Sports anime are not my thing. I make no attempt to hide that. In fact, it’s usually a pretty safe bet that I won’t end up watching any sports anime that comes out. I’ve never been interested in real sports, so why would I be interested in an anime about something that already holds no interest for me? So how are we reviewing Aokana, which is essentially a sports anime?
There are two big factors to this. The first is that Flying Circus, Aokana’s sport of choice, is very little like real sports. It puts us into a very simple, elegant race between two athletes wearing special ‘grav-shoes’ which allow them to fly. Which leads us to the second reason… I’ve always been a huge bird fan, which should come as no surprise to anyone, and I’ve always both envied and loved the way that birds can just attain total freedom in the skies. There’s nothing quite as beautiful to me as a bird in flight through a clear sky.
Which leads us nicely into what I think Aokana’s greatest strength is. This show is gorgeous. You really get the feeling of wonder as they’re flying through the sky… especially when you see protagonist Asuka Kurashina, who has always wanted to fly and is now being given the opportunity to do so. She really does a great job of bringing the viewer in and showing them the true beauty and wonder of not only flight in this world, but the airborne spectacle of Flying Circus. The characters are well-animated, the scenery is beautiful, and the visual effects during Flying Circus are simply amazing. It’s an absolute feast for the eyes.
Speaking of the characters… for a show based off of an adult visual novel, the characters actually wear fairly practical outfits. You’d expect extremely revealing and oversexualized outfits, but they’re not – just very pretty. It was good to see. I was also surprised by how well-written the characters were. That’s not to say they’re the best characters I’ve seen, but I did really enjoy the personalities of these characters and how they interacted with each other. Asuka’s almost-ceaseless optimism was incredibly fun to watch, and it set up a very important scene later in the show which wouldn’t have been nearly as impactful if not for how enthusiastic and cheerful Asuka is. It was also really good to see that, while there were two clear protagonists (Asuka herself and the lethargic and talented Misaki Tobisawa), several characters got some phenomenal development. There were entire episodes devoted to some other characters, in fact.
The story, like you might expect, is pretty simple. It’s the standard competition theme that you see in a lot of shows, whether the competition be martial arts, art, music, or even sports: Failure on the way to success. This tried and true formula is not a detriment, although the specific failure and the subsequent events are a bit weird. I won’t spoil too much, but blame is placed on the opponent’s strategy, when the strategy only worked the way it did because the opponent was simply that much better than everyone at the time. It created this really fake feeling despair in one of the characters that, while it did a good job of driving the story forward and building tension, just felt weird.
Overall, I just had a ton of fun watching this show overall. The brief dip in the middle was a bit disconcerting, but they recovered quickly enough and got back to what was so good about this show. And the simple and honest truth here is that if real sports were as fun to watch as Flying Circus, I’d probably be interested in them. Sadly, they aren’t… but at least we have Aokana for that.