Out of all the Slice-of-Life anime to plague this summer season, Sora no Manimani has been the only one to hit all the right buttons. Kanememo? I snickered a bit (at the show, not with the show). GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class? Technically haven’t watched this yet, so I can’t actually comment. Taishou Yakyuu Musume? Snore. Aoi Hana? Well, I don’t think it’s very fair to compare those with each other, since I hold the latter on a completely different level. Anyways, the point is you watch this anime because it’s actually funny, the characters are great, and the setting is quite the unique one. Here’s my summary and thoughts on the first episode, and hopefully I’ll do a good enough job to get you at least slightly interested in it.
The first episode starts off with a very original flashback sequence, in which a very cute loli is entranced by the starry twilight, and the very pathetic shota attempts to keep up with her. The loli tells the shota that he should look at the stars while he can before he moves away, but the shota only really wants the book the girl took from him. Underage bullying already? Better start than any. After labeling the shota as being strange for liking books more than stars, the loli pulls out a very shiny rock candy turned necklace, and claims it to be a star. Only confused for a moment, the shota quickly discards her “star” as a toy, but the loli doesn’t listen and proceeds to climb up the nearest tree and
audition for the next musical opera attempt to reach for the stars. Being the innocent and naive child that she is, she actually thinks she can almost touch the stars; however, tragedy strikes as she slips off the branch and begins the plummet to her doom. The young shota sees his chance to win over the girl, and tosses his beloved book aside in order to try and catch the falling maiden. Before we can see the conclusion, we find out it was just a dream, and the guy who was having said dream smashes his elbow through a wooden elbow breaker during his awakening.
It then goes to the opening, so I figured I might as well mention the Opening and Ending at this point. The OP is ｢Super Noisy Nova｣ by Sphere, and the ED is ｢Hoshikuzu no Surround｣ by CooRie. They both are very easygoing songs, but there’s nothing that really stands out for both songs either. It doesn’t help that I’m not too familiar with the artists either, as I’ve only heard some of CooRie’s songs from Midori Days. I do like how the ED doesn’t have it’s own animation, but instead plays during the final moments of the episode. Anime usually don’t do this unless it’s very special episode that needs an extended ending, but I think the song is great to calmly eases you out of the episode at the same time the episode ends. I also think it would help the mood if any huge drama bombs cliffhang the later episodes.
The poor lad is named Saku, and here’s currently living with his “mommy complex” mother in the city grew up in thanks to his father agreeing to work and live on his own. The problem is he doesn’t seem too excited about the chance of going to the school in his home city, and it seems to be because of bad childhood memories with a girl named Mihoshi. “The Devil”, “The Embodiment of Fear”, “The Silent Invader”… these were all names Saku gave the girl he became “friends” with when his family moved into a large apartment complex in this city during his first grade. The great thing about this relationship is… Mihoshi is really just a nice, normal (to an extent) girl who likes playing outdoors; however, Saku is borderline NEET who just likes to stay comfy in his room and read a few good books. Opposites attract, and their time together outside usually ended up with Saku getting lost in the wilderness. Mihoshi also had quite the fascination with stars, and this fact was the inadvertent cause of the accident that was shown at the start of the episode. Saku did end up saving her, but he broke his arm in the process.
Back in the present, the very melancholic
Tomoya Saku reflects on the city he dreads and how much it’s changed over time. As his bus arrives at his new school, he wonders what ever happened to the She-Devil that left traumatizing scars during his childhood, and remembers that she too should also be in high school (could this little tidbit of information imply that a fated reunion of childhood “friends” will make its way into this anime? Nah… that’s far too difficult of a story to try and shape together, which is why no anime has ever tried this kind of story scenario up to this day). His lingering thoughts were quickly interrupted; the reason being the mountain of paper stars that suddenly started falling from the sky when he walked through the school gates. A very energetic girl with a megaphone grabs the attention of the starstruck (HAHAHAHAHAHA) students from one of the building’s rooftop, telling the students below that the Astronomy Club is looking for tons and tons of new members. I have to wonder if the students realize just how lucky they are that this crazy girl is apart of the Astronomy Club. Can we imagine this same scenario if she was a part of the Basketball Club? Yeah, I’ll leave that to your imagination. Anyways, all the students look up for the panchira in awe; however, Saku looked up at the very familiar girl and a sudden rush of realization surged through his body, which was greatly enhanced by the apparent Astronomy club members who were yelling at Mihoshi to get down from there before they get in trouble. All of his fears have been confirmed, and his one slip-up of calling out “Mii-chan” blew up his low profile. Mihosi looks down, and their eyes connect for the first time in years.
