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The bulk of article was written with only the first episode of Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue in mind. I wrote it last week, before episode 2 was available, but decided not to post it immediately. I still stand by most of what I say, but a few updates have been added at the bottom of this page to clear some things up.

 

Here’s my opinion on Aokana: it’s shit. Please excuse the lack of images from the show here; I got about two minutes in and realized this would be short and I won’t need them, and I couldn’t be bothered for this bottom of the barrel crap. (Also, Crunchyroll’s buggy video player makes collecting them a pain in the ass). Besides, this could have been animated by Studio Ghibli and it wouldn’t excuse the fact that it’s absolute rubbish.

I shouldn’t be too harsh; it’s not like Aokana: Four Rythem Across the Blue is offensively bad or anything it’s just bad. Like, really bad. And I’m going to be too harsh anyway because it’s fun.

Aokana takes place in what I suppose is a near future. There’s not really much future to it, they just have one cool technology that we don’t; everything else is basically the same. That cool piece or technology is Anti-Gravitons. So, what does a world where humanity has said “fuck you” to Newton look like? Do we use our gravity defying powers to make great strides in space exploration? Or create floating islands for more land area for farming and forests, and putting sensitive structures out of the reach of earthquakes or tsunamis? Or how about using them to improve to the structural stability of tall skyscrapers? NOPE! Reebok must have bought the patent on these things, because they’re only used to make flying shoes.

But I suppose there are some interesting things that can be done with flying shoes, and issues that would arise from them. For instance, any sensible country would probably stop making skirts part of a mandatory school uniform, right? Thank god Japan’s not a sensible country.

I honestly don’t get why the characters do wear skirts; it seems like the most obvious thing the character designer should have thought about, and it’s not like the show has any fan service anyway. Then again, the character designer only worked on two other shows before this, both of which look even worse than this. It’s about at this point that you start to get a picture of how shoddily produced this show is.

Though the anime does give us one application of its literally gravity defying technology, Flying Circus, a new sport where plays fly around and score points. Granted with the opportunity to create the new Quidditch, the creative minds behind this project put all of their effort together and come up with: One person flies back and forth while another tries to touch their back. Brilliant.

Aokana anime

Okay, just one image to show how bad the animation is. It’s not all like this, but it’s way too common

Among the character, each has roughly the same number of personality traits as your typical snail, with the exception of the Generic Man, Masaya Hinata, being more of an amoeba type. You have the gamer, the one who talks in cat puns, the sleepy one, the hyperactive one who is also actually the sleepy one (oh, how quirky and odd!), and our main character, Asuka, who… deserves at least a new sentence before I start talking about her. You know those ditsy moe characters? She’s just another one of those, except usually they at least have the saving grace of being like a dumb lost puppy; sure it’s probably retarded, even by puppy standards, but you at least feel about for it. Asuka doesn’t have that for some reason. She certainly meets the stupidity criteria, but I think she’s just too stupid. At that point, the only humane thing to do is put it down.

 

But you could have gotten all of this from the show’s promo art and synopsis; there’s still a reason I gave this as shot, and that’s the animation. Specifically, I hoped the flying would make me feel the sense of whimsy and optimism that basically every anime dealing with flight has been able to do for the last three decades. It didn’t. I don’t think it even tried.

How could an anime mess this up? Aokana has THREE chief animation directors! And the most experienced one of them is also that character designer we talked about earlier… oh.

Also, there’s a point where Asuke answers “no” to a question, while nodding her head. Were the animators and the script writers in so intense feud over how she should answer the question? Was this one moment a crux in the plot, and two factions in the studio couldn’t agree on which way the epic story should take? No (nod).

Aokana anime

One more. Breaking my legs feels great.

At this point it’s kinda a nit-pick, but this annoys me in a lot of other anime too. Some sourses say the shoes are “Anti-Graviton Shoes”, but in the show itself they’re called “Grav Shoes”. I hate it when translations can’t agree. Like, is it Kamui, or Godrobe? Is it Yuda or Juda? It is Bills of Beerus? Beerus. Obviously Beerus. Why the hell was Bills ever even a thing?! Did Funimation’s translator have cotton balls in his ears?! Did they think no one would actually listen to the voices?!…

Ah-hem. Excuse me, I may have gotten side-tracked. The point is… it’s shit!

 

 

Episode 2 Amendments:

For the most part, if episode 1 turned you off, episode 2 won’t win you back. The animation quality is better, but still the worst of what I’ve seen this season. The characters all show a bit more promise, with Masaya suddenly moving from background furniture to the standout, as we start to see inner conflict between his developing feelings for Asuka and some yet unknown history he has with Flying Circus. And things seem to be coming together for this to actually function as a team sports anime.

I don’t know a lot about sports anime, but in what I’ve seen (Bamboo Blade, Beck, Free, Air Gear, Beyblade) the core appeal is in the inter-character development; the ways the characters grow side-by-side, and the similarities and differences between them. Which is why I’m not sure of Aokana as a sports anime. While the characters are showing signs of potential growth at this point, it’s all been very private. Again I refer back to Masaya, who’s main area of growth is a personal past that he’s only brought up privately, for the audience but not any of the other characters to know about. On the other hand, some mention of similar issues have been brought up in other characters, which presents an opportunity for some of that side-by-side growth.

There are some other potential pitfalls, like the show’s tone seeming almost afraid to get a shade darker than bubble-gum pink, but hopefully there will be more to say on that next time.

 

Don’t Lose Your Way.

 

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