After the first episode of Aokana, Four Rhythm Across the Blue, pre blogger Jeff had already cast the show into the ever expanding isle of misfit anime, destined to never be seen again. Once the site was established however, the show just barely snuck in as the last pick in our Winter 2016 draft, and found itself back on my Crunchyroll queue. Needless to say, Aokana is officially the first show the site has “forced” me to watch, and in this case it’s actually not a bad thing.
Basically, this is a show about really cute girls who can fly, and if you go in expecting much more than that you’re going to be disappointed. In an alternate universe, a technology called Grav-Shoes have been developed which let people take to the skies. While you might think this technology would completely alter the nature of human existence, in the world of Aokana it’s basically used as a way to play a game called Flying Circus (or FC). The story spends most of its time following Asuka Kurashina, a newbie to the world of Grav-Shoes with a particular knack for the sport of FC.
Aokana is adapted from an Eroge visual novel developed by Sprite, which may be enough to turn some people away. I have not played the visual novel, but I will say that it seems that they did a solid job transitioning it into the anime space. Each of the main girls has her clearly defined arc, but they are done in a way that focuses on the character herself, without even touching on a potential romance with the MC. The main guy named Masaya played such a minor role in fact, that I honestly question why they bothered having him in the show at all. The episodes that I assume pulled heavily from the VN were actually the best ones, focusing mostly on the motivations and relationships between the girls, who were definitely the show’s strength.
Other than the useless male lead, the story focuses mostly around the three main girls, Asuka, Misaki, and Mashiro. Each of them get at least one dedicated episode of love, which in my opinion are the best the show have to offer. Aokana actually plays really well as a simple school show, and I really wish it spent more time just hanging out with the girls. Mashiro is particularly adorable, as her hopeless devotion to Misaki-senpai is always good for a couple laughs. Misaki’s character is all over the place honestly; one minute shes the cool slacker, and the next she’s an angsty teenager with self esteem issues, but she still manages to be pretty likable somehow. Asuka is the main driving force behind the story, as her obstinate desire to master her Grav-Shoes and compete in Flying Circus inspire the others on her team to follow suit. Together the three girls resurrect the school FC team, and push each other to improve for the big tournament.
Here is where my biggest grievance with Aokana comes in. As I said before, this show is really enjoyable when the girls are just hanging out and being cute, but that’s clearly not the kind of show it wants to be. Unfortunately at least half the episodes are dedicated to tournament style Flying Circus matches, and I’ll be honest, the sport is a real bore.
Flying Circus is little more than a race. Four buoys are situated in a square pattern in the sky, and the competitors must race in a clockwise fashion to tag them. The object is to score the most points, which are earned by being the first to touch a buoy, or touching the back of your opponent. The back touching aspect introduces a tactic called “dog-fighting” which is potentially interesting, but the anime did a very poor job of displaying it.
What is already a pretty uninteresting sport wasn’t helped by the presentation. Most of the Flying Circus matches on screen pretty much consisted of colored streaks across the sky, and still shots of the characters suddenly popping up to touch their opponents back. Since this is anime, of course some of the characters had “secret techniques”, and while I could tell the show wanted me to be really impressed with them, I almost never was. The rules are so riddled with flaws and potential exploits that it makes even Quidditch look like a believable competitive sport. I know I’m ranting and honing in on one negative aspect here, but since the show insists on focusing so much of its energy into FC, these issues are glaring. Here we are in a world where human beings have been given an entire new dimension of movement, and the fact that this is the best they could come up with is a huge disappointment.
Believe it or not, in a season with shows like Erased, Grimgar, and Konosuba; Aokana may have generated more conversation and debate between Logan and I than any of them. So, I’m going to pass things over to his defense for a moment so you can get a different perspective….
Aokana was a show that I watched the first episode of and dropped due to too many other anime to watch in a winter full of awesome anime. However, due to my viewing of Black Lagoon and a certain conclusion to a certain arc in that show, I found myself in need of a fun and cute show to lift my spirits. Aokana is perfect for that!
The girls in this show are adorable (save for one), and while many people seemed to find Flying Circus to be a dumb and pointless sport, I found the intricacies of the scoring and flying fascinating! Admittedly, I didn’t get the sport at first. It was confusing and they didn’t do a great job of explaining the rules. Once I got a feel for FC, though, I found myself able to appreciate the strategy and tactics that come with the sport.
Even if Flying Circus doesn’t pique you interest, the girls are worth a watch regardless. My personal favorite was Mashiro with her cute appearance and personality, especially her nerdy side. Asuka was great as well, though her high-energy personality and ditziness were overwhelming at times. I admired Misaki’s competitiveness and found her various quirks endearing, but I was not a fan of her moments of self-pity.
To be adversarial to Jeff, my least favorite part of this show was the character Irina Avalon. Her pretentious, holier-than-thou attitude was extremely grating. The logic behind her philosophy was also petty and shortsighted, in my opinion. The technique that she was trying to perfect would not only destroy the sport, but I can only see it causing her to be ostracized from the flying community as well. Who wants to fly/play/compete with someone who only wants to dominate you? Have fun being alone for the rest of your life, you hussy!
Do I think that this show is one of the best I’ve ever seen? No! Not even close! However, I did have a lot of fun watching it and it has made me want to somehow find the visual novel that it is based on and play that! If you’re looking for a cute, fun show, definitely give this one a look!
I think the two of us will just have to agree to disagree on the matter of Flying Circus, but the slander of my dear best girl Irina just cannot stand. The poor girl is just trying to realize her dreams, and if the rules of the game allow for such loopholes, and she is smart enough to exploit them, I say go for it (I’m not a Patriots fan, by the way). But hell, she would be a hero in my book if she managed to destroy FC, so maybe that’s why I like her. Not to mention she’s cute, rich, has green hair (I promise that’s relevant), and voiced by the great Kaori Mizuhashi, so she’s basically perfect. Everyone’s just jealous of the poor girl…
But anyway, I think we have exhausted the topic of Flying Circus, so let’s end on a happier note. The character designs in Aokana are a bit generic, but that doesn’t stop them from being totally adorable. Taking personalities out of the equation, I would almost venture to say that this show has some of the cutest characters in the Winter 2016 season, and that’s saying something. There are some episodes where the visual quality drops off a bit and the characters go off model, but its fairly rare. Since FC is played just off the coast, a majority of the show takes place with a backdrop of blue skies and the ocean, which looks great behind the bright colors used in the character designs. Overall I would say Aokana is a very pretty show.
It has always been a fear of mine that being forced to watch shows for review purposes would be disastrous to my overall enjoyment of anime, but I guess I got lucky with this one. I would even go as far as to say that I’m happy that I picked this show back up, and I may even look into tracking down the visual novel one of these days. Don’t expect it to blow you away, but if you are just looking for something cute and low key, Aokana may be the show for you.
TL;DR: Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue is a show about a trio of girls who want to compete in a sport called Flying Circus. The characters are super cute, and the time spent with them is always a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the show is dedicated to being a tournament style sports show more than half the time, and Flying Circus is just not very interesting. If you are looking for a light show with super moe girls, this may be for you, but don’t expect to walk away with much more than that.
Recommended Audience: There is nothing that could be considered violent or inappropriate in Aokana, so it’s perfectly acceptable for all ages. If you are turned off by moe, or looking for a good sports show however, stay away from this one.
Aokana falls victim to the birdcage, but finishes the match with 3/5 HP!