Monday, January 11, 2016

AOKANA: Four Rhythm Across The Blue Episode #1 Review

You are weak, oh so weak, but you can fly.

What They Say:
The Kunahama Institute is one of the first in the world to give out new anti-gravity footwear to its students. Not only does this invention change the way the basic world functions, with students now being able to shoot across the sky, but it also gives birth to a new sport -- The Flying Circus. Asuka Kurashina is a new transfer student at Kunahama who has never wanted anything more than the ability to fly. Suddenly mixed in with students who have already mastered the art of flight, Asuka must overcome physical and mental barriers as she adapts to a new environment filled with new people, all while trying to master a new way of life.

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
Ahh, the visual novel -- perhaps my favorite form of Japanese media. With that being said, it was a given that I would sign up for weekly reviews on this series when lined up next to the others. Not to mention that the developers of AoKana (sprite) are the same developers of Koi To Senkyo To Chocolate, one of the most precious hidden gems in the anime world as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to play the VN for this, but I'd like to blame that on the fact that I can't read Japanese and that the game hasn't been translated yet. Nor has it even been picked up by any English VN company -- at least not that I know of. So, now that you know I haven't been able to get to the visual novel, you also know that anything I say about this series over the next several months can, in no way, be linked to said VN as well. Now that that's all out in the open, let's get game started.

AoKana starts off with a blurry, nostalgic flashback shot of who I'm going to call the "main" heroine of the series, Asuka Kurashina. Asuka, at first glance, seems like a lonely, yet determined, young girl who wants nothing more than to be able to fly alongside the birds. After a few lines from some song I don't recognize and a cliche "Hand reaching toward the sky" moment, the shot cuts away to present-day, with Asuka frantically making her way to her first class at her new school, the Kunahama Institute.  Caught up in the moment a bit too much, Asuka drops her keys, creating a fantastic moment for the male protagonist of the series, Masaya Hinata, to slide right in and introduce himself. Alongside him is the dark-haired Misaki Tobisawa, a girl of the same year who likes to meow in every other sentence. I like that. Five points to Misaki in the current best-girl competition. Needless to say, the three of them find Asuka's keys and start their voyage to school. The only problem is that Asuka has no idea how the two of them are able to fly and must be physically dragged by Misaki in order to get to campus on time.

After Asuka is obviously placed into the same class as Masaya and Misaki (Because anime), the two are appointed as her "Flight instructors" meaning that they will instruct her on how to...well, fly. In this "Dream come true" moment for Asuka, things actually go a lot better than expected and she's able to lift off without a hitch. Well, for the most part. She eventually loses her balance and goes tumbling toward the ground. But that's cool because with these new anti-gravity shoes, you are literally incapable of crash landing. Man, I want shoes like that.

Shortly after learning the basics of flying, Asuka stumbles upon a girl named Reiko Satouin, who is confident that she is the best Flying Circus player ever. Asuka, having no idea what Flying Circus even is at this point in the series, decides that it's a good idea to challenge Reiko to a match in order to preserve the good name of her new school. Wait what? Asuka, why? There's no way you're going to win.

And then she does . Because anime.

After the episode runs out of time and Asuka and company save the day, the ending rolls, revealing a super awesome song and animated sequence which may or may not wind up being the opening for the series. But man, it was a damn good song. It took me back to the days of Shakugan No Shana, and those were good days. And no, that's not me comparing this series as a whole to Shana -- they are entirely different. But Aokana has a charm of its own that I think I'm going to wind up really enjoying somewhere down the line.

Right off the bat, we have a lovable group of characters in story that teeters on slice of life and sports with a lot of room for drama knowing how sprite works. At least I hope there will be drama -- I feel like it could fit well here. And if you know anything about me, I love me some drama. Apart from that, the animation has a unique and beautiful feel to it and the overall character design is fantastic. Throw that into a blender with various original background music that fits the tone almost perfectly and you might have something here. The anime actually felt like a visual novel. Anyone that knows how those work would easily be able to figure that out after just one episode if they were thinking about it. With that in mind, I think the series may have accomplished its goal right off the bat -- appeal to pre-existing fans and open a gate for new ones.

In Summary:
AoKana could be something very special if it continues down the path that I think it's going. At the same time, it could easily slip away and quickly become uninteresting with just a few mistakes. The characters are going to be they type to grow on you, each with their own distinct personality and uniquely beautiful appearance. Though the plot may seem a little childish in comparison to the same company's "Koi To Senkyo To Chocolate (Or Love, Elections & Chocolate, if you prefer English)" I feel like there is still potential for a solid amount of adult, melancholic moments that would go on to sculpt an incredibly enjoyable viewing experience. All in all, I think this show is definitely one to look out for if you have even the slightest interest in visual novels. For those of you out there looking for something more action-packed or "manly," I don't think this is the right fit for you. But as of right now, I'm looking forward to whatever this series has in store for me next week. 

Grade: B+

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

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