Oh, this episode was super charming. It was really nice to see a wide range of moments within this episode and I think it really provided a very solid ending for the series. It’s the sort of vague ending where I can accept that this was in fact the final episode, or that it could potentially lead into a second season. If we do get a second season though… I don’t know if it will be anytime soon.
I’m really happy with the amount of reflection this episode provided in addition to having a lot of the characters strive to move forward. We’ve hit a lot of figurative roadblocks, especially since Yuka’s death, but it’s nice to see everyone start to move forward. Madoka’s moment was, at least for me, a bit harder to see her moving forward. I think that’s because she seemed to peel away from the main story a while ago. I personally don’t really have any feelings towards the guy she was on a date with, but I do appreciate that he was able to say that she was carrying some “baggage”. It’s something we’ve known for a while, but it was nice to hear someone acknowledge it though. I don’t know how I feel about the kiss though – especially since we don’t really know what came out of it. What sorts of things are you thinking about Madoka? Even when we see her at the beach scene, there isn’t any conversation about what happened that day (aside from acknowledging the loss). Which is fine, but I’d feel a little bit bad for Momoharu and Sora if they start pursuing a taken girl. And on that note, I think she was the perfect character to deliver the untangling of knots (except for the one that remains) line, since everyone else has honestly been pretty vocal about their feelings. They’ve all been laid out on the table. Whereas Madoka has kept them relatively quiet to herself.
A few episodes ago, I think I talked about how Kuzuryu High’s team probably wouldn’t accept the result of the game if they won, because of the incredible gap that was between them and Taiei. But on the other hand, it is also understandable that they would feel hesitant for establishing their clique after the “devastating” performance they gave and I genuinely thought that there would be more pushback against Momoharu and that they really wouldn’t accept the result. But I’m happy we were able to avoid it when Sora spoke up saying he would take any chance that he would get. Even though everyone’s upset and wants to continue to punish themselves, he’s able to maintain that focus on being able to play the game. He’s upset just like everyone else, but he continues his drive to move forward.
It a little weird, I’ve really felt like we haven’t had a lot of focus with Momoharu since he cut his hair (of course, like with everyone we have gotten small moments here and there that further develop him), so to have a solid amount of focus on him was unexpected. I was pleasantly surprised to see him so much in this episode. I’m glad that he and Madoka were able to clear the air a little bit. Well… they didn’t really talk it out, but at least they reached a conclusion where he doesn’t feel too guilty about it. And then we have focus again on Momoharu when Mr. Satsuki announces his return as their advisor. Of course, he did this for the whole team and of course it impacted all of them, but I liked the moment where he put his hand on Momoharu’s shoulder while he was crying. Especially after Satsuki had the conversation about returning with his wife. He started out as their advisor because he was supposedly the strictest teacher and to keep an eye on them, but now he genuinely wants to support and help these kids grow up and help them achieve their goals. I don’t know if I can fully articulate it, but I’m happy it was included in the episode!!
Lastly, I want to talk about the short segments we had from all the other teams that Kuzuryu faced off against in this season. Most recently we have Taiei who are shown to be continuing with training with Yozan, Mineta, and even Fuwa all vow to get stronger in their own way. Then we have Chiba and Takehashi with their post-match conversation, an attempt to make sure that Chiba, does not give up on playing Basketball. He returns to Shinmaruko High and keeps on going! And lastly there’s Taro and Kitasumi, where their coach is planning to retire pretty soon, we haven’t seen too much from them since their loss against Taiei so it’s nice to see them wanting to strive even higher, both for redemption, but also for their coach! I just really appreciate that we didn’t just abandon all these other teams once we had finished playing them. I’m genuinely excited for Kuzuryu to potentially have rematches with all of these teams and see how much they all have grown!
I knew it’s been coming for a while, but for this to actually be the last episode is incredible. I’ve watched this team grow for the past year, and the series has been a good point of consistency for me. Aside from breaks between cours, I always knew that there would be a new episode around the corner. I’m not expecting another season of this series, and if we got one, I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to switch studios. But if we do get an announcement, I will be very hyped for it.
When Ahiru no Sora was first announced for the Fall 2019 season, I wasn’t immediately grabbed by it. I thought it would be a pretty average sports series and at the time I remember I almost passed on it entirely because of the rougher art style. When the first episode came out, I don’t actually think I was planning to write a first impression, but something kept calling me back to it. I told myself to give it a chance and that I could always drop it later on, especially when I found out that it was going to be 50 episodes. But boy am I glad that I kept up with it. It was so much more than I expected and I’m glad that I didn’t decide to pass on this series.
The anime is rough around the edges, in more ways than one. It’s not the most fluid or consistent and the pacing? Well, it’s not for everyone. If you’ve seen other people talk about this series, a lot of watchers have complained about the animation, or the lack thereof, often calling many of the matches slideshows. And I don’t really disagree with them. I don’t know what budget they had or what time constraint they were under, but there were some episodes that… probably had more stillness than actual animation. As for the pacing, well games do last for a significant number of episodes – which honestly, is kind of expected for a sports anime. But to spend multiple episodes in the span of only a couple in game minutes can be incredibly frustrating if you are here for the sports aspect of the show. It feels like you’re getting stopped every time you take a step forward and then you have to stand still before you can move forward again. So, I can definitely understand why a lot of people probably dropped early on.
But! It isn’t as if we’re frozen in time without any progression. In fact, I would argue that a great deal of character development occurs during these moments. Yes, it is frustrating to be pulled between the two, but I feel that the characters really drive this series. They are consistently growing and becoming more complex. We’re given a set of delinquents who, in the beginning weren’t… exactly shown to be the best and a bright-eyed Freshman looking to pursue his dream. And overtime we get to learn more about these characters and what drove them to the way they are now. Not everyone became the way they were because of bad experiences or desires to not have bad experiences with Basketball. But, over time they all come together and grow because of the sport and quite frankly, I’m a sucker for stuff like that. You take a motley set of characters and allow them opportunity to grow and find passion again and personally, I think that’s a recipe for a solid story. And their growth is not always moving in the positive direction. There are plenty of setbacks and mistakes that characters make. They aren’t always on the path to move forward to accomplish their goals. They do fall by the wayside. They aren’t prefect characters, they are also rough around the edges, but that’s part of what makes them charming. All the characters really bring this series together.
I’ve gone back and forth about giving this series a numerical rating, but I think I’ve settled on giving it a 7.5/10. I thoroughly enjoyed coming back to this series week after week and despite its weaknesses and frustrations, there was always something interesting, exciting, or emotional to see. Sure, some episodes were more disappointing than others, but when looking at the series as a whole I genuinely enjoyed my time with it. It really bums me out that there aren’t official English translations of the manga out there, but I will definitely be supporting the series any way that I can. And as a side note, the music is also very good! Every time a new cour would come I would be sad that we wouldn’t hear the current opening and ending again, but from “Happy Go Ducky” to “Taiyou Runner” they didn’t disappoint. So that’s another reason why you should check out this series.
I would strongly recommend this series to anyone who is even remotely interested. Please take a chance on it and I promise there is so much more to it than what it looks like. Yes, there are disappointments in production value and content, but it also makes all the more exciting when good things happen. If you want to watch a team start from nothing, find rock bottom, and grow again Kuzuryu High’s Boys’ Basketball team is a perfect choice.