Mihoshi calls out Saku’s name is happiness, but Saku doesn’t take to kindly to the reunion and bolts into the school to try and hide. He probably shouldn’t have thought about manners and switch his shoes at the lockers even during a rush, because that gave Mihoshi enough time to intercept Saku at the stairs, gleaming eyes and all. A large chase sequence begins, which has great moments such as Mihoshi recognizing Saku because of his Ghibli-hairstyle. It ends with Mihoshi pouncing on top of Saku in the middle of one of the school halls, and the two astronomy club members finally catch up with Mihoshi, saving Saku in the process. The two introduce themselves as Yarai Sayo and Roma from the astronomy club. They waste no time throwing an invite to their club towards Saku; but before he got a chance to answer, the student council president breaks things up and scolds the astronomy club for their little stunt.
During his class, his creates a plan to avoid Mihoshi for the rest of the school year so he can live his life in peace. His lonely little life that he envision doesn’t only have Mihoshi destroying though, as the kid who sits in front of him (Edogawa) tries and becomes friends with him through small talk. Their little conversation was interrupted with Mihoshi watching him from the classroom window across from his, and it was then he realizes that avoiding her might not be too easy. Day by day, Mihoshi attempts to visit Saku in his class during break; but she continues to just miss Saku, who leaves the classroom right as the bell rings. Regardless of how quick she runs to the class, she never catches him; and yet the rumors of their relationship starts spreading, much to Saku’s dismay. Mihoshi finally caught up to Saku hiding in the library one day, and Saku drags her out to scold her. Regardless of that, Mihoshi is very happy that she finally gets to talk to Saku, and wastes no time showing off her star pendant and reminiscing. This angers Saku, but he holds it in and simply pretends like he doesn’t remember anything. He gives her the cold shoulder, tells her to look for club members somewhere else, and walks off like some little lovable prick; however, Mihoshi pounces on him yet again, but this time in a state of confusion and sadness. I was ready to grab some tissues at this point, because the heavy feel of drama fell upon my shoulders when she tried reminding Saku of all their “precious memories” while letting the tears flow. The weird thing is it was apparently just a tease, because Saku quickly throws her off and starts ranting on how she always dragged him around against his will in a very comedic fashion. OH NO WAIT! That was just a tease too, because he questions why she wasn’t there to see him off when he got out of the hospital and moved out of the city. Mihoshi starts crying again, and says that she should be the one asking that question. The truth has been revealed: Mihoshi was also sent to the hospital because of the tree incident, but Saku never knew this because he was really bitter and didn’t want to hear anything about Mihoshi from his mother when they were moving. Saku was gone by the time Mihoshi was released form the hospital, and she has always wanted to see him ever since. Saku also realizes that he was just lonely this whole, and joins the astronomy club as an indirect method of apology.
Mihoshi and Sayo bring Saku to their clubroom, and give a brief history lesson on how their club was formed. Saku notices a very suspicious futon in the corner of the clubroom, and they explain that they cuddle up in it when they stay overnight to watch the stars. Feeling that something isn’t right, he pulls down the sheets and…
It turns out that the “astronomy club” is just a front for MURDER.
Unfortunately, Nihoshi isn’t a murderous genki and the president seems to be just a sickly old zombie, a vampire, or a relative of The Moon. After the introduction of quite possibly the coolest character in this show so far (every character has been made of awesome, so it’s really hard to justify that claim), the three original members state that they only need more more member to be complete. Turns out that even with Saku joining, they need one more member, or else they won’t be considered as a real club.
Scene switch to the club rush on the school grounds. The astronomy club feels they don’t attract any real attention compared to the other exciting looking clubs around them. Nihoshi has a great plan of using markers to make astronomy club uniforms out of their school uniforms, but Saku and Sayo don’t exactly agree with her methods. Roma also has a foolproof and bass plan, shown by his glaring confidence and manliness as he claims that it’s time for the President to do something. A shame that God intervened, as his terminal sickness of being too awesome picks up, and we never actually find out the extent of his power.
In the midst of all the chaos, the student council president and her lapdog decided to check up on how the astronomy club was doing. Being the stereotypical asshole that all student council presidents seem to be, she seems to have just gone to the club booth just to run their lack of members in their face. Mihoshi doesn’t take this lying down, and confronts Fumie with terms like “meanie”. This doesn’t seem to faze the original club members though, as the student council president has apparently been bullying them since elementary school. After their quarrel for the day, Fumie goes up to Saku (or Mihoshi’s boyfriend according to her) and wonders if he’s their newest member. They get acquainted with each other, and a faint candle of love lighted in between them after Saku found out she’s a member of the literature club. Blushing, sparkles, and an awkward silence, a flag seems to have raised…
But of course Nihoshi rips that flag to shreds just as quickly as it was raised. EMERGENCY!!!!!
