Stars Align – Anime Preview
Synopsis: The Boys Tennis Club is a joke. After getting trounced by the Girls Tennis Club in another humiliating practice match, the bad news comes down: Any clubs not producing results are bound for shut down. Shinjou Touma, 2nd year High School student and Club captain, will do anything to keep the club from going under. Opportunity strikes when former middle school friend, Katsuragi Maki moves back into town. Maki isn’t quite your average boy though, possessing natural reflexes that could be just what Touma needs to win a crucial tournament in order to keep the club funded. However, Touma finds Maki isn’t so eager to join, not without a monetary incentive.
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Don’t let Stars Align fool you, at first glance its just a cliche sports anime set up. Yes, here comes along another show about a failing high school sports club desperately in need of a star member to help raise their stats and achievements, but that’s about where the predictable part of Stars Align ends. What we get in this atypical sports club is a bunch of lovably inept club members who (mostly) happily embrace their lack of skills and doomed club though others (as seen below) are more than happy to jump ship. These boys offer both heart and comedy, bringing fresh energy to a tale and genre that otherwise could have fallen flat and deep in the mires of being generic and bland. And even when it comes to the leading men– er– boys, Stars Align offers us characters that are expanded upon and prove to be more interesting and deeper than you’d assume based on their design and initial introductions.
Tom: Stars Align works overtime to pepper in additional elements that make this anything but a generic sports anime. Touma’s drive to save the club, no matter what, is taken in new directions that skirt morality. Well reasoned rationale for the position the club finds itself in helps to sell The Boys Tennis Club’s floundering prominence as something real, rather than a mere plot point to set the series off on. Maki, our Club’s would be savior, is a layered character thanks to a late-episode, sobering twist that helps to flesh him out in ways typically unexplored. Despite the dark nature of Stars Align’s late reveal, it actually meshes well with the earlier light-hearted content, largely in part due to on point music queues, visual direction and voice work that allow a teasing undercurrent of unease as the episode builds toward its end, helping to prepare viewers for the surprise without giving away much at all.
Linny: Indeed, Stars Align throws you a perfect curveball with its peppy, fluffy colours, and easy going opening sequences followed by rather dark revelations about its main leads. It all works to help the show break out from the predictable monotony. The episode doesn’t over play the drama either, making it feel convincing and balanced with the more jovial parts, making for smooth and believable reveals.
Tom: Stars Align is bolstered by fluid animation, diverse designs and excellent direction that easily make this another title you simply have to try. It’s a wonderful treat after a week of, more often than not, mediocre premieres, standing alongside other top Fall titles like Cautious Hero, Iruma-kun, No Guns Life, Kemono Michi, and Babylon. Hopefully, like all the rest, it can build on this wonderful start and make something that becomes truly special. I have high hopes for this one and absolutely recommend it as a must try.
Linny: Something else that definitely bears mention is how diverse the cast designs are. Stars Align features unique and distinctive designs even for its female characters, offering up not just girls of different heights and hair styles but even chubby girls. And these chubby girls don’t exist merely to be a snooty friend, butt of jokes or bullied classmate which can often be the sole/main roles such girls are relegated to. It may be a minor or not even worth mentioning feature to most but it definitely is something a keen eyed viewer will notice and appreciate the effort for. When we started the episode, I was fully prepared to write off Stars Align as yet another blah sports anime but now I’m thoroughly impressed and would highly recommend this series to anyone who wants something down to earth (not about fighting demons or dragons ) but with a bit of a twist to make it stand out from the crowd. Even if you’ve never been a fan of sports anime, Stars Align might just win you over with its creative cast and little spins on its leads and premise.
Stars Align is available for streaming via Funimation.