Ahiru no Sora – Anime Preview
Synopsis: He may be short, but Sora Kurumatani can soar and score on the basketball court! He’s vowed to take home top prize at a basketball tournament, but there’s just one problem: His new school’s basketball club has turned into a hangout for delinquents! (Official HIDIVE Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: One of the first noticeable features of Ahiru no Sora is how atypical a lot of its cast look. Not only are they delinquents but they are drawn looking like anything but lead characters. A fair number look more likely to be playing the occasional comic relief character thanks to their rather unusual features, classic delinquent hair styles, none pretty boy looks, etc. Though given that a LOT of the male characters look like this, one might wonder if this is more just the artist’s typical style. That said, this “comic relief and definitely not leading man looks” phenomenon helps to offset just how unoriginal our main character himself feels. Not only is Sora the standard de facto height of ‘too short to even pass off as a high school kid let alone play a sport that’s known to favour tall people’ but he’s also brimming with positivity and ambition, refusing to give up in the face of defying odds, happily declaring how he is now up to a losing streak of 200.
Tom: It cannot be overstated how bland and generic Sora is. For as nice a twist it is that our basketball team is literally filled with delinquents, adding a more aggressive atmosphere to proceedings, Sora Kurumatani is as bog-standard a shonen sports lead as you can get. Sora exhibits zero traits that set him apart from other similar leads, making him feel like a watered down version of Hinata from Haikyuu!, or nearly any shonen lead over the past few years. Sora singlehandedly undermines much of the interesting atmosphere generated by making our rough and tough team literally a bunch of high school hooligans. It’s pretty damaging seeing as how a strong or weak main character can make or break a series.
Linny: Ahiru no Sora’s brand of comedy for now seems to be ‘loud’. That means characters are often making loud exclamation sounds and reactions along with plenty of sound effects even if the situation itself doesn’t demand it. If that’s your brand of comedy, then rejoice! But the comedy also strays into uncomfortable territory as one of the running jokes in this first episode is that one of the members of the basketball team and Sora’s first ‘friend’, Chiaki is a bit of a pervert. Not only has he made a peep hole to watch the girls in the basketball cub changing clothes but also spouts out the physical measurements of the girls unprompted. It’s pretty chaste by anime standards but still worth a mention for anyone who prefers their shows as straight laced as possible.
Tom: Trying to add in an emotional kick, Ahiru no Sora offers up a plot McGuffin meant to visually signify what drives Sora’s love for Basketball. It’s actually a simple, and predictable set up: Sora’s mother used to play Basketball in High School and seeing her son’s growing interest offered him her old shoes, which ultimately become a memento when she passes away. It’s overly sappy as shoes are an important part of Basketball, and worn sneakers are going to be far more a hindrance than a boon, making it feel like a forced attempt to pull at the audience’s heartstrings. It would at least make a little more sense if it was something less crucial to the sport, like a jersey, something that’s still visually significant, but not exactly crucial to one’s performance. As it stands Ahiru no Sora has some good ideas going for it, like turning the entire team into aggressive/unmanageable delinquents, but drops the ball in other areas, such as how it treats Basketball as less a team sport and more a one man showcase, like when Sora challenges everyone to a five vs one in order to take control of the club. Ahiru no Sora is ultimately decent for sports anime fans who want a little more attitude, but aren’t ready to give up some of the tropiest elements entirely.
Linny: Ahiru no Sora’s first episode played out as a bit of a weird mix of several almost contrasting elements; emotional reveals, seriously aggressive delinquent encounters and loud comedy. For example, when a fight is about to start in the gym, the girls there get very grim faced and talk about how this could leave the gym in shreds from the sheer power of the people who are about to fight making the show feel less like a basketball anime and more like a brutal fighting anime. Yet 5 seconds later, the tension is completely disposed of and we find ourselves staring at Chiaki digging his finger into his nose. It’s such an abrupt switch and there’s a handful of similar tone changing moments throughout the episode that make it feel like a bit of a shaky rollercoaster. That said, Ahiru no Sora definitely has the potential to woo and charm those who are biased towards sports anime and its stereotypes as the show seems geared to offer up plenty of staples through its lead character. However, for those hoping for something truly unique and novel, it’s going to take more than one episode to determine the show’s actual potential.