Reviewed by: Eeeper
Released by: Crunchyroll
Age Rating: 12
Region: 1 - North America
Length: 300 minutes
Audio: Japanese 2.0 Stereo
The invention of Grav-Shoes, footwear that function as antigravity devices, drastically changes the world, as they give people the ability to freely soar the skies. Asuka Kurashina transfers into Kunahama High school, where she meets Masaya Hinata and Misaki Tobisawa, finds out about the aerial sport that's rapidly gaining popularity-Flying Circus-and immediately joins the school's FC Club. She and her teammates sometimes clash, but they also support one another in the pursuit of their respective goals as they take on formidable rivals and look to triumph in the summer FC tournament.
Hmm. Anime based on adult visual novels are something I actively avoid (doesn't count if I watch something and don't know its origins). It's not that I've anything against adult visual novels (to each their own), it's just that I never buy into them as heavily once I know where it came from. Also I'm annoyed the perspective has been changed to suit its new medium. Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue is an anime that started from such a beginning but I knew going into it what it was. I ignored my usual heckles because I found the concept so appealing.
Have you ever wanted to fly? I don't mean in an aeroplane, I mean fly like Superman. In the world of Aokana, people can do just that. Not just that but they do so by using flying boots. Real Wizard of Oz stuff and this being an anime, they decide to make a competitive game out because of course they have to. Two players face off against each other, around 25 metres in the air, with anti-gras buoys floating in a square area around the players. First player to score an accumulative total by either touching the buoys or the backs of their opponents wins. Asuka Kurashina has just moved to the Kunahama Institute, located on a fictional four island archipelago, and has just discovered Grav-Shoes. These are the flying shoes, which in this universe are anti-gravity in nature, and the sport is called Flying Circus or FC for short. Shortly after arriving, she meets Masaya Hinata, a former FC prodigy who gave it up and Misaki Tobisawa, a second year student at the institute who is the local hero, having defeated Masaya while only a rookie. At first Asuka is a complete klutz at FC until, by accident, she performs an air kick turn. That is where an FC player races in a direction, away from their opponent, then slams their feet away from themselves and causes them to burst towards their opponent in a mid-air backflip. It's not impossible to do but newbies can't pull it off. Asuka does and in doing so, drags in Masaya, Misaki and her friends Mashiro Arisaka (a Misaki fangirl) and Rika Ichinose (the neutral player in the team) in to putting together a new FC team for the season.
The show, directed by Fumitoshi Oizaki (Romeo X Juilet, A Centaur's Life), takes its time getting to the crux of the conflict (more on that later) and instead spends much of the first half of the show building up the world and the characters (Asuka's growing skill, Misaki's growing unease at her own complacency in the face of Asuka's skills and Mashiro's disillusionment with why she was playing FC). While in the visual novel Masaya is the main hero, here his cross to bear is that he was the golden boy, the one who would light up the world. Despite encouragement from his mentor, Aoi Kagami (a national FC hero and his former trainer), he gave up when he couldn't see past a rookie like Misaki. But watching Asuka come into her own, awakens something in him. It's these little things that make the show more than just an adaption and more than an interesting sci-fi sports show.
Of course, no hero is any good if there's not a good villain as the saying goes and Asuka has Irina Avalon, a girl so smug that you'd pay to prove her wrong. She witnessed Aoi performing a move called the Birdcage (no spoilers) and was so entranced that she and her childhood friend Saki Inui decide to perfect Aoi's original technique to dominate the sport, Irina devising the stratagems and Saki being the player. Despite the fact that Aoi abandoned and disavowed the technique (calling it a blight on the sport), the two girls are determined to prove her original idea was right. This puts them on a collusion course with the Kunahama FC team and unlike other shows, the effects are immediate: Asuka retreats to being a klutz again, Misaki quits and Masaya struggles to hold the team to together. But Oizaki crafts a great comeback, in part because Asuka's original personality comes back (she's hopelessly optimistic about everything) and this infects every one else on the team. She's such a ray of sunshine that you, like them, can't help but want her to "rise and rise again, til Lambs become Lions" to borrow the phrase. She is the opposition to Irina, who in her quest to create the perfect game of FC "full of wonderful silence", is everything Asuka is not.
The show's art direction is also to be noted as Kunahama is a lovely place to be: picturesque beaches, high mountains and endless coastline. The whole show has an Ocean paradise look, even when we go to the city and the playoffs, semi's and finals of the FC competitions. The voice cast for both dubs are uniformly good and the show is a mere twelve episodes long. It's a really good summer show to watch and you'll have a good time no matter when you decide to pick it up.
Streaming from Crunchyroll, the show is also available in the US from Funimation Home Video.
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