//bursts through the door and lies on the ground. Hoshiai no Sora I’m sorry I ever doubted you. ;__;
Overall, I think this was a phenomenal episode, we got to touch upon three different characters and their own conflicts, and for the most part it doesn’t seem like any of them were shorted. By that, I mean no one actually received a solution, but they didn’t gloss over any of the situations that the kids are going through. And, overall, none of these kids have actually had any of their home life problems solved, but they are finding support within the team (even if they aren’t even a full-fledged member). Deep down all of these characters are good, and can support each other, but without Maki’s introduction to the team, there would have been no initiator and the club would still be struggling as they were in the beginning. Mitsue and Yu (Yuuta) wouldn’t have become such core components of a group and all their home life problems probably would have just been a “oh we’re aware of what our teammate is going through, but there isn’t a whole lot that we can do.”
If I’m completely honest, I considered dropping this anime early on because I was just so overwhelmed with what was going on and just the amount of processing that it took to fully understand the situation. I was expecting this to be a cute sport anime like those we have come to know and love and yet I got so much more – heck! I would barely even consider it a sport anime, because they are so focused on each of the team members. And that’s okay! Personally, I have figured out that I have to go into each episode with a different mind-set than I would with just an anime about sports. Instead, I’ve learned that things are going to be heavy and emotional. Personally, each episode really leaves a significant impression on me because these situations are so real and in some instances incredibly relatable. They aren’t overly dramatized from what real life experiences – of course, sound design and angles definitely emphasize situations – and I think they are able to connect with an audience a lot more because they are willing to talk about these various subjects. Could they be better at handling some of them? Yeah, I mean not everyone experiences the same things in the same way, but what matters is that this anime isn’t afraid to bring these topics up.
And now, to talk about the actual episode (thanks for sticking with me everyone). We’ll dive into Nao first since he starts out the episode and we find out that it’s his mother that ends up raising a fuss about the Soft Tennis Club. She’s a controlling parent – the helicopter parent – who in all honesty believes that she is doing the right thing for her child. She is trying get him the help to get into good high schools and help him be successful at life. Unfortunately, she isn’t taking Nao’s own feelings into consideration and is so focused on her ideal image of him that she fails to see the absolute dismissal and lack of interest her son expresses. She’s a parent that many people can relate to – sure circumstances might be slightly different – but many people experience parents who continue to try to shape their children into something they are not. But what really, really, hit me was when she brought up her attendance to one of his soft tennis matches and expressed just how embarrassed it made her to watch such a hopeless team and to watch her son continue to participate in a team that wouldn’t get him anywhere. I don’t have an experience that directly relates to this, but in some ways I can kind of relate. Growing up, I was always told that I had to be in a sport. It didn’t matter which one, just that it had to be one and my father would not talk to me about anything else besides my performance in school and the sport that I participated in. And it was draining! It wasn’t what I wanted to focus on, I personally wanted to do more things like Band, Theater, and Creative Writing, but I was always shot down because those things weren’t considered “worthy”. It’s the same thing with anime – I’ve been into Anime since I was in Middle School and at the time it was definitely passed off as a “fad” and something that I would get over. But, now that time has passed and I’m still into anime, he’s expressed that he’s embarrassed that I am interested in it. And honestly! It hurts! It makes you not want to share your passions with people who you care about because if you’re essentially told that you’re an embarrassment for what you like! you 1) buckle down and defend it as hard as you can or 2) hide the fact that you care about it. (Of course, there are other ways, but at the end of the day it just really stinks!). And what’s most frustrating, is that people like Nao’s mother are not uncommon! But, the conversations around them aren’t very prevalent, instead most conversations boil down to “well, they are your parents you need to listen to them” and to some extent that is true, but on the other hand how much do you want to sculpt the perfect child that you are so unwilling to listen to them?
Next up we have Yu’s segment, which honestly made me incredibly happy to see. In episode two, we have already found out that Yu likes Toma and Maki doesn’t opt to bully or even question him, but instead simply tells Yu that it’s okay. I must admit, I was a little bit worried that they were going to pull a “here’s our token LGBT+ character, now we’re not going to do anything else with them for the rest of the season”. And yet, this anime honestly too a very brave chance an brought up the discussion of gender identity between two middle schoolers. Ultimately, what I like the most about it was that they were able to have a conversation about it, in which Maki was able to assure Yu, that it’s not weird to not identify with the gender one was given at birth, but that you don’t have to pick a side right away. It’s okay to be uncertain and okay to be between things. I have a feeling that people will argue that they’re forcing the agenda down our throats. I personally disagree with that sentiment, because these sorts of conversations, or even just the desire to have a conversation like this, a more common than many people realize. To me, it didn’t feel like a forced moment, instead it was friends confiding their personal worries to each other while the other listened and was supportive. And just even more than all of that, it’s okay to not know what you want right now – there’s still time to explore who you are and who you want to be. Of course, not everyone agrees with that. At the very end of the episode, Yu’s mother comes in and it becomes very clear that she already has two daughters and that no matter what Yu is a boy. I know this scene probably hit hard for some viewers because many people have had conversations with their family members when they come out or are exposed in which who they believe they are is completely shut down by their family. The family can either, completely disregard them or even disown and abandon their own child. These cases aren’t uncommon either and there are many more individuals who are afraid to express their identity for fear of what their family members, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers on the street might do to them. Ultimately, I’m worried for Yu, but still thoroughly appreciate that the anime took the time to start a conversation around the topic.
Lastly, I’ll talk about Mitsue. Mitsue has been a really weird character from the get go. She’s always hanging around the club and has a really bad attitude as a whole. Personally, I haven’t been the biggest fan of her and even after this episode I don’t think I’ve done a complete flip of my opinion of her, but I can empathize with her experience. She’s not good at expressing it, but she does care about the club and being around the members (Maki and Yu have the most interactions with her, but regardless she cares enough to watch them practice everyday.) And so watching these “idiots” chase something that seems so impossible really let’s her start to see that even if people don’t necessarily believe in you, you can push forward an prove them wrong. Like Nao and Yu, Mitsue’s parents have pushed aside their daughter’s interests and desires in order to sculpt an ideal member of society. That she shouldn’t be wasting her time on silly and irresponsible things like art. And yet, watching seemingly the whole world beat down on the soft tennis team, their determination to get up and keep going inspires her to take that first step forward and follower passions. And once again, Maki comes to the rescue near the episode, by realizing that she’s hurting. Maki is kind of the one that has been able to recognize that everyone is struggling, not only with their actual performance but with their personal lives too and he’s giving many of them a chance to finally express their feelings and concerns.
At the end of the day, it isn’t uncommon for people with similar experiences to be drawn to each other. You can probably see it in your own friend groups, so while it does seem that many of these characters have dysfunctional home lives, feelings of self-doubt, and just general unkind experience from the world, they have found a group in which they are not alone. To put it simply, they have aligned with those with whom they can relate. The hard-hitting topics are not going to stop here, but I am excited to see what Hoshiai no Sora will bring to the table for the rest of the season.