everyone going about in their daily lives. Saki has become friends with Asuka and co. Oh, Shion is having it tough with his college entrance exams… Ganbatte, ne!
Time to stop flying in the clouds and put our feet back on the ground. Well, that was fun, right? But it also ended in an expected way as Asuka predictably won the tournament because she is the main character and it will justify and avenge all the other characters who lost to Saki. To put icing on the cake, Irina and Saki have learnt their lesson and drop their snobbish b*tch tag. All is well, ends well. Win-win situation for everybody. Nobody goes home broken hearted and everybody is as happy as they are together. What a perfect world. Till the next big game comes up. Winter tournament anybody?
The game of FC can be summed up as a big game of air checkpoint with air tag and air point guard. Probably I wasn’t paying attention because I believe that the finer points to playing FC aren’t explained quite clearly. I understood the game mainly because of my observations so I believe the game is played that way. For example, I kept wondering why somebody has to play the point guard after the first buoy is touched instead of just continue to race for the next buoy. Then I noticed it could be part of the rules that after the fastest player touches the first buoy, the slower player will then become the point guard and try to stop the other. And you can’t go to the next buoy until both players cross each other. I may be wrong but this is what I observed so far in every match. Plus, I was too lazy to do my own research since I’m not that crazy into the game after all ;p. I think such rules keep the game fresh and exciting because if everyone were to start racing, there would be no dogfights thus no fancy acrobatic flight manoeuvres to drum up the dramatic effects. Besides if racing to the next buoy is all it takes to get points, the fastest player would definitely leave the slower one eating his/her dust. Or air trails in this case.
Thus FC isn’t a game that captivated my heart even till the end of the series. Sure, it is a game that could only possibly exist in fantasy. I mean, ever tried playing real Quidditch in real life? Looks so lame, right? Hah. I’m not a Quidditch fan anyway… Anyhow, one reason being that I don’t fully understand the game rules and to me it seemed like a couple of players having an aerial dogfight as themselves and without planes. I am sure they did their best in producing the best angles and scopes of the flight action but unfortunately I wasn’t really charmed even when purely watching the spectacle. Although entertaining, it isn’t something that took my breath away.
Character development isn’t too deep with many of the ‘action’ taking place within the game especially in the later parts of the series. We have the main characters and their set of little problems but that is clearly overcome. Like Asuka being a klutz in real life and FC would become a rising talent in the game in no time. It is like she is able to grasp the concepts after playing or watching once. Why do retards usually have such great talent in such shows? Then there is Masaya as the ex-experienced player who left the game but came back to just to help out a new talent develop so that he too can move forward and not run away from his sorry past anymore. One would wonder who that small boy was in Asuka and Misaki’s past. He looks like Masaya but my guts tell me he is not. And since Masaya was also once beaten by a kid who could probably be that same boy, it all adds up to the mystery that no one really cares about in the end.
We get the most drama out of Misaki when she has some sort of pride problem as she is unable to accept that she wasn’t up to standard because if she lost to whom she believes is the best and that best lost to another, it really takes a beating to her pride and it lets her know where she stands in FC. I believe Misaki has a ‘split personality’ depending on the time of the day but you’ll probably forget about it since it isn’t something as clear as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Not forgetting Mashiro who continues to yearn for Misaki’s love. But I feel ever since she made friends with Rika, she isn’t that obsessed with Misaki. You know, to the point where Misaki is like her personal property and nobody else could touch her. Because when Misaki temporarily left the club, why didn’t Mashiro follow? I thought she goes wherever Misaki goes. Instead, Mashiro continues being in the club like the independent girl she is instead of bugging her lover (at least in her head).
As for the other side characters, they don’t stand out as much. Like Irina and Saki are there as the series ‘antagonist’ so that we could have somebody to despise and give the series a much needed drama and push for our heroines to do better. Imagine if everyone had the same sportsmanship in FC and played the game well without any incidents. That would be so boring, wouldn’t it? So we see the daring exploits of turning off their balancers and giving FC a fresh breath of excitement in which FC experts call it another revolution to the game. So the duo aren’t entirely that bad and played a vital role in the next step of FC. Like any other high school sports club, there is a need for a manager and that is what basically Madoka’s role is. Otherwise her character would have been quite redundant. At least Shion is there because you can tell from the start he is a joker character with a passion for FC. After he hands over the captaincy to his sister, he further becomes more comical because he still hangs around like as though he feels he is needed. Thus, giving Madoka a role in playing the tsukkomi to ensure this idiotic big brother of hers would just stay home and study for his college entrance exams. Oh, did I mention he is a character that is prone to crying? Especially tears of joy… Then you’ve got redundant characters like shy Minamo just to show us that there is somebody else who supports Asuka. It is not like she appears very often either. Minori? People with gift of the gab are natural for commentating roles. Like, do we even pay attention to what she says?
