My initial reaction to the show was mixed but I calmed down and kept on going till the end. Question is whether it kept me amused or made me regret continuing. This is Aokana.
Alternate Title: Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm
Genres: Drama, Sci-fi, Sports
Number of episodes: 12
Plot Summary: In a world where flying is as simple as riding a bicycle, there is a popular sport called “Flying Circus” (dogfight race). The protagonist who once hoped for a future in this sport suffered a setback due to an overwhelming defeat, and withdrew from the sport for this and some other reason. However, he met the transfer student Asuka Kurashina, and in teaching her to fly the skies, the old passion returned. He takes part in the Flying Circus again.
After finishing this show I ended up comparing it to Show By Rock!! in that both had the potential to be great but ultimately ended up only being good. The reason being is that while I personally felt the show did nothing wrong, it never left first gear and only showed signs of shifting into turbo during the finale. Since the anime is primarily sports themed even though the sport in question, “Flying Circus”, is fictional it is still a sports show. However, if it were compared to other sports anime out there it would not stand out very much despite it being original. The reason being once again that it does not do much to stand out besides its premise.
I initially compared the show to Kaleido Star because its emphasis on aerial acrobatics and Aokana certainly has that in spades. However, unlike Kaleido Star Aokana did not succeed in making a huge impact. To be fair a defense for the show can be given in the form of it only being 12 episodes long whereas most sports anime go past the 20 mark, meaning that based on the conclusion Aokana was just getting ready to take off. However, Taishou Baseball Girls was also 12 episodes long but it managed to make a strong impact despite its short length and only having cult status.
Having said that, let me rephrase myself. Even though the show is not great, it is still good. As far as telling a vintage sports themed story goes complete with sports themed drama that can be applied to other areas in life, Misaki and Asuka’s dilemmas come to mind, it does that well enough. Each of the girls has their own challenge to overcome and the classic “Hard work and determination will get you far” and “Losing/failure is a part of life. Do not let one big loss get you down” messages are in full swing. Basic storytelling that is done well.
As far as the sport itself it is one of those sports that is best enjoyed when not trying to understand the rules. Even though Flying Circus is a sport that involves racing, for understandable reasons (Just racing would not be that exciting for some) most of the time matches focus primarily on the “dogfight” aspects of it, or as I like to call it “Extreme Aerial Tag”. There are some pretty cool matches with the one in the finale being the coolest.
The animation quality is pretty good I would say and the soundtrack contains more “fits the mood” tunes than memorable hits. Oh and the show has sexy moments that are basic ecchi stuff. No breast physics, just basic raging otaku boner material.
For Nation members concerned that Hinata (the guy) is the center of attention because he is the protagonist of the visual novel source material and has the option of courting several of the hotties, worry not for his role is merely the “helpful coach”. It is safe to say he has a “He’s just there”aura. Sure he does a fine job as the coach and has a backstory but ultimately he is just there. Not lame but not interesting either. Asuka (pink hair) is cute and sexy. Every time she says “hai” I squee. She is also a “jobber with great potential” type character and seeing her do her best to be awesome while overcoming obstacles is one of the show’s highlights. Other characters besides the TRUE PROTAGONISTS are also delightful, even the uber opponents.
Saved the best for last, the show’s true protagonists Mashiro and Misaki. The story is primarily about them after all even though Asuka rightfully gets an equally bright spotlight. Mashiro (twin tails) is the main protagonist who is an video game otaku who despite initially not being into it eventually works hard to not only be strong for her teammates but her beloved senpai as well. Speaking of said senpai, Misaki (purple haired sexy beast) is a cat girl who has the potential to be great but just needs the right attitude and drive to reach for the stars. Also because she is a cat she makes cat puns and loves udon. As far as the yuri goes it unfortunately did not go as far as the Nation would have hoped. Our heroine fights the good fight but the sexy beast is a tough nut to crack. Also there is a second couple that sadly does not get enough screen time. Basically the yuri is there but it is insufficient, unless you go for the third pairing that is introduced near the end of the second quarter. Or you could follow Vampko‘s example and seek out alternatives, which there are several of. In a way the show has a bit more yuri but the viewer will most likely need to adjust their goggles a bit.
Overall Aokana is a good show that could have been great. The pieces were all there but the writers decided to keep it safe, which is not bad if the point was to make a solid show, which I highly doubt is the goal of most aspiring studios who want to make more money. In any case it was good enough to make me say “A second season would be nice”. The main duo are great, Asuka is delightful, Hinata is there and the other cast members are entertaining. I do not know who to recommend the show to but I would say it is worth checking out.