Hitomi NabatameMegumi OgataAi ShimizuTakahiro Mizushima
Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2016: A
Also known as: Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2016
Director: Fumitoshi Oizaki
Actor: Azumi Asakura, Madoka Yonezawa, Misato Fukuen, Nozomi Yamamoto, Ryota Ohsaka, Kazuyuki Okitsu, Megumi Ogata, Naomi Wakabayashi, Risa Taneda, Takayuki Kondou, Yuko Gibu, Ai Shimizu, Fumie Mori, Hitomi Nabatame, Kaori Mizuhashi, Natsumi Takamori, Takahiro Mizushima
Keywords: SF, anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=16555
Website category: Anime 2016
Review date: 24 April 2017
Don't be fooled by the word "rhythm". It's not a music-based series. No one sings or dances and no one's an idol. Instead it's based on something more wholesome, i.e. an adult visual novel. Yup, a pornographic computer game, except that this adaptation has completely stripped out all sex and romance, while demoting the game's male protagonist to be a minor character. They've turned it into a sports anime. I approve. There's not even much fanservice, unless you count the girls usually being busty and playing in leotards. The show's not a big deal, but it's entertaining and I enjoyed it.
It's about a fantasy sport called Flying Circus that you play with grav-shoes. There are four bases floating in mid-air. You can score a point either by being the first to touch the next base or by touching a ring on your opponent's back. Players will thus either be speeders (who race for the base), fighters (who target their opponent) or all-rounders (who don't specialise). It can also get a bit violent, but it's sports violence that somehow never hurts anyone.
Our heroes are high school students on the Four-Island Archipelago, which are tropical islands. The scenery's gorgeous. You might get slightly jealous of our heroes for being able to live there. (Perhaps more than for being able to fly!)
The storyline's fairly straightforward sports fare, but it's also quite fun. Flying Circus is exciting to watch and seems like a more sensible sport than Quidditch. The cast are likeable, especially the heroine, Asuka Kurashina. She's not too bright, but she loves Flying Circus as soon as they introduce her to it and she has a natural gift for it. Her friends and teammates are nice. Even the arrogant antagonist doesn't get crushed into the dirt at the end. It's a happy finale. There are no real surprises, mind you, as the show goes through the usual plot elements: training, tournaments, The Member Who Quits, etc. There's nothing sophisticated here and it's hard to think of any particularly strong reason to watch, but it's pretty well done. It's a chance to watch nice girls having anti-gravity battles in a beautiful setting. What's not to like?
The show has a thing for having super-talented players quit the sport as an overreaction to being beaten for the first time or from fear of not being the best, but in fairness there are always further layers of psychology involved. People taking sport too seriously is at the show's core, with these people always reacting with incomprehension when Asuka's having fun. Enjoyment? What is this strange idea? I thought some of these people needed to relax and say to themselves "it's only a game", but in fairness that's what the show's saying too.
It's by Gonzo, mind you, but don't let that put you off. However there are headscratchers, although none of them seem particularly important once you're past the first couple of episodes:
(a) the world's had anti-gravity technology for at least ten years. Students fly to school and play flying sports. However there have been no other technological developments and society appears completely unchanged, to the extent that Asuka hasn't even heard of grav-shoes in ep.1 and needs everything explained to her. Did she spend her childhood down a well? There are no flying cars, toys, household objects or anything like that.
(b) the girls' school uniforms have short skirts, despite the fact that they're flying everywhere. No one seems to mind, or even notice. Admittedly we never see panty shots, but that doesn't change the basic implausibility of the premise. (Fortunately the anime's soon in Sports Mode and everyone's wearing leotards all the time, so you forget about the skirts.)
(c) there's a girl in ep.1 who undresses right in front of her bedroom window, with the curtains open and the lights on. She's shocked when a boy sees her. She's neither an exhibitionist nor an imbecile, so I can't explain this. Then, in ep.2, she does the same thing again!
(d) you're only allowed to take off and land from certain designated zones, despite the fact that there's nothing to stop anyone from levitating gently off the ground from anywhere they like. (In practice, even in Japan, I can't believe this rule wouldn't be broken left, right and centre.) Presumably it's a heavy-handed safety measure, to stop you colliding with some idiot who's zooming along fast and low, without visibility. Personally I'd have suggested instead doing something to stop people from flying dangerously like that, which as far as I can tell is okay in this universe.
One amusing note, incidentally, is that England is said to have invented Flying Circus. Well, yes. They're called Monty Python.
It's quite nice. I certainly got through it easily, despite usually avoiding sports anime. I had minor plausibility issues with the People Who Take It Too Seriously, but I'm sure you get that in real life too. I particularly approve of the reduced importance of Masaya, who can hardly have been that important to the original visual novel's story if it was this easy to downgrade him. (He doesn't even play in matches! He's sworn never to participate in Flying Circus again. He's just Asuka's coach and it's hard work making him agree to do even that.) It's sunny, good-natured and nice to look at. Don't expect any surprises, but it's pleasant.