The rest of the side characters are just there to add up for the numbers. Like Mayu and Arika who look like they have potential to have their own storyline seeing Arika is a rival-cum-childhood friend to Mashiro but that is all you need to know about her and what better way to reflect that by limiting their screen time. Same case for Mayu because this onee-sama type seems to be fixated about good etiquettes and manners of how one conduct oneself, which isn’t a bad thing but that is all there is that you would know about her character. And Rika’s role is to be Mashiro’s friend so that Mashiro won’t look like a total b*tch pervert hoarding Misaki all the time. Reiko is just a prideful b*tch while Shindou has fallen from grace as the best. At least they take their loss in better stride than Misaki but Takafuji’s reputation as a powerhouse starts declining ever since. And besides the fact that these characters are to provide roles as opponents in FC for our Kunahama girls. I mean, don’t you feel that despite having numerous FC players from other schools, how come they tend to face off among each other? Yeah. Plot convenience. Better for characters that we know to challenge each other so that there would be more drama effects compared to one we are unfamiliar with and once it is done, they are never heard of again.
Looking at the art and drawing for the first time, it struck me how similar it was the character designs to another anime, Koi To Senkyo To Chocolate. Unsurprisingly as I found out, both series were made by the same game developer, Sprite. I guess it is one of those things whereby you make lots of games and you want your trademark visuals to be consistent in games that you make and therefore the feeling of seeing a particular character somewhere before. Or sometimes you just think the creators got lazy and just copied some character and tweaked a little bit here and there. But let’s not pick a bone with that because overall the visuals are good especially the scenic backgrounds of the island and yes, the sky. As for the FC outfits, it is like a tight body hugging suit fitted with… Sleeve flaps? I don’t know if that really works for aerodynamic purposes.
As for the visual effects during FC battles, the light trail effects seem cool at first but after a while it would seem pretty odd that those lights would ‘stick’ in the air for that scene instead of fading away (for most of the scenes anyway). It feels like those light trails are something solid. What I mean is that the light trails would be permanent in that fight scene until the next change of scene. I suppose this is good so you can see and chart the movements of where the FC players were. Then come the next scene, it is like ‘somebody quickly took a sky board duster (my term for blackboard duster for the sky) to rub them all off before the next scene plays’. Get what I’m saying?
Despite this series was adapted from an adult visual novel game of the same name, there is practically no fanservice at all. If not, a tiny amount so miniscule that you would probably forget as the episodes go by. Because the only most prominent fanservice I could remember is when Masaya accidentally passes by Asuka while she is changing. That only happened twice and in the first 2 episodes. After that, it never happened again or else we would have started to think that this would become the series’ running joke-cum-fanservice. As for the FC outfits, there is nothing sexy about them. If you deem so, probably you do not have enough exposure to what a real fanservice is :-). Or maybe I’ve watched too many fanservice elements and thus my expectations for pantsu shots and boobs shoots have tremendously rocketed sky high as the standard threshold. Yeah…
It is one of those animes where I once again mistake a seiyuu. This is the case for Asuka as I thought she was voiced by Nao Touyama. There were a few instances when I thought she sounded like her but at other points it wasn’t. So I thought it was the case of the seiyuu being flexible with her voice. I was wrong. Asuka is voiced by Misato Fukuen (Eve in Black Cat, Yami in To Love-Ru). Probably it was the way Asuka sounded when she was in lively retard mode that made me thought so. The rest of the other casts are Ryota Ohsaka as Masaya (Marco in Shingeki No Kyojin), Azumi Asakura as Misaki (Asia in High School DxD), Nozomi Yamamoto as Mashiro (Yukimura in Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai), Naomi Wakabayashi as Madoka (Kud in Little Busters), Madoka Yonezawa as Rika (Ui in K-ON!), Risa Taneda as Reiko (Yukina in Strike The Blood), Kazuyuki Okitsu as Shindou (Nagare in K: Return Of Kings), Natsumi Takamori as Saki (Subaru in Houkago No Pleiades), Kaori Mizuhashi as Irina (Miyako in Hidamari Sketch series) and Takayuki Kondou as Shion (Ooishi in Prince Of Tennis). If you remember that gay guy and his Yaoi Stick from Koi To Senkyo To Chocolate, it is that same voice again here, Megumi Ogata as Kagami. Only, no Yaoi Stick this time.
The opening theme is Contrail ~Kiseki~ by Mami Kawada. Hearing this anime pop rock brings back memories to my early days in anime when I was watching shows like Onegai Teacher, Onegai Twins and Hayate No Gotoku. As part of the techno-cum-rock music group, I’ve Sound, the similarities and trademarks are still there to bring back the nostalgia. The ending theme is A-gain by Ray. I feel this slow piece is a little weird. I think it is the weird sound effect that makes it like an underwater song. A song that fits a series like Nagi No Asukara. I don’t know. That is how I feel when I first heard the piece. Sometimes it feels soothing and calm but sometimes it just feels weird. Ray also sings the special ending theme for the final episode, Kimi Toita Sora. This one at least sounds better although it is your typical generic anime pop.
Overall, this anime is still decent on many grounds like the visuals and the flight action. I can’t say if it would be any different had the series been extended for another dozen episodes because although there were 2 tournaments featured, it felt like they were the same thing. Many other ‘unimportant’ matches skipped, featured ones shortened and only the main anticipated matches against important characters were given prominence. Usually tournament arcs especially those under the sports genre would have reasonably numerous episodes but this one is all over within two or three episodes. And just like many sport genres, the lesson always learnt is to enjoy the game and play your very best unlike in reality that winning is everything and the only thing. In that case, the answer isn’t always found in the sky. It is always blowin’ in the wind, my friend :-).