// lies on the ground
I need more, you can just leave me with this. What started off as an engaging and intense match left us with an immense amount of tension and an incredible cliffhanger with no continuation in site. I’m honestly at a loss for words. I personally think that this episode was very good and remarkably engaging, but I just feel empty knowing that this was the last episode… and I just… want more.
I’ll be talking exclusively about my thoughts on this episode in the first half of this entry – so if you’re just looking for overall impressions, it’ll be in the second half! And with that, let’s talk about the match between the Itsuse brothers. At this point, I really wouldn’t consider this a “sports anime” in the sense that we’re used to using the term. Yes, they all play a sport, but rather than the sport being the primary focus, it exists as the glue that holds everyone together. In many other sports anime, the sport is something that creates most of the tension. In Hoshiai no Sora, if anything, it’s something that alleviates or postpones the tension for our characters (don’t get me wrong though, Touma and Nao have their fair share of misfortunes resulting from the sport). So yeah, I wouldn’t necessarily put it in the same bucket as other popular sports anime. But don’t get me wrong, it does still have that good ole’ sports anime nature to it. I thoroughly enjoyed the match between Maki, Touma and the Itsuse brothers. It definitely felt like a moment of great build up and we were finally getting to see the fruits of their effort! I loved it because we were able to get to watch them play the sport and be invested in it, but also because we got a solid bit of character and plot development on both sides.
Once Maki and Touma finally find their groove and ultimately acknowledge their passion for the game, I felt really happy watching them play. They were able to put the heat on the Itsuse brothers, but more importantly, just hearing Maki say that he’s only been playing for 3 months and jut the fact that he is enjoying himself was something that warmed my heart. Especially! Because Touma agreed! And actually laughed and smiled. Touma! The kid who consistently has the >:( face, actually smiled and laughed during an official match! And that enjoyment and fun also brought out the “best” in the Itsuse brothers, who actually became invested in their match ultimately making it a very worthwhile match to watch! Because at the beginning of it, they straight up call Touma a disappointment of a brother – which! I am happy he did not hear, but to see them actually have to put their best foot forward in order to stay win their match? Ah! It was great! Just that small amount of growth was nice to watch. And you know what? I probably would have been pretty content if they ended the episode just shortly after that match…
And yet! They faked me out. (Actually, if we’re keeping track, they faked us out twice because both the ending and opening were just short. Was this for dramatic effect? or was it to get a little bit more screen time? Who knows?) Then we get to the drama, and quite frankly I could feel my heart sink as Touma called his brother and got his mother instead. Can you believe it? Touma is proud about how far he made it! Only to have his mother tell him 1) she’s getting a divorce and 2) that he, her middle school son, is the greatest pain point in her life? AND THEN to have Ryouma show up right after the conversation? Ah, it just hurts and I just want more – I want to know how Touma ultimately reacts to this phone call, I want to know how this impacts him as a person. What does Ryouma do? How does the rest of the team react? Just! Touma, I’m sorry this happened to you, I just want you to be happy ;_;
BUT! This is completely overshadowed by Maki’s return home. Look, I can’t even begin to imagine exactly what happened to Maki’s mom in this situation, but it was certainly enough to make him straight up consider murder. And that’s where it ends. No real conclusion, just one massive cliffhanger to keep me invested!!! And with an ending as open as that, I can’t help but just want more.
Hoshiai no Sora, the gem that it could have been.
It is one of the rarer anime that is willing to tackle difficult and traumatic experiences of younger kids, and in my personal opinion they handled many situations very well. Something that I’ve seen a lot of people talk about is the over-dramatization of many situations that occur. And on the one hand, yeah, they are more emphasized than other anime especially for an anime that fits more in the slice-of-life genre. But at the same time, the effects and severity conveyed through the animation and sound design can really put someone in the shoes of the character as they are experiencing it. Yeah, it’s going hit or miss, but the fact that they were even willing to bring up the idea and explore these traumatic experiences (albeit not completely), I’m willing to forgive those moments that really weren’t hits for me. Another common critique that I’ve seen with this anime is something along the lines of “oh my god, does everyone have bad parents?????”. And for those of you who have been following these entries from the beginning, you know that I personally don’t find that particular fault within the anime. For those of you who haven’t read the previous entries here’s a summary for you:
To me, this is an anime in which characters in very similar situations, i.e. bad parental relationships find themselves coming together in a supportive environment. People tend to be drawn towards others who are, in some ways similar to them. In this anime, the boys are drawn to the Soft Tennis club, because they are all misfits with unfortunate circumstances outside of school. We have inferiority complexes, abusive parents, helicopter parents, overprotective parents, and parents that look down upon the decisions and actions of their children. And, the director even said: “This will be the story of children who carry with them all sorts of scars, yet I want to make it into a tale of friends who do not lick each other’s wounds at all, but instead fill up and compensate for them.” And we can definitely see that as the boys grow and support each other. And for me, I think this intention was definitely conveyed pretty well in these 12 episodes. Ultimately, I do not find fault with exploring these darker topics with all the characters, however without the proper emphasis, time, and care for all these different situations the anime can then fall short.
Look, there were a lot of good things going for this anime. They explored topics that generally are swiped under the rug or pushed aside for a greater plot. And for what they were able to provide… it just wasn’t what it could have been. Personally, I think this anime could have great, I just wish it was given the time to do so. This anime is ambitious and it’s a shame that it was limited to the 12 episode structure. You can tell that with each introduction and deeper look into each character that the creator wanted to give them ample time to be explored, but with a larger cast, many stories are cut short and leaves the audience wanting more. Honestly, I think that was the biggest downfall.
As of right now, I believe the director, Kazuki Akane, has publicly explained that this anime was originally planned to be 24 episodes, but had a last-minute change bringing it down to 12. And instead of cutting the content that he and the rest of the team wanted to explore, it looks they opted to keep the original structure, ultimately leaving us, the audience, with a half-finished story.
If I was looking at this as just the 12 episodes, no knowledge of a potential second season or the original, this anime would get a 6/10 rating at most. This would be due to the unfinished story lines, the fact that I was left with more questions than answers and just general confusion about where the anime wanted to go. Now, with that in mind, the sound design was absolutely phenomenal and the were many moments that will probably stick with me for many years. In fact, even now I want to watch the whole thing from start to finish!
But when all is said and done, I would give this anime a solid 8/10. There were many things I liked about it and ultimately I think that it will have a lasting impact on those of us who watched and found something to enjoy in it. However, I must preface this: Hoshiai no Sora is not for everyone. If you’re not a fan of drama this is definitely not the anime for you. If you were expecting just another sports anime, this is not that. As I’ve said multiple times, this anime goes into darker topics, topics that these kids honestly can’t escape from – they’re still middle school, dependent on these parents that hurt their kids, both physically and emotionally. If they were older, perhaps this would have been different, but in the context of this anime it is happening in real-time. If that’s not something you want to experience, then by all means please pass on this anime. In the same vein, since there are heavy topics that can be triggering for some people who watching. This anime definitely doesn’t sugar coat a lot of things. It tackles physical and emotional abuse and straight up rejection of mothers and fathers of their own children. If that is something that would hurt to watch, then, again, I don’t recommend this to you. However, I know a lot of people have found a character that they relate to deeply – a character being explored that has gone through the same situations as they have – and as a result feel more validated in their own experiences. Like with any media, there are good and bad things that come with it, but at the end of the day, I would say I thoroughly enjoyed this anime.
All in all, if you are interested in checking out Hoshiai no Sora I would strongly recommend that you give it a chance.