Wednesday, March 30, 2016

AOKANA: Four Rhythm Across The Blue Episode #12 Review (Finale)

They're merely chasing after each other endlessly. But's so, so very beautiful.

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)
It's the match we've all been waiting for -- Asuka Kurashina vs. Saki Inui. Considering that just a year ago Asuka wasn't even able to fly, the fact that she has made it this far is enough to captivate the crowd and build up quite the following for her. Saki, on the other hand, is a name that has been inspiring silence amongst the masses. Her style of "Perfect and beautiful FC" has been leaving the audience in a state of bewilderment to the point where they can't even determine whether or not they want to root for her. With that being said, Asuka is the clear fan-favorite in terms of winning the match -- but no one really expects much from it. I mean, after all, Saki is in a league of her own.

Or is she?

The match begins almost immediately after the start of the episode, and after three consecutive sonic boosts, Asuka claims the first point against Saki and starts forcing her into a corner. This, being the first time Saki has ever lost the opening point, already demonstrates that the match is going to proceed a bit differently than the average one. What's even more surprising than Asuka scoring the first point is what comes after. Remember that Delta Force tactic Kunahama was practicing a few episodes back (The one where the initiator kind of just flies in a square around the opponent)? Well, turns out that Asuka had practiced the Delta Force so much that she was able to put a single gigantic tweak on it that would ultimately give her a "Birdcage" technique of her own. After adding one more line to the Delta Force, Asuka has created the "Pentagram Force". Considering this is the first time the move has ever been used, Saki is a bit confused on how to handle it. But, she is one of the greatest players in the circuit right now. So, after a few calculations, she and Irina are able to pinpoint exactly where Asuka will be in order to break free. But, in actually attempting to do that, Asuka scores another point on a counterattack and brings the score to 2-0.

This is the part of the match when the two girls from Avalon realize they can no longer fool around. Irina orders Saki to completely turn off her balancers. This technique, which has never been attempted in flying circus before, completely silences the crowd and leaves everyone back on ground-level shocked and confused. After evening the score, Saki begins relentlessly assaulting Asuka with a tactic called "Greensleeves" and pushes the match to the end, still tied. I mean, how could Asuka possibly be able to compete with a girl who can modify her balancers in mid-air?

Easy. By convincing her team to turn her balancers off in the short intermission between the final match and overtime.

After some quick and effective persuasion about how she just wants to be able to fly alongside Inui for a bit longer, Asuka takes her place back in the sky. Just, this time, without balancers initialized. As soon as the match begins, however, Asuka plunges directly into the water. Following the quick look of shock from Inui, that water begins to rise. And from it comes the flying fish from Kunahama, sporting a look of determination that we've never seen from any of the girls before. Queue the hype music. Asuka takes back off toward the first buoy with Saki right there next to her. From this point on, the match is a super fast-paced battle between two girls who seem to know no limits. Asuka takes the lead again. Then Saki evens the score. Then Saki takes the lead. Then Asuka evens the score. The game goes back and forth over and over again until the two girls meet at one point in the sky and literally just create a giant sphere of light in which the two of them are trapped, endlessly just chasing after each other. In a moment of beautiful reminiscence, Irina realizes that there isn't only one way to be "Perfect" and that whatever Asuka and Saki are doing at this moment in time is easily enough to captivate thousands.

So after everyone silently gazes at the giant glowing orb in the sky for a few more minutes, overtime runs out. This, being a tournament, means that from this point on, it's sudden death (Whoever scores the next point wins). But, in the midst of their endless chase, Asuka loses control of her balancers and starts falling out of the orb. Immediately after, Saki plunges after her and quickly strikes her chest in an effort to maneuver around her and score the final point. Asuka isn't having it, though. In what seems like only three seconds or so, Asuka is able to turn her grav-shoes back on and, once again, counterattacks Inui. This time, however, doing so ends the match as she winds up scoring her the final point against the white-haired ace from Avalon.

The cutest part of the victory comes from Misaki just second after the match comes to a close. During Asuka's descent back to the ground, Misaki takes off and embraces her, congratulating her on winning and ultimately dragging the two girls down into the water. Meanwhile, back on land, Irina once again approaches Kagami-sensei and tells her that the entire "Perfect and beautiful FC" thing was just a means of trying to get Kagami to praise her. (Shocker). However, instead of demeaning the girl or silently dismissing her, Kagami says that it was Irina who provided solace for her in advancing the game of FC as a whole (With the whole balancer thing again). The weird part is that we never see Saki again as soon as the match ends. She's just gone. Huh.

I think this episode needed a little extra time just to tie up loose ends. As soon as the match is over, there's basically nothing. It's a few seconds of, "Wow! Good job!" and then it fades to black and leaves questions like, "Well what about [Random character]?" and "What happened to [Random thing]?" and it's actually kind of disappointing. I mean, we just finished the most emotional and intense ride of the season and now it's just...done? Man, that's not fair. The annoying part is that even if the studio cut out some of the final match, it wouldn't have been the same. The extremely brief ending is sort of a necessary evil that has to exist in order for us to get that exciting last match. I just wish there was a bit more to it.

In Summary:
AOKANA was fun. That's really all there is to it. It takes a step back from Sprite's last series (KoiChoco) and, instead, focuses more on sports-action stuff and fanservice material. It wasn't a bad series, don't get me wrong. It's just not what I was expecting considering my relationship with the last visual novel the makers had animated. Of course, this is its own monster and can't be held accountable just because it doesn't follow the same guidelines as another show from the same team. AOKANA has a very lovable list of characters that all receive apt spotlight time as the show goes on. Character development occurs in short bursts instead of slowly throughout the series (I feel like this doesn't happen in the VN though. I don't know, I could be wrong). The artwork is fine, there's nothing to complain about. I think the main problem in terms of artwork is that, during the FC scenes, there really wasn't much to animate apart from the contrails coming from the girls' grav-shoes. It just made the already underwhelming sport seem a bit more uninteresting. However, the music definitely helps you "Get into the mood" during certain matches and it wouldn't be surprising to find yourself on the edge of your seat by the time they end. If you're looking for a lighthearted comedy mixed with sports and are tired of normal sports like basketball or free-form swimming, go ahead and check this out. I can't guarantee that you'll get into it, but I certainly had a pretty good time despite several rough patches.

Episode Grade: A-
Series Grade: B-

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

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