The tides have turned now, and Nihoshi is the one scolding Saku while they watch over their club recruiting booth. Nihoshi beats the truth out of Saku: he actually doesn’t care if the club gets disbanded or not, but he defends himself by saying he hasn’t stargazed since his childhood. Saku points out that the group can stargaze together anytime, so he doesn’t see why forming an official club is necessary. Well Mr. Saku, Nihoshi has a dream, and that dream is that she wants to help everyone experience the beauty of the night sky. When her father took out out stargazing for the first time when she was a small child, she fell in love immediately. She wants to form the club so that the love for Astronomy will get passed down through the school forever, and she wants to be a part of the first generation that begins the legacy.
After Nihoshi’s touching story, a lightbulb clicks within her head that could help get the astronomy club some attention. Her bright idea is the Sunspot Observation, a gadget that projects the sun onto a background using a pair of binoculars. With a shower of praise from Saku, they both happily return to the booth with high spirits and the tools… only to find out that it coincidentally started raining. Nihoshi doesn’t lose hope, attempting to observe the sun within the club room. Saku has a much better idea than sitting around, and he goes to the library to enlarge some astronomy photos and post them all over school to attract attention.
By the time the rain lets up, night has fallen upon the earth. As they club walks out of the school, Saku takes a look up at the beautiful night sky, and says that this the first time he’s looked up at the stars ever since he left the city. Nihoshi smiles, and responds by welcoming him back, and welcoming him to the Astronomy Club.
Well hot damn, that was quite the first episode. Like NEEDLESS, this was another one of the shows this summer that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy as much as I am right now. The only real thing that makes this stand out from other SOL/Romance shows is that it’s based around an Astronomy Club. You know the good thing about this show though? It actually takes advantage of its premise (for now), unlike some other recent SOL show (hi K-ON). The fact that it’s an Astronomy Club though is one of the reasons why I got interested in the first place… and it’s probably one of the reasons why I’m so biased towards this show. The premise is the meat, but the characters and the story is quite the mentionable side dish.
The thing that confuses me about this show is that it they don’t give me enough time to soak up the emotions they’re trying to make me feel. Is this more of a drama show, or is it more of a comedy show? For this first episode, comedy definitely had the bigger focus, but the hints of underlying layers existing beneath all the comedy was very visible. The comedy itself was perfect; I don’t think there was one joke or scenario that made me laugh throughout this entire episode, which is quite the feat. Humorous as it is though, it’d be a real shame if they only brought up those hints of tension and drama for comedic purposes. One such example is Saku and Nihoshi’s confrontation outside of the library. I mentioned it above, but I don’t think I said that I felt two very different emotions at the same time during this show. It started off as drama, but they quickly replaced it with comedy, then back to drama. Will there relationship develop from this basis? It probably will, but it’s how they do it that will determine how much I’ll enjoy this series. Use it for comedy at the right times, but just don’t overdo it. The hint of a love rival in Fumie is another good example. To me, it looks like they’re chemistry was only brought up as a gag; however, I think Fumie would be a really interesting wrench that could cause some friction in the Saku’s and Nihoshi’s budding relationship. I just want a good balance of comedy and drama, and if the balance ever does falter… I think this series will lose the charm it has with me.
The characters are of course the catalysts for the humor and drama, and all of the characters have been quite likable so far. Saku is kind of an anti-social prick, but he never takes his personality to the point of annoying. Not only that, but he really is a good guy on the inside, as shown during the second half of the episode. Nihoshi is your typical genki girl, but her love for the stars and infatuation for Saku make her a really cute and interesting character. Honestly, at this point I can say that Nihoshi is my favorite character in the show so far (sorry Roma), but she also is my favorite character in any anime this season. The best thing about it is their relationship with each other, and how their two very different personalities connect so well with each other. Saku didn’t want anything to do with Nihoshi, but Nihoshi always wants to be with Saku. It’s an age-old relationship, but applied just the right coat of paint to make it look like something new and equally enjoyable. The two aside, even the side characters are just as awesome. Sayo didn’t get much attention this episode, but they did enough with her to get me to stamp her existence. Roma’s sickly behavior makes up for an awesome and funny character, but this is also a good example of a time in which I want to know more. Will they only use his weak body and blood coughing as a gag, or is there really a backstory behind it?
Hell, even Saku’s mom was awesome. Mommy complex for the win.
So overall it left a very good first impression on me. My inner Astronomy nerd was the reason I picked up this series, but I don’t want my love for astronomy to be the only reason I want to continue the series to the end. It has a lovable cast of characters with an interesting potential for some drama and growth, but the thin line it’s treading on is a very dangerous one indeed.